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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

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Guest Host: Martin Bashir
Guests: Joy-Ann Reid, Ari Melber, Jared Bernstein, Ed Rendell, Kyle Clark, Joe Miklosi, Dana Milbank; Nia-Malika Henderson


MARTIN BASHIR, GUEST HOST: Finally, he had a chance to answer a
question about Bain and Mitt Romney said nothing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The president`s experience
has been exclusively in politics.

TAMRON HALL, MSNBC HOST: Mitt Romney is firing back at President
Obama.

ROMNEY: I spent 25 years in the private sector.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Mitt Romney`s rules of engagement.

ROMNEY: That obviously teaches you something.

MARK HALPERIN, TIME: He wanted to talk about the president.

ROMNEY: I`d like to focus on his record.

ANDREA MTICHELL, NBC NEWS: Mitt Romney is not giving an inch on this
record at Bain Capital.

HALL: Bain Capital.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt Romney hasn`t stepped up on this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was astonished at how quickly he pivoted.

MITCHELL: You`ve tried to pin him down on Bain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He pivoted.

MITCHELL: And he pivoted.

ROMNEY: We have an economy in trouble.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was astonished at how quickly he pivoted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The record when you were there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How to do things as president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you don`t want to run on it, then don`t run on
it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That you just don`t do when you`re the CEO of a
company.

ROMNEY: I will lead this out of this debt and spending inferno.

MATTHEWS: It has been a campaign of large falsehoods.

ROMNEY: He has spent more.

MATTHEWS: That`s not true.

ROMNEY: And borrowed more.

MATTHEWS: Spending has grown flat as a pancake at the federal level.

ROMNEY: I can`t tell you that over the period of four years, we get
the unemployment rate down to 6 percent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like a pony as well (ph) governor.

ROMNEY: The time has come for president, a leader.

MATTHEWS: Businessmen --

ROMNEY: I spent 25 years in the private sector.

MATTHEWS: -- have not made great leaders.

ROMNEY: That obviously teaches you something.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can`t sell off Michigan if it`s an
underperforming asset.

MITCHELL: Talk about leadership.

ROMNEY: Russia, without question, our number one geopolitical foe.

COLIN POWELL, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: He needs to think careful
about the statements.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is weak and indecisive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is all because of Mitt Romney as a person.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a valued judgment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is an attack that works.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need a tough, decisive leader. Not a weak CEO.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASHIR: Good evening. I`m Martin Bashir, in for Lawrence this
evening.

And after almost three days of relentless attacks on his claim that a
career at Bain Capital proves that he is a job creator, Mitt Romney decided
to face the criticism head on in an interview with "Time" magazine`s Mark
Halperin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HALPERIN: What specific skills or policies did you learn at Bain that
would help you created an environment where jobs would be created?

ROMNEY: That`s a bit of a question like saying what have you learned
in life that would help you lead. My whole life has been learning to lead
from my parents to my education, to the experience I had in the private
sector, to helping run the Olympics and, of course, helping guide a state.
Those experiences in totality have given me an understanding of how America
works and how the economy works. I understand, for instance, how to read a
balance sheet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: What? Can we play that again?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I understand, for instance, how to read a balance sheet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: I understand how to read a balance sheet. So does Bernie
Madoff but does that qualify him to become president?

Private equity expert Steve Rattner actually did what Mitt Romney
failed to do, explaining exactly what Bain capital was all about.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE RATTNER, PRIVATE EQUITY EXPERT: It is not a job creation goal.
It is -- people who go into private equity don`t go and say, yes, I want to
go create jobs. They go in and make returns for their investors. When he
reweaves history and tries to turn a perfectly respectable business career
into some idea that he was the world`s greatest job creator, that I think
he is misleading people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: Today on "FOX & Friends," former Newt Gingrich supporter,
Herman Cain, came to Mr. Romney`s defense.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HERMAN CAIN (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: People are not that
stupid. That`s like saying when you were president of Godfather`s Pizza,
you made one pizza. That doesn`t qualify you to be president. You run an
enterprise. You run a complete enterprise.

When I took over Godfather, here`s an example. We had 725
restaurants. We closed 200 to save the 525. That`s what Bain and many
other companies do in order to save their business.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: Joining me now is Joy-Ann Reid, managing editor of
TheGrio.com, an MSNBC contributor; Ari Melber, a correspondent for "The
Nation" and MSNBC contributor; and Jared Bernstein, former chief economic
advisor to Vice President Joe Biden, and MSNBC contributor.

Thank you all for joining me.

Joy-Ann, Mitt Romney says that he understands how to read a balance
sheet. Does the president of the United States understand how to read a
balance sheet?

JOY-ANN REID, THEGRIO.COM: You know what? I know a lot of people who
understand how to read balance sheets. I`m not sure that I would want all
of them to become president of the United States.

What was remarkable in that interview with Mark Halperin was what Mitt
Romney didn`t say. He literally didn`t explain a single specific thing
that he learned as the leader of Bain Capital that would translate into
being president of the United States. So, I think that was the problem.
Up with specific thing he did say that we could really learn from is that
he talked about one company that Bain Capital did invest in, Steel
Dynamics, which is a company that Bain capital invested $18 million in, but
it turns out the government of Indiana invested $39 million in it. So,
maybe what he learned is that government helps create jobs twice as much as
private equity.

BASHIR: Ari, what was your reaction to that interview?

ARI MELBER, THE NATION: I thought it was really weird. And I`m
wondering at this point what the Mitt Romney campaign has decided about
Bain, because it seems like the decision is no decision at all, to type of
decision when you just said I don`t know. That`s what we are seeing over
several days, is that kind of nervous, shaky, evasion.

And this was an interview that was by no means a hard ball set of
questions where it was just basic questions like, tell us about what you
did and is this what you need to know as president? And the answers, well,
I have learned a lot in my entire life. It made it sound like he had more
to hide than he has to hide.

BASHIR: Even when he responded, within five seconds, he started
attacking the president. It was as if the interview was with a surrogate
of the president as opposed to the candidate himself.

MELBER: Right. And I think what you saw there was sort of like him
saying the strategy rather than doing it. And the strategy they have is
make it a referendum on Obama and that might be your overarching political
strategy.

I have worked on campaigns before where you go against the incumbent
and you want to have the referendum. But it doesn`t mean that you
literally take any question and say this is a referendum. That makes you
look, to hit the stereo type -- it makes you look a little inhuman.

BASHIR: Jared, let`s listen to Rush Limbaugh today on President Obama
and private equity. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: You know what Obama doesn`t like
about private equity? All they do is look for profits. When he says the
word profits, he spits it out. He doesn`t like profits. That`s what he
criticizes private equity for being focused on, instead of creating jobs.

Well, I`m sorry, private equity is not there to create jobs. That`s
not what they do. I don`t think there is any question that Obama has got a
chip on his shoulder about capitalism and free markets, the way this
country was founded. And he thinks profit-seeking is evil and he thinks
that everything that comes with it is evil.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: Jared, aside from the fact that he`s actually making the
correct deduction, that private equity is not about creating jobs, what has
the president said or done to earn this condemnation from Rush Limbaugh?

JARED BERNSTEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: It goes beyond that. I mean, you
can look at what he has said and done. It has nothing to do with anything
you have heard from Rush Limbaugh, except the part about private equity not
having jobs as part of their ledger.

But if you actually look at the numbers on corporate profitability
during the president`s term, while lots of other economic indicators are
still recovering from the great recession, corporate profits is a share of
national income haven`t just regained their prior peak before the great
recession. They have surpassed it.

And last year, I don`t think this number has been quite well-
integrated into the debate, last year in 2011, corporate profit as a share
of national income where the highest they`ve been on record, with data
going back to 1929. And the stock markets are up, et cetera. So, this has
been a complete nonsensical wrap.

Hey, can I add one point to something Joy-Ann said a minute ago?

BASHIR: Sure.

BERNSTEIN: I thought she made a really interesting point about
government contributions to one of the projects that Bain invested in. It
goes further than that, 60 percent to 90 percent of private equity
purchases are debt financed and any interest on that debt they get to fully
deduct from their tax liability.

BASHIR: Right.

BERNSTEIN: So the actual effective tax rate on debt financing, which
is huge for private equity, is something like negative 6 percent. It`s a
big government subsidy.

BASHIR: Indeed.

Joy-Ann?

REID: I was going say in the case of Steel Dynamic, it was one
specific thing that Mark Halperin did get out of Mitt Romney in that
interview -- in that case, in addition to getting the $37 million in terms
of tax credits and in terms of grants that went to this capital, that Bain
Capital put $18 million in, the county where this company was located
actually raised taxes on the local residents, levied an income tax in order
to finance the building of this plant.

So what really happened in that case with Bain is that they put in
half the money that the government did and then taxes got raised so that
they could extract a $102 million profit.

BASHIR: I wish you would stop with these facts.

Ari, let`s watch a new ad from the Romney campaign. I`d like to hear
your view of this. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is not a
distraction. This is what this campaign is going to be about.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have seen layoffs, cut backs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They have lost their houses. They have zero
credit. They can`t find jobs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: I`m sorry, Ari. But that sounds like a biographical critique
of Bain Capital. They lay off people and enforce cut backs. But that`s
Mitt Romney`s ad.

MELBER: I think this is the best they can do, which is to say --

BASHIR: That`s a poor --

MELBER: -- they can say, look, there is a huge recession out there.
That`s the issue in this election. And it`s broadly true in the sense that
we are in a quitter period. And so, a lot of what`s going to happen from
now to the convention isn`t going to matter as much as it might in a better
economy because this is going to be a dead-heat election. Even the people
say that, because there is so much discontent out there.

But again, that`s not a message. That`s the analysis. That`s broadly
true.

BASHIR: That`s almost a tactic.

MELBER: Exactly. The last thing I`ll say is in the same way that
after Jeremiah Wright, re was a sense that Senator Obama had to come out
and give a larger speech and put it into context.

BASHIR: And did a number of interviews and press the issue --

MELBER: And let me say, he thought at the time that some of those
things were very unfair. I thought at that time that, and said so at the
time. But there was a sense in the campaign that you want to be president,
you`ve got to step up to everything. You`ve got to play to the ref.

And here you have what is much lower grade. You said that this
business job was your credential, not your service in government --

(CROSSTALK)

BASHIR: You didn`t explain it to me.

MELBER: Tell us about it and he can`t tell anyone about it. So, I
think he`s going to give, I really believe he`s going to have to give a
much bigger speech. He`s going to have to come out and really explain
this. So, he`s going to be dogged by everything from Joy-Ann Reid`s facts
to the campaign`s videos to the questions on the tarmac. This stuff is not
going away.

BASHIR: Joy-Ann, Mitt Romney`s strategy to Ari`s point, so far, has
been to stay silent on the Bain issue. He then gave an interview and he
stayed silent on the Bain issue. Nothing`s changed.

REID: Right. Yes, it has. And I think the problem with Bain and I
think they recognize it, which is why he doesn`t want to talk about it, is
that at the end of the day, the prime directive of business is profit. It
is not job creation.

And then at the same time, the core conservative belief is that
government also is in the business of creating jobs. So, Romney had a job,
where creating jobs wasn`t his prime directive, and he wants the job in
which his own party believes creating jobs is not as objective.

So, creating jobs has never been a part of his life.

BASHIR: But he`s running on creating jobs.

REID: But he`s running on creating jobs, it`s a problem.

BASHIR: Jared, in the "Time" interview, Mitt Romney predicted what
the unemployment rate would be after his first term in office.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I can tell you over a period of four years, by virtue of the
policies that we put in place, we get the unemployment rate down to 6
percent or perhaps a little lower.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: Jared, Mitt Romney`s 6 percent unemployment prediction sounds
impressive until you consider that the non-partisan Congressional Budget
Office predicts that if current laws are implemented, the unemployment rate
will gradually decline to around 7 percent by the end of 2015, before
dropping to nearly 5.5 percent by the end of 2017.

BERNSTEIN: Right. That`s kind of what you`d expect on a normal
progression of a business cycle.

The problem I have with Mitt Romney`s prediction there, though,
however, and it`s interesting you raise the Congressional Budget Office,
they get that 6 percent under something called current law, which means a
bunch of attacks, tax increases, sunset and all that, Mitt Romney`s policy
agenda is nothing like what the Congressional Budget Office is using to get
to that the typical kind of unemployment trending downward projection.

Mitt Romney`s agenda is exactly the agenda that led to the great
recession and the elevated unemployment rate that we`ve been stuck with for
years now. Here you are talking about big upper income tax cuts. Here you
are talking about trickle down. Here, you are talking about deregulation,
for example, repealing Dodd-Frank, and this after the JPMorgan Chase loss.

So, if you kind of ask yourself isn`t that the playbook that got us
into this mess, that 6 percent actually doesn`t sound like something you`d
predict based on the track record that we saw at the policy set during the
Bush years.

BASHIR: Ari, that`s right, isn`t it? This is a statistical
falsehood, based on his budget, or the Paul Ryan budget that he describes
as marvelous, he`s never going to get it to that position, is he?

MELBER: No, I mean, I agree with everything that Jared said when you
look at what the CBO budgets base line is.

What is also interesting to me just watching the reverberations here,
is he did change his numbers, right? He did use to claim that he`s going
to get the unemployment down to 4 percent. And now, it`s 6 percent.

And that`s the only think I`ll say is that there is a different center
of gravity. And one good thing about a wider electorate is that actually
is a greater premium on telling the truth.

He has not been truthful and he has changed without acknowledging the
change. But I do think he understands now as he gets a little closer to
the brass ring that it`s not a good idea to overpromise, and it`s not a
good idea to throw out numbers that educated voters say, oh, actually
that`s totally unrealistic and makes me doubt your judgment because people
can compute more than an important promise.

BASHIR: Indeed.

REID: Here again really quickly, the total 8 percent unemployment
rate is an omnibus number. It includes all demographics. The current
unemployment rate for white men and women over 20 is 6.8 percent. So, I
think that Mitt Romney might have just endorsed President Obama.

(CROSSTALK)

BERNSTEIN: Equally quickly. He also endorsed -- he also endorsed the
Bill Clinton tax structure because that`s what CBO has in that projection.

BASHIR: Absolutely. Ari Melber, Joy-Ann Reid, and Jared Bernstein --
thank you so much for joining us.

Coming up, what happens after a Colorado congressman is caught saying
the president is not an American?

And the Republicans think they have a perfect target for their attacks
in 2012. Joe Biden. Joe Biden?

And later when Sean Hannity decided to attack the president, he picked
the wrong guest to do it with. The general shots down Sean.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASHIR: The congressman who told birther constituents just what they
wanted to hear about the president is now hearing it from reporters. One
reporter caught him and what the congressman said that you will have to
hear to believe.

And, what Republicans think can help win them win the White House.
Attacking Joe Biden.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASHIR: Colorado Republican Mike Coffman is in a tough race to stay
in the House of Representatives. Redistricting has turned his once
Republican-friendly seat into a competitive battleground. So, desperate
times call for desperate measures.

And earlier this month, Coffman sank to the sewer at a local
fundraiser.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

REP. MIKE COFFMAN (R), COLORADO: I don`t know whether Barack Obama
was born in the United States or not. I don`t know. But I do this, that
in his heart he`s not an American. He`s just not an American.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BASHIR: Coffman quickly released an apology after those comments were
made to local news, saying, "I misspoke and I apologize. I have confidence
in President Obama`s citizenship and legitimacy as president of the United
States."

But then a funny thing happened on the way to yet another fund raiser.
A reporter from the local NBC station approached Mr. Coffman and asked him
to clarify his statement. The congressman had only one thing to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KYLE CLARK, REPORTER: After your comments about the president, do you
feel that voters are owed a better explanation than just, I misspoke?

COFFMAN: I think that -- as I -- I stand by my statement that I I`m a
spoke and I apologize.

CLARK: OK, who are you apologizing to?

COFFMAN: I standby my statement and I am a spoke and I apologize.

CLARK: I apologize. We talk to you all the time. You are a very
forthcoming guy. Who is telling you not to talk and to handle it like
this?

COFFMAN: I standby my statement that I wrote, that you have. And I
misspoke and I apologize.

CLARK: Was it that you thought it would go over well in Elbert County
where folks are very conservative and you would never say something like
that in the suburbs.

COFFMAN: I standby my statement, that I misspoke and I apologize.

CLARK: Is there anything I can ask you that you`ll answer
differently?

COFFMAN: You know, I standby my statement, that I misspoke and I
apologize.

CLARK: Thank you, Congressman.

COFFMAN: Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: Joining us now are Kyle Clark, the KUSA reporter who
conducted that interview and Colorado State Representative Joe Miklosi,
Coffman`s Democratic challenger.

Good evening to both of you.

Kyle, if I might start with you, Mr. Coffman has given about 16
interviews to your news station and often it`s difficult trying to shut him
up. So, what was your reaction when he sounded like an automaton,
incapable of saying another than "I standby my statement, that I misspoke
and I apologize?

CLARK: Honestly, Martin, I was thinking of the old Peggy Lee song, is
that all there is? I expected him to answer our questions. He speaks to
us frequently and at length on a number of different issues. He is very
easy to get ahold of at all times.

So, when he kind of went underground after the original comments
surfaced last week, perhaps I should have realized this time it would be
different.

BASHIR: And it clearly was. You ask Coffman whether he thought the
birther rhetoric would go over well in Elbert County where folks are
conservative. What did you mean by that? I mean, do they believe this
nonsense over there?

CLARK: Well, here`s the thing, Mike Coffman votes fairly conservative
but he has a moderate image within his district, and within the state of
Colorado. So, what I was trying to get at is whether there is one Mike
Coffman in front of the cameras and a different when he doesn`t think that
anyone is recording his remarks, say, when he`s in more conservative parts
of the state.

BASHIR: And your conclusion?

CLARK: Well, I don`t know. He didn`t answer the question.

BASHIR: Right.

CLARKE: It is tough to tell. Until we hear other audio from some
other events. People are left to make their own decisions based on his
answer or not answer, however folks chose to interpret. But that was a
different Mike Coffman than the gentleman was usually speak to.

BASHIR: It certainly was.

Mr. Miklosi, how well then the voters reacting? And is it safe to
say, sir, that Christmas has come rather early for you this year?

JOE MIKLOSI (D), COLORADO STATE REP.: Well, Martin, first it`s a
pleasure to be on your show. And I have to admit, when I first heard Mike
Coffman`s comments, I thought I was watching a "Saturday Night Live" skit.
But, unfortunately, this is a serious problem where accountability and
honesty and transparency was lacking.

And I have gotten a lot of calls from Republicans, unaffiliateds and
Democrats who are embarrassed by them and really believe they are beneath
of the congressperson.

BASHIR: The phrase, "thou does protest too much" does come to mind,
does it not? Given that Congressman Coffman repeatedly says that he,
quote, "misspoke." Do you believe he is telling the truth, sir? Or was
the mistake that he frankly got caught and that was the problem?

MIKLOSI: Martin, I don`t think he misspoke because if you read his
written statement, he went on to back slap and criticize the office of the
presidency and commander in chief. I was taught to say you`re sorry and
don`t say additional words. And I just don`t think he is being forthright
or accountable or transparent with voters of Colorado.

BASHIR: Indeed. I want to read more of what Congressman Coffman
wrote in his apology statement. He says, "However, I don`t believe the
president shares my belief in American exceptionalism. His policies
reflect a philosophy that America is but one nation among many equals. As
a marine, I believe America is unique and based on a core set of principles
that make it superior to other nations."

But here is what the president said at the Air Force Academy today.
Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When people around the
world are asked, which country do you most admire -- one nation comes out
on top, the United States of America.

Today, we can say it with confidence and pride -- the United States is
stronger and safer and more respected in the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: Mr. Miklosi, does that sound like a different philosophy?

MIKLOSI: No, I think the president reiterates a time old tradition
that America is an incredible country of land and opportunity where you can
use your God-given talents to achieve your unique version of the American
Dream. And if you want to have a debate, a robust debate about American
exceptionalism, let`s start with having dignity for the commander in chief.

BASHIR: Indeed. Kyle, a final question to you if I may -- you are
interested in the content of politics, policy, issues. What kind of place
does a reference to this nonsense about the president`s place of birth have
in the current discourse?

CLARK: Well, I`ll tell you this, no one in Colorado is talking about
this. Folks are talking about jobs, they`re talking about the economy.
This is not an issue that was really on the table.

Mike Coffman had not brought it up before this closed door fundraiser
where his comments are recorded. He has now inserted it into the debate
and folks are left to decide whether he did that intentionally or whether
he truly did misspeak.

BASHIR: Kyle Clark, reporter for KUSA in Denver, and Joe Miklosi,
candidate for Congress -- thank you both for joining us tonight.

MIKLOSI: Thank you, Martin.

CLARK: Thank you.

BASHIR: Coming up, the Republican plan to go after Joe Biden and his
gaffes. Why on earth would think that attacking Joe Biden would work?

And later when the soldier met Sean, things didn`t go as Sean planned.
The take down of Hannity by General Colin Powell is coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASHIR: Colin Powell shuts down FOX News` Sean Hannity on irrational
criticism of the president. That`s coming up.

And what do Republicans think the win by attacking Joe Biden for his
guess? Former governor, Ed Rendell, joins up.

That`s coming. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you get to know
Joe Biden, he is the most honest, straightforward guy. He is warm. He
tells you what he thinks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: Vice president Joe Biden has never been one to think twice
before speaking his mind.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I promise you the
president has a big stick.

You cannot go to a seven-11 or a Dunkin Donut unless you have a light
Indian access to buy and I`m not joking.

I don`t like a thing about it. No, I`m only kid. Dennis and I have
been friends for 25 years. I think this is ridiculous exercise. Dennis,
the thing I like best about you is your wife.

I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women
marrying women and hetero sexual men and women are entitled to the same
exact rights.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: According to "Politico," Mitt Romney`s campaign in the
Republican National Committee have spent weeks tracking Biden`s every move,
hoping for more gaffes that they can use against the president. That news
comes as a USA today Gallup poll out today shows the vice president`s
favorability rating taking a slightly negative tilt for the first time, 45
percent of the Americans now have unfavorable view of Joe Biden, 24 percent
have a favorable opinion of him.

However, the three point different is well within the four point
margin of error.

Joining us now, our Dana Milbank, "Washington Post" columnist and Ed
Rendell, former Pennsylvania governor and MSNBC political analyst.

Governor, you know Joe Biden. You are from the same state. Is he
really just a gaffe machine? Or is he a genuine asset to the president?

ED RENDELL (D), FORMER PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNOR: I think first of all he
has been a genuine asset as vice president. His advice and counsel has
been important. President put him in charge on stimulus and Joe did a
terrific job managing and implementing the stimulus. It never got the
credit it deserves.

And as a running mate, I think Joe is a very strong asset. Because
where the president is the weakest, with white working class, blue color
Democrats, and independents, Joe is the strongest. And the fact that Joe
is such a real person I think comes through. You know, there are obviously
those who don`t like some of the things he says, but he is real. And I
think that is important in today`s politics.

So, I think when he relates to working class voters, he does it better
than anybody on the political scene today. So, I think he is by far an
asset as we go forward. And I think if the Romney people make him an
issue, they do so at their own peril.

BASHIR: Indeed. Dana, the U.S. A. Today Gallup poll shows Democrats
are still strongly positive towards Joe Biden within 73 percent having a
favorable opinion. Independents remain unchanged, and no surprise here,
only 15 percent of Republicans have a favorable opinion of him, but, isn`t
that the point, Dana? He is an effective politician and he has been
especially so during the past few weeks.

DANA MILBANK, OPINION WRITER, WASHINGTON POST: Yes, Martin. I think
the reason the Republicans are going after Joe Biden right now is actually
a form of flattery. He has been -- no, no, no. He has been out there
aggressively and has been at the tip of the spear of the re-election
campaign. And think about the places he has been going to campaign. It`s
been Western Pennsylvania, it`s been South Eastern Ohio, it`s been rural
New Hampshire and as the governor was saying this is where Obama is weaker
and where Biden is stronger because it`s white blue collar somewhat rural.

So, I think what the Republicans are recognizing is this is having
some effect and they want to push back against this. Now can you -- going
after Biden for gaffes? Well, that is kind of a bit of an old story. The
gaffes that he has sort of - it`s called -- is the Washington gaffe. It`s
when you accidentally speak the truth. So this is not probably going to
hurt him a great deal in the eyes of the electorate, of course, except for
the Republicans who are not going to vote for him anyway.

BASHIR: Exactly. But to your point, Dana. Many of his gaffes have
actually been very endearing, haven`t they?

MILBANK: Right. I mean, you know, it often they are funny like, you
know, he forget that the guy was introducing at a rally was in a
wheelchair. And he said, you know, stand up.

(LAUGHTER)

MILBANK: So, OK. He is not going to lose in election because of
that. He says some silly things. What he wound up on gay marriage,
actually, it seems to have retrospect to have turned out to Obama`s
advantage because it forced him to take a stand and he did rally his base.

BASHIR: Indeed. Governor, we all remember the GQ profile of Joe
Biden. I think in 2006 which proclaimed Joe Biden can`t shut up and the
"LA times" once called him a quote, "gaffe machine." But when Joe Biden is
on, he`s on. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you reassure voters of this country that you
would have the discipline that you would need on the world stage, senator?

BIDEN: Yes.

Rudy Giuliani, there is only two things he mentions in a sentence. A
noun and a verb and 9/11. I mean, there is nothing else. My mother and
father believe 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.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.

(APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: They don`t get us. They don`t get who we are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: Governor, isn`t that a wonderful example of how Joe Biden is
the direct opposite of a plutocrat like Mitt Romney?

RENDELL: Sure. And really, in the end Martin, you know, as Dana of
course tells u well. Nobody really votes for vice president. The vice
president can only hurt the ticket not necessarily help it or get it votes.

But what Joe Biden can do and is doing is fire up the base. He can
get out there and like the last speech, the last clip you played, he fires
up the base. He gets them to turn out. He gets them to rally. He gets
them to bang on doors. He really inspires people because he is telling the
truth and he is speaking to them..

He is the only -- I think Joe Biden said, and I believe he is, forth
and all of the people in the United States senate, and that resonate. He
did come from a working class background. His parents literally, you know,
face poverty. He pulled them up, himself up, as his own boot-trap, so he
is a great messenger to that segment of the American people who we need to
fire up and understand what the stakes are in the election.

So, I think Joe Biden is a great asset. I don`t care about those
occasional gaffes. I think he said it right. I think they have become sort
of endearing and part of Joe, who he is.

BASHIR: Dana, isn`t the real point is that Joe Biden has, as you have
said has particular strengths that appeal to particular areas of the
country? And don`t you think someone like Mitt Romney probably has a
sneaking desire for someone exactly like Joe Biden as his VP?

MILBANK: Well, it`s not necessarily the people who were supposed to
be on his short list right now. But, you know --

BASHIR: What -- look. He desperately needs someone who is authentic
and doesn`t sound like a robot or is awkward. He desperately needs someone
whose passion and commitment and conviction is genuine and noticeable at a
distance of 100 miles.

MILBANK: Right. And well, that is why Biden is a powerful antidote
and some ways more powerful in antidote to Romney. Than Obama himself is
because of the clash of classes there.

So, sure. But you know, you think of the people that Romney is
looking for right now. You know, does a Paul Ryan fit the bill? Does a
Marco Rubio fit the bill? I don`t think he will get the same sort of real
working class background that Joe Biden does.

Now, this where Romney and Republicans are stronger, to begin with.
But the ideas, they don`t want to see any of that territory to the
Democrats. And that`s why they are going after Biden right now.


BASHIR: Indeed. Dana Milbank of "the Washington Post" and former governor
of Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell, thank you both gentlemen, for joining us
tonight.

MILBANK: Thanks, Martin.

RENDELL: Thanks. Have a good night.

BASHIR: Thank you, sir.

General Colin Powell schools Sean Hannity and takes Governor Romney to
foreign policy school, all in one interview. That`s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASHIR: We tried counting but we lost track of the number times Paul
Ryan mentioned Ronald Reagan in his speech at the Reagan library, but we
have not lost track of just how bad the budget he is trying to depend
really is, that`s coming up.

And later, how general Colin Powell destroyed a favorite Republican
argument on a favorite Republican network. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: The Republican party`s worth math student House budget
committee Chair, Paul Ryan, has again defended his budget plan to a
friendly audience to a Reagan library. And as his now custom at the Reagan
library during his half hour speech, Congressman Ryan mentioned president
Reagan just a few times.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: There is a spirit that pervades this
Reagan library. Reagan embodied optimism. They were the keys to Ronald
Reagan`s greatness as an American leader. President Reagan, Ronald
Reagan`s famous diagnosis. Reagan explained perfectly. If there is a
single reform Ronald Reagan has identified with it is tax reform. Ronald
Reagan 1986 tax reform. Ronald Reagan offered supply side economics at
home and a roll back of soviet communism abroad. Ronal Reagan in Reagan-
Bush in 1980.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: Receiving only applause and adulation, Ryan defended a budget
that cuts taxes for corporations and the rich while slashing the social
safety net with cuts to food stamps, Medicare and Medicaid. Ryan then
argued that his plan is actually better for the nation`s poor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN: President Obama`s government centered policies take from hard-
working Americans and give to politically connected companies and
privileged special interests. I will call it what it is. It`s corporate
welfare and we propose to end it. As we end though, welfare for those who
don`t need it, we will strengthen welfare programs from those you do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: In the same evening, the Republican congressman accused the
president of being guilty of the politics of division and attempting to
recast Romney as mitt the messiah.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN: Americans have always rejected those with nothing to offer but
cynicism and the politics of division. And right now, that`s all they are
getting from the president. I really believe he`s the right guy for the
times and I think he`s going beat Barack Obama and I think we`re going to
save this country.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: During a speech today to the graduating class at the United
States air force academy, the president offered the cadets his vision of
the future.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: You would think folks understand a basic truth. Never bet
against the United States of America.

That`s why I firmly believe if we rise to this moment in history, if
we meet our responsibilities then just like the 20th century, the 21st
century will be another great American century. That`s the future I see.
That`s the future you can build.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: Joining me now is Nia-Malika Henderson, national political
reporter for `the Washington post." Good evening.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Good evening.

BASHIR: Is Paul Ryan an example of why America ranks 25th in math
behind Slovenia? He claims to be able to reduce the debt and deficit
released budget when every sane economist says he can`t possibly do that
while slashing taxes at the same time.

HENDERSON: That`s right. And he also claims that there will be a lot
of savings under Medicaid and Medicare for seniors and other folks. But,
on the budget, analysis of TV host basically says those cost would ripe.
But, he has called out at least the tea party vote into some Republican.
This image is being a real budget and policy wonk.

An in that way, he has become a favorite of tea party folks, but in
some way the favorite of Democrats, too. They love to run against this
Ryan budget. They saw it work in their favor in the upstate New York race
back in 2011 and they certainly want to tie, Democrats do, want to tie Mitt
Romney to this -- to Ryan in this budget. And I think that`s where you are
going to see a over and over again. They are going to call this Ryan
budget the Ryan-Romney budget and in that way, try to taint Mitt Romney and
tie him to these policies that would in a lot of ways, gut a lot of the
safety net, preserve a lot of the defense spending and I think in some ways
really what we are back to safety net.

BASHIR: Right. And the White House is now so exasperated by the
mendacity and blatant false hoods about president Obama`s so-called
reckless spending. That one of the calmest press secretaries we have in
decade, today said this.

"I simply make the point as an editor might say to check it out. Do
not buy into the BS that you hear about spending and fiscal constraint with
regard to this administration. I think doing so is a sign of sloth and
laziness."

He`s right isn`t it?

HENDERSON: In some ways, yes. I mean, I think you have heard
Republicans tout this talking point over and over again that there has been
this runaway spending and of course they use the foil of Ronald Reagan.
And let`s face it, debts under Ronald Reagan, 700 billion when he came In
to office and two trillion by the time he left. But they always want to
frame President Obama as Carter as if that automatically makes him Ronald
Reagan.

But, of course, let`s remember Carter I think created something like
11 million jobs over his term. I think Bush was like three million over
two terms. So, we should be careful about those sorts of historical
analogies as well. But no, here is Paul Ryan again, there is this sort of
slow audition that all of these folks like Paul Ryan, like Chris Christi,
like Marco Rubio Trying to really put themselves in a position where they
get a good look as vice president.

BASHIR: Well, OK. If Ryan is bad at math, he is also pretty bad as
character assessment. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

What I see in Mitt Romney are the kinds of tools, the kinds of skills,
the kinds of character and attributes you need in a leader. He makes
decisions. He doesn`t pander.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: Romney doesn`t pander. This is the man who loves cheesy
grits when in Alabama, hunting small varmints in Indiana, in Michigan he
loves cars and lakes and says the trees are the right height.

HENDERSON: The size of the trees.

BASHIR: And he never ever pander, correct?

HENDERSON: That`s right. I mean, this is - I mean, this doesn`t pass
the lab test. And of course, "Saturday night live" has had a good time
characterizing. Mitt Romney as pander, most politicians are panders. And
Mitt Romney has certainly gotten a deserved reputation as king of the
panderers.

BASHIR: King of panders, chief pander.

Nia-Malika Henderson of "the Washington Post," thanks so much for
joining us.

HENDERSON: Take care, Martin. Thanks.

BASHIR: Thank you.

Coming up as general Colin Powell makes the rounds touting his new
book on leadership, he uses his fast experience in the military in the
state department to take aim at Mitt Romney`s poor grasp with foreign
policy. And he does it on FOX News. That`s ahead on "the Last Word."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASHIR: The endorsement of candidate Barack Obama by General Colin
Powell of the last election was undoubtedly a surprise. And also an
important affirmation. General Powell`s military stature is republicans
services at the highest levels of government were clearly of benefit to the
Obama campaign.

But this time around, Mr. Powell has written a new book on leadership
has yet to declare his hand.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE ANCHOR: Why haven`t you endorsed yet? You
supported President Obama before. Have you been disappointed with his
leadership?

COLIN POWELL, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I`m on a book tour. I came
out from a book tour and I`m under no pressure as a private citizen to
endorse or not to endorse. I enjoy watching with those (INAUDIBLE).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: But, we have had some inkling of where the general may stand
in the 2012 match-up. Let`s start with the economy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POWELL: I think President Obama has been the successful and
stabilizing the economy or at least the financial aspects of the economy.
And in fixing the auto industry and other things. I think he has to
improve his relationship with the business community.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: What about on rights for gays and lesbians? We know he
supported the repeal of don`t ask don`t tell. So, what about the
president`s support for marriage equality?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANCHOR: What about gay marriage?
Are you with the president in supporting gay marriage?

POWELL: A lot of friends who are individually gay but in partnerships
with loved ones and they are stable of a family as my family and they raise
children. And so, I don`t see any reason not to say that they should not
be able to get married.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: OK. What about foreign policy? Listen to the general`s
response to the attacks on the president by Mitt Romney and Mr. Sean
Hannity of FOX News.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Internationally President Obama has adopted an appeasement
strategy. Be apologizes for America. And I will never apologize for the
greatest nation in the history of the earth.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: As a military guy, I think when
something goes out and apologizes at repeatedly as he has done for this
country and you have served this country with such distinction that that
would bother you. And that`s where I kind a - I don`t understand calling a
power.

POWELL: First of all, he is not going around the world apologizing
for everything. I take exception with that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: No, Mr. Hannity. You do not understand Colin Powell. The
four star general disagrees entirely with your assertion. But Mr. Powell
went a step further on two other shows, calling into question some foreign
policy advisors tapped by Romney and keying in on one of the candidate`s
most questionable statements.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: This is to Russia. This is, without question our number one
GEO political foe.

POWELL: For example, when Governor Romney not too long ago, said, you
know, the Russian federation is our number one GEO strategic threat. Come
on, think.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: Come on, Mitt, think. Stand up straight and stop talking
nonsense. You have just been disciplined by the general.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POWELL: I think he really needs to think carefully at the statements.
Because they are now on the walls for people to see. Let`s not go creating
enemies where none yet exist. Does this not mean that they should trust?
No. Let`s be mature people and look at the reality of the situation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: Indeed. You can have "the Last Word" online about blog.
`The Last Word" on MSCNBC.com.

Watch my show weekdays at 3:00 p.m. "the Ed Show" is next.

END

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