'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Thursday, June 7, 2012
Read the transcript to the Thursday show
Guests: Howard Dean, Nia-Malika Henderson, Randy Clark, Tom Maddox
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: Tonight, Mitt Romney has finally taken a
definitive position on mousetraps.
MICHELLE OBAMA, U.S. FIRST LADY: They told me you all were fired up.
They were right.
JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: The intensity of the
conservative side of politics is now stronger than the liberal.
OBAMA: This election will be closer than the last one. That we can
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The battle of the bundlers.
TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: The mad cash for campaign cash.
ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: The cash dash.
HALL: Romney and the RNC outraised the president.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Team Romney is outflanking that of team Obama.
WAGNER: Mitt Romney appears to have bested the president.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: They were raking it in in Texas last
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Texas is the home of Republican money.
HALL: Bringing in nearly $77 million last month.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Outdistancing the $60 million raised by President
Obama and the DNC.
OBAMA: We`re going to get this done.
BUSH: Any time an elected official challenges a core constituency, we
should pause and give them credit.
HALL: Falling off message for the Republicans.
Smack in the face of Mitt Romney.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He doesn`t have the courage to do that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt Romney is presiding over a Republican Party
that`s drafted too far to the right.
BUSH: I`m not sure I would have been successful as a candidate
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at Governor Romney, his position changes by
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything changes. It`s almost like an etch-a-
HALL: Romney flip flopped on almost everything.
DAVID LETTERMAN, COMEDIAN: Top ten subject lines of Mitt Romney`s e-
mail. Number eight, reminder, it`s been over a month since you purchased a
Cadillac. Number six, 20 percent off at beach-house-car-elevators.com.
Number three, it`s Newt -- are you getting my messages?
O`DONNELL: Today, in Missouri, Mitt Romney rose in support of better
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Where our vision believes in
ingenuity of the American people. His vision trusts the wisdom of
political appointees and boards and commissions and czars. It`s a world of
federal mandates and waivers, tax credits, subsidies, federal grants, loan
guarantees. Business models based on building a better mousetrap will give
way to those who seek the right mix of government subsidies and waivers and
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The world that Mitt Romney says he now fears with its
government subsidies and empty factories is one that helped Mitt Romney
make hundreds of millions of dollars while serving as chief executive of
Bain Capital. Romney was enriching himself through government subsidies
back when President Obama was still in law school. "Bloomberg" reports
that companies owned by the firm received millions of dollars in benefits
from a variety of state and local government economic development programs.
Today, President Obama had a real governing issue on his mind when he
spoke in Nevada where the latest polling shows him ahead of Mitt Romney by
only two points. The president highlighted his fight with the Republican
House of Representatives to take action to prevent student loan interest
rates from doubling.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They voted to give an
average tax cut of at least $150,000 to every millionaire in America, but
they want you to pay an extra thousand dollars a year for college. It
doesn`t make any sense. It`s wrong.
America is about more than just protecting folks who have already done
well. It`s about giving everybody a chance to do well. It`s about hard
work and responsibility being rewarded. It`s about everybody having a
chance to get ahead and then reach back and help somebody behind you so
that everybody has a chance. That`s what makes us strong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And today the Obama campaign released a new ad that will
appear on television in the nine swing states.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We`re still fighting our way back from the worst economic
crisis since the Great Depression. Our businesses have created almost 4.3
million new jobs over the last 27 months, but we`re still not creating them
as fast as we want.
NARRATOR: The president`s jobs plan would put teachers, firefighters,
police officers and construction workers back to work right now. And it`s
paid for by asking the wealthiest Americans to pay a little more. But
Congress refuses to act.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: A new national poll of likely voters shows President Obama
and Mitt Romney in a virtual tie. President Obama polls at 47 percent, one
point ahead of Romney`s 46 percent.
And according to a new poll of likely voters in 12 swing states, the
states most likely to decide the presidential election, President Obama
polls at 48 percent, only two points ahead of Romney`s 46 percent.
Joining me now is MSNBC`s Krystal Ball and Ari Melber.
Krystal, this race has tightened up. People are always saying, you
know, it will tighten up, it will tighten up. This is the tightened race.
It looks like we may go in this virtual tie one or two points separating
them from now until November.
KRYSTAL BALL, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I think that`s right. There
are a couple of things that I think are causing the tightening. And one is
the tightening economic numbers. I mean, that`s really the piece of what`s
going to happen in Europe? Is the economy going to slow down in summer
like it has in past summers? Or will we continue to see some continued
And the other thing is, I mean, it`s normal that after a candidate
secures their party`s nomination, there is a little bit of a bump. So I
think we`re seeing that for Romney as well, but no question it`s tight.
Things look a little better when you look just at the swing states as you
were pointing out.
And one thing that I would highlight for you that was interesting in
that purple poll as well, they ask the question -- do you believe private
equity helps the worker or hurts the economy? And every swing region that
they identified and they had four different regions, voters were more
likely to say that private equity hurts workers versus helping the economy.
So that message is actually effective and, as you would expect, it was
particularly effective in the Midwest states like Ohio and Pennsylvania.
O`DONNELL: Republican presidential campaigns have always liked to use
fear. For decades, they were using -- in the Cold War, they were using
fear of the Soviet Union. In the last decade, they were using fear of al
And Mitt Romney has found a new fear for the voter to think about and
that is, of course, government under President Obama. Let`s listen to what
he said about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: It will soon effectively control the majority of America`s
economic activity. I mean, you have to ask yourself, will we still be a
free enterprise nation?
ROMNEY: And whether we`ll still have economic freedom is in question.
America is on the cusp of having a government-run economy. That`s where
he`s taking us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Fear for their economic freedom, Ari Melber, can Mitt
Romney convince 51 percent to fear for their economic freedom?
ARI MELBER, THE NATION: Well, he can try, and I think he`s seizing on
some of the energy that`s out there and the energy, frankly, that was more
aligned with other candidates like the Tea Party concerns and libertarian
concerns. On the facts, if we can do a quick fact check, he`s not accurate
in saying that the economy is moving towards a majority government control,
we do know what state economies look like in that parts of the world and we
don`t have that structure and we don`t have that tax code either --
although there were periods long ago under conservative presidents where we
had higher tax rates.
So, I think that doesn`t really wash. I disagree a little bit with
the way Krystal put it, I don`t think that Romney got a great bounce. I
just think some of the discomfort with him has faded. So, if you look back
in March, his unfavorable ratings were in the high 50s, and they dipped
back below 50 percent largely because he`s consolidated Republicans.
That`s vital for him, because even if it`s a referendum election on Obama,
he`s got to have something like half the country not disliking him.
BALL: One thing on this, Lawrence, government-run economy thing, this
line for Romney is actually not totally new. I don`t know if you remember
in the presidential -- in the Republican primary debates, he repeatedly
said this thing of we`re only inches away from losing our free market
economy. And that was a statement that PolitiFact gave him three pants on
fire ratings for because he kept saying it. That`s very much an echo of
that same logic which is obviously clearly false.
O`DONNELL: And, Ari, when he talks about this massive government
expansion that will take away our economic freedom, the only expansion of
government of any kind during the Obama administration has been the health
care bill which hasn`t taken full effect yet, not even close to full
effect. We have seen the Romney health care bill, which is virtually
identical, take full effect in Massachusetts already. So, presumably
Massachusetts, because of governor Romney, has already lost its economic
MELBER: Yes. It`s a test case of his most dire warnings. The irony,
of course, for the people who follow policy, as everyone knows, that the
approach in the health care bill was traditionally a centrist, and Heritage
Foundation proposal, larger government roles, like lowering the Medicare
aid through public option, were not ultimately included in ObamaCare.
So, there is a great irony or frustration in dealing with folks who
want to attack it when in fact it was compromises with them that really a
made it more of a regulation of private industry in insurance, not a new
And the last point on that is that Mitt Romney was basically a banker,
he was an investor. And he knows, and you ask any investor whether they
want the Fed involved or prosecutors involved in regulating the financial
markets, of course they do. They don`t necessarily want government taking
over the stock market and with the exception of the auto bailouts, in most
cases, that`s not what`s on the brink in the United States, but you need
government and rules and prosecutors if you want to have free markets. So,
this is a very tendentious argument.
O`DONNELL: Krystal, what explains team Obama trailing team Romney on
BALL: Well, I think the hedge fund crowd is very sad. They have had
their feelings hurt. And so, they are no longer giving to the president in
the way that they did when he was candidate Obama.
And I really -- I put it that way because it can`t be based on the
economic circumstances. I mean, corporate profits have been at record
highs and that has been led by the financial services industry. So it`s
not like the president has been bad for their business, but they feel sad
and they feel like their feelings were hurt, so now they`ve gone to the
other guy. That`s the only rationalization I can come up with.
O`DONNELL: Their feelings are hurt, but they still have plenty of
money to give.
O`DONNELL: That`s right.
Krystal Ball and Ari Melber -- thanks very much for joining me
BALL: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: What does Mitt Romney have in common with Muhammad Ali?
Exactly one thing.
And what does Mitt Romney have in common with me? Exactly one thing.
The answer to both of those questions is in tonight`s rewrite.
And imagine the neighbor from hell and the neighbor from hell has
Secret Service protection. Mitt Romney`s new California neighbors at his
beach house will join me. They are a gay couple that Mitt hasn`t met yet.
And the Obama campaign is having trouble with some of its surrogate
speakers, but not with its most popular surrogate speaker, Michelle Obama.
That`s coming up.
O`DONNELL: Mitt Romney supports sending our kids off to war but not
his own kids. Mitt Romney avoided service in the military during the war
of his era, the Vietnam War. He asked for and obtained a draft deferment
through an unconstitutional process that at the same time refused to give
the same draft deferment to Muhammad Ali. And now, Mitt Romney pretends
that he was willing to serve in Vietnam. Mitt Romney rewrites Mitt Romney
once again in tonight`s rewrite. That`s coming up.
And Mitt Romney`s new neighbors are here tonight, a gay couple with an
ocean view that might be ruined by Mitt Romney`s building plans for his new
beach house. They`ll tell you what life on Romney street is really like.
That`s coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN: The president has flatly said he would veto any
extension of the Bush tax cuts --
BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I know he has.
BLITZER: -- for individuals making more than the $200,000 a year.
CLINTON: I support his position, and I think on the merits upper
income people are going to have to contribute. I`m very sorry about what
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was Bill Clinton on CNN this afternoon, but Obama re-
election senior strategist David Axelrod says no apology is necessary.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID AXELROD, OBAMA CAMPAIGN: I`m not asking for an apology from
Bill Clinton. I have deep admiration for Bill Clinton. I watch this
parade of Republicans saying, oh, you know, we ought to listen to Bill
They should listen to Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton understands what it
takes to grow this economy. He understands that we can`t cut our way to
prosperity. He understands that we have to bring these deficits down in a
There`s no separation between him and this president. They have the
same understanding of how you grow the economy.
BLITZER: And you want him to go out there and campaign.
AXELROD: I think he`s a tremendous asset to us. I have no
compunction about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now are: Howard Dean, former Vermont governor,
and former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and Howard
Fineman, editorial director of the Huffington Post media group and an MSNBC
Howard Dean joining us from Vermont. I`m told there`s going to be a
little bit of a delay in our audio between what you say and what I hear
here in Los Angeles and what goes back to headquarter in New York and out
to the TVs. So, I just want to warn the audience about that.
But Howard Dean, what is the campaign asset value of Bill Clinton as
HOWARD DEAN, FORMER DNC CHAIRMAN: Oh, his asset value is enormous.
And that`s why the Republicans are attacking.
You know, this is really -- I`ve seen this so often during campaigns.
This is something the media fell for. This is a Republican spin. They
know they don`t know anybody that can match Bill Clinton popularity or
competence, and so they spin this stuff out and the media falls for it
sometimes. This is a case of pack journalism, bad media and silliness.
But Axelrod`s right. Clinton continues to be one of the biggest
assets in the campaign. You`re going to see a lot of him. Eventually, the
media will move on to some other pack story.
Nobody looks good in this except Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
O`DONNELL: Howard Fineman, are the Republicans making a mistake in
helping to draw attention to Bill Clinton? Because that just cues him up
for his next media appearance where he can say something devastating about
HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST: No, not necessarily. I think I
probably should speak up for pack media, bad journalism and silliness.
FINEMAN: And Lord knows Governor Dean knows I`m capable of it, but I
think that Bill Clinton`s a mixed blessing for Barack Obama. I agree with
Governor Dean that Bill Clinton can be a fantastic advocate, that he`s
incredibly articulate and believable. And is still in some ways the
captain emeritus of the Democratic team.
But there have been a few occasions so far where Bill Clinton has
complicated things for the White House. And even there in the clip with
Wolf Blitzer where he apologized for his statement on taxes, the president
said -- well, I agree with the president on the merits.
Now, I`ve listened to Clinton speak for a long time, and what that
means is that Bill Clinton thinks the politics are wrong but the substance
of what the president is saying is right. In other words, Bill Clinton
thinks that politically the president would be better served to punt for a
while and extend the tax cuts.
That`s how I read it. And that`s how sophisticated observers of
politics will read it as well.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to another odd note that came out from the
Democratic side. If you just hold on for a second -- I want to listen to
what our friend Ed Rendell said this morning to Charlie Rose about Hillary
Clinton. Let`s listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLIE ROSE, CBS: You supported Hillary Clinton strongly.
ED RENDELL (D-PA), FORMER GOVERNOR: Sure.
ROSE: Do you think we`d be in a different place if she`d been
RENDELL: I think she would have come in with more experience. I
think the president was hurt by being a legislator only. For example,
health care and stimulus, two bills that I think did good things for the
American people -- too much of it was left up to the Congress. He should
have said, here`s my plan, you guys flesh it out.
I think Hillary Clinton would have sent them a bill and said, here`s
what I want.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Howard Dean, do you want to remind Ed Rendell that Hillary
Clinton did send a health care bill to the Congress and say, this is what I
O`DONNELL: And she couldn`t even get it to come to a vote in the
House or the Senate, couldn`t even get a vote in the House and Senate.
DEAN: Yes, I would say Ed was misremembering history a little bit
DEAN: That`s exactly what Hillary Clinton did.
And one of the reasons that President Obama tried to get the Congress
to do more was because he was trying to learn from the mistake in the
Clinton administration on health care.
Look, this is not what`s going to win the election or lose the
election. This is silliness. What`s going to win the election is this --
if President Obama successfully tags Romney with somebody you can`t trust
on the economy, which they believe, and if he manages to push that message,
he wins. If Mitt Romney successfully tags Obama with he mismanaged the
economy, then Romney wins. I think the president`s got to continue on the
line that he`s taking.
You cannot trust Mitt Romney to care about you, and most people
believe in fact that Mitt Romney doesn`t care about them. That`s the line
you`ve got to stick to. And all this other stuff is fluff and it`s because
it`s the summer and there`s not enough going on.
After the turn in September, you won`t hear much of this stuff any
more because people won`t write about it and they won`t put it on
O`DONNELL: Howard Fineman, I want to run a press theory by you. Bill
Kristol, editor of the conservative "Weekly Standard," thinks he knows what
Bill Clinton is up to. He says, "Bill Clinton is very much in control with
respect to 2012. He wants Barack Obama to lose and is helping that cause.
An Obama re-election loss would leave Clinton as the only twice-elected
Democratic president since FDR. And therefore, the only successful one."
FINEMAN: I think Bill Kristol`s a smart guy. I don`t take anything
he says about bill Clinton seriously. He understands Dan Quayle, who he
used to work for. He understands the neo cons -- he understands the
neocons who he`s part of, he understands the publications that he writes
And, again, he`s a smart guy and a nice guy. He doesn`t have a clue
as to Bill Clinton`s psychology. And I do. Because I`ve covered Bill
Clinton up close since he came in to politics.
Bill Clinton wants Barack Obama to get re-elected. Is Bill Clinton
magnificently conflicted because he`s Bill Clinton? Would he also like to
see his wife get elected some day? Yes. But not at the expense of
defeating Barack Obama, I don`t believe that for a second.
O`DONNELL: Howard Dean and Howard Fineman, the two Howards -- thank
you very much for joining me tonight.
FINEMAN: Thank you.
DEAN: Thanks a lot.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, Mitt Romney`s new neighbors in California are
worried that his rebuilding his beach house and having Secret Service
crawling all over the place will ruin the neighborhood. Two of Mitt
Romney`s new neighbors, a gay couple he has not yet met, will join me
And in the rewrite, what Mitt Romney did during the war of his era,
Vietnam. The story of Mitt Romney and the draft and Muhammad Ali and the
draft. And me and the draft.
That`s coming up.
O`DONNELL: Tonight, Mitt Romney once again rewrites Mitt Romney.
This time on the choices he made during the Vietnam War. And one of those
choices was the same choice Muhammad Ali made. Mitt Romney and Muhammad
Ali are in tonight`s rewrite. That`s coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JON STEWART, "THE DAILY SHOW": It`s interesting to me, you as First
Lady, you have an approval rating of like 85, 90 percent.
MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: It`s not that high.
STEWART: Through the roof.
M. OBAMA: You exaggerate.
STEWART: But it is. Your approval rating is like you`re ice cream.
Your husband is like astronaut ice cream. It`s vegetables.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Who needs Bill Clinton when you have Michelle Obama?
President Obama`s most popular surrogate speaker is the First Lady, who
made her second campaign stop of the week today in the battleground state
of Virginia. Mrs. Obama proudly ran down a list of her husband`s
accomplishments, particularly those affecting women.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
M. OBAMA: It`s now easier for women to get equal pay for equal work.
And that`s because of the first bill my husband signed in to law. That was
the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
For Barack, protecting women`s health is a mission that has nothing to
do with politics.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: In a new fund-raising letter mailed out this week based on
her campaign speech, Mrs. Obama makes the political personal, and writes
about the struggles the president`s grandmother faced in the workplace.
Mrs. Obama writes, "even though Barack`s grandmother worked hard to support
his family, even though she was good at her job, she hit that glass
ceiling. Men, no more qualified than she was, were promoted up the ladder
ahead of her. So believe me, Barack knows what it means when a family
Joining me now is Nia-Malika Henderson, national political reporter
for "the Washington Post."
Nia-Malika, it`s tricky for First Ladies to get into talking policies
too much. Michelle Obama seems to have the perfect touch of when she does
talk about specific policy, she has a tone that makes them seem
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, "THE WASHINGTON POST": That`s exactly right.
She is, as you said, a perfect surrogate. Who needs Bill Clinton, who has
been widely off message, when you have Michelle Obama? She in some ways is
a better surrogate for his husband`s policy than her husband, because she
is able to marry the personal, his background story, with the political.
And you know, this wasn`t always easy for the First Lady. When she
came in, there were some -- you know, some stumbling. In 2010, they very
much wanted her to be out there on the stump. She wasn`t as comfortable
being out there. She wanted to, in some ways, save up her political for
her husband. And we can see her out there using it quite effectively,
particularly among women voters.
That`s something that she did also in 2008. She would have these
roundtables with women voter. She got the nickname the Closer, because she
was so effective at turning voters who weren`t decided in terms of backing
her husband, turning them around and having them support her husband. So
I`m sure she`s going to be out there quite a lot.
O`DONNELL: Well, she has outraged Rush Limbaugh. I know that will
surprise us all. He is outraged that she even considered going on the
"Ellen Degeneres Show," never mind actually going on the show. Let`s
listen to what Crazy Rush had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Can you see Laura Bush going on
"The Ellen Show" and doing push-ups on the floor with a lesbian TV host?
Or with a hetero-host? It doesn`t matter. Doing it with Oprah. Can you
imagine with Gayle King?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Nia-Malika, watching the sick mind of Rush work in real
time -- after he said the lesbian thing, he realized, oh, wait, am I
objecting to the lesbian or the push-ups? And you can see him have to
adjust accordingly. But he`s got 18 million listeners in the course of his
show, all of whom are energetic at this point, no doubt supporters of Mitt
HENDERSON: That`s right. And if you think about this platform that
Ellen Degeneres has, and Stephen Colbert and all the shows that she`s been
on, Jimmy Fallon. I`m sure she`s going to be on many more, Jay Leno. She
has very much embedded herself into popular culture. She`s now a pop
And with that, she can obviously forward the president`s agenda,
Democratic policy. So it`s been a very clever strategy that they`ve had
for her. Initially, she was very much known around her fashion. And in
interviewing her early on, said talks about that she didn`t want to be
trapped in that bubble of just being known as a fashion icon.
So she`s very much I think broadened her platform to all of these
different areas. Exercise for kids, eating vegetables. So she`s been
incredibly effective. And I think she`ll be very effective in terms of
fund-raising as well. Of course, there`s a big gap there. So I think
they`re going to use her that way as well.
O`DONNELL: Nia-Malika Henderson, thank you very much for joining me
HENDERSON: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, it`s not just the car elevator that`s making
Mitt Romney`s new neighbors on the California coast upset. Two of them, a
gay couple whose ocean view may be ruined by Romney`s new house, will join
And what does Mitt Romney have in common with Muhammad Ali? That`s
next in the Rewrite.
O`DONNELL: In tonight`s Rewrite, what does this guy have in common
with this guy? That`s right, nothing. But they once had one thing in
common. Each man tried to use his religion as the reason he should not be
drafted in to military service during the Vietnam War. Mitt Romney had no
problem doing that because the Mormon Church established a special
relationship with the Selective Service Administration, which allowed the
church to designate young men like Romney as exempt from the draft while
they did temporary service of a couple of years trying to convert people to
The Mormon Church was the only religion that was allowed to do that.
It was an obvious Constitutional violation of the separation of church and
state. And it provoked more than one federal lawsuit that dragged through
the courts and became moot when President Nixon ended the draft in 1973.
In order for a member of any other religion to get a so-called minister of
religion deferment, he would have had to commit his life to a ministry, not
just a couple of years.
Muhammad Ali sought the exact same deferment as Mitt Romney, but the
Selective Service refused to honor his claim of being a black Muslim
minister. Drafted then under his birth name of Cassius Clay, Muhammad Ali
stood on principle and refused induction in to the military, a federal
crime then punishable by five years in prison and a 10,000 dollar fine.
Muhammad Ali was convicted of that crime and was spared a prison
sentence pending the appeal of his case, which he eventually won in the
United States Supreme Court. Muhammad Ali`s stance against the draft was a
principled stance. It was logically and morally aligned with his
principled opposition to the Vietnam War.
Muhammad Ali said, "I ain`t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong."
Muhammad Ali was right, America didn`t have a quarrel there. Muhammad Ali
was smarter than the president of the United States. Muhammad Ali was
smarter about Vietnam than Henry Kissinger, who had tricked a gullible news
media into thinking he was a genius.
And Muhammad Ali was brave enough to face the consequences of his
principled stance. He was willing to lose income, to lose his boxing
career, to lose his freedom, to go to prison for his beliefs, as were many
other brave and principled young men of that era.
Mitt Romney, on the other hand, effortlessly hid from military service
in France, protected by the unconstitutional arrangements his church had
with the Selective Service. And of course, the Romney history here does
not involve a matter of principle.
The Mitt Romney who was hiding out in France while Muhammad Ali was
facing the wrath of the federal court system and a prison sentence is the
same Mitt Romney who as freshman in college, while hiding behind the
college deferment from the draft, participated in a demonstration in favor
of the Vietnam War.
Mitt Romney was in favor of young American men his age being drafted
and sent to their deaths in Vietnam as long as he wasn`t one of them.
Needless to say, Romney hates being asked about what he did in the war of
his era. And this campaign season, a compliant press has not been asking
him about it.
It is, of course, relevant because we live in a time of war once
again, a time that sometimes feels like it could turn into an era of
permanent war. And Mitt Romney is very, very much in favor of war.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor Romney, was the war in Iraq, a good idea,
worth the cost in blood and treasure we have spent?
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It was the right decision to
go into Iraq. I supported it at the time. I support it now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: But of course that does not mean that Mitt Romney
supported any of his five sons actually serving in that war that he
supported, or any other war. Romney men don`t go to war. Mitt Romney`s
father didn`t. Mitt Romney didn`t. And his sons didn`t.
In August of 2007, in a defensive response as to why his sons did not
serve in the military in the Iraq War, Mitt Romney said "one of the ways my
sons are showing support for our nation is helping me get elected."
He actually said that. Romney men support war. They support wars
that other people have to fight. Mitt Romney`s father was in favor of the
Vietnam War before he was against it, after having claimed famously to have
been brainwashed by generals on Vietnam.
Mitt Romney has never come close to telling the truth about his
relationship to the Vietnam War. This is the lie that Mitt Romney told the
last time he was running for president in 2007, "I really don`t recall
thinking about the political positions when I was knocking at the door in
There were anti-Vietnam War protests in France while Mitt Romney was
there. The French fought the Vietnam War before we did. We took over from
the French. The Vietnam War was covered by the French news media every
single day that Mitt Romney was in France.
And Romney went on to say, "I was supportive of my country. I longed
in many respects to actually be in Vietnam and be representing our country
There was not a single able-bodied man who, in any respect, longed to
be in Vietnam who was denied a chance to go to Vietnam, not one. And
Romney says -- he says there that he wanted to go to Vietnam to represent
our country. Meaning what? He wanted to be the ambassador?
My friends and family members who went to Vietnam were not
representing their country. They were just trying to survive. They were
trying to stay alive in a war that they all quickly learned we could not
Romney also said in 2007, quote, "in some ways, it was frustrating not
to feel like I was there as part of the troops that were fighting in
Frustrating not to feel like I was there? Well, he could feel like he
was there a few years later if he went to see "Apocalypse Now." Every man
who lived through the Vietnam era who was at least of high school age at
some point during the Vietnam era, knows that Mitt Romney is lying in every
word of that statement.
Every American who went to Vietnam knows that every able-bodied man of
draft age who didn`t join the military made an active choice not to join.
But the same Mitt Romney who said he kind of sort of wishes he`d gone to
Vietnam also said, quote, "when my dad said that he had been wrong about
Vietnam and that it was a mistake and they had been brainwashed and so
forth, I certainly trusted him and believed him."
So there`s Mitt Romney saying he believed his father when his father
turned against the Vietnam War. And that is at least consistent with
something Romney said when he was 23 years old, and in the fifth year of
his deferment from the draft. Then the same Mitt Romney who had
demonstrated in favor of the draft, in favor of the war, said "if it wasn`t
a political blunder to move into Vietnam, I don`t know what is."
So there`s Mitt Romney, in effect, agreeing with Muhammad Ali, that we
didn`t really have a fight with the Viet Cong.
In his first interviews about this back in 1994, in his first
political campaign, Mitt Romney told "the Boston Herald," "I was not
planning on signing up for the military. It was not my desire to go off
and serve in Vietnam."
Now there`s none of that, I wish I`d gone to Vietnam stuff in that
statement. He sounds like me in that statement and most of the people I
knew at the time in that statement. Romney now takes his place among the
many, the countless Republican war mongers like Rush Limbaugh who have
always been, like me, afraid of participating in combat themselves.
By the time my number was about to come up in the draft, President
Nixon ended the draft. So I never had to follow Muhammad Ali`s brave
footsteps into federal court. I lived, like most people, like most men, in
fear of combat. All of my friends and relatives who have gone into combat
are braver than me. And I know it.
And I freely and publicly acknowledge it. I pay them the public
respect of being braver than I am. And knowing that I would never be
willing to go in to combat myself, like most Americans and like most
American men, afraid to go into combat, I have never advocated anyone else
going into combat at any time. I have never urged us to war, as Mitt
Romney has done and Rush Limbaugh has done and countless other combat
cowards have done and will continue to do.
You don`t give up the legal right to advocate combat if you`re afraid
of combat yourself. You don`t give up your First Amendment right to
advocate combat if you`re afraid of combat yourself. But I for one believe
you give up your moral right to advocate combat, to advocate war if you`re
afraid of war yourself, if you sat out the war of your era, like me and
O`DONNELL: OK, imagine the neighbor from hell. Imagine somebody who
blocks traffic on your street whenever he`s home. And imagine that
neighbor has Secret Service protection. And imagine he kind of looks like
Mitt Romney thought he had picked the perfect neighborhood in the part
of Southern California that always votes Republican. Richard Nixon used to
have a beach house in that area. And Romney, who always -- who already
owns a giant lake house in New Hampshire, thought it would be the perfect
location for a giant beach house.
But the house Romney bought is not giant enough. And he wants to more
than triple its size and include a now famous big new garage, complete with
an elevator for the cars. But after Romney loses the presidential
election, his Secret Service detail will disappear and his neighbors will
only have to deal with another big, noisy construction project.
Joining me now are two of Mitt Romney`s neighbors, the happily married
couple Randy Clark and Tom Maddox. Randy and Tom, you have my sympathies.
I can imagine what it`s like to have this kind of neighbor. And Randy, as
I`ve read, there`s a possibility that if his construction is approved that
he will be blocking your ocean view?
RANDY CLARK, NEIGHBOR OF MITT ROMNEY: It`s true that we might lose
some of our view. His architects met with us early on to talk about the
project. But right now the project`s on hold. And obviously view is
always important to coastal neighborhoods in San Diego and La Jolla. But
the most important thing to us is that as a couple who have been together
29 years and who are in a loving, committed relationship and married in
2008, it`s his stance on the freedom to marry that really concerns us the
O`DONNELL: Tom, if you got a chance -- and I`m assuming you have not
had a chance to chance to chat up your new neighbor. But if you do, what
would you like to say to Mitt Romney?
TOM MADDOX, NEIGHBOR OF MITT ROMNEY: Oh, gosh, we would appreciate
the opportunity to do that. Actually, I think I`d want to just let him
know as a neighbor, we live two doors up from him, that we look at our
family no different than he and Ann, that Randy and I have been together in
a committed relationship for 29 years.
We had the opportunity to get married four year ago for the same
reasons that he and Ann did. We love each other. We want to have the
opportunity to support and care for each other. We want to build a life
together, grow old together, just like everyone else does that gets
O`DONNELL: And Randy, when the architect met with you, didn`t he try
to get you to sign away any objection to anything that they would build
down the street?
CLARK: They did. They gave us a form to sign. And we didn`t feel
comfortable signing that. And they didn`t force us on that issue.
O`DONNELL: And I read in the article about this that Mitt Romney,
when he goes for walks in the neighborhood, has actually told kids on the
beach that he`s seen smoking pot to stop smoking pot. It looks like he`s a
candidate for neighborhood watch there. Are the neighbors talking about
this Romney as local cop stuff?
CLARK: Well, we do joke about it a bit. We`re a pretty close-knit
neighborhood. It`s a special place. We understand why Mitt and Ann would
want to live there. It`s a very nice, quiet neighborhood. And they have a
beautiful home. And we do joke about the policing from the Romney
O`DONNELL: And as far as -- I`m sorry.
Go ahead, Tom.
MADDOX: As far as the neighborhood goes, we understand the
neighborhood`s changed, that nothing`s static, that every neighborhood
changes and evolves over time. But we just want to make sure that he
understands that, like Randy said, it`s a very close knit group of
neighbors, that we watch out for each other and care for each other.
O`DONNELL: And Randy, I assume that you don`t have a problem with
someone in his position living there. But you`d just like to kind of have
the Secret Service and the Romney family understand what a burden it can be
CLARK: That`s right. The Secret Service have been very
accommodating. And they`re doing their job, we understand. And they have
done everything they can to make it as good for us as possible. So we
don`t have a complaint with the Secret Service at all.
O`DONNELL: Mitt Romney`s very reasonable new neighbors, Randy Clark
and Tom Maddox. I hope you get a chance to meet him very soon. Thank you
both very much for joining me tonight.
MADDOX: Thank you very much.
CLARK: You`re welcome.
O`DONNELL: You can have THE LAST WORD online at our blog,
TheLastWord.MSNBC.com. "THE ED SHOW" is up next.
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