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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Monday, December 12, 2011

Read the transcript to the Monday show

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Guests: Maggie Haberman, Dana Milbank, Rick Tyler, Richard Wolffe

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: Newt Gingrich confessed his sins and Mitt
Romney might have to confess his sins next.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Romney has this way of inducing cringes.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Ten thousand bucks, $10,000
bet?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think I saw hair move on Romney`s head.

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: His lack of human emotions get in the way
sometimes when he is on the defensive.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let`s be candid. The only
reason you didn`t become a career politician is you lost to Teddy Kennedy
in 1994.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: When Romney is trying not to, to try to seem in
touch, it`s a gaffe.

ROMNEY: If I would have been able to get in the NFL like I hoped when
I was a kid, I would have been a football star all my life, too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I could have been a contender.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mitt Romney has a problem on his hands.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: A new NBC/Marist poll shows that Mitt
Romney is trailing Newt Gingrich in South Carolina and Florida big time.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: In Florida, a state that was supposed to
save Mitt Romney, Gingrich`s lead is also strong. He is up to 44 percent
to Romney`s 29.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is not a surge. That`s secretariat coming
down the stretch in the Belmont.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just want you guys to think about that.

TODD: Back in 1994, Newt Gingrich was the hero of the Republican
Party. So, why aren`t more members of that famous class of `94, the
Republican revolution, why aren`t they backing their former leader?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The more the established base criticizes him, I
think it moves Newt up as an alternative.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is filled with opinions. He is overflowing
with opinions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Newt Gingrich in `94 is what the base that the
Republican Party remembers. They don`t remember any of this other
extraneous stuff.

MATTHEWS: OK. It looks like we got a contract with the devil
replacing the Contract with America.

GINGRICH: I`ve made mistakes at times. I`ve had to go to God to
forgiveness. I`ve had to seek reconciliation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you like the Christian tenets, it is about
repentance and forgiveness and reconciliation. I think, you know, Newt is
doing well with evangelicals on that issue because I think he`s been
straightforward.

MATTHEWS: The best Mitt Romney can do is hope Mitt fumbles. That`s
not a strategy. That`s desperation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Alec, are you sure this is the right way to handle
this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep going, keep going.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: Now that he`s a Catholic and a presidential candidate,
Newt Gingrich has become smoothly practiced at publicly confessing his
sins.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, MODERATOR: Speaker Gingrich, what do voters
need to know about this issue from your perspective?

GINGRICH: I think people have to look at the person to whom they`re
going to loan the presidency. I think people have to render judgment. In
my case, I`ve said up front openly. I`ve made mistakes at times. I`ve had
to go to God for forgiveness. I`ve had to seek reconciliation.

But I`m also a 68-year-old grandfather. And I think people have to
measure who I am now and whether I`m a person they can trust.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Newt is the oldest candidate for president who has ever
publicly stressed his age as an asset. What he is obviously implying by
always referring to himself as a 68-year-old grandfather when he is
discussing the youthful sexual indiscretions he found himself tied up in
when he was in his 50s, is that at age 68, he simply won`t have the
strength to respond the same way, when he feels the excitement of
Washington power throbbing through his body.

The Republican primary electorate who are well versed in the Christian
doctrine of forgiveness seem to be taking a long look at the roly-poly 68-
year-old Gingrich, and betting that it is unlikely that he will be as
active in office romance in the Oval Office as he was in the speaker`s
office. And so, he has surged past Willard M. Romney in the polls, leaving
Romney a desperate shell of his former self.

Mitt Romney, the man with the longest winning streak in the history of
presidential debates on Saturday night was reduced to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I read your first
book and it said in there that your mandate in Massachusetts should be the
model for the country. I know it came out of the reprint of the book.
But, you know, I`m just saying, you were for individual mandates, my
friend.

ROMNEY: You know what? You`ve raised that before, Rick. You`re
still wrong.

PERRY: It was true then.

ROMNEY: No, no.

PERRY: It`s true now.

ROMNEY: Rick, I`ll tell you what, 10,000 bucks, $10,000 bet?

PERRY: I`m not in the betting business.

ROMNEY: OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Do you know who else is not supposed to be in the betting
business? Devout Mormon Mitt Romney. In the gospel topics section of the
official Web site of the Mormon Church, the faithful are taught about
gambling.

"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is opposed to
gambling, including lotteries sponsored by governments. Gambling is
motivated by a desire to get something for nothing. This desire is
spiritually destructive. It leads participants away from the Savior`s
teachings of love and service and toward the selfishness of the adversary."

In other words, the devil wants to you gamble. God doesn`t.

The Mormon position against gambling is not a central tenet of the
religion. It is a matter of policy rather than doctrine. There isn`t an
emphatic prohibition on gambling the way there is on drinking alcohol or
caffeine or smoking.

In their oral testimonies of their fidelity to the teachings of the
church that Mormons must give to gain access to Mormon temples, gambling
isn`t even on the church`s check list for entrance to the temples. But
Mormons have been told not to gamble repeatedly by the church`s elders, and
the current president of the Mormon church. And so, good Mormons don`t
gamble. And Mitt Romney is a very good Mormon.

And so, in Utah, where there is still no state lottery, thanks to
Mormon influence, ears popped on Saturday night when they heard Mitt Romney
propose a bet on the Republican debate stage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I`ll tell you what, 10,000 bucks, $10,000 bet?

PERRY: I`m not in the betting business.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Rick Perry, a formidably religious Republican in his own
right got that one debate answer right, both religiously and politically.
That moment, though, left Mormons hoping that Romney was joking.

But joking about sin is actually not one of the richer veins of Mormon
comedy. The only real sin Romney committed in that moment was political.
The richest guy on the stage emphasizing that he could buy and sell
everyone else on that stage, including the other rich guys on the stage,
and thinking that should impress primary voters. The $10,000 bet will
forever be enshrined in the presidential debate hall of shame.

Joining me now, "Politico" political senior writer, Maggie Haberman,
also "Washington Post" opinion writer, Dana Milbank.

Thank you both for joining me tonight.

DANA MILBANK, WASHINGTON POST: You bet, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Maggie, the $10,000 bet. Just when you think you`ve seen
every wacky thing that can happen in a Republican debate.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, POLITICO: It was really astonishing because, you
know, Mitt Romney has this reputation as being flawless in these debates
and controlling himself and doing so well. And there he is punching down
at a guy who was last at about 11 percent, 10 percent in the Iowa polls.
There was no reason for this.

It showed that he was rattled. It showed that he was not in control
of himself, or at least didn`t feel good about that performance. He was
under fire, not as many fire as Newt Gingrich was, but he was under fire.

This was, I think, something of a game changer, because he really had
trouble getting past this. His rivals have hit him on. And it`s something
that people are understanding. Voters are seeing it and hearing it.

We`ll see how he does going forward this week.

O`DONNELL: Dana, the Mormon church is not the only one that preaches
against the evils of gambling. In fact, most churches do and certainly,
the evangelical churches included on the list of things to avoid in a
saintly life. This thing was wrong on so many levels.

It just feels like the wildest pitch that has been thrown in these
debates so far.

MILBANK: It is pretty nutty. I mean, it`s not -- I mean, certainly
we have the religious component of it. Two-thirds of the voters in the
Iowa Republican caucuses identify themselves as religious conservatives.
But you have to consider beyond that, the very size of the wager, 10 grand,
a sizable amount of the average Iowan`s annual income. And this is from a
guy who imports horses from France and has many homes around the country.

So, it just -- it was almost sort of just, you know, a turret syndrome
blurting out of something expose this man`s weakest point. You know, I
would hesitate to say it was a game changer since he was already sort of
falling apart before that, but this didn`t help.

O`DONNELL: It felt like a backstage moment back in the days of Bain
Capital when those guys talked to each other that way. I bet you $10,000.

But I want to go to some video of Romney, explaining to people how his
life has not always been easy. And this is how he does it. And he has to
go to his youthful days in France in order to make the point. Let`s listen
to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I grew up in a home with a great deal of affluence. My
parents had done very well. My dad had grown up poor. He wanted us to
work hard.

But as an American, I had everything I need. And I was asked to go up
by my church to go live in France. Now, France is not exactly a third
world country, obviously.

But when we go there, we live on our own savings and they had a limit.
We were able to receive $110 a month from our savings. I lived with people
in France who lived very modestly.

The number of apartments I lived in when I was there didn`t have
toilets. Most of the apartments I lived in had no refrigerators. Most of
the apartments I lived in had no shower or bathtub.

I lived in a way that people of lower middle income in France lived.
And I said to myself, wow, I sure am lucky to be born in the United States
of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: OK. I don`t think that exactly clears up the whole Mitt
knows what it`s like to be down and out. But the real key to this is the
dates. Mitt was doing this at ages 19 to 21, July 1966 to December 1968,
at the very height of the Vietnam War. And he was doing this instead of
military service. He did not go into combat in Vietnam and get that
distinguished combat record that Newt Gingrich is so proud of.

Oh, no. Wait a minute. None of these guys did that. They all passed
on this war.

And, Maggie, this story, if he stays with it, is simply going to
emphasize chapter one of how Romney avoided military service during the war
of his youth.

HABERMAN: I certainly think that`s part of it. Although I think
that`s much harder in a general election if he is up against Barack Obama.
I think that becomes less of an issue.

I do think it would be, say, if this continued, Rick Perry who is a
vet, I think he would emphasize that a great deal.

I think what this did is a couple of thing.

Number one, talking about your time in France does not necessarily
sound like the common man thing. But, you know, what was interesting is
Mitt Romney very rarely talks about his Mormonism. And, you know, as you
noted earlier, this is something that rarely gets mentioned by him. In
fact, it`s something his team for obvious reasons does not talk about.

The fact that he was a Mormon was used against him in the Iowa
caucuses in 2007. There has always been a concern that this was going to
become an issue for evangelical voters again. So they have not emphasized
it.

It tells you a couple of things. Number one, he already knows he is
not doing well in eye waffle he does not expect to win anymore. He`s going
to get what he has and probably not much more than that. Whatever he is
pulling at now is about his base.

And number two, he is trying for a human pivot. He is trying to show
that he can connect with people. Not just on, you know, I was in an
apartment with no refrigerators and a bucket as a toilet, but also that,
you know, he can relate to the average person on an emotional level, on a
human level. That is something he has struggled with this whole time. The
question, obviously, is whether it`s a little too late now and we`re going
to find out.

O`DONNELL: Dana, Romney has started to hit Newt. He hit him on the
issue of was he a lobbyist or a consultant or an historian when he was
raking in the bucks on K Street. And then Newt hit back, talking about
Bain Capital and what Romney`s record was there.

Let`s listen to how Newt hit back at the rich Republican guy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: I love the way he and his consultants do these things. I
would just say that if Governor Romney would like to give back all the
money he`s earned from bankrupting companies and laying off employees over
his years at Bain, that I would be glad to listen to that. I`ll bet you
$10, not $10,000, that he won`t take the offer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Dana, if Romney is the nominee, Newt just cut a commercial
for the Democrats. And that`s what they`re starting to build up in the
files. They`re each creating commercials for the Democrats to use if the
other one is the nominee.

MILBANK: Right. I think it was about 24 hours earlier that Newt said
he was going to be relentlessly positive here. He is done with that, I
guess. But that was a long stretch for Newt on this.

And one reason he can`t go too strongly after Romney on this, because
this is the guy who said, look, I didn`t get $1.6 million from Freddie Mac
for lobbying because I was making $60,000 a pop giving speeches. Now, he
could make six bets with Rick Perry and lose them all for the price of just
one of those speeches.

Yes, all these things will indeed be put aside by David Axelrod for
use later. But as we saw in 2008, the protracted primary doesn`t
necessarily mortally wound either of the surviving candidates.

O`DONNELL: It certainly loads up the Obama campaign with ammunition,
though.

Maggie Haberman and Dana Milbank, thank you both very much for joining
me tonight.

HABERMAN: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Newt Gingrich lost almost every member of his campaign
staff last June. Now as the new front-runner, Gingrich`s former spokesman
is now pulling a Gingrich, and confessing his sins, in this case, Gingrich.
He is confessing his sins against Gingrich and is begging for God`s -- I
mean, Gingrich`s forgiveness.

We`ll see if Gingrich extends Christian forgiveness to his former
campaign staffers. That`s next.

President Obama is gearing up for the 2012 fight by saying it doesn`t
matter which Republican gets the nomination. They all have the same failed
vision. Richard Wolffe is going to analyze the early days of the Obama re-
election campaign and that "60 Minutes" interview.

And later, after we`re sure the kids are asleep, we will show you FOX
News star Megyn Kelly touching something she shouldn`t.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

JON STEWART, COMEDIAN: Who will win the (INAUDIBLE) off?

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The day after I
graduated from high school, I left and I took a plane and I went to work on
a kibbutz.

STEWART: We have a winner! Oh, my gosh! She worked -- she worked on
a kibbutz? She loves Israel so much, she was willing to join a socialist
collective.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN LITHGOW: Surely they had killed him off. This is the way it
always worked. A lesser person could not have survived the first few
minutes of the onslaught. But out of the billowing smoke and dust of
tweets and trivia, emerged Gingrich. Once again, ready to lead those who
won`t be intimidated by the political elite. And are ready to take on the
challenges America faces --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That is a dramatic reading from the most famous real press
release of the 2012 campaign, performed by John Lithgow on the "Colbert
Report" on May 19th. The author of that press release was long time
Gingrich spokesman Rick Tyler who was responding to the tidal wave of
criticism Gingrich was getting after his seemingly disastrous interview
with David Gregory on NBC`s "Meet the Press" where Gingrich criticized the
Republican man of the year, Congressman Paul Ryan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: I don`t think right wing social engineering has any more
desirable than left wing social engineering. I don`t think imposing
radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free
society to operate. I think we need a national conversation to get to a
better Medicare system with more choices for seniors.

DAVID GREGORY, MODERATOR, "MEET THE PRESS": But not what Paul Ryan is
suggesting, which is completely changing Medicare?

GINGRICH: I think that is too big a jump. I`m against Obamacare
which is imposing radical change and I`ll be against a conservative
imposing radical change.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Less than a month after penning that wicked press release,
Rick Tyler joined the mass exodus of Gingrich staff who abruptly quit the
campaign. To their astonishment, the candidacy they had left for dead is
now at the top of all of the polls in the race for the Republican
presidential nomination.

Joining me now is Rick Tyler, a long time aide and spokesman to former
House Speaker Newt Gingrich and a former communications aide for Gingrich`s
2012 campaign. Thank you very much for joining me tonight, Rick.

RICK TYLER, FORMER GINGRICH 2012 CAMPAIGN AIDE: Lawrence, how are
you? I got to say that John Lithgow, you know, not bad. A few inflection
changes but on balance he did justice. I think he did all right.

O`DONNELL: It`s kind of the way you heard it as you were writing it,
right? That was the way it was supposed to be performed.

TYLER: Exactly. By the way, if you look at the text, I am awaiting
my golden chariot.

O`DONNELL: There you go. So, Rick, how are you feeling?

TYLER: I`m doing fine. I`m so impressed -- I`m so impressed with
your knowledge of hematology (ph). I was listening earlier. I`m really --

O`DONNELL: You leave the campaign, when to all of us it looked like a
raging disaster. The man had gone off on a cruise of the Greek isles when
he was supposed to be in Iowa. He was not doing any of the stuff you`re
supposed to be doing out there on the road. And he seemed to say, based on
what we took from some of the statements you and the other staff, some of
the things you said to the press when you`re living, that his idea was,
hey, I can wing it in the debates. And the television power of the debates
is all I really need. And that it seems turns out to be true.

TYLER: Gosh, it did turn out to be true. You know, Newt`s biggest
mistake was hiring senior advisers in the first place. It turns out he
doesn`t need them. I think he is the smartest political thinker in the
country bar none. Maybe Bill Clinton might be a close second. But he
doesn`t them and he`s running the show now.

And he was right. Look where he is now. So, you know, I`ve got to
hand it to him.

O`DONNELL: All right. I`m just writing it down, smartest, strategic
-- this is your audition for getting back on the Gingrich campaign. It is
going pretty well so far. He is watching. We told him you would be on and
he could reconsider this whole thing.

Make your pitch to Newt right now. Why does he need you if you left
him when he thought he needed you?

TYLER: Newt doesn`t need me. That`s the whole point. But I`m going
to help Newt. So, I`m gong to do everything I can to help Newt, whether
I`m inside the campaign or outside the campaign.

O`DONNELL: Are all of you guys who left the campaign, are you just
kind of like walk around Washington thinking, what did we do? How could --
this is like the biggest mistake anybody has ever made? Any campaign staff
has ever made?

TYLER: I can`t speak for others. I know what happened to me. I
mean, we had an avalanche fall on us. Most everybody thought so, including
the press. They all abandoned Newt.

And, you know, I lost my perspective. The truth is when you work for
a candidate like Newt or any candidate, you serve them. And so, when you
lose your perspective, you can`t serve them.

So, in retrospect, I lost my perspective, I couldn`t serve him. I
have my perspective back now. I see it clearly.

Newt emerged as Pavarotti among pop stars. It`s unbelievable.

O`DONNELL: So, Rick, you fell for the spin of the lame stream media
about the Gingrich campaign.

TYLER: I wouldn`t say that. It didn`t seem we were getting any
traction or momentum. It seemed like an avalanche fell on us. But I had
the short term perspective we were dead. Newt had the long term
perspective and dug himself out and he is now ascending to the mountain.

O`DONNELL: OK, I want to handle this Newt riddle that has come up
today.

TYLER: All right.

O`DONNELL: First of all, I want to show you this clip of him going
after Romney for the Bain Capital days. Let`s listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: I love the way he and his consultant do these things. I
would just say that if Governor Romney would like to give back all the
money he`s earned from bankrupting companies and laying off employees over
his years, I would be glad to listen to it. I`ll bet you $10, not $10,000,
that he won`t take the offer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Now, Rick, I want to you make sense of that with in
conjunction with what we`re going to show from you a town hall meeting
tonight where he is saying that, you know, they should not be saying
anything bad about each other. Let`s listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: Tomorrow morning, I`ll release a letter to my staff, to any
consultants, and to any surrogates we have, indicating that our
determination to run a positive campaign and also indicating that should
any super PAC that is doing so in my name attack any of my friends who are
running, that I would publicly disown them and urge people not to donate to
them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: OK. And remember, this is your ongoing audition.

TYLER: I have to consider myself as a surrogate now. I got to be
careful here.

O`DONNELL: Yes, you do have to be careful, and Newt`s watching.

So, that doesn`t make any sense. That Newt is out there backing
Romney and then he gets up there.

(CROSSTALK)

TYLER: You missed the whole front part of it. Lawrence, he is
responding to Romney. Romney threw out a criticism. The reporters asked
him what his response was. He came up with a pithy response and they all
laughed and it was a good response.

So, I think it was fair game. He rose to the occasion. He`s not out
there proactively attacking. He simply had a retort, a reaction.

O`DONNELL: But he, you know, most of the speech and campaign, 50
percent of it, you`re responding to the other party.

TYLER: I`ll make you a bet.

O`DONNELL: A $10,000 bet?

TYLER: Whatever you want. A dollar, a million. Whatever you want.

You don`t say anything bad about the Republican candidates and I won`t
say anything about Barack Obama from now until November. What do you say?

O`DONNELL: I, like Rick Perry, am not in the betting business. Rick
Tyler, former --

TYLER: See, you can learn something.

O`DONNELL: -- former Gingrich spokesman, thank you very much. I hope
Newt brings you back.

TYLER: All right, Lawrence. Take care.

O`DONNELL: Donald Trump returns to the rewrite tonight now that he`s
been humiliated by the boycott of most Republican candidates. He is doing
a frantic rewrite of his debate. And Donald does double duty in this show
tonight because he is the guest star in tonight`s premier episode of Megyn
Kelly touches something disgusting.

And breaking news from Hollywood, no one is interested in Sarah Palin
or her family anymore.

And later, the inside scoop on how Alec Baldwin ended up on "SNL" this
weekend making fun of Alec Baldwin.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: We have "Hollywood Reporter" news tonight about the most
recent losing vice presidential candidate who will never be president.
"Palin pitching show about husband Todd`s snow mobile adventures." Now
back in the good old days when Sarah Palin was lying about the possibility
that she would run for president, a reality about Todd doing anything would
be an instant sale.

But now the "Hollywood Reporter" confirms what viewers of this program
knew was bound to happen, that Sarah Palin is having trouble selling
another reality TV show. "TLC owner Discovery Communications has passed,
say sources. And A&E Networks, which entered into a bidding war with
Discovery for "Sarah Palin`s Alaska," also is not interested. Says one
network insider, I think it is safe to say her time has passed."

Sarah Palin and viewers of this program knew this day would come.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: She needs to drive up the value of her public appearances,
drive up her speaking fees, drive up her prices as a reality TV star. And
the only way for her to do that is to keep speculation alive that she might
-- might run for president.

Because the day -- the day that it becomes absolutely clear to
everyone who doesn`t already get it that Palin will never run for
president, on that day she becomes worth half as much or less as a reality
TV star.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: President Obama and Michele Bachmann agree on something.
There is no difference between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. The
president says both of them will offer failed visions for moving the
country forward. Richard Wolffe watched the first Obama campaign up close.
He`s here to discuss the beginning days of the re-election efforts and that
"60 Minutes" interview.

And later, more on Alec Baldwin`s run-in with American Airlines from
American Airlines pilot Captain Rogers.

Also tonight, our first episode of Megyn Kelly Touches Something
Disgusting. You really do not want to miss this. I have never seen
anything like this. I`ve kind of wanted to see someone touch this. I
can`t believe it`s actually happened. It happened on TV. You`ve got to
see it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: In tonight`s Spotlight, the president`s "60 Minutes"
interview. It was the kind of interview that is crucially important to
presenting the president to a large audience of undecided voters, 11 months
before election day. President Obama was there to make the case for his
re-election. And Steve Kroft focused on the basics.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE KROFT, "60 MINUTES": Why do you think you deserve to be
reelected? What have you accomplished?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Not only saving this
country from a Great Depression, not only saving the auto industry, but
putting in place a system in which we`re going to start lowering health
care costs and you`re never going to go bankrupt because you get sick or
somebody in your family gets sick; making sure that we have reformed the
financial system so we never again have taxpayer funded bailouts and the
system is more stable and secure; ending Don`t Ask Don`t Tell; decimating
al Qaeda, including bin Laden being taken off the field.

But when it comes to the economy, we`ve got a lot more work to do.
And we`re going to keep on at it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The president was asked about the Republicans who are
trying to take his job away from him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: It doesn`t really matter who the nominee is going to be. The
core philosophy that they`re expressing is the same. And the contrast in
visions between where I want to take the country and where they say they
want to take the country is going to be stark. The American people are
going to have a good choice and it is going to be a good debate.

KROFT: What do you make of the surge by former Speaker Gingrich?

OBAMA: He is somebody who has been around a long time and is good on
TV, is good in debates, and -- but Mitt Romney has shown himself to be
somebody who is good at politics as well. He has had a lot of practice at
it. I think that they will be going at it for a while.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now, MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe,
the author "Revival, the Struggle for Survival Inside the Obama White
House." Richard, I was struck by the president not really going one way or
the other on those two possible opponents. There was a time when I think
he would have gone in much harder and clearer on Mitt Romney, assuming
Romney would be the nominee and the tougher Republican to beat.

But that almost sounded like the Obama campaign isn`t sure which one
of these guys they want to face.

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, they have a
pretty clear strategy of trying to take down Mitt Romney. And if you push
them hard, they`ll say, well, we still think Romney is going to be the
nominee. There`s a little bit of doubt that has crept in recently. But
that`s maybe a little bit disingenuous because there is a twofer play here.

Either Romney emerges as a weaker nominee or you mess with the
Republican process enough that you end up with someone like Newt Gingrich.
The model that they have in mind for that second scenario is what they did
very effectively -- what Democrats did very effectively in Nevada, where
they ended up with Sharron Angle against Harry Reid, much more unpopular,
weaker president that then president is in. Yet, he prevailed because the
Republicans chose such an extreme, out of mainstream candidate.

So yes, he was -- he damned with faint praise on the Newt Gingrich
side. He maybe push Romney a little harder than I think the polls warrant.
But overall, their focus is still on Mitt Romney. And maybe it is getting
a bit little late in the day to do that.

O`DONNELL: Richard, I want to show something that I thought was a new
selling point that the president was framing. Let`s listen to how he said
this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The one thing I`ve prided myself on before I was president,
and it turns out that it continues to be true as president, I`m a
persistent son of a gun. I just stay at it. And I`m going to keep on
staying at it as long as I`m in this office. And we`re going to get it
right. And America will succeed. I am absolutely confident about that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: I think he is going to earn majority agreement among the
electorate on the point of his persistence and being a persistent son of a
gun, as he put it. Is that a new note that I`m hearing?

WOLFFE: Yes, it is. I thought that was the most revealing point in
this whole interview and the walk and talk they did before in Kansas, as
well. And he volunteered it.

You know, there are two sort of axis here on the Obama narrative. For
the right, he`s either a radical socialist or an incompetent wimp. On the
left, he is either full of hope and inspiration or he`s a disappointing
bust. There is another narrative out there which is true of him in the
2008 campaign. It`s true of him through his presidency, which is that he
grinds this out.

He does not take no for an answer, even when it is from his aides,
even when all the pundits write him off. Certainly, there would be no
health care without it. He would have given up very early on in his
presidential campaign, maybe even before Newt Gingrich gave up, in terms of
the kind of mass opinions saying you`re never going anywhere with this.

So persistence, doggedness, the chess game in a town of checkers, that
is at least his image and that`s been one of the reasons he`s prevailed in
so many things when people have written him off.

O`DONNELL: Steve Kroft asked him about over promising. He quoted a
passage from the president`s campaign four years ago, and said, basically,
have you lived up to those promises? And let`s listen to what the
president had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I didn`t over promise and I didn`t underestimate how tough
this was going to be. I always believed that this was a long term project,
that reversing a culture here in Washington dominated by special interests
was going to take more than a year. It was going to take more than two
years. It was going to take more than one term. Probably takes more than
one president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Richard, I may be the only one who didn`t think he ever
over promised, because I didn`t think the things he was talking about were
accomplishable in some four-year time frame or accomplishable only by a
president.

He was talking about Washington cooperation. The president can`t
cooperate with himself. You`ve got to get the whole -- the House of
Representatives and the Senate to do that too.

WOLFFE: Yes, but I do think he underestimated something critical,
which was that, in a moment of crisis, his basic assumption, and of his
whole team, was that Republicans would come on board with something to save
the American and the world economy.

That wasn`t the case. Maybe it was naive. Maybe it was
unprecedented. I don`t know who you blame for that. But the world didn`t
work out that way. It is not just about the special interests. It is
about reading the politics as they were.

In his own words, the world as it is turned out not to be the world as
it ought to be. And the world as it ought to be in a crisis, as it was
after 9/11, was a certain degree -- just a minimal degree of a country
coming together. It didn`t happen.

O`DONNELL: Richard Wolffe, author of "Revival," thanks very much for
joining us.

WOLFFE: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Up next, and you don`t want to miss this, it`s our first
episode of Megyn Kelly touches something disgusting. Don`t go anywhere.
You have to see this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Time for tonight`s episode of Megyn Kelly Touches
Something Disgusting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, "THE APPRENTICE": I just get killed on the hair. It`s
been this way for years. It is mine. I want to keep that hairline as low
as possible.

MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: It is not feathered.

TRUMP: It`s not even that bad.

KELLY: It`s not feathered. I see.

TRUMP: It`s not that bad, is it? Would you let the public. Come
here. Come here.

It`s not that comb over. I actually comb it back.

KELLY: I see there is no receding hairline there.

TRUMP: It is a tiny, tiny receding. I am getting a little bit older.
It`s not that bad. You`re a little surprised. I`m getting killed on the
hair.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: The Trump debate is all over. After New York`s biggest
walking embarrassment was humiliated by the refusal of most of the
Republican candidates for president to participate in a debate to be
moderated by a man who does not know the meaning of the word moderate,
Trump himself has given up on the debate.

He is no longer calling the not yet canceled event a debate. He has
Rewritten the concept and now calls it simply a chat. Here he is this
morning on Fox News.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now that there is just two, are you definitely
committed to still having this December 27th debate?

TRUMP: Well, you know, this is a Newsmax debate, a very powerful
group. They asked me to do it. And they want me to maybe -- and it could
happen this way. I have a lot of respect for newt. And if you look at the
courage that some of these people have shown, which is none, and look at
what`s happened to them -- in all fairness, I like Mitt Romney. He is a
really nice guy. You`re going to be interviewing him soon.

But his numbers have gone down very substantially since he no. And a
lot of people think it is because it showed a lack of decisiveness or a
lack of courage in going over this debate. And you look at what happened
with Newt. Newt has gone up like a rocket ship.

So you know, I respect that. We may just do a chat. Newt and I may
just do a chat.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you mean by that?

TRUMP: We may just talk about the world and about the economy. And
maybe it will be interesting to people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Maybe it will be interesting to people? How many people?
Sounds like "Fox and Friends" is a little too early in the morning for
Donald. By the time he got out of his pajamas and on to the set of "The
View" today, he thought his Newt chat would be interesting to a lot of
people.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARBARA WALTERS, "THE VIEW": Are you still going to have debates with
just two candidates?

TRUMP: We may have a chat. We may have a chat. I may chat with Newt
for an hour. And I think it will do well. Everyone says we`ll have the
highest ratings if we do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Everyone says we`ll have the highest ratings if we do it?

Here is everyone who said that his debate, which has now been
downgraded to a chat, will get high ratings.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: You know, I`m a ratings machine, according to everybody. I
get great ratings. I think it is a good idea. I think we get very good
ratings. I get good ratings. "The Apprentice" gets good ratings. That`s
why we`re in season 12. I get the ratings. A lot of people would watch.

I`ll tell you what, You know I do get ratings. OK, that`s what -- I
do get ratings. And we would have the biggest ratings of all the debates.

DON IMUS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Absolutely.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And here is Trump tonight chatting with Bill O`Reilly
about the chat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Newt Gingrich is showing up and
Santorum is showing up. All right, are you going to show up to this
debate? Is it going to happen?

TRUMP: Well, I am going to show up and maybe we`ll just have a chat.
We might just discuss the world and we`ll discuss it with ourselves. I
have a lot of respect for Newt because he came in and he said, you know
what? I`ll do it. Immediately. He said immediately.

Maybe we`ll just do a chat. Newt and I will talk about what has to be
done.

O`REILLY: And you`re going to ignore Santorum?

TRUMP: No, no. He`ll be there. You know what? He is not doing
great in the polls.

(CROSS TALK)

TRUMP: You`re right. And he`s been very nice and very gracious. And
I would absolutely have him there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Trump`s television book tour has turned into a humiliation
tour, where even his long time friend Bill O`Reilly cannot keep a straight
face when Trump begins to talk about the debate that he has now been forced
to downgrade to a mere chat.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN Video CLIP)

SETH MEYERS, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": On Wednesday this week, actor
Alec Baldwin was kick off an American Airlines flight after he refused to
turn off his phone and stop playing Words With Friends. Now here to
comment, the pilot of that flight, Captain Steve Rogers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Captain Steve Rogers was actually Alec Baldwin playing
Alec Baldwin trying to get away with playing an American Airlines pilot on
"Weekend Update" on "Saturday Night Live "this weekend. According to Vern
Gay`s (ph) reporting at "Newsday," the spokesman, Matthew Hiltzik, said
that "Baldwin had nothing to do with the idea. `SNL` head writer Seth
Meyers approached him with it last week when Hiltzik and Baldwin wanted to
move on from the public relations nightmare. Said Hiltzik, `Seth Meyers
came up with the concept and it wasn`t like we approached them. We were
interested in moving on, but Seth came up with the concept and Alec was
willing to play along."

Not surprisingly, some of the good people at American Airlines didn`t
think Alec Baldwin`s appearance on "Saturday Night Live" was funny. Here`s
real American Airlines pilot Steve Roach.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE ROACH, AMERICAN AIRLINES PILOT: I was disappointed that it was
making light of something fairly serious and also was poking fun at a group
of employees at a very proud and historic airline who are going through a
tough period right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: To Steve Roach, I would first like to say, thank you for
every safe landing you have ever made in your career. Given the frequency
of my flying on American, there is every likelihood that I have put my life
in your hands at least once. What you do for a living is more serious than
anything Alec Baldwin or I have ever done or are ever likely to do.

People are much too smart to entrust their lives to men in make-up.

But "Saturday Night Live" is a comedy show which every week, like all
comedy shows, deals with some very serious things in a comedic way. The
president of the United States has a very serious job, works in a very
serious place, and is used as a comedy tool every night of the week on
television.

Now, let`s look a little closer at the concept that the brilliant Seth
Meyers came up with. Alec Baldwin would conspire with a TV news anchor to
go on a news broadcast and try to get away with impersonating an American
Airlines pilot, rising in comical absurdist defense and praise of Alec
Baldwin.

Seth Meyers` script doesn`t attempt to offer one word of real
explanation of what happened on that airplane. And as for poking fun at
American Airlines employees, the way I saw this, all the fun here is poked
by Alec Baldwin at Alec Baldwin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MEYERS: So, captain Rogers, what is your take on the vents of last
Wednesday?

ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: It was awful, Seth, which is why it was very
important for me to come here tonight and on behalf of everyone at American
Airlines, issue an apology to Mr. Alec Baldwin.

MEYERS: Alec, are you sure this is the right way to handle this?

BALDWIN: Yeah, yeah, keep going, keep going.

MEYERS: So let me get this straight. You, Captain Rogers, want to
apologize to Alec Baldwin.

BALDWIN: Yes, Mr. Baldwin is an American treasure. And I am ashamed
at the way he was treated. I mean, what harm would it do to let him keep
playing his game? Not any game, mind you, but a word game for smart
people.

MEYERS: But Captain Rogers, don`t phones interfere with the plane`s
communication system?

BALDWIN: You don`t believe that, do you, Seth? Would you really get
on an airplane that flew 30,000 feet in the air if you thought one Kindle
switch could take it down? Come on.

It`s just a cruel joke perpetrated by the airline industry. And we
would have gotten away with it, but Alec Baldwin was just too smart for us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: You can have THE LAST WORD online at our blog,
TheLastWord.MSNBC.com. You can follow my tweets @Lawrence. "THE ED SHOW"
is up next.

END

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