updated 10/2/2012 12:34:26 PM ET 2012-10-02T16:34:26

THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
October 1, 2012

Guests: Nia-Malika Henderson, Ari Melber, Jeffrey Toobin

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: Now, Paul Ryan says they don`t have enough
time to explain how they will change your tax deductions, like your home
mortgage tax deduction, in the Romney/Ryan tax plan. Not enough time.
They can`t even say if you will pay more or less with their tax plan.

Well, Mitt, I`m sure President Obama will give you as many of his
minutes as you need to explain it all in Wednesday night`s debate.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: Mitt Romney needs a great October --

TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: We know Romney needs a great October.

TODD: -- to change the course of this campaign.

CHRIS JANSING, NBC NEWS: The final push is on.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: Just days away from the first presidential
debate.

JANSING: Both candidates cramming for the first debate.

MITCHELL: Everyone trying to lower expectations.

TODD: Frantically spinning to lower expectations.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Governor Romney, he`s a
good debater.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: President Obama is
an experienced debater.

OBAMA: I`m just OK.

RYAN: This is Mitt`s first time.

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: Almost everyone seems to be muting
enthusiasm in trying to undersell.

OBAMA: I`m just OK.

RYAN: This is Mitt`s first time.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I don`t buy that.

WAGNER: Chris Christie is taking a different tack.

CHRISTIE: We have a candidate who is going to do extraordinary well
on Wednesday night.

WAGNER: Overselling with gusto.

CHRISTIE: Come Thursday morning when we get to Thursday morning, the
entire narrative of this race is going to change.

All of you are going to be shaking your head saying it`s a brand new
race.

RYAN: This is Mitt`s first time.

CHRISTIE: Are you stupid?

WAGNER: Overselling with gusto.

HALL: Chris Christie said the next day --

CHRISTIE: Come Thursday morning.

HALL: -- will be Romney`s time to shine.

JANSING: Don`t expect necessarily any zingers.

AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Governor Romney is getting by on a zing and
prayer.

HALL: Rehearsing zingers.

JANSING: To have that moment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t know that zingers necessarily turn it
around.

JANSING: That zinger and that line that gets replayed over and over
and over again.

ANN COULTER, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, if we don`t run Chris
Christie, Romney will be the candidate and will lose.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Debates are more about style than substance.

JANSING: Style versus substance?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Style is substance.

MARTIN BASHIR, MSNBC HOST: What?

WAGNER: Wouldn`t it just be easier to have a hot dog eating contest
and call it a day?

BASHIR: What?

WAGNER: Anyone?

BASHIR: That`s not helping.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: With 36 days until the presidential election and just 47
hours until the first presidential debate, the pressure is mounting on Mitt
Romney.

Moments ago, Romney fan Bill O`Reilly tried to tell Republicans to
calm down about the debate, that they`re expecting way too much of Mitt
Romney. But this being Bill O`Reilly, he ended up putting even more
pressure on Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS: I think the expectations for this debate are
too high. I think people, particularly conservative Americans, Republicans
are kind of expecting Mitt Romney to go out there and do something -- and I
don`t know whether that as even possible right now.

The first debate means everything. The whole world is watching this
thing. This is a big, big debate on Wednesday night. This is much bigger
than the McCain-Obama first debate by my opinion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The first debate means everything. Thanks a lot, Bill.

Today, Mitt Romney traveled from Boston to Colorado where the debate
will be held, as a major player in Romney`s New York fundraiser circles
confirmed to FOX Business that a few New York donors have backed away from
financial commitments to the Romney campaign and instead said they will
spend their money to help the Republicans hold on to the House of
Representatives and pick up seats in the Senate.

The debates will be very important, said one person with knowledge of
the matter. If Romney does well, that money could come back.

New Jersey`s Governor, Chris Christie, the current front runner for
the Republican presidential nomination 2016, has decided that his job is to
state the obvious.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: It`s a huge night. We`ve had a bad couple of weeks and we
want to turn this around. And if you want to turn it around you`ve got to
perform on the stage.

Those other people play these games, you know, trying to say the
president is not that good a debater or he`s rusty, or Mitt Romney is a
little scared of the president. Those are the professional, you know,
consultants and politicians who get paid to spin you guys. That`s not what
my job is. It`s a big night.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: On Sunday, Chris Christie promised a completely changed
political universe by Thursday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: And this whole race is going to be turned upside down come
Thursday morning.

I have absolute confidence that when we get to Thursday morning,
George, all of you`re going to be shaking your heads saying it`s a brand
new race for 33 days to go.

Wednesday night is the restart of this campaign. I think you`re going
to see those numbers start to move right back in the other direction.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Over on the FOX News, Paul Ryan played the traditional
game of de-emphasizing the importance of the debates.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN: I don`t think one event is going to make or break this
campaign. Look, President Obama is a very -- he`s very gifted speaker.
The man has been on the national stage for many years. He`s an experienced
debater. He`s done these kinds of debates before. This is Mitt`s first
time on this kind of a stage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Here`s President Obama`s last word on the debates on
Sunday as he headed into the debate prep in Nevada.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Governor Romney, he is a good debater. I`m just OK. But what
I`m most concerned about is having a serious discussion about what we need
to do to keep the country growing and restore security for hard-working
Americans. That`s what people are going to be listening for. That`s the
debate that you deserve.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: A new national "Washington Post" poll of likely voters
shows President Obama polling at 49 percent and Mitt Romney at 47 percent.
But among likely voters in the swing states, President Obama leads Mitt
Romney by 11 points, 52 percent-41 percent.

Tonight, Nate Silver of "The New York Times" "FiveThirtyEight" blog
forecasts that on November 6th, President Obama will within 320 Electoral
College votes, and Mitt Romney will win 218 Electoral College votes. And
President Obama`s chance of winning the election is as of tonight, at a new
high of 85.7 percent.

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

Karen, the expectations game is -- has gotten really out of hand this
time. Finally, Chris Christie, for whatever reason, just kind of gave up
and stated the obvious and said, well, of course. You know, Mitt Romney
has to be the big winner on this first debate.

KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, of course -- well, I
think he was like look, let me keep my credibility in check because he`s
been watching what`s happened to Congressman Ryan over the course of this
campaign. So he doesn`t want to be in that position.

But, look, I think each man has a different thing they need to
accomplish. I think for Governor Romney, he definitely needs to have a
strong performance.

But we`ve talked about this before. It`s not just about one
performance for him. His problem is a lack of consistency. He`s got to
have a good Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, every day to the
election, because I would -- you know, for donors, if you see him give one
good performance and the next day they`re off message, that`s -- you know,
more of what we`ve seen the bumbling along throughout the campaign.

And I think for President Obama the challenge is, as my former boss
Howard Dean said, don`t get irritable. It`s going to be hard when, you
know, Governor Romney is going to try to get him with his little zingers,
which I think is also a bad strategy, to not get annoyed at the lack of
seriousness and the lack of actual facts. So, for the president, I think
he`s challenge.

And, look, I think most of us at this point are expecting, you know,
Romney can have a mediocre performance and I think he will get good spin
the next day.

O`DONNELL: Steve Kornacki, the Romney campaign is up against another
difficulty in the poll, which is the public`s actual expectation at this
point. The "Washington Post" poll shows that among likely voters, 55
percent of them expect President Obama to win the debate, 31 percent expect
Mitt Romney to win the debate. And presumably that expectation will color
the way those viewers watch that debate.

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC`s "THE CYCLE": Yes. It could. I mean, maybe
this is the one risk maybe the biggest risk there is for the Obama campaign
that if the bar is set that high, then you if there`s sort of an even
match, if Romney kind of holds his own, isn`t clearly blown out of the
water or anything like that, that people say, well, you know, he exceeded
expectations. So what looked like a draw ends up being interpreted by the
viewers, maybe the media, especially if the media is looking to sell the
horse race angles, wow, we got a real contest now, maybe they start
portraying the draw as actually a Romney win.

I mean, the example I can always think of is Romney`s first debate in
Massachusetts in `94. The expectations for Ted Kennedy, believed it or
not, heading into that, were so low, this was sort of the low point of his
career, his public his sort of personal life has really exploded into the
headlines the years before this. And the expectations were his performance
were so low, you know, Kennedy actually outdebated Romney but the effect of
that was really magnified because the expectations were so low.

So, I think that might be the biggest risk here for the Obama people
that the expectations of the voters and probably the press too that Obama
will win. So maybe nothing short of a clear win could be a little
problematic for them.

O`DONNELL: Let`s consider what some conservatives are saying.
Obviously, they see the big stakes in this debate. Let`s start with Bill
Kristol and what he had to say about the debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL KRISTOL, WEEKLY STANDARD: Every liberal professor I read, his
advice or her advice to Mitt Romney is be likable. You`ve really got to
take care of your likability deficit.

Forget it. Forget it. It`s too late for that. The media narrative
of the day after the day is, you know, they both did well. It was so nice
to have a respectful debate. Jim Lehrer, Mitt Romney, Barack Obama, they
all got along. It was such a high tone.

That`s over. He`s got to get under President Obama`s skin and really
clarify the choice ahead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: So, Karen Finney, forget about being likable. Don`t try
to get gentlemanly compliments after the debate. Just go after the
president as hard as you can.

FINNEY: Clearly, Bill Kristol thinks that is not a winning
proposition for Governor Romney.

Look, I do think that Romney needs to be relatable, and empathetic,
which so far has been very difficult for him. He needs to not come off as,
you know, I`m up here and you`re the 47 percent, you silly people, the way
he can at times. And he probably needs to also deny himself the instinct.

You know, there have been times on the campaign trail where you could
tell, he thought he tried to be likable and relatable and he talked about
knowing the owners of the NASCAR team and the owners of the football team.
So, he should probably ignore any of those instincts.

But I think he does need to show the president a level of respect. I
don`t think that independent voters and the undecided voters will want to
see Romney sort of nipping at the president too much. And I do think we`re
expecting he`s going to try to land a few blows. But at the same time,
he`s got to figure out a way to do that that it is somewhat respectable.
He is sitting there with the president of the United States of America.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what George Will had to say who is always
at his best when he`s making Republicans uncomfortable. In his column, he
said this is something he would like to hear at the debates.

To Mitt Romney, he`d like to hear, it said, "You say redistribution
has never been a characteristic of America. You`re kidding, right? Is
redistribution not one purpose of progressive taxation? Is not most of
what government does, from agriculture subsidies to subsidized student
loans to entitlements, the redistribution of wealth from one cohort or
region to another?"

Thank you, George Will. Steve Kornacki, I`ve been trying to explain
that to Mitt Romney that every form of taxation is restriction. I, too,
would love to hear him called on that one.

KORNACKI: Yes. I mean, if we`re talking about the whole restriction
in this debate tomorrow night, I think it`s a symptom of a broader problem
for Mitt Romney and that is we`re basically talking about the stuff that
he`s been talking about to appeal to the Republican base -- the idea that
Obama is a redistributionist, the idea that he`s a collectivist, or his
radical socialism, all of this stuff.

This is something that has emerged within the base of the Republican
Party that really animates them but we have seen that for four years. That
image of Obama, that caricature of Obama does not have resonance with the
swing voters and it does not have resonance with the people who are going
to decide this election.

So Romney has been pitching that to the base and he continues to talk
about it and his campaign, continues to put it out there. If you`re
talking about that in the debate, you`re not winning over swing voters,
you`re appealing to your base, and that`s not Romney`s challenge at this
point.

O`DONNELL: Karen Finney, Charles Krauthammer, another conservative
columnist, has said to Romney go big. He did this column saying, you know,
you really have to go big in the debate.

I really, you know, I`m struggling. I can`t really imagine what going
big would look like for Mitt Romney in the debate. Seriously. I mean,
what would he say that would be big and new in that debate?

FINNEY: Well, and also what would he say that would be big, new and
credible in that debate. I mean, part of -- Romney has two really key
problems here.

Number one, he is, himself all over the map in terms of I`m going to,
you know, repeal this. I`m going to keep that. So his trying to go big,
he has to stay consistent.

The other challenge he has, and this point that Steve is making about
appealing to the base, we know what that means, we know who those voters
are. And we know the dog whistles they`re going to want to hear.

How does he say things that send those signals to that group of people
while still appealing to those moderate and independent voters? You can`t
go big and try to, you know, contort yourself and walk that balance.

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

KORNACKI: Sure.

FINNEY: Thanks.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, the newest excuse Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are
giving for not being specific about their tax plan. And Paul Ryan made a
big misstep this weekend by telling the truth about Mitt Romney`s big
misstep.

And in the rewrite tonight, the lies of Arnold Schwarzenegger finally
exposed, not by the political media but by Arnold Schwarzenegger in his new
book and in his "60 Minutes" interview last night.

By the way, who is the one, possibly the only political pundit who has
never said a good word about Arnold? Never. Tweet your guesses. That`s
in the rewrite.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Paul Ryan foolishly set Mitt Romney up for a big fail in
Wednesday night`s debate by claiming that no one, no one wants to hear the
math on the Romney/Ryan tax plan. Sam Stein and Jonathan Capehart will
join me on that one.

And Arnold Schwarzenegger is in the rewrite tonight, along with all of
those in the political media who could never see the truth about
Schwarzenegger until his lies fell apart.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN: The problem we`ve had is not everybody knows all the specifics
we`ve put out there. Not everybody knows these plans, our five-point plan
for a stronger middle class.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Of course no one knows the specifics of Mitt Romney and
Paul Ryan`s tax plan because they haven`t given any specifics.

Even FOX News Chris Wallace wants more details on how the Romney/Ryan
tax plan would actually work.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: How much would it cost?

RYAN: It`s revenue neutral.

WALLACE: I`m just talking about the cuts. We`ll get to the
deductions, but the cut in tax rates --

RYAN: The cut in tax rates is lowering all Americans tax rates by 20
percent.

WALLACE: Right, how much does that cost?

RYAN: It`s revenue neutral.

WALLACE: It`s not revenue neutral unless you take away the
deductions.

RYAN: That`s where I`m going.

WALLACE: We`re going to get to that in the second. The first half --
lowering the tax rates. Does that cost $5 trillion?

RYAN: No. Look, I won`t get into a baseline argument with you
because that`s what a lot of this is about.

WALLACE: You haven`t given me the math.

RYAN: Well, I don`t have the time -- it would take me too long to go
through all of the math. But let me say it this way. You can lower tax
rates by 20 percent across the board, by closing loopholes and still have
preferences for the middle class for things like charitable deductions for
home purchases, for health care.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That was yesterday. Here`s Paul Ryan`s new excuse for
giving no specifics.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

RYAN: Look, the point -- you know, I like Chris. I didn`t want to
get into all the math of this because everybody would start changing the
channel.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now, two men who promise not to change the
channel when it comes to the Romney/Ryan campaign specifics, Sam Stein,
political editor and White House correspondent for "The Huffington Post"
and MSNBC contributor, and Jonathan Capehart, an editorial writer for "The
Washington Post" and MSNBC contributor.

Jonathan, this has become truly absurd watching Ryan on television
coming up with reasons why he can`t get into the specifics of what would
happen on the deductions side of your tax returns in Romney/Ryan world.
First, there`s not enough time to explain it. Then, he fears if he did
explain it, it would be just so boring. People are so uninterested in what
would actually be on their own tax return.

They got to have something better for Wednesday night, don`t they?

JONATHAN CAPEHART, WASHINGTON POST: Yes. They`re going to have to.
One of the complaints about this, about this campaign, both against
President Obama and also Governor Mitt Romney is the lack of specifics
about all of these plans that both men have actually what does the
president want to do for his second term? But for Mitt Romney, how are you
going to do all these things.

You know, I have to give Chris Wallace a lot of credit for pushing
Ryan, where do you get the $5 trillion from? It`s not enough to say it`s
revenue neutral. That just means in order to pay for it, you`re getting
the money from some place else. Well, where is that coming from?

Quite frankly, it`s not enough to say I don`t have enough time to get
into all that or I`m afraid I`m going to put people to sleep. Well, you
know what? The people who are watching the debates and "FOX News Sunday"
are the very people who have the time to sit there and listen to you go
into Wonksylvania (ph) to talk about those things. They can`t get away
with this for much longer.

O`DONNELL: But the thing is, Jonathan and Sam, it`s not wonky. It`s
very simple. If you`re going to cut all income rates by 20 percent, which
is, as Chris Wallace who was great in that interview that we just saw,
Chris Wallace was right, that cost $5 trillion. Just tell us how much and
how you`re going to cut that whole mortgage deduction and the other
deductions. We will sit here and listen to it.

It`s really easy, in fact, Sam, and it seems to me that this is all
now part of the unmasking of Paul Ryan, the so-called serious man. He
doesn`t actually have any answers, Sam.

SAM STEIN, HUFFINGTON POST: Well, first of all, it is easy and we
know it`s easy because this is Mitt Romney`s second position on tax policy.
Remember, this was a revision of his earlier position in the primary. He
wanted to simplify it, make it more appealing to primary voters and so he
said, OK, let`s do a 20 percent across the board rate reduction and we`ll
fill in the gaps eliminating some deductions and exemptions.

Now, keep in mind that Paul Ryan says that the American people are too
bored or would be too bored by this.

Two weeks ago, Ed Gillespie, senior adviser for the Romney campaign,
said people are ready to know about the policies. That`s when they were
saying, OK, we`re going to get more specific. Just wait, we`re going to
fill in the details. Obviously, they haven`t done that.

But you`re right. It`s very simple. You just have to make the math
up. But, you know, they realize as soon as they name one deduction or one
exemption that they`re going to be attacked for it. So, they`re sending
out these mixed signals and they`re dealing with vagaries. They`re going
to try to do it until the very day of the election.

O`DONNELL: I really crack up when I hear Paul Ryan use the word
baseline, as if it`s a very heavy, technical term that if we get into
anything involving this word "baseline", everyone is going to get really
confused, when in fact "baseline" has absolutely nothing to do with the
question in any way. It seems to me, it sounds like it`s the only
technical budget term Ryan seems to know.

STEIN: It sounds like what he`s trying to say is they expect their
tax cuts to generate economic growth and, of course, CBO won`t take that
into consideration. Therefore, there`s no way to properly score the tax
policy that they`re putting forward.

But, you know, that doesn`t excuse them not actually offering the
specifics on the exemptions and deductions, especially from a ticket that
says they themselves on being the tough truth-tellers.

They`ve also put out two different messages with respect to what
they`re going to do if the tax-paying doesn`t add up. Kevin Hassett,
economic adviser to the campaign, said recently if they can`t find the
deductions in the exemptions, then they will actually lower the size of the
tax cut.

However, I was on the trail in Ohio a couple of days ago, where Mitt
Romney in front of a crowd of largely middle class Ohioans, told them not
to expect too much tax relief. He said, we`re going to lower the rates but
people are going to be paying more because they`re going to be eliminating
exemptions and deductions.

The message he sent to them was that even the middle class people
would end up losing some of these exemptions and deductions. He wouldn`t
say it on the record or anything like that, but that would be a huge change
in policy.

O`DONNELL: And, Jonathan, Ryan has said we won`t compromise on the
rate cut. We will definitely do the rate cut and that just means they`re
going to have to make it up somewhere else.

So they`ve got a minimum of three different ways of doing this that
they have thought about. But conservative thought leader Bill Kristol is
real worried about how this tax debate is going. He sees them as actually
losing the debate. Let`s listen to what he said to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KRISTOL: They talked themselves into being a little too risk averse
and kind of -- if we put a number out there, it`s going to be in all the
ads. I mean, I agree with Laura, he`s got to be mature and sensible,
assume the American public is willing to hear some hard truths and explain
his tax plan.

It`s crazy for him to be losing a tax debate to President Obama. The
Republicans aren`t going to win the presidency if you can`t win a tax
debate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Jonathan Capehart, we are watching a Democrat so far win a
tax debate against Republicans.

CAPEHART: Who would thunk it? You know, who would have thunk -- I
mean, that and, you know, Democrats cheering national security. Yes, Bill
Kristol gives Mitt Romney excellent advice and if he were to take it, he`d
actually box the president into a corner, he would say here`s my number,
what`s yours?

STEIN: I disagree for one point. In poll after poll, what you see is
that limiting the Bush tax cuts for people over $250,000 polls extremely
well. People are largely supportive of letting those tax cuts lapse and
extending them for people below $250,000 for family, $200,000 per
individual.

So, I think there`s a reason Obama is winning the tax cut or the tax
policy argument is because people like to favor his tax plan.

O`DONNELL: Sam Stein and Jonathan Capehart, thank you both for
joining me tonight.

CAPEHART: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, with 36 days to go until the election, we will
once again talk about the number one reason to vote for president.

And Paul Ryan`s job is to change the subject from the 47 percent
scandal. So why did Paul Ryan bring up the 47 percent scandal yesterday on
FOX News?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I`ve been on Leno more than a couple of times. And now
Letterman hates me because I`ve been on Leno more than him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Of course Dave doesn`t hate Romney. But the Romney
campaign is making a huge mistake with Dave, who had this to say about
Mitch Romney on Friday night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID LETTERMAN, "THE LATE SHOW": The current president, President
Obama, was on the show last week. The challenger, Mitch Romney, has not
been on the show. We have asked him to be on the show. We have any night,
any time, short notice, whatever he wants. He can be on the show. He`s
got 39 days. I don`t want to persuade anybody unnecessarily, but if he`s
not here in 39 days, don`t vote for him.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Coming up, one of Paul Ryan`s is to help people forget
about Mitch Romney`s 47 percent comment. But Ryan stumbled and brought up
the 47 percent yesterday on Fox News. He really did.

And in the Rewrite tonight, now everyone knows what they should have
known when he first announced his political candidacy. Arnold
Schwarzenegger is a clown and a liar, something I`ve been telling you for
years. And Arnold finally actually agrees with me that he is stupid, a
word he just used to describe himself tonight on Hannity. The stupid liar,
Arnold Schwarzenegger, is in tonight`s Rewrite.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: With your help, we
will win Florida. With your help, we`ll represent 100 percent of the
American people still. And with your help, we will win this election!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: In the Spotlight tonight, the problem that won`t go away,
Mitt Romney`s 47 percent problem. On Sunday, it was Paul Ryan`s turn to
try to defend this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the
president no matter what. There are 47 percent who are with him, who are
dependent upon government, who believe they`re victims, who believe the
government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they`re
entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. My job is
not to worry about those people. I`ll never convince them that they should
take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And here is how Paul Ryan responded.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: In the course of those conversations,
you`ve admitted the campaign has made missteps. Which missteps?

PAUL RYAN (R), CANDIDATE FOR VICE PRESIDENTIAL: I think, first of
all, 47 percent, Mitt acknowledges himself that was an inarticulate way of
describing how we`re worried that in a stagnant Obama economy, more people
are become dependent on government because they have no economic
opportunity. It was an inarticulate way to describe what we`re trying to
do to create prosperity and upward mobility and reduce dependency by
getting people off welfare and back to work.

So yes, those -- we`ve had some missteps. But at the end of the day,
the choice is really clear. And we`re giving people a very clear choice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: So, in talking about the Romney campaign`s missteps, Paul
Ryan missteps by reminding everyone of the 47 percent misstep. Joining me
now is Nia Henderson of "the Washington Post." MSNBC`s Ari Melber. Nia,
Chris Wallace invited Paul Ryan to talk about the campaign missteps. I
think he would have been better off talking about Clint Eastwood than, say,
the 47 percent.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, "THE WASHINGTON POST": That`s right. I mean, I
didn`t have any reason to go there. And from the Romney campaign`s
perspective, they very much want to have a sort of hands-off approach to
this 47 percent gaffe, 47 percent misstep, call it what you want. They`re
in debates preparing to essentially say Mitt Romney cares about 100 percent
of Americans, all of Americans.

The problem of course with that is that it just remind you of the 47
percent. We`ve seen a real damage that this comment has done to the Romney
campaign. Obviously the Obama campaign and Democrats have seized on it
with these powerful ads. And that`s what`s so shocking about I think the
staying power of this ad. Every time you see it, it`s so powerfully
shocking. It still has a power to invoke anger and real motion.

Obama is certainly seizing on that. And we`ll see how Romney deals
with it going forward.

O`DONNELL: Yes, I hear it freshly every time I hear it. Those words
are really amazing and they don`t become -- you don`t get used to it. As
much as it`s Paul Ryan`s job to try to make us forget about that 47 percent
comment, it is Joe Biden`s job to never let us forget about it. Let`s
listen to him this weekend in Florida.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: The American people are so much better, so much stronger, take
so much more responsibility than these guys give them credit for. How can
-- how can Governor Romney have such a profound misunderstanding to the
people of this country?

Folks, I`ve got news for Governor Romney. I`ve got news for
Congressman Ryan. America is neither dependent nor in decline. And
gentlemen, it`s never -- never been a good bet to bet against the American
people. They have never let this country down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Ari Melber, Joe Biden seems to know exactly how to use
that 47 percent comment to greatest effect.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: First of all, big ups to Joe
Biden for rocking that polo shirt. I can`t think of the last time someone
on a ticket has made such a bold choice. Lawrence, It think you hit the
nail on the head. Look at the contrast here between Joe Biden, who`s
setting the table on the issues that Obama campaign wants to talk about,
and Paul Ryan, who frankly doesn`t look very gracious.

When you`re asked about missteps on the ticket, if you want to do
anything -- and I think this is communications and politics 101. If you
want to do anything, talk about your own missteps. You`re the number two
guy. You`re not there to remind people about how your boss made a big
error that wasn`t just style, but was also substance.

O`DONNELL: Paul Ryan was also asked why the Romney/Ryan team is
trailing in the polls. Let`s listen to his response to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN: It kind of goes without saying that there is definitely media
bias. I think most people in mainstream media are left of center. And
therefore they want a very left of center president versus a conservative
president like Mitt Romney.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: It`s the old blame the media, Nia. You know you`re in
trouble when you are blaming the media for where your campaign is.

HENDERSON: That`s right. And I mean, the mainstream media outlet
that is Fox News is essentially saying the same thing, that this team is
losing, that they are behind in polls. The Fox News polls show the same
sort of spread that NBC has, that Pew has, that "the Washington Post" has.

But this is a campaign that is in a bit of a tailspin. They`re
obviously going to try to right the ship on Wednesday. But again, if you
look at the numbers, a lot of the damage was done I think over the summer,
when the Obama campaign decided early on to define Mitt Romney as a
plutocrat, someone out of touch with the main stream. And then he himself
-- Romney sort of doubled down on Obama`s strategy with this video that
came out. So they`re in a real situation here and they`ve got a short time
to right it.

MELBER: Lawrence, if I could jump in, the thing about what Paul
Ryan`s saying is it`s offensive if you unpack it and think about it. What
he`s saying is we`re all stupid. We don`t remember that the polls have
shown Republicans up a lot.

And secondly this idea that people in the media, that if their
personal views go one way, the product of their reporting goes another way,
I don`t think that resonates with the public at all. It is true that there
is a lot of distrust of the establishment press. But I remember, if you go
back to important media failures like the Iraq War or the financial crisis
-- on Iraq, there may have been a lot of reporters -- I remember a lot --
who were personally skeptical, but there was a collective media failure in
the way they covered it.

So the idea again that someone`s personal views are always going to
represent them in what they write or how they report, I don`t think that
computes. I think you would have to be kind of dumb or kind of tuned out
to buy the crap that Paul Ryan is peddling there.

O`DONNELL: And then there`s the big media failure on the questions of
who is the real Arnold Schwarzenegger, which it would have been awfully
nice for them to figure out back when he was running for governor, which I
had figured out at the time. We`re going to talk about that more next.

Nia Henderson and Ari Melber, thank you both for joining me tonight.

MELBER: Thanks, Lawrence.

HENDERSON: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, the lying clown that is Arnold Schwarzenegger
and the pathetic political media that never figured him out. That`s in the
Rewrite.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was that the only affair?

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, FORMER GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA: No.
(inaudible) you know, that`s something that`s obviously between Maria and
me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She knew?

SCHWARZENEGGER: Yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So it`s a recurring issue? With you.

SCHWARZENEGGER: I`m not perfect.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That`s Arnold Schwarzenegger Rewriting his image from
perfect to not perfect. It took Schwarzenegger getting caught having an
affair and a child with one of the family`s maids to force him to admit
that he is not perfect. Some of us already knew that. Some of us knew
Arnold Schwarzenegger was a clown and knew it for a very long time.

His wife`s aunt, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, spoke for many of us in
1991 when she told a friend over lunch, quote, "I loathe everything that
man stands for."

Lying has obviously come naturally to Schwarzenegger for a very long
time. And he lied his way into the governorship of California by claiming
that governing is easy. Schwarzenegger ran a Republican-style dumb-down
campaign against the state`s 22 billion dollar debt. He campaigned with a
broom, which he used at rallies to symbolize how easy it would be to sweep
away the fiscal mess of California government. And the political media
fell for it.

He was not exposed as the Sarah Palin know-nothing that he was. He
was treated with unearned respect by everyone who interviewed him. And his
campaign was gleefully welcomed by the political media as refreshing. He
was regarded as a political star.

And when he was elected, there was serious talk in the political media
of changing the United States Constitution to allow foreign born
naturalized citizens to run for president of the United States. The
Republican party was very proud of their new star.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHWARZENEGGER: Ladies and gentlemen, America is back. We are back
because of the perseverance, character and leadership of the 43rd president
of the United States, George W. Bush.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Thanks to his sheer incompetence, Schwarzenegger quickly
became a very unpopular governor and managed to salvage his re-election
campaign by simply abandoning the Republicans and adopting the California
Democratic party`s agenda. The clown who won the governorship promising to
eliminate the state`s debt ended up tripling the state`s debt.

I, for one, don`t blame Schwarzenegger for any of that.
Schwarzenegger has always, very plainly and publicly, been a clown. I
blame the political media for not treating him as such. Political pundits
spend endless hours analyzing and judging the character of our politicians.
Please, always remember that the very worst public practitioners of judging
character are political pundits.

They have been presented with two very simple intelligence tests in
this regard in the last few years. First Schwarzenegger the clown, then
Trump the clown. And the political media has failed both of those
political intelligence tests. It may be that I stand alone tonight as the
only American political pundit, the only public judge of political
character who has never said a good word about either Arnold Schwarzenegger
or Donald Trump, not one word.

The political media that found grounds to praise Arnold -- and that
praise did not just come from the Republican side of the political media.
The political media that helped Arnold go from a goofy groper on movie sets
to governor of California has been silent about Arnold simply because
they`ve discovered he had a child out of wedlock, something that was not
even mildly shocking or surprising to people who actually have some ability
to judge characters like Arnold Schwarzenegger.

And so the Schwarzenegger follies should stand as a memorable lesson
to you, the close followers of politics. When political pundits talk about
the character of candidates, when they try to tell you something about the
character of candidates, they absolutely never have any idea what they`re
talking about. Never.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: And now once again, the number one reason to vote for
president: the United States Supreme Court. That`s right. Appointing the
members of the court that decide the constitutionality of health care
reform and sometimes actually decide who the president will be ask is the
single most important reason to vote for president. Four of the current
Supreme Court`s justices are in their 70s. The oldest, Ruth Bader
Ginsburg, is 79. Justice Scalia, who shows no sign of tiring of the job,
is 76. The all important swing vote on the court, Justice Kennedy, is 75.
And Justice Breyer, like Justice Ginsburg, a Clinton appointee, is 74.

Mitt Romney now thinks that conservative Justice John Roberts might
not be conservative enough to be appointed by a President Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You say on your website that you would nominate
justices in the mold of the chief justice, John Roberts. Now that he`s
voted to uphold this law, would you still, knowing what we know now,
nominate a justice like John Roberts?

ROMNEY: Well, I certainly wouldn`t nominate someone who I knew was
going to come out with a decision that I violently disagreed with -- or
vehemently, rather, disagreed with.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now is Jeffrey Toobin, author of the new book
"The Oath, the Obama White House and the Supreme Court." Jeffrey, I was
going to make the point also that voting for United States senators -- the
number one reason to vote for them is the United States Supreme Court,
since they confirm these nominations.

I just want to show you a moment that just occurred in the
Massachusetts Senate debate tonight between Scott Brown and Elizabeth
Warren. Let`s listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID GREGORY, "MEET THE PRESS" MODERATOR: Who`s your model Supreme
Court justice?

SEN. SCOTT BROWN (R), MASSACHUSETTS: Let me see here. That`s a great
question. I think Justice Scalia is a very good judge. Justice Kennedy.
Justice Kennedy is obviously very good. And Justice Roberts. They`re --
Justice Sotomayor, I think they`re very qualified people there.

GREGORY: Miss Warren, who would be your model Supreme Court justice.

ELIZABETH WARREN (D), CANDIDATE FOR SENATE: I think it would probably
be Elena Kagan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Jeff Toobin, it seemed Elizabeth Warren got that one right
the first time for the Massachusetts audience. We saw Scott Brown move
from right to left, starting with Scalia, ending with Sotomayor as people
he likes. That`s an interesting range.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, AUTHOR, "THE OATH": It looked like he was sort of
randomly picking names out of the sky, the justices who had absolutely
nothing to do with each other. Elizabeth Warren, her boss on the Harvard
Law Faculty, was Dean Elena Kagan. So they have a long history together.
It certainly seemed like the crowd appreciated her choice.

O`DONNELL: And it seemed like Scott Brown wasn`t really ready for
that answer. He was a practicing lawyer in Massachusetts. To not be
actively thinking about the Supreme Court as a senator is a little
surprising to me.

TOOBIN: And to say that you`re favorite justices are Sotomayor and
Scalia, among several others that he named -- I mean, there is a huge
difference between those justices. That is the difference between Roe v.
Wade being overturned or being upheld. It is the difference between
Citizens United being upheld or being struck down. These are important
issues. And to suggest that you sort of like them all equally shows you
don`t really know what you`re talking about.

O`DONNELL: What is at stake in this Supreme Court going forward?
What is your guess, first of all, Jeff, about how many justices you think
might be replaced in the next presidential term?

TOOBIN: Well, justices leave when they can, during the presidency of
presidents they like. This is something they all acknowledge. Ruth
Ginsburg I think will leave if Barack Obama is re-elected. The question
now is because you have four justices in their 70s, the question of choice
is not the only reason people leave. I mean, they`re getting old. They
may have to leave.

So you`re looking at four justices who are at least in the ballpark
of, you know, being too old to serve. And this court is so evenly divided,
five Republicans, four Democrats, five justices, including Justice Kennedy,
who support Roe v. Roe, four justices who oppose it. All of these
decisions -- if Justice Ginsburg, who has had many health problems, leaves
during a Romney presidency, I promise you, Roe v. Wade will be overturned.

O`DONNELL: Jeffrey Toobin, the book is "The Oath." And we`ve just
discussed, once again, the most important reason to vote for president.
Thanks for joining me tonight, Jeff.

TOOBIN: Sure thing, boss.

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

END

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