Skip navigation

'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Monday, December 19th, 2011

Read the transcript to the Monday show

  Most Popular
Most viewed

Guests: Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Ron Carey


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: Hey, it`s hard out there for a speaker.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: It was time for the
Senate to produce something. We disagreed with what the Senate produced.

MARTIN BASHIR, MSNBC HOST: The Republican House is giving the
president a gift.

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: When we left on Friday, there seemed to be a
payroll tax cut deal in the works.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Speaker Boehner`s opposition on Sunday was the
position he had on Saturday.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Trying to negotiate with Speaker
Boehner is like trying to nail jell-o to the wall.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: House Speaker John Boehner stunned everyone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He had Tea Party revolt. He reversed his
position.

MARTIN: A change of heart to say the least.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We shook hands. We made a deal.

BASHIR: The moment Tea Party Republicans start squealing, he just
runs away from the deal.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, RADIO HOST: Are we finally seeing the Republican
splintering into Tea Party and non-Tea Party factions?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They do not want Obama to succeed in anything.

DAVID GREGORY, "MEET THE PRESS" MODERATOR: Have you given up on this
president and effectively say, look, I can`t get anything done with him?

BOEHNER: I`m not that smart. I never give up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s ridiculous. I can`t handle it.

SMERCONISH: Down goes Newt.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: There`s a new CNN poll which has a tie
between Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m actually delighted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ron Paul at 23 percent. Mitt Romney at 20
percent, Newt at 14 percent.

MITCHELL: Newt Gingrich is taking heavy fire from Republican rivals.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He has been unreliable in
those settings and zany.

BASHIR: Calling him unreliable, downright zany and so on.

ROMNEY: I wouldn`t think you`d call mirrors in space to light
highways at night particularly practical.

MITCHELL: Gingrich remains undeterred saying he would round up judges
if he didn`t like their rulings.

BASHIR: That he would send federal marshals to round up judges.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the executive branch power grab that would
make Kim Jong Il proud.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a ludicrous interpretation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is baffling. Everything he does is like hit
me again, crazy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: Breaking news: The Republican Party has a problem, and
it`s called the House of Representatives.

The Republican presidential nominee will discover soon enough what
Republican members of the Senate and the House who are not in totally safe
seats already know, that the Republican House of Representatives can do
more harm to the party than any of the attack ads the Democrats come up
with in the next year.

One endangered Republican, Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown is
scared. Today, he called the latest move by House Republicans his words,
"irresponsible and wrong." On this one, there is absolutely no distance
between Scott Brown and harry Reid. Scott Brown is now desperate to show
Massachusetts voters that he`s not one of those crazy House Republicans.

Scott Brown`s panic comes after the Senate reached a striking
bipartisan compromise with 89 senators voting in favor of a temporary
extension of the current payroll tax cut for the first two months of 2012.
Thirty-nine Republican senators voted in favor of it, including obviously
Scott Brown.

After the Senate vote, House Speaker John Boehner said, "The Senate
compromise isn`t perfect, but Keystone is a victory. That was a reference
to a provision requiring the president to make a decision on the Keystone
oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. But that was then. And
this is today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER: The Senate did its -- they did their job. They produced a
bill. The House disagrees with it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That`s right. The bill Boehner could live with this
weekend, he can`t live with now because the crazies in his caucus simply
will not go for it. That provoked Senator Scott Brown to issue this
statement, "The House Republicans` plan to scuttle the deal to help middle-
class families is irresponsible and wrong. We cannot allow rigid partisan
ideology and unwillingness to compromise stand in the way of working for
the good of the American people."

Today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid issued this warning to
Boehner. "Senator McConnell and I negotiated a compromise at Speaker
Boehner`s request. Speaker Boehner should not walk away from it, putting
middle class families at risk of a thousand dollar tax hike just because a
few angry Tea Partiers raised their voices to the speaker."

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney noted today that all it would
take is a few dozen House Republicans to vote for a compromised bill that
was supported by 39 Republican senators.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The measured past the Senate
with nearly 90 percent support. All it would take in the House if all
Democrats or virtually all Democrats vote for it is about 25 or 30
Republicans, 12 percent of Republicans support in the House for this thing
to become law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now is Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz
of Florida, chair of the Democratic National Committee.

Thanks for joining me tonight, Congresswoman Schultz.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL), DNC CHAIRMAN: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: What is the state of play in the House of Representatives
right now?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, unbelievably what we are hearing now out of
a House rules committee, we adjourned for the evening. The House
Republicans didn`t bring the vote up -- didn`t bring the Senate bill up for
a vote tonight, pushed it to tomorrow. And now, we`re hearing that the
rules committee is going to basically punt the legislation.

We`re not going to have a vote on the bill at all and we`re going to
just have a vote on the motion to go to conference with the Senate because
I think what you eluded to a minute ago, Lawrence, is exactly the problem
that the Republicans face. They probably have a couple dozen of their
members that want to vote for the bill that are in districts that they are
very vulnerable to a loss next year. And if they vote against a middle
class tax cut and extending that tax cut right at the holidays and they
know that that is going to cause the economy some harm, they don`t want to
be in that situation.

So, the Republican leadership, I think, can`t defeat this bill
tomorrow if they bring it up for a vote. So, they`re just not going to
bring it up.

That`s just shocking. It`s outrageous. It`s not letting the
democratic process work its will. And, you know, it shows us they really
don`t want to be supportive of the needs of the middle class. It`s 160
million Americans that would face a thousand dollars more out of their
paychecks if we don`t pass this bill.

O`DONNELL: It`s a very interesting parliamentary maneuver. It allows
them to in effect allow the bill to proceed without having their
fingerprints on it and a very importantly, a vote count on it because what
you`re suggesting is we could easily -- if this bill came up in the House,
you could see a vote count that was basically, say, 40 Republicans maybe or
less.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, we probably don`t need that many.

O`DONNELL: Exactly. But voting for something then would be
overwhelmingly passed by Democratic votes which would in terms of
appearance look like a Democratic hijacking of a Republican-controlled
House. That seems to be what the speaker fears.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, sadly, the Republicans since I`ve been in
Congress, have adopted the philosophy they have to pass with only a
majority of the majority, rather than a majority of the House.

Democracy would tell you that if you have a majority of the House,
then that`s the will of the people and we should move forward. To raise
taxes right before the holidays on 160 million Americans, to refuse give
2.2 million Americans an extension of their unemployment benefits right at
the holidays, to possibly cause the Medicare reimbursement rates to be cut
for doctors and leave seniors in a really difficult situation if they lose
doctors that they now have access to -- this is what Republicans are
subjecting average middle class Americans and working families to. It`s
just shocking and outrageous.

O`DONNELL: Nancy Pelosi has just replied. We have information that
Nancy Pelosi has replied to the -- what is the expected Boehner move here
by saying that she will not appoint Democratic conferees to the conference
that Speaker Boehner would like to see take place.

Does that mean according to House rules you couldn`t have a conference
without Democratic conferees being named?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, quite frankly, I think it`s been made pretty
clear by the Senate that there`s not going to be a conference, because they
have passed a two-month extension, Lawrence, 89 to 10. I mean, between
moderates and conservatives, you`ve had a number of Republican senators
come out and urge the House Republicans to take up this bill and pass it so
that we can negotiate a longer term extension.

I think -- thank God now there`s some universal agreement apparently
that we should move forward with a one-year payroll tax cut extension. The
devil is in the details. We need some more time. Now is not the time to
be raising taxes on the middle class and working families right before the
holidays.

Republicans are the ones that most of them have signed a pledge to not
raise taxes on anyone ever, but they seem to be willing to make an
exception for the middle class. It`s sad.

O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the
Democratic National Committee, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Joining me now is MSNBC analyst Steve Schmidt, a former
senior adviser to the McCain/Palin presidential campaign and a senior
strategist in the Bush/Cheney `04 presidential campaign.

Steve, it seems that the Republicans in the House now are endangering
the brand of tax-cutting in the Republican Party if they have met a tax cut
that gets 89 votes in Senate but is not good enough for the House of
Representatives.

STEVE SCHMIDT, MSNBC ANALYST: Look, Lawrence, the politics of this
isn`t great for House Republicans because the Democrats are clearly on the
high ground of reasonableness here. And the proof point is all of the
Republican senators that voted for it.

So, when the criticism is coming from Scott Brown and it`s coming from
other Republicans, it makes the work of Chairwoman Schultz pretty easy.
And it`s not a great fight for Republicans in the Christmas season.

O`DONNELL: And the congressional elections and Senate elections are
all about the marginal seats, the unsafe seats. Most of these people are
in safe seats. The Idaho senators have nothing to worry about. It`s
always going to be Republican.

But a Massachusetts Republican is not an easy place for a senator to
hold on to a seat, especially with this strong challenge from Elizabeth
Warren in Massachusetts. So, I take Scott Brown`s position to be speaking
for all of the endangered Republicans both in the House and the Senate who
are looking at this action.

And how do you get -- in an election year like this, how do you get a
cohesive response out of a Republican House of Representatives and how do
you get them to keep an eye on the election while taking these positions?

SCHMIDT: Look, I think they are keeping an eye on the election. I
think part of the parliamentary tactics you were talking about a moment ago
are born out of the necessity that 31 members of the freshman class are in
districts that President Obama carried in 2008. So, when you look at a
2012 electoral map, all of those freshman Republicans have to be a little
bit nervous when you look at the turnout that`s going to occur in those
Democratic districts in November.

You know, the bottom line, though, for this, Lawrence, is that
Republican Party wants to have an argument, to have a discussion about how
to grow the economy. Jeb Bush in a brilliant editorial in "The Wall Street
Journal," I think phrased for -- framed for conservatives an argument about
the right to rise, about the validity of the free enterprise system.

And that`s the space where Republicans can do well, where Republicans
should be arguing. And this just as a tactical issue isn`t a great fight
for Republicans. American people will not be on the House Republican
conference`s side in this fight. And I think it`s important to put this in
the rearview mirror and to get on with business heading into the election
year.

O`DONNELL: Steve, let`s listen to what Jon Huntsman had to say about
this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON HUNTSMAN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it ought to be
extended. I think there`s a good deal on the table. I think the
Republicans put a good deal on the table. And it extends for a while. It
moves the Keystone pipeline along. And I think that`s a fair package.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Steve, I have the feeling if you were managing a
Republican presidential campaign at this point, that`s what you`d like your
candidate to say.

SCHMIDT: No doubt. Look, sometimes in this process, you have to know
when it`s okay to declare victory. The fact that the Keystone pipeline
which I think rather outrageously the administration postponed making a
decision on has been included, it`s moved forward. It`s an important
issue.

So, Republicans had a lot in this that they could have claimed victory
on. Instead, we have a political muddle. And when you`re in a rock-
throwing fight, you always want to be on the side that throwing the rocks
down hill, not uphill. And the Republicans are in the uphill fight side of
the fight right now. It`s not a great place to be.

O`DONNELL: Steve Schmidt, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

SCHMIDT: You bet. Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Republican chaos obviously includes the Republican
presidential campaign. The Gingrich surge may become the Gingrich collapse
and a leading Republican pundit says the Republican Party is insane.
That`s next.

And Newt Gingrich versus the judges. He actually wants to put judges
he doesn`t like in handcuffs. He really does. He said it. No wonder the
Gingrich campaign is collapsing.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump on Tuesday announced that he is
dropping out as moderator for the December 27th Republican presidential
debate. Trump decided to cancel when he learned that the candidates would
also be allowed to talk. Insiders are speculating that Trump dropped out
of the debate because he found a younger, sexier debate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID LETTERMAN, COMEDIAN: Number four.

ROMNEY: I just used all my campaign money to buy a zoo with Matt
Damon.

(LAUGHTER)

LETTERMAN: Nothing wrong with that.

Number three.

ROMNEY: I can do a lot. But even I can`t fix the Indianapolis Colts.

LETTERMAN: Hey, hey, hey. We won yesterday.

Number two.

ROMNEY: Newt Gingrich? Really?

LETTERMAN: Yes. That`s right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That was a preview of Mitt Romney reading the top 10
things Mitt Romney would like to say to the American people tonight on
tonight`s late night with David Letterman.

While in Manhattan today, Romney also stopped by FOX News.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS: Do you consider yourself a conservative
thinker?

ROMNEY: I am conservative. I`ve become more conservative overtime.

O`REILLY: Romney care is not a conservative thing. I mean, with all
due respect. The thought behind it is the government should get involved
with people`s health care. That`s not a conservative position.

ROMNEY: Actually, the idea as you know came from conservatives at the
Heritage Foundation, Newt Gingrich.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: With 15 days until the Iowa caucus, new polls out today
show that Republicans are divided between Romney and Gingrich, increasingly
flirty with Ron Paul. According to a Gallup poll conducted Tuesday through
Sunday, Gingrich`s lead over Romney has narrowed to a statistical tie. Ron
Paul is third with 11 percent.

In Iowa, attack ads directed at Gingrich and Gingrich`s pledge to a
positive campaign has resulted to his support being cut in half in some
polls. A robo-poll of likely Iowa caucus-goers shows that in just two
weeks, Gingrich`s support has dropped from 27 percent to 14 percent. That
puts him nine points behind Ron Paul and six points behind Romney.

Today in Iowa, Gingrich laid out his plans to avoid becoming the next
Republican candidate to fade from contention.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: Candidly very disappointing to see some of my friends who
are running put out so much negative junk. So, I wanted to start by saying
that I will be coming back again and again. We all have a "jobs on
prosperity" tour and have 44 stops before the caucuses. But I will be back
on a positive basis.

I will do two things. I`ll tell you what I stand and what I`m going
to try to accomplish. And second, I will answer any question that comes up
based on the false and inaccurate advertising of some of my friends.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Yesterday, Romney picked up an endorsement from Bob Dole,
the winner of the 1996 Iowa caucuses and the loser of the 1996 presidential
campaign.

Four years ago, Romney told FOX News that Bob Dole is the very last
person he would want to get a letter of support.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you make of the letter that bob dole wrote
to Rush Limbaugh to say lay off of John McCain, he`s conservative enough.
Do you buy that from Bob?

ROMNEY: Well, it`s probably the last person I would have wanted to
write a letter for me. I think there are a lot of folks that tend to think
that maybe John McCain`s race is a bit like Bob Dole`s race. That it`s the
guy who`s the next in line. He`s the inevitable choice and we`ll give it
to him and then it won`t work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Today, the editor of the conservative Web site Red State
wrote that any Republican who backs Romney or Gingrich has gone insane.
"The Republican Party has gone insane. For the better part of the last
three years, the Republican Party has exercised itself into a frenzy over
the need to repeal Obamacare. The individual mandate and TARP draw the ire
of scores of primary voters.

And our two front runners for president? They both support an
individual mandate and they both supported TARP. I just want everyone to
make sure they understand this and remind that Perry, Bachmann, Huntsman
and, yes, even Rick Santorum are still in the race."

And Sarah Palin isn`t ready to endorse anyone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At what point will you endorse someone if you do
plan to?

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: You know, my endorsement is
going to be with sincerity and enthusiasm. And I am just not there yet,
Shannon, with the field as it stands. And, you know, there`s no need to
endorse until that enthusiasm really is within me, in my gut.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now, "Washington Post" editorial writer and
MSNBC political analyst Jonathan Capehart.

Thanks for joining me tonight, Jonathan.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, WASHINGTON POST: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Jonathan, the enthusiasm is not in Sarah Palin`s gut
apparently because the polls are not clear enough to tell her who the front
runner is so that she can get on that train and endorse the ultimate
nominee and claim she had something to do with it.

CAPEHART: Apparently so. But, you know, ultimately, Lawrence, what
does it matter anymore? Clearly, before she decided she wasn`t going to
run for president when you and I and a lot of people knew she wasn`t going
to run for president anyway, her support within the Republican Party was
waning away by the month.

So I`m not sure what good her endorsement does anyone. But then,
again, Christine O`Donnell endorsed Mitt Romney. And look what he did.

O`DONNELL: We heard Red State saying that the Republican Party has
gone insane. Let`s listen to an insane supporter of the Republican Party
who has a very big radio show, Mr. Rush Limbaugh, who`s echoing what Red
State had to say.

Let`s listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO HOST: The problem is that the Republican primary
voter does not want a moderate. They don`t want somebody they perceive as
being a moderate. The Republicans, hey, look, no, no, Mitt`s a strong
conservative. He`s the strongest conservative we got.

Well, the Republican primary voters don`t believe that when they`re
told that. So, they`re divvying up votes elsewhere and that is allowing
creep on the part of Ron Paul. The Republican Party`s insistent governing
against the will of its own voters, at least in the primary. That`s how it
appears to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Rush has a few good points there, doesn`t he?

CAPEHART: A few, but let`s keep in mind he`s blanketing the entire
Republican Party saying that they don`t want a moderate. And yes, there
are Tea Party Republicans and there are other Republicans who are crowding
out those moderates.

But, you know, Iowa and New Hampshire, South Carolina, and even
Florida do not represent other big states that are to whose contests later
in the primary calendar. So, to broad-brush the Republican Party like that
I think is a mistake on Rush`s part. He`s going to attack me for that, I`m
sure.

But then again, as the far left is the life blood and energy of the
Democratic Party, the far right in conservatives are the life blood of the
Republican Party, and they`re rising up. And we`ll find out in less than
three weeks who`s going to take that Iowa caucus.

O`DONNELL: Well, what Rush`s frustration is showing us is the
Republican Party really is in chaos.

Jonathan Capehart, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

CAPEHART: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Gingrich wants to go all Kim Jong Il on judges.
He wants to be a dictator who gets rid of the judges he doesn`t like.

And in tonight`s "Rewrite," the death of a dictator overshadows the
death of a playwright turned president, a man who was a hero to freedom
fighters everywhere.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Newt Gingrich says he`s not zany, but he also says judges
need to be kept in check, and says they could be arrested and forced to
explain their opinions.

Is that the way to win Republican primaries?

And later, if you need a last-second Hanukkah or Christmas gift, I`ll
tell you what you can get for someone who is just really tough to find the
right gift for, somebody who maybe already has everything. That`s coming
up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: Here`s the question. Are judges above the law? Are judges
in a position where they dictate to the president and they dictate to the
Congress? Since 1958, the court has said we are supreme. We`re the last
word. That`s baloney. And I decided --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That was Newt Gingrich in Iowa today, going after his
latest target, so-called activist judges. In a 30 minute call with
reporters on Saturday, Gingrich ramped up his rhetoric, saying as president
he would abolish whole courts in order to get rid of judges whose decisions
he feels are out of step with the country.

He took it one step further during an appearance on CBS "Face the
Nation" Sunday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB SCHIEFFER, "FACE THE NATION": One of the things you say is that
if you don`t like what a court has done, that Congress should subpoena the
judge and bring him before Congress and hold a congressional hearing. Some
people say that`s unconstitutional. But I`ll let that go for a minute.

I just want to ask from a practical standpoint, how would you enforce
that? Would you send the Capitol Police down to arrest him?

GINGRICH: If you had to. Or you`d instruct the Justice Department to
send the U.S. marshal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Mitt Romney said this about Newt`s zany idea on Fox News
tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: His comments about the
justices and the Congress sending the capitol police to bring in judges,
that`s not exactly a practical idea or a Constitutional idea.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Gingrich`s extreme ideas may be losing ground with some in
the Republican establishment, but he remains popular with his base.
Gingrich was the winner in Sunday night`s Tea Party Patriots national straw
poll, with 31 percent of the vote. Michele Bachmann took second place with
28 percent. Mitt Romney came in third with 20 percent. Rick Santorum was
fourth with 16 percent.

And then Ron Paul, Rick Perry and Jon Huntsman were out of it, at
three, two, one, respectively.

Joining me now is Ron Carey, former chairman of the Republican Party
of Minnesota, and Michele Bachmann`s former chief of staff.

Ron, This is when I need you to take me inside the mind of the
Republican primary voter. How many want to hear that Congress, at the
president`s urging, can run out and arrest judges and drag them into
congressional hearings to answer for opinions they have issued?

RON CAREY, FORMER CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN PARTY OF MINNESOTA: Newt is
certainly pandering to the conservative base. I mean, there`s a lot of
conservatives out there, especially religious conservatives, who are
frustrated that the courts have really taken God out of our society. And
they`re frustrated to the nth degree.

So Newt knows that that segment of the Republican base is critical for
him if he`s going to be able to keep some momentum. So at this point in
time, he`s giving some, you know, true red meat to those who might follow
that.

But I think as people look at his comments more closely, it`s going to
really be an albatross around his neck, not only in the general election,
should he become the nominee, but also in the primary. Because as we look
at that, you say that`s just a -- a policy or an idea that makes no sense.

I mean, Newt is proving to be a walking hand grenade at this point in
time, saying things that are just going to make him explode. If he were to
run up against President Obama, as a conservative, I am very concerned as
to how Obama and his machine will just take these comments apart and make
him look like a fringe candidate. It could be the death of the Republican
party if he became the nominee.

O`DONNELL: Well, that is why some of us have been cheering for Newt
to hang in there and get that nomination.

CAREY: I`m sure you have been.

O`DONNELL: But, Ron, what strikes me about it on Newt is the thing
he`s suggesting is completely impossible. You know, here he is; he`s
running for president, and he`s saying this is what I think Congress can
do. The presidency has no subpoena power whatsoever.

Congress does have subpoena power. It doesn`t have any subpoena power
in the instance that he`s talking about. But that`s what, to me, is so
nutty about it. He`s talking about a power that doesn`t even exist
anywhere within the presidency.

CAREY: Well, absolutely. I think he would be pushing the limits of
the Constitution. He refers to a 1802 case where Jefferson, along with
friends in Congress, were able to eliminate some judgeships, for example.

But that was 1802. That was over 200 years ago. To try to do that
today in political terms, it just can`t be done. That`s where -- Newt is a
great thinker. He has a lot of good ideas. But he has some real clunkers
out there.

And right now, he`s being -- having one of his clunkers wrapped around
his nick. I`m surprised that he continues to go after this, except he
thinks that it`s probably going to help him in Iowa in the short-term.

But it`s -- what I`m concerned about as a conservative is that we
don`t go for the short-term, feel good, and end up in March of next year
with a candidate who can`t prevail in November. It`s a real glorious
campaign for eight or nine months, but we lose.

O`DONNELL: We`ll know soon enough how good it is in the short-term,
as a political idea. Ron Carey, Republican party chairman of Minnesota,
thank you very much for joining us tonight.

CAREY: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, why the North Koreans are pretending to mourn
for Kim Jong-il. And why they should be crying over the loss of a true
leader halfway around the world. That`s in tonight`s Rewrite.

And later, an update on your amazing generosity and kindness to
students in Africa. What viewers of this program are saying and doing for
the KIND Fund, Kids In Need of Desks.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID LETTERMAN, "THE LATE SHOW": Have you seen this announcement?
Watch this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dick Cheney says the United States should have
bombed Iran to prevent them from gathering intelligence from the captured
surveillance drone. If a loved one with a history of a heart condition
exhibits strange behavior like recommending going to war over the downing
of an unmanned spy plane, it may be the result of a lack of oxygen to the
brain.

A message from the American Heart Association.

LETTERMAN: That`s good to know. I think that`s important.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Time for tonight`s Rewrite. The world`s lost another
vicious dictator this weekend, to no one`s disappointment, surely including
those who were forced to pretend that the death of North Korea`s Kim Jong-
il was somehow tragic.

The dead dictator`s television network broadcast these images of North
Koreans supposedly reacting to the death of the man who has crippled their
country, imprisoned dissidents, and forced a couple of million people to
die of starvation.

All of the actors supposedly caught on camera mourning the death of
the man who has made their lives miserable were following the dictates that
appear in one of the dictator`s many books about what he called the art of
cinema. Since Kim Jong-il never made the slightest attempt to improve the
lives of people of his country, he had plenty of time on his hands to
expound on his theories on making movies.

In his 1987 masterpiece, "The Cinema and Directing," he wrote
"emotions in a film should be defined so that they capture the hearts of
the audience from the very first scene." The news director at Dictator TV
surely followed that rule in delivering the images of sobbing over the loss
of the madman.

Kim Jong-il was actually probably more sane about film making than
anything else he ever talked about, because he actually did get a couple of
things right about film making. "The director should not merely consider a
few well-known actors, but should consider many others."

I could not agree more. And in another insight that seemed aimed
directly at Tyler Perry, the dictator wrote "it is true that actors should
be prepared to portray any character at any time. But since every one of
them has different creative individuality, he may -- he may be well-suited
to one character but not to another."

The passing of the mad dictator who fancied himself an authority on
the performing arts has overshadowed the passing of a former head of state
with real authority in the arts, the authority of an author, a playwright,
Vaclav Havel, the playwright, whose eloquent dissent landed him in jail as
a threat to the communist dictatorship that controlled Czechoslovakia for
four 40 years, who then became the country`s first post-communist
president, died on Sunday at his country house in northern Bohemia.

The brilliant and courageous theater producer Joe Papp brought Vaclav
Havel to New York in 1968 for the public theater production of his second
play, "the Memorandum." That was the last time that Havel was allowed out
of Czechoslovakia under Communist rule. He became Czechoslovakia`s most
famous dissident and was jailed repeatedly, included in January 1989.

Joe Papp then put in an urgent call to his New York senator, Daniel
Patrick Moynihan, and as it happened, got me on the phone instead. I
relayed Papp`s message to Senator Moynihan on the Senate floor: "Havel
arrested again. We`ve got to do something."

By then, history was moving faster than any of us could have imagined.
It turned out we were only ten months away from the collapse of the Berlin
Wall, something that then felt 100 years away.

Dictatorship was losing its grip on eastern Europe. Vaclav Havel`s
last jailing ended four months after it began. Upon his release in May of
1989, he resumed his work of undermining the dictatorship. He convened
meetings in the Magic Lantern, a Prague theater, where he strategized the
overthrow of the government, something few in his country or the world
thought possible just months before.

And by year`s end, Vaclav Havel had gone from the prisoner playwright
to the president of Czechoslovakia. The transfer of power occurred without
firing a shot. It became known as the Velvet Revolution.

After hearing of Havel`s death, President Obama said this: "his
peaceful resistance shook the foundations of an empire, exposed the
emptiness of a repressive ideology and proved that moral leadership is more
powerful than any weapon."

In his memoir, "To The Castle and Back," Vaclav Havel called his rise
to the presidency of his country "an accident of history."

Tonight, the world should be hoping for a similar accident of history
in North Korea. Vaclav Havel was 75.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Now shouldn`t there be at least six degrees of separation
between me and Glenn Beck? Well, as some of you may already know, there is
only one degree of separation, because Penn Gillette has been a friend of
mine for 20 years. And Penn Gillette is also a friend of Glenn Beck`s.

And we both delivered blurbs for the jacket of Penn`s latest book, a
proud proclamation of his atheism, entitled "God No."

I thought that was about as close as Glenn Beck and I were even going
to get. But in a miracle of this Christmas season, we now have another
connection. After my last show last week, I got an email from a Glenn Beck
fan. He had just contributed to the KIND Fund, Kids in Need of Desks, the
partnership that I created with UNICEF for building desks in Africa and
delivering them to classrooms there, where students and teachers sometimes
have never seen a desk.

The email from James Ray came through the UNICEF website, which allows
you have a gift notice sent to someone on whose behalf you can buy a desk
for an African school as a Christmas present.

The subject line of the email is "A Desk From a Glenn Beck Fan."

"Dear Lawrence, happy holidays from the other side. Faith without
works is dead. So thank you for the opportunity to help. Jim."

That e-mail is full of the spirit of this season of giving. Jim
begins by dropping our political differences. He refers to the religious
basis of Christmas, echoing Christ`s message that faith without good works
is meaningless.

And then Jim does what so many of you have done. He thanks me for the
opportunity to help. Many of you have used that phrase in Tweets and e-
mails, the opportunity to help.

And this is all I ever wanted to do with the KIND Fund, give people
the opportunity to help if they are as moved as I was when I first heard
about the conditions in Malawi classrooms.

The KIND Fund is not about politics. And I`m not surprised that a
Glenn Beck fan like Jim, who is serious about combining faith with good
works would see that.

That students should have desks, that they should not be forced to sit
on dirt and cold cement floors for seven hours a day is something we can
all agree on.

Some of you might have different targets for your charitable giving.
I certainly have no argument with that and make no attempt to redirect your
charitable giving.

I simply want to offer you the opportunity to participate in something
simple and kind of magical, at the same time, something that changes
children`s lives in an instant: a desk.

You can go to our website, LastWordDesks.MSNBC.com and link to the
KIND Fund. For 48 dollars, you can buy a desk which is made in Malawi by
workers who are now able to feed their families because the KIND Fund has
provided jobs in the two factories in Malawi that make these desks.

The desks are designed for two children, but frequently I see three
children, I`ve even seen four children squeeze into these desks. After
updating you on the KIND Fund on Thursday night, Jim Ray and others
contributed over 130,000 dollar overnight, so that when I appeared on
Martin Bashir`s show on Friday, we had raised, since the start of the
program last year, 2,658,827 dollars.

I told Martin I would credit him with whatever money the KIND Fund
raised other the weekend, since that would be the last time I would discuss
it last week. The totals are in. And the Bashir effect over the weekend
was 223,890 dollars.

So I began reminding you of this program on Wednesday of last week.
And since then, you have contributed close to half a million dollars.
460,763 dollars, bringing our one year total from when we started this a
year ago to 2,874,762.

That means that the workers making these desks will continue to have
jobs. That means that their families will not go hungry. That means that
this truck will continue to roll into schoolyards in Malawi, and children
will continue to rush the truck and unload it themselves and transform
their classrooms themselves, all thanks to you.

Patricia Henry (ph) sent this e-mail. "My husband and I just donated
100 dollars after your segment on Thursday night. I am a public school
librarian in Houston, Texas, and my husband is a part-time lecturer at a
local high school. So we know about schools and students and we don`t have
a lot of money, but we have a lot of gratitude and are glad to donate.
You`re making a positive difference in the world. Thank you for allowing
your viewers to be part of it."

Linda and Earl Hefflinger (ph) in Colorado wrote, "we were so very
moved by your story and video of KIND that we decided to donate ten desks
to honor our ten grandchildren. Thank you for providing such a meaningful
way to affirm a positive future for other kids of their generation."

And Eileen Quasay (ph), who last week told us she had no room left in
her charitable giving this year, took up a collection over the weekend
among her friends, which amounts to a 402 dollar contribution to the KIND
Fund.

We got this comment on Facebook from Christine Ziama (ph,, "when my
husband, who came to this country and earned his degree in electrical
engineering, saw your presentation on KIND, he was brought back to his
early days of schooling when he was a child without a desk. Many young
Africans have the same experience. He sat on the floor in his bare feet,
where he diligently wrote his lessons in a notebook. It does my heart good
to see those children express such joy upon receipt of those desks."

And on Twitter, I got this: "just bought a half a dozen desks in the
name of my coworkers for Christmas. This is a gift for any time of year."

That is absolutely true. And the KIND Fund gets donations 12 months a
year, but we do always count on a surge in this season of giving.

Eileen Yoffee (ph) posted this on Facebook, "I just donated two desks
in the name of my granddaughter, Lily, who is nine months old. She is now
making a difference in the world. Happy Hanukkah, Lily."

And finally from Mark Abrams, "I make this donation in honor of my
daughter Heather, who is a two-time survivor of Hodgkin`s. I was
particularly struck with the involvement of your daughter in this project.
Unless we teach our children to have the complete understanding of helping
others, we will be left with those who are only motivated by their own
self-interests.

"I am proud to be a liberal and your fan. Sincerely, Mark Abrams."

Now there isn`t even one degree between the proud liberal O`Donnell
fan Mark Abrams and the Glenn Beck fan Jim Ray, who contributed to the KIND
Fund last week, and who next year might have kids sitting in the same
classroom in Malawi at the desks that they contributed.

I, for one prefer, to think of that not as a Christmas miracle, but as
the way we all really can work together for the greater good every day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SINGING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

END

<Copy: Content and programming copyright 2011 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Copyright 2011 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>

Watch The Last Word With Lawrence O'Donnell each weeknight at 10 p.m. ET


Sponsored links

Resource guide