updated 2/17/2012 1:18:50 PM ET 2012-02-17T18:18:50

Guests: Chris Hayes, Alex Wagner, Foster Friess, Arrianna Huffington, Mark Thompson

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, GUEST: We got him. The guy who`s backing Rick
Santorum`s super PAC and who said today that women should try aspirin for
contraception -- Foster Friess is my first guest.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m just delighted to be
back in Michigan.

MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN: And Michigan is in play, oddly
enough.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Romney`s home state now turning into a must-win
for him.

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC HOST: Santorum now leads Romney 34 percent to
30 percent among likely Republican voters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a huge problem if he loses Michigan.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s a really strong statement.

MITCHELL: If Mitt Romney loses Michigan, they`re going to start
talking about a broken convention.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A loss in Michigan is sort of un-spinnable for
Romney.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s no explanation that Romney would have for
that.

KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: There`s a very good chance
they could lose Michigan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Independents and Democrats can vote in this
primary, and they will.

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: GM announcing its profits, the highest in
its 103-year history.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Up 62 percent from 2010, the highest profit
ever.

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Governor Romney supported
the bailout of Wall Street.

ROMNEY: I love cars. I love American cars.

SANTORUM: And decided not to support the bailout of Detroit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The weakness of Mitt Romney being perceived as
this 1 percenter who`s out of touch with the rest of America.

ROMNEY: Any old girlfriends here? I have to be careful.

(LAUGHTER)

FOSTER FRIESS, SANTORUM SUPPORTER: Here we have millions of our
fellow Americans unemployed and people seem to be so preoccupied with sex.

WAGNER: The House just held a hearing looking into the Obama
administration`s new contraceptive rule.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This hearing was called by Republican
Congressman Darrell Issa.

WAGNER: The meeting got off to a contentious start.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What I want to know is, where are the women?

LUKE RUSSERT, NBC NEWS: They`re having a hearing about women`s health
and they don`t have any women up there. Duh! They should do that.

FRIESS: You know, back in my days, they used Bayer Aspirin for
contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn`t that
costly.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: The last statement you just heard about putting aspirin
between the knees for contraception was from Foster Friess, the guy who is
the single biggest contributor to the super PAC that supports Rick
Santorum`s candidacy.

With that statement and the first session of an absurdist hearing on
contraception in the House of Representatives this morning, that did not
include any female witnesses, the politics of contraception is once again
today vying with the Santorum surge as the lead political story of the day.

Joining me now for an exclusive prime-time interview is the man who
was at the center of both of those stories, Foster Friess.

Mr. Friess, thank you very much for joining me tonight.

FRIESS: Lawrence, it`s an honor to be on your program. I`m delighted
you asked me.

O`DONNELL: I`m going to play the tape now of what you said to Andrea
Mitchell, that I don`t know if you realized it when you said it, but it has
set the political world on fire since you spoke these words. Let`s listen
to it again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRIESS: And this contraceptive thing -- my gosh, it`s such
inexpensive. You know, back in my days, they used Bayer Aspirin for
contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn`t that
costly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Mr. Friess, what were you talking about?

FRIESS: Well, I love the expression, it`s not so much what people
say, it`s what people hear. And obviously a lot of people who are younger
than 71 didn`t get the context of that joke.

Back in my days, they didn`t have the birth control pill. So to
suggest that Bayer Aspirin could be -- I`m sorry, that aspirin could be a
birth control was considered pretty ridiculous and quite funny. So, I
think that was the gist of that story.

But what`s been nice, it gives an opportunity to really look at what
this contraceptive issue is all about.

O`DONNELL: Well, tell us what you think it`s all about.

FRIESS: Well, I think it`s about religious liberty. I think here you
have Rick Santorum, who everybody knows he adheres to the Catholic
teachings on contraception, but yet he has done nothing to take his
personal views and take it into the public arena of policy. So, in six
years in the Senate, there was never a whisper of banning contraceptives.
He`s publicly said I don`t want to ban contraceptives. And someone said if
two states -- there`s a couple of states that might propose that, he said
he`d vote against it.

And the irony is, he actually voted to fund contraceptives to fight
aids in Africa.

I think this will give us an opportunity for the women to believe that
he`s on their side and believes in religious liberty.

Now, contrast that to President Obama, who took his personal views and
superimposed on the Catholic Church and made them do what they didn`t want
to do. It`s a little bit like asking a Muslim soup kitchen to serve pork
or a kosher delicatessen, they have to serve ham.

O`DONNELL: Do you know any women who have trouble or cannot afford
contraception?

FRIESS: I do. I do. And I think that`s available to them. I
believe there`s no way they cannot get contraceptives if they need it.
There`s public health clinics, I believe, that distribute it.

So it isn`t so much an issue of not making it available, it`s just an
issue of forcing people to make it available. You can get contraceptives
any place. If you honor religious liberty and don`t force Catholic
institutions to provide contraceptives, that doesn`t mean anybody`s not
going to get contraceptives, does it, Lawrence?

O`DONNELL: It doesn`t mean anybody`s not going to get them, but it
does mean some people won`t get them. It turns out there are plenty of
ways to fall through the cracks in this thing, and we have not set up a
full safety net on that.

FRIESS: Well, who won`t get contraceptives?

O`DONNELL: Look, there are plenty of people who don`t have access to
Planned Parenthood where you live. There are plenty of places you can be
in this country where it`s very difficult to get.

But I don`t want to get bogged down in that. You have been married
for a very long time. You only have four children, so I assume you did not
ascribe to Rick Santorum`s personal beliefs on contraceptives.

FRIESS: Well, I have been blessed by contraceptives. But I do have
12 grandchildren. And I think it`s reasonable thing that contraceptives
have blessed a lot of people. It`s an important thing for many women.
It`s allowed them to advance their careers and make their own choices.

And see, that`s what`s special about America. People can choose.
That`s what`s so annoying about this idea that President Obama forcing
people to do something that is against their religious beliefs.

And that`s what the issue`s about -- where Rick Santorum, as I said
earlier, you know what his position is, but yet he`s never had any
attempts, in fact, has even funded contraceptives to fight AIDS in Africa.

O`DONNELL: Yes, he has done that. He`s also said -- he`s also said
in the past that he thought that contraception could be a state issue and
if a state wants to ban contraception, that would be perfectly OK with him.

FRIESS: Well, I don`t -- no, he didn`t say it was OK with him. He
said he`d vote against it. See, people --

O`DONNELL: Not, just -- again, I don`t want to get trapped into this,
but he said, as a state issue, if a state wanted to ban contraception, he
would not have any problem with that. He is a -- he has been a federal
legislator in the Senate, and he`s running for president. And as
president, he would have no interference with a state trying to do that.

FRIESS: Lawrence, I think that gets back to people hear what they
want to hear, and you check what he actually said. As I understand his
position, and in fact, I just kind of verified that today, he said he would
vote against any state that wanted to ban contraceptives.

Now, maybe there`s a -- maybe the issue was asked, is the Constitution
legal for a state to do that, and maybe ask President Obama, who`s a
constitutional lawyer, if it is or isn`t. I think there`s two different
issues. I don`t know if --

O`DONNELL: Sorry. Did you talk to Rick Santorum about that today?

FRIESS: No, I did not.

O`DONNELL: When`s the last time you talked to Rick Santorum?

FRIESS: Oh, it`s been probably maybe four or five days, a week.

O`DONNELL: And do you talk to him frequently?

FRIESS: No.

He`s -- those guys are jumping around like you can`t believe. They`re
so excited and so geared up and they`re working very hard to create this
idea of a free America, where people can choose where they want to choose
and not be forced by the government to do something they don`t want to do.

I think maybe the Muslims ought to get behind them, because they don`t
want to serve pork at their soup kitchens, do they?

O`DONNELL: Now, you hedged your bets last year when this thing was
getting started. On May 23rd, you started off with $2,500 to Rick
Santorum`s campaign. The very next day, you gave $1,000 to Mitt Romney`s
campaign. A few weeks after that, $2,500 to Tim Pawlenty, and then $2,500
to Newt Gingrich.

What made you zero in on Rick Santorum? What`s the most important
issue that Rick Santorum champions that makes his candidacy the most
important candidacy to you?

FRIESS: Lawrence, I think it`s what we`re just talking about here
today -- authenticity and honesty. He`ll tell you exactly what you
believe. He doesn`t have a bunch of consultants, hey, guys, how can I say
this and phrase this so I can get the women`s vote? He just tells it like
it is, and I think people -- well, women admire that in him.

O`DONNELL: Well, that`s a quality -- I mean an issue, not so much a
personal character quality. Is there a single issue that is your most
important governing issue that has brought you to the Santorum campaign?

FRIESS: Yes. I would say his love for America --

O`DONNELL: Again, that`s, but that`s just -- that`s not an issue.
What I mean is taxation, or in this case, contraception, or abortion, or
some foreign policy issue. I don`t mean to cut you off, but I don`t mean
something general. Everybody in the campaign really likes America a lot.
So, I mean something specific about governing.

FRIESS: Well, he -- I would say, I don`t know if any one of those
sticks out more than any others, but I guess the whole idea of religious
liberty is important to me. And also the idea of getting the working
people back to work.

As you know, he`s been able to win elections, where there`s 1 million
more Democrats, because he appealed to the blue-collar worker. So I would
say the jobs issue and getting people back to work, not only just because
it puts food on the table, but there`s a spiritual quality we have in a
job. It makes uh feel like we`re contributing, we`re part of the solution,
and it feels good to contribute to others.

And I think -- so from those both sides of the spiritual aspect and
the economic aspect, getting the people back to work and his idea of
getting rid of the income tax on manufacturing and processors -- and I
think that issue probably would be a very important one. Maybe there`s
other ones, but contraception sure ain`t one of them. I think that`s not
an issue.

O`DONNELL: The biggest backer of Gingrich super PAC has reached out
to the Romney campaign and assured them that he will be with them when the
time comes. Have you made similar assurances to the Romney campaign, that
if the Santorum star sinks, that you will jump over to the Romney campaign?

FRIESS: Well, my opinion all along, Lawrence, is I think Romney,
Mitt, would make a terrific vice president. So it`s a little too early to
make that conclusion.

But I do say Mitt Romney is a national treasure. He`s a great man.

I think the reason Rick Santorum is doing so much better is he just
has a magic to him. He`s the grandson of a coal miner. He loves this
country.

And his motivations are sort of as a calling, actually. He`s not in
it for the ego or the money. And I believe his policies are what`s
resonating with America.

But more than anything else, his personality is someone who`s honest,
authentic, and tells it like it is. I think that`s really resonating with
American people.

O`DONNELL: Foster Friess, thank you for joining us tonight and thank
you for clarifying that you weren`t actually giving medical advice this
afternoon on Andrea`s show.

(LAUGHTER)

FRIESS: I don`t have a license, they`d put me in jail. You cannot
believe that some of the people didn`t get the joke.

(CROSSTALK)

O`DONNELL: Oh, I can believe that.

Thank you very much for joining us.

FRIESS: OK, thanks, Lawrence. God bless you.

O`DONNELL: OK.

And joining me now, Chris Hayes, the host of MSNBC`s "UP WITH CHRIS
HAYES" and Alex Wagner, the host of MSNBC`s "NOW WITH ALEX WAGNER."

Your reactions to Mr. Foster Friess -- Alex.

WAGNER: Well, I was confused when I first heard the advice about the
Bayer between the knees. I thought that was more about keeping your legs
closed and that`s how you stay out of trouble. But apparently there`s some
sort of -- I don`t know what.

You know, Foster Friess seems like not a bad guy. I think he has a
lot of -- he has a lot of love for Rick Santorum. But, look, if you talk
about some of the positions that Rick Santorum has taken on these social
issues, whether it`s gay marriage, whether it`s some of the statements as
you rightfully pointed out -- about supporting states that would outlaw
contraception, he is so far to the right on this stuff, I don`t know how
you win over not only American women, but the American public.

O`DONNELL: Chris, what is the Friess effect in the Santorum campaign
today?

CHRIS HAYES, "UP WITH CHRIS HAYES": Negative. I think the --

WAGNER: Cold.

HAYES: Yes. It`s cold. I think the clip from Andrea`s show is going
to be everywhere. I think the problem is that it`s stacked atop an entire
week`s worth of things that you`ve been obviously talking about on the show
and talking about on the network, between the bill in Virginia for the, you
know, for the mandatory exam if you want an abortion. The all-male hearing
today. The --he`s quote --

O`DONNELL: That was the easiest thing in the world --

HAYES: Easiest thing in the world.

WAGNER: That was actually staged by a women`s group to drive home the
point that this is unfairly being --

(CROSSTALK)

HAYES: So all those things add up. And then you have this sound bite
that just completely managed to -- if you have a suspicion that actually
the politics of this issue and the cover story of religious liberty is
simply that, a cover story for a bunch of men who want to with not
particularly enlightened visions of gender equity, who want to tell women
what to do and control female sexuality and reproductive self-
determination, into that reach comes this quote, which on its face seems
like it confirms your absolute worst fears about what is motivating the
entire news cycle from conservatives this week.

O`DONNELL: And that that world is populated by some really flaky guys
with flaky thinking, like, jeez --

WAGNER: Really old-fashioned guys that have incredibly antiquated --

O`DONNELL: Let`s take a break. We`re going to come back to this.

Chris Hayes and Alex Wagner, stay with us.

Coming up: Mitt`s last stand in Michigan. And Arianna Huffington will
join me on the politics of contraception. We`ll have more on that.

And in the "Rewrite" tonight, Rush Limbaugh is very, very angry about
contraception, but I think he has more in common with the pro-contraception
team than he is admitting.

And later, Chris Christie got something right in New Jersey. The
flags will fly at half-mast on Saturday while the world is watching Whitney
Houston`s funeral.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY FALLON, COMEDIAN: According to a new poll, 39 percent of voters
say the more they know about Romney, the less they like him -- which
explains his new campaign slogan, Mitt Romney -- that`s it. That`s it.
Just stop right there, before you can even get a bad taste in your mouth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Three polls today show you`re losing Michigan.

ROMNEY: Well, that won`t happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: We`re back with MSNBC`s Chris Hayes and Alex Wagner.

Let`s go to the big board and take a look at the latest Michigan poll.
Santorum, 34, "The Detroit news," Romney, 30, Gingrich, 12, Paul, 9.

And so today, Mitt Romney was faced with the question all the polls
are showing you losing in Michigan. And Romney said very simply, "That
won`t happen." These MacArthur-like words, "That won`t happen."

Alex, that sets the stakes for Michigan.

HAYES: Yes.

O`DONNELL: He`s saying it won`t happen. In other words, the universe
can`t allow it. And it can`t. Or what happens if it does happen?

WAGNER: Oh, Lawrence, he`s carpet bombing the state with $2 million
worth of negative ads, where Santorum`s spending $42,000. Romney believes
in that old saying, it`s the money, honey. And I think he thinks what he
did in Florida with Newt Gingrich is going to work in Michigan with
Santorum.

The question is, Michigan is blue-collar. You have auto workers. You
have Romney`s position in 2008 on the auto bailout.

You have Rick Santorum who appeals to blue-collar, working class
voters, and is much more authentic in the minds of many in the American
public.

HAYES: I think the killer argument that Santorum has against Mitt
Romney is not just that he wrote the famous -- the now-famous op-ed, "Let
Detroit Go Bankrupt." He opposed the auto deal.

But he supported TARP, and Santorum, there`s a clip of that basically
saying, this guy wanted the $800 billion to bailout the banks --

O`DONNELL: Wall Street.

HAYES: He wants to bailout Wall Street, but when this entire region,
the entire economy and ecosystem and interlaced network of human lives
wrapped around that was on the alter, he said, just bring down the hammer,
right? I mean, that is --

WAGNER: Well, he said, managed bankruptcy, which sounds probably just
as bad.

HAYES: But the point is, that is, I mean, that`s a brutal argument,
in the context -- this isn`t like hippie dippiness. In the context of a
Republican primary, right, because he can draw a distinction -- it`s not
like your principled against bailouts. You supported the bailouts for the
banks. It`s that you actually just wanted Detroit to wither on the vine.

O`DONNELL: Let`s take a look at how Michigan voters think of the
bailout now. We`ve got a big board screen on that. Successful --
Democrats certainly think it was very successful.

Let`s look at the Republican numbers, though. Twenty-seven percent of
Republicans think it was a success. They accept that award for it.

More interestingly, good for Michigan.

HAYES: Yes.

O`DONNELL: Good for Michigan -- 47 percent of Republicans think it`s
good for Michigan. And oh, by the way, people in those other columns can
vote in Michigan, in that primary. Democrats can go vote, some of those 82
percent, some of those 63 percent independents.

And, Chris, going forward, that independent number is really scary.
If 63 percent of independents think that President Obama was right on the
auto industry, Mitt Romney just outright wrong on the auto industry, that`s
a big problem.

HAYES: Well, it`s particularly a big problem if Romney, as he has up
until now, constructs the entire rationale for his campaign as a one-legged
stool. The one-legged stool is, I know how to bring jobs back. If you
have six months of huge amounts of job growth, if you have GM doing well,
and if you have all the economic narrative of the country beginning to
turn, there is nothing left of the Romney rationale for why you should be
president of the United States. Nothing.

That is not true of Rick Santorum, who brings with him an entire
universe and world view of how America should be, that is extremely
different from this president. It`s not this basic technocratic message --
we`re not creating jobs now, I can create jobs in the future, which is Mitt
Romney.

O`DONNELL: Alex, you know the pundit world is confused when talk of
brokered convention breaks out. So we`ve started to hear the talk of
brokered convention. If Mitt Romney loses Michigan, it`s another way of
the pundit world saying, if Mitt Romney loses Michigan, then I don`t
understand what`s going on.

WAGNER: Well, I mean, you can replay the tape of everyone in the
pundit class saying, Rick Santorum is not going to be the nominee.

O`DONNELL: Yes.

WAGNER: And now for the first time, I think this week, you`re seeing
people sort of scratching their heads and saying, oh, actually, maybe so.
If Rick Santorum gives Mitt Romney a run for his money, and I would say, if
he`s within five points of Mitt Romney, it is a huge problem for Mitt
Romney, because money is going to rain down on the Rick Santorum campaign.
And as Chris said, the inevitability argument that Romney has been running
on is gone.

O`DONNELL: Well, inevitability is gone in the polls already. They
both kind of matchup to President Obama, identically, once that happens,
the Romney argument starts to collapse.

I have been an anyone but Romney chanter for -- because I believed
that Romney would be the most difficult one for President Obama to beat.
And so -- and that has absolutely been the feeling of the Obama re-election
campaign in Chicago. I now have a different reason for being anyone but
Romney, and I actually now not anyone, I am specifically Santorum. I want
Santorum to get this nomination, because I want to see the debate. I want
to see conservatism debated for the very first time in the general
election.

Compared to Rick Santorum, we have never had a conservative run for
president. Ronald Reagan was way to the left of Rick Santorum. George W.
Bush with his Medicare prescription drug plan, to the left of Rick
Santorum. The first President Bush, way to the left of Rick Santorum.

And so, Republicans have been saying, conservative, conservative,
conservative, and this country`s more conservative than you think. Let`s
find out. Let`s have these guys campaign.

HAYES: Well, that was the rationale in 1964, Barry Goldwater.

O`DONNELL: Yes, exactly!

HAYES: And obviously, that stung for a long time. I mean, I think in
the case of Santorum, there`s also -- I mean, you know, I`m pretty sure --
I believe he voted for Medicare Part D.

WAGNER: He did.

HAYES: So, you know, the question of, what is conservative? Bush was
the most conservative person ever when he was successful, and as soon as he
stopped being successful, conservative ran away from him, and all of a
sudden said his problem was that he was a big government conservative.

It`s unclear to me that the same won`t happen to Rick Santorum if, in
fact, he`s defeated, right? I mean, conservatism never fails. It is
always failed.

O`DONNELL: But to the `64 example, what happened after Barry
Goldwater, then the most conservative Republican to ever get the
nomination, is conservatism went into a fast retreat in Republican
politics, and liberalism advanced faster than it ever had, with the
legislation LBJ was able to do after that and going forward to the `70s.

WAGNER: You could argue that that`s beginning to happen now,
regardless of whether Rick Santorum was a nominee. You have a huge cleave
within the party. They have no identity.

You have the uber conservative Tea Party wing, the establishment wing
which is moving ever towards the center -- the infighting, the inability of
anyone in the Republican caucus to get anything done, and now on the
national stage, two candidates that are neither here nor there for vast
parts of the American party and their base.

O`DONNELL: I want to take a fast look at what Republicans really
think. This is a point I was trying to make the other night on our board
here.

Medicare vouchers, for example, 56 percent of Republicans oppose that.
Social Security cuts, 55 percent of Republicans are opposed to the way
Republicans talk about Social Security. Raising taxes on millionaires, for
example, 43 percent of Republicans are actually in favor of that.

Require employers to cover birth control, the latest issue, 50 percent
of Republicans to support that. But more precisely, requiring insurance
companies of religious affiliated employers to cover birth control, a full
41 percent of Republicans support that. And that`s something you would
never know, listening to Republican politicians.

HAYES: Well, I think -- I think what happened was, there are two
things. One is the miserable succession of economic crisis and economic
news gave Republicans confidence that they were going to beat President
Obama in the fall, because if unemployment`s 9 percent, 10 percent, it`s
very hard to get re-elected. Second of all, the victory of the Tea Party
enforced to a degree (AUDIO GAP) rigidity on the people in the party
themselves, because they saw what happened to the Mike Castles, for
instance, of Delaware, who got knocked off, because they were too heterodox
for the conservatives.

Now, they find themselves trapped in a situation. They were actually
getting a false bump from the bad economic views, and they convinced
themselves it was because Americans liked the things they were saying and
they actually believed that.

And as the economy improves, I think you`ll see revealed more and more
-- it turns out that these are not majority position, getting re getting
rid of Medicare, right? And that`s always been the case, but it could be
masked by the fact that they were the alternative to what was a large
economic crisis. The less that`s the case, the more that ideology
surfaces, the more problem it is politically.

O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes of "UP," Alex Wagner of "NOW" -- thank you
both for joining me tonight.

HAYES: Thanks.

WAGNER: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, the contraception crazies continue, and Rush
Limbaugh, I think, is the craziest one of all. That`s in the "Rewrite".

And later, Chris Christie did the right thing in New Jersey, ordering
the flags at half-mast for Whitney Houston. We`ll remember all the good
works Whitney Houston did and we`ll show you her singing to Nelson Mandela
at the White House.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DARRELL ISSA, OVERSIGHT & GOVERNMENT REFORM COMMITTEE: Many will
frame today, not as First Amendment, but about the particular issue that
comes before us related to the Obama health care plan. The real questions
of where does faith begin and where does it end. Where does government`s
ability to influence decisions made by people of faith and where does it
end.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS, OVERSIGHT AND GOVERNMENT REFORM COMMITTEE: I
think everyone understands what is going on here today. The chairman is
promoting a conspiracy theory that the federal government is conducting a
war against religion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Darrell Issa, the chairman of the House Oversight and
Government Reform Committee, was today`s leader of the Republican political
suicide mission on contraception. His hearing entitled "Lines Crossed:
Separation of Church and State, Has the Obama Administration Trampled on
Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience" turned out to be as
ridiculous as its title.

Darrell Issa did not just fail to include any women on his panel of
witnesses this morning, he refused to allow one of the witnesses suggested
by the Democrats, who is a woman. It is customary in congressional
hearings to allow the minority party to have at least one witness at the
table. Violating that custom today was a political gift to the Democrats.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI, MINORITY LEADER: Where are the women? And that`s
a good question for the whole debate. Where are the women? Where are the
women on that panel. Imagine they`re having a panel on women`s health, and
they don`t have any women on the panel. Duh.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: It`s hard out there for a Republican. Especially if
you`re running in Massachusetts against a great Democratic candidate, like
Elizabeth Warren. Here`s Massachusetts` Republican Senator Scott Brown
trying to justify his decision to support Senator Blunt`s amendment to
allow employers to drop any provision in any health care policy for any
reason of so-called conscience.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM BRAUDE, NECN: You acknowledge that Senator Blunt`s amendment that
you`re supporting goes far further than religious objections, no?

SEN. SCOTT BROWN (R), MASSACHUSETTS: No, I don`t. I think it`s in
line with what Senator Kennedy and I have fought for and I have a history
in the state Senate of voting for, to allow religious organizations to have
-- and people to have that conscience exemption -- objection exemption to
allow them to practice their faith. It`s one of the cornerstones of our
constitution.

BRAUDE: It doesn`t just say religious beliefs, it says moral
convictions. So where is she wrong? It seems to me that`s a loophole you
could drive a truck through, no?

BROWN: Jim, you know as well as I do that that`s a red herring.
Bottom line is that if anything like that happened in Massachusetts, you
know, people would obviously be sued.

BRAUDE: Senator, then you tell me, you signed over the amendment,
what is the language or moral conviction mean? It seems to me, if I say to
an employer --

BROWN: Jim, Jim --

BRAUDE: -- I have a moral -- that`s the language. I`m reading it
verbatim, Senator Brown.

BROWN: Jim, once again, I disagree with your interpretation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now is Arianna Huffington, president and editor
in chief of "The Huffington Post" media group.

Arianna, that`s Massachusetts television. It`s -- if he thought that
the high concentration of Catholics in Massachusetts was somehow going to
make this work for him, he`s finding out very differently now.

ARRIANNA HUFFINGTON, THE HUFFINGTON POST: You know, it may be that
President Obama is the likest man on earth.

O`DONNELL: Yes.

HUFFINGTON: Because if they really think that this is winning them
votes, they are obviously not reading the polls. But they are reading the
polls. Because you see how careful they are now to reposition this. This
is not about contraception, this is not about women, this is about the
First Amendment. In fact, again and again, we see that they are reading
the polls. And we have over 70 percent of people in the latest Gallup Poll
worried about the economy and jobs. And if you include all the culture war
issues, including abortion, it`s 5 percent.

So they are missing the point. That even though the numbers and the
job numbers may be a little better, people don`t really feel better. You
know, we still have over 20 percent of young people unemployed. We still
have over 8 percent unemployment. We still have four million people`s
homes foreclosed. So why are they not playing on that and run, which is
really what their advantage is?

O`DONNELL: The Republicans have never been much about pointing out
that the black unemployment rate is double the regular rate. They`re not
interested in those issues. And to see them go at this is so absurdly
suicidal, politically.

Darrell Issa and the boys, all boys, on the Republican group today, at
that hearing, tried to have this hearing without saying the word
"contraception."

HUFFINGTON: No.

O`DONNELL: They actually tried to get through it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it doesn`t work because ultimately it is about
contraception. And debating contraception in 2012, including the idea that
somehow aspirin between your legs is a trick, you and I should have
mentioned that to our daughters, we forgot it, and is not working for them.
And you can see it on their faces, you can see it in their equivocations,
that they know it`s not working for them, and now they don`t quite know how
to get out of it.

O`DONNELL: If you are the party that is becoming anti-contraception
in some sense, which they are, in image terms, they`re definitely becoming
that party, and everyone but everyone uses contraception, all Catholics use
contraception, the 2 percent who say they don`t aren`t telling the truth.
And so it`s a 100 percent issue.

When you then ask for the microphone to talk about what you want to do
with the economy, you were just the guy who was saying something crazy
about contraception. We don`t listen to you.

HUFFINGTON: I know. And yet, even now, even though they`re saying
that, they`re having a hard time talking about the economy. And one of the
reasons is perhaps because they don`t really have any solutions. And even
Sarah Palin, you know at CPAC, when she spoke about the economy, when she
reminded us of the numbers that are still really bad, I look at her and I
thought, yes, she`s right. So they would get tremendous resonance by doing
that, but I`m not running their campaign.

O`DONNELL: Right. But I mean the trouble for them is that we`re --
that the momentum, you have a stock market on the rise. You have
unemployment numbers looking better in a fairly consistent pattern now.
And so there`s a trend that isn`t going their way. And so they don`t seem
to be able to find the language that says, OK, remember, everybody, 8
percent unemployment is not good.

HUFFINGTON: Well --

O`DONNELL: You know just because it`s not 10, 8 is not good. They
can`t find that.

HUFFINGTON: But I think they could -- they could actually ask the
Ronald Reagan question, which is not good for Obama. They could say, are
you better off than you were four years ago? And people would have to say
no. And African-Americans will have to say that under the first black
president, they`re actually worse off than they were before Obama was in
the White House.

I mean there`s a lot you can say. And they could attack this
foreclosure agreement. That`s really not good for homeowners. That`s
better for banks. But they just haven`t found the language and they don`t
really have the empathy.

O`DONNELL: They would then also have to say, here`s what we`re going
to do going forward that is better than President Obama, and I don`t think
they have any language for that.

HUFFINGTON: No. They don`t have any solutions. And that`s really
their problem. But the jobs problem and the economy are still the big
issues of this election, and the media also are a little bit complicit when
they`re actually buying into the fact that the culture wars are now the big
issue.

You know you have the AP headline saying, culture wars, not the
economy, the 2012 issue. This is the balloon boy issue of the 2012
election, not the real issue.

O`DONNELL: Arianna Huffington of "The Huffington Post," thank you
very much for joining me tonight.

Coming up, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is under fire for having
flags across the state flown at half-mast to honor Whitney Houston. That`s
going to be later.

And Rush Limbaugh thinks that the only people having mindless sex day
in and day out use contraception. Those are his words. You`re going to
hear his words in "The Rewrite."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, LATE NIGHT WITH DAVE LETTERMAN: The dog named
Malachi, it`s a Pekinese -- yes. And tomorrow as part of the winning dog
thing, gets to ride on the roof of Mitt Romney`s car.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: In tonight`s "Rewrite," Rush Limbaugh is mad at you again.
But I know you don`t know that because you don`t listen to Rush Limbaugh.
So when he talks directly to you, you`re not going to hear him unless I
bring him to you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, CONSERVATIVE RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: To the people in
this country who do nothing but have sex mindlessly day in and day out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Obviously, none of those people are listening to Rush
Limbaugh, but I`d like to think all of them are watching THE LAST WORD.
Even Rush Limbaugh thinks the contraception issue has become a problem for
Republicans, and he thinks that because of all of you who, in his words,
have sex mindlessly day in and day out.

He thinks mindless sex has made you single-issue voters and that your
single issue is obviously contraception. So Rush is now worried that
mindless sex could be the decisive issue in the presidential campaign and
deliver the country four more years of mindless sex under President Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIMBAUGH: You tell that bunch of mindless brain-dead twerps that
they`re not going to get their birth control, and that`s all that will
matter. They`re going to vote for Obama on that alone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And so with 264 days to go until the presidential
election, Rush Limbaugh has now made mindless sex reason number 264 to vote
for President Obama.

You know, when Rush gets going about contraception, he comes very
close to doing a full Santorum on it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIMBAUGH: Birth control is only a means of eliminating consequences.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Well, that`s true. Birth control is a means of
eliminating consequences. But to Rush, eliminating consequences means
avoiding the responsibility of your actions, while to us contraception is
the responsible action to take.

Now I wouldn`t try to change the mind of anyone who sees it the way
Rick Santorum does. We just have different views of how to be responsible.
And we apparently have very, very different views about mindless sex. But
I think Rush actually has more in common with the people he`s railing
against than he is letting on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIMBAUGH: To the people in this country who do nothing but have sex
mindlessly day in and day out, and who birth control is only a means of
eliminating consequences.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: OK, let`s see. Rush Limbaugh got married when he was 26
years old. He liked it so much he got married three more times. Now if we
assume that the first time Rush Limbaugh had interpersonal heterosexual sex
was on his first wedding night and the last time he had it, if he`s as
happily married as he should be in a fourth marriage, was last night, Rush
has had at least 35 years of heterosexual sex with four wives, and possibly
the occasional dalliance between marriages.

And how many consequences does Rush have to show for that? None. Not
one child. No little Rush Jr. No Rushina. None.

Talk about eliminating consequences. Rush Limbaugh has not just
practiced birth control his whole life, he has perfected it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIMBAUGH: Birth control is only a means of eliminating consequences.
Birth control is only a means of eliminating consequences. Birth control
is only a means of eliminating consequences.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: New Jersey`s Republican governor, Chris Christie, has now
said two things that I agree with. The first actually earned him a
standing ovation on this show from me and the staff of THE LAST WORD for
his statement against anti-Muslim bigotry when he appointed a Muslim judge
to the New Jersey Superior Court.

The second thing Chris Christie has said that I agree with is this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Whitney Houston was an important
part of the fabric, cultural fabric of this state. And as I said, on the
night of her passing, I think, you know, she belongs in the same category
from a musical perspective in New Jersey history and with folks like Frank
Sinatra and Count Basie and Bruce Springsteen. She was a cultural icon in
this state. And her accomplishments in her life were a source of great
pride for many people in this state and as the state as a whole. And so on
that basis, I think she`s entitled to have that recognition.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now is Mark Thompson, the host of "Make It
Plain" on Sirius XM.

Mark, thanks for joining me tonight. You posted a piece today on
"Uptown" that really got my attention. You told me a lot of things about
Whitney Houston I didn`t know. I just approached her career as a music
fan, I loved her movies.

Talk about her -- the charitable work that she did. You listed a lot
of things in here that she accomplished in her charitable work.

MARK THOMPSON, HOST, "MAKE IT PLAIN"/SIRIUS XM: Well, as always,
thanks for having me, Lawrence. Whitney Houston, we must remember her for
her humanitarian work. The Whitney Houston Foundation helped children with
AIDS, helped children who were homeless. She gave money, also, she was
very generous towards the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, the United Negro
College Fund, just to name a few. She --

O`DONNELL: We have a screen up there.

THOMPSON: Sure.

O`DONNELL: The Children`s Defense Fund, she`d also raised money for
the New York Firefighters Disaster Relief, the New York Fraternal Order of
Police. The list goes on and on.

THOMPSON: Yes. Yes.

O`DONNELL: That`s a sampling of what you reported.

THOMPSON: Yes. And speaking of the New York Firefighters and Police,
she`s the only person to have sung the national anthem and had to go to the
top of the charts. And she waived those royalty rights and donated that
money. We released the song after 9/11 and donated those funds to New York
firefighters and police as a part of the disaster relief.

O`DONNELL: It may seem ancient history now to some people, but
speaking out against apartheid was not an easy thing to do.

THOMPSON: No.

O`DONNELL: She did that in the face of Ronald Reagan and Margaret
Thatcher`s support of the South African regime, and Nelson Mandela never
forgot her for that.

THOMPSON; And no, and not only did she do that, she did it in `88,
when both are very popular, that is Reagan and Thatcher. She did it in
London, in Thatcher`s own backyard. Even before that, she refused to work
with modeling agencies that had business in South Africa. So she was a
longtime anti-apartheid activist.

O`DONNELL: Let`s take a listen to her before she became famous.
Arista Records had just signed her and they hadn`t released anything from
her yet. She`s singing at an Arista party.

THOMPSON: All right.

(VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: I just want to go back to back on that, Mark, with the
little clip we have of her singing with her mother. Her mother who`s going
to be at her funeral in Newark on Saturday.

(VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Mark, we haven`t talked this -- much this week about her
movies and her work as an actress. You made a very important point about
"Cinderella" in your piece today. Talk about that.

THOMPSON: Well, what Whitney did, and remind you, Whitney was making
movies before Tyler Perry even. So she was a pioneer even in that regard
in terms of the film industry.

O`DONNELL: Right. As a producer.

THOMPSON: As a producer. And African-American children never had
fairy tales that looked like them. The fairy tales always had characters
as white as the pages they were printed on. So it was significant for her
to make a movie about Cinderella and for her to be an African-American.
And that did a lot, I know, for young people`s self-imagery and self-
esteem. And that to me is one of her greatest accomplishments in addition
to all the films were timeless and valuable, and she created a lot of
opportunities for many, many African-Americans in the film industry.

O`DONNELL: Nelson Mandela`s spokesperson released this statement on
Whitney Houston`s death. "Miss Houston sang for Mr. Nelson Mandela at a
White House dinner in his honor in October 1994. She dedicated to him her
rendition of the song "Greatest Love of All.` May she rest in peace."

A month after that, she visited Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg. They
had a real relationship.

THOMPSON: Yes, obviously, they did. And he remembered that and never
forgot it. He`s always thanked those who stood up for him to be free, and
Whitney was one of those people. And again we don`t talk about it as much.
I, too, agree with the governor and the half-staff for the flag. And we
all really appreciate all of those great accomplishments, including her
voice.

O`DONNELL: Mark Thompson, thank you very much for joining me tonight.

THOMPSON: Thank you. Thanks.

O`DONNELL: We leave you tonight with Whitney Houston singing for
Nelson Mandela at the Clinton White House.

(VIDEO CLIP)

END

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