Skip navigation

'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Read the transcript to the Tuesday show

  Most Popular
Most viewed

Guests: Steve Schmidt, Howard Fineman, John Harwood, Jane Mayer, Mark Shields

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: Right now, the results are counted in the
Republican presidential contests in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri.
While new issues are forcing they`re way into the presidential campaign,
there`s the president`s new position on super PACs and president`s new
policy on birth control coverage and health care plans, and the
constitutionality of marriage equality in California.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: Can Rick Santorum catch some Mitt-mentum
tonight?

MARTIN BASHIR, MSNBC HOST: The underdog in the sweater best sounds as
though he`s ready for a fight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He doesn`t really have an organization. He
doesn`t have money, and he doesn`t really have charisma.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Without the money, he can`t go much further.

BASHIR: If he wants to really secure a win, he has to buy it.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I talk about the
deficit of trust between Main Street and Wall Street.

TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: President Obama is giving his blessing for
the pro-Obama, pro-Democratic Party super PAC.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They looked as this number and realized, we`re
going to lose this fight.

WAGNER: The GOP $410.9 million generated in the race, Democrats $366.

HALL: It does put the president at odds with what he said.

KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I want him re-elected. I
don`t want him to unilaterally disarm.

HALL: There was a prediction that the White House will backtrack,
that this was a mistake.

FINNEY: The second thing I`m going to say is just my uterus is not a
pre-existing condition.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`re talking about birth control.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The White House is hammered by Catholic groups
and Republicans for its new rule on contraception.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Colleges, universities and hospitals must
provide full insurance coverage for birth control.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Free contraceptives and free
morning after pills.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Romney is saying this is a violation of
conscience. Santorum says the administration has been hostile to people of
faith.

ROMNEY: This kind of assault on religion will end if I`m president.

DAVID LETTERMAN, COMEDIAN: Can I really vote for a man who ties his
dog to the roof of his car?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: Tonight, the president`s decision to accept the new
reality of super PACs, the Obama administration`s defense of their decision
on contraception coverage in health care plan, and the momentous court
decision in California reversing Proposition 8 -- the proposition supported
by Mitt Romney and the Mormon Church to ban marriage equality in
California. We will have all of those stories coming up.

But first, here are the latest results from the caucuses in Minnesota
and Colorado and the primary in Missouri. And we start in Missouri.

NBC News declares Rick Santorum as the projected winner in the
Missouri Republican primary. Rick Santorum will finish first, Mitt Romney
second, and Ron Paul third. Newt Gingrich was not on the ballot in this
Missouri primary contest.

The primary is nonbinding. The Missouri Republican Party will caucus
later this year to allocate delegates during their convention.

The delegate count will not change. Mitt Romney will still, after
tonight, have 84 delegates, Newt Gingrich, 23, Rick Santorum, 14, and Ron
Paul, 11.

In the Minnesota caucuses, with 13 percent of the vote in, Rick
Santorum has 43 percent with 3,551 votes. Ron Paul has 27 percent with
2,263 votes. Mitt Romney, 17 percent with 1,422 votes, and Newt Gingrich
is at 12 percent with 972 votes so far.

And in the Colorado caucuses, we are just now getting our first
information. That Colorado is showing Santorum at 50 percent, Newt
Gingrich at 21 percent, and Mitt Romney at 19 percent, Ron Paul at 10
percent.

Joining me now is MSNBC political analyst Steve Schmidt, a senior
adviser to the 2008 McCain campaign and senior strategist to President
bush`s 2004 re-election campaign.

Also joining us, Howard Fineman, AOL/"Huffington Post" editorial
director, and MSNBC political analyst.

Steve, what do these results mean to you at first glance? Santorum
having what looks like the night he needed to have?

STEVE SCHMIDT, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: At first glance, Lawrence, I
don`t think they changed the overall trajectory of the race. I think that
Mitt Romney is highly likely, barring catastrophe, to be the Republican
nominee.

I think it`s a bad night for Newt Gingrich because it giving Rick
Santorum some claim that he`s the chief alternative to Governor Romney
heading forward to the March 5th Super Tuesday states.

I do think one of the interesting aspects of it and you`ve talked
about it before, is that in the Republican primary coming in second place
is usually a ticket to ride in the next election.

So I think that`s one reason you`re going to see Rick Santorum keep
going to establish himself as the solid runner-up in that contest he`s now
in against Newt Gingrich.

O`DONNELL: Howard Fineman, there`s a PPP poll out today talking about
the personal popularity of these candidates. It found Rick Santorum`s
personal popularity in all three of the states that we`re talking about
tonight is over 70 percent -- 74 percent in Minnesota, 72 percent in
Missouri, 71 percent in Colorado.

Mitt Romney`s favorable rating is 47 percent. Gingrich`s is 47
percent favorable.

This seems, to me, to be a problem for Mitt Romney. He`s been running
for president much longer than Rick Santorum. He`s had more time to become
favorable to these voters and Republican voters in particular. And yet,
here you have in the states today Republicans leaving their homes to go
somewhere to vote for someone other than Mitt Romney.

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. That`s the point that
I would make here, Lawrence. Perhaps Steve Schmidt is right about the
inevitability of Mitt Romney, but Mitt Romney is still one of the weakest
if not the weakest front-runner for a party nomination I`ve seen in all the
years I`ve been covering politics.

And I think it`s been true that`s true for the last half century at
least. He may be the inevitable, but he`s the weakest inevitable that I`ve
seen. And even though Missouri, for example, was quote a beauty pageant
and no delegates were directly at stake, the fact that Rick Santorum -- the
numbers really for Rick Santorum are less significant tonight in the way
than the numbers for Mitt Romney.

Right now, 25 percent in Missouri, 18 percent in third place in
Minnesota. Supposedly he`s going to end up doing better at the end of the
night in Colorado. But, still, Mitt Romney right now is thrilling badly.

This is a terrible, terrible statement to make about somebody who is
supposed to be inevitable. And part of it has to do with the way he`s
campaigned, and that has sunk in with voters, including Republican voters.

I don`t think there`s any way you can interpret the vote in Missouri -
- beauty contest though it may be -- other than to say they don`t think
Mitt Romney`s a beauty because he`s campaigning so negatively. His
campaign is based on taking a paddle and trying to keep everybody else was
climbing into the row boat with him. And that`s the way he`s run, and he`s
paying a price for it, winning ugly.

O`DONNELL: Steve, isn`t this another case of Republican voters going
out there to their polling place, their caucusing place and trying to
express publicly, publicly please, please don`t make me vote for Mitt
Romney?

SCHMIDT: Listen, I don`t disagree with Howard`s analysis on this. I
think that Mitt Romney, for this stage in the campaign, he is the
inevitable nominee at some level but he`s weak inevitable. He`s had a
number of turnovers, if you will. He`s made some mistakes. He`s been
involved in a very negative campaign and all of that has impacted in a huge
way on his image.

So, when you look at this race tonight if you`re the Romney campaign,
you have to be concerned about the lack of enthusiasm behind his candidacy.
That being said, though, the goal is to secure his nomination. I think
he`s well on his way to securing the nomination for a lot of different
reasons.

O`DONNELL: But, Howard, the goal is to secure the nomination in a
style that then allows you and, in fact, helps you win the general
election. This -- the Romney campaign seems to be a secure the nomination
at all costs, including the political costs incurred in terms of
jeopardizing his ability to win the general election.

FINEMAN: Well, the problem is he`s not that popular within his party,
so he has to use a lot of money and a lot of carpet bombing of negative
advertising to get there. He`s not the convinced and convincing
conservative in the race.

Now, he`s benefitting from the fact that there isn`t a perfect
conservative alternative. Each of these people who were opposing him have
their problems.

Ron Paul is the doctrinaire libertarian who can`t sell himself really
outside of that circle for the most part.

Newt Gingrich is a flawed, although brilliant spokesman, a flawed
candidate for all the reasons we discussed a million times to the moon and
back.

Rick Santorum is not a charismatic figure, and he plods along in
certain states where he can really put a lot of time and attention.

There is a new Bible Belt, Lawrence. We think of the Bible Belt as
the South. There`s now a Bible Belt among conservatives and Republicans in
the Midwest and Plain States. We saw that in Iowa.

And Minnesota is kind of a cousin state to Iowa, especially in the
Republican Party. There were big evangelical mega churches in the suburbs
of Minneapolis. That`s Rick Santorum`s territory, but he can`t seem to get
beyond that.

So, as long as the other three are sort of continuing the jostle
around, Mitt Romney has the mathematical chance of building up the majority
he needs. But it`s not going to be pretty, and it`s going to be long. And
every time somebody like Santorum wins some delegates in a place like
Minnesota, that prolongs the math of getting to the 1,144 that Mitt Romney
is going to need.

And, by the way, Arizona, which is on the 28th now of this month, is,
I think, going to be a contest. The other big one is Michigan, which Mitt
Romney is going to win. It`s sort of his semi-home state.

But Arizona is going to be a battle, I think.

O`DONNELL: Steve Schmidt, on that personal popularity number, that is
a difficult one to turn around with television campaign advertising, which
is Romney`s primary weapon.

SCHMIDT: No doubt. And look, he`s come through this primary pretty
bruised up when you look at that number. That being said, when you look at
the structure of the general election contest and there are some polls out
it this week that show the contact prospectively between Governor Romney
and President Obama opening up a little bit in President Obama`s favor.
But as a general proposition over to last month, you`ve seen a very even
race between the president and between Governor Romney.

I do think, Lawrence, that one of the good things if you`re on the
Romney team is that the structure of the general election is that I think
both sides start with essentially a floor of about 47 percent of the vote.
They`re going to be competing for about 4 percent to 6 percent of the
electorate. It`s a very narrow slice.

Now, Governor Romney is going to have some work to do. One of the
things he`s going to have to do is offer a positive vision for moving the
country forward, not just the criticism of the president.

O`DONNELL: Steve Schmidt and Howard Fineman, thank you both very much
for joining me tonight.

FINEMAN: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, if you can`t beat `em, join `em. President
Obama signs off on super PACs backing his election.

And later, the contraception coverage mandate by the Obama
administration. Mark Shields will join me on the controversy, and don`t be
surprised if he says some things that you just might not agree with.

And later, we`ll be joined by the couple whose case overturned
Proposition 8 today in California.

And in the "Rewrite" tonight, the Susan G. Komen Foundation had a big
resignation today, but the Komen team still has not resigned themselves to
telling the truth.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LETTERMAN: The question to ask yourself is: can I really vote for a
man who`s running for president of the United States who ties his dog to
the roof of his car?

ROMNEY: Millions of Americans out of work? Home values and
foreclosures --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thanks to a Supreme
Court decision called Citizens United, they`re being helped along this year
by special interest groups that are spending unlimited amounts of money on
attack ads without ever disclosing who`s behind all these attack ads. You
don`t know. It could be oil industry. It could be the insurance industry.
It could even be foreign-owned corporations.

That`s not just a threat to Democrats. That`s a threat to our
democracy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That President Obama back in October 2010. Today, the
Obama re-election campaign officials confirm that the president personally
signed off on his campaign`s decision to encourage Democratic donors to
contribute money to pro-Obama super PACs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president`s views of the
influence of the Citizens United decision haven`t changed. He strongly
opposed it. I think you can define that, that this is a decision that was
carefully considered by the fact that it`s February of 2012. And you`ve
already seen in the Republican Party how much money is being raised by
these organizations. The campaign has made clear that they cannot
unilaterally disarm in a circumstance like this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: You`re seeing on your screen as I am that Rick Santorum is
the winner of Minnesota, according to NBC News projections at this point.
We`re going to stay with our coverage here of the super PAC story and come
back to any election results that will update under the information we have
there.

Rush Limbaugh interpreted the president`s new position on super PACs
this way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: It`s because they don`t have
this billion dollars. They don`t have nearly the amount of campaign
dollars they`ve wanted everybody to believe.

So we got to win. Winning. We have to win. So if it takes super
PACs to win, we do super PACs. It`s that simple.

We`ll do whatever it takes to win. We`re not being hypocrites. And
it`s couched, two sets of rules out there, other side Is doing super PACs,
we`re doing to do super PACs.

The other side said they never opposed them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now is CNBC chief Washington correspondent and
"New York Times" political writer, John Harwood; also staff writer for the
"New Yorker," Jane Mayer. Her latest column entitled "Attack Dog: The
Creator of the Willie Horton is Going All Out for Mitt Romney" appears in
this week`s issue of "The New Yorker."

Thank you both for joining me tonight.

I just want to look at the results in Minnesota now with Rick Santorum
being called the winner there.

John Harwood, this seems to be the night that the Santorum campaign
was able to stay alive.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNBC: Absolutely they are. It`s as your guests were
discussing a few moments ago, it`s pretty embarrassing for Mitt Romney to
have numbers this weak against somebody like Santorum who -- yes, he`s
keeping his campaign alive, but he isn`t exactly been thriving in the
contests up to now in Nevada, or in Florida or South Carolina for that
matter.

For Rick Santorum to get up off the mat and really clean Mitt Romney`s
clock in Missouri and Minnesota has got to be concerning to the Romney
campaign.

O`DONNELL: Jane, you`ve been studying the Romney campaign and Romney
campaign`s attack dog who you`ve written about this work in "The New
Yorker." They tried to downplay these results today, as if absolutely
nothing was happening. There`s nothing to pay attention to here.

But here he is the presumptive frontrunner in a party that once they
know who their presumed nominee is, the Republican voters have a way of
getting on board with that. These Republican voters are extremely
resistant to their front-runner.

JANE MAYER, THE NEW YORKER: Well, you know, also one of the things
that`s going on is that each of these candidates have their own super PACs
with their own billionaires behind them. Santorum has got Foster Friess, a
financier behind him. And in some ways, these super PACs are prolonging
the race by keeping candidates who might have been just having to give up
at the certain point earlier if they didn`t have the money a chance to keep
going.

So, you`re seeing another result of the money, I think, also here.

O`DONNELL: John Harwood, what are we seeing in the president`s
position on super PACs. My real -- my first question to you, John, about
this is: why are we seeing it? Why did the president feel compelled to let
it be known publicly that, yes, he acknowledges that the super PAC created
for him last year that we all know about, he actually would be happy to see
people contribute to that? Why not just let the word go out in the more --
put less of a focus on some sense of inconsistency in the president`s
position?

HARWOOD: Well, because that`s what they did in 2011, and the money
didn`t exactly come rolling in. If you compare how much Priorities USA
Action and other Democratic associated super PACs raised, it was a fraction
of what Crossroads, GPS, what Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie and other
Republicans, kind of a shadow RNC, has raised.

And Rush Limbaugh was right. They want to win the election. You
know, people talk about Chicago-style politics.

If there`s one defining characteristic of Barack Obama and anybody
else who runs for national offices, they want to win.

And so, they were serious about not unilaterally disarming. The only
thing wrong in that clip that you played for Rush Limbaugh is Rush Limbaugh
said, the opponents didn`t say they opposed super PACs. Mitt Romney said
he doesn`t like super PACs either. He`d like to get rid of all the limits
and have unlimited donations

But that`s not the system we have, and Barack Obama has decided when
he gets to that general election, he`s going to maximize his ability to
compete with Mitt Romney or whoever the Republican nominee is.

O`DONNELL: Jane Mayer, this reminds me --

MAYER: I --

O`DONNELL: Go ahead, Jane.

MAYER: No. I was going to say I think John`s total light. I mean,
they were just alarmed at the numbers when they saw them in the latest FEC
filings. If you break it down, you get to something like seven or eight to
one is the ratio for conservative group fundraising in the super PACs
against what the liberals have in their kitties. So, they took a look at
those numbers and thought they better put out a message, I think, which is,
you know, send in those big checks.

O`DONNELL: Jane, do you see any alternative choice here for the
practical politician in the president`s position trying to get a 51 percent
victory in November? Any choice other than in effect giving the nod to
super PACs to help them out?

MAYER: No. I mean, I think it`s kind of a ridiculous thing to accuse
them of being hypocritical. They`re playing by the rules of 2012 and the
rules were not the rules that Obama wanted. They`re the rules that the
Supreme Court set in place, the conservative majority on the Supreme Court.

And it would be ridiculous not to play by the rules. I mean, they`re
right that it would be unilateral disarmament and they`ll end up, you know,
without the funds they need to compete. It`s a whole new landscape out
there.

(CROSSTALK)

O`DONNELL: Go ahead, John.

HARWOOD: Lawrence, we had a clear precedent for the decision the
president made today by his decision in 2008 to go outside the public
financing system in the general election and raise as much money as he
possibly could. He ended up raising $750 million in 2008. He`s not likely
to get that billion dollar figure, but super PACs are one way to make up
for a difficult fund-raising environment and get the president in a
stronger position.

O`DONNELL: CNBC`s chief Washington correspondent John Harwood and --
sorry, Jane, we`re out of time for the segment -- Jane Mayer for "The New
Yorker" --

MAYER: OK.

O`DONNELL: -- thank you both for joining us tonight.

MAYER: Great to be with you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, the man who`s been arguing the liberal angle on
television longer than of us doesn`t like the Obama administration`s
position on requiring religious employers to provide contraception coverage
in their employees` health plans

Mark Shields joins me next.

And later, how the Susan G. Komen Foundation can begin to fix its
image problem with one simple strategy, the truth. They haven`t tried that
yet. That`s in the "Rewrite".

And later, the couple who forced California`s Proposition 8 into the
courts where it has now been declared unconstitutional. They will join us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Republicans don`t want a campaign against the president on
foreign policy. They know that President Obama is absolutely unbeatable on
that front with huge favorable margins over the Republicans in all polls on
foreign policy. They want to go after President Obama on social
conservative issues, and now, they think the president has given them one.
Campaign ammunition, the kind of campaign ammunition that they think they
need by requiring religious employers, especially Catholic employers, to
provide contraception coverage in their health care plans for their
employees.

My next guest, who`s been a liberal Democrat longer than most of you
have, thinks the president has made a big mistake. Mark Shields will join
us next to tell us why.

And the Susan G. Komen Foundation may now be trying to do the right
thing, but it is still not coming close to trying to tell the truth.
That`s in tonight`s Rewrite.

And later, the couple who went to court in California to challenge
Proposition 8, which has now been declared unconstitutional, thanks to
them.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m just distressed as I
watch -- as I watch our president try and infringe upon those rights. The
First Amendment of the Constitution provides the right to worship in the
way of our own choice.

Just this last week, this same administration said that churches in
the institutions they run, such as schools and let`s say adoption agencies,
hospitals -- that they have to provide for their employees, free of charge,
contraceptives, morning after pills, in other words, abortive pills, and
the like at no cost.

Think what that does to people in faiths that do not share those
views. This is a violation of conscience.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That was Mitt Romney last night in Colorado trying to make
a campaign issue out of a provision in President Obama`s health care reform
law that has been interpreted by Health and Human Services Secretary
Kathleen Sebelius to require all health care plans to offer coverage for
birth control.

Here was David Axelrod`s response this morning on "MORNING JOE."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID AXELROD, OBAMA 2012 CAMPAIGN: We have great respect for the
work that these institutions do. They`re important elements of our
country. They serve many, many Americans. And we want to -- we certainly
don`t want to abridge anyone`s religious freedom. So we`re going to look
for a way to move forward that both guarantees women that basic, preventive
care that they -- that they need and respects -- respects the prerogatives
of religious institutions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Axelrod did not offer an adamant defense of the
administration`s position that even religious employers would be required
to provide birth control in their health care plans. In fact, he seemed to
leave the door open to some sort of negotiated compromise in the future.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AXELROD: We want to resolve it in an appropriate way. And we`re
going to do that. The real question is how do we get together and resolve
this in a way that respects the concerns that have been raised, but also
assures women cross this country that they are going to have the preventive
care that they need.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That provoked this question to Jay Carney today at the
White House press briefing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You were asked last week if there`s a debate
within the administration about reconsidering. And you said, no, the
decision has been made. Does that absolutely remain the case, no
reconsideration?

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It does. But I think it is
important to remember what was clearly stated when this policy decision was
announced. And that is that we will be working with those organizations
and individuals who have concerns about the implementation of this rule.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Ten years before MSNBC even existed, the lone voice of the
left on American television was Mark Shields, who has been participating in
a left/right dialogue on PBS`s "News Hour" since 1987. Before becoming a
nationally syndicated columnist, Mark Shields was a political operative for
two of the greatest liberal icons of the 20th century, Bobby Kennedy and
Senator George McGovern, who ran the most liberal campaign for president as
a nominee of the Democratic party that this country has ever seen.

Friday night on the "News Hour" on PBS, he had this to say about the
Obama administration`s decision that will require Catholic institutions to
provide contraceptive coverage in health care plans for their employees.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK SHIELDS, PBS ANCHOR: The fallout is cataclysmic for the White
House and for the president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now is Mark Shields. Mark, thanks very much
for joining me tonight.

SHIELDS: Good to be with you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Now listen, don`t go on and on. We can`t talk all night
like on PBS, because we have commercials here, Mark, OK? We are going to
have to get to a commercial eventually. Tell us -- a lot of our viewers
here haven`t really heard the case that you`re making about why this is
cataclysmic for the president.

Talk about it on policy grounds and talk about it on political
grounds.

SHIELDS: OK. First on policy grounds; it`s an incredibly narrow,
constructionist definition of religion. What it basically says to the
Catholic church that your mission, the Catholic Church`s mission, which is
expressed from Matthew 25, is to serve, to serve those living in the
outskirts of hope, who aren`t you, by need not by creed. In other words,
you help those who don`t belong to your parish, who don`t belong to your
sanctuary, who don`t share your faith.

What this definition by HHS says you`re a religious institution if you
only employ your own people of your faith and you only serve people of your
own faith. So this is a repudiation at the fundamental level of what the
Christian message is and what the Catholic mission has been and I think
what Catholics take greatest prize in, which is sheltering the homeless and
feeding the hungry and taking care of those who are strangers and alone.

To me, that is just a violation of what religion has been at our best
in our country. There is no anti-slavery movement in this country without
the Methodist Church, without Quakers. There is no anti-war movement in
this country without religious underpinning. There`s no civil rights
movement without the Reverend Martin Luther King, the Reverend Fred
Shuttleworth, and divinity students and nuns and priests and rabbinical
students and ministers who put their bodies on the line.

So to me, at a -- this is -- it`s just violative of what we hold dear.
In political terms, it`s an act of incredible insensitivity, especially of
people like Father John Jenkins, the president at Notre Dame, and Father
Larry Snyder of Catholic Charities, that serves 10.5 million people, Sister
Carol Keehan of the Catholic Health Association, who stood up to many of
the most conservative bishops and endorsed the president`s health care bill
and supported it at political risk.

It`s just spurning -- turning back on them and turning the back on
what the president himself has said time and again, to Archbishop Dolan in
a private meeting.

So I guess to me it`s just dumb, bad policy, bad politics, bad
precedent.

O`DONNELL: Mark, Catholics stopped being an interesting subset in our
polling decades ago, when it turns out that Catholics basically have
exactly the same views as the population as a whole. For example, they
tend to support abortion rights in exactly the same numbers as the general
population, maybe one or two points higher. Same thing with contraception.

The discussion here is not about the contraception provision in the
president`s health care plan, but forcing it to be applied specifically to
Catholic employers, while the Catholic Church preaches against the use of
contraception, however Medieval that may sound to many people, as it does
to me. It is a Catholic teaching that I absolutely do not accept or agree
with.

But it is a Catholic teaching. And so that`s what makes this so
difficult. Polls indicate that providing contraception in the health care
plan is a majority -- has majority support. But forcing religious
institutions, Catholic institutions to provide it does not have majority
support. That gets only 49 percent support of all Americans; 46 percent
oppose it.

Actually, more Catholics support it than the general population do.
But when you say Catholic voters, only 45 percent of Catholic voters
support that. And there is the political problem going into this re-
election, isn`t it, Mark? When you are taking a position that is only
supported, and it`s a very close-cut thing. It`s only supported by at most
49 percent of the population, highly controversial, that seems to be a very
risky proposition to be taking into an election.

SHIELDS: Well, it is, Lawrence. To be bluntly practical about it,
we`re talking about states like Ohio, particularly the Cincinnati area.
Barack Obama carried Hamilton County, which is Cincinnati, became the first
Democrat to do that in more than a generation. We`re talking about
Lackawana County in Pennsylvania, Scranton, which they won 63 to 36.
They`re not looking anywhere near that in 2012.

In Michigan, in Wisconsin, you know, it`s really just sticking it in
the eye of Catholics, saying what you believe, what your creed is, what
your mission is is unimportant, and that you must swallow that or stop
doing what you -- what defined you as a Catholic Church.

O`DONNELL: It sounds like David Axelrod is interested in reopening
something here and getting some kind of compromise. Mark, welcome to the
world of commercials every three or four minutes. I now have to go to one
of these horrible commercials. I wish we could go on and on.

Nationally syndicated columnist Mark Shields, thank you very much for
joining us tonight.

SHIELDS: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, the Susan G. Komen Foundation may be trying to
do the right thing by accepting the resignation of their VP for public
policy and maybe even forcing that resignation. But they still are not
trying to tell the truth. That`s next in the Rewrite.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Last night on this program, we discussed the Susan G.
Komen for the Cure Foundation`s Rewriting of its decision to defund Planned
Parenthood. The president of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards, joined
me.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: How comfortable are you now with where Planned Parenthood
stands with the Komen Foundation going forward? Not just on meeting the
commitments that had already been pledged, but going forward into the
future years?

CECILE RICHARDS, PRESIDENT, PLANNED PARENTHOOD: I feel very good,
Lawrence. You`re right, this has been a real -- a long week, but we feel
very good about the relationship with the Komen Foundation. Obviously,
very grateful that they`ve changed their -- changed their minds about
working with Planned Parenthood.

And already at the local level, across the country, Komen Foundation
folks and Planned Parenthood docs -- doctors and clinicians are working
together to find ways in which we can increase and expand breast cancer
screenings for women. So it`s a good day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The ever diplomatic Cecile Richards was followed by "The
Daily Beast" reporter Michelle Goldberg. And my first question to Michelle
was about Karen Handel, a former Republican candidate for governor in
Georgia who pledged during that campaign to defund Planned Parenthood, and
who reportedly used her position of vice president of public policy at the
Komen Foundation to push Planned Parenthood into what became the disastrous
public relations nightmare of defunding Planned Parenthood.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Michelle, we saw resignations last week at the Komen
Foundation. Now the question is, are there going to be firings? What
happens next? And can Handel survive?

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, "THE DAILY BEAST": I mean, I think that there
should be firings, although clearly when you look at a lot of the reporting
coming out of the Komen Foundation, they still don`t seem to get it. They
still seem to have thought that they could do this in a non-political way,
that nobody was going to notice that they were going to cut off Planned
Parenthood under the guise of this new rule about investigations.

They still seem to feel somewhat victimized. I think if Handel
resigned, that would do a lot to mend the fences of the many, many women
and men who have been big supporters of Komen and who have just felt so
incredibly betrayed by the way this organization, ostensibly devoted to
women`s health, has seemed to step forward to justify some of the most
radical attacks on women`s health.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And 12 hours later there was this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This breaking news just in to us: an official
with the Susan B. Komen for the Cure has handed over her resignation. She
quit over that Planned Parenthood brew-ha-ha over funding for them. Her
name is Karen Handel.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, we have a Fox News alert for you on a
story that we did a lot of work on in recent days. Karen Handel, who was
the VP for public policy at Susan G. Komen Foundation, has resigned from
her position.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This just in: Karen Handel, the vice president
of Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation, has just resigned.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Karen Handel then ran to what she surely thought would be
the safety of Fox News to tell her story. But even Fox News had trouble
accepting her spin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It didn`t smell right. It didn`t pass the smell
test. It seemed like Planned Parenthood was indeed the targeted
organization. And why not just come out and say we have a problem with
funding this organization?

KAREN HANDEL, FORMER CANDIDATE FOR GOVERNOR OF GEORGIA: You know, I
think the Congressional investigation, along with the various state
investigations, those were a factor in the decision. But make no mistake
about it, you know, it was a bigger picture than that.

There is a granting criteria. And you know, I`m not going to get into
too much on the internal aspects of things. But this organization had a
right to make what it felt was the best decision for the mission -- for the
mission.

I think everyone can agree that if you have a grantee where there`s
this type of controversy surrounding it, Komen was doing its level-best to
move to neutral ground. And I will say, I was asked to look at options for
doing that, some alternatives to do that. I was asked to do that. I
looked at it and I did.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It wasn`t your idea, however, you`re saying?

HANDEL: I`m saying that this was long an issue for Komen, dealing
with the controversies of Planned Parenthood.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Before you got there?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Notice that Karen Handel, in effect, refused to answer the
question: was defunding Planned Parenthood your idea? The reason she can`t
answer that question honestly is that she, at least for now, appears to be
keeping her story straight with Nancy Brinker, the founder and CEO of the
Komen Foundation, who the day before the Komen Foundation reversed its
decision had this exchange with our own Andrea Mitchell.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Why hire a key staff person who is so
strongly, fiercely identified against Planned Parenthood, one of your
grantees?

NANCY BRINKER, SUSAN G. KOMEN FOUNDATION FOUNDER AND CEO: Let me just
for the record tell you Karen did not have anything to do with this
decision.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That`s right. You heard correctly. That was the head of
the Komen Foundation saying that her vice president for policy had nothing
to do with policy. The only way for the Komen Foundation to save its
sinking ship is to start telling the truth when faced with questions like
this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you tell us, Karen, you know, when Susan G.
Komen reversed its decision last week, they were kind of vague about the
reasons. What happened? Why did they reverse themselves?

HANDEL: Look, I think you can just see the pressure that was mounting
around. And you know, I`m going to always be a professional. I`m not
going to go into those details. I think you can ask Komen that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: OK, Komen, it`s on you. Tell us the truth about how you
made this decision in the first place and exactly what role Karen Handel
played in that decision, the decision to defund Planned Parenthood. Then
tell us the truth about how you reversed that decision. Then tell us the
truth about whether Karen Handel really resigned or was offered the chance
to resign before she was going to be fired?

The future of the Komen Foundation, the flow of charitable
contributions that support it depends on the Komen Foundation finally
telling the truth for a change.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: We`re going to go to St. Charles, Missouri to listen to
Rick Santorum`s victory speech to his supporters tonight. Let`s listen.

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Your votes today were not
just heard loud and wide across the state of Missouri and Minnesota, but
they were heard loud and louder all across this country, and particularly
in a place that I suspect maybe in Massachusetts, they were heard
particularly loud tonight.

Tonight was not just a victory for us, but tonight was a victory for
the voices of our party, conservatives and Tea Party people who are out
there every single day in the vineyards building the conservative movement
in this country, building the base of the Republican party, and building a
voice for freedom in this land.

Thank you.

There`s probably another person who maybe is listening to your cheers
here tonight also. And that might be at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. You
better start listening to the voice of the people.

But then again, I won`t be surprised if he wasn`t listening. Why
would you think he would be listening now? Has he ever listened to the
voice of America before?

No. Why? Because he thinks he knows better. He thinks he is smarter
than you. He thinks he`s someone who is a privileged person, who should be
able to rule over all of you.

But we have a different message for him. He`s someone who -- well,
let`s just go look at the record. If you look at when it came to the Wall
Street bailouts, did the president of the United States listen to you when
it came to bailing out the big banks?

CROWD: No.

SANTORUM: Why? Because he thought he just knew better. He and his
friends on Wall Street knew better than what was good for this country.

When it came to the problems that were being confronted on Obamacare,
when the health care system in this country -- that President Obama when he
was pushing forward his radical health care ideas listen to the American
people?

CROWD: No.

SANTORUM: Why? Because he thinks he knows better how to run your
lives and manage your health care. When it comes to the environment, did
the president of the United States listen to the American people, or did he
push a radical cap and trade agenda that would crush the energy and
manufacturing sector of the economy?

Did he listen to you?

CROWD: No.

SANTORUM: No, because he thinks he knows better.

O`DONNELL: That`s Rick Santorum speaking to his supporters in
Missouri tonight after his victories in the Missouri primary and the
Minnesota caucus. But we will not let Rick Santorum prevent Chris Perry
and Sandy Spear from speaking. They are the couple who brought the
challenge to Proposition 8 to federal court in California. They won today.
They got it declared unconstitutional.

I`m going to talk to Chris and Sandy. We will post this interview
online, or we will run it on the show tomorrow night. Chris and Sandy are
going to really get THE LAST WORD tonight. A live ED SHOW is up next.

END

<Copy: Content and programming copyright 2012 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Copyright 2012 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>




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


Sponsored links

Resource guide