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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Monday, May 14, 2012

Read the transcript to the Monday show

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Guests: Steve Kornacki, Krystal Ball, Howard Fineman, Karen Finney, John Heilemann, Dana Milbank, Zach Wahls

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: A conservative columnist says that
headline is worth at least a $20 million donation to the Romney campaign.
President Obama said he`s not worried.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Marriage is the
union of one man and one woman.

REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: One man and one woman.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: One man and one woman.

CHRIS JANSING, NBC NEWS: This conversation has not gone away.

TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: President Obama will attend an LGBT fund-
raiser.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How will it play with independents.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Independents who are going to decide this
election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sixty-two percent either favor same-sex marriage
or civil unions.

ROMNEY: Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It seems like Romney is fighting a 2004 campaign
years too late.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The tale of two commencement speeches.

ROMNEY: Culture matters.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America does not stand
still. We look forward, not back.

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: President Obama launched a potential game
changer today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today with the new video.

WAGNER: It paints Mitt Romney as a greedy corporate raider.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bain Capital walk away with a lot of money.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: The new two-minute ad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A full two minutes worth.

MATTHEWS: Airing in five swing states.

WAGNER: It features workers from GST steel.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The ad will run in five states.

WAGNER: A company that went bankrupt after it was bought by Bain
Capital.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not the only way to do capitalism.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not the only want to do capitalism.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the ad is unfair.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is an effective ad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They made as much money as they could.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You see the faces, if you will, of America.

MATTHEWS: Such as worked against Romney.

AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: No one thinks he is a great jobs creator.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For someone comes
in and takes all the money out of your company --

GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: We need to have more venture capitalism.

GINGRICH: And leaves you bankrupt while they go off with millions.

PERRY: Less vulture capitalism.

GINGRICH: That`s not traditional capitalism.

SHARPTON: Even as friends in the GOP.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: President Obama`s week began with this cover of
"Newsweek," declaring Obama as the first gay president -- to which "New
York Post" conservative opinion writer John Podhoretz tweeted over the
weekend, "And `Newsweek` gives Romney an in-kind contribution worth $20
million."

Today, the president came to New York City for a commencement address
at Barnard College, a fund-raiser with supporters of marriage equality, and
to tape an interview on "The View" where Barbara Walters and crew pushed
the president to explain how his support for marriage equality translates
into action.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: My Justice Department has said to the courts, we don`t think
the Defense of Marriage Act is constitutional. This is something that
historically had been determined at the state level. And, you know, part
of my believing ultimately that civil unions weren`t sufficient.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will you personally fight to repeal that act?

OBAMA: Well, look. Congress is clearly on notice that I think it`s
a bad idea.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: A poll out today by the Pew Center for Research finds
that 52 percent said it doesn`t change their opinion of him. 25 percent
said they view him less favorably and 19 percent more favorably. And a
"New York Times"/CBS News poll finds that more than 60 percent of Americans
believe gays and lesbians deserve at least civil unions, 33 percent support
the president`s position, while 33 percent favor no rights whatsoever.

When civil unions are eliminated as an option, opposition to same-sex
marriage rises to 51 percent.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These issue dos matter. I don`t think the
president did a calculus to do this. If he did, he needs to go back to the
calculator, because it`s a bad -- it`s a bad formula.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Today`s "New York Times" poll has Mitt Romney leading the
president 46 percent to 43 percent. That`s within the margin of error of
four points. The president told the audience at his fund-raiser headlined
by Ricky Martin today that as long as his supporters continue to work hard,
he`s not worried.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: What they meant was this distracts from our basic argument
that you are frustrate and it`s Obama`s fault. And they will spend
hundreds of millions of dollars trying to drill that home. But I`m not
worried. And the reason I`m not worried is because of you, because I
believe that if we are getting our message out effectively.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now is Steve Kornacki of Salon.com and MSNBC
political analyst, Krystal Ball, MSNBC contributor and Democratic
strategist, and Zach Wahls, marriage equality supporter and the author of
"My Two Moms " about his family and the necessity for marriage equality.

Krystal, to the "Newsweek" cover of the first --

KRYSTAL BALL, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: The Romney in-kind contribution.

O`DONNELL: Well, I mean, you know, this is obviously a playoff the
notion that Bill Clinton was the first black president. They don`t mean it
literally and "Newsweek" had two headlines. Please buy this magazine was
one. We are desperate and the other was the first gay president.

BALL: Time had taken one and they had to go in the other direction.
I think you`re exactly.

And the unfortunate part here is now the Republicans Reince Priebus
over the weekend was trying to push this narrative that Obama would be
crusading on gay rights issues. So, that`s the Republican narrative image
on the "Newsweek" cover is essentially the visual depiction of that
Republican narrative.

So, when people are saying, you know, this is a major in kind
contribution to the Romney campaign, this helps the Romney campaign as
anti-Obama, that`s what they mean. They don`t mean that it`s somehow an
insult to be called gay. It shouldn`t be. But that`s how it favors the
Romney campaign.

O`DONNELL: We know what "Newsweek" means because we are New York
elites here. When you are in New York, you are a New York elite.

But, Steve Kornacki, journalism question -- we live in a stupid,
wicked country, OK? This is a country that believes in substantial
proportion that Barack Obama is a Muslim, huge number, millions of people,
some crazy percent like 30 percent or something think he wasn`t born
American and think he`s Kenyan. Crazy, crazy beliefs.

And "Newsweek" it seems to me has to consider the responsibility of
sending out into such a collectively stupid country and stupid electorate,
this thing which is the only sentence in "Newsweek" that most people are
going to read this week -- the sentence on the cover.

STEVE KORNACKI, SALON.COM: Right. Well, I look at it this way, I
would not deny the fact that this is going to fire up a certain segment of
the electorate. It really kind of bring --

O`DONNELL: It`s going to be fact in this country.

KORNACKI: Right.

BALL: Twenty percent.

O`DONNELL: For more than 20 percent. The Obama is gay number is now
going to go up to like 35 percent.

KORNACKI: But those are the people who are already dead set against
him. And that`s --

O`DONNELL: Are we in favor of allowing stupid people to get
stupider? Like here, "Newsweek," make them stupider.

KORNACKI: Yes, if Obama giving a nationally televised interview to
ABC and endorsing gay marriage wasn`t already enough to fire this people
up, we are arguing over a magazine cover. I think he does something far
more substantial here.

It`s good that -- you know, we say this is worth $20 million. I
think what Obama came out and did last week is probably worth $20 million
or whatever to the opponents. But at the same time, it`s worth the same
amount to the Obama campaign, because we had stories in the first 90
minutes after Barack Obama, you know, came out and gave an interview to
ABC. The money was pouring into the Obama campaign.

So, I really think we can look at it from the angle of how this hurts
him, but I think it`s balanced in the year 2012 by how much it helps him.
As we go into the future, that occasion is going to skew more in favor of
helping than hurting.

BALL: Well, it`s yet to be determined. And that`s the thing.

Whose base does it energize more? And that`s what this cover is
designed to energize the right wing. I hope that you`re right and I think
that it`s possible that young voters and people on the Democratic side are
going to be energized enough to overcome the energy on the right wing. But
it`s yet to be determined.

O`DONNELL: It was a rare night where we have a younger voter than
you on the panel. You can tell us something about it.

ZACH WAHLS, MARRIAGE EQUALITY SUPPORTER: I think Lawrence is right.
I don`t think this cover was designed to energize anybody. It was designed
to get people to hopefully buy magazines, which is something that some
magazines need help with these days.

The fact of the matter is when you step back and look at what effect
this is going to have on the race, and not just the cover, but I mean, the
issue generally, I think it`s very overstated -- 52 percent of Americans
believe it department have any effect. People are talking about how social
conservatives energized now in their opposition to Obama, I have news for
you. They were energized already.

I`ve spent a lot of time traveling all the over the country,
listening to a lot of talk radio and these guys are firing on all cylinders
and they are more than willing to take the time to get out and vote.

(CROSSTALK)

O`DONNELL: That was that 19 percent in the poll think more favorably
about the president because of this, the president was already before this
the most advanced president on the issue of gay rights. Ands so, if he
picked up 19 percent more enthusiasm on his side, that`s kind of --

WAHLS: Well, for sure. I mean, I was one of the 19 percent. I
didn`t get the phone call to answer that question but --

O`DONNELL: OK, as a 19 percenter, it means you were going to vote
for him. Now you feel better voting for him.

WAHLS: For sure. Both of those things.

BALL: I`m not sure what you said is right that they were super
energize and the community, Romney spoke to Liberty University and received
a very tepid reception. There was push back from the community over
whether he should be allowed to give the address. That wasn`t a totally
done deal in terms of energy in the Christian right wing.

KORNACKI: Here`s the thing. The poll number they think we are
focusing so much on, a new CBS and "New York Times" poll that said 16
percent more likely and 25 percent less likely. But where is that 25
percent coming from? Look at, just ask Republicans, you know?

O`DONNELL: Where do they live? In what states?

KORNACKI: The red states -- 43 percent of Republicans say it makes
me less likely. What`s his number with Republicans? Five percent, it was
4 percent less likely.

O`DONNELL: So he`s going to lose Mississippi.

KORNACKI: Yes, and maybe Arkansas.

BALL: The thing that`s important to remember, though, that last time
around, the president won North Carolina by 14,000 votes. Even when you`re
talking about 1 percentage point, it could matter very much.

WAHLS: Right. When you look at these numbers, obviously, "The New
York Times" has a 38 percent was supporting marriage. That`s an outlier.
Certainly, Gallup had the number of 53 most recently. But as we were
talking about before we came on the show, obviously in states like Ohio,
states like Virginia, that are going to be crucial to the president`s
reelection, support for marriage is not nearly as high as it is on the
nationwide average.

So, the impacts are going to be more local than in a national level.
But the president has a great ground game on those states. The states are
more worried about economic issues than social.

O`DONNELL: Krystal, what do you think it mean that is the president
said this? There`s some politician saying, look, it`s a lot easier for me
now making the case with my colleagues. Because the Republicans used to be
able to say in my state legislature, President Obama is against marriage
equality. Why should I vote for it?

BALL: Well, we have seen Chris Christie, you make that very argument
on this network multiple times.

O`DONNELL: Yes.

BALL: And I think that`s absolutely right. And that was part of the
reason why the president`s hand was forced, because it wasn`t so much about
the actual policy. It was about -- is this a man who said what he means?
You know, is this someone we can trust who is he is speaking the truth to
us? And I think that was really the important piece here.

And in that way, I do agree with Steve when it comes to it in the
fall, because he exhibited courage, that`s what this underscores. Look at
the polling, it`s still tough. This was a courageous decision and that
character argument is I think what the real contrast with Mitt Romney is.

O`DONNELL: Zach, your state, Iowa, tough state for the president.
What does it do for his campaign in Iowa?

WALHS: Iowa is one of the (INAUDIBLE) states that is a lot people
think. But if you look at the last seven elections, it`s only gone red
once. That was once in 2004 with President Bush. If you look at what`s
happening in the state, I`ve got friends on the ground who has never left
since 2008 when he had the most expensive ground game in a generation
covering the state.

So, you know, my sense is that Republicans think that you can win an
election on FOX News. Democrats think you win on the ground and at the end
of the day, in a state like Iowa, it`s going to be won on the ground.

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

BALL: Thanks, Lawrence.

WAHLS: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, it`s going to be commencement politics. Mitt
Romney speaks to a Christian college, President Obama speaks to a women`s
college. We will analyze the politics.

In the rewrite, I will analyze the religious content of Romney`s
Christian pandering at Liberty University -- his simple-minded Christian
superiority that ignored the existence of all other religions. He did not
mention another religion in his entire commencement address. That`s in the
rewrite.

And Betty White who has never chosen to endorse anyone has decided to
endorse President Obama. What is that going to mean? Betty White`s
endorsement is coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Bain is back. The Obama campaign is going after Mitt
Romney`s record at Bain Capital, just like Newt Gingrich did and just like
Ted Kennedy did. That`s coming up.

And in the rewrite tonight, Mitt Romney`s speech at Liberty
University. It was the worst case of Christian superiority publicly
exhibited by a politician in our recent history. Certainly no major party
nominee has given a speech like this in which he refused to acknowledge the
existence of non-Christian religions. That`s coming up in the rewrite.

And Betty White made a decision. She`s made her first political
endorsement in her life as an actress and that`s to President Obama. We
will tell you why and we`ll see if Betty White`s endorsement can pull any
voters President Obama`s way. That`s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: It`s campaign commencement season.

On Saturday, Mitt Romney went to Reverend Jerry Falwell`s Liberty
University, a standard whistle stop for Republican presidential candidates
trying to appeal to evangelical Christians. And today, President Obama
went to Barnard College, a woman`s institution, on the upper Westside of
Manhattan, which happens to be the sister school of the president`s alma
mater, Columbia University. If they switched audiences, none of their
applause lines would have worked.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

OBAMA: Young women are also going to grapple with unique challenges,
like whether you will be able to earn equal pay for equal work, whether
you`ll be able to balance the demands of a job and family, whether you`ll
be able to fully control decisions about your own health.

You know we are better off when people are treated fairly in every
aspect of American life whether it`s the salary you earn or the health
decisions you make.

ROMNEY: Culture, what you believe, how you value and how you live
matters. Now as fund am as these principals are, they may become topics of
democratic debate from time to time, so it is today with the enduring
institution of marriage. Marriage is a relationship between man and one
woman.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now is Howard Fineman, editorial director of
the "Huffington Post" Media Group and MSNBC political analyst, and Karen
Finney, former communications director and MSNBC political analyst.

Let`s listen to the advice President Obama gave to Barnard graduates
today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The first piece of advice is this: don`t just get involved.
Fight for your seat at the table. Better yet, fight for a seat at the head
of the table.

If you decide not to set yourself at the table, at the very least,
you got to make sure you have a say in who does. It matters.

My second piece of advice: never under estimate the power of your
example.

The last one is simple, but perhaps most importance. Persevere.
Persevere. Nothing worthwhile is easy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Karen Finney, there has been nothing easy about Barack
Obama`s achievements in this life, but he chose Barnard as a way to play to
his base and go straight at that gender gap in the polls and try to build
it.

KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC POLTIICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. So as the father
of two daughters, which he talked about, he has a real --

O`DONNELL: Yes. Possible future Barnard graduates.

FINNEY: He has an investment to make sure women continue to do well.
It`s commencement season, but clearly this was a play to the women`s vote.

The other thing though is that the time at Columbia, which we heard
so much about a couple of weeks in terms of what his girlfriends thought
about him, it was actually interesting in the beginning of the speech, he
gave a little, you know, had some fun with his own time at Barnard -- at
Columbia relating to the young women who were gathered there and talking
about the idea of perseverance.

O`DONNELL: Howard, I want to read something that`s actually in the
course catalog at Liberty University. It`s one of the courses they teach
and want to read this as a preceding a clip of Mitt Romney`s speech.

One of their courses, Theology 678, Western and new religions. The
description is this. The history doctrines and present state of the major
cults such as Mormonism, Christian Science, Jehovah`s Witnesses and Seventh
Day Adventism and a study of the occult movement, emphasis is placed on the
errors of these groups and on methods and materials for confronting them
effectively.

Mitt Romney was not confronted by anyone at Liberty University, but
let`s listen to the portion of his speech where he talked about people of
different faiths meaning the difference between his faith and the faith of
the people in his audience. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: People of different faiths like yours and mine sometimes
wonder where we can meet in common purpose when there so many differences
in creed and theology. Surely the answer is to meet in service and shared
moral convictions about our nation, stemming from a common worldview.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: At a university that teaches that Mormonism is a cult and
throws it in there with Christian Science, Seventh Day Adventist and the
occult movement, does that take care of the problem for Mitt Romney?

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I don`t think so. I
thought it was fascinating as you pointed out. He doesn`t mention the word
Mormon or Mormonism once. He did in that one phrase say Christianity is a
great religion and I will spend time crazing Christianity, but I`m not one
-- which I thought was fascination especially since the Mormons do consider
themselves Christians, but he didn`t assert that down to Liberty.

I`ve been down to Liberty a million times. It is one of the centers
of the conservative universe. I went all the way back to when Jerry
Falwell was first getting the place started. That remains what always was
-- at core and a fundamentalist evangelical institution, where they believe
in the inerrancy of Scripture. And by Scripture, they mean the Old
Testament and the New Testament, they don`t mean the Book of Mormon.

So, I thought Mitt Romney did a fine job of praising Christianity and
in the one phrase, distance himself as he had to do because they don`t
consider him one of them.

O`DONNELL: Well, I think it is an interesting phrase and he does
cover it that way, but I would say if a Catholic or Episcopalian or anyone
who was not of the same evangelical Christian and Baptist style of
Christianity and sects of Christianity represented, they might say people
of different faiths, a Catholic might very well say to that same audition,
people of different faiths like yours and mine, meaning you Baptist, I`m a
Catholic.

And, Karen, Christianity -- people within Christianity do not think
of themselves as being in the same faith. They considered Christians, but
there are many sects within Christianity and you could interpret the Romney
line that way.

But I think what Howard suggested is also available in that line. He
wanted to leave it open to that audience. I`m not going to insist to you
that they are exactly the same.

FINEMAN: Exactly.

FINNEY: But here`s what I thought was interesting about this. This
was a point of hypocrisy for me. This was the second time in front of an
audience that this team of religion tolerance. Remember last year, he
actually intentionally talked about tolerance and religious tolerance
broadly and again trying to say we share values and I`m not going to tell
you that you have to believe what I believe -- trying to have this message
that we share common values.

And yet that`s the same argument that none other than Eric Fehrnstrom
referenced last week in defense of what the departure of the openly gay
staffer from the Romney staff. So, here you have in a speech where he is
talking about one man, one woman and a very clear message, a little bit of
religious tolerance there and yet no tolerance for anybody else. That`s
the clear message there.

O`DONNELL: There`s nothing like these two audiences, Liberty
University and Barnard College, to bring out and highlight just how
different the two candidacies are. Karen Finney and Howard Fineman, thank
you both very much for joining me.

FINEMAN: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Mitt`s Bain returns in the form of an Obama campaign ad
about Bain Capital and its role of an end of steel plant in Missouri. John
Heilemann joins me. Bain is back.

And Betty White is back. She wants a second term for President Obama
and willing to say so publicly. Betty White`s first endorsement of a
political candidate ever. That`s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was like a vampire. He came in and sucked the
life out of us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like watching an old friend bleed to death.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To get up on national TV and brag about making
jobs when he has destroyed thousands of people`s careers, lifetimes, just
destroyed people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is running for president. And if he`s going to
run the country the way he ran our business, I wouldn`t want him there. He
would -- he is so out of touch with the average person of this country.
How could you care -- how could you care for the average working person if
you feel that way?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That`s an excerpt from a new two-minute television ad the
Obama reelection campaign plans to air for only one day in five key swing
states, Colorado, Iowa Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The ad deploys a
strategy Senator Ted Kennedy used in the 1994 Senate race against Romney,
and Newt Gingrich and his super PAC ally used in the lead up to the South
Carolina Republican primary to take down Mitt Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A story of greed, playing the system for a quick
buck. A group of corporate raiders led by Mitt Romney, more ruthless than
Wall Street. For tens of thousands of Americans, the suffering began when
Mitt Romney came to town.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now is national affairs editor for "New York
Magazine," and an MSNBC political analyst, John Heilemann. "When Mitt
Romney came to town," they want those words to haunt you when you watch.
And the two minute thing -- two minutes is a very expensive ad to buy.
That`s why right now they are only doing it for one day.

Also you can`t -- one of the advertising principals of that is that
you cannot ask a audience to watch a two minute thing twice. So that`s the
one-day buy. I`m sure they will try to do it at other times during the
year.

JOHN HEILEMANN, "NEW YORK MAGAZINE": Yes. you`re going to see
shorter versions of that same ad. And you`re going to see lots -- look,
the -- you mentioned the Kennedy race. Bob Shrum, they went out and found
a lot of these workers in a lot of these cases where the Bain experience
led to job losses.

The Obama campaign has known Mitt Romney would be the nominee for
months. They have had people out in every case where they can find where
Bain led to people losing their jobs, as opposed to jobs being create.
They have found workers, faces like that. They have produced those ads.
They are ready to go. And they`re going to roll out a two-minute, 30
second version, 60 second versions in the swing states from now until
election day, over and over again, telling this story.

O`DONNELL: "Buzzfeed" today dug up the 1994 ad that Mitt Romney ran
and the claims he made about job creation. Let`s listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ted Kennedy is desperately trying to destroy
Romney`s great record on jobs. But listen to what "The Boston Globe" said
about Romney`s success in helping to create more than 10,000 jobs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The thing about 10,000 is now he is claiming it`s 100,000.
And he hasn`t been in business since then. So how did he add 90,000 to his
job creation record while being basically unemployed?

HEILEMANN: It`s tricky, how to figure out the net job losses, net job
gains in these situations. But the important thing here is that the Obama
campaign knows, as we all do, they have a relatively weak hand on the
economy, if the race is at a referendum on Barack Obama`s stewardship. The
country understands that the president was dealt a bad hand to begin with.
They have patience for him.

But look, the Romney argument that Barack Obama has not done that much
for the economy, in over his head, that`s a strong argument. So what they
want to do is they want to make this about a contrast in visions and a
contrast in values. Visions and values goes to Romney`s record as a job
creator. Did he create jobs in the private sector? Did he create jobs as
governor of Massachusetts?

The Obama campaign believes they have a very strong case that the
answer is no in both instance. And that`s going to be a big theme for them
in advertising and the president`s message.

O`DONNELL: Would this be politically riskier, in some sense, for the
Obama campaign if the Gingrich campaign hadn`t gone first, if we hadn`t
seen the Republican version of exactly the same attack?

HEILEMANN: I don`t think it would be riskier at all. I think the
Obama campaign was going to do this one way or the other. There`s no doubt
that the Gingrich campaign kind of softened the ground for this. It has
already been planted in people`s minds that there is questions about what
Bain did, whether this style of capitalism is legitimate.

(CROSS TALK)

HEILEMANN: For a Republican to have raised raises the question in a
way that is more powerful in some ways. Republicans don`t even think that
Bain is for sure a legit business. It gives the Democrats more running
room in that sense, for sure.

O`DONNELL: Surely, there would have been, oh, you lefty Democrats
don`t understand business. You`ve never worked in business. It`s all
about you being so pro government. To have a Gingrich file against Romney
seems very helpful as the foundation for where we are.

HEILEMANN: There`s no doubt. And it lessens -- in the echo chamber,
it lessons. But in terms of swing voters in swing states, they`re not
really hearing that argument. What they`re seeing is workers who look a
lot like them who had a bad experience with Bain. Those people aren`t
affected by whether Newt Gingrich made this argument or not.

Certainly within the media echo chamber, though, it helps lay some of
the ground work for this for sure.

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

HEILEMANN: Always a pleasure.

O`DONNELL: On Saturday, Mitt Romney tried to turn one nation under
God into one nation under Christ. Mitt Romney gets tonight`s Rewrite. And
later, we`ll see if Betty White can move votes for President Obama.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: In tonight`s Rewrite, Mitt Romney Rewrites the one nation
under God concept to one nation under Christ. He went to Liberty
University, formerly known as Liberty Baptist College, founded by the
Reverend Jerry Falwell, and pandered in every way he could to his audience
with the obvious shared belief in the superiority of Christianity over all
other forms of religious expression.

It was Christian chest thumping at its worst, a speech in which Mitt
Romney had nothing good to say about your religion if your religion isn`t
Christian.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The welcoming spirit of
liberty is a tribute to the gracious Christian example of your founder.
Jerry deserves the tribute he would have treasured most, as a cheerful,
confident champion for Christ.

Then he explained by pointing to me and then to himself -- he said,
you see, Christ died between two thieves.

That year after year, young Christians would be drawn to such a
university in ever great numbers. Here you are.

Christianity is not the faith of the complacent, the comfortable or
the timid. It demands and creates heroic souls like Wesley (ph),
Wilberforce (ph), Vonhoffer (ph), John Paul II and Billy Graham. Each
showed in their own way the relentless and powerful influence of the
message of Jesus Christ.

Someone once observed that the great drama of Christianity is not a
crowd shot following the movements of collectives or even nations. The
drama is always personal, individual, unfolding in one`s own life.

There is no greater force for good in the nation than Christian
conscious in action.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: "There is no greater force for good in the nation" than
Jewish conscious in action. Why didn`t Mitt Romney say that at Liberty
University. Why didn`t Mitt Romney say there is no greater force for good
in the nation than Islamic conscious in action.

Would he have gotten applause for that? Why didn`t Mitt Romney say
there is no greater force for good than conscious in action? Or if he is
one of those mistaken souls who believes that without religion there can be
no conscious, then why didn`t Mitt Romney say there is no greater force for
good in the nation than religious conscious in action?

Why -- why did he have to exclude all non-Christian religions from his
reference to conscious in action? The next time Mitt Romney is speaking to
a Jewish audience, do you think he would dare to speak this sentence?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: There is no greater force for good in the nation than
Christian conscious in action.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Obviously Mitt Romney will never say that to a Jewish
audience. He would never say that in Israel. No nominee should be saying
things to one audience that he would not dare say to another audience.
Integrity aside, it`s just not good politics. It`s not smart politics.

Romney was speaking at a university whose mission is, quote, "to
produce Christ-centered men and women," end quote. And so Romney and his
speech writers, the most thoughtless panders in the modern history of
presidential campaigning, thought nothing of dropping this sentence into
his teleprompter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: There is no greater force for good in the nation than
Christian conscious in action.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Romney told his audience Christianity is not the faith of
the complacent, the comfortable, or of the timid. Sometimes it is, like
when Mitt Romney is talking about it. Here is what Christians sound like
when they are not timid. Here is Ted Kennedy, 29 years ago, speaking at
the same university that Mitt Romney spoke at this weekend.

That same university, with the mission to produce Christ-centered men
and women, listened to Ted Kennedy say this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TED KENNEDY, FORMER SENATOR: In short, I hope for an America where
neither fundamentalist nor humanist will be a dirty word, but a fair
description of the different ways in which people of good will look at live
and into their own souls.

I hope for an America where no president, no public official, no
individual will ever be deemed a greater or lesser American because of
religious doubt or religious belief.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That`s what not being timid sounds like. That`s Ted
Kennedy telling Liberty University that religious doubt does not make you a
lesser American than the most doubt-free believers at Liberty University.
That is something Mitt Romney would not dare say at Liberty University.
And it is something that Mitt Romney clearly does not believe.

In 1984, the Catholic governor of New York, Mario Cuomo, father of the
current governor, spoke at America`s most renowned Catholic university,
Notre Dame. And Mario Cuomo was not timid.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARIO CUOMO, FORMER GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK protect my right to be a
Catholic by preserving your right to be a Jew or a protestant or a
nonbeliever or anything else you choose.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: There is Mario Cuomo not only acknowledging the existence
of non-Christian religions, something Romney could not do on Saturday, but
acknowledging the existence of what he called, quote, "the nonbeliever."
And acknowledging the existence of your right to believe, as he put it,
anything else you choose.

Mitt Romney would never dare speak that sentence to any audience
anywhere. But the Cuomo position is the true American position. Mario
Cuomo, the Catholic, did not pander to his largely Catholic audience at
Notre Dame. Mario Cuomo challenged his audience -- challenged them not to
succumb to the temptation of forcing their beliefs on others, something
Mitt Romney will dare not do in front of any Christian audience at any
time.

Mitt Romney stands so timidly before his Christian audiences that he
dare not do anything but pander.

It takes another kind of politician to stand before an audience,
especially a religious audience, and challenge them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: We know that the price of speaking to force our belief on
others is that they might some day force their belief on us. This freedom
is the fundamental strength of our unique experiment in government.

Way down deep, the American people are afraid of an entangling
relationship between formal religions or whole bodies of religious belief
and government. There`s a sense that tells us it`s wrong to presume to
speak for God or to claim God`s sanction of our particular legislation and
his rejection of all other positions.

Most of us are offended when we see religion being trivialized by its
appearance in political throwaway pamphlets. The American people need no
course in philosophy or political science or church history to know that
God should not be made into a celestial party chairman.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That was Mario Cuomo, 28 years ago, challenging his
audience -- challenging his audience at a religious university to think --
to think about their religious beliefs and how their religious beliefs
should and should not intersect with governing choices.

Twenty eight years from now, you can be sure no one will remember and
no one will be quoting Mitt Romney`s Christian superiority pandering at
Liberty University.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Dear Betty, you look so
fantastic and full of energy. I can`t believe you are 90 years old. In
fact, I don`t believe it. That`s why I`m writing to ask if you will be
willing to produce a copy of your long form birth certificate. Thanks and
happy birthday, no matter how old you are.

(SINGING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: President Obama recently won the endorsement of a very
important Hollywood starlet, America`s golden girl, Betty White. The 90-
year-old actress told the Associate Press that she usually stays out of
politics, but this year she decided to go on the record as an Obama
supporters. She says that she very, very much favors President Barack
Obama and likes how he represents us.

Betty White came out for marriage equality before the president. In
2010, she told "Parade Magazine, "I don`t care who anybody sleeps with. If
a couple has been together all that time -- and there are gay relationships
that are more solid than some heterosexual ones -- I think it`s fine if
they want to get married. I don`t know how people can get so anti-
something. Mind your own business. Take care of your affairs. And don`t
worry about other people so much."

Joining me now is Dana Milbank, who never worries about other people,
political columnist for the "Washington Post." Dana, Betty White has such
an interesting following. She was kind of pushed on to "Saturday Night
Live" by a youth movement online. And yet she`s 90-years old. Is she more
influential with the grandmothers of America or with the grandchildren of
America?

DANA MILBANK, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Lawrence, this is going to be
huge. We had the soccer moms. We had the hockey moms. And 2012 is going
to be the year of the Golden Girls. You mark my word on that.

But it is sort of interesting here because -- and she fulfills a
useful demographic for Obama. It`s not like the president needs more
Hollywood celebrities out there. But he can use something here,
particularly on the gay issue.

The polls indicate that a majority of women under 50 are supportive of
gay marriage, but a majority of women over 50 are not supportive of gay
marriage. This is actually helpful in a rather serious way, for her to
come out and say that. But yes, he went -- many people say he was looking
to rile up the youth vote and seems to have done something.

O`DONNELL: She seems to get both ends of the age spectrum that way,
have an appeal to them anyway. That is where the problem is on same-sex
marriage, is in the older voter. I was actually shocked to see that in the
"New York Times" poll, 24 percent of Americans above the age of 45 support
marriage equality, only 24 percent above the age of 45.

I would have thought you to go above the age of 65 to get a number
like that at least. So the issue definitely needs help in the older age
groups.

MILBANK: Right. All those numbers are higher for women generally.
But there was a Pew Research Center poll recently that said 60 percent
support if you are over 50. It was down to like 34 percent support if you
are over 50, sorry -- and 60 percent if you are under 50.

But this sort of endorsement -- look, endorsements are fairly
meaningless in politics anyway. But this sort of thing doesn`t hurt.

O`DONNELL: No, I completely agree endorsements are meaningless. What
I am wondering about in this one, since it`s so unusual, is -- is there
something interesting that she can reach in terms of the communication and
the places -- "Parade Magazine" -- the places where Betty White will get
quoted are different and much more mainstream. They will skew towards, in
many situations, older audiences that otherwise wouldn`t be carrying items
like that.

MILBANK: Sure. Well, it`s older, which Obama isn`t particularly weak
with, to begin with. And it`s women, where he is trying to exploit this
enormous gender gap advantage. Just think about what he was doing today,
inviting himself to receive this -- receive the medal at Barnard and then
moving on to tape "The View."

This is very much a piece of that, of taking what is a large gender
gap and trying to make it bigger.

O`DONNELL: Dana Milbank of the "Washington Post," thank you very much
for joining me tonight.

MILBANK: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Betty White will be getting up early tomorrow. She`s
going to be on "The Today Show" tomorrow. You can go to our blog,
TheLastWord.MSNBC.com, to see the full version of that Mario Cuomo speech
that I showed you excerpts of.

END

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