'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Read the transcript to the Wednesday show
Guests: Jonathan Capehart, Steve Kornacki, David Plouffe, Kamala Harris
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: Rick Perry is now in the fifth day of his
brain freeze on whether to enter the Trump debate. In the Republican
bonfire of the vanities, does Newt`s flame burn the very brightest?
MARTIN BASHIR, MSNBC HOST: In the Republican vampire of the vanities,
does Newt`s flame burn the very brightest?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Democrats and Republicans telling us that they
underestimated Newt Gingrich.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Strategist of both parties say he could upset Mitt
Romney to become the Republican nominee.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Is Gingrich for real?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a weird race in a lot of different ways.
KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Remember that Newt Gingrich
was pushed out by his own party.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was a man many months ago who was left for
dead after there were headlines of a staff mutiny during his trip to Greece
and after the headlines hit about his credit at Tiffany`s.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is erratic. He`s unpredictable. It would be a
much tougher, nastier race than a Romney race.
REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He is the flavor of the
DONALD TRUMP, BUSINESSMAN: Newt Gingrich said yes immediately, he is
not afraid of anything
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think if you are afraid
to debate with Donald Trump, people are going to say, so you want me to
believe you can debate Barack Obama but you are afraid to show up with
FINNEY: Gingrich is going to it because he has never seen a camera he
didn`t want to go talk to.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I almost called him Newt Romney, which I guess
is sort of like be the ideal candidate.
MATTHEWS: Is Romney tough or just desperate?
ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: He needs to go hard on Gingrich and there
has been some word that the Romney camp is prepared to do that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hope so. Oops, I did say that out loud?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump giving a slight dig, though, back to
TRUMP: If you are down in the polls, which respectfully he is down in
the polls, I would think you would want to be on a debate like this it is
very well covered.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Who is watching it to see how
much of a train wreck it is going to be?
GINRICH: I assume it`s like the apprentice, the apprentice president.
TRUMP: It`s certainly getting a lot of press.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, it is.
TRUMP: I`ve never seen anything like it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know you are embarrassed by all that press.
STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: Forget Donald Trump, he is history rolled
in forget him, smothered in a yesterday sauce.
O`DONNELL: Tonight, Donald Trump is desperately trying to convince
Republican candidates to show up for his debate.
Yesterday, Mitt Romney went out of the debate and apologized to Trump
personally. He completely wimped out and he lied about having scheduling
conflicts. That was after Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman immediately refused to
participate in the debate, as soon as it was announced last week.
Ron Paul and John Huntsman were the only two Republican candidates who
could instantly see their way to doing the right thing, making the only
presidential choice they could make under the circumstances. They simply
refused to demean the office of the presidency that they are seeking by
participating in a debate moderated by a buffoon.
Today, Rick Perry was still trying to figure out whether Romney`s
scheduling lie would work for him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Have you made a decision on the Donald
GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I haven`t. We are
right in the middle of a very, very important bus tour when that was
planned and this bus tour has been on the books for a pretty --
BLITZER: The bus tour is in Iowa?
PERRY: Right, it is.
BLITZER: Because this debate is in Iowa?
PERRY: I don`t want to tell people that I promise I`m going to be in
their town doing an event with them, hey, sorry, I got go run in and do --
the preparation and what have you. So --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And even the camera-hungry Michele Bachmann might conclude
that the Trump debate is beneath her dignity.
(BEGIN VIDOE LCIP)
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So far, I think
Newt Gingrich is the only one who has accepted the invitation for that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will you?
BACHMANN: We are still in the process of looking at it. One concern
was he said he is already leaning toward a candidate and so, you know,
there`s questions objectivity, but I have great respect for him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: With only two candidates committed to attend, today on
FOX, Trump downplayed the Trump role in the Trump debate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEIL CAVUTO, FOX NEWS: Now you`re left to Senator Santorum and former
Speaker Gingrich. What are you going to do if it`s just those two?
TRUMP: Well, we will see. Look, this is a Newsmax debate. Newsmax
is a powerful organization, good organization, and they asked me to do and
I said I would do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Throughout the day on Twitter, Trump tried desperately to
convince Perry and Bachmann to ignore Trump debate detractors like Karl
Rove and participate in his debate.
"Why is the GOP establishment so threatened by the Newsmax, ION TV
debate -- otherwise known as the Trump debate? More debate is always
"The architect Karl Rove is directly responsible for losing both House
and Barack Obama becoming president. Ignore him. Happy to have Grover
Norquist endorsement of the Newsmax ION TV debate -- otherwise known as the
Trump debate -- that I am moderating."
That tweet linked to this statement by Norquist, whose Americans for
Tax Reform group will now co-sponsor the debate. "I am assured that Donald
Trump will be a fair-minded moderator, and joined by serious journalists.
This contrasts with several debates that have already occurred which have
been moderated by hostile members of the left-wing media. I strongly urge
all GOP candidates to attend this debate.
And, oh, yes, Trump is also upset that President Obama hasn`t called
him to ask for advice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I`ve never met -- I mean, here`s the thing, me or others,
would you almost think, hey, call up the guy, you could see he is getting a
little angry with the way you are running the country, call up Trump. I
mean, I have a big voice. Call up Trump, invite him to the White House,
get him on your side, get him -- you know, people listen to me and people
listen to others, you get some of these -- no calls, not that it matters.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Hey, Donald, this is as close to the president as you`re
ever going to get.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Obviously, we all know
about your credentials and breadth of experience. For example, seriously,
just recently, in an episode of "The Celebrity Apprentice," at the steak
house, the men`s cooking team did not impress the judges from Omaha Steaks
and there was a lot of blame to go around. But you, Mr. Trump, recognized
that the real problem was a lack of leadership. And so, ultimately, you
didn`t blame Lil Jon or Meat Loaf. You fired Gary Busey.
And these are the kind of decisions that would keep me up at night.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now, "Washington Post" editorial writer, MSNBC
political analyst and THE LAST WORD`s Trump correspondent Jonathan
Capehart, senior Trump correspondent. Also, politics writer for "Salon,"
Thank you both for joining us.
CAPEHART: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: All right, senior Trump correspondent. By the way, any
excuse to roll the White House correspondents dinner tape.
O`DONNELL: But Trump gave it to us. It was a completely legitimate
run of the tape.
O`DONNELL: Saying why isn`t the president calling up me, Donald
Trump, for advice on how to run this country?
CAPEHART: Well, Trump in that clip is quickly becoming sort of the
Tavis Smiley of the right, you know, being angry with the president, maybe
not because -- Trump is angry with the president because of his policies
but Tavis Smiley is angry with the president because the president won`t
take his call, won`t meet with him, you won`t do anything that he asks him
And in that clip that you showed, when I talk to and when I
interviewed Mr. Trump in September/October, he talked extensively what his
mood and demeanor was at the time, how he sat so stone-faced because he
thought that he shouldn`t react, that that would be -- wouldn`t be proper.
But meanwhile, hey, the whole thing was about me. The entire president`s
speech was about me and I had to remind him.
Mr. Trump, actually you it was just a piece of it.
O`DONNELL: Steve Kornacki, Donald Trump, has anything worse happened
to the Republican Party?
STEVE KORNACKI, SALON.COM: You know, when you think about it, he
really did kind of set the tone for this year, for sort of the craziness
that we have seen in the Republican race. I think utterly fake campaign on
his part, but he was included in the polls, he was the first guy of the big
surge to sort of show how far you could push the envelope and how far ahead
of Mitt Romney you could get by doing that. And this is sort of the
ultimate culmination of it, you know, where the debate set for, what six,
seven days before the Iowa caucuses. And now, it`s almost maybe becoming a
litmus test for these candidates of their loyalty to the conservative
If you are loyal to the tribe, you are going to go to the Donald`s
debate and I think that`s why you`re seeing Romney squirm and that`s why
you`re seeing Rick Perry squirm.
O`DONNELL: Now, Newt was the first to jump into this debate with both
feet. Let`s see how he justified that on FOX News last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you thought through what this might be
GINGRICH: I assume it is like "The Apprentice" presidency. I mean, I
think if you are afraid to debate with Donald Trump, people are going to
say, so you want me to believe you can debate Barack Obama but you`re
afraid to show up with Donald Trump? And I think it strikes me, it is kind
of a very weak position, I don`t know why people would do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Is there any liability to Gingrich now for being in this
debate? When it first emerged, it seemed to me like, OK, so, now they are
going to have a crazy Trump debate. But now, it`s starting to look like a
risky thing, even for Gingrich to do.
CAPEHART: Well, I don`t know, he is so far ahead in Iowa, which is
only a few days away, I think as Steve pointed out, which says to me --
when I was first told about this debate and how close it was to Iowa, I
thought who was the crazy person who came up with this -- with this timing?
Who is actually going to show up?
And when I was having this conversation with this source, no candidate
had actually accepted the invitation. I think because Newt Gingrich is so
far ahead, he can afford to show up because his ground game probably isn`t
as extensive as say Mitt Romney is on the ground, even though Mitt Romney
hasn`t done any campaigning in Iowa. The free sort of air time, the free
press that Newt Gingrich gets by showing up with Donald Trump, a proven
media-getter, I think would make it worth it for him.
O`DONNELL: Steve, the Trump people seeming -- I don`t know what he
has for handlers but someone told him to calm down because today, Cavuto on
FOX asked him about John Huntsman and these people who rejected the debate,
he is very polite, he has shifted from condemning them and calling them
names and doing the classic Donald Trump reaction to anyone who crosses
him, and now he is actually saying polite and nice things about Jim Lehrer.
He is trying to sound like Jim Lehrer reacting to someone dropping out of
his debate now.
KORNACKI: Right. Well, I think the someone that got to him, my guess
would be called his ego, because I think in my sense of this thing is sort
of also become a test of Donald Trump`s ego. It`s so close to Iowa. He
originally billed this I think as sort of the final definitive test for all
these candidates right before the leadoff caucus.
And so, what does it say about Donald Trump who will tell anybody how
he is the most important guy in Republican politics, the most important guy
in the media, he`s got the voice that requires the president to call him
what does it say about him and his influence if he can put a debate like
this together, put invitations out and the best he can do is Newt Gingrich
and Rick Santorum?
So, I think part of him maybe understands at this point you are not
necessarily going to browbeat Mitt Romney to coming but if you can -- if
you can act polite, you know, polite enough and there`s pressure exerted
from some other sources, maybe you get these guys to show and then you can
go out and tell everybody it`s the biggest debate ever because I organized
it. I think that`s his end game here.
O`DONNELL: Go ahead.
CAPEHART: If I could just jump in here. Newsmax approached Donald
Trump to moderate this debate. I mean, we can call it the Donald Trump
debate because he is the marquee person involved in this debate, but in
those tweets that you showed, what we are seeing Donald Trump making it --
putting some distance between his name and his reputation and the people
who actually put this together, the Newsmax/ION TV debate.
O`DONNELL: Kind of like what he does with some of these condominium
sales he gets involved in. Well, my name`s on it but I --
CAPEHART: I don`t manage it.
O`DONNELL: Not my building. Not my building.
Jonathan Capehart, senior Trump correspondent, and Steve Kornacki,
thank you both very much for joining me tonight.
CAPEHART: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, President Obama`s senior adviser, David
Plouffe, joins me. We`ll talk about the veto threat the president issued
today and how happy the Democrats are going to be if the president gets to
run against Newt Gingrich.
And then, I got a personal story for you. You may have heard that
Alec Baldwin got a bit of a problem getting home from Los Angeles
yesterday. Well, I sat beside Alec Baldwin on his flight to Los Angeles on
Friday. And I`ll tell you what that was like.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIMMY FALLON, COMEDIAN: It`s time for pros and cons. Here you go.
Oh, this will be good. Tonight, we will be taking a look at the pros
and cons of Christmas specials. Pro, Ebenezer Scrooge got haunted by the
ghost of Christmas past. Con, Herman Cain got haunted by the ghost of
True. Again./ reality.
Pro, seeing Santa`s big white beard. Con, seeing Santa without the
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, Newt Gingrich. I`m Newt Gingrich.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If the payroll tax cut
attached to a whole bump of extraneous issues not related to making sure
that the American people`s taxes don`t go up on January 1st, then it is not
something that I`m going to accept and I don`t expect to have to veto it
because I expect they are going to have enough sense over on Capitol Hill -
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: President Obama had tough talk for Republicans on Capitol
Hill today at a brief news conference with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen
Harper. Earlier tonight at the White House, I talked about the president`s
battle with congressional Republicans and the re-election campaign with the
president`s senior adviser, David Plouffe.
O`DONNELL: David, thanks for joining me tonight.
DAVID PLOUFFE, OBAMA SENIOR ADVISER: Good to be with you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: You can tell it is Christmas season in Washington balls
the president is explaining to Congress exactly what he will do if they try
to jam anything by him at the last minute before leaving down. He issued
veto threat today about the payroll tax cut, wants a clean bill.
What are the chances of getting that?
PLOUFFE: Well, I think Congress has to do this, otherwise taxes are
going to group next year on 160 million Americans, $1,000 apiece. And in
this economy, I don`t know anybody that can afford that. So, Congress
needs to do their work here, complete the budget work.
Most importantly, make sure those tax cuts continue, they are critical
to the average American who needs $1,000. It`s also for our economy. We
need that to continue to recover and to grow.
O`DONNELL: Now, you have come up with a tax cut that Republicans
don`t like. This is the first tax cut that has ever come their way that
they don`t like. What is it about your tax cut that they don`t like?
PLOUFFE: Sadly, it`s probably because the president is proposing it.
O`DONNELL: Could be. Might have something to do with it.
PLOUFFE: There`s no other reason.
Well, listen, the truth is, a lot of Republicans have voted for this
in the past. They supported it, as recently as two years ago, at the end
of 2010. So this is the right thing to do.
Again, almost every economist out there, Democratic or Republican,
says you have to have this tax cut to help with consumption in the economy
But, secondly, to the average person, to have $1,000 taken out of
their paycheck makes no sense at all. And what we are trying to do is make
sure it`s also paid for in a responsible way, asking the very wealthiest to
do a little bit more.
O`DONNELL: The president said he is going to give up as much of his
holiday trip as he -- I don`t want to use the word vacation, by the way,
because no president takes vacations. Not this one, not the one before
him, not the one before. They don`t do it. I know how it really works.
They`re on the job every day.
But his family trip for the holidays, he is going to put that off
until Congress gets this done.
Is there any way of getting John Boehner to make the same pledge, that
he is not going to leave town before this gets done?
PLOUFFE: Well, listen, you`d hope so. I mean, Congress is supposed
to leave in about nine days. So, that`s plenty of time to get done this
business, to assure the American people their taxes aren`t going to get up
to extend employment -- benefits the unemployed and get a budget work done.
So, the president`s view is, it`s not acceptable for the Congress to
wave by as they leave for a month and raise taxes on all the middle class
workers in America. That`s not going to happen on his watch.
O`DONNELL: So, all those attack ads that Chicago has been working on,
with Mitt Romney`s name in them, can you just switch out Gingrich, although
their records are different enough that it`s going to have to be a whole
new strategy with this Republican front-runner?
PLOUFFE: Well, you know, our focus now is improving this economy,
helping the middle class. What is clear no matter who runs against us,
their -- from what I`ve been able to see, they are offering the same
economic philosophy we know didn`t work, the president talked about a in a
speech yesterday in Kansas.
Huge tax cuts for the wealthy, not starving things like investments in
education, research and technology, refusing to do the things to grow the
economy, basically if we let Wall Street write its own rules after the
financial collapse we all went through, and make it easier for polluters to
pollute, insurance companies to discriminate against sick patients --
somehow that`s the anticipate to our economic recovery. It makes no sense
at all, historically has not made sense.
And that`s what the president talked about yesterday. And really,
that`s the mission of this administration, not just recovering from the
recession, but to build a stronger economy that gets more people into the
middle class, makes those people in the middle class secure, gives
everybody a fair shake, everybody does their fair share, everybody has got
a fair shot.
And this really is a make or break moment for the middle class and
that`s what this president is going to be focused on, how do we strengthen
the middle class in the coming years?
O`DONNELL: In order for the president to continue trying to do that
job, he has to keep this job. So, as you look at this Republican field
developing, there has been a lot of -- you can use the word excitement
about the Republican campaign. I mean, I think it`s been a lot of
craziness, but it`s really an easy one to watch and it`s getting a lot of
Does the Obama re-election campaign worry about diverting attention
from the incumbent, this field is getting an awful lot of attention?
PLOUFFE: We`re going to just keep our eyes focused here on what we
need to do to help middle class to grow this economy in the coming months.
Obviously, we are going to have an opponent at some point. Our colleagues
in Chicago and the campaign are getting ready for that moment.
But again, whoever comes out, whoever we are running against, Newt
Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, they are offering the same discredited
economic ideas. It`s economic and tax policies for the very, very wealthy
at the expense of the middle class, let Wall Street write its own rules,
things like education, investments in college, research and development,
rebuilding this country, they are offering all the wrong prescriptions.
And it`s not like 2008 was 20 years ago. It just happened. People
are still living you with the aftermath of it.
So, we will have an opponent, we`ll be ready for that opponent. This
is a big argument that the country is going to have to decide about the
direction we take economically.
The president believes we need to make every decision based on one
principle: how does this help the middle class and how does it help more
people get in the middle class?
O`DONNELL: In politics, you make your own luck by doing your
homework, by being ready for what`s going to happen. But do you not make
your own opponent.
Isn`t Newt Gingrich the single luckiest thing that has ever happened?
You have been with Obama through the presidency from the very beginning.
Has there been a luckier thing than the surge of Newt Gingrich in the polls
and the possibility, the actual possibility of President Obama being on a
debate stage with Newt Gingrich as the nominee?
PLOUFFE: Well, it`s been an interesting race, I wish I could just
enjoy it as a casual observed, because we haven`t seen one like this in a
long time. And my guess is it has many twists I and turns left, just four
short weeks from Iowa.
But here`s what we do believe, no matter who our opponent is -- they
start this race with 47, 48 percent of the vote guaranteed. So, any of
them are going to give us a tough race, any candidate in this economy and
divided country. So, we`re going to have a tough election and we are not
handicapping who is going to win it and who is going to be the toughest
opponent and who is going do better in this state or that state.
We`re just focused -- the president is focused on his job, which is
cutting taxes for the middle class, continuing to do smart thing for this
economy, you know, winding down the Iraq war this month, some important
things this country, core commitments to the American people.
O`DONNELL: Are you going to be able to find the time in the
president`s schedule for the seven three-hour Lincoln Douglass debates with
Newt Gingrich starting some time in July, I believe?
PLOUFFE: Yes, well, we are -- listen --
O`DONNELL: He has put the challenge out there. Are you going to
runaway from that one?
PLOUFFE: Well, there will be a time to navigate all that. We`ll have
presidential debates and it`s a healthy debate.
You know, listen, what`s interesting about that, Lawrence, is what the
president talked about in Kansas yesterday, what he wants to do: strengthen
education, invest in research and technology and infrastructure, do that in
the fiscally responsible way so we continue to put cut spending in a smart
way, get rid of programs we don`t need to fund those that we do, ask al
little bit more of the wealthy, have an economic policy center on the
middle class -- this is something most Republicans in American support.
You know this is where the mainstream of America is.
And so this debate is going to be one where whoever the Republican
nominee is and you see a lot of the congressional Republicans here
subscribing to that same philosophies that even a majority of their party
doesn`t believe in.
O`DONNELL: David, thank you very much for joining me tonight. You
can`t suppress that Gingrich smile. You`re all smiling in the White House
today. It`s all about Gingrich.
PLOUFFE: It`s the holidays, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: It`s the holidays and the greatest gift you could imagine
in politics, Newt Gingrich.
David, thanks again. I really appreciate it.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, why the requirement for particular kinds of
photo IDs at the polls is a serious threat to voting rights across America.
And in the "Rewrite" tonight, a psychiatric study of what ails one of
the Republican front-runners for the presidential nomination.
And next, you`ve probably heard about how Alec Baldwin got back to New
York from Los Angeles yesterday. I`ll tell you what it was like sitting
beside him when he was flying to Los Angeles on Friday. I`ll just say it
was a long flight.
O`DONNELL: In our "For What It`s Worth" segment tonight, me and Alec
Baldwin. I was not there at Los Angeles airport yesterday when he had a
problem on an airplane, and he had to leave that plane at the request of
the airline, and get on the very next plane that that very same airline was
running out of Los Angeles. So I`m not sure how much of a problem he could
possibly have caused if that very same airline booked him on the very next
But I did sit beside him on the flight from New York to Los Angeles,
the flight that brought him to Los Angeles on Friday. And it was, as I
said, a long flight because it is always a long flight. But I can tell you
that I have never, never seen a more polite person on an airplane than Alec
I don`t really know him, I have said hello to him a couple times here
and there before that flight. That was the first time I ever sat with him
in any experience like that. He was polite to a fault. He embarrassed me
with his politeness.
He certainly was more polite than I was, which, of course, is a low
bar, as some people already know. So, what could possibly have happened
yesterday? I do not know. It bears absolutely no resemblance to the
pleasure I saw. All of the staff on the plane having when he was on the
plane on Friday, and the pleasure it was for know sit beside him.
He was going out there, as he does frequently, almost every weekend,
to be with his daughter. He talked of his daughter and the importance of
getting out there as often as he has to from New York. And that`s what I
can tell you, For What It`s Worth.
Up next, a rising star in the Democratic party; my exclusive interview
with California Attorney General Kamala Harris, as she tries to take on big
banks and some of their abusive foreclosure practices.
Later, the Republican plan to block Democratic voters: prevent them
from getting into voting booths in next year`s election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have lived in my home for 13 years. And
through predatory lending, I have gone through a foreclosure. To date,
that foreclosure is actually being looked at because it was actually
I was inspired and encouraged to start -- start to stand up for myself
when I saw this woman over in Oakland actually break back into her home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was a San Francisco homeowner telling her story in a
new chapter of the Occupy protests, the Occupy Our Homes Movement.
Yesterday was a national day of action that saw protesters re-occupying
foreclosed homes in New York, Georgia, Illinois, Florida, Minneapolis,
Oregon, Washington and California.
And now there is big news in the legal fight against wrongful
foreclosures and to hold banks accountable for their wrong-doing. The
attorneys general of Nevada and California that ranked -- the states that
rank number one and number two for percentage of homes in foreclosure
announced that they have teamed up to launch a wide-ranging joint
investigation to help homeowners who have been harmed by misconduct and
fraud in the mortgage industry.
Joining me now is California Attorney General Kamala Harris. Kamala,
thanks for joining me tonight.
KAMALA D. HARRIS, CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: It`s great to be with
O`DONNELL: You know, this announcement comes after -- you were all in
a 50-state negotiation with all 50 state attorneys general and the big five
banks. But you and your Nevada colleague have decided to pull out and go
your own way, because the 50-state approach wasn`t working. Why wasn`t
HARRIS: Well, I pulled California out in September. And essentially,
it became very clear to me that it was not -- the discussion there did not
represent a fair deal for California. As you mentioned, California has
experienced an incredible hardship. We have been alternating with Nevada
between number one and number two, with the cities hardest hit by the
The great attorney general of Nevada, Catherine Masto, has been
looking at this issue for quite some time. And so most recently -- and
yesterday, in fact, we announced a joint investigation agreement, where we
are joining forces around our targeted investigation. And so we have each
independently been doing this work.
And we are collaborating and sharing intelligence, sharing witnesses
and documents and the subpoena power that we each have, to focus on the
need for accountability and consequence for wrong-doers, and also to make
sure that we are doing a full and fair investigation, so that we can be
sure that when and if there is ever a discussion or we come to a point of
reaching a settlement, it will be fair and it will be proportionate to the
harm that each of our states experienced.
O`DONNELL: And the harm that your states have experienced have
included the practices by the lenders that moved these mortgagers out to
borrowers who were not aware and were never made aware of the dimensions of
what they were getting into. Now there`s this other component, which is
the people who are in trouble on their mortgages are falling prey too all
sorts of schemes that are being offered them, with the notion that these
schemes will help them get out of trouble with their mortgages.
HARRIS: Right. So earlier this year, I created a Mortgage Fraud
Strike Force in California. And it is actually a team of 40 lawyers from
my Consumer, Corporate and Criminal Fraud Divisions. And we have been
looking at everything from the origination issue, and what happened during
that phase of the mortgage process and false claims that may have been
associated with the origination of those loans, and then right through the
servicing part, up until the securitization.
And the story that you just showed a clip from was a town hall that I
held in San Francisco. And the woman, Denise, is someone who described
something that I`m hearing up and down the state of California. And
Catherine Masto will tell you that she is hearing it across Nevada, which
is the homeowner who is in the process of foreclosure, then they borrow
money from friends and family to try to keep the home through the process
of modifying their loan, modification process.
And so we call this dual track. So you see countless numbers of
homeowners making every good attempt to stay in their home, and to pay with
a modified rate. There is no communication between these two tracks. And
so you hear stories like Denise or other people who will tell you that they
are in the process of sending documents to the servicing banks. They don`t
get responses. They get conflicting information.
All of a sudden, someone knocks on their door and tells them their
home has been sold. This is not -- I`ll let you finish, but I will just
make an obvious point. This is not what our system should be designed to
do. Our system should be designed to give these people who are in most
desperate strength, give them dignity in the process, and give them enough
information, so that if they have the ability and desire try and keep their
homes, we give them an opportunity to do that.
O`DONNELL: Kamala, I think if we were talking about mortgage fraud
with an attorney general 10 years ago, or possibly even five years ago,
what we would be talking about is fraud perpetrated by borrowers in
overstating their incomes or just, you know, putting stuff on the
application that just isn`t true, in order to get mortgages that they
O`DONNELL: But mortgage fraud now involves these other components
that we are talking about. At this stage of your investigation on this
subject, could you give us a sense of how much of each one of these
components fed the disaster that we are in now? I mean, how much of it
would you assign, if you could, to frauds perpetrated by borrowers on their
applications versus the institutional fraud that was going on?
HARRIS: You`re absolutely right, Lawrence. Five years ago, I was
actually the D.A. of San Francisco and did a lot of this work as district
attorney, which was, at that time, looking at predatory practices. So it
was the subprime loan situation, where there were these inflated estimates
of the value of homes. Everyone could apply for a loan.
And it was an awful situation because there were extreme examples of
predatory practices. That included, for example, offering a lot of
seniors, in particular, reverse mortgages. And so we were investigating
fraud from that perspective.
Fast forward to now, we are looking at scam artists, predators who are
trying to help people foreclose their home, charging them money when they
are doing nothing to help them.
O`DONNELL: California Attorney General Kamala Harris, thank you very
much for joining us tonight.
HARRIS: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, fascinating video from a psychiatric session
years ago when one of the Republican front-runners for the presidency
perfectly self-diagnosed his own severe mental illness. That`s in the
And later, the voter I.D. movement sweeping the country is being
called the biggest threat to voter rights since the Jim Crow Laws. We will
show you one woman`s struggle to meet the new requirements in South
Carolina so she can vote.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN COLBERT, "THE COLBERT REPORT": The guy`s a clown, only with
Now, I can say that because Donald is a friend, a tremendous guy. He
is great. We have the world`s number one-rated friendship.
Having said that, he`s a joke. He is a child. He`s a toddler wearing
Look at this yutz. Looks like a gin-soaked raisin fell into a nuclear
All right? You want to play kingmaker, Donald? OK, that`s my turf.
I get things done.
The point is, forget Donald Trump. He is history rolled in forget
him, smothered in a yesterday sauce. That is why as of this moment, I am
officially announcing my own Republican debate, Stephen Colbert`s South
Carolina Serious, Classy Republican Debate.
I am doing this.
O`DONNELL: In tonight`s Rewrite, we have a guest lecturer, Willard M.
Romney, on the subject he knows better than anyone, political flip-
flopping. He actually opened up about it in a very confessional way back
in 2004 at a little-noticed breakfast with the Iowa delegation at the
Republican National Convention.
He was there to cheer on president George W. Bush`s re-election over
Massachusetts Senator and Vietnam War hero John Kerry. Romney, who avoided
military service by hanging out in France while John Kerry was in Vietnam,
made the rounds at the convention, getting to know the different
delegations, preparing for his own future presidential campaigns, and
specializing in lying about John Kerry.
The slimiest liar of that campaign, Dick Cheney, who like Romney,
never found the courage to serve in the military, never mind fight in
Vietnam, had falsely labeled John Kerry a flip-flopper. And Mitt Romney
took his place in Cheney`s chorus.
Romney pretended to know more about John Kerry because Kerry`s from
Massachusetts. Here`s a sampling of the Massachusetts governor`s stand-up
at the Iowa delegation breakfast.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now, there`s one export that
some people would like to send from our state to yours. His name is John
Kerry. And you`ve got -- yeah. Yeah. Keep him. Keep him right where he
You`ve got to know a good deal about him. It is interesting. In --
in politics, it is pretty much standard operating procedure that when
you`re running for office, you look at your opponent`s record. You find
some place where he or she has changed position. And you say they are a
flip-flopper. And that`s a pretty standard thing.
But in this case you, this guy really is. I have tried to think why
it is that he has changed so often, why he finds it so difficult to come
down on one side of an issue, instead sort of floats between both issues
and both sides of things.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: OK. This is where it gets really good, especially if you
are a shrink watching this. Psychiatrists have a term for what you`re
about to see. They call it projection and denial. And yes, I speed dialed
one of the many shrinks in my phone to get that term, projection and
What it means is the patient projects his condition onto other people,
while denying that he has it himself. In this case, the greatest flip-
flopper in the history of American politics is projecting his ailment onto
John Kerry, while in full denial that this is his own problem.
Watch it now as a psychiatrist would, as Romney`s explanation of what
it feels like to be Mitt Romney at a microphone, speaking to a political
audience. Just close your eyes and imagine Romney on a psychiatrist`s
couch, telling you all this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: And I think the problem, for those who look at John Kerry,
for those that don`t understand how he can be so vacillating, it stems from
the fact that he is very conflicted, that he is drawn in two different
directions and very powerfully.
If he is with an audience, he gets to -- he wants to identify with and
satisfy that audience, and will say what he thinks they want to hear. So
he is trying to be on both sides. And as a result, he ends up not sounding
like he can take a position one way or the other.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: You know, after work, when shrinks are kicking back with a
fine glass of wine and shooting the breeze, they refer to Romney`s kind of
projection with the more casual and more descriptive saying, if you spot
it, you`ve got it.
Romney did say something to his Iowa delegation audience that morning
that I think we can all agree on, something that we can only hope all
American voters can agree on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: You know, we laugh and joke about that kind of inconsistency
and vacillation. And yet as we look at the times that we face, it is
really not a joking matter, when we think about the importance of
leadership in our nation today. When we think of how broad the attacks are
that America is enduring, we recognize how deep and strong a leader we must
choose to lead the free world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: As we approach the first primaries in the 2012 elections,
Civil Rights groups are increasingly worried over the growing number of
states requiring photo I.D.s to vote. The new laws either request or
demand picture I.D. before allowing voters their constitutional right to
the ballot box.
Nearly all of those laws were sponsored by Republican lawmakers.
Proponents say it is about ending voter fraud. NBC news correspondent Mara
Schiavocampo, on assignment for TheGrio.com, went to one of those states,
South Carolina, and found a woman who has worked for 30 years helping
register voters who were often elderly people of color.
She sees something far more insidious behind the photo I.D.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. BRENDA WILLIAMS, HELPS REGISTER VOTERS: After researching and
working with several people who came to me out of the clear blue, out of
the clear blue -- I didn`t know these individuals that came to me. After
working with them and looking at actual numbers and statistics, I realized,
without question, that this issue is primarily targeted at African-
Americans, at the elderly, at the indigent, but primarily African-
Americans, those individuals who would, in all likelihood, vote for Barack
Obama and the Democratic party come 2012.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now, NBC`s Mara Schiavocampo, contributor for
TheGrio.com, which is part of NBC News. You can see her special report,
"the Big Issue, Voter Denied," starting tomorrow night at TheGrio.com.
Mara, what is the evidence that these efforts are targeted at Obama voters?
MARA SCHIAVOCAMPO, THEGRIO.COM: Lawrence, you know, we don`t know
whether they are targeted at Obama voters. But the evidence is certainly
that those are the groups that are going to be impacted most heavily.
These are laws that are requiring government-issued photo ideas to vote.
And we know that the groups that are most -- least likely to have a
government-issued photo I.D. are African-Americans, are the elderly and are
And those are the groups that you have traditionally supported
Democratic candidates, and certainly came out in large numbers for
President Obama. When it comes to African-Americans, you know, nationally,
about 12 percent of eligible voters do not have the kind of I.D. that`s
required. With African-Americans that number is about 25 percent.
We know that people over 65 are much less likely to have a driver`s
license. And when it comes to young people, people who are in college,
they are much more transient. So they are less likely to have an I.D. that
has an address on it that reflect the address that they are currently
So all indications at this point are that the groups that are going to
be most heavily affected are those that traditionally would turn out for a
O`DONNELL: What kind of I.D.s are these laws requiring of people, for
example, who don`t have drivers licenses? What do they need to show
SCHIAVOCAMPO: In the strictest cases, they have to be government-
issued photo I.D.s, things like a military I.D., a passport, a driver`s
license, the kind of I.D. that would you get at a DMV if you were not a
driver, but you just needed an I.D.
But you know, you do see some curious things. For example, in Texas,
you can use a gun permit I.D. but you cannot use a student I.D., even if it
is issued from a state university. So there are some cases where there are
some questions about why laws were drafted the way that they are.
In other states where they have less strict laws about this thing --
these things, you can provide other forms of identification, things like a
Social Security Card or a bill -- utility bill, that kind of thing. But
the ones that the people who are opposed to these laws are most concerned
about are the ones that ask for very specific, very strict forms of I.D.
A lot of people, when I`m talking to them about this story, say well,
what is the big deal? Why don`t you just go to the DMV and get an I.D. In
fact, in many states, they are saying they will give them away for free.
You don`t even have to pay anything. But what a lot of people are finding
is that it`s not that easy, because before you can even go to the DMV, you
need a birth certificate.
If you are a woman who has been married, you need your marriage
license if your name has changed. If you have been divorced, you need
divorce paperwork. So a lot of people are finding that before they can
even set foot in the DMV, they have to do a lot of work to gather this
paperwork and spend a lot of money. And that`s a big point of contention
for opponents to this, because they`re saying, you essentially are asking
people to shell out money for the right to vote, which is a new poll tax,
something that is completely against their Constitutional rights
O`DONNELL: NBC`s Mara Schiavocampo, thank you very much for joining
me tonight, Mara.
SCHIAVOCAMPO: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: And a LAST WORD on Alec Baldwin. If he was causing a
problem by using his cell phone while the plane was parked at the gate in
Los Angeles, how is it that I and you and we all found out about it on
Twitter by someone else sitting close to Alec Baldwin, who Tweeted about it
as it was happening?
That person did not get into any trouble on the very same airplane for
Tweeting at the very same time that Alec Baldwin was being penalized for
using his electronic device.
Riddle me that.
"THE ED SHOW" is up next.
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