'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Read the transcript to the Tuesday show
Guests: Krystal Ball, Howard Fineman, Karen Finney, Alec Baldwin, David Frum
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: Nine years ago today, President Bush
announced our mission was accomplished in Iraq.
One year ago today, President Obama announced that he got Osama bin
Laden. And today, President Obama announced how he will end the war in
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good evening, from
Bagram Air Base.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president made a surprise visit --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Obama has arrived in Afghanistan.
UNIDENTIFEID FEMALE: -- to Afghanistan.
OBAMA: Tonight, I`d like to tell you how we will complete our
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is meeting with Afghan President Hamid
OBAMA: Today, I signed an historic agreement.
MARTIN BASHIR, MSNBC HOST: This on the first anniversary.
TAMRON HALL, MSNBC HOST: This one-year anniversary.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: The first anniversary.
HALL: The death of Osama bin Laden.
MITCHELL: The death of Osama bin Laden.
OBAMA: It was here where Osama bin Laden established a safe haven for
his terrorist organization.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let`s not make the capture
or killing of Osama bin Laden a politically divisive event.
ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: Romney is in New York City with Rudy
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rudy Giuliani.
WAGNER: The man dubbed "America`s mayor".
ROMNEY: It`s good to be here with Mayor Giuliani.
CHRIS JANSING, NBC NEWS: With Rudy Giuliani at a firehouse.
ROMNEY: This, of course, on the anniversary of the day when Osama bin
Laden finally was taken out.
JANSING: Is there a little bit of hypocrisy?
ROMNEY: Trying to politicize this is really disappointing.
OBAMA: All I want to do is say thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He deserves credit and praise.
JANSING: He was decisive, he made the right decision.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was a very courageous call that made.
JANSING: And look at what the result was.
BASHIR: Anwar al-Awlaki killed by a drone strike.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was President Obama.
BASHIR: Troops out of Iraq.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president succeeded.
BASHIR: And president planning for the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our commander-in-chief gave the order.
BASHIR: These are, are they not, considerable achievements for this
OBAMA: God bless you. God bless the United States of America. Now I
want to shake some hands.
O`DONNELL: The breaking news at this hour is that President Obama is
on his way back to the United States after his address to the nation from
Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan on the one-year anniversary of SEAL Team
Six`s successful mission to get Osama bin Laden.
Tonight, the commander-in-chief hailed the United States military`s
accomplishments in Afghanistan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We broke the Taliban`s momentum. We built strong Afghan
security forces. We devastated al Qaeda`s leadership, taking out over 20
of their top 30 leaders. And one year ago, from a base here in
Afghanistan, our troops launched the operation that killed Osama bin Laden.
The goal that I set to defeat al Qaeda and deny it a chance to rebuild is
now within our reach.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The president then described the path forward for the
United States after its combat troops withdraw from Afghanistan by the end
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Emerge from a decade of conflict abroad and economic crisis at
home, it`s time to renew America -- an America where our children live free
from fear and have the skills to claim their dreams, a united America of
grit and resilience, where sunlight glistens off soaring new towers in
downtown Manhattan and we build as one people, as one nation. This of war
began in Afghanistan and this is where it will end.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: President Obama`s remarks this evening follow a surprise
flight to Afghanistan, under the cover of darkness, to meet with U.S.
troops and sign the strategic partnership agreement between the United
States and Afghanistan. That agreement outlines the role the U.S. will
play in Afghanistan and the decade after 2014 when the drawdown of U.S.
forces is complete.
Mitt Romney has said that U.S. should bring home troops from
Afghanistan, quote, "as soon as our generals think it`s OK," end quote. He
has also criticized President Obama for publicly announcing the
administration`s withdrawal plan, saying that would incentivize the Taliban
to wait out the withdrawal.
As of today, the war in Afghanistan has left 1,948 U.S. troops dead
and 15,786 wounded.
Joining me now: Democratic strategist and MSNBC contributor Krystal
Ball, and AOL/Huffington Post editorial director and MSNBC political
analyst Howard Fineman.
Thank you both for joining me.
KRYSTAL BALL, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Krystal, your assessment of the president`s speech.
BALL: I think he did a very good job. Ands he did what he does best,
which is balancing the pragmatic and the very concrete, laying down sort of
five very concrete steps as to how we`re going to end this conflict, while
tying it into our American values and make it very idealistic as well. You
know, I actually -- what came to mind for me with some of his rhetoric was
Ronald Reagan and it`s morning again in America. He said here in the
predawn darkness of Afghanistan, we can see a light of the new day on
And it`s exactly that sort of hopeful rhetoric that made us fall in
love with this president in the first place.
O`DONNELL: Howard Fineman, is hopeful rhetoric and an outline of
where we go in the withdrawal, what America was ready to here tonight?
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh, I think Americans want
it hear how we`re going to get out of there, how we`re going to stop
risking American, losing American lives and treasure there, while not
allowing al Qaeda to reestablish itself. And I thought in diplomatic
terms, the president was very shrewd in laying out a game plan now so he
doesn`t have to argue about it later in the midst of the presidential
I think this was both a diplomatic speech and a political speech,
designed to sort of take this off the table, lay out exactly what his plan
is, hence forth throughout the campaign and indeed in the years ahead.
Politically, this was a -- this was a campaign speech. But
interestingly, Mitt Romney didn`t complain. Just a few minutes ago,
Lawrence, Mitt Romney`s campaign put out a very carefully worded statement,
congratulating and thanking the president for going to Afghanistan, to talk
to the troops, to meet with the troops. Even though this has been sort of
Osama bin Laden week politically for the Obama White House, Mitt Romney
didn`t complain today, which is a sign of how much the -- of the upper hand
the president has as commander-in-chief right now politically.
O`DONNELL: It also seemed like a smart reaction under the
O`DONNELL: Let this president have the night and fight another day.
BALL: Well, and if you look at the polling, too. I mean, the
president has 17 point advantage over Romney in terms of who Americans
trust to handle our foreign is policy. I think it`s always tough to go
against an incumbent president when you`re talking about foreign policy,
just because he has been there. He has traveled the world. He has been
the faced of America abroad.
But it`s particularly challenging for Mitt Romney, having been a
governor and not senator, his foreign policy experience essentially amounts
to having managed the Olympics and maybe having some Swiss bank accounts.
So, it is a tough battle for him to win. And one thing that we have
been talking a lot about is this election will be fought on the terrain of
the economy. I mean, that will be the big issue this year. But I don`t
think that we should underestimate how important the foreign policy
narrative is as well, because the president won`t be able to win this
election based on foreign policy success.
But he sure as heck could lose it if he did not have a successful
foreign policy, because you know that`s an area the Republicans would love
to go after him for. And he has just been so unassailable that he is
completely undermined their argument.
O`DONNELL: Now, the president knows that Mitt Romney said that
timetables should be whatever the generals say the timetables should be,
which is kind of an echo of John McCain over the years on these things.
Let`s listen to how the president anticipated that in his speech
tonight and what he said about how he chose this withdrawal timetable.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: As we move forward, some people will ask, why we need a firm
time line. The answer is clear. Our goal is not to build a country in
America`s image or to eradicate every vestige of the Taliban. These
objectives would require many more years, many more dollars. Most
importantly, many more American lives.
Others will ask, why don`t we leave immediately? That answer is also
clear. We must give Afghanistan the opportunity to stabilize. Otherwise,
our gains could be lost. And al Qaeda could establish itself once more.
And as commander-in-chief, I refuse to let that happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And, Howard, as far as establishing a country as he put it
in America`s image, I think the American people know that`s impossible in
FINEMAN: Yes, and I thought this was -- in terms of diplomacy again,
I thought this was very well and carefully calibrated. He set up the too
hot and too cold porridge. And, you know, he`s right in the middle. And I
think most of the American people who study this will agree.
He got positive words from John McCain as well as Mitt Romney, and I
think most Democrats who want the United States out of there militarily are
going to look to the military timetable satisfaction and I think the
president played it just right. And I think politically, he`s just jamming
it down the Republican`s throat.
Tomorrow night, you know, there`s going to be an hour-long documentary
on NBC and talk about how he ran the Situation Room and got rid of Osama
bin Laden. I mean, it is from Bill Clinton last weekend, and Robert Gibbs
last weekend, through the ads, through the speeches. I mean, the president
is putting this part of the portfolio away and will return to the economy
O`DONNELL: And let`s listen to how he brought this story in
Afghanistan back to domestic politics, talking about the troops and
bringing the troops home.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: In an age when so many institutions have come up short, these
Americans stood tall. We must give our veterans and military families the
support they deserve and opportunities they have earned. And we must
redouble our efforts to build a nation worthy of their sacrifice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Turn the page of that Afghanistan story into a domestic
BALL: Well, and the two are connected. I mean, we have been limited
of what we do at home because of money and focus we have spent abroad.
It`s not a stretch at all to make that connection.
And I think it`s an argument that resonates with the American people,
too. People have been saying, we have a lot of nation-building we need to
do at home, and the president is really affirming that. You know, two
thirds of Americans are ready for us to be done with this conflict in
So again, Mitt Romney and the Republicans, it would be very hard for
them to find a way to attack the president on this front. And that`s his -
- I mean, that`s unique for Democrats to have the upper hand in foreign
policy in this way. Really in the last, you know, 25 years at least,
Republicans have been the strong ones. They have been the ones that the
populous trusted on foreign policy and national security.
It`s quite remarkable that this president`s policy has been so good
and so nuanced an so successful that he has unassailably taken the upper
hand on this.
O`DONNELL: Howard Fineman and Krystal Ball -- thank you both very
much for joining me tonight.
BALL: Thanks, Lawrence.
FINEMAN: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, it`s not just one year since killing Osama bin
Laden, nine years ago, it was mission accomplished. And Republicans are
now pretending they`ve never used the politics of war against Democrats.
And in tonight`s "Rewrite," historian Newt Gingrich tries to "Rewrite"
the history of Gingrich for president campaign. We have the real history
of that campaign on video.
And the king of "30 Rock" is here tonight. Emmy winner, Golden Globe
winner, Screen Actors Guild Award winner, Alec Baldwin, is here to talk
about who he thinks will be the win are of the 2012 presidential campaign
and anything else Mr. Baldwin wants to talk about -- because I am not about
to try to tell Alec Baldwin what to do or what to say.
To paraphrase Dean Martin, it`s Alec Baldwin`s world, we`re just lucky
to live in it. Now, I cannot tell you exactly when he`s going to be on the
show. He could arrive early. He could arrive late. He could be the next
guest. He could be the last guest. He could sit there where Krystal is
sitting. He could sit here.
It`s Alec Baldwin we are talking about. I have no idea. Really, this
is not the night -- this is not the night to change channels. Do not surf
Alec Baldwin is officially in the building. I just got the word. He
could be the next face you see on the screen. It could be in one of the
commercials he does or he could be just taking over the show.
Stay with us.
ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: While President Obama was on his way to
Afghanistan today, Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani visited a firehouse in New
York City to once again politicize 9/11 and to mark the one-year
anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden and, of course, to criticize
President Obama for ever mentioning the killing of Osama bin Laden.
Karen Finney and Alex Wagner will join us.
And the Gingrich presidential campaign`s long good-bye continue today
with Newt Gingrich trying to "Rewrite" the history of his campaign which,
of course, lands Newt Gingrich once again in tonight`s "Rewrite".
That`s coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Major combat operations in
Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Barack Hussein Obama chose to
figuratively parade Osama bin Laden`s dead body around the public square
and in an attempt to bring singular glory to himself. How pathetic. The
guy they today drag off the golf course. Obama is out there basically, he
is trying, folks, to call himself or have us think of him as a hero for
doing something that if Bush or Cheney had done, Obama probably would have
called in the war criminals.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now are Karen Finney, former DNC communications
director and an MSNBC political analyst, and David Frum, a former Bush
speechwriter and a writer for "The Newsweek" and "The Daily Beast". David
is the author of a new novel, "Patriots."
Karen Finney, I would show you the clip of Limbaugh criticizing George
Bush`s mission accomplished speech but I`m afraid he never got around to
KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: How about that? That`s
missing, isn`t it?
Yes. But we didn`t expect that Rush Limbaugh would actually give
President Obama credit for doing anything right, did you? I mean, I
wouldn`t have expected anything less than what we heard from Limbaugh. And
I`m glad he delivered the usual garbage that we heard from him.
O`DONNELL: But David, it seems like Mitt Romney is playing this about
right tonight, letting President Obama have his night and not trying to get
in there Limbaugh style and try to rip it all apart.
DAVID FRUM, NEWSWEEK: You`re going to see a widening spread between
the real party and this TV party and --
O`DONNELL: Well, Rush represent the Tea Party, which is a very
significant portion of the Tea Party. It`s not an insignificant section of
FRUM: It`s not insignificant and some of us are prepared to mock
them. But understand also, and I think this -- maybe tomorrow is a better
day, but I`m here tonight. To think, President Obama for this tremendous
success he had with will killing of bin Laden, he gave a powerful speech in
Afghanistan. But the country has to recon with the price he`s paid for his
President Obama made a commitment to Afghanistan as part of his
political standing in 2008. The price of that positioning was to render
the country much more dependent on Pakistan than it has ever before. And
that means when you catch Pakistan sheltering Osama bin Laden, what a year
later has been said about it, what has did not done about that.
O`DONNELL: Well, the issue is not so much what has been done about
it, but what did the president do when he came to the crossroads of we have
this relationship with Pakistan, but as he said in the campaign, if I find
him there, and if have a clean shot at him, I am going to take that shot.
FRUM: And congratulations. Congratulations to him for that.
On the other hand, all of the people who made it possible for him to
be there, for bin Laden to be there, what has happened to them. I`m sure
there are thick files in the U.S. government about every one of them. And
I`m sure the president has strong feelings about every one of them. But he
can`t do anything about it because as so long as there are 90,000 Americans
that he sent to Afghanistan on a mission that doesn`t look any more
successful today that it did in 2008, he can`t act on Pakistan.
FINNEY: But I think that was the sort of political balance that he
was trying to walk today, right? And in the whole presentation, I mean,
it`s not by mistake that he made the choice to go there. It`s not by
mistake that he made the choice. It`s a security concern frankly, to go in
Air Force One and have that symbolism.
It`s not a mistake that in the speech, he had two very clear
audiences, the Afghani people as well as the American people. And the
clear -- the clearly he was trying to say, we are moving to get out. Not
as fast as most would like, but we are moving to get out. As well as --
FRUM: At the end of the six years, in 2014, what is different from
what was true in 2014 -- in 2008? And I think the answer is going to turn
out to be precious little.
O`DONNELL: Well, what he is saying tonight is, we are laying a
groundwork over these years to create a situation that when we get 2014,
the strike force well keep around to go in there against Taliban and try to
reestablish themselves will be able to do that because of the cooperative
work they --
FRUM: But they could have done that in 2008. Will the Afghanistan
government be any more stable, any more honest, any more competent in 2014
than it was in 2008? What was done with the six years compared to the
price of appeasement of Pakistan?
FINNEY: Well, look, that`s exactly the question that we`re going to
have to be asking ourselves, because as many have said, in `89, when
everybody pulled out, they didn`t have the opportunity to build the civil
society and sort of these other parts in addition to security forces.
Question, I don`t know if any of us believe it is going to happen new. But
OK he`s got to have his shot.
So, clearly, that`s when a was trying to do to say -- I mean, I
thought it was a very interesting point. As you stand up, well stand with
you. As opposed to Bush saying, we`ll stand down. I mean, it clearly have
to send a message to the Afghan people that we`re going to be here with
If that doesn`t work, then at least we can say we`ve tried. I would
rather we not spend the next 10 years trying to figure that out. But I
think he has to take a shot, and he comes out looking for moderate frankly
FRUM: But one of the insights of the Bush years that I think we are
all going to be wearing in the future is Iraq is a genuinely important
place. And Iraq is a place with potential, a lot of problems, but
potential. Afghanistan is the bit that is left over after all of the other
countries of Asia are assembled. There it is in the middle, the part that
is just, the fault line of that -- of all of those mountains, rivers and
nationalities. All put together and President Obama made a huge commitment
in 2008. And President Obama made this huge commitment in 2008. He made
for campaign purposes then and where is he now?
O`DONNELL: But Afghanistan was the important place where 9/11, the
9/11 plot was hatched and that assault was delivered to us from
Afghanistan, not from Iraq. And so, Afghanistan`s importance in some geo-
political sense is not terribly significant historically or in any way.
But as the breeding ground of al Qaeda with, that`s what the president was
reminding us tonight about why we went there in the first place.
FRUM: But now -- but why we stayed and why there are 90,000 as
opposed to -- I mean, I think a lot of things that President Obama said
about the Bush administration and its choices on Afghanistan ring a little
O`DONNELL: Look, President Obama has at this point waged a three-year
war in Afghanistan. What we don`t know is if President Obama had been
commander-in-chief in Afghanistan from the beginning --
FINNEY: That`s right.
O`DONNELL: -- would there ever have been a let-up? I don`t think
there would have been. Would there have been an invasion of Iraq? I don`t
think there would have been.
And if they had stayed in that focus, where would we be today in
Afghanistan? I`ll just say, where would have been three years into that
war in President Obama or commander-in-chief like him had started in 2001?
FRUM: That I can`t know, that we can`t. But we never know what`s
behind the door we didn`t open. But what we can say as we look back on
these three years and giving him credit for the things he got right, that,
you know, maybe one of the things that we learned from the bush years is
don`t give so many accolades to the president in the immediate moment,
because a lot of things look successful at the moment that maybe don`t look
so good later.
FINNEY: But, you know, this is similar to the concern of what we here
on the economy all the time. Like there`s some fantasy land where we can
compare, well, here`s what would have happened if we would have done it
this way versus if we did that way. Here is what he inherited. Here`s
what he`s done over the last years. Here`s what`s been accomplished
against al Qaeda in that timeframe -- and I think he deserves credit for
O`DONNELL: David Frum and Karen Finney -- thank you both very much
for joining me tonight.
Coming up, as you may have noticed, Alec Baldwin is here. And I`m
telling you, I have no idea when he will seize the microphone next. He
might want it talk about President Obama`s new eight-point lead in the key
swing state. And he just might want it talk to Alex Wagner about whatever
they want to talk about.
I have a "Rewrite" plan about Newt Gingrich. But as I said, Alec
Baldwin is here. Anything could happen. Just put down the remote tonight.
This is the night to stay right here.
We`ll be back.
BALDWIN: Which political wife wants you to think of her husband as --
and these are her words -- a wild and crazy guy. A, Callista Gingrich, B,
Jill Biden, or C, Ann Romney.
And is Steve Martin on the short list for the Republican vice
The answer to both of those questions is coming up.
And in the "Rewrite", Newt Gingrich tries to rewrite just how terrific
his presidential campaign was, but he left a little too much video behind.
That`s coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mitt Romney, you`re a racist!
ROMNEY: I`m sorry, I can`t quite hear you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mitt Romney, you`re a racist.
Mitt Romney, you`re a racist. Mitt Romney, you`re a racist.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That`s Mitt Romney getting a big city welcome at his press
conference today with Rudy Giuliani at a New York City firehouse. Romney
and Giuliani delivered pizzas to the firefighters of Engine 24 Ladder 5,
who lost 11 of their own on 9/11. Mitt Romney is doing everything he can
to erase his campaign statement from 2007 about Osama bin Laden.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: I do not concur in the words of Barack Obama, in a plan to
enter a -- an alley of ours and their country in a manner, complete with
bombing and so forth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Here is Romney 2.0 on Osama bin Laden.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: Of course I would have ordered taking out Osama bin Laden.
Had I been president of the United States, I would have made the same
decision the president made, which was to remove him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now is Alex Wagner, host of MSNBC`s "NOW WITH
ALEX WAGNER," and two time Emmy award winner, three time Golden Globe
winner, Oscar nominated star of NBC`s "30 Rock" and registered voter, Alec
Alec, in 2007, the man runs for president. He hears president -- then
Senator Barack Obama say, if necessary, I will violate Pakistan`s
sovereignty in order to get Osama bin Laden. Romney says oh, can`t do
that, can`t do that.
Today, he stands there at a New York City fire station, says I would
have done exactly the same thing.
ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: Things for these guys aren`t going that well.
You know, the economy may stumble. It probably won`t stumble that badly
between now and the election. For those people who look at these very
handy benchmarks like the Dow, the Dow is still staying pretty well above
13,000, which that kind of crowd of Romney`s really, really goes for.
It is the anniversary of this president getting Osama bin Laden. And
I think that the Republicans -- I think that Romney, these guys are really,
really getting scared. They really -- they thought to themselves that
after a tough primary -- and they spent a lot of money on a bloody primary.
It`s been a very ugly primary.
I was one of the people that said very quickly that all Obama needs to
do for the first month of the general election is just slow clips of
Gingrich`s remarks about Romney, just keep showing clips of Gingrich
talking about Romney in order to really get people off that.
O`DONNELL: And then Santorum`s.
BALDWIN: Yeah. All of them. But Gingrich on Romney alone was like
Wagner (ph). And the -- but my point is, it is just these guys are getting
scared. They know that it is not looking good for them. And I think they
are sensing now that they are really going to focus on the Congressional
races and Obama -- it is starting to look like he has it in the bag.
O`DONNELL: Alex Wagner, there is something kind of wonderful about
the Mitt Romney flip-flops, because when you see him doing the new version
of whatever it was -- you know, I`m now against individual mandate, or yes,
of course, I would have done what I used to say what I wouldn`t have done -
- he does it with a -- I don`t know, a kind of --
ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC ANCHOR: A shamelessness.
O`DONNELL: A soullessness that I haven`t seen in someone standing up
in front after microphone like that. And we`ve seen a lot of almost
completely soulless politicians before.
WAGNER: Yesterday Mitt Romney on the campaign trail said, verbatim,
"President Obama takes -- is taking from the poor." President Obama
doesn`t care about the poor. I care about the poor.
You talk about a flip-flop. This is the man that`s embracing the Paul
Ryan Budget, which basically balances our deficit on the backs of the poor.
Vis-a-vis the Romney/Giuliani event today, I think that Republicans have
sort of figured that the president would do something today, given the fact
that it is the one-year anniversary of the bin Laden killing.
The president, in a sort of masterful political stroke -- I mean, say
what you will about it -- goes to Afghanistan and makes the context of this
whole day about our war over there, the soldiers, the blood and treasure
that have been sacrificed, and really positions himself as commander-in-
Mitt Romney is trotting around lower Manhattan with --
BALDWIN: Handing out pizzas.
WAGNER: Handing out pizzas with Rudy Giuliani. There in lies the
difference between the two.
BALDWIN: And honoring people who are in the -- you know, in this
famous fire department and this famous city who lost all these members.
There is nothing wrong with that. I don`t want anyone to say that we are
diminishing honoring and recognizing the fire fighters that are here in New
But for me the most important thing is that Obama shows up. He
stealthily goes into Afghanistan here on this anniversary and he talks
about peace. He is talking about peace. And I`ll tell you one thing, if
you play all these Republican debates -- and they had more debates than
there are games in the NBA season. These guys had debate after debate, you
never heard them once. You never once heard the word peace mentioned.
What I`m proudest of, whether the guy was Republican or Democrat -- he
happens to be a Democrat now -- is we are back to talking about the
language of peace, which I think is very important for the United States
and for the world.
O`DONNELL: Alex, we don`t have a record of President Obama failed
predictions and promises about what will happen in that region. He doesn`t
have one of these mission accomplished moments behind him, where you see,
oh, no, no, that was completely wrong.
WAGNER: No, I think the president has been a pragmatist. And some
people on both the left and the right have pilloried him for that, because
he hasn`t sort of given these dreamscapes of what we`re doing and where it
is going to go.
At the same time, look, we are over there. It is going to be messy.
I that that foreign policy is an area in the coming months where the
president is going to have to do a very, very delicate dance.
That said, I think he has proven very adept at that. And given the
fact that he is willing to highlight on this day, which is a day he could
have basked in the spotlight of just assassinating or killing bin Laden --
he has chosen to go and sort of step into the hornet`s nest that is
Afghanistan. It`s a testament to the real politic of Barack Obama.
O`DONNELL: Now the Romneys began their day on a morning show, which
is where you go when you want to humanize someone. It was Ann Romney`s
mission this morning to humanize Mitt once again. Let`s listen to how she
did that with Charlie Rose this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANN ROMNEY, WIFE OF MITT ROMNEY: For me, I love the opportunity of
letting people see a side of Mitt that often people have mischaracterized.
CHARLIE ROSE, PBS ANCHOR: What side is that?
A. ROMNEY: As stiff. He`s not. He`s funny. I still look at him as
the boy that I met in high school, when he was playing all the jokes and
really just being crazy, pretty crazy. So there`s a wild and crazy man
inside of there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Wild and crazy, the new Romney bumper sticker.
BALDWIN: I think that the two of them are behaving the way everybody
in that situation behalves. She is trying to play that role. It`s not a -
- I don`t think it`s a fun role far woman to go out on the boards now
across this country and try to drum up support for her husband.
And I mean, that doesn`t bother me at all. What I think is most
important here is that what you see now with Romney is -- you know, this is
a very lame analogy maybe, to use a boxing analogy. But when you are the
heavyweight champion and someone wants to take the title away from you,
they have to take the title away from you. They are not going to win on
The tie goes to the guy that holds the belt. I think Romney, he is
not finding an in. He`s not finding a way that is scoring points with the
preponderance of the American people that he`s going to win this on points.
O`DONNELL: Alex, the day that the Obama campaign launches an anti-
Romney ad about his Swiss bank account, wild and crazy on a morning show
probably isn`t the adequate response.
WAGNER: You kind of wish they would give up. It is like, it is a --
BALDWIN: How so.
WAGNER: -- that Teddy Rukspan is a wild and crazy bear. Like you can
literally see her pulling the cord. He is wild and crazy. And yet all
Mitt Romney can do is go ha, ha, ha, over and over and over again. The
winning strategy for Mitt Romney, if there is in fact a winning strategy,
is for him to say, I`m a nerd. I am not cool. I am not particularly warm
and fuzzy. I am Mr. Fix-it.
I am a technocrat, and I`m going fix the economy, over and over and
over again. Because every time he tries to compete with the president on
likeability, on communication, on not being wooden and proving, in fact,
that he does have a wooden heart, he loses. He needs to give it up.
I think Ann Romney is a great surrogate for the broader message. But
in terms of trying to prove that her husband is a wild and crazy guy, it`s
a fruitless endeavor.
BALDWIN: Also Romney to me, although he doesn`t have the same CV as
the first Bush -- he was not a vice president in two terms. He wasn`t the
head of the CIA in the 1970s. Romney is nonetheless a real blue blood
money guy. He is a rich guy. He is a country club guy.
In that way, he is George Bush, the old Bush scenario where he
couldn`t tell people what the price of a half a gallon of milk was. Romney
is as out of touch with the average American as we could possibly find on
the meter today.
In terms of being in touch with the average American, we would be
better off with Gingrich than we would with Romney, in terms of his
personal wealth and his attitude about a lifestyle and so forth.
But -- so for me, Romney is Bush the first again. I think that the
people are beginning to see that. He is a guy -- he is not -- he is not
anywhere near the average American in terms of lifestyle and how they --
O`DONNELL: And stiffer than Bush the first. We have to remember,
Bush the first was actually in World War II, flying those planes in the
Pacific, doing kind of things that Romney`s never come close to
BALDWIN: I think that the thing -- the problem for Romney today,
again, is that, you know, right now Americans are -- I think Americans are
really, really scared, because I think Americans have gotten smarter. I
think Americans know that we had a really close call over the last couple
years economically. And although -- and the roof almost came down on us.
And they have said, we want strong capital markets in this country.
But we want some regulation of those markets. When I talk to someone like
George Will on my radio show that I do for NPR and Will says, defend the
shores and deliver the mail. We want no more regulations, no more
governing agencies. He is a real libertarian that way.
And I want it say, you know, right now Americans know we need strong
capital markets. We don`t want to hamstring Wall Street. But we have to
have some regulations. This guy -- when Romney comes in, he is going to
take a match and burn down the SEC. He is going to burn it down to the
ground. We `re not going to have any -- we will have less regulations than
we had in the last 10 years.
We cannot afford to go back that way. We can`t.
O`DONNELL: We got take a break right here. Alex Wagner, thank you
very much for joining the party tonight. Mr. Baldwin is going to stay with
Coming up, we soon will not have Newt Gingrich to kick around anymore.
so we`re going to kick him around just a little bit tonight.
And during the commercial break, Alec and I will flip a coin to see
which one of us actually does tonight`s Rewrite. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: Time for tonight`s Rewrite. As the long good-bye of the
Gingrich for president campaign continues, Newton Leroy Gingrich posted a
video on the campaign website announcing today that he will announce
tomorrow the end of his campaign, and of course, thanks his supporters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Because of your help and
your support, we were able to put up a terrific campaign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Newt is now the first and no doubt the last historian to
refer to the Gingrich presidential campaign as, quote, "a terrific
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GINGRICH: I`m Newt Gingrich. And I`m announcing my candidacy for
president of the United States.
And I am a grandfather. I have two wonderful grandchildren. I have
two wonderful daughters.
O`DONNELL: I have two wonderful daughters and two great sons in law.
Callista and I have a great marriage. Even though it started as an extra
marital affair. In fact probably because it started as an extra marital
GINGRICH: I don`t think right wing social engineering is any more
desirable than left wing social engineering.
I made a mistake. And I called Paul Ryan today, who is a very close
personal friend, and I said that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you owe a half million dollars to a jewelry
company at one point.
It is very odd to me that someone would run up a half million bill at
a jewelry store.
GINGRICH: Go talk it Tiffany`s. I`ll I`m telling you is we were very
I wish you would put aside the gotcha questions.
I`m much like Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. I am such an
unconventional political figure.
So I would suggest you actually -- as a historian, I may understand
this better than lawyers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She said you asked her, sir, to enter into an open
marriage. Would you like to take some time to respond to that?
I believed for a long time that EMP, or electro magnetic pulse, may be
the greatest strategic threat we face.
By the send of my second term, we will have the first permanent base
on the Moon.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please define yourself using one word and one word
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let`s go to the Manned Space Center in Houston and
our reporter on the scene, Mr. Jamie Garnet. Jamie?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Chet and David.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m sorry, sweetheart. Could you move out of the
way of our camera? We need to talk to our new reporter there, Jamie
Garnet. Now where is he?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m Jamie Garnet, gentlemen. I spoke earlier
with NASA Flight Director Glenn Lunney --
BALDWIN: Listen, doll, you`re not making any sense. You`re probably
hysterical from menstruation. Go lie down and make sure you get plenty of
iron. Maybe eat a ham salad.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m being told that Commander James Lovelle is -
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Look, honey, you have a dynamite
shape. But you`re going to have to shut up and let a man tell us what is
happening. Now is your father or a or a policeman nearby?
BALDWIN: Where did you find that microphone, sugar mouth? Was it
just lying there on the ground? Where is Jamie Garnet?
WILLIAMS: This just in, NBC male news reporter Jamie Garnet is
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m right here you mother --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was the legendary Alec Baldwin playing the legendary
Chet Huntley during last week`s live episode of "30 Rock." Three episodes
left this season, season finale May 17th. And I have no idea who that
other guy was in the scene.
Alec, there was a little comment there on the sexual politics of
BALDWIN: How things have changed.
O`DONNELL: Yes, how things have changed. Here we have what the
Democrats are calling this war on women and talking about issues like
contraception, which we thought had disappeared from political discussion
back when those guys were anchoring NBC News.
BALDWIN: It does seem odd to me, because I think -- I think an
argument could be made that some of the most significant problems around
the world, I mean not looking only from an American perspective but from a
global perspective, are caused by a lack of contraception.
I think that when you start having these conversations -- once again,
those kinds of issues, when they roll out those kinds of issues -- to me,
it only shows how much trouble they are really in, the Republicans.
The Republicans to me are now what the Democrats used to be in what I
call the B.C. period, before Clinton. That was that when they were in the
primary phase, and they had their eventual victor, they all took their
balls and ran home. Not only did they not work that hard to support the
candidate. They didn`t give money from their campaigns to settle the debt.
They kept the money for their own future campaigns and congressional races
and so forth and state houses.
You now have that kind of circular firing squad that you had -- used
to have with the Democrats. Now the Republicans -- Republicans used to
always fall in line. They would always get in line after they had their
nominee. But now it`s not the case any more.
O`DONNELL: I have said on this show repeatedly that the number one
reason to vote for president, and I mean this from either perspective,
Democrat or Republican, is always the United States Supreme Court. You
Tweeted, "this is probably the scariest thing about Mitt Romney, Romney
Court," the possibility of him controlling the next few appointments to the
United States Supreme Court.
BALDWIN: People for the American Way, an organization founded by
Norman Leer, that I have worked with for many years, and Michael Keagan who
is the current president of the organization -- one of the constant
metronomic things that they have been drilling home is the relevance of the
court to people who -- I mean, most people, the court is, you know, an
They don`t realize the impact it has on their day to day lives. And
the media, and particularly even in a more kind of sophisticated media like
NPR, you have people like Cokie Roberts who have done great work in really
bringing that -- those decisions and that work of the Supreme Court into
sharper focus and the consequence of it into sharper focus.
But this court is going to decide obviously the -- the health care
issue. And they are going to make that ruling. And of course, I have no
doubt they are going to time it -- you know, they are probably going to
want to get that decision out there right away to try to nullify the Osama
bin Laden anniversary.
These guys are completely political. This is the most abjectly
politicized Supreme Court I`ve ever seen in my life. I`m only 54 years
old. There are many, many Supreme Courts that were before my time. But in
my lifetime, I can`t imagine we`d be in a worse situation, where people are
making decisions, Bush v. Gore, Citizens United, I mean, things that are
changing the nature of this country, for political reasons.
I had a friend of mine tell me once -- and I won`t -- on a non-
attribution basis -- that he was at a party. And they were at a party.
And a member of the Supreme Court back in 2000 was at this event. And they
were watching the national -- the returns coming in.
And this Supreme Court member was seeing that Gore was going to be
chosen the winner. And the member of the Supreme Court said, "oh, God,
that can`t be." They overheard this person say the phrase, "oh, God, that
can`t be" at a party.
So to say that these people are politically neutral is just folly.
O`DONNELL: Political future, you told "Bloomberg News" recently you
would love to run for mayor of New York. Right around this age that you
are now, our friend Al Franken started to think about maybe I should run
for the United States Senate. Look where he is.
BALDWIN: I think for Franken, the difference was that Coleman had
replaced someone who was very, very popular. You know, Paul Wellstone, I
was in Minnesota and raising money for Paul. I was in the living room of
my dear friend Ruth Usum (ph), who is a big political operative there in
Minnesota. We were in her home in Minneapolis. I was standing next to
Wellstone two weeks before he was killed.
And Coleman took over. And Franken had someone to run against. And
Franken could come in. And even though he was a native son that had left
and made his career in New York and so forth, and in Los Angeles, he went
back and he reinvigorated the kind of Democratic spine of that state,
although that state is a little bit schizophrenic that way.
Here in New York, you have safe Democratic seats across the board
statewide. You have a Democratic governor who essentially walks on water
as far as a lot of people are concerned. He is getting a lot of good
things done. He is cajoling and corralling that -- that horrible estate
house up in Albany.
The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School, the think tank there
writes these white papers and they do these analyses, and they release them
every year. A few years ago, they wrote one which was they analyzed the
state houses of the 50 states. And Albany was ranked 49th in
effectiveness, right above Louisiana.
So I admire what Cuomo`s done in dealing with Albany. You`ve got two
O`DONNELL: We are -- it`s now 11:00 PM. We are out of time. So you
are going to run?
Alec Baldwin gets the last word, and the last word is no. You can
watch - you can follow us online at our blog, thelastword.com. You can
follow my tweets @lawrence, and of course "THE ED SHOW" is up next.
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