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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Thursday, May 24, 2012

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

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Guest Host: Martin Bashir

Guests: Krystal Ball, Ari Melber, E.J. Dionne, Michael Nutter, Lily Eskelsen, Sandra Fluke; Ezra Klein


MARTIN BASHIR, GUEST HOST: If Rush Limbaugh agrees with the president
and Newt Gingrich is still saying Newt Gingrich would be a better nominee,
Mitt, you`ve got 99 problems and Bain is just one.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As president, I will pursue
a very bold policy of change.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think what we`re really seeing here is general
election Mitt.

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: The so called three Es.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three things that he wants to talk about.

WAGNER: Employment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This election is all about the unemployment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt Romney promises that his policies would knock
down unemployment to 6 percent.

ROMNEY: To 6 percent and perhaps a little lower.

TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: To 6 percent or lower.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This might be a little bit of pie in the sky.

E.J. DIONNE, WASHINGTON POST: No matter who`s elected, I bet you,
unemployment is at 6 percent in four years.

WAGNER: Energy.

ROMNEY: Energy strategy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re not getting many specifics.

ROMNEY: If it takes advantage of our natural gas and oil and coal.

DIONNE: I don`t think it`s much of a plan. But it is what he`s for.

WAGNER: And education.

ROMNEY: Millions of our kids are getting a third world education.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you`re going to talk about education --

ROMNEY: This is the civil rights war of our era.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It would be nice if you had an education record.

WAGNER: The so-called three Es -- employment, energy and education.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It has a benefit of alliteration.

WAGNER: Vague specifics shall we call them.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: The election will be decided in a dozen
battleground states.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: Today, we have new NBC/Marist poll.

MITCHELL: The president has a narrow lead in three of them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Forty-eight percent is enough to put the
president ahead of Romney.

TODD: Forty-eight percent --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In Florida, Virginia and Ohio.

TODD: -- is the nice edge.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president has been on the attack.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He`s saying, well, you
know, my 25 years in the private sector.

ROMNEY: I spent 25 years in the private sector.

OBAMA: With a special understanding of how our economy works.

ROMNEY: That obviously teaches you something.

OBAMA: He`s hoping you don`t remember the last time we tried it his
way.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

Tonight on the campaign trail, President Obama rallied supporters in
Iowa where he pressured Mitt Romney to explain how Bain Capital prepared
him for the presidency.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: He doesn`t really talk about what he did in Massachusetts.
But he does talk about being a business guy. Right, he says, this gives
him a special understanding of what it takes to create jobs and grow the
economy. Even if he`s unable to offer a single new idea about how to do
that, no matter how many times he`s asked about it, he says he knows how to
do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: The president then articulated his problem with Mitt Romney`s
experience at Bain Capital.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: There may be value for that kind of experience, but it`s not
in the White House.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: Today, the president`s general election opponent opted for
revisionism and extreme rhetoric to muddy the waters around his career at
Bain Capital.

It began this morning on the good ship FOX News where Romney falsely
accused the president of being anti-capitalist.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: There`s no question but that he`s attacking capitalism.
Frankly, the American people understand that the free economy and free
enterprise, it`s tough, it`s hard work. And when they hear that a business
like Bain Capital was successful 80 percent of the time, and 5 percent of
its investments went bankrupt, they say, you know, that`s a pretty good
record. If all the president wants to talk about the failures, why he`s
representing the nature of free enterprise.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: That is Mitt the mendacious at his very best.

But now listen to what the president really thinks of firms like Bain
Capital. Here he is again tonight in Iowa.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: There`s an important creative role for it in the free market.
Their main goal is to create wealth for themselves and their investors.

Now, you know, that`s part of the American way, that`s fine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: The president doesn`t have a problem with Bain Capital. What
he does have a problem with is Mitt Romney claiming that being CEO of Bain
Capital makes him a job creator, when he of all people knows full well,
that isn`t what private equity managers do -- an important fact that even
Rush Limbaugh little illustrated no less than twice this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Bain Capital didn`t go into
business to create jobs anyway. That`s not what private equity does.

Private equity is not there to create jobs. That`s not what they do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: Thank you, Rush.

Today, the Romney campaign announced that their candidate will
campaign with Newt Gingrich supporter Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump. On
Tuesday, at Trump Towers in Las Vegas.

Today, Romney received high praise for his former opponent.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Did he tell the truth about you?

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, but he did what
he had to do. And I think he might turn out to be a surprisingly good
president. But I thought I was a better choice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: Joining me now, Democratic strategist Krystal Ball,
.correspondent for "The Nation," Ari Melber, and "Washington Post" opinion
writer, E.J. Dionne. E.J. is also the author of a new book, "Our Divided
Political Heart," which is in stores now. All three are of course MSNBC
contributors.

Thank you for coming in tonight. It`s wonderful to have you here.

Krystal, the president tonight pressures Mitt Romney to explain how
his experience at Bain means that he`s a job creator. Where does that
leave Mitt Romney?

KRYSTAL BALL, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It`s a very tough place and he
has struggled throughout this campaign to articulate a narrative about
himself, either has a business person, a job creator or his time in
Massachusetts that really clicked with the American public. And, in fact,
the president referenced, you know, if you want to see what Mitt Romney`s
policies would look like, let`s revisit the Bush years.

You can also take a look at Romney`s own time in Massachusetts. He
ran that state very much in the way that he ran Bain Capital. He loaded it
up with a lot of debt and he ended up taking the prestige that he got from
that position and moving on and, by the way, killed a bunch of blue collar
jobs in the meantime. So, it was a very Bain Capital-esque strategy that
he employed there in Massachusetts.

BASHIR: At least he`s consistent.

Ari, I want you to listen to more of the president`s speech. Listen
to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The challenge we face right now, the challenge we faced for
over a decade is that harder work hasn`t led to higher incomes. Bigger
profits haven`t led to better jobs. And you can`t solve that problem if
you can`t even see that it`s a problem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: Ari, he`s right, isn`t he? If you can`t acknowledge that
problem, how can you resolve it?

ARI MELBER, THE NATION: That`s right and Mitt Romney has had his own
take on this which is sort of challenging the president`s credentials on
the very nature of what productivity means. But, of course, it is true
that people in the United States, people are working more hours for less
pay, the 99 percent/1 percent distribution models that we have been
discussing so much over the past few months play into that.

And if you are about family values and you do want people to have
time, to both make money and live a good life, which is part of what the
president is talking about, then ultimately you want people to make more so
that they can also have time at home and time with their family. And I
think the way you do that, if you look at that from what the president has
been arguing is, you have labor supported so they can try to bring up the
bargaining power in the private market, or you have higher minimum pages
which is again something that Romney has come out against.

BASHIR: E.J., Rush Limbaugh -- Rush Limbaugh is now saying that the
purpose of Bain Capital was not to create jobs. Is it now time for Mitt
Romney to follow the GOP P.R. spokesperson, Rush Limbaugh and accept that
Bain Capital was about wealth and not about jobs?

E.J. DIONNE, WASHINGTON POST: It truly pains me to say this -- Rush
Limbaugh is absolutely right. And I think -- I just wanted to say that.
But I think that --

BASHIR: I can see your pain, by the way.

DIONNE: I think Romney has gotten himself into a box and the Obama
campaign it`s whole effort now is to sort of bang the nails on that box and
keep it shut, because at the beginning of the campaign, Romney said over
and over again, that this business experience would help him deal with
jobs. Jobs is the issue he wants to be the central to the campaign.

But when A and B don`t connect, and it`s very clear, it`s not a
dishonest socialist thing to say, Rush Limbaugh said the truth, which is
these guys were in it to make money, sometimes they created jobs ancillary
to that and sometimes they didn`t. And, often, the companies were
streamlined and people were put out of work.

So I think what`s interesting is despite all the push back against
this, even the Cory Booker push back, Obama clearly sees this as a critical
objective to drive home this message from and to kind of disable Romney
from using Bain effectively for the rest of the campaign.

BASHIR: Speaking of Rush Limbaugh, though, Krystal, we now hear that
there is this raffle for dinner with Mitt Romney and Donald Trump here in
New York. Now, why would Mitt Romney chose a man like Donald Trump?

BALL: It`s a great question, since he felt free to pillory the
president for comments made by a Democrat Hilary Rosen, who`s not even
associated with the president`s campaign officially, and yet he feels free
to associate himself with Donald Trump who rose to, you know, political
fame by being a birther.

I mean, I don`t know that you want to have that close association,
because then you open yourself up to criticism whenever Donald Trump
inevitably says something crazy.

MELBER: Can I jump in?

BASHIR: Yes.

MELBER: David Letterman nailed it the other night when he pointed out
that Trump gave Arsenio Hall the big nod on "Celebrity Apprentice" and then
questioned, well, the problem with that was then afterward, he asked for
Arsenio Hall`s birth certificate.

(LAUGHTER)

MELBER: And everyone in the audience laughed because well outside of
political junkies, the audience understands, the American people understand
that Donald Trump led a race-baiting campaign, that birtherism is about
challenging race. You`ve talked about this on your show Martin and
Lawrence O`Donnell talked about it many times on this show.

BASHIR: And I talked about it on Lawrence`s show.

(LAUGHTER)

MELBER: But the Letterman jokes aside and the fun aside, my view is,
that while Mitt Romney has been pretty good on any of these issues, he
should not be associating with anyone like Donald Trump until they publicly
apologized. Trump has not done that. And as far as I`m concerned, he
should be persona non grata.

BALL: And even worse than that. I mean, Romney has never had a
moment of courage in that area where he could show that he had some
character. I mean, he had a woman stand up in his town hall and say that
the president should be tried for treason and he didn`t say anything about
it. He got asked about Rush Limbaugh`s comments about Sandra Fluke, who
you`re having as a guest on this program, correct?

BASHIR: Yes.

BALL: And he could only say that those aren`t the words that I would
have used.

BASHIR: OK.

BALL: He has failed the character test on this time and again.

BASHIR: E.J., I want you to listen to some more from Romney today,
listen to this on education.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Here we are in the most prosperous nation on earth, but
millions of our kids are getting a third world education and America`s
minority children suffer the most. This is the civil rights issue of our
era.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: E.J, what does a man who went to Cranbrook and Harvard know
about public education and the third world?

DIONNE: I`m trying to think of what Harvard and Cranbrook have to do
with the third world as well.

But the -- you know, I think this is a clever issue for Romney to use.
I don`t know if it`s going to work. Because it`s an issue where he could
show compassion for the needy, saying he cares about education for the
poor, even though he wants to make all kinds of cuts in education.

But the solutions he wants to push, are solutions very congenial to
the right wing, he wants vouchers, he wants more charter schools. And so,
it`s a kind of a twofer for him.

The guy who blazed the trail for Republicans on this was George W.
Bush. He was somebody who neutralized the education issue in 2000. But in
2000, George W. Bush was willing to spend more money on schools, at least
rhetorically, Romney is not talking that way at all.

BASHIR: What about the fact, Ari, that Romney has chosen as a special
advisor a man who described one of the teaching unions as a terrorist
organization, Rod Paige? What do you think of this individual, who also
whose own career, by the way, with regard to Houston schools has been
questioned because of cheating on tests and the number of individuals
considered to have been excluded from schools?

MELBER: Well, Mr. Paige`s policy record, even beyond his rhetoric has
been as you say controversial because of the emphasis on testing and
teaching to the test. I think the problem for Romney and their campaign if
you went to the Web site this week was talking about what they call
expanding choice in education.

But there is no federal money in his proposed budget to the extent
he`s got into any detail for the Department of Education. So, what I see
here is a bit of the Rick Perry problem, there`s this idea of cutting all
the money out of the budget, as it stands -- there`s only 8 percent of
school funding that comes out of the federal budget. If you want to cut
that down further, fine, be honest about it. But that`s not called choice.
That`s called cutbacks.

DIONNE: And to just to go back to the Trump story, I think we are
still waiting for one issue, just one issue where Romney is actually
willing to break with the right end of the Republican Party, and we`re not
seeing it on education, and we`re certainly not seeing it in the Trump
case. I don`t know when he`s going to do this, maybe he never will.

BALL: Right. And, by the way, on education, that is an area where
the president has actually taken on his own party and although Mitt Romney
would have you believe that he`s been some union tote, he`s actually had a
pretty contentious relationship with the teachers unions last summer -- the
National Education Association, NEA, said that they were appalled by some
of his education secretary, Arne Duncan.

So, this has been a tough love relationship and the president has
shown some courage here. Mitt Romney again going back to, OK, what would
it actually look like if we look at his model of education when he was in
Massachusetts, it was again the Bain Capital approach to education. He
actually brought Bain (ph) to structure their public university. I mean,
they really did that.

Of course what you got was higher tuition and lower service because if
you`re trying to have a profit, that`s what you do. But we want more than
profit in our education system.

BASHIR: Indeed we do.

Final question to all of you, sum up for me if you can, beginning with
you, Ari, what kind of a week has it been for Romney, as against the
president on Bain and the policy of education?

MELBER: Sure. I mean, a lot of people are getting out of school this
week, a lot of people folks are looking at their summer internships and the
first rule is don`t puff your resume, you can ask the CEO of Yahoo and you
can ask the internship class about it. It`s not worth it.

Mitt Romney did have in regards to yields and returns, which is
something that Wall Street cares about, is a perfectly perfect record
there.

BASHIR: And he has $15 million in his own bank account.

MELBER: And he knows how to create wealth for a small amount of
people and that`s not necessarily the worst thing in the world. It`s
definitely wasn`t bad for the investors and some of his investors were
teachers unions, but when you puff, and you puff, and you puff, you destroy
yourself.

BASHIR: E.J.?

DIONNE: He started the week looking like he had the advantage because
all of the attention was on Cory Booker. The administration chose not to
back off the Bain story, and the end of the week, we are still talking like
this. And I`m not just talking about us on MSNBC. It does seem that the
Cory Booker incident did not push back the Bain issue, which think is a
balance and plus for Obama.

BASHIR: Indeed.

BALL: Yes, I think that`s right. I mean, if they were going to pull
back on challenging Mitt Romney on his record at Bain, they would have done
it this week and we didn`t see that.

BASHIR: Fantastic. Krystal Ball, Ari Melber, and E.J. Dionne, thank
you so much for spending your Friday night with us.

BALL: Thanks, Martin.

BASHIR: Actually, it`s Thursday.

Coming up, Mitt Romney calls the American education system as we heard
third world, and then he tells teachers class size doesn`t matter. That`s
ahead.

And Republicans blamed President Obama for high gas prices, are they
applauding him now that they have gone down? And are they aware that
presidents have absolutely nothing to do with the price of gas?

And Sandra Fluke joins me to talk about why the GOP cannot seem to
help itself when it comes to being on the wrong side of women`s issues.
Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASHIR: Mitt Romney`s bizarre rhetoric drifted into a classroom today
where he told teachers class size doesn`t matter.

And later, Republicans in Congress considered protecting women`s right
to sue for fair pay. A political ploy? Sandra Fluke will join us. That`s
coming up.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASHIR: Mitt Romney made a visit to a struggling charter school in
West Philadelphia today.

Things were going really well, until he brought up class size.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I came into office and talked to people and said what do we
do to improve our schools and a number of folks said -- well, we need
smaller classroom sizes, that will make the biggest difference. So I
gathered information across our state, we had 351 cities and towns, I said
let`s compare the average size of classroom students from each school
district with the performance of our students, because we test our kids,
and we`ll see if there`s a relationship. And there was not. As a matter
of fact, the school district with the smallest classrooms, Cambridge, had
students performing in the bottom 10 percent. So just getting smaller
classrooms didn`t seem to me to -- the key.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: Some on the round table took issue with Romney`s stance.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In first through third grades, if the class size
is under 18, those kids stay ahead of everybody else all the way through
the school.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can`t think of any teacher in the whole time I
have been teaching, over 10 years -- 13 years, who would say that they
would -- more students would benefit them.

ROMNEY: Right, of course.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I can`t think of a parent that would say I
would like my teacher to be in a room with a lot of kids and only one
teacher. So, I`m kind of wondering where this research comes from.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARTIN: So are we.

Things weren`t any better for the Republican candidate outside of the
school where dozens of protesters gathered, including the mayor of
Philadelphia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER (D), PHILADELPHIA: I you`re going to talk about
education, it would be nice if you had an education record. It would be
nice if you had an education platform. It would be nice if you seemed to
know something about education.

You can go anywhere you want to go. That`s the beauty of the United
States of America. But the guy`s got no record to run on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: Joining me now, Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia, and
Lily Eskelsen, vice president of the National Education Association.

Good evening to both of you.

Mayor Nutter, if I might begin with you. Why did you choose to go out
there today and why are you not happy with Mitt Romney`s illustrious record
on education?

NUTTER: Well, Martin, he doesn`t have a record and the record that he
wants to run on is a pretty bad one. We know that when Mitt Romney was
governor, for instance, the students in his state of Massachusetts, from
fiscal year `03 to `04 had the second largest per pupil cut in the United
States of the America. The fundamentals of what he talked about today,
every second grader knows that having fewer students in the class is going
to be better for that student, you`ll get better attention from your
teachers, specialized kind of services that elementary school students need
to perform at a high level in a classroom.

So I mean, I have no idea what he`s talking about. And if you want to
come to Philadelphia and talk about education, or if you want to talk about
issues in a presidential campaign, then your record is going to be
examined.

President Obama actually has a record.

BASHIR: Yes.

NUTTER: I`m strongly supporting him, Mitt Romney doesn`t and I`m not
going to allow him or his folks come to our town and try to dupe people
into thinking that he actually knows something about education.

BASHIR: Right.

Lily, Mitt Romney has appointed Rod Paige as his special advisor on
education, this is a man who described your union as, and I`m quoting him,
"a terrorist organization". So how well will teachers get along with a
Romney administration, do you think?

LILY ESKELSEN, NATIONAL EDUCATION ASSOCIATION: Well, I think that
says a lot about how Governor Romney respects or does not respect
educators. I`m a sixth grade teacher from Utah and I was elected by my
colleagues, over 3 million members of the National Education Association
for things like improving class size. I had 39 fifth graders one year.

And I wasn`t complaining because it was too much work for me, I
couldn`t reach those kids. And I`ll tell you who was more upset than I
was, their parents.

And so to have someone who would like to be the next president of the
United States, show that there`s such a disconnect between what an average
mom and dad want for their own student, something like being in a decent
class size so that a teacher can give that kid the personal attention that
every child needs. We are just appalled.

BASHIR: Mayor, the student teacher achievement ratio study has found
a 32 percent reduction in class size from 22 students to 15, increased
student achievement by an amount equivalent to about three additional
months of schooling. And at least 24 states have mandated or incentivized
class size limits in their public schools.

What is it that Romney doesn`t seem to get about class size, or is he
using the Bain approach, which is basically pile them high and sell them
cheap, ram as many kids in the school as possible?

ESKELSEN: There is a stack of cheap mentality going on here. And
it`s the kids that are suffering.

BASHIR: One second, Lily, I want to hear the mayor on this as well.
Mayor, sorry.

NUTTER: Yes. Martin, I don`t think your program is long enough to
detail what Romney doesn`t know about education. You brought up the Bain
approach, this is continued cuts and cuts and more cuts, whether it`s in
secondary or post secondary education systems, laying off teachers,
slashing budgets, and not providing students or their parents with the
support that they need to ensure that every child gets a high quality
education.

So, I mean, clearly, he has gotten an F on his first day out on the
issue of education. I don`t know what he`s going to be talking about
tomorrow, but this kind of Bain approach which is to spend as little money
as possible and try to somehow maximize, I`m not sure what maximization of
return he thinks you`re going to get. The only way you get a good return
on education, is to spend strategically, spend well, invest in young people
and their teachers so that we can start to regain our prominence.

BASHIR: Mayor --

NUTTER: What President Obama is trying to do by 2020.

BASHIR: Mayor, you`re making far too much sense.

Lily, one of the panelists on that round table today posed a question
to Mitt Romney. Take a question to this, if you will.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whenever they talk about providing education for
low income kids, they always talk about sending them to a school, somewhere
else.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why can`t we have good schools in this
neighborhood?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: Lily, Mitt Romney never did answer that question, perhaps
because he touts a program simply to move students somewhere else, never
addressing the core issue, which is the school itself.

ESKELSEN: Well, not only that, but one of his proposals is to take
one of our seriously underfunded programs like special education and turn
special ed funding into a voucher program for people to be subsidized at a
private school.

But let me tell you, he also talks about our global competition,
countries like Finland and Singapore, but he never talks about what makes
them so great. One of the things they did is they said, we are going to
have every public school as good as the best public school.

Wouldn`t that be a great thing to run on? To say the kind of school
that the governor went to, it was his goal to make sure every child had
those facilities, those great teachers, those really safe places where they
could play and learn and books and computers. That`s what no one wants to
talk about.

You have to have the resources in that school to make that school
system work for those kids. They keep wanting these little silver bullet
gimmicks, win more test, pay by test scores, labeling kids by test scores,
stack them deep, teach them cheap. None of that is going to work for real
students.

BASHRI: Lily Eskelsen, vice president of the National Education
Association, and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter -- thank you both for
joining us. You`ve been so erudite on the subject. Thank you both.

NUTTER: Thank you.

BASHIR: Coming up: closing the wage cap. Republicans add that to the
list of things they`re not interested in doing. Sandra Fluke joins us.

And an update about the vial of Ronald Reagan`s blood being put on the
auction block. That`s coming up. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASHIR: An update now to a story we told you on Tuesday.

The online auction of the laboratory vial said to have tracings of
blood of Ronald Reagan has now been cancelled by the auction company after
complaints from the late president`s family and presidential foundation.
The vendor now says the seller of the vial has decided to donate the vile
to the Ronald Reagan foundation. The auction was scheduled to end tonight.
Before its suspension, bidding had topped $30,000.

Coming up, Sandra Fluke on why protecting a woman`s right to fairway
is not a Republican priority.

Ezra Klein on why Mitt Romney was the high gas prices before he was
against them. And I will look at why Romney is no John McCain when it
comes o character. And that should worry all of us. That is coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARBARA MIKULSKI (D), MARYLAND: We`re saying here, on the eve of
the 49th anniversary of the equal pay act, we`re mad as hell and we`re not
going to take it anymore.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: That was Maryland senator, Barbara Mukulski, passionate
leading the charge to pass the paycheck fairness act which would combat
wage discrimination against women. Bu closing loopholes in the original
equal pay act of 1963, the pay check fairness act would create incentives
for employers to follow the law, ban employers from retaliating against
workers who ask about the wages of their colleagues. And educate women on
salary negotiation. Past attempts to pass the bill have failed repeatedly
due to a lack of Republican support.

Today senator majority leader Harry Reid called upon Republicans to
make the act a bipartisan effort.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID (D), NEVADA: The Republicans deny they`re waging war
on women, yet they have launched a series of attacks on women`s access to
health care this year. Now they have an opportunity to back up their
excuses with action and we`re going to give them that opportunity.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: Joining me now the Sandra Fluke who was prevented from
testifying at congressional hearing on contraception coverage earlier this
year, and here with me in the studio in New York is Jo-Ann Reid, managing
editor of thegrio.com an MSNBC contributor.

Jo-Ann, how could anyone in 2012 disagree with fair pay for equal
work?

JO-ANN REID, MANAGING EDITOR, THEGRIO.COM: You know, it`s really hard
to understand it. I have been thinking about this throughout the afternoon
as I prepare to come on the show. It`s hard to understand it because
demographically, it makes no sense, right? Republicans are already looking
at a huge gender gap, Mitt Romney in the latest NBC "Wall Street Journal"
poll is losing to Barack Obama by 15 points among women. He only won women
by 13 points when he hate John McCain. So he`s actually doing better if
you look at the gender gap. And Mitt Romney is doing so poorly with other
demographic goods that making it up among women particularly among working
women, is really sort of the only place he has to go. So, his party seems
to be dragging him and themselves backward with the very key demographic
group, hard to understand.

BASHIR: And of course Mitt Romney wants to defund Planned Parenthood
so that`s a good start.

Sandra, in op-ed, you wrote back in April, you said this. "Many young
women of my generation believe they live in a post feminist world without
unfair sex discrimination, some Republicans say that we don`t need the
paycheck fairness act because we already have the Lily Ledbetter act.

How does that differ from the Lily Ledbetter act?

SANDRA FLUKE, LAW SCHOOL STUDENT, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: That`s a
great question. The Lily Ledbetter act was an incredibly important piece
of legislation. But the pay check fairness act really builds upon it and
goes further.

So, what happened to Lily and what that act prohibited is, it made
sure women had enough time to file a claim when they experienced paycheck
discrimination. So, the rule used to be that a woman had to file a game
within a certain amount of time after she accepted the rate of pay.
Unfortunately, Lily and most women don`t know that they`re receiving less
pay than their male colleagues until many years later when they discover
this, and then it was too late to file a claim.

So the Lily Ledbetter act fixed that problem and allowed women to file
a claim within a certain amount of time after finding out about the
discrimination.

Now the paycheck fairness act builds upon that by, for example,
allowing men and women to talk in their workplace about how much they`re
getting paid. So that women know that they`re being discriminated against
and can bring a claim and don`t face retaliation from their employer when
they have those discussions.

BASHIR: Jo-Ann, I want you to listen to South Carolina governor Nikki
Haley on FOX News last night. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. NIKKI HALEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The war on women is but nothing
but a distraction that they whole goal. They don`t want anybody talking
about President Obama`s record on debt. They don`t want anybody talking
about President Obama`s record on his spending and how out of control
Washington is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: Is the war on women, an invention and a distraction?

REID: Well, I mean, the thing that`s so odd is that it was
Republicans who brought up issues like contraception completely unprompted
by Democrat when the Democrats was so savvy. They would be able to trigger
the war on women themselves. It`s gate for the Democrats.

The Republicans on their own decided to go back to a 1950s version of
their party. And if you look at the history of the Republican party, you
know in the 1920s, the Republicans were the party of women. Warren Hardy,
even Herbert Hoover won a majority of women, all the way through
Eisenhower, it was literally the feminist movement that that switch the
Republican party from being considered the women`s party, the pro women
party, the pro suffrage party to being this party that was trying to drag
women back to the 19th century. They are now married to being the virgin
of the party that the John Birch society wanted them to be. I don`t
understand it but they`re wedded to it.

BASHIR: And they done very well. According to a new NBC "Wall Street
Journal" poll, the president leads Romney among women voters, 53 percent to
38 percent as Jo-Ann just said, a 15 point gap.

Sandra, back in April, Romney was asked if he supports the Lily
Ledbetter act. And his campaign`s response was, we will get back to you on
that.

Is this the reason Romney is so far behind? Is there anything,
anything that Romney and Republicans can do to win over women voters like
yourself?

FLUKE: Well, I think that there are a lot of different reasons for
women to have their particular views on which candidate, but it does seem
like as senator Reid said, there`s an opportunity here for Republican
presidential candidate and for the members of the Senate to identify
themselves as supporting this legislation and being in favor of women being
paid fairly for a fair day`s work. I don`t see why they would want to
support that and I`m sure women will reward them if they do.

BASHIR: That`s right, isn`t it?

REID: But, I think the one thing you could sort of pull out of this,
to make it logical what the Republicans are doing, electorally smart. But
this is about supporting the employer, which is the prime directive now of
the Republican party, support the employer no matter what. And the part of
this new bill that they don`t like, I`m just presuming is the fact that
women couldn`t be retaliated against in the workplace. It`s another of a
peaceful not like union or anything that gives the employee sort of equal
footing with their employer. That`s the only sort of logical explanation
for why they would be against this bill because it would help them to be
for it.

BASHIR: It really would.

Jo-Ann Reid and Sandra Fluke, thank you both, for joining us tonight.

FLUKE: Thank you.

BASHIR: To hear the Republicans tell it, Mr. Obama is a horrible
president for causing the price of gasoline to go up. Using their logic,
President Obama deserves the credit for falling prices at the pump? No, as
we try to expose the DOP, is using no logic at all.

And later, the search for Mitt Romney`s moral center, why does he have
such a hard time taking a definitive stand on questions of values? That
will be tonight`s "Last Word."

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASHIR: Mitt Romney is no John McCain, today another failure from the
Republican nominee to stand up and do the right thing, details ahead.

But first, Mitt Romney blamed the president for high gas prices, but
Mitt Romney used to love high gas prices. Ezra Klein is next, stay with
us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. MITCH DANIELS (R), INDIANA: Let`s give the president credit for
one domestic policy that we have. He wanted higher gas prices and he got
them. He said it, so I could choose at $8 or about what they pay in Europe
would be great. They have got the doubling of gas prices and perhaps worse
is a conscious policy of this administration, maybe the one thing they set
out to do and actually accomplished.

ROMNEY: He said he wanted gasoline prices to go up. And so he hired
a team of people to help him implement that strategy. With people
suffering and with this numbers collapsing in the polls, he is looking for
something to do. And so, he is saying no, now he`s for lower gasoline
prices. Well, I`m glad, I`m not sure we can count on it being a true
conversion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: Mitt Romney and the Republicans would like you to believe
that the president actually wants higher gas prices. But here is what the
president really wants.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: You said before, that will wean the
American people off fossil fuels on to renewable fuels, how do you respond
to that?

OBAMA: Just from a political perspective, do you think that a
president of the United States going into a re-election wants gas prices to
go up higher? Does anyone here think that makes a lot of sense?

BASHIR: The president also said that if markets forces do drive the
price up, he prefer it be gradual so as not to be a shock to American
consumer. And then, there`s this quote, "I`m very much in favor of people
recognizing that these high gasoline prices are probably here to stay."
And who was it that said that? Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney in may
of 2006.

In the March edition of the new republic, Alec McGillis writes,
"curiously overlooked though is just what a shift this rhetoric is from the
approach that Romney took on the issue of gas prices while governor of
Massachusetts. Befitting his profile as a moderate Republican who cared
about the environment, governor Romney responded to price spikes by
describing them as the natural result of global market pressures and by
calling for increases in full efficiency, the same approach that he now
derides the president for taking.

And why this talk of gas prices now? Because on the eve of memorial
day weekend, gas prices are down nearly 25 cents. Lower than this time
last year. That`s the equivalent of a $25 billion tax break for drivers.

Joining me now is Ezra Klein, "Washington Post" columnist and MSNBC
analyst.

Good evening, Ezra.

EZRA KLEIN, THE WASHINGTON POST: Good evening.

BASHIR: Just so I understand this correctly, Romney blames the
president for the rise in gas prices, having previously initiated policy
that is would actually increase the price of gas, is that right?

KLEIN: That is correct. Albeit confusing as is often the case when
you match up Mitt Romney`s record and his policies.

Now, when he was governor of Massachusetts, Romney Quinn coupled a gas
tax that was meant to go to cleanups at gas stations. It went from about
five cents a gallon to 2.5 cents a gallon. Originally it was just supposed
fob for this one fund then it became a general tax that funded other
things.

But, the broad point here, is that we have a very, very blinker
conversation in this country about gas prices in general, where when it is
useful for the candidate to do so and to be fair, Barack Obama did this in
2008 with President Bush. They pretend that gas prices are something that
get priced because somewhere in the oval office, there is a little dial the
president turns back and forth and that is frankly not the case at all.
Gas prices are heavily driven by supply and demand, by China and India, by
growing economies, by speculation. Day to day, the president doesn`t
frankly have a whole lot to do with the price of gas at the pump.

BASHIR: And the economist that I read has reconfirmed, that the
president as you say has virtually no control over gas prices. But Mitt
Romney says the exact opposite. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE ANCHOR: Do you hold President Obama responsible?

ROMNEY: Absolutely, he has not pursued policies that convince the
world that America is going to become energy secure, energy independent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: So, just to be clear, Ezra, who`s right on this?

KLEIN: I actually don`t even frankly know how to parse that statement
very well.

(LAUGHTER)

KLEIN: If you per sued policy to make America energy secure and
energy independent, here`s the fundamental reality. There is so much oil
in the world. Oil is a volatile commodity. It is subject to great swings
with demand from China and India comes more and more online.

As long as we are on oil, we are going to see very dramatic swings in
the price of oil. The way to make that stop happening, the way we can
actually get beyond that is if we get on to renewables. If we get on to a
different kind of energy world.

Now, a lot of people and in different times Mitt Romney has edged
around this as have other Republicans like Newt Gingrich and John McCain
and Barack Obama has also supported this, are you for cap and trade poker?
I mean the idea here is that you would price in the long-term environmental
damage of carbon emissions. And in doing, the market would appropriately
price how much fossil fuel are really compromising us and that would
accelerate our transition to renewable making gas, as Mitt Romney said,
energy independent and energy secure. Barack Obama has supported that. It
has not moved in Congress after the original passage of Waxman Markey in
house. And it is not going anywhere now. And it is frankly not on the
table.

So, I don`t really know what Mitt Romney means to do to make us energy
secure and energy independent if he doesn`t have a plan and he does not
forgetting us off oil in the long run.

BASHIR: And yet, as where Mitt Romney has attacked the president for
encouraging hybrid and green colors saying that he was forcing the auto
industry to change their products. But again t new republic writes that
Mitt Romney`s climate protection plan of 2004 included more car pooling,
public transport, tax breaks for hybrid vehicle.

Again, is this another reason why Romney never mentions his period as
governor, because it literally contradicts everything that he says during
the campaign?

KLEIN: Yes, I have this theory that neither campaign ever wants to
talk about Mitt Romney`s time as government, because for Romney it shows
that Obama is a moderate.

BASHIR: Brilliant.

As reply now, Ezra, thank you so much for joining us tonight.

KLEIN: Thank you.

BASHIR: We have seen Mitt Romney will say anything to blame President
Obama for gas prices. What Romney will not say on the campaign trail leads
to a troubling question, why can`t Mitt Romney take a definitive stand on
questions of character?

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASHIR: For a man whose religion bans alcohol and gambling, the news
that Mitt Romney will be in Las Vegas next week at a fund-raiser hosted by
Donald Trump has come as something of a surprise. The Romney campaign is
also offering one lucky donor the chance to dine with Romney and Trump here
in New York.

But, while these events raise cash, they also raise questions about
Mitt Romney`s judgment. The Democratic National Committee released this
statement. "Mitt Romney is failing the moral leadership test. Instead of
rejecting Donald Trump`s birther conspiracy theories and divisive attacks,
he is endorsing them by campaigning and fund-raising with him.

It`s easy to contempt the presumptive nominee for keeping such abject
company. But the next line of that statement hits harder at the real truth
about Mr. Romney. "Romney has shown time and again that he`s not ready to
have his John McCain 2008 type moment by speaking out against these types
of attacks against the president. You will of course remember this John
McCain 2008 moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can`t trust Obama. I have read about him and
he`s not -- he`s a -- he`s an Arab. He is not --

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: No, ma`am. No, ma`am. No, ma`am.
He`s a decent, family man citizen that I just happen to have disagreements
with on fundamental issues. And that`s what this campaign is all about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: Romney failed exactly this kind of test earlier this month at
a town hall in Cleveland.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to know, I -- yes, I do agree he should
be tried for treason and what you`re going to be able to do to restore our
constitution in this country.

(APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: Well, as I`m sure you do, I happen to believe the
constitution was not just brilliant, but probably inspired.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: It was only later when asked directly by a reporter if he
believes the president should be tried for treason, a crime by the way that
can still carry the penalty of death, but Romney answered no, of course
not.

Unless, we forget in early March, after Rush Limbaugh called Sandra
Fluke a slut, all Mitt Romney could offer was a spineless response and
paled response before quickly changing the subject.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: It`s not the language I would have used and I`m focusing on
the issues that I think are significant in the country today and that`s why
I`m here talking about jobs in Ohio.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASHIR: But these sins of omission are as nothing compared with Mitt
Romney`s propensity to tell lies, he lies about President Obama`s record
that president has raised taxes, increase spending and killed jobs. He
lies about his own job creation record as governor of Massachusetts and
when he worked at Bain capital. He lies about his Massachusetts health
care plan.

Mitt Romney has even lied about not being a career politician, despite
running for the Senate almost 20 years ago. Mitt Romney doesn`t gamble and
he doesn`t get drunk, which begs the question, which is the more serious
moral failing, what you put into your mouth or what comes out of it?

"The Ed Show" is next. Thanks so much for joining us.

END

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