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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Thursday, April 26, 2012

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

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Guests: Krystal Ball, Ari Melber, Maggie Haberman, Joe Klein, John Heilemann, Anna Quindlen


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: With only seven states listed as tossups,
President Obama has a huge lead tonight according to the new Electoral
College map released by NBC News.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here we go. The Obama campaign fires the starting
pistol.

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: The president`s campaign announced its first
rallies of the general election will take place a week from Saturday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Team Obama has made it official.

WAGNER: On the campuses of Ohio State and Virginia Commonwealth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Virginia and Ohio.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How important are these two states?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The latest NBC battleground map: Ohio and Virginia
are on there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This race is going to come down to a handful of
states.

TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Colorado, Florida, Nevada.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Virginia is the one I`m keeping an eye on.

HALL: North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt Romney has very few paths.

WAGNER: It`s going to get nasty.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These guys don`t get
it. If you do well, the economy does well.

CHRIS JANSING, NBC NEWS: It sure sounds like a campaign.

HALL: Vice President Joe Biden --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The vice president --

HALL: -- slamming Mitt Romney on issues of national security.

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can`t go back to
the future.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Vice President Biden accuses Mitt Romney of
running on a nonexistent foreign policy.

BIDEN: Foreign policy that would have America go it alone.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Russia without question, our
number one geopolitical foe.

BIDEN: A profound misunderstanding.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt Romney has very few paths.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt Romney doesn`t actually have false beliefs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was accused throughout the primary of being a
Massachusetts moderate.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A Massachusetts moderate.

JANSING: You moved through debates to win the primary.

CONAN O`BRIEN, COMEDIAN: Yesterday, Mitt Romney won all five of the
primaries.

JANSING: And then you come back to the middle for the general.

O`BRIEN: Apparently, when you buy four primaries, you get the fifth
for free.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mitt Romney.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt Romney.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt Romney.

GINGRICH: A Massachusetts moderate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He doesn`t really have firm beliefs.

ANN COULTER: Well, if you don`t run, Chris Christie, Romney will be
the nominee and we`ll lose.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: President Obama took an oath to govern for the benefit of
all 50 states, but he might only have to campaign in seven of them to take
that presidential oath of office a second time.

The new NBC News battleground map shows only seven states scored as
toss ups as of tonight, according to polling information. They are
Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Colorado and Nevada.

And the bad news for Mitt Romney is that President Obama won all seven
of those toss up states in 2008. The first two Obama campaign rallies are
now scheduled for Saturday, May 5th in, where else? Ohio and Virginia.

If you don`t live in one of the battleground states, you will be
watching all of the campaign rallies this year on TV.

Rush Limbaugh took one look at the new battleground map today and, of
course, saw it through Rush colored glasses.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I think Obama`s going to lose in
a landslide. There`s not one positive thing that`s happened in this
country since he took office that he can cite.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now are: Krystal Ball, a Democratic strategist
and MSNBC contributor, and Ari Melber, a correspondent for "The Nation" and
MSNBC contributor.

We have the big map -- the big map should be on the wall there. I
don`t know what we`re waiting for. We`re going to leave that up. That`s
the wallpaper of the show for the rest of the year.

Because we can never repeat this enough, ignore those polls of the
whole country, where they show them tied or they show, you know, Obama
ahead by a couple of points. It all comes down to this map, the toss up
states, there`s nothing else to think about.

KRYSTAL BALL, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, that`s absolutely right. And
we spend a lot of time actually in the Republican primary talking about the
fact that the national polls don`t matter, you have to look state by state.
It`s the same for by general election. You have to look at these battle
ground states.

And one thing I would point out, there`s a tightening in some of these
states recently. And I went back up and look at the polling from 2008.
And what you see if you look there, is both McCain and Obama got a little
bit of a nice bump after they secured their party nomination.

So, I think it`s going to be expected that things would be a little
bit tighter right now after all of Mitt Romney`s former enemies have
suddenly decided that he`s at least already and sort of tepidly embraced
him, given the fact that this should be a strong time for Mitt Romney since
he`s just clinched the nomination, I think it`s quite good for the
president that he`s looking as strong as he is in these swing states.

O`DONNELL: Ari, this looks like an indication of how much damage
getting the Republican nomination did to the Republican nominee if this is
the best you can do at this stage.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I think that`s right. I think if this
is the high point, if this Mitt Romney on a roll, then I feel bad for team
Romney because I don`t want to know what it looks like in a rougher
stretch. In the 2008, I mean, I was flying around with then-Senator Barack
Obama on the campaign plane and we would make these stops in Virginia, in
North Carolina, in Indiana which Bush had taken previously by over 15
points and there were people on the plane, going, huh, I wonder, I this
just a big head fake, like what are we doing Indiana?

Well, Obama won Indiana. And I think as you point out with the NBC
matchups here, every single close states is one that he has already won.
So, he is positioned better just on the electoral map.

O`DONNELL: We have more colors up there that might make sense to the
audience. The battleground states when I saw them on the computer screen
were yellow. On this screen, I don`t know, it`s a yellow-brown, something
or -- but there`s different shades of blue, you know, we see Massachusetts
as a dark blue that means it`s definitely in the Obama line.

But they have California in light blue and other states in light blue
because they are leaning Democratic.

Now, anyone who thinks that California isn`t going to go Democratic is
someone who`s maybe going to advise a Republican to waste a lot of money
there.

BALL: Right, right. Well, one thing I would point out that is, the
sort of salmon color on the map right now is Arizona.

O`DONNELL: Yes, leaning Republican, that`s the lighter red.

BALL: Exactly. And that`s one that the president actually feels
could be in play, Democrats feel could be in play there`s about a 30
percent Latino population there, and given the sort of furor around the SB-
1070 Arizona immigration law, there`s a sense that maybe, possibly, we
could win Arizona. In fact, there`s been some polling recently that shows
that being very tight.

MELBER: And, you know, there was a call last night with Jim Messina
and David Axelrod for a bunch of reporters and they were talking about the
trips that are coming up and then the only other thing they said was
borderline newsworthy was they were bullish on Arizona.

They don`t need to get out there and get in front of too many states.
But they pointed to these polls that show them in the 40s, what they didn`t
say is the backlash to a lot of the Republican policies and obviously the
case before the Supreme Court could also redound to a high Democratic
turnout.

O`DONNELL: But Arizona hasn`t been forever Republican. Bill Clinton
won it in 1996.

BALL: He did. I think he was the first president since Truman to win
it, though. So it has been a pretty red state. And one cautionary note I
would sound there, and I would also sound in Florida and Ohio, is a lot of
these states, swing states in particular, have passed ALEC-backed voter ID
and voter suppression laws. In Florida, it`s been so bad that there`s
actually 80,000 newer new voter registrations this time than there were in
2008.

So this has had a real impact. And groups like League of Women Voters
have actually stopped registering voters because of how onerous the new
voter registration laws are in Florida.

O`DONNELL: So you don`t feel confident about a state that has these
kind of laws in it until you see a significant lead. You know, like a 1
percent, 2 percent lead, it would make you nervous because of these ALEC
laws?

BALL: That`s absolutely right. And Arizona has been actually a
little bit ahead of the curve in terms of pushing those voter ID laws.
They passed one of these ALEC bills back in 2004 and Latino voters and
voters in Phoenix, one out of three, found their voter registration
application denied in 2005.

So, they have been very aggressive about kicking people off the roles
and denying them the right to vote in Arizona.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Rush Limbaugh had to say about Mitt
Romney at this moment, which is supposed to be the great moment of triumph.
I want to give Ari all the time he needs to get that phone. Do you want to
take the call? You can take the call.

(CROSSTALK)

BALL: Ari wants to phone a friend.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to Limbaugh.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIMBAUGH: For Obama to lose in a landslide, that means a lot of
people are going to have to vote for Romney. And there are people who
don`t see any enthusiasm for Romney. And I can`t deny that.

Hardcore Republican operatives, the consultants and so forth, I do
think they`re like everybody else in the Beltway, they live in a bubble. I
think too many of them are counting on people like me to gin up enthusiasm
for them. They`re counting on Obama to gin up enthusiasm for them. Rather
than doing it themselves.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Ari, the Republicans are counting on Rush to gin up the
enthusiasm and he doesn`t sound ready.

MELBER: He sounds like he wants to get out from under the role he`s
played. And obviously, look, he made a big mistake.

O`DONNELL: He`ll come around.

BALL: I was going to say I welcome him to get out of that role.

O`DONNELL: It`s surprising to hear him talking this way at this
stage?

MELBER: I think that this entire terrible mistake he made about
Sandra Fluke, which he only saw as a business problem, he didn`t see it as
the ethical problem that it was. But I think it stuck with him and he`s
sort of aware of the way he`s playing out.

The other piece, though, with the voter ID issue is organizing, right?
And the Obama campaign is proving itself adapt. Even Republicans marvel at
how well they`ve been able to organize at the ground level.

And so, I`ll give one example from last time. They had a video of
Jay-Z in Michigan, giving a state specific voter turn out message, saying
to people, you don`t need your ID. If you`ve heard you need it, you don`t.
And that was going around certain communities, and people were getting the
information they need.

This time they`re going to have some different videos and some
different outreach in places where you do need your ID.

So, I do think you`ve got a campaign that`s got an extra hurdle there,
but they`ve actually been pretty good about localized organizing.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to Biden speaking at NYU talking about Mitt
Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: What would Governor Romney do? Well, the truth is, we don`t
know for certain. We know Governor Romney reflectively criticizes the
president`s policy and almost in every case without offering any specific
alternative. We know that when the governor goes, does venture a position,
it`s a safe bet that he previously took or is about to take in exactly
opposite position.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Now, Krystal, there he is trying to drill that message
into the voters` heads so everything you hear Mitt Romney say in the
future, you`ll process through that system of, oh, he`s just saying it
because it`s the opposite.

BALL: Because he has to be opposed to President Obama. And
unfortunately, the Republicans have done a lot of the laying of the ground
work for exactly that message, because in fact they have from the very
beginning sought to oppose the president even on things they traditionally
supported like tax cuts.

So, you plug Romney in. He`s titular head of the party, he`s
following that exact script. And I think that`s quite obvious.

And that`s why, frankly, somewhat shocking to hear him actually come
out and agree with the president on student loan interest rates because
that is such a terrible political argument to be on the wrong side of, that
they`d had to be on the right side.

O`DONNELL: But it shows you how hard the president has to beat one of
these arguments to get them to say, OK, I guess we`re going to have to do
that.

BALL: It has to be so blatantly obvious and such political peril to
go against it. Absolutely.

O`DONNELL: Krystal Ball and Ari Melber, thank you both very much for
joining me tonight.

BALL: Thanks, Lawrence.

MELBER: Thanks.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Karl Rove finally admits he was wrong about
Dick Cheney.

And in the "Rewrite," one of the Republican presidential candidates
rewrites the stupidest answer he gave in the presidential debates. And now
he tells us exactly what was going through his mind during that moment that
he now regrets.

And Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and author Anna Quindlen joins me
with her take on the gender politics of this campaign season.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Now he tells us, now, today, Karl Rove finally admitted,
his words, I was wrong about Dick Cheney. That`s coming up.

And in the "Rewrite," all of the Republican presidential candidates
should be embarrassed about most of what they have to say in the Republican
presidential debates but only one of them is now willing to admit how much
he regrets something he did in one of those debates. That`s in the
"Rewrite."

And today, John McCain said there is no political war on women. I`ll
ask Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and author Anna Quindlen what she
thinks.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: Thanks to President Obama, bin Laden is dead and General
Motors alive. You have to ask yourself, had Governor Romney been
president, could he have used the same slogan in reverse?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: As we approach the one-year anniversary of President
Obama`s decision to get Osama bin Laden, Vice President Joe Biden chose to
take on Mitt Romney today in a speech at New York University on foreign
policy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: In every instance in our view, he takes us back to the failed
policies that got us into the mess that President Obama has dug us out of,
and the mess that got us into this in the first place. Governor Romney I
think is counting on collective amnesia of the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The vice president got into many specifics today, but the
line that got the most attention was the one about President Obama`s big
stick.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: Now is the time to heed the timeless advice from Teddy
Roosevelt, "Speak softly and carry a big stick," end of quote. I promise
you, the president has a big stick. I promise you.

(END VDIEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now: Joe Klein, a columnist for "Time"
magazine, and Maggie Haberman, senior writer for "Politico."

Who wants to address the president`s big stick? I`ll just throw it
out there.

(LAUGHTER)

MAGGIE HABERMAN, POLITICO: And we can do kind of a toss. I`m going
to toss to you.

JOE KLEIN, TIME: I love Joe Biden.

O`DONNELL: Yes. That was written. He was reading that.

When I read it, I thought, well, he must have just made that up, as he
went along.

KLEIN: You know, the pity of it is that it trampled on a very good
line, which was the, you know, the comparison of G.M. being alive and Osama
being dead and Romney probably might have gone the opposite route.

You know, foreign policy is the area where Romney has the weakest
case. He has an absolutely terrible case and he`s making it worse by
trotting out neoconservatives to speak for him. His new spokesman now was
John Bolton`s spokesman before, and John Bolton is a well-known
neoconservative lunatic.

And, you know, in the areas where the rubber really meets the roads,
like Iran right now and Afghanistan, Romney isn`t willing to say what he
would do differently because there isn`t anything he would do differently.

O`DONNELL: But he sure makes to -- tries to make it sound differently
like he`s somehow tougher on Iran. He has some tougher ideas.

HABERMAN: Yes. And he doesn`t. I mean, what we hear is actually
very specifics, right? Foreign policy as we all know, as supposed to be
the province of Republicans typically in national elections, this is an
area where Obama is for a variety of reasons generally seen -- not by
Republicans -- but is generally seen objectively as pretty strong. It`s
going to be hard after Osama bin Laden to make the case that he`s weak,
this is the Democrats` pushback.

I think that Romney has been veering very hard in his language. I do
think he has been surrounded by neoconservatives, the Democrat are making
the point that he is going to essentially re-enact the Bush foreign policy.

And he is not doing much to counteract that. Again, this is the
problem that Mitt Romney has had throughout the primary is very few
specifics. He is not going to be able to do that anymore. He is going to
have start rolling out real substance at some point.

KLEIN: Well, there`s a war within -- a three-way war within the
Republican Party about foreign policy. You got the neocons who want to go
to war everywhere, you have the libertarians who want to go to war nowhere,
and then you have the realists in the legacy of George H.W. Bush who
probably run the best policy that we`ve seen in American president over the
last 30 years.

O`DONNELL: Case by case basis. Figure out each problem that come
along. Not going to announce some doctrine that we apply.

KLEIN: Let`s not try to rub the Russians` nose in it.

O`DONNELL: How big, Joe, is this Ron Paul section of foreign policy
in Republican affairs, the increasingly pacifist, isolationist segment?

KLEIN: Well, it`s growing because the wars haven`t been very popular.
We escaped Iraq, finally. Afghanistan, you know, what is it 35 percent of
the American people support that war at this point? We have now committed
to long-term support of the Afghanistan government. And, you know, we`re
probably leaving too many troops in there too long.

So what is Romney going to say?

O`DONNELL: I think we`re going to be hearing more from Joe Biden
about Osama bin Laden as this campaign goes on. I want to play a piece of
his speech today.

KLEIN: Leave the sticks behind.

O`DONNELL: Yes.

But he point outs that in the last presidential campaign that Mitt
Romney wasn`t all that excited about going to get Osama bin Laden. Let`s
listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: He then went on to say, quote, "It`s not worth moving heaven
and earth, spending billions of dollars, just to catch one person."

Here`s how candidate Obama answered that question. He said, quote,
"If I had bin Laden in our sights, I will take him out. I will kill bin
Laden. We will crush al Qaeda. This has to be our biggest national
security priority."

I was a little bit more direct. I said we follow the SOB to the gates
of hell if we have to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

O`DONNELL: Maggie, is the best Romney strategy, the best foreign
policy strategy for them to talk about the economy? Just not talk about
foreign policy?

HABERMAN: Well, look, they are trying very consciously, number one,
yes, and number two they are trying very hard at team Romney to sort of
elevate him on the world stage. They was "New York Times" story a couple
of weeks ago about his personal friendship with Bibi Netanyahu, which is
true. They know each other in business, you know, 30 years ago or so.

That doesn`t necessarily mean anything about what a Mitt Romney
foreign policy approach would be like, or what he would be like in terms of
Israel. And in fact, there`s been some question about whether he would pay
too much difference to the need of Israel, as opposed to the need of
America.

KLEIN: I think that that`s a big problem for him. Romney has pretty
much said that he would turn over our Middle East policy to Bibi Netanyahu.
I think the most outrageous thing that Romney has done during his campaign
in foreign policy is that he does not tell the truth about the president`s
position on Israel.

The president`s position is that he wants a return to 1967 borders
which mutually agreed upon swaps which has been the position of every
American president since Nixon. What Romney does, is he just says he wants
to return to `67 borders and doesn`t add the crucial part with mutually
agreed upon swaps. That`s kind of cheesy.

O`DONNELL: And it wasn`t just -- a lot of the news media did that
when that story first broke. They left out half of the sentence, which you
say every president has been saying for as long as we can remember.

HABERMAN: It`s the `67 borders piece, that is why. That`s what
people got stuck on.

KLEIN: It was inaccurate and it was fed by AIPAC, the Jewish lobby.

O`DONNELL: The Romney mention of Russia as a significant worry of
ours, as if it was 1968, is something that they`re also going to be
throwing out.

Joe, is there any -- is there any future to the Romney campaign on on
policy? Meaning, is there going to be a tutor, is there going to be a team
of advisors that he`s going to have that is going to straighten out that
section of his campaign?

KLEIN: I`m afraid they are going to tutor him and the people who are
going to be doing the tutoring are neoconservatives. If there is a future
for him here, it`s to link it to the economy. That`s what Bill Clinton did
in the `90s. He said foreign policy is an economic policy. He was a
governor who didn`t know much about foreign policy either, and that was the
way he finessed it.

I think that it`s a real concern out there among Americans. People
talk about China all the time. And Romney started out the campaign by
raising China as a domestic threat. It`s something that -- and Obama never
talks about this -- it`s an area where he may find some profit in foreign
policy.

But going to war all the time, I think people are kind of sick of
that.

O`DONNELL: Joe Klein and Maggie Haberman, thank you both very much
for joining me tonight.

Coming up, Mitt Romney is getting a lot of advice on who to pick and
not pick for hiss running mate. Why Joe Scarborough says Romney needs to
stay away from Marco Rubio.

And the "Rewrite" tonight, one of the Republican presidential
candidates wants to rewrite one of his most memorable answers in the
presidential debates. It was the single stupidest thing that this
individual did in the entire campaign, that`s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Karl Rove tried to save us from Dick Cheney. In a
confessional in "The Wall Street Journal," Rove admitted he was wrong about
Cheney -- but not in the way that you might think. That`s coming up.

And in the "Rewrite" tonight, what was the single stupidest moment in
the Republican presidential debates? Come on. OK, here`s a hint. It was
a moment in which none of the candidates actually said anything.

And tonight, one of those candidates wishes he had said something and
we have the video of how he would like to rewrite that moment. That`s
coming up.

And later, Rush Limbaugh attacked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
today for being a secretary. Something he still hasn`t attacked Thomas
Jefferson for. That`s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Now Karl Rove tells us he tried to save us from Dick
Cheney, did everything he could. He fought against the selection of Dick
Cheney for the Republican vice presidential nomination in 2000. In today`s
"Wall Street Journal," Rove tells the story of how he made the case against
George W. Bush`s desire to choose Dick Cheney as his running mate.

"He knew I was opposed and invited me to make the case against his
idea. I came to our meeting armed with eight political objections. Mr.
Bush heard me out, but with a twist. I explained my objections with Mr.
Cheney sitting mute and expressionless next to the governor.

"The next day, Mr. Bush called to say I was right. There would be
real political problems if he chose Mr. Cheney. So solve them, he said.
Politics was my responsibility. His job was different, to select his best
partner in the white house and a person the country would have confidence
in if something terrible happened to him."

Rove adds, quote, "there`s a lesson there for Mr. Romney, choose the
best person for the job."

Well, that would be the lesson if Bush had actually chosen the best
person for the job, but he chose Dick Cheney. There`s a lot of free advice
flying around these days on who Mitt Romney should choose or he should not
choose as vice president, including some this morning from our own Joe
Scarborough.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC ANCHOR: I`m just going to say it and I -- why
not, this is why people watch this show. Let me set myself on fire
politically. He`s not ready to be vice president . Just like Barack Obama
wasn`t ready to be president in 2008, just like Sarah Palin wasn`t ready to
be on the national ticket in 2008 -- Marco Rubio is a great guy. He`s got
a compelling story.

And my God, what a great demographic he will speak to on a national
ticket someday, but he is not ready to be on a national ticket in 2012.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now, national affairs editor for "New York
Magazine," and MSNBC political analyst John Heilemann. John, thanks for
joining me tonight.

JOHN HEILEMANN, "NEW YORK MAGAZINE": Hey, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Next time I`m on "MORNING JOE," I will argue with Joe
about just how ready President Obama was to be president. I think he was
as ready as anyone who`s take that oath of office.

But what do you make of how this has become such a wide open flow of
advice? And you have Rove now in "the Wall Street Journal" giving his
advice. You have Joe. You have all sorts of people throwing this around.
Is there something Romney should do to try to get control of this
conversation?

HEILEMANN: No. I think -- look, I think Lawrence, it`s always --
there`s always a lot of kibbutzing around the vice presidential selection.
This time, it`s a little bit elevated, I think, mainly because of the
experience in 2008. People feel as though the stakes are really high.
There`s been a lot of attention for various reasons to the choice that John
McCain made. That goes back to 2008 and now even all the way through to
now, in terms of Sarah Palin.

So you have a lot of advice flowing around. A lot of pundits --
there`s a lot of time between now and the next big political events, which
are the conventions at the end of August. People got to fill their time
somehow. I guess we`re going to probably give them some advice now
ourselves.

O`DONNELL: Robert Costa reports in "National Review," "many senior
Republican politicos, including some who were burned by the Palin backlash,
are now urging Mitt Romney to consider inside the Beltway experience as a
plus rather than a minus, as he mulls his Veep pick. Mild mannered federal
lawmakers with long resumes are in. Fiery rising stars are out."

What do you make of that, John?

HEILEMANN: Obviously it`s a direct fallout from the Palin selection,
trying to pick a game changer, as John McCain did, and picking someone who
turned out to not meet the fundamental test, which I think is both a
substantive and a political test, which is: are you ready to be president
from day one?

And I think it`s important, obviously substantively for the sake of
the country, that that`s the case. But politically, it`s incredibly
important. I think that most people in America, Lawrence, do not vote for
the bottom of the ticket. I don`t think that running mates move very many
votes. I think that the notions of ideological balance, regional balance,
can they carry a state -- most of that stuff doesn`t matter.

To voters, they look at this as a window on the judgment of the
nominee. So the nominee has one paramount objective, which is to show that
he`s picked someone who is both ready and who appears to be ready from day
one to step into that job, if the worst circumstances should befall him as
president.

O`DONNELL: John, given your understanding of the Romney campaign now,
of candidate Romney at this stage, on the list of possible choices, who do
you think the front-runners are, the short list at this stage?

HEILEMANN: I think the -- the reasons -- for exactly the reasons I
just said, I think that wisdom is accepted in the Romney campaign. I do
not think they are going to do -- try to like throw a Hail Mary pass, first
of all, because they don`t think they need it. They think the race is
going to be very close. But also because they`ve learned that lesson from
the post-Palin era.

I think they`re looking at people very seriously like Rob Portman, the
junior senator from Ohio, a guy who was a head of the OMB. He was USTR.
He was trade representative, that is. He was a congressman. He`s someone
who everyone in Washington really respects in terms of his substantive
knowledge.

He did carry 85 out of 88 counties in Ohio. so if you`re looking for
a reason -- for a reason that someone will help you carry a state. Rob
Portman might be that person.

I think Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, I know a
favorite of yours, Lawrence, someone you thought would be the Republican
presidential nominee -- he`s going to get a serious look too, someone who
was the number -- the runner up to Sarah Palin in the Veep stakes in 2008,
who did not run a great presidential campaign, was a very solid governor,
has real governing experience and real credentials in that area.

There`s no question Marco Rubio is going to get a look. I think it`s
more cosmetic than it is real. I think Joe Scarborough, in fact, is right.
I think that Marco Rubio would have a hard time passing the smell test as
someone who is ready to be president. He`s a little too young. And I`m
not sure that he even does the things for the campaign that some people
think. I don`t think he really appeals -- he appeals to Cuban Americans,
for sure. But Mexican-American immigrants and other -- in Western states
are not necessarily attracted to that life story quite as much.

If you want to name some other names, I`ll give you my reaction to
each of them.

O`DONNELL: Let me go with what you`ve done so far. I completely
agree with both you and Joe Scarborough on Marco Rubio. I think that makes
sense. Tim Pawlenty, he`s already been vetted for it. He doesn`t -- one
of the things about all these candidates is usually there`s a negative.
And Pawlenty to me has the fewest possible negatives of the people on these
lists.

And with Portman, I think a lot of Democrats are, on one side, hoping
for Portman. The thing you mentioned about Ohio is the scary part of it
for them. But if Rob Portman is on that ticket, then you get to spend --
Biden gets to spend all his time talking about the Bush economics. And he
was in there running the budget office and running up these massive
deficits for President Bush.

And you get to go right back to that old, you know, speech about the
Bush deficits.

HEILEMANN: It`s true. That`s a down side, there`s no question. I
believe it`s true that Rob Portman was head of the OMB for exactly about
one year, maybe a year and a half in 2006/2007.

O`DONNELL: That`s enough.

HEILEMANN: Certainly it will be true, Joe Biden will make that case.
I think you can`t hang the Bush tax cuts around his neck, however. So that
might be one mitigating factor.

But look, the big advantage of both Pawlenty and Portman -- another
big advantage, in addition to being ready to be president, both of them are
quite boring and they make Mitt Romney possibly look scintillating by
comparison.

O`DONNELL: John Heilemann, thank you very much for joining me
tonight.

HEILEMANN: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Karl Rove would like to Rewrite what he told
George W. Bush about Dick Cheney. And one of the Republican presidential
candidates would like to Rewrite his stupidest moment of his presidential
campaign.

And if you`re a "New York Times" reader, back when Anna Quindlen won
her Pulitzer Prize for her column, I know you`ve been wondering what does
Anna think about this war on women and the new political debate over a
subject that we thought was settled a long time ago, contraception. Anna
Quindlen joins me.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: In tonight`s Rewrite, a presidential candidate Rewrites
his answer to one of the most memorable presidential debate questions.
Last year after budget summit negotiations fell apart, because, among other
things, Republicans were not willing to accept a three to one ratio of
spending cuts to tax increases, meaning for every three dollars in federal
spending cuts, there would be one dollar increase in taxation to reduce the
federal budget deficit.

A mix of spending cuts and tax increases has been the formula for most
of the big deficit reduction packages that moved through Congress. Bill
Clinton got his big deficit reduction package through Congress with an even
split, one to one, 50 percent spending cuts and 50 percent tax increases.

After the Congressional Republican leadership rejected the three to
one ratio of spending cuts to tax increases, Bret Baier asked the
Republican candidates this question.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Say you had a deal, a real spending cuts
deal. Ten to one, as Byron said, spending cuts to tax increases. Speaker,
you`re already shaking your head. But who on this stage would walk away
from that deal?

Would you raise your hand if you feel so strongly about not raising
taxes, you would walk away on the ten to one deal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Jon Huntsman, clearly the most reasonable candidate on
that debate stage, told his audience at the 92nd Street Y in New York
recently that he wished he could have done more than just raise his hand.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON HUNTSMAN (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: All right, you`ve
got 30 seconds to tell what your world view is, which I thought was a total
disservice to the American people, at a critical time in our history, when
we need to know what`s in people`s hands.

Then you`re asked not even to explain by words, but by a raise of
hands -- a show of hands on a tax policy. So you`ve got about 3.5 seconds
in which to make the calculation. And what went through my head was, if I
veer at all from my pledge not to raise taxes -- I didn`t sign any pledges.
It was just kind of my personal history. I didn`t do so as governor. Then
I`m going to have to do a lot of explaining.

Do I want to just kind of raise my hand, get through this thing,
realizing full well the reality is a whole lot more complicated than is
being represented on the stage, or do I -- or do I just want to get through
this? And that always bothered me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And that is one of the many reasons Jon Huntsman never got
traction in the Republican presidential campaign. Playing the childish
game on taxes, quote, "always bothered me," end quote.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUNTSMAN: Let`s just face the reality of where we are economically.
And that is everyone`s going to have to give something. There`s going to
have to be a shared sacrifice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And so Jon Huntsman had a choice. He could lose the
Republican nomination for president by not saying what he really thought
and raising his hands when everybody else had to raise their hands, or he
could have told the truth, that there`s going to have to be shared
sacrifices, which is to say there`s going to be some tax increases.

He could have told that truth to Republicans. And he would have had
to drop out of the race even sooner.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUNTSMAN: There`s going to have be a shared sacrifice.

OBAMA: The concept of shared sacrifice should prevail.

HUNTSMAN: There is going to have to be a shared sacrifice.

OBAMA: The concept of shared sacrifice should prevail.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: And now Hillary has reached the
pinnacle. And all she is a secretary. She`s the secretary of defense.
Say it. Say it. Whatever, but still a secretary. I don`t know. The left
has the strangest definitions of success.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And rush has the strangest definition of secretary.
Secretary of state, the position first held by Thomas Jefferson and now by
Hillary Clinton, has always been the most coveted cabinet position in every
presidential administration. In cabinet meetings, the secretary of state
sits beside the president and is, in effect, the highest ranking cabinet
member.

In her new book, "Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake," Anna Quindlen
writes, "my daughter once asked me if a man could be secretary of state, a
job I grew up believing would only be held by men. But during Maria`s
youth, the position had been occupied by Madeleine Albright, Condoleezza
Rice and Hillary Clinton. Colin Powell must have seemed like a fluke."

Joining me now the Anna Quindlen, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist
and author. Anna, you know you broke a lot of hearts when you left the
"New York Times." Because when we have a devotion to a columnist in a
newspaper, you see, there`s a junky quality to it. There`s an every week,
once a week, twice a week thing. And when it`s gone, we`re kind of lost.

We have to wait -- we have to wait, you know, for the books, which
take a while longer, much longer than the column. So we`re all sitting
here wondering, for months in my world, what does Anna think of this war on
women? What does Anna think of the politics of contraception in 2012,
something that we thought was done with in the `60s?

ANNA QUINDLEN, AUTHOR, "LOTS OF CANDLES": Well, it is done with.

O`DONNELL: Oh. Someone should tell Washington that.

QUINDLEN: No but at this moment, the political arena reminds me a lot
of the Catholic Church, because there`s this huge disconnect between what
goes on with the hierarchy and what`s really happening with the people in
the pews.

Now let me tell you what`s really happening with contraception. We`re
all using it. That`s the bottom line. And nothing that Rush Limbaugh says
or John Boehner says, or any other politician says is going to change that.
If we need to, we`ll get it from Canada through the Internet.

O`DONNELL: But we`ll never need to, because they`re never going to
push it.

QUINDLEN: Even Mitt Romney admitted that one evening, that, oh, you
know, contraception, of course we`re not going to take away contraception.

O`DONNELL: Now you`ve just sparked something that -- when I went to
work in Washington in politics, I noticed that the Catholics were very good
at this. And I think it had a lot to do with the fact that as Catholic
children, they are dealing in a certain kind of way with a giant
institution, which is political, which has -- the first political lesson I
ever got was from my nun in the first grade, who told me to pray to the
Blessed Mother for whatever I wanted, because Christ could not refuse his
mother.

A political strategy in praying.

QUINDLEN: But I think you`re being overly optimistic, because I think
a lot of Catholic politicians have gotten into the head of thinking, if you
say a firm act of contrition, all your sins are wiped out and you can start
clean the next morning.

O`DONNELL: I happens to be true. Yes, happens to be true.

The -- this crazy thing that`s developed this year -- the gender
politics of this year was something that I don`t think anybody saw coming.
No one predicted, hey, it`s going to be a big year for this kind of
politics, which will ultimately be labeled a war on women. Is there
something that you can see that makes sense about how we got here?

QUINDLEN: Yes, I can. The Republican party has now become the
official party of the good old days. And throughout history -- and I just
got an e-mail from a college president who`s a classicist, who says this
happened during the Roman Empire.

Throughout history when things start to change really quickly, and
society really seems to be in flux, one of the first things they do is try
to keep the women down. And I really feel that there`s this right wing
wing of the Republican party who would love the idea of the good old days
in which men were men and women were nothing.

The problem is that the greater body of the Republican party has
gotten co-opted by them. One of the saddest days in this election cycle
had nothing to do with the presidency. The day that Olympia Snowe said
that she wasn`t running for re-election. I mean, there`s a woman who has
been a serious public servant, and who was basically saying I can`t take it
anymore.

O`DONNELL: You graduated from college in 1974, at what felt at the
time like the height of feminism and the women`s movement and women`s
equality and all of that. And yet here you are in your latest book saying,
about your marriage, "we`re part of a mixed marriage. He`s male, I`m
female."

So it turns out there are some real differences here.

QUINDLEN: Yes.

O`DONNELL: About which you write extensively.

QUINDLEN: Yes, there are some differences. There was always this
strain of equality feminism versus difference feminism, the one that said
we`re all the same and the one that said we`re different, but that`s no
reason to marginalize us. I think now we`re at a kind of a synthesis in
the middle where some of both arguments can be made.

O`DONNELL: I could sit here all night and read favorite lines, like,
for example, "I`m just a realist" -- you`re talking about two hearts
beating as one. You say about your marriage, "we`re not two hearts that
beat as one. In any marriage I have ever known in which two hearts beat as
one, the one is his."

QUINDLEN: Absolutely true.

O`DONNELL: So that part doesn`t change very much over time, that if
there`s going to be the focus on one individual in a marriage, it is much
more likely to be the male.

QUINDLEN: Look, I think we went from fighting the fight in the public
arena to having to fight it at home. There`s been so much data about the
fact that even with two people working at co-equal jobs, the woman comes
home and does much more, especially of child care. And I think really my
kids` generation are going to be fighting for that kind of equality in the
kitchen instead of in the courtroom.

O`DONNELL: You also talk about -- I love the way you take certain
concepts and -- that people think are ideal and start to maybe pick them
apart. Like soul mate, for example. You say "it suggests two people who
have everything in common. But our gender, with all the differences it
implies, divides us."

So there is still a division in gender that we should appreciate, is
that what you`re saying?

QUINDLEN: I think that`s absolutely true. I mean, one of the most
interesting pieces of reporting I got out of this is the difference in
friendships between men and women, that there`s a really interesting study
that shows that women consider friendship talking to one another and men
consider friendship doing stuff together, what when we`re moms and we have
little kids, we call parallel play.

And it means a real difference in the way the two interact with each
other. I mean, someone once told me that for a guy, the most fearsome
words a woman can say to him are, we need to talk.

O`DONNELL: Anna Quindlen, we need to talk more, but we are
unfortunately out of time. Anna Quindlen, the book is "Lots of Candles,
Plenty of Cake." Thank you very much for joining me tonight.

QUINDLEN: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: You can have THE LAST WORD online at our blog,
TheLastWord.MSNBC.com. And you can follow my Tweets -- you`d think I would
know that by. You can follow my Tweets @Lawrence. "THE ED SHOW" is up
next.

END

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