'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Read the transcript to th Tuesday show
Guests: Jeff Herman, Goldie Taylor, Ari Melber, Daniel Hernandez
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: The latest twist from Penn State, assistant
coach Mike McQueary now says he did tell police what he saw Jerry Sandusky
doing in the Penn State showers. We`re going to be joined by a lawyer who
has been contacted by some of Sandusky`s alleged victims.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, "HARDBALL" HOST: Involuntary deviant sexual
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The scandal at Penn State growing.
DYLAN RATIGAN, MSNBC HOST: Becoming bigger and uglier.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "The New York Times" saying 10 more people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ten more have now come out of the woodwork.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To report similar assaults and the "New York
Times" says there are 10 more, so that`s a total of 18.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`ve already had a series of other accusers that
have come out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: NBC`s Bob Costas grilled Sandusky about the
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You asked a very simple question, are you sexually
attracted to young boys?
BOB COSTAS, NBC NEWS: Are you sexually attracted to young boys?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Physically attracted or sexually attracted?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He hesitated.
MATTHEWS: He says he`s innocent.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sandusky made staggering admissions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I was in the shower. Yes, I was naked. Yes,
I was a kid and yes, there was touching going on.
MATTHEWS: Where do I begin? Where do I begin here?
WHOOPI GOLDBERG, TVHOST: He did not go -- hell no! Hell no this
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t understand where you inadvertently touch a
MATTHEWS: I have their leg -- why would he agree to that?
AL SHARPTON, "POLITICS NATION" HOST: Why were you in the shower with
a 10-year-old in the first place?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would shout from the rooftops it was absolutely
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think that this interview is going to do
more harm than good?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How does he remember the incident with McQueary if
it were as innocent as he would have us believe?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: McQueary says he witnessed a rape.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you surprised that he gave this interview?
RATIGAN: Where`s this guy`s lawyer?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Either he`s stone cold innocent and didn`t do any
of it or he is guilty of all of it.
JERRY SANDUSKY, FORMER PENN STATE ASST. FOOTBALL COACH: I shouldn`t
have showered with these kids.
O`DONNELL: Last night in an NBC News exclusive, Penn State defensive
coordinator spoke out for the first time since charged with sexually
abusing eight young boys. Tonight a key eyewitness speaks out in an
interview with CBS News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Do you have any idea when you think you might be ready to
MIKE MCQUEARY, PENN STATE WIDE RECEIVER COACH: This process has to
play out. I don`t have anything else to say.
And then just one last thing. Describe your emotions right now.
MCQUEARY: All over the place. Just kind of shaken.
REPORTER: You said what? Like a --
MCQUEARY: Snow globe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was Penn State wide receiver coach Mike McQueary who
told the grand jury he witnessed Sandusky raping a young boy in a locker
room shower in 2002.
In an e-mail obtained by the "Associated Press" today, McQueary told a
friend from Penn State that he stopped that alleged assault by Sandusky and
discussed it with police. The e-mail appears to be about a week old, dated
November 8th, and reads, in part, "I did stop it. Not physically but made
sure it was stopped when I left that locker room. I did have discussions
with police and with the official at the university in charge of police."
Pennsylvania is not one of the 18 states that require all adults to
report suspected child abuse. Today, Senator Bob Casey called for an
expedited hearing in to how federal laws apply to the Sandusky
investigation and to ensure that provisions for reporting suspected cases
are in place.
Joining me now, an expert in representing sex abuse victims, a lawyer
who has been contacted by some of the alleged victims in the Sandusky case,
attorney Jeff Herman, and Goldie Taylor from thegrio.com also rejoins us
Thank you both for joining me tonight.
GOLDIE TAYLOR, THEGRIO.COM: Thanks for having us, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: I want to take a look, before we get into the discussion.
I want to take a look at more of Bob Costas interview with Sandusky last
night. I want us to look at it and to look at it from your perspectives.
Goldie, you shared with us -- as our viewers know last night -- that
when you were in high school you were subjected to abuse by a high school
football coach, and from that perspective of that experience and obviously,
Attorney Herman, from your expert perspective, let`s take another look at
this interview with Sandusky.
SANDUSKY: I say that I am innocent of those charges.
COSTAS: Innocent? Completely innocent and falsely accused in every
SANDUSKY: Well I could say that, you know, I have done some of those
things. I have horsed around with kids. I have showered after workouts.
I have hugged them and I have touched their leg, without intent of sexual
contact. But -- so if you look at it that way -- there are things that
wouldn`t -- you know, would be accurate.
COSTAS: Are you denying that you had any inappropriate sexual contact
with any of these underage boys?
SANDUSKY: Yes, I -- yes I am.
COSTAS: Never touched their genitals? Never engaged in oral sex?
COSTAS: What about Mike McQueary, the grad assistant who in 2002
walked into the shower where he says in specific detail that you were
forcibly raping a boy who appeared to be 10 or 11 years old?
SANDUSKY: I would say that that`s false.
COSTAS: What would be his motive to lie?
SANDUSKY: You`d have to ask him that.
COSTAS: Are you a pedophile?
COSTAS: What did happen in the shower the night that Mike McQueary
happened upon you and the young boy?
SANDUSKY: OK, we -- we were showing and- and horsing around. And he
actually turned all the showers on and was -- actually sliding -- across
the -- the floor. And we were -- as I recall possibly like snapping a
COSTAS: In 1998, a mother confronts you about taking a shower with
her son and inappropriately touching him. Two detectives eavesdrop on a
conversation with you, and you admit that maybe your private parts touched
her son. What happened there?
SANDUSKY: I can`t exactly recall what was said there. In terms of --
what I did say was that if he felt that way, then I was wrong, and I didn`t
want to leave that kind of impression. I did lift him. And that`s what I
COSTAS: Shortly after that in 2000, a janitor said that he saw you
performing oral sex on a young boy in the showers -- in the Penn State
locker facility. Did that happen?
COSTAS: How could somebody think they saw something as extreme and
shocking as that when it hadn`t occurred, and what would possibly be their
motivation to fabricate it?
SANDUSKY: You`d have to ask them.
COSTAS: How do you account for these things? And if you are not a
pedophile, then what are you?
SANDUSKY: Well, I`m a person that has taken a strong interest in --
I`m a passionate person in terms of trying to make a difference in the
lives of some young people. I worked very hard to try to connect with
them, to make them feel good about themselves, to be something significant
in their lives.
Maybe this gets misinterpreted as, depending on -- I know a lot of
young people where it hasn`t. I have worked with many, many young people
where there has been no misinterpretation of my actions and I have made a
very significant difference in their lives.
COSTAS: But isn`t what you are just describing, the classic M.O. of
many pedophiles? There were hundreds if not thousands of young boys you
came in contact with, but there are allegations that at least eight were
victimized. Many believe there are more to come.
SANDUSKY: I would guess there are many young people who would come
forward, many more young people who would come forward and say that my
methods and what I had done for them, made a very positive impact on their
life. And I didn`t go around seeking out every young person for sexual
needs that I have helped. There are many that I didn`t have -- I hardly
had any contact with who I have helped in many, many ways.
COSTAS: Are you sexually attracted to under-aged boys?
SANDUSKY: Am I sexually attracted to under-aged boys?
SANDUSKY: Sexually attracted? No. I enjoy young people I love to be
around them. I -- but no, I`m not sexually attracted to young boys.
COSTAS: Did Joe Paterno at anytime speak to you directly about your
COSTAS: What are you willing to concede that you have done that was
wrong and you wish you had not done it?
SANDUSKY: Well, in retrospect, I shouldn`t have showered with those
kids. So --
COSTAS: That`s it?
SANDUSKY: Well, that -- yes, that`s what hits me the most.
O`DONNELL: Jeff Herman, I want to get your perspective as an attorney
who has handled these kinds of cases as to what you think you were just
listening to. You`ve heard guilty people testify. You`ve heard the way
they talk about it. You`ve heard people who are found not guilty. Some
people who are innocently charged talk about these things.
What do you think you were just listening to?
JEFF HERMAN, ATTORNEY: To me, this is classic pedophile speak. I
mean, first, a pedophile thinks they are not harming a child, that they
really are loving a child and treating them with care, et cetera. And
that`s kind of what I hear Sandusky describing.
But then the classic pedophile also then kind of justifies their
behavior by all of the good they have done for other kids. I mean, he even
talked about that. He wasn`t sexually interested in every child. There
were a lot of kids he barely had any contact at all.
And so, in his mind on one hand, he is loving the kids. He doesn`t
think he was inappropriately at all. So, when you ask him, were you
sexually inappropriate with a child? In his mind, a pedophile`s mind they
are not. But to the rest of the world and to the population, it`s
inappropriate and it`s classic pedophile speak to me.
O`DONNELL: Jeff, the governor yesterday said he would like more
victims to come forward, if they are out there. Goldie Taylor was on the
show last night trying to support that notion and trying to give possible
victims a sense of support, if they do come out. You have had some contact
with some of the alleged victims in this case.
Do you expect more victims to emerge?
HERMAN: Yes. I mean, I think really just after hearing Sandusky last
night, that will encourage a lot of victims to come forward. When other
victims see the perpetrator or the institution in denial, what that does is
that kind of sparks them to say, hey, that`s not -- this stuff is true.
I`m going to come forward.
And then, also, what we see is collective empowerment. For many
victims, when it happens, they are isolated. They are scared. They are
You saw what happened as soon as there were allegations against the
Penn State institution, there were riots in the streets. So, in those kind
of circumstances, you can understand why victims are afraid to come
But now when there`s momentum, and victims see other victims coming
forward, there`s a collective empowerment and it gives them the strength to
come forward, which is -- you know, they need to get help. Victims should
come forward. Get professional help because they are not alone and the
worst thing for a victim is to suffer in silence.
O`DONNELL: Goldie, you`ve had the terrible, unfortunate experience of
being around these kinds of predators in the worst possible way, not in a
courtroom, but unprotected as a child yourself. You have heard them talk.
What do you think you just heard?
TAYLOR: I`m hearing Jerry Sandusky really out of two ears. One, I`m
hearing him as having been victimized in this way, by a football coach --
and, you know, you got to feel like something`s just amiss with this guy.
That he really doesn`t know that he is harming children. That he doesn`t
know that, you know, this isn`t the way you show your love and support and
passion for children and supporting them in their growth.
So, I hear out of this ear that something is tragically wrong here.
But I also hear it out of the ear of being a crisis communications
expert for the mass part of my career. At the end of the day, if I`m Jerry
Sandusky`s lawyer, I don`t let him make this phone call, let alone with Bob
Costas, one of the top tiered journalist on this planet, sports or
So, at the end of the day, he certainly wasn`t properly prepared for a
live interview like this. And certainly, the impact that it could have or
I expect it to have on his victims and other victims to come up and stand
up and stand out I think could really turn the table on this.
O`DONNELL: There are many levels of shock. And for me, it includes
how could a lawyer let this happen?
We`re going to take a break here and come back.
And, Jeff Herman, I want to get your perspective on that one.
Especially, how did a lawyer let that conversation happen last night?
There is going to be more later in the show. Coming up: it has been a
wild day at Occupy Wall Street protests. Police came in the middle of the
night to clear protests. That sparked an all-day legal battle.
We`ll go to the protest site to see where things stand at this hour.
And, later, Gabrielle Gifford`s recovery. Today, the congresswoman
released a message to her constituents, the intern hero who helped to save
Gifford`s life gets tonight`s LAST WORD.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, more on Jerry Sandusky`s bizarre exclusive
interview with NBC`s Bob Costas. Our panel reacts as news surfaces today
of even more allege victims.
And later in the rewrite, Grover Norquist`s anti-tax pledge has been
undone by something signers of his pledge wrote into law 10 years ago.
Grover is in deep trouble tonight and he knows it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COSTAS: How do you feel about what has happened to Penn State and to
Joe Paterno and the Penn State football program and your part in it?
SANDUSKY: Well, how would you think that I would feel about a
university that I attended, about people that I worked with, about people
that I care so much about? And, I mean, how do you think I would feel
about it? I feel horrible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Jerry Sandusky speaking to NBC`s Bob Costas in an
exclusive interview. We played much of the interview a few moments ago and
asked our guests to watch it with us, as well.
We are back now with Attorney Jeff Herman who represents sex abuse
victims and has been contacted by some of the alleged victims in this case;
and Goldie Taylor of thegrio.com, which is a division of NBC News.
Jeff, I want to go to Goldie`s last point about how could the lawyer
for Sandusky allow this to happen? I think we can just quickly stipulate
Sandusky, at this point, is represented by one of the worst lawyers who`s
ever handled one of these case.
HERMAN: Well, I was stunned to hear him actually come on the phone
last night and talk the way he did. In the hundreds of cases that I`ve
handled on behalf of victims of sexual abuse, never once have I seen their
lawyer let them talk. Never mind come on national TV and make the kind of
statements he did.
It reminds me of -- you may remember Father Mercieca from Malta who
was accused of sexually abusing Congressman Foley a couple of years ago.
Before he lawyered up, he went on the press and said he was horsing around
or just harmless fooling around with a young boy.
And so, you don`t usually see that it and it was pretty shocking to
see it last night.
O`DONNELL: And he`s made his own media rounds. It seems like the
attention a little bit too much on "The Today Show" this morning, saying he
guesses he shouldn`t have showered with those young boys.
I want to go to this e-mail from Mike McQueary because there seems to
be some strain between that e-mail and his grand jury testimony. To
repeat, in his e-mail he said, "I did not -- I did stop it. He is now
saying "I did stop it, not physically. But made sure it was stopped when I
left that locker room."
Who knows what that means. He may have just stared them down and that
was enough to stop Sandusky.
But then he says the most interesting thing in this e-mail, "I did
have discussions with police and with the official at the university in
charge of police."
We don`t know, from the e-mail, when he had those discussions.
Let me read to you the relevant elements of the grand jury report,
which is based on McQueary`s testimony and let`s see if we can make these
things fit that e-mail. It says, "He saw a naked boy, victim two, whose
age he estimated to be 10 years old with his hands up against the wall,
being subjected to anal intercourse by a naked Sandusky. The graduate
assistant was shocked, but noticed that both victim two and Sandusky saw
him. The graduate assistant left immediately distraught."
Now, Goldie, it is conceivable to me that those things fit. That
McQueary saw them, they saw McQueary. Sandusky stopped. McQueary was
satisfied that this was over before he left.
Does that sound possible to you?
TAYLOR: It sounds possible to me and certainly we`ve got to hear a
lot more from McQueary to understand, you know, exactly what happened and
when. But I just want to know why wouldn`t he take the boy with him? Why
leave him in that shower with coach Sandusky? I mean, that`s perplexing to
As to when and how he ever spoke to police officers, I imagine that
will come out as the facts of the case are revealed. But I`ve got a lot of
questions about this and I think a lot of people do as to why you would not
physically intervene if you saw something like that happening to a young
I just think it goes beyond the pale.
O`DONNELL: Well, the part about the police officers is the most
interesting part because the grand jury report says specifically that the
graduate was never questioned by university police and no other entity
conducted an investigation until he testified in grand jury in December of
So, how do we line up that with what we hear in the e-mail, Jeff
HERMAN: Well, I think you can reconcile it in this way. And I`m
speculating here, but we know that according to the grand jury, that the
report went up to the vice president of the university who specifically was
in charge of the campus police. So, he may be kind of backtracking saying,
well, I told the head of the police and perhaps this was an officer there
at the time that he told it.
But pretty clearly, there was no investigation. And it certainly
doesn`t excuse or change the fact that what happened after 2002, in my
opinion, was a massive cover-up, that enabled Sandusky to continue to abuse
boys for many, many more years.
You know, the bottom line here is that Joe Paterno and the officials
at Penn State University in 2002 became aware that Sandusky was using the
football program to groom boys. With that knowledge, they did nothing to
stop it. I think they are culpable.
And it`s despicable after having that knowledge, Sandusky was able to
continue to use the Penn State football program for the purpose of grooming
young victims and destroying their lives.
O`DONNELL: Jeff Herman, the alleged victims who have contacted you,
are they ready part of this case or are they victims who are contemplating
HERMAN: Yes, I can`t comment on any of the conversations I had, other
than say that there`s -- I think we`re going to be hearing from many, many
more victims. When you are dealing with -- if it is true he is a
pedophile, there are probably dozens and dozens of victims going over a
period of decades here. So, I think we are at the tip of the iceberg here.
O`DONNELL: Attorney Jeff Herman and Goldie Taylor, thank you both
very much for joining me tonight.
HERMAN: Thank you.
TAYLOR: Thanks for having me.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, the aftermath of the middle of the night raid
by New York City police that cleared out the epicenter of the Occupy Wall
And tonight`s tax policy super hero is the ingenious member of the
super committee who has figured out how to lead Republicans around Grover
Norquist`s anti-tax pledge that most of them have signed. That`s in the
O`DONNELL: A massive police force evicted Occupy Wall Street
protesters from the birthplace of the 99 Percent Movement. Ari Melber, who
is in Zuccotti Park, where protesters are now being allowed be back in will
join me next.
And later, we will look at Congresswoman Gabbi Giffords`s first
interview since the January shooting that killed six and wounded 13. And
we will hear from the young man who saved her life.
O`DONNELL: Breaking news from Zuccotti Park tonight; Occupy Wall
Street protesters are now back in the park. But the encampment where some
of them have lived for almost two months is gone. After a wild day that
started with a surprise police sweep of the park overnight, just after
midnight, NYPD officers, in riot gear, announced that anyone that did not
immediately clear the space for cleaning would be arrested.
Just after 1:00 a.m., Mayor Bloomberg`s office Tweeted "occupants of
Zuccotti should temporarily leave and remove tents and tarps. Protesters
can return after the park is cleared."
Police started ripping down tents and clearing the area for the
sanitation workers. A total of about 200 people were arrested, including a
New York City councilman, on charges of disorderly conduct and resisting
arrest. By 8:30 a.m., the park had been cleaned out and the encampments
removed. Mayor Bloomberg held a press conference to say that he was ready
to let the protesters return, but he couldn`t because of emergency legal
action taken by the protesters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAY. MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK: We are now ready to reopen the
park, but understood that there is a court order, which we have not yet
actually received, enjoining us from enforcing Brookfield`s rules. So the
park will remain closed until we can clarify that situation.
I want to stress that our intention was to reopen the park and to let
people go in and express their First Amendment rights to protest, or their
First Amendment rights to just peacefully enjoy the park.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Mayor Bloomberg laid out the argument the city would be
making in court.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLOOMBERG: The law that created Zuccotti Park required that it be
open for the public to enjoy for passive recreation 24 hours a day. Ever
since the occupation began, that law has not been complied with as the park
has been taken over by protesters, making it unavailable to anyone else.
The First Amendment protects speech. It does not protect the use of
tents and sleeping bags to take over a public space. Protesters have had
two months to occupy the park with tents and sleeping bags. Now they will
have to occupy the space with the power of their arguments.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Protesters surrounded the perimeter of Zuccotti Park for
most of the afternoon while waiting for the court`s decision. Late today,
New York State Supreme Court Justice Michael Stallman ruled in favor of the
city and against the Occupy Wall Street protesters, deciding, quote, "the
movements have not demonstrated that they have a First Amendment right to
remain in Zuccotti Park along with their tents, structures and generator
and other installations, to the exclusion of the owners` reasonable rights
and duties to maintain Zuccotti Park or to the rights to public access of
others who might wish to use the space safely."
Around 5:30 p.m., police opened the barricades and allowed protesters
to return without sleeping gear, and if they submitted to a police search.
Joining me now, by phone from Zuccotti Park, is Ari Melber, a
columnist for "The Nation" magazine and an MSNBC analyst. Thanks for
joining me, Ari.
ARI MELBER, "THE NATION": Thank you.
O`DONNELL: What is the situation there now?
MELBER: The situation is that you have a very similar gathering of
people in the middle of the park. It is now more barricaded. There are
basically check points, not unlike what you would see going in to a
football game. And you can only enter through those and only exit through
So it feels a little more regulated. But other than that -- and of
course, other than the absence of the tents, as you reported, it is
similar. And the mood is very upbeat here tonight.
O`DONNELL: Ari, I want us to listen to what Mayor Bloomberg said
today in comparing what was done in New York to what has happened in other
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLOOMBERG: I think you have to distinguish between what we`re trying
to do and what was done in many other places. In many places, they were
prevented from going back in after the safety conditions were improved to
protest. Quite the contrary; here we welcome them back in.
If they want to protest, they have a right to do so. Brookfield
Properties has a legal obligation, an agreement with the city, to let them,
and has said that they are happy to have them there to express their views.
But that is not the same as taking over the park.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: So, Ari, the mayor is saying that as crackdowns go, this
was the most benign nationwide, because they just cleaned up and invited
the protesters right back in.
MELBER: Right. I think Mayor Bloomberg is asking to be judged
against the standard of other mayors and cities across the country. And I
do think, for what it is worth, they have done better than other places
like Oakland. If you talk to people who are gathered here for weeks and
months, many of them would say that is not their standard.
Some people argue that their rights are being infringed upon. And the
standard is the U.S. Constitution. Others would arguer that they are in an
ideological battle with the mayor, that he opposes their views and they
his, and that they want to continue to do battle with him, both in their
right to assemble, which they think is now fettered, and in a broader
discussion about the economy itself.
O`DONNELL: Ari, was there any strategic thinking down there, saying
hey, why don`t we just call this a win. We have been invited back in. Why
don`t we call it our win also?
MELBER: It is funny. I saw one person coming in holding an American
flag and saying, I love America, I want to make the country better. And
that actually -- at least in at the moment, they were prevented from
entering. They were making that kid of argument, that this was a win for
America and they wanted to wave that flag.
I will tell you there is a jubilance down here. There are people
handing out food. The protesters are adjusting within the new
restrictions. So you have some people who are walking on the sidewalk, not
inside of the park, and using that to hand off food and other supportive
items, while others are inside.
So I do think there is definitely a sense here that some people feel
this is a step forward and a chance to show that they are collaborative and
that they will last. So, I don`t think it would be fair -- I wouldn`t want
to suggest that it is all complaints.
When it comes to the mayor, yeah, the general sentiment down here,
including one sign I saw today that said, basically Mr. Mayor, if you are
proud of what you did, why did you not want anyone to see it? That would
be the sentiment here.
O`DONNELL: What`s happening there tonight looks like at least a
partial win for the protesters to me. Ari Melber of "The Nation" and
MSNBC, Thank you very much for that report.
MELBER: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, a super member of the super committee has found
a loophole in Grover Norquist`s anti-American pledge. He figured out that
Republicans can vote to raise taxes without violating Norquist`s pledge.
This is amazing. I`m in awe of this. It is coming up in the Rewrite.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you agree with President Obama on Libya, or
HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: OK. Libya.
I got to go back and see. I got all this stuff twirling around in my
JOY BEHAR, "THE VIEW": You know, can I just say, he`s obviously
groping for answers. But the guy doesn`t know about Libya. He doesn`t
know that China had nuclear weapons since the `60s. And he wants his
finger on the button? Who is voting for him?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Watching Herman Cain, I swear, as he is grabbing
his tie, I just knew he was going to go, I don`t know, but 9-9-9.
O`DONNELL: In tonight`s Rewrite, it takes one to outsmart one. We
have reported here recently on Republicans in the House and Senate who are
trying to pick the lock that Grover Norquist has on tax policy in
Republican politics. Norquist is, of course, the lobbyist who gets anti-
tax Republican candidates for the House, the Senate and the presidency to
take an anti-American oath to him before they take their oath of office.
They sign a pledge to Norquist, in writing, that they will never raise
taxes in any way, including by closing the most egregious tax loopholes.
Lately, some Republicans have taken baby steps toward reasonableness by
saying things like they didn`t think the pledge was for life, like their
But now comes a Republican, a signer of the Norquist pledge, who has
figured out how Republicans can vote to raise taxes without violating their
pledge to Grover. The idea is a work of tax policy genius.
Like most works of genius, it is stunning in its simplicity. And it`s
deeply and personally embarrassing to me that I didn`t figure it out
myself, since I worked on tax policy in the Senate for years. It was
sitting right there in front of all of us and none of us saw it, except the
freshman Tea Party supported Senator from Pennsylvania Pat Toomey, a member
of the super committee that is trying to come up with a deficit reduction
package that includes spending cuts and tax revenue increases.
Toomey says Republicans can vote to raise taxes without violating the
Norquist pledge because a vote to raise taxes will not technically be a
vote to raise taxes under current law. This is so great. OK. Here are
the marginal -- the current marginal income tax rates for tax year 2011.
Look at these.
If the super committee and Congress do absolutely nothing, and do not
change tax rates in any way, under current law on January one, 2012, tax
rates are scheduled to return to the higher Bill Clinton rates for every
Look at how much high the Clinton rates are than the current George W.
Bush rates that are still in place. Senator Toomey is saying that
Republicans could vote for an increase of, say, four percentage points in
the top tax rate, take it from 35 to 39 percent, and they would actually,
technically be voting for a tax cut of 0.6 percent.
OK. Just stay with me. Let me run this by you one more time, so you
can see the simple magic of this. Because current law says that the top
tax rate I 2012 will be 39.6 percent, if Republicans vote for a rate this
year that is 39.6 percent or below that, they will technically not be
voting for a tax increase.
And that is technically absolutely true. Like everyone else who has
stared at the Norquist anti-tax, anti-American pledge, I`ve never ever been
able to see any way around it. No one has. It has appeared, until Senator
Toomey opened our eyes, that Norquist had written an ingenious pledge that
was flawless, that had, pardon the expression, no loopholes.
But it was Republicans themselves who undermined the Norquist pledge
so completely. It was a Republican president and a Republican Congress
that put an expiration date on the Bush tax rates. And it is that
expiration date that has allowed Pat Toomey to outsmart Grover Norquist.
I have had and surely will have many disagreements with Pennsylvania`s
junior senator. But tonight, I regard the senator and his staff with
nothing short of awe for unlocking the Norquist pledge. It`s over, Grover.
You`re expiration date has arrived.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She`s had to miss 98 percent of the votes in the
Congress she loves. So today, does she really think she can go back to
REP. GABRIELLE GIFFORDS (D), ARIZONA: No, better.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s better?
GIFFORDS: I -- oh --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She wants to get better.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You want to get better.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And so you think to yourself, I`ll go back to
Congress if I get better.
GIFFORDS: Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And that`s where you are right now.
GIFFORDS: Yes, yes, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in her
first interview since January 8th, when she was wounded in a shooting
rampage that left six dead and 13 wounded. Giffords and her husband,
retired astronaut Mark Kelly, have co-authored a book entitled "Gabby, A
Story of Courage and Hope." It`s in bookstores today.
Today, Giffords posted an audio note to her constituents on her
Facebook wall. The message was recorded last week in Houston, where
Giffords has been undergoing rehabilitation therapy for ten months.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIFFORDS: Hello. This is Gabbi Giffords. I miss you. I miss
Tucson, the mountains, blue skies, even the heat.
I`m getting stronger. I`m getting better. It`s been a hard year for
all of us. Thinking about that day makes me sad. Six people died, six
innocent people. So many people hurt. There is lots to say. I will speak
better. I want to get back to work. Representing Arizona is my honor.
My staff is there to help you. They keep me informed on your behalf.
I miss you. I miss home. I`ll see you real soon. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Giffords might not be alive today if not for
the heroics of her then intern Daniel Hernandez, as President Obama noted
at a memorial service for the victims of the Tucson massacre.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are grateful to
Daniel Hernandez, a volunteer in Gabbi`s office. And Daniel, I`m sorry.
You may deny it, but we have decide you are a hero, because you ran through
the chaos to minister to your boss and tended to her wounds and help to
keep her alive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now, Daniel Hernandez, who has just won his own
election to the Sunny Side Unified School District governing board in the
Tucson area. Thank you very much for joining me tonight, Daniel.
DANIEL HERNANDEZ, HELPED SAVE REP. GABRIELLE GIFFORDS: Thank you for
having me on again, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Daniel, what`s it like to hear your former boss now
finally being able to talk to us and talk to her constituents via that sort
HERNANDEZ: You know, I think it just puts a big smile on everyone`s
face to be able to finally be able hear her in her own words saying hello
and that she wants to come back. And I think it is something that is
really heartening for all of us to hear her talking, which is something
that wasn`t possible not too long ago.
O`DONNELL: What`s been the reaction in Tucson to her interview? And
actually now they can hear her voice on Facebook. .
HERNANDEZ: You know, I think it has been absolute joy and people are
really excited. And all of us know her for being a fighter, whether it was
fighting for her life on January 8th or fighting for her constituents on
the floor of the House. She`s always been a fighter. And we are seeing
that spirit that she`s always had represented again in her recovery and in
her process to get better.
So it is something that everyone is really excited about, to be able
to see her and to see her progress.
O`DONNELL: We are getting closer, as everyone knows, to the election
cycle next year for that, her House seat and every House seat. Her husband
has said that she would like to run. How do you think that will work? How
could it work as a campaign? And how do you think she will be received as
a candidate for re-election, if she chooses to do that?
She`s not said she`s made that choice yet.
HERNANDEZ: I think she even said it last night in the interview, she
wants to be better and she wants to makes sure she is better when she
decides to run. So when she makes the decision to run or not, it is going
to be her decision and it`s going to be on her own terms. So the deadline
But there is still a lot of time between now and then. And I think we
need to give her the time and the space that she needs to get better, so
she can make that decision on her own.
O`DONNELL: Daniel, have the politics of her district changed in any
significant way that would affect her re-election?
HERNANDEZ: You know, I don`t think they have changed significantly.
We`ve seen a big mess here in Arizona with the governor ousting the
independent chair of the redistricting commission. So we don`t even know
what her district would look like in 2012.
The latest district actually got rid of some of the conservative parts
of her district, and actually made it a much more competitive district than
before. So for all intents and purposes, if the maps stay the way they
are, it would be easier for her to win re-election.
O`DONNELL: Daniel Hernandez, it`s great to see you and hear from you
once again. Thank you very much for joining us tonight. Thanks, Daniel.
HERNANDEZ: Thank you so much, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: You can have THE LAST WORD online at our blog,
TheLastWord.MSNBC.com. And you can follow my Tweets @Lawrence. "THE ED
SHOW" is up next.
<Copy: Content and programming copyright 2011 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Copyright 2011 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>
MORE FROM MSNBC
Add msnbc headlines to your news reader: