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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Monday, April 23, 2012

Read the transcript to the Monday show

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Guests: Krystal Ball, Steve Kornacki, E.J. Dionne, Adam Smith, Norton Bonaparte, Ana Marie Cox, Charles M. Blow

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: Should President Obama run against Mitt
Romney the flip-flopper or Mitt Romney the severe conservative? Bill
Clinton thinks he knows the answer.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Higher education
cannot be a luxury.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mitt Romney and President Obama continue to
crisscross.

TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: The president is going to focus on young
people, student loans.

OBAMA: Congress has to stop interest rates on student loans.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Don`t expect the government
to forgive the debt that you take on.

HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST: Barack Obama is not really going to
run on his record. He`s going to run on Mitt Romney

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Obama`s campaign whisperer.

MARTIN BASHIR, MSNBC HOST: Former President Bill Clinton.

CHRIS MATTHEW, MSNBC HOST: The political master himself.

BASHIR: Working as something as a campaign whisperer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They take his advice.

BASHIR: Suggesting he abandon the line that Romney has no core.

MATTHEWS: It`s Bill Clinton who`s been urging the Obama campaign --

BASHIR: Depict him, as he likes to call himself, severely
conservative.

ROMNEY: I was a severely conservative Republican governor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everyone thought he was going to pivot to the
center.

ROMNEY: Severely conservative.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t think he`s going to, because he has no
choice.

FINEMAN: Romney is too extreme, he`s too right wing.

ROMNEY: Severely conservative.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What`s his team doing? It`s ridiculous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s all you`ve got?

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC HOST: Let`s talk about the vice presidential
running mate.

HALL: No one wants to be Romney`s V.P.

GOV. MITCH DANIELS (R), INDIANA: I would demand reconsideration.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Rubio`s got a better ring, actually.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I`m not even going to discuss the
process anymore.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first rule is, pick somebody who is not going
to embarrass you.

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: Mitt Romney is on the campaign trail with
Marco Rubio.

MITCHELL: They were on stage together.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s from Florida. He`s a Tea Party favorite.

BASHIR: Does Romney continue this kind of smokescreen tour --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A smokescreen.

BASHIR: -- or does he start telling the truth?

BILL MAHER, COMEDIAN: Mitt Romney once did a photo op at the zoo.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know he`s a flip-flopper. That`s who he is.

MAHER: That was a mistake, because he stood next to the chameleon
and he changed colors.

ROMNEY: I was a severely conservative Republican governor.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: The Obama re-election campaign has a choice. Should the
Obama re-election campaign run against Mitt Romney the severe conservative,
or Mitt Romney the flip-flopper who used to sort of, kind of be sort of a
liberal?

According to "Politico", one campaign adviser thinks running against
the severe conservative is the better path to victory. Bill Clinton
echoing survey data presented by Obama`s own pollster, Joel Benson, quietly
argued that the empty core approach failed to capitalize on what they see
as Romney`s greatest vulnerability and embrace of a brand of Tea Party
conservatism that turns Hispanics, women, and moderate independents --
turns off Hispanics, women, and moderate independents.

Today, Mitt Romney tried his first maneuver from one of the
conservative positions he took during the Republican primary campaign.
First, let`s listen to severe conservative Mitt Romney talking about
student loans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: It would be popular for me to stand up and say, I`m going to
give you government money to make sure to pay for your college -- but I`m
not going to promise that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And here`s Mitt Romney today, flip-flopping his way back
to an agreement with President Obama on student loans. Something he
actually almost forgot to do in a press conference with Marco Rubio.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: One thing I wanted to mention. I just -- by the way,
there`s one thing I wanted to mention that I forgot to mention at the very
beginning. I fully support the effort to extend the low interest rate on
student loans.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Now, why did he forget to mention that at the very
beginning? Because now he fully supports President Obama`s effort to
extend the lower interest rates on student loans. And so, with 197 days
before the election, how many more agreements with President Obama will a
severely conservative Mitt Romney be remembering to announce?

Joining me now, Salon.com political columnist and MSNBC political
analyst Steve Kornacki, and Democratic strategist and MSNBC contributor,
Krystal Ball.

Krystal, the switch back to the middle or, I don`t know, on student
loans, maybe it`s the left for Mitt Romney has begun. Should the Democrats
be -- and President Obama be jumping on that and say, look, he`s a flip-
flopper, he`s a flip-flopper? Or should they be going with that Clintonian
advice of just keep him painted as a severe conservative?

KRYSTAL BALL, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: We can hear the sound of the Etch-
a-Sketch shaking, can we? I mean, I don`t think you have to pick because
he`s been so transparently, and self-evidently a flip-flopper that it`s
really penetrated the national consciousness. I mean, you even have
Republican members of Congress joking about how often Romney changes
positions.

So, yes, I think with we have to -- have to remind the American
people, these are the positions that Mitt Romney has staked out. When you
talk about economy, he`s talking about the Paul Ryan budget, which he
called marvelous, which by the way would cut Pell grants for college
students by $170 billion and cut off a million students over the next
decade from Pell grants.

So those are the positions that he`s taken. And, by the way, the
more that people learn about the Paul Ryan plan, the more that they learn
about these extreme positions he`s staked out, the less that they like
them. So, absolutely, I think this is an effective way to go.

O`DONNELL: Steve, what do you think? Should the Obama campaign zero
in on flip-flopping or how extremely severely conservative Romney is trying
to become?

STEVE KORNACKI, SALON.COM: Well, you know, I think, first of all, I
really just reject -- there`s an idea here that`s permeated the coverage
that these are mutually exclusive terms and Krystal was kind of getting at
that, you know --

O`DONNELL: Well, Steve, let me interject for a second there, Steve.

KORNACKI: Sure.

O`DONNELL: The reason why that`s in this story is that normally,
campaign operatives believe that you mouse deliver one important definition
of the opposing candidate. And so, there is that strategic school of
thought, that says you got to pick one of these and deliver that one image
and make it be the image that you think you can beat them on.

KORNACKI: Right, absolutely. And what I would say is the particular
brand of flip-flopping that Mitt Romney practices, this is not a mercurial
guy, this is not a guy who`s basically indecisive, this is a very decisive
form of flip-flopping and it`s led him to be forced to take the very
conservative positions he`s had to take in the Republican primary.

And if you became president, that sort of -- that same sort of
imperative would still exist. He`d still have to cater to this Republican
Party base.

I think that at the end of the day is a more potent message for
Democrats to deliver right now, because I think the problem with just
sticking with flip-flopping is -- it almost gives Romney an out. And
basically it comes down to this -- if you have swing voters, whether it`s
women, whether it`s Hispanics, whether it`s the independents, if you have
swing voters who basically want to throw Barack Obama out because of the
economy, they want to punish the guy in charge, if the knock on Romney is
just that he`s a flip-flopper, then that`s basically saying, yes, all these
scary conservative things that would give me pause about voting for him,
well, it`s OK to vote for him because he doesn`t really mean them.

So, I think you do have to take it to the next level.

BALL: Yes, and here`s the thing. I mean, Romney is a flip-flopper.
I think people get that. He doesn`t have a core. And by saying that he
has moved very far to the right, not arguing that he has found a core, it`s
arguing that he has failed and coming up with his own positions and has
followed the rest of the Republican Party off the cliff.

I think that`s the thing we want to do. Tie him to the Paul Ryan
budget which he has supported so strongly. Talk about these extreme anti-
immigrant positions that he staked out in the primary as a short-term
political decision to win, but those are his positions, with nonetheless.

And of course, on issues important to women, he`s said he`s going to
defund Planned Parenthood, he`s said he supports the Blunt amendment, he
supports the personhood amendment, which was too extreme even to pass by
voters in Mississippi.

These are things that we have to old his feet to the fire on and
remind voters exactly where he stands. I think that`s absolutely critical.

O`DONNELL: All right. Let`s take a look at an ad from the most
recent successful campaign against an accused flip-flopper.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I`m George W. Bush and I
approved this message.

NARRATOR: In which direction would John Kerry lead? Kerry voted for
the Iraq war, opposed it, supported it, and now opposes it again.

He bragged about voting for the $87 billion to support our troops
before he voted against it. He voted for education reform and now opposes
it. He claims he`s against increasing Medicare premiums, but voted five
times to do so.

John Kerry, whichever way the wind blows.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Now, Steve, what I`m wondering about is, here was a
conservative, a president running as a conservative, who succeeded with
that message, "I`m a conservative," and the flip-flopper message against
the opponent also to some extent succeed with the decisive swing voters.

So, it seems like there`s a model out there, for how to run one of
these anti-flip-flopper campaigns.

KORNACKI: There is, but that gets to the difference I`m talking
about, the sort of different forms of flip-floppery that exists in
politics.

O`DONNELL: Yes.

KORNACKI: Because what Kerry was basically being accused of there
was sort of indecisive -- he was an indecisive guy. And this was an
election, the 2004 election, the backdrop was the Iraq war, it was George
W. Bush basically saying, hey, I`m the firm, steady, decisive leader. I`m
the guy you want there making the decision, because I`m not going to blink
when the enemy`s coming -- all that sort of stuff.

So what they were really trying to tag John Kerry there with there
was being weak.

In 2012, you`ve got a totally different dynamic, where you`ve got
this really sort of rabidly conservative Republican Party base, who has
absolutely insisted that Mitt Romney meet all their litmus tests and is
intent on holding him to that through the general election campaign and
more importantly if he becomes president.

In Romney, the flip-flopping that he sort of practiced is basically
he knows he`s vulnerable to the charge that he`s not really a conservative,
and so he`s had to just embrace that as hard and as firmly as he could in
the primary, and so the challenge there and the trick there for the Obama
campaign is to make sure to really stress and make him stick to that in the
fall campaign as well, and that opens up different vulnerabilities than
existed for John Kerry.

BALL: And there`s also --

O`DONNELL: OK, there`s one other, Krystal, hold on. There`s one
other angle they can run against Mitt Romney on, and that is the notion
that he might just be a little too French, which was also something that
was used against John Kerry.

Let`s listen to this exchange with a reporter that Mitt Romney had.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I have a lot of memories of France. I think the best
memories were with my wife on vacations from time to time in France. The
last vacation we had there, walking around the city of Paris and walking
not just from Champs Elysees, but also over to the Jardin of Luxembourg and
around the city, one of the most magnificent cities in the world. And I
look forward to occasional vacations again in such a beautiful place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: So, Krystal, there`s his opportunity to remember France,
where he was a Mormon missionary, not living in any kind of fancy way. You
know, very -- you know, a very, very humble lifestyle. And instead, he
remembers his rich guy tourist experience in France.

BALL: It`s so classic Romney. I mean, you can`t even believe what
comes out of this the guy`s mouth sometimes.

I remember watching a town hall that Mike Huckabee did, where a Ron
Paul supporter came up and said, Governor Romney, if you`re the nominee,
convince me. I`m not sure, I`m going to vote for you over President Obama,
convince me. And remember, this was a Ron Paul supporter. And Romney
said, well, I`m tougher on foreign policy than President Obama.

And I thought, did you -- I mean, what are you thinking with this?
And that`s the thing: he doesn`t know how to sell himself. He doesn`t know
what part of his bio is going to resonate. I mean, he tried the business
man and he got beat up over Bain Capital. He tries governor of
Massachusetts, they`re 47th in job creation.

I mean, what`s left? The Olympics? It`s kind of a thin resume to
try to run on.

So it`s a problem for him.

O`DONNELL: Krystal Ball and Steve Kornacki -- thank you both very
much for joining me tonight.

BALL: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, we`re going to have a little sex talk here on
THE LAST WORD. I think we might have to wait -- yes, we have to wait a
little bit longer, until it`s a little bit later, make sure all the kids
are tuck the safely into bed. And then we will discuss the Republican war
on sex with Ana Marie Cox.

And in the "Rewrite," a prominent Republican attacks the Republican
Party, then tries to deny that he attacked the Republican Party, but the
video never lives. And we have that video.

And we have the latest developments in the case of Florida versus
George Zimmerman, including a very strange drama in Sanford, Florida,
today, as the police chief tried to resign, but the city council would not
accept his resignation.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Fifty years of sexual freedom vanished in a sound bite --
so says the leader of America`s sexual revolution in the 1960s, Hugh
Hefner. This was that sound bite.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO HOST: What does that make her? It makes her a
slut, right? It makes her a prostitute.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Hugh Hefner says Republicans are waging a war against
sex. That`s coming up.

And Mitt Romney seems to be holding public auditions now for the
honor of being the next losing vice presidential candidate who will never
be president. We`ll look at the latest audition tape of Marco Rubio.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president is experiencing severe chest pains.
We need to get you to the West Wing immediately.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m so sorry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: "Veep," HBO`s brilliant new comedy by Armando Iannucci,
captures the essence of the vice presidency in a way that leaves you
wondering why any ambitious young politician would ever want that job.

Mitt Romney seems to be conducting on the road auditions for possible
vice presidential candidates. Today it was Romney and Florida Senator
Marco Rubio doing a joint town hall in eastern Pennsylvania.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I want to say how honored I am here
to be here today. It would have been unimaginable. Half -- about half a
century ago my parents came to the United States. They didn`t speak
English, barely. They didn`t really have much of an education. They both
grew up pretty poor.

You know why we`re different? Because I don`t remember growing up,
my parents ever saying to me, you know why we`re not better off? Because
those guys are doing too well. I don`t ever remember my parents saying to
me, you know what, only if we took something away from them and they gave
it to us, things would be better. I don`t even remember my parents
teaching me --

(APPLAUSE)

RUBIO: I don`t, I don`t -- in fact, what my parents would do, they
would point to people that had made it and they would say, that`s a source
of inspiration. If they made it, you can make it as well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: At a joint press availability, Romney was asked if
someone like Rubio, who`s been a senator for a little over a year, is
qualified to be vice president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I don`t think I have any comments on qualifications for
individuals to serve in various positions in government at this stage.
That`s something that we`re going to be considering down the road as we
consider various potential vice presidential nominees.

REPORTER: Senator Rubio?

ROMNEY: You want to add?

RUBIO: I`m not talking about that process anymore.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now are: E.J. Dionne, a "Washington Post"
opinion writer and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. He`s also
an MSNBC political analyst. And Adam Smith, political editor for "The
Tampa Bay Times."

E.J., this sure looks like an audition out there. And you can see
what Rubio thinks is his audition strength -- talking about those poor
parents of his, that he grew -- that family poverty is a recent experience
for him and bringing a kind of passion to speech making that Romney just
doesn`t have.

E.J. DIONNE, WASHINGTON POST: Right. Which may be one of the big
problems. It was an interesting line he took in that clip, don`t get mad
at Mitt Romney for being rich, you should try to be like Mitt Romney. That
probably endeared him to Mitt Romney.

Rubio on paper is perfect because what does Romney need? He needs
Florida and he really needs to shore himself up with the Hispanic vote.
But, unfortunately, no human being exists simply on paper.

And Rubio is young. He has, as far as I can tell, less elected
experience than Obama had and Romney regularly says Obama wasn`t prepared
to be president. And so, I think he`s got some liabilities. And then
we`re going to see how he vets.

But, you know, on paper, he`s absolutely perfect.

O`DONNELL: Adam Smith, how will he vet, as the nation takes a closer
look at him, what does Florida know about him that the nation hasn`t quite
learned?

ADAM SMITH, TAMPA BAY TIMES: Well, I can tell you Florida knows he
is not Sarah Palin. This is a very polished, very smart politician who`s
speaker of the House, so he`s got a lot of experience. I think he probably
has more experience than Obama when it comes down to legislative
experience. You know, he knows history, he knows policy.

You know, when we were covering a Senate race, there were some issues
about his finances, using party credit cards, Republican Party credit cards
for personal expenses, but the bottom line is, this is not Sarah Palin. He
is not -- you know, it doesn`t help that it looks like he`s about 30 years,
but he`s a very polished politician.

O`DONNELL: And, Adam, a biographical point, that`s a little
peculiar, he has some religious wanderings, I guess you could call it,
where he actually spent some time as a Mormon when his family lived in
Nevada. Is that the kind of thing that would give Republicans pause about
having on the Mormon -- with the Mormon at the head of the ticket, having
someone who has some years, anyway, of involvement with the Mormon church,
in his childhood, I think it is?

SMITH: You know, he was born in Miami and then, I think, when he was
a youngster, they spent a few years in Las Vegas, where they had some
relatives that were part of the LDS church. So I have a hard time thinking
that somebody who spent a few years in middle school, going to the Mormon
Church, that that`s going to really be a significant problem.

I think, you know, there are other issues about personal finances,
some of the compromises he made as speaker of the house in Florida. But I
don`t see that LDS issue as being significant.

O`DONNELL: All right. Let`s listen to, he was just on Sean
Hannity`s show on FOX News talking about Medicare. Let`s listen to what he
had to say about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUBIO: My mom`s on Medicare. I will never support any changes to
Medicare that would negatively affect her or anyone like her who`s
currently on the program. I do believe, however, that people like me who
are decades away from retirement, we are going to have to accept that in
order to keep Medicare as it stands for our parents and our grandparents,
our Medicare, my generation`s Medicare, is going to have to look different,
especially if we want one. Is that too much to ask of our generation --

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: No, I don`t think so.

RUBIO: -- after all our parents have done for us?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: E.J., his mom`s on Medicare, so of course he`s going to
be a good custodian of Medicare.

DIONNE: Right. And I think this goes to -- I agree with Adam on
that one thing very much, he`s no Sarah Palin, because there`s only one
Sarah Palin. No one will ever be like Sarah Palin, I think.

But, look, I think this is a core problem that Republicans have,
which is they are -- they know that the elderly people -- the elderly are
really a pretty solidly Republican constituency on the whole. So they`re
saying, we`re going to cut this budget, we`re going to rein in Medicare,
but we will not touch anybody now on it or people within 10 years of it.
We are only going to cut it for younger people.

And I think this position is going to catch up with them: A, because
it`s clear where the politics of that are, but, B, you don`t get many
budget savings early on if that`s what you`re going to say about Medicare.
And I think it`s a position that they think will sell, but I think it`s a
position that has a lot of danger for them.

By the way, you talk about the veep, running for veep not being good.
FDR was a losing veep candidate in 1920 and then became president. So
maybe the ideal thing is to get on the ticket, lose, and then run on your
own.

O`DONNELL: Well, the problem is, E.J., since FDR, no one`s done it.
So every single losing vice presidential candidate since FDR became a
presidential loser among those who attempted to then run for president.
So, at some point, don`t they stare at that history and say, the only way
that it can be helpful to be on the vice presidential ticket is to actually
win the presidency? And then Al Gore has shown you what that can be worth,
when you try to take that into a presidential election?

DIONNE: Well, I think all politicians look at themselves as the next
FDR. So they would take the FDR example and not any of those losers as
their example.

And you know, for a lot of people, I mean, you`re right about the
pattern. But for a lot of people, it is a great way to introduce yourself
to the country. And I think if you can at least get the nomination, Walter
Mondale, for example, got the nomination. He ran in a bad year against
Ronald Reagan. So, I don`t think it`s a hopeless task.

And being veep is kind of fun. You have absolutely no
responsibility, but you live in a big house, you get to give advice and
travel around the world. There are worst ways to spend four or eight
years.

O`DONNELL: Yes. I think Bob Dole --

DIONNE: I`m auditioning as Romney`s running mate here.

O`DONNELL: I think Bob Dole and Walter Mondale are the only ones who
were losing vice presidential nominees, who had that position, and then
managed to get the presidential nomination, but then of course they lost
the general.

E.J. Dionne of "The Washington Post" and Adam Smith of "The Tampa Bay
Times" -- thank you both very much for joining me tonight.

DIONNE: Good to be with you.

SMITH: Thanks.

O`DONNELL: Coming up: Hugh Hefner says the Republicans are waging a
war against sex and he reminds America how hard it was to win sexual
freedom in this country.

And in the "Rewrite," a former Republican presidential candidate
compared the Republican Party to China, the Chinese communist party, and
then he tried to deny that he did that, but it`s on videotape, and we have
the videotape.

And the latest developments in the case of Florida versus Zimmerman.
George Zimmerman is now out of jail and the Sanford police chief actually
tried to resign today, but the city commission will not let him resign.
Charles M. Blow and the city manager of Sanford will join me next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All those in favor to deny signify by saying aye.
Opposed?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Aye.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Aye.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Opposed?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Aye.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Aye.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Approved to deny the memorandum at this time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: In a shocking three to two vote today, the Sanford City
Commission rejected the resignation of Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee. City
Manager Norton Bonaparte Jr. and Chief Lee had reached a separation
agreement, but needed the city commission`s approval. Just one month ago,
that same Sanford City Commission passed a vote of no confidence in that
same police chief, Bill Lee, a three to two vote.

Lee temporarily stepped down the next day, citing these concerns.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL LEE, FORMER SANFORD, FLORIDA, POLICE CHIEF: I do this in the
hopes of restoring some semblance of calm to the city, which has been in
turmoil for several weeks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Captain Darren Scott will remain as acting police chief.
George Zimmerman was released on 150,000 dollars bond just after midnight
today. That`s early this morning. He is now fitted with an electronic
monitoring device.

Zimmerman is due back in court May 8th for his arraignment.

Joining me now is Norton Bonaparte Jr., city manager of Sanford,
Florida. Mr. Bonaparte, could you take us through the steps of what
happened today? You had reached an agreement of resignation with the
police chief and then what did the city commission do?

NORTON BONAPARTE JR. SANFORD, FLORIDA, CITY MANAGER: Yes, the chief
and I had come to an agreement, but that agreement need to have the city
commission approval. While the chief serves at the pleasure of the city
manager, the terms of the agreement would require the city to put out
additional funds and additional resources that were not in his original
contract.

And therefore it was important to get the commission approval of that.
What the commission decided to do was not approve the severance agreement.
Therefore the resignation of the chief was not accepted.

O`DONNELL: So I guess what I`m hearing is that there was some kind of
severance package in this agreement that you had with the police chief?

BONAPARTE: That is correct, and that`s what was required to have the
city commission approval.

O`DONNELL: How much money was that?

BONAPARTE: It was about 54,000 dollars, all told.

O`DONNELL: So how do we interpret this vote? Was it a vote against
54,000 dollars? Was it suddenly a vote of confidence in a police chief
where this same police commission voted no confidence?

BONAPARTE: I think it was neither. What I heard at the meeting was
some members of the commission wanting to go through the process and see
what an independent investigation would show. Did the chief do something
wrong? Did he not do things he should have done? That`s something that
we`ve been asking for some time.

I came to the realization that with the ongoing criminal
investigation, it was going to be difficult for a criminal -- for the city
to get answers to those questions because of the evidence. The evidence is
still going to be tied up until the trial.

And therefore I thought, working with the chief, we could move forward
by having this separation agreement.

O`DONNELL: And so is the chief currently being paid his full salary?

BONAPARTE: Yes, he is. He`s on paid administrative leave.

O`DONNELL: So that`s the most expensive possible outcome here, is
that you end up paying this chief for a couple of years during this
criminal process that`s going on in the Zimmerman case.

BONAPARTE: That`s the challenge. I don`t think it will be a couple
of years. I think we should be able to have something within maybe three
or four months, but I think that was a long time to keep everything on
hold. And that`s why the chief and I had made the agreement to go ahead
and to separate.

O`DONNELL: And what happened to fiscal responsibility in this city
commission? It seems to me just in a fiscal matter that you arrived at
what is probably the best dollar and cents outcome for this city?

BONAPARTE: The city commission spoke. They were willing to wait for
the results of an investigation. We`ll move forward. We`re getting an
investigation done.

O`DONNELL: Is it conceivable to you that Chief Bill Lee could ever
function credibly as the chief of police in Sanford again?

BONAPARTE: I think with the city commission saying that they had a
vote of no confidence of three to two, that that would be the challenge.
That was part of the decision of me talking with the chief and saying, it`s
time to move on. If the commission wants to change that, then I think
that`s a different outcome.

O`DONNELL: On the three to two vote today, was one of those votes
someone who voted no confidence in the chief?

BONAPARTE: Yes. That was the Mayor Triplett.

O`DONNELL: Norton Bonaparte, another amazingly strange day in the
functioning of your city. Thank you very much for joining us tonight.

BONAPARTE: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Joining me now is Charles M. Blow, opinion writer for "the
New York Times." Charles, this is as strange as it gets in that town,
politically. I just can`t fathom this thing.

CHARLES M. BLOW, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": You say strange. I say this
is a joke. I mean this is like Real City Officials of Sanford, Florida.
It`s like a sitcom or something. It would be funny if it wasn`t so tragic.

You can`t say, on the one hand, that you vote no confidence and ask
the police chief, Bill Lee, to step down and willing to pay him to step
down, which I wish I had that job, where you could just not get work and
get paid your full salary, and then turn around and say, we need to wait
for the investigation to be completed in order to accept a resignation that
will actually save the city of Sanford money.

Those two things just don`t go together. Either you should have
waited for the investigation to be completed in order to vote for -- take a
vote of no confidence, or you had enough to believe that that police chief
was not capable of doing that job, which is what they said when they voted
no confidence, and be willing to say, we are willing, as a city, to move
forward from this episode with a new management in charge of our police
force.

The fact that they are saying these two competing things is absolutely
ridiculous.

O`DONNELL: You know, my sense of Norton Bonaparte, from the first
time he appeared on this program, is that he really is a city manager. He
really is trying to manage things in a very, very difficult situation. He
seems to do things patiently, carefully, but things that make sense.

This outcome he was trying to achieve makes perfect sense. And then
when you take it to the city commission, you find once again one of these
demonstrations about what a strange town Sanford can be.

BLOW: Lawrence, you`re asking for something to make sense out of this
situation. I mean, this whole thing has never made sense. I think that`s
probably the reason we`ve been talking about it for so long. The case
doesn`t make sense. The behavior of the police doesn`t really make sense.

The way that they treated George Zimmerman, taking him into that
police station, from what we saw from videotape, leaning against walls,
rubbing your feet on the mat when you walk through the door, none of that
makes sense. The idea that he shot and killed a 17-year-old boy who was
unarmed, was able to talk his way out of that police precinct that night,
doesn`t quite make sense.

I`m not sure that that police department is capable of making sense.
And what happened today was that the city commission, and in particular the
mayor of Sanford, Florida, basically became the contradiction that the
police department of Sanford is by voting no confidence in the beginning
and then saying, I refuse to let him go; I`m not ready to do that; I`m just
ready to pay him, until the trial is over or until the investigation is
over, which makes no sense.

O`DONNELL: Well, that is a perfect summary of where we stand.
Charles M. Blow, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

BLOW: Absolutely.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Hugh Hefner says the Republicans are waging a
war against sex. And Hugh Hefner says we may have to refight the battles
for sexual privacy that he helped win in the 1960s.

And next, Jon Huntsman tries to Rewrite Jon Huntsman. He compared the
Republican party to the Chinese Communist party and then tried to kind of
maybe change those words. But videotape -- we have the video. That`s
coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Tonight, Jon Huntsman Rewrites Jon Huntsman. The former
two-term Republican governor of Utah, former ambassador to China for
President Obama, and former Republican presidential candidate spoke last
night in New York City`s 92nd Street Y, which is unlike any other Y in
America and consistently attracts some of the world`s most provocative
public speakers.

Huntsman`s appearance produced this headline: "Jon Huntsman Trashes
GOP, Expresses Campaign Regrets."

The accompanying article by Zeke Miller at Buzzfeed created, as
Buzzfeed often does, a lot of buzz. In the article, Miller reported that
Huntsman said, quote -- that Huntsman, quote, "expressed disappointment
that the Republican party disinvited him from a Florida fund-raiser in
March after he publicly called for a third party."

Huntsman is then quoted saying, "this is what they do in China on
party matters. They punish you if you talk off script."

By the time Huntsman arrived on the set of "MORNING JOE" this morning,
he felt the need to Rewrite his Republican attack on Republicans,
especially the bit about comparing the Republican party to the Chinese
communist party.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON HUNTSMAN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF UTAH: You get these blogs out there,
you know, Bottom Feeder, Buzz Saw, Buzzfeed, whatever they are, and they
take a sentence out of context and it becomes a headline and pretty soon
mainstream newspapers --

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC ANCHOR: Well, that`s why we`re here.

(CROSS TALK)

HUNTSMAN: There`s something called responsibility in media, give me a
break.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And that might have been the last we heard about Jon
Huntsman`s comments about the Republican party if not for the fact that the
92nd Street Y videotapes all of their public speakers. Now, let`s see just
how good a note taker that Zeke guy from Bottom Feeder or Buzz Saw or
whatever it`s called really is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUNTSMAN: I was banished from a Republican gathering a few short
weeks ago for saying something on television that a few people didn`t like.
They called and said it would be better if you didn`t show. And I said,
thanks, I, you know, was hoping to have a free weekend at some point.

You know, and my first thought was, you know, this is what they do in
China on party matters. They punish you if you say something that is off
script. But not here. You know, we should be having an open, wide-ranging
discussion about what works and what doesn`t for the sake of the United
States.

I mean, our base ought to be the people of the United States as
opposed to some corner of a Republican or Democratic party.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Well, all right then. Jon Huntsman didn`t say something
close to what Zeke Miller at Buzzfeed quoted him as saying. He said
exactly what Buzzfeed said he said. I mean, word for word. Buzzfeed did
not take a sentence out of context, as Huntsman insists. And in fact, the
more context you add, the tougher Huntsman is on Republicans.

Here`s something that Buzzfeed didn`t even bother to include in that
report.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUNTSMAN: It was my first presidential debate on the stage. It`s a
fairly intimidating prospect. First of all, here`s what goes through your
head when you`re on the stage. You walk out there, the cameras are on.
You know, there are millions of people in the audience.

The first thing that hit my mind was the barriers to entry in this
game are pretty damn low.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Now I`ve spoken at the 92nd Street Y a couple of times
over the years. And it is no secret that they are making a video recording
of every word you say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUNTSMAN: And they take a sentence out of context and it becomes a
headline. And pretty soon main street newspapers are --

SCARBOROUGH: that`s why we`re here!

(CROSS TALK)

HUNTSMAN: There`s something called responsibility in media, give me a
break.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Yes, there is something called responsibility in the media
these days. And today, April 23rd, 2012, that responsibility is perfectly
exemplified in the meticulously careful and precise reporting of Zeke
Miller at Buzzfeed.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTORUM (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Many in the
Christian faith have said, well, that`s OK. You know, contraception`s OK.
It`s not OK. It`s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter
to what -- how things are supposed to be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: One of the field generals of the American sexual
revolution of the 1960s has had enough of the Republican party`s war on
sex. In an editorial entitled "the War Against Sex" in the new issue of
"Playboy," Hugh Hefner says, "while wooing the conservative vote, these
candidates revealed the ways a GOP-led government would decide with whom we
can have sex and for what reasons, single or married, straight or gay."

Hefner teaches his younger readers that their sexual privacy was a
recently earned right. He writes, "in 1961, police arrested Estelle
Griswold, executive director of Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut
and Dr. C. Lee Buxton, a Yale professor, who served as its medical
director. Buxton and Griswold were charged with violating a state law that
banned sharing information about contraceptives, including with married
couples.

"The U.S. Supreme Court voted seven to two to overturn the
convictions. The justices clearly saw the affront. Would we allow the
police to search the sacred precincts of marital bedrooms for the telltale
signs of the use of contraceptives?

"The very idea is repulsive to the notions of privacy surrounding the
marriage relationship. We deal with a right of privacy older than the Bill
of Rights."

Joining me now is Ana Marie Cox, a correspondent for "The Guardian."
Ana Marie, this notion that we have a war on sex, I think, has been
finally, perfectly articulated by Hugh Hefner, who else, who has shown very
clearly that the Republicans are really saying things that we really
haven`t heard advanced seriously since the 1960s, when it became the losing
argument as the sexual revolution overtook the crazy laws that we had in
this country, banning even the discussion of contraception publicly.

ANA MARIE COX, "THE GUARDIAN": That`s right. And I think he`s
correct in saying that this is probably the last gasp of some desperate
people, really trying to hold on to that retrograde notion about sex. I
also really want to add that, you know, it`s titillating to talk about this
as the war against sex, and to talk about the bedroom, and to talk about
what kind of sexual rights allowed, but this is really about civil rights
and human rights and about gender equality.

When we talk about contraception, yes that has to do with sex, but
that has to do with women`s economic power in the workplace as well. This
is not something which we can just be titillated by, which is what I think
Rick Santorum might want. This is something that has to do with people`s
everyday lives. It has to do with why I can sit here and talk to you right
now.

O`DONNELL: Yes. And why would Rick Santorum want with some kind of
titillating discussion about this?

COX: Well, I think it`s the giggles and the titillation that sort of
get us away from talking about this as an economic issue and as a human
rights issue. I mean, we really don`t care as Americans about what people
do in the bedroom. And I think that`s what Hugh Hefner is really saying,
right? Except, of course, in Hugh Hefner`s magazine, people care about
what people are doing in the bedroom.

But for the most part Americans don`t care. And we`ve turned our eyes
away from it and we`ve decided we`re going to let gay couples do what they
want to do. We`re going to let straight couples do what they want to do.
And I think that when you bring it back up in this way, this nudge, nudge
kind of way, it gets people talking about it and brings the focus away from
the rights that have been won because of things like contraception.

O`DONNELL: But this is the way Rick Santorum talked about it. A
second place finishing Republican almost-nominee was publicly saying that
contraception is a bad thing. You know, even Ron Paul was saying that
there`s an immorality in the use of contraception.

People think he`s a libertarian. He isn`t on sex. I mean, they
really went into some very strange zones in this campaign.

COX: They did. They went into strange zones. Again, they brought
the focus on to the bedroom, like Rick Santorum talked about birth control
leading to unnatural acts or things that you shouldn`t do. Birth control
is a health issue. It`s an issue about what women can do with their bodies
and what women can -- how women can control their bodies and how that`s no
one else`s business.

I mean, to talk about it to talk about it in the way that Rick
Santorum talked about it I think distracts us from. like I said, what I
think the real issue is, which is my right to be here right now talking to
you.

O`DONNELL: Ana Marie Cox, identifying the real issue, thank you very
much for your time tonight.

END

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