updated 8/28/2012 11:42:38 AM ET 2012-08-28T15:42:38

THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
August 27, 2012

Guest:


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: Mitt Romney`s six-year campaign for the
Republican presidential nomination ends right here tomorrow night.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today, the Republican national convention is set
to convene.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: Mitt Romney begins the most important week of
his political career.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And then immediately suspend all activities
until tomorrow.

CHRIS JANSING, NBC NEWS: Isaac is stealing some of the convention
spotlight.

TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: This monster storm, tropical storm Isaac.

TODD: It just seems like Mitt Romney can`t catch a political break.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s important that Romney accept the nomination
this week.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pre-season`s over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There isn`t much time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This week, regular season starts.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The clock does start now.

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: The Republican Party is now one day away
from making Governor Mitt Romney its official nominee.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: Is Mitt Romney ready for his big moment?

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Can he connect to the American people?

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m doing my very best.

WAGNER: Does anyone know who Mitt Romney actually is?

ROMNEY: All I can do is be who I am.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Romney campaign is trying to fill out his
story, trying to break through.

ROMNEY: I am what I am and that`s all what I am.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt Romney has to round himself out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can Mitt Romney catch a break?

JANSING: This is an opportunity for him on Thursday night to
reintroduce himself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He does have an opportunity to do that.

DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS: The people I`m talking to say he`s got to be
nimble.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This should be a winnable race.

WAGNER: The country is going to be watching this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is going to stay a pretty close race.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anything can happen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It will be quite something.

REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: So it is my privilege to proclaim the
2012 Republican National Convention called to order.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: Good evening, from Tampa, Florida, where the Republican
National Convention will reconvene and officially nominate Mitt Romney
tomorrow, after tropical storm Isaac forced the party to cancel proceedings
today.

On Thursday night, Mitt Romney will deliver a speech here, the
audience here in the hall will, of course, applaud and cheer on cue, but
Mitt Romney seems to know, he might not be this party`s dream candidate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT PELLEY, CBS NEWS: Some people in your party don`t like you.
Are you a candidate for the entire Republican Party?

ROMNEY: Well, we`re a big party. And there are, I don`t know, how
many million people or so are Republicans. And I`m sure not everybody`s
going to think I`m the ideal person.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: With 71 days until the presidential election, a new
"Washington Post" poll shows the race locked in a statistical tie among
registered voters. President Obama polls at 46 percent, Mitt Romney polls
at 47 percent, within the poll`s margin of error.

When asked which candidate is more likable, 61 percent of registered
voters say President Obama. Only 27 percent say Mitt Romney.

Chris Wallace asked Mitt Romney about the likability problem.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: Governor, does it bother you that according
to the polls, people don`t like you more or is that not important?

ROMNEY: You know, all I can do is be who I am. Remember that Popeye
line -- I am what I am and that`s all what I am.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: In an interview with "USA Today," Mitt Romney says that
during his speech Thursday night, we won`t be talking about my life, we`ll
be talking about policy.

President Obama says that congressional Republican Party policy will
become Mitt Romney policy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don`t think that if
congress presented him with some of the items that are in the Republican
platform, at this convention, that would, for example, entirely rollback
women`s control over their reproductive health, that he would stand in the
way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now here in Tampa, NBC News special
correspondent Tom Brokaw and MSNBC`s Joy Reid and Jonathan Capehart.

Tom, we, with of course, go to you for history on nights like this.
Two questions, the last time a presidential candidate quoted Popeye, and
then secondly, when is the last time a presidential candidate has been
struggling so much with the likability factor in polls?

TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it`s been a while,
I think, since we`ve had anybody who`s struggled as much as we have with
the likability factor. And I think that`s because, in part, he had to
become something that he wasn`t naturally, as a political candidate, during
the primaries. And people emerged from that process uncertain about just
who Mitt Romney is.

So Thursday night, it seems to me, Lawrence, that he has to do a
couple of things. One is he has to hang out with the people who have given
him that nomination. He has to make sure that members of the Tea Party
remain comfortable enough with him, that if they`re so determined to get
rid of Barack Obama, they`ll hang on with Mitt Romney and not run somebody
else, even as a written-in candidate.

And then finally he has to say to that independent couple in Iowa, in
Wisconsin, in Ohio, in Virginia, who have not yet made up their minds.
They may have voted for Obama the last time, but now they`re a little bit
uncertain about his capacity to lead the country out of the economy. At
the end of the speech, does she turn to him or does he turn to her and say,
you know, I could live with that guy. You know, I`m comfortable with him.
I know he`s got a good background, and now after tonight, I could see him
for what he may be in our lives. I think that`s the real test, ultimately.

O`DONNELL: And, Joy, with this likability in the polls, it`s
astonishing, you look at that number, you don`t expect to turn to the big
number and see that they are tied.

JOY REID, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Right. I think part of that it`s a
registered voter sample rather than a likely voter sample.

O`DONNELL: Yes.

REID: That is one of sort courts of polling, right? Registered and
likely tend to diverge a little bit.

But I think that Mitt Romney in a lot of ways is sort of -- when he
says I am what I am, that sounds like a CEO, right? CEOs don`t have to be
liked. They have to be seen by the board of directors as competent. And I
think he`s going back, Mitt Romney, in a lot of ways, to his original
campaign idea, which is I`m going to run this country like a business, I`m
a successful businessman.

Now, the challenge for him, of course, is what Tom just said, in the
room, when he`s giving his acceptance speech, he`s also got a completely
different audience. This isn`t a board of directors. This is a party that
now doesn`t want to hear, I`m a competent guy, Barack Obama`s a nice guy,
but not so competent.

It wants to hear, Barack Obama`s a socialist. It wants to hear a much
more extreme message. And how do you deliver that message for your base
and still sound like, you know what, you`re sober and sane enough to run
the country?

O`DONNELL: Well, let`s listen to Mitt Romney`s attempt at a joke,
which actually echoes one of the most extreme messages that we`ve heard
this year, which is that President Obama may not even be American. Let`s
listen to the joke.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Now, I love being home in this place where Ann and I were
raised, where both of us were born. Ann was born in Henry Ford Hospital, I
was born in Harper Hospital. No one`s ever asked to see my birth
certificate. They know that this is the place that we were born and
raised.

(CHEERS)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Jonathan, a well-known professional comedian called me
today and said about that joke, you know what happens to jokes? People
laugh. No one`s laughing. They`re cheering.

That is a very different reaction. Cheering that response is a
different reaction than laughing at a joke.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Right. It`s not uncomfortable
laughter, it`s cheering. The thing I find most fascinating about that clip
is how he -- how Governor Romney soaks it in. He soaks up the applause.

You know, when you hear jokes like that. When you hear some of the --
you know, who knows what he`s going to say Thursday night, but if it plays
to the Tea Party base and if it plays to the far right wing of the party,
how is that couple, the independent couple in Iowa, that Tom just talked
about, what will they turn to each other and say to each other after
they`ve heard some of the possible red meat that might be thrown out here
tonight?

I mean, I remember the speech that was given, I believe it was by our
former colleague, Pat Buchanan, at the convention, Republican convention in
`92, I believe --

BROKAW: `96.

CAPEHART: When?

BROKAW: `96.

CAPEHART: In `96, that frightened a lot of people.

Mitt Romney cannot afford to come out of a convention where a lot of
the American people are frightened. He has to come out of this convention,
he has to come out of this hall, not only having told the American people
where he wants to take the country, but he must put meat on the bones.
There is not enough specifics out there for people to turn to each other
and say, OK, President Obama hasn`t done a good enough job. This guy has
an idea of where he wants to go, and at least I know where specific -- what
he -- what specifically he wants to do if he gets four years, because right
now, he hasn`t done that.

O`DONNELL: Tom, one of the easier aspects of analyzing politics is
they tend to run the same plays. We get that feeling like, oh, yes, I know
that play, I know that play.

I don`t know this play about suggesting that the president of the
United States is somehow alien, foreign. You hear that concept of foreign
raised a lot. I`ve never seen that play before.

BROKAW: I have a contrary point of view about what he said. My own
impression is, and I don`t think any of us know really what was in his
mind. My own impression is, and we`ve seen one demonstration of this after
another. He`s about as awkward with humor as anybody I have ever seen on
the stump.

And as I watched him talk about where he was born and where she was
born, he was obviously riffing at that point. He threw that out there. If
that were part of a longer narrative from him, I would take it much more
seriously than I do. I just don`t know whether his clear intention was to
raise that once again.

By the way, the Pat Buchanan speech, that was a long, very strident
speech. And it was Molly Ivins, the late and lamented great, great
humorist from Texas who said it sounded much better in the original German
when he gave it.

(LAUGHTER)

BROKAW: That was a different time.

So I honestly don`t know whether we can pin this on Governor Romney,
that he was trying to exacerbate, again, the birther question.

And my guess is, Lawrence, why, next week at this time, we`ll have the
half-life of an ameba. Not that I know the half-life of an ameba. But --

CAPEHART: Although, Tom, the day after that joke was aired, "The New
York Times" ran the story, and I believe it`s a front-page story, talking
about how the Romney campaign has made its decision. They are going for a
working class white voters, and doing all sorts of things to appeal to
them. So whether it`s the welfare ad, whether it`s -- whether this was
intentional or not, it plays into that --

BROKAW: Yes, listen, I think the time is well passed to even raise
that question, by the way.

CAPEHART: Right.

BROKAW: I`m just saying, I don`t know for sure the depth of ulterior
motives here at that point. And if he doesn`t come back to it, if they
don`t make it part, if you will, of the thematic campaign, then I think the
country will be better served all the way across the board. You know, I
was watching Donald Trump earlier today, saying he was trying to decide
whether he would come here or not. If he comes and he`s allowed to appear
in some fashion, that`s a different matter altogether, because he will not
let go of this, and he`s the one who`s tried to keep it alive as much as
possible.

And my hope is that -- my guess is that the Romney campaign doesn`t
want to have Donald trump appear in this arena, or even outside of it, in
the next couple of days. That`s just a guess.

O`DONNELL: Joy, some of the analysis has suggested that -- and Trump
himself has suggested that he, of course, have a speaking role here, but
maybe he got rained out today because the convention got rained out today.
But apart from Romney`s motivation or how he might stumble into something,
what he did stumble into was something that does echo because of Donald
Trump spending over a year on it, others in Republican world talking about
it for some period of time.

And that`s one of the reasons why Romney`s intent aside, people
thought they were hearing something in the crowd, in the crowd response
that was conditioned by months of preconditioning in Republican world on
this.

REID: Yes, what`s amazing is, it`s sort of like I feel like Romney`s
running an endless primary. Like he`s constantly trying to re-appeal to
the people who`s already nominated him. So it`s that Pat Buchanan crowd
that we remember are the `90s, they`re now the majority of the base and he
still feels like he has to cater to them.

The problem for Romney is he`s got to do the pivot. At some point,
he`s got to pivot to a general election message. He hasn`t found a
comfortable way to do it.

And, look, the party has taken great pains to hide some of the
crazies. There`s not going to be a speech by Herman Cain. There`s not
going to be a speech by Sarah Palin. But they still represent the majority
of the base and Romney still feels like he has to speak to them. I think
to Jonathan`s point, because they`re working on working class white voters.

BROKAW: Lawrence, you and I have been these candidates, both and
Republican and Democrat for a long time. It`s my 22nd convention. This is
the most inauthentic candidacy I`ve ever seen. I must say.

We used to talk about the woodenness of Al Gore. I mean, Al Gore
looks like a stand-up comedian compared to this guy.

O`DONNELL: Yes.

BROKAW: And that`s a test he`s going to face on Thursday night. He
was candid enough to say, I am who I am. And I don`t know anyone of his
age who can undergo a personality conversion in front of a national
television audience.

What he needs to do is what I said earlier -- he needs to make the
independent voter out there who`s undecided comfortable with him. I don`t
think they`re going to vote for him for homecoming king. But they may vote
for him for president. I don`t know.

O`DONNELL: Tom, it`s not my 22nd convention, but I did watch every
one of those conventions that you anchored from one of these booths, and I
cannot thank you enough for coming in here tonight and giving us the honor
of sitting --

REID: Absolutely.

O`DONNELL: Joy Reid, Jonathan Capehart, Tom Brokaw, thank you all for
joining me tonight.

Coming up, Paul Ryan was not Mitt Romney`s first choice for vice
president, according to the "New York Post." They have a report today
indicating that Chris Christie turned down Mitt Romney`s offer for the vice
presidential slot because he believes Mitt Romney is going to lose. Steve
Kornacki and Krystal Ball will join me on that.

And more interviews mean more questions to Mitt Romney about his
secret tax returns.

And a Republican senator warns Mitt Romney that he is going to lose --
going to lose if he continues to alienate women voters. That`s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: What`s the difference between Paul Ryan and crazy
Republican Congressman Todd Akin? The answer is absolutely nothing.
That`s coming up in the "Rewrite."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I sit here and very respectfully
listen to you. If what you want to do is put on a show and giggle every
time I talk, then I have no interest in answering your question.

Did I say "on topic"? Are you stupid? On topic. On topic. Next
question.

Do you want to hear the answer or don`t you? Because I`m not going to
put -- I heard you. OK. Next question.

Go ahead. Yes, sir? And let me tell you something, after you
graduate from Wall Street, you conduct yourself like that in a courtroom,
your rear end`s going to get thrown in jail, you idiot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: In 24 hours, that man, that occasionally I occasionally
intemperate man, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, will take the national
stage here and deliver the keynote address at the Republican National
Convention.

Today, the outspoken governor woke up to this headline in the "New
York Post." According to the "New York Post," Christie told political
insiders that there was a fat chance that he`d be Mitt Romney`s running
mate, because Christie doubted that Romney could actually win. That, of
course, means that Chris Christie has been watching this program and
realizes that the losing vice presidential candidate has no chance, a fat
chance, not even a fat chance, no chance of ever becoming president.

That means Chris Christie has seen our big wall graphic of the vice
presidential losers in the television age, all of whom watched their
political futures end the night they lost the vice presidency. Chris
Christie was, of course, right to hope for a bigger political future, than
taking his place beside Sarah Palin on our big wall of losers.

In an interview that will air tomorrow on MSNBC`s "MORNING JOE," Chris
Christie responded to the "New York Post`s" report this way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: Yes, well, it`s just completely shoddy reporting. Much of
what was said in that story just wasn`t true. So -- and they never talked
to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now, hosts of MSNBC`s "THE CYCLE," Steve
Kornacki and Krystal Ball.

Steve, you are our senior New Jersey political analyst here at THE
LAST WORD. I noticed that Christie`s denial there was not the standard,
really tough, complete denial. He just said, much of what`s in that report
was not true. There are stronger denials to issue.

What do you make of this whole story?

STEVE KORNACKI, "THE CYCLE" CO-HOST: Well, I think Christie and
people around him are happy that the story`s out there, maybe not exactly
this way. But I don`t buy the idea, if the idea that they`re trying to put
out there is, hey, look, Romney wanted him and Christie thinks he`s a loser
and doesn`t want to be on the ticket, there`s other issues that kept him
from saying, yes, I don`t think that`s what happened at all.

The reason Chris Christie is not on the Republican ticket, the reason
Mitt Romney did not ask Chris Christie to be on the Republican ticket is
because of stories like this. Because things pop up in the press that
Christie or someone around him puts out there, that puts Christie`s
interests ahead of Mitt Romney interest.

And I think there was a consistent concern on the part of Romney`s
people that Christie would not be a team player, whether it`s as a
candidate or in any Romney administration. But I think Christie clearly
has an incentive for this kind of thing to be out there, because more than
most governors, he really has a balancing act in the eyes of the national
stage. He`s up for re-election next year.

New Jersey, his popularity is not bad there. He`s in pretty decent
shape for re-election next year, but New Jersey`s still a blue state. It`s
still a state where he`s going to be doing well to get 53 or 53 or 55
percent of the vote. So he has to be very careful if it looks like he`s
angling too much. He flirted with the presidential race last year, if it
looks like he`s trying anything to get out of the job and get on the Romney
ticket, that doesn`t look good either.

So, this story makes look like, yes, they wanted me, but no, I got
better thing to do. It`s good for them, you know?

KRYSTAL BALL, "THE CYCLE" CO-HOST: And another reason they cited the
fact that he thought Romney was going to lose, is he was so committed to
his post at New Jersey that he didn`t want to leave it. If you`re
Christie, other than the fat chance headline, it`s a pretty beautiful story
to have out there.

O`DONNELL: And, Steve, political insiders, when they watch these
things develop, they always know that the people within the party who are
contenders for the presidency actually want their nominee to lose, because
that opens up their opportunity to run four years later instead of eight
years later. And this is one of those stories that makes it, I think, a
little extra uncomfortable for Christie that when he`s giving this speech
down here in Tampa, there`s some reason, according to the "New York post,"
to believe that not only does he think Mitt Romney is going to lose, he`s
actually rooting for him to lose, so that Christie gets his shot in four
years.

KORNACKI: Well, we don`t need anonymous sources in the "New York
Post" to know that. Christie himself has basically said that. It was an
interview with Oprah Winfrey a while back when he basically said that he
would be ready in 2016, as if it`s a foregone conclusion that the
Republican nomination will be open in 2016.

That`s another one of those moments, the Romney people looked at it
and they`re obviously miffed by it, and he said, this is a guy out for
himself more than he`ll ever be out for us. And it`s the same thing. You
know, think about the tax controversy about Mitt Romney. It was back in
January when Romney at that point was trying to get away with releasing
nothing about his personal tax records, that Chris Christie, his top
surrogate, went on the "Today" show and said, yeah, Mitt Romney should put
his taxes out there.

This is not the kind of thing they were ever looking for in a running
mate.

BALL: Right. And I think the fact of the matter is, Chris Christie
would, if he actually thinks that any Republican would lose in general or
else I think he would have run this year himself. So why would he want to
be the number two when he could himself have run for the nomination and I
think easily beaten Mitt Romney.

So he certainly doesn`t think that Mitt Romney has a better shot at
winning than he had.

O`DONNELL: Yes, I agree with that, Krystal, completely. No one
chooses not to run when they think they can win.

BALL: Exactly.

O`DONNELL: And Christie, you know, is the hottest guy in Republican
politics. I mean, he`s the most -- he`s kind of the heat-seeking guy.
Paul Ryan, also, but I think Christie even more so as a national figure.

Ann Coulter was out there publicly begging him to run. There were so
many people begging him to run. And he knows people won`t be begging him
next time. You only get begged once.

So, Steve Kornacki, he knew that this was the hottest moment in his
career. And his choice not to run had to include the calculation of what
the ultimate outcome would be if he did run.

KORNACKI: Well, you know, and I think what Christie -- one thing that
I think was on his mind here was his own sort of past in politics. Because
there are two sort of telling examples, I think, from his rise. One goes
way back to the mid-1990s, when he was just starting out in politics, he
won a county seat, he`s very ambitious, made a lot of noise, and
immediately tried to move up to take advantage of the attention he was
getting. Ran for the state legislature, a big jump for him, got smacked
down in that race, then lost his county job, and he was completely wiped
out in New Jersey politics in 1997.

It looked like this cautionary tale for people. He miraculous
rejuvenated his career, by raising big bucks for George W. Bush in 2000,
becoming the U.S. attorney, to the point that in 2005, Republicans across
New Jersey begged him and tried to draft him to be their gubernatorial
candidate.

And it looked like this is Christie`s big moment. Here it is, open
governor`s seat, Jim McGreevey`s just resigned, Republicans all want
Christie to get in, and he said no.

And I remember covering it at the time thinking, this guy is passing
up his one golden opportunity to have the governor`s office. And he
calculated that the Republicans would lose in 2005, and he`d get a better
chance in 2009. And that`s what happened.

And I think he`s thinking history will repeat itself here.

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

BALL: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Mitt Romney gets asked the big question. Why,
if you knew you were running for president, did you continue to stash money
overseas? That`s coming up.

And later, if you thought Todd Akin said the craziest thing about rape
last week, there`s another crazy thing that another Republican had to say,
and Paul Ryan agrees with both of these Republicans on policy. That`s in
the "Rewrite."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`ve been running for president for almost eight
years. And the question is, why didn`t you, years ago, somewhere over the
last eight years, go to the people running your blind trust and say to
them, let`s get out of the Swiss bank accounts? Let`s get out of the
investments in the Cayman Islands, even if it means we have to pay more
taxes, so we can clear the decks politically?

ROMNEY: Well, first of all, there was no reduction, not one dollar
reduction in taxes by virtue of having an account in Switzerland or a
Cayman Islands investment. The dollars of taxes remained exactly the same.
There was no tax savings at all.

And the conduct of the -- of the trustee in making investments was
entirely consistent with U.S. law. And all the taxes paid were those
legally owed. And there was no tax savings by virtue of those entities.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But why not just go to them a long time ago and
say, get out of these things, because you knew --

ROMNEY: Don`t invest in anything outside the United States? I don`t
know whether a trust -- I could have said, don`t make any investments in
any foreign companies, in any foreign bonds, in any foreign currency, only
U.S. entities. And by the way, don`t buy any foreign products. Don`t have
any Japanese TVs or foreign cars.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Here it is, Republican Convention week, and Mitt Romney`s
secret tax returns are still in the Spotlight. And remember, Mitt Romney
has experience with elaborate, illegal tax avoidance schemes. When Mitt
Romney was the head of the audit committee for Marriott`s Board of
Directors, he authorized Marriott to engage in the notorious Son of Boss
Tax Shelter-- so-called Son of Boss, which involved creating fake paper
losses to lower the company`s taxable income.

Joining me now are Julian Epstein, former chief counsel for the House
Judiciary Committee and former staff director of the House Government
Reform Committee, and Karen Finney, former DNC communications director and
an MSNBC contributor.

Julian, Mitt Romney goes to elaborate lengths -- and let`s remember, I
just want to -- as we set the table for this discussion, he helped Marriott
participate in a tax shelter that was ruled illegal by the IRS, and ended
up costing Marriott a lot of money. This is not someone whose hands are
completely clean on illegal tax schemes.

And so here he is trying to tell us that there was absolutely no tax
reason to stash money in the Cayman Islands, to stash money in Switzerland,
when the Cayman Islands is all about -- in fact, there`s no other reason
for anything happening in the Cayman Islands financially except tax
shelter.

JULIAN EPSTEIN, FORMER CHIEF COUNSEL, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:
That`s exactly correct, Lawrence. I mean, let`s put some non-controversial
facts on the table. The purpose of investments in the Cayman Islands is
primarily tax avoidance. The Congressional Research Service has estimated
that it costs the U.S. taxpayers somewhere between 40 and 70 billion
dollars a year.

Secondly, the statement by Romney that investments in the United
States and the Cayman Islands are treated the same is just wrong, as a
legal and a factual matter. Things like depreciation, things like
unrelated business expenses, things like the use of derivatives for
interest income, are all treated very, very differently. And Romney knows
that.

Third is the question of information. Because of the secrecy in
places like the Cayman Islands, it is almost impossible for the IRS to get
information, to determine whether somebody is adhering to the law or not,
or whether they`re bending the law. In fact, the IRS has to use, as you
know, Lawrence, from being the staff director on the Finance Committee --
has to use things like qualified intermediaries, which have very, very
limited windows of information into things like what deductions are being
claimed.

So look at the case of Mitt Romney in the year 2010. He had 2.7
million dollars in foreign income. He had a tax burden that he paid for
that of, at the very most, 52,000 dollars. That`s 2.5 percent. Now, how
he got from a 2.7 million income in foreign -- in foreign income, how he
got from that to a 52,000 dollar tax liability is almost impossible to
determine, because of the secrecy rules. You can`t figure out what kind of
deductions he was making and whether or not they were, in fact, compliant
with the law.

O`DONNELL: Karen Finney, I want you to listen to the way Mitt Romney
talks about this, when he`s with his friends, when he`s with people he
trusts, when he`s with people who he knows understand and appreciate and
applaud hiding money from the government any way you can. And of course,
I`m speaking of his very rich campaign donors.

And this is last week in Minneapolis. He`s talking to his donors.
And he says, "big business is doing fine in many places. They get the
loans they need. They can deal with all the regulation. They know how to
find ways to get through the tax code, save money by putting various things
in the places where there are low tax havens around the world for their
businesses."

Karen, there he is saying we go and we look for low tax havens.

KAREN FINNEY, FORMER DNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Right. And you
know, you guys have raised this question of maybe there were some things
that were not legal. But the kinds of things he`s talking about, a lot of
it is legal, was legal. So when they technically say, we followed the law,
that`s another example of how the Romneys are essentially trying to parse
their words, but really not telling you the truth behind those words.

And as you know, as Julian pointed out, the reason people put their
money in foreign countries is to get out of their tax obligation. But what
does that mean to the rest of us? And this is really the thing I think
they don`t want the rest of us to know about, is that means the rest of us
are paying their share.

What they`re avoiding, we get stuck with that bill. And that bill
gets bigger and bigger and bigger. And these companies and these
individuals are able to take advantage of all kinds of tax loopholes and
schemes that I wish the rest of us had access to.

And yet, here`s the thing. He wants us to trust him to revise our tax
code, so with our money, but he won`t show us how he may have utilized the
tax code to make his money.

(CROSS TALK)

O`DONNELL: Go ahead, Julian.

EPSTEIN: Karen hits on a very interesting point on the word trust
there. Because as you know and as you pointed out many times on this show,
Lawrence, Mitt Romney claims that he ceased business activities in Bain
Capital in 1999. And then we learn in the year 2010 that he`s taken
500,000 dollars, a half a million dollars in deductions for what he calls -
- for what he calls active business activities.

FINNEY: Right.

EPSTEIN: Those -- according to the IRS, you can only deduct those if
you are deeply involved in the everyday activities of the organization. So
Romney has been caught not being particularly straight on this question
before. And if you look at the number of investments Bain Capital has just
in the Cayman Islands, it`s something like 138 investments, active
investments in the Cayman Islands. Romney has an interesting in 12 of
them. And he may have -- all of which may be valued at close to 30 million
dollars.

So the idea that Romney says, just trust me, I was following the law,
the tax burden was the same -- most tax experts will tell you that the very
-- the cloak of secrecy with these investments in the Cayman Island is what
allows for the gamesmanship.

So while we may not be able to say it was illegal, I think many would
say that given how much he reduced that tax burden, again on the 2.7
million in income to a 52,000 tax rate, that there were some rules bending
that was certainly going on.

(CROSS TALK)

O`DONNELL: Sorry, Karen, we`ve got to get out of this. Julian
Epstein and Karen Finney, I want to thank you both for joining me in this,
the latest episode of Mitt Romney`s secret tax returns, the story that`s
not going to go away. Thanks for joining me tonight.

EPSTEIN: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, crazy Republican congressman talking about
abortion and rape. And one of them is Paul Ryan. That`s next in the
Rewrite.

And a Republican senator warns Mitt Romney and the Republican party
about their problem with women. Ana Marie Cox will join me next -- later.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Rape is rape,
period. End of story.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Sorry, Paul. It`s not the end of the story. Republicans
continue to get into rape trouble. Being opposed to abortion in all cases,
including rape, incest, and the life of the mother is the official
Republican position on abortion. But for decades now, Republicans have
been having a very easy ride with the political media who have been
relentlessly incurious about the details of Republican anti-abortion
doctrine.

Until now. Thanks to Republican Congressman Todd Akin, who showed
reporters just how crazy Republicans can be on the issue of abortion.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. TODD AKIN (R), MISSOURI: If it`s a legitimate rape, the female
body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Though the Republican establishment tried to marginalize
Todd Akin and pretend his views are aberrant, the truth is most Republicans
have crazy and indefensible thoughts about abortion policy, including Paul
Ryan. Here is the Republican Senate candidate in Pennsylvania dealing with
a very important question that all Republicans must be asked now: what
would you say to your daughter or granddaughter about the abortion option
if she were raped?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So in cases of incest or rape --

TOM SMITH (R), CANDIDATE FOR SENATE IN PENNSYLVANIA: No exceptions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No exceptions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, how would you tell a daughter or a
granddaughter who, God forbid, would be the victim of a rape, to keep the
child against her own with will? Is that something -- is that something
that you would -- do you have a way to explain that?

SMITH: I lived something similar to that with my own family. She
chose life, and I commend her for that. She knew my views. But,
fortunately for me, I didn`t -- she chose the way I thought.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: All right, then. So there`s a man of principle. There`s
a man with the courage of his convictions. And his daughter apparently has
the courage of his convictions. She was raped, got pregnant, and chose to
have the baby, and didn`t even have to listen to a sermon from her father
about doing the right thing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SMITH: Now, don`t get me wrong, it wasn`t rape. Similar.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Similar how?

SMITH: Having a baby out of wedlock.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s similar to rape?

SMITH: No, no, no. But, well, put yourself in a father`s position,
it is. I mean, it is similar. It`s similar -- but coming back to the --
I`m pro-life, period.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: OK, here`s how you know a Republican is running scared on
rape questions. They always try to end the discussion with an emphatic,
verbal, punctuation point.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN: Rape is rape, period.

SMITH: Pro-life, period.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Obviously, the Republican pro-life talking points instruct
Republicans to use that word period whenever rape comes up, to make clear
to any inquisitive reporters that it is time to move on. So now, out of
wedlock pregnancy is somehow comparable to rape. She got pregnant out of
wedlock, and she had the baby. And we`ve never heard her ultra-
conservative Republican father say that that was a particularly stressful
decision process for the family.

What that Republican buffoon in Pennsylvania doesn`t seem to know is
that not all out of wedlock pregnancies are unwelcome. But all rapes are
unwelcome and criminal. But we shouldn`t get distracted by the nutty
rationales that the no-rape exception Republicans cling to. We should care
only, only about the governing policies that those crazy rationales make
them vote for.

And the policies that they vote for are identical to the policies that
Vice Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan supports. There is not one bit of
difference between Todd Akin and Paul Ryan on abortion policy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should it be legal for a woman to be able to get
an abortion if she`s raped?

RYAN: Well, so I`m very proud of my pro-life record. And I`ve always
adopted the idea, the position that the method of conception doesn`t change
the definition of life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Paul Ryan is, of course, opposed to rape. Paul Ryan wants
to punish rapists. But when it comes to abortion policy, for Paul Ryan,
rape is just another method of conception. And when it comes to abortion
law, for Paul Ryan, the rape victim is the person he chooses to punish.
The rape victim is the person whose constitutional rights Paul Ryan refuses
to protect.

Today, rape victims have the constitutional right, as interpreted by
the Supreme Court of the United States, to choose what to do if the violent
crime committed against them leads to pregnancy. Paul Ryan does not want
women to have that constitutional right.

Paul Ryan actually believes that women, and yes, rape victims, have
one constitutional right too many. For rape victims, there is absolutely
no difference between Paul Ryan and Todd Akin and the freak running for
Senate in Pennsylvania. No difference at all.

But the media seems to think that there is a difference. They treat
Paul Ryan as a serious man, while recognizing that the Akin types are just
goofy. I can`t wait to see the media explain that distinction to rape
victims, if Paul Ryan and his party get their way, if Paul Ryan and Todd
Akin manage to rip away the constitutional right to privacy, which is the
basis of women`s constitutional right to choose abortion. Then there won`t
be a rape victim in America who thinks there is a difference between Todd
Akin and Paul Ryan.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The platform does not allow for exceptions on
abortion with regard to the health of the mother or rape or incest. Is
that where you are?

ROMNEY: No, my position has been clear throughout this campaign. I`m
in favor of abortion being legal in the case of rape and incest and the
health and life of the mother. But recognize, this is the decision that
will be made by the Supreme Court.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That was Mitt Romney tonight trying to distance himself
from his party`s platform on abortion and rape, and from his vice
presidential nominee on abortion and rape. In that response, Romney was
following the advice given by Republican Senator Olympia Snowe in a
"Washington Post" op-ed today.

Senator Snowe writes, "this is not where I hoped my party would be in
2012. Today, the Republican party faces a clear challenge. Will we
rebuild our relationship with women, thereby placing ourselves on the road
to success in November? Or will we continue to isolate them and certainly
lose this election?"

In a new ABC News/"Washington Post" poll, 51 percent of registered
voters trust President Obama to do a better job addressing women`s issues;
just 35 percent trust Mitt Romney to do a better job.

Joining me now, Ana Marie Cox, political correspondent for "The
Guardian U.S."

Ana Marie, here is Olympia Snowe saying right out loud, this party`s
got a problem. You`ve got now just the weeks between now and November to
fix it, or Mitt Romney loses.

ANA MARIE COX, "THE GUARDIAN U.S.": I think that there`s a lot to
that argument. If you look at the states where the gender gap is the
largest between Obama and Romney, some of them are those states that have
taken the strongest stances against women`s issues, have taken the most
extreme anti-abortion stances, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia.

And women are paying attention, you know? And she also talks about
women in Medicare and Medicaid. And of course Medicaid is something that
we`re not talking about as much as Medicare, but affects --

O`DONNELL: Talk about it right now.

COX: Well, it affects women much more dramatically than men. And the
cuts to Medicaid are going to happen in the Paul Ryan budget, would happen
immediately. There isn`t this idea that, oh, you don`t have to worry yet
about it.

And in making that economic argument, though, I kind of wish that she
would say something, or we would say something, and here I am going to say
it, that when we talk about women`s rights in terms of their bodies, that`s
an economic argument too. And women recognize that.

Women recognize that control of their bodies is the way that we
participate in society. That right, that fundamental right being
recognized is how we achieve equality.

O`DONNELL: Because it includes control of participation in the
workforce.

COX: Yeah, control of your life choices. I mean, and it`s having
your choices taken away is not just a matter of like having the baby or not
having the baby. There`s a whole array of chases in front of you that are
taken away when the right to control your own reproductive system is taken
away.

O`DONNELL: And Mitt Romney has chosen to be his vice president
someone who is opposed to exceptions for the life of the mother. That --
so let`s move beyond the rape thing, which we`ve dealt with to some extent.
But life of the mother, I think, has gotten not enough volume in this
discussion.

COX: I agree. There`s a few different things in that bill that are
very disturbing, aside from the original "forcible rape" language. And it
is life of the mother. And again, I feel like that`s something that to me,
when I look at the Republican party and I see the absence of women in
leadership, I just have to believe that must be why they don`t understand
how valuable it is, or how important, how unthinkable it is to a woman to
present her with a choice like that, or a lack of a choice like that.

And I`m so glad that you brought it up. Because, again, another thing
in HR-3, that Paul Ryan voted for, is they also don`t allow for abortions
in the case of incest if the woman is not a minor. So, you know, it`s only
really --

O`DONNELL: What are they thinking?! You know, I think I get what
they`re thinking when they do this stuff, and then they come up with
something like that.

COX: To me, it`s almost like, do they not have women in their lives?

O`DONNELL: Ana Marie Cox gets tonight`s LAST WORD. "THE ED SHOW" is
up next.

END

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