updated 8/21/2012 12:05:50 PM ET 2012-08-21T16:05:50

Guests: Krystal Ball, Joy Reid, Karen Finney, Steve Kornacki, Cecile Richards, Michelle Goldberg, Goldie Taylor, Scott Helman


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: And so tonight, a crazy Republican
congressman has made it even more difficult for Mitt Romney to have a crazy
Republican congressman as his running mate.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. TODD AKIN (R), MISSOURI: The punishment ought to be in the
rapist and not attacking the child.

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: Todd Akin throws the Missouri Senate race
into chaos.

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC HOST: The Republican Party now has a Todd Akin
problem.

WAGNER: With incendiary comments about rape and abortion.

MITCHELL: So-called legitimate rape.

TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Legitimate rape.

AKIN: If it`s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to shut
this thing down.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: This right wing assault on women.

WAGNER: A lot happening today.

MATTHEWS: This caveman view of the sexes.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: His views expressed
were offensive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Outrageous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Biologically stupid.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Appalling.

OBAMA: Rape is rape.

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: This created a huge problem
for the Romney campaign.

CHRIS JANSING, NBC NKEWS: Paul Ryan is being forced to defend his own
record.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is no daylight between Paul Ryan`s views
and Todd Akin`s views.

MARTIN BASHIR, MSNBC HOST: Last year, Paul Ryan --

MATTHEWS: This personhood amendment.

BASHIR: No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Paul Ryan was a cosponsor of that.

BASHIR: He joined with Mr. Akin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Their ticket suffers from pathological hypocrisy.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe that abortion
should be safe and legal in this country.

Do I believe the Supreme Court should overturn Roe v. Wade? Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what they believe is women don`t have a
right to their own bodies.

ROMNEY: My presidency will be a pro-life presidency.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m just not for
federal funding of abortions.

ROMNEY: Planned Parenthood, we`re going to get rid of that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s not just Paul Ryan and it`s not just Todd
Akin.

KRYSTAL BALL, MSNBC HOST: We had the debate about birth control.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They put this on their agenda.

BALL: And the transvaginal probe debate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They want to cut preventative care.

BALL: Rush Limbaugh`s comments about Sandra Fluke.

ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: Women have a right to
equality.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Women --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Women --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Women --

WAGNER: Women know what`s going on.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: With 78 days to go until the presidential election, a
crazy Republican congressman -- no, not the one who`s on the ticket with
Mitt Romney, but another one -- scared every one in America who knows where
babies come from. But even the political insanity of Congressman Todd
Akin, as well as the actual insanity of Congressman Todd Akin, even all of
that was not enough to bury the story of Mitt Romney`s secret tax returns
for even one day.

Today, President Obama made an unscheduled appearance in the White
House briefing room, where he was asked about the secret tax returns.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The first disclosure, the one year of tax returns that they
disclosed indicated that, you know, he used Swiss bank accounts, for
example. Well, that may be perfectly legal, but I suspect if you ask the
average American, do you have one? And is that part of how you manage your
tax obligations, they would say no. They would find that relevant
information.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: As Maureen Dowd pointed out yesterday in "The New York
Times," Paul Ryan believes there is something called forcible rape -- which
is somehow different from, and more serious than, rape. A right-wing
fanatic running for Claire McCaskill`s Senate seat in Missouri got into
trouble for the same idea. What he calls "legitimate rape."

He then went on to explain his understanding of the science of rape.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AKIN: So a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut
that whole thing down. But let`s assume that maybe that didn`t work or
something. You know, I think there should be some punishment, but the
punishment ought to be in the rapist and not attacking the child.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: President Obama was asked about that today too, and he
couldn`t seem to comprehend what Paul Ryan and Todd Akin have in mind when
they talk about forcible rape and legitimate rape.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Rape is rape. And the idea that we should be parsing and
qualifying and, uh, slicing what types of rape we`re talking about doesn`t
make sense to the American people. And certainly doesn`t make sense to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The president then turned to what congressman Akin`s
madness means for Mitt Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Although these particular comments have led Governor Romney
and other Republicans to distance themselves, I think the underlying notion
that we should be making decisions on behalf of women for their health care
decisions, or qualifying forcible rape versus non-forcible rape, I think
those are broader issues, and that is a significant difference in approach
between me and the other party.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: In the last presidential campaign, Mitt Romney proclaimed
himself to be in the Akin camp, opposing abortion, even in cases of rape.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I would welcome a circumstance where there was such a
consensus in this country that we said, we don`t want to have abortion in
this country, at all, period. That would be wonderful. I would be
delighted -- let me say it. I`d be delighted to sign that bill.

But that`s not where we are. That`s not where America is today.
Where America is, is ready to overturn Roe v. Wade and turn to the states
that authority. But if the Congress got there, we had that kind of
consensus in that country, terrific.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Mitt Romney pretended to be outraged by Akin`s remarks
today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: His comments about rape were deeply offensive. And I can`t
defend what he said. I can`t defend him.

REPORTER: Do you think for the benefit of the party, sir, he should
drop out?

ROMNEY: Well, the thing he should consider is what`s in the best
interests of the things he believes most deeply, what will help the country
at this critical time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Other Republicans are urging Akin to leave the race,
including Paul Ryan, who called Akin personally.

Also urging Akin to drop out, FOX News` Sean Hannity, the conservative
"National Review", Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus, Senate
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senator Scott Brown, Senator John Cornyn,
who is chairman of the Senate -- Republican Senate Campaign Committee, Karl
Rove, backed by super PAC Crossroads GPS says it will not support Akin`s
candidacy, financially, nor will Tea Party Express or Tea Party Nation.

Here is what Todd Akin has to say to all of them.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

AKIN: I was told that there is a decision, has to be made by 5:00
tomorrow, but I was calling you and letting you know that I`m announcing
today, that we`re going to stay in.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: A national poll conducted earlier this month shows that
among female registered voters, President Obama leads Mitt Romney by nine
points, 53 to 44 percent.

Joining me now, MSNBC`s Krystal Ball and Joy Reid, and the president
of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Cecile Richards.

Let`s listen to what Mitt Romney told Mike Huckabee about personhood.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE HUCKABEE, FOX NEWS: Would you have supported the constitutional
amendment that would have established the definition of life at conception?

ROMNEY: Absolutely.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Cecile Richards, that puts him very clearly in the
position of saying that he is opposed to abortion in cases of rape or
incest.

CECILE RICHARDS, PLANNED PARENTHOOD ACTION FUND: Look, I think that
this whole thing has been so disturbing with Mr. Akin. What I think folks
are forgetting is that he`s actually a sitting member of Congress. And
what we`ve seen this entire year is a Congress that is actually willing to
pass any bill they can, to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood, for
cancer screenings, opposing birth control.

And frankly, that`s been the position of this Republican ticket, that
we have candidates for office now who are pledging to end access to family
planning, to birth control, to overturning roe versus wade, and I think
that`s why this is causing such a storm, is that Mr. Akin, I know a lot of
folks want to get him out of the race, because he`s a drag, perhaps, on the
party. But let`s face it -- he and a lot of folks like him are now in the
United States Congress voting on issues that are impacting women`s access
to health care.

O`DONNELL: And Paul Ryan votes just like him.

Let`s look at this statement that the Romney campaign put out today,
saying, Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin`s
statement and a Romney/Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in
instances of rape.

Joey Reid, that is in direct contradiction to what we just heard Mitt
Romney say.

JOY REID, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, absolutely. And it`s in direct
contradiction to Paul Ryan`s history, in which he has partnered with the
same guy, Todd Akin, to pass and to push bills that would limit abortion,
including HR-3, which as you well know, mean that it was like a third thing
that Congress did. So the House of Representatives came in.

They have done something like 67 abortion-related bills. One of these
bills that was sponsored, co-sponsored by Paul Ryan and Todd Akin got 251
votes in the House.

You want to call Todd Akin fringe? He is not fringe. He is now
mainstream of the Republican Party.

And I want to know what it is that Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney differ
with him about? What specific thing did he say that they disagree about?
Because Paul Ryan has essentially the same beliefs on abortion and Mitt
Romney has jumped into the clown car. He`s going with this fringe of the
party and trying to drive that car.

So what do they disagree with? I`m not clear about that.

O`DONNELL: Krystal, Todd Akin seems to be hanging in there. He`s
already sent out a fund-raising plea, saying "I`m in this race to win, we
need a conservative Senate, help me defeat Claire -- Claire McCaskill, that
means -- by donating. He thinks he can raise money on this."

BALL: The Machiavellian political strategist in me wants to urge a
bunch on Democrats to contribute to his campaign, because having him in
there, as we know, Claire McCaskill actually spent money to have him be the
Senate nominee, because he seemed like sort of a crazy person who would say
these sorts of things, and then the there he goes saying them. So that
strategist in me wants to urge Democrats to contribute to his campaign. I
wouldn`t actually do that.

But the broader point here, as Joy was making, this is the default
position of the Republican Party right now. And let`s just remind people,
when we`re talking about personhood amendments, like what was on the ballot
in Mississippi and was defeated handily, that is giving the rights of a
person to a fertilized egg, and it will not surprise you to learn that
while it is mainstream public opinion within the Republican house caucus,
it is a fringe belief that that should happen within the American public.

And there`s a broader pattern here, where Republicans cannot actually
talk about where they stand, not just on personhood, not just on forcible
rape, but when you look at something like Medicare vouchers, privatizing
Social Security, raising taxes on the poor to finance another tax cut for
the rich. These are positions that Republicans cannot actually talk about,
because the American people finds it wildly insane and unpopular, OK?

So that`s part of the problem here, is whenever anyone like Todd Akin
sort of gives the game away, by actually saying something close to what
they believe, they have to run away from it, because the American people
are not in line with where they are.

O`DONNELL: Yes, Claire McCaskill thought that Todd Akin was the
person she wanted to run against. She spent some money on ads early during
the Republican primary. Her ads against Akin saying he was, quote, "too
conservative," and most political observers thought that was her attempt to
get conservative voters to turn out for Akin.

But Cecile Richards, she has been running behind, behind Congressman
Akin in Missouri, which I think shows people, maybe some of whom didn`t
realize it before tonight, just what someone like Claire McCaskill is up
against in a state like Missouri and what you and Planned Parenthood are up
against around the country in states like Missouri and elsewhere.

RICHARDS: Well, look, I think, Lawrence, that women are very, are
beginning to focus on this election. I think as you showed earlier, it is
the gender gap that is -- it`s large and I think it`s going to continue to
grow.

And because of things like this, whether it`s this or the more than
thousand bills that were proposed either in Congress or in state
legislatures to end women`s access to basic health care in this country, I
think what we`re seeing, and I think the personhood idea that Mr. Romney
supports is one good example, is the danger of politicians basically
playing politicians playing politics with women`s health care access in
this country.

Women don`t think these are laughing matters, and I think as they
begin to focus on this election, it`s going to make it much tougher for the
politicians who have spent all of their time focusing on ways to eliminate
access to basic health care. Not only safe and legal abortion, but
frankly, birth control as well.

O`DONNELL: Cecile Richards, Krystal Ball and Joy Reid -- thank you
all for joining me tonight.

BALL: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Paul Ryan, who agrees with Todd Akin about
their being such a thing as legitimate rape was first to turn on Akin
today, but they`ve worked closely together on this issue in the past.
Karen Finney and Steve Kornacki will join me with the Ryan/Akin connection.

And as we`ve seen, today`s earthquake in Republican Party politics was
not enough to make everyone forget about the secret Romney tax returns.
Romney actually had the audacity to make a joke about his secret tax
returns today.

And in the "Rewrite" tonight, what America and especially liberals owe
Senator Claire McCaskill, the women who is trying to prevent Todd Akin from
becoming a United States senator.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Paul Ryan was forced today to agree that the Romney/Ryan
administration would not oppose abortion in cases of rape. Paul Ryan`s
legislative alliance with Todd Akin is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AKIN: Just as slavery is fundamentally un-American, so, even more so,
anything that violates the most fundamental right, the right to life, is
contrary to everything that Americans have stood for and fought for. So it
is no big surprise that we fight the terrorists, because they are
fundamentally un-American. And yet we have terrorists in our own culture
called abortionists.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That was Paul Ryan`s anti-abortion legislative best buddy,
the clinically insane Congressman Todd Akin.

Like Congressman Akin, Paul Ryan has opposed abortion, even in cases
of rape, and Paul Ryan joined Congressman Akin in cosponsoring H.R. 3,
which sought to redefine the word "rape." that bill said that only, quote,
"something called forcible rape survivors could qualify for federally
funded abortion services."

Last year, Paul Ryan joined Congressman Akin, again, this time
cosponsoring H.R. 212. That bill said, "The life of each human being
begins with fertilization, at which time every human being shall have all
the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood."

Congressman Ryan publicly turned on his friend, Todd Akin today, but
Congressman Akin still has some supporters. The president of the Family
Research Counsel Action PAC, Connie Mackey said today, "Todd Akin is
getting a very bad break here. We support him fully and completely."

Paul Ryan is scheduled to speak to that group next month at the Value
Voters Summit.

Joining me now are MSNBC`s Steve Kornacki and Karen Finney.

Karen Finney, Paul Ryan is desperately trying to flip-flop today on
his position and his history on abortion. Is it even possible,
instantaneously, in one day, to suddenly flip over to what is the new
Romney campaign position of, oh, OK, abortion in the case of rape cases,
that`s OK with us?

KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, actually, Lawrence,
I think it`s a little bit more cynical and sinister than that. Because I
think they`re actually not completely flipping their position. They`ve
gone back to the position of creating different types of rape, right?
Because if you say, forcible rape -- if you say rape, but say you believe
in forcible rape, then that suggests that you believe that there are other
kinds of rape.

And again, that`s part of why I think so many women today were so
happy to hear the president of the United States say, "Rape is rape." I
would want to be able to ask both Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney the question,
is rape rape?

They don`t want to have that conversation. They don`t want to have
any of this conversation, because, again, this sort of forcible rape
construction that they`ve created is part of the way they`re parsing the
language and really trying to move the ball down the field a little bit
with regard to their rhetoric, and I think we can`t let them get away with
that.

O`DONNELL: Steve Kornacki, it seems with Paul Ryan`s history on the
concept of forcible rape, which he tried to put into law, that that history
will prevent him from simply being able to say the sentence "rape is rape."

STEVE KORNACKI, SALON.COM: Well, I mean, here you see why he made a
phone call apparently, tonight, to Todd Akin and trying to get him out of
this race and why national Republicans are trying so hard to get Todd Akin
out of this race, because those are questions that the Romney campaign and
Paul Ryan himself do not want to be dealing with for the rest of this
campaign.

It hurts them, because there is not a simple answer they can give that
can square, you know, the legislation that Ryan supported with the position
that they have to sort of articulate to win a national election. That`s
the first problem.

The second problem is that if Todd Akin is still in the race, what
they have to do is rhetorically distance themselves from him, like you`re
seeing now. You`re seeing Mitt Romney coming out today giving a very
strong rebuke, after an initial weak statement, a very strong rebuke of
Todd Akin.

And the longer Todd Akin stays in this race, the more Mitt Romney and
Republicans across the country will have to rebuke that statement of Todd
Akin, and it`s going to make him untenable in Missouri, and if they can`t
win the Senate race in Missouri, they can`t win the Senate this year.

O`DONNELL: Karen Finney, is it conceivable we can have a vice
presidential debate in which moderator Martha Raddatz does not ask Paul
Ryan the question, what is forcible rape?

FINNEY: I`ll tell you, Lawrence, it`s conceivable, but that really
shouldn`t happen. If you`re going to hang your hat on this construction of
forcible rape, and as you pointed out, Akin and Ryan are pretty much
lockstep on these issues, time and time again, in the legislation that they
have jointly supported together and the positions that they`ve espoused.
And again, even Mitt Romney, you know, parsing it a little bit.

They`ve got to be asked the question, what is forcible rape? What do
you mean by forcible rape? Or you could be asked the question, is rape
rape?

O`DONNELL: Steve Kornacki, there seems to be no doubt that the
president went to the briefing room today because he wanted to participate
in this dialogue and he knew that it would be brought out through questions
by reporters instead of him having to bring these points up directly. It`s
once again one of those demonstrations of what an advantage the incumbency
is and that forum is.

KORNACKI: Yes. And it`s also you know, what an advantage you have
when you`re running against a Republican Party that really has been taken
over, you know, sort of economically by the Tea Party, and sort of cultural
and social issues by the religious right -- the sort of the far religious
right.

You know, you see this in polling. Neither party is particularly
popular right now, but the Republican Party is a lot more unpopular than
the Democratic Party, just those two sort of partisan brands. And a lot of
it has to do with, you know, instances like this, especially in the Obama
era, where people like Todd Akin will suddenly command, you know, attention
for saying something that`s extreme and outlandish, and then it turns out
that it`s actually somewhat mainstream, you know, within the Republican
Party, and that has really taken a toll on the Republican Party.

So Obama, obviously, is looking for any opportunity he can find to
highlight that.

O`DONNELL: We`ve got to go, Karen. Sorry.

FINNEY: No problem.

O`DONNELL: Steve Kornacki and Karen Finney, thank you both for
joining me tonight.

Coming up, this is not the first time a Republican has come up with an
entirely insane idea about rape. That`s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: When the brilliant producer Alan Pakula called Gregory Peck
to offer him the role of Atticus Finch in the screen adaption of the then-
unknown writer`s first novel, Greg asked him to send two copies of the
galleys of the yet unpublished book so that his wife Veronique could read
it at the same time he did.

Veronique was born in Paris where she became a journalist interviewing
General Dwight Eisenhower before what became a fateful interview with
Gregory Peck. After their interview, Greg went to Italy to "Roman Holiday"
and man later stopped in Paris on the way home in the hopes of seeing
Veronique again.

As Greg used to tell it when he called the newspaper and asked for
her, he heard someone ask for her on a loud speaker, (SPEAKING FOREIGN
LANGUAGE), and newsroom fell silent. Their lunch that day was the
beginning of a love story, a true Hollywood love story, that lasted over 50
years and dazzled all of us who were lucky enough to see them together.

Veronique and her children were at Greg`s side when he passed away in
2003 and her family was at her side, in her home, when she passed away on
Friday.

Gregory Peck covered every page of his shooting script of "To Kill A
Mocking Bird" with his hand-written performance notes. On the final page,
after the fadeout and the end, he wrote only four words to summarize his
portrayal of Atticus Finch, "Fairness, stubbornness, courage, love."

The author of the novel, Harper Lee, said, "Atticus gave him an
opportunity to play himself." In Gregory Peck`s own life experience, no
one taught him more about fairness, stubbornness, courage, love than his
beloved Veronique.

Veronique Peck was 80 years old.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE HUCKABEE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: I think one of the problems that
maybe accelerated it was the use of the term "legitimate." What did you
mean by legitimate rape? Were you attempting to say forcible rape or was
that just -- where did that come from?

REP. TODD AKIN (R), MISSOURI: Well, yeah, I was talking about
forcible rape, and it was absolutely the wrong word. Yeah.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Rape experts Todd Akin and Mike Huckabee today continuing
the extreme right`s strategy of deciding what rape is. In the Spotlight
tonight, a history of Republicans attempting to redefine rape.

The idea that a rape survivor can`t get pregnant is not new. A report
in the "Guardian" today traced it back to the 13th century. But here are
some more modern examples. In 1988, a Pennsylvania state legislature said
that the chances of a rape survivor getting pregnant are, quote, "one in
millions and millions and millions," because rape causes women to, quote,
his words, "secrete a certain secretion that kills sperm."

In 1995, a North Carolina state lawmaker said that "the facts show
that people who are raped, who are truly raped, the juices don`t flow; the
body functions don`t work; and they don`t get pregnant."

Not being able to get pregnant isn`t the only insane rape idea. In
1990, Texas Republican Clayton Williams, who unsuccessfully ran against Ann
Richards for governor, apologized after comparing rape to foggy weather,
saying, "if it`s inevitable, just relax and enjoy it."

Joining me now, Goldie Taylor, a contributor to TheGrio.com, and
Michelle Goldberg, senior contributing writer for "Newsweek" and "The Daily
Beast."

Goldie, you just heard former Republican presidential candidate Mike
Huckabee thinking that the real confusion here was just the use of the word
"legitimate" before "rape," instead of forcible. If Akin had just said
"forcible rape," well, hey, all of us Republicans would have been cool with
everything you said.

GOLDIE TAYLOR, THEGRIO.COM: You know, that`s what got my goat
yesterday afternoon when this story started to break, were the many
qualifiers that we`ve been hearing about rape, whether it is incest or
forcible or assault or, you know, legitimate. Rape, as I said last night,
rape, as the president said today, is rape. It does not matter, as long as
the woman is not able to or does not give consent. Everything happens
after that is just plain horrible.

And to place qualifiers on it, I think, disqualifies somebody from
holding public office.

O`DONNELL: Michelle Goldberg, imagine for me, if you will, the day
after the vice presidential debate, if Martha Raddatz does not ask Paul
Ryan what is forcible rape.

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, "THE DAILY BEAST": No, I mean, I also certainly
hope that they will ask him, you know, how he justifies his belief that
rape victims, whether forcible or otherwise, should be forced to carry any
resulting pregnancy to term against their will. Because that, to me, is
the essential. When people recoil at what Todd Akin said, I mean some of
it is obviously because of his incredibly -- this kind of Medieval
language, and also this kind of impugning the honor of women who have
gotten pregnant through rape, kind of implying that they weren`t really
raped, that they must be lying about what really happened.

But the other piece of it that has so many people up in arms is that
he`s made really clear what many, many Republicans believe, which, again,
is that if you are raped and you get pregnant, as tens of thousands of
women every year in this country do -- the most reliable study I`ve seen
from "the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology" puts it at around
32,000 women a year in the United States -- that the government should
force you to carry that pregnancy to term against your will.

O`DONNELL: Goldie, does this open a window into Republican thinking,
that for those of us who think that abortion should be available not just
for rape victims, but especially for rape victims, it`s hard to comprehend
exactly what people are thinking when they say it shouldn`t. Is -- does
this help actually explain what a lot of conservatives are actually,
secretly thinking, when they say abortion should not be available in cases
of rape?

TAYLOR: Well, it`s not really a big secret, if you know anything
about right-to-life circles. I mean, this is an integral part of the
language, or the propaganda that they used to, you know, justify, you know,
their position on some of these issues. And so this is not brand-new.
This is not a secret. This guy just happened to say it into a microphone.

But the fact is, it`s going to hurt him, you know, politically. It`s
going to hurt this GOP ticket politically. You know, it`s going to tell
women, you know, that there really is a war on women happening in this
country right now. And Republicans are waging it.

O`DONNELL: Michelle Goldberg, now the Romney/Ryan ticket, both of
whom have supported personhood -- the personhood idea legislatively, that
upon fertilization that full legal rights obtain, that means that you have
to -- if you believe that, then you must oppose abortion in the cases of
rape, incest, everything else.

Now today, that ticket, those two people who have said that in the
past, are now saying, well, OK, actually, from now on, we won`t oppose
abortion in cases of rape. How can they possibly say that?

GOLDBERG: Let`s just say, Ryan has always steadfastly opposed
abortion in cases of rape. Romney it`s been -- like everything else with
Romney, it`s much harder to nail down. That`s never really officially been
his position, although he has at time said that he would sign a personhood
amendment or sign a human life amendment.

So I think -- you know, so basically the fact that Romney is kind of
changing his position to suit the political moment I don`t think qualifies
as news. But, essentially, they`re realizing that they have to distance
themselves from Todd Akin, because he highlights what so many people find
most terrifying about the Republican party.

O`DONNELL: They are just lying now about abortion and cases of rape,
because a personhood amendment would mean that you`ve got crimes committed
if you have an abortion, even in cases of rape. We could go on about this.

Goldie Taylor, Michelle Goldberg, thank you very much for joining me
on this important night.

TAYLOR: Thanks for having me, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Mitt Romney actually joked today about his
secret tax returns. But he didn`t get anyone else to laugh about it.

And next, in the Rewrite, what America owes Senator Claire McCaskill,
the only person standing tonight between crazy Congressman Todd Akin and a
seat in the United States Senate.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: In tonight`s Rewrite, what we owe Claire McCaskill. It is
a grand tradition in the Democratic party for liberals in states that are
not -- liberals to criticize and attack and sometimes even attempt to
defeat Democrats who are not liberals in states that are not liberal.

We liberals have all done it at some point, publicly and privately.
But I, for one, stopped doing it about 20 years ago when I was working in
the United States Senate for a liberal Democrat from New York, and I found
myself working with moderate Democrats from other states, and what seemed
to me, certainly, to be conservative Democrats.

Yes, there were once something called conservative Democrats not that
long ago. We had Democratic senators then from Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma,
Texas, places where it is now unimaginable to elect a Democratic senator,
no matter how moderate or even conservative. I realized then that the
liberals in the Senate would have absolutely no power at all without those
southern Democrats and other moderate Democrats who gave their party a
majority in the Senate.

Ted Kennedy could never have been a committee chairman without them.
And he knew it. He used to joke with the moderate Democrats that he would
come to their state to help them get re-elected, or he would stay away from
their state, if that would help them even more.

And for most of them, keeping Teddy out of their state was the best
way to get re-elected. The most important votes that those senators cast
when those senators were elected and re-elected was always their very first
vote, when they voted for majority leader and all of the committee
chairman. Those moderate and conservative Democrats voted for liberals
like Ted Kennedy and Daniel Patrick Moynihan to be important committee
chairman.

The southern Democrats in the Senate voted for the New England liberal
George Mitchell to be majority leader. They then voted against some
important things on the Democratic agenda. They killed Bill Clinton and Al
Gore`s ambitious BTU tax in 1993. But some of them, after killing it, then
voted for an increase in the gasoline tax instead, something no Republican
voted for.

There were many days when I hated the stress and strain of working
with or trying to work around the moderate Democrats in the Senate. The
only thing I hated more, much more, was the utter powerlessness of being in
the minority party in the Senate when the Democrats got wiped out in the
congressional elections of 1994.

Claire McCaskill is in what is now considered the moderate wing of the
Democratic party. She was criticized in June for her announcement that she
would not be attending the Democratic Convention this year. She said then
that she never goes to the convention in the middle of her own campaigns.

She didn`t go to the convention in 2004 when she was running for
governor in Missouri. But some Democrats still criticized her for
distancing herself from President Obama by not attending his re-election
convention. And despite her insistence that she was not trying to distance
herself from the president, I think there`s not much room for doubt that
that is one of the reasons she won`t be attending the convention.

And I`m sure that is as obvious to President Obama as it is to me, but
he wouldn`t dream of criticizing Claire McCaskill for that tactical
decision. Not just because he`s a classy guy, although he is, but because
he is a practical politician. He wants Democrat Claire McCaskill to get
re-elected in Missouri, a state he lost four years ago. And anything she
has to do or say to win her re-election there is fine by him.

He wants her in the Senate to vote for a Democratic majority leader
and to vote for Pat Leahy to continue his chairmanship of the Judiciary
Committee, so she can then vote for whoever President Obama might nominate
to the Supreme Court in a second term. In fact, Claire McCaskill has been
as helpful to the president as any Democrat in an unsafe Senate seat has
ever been.

She voted for the stimulus bill. She voted for the Affordable Care
Act, which includes several difficult tax increases for her. She voted for
the confirmation of Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
If the Republican had been elected in her place six years ago, he would
have voted against every one of those things.

How hard was it for Claire McCaskill to cast all those votes? Well,
those votes have cost her politically, especially the vote for the
Affordable Care Act, which remains unpopular in Missouri. The votes that
Claire McCaskill has cast for President Obama`s agenda have cost her so
much politically that she has been running significantly behind an abject
imbecile who said this --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AKIN: If it`s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to
shut that whole thing down. But let`s assume that maybe that didn`t work
or something, I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment
ought to be in the rapist and not attacking the child.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: He`s been running ahead of her. Claire McCaskill could
not win in Missouri by being more liberal. And tonight, now that we`ve all
seen so vividly what Claire McCaskill is up against in Missouri, America
should be thanking her for managing to prevent a member of the Missouri
Republican party from winning that Senate seat six years ago, and for
sanity`s sake, for America`s sanity, America should be hoping that Claire
McCaskill can do it again.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So many friends here in New
Hampshire. Gosh, I feel like I`m almost a New Hampshire resident. I come
here and -- it would save me some tax dollars, I think.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That was Mitt Romney joking about lowering his so
burdensome tax rate at a town hall in Manchester today. Even on a day with
a Republican political earthquake about so-called legitimate rape and
pregnancy and abortion, the hottest of the hot-button issues in American
politics, the secret Romney tax returns still manage to make news, as we`ve
seen. President Obama talked about them in a White House briefing today,
while Bill Kristol, editor of the conservative "Weekly Standard" said this
on C-Span.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL KRISTOL, "WEEKLY STANDARD": I personally, if I were, you know,
designing the tax code, would have a tax code in which Mitt Romney paid
more than 13 percent, I would say, given what I know about the kind of
investments that he made money from. I`m just not a believer that he --
that he needed -- you know, that there would have been any economic
detriment to be paying more. And I think it just seems kind of weird that
he pays a lower rate than an awful lot of middle class people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Bill Kristol also repeated his release that Romney should
release his secret tax returns, which makes Romney releasing his secret tax
returns the most bipartisan idea in Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KRISTOL: Custom over the last, I don`t know, 20, 30 years, I suppose,
has been to release at least a couple of the years of tax returns. If you
know you`re running for president anyway, I just think it`s part of the
price of running. Obama did it, so I think Romney probably should do it.

OBAMA: I think the idea that this is somehow exceptional, that there
should be a rationale or a justification for doing more than the very bare
minimum, has it backwards. I mean, the assumption should be, you do what
previous presidential candidates did, dating back for decades. And
Governor Romney`s own dad says, well, the reason I put out 10 or 12 years
is because any single year might not tell you the whole story.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Today, Romney said this in a local news interview with
WMUR in New Hampshire.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: My tax returns are extensive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Romney has released one partial federal tax return for
2010. That tax return he released did not include his foreign bank and
accounts report, which he is required to file by law with the IRS. Obama
campaign manager Jim Messina sent a letter Friday to the Romney campaign,
asking for five years of full tax returns.

"A five-year release would appropriately span all the years that he
has been a candidate for president. It would also help answer outstanding
questions raised by the one return he has released to date, such as the
range in the effective rates paid, the foreign accounts maintained, the
foreign investments made, and the types of tax shelters used. The governor
and his campaign can expect in return that we will refrain from questioning
whether he has released enough or pressing for more."

The Romney campaign declined the offer.

Joining me now is Scott Helman, staff writer for the "Boston Globe"
and co-author of "The Real Romney," which comes out tomorrow in paperback.
Scott, Romney has a history of this in Massachusetts, where he asks people
to trust him and not release his tax returns, claiming, then, that he had
been filing in Massachusetts so that he could, therefore, run for governor
in Massachusetts, and then it turned out he had not been filing in
Massachusetts.

Take us through why people couldn`t trust him then.

SCOTT HELMAN, AUTHOR, "THE REAL ROMNEY": Well, I think this is back
right, you know, in the period where he was in Utah running the Winter
Olympics in 2002. Clearly, he was hedging his bets. He knew he wanted to
get back into politics. He had lost his previous race for Senate against
Ted Kennedy. And he didn`t know would he run in Utah? Would he run in
Massachusetts? He said himself he was looking for the right opportunity.

So I think it is clear that he was trying to sort of keep his options
open, if you will. At the same time, you know, the State Ballot Commission
here in Massachusetts looked at this and dismissed it. But I think at the
end of the day, the whole inquiry into where did Mitt Romney live and was
he really a resident here sort of backfired on Democrats. I don`t think
there was any lasting damage to that.

O`DONNELL: Well, there is lasting damage to his credibility about
what`s in his tax returns. He did publicly lie in Massachusetts about what
was in his tax returns for some period of time, didn`t he?

HELMAN: Well, I don`t know if I would say that. I think the real
question here is obvious to me, which is that -- are they going to do it or
not? Are they going to put this to rest? And clearly they have decided to
dig in and not -- and not do it.

And look, every day that we`re talking about Mitt Romney`s taxes is a
day that we`re not talking about Barack Obama`s handling of the economy.
We`re not talking about the things that Mitt Romney wants to talk about.
And furthermore, you know, the more damaging thing to me, it seems, is that
it connects to the policy positions that he and Paul Ryan have put out
there.

I mean, they`re talking about cutting taxes for the wealthy, for
people just like him. And I think for voters, every day we`re talking
about how wealthy Mitt Romney is to the extent that it connects to his
policy, wanting to cut taxes for people just like him, I think it`s
damaging.

O`DONNELL: Scott Helman, author of the "Real Romney" gets tonight`s
last word. Thanks, Scott. "THE ED SHOW" is up next.


END

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