Skip navigation

'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Thursday, April 19, 2012

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

  Most Popular
Most viewed

Guests: Alex Wagner, Steve Kornacki, Stephanie Cutter; Sister Jeannine Gramick, Jeff Stone, John Walsh,
John Heilemann

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: We have a new NBC News/"Wall Street
Journal" poll tonight, which means more bad news for Mitt Romney.


CHRIS JANSING, NBC NEWS: A couple of new polls out.

TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: The New NBC News/"Wall Street Journal"
poll --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s "New York Times" poll out today --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Polls indicate --



ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: We`ve got months of this, huh?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the first full week of the full-on

WAGNER: Round one of the general election.

need a helmet between now and November. What do you think?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A Quinnipiac Poll out today shows the president

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Forty-two percent of registered voters have a
favorable view of the president --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a snapshot in time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does 29 percent see Mitt Romney in a favorable

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Obama leads by 10 points in the
enthusiasm gap.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The likability factor is part of all of this.

WAGNER: The likability thing and the trustworthy thing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Romney has a lot more baggage than the president.

OBAMA: I wasn`t born with a silver spoon in my mouth.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know the president likes
to attack fellow Americans, particularly those successful like my dad.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "The New York Times" poll shows the candidate
lost in a dead heat.

ROMNEY: I will use every ounce of my energy to help the American
people go to work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everywhere he goes, he`s talking about the

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This election will be based on the facts of the



JON STEWART, COMEDIAN: We`re going to talk about eco --

WAGNER: We`ve got months of this, huh?

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: Mitt Romney has something of a gender
gap, we know that. But he really has a Latino gap.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Republican primary was not helpful in that

MITCHELL: The Republican primary is, of course, why we`re hearing so
much about Marco Rubio.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: If I do a good job as vice president
-- I`m sorry.

MITCHELL: Clearly he`s got his own daydreams.

RUBIO: I`m sorry.


O`DONNELL: And we now know what Mitt Romney is going to do after he
loses the presidential election. That man is going to be a new-age
motivational speaker waking you up to the power of dreamers.


ROMNEY: In America, individuals pursuing their dreams in various
ways, their happiness and the ways they chose would lead to enterprises
being built some successful, some not. But overall, the economy would be
listed by free people pursuing their dreams. These dreamers have been
crushed over the last 3 1/2 years. This is time for us to reignite,
rekindle the power of dreamers, to welcome dreamers here from other nations
that come here legally, to have people from their own nation.



O`DONNELL: I guarantee you, you heard it here first.

Alex Wagner, you heard it here first, the power of dreamers. Will be
the title of self-help get rich quick book that Mitt and Ann Romney will
co-author during the fifth year of the Obama presidency.

Today, Mitt Romney chased President Obama to Lorain County, Ohio,
where the president spoke yesterday. Regular guy, Mitt Romney, tried to
play the Simon Cowell judge of the political game show "Who is the real
regular guy?"


ROMNEY: This is a president who doesn`t understand, I don`t think,
exactly what the American people are experiencing. He needs to sit down
with folks.


O`DONNELL: On FOX News this morning, Romney was asked to respond to
this comment President Obama made yesterday.


OBAMA: Somebody gave me an education. I wasn`t born with a silver
spoon in my mouth. Michelle wasn`t. But somebody gave us a chance. Just
like these folks are looking for a chance.

ROMNEY: I`m certainly not going to apologize for my dad and his
success in life. He was born poor. He worked his way to become very
successful despite the fact that he didn`t have a college degree. And one
of the things he wanted to do was to provide for me and my brother and
sisters. I`m not going to apologize for my dad`s success.

But I know the president likes to attack fellow Americans. He`s
always looking for a scapegoat, particularly those that have been
successful like my dad. And I`m not going to rise to that.


O`DONNELL: Mitt Romney is, of course, lying about his father being
born poor. We`ll have more on that in a moment.

The new NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll out tonight shows Mitt
Romney losing to President Obama by six points in a head-to-head match-up
with President Obama at 49 and Mitt Romney at 43 percent. Like previous
polls, it shows Mitt Romney getting crushed on the questions relating to
who understands regular guys.

Asked who is the better choice when it comes to looking out for the
middle class? Forty-eight percent say President Obama, 27 percent say Mitt

Asked who was the better choice when it comes to caring about average
people? Fifty-two percent say President Obama, 22 percent say Mitt Romney.

And asked who is compassionate enough to understand average people?
Fifty-two percent say President Obama, 23 percent say Mitt Romney.

And none say, what does average people mean?

Joining me now are: Alex Wagner, the host of MSNBC`s "NOW WITH ALEX
WAGNER" and Steve Kornacki, a political columnist for "Salon," and MSNBC
political analyst, and an average person.

Was that the phrase in the poll thing? Average people?

WAGNER: Average people are born and die and that way -- I don`t
know, Lawrence -- who`s working --

O`DONNELL: As the only person here born with a silver spoon anywhere
near her, I know Carl Wagner.

WAGNER: Oh, wow.

O`DONNELL: I was born with a -- I believe, a wooden spoon. One of
the things that used to come with the ice cream.

WAGNER: I was born with a (INAUDIBLE).

O`DONNELL: This regular guy competition is not going well for Mitt

WAGNER: It`s a terrible idea if you`re Mitt Romney and you have a
four-car car elevator you`re building, you have offshore accounts in the
Cayman Islands, and you have hundreds of millions of dollars in your name,
and you`re trying to make the case of being in touch with the average Joe.

The issue for Mitt Romney -- well, it`s actually the issue for the
president are on all of those metrics, on likability, you know, compassion,
setting aside compassion for the legal dreamers and the illegal dreamers --
Mitt Romney is in trouble. The good news for Mitt Romney is that when you
ask voters about the economy, there`s a much closer margin there. And
that`s what the president has to sort of deal with in the next couple of
months, which is the difference parsing likability and trustworthiness.

And for some reason, the American public, which I don`t think has
scrutinized Mitt Romney or his economic policies, thinks to some degree he
can be a steward of the economy and the president that has got to prove
that wrong.

O`DONNELL: Well, Steve, the economy is a vaguer question than do you
think you should raise taxes on people making over $1 million and so forth?
And that`s why I think that may be why Romney performs very, very close to
the president, slightly better than the president in some polls on the
economy, because there`s something vague about that question.

STEVE KORNACKI, SALON.COM: Yes, no. I think there`s a couple of
things. I think the big challenge for Obama and for Democrats in the rest
of this campaign is sort of marrying the idea -- the arguments they`re
making now for tax fairness, for protecting the social safety net, for
investing in education and these sorts of things -- marrying that with the
idea that this is not a moral question as much as this is an economic
question. We are in this economic mess right now, if you want to get out
of it, you need to provide for social mobility. You need to, fine, you
know, deal with the deficit, you`re going to have to have upper income
people pay more taxes because you`re going to have to preserve these middle
class fortifying institutions.

I think right now, the way these things are presented too often, it
plays to the Republican advantage where you can look at the rhetoric that
comes out from Obama and Democrats and say, well, this is Robin Hood stuff.
This is a moral, you know, let`s steal from the rich, let`s redistribute
the wealth.

Obama has to make the case that this is central to growing the
economy, just like the Republicans talk about it.

O`DONNELL: Mitt Romney went in search of a friendly interview, which
he could expect at CNBC, Larry Kudlow did the honors. You know, there`s
Romney talking to the two Cadillac audience out there. And Kudlow threw
him a curve ball. Let`s listen to this.


LARRY KUDLOW, CNBC: You yourself have been an investor, are you
surprised at how well the stock market has done? It`s about doubled since
early 2009. Are you surprised how well stocks have done? What do you
think that means? What do you think that`s saying?

ROMNEY: Well, I`ve never been one to try to predict the stock market
or explain what`s happening in the stock market. I think investors look at
American industry and say that entrepreneurs and managers and inventors in
America have continued to defy the odds, that they have made their
businesses more productive, that they`ve been able to achieve higher levels
of profitability.


O`DONNELL: What I love about this question and answer is that
neither Larry Kudlow, my pal Larry Kudlow, nor Mitt Romney used the word
Obama in a question. Larry says, you know, since early 2009 -- OK. You
could say, since President Obama`s been president, the stock market has
doubled and, Alex, the word Obama doesn`t appear in --

WAGNER: Well, it doesn`t appear when you`re talking about sort of a
rosy picture or any semblance of good news. I mean, one thing to be
certain is that the stock market is not the American economy. That said, I
mean, the Republican Party and specifically --

O`DONNELL: CNBC thinks it is, though.

WAGNER: Well, I will refrain to comment on that analysis. But, you
know, Mitt Romney and the Republican Party are constitutionally incapable
of giving the president any credit for an economic rebound and that comes
as no surprise.

O`DONNELL: Steve, the overall number in the NBC poll is six-point
gap, 49-43. We had the "New York Times" come out I think yesterday poll,
had them tied 46 percent, something like that. And so, this is the one
that has the widest margin. But all of these numbers are actually behaving
within the margin of error of all of those polls.

When a poll comes out at 46 percent, 46 percent, it has a margin of
error where it could actually be 49 percent or 43 percent. We haven`t seen
any -- have a margin of error flew to the point where Romney is the higher

KORNACKI: Well, yes. But I would say, too, the numbers are tighter
now than they were a few weeks ago, tighter than a month. There were some
polls a month ago that had Obama in couple of digits. And I think what`s
happened is the Republicans have sort of started to come home now that
Romney is their presumptive nominee, you know, you have this sort of
conservative, especially from sort of evangelicals, especially white
evangelicals in the South who were kind of resisting. They are coming
aboard now.

But the catch is, if you really look deep in these numbers, you find,
you start asking them, are you with Obamas or are you with Romney, they`re
with Romney.

Are you enthusiastic about Romney or do you still have reservations
about Romney, and you get like a 50 percent number among evangelicals for I
have reservations about this guy. And so that`s why, I think, you know --
yes, Romney`s clear of the primary now, mostly, but he has to still worry
about these people, and he`s going to have to worry about them through the
campaign, and that`s going to force all sorts of uncomfortable issues and
uncomfortable moments where he`s got to choose between -- I don`t want to
exacerbate these reservations, but I want to win of these swing voters who
are essential to winning in the fall and some impossible situations that
will come along, I think.

O`DONNELL: And, Alex, the president has ways of getting voters who
are not single-issue voters that Romney doesn`t have. I mean, if you
aren`t with the president on the economy but he reminds you about where
Osama bin Laden is now and he reminds you about what the American troop
level is in Iraq right now, that`s the kind of thing that it seems to me
can steer a voter back toward President Obama.

WAGNER: Sure. I mean, look, I will say you may be angry with the
president if you`re far on the left or far on the right. But he has been
rather consistent. He may not have gotten everything done, but he`s
offered a broad vision and a series of principles for where he wants to
take this country. And I think he`ll continue to lay out that vision in
the coming months.

And the issue with Mitt Romney is he`s been anything but consistent.
And so, as voters turn their radios into the Romney dial, it`s unclear
whether they`re going to stay on the station.

O`DONNELL: Steve, does the Romney campaign have any strategy other
than more Ann Romney? About how to humanize Mitt Romney?

KORNACKI: Yu know, it`s --

O`DONNELL: When you look at the numbers inside these polls, it is a
serious problem.

KORNACKI: Well, and I think part of it too is there`s the basic, you
know, Mitt Romney`s biggest problem is Mitt Romney. I don`t know if he can
overcome being himself if that`s the basic challenge of the fall campaign.

But another problem he has here and I think it contributes to this
image is what he`s been forced to say and to do to win the Republican
nomination. He`s been forced to present himself in very -- in ways that
are very unflattering to sort of the middle of the American electorate.

So you would say, OK, logically here for a candidate like this, now
is the time to make some sort of dramatic stand, maybe against your party
base, against something unpopular you had to say. But that gets into what
Alex is saying.

The other thing that`s driving his negative numbers now is the
perception of the guy doesn`t believe in anything and will say anything to
get elected. So if he takes, you know, the classic thing is the Sister
Soulja moment with Bill Clinton. If Mitt Romney looks to have the
equivalent of the Sister Soulja moment, it may make the whole inauthentic
way that much worse because everyone`s expecting him to do it.

O`DONNELL: Speaking of inauthentic, this thing about my father was
born poor. He was born to a very prosperous family, in fact, in Utah.
They then moved to Mexico in order to continue the practice of polygamy in
Mexico. They then fled Mexico when revolution came to Mexico, and yes,
they had to leave some of their property behind which they still owned and
Romney still owned to this day.

And when they got to this country, they got a deal, a welfare handout
of $100,000 from the American government for Mormons who were displaced
from Mexico.

And so this -- my father was born poor, he knows is a lie. I mean,
why even try that?

WAGNER: Can we talk about the hair-trigger defense mechanism? The
president didn`t -- look, I mean, you can say he was sort of indicting
Romney by saying he wasn`t born with a silver spoon in his mouth. But take
the comment in context. He was talking about getting a fair shot, which
was part of his message and he`s talking about education and having a

Somehow Mitt Romney has taken this as an indictment for his family
and his personal wealth.

O`DONNELL: Right. And the spoon thing is something politicians have
used for decades before Romney existed.

KORNACKI: Obama himself used it to talk about Harry Reid, to talk
about John Spratt, to talk about Kent Conrad in the past two or three
years. He has said this himself.

And the other thing is fine, you want to bring George Romney into
this. Think about the message that Obama was trying to convey there. It
was basically an affirmation of the social contract. Yes, I got ahead
because there was a safety net that was there to propel me and my wife

George Romney was a liberal Republican believed deeply in the social
safety net who supported education programs, who supported anti-poverty
programs, public housing. Look at what he did at HUD.

WAGNER: And palled around with Saul Alinsky.

KORNACKI: Yes, that`s right.

O`DONNELL: Alex Wagner of "NOW," and Steve Kornacki of,
you can pick up your plastic spoons on the way of the studio. Thank you
very much for joining me tonight.

WAGNER: Thanks, Lawrence.


O`DONNELL: Coming up, a Catholic bishop compares President Obama to
who else? Hitler and Stalin. That`s ahead.

And regular guy Mitt Romney attacks President Obama for not being a
regular guy. Stephanie Cutter of the Obama campaign joins me next to
discuss the president`s regular guy-ness.

And Mitt Romney who constantly worships small business when he`s
reading from a teleprompter attacked a small businessman in Pennsylvania
yesterday, and that small businessman joins me later.


O`DONNELL: The Vatican says American nuns are turning into radical
feminists because they are too worried about poverty and not worried enough
about stopping marriage equality, that`s coming up.

And in the "Rewrite", Mitt Romney is trying to show small business
owners he`s really just like them. Too bad he insulted a small business
owner in Pennsylvania this week.



ROMNEY: His campaign is not going to be about vision. It`s going to
be about division. He`s going to be focusing on different Americans and
trying to scapegoat other people for his own failures. You will see him
attack success day in and day out. And one thing you know is if you attack
success, you`re going to have less of it.


O`DONNELL: That was Mitt Romney today speaking at an empty factory
in Ohio under the banner reading "Obama isn`t working". The Romney
campaign was not concerned that the factory actually shut down not during
the Obama administration but during the administration of George W. Bush.

Here to respond is the deputy manager of the Obama re-election
campaign, Stephanie Cutter.

Thanks for joining me tonight, Stephanie.

STEPHANIE CUTTER, OBAMA 2012 CAMPAIGN: Thanks for having me.

O`DONNELL: You know, Stephanie, I interpreted here on this show last
night the president`s silver spoon comment to be a reference, somewhat
veiled reference to Mitt Romney, the president could hope some voters took
that as a comparison to Mitt Romney. But I was very surprised that Mitt
Romney fell for it and actually tried to make it an issue himself.

Did you think you were going to get that lucky with Mitt Romney?

CUTTER: Well, you know, the president has said that he wasn`t born
with a silver spoon in his mouth before. And the point that he`s making is
that he`s been the beneficiary of good policies that allows everybody to
get ahead, not just those at the top. And Mitt Romney took that to mean
that the president was talking about him.

And instead of explaining how he`s going to help everybody be
successful, instead of people just like him, he attacked the president and
said the president was being divisive.

And, you know, that`s not the case. The president was in Ohio
yesterday talking about policies that he put in place and policies that he
stands for that helps everybody get ahead -- worker training, job training,
education, all of the things that prepared the president to be successful.

And, you know, as you mentioned coming in, Mitt Romney was in Ohio
standing in an empty factory blaming the president for a factory that was
shut down before we were even elected. And it was shut down because of the
policies of the previous administration, the same policies that Mitt Romney
wants to go back to.

And instead of laying out a vision for how he`s going to grow the
economy or help everybody get ahead, he tried to turn it back on the
president and really laid out a series of distortions of what`s happened in
this economy under President Obama.

O`DONNELL: We`ve seen recently some speculation about possible vice
presidential candidates that Mitt Romney could pick and the discussion
that, you know, could Marco Rubio solve Mitt Romney`s problems with Latino
voters and basically simply by putting that name on the ticket does that
get him out of the trouble that he has caused for himself with voters by
taking such a hard anti-immigration line in the presidential primary? Do
you think that Marco Rubio is that solution to that problem for Mitt

CUTTER: No. I don`t. I don`t think somebody else can solve your
problems. You know, Mitt Romney has -- was the most extreme candidate on
immigration in the Republican primary --

O`DONNELL: And by the way, Stephanie, that`s not just according to
you. Ann Coulter has said that and we`ve replayed the video of it many
times. That was one of the ways he got to this point where he could get
this nomination.

CUTTER: Absolutely. Absolutely.

You know, Lawrence, you`ve seen he`s trying to walk away from his
position on the Arizona immigration law saying that he was really only
talking about E-verify. Well, he spent the last 2 1/2 months letting
people believe. If that`s the case, and I don`t believe it`s the case. I
believe he was supporting the entire Arizona immigration law because let`s
remember he said on day one he was going to stop these lawsuits against the
Arizona law.

But if that`s the case, if we are to believe what Mitt Romney said
that he was only standing for the E-verify piece of the Arizona law, why
didn`t he say that over the last 2 1/2 months? He didn`t say that because
he was trying to deceive Republican voters into believing that he was a
true conservative.

So, you know, I think that leaves Mitt Romney with real problems.
You`ve seen the numbers and the NBC poll out today that there`s upwards of
40-point margin on the Hispanic vote and that`s only going to grow. And
there`s a reason for it.

You know, Mitt Romney said that, you know, in his speech today that
he wanted to make America, you know, great for all dreamers, including
illegal immigrants. Well, let`s remember that he said he wanted to make
conditions here so bad for illegal immigrants that they would self-deport.
Is that his version of the American dream? Because I don`t think that`s
exactly what everybody else`s version of the American dream is.

O`DONNELL: Karl Rove said today in the "Wall Street Journal" that
Republicans can win this argument -- this was on the Buffett Rule. He said
they can say that its effect on the deficit will be minuscule, that now is
not the time raising taxes especially on job creators and there should be a
limit on what government can take from anyone.

He`s giving them rhetorical talking points advice.

CUTTER: Right.

O`DONNELL: He`s not even seriously trying to make the case that this
stuff is real.

Can Mitt Romney sell that argument?

CUTTER: Well, I think the argument is not really sellable because if
you look at the facts that it`s not the time to raise taxes on job
creators. We`re talking about millionaires and billionaires here. And if
you look at under Karl Rove`s time in the White House, where we gave these
tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires, we had the slowest job growth in
generations So that`s fact number one.

Fact number two, this isn`t just about the deficit. This is about
everybody paying their fair share so that we can make investments in the
things we need to grow the middle class and make our economy stronger. You
know, ultimately, it`s about a choice. If you want to reduce the deficit,
you have to cut somewhere or you have to increase revenue. So, how are you
going to do that?

Rather than slicing and dicing Medicare or cutting off student aid,
why don`t we ask everybody to pay their fair share? And millionaires and
billionaires to pay at least the same tax rate as the middle class. That
only seems fair and that only seems like a good economic argument so I
don`t think Karl Rove is going to win that.

O`DONNELL: Stephanie Cutter, thank you very much for joining us

CUTTER: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, American nuns are being cited for their work
on poverty and social justice. And by cited, I mean reprimanded by the
Vatican because they`re spending too much time on poverty and not enough on
stopping marriage equality. That`s coming up.

And Mitt Romney tries to rewrite his experience as an investment
banker. He wants you to believe that he just started up a small business
and got kind of lucky. The lies of Mitt Romney`s resume. That`s in the


O`DONNELL: In the Spotlight Tonight, the politics of religion. In
his sermon last weekend, a Catholic Bishop compared President Obama to
Hitler and Stalin.


and Stalin, at their better moments, would just barely tolerate some
churches remaining open, but would not tolerate any competition with the
state in education, social services and health care.

In clear violation of our First Amendment rights, President Obama,
with his radical pro-abortion and extreme secularist agenda, now seems
intent on following a similar path.


O`DONNELL: Speaking of clear violations, those words leave the Roman
Catholic Church in clear violation of the IRS code banning tax exempt
religious organizations from participating in or intervening in "any
political campaign on behalf of, or in opposition to any candidate for
public office."

Yesterday, the Vatican reprimanded American nuns on political grounds.
So surely a reprimand from the Vatican to the political Bishop you just saw
attacking President Obama should be coming any moment now, unless, of
course, the Vatican is only upset with religious people who seem to be
leaning slightly left.

The Vatican charged the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the
nation`s largest group of Catholic nuns, of espousing radical feminist
ideas and challenging church doctrine on the ordination of women and
homosexuality. To keep the nuns in line, the Vatican appointed Seattle
Arch-Bishop Peter Sartain.

Sartain already has his hands full in Seattle, where he`s collecting
signature to put Referendum 74 on the November ballot. The referendum
would reverse the marriage equality law that Governor Gregoire signed if
February. But several Catholic parishes have refused to join Sartain in
this effort.

One church even gave their priest a standing ovation after he
announced the church would not participate. The Reverend Tim Clark said
"the standing ovation experienced during one of the masses says less about
me and much more about the health of this parish. I only wish the
archbishop could have experienced the sustained applause, the serious
fidelum of people he needs to listen to this voice. That is my prayer."

And in news just in, in Catholic comedy, the Catholic League is
objecting to a piece run by Jon Stewart this week, which we reran portions
of on this show, where Jon Stewart talked about how Fox News treats the war
on women. The Catholic League now says because that was such an offensive
piece that they are trying to stop Jon Stewart.

I`m going to quote from their statement. "Our effort against Stewart
includes asking his most consistent sponsors to pull their advertising. If
necessary, we are not ruling out a boycott of their products and a lengthy
public relations campaign. The goal, to get him to apologize. If that
doesn`t work, we can guarantee that his reputation will never be the same."

The Catholic League has absolutely no official affiliation with that
other thing you`ve heard of, the Catholic Church. It is run by a
fraudulent operator, who is a divorced man, which is the kind of thing that
used to get you excommunicated in the Catholic Church.

Jon Stewart`s reputation will be unaffected by that sort of nonsense.

Joining me now is Sister Jeannine Gramick, executive coordinator for
the National Coalition of American Nuns. She was also silenced by the
Vatican in 1999 for ministering to gays and lesbians. And Jeff Stone,
communications director of Dignity USA, which advocates for justice and the
for the LGBT community within the Catholic Church.

Jeff Stone, a Bishop standing in a pulpit, in a mass in this country,
comparing President Barack Obama to Hitler and Stalin, how could that
possibly happen?

really kind of an act of desperation, Lawrence. I think it`s an example of
how out of touch the church is with the lay people. You know, we see it
with gay issues particularly. And you refer to the parishes in Seattle
that are refusing to go along with the campaign to overturn gay marriage

We have national polls showing that 71 percent of American Catholics
support civil marriage for same-sex couples. We have a hierarchy that is
just very much out of touch with where the people of the church are. And I
think people need to be very careful about throwing around Hitler

O`DONNELL: Sister Jeannine Gramick, what do you make of the Vatican`s
reaction to American nuns?

comment on the --

O`DONNELL: Please.

GRAMICK: -- the statement that the bishop made comparing President
Obama with Hitler or Stalin. I think that bishops need to be very careful
about making comparisons that are totalitarian. Because there`s been much
criticism, justifiable criticism, that the government of the Catholic
Church is very totalitarian.

And that is what we`re seeing now with the Vatican trying to control -
- that`s what it really is, control the women religious in the United
States. I think basically we women come from a different conception of
church from the Vatican.

We are -- we are following what Vatican II, the Second Vatican Council
in the Catholic Church, which was in the 1960s, talked about the church as
a community. And in a community, people disagree. But in a totalitarian
institution, there is no disagreement. And so this is the clash that we`re

O`DONNELL: Sister, could you explain to us what it means to be
silenced by the Vatican? And how you can be speaking to us tonight?

GRAMICK: Well, I -- to be silenced by the Vatican means that the
Vatican makes some pronouncement that some theologian cannot write or some
sister cannot speak or whatever the particular issue of silencing is. But
unless one complies with that request, if you will, the individuals or an
organization or -- has only power if we accede to that power.

So at the time that the Vatican said that I should no longer be
speaking as an advocate for lesbian or gay Catholics, my response was that
I -- I choose not to collaborate in that oppression, because the Vatican
was asking me to silence myself, which is a basic human right.

O`DONNELL: Jeff Stone, it certainly sounds like a totalitarian
dictate to --

STONE: Yeah, it does, Lawrence. And it`s ironic because the highest
law of the Catholic Church is the law of conscience. And Pope Benedict
himself has spoken eloquently about it. You know, even -- if you find your
conscience is in disagreement even with the words of the Pope, you are
obligated in your conscience to follow your conscience.

And that`s what these Catholics in Seattle are doing.

O`DONNELL: And Catholicism has been full of argument for its entire
history, as has most of the religion classes I was in 12 years of Catholic
education. Sister Jeannine Gramick and Jeff Stone, thank you for joining
us tonight.

I`m sorry we`ve run out of time on this. Thank you very much.

GRAMICK: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Mitt Romney is padding his resume with a little
item about small business. Mitt Romney`s real business record is in
tonight`s Rewrite.

And the small business owner that Mitt Romney insulted at a campaign
event will get tonight`s LAST WORD.


O`DONNELL: In tonight`s Rewrite, Mitt Romney tries once again to
Rewrite the real Romney. Here he is in Pennsylvania talking about his
experience starting up a small business, a little tiny business.


ROMNEY: My life has become more of an open book than I had imagined
years ago. But I spent 25 years of my life in business. And I started
what was a small business, which has grown very successfully over the


O`DONNELL: "And I started what was a small business?" That small
business he`s talking about is Bain Capital, where he made the hundreds of
millions of dollars that he and his family live on now that he`s, as he has
described it, unemployed.

That small business, Bain Capital, is a partner with NBC Universal in
owning the Weather Channel. That small business now has offices in 11
cities, on three continents, managing assets worth 66 billion dollars.

How small was this business when Mitt Romney started it? And what was
it really like for Mitt Romney starting that small business? And for that
matter, did Mitt Romney really start it?

For the real story, we once again turn to "The Real Romney." Readings
in "The Real Romney."

Here`s how it happened. "Bain -- Bill Bain proposed Romney would
become the head of a new company to be called Bain Capital, with seed money
from Bill Bain and other partners at Bain and Company. Bain Capital would
raise tens of millions of dollars, invest in start-ups and troubled
businesses, apply Bain`s brand of management advice, and then resell the
revitalized companies or sell their shares to the public for a profit.

"Romney explained to Bain that he didn`t want to risk his position,
earnings, and reputation on an experiment. So Bain sweetened the pot.
Bill Bain guaranteed that if the experiment failed, Romney would get his
old job and salary back, plus any raises he would`ve earned during his

"Still, Romney worried about the impact of his reputation -- on his
reputation if he proved unable to do the job. Again, the pot was
sweetened. Bain promised that if necessary, he would craft a cover story"
-- a what? "He would craft a cover story saying that Romney`s return to
Bain and Company was needed because of his value as a consultant."

So what did Mitt Romney risk in starting this so-called small business
that he really didn`t start? Absolutely nothing, not a penny. As Bill
Bain explains it in "The Real Romney," quote, "there was no professional or
financial risk," end of story.

Mitt Romney`s lying is extraordinary, even for a politician. And it
is catching the attention of some of our most experienced and wise
observers of political lying. Richard Cohen, in his "Washington Post"
column, calls Romney a smooth liar with a, quote, "bulletproof demeanor,"
end quote. Richard Cohen makes a persuasive case that Romney came to rely
on lying as a basic business tactic, as a basic tool of the trade in the
business world.

Like most of us, Romney belongs to more than one culture. He belongs
to a religious culture, a political culture. But it is the businessman`s
culture that he belongs to that seems to have shaped him in the ways that
are most important to his campaign.

He does not talk about his religion. He does not talk about his past
in politics. But he does talk about his past in business. It is the only
part of his past that he`s actually willing to talk about. And when he
talks about it, he is as likely to lie about it as not.

And Richard Cohen thinks he knows why. Let`s find the Richard Cohen
quote. This is great. Richard Cohen says "what his career has given him
is the businessman`s concept of self, that what he does is not who he is.
This is what enables the slum lord to be a charitable man. This is what
enables the corporate raider to endow his university. Business is
business. It`s what you do. It`s not who you are. Lying isn`t a sin.
It`s a business plan."


O`DONNELL: Mitt Romney, man from Mars, has struck again.


ROMNEY: I`m not sure about these cookies. They don`t look like you
made them. Did you make those cookies? You didn`t, did you? No, no.
they came from the local 7-11 bakery or wherever.


O`DONNELL: That was Mitt`s man from Mars reaction on Tuesday outside
of the Bethel Park Community Center near Pittsburgh. He was there doing,
you know, what we all do whenever our hosts present us with snacks or food
of any kind. He immediately insulted their offering.

On what planet is that an acceptable practice? Joining me now, the
insulted baker who baked those cookies, John Walsh, owner of Bethel Bakery
in Bethel Park, Pennsylvania.

John, I`ve read the Tweets and the Facebook postings saying things
like "there is no cookie or cake more delicious than yours." So I am
taking it for granted that these are absolutely fabulous baked products
that were on that table.

How shocked were you when you heard this presidential candidate say

JOHN WALSH, BETHEL BAKERY OWNER: I couldn`t believe it. I was
shocked. I just was dumbfounded, because we were all excited that he was
coming to town and made sure got the cookies, got up there. And, you know,
I`m sure that they were well-received by all the guests, but we were
definitely surprised.

O`DONNELL: And John, you`re a Republican, a small businessman. He`s
talking about you in every one of his speeches he`s reading in that
teleprompter. He`s celebrating you. You are the American hero, the small
businessman. What do you make of how sincere that talk sounds to you now?

WALSH: Well, I think that the comment he made was really a simple
naive -- an icebreaker.

O`DONNELL: No but, John, in what -- in what place in the world do you
break the ice by insulting what has been presented to you by your host?
That`s the part I don`t get. I have never heard of anyone doing that.

WALSH: Well, certainly he was -- made a mistake. And we would like
to have him come back so he can really have the best taste of Bethel Bakery

O`DONNELL: Would you make him something special if he came back?

WALSH: Oh, absolutely. Any size, any shape.

O`DONNELL: What happens --

WALSH: Covered with fondant or not, covered with our famous French
butter cream or not. We would love for him to come back.

O`DONNELL: All right. John, thank you very much for joining us. We
really appreciate it. And looks like great stuff behind you there at the

WALSH: We have had the customers coming in by the troves today just
in support of our Cookie-Gate special.

O`DONNELL: Yes, you`re doing a Cookie-Gate special, exactly the way
to react. Let`s hope it`s a boom for business. Thank you very much for
joining us tonight.

And joining us now, John Heilemann. John, it`s this weird thing. The
guy`s trying to relate. He`s trying to say the thing that will ingratiate
himself to these people, and he insults what they`ve put in front of you.

JOHN HEILEMANN, "THE NEW YORKER": First of all, Lawrence, I wanted to
bring you in a box of Entemanns, but my local artisinal (ph) Brooklyn
bakery was closed, so I couldn`t do that. He is not comfortable, in many
cases, around human beings. That`s a little bit --

O`DONNELL: That`s a problem.

HEILEMANN: It`s a small problem.

O`DONNELL: And that`s what`s in this poll that`s saying he`s got a
20-point gap on likability. That`s -- we`re seeing this in real poll

HEILEMANN: It`s a problem for him. It`s -- there`s -- and if this
was one thing, we wouldn`t -- who would care? Really, frankly, you know,
it`s a mistake. But he`s made mistakes like this over and over again,
especially when you get him in a small setting with ordinary folks.

O`DONNELL: But, you know, rich guys bet 10,000 dollars. I get that
context. This thing is really weird to me. Who says this kind of thing?

HEILEMANN: Someone who doesn`t understand --

O`DONNELL: Explain him to me.

HEILEMANN: Someone who clearly has not internalized the fundamental
law of politics and food.

O`DONNELL: Basic human politeness.

HEILEMANN: Look, you get handed a lot of bad food and a lot of local
food, a lot of -- you get handed a lot of food on the campaign trail. The
fundamental rule of politics about food is that everything you eat is
wonderful. It`s great. It`s fabulous. It`s delightful. You might not
eat a lot of it. You take just one bite so you don`t turn into a
Hindenberg. But you love it.

You can`t ever diss the food that someone hands you, because you never
know where it came from.

O`DONNELL: Yes, it could have been baked by one of those people. He
obviously doesn`t know anything about baked goods, because that was the
good stuff.

HEILEMANN: Well, apparently. And maybe this is why Mitt Romney`s so
trim, because he doesn`t partake in those kind of indulgences and doesn`t
know a good cookie from a bad cookie.

O`DONNELL: And if it was Barack Obama, they would have accused him of
being an elitist, not knowing a good cookie when he saw one.

John Heilemann gets tonight`s LAST WORD. "THE ED SHOW" is up next.


<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