Skip navigation

'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Wednesday, February 29

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

  Most Popular
Most viewed

Guests: E.J. Dionne, Melissa Harris-Perry, Robert Reich, L. Louise Lucas, Patty Murray, Barbara Johnson

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: The really big winner in Michigan yesterday
was President Obama. And the big winner in the Senate today was Harry
Reid, now that Bob Kerrey has decided to run for Senate again.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS JANSING, NBC NEWS: The Republican plan to take back the Senate
is in serious jeopardy this morning.

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: Senator Olympia Snowe threw Republicans a
curveball.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Senator Olympia Snowe shocked everybody.

WAGNER: When she announced that she is leaving the Senate at the end
of the year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She is not seeking re-election.

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC HOST: That could be the biggest political
story of the night.

WAGNER: It sounded like the Republican establishment was very much
caught off guard.

KELLY O`DONNELL, NBC NEWS: This really shocked Senate Republicans.

MITCHELL: The Democrats now have a much better shot.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Democrats are seeing a light that they didn`t
quite have.

MATTHEWS: Democrats have a much better chance of keeping control.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maine in a presidential year should favor the
Democratic candidate.

O`DONNELL: Democrats are almost gleeful.

JANSING: Kent Conrad`s going, Ben Nelson is going.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Senate and the House, it`s a very lonely
place to be a moderate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Adding her to that list there is essentially
writing the obituary for moderates. She cited her reasons as the
increasing polarization in Washington.

SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE (R), MAINE: It`s very, very difficult to resolve
major issues.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Moderation will be tolerated, but not rewarded.

SNOWE: It`s dysfunctional.

MITCHELL: Mitt Romney survived the night, but it wasn`t pretty.

WAGNER: Is he really even popular?

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We didn`t win by a lot, but
we won by enough, and that`s all that counts.

AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Wow, there`s a resounding winner`s speech.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s not going to put this away. He`s not going
to close the deal through charm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Had he lost, we`d have been writing his obituary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have we ever seen a presumptive winner still who
is so meh.

ROMNEY: It seems right here. Trees are the right height.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He can`t help it.

ROMNEY: I like seeing the lakes. I love the lakes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: President Obama had a great day in Michigan yesterday,
without even going to Michigan. While 59 percent of the Michigan voter who
went to the polls yesterday were voting against Republican front-runner
Mitt Romney, allowing him only a three-point margin in his native state --
President Obama was in Washington, addressing the United Auto Workers, who
like most voters in Michigan, remain grateful to the president for saving
the American auto industry.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I placed my bet on the
American worker and I`ll make that bet any day of the week! And now, three
years later, three years later, that bet is paying off. Not just paying
off for you, it`s paying off for America. Three years later, the American
auto industry is back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That`s what I call a victory speech.

President Obama continues to hold a substantial lead in polls over the
two Republican front-runners, but in the state of Michigan, his lead over
the Republicans is towering. An NBC/Marist poll shows President Obama
beating Mitt Romney 51 to 33 in Romney`s home state of Michigan, while the
president beats Rick Santorum there 55 to 29.

The president got more good news today about what the shape of the
Senate could be during the president`s second term.

Former Nebraska Governor Bob Kerrey, who also served two terms in the
Senate for Nebraska, returned to Nebraska today from what has been his home
in New York, to announce that he will run for Senate in Nebraska once
again. Democratic Party officials have been urging, begging Kerrey to run,
believing he is the only Democrat with a chance of holding on to the
Nebraska Senate seat now held by retiring Democrat, Ben Nelson.

After Republican moderate Olympia Snowe of Maine announced yesterday
she will not seek re-election to the Senate, the chances of the Democrats
picking up that Maine Senate seat have increased substantially.

Senator Patty Murray, the chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign
Committee, told me how valuable Bob Kerrey`s candidacy is to her strategy
of increasing the Democratic majority in the Senate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. PATTY MURRAY (D), WASHINGTON: He`s exactly the kind of person
that we need here in the Senate today, who really understands how to work
across the aisle, who comes with deep convictions, who`s willing to fight
for what he loves and what he cares about in this nation, but understands
the art of compromise. We are losing too many people in the Senate,
including Senator Snowe, who really know how to do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: I spoke to Bob Kerrey today, before he publicly announced
his decision, and he told me he will be unavailable to the national media,
like this show, with while he is busy reintroducing himself to the Nebraska
media.

Here he is today, assessing his chances of victory on a Nebraska
political Web site.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB KERREY (D), NE SENATE CANDIDATE: It`s a Republican state, the
president`s unpopular. Yes, it`s not like I`m going to get a Nobel prize
for saying that it`s likely that I`m going to start this campaign as an
underdog.

I don`t start off as saying, gee, I can win this easily. I look at
this thing and I say, I think it`s winnable. I don`t know that it`s -- I
don`t know how winnable, but I think I can persuade Nebraska that I should
be their senator. But I`m not afraid of losing. So if I lose, I lose.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now, E.J. Dionne, the columnist for "The
Washington Post," and a senior fellow at Brookings Institution. He`s also
an MSNBC contributor.

And former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, a professor of public policy
at the university of California-Berkeley. He`s the author of "Aftershock:
The Next Economy and America`s Future," now available in paperback.

Thank you both for joining me tonight.

The Bob Kerrey news, I think, has changed the dynamics for the
Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, as Patty Murray told me.

E.J., you`ve been watching Bob Kerrey campaign for a long time. You
saw him campaign for president back in 1992.

He is polling reasonably well in Nebraska. He has a 39 percent
favorable view right now, of Bob Kerrey, a 34 percent unfavorable view,
which is remarkably low in Nebraska, for anyone with the word "Democrat"
associated with their name. And 27 percent to have open minds and they`re
ready to hear what he has to say.

Do you think Bob Kerrey, who`s been living in New York for about the
last 10 years or so, can go back to Nebraska and take back that Senate
seat?

E.J. DIONNE, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think he`s got a shot. I mean,
as he said in that interview, it`s a very tough race, and you`ve got to
like a candidate who says, if you lose, you lose. Actually, I think those
kind of candidates have a better chance of winning, because they`re looser.

And Bob Kerrey is just, as you know as well as anyone, an incredibly
interesting maverick sort of guy. And I think someone with that profile is
the kind of guy who can win in a Republican state.

So I think he`s got a shot, and I think it`s really tough.

O`DONNELL: Let`s take a look at an ad he ran in his last Senate
campaign, in Nebraska, which shows you running against Bob Kerrey, you`re
running against a different kind of Democrat. Let`s look at this ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AD ANNOUNCER: This is a message to Charlton Heston from Senator Bob
Kerrey.

KERREY: I`m a hunter, and I believe in the constitutional right to
bear arms. When it`s time to hunt birds, you need a good gun, like this
Ruger red label. Twenty-five years ago, during the war in Vietnam, people
hunted me. They needed a weapon like this AK-47, but you don`t need one of
these to hunt birds.

AD ANNOUNCER: Bob Kerrey, the courage to lead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Bob Reich, you worked with Bob Kerrey while you were labor
secretary, he was in the Senate. It seems to me if the Democrats have any
chance in Nebraska, that guy just showed you what kind of machine gun they
used, hunting him down in Vietnam as the guy who can do it.

ROBERT REICH, FORMER LABOR SECRETARY: Absolutely, Lawrence. I mean,
Bob Kerrey is not just a maverick -- I mean, he marches to his own drummer.
He likes to take on causes that are not particularly popular. In that spot
just now, took on the National Rifle Association in Nebraska!

I mean, this is a man who has a lot of courage. And yes, I think that
he is probably the best news for Democrats in a very long time.

O`DONNELL: E.J., he told me today on the phone that if he wins this
election, what we are guaranteed is six years -- the country will have six
years to watch at least one member of the United States Senate say and do
and vote exactly what he thinks. He would not care at his age about being
re-elected to this seat. If there was political risk in the way he voted
or the way he spoke.

And I`ve got to say, having worked with him in the Senate, I think
there`s a very strong possibility that if he gets that seat -- America
might see something it hasn`t seen in a very long time. And like it or
not, and I don`t think there`s anyone who will agree with him on
everything, but I do think there`s a strong chance he would do six years
calling them the way he sees them.

DIONNE: Well, I think he did a lot of that when he was in the Senate,
when he was actually thinking about running for re-election. I mean, I
don`t know how many Democrats would have the guts to run an ad like that,
taking on the NRA now. I think there were very few in a state like
Nebraska who would do that. Most Democrats in states like that simply cave
in to the NRA. And you know, that is the kind of guy he is.

He also would not shrink from having a fight with Senator Obama. Lord
knows, he and Bill Clinton, certainly, had some disagreements in the early
part of the Clinton years. And I think some of that may actually help him
in this race, because people will remember that he was staunch, but not
particularly partisan Democrat.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Olympia Snowe said about why she is
leaving the Senate and the way the Senate used to be. In fact, the way it
used to be when Bob Kerrey was a member of the Senate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SNOWE: The United States Senate is predicated and based on the
essence of consensus-building. I always recall my first years in the
Senate, and it happened to be that Bob Dole was the Senate majority leader.
And I can always hear his words, they ring in my ear, when there were
differences on key issues, he would say, he`d put a group together, it
would either be, you know, Republicans or Republicans and Democrats,
whatever the case may be, he`d say, go in my office, at 8:30 in the
morning, and work it out. He would always say, work it out.

And that`s the point -- we`re not working out issues anymore.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Bob Reich, you may remember a moment in a 1994 Senate
debate where the official White House strategy one day as imparted to the
White House Democrats at lunch was, demonize Dole

Bob Kerrey listened to that message, walked out on to the Senate
floor, and announced that the Democratic strategy was to be: demonize Dole.
And then he spent a good 10 minutes praising his fellow war hero, in this
case, World War II for Bob Dole, and what a great guy he was, and then
continued to fight Dole on the legislation. But he would not demonize him
personally.

That`s the Senate that we`ve lost.

REICH: Yes. And not only have we lost that Senate, where people
would treat each other respectfully, Lawrence, but we also have lost the
assumption that there was compromise and compromise is a good thing. Bob
Kerrey, not only is a compromiser, when he thinks compromise is
appropriate, but when he`s told what to do, as in that 1994 anecdote you
just provided. He very often does exactly the opposite, because he wants
to show that he cannot be pushed around.

So I think in Bob Kerrey, we will have somebody, assuming he wins in
Nebraska, if he does, who is going to be a very reliable Democrat when he
wants to be. He`s going to cross the aisle when he wants to do that. And
that`s needed.

O`DONNELL: E.J. Dionne and Robert Reich, I think we`re all rooting
for Bob Kerrey tonight. Thank you very much for joining me tonight.

DIONNE: Thank you.

REICH: Thanks. Bye-bye.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Bob Kerrey will actually get THE LAST WORD
tonight. In fact, he`s going to sing THE LAST WORD. You have to see this.

And Mitt Romney is fighting again with Mitt Romney. He said something
unrehearsed today and his campaign had to tell him how wrong he was.
Melissa Harris-Perry joins me on the ball of confusion that is Mitt Romney.

And later, two senators join me. Senator Patty Murray on the fight
against the Blunt in the United States Senate, and a Virginia senator who
fought against the invasive pre-abortion testing.

O`DONNELL: And in the rewrite tonight, we`ll have an exclusive
interview with the woman who was refused communion by the priest at her
mother`s funeral, because she lives with a woman.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID LETTERMAN, COMEDIAN: Top 10 other things Mitt Romney says he
likes about Michigan trees. They look great next to my wife`s Cadillacs.
Number three, trees don`t whine went strapped to your car roof. The number
one other thing Mitt Romney says he likes about Michigan trees -- like me,
they lean whichever way the wind blows.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Mitt Romney has once again contradicted Mitt Romney.
Romney sent his handlers into a panic today after this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Marco Rubio is being debated, I believe, later
this week, that deals with banning, or allowing employers to ban providing
female contraception. Have you taken a position on it? He`s said that he
was for that, and we`ll talk about personhood in a second, but he`s for
that. Have you taken the position on that?

ROMNEY: I`m not -- I`m not for the bill. But, look, the idea of
presidential candidates getting into questions about contraception within a
relationship between a man and a woman, a husband and wife, I`m not going
there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: OK. That settles it. It couldn`t be clearer. Mitt
Romney is against the Blunt Amendment, that the Senate plans to vote on
tomorrow. The amendment that would allow employers to refuse to provide
contraception or any other health care provision in a health insurance
policy if they find it morally objectionable.

Rick Santorum, of course, supports the Blunt Amendment.

Jim Heath (ph), that Ohio reporter you just saw, who conducted that
interview, rightfully believed he had a scoop, and tweeted the news of
Romney`s position at 3:53 p.m. today.

Within the hour, Romney`s press secretary began the Romney reversal,
releasing this statement: "Regarding the Blunt bill, the way the question
was asked was wicked confusing. Governor Romney supports the Blunt bill,
because he believes in a conscience exemption in health care for religious
institutions and people of faith."

Romney then retreated to the familiar platform of Howie Carrs` hugely
popular Boston radio show to recite his new talking points, beginning with
the lie that he didn`t understand the question.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I didn`t understand his question. Of course, I support the
Blunt Amendment. I thought he was talking about some state law that
prevented people from getting contraception. I thought it was some Ohio
legislation that -- where employers were prevented from providing
contraceptives, so I talked about contraceptives and so forth, so I really
misunderstood the question.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The Rick Santorum campaign responded with this statement
by national communications direction, Hogan Gidley, "You can take the guy
out of Massachusetts, but you can`t take the Massachusetts out of the guy."

And the Obama campaign responded with this statement by deputy
campaign manager, Stephanie Cutter, "In one hour, Mitt Romney showed why
women don`t trust him for one minute. It took little more than an hour for
him to commit his latest flip-flop. Even worse, he ended up on the wrong
side of an issue of critical importance to women. While Mitt Romney may be
in a race to the bottom with Rick Santorum to see who can pander most to
the far right wing, his embrace of extreme policies like the Blunt
Amendment would have real-life consequences for millions of women."

Joining me now, Melissa Harris-Perry, host of MSNBC`s "MELISSA HARRIS-
PERRY."

Thanks very much for joining me tonight, Melissa.

MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: Oh, absolutely, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Melissa, Melissa, Melissa. This guy, Romney, he
understood that question.

HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, yes.

O`DONNELL: The Blunt/Rubio -- he knew exactly what that was. He just
didn`t know what he was supposed to say. So, he said when he actually
would have said if he wasn`t running for office, for Pete`s sake.

HARRIS-PERRY: I think what`s so astonishing here, is every time he
has a moment of sort of authentic, reasonableness -- and that`s actually a
reasonable position. Why in 2012 are presidential candidates talking about
contraception that is largely occurring in the context of heterosexual
marriages. Like that Mitt Romney is one that made me feel like, oh, look,
there`s a person running for office who actually makes some sense on this
question.

And yet, you know, sort of where the Republican Party and where the
Republican primary has gone, challenged him and pushed him back on that
reasonable position within an hour.

O`DONNELL: It sounded like we got a little glimmer of this is what it
sounds like at the breakfast table with Ann when they`re talking about
events of the day. Of course, I`m not for that bill.

But then when he goes on Howie Carr, and Howie Carr is the biggest
show on radio in Boston and has a big reach into New Hampshire, and he`s
very much at home there. And to hear him laughing about, of course, I
support the Blunt amendment, he says. I mean, his laugh just makes it seem
even more false.

HARRIS-PERRY: No, it`s appalling. And the thing is, I think part of
what Romney is missing here is that he`s actually doing himself more damage
with the flip-flop than with simply actually taking a position. You can`t
get to the right flank of Rick Santorum. You can`t. No one can get to the
right flank of Rick Santorum.

And part of what people in the primaries are responding to with
Santorum is this sense that he stands for something, even if they don`t
always agree with him, they like the fact that he seems to really have
stable position and what they consider to be ethical positions.

And Romney, if he would just take a stand on something, might actually
be able to sort of chip away a little bit more of this Santorum momentum.

O`DONNELL: It`s one of those things that shows you why professional
Republicans worry about this guy. Here he is, he had what for him was a
good night last night, surviving Michigan, winning cleanly in Arizona. And
then today, he gives the White House a gift like this. And professional
Republicans know that that was a gift to the White House.

HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, absolutely. And they know that the White House and
the Obama campaign are not going to make these kinds of mistakes.

I mean, it`s really like someone who finally sort of gets ahead in the
race, and then actively gnaws on his own foot, right, as he makes it across
the finish line. It`s such a ridiculous, unforced error, because as you
point out, obviously, he knows what that amendment is. It is not some sort
of new news story item. It`s been around for a while.

We know that the vote is coming up. It is part of what`s now two
weeks` old worth of very real discussion on this question.

And I think, again, what I would say, though, is I think that that
initial response is probably the authentic Romney response. Why are we
even talking about this? Let`s go on and talk about something else --
which I actually think strikes me as a more reasonable position come
general election time.

O`DONNELL: Melissa Harris-Perry, thanks for joining us tonight. I`ll
be watching you Saturday morning.

HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, two senators, a woman who passionately argued
on the Virginia Senate floor against mandating ultrasound testing before
abortions and Senator Patty Murray who will update us on the Senate vote
tomorrow to allow employers to drop any health insurance provision that
they find morally objectionable, that Blunt Amendment that Romney was
against before he was in favor of it.

And former Senator Bob Kerrey will sing THE LAST WORD tonight. That`s
right. He`s going to sing. The singing senator is going to sing us out
tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: A misguided Catholic priest, literally misguided, because
his archdiocese had to re-guide him after he did this. A Catholic priest
refused to let a woman take communion at her mother`s funeral, and then the
priest walked out of the surface as she gave the eulogy. She told the
woman that living her life with another woman is a sin. That woman is my
special guest tonight in "The Rewrite".

And two women senators join me next. Patty Murray and tomorrow`s
fight over the Blunt Amendment in the Senate.

And a Virginia senator who was on the losing side of a vote this week
on a bill requiring ultrasound testing before abortions.

And we will close the show with former Senator Bob Kerrey as you have
never seen him. In fact, as you have never seen any senator. You don`t
want to miss this.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: A situation we find ourselves in
at this moment is exhibit A on why someone like Olympia Snowe is saying,
you know, I -- this has been a privilege and a wonderful something, but I
think I`m going to move on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The situation Senator Barbara Boxer is referring to is the
Blunt Amendment, which was debated on the Senate floor today. The Blunt
Amendment would allow employers to refuse to include any provision they
find morally objectionable in health insurance policies.

Across the Potomac yesterday, in Virginia, the state Senate passed a
new version of a bill requiring women to have ultrasound testing before
getting an abortion. Before it can be presented to the governor for his
signature, that bill has to be reconciled with the version passed by the
Virginia House, which requires trans-vaginal ultrasound testing.

Democratic Senator Louise Lucas fought the bill on the Virginia Senate
floor yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

L. LOUISE LUCAS, VIRGINIA STATE SENATOR: Some of the women who have
talked to me, especially the younger women, have said the arrogance of this
body to try to tell them what to do with their bodies is an abomination.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now for an exclusive interview is Virginia
State Senator Louise Lucas. Thanks for joining us tonight, senator.

LUCAS: Oh, thank you. It`s my pleasure to be here this afternoon.

O`DONNELL: Senator, what is the status of the bill, that you passed a
version, as I understand it, that`s slightly deferent from the House
version in Virginia. Do those have to be reconciled before the governor
can sign it?

LUCAS: That is correct. The bill has now gone over to the House. As
you know, I was on the losing side of the issue on yesterday, which is the
reason why I stood on the floor to voice my opposition.

But, yes, the bill will be voted on in the House of Delegates. It`s
gone there now.

O`DONNELL: Is it your sense that some version of this is going to
make it through both bodies and make it to the governor for signature?

LUCAS: Oh, absolutely. There`s no question about it. And in fact,
last evening I had a conversation with the governor. And he reinforced his
views and his values that a woman -- that a woman should have a consent,
should have all these informed consents in place.

But, you know, those of us on my side of the aisle, we know better.
We know all of this is just a chipping away at the rights that we have
fought for and won, many years ago. And it`s all headed towards trying to
repeal Roe v. Wade.

And so we`re not fooled by this. But, you know, even though I was on
the losing side of this issue, I`ve got to tell you that there was a silver
lining in this defeat, because it has galvanized women all across the
Commonwealth of Virginia, and in fact all across the United States.

We`re getting calls in from everywhere, where women are united and
they are going to push back.

O`DONNELL: It has also galvanized doctor`s associations. The
American Medical Association is against this, the American College of
Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical Women`s Association.
There`s a long list that goes on and on.

I want the audience to hear your colleague, Senator Ralph Northum.
He`s the only physician in the Senate working with you there. He called
this bill unethical. I want to the audience to hear what he had to say
yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RALPH NORTHUM (D), VIRGINIA STATE SENATOR: It`s telling me, it`s
telling my colleagues how to practice medicine. We do not need, as a group
of physicians, non-physician legislators dictating to us how to practice
medicine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Senator Lucas, what is the Republican answer to that?
These Republicans are, in effect, trying to practice medicine without a
license in their elected position.

LUCAS: Lawrence, they sat there as if nothing was being said. It was
falling on deaf ears. They are just so bent on trying to just chip away at
the rights of women that they just didn`t seem to care. And you know --
and many of us have talked to them privately.

We`ve tried to do everything we know to do to try to convince them
that this is the wrong headed, it`s , not the right thing to do, and that
they will ultimately pay for it at the polls.

We`re getting the calls in. And they`re pretending that they`re not
coming into them, but I know better.

O`DONNELL: And what would you recommend to legislators in other
states where these bills are now being proposed? Is there some line of
argument that you think is the most effective? I mean, you guys came
close. You only lost this by two votes in the Senate.

LUCAS: That`s correct. What I would say to other legislators, all
across the United States, all they`ve got to do is look at Virginia and see
what`s happening. Because I can tell you, any hope for Governor McDonnell
to be the VP on a ticket with Mitt Romney is quickly vanishing.

O`DONNELL: Virginia Senator Louise Lucas, thank you for your passion
on the Senate floor yesterday and thank you for joining us this evening.

LUCAS: Thank you. It`s been my pleasure.

O`DONNELL: Joining me now for an exclusive prime-time interview is
Washington Democrat Senator Patty Murray. She`s the chair of the
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Thank you very much for joining me tonight, senator.

SEN. PATTY MURRAY (D), WASHINGTON STATE: Well, great to talk with
you.

O`DONNELL: Senator, what is the vote count looking like now on the
Blunt Amendment. We have two Democrats who say they will vote for it. And
Senator Snowe -- Olympia Snowe said she will vote against it. Looks like
Lisa Murkowski, Republican senator, is probably going to vote against it.

What do we know?

MURRAY: Well, I am increasingly confident that we will be able to get
the votes to defeat the Blunt Amendment. And I think that the women and
men across this country, as they realize the extreme nature of this
measure, that goes right after a woman`s ability to make her own health
care decisions, will be defeated. But it will be close.

O`DONNELL: And some people have been taken to calling it the
Blunt/Brown Amendment, associating Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown with
this bill. He`s being opposed by Elizabeth Warren in that state. And he
has -- he is supporting the Blunt Amendment.

It seems to me that that`s exactly the kind of state where the
Democrat`s candidate will have a tremendous advantage because of this.

MURRAY: Well, I certainly think that Elizabeth Warren and many of our
Democrats who are running across the country realize that this is kind of
intrusion into a woman`s decision making, allowing an employer, whether
it`s your barber or whether it`s the people who own a restaurant or a
multi-national corporation, can make the decisions about your ability on
whether or not contraceptives is -- contraceptives are covered is just
really the wrong direction for this country.

And we`re standing up and we`re speaking out and we`re fighting back.
And I certainly know, having worked with Senator Kennedy for many years
here in the Senate, that is something that he fought hard for, to make sure
that access for health care was available for all Americans, and women
included.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
said about this today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: When will my colleagues
understand this very non-debatable fact, that the decision of whether a
woman takes one medicine or another, or what type of health care she should
have access to should not be the decision of her boss? A common sense,
simple principle that bosses and employers should not make these very
personal decisions. What could be more intrusive than that?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Senator, that seems like a winning political position.
And so I have to ask you, I know you think about the tactics of the other
side. And everyone once in a while, you see them do something, and you
think, hey, that`s pretty smart. That`s going to score them some points.

Can you see anything in the Republican strategy here that actually
makes sense for them in their attempt to win back control of the United
States Senate?

MURRAY: Well, I have been mystified by this for some amount of time.
You may remember that a year ago, we were sitting here in the nation`s
capitol, way, way late at night, with all of the budget numbers just about
decided in our budget agreement, in order to keep the government open. And
the one issue that the Republicans stood up and said is we need to defund
Planned Parenthood, or we`ll allow government to shut down.

As the only woman in the room at the negotiations at that time, I
thought, what are they doing? This seems to me a concerted agenda on
behalf of an extreme group of people on the Republican side that has
forgotten that America is far ahead of them. I don`t think it`s a winning
strategy to go through a woman`s health care clinic in order to get a
majority here in the Senate or to keep a majority in the House.

And I`m quite, frankly, very surprised that they`ve gone after the
very issue that women hold dear, the ability to make their own decisions
about their own lives.

O`DONNELL: Senator Patty Murray, thank you very much for joining me
tonight. >

Coming up, the woman who was refused communion at her mother`s funeral
by a priest who believes she is living in sin because she lives with woman.
She is my next guest.

And later, former Senator Bob Kerrey, who announced today he will run
for Senate again, sang a song 24 years ago unlike anything you ever heard a
politician sing. You don`t want to miss this. It tells you more about Bob
Kerrey than any speech ever could.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAMANTHA BEE, "THE DAILY SHOW": It`s like you came up with this whole
idea when you were 12.

GROVER NORQUIST, CONSERVATIVE ACTIVIST: When I was 12, because we had
a teacher --

BEE: I`m sorry, what did you say? You came up with this idea when
you were --

NORQUIST: Seventh grade.

BEE: In seventh grade.

NORQUIST: Mm-hmm.

BEE: Yes, the entire federal government is paralyzed because of a
document written by a 12-year-old in 1968.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: In tonight`s Rewrite, you`ll meet the woman who was denied
communion by a Catholic priest at her mother`s funeral on Saturday.
Barbara Johnson was told by the priest at her mother`s funeral, I can`t
give you communion because you live with a woman and in the eyes of the
church, that is a sin.

The Archdiocese of Washington is busy rewriting that priest`s
decision. In a statement to the press, the Archdiocese says, "when
questions arise about whether or not an individual should present
themselves for communion, it is not the policy of the Archdiocese of
Washington to publicly reprimand the person. Any issues regarding the
suitability of an individual to receive communion should be addressed by
the priest with that person in a private, pastoral setting."

Bishop Barry Nestout (ph) of the Archdiocese sent Barbara Johnson a
letter of apology. It reads in part, "kindness to those experiencing
personal loss is a necessary part of the church`s call to charity. The
fact that you did not experience this is a cause of great concern and
personal regret to me. I am sorry that what should have been a celebration
of your mother`s life was overshadowed by a lack of pastoral sensitivity."

Joining me now in a LAST WORD exclusive, Barbara Johnson. Barbara,
thank you very much for joining me.

BARBARA JOHNSON, DENIED COMMUNION AT MOTHER`S FUNERAL: Hello.

O`DONNELL: First of all, I am very sorry for your loss of your
mother.

JOHNSON: Thank you very much.

O`DONNELL: I`m shocked by this. I`ve been to so many Catholic
funerals in my life. I was an alter boy. I think I served at 300 of them.
And we know that there`s no test for going to communion in the church.
There`s no questions asked.

You present yourself for communion. What did it feel like to have
that experience?

JOHNSON: It was shocking. I`m a lifelong Catholic. And this has
never happened to me before. And I was -- I just stood there for perhaps
two or three minutes, it seemed. It seemed like an eternity, waiting for
the priest to change his mind, wondering if I had misheard him, in fact.

And then I just walked away. And I just felt so sad that we had
planned such a beautiful mass for my mother, our last act as a family for
her. And to have this happen in front of all of her friends and family was
devastating.

O`DONNELL: And that wasn`t the only thing he did. You then got up to
deliver the eulogy at your mother`s funeral, and what did the priest do?

JOHNSON: The priest walked off the alter.

O`DONNELL: I just -- I am so glad to have already read that letter of
apology from the Archdiocese. That`s the church that we know, the church
that would send that letter. And I know before this event that that is not
the policy. The policy is you don`t confront people publicly in this kind
of way and certainly not with these kinds of issues, under any
circumstances.

But then, as is Catholic tradition, you go to the cemetery, and the
priest`s duty at the funeral is to go to the ceremony, do some final
prayers over the casket, at the cemetery. What happened in that situation?

JOHNSON: After we left the church, I was approached by the funeral
director, who informed me that the priest had spoken with him and said that
he`d fallen ill, that he had a migraine, and that he wouldn`t be able to
accompany my mother`s body to the cemetery. I asked him what would we do,
and he said, I`ll make some calls and see if I can find a substitute.

We left in the procession and rode for a half an hour, not knowing
what we would find at the cemetery. Fortunately, the funeral director was
able to find a retired priest at the church, and Father Sweeney did a
beautiful job at the cemetery.

O`DONNELL: What was his name? I want his name.

JOHNSON: His name with was Father Pete Sweeney.

O`DONNELL: Oh, great. And what was the name of the funeral director,
because he deserves credit. He saved the day?

JOHNSON: I don`t know his last name, actually. I forget it, but his
first name is Tracy. He was terrific.

O`DONNELL: The audience may not realize it, but it is inconceivable
to be at the cemetery without a priest in the final moments of a Catholic
funeral and burial service.

JOHNSON: My parents raised four Catholic children. And you know,
funerals are in part for the deceased, and in part for the living. And it
was unthinkable for us, as our duty as her children, to let this go on
without that final service.

O`DONNELL: Well, you know, I got a Tweet, I believe, on Sunday from
your cousin about this. And I was reading, I was sending it to the staff
here. By the time people started moving around this story here, this had
already become something very big. Did you expect this kind of reaction?
You couldn`t have possibly have dreamed of this?

JOHNSON: I didn`t. You know, I like to write on Facebook, my
Facebook page, about one thing or another that`s happening, just like
everyone else. And so I told the story on my Facebook page. And my
cousins picked it up and wrote about it and it just took off from there.

O`DONNELL: Barbara Johnson, I don`t know. I`ve known you for five
minutes and I can sit here feeling how proud your mother is of you tonight.

JOHNSON: Thank you very much. That means a great deal.

O`DONNELL: Barbara Johnson, thank you very much for your time
tonight.

Up next, as President Obama honors Iraq war veterans at the White
House tonight, former Senator Bob Kerrey remembers his experience in war.
And he does that with a song. Bob Kerrey sings, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For you, coming home
was the start of another battle, the battle to recover, to stand, to walk,
to serve again. And in your resilience, we see the essence of America,
because we do not give up. No matter the hardship, we push on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: President Obama and the First Lady held a formal dinner at
the White House tonight for a group of Iraq War veterans to mark the end of
the war. The Iraq War claimed the lives of nearly 4,500 American soldiers,
and left more than 30,000 wounded.

Put your finger at the bottom of your right knee. You get that? Look
at everything below your finger: the shin, the ankle, the foot, the toes.
Bob Kerrey has none of that. He has air below his right knee. Nothing in
the way he moves gives that way, not the way he walks, not the way he
dances, not the way he runs, not even the way he skis.

He had to learn to walk twice in his life. His parents taught him how
to do it the first time, on two legs. His government taught him to do it
the second time, on one.

After being carried off his last battle field in Vietnam, where he
lost his leg, it took a year of physical therapy in a veterans hospital in
Philadelphia to get Bob Kerrey walking again. Bob Kerrey came away from
the experience not hating government for getting his body blown apart, but
grateful to government for putting him back together.

For his service in Vietnam, he was awarded the Medal of Honor, the
highest military decoration awarded by the United States government. And
long before we had a singing president, on election night, way back in
1988, when Bob Kerrey won a seat in the United States Senate, at the end of
his victory speech, he was moved to song, an old war song.

Not a song of triumph, but a song of pain and perseverance. And not a
song sung at the White House tonight, a song that knows the folly of war.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB KERREY, FORMER SENATOR: There is a song from some 70 years ago
about a young Australian boy. And it goes like this. OK.

Well, we`ll do it anyway. It does go like this.

When I was a young man, I carried me pack and lived the free life of
the rover. From the Murray`s (ph) green basin to the dusty outback I lost
my Matilda all over.

Then in 1915, my country said, son, it`s time to stop rambling,
there`s work to be done. And they gave me a tin hat and they gave me a
gun, and they sent me away to the war.

And the band played Waltzing Matilda, as our ship pulled away from the
key, amidst all the cheers, flag waving and tears, we sailed off to
Galipoli.

How well I remember that terrible day, the bloodstains, the sand and
the water, and how in that hell they called Suvla (ph) Bay, we were
butchered like lambs to the slaughter.

And when I awoke in my hospital bed, I saw what it had done and I
wished I were dead. Never knew there were worse things than dying.

And the band played Waltzing Matilda, around the green bush far and
near, to hunt hen and pigs, a man needs both legs. No more Waltzing
Matilda for me.

They collected the wounded, the legless, the maimed, the poor wounded
heroes of Suvla. The legless, the armless, the blind, the insane and
shipped us all back to Australia. And as our ship pulled in to Salikiki
(ph), I looked down at where my legs used to be, and thanked Christ there
was nobody waiting for me to mourn and to grieve and to pity.

And the band played Waltzing Matilda, as they carried us down the
gangway, and nobody cheered. They just stood and stared, and turned all
their faces away.

And now every April, I sit on my porch, and watch the parade pass
before me. I watch my old comrades, how proudly they march, renewing old
dreams and lost glory.

The old man marched proudly, all bent stiff and sore, the tired old
man from a forgotten war. And the young people ask, what are they marching
for. And I ask myself the same question.

And the band played Waltzing Matilda, and the old man answered the
call, year by year, their numbers get fewer. Some day will no one will
march here at all.

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda, who`ll go Waltzing Matilda with
me? And their ghosts can be heard as they pass by the Billy bong. Who`ll
go a-Waltzing Matilda with me?

We`ll waltz tonight and work tomorrow. Thank you very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Waltz tonight and work tomorrow, that`s the Bob Kerrey I
know. Bob Kerrey gets THE LAST WORD. Nebraska and America will be lucky
if we get him back in the Senate. "THE ED SHOW" is up next.

END

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




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


Sponsored links

Resource guide