updated 2/13/2012 11:30:12 AM ET 2012-02-13T16:30:12

Guests: Chris Hayes, Alex Wagner, Jeff Rossen, Margaret Carlson, David Corn, Eve Ellis

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: Great news for the country today, which
means it`s good news for President Obama and very bad news for the
Republican presidential candidates. The number of people seeking
unemployment assistance hit a four-year low today. So, now, the
Republicans can start yelling about what they hate paying for even more
than they hate paying for unemployment compensation -- birth control pills.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Remember when we talked about jobs?

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: Well, that`s what`s amazing. You know, maybe
the economy is getting better, because we`re having the culture war fight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The culture war certainly, they seem to be driving
Santorum`s surge.

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: For days, Republicans have been bashing the
president on birth control.

TODD: Republicans are calling the president`s new rules on
contraception a war on religious liberty.

WAGNER: Can social issues eclipse fiscal issues?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not even about contraception for me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is not a women`s rights issue. This is a
religious liberty issue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the 21st century.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The provision might alienate Catholic voters.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is my plea, own it. Just own it.

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: When the dust settles here, it`s
this president who is standing with women.

CHRIS JANSING, NBC NEWS: The Republican candidates for president are
battling to prove who the real conservative is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, let`s start with an easy, what`s wrong with
Mitt Romney?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt Romney has lost his mojo.

TODD: Is Mitt Romney`s problem a human problem?

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My father never graduated
from college. He apprenticed as a lath and plaster carpenter.

JANSING: Obviously, you know, he`s trying to humanize himself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He sounded like a clinical psychologist describing
the effects of unemployment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt Romney`s speech before a key conservative
gathering tomorrow known as CPAC.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: CPAC is starting up this week. It`s going to be
big.

MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN: Everyone is looking to CPAC.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now, conservatives seem to only want former
Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum.

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Governor Romney on that
vitally important issue of Obamacare is -- is in fact the weakest candidate
that we can put up.

JIMMY KIMMEL, COMEDIAN: Santorum won by five points in Colorado, by
18 points in Minnesota and 30 points in Missouri. Someone got some no
frills missionary position sex last night.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: Republican rage against the pill continued today. At the
Conservative Political Action Conference, Republicans could not stop
talking about the provision in the president`s health care reform law that
requires all health care plans to offer coverage for birth control. Kind
of makes you wonder what they would have been talking about this week if
this regulation hadn`t come through on time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: What`s at stake is
our first amendment right and a fundamental American value that stood for
two centuries. We`re going to handle this will openly and deliberately, so
that every lawmaker can have their say and the voice of the people can be
heard. One thing`s for certain, this attack on religious freedom cannot
and will not stand.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: What this White House
is now saying is that federal government will impose a fine on Catholic
institutions for no other reason than that the religious beliefs of
Catholics happen to run counter to those of a sitting president.

We will fight this attack on the fundamental right to religious
freedom until the courts overturn it, or until we have a president who will
reverse it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And on the campaign trail today, birth control pills are
making Rick Santorum want to take us back in time, all the way back to the
French Revolution.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANTORUM: Once you have radical document of freedom like our
Constitution and you give people the ability of self government and you
have nobody -- no rights they have to respect other than ones in which they
give each other. And guess what? You get a guillotine.

We have a president now who believes that government should be able to
create rights and force you to exercise those rights in conformity to what
they believe. It`s the Catholic Church first. It won`t be the last if
they get away it with.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And with some Democratic senators and some Democratic
Senate candidates running away from the president`s position, Harry Reid
took to the Senate floor to say he couldn`t understand what all the fuss is
about.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: This debate that`s going on
dealing with this issue, dealing with contraception is a rule that hasn`t
even -- hasn`t been made yet. There`s no final rule. Let`s wait until
there`s at least a rule that we can talk about. There`s not a final rule.

That`s all that you read about in the newspapers. There`s discussions
going on as we speak? There`s not a rule. Everyone should calm down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Yes, that calm down thing always works in the Senate.

Today, Vice President Biden who argue d against this rule in the
internal deliberations before it was set told a radio station --

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m determined to
see that this gets worked out. And I believe we can work it out. There`s
going to be a significant attempt to work this out and there`s time to do
that.

And as a practicing Catholic, you know, I am of the view that this can
be worked out and should be worked out. And I think the president and I
know the president feels the same way.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now, Chris Hayes, host of MSNBC`s "UP WITH
CHRIS HAYES" and Alex Wagner, the host of MSNBC`s "NOW WITH ALEX WAGNER" --
thank you both for joining us tonight.

Suddenly the title THE LAST WORD is feel very bulky.

(LAUGHTER)

O`DONNELL: The short syllable one word things.

WAGNER: One word.

O`DONNELL: It`s what`s happening.

WAGNER: As long as you`re covering religious wars.

O`DONNELL: Just "word", even cooler word.

CHRIS HAYES, "UP WITH CHRIS HAYES": Or just word with Larry.

O`DONNELL: Chris, are we hearing in both Harry Reid and possibly now
Joe Biden the first steps of some kind of retreat? Or is that actually
what makes sense to say at a time like this because there actually is a
significant period of time before this rule goes into effect?

HAYES: I`m concerned in the words of Margaret Thatcher that they`re
going wobbly. I think that this is -- this is an issue in which there is
always, I think, a generational understanding of the part of Democratic
politician that`s whenever a culture issue like this comes up, they`re
going to be on the losing side of it and they should be scared of it.

And I say lean into it. You`re on the right side of this.

O`DONNELL: Lean forward.

HAYES: Lean forward. Right. Sorry.

O`DONNELL: Toward it. Yes, go ahead.

HAYES: You`re on the right side of this on substance. We can talk
about what the EEOC said about, you know, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
and how it applies here. But you`re also right on the politics.

I think ultimately, this is a political winner for the Democrats. And
I think what you -- what will guarantee political defeat is to take all the
flak and negative attention from issuing the rule and then walk it back,
because then who will be happy exactly after you do that? So, I think
don`t go wobbly.

O`DONNELL: David Boies sat in that seat last night and told the world
that it`s constitutional. There is no constitutional issue. I mean I
learned a lot actually listening to him. It sounds like there might be.

Congress shall make no law about religion, and he says this is just
labor law. They have to comply with the minimum wage, all sorts of things.
But the substance of it seems to make clear sense.

The politics of this, I don`t think there`s any easy calculation to
say here`s what happens to your vote if you`re here and here`s what happens
to your vote if you`re there, because the polling indicates that there is a
lot of support for this position in many ways.

WAGNER: Well, it`s two sizes of the electorate that Obama has a hard
time with or questioning in terms of their support for him going into 2012,
which is to say the working class Joe Biden Catholic blue collar workers
and those that to whom these allegations of religious war and war and faith
maybe resonate, and then there are independent women, which is a sector
that Obama wants to win, the Obama independents.

They tend to be younger. They tend to be less white. They`re a
quarter minority. He needs to win them over. They are the ones to most
likely to sort of depart from him and go to Republican. They are true swing
voters in 2012.

Certainly, you know, making the push for contraception and making it
more available and making employers cover it works in, you know, in favor
of getting the votes whether, you know, stops them from getting blue collar
Joe Biden workers is another question.

O`DONNELL: Now, each side of the argument tries to broaden what`s
going on here, into something way bigger than it is. There`s the side that
says this is a war on religion, which it isn`t. Then there is the
statement that there is a big war on contraception, when in fact, we can`t
even find out -- I`ve been trying to find out for a couple of days, how
many people are employed by a Catholic employer in the United States. We
don`t have an entity that seems to know the answer to that question which
tells you it`s a wicked small number.

(LAUGHTER)

O`DONNELL: And so we`re not talking about, you know, taking birth
control availability through a health care plan away from anyone else
except that. And the numbers on that get -- let`s look at the poll on
this. I`ve got a big, big graphic worked up for tonight over here.

So, here`s the poll that everyone talks about -- Americans generally
in favor of this, but at 55 percent which is not some overwhelming
majority. But it`s a workable majority.

Catholics, the idea that an employer has to provide birth control
within your health plan is supported, employers generally, by more
Catholics than the population in general.

Once you focus to the actual issue that they`re looking at now, which
is what about a Catholic employer, an institutional hospital? What do they
have to do? And this is just schools. It`s not churches.

Right away, American support goes to 49 percent, all Americans. On
Catholics, which includes a lot of nonvoters, it will go to 52 percent to
be a little bit higher than all Americans. But way over here, this is the
Biden issue.

The Harry Reid issue is right here. You`ve got Catholic voters. Only
49 percent of Catholic voters support Catholic institutions having to
supply this kind of contraception exactly like all Americans, only 49
percent.

And you get more resistance than you get from all Americans. You get
52 percent resistance.

And so, the political question, electorally is just where do they
live? You know? And are they in Pennsylvania?

HAYES: I think it`s also a question of -- I mean, I think it`s really
important because we`re in the midst of this conversation in which this has
high salience now is to sort of tease apart preference and salience. I
mean, the question is, how brightly will this burn in the heart of --

O`DONNELL: Is it a single issue?

(CROSSTALK)

WAGNER: The margins --

O`DONNEL: Is this the only thing I vote on? I don`t think --

HAYES: I agree with you.

WAGNER: And the margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 points. So,
really, it`s a tossup.

O`DONNELL: But what you`re looking for in re-election politics,
you`re looking for numbers that are on your side are up here somewhere.

HAYES: Right, right.

O`DONNELL: These are very, very uncomfortable levels, 49 percent, in
the 50s, very uncomfortable.

Alex, what about women on this? Is there a benefit in the polls if
the president sticks to his guns with this on women?

WAGNER: I mean, I think so. Look, he listened to Kathleen Sebelius
and Valerie Jarrett on this. He`s a father. He`s a husband.

Contraception is very -- it`s a very personal issue. Every woman has
made some choice about it after a certain age. I think the question is
whether the White House can get the message out clearly on this. I do
think there is a huge amount of confusion.

O`DONNELL: They wish this number was 74. I mean, here`s American
women supporting this position. American women, religious institutions
providing birth control for all their employees. It`s at 54. They would
be much happier if that was at 64 or 74. You`ve got this number right
here, too.

WAGNER: But I would say, Lawrence, a lot of the women that I have
talked to who are -- do not work for MSNBC but are out in the world and so
forth, are confused. The right has done a good job making this an abortion
issue, bringing in the morning-after pill, and not just a contraceptive
issue.

O`DONNELL: It seems to me, the more they`re confused, the more it
benefits the president, because it sounds like an overall threat on
something --

HAYES: I think confusion -- there`s a way in which confusion can help
the president which is this, tying this together to a broader war on birth
control, right, basically saying this fight is being picked by certain
element that`s really don`t want birth control. They don`t want you to
have your birth control. That is an incredibly unpopular position.

The question is, does that get tied in with the broader view of, say,
Rick Santorum who says it`s not right when referring to birth control.

O`DONNELL: Right. The -- look, the polling -- we`re going to have
more polling on this. There is another poll that came out today that was
done by Democratic pollster who asked a vaguer question about, you know,
are you -- do you find this argument convincing?

HAYES: Right.

O`DONNELL: And so, it`s somewhat weaker. But I don`t think there is
polling -- what I don`t see is the thing we were just talking about, show
me the poll that this turns your vote.

HAYES: Right.

O`DONNELL: Because you can`t really get those polls, that`s what
makes Joe Biden nervous, Harry Reid nervous, probably President Obama`s a
little bit nervous tonight.

WAGNER: The Republicans have done -- they conflated this with the
larger issue of the government getting involved in your backyard and
overreaching the government, Obamacare.

O`DONNELL: When you look at that poll, without conflating anything,
you`re still only at 49 percent support to the president`s position.

But here`s the other part, the poll, the people never heard the
argument. Now, you might hear this argument, and that number might go up.

HAYES: Right.

I think one of the things the White House can do a better job of, I
had to read this from Nick Baumann`s reporting in "Mother Jones" today, I
didn`t know this myself, is that the EEOC found in 2000 basically that the
Civil Rights Act of 1964 essentially required something very similar to
this already and the Bush administration did not object to it. In fact, it
was a letter from the EEOC to DePaul University, the largest Catholic
university in the country, that prompted them to start covering birth
control in the health insurance --

O`DONNELL: Yes, we`re digging.

WAGNER: Or 28 states already have this --

O`DONNELL: We`re going to talk about the 28 states next and there are
some big surprises on that, it turns out it`s not what it appears to be. I
actually studied today the eight states that are supposed to have no
exemption, as far as I can tell, every one of them does.

So, we need to dig into the states much more. We`re going to do that
next.

MSNBC`s Chris Hayes, host of "UP" and Alex Wagner, host of "NOW,"
thank you both very much for joining me tonight.

Coming up, the states that already have laws similar to the
administration`s contraception rule -- how do the Catholic institutions in
those states handle it? And do any of those states really have no
exceptions to their rule? You`ve heard that eight states have no
exceptions. Not so sure about that. We studied those laws. We`re going
to look at them again in the next block.

Do you remember what you were doing this time four years ago? If you
said I think I was watching Mitt Romney drop out of the Republican race,
you`d be absolutely right. The people he`s trying to win over are meeting
in Washington, the conservatives at CPAC. We`re going to talk about that.

And Nancy Brinker has finally apologized for the Planned Parenthood
funding flap. But a former Komen affiliate board member and a major
fundraiser says that that`s not enough. She thinks Brinker has to resign
and she`s going to join me later.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY FALLON, COMEDIAN: A study found that 90 percent of $1 bills
carry germs. Or as Mitt Romney put it, that`s why I only use 50s and
hundies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Maternal and infant health care are greatly improved when
women have access to contraceptive supplies to prevent unintended
pregnancy. Many Americans hope to complete their families with two or
three children. Many women spend a majority of their reproductive lives
trying to prevent pregnancy.

Research has shown that 49 percent of all large group insurance plans
do not routinely provide coverage for contraceptive drugs and devices.
While virtually all health care plans cover prescription drugs generally,
the absence of prescription contraceptive coverage is largely responsible
for the fact that women spend 68 percent more in out of pocket expenses for
health care than men, requiring insurance coverage for prescription drugs
and devices for contraception is in the public interest in improving the
health of mothers, children, and families.

All the words I just spoke were actually written in a state law. And,
no, it wasn`t some Northeastern liberal state, a Southern state, a Southern
hard core Republican state. Those words appear in the Georgia state law
that mandates birth control coverage in employer provided health care
policies.

Now you`ve heard many, many times in the last couple days that there
are now 28 states that have passed laws similar to the regulation and the
Obama health care law and that has -- all of that has become so suddenly
controversial. You`ve also been told, and I`ve been told repeatedly on
television, that eight of those states have absolutely no exemptions to the
law, none. No religious exemptions at all, no way out for Catholic
churches, Catholic schools, Catholic hospitals -- they`re stuck.

And I got to tell you when you heard that, just didn`t sound right to
me. And whenever I hear people in Washington or New York telling me what`s
happening out there in the states, in some state law, in a place where
they`ve never been, I just don`t believe them. And you shouldn`t either.

And so in THE LAST WORD exclusive investigation, we spent the day
today studying the statutes in the eight states that everyone is saying
provide absolutely no exemption. The other 20 states, everyone agrees,
provide bigger, more comfortable exemptions for the Catholic Church
including Massachusetts, which has falsely been reported as being identical
to the provision inserted in the federal law.

In all of those other 20 state laws, there`s an exemption big enough
for the White House to drive through.

Let`s look then at the Georgia law which you`ve been told, and I`ve
been told repeatedly has absolutely no exemptions, and does have that
astonishingly liberal sounding prose introduction to it that I just read.

The Georgia law actually says, "This code section should not be
construed to require coverage for prescription coverage benefits in any
contract policy or plan that does not otherwise provide coverage for
prescription drugs."

And there is the huge exemption to the Georgia law. You are exempt
from it if your policy simply does not provide for prescription drugs. And
so, all the religious institutions have to do in Georgia is to avoid the
requirement to providing birth control pills is to just not provide any
drug benefit in their policies, which is true of an awful lot of health
insurance policies out there anyway.

Joining me now is Margaret Carlson of "Bloomberg News".

Margaret, thank you very much for joining us.

You know, listen, I want you and other reporters to go out there and
dig into the state laws, because I just did a quick read of them and the
ones that say there`s no exemption, you can find these very easy
exemptions.

The Obama administration, I think, was led to believe or believed that
they were doing something that actually had been done in 28 other states.
My reading of the law says, at this point, the Obama administration with
its definition of the exemption is on its own with the narrowest exemption
out there in law.

MARGARET CARLSON, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Well, I`m not as good on the areas
you are, Lawrence. I called a couple hospitals to day where I knew someone
and could get some information because I called the huge hospitals,
Catholic Hospital Association, the Long Island Catholic Hospital Group, and
I kept being referred to the diocese. So, the two hospitals where I called
which are Catholic hospitals, they do provide prescription drug coverage.
I was told that they have to provide contraceptive coverage because it
would be discriminating against a class, that is child-bearing women, not
to provide it.

Now to my mind that says -- well, there`s a countervailing law out
there already from 2000 which says that you have to provide these drugs
equally.

O`DONNELL: Yes. There`s a lot of confusion about this. And I`ve
been talking to a lot of people about it.

We checked in Colorado which is one of the states where they say
absolutely no exemption. You know, the Catholic institutions absolutely
have to cover it. When I read the Colorado law, it didn`t look like they
have to cover it. I saw what look like an exemption in there to me.

And as it turns out, we got had this message from the head of Catholic
Charities of Central Colorado. "Under Colorado state law, Catholic
charities is not required to provide contraception and sterilization
coverage to its employees."

And so, it`s not true that Colorado has no exceptions. And that seems
to me to be where President Obama advised now by Vice President Biden who
we know in the deliberations before was telling him to go in a looser
direction on the exemption. It looks like they`re going to try to go into
the definitions in that exemption and possibly talk about maybe broadening
them a little bit more.

Is there -- is there any version of compromise that you think can work
for the president given the two different interest groups on this?

CARLSON: Well, the secular socialist certainly has to do something
because you -- it reinforces that image of him. So, he cannot be, quote,
"at war on religion."

When you read Colorado, it said not required to provide it. When I
talked to one of the hospitals today, they said they did provide it as a
way of hiring people --

O`DONNELL: Right.

CARLSON: -- because it is so hard to find people to do, you know,
some of the unpleasant work that you`re doing in a hospital. So while you
may have this exemption, you may still provide it as part of your
prescription drug coverage if you`re going to make the leap to prescription
drug coverage.

So, you know, the president could probably find something like maybe
the Hawaii plan although I`m told by talking to one of the trade
associations, it`s an expensive to get a rider or a parallel insurance or
go somewhere else because of adverse selection. The only people that are
going to buy that policy rider are the ones who actually need
contraception. So, it`s going to be so expensive, you can`t do it.

I know they can find something in between Hawaii and what hospitals
are already doing. It`s like Catholics are already using contraception.
Catholic hospitals are already providing some policies that cover this.

O`DONNELL: You make a very good point. In the free environment of
it, it`s up to them. There are many Catholic institutions that have
already made the decision for a variety of reasons including attracting
medical personnel who are basically being competitively bid on and you`ve
got to say to them, yes, we`ve got the same health care policy as that
other hospital you were thinking about working at.

And so, the real question becomes how many people really are affected
by this which remains? Which remains without a journalistic answer. No
one has been able to figure out since this started, how many people would
be really affected by this rule. Margaret Carlson of "Bloomberg News" --
thank you very much for joining me tonight.

CARLSON: Thanks, Lawrence. Bye.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Coming up: the perfectly legal way for people to buy guns without ever
going through a background check. That`s in tonight`s "Rewrite."

And later, the head of the Komen Foundation has apologized. But
that`s not enough for Eve Ellis. She`s a major fundraiser for Komen who
says that Nancy Brinker must resign. That`s ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Mitt Romney is desperately trying and failing to convince
conservatives that he really is one of them. And if he goes so far to the
right that he makes conservatives comfortable with him, no one else will
be. I`ll talk with David Corn about how the Romney campaign is doing
exactly what the Obama re-election campaign was hoping they would do.
That`s coming up.

And in the Rewrite tonight, buy and selling guns without background
checks is way, way easier than you think. In fact, you can probably go
online right now and buy a gun before I even get to the Rewrite.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: The Conservative Political Action Committee is meeting
this week in Washington. This is the time and place Mitt Romney dropped
out of the presidential race four years ago. And this is the same time and
place where exactly one year ago, Ann Coulter said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANN COULTER, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: If we don`t run Chris
Christie, Romney will be the nominee and we`ll lose.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Even though Ann Coulter has since tried to recant that
comment and has now gotten in line with the Republican party`s support for
Mitt Romney, it`s as if her words still haunt everyone at CPAC.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unfortunately, I think the Republicans have
decided that they`re going to go with electability instead of issues. And
if electability is your case, and the electability is based on I can fix
the economy and the economy fixes itself, then why do we necessarily need a
nominee who the Obama campaign is going to spend millions and millions of
dollars on to make unlikable?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: "The Wall Street Journal" has spent hundreds of thousands
of words covering the Republican primary and encouraging the candidates.
But if you arrived from another planet today, "The Wall Street Journal"
summed up the entire campaign in one sentence: "conservatives don`t trust
Mr. Romney in part because he gives them little reason to do so."

Joining me now is the Washington bureau chief of "Mother Jones
Magazine" and MSNBC political analyst David Corn. David, CPAC is a place
where Republicans really let their hair down, tell us what they`re really
thinking. Always something comes out of it.

DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES": I almost feel their pain. They`re being
force fed Mitt Romney. He`s going to give a big speech there tomorrow.
It`s not going to have applause lines. It`s going to have grovel lines it.

You know, he just can`t make the deal. You and others, we`ve been
talking about this for months. The whole campaign narrative has been who`s
the non-Romney because Romney is just not in sync, not ideologically, not
temperamentally with the -- I think the deep conservative anti-Obama hating
fervor of the Republican primary base.

And you know, listen, he`s just not a good enough politician to fake
it. And his flip-flops ideologically on abortion rights and gay rights and
gun control and everything else have been too transparent over the years.
He hasn`t done that with a deft enough hand.

Now on top of all those liabilities, he`s not like not the one
percent. He`s like the 0.0001 percent, at the worst time for any candidate
to come across as being that elevated above the rest of the 99 percent. So
there are all these liabilities.

Ann Coulter, she is usually not right about much. But she has -- she
made a decent point that a lot of people believed last year. And now they
see, well, you know, we`re going to have to eat this spinach. It`s not
exciting the base. I just can`t see too many rousing applause for him
tomorrow when he comes before CPAC.

O`DONNELL: And Ann Coulter got a huge ovation last year when she
said, if we nominate Romney, we will lose. That was the consensus view.

CORN: I`m sorry, the interesting thing tomorrow is going to be how
Santorum or even Gingrich are received. I mean, you know, these people can
speak more to that conservative anger that`s out there. And what they keep
doing is they keep pulling -- you know this -- pulling Romney to the right
and putting off by a -- week by week, month by month his inevitable pivot
to the middle to try to reach more sane middle of the road voters.

O`DONNELL: But, David, what he tried -- if Romney is to be the
nominee and if he tries to make some kind of pivot away from the rightward
direction he`s been going, the Obama campaign is going to be standing there
ready. And they`re going to have every word he said pandering to the
right-wing during the Republican primaries. I just don`t see --

CORN: And every word Newt Gingrich said and every word Rick Santorum
said about him having no principles. You`re right.

O`DONNELL: Yes. Gingrich and Santorum, in many ways, have written
the ads for the Democrats on this. I can`t think of a more destructive to
the eventual nominee presidential primary process that we`ve seen in recent
memory.

CORN: You`ve been around. I`ve been around a couple years covering
this sort of stuff. Every year, they always say this: the primary fight is
going to damage the nominee. It usually doesn`t happen.

I mean, Obama and Hillary Clinton got together finally after that long
drawn out affair. And I felt the fight ended up actually being good for
Barack Obama.

But this may be the case where we see that, you know, all this baggage
coming at Mitt Romney from, you know, both sides, actually, may come to
haunt him when he runs against Barack Obama. Because he hasn`t created his
own story. Most of the story of this campaign has been people on the
outside defining it for him.

O`DONNELL: And meanwhile, the president in the daily Gallup tracking
poll of approval has moved solidly into a positive approval, approval
higher than disapproval. And so while every day the Republicans campaign,
things seem to be getting better for President Obama.

CORN: Well, you know, he`s been on a roll since, you know, he got
through the debt ceiling crisis. And he stopped negotiating with
Republicans. He thought he had to because he was in a hostage situation.
He came out with a jobs bill. Republicans didn`t pass it. But he started
taking the fight to them and talking about jobs, jobs, jobs.

You know, he had that tremendous win over the two-month extension of
the payroll tax cut, which is going to come up again in the next few weeks.
And he actually got the public I think to consider him more responsible
when it comes to deficit reduction and raising revenues to close those gaps
than were the Republicans, who refused to come up with a -- come to the
table with a decent compromise.

So all this is sort of flowing together for him. And you know, decent
job creation numbers, you know, those can go up and down. But he`s
positioned himself as the reasonable fellow next to the Republican kind of
clown show with these -- with these candidates pandering or, you know, just
trying to appeal to their base.

But it`s a base that I think is pretty far away from middle of the
road independent voters at this point.

O`DONNELL: David, Mitt Romney found reassuring words for Republicans
about why losing is OK, and why they shouldn`t worry about his win-loss
record so far. He tried it out tonight on Fox News. Let`s listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You don`t win them all. And
so I expect I`ll lose a number of states before we actually get to a point
where I get the 1,150 delegates I need.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: He talked about, you know, John McCain. He said John
McCain lost 19 states on his way to the nomination. Don`t you want to pick
maybe a guy who actually won the presidency as your model?

CORN: What`s he going to say at this point? You know, he just lost
three. You know, whether they were significant or not, this is going to be
a long slog. Part of the reason is there is proportional allotment of the
delegates.

So there aren`t a lot of winner take all states. So Newt Gingrich and
Rick Santorum, if they come in second or if they win some, they`re going to
be amassing delegates.

I talk to Michael Steele yesterday, our fellow MSNBC colleague. He
helped write the new rules that they`re playing under for the Republican
primaries. He said his goal back then was to have a brokered convention.
That may be possible. But if it doesn`t happen, you`re going to have this
long destructive, damaging slog towards 1,144 delegates, the number you
need.

O`DONNELL: Brokered convention, thank you Mr. Michael Steele. Could
not be more grateful. David Corn of "Mother Jones," thank you very much
for joining me tonight.

CORN: Sure thing, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, the head of the Komen Foundation apologized
today. But a major fund-raiser and former board member of Komen thinks
that`s not enough. She`s going to join me later.

And we`ll show you how easy it is to buy guns on the Internet. We`ve
got some really scary video for you and an investigation NBC News
conducted. That`s in tonight`s Rewrite.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY KIMMEL, LATE NIGHT TALK SHOW HOST: Santorum won by five points
in Colorado, by 18 in Minnesota, and 30 points in Missouri. And I`ll tell
you what, someone got some no frills missionary position sex last night.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Now it`s time to Rewrite our understanding of how easy it
is to buy and sell guns with background checks. "The Today Show`s"
national investigative correspondent Jeff Rossen found out. And it is
frighteningly easier than I thought.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF ROSSEN, "THE TODAY SHOW" (voice-over): They are some of the most
lethal weapons out there. And we were able to buy all of them in a single
day, with no background checks, no questions asked.

It`s this easy, hundreds of thousands of guns for sale on hundreds of
websites. We responded and set up meetings at popular shopping malls.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How much was that we agreed on?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Five hundred.

ROSSEN: We bought everything from this police grade pistol to this
semiautomatic assault rifle. We did it over and over again. Our buyer
even hinting he`s a criminal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No paperwork, no background checks. Probably
could have passed the darn thing anyway.

ROSSEN: Within hours, we bought eight guns. Remember at a gun store
a background check is required. But online, nothing. And believe it or
not, in most states, it`s completely legal.

(on camera): Is this like a candy store for criminals?

STEVE BARBORINI, FORMER ATF SUPERVISOR: Yes. It`s a weapons bizarre
for criminals.

ROSSEN: In fact, 34 people are murdered every day in gun violence,
with many of the weapons traced back to private sales just like these.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No one should have to die like that.

ROSSEN: These Two women lost their best friend, Jigva Vessel (ph),
killed by a stalker, this Canadian man, who crossed into the U.S., bought a
gun online in Seattle, then shot her 11 times as she got into her car.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No legitimate gun store would have sold this man a
gun because he`s not a U.S. citizen. He wouldn`t have passed a background
check. Yet he was able to easily buy one online.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There`s not a doubt in my mind, had this man not
been able to buy a gun online, Jigva Vessel would still be here.

ROSSEN: So what kinds of dangerous weapons could we buy? To find
out, we went online and responded to gun ads in Phoenix, Arizona, one of
the many states where it`s legal. Within minutes, we had meetings set up.
Our gun buyers, two Arizona security experts we hired, posing as husband
and wife.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a great gun.

ROSSEN: This man is about to sell us a tactical assault rifle,
modified to use bullets for an AK-47.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come over here real quick and I`ll give you the
money.

ROSSEN: We were watching from nearby vans as our buyers paid cash for
the guns, no questions asked.

(on camera): Hi, Jeff Rossen with NBC News. You just sold an assault
rife to a couple of people who -- you have no idea who they are or what
they could do with that gun. They could rob a bank. They could go hurt
somebody. Does that ever weigh on you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It does. It does. But at the same time, too, I`m
not going to be responsible for what they choose to do it with.

ROSSEN (voice-over): So for our next meetings, we took it up a notch,
telling the seller point blank we probably can`t pass a background check.
Will they still sell us the guns then?

We`re about to find out. This man is pedaling a Glock 23 with hallow
point bullets, made to inflict serious internal damage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So we`re not going to do any paperwork, anything
like that, any background checks, because I probably couldn`t pass one
anyway.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unless you want to.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, right. I shouldn`t be selling it to you
then.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anyway man, I appreciate everything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.

ROSSEN: They shake on it. And that`s our signal.

(on camera): He told you can`t pass a background check. Did that
raise any red flags for you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Slightly. But in this economy, when you need the
money, you need the money.

ROSSEN: So it`s all about the cash. People could get hurt though.
Doesn`t that matter?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

ROSSEN: But it didn`t matter to you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I need the money.

ROSSEN (voice-over): But the most scary transaction of all came after
dark in this pharmacy parking lot. The online ad was for this 50 caliber
sniper rifle, the most powerful gun legally sold in the U.S. Bullet range,
five miles. It can pierce armored vehicles, even bring down a helicopter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is set up --

ROSSEN: But the seller is so laid back, you would think he is hocking
a used bicycle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Enjoy it. I know you`re going to like it.

ROSSEN: Once he got the cash, the gun was ours, no questions asked.
But we had some for him.

(on camera): This is the gun of choice for the drug cartels
worldwide. I mean this gun can take down a helicopter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It can a plane. It can take anything. That`s a
50 caliber. I understand.

ROSSEN : So you know how powerful this weapon is?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh yes, yes.

ROSSEN: Doesn`t it concern you that you have no idea who these people
are? They could be dangerous felons or terrorists?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I never thought about it, to be honest.

ROSSEN: Doesn`t concern you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

ROSSEN: So what`s the government doing about it? Turns out there`s a
bill that would close this loophole and require background checks for all
gun sales, even online. But that bill has been sitting in committee for
nearly a year.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Maybe your report will force some
people to act.

ROSSEN (voice-over): New York Senator Chuck Schumer is sponsoring the
bill.

ROSSEN (on camera): With all due respect, as Congress continues to
debate this and play politics, authorities say criminals, dangerous
criminals in many cases, are buying guns online.

SCHUMER: The NRA is one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington.
And despite the overwhelming evidence that we should do something, which
your report buttresses, the odds of us being able to do something are not
high.

ROSSEN: The NRA says it opposes the bill because it has many serious
flaws. But wouldn`t comment about online gun sales. In the past, the NRA
has fought background checks for any private sales.

But victims say until the law is changed, more innocent people will
die.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All they care about is profit. Profit over
lives. And it`s wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: The founder and CEO of Susan G Komen for the Cure
Foundation, Nancy Brinker, is making her first public statement and apology
after reversing the decision to halt all grants to Planned Parenthood. In
an open letter to "The Washington Post," Brinker writes, "we in women`s
health organizations must be absolutely true to our core missions, and
avoid even the appearance of bias or judgment in our decisions. I made
some mistakes. In retrospect, we have learned a lot and must now rebuild
the trust that so many want to have in us.

"I apologize to all who are disappointed in us, and will work hard to
restore your trust."

Brinker was responding to an open letter by "Washington Post" religion
columnist Sally Quinn, who called Brinker`s explanation for defunding
Planned Parenthood to Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC contradictory and confusing.

Joining me now for an exclusive interview is Eve Ellis, a former board
member and fund-raiser for Komen`s New York affiliate, who left the
organization last week over the controversy and thinks Brinker should
resign.

This has been an amazing saga from start to finish. You wrote last
week "it is with a heavy heart and an angry mind that I have raised and
donated my last dollar to Komen." What does this apology today do to what
you said last week?

EVE ELLIS, FMR. BOARD MEMBER, KOMEN NY: Well, actually, the apology
doesn`t change what I said last week. And then this past Monday, I sent
out to my family and friends -- I actually wanted to just say I`m just
representing myself and my family and friends, who have been so supportive
over the years as I`ve raised money for Komen.

And it`s a successful grassroots raising and a successful grassroots
organization. So many of those people contributed small amounts.

And the apology to me seems hollow. Nancy Brinker did not say that
she apologizes to those underserved women who would not be getting breast
cancer treatment as a result of Komen`s initial decision. I don`t know
what her -- what the mistakes are that she thinks she has made. I would be
interested in knowing what they were.

I know you`ve often been saying that Komen needs to be truthful. And
I think that would be a really good positive step in the right direction.
I`m not sure that we`re ever going to get that.

So I`m really calling for two things. I think Nancy Komen needs to
resign as CEO and I think the board also needs to be replaced. Then I want
to get back on the team. But not with this hollow apology.

O`DONNELL: Is there any kind of momentum that can be developed to
force a resignation at this point?

ELLIS: I think there can be. I mean I`ve been hearing from so many
different people. They want to know what they can do. And I think they
really can be vocal. One way to be vocal is there is now a petition up on
Change.org that activist Jeff Campaigna (ph) put up on the website today.

And people can good and ask for this resignation of both Nancy Brinker
and the board and really clean house.

O`DONNELL: Knowing the institution as you do, how do you expect them
to behave? You have a petition at Change.org for her resignation. We`ll
see the signatures pile up on that I think very, very quickly. But there
is a Nixonian quality this, the mistakes were made sort of language. That
seem like a we`re not going to say anything more about this or do anything
more about this.

ELLIS: Well, I think -- I know that there are people behind the
scenes working to make Komen strong as it once was and to make Komen
accountable and transparent and to really change --

O`DONNELL: What would have to happen for you to contribute again?`

ELLIS: For me to contribute? Nancy Brinker needs to resign. The
board needs to be replaced. I think that the affiliates, local affiliates
around the country can become active in deciding who should be on the
board, so that we feel that there is good representation, And really so
there is a respect for a 501-C3.

This should not be about partisan politics. So -- but really the step
that would get me back on the team are those two. I mean, the third piece
I wanted was for Karen Handel to be terminated. She resigned. That`s OK.
That doesn`t matter to me.

But those three items needed to happen. Then I`ll be back.

O`DONNELL: I know what a difficult period this has been for you, Eve
Ellis, former Susan G. Komen fundraiser. Thank you very much for joining
us tonight.

ELLIS: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: "THE ED SHOW" is up next.

END

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