updated 10/31/2012 11:58:17 AM ET 2012-10-31T15:58:17

THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
October 30, 2012

Guests: Mark Merritt, Jonathan Capehart, Karen Finney, Ari Melber

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: New Jersey`s Republican Governor Chris
Christie has a new best friend, President Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hurricane Sandy bearing down on the entire
Eastern Seaboard, bearing down on 60 million people across at least a dozen
states, from Delaware to North Carolina, New York and New Jersey.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK: This was a devastating storm.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: In Atlantic City, part of the famous
boardwalk was washed away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At Ground Zero, flood water is rushing into the
construction site.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Many homes completely covered.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Massive six-alarm fire in New York`s borough of
Queens.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three feet of snow in parts of West Virginia.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Seven-point-eight million people without power.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Flights are canceled. Subways are shutdown.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The federal government is closed. The New York
Stock Exchange is closed.

CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC ANCHOR: We`re a week from Election Day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just seven days to go.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I don`t give a damn about
Election Day.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This storm is not yet
over.

CHRISTIE: The president has been all over this. He deserves great
credit.

OBAMA: The election will take care of itself.

CHRISTIE: I will tell you, this administration could give a damn less
about election day.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They talked about people
having a hard time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Governor Romney did attend an event in Ohio.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: Why Ohio? Why choose Ohio?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His campaign described it as a storm relief
event.

ROMNEY: If you have more canned goods, bring them along.

MARTIN BASHIR, MSNBC HOST: You need FEMA and you need support.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: FEMA is about to run out of money. How do you
deal with something like that?

ROMNEY: Take something from the federal government and send it back
to the states.

BASHIR: You need FEMA and you need support.

ROMNEY: If you can go even further and send it back to the private
sector, that`s even better.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mitt Romney really can`t show up on the East
Coast right now. He`s got to stay away.

CHRISTIE: The president has been all over this.

OBAMA: Listen to your state and local officials.

CHRISTIE: He deserves great credit.

OBAMA: This storm is not yet over.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The October surprise is here.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: We begin tonight with the devastation from the massive
storm called Sandy.

The death toll continues to rise. Within the hour, it has gone from
43 deaths to 50, as a result of the storm. At least 23 of those deaths are
in New York state, 18 here in New York City, alone.

President Obama has declared disasters in 11 states as well as
Washington, D.C. Since Sunday, the worst of the damage is in New Jersey
and New York. The president is scheduled to survey the damage in New
Jersey tomorrow with Republican Governor Chris Christie. More than 6
million homes and businesses are still without power, half of those in New
York and New Jersey.

Some subway tunnels in New York are flooded. The city`s subway system
could be out for at least four days. Commuter train tunnels connecting New
Jersey to Manhattan are also flooded. That service will likely be out for
at least a week.

JFK and LaGuardia airports are closed but Newark airport has partially
re-opened according to Governor Chris Christie. The number of flights
canceled is now more than 16,000.

Federal offices will be opening tomorrow in Washington, D.C. There
are plans, also, to get markets up and running on Wall Street tomorrow
morning. In New Jersey, the cost of the storm, according to the governor,
is, quote, "almost incalculable."

Speaking to reporters today, the governor said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: We want to make sure people have enough food and water for
a while, which is why we`re working with the Salvation Army and American
Red Cross to bring in mobile kitchens to serve thousands of meals. We are
also using FEMA food and water resources.

We just were given a look for the first time of the portions of the
Jersey Shore. Houses are moved off of their foundations. There are houses
in the middle of Route 35. The level of devastation at the Jersey Shore is
unthinkable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: What Governor Christie saw once in the air, neighborhoods
still under water, beaches and boardwalks gone, homes completely destroyed.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

O`DONNELL: The view from the ground, much of the same. This video of
a flooded neighborhood was taken by an NBC crew in Ocean Township, New
Jersey, today.

Governor Christie`s aerial tour of New Jersey also gave us a clear
view of the devastation in Atlantic City. The city`s casinos are largely
undamaged. The storm saved the worst for the poorest neighborhoods where
water flooded many homes and apartments.

We turn now to Battery Park in Lower Manhattan, which bore the brunt
of the storm here in New York City. For the latest from NBC News, Ann
Thompson -- Anne

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNE THOMPSON, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Lawrence.

You know, 8 million people share 400 square miles in what makes up New
York City. Those people are a tough, resilient bunch, but after this
storm, even the most prepared realize they weren`t prepared nearly enough.

(voice-over): Even New York bowed to the furious power of nature.
Gusts of 57 miles an hour ripped the face off this building as Sandy`s
winds and rain tore through the city. A record storm surge almost 14 feet
flooded Lower Manhattan filling the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel with water.

The force too much for the city`s power grid, floodwaters shorting out
this Con Ed substation. Three quarters of a million New Yorkers lost
electricity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People congregated around a radio, just trying to
get information. No one has power. No one has Internet.

THOMPSON: Adding to the misery, daylight revealed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s amazing. I mean, cars are completely
destroyed. They were submerged under water. I mean, I`m floored by what
happened.

THOMPSON: No borough was spared, from this oil tanker beaching on
Staten Island, to a beach community in Queens.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a storage unit from a construction site.
It floated over here or was blown over here -- get this -- all the way from
across the street. You see those other containers that are there right
now.

THOMPSON: The mayor said this may be the worst storm in the city`s
history.

BLOOMBERG: The damage across the city is clearly extensive and it
will not be repaired overnight.

THOMPSON: The subway system that carries 5 million people is flooded
and could four days to repair. Water damage to LaGuardia`s runways will
keep it closed for at least another day.

And 1,000 feet above midtown Manhattan, that crane still dangles,
keeping streets down below blocked off.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God.

THOMPSON: The rush of water and wind at South Street seaport toppled
street lights and carried mannequins a block from their store.

At this nearby apartment building, the challenge: to get nine feet of
water out of the basement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have only one generator outside pumping it and
that could take days.

THOMPSON: An enormous task sure to test New York`s patients.

(on camera): New York will return to normal and it will take a big
step tomorrow morning when the opening bell rings at the New York Stock
Exchange. The exchange has been closed for two consecutive days, something
that the weather hasn`t done since 1888.

I`m Anne Thompson in Battery Park. Now, Lawrence, back to you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Anne.

President Obama visited the Red Cross today in Washington and said
this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: This storm is not yet over. We`ve gotten briefings from the
National Hurricane Center. It is still moving north. There are still
communities that could be affected. And so I want to emphasize, there`s
still risks of flooding, there are still risks of downed power lines, risks
of high winds.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now is Mark Merritt, the president of Witt
Associates, a public safety and crisis management consulting firm. He was
a special adviser to Louisiana after hurricane Katrina.

Mark, you worked in FEMA also. What is the FEMA response in a
situation like this now when there`s multiple states to respond to at the
same time?

MARK MERRITT, PRESIDENT, WITT ASSOCIATES: Good evening, Lawrence.

FEMA`s mission is to support the state and local governments when it
exceeds their capacity. An event like this it becomes that much more
challenging. FEMA has the capacity. They have 10 regions which they can
draw resources from across the nation and they bring them to bear where
they`re most needed.

In the case of this storm, FEMA has leaned forward and has
prepositioned those resources in chose states. They`ve been there since
several days prior the storm making landfall.

O`DONNELL: What are common mistakes made in situations like this?

MERRITT: Well, the common mistakes are not understanding what the
needs of the state and locals are, getting out in front and not having good
lines of communication. I think what you`ve seen in the past in some of
the disasters that have been portrayed as failing is because you didn`t
have that good, clean, crisp lines of communication you`re seeing now.

When you hear governors like Governor Christie stand up and say that
the coordination has gone extremely well -- that`s a good sign that things
are actually doing what they`re supposed to be doing and what they used to
do back when James Lee was in charge of FEMA.

O`DONNELL: Yes.

How important is it to have the president involved speaking directly
to governors like Chris Christie?

MERRITT: It`s absolutely critical. The president sets the tone for
the response. And in this case the president did the right thing. He came
back. He allowed his emergency management team which was led by Craig
Fugate, the administrator, to do what he needed to do.

And he stood back and provided them the resources he needed through
the federal agencies to ensure that everything is being done quickly. He`s
made it pretty clear, at least to me, that they`re not going to be failing
to respond to this event.

O`DONNELL: And I just want to talk to you about the FEMA budget and
how their resources are deployed. There has been some talk in Congress in
the last couple years of cutting it substantially. There are certain
budget proposals that have been out that would cut it as much as 40
percent.

What would that do to FEMA operations?

MERRITT: I think it would devastate FEMA operationally, but more
importantly it would have a huge impact on the state and local governments`
ability to respond and recover from disasters. They need to be able to
know FEMA is going to be there with the resources and funding that are
necessary not only to save lives but protect property and ultimately
rebuild their infrastructure that`s been devastated by these events.
Without that infrastructure, those communities will cease to exist and our
economy will take a devastating blow.

O`DONNELL: Mark Merritt, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

MERRITT: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Republican Governor Chris Christie is very glad
that Barack Obama is president -- this week, anyway.

And later, Mitt Romney had a campaign event that he refused to admit
was a campaign event. Karen Finney and Jonathan Capehart will join me on
that.

And Mitt Romney thinks things will magically change for the better.
And he got one newspaper to believe him. That`s how he got their editorial
endorsement. And that`s in the "Rewrite."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie gave the keynote
address at the Republican National Convention. Today, he spoke in favor of
something very few Republicans support: federal government intervention in
the states. That`s next with Steve Kornacki and Joy Reid.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: I quite frankly don`t care about the election at this
moment. I`ve got lives to protect and rebuild in my state. And if the
president of the United States does a good job, I will praise him. And if
he does a bad job, I will criticize him.

But he has done a good job in the last few days for New Jersey, and
so, he deserves and has earned my praise and will get it regardless of what
the calendar says.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Today, Republican Governor Chris Christie, keynote speaker
at this year`s Republican convention and an early endorser of Mitt Romney,
has a new best friend: Barack Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: Spoke to the president three times yesterday. He called me
for the last time at midnight last night asking what he could do. I said
if you could expedite, New Jersey is a major disaster area, that that would
help us to get federal money and resources in here as quickly as possible
to clean up the damage here.

The president was great last night. He said he would get it done. At
2:00 a.m., I got a call from FEMA to answer a couple final questions and he
signed the declaration this morning.

So, I have to give the president great credit. He`s been very
attentive. And anything I`ve asked for he`s gotten to me.

So I thank the president publicly for that. He`s done, as far as I`m
concerned, a great job for New Jersey.

He accelerated the major disaster declaration for New Jersey without
the usual red tape. I can`t thank the president enough for that. The
cooperation from the president of the United States has been outstanding.

The president has been outstanding in this. He`s been incredibly
supportive and helpful to our state and not once did he bring up the
election.

The president`s been great. The president has been all over this and
he deserves great credit. He gave me his number at the White House, told
me to call him if he needed anything. He absolutely means it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s great.

CHRISTIE: It`s been very good. It`s been very good working with the
president and his administration has been coordinating with us great. It`s
been wonderful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: After talking about his new best friend, this morning on
FOX News, Governor Christie was asked about his old friend, Mitt Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there any possibility that governor Romney may
go to New Jersey to tour some of the damage with you?

CHRISTIE: I have no idea, nor am I the least bit concerned or
interested.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

CHRISTIE: I`ve got a job to do here in New Jersey that`s much bigger
than presidential politics. If you think right now I give a damn about
presidential politics, then you don`t know me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joy Reid, did you speak to your best friend three times
yesterday?

JOY REID, THE GRIO: You know what, only twice.

O`DONNELL: Yes, see. He spoke to President Obama three times
yesterday. That`s best friend stuff.

REID: Yes. They`re bigger besties than any other besties that I know
of. It`s incredible.

O`DONNELL: Yes.

REID: It`s funny because he`s not any surrogate. He`s the guy that`s
supposed to make Mitt Romney more authentic because he`s got a real,
regular guy that`s his friend.

But you know what? The truth of the matter is Chris Christie has
never been accused of being the world`s best surrogate, right? He didn`t
give him a ringing endorsement at even the convention. The speech seemed
to be more about Chris Christie 2016.

The truth of the matter is there aren`t a lot of politicians whose
main political feature is intense personal loyally to Mitt Romney. This is
a guy that doesn`t have a lot of political leaders loyal to him so at a
time like this Christie is doing the right thing. He`s putting his state
first. He doesn`t care about politician and his top priority is not
helping Mitt Romney.

O`DONNELL: Steve, you watched Chris Christie and New Jersey politics
for a long time. There`s a way to do this. He doesn`t have to use the
word "praise." He can just say President Obama has been very responsive
and he`s been good and, you know, you can pick perfectly positive
adjectives that aren`t superlatives.

STEVE KORNACKI, SALON.COM: Yes.

O`DONNELL: And no one will fault you for talking about it that way.
Should we think he`s going out of his way to praise the president or is
this kind of a natural reaction from him?

KORNACKI: I think there are two things going on here. I don`t want
to be too cynical about it. I think --

O`DONNELL: It`s after 10:00.

KORNACKI: Let me start with the benefit of the doubt version which I
would say is the most important thing to understand about Christie from
this standpoint is that he`s as ambitious as any politician. What
separates him from a lot of other ambitious politicians is he really
genuinely loves the job he has now. Think of Mitt Romney when he was
governor of Massachusetts. He was a stepping stone. That`s all he wanted
out of that job.

Chris Christie really has wanted to be governor of New Jersey his
whole life. New Jersey political culture is this very sort of quirky and
insular thing. The governor is vetted with more constitutional authority
there than anywhere else.

And I think he really -- there`s something about the role he plays in
New Jersey politics now. He relishes who he is in that state and what he
represents to that state. And when something like this comes along, this
is the ultimate test of gubernatorial leadership in New Jersey.

That said, if you want to look for the more cynical interpretation,
it`s this, to survive in New Jersey, to survive as a Republican in a blue
state, Chris Christie`s strategy has been to seek out and publicize high-
profile partnerships with members of the other party.

Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, is the most prominent example of
this. He`s done it with a number of mayors in New Jersey. He`s done it
with a number of prominent Democrats in the legislature. And it gives him
this image that absolutely is essential to him surviving in New Jersey and
in an election.

And he faces re-election next year, that hey, this is not a national
Republican who`s unwilling to work with Democrats. This is a Republican
who gets along with them. So, in that sense, this is the most high-profile
example of something he`s been doing for a few years now.

O`DONNELL: Frank Rich tweeted today, maybe it turns out that Christie
is the October surprise.

Let`s listen to what Charles Krauthammer said about this today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Christie`s praise, I don`t
want to be cynical, but that`s probably worth a couple hundred mil. As a
governor, why not say what you got to say?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: He didn`t want to be cynical either, Steve.

(CROSSTALK)

O`DONNELL: So, Joy, this -- there was a lot of guessing when this
storm started, who does this help politically? This thing we`re looking at
right now looks like a positive for the president, although trying to make
those calculations literally in this storm I think is next to impossible.

REID: I think it also helps Chris Christie because Christie looks
authentic, looks like he`s putting his state first.

But, no, I think the problem for Mitt Romney is he`s an also-ran in
this story no matter how you look at it.

O`DONNELL: Yes.

REID: Anything he does is going to look craft (ph) -- like, for
instance, having a relief rally in Ohio, for instance, rather than going to
where the damage is. So anything he does looks almost by nature too
political. And he can`t actually do anything.

He can`t do anything certainly for Chris Christie. Going around with
Mitt Romney and his Secret Service detail through the affected areas of New
Jersey would actually cause more problems and wouldn`t help at all, whereas
going around with the president helps him look at the damage really view it
for himself. He can get something out of doing that with the president.

So, I think Romney unfortunately is the odd man out.

O`DONNELL: And here are the words that Chris Christie can never say
again in this campaign. He said this just 11 days ago in Virginia. Let`s
listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: He never ran anything in his life, so the president doesn`t
know how to lead. I mean, watch what he`s been like for the past four
years. He`s like a man wandering around a dark room, hands up against the
wall, clutching for the light switch of leadership. And he just can`t find
it. He won`t find it in the next 18 days.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Steve, he`s just erased every statement like that that
he`s made and he made a lot of them over the last couple months.

KORNACKI: Yes. You`re seeing -- to pick up on Joy`s point, you know,
Chris Christie is one of the most prominent Republicans nationally right
now. I think he`s also one of the most well-liked because he will separate
himself in sort of unpredictable ways from the national Republican Party
brand.

One thing he did in New Jersey a year or two ago when he stood up for
a Muslim judge who was under attack from the Republican Party, one of the
very few prominent national Republicans who really stood up to the
Islamophobia in the party. And I think, you know, it gives him a certain
amount of credibility in moments like this.

That`s why I know the political calculation is so impossible here, but
I can`t think of something that the Obama campaign would want more
politically at this point than Chris Christie, somebody of that stature
from the other party saying the things he`s saying now a few days before
the national election. I mean, politically that has got to be advantageous
for Obama.

O`DONNELL: Joy Reid, and Steve Kornacki, THE LAST WORD`s senior New
Jersey political analyst -- thank you both for joining me tonight.

REID: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Mitt Romney`s newest lie. That`s going to be
next.

And in the "Rewrite" -- what does Mitt Romney have in common with
Richard Nixon? The answer: a lot.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: The captains of industry who run American automobile
companies have a word for people like Mitt Romney: Liar.

And next, in the spotlight, Mitt Romney`s campaign said they weren`t
holding any political events today and then they held a political event.

And if the Romney campaign was shut down today, what was John McCain
doing in Ohio attacking the president? Karen Finney and Jonathan Capehart
will join me on that one, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMNEY: We have a lot of goods here. And I know there`s more coming
in. We`re going to box these things up in just a minute and put them on
some trucks. And then we`re going to send them into -- I think it`s New
Jersey, is a site that we`ve identified that can take these goods and
distribute them to people who need them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That was Mitt Romney earlier today at a campaign event
that he pretended was not a campaign event in Kettering, Ohio. In the
Spotlight tonight, Mitt Romney`s canned response.

NBC`s Garrett Haake reported that at the non-campaign event, Romney`s
biographical movie played in the background. Stuart Stevens, one of
Romney`s senior advisers, conceded that playing the video blurred the line
between storm relief and politicking.

NPR`s Ari Shapiro Tweeted that Stevens said, "I don`t know what
happened. Some volunteer just pressed play, I guess."

And just like a typical campaign event, Romney refused to answer tough
questions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- what would you do with FEMA? What`s your
response? Why won`t you answer any questions on it?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Mitt Romney had more to say about FEMA at a primary debate
last year when he was asked whether states should pay for disaster relief,
themselves, since FEMA was running out of money.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Absolutely. Every time you have an occasion to takes
something from the federal government and sends it back to the states,
that`s the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it
back to the private sector, that`s even better.

Instead of thinking in the federal budget, what we should cut, we
should ask ourselves the opposite question. What should we keep? We
should take all of what we`re doing at the federal level and say, what are
the things we`re doing that we don`t have to do? And those things we have
to stop doing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Disaster relief, though.

ROMNEY: We cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the
future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue
to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing
full well that we`ll all be dead and gone before it`s paid off. Makes no
sense at all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now, MSNBC`s Karen Finney and Jonathan
Capehart. Karen, the craziest thing in that whole Romneyism there is the
idea that, no, don`t just send it back to the state governments; send it
back to the private sector. Let the private sector go into New Jersey
today and get up in helicopters with the governor or their own helicopters,
I guess, and look down, and let the private sector decide what to do. It`s
utter madness.

KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah, because the private
sector`s going to get in there and be really efficient and not worry about
profit margins or anything like that. They`re just going to get in there
and do what needs to get done, right? I mean, come on.

You know, this goes back to something, Lawrence, we`ve talked about
before, that part of the problem with Mitt Romney -- I remember when he
made that comment, I thought, man, you have no idea how the world really
works. As much as they criticized Barack Obama for not understanding
America, someone -- a governor saying something like that who should -- and
he had floods in his state when he was governor.

He of all people should understand that the federal government, by
law, plays a very important role in terms of being a coordinating agency.
Once the president is able to say it`s -- you know, it`s a certain kind of
disaster, that kicks in all kinds of federal aid. That is critical. And
it`s also critical to have the federal government as kind of that nexus
point to help coordinate between state and federal and local governments.

I mean, somebody who`s been a governor should know that and should
understand that there are times when that`s very important.

O`DONNELL: I want to show a little bit more of just how much the
Romney campaign was not campaigning in Ohio today. Here`s John McCain in
Ohio with the Romney campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: This president is either engaged in a
massive cover-up, deceiving the American people, or he`s so grossly
incompetent that he`s not qualified to be the commander in chief of our
armed forces.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Jonathan Capehart, that`s what not campaigning looks like
in Romney world.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yeah, clearly Senator
McCain didn`t get the memo from the top of the ticket that, you know, they
were supposed to be doing things to help people who had been ravaged by
Hurricane Sandy. But, you know, Senator McCain just -- I guess he had to
Tourettes it out, you know, get it out of his system, because this has been
eating at him, the whole Libya question.

And that`s not to say that there aren`t questions to be answered, but
they were supposed to be there to be focused on the victims of Hurricane
Sandy, not blasting the president. And you juxtapose that to the president
and what he`s been doing in terms of making sure that people in all the
affected states and areas get the help they need -- what they also should
have done is taken a cue from Governor Christie about what they should have
been focused on today.

O`DONNELL: Nate Silver predicts, as of tonight, by the way, that
President Obama will win Ohio and has a -- his chance of winning the
presidency still very high. But the -- Karen, I spoke to a former FEMA
official earlier in the program and just asked him, in budget terms, the --
what about a 40 percent cut in the FEMA budget, which would be the Ryan
Plan, or what about some variation on that? Call it 20, call it 10.

What would it do in a situation like this? Obviously he said it
would be absolutely disastrous to their ability to respond to disasters.

FINNEY: Well, of course, it would be. I mean, look at what`s
happened. Just over the last five or six years, we`ve had these kinds of
massive disasters where FEMA has been needed to come in. The federal
government has been needed to come in almost once every year. So when we
have these conversations and these political fights -- and that`s really,
frankly, what I think is a little bit shameful about the event Romney did
today.

I think it`s fine to say to people -- it`s in our human nature. We
want to get out there. We want to help. I wish he would have done more to
kind of make sure that he was directed people to the most effective way to
help the Red Cross. But then to not have the guts to answer the question
about FEMA and the role of FEMA after he stood on that stage and tried to
puff up his chest and sound like he was this tough guy saying we need to
cut FEMA, when the truth is, if you talk to people like Chris Christie and
in other parts of the country who need FEMA`s assistance, FEMA does play a
very important role.

You wouldn`t know that from the Bush administration, Mr. Brownie. But
would know that from the James Lee Whitt era and from what we`ve seen
recently, that FEMA plays a critical role. When you talk about cutting
that budget, that`s sort of an abstract concept from what reality is on the
ground when things are happening.

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

Coming up, the last time "the Des Moines Register" endorsed a
Republican for president, it to turned out very, very badly for America,
and very badly for "the Des Moines Register." They should have learned
their lesson. That`s in tonight`s Rewrite.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: How did "the Des Moines Register" rewrite its endorsement
of an Obama presidency four years ago into an endorsement of a Romney
presidency now? By magical thinking. By adopting Mitt Romney`s magical
thinking.

After saying, quote, "the president`s best efforts to resuscitate the
stumbling economy have fallen short," the editorial then says that the
problem with the economy is that consumers have to feel more confident.
And without giving a single shred of evidence as to why consumers would
feel more confident with a Romney presidency, the editorial board simply
believes it will happen.

That`s it. It will happen like magic. "Consumers must feel more
confident about their own economic futures to begin spending on the
products and services that power the economy. A renewed sense of
confidence will spark renewed investment by American companies. Industry
will return to full production and hiring will begin again."

That is the entire case for Romney, pure magical thinking that the
very sight of Mitt Romney taking the oath of office will suddenly make
consumers run out to Best Buy and load up on TVs made in Japan. "The Des
Moines Register`s" endorsement of Romney is one of the most embarrassing
endorsements in the history of that newspaper.

Not because they chose Romney, not because they chose a Republican,
but because they gave absolutely no rational reason for it. They peg their
endorsement to magical thinking. The editorial board admitted they had,
quote, "a vigorous debate over this endorsement," which means someone in
the room was trying to use evidence against magical thinking. And we all
know how evidence works with magical thinkers.

The editorial board made no attempt to be consistent with their last
editorial endorsement for president. One of the reasons they endorsed
President Obama last time was that "he favors a progressive tax policy,
taxing those at the very highest rungs of income a little more to provide a
little more help to those on the bottom rungs."

"The Des Moines Register" has now abandoned that as a reason for
choosing a president. The editorial board has abandoned it in favor of
this lie. "There is not a lot of difference between the two candidates`
short-term economic plans."

Four years ago, one of the biggest reasons "the Des Moines Register"
gave for endorsing President Obama was "expanding health insurance coverage
to more Americans will lessen the threat that illness will bring financial
ruin."

Four years later, health insurance is not mentioned in their editorial
endorsing the man who promises to repeal the Obama expansion of health
insurance That "the Des Moines Register" advocated.

Another important reason cited four years ago in endorsing President
Obama was the supremely important reason of Supreme Court justices. "Obama
promises to appoint justices with an expansive view of Constitutional
rights and equal justice. McCain`s appointments more likely would continue
the court`s conservative shift and threaten abortion rights, search and
seizure protections and other individual liberties."

This year`s presidential endorsement of Mitt Romney does not mention
the Supreme Court. Exactly the same paragraph could have been written in
this year`s editorial about the Supreme Court, and they just have to
substitute the word Romney for the word McCain, but "the Des Moines
Register" editorial board no longer cares.

They don`t care about the United State Supreme Court, the number one
reason to vote for president. That`s how much they`ve rewritten their
criteria for presidential endorsements in four years.

Can you imagine what that vigorous debate was like among the five
people in "the Des Moines Register" editorial board? You know someone in
that room was just sitting there saying, you guys are crazy. Read your own
editorial from four years ago. You`re crazy. We`re flip-flopping more
than Mitt Romney ever dreamed of.

"The Des Moines Register" has not endorsed a Republican candidate for
president in a very long time. The last Republican they liked was Richard
Nixon in 1972. They endorsed Nixon, even though Nixon refused to debate
the Democratic nominee, George McGovern. They endorsed Nixon despite what
they called, quote, "much to criticize in the Nixon administration."

In endorsing Nixon`s election, the editorial board said, "we have seen
-- we have been critical of the president`s Vietnam policy, which
ostensibly has been based on guaranteeing the South Vietnamese the right to
determine their own government, but which has had the effect of propping up
a dictatorial regime imposed by us and prolonging the killing and
destruction in a war which we should never have entered."

So on the most important issue of that era, the life-and-death issue
of the Vietnam War, "the Des Moines Register" completely disagreed with
Nixon. Nixon had been elected in 1968 saying he had a secret plan to end
the war. Four years later, he had done absolutely nothing to end the war.
And "the Des Moines Register," which was opposed to the war, endorsed
Nixon`s re-election.

That same "Des Moines Register" that never liked another Republican
for president until last week -- "the Des Moines Register" cared about the
Supreme Court back in Nixon`s day. And they didn`t like Nixon`s approach
to the Supreme Court. In their endorsement of Nixon`s re-election, "the
Des Moines Register" said, "we have criticized certain mediocre
appointments, notably some of the nominations to the Supreme Court, and the
soft attitude on Civil Rights to woo southern support."

"The Des Moines Register" endorsed Nixon after -- after the Watergate
burglary, which occurred on June 17th of that election year. In June of
the election year, the Democratic party headquarters in Washington was
broken into in the middle of the night. And instantly the entire world
suspected Richard Nixon.

In September of the election year, seven co-conspirators were indicted
in the burglary, including two men with strong ties to Republican world.
Watergate got one line, one line in "the Des Moines Register`s"
presidential endorsement in 1972. "We are disturbed by the Watergate
scandal and the evidence linking it with the White House."

They were disturbed but not disturbed enough not to endorse Richard
Milhouse Nixon. There wasn`t a kid in my high school who didn`t know that
Tricky Dick was a crook. But "the Des Moines Register" editorial board
didn`t know that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m not a
crook.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Nineteen days before "the Des Moines Register" endorsed
that crook, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein reported on page one of the
"Washington Post," "FBI agents have established that the Watergate bugging
incident stemmed from a massive campaign of political spying and sabotage
conducted on behalf of President Nixon`s re-election, and directed by
officials of the White House and the Committee for the Re-Election of the
President."

Everyone in American journalism was reading every word Woodward and
Bernstein published in the "Washington Post" about Watergate then. "The
Des Moines Register" editorial board read those words, and then they
endorsed the crook.

So how hard was it for "the Des Moines Register" to endorse a liar
like Mitt Romney? Well, it`s not their first time. Did "the Des Moines
Register" somehow divine what tax deductions and loopholes Mitt Romney is
going to cut or eliminate to pay for his five trillion dollar tax cut and
report that to their readers in their endorsement of Mitt Romney? No.

They didn`t even mention a five trillion dollar tax cut. And they
didn`t say a word about being disturbed that Mitt hasn`t figured out how to
pay for it. In 1972, "the Des Moines Register" could have endorsed a
candidate closer to their thinking then on policy. That candidate was the
honorable Senator George McGovern, the anti-war candidate, the candidate
"the Des Moines Register" agreed with, word for word, on the most important
issue of that era.

The reason they didn`t endorse him then was in the last line of their
editorial. Quote, "good intentions are not enough." And so they endorsed
a man with very, very bad intentions, and a year and a half after President
Nixon took the oath of office, the House Judiciary Committee passed
Articles of Impeachment against him. Twelve days later, "the Des Moines
Register`s" choice for president, Richard Nixon, became the first and only
person in history forced to resign the presidency of the United States.

The last time "the Des Moines Register" endorsed a Republican for
president, it turned out good intentions mattered. And they mattered much
more than the editorial board realized.

And yes, good intentions still matter today.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Here`s Mitt`s latest lie.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I saw a story today that one of great manufacturers in this
state, Jeep, now owned by the Italians, is thinking of moving all
production to China.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That lie has now morphed into this television ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who will do more for the auto industry? Not
Barack Obama. Fact checkers confirm his attacks on Mitt Romney are false.
The truth? Mitt Romney has a plan to help the auto industry. He`s
supported by Lee Iacocca and the "Detroit News."

Obama took G.M. and Chrysler into bankruptcy, and sold Chrysler to
Italians who are going to build jeeps in China. Mitt Romney will fight for
every American job.

ROMNEY: I`m Mitt Romney and I approve this message.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Despite Chrysler`s flat-out denial of Romney`s China
claims, the Romney campaign took his lie a step further today with this
radio ad in Toledo, Ohio, which is home to a Jeep plant.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Barack Obama says he saved the auto industry, but
for who? Ohio or China? Under President Obama, G.M. cut 15,000 American
jobs, but they`re planning to double the number of cars built in China,
which means 15,000 more jobs for China. And now comes word that Chrysler
plans to start making Jeeps in, you guessed it, China.

What happened to the promises made to auto workers in Toledo and
throughout Ohio?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That provoked a General Motors spokesman to release this
statement: "we`ve clearly entered some parallel universe during these last
few days. No amount of campaign politics at its cynical worst will
diminish our record of creating jobs in the U.S. and repatriating profits
back to this country."

And in an e-mail addressed to his employees today, Chrysler`s CEO said
"I feel obliged to unambiguously restate our position. Jeep production
will not be moved from the United States to China. Jeep assembly lines
will remain in operation in the United States and will constitute the
backbone of the brand. It is inaccurate to suggest anything different."

Ari Melber, I`ve just been trying to imagine what George Romney would
say if he was still running an American automobile manufacturer tonight and
some candidate came out and lied about his company like that.

ARI MELBER, "THE NATION": Well, George Romney, he was the car guy,
too, right?

O`DONNELL: And he was the father of Mitt Romney. Yes.

MELBER: Look, the G.M. one is highly misleading. The Jeep one is a
total lie. If Mitt Romney was pressed on this in a court case, it would be
perjury. You could go to jail for lying this straightforward and this
obviously. So that`s a huge problem for him and his trust. And the fact
that they`re doubling down on it tells you a lot about where they are at.

You know, he was also pressed today to answer questions on FEMA. He
wouldn`t answer. They wouldn`t state a position on affirmative action,
even though it was in the Supreme Court this year and Obama did. There are
still important issues where they will not tell the truth or give an answer
at all.

O`DONNELL: And I -- he`s not trying to trick the Jeep workers in
Toledo who know the truth.

MELBER: Right.

O`DONNELL: He`s trying to get other people in Ohio who don`t have
someone at the kitchen table who can tell them exactly how it works at
Chrysler.

MELBER: Yeah, this is sort of like targeting messaging for low-
information voters.

O`DONNELL: And doing it at the last minute.

MELBER: Yes, it`s the last minute. It`s harder to rebut. And one
other part of this I was going to say is that the corporations here, who
are friends of Mitt Romney and who often are on Mitt Romney`s side and
stand to benefit from his administration -- but even the corporations have
to stand up and tell him what we already know, which is he`s a big liar.

O`DONNELL: There`s a limit, even for them. Ari Melber gets tonight`s
LAST WORD.

"THE ED SHOW" is up next.

END

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