updated 2/22/2012 11:59:54 AM ET 2012-02-22T16:59:54

Guests: Eugene Robinson, Jared Bernstein, Robert Jeffress, Anthea Butler, Dorian Warren, Russ Feingold

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Our big get tonight is Pastor Robert
Jeffress. You remember him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT JEFFRESS, EVANGELICAL PASTOR: Mitt Romney is a good moral
person. Mormonism is not Christianity. It`s always been considered a cult
by the mainstream of Christianity.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Let`s see if he agrees with Franklin Graham.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: Are Republicans trying to use religion as
a political weapon against President Obama?

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Franklin Graham, the evangelist.

TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Franklin Graham was on "MORNING JOE".

MATTHEWS: And refused to say that President Obama is a Christian.

FRANKLIN GRAHAM, PASTOR: You have to ask him. I cannot answer that
question for anybody.

AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Is this a new low for people to question
the president`s faith?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Graham said the president has not done enough to
protect Christian minorities overseas.

GRAHAM: Islam has gotten a free pass on Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this a case of -- oh, no, here we go again?

MATTHEWS: The same old seed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All that crap that has been debunked over a
period of years, it`s all that all over again.

MITCHELL: So, here we are, this was Franklin Graham going there as
Rick Santorum did.

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: President Obama is talking about the
economy. Rick Santorum is talking Christian dominionism.

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We believe that man has
dominion over the earth.

MITCHELL: What was he talking about?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What in the world were you talking about?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Talking about contraception, talking about
theology.

SANTORUM: Phony theology.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is vintage Rick Santorum.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rick unleashed, unplugged, unfettered.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s not a winning strategy.

DANA MILBANK, "THE WASHINGTON POST": It`s more of a suicide pact.

HALL: Is this a trap? Is he going where Mitt Romney cannot go?

MITCHELL: Santorum seems to have all the momentum in Michigan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If Mitt Romney loses Michigan to Rick Santorum,
Romney is done.

SHARPTON: It`s about as ugly as politics gets.

MITCHELL: If he does not win on Tuesday, he is in trouble.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, that won`t happen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s not going to happen.

HALL: Win Michigan, game over.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: Reverend Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham,
likes to talk politics. But he`s not very good at picking presidents.

Here he is on this program last April.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRAHAM: We need god to give us a leader who will take this nation
back to the road of integrity and prosperity and we need somebody, like a
Donald Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: During that interview last year, I wrestled with Reverend
Graham on the question that came up again today on "MORNING JOE."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC ANCHOR: Do you believe that President Obama is a
Christian?

GRAHAM: I think you have to ask President Obama.

GEIST: So you don`t take him at his word when he says, I`m a
Christian?

GRAHAM: No, of course, I don`t. He said he`s a Christian, so I have
to assume he does.

Islam sees him as a son of Islam because his father was a Muslim, his
grandfather was a Muslim, great-grandfather was a Muslim. And so, under
Islamic law, the Muslim world sees Barack Obama as a Muslim.

GEIST: But you do not believe he`s a Muslim?

GRAHAM: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Categorically not a Muslim?

GRAHAM: I can`t say categorically because Islam has gotten a free
pass under Obama. The Muslims of the world, he seems to be more concerned
about them than the Christians that are being murdered in the Muslim
countries.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Willie Geist then asked about the Republican front-
runner.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEIST: Do you believe that rick Santorum is Christian?

GRAHAM: Oh, I think so.

GEIST: How do you know? If the standard is only the person knows
what`s within them, how do you apply to the president, how is it different
to Rick Santorum?

GRAHAM: Well, because his values are so clear on moral issues. No
question about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And here is Reverend Graham`s take on Mitt Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: Is he a Christian?

GRAHAM: He`s a Mormon. Most Christians would not recognize
Mormonism as part of the Christian faith.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now, Dr. Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of the
10,000 member First Baptist Church of Dallas. He is the author of
"Twilight`s Last Gleaming: How America`s Last Days Can Be Your Best Days."

Thank you very much for joining me tonight, Pastor Jeffress.

JEFFRESS: Thanks, Lawrence. I`m usually in my pajamas with a bowl
of popcorn watching you. So, this is a real treat.

O`DONNELL: Well, that`s good to know. I`m going to picture you now
every night in those pajamas.

JEFFRESS: No, no, don`t do that.

O`DONNELL: You heard Reverend Graham today saying he`s not sure if
President Obama is a Christian. It`s an answer he gave me last year saying
I can`t look into someone`s heart. And then when he`s asked about Rick
Santorum, he said, oh, yes, sure. I`m sure he is. In fact, he said he
definitely was.

And then he said he`s pretty sure that Newt Gingrich is a Christian.

What is your reaction to that set of reactions by Franklin Graham?

JEFFRESS: Look, Lawrence, we love Franklin Graham. His father,
Billy Graham, was a member of our church for 50 years. We love Franklin
Graham.

I think he should have stuck with his original premise and that is
that President Obama claims to be a Christian. In my book, I quote an
interview with President Obama in which he says he has trusted in Jesus
Christ for the forgiveness of his sins. And by that definition, he`s a
Christian.

You know, if you were to say, Lawrence, you`re a Democrat, I could
take you at your word, I believe you`re a Democrat, but I really don`t know
for sure unless I go to the voting booth and see you vote.

But I take you at your word. I have no reason to doubt you. And I
have no reason to doubt that President Obama is a Christian.

O`DONNELL: Now, what he said about Mitt Romney and Mormonism, what
is your reaction to that?

JEFFRESS: Well, I do agree with Franklin. Of course, as you
replayed it at the beginning of the program, my comments about Mormonism.
Mormonism is not historic Christianity. When people say -- well, Mormons
and Christians, say all believe the same things.

My response is, if that`s true, why are they always on my front
doorstep trying to convert me? I mean, obviously they don`t believe the
same things that we believe as historic Christians. And so, they are
different.

I believe you can be a good, moral person and be a Mormon. But, you
know, Christianity, Lawrence, is about trusting in Christ for the
forgiveness of your sins. When we say somebody is not a Christian, we`re
not saying they don`t love their mother, the flag, or apple pie. We`re
just saying that they don`t embrace the basic tenet of Christianity which
is faith in Jesus Christ, alone.

O`DONNELL: Now, you`re a Baptist. How many different branches of
the Christian faith do you accept and recognize as Christianity?

JEFFRESS: Look, nobody goes to heaven in a group, OK? We all go one
at a time. I don`t believe all Baptists are going to heaven, all
Methodists are going to heaven. It`s what we have done individually with
Jesus Christ, whether we trusted in him as our savior.

And so, I don`t believe, for example, Lawrence, that the Baptist
Church is the only church. I believe that there are Christians in many
different denominations. The key is, have they trusted in Christ alone?

O`DONNELL: I just want to refer you to a November Pew poll that
asked, is Mormonism Christian? And a very bare majority, 51 percent, said
yes.

By the way, the largest religious group to say yes, individual
denomination, Catholic 54 percent and then we had so-called mainline
Protestants at 62 percent.

White evangelicals, white evangelicals, only 39 percent of them say
that, yes, Mormonism is Christian, 47 percent say, no.

What do they know that the other Christians don`t know?

JEFFRESS: Well, Lawrence, and let me add one more poll that "USA
Today" published right after the flap I was involved in last October. And
that is that 75 percent of Protestant pastors, not evangelical necessarily,
75 percent of Protestant pastors say Mormonism is not Christianity.

I think if people look at what Mormons believe, they historically
have not embraced Christianity. They believe the Christian church was
apostate from the time of the apostles to the time of Joseph Smith.

So, I think as people study more of the Mormon faith, and believe me,
they will do so if Romney becomes the nominee, I think they`ll understand
why Mormonism is not a part of mainstream Christianity.

O`DONNELL: I just want to say that we invited representatives of the
Mormon Church to join us tonight to join in this discussion, to clarify any
points that might come up, and they do have a third book. There`s the Old
Testament, the New Testament, and Mormonism there`s a third divine book
they believe written by God, the Book of Mormon, which contains things in
it that have absolutely no bearing and no conceivable connection to any
Christianity known before that book was revealed, including the notion that
Jesus Christ came to the United States of America after the resurrection.

That kind of thing, along with many other items that Mormons believe,
is the kind of thing that it seems to me that Franklin Graham was probably
referring to.

JEFFRESS: I think it is. And it`s been interesting, Lawrence --
ever since I got involved in flap back in October, I`ve heard from so many
ex-Mormons who have said what I was saying is absolutely the truth, that
Mormonism is not Christianity.

And so, again, we`re not saying they`re bad, evil people. You can be
a good, moral person without being a Christian. You can`t be good enough,
none of us is, but that doesn`t mean you`re a bad person if you`re a
Mormon.

We`re just saying we shouldn`t confuse Mormonism with Christianity.

O`DONNELL: And you also have some very harsh words for the religion
that I was baptized into, the Catholic Church. You said the early church
was corrupted by this Babylonian mystery religion. And today, the Roman
Catholic Church is the result of that corruption. Much of what you see in
the Catholic Church doesn`t come from God`s word, it comes from this cult-
like pagan religion.

And so, there you are referring also to Catholicism as cult like, a
word you`ve used for Mormonism.

So, it seems to me, Dr. Jeffress, you have a fairly narrow definition
of what is acceptable Christianity, if you can`t include Catholicism in
there.

JEFFRESS: Well, let me be quick to say, I believe there are many
Catholics who are Christians, who have trusted in Christ as their savior.
By the way, Lawrence, we were all part of the original Catholic Church.

O`DONNELL: Right.

JEFFRESS: But, you remember, any religion becomes corrupted over a
period of time and the reason --

(CROSSTALK)

O`DONNELL: Let me just get -- any religion gets corrupted over time?

JEFFRESS: If it doesn`t stay true to the word of God. Martin Luther
was a Catholic priest who started reading his Bible and said, you know,
what I`m reading in the Book of Romans doesn`t square with what I`ve
learned as a Catholic priest. And therefore, he started the Protestant
Reformation.

I mean, the fact is, if Catholics and evangelicals believe the same
thing, there wouldn`t be a Protestant reformation.

I want to be very clear: I believe many, many Catholics are
Christians because they have trusted in Christ as their savior.

O`DONNELL: I just want to ask you something you`ve been asked
before, if Mitt Romney is the nominee, can you vote for him?

JEFFRESS: Lawrence, I`m going to hold my nose and do it. But that`s
hardly a ringing campaign endorsement. I don`t think that will make a
slogan, hold your nose and vote. But I`ve said in my book, "Twilight`s
Last Gleaming," that given the choice between a non-Christian like Mitt
Romney who at least embraces some biblical precisions like the sanctity of
life and sanctity of marriage, as opposed to a professing Christians like
Barack Obama who takes unbiblical positions, I believe there`s a merit in
choosing the non-Christian over the Christian.

O`DONNELL: Dr. Jeffress, thank you very much for your time tonight.

JEFFRESS: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Joining me now, "Washington Post" columnist and MSNBC
analyst, Eugene Robinson; also associate professor of religious studies at
the University of Pennsylvania, Anthea Butler.

Thank you both for joining me tonight.

Professor Butler, I have to start with you. A lot of religion has
been thrown around this morning on "MORNING JOE" and now here tonight in
the last few minutes.

Let`s go to this thing that Reverend Graham brought up this morning
that Islam is something that you are born into. If your father and your
grandfather were Muslims then you don`t have to check with anybody, you`re
a Muslim.

ANTHEA BUTLER, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: Well, you know, what`s so
funny to me about this is Franklin Graham is in the business of being a
missionary. And part of what`s going on with him is that he`s trying to be
an evangelist to do this.

That`s just not true. One of the things that he said this morning
that needs to be corrected is that President Obama`s grandfather`s actually
Christian before turning Muslim. OK? So, he was a convert.

So, to make up this whole strain of because his dad was a Muslim,
he`s a crypto-Muslim or however you want to put it is just hog wash. It
was appalling this morning to see him sully the memory of his father this
way.

O`DONNELL: Gene Robinson, there was this theory out there in
political land last week that some religiosity getting into the campaign
was helpful to Rick Santorum because it highlights in some ways Mitt
Romney`s Mormonism, which as we`ve seen evangelical Christians are
uncomfortable with and it brings the strength of rick Santorum`s hardcore
conservatism to the fore.

Is -- have they now crossed a line into something that is alienating
to the vast majority of American voters, this kind of I`m a Christian,
you`re not a Christian, who is a Christian?

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think they certainly
have. This drawing of lines and closing of the door against some who would
profess to be Christians but I don`t think they really are.

And that`s -- that gets out into kind of loony territory in the
minds, I think, of many independents. And I think it`s ill-advised if Rick
Santorum were to win the nomination and would like to win the general
election.

I don`t even think it`s that much of a help in the primary. He
obviously thinks it`s going to help him with evangelicals. But I think
he`s gone too far with this.

O`DONNELL: Well, let`s listen to the White House reaction to it
today with Jay Carney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He firmly believes that
getting an extra $40 in every paycheck is a vastly greater significance to
most Americans than someone`s opinion expressed on cable television about
his personal faith.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Professor, what would you like to hear in a political
campaign about religion? My own feeling has been -- if you want to hear
about religion, go to church. I don`t understand why it`s ever discussed
by politicians at any time. What do you -- so I`m an extremist over here
on -- I don`t want to hear a word about it. Then there`s people who say, I
need to know everything about you religiously in order to decide how I`m
going to vote, I don`t care where you are on taxes, I just care about where
you are on religion.

Where do you think the balance is here?

BUTLER: I think the balance is you state upfront what you are and
that`s it. You don`t use it as a wedge or a divider -- to use President
Obama`s words. I think what`s happened is that all of these candidates
have forgotten that there`s a clause that says, there is no religious test
to be the president or for public office. This is just ridiculous.

And further, you know, what I really think is -- what Franklin Graham
did this morning is the kind of grandstanding he does every time he tries
to latch on to the person he thinks who is the Christian values candidate.
So, the kinds of things he said this morning were just total disconnect. I
mean, he knows that Mormons -- in his opinion at least -- Mormons are not
Christians. Catholics wouldn`t have even been considered to be Christians
by most evangelicals and certainly not Southern Baptists.

So, this whole thing is just ridiculous. What has happened is
they`ve used this as a way to sort of try to set another betting point. I
don`t believe it`s helping at all.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to how Franklin Graham this morning
distinguished his understanding of the faith that President Obama has
versus the faith that Rick Santorum has.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRAHAM: I asked President Obama how he came to faith in Christ. And
he said, I don`t go to church.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you had that conversation with Rick
Santorum?

GRAHAM: I talked to Rick Santorum, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was just more persuasive to you on the depth
on his sincerity of his question?

GRAHAM: Well, I think so. But you have to look at what a person
does with his life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Gene, it seems that Reverend Graham would be well advised
to stay away from politics on television.

ROBINSON: He really should, or else he should pay closer attention.
Didn`t President Obama back during the campaign get into serious trouble
for going to church? For going to a church that many people thought was
the wrong church?

You know, I think what most voters who are people of faith pay
attention to is whether politicians walk the walk. I don`t think they
necessarily want to hear them talk the talk.

And so, for many Catholic voters, if a politician votes for or
against abortion, that`s important. For many evangelical voters, I think
political stances and official actions that a politician takes can be
important.

But I don`t think anybody is listening for a president to be kind of
a theologian in chief. You know, we like to hear our sermons on Sunday and
not potentially from the Oval Office.

O`DONNELL: MSNBC political analyst Eugene Robinson, and associate
professor of religious studies at Penn, Anthea Butler -- thank you both
your joining me tonight.

BUTLER: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, there will be more of Franklin Graham in the
"Rewrite." I will reveal the most important thing you need to know about
Franklin Graham.

And former Senator Russ Feingold is here. I`m going to ask him how
he and a group of senators found themselves on the Senate floor one day
whispering about thongs.

And later, with 259 days to go before the presidential election, I`m
going to skip over 258 reasons and give you the number one reason to vote
for president this year.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: The thing is, even though Michigan is his
home state, Romney trails Rick Santorum by four points in the latest poll.
That has got to be a shock for Mitt. I mean, the whole state is shaped
like a him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: The day that the president
became president, gasoline was $1.79 a gallon. Look at what it is today.
Under President Bachmann, you will see gasoline come down below $2 a gallon
again. That will happen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think that will happen?

JON HUNTSMAN (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I just -- I just
don`t know what world that comment would come from. You know, we live in
the real world. It`s grounded in reality. And gas prices just aren`t
going to rebound like that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Gas prices are back in the campaign, and without Huntsman
in it, the candidates aren`t getting any smarter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Because of the
mismanagement of the president`s policies overseas, because of his
mismanagement of the Persian Gulf and our friends in the state of Israel,
we see a tension in rising prices. I was talking to folks in Chicago the
other day, and they are anticipating $5 a gallon for gasoline in Chicago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That brings us to President Obama. You believe
that he wants to see more expensive gas, you have said?

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Of course, he does. His
policy has been outrageously anti-American energy. The high price of
gasoline is a direct result of Obama.

CARNEY: He said outrageously? He loves his adverbs.

There are no magic solutions to rising oil prices and the pain that
Americans feel at the pump. This is a -- the fact is that the president is
very aware of the impact that the global price of oil has on families, and
this is not something that this administration discovered or rediscovers
every spring as some politicians do. A rise in the price of oil globally
often results in, you knows, magic solutions being put forward by
politicians who may or may not know what their talking about.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now is Jared Bernstein, the former chief
economist to Vice President Biden. He is now a senior fellow at the Center
on Budget and Policy Priorities, and an MSNBC contributor.

Jared, Newt Gingrich believes the president of the United States
wants gas prices to go up -- which would make President Obama the very
first president in history who wanted rising gas prices during his re-
election campaign. What about this don`t I understand?

JARED BERNSTEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, he`d have to be very
masochistic to go in that direction.

Look, interestingly, what you don`t hear from these candidates is
that they really can`t go after this president on domestic production of
oil and gas. He`s actually done quite a lot. In fact, I would suspect
there are environmentalists who are worried that we`re doing too much
drilling and fracking. I know that for a fact.

You know, last year, 2011, was the first year in decades that the
U.S. actually exported more petroleum products than we imported. A few
years back, we were importing 60 percent of crude oil to serve our energy
needs. Last year, it was 50 percent. So actually the president has great
street cred on domestic production.

What obviously is going on now with gas prices has little to do with
domestic production. Has to do with geopolitical forces that as you heard
some rational people say in the clips, there`s no president who can do
anything about that in the near term.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to the president talking about more
generally about the economic picture today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`re coming out of
the worst economic crisis in our lifetimes, but where we stand now looks a
lot different than where we stood a few years ago. Over the last 23
months, businesses have created 3.7 million new jobs. Manufacturers are
hiring for the first time since the 1990s. The auto industry is back on
top.

Our recovery is gaining steam. Our economy is getting stronger. So
we`re headed in the right direction.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And not long after that, the Dow went over 13,000 today.
Even Wall Street might start to think, hey, wait a minute, maybe this is
the president we want to stay with.

BERNSTEIN: I think that`s right. By the way, a little factoid here,
if you actually look at how Wall Street has done under Democrats versus
Republicans, much better under Democrats.

O`DONNELL: Yes.

BERNSTEIN: Look, I think the thing with the -- it really ties into
the gas story quite tightly here. I mean, obviously this is an election
that is going to have a lot to do with the direction in which the economy
is headed. Not just the levels, not just, you know, where we were, but the
momentum of how the economy is trending. And so, you`re going to see the
opposition look for anything they can.

I saw a press release before I came on tonight that was from a
Republican group saying, let`s look at the labor force participation rate.
That`s been trending down for a while. I guarantee you that there aren`t a
lot of people out there scratching their heads about that one.

People are focused on employment, on unemployment, they`re focused on
some of the larger indicators. GDP has obviously been, you know, getting
closer to a trend growth rate like we want to see.

So it`s -- you`re going to see a lot of grasping at things like gas
prices and as you said earlier, Lawrence, I mean, it is tough for a
president to be facing rising gas prices, even if part of what`s going on
is, as Jay Carney said, is the seasonal factor, just prices go up in the
summer.

O`DONNELL: MSNBC contributor Jared Bernstein -- thanks for the
reality check tonight, Jared.

BERNSTEIN: My pleasure.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, former Senator Russ Feingold is next. We have
a lot to talk to him about, and he has promised to share secrets that
senators whisper to each other on the Senate floor.

And in the "Rewrite" -- everything you need to know about Franklin
Graham. Well, OK, not exactly everything, but the single most important
thing -- the key to understanding Franklin Graham. That`s in the
"Rewrite."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYING)

O`DONNELL: That`s tonight`s episode of the singing president. He appeared
at the White House tonight. The President and the first lady attended a
celebration of blues music in recognition of black history month.

Franklin Graham is in the "rewrite" tonight. He, himself, will tell you
everything you need to know about his view of politics.

And later, Dorian Warren joins me to discuss the number one reason why you
should vote for president.

And next, former senator Russ Feingold joins me to discuss how McCarthyism
is creeping into the Republican presidential campaign and the kinds of
secrets senators whisper to each other on the Senate floor including one
about a very famous thong. In fact, the most famous thong in the short
history of the fall.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe President Obama is
the most dangerous president on national security in my lifetime.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That is pure McCarthyism. A strain of thinking made famous by
the eventually disgraced senator from Wisconsin, Joe McCarthy, who was
constantly accusing people in government and others of being disloyal to
and being a danger to the United States of America.

Joining me now is another former senator of Wisconsin, Russ Feingold author
of "while America sleeps: a wake-up call for the post-9/11 era."

Thank you for joining me tonight, senator.

RUSS FEINGOLD, AUTHOR, WHILE AMERICA SLEEPS: A WAKE-UP CALL FOR THE POST
9/11 ERA: Good to be on your show, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Senator, can you believe in 2012 we`re hearing that kind of
McCarthy talk from someone who was a former speaker of the house,
disgraced, himself, on the way out the door like Joe McCarthy, in a
different kind of way? But to say the president of the United States is a
danger to this country?

FEINGOLD: Well, you know. The only good news is it`s going to make sure
that Barack Obama gets re-elected. But in the meantime, these Republican
candidates are dumping down our foreign policy at a time when we really
need to reach out to the rest of the word and understand it.

To me, that was the lesson of 9/11. And that`s what my book is about. So,
-- but these guys talk about as pretending that the president is always
apologizing for America, making fun of foreign trips that he takes to India
which are very important. And once in a while screaming out the words,
American exceptionalism.

We all believe America is exceptional. But that`s the whole entirety of
their foreign policy. To me, that`s what`s dangerous. Not the kind of
thoughtful presidency that President Obama has brought us with regard to
international policy. I think he`s doing a great job in that area.

O`DONNELL: And it would seem the president would want to be talking about
foreign policy in the campaign. I can understand why the Republicans
wouldn`t because the president has done a great job of it.

If the president finished reading your book tonight, what would he get from
it that he can take out on to the campaign trail? And how could he make
sense of foreign policy to the American people?

FEINGOLD: He`s already doing a good job. I mean, here`s a president that
made a very important speech to the Arab and Muslim world in Cairo. Who
went to India and made important connections there. Who`s emphasized
Indonesia, the largest Islamic country in the world, and of course, fourth
largest country in the world.

Here`s somebody that`s been effective in making sure we don`t have to deal
with Osama bin Laden or Moammar Gadhafi or Al-Awaki anymore. He`s been
enormously effective in going after the people that tried to harm us. But
most importantly, Barack Obama, it is the person who has caused us to have
a better reputation in the world.

People feel much better about the United States because he is our
president. And they sense that he understands the rest of the world,
compared to Gingrich. You know, Gingrich recently said the Palestinians
weren`t a real people because they are part of the auto-men empire. And
some people are like, that sounds really smart.

Well, you want to know how many places people wouldn`t be real peoples if
that was the test? There wouldn`t be Greeks, wouldn`t be Russians,
wouldn`t be Bulgarians, wouldn`t be Iraqis. That`s what passes for foreign
policy common sense on the Republican side now, and Barack Obama is just
the opposite.

O`DONNELL: Senator, I want to read a passage from page 14 of your book.
Now, please don`t get the idea that page 14 was as far as I got in your
book, but there`s a very compelling passage there that I want to read.

FEINGOLD: Absolutely.

O`DONNELL: It says, "the Senate trial of the president dragged on in
tedious six-day weeks. Monday through Saturday." This is, of course, the
Clinton impeachment trial. "I was engaged in casual conversation with Paul
Wellstone of Minnesota and Bob Kerrey of Nebraska at the back of the
chamber. We became aware of Carl Levin of Michigan, one of the most senior
and distinguished member of the senate was slowly making his way toward us.

Carl is a meticulous lawyerly member of the Senate who does a superb job of
carefully examining both proposed and statutory language and facts. Carl
approached us as he lifted ubiquitous readers from his face and said,
`Listen, I`m a little embarrassed to ask you guys this, but what`s a
thong?`"

And Senator, your book, it turns out that you left it to Bob Kerrey to
explain to Senator Levin was a thong is. That`s about as weird as it could
get on the Senate floor, the impeachment trial.

FEINGOLD: Bob Kerrey was the obvious choice. As you know, you were on the
floor of the Senate with me many times. The Senate is not a real wild and
crazy rival kind of place. This was an unusual conversation because we
were spending seven weeks worrying about some kind of a thing with regard
to President Clinton in an impeachment trial. One year after our embassies
were bombed in Africa by al Qaeda, just before the "U.S. Cole" was attacked
in Yemen, not long before 9/11, we were asleep, we weren`t paying the
attention.

And the theme of my book is I think we`ve gone back to that, especially
with the help of our friends on the other side of the aisle in the Tea
Party. We`re not thinking about the rest of the world. But that story was
my way to kind of point out maybe we could have been spending our time on
critical issues involving international terrorism and that type of thing
instead of worrying about the question that the very lawyerly Carl Levin
asked us.

O`DONNELL: And you could find out why Bob Kerrey was the obvious choice to
explain thongs on page 15 of your book.

Former senator, Russ Feingold, thank you for joining me tonight.

FEINGOLD: It was a pleasure. Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Columbia Professor Dorian Warren is my next guest. We`ll see
if he agrees with my number one reason for voting for president this year.

Before that, we`ll do the rewrite and see video of Franklin Graham
including one that tells you everything you need to know about Franklin
Graham.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: In tonight`s "rewrite" it falls to me to reveal the motivation
for everything Franklin Graham says about politics. He was a guest on this
program last year, the day after he said this --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRAHAM: Donald Trump, when I first saw that he was getting in, I thought,
well, this has got to be a joke. But the more you listen to him, the more
you say to yourself, you know, maybe the guy`s right. So there`s --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: So he might be your candidate of choice?

GRAHAM: Sure, yes, sure.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And so that`s where I began our interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Well, you got very, very close to endorsing a presidential
candidate yesterday on ABC. You`ve never endorsed a presidential candidate
before. What made you come so close for Donald Trump?

GRAHAM: Well, Lawrence, I answer reporters` questions like I`m answering
your questions and maybe you can give me advice.

O`DONNELL: I would advise you if a reporter asks you who you`re going to
report for president, you say, I don`t discuss that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Franklin graham obviously hasn`t taken my advice. He still
doesn`t say I don`t want to discuss that, wherever he`s asked on television
about politics and politicians.

As you see, he spent this morning on "Morning Joe" trying to explain how he
can`t tell if President Obama is a Christian but can tell that Rick
Santorum is a Christian. And he must have been able to tell that Donald
Trump was a Christian. I`d already played that game with him here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Only god knows who the Christians are, and saying you`re a
Christian is not good enough for you. Right?

GRAHAM: No. You`re trying to put words in my mouth, Lawrence. That`s not
correct. I`m just saying nobody knows a man`s heart except God, and he
knows your heart, he knows why heart.

O`DONNELL: All right.

GRAHAM: I`m not going to judge whether he`s a Christian or not a
Christian.

O`DONNELL: Right. So as far as you know, the only person you know who`s a
Christian is you because you know what`s in your heart, you don`t know if
anyone else is a Christian?

GRAHAM: Only God knows a person`s heart.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Then I decided to use Jesus Christ`s definition of a Christian
to try to figure out if Franklin Graham is really a Christian.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: I want you to listen to what you know is Jesus Christ`s
definition of a Christian. Jesus Christ said any of you who does not give
up everything he has cannot be my disciple. Have you given up everything
you have to be a disciple of Christ?

GRAHAM: I have given my life to Christ when I was -- I was 22 years old.
I got on my knees one night and I just asked God to forgive me of my sins.
And that night, I told God that I believe Jesus Christ was his son, that he
died for me on Calvary`s cross and that God raised him to life.

And I asked Christ to come into my heart. When I gave Christ my life, I
meant is. And I said, take my life, you spin it however you want to spin
me, my life is yours. And it`s the greatest decision I ever made.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And the greatest thing about that decision is that Franklin
Graham gave up absolutely nothing to be a disciple of Christ. Remember
Christ`s words. Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot
be my disciple.

That is why some catholic orders of priests and nuns and brothers take a
vow of poverty. They own nothing. They have virtually zero income. And
they aspire to no wealth. They do that because of those words that Jesus
spoke. Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my
disciple.

Franklin Graham, just like his daddy before him, is very rich and very
famous. If he`s given up anything to follow Christ, it sure isn`t money.
He makes a minimum, minimum of $750,000 a year and possibly vastly more
than that that we can`t easily trace.

To make that kind of money as a semi-coherent preacher who is not nearly as
dynamic in the pulpit as any randomly selected below average Baptist
preacher, he needs fame. Franklin Graham, like his father before him,
turns fame into money. That means Franklin Graham needs a way to get on
television. No one`s going to book him on political talk shows to talk
about God.

And so Franklin Graham stops on the line between church and state and
repeatedly gets attention on television by saying he doesn`t know if the
dually elected president of the United States is telling the truth when he
says that he`s a Christian.

Franklin Graham certainly could have said the same thing about president
George W. Bush and he certainly could have said the same thing about the
first President Bush who never claimed to be born again like his son.

But Franklin Graham never questioned their self-professed Christianity.
And now we have arrived at the key of knowing everything Franklin Graham
says about politics and why he says it. The key to that. We`ve
established that he uses politics to get on television to maintain his fame
in order to maintain his very, very, very high income, but what guides him
in what he says about politics? Here is that key. Here is what guides
Franklin Graham`s every word about politics.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Have you ever voted for a democrat for president?

GRAHAM: No. I`ve never voted for a democrat for president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: With 259 days to go until the presidential election, tonight I
am going to skip over 258 reasons to vote and tell you the number one
reason to vote for president of the United States.

Over the course of the campaign, we will have plenty of time to return to
the discussion of the couple of hundred reasons to vote for the president
and it is very likely that we will discuss the number one reason several
times before the end of this campaign.

And, of course, the number one reason to vote is the same number one reason
you always have to vote for president. The Supreme Court of the United
States. The president chooses justices for the Supreme Court subject to
confirmation by the Senate. Choosing a Supreme Court justice is the most
momentous decision a president can make. Supreme court justices stay in
power longer than any war we have waged. They can stay there for the rest
of their lives if they choose. They are the final arbiters of fairness and
justice in our society.

And today the Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge to the University of
Texas Austin`s admissions policy. The university says it is firmly
committed to a holistic admissions policy that is narrowly tailored to
achieve the educational benefits of a diverse student body.

But in the case Fischer University of Texas, Abigail Fisher contented she
was not admitted to the university in 2008 because she is white and that
was a violation of her civil and constitutional rights.

In Greta versus Bollinger in 2003, the Supreme Court said race could be
used as a factor in the admissions process at the University of Michigan`s
law school.

Joining me now is Dorian Warren, assistant professor of political science
at Columbia University and a fellow at the Roosevelt institute in New York.

Dorian, I want you to do this thought exercise tonight. I want you to
imagine the Republican won the last presidential campaign which means that
the two appointments to the Supreme Court made by President Obama, justice
Soto mayor and justice Kagan, would have been two Republican appointments
to the Supreme Court. There would have been seven Republican appointed
justices, three democratic appointed justices. What would be the fate of
this case, a case like this, in front of a court like that?

DORIAN WARREN, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: In front of a court like that,
Lawrence, I think there`s no question they would be eager to strike down
the brother of Bollinger case.

As you mentioned from 2003, which said that race could be one of many
factors used in college university admissions. And I`d like to point out
that in that case, that case drew the most amount of amicus briefs in
history of the - in the history of the Supreme Court from fortune 500
companies to the military who all agree that diversity is an important
national -- it`s an important national interest to advance diversity,
especially when it comes to leadership.

O`DONNELL: And Sandra Day O`Connor was the decisive vote in that case.

WARREN: Indeed she was.

O`DONNELL: She`s been replaced by a much more conservative Republican
justice on the court, Alito, who I don`t think there`s much doubt about
which way he`s going to go on this. And the thing that I think gets lost
in any affirmative action discussion is the understanding of what makes for
the dynamism in education that produces the net result of what we might
call the educated man, the educated woman. And I know that in college the
student body was educating me as much as the faculty was.

WARREN: Yes.

O`DONNELL: With all due respect, professor. But it`s those conversations
at 2:00 in the morning. And the fact that I got to know Bobby Sims from
Mississippi, whose father grew up a sharecropper, was a very, very
important opportunity for me. And that`s what I think is lost in this is
that it`s not all about tests and numbers.

WARREN: That`s right. The court in 2003 argued that a critical mass of
underrepresented students was important to have on college campuses.
Again, for the purpose of advancing an open pathway to leadership for all
people in this country.

It`s important to point out, also, that, you know, Texas excluded
explicitly nonwhites from admissions at all levels of their university
system until 1950 when the Supreme Court then had to intervene to, for the
first time, allow blacks to enter the law graduate school there.

So, there`s a long history of racial exclusion in Texas. And today, when
you look at the numbers, roughly three out of the four students at
University of Texas are white, even though whites make up only 50 percent
of the high school graduates.

So, they`re already overrepresented arguably at the university and blacks
and Latinos are still underrepresented relative to their numbers in term of
who`s graduating from high school.

O`DONNELL: It seems to me these kinds of cases are trying to invade the
admissions process and say, we know what criteria you should use and the
criteria for admission is purely a set of numbers and letters called
grades.

WARREN: Yes, you know, the last thing to say about this is it`s still
unclear if Fisher even has standing to sue because she went to another
university and she`s graduated, I believe, or she`s about to graduate. So
by the time the court hears the case, it`s unclear that -- they`ll have to
decide this question. It will be interesting to see how they decide it.
It will be interesting to see if she has standing because of receiving some
kind of harm from the Texas admission policy.

O`DONNELL: Professor Dorian Warren, thank you very much for joining me
tonight.

WARREN: Thanks, Lawrence. Thanks for having me.

O`DONNELL: You can have the last word online of our blog,
thelastword.msnbc.com and you can follow my tweet @Lawrence. "THE ED SHOW"
is up next.

END


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