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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

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Guests: Alex Wagner, Chris Hayes, Richard Wolffe, Joy-Ann Reid, Ari Melber

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: The Romney campaign hasn`t figured out how to
talk about Mitt Romney`s days of Bain Capital, but Joe Biden has.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They don`t get us.
They don`t get who we are.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There`s no leveling an attack dog.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Vice President Biden is going to be chief attack
dog.

BIDEN: I resent the fact they think we`re talking about envy.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it`s about envy.

BIDEN: My mother and father dreamed as much as any rich guy dreamed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The FDR message rings well and people likes it.

ROMNEY: Who is going to do what it takes to put out the fire?

See a fire in the distance.

A prairie fire of debt.

CHRIS JANSING, NBC NEWS: Harsh new political rhetoric over the
economy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The sweeping inferno of death.

ROMNEY: Prairie fire of debt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Focusing on deficits and debt on the campaign
trail.

ROMNEY: The fire in the distance.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When he was governor, he raised the debt by 15
percent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He only wants to keep the Bush tax cuts in place.

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: He makes the debt worse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Which just adds to this the debt.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Every piece of this narrative is askew.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: Last time in the debt ceiling fight ended like
a typical Tarantino flick.

JANSING: Didn`t Republican blow that one?

TODD: Casualties and blood were everywhere.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone was hurt last summer.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Where is the
president`s plan?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: John Boehner is bringing back the debt ceiling
debate. He would once again hold the U.S. credit rating hostage.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Call it kill bill and everyone else volume two.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kill bill volume two.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He`s not going to approve any increase --

JANSING: No tax increases.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- that`s not offset by spending cuts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s our way or the highway.

WOLFFE: It`s a big problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do Republicans really want a Quentin Tarantino-
like sequel?

JANSING: Is this a fight they really want to get into in?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They fight about stupid things like this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know it`s going to be raised, it`s just a
question of when.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: Monday. it was the Obama campaign. Tuesday, it was the
Obama super PAC. And today, it was the Obama vice president going after
Mitt Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: I resent the fact that think we`re talking about envy. My
mother and father believed that if my brother or sister wanted to be a
millionaire, they could be a millionaire. My mother and father dreamed as
much as any rich guy dreams. They don`t get us! They don`t get who we
are!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Then the vice president zeroed in on Bain Capital.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BAIN: Romney made sure the guys on top got to play by a separate set
of rules. He ran up massive debts and the middle class lost. And, folks,
he thinks that experience is going to help our economy?

Let`s take a look. Look, with these guys, past is prologue. So what
do you think about what he`ll do as president?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: After Mitt Romney`s campaign staff went so far as to try
to physically block reporters from approaching the candidate on the rope
line in Florida today, Mitt Romney chose to appear in the friendly confines
of a conservative blogger`s radio show to defend his Bain record.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

ROMNEY: They said, oh gosh, Governor Romney at Bain Capital closed
down a steel factory. But the problem, of course, is the steel factory
closed down two years after I left Bain Capital. I was no longer there.
So that`s hardly something that is on my watch.

Of course, they also don`t mention a couple of other things. One is
that we were able to create over is 100,000 jobs. And secondly, on the
president`s watch, about 100,000 jobs were lost in the auto industry and
auto dealers and auto manufacturers, you know, so he`s hardly one to point
a finger.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Mitt Romney claimed once again that he helped create over
100,000 jobs at Bain capital, a figure that has grown tenfold since 1994
when Romney ran for senator in Massachusetts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: As for the $100,000 jobs figure, Romney uses, that number
has been disputed by numerous fact checkers, including the "Washington
Post," who called it an untenable figure.

President Obama`s deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter countered
Romney on a conference call today.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

STEPHANIE CUTTER, OBAMA DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I think that it`s
embarrassing for Mitt Romney to liken what the president did with the auto
industry, in saving the auto industry, to what he did during his time in
the private sector, where he bankrupted companies.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And in endorsement news today, pardon me, big endorsement
news today, Herman Cain endorsed Mitt Romney, but Romney was not his first
choice when Herman Cain dropped out of the race in December.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My unconventional
endorsement is the people!

I hereby officially and enthusiastically endorse Newt Gingrich.

It is clear that Governor Mitt Romney is going to be the Republican
nominee, and so I want to formally endorse him.

REPORTER: Why the change of mind now? And why do you think that
people should be listening to your endorsement today?

CAIN: My endorsement evolved.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The one consistent thing is the necktie, the gold
necktie.

Alex Wagner, it is the season for evolving. First President Obama.
Now, Herman Cain.

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: It is the season. I look forward to the
evolution of the endorsement when Herman Cain endorses a pizza. It`s the
next logical step.

You know, Mitt Romney, Bain Capital, Lawrence, the thing that always
flummoxes me, which is I guess is the most euphemistic term I can use, is
why he`s even trying to prove that he`s a job creator. The point of Bain
Capital has never been to create jobs, and he`s always going to lose on
this issue, whether through factual analysis or the very premise of what
Bain Capital does, which is to create profits for its clients.

O`DONNELL: Right. Would wealth creator be a viable political claim
for yourself?

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: It would in a Republican Party, but not in
a general election. And in some ways he tried to play -- I mean, one of
the things he tried to do at different points in the primary, he was
getting so little traction in his manifestly disingenuous answers was to
play this up John Galt card, that he was this heroic, Ayn Rand-esque figure
who created wealth.

He -- the reason I think that he has the -- he has to make the
argument that he`s been making, that he was a job creator, is they reverse-
engineered the story around the condition of the conditions. There`s a job
deficit. There`s terrible record unemployment.

So they took the two and sort of fused them together. The solution
of the country`s economic problem is my record as an independent private
businessman but, of course --

WAGNER: And not his record as governor of Massachusetts.

(CROSSTALK)

WAGNER: Where he was maybe creating jobs, I don`t know.

HAYES: Let`s also remember that his record as the governor of
Massachusetts has been entirely erased. His resume, it does not exist.
The guy was --

WAGNER: The computers have been thrown away.

HAYES: Literally. Yes. It`s remarkable considering the guy
actually was elected to run a state at a certain point, has executive
governmental experience, and that`s been completely disappeared from the
story about himself.

O`DONNELL: But, Chris Hayes, is this mission accomplished if for
Obama campaign, that Mitt Romney, after two and a half days of silence
after the attacks on Bain Capital is now talking about Bain Capital. Is
any conversation good for Obama campaign?

HAYES: Yes, I think so.

O`DONNELL: Even one where Romney is defending it and saying here`s
what I did and 100,000 jobs?

HAYES: Yes, there`s a question to the degree that all this ends up
getting netted out. There will be attacks and counter attacks and people
start to tune out. And what you don`t want to end up, I think if you`re an
Obama campaigner, competing claims about the number of jobs at issue. I
think what they`re trying to do is keep it on the human story.

Let`s remember Joe Biden is talking in Youngstown, Ohio. That place
has been absolutely devastated by the model of post-industrial capitalism
brought to America by companies like Bain Capital. That`s literally what
happened. Private equity firms went out and facilitated the outsourcing
and streamlining and downsizing of the industrial base of this country and
left a lot of the country looking like Youngstown.

O`DONNELL: Alex, Joe Biden is trying to reduce all the talk of
Romney the rich guy, Romney the job killer to one basic generic point.
Let`s listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: He`s a patriot. He`s a generous man. He gives to his
church. He has a beautiful family.

But he doesn`t get it. He doesn`t get what`s at the core of all
this. It`s about people`s dignity.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: He doesn`t get it. That would be the bumper sticker, the
anti-Romney bumper sticker.

WAGNER: And there`s no better emissary for that message than Joe
Biden. That was effectively an arm load of snap dragon and peonies to the
administration and to the Obama reelection team, which has been perhaps
rightfully so, a little skeptical of Joe Biden, how much he can be
controlled and on-message. That was an incredible speech that he gave
today.

And it wasn`t just the part about Mitt Romney, but it was also
someone who understands what it`s like to see their father laid off. He
talks about the long walk home, the shame of getting fired, the dignity of
having a job. Nobody delivers that message better than Joe Biden.

Who does Mitt Romney have? Mitt Romney could never counter that. He
has no one on his side. The best he could do is Chris Christie. But Joe
Biden has a residence and emotional pitch that`s nearly perfect.

HAYES: I think what`s effective about that, exactly what Alex said,
I`ve been engaged in million of these debates about things like
outsourcing, and what the role private equity and places like Bain and
played them in the American economy. And what you end up with is from a
political standpoint, untenable situation, which is on one side making
arguments about efficiency and the macro effects and maximizing wealth for
shareholders.

And the other side, you have human stories, you have people who took
the long walk home. People who showed up one day and were told, you`re
fired, you`re laid off. Not for anything you did but because some unknown
group of people made some financial transactions and you`re on the wrong
side of that. That feeling is a difficult one to rebut with my amount of
facts and figures. The human story at the core of that is a brutal one.

O`DONNELL: And Joe Biden went specific today. He`s telling the
story Ampad story. Let`s listen to how he tells that story.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: The company was $400 million in debt. But Romney and his
partners, this time they walked away with $100 million in profit.

Look, folks, I don`t want businessmen not to be able to make profit.
It`s all about profits. There`s a little bit about equity.

Laying on debt, laying off workers, doing what`s good for the top
while everyone else fends for themselves, you can`t afford that in the
valley. And we can`t afford that in the nation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Alex, there`s going to be a lot more specific -- company-
specific stories. This is Ampad, the legal pad manufacturer from Texas.
And that`s been talked about in a lot of Romney campaigns. We`re going to
hear more and more of this, right?

WAGNER: Yes, and the counter to that, and Biden talked about it in
the speech is this notion that when his dad was laid off he went to find
jobs in another city because he had faith that the system worked. And
that`s what Biden is hitting on. Romney has adulterated the system. The
system no longer works for ordinary, middle class working Americans. And
it`s a really -- it`s a very powerful message.

HAYES: Yes, Biden had a quote a year or so ago about people feel the
system isn`t on the level, that there`s not a square deal. That it`s not
fair. That there`s two sets of rules. I think that is essentially the
dominant national mood.

And it`s actually -- it goes across the entire ideological spectrum,
the sense that there`s two sets of rules. People on the top regulate for
themselves. Everyone else is left holding the bag. I think it`s a very
effective message.

O`DONNELL: Now, before we go, you may as well address this because
you`re going to spend all night on Twitter answering this.

How did you end up in this color coordinated, and by the way, show
color coordinated situation.

WAGNER: We have a purple limousine waiting for us, we`re going to
prom, obviously.

O`DONNELL: And, Chris Hayes, you actually said before the show, you
own exactly one necktie, and that is the necktie?

HAYES: I was exaggerating.

O`DONNELL: By how many? By two?

HAYES: By two or three. I have one that`s in my office that hangs
there.

O`DONNELL: You know, the thing works for weddings. That works for
funerals.

HAYES: Yes, this purple is a universal color.

O`DONNELL: I have only one, so I saved you a lot of full-time on
Twitter with that.

HAYES: Thank you very much.

O`DONNELL: Alex Wagner of "NOW" and Chris Hayes of "UP" -- thank you
both for joining us tonight.

WAGNER: Thanks, Lawrence.

HAYES: Thanks.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, the president`s other opponent, Congress.
They want another debt ceiling fight.

And chef Mario Batali is under attack from FOX News host for what?
For worrying about people on food stamps. For that, FOX News thinks Mario
Batali should be slapped around. That`s actually what they said. That`s
in tonight`s rewrite.

And a strange entry in the Republican veep stakes tonight. Chris
Christie teams up with New York Mayor Corey Booker.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My message to
Congress, and I`m going to have a chance see the congressional leadership
when I get back to the White House -- I`m going to offer them some hoagies
while they`re there -- is let`s go ahead and act to build and sustain
momentum for our economy. There will be more than enough time for us to
campaign and politic, but let`s make sure that we don`t lose -- we don`t
lose steam at a time when a lot of folks like these are feeling pretty
optimistic and are ready to go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That was President Obama this morning at a Washington,
D.C. sandwich shop, picking up hoagies for his lunch with congressional
leadership, including House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader
Mitch McConnell. And there marks the very first use of the word "hoagie"
in THE LAST WORD with Lawrence O`Donnell in its year and a half run so far.

Here`s how White House Press Secretary Jay Carney described the
conversation after the lunch was over.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president also made
clear that he refuses to allow a replay of last summer`s self-inflicted
political crisis that eroded confidence and hurt the American economy.
We`re not going to recreate the debt ceiling debacle of last August. It is
simply not acceptable to hold the American and global economy hostage to
one party`s political ideology.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The came in response to this threat Boehner made
yesterday in a speech which today Boehner claimed he did not make.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER: When the time comes, I will again insist my simple
principle of cuts and reform greater than the debt limit increase. Yes,
allowing America to default on its debt would be irresponsible. But it
would be more irresponsible to raise the debt ceiling without taking
dramatic steps to reduce spending and reform the budget process.

Whoa, whoa, whoa. I`m not threatening default.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: For the record, a Boehner aide did confirm, quote, "The
speaker was very pleased with the sandwiches served at the lunch."

Joining us now are Richard Wolffe, an MSNBC political analyst, and
Alex Wagner is still with us.

Alex, so hoagies to solve any possible threat of a debt ceiling
fight. They didn`t try hoagies last time so it might work.

WAGNER: Lawrence, nothing says national unity like hoagies. I want
to keep repeating the word hoagie.

(CROSSTALK)

WAGNER: As much as possible.

Look, this is -- the president had a list of to-dos. He`s been
making every concerted effort to show bipartisanship on a number of bills.
You have seen Republicans at the White House signing onto things -- small
incremental measures that they may be. This is part of the political
optics. It`s a good thing the president invited Republican leadership as
well as Democratic leadership to the White House. We know that he has a
frosty relationship with Congress at best.

But at the end of the day, when you have John Boehner preempting the
meetings with that rhetoric, it`s impossible to thing anything is actually
going to get done.

O`DONNELL: Richard Wolffe, the traditional role for the
congressional parties was just to keep everything calm while the big guys
are out there campaigning for president. Don`t distract. Don`t cause
trouble.

How does the Romney campaign feel when the Republican leadership is
saying, hey, we might just close things down?

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I don`t think that
Boehner`s message is designed for the national audience. So there`s a
total break there between the two.

John Boehner is talking a narrow casted message to his safe house
districts. And by the way, let`s just be clear here and let the secret out
of the bag. Everybody is going to get what they want out of the giant, the
mother of all lame duck sessions after this election.

The debt ceiling will be raised. There will be spending cuts. There
will be tax hikes. And, you know, they have to do all this because all the
deadlines come together at the end of the year.

So this is posturing. But who benefits from this posturing? Surely
even John Boehner knows this was a low point for his party in the polls
when you go back to the debt ceiling. The only people who liked it are the
people who will vote Republican in November anyway. Those aren`t the
people Mitt Romney needs.

O`DONNELL: Jay Carney expressed a little frustration today. Let`s
listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARNEY: It is widely accepted now -- although regrettably not
universally accepted -- that the primary stumbling block to bipartisan
cooperation on this issue is the absolute intransigence, the review fall of
Republicans to accept what bipartisan commissions accept, what Democrats,
independents and Republicans in the country accept, which is that we need a
balanced approach to this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Alex, if they can get the electorate to accept that it is
the Republican`s fault. This is just all points for President Obama and
for congressional Democrats in their campaign.

WAGNER: Yes, as Richard said, the debt debacle was not good for the
Republican Party. This is coming at a time when Mitch McConnell and John
Boehner are doing delicate dances with their caucus. They are in danger.
The leadership issues are endangered. And we know that John Boehner had
has to tread a very careful line.

He is -- the rhetoric around this event is very much an effort to
show, hey guys, I`m still with you. And he`s speaking to the most radical
elements of the House caucus.

O`DONNELL: Barbara Boxer, I think framed this in an interesting way
on "THE DAILY RUNDOWN" this morning with Chuck Todd. Let`s listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: They`re setting up a big fight,
McConnell and Boehner over the future debt ceiling, making it a crisis,
when it isn`t a crisis. They want to create a crisis so people say oh my
goodness. Maybe if we change everything, things will be better. Maybe we
need a different president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Richard Wolffe, that`s the best theory I`ve heard so far
about why they might want to -- as she puts it -- create the sensation of a
crisis.

WOLFFE: Well, yes. I mean, it ties in with what Karl Rove is
spending $25 million on right now, which is to say, you know, this
president promised us a lot. He promised he could make the country work
and make Washington work, and we`ve worked really hard to make sure that
doesn`t happen. So it`s his failure, right?

You know, the idea that this is a self fulfilling failure, a self
fulfilling prophesy that this president couldn`t work, it`s really the
entire premise that the Republican Party is running on in November. The
question is, can the Obama campaign call their bluff on it. Can they point
out what actually happened, how the presidents reached out, how the
president has compromised, how Boehner wouldn`t use the word compromise in
an interview with "60 Minutes."

You know, that`s where this sadly is going to come out, rather actual
the very real debate we should be having about what`s the purpose of
government.

O`DONNELL: Now, the hoagie before lunch today, John Boehner tried to
make it very clear, look, whatever happens here, it isn`t personal. I have
no problem with President Obama. Let`s listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER: It`s not a personal issue. The president, as you well
know, we get along fine. But he has issues with what I believe in. And,
frankly, I have issues with what he believes in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: So they`ve got some issues, just not personal.
Everything is fine.

WAGNER: Well, I see two things on that. One is I do think John
Boehner and President Obama share a certain amount of respect for one
another.

The other thing is, this is very well poll-tested. Americans like
President Obama. Even people who don`t want to vote for him like him. So
it`s not a good talking point to attack the man personally. It`s better to
undercut him on every ingle policy issue ever.

O`DONNELL: Alex Wagner of "NOW" and MSNBC political analyst Richard
Wolffe -- thank you both very much for joining me.

WOLFFE: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, the competition to be Mitt Romney`s running
mate has become a battle of the boring white guys. And later, we will see
if the auto tune guys can make listening to Mitt Romney more fun.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: The November ballot is set in the U.S. Senate race in
Nebraska -- a seat that is key to keep control of the United States Senate.
Former senator and Nebraska governor, Bob Kerry, easily won the five-person
Democratic primary with 81 percent of the vote. Mitt Romney, by the way,
won the presidential primary with only 71 percent of the vote.

And in the three-way Republican Senate primary, attorney general Jon
Bruning who was favored to win last night was upset by State Senator Deb
Fischer who was endorsed by Sarah Palin. Todd Palin recorded a robocall
for her on the eve of the election. Fischer won with 41 percent of the
vote. Bruning, who had been endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce, Rick
Santorum and Mike Huckabee, got only 36 percent of the vote. And State
Treasurer Don Stinberg (ph), who was backed by Tea Party Senator Jim Demint
and the ultra-conservative anti-tax organization the Club For Growth, got a
mere 19 percent.

Today Sarah Palin offered her congratulations on Facebook. "As
recently as a week ago, Deb Fischer was dismissed by the establishment.
Why? Because she is not part of the good old boys permanent political
class. I applaud moms like Deb Fischer who are bold enough to step up and
run on a conservative platform, to restore America and protect our
children`s rights."

And so in Nebraska, it`s now Bob Kerrey versus Deb Fischer and Sarah
Palin for control of the United States Senate.

Coming up, Mitt Romney is said to be looking for, quote, "an
incredibly boring white guy" for his vice presidential pick. But is Chris
Christie boring enough?

And in tonight`s Rewrite, why -- why is Fox News attacking celebrity
chef Mario Batali for trying to help people on Food Stamps? Have they
forgotten what Christ said about feeding the poor? That`s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)


O`DONNELL: In the spotlight tonight, the Republican Veep Stakes.
Chris Christie creates an actual audition tape with a little help from
Newark Democratic Mayor Corey Booker.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR COREY BOOKER (D), NEWARK, NEW JERSEY: Governor Romney --
Governor Romney, yes, that was me running into the fire. Yes. I do shovel
snow as well. Yes, you`re very persuasive.

But I`m not a number two guy. I`m not background singer. Mitt, sir,
with all due respect, I know you need a big --

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Excuse me, mayor. I got this.

BOOKER: Christie.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: When it cops to the Veep Stakes, Christie wants Romney to
know he`s got this. But new polling suggests he doesn`t have it, at least
when it comes to turning New Jersey from blue to red. A new Quinnipiac
poll finds, with no running mates on the ticket, New Jersey voters would
choose President Obama over Mitt Romney, 49 to 39 percent. And if you add
Governor Christie to the ticket and the Obama-Biden team then wins 50 to 42
percent in New Jersey.

Joining me now is Ari Melber, correspondent for "The Nation" and an
MSNBC contributor, and Joy-Ann Reid, managing editor on TheGrio.com and an
MSNBC contributor.

Joy-Ann, so Chris Christie doesn`t really help?

JOY-ANN REID, THE GRIO.COM: No, he doesn`t.

O`DONNELL: In New Jersey anyway. Where else is he going to help?

REID: Right, exactly. New Jersey is sort of one of those white
whales for Republicans, where they`re like this time we`re really going to
get it. But New Jersey is essentially a blue state when it comes to
presidential elections. And I think it would take a lot more than Chris
Christie, who has good approval ratings as governor, to turn the state red.

O`DONNELL: Can I just ask how weird is it to you to hear Republican
insiders publicly commenting to "Politico," look, the strategy is boring
white guy. Like they think that that`s a perfectly OK thing to just put
out there.

REID: Yeah, it is very strange. I love the fact that Margaret
Carlson, in the article she wrote, said that but for the fact that he is
black, Barack Obama is a boring white guy. So what they were trying to get
at is he`s just a straight -- they need a straight-laced person, someone
acceptable to the base, but who won`t overshadow Romney.

I think it says a lot about the guy at the top of the ticket, that you
want someone who is not too flashy because they`re candidate at the top of
the ticket is not too flashy.

O`DONNELL: And Ari, in their definition of both boring and white,
does Bobby Jindal fit anywhere in that definition?

ARI MELBER, "THE NATION": I think he is neither white nor boring.
But I`m not a Republican insider. I`m just a boring white guy with liberal
tendencies. I do think it`s weird. I think what it says is that some
people close to the Romney campaign do believe this will be a conventional
pick and they want to extinguish the fires and the energy around other
people who are less traditional candidates.

O`DONNELL: And they`re talking about Rob Portman a lot. And so they
seem to be -- it may be, Joy-Ann, that they are -- as Ari is saying,
they`re kind of ramping you up to what -- to a Rob Portman, so there won`t
be some big crush of disappointment.

REID: Right. I mean, the job of the vice president on the ticket
really is first do no harm. Don`t say anything embarrassing. Right?
Don`t overshadow your guy, which is in 2008 the opposite of what happened.
You wound up with Sarah Palin who totally overshadowed John McCain.

So they`re looking also to do the anti-2008. So you want someone who
could potentially deliver an important state. Ohio is very important, 18
electoral votes. So Portman makes sense if you do it by the numbers.

But I think also the Republican party understands that if they try to
go for a demographic pick, that person has to actually be able to deliver a
demographic. And there isn`t really someone who comes to mind who could do
that. Marco Rubio, who everyone in the media loves to talk about, would
not deliver Hispanics. He`s against the Dream Act.

Susanna Martinez has had the same issue. She`s not overwhelmingly
popular with Hispanics because she`s been tough on immigration reform. She
actually has sort of changed that now.

And then if you picked someone who was, let`s say, Hispanic and pro-
immigration reform, well then the base wouldn`t like them. So it`s tricky
to try to be too cute with it. So they`re thinking, you know what, let`s
go conventional. We`ll pick someone who could help deliver a state.

O`DONNELL: And on the do no harm, there`s usually -- with everybody
you can think of, there`s some negative. With Portman, you certainly have,
Ari, the road right back into the discussion of the Bush administration
deficits, because he was there helping build those deficits, and build that
debt.

MELBER: Yeah, he`s already seeking to build some distance now between
his tenure with George W. Bush administration and what he would do in the
future. I was at a luncheon that they did with him and reporters here in
New York on Monday. And he very directly, on the record, criticized George
W. Bush, said he should have done more vetoes, should have reined in
spending.

So I do think that`s a vulnerability. The other point is, you know,
you show the video of Corey Booker talking about how he`s not a backup
singer. And governors typically are not. In fact, we haven`t had a two
governor ticket since 1948, when Dewey picked Earl Warren. That was back
when you could be a moderate Republican and be on a national ticket. And
they lost anyway.

So I do think Portman fits in as a senator, which even though we know
people don`t like the Senate, it does serve for a better VP, you know,
training ground.

O`DONNELL: We have Bobby Jindal audition tape thanks to Fox News.
Let`s take a look at that now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: President Obama simply cannot run
on his record. The reality is 23 million Americans unemployed,
underemployed simply have left the workforce. President Obama cannot ask
the American people, are you better off than you were four years ago? He`s
going to have to savagely attack Mitt Romney. We have seen the start of
that this week.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That is Grover Norquist`s pick for VP speaking right
there. I don`t know. That guy versus Joe Biden for an hour debate.

REID: Right. And that alone says a lot, that he is Grover Norquist`s
favorite candidate. Look, Bobby Jindal ticks a lot of boxes that
Republicans would like. He gives them the pateen (ph) of diversity, right,
because he`s not a boring white guy, as we say.

But he`s from a state they`ve already got. His big issue is drilling
and school vouchers. I don`t think that that`s necessarily great selling
point nationwide. And he`s not that articulate. Or at least he`s not that
charismatic, let`s just say. And there is a charisma gap between the two
tickets.

I agree with you, him versus Joe Biden, I don`t know. Joe Biden sort
of has that every man thing going for him. I`m not sure that Bobby Jindal
can pull that off.

O`DONNELL: Ari, sometimes these lists show you how weak these lists
are. He should not be on a serious vice presidential list for a party that
has a really good bench to choose from. But he`s on it because they don`t
have great people to look into.

MELBER: Yeah, I think Martinez would be a more interesting pick,
obviously, than Bobby Jindal. And he really flubbed his bag national
audition, which everyone remembers, when people felt he looked more like
Kenneth the Page than presidential material in his response to the State of
the Union.

So I don`t think there`s much to recommend him, other than the idea
that he sort of has become a favorite of Washington insiders, like Grover
Norquist, who want to cut the budget, cut Food Stamps, cut assistance and
unemployment benefits. So I don`t really see why that sort of inside
recommendation is going to get him very far.

O`DONNELL: And Romney is going to have to be dealing with these
questions pretty -- probably all the way to the convention. He did a
Florida interview with WFAL today where some of this kind of thing came up.
Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Final question, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, where do
they fit in the Romney administration?

ROMNEY: They`re wonderful people. I look forward to working with
them. But I got nothing for you as to positions in our team, if I`m so
fortunate as to become elected president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: They`re wonderful people. We`re going to hear -- there`s
going to be a lot of wonderful people reactions coming up.

REID: Yes. Actually, his reaction to them is sort of the same as
their`s have been to him. Like Romney, OK, if we must. You know what I
mean? There`s been no excitement.

And look, Jeb Bush is an interesting figure, because he is somebody
who everyone believes is going to run in 2016. So you have to wonder is he
even really rooting for Mitt Romney? Because his best chance is that jump
ball election four years hence.

But, you know, I think, in a way, Jeb Bush would almost be a better
running mate for him. He`s popular in Florida. He would have a much
better chance of delivering Florida than Marco Rubio would. And in a lot
of ways, but for the fact that his last name is Bush, which would, of
course, be a glaring reminder of the previous president, he actually might
be a better pick.

And he`s fluent in Spanish.

MELBER: And one more piece to this is that Barack Obama was a very
strong nominee. He was very popular in the grassroots. There were a lot
of candidates and incumbents who actually had to get back on board with him
because of his grassroots enthusiasm. Mitt Romney, as we all know, is the
opposite.

So one of the only chits that he has here is trying to make a lot of
these people think they might be on the ticket so he can use them. He
needs Rubio. he needs Bush at least to say some nice things, if not to
overtly campaign. His weakness in the base I think actually affects the
way he talks about these folks.

O`DONNELL: Is it possible that Jeb Bush -- I don`t think he would do
it. But if he did it, would he outshine Romney?

REID: Absolutely, yes. Jeb Bush is a much more forceful speaker.
He`s a very bright guy. He has a lot of the qualities of leadership. But
again, he, too, is not really a second fiddle. This is a guy who is an
executive person. I think that he would easily outshine Mitt Romney.

O`DONNELL: Joy-Ann Reid, managing editor of TheGrio.com, and Ari
Melber, correspondent for "The Nation," thank you both very much for
joining me tonight.

REID: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Fox News attacks chef Mario Batali for trying
to Rewrite America`s understanding of Food Stamps. Rewriting Fox News is
what we`re going to do a little bit later.

And later, if Mitt Romney did not pay attention to my guest, James
Lipton, last night to learn how to be human, he should pay attention to the
video we will show you tonight, the likes and loves of Mitt Romney set to
music.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Celebrity chef Mario Batali, whom I`ve never had the
pleasure of meeting, is trying to Rewrite this country`s understanding of
the Food Stamp program from zero understanding to what it`s actually like
to try to feed a family on Food Stamps.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARIO BATALI, CELEBRITY CHEF: At the big food bank for New York fund-
raiser about a couple of weeks ago, I challenged everyone to try to walk a
mile in a person`s shoes. And that was to see if you could live on Food
Stamps.

What it really does is it causes us to think about what hunger is,
whether the state is responsible for feeding people, what kind of things
are going on in politics. And what really makes it a great kind of engine
for our discussion at the house is we really have to think about what we`re
eating.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Tomorrow, Mario Batali, his wife and their two teenage
sons will finish their week of eating on the equivalent of a Food Stamp
budget. That`s 31 dollars per person for the week, 1.48 per meal each. On
day four of Batali`s life on a Food Stamp budget, he told the Associated
Press, "I`m" -- expletive deleted -- "starving." He said he`s been having
rice and beans for lunch every day and figuring out ever cheaper ways to
put food on the table.

He said his teenage sons are, quote, "having more peanut butter and
jelly than they have had in the last 10 years."

Batali has been leading a couple of hundred people who are trying to
eat for a week on a Food Stamp budget. This is an act of discipline and
sacrifice that few among us would dare undertake, except, of course, those
already living on Food Stamps.

Kind of wonderful that a rich and famous celebrity chef, who never has
to think about the plight of the hungry, would help raise our awareness.
Well, Fox News doesn`t see it that way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This week, Chef Mario Batali is eating on the
equivalent of a Food Stamp budget, about 1.50 per meal, as a way to protest
potential cuts to the Benefits Program. Says the restaurateur, quote, "we
hopefully aren`t pretending or being like a bunch of yuppies saying oh,
yeah, this is how you can do it. Look, we can grind our own oats."

That`s exactly how it sounds. Terry, does this make you want to slap
him around?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Slap him around. Now Greg Gutfeld (ph) thinks that`s
funny. In fact, he thinks most of what he says is funny. And it`s meant
to be funny. But comedy isn`t comedy if it isn`t funny.

His panelists went on for a couple of minutes ridiculing Mario Batali
without ever once considering the plight of people who actually live on
Food Stamps.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It doesn`t. If he wanted to help people that are
actually poor, is to do what he does well, which is start successful
restaurants and hire people. That would actually help some people get out
of poverty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: You have to be so disconnected from American popular
culture not to know that Mario Batali has started many successful
restaurants and hired hundreds and hundreds, maybe thousands of people to
staff those restaurants. He has 11 restaurants from New York to Los
Angeles. He also runs Eatalie (ph), a large combination of markets and
restaurants under a single roof here in New York.

And he`s also created jobs in the television business by his own very
successful TV show, "The Chew" on ABC.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wouldn`t it be a better idea for him to donate
some food from one of his posh restaurants? Or allow them to use Food
Stamps at their posh restaurant?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: It`s illegal in most states to use Food Stamps in
restaurants. And as to donating some food -- Mario Batali has donated more
food than any other chef in America and probably the world. He has devoted
years of service to the food bank of New York City.

He has been on the board of the food bank for nine years, a food bank
that helps feed over 1.5 million people every year. Mario Batali and his
wife have been relentless fund-raisers for the Food Bank. Batali is also a
founding member of the Feeding America`s Entertainment Counsel, previously
America`s Second Harvest, as it was known.

That organization provides nutritious fresh foods to Americans
struggling with hunger through local and national food assistance programs.
And then, of course, there is the Mario Batali Foundation, whose mission
is, quote, "to feed, protect, educate and empower children, encouraging
them to dream big while providing them with the necessary tools to become
an active force for change in today`s world."

One of the many things the Mario Batali Foundation does is teach
children and their families to cook healthy on very tight budgets. Kind of
makes you wonder what the Greg Gutfeld Foundation has done lately.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Doesn`t this make you want to slap him around?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Mario Batali directly and indirectly has helped feed
millions of people. And that`s before we get to the very big federal tax
bill he pays every year, some of which goes to paying for the federal Food
Stamp Program. And for all of that, these people think Mario Batali
deserves to be slapped around.

If one of them has ever fed a poor hungry person, they forgot to
mention that in their round of ridicule of Mario Batali. You have to
wonder what would make them react to Mario Batali this way?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does this make you want to slap him around?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Why do Mario Batali`s kindness, generosity and concern for
the poor,, all qualities that Jesus Christ exhibited in abundance -- why do
they make these people so uncomfortable?

It might be time for them to reread what Christ did with the loaves
and fishes. And when they are reminded that he gave all the bread and all
the fish away to the poor, will Greg Gutfeld say this?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does this make you want to slap him around? Does
this make you want to slap him around? Does this make you want to slap him
around?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Last night at this time, we examined with James Lipton how
Mitt Romney can try to act more human. Tonight, the Gregory Brothers,
creators of "Auto Tune the News," remind us of the things that Mitt Romney
likes, Auto Tune style, of course.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

ROMNEY: I don`t like vampires personally. I don`t know any. I want
to make sure that people know precisely why it is that I`m running
president. And the answer is very simply.

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

END

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