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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Monday, April 30, 2012

Read the transcript to the Monday show

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Guests: Krystal Ball, Steve Kornacki, E.J. Dionne, Jonathan Capehart, Steve Clemons, Lilly Ledbetter, Karen Finney, Ryan Lizza



LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: If President Obama`s reelection
campaign planned to trick Mitt Romney into a fight on national security,
that they knew Romney cannot win -- well, mission accomplished.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARTIN BASHIR, MSNBC HOST: Tomorrow, May the 1st, is the first
anniversary of the death of Osama bin Laden.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I said that I`d go
after bin Laden, and I did.

CHRIS JANSING, NBC NEWS: The GOP is hitting back, saying bin Laden`s
death shouldn`t be used for politics.

ED GILLESPIE, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN: He managed to put it into a divisive,
partisan and political attack.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Well, you shouldn`t take credit for what
you did a year ago.

GILLESPIE: Sign of a desperate campaign.

MATTHEWS: We wouldn`t do something like that.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: This election will also
determine how America responds to the continuing danger of terrorism.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the man who wants to be want commander-
in-chief of the U.S. Armed Forces?

RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER NYC MAYOR: Leadership is the most important.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Armed with what? Spitballs?

GIULIANI: Thank God that George Bush is our president.

MATTHEWS: We wouldn`t do something like that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You cannot have it both ways.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Almost anything is fair game.

MATTHEWS: Remember George W?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s George Bush with mission accomplished
sign.

MATTHEWS: Prancing across that aircraft carrier.

TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: We could never forget that image.

BASHIR: And if Republicans are trying to win an award from rank
hypocrisy --

MATTHEWS: They had eight years to do it --

BASHIR: -- it`s mission accomplished, isn`t it?

MATTHEWS: -- and couldn`t.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I said that I`d go
after bin Laden if we had a clear shot at him, and I did.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is part of the president`s record.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Jimmy Carter would have
given that order.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jimmy Carter made a gutsy call himself that
didn`t pan out. Obama made a gutsy call that did.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a hard call.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s this president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to give him credit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are what your record says you are.

OBAMA: I said we`d go after bin Laden if he had a clear shot at him
and I did.

MATTHEWS: Bin Laden is dead, G.M. is alive.

OBAMA: And I did.

MATTHEWS: How do you like them apples?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: It was a year ago this week that President Obama ordered
the successful Navy SEAL mission to get Osama bin Laden, and suddenly the
dead Osama bin Laden has become issue one in the presidential campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Would you have gone after bin Laden?

ROMNEY: Of course.

REPORTER: You would have given the order, Governor?

ROMNEY: Well, of course. Even Jimmy Carter would have given that
order.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: President Obama is not convinced.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I just recommend that everybody take a look at people`s
previous statements in terms of whether they thought it was appropriate to
go into Pakistan and take out bin Laden. I assume that people meant what
they said when they said it. That`s been at least my practice. I said
that I`d go after bin Laden if we had a clear shot at him, and I did.

If there are others who have said one thing and now suggest they do
something else, then i`d go ahead and let them explain.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Here is what Senator Barack Obama said during his first
presidential campaign in 2007, about being willing to violate if necessary
Pakistan`s sovereignty to get Osama bin Laden.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: If we had actionable intelligence about high-valued targets
and President Musharraf will not act, we will.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Just four days after that, four days after candidate
Obama said, the 2007 version of presidential candidate Mitt Romney said, "I
do not concur in the words of Barack Obama in a plan to enter an ally of
ours."

Tonight on FOX News, Romney world continued to attack the Obama
campaign for using the successful mission to get Osama bin Laden.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: To now take credit for something that
any president would do is indicative of the kind of campaign we`re under --
we`re seeing, and I`ve had the great honor of serving in the company of
heroes. You know the thing about heroes? They don`t brag.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The president anticipated that sort of line of attack
earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I hardly think that you`ve seen any excessive celebration
taking place here. I think that people -- the American people rightly
remember what we as a country accomplished in bringing to justice somebody
who killed over 3,000 of our citizens. And it`s a mark of the excellence
of our intelligence teams and military teams, a political process that
worked.

(END VIDEO CLI)

O`DONNELL: Tomorrow, and this is really happening, Mitt Romney
actually has a campaign event scheduled in New York City with former Mayor
Rudy Giuliani to mark the anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden.
They will no doubt be explaining how Rudy Giuliani and George W. Bush
deserve all the credit for getting Osama bin Laden.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I don`t know where he is.
You know, I just don`t spend that much time on him, to be honest with you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And Romney and Giuliani will surely read mind voters of
the Republican Party`s honorable record of never trying to gain political
advantage by questioning the justice of Democrats on national security.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: It`s absolutely essential
that eight weeks from day on November 2nd, we make the right choice,
because if we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we`ll get hit
again, and that we`ll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the
standpoint of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now: Democratic strategist and MSNBC
contributor, Krystal Ball; Salon.com political columnist and MSNBC analyst
Steve Kornacki; and Washington editor-at-large for "The Atlantic," Steve
Clemons.

Thank you all for joining me.

Krystal, the reason I wanted to show that Dick Cheney tape is that
was a new form of presidential campaigning in my memory, for Dick Cheney to
say in 2004, if you elect John Kerry, we will be attacked again --
presumably because John Kerry`s judgment on national security was so
horrible.

KRYSTAL BALL, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Right.

O`DONNELL: For Republicans to be playing this game of outrage today
at the president`s campaign simply saying, look, this is what he actually
did, as an amazing turnaround from where Dick Cheney was in 2004.

BALL: Well, and not only where he was in 2004 but where he was right
before President Obama was elected and even after he was elected, where he
essentially said the same thing, that he felt that President Obama`s
policies would make us less safe from a terrorist attack, and now suddenly,
Republicans have decided now that they`re on the losing end of foreign
policy really frankly for the first time in quite a long time. Suddenly,
they don`t want to talk about this. This is too political.

Well, it`s an unbelievable turn of disgusting hypocrisy that I think
does not pass the laugh test. They ran on the war on terror. They ran on
9/11.

I mean, the event with Rudy Giuliani tomorrow just calls up all of
this once again. So I think it`s obvious that Republicans, when it`s on
their side and when they feel they can benefit from it, are perfectly happy
to talk about foreign policy successes.

O`DONNELL: Let`s take a look at the video that got posted on the
Obama campaign Web site that got this whole conversation started on Friday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: That`s one thing George Bush
said that was right, the president is the decider in chief. Nobody can
make that decision for you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Steve Clemons, what seemed to be at issue is, what would
Mitt Romney have done if presented with the same situation? And the record
of presidents preceding President Obama on this kind of decision would be
at best to lob a rocket in there and hope for the best.

STEVE CLEMONS, THE ATLANTIC: You know, I think that the real truth
is to be fair to Mitt Romney for a minute is that there were advisers
around President Barack Obama that felt a lot like Mitt Romney did. I
think that makes the gap and difference between Romney and Obama so
important, is that Obama essentially looked at a lot of data, considered
many alternative views, and went to a very dangerous place that if he
failed, I think we`d be pondering the end of the Obama presidency.

We also have to remember part of what we don`t talk about the media
is the Bush/Cheney administration made a decision to squeeze down the
resources committed to chasing bin Laden as they got distracted and dragged
into Iraq.

Ed Gillespie was right to some degree that Saddam Hussein may have
had a different future because the Bush administration went after -- made
the decision that Saddam Hussein was more important as a national security
target than was Osama bin Laden.

And when Obama came in, he said that was the wrong decision, and
going after bin Laden, who was sort of marquee terrorist of the day, made
Americans feel unsafe. His ongoing presence wouldn`t have allowed to us
change our strategic deployments. He was sort of a permanent fixture in
essentially of terrorism industrial complex, if you will.

And so, Obama`s choice was very brave. And so, I do think it`s fair,
given what we know about Romney, from this previous statements and to some
degree his wobbling (ph), that might have been a very different choice for
him.

O`DONNELL: Steve Kornacki, it`s fair given the previous Republican
administration, they had a chance to go after Osama bin Laden in Tora Bora
and they chose not to. You then eventually had President Obama going on
television -- sorry. President Bush going on television saying I don`t
think it`s that important, I don`t know where he is, I don`t think about it
-- actually completely giving up the idea of actually getting Osama bin
Laden, and then when the decision came that he was gettable, the tactical
choice of do we just lob a missile in there or go in with a crew that can
verify -- that can get him and verify, you can actually get them.

That`s what President Clinton said was the incredibly important
decision. And as Steve points out, there were plenty of people in the
Situation Room saying, let`s go the easy, let`s go with the missile.

STEVE KORNACKI, SALON.COM: Absolutely. There were people saying
that there were plenty of people in 2007. You have that quote from Romney
saying what, you know, Obama did going into Pakistan and getting bin Laden
I wouldn`t do. What Mitt Romney was saying in 2007, a lot of people were
saying in 2007, sort of the conventional or the prevailing wisdom sort of
from the -- sort of the elite class of political observers in `07, was that
Obama was naive when he said that.

So, Obama really kind of went out on a limb as a presidential
candidates in taking that decision.

I think there`s sort of -- you know, you can make an argument here
that the Obama campaign should not be -- it is actually making this a
little too political, in the sense that not only did they put a video out
on the one year anniversary, but they inserted into the video a direct
contrast with their opponent, Mitt Romney.

Now, on a scale of politicizing this sort thing, that`s nothing
compared to what Bush and Republicans did last decade, as you said. But I
think there`s a broader point here.

Look what Mitt Romney has been saying for this entire campaign. His
entire foreign policy argument against Barack Obama boils down it to the
man is weak. He talks about it in every speech about foreign policy, Mitt
Romney comes back to the notion that Barack Obama as president, his main
foreign policy act is to travel the world apologizing for America to our
enemies. It`s patently false.

If that is the kind of campaign Mitt Romney going to run, then I
really think it`s entirely defensible on the one-year anniversary of the
bin Laden raid, you make that contrast especially when Romney did say
exactly what they`re saying he said.

BALL: Yes. And to that point, Lawrence, I mean, one of the things I
was taught when I started running for Congress was that voters judge
candidates based on three factors -- strength, trust and caring. Who do
you trust, who do you think cares about you the most, and who do you think
is strongest.

Obama is clearly winning the caring and the trust battle. He is also
right now winning the strength battle. So, if he`s got all three of those
characteristics on lockdown, where is Mitt Romney going to go? So, we sort
of have to try to undermine this argument.

This also goes back to -- remember that Hillary Clinton ad, the 3:00
a.m. phone call and who do you want answering that call? This is absolute
proof that President Obama has gotten that call and he has answered it and
made the right decision.

So, of course, Romney`s campaign wants to diminish that and paint him
in the way they do in their narrative as a weak leader, leading from
behind, all that stuff coming out of the campaign.

O`DONNELL: And, Krystal, quickly, a last word on this tactically.
The Obama re-election campaign posting this on their Web site struck me as
a deliberate, hoped for provocation of Republicans and the Romney campaign
to do exactly what they are doing.

BALL: Oh, they`re so sorry, Lawrence, that the Republicans are
talking to much about how the president killed Osama bin Laden. I really
wish they`d stop talking about how the president killed Osama bin Laden.
It`s really upsetting us.

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

BALL: Thanks, Lawrence.

CLEMONS: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up: is Bill Clinton the best surrogate speaker for
the Obama presidential campaign? Jonathan Capehart and E.J. Dionne join
me.

And the president gave a shout-out to Lilly Ledbetter this weekend,
the woman whose name is at the top of the very first bill that President
Obama signed into law. But she`s more than just the face of the Fair Pay
Act. Lilly Ledbetter joins me tonight.

And Paul Ryan is in the "Rewrite" tonight. We caught him in a lie
about being a follower of an atheist political philosopher.

And the best of the president`s jokes at the White House
correspondents` dinner this weekend. That`s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: President Obama has got a new best friend, at least from
the campaign season anyway. Jonathan Capehart and E.J. Dionne join me on
the Obama campaign`s new asset, Bill Clinton.

And we`ll show you President Obama`s best jokes at this weekend`s
White House correspondents` dinner.

And in tonight`s "Rewrite," we have caught Paul Ryan in a lie. The
Republican congressman is lying about his relationship with a right wing
political philosopher. We will show you the truth in Paul Ryan`s own
words. That`s in the "Rewrite."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: He took the harder and the more
honorable path and the one that produced, in my opinion, the best result.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That was Bill Clinton praising President Obama`s strength
in making the tactical decision to kill Osama bin Laden in the Navy SEAL
attack instead of firing a missile into bin Laden`s compound and hoping for
the best, in a new Obama re-election campaign video.

At their first joint fund-raising appearance of this campaign season,
the former president introduced the current president after saying this.
"Obama`s got an opponent an opponent who basically wants to do what they
did before, on steroid, which will get you the consequence as you go before
on steroids."

Joining me now: E.J. Dionne, a "Washington Post" columnist and senior
fellow at the Brooking Institute. He`s also an MSNBC political analyst.
And Jonathan Capehart, "Washington Post" opinion writer and an MSNBC
political analyst.

And you have both certified that you are not on steroids tonight.

E.J. DIONNE, WASHINGTON POST: I promise.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, WASHINGTON POST: Guaranteed.

O`DONNELL: E.J., this it emergence of Bill Clinton suddenly starting
with that campaign video on Friday and then the fund-raiser is giving a lot
of people signs that Bill Clinton is into this campaign in an even more
solid way than he was in joining the Obama general election campaign last
time.

DIONNE: I think it`s true. And I think there are several reasons
for it.

One is, we can never say this, but I actually think the issues matter
to him. When you think back to his fight with Gingrich over cuts in
Medicare, Medicaid, education and the environment, that famous M2/E2, well,
the Paul Ryan budget makes the old Gingrich budget look like something that
Bernie Sanders proposed. I think the issue really matters.

Second, Hillary Clinton is secretary of state. She is in some way
implicated in this and obviously had to make Bill Clinton happy that she`s
secretary of state. So, I think that has something to do with it.

And the third is Obama needs Clinton right now. He needs Clinton to
reach for example to some of the big contributors whom Obama didn`t give to
the super PAC. I think the fact that Bill Clinton knows that Obama knows
he needs him for stuff has got to be a motivator for Bill Clinton.

O`DONNELL: And, Jonathan, Bill Clinton has an astonishingly high
approval rating I think for someone who was so intensely hated by the right
and never won in any kind of landslide. He`s viewed favorably by 67
percent of voters against 29 percent -- only 29 percent who view him
unfavorably. You just compare that, just for context, to George W. Bush,
who is viewed favorably by 42 percent, viewed unfavorably by 54 percent.

So, this favorable rating for Bill Clinton is not an automatic for
ex-presidents.

CAPEHART: No, it`s not.

And keep something in mind, Lawrence. Remember when President
Clinton was impeached? Remember his approval rating at the time? People
were mystified by how this person who was caught in a lie, impeached,
globally embarrassed and yet his approval rating was really relatively
high.

And when he left office, you know, he left the country with a
surplus. He left the country relatively at peace. Seems to recall at the
time, it only seemed like the sky was the limit, and I think there`s a lot
of nostalgia behind the fact when Bill Clinton was president, things seemed
to be OK, the economy seemed to be great. Everyone seemed to be doing just
fine.

And he just happened to be the best politician of his generation to
have run for president and won two terms in office.

To have President Barack Obama in office with enough intestinal
fortitude and just self-confidence to allow someone that popular, someone
who is able to articulate the president`s message, President Obama`s
message sometimes better than the president himself as we saw during that
press conference, I believe, it was a year ago as we`re seeing the video
right now. And then, remember, what happened. President Obama said
Michelle`s waiting for me upstairs at some of the parties. I`m going to
leave Bill Clinton here to explain things to you.

So, you know, this synergy we`re seeing -- I don`t think it just
burst onto the scene. These two have been talking to each other for a very
long time.

O`DONNELL: And E.J., it feels like there`s a tactical challenge from
the Obama re-election team to the Romney election team -- simply saying to
them here`s our surrogate. Who do you have?

DIONNE: No. I think that`s absolutely right, and the point you made
earlier about drawing the Romney folks into a discussion of bin Laden,
which can only help Obama. Having Obama there -- I`m sorry, having Bill
Clinton be the nature rater brought more attention to this. But, yes, it`s
a challenge, why don`t you bring out your last Republican president, George
W. Bush, and Romney doesn`t want to do that. Jeb Bush might actually be
the strongest potential vice presidential candidate, but for his last name,
given George W.`s approval ratings.

O`DONNELL: Or really anyone Jonathan Capehart -- I mean, any -- is
there any bench there in Republican world for surrogates getting out there
on the trail that in any way could compare with Bill Clinton. They`ve got
John McCain happy to go out there and speak.

CAPEHART: Not the same.

O`DONNELL: I just don`t see who they have who can play on this
level.

CAPEHART: Yes, I don`t see it. E.J. raises a good point, who do you
want to put out there? President George W. Bush who couldn`t wait to get
out of Washington fast enough when his terms was over, and who has made it
clear he`s not terribly interested in getting into the fray, the at least
until his presidential library is ready. So, no, the Republicans don`t
have a Bill Clinton at all.

DIONNE: Nobody does.

O`DONNELL: E.J. and Jonathan Capehart -- thank you both very much
for joining me tonight.

DIONNE: Good to be with you.

CAPEHART: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up: she launched the lawsuit that resulted in the
Fair Pay Act. The first piece of legislation President Obama signed into
law. Tonight, Lilly Ledbetter joins me.

And Paul Ryan tries to rewrite his relationship with an extreme right
wing political philosopher not because of her heartless cruelty but because
she was an atheist. That`s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Paul Ryan was in the "Rewrite" tonight trying to rewrite
a relationship with a woman after that relationship got him in trouble with
some critics who said he wasn`t being a good Catholic. That`s in the
"Rewrite".

And the woman who inspired the first piece of legislation President
Obama signed into law, Lilly Ledbetter of the Fair Pay Act joins me next.

And President Obama played comedian and chief at the annual White
House correspondents` dinner this weekend. We`ll show you the highlights,
including exactly where the president and vice president of Hollywood were
sitting., George Clooney and Steven Spielberg.

And I`m not going to get into trouble near Los Angeles tonight by
saying which one of them is the president and which one of them is the vice
president of Hollywood. That`s coming up

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Change is the first
bill I signed into law, a law that says women deserve an equal day`s pay
for an equal day`s work, a law that says our daughters should have the same
opportunities as our sons, a law named for a courageous woman, Lilly
Ledbetter, my dear friend who is right here today.

That`s what change is. And it happened because of you. As long as
I`m president, we`re going to keep moving forward. You can count on that.
You don`t have to take my word for it. You have my signature on it.
Because something like standing up for equal pay for equal work isn`t
something I`ve got to get back to you on. It`s the first law that I
signed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That was President Obama at the DNC`s Women`s Leadership
Forum talking about the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Here was the Romney
campaign`s response when it was first asked about the Lilly Ledbetter Law.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAM STEIN, "THE HUFFINGTON POST": Does Governor Romney support the
Lilly Ledbetter Act?

ERIC FEHRNSTROM, ROMNEY ADVISOR: We`ll get back to you on that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Five days later, when candidate Romney himself was asked
would he have signed the Lilly Ledbetter Act, Romney could not bring
himself to simply say yes, he would have signed it. The best Romney could
do is say he wouldn`t try to repeal it.



"I`m not going to go back and look at all the prior laws and say, had
I been there, which ones would I have supported and signed. But I
certainly support equal pay for women and have no intention of changing
that law. Don`t think there`s a reason to."

It has been a remarkable journey for Lilly Ledbetter, from being born
in a house without running water or electricity, to having her name on the
first bill signed into law by President Obama. She spent today campaigning
for President Obama in New Hampshire.

And Lilly Ledbetter joins me now. She has written a new book, "Grace
and Grit," about her experience. Also with us is Karen Finney, former DNC
communications director and an MSNBC political analyst.

Lilly Ledbetter, tell us the story about how you discovered that
working in the tire factory that you`d worked in for so many years, you
were actually being paid significantly less than men doing exactly the same
job.

LILLY LEDBETTER, AUTHOR, "GRACE AND GRIT": After 19 years of working
for Goodyear Tire and Rubber, someone gave me an anonymous tip on a note,
showing my pay versus the three white males that had the exact same job,
and the difference in my pay. And each one of theirs was more than 40
percent less than theirs. I was 40 percent less than what they were
earning.

That not only affect my take-home pay then. But it does today. Back
then, we also got overtime. And that short changed me quite a great deal.
And my family suffered, not because I didn`t work, not because I didn`t
have a good job, but simply because the company I worked for chose not to
follow the federal laws.

O`DONNELL: And you then took this case to court. And you actually
won compensation for the lost salaries and damages beyond that. But the
Circuit Court of Appeals overturned it for the most technical of legal
reasons, which was the statute of limitations, which is the time frame
within which you filed your suit.

That`s what President Obama addressed in the act that was passed in
your name, opening up that statute of limitations to a reasonable amount of
time, giving -- if you had that statute of limitations in place when you
went after this, you would have been successful in the court.

LEDBETTER: Actually, they tell me that the law before was -- always
the precedent had been if you were still receiving a check and were still
working, and you found out that you were being discriminated against, you
have 180 days to file your charge. And that`s exactly what I did.

But the five justices, according to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg -- she
said they changed the law. When they made that ruling, they changed it.
She said this is a terrible ruling, and she challenged Congress to pick up
the ball. She said it`s in your court. Now you change this back to where
it should be.

And it took us 18 months working in Washington, lobbying and working
for the bill, gaining support. Then it was the first bill that the
president signed into law in 2009.

O`DONNELL: Karen Finney, it`s a dramatic judicial and political
story, with the only woman justice at the time reading her dissent,
specifically saying, Congress, look, this is a wrong interpretation. Get
to work on this. And I personally think it`s remarkable that that whole
story was achieved in 18 months and they could actually get it to the point
where the president could sign it.

And more remarkable that the Romney campaign had no idea how to
respond to it when this was first raised to them.

KAREN FINNEY, FORMER DNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Even worse, it
seemed like the Romney campaign didn`t quite even know or understand the
question that Sam Stein was asking.

O`DONNELL: Dead silence in response to that question.

FINNEY: And this is part of it. I -- you know, women like myself, I
mean, we owe Lilly Ledbetter and other women who came before us such a debt
of gratitude. My mother did a wage gap study in the `80s. I watched her
night after night, on her own time, pour through pages and pages of
documents to figure out what was really going on.

Those are the kinds of systemic problems that women actually still
face. That`s what President Obama was talking about when he held the
summit recently at the White House on some of these women`s issues.
Fundamentally, that`s not what we are hearing from Mitt Romney and his
campaign team. They don`t seem to understand.

In addition to all the social issues and putting Aspirin between our
knees, which I know is Foster Friess -- but this idea that there are still
structural challenges that women face in the workplace -- I mean, the Lily
Ledbetter Act, important first step. But in terms of access to capital,
women are still paid less than men.

These are some of the important economic issues that women are still
dealing with. And I still haven`t heard a good answer from them suggesting
that they even understand any of that.

O`DONNELL: Lilly Ledbetter, what would you say to both women and men,
with your kind of work experience in a Goodyear Tire factory, that kind of
hard, daily work, what they should be thinking about when they consider
their vote for the presidency?

LEDBETTER: They need to consider who will stand up for them and their
families. You see the Ledbetter Bill was for the American families. It`s
really a fundamental American right.

Mitt Romney evidently, based on his actions and his noncommittal
statement -- he is not going to stand up for the women and the families
across this nation. The outcry when my ruling came out from the Supreme
Court about my case, it shook this nation from coast to coast and stirred
people up. I don`t think people have forgotten that.

Today here in New Hampshire, every stop I made, I had tremendous
attendance. People are enthused. And I believe they understand. They
don`t have to wait and say, I`ll get back to you. I think the people I met
here today in New Hampshire, they know exactly who they`ll vote for,
because the president, he`s got a plan to improve the lives of the American
families. That`s where we need and want to go.

O`DONNELL: Lilly Ledbetter, it`s an honor to have you join us
tonight. Lilly Ledbetter and Karen Finney, thank you both very much for
joining me.

LEDBETTER: Thank you, Lawrence. Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Coming up, Paul Ryan says he loves her. Then Paul Ryan says he hates
her. Only one of those things can be true. Paul Ryan`s relationship with
a right wing political philosopher is next in the Rewrite.

And the president did his annual routine at the White House
Correspondents Dinner. We`ll show you all of his best jokes coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: In tonight`s episode of the Politics of Religion,
Republican Congressman Paul Ryan Rewrites his relationship with the
conservative hero and atheist Ayn Rand. Congressman Ryan happily
proclaimed his devotion to Ayn Rand until he got criticized about that
recently from a Catholic perspective.

Catholics United issued a statement saying "we question why Ryan, as a
self-professed Catholic, would put the teachings of ultra capitalist Ayn
Rand, of whom he has spoken glowingly, before the teaching of Jesus and the
church. Rand, whose doctrine states self-sacrifice for one`s friends, a
core tenet of Christianity, is akin to slavery, teaches the value of the
self over all others. In her world view, self-interest and greed take the
place of a higher power."

That`s right. Ayn Rand worshipped greed and denied the existence of
God, and Paul Ryan worshipped her. Father Thomas J. Reese (ph), a Jesuit
at Georgetown University, told the "Huffington Post" that Ryan`s budget
"appears to reflect the values of his favorite philosopher, Ayn Rand,
rather than the gospel of Jesus Christ. Her call to selfishness and her
antagonism toward religion are antithetical to the gospel values of
compassion and love."

No Democratic party attack on the Ryan Budget has shaken Paul Ryan in
any way. No attack on the Ryan Budget from Nobel Prize winning economist
Paul Krugman or any other economist has shaken Paul Ryan in any way. But
the Catholic attack now has Paul Ryan running scared.

And he is trying to run away from Ayn Rand. Paul Ryan told a
laughingly compliant writer at the country`s oldest conservative propaganda
outlet, "The National Review," that the idea that he`s an Ayn Rand devotee,
as Paul Krugman has called him, is simply, in Ryan`s words, quote, "an
urban legend," end quote.

Ryan also said, "I reject her philosophy. It`s an atheist
philosophy."

And there Ryan proved once again that there is nothing, nothing more
powerful than the politics of religion. As soon as Catholics started
reminding everyone that Ryan`s guiding light was an atheist, Ryan had to
turn on her. He had to deny how closely he followed her teachings. He had
to deny how much the merciless view of economics shaped his view.

He had to deny making Ayn Rand`s book and many books required reading
for his Congressional staff. He had to deny everything he`s ever said
about Ayn Rand, simply because she was an atheist.

If Ayn Rand had been a Christian of any denomination, Paul Ryan would
not have been forced to disown her. In this age of Neanderthal Republicans
walking the halls of Congress, Paul Ryan is thought of as the smart
Republican by everyone on the Republican side of the aisle, by the
Neanderthal Republicans and by the smartest Republicans, both in and out of
elected office.

But Paul Ryan, the smart Republican -- Paul Ryan`s new lie about his
relationship to Ayn Rand is the stupidest thing he could possibly try to
get away with. "I reject her philosophy," he now says. "It`s an atheist
philosophy."

Well, that`s it, pure and simple. "I reject her philosophy." Case
closed, right. How could Paul Ryan be so stupid as to try to get away with
that after he was the keynote speaker for Atlas Society, a group of Ayn
Rand worshippers who have named their group after the title of one of her
most famous novels, "Atlas Shrugged."

Is Paul Ryan so stupid, the smart Paul Ryan -- is he so stupid that he
doesn`t know that we have witnesses to that speech, that each person in
that audience for his worshipful speech about Ayn Rand is an available
witness to us. Is Paul Ryan so stupid -- is Paul Ryan, the thinking man`s
Republican, the smart Republicans` Republican -- is he so stupid that he
doesn`t know we have the audio recording.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), BUDGET COMMITTEE CHAIR: I just want to speak
to you a little bit about Ayn Rand and what she meant to me in my life and
the fight we`re engaged here in Congress. I group up on Ayn Rand. That`s
what I tell people. I -- you know, everybody does their soul-searching and
trying to find out who they are and what they believe. You learn about
yourself.

I grew up reading Ayn Rand. And it taught me quite a bit about who I
am and what my value systems are and what my beliefs are. It has inspired
me so much that it`s required reading in my office for all my interns and
my staff. we start with "Atlas Shrugged. People tell me I need to start
with "Fountainhead," then go to "Atlas Shrugged."

There`s a big debate about that. We go to "Fountainhead," but then we
move on and we require Mises and Hayek as well. But the reason I got
involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker,
one person, it would be Ayn Rand.

And the fight we are in here, make no mistake about it, is a fight of
individualism versus collectivism.

And when you look at the 20th century experiment with collectivism
that Ayn Rand, more than anybody else, did such a good job of articulating
the pitfalls of statism and collectivism -- you can`t find another thinker
or writer who did a better job of describing and laying out the moral case
for capitalism than Ayn Rand.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: So tonight, the Ayn Rand case is closed, and Paul Ryan is
a proven liar. He has said two things about Ayn Rand, only one of which
can be true. I leave it to you to decide which one is a lie, his most
recent statement about Ayn Rand to the "National Review," quote, "I reject
her philosophy," or this?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN: You can`t find another thinker or writer who did a better job
of describing and laying out the moral case for capitalism than Ayn Rand.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Saturday night was Oscar night in Washington, the night
Oscar winners like George Clooney and Steven Spielberg get to live the
dream of having dinner with Rick Stengle, the editor of "Time Magazine,"
while listening to the president of the United States tell jokes, and
sneaking a peek at Kim Kardashian to see if she gets any of the jokes.

That`s right. It was the annual White House Correspondents Dinner.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: My fellow Americans, we gather during a historic anniversary.
Last year at this time, in fact, on this very weekend we finally delivered
justice to one of the world`s most notorious individuals.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: It`s great to be here this evening in the vast, magnificent
Hilton Ballroom, or what Mitt Romney would call a little fixer-upper.

We also both have degrees from Harvard. I have one. He has two.
What a snob.

Recently his campaign criticized me for slow jamming the news with
Jimmy Fallon. In fact, I understand Governor Romney was so incensed he
asked his staff if he could get some equal time on "The Merv Griffin Show."

Still, I guess Governor Romney is feeling pretty good about things
because he took a few hours off the other day to see "The Hunger Games."
Some of you have seen it? It`s a movie about people who court wealthy
sponsors and then brutally savage each other until only one contestant is
left standing.

I`m sure this was a really great change of pace for him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now, Ryan Lizza, Washington correspondent for
"the New Yorker" and our correspondent for the White House Correspondents
Dinner. Ryan, I took the weekend off here in Los Angeles. I had family
obligations, and I got to say, it feels like a two two-week vacation to
have skipped the proceedings that start -- it used to be that things got
started at 6:00 at Saturday night. Then there became Tammy Hadad`s (ph)
brunch on Saturday, so things got started at 11:00 AM.

Now they are starting Friday night parties and what, even some
Thursday night events?

RYAN LIZZA, "THE NEW YORKER": Thursday day events now. It`s a four-
day event now. You have the pre-partying, the pre-pre-partying. It goes
through the whole weekend.

Man, watching those clips -- and I haven`t really watched it since
being there, you know, supposedly this is this event that White House staff
always says, oh, the president, why does he even go to this thing? He
doesn`t like this thing.

If President Obama didn`t -- was not enjoying delivering those lines,
he was really faking it then. The guy just looked like he was in his
element, loving it.

O`DONNELL: Yes, he`s the best I`ve seen at it. And he`s had some
very good competition. I mean, President Clinton did well at it.
President George W. Bush, a lot of people don`t realize, actually had some
great comedic nights at that podium. I remember the first one I saw him
do. Almost all of the jokes were jokes about him being stupid. And they
were really, really smart jokes about President Bush being stupid.

I thought he was very brave to tell me them. But President Obama
really has some real stand-up talent.

LIZZA: He`s fantastic. His timing is tremendous. The delivery is
great. I mean, I thought Jimmy -- it`s a very hard crowd if you`re a
standup comedian, right, because it`s a very insider crowd. The humor has
to be in this kind of narrow range. If you go too far, the crowd gets a
little uncomfortable. If you don`t quite understand the inside jokes, the
crowd sort of looks down upon you.

So it`s a really tough audience. Seth Myers famously last year was
brilliant and very well received. I thought Kimmel was about 60, 70
percent of his jokes were fantastic. And he probably could have thrown out
30 or 40 percent of them.

Obama, just about every one nailed it and his timing was tremendous.
I think the one criticism you can make of Obama is Clinton and Bush did a
lot of self-deprecating humor. Almost every joke was at their own
experience.

Obama uses the night a little bit differently. He uses it to just
sort of stick the shivv in to the people that have been nailing him all
year long. You can tell he loves it.

O`DONNELL: Ryan Lizza gets THE LAST WORD. And Ryan, you still
haven`t made me wish I was there. Thank you very much for joining us
tonight, Ryan.

LIZZA: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Tomorrow night on THE LAST WORD, Alec Baldwin joins me.
And you know, there`s no controlling Alec Baldwin. So it`s up to him.

END


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