'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Thursday, February 2, 2012
Read the transcript to the Thursday show
Guests: John Heilemann, Jonathan Capehart, Melissa Harris-Perry, Eugene Robinson, Andrea Mitchell, Jon Ralston, Frank Rich
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: In breaking fake billionaire news today,
Donald Trump, in a sudden flash of humility, finally admits he is not smart
enough, brave enough or rich enough to run for president -- but he thinks
Mitt Romney is.
ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: Donald Trump is playing lady luck in the
JON STEWART, COMEDIAN: Donald! What the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) are you
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: NBC News can now confirm that Donald Trump is
going to be traveling to Las Vegas to endorse Mitt Romney.
DONALD TRUMP, BUSINESSMAN: It`s my honor, real honor, and privilege
to endorse Mitt Romney.
STEWART: Donald! What the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) are you doing?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All media invited, which I`m pretty sure is just
on the Trump letterhead.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: I`ve gone almost this entire election
cycle without having to mention Donald Trump.
WAGNER: I couldn`t eat all morning.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It means a great deal to me
to have the endorsement of Mr. Trump.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It doesn`t make a whole lot
WAGNER: Will his endorsement help anyone?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They both have good hair.
ROMNEY: There are some things that you just can`t imagine happening
in your life.
MITCHELL: One is real, and one is not. Who knows?
WOLFFE: Why take the endorsement now?
STEWART: What the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) are you doing?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mitt Romney has a problem with people`s
perception that he doesn`t connect with middle class voter.
MARTIN BASHIR, MSNBC HOST: He doesn`t need a mass millionaire
property mogul, does he?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He certainly doesn`t help his cause.
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: They both like firing
people and they`ve both made millions doing it.
ROMNEY: Corporations are people, my friend.
There are a couple of times I wondered whether I was going to get pink
I like being able to fire people that provide services to me.
I`m not concerned about the poor. We have a safety net there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are these comments specifically going to play
out in Las Vegas?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of these are unforced errors on his part.
WAGNER: He cannot get his words right. He keeps saying these things
that painted him as wildly out of touch. They`re irresponsible. This guy
is not a good politician.
ANN COULTER, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: If you don`t run, Chris Christie,
Romney will be the nominee and we`ll lose.
SCHULTZ: America`s biggest loser, Donald Trump, did a promotional
appearance today for his TV series in which he pretends to fire people for
your entertainment. Joining him on the stage in a Las Vegas casino was a
real rich guy who is famous for saying that he, too, likes to fire people.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: It`s my honor, real honor, and privilege to endorse Mitt
Romney. I`ve gotten --
TRUMP: And, by the way, this is a great couple. You look at this
But Mitt is tough. He`s smart. He`s sharp. He`s not going to allow
bad things to continue to happen to this country that we all love.
So, Governor Romney, go out and get `em. You can do it.
ROMNEY: Thank you. There are some things that you just can`t imagine
happening in your life. This is one of them. Being in Donald Trump`s
magnificent hotel and having his endorsement is a delight.
I`m so honored and pleased to have his endorsement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The Romneys were the only couple on the stage because
Donald apparently couldn`t convince his third wife to make time to appear
at the endorsement today. So there was Mitt Romney with his first wife.
Every single word that Donald Trump says publicly, every word, is
designed to get attention to him so that he can pump up the ratings of his
TV show because unlike Mitt Romney, Donald Trump still has to work for a
living. And he so desperately needs the couple of million dollars that he
makes on TV that he must spend his life promoting his show. And in show
business, any mention of your name is good promotion. Consistency doesn`t
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
TRUMP: Mitt Romney is a basically small business guy, if you really
think about it. He was a hedge fund. He was a fund guy. He walked away
with some money from a very good company that he didn`t create. He worked
there. He didn`t create.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN: He did create companies, though?
TRUMP: Well, but -- look, he`d buy companies, close companies and get
rid of the jobs.
Well, the thing about Romney, I wasn`t in love with the job he did in
Massachusetts. He wasn`t popular. He was a one-term governor. He didn`t
have high approval ratings.
I don`t like that. You know, I`d like a guy running for president to
be the most popular guy you can have. The Romneycare was obviously, you
know, not a good situation.
Romney has been missing in action. He hasn`t done a damn thing.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
O`DONNELL: As recently as last week, the lying vulgarian was still
lying about the possibility that he would actually run for president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS: Maybe I should listen, what does that
TRUMP: Well, a lot of people want me to run. I mean, I`m getting it
all the time. You saw the poll that came out recently where it said I was
the number one independent candidate. I am concerned if I run as an
independent, that I`ll take a lot of votes away from the Republicans and
Obama will walk in. So, that does concern me a lot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That is now Greta Van Susteren`s submission segment for
best actress in a primetime cable news show, keeping a straight face while
Donald was talking about running for president, last week, last week, is
something no other woman in cable news could do. But there`s a guy who
could do it --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: You said yesterday on your Twitter account
that Ivanka, your daughter, your daughter, would want you to run for
president still. So, is that question still out there? You have not
resolved this yet?
TRUMP: Well, she actually said on her account --
TRUMP: And I thought that was great. You know what that shows? I
have a daughter that loves me, a beautiful daughter and a wonderful
daughter, and one of the nicest people I`ve ever met.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Whoa, whoa, whoa, that`s the best you can say about your
daughter? She is one of the nicest people you`ve ever met?
All right. What did he say after that?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HANNITY: But are you still thinking about it? I mean, there is a
movement to get an independent opening on all 50 states.
TRUMP: As you saw, they did a poll recently, a month ago. And I was
the number one choice in the poll to run as an independent. I was very
impressed by that. But the truth is, until "The Apprentice" ends, which is
in May, mid-May, I`m not allowed to do anything because of some really
unfair laws having to do with equal time. So if you`re in a show --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Wow, look at that. Sean is really doing a great job of
keeping a straight face. Look at that. That is fantastic.
Now, he has to know that Trump is lying to him. He knows this is a
Trump lie that he`s been told before. He`s listening to it again. There`s
no way Sean Hannity can have a primetime show on FOX News and be so stupid
as to believe a word of what Trump is saying.
There is nothing in any law that prevents Trump from telling Sean
Hannity on the spot, right there, that he is going to run for president.
That would have absolutely no effect on his TV series. It could proceed as
it`s scheduled to go on.
But, of course, as I`ve always told you, there has never been a
possibility, not a shred of possibility, that Donald Trump would run for
president. Donald Trump is actually much more self-aware than he appears
to be. He knows -- he knows that he`s not smart enough to run for
president. He knows that he doesn`t have the courage to run for president.
And it doesn`t take a great deal of courage. But he knows he doesn`t have
And most importantly, he knows he cannot afford to run for president.
He simply isn`t rich enough. He doesn`t have a billion dollars that it
would take to blow on a Trump presidential campaign in which he knows he
And finally today, today, finally, he in effect admitted to all of
that, every bit of it, by endorsing a rich, robotic candidate who can
afford to run for president and who never changed his message in any way to
get Donald Trump`s endorsement. But was willing -- was willing -- to
appear in a Vegas casino to get that endorsement even though Mitt Romney`s
religion is opposed to gambling.
Joining me now is Jon Ralston of the "Las Vegas Sun"; "Washington
Post" editorial writer and MSNBC political analyst Jonathan Capehart; and
MSNBC political analyst John Heilemann of "New York" magazine.
Great to have you all here. I got to go to Vegas right now.
Jon Ralston, you got a chance to talk to the man of the hour in just
that hour, Donald Trump, who we can hope we don`t hear from again about
presidential politics. Why did he say he had decided -- what was his line
today about deciding to endorse Romney?
JON RALSTON, "THE LAS VEGAS SUN": Well, I didn`t talk to Donald
Trump. You`ll be proud of me, Lawrence. I actually boycotted that press
But I did talk to Romney right before he went over to that press
O`DONNELL: You know what, Jon? Jon, next time, I`m going to actually
read my notes about here. It says right here that you talked to Mitt
Romney today, which is more important. And Romney, of course, must have
had some struggle on deciding whether or not he should set foot in a casino
and accept this guy`s endorsement.
RALSTON: Well, I don`t know if he had a struggle with it, but his
explanation when I asked him, how could you walk over after this interview
-- I`ve interviewed him for my television program -- how can you walk over
to Trump`s building and endorse a guy who during his brief run for
president pushed the noxious notion that the president wasn`t born here?
I brought up some of the same quotes you did. And he actually said,
well, I want endorsements from all kinds of people. I`ve gotten
endorsements from Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell and Bay Buchanan.
Imagine how they feel about being mentioned in the same breath as Donald
Trump who is everything that you said he is and less.
O`DONNELL: Bay Buchanan is a giant in our culture compared to Trump.
O`DONNELL: John Heilemann, there`s a theory that part of the press
confusion earlier today about who was he going to endorse Gingrich, was he
going to endorse Romney, is that Trump was actually negotiating with both
campaigns and forced the Romney campaign if they were going to get their
endorsement to take it today, that Trump needed to do this endorsement
today because on the face of it, this is terrible timing for the Romney
JOHN HEILEMANN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, to have an endorsement
from someone who`s famous on television for saying "you`re fired" after the
day when Mitt Romney committed another verbal faux pas about not caring
about poor people. It`s just the right, I mean, I actually think there
probably was some debate in the Romney campaign about whether to even
accept this endorsement with this timing, circumstantially, it suggests
very strongly that they had no choice but to do it today or not get it.
And they are still, even -- particularly after yesterday, but even
after the victory in Florida, there`s still a defensiveness in the Romney
campaign around what might happen. They would say they`re being vigilant,
that they don`t want to see a rallying of the conservative grassroots Tea
Party forces around Newt Gingrich over the course of February. They don`t
want to see Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, joining Herman Cain on Newt
Gingrich`s side and giving any kind of momentum to him whatsoever.
They took this endorsement in a defensive way. They didn`t want
Gingrich to have it. And so, even though they were downsized to taking it,
they took it.
O`DONNELL: Jonathan, you are our ambassador to Trump world here at
THE LAST WORD. You have actually talked to the man once or twice.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.
MADDOW: What struck me today was how quick it was. We pretty much
showed the whole thing. I mean, the Romney campaign allowed Donald to come
out and say very few words, shut up, move aside. And then Romney comes
out, maybe says a little bit more than Donald.
And they run out of there, no questions, no nothing. The entire
thing, we timed it here, it was something like four minutes and 10 seconds.
That`s the entire great event in Las Vegas today.
Clearly, the Romney campaign must have had the feeling -- all right,
we`ll take it, but let`s make it as small a thing as we can possibly make
CAPEHART: Right. Well, contrast this four minutes and however many
seconds that this thing in Las Vegas -- how long that took and the meeting
that they had in September, when I met with Donald Trump in September, it
was the day after Mitt Romney met with him. There were no cameras. There
were no pictures, no video as there was with Sarah Palin when she visited,
with Herman Cain when he visited, with Rick Perry when he visited. It was
all about, let`s do this as stealthily as possible, talk with him, get him
off my back -- I`m speaking as if I`m talking like Mitt Romney.
But today, he`s out there with the cameras rolling standing there with
Donald Trump. And I have to agree with John, I do think it was a defensive
measure on the Romney campaign`s part. But I also think what we`re
witnessing here is a candidate who is still casting about for validation
and acceptance from a base that even in the Florida primary that he won is
still saying they don`t think he`s conservative enough and they want --
they`re hoping that someone else will step forth who they could vote for.
O`DONNELL: Jon Ralston, going off what Jonathan Capehart just said,
when you think back about their meeting in New York and then the way they
did it today, you really did get the feeling that Mitt Romney knows very
well that he`s getting his hand very dirty when he shakes hands with Donald
RALSTON: Well, Lawrence, the person to look at on that stage is not
Donald Trump and not Mitt Romney, but look at the expression on Ann
She looks like she`s come down with some terrible affliction. She can
barely keep a straight face. She looks pained to be there.
And your description of it is very apt. They all but ran out of
there, wouldn`t take questions at all. Whether it`s a defensive move or a
desperate move to try not to get the Tea Partiers going for Gingrich or
going some other place, it still is a demonstration of Mitt Romney`s
character to some extent that he`s willing to sink to the level of Donald
Trump to do that.
O`DONNELL: And, John Heilemann, you got a sense from Romney -- and I
appreciate this from him -- that he was trying to say to us -- look, I
didn`t do anything to get this endorsement. And that is, in policy terms,
When Trump in his lying past about this has been saying, oh, these
candidates aren`t right and I`m waiting for the candidate to show me that
he`s right on the issues, no one`s been more consistent on every single
issue in this campaign than Mitt Romney. What he`s saying now is what he
said six months ago, six weeks ago. There was nothing that changed that
allows Trump to justify an endorsement today based on -- oh, finally, a
candidate has come my way into the Trump view of the universe.
HEILEMANN: Right. And I will tell you that if the Romney campaign
has allowed Donald Trump to get a primetime speaking slot at the Republican
-- I will eat my hat if that`s true.
To go back to the comparative point, that we`ve compared the way he
talked to Trump the first time and now this time, think about the way in
which Romney rolled out the Chris Christie endorsement. Up in New
Hampshire before the debate at Dartmouth, flying Chris Christie in, having
a press conference, it was one of the longest media availabilities that
Romney did all fall.
They paraded Chris Christie with pride. The beaming looks on the face
of the candidate and the candidate`s wife.
This couldn`t have been more different from an endorsement you`re
actually gratefully receiving. This was -- you know, you`re kind of
holding a stinky sock about six inches away and kind of like, I got to --
this is my sock, but I`m not going to anywhere too near to me.
O`DONNELL: Jonathan Capehart, it seems that the only primetime
speaking opportunity Trump will have during the Republican convention will
be offered to him on FOX News, which is the only place he could continue to
try to spin the fantasy, even as recently as last week, in primetime, by
But where does your friend, your buddy, your telephone tag pal Donald
Trump go from here?
CAPEHART: I don`t know. If Mitt Romney has anything to say about it,
it won`t be anywhere near him. I mean, I don`t know where he goes.
As he will tell anyone "Celebrity Apprentice" starts in a couple of
weeks. He can`t do anything until May. By then, maybe everyone will have
forgotten him. Maybe he will have even forgotten about the presidential
race and won`t want to get involved with it anyway.
But the thing we have to keep in mind here is like how much more is
Mitt Romney going to do to try to convince the conservative base to trust
him and to convince them that he`s one of them?
Remember, Lawrence, when you and I were about to do your show in
December, it was announced that Christine O`Donnell had endorsed Mitt
Romney and Mitt Romney accepted that saying, she`s a conservative leader.
That was desperation.
O`DONNELL: Jon Ralston, Jonathan Capehart, and John Heilemann, the
three Johns, thank you very much for joining me tonight.
HEILEMANN: Thanks, Lawrence.
CAPEHART: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, we still know less about Mitt Romney than we
know about Donald Trump and everyone else who actually is running for
president. Frank Rich thinks the secrecy that surrounds Romney`s religion
tells us a lot about Romney and he`ll be here to explain that.
And next, possibly because of the Romney campaign`s discomfort with
religion, President Obama has been talking about religion a lot lately,
including today at today`s National Prayer Breakfast. Eugene Robinson and
Melissa Harris-Perry will join me on that one.
And we`ll have more on the battle between Planned Parenthood and the
Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation. That`s coming up.
And perhaps you`ve seen this quote flying around the Internet
attributed about the word "liberal". Tonight in the "Rewrite," the story
behind this quote and why I really, really can`t stand it, when politicians
think they have to deny they are liberals.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
JAY LENO, COMEDIAN: You know, expressions come and go. You never
know when they`ll start. But it`s always clear when an expression has
become old fashioned or out of date or just time to stop using it. Here,
this is something you call "death of an expression."
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Newt Gingrich in the house!
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: At a time when we have
enormous deficits, it`s hard for me to ask seniors on a fixed income or
young people with student loans or middle class families who can barely pay
the bills to shoulder the burden alone. And I think to myself, if I`m
willing to give something up as somebody who`s been extraordinarily blessed
and give up some of the tax breaks that I enjoy, I actually think that`s
going to make economic sense. But for me as a Christian, it also coincides
with Jesus` teaching that for unto whom much is given, much shall be
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was President Obama`s reelection campaign
counterpoint to this --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: I`m in this race because I care about Americans. I`m not
concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs
repair, I`ll fix it.
I`m not concerned about the very rich. They`re doing just fine.
I`m concerned about the very heart of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The president, whom a quarter of Americans still believe
is a Muslim, according to a 2010 poll, told the National Prayer Breakfast
audience today, he prays every morning. He also provided a religious
justification for his administration`s efforts to regulate the financial
and health insurance industries.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I do so because I genuinely believe it will make the economy
stronger for everybody. But I also do it because I know that far too many
neighbors in our country have been hurt and treated unfairly over the last
few years. And I believe in God`s command to love thy neighbor as thyself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for "The
Washington Post" and MSNBC political analyst, Eugene Robinson. Also
joining us, Tulane professor Melissa Harris-Perry, whose self-titled MSNBC
show premiers on Saturday, February 18th, at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time.
Thank you both for joining us.
Meaning, the title of your show is "MELISSA HARRIS PERRY".
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: It is.
O`DONNELL: You titled it and --
HARRIS-PERRY: I did not. But I call it mini me.
O`DONNELL: OK. This is fascinating to me. I, of course, take every
word out of a politician`s mouth -- and sometimes people forget for some
reason that Barack Obama`s a politician -- every word out of a politician`s
mouth while in a campaign to be political.
O`DONNELL: And, sure, he`s at the prayer breakfast. But he knows
Romney has just said this thing, you know, the day before. But he also is
framing things in a very strong religious frame because he`s comfortable
doing it, he`s comfortable talking about his religion, and he may now in
the face of running against a Mormon, be eager, more eager to talk about
HARRIS-PERRY: Look, it may be hard to remember now after all the
years of the kind of -- he`s a secret Muslim narrative. But in 2004 when
he did his "There is no red America, there is no blue America," one of the
things that liberals got excited about was the fact that this might finally
be a Democratic candidate who could actively and effectively talk about
It was really sort of the Jeremiah Wright moment that undermined his
ability to do that effectively in 2008. But he didn`t need to because he
was running against John McCain who wasn`t going to sort of, you know, make
faith talk a central part of what he was up to.
In this campaign, because the Republican Party is consistently
claiming that the economic problems that we are facing, the fiscal problems
we are facing are somehow related to the so-called moral issues of marriage
equality, women`s reproductive rights, all of these other things, the
president needs to switch who we say when he says a moral issue.
So, what he said today is, the moral issue, the ethical issue, the
religious issue is the tax code.
O`DONNELL: Gene Robinson, I want to make this poll fact part of our
discussion here when we talk about this politically. A Gallup poll
conducted in June asked Americans, if your party nominated a generally
well-qualified person for president who happened to be a Mormon, would you
vote for that person? Twenty-two percent on the basis of that question
simply said no.
So, there is a serious problem in that poll for any Mormon candidate.
And if the Obama campaign is aware of that number, as we know they are, it
would seem to me that they would have a political calculation based on that
number to want to go strongly in this religious direction, but also, also
this point that Melissa`s making, the guy is good at it and we started to
see in 2004 -- I mean, I felt in 2004 the first time I heard him speak at
that convention, wow, the Democrats have an electable, serious candidate
who can preach. And I mean preach in the most positive possible sense.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I`ve wondered
actually, Lawrence, why even despite the Jeremiah Wright incident, the
president hasn`t done more of that preaching, even during the times when he
was being accused of being a closet Muslim because, yes, he does it very
well. And I`m sure they`re aware of that poll number. I`m sure they`re
aware of some exit poll findings in South Carolina, too.
As I recall voters for whom religion was very important went to Newt
Gingrich by an even larger margin than other voters did. You can`t draw
too many conclusions from that. But for some people and maybe a
substantial number of people, I think Romney`s Mormonism could be an issue.
O`DONNELL: Melissa, leaving Mormonism aside --
O`DONNELL: There`s another crass political calculation about this,
which is that, look, this is how to talk -- this is a better way to talk to
conservatives. It`s a better way to talk to people who are less likely to
hear your message. But I think you would also make the case that if this
really is the foundational -- in the foundational principles of the way he
thinks about this, he should talk about this.
HARRIS-PERRY: Sure. Look, I think that one of the biggest challenges
that the president faces isn`t -- it will be the Republican question around
faith. But it`s this strain of what I would call a kind of prosperity
theology that has infused much of American conceptions of God. And it goes
like this -- you know God loves you when you`re wealthy because God will
reward you with a cute spouse and a nice house and a good car. This is
So part of what President Obama is doing here is this interesting
little theological project, people like Aubrey Hendricks (ph), Elaine
Pagels, James Cone, who say, actually, when we look at the sort of biblical
references, that the historical Jesus was actually more interested in those
with the fewest resources, those who were most shunned by society, those
who were most on the bottom.
The claim here isn`t class warfare with a religious bent, but rather
to move past what has become a discourse of -- if God loves you, you`ll be
rich, to saying -- if love your neighbor as God has asked you to do, then
you will share your wealth.
O`DONNELL: We`re going to put more of the president`s preaching today
online on our Web site today. He is really masterful at this.
Eugene Robinson and Melissa Harris-Perry -- thank you both very much
for joining me tonight.
Frank Rich believes the key to unlocking the mystery of Mitt Romney is
his religion. And the Romney campaign makes one promise -- to attack
anyone who goes there. Let`s see what happens to Frank Rich after
And later, we`ll have the latest on the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer
Foundation`s decision to defund Planned Parenthood. The resignations are
starting to pile up at the Komen Foundation. And New York Mayor Mike
Bloomberg is making a personal donation of 250,000 dollars to Planned
Andrea Mitchell spoke to the head of the Komen Foundation today. And
she`s going to join me later.
And in the Rewrite, I will try to Rewrite this country`s understanding
of the political meaning of the important word, liberal.
O`DONNELL: "We don`t know who Mitt Romney is for the simple reason
that he never reveals who he is. He is incredibly secretive about almost
everything that makes him tick. He has been in hiding throughout his
stints in both the private and public sectors.
While his career-long refusal to release his tax returns was damaging
in itself, it resonated even more so as a proxy for all the other secrets
he has kept and still keeps."
Every word I just said was written by my next guest, who has been
studying the secrets of Mitt Romney. His latest piece is called "Who in
God`s Name is Mitt Romney?" . Writer at large for "New York Magazine,"
Frank, great to have you hear. I am going to let you talk in a
FRANK RICH, "NEW YORK MAGAZINE": Sure.
O`DONNELL: But I am actually going to have you talk again right here
in the words from your piece. I just want to set us up with this. You
wrote, "Romney is even less forthcoming about his religion than he is about
his tax returns. In Romneyland, Mormonism is the religion that dare not
speak its name, which leaves him unable to talk about the very subject he
seems to care about most, a lifelong source of spiritual, familial and
I do think that explains a lot. If a candidate cannot talk to you or
can`t find a way to talk to you about the thing he cares about most,
whether that`s baseball or whatever it is, you`re never going to feel that
connection that everyone`s saying they`re not feeling.
RICH: Right. People talk about how he doesn`t connect, and it`s
often blamed on his performance skills, that he`s stiff, that he`s sort of
bad with English and makes all these gaffe that we can`t get enough of.
But I think the real reason why people can`t connect has nothing to do
with personality. It has to do with exactly that. His religion, his faith
is a huge part of his life, which is great. There`s nothing wrong with
that. He`s been a lay official in the Mormon Church. He has given a ton
of money to it, which is very generous.
But the fact is that he doesn`t want to talk about it, because he
reads polls and he -- he shies away from it. So you feel even
subconsciously that something is missing with him. So he just gives the
same stump speech over and over again and talks about his career in
business, which has now been challenged anyway. And there`s no there
there. You feel there`s no there there with him.
O`DONNELL: It`s fascinating because every Mormon I know and have met
is actually very easy going and open. We had a wonderful dean of
admissions of our college who was a Mormon, in fact, back when we were
applying, 1,000 years ago. And -- but when you see that poll that we
talked about in the last segment, with 20 percent of Americans saying, I
won`t vote -- if you tell me it`s a Mormon, I won`t vote for him. In
politics, you see a number like that and you would get -- you would scared
And try to go, wait a minute, I`m going to -- I am going to hide that,
in some sense.
RICH: Right. But since everyone knows he`s a Mormon, it`s sort of
ridiculous on its face. And one of the reasons I think that the number is
so high has not really to do with the faith itself, but the fact that
people don`t know about, that there hasn`t been much public discussion.
There`s been some pop culture, witness the biggest hit on Broadway
right now and "South Park." But basically, partially because of this
reticence, it`s a mystery. And any religion that involves mystery, even
it`s completely solid or makes as much sense as any other religion, can
freak people out.
O`DONNELL: Well, it is a deliberately secretive religion. You`re not
allowed in their religious buildings, if you aren`t part of the religion.
Anyone can walk into St. Patrick`s Cathedral right over here anytime they
You make this point in your piece, which was actually found in that e-
book that the "Politico" team wrote about the campaign, saying the Romney
campaign strategy about this issue is, quote, "someone takes a shot at the
governor`s faith, we put a scarlet letter on them, R.B., religious bigot."
Now the question is, what is a shot? That`s what I think gets
interesting. Because, for example, in here, you talk about -- you reveal a
detail that I did not know, which was that when Mitt Romney got married in
the Mormon Church, his wife`s family, Ann`s family was not allowed in the
church because they are not Mormons.
That is very much outside the experience of all of the rest of us who
have been to interfaith marriages all over the place.
RICH: Right. To say that is not to take a shot at --
O`DONNELL: It`s not to take a shot. But one wonders, is that what
they mean? What`s wrong with Frank Rich for writing that? Is that what
they`re going to --
RICH: I think if you mention the subject at all, they think you`re
taking a shot. But look at the Mormon Church`s role in civic life. That`s
what matters, not its theology. It has been very involved -- was very
involved in the Proposition 8 campaign against same-sex marriage in
California. It`s played a role in the treatment of women -- civil rights,
equal rights for women and for black people.
Those things have to be issued. I`m Jewish. They have to be dealt
with. If a candidate who was Jewish was running and had a public aspect to
his career working for AIPAC or something like that, you`d ask how about
that intersected with the civic life and the politics of America. So you
do that with anyone, regardless of his or her faith.
O`DONNELL: You mention in the piece that the Mormon Church, during
his lifetime, countenanced or enforced the Mormon Church`s discriminatory
treatment of blacks and women, practices it only started to end in earnest
well after Romney had entered adulthood. It was 10 years after Martin
Luther King was killed, 1978, Mitt Romney`s 32 years old. And only then
does the Mormon Church finally say, yes, black men are now and only now, 10
years after Martin Luther King`s death, allowed to enter our priesthood.
If we had a candidate today who was in a club that 10 years after
Martin Luther King`s death was still banning black men, black women, that
would be a major issue.
RICH: Right, whether it`s a country club or a religion, that`s a
major issue. Since he was very active in the church and was an adult -- he
wasn`t a child -- what was he saying then? What was his position? Did he
fight for civil rights within his church? Those are legitimate questions -
O`DONNELL: Is it fair to say to Mitt Romney, when you were 30 years
old, how did it feel to know that Martin Luther King, Jr., would have been
banned from the priesthood in your church? How did that feel?
RICH: Exactly. And what did you say about it at the time? You
weren`t eight years old. You were a grown-up.
O`DONNELL: Well, we`ll see if we get tot hose questions. Frank Rich
of "New York Magazine," thank you very much for being here tonight.
RICH: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: NBC`s Andrea Mitchell will join me to discuss her
interview today with the founder and CEO of the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
That`s coming up later.
And next in the Rewrite, I will attempt to Rewrite what some
conservatives think the word liberal means, with an assist from a clip from
"the West Wing."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIMMY KIMMEL, JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": After his loss last night, he let
loose on the state of Florida, too.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Newt Gingrich here saying thanks for nothing!
You`re dead to me, Florida, dead. You got that? You orange juice
drinking, Social Security collecting swamp people.
And by the way, your state looks like a penis. That`s right. You
live in a sticky, snake-infested swamp penis.
I`m Newt Gingrich. (EXPLETIVE DELETED), Florida.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: In tonight`s Rewrite, the word liberal. I have no idea
who combined this MSNBC publicity photo of me, the one where I look
embalmed, with these words that I wrote a few years ago. But it`s been
flying around Facebook more and more lately. And we`ve been getting a lot
of questions about it here at THE LAST WORD. So an explanation is due.
I have, for decades now, been enraged -- I have to try to hide my rage
here -- just been enraged by republican use of the word liberal as an
epitaph and Democrats` fear of the word liberal. In 1988, when liberal
Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis ran for president, he felt compelled
to deny he was a liberal, just as every Democratic candidate for president
after him has never let themselves be stained by the word liberal.
I wrote the live debate episode of the NBC series "the West Wing" in
2005. And I finally got the chance to hear a fictional Democrat say what I
think they should all say when the word liberal is thrown at them. They
should take it as an opportunity to Rewrite who the word liberal has become
in our politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, an unthinking liberal will describe the
airline bankruptcies as the evil capitalists screwing the --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn`t say that, senator. I don`t think you
should put words in my mouth.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know you didn`t say it. You`re not an
unthinking liberal. Are you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know you like to use that word liberal as if it
were a crime.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m sorry. I shouldn`t have used that word. I
know Democrats think liberal is a bad word, so bad you had to change it.
What do you call yourselves now? Progressives.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s true, Republicans have tried to turn liberal
into a bad work. Well, liberals ended slavery in this country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A Republican president ended slavery.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, a liberal Republican. What happened to them?
They got run out of your party. What did liberals do that was so offensive
to the Republican party, senator? I`ll tell you what they did.
Liberals got women the right to vote. Liberals got African-Americans
the right to vote. Liberals created Social Security and lifted millions of
elderly people out of poverty.
Liberals ended segregation. Liberals -- liberals passed the Civil
Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act. Liberals created Medicare. Liberals
passed the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.
What did conservatives do? They opposed every one of those programs,
every one. So when you try to hurl that word liberal at my feet as if it
were something dirty, something to run away from, something that I should
be ashamed of, it won`t work, senator, because I will pick up that label
and I will wear it as a imagine of honor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NANCY BRINKER, SUSAN G. KOMEN FOUNDATION FOUNDER: Many of the grants
we were doing with Planned Parenthood do not meet new standards of criteria
for how we can measure our results and effectiveness in communities. Our
issue is grant excellence.
They do pass through grants with their screening grants. They send
people to other facilities. We want to do more direct service grants.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was Susan G. Komen Foundation founder and CEO, former
Ambassador Nancy Brinker, trying to explain her organization`s break with
Planned Parenthood today, to my next guest, Andrea Mitchell of MSNBC`s
"ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS." Thanks very much for joining me tonight,
ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: You bet. My pleasure.
O`DONNELL: I have to tell you. I was watching your interview this
afternoon. It was a painful interview to watch on so many levels. I did
not feel satisfied with what I was hearing as explanations for this break.
You know this organization well, Andrea. You`ve been a friend and
supporter of this organization for a long time.
How does it feel for you tonight to be in the middle of this break
between these partners?
MITCHELL: I think it`s difficult for a lot of women and men, because
Susan G. Komen for years, since 1982, when it was founded by Nancy Brinker
in her sister`s name, has been nonpartisan. Nancy Brinker comes from the
Republican background in Dallas. But basically she has made such an effort
to reach out and to include Democrats. I`ve run in this race with Joe
Lieberman and with Al Gore and Joe Biden and his wife, have been signature
supporters of Susan G. Komen.
David Rubinstein was the chair of the gala in which I presented an
award posthumously to Betty Ford for her work for breast cancer. So this
is -- it`s like a divorce in the family. And it`s very, very painful,
because you saw now 26 senators -- they are all Democrats, except for
Bernie Sanders, who of course caucuses with the Democrats -- 26 United
States senators calling for Susan G. Komen to reverse this decision.
Two of them, Patty Murray and Barbara Boxer on our show, directly to
her. And she is not backing down. They say that the reason is because, as
you just showed, they have changed their procedures for grants. But the
bottom line is, it`s only Planned Parenthood out of 2,000 grantees that is
being targeted this way.
And the suspicion among critics at least is that this relates directly
to the hiring of this woman from Georgia who ran on an anti-Planned
Parenthood, anti-abortion platform for governor and has been very outspoken
O`DONNELL: And the resignations now are coming in at the Komen
O`DONNELL: We have Molly Williams who resigned after this decision
was made. She was in charge of helping dispense those funds throughout the
country. Today, Debra Anthony, the executive director of the L.A. branch
of the Komen Foundation, resigning.
I could see how painful it was for you today, Andrea, doing this
interview. And watching Senator Boxer afterwards and her outrage over
what`s happening here, which does seem purely political. I didn`t get any
kind of confidence at all in the defensive answers about this not being a
MITCHELL: Well, we don`t know all the details yet. But certainly
they don`t seem to stack up. And that`s what`s so troubling. All seven of
the affiliates of the Susan G. Komen in California have protested about
this. Planned Parenthood is now, they say, getting a lot of money that`s
being contributed -- we know that Mike Bloomberg, the mayor of New York,
he`s going to be on our show tomorrow. He has offered to contribute a
dollar matching grants up to 250,000 dollars to Planned Parenthood.
He is a past very large donor to both Planned Parenthood and Susan G.
Komen. Planned Parenthood and Susan G. Komen have been partners for so
many years. And the bottom line is that Planned Parenthood does offer
breast cancer screening to the least fortunate women, the women who don`t
have access to real medical care.
They are a target for a lot of -- particularly on the House side,
House Republican action, because of their abortion activities, which are
separate. And they are, I think, pretty shocked by this. Cecile Richards
spoke out against it today on MSNBC, on Alex Wagner`s show. I don`t think
we`ve heard the last of this.
But it`s very interesting to see Mike Bloomberg and other people in
both political parties coming to the defense of Planned Parenthood when
they are under fire.
O`DONNELL: Andrea Mitchell of NBC News, thank you very much for
joining us tonight.
MITCHELL: You bet.
O`DONNELL: You can have THE LAST WORD online at our blog,
TheLastWord.MSNBC.com. You can follow my Tweets @Lawrence. "THE ED SHOW"
is up next.
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