'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Wednesday, November 21st, 2012
Read the transcript to the Wednesday show
THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
November 21, 2012
Guests: Ron Pollack, Michael Shearer, Norm Ornstein, Thomas Mann
EZRA KLEIN, GUEST HOST: Good evening, Rachel. I am glad to know other
people bring charts to thanksgiving dinner.
RACHEL MADDOW, "TRMS" HOST: We`re preparing them so America can do that.
KLEIN: Have a great Thanksgiving.
MADDOW: You, too.
KLEIN: You know what I am thankful for this Thanksgiving? I am thankful
that elections, they have consequences.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The time for bickering is
over. The time for games has passed. Now is the time to deliver on health
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Have you read the bill?
Hell, no, you haven`t.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: The Supreme Court has upheld President Obama`s
health care law.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president`s health care law.
CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC ANCHOR: The signature achievement of Barack Obama`s
KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC ANALYST: Now they`re trying to drag it into the
negotiations over the fiscal cliff.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a new message from Congressman Boehner.
BOEHNER: Let`s look at Obamacare.
KLEIN: We can`t afford it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can`t afford it and we can`t afford to leave it
KLEIN: That is not a new message.
BOEHNER: Look at how this bill was written. Can you say it was done openly?
KLEIN: That is not a new message.
BOEHNER: Struck behind closed doors? Hidden them from the people? Hell, no,
FINNEY: They have been defeated three times.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had an election.
OBAMA: The American people have spoken.
KLEIN: Elections have consequences.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re not going to change anybody`s mind.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They need to move on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just stop.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had an election and they lost.
OBAMA: I want to thank everyone who participated in this election.
FINNEY: The presidential pardon.
OBAMA: The winning turkey can thank his stellar campaign team.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Turkey pardon at the White House.
OBAMA: These birds are moving forward.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A very happy Thanksgiving.
OBAMA: A very happy Thanksgiving.
JANSING: Happy Thanksgiving.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Happy Thanksgiving.
KLEIN: And happy Thanksgiving.
Presidential campaigns, they usually focus on, well, you might say hope and
change. The candidates promise voters big grand new policies and how
everything is going to be different, and then they get elected and go to
Congress and Congress usually says no.
This time, though, this time is different. Candidate Obama in 2008 promised
universal health care. Shockingly, unlike the many, many presidents who had
run for office and been elected promising that before him, President Obama
was pretty much able to get it passed into law. But though the Affordable
Care Act became law in 2010, it wasn`t scheduled to actually begin until
And that right there, that is the single most important fact about the
election we have just been through. You may have heard the old saw that
elections have consequences. This election had real, completely life-
changing consequences for the 30 million uninsured people and maybe
millions more who will get health care coverage because President Obama is
re-elected and that means the Affordable Care Act will take effect.
That is not just change you can believe in or change you can hope for. It
is change that is actually happening. It is happening even as we speak
right now. It doesn`t need another vote in Congress or to clear another
challenge before the Supreme Court. It is law and even John Boehner knows
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DIANE SAWYER, ABC NEWS: You had said next year that you would repeal the
health care vote. That`s still your mission?
BOEHNER: I think the election changes that. It is pretty clear that the
president was re-elected. Obamacare is the law of the land.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KLEIN: That was Boehner less than two weeks ago. It was pretty clear that
mission repeal Obamacare had failed. The voters had spoken and Obamacare as
Speaker Boehner said is the law of the land.
Republicans weren`t super happy about that message. They thought Boehner
was getting a little squishy. He was giving up a fight. That election we
just had, the one where voters re-elected the Obamacare guy, the one that
had Obama in his name, that was but a flesh wound.
Today Boehner wrote an op-ed to the "Cincinnati Enquirer" which begins
with, quote, "President Obama has won re-election but as was the case
before the election, Obamacare has to go."
But if you read on in his op-ed, things get a little strange. Boehner went
on to share the big plan which is, quote, "Over the past couple of years I
have noted there are essentially three major routes to repeal of the
president`s law: the courts, the presidential election process and the
congressional oversight process. With two of those three routes having come
up short, the third and final one becomes more important than ever.
Vigorous oversight of the health care law by the House can be expected and
in fact is already under way."
One of these things is not like the other. The courts and the presidential
election process, they can actually stop Obamacare from happening. You get
Supreme Court ruling against it, the president works to repeal it. That can
Congressional oversight hearings? That is not an accepted avenue for
It`s actually a little pathetic. If you think John Boehner has any chance
of repealing the health care law through, quote, "vigorous oversight" from
the House`s oversight committees, what have they been doing for the past
two years? Why isn`t the health care law gone now?
Boehner is a realist. This is not wishful thinking on his part. It is lazy
comforting and -- it is here, Republicans, don`t you worry, it is all part
of the plan, we`re on track. But there is no plan.
The country is moving forward. It is moving forward regardless of the House
Republicans. On Tuesday, the Department of Health and Human Services issued
new regulations that explained the health care law in practical terms like
what will a deductible actually be able to go up to and can your insurer
jack up the price when you hit your 30th birthday or your 50th birthday.
And this one is for you, John Boehner. What is the policy for smokers
The answers there just so you know are in order, a deductible can in the
cheapest plans be $2,000 or even more in some cases. Insurers can`t hit you
with a huge new bill when you hit a new decade. Increases due to your age
have to be gradual and smokers can be charged 1.5 times as many as non-
smokers but not if they enter a program to help them quit smoking.
And as a nation`s near universal health care system is being defined in
Washington there is a campaign right now to make sure people around the
country know about it, understand it and become part of it. And if this
campaign succeeds, it could make the Affordable Care Act bigger and better
than we thought.
You have probably heard that the law will cover 30 million people. What you
probably don`t know is what is behind that guesstimate. Roughly 49 people
in the United States currently don`t have health insurance. The
Congressional Budget Office estimates that 30 million of them will gain
coverage under the Affordable Care Act. That leaves 19 million uninsured.
About 5 million of that 19 million are illegal immigrants not eligible for
the law of subsidies. The CBO projects another 2 million of those folks who
live in states that will opt out of the Medicaid expansion.
That leaves 12 million people. The CBO estimates at least 6 million of them
are actually going to be eligible for Medicaid. They just won`t sign up and
won`t know about it. Even more will be eligible subsidies for private
The CBO is in effect assuming a lot of people won`t participate in the bill
not because it wouldn`t help them but because all government programs have
a serious non-participation rate. A lot of people just don`t know about
A recent poll found that 83 percent of people likely to qualify for the
Medicaid expansion in the law are completely unaware. That they have no
idea they can suddenly get health care. Some who do know about it are so
beaten down by the current system they don`t believe it.
My "Washington Post" colleague Sara Kliff visited a focus group where the
uninsured were asked about the health care bill and it was searing. One
woman in a genuinely heartbreaking moment of honesty said, quote, "If it
was doable," by that meaning giving people like her health care, "it would
have been done by now. I just don`t think it`s possible."
Think about that. If you could get to 100 percent participation or even
just near to it, this bill could easily cover 40 million people a full 33
percent more than we were expecting and you don`t need to pass a new law to
get those people on the books. You just need to tell people the bill is
there and convince them that it can help them.
And right now, a ban of very strange bedfellows teamed up to do just that,
to run a public education campaign that will get these people the
information they need to sign up.
The big health care players, insurers and pharmaceutical companies are now
working with liberal health care advocacy groups to make sure people know
about and understand the health care law and what they can get from it.
They`re going to spend millions of dollars to tell people about the law.
The insurers and the drug makers, if they want to do it because more people
in the system means more profit for them; the health care advocates because
more people being covered means more people with health care coverage and
you don`t have to go through the dangerous experience of being uninsured.
And while all of this is happening and hammering out regulations and trying
to tell people that are depressed and discouraged by the health care system
that finally at long last, we have some kind of an answer for them, we can
help them, as we`re moving forward and changing health care in this country
entirely, the Republicans are going to be chasing their tails in oversight
hearings, pretending they can repeal the bill. Come on, guys.
The campaign is over. The election is over. It is now time to govern.
Obamacare is the law of the land.
It is the law by the way that could have been different had Republicans
chosen to participate in its construction, chosen to trade their votes for
more of a say in the final policy, but they didn`t. They made an all-in bet
on killing the bill and then an all-in bet on repealing the bill and now
both of those bets have gone bad. It is over. Health care reform is
happening. The only question is whether Republicans will choose to be part
Joining me now is Ron Pollack, the executive director of Families USA, a
national organization that advocates on behalf of health care consumers and
the chairman of the Enroll America, the aforementioned strange bedfellows
coalition that is working to bring people into the coverage of the law.
Ron, it`s great to have you here.
RON POLLACK, FAMILIES USA: It is great to be with you again.
KLEIN: Tell me, what are you doing? How are you going to do this and the in
under the circumstances and bolts and mechanics of it? How are you going to
try to get people signed up?
POLLACK: Enroll America, the task is to make sure as many people know about
this as possible, so there will be a huge public education campaign. There
will be advertising. And the various groups that are in touch with people
who can benefit from this are going to help out.
So people go to community health centers because they can get free care.
POLLACK: People in the community health centers will have informed people
about the possibility they can get health coverage.
When you go to a hospital, you can learn that you can get coverage. The
hospitals want you covered because they don`t want to provide care for you
for free. When you go to a pharmacy, the pharmacy can handout information
to you about how you get enrolled.
So, what Enroll America is going to do is galvanize all of these different
folks, people of goodwill, to get people enrolled.
And as you said, some of these interest groups, they can do well by doing
good, and so our hope is that this is going to be a really robust effort.
And there is going to have to be a really big advertising campaign as well.
KLEIN: Well, right on that, this is not the first time in this country we
have had to try to sign up people for a law like this. It happened in
Massachusetts and I want to play one of the ads they used to get people
signed onto the bill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Four years after I graduated college, I felt a lump in
my left breast and I waited a whole year. And then I finally got health
insurance and I went to my new doctor who said I should get it checked out,
and so I did, and it was breast cancer. If I didn`t have health insurance I
might not be around today to tell my story. So, it basically saved my life.
TIM WAKEFIELD, RED SOX: Jackie`s story is one example of how important it
is for everyone to have health insurance. In Massachusetts , we`re leading
the way. The state`s health connector has affordable plans, lots to choose
from and easy sign up. And in Massachusetts, even if you lose your job, you
can still get coverage.
So, visit the health connector today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KLEIN: So that guy you just heard from, that is Tim Wakefield. In
Massachusetts, he is a very big deal. He is a member of the Red Sox and
that campaign worked. Massachusetts had a very, very high sign up rate. I
believe among adults, at 97 percent coverage. Something around there.
What have you learned from that? What have you learned from what happened
in Mitt Romney`s state?
POLLACK: Well, they -- we`ve learned a lot in terms of what messages work
and actually we`re doing a great deal of research now in terms of what kind
of ways do we need to communicate to people, who should be the best
communicators so that there are people who are believable.
But one of the things that`s very important is in addition to providing
information either through an advertisement or some other process like
that, people want to have personal contact with individuals because some of
them want to get help, try to figure out which plan they should sign up
for, make sure they understand what their obligations are going to be,
what`s going to be covered, what the deductibles are going to be.
So in addition to the advertising and using athletes and others, it`s going
to be very important to have people on the ground who can help people.
KLEIN: What do you think the president`s role is in all of this? I mean,
obviously, he is not directly affiliated with your group. What do you think
will be coming out of the public sector, out of the federal government to
try to get people engaged in the bill?
POLLACK: Ezra, you know, this is -- this is a legacy for the president. And
so, this has got to be a high priority for this administration. It`s our
hope that the White House directly will play a significant role. We`d love
to see the first lady play a significant role. I think she`s an eloquent
And remember we`re going to have to really target those groups that are
more likely to be uninsured and they happen to be the same people targeted
during the elections.
POLLACK: People from communities of color, young adults.
So I think the White House can play a very effective role.
KLEIN: Ron Pollack, thank you so much for joining me tonight and have a
very happy Thanksgiving.
POLLACK: You, too, Ezra.
KLEIN: Coming up, the science behind the victory, Obama`s victory and what
the administration can do with all of that data.
And later, why I have come to hate the movie "Mr. Smith Goes to
And the unusual mystical connection between the 47 percent and "Star Trek".
KLEIN: The machine that built the Obama victory, what will they do with all
of that information? That is coming next.
And when we with said New Jersey was happy with Chris Christie, we were
just guessing. But now, we have actual numbers. That is coming up.
KLEIN: In "The Atlantic", Alexis Madrigal tells this story from the final
days of the Obama campaign: It was the day of the election and Josh Thayer,
the lead engineer on Narwhal, which is the code name of massive date
architecture that underlined the campaign`s whole digital operation, was
going down. Multiple services had gone out and they had lost databases in
their east coast servers and the memory caches, too.
Everything was breaking at exactly the wrong time and they had to fix it
right that second or everything was lost. They actually did get it done,
but it wasn`t happening on the day of the election -- I sort of lied about
that. That was on October 21st, and this was a war game.
Over the next few weeks the Obama campaign`s top secret data group did this
over and over and over again, they did three simulations in which they
destroyed everything they had and then they rebuilt it all on the fly. By
the end, they knew what they would do if the Amazon web service went down
cold. They could survive that with no actual down time. They knew what to
do, if Sandy wiped out their entire East Coast digital infrastructure. They
had a hot backup that could reconstruct all their operations on the West
Coat with the touch of a button.
This was s the seriousness in which they took the data operation, and on
Election Day, as the Romney campaign`s orca system, so-called because the
orca is the only thing that hunts the Narwhal, as orca went belly up on the
beach, the Obama campaign system actually -- hey, look at that -- worked.
The day after the election, "The New York Times" reported, quote, "The
power of this operation stunned Mr. Romney`s aides on election nature as
they saw voters they never even knew existed, turned out in places like
Osceola County, Florida. `It is one thing to say are you going to do it. It
is another thing to get out there and do it,` said Brian Jones, a senior
At the end of the day the Obama campaign`s get out the vote team registered
1.8 million new voters by knocking on doors. It registered another 1.1
million through online campaigns, including a groundbreaking Facebook app
that deserves a special word because it genuinely might reshape how
campaigns run going forward.
"Time" magazine`s Michael Shearer writes, "In the final weeks before
Election Day, a scary statistic emerged from the databases at Barack Obama
Chicago headquarters. Half the campaign`s targeted swing state voters under
age 29 had no listed phone number. They lived in the cellular shadows,
effectively immune to traditional get out the vote efforts."
This Facebook app was the Obama campaign`s answer to that very, very new
problem, the more than 1 million Obama backer who is signed up for the app
gave the campaign permission to look at their Facebook friend lists and in
an instant, the campaign had a way to see the hidden young voters.
Obama campaign manager Jim Messina explained how it worked during an
interview with "Politico" on Tuesday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM MESSINA, OBAMA 2012 CAMPAIGN MANAGER: We said here are five friends of
yours we think are undecided in this race. Click here to send them a piece
of viral content, click here to send them a fact sheet, click here to ask
them to support the president.
And it sounds like a really easy concept. It`s not. It`s really hard to do
and it took us a year of some amazing work of our talented technology team
to figure out how to do it, but we were able to contact over 5 million
people directly through their Facebook world, and people that they knew, so
they were going to look at their friend and look at it because they know
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KLEIN: In the end more than 600,000 supporters made more than 5 million
contacts through the system, 5 million. Now that the election is over, the
question is what will happen with Jim Messina and his cadre of data
crunchers, behavioral scientists and door knockers who helped the president
win his second term.
Messina explains what he thinks will happen next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MESSINA: People just spent five years winning two presidential elections
together. They`re now not going to walk away and not help them, you know,
become the change they want to see.
QUESTIONER: So is it possible that an Obama organization and Obama for
America will remain in Chicago as an entity?
MESSINA: I think anything is possible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KLEIN: Anything is possible.
Joining me, Karen Finney, a former DNC communications director and an MSNBC
political analyst, and Michael Shearer, White House correspondent for
Michael, I very much like the term cellular shadows. It`s very (INAUDIBLE).
KLEIN: But I want to ask you -- you`ve done some great reporting on the
Obama campaign`s digital game, but whenever I see this after an election, I
kind of wonder how much of it is kind of whiz bang tech hype, right?
Democrats won a Senate race in North Dakota they shouldn`t have won and
that was not the Obama campaign`s ground game.
So, how big an effect do you really think all this had in the end?
MICHAEL SHEARER, TIME MAGAZINE: Well, $600 million was raised on line and
$504 million came through digital operations. That`s a huge amount of
money. That`s more -- that`s like twice what George W. Bush was spending in
the general election just a few years ago.
So there is no doubt it had a huge impact. And you can`t disconnect what
they did in get out the vote from the data operation. You can`t disconnect
what they did on TV advertising from their data operation. It was all
wrapped into one thing.
You know, these people will tell you that tech does not win elections. You
need a candidate. You need a message. But tech makes campaigning that much
And when you`re talking about a tight campaign that`s won by a few
percentage points, you can be 10 percent, 15 percent more efficient in your
fundraising, 10 percent, 15 percent more efficient on your get out the vote
operation, that can decide it.
KLEIN: And, Karen, there was a lot of talk after the 2008 that Obama`s
movement was going to reshape American politics and will continue on into
governing mode and then a lot of people felt the energy of it began to
dissipate. What do you think is possible this time around? What do you
think they`ve learned of it? What do you think they`ve learned from it?
What do you think they can do?
FINNEY: Well, you know, there were a lot of questions in the intermediate
aftermath in terms of what they were going to do with the database. As you
remember, a lot of Democrats were very worried they would use the database
against them and they didn`t actually. I think because there was so much
This time, I actually -- I hope they do, it is a very powerful database.
And Michael makes an important point and something we saw, we learned from
Howard Dean`s campaign in 2007 and 2008, the beauty of technology, what
these guys figured out is how to do the most simple effective thing and
that is person to person contact. That is still the one thing that people
believe above everything else is a friend or person that they know saying
you should check this guy out. You should vote for this guy.
So, it`s so powerful. Hopefully, they`ll use it as a tool to push through
the rest of the agenda and not be so shy about it this time.
KLEIN: One of the things people say, Mike, is that the Obama campaign had -
- and Democrats in general have this kind of built-in advantage because a
lot of the new ideas and how to work with big data and how to figure out
what actually works when you`re campaigning, randomize expert is coming out
of social science. And for a variety of reasons, Democrats actually have a
better relationship with academia than the Republicans do.
A, do you think that`s right and do you think it will persist?
SHEARER: I think it`s right to an extent. But, really, the advantage Obama
had is more he was the incumbent and he had two years to do this, whereas
Mitt Romney who actually broke some ground in his governor`s race, you
know, a decade ago, doing data searching and things like that.
FINNEY: In fairness, this is kind of a beefed up version of what they did
in 2008. They understood that the way to win was to expand the electorate.
The only way to expand the electorate, you have to register new voters and
find the voters and turn those voters out. And they used technology to do
that more effectively and more efficiently, and then, you know, this is
that concept on steroids.
SHEARER: But, now, the secret is out of the bag. So, you can buy this stuff
next time around. The question is whether you have a candidate who can
tailor his campaign or her campaign to this type of campaigning , which is
really Mitt Romney didn`t do it and John McCain couldn`t do it and Barack
Obama is very good at doing it.
FINNEY: Remember all of this whining, we copied. Everybody originally
copied Karl Rove, the 72-hour strategy. If you`re a gin drinker, we know
how you`re going to vote, we know what magazines you read.
So, the irony is the Republicans did have this technology. We copied them.
We did a lot better, and as you say we had better relationships to make it
go the farther distance.
There is no reason the Republicans could not have done this. They chose not
KLEIN: Does this lead to a new class of political consultants coming up? I
mean, whenever I read those stories, I wonder if the next set of people who
are going to be the prize political consultants won`t be Karl Rove. But it
will some exile from Google who truly knows how to run the source code.
FINNEY: Absolutely. I am sure there are many people out there right now
pitching congressional campaigns who are saying we got to get us one of
those, you know, Google guys.
SHEARER: When I was in Chicago talking to the senior aids about this stuff,
they said that Jim Margolis and the TV people at the Obama campaign hated
this stuff, because they don`t get to make their own decisions anymore.
KLEIN: And they get the money off of it.
SHEARER: Well, that`s a different issue. They can still kind of, you know,
negotiate their pay. But the decisions of where the ads are bought and how
much you`re going to target, what cable show and everything like that, is
no longer made by wise men and smoky rooms. It`s made by data.
KLEIN: We`ll have to leave it there.
Karen Finney, Michael Shearer, thank you both for joining us tonight. Have
a very happy Thanksgiving.
FINNEY: You, too.
SHEARER: Happy Thanksgiving.
KLEIN: Coming up: what purpose does it serve to reform the filibuster if
you`re not going to get the part that is really tying Washington up in
knots ahead? That is ahead.
And Mitt Romney was obsessed with the number 47 before the election. And
now, that number has rather poetically come back to haunt him.
KLEIN: I am about to tell you why Mr. Smith goes to Washington is not the
perfect way to describe what is wrong with American politics. That is next.
And later, further proof our theory that all the Republicans that hate
Chris Christie right now will be begging him to run for president about one
year or so from today. Stick around.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, sir, I guess I have to speak to the people of
my state from right here. And I tell you one thing. The wild horses aren`t
going to drag me off this floor until the people have heard everything I
got to say even if it takes all winter.
This is (INAUDIBLE) speaking. Half of official Washington is here to see
democracy`s final show, the right to talk your head off and the American
privilege of free speech and most dramatic form.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KLEIN: What you just saw is a clip from what is rapidly becoming my least
favorite political movie of all time, "Mr. Smith goes to Washington." It is
not that it is a bad movie. It is a great movie, a classic. It is a bad
guide to what is wrong with American politics today. Everybody plays the
movie for you. I think by law you have to play it on any TV show where they
talk about the fill buster and they see that`s what we don`t have any more,
talking filibusters. What we need to do is make senators want to
filibuster, take the floor and talk and talk and pee into a bottle and talk
and talk and read the phone book and talk and fall down.
And now, Senate Democrats are considering something huge. They are
considering trying to change the filibuster using 51 votes in the beginning
of next session of Congress rather than the using the two-thirds vote that
is often thought to be required to change Senate rules. If they do this, it
is going to be like setting a bomb off in the senate. Republicans will go
nuts which maybe that is fun. No one said change particularly overdue
change is easy.
But Democrats are at the moment thinking of detonating that bomb in service
of something that doesn`t really matter. Making the filibuster more like
what you see in "Mr. Smith goes to Washington."
Look at this chart. Filibusters used to be relatively rare, particularly
Mr. Smith`s day. There were more filibusters between 2009 and 2010, two
years, than there were in the 1950s and 1960s and 1970s combined. Do you
want to know how rare the filibuster was? A strategy memo written after the
1960 for election by Mike Menato (ph), Solyndian (ph) beat Johnsons,
(INAUDIBLE), when you are handing on the senate for Johnson, you know what
you are doing, calculated that in the new Senate, the one after the `64
election, Medicare would pass with 55 votes, 55. The filibuster did not
even figure into LBJ`s planning. That all changed in recent decades.
Now everything gets filibustered, big things like health care reform are
filibustered, small things like who gets to be nominated an ambassador or
sit on the national labor relations board. The problem with the filibuster
in one sentence is it made the Senate into something it was never intended
to be, a 60 votes super majority institution, a place that requires a super
majority to get anything, anything at all no matter how small or necessary
Now, defenders of the filibuster tend to say it is about minority rights or
the constitution`s preference for making hard to get anything done, and it
is important to know that that is not true.
Yes, the founding fathers wanted to make governing hard. That is why they
divided power among three branches and it is why senators used to be
directly appointed by state legislatures and why the house, the Senate, and
the president have staggered elections. So, usually you need a big win in
two or more consecutive elections in order for a party to secure control of
Congress and the White House.
But, the founders didn`t want it to be this hard. They didn`t make the
filibuster. In fact, they considered requiring a super majority in Congress
and they rejected that idea. Writing in the federalist papers Alexander
Hamilton said of such a requirement, quote, "it is real operation is to
embarrass the administration, to destroy the energy of government, and to
substitute the pleasure caprice or artifice of an insignificant turbulent
or corrupt hunta to the regular deliberations and decisions of a
respectable majority. Kind of a little panic.
But, if any of that sound familiar, kind of like what we have been seeing
in recent years maybe? The founders by the way also opposed political
parties. They didn`t want them. And so, they couldn`t have foreseen how
highly disciplined parties would subvert and remake the system they
designed and use rules like the filibuster that didn`t even exist back then
to well, what is the line, destroy the energy of government and substitute
the pleasure, caprice or artifice of an insignificant turbulent or corrupt
hunta to the regular deliberations and decisions of a respectable majority.
I love Alexander Hamilton.
Forcing senators to talk when the filibuster doesn`t do anything about that
problem, and that means it doesn`t do anything about the central problem
that keeps real majority from governing today. We can`t have a political
system in which even when the American people vote twice in a row to give
one party the power to pursue its agenda, the minority is still able to
make them fail. That is a system in which Democratic accountability not to
mention the ability to govern effectively breaks down. That is a system in
which voters think they gave power to somebody to make the country better,
to enact an agenda and then, when that party, be it Republican or Democrat
isn`t able to get the job done, they think that party has failed them and
they become that much more disillusioned even though it was minority
obstruction that kept bills from passing.
Look, I would like to see both parties end the filibuster cooperatively and
now would be a good time to do it because we have divided government. So,
it won`t mean one party or the other suddenly gets to ram the whole agenda
through at once.
But, the first step towards having a reasonable reform of the filibuster,
no matter how it comes about, no matter what rules you use is recognizing
what the actual problem is and the problem is not that senators don`t get
enough time to talk. It is that they get too much power to obstruct.
Joining me are two of the finest congressional scholars alive today, Thomas
Mann, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and Norm Ornstein,
resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. They are also the
co-authors of the great book, "of it`s even worse than it looks, how the
American solution collided with the new politics of extremism."
Gentlemen, thank you for joining me the day before thanksgiving.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Always a pleasure.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Delighted.
KLEIN: Tom, how did that graph happen? How did we get here if a filibuster
is a constant of political life?
THOMAS MANN, SENIOR FELLOW, BROOKINGS INSTITUTE: It started changing
actually earlier in the late `50s and early `60s as business picked up and
there was much to be done and the Senate didn`t have the luxury of sitting
back and enjoying a single senator or group of senators trying to
filibuster, so they set up a two-track system and so on and its escalated
dramatically. And in recent years, basically the minority has decided that
it is the route to making the president of the other party a failure,
either by defeating out right or by slowing down or by discrediting
anything he tries to do. So, it is the root of the filibuster, norms no
longer operate to restrain the behavior.
You know, in the late `60s, maybe 10 percent of all serious legislation was
subject to some kind of filibuster related delay, now, it is 90 percent, 95
KLEIN: It is constant. And Norm, so then explain this to me because you
have a better sense. I mean, I don`t know actually your position on this.
Maybe you agree with it. What is the appeal of the talking filibuster? What
problem are we fixing?
NORM ORNSTEIN, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: You know, I am very happy to
try and move the pressure onto the minority, and talking filibuster might
make a difference in a handful of cases. The problem is the one the chart
points out and Tom emphasized. And it is twofold.
The first is it is no longer an isolated individual, a Mr. Smith. It is a
party strategy. And if you have got 40 people or more who are willing to
talk and all you have to do is stay at it for five minutes and then hand it
off to somebody else, this doesn`t solve the problem.
But, it is also that it has been used in everything now. The rule hasn`t
changed since 1975. It is the practice in the last few years. So, there are
ways to deal with it more effectively. The big problem now with filibusters
in blocking them is it takes the majority. He owns this on the majority to
provide 60 votes. What I would like to do is say never mind the talking,
you have to constantly come up with 41 votes, you being the minority.
KLEIN: You, being the minority.
ORNSTEIN: The minority. So, remember, we had this absurd situation where
they had to drag 92-year-old Robert Byrd out of his hospital bed to come to
the floor to provide the 60th vote. Make them do it.
But, you also have to do more. You have to make sure that this routine uses
the filibuster can`t be applied and take up so much time. You know, the way
a filibuster now works, if you apply to something that passes unanimously
and ultimately does, I mean, use a bunch of time, you get 30 hours where
you don`t have to go on the floor soaking up more floor time. Cut that out.
KLEIN: Trying to end the filibuster takes hours and hours and hours. But,
that brings me to one other change that changed which is now is senate
majority leader Harry Reid says he wants to do something about the
filibuster and exactly what I want to do. But, that feels to me, Tom, like
a tectonic shift, house of majority leader saying, we need to change this,
it has gone too far.
MANN: It really is. Harry Reid has long defended the prerogatives of the
Senate and of the filibuster even in the face of criticism from his own
members. But virtually all of his members now want to do something. And he
has been infuriated by the way in which Mitch McConnell has carried out.
But if you think about t it is a very odd time to do this. The house is
under the control.
KLEIN: You don`t get that much out of it.
MANN: Of the Republicans, so it is not as if the filibuster is the only
thing standing in the way of democratic program and as Norm said, at the
beginning of this new Congress president Obama has a better shot at working
with the Senate including 6, 8, 10, Republicans in using that to put
pressure on the house so is this the right time to blow up the Senate?
KLEIN: Norm, real quick, you seem to -- do you think we need 67 or 51,
whatever you want to do? What do you think is the number of senators?
ORNSTEIN: I think constitutionally you could do it with 51. But, you made
the key point. In 197 5, when they changed the rule they started to do it
this way, then, the stepped back and reached a bipartisan compromise. If
you`re going to jam something through and there are a million other ways
the senators can (INAUDIBLE) the works, then, you better do it with
something really sweeping. If you do a half or third of the way measure and
inflame the entire Senate you`re probably not doing it the right way.
KLEIN: Norm Ornstein and Tom Mann, thank you both for being here this
evening. I really appreciate it.
ORNSTEIN: Thanks, Ezra.
MANN: -- be with you.
KLEIN: Coming up, 47 percent gets the last laugh on Mitt Romney and on star
KLEIN: We have to issue a correction to something we said last night in a
segment on New Jersey governor Chris Christie. We said that Christie is
seeking re-election in 2014. 2014 is when Governor Christie`s second term
would hypothetically begin. The actual gubernatorial election occurs 12
months from now in November 2013. We regret the error.
And another thing actually about last night in that segment. I argued that
it was smart of Governor Christie to embrace President Obama during the
hurricane Sandy relief effort despite how much it angered Republicans. And
I said that because in order for governor Christie to seriously contend for
the Republicans presidential nomination in 2016, he has to win his
gubernatorial re-election in 2013 in a very blue state first, a state so
blue it voted for President Obama by a 17-point margin.
The only problem with that segment was I didn`t have any proof that
governor Christie`s Obama embrace actually played well with the New Jersey
voters. We knew it played with New York City voters, a full 89 percent
approved of Governor Christie`s performance. But New York City as anyone
who lives there would be so happy to tell you is not New Jersey.
So I hope you enjoyed the segment, but to be honest, it was a bit of
guesswork on our part, a theory, a hypothesis. If I were to give it a
grade, it would have to be incomplete.
Well tonight, I can complete at least part of that segment. Because today,
a national research poll of New Jersey voters found Christie`s approval is
at a record high. Governor Christie`s approval rating in that poll have
been between 50 and 59 percent for three years in office, National research
Now, 77 percent of New Jersey voters approve of Governor Christie. That`s a
21-point increase from a Quinnipiac poll conducted a month ago. Ninety four
percent approve of Governor Christie`s handling of the hurricane Sandy
recovery effort, 91 percent of the approve of the way the governor and
President Obama worked together in the aftermath of the storm, and that
poll by the way not alone. A Rutgers Eagleton poll that just came out found
Christie`s approved favorability at 67 percent. Up 19 percentage points, 19
And Christie is getting great press from one of the largest newspapers in
the U.S., one that is usually a little rough on him. The editors of the
"New York Times" write today, we have previously been critical of some of
Mr. Christie`s shortsighted actions as governor, but it was hard not to
admire him for standing up to his party`s worst elements and putting his
So tonight, we come to the same conclusion we did last night. If Governor
Christie wins re-election big and he might now, Republicans who are mad at
him today will be begging him to run for president, only now we have proof
showing that is likelier than ever.
Coming up, Mitt Romney had a hunch about the number 47 but he got it wrong.
Set your passers on irony.
KLEIN: If you`re a fan of Star Trek and who isn`t, you might notice that
the number 47 is everywhere. Like everywhere. Everywhere.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The experience of 47 individual medical officers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: May I request you activate monitor input 47.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The infuser will keep him alive for another 47 minutes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Distance 547 meters.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We believe we have just discovered the 247th.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For one minute 47 seconds a different memory pattern
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How many do we have left in reserve in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 47.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Locate captain Janeway (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Captain Janeway (ph) is stored in memory block 47
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KLEIN: That you tube video by the way goes on for another eight minutes. It
is really long.
The number 47 appears in almost every episode of star trek the next
generation. It appears in almost every episode of "Star Trek deep space 9"
and "Star Trek Voyager" and "Star Trek Enterprise." And the reason is a guy
named Joe Monoski (ph). Minoski (ph) was a write other "Star Trek.` But
before that, he was a student at Pomona College in California. And Pomona
College has a thing for the number 47. They believe the number 47 holds the
secret to the universe. They love it. They put it everywhere. They look for
it everywhere. They see it everywhere.
Pomona magazine, the official magazine of Pomona College wrote, quote "you
might call Mons link to the deep structure of the universe. For instance,
where you aware that the organ case in Limen (ph) hall has exactly 47 pipes
or the Pomona`s traditional motto, Pomona College, our tribute to Christian
civilization has 47 characters.
Did you know that at the time of Pomona`s first graduating class in 1984
there were 47 students enrolled and if you want to go deeper into the
mystery, did you notice the last two digits in that year equal 47 times 2?
The article goes on like that for another 2,000 words. You know who else
thought the number 47 kind of explained it all?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The re 47 percent of the people
who vote for the President Obama no matter what. All right? There are 47
percent who are with him who are satisfied with government and believe they
are victims and government has the responsibility to care for them and
believe that they`re entitled to health care, the food, the housing, to you
name it. These are people who pay no income tax, 47 percent of Americans
pay no income tax. And so, my job is not to worry about those people. I
will never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and
care for their lives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KLEIN: Mitt Romney`s famous comments on the 47 percent raise two questions.
One, how could he say that? How can he say a single mom working two jobs
and taking advantage of the child tax credit or a senior who had worked all
of his life and enjoying the few years of retirement, the social security
that he paid into? How can he say they refuse to take responsibility for
But, the other question was what the hell did he mean? Romney said the 47
percent likely to vote for Obama were the same 47 percent who didn`t pay
federal income taxes and are the same 47 percent who are dependent on
government? That`s not even a little bit true, not a little. A lot of the
folks who don`t pay federal income taxes are seniors, the most Republican
leaning age group in the country and there is no 47 percent in the country
that refuses to take responsibility for their lives. They just don`t exist.
But Romney wasn`t all wrong. The number 47 percent really did hold the key
to this election. But, it was not the number of people who vote for Obama
or the number of people that don`t take responsibility for their lives or
don`t pay income taxes. It was in an act of cosmic poetry the number of
people who will end up voting for Mitt Romney in the 2012 election.
Dave Wasserman, an analyst at the Cook Political Report has been crunching
the final votes coming in from the election. And as of tonight Romney is
down to 47.53 percent with a few million votes to come in from California
and New York. Wasserman told my colleague, (INAUDIBLE) can now confidently
predict that in the end, Romney will be below 47.5 percent which mean his
vote total will round to, guess it, 47 percent.
And by the way, according to Wasserman`s latest spreadsheet, that 47
percent, it is everywhere. Forty seven percent in the battle ground state
and 47 percent in non-battle ground states. Maybe those kids from Pomona
were right. The number 47 --
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