'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Read the transcript to the Tuesday show
Guests: Rachel Maddow, John Heilemann, Karen Finney, Dorian Warren, Ana Marie Cox
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: Tonight, the really big winner in the
Wisconsin recall election is -- President Obama.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wisconsin is having just a complete Democratic --
small-d democratic explosion.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Showdown in Wisconsin!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Projecting a pretty high turnout here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thirty-seven hundred and some people in the
district, at least 2,500 to 2,600 voting today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today`s race is finally going to be decided by
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Deciding whether they want to turn out a poster
boy for the Tea Party.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`ve never had to wait close to this time. It`s
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today does come down to turnout.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A maximized turnout.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The seventh time in the past 14 months that voters
have gone to the polls.
GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R), WISCONSIN: We`re not conceding any vote
MAYOR TOM BARRETT (D), MILWAUKEE: Our governor is the only governor
in this country that has a criminal defense fund.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The day filled with passion and polarization.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor Walker wants to make this initial
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Certainly made this a national issue.
BARRETT: There`s some that want to make it a national election.
ED SCHULTZ, MSNBC HOST: This is really sprawled out into other
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Learn a lot about tonight.
BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: This is a big, clear election.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Major implications on the presidential race.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know who else did set foot in Wisconsin during
these last two weeks? Mitt Romney.
CLINTON: The governor of the state that was 47th in the country in
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Clinton found another adjective to describe what a
Romney presidency would be like.
CLINTON: His plan is to go back to the bush program, except on
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Quote, "calamitous to our country."
CLINTON: The Romney Republican plan is austerity and more
unemployment now. And blow the lid off later.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There`s no one better to deliver this message
than Bill Clinton.
CLINTON: You have to take the facts out there.
O`DONNELL: NBC News declares Republican Governor Scott Walker, the
projected winner over Democratic Milwaukee mayor, Tom Barrett, in the
governor`s recall election.
Governor Walker will keep his governorship after the most expensive
campaign in Wisconsin`s history and what a difference a Supreme Court
decision made. The Citizens United ruling allowed $63 million to be spent
in a Wisconsin statewide election, double what was spent in the 2010
election, that delivered the governorship to Scott Walker.
Here`s how all the money breaks down. Governor Walker has spent $29
million. Pro Walker outside organizations have spent a total of $16
million, including $6 million from the Koch brothers super PAC Americans
for Prosperity; $250,000 from former Gingrich backer Sheldon Adelson and
$100,000 from aspirin contraception advocate Foster Friess.
Tom Barrett who ran against Walker in 2010 has spent just $3 million.
Pro Barrett outside groups, mostly unions, have spent another $6 million.
In 2010, turnout in Wisconsin`s gubernatorial race was 50 percent.
Today, turnout is predicted to be close to the 69 percent level of the 2008
presidential election. Republican Governor Scott Walker has survived a
recall effort but control of the Wisconsin state senate still hangs in the
balance tonight. Three Republican state senators are up for recall,
including the Senate majority leader, Scott Fitzgerald.
There`s an opened vote for a fourth Senate seat in the state where the
incumbent Republican has resigned. The Wisconsin Senate is currently
evenly split, 16 Republicans to 16 Democrats, thanks to that resignation.
Democrat Tom Barrett went into today`s election with the endorsement
of President Obama, who tweeted, "I`m standing by Tom Barrett. He`d make
an outstanding governor. B.O.`
While Scott Walker made his own presidential connection with this
tweet, "President Reagan died on June 5th, 2004, let`s win one for the
Joining me now are Rachel Maddow, host of "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW," of
course, John Heilemann, national affairs editor for "New York" magazine and
MSNBC political analyst; Dorian Warren, assistant professor of political
science at Columbia University and fellow at the Roosevelt Institute in New
Rachel, the exit polls indicated this was going to be close. We were
being warned we were going to be up very late tonight counting these votes.
The decision came in sooner than we expected.
What does it mean in national terms? And also, what does it mean in
terms of the future of Wisconsin?
RACHEL MADDOW, "TRMS" HOST: You know, I think it means more in terms
of policy than it does in electoral outcomes. I mean, I think that
everybody is wondering whether or not this means that Wisconsin is going to
be a swing state in November. I think a lot of other things are going to
affect that in Wisconsin, more than this governor`s race.
But I do think it`s important in terms of policy and what drove this
recall in the first place. And the reason that this all happened in
Wisconsin, the reason Wisconsin became a totally unrecognizable place when
compared with its previous politics is because Republicans decided to strip
union rights in that state.
And so, this is absolutely, I think, going to be seen as an
undergirding for further policy development in that area from the
Republicans. I think that can be catastrophic in electoral terms for the
Democratic Party in the long run. If they pursue this and are able to get
this and strip union rights and essentially eliminate public sector unions,
the Democrats will lose one of their most important and strongest allies
they`ve got in any election.
So I think that the Republicans are going to be emboldened by this.
With Wisconsin, we`ll have to watch to see what happens with those state
senate races. Four of those on the bubble tonight and that could have a
real impact in terms of what happens next in Wisconsin`s specific policy.
O`DONNELL: But, Rachel, this will be close in the end. How does one
take a mandate for Governor Walker`s policies? It seems like he`s going to
MADDOW: Yes, I think people take mandates when they want to take
O`DONNELL: Yes, they do. Yes, they do.
MADDOW: They don`t extrapolate from their real numbers. They decide
whether or not they want to act in a bold way and then call it a mandate.
So I think Walker is likely to keep pursuing the agenda he has. I
don`t think he`ll be a uniter not a divider anymore. I don`t think he`s
going to take a conciliatory approach, especially if the national
Republicans respond to this by trying to make him sort of a cause celeb in
a way that extends beyond the recall.
If there`s talk about Scott Walker running with Mitt Romney for
example, or any other -- as Ed Schultz raised earlier, the prospect of him
having a prominent speaking role at the convention or something, that`s
every incentive for him to continue being as radical as he`s been and more.
O`DONNELL: John Heilemann, I said at the top of the show that
President Obama was the big winner tonight, because in the exit polls, we
saw today they were asked, who would you vote for president today? Fifty-
three percent in Wisconsin, 53 percent say President Obama. Only 42
percent say Mitt Romney.
That is, if not the recall outcome, that outcome for President Obama
with has to be very encouraging.
JOHN HEILEMANN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Very encouraging, Lawrence
and something the campaign in Chicago sent out as a news release as soon as
the earliest exit polls showing the president with the lead came through.
They think that Wisconsin is a state that`s pretty solid for them. It`s
been blue for a long time. It`s a state that not only Barack Obama won by
13 or 14 points last time around but also, was won narrowly by John Kerry,
was won by Al Gore in 2000, of course, won by Bill Clinton in 1996 and
So it`s been a long time since the state has been Republican. I think
the Obama people are pretty confident the Romney people are not spending
money there. But there`s one electoral affect here that is not good for
the president, which is that in a hotly contested state election, where to
some extent it was about a contest between outside money and on-the-ground
-- boots on the ground grassroots organizing on the other side, money won.
And if you think about the army of Republican multimillionaires and
billionaires who are think about writing big checks to super PACs, they
look at him and say, our dollars helped to keep Scott Walker in his job.
Our dollars can beat the Democratic ground game in a lot of states where
it`s close, unlike Wisconsin, and they`re going to be all the more likely
to write those big checks and that is bad news for President Obama.
O`DONNELL: Dorian Warren, John`s right. Money won. But money at a
7-1 spending ratio. They had to spend seven times more than the Democrats
to win this thing. And Citizens United allowed them to do it.
DORIAN WARREN, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: That`s right. Remember,
President Obama, Vice President Biden spent no time in the state
campaigning for Barrett, the mayor of Milwaukee, in this race. So
remember, we`re going to see a lot more action from them closer to the
election cycle to try to win the state.
But Barrett, presumably loss without their support, being outspent 7-1
as you pointed out. I do think -- I think Rachel is right. I do think
this will embolden the Republican governors across the country to keep
going after especially sector unions because that`s the last remaining
source of money and ground troops of the Democratic Party.
O`DONNELL: I don`t know. I got to tell you, if I was a Republican
governor and I saw what happened to Walker I would say, you know what? I`m
not doing it. I just assume not have a really -- a recall campaign where I
just barely survive and I have to raise all that money.
Rachel, I want to go to another exit poll indicating good news for
President Obama, and a complete failure of the Romney message in Wisconsin.
Exit poll, who would do a better job improving the economy? Forty-four
percent say President Obama, 36 percent say Mitt Romney.
MADDOW: It is amazing to see that eight-point spread on that
critical, critical economy question and as you point out, an 11-point
margin of theoretical victory for President Obama over Mitt Romney among
the electorate that just decided to keep Scott Walker.
I mean, we think about, I think, partisanship being much more I guess
-- much more homogeneous than it is. And people do differentiate between
different politicians and between different levels of government when they
make their decisions on these things. So to have an electorate return
Scott Walker in Wisconsin and be so pro-Obama, I think John Heilemann is
right to talk about the fact that overall in Wisconsin, it is not likely
that Wisconsin will be an uphill battle for Obama/Biden in the fall.
If Republicans want to try to fight for it there, I`m sure the
Democrats would to see them spend lots of resources going for it but they
did, in fact, vote for Kerry and they did, in fact, vote for Clinton both
times and they did vote for Obama by something like 12, 13, 14-point
So it`s going to be hard to see this as a bad night for Obama, even
though it was a bad night for tom Barrett.
O`DONNELL: John Heilemann, there`s sure to be a lot of second-
guessing. Should the president have gone to Wisconsin, could he have
tipped the balance if he did?
When you look at the exit poll, I think you see what the conservative
political call was to stay out of there. The president comes out of the
exit poll with -- as Rachel said, 53 percent among voters who voted to keep
Scott Walker. On electorate that votes to keep Scott Walker. He wants all
of those 53 percent which include people who voted to keep Scott walk her
I get the feeling he didn`t want to go to Wisconsin and tell those
voters they were wrong about that because that could alienate them for him
HEILEMANN: I think that`s unquestionable right, Lawrence. And the
president`s political team is conservative with a small "c." And by that I
mean they are very pragmatic. They try to husband their resources. And
one of their -- some of their resources are financial. But others of their
resources include the president`s prestige.
And I think they looked at this race, I think saw the writing on the
O`DONNELL: John, let me interrupt, we`re getting the word that the
Republican lieutenant governor survived her recall election, too. She`s
going to hang on and stay in her office.
Go ahead, John.
HEILEMANN: Yes, I think the president`s teaming saw the writing on
the wall here, Lawrence, and I think they thought that Governor Walker was
likely to hang on. I think they look at the state as we both -- Rachel and
I and others have been saying, it`s a pretty safe state for the president.
If Wisconsin is in peril in November, Barack Obama has much bigger problems
across the electorate. He`s in trouble in a lot of states where Wisconsin
is the least of his problems.
So, I think they wanted to keep the president`s nose out of it. It
was not a bold decision but as I say, they`re playing to win and winning in
this case means trying to be careful to, as you said, not alienate parts of
the electorate that are -- that may have had problems with the notion of a
recall at all and thought that this was an improper -- this election should
have never happened.
And so, some of those people who voted for Walker first time around
voted for President Obama in 2008, and look at this as all of an
illegitimate exercise, the president didn`t want to alienate anybody that
would put this race into play. And I think he wanted, as you said, make
the safe call here. A lot of Democrats might be upset with him for that,
but it was the prudent I think and cautious call.
O`DONNELL: Rachel Maddow, John Heilemann, and Dorian Warren, thank
you all very much for joining me tonight.
WARREN: Thanks, Lawrence.
MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Just to repeat. NBC News is projecting the lieutenant
governor will also hold on to her seat in Wisconsin. We will keep you
abreast of all of the latest developments in the Wisconsin recall election
And we`ll check on how Bill Clinton is doing as a surrogate speaker
for the Obama campaign.
And in the rewrite tonight, something special -- a letter that
rewrites an 18-year-old girl`s future.
O`DONNELL: NBC News is projecting that the Republican governor and
lieutenant governor of Wisconsin have both survived the recall campaign
against them. They are the projected winners tonight in the election in
Wisconsin. We will have all of the Wisconsin election results coming up.
We`ll also talk about why Bill Clinton is the 2012 weapon of choice
for the Democrats. That`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I don`t think it`s important to
re-elect the president. I think it is essential to re-elect the president
if we want this country to have the kind of future that our children and
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was Bill Clinton at one of three fundraisers for
President Obama last night.
There`s no question that the former president is a major asset to the
current president`s re-election campaign. In just one night, Bill Clinton
helped the Obama campaign raise more than $3 million. But the media is
still hanging on Bill Clinton`s every word to see if they can find any gap,
any room between a Bill Clinton extemporaneous sentence and a Obama
administration policy, and the media think they found it again today when
Bill Clinton said this about the Bush tax rates.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: I don`t have any problem with extending all of it now, but
the real issue is not whether they should be extended for another few
months. The real issue is whether the price the Republican House will put
on that extension is the permanent extension of the tax cuts, which I think
is an error.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Of course, the Obama campaign position is that the Bush
tax rates should not be extended for all brackets. They should not be
extended for the top income tax brackets.
And, tonight, Bill Clinton`s spokesperson issued this clarification.
"As President Bill Clinton has said many times before, he supported
extending all of the cuts in 2010 as part of the budget agreement, but does
not believe the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans should be extended
again. In the interview, he simply said that he doubted that a long term
agreement on spending cuts and revenues would be reached until after the
This one comes after last week`s media frenzy over one word, one
adjective that Bill Clinton used when discussing Mitt Romney`s experience
and qualifications for the presidency.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: No question that in terms of getting up and going to the
office and, you know, basically, performing the essential functions of the
office, a man who`s been governor and had a sterling business career
crosses the qualification threshold.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now Karen Finney, former DNC communications
director and current MSNBC political analyst, and Ana Marie Cox, a
political correspondent for "Guardian U.S."
OK, my position is, this is all a frenzy around what Clinton is saying
is media frenzy. He`s speaking extemporaneously, one words come into his
head and it`s one word that sounds like it`s at some variance with the
Obama campaign or the Obama administration.
Ana Marie, what could you make of these Clinton controversies?
ANA MARIE COX, GUARDIAN U.S.: Well, they are exactly that, Lawrence.
They are media frenzy. And I`m sure Clinton himself, probably enjoys it.
COX: And part of me wonders if he doesn`t do it on purpose.
But, you`re right, he`s speaking extemporaneously and there`s really
no doubt that he supports Obama`s re-election. I do think that some of the
things that have happened in the recent past do highlight the fact that
Clinton is a really good surrogate for Clinton. And I do mean himself and
not necessarily his wife.
He`s not such a great surrogate for Obama. He`s a great fundraiser.
He`s incredible in that department. But you know what? He doesn`t
automatically transfer all of the people that voted for him or all of his
characteristic, his charm, his savvy to Obama by endorsing him.
O`DONNELL: Karen Finney, I believe there`s a tension that lives
inside every president`s brain while they`re president, that is ultra
careful about every single word they speak. And as soon as they`re no
longer president, there`s a certain relaxation that comes in that allows
certain words to creep out here and there.
Before you get into this, Karen, I want to listen to Bill Clinton`s
response to what he really meant to say. His clarification of what he was
really trying to say last week about Mitt Romney`s business record.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: The point I was trying to make the other day is that, you
have examples of private equity doing good and bad things over the last
decade. I think the president was on stronger ground, I thought, when he
went after what he disagreed with in Governor Romney`s record as governor,
because that`s something that`s out there in the public domain. We don`t
have to dig for the facts. We don`t have to wonder what the case was. And
I just don`t know enough about the other thing to have a judgment one way
or the other.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Karen, Bill Clinton clearly is going to be, I think, Ana
Marie is right, as long as he`s in the campaign, he`s going to be saying
things here and there that he`s going to have to go back and do some
backfill on like he did there.
KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Although I got to tell
you, having worked for both Bill and Hillary Clinton for a long time, I
don`t know that he`s enjoying this. I would imagine the reaction was,
that`s not what I said. I can`t believe they think I said that.
Because the truth is, sure, if you had a million to invest,
absolutely, Mitt Romney was your guy. I mean, he did have a sterling
business reputation as a vulture capitalist. But let`s be clear, I think
this is the point Clinton was trying to make at this CNBC interview --
that`s not capitalism per se, right?
Democrats are being attacked for attacking capitalism. The point
about the Bain record, the kind of business endeavors he engaged in, that
was all about return on investment for million-dollar investors. That
doesn`t necessarily make someone a good president. It may mean you`re
qualified to run for president.
But that -- the president has to worry about all those people in that
22 percent they talk about who lost everything at the time when Romney and
his investors were making money.
So, I mean -- you know, I agree with you but I think people are trying
to find some -- I also think that there may be places where they disagree.
I personally don`t ever think we should see the ground when there may be
some disagreement on things. At the same time, President Clinton is very
clearly supporting Obama to the point that the Romney team knows what an
asset Clinton is.
If you noticed, today, they ripped off the Clinton "putting people
first" and their new tag line is "putting jobs first."
So, clearly they think Clinton is potent.
O`DONNELL: You know, in the famous "sterling" quote, I saw it before
it became controversial and when I saw it, I didn`t think there was
anything even -- in any way out of tune with the Obama campaign. The media
had to tell me how outrageous it was that Bill Clinton said that.
But let`s listen to what Bill Clinton said about the problems that
President Obama has faced as president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: And he`s had to get all this done while people as recently
as last week were still saying he wasn`t born in America. He`s had to get
all this done with a House of Representatives that had one of the Tea Party
members claim that 78 to 81 members of the Democratic caucus were members
of the communist party and neither the presidential nominee or any of the
leaders rebuked him for saying that.
This is not the 1950s. At least, General McCarthy could skate on the
fact that there was one or two living communists walking around. Nobody`s
seen a communist in over a decade.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Ana Marie, that`s the Bill Clinton that the Obama campaign
wants out there.
COX: Yes. I was listen doing that thinking exactly. That`s Bill
Clinton at his best. That`s him communicating in a very real way. Some
things that people kind of think but want to hear from someone like Bill
He says that stuff really well. He says it in some ways, better than
Obama can. Obviously, Obama can`t really say all the struggles he`s up
against. It makes him sound like he`s complaining.
Bill Clinton can and that is the exact kind of message that the Obama
campaign wants right now.
O`DONNELL: Karen Finney and Ana Marie Cox -- thank you both very much
for going me tonight.
Coming up, the latest on tonight`s vote in Wisconsin. Governor Scott
Walker and lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, both Republicans, have
held on to their seats.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He`s always looking for
someone else to blame for the features I just told you. And of course,
President George W. Bush was at the White House for the unveiling of his
painting last week. And that was an -- he`s always an easy target. And so
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: OK. I get it. So you can`t refer to how bad things were
when you took office. That`s the Romney rule. So how does Romney senior
adviser Ed Gillespie explain the Romney job creation record in
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ED GILLESPIE, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISOR: You take the first
year, which is a low-base year when the governor came in and took office,
and they are averaging out over the four years. So they`re bringing down
the gains of his fourth year in office, which shows the real impact of his
policies, and diluting it with the first year in office, when he came into
office, and it was 50th in job creation.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yet these same people blame the president for
job losses that occurred in January of 2009, the very month he was
inaugurated, and months before any of his policies took place. The
hypocrisy is breathtaking, even for Romney.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now is MSNBC`s Krystal Ball and Ari Melber.
Krystal, I disagree with Stephanie Cutter. It is not breathtaking for
Romney. It is exactly what the Romney campaign does every day, all the
time. It`s entirely predictable.
KRYSTAL BALL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: You`re not shocked and
surprised by this, Lawrence?
O`DONNELL: No, I`m not.
BALL: Your jaw isn`t dropping? Actually, it reminds me of what they
tried to do with his Bain Capital record, too, because the same deal. They
want to take credit for all of the jobs` gains under Bain, from the time
that he was there until eternity. But the losses, they only want to talk
about that didn`t happen while he was there.
So it`s this very selective cherry-picking of the facts. That`s
actually the best that they do, is when they`re cherry-picking facts. At
other times, like when he`s talking about Obama going around apologizing
for America or taking a bad situation, the recession, and making it worse,
they`re not even cherry-picking. They`re just straight-up lying.
So at least on this one there`s some -- somewhat of a basis for a
talking point there.
O`DONNELL: Ari Melber, the "Wall Street Journal" unearthed an e-mail
today that creates a little bit of problem for Mitt Romney, early drafts of
an op ed that then Governor Romney wrote for them in 2006, that very
carefully defended and explained the individual mandate in what they call
now Romneycare in Massachusetts.
It said, "either the individual pays or the taxpayers pay. A free
ride on government is not libertarian."
That was a line -- that`s what the published op ed stated. In a line
that didn`t make the edited version, Romney added an uninsured -- this what
he added that didn`t make the final cut. "An uninsured libertarian might
counter that he could refuse the free care. But under law, that`s
impossible and inhumane."
That`s good old liberal Mitt Romney, delivering, working on, just
penciling around his op ed piece for the "Wall Street Journal."
ARI MELBER, "THE NATION": This was great, and I`m glad you`re
flagging it, because this report shows exactly the thinking process that
then Governor Romney himself was going through. He even wrote in one of
the e-mails -- because the Journal posted several of them. He wrote, "I
was tooling around with it this morning. I`m not sure if it`s cerebral
enough for the Journal, but this is where I come down."
He wrote that to his aides. You can draw a direct line, Lawrence,
from that exchange to that very infamous moment in the Republican debate
when the libertarian arguments against health care and against Romney were
being made. And you had Congressman Paul say, yes, sometimes you have to
let people die without health care. And you had that reaction from at
least some Republican members of the crowd, acting as if it were a good
That`s how far the Republican party has moved. What we know, if you
are to believe Mitt Romney`s writings to his inner most aides at the time,
his closest aides -- what we know is that he actually had the rebuttal
ready, that he thought it was, as you said, inhumane.
The only other point I`ll sort of flag is for folks who that are
really interested, you can also see more of those e-mails on the Journal`s
website. There`s another point where Romney sort of signs off. And he
says, I want to know you thoughts on the op ed. And as always, praise is
welcome. Then he says, best, Mitt. Sort of his lighter, funny side.
I thought to myself, that`s at least a little more natural than he
comes off now. You get a feeling that some of those e-mails are legit.
O`DONNELL: Krystal, let`s hold it for a second. We have more
breaking news from Wisconsin. That`s in the recall of State Senator Scott
Fitzgerald. He`s the Senate majority leader in Wisconsin. And NBC News is
projecting that State Senate Majority Leader Republican Scott Fitzgerald
will survive the recall campaign, like Governor Scott Walker and Lieutenant
Governor Rebecca Kleefisch.
He, too, will hold on to his office and survive the recall campaign.
Krystal, Scott Fitzgerald, who has possibly the finest name in American
politics, is now the third Republican of the night to survive in Wisconsin.
What`s your take on how things are playing out in Wisconsin?
BALL: Well, my take is this. I think tonight, you can`t say anything
other than that big money won. And it`s incredibly unfortunate. I think
this election in Wisconsin, where you had tons of outside money flooding in
to push actually in ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council,
extreme corporatist agenda -- it is a very sad statement that these efforts
to recall Scott Walker and his Republican allies have failed.
But now is the time to recognize that this is the playing field. This
is the world that we`re living in. We have to recommit and reengage and be
inspired and ready to fight for this November. This is what`s going on not
just in Wisconsin but across the country.
So that`s my take-away. We shouldn`t be discouraged. It`s -- the
results are disappointing. But given the financial advantage, it`s no big
surprise. And I think what we need to take from this is just how important
it is to raise our voices as ordinary citizens and get involved and take
back that power.
O`DONNELL: Ari Melber, what do you make of the mixed result in both -
- in the polling that kept Scott Walker in his job, but in the exit polling
that says even more people in Wisconsin want President Obama to be re-
MELBER: I think you have a state there where there`s a very strong
affinity for the president. It is a state, as well, that`s often been a
dream of Republicans but not a reality in recent presidential cycles. And
I think on the ground what you saw is -- I mean, 48 percent of the exit
poll respondents said that they did disapprove of Governor Walker`s
approach to collective bargaining, but not all of those people obviously
went against him either.
So I think it is possible -- you know, we simplify sometimes when we
look at the electorate. And I think it`s possible that despite everything
that`s gone down in that state, there are some people who like President
Obama, are concerned about the governor`s collective bargaining approach,
and his property, perhaps, to a lot of public servants, but ultimately
didn`t feel that was a reason to recall him.
Let`s not forget here, recall is an extraordinary step. It`s not just
a no-vote. It`s something for many voters that feels like an impeachment
or a higher-level bar. I think we underestimate the sophistication of
voters at our peril. They may disagree with him, but ultimately decide to
let him finish out his term.
O`DONNELL: Krystal Ball and Ari Melber, thank you both very much for
MELBER: Thank you.
BALL: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Still ahead, we`ll have more of the latest voting results
in the Wisconsin recall vote.
And later, if you want to know why governing is wicked hard in this
country, just take a look at what the founding fathers saddled us with.
That`s right, the United States Constitution. That`s coming up.
And in the Rewrite tonight, the moment that Rewrites your future, the
letter that changes your life.
O`DONNELL: In tonight`s Rewrite, the letter that Rewrites your
future. Remember when you got your college acceptance letter. Remember
what it felt like to open it, then what it felt like to read it? Did you
make it all the way through the first time you started to read it? How
many times did you read it in the next few days?
This is the season for college acceptance letters and rejection
letters. You already know that if you have a high school senior in your
family, as I do. You`ve seen the jumping up and down, the shouts and
screams of joy. And you`ve seen the tears.
You`ve seen a 17-year-old instantly relieved of the four years of
academic pressure that has built and built and built to this moment, to
this tidal wave of emotion that hits when it all comes down to the words on
that piece of paper.
Semite Waldemarian (ph) is a high school senior in the Bronx who is
the first in her family to apply to college. She was guided in that
process by the College-Bound Initiative, a college access programs serving
nearly 9,000 low-income students in more than a dozen New York City and
Philadelphia public high schools.
The College-Bound Initiative places full time college counselors in
high-need schools to guide students in the college application process.
Senite`s parents came to the Bronx from the small east African country of
Eritrea shortly before she was born, in 1993. Her parents are divorced now
and she lives with her mother, a hotel housekeeper. Her father is a cab
Gettysburg College, which began sending acceptance letters 30 years
before the Civil War Battle of Gettysburg was to take place beside the
campus, sent one of those letters this year to Senite.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congratulations! Congratulations! Don`t cry!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is this real? Is this real?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you read it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is my pleasure that you have been admitted to
Gettysburg College for academic year 2012. Your academic record --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: "Your academic record and scholastic achievements clearly
identify you as the type of student we would be pleased to have at
Gettysburg. Your acceptance is a significant accomplishment and we
congratulate you on this important milestone."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: The best that can be hoped for
right now is gridlock, bring a stop to everything that Obama wants.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is just a design for failure. And if there`s
uncertainty in the marketplace -- and there is, by the way -- it`s because
it is uncertain and becoming increasingly clear that Congress won`t get the
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ultimately, gridlock is not good for the markets.
OBAMA: We were sent here to serve the American people. And they
deserve better than gridlock and games.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: So let`s take a moment to consider, what if gridlock is
not the Republicans` fault? What if gridlock is not the Democrats` fault?
What if gridlock is not Rush Limbaugh`s fault? What if gridlock is the
fault of the Founding Fathers?
Joining me now is UT Austin law and government Professor Sanford
Levinson, author of "the New York Times" op-ed piece recently entitled "Our
Imbecilic Constitution" and also the book, "Framed, America`s 51
Constitutions and the Crisis of Governance."
Sanford Levinson, you say in your op-ed piece that elections are
increasingly meaningless, at least in terms of producing results
commensurate with the challenges facing the country. And you blame the
SANFORD LEVINSON, AUTHOR: Yes. 2010 is a good example. Actually, 28
elections going back many years are good examples, that unless you`re lucky
enough, and it really happens, that you capture the presidency and
significant majorities in the House and Senate -- really the last time that
happened was Lyndon Johnson in 1964 -- then it is very likely that one of
the two houses of Congress will end up, in effect, vetoing bills passed by
the other, or if they don`t -- if they agree, it`s always possible that
with the stroke of a pen, a president can veto legislation passed by the
houses of Congress. And the odds are overwhelming that the veto will be
O`DONNELL: It seems to me that if you want activist government, this
Constitution is not the one to give it to you. And it was written by
people very much concerned with how to describe the limits of government,
possibly more than anything else.
LEVINSON: No, that`s certainly true. One of the recurrent themes of
"The Federalist Papers" is, first of all, distrust of popular government,
distrust of the "we the people" in whose name the Constitution was written.
And secondly and you`re absolutely right, a distrust of anything that we
might today call activist government.
I point out, incidentally, that even though obviously admirers of your
show, of whom I am one, usually think of liberal activist government. I
also think that one of the things that explains the current, roughly, 10
percent approval rate of Congress is that there are a lot of conservatives
who are equally frustrated. They thought they won some elections. And
they discovered that they aren`t able to get their policies adopted.
I think that if you look at the country today, you find massive
alienation from government and a feeling that whatever your particular
issues are, Congress just isn`t responding.
O`DONNELL: The -- you point out a couple of anti-democratic things in
the Constitution, including the electoral college and also the United
States Senate, where I worked for about eight years. You cannot work in
the Senate without developing an institutional affection for it, and
without realizing how profoundly undemocratic that institution is.
LEVINSON: Yes. Back in 1787, the ratio between the smallest state,
which was then Delaware, and the largest state, if you count the slaves as
well, which was Virginia, was I think around 17 to one. That was enough
for James Madison to describe the Senate as an evil. He said it was a
lesser evil. The greater evil would have been no Constitution at all, so
he was ultimately willing to compromise with Delaware.
But today if you look at Wyoming and California, the smallest and the
largest states respectively, the ratio is roughly 70 to one. So that`s
about four times, three to four times the ratio of Delaware and Virginia
back in 1787.
O`DONNELL: The Senate, basically, represents land more than it
represents people and yet controls the outcome of governing in a allegedly
democratically constituted government.
LEVINSON: Yes. The way I describe the senate is that it is the most
important affirmative action program in American politics. And --
O`DONNELL: Yes, it is.
LEVINSON: And the people being benefited are the residents of small
states. It`s not even that you can make the argument that -- as you could
before the 17th Amendment -- that the Senate might have had something to do
with preserving a distinctive sort of American federalism, because senators
used to be chosen by state legislatures, and there are members of the Tea
Party who would like to repeal the 17th Amendment. But once you have
popular election of senators, then you get rid of any link between the
Senate and the institutions of state government.
And it really is nothing more than this remarkable affirmative action
O`DONNELL: And you make the point that the worst thing about the
Constitution, is that it is virtually impossible to amend in our current
politics, even the obvious things in it that don`t work for today.
Sanford Levinson, professor of law and government at the University of
Texas, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
LEVINSON: Thank you for having me.
O`DONNELL: THE ED SHOW is up next, special live edition of THE ED
SHOW from Wisconsin.
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