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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Read the transcript to the Tuesday show

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Guest Host: Martin Bashir
Guests: Karen Finney, Jonathan Capehart, Jared Bernstein, Melissa Harris-Perry, Krystal Ball, Steve Schmidt, Nia-Malika Henderson

MARTIN BASHIR, GUEST HOST: Let`s hear it for Joe.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Making money for
your investors is not the president`s job.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: The Bain mutiny.

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: Attacking Romney`s record at Bain Capital.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: Romney`s career at Bain Capital.

WAGNER: Fair game.

TODD: It`s fair game to talk about it.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it`s
perfectly reasonable.

TODD: It`s value versus skills.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s fair game to talk about it.

TODD: Mitt Romney`s business values.

MATTHEWS: Fair game.

TODD: They don`t fit.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The upside and the
downside --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All fair game.

OBAMA: -- are worth examining.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The idea that Bain is about job creation --

WAGNER: Fair game.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- is just nonsense.

AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Even Willard can`t seem to remember how
many jobs he`s supposedly created.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We had over 100,000 jobs.

Created tens of thousands of jobs.

Thousands of jobs.

SHARPTON: Willard, Willard, I know it gets confusing.

ROMNEY: Hundred thousand.

Tens of thousands.

Thousands of jobs.

WAGNER: Ridiculous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nonsense.

OBAMA: When you`re president --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president is about people.

OBAMA: Your job is not simply to maximize profits.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Private equity is about profits.

BIDEN: It`s not the same job requirement.

MATTHEWS: All fair game.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fair game.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All fair game.

TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Now we have some numbers to discuss.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: There`s a "Washington Post"/ABC poll
today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president ahead of Romney by three points.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Forty-nine, Obama; 46, Romney.

MITCHELL: The Romney campaign relied on women to come vote for him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president`s lead expands to seven percentage
points.

MITCHELL: A gender gap, with Mitt Romney on the other side of that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There`s been a lot of messaging towards a
women`s vote.

ROMNEY: Any old girlfriends here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Specifically female voters.

ROMNEY: I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this
country.

Do I believe the Supreme Court should overturn Roe v. Wade? Yes.

Have to be careful.

TED KENNEDY (D-MASS), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: I am pro-choice. My
opponent is multiple choice.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASHIR: Good evening and thank you for joining us. I`m Martin
Bashir, in for Lawrence O`Donnell.

The president said yesterday in Chicago that Mitt Romney`s experience
as chief executive of Bain Capital does not mean he can create jobs as
president of the United States.

Today, Vice President Joe Biden translated that message to his New
Hampshire audience.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: Making money for your investors, which Romney did very well
is not the president`s job. Your job as president is to promote the common
good. That doesn`t mean the private equity guys are bad guys, they`re not.
But that no more qualifies you to be president than being a plumber.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: The vice president also honed in on Bain Capital.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: When they succeed and the company succeeds, they make money.
When the company they get involved with fails, they still make money, a lot
of money. It`s legitimate.

But, folks, making money regardless of the consequences for the
workers, the companies they acquire, or the communities that get wasted is
another question.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: Now, Republicans like to note that some Democrats are
uncomfortable with the Obama campaign mentions of Mitt Romney`s record at
Bain Capital. A new pro-Obama super PAC ad reminds Republicans that some
Republicans do not share that discomfort.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: I happen to think that companies like
Bain Capital could have come in and helped these companies if they truly
were venture capitalists. But they`re not. They`re vulture capitalists.

GINGRICH: Somebody who is very wealthy comes in, takes over your
company, takes all the cash and leaves behind the unemployment -- I think
that`s not a model we want to advocate. And I don`t think any conservative
wants to get caught defending that kind of model.

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: Governor Romney has claimed
to have created 100,000 jobs at Bain, and you know, people are wanting to
know, is there proof of that claim? And was the U.S. jobs created for
United States citizens? And that`s fair. That`s not negative campaigning.
That`s fair to get a candidate to be held accountable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: Absolutely. That was Sarah Palin speaking to Sean Hannity
in January.

When Palin sat down with Hannity last night she magically no longer
harbored concerns about Mitt Romney`s record on so-called job creation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: Obama doesn`t understand the free market system, and he will
condemn private equity because he doesn`t understand the benefits of
private equity in job creation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: The new NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll released this
evening shows what Americans think about Bain Capital. Nine percent
describe their feelings toward Bain Capital as positive, 19 percent
describe their feelings as negative, 53 percent are not sure or not
familiar with Bain Capital.

The NBC News poll shows President Obama holding a narrow lead over
Mitt Romney. Obama polls at 47 percent, four points ahead of Romney`s 43
percent.

Joining us now is Karen Finney, former DNC communications director
and current MSNBC political analyst, Jonathan Capehart, "Washington Post"
opinion writer and also an MSNBC political analyst, and Jared Bernstein,
former chief economic advisor to Vice President Joe Biden and current MSNBC
contributor.

Thank you to all of you for joining me tonight.

Karen, we have Democrats who say they`re uncomfortable criticizing
Mitt Romney`s record at Bain. But has the president and now the vice
president articulated an attack that all Democrats can agree on?
Basically, Mitt Romney is applying for the wrong job.

KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. I mean, as
usual, the president articulated the message better than just about anybody
else. I think Joe Biden this time followed the president quite well in
making the point that this has nothing to do with -- is Bain a good company
or not? Is this kind of business acumen a good thing or not?

No. The question is the 15 years that he ran this company, what was
the total picture of the record. Not just here`s where we did OK.

But, OK, but let`s see what really happened in the life cycle of that
company, and that`s part of what the groups are trying to show, is that
perhaps job may have been created in the interim. But then while the
investors were able to make their money back, people -- you know, their
pensions were reduced. They lost their job. So there`s a total picture
here worth looking at.

BASHIR: Indeed.

Jonathan, it appears that the vice president and president are saying
that when you are president, you`re president of the people. Not president
of profits. You`re the president of communities. Not the president of
cash.

Mitt Romney doesn`t appear to understand that, does he?

JONATHAN CAPEHART, WASHINGTON POST: Well, not in the way he`s
running his came pan. I mean, the president is basically contrasting two
different skill sets and trying to make -- hoping the American people will
understand that what Mitt Romney did as the founder of Bain Capital is not
the same skills that you need in the Oval Office when you have to worry
about everyone.

And as you discussed earlier today on your show, Mitt Romney is oh,
so happy to talk about the good stories and the good things, the good
record, such as it is -- that he amassed while at Bain, but doesn`t want to
talk about these uncomfortable -- the uncomfortable record of Bain during
his time there, because, you`re talking about companies that were closed,
people who lost their jobs, people who lost benefits and other things that
would ring to the heart of the anxiety that people feel right now.

BASHIR: Indeed. Jonathan, thank you for mentioning my own
broadcast. I don`t have to do that.

Jared, what about the job of the president does private equity
manager Mitt Romney not understand?

JARED BERNSTEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think it comes down to
something that Governor Romney said a number of months ago. He said, I
understand the economy -- I understand the economy. President Obama does
not.

I thought about that. I looked back at the kind of record that he
amassed in terms of job creation as governor. Primarily during his 15
years at Bain. And I thought he has a very unique, very private equity,
very financial market kind of understanding of the economy. The kind of
understanding you would expect from someone in that position.

And if you look at the goals of private equity -- and I agree with
the president and the vice president, there are laudable aspects of those
goals -- nowhere on the score card will you find job creation. It is not
there.

The goal of private equity is to maximize profits for its
shareholders. Job creation isn`t one of those goals.

And if you`re a private equity owner and you tell your client, I`m
not really thinking about profits here, I`m thinking about job creation.
You`re not doing private equity.

So yes, it`s a very different understanding for a completely
different set of criteria.

BASHIR: And yet, Karen, is Mitt Romney who had sold himself on the
basis of this career. He`s not talked about his service in the Mormon
Church. He can`t talk about his atrocious performance as governor of
Massachusetts.

He sold himself on Bain. He can`t now complain that he started
examining what that means and suddenly realized that doesn`t work so well
if you have to care about the poor, the disabled, the needy, it doesn`t
work so well.

FINNEY: That`s right. If you want to take that sort of private
equity or that shareholder perspective, you have a much more diverse group
of invested interest when you`re the president than when you are in the
kind of business that Mr. Romney was in. And you`re right. In primary, he
got himself in trouble trying to talk about his record as governor because
oops, he flip-flopped all over the place. He created additional debt. Job
creation went down.

So, clearly, it`s not something you want to talk about.

So, he himself put forward his time this 15 years as the basis for
which we should judge his ability to be our president, to deal with
everything from our nuclear threat in Iran to job creation in Lima, Ohio.

BASHIR: Lord help us.

Jonathan, pro-Obama super PAC, Priorities USA Action, has a new ad to
air in five swing states. Just watch this, Jon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LORIS HUFFMAN: I worked at the plant going on 34 years. I thought
that have I was going to retire from there. I had about two and a half
years to go.

I was suddenly 60 years old. I had no health care. And that`s
scary. When Mitt Romney did that, he made -- he made me sick.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: That`s a very powerful ad, Jon. The president`s message now
that Mitt Romney is applying for the wrong job could not be called
socialist or anti-capitalist or whatever . But the message in the ad is
vulnerable. Is it not?

I mean, do you think it would be wise to leave these sorts of attacks
to super PACs, or she could he continue to talk about Bain as he`s doing
so?

CAPEHART: Well, no, the president should talk about Bain in terms as
the skill set that Mitt Romney acquired by running Bain versus the skill
set that`s required to be president. This kind of attack and that ad is,
you know, very, very powerful where you have a person out there saying that
Mitt Romney literally made her sick by taking away her job and her health
care at 60 years old, and you see her. She`s a vulnerable person.

That is a rather harsh attack that president really and his
reelection effort really doesn`t need to be a part it. This is where super
PACs, as we have seen throughout the Republican primary process, this is
where they can get really rough and mean and in some cases nasty in a way
that the candidate should not, could not and should not.

BASHIR: Jared, holding the highest office in the country is a
constructive contribution. It`s a public service. It`s a contribution to
civic society.

Private equity feels neither like a constructive contribution nor a
public service. Is that right? Is that fair?

BERNSTEIN: Absolutely. There`s nothing public service about private
equity.

Again, if it is in the interest of your shareholders to shut the
factory down and move it to Mexico or China, you would be derelict as a
private equity fund director not to do so. Obviously the decision sits in
front of the president are the opposite of that. And so, it`s absolutely
fair game, as we said so far.

But I think what is particularly telling, to get back to the core of
all this -- when Mitt Romney says I understand the economy, he`s not
talking about the economy of the people in that ad. He`s not talking about
the economy facing elevated unemployment for years. He`s not talking about
the economy with the largest gaps between high and low income people that
we`ve seen in that decade. He`s not talking about an economy suffering
from fiscal constraints that his plans would make so much worse.

The kind of economy he`s talking about are the types around the
problems associated with private equity.

BASHIR: Final question to you, Karen. Do you expect Mitt Romney to
ever come out and say anything about Bain? Because apparently, in the last
24 hours, he`s been locked away in a hotel suite, talking to people who are
planning on funding his campaign. Is he ever going to talk about Bain and
address this?

FINNEY: It doesn`t appear so and it`s surprising given how many
times this does come up. I mean, it`s almost like his campaign staff is
derelict in their duty to not have a solid answer on this by now. It`s not
the first time they`ve had to deal with it.

One final point I`d like to make though, Martin, if you look at our
fabulous NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll, one of the most interesting
pieces in there, it shows there`s still a lot of room to define what his
business role was. Does he really understand the economy?

I mean, there`s a mix that think working in business is a good thing,
maybe not a good thing. They don`t really know. So, that`s going to be a
conversation we`ll certainly have, not from Romney, over the next several
months.

BASHIR: Karen Finney, Jonathan Capehart, Jared Bernstein -- thank
you so much, all of you, for joining us.

CAPEHART: Thanks, Martin. As Governor Romney pretends his business
record qualifies him to be president, the Republican women of the House of
Representatives pretend they`re fighting every day for every woman in
America. Melissa Harris-Perry and Krystal are here to remind these
congresswomen of their actual record and the record of the Republican
Party.

There`s another fight over at FOX News. Karl Rove and Sarah Palin
don`t see eye-to-eye on how to best attack the president.

Plus, the absolute weirdest Ronald Reagan story they`ve heard in
decades.

And later the congressional candidate who not only advocates from the
national legalization of marijuana, he actually lights up on the campaign
trail and is promising to do so on the steps of the Capitol if he wins.
We`ll introduce you to Andrew Caffrey, just ahead on THE LAST WORD.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASHIR: Remember the season of Dallas that was all a dream?
Republican women in Congress are waking up and now trying to forget their
own party`s records on women`s issues. The Birthers and Reverend Wright
conspiracists are staging a comeback. And a vial of Ronald Reagan`s blood
is reportedly up for auction. Will we have a brokered Republican
convention in Tampa after all?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. VIRGINIA FOXX (R), NORTH CAROLINA: I`m fighting to get the
federal government off your back and out of your checkbook.

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: We know what it`s like to run
a budget, a business, and a family.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We as Republican women --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- are leading the charge --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- to make America great again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: In a desperate effort to combat the war against women, all
24 female House Republicans have banded together the form the Women`s
Policy Committee. Their goal, to raise the profile of GOP women in their
role as lawmakers, highlighting their diverse achievements and providing a
unique, unified voice on a wide range of critically important issues.

In a statement the caucus, Speaker Boehner was completely elusive.
"Make no mistake, these aren`t just leaders on so-called women`s issues.
These are women leaders on all issues."

Joining us now are Krystal Ball, Democratic strategist and MSNBC
political analyst, and Melissa Harris-Perry, host of MSNBC`s "MELISSA
HARRIS-PERRY" show.

Good evening to both of you.

I wonder if I can play a quick fire round with both of you. Hands on
your buzzers.

How many of these Republican women voted for the scaled back house
version of the Violence Against Women Act, which would not protect
immigrants, gays or Native American women. How many out of the 24?

KRYSTAL BALL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Twenty-two.

MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: Twenty-two.

BASHIR: Twenty-two. Excellent. Both right.

OK. Second question: how many of these 24 Republican women voted in
favor of Paul Ryan`s budget, which would cut child care and related
assistance for 4 million children, cut meals on wheels and other home based
services to 1.7 million seniors, and cut transportation and respite care
for nearly one million disabled adult Americans. How many?

BALL: Twenty-four.

HARRIS-PERRY: All of them.

BASHIR: Twenty-four. Wonderful. You`re both right.

Krystal, tell me, what on earth is the women`s policy committee,
other than a cosmetic attempt to redress the Republican Party on the issue?

BALL: Well, that`s exactly what it is. I mean, their argument to
women is basically like, look, here`s some women. There`s some women
Republican. Now vote for us. Be a good girl and vote for us.

(LAUGHTER)

BALL: Right? That`s their argument.

And frankly it`s the same strategy that John McCain tried to use in
2008. He thought if he put a woman as his vice presidential running mate
that women who had supported Hillary Clinton would then go and support
Sarah Palin. Well, that`s ridiculous. We`re not stupid. We look at the
policies that people are supporting, and that`s what we judge them on, not
on their gender.

So the fact that you have a woman there does not mean we`re going to
support you.

BASHIR: And, Melissa, the problem I guess for John McCain the woman
he selected opened her mouth, and that led to all kind of difficulties,
didn`t it?

HARRIS-PERRY: Well, look, I respect that women are a diverse
political population. The president said this. You`re not an interest
group. You`re half the population.

And so, the fact is, there are really legitimately conservative
Republican women, women who support the Ryan agenda, women who support this
agenda that these Republican woman are coming out on.

But this is, I would agree, a kind of base level identity politics.
In fact, the kind of base level identity politics that the GOP said they
don`t agree with. And I think part of what is so shocking when we look at
Republican women is not only do they support sort of a progressive agenda
on, for example, equal pay or rights or on reproductive rights.

But even on the base level identity of politics, when Republican
women have the year of GOP women in 2010, we actually lost seats for women
in the U.S. Congress for the first time since the 1970s.

BALL: Yes, and to that point, I mean, I don`t know if I`m them. If
I want to highlight the fact that out of their 242 members, only 24 are
women, like that`s not all that impressive.

(CROSSTALK)

BALL: Interestingly, this is interesting and it`s not widely
reported. Republican women actually have a harder time winning their party
primaries than Democratic women. Democratic women are twice as likely to
win if they`re running rather than Republican women.

And that is partly because -- while Melissa is absolutely right --
women are not an interest group. They`re varied. They have a variety of
views.

Women do on a whole tend to be more liberal. In a Democratic
primary, that`s a good thing. In a Republican primary, not so much.

BASHIR: Not so much.

Melissa, here`s Vice President Joe Biden talking today about the law
he created, the Violence Against Women`s Act.

Listen to this --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: The Violence Against Women Act has become part of the
cultures, businesses, everybody has embraced the notion that a woman has a
right to be free of violence and intimidation and on the street in her own
home, whatever it is. And these guys in the House just voted down our
version, the continuation of the existing Violence Against Women Act. And
they cut out big chunks.

Folks, this is not your father`s Republican Party.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: Melissa, this is the current effect towards women, isn`t it?

HARRIS-PERRY: Well, look, this is just bad politics. Let`s walk away
from saying Republican men hate women or something. I think they don`t
dislike women per se. I think they just have a very narrow idea of what
counts as a woman. What counts as a woman`s role. What counts as women`s
problems.

So, let`s take the issue of student loan debt. That is a problem
that disproportionately impacts women. So, it`s not just about
reproductive choices, it`s not just about violence. But the bad politics
here is when you can take someone like Joe Biden and turn him into the
advocate for women`s rights. I mean, this is Joe Biden. Those of us who
watch the Anita Hill, Clarence Thomas hearings haven`t forgotten he has his
own problems.

But at this point, the Republican Party has moved so far to right,
that they`ve got Joe Biden looking like the king of women equality, women`s
reproductive rights and now, women`s protection under VAWA. It is just
indicative of how far to the right this Republican Party has moved.

BALL: Well, and let`s remember, too, one of the first acts this new
Congress took when they were sworn into office, was to threaten to shut
down the federal government over funding for Planned Parenthood.

HARRIS-PERRY: Right.

BALL: A service that one in five women uses.

And while reproductive choice is not the whole of what we`re talking
about, it is in fact an economic issue and important issue to many people
across the country. And you have a party that`s it`s not just one thing
here or there. You have in Texas a similar thing where they`re trying to
defund Planned Parenthood, and they would rather low income women go
without preventive care than have them receive it from Planned Parenthood.

You have Mississippi, where they`re essentially making it impossible
to have a safe and legal abortion in the state. So you`re talking about a
nationwide from the local level on up to the federal level assault on the
rights that women have frankly taken for granted for a number of years now.

BASHIR: Indeed. Krystal Ball, Melissa Harris-Perry, thank you so
much for joining us this evening.

BALL: Thanks, Martin.

HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks, Martin.

BASHIR: As President Obama and his re-election team push to put
Arizona in the battleground column, some in Arizona are working to keep the
president off the ballot.

Karl Rove wants to keep attacks about Jeremiah Wright out of the
headlines. But Sarah Palin says bring it on. Steve Schmidt will weigh in
on smear tactics.

And a vial of Ronalds Reagan`s blood is up for sale to the highest
bidder. How could anything go wrong with that?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARTIN BASHER, MSNBC ANCHOR: Presidential blood on the auction block. An
online auction company is selling what it say is a vile containing traces
of the late President Reagan`s blood. The auction house says the vile was
used for a blood test after the assassination attempt by John Hinkley, Jr.
on March 30th, 1981.

The vendor says the vile was obtained not from the hospital that treated
President Reagan but at a laboratory in Maryland. Unsurprisingly the
former president`s family has denounced the auction. His son Michael
suggested that the vile was more likely filled with mouse blood.

While some might regard this auction as a morbid attempt to cash in,
political artifacts remain of high value and interest. The bed Abraham
Lincoln died in is on display at the Chicago History Museum. The
bloodstained suit worn by Jackie Kennedy on the day her husband was
assassinated is being held by the National Archives. Donated anonymously,
it won`t be on display until the year 2103. The hearse that held JFK`s
body was sold in January for $160,000.

As for this vile supposedly containing the blood of Ronald Reagan the
Associated Press reports the auction house Web site says the seller claimed
he was a supporter of Reagan`s conservative economic policies and believes
the late president would have wanted him to sell the vile, rather than
donate it.

Now that`s what I call Reaganomics.

Coming up, it didn`t work in 2008. Neither did she. But that`s not
stopping Sarah Palin from bringing up the Reverend Wright and claiming she
disagreed with the McCain campaign`s choice to steer clear off it. Steve
Schmidt joins me now.

And later, developments in tonight`s -- in Arizona`s threat to keep
President Obama off the ballot in November. We`ll have the very latest
coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASHIR: With Mitt Romney unable to explain how a career in private equity
qualifies him for the White House and unwilling to draw attention to his
atrocious record of job creation as governor of Massachusetts, there are
increasing calls for him to attack the president by using the Reverend
Jeremiah Wright.

First came "The New York Times" which revealed how one super PAC was
planning to deploy the controversy. And then last night came the loudest
drum beat of all, from the one who started it all during the 2008 campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Let me ask you this. You said nothing
should be off the table when it comes to the vetting of the president. And
the issue of Reverend Wright came out again this week. But this is
relevant. You thought so in 2008. Do you think it`s relevant, these
issues, today?

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: I do. And I thought so in 2008.
And that`s why I went rogue, if you will, and disagreed with some of John
McCain`s advisers when they said no, a lot of issues like past associations
and Reverend Wright and Bill Ayers, and those that helped shape Obama`s
world view needed to be off the table and not discussed. I disagree then.
I disagree now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: And just a reminder. This is what Sarah Palin told "The New York
Times" just a month before the last election. "I don`t know why that
association isn`t discussed more because those were appalling things that
that pastor had said about our great country and to have sat in the pews
for 20 years and listened to that with, I don`t know, a sense of condoning
it. I guess because he didn`t get up and leave, to me, that does say
something about about character."

Earlier this week Karl Rove had this to say about dragging the Reverend
Wright into the current campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KARL ROVE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Trying to dredge up Jeremiah Wright,
right or wrong, after this issue was litigated four years ago by John
McCain deciding not to litigate it, was stupid.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: Joining me now is Steve Schmidt, MSNBC political analyst, former
senior adviser to the McCain-Palin presidential campaign and Nia-Malika
Henderson, national political reporter for the "Washington Post."

Good afternoon to both of you.

Steve, Palin told "The Times" in 2008 that she wanted to talk about the
Reverend Wright. Last night she told Sean Hannity she disagreed with some
of McCain`s owned advisers during the campaign. Did she ever say to you or
John McCain that she wanted to use the Reverend Wright against Barack
Obama?

STEVE SCHMIDT, FORMER SENIOR MCCAIN-PALIN ADVISER: Well, she did, Martin.
She did all the time. And I think something that is important to
understand here, is this was John McCain`s decision. John McCain ran for
president of the United States. John McCain won his party`s nomination.
It was his call. John McCain said absolutely not under no circumstances do
I want to light this fuse, do I want to inject the poison of race into this
campaign.

It was the right thing for John McCain to do. It was the right thing
politically for John McCain to do. And most everybody who disagreed with
that decision understood that it was John McCain`s right to make the
decision and got in line with it.

BASHIR: And yet, Steve, many on the right say that he might not have lost
that election if he`d used Jeremiah Wright.

SCHMIDT: Yes, well, that`s dumb. And here`s why. Everybody had an
opinion about Jeremiah Wright. There were no persuadable voters. The
purpose of television advertising is to persuade people that are
persuadable. There are for sure millions of Americans who saw the Reverend
Wright tapes and thought it disqualified President Obama from being
president. There are millions more who heard President Obama`s speech
after all this became public. And that satisfied the issue.

The point was, everybody knew who Jeremiah Wright was. Everybody had an
opinion on Jeremiah Wright. And, you know, broadcasting it, spending
advertising dollars on it was just preaching to the converted. It would
have had no political effect. It was a stupid strategy. It was bad
tactics. And it`s crazy to be talking about it in 2012.

BASHIR: Nia-Malika, why then are some Republicans still obsessed with this
elderly reverend from Chicago? What secrets do they think this man
provides into the life of a president who now we`ve seen in office for more
than three years?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think there is this myth at
the center of this argument that many on the far right are making. And
that is to say that this wasn`t exploited and explored in 2008. And in
fact, it was. Reverend Wright was heavily vetted, heavily covered.
Everyone, millions of people saw all the speeches that he made. He gave
several interviews. He gave speeches after -- you know, after Obama
distances himself from him. He`s given interviews off since then.

And so this idea that somehow there`s a smoking gun that needs to be
explored, there`s another shooting drop, I think it`s a real myth. But
yes, there is this obsession. I think I mean it`s part of this idea again
that Barack Obama is somehow outside of the mainstream, that he is an
other, and so that is what they`re trying to do. Paint him as a radical.
He`s not an American. Therefore he is somehow not a legitimate person to
occupy the White House.

But I think the Romney campaign obviously very quickly moved to distance
themselves from this. It will be interesting to see if they continue to do
that. But they very well know that this is a campaign that`s going to be
fought along the lines of trying to convince independent voters, many of
whom voted for Obama in 2008.

BASHIR: Indeed.

HENDERSON: So that`s what -- that`s where they`re looking.

BASHIR: Steve, to Nia-Malika`s point, Mitt Romney has made his stance
clear on the issue. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Very clear, I repudiate that
effort. I think it`s the wrong course for a PAC or a campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: But Steve, there is, you know, still a covert campaign by people
like Sean Hannity on FOX News and Sarah Palin to some extent to launch in
covert race-baiting campaign regardless of what Mitt Romney, the candidate
or the presumptive nominee, says.

SCHMIDT: Well, Martin, for sure there are people talking about it. But I
would disagree in the sense that it can`t be -- covert if everybody knows
about --

BASHIR: But Steve -- but, Steve, I`m sorry -- Steve, I`m sorry to
interrupt you.

SCHMIDT: If everybody knows about the issue and everyone has an opinion on
it.

BASHIR: But, Steve, I`m sorry to interrupt you. Sean Hannity has
mentioned the Reverend Jeremiah Wright about 300 times this year already.

SCHMIDT: And -- but to what effect? My point is, is that everybody in the
country know who Jeremiah Wright is. Everybody in the country has an
opinion on Jeremiah Wright. It has nothing to do with the dialogue that`s
taking part of the presidential campaign.

Talking about an issue fundamentally that everyone made their mind up about
four years ago, it just -- it makes no sense. And you saw Mitt Romney
repudiate it as he should have. So he can get onto talking about issues
that will determine the outcome of the election. Of course those were the
economy and that`s what people want to hear who are in the middle of the
electorate, that will decide the outcome in what will be a very close
election structurally.

BASHIR: Indeed. Nia-Malika, we heard a moment ago Karl Rove, and he said
that using the Reverend Jeremiah Wright would be stupid. John Boehner
called it nonsense. But here`s the point, aren`t there still places in
this country where some conservatives consider the president`s citizenship
and religion to be still up for question?

HENDERSON: Yes, and you see some of that playing out in some of these
states that have discussions about whether or not the president will be on
the ballot. I think there`s that going on in Arizona. And so yes, you do
have -- but I do think it`s a very small part of the party and you`ve seen
Mitt Romney very much distance himself from it.

And one of the reasons, let`s face it, is because Mitt Romney himself could
be open to some of this discussion about whether or not he`s another. He`s
a Mormon. This is a faith that`s not -- that isn`t very familiar to a lot
of Americans. So if you get into those questions, discussing black
liberation theology then I think in some ways this is -- there`s a straight
line to talking about Mormonism. That of course is something of what David
Axelrod has said is not on the table.

But I think he very well knows that going into these very cultural issues
around race and religion are dangerous for him as well as the president.
He, you know, obviously is focused on the economy, and there -- that`s
where he feels like this election will be won or lost.

BASHIR: Indeed. Nia-Malika Henderson and Steve Schmidt, thanks so much
for joining us tonight.

HENDERSON: Thank you.

BASHIR: Coming up, the birthers just can`t quit. Especially in Arizona.
Now the secretary of state has got involved.

Plus, you`re about to meet the congressional candidate who plans to light
up on the steps of the U.S. capitol if he`s elected. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASHIR: The president is polling competitively with Mitt Romney in the red
state of Arizona. And so some Arizona officials are looking to birthers to
get the president off the ballot.

And a new survey puts the majority of Americans on the side of legalizing
marijuana. My next guest is in favor of it. And he plans to light up on
the steps of the Capitol if he`s elected. John Boehner (INAUDIBLE).
That`s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZACH GALIFIANAKIS, COMEDIAN: It`s a tricky thing politically to jump on
that bandwagon because I think that maybe people see it as taboo still, so
I --

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: It`s why it`s a ballot measure bill,
because no politician, even if they thought it was a good idea --

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: Nearly 19 months since actor Zach Galifianakis lit a joint on
television during a discussion about California`s ballot initiative to
legalize marijuana. Someone else has taken up the torch and is lighting up
on the campaign trail.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDY CAFFERY (D), RUNNING FOR CONGRESS: A friend of mine. See, I`m the
only candidate who`s willing to get arrested on the steps of the Capitol.
Doing this. Medical marijuana has improved my life. I don`t think another
person should spend an hour in jail for marijuana. That`s why I`m pro
legalization.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: Joining me now is Andy Caffery, Democratic congressional candidate
from California`s newly configured second district.

Good afternoon, sir.

CAFFERY: Hi, Martin.

BASHIR: Good evening, from our perspective. You use marijuana for
medicinal purposes, as I understand it. What are your medical reasons?

CAFFERY: Well, I have three neurological conditions. Post-traumatic
stress disorder. Attention deficit disorder and obsessive, compulsive
tendencies. And so I use it for sort of a tranquilizer effect. I use it
for focusing. And I use it to get to sleep.

BASHIR: So those are strongly mental reasons for using this medication, is
that correct?

CAFFERY: That`s right. I don`t have a physical ailment that I`m using it
for pain relief.

BASHIR: OK. Now 16 states and the District of Columbia already have
legalized medicinal marijuana. Why not just stop there? What is your
argument for the legalization of marijuana all together?

CAFFERY: Well, I live in Humboldt County. And we have this new district
which includes Marin County, and where I live the median income is $35,000
a year. In Marin it`s $85,000 a year. And our economy is -- the bedrock
is marijuana. $1.6 billion a year comes into our county. That`s a quarter
to over half of the income of the county. So this income had dropped
substantially since medical marijuana has been passed. And so a lot of
people locally are concerned about a state initiative that might make it
legal in California, and thereby spread the number of people who can grow
it themselves.

But if you legalize it nationally, then there`s actually more of a market.
There are people like Tom Hartman who said that if it was legal he`d smoke
marijuana.

BASHIR: So that sounds to me as though you`re arguing this from an
economic perspective as opposed to a medicinal one.

CAFFERY: Well, it`s not either/or. As you heard in that clip my primary
reason is because I don`t think another person should spend another hour in
jail for marijuana related crimes. In fact I don`t even want to call them
crimes.

BASHIR: OK. One recent study found young people who smoked marijuana at
least five times -- at least five times were twice as likely to have
developed psychosis over the next 10 years than those who don`t smoke pot.
Does that have any effect on your argument?

CAFFERY: Well, I`ve been living in a place that grows the finest marijuana
in the world. It`s called the Emerald Triangle and it`s comprised of three
of the counties in our new district. We`ve been living with it since the
mid `70s. And a few years ago I talked to my doctor who had been the
doctor for 29 years in the area and asked him about effects on people.
Because if anybody knew he would know.

And he said the only negative effect that he had seen in his entire career
in Garberville were two people who smoked about 20 joints a day and had
esophageal bleeding. And he also had some concerns about young people
between 15 and 18.

Now I`ve also heard some studies from England about that, what you were
talking about. And I`m not here as an advocate for using marijuana. In
fact I hesitated a long time before allowing an image to be created of me
smoking a joint because I don`t want my being a congressman to cause people
-- young people, especially, to smoke marijuana. But I feel that it`s our
right to not be in jail. And it`s our the right to have an economy that
produces marijuana, and it is really important to a lot of people
medicinally. Their lives are ruined when President Obama comes in here and
shuts the down the dispensaries.

BASHIR: OK. Well, Andy Caffery, a great advocate for marijuana, candidate
for Congress from California. Thank you so much, sir, for joining us
tonight.

CAFFERY: My pleasure, Martin.

BASHIR: Coming up, the birthers who never went away and they`re trying to
keep the president off the Arizona ballot. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASHIR: Arizona has been reliably Republican for decades, but all the
polling suggests that this coming November the state is likely to be in
play. The current Real Clear Politics average has Mitt Romney leading the
president by just four points, 46 to 42. And this might explain the worst
outbreak of paranoia since the Salem witch hunt trials.

Let`s start with Republican Secretary of State Ken Bennett, who`s also co-
chair of Mitt Romney`s Arizona campaign. He announced on Friday that the
president may be excluded from the state ballot. But it`s not his fault.
Blame the birthers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEN BENNETT, ARIZONA SECRETARY OF STATE: I`m not a birther. I believe
that the president was born in Hawaii, or at least I hope he was. But my
responsibility as secretary of state is to make sure that the ballots in
Arizona are correct.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: Bennett demanded, as Arizona`s secretary of state, that Hawaiian
officials verified the authenticity of the president`s birth certificate.
In response, officials over there wearied by this lunacy, have asked
Bennett to verify that he has the authority to make such a demand.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you don`t get any answer from Hawaii in time, will
you remove the president from the ballot?

BENNETT: That`s possible. Or the other option would be, I would ask all
of the candidates including the president maybe to submit a certified copy
of their birth certificate. But I don`t want to do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: If you`re waiting for the Romney campaign to condemn the behavior
of their Arizona state co-chair, then make yourself comfortable, because
you`ll have to wait for some time.

Meantime, the state`s other missing throat, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, has decided
to send his cold case posy direct to Hawaii assisted by one actual deputy
paid for by local taxes. The team is also dedicated to cracking the case
of the presidential birth certificate. And Sheriff Joe doesn`t care about
the criticism. He said, "It`s one deputy. So what?" Adding that the cost
will be reimbursed.

But at least this diluted and deranged conspiracist is asking the right
question. So what indeed? So what if denying what everybody already
knows, that the president is indeed an American embarrasses your states?
So what if your actions as secretary of state bring you such ridicule that
nearly 15,000 people sign the petition requesting that your office
investigate whether Mitt Romney is a unicorn? That`s a real petition, by
the way.

So what if Ken Bennett and Sheriff Joe achieve the remarkable feat of
making Arizona Governor Jan Brewer seem positively dignified?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. JAN BREWER (R), ARIZONA: You know, I probably have better photographs
of me than that. But they always say that a picture is what it is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: It appears the fear of becoming Arizona`s next Jan Brewer was too
great for Secretary of State Bennett. Late this afternoon Mr. Bennett was
excoriated on a local radio show and apologized for being Arizona`s latest
embarrassment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BENNETT: This issue is done. We`ve done all we`re going to do, and he`s
going to be on the ballot. I was just trying to do a quiet little step
that was provided in Hawaii`s law so that I could tell these people we`ve
done that step. Move on like everybody else has. If I embarrassed the
state, I apologized but that certainly wasn`t my intent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: You can have the LAST WORD online at the Lastword.MSNBC.com.
Watch my show weekdays at 3:00 p.m. Eastern. The ED SHOW is on next.

END

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