Skip navigation

'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Monday, September 26, 2011

Read the transcript to the Monday show

  Most Popular
Most viewed

Guests: Eugene Robinson, Adam Smith, John Heilemann, Matthew Sutton, Harry Shearer

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: "Saturday Night Live" made fun of the
Republican presidential candidates and so did Florida voters.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Stop
complaining. Stop grumbling. Stop crying. We are going to press on.
We`ve got work to do.

O`DONNELL: Fired up and ready to go has become take off your bedroom
slippers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Over the weekend, President Obama was fired up.

OBAMA: Take off your bedroom slippers. Put on your marching shoes.
Shake it off.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t know who the president was talking to.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How is that going over?

OBAMA: I`m going to press on for jobs. I`m going to press on for
equality.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`ve had 18 straight months of job growth.

OBAMA: We don`t have time to complain. I`m going to press on. I
expect all of you to march with me and press on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Which party do we want to lead the United States?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A Florida vote shows Republicans are not fired up
and ready to go for the Republican front-runners.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Protest voting. It`s not a protest vote.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They didn`t come and vote for him at the straw
poll.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They perform a flaming belly flop in Florida.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They voted for Herman Cain.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t think anyone should count Herman Cain
out completely yet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love the "SNL" spoof. Both of me, I would
deliver.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s a lot of energy not to nominate Romney.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Reminder to Chris Christi, its wind open, Buddy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And would probably enter the race as a front-
runner.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just saying.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just saying.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the current front-runner continues to sink.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some people who watch closely enough may have
gotten a glimpse of debris from Rick Perry and the ropes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean the guy is stepping on body parts every
week.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Perry really did throw up all over himself in the
debate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is when you normally get tired and confused.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rick Perry is no Barack Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Nixon, would you like to comment on that
statement?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have no comment.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: Former pizza magnate Herman Cain`s shocking and absurd
victory in the Florida straw poll this weekend has set off a new round of
calls for somebody else, anybody else to enter the Republican primary race.
Today the Rupert Murdoch owned "New York Post" had an editorial pleading,
pleading for New Jersey governor Chris Christie. Some of the Republican
Party`s top leaders and most influential figures clearly troubled by the
failure of anyone in the current field to stir broad enthusiastic support
are pressing Christie, whom they believe can successfully lead the party
against an increasingly vulnerable Barack Obama. We agree.

Rick Perry and Mitt Romney used their pre-straw polls speeches at the
conservative political action conference Friday to attack each other`s
conservative credentials, yet when 2600 convention delegates cast their
votes in the straw poll Saturday, both finished far behind Herman Cain.
Cain won handily with 37 percent of the vote. Perry came in second with 15
percent. Romney came in third with 14 percent. Rick Santorum and Ron Paul
rounded out the top five with 11 percent and 10 percent.

Romney has the excuse of not actively competing in the straw poll.
Although Romney has essentially been running for president in Florida for
five years. Perry has no excuse for his failure to appeal to Florida
Republican voters. Today Mitt Romney courted Donald Trump in New York
City. We would show you pictures, but Romney was wise enough to not want
the meeting captured on camera. So we`ll show you our favorite picture of
Donald Trump instead. NBC news political director Chuck Todd reported on
twitter, "looks like Romney avoided cameras recording any sort of Trump-
Romney meet and greet." Trump-Romney, folks, were at odds over photo op.

Of course Trump`s people wanted a photo of the meeting because they
knew we would use this photo if they didn`t provide us with a photo of
today`s meeting. Herman Cain did an interview with yahoo News at the peak
of his euphoria over what it`s likely to be his only victory of any kind in
the Republican presidential nominating contest. Asked about the
president`s assertion that raising taxes on the wealthy is not class
warfare, Cain responded, "can I be blunt?" as if he`s never been blunt
before. "That`s a lie. You`re not supposed to call the president a liar.
Well, if you`re not supposed to call a president a liar, he shouldn`t tell
a lie. If it`s not class warfare, it`s highway robbery. He wants us to
believe it`s not class warfare. Pick my pockets because that`s what he`s
doing. All this bull crap that he`s talking about, fairness and balanced
approach to get this economy going."

Joining me now is Adam Smith, the multi-century bestseller author of
"the wealth of nations." Oh, no, wait. It`s the political editor for "the
Saint Petersburg times." He wrote a great piece about the presidential
candidates. Thanks for joining me tonight, Adam.

ADAM SMITH, POLITICAL EDITOR, SAINT PETERSBURG TIMES: Thanks for
having me.

O`DONNELL: It must be a murder by the way carrying that name around
in this world. People are expecting you -

SMITH: It`s been all downhill since 1776.

(LAUGHTER)

O`DONNELL: I can imagine. I loved your list of ten things that we
learned about the, as a result of the straw poll. Number one, the idea of
Rick Perry is a lot stronger than the reality of Rick Perry. Number two,
conservatives are as hungry as ever for Romney alternative. Number three
electability matters. Debates matter. Number four, voters demand
specifics. Number five, it`s too late for another viable candidate.
Number six, Perry made Romney a better candidate. Number seven, illegal
immigration is toxic among Republican primary voters. Number eight,
Michele Bachmann is no longer relevant. Number nine, Republicans are
energized. And number ten, Florida matters.

Let`s go right over to number five because the news of the day is the
begging, the repeated begging of Chris Christie to get in this. Number
five, you say it`s too late for another viable candidate. Why?

SMITH: Well, you can talk to the people that are working with Perry
and it`s very, very difficult to get him prepared for the debates, to come
up with a platform to meet and greet with the major fund-raisers and
bundlers then at the same time make time for actual political events. It`s
very tough. He`s very lucky that he has got three or four weeks now before
the next debate.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen on what Herman Cain said on his victory lap
on the "Today" show.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HERMAN CAIN, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It`s not a protest vote. Look,
the message coming out of that video is quite simple. First of all, the
voice of the people is more powerful than the voice of the media.
Secondly, message is more powerful than money.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Message is more powerful than money. So let`s deal with
both those, Adam. Is it a protest vote? What was it?

SMITH: You know, at a straw poll, which is a sort of an artificial
themed message, maybe occasionally more powerful than money. But this I
think was partly a protest, partly none of the above. When we went in
there right before the debate, Perry looked very, very strong. And after
the debate you could just feel the air disappear as people were flocking
nervously and looking for an alternative.

O`DONNELL: Now, what about the 999 specifics of Herman Cain? I read
some reactions saying it really helped him that he has this specific thing.
That people can remember the Republican voters can remember and they were
rewarding to some extent that specificity.

SMITH: You know he`s kind of benefited because everybody`s ignored
him and not seen him as a threat so he`s gotten a pass in the debates. So
he stands up there and relentlessly talks about 999. This is specifically
what I`m going to do to turn the economy around. A lot of these hardcore
activists appreciated that instead of the bickering and back and forth and
promises for vague change and promises that they`ll get their jobs plan out
eventually.

O`DONNELL: And in the Romney versus Perry isolated camera on those
two, what did we learn about those two in Florida this weekend? Perry did
compete for this and came out badly. Romney has that excuse, if I didn`t
really compete for this. How do you interpret that?

SMITH: It is an excuse because he`s been building a big network in
Florida for five or six years. Every single person at the event knew him.
There were supporters of his that were courting delegates. I think he
actually had a shot of win over some of those disenchanted Perry voters.
But you know, he was competing, he may not have given a speech on Saturday,
but the fact this guy has been in Florida so much, got less than 14 percent
got about 14 percent of the vote, that`s pretty alarming.

O`DONNELL: Adam Smith, political editor for the "Saint Petersburg
Times." keep those important books coming, Adam. Thank you very much for
joining us.

SMITH: I will. I will. Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Joining me now, John Heilemann, national affairs editor at
"New York" magazine. John, what do you make of Florida?

JOHN HEILEMANN, NATIONAL AFFAIRS EDITOR, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: I make
I`m not the creator of the invisible hand. So, I`m the second best guest.

O`DONNELL: You`re the John Heilemann doing the first important John
Heilemann books. Look at the result in Florida.

HEILEMANN: You can`t take any of the straw polls that seriously. The
last big straw poll was the Iowa straw poll. Michele Bachmann won that and
then promptly disappeared from view. She`s now considered complete
irrelevance in the campaign. Herman Cain is not going to be the nominee.

But as Adam pointed out, I do think it tells you what we`ve known for
a year. This field is a field that is still unsettled. We tried to force
this into a box. And now we have a two-person race. It`s Perry and
Romney. The truth is there are a lot of doubts among a lot of
conservatives about whether Rick Perry is ready and showing over and over
again he might not be. And there have been doubts with Mitt Romney. He
has got problems both with the (inaudible) based on the party which doesn`t
trust him as a conservative. And he also got problems with donor class
which doesn`t think he can beat Barack Obama. And that`s why you see the
donor class primarily rising up in unison trying to get Chris Christie in
the race.

O`DONNELL: He was as good a weekend in Florida as President Obama
could ask for I think. Because you have Herman Cain giving new life which
means he is going to stay on the debate stage for the rest of time. He`s
not leaving until you get to the convention. And he`s one of the
candidates who can sit there and take wicked shots at the front-runners,
not worrying at all, as is Michele Bachmann and so those candidacies remain
alive. And the Republican Party looks completely confused. They look
directionless. It looks like they don`t have a leader. If you have a
Romney surge and win and grabbing of the straw poll, that would be bad news
for the president.

HEILEMANN: Very bad news and it would have come right on top of the
polling from last week that showed the president is far has slipped very
badly in Florida which is obviously a must win state for him. He`s polling
behind Mitt Romney in heads to heads in Florida. Again, Adam is correct.
Mitt Romney has Florida is as the order of importance for Mitt Romney. New
Hampshire is the most important thing. The second most important thing is
Florida.

He has devoted a lot of effort, resources and energy over the course
of the last five years. If he won the straw poll on top of the polling,
people would have been saying hey, Mitt Romney is beginning to take
control, gain the upper hand in the Republican race and that should give
Barack Obama a lot of things to worry about.

O`DONNELL: The president is still ahead of the Republican front-
runners in national polling. We have a CNN poll showing the president
beats Rick Perry 51 percent to 46 percent. The president versus Mitt
Romney, he`s up by one point which is not being up at all. It`s 49
percent, 48 percent. That`s essentially a tie. But certainly Romney`s
electability argument is strengthened by the CNN poll.

HEILEMANN: Yes. Well, I think national polls at this point are
largely meaningless. The truth is, the country, even though Mitt Romney is
a pretty well known commodity, the country doesn`t know Rick Perry. What
you want to look at in polling this early is not the head to head against
these Republicans. You have got to look at what the president`s
favorability rating is, what the right track, wrong track ratings are.
Barack Obama can hit some small comfort in the fact that he is ahead of
Rick Perry and Mitt Romney in these national polls. But when he sees his
approval rating in the low 40s and the wrong track number in the 70s, that
and those are kind of numbers that if he doesn`t turn those numbers around
by next fall, he will lose.

O`DONNELL: But he still - someone has to beat him. I mean Bill
Clinton was astonishingly vulnerable and had the great luck of running
against Bob Dole who absolutely couldn`t take it away from him in re-
election. Romney is clearly by most Republicans` view is the stronger of
the two possible candidates going against Barack Obama.

HEILEMANN: And what the Democrats choose to.

O`DONNELL: Let`s look at what "Redstate" founder Erick Erickson wrote
today about Romney`s vulnerability. This Republican writing saying,
"Romney remains without a natural constituency. Outside of the beltway
crowd and the Republican base holds him in almost as much contempt as they
do President Obama." So that`s a problem going into a general election,
too.

HEILEMANN: Well, it is. I mean, look, the bottom line is that Mitt
Romney committed a cardinal sin back in 2008 which was he tried to run away
from his record. He tried to pander to conservatives and conservatives, no
matter what you want to think about them, they`re not dummies. They know
when someone has suddenly flip-flops at a lot of issues in order to court
their vote. Not a way that it doesn`t them look like their phonies but it
does an actually accomplish the thing you`re trying to accomplish it
because people see through it. And so, now to see Romney running more or
less, that is what he kind of wanted or he should have run as in 2008. It
just increased the problem of the phoniness thing for grassroots
conservatives. They look at him and say, we just don`t believe a word that
comes out of this guy`s mouth.

O`DONNELL: I don`t know about the not dummies thing. They voted more
Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain.

HEILEMANN: That`s your opinion. You`re always consistent on that
point.

O`DONNELL: John Heilemann of "New York" magazine. Thank you very
much for joining me tonight.

HEILEMANN: Sure.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, the president`s question time with lady Gaga.
But that wasn`t the reason Maxine Waters thought the president maybe got a
little carried away.

And there was a terrible weapon in use during the Wall Street protests
this weekend, one that the police considers so dangerous they have to
pepper spray and arrest the users of that weapon. That weapon is the video
camera. That`s in the "rewrite."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Coming up, a President Obama the anti-Christ? He`s not
the first American president who some evangelicals believe is the anti-
Christ. And he surely won`t be the last.

And police lost control this weekend and attacked a group that was
protesting Wall Street greed. Why Wall Street and the police know they can
get away with abusing the American people. That`s in the "rewrite."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I don`t have time to complain. I`m going to press on. I
expect all of you to march with me and press on. Take off your bedroom
slippers. Put on your marching shoes. Shake it off. Stop complaining.
Stop grumbling. Stop crying. We are going to press on. We`ve got work to
do. CBC.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That was President Obama this weekend at the congressional
black caucus dinner where 2008`s fired up and ready to go became 2011`s
please "stop complaining" and "take off your slippers." Some in the
audience were perplexed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MAXINE WATERS, CALIFORNIA: I don`t know who the president was
talking to. And he certainly could not have been talking to the unemployed
people. They`re not just grumbling. They`re asking for help. I think he
got carried away. Got off script and got a little bit, you know, beside
himself. But I certainly don`t believe that he thinks that the
congressional black caucus is sitting around and house slippers or bed
slippers or whatever the things are. I don`t own them and I don`t
understand the image that was being described there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The president is obviously discovering that the rhetoric
of a re-election campaign is more complicated than the inspirational
rhetoric of his historical 2008 campaign. Joining me now to discuss how
this newly energized Barack Obama is really doing among his base is Eugene
Robinson, associate editor and columnist for "Washington Post" and MSNBC
political analyst. Thanks for joining me tonight, Eugene.

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Great to be here, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Gene, it looked like he went off script there and maybe
got a little carried away. I can understand how that happens. But I get
Maxine Water`s reaction, too. What exactly did he mean?

(LAUGHTER)

ROBINSON: Well, I`m not sure. He clearly veered off course with
bedroom slippers, OK? He`s got to drop that line from the next time he
speaks to that audience. The rest of the speech, though, really I think
was basically what he has to say. He needs to fire up African-American
voters. It`s not that they`re going to defect no matter who the democratic
candidate is. That candidate will be able to count on 80 percent, 85
percent, whatever, of the African-American vote. The question for the
president is maximizing that African-American vote, getting as many black
voters to the polls as possible which will make all the difference in a
city like Philadelphia, for example, which will make all the difference in
a state like Pennsylvania which he`s got to win.

O`DONNELL: Yes, and to be fair, we just excerpted the one and only
section of the president`s speech that had any kind of odd ring to it at
all. It was, in fact, a very successful speech to that audience. But it`s
tough, Gene, when you`re running as the incumbent president. Unemployment
in the black community, well over 16 percent. Unemployment among workers
in the younger ages in the 20 to 25 age group also over 16 percent. It`s
very difficult to come up with the inspirational rhetoric when you have the
burden of incumbency. Isn`t it?

ROBINSON: No. It is it is really hard. It`s much harder than, as
well deserve paying would call it, that hopey changey stuff that he so
successfully used last time around. But again, the challenge really is
motivating voters and how else is he going to do it except try to fire them
up? You can`t credibly promise that the day after the election
everything`s going to be different. I think you have to establish a
contrast and be the guy that`s fighting for the audience. He`s fighting
for black Americans. He`s fighting for young people. He`s fighting for
new voters. And as opposed to the Republicans, draw the contrast and see
if you can boost the turnout.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what he said about the challenge of the
unemployed at a town hall meeting today in California.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What would be your statement of encouragement for
those who are looking for work today?

OBAMA: The encouraging thing for you is that when the economy gets
back on track in the ways that it should, you are going to be prepared to
be successful. The challenge is making sure you hang in between now and
then.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Gene, that is going to be the toughest question the
president is going to be faced with throughout the campaign, what do you
say to the unemployed, what do you do, what can they look forward to? He
has got to be able expand on it beyond that answer, doesn`t he?

ROBINSON: Yes, he does. He has to say more than, well, just hang on
for a while. As he, himself, has pointed out, people don`t particularly
feel they can wait 14 months or two years or however long it is. I think
he has got to give some sense of movement, some sense of movement toward
fuller employment, if not absolutely full employment. And give people a
sense that they`re moving toward a job rather than just marking time until
the economy gets better.

O`DONNELL: And gene, I want to get your reaction to what I can only
call the confusion in Florida this weekend, the triumphant victory of
Herman Cain. That looks like to me a very good weekend for the president
politically with the Republicans in that kind of disarray and kind of
shocking surprise outcome.

ROBINSON: Could hardly have been better for the president, I think.
The longer this confusion persist the better for him. It`s clear that
Republican base does not warm to Mitt Romney and may never warm to Mitt
Romney. And Rick Perry has been a real disappointment to that base. And
the result of which there`s now this huge clamber for Chris Christie. And
so, as long as they`re in this flavor of the month mode, bring in more,
bring in the next guy, then that`s all good for the president.

O`DONNELL: MSNBC Political Analyst Eugene Robinson, thank you very
much for joining me tonight.

ROBINSON: Great to be here, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, why evangelicals, some evangelicals believe
President Obama is the ant-Christ and why they believe in the anti-Christ
at all.

And protests on Wall Street result in violent behavior from some of
those who are supposed to serve and protect. That`s coming up in the
"rewrite."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Still to come tonight, why the anti-Christ and who fills
that role is so important to our particular type of evangelical and why it
matters in our politics. The author of a must-read op-ed in this morning`s
"New York times" joins me.

And a few people caused a lot of trouble on Wall Street this weekend.
They weren`t the protesters. That`s in the "rewrite."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: In the Spotlight tonight, is Barack Obama the Antichrist?
Today`s "New York Times" says "for some Evangelicals, President Obama is
troubling. The specious theories about his place of birth, his
internationalist tendencies, his measured support or Israel and his Nobel
Peace prize fit their long held expectations about the Antichrist. So does
his commitment to expanding the reach of government in areas like health
care."

That`s from an op-ed in today`s "New York Times" entitled "Why the
Antichrist Matters in Politics." The piece says "not since Roosevelt have
we had a president of charisma and global popularity who so perfectly fits
the Evangelicals` Antichrist mold."

Joining me now, the author of that piece, Matt Sutton. He is an
associate professor of history at Washington State University and author of
"Aimee Simple McPherson and the Resurrection of Christian America."

Thanks for joining me tonight, Matt.

MATT SUTTON, AUTHOR, "AIMEE SIMPLE MCPHERSON AND THE RESURRECTION OF
CHRISTIAN AMERICA: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Matt, could you first of all just review for us the
definition of Antichrist? What is the Antichrist? Not all of our viewers
know this.

SUTTON: Sure. Well, it`s a Biblical notion. And for conservative
Christians, they`ve developed this notion of the Antichrist out of a -- the
reading of the Bible in a couple different places. Mostly the Old
Testament, but also the Book of Revelation.

But essentially what they believe is that the world is getting worse
and worse and worse, and it`s going to end in this great cataclysm. And
what`s going to happen is first all true Christians are going to be
raptured. They`re going to disappear. And then a new world leader is
going to come forward promising peace and security.

And then it`s going to turn out that he`s the Antichrist. And
ultimately, seven years later, Jesus is going to return, the second coming.
And he`s going to battle the Antichrist actually in a literal place in the
Middle East, the Battle of Armageddon. Then Jesus will then restore a new
heaven and new Earth and things will be much better at that point.

O`DONNELL: Here`s the part that I don`t quite understand. You deal
with this a little bit in your op-ed pieces. If you`re one of these
Christians who sees it this way, you actually want this to happen? And yet
-- so you need to have an Antichrist in order to have all this prophecy
fulfilled. And yet they somehow, at the same time, oppose the rise of the
Antichrist?

SUTTON: Yeah. It is sort of paradoxical. Outsiders never understand
this. But it`s something that the fundamentalists -- I`m a historian. So
I come at this from a historical perspective. But the fundamentalists in
the 1920s and `30s explained it, and Evangelicals in the `70s and `80s
explained it. They would say the same thing today, which is just that, on
the one hand, the Bible calls them to look forward to Christ`s second
coming.

But at the same time, he`s told them to occupy until he comes, which
is to continue to act a Christian life, to do what God has called you to
do, and to be prepared for him to come at any moment, but also to
understand that he may not come for another generation or two generations
or three generations.

O`DONNELL: Now you point out that all of these suspicions and
theories surrounded FDR in his time. Why?

SUTTON: Right. That`s what actually drew me to this project is I`m
doing research more on the pre-World War II period, but I`m seeing so much
relevance and resonance with what`s happening today. But Roosevelt
represented and identified with so many of the characteristics that
fundamentalists had been expecting really since the 1880s and 1890s, and
that is that there would be a world leader, that democracy would slowly
fade.

More and more power would become infused into central governments, and
that there would be greater international activity, that nations would
start to work together. And all of this would set the stage for the coming
of the Antichrist. So for fundamentalists in the `30s, they look at
Mussolini. They look at Hitler, they look at Stalin, and they see the
consolidation of power in government.

Then what`s FDR doing? He`s doing the same thing. He breaks
precedent. he runs for four terms. He tries to pack the Supreme Court.
Congress is essentially a rubber stamp.

So for these fundamentalists, there was a lot there to make them think
that it wasn`t just Mussolini they should be afraid of, but it was
Roosevelt as well.

O`DONNELL: Now you made me -- in your op-ed piece, you made me
reconsider an ad John McCain ran in the 2008 presidential campaign against
Barack Obama. I want to show it now. We`ll talk about it after we see it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It should be known in 2008 the world will be
blessed. They will call him the one. And the world shall receive his
blessings.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This was the moment
when the rise of the oceans began to fold and our planet began to heal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Behold his mighty hand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Barack Obama may be the one, but is he ready to
lead?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Now, Matt, when I saw that ad, I just thought they were
playing on the idea that Obama is an egomaniac and his followers are just
kind of crazy, messianic type followers. But you saw something else?

SUTTON: Right. I did. And other Evangelical analysts and historians
and political scientists in 2008 saw it as well, that, on the one hand, it
was exactly what you described, that it`s playing to kind of Obama as
celebrity, Obama as superstar, and kind of the fawning teenagers who are in
love with him.

But it also is saying something else, which is that he really is a
21st century kind of leader, which raises certain suspicions among a
certain group of the population, people who are, again, afraid of
government authority, afraid of government power, and especially
international authority and international power.

So for them, I think Obama -- well for -- McCain was really tapping
into this millennial fear of what was coming next.

O`DONNELL: Matthew Sutton, thank you very much for joining us
tonight.

SUTTON: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Harry Shearer gets THE LAST WORD on our
politics tonight.

And this weekend, why the occupy Wall Street protests turned violent.
It wasn`t the protesters` fault. That`s in tonight`s Rewrite.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Time for tonight`s Rewrite. This weekend, a few
troublemakers turned a peaceful protest against Wall Street greed into a
violent burst of chaos. The troublemakers carried pepper spray and guns
and were wearing badges.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get in there and help.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`re not doing anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: "We`re not doing anything." You heard the woman say that
as the police were grabbing people for absolutely no reason, crushing them
on the pavement and arresting them. "We`re not doing anything."

We will post all of the video that we have on this protest on our
blog. And you won`t find anyone doing anything that is legal grounds for
arrest.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CROSS TALK)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Let`s take another look at that unprovoked police
brutality. The reason that man is being assaulted by the police is because
of what he has in his hand. He`s holding a professional-grade video
camera. Since the Rodney King beating was caught on an amateur video
camera, American police officers have known video cameras are their worst
enemies.

They will do anything they can to stop you from legally videotaping
how they handle their responsibility to serve and protect you. So this
police commander has decided that the correct response to that man shooting
video is to grab him and smash his head into a parked Volvo.

The commanders are recognizable by their white shirts. The white
shirts indicate a rank of lieutenant or above. Here`s another courageous
commander showing his men how to control the citizenry. His target for
showing how tough he is was an unarmed woman who he had to reach across the
police security line to grab.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CROSS TALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, no. Stop it. Stop it. No, no.

(CROSS TALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stop it. Stop it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (EXPLETIVE DELETED)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And there was at least one unprovoked use of pepper spray.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pepper spray. Pepper spray for what?

(SCREAMING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: USLaw.com has posted a slow motion version of the pepper
spray incident, which, of course, shows there is no conceivable
justification for the use of the pepper spray.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(INAUDIBLE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: As is usually the case in these situations, most of the
police officers on the scene carried out their duties calmly and
nonviolently, like this one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Guys, back, please. Thank you. Back, please,
ma`am. Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That`s how you do it. Stand back, thank you. You respect
those people. As usual, police department is defending its troublemakers
as having done absolutely nothing wrong. The department insists that the
pepper spray was used appropriately. The department may be forced to
conduct an investigation of the police conduct if police brutality
complaints are filed.

But police investigations of this sort are always a sham, designed
from the start, to the finish, to defend the police conduct. The police
department is already defending the inexcusable use of the pepper spray,
which you just saw. They`re defending it knowing there is videotape
proving that it was unjustified.

The police department can do this because the police department knows
that this story is going to go away. This kind of story always goes away.
Someone would have to have been killed or very seriously injured in order
for the press to stay interested in this story, and for the police to do
even a half serious investigation into it.

This is just a story of a few cops being tougher than they had to be,
and, yeah, technically breaking some laws. And cops know they can always
get away with that. American police know that no mayor and no police chief
is ever going to call them on just being what they think of as a little too
tough.

Now, I haven`t bothered to mention where this took place or what
police department was involved because this is an American police work that
we`re watching. It`s an American police work story.

In fact, it involved one of the best police departments in America.
Every day in America, police are too tough. Every day in America, police
cross the line and abuse citizens.

Every day in America, police get away with that. White America was
shocked at what they saw police doing to Rodney King. Black America would
have loved to have been shocked by what they saw police do to Rodney King.
But black America only could have been shocked if what the police did to
Rodney King was something completely alien to their community experience,
was something they couldn`t imagine the police doing in their community.

There`s a Rodney King every day in this country. And black America
has always known that. Everything those cops did this weekend to those
protesters they`ve done to someone else when there were no video cameras
rolling. They`ve done it and they`ve gotten away with it. They know just
how much assault and battery their department will let them commit.

They know just how many false arrests their department will let them
do. They know just how much latitude their department gives them on
abusing citizens. They do it because they know they can. They do it
because they know -- they know they will get away with it.

None of the officers who crossed the line this weekend will be
disciplined in any way. None of them will be charged with the assaults and
batteries that they committed. None of them will be charged with the false
arrests. None of them will lose a day`s pay.

The police department doesn`t need an investigation to figure out what
happened this weekend. The department has already said the officers acted
appropriately. Case closed. That`s it.

If the department does, by some miracle, by some chance, discipline
anyone -- anyone for what happened this weekend, I will immediately Rewrite
what would then be my mistaken presumption tonight that American police
have once again gotten away with another crime against the American people
they are sworn to serve and protect.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: "Saturday Night Live" returned for its 37th season this
weekend and not a moment too soon. Catching up with the Republican
presidential candidates during last week`s debate on Fox News.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: I believe we need to build a fence to keep the
illegals out. However, should any illegals get through and have children
here, I think we should open our hearts and pay for their education.

No? Do-over. Do-over. Rick Perry only listens to two people, Jesus
Christ and Rachel Maddow. No?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt Romney might not be the perfect candidate.
But he`s the perfect candidate in comparison to the other candidates. Next
to Rick Perry, I`m a centrist. Next to Michele Bachmann, I`m a private
sector businessman.

Next to Newt Gingrich, I have a normal, human sized head. Next to Ron
Paul, I`m the Fonz. And next to Herman Cain --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Cain, your only experience is serving as CEO
of Godfather Pizza. How does running a pizza chain equate to running a
country?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you order it, pizza will come. Pizza will
come. Oh, pizza will most definitely come. And if you vote for me,
America, I promise you that I will deliver.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now, a distinguished graduate of "Saturday
Night Live," the writer and director of "The Big Uneasy," a documentary
about the flooding and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, and
the host of public radio`s "Le Show." Harry Shearer. Harry, thank you very
much for joining us.

HARRY SHEARER, "THE BIG UNEASY": My pleasure.

O`DONNELL: My favorite radio show in the world, your show. It`s the
greatest. So it doesn`t get weirder than this weekend in Republican
politics. Herman Cain?

SHEARER: Yes, sir.

O`DONNELL: So there have been two sets of votes cast, if we can call
them that, in straw polls. Michele Bachmann wins the first one. Herman
Cain wins the second one. Where are we going?

SHEARER: Well, I want to be the first person to say on national
television that Herman Cain`s -- I have the explanation for Herman Cain`s
tax plan.

O`DONNELL: Nine, nine, nine, I`ve been trying to follow that.

SHEARER: It`s a carefully coded message from Satan.

O`DONNELL: OK.

SHEARER: Flip it, baby.

O`DONNELL: Oh.

SHEARER: See what I`m saying? Apropos of your previous guest.

O`DONNELL: We should have had you together. Analyze that together.
We`ve got this debate --

O`DONNELL: I think the next candidate to win in a Republican straw
poll is likely to be Hugo Chavez at this rate.

O`DONNELL: It`s unpredictable.

SHEARER: It`s wacky. It`s weird.

O`DONNELL: No one has paid more attention to the aftermath of
Hurricane Katrina than Harry Shearer. Your documentary is about that. I`m
thinking about that when I look at the arguments that are going on in
Washington today about disaster relief and -- no, no, no, wait a minute, we
have to figure out where we`re going to take the money from in the budget.

Can you imagine in the aftermath of Katrina, which had enough madness
to deal with, if Washington was trying to figure out how to cut other
things in the budget to pay for any of this?

SHEARER: It`s -- robbing Peter to pay Paul has Biblical roots, hence
the names. But, I mean, I think we have watched enough sausage being made
in the last year and a half to put us off sausage for life I think. You
know, the Congressional process is not pretty at its best. You and I have
both worked -- you for a much longer time than I. I worked in the state
legislature in Sacramento.

I got tired of it after a year. You stuck it out for a while. But
it`s not meant for public view. It`s like many other basic human
functions.

O`DONNELL: There are some Republican members of Louisiana`s
congressional delegation who are part of this slowdown relief -- disaster
relief money until we can find a way to pay for it. Aren`t they under
pressure?

SHEARER: You know, it`s remarkable, because my film deals with the
cause of the flooding, but the --what`s well known in Louisiana is that
FEMA relief money was slow walked and knotted up, to a great extent, after
Katrina. And one of the few good things you`ll hear anybody in Louisiana
say about the Obama administration is the appointment of Craig Fugate as
FEMA administrator. He has cut the red tape and the money has finally
started flowing.

And now this. So were it not for the fact that FEMA suddenly
discovered they have a million dollars to tide them through Friday, and
this is all going to go away, and nothing to see her, I think people would
be kind of looking askance at those two --

O`DONNELL: We, of course, have moved on to other disasters,
especially this year`s disasters, in media coverage and all that. But the
aftermath of Katrina is by no means complete, nor has the disaster relief
effort been complete.

SHEARER: Oh, God, no. A lot of the FEMA money was for infrastructure
-- uh-oh, there`s that terrible word -- that was destroyed by the flood,
the sewers, the water systems. Really disastrously effected. FEMA money
mainly was going to relieve that. That has just really started at this
point.

O`DONNELL: Where do you see the president going in his re-election
campaign? You saw this thing about the slippers, which you had to have
caught, as one of the kind of unscripted moment of the Obama campaign. Is
he struggling to find that reelection rhetoric, being very different from
the 2008 rhetoric? And where is he going to end up?

SHEARER: Mitt Romney`s going to be the Republican nominee and
presidents don`t get reelected with nine percent unemployment.

O`DONNELL: You heard it here first, the gloomy word from Harry
Shearer. I think he can beat Mitt Romney. We`ll find out.

Harry Shearer, director of the film "The Big Uneasy," thank you very
much for joining me tonight.

SHEARER: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: You can have THE LAST WORD online at our blog,
TheLastWord.MSNBC.com. You can follow my Tweets @Lawrence. "THE RACHEL
MADDOW SHOW" is up next.

END

<Copy: Content and programming copyright 2011 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Copyright 2011 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>




Watch The Last Word With Lawrence O'Donnell each weeknight at 10 p.m. ET


Sponsored links

Resource guide