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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Read the transcript to the Tuesday show

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Guests: Krystal Ball, E.J. Dionne, Alicia Menendez, Erin McPike, Richard Socarides, Ana Marie Cox, Bob Cusack



LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Mitt Romney has a new attack plan
against President Obama. First, say everything President Obama has done is
bad, very bad. And then if that doesn`t work, take credit for every good
thing that President Obama has done.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARTIN BASHIR, MSNBC HOST: There`s one company that continues to get
free publicity from Mitt Romney every day, the makers of etch-a-sketch.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In 2008, you said, and I`m quoting, we should
let Detroit go bankrupt.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That`s exactly what I said.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then, yesterday, all of a sudden --

ROMNEY: The companies got back on their feet. So I`ll take a lot of
credit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s taking credit for saving the auto industry.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Mitt Romney saved Detroit.

ROMNEY: I`ll take a lot of credit.

MATTHEWS: Or so he says.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you explain this one?

BASHIR: The auto rescue --

ROMNEY: Let Detroit go bankrupt.

BASHIR: Was his idea now.

MATTHEWS: What do you make of this chutzpah?

BASHIR: Back a couple of years ago, Mr. Romney said --

ROMNEY: Let Detroit go bankrupt.

BASHIR: What?

ROMNEY: Yes, they need to go bankrupt.

BASHIR: What?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hold politicians to account --

ROMNEY: The companies got back on their feet --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For the lies they tell.

ROMNEY: So I`ll take a lot of credit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Certainly some chutzpah.

MATTHEWS: Chutzpah, let`s all say it together.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: North Carolina voting today.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Whether gays and
lesbians should be able to get married.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On Amendment One.

OBAMA: My feelings on this are constantly evolving.

MATTHEWS: Stop saying your position is evolving.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: His views on this were
evolving.

MATTHEWS: Just come out and say it already.

OBAMA: I struggle with this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s not popular in swing states.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: You`re against banning gay marriage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And could turn people off.

TODD: But not for it.

OBAMA: I struggle with this.

MATTHEWS: What should the president do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He should man up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The numbers are shifting.

MATTHEWS: Support for gay marriage is just about down the middle.

UNIDENTFIEID FEMALE: Fifty percent favor, 41 percent oppose.

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Men marrying men,
women marrying women. I am absolutely comfortable.

LADY GAGA: Obama, I know that you`re listening.

BIDEN: No one`s ever doubted I mean what I say.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: Joe Biden being Joe Biden.

BIDEN: The problem is I sometimes say all that I mean.

LADY GAGA: Are you listening?!

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: Mitt Romney has a new campaign tactic: Taking President
Obama`s successes and saying that he would have done the same thing, even
though Mitt Romney is already on record saying that he wouldn`t.

Here was Romney trying out the new tactic last week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Would you have gone after Bin Laden?

ROMNEY: Of course.

REPORTER: You would`ve given the order, Governor?

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Of course, that`s the same Mitt Romney who said this in
2007, when he was running for president.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I do not concur -- in the words of Barack Obama, in a plan
to enter an ally of ours and their country in a manner complete with
bombing and so forth.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And now, the same Mitt Romney who opposed President
Obama`s intervention that saved the American automobile industry, that same
Mitt Romney says not that he would have done the same thing, but that he
actually did, himself, save the auto industry.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: My own view, by the way, was that the auto companies needed
to go through bankruptcy before government help. And frankly, that`s
finally what the president did. He finally took them through bankruptcy.
That was the right course. I argued for it from the very beginning.

I pushed the idea of a managed bankruptcy. And finally when that was
done and help was given, the companies got back on their feet. So I`ll
take a lot of credit for the fact that this industry has come back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Mitt Romney taking a lot of credit for saving the auto
industry came as a shock to Mitt Romney supporters.

Here now is how Senator McCain reacted. "Romney said that he was
responsible for the auto bailout?` asked Senator John McCain in disbelief.
"I`d have to look at the context of his remarks."

The Obama re-election campaign today was happy to quickly provide
that context.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In 2008 you said, and I`m quoting, "We should
let Detroit go bankrupt."

ROMNEY: Yes, that`s exactly what I said. Let Detroit go bankrupt.

Were there some institutions that should not have been bailed out?
Absolutely. Should they have used the fund to bail out General Motors and
Chrysler? No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said, quote, "If General Motors, Ford, and
Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday,
you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said back in 2008, if you write a check,
they`re going to go out of business.

ROMNEY: If you write a check, they`re going to go out of business.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let Detroit go bankrupt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let Detroit go bankrupt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wouldn`t that have been disastrous for the
economy?

ROMNEY: That would have been precisely the right thing to do for the
economy.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

O`DONNELL: Today, Mitt Romney campaigned in Michigan where General
Motors is now the number one automaker in the world thanks to the Obama
auto bailout that Mitt Romney opposed.

Romney didn`t talk about the auto bailout in Michigan, but he did
offer his keen businessman`s analysis of the auto industry.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: A good deal has changed, as you know. Perhaps most
noticeably was the demise of Oldsmobile. It`s a fine car and it was a
source of pride for the city. And it was also the source of a lot of good-
paying jobs. So it`s hard to see it go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Oldsmobile? Sorry to see Oldsmobile go? He makes it
sound like he was in Michigan today paying respects to the final Oldsmobile
rolling off the assembly line and waving goodbye to those good-paying jobs
that just disappeared when Oldsmobile disappeared.

President Obama, the killer of Oldsmobile. Right?

General Motors shut down Oldsmobile, which is to say simply
consolidated the completely redundant brand of Oldsmobile with the brand of
Buick. They were exactly the same cars, with different names on it. They
did that so that General Motors no longer had two brands competing against
each other. And General Motors did that without being ordered to do that
by President Obama. General Motors did that before Barack Obama got
elected to the United States Senate. General Motors did that back when
John Kerry was running against George W. Bush for president.

And Mitt Romney, today, brings up, quote, "the demise of Oldsmobile,"
in today`s presidential campaign?

The problem for Mitt Romney is the people who know exactly when
Oldsmobile was consolidated into Buick by General Motors are Michigan
voters.

A new "Reuters" poll shows Mitt Romney trailing President Obama
nationally among registered voters. President Obama leads Romney by seven
points, 49 to 42 percent. The president is also leading Romney on six of
eight issues polled -- taxes, health care, Medicare, Social Security, the
war on terror and Afghanistan. On the other two issues polled, jobs and
the economy, and immigration, President Obama and Mitt Romney poll in a
statistical tie.

Joining me now is can Democratic strategist and MSNBC contributor,
Krystal Ball, and "Washington Post" opinion writer and MSNBC political
analyst, E.J. Dionne.

Krystal, you remember Oldsmobile, right?

(LAUGHTER)

KRYSTAL BALL, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: The thing with Romney --

O`DONNELL: It`s like his -- it`s like it`s his father talking about
the automobile industry that he used to work in.

BALL: I mean, you just want to shake your head. And he has this
habit of he always has to take it that one step too far, that one step that
goes even beyond where a normal pandering, spinning politician would go.
And you can see that with the Oldsmobile thing. You can even see it if you
go back to that op-ed, "Let Detroit go bankrupt."

If he had just been a little more measured, then he wouldn`t have
this coming back to bite him now, and, of course, having to now take credit
for the auto bailout. He has no ability to measure himself.

Remember back when the president had that hot mic moment with the
Russian president, and he -- Romney seized on that. But he couldn`t just
make the political point, he had to say, well, Russia is our number one
geopolitical foe. But he can`t just dial it back that little bit. He
can`t help himself.

O`DONNELL: E.J., I remember my mother`s Oldsmobile when I was in
high school. I think the Matt Lauer quote, the thing that we just saw Matt
recite to Mitt Romney, it`s -- he`s quoting Romney when Matt says, "If
General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief
executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive
industry goodbye."

Now, there is business executive Mitt Romney predicting for you
exactly what will happen to his father`s American automobile industry and
he was 100 percent wrong.

E.J. DIONNE, WASHINGTON POST: Precisely. By the way, I want to
announce that I think it`s a shame that Ford stopped making the Edsel, too.
I think a great American loss here.

You know, it`s astounding. I mean, Romney seems to think that he can
just revise himself and say whatever he wants, and eventually, the fact
checkers will just get sick of running the segments.

Over and over again, he said that President Obama apologized to
America. The fact checking agencies practically blew up on your screen,
saying, no, Obama didn`t say that, but he kept saying it.

In this case, what I think he`s trying to do is take what is truly
one of President Obama`s greatest successes and one of the policies that
was the least popular when he put nit place, the auto bailout, and try to
fuzz up the difference so that people will say, yes, well, but Romney was
for managed bankruptcy -- forgetting that it was the money part that kept
the companies going. And hopes he can just push this issue aside.

Because I think if Obama does win a close race and he wins it because
he carried Ohio and Michigan, the bailout is -- the auto bailout is going
to be a huge part of that. And Romney is just trying to neutralize that by
pretending he said what he didn`t say.

O`DONNELL: E.J., just one quick point. You`ve talked to these
Republican operatives, Stuart Stevens and the guys. You know the guys who
are running the Romney campaign.

Do you think that was a scripted moment, that that was something that
the Romney campaign sat down and said, OK, hey, take credit, in fact, take
a lot of credit for the recovery of the automobile industry? Or was that
one of Romney moments, he`s off by himself?

DIONNE: Well, you know, he`s said this before. He`s said before
that he was for a structured bailout. So it doesn`t look like an
unscripted Mitt Romney moment. And I do think they want to take that issue
away from Obama, especially in those two states. So I find it hard to
believe that it was just spontaneous.

O`DONNELL: Krystal, big surprise President Obama is leading in the
auto states of Michigan and Ohio.

BALL: Yes. I mean, when you look at the record, certainly, that`s
what you`d expect. And also if you look, in particular, at this new poll
in Ohio, the gender gap also persists, 19-point gender gap. We saw an 18-
point gender gap in a recent poll in Virginia. So that also is an issue.

But I want to go back to something that E.J. said. He said that
Romney repeats these things that he knows aren`t true, hoping that the fact
checkers will just give up. And my fear is exactly that. That if it`s
repeated enough, people will believe it.

And we`ve seen this before. I mean, back in the health care debate,
Republicans started yelling about death panels. And I think a lot of us
went, come on, the public`s never going to believe that, but they said it
enough that the public did, and it didn`t matter that it was rated as the
biggest lie of the year. It was untrue, but they said it enough that
people believed it.

And I think Romney has learned that lesson and is cynically trying to
do exactly what the rest of the members of his party have been doing.

O`DONNELL: But, E.J., isn`t there a difference on that strategy when
you`re doing that one-on-one in a campaign. Where wherever you say will be
directed at another individual, and that individual will respond. When
you`re just throwing accusations out there about legislation, you`re kind
of throwing them out into the wind, and there isn`t a direct respondent for
that.

DIONNE: I do think it`s easier in campaigns, because campaigns are
all geared up to respond. Although, on the death panels business, there
was quite a lot of pushback, both in the media and from supporters of the
health care bill. And even if most people don`t believe it, you`re
actually playing the percentages here. You`re playing for small margins
among certain groups of voters.

So even if a majority of people say, well, Mitt Romney`s lying or not
telling the truth about his position, if some small critical percentage
says, ah, the difference between him and Obama on the bailout isn`t that
big anyway, and vote for Romney for some other reason, that`s a net win for
them.

BALL: That`s all you have to do, is muddy the waters. Muddy the
waters and make it unclear who really is telling the truth and who really
isn`t. And that`s exactly what he`s doing throughout his campaign.

O`DONNELL: OK. Let`s listen to something that President Obama said
today in Albany about how Republican presidents have dealt with recessions
and job losses in the past.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: After there was a recession under Ronald Reagan, government
employment went way up. It went up after the recessions under the first
George Bush and the second George Bush. So each time there was a recession
with a Republican president, compensated -- we compensated by making sure
that government didn`t see a drastic reduction in employment. The only
time government employment has gone down during a recession has been under
me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Republicans lost sight of that idea.

BALL: Yes, absolutely. In fact, it`s not just Republican presidents
who have had public sector job growth leading them out of the recession. I
mean, historically, that`s how it`s been done. The government leads the
way and the private sector follows.

This has been quite unique, because the Republicans did not allow the
president and Congress to help the public sector as much as they could, so
that`s been a huge drag. I would say that and the continued troubles in
the housing market are the two huge drags on our recovery.

O`DONNELL: E.J., are the Republicans going to remember some of their
Keynesian lessons that Richard Nixon certainly accepted.

DIONNE: Well, you`d like to think so. Although, look, you saw in
Indiana that Richard Lugar lost -- everybody`s calling Richard Lugar a
moderate. He wasn`t a moderate. He was a moderate conservative, at most.

O`DONNELL: Right, right.

DIONNE: It reminds you of Rahm Emanuel`s old line, that the
Republican Party is divided between its small government wing and its no
government wing. And that`s really what`s happening.

And you look at this recession, 4.2 million jobs have been created
since we started to recover in the private sector, 500,000 to 600,000 jobs
lost in the government. You find it hard to believe that if Republicans
were in power, they would have let that happen.

But their ideology is leading them down that road, and you saw that
ideology rejected in Europe over the weekend. But I`m not sure that`s
going to make any difference in the Republican Party.

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Krystal Ball, here in the studio, and thank
you, E.J. Dionne, on the big screen in Washington. Thank you very much for
joining me tonight.

BALL: Thanks, Lawrence.

DIONNE: Good to be with you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, North Carolina voters have rewritten their
constitution to ban marriage equality in that state, as the president is
pressured from within his own party to fully support marriage equality in
2012.

And a one-man operation is determined to rewrite the killing of Osama
bin Laden, because that one-man operation thinks the president is taking
way too much credit for it. That`s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Tonight, North Carolina banned marriage equality and
civil unions and a Democratic former governor told President Obama it`s
time to man up about marriage equality. That`s coming up.

And the swift boating of Barack Obama has begun. In 2004, we saw
John Kerry`s biggest biographical campaign asset turned against him in the
campaign by Republicans. Now, they are trying to use the killing of Osama
bin Laden as a political weapon against President Obama.

They got away with swift boating the last time they tried it. Will
they get away with it this time? That`s coming up.

And the decider in chief of the Romney campaign is still undecided
about what issue?

Send me your guesses on Twitter. Do it quickly, because that`s
coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: The answer is self-deportation, which is people decide that
they can do better by going home, because they can`t find work here,
because they don`t have legal documentation to allow them to work here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That was Mitt Romney at a debate in January, explaining
his immigration plan.

This makes Bettina Inclan`s job today the most difficult job in
politics. She is the Republican National Committee`s director of Hispanic
outreach and at a press briefing today, she said, "I think as a candidate,
to my understanding, he`s still deciding what his position on immigration
is."

After the briefing, the inconveniently honest director of Hispanic
outreach did some panicked outreaching on Twitter. "I misspoke. Romney`s
position on immigration is clear."

With the Romney campaign in immigration damage control today, the
Obama campaign rolled out another set of new Spanish language ads to air in
the swing states of Colorado, Nevada, and Florida. The Romney campaign has
spent exactly zero dollars on ads targeting the neigh`s fastest growing
voting group.

Joining me now are: Erin McPike, a national political reporter for
realclearpolitics.com, and Alicia Menendez of NBClatino.com.

Alicia, the Romney plan on immigration is something he is apparently
still deciding about. How quickly does he have to decide?

ALICIA MENENDEZ, NBCLATINO.COM: I think he`s already decided. This
is actually one of those issues on which he`s been pretty clear. He`s been
pretty clear since 2008.

He believes that immigrants should self-deport. He opposes the DREAM
Act. He thinks that Arizona`s SB-1070 should be a model for the nation.

So we know where Mitt Romney is on this. The problem for his
campaign is that his current positions make him completely unviable in the
general election and therein lies the problem.

O`DONNELL: Erin, so you get the job of, you know, Hispanic outreach
at the Republican National Committee, and you immediately check what
everything Alicia just said. And so then you`re asked, what is Romney`s
position on immigration, and you say, he`s deciding? I mean, that -- they
didn`t kind of come up with something for that answer?

ERIN MCPIKE, REALCLEARPOLITICS.COM: Well, a couple of things. I
think this is symptomatic of something larger for the Romney campaign,
which is that a lot of people don`t know much about Mitt Romney or where he
stands. You know, I talked to some Republicans on Capitol Hill just last
week who didn`t know that when he was governor of Massachusetts, he took a
$3 billion deficit and turned it into a $2 billion surplus.

So they have a lot of educating of the voters to do. That`s one
thing. But as far as immigration, I`ve also talked to a lot of Republicans
who think that they need to soften Mitt Romney`s position on immigration,
because they know they`re in danger of losing many states out west.

I mean, I talked to Richard Land, a very prominent Southern Baptist,
who said this very thing. That Mitt Romney is to the right of most
Republicans on immigration and that if they want to win some of these
states, these battleground states where Hispanic voters are a big part of
the winning coalition, they need to get him to come off of some of his
rhetoric, like self-the deportation.

O`DONNELL: Alicia, in 2008, President Obama won the Hispanic vote,
67 to John McCain`s 31. It looks worse now. "Christian Science Monitor"
poll has 80 percent of Hispanic voters at this time supporting President
Obama versus 12 percent for Mitt Romney.

You didn`t think it could get worse than it was for John McCain.

MENENDEZ: I included those numbers in one of NBC Latino pieces, and
my editor wrote back and said, these numbers have to be wrong.

O`DONNELL: Yes, go back and check those.

MENENDEZ: And we fact checked them and they were, in fact, correct.

Listen, you have a general breakdown with the Latino vote. Democrats
clear 35 percent. Republicans clear 25 percent, there`s 25 percent up for
grabs.

The problem with Mitt Romney, he`s not even clearing that basic 25
percent number. And I think the problem you see is they`re starting to
understand that getting Latino voters to come out and vote for Mitt Romney
is going to be a really heavy lift. Their best bet is getting Latino
voters to not turn out for Barack Obama.

Right now, the RNC and the Romney campaign launching attacks against
Obama on the economy, on health care, even on immigration. They have no
positive message for Mitt Romney. They have nothing to sell to Hispanic
voters. That`s going to be a big problem for them.

MADDOW: Let`s listen to what Romney has said about Senator Marco
Rubio`s version of the DREAM Act, which is important since Rubio is on his
possible list of vice presidential candidates. Let`s listen to Romney on
that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: He and I have spoken about his thinking on his version of a
different act than the DREAM Act that`s been proposed in the Senate. The
one that`s been proposed in the Senate creates a new category of
citizenship for certain individuals. The senator`s proposal does not
create that new category, but, instead provides visas for those that come
into the country, that are -- that came in as young people, with their
families.

I`m taking a look at his proposal. It has many features to commend
it, but it`s something that we`re studying.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Now, see, that`s what we mean by not being clear. I`m
taking a look at the proposal.

How long a look does the presidential candidate get? And, Erin,
there`s been a lot of talk about Marco Rubio, you put him on the ticket, it
takes care of your Hispanic vote problem. Is it possible that you cannot
put Marco Rubio on the ticket for maybe a few reasons, but possibly this
reason? That you can`t come to some agreement with him on a version of the
DREAM Act.

MCPIKE: That`s possible. And, look, on New Year`s Eve, in Iowa,
Mitt Romney said he would veto the DREAM Act in its current form. And so
now we see a little bit of backpedal on that.

But the larger point about some of this is the Obama campaign is
shoring up a lot of pieces of its 2008 coalition, whether it`s women, young
voters, or Latinos. And the Republicans will say, well, look, he just is
shoring up his base. That`s nothing.

Remember, he won a big chunk of this last time.

O`DONNELL: Yes, when the winner shores up his base, it means
something.

MCPIKE: But they`re doing it on issues of importance to each of
those building blocks of those coalition, before Mitt Romney can even get
his footing as a general election candidate and start talking about the
issues to them he wants to talk about, the economy in general.

So the Obama campaign is really far ahead of Mitt Romney, and they`re
able to do it based on issues like immigration, on women`s health, on
student loans. This is an important thing for how the trajectory of this
campaign is going to go.

O`DONNELL: We`re out of time, and Mitt Romney still hasn`t decided
about the DREAM Act, of Marco Rubio`s edition, anyway.

Thank you, Erin McPike of "Real Clear Politics" and Alicia Menendez
of NBCLatino.com. Thanks for joining us.

MENENDEZ: Thanks, Lawrence.

MCPIKE: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, North Carolina voters choose to ban marriage
equality. The turnout and the fallout are ahead, along with the politics
of marriage equality for President Obama.

And swift boating is back. The Republicans are trying to turn an
Obama campaign asset into an Obama campaign liability, just like they did
against John McCain in 2004. Now, has the Obama campaign learned the
lesson of the Kerry campaign? That`s coming up.

And the Republicans have a secret plan now that they will reveal
tomorrow morning. "Star Wars" Long Island. That`s a LAST WORD exclusive,
coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: North Carolina voters have decided to rewrite the state
Constitution, approving a Constitutional amendment banning marriage
equality. North Carolina is now the 30th state with an amendment declaring
marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Sixty one percent voted
yes and 39 percent voted no.

Today`s vote comes as pressure now mounts on President Obama to
officially express his clear opinion on marriage equality.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ED RENDELL, FORMER GOVERNOR OF PENNSYLVANIA: He should man up and
say, this is what I believe. And I think he doesn`t lose any African-
American votes. Jonathan is absolutely right. And the people who vote
solely on this issue, a single-issue voter, gay marriage, none of them are
voting for Barack Obama now, and they`re not going to vote for him whether
he says he`s against it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: As for Vice President Joe Biden, today he remained
unapologetic for saying he`s absolutely comfortable with marriage equality.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No one`s ever doubted
I mean what I say. The problem is I sometimes say all that I mean.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now is Ana Marie Cox, political columnist for
"The Guardian" and Richard Socarides, former president of Equality Matters,
which advocates for marriage equality, and a former adviser to President
Clinton. Thank you both for joining me.

Richard, why is this pressure building on the president? There isn`t
actually any governing action for him to take. It seems to be just a
request for an opinion.

RICHARD SOCARIDES, FORMER PRESIDENT, EQUALITY MATTERS: Well, the
president is the leader of our country. And hopefully he can lead the
country in a certain direction. And this is an important national
conversation we`re having. So we with ought to know where he stands.

O`DONNELL: Ana Marie Cox, I -- he said in 1996 when he was running
for state senate in Illinois that he`s in favor of marriage equality,
actually. And so it`s become very clear that this -- what has evolved is
the political difficulty of him saying that as a national candidate.
That`s really what the evolution has been, isn`t it?

ANA MARIE COX, "THE GUARDIAN": Well, what`s evolved is his status as
a politician. And I think that that`s the problem. I mean, the wider the
stage, the harder it is to get to everyone. You want more and more people
to agree with you.

But the thing is, the country is definitely catching up with the
president, and may overtake him. As we all know, support for marriage
equality is growing. It hasn`t stopped. Over 50 percent of the people in
this country aren`t just in support of civil unions, but actually are
supportive of gay marriage.

And I think that we`re seeing kind of a last gasp here in North
Carolina. That doesn`t make it any more disappointing. It`s very
disappointing when any state decides to return to the 1950s. But I think
that we are looking at a sea change here. And that`s why I think the
pressure on Obama is particularly acute, because here is a chance for him
to step forward at a point where it could make a difference.

O`DONNELL: But Richard, as you know, the favorability of marriage
equality is not evenly distributed over age groups. And so it skews
younger. The trouble is the younger voter is the unreliable voter when it
comes to actually showing up. And the elderly, the older voters show up.
That`s where most of the opposition is, it skews by age.

So you can see what the politics of this is. Let me give you another
example. I think we all know the president is absolutely opposed to the
death penalty. It is a choice of absolute political convenience that every
single presidential candidate in the Democratic party has taken since --
everyone who had a chance at the nomination since Michael Dukakis.

And so we all knows that the Democrats are lying about that. They
actually don`t favor it. And they`re adopting a position for political
convenience, which to me is a moral position. I would like them to not
take that position. And I know I will never get a chance to vote for a
Democratic nominee for president who says, I`m opposed to the death
penalty. And I`m not going to stand up and demand that he say that.

SOCARIDES: Well, we can hope against hope, right, on the death
penalty, too. But listen, these results are tonight are somewhat
disappointing, but it shows we still have a lot of work to do, especially
in places in the south. And it`s more evidence of why President Obama
should be leading on this issue.

And you know, we hope he will soon. I mean, I think that they are
boxed in on this now. Vice President Biden`s remarks were, you know, kind
of off the cuff, unexpected. That was Joe being Joe. You know, they
probably would have been better off if they`d left it like that, right, I
mean, if they`d just said, that`s our guy.

But they tried to walk it back. And I think they created this
firestorm for themselves. And now they`re in a little bit of a crisis
today, I think, and trying to figure out what to do next.

O`DONNELL: Ana Marie, I tend to see political maneuvering in more
than one dimension. So I`ve been started to wonder as I`ve watched this
involve since "Meet the Press" on Sunday that -- I`m wondering if the Obama
re-election campaign thinks this is good for them, to have a pressure
publicly coming at them from their left, which President Obama is
resisting, so that he can -- so that this can help him appear more
appealing to the middle.

COX: Yes. The lesbian Sister Souljah moment or something like that,
that is the wheels within wheels within wheels. I think you might be
relying on your "West Wing" TV show experience a little bit. I`m not sure
if the game is that complicated.

I think the Obama campaign would prefer that it be a little more
simple. And I do think you`re right. I think this is a tough situation
for someone with actual moral values, which I would hope that the president
has. Someone like Mitt Romney can change his position on something like
this, and we don`t worry so much.

I do think -- and I want to -- you know, I feel a little silly being
so hopeful, because this is such a disappointing election return. But I do
think we`re seeing the last election where both parties are going to put
someone forward that is against marriage equality. I really do think as a
country we`re moving forward on this.

And I think that we`re also seeing in this case -- you know,
Minnesota, actually is a very strong possibility that this very similar
amendment will not pass. And I think it`s because voters are getting
tired, tired of trying to weigh in on this. It just doesn`t have the same
attraction to voters that it did even four or eight years ago.

SOCARIDES: Let me just note one thing that Ana Marie said, that I
really don`t think that the president is against marriage equality. I
think that he is -- you know, this evolving position, at least we know he
maybe is neither for nor against. We know that he`s someone in the middle.

O`DONNELL: He`s for it. He`s just saying this politically. Come on.

SOCARIDES: I think that`s right. And whether he announces officially
his change of position before or after the election, he`s been a terrific
gay rights president. He`s really moved the ball forward. And he`s going
to get a lot of support in the gay community. But more importantly, he`s
going to get a lot of support from all Americans who care about equal
rights for all citizens, whether they`re gay or lesbian or heterosexual or
whatever.

O`DONNELL: And my last word on this is agreement with Ana Marie that
four years from now, the favorability for this is going to be up around 60
percent, and the Democratic nominee is going to be in favor of it.

Richard Socarides and Ana Marie Cox, thank you both very much for
joining me tonight.

Coming up, "Star Wars" is back. And this time it could be Star Wars
Long Island. That`s the Republican plan to put Democrats on the defensive
on national defense. A LAST WORD exclusive is coming up.

And the Republicans have started Swift Boating President Obama. That
is trying to turn one of his biggest campaign assets into a liability.
What have the Obama campaign and the Democrats learned since John Kerry was
Swift Boated in 2004? That`s coming up.

The Republican attempt to turn the mission to get Osama bin Laden into
a political liability is next in the Rewrite.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good evening. Tonight,
I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States
has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al
Qaeda, and a terrorist whose responsible for the murder of thousands of
innocent men, women and children.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: With those words, just over one year ago, Republicans
realized President Obama had taken from them their permanent campaign
theme: the Democrats are weak on national security. But now a secretive
right-wing group calling itself Veterans For a Strong America is attempting
to Rewrite the political value of the Obama administration`s successful
mission to get Osama bin Laden.

They believe they can turn it into a liability for President Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Veterans For a Strong America is actually, as far as we
know, only one veteran for a strong America. It has only one employee, its
self-proclaimed executive director, Joel Aarons (ph), who said, quote,
"yes, it`s the Swift Boating of the president in the sense of using what`s
perceived to be his greatest strength and making it his greatest weakness."

The Republicans did this to John Kerry in 2004. They tried to take
his greatest biographical asset away from him, having volunteered for
combat in Vietnam, having been wounded in Vietnam, having been awarded
medals for valor, medals for his heroism in combat.

They lied about him. And some people, we don`t know how many, but
some people believed the lies about John Kerry. And the morning after the
2004 election, when the final, very narrow margin of victory was calculated
in the state of Ohio, John Kerry had to concede that presidential election
and, in effect, concede to a lie.

Joel Aarons is a former Republican presidential campaign operative.
He and his anti-Obama video have been praised by Karl Rove on Twitter. We
know what the Republicans have learned about Swift Boating. You can get
away with a lie to some of the people, some of the time, and that just
might be enough people to win you a presidential election, if they live in
Ohio.

And now the Swift Boating of Barack Obama has begun. And we`re about
to discover what the Democrats have learn since John Kerry had to concede
to a lie.

(COMMERCIAL: BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have learned much, young one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`ll find I`m full of surprises.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: A recent NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll shows
President Obama with a 10 point lead over Mitt Romney, 43 percent to 33
percent, on the question of who would be a better command in chief. And a
recent ABC News/"Washington Post" poll shows President Obama with a seven-
point lead over Mitt Romney, 47 to 40 percent, on the question of who would
be better at handling terrorism.

Don`t worry, we`re getting to "Star Wars." So what is the new
Republican strategy to reestablish their historic polling lead over
President Obama and the Democrats on national security?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Admiral, we have new ships, sector 47.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s a trap!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That`s right. "Star Wars" is back. And this time, it`s
the east coast version. Tomorrow, House Republicans are forcing a
committee vote on a new missile defense system to be built on the east
coast and designed to prevent a nuclear attack from -- guess where --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Iran is the world`s national
supporter of terror, and has as its objective the -- in the words of their
president, President Ahmadinejad, the elimination of our friend, Israel.

It`s important for us not to allow Iran to become a nuclear power and
not to be able to provide that fissile material to any entity that might
use it against us. And so I would reserve the right to take whatever
action is necessary to prevent Iran from becoming nuclear.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: The best defense against an
expansion of Iranian influence in Latin American and against the
destructive aspirations of international criminals in the region is for the
United States to double down on a policy of direct engagement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now for an exclusive interview is Bob Cusack,
managing editor of "The Hill."

This is the headline story in tomorrow`s edition of "The Hill." This
is kind of amazing, Bob. "Star Wars" is back and they really are marking
up a bill in committee in the House tomorrow, where they`re going to
introduce -- you`re reporting that they want to spend 100 million dollars
to get this thing started?

BOB CUSACK, MANAGING EDITOR, "THE HILL": Yes. And this would,
Lawrence -- this would only be the start of it.

O`DONNELL: This is just to start opening the pages of starting
something like this.

CUSACK: To actually set up this missile defense site on the east
coast would be billions of dollars, maybe two billion, maybe four billion,
depending on if you`re talking to Democrats or Republicans. Democrats
saying Republicans are playing politics. But they want to move forward on
this, so that by the beginning of 2016, there is a missile defense site
along the east coast.

There is one in California and Alaska, but not on the east coast. So
of course some Democrats are saying we can`t afford it. But Republicans
moving forward. And this is the first step. Whether it gets out of the
House, we`ll see. But the president hasn`t said anything on it. But
Republicans want him to say something on it.

O`DONNELL: And one of the many reasons there isn`t one on the east
coast is there isn`t even a theoretical possibility of someone attacking
the east coast this way. The theory is that China might some day be
capable of doing it on the west coast. But we`re moving into such a
relationship with them that it will never happen.

So are the Republicans here going to the try to politicize this vote
tomorrow in terms of how tough are you on Iran? You`ve got to build this
thing, you know, somewhere in North Carolina or Long Island, or something,
to prevent Iran`s aspirations for blowing us off the face of the Earth.

CUSACK: Definitely, it`s the campaign season. This is a new idea.
This has not been around before. So this idea is going to be talked about,
I think, a lot in the coming weeks. It`s a big deal. Congress usually
doesn`t come up with big ideas. They come up with incremental ideas.

This one is probably not going to become law anytime soon, but
Republicans are going to use it on the campaign trail. They want to chip
away at that lead. They say, well, we can`t afford not to do it.

O`DONNELL: And "Star Wars" is kind of a misnomer for a variety of
reasons, including that in the movie "Star Wars," the technology works
really good, and the missile defense system, of course, doesn`t. They have
never once actually, in any of their tests, intercepted a so-called target
missile without completely rigging it and make -- you know, so that the
thing couldn`t possibly not hit it.

They used to miss them buy hundreds of miles on these things. And
still --still the republicans are going to push 100 million dollars into
this budget tomorrow. And they can do that in the House. They have the
votes, I assume, right?

CUSACK: Yes. They can ram it through the committee level, and then
on the House floor. And there has been a long question about efficacy.
They`ve gotten better, but a long way from being efficient. But they say
they need to spend the money to get more efficient.

O`DONNELL: They have never once fired one of those test rockets up
there and then shot it down with a missile shield missile, without
signaling to the missile, hey, here`s where it is. Like it`s just such a
cheat, the way they do these tests.

But are there local congressmen who are fighting for this thing
saying, hey, I want this in North Carolina or I want this in Maine? Has it
gotten to that level yet?

CUSACK: Not yet. It`s a little bit too early, but I`m sure we`re
going to get to this point, where this is going to be a big battle for
defense pork. Certainly if this 100 million dollars goes forward, there`s
going to be a lot of Congressional elbows trying to get at that money.

O`DONNELL: An amazing waste of money. Bob Cusack, managing editor of
"The Hill," thank you very much for this exclusive tonight, Bob.

CUSACK: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: You can have THE LAST WORD online at our blog,
TheLastWord.MSNBC.com. You can follow my Tweets @Lawrence. "THE ED SHOW"
is up next.

END


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