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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Monday, June 18, 2012

Read the transcript to the Monday show

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Guests: Steve Schmidt, Eve Ensler, Lisa Brown

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: Mitt Romney has 141 days left in his
attempt to become president of the United States without ever answering a
single specific question.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Effective immediately,
the Department of Homeland Security is taking steps to lift the shadow of
deportation.

MARTIN BASHIR, MSNBC HOST: The hot topic of immigration.

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: Immigration --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Immigration.

TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Immigration.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Immigration.

WAGNER: -- is still center stage.

OBAMA: It is the right thing to do.

HALL: The announcement clearly put Mitt Romney on the defensive.

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC HOST: Romney on the defensive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it was a brilliant move by the president.

CHRIS JANSING, NBC NEWS: Mitt Romney missed an opportunity to show
some leadership.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, let`s step back and
look at the issue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt Romney should have a straight answer on that.
It`s a basic issue in this campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Republicans don`t really have a position right
now.

BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS NEWS: Would you repeal this?

ROMNEY: We`ll look at that setting as we reach that.

JANSING: Shouldn`t he be able to answer that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He`s unwilling, at this point, to be specific.

HALL: He`s afraid to say where he stands.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s got to be more there. You can`t just be
hoping for Obama to be bad.

ROMNEY: We`ll look at that setting as we reach that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s not good off the cuff.

ROMNEY: If people don`t get work here, their going to self-deport --
self-deport -- self-deport.

MITCHELL: It`s amazing.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: The makings of a great leader are
people who actually say what they believe.

OBAMA: It is the right thing to do.

PAUL: Say what they`re going to do.

OBAMA: To lift the shadow of deportation from these young people.

PAUL: And then get elected to office and they go do it.

OBAMA: Effective immediately.

PAUL: The makings of a great leader, say what they believe --

ROMNEY: If people don`t get work here, they`re going to self-deport.

PAUL: Say what they`re going to do.

ROMNEY: We`ll look at that setting as we reach that.

PAUL: Say what they believe.

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I believe in the idea of
amnesty.

PAUL: Reagan.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: Way back last week, Mitt Romney planned to just talk about
the economy on his swing state bus tour, while relying on Senator Marco
Rubio to pretend to be working on a legislative dream-like fix of Romney`s
problem with the Latino vote, but then on Friday, President Obama said
this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Over the next few months, eligible individuals who do not
present a risk to national security or public safety will be able to
request temporary relief from deportation proceedings and apply for work
authorization.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The very next day, Mitt Romney taped an interview with Bob
Schieffer, which included a very predictable question.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHIEFFER: Would you repeal this order if you became president?

ROMNEY: Well, let`s step back and look at the issue.

SCHIEFFER: Well, what would you do about it?

ROMNEY: Well, as you know, he was president for the last 3 1/2 years
and did nothing on immigration.

SCHIEFFER: But would you repeal this?

ROMNEY: Well, it would be overtaken by events, if you will, by virtue
of me putting in place a long-term solution.

SCHIEFFER: I won`t keep on about this, but just to make sure that I
understand, would you leave this in place while you worked out a long-term
solution, or would you just repeal it?

ROMNEY: We`ll look at -- we`ll look at that setting as we reach that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That`s the brave leader of the Republican Party talking.
Mitt Romney obviously has no idea on how to lead his party on immigration
issues after a presidential primary campaign that was all about how long
and how high and how electrified and how lethal a fence you will build to
keep people from crossing our southern border and how many of them will you
pledge to deport.

But Mitt Romney does know how important the Latino vote is. As
reported here back in April, Mitt Romney spoke at a private Palm Beach
fund-raiser, just loud enough to be heard outside on a public sidewalk by
NBC News` Garrett Haake. Romney told his audience, "We have to get
Hispanic voters to vote for our party," warning that recent polling showing
that Hispanics breaking in huge percentages for President Obama "spells
doom for us."

Joining me now are MSNBC`s Steve Kornacki and Joy Reid.

Joy, the idea that the Romney campaign staff -- this to me is a
serious campaign staff issue. You send him into that interview and you`ve
given him absolutely no suggestion about how to handle the most predictable
question. That is political malpractice by the Romney campaign staff.

JOY REID, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I absolutely agree. Because they
knew --

O`DONNELL: Let`s just understand, Romney doesn`t believe anything.
It`s not like you can go, we`ll send him out there, and worst-case
scenario, we`ll go with what he thinks, because he doesn`t think anything.
So, you`ve got to set him up to answer that question.

REID: You`re absolutely right. I mean, the Romney campaign slogan
literally could be: just make me president and we`ll work out the details
later. I mean, he doesn`t really have his own opinion.

Again, this goes to the point that Romney is not the leader of the
Republican Party. He`s waiting for the actual leaders of the party to tell
him what`s acceptable to say. You know, he has the problem with the base,
they don`t trust him. He can`t sound too moderate, because then the Tea
Party base would rebel, but then again, he has to sort of still mouth the
words about immigration reform, because he`s afraid -- look, he`s at 27
percent with Hispanics. That is a losing proposition no matter how you
look at it.

O`DONNELL: And he knows it. That`s what we heard him say at that
fund-raiser.

Let`s listen to what he said at NBC News debate in Florida.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you don`t deport them, how do you send them
home?

ROMNEY: Well, the answer is self-deportation, which is that people
decide that they can do better by going home, because they can`t find work
here, because they don`t have legal documentation to allow them to work
here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Steve, presidential campaigns produce memorable phrases.
"Self-deportation" was the easiest two-word thing to remember after that
particular debate, and certainly there are people in the Latino community
who heard that, who remember it well.

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. And remember, that terms, as
ridiculous as it was, but also remember how far to the right Romney was in
the primaries. Think of the political imperative for Romney at the time.
He was so distrusted by the base, the only issue that was really logical
for him to get to the right of Gingrich, of Santorum, of Perry, of all his
opponents was on immigration. So he really took advantage of it -- one of
the few times he could be the conservative candidate.

But he had an opportunity, the interesting thing about what we`re
seeing right now is, it looked like for the last few weeks that immigration
was actually going to be the issue that the Romney campaign used to sort of
defy the stereotype of the spineless opportunist who`s afraid to tell you
what he really thinks. Marco Rubio was going to come out and propose
essentially what Obama did on Friday. Romney was going to get behind it
and there were signs from immigration groups that they were actually going
to be OK with it. So they had the prospect here of Romney endorsing this,
doing away with the problem he had with Hispanic voters, and maybe getting
credit for being a strong leader too if momentum built behind the idea.

Instead, Obama completely steals his thunder on Friday, you talk about
the timing. It`s almost like the Obama White House knew that Romney was 24
hours away from giving his first non-FOX Sunday show interview and they
went and dropped this bomb.

O`DONNELL: Well, Bill Kristol, Republican operative Bill Kristol, who
also works with "Weekly Standard," certainly understands the politics of
this from a Republicans` perspective. Let`s listen to what he said about
it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL KRISTOL, WEEKLY STANDARD: I think it`s a sensible policy. I
think that would be much better if that were the law of the land. I think
this is a big problem for Romney and he needs to stake the lead on this.
In my view, embrace Marco Rubio`s DREAM Act, if that`s what he want, and
say, let`s pass this Congress over the next two months, this is what I`m
for.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: A little too late.

REID: Yes, a little bit too late.

O`DONNELL: And Karl Rove, you know, he doesn`t have a lot of
wonderful, positive attributes, but he does understand the math. And the
math is that Barack Obama won the presidency with 41 percent of the white
vote. The math is that Republicans would lucky to ever get 10 percent of
the black vote again having coddled birthers and a lot of other things that
African-Americans find repugnant in the treatment of this first African-
American president. So, they pretty much walk away from the black vote.

The Hispanic vote is the one sort of opportunity for Republicans, but
if you look at the top 20 states where the Latino vote share is growing the
fastest, 11 of them are already swing states. Number 21 is Texas.

We`re talking about Nevada, Colorado, Florida, states that are
critical for Republicans to be able to regain the White House, Ohio, even
Indiana. You cannot win long-term as a Republican if you cannot grow your
base beyond the white vote. And the Hispanic vote was the one opportunity,
and now even Marco Rubio is semi-irrelevant. I mean, is there even a point
--

(CROSSTALK)

O`DONNELL: Steve, let`s listen to what Rubio actually said about this
and then we`ll react to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I think he could have worked with the
Congress to try to get something balanced done, like something I`m working
on. The White House never called us about this. No one reached out to us
and told us this was on its way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: There`s a leader for you. The White House never called
me. I want to be vice president, but the White House never called me and
said, I, as a senator, should really try to get something done.

KORNACKI: So Marco Rubio wants to be vice president. If you`re the
Romney campaign and you`re looking at this guy and saying, where were you
for the last two months? We are waiting for you, the most prominent
national Latino leader in the Republican Party to come out and put this
simple piece of legislation together, outlining what Obama just did, and
then I, Mitt Romney, will come there and say, this is what I`m for. And
all these immigration groups will come behind it, and Rubio did nothing.

And now, he`s sitting here basically saying today, you know what, I`m
not even going to do it at all. So this was the big moment. Rubio was the
key guy, and he basically sat on his hands.

O`DONNELL: Rubio looks in that particular video, he looks too small
to me for the vice presidential job, in a number of ways. I mean, he would
have to be a really dynamic guy to sell beyond conservative Republicans, it
seems to me.

REID: You`re absolutely right. And Rubio, I think is more of a
confection of the press. The media loves Marco Rubio.

O`DONNELL: And he may be that guy in 10 years, but not that guy.

REID: Not right now, because the other thing is that Rubio has the
same fundamental problem Romney does. Marco Rubio wants to be a singular
leader of the Republican Party, but he too is beholden to that Tea Party
base. That`s how he got elected.

He had to walk a very thin line in Florida, because when he was
speaker of the Florida House, he was considered soft on immigration. So
he, too, had to take a hard line against the DREAM Act, against sort of
reasonable immigration reform. So he`s in the same box Romney`s in.

O`DONNELL: Steve Kornacki and Joy Reid, thank you both very much for
joining me tonight.

Coming up, in a LAST WORD exclusive, the Tony award-winning author of
"The Vagina Monologues", Eve Ensler, will join us, along with the latest
star of "The Vagina Monologues," the state representative in Michigan who
was banned from speaking on the House floor after she dared to use the word
"vagina." That state representative actually performed "The Vagina
Monologues" on the steps of the state capital tonight in Michigan.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Playwright Eve Ensler won awards for "The Vagina
Monologues." Michigan State Representative Lisa Brown got banned from the
Michigan House floor for using the word "vagina."

And so, tonight, with Eve Ensler watching, Representative Brown
performed "The Vagina Monologues" on the steps of the Michigan state
capitol.

In a LAST WORD exclusive, Eve Ensler and her new star, Representative
Lisa Brown, will join me. If you don`t like vaginas, this is not your TV
show.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHIEFFER: Would you just repeal it --

ROMNEY: We`ll look at that -- we`ll look at that setting as we reach
that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The batting practice Mitt Romney`s been getting at FOX
News did not prepare him for Bob Schieffer`s major league pitching
yesterday. And it wasn`t as if Bob Schieffer was throwing curveballs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHIEFFER: You haven`t been bashful about telling us where you want
to cut taxes. When are you going to tell us where you`re going to get the
revenue? Which of the deductions are you going to be willing to eliminate?
Which of the tax credits are you going to be -- when are you going to be
able to tell us that?

ROMNEY: Well, we`ll go through that process with Congress as to which
of the different deductions and exemptions --

SCHIEFFER: But do you have any ideas now, like the home interest
mortgage deduction, you know, various ones?

ROMNEY: Well, Simpson/Bowles went through a process of being able to
say where they would be able to reach a setting where they had actually
under their proposal, even more revenue for the government with lower
rates. So, mathematically, it`s been proved to be possible. We can have
lower rates, as I propose, that creates more growth, and we can limit
deductions and exemptions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Try as he might, Bob Schieffer could not get Romney to
identify a single tax expenditure that Romney would eliminate or limit in
any way. Not the mortgage deduction, not the charitable deduction, not the
deduction for state and local taxes.

And what was the Simpson/Bowles` process for reaching Romney`s stated
goal of more revenue for the government with lower rates? What were they
willing to do with tax expenditures? It`s right here on page 2 of their
report on tax reform: eliminate all income tax expenditures.

Joining me now are: Ari Melber, a correspondent for "The Nation" and
an MSNBC contributor, and Karen Finney, former DNC communications director
and an MSNBC contributor.

Karen, if Romney is embracing Simpson/Bowles, he is embracing an
elimination of all charitable deductions -- an elimination, not a
reduction, elimination. He is embracing a complete elimination of your
mortgage deduction, the single biggest deduction that American consumer
takes on their tax returns.

And so on, right down the line. That Simpson/Bowles eliminated every
single one of them. And Romney is unwilling to say that he`s in favor of
elimination of even one and then pretends to say he`s in favor of
Simpson/Bowles.

KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Right. Well, remember he said that
Simpson/Bowles shows it`s, quote/unquote, "possible," right? By his own
admission, he`s not telling us where it`s all going to come from. Again,
he says it`s -- well, we`ll just go through a process with Congress and
Simpson/Bowles kind of showed us that was possible.

But, you know, as we`ve talked about before on your show, this is one
of a growing number of issues where he is not willing to talk specifics.
Like the immigration issue. Bob Schrieffer asked a very fair,
straightforward question and got a really lovely dodge/dance, but not a
real answer.

I mean, this is the strategy that the Romney team is employing, which
is, play it safe. Don`t answer questions with any specifics, talk
platitudes, you know, use the rhetoric, say why Obama`s bad. But if you
don`t ever give any specifics, you can`t be accountable to those specifics.

O`DONNELL: Karen, I`m glad you broadened it out to that general
question of he just won`t answer a very specific question. Let`s watch Sam
Stein trying to get him to answer a very specific question.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SAM STEIN, HUFFINGTON POST: Does Governor Romney support the Lilly
Ledbetter Act?

ROMNEY AIDE: Sam, we`ll get back to you on that.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Now, Ari Melber, this comes back to this Romney campaign
staff, which is getting away -- I mean, its press has been amazingly
flattering for such breathtaking incompetence, as moments like that, and
sending their robot on to Bob Schieffer`s show without an answer to the
most obvious question in the world: what would you do about what President
Obama did yesterday?

This staff doesn`t know where Romney stands, Romney doesn`t know where
he stands. How far can they get before that becomes -- and can the Obama
campaign make that a larger image of Romney?

ARI MELBER, THE NATION: That`s the question, right? Does this become
a political vulnerability? You said it was political malpractice, how
badly his staff operates. I would add --

O`DONNELL: But the general media lets them get away with this,
without ever saying -- without ever pointing this out as a problem that
they have.

MELBER: Right. And to echo what Karen Finney was saying, I would
say, this is a contempt for the democratic process, right? This is an idea
that you can spend a year running for president, I put in air quote, but
not actually doing what we expected candidates to do from the beginning of
American history, which is actually explain where they stand on the basic
issues.

And I`m reminded of the famous line that Mitt Romney said about his
`94 Senate race, where he recalled that when he announced that he wanted to
eliminated the Education Department, he was tagged as anti-education. And
what he learned from that was, don`t ever get into specifics about what you
want to do.

I think there are other things you can learn from that, like education
is a popular government program, basically. But he`s taken that and, back
to the fund-raiser that you quoted earlier, at that fund-raiser, he talked
about eliminating or combining education and other departments and
eliminating HUD, which his father used to run.

So he would tell some of his donors about it in an off-the-record
setting, he just won`t tell us.

O`DONNELL: Karen, there`s only two things I`ve heard him be specific,
he absolutely, surely, definitely wants to eliminate Obamacare. There`s no
talk there about, oh, well, I`ll can consult with Congress and say what
they want to do. This is what he says about any tax question.

And then the other thing, he really wants to raise, in effect a
national sales tax by putting tariffs on all Chinese goods coming into this
country. There are the only two specifics I`ve heard him say.

FINNEY: Well, that`s right. But on Obamacare, what he won`t say is,
OK, so you`re going to repeal it, and then what happens to all of the
people who are the millions of people who are currently in the system, and
all of those people who were about to be phased into the system.

O`DONNELL: Karen, they move to Massachusetts.

FINNEY: Oh, right --

O`DONNELL: And they live under Romney care, or, you know, they get a
fake address in Massachusetts from their cousin`s house or something.

FINNEY: You know, the one thing I would say to this, Lawrence, I
mean, there`s actually two things. One is, what`s really insulting about
the lack of information and this lack of transparency from this candidate
is then the right wing has the absolute nerve to defend what Neil Munro did
on Friday with President Obama as, quote/unquote, "tough journalism,"
right? Journalists ask question.

Well, then, you know what? Let`s ask some tough questions of Mitt
Romney and let`s hold him accountable for the fact that he is not providing
answers.

O`DONNELL: Yes, it doesn`t take some kind of punk stuff shouted at a
candidate to show that Mitt Romney can`t answer just the simplest of
questions. There`s Bob Schrieffer, who plays a classic version of this
game, straight down the middle, you can see it coming, very fair question.
Romney couldn`t handle it.

MELBER: Well, "FOX & Friends" is bad batting practice.

O`DONNELL: Yes, it is.

MELBER: And that`s the thing. We have a media here that thinks it`s
OK to go a year, literally a year talking only to FOX News`s political
programs on the weekend. That`s astounding.

And if you want to be president, as you know, you have to actually
speak to the White House press corps, which has members from print and TV
outlets from all over the country.

So, again, if you want to look like a president and act like a
president, you need to actually engage on ideas and engage the free press.

O`DONNELL: And now, the White House press corps has crazy hecklers.

Karen Finney and Ari Melber -- thank you both very much for joining me
tonight.

FINNEY: Thanks.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, one tax deduction that we know Mitt Romney will
never want to eliminate. He actually used it on his tax return to deduct
$77,000. Guess what it is. Little hint -- it involves a horse. And it`s
in tonight`s "Rewrite."

And the author of "The Vagina Monologues" is here. And in THE LAST
WORD exclusive, Eve Ensler`s play was performed on the steps of the
Michigan state capital tonight by the state representative who was banned
from the House for using the word "vagina."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Ronald King, whom never got a break in this world, died an
alcoholic at age 42. His son, Rodney Glen King, known in the family as
Glen, started drinking too much in junior high school and made it to 47
years old, before being found at the bottom of his swimming pool yesterday,
a pool that he built with his own hands.

He came very close to death once before on March 3rd, 1991, when he
was the victim of this beating my Los Angeles police, the kind of beating
by police that a black man was suffering somewhere in this country
virtually every day back then.

Police have been caught doing things like this since, but never quite
as savage, and never again as shocking as this beating was to white
America, most of whom had no idea this sort of thing was happening
routinely.

Rodney Glen King would have been beaten to death or nearly to death
and none of us would have been known about it were it not for George
Holliday, who had a view of the incident from his apartment, and most
importantly, had a Sony handycam video recorder in his hand. George
Holliday`s video camera changed American law enforcement forever.

What internal affairs investigators couldn`t prove or never even
bothered to try to prove, a video camera could prove far beyond a
reasonable doubt. And for the first time in the history of American law
enforcement in the spring of 1991, American police officers had to add to
their list of legitimate worries the new worry of someone might be making a
video recording of what they`re doing.

The LAPD would never be the same after George Holliday`s video was
shown on KTLA. The police chief had to be replaced, new chiefs had to be
term limited, and a civilian review board for complaints against police
officers had to be established.

Yes, there is still police brutality in Los Angeles, as there is in
any police department, but it`s not nearly as bad as it once was.

The Los Angeles police chief said this yesterday about the passing of
Rodney King. "His legacy should not be the struggles and troubles of his
personal life, but the immensely positive change his existence wrought on
this city and its police department."

Rodney King said this to "The Los Angeles Time" on the 20th
anniversary of the horrific riot that occurred, leaving 54 dead after the
officers who beat him were acquitted in their first criminal trial.
"People look at me like I should have been like Malcolm X or Martin Luther
King or Rosa Parks and stay out of trouble and don`t do this and don`t do
that. But it`s hard to live up to some people`s expectations. I never
went to school to be Rodney King."

I met Rodney Glen King in this studio just two months ago. When he
was leaving our interview, we recorded this additional video on the kind of
handheld amateur camera that George Holliday might be using today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Always remember that, you know, the prayers and people who kept
me alive over the years -- it was your prayers and your thoughts. So I
would just like to say thank you for all the ones that I have forgot to
thank. Thank you very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you had enough of Obamacare?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you agree with me, we cannot afford four more
years of Barack Obama?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need a leader with a bedrock of principles and
an ability to put that vision into place. That leader is Mitt Romney.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: In the Spotlight tonight, the auditions for the Republican
nomination for vice president continue. But one of the auditioners is in
big trouble this week. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is the subject
of a hard-hitting series in "the New York Times," focusing on his
connection to one of his fund-raisers who is a huge profiteer in New
Jersey`s troubled system of privately owned halfway houses that relieve
overcrowding in the New Jersey prison system.

And a Romney/Christie ticket may have a fundamental incompatibility.
It`s not hard to tell which of these men is more disciplined in every way.
Yesterday "the New York Times" reported, "Mr. Romney has formed some early
impressions, according to several Republicans who spoke on the condition of
anonymity, Mr. Christie is often late, as he was during a five million
dollar fund-raising dinner in New York City last month. After a few
uncomfortable moments, Mr. Romney finally had to take the stage and speak
first. When Mr. Christie did arrive, it was left to Mr. Romney to
introduce him to the crowd."

Who better to consult on the Republican veep stakes than the man who
led the way in convincing Senator John McCain to choose the most recent
losing vice presidential candidate. Joining me now, Steve Schmidt, a
former senior adviser to Senator McCain`s 2008 presidential campaign and an
MSNBC political analyst.

Steve, how do these guys look to you at this stage? And first of all,
do personal things like, you know, Christie shows up late for an event and
makes it awkward for Romney -- do personal factors like that, maybe
personal character chemistry issues matter that much?

STEVE SCHMIDT, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure, they sure can. I mean,
look, at the end of the day, this is a very personal choice for the top of
the ticket. He`s going to have to be working with this person for at least
four years, if they win, maybe for eight years. And when you look at the
Republican field, the number of people that after the 2008 election that
will pass the test, that there`ll be unanimity amongst the media, amongst
Republicans, amongst Democrats, that whether you agree with the person or
not, that they`re qualified to be president of the United States from day
one -- it`s a very, very small list.

And Chris Christie I think is probably one of the people on that list.

O`DONNELL: Steve, this "New York Times" series this week is showing
Christie with a very, very close fund-raiser of his, a very close friend of
his, who`s profiting greatly from a New Jersey business that basically
lives off the New Jersey state government. That seems to me to be the kind
of thing that would dog a Republican candidate going forward.

SCHMIDT: I think any candidate in either party, as they go through
the vice presidential process, they`re going to have a full spectrum
analysis of everything that they`ve done. And in fact, these are the type
of stories that you want to see come out before he`s the nominee, so you
can talk about them through the prism of old news, not new news,
distracting in the days after the person is nominated.

So I think any prominent politician in America is subjected to stories
like this. We`ll see what the facts are as they continue to emerge. But,
you know, here`s one thing about Chris Christie. I think it`s also true of
Andrew Cuomo across the river. Two of the most effective governors in the
United States from either party. And I think Christie`s record of turning
around New Jersey, which had a number of really, really intractable
problems, teetering on insolvency, makes him a very attractive candidate.

And I think he`s also an immensely talented politician in terms of
being able to communicate to people. And I think that it will be
interesting to see what direction Mitt Romney goes. You know, Chris
Christie, Lawrence, has pointed out the fact that, you know, someone would
be nuts to take him. He`s not much of a second-chair type of guy. And
that may well factor into Romney`s thinking.

O`DONNELL: Steve, I have to ask you about this incident at the
Montana State Republican Convention this weekend. There was an exhibit
there called Obama`s Presidential Library. And we have a picture of it.
It was an outhouse. It had bullet marks painted on it. That was someone`s
idea of funny.

The state Republican chairman said he didn`t know who was responsible
for the outhouse. He called it a side show and he also said, quote, "it`s
not something I`m going to agonize over." Steve, it seems to me, in the
last Republican presidential campaign, this was the kind of thing that you
would agonize over. You wouldn`t want your party or your candidate
associated with anything like that.

SCHMIDT: No, that`s right. Listen, I think the chairman should have
been stronger in condemning it. I think it`s wrong. I think it hurts
Republicans. I think it hurts Mitt Romney`s chances to be elected
president of the United States. I`m someone who has very significant
policy differences with President Obama, but I like him personally. I
respect him. I have disagreements with him. And I think that`s the view
that most Americans have.

So this type of stuff doesn`t help you in the important swing states
with people in the middle of the electorate. Now, I also think if you`re
running a presidential campaign, there`s a very thin line here, because you
could spend all day condemning what the biggest nut in your party says, and
demanding that the president condemn on a daily basis what the biggest nut
in his party says.

And I think it totally wipes out the ability to have a discussion on
any sustentative issue in the campaign. So I think it`s a thin line. I do
think, though, that if that`s at the Montana Republican Party Convention
and you`re the chairman of the Republican party, you probably ought to be a
little bit tougher on that.

O`DONNELL: Steve Schmidt, thank you very much for joining me tonight.

SCHMIDT: You got it, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Mitt Romney`s wife, Ann, loves horses. Mitt
Romney loves tax deductions. A match made in heaven. That`s in the
Rewrite.

And tonight on the steps of the Michigan State Capital, there was a
lot of vagina talk in a performance of Eve Ensler`s "Vagina Monologues,"
starring the state representative who was banned for speaking in the House
after she dared to say the word "vagina." They`re both going to join me,
next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: In tonight`s Rewrite, Mitt Romney rewrites the definition
of an Olympic athlete.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hear you`ve got an Olympic athlete in the
family.

ROMNEY: Isn`t that something? Yeah, it`s not me. It`s my wife, of
course. She`s the athlete. But in this case, it`s not her personally, but
she along with two other people purchased a horse and have trained it up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: She`s the athlete. That`s what Mitt Romney just said.
She`s the athlete. So what will the athlete in the family be doing in the
Olympics?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: So she`s quite thrilled and I`m sure she`ll be watching. I
have a campaign to attend to, so I won`t be able to see it perform. But
I`m very pleased for her.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That`s right. The Romney family definition of an Olympic
athlete is a person who participates in the purchase of an Olympic athlete,
in this case a horse that the Romneys own. Now, Mitt Romney has always
told the story of the family`s entry into the breathtakingly expensive so-
called support of dressage as a therapeutic option for Ann Romney`s
multiple sclerosis.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dressage.

ROMNEY: Yes, it`s the sport of dressage. Not many people are
familiar with, but something for which she has a passion. And frankly, her
getting back on a horse after she was diagnosed with M.S. was able, she`s
convinced, to help her regenerate her strength and renew that vigor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Now, this is not in any way to make light of Ann Romney`s
difficulty with MS. It`s obviously a very difficult thing to bear. And
there are a lot of things you can do to try to deal with MS. But, come on,
dressage does not appear in any of the more traditional courses of
treatment. And if it`s true that dressage is how wildly rich people deal
with this very difficult personal health problem, then why -- why does the
horse appear on Mitt Romney`s tax return as a business expense that in 2010
produced a 77,000 dollar business deduction? Not a health care deduction,
a business deduction for the Romney Limited Liability Corporation that owns
the horse as a business.

Mitt Romney was afraid to identify a single tax deduction that he
would eliminate or reduce, but I think we can be sure that the Olympic
athlete in the Romney family, the horse that masquerades as Ann`s horse,
but that is actually never ridden by Ann, would continue to be a fake
deductible business expense if Mitt and Ann ever get to watch their Olympic
athlete on a TV in the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When are you going to tell us where you`re going
to get the revenue? Which of the deductions are you going to be willing to
eliminate? Which of the tax credits are you going to be -- when are you
going to be able to tell us that?

ROMNEY: Well, we`ll go through that process with Congress as to which
of the all the different the deductions and exemptions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LISA BROWN, MICHIGAN STATE REPRESENTATIVE: And finally, Mr. Speaker,
I`m flattered that you`re all so interested in my vagina, but no means no.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That statement got Michigan State Representative Lisa
Brown barred from speaking the next day on the floor of the Michigan House
of Representatives. The Michigan House speaker said in a statement that
Representative Brown, quote, "failed to maintain the decorum of the House
of Representatives."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: How can you legislate vaginas if you can`t say "vagina?"

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That was State Representative Brown this evening on the
steps of the state capital in Michigan, where she and other women members
of the Michigan House performed Eve Ensler`s award-winning play, "The
Vagina Monologues." The word "vagina" was said more than 100 times.

Joining me now for an exclusive interview, Tony Award-winning
playwright of "The Vagina Monologues," Eve Ensler, and the newest star of
that play, Michigan State Representative Lisa Brown. Eve, you have seen
"the Vagina Monologues" since -- I believe 1996 is when it premiered?

EVE ENSLER, PLAYWRIGHT: Yes.

O`DONNELL: You`ve seen it performed by some of the greatest actresses
of our time. You`ve seen it performed by students. You`ve seen it
performed around the world, in more countries than I think you can count.
What was the this performance like for you tonight?

ENSLER: You know, it was one of the most amazing performances I`ve
seen. And I think, in some ways, "The Vagina Monologues" was in its truest
form today, because it was not just about the art of it. It was truly
about the message and the reason for it. And to see representatives,
lawmakers, heads of Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, amazing actors come
together for the liberation of women, for women`s rights, in front of 5,000
people in Lansing, Michigan, I feel really good.

O`DONNELL: Lisa Brown, since 1996, we`ve come such a long way with
this, that it is hard to remember that when Eve`s play premiered, talking
about the vagina publicly, in any way, was kind of extraordinary. And
there was a real just kind of shock punch to the play, hearing actresses
say these words. And it`s easy, I think, for some of our audience tonight
who are in their 30s or 20s to not be able to even comprehend what that
world was like.

But that world came back to us in Michigan when you simply used that
word and suddenly you were banned. Suddenly, that world of you can`t say
that word was back. And that, for me, I think, Eve -- I join you in the
feeling that this is one of those really exciting performances tonight,
where you`re going up against the real banning of that word.

BROWN: Yes, yeah. It was incredible. And to this day, I didn`t say
anything wrong. It`s the anatomically correct terminology for the female
anatomy. I was speaking to a bill that was about abortion. So it was
germane to the legislation that we were debating. And, yeah, it`s just --
like I said, I don`t think I did anything wrong. I don`t know what
terminology somebody would prefer, but I think vagina is the right word to
use.

O`DONNELL: Now, Representative Brown, if using that one word on the
floor of the House gets you banned from speaking on the floor, what do you
think performing "the Vagina Monologues" on the steps of the capital is
going to get you?

BROWN: Well, there`s a little thing called free speech, so.

O`DONNELL: I don`t know about that in Michigan. That`s in doubt
right now, isn`t it?

BROWN: Yeah, a little bit, yes, it is. But we`re going to put that
to the test. So --

ENSLER: I think we took free speech back today.

BROWN: Yeah.

ENSLER: And I think to be there with 5,000 people who were completely
embracing the play, the word, the reason, it was a different Michigan
today. And I think there`s going to be a huge turnaround here.

O`DONNELL: Eve, I`ve seen your work performed by a variety of kinds
of performers. The last time you and I saw it performed the same time was
in a high school performance of one of your newer works. And it`s all
about -- it seems everything you`re doing is about empowerment, and
tonight`s performance seems to be one of those ultimate versions of
empowerment.

BROWN: Yes.

ENSLER: Well, I think -- I was saying to representative earlier, one
of the thing that moved me so much tonight is how many young women came up
to thank both of us for giving them voice, for allowing them to be
authentic, for allowing them to love their bodies, for allowing them to
feel agency over their bodies and their rights, to know that they have
choices, that what they decide to do with the reproductive decisions or
abortion decisions or whatever they decide is their choice. It`s their
body.

And I think just being in that place today, in that field of thousands
of people who were screaming "vagina," and having their voice, it was one
of the most thrilling times I`ve had in the almost 15 years of V-Day.

O`DONNELL: Lisa Brown, the -- have you seen "the Vagina Monologues"
performed before or had you read "the Vagina Monologues" before?

BROWN: I saw it years ago with my mom actually in New York. And I
remember sitting there -- and some of them, I was actually a little
embarrassed, to be sitting next to my mom and hearing some of those things.
And I think because of "the Vagina Monologues," we have all, as women, come
a long way.

O`DONNELL: And Eve, that embarrassment that Lisa Brown felt sitting
beside her mother in your audience was something you were, I think, hoping
to stimulate with the play, so that that embarrassment could be worked
through and eventually eliminated.

ENSLER: Exactly. You know, one of the things I feel so strongly
about is when you can say things, when you can own them, they exist. And
one of the things I discovered with "the Vagina Monologues" is so many
women had not only never said the word, they had never told anyone their
stories. They had never said, this happened to me; I was raped; I had a
good sexual experience; I had a very terrible sexual experience with a boy
and that changed my whole idea of myself.

And when they started to talk and they broke that silence, they
suddenly realized they had options and possibilities and they could connect
with their desire and they could have lives. Language is so important.
It`s the pathway to freedom. And when we name things, we claim them.

O`DONNELL: You know, Eve -- go ahead, Lisa.

BROWN: I was just going to say, I think for a woman to hear someone
else`s story, that wow, I am not the only one who`s experienced that, I
think that`s helpful too for a lot of women.

O`DONNELL: Eve, how about an autographed copy of "the Vagina
Monologues" that Lisa can give to the speaker of the Michigan House of
Representatives?

ENSLER: With pleasure. And how about we all organize a total demand
that she is reinstated with apology. I think that would be a really
excellent idea. And I`d like to put that out to everybody listening, to
write that in, that we would like her reinstatement with open apology.

O`DONNELL: Lisa, what do you expect to happen with the speaker on
this issue?

BROWN: You know, to this day, I still have not heard one word from
anyone in the Republican leadership. You know, I didn`t even find out I
was banned from them. I found out from my own leadership. So I never
heard from them that I was banned, why or for how long.

And we`re on break now for about a month for the summer. And we`ll
see what happens when we come back. I would love to hear from somebody.
I`ve read things in the paper, but not one person has contacted me.

O`DONNELL: And has the speaker issued a list of any other anatomical
words that you cannot use on the floor of the Michigan House?

BROWN: Not that I know of. And just to point out that "vagina" does
-- the word is in Michigan statute three different times. So if you can`t
say "vagina," we shouldn`t be legislating vaginas.

O`DONNELL: And Eve, this is such an interesting point, that it
already exists in Michigan law. It`s already something that has to be
discussed in certain very grim testimony that courts have to take. The
idea that this word alone used in a room of adults can somehow desecrate
that room, it just stuns me that we weren`t long past that in Michigan and
everywhere else.

ENSLER: I think we feel the same way. And I think it`s really
important. I think one of the reasons we did this today is to say, this is
not -- we don`t tolerate this. We`re way past that. And we`re going to
remain past that. We`re not going back. The genie`s out of the bottle.
The vaginas are here to stay.

O`DONNELL: That`s -- you know what, of all the last words we`ve had
on THE LAST WORD, vaginas are here to stay, I just might have to have that
as the crawl at the bottom of the screen throughout the rest of the show,
as we do here. Vaginas are here to stay, playwright Eve Ensler and
Michigan State Representative Lisa Brown, thank you both very much for
joining me

ENSLER: Thank you.

BROWN: Thank you so much.

O`DONNELL: Tomorrow night, David Maraniss will be here. He`s the
author of the new book, "Barack Obama, The Story." "THE ED SHOW" is up
next.

END

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