'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Thursday, January 26, 2012
Read the transcript to the Thursday show
Guests: Tom Brokaw, Chris Hayes, John Heilemann, Ed Rendell, Elizabeth Warren
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: Breaking news: the 19th Republican
presidential primary debate has just ended. And after a day that saw the
Republican establishment in an all-out attack against Newt Gingrich in
support of Mitt Romney, there were four men on the stage tonight, but the
debate began as a one-on-one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
were a big part of why we have the housing crisis in the nation that we
have. And we`ve had this discussion before. Speaker Gingrich was hired by
Freddie Mac to promote them, to influence other people throughout
Washington, encouraging them to not to dismantle these two entities -- I
think it was an enormous mistake.
I think instead we should have had a whistle-blower and not a horn-
tooter. He should have stood up and said, look, these things are a
disaster, this is a crisis. He should have been anxiously telling the
American people that these entities were causing a housing bubble that
would cause a collapse that we`ve seen here in Florida and around the
And are they a problem today? Absolutely. They`re offering
mortgages, again, to people who can`t possibly repay them. We`re creating
another housing bubble which will hurt the American people. The right
course for our housing industry is to get people back to work so they can
buy homes again.
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The governor`s been
attacking me inaccurately and he knows it. The contracts we released from
Freddie Mac said I would do no consulting -- no lobbying, none. But
there`s a more interesting story. We began digging in after Monday night
because, frankly, I had had about enough of this.
We discovered to our shock, Governor Romney owns shares of both Fannie
Mae and Freddie Mac. Governor Romney made $1 million off selling some of
that. Governor Romney has an investment in Goldman Sachs, which is today
foreclosing on Floridians.
So, maybe Governor Romney, in the spirit of openness, should tell us
how much money he`s made off of how many households that have been
foreclosed by his investments.
ROMNEY: First of all, my investments are not made by me. My
investments for the last 10 years have been to blind trusts, managed by a
Secondly, the investments that they made, we`ve learned about this, as
we made our financial disclosure, have been in mutual funds and bonds. I
don`t own stock in either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. There are bonds that
the investor has held through mutual funds.
And, Mr. Speaker, I know that sounds like an enormous revelation. But
have you checked your own investments? You also have investments from
mutual funds that also invest in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now are: John Heilemann from the debate
location in Florida. He`s the national affairs editor for "New York"
magazine and MSNBC political analyst. Tom Brokaw, NBC News special
correspondent and author of "The Time of Our Lives: A Conversation About
America, Who We Are, Where We`ve Been and Where We Need to Go Now to
Recapture the American Dream." And Chris Hayes, host of MSNBC`s "UP WITH
Thank you all for joining me tonight.
Tom, how do you score it?
TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I always let the
voters decide how they want to score it. I really just try to call ball
and strikes here, you know, who scored the most runs tonight, we`ll know on
Tuesday when the Florida voters go to the polls.
I do think objectively, however, that there was a different Mitt
Romney on the stage tonight. I think in the last 10 days or so, the
questions have been both, can he throw a punch and can he take a punch?
Well, tonight, he threw a punch pretty effectively against Newt Gingrich at
The speaker did not look happy on that stage. I think one of the
essential questions about his work for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac has never
been asked. For all the explanations and all the accusations against him,
what, in fact, did you do for $1.6 million? That`s a simple question.
I think on the other hand, Governor Romney still and will continue to
have difficulty explaining the difference between what happened with health
care and Massachusetts and the Obama plan.
O`DONNELL: You have an insight, I believe, into these candidates
standing up there that none of the rest of us can have since you`ve been at
that moderator`s desk at so many time and get them at close range.
I had this feeling tonight watching Gingrich and watching Romney,
Romney prepares. He goes into debate prep sessions. He gets things, he
memorizes things. He phrases them well.
And Gingrich -- I have the feeling there`s not that much prep
involved. That he`s actually just standing back in the batter`s box
waiting for his pitch, looking for that pitch, looking for that John King
pitch that he can just knock right out of the park. And if that pitch
doesn`t come, the magic doesn`t happen.
BROKAW: Well, but Newt Gingrich has been doing this every day since
he left the speaker`s job and every day before that and when he ran for
Congress. This is a man who has been on a constant loop of being a
politician someplace in America, speaking on a wide variety of issues. So
he`s tuned up and ready to dance whenever the music starts. I don`t think
that`s a real problem for him.
O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes, when it came to that question about the
investments in Freddie Mac -- and by the way, this mutual fund that Mitt
Romney was talking about was called something, I saw it down there, the
government fund mutual fund. It`s very -- half of it at least was Freddie
You got the feeling that when Romney turned to Newt and said, you know
what`s in your -- that he didn`t really know what was in his investments.
CHRIS HAYES, "UP WITH CHRIS HAYES": Right, it was remarkable that he
-- that Gingrich would lead with that and not have already vetted and
covered what the obvious response would be. And he didn`t even have a
response. He just sort of glowered at him and went along.
And I thought, generally, Gingrich`s performance was remarkable
listless and ineffective. I thought he would -- he seemed cowed. He
seemed not particularly energetic.
I thought it was -- he really got his butt kicked all over the place I
though tonight. And I was surprised by that because he obviously had a lot
to lose first of all because the polling does show Romney trending upwards
and Newt regressing to the mean of what his polling has been. And also
because his best shot at the nomination, I think, probably his only shot,
was to parlay the momentum off of South Carolina into a big win in Florida.
And I thought -- it was almost like he didn`t show up tonight.
O`DONNELL: John Heilemann, Newt Gingrich has gotten most of his
momentum out of debates. What did he get out of this debate tonight and
what did he need to get?
JOHN HEILEMANN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Lawrence, I think that
Chris Hayes is right. I think this was an incredibly important debate. I
think both the debates this week are important for the reasons that Chris
said. I think that Newt Gingrich needs to win Florida if he has -- if he`s
going to have any chance to win the Republican nomination.
Now, I think he`s performed poorly in both debates.
I think, to your point earlier, you have him exactly right. I think
he came into this debate tonight and did not have a strategy, did not have
-- did not set out to accomplish anything in particular. He was
extemporizing most of the time. And I think it hurt terribly in the
context of Romney who was terribly -- not just well-prepared, but had a
real strategy, knew what he wanted to do, knew where he wanted to project
There was a point not only where Romney had that canned line where he
came back at Gingrich on his finances but where Wolf Blitzer offered
Gingrich is chance to let the subject go and Gingrich kind backed down and
said, "I`m ready to call a truce on this." And Romney stepped back up into
this and said, "No, no, I don`t want to let it go, let`s litigate the issue
I think that was a very strong moment for him. And I think throughout
-- once Gingrich decided to back down on the issue of finances and it was
an issue where he was not well-prepared, there is data out there, there`s
opposition research out there that suggests that Romney may not be telling
the truth about whether some of these investments were in blind trusts,
especially the ones on Fannie and Freddie, Gingrich didn`t seem to know
I thought that once Gingrich backed down on that issue, he was
deflated and pretty much out of the debate for the rest of the time. And
the person who really took the fight to Romney for the rest of the debate
was Rick Santorum, who had a very good debate performance, although he is
so far behind here now and so broke. I don`t think it will matter very
much for him.
So, this is a big win I think for Mitt Romney and a big loss for Newt
O`DONNELL: I want to get to Rick Santorum because I was surprised at
how well he did tonight. He really became a factor in the debate, if not
necessarily the final outcome in Florida.
But I also want to talk about the day we saw that led up to this.
And, Tom, it`s unlike any day I know of in Republican Party politics or
Democratic Party politics where a party got together and said, there`s
someone we have to stop in this race, and the attacks came on Newt Gingrich
like we`ve never seen.
Bob Dole, which is not surprising, a Romney endorser, putting out a
letter saying Newt was a lot of trouble to deal with in congressional
A shocking piece by Elliott Abrams that surprise -- I know none of
this history -- that Elliott Abrams goes back to the point where Newt
Gingrich had real differences with Ronald Reagan on foreign policy and
quoted Newt Gingrich in a 1986 House floor statement saying this about
President Reagan: "Measured against the scale and momentum of the Soviet
Empire`s challenge, the Reagan administration has failed, is failing and
without a dramatic change in strategy will continue to fail. President
Reagan is clearly failing."
And this is Newt Gingrich who`s been the Reagan Republican in the
campaign so far.
BROKAW: He said something even more damning than that. When Ronald
Reagan was going to meet with Mikhail Gorbachev, he actually compared it to
Neville Chamberlain meeting with Hitler.
O`DONNELL: Yes, that`s another quote that was released again today.
BROKAW: So, I`ve actually looked at those diaries as well. I keep
them on my bedside it`s such an insight into what Ronald Reagan was
thinking when he was the president. And I looked again today and Newt
Gingrich is in there as a young congressman early -- and just kind of in
It doesn`t mean that he didn`t have solid conservative credentials
when he was in the House or when he was the speaker. But his association
with Ronald Reagan -- and he`s even thrown in Margaret Thatcher on a couple
of occasions -- I think really does kind of stretch the relationships that
they probably had.
O`DONNELL: And with Dole, he called Dole, back in those days, the tax
collector of the welfare state. I working in the Senate occasionally with
Bob Dole trying to reach compromises, he would mutter to us about Gingrich
and these horrible stresses he has with Newt Gingrich.
BROKAW: Well, the thing about Newt Gingrich is he has something to
say about something 24 hours a day, seven days a week. When you get into a
campaign like that, that`s going to catch up to you.
O`DONNELL: That`s why I want to go to how Gingrich defended his
relationship to Ronald Reagan in this debate tonight where it came up.
Let`s go to Gingrich on Ronald Reagan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GINGRICH: It`s increasingly interesting to watch the Romney attack
machine coordinate things and all of a sudden today, there are like four
different articles by four different people that randomly show up. The
fact is, I`m thrilled that Michael Reagan has endorsed me and will be
campaigning with me here in Florida. I remember very fondly in 1995 when
we were at the Goldwater Institute and Nancy Reagan said, you know, Barry
gave Ronnie the torch. And now Ronnie`s passing the torch to Newt and his
team in Congress.
So I think it`s reasonable to say -- and I think the governor said it
fairly, I am vastly closer to Reagan. With those of us who were in the
trenches fighting in the `80s, it would be nice to be recognized what we
actually did and not to have orchestrated attacks to try to distort the
history of that period.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes, what matters do you think to Florida voters
in this discussion of -- that for some of them might feel like ancient
HAYES: I think what matters is actually the subtext of all this,
which is the signaling from the establishment. I think the actual content
of who`s closer to Reagan is actually less important. People -- voters
make decisions based on the sources they trust -- and the sources they
trust can be everything from a cable news network to talk radio to other
elected officials that they once admired.
And what`s happening in the subtext of this concerted effort by the
Republican establishment is a kind of critical mass of people that have
some reputational capital leveraging it with the voters to say, stop, do
not proceed. Do not pass go. It will be a disaster.
And the unanimity with which people have said that I think cannot but
help to have an impact on how voters -- a similar thing happened with
Howard Dean in 2004. It wasn`t quite as unanimous, but there was a moment
in which much of the establishment -- this happened after Al Gore endorsed
Dean -- and all of a sudden people started to think, this guy might
actually get the nomination. There was a very concerted effort for people
to come forward and say, do not do this, this is crazy, he`s not electable,
et cetera, et cetera.
And what`s happening with Newt is unlike anything I`ve ever seen
precisely because there`s so much personal that has been built that has now
being let go. But I think that`s really what it is. It is signaling from
the establishment to the base voters saying, believe us, trust us, do not
O`DONNELL: John Heilemann, in Florida, Newt Gingrich on the campaign
trail today is clearly taking on the establishment. He`s not trying to
duck and pretend this isn`t happening and he`s saying, you, the Florida
voters, have to rise up against them.
HEILEMANN: Yes, and I think it`s interesting, Lawrence, there`s been
some reporting and I`ve seen it here a little bit myself where there`s a
really clear divide between the kinds of crowds that are showing up for
Romney events, the kinds of crowds that are showing up for Gingrich events.
You`re talking about a big class divide where you have a much more
blue collar, much more Tea Party, much more populist crowd showing up for
Gingrich events and a much more upper crust, wine track -- you know, when
people used to divide voters into the wine track and the beer track, you
got the beer track for Gingrich and very much the wine track and the
cucumber sandwiches with the crust trimmed off kind of crowd showing up for
I think Gingrich is trying to lean into this and the only thing he can
do is to try to say, you know, do you guys really want to vote for the
candidate who`s the approved candidate of Bob Dole and John McCain? Is
that the kind of Republican Party that is the new Republican Party? That`s
not the party that we are anymore. And he`s trying to take that Tea Party
mantle, his campaign is sending out a lot of press releases talking about
the backing of the Tea Party.
And the question ultimately on next Tuesday is going to be, what is
the Republican Party of Florida --
O`DONNELL: We just lost John Heilemann. We`re going to take a break
John Heilemann will be back. Tom Brokaw will be back. Chris Hayes
will be back.
Stay with us.
Coming up, more on tonight`s debate with our panel and joining me
later, the Democratic Senate candidate from Massachusetts, Elizabeth
Warren. We`ll find out what she thinks about Mitt Romney, his taxes and
how that`s playing in Massachusetts. That`s coming up.
O`DONNELL: More on tonight`s debate with our panel, Tom Brokaw, John
Heilemann and Chris Hayes, that`s coming up next.
And later, Elizabeth Warren will join me with her take on Mitt Romney.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DIANE SAWYER, ABC NEWS: Nine months, 11 days until Election Day. Are
you going to win?
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes.
SAWYER: How much do you want it?
OBAMA: Badly, because I think the country needs it. Whoever wins the
Republican primary is going to be a standard-bearer for a vision of the
country that I don`t think reflects who we are. The proposal --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was President Obama in an interview tonight with
Diane Sawyer of "ABC World News."
Back with us now, John Heilemann of "New York" magazine, Tom Brokaw,
NBC News special correspondent, and Chris Hayes, host of MSNBC`s "UP WITH
Tom, I was struck by the absence of President Obama in tonight`s
debate. Here it is, the week of a State of the Union address. There`s
plenty of Obama agenda to talk about and attack in a Republican
presidential debate and he wasn`t much of a figure in this one.
BROKAW: Yes, but the big issue tonight was for Mitt Romney to try to
kneecap Speaker Gingrich. I think that was a larger theme for him. So
Obama was set aside, a couple of references to the speech, kind of
dismissive, obviously about health care.
They didn`t like that. There was a fair amount of discussion, as you
remember, toward the end about Obama not being a great friend of Israel.
That plays very well in Florida. It`s a big issue.
But, no, it didn`t come up very much. And I`ve talked to some people
in the Obama White House in the last 24 hours or so, and they`re saying,
let it be Gingrich, let it be Gingrich.
O`DONNELL: Yes, obviously.
O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes, on Gingrich, if he is to survive, he was
going to have to do something tonight that I don`t think any of us saw.
So, if we are -- if we are talking about Romney going forward, what the
Obama campaign was watching tonight is a potential nominee having to talk
about Swiss bank accounts, having to talk about, how much money are you
making from Florida foreclosures, as asked by Newt Gingrich --
HAYES: Having to talk about his trustee and his blind trust, which
even if that`s a -- if that turns out to vet out and be the -- a proper
defense of the actual transaction, a trustee and a blind trust are not
exactly things that most Americans are using to handle their money.
I think Mitt Romney -- the two biggest weaknesses that Mitt Romney has
if he were to proceed to become the nominee that have come out of this, A,
choosing to embrace the mantle of candidate of the 1 percent, of Mr. 1
percent, of this kind of John Gotti, job creator figure who is using his
business success almost as a cultural signifier to the Republican base
because he can`t use other aspects of his personality or background to
really win over the right wing of his party.
That`s going to be a liability. He`s really embraced that. It`s
going to be impossible to run away from it.
And I think his stances on immigration, he has delighted no getting to
the right of his opponents in the Republican primary on immigration. One
of the most fascinating moments tonight, the immigration discussion that
started off the evening, the tone was so different than it had been in
previous debates -- it`s a lot easier to feed anti-immigration red meat to
a Republican crowd in front of a very white audience in Iowa or New
Hampshire than it is standing in front of a much more mixed audience in
Florida. And you saw that in the tone.
All of a sudden, they were much more defensive. They were much --
they wanted to go out their way to talk about how they weren`t against
immigrants. And I think that shows that they have real vulnerability on
that in the general.
O`DONNELL: I wanted to take a look at one of the rougher patches of
the immigration section of that discussion tonight where Mitt Romney wasn`t
really sure what is in one of his ads about Newt Gingrich. Let`s listen to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOLF BLITZER, DEBATE MODERATOR: Saying that Speaker Gingrich calls
Spanish, quote, "the language of the ghetto." What do you mean by that?
ROMNEY: I haven`t seen the ad. So, I`m sorry. I didn`t get to see
all the TV ads. I don`t know -- did he say that?
GINGRICH: As much as Governor Romney doesn`t particularly like my use
of language, I found his use of language and his deliberate distortion
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: OK. And just because we don`t get to see this very often
in debates, CNN did a check about this ad. It really is a Romney ad.
I was doing a check, too, while that happened. Now let`s run Wolf
Blitzer demonstrating to Mitt Romney that this really is his ad.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFEID FEMALE: I`m here at a time --
(END AUDIO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: All right. It looks like we don`t have that in our
control room. In any event, Wolf Blitzer actually did the check and showed
him, this is your ad.
BROKAW: And Mitt Romney said, and I approve this message.
HAYES: Right. At the end of the ad, he says, I`m Mitt Romney and I
approve this message.
O`DONNELL: Yes, that`s one of the great high-speed possibilities of
the Internet that we can do that pretty quickly.
But that was the kind of thing that this audience was not very
HAYES: No. And there was palpable discomfort throughout the entire
conversation, I think, around immigration, precisely because all the
candidates were attempts to thread this needle and because they`ve been
doing this throughout the campaign. But it`s been particularly true in
Florida as the stakes have risen, which is their super PACs and campaigns
are running ads in a variety of different mediums, whether it`s mailers,
whether Spanish language radio ads, that are incredibly negative and
cutting, and then they have to own them standing next to the person on
stage. That`s always difficult.
And tonight, I thought that no one seemed to really want to embrace
the most negative attacks that they`ve been wielding against each other in
O`DONNELL: John Heilemann, there was an annex audience that it looked
like they were in another building, a Hispanic group that were sending in
some questions from there. That`s a kind of unique arrangement for Florida
to be having a debate with those two audiences.
HEILEMANN: Yes, it is. And it`s a unique state, for sure, Lawrence.
But I think you know, we -- this issue is -- I mean, to cut to the core of
it, you know, Mitt Romney -- Newt Gingrich is right about Mitt Romney.
He has become the most right wing, anti-immigration, most
restrictionist Republican candidate among the presidential candidates.
He`s done that for a reason, tactically and strategically in this primary.
It helped him to get rid of Rick Perry.
Rick Perry`s debate performances were bad. But the truth is a lot of
the damage was done by Mitt Romney against Rick Perry on the issue of
It`s helped him to help thwart Newt Gingrich in various ways in Iowa
But now, Romney finds himself in a situation where I think a recent
poll has him with about 27 percent or 28 percent of support among Hispanics
nationally. And that is a number that makes it impossible for Mitt Romney
to win a general election.
It is particularly problematic in the context of Barack Obama who
actually is underperforming with Hispanics right now.
So there`s a real opening for a Republican candidate in a general
election who can appeal to a large number of Hispanic voters. But Mitt
Romney, in order to get this nomination, has put himself in a place where
he can`t get the number that he could get and the number he needs to get.
And so, we`re starting to see the process, here tonight and from this
day forward, Mitt Romney trying to get back into a more acceptable place
with Hispanic voters to allow him to be competitive in the fall.
O`DONNELL: All right. Let`s look the two front-runners` answer to
the final question which was about electability.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
GINGRICH: Do you want freedom and independence and a paycheck and a
job or do you want dependence and big government and food stamps and a lack
of future? And I believe if we have a big election with truly historic big
choices that we can defeat Barack Obama by a huge margin. But it won`t be
by running just as a Republican. It will be an American campaign open to
every American who prefers a paycheck to food stamps, who prefers the
Declaration of Independence to Saul Alinsky, and who prefers a strong
national security to trying to appease our enemies.
ROMNEY: I believe if you just elect the same people that change
chairs in Washington, not much will happen. I think if you want to change
Washington, you`re going to have to bring someone in who`s been on the
I`ve lived in the private sector. I know how it works. I`ve competed
with businesses around the world.
I know how to win. I know what it takes to keep America strong. I
know how to work in government, I had experience for about four years,
rather, working as the governor of Massachusetts.
I will use the experience of my life to get America right. And I will
be able to convince the American people that someone with my experience is
very different than Barack Obama, and that experience is how I`ll beat him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Tom, that just might be the perfect example about the
difference between the two. Here you have a carefully planned and
rehearsed Romney presentation on why I`m electable and Newt Gingrich goes
off into things that include some guy named Saul Alinsky who I`m not sure
many people out there have any idea who he`s talking, and what was that you
said about electability, Newt? It`s just --
BROKAW: Well, you know, what happens -- and thing about the guy of
the outside versus the inside, Newt Gingrich goes out and portrays himself
as somebody who`s an outsider but he always returns to the inside. He
lives within the confines of the Beltway in Washington. That`s where his
business is done.
On the other hand, tonight for the first time, Mitt Romney not only
seemed to have his act together, but he seemed more appealing to a lot of
people even though there`s people in that audience tonight -- I think
there`s a poll out today that you`ve probably seen, the new NBC/"Wall
Street Journal" poll, Mitt Romney runs much closer to Obama than Newt
Gingrich does. Newt Gingrich gets beat almost by a two to one margin in a
So, that`s beginning to erode the Newt Gingrich bump and the surge
from last week. But if we`ve learned anything, if there`s one short and
enduring lesson and history from these debates and from these primaries
that we`ve seen so far, check with us next week because it could change
BROKAW: Nobody has fallen in love here so far. Some people have
danced a little better one week than they have the week before. But the
prom will go on.
O`DONNELL: These are the nights when I hate the commercial breaks.
We have to wrap it there.
John Heilemann of "New York" magazine, Tom Brokaw, an NBC News special
correspondent, and Chris Hayes, host of MSNBC`s "UP WITH CHRIS HAYES" --
thank you all very much for joining me tonight.
Coming up, what Elizabeth Warren thinks of her opponent Scott Brown`s
insider trading bill? And why does Barack Obama agree with Scott Brown on
And later, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer`s performance on the tarmac
with President Obama. Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and Melissa
Harris-Perry will join me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The problem with the
answers from Congressman Gingrich and Governor Romney is that, well, they
didn`t always say what they`re saying. Governor Romney was the author of
Romneycare, which is a top-down, government-run health care system, which -
- read an article today -- has 15 different items directly in common with
Obamacare, everything from the increase in the Medicaid program, not just -
- not just that government is going to mandate you buy something as a
condition of breathing, mandate that you buy an insurance policy, something
that Governor Romney agreed to at the state level, something Congressman
Gingrich, for 20 years, advocated that the federal government can force
each and every person to enter into a private contract, something that
everyone now, at least up on this stage, says is radically
Congressman Gingrich supported it for 20 years. Governor Romney
supported it in the state, a state that is a -- pretty much a model for
what Obamacare is going to look like.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now from New Orleans, Tulane professor,
columnist for "the Nation" and MSNBC contributor and soon to be host of her
own MSNBC weekend program, debuting February 4th, Melissa Harris-Perry.
And from Philadelphia, former Pennsylvania governor and MSNBC
political analyst, Governor Ed Rendell. Thank you both for joining me
Governor Rendell, there was Rick Santorum who almost -- almost turned
this into a three-way debate. He was very, very effective, banging away at
the two front-runners from a Republican perspective on health care. He
scored a lot of points in this debate. It might be too late for it to
matter for him in the final vote total.
But that`s the Rick Santorum you have seen around Pennsylvania for
many years, isn`t it?
ED RENDELL, FORMER GOVERNOR OF PENNSYLVANIA: Sure. People are always
underrating Rick Santorum. But he knocked off a popular Democratic
congressman to win his first election, a popular, almost legendary
Democratic senator to win his election to the Senate. He lost in 2006, but
that was a wave election. So Rick Santorum is an effective campaigner.
But Rick Santorum doing well tonight, Lawrence, was good for Governor
Romney, because the votes that Rick Santorum gathered, probably not enough
to vault him into serious contention -- but if he picks up an extra three
or four percent, that`s coming from Newt Gingrich.
O`DONNELL: Melissa, I want to show you -- before we go to you, on
this Romney point, here is Rick Santorum again on health care, taking it
straight to Romney in a very powerful way. Let`s listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: I don`t like the Obama plan. His plan cuts Medicare by 500
billion dollars. We didn`t, of course, touch anything like that. He
raises taxes by 500 billion dollars. We didn`t do that. He wasn`t
interested in the eight percent of the people that were uninsured. He was
concerned about the 100 percent of the people of the country. Obamacare
takes over health care for the American people.
SANTORUM: What Governor Romney said is just factually incorrect.
Your mandate is no different than Barack Obama`s mandate. It is the same
mandate. He takes over. You take over 100 percent, just like he takes
over 100 percent, requires the mandate. The same fines that you put in
place in Massachusetts are fines that he puts in place in the federal
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Melissa, when you hear Rick Santorum effectively and
forcefully saying that Mitt Romney`s mandate is identical to Barack Obama`s
mandate -- and that is true -- what you`re seeing here is a Republican
primary campaign which is, in effect, it seems to me, de-fanging the
Republican attack on health care against President Obama in a general
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Maybe. You know,
obviously there were a lot of points being scored tonight by Santorum vis-
a-vis Romney. It was actually pretty amazing to watch that happen. But
I`m not sure that it fundamentally de-fangs the argument for the general
election, because in the general, the issue seems to be that it is
President Obama who initiated this, rather than the policies themselves.
I mean, there`s such confusion about what the individual mandate is.
It is not a top-down government-provided policy. It certainly does not end
up covering 100 percent of people. So many of the things they`re saying
are actually things that progressives had hoped for. For example, a single
payer system that was, in fact, government-run.
Instead, this is about private insurance. It has -- it is, in many
ways, a transfer of income, even more greatly towards large insurance
companies, while helping to provide sort of a larger risk pool. It is all
of those things.
But I`m not sure that it de-fangs it fully, because the issue really
was about the fact that this president oversaw health care reform.
O`DONNELL: All right, Melissa and Ed, hang on. I want you to come
back and talk to me quickly about what happened yesterday in Arizona with
Republican Governor Jan Brewer and the president at that airport. Never
seen anything like it.
And also, we`re going to be joined later by Elizabeth Warren, Senate
candidate from Massachusetts.
O`DONNELL: In an interview with ABC`s Diane Sawyer tonight, President
Obama talked about his very strange encounter with Arizona Governor Jan
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What I`ve discovered is
that I think it`s always good publicity for a Republican if they`re in an
argument with me. But this was really not a big deal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Governor Ed Rendell, you`ve greeted a lot of presidents
coming down the stairs in Pennsylvania. I`ve never seen anything like it.
Let me just say, I, for one, would have loved to see 50 governors do that
to Richard Nixon, day in and day out, if they got the chance. But we have
never seen it.
How did that happen?
RENDELL: Well, it`s wrong in two ways, Lawrence. Number one, it`s
just impolite. And it`s the president of the United States. They invite
you to come and greet the president. I did it as mayor and I did it as
And if you accept the invitation -- you don`t have to accept the
invitation. You don`t have to go. If you`re there, you treat the
president with respect. You don`t point a finger in his face. If you`ve
got something to talk to the president about and you`re angry about, do it
But number one, you don`t do that in public and disrespect the
president. And number two, you don`t tug on Superman`s cape. Every
governor`s got to know that a sitting president may be of enormous value to
the residents of their state. If there`s a disaster and you want every
county in the state put into a federal disaster declaration, you better
have a decent relationship with that president, at least a relationship
that`s a friendly relationship, if not politically allies.
So it`s dumb and it`s disrespectful.
O`DONNELL: Melissa, we keep showing that dramatic still photograph.
But I watched the entire video today, which is kind of rough. It goes over
the roof of the car -- of how long the president talked to Jan Brewer
there. And it was longer than I have ever seen a president stop for a
courtesy handshake with a visiting governor. It was a very, very -- and he
wasn`t talking most of the time. She was doing most of the talking.
Melissa, what did you see in that episode?
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, you know, the most charitable reading of it is,
here are two public officials arguing about a book, which could be actually
a really exciting sort of outcome. That`s my charitable read.
But the fact is, when I see that still, I cannot help but to be
reminded of the still photograph that was captured in 1957 in Little Rock,
Arkansas, of the young woman Hazel screaming at a young Elizabeth Eckford
(ph) on her way -- trying to get into Little Rock High School, a central
high school in Little Rock, Arkansas.
And the reason I bring up that image is because what we`ve come to
know about Hazel in the years later is that as a young woman, Hazel, the
woman who was screaming -- the young woman who was screaming at Elizabeth
Eckford, was not herself sort of particularly full of racial animus or
anything like that. But she was caught up in this moment of racial
anxiety, of making this point against these people who are coming in and
trying to force their way into the school.
And she sort of enjoyed the show of being able to yell at Elizabeth
Eckford in this moment. But that image captured all of the ugliness, all
of the nastiness of the larger political milieu. I feel like this picture
does as well.
O`DONNELL: Melissa Harris-Perry and former Governor Ed Rendell of
Pennsylvania, thank you both very much for joining me tonight.
RENDELL: Our pleasure.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, my interview with Elizabeth Warren, the front-
runner now in the Massachusetts Senate race.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SCOTT BROWN (R), MASSACHUSETTS: The insider trading bill is on
Harry`s desk right now.
OBAMA: See. I`m going to tell him. I`m going to tell him. I`m
going to tell him to get it done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was Massachusetts Republican Senator Scott Brown
lobbying President Obama. He was actually asking President Obama to, in
turn, lobby Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to bring to a vote in the
Senate Senator Brown`s bill banning insider trading among members of
Congress. The president had just expressed his support for such a bill in
his State of the Union Address.
A Republican running for reelection in the predominantly Democratic
state of Massachusetts, Senator Brown is now trying to find every way he
can to appeal to independent and Democratic party voters in Massachusetts.
But his Democratic challenger, Harvard law school professor Elizabeth
Warren, is already running well ahead, with 49 percent to Brown`s 42
percent in the latest poll.
Joining me now, Democratic Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth
Warren. Thank you very much for joining me tonight.
ELIZABETH WARREN (D), CANDIDATE FOR SENATE IN MASSACHUSETTS: Thank
you for having me.
O`DONNELL: I want to begin with a trick question. What did you hear
in the State of the Union Address the other night by President Obama that
you disagree with?
WARREN: The part that I disagree with, that`s tough. Can we start
with the part I love best? When he talked about the Consumer Financial --
when he talked about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
O`DONNELL: Of course, of course.
WARREN: I was so tickled. That`s right. And talked about getting
Rich Cordray in there, and getting the agency really up and running, and
saying to the Republicans who have been blocking it, no more. We`re --
we`re turning this agency on full blast and going to make it work. That
was the part that made my heart sing.
O`DONNELL: And he did mention something that Scott Brown is in favor
of, which is banning insider trading in the Congress. In fact, Senator
Brown`s introduced a bill to ban insider trading. If you were in the
Senate now, would you co-sponsor that bill with Senator Brown?
WARREN: Oh, you know, I have to say, I think it`s great to ban
insider trading. What I`d ask for, though, is couldn`t he make it just a
little bit tougher? I don`t think members of Congress ought to own stock
in companies that they`re writing laws that could make a difference in the
I`m really kind of tough on this one. So what I`d like to do is tweak
it up a little. But I`m really glad to see it. I think it`s the right
thing to do.
O`DONNELL: I got to tell you, having worked in the Senate and seen a
lot of the financial disclosure forms, I would tweak it beyond that. I
would say if you`re in the Congress, while you`re in the Congress, you
simply cannot own stocks. Why own stocks? There are plenty of other
things to do with your wealth, if you have wealth, when you go into the
WARREN: You know, I`m with you on this. Either don`t own it or put
it in a blind trust, you know, where someone else manages it and you
literally can`t see what`s in there. I realize there are some wealthy
individuals -- I`m not one of them -- but some wealthy individuals who have
a lot of stock portfolios.
But you`re exactly right. I don`t understand how people can be out
there in the House, in the Senate, they get inside information and they`re
making critical decisions. We need to feel like they`re making those
decisions on our behalf, not as an investor who would do better if the law
goes this way instead of that way. I agree.
O`DONNELL: Yeah, I think there`s something to be said for going a
step beyond what is just the basic minimum that you`d expect from other
people. In Congress, there should be some higher standard.
I want to talk about Mitt Romney`s tax returns. Senator Scott Brown
has endorsed Mitt Romney. And he endorsed him before he knew what tax
bracket he was in. And when talking about the tax returns, Senator Brown
said on a Boston radio station, before they were released -- he said that
Mitt Romney should release them. But then about Romney, Scott Brown said,
"he`s in a category, a lot of those folks are in categories that we don`t
Now, Scott Brown seems to be saying that Mitt Romney is in an income
category that we simply can`t understand, and that maybe when the
information comes out, it won`t make much sense to us. What`s your
reaction to that? Do you understand the income category that Mitt Romney
WARREN: Yeah, actually I think I do understand it. And that is that
Mitt Romney pays 14 percent of his income in taxes. And people who get out
there and work for a living pay 25, 28, 30, 33 percent. I get it. Mitt
Romney gets a better deal than any of the rest of us, because he manages to
earn his income in a way that has been specially protected for rich folks.
I think that`s wrong.
O`DONNELL: And what -- what -- going forward, the president has
proposed the Buffett Rule, which you might as well call the Romney rule,
kind of in reverse, like have these people pay at least 30 percent.
Senator Brown put out a press release after the State of the Union
indicating a few things he agreed with the president on. That was not one
He does not seem to believe that there`s any changes that should be
made in the taxation of the super wealth of people like Mitt Romney.
WARREN: Well, you have to remember, Senator Brown made quite a show
of signing the Grover Norquist tax pledge, saying no, no, no on any form of
increase in taxes, even if what it means is really more fairness in the
You know, this whole thing -- we talk about it with Mitt Romney and
that brings to it the fore. But there really is this issue that just keeps
going round and round. And that is look at the big corporations.
We now have these huge corporations -- the one that`s been in the news
a lot has been General Electric -- legally paying zero in taxes. And every
complication in the tax code that permits them to pay zero is absolutely
sacrosanct, according to these Republicans. But at the exact same moment,
they say to young people, you`re going to have to take on more debt to get
an education. Or they say to seniors, you may just have to learn to live
In my view, that`s really, in many ways, what this election is about.
Do we really believe that the investments we should be making as a country
are all about protecting it for those who have already made it? Or do we
believe it ought to be about investing in the future, investing in young
people and honoring the promises that we`ve made to our seniors?
I really think this is -- it`s not finance. It`s not economics. It`s
values. That`s really what this is about.
O`DONNELL: You know, I think Ross Perot brought something great to
presidential campaigning. He brought graphs. He brought and charts and
graphics. And he showed people the deficit. I would just wonder if
someone can bring to a campaign charts and graphs and show that money that
General Electric is not paying in revenue to the Treasury, and what that
means to other spending and other revenues to the Treasury, and how it
affects the man in the street, how it affects the student going to state
And you know what, it sounds like it would take a professor to do
WARREN: You know, actually, I have to say, I don`t think this stuff
is rocket science. I don`t think it`s that hard to do it, because
ultimately we`re going to pay something to keep this country going. We`re
paying something for national defense. We`re going to pay, in one form or
another, the investments in our future, for our regulatory structure.
The real question kind of is, who`s going to carry that and in what
way? Part of this that really gets to me, we say to the biggest
corporations, you can get out there and find all of these loopholes. I
read that General Electric employs 974 people to make sure that it pays
zero in taxes. How many small businesses can do that?
Small businesses -- it`s not just individual versus business. This is
really about kind of who can have all the lobbyists and who doesn`t?
Little businesses, they don`t get to hide money in the Cayman Islands.
They don`t get to say, oh, I`m going to restructure and call my employees
contractors and do all these things to try to save themselves taxes?
That means they end up picking up the slack. The other part of it is
when we don`t make investments then in America`s future, in education, when
we don`t invest in infrastructure, when we don`t invest in research, who
bears the burden on that? It`s America`s middle class. It`s a series of
choice that we have to make here.
And I just think we just have to keep making them clearer and clearer
and clearer, even if it means holding up charts. But we have to keep
talking about this.
O`DONNELL: Elizabeth Warren, thank you very much for joining me
tonight from my hometown in Boston.
WARREN: Thank you for having me here.
O`DONNELL: "THE ED SHOW" is up next with more reaction to tonight`s
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