updated 10/18/2012 11:51:28 AM ET 2012-10-18T15:51:28

THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
October 17, 2012

Guest:

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: And now, it`s team Obama`s turn to be happy
about a debate, and it`s team Romney`s turn to complain about the
moderator.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: President Obama came out last night like a
heavyweight fighter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Aggressive and confrontational.

CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC HOST: Fired up and a feisty debate.

STEVE KORNACKI, THE CYCLE: More like a heavyweight fight.

STEVE BASHIR, MSNBC HOST: The mother of all spankings.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Governor Romney doesn`t
have a five-point plan. He has a one point plan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president brings his "A" game to the second
debate showdown with Governor Mitt Romney.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The two men literally circled each other.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Circled the ring for an hour and a half.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Obama was seething.

ROBERT GIBBS, OBAMA CAMPAIGN: Energetic. Passionate.

JANSING: Both candidates accusing the other of not being truthful.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Completely and totally wrong.

OBAMA: Just isn`t true.

ROMNEY: Way off the mark.

OBAMA: It`s just not true.

ROMNEY: It`s absolutely true.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: The moderator Candy Crowley felt the pressure.

ROMNEY: Candy.

(CROSSTALK)

BASHIR: Candy!

ROMNEY: Candy --

Anderson, are you just going to keep talking?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is the real Mitt Romney. There he is.

JANSING: The viral phrase from last night came from Mitt Romney.

TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: The folder or whatever, binder of woman.

ROMNEY: They brought us whole binders.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Binders.

JANSING: Binders.

BASHIR: Binders full of women.

ROMNEY: Binders full of women.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president talked about women as bread
winners.

OBAMA: We don`t have to collect a bin much of binders to find
qualified, talented, driven young women.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Governor Romney talked about them as resumes in
a binder.

ROMNEY: Whole binders full of women.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Announcing the big three battleground states.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Both candidates and their wing men.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: In three of the most politically value
battleground states.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Crisscrossing critical battleground states.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: We`ve got 20 days go to.

HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST: I think it hangs in the balance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president did pretty well.

BASHIR: Mr. Romney shooting himself in the foot that was frequently
in his mouth.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He can`t help it, he was born with a silver foot
in his mouth.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: With just 20 days until election, President Obama is now
feeling better about the debates.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We had our second presidential debate last night.

(APPLAUSE)

You know, I`m still trying to get the hang of this thing.

But as bee saw last night, the five-point plan really boils down to
one point. Folks at the very top get to play by a different set of rules
than you do.

We cannot grow this economy from the top down. We grow it from the
middle out. We`re not going backwards, we`re going forward. That`s why
I`m running for a second term for president and that`s why I want your
vote.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The second debate was watched by over 65 million
television viewers, just about the same number that watched the first
debate.

According to a "Reuters" poll, 48 percent of registered voters believe
that President Obama won the debate, 33 percent believed Mitt Romney won.

A CNN poll of registered voters shows 46 percent believed President
Obama won, 39 percent believed Mitt Romney won.

And a CBS poll shows 37 percent of uncommitted voters believe
President Obama won and 30 percent believe Mitt Romney won.

The president won this praise from leading conservative thinker George
Will.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE WILL, CONSERVATIVE COLUMNIST: I think the president`s tactical
victory was on trying to get Mitt Romney to unring a bell which is very
hard to do. The president held his fire on the 47 percent until he had the
last worth in the debate. That is, he used it in his summation in a way
that Mitt Romney could not explain or respond to.

So I think as a tactical measure tonight, the president did very well
indeed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Today, Vice President Biden campaigned in Nevada and
Colorado where he said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: How about Barack
Obama last night?

(APPLAUSE)

You all saw the man that I have sat with every day on average four to
six hours a day -- a man of principle, a man of gumption, a steady hand and
clear vision. That`s what America got to see last night. And I`ll tell
you, it`s presumptuous to say it as vice president, but I`m proud of him.
I`m proud to serve him (ph).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: MSNBC`s Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman
and experienced debater, had this to say about Mitt Romney`s performance.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC HOST: He came on way too strong. You don`t
run over a female moderator. You just don`t. Stylistically you don`t.
It`s very dangerous.

Secondly, you don`t run over the president of the United States.
Whether that president is a Republican or whether that president is a
Democrat. There are independent voters who believe that a president should
be treated with deference because he is the commander-in-chief.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now, MSNBC`s Alex Wagner and Chris Hayes.

Alex, there you are in Los Angeles -- Joe Scarborough thinking you
don`t run over a female moderator. I think you`re probably about four
years away from being a female moderator at a presidential debate. And so
--

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Can we get a clock in the lower part of the
screen?

O`DONNELL: That`s right.

WAGNER: That is a laughable prospect, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: So what is your feeling about that, about this notion that
some guys certainly are having that hey, you know, you don`t treat Candy
that way?

WAGNER: Well, I think there`s some gender politics that make me a
little queasy in that statement, which is to say, female moderators should
be treated the same as male moderators at the end of the day. I mean, I
think that this is not about chivalry, this is about facts. And I think
Candy Crowley did a great job last night, correcting Mitt Romney when he
was way, way off base.

But to Joe`s second point in terms of how Mitt Romney treated the
president and generally his sort of sneering attitude obviously didn`t play
well. You had those polls at the beginning of this block, Lawrence.

I mean, you don`t say -- you don`t try and put the president of the
United States in his place. I mean, I think again, this whole thing, this
whole stage is set to appeal to five or six independent voters in this
country, and they still understand the office of president. I mean, I
think for the most part, Americans can agree that there`s -- it`s sort of
an uplifted position in American society. And to take that attitude
towards the president was not something people were comfortable seeing.
And it wasn`t a very statesman like moment for Mitt Romney.

O`DONNELL: It was odd for me, Chris, seeing that happen with the
president. But you know, the president today is being very modest saying
there, I`m starting to get the hang of this debate thing. I think he got
the hang of it last night.

HAYES: Oh, yes. He had an excellent performance last night. I think
it`s very hard for them -- for team Obama to think they did anything but
exactly what they wanted him to do.

And I think, I mean, the interesting thing here is that the -- Mitt
Romney`s weakness as a debater has been, was for the Republican primary, he
just doesn`t like people challenging him. He gets bullying and kind of
rude and petty when people challenge him. And Barack Obama didn`t
challenge him much in the first debate. And so he came across fairly
likable because he didn`t get that part of his personality going.

In this debate, Barack Obama did the same thing that Rick Perry did in
previous debates which was basically just telling him, saying, "You`re
wrong about that," or "That`s not what`s in your record" and he does not
like that.

And there`s certain kind of imperious CEO quality to him when he tells
the president you`ll get a chance to finish. You`ll get a chance. It`s
like, I`m the CEO and you up, I don`t want to hear from you, because I
spent my life for 25 years giving orders, not having dialogues face to
face.

O`DONNELL: Alex you will not be surprised to learn that Rush Limbaugh
has an explanation for all of this. He has an explanation for George
Will`s perception that President Obama did very well in that debate last
night. Let`s listen to Rush.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: She gave it all for the good
guys. She gave it all for the right side. But she committed an act of
journalistic terror or malpractice. If there were any journalistic
standards, what she did last night would have been the equivalent of
blowing up her career like a suicide bomber.

But there aren`t any journalistic standards anymore. And she`s going
to be praised and celebrated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: So, Alex, according to Rush, Candy Crowley committed an
act of journalistic terror and is a suicide bomber.

WAGNER: Yes, he`s always so measured in his praise, isn`t he,
Lawrence? Comparing Candy Crowley to a jihadist might be just as Bill
Maher said, taking the subway one stop past sanity -- that`s a paraphrase.

Look, I said this before -- I think Candy Crowley did a laudable job.
That Libya moment was a terrible moment for Romney. And one that could
have easily been prevented if Mitt Romney had been paying attention to what
the president was saying in the Rose Garden, instead of writing his remarks
to insert himself into the national dialogue between remarks made by the
president and the secretary of state on the day of national tragedy.

Remember the person that played their cards wrong on that very, very
bad day for the United States, and it was Mitt Romney. What`s amazing to
me is that the Romney team did no fact checking. I mean, they have a
certain plank of their campaign built on this foreign policy question and
they don`t have the basic facts right.

O`DONNELL: The question that, the item that George Will was praising
in particular was holding the 47 percent comment until the very end, until
the last word. Let`s show how the president did that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: When he said, behind closed doors, that 47 percent of the
country considered themselves victims, who refuse personal responsibility,
think about who he was talking about. Folks on Social Security who have
worked all their lives. Veterans who sacrificed for this country. People
who are working hard every day, paying payroll tax, gas taxes but don`t
make enough income. And I want to fight for them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Now, Chris, George Will clearly believes that the
president specifically saved it for that. There`s some speculation that
no, no, he was reacting off of Mitt Romney saying I`m for the 100 percent.
But given that the president hadn`t said it in the whole debate, it seems
impossible that he was going to let the debate go by without using the 47
percent. And you heard me ask David Axelrod last night, was that the
strategy to save it for the very last word? Of course, he has to deny
there was any strategy at all.

HAYES: Well, it was incredibly effective. It was bizarre to me. I
mean, it was a huge error on the part of Mitt Romney, to essentially raise
the issue of the 47 percent without directly addressing it.

O`DONNELL: In case anyone`s forgotten it, let me please mention it.

HAYES: In the last moment, in the last moment, and the question was,
are there things that people that you would like to clarify or you would
like to correct? And clearly he thought, yes, that I`m some removed,
distant, contemptuous plutocrat who hates the masses.

And he -- instead of rebutting that, he just left it to his opponent
to drive that message home. I also think, what`s really interesting to me
about that moment, there`s a few moments in the debate, Barack Obama just
doesn`t like throwing that punch. There`s a few moments last night where
he seemed to relish it. But more often than not, you can see in that tape,
he pauses for a second and he has to kind of steel himself. You saw it
when he after Mitt for his portfolio outsourcing jobs for Bain, investing
in companies that (INAUDIBLE) -- there`s this kind of pause.

This was the same Barack Obama time after time in the primaries in
2008 where people said you have to throw a punch, you have to go after
Hillary, you have to do this, you have to do that. And he just -- it isn`t
natural to him and I thought he did a good job last night of delivering
those attacks in a way that didn`t feel artificial to who he was.

There`s this kind of coming under the attack sublimated and kind of
quiet and poised way that he did it last night that I thought was very
effective.

O`DONNELL: And, Alex, he did something like that with Mitt Romney`s
tax returns. He wouldn`t use the phrase tax returns, or secret tax returns
certainly, but he did say, you know, he pays only 14 percent. There`s just
one sentence away from getting into this mass of secret tax returns.

The way Chris sees it, and I think I do too is, he just couldn`t go
that extra step.

WAGNER: Yes, I agree with what you guys are saying. But I think we
cannot underestimate how incredibly competitive the president is.

HAYES: Yes.

WAGNER: And when he was talking about the indignation he felt about
the way that the Romney campaign has colored the White House response to
the death of Chris Stevens, that was legitimate anger I thought.

HAYES: Agreed.

WAGNER: That was legitimate emotion. That wasn`t just because he had
been in debate prep with David Plouffe. And David Plouffe has said,
listen, man, you got to ring the bell.

HAYES: I totally agree.

WAGNER: I think he has been felt incredibly frustrated by this
narrative that the GOP has tried to establish on the number of things, and
that was really genuine, and in some ways, it was kind of a blood-letting
for him. And so far, this attention that built to a certain point, and he
finally got to make his case to defend himself.

O`DONNELL: Alex Wagner and Chris Hayes, thank you for joining me
tonight.

WAGNER: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, we have the numbers. This is actual real news
coming up. This is something President Obama wishes that he had last
night. Mitt Romney tried a new idea last night about how to pay for his
tax cut and we can now tell you, by the numbers, exactly how ridiculous
that idea is. Steve Kornacki and Krystal Ball will join me on that.

And Lilly Ledbetter made it into the debate last night and she will
join me later in an exclusive interview. Lilly Ledbetter`s reaction with
Joy Reid.

And D.L. Hughley is here with questions he would have asked if he have
posed as an undecided voter and in that town hall audience last night.

And in the rewrite tonight, while allowing only undecided voters in
the debate was a huge mistake. That`s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: We have some news tonight, something team Obama wishes
they knew yesterday about Mitt Romney`s new tax idea. Steve Kornacki and
Krystal Ball will join me on that next.

And in tonight`s rewrite, why it was a huge mistake to allow only
undecided voters to ask questions in the presidential last night. We`ll
get a little help from "Saturday Night Live" on that one, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I pick a number -- $25,000 in deductions in credits. And you
can decide which ones to use -- your home mortgage interest deduction,
charity, child tax credit and so forth. You can use part of those as
filling that bucket of deductions.

CANDY CROWLEY, DEBATE MODERATOR: If it shouldn`t add up, if somehow
when you get in there, there isn`t enough tax revenue coming in, if somehow
the numbers don`t add up, would you be willing to look again at a 20
percent --

ROMNEY: Well, of course they add up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And of course they don`t add up. Too bad Candy Crowley
wasn`t ready with a fact check there. Today, the Third Way ran the numbers
on the proposal capping deductions at $25,000 and big surprise, that would
cover a tiny fraction of Mitt Romney`s $4.8 trillion tax cut.

Krystal Ball and Steve Kornacki, are you ready for the big news?

KRYSTAL BALL, MSNBC HOST: Let`s hear it.

O`DONNELL: We`re going to put it on the big board right behind you.
You can turn around. You can now turn around and see how much revenue, how
much revenue that new deduction bucket of 25 grand will raise you for your
$4.8 trillion. It`s only $4 trillion short.

Krystal, I mean, come on.

BALL: He`s almost there.

O`DONNELL: So, I guess he`s probably going to have to maybe do a
little something else.

BALL: And what I really love about this is he says you know, pick a
number. He`s just spitballing. If you like that, I`m for it. If not,
we`ll do something else.

And you know, earlier he threw out $17,000 --

O`DONNELL: Yes, he did.

BALL: -- as the cap for the deductions. And I think I was looking,
the average home interest mortgage deduction is $12,000. I think that was
too close, there would be too many people who couldn`t take the full amount
of that.

O`DONNELL: Right.

BALL: So he bumped it up so it would be more politically palatable.
But, you know, if you don`t like that, that`s not really plan.

But as you`re pointing out though, there is no way for his plan to
lower rates by 25 percent and not raise taxes on the middle class. There
is no way to do it.

O`DONNELL: Steve, every since he first mentioned the bucket of
deductions at 17 grand before, and then I`ve just been sitting there
thinking, oh, please, give me a cost estimate on this and I can`t quite do
it on my calculator.

And so, Third Way came out today and I got it this morning. Oh, this
is fantastic.

But I -- my guess would have been maybe a little bit more than that.
But I knew it was not going to be a lot and it was be the going to do the
job. And so that`s it. That`s the entire Romney proposal on tax
deductions. That`s it right there.

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: I did see -- I think Tax Policy Center
came out with a different one tonight that was a little more generous. It
said 32 percent. Yes, 32 percent of the way there.

And as Krystal said, I love the insistence, "well, of course, the math
adds up". I`m going to randomly take a number, but, of course, the math
adds up. I`ve already done the calculations in my head, apparently.

But this is, you know, he is simply trying to put forward a proposal
that meets every voters` criteria of, hey, you know, if we`re going to have
a tax cut, it`s going to positively affect me and I`m not going to have to
give up anything to help pay for it. I mean, the numbers just clearly --

O`DONNELL: And, you know, trying to get specific on deductions, I`ve
raised this question with a couple of Republicans. Yesterday morning,
there was a "Bloomberg View" sponsored press breakfast with Marco Rubio, a
couple dozens reporters there, and I just had just one question. I just
asked him, can you name me one tax deduction that you would eliminate in
order to pay for the tax cut proposal you`re proposing? He could not name
one.

What he did do was rattle off a bunch that we shouldn`t touch, which
was every one you`ve ever heard of.

BALL: Right, of course.

O`DONNELL: The charitable, mortgage, like every deduction you`ve ever
heard.

KORNACKI: But then there`s this claim this is how it`s been done
before. This is how it was done when John F. Kennedy cut taxes.

BALL: Right.

KORNACKI: This is how it was done when Ronald Reagan had his tax cut.

O`DONNELL: But the difference with the `86 tax reform is they did not
pick a number ahead of time that they were bound by. They didn`t say we`re
going to cut every rate by 20 and then we have to --

(CROSSTALK)

BALL: And then figure it out.

O`DONNELL: They said, what can the rate go down to as we start to
eliminate and shave off these deductions. And they made the math decide
what the rates were going to be, which is the only reasonable way to do
something like that.

BALL: Well, that`s exactly right.

And here`s the other thing. I mean, Romney picked this 20 percent tax
cut numbers during the primaries to appeal to the Republican base.

O`DONNELL: Yes.

BALL: To show that he was sufficiently supply sider enough.

So, now, not only has he changed what his plan is, but he`s changed
what his philosophy was. His entire philosophy of how to grow the economy
was to allow the job creators like him to keep more of their money and
that`s somehow magically I guess going to make them work harder and create
more jobs.

Now we can see even that thing which I thought maybe he really did
believe, even that thing he doesn`t really believe and is willing to
discard when it`s political inconvenient.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to John Kerry this morning on "MORNING JOE."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: If you gave him all the
deductions that there are, and you know this, Joe -- all the deductions
that there are. You`ve got $2.5 trillion. He doesn`t want all the
deductions and he`s trying to fake it to the American people because he
does want to tell you about the home mortgage. He doesn`t want to tell you
about the college credit. He doesn`t want to tell you about state and
local taxes, so he fakes it.

I find it stunning. It`s to me disqualifying.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Spoken like a true member of the Senate Finance Committee
who knows his tax cuts.

I want to go to some information we got from Taykey, a company that
reviews online sentiment during the debate. This is from Twitter and
Facebook and it shows how the reactions are going online. There are these
graphs again behind you on the big board. Romney is the red number.

And if you look at the lowest line there, that`s negative reaction.
And negative reaction for Romney is worst at two moments in the debate.
The first one corresponded with his very first argument with the moderator,
with Candy Crowley, and the second dip for him corresponds with when Candy
Crowley fact checked him on Libya. Those were his two lowest moments in
the debate.

BALL: Well, there`s a fine line to walk there between being
aggressive and assertive and taking control of the room and just seeming
nasty.

And the interesting thing was the president really controlled the pace
of the debate. He ended up getting more time and being able to talk more.
But he didn`t come off nasty, pushy, aggressive, nasty towards the
moderator.

And I think especially when you`re concerned about a gender gap and
you`re trying to steamroll a female moderator, it`s a particular
problematic thing for Mitt Romney.

O`DONNELL: And, Steve, the positives in that online curve, positive
comment for Barack Obama went straight up at the end, especially as he was
doing that closing with the 47 percent.

KORNACKI: With the 47 percent. Yes, and I was wondering all night.
I actually felt the night had gone well enough for Obama before that
because as the time was adding up, you`re saying, wow, it`s an hour in the
debate, an hour and 15, he`s still hasn`t gotten to the 47 percent. And
the night actually gone well enough for him that that was not going to be a
major blunder for him this time.

But then it almost felt like Romney partly walked into it by bringing
up the 100 percent comment in his closing. But it also felt like that`s
actually a pretty smart strategic way to do it. You can get the final say
on this and Romney -- you know, the Romney people had cooked up a rebuttal
of some sort for Obama to bring up the 47 percent, they had a crisp retort
for Romney, but he doesn`t get to use it.

O`DONNELL: And they made a mistake. Mitt Romney won the coin toss as
we were told at the beginning and what he chose to do was go first, make
the first comment in the debate instead of what he could have chosen was I
will the last comment in the debate. He absolutely should have chosen
going last.

BALL: Well, and he made several strategic blunders, not only that one
opening the door for 47 percent, but he brought up let Detroit go bankrupt
first. He brought up the president`s pension plan during a discussion of
immigration.

He brought up -- of course in the Libya moment, he didn`t have to say
you said those exact words at the moment. There were a lot of unforced,
strategic errors from the Romney campaign last night.

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

BALL: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Lilly Ledbetter joins me in an exclusive
interview with her reaction to what Mitt Romney did not say about her last
night.

And in the rewrite, why undecided voters should not be the only ones
who get the honor of asking questions about in the presidential debate.
And yes, that is a perfect excuse for us to show the "Saturday Night Live"
piece about undecided voters. That`s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Here`s another chart from Taykey that tracks the volume of
conversations online last night that declared the winner of the debate.

Coming up, Mitt Romney and his campaign still don`t know if Mitt
Romney supports the Lilly Ledbetter Act for equal pay for women. That was
the first bill that President Obama signed into law. Lilly Ledbetter and
Joy Reid will join me next.

And in the Rewrite, while letting only a tiny sliver of the voting
public who cannot make up their mind about which candidate to vote for is
actually very, very unfair to African-American voters.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I don`t know if you were listening last night, but, see, we
don`t have to order up some binders to find qualified, talented, driven
young women to learn and teach and thrive and start businesses.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: In the Spotlight tonight, words that bind; according to
Tivo, the segment of the debate that was rewound and watched more than once
more than any other segment of the debate was this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: We took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had
backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet. I
went to a number of women`s groups and said, could you help us find folks.
And they brought us whole binders full of women.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Earlier today, Paul Ryan tried to explain what his running
meant by binders full of women.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: All he simply meant
was that he went out of his way to try and recruit qualified women to serve
in his administration when he was governor. That`s really what he was
saying.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The binders full of women came up in an answer to a
question about equal pay for women. Here`s how President Obama answered
it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The first bill I signed was something called the Lilly
Ledbetter Bill. And it`s named after this amazing woman who had been doing
the same job as a man for years, found out that she was getting paid less,
and the Supreme Court said that she couldn`t bring suit because she should
have found out about it earlier.

That`s an example of the kind of advocacy that we need because women
are increasingly the bread winners in the family.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now for an exclusive interview, the amazing
woman President Obama was just talking about, Lilly Ledbetter, and here in
studio with me, MSNBC`s Joy Reid.

Lilly, welcome back to the show. You played a starring role in the
debate last night. But Mitt Romney, apparently, still hasn`t decided
whether he would support the Lilly Ledbetter Bill.

LILLY LEDBETTER, EQUAL PAY ACTIVIST: No, sir, he has not. He`s
having a hard time with that decision. And it seems like a no-brainer.

Absolutely.

O`DONNELL: And what was your reaction overall to what you heard Mitt
Romney talk about? When he was asked about equal pay for women, he never
discussed equal pay for women, but he did go on and on about these binders
full of women. What were you thinking when you were listening to that?

LEDBETTER: The binders disturbed me. That was unnerving to be
talking about binders. I don`t think I know anything about binders, not in
that regard. But you know, equal pay for equal work is such a simple
solution to the United States equal employment problem. And that`s what we
need, because when you`re talking about equal pay for equal work, you`re
talking about the American family.

It`s a fundamental American right to be paid and compensated. And we
have the law. It`s been on the books for 49 years. And I don`t understand
why Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have such a hard time understanding that,
because Paul Ryan voted against the Ledbetter Bill. And it`s necessary.
He said that it`s not necessary. But it is.

And I have talked to women all over this country, from coast to coast.
And they`re struggling. They`re working two jobs through the week and
another one on the weekend, still cannot make all their bills. They have
to have family help to support their families. This is not right in this
country. And we have got to turn this around.

And I don`t think Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are the answer. I was
very disturbed listening to them last night talking about women, their
rights and their families, and who will make the decision for them. This
is not right in this country. We`re well educated. And we have the
resources. And we should be better than this.

O`DONNELL: Joy Reid, I was struck by Mitt Romney`s response. Here`s
the Republican party and Mitt Romney in particular. They`re all very anti-
affirmative action, cheering for the Supreme Court to overturn it. And
Mitt Romney gives an affirmative action answer to a question that was not
about affirmative action.

It was about equal pay. He says -- doesn`t use the phrase affirmative
action, but I took affirmative action to try to go find some women to try
to populate my administration with women, because if I didn`t, it was just
going to be all guys.

JOY REID, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Because of course there
weren`t any obvious women who presented themselves to him. So I agree.
Not only was it a nonsequitor, because he was asked about equal pay and he
went right to this thing well, I had to get a binder full of qualified
candidates, which, by the way, MassGap, which was this collection of
women`s organizations, had prepared a list of qualified women who could
potentially be in state government no matter who became governor.

He didn`t go looking for these qualified women. That list was on his
desk when he became governor because they were looking for him. They were
saying, hey, whoever becomes the next governor, at least consider these
women for your cabinet. I think the more important point that Miss
Ledbetter, who is a hero, by the way, made is this: it`s not about whether
or not Mitt Romney, governor of Massachusetts, can give a few women
government jobs in that state.

It`s about whether corporations will be a allowed to get the work of
all of the rest of us women at a discount. And Romney and Ryan do
everything in the service of corporations who want labor at a discount. So
whether that`s nonunion labor, because that`s at a discount -- that helps
the corporate bottom line, or cheaper labor out of women because it`s all
about profit. And that`s what this is about at the end of the day.

O`DONNELL: Lilly Ledbetter, he basically was saying he -- by the time
he became governor, he really didn`t know any women that he would turn to.
He`s going to have to find some resumes. But when he graduated from the
Harvard Business School in 1975, 11 percent of his graduating class were
women. Apparently he didn`t speak to any of them or didn`t know where they
had gone off to in the work world, keep track of them in any way.

They certainly could have been many qualified women among that group
that could have gone to work for him. But suddenly he`s sitting there as
governor and he can`t name a single woman that he would want to hire. It`s
just astonishing that that could happen for someone who becomes a governor
in the 21st century.

LEDBETTER: It should not happen, Lawrence. Because there are so many
qualified, highly educated women out there looking for work. And they want
good jobs. And most of them are over qualified, to tell you the truth.
But when he stated that the woman he did have working, she had to go home
at 5:00 because she had to cook dinner, that just echoed in my den where I
was watching the television.

I couldn`t believe he would make a statement like that. Because maybe
she did have to cook dinner, but that`s not the big problem. That`s not
the issue. They were talking about equal pay for equal work. And there
are many women out there who need to work and they need a full-time job.
And that`s working all shifts or hours, whatever is necessary to feed their
family and to pay the mortgage or the rent, and to keep their family alive
and afloat in the world today.

And this country is dropping drastically simply because we don`t have
equal pay for equal work.

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

REID: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Mitt Romney and President Obama took questions
from the tiny group of American voters who even after months and months, a
year, more than a year of campaigning, still cannot make up their minds
about who to vote for. Those people are in the Rewrite.

And later, D.L. Hughley will join me with his questions, the questions
he wished he got a chance to ask last night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This election will determine the future of our
country. And this election will be determined by the undecided voter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And so, in the infinite wisdom of the Presidential Debate
Commission, they chose to surround the presidential candidates last night
with undecided voters, and empower them to ask questions of the president
of the United States and his Republican challenger. The questions were not
very good, but they could have been much, much worse.

The dean of "Saturday Night Live" writers, Jim Downey, set
expectations for undecided voters` questions very, very low.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When is the election? How soon do we have to
decide?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are the names of the two people running?
And be specific.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who is the president right now? Is he or she
running? Because if so, experience is maybe something we should consider.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How long is a president`s term of office? One
year? Two years? Three years? Or life?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If it`s for life, frankly, we`re not comfortable
with that. We don`t need to be electing a dictator.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What happens if the president dies? Has anyone
thought about who would replace him? What`s your plan, gentlemen?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can women vote? Because if not, as a woman,
I`ve got a big problem with that. And by the way, if men can`t vote, in my
opinion, that`s just as wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You hear a lot about our dependence on foreign
oil. But just what is oil? What is it used for?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can a woman have a baby just from french kissing?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are America`s undecided voters. There`s
still a lot we don`t know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we want answers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Of course, only allowing undecided voters to participate
in the town hall debate was a giant mistake made by the presidential debate
commission. It meant that the American electorate was not represented in
that room. Just a tiny and increasingly peculiar slice of the electorate
was allowed in that room.

Over 90 percent of voters have decided who they`re going to vote for.
And most of them decided a long time ago. If you`ve done your homework and
are well versed in the candidate`s position and have found one or more
decisive reasons for voting for one of them, that kind of attention to your
civic duty as a voter prohibited you from being allowed anywhere near the
presidential candidates last night.

Attentive voters, including voters who have made up their minds who
they`re going to vote for, surely would have asked better, more pointed
questions of the candidates. The moderator screens the questions, so that
means truly stupid questions would not make it past the moderator. And the
moderator would not allow a Romney supporter to ask a hateful question of
the president.

But supporters of one of the candidates would surely ask some really
tough questions of the opposing candidate. And that would just make it a
much better debate. And yes, there would still be room for a few questions
from undecided voters.

But handing over the entire town hall forum to undecided voters is a
mistake we shouldn`t make again. The debate commission needs to Rewrite
that rule. That rule is what created a virtually segregated town hall
audience. When 94 percent of African-American voters have decided to
support President Obama, that means a debate audience of only undecided
voters is going to be very, very, very white.

Virtually every penny of the 1.2 billion dollars spent so far on this
campaign was spent on undecided voters. But it is spent on just a tiny
segment of undecided voters. Neither presidential campaign is spending any
money trying to persuade huge numbers of undecided voters in California or
New York, because they know that there aren`t enough of those undecided
voters, percentage wise in those states, to take those states away from
President Obama`s electoral college tally.

So all of the presidential candidates` attention and money are being
spent on undecided voters in a few swing states. Rob Reiner said here the
other night that the candidates are not running for the president of the
United States. They are running for president of Ohio. Most voters in
this country have every right to feel left out of this presidential
campaign, because they are.

They are being completely ignored by the candidates. And last night
they were completely ignored and barred by the presidential debate
commission. The presidential debate commission is very good about
reviewing its rules at the end of debate season and making changes. And so
we can only hope that four years from now, at the town hall debate, the
Presidential Debate Commission will not penalize conscientious voters who
have taken the time to form an opinion about the candidates.

And maybe, maybe we`ll actually have a town hall audience that looks
and sounds like America.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: These are public lands. So if you want to drill on public
lands, you use it or you lose it.

ROMNEY: OK now --

OBAMA: So what we did was take away those leases. And we are now
reletting them so that we can actually make a profit.

ROMNEY: And production on government land is down .

OBAMA: No, it isn`t.

ROMNEY: Production on government land of oil is down 14 percent. And
production of gas is down nine percent.

OBAMA: It`s just not true.

ROMNEY: It`s absolutely true. I don`t think anyone really believes
that you`re a person who`s going to be pushing for oil and gas and coal.
You`ll get your chance in a moment. I`m still speaking.

(CROSS TALK)

OBAMA: And you`re asking me a question.

ROMNEY: That wasn`t a question. That was a statement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: You know what I was thinking when I was watching Mitt
Romney tell the president when he could talk and when he couldn`t talk --
what I was thinking was I wonder what D.L. think about that. That`s what I
was thinking.

D.L. HUGHLEY, COMEDIAN: All he didn`t say was sit down, uppity boy.
That`s all he didn`t say. I mean, it`s like he learned how to debate
watching "Mad Men." It`s like he literally think that he`s superior. He
acts as if he believes he`s superior in every way to this man. And he
treats him with such patent disrespect that it`s hard.

I didn`t like him anyway. When you go to England and they call you
arrogant, the people that invented arrogant, you know that you`re pretty
arrogant. But I just -- I don`t think he is the kind of person that I see
as, A, authentic, or as the kind of person that can even empathize with
regular people.

O`DONNELL: You not liking him puts you in the company, according to
the polls, of about 150 million people. He is the most not liked candidate
for president in a long time. I want to look at another moment in the
debate that was quite striking, the Benghazi section that ends up with the
Candy Crowley fact check.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I think it`s interesting the president just said something
which is that on the day after the attack, he went in the Rose Garden and
said that this was an act of terror.

OBAMA: That`s what I said.

ROMNEY: You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack it was
an act of terror? It was not a spontaneous demonstration.

OBAMA: Please proceed, governor.

ROMNEY: I want to make sure we get that for the record. Because it
took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act
of terror.

OBAMA: Get the transcript.

CROWLEY: He did, in fact, sir. So let me call it an act of terror.

OBAMA: Can you say that a little louder, Candy?

CROWLEY: He did call it an act of terror.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: OK. There was a moment where I need you to go inside the
president`s head. I wish we could freeze frame it here. But the moment
where he`s looking at Mitt Romney and what he chooses to say are the words,
"please proceed." Those are the only two words he chooses to say. I have
a feeling he was thinking something else.

HUGHLEY: Yeah, and it would have been appropriate for Def Jam. I
just -- I think -- but he kind of had to bait him. It`s asinine to
believe, if there were -- if he were aware of what was happening in Libya,
most -- the George Bush play book was to use that to make people afraid and
say, you should vote for me, because we don`t know. Everything`s unsafe
and you don`t know this guy. At least I`m proven on this.

So it flies against everything that politicians usually do. But I
think Mitt Romney is just -- and obviously he`s doing very well and it`s a
tighter election than it probably should be. But he seems so dismissive of
everybody that isn`t like of his ilk. We`re all 47 percent to him. I`m
not saying tat he`s a gold digger. But he definitely ain`t messing with no
broke -- you know how it goes. So I think he`s just that kind of person.

O`DONNELL: I`m watching you watch him. And I know of you`ve seen all
this before and you`re angry again.

HUGHLEY: I didn`t like him when I met him. When I met him, he seemed
like the exact same person people are saying now. Obviously --

O`DONNELL: When did you meet him?

HUGHLEY: I met him in 2007 at Jay Leno. And I went this guy looks
like a Mercedes Benz salesman. Like, you know, slick and tanned. He looks
like he was cast to be president. He looked like he`s privileged, like he
expects that that`s going to happen. And he just seems so out of touch.
He lacks any level of empathy to me. I don`t get how people think that
he`s relatable.

O`DONNELL: Let`s watch him arguing with the president about pensions.

HUGHLEY: Right.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CROSS TALK)

ROMNEY: I`m going to continue --

CROWLEY: Governor Romney, if you can make it short. See all these
people, they have been waiting for you. If you --

ROMNEY: Any investments I have over the last eight years have been
managed by a blind trust. And I understand they do include investments
outside the United States, including in Chinese companies. Mr. President,
have you looked at your pension? Have you looked at your pension?

OBAMA: I`ve got to say --

ROMNEY: Mr. President, have you looked at your pension?

OBAMA: You know, I don`t look at my pension. It`s not as big as
yours, so it doesn`t take as long.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUGHLEY: It`s got to be horrible for Mitt Romney to -- these are
people who -- for the first time in his life, he`s on a job interview. And
now he has to ask people who he`s never spoken to to give him a job. It`s
amazing. And he acts like that to me.

O`DONNELL: D.L. Hughley, you`ve got something coming up on Comedy
Central.

HUGHLEY: It is, "The Endangered List." I actually go -- me and three
other writers from Comedy Central of the Jon Stewart Show, Miles and Stu
and Jeff -- we put together -- we tried to get a black man put on the
Endangered Species List.

O`DONNELL: We got to watch that. D.L. Hughley, "The Endangered
List," it airs Saturday, October 27th. D.L. gets tonight`s LAST WORD.

END

Copyright 2012 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>


Watch The Last Word With Lawrence O'Donnell each weeknight at 10 p.m. ET