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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Tuesday, February 14, 2012

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Guests: Steve Kornacki, Dana Milbank, Jonathan Chait, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Shauna Walsh, Maureen Walsh

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: Republicans sent President Obama a big
life-sized Valentine today -- Rick Santorum.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JON STEWART, COMEDIAN: What the hell, America? I leave you alone for
one minute.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Santorum surges.

MARTIN BASHIR, MSNBC HOST: Santorum is really surging.

TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Rick Santorum may no longer be a long
shot.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: He`s in the statistical tie with Mitt Romney,
three new national polls out today.

STEWART: I expect you to go a little crazy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of stars have risen and fallen. Rick
Santorum`s just the most recent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rick Santorum, unlike Newt Gingrich, also has a
very consistent history with the cultural conservatives.

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe that any doctor
who performs an abortion should be criminally charged for doing so.

I would say any type of sexual activity has absolutely no place in the
military.

And there are people who were gay and aren`t anymore.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A new poll of Michigan GOP primary voters also
has the former senator from Pennsylvania leading in the state where Romney
grew up and where his father was governor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If Rick Santorum beats Mitt Romney in Michigan,
we`re looking at a wholly different race.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, he`s going to get the full force of the Mitt
Romney attacks.

SANTORUM: Desperate people do desperate things.

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC ANCHOR: The Romney campaign better be careful.
If you go negative and it backfires on you, it`s over.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A defeat there would not just be embarrassing,
it would be a, quote, "mortal blow to Romney`s campaign."

MATTHEWS: Rick Santorum is real and Romney ain`t.

ANN COULTER, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Who are you willing to stake the
future of this country on winning? That is Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney.
Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney.

If you don`t run Chris Christie, Romney will be the nominee and we`ll
lose.

STEWART: America, what the hell?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: With 266 days left before the presidential election,
everything but everything seems to be breaking President Obama`s way.

The job market is looking better. The stock market is up.
Congressional Republicans have surrendered to the president today on
extending the payroll tax cut. And at the very same time, congressional
Republicans have decided to offer American women yet another reason to vote
for President Obama.

All of that is happening -- all of that -- while the Republican
candidates continue to savage each other, leaving the president to
concentrate on the job of governing the United States of America.

First tonight, there is suddenly a new front-runner for the Republican
presidential nomination in the national polls and so like clockwork, the
Romney super PAC did this tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR: How did Rick Santorum actually vote? Santorum voted to
raise the debt limit five times and for billions in wasteful projects,
including the "Bridge to Nowhere".

In a single session, Santorum co-sponsored 51 bills to increase
spending and zero to cut spending.

Santorum even voted to raise his own pay and joined Hillary Clinton to
let convicted felons vote.

Rick Santorum, big spender, Washington insider.

Restore Our Future is responsible for the content of this message.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The Romney campaign is now desperate to stop Santorum,
because Rick Santorum is making an argument to Republican voters that
Romney cannot possibly answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANTORUM: Obamacare to me is the best possible grounds on which to
focus this election. It is the signature accomplishment of Barack Obama.
It is the biggest example of government overreach and involvement into your
life. It is the best example of an explosion of government and the best
example of crushing the business community in this country.

And so, who is the best candidate to go up against Barack Obama on
this signature issue of the day?

CROWD: You are!

(APPLAUSE)

SANTORUM: Thank you. You folks catch on a little quicker than most
the audiences I`ve been in front of.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Yes, Mitt Romney is the most hollow and cynical front-
runner either party has ever seen. His willingness to simply lie about his
political past, his past positions, and say absolutely anything that
conservatives want to hear today is an amnesiac style of campaigning that
has no parallel.

Yes, there have been candidates that have changed maybe one or two of
their past positions while running for president, but we have never seen a
candidate who has changed on nearly all -- all of the issues that are
important to his party`s base.

But Rick Santorum is a weak candidate, too. Very weak. And we`ll
talk more about those weaknesses later. And he`s a very easy target for
the Obama campaign.

So, what explains Santorum`s recent surge after Republican voters in
most states ignored him for so long? A majority of Republican voters and
the Obama campaign feel the same way about Mitt Romney. They want anyone
but Romney to be the Republican nominee.

So, is it possible that President Obama brilliantly played his hand in
governing and campaigning at the same time, when he allowed last week to be
temporarily consumed in a political controversy over contraception coverage
in health care plans? A controversy that the president ended on a date and
time of his choosing after it helped push Santorum ahead of Romney in the
polls.

Andrew Sullivan brilliantly dissected the contraception controversy in
"Newsweek" and said this tonight on HARDBALL.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREW SULLIVAN, NEWSWEEK: It is going to empower Rick Santorum to
win and do well in the South, which is going to, long-term, be a fantastic
advantage for Obama. So what this did, I think, accidentally, and I called
it an improvised bait-and-switch, is that he gave Rick Santorum the gift
that could win him the nomination of the Republican Party, which will be a
catastrophe for the Republican Party.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now is "Washington Post" political columnist
Dana Milbank and Salon.com political writer, Steve Kornacki.

Thank you both for joining me tonight.

We shall now entertain what shall be called the Sullivan proposition
here on THE LAST WORD.

Steve, you go ahead. There`s -- first of all, there`s the question of
could it possibly have been intentional, that the president took us into
this contraception debate for a week and only a week, and then ended it
precisely on timing convenient to him on terms convenient to him?

STEVE KORNACKI, SALON.COM: I think the key word that Andrew Sullivan
said in that clip is accidentally. But I think this is extremely
fortuitous. And you talk about the power of timing.

And yet the timing right now for a lot of things is really fortuitous
for the White House. This is sort of the lowest moment Mitt Romney has had
as a candidate, if you still think Mitt Romney`s likely to be the nominee.
And it`s coinciding with really the best period of Barack Obama`s
presidency in terms of the economic news.

I mean, some of the most recent polling data is kind of staggering
when you think about it. Romney`s standing with independent voters just in
the last month or two has crashed about 10 or 15 points. He`s now
trailing, you know, by the same margin that Santorum is in head-to-head
trial heats with Obama. And Obama`s approval rating now is pretty close to
or over 50 percent in most polls.

And what I keep thinking of is I kind of think we`ve seen this before.
It was 16 years ago when Bob Dole started out and everyone said, well, Bill
Clinton can`t possibly get re-elected because of what happened in 1994.
And when that Republican process ended in `96, Dole was a very wounded
nominee and he never recovered.

O`DONNELL: Dana Milbank, to the Sullivan proposition -- the
possibility of it being deliberate seems extremely unlikely. And I try to
get through a year of programming without using sports analogies, and I
come very close to it.

But I`m going to use this football one, Super Bowl being our most
recent big event. And that is, it seems like wanted was the quarterback
got thrown for a loss on a play and then it was, you know, third down and
40 yards or something, and he had to throw the bomb, and he did, for a
touchdown. I mean, it`s like -- it`s one of those things where, OK, you`ve
got a problem now that has developed.

What matters when you have a problem in politics or governing is, what
are you going to do now? And it seemed to many observers, and I`m one of
them, that by Friday, the play that the Obama administration ran on Friday,
which I think was guided by policy, conscience, and all sorts of noble
intent, was also brilliant politically and put them in a better place on
the field than where they were had they chosen that position at the outset.

DANA MILBANK, WASHINGTON POST: Lawrence, I think it was more
accurately a fumble and the president`s side picked it up and ran it into
the end zone.

O`DONNELL: All right. I`ll go with that. I`ll go with that.

MILBANK: But you score it the same way. It doesn`t really matter how
pretty it looked in the end.

You know, look, whatever the purpose behind it, to be having, you
know, set aside the initial conflict with the Catholic bishops, to be
having a debate in this election year about contraception, which is, you
know, pretty much a settled issue in this country, and to have now Santorum
at least for the moment in the lead, a man who would turn back 50 years of
jurisprudence and allow a state to ban contraception, it puts the president
in a fundamentally different position right now.

And, of course, they`d like nothing more than to see Santorum continue
on, which seems terribly unlikely. The main thing you`re seeing from this
field now is the longer this goes on, satisfaction is actually decreasing.

In the CNN poll today, only 9 percent said they were satisfied with
the candidates in the Republican side, down from 18 percent, twice that
much in the fall.

O`DONNELL: What Rick Santorum has done is turned the issue, the
contraception issue into highlighting the health care issue, and what he
will call a similarity between Obamacare and Romneycare. That seems to be
what he`s been successful at.

And now going into Michigan, we have a robocall poll yesterday showing
Santorum leading Romney among primary voters in Michigan, where Republicans
will vote on February 28th. Santorum, 39 percent. This is supposed to be
one of Romney`s many home states. Romney, 24 percent. Ron Paul, 12
percent. Gingrich down to irrelevance now at 11 percent.

Steve Kornacki, it seems to me that Santorum has been deft at saying,
using contraception as a way to, OK, everybody, remember health care,
remember what Mitt Romney did, and then making the case that health care
should be the Republican`s number one issue going into the general
election, which I think is a faulty case.

KORNACKI: Right.

O`DONNELL: But for what he`s trying to achieve now, it just seems
perfect.

KORNACKI: Well, there are five or six, or maybe five or six dozen
reasons to doubt that Rick Santorum can actually go and run away with the
Republican nomination right now.

O`DONNELL: Those are quickly money, organization, personnel.

KORNACKI: Yes, how many endorsements? He won three states last week,
how many endorsements did he come out with?

But there`s one big reason to expect this might be different. And it
showed in that clip you played earlier. He has basic competence as a
candidate that none of Romney`s challengers to date have shown. He knows
exactly where Romney`s weak spots are with the conservative base.

And he has -- now, you played that negative ad that Romney ran, but
basically Santorum has a sound record on the issues that matter most to
conservatives today. He`s been consistent on those issues. Doesn`t have
the kind of baggage Newt Gingrich has. And he knows, you think of that
debate where Gingrich just completely melted down, that Florida debate
against Romney, Santorum knows how to go toe to toe with Romney in these
debates.

He can take that message. He can take it against him. Confidence may
be all it takes to beat Mitt Romney.

O`DONNELL: Dana Milbank, my starting off prediction last year was
that Mitt Romney could not get the nomination because of the health care
bill in Massachusetts that he signed into law, which is just something his
party cannot stomach. I`ve been surprised that they`ve been able to
stomach it as much as they have, going this far.

But is that the key? Has Santorum found the thing that he needs to
stay concentrated on with Republican voters, primary voters, anyway, to get
himself to the nomination?

MILBANK: Right, Lawrence. And that`s the important qualification
that this general election is going to be fought on the economy. That`s
baked in the cake now regardless of what either side would like to turn it
to. And for the moment, at least, it looks to be going in President
Obama`s direction.

But it`s different case in the Republican primary, where there is that
sort of outsized antipathy towards the president and Obamacare in
particular. So he is right to be directing it in that direction.

I think that`s why you see -- you know, Mitt Romney hasn`t really
fallen in overall support. He`s about 28 percent now, maybe he gets into
the low 30s. He hasn`t budged at all. It`s just these other guys coming
up and falling down and another guy pops up again, and he just can`t seem
to get above that ceiling.

O`DONNELL: And Rick Santorum seems to have really gone after the
Romney electability argument. There`s a "New York Times" poll out that
shows that Santorum basically has exactly the same electability against
President Obama.

You have President Obama beating Santorum 49 to 41. And you have
President Obama beating Mitt Romney 48 to 42.

Steve Kornacki, that`s statistically identical.

So, if Romney loses the electability argument, as we saw him lose it
in South Carolina, with South Carolina primary voters, they said they
thought Newt Gingrich had a better electability posture than Romney did.
If he`s losing it nationally, which is what that "New York Times" poll is,
what is left of the Romney campaign?

KORNACKI: Well, and that`s what`s so interesting to me about
Santorum`s rise, because I suspect for the last year, Santorum has made a
lot of sense on paper to conservatives, but what`s holding him back is the
perception that he`s a loser, lost by 18 points in Pennsylvania in 2006,
never mind that Romney was going to lose in Massachusetts.

But now that he`s got this one-on-one race, basically, and people are
giving him a fair look, I think that whole 2006 issue goes away, and for
the first time, you`re really seeing people, conservatives look at this and
say, yes, why not?

O`DONNELL: Dana Milbank, what is the case that Mitt Romney makes now
when he`s going to money people. He`s had a very easy case to make to the
money people all along here. Look, I`m inevitable. I`m electable, nobody
else is. I`m conservative enough.

With this "New York Times" poll, what`s Mitt Romney`s next phone call
for money -- what`s the argument in it?

MILBANK: Well, a very clear argument. And that is they have to mow
this Santorum guy down in Michigan and in Arizona. That same "New York
Times" poll shows this to be highly fluid -- 60 percent of the people say
they may change their minds. So this could change on a dime if Romney can
win those two states in two weeks.

So, that`s the case he has to make, and it`s going to be all about
money and the super PAC mowing down Santorum. And then, we`re, you know,
right back where we were a week ago.

O`DONNELL: And President Obama will happily sit by and watch them
both mow down each other.

Dana Milbank and Steve Kornacki, thank you very much for joining me
tonight.

MILBANK: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Up next, if Rick Santorum is the nominee and if he could
really make contraception the major issue in the presidential campaign, he
would be on his way to losing all 50 states. We`re going to dig deep into
the strange things that Rick Santorum has said and still believes, and how
that stuff would sink him in a campaign against President Obama.

And later, the Republican politician who last week explained why her
vote for marriage equality was about love and not sex, joins me for an
exclusive interview with her daughter, who she hopes to see legally marry.

And in the "Rewrite" tonight, Ann Coulter`s tortured relationship with
Mitt Romney.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

SANTORUM: As long as abortion is legal, at least according to the
Supreme Court, legal in this country, we will never have rest, because that
law does not comport with God`s law.

I am for a federal marriage amendment. I am for reinstating "don`t
ask, don`t tell".

Rights come to us from God.

STEWART: Got it. So in the American system of government, you`re
saying we should all be free to live by Christian law. I think that --

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANTORUM: He was a constitutional law professor. We don`t know what
his -- we don`t know what his grades were, but we do know he says he`s a
constitutional law professor.

I mean, they want to see every report of me from, you know, you name
it. They want every bit of information from me, but we just can`t seem to
get that information from the president. I don`t -- there`s no double
standard, I`m not suggesting that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That`s the new Republican front-runner taking aim today at
President Obama, offering a prelude to what an Obama versus Santorum
campaign might sound like.

Joining me now is Jonathan Chait from "New York" magazine.

Jonathan, that`s weird-sounding stuff. He`s doing a Trump echo there.
I don`t know what he`s trying to get at there.

But I want to go to the gender gap with Santorum. In his failed re-
election bid in 2006 where he lost by a huge margin, he only got 39 percent
of the women vote.

And I want to play now some video of what Santorum actually thinks
about contraception and this might help explain that gender gap. Let`s
listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANTORUM: Many in the Christian faith have said, "Well, that`s OK.
You know, contraception is OK." It`s not OK. It`s a license to do things
in the sexual realm that is -- that is counter to what -- how things are
supposed to be. They`re supposed to be within marriage. They`re supposed
to be for purposes that, yes, conjugal, but also procreative. And that`s
the perfect way that a sexual union should happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Now, Jonathan, that is actually Rick Santorum talking
about contraception, not in 1951. You notice, that`s color imagery.

JONATHAN CHAIT, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Right.

O`DONNELL: So, it was actually in 2011, a few months ago, in October!
Saying that sex is supposed to be only procreative and contraception is not
OK. How many --

(CROSSTALK)

CHAIT: -- of Iran.

O`DONNELL: There you go. Well, where can he go with this?

CHAIT: He could get the Republican nomination. That`s a good start.

(LAUGHTER)

O`DONNELL: Yes. And it goes right along with a chain of extremist
positions that he has, and the contraception one has been kept pretty
quiet. It won`t be kept quiet anymore, thanks to last week.

Abortion -- he is an absolutist on abortion. He opposes abortion,
even in cases of rape.

CHAIT: Right.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to how this might sound if it comes out on a
presidential debate stage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANTORUM: I believe and I think, you know, the right approach is to
accept this horribly created -- in the sense of rape -- but nevertheless,
gift, in a very broken way, but gift of human life, and accept what God is
giving to you.

As you know, we have to -- in lots of different aspects of our life,
we have horrible things happen to us. I can`t think of anything more
horrible. But nevertheless, we have to make the best out of a bad
situation.

PIERS MORGAN, CNN: How do you equate --

SANTORUM: That is making the best --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: So, Jonathan, using "rape" and "gift" in the same sentence
for a politician.

CHAIT: Well, it`s certainly bad. I mean, look, he would be a bad,
bad nominee.

But the thing to keep in mind that Mitt Romney I think would also be a
pretty bad nominee. Mitt Romney`s unpopular as well.

And I think this notion that Santorum would be a dramatically worse
nominee, far easier to beat for Obama, is a little bit overstated. He
plays to a different constituency. And he has different weaknesses than
Romney. And I think maybe his weaknesses are a little more obvious to
people who are liberals, for people who are upscale.

Romney has real weaknesses with downscale blue-collar voters. He`s
really become this stereotypical rich guy, the guy who fires you, the guy
who stashes his money in the Cayman Islands.

And Santorum`s weaknesses hurt him more with upscale voters. But
Santorum does play the blue-collar populist card a little bit more
effectively than Romney does.

So I think, you know, he might do a little bit better in a place like
Ohio, a place like Pennsylvania. Not that I think he would do well at all,
but again, you have to keep in mind, they both have real weaknesses.

O`DONNELL: Yes, Jonathan, I agree with you. I have believed all
along that the Republican campaign is a campaign for the prize of losing to
President Obama in the re-election campaign. And I used to hold very, I
think, strongly to the conventional wisdom, once the field was clear, that
anyone but Romney was the safe way to go for the Obama campaign.

I think you make a very good point. It is no longer clear to me. The
negatives have piled up so much on Romney, and the negatives on Santorum,
we already knew about. We haven`t really discovered much in that territory
during this campaign.

Now, I don`t think it`s a very easy thing to weigh which one of these
candidacies has more negatives in it.

CHAIT: That`s right. On the other hand, Romney`s really taken a
pounding from Obama and Obama`s allies and Santorum hasn`t. So, if
Santorum becomes the nominee, he`ll get all kinds of negative flak that
he`s escaped largely so far. And I think a lot of people aren`t aware of
these negatives. So his negatives will go up, too.

Right now, he`s about 20 points more net favorable than Romney, and I
think that gap will shrink or even disappear. But still, you know,
Romney`s not popular. So, you know, when you want to have a standard to
judge how unelectable is Santorum, you need to have a pretty -- you need to
have a fair basis, and Romney`s not doing so well right now.

O`DONNELL: Jonathan Chait, thank you very much for joining us
tonight.

CHAIT: Thanks.

O`DONNELL: Coming up: Republicans in Congress will not let the
contraception issue go away, which poses absolutely no threat to
contraception and gives voters their 266th reason to vote for President
Obama.

And a LAST WORD exclusive with the Republican politician who made a
very personal case for marriage equality.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me start with a
quick public service announcement for all the gentleman out there. Today
is Valentine`s Day. Do not forget. I speak from experience here. It is
important that you remember this and go big. That`s my advice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: President Obama did not forget. He took the First Lady
out for dinner in Alexandria, Virginia, tonight. And the president posted
this personal Tweet on his official Twitter page. Oh, I don`t want to read
the president`s Valentine Tweet to his wife. But I guess I have to for our
listeners on Sirius XM Radio.

OK, here it goes. "Hey @MichelleObama -- Happy Valentine`s Day --
BO." That is very uncomfortable, reading the president`s Tweet to his
wife, his Valentine to his wife.

But Debbie Wasserman Schultz is going to join me next to help me get
over it. We`re going to talk about the Republican contraception crusade.
And Ann Coulter is in the Rewrite tonight, Rewriting her tortured
relationship with Mitt Romney.

And later, the Republican politician who made a mother`s argument for
marriage equality.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: The fact that the White
House thinks this is about contraception is the whole problem. This is
about freedom of religion. It`s right there in the First Amendment. You
can`t miss it.

In this country, the government doesn`t get to tell you or your
organization what your religious views are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And so, with 266 days to go before the presidential
election, the Republicans in Congress have come up with the 266th reason to
vote for President Obama in November -- birth control. It wasn`t on
anyone`s list until last week when the Republicans thought they`d found the
perfect wedge issue, but then President Obama masterfully sidestepped their
attack with a deft and minor adjustment to the new regulation mandating
birth control coverage in health insurance policies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Under the rule, women will still have access to free
preventative care that includes contraceptive services, no matter where
they work. So that core principle remains.

But if a woman`s employer is a charity or a hospital that has a
religious objection to providing contraceptive services as part of their
health plan, the insurance company, not the hospital, not the charity, will
be required to reach out and offer the woman contraceptive care, free of
charge, without copays and without hassles.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: But that wasn`t good enough for Republicans. Republican
Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri says he wants to legislate a wide-open
exemption to the contraception mandate that will allow anyone, any
individual or any employer to leave contraception out of a health insurance
policy based on that person or employer`s, quote, "religious beliefs or
moral conviction."

Majority Leader Harry Reid believes that Senator Blunt`s proposal has
no chance of passing and can only hurt the Republicans politically. And so
he said today he would allow a vote on it. And later this week, House
Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa will hold a
hearing entitled "Lines Crossed, Separation of Church and State; Has the
Obama Administration Trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of
Conscience?"

Joining me now is Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz,
chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. You will pardon me for
having trouble keeping a straight face reading the title of the most
ludicrously titled hearing I have heard of in the House of Representatives.
And you know they`ve had a lot of crazy titles for hearings in that
building.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: Yes, they`re pretty good
at crazy titles for hearings. What`s unbelievable, Lawrence, about this
entire issue is that instead of focusing on helping the president and
congressional Democrats get the economy turned around and create jobs, and
putting our nose to the grindstone and sitting around the table, locking
ourselves in a room and not leaving until we can hammer out a way to do
that, and do it together, and really, you know, continue to jump-start the
economy the way President Obama`s been able to move us forward, we are
actually debating contraception.

Contraception in which 99 percent of women in America have used at
some point in their life. And the Republicans want to debate not just
religious liberty. They want to debate allowing all employers who might
have an objection to deny that coverage that President Obama has said
should be available under the Affordable Care Act, without a copay, and
without a deductible.

I mean, that`s just unbelievable. But I guess I shouldn`t be
surprised, because the Republicans have no jobs plan. They have not
brought a single jobs bill to the floor of the House of Representatives.
Nor have they proposed it in the Senate since the Republicans took over the
majority in the House. So they need the distraction.

O`DONNELL: Well, Senator blunt is not one of the better law writers
in Washington. His exemption is so absurdly broad that it would allow
anyone to deny any kind of coverage, anything. It doesn`t have to be
contraception. It could be any form of coverage, because it in some way
conflicts with your conscience.

It doesn`t have to conflict with the teaching of any known religion.
You can just have something in your conscience that says, you know, I don`t
think we should cover ambulance services or such things.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, this is a not-to-veiled way of the
Republican`s insidious attempts to continue to try to undermine the
Affordable Care Act, return to the days when insurance companies could drop
you or deny you coverage for pre-existing conditions, make it so that we
don`t have everyone in America entitled to affordable access to quality
health care.

And so they -- they are going to do everything they can to try to
return us to the days where insurance companies made those decisions,
rather than doctors with their patients.

But, again, the -- what`s important to note here is that the
Republicans want to make this about the religious liberty. President Obama
believed that this was an important balance between religious liberty and
making sure that women have access to affordable family planning.

Lawrence, it`s 700 dollars a year, approximately, to pay for birth
control. That is real money. Whether it`s Depopravara (ph) or the patch
or the pill, that`s real money. And making sure that women don`t have to
choose between who they work for and keeping their job and being able to
afford to plan their families was a very important balance, while allowing
religious employers to be able to make sure that they could not be forced
to pay for that kind of contraception coverage that they object to.

But insurance companies would still make it available so that women,
no matter who they work for, will have affordable access to contraception.

O`DONNELL: Now, getting lucky in politics is when your opponents
create their own problems. That`s what we`re seeing on this contraception
thing. There`s no way that the contraception laws in this country are
ever, ever going to be rolled back in any way. It`s not going to happen.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, they shouldn`t be.

O`DONNELL: But you may get lucky enough to have Republicans continue
to try to do it. But now that we have seen Republicans come to their
senses and cave completely today on an extension of the payroll tax cut,
doesn`t that indicate that there are some people somewhere in those
Republican offices who are finally starting to think a little bit straight
about what the politics of these issues are?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, there was apparently a deal reached just a
little while ago on the payroll tax cut extension, as well as unemployment
benefits. And at least there are some Republicans that apparently have
come to their senses and realized that we hopefully should not sacrifice
the well-being of Americans, and making sure that we can provide that
bridge between their loss of a job and their next employer, and then make
sure that we`re not taking 1,000 dollars out of the paychecks out of the
average middle class family by not extending the payroll tax cut.

That`s what Republicans have refused to do. Some of them have seem to
have come to their senses. I hope this is a sign of things to come. But
so far, the adage that if people show you who they are, you should believe
them holds true here, whether it`s contraception or their continued
stubborn refusal to work with the president on really moving this economy
forward and trying to make sure that everyone in America has an opportunity
to be successful.

O`DONNELL: Well, I don`t know what to believe about contraception
with Mitch McConnell. He had three children with his first wife, zero
children with his second wife. I have a feeling he has a kind of warmer
relationship to contraception than he`s letting on to in his public
statements.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: But the point is that everybody should have an
opportunity to make those personal choices themselves, and plan their
families the way they want them to be, not the way the government or any
employer tells them it should have to be.

O`DONNELL: DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, I think the
Republicans are making your job a little too easy this week. Thank you
very much for joining me tonight.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Thank you. Great to be with you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up in the Rewrite, Ann Coulter was for Mitt Romney
before she was against Mitt Romney, but now she`s for Mitt Romney again.
Ann and Mitt`s tortured relationship.

And later, a mother and daughter will join me. The mother is a
Republican legislator who voted for marriage equality. Her daughter helped
her see why she should cast that vote.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Ann Coulter is once again Rewriting Ann Coulter on the
subject of Mitt Romney. Every time Ann Coulter talks about Mitt Romney at
the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, she has something new
to say. And it`s something in direct contradiction to the last thing she
said.

Let`s look at Ann and Mitt through the years. Here`s Ann Coulter at
CPAC the first time Mitt Romney was running for president in 2007.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANN COULTER, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: What I think of Governor
Romney`s candidacy for presidency. I think he`s probably our best
candidate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: "Probably our best candidate." Here is Ann Coulter at
CPAC last year, when Mitt Romney was gearing up for his second presidential
run.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COULTER: I may as well tell you what my prediction is. I think --
well, I`ll put it in a nutshell. If we don`t run Chris Christie, Romney
will be the nominee and we`ll lose.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And just a year after that, here is Ann Coulter at CPAC on
Friday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COULTER: You can`t call him dumb. You can`t call him crazy. You can
call him square. And that seems to be what a lot of right-wingers don`t
like about him. Keep asking, what is it? Well, I don`t know, he`s kind of
a Ken Doll. He`s sort of stiff.

I think we`ve had enough of hip. Hip has nearly wrecked the country.
Let`s try square for a while.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And so the new Coulter standard for endorsing a Republican
candidate for president is, if you can`t call him dumb, and you can`t call
him crazy, he gets the Coulter vote. Ann, you were right the second time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COULTER: I may as well tell you what my prediction is. I think --
well, I`ll put it in a nutshell, if we don`t run Chris Christie, Romney
will be the nominee and we`ll lose.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS GREGOIRE (D), WASHINGTON STATE: I am so proud of our young
people, including my two wonderful daughters.

Michelle, don`t do that. Including my two wonderful daughters, who
tell us that marriage equality is the civil rights issue of their time, and
who pollsters say they are helping my generation to catch up.

Thank you to that younger generation and my two daughters.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That was Washington State Governor Chris Gregoire
yesterday, thanking her two daughters right before she signed into law a
marriage equality bill, making Washington the seventh state to legalize
same-sex marriages. Joining us now for an exclusive interview is one of
the Republicans who voted for that bill and who was also influenced by her
daughter, Representative Maureen Walsh. And we`re also joined by her
daughter, Shauna Walsh.

I want to thank you both for joining me tonight. And Maureen, I want
to show our audience some of what you had to say when you announced how you
were going to vote.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAUREEN WALSH (R), WASHINGTON STATE REPRESENTATIVE: I too don`t want
to wag my finger at anybody about which way you should vote on this. It`s
certainly an issue of conscience to me, and certainly one that is -- I have
been weighing very heavily for the last few weeks.

You know, I was married for 23 years to the love of my life. And he
died six years ago. And you know, I`m a lonely old widow right now. I`m
51 years old, looking for a boyfriend, not having much luck with that.

And yet when I think of my husband and I think of all the wonderful
years we had and the wonderful fringe benefit of having three beautiful
children, I don`t miss the sex. You know?

And to me, that`s kind of what this boils down to, is I don`t miss
that. I mean, I certainly miss it. But I don`t -- it`s not -- it is
certainly not the aspect of that relationship, that incredible bond that I
had with that human being that I really, really genuinely wish I still had.

And so I just -- I think to myself, how could I deny anyone the right
to have that incredible bond with another individual in life? To me, it
seems almost cruel.

My daughter came out of the closet a couple of years ago. And you
know what, I thought I was just going to agonize about that. Nothing`s
different. She`s still a fabulous human being. And she`s met a person
that she loves very much.

And some day, by God, I want to throw a wedding for that kid. And I
hope that`s exactly what I can do.

I hope she will not feel like a second class citizen, involved in
something called a domestic partnership, which frankly sounds like a merry
maids franchise to me.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. That`s all I want to say.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Shauna, just watching you watch your mother deliver that
speech, what was it like to have your mother stand up and tell that story?

SHAUNA WALSH, DAUGHTER OF MAUREEN WALSH: It was incredible. I think
that it`s an experience that I wish that more children could have. I`ve
always been proud of my mother. She`s been through a lot. And she`s
handled it all with a lot of grace and a lot more grace than many people
would, I think.

And you know, I didn`t start being proud of my mom when she delivered
the speech, but it certainly was a proud day for me. I watched the entire
debate. And I really loved a lot of comments on both sides of the aisle.
And I`m just -- I was speechless. I really was.

O`DONNELL: Maureen, in a legislator`s life, there`s a lot of
compromises you make. Every once in a while, there`s one for the memoirs.
This looks like one of those for you.

M. WALSH: Well, apparently so. I just am absolutely overwhelmed by
the responses that I`ve gotten, frankly, from around the world, after this
thing went viral. I didn`t even really know what viral meant and wondered
if I needed antibiotics for that. But it has been overwhelming and very
touching.

And I am just -- the heartfelt responses that I`ve gotten from people,
again, all over the world, it has been incredible. And I really appreciate
people sharing their stories with me.

O`DONNELL: Maureen, you got to stand up for the right thing and you
got to stand up for your daughter at the same time. Did you ever think
that your legislative responsibilities would bring those things together
that way, and be standing there on the floor, advocating a vote based on
your own experience and your daughter`s experience?

M. WALSH: Well, you know, I work on a lot of committees here in the
legislature that deal with families and children. And so it does not come
as a surprise that I might, in fact, interject my personal experiences with
my family into a speech on the floor. But, goodness knows I had no idea it
would resonate with so many people around the world like this.

And I love my kids. And my kids are my real strength. And I just am
so proud of them. After I lost my husband, he was 51 and I was a widow at
45. That was a difficult thing. And my kids urged me to continue to run
for the legislature, which has also become a family of mine.

This is my 20th legislative session. And I am just -- I love my kids
and they`ve inspired me greatly.

O`DONNELL: Shauna, what surprised you most about what you heard your
mother say that day?

S. WALSH: Well, I knew she loved me, as my mom, but I had no idea
that she thought I was such a fabulous human being. But I think I was most
surprised by her just emotion, her raw energy that she shared with
everybody, so openly. I was very impressed by that.

O`DONNELL: Hey, Shauna, you know how long it takes to conclude that
you`re a fabulous human being? I just did it in four minutes.

S. WALSH: How long?

O`DONNELL: I just did it in four minutes. Representative -- thank
you both, the Walsh girls. Thank you very much for joining me tonight.

S. WALSH: Thank you.

M. WALSH: Thanks so much for having me.

O`DONNELL: You can see Representative Walsh`s entire speech on our
blog, TheLastWord.MSNBC.com

END

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