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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Thursday, December 15, 2011

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Guests: Karen Finney, Jon Soltz, Dana Milbank, Cecile Richards

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: President Obama ends one war as Republicans
start another one -- against Newt Gingrich.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The president made a promise, a
campaign promise, that he would bring all the troops out.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That means us getting
out of Iraq.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Misguided war --

OBAMA: I`m proud to finally say these two words -- welcome home.
Welcome home!

MCCAIN: I think it`s a great risk --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: McCain slammed the Obama administration for the
timing of the withdrawal.

MCCAIN: This decision represents a failure of leadership.

MATTHEWS: Some very strong words.

MCCAIN: It`s a sad case of political expediency.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you approve of the agreement --

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No.

HERMAN CAIN (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Did not support the
decision that the president made.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was an independent Iraqi government that
told us to leave.

CAIN: I don`t agree withdrawing down those troops.

REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Still a lot of people
in the Republican Party who are much more anxious to go to war.

MCCAIN: History will judge this president`s leadership.

OBAMA: Don`t judge me against the almighty. Judge me against the
alternative.

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There`s something
wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military.

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No place in the military -
-

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have a lot
of momentum going our way.

JON HUNTSMAN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We`ve come up in all the
polls.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All I hear is wa, wa, wa.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Zany is great in I campaign.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Mitt Romney`s equivalent of
the F-bomb.

GINGRICH: I`m going to run my campaign the way I want to.

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Newt Gingrich is undergoing
a carpet bombing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He can`t keep his you know what in his britches.

FINEMAN: He`s losing a little altitude in Iowa. He`s taking a
tremendous pounding out there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What kind of cabinet position might you like?

CAIN: My first choice would be Department of Defense.

Department of Defense.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What?

NEIL CAVUTO, FOX NEWS: That surprises me, though, Herman.

CAIN: Department of Defense.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq began at 5:34 a.m. local
time on March 20th, 2003, with the goal of finding Iraq`s weapons of mass
destruction. After finding that Iraq had no such weapons, the United
States` military chose not to leave but to stay encamped for nearly nine
years. While losing 4,487 American lives and suffering an additional
32,226 Americans wounded in Iraq. The number of Iraqi civilians killed by
the U.S. military and by the warring insurgent factions, estimates are at
least 100,000, but the exact number is now impossible to know.

Our history books will show today to be the last day of U.S. military
involvement in Iraq. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta spoke today in a
fortified court yard at Baghdad`s airport as military helicopters hovered
above him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEON PANETTA, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: As we confront the strategic
challenges of the future, we will never forget the lessons of war. Let me
be clear: Iraq will be tested in the days ahead. But the United States
will be there to stand by the Iraqi people as they navigate those
challenges to build a stronger and more prosperous nation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The U.S. forces Iraq flag was lowered, marking the end of
American involvement in the war. As that flag came down, a political war
over Iraq broke out here in the United States.

The attack on the Obama administration actually began yesterday, a
furious John McCain took the Senate floor to lecture the president for
ending the $800 billion war and not leaving residual U.S. forces behind in
Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: It is clear that this decision of a complete pullout of the
United States troops from Iraq was dictated by politics and not our
national security interests. I believe that history will judge this
president`s leadership with a scorn and disdain that it deserves.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: McCain kept up that chant this morning on the "Today" show
immediately after Defense Secretary Panetta spoke in Baghdad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: I`m also very concerned because in the words of General
Keane, one of the architects of the surge, we won the war and now we risk
losing peace. We risk losing everything we gain. I think it`s a great
risk and I think it`s unnecessary.

We always envisioned some residual force. And this administration,
they were never really serious at all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: There`s only one Republican running for president who
disagrees with McCain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: I`m not denying the fact that there are still a lot of people
in the Republican Party who are much more anxious to go to war than I am.
You go to war infrequently. When you do it, do you it deliberately. You
fight these wars and get them over with. But -- so I don`t think that`s an
unpopular position.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The rest of the Republican candidates for president are
echoing some version of the McCain talking points. Even a former
candidate, a preposterous candidate for president can recite the party
line.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAIN: I don`t agree withdrawing down those troops in Iraq because my
biggest fear, and the fear of a lot of the experts, is that will be a power
vacuum. That power vacuum is going to be filled by an element coming out
of Iran.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now is Iraq war veteran Jon Soltz,
Votevets.org. And Karen Finney, an MSNBC political analyst and former DNC
communications director.

Thank you both for joining me tonight.

Jon, I want you to respond to Senator McCain`s point, quoting General
Keane. We won the war and now we risk losing the peace.

JON SOLTZ, VOTEVETS.ORG: That`s offensive. I mean, General Keane,
the architect of the surge. I mean, the surge was a huge failure, probably
the greatest failure of the entire war.

I mean, two of the bigger reasons we have less violence in Iraq. We
still have a sustainable amount of violence. Trust me, when I was waiting
for my helicopter off of my base in Iraq two weeks ago, they just blew up a
truck bomb and killed 20 soldiers.

We had a political agreement in the Sunni Awakening where we brought
up some Sunni into the government.

The second biggest reason that we had better security was because the
most important victory of the entire Iraq war was in 2008. And it was a
battle not fought by American troops. It was fought by Iraqi troops,
against Muqtada al Sadr, who`s a radical Shia, who wanted to kill Americans
and fight the Iraqi government. He has now come into the Iraqi government
and basically is Maliki`s partner, the prime minister of Iraq.

So, when John McCain and General Keane talk about this type of
rhetoric, I would just ask them, why was I just in Iraq? What did we fight
for? What did all these Americans die for? Why do we have 30,000 wounded
Americans and 4,500 dead troops?

I thought it was to build Iraqi democracy. So, under what they want
to do, they are guaranteeing defeat, because the only way Americans can be
defeated in Iraq is to stay one day after the Iraqis don`t want us there.
And that is, 31 December 2011. An agreement signed by President Obama`s
predecessor, George W. Bush.

Why did we fight for democracy if we`re not going to respect what it
wants?

O`DONNELL: Jon, as military expert among us here tonight, I just want
to ask you, strategically, what other option existed at this point in time?

SOLTZ: Well, I don`t think -- I mean, this is our only option because
the Iraqi government wants us to leave. When you look at the fragile
political agreement that we have in Iraq, the leading Iraqi party in the
last election was more of a nationalist party by Ayad Allawi called al
Iraqiya.

But Nouri al Maliki became prime minister because he aligned himself
with the hard-line Shia.

So, the hard-line Shia that gave Maliki the ability to be prime
minister by creating enough seats to get 50 percent, they vehemently oppose
U.S. forces being stayed in Iraq. So, the Iranians that armed these Shia
groups over the summer months.

And I`m going to tell you, we got pounded in Iraq over the summer --
240 millimeter rockets, EFPs going off. At one point, I think it was
almost 20 soldiers killed in a six-week period.

So, the Shia coalition that governed the country essentially could
have fallen and fractured if Nouri al-Maliki requested extension of U.S.
forces. He had no political option other than to keep status quo which is
the agreement that U.S. forces leave.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to how President Obama presented this to the
country yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Over the last three years, nearly 150,000 U.S. troops have
left Iraq. And over the next few days, a small group of American soldiers
will begin the final march out of that country. Those last American troops
will move south on desert sands. And then they will cross the border out
of Iraq with their heads held high.

One of the most extraordinary chapters in the history of the American
military will come to an end. Iraq`s future will be in the hands of its
people. America`s war in Iraq will be over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Karen, doesn`t it seem a little hard to believe that the
American president now will not be locked in periodic meetings over whether
to send more troops into Iraq in a surge-like move or whether to draw them
down, that we`re now actually out?

KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. I mean, it`s a
really wonderful thing to contemplate. Particularly, you know, Lawrence,
when you think back to the beginning of the war and all of the people, in
addition to the incredible work of our soldiers on the ground, the people
here at home, and the movement here at home that helped to create the
political pressure that moved us forward to get to this point, is so -- is
really important.

And I think, you know, really sparked a movement in terms of movement
politics that I think is part of the carry-on of what we`re seeing now and
has been so important. So, I think it`s an accomplishment that many, many
people should take, you know, a great deal of pride in the work that was
done to try to get us to this point.

And the other thing I would say, you know, Jon and I were talking
about in the green room, to the political situation on the ground, it`s
such a vicious psych toll say, well, if we leave, something bad could
happen. And I think Jon`s point is, actually us leaving is making it more
likely that something bad won`t happen, frankly.

And I think, you know, we -- but this argument that the Republicans
have tried to use that says, well, you know, like if we stay, if we leave,
something bad is going to happen and therefore we have to keep troops there
-- they`re just not hearing the fact that American people don`t want that
anymore. We don`t want to be there anymore. And the Iraqis don`t want us
there anymore.

So, hey, we all agree, let`s bring our troops home.

O`DONNELL: Yes. The polls are very clear on this. They speak very
clearly about the politics of it. But Republicans then are speaking an
unpopular position.

I want to listen to one, Mitt Romney, one of the front-runners
speaking to "The Des Moines Register". Let`s listen to him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: They were unable to negotiate a status of forces agreement to
allow the 10,000 to 20,000, 30,000 troops to remain, which I think was a
failure on the part of the administration.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Jon, was that a failure?

SOLTZ: Look, it`s a success of the administration. What was going on
in Iraq in the summer months is there was a tremendous amount of pressure
from military leaders inside Iraq and the Pentagon, and certain members
over at embassy.

I mean, they are people that wanted to stay in Iraq. There were
stories being leaked to the press, we`re going to keep 10,000 troops, we`re
going to keep 5,000 troops, we`re going to keep 15,000 troops -- none of
which would have done what Senator McCain or General Keane think.

I mean, we`re really not that involved out in the field with Iraqis
any more. We`re only training them on high intensity conflict, not even
advising them out in the field with them, you know, on the roads anymore.
So, you know, it`s completely false to say this.

Now, the White House deserves actually a tremendous amount of credit
because there was a lot of people trying to deploy troops, talk about
leaking stories to the press. So, the administration shot back with this
idea of hey, we need immunity for our soldiers and our marines on the
ground and they knew there was no way the Iraqi government would agree to
that.

And that essentially killed this idea. There was nothing to maneuver.

I mean, Mitt Romney has, like -- I wonder -- A, he doesn`t know
anything about Iraq. Does he have anyone on his staff that knows anything
about Iraq? Because these are questions, these are high school answers
these guys are giving.

O`DONNELL: Karen, go ahead, quickly, before we go.

FINNEY: Well, I guess, I think the problem is that Romney is
listening to the same guys that got us into this mess who are not able to
read the situation which, I know, looking at the way the president was able
to -- I mean, John McCain criticized him, leading from behind in Libya.
Actually, that was a very effective strategy that the president employed
and we`ve got to change the way we think about how we engage with different
parts of the world.

O`DONNELL: Jon Soltz and Karen Finney, thank you both for joining me
tonight.

SOLTZ: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Newt Gingrich may be the Republican front-
runner but some polls show his lead slipping away in Iowa. We`ll have more
on the Republican race and how they`re attacking each other next with Dana
Milbank.

And later, Mike Huckabee makes abortion the issue in Iowa. Planned
Parenthood President Cecile Richards is here to react to the Republican
candidates` attacks on a woman`s right to choose.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: Let me ask you a quick question. How much
bestiality is there in the military? Because Michele Bachmann seems
incredibly worried that the troops are on hair trigger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, Steve, I will say that I have not witnessed
any of that in my 35 years in the military.

COLBERT: Really? I mean, the troops have been in Afghanistan for 11
years. After a while, those goats have to look pretty good. No?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I haven`t seen it.

COLBERT: All right. Good. Well, then, I`ll pass that message on to
her.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA: I`m not going to say one word
about Newt Gingrich. I think that his campaign will speak for itself.
It`s up to the Republicans to nominate who they nominate and it`s just
interesting to watch.

ED SCHULTZ, MSNBC HOST: Do you think that Newt Gingrich would be a
good president?

PELOSI: No.

SCHULTZ: You don`t?

PELOSI: Absolutely not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Well, I`m afraid no is one word. That was Ed getting
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to violate her pledge not to say one
word about Newt Gingrich.

New polls show Newt`s popularity in Iowa starting to slip. While Newt
was prepping his lecture on brain science at the University of Iowa
yesterday, Rasmussen was conducting a robocall poll of likely Iowa caucus-
goers. Not the most reliable in the world, but it`s what we got.

Rasmussen released that poll today and it shows Mitt Romney now
leading Iowa with 23 percent support. Gingrich has dropped to 12, that`s
from -- 12 point from last month to 20 percent. Ron Paul`s 18 percent puts
him third.

Another robopoll conducted in Iowa this week shows Gingrich dropping
five points in the last week to a statistical tie with Ron Paul. Romney is
third with 16 percent.

Throughout today, the headline of the front page of the conservative
National Review Online read against Gingrich. That headline linked to an
editorial board opinion piece reading in part, "Gingrich has always said he
wants to transform the country. He appears unable to transform or even
govern himself. At the moment, we think it important to urge Republicans
to have the good sense to reject a hasty marriage to Gingrich, which would
risk dissolving in acrimony." Presumably like all of Gingrich`s other
marriages.

Establishment Republican attacks against Gingrich would be driving
Rush Limbaugh crazy -- if he wasn`t already crazy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: The Republican establishment has
succeeded now. They are managing to split the conservative vote here in
the primary. To take down every one of them who manages to break out.

Newt`s just the latest one, but there was Ron Paul in there and Rick
Perry for a while, Michele Bachmann. When each of these not Romney
surfaces, they take them out. They settled on Romney a long time ago.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: According to remarks today in Iowa, Newt Gingrich has his
counterattack prepared -- an ad wishing everyone a merry Christmas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: We have an ad coming out next week, we`re wishing people a
merry Christmas. We`re talking in a totally positive way. I just think if
these guys keep this kind negative junk, it is so discordant with the
spirit of Christmas. It`s an interesting experiment how people talk to
each other and what people decide.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me "Washington Post" political columnist, Dana
Milbank.

Thanks for joining me tonight, Dana.

DANA MILBANK, WASHINGTON POST: Good evening, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Dana, this is all Democrats could ask for, Republicans
just attacking each other as roughly as we have seen in this kind of
primary. Limbaugh`s got a point, that as soon as someone moves other than
Romney, the mainstream Republican world just seems to go after them.

MILBANK: Right. And now we have the most delicious irony, that
Gingrich who saved Christmas.

I mean, we are all living in Newt Gingrich`s world. He`s the one that
created all these attack politics, this demonization. I mean, that was the
brand that brought him to power in the House all those years ago. And
everybody`s learned from that now. And it`s now coming back and being used
against him.

I don`t think it`s the Republican establishment that`s doing in each
one of these other contender. There`s not much left of the Republican
establishment anyway. It`s been done in by the Tea Party.

What`s harming all of the contenders that are trying to divide with
Romney is themselves. And that`s why Romney has been able to skate through
here. Gingrich being the most compelling candidate, if we can call him
that, because he peaked so late in the game here.

But it does seem the Republicans are coming to their senses and
saying, no, we can`t hand the Democrats this kind of a gift.

O`DONNELL: And I want to listen to Rush again because I think he`s
isolated another thing that is very good for the Democrats, which is the
way Republicans are now attacking each other for being rich.

Let`s listen to what Rush said about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIMBAUGH: We`ve got two Republicans going after each other the way
liberals talk about us, class warfare. Romney out there, hey, you know,
Gingrich got a lot of money. He`s not exactly a man of the people if he`s
out there $10,000, $500,000 line of credit at Tiffany.

But the bad thing about that is, we got two guys attacking rich
people. Romney`s attacking Newt for being rich and Newt is not that rich,
and Newt`s attacking Romney for being rich, and Romney is that rich. But,
usually, it`s the Democrats doing that stuff.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Dana, he`s absolutely right. Republicans attacking each
other for being rich. Next thing you know, one of them is going to propose
raising the top tax bracket.

MILBANK: It`s terrific for Newt Gingrich, who`s brought in $100
million in revenue since he left the House to be attacking Mitt Romney
with, what is it, $264 million to his net worth. And enjoying this all is
Jon Huntsman who put up the photo of all the money bills flying around Mitt
Romney, posted that on a Web site and, of course, poor Jon Huntsman is only
worth about $71 million.

But it is sort of the plutocratic club here. The problem is not just
that they`re rich but the accusation behind this is that, you know,
somebody like Newt is getting rich by helping companies or institutions
like Freddie Mac, basically playing on their government ties. So, it`s not
just the wealth but it`s how that wealth was generated. And you can just
imagine that the Democrats are building up their files with all this stuff,
having their work done for them.

O`DONNELL: And we`re running out of time. I wanted to show a Rick
Perry ad. Even the also-rans are throwing these attack ads around. In his
case, he`s attacking Romney and Gingrich.

So, there isn`t a candidate out there in the Republican field that
isn`t being damaged by candidates in the Republican field.

MILBANK: This is true. I mean, you know, Rick Perry`s shot of coyote
for menacing his dog, so he`s not --

O`DONNELL: We have to leave it there. Dana Milbank of "The
Washington Post," thank you for joining us.

MILBANK: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Cecile Richards, president of Planned
Parenthood joins us to respond to Republicans attacking the woman`s right
to choose.

And, later, you are in the "Rewrite". That`s right, you. You know
who you are. Tonight, the "Rewrite," you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Last night, Mike Huckabee hosted an event with Republican
candidates minus Mitt Romney where it was all about opposing a woman`s
right to choose. Cecile Richards president of Planned Parenthood will join
me next.

And, it was a big week in political comedy. We`ll show you the best
clips later.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

BACHMANN: Under Barack Obama, we have the most pro-abortion president
that we have ever had in our nation. And with a President Michele
Bachmann, you`ll have the most pro-life president that we would ever have
in our nation.

GINGRICH: We`re engaged in a cultural struggle with a secular elite
that believes that life is random and has no more meaning.

PERRY: While the men and women of our nation`s military defend
America`s founding principles abroad, those same values come under attack
right here at home.

SANTORUM: When the family breaks down and respect for life and moral
values break down, then government gets bigger and bigger and bigger.
Ladies and gentlemen, you understand that here in Iowa.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

O`DONNELL: With less than 20 days until the Iowa caucuses, four
Republican presidential candidates participated in a right of conservative
campaign politics in Iowa, a pro-life forum. The forum last night in Des
Moines included a screening of a new anti-abortion DVD narrated by FOX News
host Mike Huckabee and produced by Citizens United.

Huckabee who won the caucuses in Iowa in 2008 had this advice for
audience members who plan to vote on January 3rd.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE HUCKABEE, FOX NEWS HOST: I do want you to take note that there
were four candidates who cleared their schedules and made this a priority
event. You know, this event is not here to endorse a candidate, but I
think it is significant that all four of the candidates who are present
tonight have endorsed life. And that ought to be very important to you as
you consider someone to vote for in the caucuses here in Iowa.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The Republican candidates speechers were full of the
standard culture war stuff with one possible exception, Newt Gingrich, laid
out a big idea for how to legally end abortion in America without
overturning Roe versus Wade.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: We will aggressively pursue a strategy that Professor Robby
George of Princeton has raised, which is that the 14th Amendment clearly
allows the Congress to define personhood. And that should mean we can pass
a bill defining personhood as beginning at conception and you don`t need a
constitutional amendment. It is written in the 14th Amendment. It would
be an act of Congress and you can put in the same legislation blocking the
courts from reviewing it, which is a procedure Jeffersonians used in 1802
and clearly is part of the Constitution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me is Cecile Richards, president of Planned
Parenthood Action Fund and Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Thanks for joining me tonight, Cecile.

CECILE RICHARDS, PLANNED PARENTHOOD: Good to be here, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: This 14th amendment approach, is this a new strategy for
them?

RICHARDS: It`s a bit of a new strategy. This personhood idea has
been around. In fact, you may remember, it was just rejected. It was so
extreme it was just rejected in the most conservative state in the country,
in Mississippi.

O`DONNELL: But not just rejected, 42 percent in favor of it in
Mississippi --

RICHARDS: That`s correct.

O`DONNELL: Fifty-eight percent against it in Mississippi.

RICHARDS: That`s right. That`s because --

O`DONNELL: You couldn`t get -- I mean, there`s no state you could get
a more favorable voter profile for it.

RICHARDS: Absolutely. Well, and the reason the voters in Mississippi
rejected it and why the entire medical community opposed it is because this
personhood idea would ban the most -- could ban the most common forms of
birth control, including the pill, ban in vitro fertilization, which so
many couples use now to have a family, and really threaten even women
cancer patients` treatments. It`s the most extreme kind of measure.

It`s incredible to see Mr. Gingrich, Mr. Romney, supporting this kind
of extreme idea. As you say, it was rejected even in the state of
Mississippi.

O`DONNELL: Now, the Democratic National Committee doesn`t mind the
politics of this, which is to say, they don`t mind seeing those people
adopt something that is obviously a losing issue when they try to win in 50
states, when they try to go out there and do a national campaign.

Does it do any damage beyond just damage to the Republican nominee,
this kind of thing?

RICHARDS: Oh, I think it`s incredibly damaging. What we`re seeing
now is actually the major Republican candidates, they`re opposing now birth
control access in this country. I mean, that`s what`s stunning. We see
even Mitt Romney now who said he wants to get rid of the entire nation`s
family planning program, serves about 5 million women every single year,
with basic family planning, preventive cancer screenings, those kinds of
things.

I think this -- we haven`t seen this kind of extremism on the issue of
birth control in any time we can remember.

O`DONNELL: So, is the political dynamic when they push out into a
wild extreme, that will not happen, they won`t get this personhood thing,
it allows them to more comfortably tinker with the edges of Roe versus Wade
and other things in the middle zone of our politics?

RICHARDS: I really can`t figure out why they would be pushing this.
I mean, again, and I think as voters look at this -- we saw this in the
state of Colorado, where this has been reject the twice overwhelmingly.
And actually really made a difference in that election with Senator Michael
Bennet where folks said, boy, when you`re a candidate supporting a
personhood amendment, they say, that`s too extreme and too much of a
government reaching into a woman`s and families` personal lives.

O`DONNELL: And I guess, this is part of the war on Planned Parenthood
to go out in these extreme positions and then pull back and aim it all at
Planned Parenthood, as Rick Perry did, in fact, on that event last night.

Let`s listen to what Rick Perry had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PERRY: Consider this example in my home state. This year, I was
proud to fight for and to sign a state budget that defunded Planned
Parenthood. And since then, there have been 12 Planned Parenthood clinics
that have shut down across Texas.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Defund Planned Parenthood now the magic words in
Republican campaigning.

RICHARDS: I know. Well, you know what`s really sad about this, and,
of course, I`m a Texan, so I take it personally, is that what Governor
Perry did was actually throw three -- there is no funding -- public funding
for abortion in the state of Texas.

This has nothing to do with abortion. He threw 300,000 women in the
state of Texas off birth control and off ability to get their well women
checkups and basic, basic cancer screenings. I think what we`re seeing,
and I think Governor Perry is a perfect example, is now politicians playing
politics with women`s health and women`s lives.

And I think it`s going to -- I think it is a -- it`s a terrible idea
for women. It`s a terrible idea for women`s health. And I think at the
end of the day, the voters are going to reject it.

O`DONNELL: Cecile Richards, an honor to you have you with me here
tonight. Thanks for joining me.

RICHARDS: Great to see you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up next, a very special "Rewrite" and it`s all
about you. That`s right, you. You know who you are. You`re on the
"Rewrite," next.

And the kings of late night comedy had a lot of material to choose
from this week. That`s going to be later.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAIN: Are you ready?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

CAIN: Amazing grace will always be my song of praise, for it was
grace that brought me liberty, I`ll never know why Jesus came to love me
so, he looked beyond all my faults, and saw my needs.

Merry Christmas, Barbara.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Merry Christmas.

CAIN: Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Mr. Cain.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: In "The Rewrite" tonight, you. That`s right, you. You
finally made it into "The Rewrite" -- not Donald Trump, not Grover
Norquist. You.

It was bound to happen. You, THE LAST WORD audience, were bound to do
something that got you in "The Rewrite." And, yes, I know it already is
sounding like one of those phony "Time" magazine things where they named
you person of the year. I actually still don`t know what they meant by
that.

But last night, and today, you amazed and thrilled me once again. And
you rewrote the future for these children in Malawi. I reported to you
last night on the latest work of the KIND fund, Kids in Need of Desks, a
partnership I established with UNICEF that has allowed us to manufacturer
and deliver almost 40,000 desks to classrooms in Malawi where most students
and teachers have never seen a desk, never.

I showed you the jobs we`ve created in Malawi where these desks are
made using locally supplied material. The jobs that your contributions to
the KIND fund have created in the last year have changed the lives of those
workers. Some of them have been able to move to better homes. All of them
have been able to feed their families, which in Malawi, no one takes for
granted.

All I did last night was remind you of the work of the KIND Fund which
we created this time last year and update you on its progress. And just by
doing, that you immediately went to the KIND fund Web site, last night to
get -- let`s see. Lastworddesks.MSNBC.com, you can`t believe how that
looks in the teleprompter. It couldn`t have been crazier.

Anyway, you went to that, many of you went to that, and some of you
called UNICEF`s contribution line at 1-800-FOR-KIDS and you started
contributing money for more desks before I finished my report.

From 10:45 p.m. last night New York Time to 4 p.m. this afternoon, you
created $105,000 to the KIND fund. I`ve tried to keep up with thanking as
many as possible on Twitter who have mentioned your donations on Twitter.

And I want to acknowledge some more of you now. This is from our
blog. Maveet writes, "Thanks for, the fun, the desks, the story, the vids.
You`ve given us a great way to donate and know it`s getting to the right
place. Heading to our donate button next."

From our Facebook page, I want to read you a couple of posts that make
me feel deeply honored to have people like this in THE LAST WORD audience.

From Maureen Carlon O`Hara, "My 17-year-old son watched this story
with me. He had seen the previous ones about the KIND mission. He told me
that is all he wants for Christmas, is to order a desk for the kids. And I
will be doing so for him."

Maureen, I gave my 17-year-old daughter a desk last Christmas. And I
was lucky enough to be able to bring her on my trip to Malawi this year to
see the progress we`re making and for her to meet girls her own age whose
daily struggles and living conditions are more difficult than anything she
could have imagined. Students still in high school, like your son and my
daughter, and kids in elementary schools, the only among us who spend their
entire days sitting at desks in classrooms are easily inspired to help when
they see what the KIND fund is trying to do.

Elementary school students find little ways to raise money and
contribute. High school students have run car washes and other fund-
raising activities. When they see video of kids their own age sitting on
those floors in Malawi, or in my daughter`s case, when she actually has the
opportunity to sit on one of those floors herself in those classroom, they
can instantly imagine themselves in that situation.

My daughter knows she has done no more important thing in her life
than deliver desks to those classrooms and she knows that I haven`t either.

Maureen Carlon O`Hara, I thank you and salute you for raising such a
fine, young man. And if you get in touch with us on Facebook or online, an
e-mail, thelastword.MSNBC.com, I`d would love to send your son a Christmas
present in addition to the desk you`ve given him.

Also from Facebook, we have this post from Malawi. From Jennifer
Shortt-Banda, "I just bought a desk for my dad`s birthday. I live in
Malawi and know that every bit helps. I`m spreading the word to my friends
and family back home in Canada and I hope others will do the same. Great
work."

And from Twitter, we have Jack De Tate who writes, "Last year, my wife
and I donated desks to Malawi after a call to Lawrence. This year, we`re
giving them as gifts."

You can go to our Website and buy a desk in the name of anyone you
choose. Maybe for one of those friends of yours who might already have
everything or someone you just can`t figure out what to get, what kind of
gift. UNICEF will send an e-mail notification to whoever you choose as a
gift notification.

Also on my Twitter feed, Leenie909 says, "Our giving budget is tapped
for the year but we`ll be taking a collection for KIND at our holiday party
this weekend. I`ll keep you posted." I know you will, Leenie.

I understand many people have no room in their budget this year or in
this economy to make any kind of contribution at all. And I`m not
suggesting that anyone in that situation should strain in any way to try to
participate now. Taking a collection is a wonderful idea under the
circumstances.

And although a desk costs $48, you can contribute any amount less than
that, anything at all, that you feel comfortable contributing. If you
contribute $10 and four other people contribute $10, and they will, then we
can buy one of these desks. And this desk will be used by two or three
children at a time for many years to come.

Your $10 will help. It will really have an impact. And if it`s too
tough for you to contribute this year, you can contribute next year.

This isn`t going away. This is the permanent cause of THE LAST WORD.

The deprivation level is so high in African classrooms that we will
need to be delivering and building these desks for a long time to come.

And in another tweet, Jill Sclever (ph) said, "I will be donating
tomorrow. Segment made me cry. Great work."

Thanks, Jill. Segment made me cry, too. Luckily, not when I did it
on the show last night, but the first time I tried to read it allowed after
writing it, I couldn`t quite get through it. Had to cut a few lines here
and there.

Just like the first time I tried to talk about this on television.
It`s that kind of story.

But I`ve never felt like crying in Malawi, never when I`m with those
kids. Even when I`m with students who have never owned shoes, there is
nothing about being there with them that provokes anything like pity,
because they`re excited about where they are. They are thrilled to be in
school.

Not all kids in Malawi go to school. Fewer girls go to school than
boys. But the kids who do go to school, believe they have a chance. They
believe they have a chance to some day have shoes. That`s why they`re in
school. Shoes.

They know they need an education to work their way up to a better
life. No matter how tired or uncomfortable they are, after the fifth or
sixth hour of sitting on that floor, they believe this is the place -- the
only place -- that can give them a chance.

And when the desks you send to them arrive, they think they have a
much, much better chance.

In this season of giving, I can never thank you enough for giving
these kids a better chance.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Time for some fun. Late night comedians get tonight`s
"LAST WORD.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CONAN O`BRIEN, COMEDIAN: Oow! GOP debate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Debate number 614.

O`BRIEN: Yes.

ROMNEY: Places we disagree? Let`s see. We could start with -- with
this idea to have -- to have a lunar colony that would mine minerals from
the moon.

JON STEWART, COMEDIAN: What? What? You start with the lunar mines
idea?

Romney, Newt Gingrich is a life support system for bad ideas and you
magically reach in and pick out his one awesome idea.

GINGRICH: Let`s be candid. The only reason you didn`t become a
career politician is you lost to Teddy Kennedy in 1994.

ROMNEY: Now, wait a second.

STEWART: Down goes Romney!

ROMNEY: Ten thousand dollar bet?

PERRY: I`m not in the betting business.

ROMNEY: Oh, OK.

STEWART: This is awesome. A Mormon gambling with an evangelical over
who`s the bigger liar.

O`BRIEN: Mitt Romney challenged Rick Perry to a $10,000 bet and Perry
said, I`m not a betting man. Yes, Perry also said, I`m not a spelling man,
a reading man, or an adding man.

During Saturday`s debate, Michele Bachmann kept referring to Mitt
Romney and Newt Gingrich as Newt/Romney. Yes, experts say it`s the closest
she`s ever come to endorsing gay marriage.

COLBERT: Newt Gingrich says he is against gay marriage. That
explains why it`s the only type of marriage he hasn`t tried yet.

DAVID LETTERMAN, COMEDIAN: Newt Gingrich has had three wives, I
think. Let me see -- yes, one for each chin. So, he --

JAY LENO, COMEDIAN: Newt Gingrich has sent a letter to the Iowa
social conservative group, the Family Leader, taking a no adultery pledge.
Yes. He`s taking a no adultery pledge. He did that already three times.
It was called a marriage vow.

COLBERT: Last night, his main rival got a game-changing endorsement
from a Republican heavy hitter.

CHRISTINE O`DONNELL (R), FORMER SENATE CANDIDATE: I`m endorsing Mitt
Romney.

COLBERT: Boom! Mitt Romney is back in it.

STEWART: What`s Rick Perry`s Achilles heel?

JOHN OLIVER, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: He doesn`t have one.

STEWART: You just said every --

OLIVER: Rick Perry, Jon, has an Achilles head.

COLBERT: Ron Paul got Jesse Ventura, which counteracted the fact that
Michele Bachmann got Wayne Newton who she needed to fight off the fact that
Rick Perry got endorsed by Dean Cain and that had to sting Dean`s brother
Herman.

BARBARA WALTERS, ABC: What cabinet position might you like if it were
possible?

CAIN: We`re speaking totally, totally hypothetical, right?

WALTERS: Yes.

STEWART: No, Herman Cain. This is your job interview for a cabinet
position.

CAIN: Department of Defense.

WALTERS: What?

STEWART: Romney, how would you describe a not ideological pure
conservative and can you frame it as a positive in 2002?

ROMNEY: I think people recognize that I`m not a partisan Republican.
And I`m someone who is moderate and my views are progressive.

STEWART: Yes, and by progressive I mean, my views will progress in
any direction necessary.

OLIVER: Everything about Romney tells the tale of a man who just
fired your dad.

LENO: Well, folks, Donald Trump has decided to cancel his Republican
debate he was going to host later this weekend.

The good news, he only has to tell two people, the only ones who
showed up, Gingrich and Santorum.

COLBERT: Folks, this would be hugely embarrassing for Trump if that
were an emotion he were capable of feeling. Every since Donald Trump
dropped out of his own debate last night, there has been a giant ego-shaped
hole in the Republican primary.

LETTERMAN: He announced he`s not hosting that debate, Trump. Yes.
Well, I guess the last we`ll hear of him.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: You can have THE LAST WORD online at our blog,
TheLastWord.MSNBC.com. While you`re on our Web site, you can find all the
information you need to donate to the KIND fund, Kids in Need of Desks, or
you can all 1-800-FOR-KIDS.

A live edition of "ED SHOW" is up next.

END

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