'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Friday, October 7, 2011
Read the transcript to the Friday show
Guests: Goldie Taylor, Robert Reich
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: Rush Limbaugh is very, very angry about
some of the questions that I asked Herman Cain last night and he`s not the
only one. But as Herman Cain says, what`s there to be angry about?
HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Lawrence O`Donnell could try
and challenge me.
O`DONNELL: You`ve said that if you`re unemployed and if you`re poor -
CAIN: Blame yourself. Blame yourself.
O`DONNELL: Would you like to retract that now?
CAIN: Do you stay up at night to come up with the wording in these
questions? What was I doing during the civil rights movement?
MARTIN BASHIR, MSNBC ANCHOR: Little interest in the civil rights
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Controversy was right at Herman Cain`s doorstep
and he did nothing.
O`DONNELL: I didn`t go downtown and try to participate in sit ins.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why not? I mean, he was here in Atlanta.
O`DONNELL: We decided to avoid trouble by moving to the back of the
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The very idea that he said, you know, we were OK
with moving to the back of the bus --
REPORTER: Who is Lawrence O`Donnell to tell you how to be a black
CAIN: You get this bull`s-eye on your back. They brainwashed a lot
of black Americans into just voting Democrat.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Call someone like me or anyone one else
brainwashed, that`s insulting.
CAIN: What`s there to be angry about?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Demonstrations are planned in cities coast to
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`re bailing out
the big guys.
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: They`re fed up.
BIDEN: The American people do not think the system is fair.
CAIN: Why not picket the White House?
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Protesters are giving
voice to a more broad base of frustration.
BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS: We`re far left loons --
CAIN: I`m not running to go to Disneyland.
O`DONNELL: Today`s mandatory stop on the Republican presidential
campaign was the Values Voters Summit in Washington, D.C.
Rick Perry got things started just by getting introduced by Robert
Jeffress, senior pastor at Dallas` First Baptist Church.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PASTOR ROBERT JEFFRESS, PERRY SUPPORTER: Do we want a candidate who
is a conservative out of convenience or one who is a conservative out of
deep conviction? Do we want a candidate who is a good, moral person or do
we want a candidate who is a born again follower of the Lord Jesus Christ?
Rick Perry is a proven leader. He is a true conservative. And he is a
genuine follower of Jesus Christ.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: What Jeffress means by genuine follower of Jesus Christ
is, of course, not a Mormon -- a veiled reference to Mitt Romney`s
religion. Rick Perry didn`t have to say much after that introduction, so
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Pastor Jeffress, I
want to say thank you for the rousing introduction. He knocked it out of
the park as we like to say. And a fellow who on any given Sunday is
working with 10,000 Texans in his church. So I just, again, want to say
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Later in an explicit attack on Mitt Romney, Reverend
Jeffress hit Mormonism out of the park.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFFRESS: Rick Perry, he`s a Christian. He`s an evangelical
Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ.
Mitt Romney is a good moral person, but he`s not a Christian.
Mormonism is not Christianity. It`s considered a cult by the mainstream of
So, it`s a difference between a Christian and non-Christian.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The newest Republican front-runner Herman Cain had this to
say at the Values Voters Summit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAIN: This nation has made it through the Civil War, this nation has
made it through the struggle we had with slavery, Jim Crow laws, civil
rights. A reporter asked me just yesterday, "Well, aren`t you angry about
how America has treated you?" I said, "Sir, you don`t get it. I have
achieved all of my American Dreams and then some because of the great
nation, the United States of America."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Herman Cain`s interview here yesterday followed him around
on the campaign trail today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Mr. Cain, who is Lawrence O`Donnell to tell you how to be a
CAIN: It`s an absurd thing to try and do, isn`t it? I mean, for
Lawrence O`Donnell to try and challenge me what was I doing during the
civil rights movement, that`s about as ridiculous as me asking him, what
were you doing when you were in kindergarten? The two don`t even relate to
one another. So, you`re right. His attempt to do that failed in my
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: This is the part of the interview the questioner was
referring to. I will leave it to you to decide whether I was telling
Herman Cain how to be a black man.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: In your book, you write, the book you`re selling down
there at Barnes & Noble today, you write, "The civil rights movement was a
few years in front of me. I was too young to participate when they first
started the freedom rides and the sit ins. So on a day-to-day basis, it
didn`t have an impact. I just kept going to school, doing what I was
supposed to do and stayed out of trouble.
I didn`t go downtown and try to participate in sit ins. Counter to
our real feelings, we decided to avoid trouble by moving to the back of the
bus when the driver told us to. Dad always said, `Stay out of trouble,`
and we did."
Where do you think black people would be sitting on the bus today if
Rosa Parks had followed your father`s advice?
CAIN: My father was not given Rosa Parks` advice. Here, again,
Lawrence, you`re distorting the intent of what I said. I was a high school
student. The college students were doing the sit ins. The college
students were doing the freedom rides.
If I had been a college student, I probably would have been
O`DONNELL: Mr. Cain, in fact, you were in college from 1963 to 1967,
at the height of the civil rights movement -- exactly when the most
important demonstrations and protests were going on. You could easily as a
student at Morehouse between 1963 and 1967 actively participated in the
kinds of protests that got African-Americans the rights they enjoy today.
You watched from that perspective at Morehouse when you were not
participating in those processes -- you watched black college students from
around the country and white college students from around the country come
to the south and be murdered, fighting for the rights of African-Americans.
Do you regret sitting on those sidelines at that time?
CAIN: Let me ask you a question. Did you expect every black student
and every black college in America to be out there in the middle of every
fight? The answer is no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now, experts on the civil rights movement: the
host of "POLITICS NATION," Reverend Al Sharpton; MSNBC contributor and
Tulane University professor of political science, Melissa Harris-Perry; and
Goldie Taylor from the Grio.com, which is part of NBC News.
I want to thank you all very much for joining me tonight.
I just want to begin to get some of the reaction to this interview. I
want you to listen to what Rush Limbaugh`s reaction was.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: No, O`Donnell is not black. He
is the plantation master. The libs run a plantation. And the blacks in
the Democrat Party are the people that work for `em. And in order to serve
in the Democrat Party as a black, you have to tow the line. It`s just --
it`s just a reworking on the old traditional arrangement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: I just want to tell you all, I got a lot of positive
reaction to this interview, from white and black friends of mine. I got a
lot of negative reaction to this interview from the same. Twitter was
filled up with both kinds of reactions.
And so, I`m -- I just want to open the floor to your reactions to what
you saw in that interview. I just want to assure you at the outset I
wasn`t trying to instruct anyone on how to handle themselves at that time
in the South or any parents. And I think if I had been a parent in that
situation at that time, I probably would have given the exact advice Herman
Cain`s father gave his children.
But I was trying to highlight, there was a moral question in front of
you, history came to your doorstep. Do you have regrets? That`s all I was
asking about. Do you have any regrets about how you handled it?
Reverend Al, go ahead. What was your reaction to what you heard in
AL SHARPTON, "POLITICS NATION" HOST: Well, first of all, I think that
it was very telling that Mr. Cain said that had he been a college student,
he probably would have been involved. When you brought up that when he was
a college student in Morehouse, the school Dr. King, by the way, graduated
from, he was not involved. So I think that it is blatant contradiction to
say, I would have been involved, and then when you clearly say, you were
old enough, then he goes somewhere else.
Secondly, I don`t see where you instructing him on how to be black or
anything else. I think you were dealing with the facts of what he had
written in his book and what he had, in fact, done and said.
But I think what is more troubling to me, it is Mr. Cain that has
decided to call blacks brainwashed. So he brought up the issue before your
interview of race and choices. And I might add, Martin Luther King`s
family was Republican until the civil rights movement. So I don`t even
think this is a Protestant matter.
And when he calls demonstrators in the "Occupy Wall Street movement,"
many of who are operating in the tradition of these same tradition of
public demonstrations the civil rights movement did then and now, when he
calls that un-American, I think that`s a legitimate question to ask him
because how can you call people un-American for assembling and protesting
now and not then have considered those same tactics un-American then?
Lastly, I think that Mr. Cain has a real problem with the fact that
because someone can ask the question that he wrote about, that they`re
instructing him -- and then Limbaugh talks about people that are plantation
-- the connotations of all of that is extremely offensive to me,
particularly when he asks like there`s something wrong with people, black
and white, being angry about how Americans treated some people in this
So I don`t see where anything was out of order other than the
inconsistencies and distortions of Mr. Cain`s answers and positions.
O`DONNELL: Melissa Harris-Perry, I don`t want to oversimplify the
menu of choice that existed for black families in the South at that time.
When you read Isabelle Wilkerson`s book about the warm of other sons, one
of the other important choices to make was -- do we just move out of here
to save our lives, and go north, and go west, as so many people did? But I
do think that it`s -- what I was looking for was just how does it feel now?
You know, you -- Mr. Cain, you lived through this period, you made
your choices. I don`t have any argument with the choices. What does it
feel like now when you look back on it?
But, Melissa, go ahead. I want everyone -- I want to let this
conversation breathe. I want you to tell me what you took from what you
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: So, I mean, I would start by
underlining everything that Reverend Sharpton just said about the
complicity of Herman Cain in a particular kind of racial discourse. That
said, and with no support for Herman Cain`s 9-9-9 plan or anything else on
the Cain menu, I was squirming with discomfort watching this interview,
Lawrence, between you and Mr. Cain.
And my discomfort came from a couple of sources. One, just exactly as
you said, the menu of choices, I think we have to be so careful. When we
are not facing the lynchers` noose, when we are not facing that imminent
violence, ourselves, we have to be extremely careful about even the
implication that those who did not participate were necessarily cowards.
Now, Mr. Cain may be a coward -- I don`t know, but it was always
simply a minority of African-Americans who were engaged at any point in the
civil rights movement because it was a life and death question. And I
can`t be certain what choices I would have made had I faced that.
But then I think for me, the second issue -- and this is maybe the
thing that made me the most uncomfortable -- is I can`t remember anyone
ever asking a white politician who is of the same age where they were
during the sit ins. As you pointed out in your interview, there were white
students who came down to be part of freedom summer. There were white
allies at every point.
And yet we don`t consider it a litmus test for white politicians to
have had enough moral courage, ethical vision and American value to have
participated actively in the civil rights movement. And I think that for
me what was distressing was just the idea that -- you know, the later set
of questions about, you know, were you in the part of the draft, did you
serve in the Vietnam War? We`ve asked that of white candidates, of black
candidates, of anyone who could have served during wartime. We asked
whether or not they did and what that says about their patriotism.
But I`m worried when we don`t ask white politicians about their
patriotism related to how they have or have not stood up for racial
O`DONNELL: Yes. You know, we`ll get to the Vietnam thing later. I
found out from a lot of my younger viewers they were confused about why I
was asking about the Vietnam thing. I wasn`t gung-ho about you should go
to war. It`s just that there`s -- there was a decision every male had to
make at that time in this country and I was interesting in exploring his.
Goldie Taylor, I want to go to you and I want to say on what Melissa
just said -- you know, my oldest brother was old enough and was in college
at the time we`re talking about here and he could have participated in the
freedom rides, going down from Boston. And he didn`t.
I`ve asked him, you know, do you regret having done that? He answers
it comfortably enough saying, no, I don`t regret it. I didn`t know enough
at the time to think about -- he can talk about it comfortably. He also
went on as a lawyer in Boston to handle very important civil rights
litigation. So, he was probably inspired by that period of time.
But it seems to me that people who live through these historical
periods can look back on where they were in them and discuss what decisions
they made. I think we can go into those conversations without necessarily
presuming there`s a right or wrong answer.
But, Goldie, what was your reaction to what you heard?
GOLDIE TAYLOR, GRIO.COM: Well, I think that`s about right. I do
underline what Reverend Sharpton said earlier in the broadcast that, you
know, Herman Cain was living right here in Atlanta, Georgia. He`d been
turned away from the University of Georgia on an application there and
wound up at Morehouse College, which was not his first choice. And so,
that point made.
The other point is, is that, you know, Herman Cain raised this issue
in his own book. And so, we know that everything you do, say and write --
everything you don`t do, don`t say and don`t write is really going to be
open game in your adult life if you`re running for president of the United
States. And so, this is scrutiny that he has got to welcome.
I don`t, you know, begrudge you for asking the question. I think I
was very uncomfortable in how he chose to answer it. If he said that his
road was different, that his goal was different, that his way in fighting
civil rights was in showing how to be a more accomplished human being, then
maybe, you know, I would have been a bit more with his responses. But he
was righteously indignant last night.
I think to live here in Atlanta, to be in the cradle of the civil
rights movement, at Morehouse College in the middle of the Atlanta
University Center, no less, when students were actively organizing, when
they were actively organizing sit ins, they were huddling at the Paschal`s
restaurant, school systems were beginning to integrate. Change was
happening all around him.
And if he made the choice, and the choice was his not to get involved,
he should be able to rightly explain that choice and explain why he took a
different trajectory. You know -- and that`s my real problem with Herman
Cain, is that, you know, he stays on his message but when he`s asked a
tough question, he seems to falter. And I think that`s going to be a real
question for a man who wants to be president of the United States, the
toughest job in the entire world, on this entire planet, leader of the free
world. I think he ought to be able to answer, you know, honest questions
in books about -- books and writings he has done.
O`DONNELL: Reverend Al, on what Goldie just said, I`d like you to
also help us take our younger viewers back to 1963, 1964, 1965, Herman
Cain`s college years and what was going on in this country.
September 16th, 1963, of course, those of us who are old enough to
remember will always remember that that`s when the four African-American
girls were killed in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in
Birmingham. We lost Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carol Robertson,
Denise McNair. 1964, the middle of his college career was freedom summer.
That`s when the student nonviolent coordinate committee was getting geared
up and doing so in Atlanta.
But Reverend Al, fill in some of the wall paper of the time that
surrounds the period that we`re talking about here.
SHARPTON: Well, first of all, you not only had the Birmingham four
that were bombed and killed. You had the march on Washington. You had the
killing of (INAUDIBLE). You had all of that.
But let me say this -- I think I agree with both Goldie and Melissa.
He had the right not to be involved.
What he does not have the right to is rewrite history by saying that
blacks were brainwashed by becoming Democrats, because when blacks became
Democrats, my parents were Republicans. As I said, Dr. King`s family was.
I`m nine or 10 years younger than Mr. Cain, and I joined the movement later
on in the `60s when I was still a teenager.
I don`t begrudge him for not making my choice, but I do begrudge him
for acting like we`re brainwashed because we went with a party that stood
up for the rights of `64 and voting rights act of `65. There`s a reason
the blacks did not stay with the Republican Party.
So, I think when he stepped in to calling people brainwashed and
totally discarded the fact that it was based on public policy, that people
made their political choices and, in fact, changed their choices from the
party of Lincoln. I think it became fair game to question him on his
personal decisions. He didn`t say that.
Then he comes not only in an incendiary way, I think, in answering
your questioning. I think that he really stepped over the bounds today
when he says that America made it possible for him to be prosperous, rather
than those that changed America made it possible for him to be prosperous.
So, if I were to give him the benefit of the doubt last night, he
certainly closed the door today because he basically discounted what the
civil rights movement did. Herman Cain could not have -- it was not
required that he be involved in the movement, but for him to act like the
movement, not the normal status quo, America was responsible for his
success is a distortion and factually inaccurate and offensive to me.
O`DONNELL: Melissa, I could see you wanted to get back in there. And
we`re out of time for this segment and what we`re going to do is we`re just
going to push over into the next segment. We`ll see what we salvage of the
rest of the show. But please stay with me. We`re going to go to a break.
Reverend Al Sharpton, Melissa Harris-Perry, and Goldie Taylor, please
stay with me. We`re going to continue. We`re going to come back to this
subject. It feels like we`re just getting started.
And coming up, we will do a "Rewrite" of Grover Norquist. We`ve done
it before. We`re going to do it again. But this time, I`m going to let a
Republican do it for me.
And Eric Cantor goes after the "Occupy Wall Street" on day 21 as the
protesters move in on Washington, D.C. I think we`re going to get to that,
O`DONNELL: Coming up, we`re going to have more of my conversation
with Reverend Al Sharpton, Melissa Harris-Perry and Goldie Taylor on Herman
Cain`s interview here last night and his history with or without the civil
We`re also going to go to "Occupy Wall Street." It goes to
Washington. Eric Cantor is referring to them now as a mob. Robert Reich
will guide us through that. He`s going to be coming up.
O`DONNELL: We`re back with the Reverend Al Sharpton, host of MSNBC`s
"POLITICS NATION," MSNBC contributor Melissa Harris-Perry of "The Nation,"
and Goldie Taylor, from the Grio.com, which is part of NBC News.
Thanks for staying and continuing this conversation.
Melissa, I`m just going to read you one of the tweets from today
actually, from Mark Comvaleus (ph) who says, "Lawrence, I would love to
stomp you into the ground" and goes on and on and on with violence. He was
then backed up by someone else who said, "I know where he lives and I`m not
afraid of going to jail for doing it."
So, Rush Limbaugh wasn`t the only one angry about this.
Melissa, go -- I`m going to just get out of the way here with the few
minutes we have left. Melissa, I know I wanted to react to what Reverend
Al was saying.
HARRIS-PERRY: There`s a part of me that just wants to say, well, I`m
glad it`s you this week getting those tweets. Last week, it was me. But,
obviously, that kind of violence talk is precisely what we don`t need.
That said, I`m sorry, I was trying to be a good guest. As I was
listening to Reverend Sharpton, I just kept wanting to jump in with a kind
of -- I felt like I was in church and I wanted to say amen.
Some of what Reverend Sharpton was pointing to there are really the
critical issues for African-American voters in a very broad and long
historical sense. And that is this idea that they are not agentic, that
they can`t make their own choices, that African-Americans, because we tend
to vote in large blocs, sort of better than 80 percent of the race`s vote
going to first the Republican Party in the years following the Civil War,
and then to the Democratic Party after a transition first with FDR, then
with the 1964 civil rights and 1965 Voting Rights Act.
So, it looks like, oh, they`re just a herd and all go one way. And,
obviously, you hear a lot on the left these days calling African-American
voters Obamabots or Obama drones for continuing to support the president of
the United States.
And I just really want to put my finger on this and say that that is
precisely the kind of infantilizing of adult persons who are citizens of
these United States. That is so troubling.
And it was troubling to hear Herman Cain do it. It is trouble when it
happens from white allies on the left.
African-Americans make choices like other citizens based on a wide
variety of policy issues. It just turns out that consistently in this
country, one party or the other tends to do significantly better in terms
of economic and political questions relative to African-American
And so, the notion that it`s brainwashing rather than choice I think
is incredibly upsetting for African-Americans to hear, whether it comes
from the left or the right.
O`DONNELL: Goldie, go ahead.
TAYLOR: I think I have to agree with that. I think, you know, if you
look at African-Americans and you look down into the psychographic,
African-Americans are by in large socially conservative. We happen to
agree with Republicans on a number of conservative issues.
You know, we`re in church once, twice, some of us three times every
week. And so, we`re a faith-driven community. And so, to say that we
won`t consider conservative ideals is really just a misnomer.
I think what we won`t consider is a party that we see at least in my
lifetime, and I was born in 1968, in my lifetime, hasn`t been particularly
in line, you know, with the kinds of values that would advance the African-
American community rather socially, economically or otherwise. Or open
more opportunities for, you know, us as a community. I think that that is
where the difference lies. It isn`t necessarily in the brainwashing.
We`re doing the math. We`re with those candidates and with those
parties who we feel like invest in us in a short and long term.
Herman Cain hasn`t been a kind of candidate who has shown empathy for
that, despite how he`s come to growth in this nation and neither have the
other candidates on that side of the table.
And so, it`s difficult for us as African-Americans to even consider it
in a serious way. I think that`s the substantial part of this is, if they
want to earn African-American votes, they have to come into the African-
American committee and not -- community -- and not talk but listen and
understand what the travails really are, what the issues really are and
come up with substantial, significant solutions to help us solve them.
That`s how you win votes back by listening.
But all they to these days it seems to be talking.
O`DONNELL: Reverend Al -- go ahead, Reverend.
SHARPTON: Lawrence, let me just say this, and let me be very candid
about this. I think on two points. One, people are still marching. I`m
still marching. A lot of us are still marching and it`s still dangerous.
I`ve been stabbed in my lifetime leading a march.
People are being pepper sprayed down at the -- at Wall Street now, at
occupation Wall Street. So, it is still some risk. To act like these
people are un-American or mobs, and Herman Cain to call them un-American,
call blacks brainwashed, question the president`s birth certificate, and
then you can`t ask him about where he was in his college days on an issue
Give me a break. I mean, he can say whatever he wants. But then if
somebody just raises a question to him about the basis of him making those
statements, then all of a sudden he runs and says you`re telling me how to
be black? No, maybe we`re asking for consistency here. If you thought it
was all right to march, but you didn`t march, then why is it wrong to march
If you thought one way, then why do you question not somebody`s race,
but question where a man was born when he`s the president of the United
States? So if Herman Cain wants to throw rocks, he should at least be open
to someone asking him questions.
TAYLOR: I think that`s exactly right, Reverend Al.
O`DONNELL: Go ahead, Goldie.
TAYLOR: I think that`s exactly right. I think if you`re going to
have a party who, you know, throws inflammatory things like saying the
president was educated in a Madrassa, or that he was born in Kenya or --
and so I think those issues -- or Herman Cain, himself saying that
President Obama isn`t a real black man, as if he`s standing in line handing
out the cards.
So I think that when you use that kind of imagery, and you can`t
celebrate the kind of African-American man President Obama has turned out
to be, but you turn around and celebrate the kind of African-American man
that Herman Cain has turned out to be -- I think there`s a bit of irony in
that, that you can celebrate one but not the other, because they don`t
happen to agree with you ideologically. I think that`s problematic for the
O`DONNELL: We`re just about out of time for this. We`re not going to
get to the discussion of Vietnam service, in which I wanted to try to
explain my frame of that. But Melissa Harris-Perry, please give us THE
LAST WORD on this. We`re running out of time.
HARRIS-PERRY: Maybe I shouldn`t have THE LAST WORD. I`d say, you
know, I absolutely agree with what both Goldie and Reverend Sharpton are
saying. But I will just repeat again, it did make me squirm. Had those
questions been asked in the exactly that sort of forthright way by Reverend
Sharpton, not because he`s black, but rather because he has a very personal
history obviously with the American civil rights movement that is kind of
unquestionable, I don`t think it would have made me feel as uncomfortable.
I just want to acknowledge that as much as I completely disagree with
Herman Cain`s positions, I was made uncomfortable by that particular
interracial interaction. And I think that that matters, too. And we
should be willing to pause and think about how the continuing realities of
American race and American racism mean that when we`re having frank
discussions across racial lines, it can still be a very, very difficult set
of conversations to have.
SHARPTON: I agree with that. I know she had THE LAST WORD. But let
me just say this quickly. I agree with what she said. Lawrence, do me a
favor. If a white candidate said blacks were brainwashed, ask them where
they were at during the civil rights movement if they are old enough.
HARRIS-PERRY: Please do.
O`DONNELL: I will absolutely do that. I just want to also specify
that Melissa Harris-Perry is not the only friend of mine who had exactly
that uncomfortable reaction to what they were watching.
SHARPTON: She`s my teacher. I`ll have to read what she writes about
O`DONNELL: Reverend Al Sharpton, Melissa Harris-Perry and Goldie
Taylor, I cannot thank you enough for coming in tonight and having this
discussion. Thank you very much.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you.
TAYLOR: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: The Occupy Wall Street protests continue to spread
nationwide. And politicians in Washington are taking notice. Robert
Reich, former labor secretary to Bill Clinton, joins me later.
And stay tuned for a special Rewrite by a Republican congressman who
is fed up with the way Grover Norquist controls Washington.
O`DONNELL: Occupy Wall Street goes to Washington. Today, protesters
started a three-day weekend occupation at Freedom Plaza near the White
House. The protests that started 21 days ago, organized through Twitter,
without a leader, and unaffiliated with any political or advocacy group,
now have the attention of Washington politicians.
Dozens of Democrats have voiced their support for the protesters. The
Congressional Progressive Caucus issued this statement: "we share the anger
and frustration of so many Americans who have seen the enormous toll that
an unchecked Wall Street has taken on the overwhelming majority of
Americans while benefiting the super wealthy. We stand with the American
people as they demand corporate accountability. And we support their use
of peaceful means to improve America."
House Republican Leader Eric Cantor, not surprisingly, had a different
reaction, speaking at the Values Voters Summit today in Washington.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ERIC CANTOR (R), MAJORITY LEADER: I for one am increasingly
concerned about the growing mobs occupying Wall Street and the other cities
across the country. And believe it or not, some in this town have actually
condoned the pitting of Americans against Americans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Cantor, of course, pits Americans against Americans for a
living and raised no objections to any of the protest demonstrations by
people calling themselves Tea Partiers, including the demonstrations he
participated in. This morning, the September jobs report was released,
showing the economy added 103,000 jobs last month. And now with more
complete information and data, it also revised the net job creation number
from August from the pathetic zero that we had earlier reported.
It was revised upward to 57,000. The national unemployment rate
remains 9.1 percent, a problem the president says Republicans have offered
no real solution for.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Their big economic plan
to put people back to work right now is to roll back financial protections,
eliminate the EPA. Here`s a good question. Here`s a little homework
assignment for folks.
Go ask the Republicans what their jobs plan is, if they`re opposed to
the American Jobs Act? And have it scored, have it assessed by the same
independent economist that have assessed our jobs plan. I`ll be interested
in the answer.
I think everybody here -- I see some smirks in the audience. Because
you know that it`s not going to be real robust.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now is Robert Reich, former labor secretary in
the Clinton administration. He`s now a professor of public policy at the
University of California at Berkeley, and the author of "Aftershock."
Thanks for joining me tonight, Bob.
ROBERT REICH, FORMER LABOR SECRETARY: Good evening, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: That was a really funny CBO joke the Republicans told
about scoring the Republicans` bill. I`m not sure most Americans would
quite get it. What he`s really saying is they haven`t proposed anything.
And if you tried to bring it to CBO, CBO wouldn`t be able to say that the
Republicans would be create any jobs.
REICH: Exactly. I mean, the republicans` idea about creating jobs is
basely is shrink government. And somehow by shrinking government, you get
more jobs, although most Americans understand that shrinking government
means fewer teachers, firefighters, fewer social workers, fewer police
officers, fewer government contractors, fewer people who are working for
all the government contractors.
So it`s hard to imagine how, by any scoring or any logic, it is
possible to understand how a shrinking government is going to create jobs.
O`DONNELL: The president`s news conference yesterday seemed to, at a
certain level, up the anxiety level for him. I mean, he seemed to be
saying, look, this economy could go very badly if we don`t do something
very quickly. This is a very tricky spot for the president to be in,
because, of course, he doesn`t want to say anything that shakes confidence
in any way. But at the same time, he somehow has to inspire urgency.
How should he do that?
REICH: Well, I think doing it exactly the way he`s done it. And that
is by being very clear with the American people about the magnitude of the
problem, but also optimistic that if we take steps, we can overcome this
problem. I mean, 103,000 new jobs for September may sound pretty good, but
you need 125,000 just to keep up with the growth of the population.
So we are still in the hole. We may be making a little progress, but
the hole is getting deeper even as we are climbing out. The president
needs a jobs plan. America needs a jobs plan. It`s not going to go very
far. Most of the analysis of this jobs plan says it`s going to create
maybe two million jobs.
Remember, we have 25 million Americans who are in search of full-time
employment. But at least it`s a step in the right direction. And
Republicans continue to say, as they have for years now, no.
O`DONNELL: Robert Samuelsen, in his economics column in the
"Washington Post," made an interesting point about the mood. He says we`re
in a rotten mood. He says the consumer now is in the opposite condition of
irrational exuberance that was once talked about, that pushed up the
housing market and all that. And we`re now in a kind of irrational
negative take on where we really are with this economy.
What is the rational take on where we are with this economy?
REICH: Well, it is rational for consumers to hold back for now,
Lawrence. Consumers -- remember, one out of four people who have mortgage
are underwater, owing more on their home than their homes are worth.
Housing prices and homes are the major asset for most people. Housing
prices are down 35 percent from what they were in 2006.
And people are worried about losing their jobs if they haven`t lost
them already. Plus, the median wage and family income continue to decline,
adjusted for inflation. Well, it`s completely rational under these
circumstances for people to hold back, to save, to try to scrimp, to remove
and reduce discretionary spending.
There`s nothing irrational about this. From the standpoint of the
economy as a whole, obviously, we suffer because businesses are not going
to create new jobs or expand, regardless of how low interest rates are,
unless consumers are going to buy.
O`DONNELL: Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, thank you very much
for joining me tonight.
REICH: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: On the House floor, Republican Congressman Frank Wolf
courageously took on the most powerful conservative in Washington, Grover
Norquist. That`s next in the Rewrite.
Later, the late night comedians already miss Chris Christie. The best
of late night is coming up.
O`DONNELL: Viewers of this program were always confident that Sarah
Palin was never going to run for president. But the late night comedians
were still hoping she would. They managed to have a lot of fun with her
announcement on Wednesday that she had finally decided not to run. We`re
going to see their work coming up.
And still ahead, one brave Republican congressman speaks out against
Grover Norquist and his coercive tax pledge.
O`DONNELL: I`m handing over tonight`s Rewrite to Republican
Congressman Frank Wolf, who bravely took on the most powerful man in
Republican politics, Grover Norquist, the anti-tax lobbyist, who has gotten
almost all Republican congressmen to sign a pledge never to raise tax
revenue in any form, including through closing some of the most egregious
We can only hope that the bravery Congressman Wolf showed on the House
floor inspires at least some of his Republican friends who know in their
hearts that they should not have taken an oath to a powerful lobbyist
before they took their oath of office.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. FRANK WOLF (R), VIRGINIA: My conscious has compelled me to come
to the floor today to voice concerns I have with the influence Grover
Norquist, the president of the Americans for Tax Reform, has on the
political process in Washington.
I raise these concerns today in the context of dealing with the future
of our country. America is in trouble. Unemployment is over nine percent.
Housing values continue to decline. Retirement accounts are threatened.
The American people are worried. Yet Washington is tragically
shackled in ideological gridlock. Some are dead set against any change to
entitlement programs, while others insist that any discussion of tax policy
is off the table.
We are at a point today that the tsunami of debt in America demands
that every piece of the budget be scrutinized. And that means more than
just cutting waste, fraud and abuse and discretionary programs. Everything
must be on the table. And I believe how the pledge is interpreted and
enforced by Mr. Norquist is a road block to realistically reforming our tax
Have we really reached a point where one person`s demand for
ideological purity is paralyzing Congress to the point that even a
discussion of tax reform is viewed as breaking a no-tax pledge?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Chris Christie breaks the late night comedy writers`
hearts by keeping his promise. Sarah Palin surprises no one. And Rick
Perry has a problem that you just can`t paint over. Here`s the week in
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN COLBERT, "THE COLBERT REPORT": The "Washington Post" reports
that the Rick Perry family hunting camp once had a racially charged name.
You see, the hunting camp was evidently called -- OK, um, how do I put
this? OK. OK.
JON STEWART, "THE DAILY SHOW": Governor Chris Christie making a
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: What I`ve always felt was the
right decision remains the right decision today. Now is not my time. The
answer was never anything but no.
STEWART: Oh my God, Chris Christie, 2012. Christie -- wait, what?
No, oh? Well, having said that he wasn`t going to run in private, having
said it on the television, having said is to print reporters, having tagged
it on what can only be described as a condemned Trenton building, having
demonstrated his position while attending a Devil`s game -- who paints for
preseason games? It`s over.
You remember we recently spent a little time analyzing over the last
few months Sarah Palin had been traveling the country in a Constitution-
wrapped bus, frequenting early primary states and talking about her plan to
save America, which suggested two very distinct possibilities.
You are either running for the president of the United States or you
are a crazy person.
Well, last night Sarah Palin went on Fox News, bravely sporting a
lapel pin that could have easily carried her away in its talons, to provide
SARAH PALIN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA: No, I`m not running.
STEWART: So I`m ready to call it. With 100 percent of Sarah Palin`s
reporting tonight, the winner is crazy person.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: If it`s Friday, the late night comedians get THE LAST
WORD. You can see all of last night`s interview with Herman Cain on our
blog, TheLastWord.MSNBC.com, where you can always see all of the segments
on all of our shows. You can follow my tweets @Lawrence.
"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" is up next. Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSBNC ANCHOR: Good evening, Lawrence. Happy Friday.
Thanks a lot.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
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