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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Thursday, January 12, 2012

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Guests: Joe Scarborough, Chris Hayes, Wendy Schiller, Felix Salmon, Fred Armisen, Stephanie Cutter

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: The Republican presidential candidates just
can`t stop themselves from helping President Obama. The president`s deputy
campaign manager is here tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what may be the field`s last best chance to
stop Mitt Romney`s momentum.

RICHARD NIXON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I think this is the time and
this is the place to take off the gloves and sock it to him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were concerned about these Bain attacks.

NARRATOR: The suffering began when Mitt Romney came to town.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m shocked at how
defensive they are.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: It`s a barrage of criticism about Romney`s
record at Bain, not letting up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If Mitt says he`s a job creator, prove it.

EZRA KLEIN, MSNBC ANALYST: He tried to define what he did at Bain in
terms of jobs created.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s not true. He`s not a job creator.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But what about the jobs that were lost there.

KLEIN: Bain was no there for job creation. Bain was there for wealth
for its investors.

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: There you go again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt Romney claims to be a high-flying eagle when
actually he`s a low-flying vulture.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He looks at that guy who likes to fire people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s not just capitalism. It`s a particular
form of capitalism.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: And this decision you`re
about to make better be about what kind of economic theory you want.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mitt Romney`s campaign long expected this from
the Democrats.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s, frankly, class warfare.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did not expect this from Republicans.

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: Attacks on Mitt Romney`s record and private
equity are sending the Republican Party into an identity crisis.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: This is a playbook for the Obama campaign.

GINGRICH: I`m just asking questions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who`s the alternative? Where do we go from here?

SEN. JIM DEMINT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Newt and others do not appear to
be in the game.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One flawed conservative candidate after another.

GEORGE .W BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: There`s a big difference in
philosophy between my opponent and me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Newt Gingrich is a woman on the verge of a
breakdown.

KLEIN: But now, he`s on a kamikaze mission.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is scorned, he is betrayed and he is out for
revenge.

CLINTON: I feel your pain. I feel your pain.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: Today, the Republican Party fought over what to make of
Mitt Romney`s record at Bain Capital. Donald Trump weighed in, of course,
tweeting, "Newt`s attacks on Mitt Romney record at Bain an attack on free
enterprise and entrepreneurship. Mistake."

Well, I guess that does it. But Newt Gingrich doesn`t want Trump,
Rush Limbaugh, or FOX News advice on this one. Newt Gingrich still wants
answers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: So I have been asking some questions and I am amazed at the
intensity of the counterattack. It`s almost as though if you ask questions
you`re somehow challenging the whole system. The American people have the
right to know what has been happening to their economy and any candidate
for president has an obligation to tell us. And I think the idea that
these extraordinary wealth of institutions are going to somehow bring
enough pressure to bear to say, you better shut up tells you just how bad
off the system has gotten. No one tells the American people that they
aren`t allowed to learn what has happened in their very own country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And Rick Perry agrees.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It`s a matter about
vetting a candidate. I mean, I didn`t hear anybody questioning when they
were attacking me for things that I`ve done and I will tell you that when
people can point to where you made a quick profit and kick people out of
their jobs, that is an issue that`s got to be addressed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Today, Rick Perry`s anti-Bain protest cost him the support
of South Carolina investment fund executive and top Republican donor Barry
Wynn. Wynn told the "Associated Press", "It`s like fingernails on the
chalkboard. It just kind of irritated you to hear those kind of attacks."
Wynn now supports the Romney campaign.

Here is Mitt Romney defending Bain Capital in South Carolina today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Any time a job is lost it`s
a tragedy. For the family, for the individual that loses the job, it`s
devastating. I understand, by the way, that the Obama administration is
going to work very hard to put free enterprise on trial. But you know
what? It works.

But the downside is, sometimes businesses in trouble have to shed
employment to try and maintain a brighter future and ultimately survive and
then hopefully grow again. That`s what you`ve seen with General Motors and
Chrysler and others.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Karl Rove offers free advice to Romney in today`s "Wall
Street Journal". "Most Republicans will likely ignore much of the
criticism over Bain because they generally approve of successful
businessmen. That`s not going to be the case in the general election. Mr.
Romney can help himself enormously if he uses the weeks ahead to forcefully
confront this issue."

And now for the disclaimer that is stuck in this teleprompter every
time we say the words Bain Capital, NBC Universal and Bain Capital are each
part owners of the Weather Channel.

Joining me now, host of MSNBC`s "MORNING JOE," Joe Scarborough.

Joe, thanks for joining me tonight.

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC HOST: I am Bain Capital along with you,
Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Here we go. It`s time for the class warfare starts right
here right now.

Joe, you`re down in Florida. You are our Southern senior political
Republican analyst here at this network and it`s coming your way. South
Carolina`s always been where if the campaign hasn`t gotten crazy already,
this is where it gets really crazy.

Did you imagine this happening, that this would be what they are
fighting about in South Carolina?

SCARBOROUGH: No. It`s unbelievable and I can`t believe the mistakes
that Newt Gingrich is making over the course of the campaign but this has
to be the worst yet.

This is -- I`ve got to say, Lawrence, over the past 24 hours, the
Republican Party has gone from rolling their eyes at the guy that they know
is going to eventually get the nomination, Mitt Romney, to suddenly coming
together in a way that the party hasn`t been since Ronald Reagan went to
the Berlin Wall and told Gorbachev to tear it down.

You have, everybody from Rush Limbaugh, to Jim DeMint on my show this
morning, to Rudy Giuliani -- all coming out and criticizing Newt Gingrich
and criticizing, of course, Rick Perry. In fact, the only person defending
the two seems to be Sarah Palin. And you want to talk about an unholy
triumvirate, Newt, Perry and Sarah Palin.

It`s just everything seems to be working in the favor of Mitt Romney.
The guy is like Mr. Magoo. You`re going from doing this hire-wire walk
with the Republican Party that doesn`t seem to want him and yet he`s
stumbling towards the nomination and Newt Gingrich is helping him get
closer by the day.

O`DONNELL: Joe, I want to listen to what Sarah Palin said. I`m glad
you brought her up, because what I`m wondering, listen to the way she puts
it, is whether she`s found a way to connect this to a kind of blue collar
Republican view of what this Bain stuff might be.

Let`s listen to how Sarah Palin put it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: Governor Romney has claimed
to have created 100,000 jobs at Bain and, you know, people are wanting to
know, is there proof of that claim and was it U.S. jobs created for the
United States citizens? You know, the 100,000 jobs. And I believe that
that`s what Governor Perry is getting at is, you know, own up to the claims
that are being made and that`s fair.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joe, South Carolina has watched their textile jobs move
off shore for decades now. Is she saying something that could play in
South Carolina?

SCARBOROUGH: No, I really don`t think so. Not in the Republican
Party. As you know, I came in in `94. I was one of those Perot types. I
ran against the Republican establishment locally, statewide, and
nationally. Of course, Newt said I couldn`t get elected in `94 because he
thought I was too conservative for my district, but I was a populist.

And yet this is not an area that I would go into if I were running an
anti-Washington campaign, an anti-big business campaign. I think you could
talk about tax reform. I think you could say in northwest Florida or in
Alaska or in South Carolina, it`s not right that Warren Buffett pays a
lower tax rate than his secretary. I think everybody gets that.

This, though, seems to go with the very nature of capitalism. And
just like you proudly proclaim yourself as socialists, we proclaim
ourselves capitalists and, yes, capitalism can get messy.

My father lost his job in 1971 at Lockheed. The favorite job he ever
had. He was out of business for two years. He understood he lost his job
because Rolls Royce went bankrupt and 1,000 things went wrong. And so,
they had to cut middle managers. They fired him.

He couldn`t find a job for two years. And yet my father remained a
Republican because he said, you know what -- to channel Mitt Romney -- it
ain`t bean bag. That`s what capitalism does. There are some benefits to
it. There are some rewards to it. But also it can hurt sometimes.

And that message that Sarah Palin is making just won`t play with the
Republican base.

O`DONNELL: Joe, Mitt Romney today in giving his response to what he
thinks is going on, he called it envy. He said that like that thing you
just said about a populist Republican could talk about in a campaign just
what the top tax rate should be and maybe it should be a little different
under certain circumstances.

SCARBOROUGH: Right.

O`DONNELL: That is something that Mitt Romney says is about envy. He
reduced it all today to envy.

Does he have to find another way -- does the rich guy with hundreds
and millions of dollars have to find another way of talking about the 60
percent of the people in this country who actually think -- or it`s
actually higher than that in many polls -- actually thinks that taxes
should be higher on people like Mitt Romney?

SCARBOROUGH: Right. Well, of course he does. And it`s a terrible
thing for a very wealthy guy to talk about envy. That is the wrong way to
set it up.

The fact of the matter is, though, Mitt has handled this I think
poorly from the beginning. He should have told the truth about Bain
Capital. The job of Bain Capital is not to create jobs.

Job one for Bain Capital is to create profit. And if you invest in
Bain Capital, whether you are in a public union and it`s for a pension or
whether you are a private investor or whether you`re a university that
wants to make money, they understand Bain Capital is not about creating
jobs. It`s about increasing profits -- making companies as productive as
possible, hopefully creating more Staples then the type of companies that
they bust.

But the bottom line at Bain Capital is the bottom line and it has
nothing to do with jobs. It has everything to do with profits and if you
are a capitalist, if you are a free market conservative, there`s nothing
wrong with that.

But I think Mitt has to take a better tact than that. And I think he
has to understand, people think it`s wrong that General Electric paid zero
percent in taxes last year. People think it`s wrong that billionaire hedge
fund managers pay a lower tax rate than, say, their secretaries and people
that work in their yards. People think that it`s wrong that the rich keep
getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer.

But you don`t do -- you don`t tackle this problem, at least in the
Republican Party, by attacking the free market. You do it by attacking
about tax codes and other things.

O`DONNELL: Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC`s "MORNING JOE," Joe
Scarborough, the man who would be tonight`s front-runner in South Carolina
if he could just tear himself away from "MORNING JOE" -- Joe, thank you
very much for joining me tonight.

SCARBOROUGH: Well, you can say that ever about 10,000 Republicans
across the country right now.

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH: It`s not really a great compliment. Thank you.

O`DONNELL: It is one of the weaker fields, but my money would be on
you, Joe. Joe, thank you very much.

SCARBOROUGH: It is painful to watch. Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: And joining me now, that laughter that you heard in the
background is from Chris Hayes, host of MSNBC`s "UP WITH CHRIS HAYES."
Also, Wendy Schiller, associate professor for political science and public
policy at Brown University.

Thank you both.

You had a jaw-dropping moment during Newt Gingrich making those
wonderfully Democratic sounding noises.

CHRIS HAYES, HOST, "UP WITH CHRIS HAYES": Democratic. He sounds like
he visit an Occupy Wall Street general assembly, someone (INAUDIBLE) he
said, I have expected him to show up at a Mitt Romney event and mic check
him, you know?

I mean, here`s what -- I`m really stunned, actually, by this turn of
events and the reason I`m stunned by it is Democrats do this all the time.
You see Democrats primaries. Democrats will try to get to the right of
their competitor, particularly on foreign policy. You`re always seeing
this kind of very hawkish arguments.

And as someone who is proudly a dove, right, it always makes me
grimace and despair because what it makes me think is, no matter which
candidate wins, we have lost the issue. And this is what you think is
politically beneficial. And here we are, Mitt Romney says the president is
going to put the free enterprise system on trial and the Republican primary
field has managed to put literally the free enterprise system on trial
because Joe is exactly right, this is what modern American capitalism looks
like.



Bain Capital is what modern American capitalism looks like. If you
don`t like Bain Capital, then you have issues with modern American
capitalism.

And you know what? It turns out a lot of voters have issues with
modern American capitalism. Not just Democrats. People that would be
voting in the Republican primary have issues with the kind of devastation
it has wrought in the industrial Midwest and places like that. And now,
it`s surprising, and I`m really cannot believe it. I`m shocked to see this
kind of heterodoxy being spouted in the Republican primary already. I
really am surprised.

O`DONNELL: Wendy, what is the history of this kind of talk in our
presidential debates? In my lifetime, I don`t believe it`s ever come up in
the fundamental way.

WENDY SCHILER, BROWN UNIVERSITY: Questioning the validity of --

O`DONNELL: That free enterprise is being debated. That is a serious
subject, a large subject debated.

SCHILLER: Not like this. Not at all. And I think that`s because
Republicans have always been the more credible on the idea of free
enterprise, getting government out of business. And the Democrats have
always been talking about what good things government can do.

So, Democrats never really wanted the conversation to go in that
direction and the Republicans would just clamp it down. You had strong
candidates. You had Ronald Reagan would shut it down when he needed to.
Other candidates, Bush shut it down when he needed to.

So, Romney, I think this is sort of unpeeling the layers of Romney and
showing some very serious weaknesses, not just in his economic record but
in his ability to control the campaign. And I think that doesn`t bode
well. I mean, I understand the spin all the Republicans are putting on
this. We`re all rallying around Romney and we like him.

But I`m not sure that this doesn`t show them, these are fundamental
core weaknesses in Romney the candidate, not just even the issue of
Romney`s record on the economy.

O`DONNELL: The Republican world is -- you have Sarah Palin
disagreeing. Sarah Palin is over here. Rush Limbaugh over here -- sharp
disagreements.

This is really more, it seems to me, than the Obama campaign could
have hoped for. They may have hoped for a longer contest for the
nomination but they couldn`t have hoped for a better fight.

HAYES: Yes. I`m amazed. They must be popping champagne. I mean, I
think there`s --

SCHILLER: I hope they are not popping champagne yet.

(CROSSTALK)

HAYES: Here`s what I`m trying to say. I think there is a way in
which it`s feasible to conceive of this as inoculating in some ways because
this story is burning up the airwaves, it`s on our air. It`s getting a lot
of play right now. There is an argument I think you can make that it makes
the story when these attacks come directly from the president or allied
super PACs in the fall have less of a bite because people kind of know the
story and they`ve made up their mind on it.

I think the analogy here is, if Jeremiah Wright tape had surfaced in
October as opposed to April, that would have been much harder for the
president. We may have a President John McCain. I don`t know what would
happen if it surfaced in the general.

There is a chance of it happening this early allows the Romney
campaign to figure out how they are going to deal with it. For Romney to
have his version of the Barack Obama Philadelphia speech where he talks
about, you know, what capitalism is or something like that where he really
takes it head on and that may end up benefiting the campaign in the long
run. I don`t think --

O`DONNELL: He would need to steal a lot of what Joe Scarborough just
said, that look, this investing opportunity for entities like Brown
University that is a noble place that needs to invest endowment and all
that --

SCHILLER: Pension funds.

(CROSSTALK)

HAYES: Literally -- he literally needs to make the Gordon Gekko greed
is good speech, because the whole point is, the profit motive, I mean, the
assumption is that the profit motive ultimately yield the best results.

And so, a company coming into an inefficient Staple manufacturer,
purely looking for profit, purely out of self-interest and getting rid of
those jobs and outsourcing them in the name of the efficiency, that that
creates the greatest good for the greatest number. That is fundamental
belief that we have in America about free enterprise. He has to defend
that head on.

And I think when it is defended head on, it`s subject to a lot more
skepticism than we realize.

SCHILLER: But he doesn`t have the narrative. I mean, Romney doesn`t
have the personal narrative to really defend it, right? I mean, you like
the story who came up from a working class background and made it good.
Everybody in America loves that story. He doesn`t have that story,
doesn`t have that narrative.

I think it`s a much harder thing for him to give that speech and be
believed by most Americans.

O`DONNELL: He`s not Steve Jobs. You don`t have a product in your
hand that you can thank Mitt Romney for. There`s not one part of your life
that`s better, thanks to Mitt Romney`s operations. That would help a lot,
wouldn`t it?

SCHILLER: It would help tremendously because people don`t understand
high financing. They don`t understand this kind of profit-taking. And
that`s something Romney has got to overcome, not just now, but really as we
move through. Why should he be the guy that takes over the country rather
than the president, President Obama?

So, I think it`s going to be tough for him.

O`DONNELL: Last word?

HAYES: I think Ezra and Joe made a really important point. He led
with his jaw in this saying that it was about job creation when that was
obviously manifesting on -- no one at Bain -- someone at Wall Street the
other day I interviewed while I was prepping a piece on Bain said, private
equity is about firing people. At its base, it`s about firing people.

O`DONNELL: MSNBC`s Chris Hayes and Wendy Schiller of Brown University
-- thank you both very much for joining me tonight.

HAYES: Thank you.

SCHILLER: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, what Bain Capital actually did and did not do
while Mitt Romney worked there.

And later, Fred Armisen of "Saturday Night Live" and (INAUDIBLE) joins
me.

And I will finally reveal why we don`t do a Friday edition of THE LAST
WORD.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY FALLON: Mitt Romney won the New Hampshire primary with 39
percent of the vote. He said the voters of New Hampshire have spoken loud
and clear and said, well, if this is all we`ve got.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Private equity leaders getting rich at the
expense of workers.

NARRATOR: Mitt Romney became CEO of Bain capital the day it was
formed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They fire people. They cut benefits. They sell
assets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt Romney and Bain guys, they don`t care who I
am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let`s look deeper into his life. What did he do
when he was the CEO of this holding company?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The pro-Gingrich super PAC Winning Our Future is now
running ads in South Carolina, directing voters to an online film about
Mitt Romney`s time as head of Bain Capital. Romney`s campaign estimates
his wealth between $190 million and $250 million, the bulk of which came
from his Bain tenure. Romney was the CEO of Bain capital from 1984 to 1990
and from 1992 to 1999.

We want to remind viewers that NBC Universal and Bain Capital are each
part owner of the Weather Channel, something that gets stuck in this
teleprompter every time I say Bain Capital.

It explains why we are hitting Bain Capital so hard here, part owner
with NBC, you`re in trouble with us.

Today, taking questions from the media in South Carolina, Mitt Romney
defended himself against the attacks on his record at Bain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Every time that we invested in the business, it was to try
and encourage that business to have ongoing life. The idea of making a
short-term profit actually doesn`t really exist in business because no one
wants to buy something or buy stock in a company that`s just going to be a
short-term success. You want it to be a long term.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: In 1992, Bain bought the American Pad and Paper Company
for $5 million. Four years later, AMPAD went public. Bain sold stock and
received about $50 million for it is investors and itself. That`s in
addition to the management fees and dividends reaped during four years of
ownership.

Four years after that, AMPAD went bankrupt. All told, Bain Capital
made $100 million on that deal.

Joining me now is Felix Salmon, the finance blogger for "Reuters".

Felix, we here on the political desk don`t know that much about how
this operations work. We need you.

Is this a proper area of examination for someone who has run some of
these operations?

FELIX SALMON, REUTERS: I don`t see why not. Most of us know what
it`s like to run a household or we can imagine what it`s like to run a
small business. And so, we think to ourselves, running a big business is a
bit like that. But it`s not.

You`re using highly sophisticated financial techniques and you`re
borrowing enormous amounts of money and you`re making companies incredibly
fragile. It`s like flying a supersonic jet. You can go incredibly fast
and make lots of money but they can blow up crash really easily.

And so, the trick is, if you`re someone like Mitt Romney, to get this
thing accelerating as fast as you can, sell out, and then you`re nowhere
near when the crash happens.

O`DONNELL: With absolutely no interest in the long term?

SALMON: None. You have a sort of five-year time horizon. You want
to get in --

O`DONNELL: That`s short term in the business world, five years?

SALMON: No, no, five years is actually quite long term.

O`DONNELL: In the modern business world?

SALMON: Short term is what happens after you take it public and they
worry about every single quarterly earnings report and we need to worry
about our stock price.

The private equity thinks of itself as thinking for long term because
it`s for five years rather than just three months. It`s not like a family
business where you think I want to leave my grandchildren and something
which they can look after and earn. No. That`s as far as it gets in the
world of high finance.

O`DONNELL: Do you -- and what you`re seeing in these TV ads, is there
anything that you think is unreasonable?

SALMON: Well, as Chris were saying, it`s fundamentally anti-financial
capitalism and in the Republican primary that`s a little bit odd. But I
think it`s perfectly reasonable to call attention to this and say, this is
the human cost of capitalism. What you`re doing is borrowing huge amounts
of money and you`re creating incredibly fragile companies, and you`re
trying to make as much money as you can for yourself without any regard
whatsoever to the human cost.

O`DONNELL: There are a lot of people that went to the school that
Mitt Romney went to school for, who were positioned to do this kind of
work, who chose not to. There are people who do think about that woman who
they`ve never met.

SALMON: Well, most of us couldn`t do it. You need a certain breed of
like ruthlessness to be able to do it. You need to enjoy firing people if
they don`t do a good job. You need to enjoy --

O`DONNELL: Or if they do a perfectly good job but they cost more
money that you want to allow in that section of your --

SALMON: Or expensive than the same person in China. Yes.

O`DONNELL: Or if you`re just trying to take all of the money that you
can out of the company, you don`t want to be paying these salaries. They
don`t need what we would have in the past considered normal business
rationales for hiring and firing in these takeovers.

SALMON: Well, the normal business -- the standard business rationale
for doing any is I will make money doing this. And firing people if it`s
profitable, then lots of people will do that.

But it`s still a minority. Most people wouldn`t do that. I feel very
uncomfortable if I have ever been asked to fire someone and most people are
like us and some people actually relish it and it`s a different skill set.
And it speaks to, you know, the kind of person that Mitt Romney is.

O`DONNELL: And when you hear Romney saying, this is all about envy.
That is what those guys tell themselves when they`re doing this kind of
work. Oh, these people would love to be doing what I`m doing.

SALMON: He`s convinced everybody wants to be like him, because he is
worth $200 million and you`re not, we just want to be worth 2$200 million
as well.

O`DONNELL: Felix Salmon of "Reuters" -- thank you very much for
joining us tonight.

SALMON: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, has the GOP presidential candidates go against
Mitt Romney, the president goes into campaign mode. We`ll hear from one of
the Obama campaign managers and the man who studies President Barack Obama
even more closely than you do. The talented Fred Armisen of "SNL" will
join me coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you support a guy
named Barack Hussein Obama for president of the United States, you have to
assume that the odds may not be in your favor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That was President Obama in Chicago last night delivering
one of his well-worn jokes at a campaign fund-raiser, which left him with a
campaign treasury now four times greater than all the money that the Romney
campaign has raised so far. Fundraising audiences still fall for all of
the president`s jokes, including the old one about the odds being against
him, even though the odds are now clearly in his favor.

In the latest "Reuters" poll, President Obama beats Romney in a head
to head match up, 48 to 43. Joining me now from Chicago is President
Obama`s deputy campaign manager, Stephanie Cutter.

Thanks for joining me tonight, Stephanie. Mitt Romney has now taken
to equating what President Obama did with General Motors to what Bain was
doing routinely with other companies. How would you respond to that?

STEPHANIE CUTTER, OBAMA CAMPAIGN DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, I
would point out a couple of things. First of all, the president took the
action that he did on General Motors and Chrysler for one specific reason,
to save 1.4 million jobs, and to save an American iconic manufacturing
sector that this country`s relied on for centuries.

You know, the president provided a loan to GM, and then had them go
through a structured bailout. And now GM is making significant profits.
Just last year, 100,000 jobs were created in the auto industry.

Now, let`s compare that to Bain. You know, Mitt Romney went into
companies, put them through bankruptcy for a specific purpose. It wasn`t
to create jobs. It was to make himself and his partners a profit. There`s
a big difference there.

And let`s also not forget that Mitt Romney was against the bailout of
the auto industry. He would have denied them a loan, which means they
would have gone under. So jobs would have gone overseas. We wouldn`t have
had an auto industry here in this country.

O`DONNELL: It`s really left Rush Limbaugh confused. I want you to
hear what he has said about Mitt Romney comparing what Bain was doing to
what the president did with General Motors.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: For Romney to equate what he was
doing at Bain Capital with Obama is mystifying to me. Now, I understand it
in one regard. And it`s an attempt to inoculate himself from criticism,
because if he can say to the media, well, hey, your favorite son, Barack
Obama, did nothing different than what I did, he`s thinking maybe he can
nullify some of their criticism.

That`s not going to work. They are going to criticize him no matter
what. He starts at a disadvantage. He`s a Republican. Therefore, he`s a
mean-spirited, racist, bigot extremist. Obama is a liberal Democrat, means
he`s tolerant, passionate, compassionate, kind, understanding, all of those
cliches.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Now, Stephanie, when you`re in the Democratic presidential
campaign re-election headquarters, and you`re watching a Republican
presidential primary, you`re anticipating a bunch of things that can happen
at different points along the road. Is there anyone there, a month ago,
bet on the Republicans debating where free enterprise should be limited and
in what ways in the American economy at this point in the campaign?

CUTTER: Well, Lawrence, we have been watching and wondering why
nobody was even bringing up this topic, because it was brought up in the
2008 campaign. In fact, John McCain attacked Mitt Romney for precisely
these reasons, that Mitt Romney is taking credit for jobs, taking credit
for being in the private sector. And Mitt -- John McCain was holding him
accountable for what that meant, that he went, right in companies, stripped
them down, sent them into bankruptcy, and fired workers, sent those jobs
overseas.

So this debate was had in 2008 by Republicans. We`ve been waiting for
it to happen. We`re pleased that these issues are finally being raised.
We disagree that it`s free enterprise on trial. That`s not what this is
about.

This is about Mitt Romney staking his entire candidacy on his private
sector jobs record. And it`s only natural for people to ask exactly what
that record is and what that record means. And are those the values that
we want in the Oval Office? I think most people are saying no.

O`DONNELL: Stephanie, there was a time when you had three names up on
the wall there: Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty and someone else -- this was
reported in the "New York Times" -- as your possible opponent. Are you
down to one name? Do you just have a picture of Mitt Romney up on the wall
there?

CUTTER: Well, certainly Mitt Romney has the momentum. And -- but
there are several others still in the race. You`ve been in this job for a
long time. You`ve been in this business for a long time. You never count
anybody until they are out. Anything could happen.

But certainly Mitt Romney has the momentum. He`s more likely now than
anybody else to get the nomination. We`ll see what happens. We`re pleased
that this debate is happening over free enterprise and his record on Bain.
We`ll see what happens.

O`DONNELL: Stephanie Cutter, the happy looking deputy campaign
manager for the Obama reelection campaign, thank you for very much for
joining us tonight.

CUTTER: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, the man who plays President Obama on Saturday
nights, Fred Armisen. He is going to join me to talk to SNL, the new
season, and the new season of his IFC show, "Portlandia."

And in the Rewrite tonight, Mitt Romney is accusing a majority of
Americans of committing one of the seven deadly sins.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON STEWART, "THE DAILY SHOW": Who would be the first pundit to
dismiss Ron Paul`s second place finish?

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: NBC News can now project that Ron Paul
will finish second.

O`DONNELL: If you take Ron Paul out of this, what would have happened
to Huntsman? Huntsman is the real second here.

STEWART: No, you can`t. You`re not allowed to just take Ron Paul out
of this. That`s just physics. You`re not. And you know if you add two
zeros to the end of Huntsman`s totals, he would have been in first by
hundreds of thousands of votes, an unprecedented victory. Why is no one
talking about this?

Because it didn`t happen!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Do you think
the millionaire ought to pay more in taxes than the bus driver or less?

CROWD: More.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Twenty seven years ago, a Republican president could say
millionaires should pay more in taxes than a bus driver. Now that`s called
envy. This is what we heard today from the front-runner for the Republican
nomination, a man who supposedly worships everything Ronald Reagan ever
said or did.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATT LAUER, "THE TODAY SHOW": When you said that "we already have a
leader who divides us with the bitter politics of envy," I`m curious about
the word "envy." Do you suggest that anyone who questions the policies and
practices of Wall Street and financial institutions, anyone who has
questions about the distribution of wealth and power in this country is
envious? Is it about jealousy or is it about fairness?

ROMNEY: You know, I think it`s about envy. I think it`s about class
warfare.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Envy. So Mitt Romney is accusing anyone who questions the
policies and practices of Wall Street and financial institutions, anyone
who has questions about the distribution of wealth and power in this
country, of envy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN FREEMAN, ACTOR: There are seven deadly sins. Gluttony, greed,
sloth, wrath, pride, lust, and envy. Seven.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Now, when you say something like that in politics, you
want to know how many people are you talking about? How many Americans
does Mitt Romney think are committing the deadly sin of envy?

In November, participants in an NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll
were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the following statement:
"the current economic structure of the country is out of balance and favors
a very small proportion of the rich over the rest of the country. America
needs to reduce the power of major banks and corporations and demand
greater accountability and transparency. The government should not provide
financial aid to corporations and should not provide tax breaks to the
rich."

The results were 60 percent strongly agreed, and another 16 percent
mildly agreed. So Mitt Romney is saying that 76 percent of Americans are
guilty of the sin of envying Mitt Romney. A new poll out just yesterday
found two-thirds of the country see a strong or very strong conflict
between rich and poor.

We know this about Mitt Romney. He is very simple minded and he is a
liar. He will say anything to get elected. That`s why he said liberal
things to try to get elected in Massachusetts. And that`s why he`s saying
conservative things to try to win Republican presidential primaries.

The man will say anything. So it`s hard to tell what he might
actually think or if he actually thinks. If Mitt Romney does think that 76
percent of Americans envy him, his wealth, that we are all sitting here
envying him, all of that money, then he needs to listen to someone who
actually knows something about our economy.

Alan Krueger is the chairman of President Obama`s Council of Economic
Advisers. He knows that questioning the operations of financial
institutions and income distribution in any country is called economics,
not envy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALAN KRUEGER, CHAIRMAN, COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: The trends that
have taken place in the U.S. over the past three decades are particularly
of concern to economists, to others. We`ve seen a steady decline, erosion
in the size of the middle class. That`s not good for the economy. That`s
not good for all segments of the American society.

And I think some of our policies have exacerbated that, such as
through tax policy. And I think that there are certainly legitimate policy
issues. And as the president`s economic adviser, it`s something that we
are focused on.

I don`t think this is an issue about envy at all. I think we`d like
to see all segments of society do well. The president has said when all
Americans do well, America does well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every politician has --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- has a plan but nothing --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- seems to work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But now there`s hope.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Imagine a Portland with 100 percent employment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One hundred percent employment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A Portland where we all have jobs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Completing each --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- others --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- sentences.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some of us get paid to start a sentence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the others get paid to finish it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Finish it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kids.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Couples..

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Soccer cousins.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Idiots.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People who are not good at reading.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Time for a programming note. Well, this is actually more
of a programming explanation. Many of you for a long time now on Twitter
have wondered about and/or complained about the fact that I do not do a
Friday version of THE LAST WORD. THE LAST WORD is reliably delivered to
your homes every Monday through Thursday at 10:00 PM. But Friday at 10:00
PM, it`s time for me to kick back and watch this appointment television.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey guys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is Dana. I`ll be taking care of you
today. If you have any questions about the menu, please let me know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I guess I have a question about the chicken, if
you can tell us a little bit more about it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The chicken is a heritage breed, woodland raised
chicken, that`s been fed a diet of sheep milk, soy and hazelnut.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And this is local?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, absolutely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m going to ask you one more time, it`s local.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is that USDA organic or Oregon organic or
Portland organic?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s just all across the board organic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hazelnuts, these are local.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How big is the area where the chickens are able
to roam free.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m sorry to interrupt. I had exactly the same
question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four acres.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now, Fred Armisen, the co-creator, co-writer
and co-star of "Portlandia," now in its second season on IFC, Fridays at
10:00 p.m.

Fred, thank you very much for joining me. Local is important to you
in a chicken, it seems?

FRED ARMISEN, "PORTLANDIA": Yes. Every ingredient.

O`DONNELL: That scene goes on and on and on. The most wonderful take
it far beyond its logical extreme, exchange with the waitress about the
details of the menu.

ARMISEN: Yes, we never get to eat.

O`DONNELL: And this is shot in Portland?

ARMISEN: We shoot the whole series in Portland, yes.

O`DONNELL: You get the feeling watching "Portlandia" that it is a
rather liberal place up there. There are some people on your show who are
actually to my left, when I think about their politics.

ARMISEN: Yeah, I would say it definitely leans that way. You can see
it all around you when you`re there, especially downtown. Every kind of
store, you just -- it`s like a feeling you get. The bumper stickers
everywhere.

O`DONNELL: There`s kind of a hippy feeling, an old hippy feeling kind
of still in the air?

ARMISEN: Yeah, but kind of like a post-hippy, in that a lot of these
people have sort of built really good lives for themselves now.

O`DONNELL: They can afford really nice chicken.

ARMISEN: Yes, exactly.

O`DONNELL: You have one of the toughest jobs in show business, the
role of President Barack Obama on "Saturday Night Live."

ARMISEN: Yeah.

O`DONNELL: That -- from the start, I just thought, wow, what a
challenge, because the guy -- you really have to study -- you`ve had to
study his manner to find those little things that we go, oh yeah, he does
do that, doesn`t he.

ARMISEN: Yeah. It`s also the writing, too. Jim Downey, as you know,
writes most of those pieces, as does Seth Myers. And it takes a lot of
that as well to figure out like where -- the things he talks about and the
way he says them. So that`s a huge part of it as well.

O`DONNELL: This Republican campaign this year has just given your
writers, you guys at "SNL" -- you couldn`t have asked for it all.

ARMISEN: We couldn`t have imagined it.

O`DONNELL: You thought Michele Bachmann was going to be enough. That
was like, OK, thank you, she`s running. And then you get Herman Cain. You
didn`t see him coming.

ARMISEN: No, we did not see any of this. You can`t even believe --
and the dialogue, I mean, the words, we barely have to change anything.
It`s a really lucky thing.

O`DONNELL: How do you -- where do you fit "Portlandia" shooting into
"SNL"? Is that done during the "SNL" hiatus?

ARMISEN: Yeah. It works out -- the timing-wise, we end "SNL" in May.
And that`s -- I just head right over to Portland, and we shoot all summer.
We`re done by the beginning of September. So it just happens to work out.

O`DONNELL: So you`re just in this constant sleep deprived thing. You
don`t get the summer rest?

ARMISEN: No, sleep is but a memory to me.

O`DONNELL: And this weekend, you can`t tip your hand on what`s going
to happen at 11:30 Saturday night?

ARMISEN: No. Mostly because we don`t know.

O`DONNELL: Yes. What is the writing schedule of the show?

ARMISEN: The writing schedule, we pitch on Monday. Tuesday, we write
during the day, but mostly during the night, until the next day. And then
Thursday and Friday, we just write.

Wednesday as well a little bit. We just keep writing.

O`DONNELL: But then you can get hit with news events on Friday --

ARMISEN: Yes.

O`DONNELL: -- that suddenly demands to be the opening of the show.
Seth and Jim Downey, people like that, will go into overdrive to try to
produce something?

ARMISEN: Yes. It`s funny. They do it sometimes walking around.
It`s really dramatic. It`s like a movie where they are crossing things out
and throwing things in. But it is very -- there are a lot of last-minute
things. Even during the day on Saturday, they will switch things around.

O`DONNELL: You always end up creating more material than you use,
right? You do a run through early, before 11:30. And it turns out, hey,
we have 20 minutes more show than we --

ARMISEN: Oh, more than that. I mean, there`s always a few extra
sketches, maybe three or four extra ones, that never see the light of day.

O`DONNELL: Why can`t we see online some of the stuff from the
rehearsal show that doesn`t make it into the show?

ARMISEN: Yeah. I would -- maybe that`s something that might happen.
Once in a while, they will have something online but --

O`DONNELL: Is Lorne in his office now? Should we go over now and
just see --

ARMISEN: Yeah, let`s shout. He`s only a few floors that way.

O`DONNELL: If you don`t have room for it on your website, we could
put it on this website. We could get it out there.

ARMISEN: Please do it.

O`DONNELL: Fred Armisen of IFC`s "Portlandia," Fridays at 10:00 PM.
That`s when I`m watching TV. And NBC`s "Saturday Night Live." Thanks very
much for joining me tonight, Fred.

ARMISEN: Thank you for having me.

O`DONNELL: You can have THE LAST WORD online at our blog,
TheLastWord.MSNBC.com. And you can follow my Tweets @Lawrence.

"THE ED SHOW" is up next.


END

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