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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Monday, May 7, 2012

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Guests: Jonathan Capehart, Krystal Ball, Karen Finney, Melissa Harris-Perry, Joe Conason, Nia-Malika Henderson, Steve Kornacki


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: President Obama says his views on marriage
equality are evolving. It sounds like Joe Biden is evolving a little
faster.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am absolutely
comfortable -- men marrying men, women marrying women are entitled to the
same exact rights.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Tell me what you really think.

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC HOST: Joe Biden clearly was speaking from his
heart.

MATTHEWS: It certainly struck the White House by surprise.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What the vice president
said yesterday --

MITCHELL: They came out so quickly.

CARNEY: -- was to make the same point the president has made.

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: It`s a delicate dance he has to do.

MITCHELL: This was Joe Biden being Joe Biden.

MARTIN BASHIR, MSNBC HOST: The vice president isn`t the only member
of the Obama administration.

WAGNER: Arne Duncan.

BASHIR: Education Secretary Arne Duncan --

WAGNER: -- was asked if he supports gay marriage.

BASHIR: -- was asked about it this morning.

WAGNER: -- to which he answered --

ARNE DUNCAN, EDUCATION SECRETARY: Yes, I do.

WAGNER: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And they knew it would come up. Mitt Romney
had to let go of his spokesman who is gay.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s right.

AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Today on the campaign trail, something
important happened --

BASHIR: Mitt Romney was asked a question.

SHARPTON: -- that we need to talk about.

BASHIR: Someone said something about the president being responsible
for treason.

SHARPTON: Try the president for treason.

MATTHEWS: Wait a minute, wait a minute here.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don`t correct all the
questions that get asked of me.

MATTHEWS: Yet again, a Sister Soulja moment.

SHARPTON: A failure to lead.

BASHIR: More Mitt Romney V.P. auditions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The battle over who will be the next vice
president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like Fight Club.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first rule about the veep fight club, we
don`t talk about it, right?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I`m not going to discuss the vice
presidency.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I had great experience as attorney general.

BRAD PITT, ACTOR: You do not talk about Fight Club.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The presidential election in November, it`s going
to be a nail biter.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will move this
country forward. We will finish what we started. God bless you. God
bless the United States of America.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: With two new polls out today showing President Obama and
Mitt Romney in a tie, the campaign issue of the day is marriage equality.
The new "Politico"/George Washington University poll shows Romney at 48
percent and President Obama at 47 percent, while a "U.S. Today"/Gallup poll
of 12 key swing states has President Obama at 47 percent and Romney at 45
percent.

One of those swing states is North Carolina, where Amendment One, an
amendment that would ban same sex marriage in the state would be on the
ballot tomorrow. President Obama quietly registered his opposition to the
North Carolina amendment two months ago in a written statement put out by
his North Carolina campaign spokesmen.

But what Joe Biden said on "Meet the Press" yesterday put marriage
equality in the center of the campaign today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS: The Is that what you believe?

BIDEN: That`s what I believe.

GREGORY: You`re comfortable with same-sex marriage now?

BIDEN: I -- look, I am vice president of the United States of
America. The president sets the policy. I am absolutely comfortable with
the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women, and heterosexual are
entitled to the same exact rights -- all the civil rights, all the civil
liberties. And quite frankly, I don`t see much of a distinction beyond
that.

GREGORY: In a second term will this administration come out behind
same-sex marriage? The institution of marriage?

BIDEN: I can`t speak to that. I don`t know the answer to that. But
I can tell you --

GREGORY: It sounds like you would like to see it happen if that`s
where the president --

BIDEN: The president continues to fight, whether it`s "don`t ask,
don`t tell," or whether it`s making sure across the board that you cannot
discriminate. It`s just -- this is evolving.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Evolving is the word President Obama used to describe his
own feelings on marriage equality at a news conference on the day he signed
the repeal of "don`t ask, don`t tell."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: My feelings about this are constantly evolving. I struggle
with this. I have friends, I have people who work for me who are in
powerful, strong, long lasting gay or lesbian unions

My baseline is a strong civil union that provides protections and
legal rights that married couples have, and I think that`s the right thing
to do. But I recognize that from their perspective this is not enough.
And I think this is something that we`re going to debate and I personally,
am going to continue to wrestle with going forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now are: Jonathan Capehart, a "Washington
Post" opinion writer and MSNBC political analyst; and Krystal Ball, a
Democratic strategist and MSNBC contributor.

Krystal, when President Obama says that, quote, "I personally am
going to continue to wrestle with this going forward" -- he means wrestle
with it politically, right?

KRYSTAL BALL, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think so. I mean, is there
anyone who actually believes that the president does not really personally
support marriage equality, which he supported back when he was a state
senator and it has been somewhat of a political calculus.

Now, for someone like me who really strongly marriage equality and,
you know, equality for gays and lesbians across the board, it`s a tricky
place to be, because on the one hand, we are kind of like, could you go
ahead and evolve already? But on the other hand, the legislation that he
has passed has been quite remarkable. I mean, "don`t ask, don`t tell," is
just -- the repeal about is just the beginning of that. He`s also not
defending DOMA, which is quite important.

In fact, his openly gay DNC treasurer, Andy Tobias, put together a
list of 75 actions that this president has taken to support LGBT rights.

So, you don`t want to undermine the really good work that he has done
by the fact that he hasn`t explicitly come out to support marriage
equality.

O`DONNELL: Well, let`s listen to what the president has said about -
- he`s got a political resume. We`ll listen to him on this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I met with Judy Shepherd. I promised her we would pass a
hate crimes bill named for her son Matthew. And with the help of my dear
friend Ted Kennedy, we got it done. I issued an order that any hospital in
America that accepts Medicare or Medicaid, and that means just about every
hospital, has to treat gay partners just as they do straight partners.

I said that we would lift that HIV travel ban. We got that done.

"Don`t ask, don`t tell" is history.

My administration is no longer defending DOMA in the courts. I
believe the law runs counter to the Constitution. And it`s time for it to
end once and for all and should join "don`t ask, don`t tell" in the history
books.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Jonathan Capehart, we`re just watching someone who has to
play politics with this and there are limits to the politics as they
calculate for their reelection, right? I mean, this guy is in favor of
marriage equality. But the politician is trying to get re-elected can`t
say that.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, look, today, I wrote
a piece where I said that it appears as though the president is playing a
big game of charades. If you look at his actions, they sound like he is in
favor of marriage equality. They look like he is in favor of marriage
equality. He just won`t say the words.

And to echo what Krystal said, you know, the president -- what people
are waiting for the president to do is have his words match up with his
deeds.

He is already not defending the so-called Defense of Marriage Act
against court action. He believes it`s unconstitutional and the Department
of Justice has an opinion supporting that.

He`s already said that he would sign Senator Dianne Feinstein`s
sponsored legislation that would repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage
Act. So, if a bill were to come to his desk, he would sign it, thereby
eliminating this needles ban on same-sex marriage.

So, you know, if he is involved in some twisted game of political
calculus, again, echoing what Krystal said, you know, I understand what he
is doing and I understand why he might be doing it -- but still when it
comes to people`s rights, their civil rights, their personal dignity and
how they are able to protect their families and keep their families whole,
people don`t have time for -- don`t have time or patience for politics.

And in that montage, things that you showed from the Human Rights
Campaign dinner in October of 2011, I was at the dinner. And one of the
things that the president said at that dinner and the dinner he attended in
2009, was that he doesn`t expect people to be patient with the slow pace of
change and that friends can talk honestly with each other and he expects
the gay and lesbian community to push him in the right direction.

And so, I think that pushing is going to continue to get harder and
actually become more emphatic, because as everyone knows, this election is
going to be pivotal.

BALL: Well, let`s remember that Mitt Romney has also evolved on this
issue. He has evolved very much in the wrong direction.

I mean, a little bit of a reality check. He just had his foreign
affairs spokesperson have to leave the campaign because he is openly gay.
Meanwhile, on our side, we have the vice president of the United States
coming out pretty clearly in favor of marriage equality. I mean, I think
that in itself is pretty remarkable. And it seems to me like the whole
country is really evolving along with the president.

O`DONNELL: Jonathan, is there any doubt that Joe Biden was
authorized to say that on "Meet the Press"?

CAPEHART: I think there`s a bit of confusion. There are folks who
are wondering if this all a bit of Kabuki Theater, that it`s all arranged.
That first you have Vice President Biden on "Meet the Press," and then you
had Duncan on "MORNING JOE" earlier saying "yes, I do" to the question do
you support same-sex marriage.

But we have to keep something in mind, that it was almost
instantaneous from the moment that Vice President Biden`s words were aired
on "Meet the Press" that David took to Twitter to knock it back or walk it
back.

So, I don`t think this is an orchestrated attempt by the
administration to telegraph a certain message to moderates and to the gay
community. As Andrea Mitchell said in your opening, this is just Joe being
Joe.

BALL: Joe being Joe.

And I think the president is probably concerned about some of the
more socially conservative constituents in the Democratic Party, in
particular, African-Americans and Latinos who may be less comfortable with
this.

But from my vantage point, you know, we have been so concerned about
recapturing the enthusiasm of young voters and this is an issue that young
voters tend to really care a lot about. And I personally think that if the
president were to come out strongly for marriage equality, he could
reenergize some of the young voters who dropped off or a little less
interested.

O`DONNELL: Jonathan mentioned Arne Duncan on "MORNING JOE" this
morning. I want to see that right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe that same sex men and women should
be able to get legally married in the United States?

ARNE DUNCAN, EDUCATION SECRETARY: Yes, I do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you ever said that publicly before?

DUNCAN: I don`t know if I`ve ever been asked publicly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Jonathan, when cabinet members go on national television,
their appearances are coordinated with the White House. They go over what
they are going to be saying.

After Joe Biden was on "Meet the Press," surely there was a
conversation on what he should say and the answer to that question. That
one could not have been thought of to just come out of left field.

CAPEHART: You`re talking about Vice President Biden.

O`DONNELL: No, no.

CAPEHART: Arne Duncan.

O`DONNELL: Arne Duncan, the fact that he backs it up the next day
with an even stronger statement than Joe Biden, as far as I can tell, a
very simple definitive answer. That would have had to have been
coordinated with the White House, especially after the Biden appearance.

CAPEHART: You know, Lawrence, I understand where you are coming
from, but I just can`t join you in that conspiracy booth because --

O`DONNELL: I don`t mean conspiracy. They do go over their talking
points with the White House when ever a cabinet member goes on TV.

CAPEHART: But remember, Arne Duncan is the education secretary. I
don`t think anyone expected that he would be asked about same sex marriage,
figured that they went over everything he would be in terms of education
policy. But not that question. The key will be --

O`DONNELL: They`re better than that in the White House press office.

CAPEHART: But here`s the key. Here`s the key. The next secretary
to go on air anywhere on television, anywhere in front of print reporters
better be ready to have an answer for that question, because now, we`re
going to start taking a tally of where the cabinet is on this question.

BALL: I`m actually with Lawrence on this one. I think they are
trying to telegraph to the left in every way that we can, we are with you
on this issue even if the president can`t come right out and say it
directly. You know, the actions -- as you put it, Jonathan -- really speak
louder than the words here.

And just wait. Just be a little patient because we`re having to deal
with the politics of it.

O`DONNELL: Well, we`ll see if telegraphing works.

Krystal Ball and Jonathan Capehart -- thank you both very much for
joining me tonight.

BALL: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up -- tomorrow, North Carolina votes on a
constitutional amendment that will ban marriage equality in that state.
Many pastors in North Carolina support that amendment. Tonight, you will
hear a North Carolina pastor who opposes it.

And what he has to say is absolutely riveting. You need to hear
this. You will be sending the video of this to your friends and we will
have it posted online after the show.

And Mitt Romney caves to an anti-gay right winger last week and now
that very same anti-gay right winger thinks that Mitt Romney is weak
because Mitt Romney caved to him. That`s coming up.

And the polling of the gender gap continues to hold for President
Obama in key swing states as he launches the campaign and the first lady is
out there with him, front and center. Melissa Harris-Perry is going to
join me on that one.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: North Carolina votes tomorrow to rewriting the state
constitution to ban on gay marriage. Now, many pastors in North Carolina
are obviously in favor of that amendment. But we`ll show you a pastor who
opposes it.

The eloquent and moving statement that he made yesterday should
convince many North Carolina voters to do the right thing. You will hear
exactly what he said, coming up.

And, an obscure right wing fanatic bullied Mitt Romney into getting
rid of a campaign staffer and now the man who bullied Romney thinks Romney
is weak because Romney gave into him so easily. This is the one you`re
going to have to hear to believe. It`s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRYAN FISCHER, RADIO HOST: If Mitt Romney can be pushed around,
intimidated, coerced, co-opted by a conservative radio talk show host in
middle America, then how is he going to stand up to the Chinese?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: OK. This is as good as it gets. That is right winger
Bryan Fischer, the man who forced the Romney campaign last week to drop
openly gay campaign staffer Richard Grenell, and which conservative radio
talk show host do you think he is talking about? Which one was Romney so
afraid of?

No, not this guy. And no, not that guy. No.

The conservative radio talk show host that Bryan Fischer is talking
about, the one who Mitt Romney is so afraid of is none other than Bryan
Fischer himself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FISCHER: How is he going to stand up to Putin, how is he going to
stand up to North Korea if he can be pushed around by a yokel like me? I
mean, I don`t think Romney is realizing the doubts that this begins to
raise about his leadership.

(END VIDEDO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Now, Bryan Fischer is criticizing for caving to Bryan
Fischer over having a gay staff member in his campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FISCHER: I don`t think for one minute that Mitt Romney did not want
this guy gone, he wanted this guy gone because there was not word of
defense, not a peep from Romney camp to defend him. They just went
absolutely stone cold silent. They put a bag over Grenell`s head. They
even asked him to organize this phone conference and they didn`t let him
speak at the conference that he organized.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now, editor in chief of that nationalmemo.com,
Joe Conason, and former DNC communications director and current MSNBC
political analyst, Karen Finney.

Joe, so it turns out Bryan Fischer is only half crazy.

JOE CONASON, THE NATIONAL MEMO: Seems that way.

O`DONNELL: Because he is right tonight.

CONASON: He is right for all the wrong reason. He`s suggesting that
Mitt Romney is too weak to be leading our diplomacy just as a China
incident showed the same thing, when he peeped up about that in the middle
of negotiations over the fate of Chen Guangcheng. Now he`s gotten rid of
somebody who he thought was qualified to be his foreign policy spokesman,
for a very sensitive position, because of this yahoo who says why is he
listening to me? You know, Bryan Fischer called himself a yokel in that
clip.

O`DONNELL: He did. It`s not a word that I use on my show.

(CROSSTALK)

CONASON: But he said it. Like --

O`DONNELL: Self-described.

CONASON: Self-described yokel -- would you listen to a self-
described yokel tell you get rid of my foreign policy spokesman. I mean,
look at the people who are the spokespeople in the State Department for
years -- under President Clinton, under President Reagan, under both
Presidents Bush, serious important job. It`s not a joke.

And for Mitt Romney to get rid of a guy after a few days just
because, which you have to assume it took him a while to pick this person
and he gets rid of him because a yokel tells him this guy has got to go
because he`s gay? This harkens back to a time in our diplomatic service,
which was a very dark period when people were kicked out because of various
kinds of prejudice and our diplomacy and our intelligence services, our
military all suffered from that.

We don`t need to go back to that under Mitt Romney.

O`DONNELL: And, Karen, the point he`s making, that fisher is making,
is, hey, if you can`t stand up to me, who can you stand up to? I mean,
that is a really valid point.

KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Of course it is. I mean,
it`s lovely for him to make that point for us, don`t you think? I mean
that is --

O`DONNELL: No one can make it better than he can make it, it turns
out.

FINNEY: I know. Particularly, I have to say, one thing you and Joe
left out is the fact that I love that he talks about himself as a yokel
in the third person. You just can`t pay for that kind of stuff.

But, you know, look, this is similar to what many of us said about
Rush Limbaugh in that if they can`t stand up to Rush Limbaugh, if they are
so scared to stand up to Rush Limbaugh, how are they going to take on Iran?
They think they`re going to bomb Iran but they can`t stand up to Limbaugh?
And I guess they can`t stand up to this self-proclaimed yokel?

I mean, on a serious note, you know, remember that the same so-called
yokel were saying last week, hey, this shows that we`ve got control of this
guy. This shows that when this guy steps out of line, we can whip him
right back in line. And I think that is really at the heart of the matter
in terms of you can`t trust Mitt Romney to he`s going to be so beholden to
so many different forces on the right wing that this is what`s going to
happen, this is what a Romney presidency would look like.

O`DONNELL: And let`s just remember Mitt Romney`s words when he
wouldn`t stand up to Limbaugh when Limbaugh was calling Sandra Fluke a
prostitute and a slut, and all of that Mitt Romney who has no daughters
himself couldn`t bring himself to say anything more than "I`ll just say
this, it`s not the language I would have used."

I mean, that`s who -- let`s go to Ohio today. He was faced with a
woman who said that President Obama was guilty of treason. Let`s see how
he handled that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: There is a microphone right behind you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have a president that is operating outside
the structure of our Constitution.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I want to know -- I want to know, I want --
yes, I do agree, he should be tried for treason.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: She then went into a long thing that turned out to be a
constitutional question and here is Mitt Romney`s response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Well, as I`m sure you do, I happen to believe that the
Constitution was not just brilliant but probably inspired. I believe the
same thing about the Declaration of Independence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: So, Mitt Romney never says a word, not one word about
this woman saying Obama should be tried for treason, unlike John McCain,
who in his turn last time around, when faced with, you know, these crazy
accusations, he actually stood to some people.

CONASON: That`s an important contrast. John McCain, for all his
conservatism, for his crankiness actually during that campaign towards
Obama, who he didn`t enjoy running against, never the less is somebody that
has principles that he is willing to speak out for, and he`s not afraid for
a crowd of right wing yahoos. This guy is. He showed it over and over
again.

O`DONNELL: Karen, let`s listen to what Romney said when a reporter
asked him why didn`t you answer her or say something to her about the
president being tried for treason. Let`s listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Is there a reason you didn`t correct her or say that you
wouldn`t?

ROMNEY: I answered the question.

REPORTER: But you don`t agree with her answer?

ROMNEY: I don`t correct all the questions that get asked of me. I
don`t agree he should be tried.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: He doesn`t correct those questioners.

FINNEY: No, that`s not his job. He is just trying to close the
deal. Come on.

I mean, look,, one of the most core tenets of leadership is the
ability to understand the important of what is happening while it`s
happening. And by that I mean, a true leader would have understood the
need to stop that part of the question to say I don`t agree with that and
go on with the rest of the question. In the same way, as you mentioned,
that John McCain did during the last cycle when a woman was talking about
President Obama being a Muslim.

You know, for all the attacks that they make on Obama and his
leadership, this is a real failure of Romney`s leadership.

And I just want to go back real quickly on Sandra Fluke point, you
know, he doesn`t have daughters, but he has five daughters in law, he has
granddaughters. So certainly from a very personal place and personal
perspective, he could have stood up for women and girls, without it being
seen as politically motivated, and he didn`t do that either.

O`DONNELL: It`s his fear of saying anything to that the woman about
the treason, it reminds me of the Don Draper scenes in "Mad Men" when he
gets very mad at anyone in of those corporate meetings who says something
additional that was unnecessary to say to the client, we could go on and on
with this.

Joe Conason and Karen Finney, thank you both very much for joining me
tonight.

Coming up, Melissa Harris Perry reviews Michelle Obama`s star turn on
the campaign trail Saturday in Ohio.

And you`ll hear a North Carolina pastor -- no, no, no. You won`t
hear him. You will be riveted by a North Carolina pastor who preaches
against the amendment on the North Carolina ballot tomorrow to ban same sex
marriage. That`s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: The process of selecting a vice president is obviously a very
serious one. It`s one I am not talking about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Mitt Romney may not be talking about it, but the potential
VP candidates are.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. KELLY AYOTTE (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: I have great experiences,
attorney general of this state. I`m very proud of that experience. I
would say that I have -- some would say better experience than Barack Obama
had when he was a senator and ran, having been the chief law enforcement
officer of my state. I serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

But again, what it comes down to for me is serving New Hampshire.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That was New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte for the job
yesterday on "Meet the Press." Meanwhile, friends of New Jersey Governor
Chris Christie say he has VP dreams. According to the "National Review,"
sources close to Christie say he would, quote, "relish the opportunity to
play at that level. As one Garden State operative puts it, it is like
asking Joe Dimagio if he wants to play alongside Mickey Mantel. Christie
would help the team, but he may steal the spotlight."

Joining me now are Nia-Malika Henderson, a national political reporter
for the "Washington Post," and Steve Kornacki, a political columnist for
Salon.com and an MSNBC political analyst.

Nia-Malika, how was Senator Kelly Ayotte`s audition yesterday on "Meet
the Press"?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, "THE WASHINGTON POST": You know, I think at
some point she actually left her resume there and was passing it around.
That is practically what she was doing there. I think in some ways she was
breaking the first rule of being in the VP stakes, which is that you don`t
seem to want the job. You don`t campaign so openly for the job.

She certainly was there. Very surprising that she had done that. Of
course, a couple of days earlier, she had been on the stump doing a sort of
try out with Mitt Romney in New Hampshire. But boy, she certainly seems to
have -- want the job. And you see all these other folks like Chris
Christie, all of a sudden, stepping up and saying, he could be convinced to
take this job.

So this is the first really public display I have seen of this. If
you think back to the previous VP stakes, this to me seems to be a real
oddity, in that so many folks are seeming to try out for the job.

O`DONNELL: Yes, it is fun watching the newcomers like Rubio and also
Christie kind of letting it be known that, yes -- kind of yes, of course I
would say yes. Let`s listen to what John McCain said yesterday. He gave
Mitt Romney some advice yesterday about how to do this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The primary, the absolute most
important aspect is, if something happened to him, would that person be
well qualified to take that place? I happen to believe that was a primary
factor in my decision in 2008. I know it will be Mitt`s.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: OK, that`s the funniest thing that guy has said this year,
Steve Kornacki, that the primary factor in choosing Sarah Palin in 2008
was, you know, she is well qualified to be president of the United States.

STEVE KORNACKI, SALON.COM: Readiness for the presidency --

(CROSS TALK)

KORNACKI: -- in Alaska, that was clearly the reason to put her on the
ticket. The Palin selection, though, does -- what really brought about the
Palin selection, not her vast experience in government, does speak to the
challenge that Mitt Romney has here, though. Because John McCain was sort
of in the same position that Mitt Romney now is in, which is that the base
really doesn`t necessarily like or trust him.

They are sort of waiting for the moment when he sells them out.
They`re looking to this as a test. This is a loyalty test to them. So he
needs somebody who has solid credentials with the conservative base of the
party. That`s what sort of caused McCain to overreach. He wanted somebody
with those credentials, and he wanted somebody who would excite the masses.
So you look at that right now, Romney`s sort -- he`s playing from behind.
He needs to keep the base on board. So he`s sort of facing the same
challenge her.

O`DONNELL: We have got another audition this week. Marco Rubio was
on Fox News this weekend. He ended up having to defend his inexperience in
national politics. Let`s listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I certainly am not the most
experienced person in Washington D.C. But by the same token, I certainly
have experience at serving in government and particularly in the
legislative branch, in one of the largest and more complex states in the
country in terms of public policy. And the good news is that every day
that goes by, I gain more experience on these things.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Nia-Malika, that`s a job interview answer.

HENDERSON: That`s right. It is. And he, of course, is following
along the lines of Kelly Ayotte in laying out his credentials there. I
think obviously Marco Rubio is an attractive choice because he is from
Florida. This is a state with 29 electoral votes, up from two in 2008.
The idea -- the conventional wisdom there is that he could be a game
changer, in the sense that he could close the gap that Mitt Romney has with
Latino voters, the same sort of gap you saw with John McCain.

Again, I think, if you look at Marco Rubio, he has sort of a young
face. He`s a young guy. I think he`s 40. I think -- I`m not necessarily
certain that when people look at Marco Rubio, that they see a president.
But I do think one of the things that all of these potential candidates are
taking advantage of is that they are raising their national profiles.

They -- everything that Marco Rubio does from now on is going to be
taken a look at.

O`DONNELL: Steve Kornacki, you are our -- THE LAST WORD`s senior New
Jersey political analyst. So quickly before we go, the pros and cons of
Chris Christie for VP?

KORNACKI: The pros is basically he would excite the base. He has got
that charisma. He basically is with them, especially on the economic
stuff. I think they would like Chris Christie a lot.

That is also the con. They would like him too much. They`d be too
excited about him. It is sort of his volatility, his unpredictability, all
of that charisma, that is what gives him the charisma. That`s what Mitt
Romney is sort of lacking. So you have the risk, A, that he overshadows
Mitt Romney; he becomes the start of the ticket. Romney doesn`t want that.

But B, that unpredictability could cause serious headaches for Romney.
The incident I think of is earlier this year, when Romney didn`t want to
put his taxes out. Who went out and made him do it? It was his surrogate
Chris Christie who went on "The Today Show." You can`t have your VP doing
that.

O`DONNELL: Steve Kornacki and Nia-Malika Henderson on the VP stakes,
thank you both for joining me tonight.

KORNACKI: Sure.

HENDERSON: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, the president holds his lead among women in new
polling. And Michelle Obama is doing everything she can to help him build
that lead. Melissa Harris-Perry joins me.

And as North Carolina considers rewriting its constitution tomorrow to
ban same sex marriage, a North Carolina pastor steps up and Rewrites the
question every voter should be asking themselves before they cast that vote
tomorrow in North Carolina. You will hear what that pastor has to say next
in the Rewrite.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REV. DR. WILLIAM J. BARBER II, NORTH CAROLINA NAACP PRESIDENT:
However you feel about same sex marriage, religiously or personally or
morally -- you can be for or against -- you should always be against
division and hatred and discrimination being written into the Constitution.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Tomorrow, North Carolina voters will be given a chance to
Rewrite the state Constitution, adding to it a ban on same sex marriage.
The latest polls indicate that this amendment has majority support in North
Carolina. The man you just heard believes that is because North Carolina
voters are not asking themselves the right question about the amendment.

The Reverend Dr. William J. Barber is the pastor of Green Leaf
Christian Church in Goldsburrough (ph), North Carolina. He rose to speak
against the amendment at a press conference yesterday. And if the good
people of North Carolina listen to him, that amendment does not have a
chance.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARBER: I would say to the media when they do the polls, they`re
going to ask people -- they say, how do you feel about same sex marriage?
That`s not the question on the ballot. It should have never been asked.

You can`t vote on religion. We have the freedom from and of religion.
That should have never been the question. The question that should have
been raised is, do you want to go against constitutional history? And that
is since the passage of 13th and 14th and 15th Amendments, we have always
expanded rights. We have never decreased rights.

We know better. The only time we limited is in 1875. That was the
last time we tried this marriage thing, 1875, North Carolina. We amended
the Constitution to disallow interracial marriage. The question should
have been, do you want to go backwards in Constitutional history. The
question should have been, do you believe in a state`s right strategy that
seeks to trump the federal protections of the 14th Amendment?

And you know state`s rights is what George Wallace and them did.
Martin Luther King called it in his speech (INAUDIBLE) and nullification.
The question should not have been not how you feel about same sex marriage,
but do you believe that a majority, by popular vote, should get to decide
the rights of the minority?

That`s a dangerous precedent. Because that means that the rights of
people are determined by who is in the majority at a particular time. Do
you want to vote on an amendment that makes the only domestic union between
a man and a woman, thereby undermining the rights of other couples and
possibly the rights of children and the rights of those who may be victims
of domestic violence?

Do you want to vote on an amendment where every law school in this
state, all of the family lawyers from every law school in this state, has
said it`s bad law? Do you want to vote on an amendment that the
legislature didn`t even allow public comment on?

Do you want to vote on an amendment where they would not even allow
lawyers to help them write the law?

The question should have been all along, do you -- not how you feel
about same sex marriage, but do you believe we should vote on
discrimination and hate and division in the Constitution?

When we have carried that message across this state to the grass
grove, when we have cut through the Trojan Horse tricks of the Tea Party
backed force, and asked people, do you think we ought to be tampering and
trying to amend the 14th amendment or section one of the Constitution, do
you believe, especially in the south, with all of our ugly -- in the south
where if we had that -- if we had had to vote on -- on the laws that
protect us today in the south -- and some of them if we probably put them
up to a popular vote today -- if we put the Voting Rights Act up for a vote
today in the south, if we put the Civil Rights Act of `64 up for a vote
today in the south, if we put the Fair Housing Act up for a vote today in
the south, it would probably be deleted.

And you believe in the south, we ought to be putting people`s rights
up for a popular vote?

So we go forward from this place, let all us say that we read the
Greek classics, too. We know what a Trojan Horse looks like. And Troy may
have been fooled, but we are not.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(APPLAUSE)

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Oh my goodness. Oh
my. Oh wow.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That applause for Michelle Obama went on and on and on.
And that was before she even began to speak at President Obama`s kick-off
in Columbus, Ohio this weekend. Now that the country has been introduced
to a Republican presidential candidate who was born rich and got much
richer, keeps his hundreds of millions of dollars in strange places like
Swiss bank accounts and the Cayman Islands, and who has handed his children
100 million dollar trust fund, Michelle Obama re-introduced her husband to
Ohio this way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

M. OBAMA: We all know what our president stands for, right? He is
the son of a single mother who struggled to put herself through school and
pay the bills. That`s who he is.

He is the grandson of a woman who woke up before dawn every day to
catch a bus to her job at the bank. And even though Barack`s grandmother
worked hard to help support her family, she was good at her job. Like so
many women, she hit that glass ceiling. And men no more qualified than she
was were promoted up the ladder ahead of her.

So believe me, Barack knows what it means when a family struggles. He
knows what it means when someone doesn`t have a chance to fulfill their
potential. And what you need to know, America, those are the experiences
that have made him the man and the president he is today.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now is Melissa Harris-Perry, host of "MELISSA
HARRIS- PERRY," weekends at 10:00 AM, right here on MSNBC. Melissa, I am
struck that we have a president who has served almost a full term. The
country knows everything about this man. And here we see Michelle Obama
going back to the politics of personal biography.

MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: Yes. And both her biography and
the president`s. So just before she began to reiterate President Obama`s
biography, she had talked about her own and sort of what it meant to grow
up on the South Side of Chicago with two parents who were working to put
their kids through college.

She talked about her father making a contribution to her college
education, even though most of her college education was paid for with
student loans. So generating that sense of empathy between the First
Family and American citizens, who are in this moment of economic struggle.

So I don`t think it`s about sort of that we don`t remember the Obama`s
biographies. It`s rather, that they are trying to re-emphasize in the
context of the campaign that even though they have been in the White House
for the past four years, that the White House and that sort of rarified air
is actually very new, that they are much more so than Mitt Romney sort of
the up from family, a family that has made good on what the American
promise is supposed to be.

O`DONNELL: And they -- certainly she seems to be welcoming any
comparison anyone wants to make when they are hearing this to the Romney
experience in America. I want to point out a polling item that is really
quite striking now. That is this question of shares your values, which
normally -- normally the Republican presidential candidate has a lead on
this. But President Obama has a 10 point lead, 50 to 40 percent, on shares
your values.

That is normally just surrendered by the Democratic nominee to the
Republican nominee.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, this president really has taken two things away
from the Republicans. One is strength on foreign policy, sort of his
position on foreign policy over the past four years, particularly the
killing of Osama bin Laden and the drawing down of troops in Iraq and now
in Afghanistan.

And then secondly this sense of sort of I know -- I know what you`re
suffering from. I have experienced the same kinds of struggles. Really
the main challenge that this president faces when it comes to reelection is
the issue of the still struggling economy. As long as -- even if it is
happening in relatively small incriminates, as long as that unemployment
rate is ticking down, and as long as there are signs of growth -- I got to
tell you, I actually think that "The Avengers" doing as well as it did at
the box office this weekend is a sign of economic prosperity, because
people just don`t go spend money on a family movie unless they are feeling
like they have a little wiggle room in their budget.

So these are all good signs for the president.

O`DONNELL: The president has a lead among women voters. It seems
that they will be hoping that Michelle Obama can actually build that lead.

HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, absolutely. Michelle Obama is there as First Lady
not only for women voters, but undoubtedly also for just whole groups of
sort of middle class voters who will see Michelle and recognize themselves
in her. But I think for women voters in particular, because Michelle Obama
was, for so many years, a working spouse, a working mother -- and by
working, I mean working outside the home for pay, in addition to her work
as a parent.

And now over the past four years obviously as First Lady, she hasn`t
worked outside the home, but she has that clear sense of all the struggles
that contemporary women face.

O`DONNELL: MSNBC`s working mother, Melissa Harris-Perry, the working
outside the home mother, gets THE LAST WORD. Thanks, Melissa.

HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: THE ED SHOW is up next.

END


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