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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

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Guests: Ari Melber, E.J. Dionne, Keith Boykin, Alicia Menendez

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: Tonight, one of the presidential candidates
stepped up to a microphone to address the problem of gun violence in
America. Guess which one.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Keep in mind, in
politics, you have to endure a certain amount of spin.

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is not your
father`s Republican Party.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The president said that if
you`ve got a business, you didn`t build it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I surely had to have misheard something.

ROMNEY: He did build this business.

OBAMA: People omit entire sentences from a speech.

ROMNEY: They did build this business.

OBAMA: Taking my words about small business out of context --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was so very disappointed to hear the words
from President Obama`s Roanoke speech.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: We have never had a July like this.

DAVID AXELROD, OBAMA CAMPAIGHN: There`s no doubt that we`ve been
tough.

OBAMA: Everybody does it. I understand that. That -- those are the
games that are played.

TODD: It`s just different.

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Both candidates are being hurt.

AXELROD: I was concerned when I saw the initial ad.

NARRATOR: Mitt Romney has used every trick in the book.

How can we trust him to lead?

AXELROD: I`ve concluded that it`s not all that impactful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe taking a greater toll on Mitt Romney.

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: Mitt Romney is the big
government candidate?

STEVE SCHMIDT, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Michele Bachmann`s a fool.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: Our conversation today with Mitt Romney.

CLARENCE PAGE, CHICAGO TRIBUNE: The gun issue is a loser.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I will continue to fight to reduce gun violence.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: I haven`t heard any
discussions about the issue.

WILLIAMS: You have a problem with being able to buy 6,000 rounds of
ammunition off the Internet?

ROMNEY: We do have tough gun laws in Massachusetts. I support them.
I won`t chip away at them.

WILLIAMS: You said at the time, quote, "These guns are not made for
recreation or self-defense."

ROMNEY: I still believe that the Second Amendment is the right
course.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: Mitt Romney went to London today to be closer to his
$77,000 tax deduction, which is competing in the horse ballet section of
the Olympics, and the president of the United States went to New Orleans to
address the issue that has seized America`s attention.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I, like most Americans, believe that the Second Amendment
guarantees an individual the right to bear arms. But I also believe that a
lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers,
not in the hands of criminals, that they belong on the battlefield of war,
not on the streets of our cities.

I believe the majority of gun owners would agree that we should do
everything possible to prevent criminals and fugitives from purchasing
weapons, that we should check someone`s criminal record before they can
check out a gun seller, that a mentally unbalanced individual should not be
able to get his hands on a gun so easily.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: These steps shouldn`t be controversial. They should be common
sense.

So I`m going to continue to work with members of both parties and with
religious groups and with civic organizations to arrive at a consensus
around violence reduction.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Brian Williams caught up with Mitt Romney in London today,
and reminded him of the time not so long ago when Mitt Romney agreed with
President Obama about assault weapons.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: As governor, you signed an assault weapons ban in
Massachusetts. And you said at the time, quote, these guns are not made
for recreation or self-defense. They are instruments of destruction with
the sole purpose of hunting down and killing people. Do you still believe
that?

ROMNEY: Well, I actually signed a piece of legislation, as you
described, that banned assault weapons in our state. It was a continuation
of prior legislation, and it was backed both by the Second Amendment
advocates, like myself, and those that wanted to restrict gun rights,
because it was a compromise. Both sides got some things improved in the
laws, as they existed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That was Mitt Romney once again saying things that don`t
make any sense. Not one word of Mitt Romney`s answer about signing the
assault weapons ban in Massachusetts is can consistent with Mitt Romney`s
irresponsible position now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I still believe that the second amendment is the right course
to preserve and defend and don`t believe that new laws are going to make a
difference in this type of tragedy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Brian Williams pressed Mitt Romney on Romney`s self-
contradiction on assault weapons.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: On things, however, like Aurora, Colorado, do you see why
Americans get frustrated at politics? They can see and hear your words
from earlier in their career. People are hurting out there. Perhaps they
want to start a national conversation about whether an AR-15 belongs in the
hands of a citizen, whether a citizen should be able to buy 6,000 rounds
off the Internet. You see the argument?

ROMNEY: Well, this person shouldn`t have had any kinds of weapons and
bombs and other devices. And it was illegal for him to have many of those
things already, but he had them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Romney is lying, of course. All of the weapons and
ammunition that our most recent mass murderer used in that movie theater
were obtained legally. Completely legally. Romney had more to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: And so we can sometimes hope that just changing the law will
make all bad things go away. It won`t.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: There is no one who believes that changing the law will
make all bad things go away. Every law is violated by someone.

What we hope is that changing the law will make things better. Make
some bad things go away. Not perfection, just make things better. If the
Romney standard for changing a law is that that law then must make all bad
things go away to be successful, then we should have no laws.

We should have no stop signs, because people go through stop signs
sometimes. We should have no speed limits, because no one pays attention
to those anyway. We should have no laws against murder, because thousands
of people break that law every year.

We have not seen, in the television age, a presidential candidate who
more blithely says absolutely inane, meaningless sentences, as Mitt Romney
does, every day, in virtually every answer, and every speech. Mitt Romney
wasn`t finished.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Change in the heart of the American people may well be what`s
essential to improve the lots of the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: So, to reduce mass murder in America, we have to change
the heart of the American people?

This is not funny. It is not a minor thing, that a presidential
candidate with addresses the most important issue gripping his nation today
with utter, meaningless nonsense. Such is the bankruptcy of the Republican
Party that such a person can be their nominee for president of the United
States.

Joining me now are MSNBC`s Joy Reid and Jonathan Capehart.

Joy, the president was speaking to the Urban League tonight and going
straight into the territory that many people have been saying all week,
politicians shouldn`t go near. And what he was asking for is not what Mitt
Romney and the liars about weapons and ammunition control talk about, the
president was not asking for perfection. He was not asking to make all
things go away.

In fact, what he talked about, the final two words we heard from him
were simply the ambition to achieve violence reduction.

JOY REID, THEGRIO.COM: Yes, and it`s amazing.

Right even as we speak, Lawrence, our reporter at TheGrio.com who was
in Chicago is rewriting her piece. Because we had literally ordered a
piece about this issue, that the equivalent of a mass murder is taking
place something like every three weeks on the streets of Chicago, Illinois.
You have places like Miami and Philadelphia where gun violence, where
people shooting AK-47s in broad daylight, killing children, killing, you
know, innocent people who are just out in the streets, it`s happening every
day.

And no one talks about it. We sort of get shocked into action when
something horrific like what happened in Aurora takes place. But we forget
that gun violence is an ongoing plague for so many communities.

Well, President Obama waded right into that argument. He took that
head-on. He talked about the common sense fact that people are and need
the government to step in, in a sense, at least try to do something about
gun violence. We can`t eliminate all bad things, but surely there must be
something that society can do to stem the gun violence that`s happening,
not just in Colorado, but everywhere.

O`DONNELL: Jonathan Capehart, isn`t the argument that we`re hearing,
if we can even call it an argument from Mitt Romney and from others,
certainly the NRA and everybody who says that there`s no use doing this
because you won`t eliminate every -- you won`t stop every mass murder.
Well, you know, passing laws has never been about stopping every single
person who`s intent on breaking them and the president made that clear in
his speech tonight.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Right. As you said, his last
two words were "violence reduction."

And the president has the American people on his side. He alluded to
it in his speech and in the clip that you showed, but there`s a poll out
from Mayors Against Illegal Guns, and that`s the group that is co-chaired
by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who we all know, from the moment the aurora
tragedy happened, has been out-front, very vocal and very aggressive in
pushing both President Obama and Mitt Romney to say something, and do
something, about the gun violence happening in this country.

And in that poll, that was done by Frank Luntz, you know, Republican-
leaning pollster -- I have it right here, 87 percent of NRA members polled
said that they believe that guns should be out of the hands of criminals.
Seventy -- in the high 70 percent of those people who were polled said that
they believe in background checks and other things to make it more
difficult for people who would do lots of people harm, to keep guns out of
their hands.

So, you know, the president, you know, a big leadership moment tonight
by not only addressing Aurora, but as joy said, addressing the mayhem and
the carnage that is going on on America`s streets.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to Brian Williams asking Mitt Romney about
those 6,000 bullets that we`ve been hearing a lot about lately.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: As a practical matter, do you have a problem with being
able to buy 6,000 rounds of ammunition off the Internet?

ROMNEY: Well, I don`t know that I`m going to be able to find a way to
prevent people who want to provide harm from being able to purchase things
that could carry out that harm. What I want to do is find the people who
represent a danger to America, and find them and keep them from having the
capacity to use or buy things that could harm or hurt other people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joy Reid, am I being too tough, once again, I didn`t hear
a word that made any sense in response to Brian Williams` question.

REID: Yes, Lawrence, I think the word -- the term for that is word
salad. It`s a bunch of words strung together in a bowl and you can jumble
them up and it doesn`t mean anything. What would he do, specifically?
What is Mitt Romney proposing to do? Get into the hearts of the American
people, find those people who would do us harm.

It doesn`t even make sense. It`s not really an answer to the
question.

What it really means is that Mitt Romney is once again paralyzed in
the face of his true constituency, the far right. He understands that
Wayne LaPierre, the boss of the NRA, will not allow him to give the answer
to the question that the old Mitt Romney would have given, which is that
the old Mitt Romney said that assault weapons belong in the military and
shouldn`t be in the hands of anyone.

So now the new Mitt Romney has to conform. He has to put himself in
this little box that the NRA, that other members of the far-right have put
him in, so he can`t even really answer simple, straightforward questions.

O`DONNELL: Funny you should mention the NRA. Brian -- Brian asked
Mitt Romney about his fidelity to the NRA, his newfound fidelity to it.
Let`s listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: You said a few years back, quote, I don`t line up with the
NRA. Is that still true?

ROMNEY: Well, on every single issue, there are differences between
myself and the NRA. On many issues, we share a common commitment to the
Second Amendment and the right of people to bear arms. But I`m sure from
time to time, there`ll be issues where they and I might part. I don`t have
one for you right now.

But their agenda`s not entirely identical with my own. I don`t know
that I line up 100 percent with almost anybody.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Jonathan Capehart, classic Romney. He`s sure he disagrees
with the NRA about something, but "I don`t have one for you right now."

CAPEHART: Right, I was going to say, you know, he just threw some
croutons on that word salad that Joy was talking about. Again, that clip
that you just showed, you know, just reiterates or sort of verifies what
joy just said a moment ago, which is, Mitt Romney is still enthralled to
the conservative base of this party, that he can`t say what the old Mitt
Romney would have said in response to that question.

You know, I haven`t seen the entire interview, but it would be great
to know if Brian asked a follow-up. You know, hey, just name one thing.
One thing that you, where you and the NRA differ. I doubt he would have
gotten the answer. And in fact, I doubt Brian asked that question, knowing
fully well that Mitt Romney just would not answer it.

O`DONNELL: Well, Brian`s working with a time limit and he has to race
through a bunch of things. He did a great job and got us an awful lot of
stuff.

Jonathan, I noticed that you tweeted right before the show tonight
that you forgot something for the show. And I`m staring at you on the
monitor and I`m just trying to guess what that is. I just can`t figure
out, is something -- what`s -- what might it be?

CAPEHART: It`s a little drafty in here, but I -- maybe you can see
it.

REID: Dress casual?

O`DONNELL: I`m sure the people on Twitter have figured it out.

Joy Reid and Jonathan Capehart, thank you both for joining me tonight.

REID: Thanks, Lawrence.

CAPEHART: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, the senate passed a tax increase today. It
actually did. A tax increase on top income earners. But we`re still
moving closer to going off the fiscal cliff on New Year`s Eve.

And in the "Rewrite" tonight, the confused ramblings of Bill O`Reilly
on gun control. He claims gun laws do no good. Then Bill O`Reilly
proposes a new gun law. Bill O`Reilly`s in the "Rewrite."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: It was a miraculous day in the Senate today. The Senate
actually voted to increase taxes on top income earners today. The first
time they`ve done that since 1993.

But the House Republican reaction is still moving us one step closer
to going off the cliff. And Bill O`Reilly is back in the "Rewrite"
tonight. First, he attacks what he calls the loony left, those are his
words, for advocating gun control. And then Bill O`Reilly proposes more
gun control. Does that mean O`Reilly is the loony left? I`ll leave it to
you to decide.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: If you are 18 years old, the United States Senate did
something today that it has never done in your lifetime. It passed an
increase in taxes on the top tax bracket, and it did it this afternoon by a
simple majority vote. Republicans dropped the procedural 60-vote hurdle in
the Senate for this particular vote because they wanted to see, they wanted
to dare Democrats, see how many of them were willing to vote for a tax
increase on incomes over $250,000.

Fifty-one Democrats voted for it. That`s exactly the number that
voted for the last time they voted for it, in 1993. Only two Democrats
voted against it in 1993, more voted against it than today. But the bill,
of course, that was voted on today has absolutely no chance of becoming
law, because the House of Representatives will ignore it. And if the House
of Representatives continues to ignore it for the rest of the year, you
know what that means on New Year`s Eve.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

O`DONNELL: After the Senate vote today, Senator Patty Murray, known
on this program as Senator Thelma, said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I want you to give a big round --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: I guess not exactly that. Let`s see, Senator Murray, I`ll
tell you what senator Murray said. She said -- oh, no we have it, I`m
told. Now, let me just get this straight with the control room. Are we
now going to run Senator Thelma or Barack Obama?

Senator Thelma. Here she goes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. PATTY MURRAY (D), WASHINGTON: There is one man standing at the
wheel as we careen towards the fiscal cliff, and that is John Boehner.

He can either pass this bill, which delivers certainty to middle class
taxpayers and, by the way, is a tremendous step towards addressing
sequestration, or he can step on the gas, head towards that fiscal cliff,
and strap the American people, just like a dog we know, to the top of his
car.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: President Obama now, time for President Obama, had this to
say about the Democrats` tax bill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: So, Republicans in Congress, they`ve decided, apparently, that
they`re not going to let this bill pass. Despite the fact that 98 percent
of Americans make $250,000 a year or less, so we can provide 98 percent of
Americans certainty that their taxes would not go up, despite the fact that
this would be good for the economy and investment climate, they`ve decided
to hold middle class tax cuts hostage, until we also agree to spend another
$1 trillion on tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, folks who
don`t need tax breaks, and frankly, many of them aren`t even asking for
them.

Now, Governor Romney doesn`t just approve of this strategy. He wants
to import this into the White House.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now is Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and an MSNBC contributor. He`s the
former chief economist to Vice President Biden.

Jared, you have to forgive me for getting all nostalgic here, watching
that 51 votes for a tax increase on the top earners in the Senate today.
I`ll never forget that vote around this time of year, actually, in 1993.

It was much tenser. It actually became law. And the economy soared
after that particular tax increase, but it seems the Republican
intransigence, as Patty Murray has identified it, is still going to send us
on New Year`s Eve off the cliff and that may be the only way that we get
sensible tax policy.

JARED BERNSTEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I agree with you. And I was also
feeling a sense of almost -- well, elation is too strong a word, because we
know where this is going, given the dysfunction in the house. But the idea
that a majority in the Senate, and we didn`t have to -- because this was
not a procedural vote, the Republicans put aside the filibuster on this
one, we actually had a majority vote in the Senate to do something smart
today, which was to add some revenues to our budget situation, so we can
achieve a kind of sustainable path that we simply can`t do on spending cuts
alone.

Now, you know, we`re back to "Alice in Wonderland" very quickly,
because Mitch McConnell himself said, this is meaningless, it`s just
procedural, the House isn`t going to talk it up. We know that`s true. But
there was a tiny sliver of light there.

And I think when you couple that with your points about Patty Murray`s
strategy, which is one that I very much endorse -- I don`t love it, but I
endorse it. I think it`s the right way to go. Maybe there`s some light on
the other side of this cliff, if you`ll excuse the metaphors.

O`DONNELL: And, Jared, I just want to clarify the technical point of
what was actually voted on today, because I`ve kind of lazily described it
as a vote for a tax increase.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

O`DONNELL: But, technically, technically, where we are now in law,
it`s different. Since the law is currently written that on January 1st,
all tax rates will go up, what the Democrats actually voted for today was a
tax reduction for all -- starting on January 1st, for all of the rates
below the top tax rates. And they simply did not vote for a tax reduction
on the top rates.

And so, Claire McCaskill and some of the Democrats that the
Republicans wanted to dare into casting that vote can very honestly claim
what they voted for today was actually a tax cut.

BERNSTEIN: Right. And, in fact, interestingly, and the president
alluded to this, 98 percent of households would benefit from that tax cut,
and that`s something that, of course, everyone agrees on. The squabble is,
of course, over the 2 percent.

But you`re absolutely right. And this is the reason why the logic of
going over the fiscal cliff makes sense, because once you go over the
cliff, taxes reset to where they were back before the Bush tax cuts took
place in 2001. At that point, all the Grover Norquist and the pledge
silliness is off the table.

At that point, members of Congress can vote for a very significant tax
cut to reach the middle class, like the Senate did today, and simply leave
the upper income rates reset where they are. That represents, as the
president said, $1 trillion of needed revenue over the next ten years, on
the one group who`s benefited from growth in recent years.

O`DONNELL: I want to listen to the president doing his part in making
it very clear that the Democrats are willing to go off the cliff. This is
really scaring and shaking the Republicans, but the president`s doing it
now in local interviews on the campaign trail.

Let`s listen to how it goes in this interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Will you veto any legislation that extends all of the Bush
tax cuts, even to what you call the wealthy?

OBAMA: Yes. And the reason is, we can`t afford it. It would not
make sense for us to give folks like me or Mr. Romney or Mr. Buffett
another $1 trillion in tax cuts that we don`t need.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And, Jared, as you know, this strongly empowers the
Democrats in the Congress. The president saying, look, even if they did
pass it, which they can`t, without the Democratic votes, he would veto it.
And so this showdown is just getting closer and closer every day.

BERNSTEIN: The thing that I took from today`s vote and from the kind
of attitude you just heard from the president is that the Democrats have
real spine here. And it`s something, frankly, we haven`t always seen
enough of.

The 51 votes today, to allow those top rates to increase on the
$250,000 plus group, that 2 percent at the top, along with the White
House`s consistent stance on this, Patty Murray and her stance, and I very
much applaud the attention that you`ve been bringing to that, Lawrence,
that sounds to me like something that is very much engrained in their
strategy now, and frankly, the Republicans, I believe, are starting to
understand that.

O`DONNELL: Yes. And Democrats, and the president, have gotten a lot
of criticism over the years for not hanging tough. They are hanging tough
on this and they are doing it for very, very sound policy reasons.

Jared Bernstein, thank you for joining me tonight in our "Off the
Cliff!" segment for tonight. Thanks, Jared.

BERNSTEIN: Sure.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Mitt Romney didn`t go to London today to face
questions about his income taxes, but Brian Williams was there to ask him
why he`s not releasing his tax returns.

And sometimes, Bill O`Reilly can be, quote, "so dumb it hurts." Those
are Bill`s words, not mine. And Bill O`Reilly is in the "Rewrite" tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: We have more submissions for THE LAST WORD Off the Cliff
campaign button. Brian Walter from Chicago sent us this button with
television`s most famous cliff on it. Cheers to Brian Walter.

Here`s a design by Steve Harris of New York City. And this one came
to us via Twitter from Cory Strawn of Holland, Michigan.

I think I might have to pick a new campaign button. I think a lot of
your designs are better than the one that we came up with here. So I think
next week, I may just pick one of the new ones to be the new official Off
the Cliff campaign button for THE LAST WORD.

Coming up, Brian Williams had some taxing questions for Mitt Romney
today about his still-secret tax returns. And Bill O`Reilly is talking in
circles this week about gun control. First he`s against it, of course,
then, surprisingly, he`s for it. Then he says only the loony left wants
more gun control. And then he proposes more gun control.

So if there is a loony left, Bill O`Reilly might now be its only
member. Bill O`Reilly in the Rewrite.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: In the Spotlight tonight, taxing questions. Mitt Romney`s
secret tax returns are still following him everywhere he goes. Brian
Williams asked about those tax returns today in London.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Can you say that your decision is
firm? That you will not do a walk-back between now and the convention, now
and the fall election, that there will be no returns, more returns released
by Mitt Romney?

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m following the same
precedent that was put in place by John McCain. Two years -- and by the
way, hundreds of pages of returns for the Democrat operatives to go through
and to twist and to distort and to turn in different directions and try to
make a big deal out of.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now, "Washington Post" opinion writer and MSNBC
political analyst, E.J. Dionne, author of the new book "Our Divided
Political Heart," and Ari Melber, a correspondent for "the Nation" and an
MSNBC contributor.

E.J., the Romney reason now for not releasing tax returns is actually
that, well, you know, there`s stuff in there that the other side will use,
which is actually the exact reason why we want tax returns released, is to
check to see if there are things in there that are questionable. That is
how this tradition got started.

E.J. DIONNE, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I think you studied logic in
college, Lawrence. And by the way, thanks for what you`re doing on gun
sanity. I really appreciate it.

If you look at what Romney is saying, he`s saying, I don`t want the
Democrats to get hold of this because they will make something of it, which
says there`s something explosive in these tax returns. I think he`s got a
problem. If there weren`t questions about his foreign accounts, and if he
weren`t pushing the sort of tax policies in the campaign that he benefits
from, and if he weren`t very different from everyone else in his economic
status, then maybe his tax returns wouldn`t be an issue.

But guess what, he`s got every one of those problems. And that`s why
this issue just won`t go away. And I don`t think he`ll be able to sit on
them. And if he does sit on them, they`ll stay an issue right until the
end of the campaign.

O`DONNELL: And Brian Williams` follow-up question on this was
actually all the more pointed after Mitt Romney`s first answer. Let`s
listen to that one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: People hear he`s not going to release the rest of his
returns, and they wonder why. They wonder, is there a year there where he
paid no taxes? They wonder about expensive horses and houses and what have
you. So I`ll ask another way, what is it that is preventing you from
releasing the rest of your returns?

ROMNEY: Well, one, I`ve released all the information about my
financial holdings that`s required by law. And then in addition, beyond
the law, have released, or will finally release when the last year is
complete, two years of full returns. And what we`ve noted is our Democrat
friends take what`s there, twist it, distort it, dishonestly use it in
attack ads.

I just don`t want to give them more material than is required.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Ari, that was an easy one to answer in the middle of that
question. And that is, have you ever paid absolutely no taxes. He could
have easily said to that one point, since the campaign`s already attempted
to address it, no, there`s no return on which I paid no income taxes. But
we`re left with complete ignorance at the end of that answer.

ARI MELBER, "THE NATION": We are. And his problem here is both
political and sustentative. Politically, it is hard in these campaigns,
where you have an issue where the journalistic interest overlaps with your
opponent`s interest. He is right that Democrats will pore over these
things. That`s what happened in years past.

But if you pay your taxes and nothing in these returns goes beyond the
numbers that are already out there, which, as people know, he has a lot of
money, the Democrats won`t have much. The journalists pore over it looking
for similar things, because they want to tell the public more about this
candidate`s conduct.

If there`s something in there that the journalists can report and the
opponents can seize on, then he`s got a bigger problem. And that`s what it
seems like, given the attitude here.

And then the second part substantively is what we do know is really
bad. We know that there is something on the order of 50 million dollars in
the tax-sheltered retirement account. And we know that under the law, even
at the maximum level, if you use employer-based contributions, you can only
get up to 30,000 dollars a year.

I don`t care how good you are at investing, if you go from 30K a year
up to tens of millions of dollars, there`s something funny going on.
That`s what the "Bloomberg News" investigations are reported. Given what
little he has released, he`s got to give us an answer to how he went from
30K a year to 50 million dollars. And there`s a lot of tax sheltering
there going on if he used preferred shares of Bain and other sort of
tricks.

O`DONNELL: E.J. Dionne, your colleague at the "Washington Post"
Richard Cohen made a great point about this particular Romney stance. He
says, "by and large, the tax filings tell you nothing you don`t already
know, but the refusal to release them is a different matter. In Romney`s
case, this is his one and only stand on principle, an odd example of
political bravery."

And then Richard Cohen goes on to list all the other things that he`s
flipped on. But E.J., it is quite striking that the one unmovable stance
he has is you are not allowed to see my money.

DIONNE: It is. Richard`s column is great, and I think he got it
exactly right. And you know, I had the reaction the first couple of weeks
ago when he talked about this, and the very adamance in which he says I`m
never going to release them -- nothing is going to set off journalists
more, nothing is going to set off Democrats more. But what`s really
interesting is it set off a lot of Republicans.

There are an awful lot of Republicans who have gone out there and
said, release them. I don`t know if any of them want them out before the
convention so they can dump him, I doubt that. But it`s really remarkable
how many Republicans have said, you know, this position won`t hold.

O`DONNELL: Well, he`s hoping that his foreign trip makes everyone
forget about it. But unfortunately for him, Brian Williams was in London.
E.J. Dionne and Ari Melber, thank you both for joining me tonight.

MELBER: Thanks, Lawrence.

DIONNE: Good to be with you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, over a billion dollars will be spent on this
election. None of it will be spent to get my vote, because I don`t vote in
a battleground state. And much more importantly, I am not undecided.
Polling indicates the undecided don`t like what they see in this campaign
so far, but they really, really don`t like Mitt Romney. That`s coming up.

And next in the Rewrite, Bill O`Reilly loves to talk about the loony
left. But his confusion about gun control this week has even Bill O`Reilly
proposing new gun control laws, even though he says only the loony left
wants more gun control. Of course it doesn`t make sense. This is Bill
O`Reilly we`re talking about.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: In tonight`s Rewrite, even when Bill O`Reilly is leaning
in the right direction, he can still be so dumb it hurts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: So dumb it hurts.

So dumb it hurts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Here he is on Monday making the case that gun laws don`t
do any good at all.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O`REILLY: New York. Well, it has the fourth toughest gun law in the
country. Sounds good, doesn`t it? Ready? 2011, nearly 4,000 guns were
confiscated by New York City cops, just in the city, 4,000 guns. Yeah,
those tough gun laws, they`re working great, aren`t they?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Only Bill O`Reilly could give an example of how effective
a law is while claiming it`s ineffective. New York City cops seizing 4,000
guns that violate New York laws is an example of gun laws working. It`s an
example of taking guns out of the hands of people who are not legally
allowed to have those guns.

Without New York`s gun laws, those people would still have those guns
in their pockets. So Bill just gave 4,000 examples of New York`s gun laws
working, thinking that they were examples of the laws not working. Talk
about so dumb it hurts.

On Tuesday, Bill said this --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O`REILLY: The far left is trying to use the Colorado movie massacre
to promote gun control.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Well, I guess that means me, although I`m personally more
concerned with ammunition control than gun control. The guns being useless
without ammunition. In another one of those so dumb it hurts moments,
after Bill O`Reilly said, the far left is trying to use the Colorado movie
massacre to promote gun control, exactly two sentences after he said that,
Bill O`Reilly said this --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O`REILLY: It also makes sense for Congress to pass a new law that
requires the sale of all heavy weapons to be reported to the FBI.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: So there`s Bill O`Reilly, proposing a new gun control law,
two sentences after accusing the far left of trying to promote gun control.
The truth is, O`Reilly is actually smarter than this. At least a little
bit smarter than this. He knows exactly what he`s doing.

He is a master manipulator of his audience. He has to say these
things to his right-wing audience.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O`REILLY: The far left is trying to use the Colorado movie massacre
to promote gun control.

Predictably, far-left ideologues are demagoguing the mass murder in
Colorado.

Why do the far-left loons want to take guns away from law-abiding
citizens who want protection?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: O`Reilly made each one of those statements before then
advocating his own new gun control idea, to report the sale of all heavy
weapons to the FBI. O`Reilly believes in more gun control. We know that
now. O`Reilly thinks the National Rifle Association position of unlimited
guns and ammunition is unreasonable. But in order to present O`Reilly`s
gun control idea to his right-wing audience, he has to, first of all, talk
about far-left loons, so that O`Reilly can then sneak his little gun
control idea into his show without sounding like a far-left loon to the
far-right loons who watch his show.

This is when watching O`Reilly is really the most fun, when he`s
trying to make a semi-reasonable or reasonable suggestion that he know his
audience isn`t going to like. He loads his rhetoric up with far-left loon
stuff, and then suggests something that Republicans and the NRA would label
as far-left lunacy, if anyone else said it.

O`Reilly is terrible with facts, of course, so his objection to our
latest mass murderer being able to buy 6,000 rounds of ammunition online
came out this way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O`REILLY: The kid bought 60,000 rounds and no federal agency knew
about it.

Are you kidding me?!

If the FBI is alert that somebody`s buying 60,000 heavy-duty rounds,
they`re going to check it out. Say this guy had bought 60,000 rounds in
Colorado, which he did, and the FBI in Denver got wind of that, they would
have been watching him. All right? This just makes common sense.

(CROSS TALK)

O`DONNELL: Bill`s right. It`s not an intrusion on gun rights. But
Bill O`Reilly`s Republican party thinks it is. But tonight is not the
night to be picky about O`Reilly getting the number of bullets wrong in our
latest mass murder story.

Tonight is the night to welcome Bill O`Reilly to the ranks of the far-
left loons who want more gun and ammunition control.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O`REILLY: Here`s how crazy this is. If you take a flight lesson, the
feds get a heads up. But you can buy a machine gun and they don`t know.
That`s so dumb it hurts. That`s so dumb it hurts. That`s so dumb it
hurts.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: With 104 days to go before the election, Team Obama and
Team Romney are on their way to spending over a billion dollars in a fight
over an ever-shrinking group of the American electorate, the only group
that matters, the undecideds. And the undecideds don`t like what they see.

NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" pollsters find President Obama with a
29 percent favorability rating among undecideds; 42 percent of the
undecideds view the president unfavorably. Mitt Romney`s favorability
rating with undecideds is about half of President Obama`s. Just 16 percent
of undecideds have a favorable view of Romney; 44 percent have an
unfavorable view of Romney.

Joining me now, Keith Boykin, BET.com columnist and former Clinton
White House aide, and Alicia Menendez of HuffPostLive. Keith, this
favorability rating we`re seeing among the undecideds with Mitt Romney is
comparable in polling only to Dick Cheney`s favorability rating when he --
truly, when he was leaving office, Cheney had a 13, which is about as low
as you can find in polling.

You just need your family and your extended family to get to 13. I
mean, how -- is there any way Romney can get these undecided if the they
don`t like him so much?

KEITH BOYKIN, BET.COM: Yes, there is, but he`s not willing to do it.
There`s a number in the poll, 67 percent of people in the poll like
President Obama personally, but only 47 percent like Mitt Romney
personally. In order for Romney to connect, he`s got to talk about his
experiences. He`s got to talk about his faith as a Mormon. He`s got to
talk about his experiences as a business leader at Bain. He`s got to talk
about his experience at the Olympics.

He`s got to talk about all the things he doesn`t want to talk about,
because those are the things that he`s been hiding from us, as the American
people have been asking these questions. So he`s in this tough position.
He doesn`t want to disclose anything, but that`s exactly what he needs to
do in order to communicate to the public.

O`DONNELL: And Alicia, as we`ve talked about before, with the Latino
vote, there is a gap that unless something happens with it, there doesn`t
seem to be math that shows how Romney can win. And that is the same NBC
News/"Wall Street Journal" poll has President Obama leading 67 to 23 among
Latino voters. What might change those numbers between now and election
day?

ALICIA MENENDEZ, HUFFPOSTLIVE: I don`t think anything changes those
numbers for the better for Romney, even as he tries to soften his language
on immigration. Hispanic voters remember all of the things that he said in
the primary about self-deportation, about vetoing the Dream Act. In
addition to that, you look at the polling, one of the most appealing things
for Hispanic voters about President Obama is the way he talks about middle
class issues, about basic economic issues.

The one game changer for Obama could be them registering a large
number of these unregistered voters. In Florida alone, 1.4 million
unregistered, potentially eligible Latino voters. That`s five times his
win margin from 2008. So they do an aggressive registration program there,
that could make this spread even larger.

O`DONNELL: And Keith, as we know, the Republicans have an aggressive
voter suppression move going on through these voter I.D. laws. That seems
to be what they`re betting on to deal with things like this Latino vote
margin.

BOYKIN: Well, yeah. It seems like they`re not really trying to get
people to like Mitt Romney. Because the vote for Mitt Romney is
overwhelmingly anti-Obama, not pro-Romney. Whereas the vote for Obama is
pretty much pro-Obama. They`re not voting against Mitt Romney.

But if you look at what people were saying, what the Republicans
themselves were saying about Mitt Romney, it`s understandable. I mean,
Newt Gingrich called him a liar. Michele Bachmann said he was a chameleon.
Jon Huntsman said he was a perfectly lubricated weather vane. And Ann
Coulter said,, if we run with him, we`re going to lose.

The Republicans themselves don`t like him. Why would they expect
independents or anyone else to like him? They`re trying to sell something
nobody really wants.

O`DONNELL: Keith Boykin and Alicia Menendez get tonight`s LAST WORD.
Thanks for joining me tonight.

MENENDEZ: Thank you.

BOYKIN: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: "THE ED SHOW" is up next.

END

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