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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

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Guests: Tim Pawlenty, Doug Flutie, Jonathan Capehart



LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: So it turns out that the way to get the
Republican nomination for president is to just make sure you never say
anything memorable, like Princess Nancy or oops.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a painful moment in a presidential debate
ever.

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let`s see, I can`t.
I can`t. Sorry. Oops.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That is a terrible moment.

PERRY: I stepped in it.

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We all feel
very bad for him.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, RADIO HOST: I feel badly for him.

PERRY: I stepped in it.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, "HARDBALL" HOST: As easy as one, two, um, um.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: The brain freeze that is stunning the
political world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Disastrous brain freeze.

PERRY: Commerce, Education and the -- what`s the third one there?
Let`s see.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I personally believe that U.S. Americans.

PERRY: Oops.

MITCHELL: It could not have come at a better time for Herman Cain.

HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I apologize for calling her
Princess Pelosi.

Princess Nancy sent it to committee.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you hear Herman Cain`s nickname for Nancy
Pelosi?

CAIN: I apologize. I apologize for calling her Princess Pelosi.

CHRIS JANSING, NBC NEWS: He probably shouldn`t have said that.

CAIN: So stop asking me about it. OK?

MATTHEWS: Time for Newt attacking the media.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It`s sad that the news
media doesn`t report accurately how the economy works.

MARIA BARTIROMO, CNBC: What is being reported inaccurately about the
economy?

MATTHEWS: Maria, she`s so much better than him.

GINGRICH: What?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is policy flip-flopping.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNBC: Are you saying that Governor Romney is pandering?
He is right here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Romney really was the clear winner.

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are getting our hat
handed to us.

BACHMANN: There have been disruptions.

Don`t you love the First Amendment?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: Who in America last night went to bed feeling worse than
Rick Perry? Yes, maybe Mrs. Perry feels worse than Rick Perry, because you
do get the feeling that she is really more emotionally invested in picking
new drapes for the White House than Rick Perry is in vetoing tax increases
on billionaires.

But there is one man who has to feel much worse than Rick Perry, the
man who should be the front-runner for the Republican nomination for
president, the man who all the pundits thought was going to go all of the
way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

O`DONNELL: Tim Pawlenty, the man with the best shot at the Republican
nomination will officially announce for what we have known for about a
year, he is running for president.

The view that has been the official position of this show since the
last year that Tim Pawlenty is in the strongest position to win the
Republican presidential nomination.

The official position of the show is that Tim Pawlenty is going to be
the nominee.

Here`s the Pawlenty wins theory. Pawlenty wins everything. It`s the
theory of the show.

This show has officially declared Tim Pawlenty to be the nominee.

Tim Pawlenty who on this program and nowhere else is considered the
front-runner for the Republican nomination, and the only candidate present
with any chance of winning the nomination was former Minnesota Governor Tim
Pawlenty.

The thinking Republicans surrounding Pawlenty.

Pawlenty steam roller is starting.

My pick through process of elimination to end up with the nomination
since everybody else has something gravely wrong with them.

Each one of other candidates has something so seriously wrong with
their candidacy.

RACHEL MADDOW, TRMS HOST: Who do you think is going to be the
candidate?

O`DONNELL: I`ve been betting on Pawlenty all along just through this
process of elimination because there`s something seriously wrong with all
the rest of them.

There`s just too much wrong with every other Republican in the field.

Everything I say is good for my boy Tim Pawlenty.

I am still betting on my boy, Pawlenty. My theory is, he`s the last
man standing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we know with reasonable certainty that
standing up there on the west lawn of the Capitol on January 20th, 2013
would be one of three people, Obama, Pawlenty and Daniels. I think that`s
it.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

O`DONNELL: Well, OK, just George Will and I thought Tim Pawlenty had
the stuff the go all the way. But he dropped out after the Ames straw poll
in Iowa on August 13th and the political world is asking today, what would
have happened if he had not dropped out.

Conservative columnist Byron York wrote, "He was dull, but given what
we have learned about his competitors since then, would that be so bad in
today`s race? It seems safe to say that if Pawlenty had stayed in the
running long enough and as troubles developed in rival campaigns, voters
might have looked at each other and said, now, why was it that we didn`t
like Tim Pawlenty?"

Joining me now, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty.

Thank you very much for joining me tonight, Governor.

TIM PAWLENTY (R), FORMER MINNESOTA GOVERNOR: Well, Lawrence, it`s an
honor to be with you and I`m sorry, you were wrong for so long.

O`DONNELL: It`s personal with me. You know this.

Let me just ask you this. On that day, after the straw poll in Iowa,
when you were making that decision to drop out, tell me that there was a
moment when you just thought, whoa, this is going to be really tough on
O`Donnell?

PAWLENTY: Well, it is actually the Lawrence O`Donnell endorsement
that sunk my boat. I mean, the weight of the endorsement, I could feel it
by the day, by the hour, by the minute, is dragging me down, as if it was a
political quick sand. But I do appreciate the rhetoric, but the weight of
it took us out.

O`DONNELL: Well, I have to thank you for that very much, Governor,
because you have redeemed me with the audience that there was some good
thing about that endorsement.

PAWLENTY: I`m glad

(CROSSTALK)

O`DONNELL: Well, you know what I was doing, I kept saying that if the
voters were sane, if they`re rational. Actually I wasn`t saying that part
out loud, I was just presuming that Republican voters were going to be
rational and the rational outcome would be that we can`t vote for that guy
who, you know, brought that health care bill to Massachusetts with the
individual mandate that we all hate. And we can`t vote for all of the
others for a bunch of obvious reason. A there is Tim Pawlenty who has
absolutely no strikes against him in conservative world, in Republican
world.

I just thought all you had do was just stay in there and eventually
come to you, and that`s what people are thinking today, because something
has gone wrong with all of these candidacies, and the Romney candidacy, the
one you`ve now endorsed is just stuck in the 25 percent zone.

PAWLENTY: Well, Lawrence, a couple of things. Look, I had my fair
shot, and we had our fair shot at it and it didn`t work. We could not get
it over the finish line. That`s behind me.

But now, you look at the field as it is, as you probably know I
endorsed Governor Romney, I`m one of his national co-chairs. I feel really
proud and excited to do that.

In my view, by far, he is the most knowledgeable, most capable, and
most electable candidate in this race, particularly when it comes to the
main issue, and that is getting the economy moving again and providing
jobs.

So, I feel good about the opportunity that I had, and you know, I
tried my best to get over the finish line and we had a strategy that didn`t
work and putting a lot of chips up early, and when, you know, that strategy
obviously didn`t work for us, but I am excited and please and honored to do
all I can to support Governor Romney.

O`DONNELL: You did put a lot of chips up early in. You spent about
$4.5 million on the campaign in the Ames straw poll where you got -- I have
it in front of me -- 2,993 votes which means that each of those votes cost
$2,041.

What if you had just spent $1,000 per vote in Iowa, you`d still be
alive today and I could still have hope of being right. I had pick you as
being the guy who Barack Obama was going to beat in the re-election
campaign, but you spent it all. You blew it all.

That wasn`t a Republican thing to do, Governor. Now, just blow your
wad in one big night in Iowa.

PAWLENTY: Well, look, the Iowa, Ames straw poll was a significant
event. But not it was not as dispositive of much as people sometimes think
it is. It turned out to be more of a speed bump in these straw polls while
they are interesting for a moment or day, I think with the benefit of
hindsight, you see that they really don`t have that much lasting effect or
impact.

But again, that part of the race is over. We had our chance. We made
our decisions, and we live that with that. The outcome is the outcome. We
did all we could.

But the point is that this country is in trouble. I believe that
President Obama has not lived up to his promise. He`s been a failed
leader.

And you look at Governor Romney`s performance in the debates and not
just last night, but the last 10 or so, he is like the varsity playing the
junior varsity. Governor Romney has got the vision, he`s got the
substance, he`s got the knowledge, he`s got the steadiness.

And none of the candidates are perfect. I wasn`t, he wasn`t, none of
them are. But if you look at the whole picture, it is just obvious to me
and I think it is obvious to the Republican Party and the conservative
movement in the country, that this is the person who should be the
president of the United States.

O`DONNELL: Well, you are a lot more perfect than the guys still in
there. I mean, for example, how many wives have you had?

PAWLENTY: One. We have been married for 24 year, and I love her very
much.

O`DONNELL: OK. See? That`s a lot fewer wives than Newt Gingrich.
No one told him that the rule -- the Reagan rule is you can only have two
wives running for that nomination.

PAWLENTY: Is that the 12th -- is that Reagan`s 12th commandment?

O`DONNELL: Yes, it is. It is. It is the 12th marriage rule.

PAWLENTY: Oh, OK. I`m not familiar with that one.

O`DONNELL: And you don`t have any accusations of sexual harassment
against you. How many times in the debates, gubernatorial and presidential
that you`re in, how many time have you forgotten what you were going the
say in the middle of the sentence you were saying it?

PAWLENTY: Look, Governor Perry had a moment last night, and everybody
-- I`m sure you have had this. You`ve probably said things in your show in
ways that you wished you wouldn`t have, and regretted it earlier.

I certainly have done that. I had a moment in the debate where, you
know, I had a chance to take a swing at Mitt. Instead, I focused on Obama.
I got beat up for that. Everybody has had the moments. So, we empathize
with that.

But here`s something for people to consider. If we are going to take
on Barack Obama, my party has to have somebody who`s going to stand up in
the debates at least three of them and debate the president of the United
States, President Obama who is very a skilled orator, a very skilled
debater, and we better have somebody -- and those debates matter, by the
way -- we better have somebody that we know steady, knowledgeable, and
capable, electable, and again over 10 debates, it is obvious that that
person is Mitt Romney, not just because he`s a great debater.

He was a great governor. He was a great business leader. He`s a
great leader of the Olympics. He turned all of those things over in a
positive direction. That`s exactly what the country as a whole needs right
now.

O`DONNELL: Governor, I asked my Twitter followers today, where we
would be if you were still in the race. And big surprise, big surprise,
they agree with me.

Jim Groves said, "Tim Pawlenty, he would have continued to make the
others look like the buffoons they are. He could have beaten them all."

And then Nick Gutierrez said, "Still couldn`t have won, not crazy
enough."

That ultimately became my position, Governor, you just weren`t crazy
enough to beat Michele Bachmann in that straw poll. You weren`t crazy
enough to be up there in the Herman Cain level in the polls.

That -- wasn`t ultimately the big problem, just not crazy enough?

PAWLENTY: Well, setting all of that aside, Lawrence, I know that some
people bemoan the length of the campaigns and they wish we had the one-
month system like they do in some other countries. I actually think these
longer campaigns, while they have a lot of downsides, play another
important role. And that, over time, when these candidates have to get
before the cameras in everyday and present themselves to the voters, to the
media -- over time, you get the to see who is the steadiest, person at the
hand on the controls.

And clearly, that`s Mitt Romney in race so far. And I think it will
continue to be.

So, look, I had my shot. We had a strategy. It didn`t work. I lost.
You know, we are moving on.

I appreciate the tip of the cap that you have given me. I certainly
appreciated your endorsement. But it didn`t work.

So, we got to move on to the next plan and we got to live for the
future and not for the past.

O`DONNELL: Well, we have news to make tonight, you and me. You know,
last night, I instantly declared at the end of last night`s debate that
Rick Perry is not only out of it -- I mean, I thought he lost -- he was out
of it, no chance at the presidency at the end his first debate when he
attacked Social Security the way he did. But after last night, I insisted
to this audience that Rick Perry just lost any opportunity to be considered
as the vice presidential nominee, because the party cannot afford to have a
moment like that in a debate against Joe Biden.

And so, in my view, in the official view of this show, Tim Pawlenty
remains at the top of the vice presidential list for the obvious nominee to
be Mitt Romney.

PAWLENTY: You are killing me. Lawrence, you are killing me. You
should take a dagger and put it through my political heart right now.

O`DONNELL: Let me finish my endorsement, sir. The only competition
you have is that rookie Christie from New Jersey. He doesn`t have all your
years as a governor. He doesn`t have your experience out there in Iowa.

And so, Tim Pawlenty, vice presidential slot of the Republican
campaign cannot be stopped. You are going to be on that convention stage
accepting the vice presidential nomination.

PAWLENTY: Lawrence, I`ve already said publicly and repeatedly, that`s
not something I am going to consider. I`m proud to be Governor Romney`s
national co-chair. He`s going to have a lot of great people to pick from
as the vice presidential candidates. I`m sure he`ll make a great pick. It
will be a great balanced ticket.

But that`s not something I`m going to consider.

So, you`re going to have to make a second pick. But again, thank you
for the consideration. I appreciate it.

O`DONNELL: So, when he comes to you and says, Tim, look, it`s you.
There`s nobody else. They are all too crazy and it`s got to be you, you
are actually going to say to him, Governor Romney, I just can`t do it. I`m
not going to do it?

PAWLENTY: I`m not going to consider it, Lawrence. I appreciate
you`re giving -- throwing me the bone, but I`m not going to consider it.

You know, look, you look around the country at the, just I won`t name
all of the names, but by way of example, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, you
know, Brian Sandoval, John Kasich, Rob Portman, the great governor of
Wisconsin, Governor Walker, and many, many others. You know, Nikki Haley
from South Carolina.

The bench strength of the Republican Party in the conservative
movement is incredible and Governor Romney is going to have tremendous
people to pick from. He`s going to make a great pick. It will be a great
ticket, but it won`t include me. I`m going to help as best I can as a
volunteer and do all I can to get him elected.

O`DONNELL: OK. That settles it. Those names you just rattled off
prove that it has to be Pawlenty. Kasich is like minus 30 in the polls.
There`s nobody. It`s got to be Tim, no question about it.

PAWLENTY: You are out of control. And tell Rachel Maddow --

O`DONNELL: She`s listening.

PAWLENTY: -- that she`s has been afraid of me. She used to have me
on the show, and she is ducking and bobbing and weaving. I always said,
look, I don`t agree with her, but I always thought that she was bold and
courageous, and even though I disagreed with her. Now, she is ducking me.

So, tell her to come out, and let`s have it on. Let`s get it on.

O`DONNELL: I think you just said the magic words. I think you`re
going to be booked very soon.

Tim Pawlenty -- this show, and THE LAST WORD`s official choice for the
Republican vice presidential nomination -- thank you very much for joining
me tonight.

PAWLENTY: You are welcome.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Doug Flutie of NBC Sports joins me with the
latest on the Penn State sexual assault scandal.

But, first, the moderator of last night`s Republican presidential
debate John Harwood joins me next, along with Jonathan Capehart.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for
Herman Cain.

(SINGING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: How do you feel about the debate?

ROMNEY: I was very pleased about the debate. I thought I got most of
my points across pretty well.

REPORTER: How did you feel about Perry?

ROMNEY: I`ve got to worry more about me than anybody else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That was Mitt Romney after a speech in Michigan today.
Romney has a lot on his worry list, but it no longer includes Rick Perry.

A new Quinnipiac poll out today shows Romney trailing Herman Cain in
the key primary state of Florida. Among registered Republican voters, Cain
has 27 percent, Romney has 21 percent, Newt Gingrich has 17 percent, and
Perry has 5 percent. Sixteen say, they don`t know who they would vote for.

When the choice is narrowed to just Cain or Romney, Cain still beats
Romney, 45 to 39 percent.

The sexual harassment controversy that has surrounded Cain may begin
to quiet down after this announcement by the attorney for one of Cain`s
accusers today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOEL BENNETT, ATTORNEY FOR CAIN ACCUSER: For several days, my client
Karen Kraushaar has been trying to contact the other two women who were
subjected to sexual harassment by Herman Cain while he was the CEO of the
National Restaurant Association. Despite diligent efforts, she has not
heard from these two women. Mrs. Kraushaar has decided not to hold a press
conference unless and until the other women come forward and want to
participate. She will have no further comment until that time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now: John Harwood, CNBC chief Washington
correspondent and a moderator of last night`s debate, and Jonathan
Capehart, editorial writer for "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC
contributor.

Thank you for joining us tonight.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, WASHINGTON POST: Thanks, Lawrence.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNBC: Great to be here.

O`DONNELL: John Harwood, they are erecting a special exhibit in the
museum of broadcasting. They are going to name a room after you. You have
taken your place in television history with what happened last night.

When I saw it, I just said right away, this is never going to be
anything like it or we are just going to have to take one more look at it
right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It`s three agencies
of government, when I get there, that are gone: Commerce, Education and the
-- what`s the third one there -- let`s see.

(LAUGHTER)

REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You need five.

PERRY: Oh, five. OK.

PAUL: Make it five.

PERRY: OK. So Commerce, Education and -- the --

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: EPA?

PERRY: EPA. There you go. No.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

MARIA BARTIROMO, MODERATOR: Let`s go --

JOHN HARWOOD, MODERATOR: Seriously? Is EPA the one you were talking
about?

PERRY: No, sir. No, sir. We were talking about the agencies of
government -- EPA needs to be rebuilt. There`s no doubt about that.

HARWOOD: But you can`t -- but you can`t name the third one?

PERRY: The third agency of government.

HARWOOD: Yes.

PERRY: I would do away with the Education, the Commerce and -- let`s
see -- I can`t. The third one, I can`t. Sorry. Oops.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: John Harwood, I have to tell you -- when I was watching
that, I thought if I was in your chair, my head would have been spinning
with what was going on there. I wouldn`t have had the presence of mind to
stay with it. It was like a loose ball and you stayed with it as seriously
as is that really your answer? And without you staying with it, I don`t
think it would have expanded into what it really turned out to be.

What was going through your mind as you were listening to that?

HARWOOD: Well, first of all, Lawrence, I had some very able producers
in our truck who were encouraging me to stay with it, and that is one of
the main reasons that moment happened. At first, it was a little bit
ambiguous, because the governor started laughing and the thing sort of
devolved into a moment of levity and then he was struggling, and then Mitt
Romney came over from the other side and said "EPA" and I guess I should
have known what his troika of agency eliminations was, but I wasn`t sure
whether EPA was the one, so I asked him if it was.

And he said no. So, then, if that wasn`t it, then I had to ask him,
what is the third one, can you name it, and he couldn`t do it. It was
incredibly painful to watch.

O`DONNELL: Yes. I actually thought it was EPA. EPA always shows up
on those Republican destroy it list. But it was an absolutely stunning
thing to watch.

What did you get after the debate, what reaction did you get from any
of the candidates, from Perry, himself, or from the Perry team or any of
the other teams?

HARWOOD: The main reaction I got was unhappiness from the Romney team
interestingly enough, because they thought that the questions which we
haven`t played and maybe we will talk about them later, but when I asked
about Mitt Romney`s reputation for flip-flopping and framing it as an issue
of political character -- they thought that was unfair line of questioning,
and they were pretty mad about it.

But one of the reasons I think was that what you mentioned a few
moments ago which is that despite a pretty flawless campaign they have run
so far, excellent debate performances by Mitt Romney including last night,
he still hasn`t been able to break out and he finds somebody like Herman
Cain who has been dogged by a scandal for the last week and a half leading
him in a state like Florida.

O`DONNELL: Jonathan Capehart, the Romney campaign just sounds like
they don`t know how to win. They won that debate running away, and John
Harwood`s question of that character question, I think that it was phrased
so perfectly coming off of a previous debate response in which Romney had
used that phrase, "I`m running for office for Pete`s sake" to explain to
someone why he shouldn`t have illegal workers.

I mean, you could not ask for anything more, the relevance of a
question to be more carefully constructed of that, and there is something
they are complaining about it?

CAPEHART: Well, yes, because that is Mitt Romney`s biggest, biggest
problem. You know, what I loved about Mitt Romney`s response and I think
that we would be talking about it today had it not been from -- for
Governor Perry`s flub or there`s one other thing that happened, when Mitt
Romney said I believe that people understand that I`m a man of, quote,
"steadiness, and constancy."

And if you look at what has happened from, you know, ads from the
Priorities USA, which is a PAC that is supporting President Obama, to Erick
Erickson of the Red State blog, they are peeling the skin off of Mitt
Romney, because he is on both sides of the issue or has been on both sides
of every issue. And so, for Mitt Romney to know that he is a man of
steadiness and constancy flies in the face of ample evidence of that.

HARWOOD: And, Lawrence, you know, he used a buy a graphical argument
to make this steadiness and constancy -- his marriage, his church, and
career in business. And evokes in some ways George H.W. Bush in 1988 when
he gave that speech at the convention and talked about the life in Texas,
talked about his life in terms of World War II. He said, I`m a man who
defines life by missions defined and missions completed and said, I am the
man in the Oval Office. It was uniquely about him as a person -- and that
was the nature of Mitt Romney`s defense.

O`DONNELL: Yes, it was.

And the big thing, what happens to Rick Perry now is the question of
the day. It seems like it`s over. But I have to say, I think he`s made
some very, very smart choices today that I did not see coming especially
the way he is making jokes about it. He`s doing David Letterman`s top 10
list. We`re going to have a clip of that later in the show.

He started the day on the "Today" show and then pretty much a
boilerplate repetition of that throughout the day. I think we have a clip
ready of what he said on the "Today" show. Let`s take a look at that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PERRY: I don`t mind saying clearly that I stepped in it last night.
But I think that I`m kind of like most Americans, and there is so many
agencies of government out there that we`d like to forget that the
Department of Energy was one of those.

I`m human like everyone else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: He is obviously trying to humanize the moment. I think
that`s an easy thing to do. We can all identify with it, and it has
happened to me on the show, and happens to everyone.

But could he afford that moment, John Harwood?

HARWOOD: No. It was a very bad time for him. He was at a moment
where he need to restart the campaign because Herman Cain is struggling and
Perry has always had the potential for a formidable candidacy. He`s an
experienced governor from Texas, right in the beating heart of the
Republican base and he`s got a lot of money this bank. You can`t dismiss
the chances of somebody who`s got $15 million in the bank, and once he
starts spending a heavy duty way in Iowa, not just on positive ads, but
going after Mitt Romney, we`ll see if he can get some traction.

But you look at the poll numbers and the way he has collapsed
nationally, in Iowa, in South Carolina, where he is way trailing in a state
that he ought to be highly competitive in just shows he has a really deep
hole to dig out of. Money can help him do it, but it can`t do everything.
And today was a good start for him though.

O`DONNELL: Well, you know, I`ve said, I think it eliminated Perry
from consideration for the vice presidential slot. And I assume you will
both now want to get on the Pawlenty bandwagon prediction for Tim Pawlenty
for the Republican vice presidential nomination.

Jonathan Capehart, I invite you to join based on my track record of
predicting Republican politics.

(LAUGHTER)

CAPEHART: I will take my own counsel.

O`DONNELL: Pawlenty is going to be number two, isn`t he?

CAPEHART: You know, I don`t know about that. I mean he sounded
definitive, although you can`t believe a politician when they say, no, no,
I don`t want to be in politics and I will not be the nominee. But if the
Republican Party were smart they would look at someone like Tim Pawlenty.
He is a conservative guy. A lot of people don`t know but he is extremely
conservative. The problem he had is that he didn`t catch fire. No one
wanted to buy what he was selling.

O`DONNELL: John Harwood, you didn`t let anybody duck any questions
last night, but I am going to let you duck the Pawlenty prediction question
tonight. John Harwood and Jonathan Capehart, thank you both for joining me
tonight.

CAPEHART: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: All of the candidates from last night`s debate agree with
the essential principles of Grover Norquist`s American anti-American, anti-
tax pledge. I will explain why that pledge is un-American and we`ll hear
why some Republicans are now trying to get out of it. That is in the
"Rewrite."

And later on, the week in campaign comedy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: And in tonight`s episode of "It could only happen here"
Michael Moore meets Jack Abramoff. It happened in studio 3k at 30 Rock
when Michael Moore finished the segment with me and met the most corrupt
lobbyist of our time, Jack Abramoff, coming in to join me for the next
segment. Our trusty foot cam caught each of their reactions to a meeting
neither of them ever expected it to happen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL MOORE, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER: Well, my last word actually
just took place when we went to commercial break because Jack Abramoff, the
convicted lobbyist, came on to the set. And I have seen his interview on
"60 Minutes" the other night where he is 100 percent revealing everything
and encouraging the American people to stop people like him.

I shook his hand, and I said to him, you know, god bless you for
coming clean and making amends and saying what needs to be said. And
actually there`s no more powerful person to say it than you, Jack, because
you were there. You were at the epicenter of all of this greed. You saw
firsthand and you participated in it firsthand.

So, I think that, you know, he`s a bit of a broken man, as you can see
if you saw him there just now. But like all human beings, people can
redeem themselves and do good for the world. We all have that capacity.
So, I wish him the best.

JACK ABRAMOFF, FORMER LOBBYIST: Well, Michael was very gracious and
kind and very meaningful to me that he came up and that he appreciated
greatly what I`m trying to do. He appreciates how difficult it is for he
to do it both in terms of personally and in terms of the forces opposed to
what I`m trying to do. And I was just very fortunate and grateful to have
that interaction with him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE PATERNO, FORMER PENN STATE FOOTBALL COACH: Thanks, and pray over
those victims.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Coach, coach --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love Penn State.

(SHOUTING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That was Penn State football coach Joe Paterno late last
night after learning he`d been fired after 46 seasons. Paterno`s former
assistant coach Jerry Sandusky is charged with sexual assault over eight
boys over a 15-year period. Minutes after the announcement last night of
the firing of Coach Paterno and the university president Graham Spanier,
police say that,000 people descended on the nearby town of State College.
The crowd quickly turned violent, setting cars on fire, tearing down light
poles, and, as this YouTube video shows, toppling a TV vans. Police moved
in moments later using pepper spray to disburse the crowd.

The rioters were expressing outrage not for the alleged sexual assault
victims, but for the Paterno firing. Today Pennsylvania Governor Tom
Corbett said he supported the decision to remove Paterno and Spanier and
urged students to avoid additional violence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CORBETT: The eyes of the nation are on you. Your actions speak much
louder than the words. They will carry with you for a very long period of
time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now is Doug Flutie, college football hall of
famer and former NFL quarterback and now an analyst for NBC Sports and
Versus. Thanks for joining me tonight, Doug.

DOUG FLUTIE, NBC SPORTS/VERSUS ANALYST: My pleasure.

O`DONNELL: Doug, first off all, as a Boston guy, I just have to thank
you for the single most exciting moment I have ever seen in college sports,
your 48-yard pass with virtually with no time on the clock that won the
game by two points back in -- I don`t know how many years ago. And that is
what college football is supposed to be about, the exciting and in many
ways the unpredictable achievement of amateurs who are out there playing
their hearts out.

And now tonight college football in this country as a subject has
suddenly become about something else. How did we get to this?

FLUTIE: Well, you know, the bottom line is football takes a backseat
here. This is not about football. This is about the victims, the kids
that were taken advantage of, and an institution that needs to monitor what
is going on more closely. And that is what this is about.

It happens to be the football department that it surrounds, and
initiated in, but overall, it is the university. And right now, they are
doing a lot of putting out fires and trying to move forward and put it
behind them by getting a fresh start.

O`DONNELL: Doug, we have breaking news tonight, Mike McQuery, who
went to Joe Paterno after witnessing the 2002 child sexual assault in the
Penn State showers and is now the assistant coach for the team has just
been pulled from Saturday`s game with Nebraska, because, quote, "of
multiple threats made against him" according to the university. What is
your reaction to that?

FLUTIE: Well, I think it is a smart move. And personally, I can`t
understand why if Paterno is fired then McQueary wouldn`t go also, because
he saw firsthand what went on and relayed information to Paterno. So for
his safety, yes, they are removing him from the game. It shows the
polarizing end of this topic of some of the students out there in support
of Paterno on borderline rioting and others that are threatening McQueary.
So there are such emotions surrounding this issue.

O`DONNELL: And Doug, we are putting ourselves in the shoes if we had
heard what Paterno heard and all of that stuff, but the McQueary for me is
the strangest part. He is the eyewitness and he is actually standing there
and seeing this. Imagine yourself in a locker room like that seeing that.
What would you have done?

FLUTIE: You know, I don`t know if you can say 100 percent for sure
what you would have done until you are in the situation, but you would like
to think that -- my gut reaction, I would have headed into the shower area,
and taken care of business and gotten the youngster out of there and
probably gotten myself into a little bit of trouble with Sandusky. But you
can`t say 100 percent for sure when fear kicks in or pure shock as to how
you would handle these situations.

O`DONNELL: Doug, what is it about a big and big money program like
that inhibits people`s natural reflexes. A football player has reflexes
and you don`t even have to think on a scene like that, you make a move.
What is it that would inhibit McQueary and inhibit everybody in the
aftermath?

FLUTIE: Well, to start out, he is grad assistant and low man on the
totem pole looking at a guy who probably he idolizes doing wrong. And he
doesn`t know how to react to the situation.

The only thing that I can say is that he was a 28-year-old grad
assistant at the time and a grown man. He passes it along the chain of
command. And now individuals in leadership position don`t do the right
thing, you know, or they have to make this judgment over a friend, someone
that potentially they are going to protect or doing the right thing. I
could not imagine being a parent of one of the kids that was victimized
later after leadership-type people know this information and don`t do
anything about it, and years later victims continue to get abused. That is
the ultimate crime.

O`DONNELL: Doug Flutie, thank you very much for joining me tonight.

FLUTIE: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: More and more Republicans want out of Grover Norquist`s
anti-tax pledge and maybe they are realizing that the Norquist pledge is
anti-American. That is next in the "Rewrite."

And later, the week of campaign comedy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: In tonight`s "Rewrite," the rewriting of Grover Norquist`s
anti-American pledge continues to gain momentum in Washington among the
signers of the Norquist pledge. The Norquist pledge to never raise taxes
in any way including by closing loopholes is anti-American in the extreme
because the founding fathers intended for members of Congress to take only
an oath of office, not an oath to a lobbyist.

The Norquist pledge is anti-American because the elected officials who
take it are forced to take it before they are elected, and it is intended
by Norquist to supersede their oath of office.

The Norquist pledge is grotesquely un-American because a member of
Congress swears himself to in effect be incapable of truly taking the oath
of office because by taking the Norquist pledge that member of Congress is
saying I promise to never under any circumstances support and defend the
constitutional power to tax.

The words of the oath of office are "I will support and defend the
constitution of the United States." The Norquist pledge is in direct
conflict with those words. It is impossible to honor the oath of office
and honor the Norquist pledge.

I reported to you here last week that 37 House Republicans chose their
oath of office over their oath to Grover and signed a letter to the super
committee saying that the tax revenues should be considered in any deficit
reduction package. Now "The Hill" reports that some of those Republicans
are busy rewriting their understanding of their pledge to Grover.

Congressman Mike Simpson of Idaho asked, if it sticks with you
forever, why do they ask you to resign it every two years? Ohio Republican
Congressman Steven LaTourette said his pledge was no longer valid because
"I haven`t signed it since 1994. My driver`s license expires. The milk in
my refrigerator expires. My gym membership expires." OK, driver`s
licenses take like years to expire and gym memberships take at least months
to expire. But milk expiring, that just takes days.

How did Grover respond to that? His veneer of confidence gave way to
thinly veiled rage. "A promise not to do something doesn`t have a time
limit. I haven`t even had junior state legislators pull that crap."

New Jersey Congressman Robert Andrews, one of the few Democrats in
Congress who signed Grover`s pledge, said "I never considered it to be like
my marriage vows. I did not promise him to oppose tax increases until
death do us part."

Hey, Grover, if your hero Ronald Reagan could break his marriage vows
to the first wife, don`t look so surprised when some congressmen break
their vows to you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW": Last night Rick Perry was
having some difficulty in the debate, and here to present tonight`s "Top 10
List," top 10 Rick Perry excuses, ladies and gentlemen, please welcome
Texas Governor Rick Perry. Come on out.

Number seven --

RICK PERRY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I thought that the debate was
tonight.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

LETTERMAN: I see. Well, that happens to everybody. It is a mix-up,
ladies and gentlemen.

Number six --

PERRY: Hey, listen, you try concentrating with Mitt Romney smiling at
you. That is one handsome dude.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That is a preview of Rick Perry tonight on "David
Letterman." But for the second week in a row Herman Cain dominated late
night comedy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": Let`s get straight to
the huge news out of Arizona. Herman Cain held a press conference this
evening to address the sexual harassment charges from numerous women coming
out of the woodwork. Incidentally I believe his woodwork coming out of is
one of the things he is accused of.

(LAUGHTER)

LETTERMAN: And you are here on a special night because everybody in
the balcony tonight is a Herman Cain accuser.

(LAUGHTER)

LETTERMAN: By the way, while you were applauding three more women
have accused Herman Cain of improper behavior.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People make fun of the fact that he was CEO of a
pizza chain. But I think pizzas and politicians go hand in hand. Both are
hot and steamy and go straight to your ass.

(LAUGHTER)

CONAN O`BRIEN, LATE NIGHT TALK SHOW HOST: When asked what president
he would put on Mount Rushmore, Herman Cain hinted it would be himself. I
don`t know about you, but I don`t want to hear the words "Herman Cain" and
"mount" in the same sentence.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People of Italy, looking to replace Silvio
Berlusconi? You need someone with proven business experience to navigate
our challenging financial issues who at the same time will carry on
Berlusconi`s entertaining, sexually adventurous antics. Italy needs Herman
Cain. Herman Cain for Italy. He also knows a lot about pizza.

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: And folks, the harassment allegations keep coming at Herman
Cain like an uninvited hand up a pleated skirt.

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: And Cain is not afraid to point out what is really behind
these charges.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HERMAN CAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A businessman by the name of
Herman Cain stepped forward. That is one thing about Herman Cain that I
think a lot of the American people know is some people don`t want to see
Herman Cain get the Republican nomination, and some people don`t want
Herman Cain to become president. I can`t tell you what that motivation is
other than it is to stop Herman Cain.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLBERT: Evidently there is another Herman Cain out there that this
one keeps talking about him.

(LAUGHTER)

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": Who talks in the third person?
Maybe Herman Cain is the Hulk.

Herman Cain sad. Either way, Jon Stewart is impressed.

(LAUGHTER)

CAIN: And now the Democrat machine in America has brought forth a
troubled woman to make false accusations.

STEWART: Oh, the Democrat machine. I believe I have seen one of
those.

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: The Democrat machine. I don`t know if you knew anything
about it, but from what I understand it costs billions of dollars and runs
on solar energy and it turns hope into disappointment. But what I love -
yes, deal with it.

(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.

END

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