updated 11/20/2012 10:04:26 AM ET 2012-11-20T15:04:26

THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
November 19, 2012

Guests: Rana Foroohar, Hugo Lindgren, Jonathan Cohn


ALEX WAGNER, GUEST HOST: Republicans are going to have to stop trying to
sound moderate and reasonable because they are making Rush Limbaugh freak
out. On second thought --

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: All hell broke lose on our side, on
the Republican side.

RICHARD LUI, MSNBC ANCHOR: Republicans seem to be at a critical crossroad.

REV. AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: They are tripping over themselves.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The inmates are still in charge of the asylum. There
is no conservative movement. Is Rush Limbaugh`s country gone? Yes.

KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh, the horror.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We alienate young voters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a cultural problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We alienate Latinos.

LIMBAUGH: Why would so many Republicans be upset about this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here`s a news flash to the Republicans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt Romney was not our best candidate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I am stunned.

THOMAS ROBERTS, MSNBC ANCHOR: So is the governor becoming a scapegoat?

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Mitt Romney, kick him when he`s done.

LIMBAUGH: I can`t believe how mean they`re being to Mitt Romney.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Republican after Republican.

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC ANCHOR: Did you see those Sunday shows yesterday?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hitting their nominee on the Sunday show circuit.

GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R), WISCONSIN: We want people to like us. We have to
show we`re sere serious.

GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: We have to like them first.

WALKER: Reaching out and helping, everyone.

GEORGE WILL, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: Quit despising the American people.

FINNEY: We would never talk like that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s not a lot of people defending Mitt Romney.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: When you`re in a hole, stop
digging.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: First of all, it`s insulting.

GRAHAM: He keeps digging.

GINGRICH: I just think it`s nuts.

MATTHEWS: Newt Gingrich.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Newt Gingrich.

GINGRICH: I just think it`s nuts.

FINNEY: Let`s not go with what he thinks about anything.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They have to do something.

ROBERTS: We have the fiscal cliff.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: The fiscal cliff.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The cliff.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cliff or fiscal curb.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whatever that means exactly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whatever you want to talk about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Republicans will yield a bit on top rates.

UNIDENTIFEID MALE: The math doesn`t work otherwise.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t just think Republicans have the leverage.

MITCHELL: Speaker Boehner clearly wants a deal.

LUI: How is that going to go over with the Tea Party?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tea Partiers, Paul Ryan and others will not win this
issue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They will not win this issue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here`s a news flash to Republicans out there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The elections have consequences.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Elections have consequences.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just had this election.

MITCHELL: It`s already starting 2016.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re already talking about 2016.

MITCHELL: Marco Rubio.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor Christie.

MITCHELL: They`re off and running.

SETH MEYERS, SNL: You have been wearing that fleece a lot.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I`m going to die in this fleece.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WAGNER: Good evening. I`m Alex Wagner, in for Lawrence O`Donnell.

Today, Rush Limbaugh was at war with the Republican Party over what Mitt
Romney told top donors on a conference call last week.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What the President`s
campaign did was focus on certain members of his base coalition, give them
extraordinary financial gifts from the government, and then work very
aggressively to turn them out to vote.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

WAGNER: TMZ reports that Mitt and Ann Romney watched the new "Twilight"
movie at a theater in California on Saturday night. But on Sunday, there
was no romance between the Republicans and the political undead Mitt
Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

GRAHAM: We`re in a big hole. We`re not getting out of it by comments like
that. When you`re in a hole, stop digging. He keeps digging.

JINDAL: I absolutely reject what he said. If we want people to like us,
we have to like them first.

WILL: Mitt Romney was picking up the theme he put before the country and
inadvertently with his 47 percent video during the campaign. The fact --
quit despising the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

WAGNER: Rush Limbaugh says today that those guys are just mad because they
want votes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIMBAUGH: The only reason that I can think that all of these Republicans
are so upset over my description of all this as Santa Claus is that they
want in on the game, is they want to play too. We here can insult voter,
but we`re not trying to get votes.

They have already drummed Romney out of the party. Romney doesn`t exist.
Romney is persona non grata. Romney is -- can`t believe how mean they are
being to Mitt Romney. The same consultants -- he doesn`t exist.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: "Politico" reports today that in order to prevent the rise of
another toxic Republican senatorial candidate, the incoming chair of the
National Republican Senatorial Committee has tapped Senator Ted Cruz as a
vice chairman for grassroots and outreach. Yes, Republicans have chosen an
anti-gay conspiracy theorist to help shepherd the party`s senatorial
ambitions.

The plan, according to party leaders, is to employ Cruz`s Tea Party star
power to help win over activists groups that may be wary of the NRSC and
help unify the GOP behind a single candidate in crucial Senate races.

Speaking of unity, this is the state of the Republican Party according to
Rush Limbaugh.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIMBAUGH: There is no conservative movement right now, by the way.
There`s not a conservative movement. And there`s not a singular
conservative leader in electoral politics.

There`s not a conservative leader in the media side. There`s not a
conservative leader in the pundit side. And there hasn`t been for years.

What I have always known, ladies and gentlemen, I`m the renegade. I`m the
outsider. I`m not -- I`m not in this club.

So as these guys continue to pick losing candidates and as they continue to
run losing campaigns, they need to have the next losing candidate hire
them. And so I`m the guy responsible for Republicans losing elections.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: And here is where the GOP needs to go according to Bill O`Reilly.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS: Now, going forward, the Republican Party does
have to change. It can`t disparage poor people. It has to engage them.
It has to demonstrate that a healthy economy, based on discipline and
robust capitalism, will lift far more people out of poverty than government
handouts will. You got to sell that. Romney didn`t.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: Now, MSNBC`s Krystal Ball and Ari Melber.

My friends, what a weekend it was for Mitt Romney and I`m not just talking
about the "Twilight" movie. Vin Weber, a Republican strategist, Krystal, I
think, had the best takeaway. And he writes or he says, "If you are a
voter and you look at the Republican Party and the first thing you see is
Republican leaders dumping all over the guy they spent two years telling us
should be the leader of the country, that doesn`t make you feel better
about the Republican Party."

KRYSTAL BALL, "THE CYCLE" CO-HOST: It`s a fair point that he makes there.
It is amazing how quickly as soon as they had anything possible to seize
upon, how quickly they threw Mitt Romney under the bus.

But there`s a danger here because there was starting to a real conversation
within the Republican Party, among conservatives about actual policy
changes. And now it seems like the default position is more of we ran a
terrible candidate so we lost.

So that`s the danger here. But it`s incredible just how quickly they have
run away from this guy should be the leader of the free world to this guy
is the worst person ever, I can`t believe what idiotic things he`s saying.

WAGNER: He`s playing a very convenient role of straw man, and I think in
some ways, it`s cathartic for Republicans to run roughshod over his legacy.
But to Krystal`s point, Ari, do the American public see this reprehensible
behavior for what it actually is and demand more from the GOP?

ARI MELBER, THE NATION: I think they do. I actually think it`s fairly
important what parties do to their losing nominees. There aren`t that many
of them. The public knows who these people are, so unlike a lot of things
that are sort of below the radar, Mitt Romney has a high score, he`s a
famous person.

And you can think back to losing nominees that were taken in and asked to
play important roles like Adlai Stevenson. John Kerry lost and people were
frustrated with him, but it looks like he may play a bigger foreign policy
role. Wendell Willkie went and worked for FDR in the opposing cabinet and
became a bit of an ambassador. That was noted.

And then there are people who are famous mostly for being associated with
losing ideas like a Goldwater, Dukakis.

And then people we forget completely like an Alf Landing or John Davis.
These are names I had to look up because they are hard to remember because
they sort of evaporated into the vapor. Tat`s bad for a party. And that
is what I think we`re going to see happen to Mitt Romney.

He didn`t stand for enough beforehand to have a base within the party. He
doesn`t stand for enough to be associated with a losing set of idea. And
in politics, the only thing worse for being disliked is being irrelevant
and not remembered at all.

WAGNER: But, Krystal, you know, when we talked about significant shifts
within the party and maybe the fact that the -- the hope that they will
ameliorate their ways, Bobby Jindal has been out there sort of getting
positive accolades rained down upon him for all the negative stuff he`s
saying about Mitt Romney. But he brought up the notion they need to have
better candidates in the Senate races. The appointment of Ted Cruz, a
question mark as far as how well that serves the Republican Party.

Let`s listen to what he said about the Indiana and Missouri races.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JINDAL: We also don`t need to be saying stupid things. Look, we had
candidates in Indiana and Missouri that said offensive things that not only
hurt themselves and lost those Senate seats, but also have hurt the
Republican Party across the board.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: OK. So if you have a problem running crazy people in Senate
races, why is Ted Cruz your ambassador for grassroots and outreach?

BALL: You mean the guy who thinks the U.N. and George Soros are conspiring
to eliminate golf courses? That guy? You have to love the logic there.

(CROSSTALK)

BALL: We have these crazy people that we need to tame and, look, we`ve got
this crazy person here. Maybe he can talk to the crazy people. It`s
interesting logic, but to Governor Jindal`s point there about saying stupid
things, saying offensive things -- I mean, Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock,
no question, they lost because of the stupid things they said.

But they are not the ones who pushed such extreme policies. The whole
Republican Party was pushing 1,100 anti-choice provisions in state
legislatures, trying to shut down the government over defunding Planned
Parenthood.

So they have a bigger problem than just a couple candidates saying crazy
things.

WAGNER: Well, I also think that Ted Cruz nomination, if you will, is a
signal that the Republican Party still thinks the Tea Party agenda is going
to be very much part of the GOP moving forward. They still think they need
an ambassador to those folks and it seems like the DNA is very much still
part of the genetic code.

BALL: They`re probably right about that.

MELBER: Well, I think the Tea Party is a strong midterm force. And so,
going in to the next midterms when we know historically the incumbent party
does tend to lose in the last midterms in the second term, it may be the
right short-term positioning.

But that, Alex, goes to your point, which is if the long-term concern is
that they run these nominees, they have all the money in the world, and
they can`t put together a winning coalition, right, and then all they do is
turn around and sort of covet the support and the short-term strategy of
the Tea Party and a couple of gerrymandered districts, then they are not
thinking long-term. They`re not helping themselves.

WAGNER: Well, if there`s one ray of hope on what is increasingly a dark
cloud, I think it`s the immigration question, right? Because on everything
else the GOP seems to not be going the direction of progress, but on
immigration specifically, the language has been strong enough that maybe
something will get done.

This is Lindsey Graham on "Meet the Press" this weekend. Let`s take a
listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRAHAM: Self-deportation being pushed hurt our chances. We`re in a death
spiral with Hispanic voters because of rhetoric around immigration. And
candidate Romney and the primary dug the hole deeper.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: A death spiral with Hispanic voters. I mean, I don`t think they
can underestimate or undersell the gravity of the problem they have with
Hispanics voters, Krystal. But how do you reconcile these conservative
principles that are going to continue to move the party forward and a
comprehensive and progressive immigration policy?

BALL: I think it`s going to be tough to do. And Lindsey Graham, to his
credit, has been someone who has been pushing some sort of immigration
reform within the Republican Party. But to your point, you know, when I
was running for Congress, we found immigration in my district. It wasn`t
people`s number one issue, but there was very, very high emotion around it.

And the other concern from a strategist standpoint, if you allow a path to
citizenship, then you have more Latino voter who can then vote against you.
So that`s another major sticking point within the Republican Party.

WAGNER: It will be a numbers game, among other things. Thank you as
always.

MELBER: When a lot of people vote, that`s been a problem for them.

BALL: That`s true.

WAGNER: That`s turnout, going to the polls. Do what you can to stop that.

We have to leave it there. Thank you to my friends Krystal Ball and Ari
Melber. Thanks for joining me tonight.

BALL: Thanks, Alex.

MELBER: Thanks, Alex.

WAGNER: Coming up, when voters across America summarily dismissed Paul
Ryan, you might have thought he`d be the last man on earth John Boehner
would choose to negotiate the fiscal cliff. You would be wrong.

And somebody thinks Sarah Palin is the answer to the Republican Party`s
problems in 2016 because she`s hot and blue collar. No seriously. Thank
you, somebody.

And President Obama joins Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the last
time overseas in an extraordinary place at an extraordinary time.

That is all coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WAGNER: The voters went for President Obama and not Paul Ryan. So,
naturally, he`s Speaker Boehner`s choice to broker a deal on the fiscal
cliff. That`s next.

And later, Governor Chris Christie makes a key stop on the road to the
presidency. Not Iowa, it`s "Saturday Night Live."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WAGNER: After losing the presidential election on November 6th, Republican
vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan went into the woods. There`s no better
medicine for Paul, his brother told "The New York Times," than getting out
in the fresh air and water with dogs, looking for some birds.

But as in the past when a Republican number two has gone bird hunting, Paul
Ryan appears to have missed the target, because he returned from that
opportunity to reflect with these thoughts on his electoral thumping.

(BEGIN VIDEOI CLIP)

REPORTER: Does Barack Obama now have a mandate?

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: I don`t think so because they also
reelected the House Republicans. The ideas we talked about, I think they
are popular ideas. This is a very close election.

REPORTER: Could you see yourself supporting a plan that raises tax rates?

RYAN: Yes, I`m not for raising tax rates.

REPORTER: So you won`t support a plan?

RYAN: I don`t want to get negotiate with media, but I do not support
raising tax rates.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: Today, "The New York Times" reported that Speaker John A. Boehner
has tapped Mr. Ryan who has returned to his post as the House budget
chairman after an unsuccessful run for vice president to help strike a deal
to avoid big tax increases and spending cuts by the end of the year, and to
bring along fellow Republicans.

Ryan`s counterpart in the Senate, incoming Budget Committee chair Patty
Murray, stated the obvious, saying, quote, "I find it very fascinating
because his vision was actually on the ballot. And Americans decided to go
in a different direction."

President Obama has been speaking out against the Paul Ryan budget since
long before Mitt Romney was the Republican nominee. In fact, the President
was speaking out against it even before the Republicans in the House passed
the original version.

Here`s President Obama in April of 2011.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There`s nothing serious or
courageous about this plan. There`s nothing serious about a plan that
claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for
millionaires and billionaires. And I don`t think there`s anything
courageous about asking for sacrifice for those who can least afford it and
don`t have any clout on Capitol Hill. That`s not a vision of the America I
know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: And here`s the President in April of this year, five days after
the House Republicans passed the Ryan budget 2.0.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: This isn`t a budget supported by some small rump group in the
Republican Party. This is now the party`s governing platform. This is
what they are running on.

It is a Trojan horse, disguised as deficit reduction plans. It`s really an
attempt to impose a radical vision on our country. It`s thinly veiled
social Darwinism. It is antithetical to our entire history as a land of
opportunity and upward mobility.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: Joining me now are: Karen Finney, former DNC communications
director and an MSNBC political analyst. And Rana Foroohar, the assistant
managing editor for "Time" magazine.

Karen, if folks want to make a deal on the hill, why is Paul Ryan even
haunting the halls? What is Boehner`s intel here that he thinks that Paul
Ryan is somehow going to be an architect of a bargain of any kind?

FINNEY: Because John Boehner is smart enough to know he needs to keep Paul
Ryan as close to him as possible. Remember that you`ve got -- Paul Ryan is
part of the young guns, right? So you got the Paul Ryan, McCarthy, Cantor
sort of cabal and they caused a little mischief the last time we tried
this.

So, I think this is less about actually having faith in Paul Ryan`s actual
ideas and more about politics. And sort of keeping his close, keeping him
engaged, keeping him sort of busy doing something so that he`s not out
there making mischief.

WAGNER: Idle Paul Ryan`s hands make mischief.

Rana, it seems maybe that conservatives are coming to grips with the notion
that they`re maybe a tax increase on upper income earners. And I point you
to Bill Kristol this weekend on FOX News saying what was previously the
unspeakable. Let`s take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL KRISTOL, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: There will be a deal by December 31st,
I believe. I believe Republicans will yield on top rates. I mean,
President Obama ran twice on this platform and he won -- the last I look,
he won two elections. He didn`t raise rates correctly in 2009, when we
were in the midst of horrible downturn.

Republicans won a huge off-year election in 2010 and were able to bargain
to a deal. I just don`t think Republicans have the leverage or that it`s
worth using whatever leverage they have to maintain rates at 35 percent
instead of 37 percent or 38 percent, especially if we take it up to
millionaires. I just don`t think it`s economically, as a matter of policy,
important enough. Then the big deal has to be big tax reform with lower
rates.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let`s hope they do, but they are going to burn Bill
Kristol`s Tea Party card hearing him talk like this. You`re off the
reservation.

KRISTOL: A lot of Tea Party guys don`t care that much if a few
millionaires pay a couple percent more in taxes honestly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: OK. I love the notion that somehow asking millionaires to pay
more taxes is going off the reservation. There`s some nugget of hope there
that, you know, Republicans will come to the table on this.

RANA FOHOORA, TIME MAGAZINE: Right. You were starting to hear this even
before the election. A lot of Republicans are trying to be sensible. And
truth is, they are going to need both higher rates and some entitlement
reform.

But in order to get the social cohesion you need to do the cutting, you
really need to have the upper bracket paying more.

Now, I`m holding out judgment though. The markets clearly think this is
going to happen. They have been raising since the talks began. You have
seen optimism on the street.

But, you know, I look and I see that the House is filled with arguably more
conservative Republicans from a lot of districts. You saw the number of
cross voting districts in which people voted for president from one party
and a congressional level person from another has actually shrunk from 42
percent to 24 percent.

So, in some ways, there`s less reason to come across the aisle. I hope
that that`s not the case. But I do think it`s going to be a very bumpy
ride until the end of December and possibly into January.

WAGNER: Karen, when we talk about bumpy rides, we focus on the
Republicans. But at the end of the day, the woman that`s maybe driving the
bus on all this is Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi who -- I think she`s not
gotten the due credit in terms of the one that actually passes legislation
and makes deals.

This is Pelosi who was on ABC this week talking about revenue raisers and
the deal. Let`s take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Would you accept a deal that does not include tax rate increases
for the wealthy? We`ve seen talk about a possible compromise that would
lead rates the same but cap deductions for high income earners. Is that
something that`s acceptable?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA: No. Just to close loophole is far too
little money. And it could be -- they have said they wanted to be revenue
neutral. If it`s going to bring in revenue, the President has been very
clear that the higher income people have to pay their fair share.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: Karen, N Pelosi wants some revenue raisers. She wants the upper
income earners to pay a little more and does not seem incline to make a
deal any other way. It`s worth noting that she has 200 Democratic votes in
the House and a deal only needs 218 votes to pass. That seems like a lot
of leverage, is it not?

FINNEY: She has quite a bit of leverage. And it`s kind of an untold
story, frankly, of the last Congress, because, frankly, a lot of the ways
that things actually got passed was not because Boehner was able to get the
votes, but because Pelosi was able to help him and get some of the
Democrats to vote for him. So, she`s got a lot of leverage going.

The other things to keep in mind is from the polling perspective, President
Obama is more popular than ever, like 58 percent. Majority of Americans
actually think he`s the one that`s going to reach across the aisle. They
believe that it`s going to be the Republican`s fault if this falls apart.
So I do think the stakes are pretty high for the Republicans despite their,
you know, rhetoric and the lines in the sand that they are trying to
delicately draw while trying to say that they`re going to be the go
along/get along guys.

They know that the pressure is on for them to be seen as working with the
President to get something done. And I think the stakes are high if they
try to be obstructionists.

WAGNER: And, Rana, the other thing that has emerged, the other meme that
has emerged is the notion of the fiscal cliff maybe not actually being
stiff after all or being more akin to a curb. And the more that that sort
of cliff-dom is undermined, the better it is for the President, is it not?
Because he can basically sail the country over it for however long until
his purposes are served.

FOROOHAR: Possibly. It depends on how long though. If you`re talking
about going a couple weeks into January with serious negotiations underway,
in an effort to sort of reset and have a discussion be, OK, taxes are now
up. Let`s talk about maybe lowering them on the middle class as opposed to
having the conversation about raising them on the rich, then that becomes a
little bit of an easier bargaining position in some ways for both parties.

But if we`re talking negotiations that seem to be -- where the end is
nowhere in sight for months and months? No. We`d be talking a recession,
which is not good for anybody.

WAGNER: Right. Rana, the last thing any of us want is negotiations where
there`s no end in sight. We shall see.

Karen Finney and Rana Foroohar, thank you both for joining me tonight.

Coming up, Obamacare faces one more hurdle. The big old heap of Republican
governors who want to stop it.

And speaking of Republican governors or ex-governors, guess who is already
getting one conservative backing for 2016. Yes, America, Sarah Palin is
back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WAGNER: President Obama`s trip to Burma and what it represents. That`s
coming up next.

And New Jersey Governor Chris Christie can check off one of the
requirements for a successful presidential run -- the "SNL" appearance.
That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: If I could, I`d like to thank some people. I`d like to thank
the Red Cross and first responders. I would also give a special thanks to
my lovely wife, Mary Pat Christie, who is here tonight, who put up with a
husband who smelled like a wet fleece for the past three weeks.

MEYERS: Yes. You have been wearing that fleece a lot.

CHRISTIE: Oh, yes. It`s basically fused to my skin at this point.

MEYERS: But I have seen you wearing suit.

CHRISTIE: Oh, yes. But I wear them over the fleece. I`m going to die in
this fleece.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: In the spotlight tonight, Republicans making moves with an eye on,
wait for it, 2016. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is getting a lot of
love from comedy aficionados on both sides of the aisle for his "SNL"
appearance.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, tell us. How is cleanup going?

CHRISTIE: So far so good. This isn`t going to be done in a couple days.
Fortunately, New Jersey are known for their patience.

MEYERS: They are?

CHRISTIE: Yes, they are. And finally, I did want to get the people who
are getting screamed at just gas stations over the long lines. And look, I
get it. Screaming at people at gas stations is a New Jersey tradition.
But you don`t do it during a crisis. There will be plenty of time for
yelling when this is all over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: Also out in force, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal who has been
pedaling as fast as humanly possible to put distance between him and the
backed crazy members of the Republican party.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JINDAL: That we don`t need to demonize or - and we also, don`t need to be
saying stupid things. I think we can true to our principles. We don`t
need to ponder or change our principles, but at the same time we can be
respectful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: Keeping a lower profile, as in not being all over the television
set all the time was Florida Republican senator Marco Rubio. Rubio went to
2016`s first caucus state of Iowa on Saturday to speak at a birthday
fundraiser for the state`s Republican governor. And to try to fill the
void in the hearts of Iowa Republicans.

One prominent Iowa Republican told Politico, from an Iowan`s perspective it
was like a rebound date. Get back up on the horse and start looking around
and start looking to the future for something better. There`s no one that
feels bad for Mitt Romney. Rubio did not disappoint bringing with him red
meat and even a dog whistle or two.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: If the America declines that the power of
our example is dimmed, what takes its place? The answer is nothing takes
its place. And your children and grandchildren will inherit not just a
diminished country, they`ll inherit a diminished world. Darker and harder,
probably more violent that it has been in a long time.

What`s at stake here is not just our country, it is the way life on this
planet. That`s worth fight fighting for. And what that means is we need
to do a better job of going out and convincing our fellow Americans, who, I
don`t see things that we do. The free enterprise is the best way forward
for them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: But perhaps the most absurd 2016 Republican headline so far comes
to us from "Weekly Standard" writer Charlotte Allen, writing through the
"L.A. Times" opinion page. The headline, "Hey GOP, take the Palin cure,
she`s hot, she`s blue collar, she`s electable." Allen writes in part,
"Hardly anyone could be more blue collar than Palin out on the fishing boat
with her hanky, blue collar husband Todd. A Palin war against women? Not
only is she a woman, she`s got a single mom daughter, Bristol. Gay
marriage? Palin opposes it. Furthermore, looks count in politics and
Palin at age 48 has it all over her possible competition including Hillary
Rodham Clinton who will be 69 by Election Day 2016. Men love Sarah Palin
and she loves men."

Joining me now, two men, Hugo Lindgren, editor of "The New York Times"
magazine and Jonathan Capehart, MSNBC political analyst and for political
columnist for "The Washington Post."

Jonathan, my friend, I must start with had this notion, this notion that
Sarah Palin may somehow reenter center stage because she`s hot and blue
collar.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, OPINION WRITER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": No, no, please,
for the love of God, no. One, talking about 2016 when 2012 is only two
weeks old is crazy. But the idea that Sarah Palin could run for president
in 2016 is absolutely ridiculous. And the opinion piece that you read from
is also ridiculous. And nowhere in the piece does it talk about the fact
that Sarah Palin, after 2008 when she had the opportunity to disappear,
study, do all the hard work it takes to be leader in her party, study up on
foreign policy, study up on nest domestic policy and then, come out of the
gate, you know, running at full speed to run in 2012 to be the leader of
her party and to grab the nomination, what did she do? None of that.

She decided to become a reality TV star, do all sorts of things that made
her very, very famous, very, very rich, but also incredibly unelectable.
Her approval rating, let`s focus on the disapproval rating, which is in the
high 50s, if not below 60s.

WAGNER: I think it might be in the high 200s at this point, Jonathan. And
I will say as to that op-ed, never mind qualifications, let`s focus on
looks and who is prettier on the stump.

CAPEHART: Right.

WAGNER: Moving along, Hugo. As long as we`re talking about far, far off.

CAPEHART: Let`s talk about Chris Christie.

WAGNER: Before that, let`s talk of Marco Rubio.

HUGO LINDGREN, EDITOR, "THE NEW YORK TIMES" MAGAZINE: OK.

WAGNER: He is the gloom and doom. And whenever you start mentioning life
on this planet, I feel like you`re maybe sending the wrong message.

LINDGREN: In the diminished world is definitely like of a frightening like
specter. It is weird because I think that Marco Rubio really is kind of
like trying to be the nice guy overall. Like he`s not really even digging
at Romney the way everyone else is. You know, he is trying to be like, you
know, sort of a little sweet to the Republican establishment and also just
trying to be like all around a good guy. So, to see him go to Iowa and
break out with the diminished world, nothing is going to take America`s
claims. We are all screwed, it was just a little --

WAGNER: Or that the free market will take care of this planet in distress.

LINDGREN: Exactly.

WAGNER: It has been an interesting prescription.

LINDGREN: It could. It could.

WAGNER: You know, Jonathan, I know you`re effortlessly elegant, and I
would assume you`re a regular reader of "Gentleman`s Quarterly."

CAPEHART: Yes.

WAGNER: And in an interview of that Mario Rubio with "Gentleman`s
Quarterly," he made a few headlines. I will point out that Marco Rubio is
a member of the commerce, science and transportation e committee. And this
is what he had say to the question, how old do you think the earth is?

Rubio begins with maybe one of my favorite lines, I`m not a scientist, man.
I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is
going to grow. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories
out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country
where people should have the opportunity to teach them all. Whether the
earth was created in seven days or seven actual eras, I`m not sure we`ll be
able to answer that. It`s one of the great mystery.

This is a man that again, Jonathan, sits on the commerce, science and
transportation committee in the U.S. Congress.

CAPEHART: I`m speechless. I`m without words. What do you say to that?
What do you say to someone who is the United States senate and an elected
member of Congress, who everyone is talking about as a potential
presidential nominee, someone who could be president of the United States
and he`s speaking this way?

The Republican party, maybe that plays well to the Republican party base,
but in no way is that a winning message for the vast, you know, the vast
middle of the country who wants someone who is a little more with it in
terms of science.

WAGNER: Well, and that`s a very good point. Because we talk about the
fallout the Republicans have had on certain issues. Whether that`s women`s
health or immigration, another piece of that is science, Hugo. The fact
that many people were turned off by the GOP by their strict of facts and
figures.

LINDGREN: Yes. But I think, I think what Marco Rubio is trying to say,
and I don`t want to speculate too far, but I think what he is trying to say
is this is the not the core issue. You know, that he`s really trying to,
you know, get back to the economy and the Republicans perceived strength
and not try to get on the issue of creationism (INAUDIBLE).

WAGNER: Never mind the fact that scientists say the earth is 45 billion
years old.

LINDGREN: Yes, I know. I know. He was trying to change the subject. I`m
not a scientist.

WAGNER: OK. Well, if someone is going to be the savior of this party,
perhaps he`s wearing a fleece or perhaps he`s not, Hugo.

LINDGREN: Finally, Chris Christie.

WAGNER: Yes. Because I know you wanted to talk about him. And the "Star
Ledger" columnist, Tom Moran blows up our thinking that Chris Christie may
be a nominee. Christie remains a tremendous long shot. He writes, "Let`s
look at the hurdles, Republicans might not want to move to the middle or
assuming the party does tack towards the middle. Christie might not be the
one to carry the banner. Also, Christie could lose if he runs for re-
election next year. It seems impossible now, but voters are fickle
lovers."

LINDGREN: Well, you know, and I think you see with Christie especially
this time in a lot of the stuff since the hurricane is that, he seems at
ease with himself. He is exactly what Mitt Romney wasn`t. It`s not about
policies, it`s about who the person is. In the last few weeks, we have
seen somebody who is unafraid to speak his mind and be clear about things.
And it think it`s refreshing in that regard, you know. There`s a long way
to 2016. I think we are going to see a few other sides of Chris Christie
between now and then. And I think we`ll see what the whole story is.

WAGNER: Jonathan, I think you`re wearing a pocket square. Can this
country elect a man with a fleece stapled to his skin?

(LAUGHTER)

CAPEHART: Yes, they can if he is genuine in it and you agree, he was
absolutely right. Chris Christie is comfortable in his own skin. He knows
who he is. We all know who he is. And that`s something Mitt Romney could
never get across to anyone.

WAGNER: I can`t ever picture you in a fleece. But, we will leave it
there.

Hugo Lindgren and Jonathan Capehart, thank you both for joining me tonight.

CAPEHART: Thanks, Alex.

LINDGREN: Thank you.

WAGNER: Coming up, Republicans look to the states to stop Obamacare.

And later, what President Obama`s visit to the Southeast Asian nation of
Burma represents to that country and to the world and what it says about
his own personal history.

That`s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WAGNER: The last hope for Republicans who hate Obamacare? Governors. And
their efforts to put as many road blocks in place to stop it. That`s next.

And later, what the election of Barack Obama has meant to the world and to
an emerging democracy half way around the planet.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WAGNER: The affordable care act may be the law of the land, but that
hasn`t stopped some from trying to block it any way they know how. Today,
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin joined a group of Republican governors opting
out of creating a state run health insurance exchange program. The
exchange program would give uninsured workers away to buy their own
affordable health insurance.

Now, the task of setting up the exchanges in the states that opt up will
fall to the federal government, a cost that opponents of the law will
weaken the President`s landmark program. In her statement today, Governor
Fallin said, the choice has been forced on the people of Oklahoma by the
Obama administration. It does not benefit Oklahoma taxpayers to actively
support and fund a new government program that will ultimately be under the
control of the federal government.

Governor Fallin also announced today that Oklahoma will join seven other
states in opting out of the Medicaid expansion portion of the affordable
care act set to begin in 2014. In June the Supreme Court ruled that the
Medicaid expansion should be an option, not a requirement, for states.

Nationwide, the Medicaid expansion would expand exempt coverage to 17
million uninsured Americans at little cost to the states. In fact for the
first three years, the federal government will cover 100 percent of the
cost for new enrollees.

Joining me now, Jonathan Cohn, senior editor for "The New Republic."

Jonathan, this is a great mystery to me, and perhaps you can explain it.
But why are Republican states opting out of a federal tax break?

JONATHAN COHN, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE NEW REPUBLIC": Well, you know, the
critics of the affordable care act, Obamacare, they really wanted to take
the law off the books all together. But they ended up one vote short in
the Supreme Court and 60-something electoral votes short on Election Day.
So they can`t take the law off the books. They can`t repeal it.

So basically, they are trying the next best thing which is to get governors
of the states to undermine the law. You know, the law was written in such
a way, to give states a little flexibility. People made the argument, you
know, maybe the needs of a state like Arkansas are a little different than
the needs of a state like Massachusetts. Well, fine.

So they created a law where governors have authority over what the law will
look like in those states. What you`re seeing is the conservatives
exploiting that, taking advantage of that, to basically say, look, we`re
just not going to implement this law at all. And so the rest of the
country might benefit from Obamacare. You know, people in all the other
states are going to get health insurance, but a state like Oklahoma where
they have 600,000 people who have no health insurance in Oklahoma, most of
them would get health insurance under the affordable care act and the
governor is basically saying well, no, actually, you know, the citizens of
my state, they are not going to get that help.

WAGNER: And you bring up a really good point, which is that in half - in
most of these states, where governors are rejecting the affordable care
act, the uninsured could benefit greatly. Here are the rates for the eight
states opting out of the Medicaid expansion. Texas has a rate of 25.5
percent uninsured which is the highest rate in the country. Georgia, 22
percent. Louisiana, 22 percent. Oklahoma, 221. Florida, 21. South - I
mean, this is a fifth percent - firth of the public here doesn`t have
health insurance. So I guess in terms of how this plays out for -- in the
state house, Jonathan, I wonder if governors hold on to their seats once
they reject something that would have a considerable human benefit.

COHN: Well, it will have a huge human benefit. And it`s not just the
people who get health insurance. You know, there are hospitals in these
states. Today, when people have no health insurance, they show up at the
hospital and the hospitals have to treat them if they have an emergency and
that cost at the hospital will bare it and it will pass it on to everyone
else in the community.

Well, you know, hospitals are looking at this and saying, you know, this is
money that could help us stabilize our finances so we don`t have to charge
everybody else so much money. And I wouldn`t be at all surprise d if over
the next few months, as the election is now passed, you hear more and more
from hospitals if places like Texas and Oklahoma knocking on the door of
the legislature saying, hey, what are you guys doing? This is a great deal
for us. Why are you turning away this money? We are going to have to make
up the difference.

WAGNER: Well, public ties certainly seems to be shifting on this. I mean,
I think the number of the percentage of Americans who want the affordable
Care act repealed is down to 33 percent, some 46 percent in July. Given
that shifting tide of public opinion, what do you think, I mean, if you can
read tea leaves on this, what do you think governors who have yet to make a
decision on some parts of the affordable care act including Chris Christie,
Rick Scott, Jan Brewer, what do you predict they will do in the coming
months?

COHN: You know, I think we`re going to start to see the governors back
away from the rhetoric. There was a lot of objection to the affordable
care act before its fate was settled. You know, and if you were a
governor, why not play it and play it in your conservative or you are from
a conservative state, why not go out and say that you going to reject the
law.

But now, we know the law is going to stay. And I think you will see
overtime, you will see them start to back off. You know, just the other
day, governor Rick Scott of Florida, who was one of the best known, most
outspoken opponents of the affordable care act, he kind said well, maybe we
can see how we can make this work. I think eventually most of the states
will come along.

But you know, it could take some time. in the meantime, you are going to
have millions of people in these states who need health insurance, who
could get health insurance. We have the money, we have the law. All of
these we`re asking is for legislators to say yes. And you know, we will
see how long that takes.

WAGNER: A purity test that should not be taken lightly. Also, it is a lot
easier to say yes than no.

Jonathan Cohn, thank you for joining me tonight.

COHN: Thank you.

WAGNER: Coming up, the President and his Secretary of State take their
final international trip together and visit a place where hope and change
are just beginning to take hold.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WAGNER: For a man who is better at stage craft than almost any leader in
U.S. history, this morning President Obama chose Rangoon, Burma as the
backdrop to remind this country and the rest of the world about what
America stands for. And he did it in his bare feet.

Burma, also known as Myanmar, has been sealed off for nearly half a
century. In the interim, a brutal military dictatorship has slaughtered
its own, driven the economy to ruin and eliminated nearly every basic
freedom.

But in recent months, change has come to Burma. With new leadership, the
release of political prisoners and at least so far, the gradual restoration
of basic rights. Less than two weeks after his triumphant re-election on
what will be his last international trip with Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton, President Obama explained why he was there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Above all, I came here
because of America`s belief in human dignity. Over the last several
decades, our two countries became strangers. But today I can tell you that
we always remain hopeful about the people of this country, about you. You
gave us hope and we bore witness to your courage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: Early this morning, Air Force One landed on the tarmac in Rangoon,
no longer the capital of Burma, but the heart and soul of the country and
the seat of the pro-democracy movement. As the President`s plane touched
down, it was a repudiation the fake capital constructed in the north of the
country. Having drawn leaders to the city they once abandoned, when
President Obama met with his Burmese counterpart, he did so alongside pro-
democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, whose decade-long struggle to free her
country from the Yangon repression earned her the Nobel Peace Prize.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AUNG SAN SUU KYI, BURMA PRO-DEMOCRACY LEADER: The United States has been
strong in their support of the democracy movement in Burma and we are
confident that this support will continue through the difficult years that
lie ahead. I say difficult because the most difficult time in any
transition is when we think that success is in sight. Then, we have to be
very careful we are not veered by a mirage of success and that we are
working to stimulate success for the people and our friendship between our
two countries.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: For the Burmese, who waited patiently for Suu Kyi to be released
from nearly 15 years of house arrest, this was an unimaginable moment. Two
Nobel laureates, charting the course from war to peace.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: So today, I have come to keep my promise and extend the hand of
friendship. America now has an ambassador in Rangoon, sanctions have been
eased, and we will help rebuild an economy that can offer opportunity for
its people and serve as an engine of growth for the world.

But, this remarkable journey has just begun and has much further to go.
Reforms launched from the top of society must meet the aspirations of
citizens who form its foundation. The flickers of progress that we have
seen must not be extinguished, they must be strengthened. They must become
a shining north star for all this nation`s people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: But, for the thousands of students and nurses and cap drivers who
took to the sidewalks to catch a glimpse of the motorcade of the very first
U.S. president to ever set foot inside their country, it was perhaps most
stunning to see America`s commander-in-chief at the pagoda, one of the
holiest places in the country and the birthplace of the 2007 revolution
that sent tens of thousands of Buddhist monks into the streets, demanding
an end to violence, torture and repression.

According to the White House, it was an impromptu visit and like every
other worshipper, President Obama went shoeless, walking in the same steps
that countless hundreds had walked before him, among them perhaps, his own
ancestors.

For the President`s Kenyan grandfather who served in Burma under the
British during World War II, there would have no way to foresee a future
where his grandson might take the hope and desire for change that elected
him President of the United States and bring that spirit of redemption back
to the very same place where he had served so many years ago.

Or that a few hours later, Burmese president, Thein Sein, taking his own
first pledging steps towards democracy would look at the shoeless American
from humble origin and say to him as he did today, "I want to do what you
have been talking about. I want to move forward."

That`s THE LAST WORD. I`m Alex Wagner in for Lawrence O`Donnell. "THE ED
SHOW" is up next.


END

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