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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Friday, October 21, 2011

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Guests: Rachel Maddow, Andrea Mitchell, Robert Reich, Dana Milbank

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: The president decides that twice as long as
World War II is long enough for the Iraq war.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(EXPLOSIONS)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: After nearly nine
years, America`s war in Iraq will be over.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Our nation enters this
conflict reluctantly.

Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. The United States and our
allies have prevailed.

(CHEERS)

BUSH: United States military forces captured Saddam Hussein.

We thought he had weapons of mass destruction. It turns out he did.
He didn`t. He didn`t.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Remember that during the
2008 campaign --

OBAMA: I will finally finish the fight against Bin Laden.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It was certainly justified.

OBAMA: When they come home, they get the care and benefits they have
earned.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: This is mission accomplished without the
banner.

OBAMA: I announced a new strategy that would end our combat mission
in Iraq and remove all of our troops by the end of 2011.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Promises made. Promises kept.

CARNEY: He said what he would do and he did it.

OBAMA: And today, we`ve removed more than 100,000 troops.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: As promised -- the key word.

CARNEY: His commitment to wind down the war in Iraq.

OBAMA: The last American soldier will cross the border out of Iraq
with their heads held high.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As promised, Andrea. And I think that`s the whole
key.

OBAMA: I can say our troops in Iraq will definitely be home for the
holidays.

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS: The troops will be home for the holidays.
That is a phrase that many presidents have wanted to say.

MITCHELL: This is what the president will take to the campaign trail.

OBAMA: The nation that we need to build and the nation that we will
build is our own.

The need to end this war so we can spend $10 billion rebuilding cities
all across America.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: Today, President Obama announced from the White House
briefing room that he has ordered all 39,000 U.S. troops remaining in Iraq
to return home by the end of this year. The president framed his
announcement as fulfilling a promise he made as a candidate for president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: As a candidate for president, I pledged to bring the war in
Iraq to a responsible end. So, today, I can report that as promised, the
rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year. After
nearly nine years, America`s war in Iraq will be over. Across America, our
servicemen and women will be reunited with their families.

Today, I can say that our troops in Iraq will definitely be home for
the holidays.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: President Obama`s announcement today comes as he indicated
nearly nine years after President George W. Bush announced the invasion of
Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: The people of the United States and our friends and allies will
not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with
weapons of mass murder. We will meet that threat now with our Army, Air
Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Marines so that we do not have to meet it
later with armies of firefighters and police and doctors on the streets of
our cities.

Now that conflict has come, the only way to limit its duration is to
apply decisive force. And I assure you, this will not be a campaign of
half measures and we will accept no outcome but victory.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The Iraq war has cost the United States over $700 billion
-- about the same as 10 years of the Vietnam War in current 2011 dollars.
More than 1 million Americans have served in Iraq since the war began in
2003. The war has left 4,482 of those Americans dead, 32,213 wounded, and
1,146 left as amputees.

There is no accurate official count of how many Iraqis have been
killed or wounded in this war, but we do know that they suffered much more
than we did with more than 100,000 casualties. Republicans have been
predictably critical of President Obama`s withdrawal plan. Most of them
oblivious to the fact that it is actually the withdrawal plan put in place
by President Bush.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Whether or not it`s the
right thing to do, I would consult with the commanders. The thing that I
wouldn`t do that the president is doing is telling the enemy how many
troops you`re going to bring out and when you`re going to bring them out.
I don`t think that`s a good strategy. I believe at the time it was worth
it, but I would not have announced this big drawdown, tell the enemies, so
now they are going to basically position themselves.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Mitt Romney did not rush to the microphones on this one.
He simply released a written statement. "President Obama`s astonishing
failure to secure an orderly transition in Iraq has unnecessarily put at
risk the victories that were won through the blood and sacrifice of
thousands of American men and women. The unavoidable question is whether
this decision is the result of a naked political calculation or simply
sheer ineptitude in negotiations with the Iraqi government. The American
people deserve to hear the recommendations that were made by our military."

Rick Perry, wisely, avoided speaking about Iraq or taking questions
and followed the Romney example of releasing a written statement. "I`m
deeply concerned that President Obama is putting political expediency ahead
of sound military and security judgment by announcing an end to troop level
negotiations and a withdrawal from Iraq by year`s end. The president was
slow to engage the Iraqis and there`s little evidence today`s decision is
based on advice from military commanders."

Senator John McCain, the last Republican nominee for president who has
never had a plan for ending the war in Iraq, also released a written
statement. "I respectfully disagree with the president. This decision
will be viewed as a strategic victory for our enemies in the Middle East,
especially the Iranian regime which has worked relentlessly to ensure a
full withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. I am confident that no U.S.
commander of any stature who has served in Iraq recommended the course of
action that has now been taken."

Joining me now, Rachel Maddow, the host of "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW"
here on MSNBC; also, Andrea Mitchell, NBC News chief foreign affairs
correspondent and host of MSNBC`s "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS."

Thank you both for joining me.

RACHEL MADDOW, TRMS HOST: Hi, Lawrence. Thank you.

ANDREA MITCHELL, "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS" HOST: My pleasure.

O`DONNELL: You have both been to Iraq. You`re our senior advisers at
MSNBC on this subject.

Rachel, your reaction to today`s events and how quickly it became
political.

MADDOW: Lawrence, I think you`re absolutely right to point out this
was the withdrawal agreement that was agreed to by George W. Bush. It was
a non-controversy that I didn`t quite understand at the time at the very
end of the Bush/Cheney administration, that they associated this deal with
the Iraqi government in a way the Iraqi government had to take it to its
parliament, but the American legislature, the American Congress was never
consulted. This was just signed unilaterally by George W. Bush. This was
the deal we would have to be out by 2011.

President Obama certainly could have sought changes in that deal. But
to go along with ending it on the George W. Bush timeline, at this point, I
think felt, feels like the right way for President Obama to have made good
on his promise as a candidate and the early promises he made as a president
about what he was going to do here.

It also, I think, calls the Republicans out in terms of whether or not
they support policies on the basis of who they think they can attribute
them to or whether they support policies on the basis of their merits. If
they were bothered by this, they should have complained when George W. Bush
signed it.

O`DONNELL: Andrea, what is the news today? In a sense, the president
stood up and said, you know that thing President Bush said we were going to
do and I always said we should do, I`m doing it. That`s kind of what
happened today, isn`t it?

MITCHELL: You know, the strange thing is, the term of art, believe it
or not, is called a SOFA -- yes, a Status of Forces Agreement. It was
agreed to -- as Rachel just pointed out, as you reported -- by George W.
Bush and the Iraqi government. If you believe that the whole point of this
exercise was to have elections, to have an independent Iraq led by a
reliable, credible authoritative government, you have to give them the
ability to be a government. And this is what they want.

And if that`s the case -- and if they`re not going to give immunity to
our soldiers, legal protection, we need to leave. And we need to leave
when we said we were going to leave. And that was the commitment of the
prior administration.

O`DONNELL: Rachel, you know we`re in the thick of a presidential
campaign when the president makes a foreign policy and military
announcement like this today. And then his re-election campaign office has
to issue a reply to Mitt Romney.

I want to read you the campaign -- the Obama campaign`s rely to Mitt
Romney`s statement. "Mitt Romney didn`t lay out a plan to end the war in
Iraq in his foreign policy agenda. He barely even mentioned Iraq, but he
is apparently willing to leave American troops there without identifying a
new mission. Mitt Romney`s foreign policy experience is limited to his
work as a finance executive shipping American jobs overseas."

Rachel, that`s not a preview of what`s going to happen in the
presidential campaign. That is what`s happening in the presidential
campaign.

MADDOW: The presidential contenders on the Republican side
collectively have no foreign policy experience at all other than Jon
Huntsman`s experience both in business and working for Barack Obama as this
nation`s ambassador to China.

So, foreign policy is not a strong suit of the Republican candidates.
And I think it will be really interesting to watch if they try to carry on
a foreign policy critique into further discussions with one another who`s
going to be the Republican nominee. They`ve avoided it like the plague,
avoiding even the 10-year anniversary of the Afghanistan war, avoiding this
issue, the issue of the Iraq today until they were absolutely forced to do
it.

You`re right to point out it`s a written statement from Romney and a
written statement from Perry. I think both of them will seek to avoid
taking questions on this issue because this is not their wheelhouse. This
is not their strong suit.

And it has, you know, it is a reminder, you see the statement from the
Obama campaign, what an emotional part of the Democratic nominating process
in 2008 it was to be talking about the error that was the Iraq war. This
is a big part of why we got a Democratic Congress in 2006 and why we got a
Democrat Congress and -- a president and Congress in 2008, because the
country was so against this war. It`s still a very emotional issue for
Democrats. And I think for most Americans, even as the Republicans mostly
want to avoid it.

O`DONNELL: There`s one Republican candidate for president who`s never
afraid of the microphone, Ron Paul. We`re going to listen to what he has
to say. This is not in direct response to the president`s announcement
about Iraq. It was more a matter of him responding to the events in Libya
yesterday.

Let`s listen to Ron Paul.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He, of course, has been
able to come up with this idea that the more dictators he kills and brags
about, the more he undermines the Republicans. You know, they think that`s
a Republican issue. He`s trying to out the Republican issues. I find that
rather disgusting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Andrea, I just wish we had a Republican foreign policy
debate, foreign policy only, coming up next week to see how they would all
assemble themselves around the news of this week, from Libya to Iraq.
Where do you think the Republican presidential candidates will be going as
the campaign progresses in these subjects?

MITCHELL: Well, you`ve had both Romney and Huntsman making speeches
on the subject and, frankly, they didn`t answer all of the questions that
people have because they were in conflict. At least Romney`s statements
have been in conflict. Somewhat ambiguous to his debate answers on the
withdrawal pace where he suggested the president`s withdrawal pace would be
too precipitous but then criticized him for not listening to generals, and
based on I don`t know what evidence saying we should be ending the war and
focusing on home.

So, there have been differing statements from the various Republicans
along the way.

I think one of the things that Rachel was pointing out was that Barack
Obama became the nominee of the Democratic Party precisely because as a
senator in 2002, he opposed a war that Hillary Clinton voted for. And if
that had not happened, he might not have trounced her in Iowa. And that
then led to, yes, he fell behind in New Hampshire, but it set in motion the
possibility of him then achieving the nomination.

So, his whole stance on Iraq was exactly the right stance for the
Democratic nomination process and now I think it`s even more so where the
country is because of where independents and even many Republicans are
given our economic crisis here at home.

So, I think that the Republicans are going to -- are going to regret,
I think, some of these statements down the road when they get into the
general election, depending on who the nominee is.

O`DONNELL: I want to draw on both of your experiences in Iraq to
respond to Lindsey Graham, who`s not a presidential candidate, but he did
release a written statement today about this saying, "I respectfully
disagree with President Obama. I feel all we have worked for, fought for
and sacrificed for is very much in jeopardy by today`s announcement. I
hope I am wrong and the president is right, but I fear this decision has
set in motion events that will come back to haunt our country."

Rachel, what do you think Iraq is going to look like next year after
the American troops are gone?

MADDOW: I think Iraq next year is likely to look a lot like what it
looks like right now, which is a moderately stable country with a lot of
internal trouble and a lot of pressure from Iran. I think that was set in
motion when we toppled Saddam, who was a counterweight to Iran for all of
the other awful things that he was. And I think that Iraq is going to be a
country that doesn`t know much what to do with its Kurdish north, that
doesn`t really know what to do with the Iranian allegiance a lot of the
Shiites in the south, and that has a Sunni minority that is both used to
being in power and very unsure of itself with regard to its sectarian
neighbors in its own country. That`s what`s been the truth of Iraq since
we toppled Saddam.

And without replacing Saddam with a warlord-type strong man, that was
always going to be Iraq`s future. I don`t know what Lindsey Graham thinks
that having 3,000 American trainers in Iraq would change about that. I
don`t know what having a longer war in Iraq would change about that future.

When we decided to change Iraq`s leadership for them, we set in motion
Iraq`s future. And that`s been true ever since we toppled Saddam which we
did very, very early on in 2003. Extending this war to year 10, year 11,
year 12, year 13, it`s one thing to talk about what that would cost us in
terms of what we can`t do in America because of that and what it would do
to the military that we`re asking to do that much more.

It`s another thing to I think try to think pretty clearly about
whether or not that would make a difference in Iraq`s future. I think it`s
preposterous to think it would.

O`DONNELL: Andrea, what do you think Iraq is going to look like next
year? And, Andrea, when are you going back?

MITCHELL: I don`t know when I`m going back. I`d like to go back soon
as a matter of fact.

But I want to point out that we have 7,000 to 8,000 people now at that
embassy, the giant embassy, the biggest embassy that America has anywhere
in the world. It looks like a prison, frankly, a fortress. And of those
1,700 Foreign Service officer, the rest are contractors. There are going
to be something upwards of 30,000 American contractors -- many of them with
diplomatic immunity because they`re attached to the embassy, a lot of
intelligence officials as well.

We`re going to be helping them with future military sales including
we`re told today possibly F-16s to rebuild the air force that we destroyed
back in 2003 during that "shock and awe," which, of course, was the term
for the initial days of the war when we eliminated their entire air force.
So, we`re going to be spending a lot of money there as well and helping
them.

But I fear that one of the problems is the pressure from Iran, you
have Muqtada al Sadr, the Iranian proxy, who really was the key element in
blocking the extension of this in the parliament and his forces. And
you`ve got Kurdish terrorists in the north who are pursuing terror against
Turkey.

There are a lot of sectional problems and our colleague Richard Engel
fears there could be civil war.

O`DONNELL: Rachel Maddow and Andrea Mitchell, THE LAST WORD`S senior
advisers on Iraq -- thank you very much for joining me tonight.

MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.

MITCHELL: You bet.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, the 9-9-9 plan has just become the 9-0-9 plan
and maybe the 3-3-3 plan, as Herman Cain starts adding exemptions and
deductions and, you know, complications to his wicked simple tax plan which
turns out like all tax plans to be not so simple.

And where would Marco Rubio`s political career be today if he had
always told the truth about how his parents came to this country?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Herman Cain says you can abolish the IRS if you enact his
9-9-9 plan because his plan is so simple. But now, he`s adding
complications that only the IRS could enforce.

Robert Reich will join me to discuss the problems with the Cain plan
and the fantasy in all Republican flat tax proposals.

And following up on a point made by Andrea Mitchell in our first
segment, how many lives could have been saved in Iraq if Barack Obama had a
louder microphone back in 2002? That`s in the "Rewrite."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAIN: We wanted it to be fair. Not according to Washington`s
definition of fair. But wealth`s definition of fair, which means everybody
gets treated the same. That`s fair.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: But then Herman Cain spent the day explaining how everyone
doesn`t get treated the same. How some individual taxpayers would be
treated differently and how some businesses would be treated differently in
the tax code in the Herman Cain tax code -- kind of like the way the tax
code is now tailored to the different circumstances of different taxpayers.

Herman Cain`s keep it simple plan of taxation is already starting to
develop some complications.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAIN: If you are at or below the poverty level, your plan isn`t 9-9-
9, it`s 9-0-9. Say amen, y`all. Nine-zero-nine. In other words, if you
are at or below the poverty level based upon family size because there`s a
different number for each one, then you don`t pay that middle 9 tax on your
income. This is how we help the poor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: So, now, not everyone will have a 9 percent income tax
rate as previously advertised. Now, a family of four making $22,000 a year
or less would have a zero percent federal income tax rate under Herman
Cain`s plan which happens to be exactly what their income tax rate is right
now -- which Herman Cain obviously does not know.

But that family of four with an income of $22,000 a year or less also
received an earned income tax credit worth thousands of dollars which
Herman Cain would take away from them. He would take that money right out
of the working poor`s pockets so that rich people can pay much, much lower
taxes.

Having ripped that money out of the poor`s pockets, Herman Cain would
then take more money away from them on every dollar they spend. The Herman
Cain tax would take 9 cents of every spent dollar because the working poor
spend all of their income -- Herman Cain would through his sales tax be
hitting them with a 9 percent federal tax on all of their income. That
currently does not exist.

Herman Cain thinks he`s come up with another idea that will help the
poor which involves a serious complication to the first 9 of his 9-9-9 plan
-- the 9 percent business tax.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAIN: Right now on the first 9, you can deduct purchases if you`re a
business, you can deduct capital expenditures, net exports. But for those
cities that qualify as opportunity zones, you will also be able to deduct a
certain amount of your payroll expenses. So, you will be incented to put
people to work.

It just doesn`t apply to certain kinds of businesses located in the
zone. All businesses would qualify for those kinds of extra exemptions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And there`s the magic word, "exemption." Herman Cain is
now writing exemptions and complications into the 9-9-9 very simple plan.
Businesses would pay different tax rates depending on where they located.
Businesses would be allowed different deductions depending on where they
located. That has been written into the tax code for years, called at
various times enterprise zones or empowerment zones.

What Herman Cain is discovering is taxation is complicated for a very
simple reason: making the tax code fair in an extremely complex, advanced
economy is an extremely complex exercise. Of course, there should be
different tax rates for poor people. And, of course, there should be
different tax rates for rich people. And yet, a different tax rate for
middle class people and there should be reasonably conceived deductions and
exemptions in personal income taxation, and there must be full tax
deductibility for reasonable business expenses for business to even be able
to define profit. Never mind make a profit.

Herman Cain`s tax plan does not allow businesses to deduct their
single biggest expense: salaries, payroll expenses. You cannot calculate
the profit of a business without accounting for the biggest expense in a
business.

Herman Cain would only allow a business to deduct some payroll
expenses -- and we have no idea how much of the payroll expenses -- but
some payroll expenses if and only if the business is located in one of his
opportunity zones.

This is the most anti-business proposal ever made by a major
presidential candidate. That it is made by one of the presidential
candidates who claims his qualification for the presidency is that he is a
businessman strikes a note of absurdity never before heard on a
presidential debate stage.

All you would have to do to get all Republicans, including Herman
Cain, to recognize the absurdity of everything Herman Cain is saying about
taxes is to simply have a Democrat, any Democrat, say exactly the same
thing.

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."

Thank you very much for joining me tonight, Bob.

ROBERT REICH, FORMER LABOR SECRETARY: Good evening, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Bob, the reason I keep coming back to the 9-9-9 plan is
that it is absurd throughout -- at every stage, it is absurd. But it is a
version of an old Republican -- kind of honored Republican idea in many
circles: the flat tax.

And all of these flat tax proposals in the past, in the present, what
is surely to be Rick Perry`s flat tax proposal -- we`re told is coming up -
- they`re all filled with the problems exemplified by Herman Cain`s 9-9
plan. Aren`t they?

REICH: Well, they are all fraudulent. I mean, the flat tax is a
fraud. Let`s be very clear about this, on two grounds. One ground, you`ve
already talked about, Lawrence, and that is that inevitably there are going
to be exemptions and there are going to be deductions just simply because
life is complicated, and people are complicated, businesses are
complicated. And to get fairness you`re going to have to have them.

But, secondly, because if you have a flat tax, you`re inevitably going
to reduce the taxes of people at the top who in the progressive tax system
are supposed to pay a little bit more and you`re going to increase the
taxes of people at the bottom who either pay no tax now or pay a very
little tax or get some sort of exemption. No, they would be paying 9
percent or whatever the flat tax rate is.

And this is known -- I mean, the independent nonpartisan Center for
Tax Policy recently investigated the Cain plan and found poor people would
be paying a lot more and rich people would be paying a lot less in taxes.
I mean, it is not only absurd, but it`s been over and over again being
utilized by Republicans.

In fact, Rick Perry is going to come out with his flat tax plan next
week.

It`s been utilized by Republicans to disguise what`s really going on
which is a transfer of income and wealth to the very top. Exactly what
we`ve seen going on in America for years.

O`DONNELL: And no Republican in the presidential campaign has a
problem with that. The only problem they have is, hey, Herman, we don`t
want a new 9 percent sales tax but none of them are going after the flat
tax income tax portion of it because that`s something actually if they all
got a chance to do, they would all be inclined to do.

REICH: Oh, of course. Of course. You know what I hope Democrats
begin to say with regard to tax reform is what we really need, given so
much income and wealth is now going to the very top 1 percent -- I mean, we
have double what he had only 30 years ago. Thirty years ago, about 10
percent of the total income went to the top one percent. Now more than 20
percent of total income goes to the top one percent.

And their income taxes, their tax rates, their marginal tax rates are
lower than they`ve been in 30 years. And we have a big debt. I mean, the
logic would suggest that we raise taxes on the very top, have more tax
brackets, and we treat all sorts of income, including capital gains --
that`s one of the big loopholes. Capital gains have been taxed at 15
percent.

We treat all taxes and all capital gains and all sorts of income
exactly the same. That would be real tax reform.

O`DONNELL: Yeah. I have been an all income is income guy ever since
I took my first economics course. Why we distinguish capital gains, which
requires no labor, and we in effect honor the earnings of capital through
the tax code more than we honor the earnings of labor through our tax code.

REICH: Lawrence, it`s absurd. The 400 richest families in America,
the last time the IRS measured them -- the 400 richest families that
actually are sitting on a total wealth that is greater than the total
wealth of the bottom 150 million families, and have huge incomes. They`re
paying at a 17 percent rate on average. Seventeen percent because of those
capital gains.

You know, if you start looking at this thing, you see that even the
current system is so regressive. It is not progressive. Poor people are
paying huge shares of their income in Social Security, payroll taxes and
sales taxes. It`s unfair.

O`DONNELL: Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, thank you very much
for joining me tonight.

REICH: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, did Marco Rubio mislead voters by stretching
the truth about his family`s journey to the United States from Cuba? It`s
a subject that hits close to home for thousands of Cuban-Americans and
Cuban exiles. Dana Milbank of the "Washington Post" joins me.

Later, very few leaders had the courage to stand up before the Iraq
War before it even began. But one of those who did played a key role --
the key role in what is now going to be the end of that war. That`s in
tonight`s Rewrite.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I was raised by exiles, by people who
know what it is like to lose their country, by people who have a unique
perspective on why elections matter or lack thereof, by people who clearly
understand how different America is from the rest of the world. And
they`ve taught me this my whole life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That was the story told to many audiences by Tea Party
favorite Florida Senator Marco Rubio as he rose to Republican political
stardom. But a new "Washington Post" report questions the accuracy of
Rubio`s descriptions of his family`s history and says that the senator,
quote, "sometimes embellishes facts."

Marco Rubio`s official Senate biography says that his parents, quote,
"came to America following Fidel Castro`s takeover," end quote. Fidel
Castro took power in Cuba on January 1st, 1959. The "Washington Post"
reports, however, "multiple documents signed by Rubio`s parents, including
their petitions for naturalization, show that Mario and Oriales Rubio
arrived in the United States on May 27th, 1956."

That`s at least two and a half years earlier than the senator`s
biography indicate that his parents came to the United States. Rubio shot
back in an article today in "Politico" saying, "I now know they entered the
U.S. legally on an immigration visa in May of 1956. The Post story misses
the entire point about my family and why their story is relevant. People
didn`t vote for me because they thought my parents came in 1961 or 1956, or
any other year. I am the son of exiles. I inherited two generations of
unfulfilled dreams. This is a story that needs no embellishing."

Joining me now, "Washington Post" columnist Dana Milbank. Thanks for
joining me tonight, Dana.

DANA MILBANK, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Good evening, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Dana, Rubio on Sean Hannity`s show, at least one, said
that his parents came, as he put it at the time, in 1958 or 1959. He
wasn`t trying to specify a particular year. Certainly things were very bad
in Cuba in 1956. The revolution was under way. The guns were firing. It
was a place to flee from, just as it was for other -- for reasons when
Castro took power. What is the big deal here?

MILBANK: Well, on the one hand, it`s not, and it doesn`t really
matter whether he knew when his parents came or whether he didn`t know when
his parents came. But the core political problem here is that this is the
very basis of Marco Rubio`s political narrative.

The whole idea is his parents, as he said on multiple occasions, fled
Castro`s Cuba and that is why he and the Tea Party are opposed to big
government here in the United States. That`s the core narrative here. So
whether he was misled by his parents or simply didn`t understand, or
whether he misled people, that`s not so much the issue.

The issue is that there`s really a flaw in the whole story here.
There`s nothing wrong with his parents coming in 1956. There was nothing
wrong with, you know, leaving Germany in 1931. But you were not fleeing
Hitler`s Germany at that time.

People have gotten in a lot of trouble for a lot less than this. You
know, just think of Al Gore and love story and Al Gore and the Internet.
Those things destroyed the man. This is much more close to Marco Rubio`s
core.

O`DONNELL: Well, Democrats seem to get in trouble for those kinds of
things, but Republicans don`t. It`s hard for me to imagine a Republican
voter thinking that anything has really changed in their view of Marco
Rubio as a result of this information. And I think the more the media
tries to bash him with it, the more Republican voters will rise in his
defense. That`s the pattern we`ve seen with Michele Bachmann and others.

MILBANK: I think that`s right, Lawrence. And I don`t think this is a
political problem for Marco Rubio in Florida. They would have voted for
him regardless of the year his parents came here. Where it is a problem is
you hear his name, as much as anybody with the possible exception of Chris
Christie, as the likeliest vice presidential nominee.

I think this is going to give people pause here. There`s a sense that
Marco Rubio just wasn`t vetted, you know, that because of the way the race
shaped up with Charlie Christ, he came on so quickly. And clearly the oppo
research failed here. They should have uncovered this in the first place.

But I think this is going to give a lot of Republican operatives pause
and say, what else don`t we know about this man? What might not add up
here before they decide to put this young man on the ticket.

O`DONNELL: Yeah, my sense is it`s going to have to be something else.
This thing, when you think about Jews fleeing Europe before World War II,
you know, there`s a period of years in which people can feel these things
coming. They could feel Hitler coming. They could feel Castro coming.

And it seems to me it`s all one exile migration that`s going on
without a specific date that makes it, you know, something that fits this
story or not.

MILBANK: In a sense, yes. And he often says, I was raised in a
community of exiles, which is certainly accurate. Now, sometimes he says
his parents are exiles, not necessarily clear. But at any rate, they were
economic immigrants. And there`s nothing wrong with that.

O`DONNELL: "Washington Post" columnist Dana Milbank, thank you very
much for joining me tonight.

MILBANK: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: In a 2002 anti-war speech in Chicago, then-State Senator
Barack Obama said he wasn`t against all wars, just dumb wars. Earlier
today, that same former state senator, President Obama, announced his plan
to end what he used to call a dumb war. That`s next in the Rewrite.

Later, we`ll review the week in comedy with the best of the late night
comedians.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Time for tonight`s Rewrite. In the fall of 2002, when the
Bush administration was moving very publicly toward war with Iraq, a
worried country mostly watched and waited. But some objected. Some
marched. Some protested.

At an anti-war rally on October 2nd, 2002, at Federal Plaza in
downtown Chicago, an Illinois state senator not known outside of his
Chicago district addressed the crowd. Anyone who saw this as politically
opportunistic at that time should be forgiven.

It is routine for state and local politicians to make big speeches
about matters of federal governance over which they have no control and
will never have any responsibility. There is nothing easier for a state
senator or mayor or city councilor to do than to object to what the
president of the United States plans to do.

This is what the 41-year-old state senator said in his fifth year on
the job, a job that had nothing to do with war making.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don`t oppose war in
all circumstances. And when I look out over this crowd today, I know there
is no shortage of patriots or patriotism. What I do oppose is a dumb war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Needless to say, President Bush didn`t hear that speech
that day. None of us who were not at Federal Plaza heard that speech.
Five months later, the president made this announcement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My fellow
citizens, at this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early
stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to
defend the world from grave danger.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And then only six weeks later, the president made this
speech.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: In this battle we have fought for the cause of liberty and for
the peace of the world. Our nation and our coalition are proud of this
accomplishment.

Yet it is you, the members of the United States military, who achieved
it. Your courage, your willingness to face danger for your country and for
each other made this day possible. Because of you, our nation is more
secure. Because of you, the tyrant has fallen and Iraq is free.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: By the time the president gave that mission accomplished
speech, the state senator opposed to dumb wars was running for the United
States Senate from Illinois. His opposition to dumb wars sounded ever
wiser as American soldiers continued to fight and die in Iraq long after
the president had told us that was a mission accomplished.

And in a turn of history previously imaginable only in fiction, it
would fall to that young, then ignorable state senator, who was opposed to
dumb wars to end the war he opposed, to rewrite the ending of that war that
his predecessor falsely proclaimed under a mission accomplished banner
eight years earlier.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Good afternoon, everybody. As a candidate for president, I
pledged to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end for the sake of our
national security. As commander in chief, ensuring the success of this
strategy has been one of my highest national security priorities.

So today I can report that, as promised, the rest of our troops in
Iraq will come home by the end of the year. After nearly nine years,
America`s war in Iraq will be over.

The last American soldier will cross the border out of Iraq with their
heads held high, proud of their success, and knowing that the American
people stand united in our support for our troops.

That is how America`s military efforts in Iraq will end.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: And THE LAST WORD of the week goes to the late night
comedians.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONAN O`BRIEN, "CONAN": During last night`s Republican debate in Las
Vegas, there was a big clash between Herman Cain, Mitt Romney and Rick
Perry. Yeah, observers called it the least sexy three-way in the history
of Las Vegas.

Things got physical last night. Did you see this? It got physical at
one point. At one point during the debate, Mitt Romney put his hand on
Rick Perry`s shoulder and said, I`m speaking.

Yeah. Yeah. Later he put his hand on Newt Gingrich`s chest and said,
are those real?

JON STEWART, "THE DAILY SHOW": But enough of the niceties. Let`s get
ready to Romney!

(CROSS TALK)

O`DONNELL: Do you see that woman`s look of shock? Do you see the
look of shock on her face? Do you know how hard it is to get a look of
shock from someone in Las Vegas? It`s Las Vegas.

You know what they call a show girl (EXPLETIVE DELETED) penguin in Las
Vegas? Tuesday.

O`BRIEN: Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is dead. That`s the big
story. Huge. Even more shocking, did you hear this? He was killed by an
escaped tiger from Ohio.

STEPHEN COLBERT, "THE COLBERT REPORT": Here`s how it went down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Libyan officials are saying that Gadhafi was
hiding in some sort of hole.

COLBERT: Now, if you recall, they pulled Saddam out of a hole.
Evidently, totalitarian dictators are a nocturnal burrowing species.

Who can forget the time Jack Hanna brought Kim Jong-il on Leno?
Nation, I say we need to stay vigilant here. Gadhafi with a "G" may be
gone, but we still have not captured Quadafi, Qadafi, Gathdafi and
Hannukah.

STEWART: Of course, the administration reacted to today`s victory
with relief and amazement. The Libyan people with gratitude and
jubilation. But for one group, the death of Gadhafi the dictator and major
sponsor of international terrorism would require more reflection, time to
process and figure out how this good news could actually be bad?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s too soon to tell as far as what this means
for Libya. I think, again, we don`t know what these rebels are going to do
in Libya after they take over. There`s a lot of questions.

JOHN BOLTON, FMR. U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N>: If it turns out to be
a radical Islamist regime or one that harbors international terrorists, we
will actually have taken a step backward.

STEWART: Are we really sure about getting rid of Gadhafi? I mean,
who knows. The next guy who comes in could be crazy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The late night comedians get THE LAST WORD. 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 with tonight`s guest host, Melissa
Harris-Perry. Good evening, Melissa.

END

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