Skip navigation

'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

Read the transcript to the Tuesday show

  Most Popular
Most viewed

December 4, 2012

Guests: Tim Walz, Joe Klein, Bob Costas

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: Tonight, Jay Carney`s position in the White
House press secretary`s hall of fame is assured by what he said today in
the White House press briefing room about the Republicans` latest budget
proposal. Quote, "It`s magic beans and fairy dust."


DAVID LETTERMAN, COMEDIAN: I`m worried about the fiscal cliff in the
same way I`m worried about Martians.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: Fiscal cliff.



LETTERMAN: Is this a rerun? Are we --

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Still no progress as all sides jockey
for position.

nowhere, period. We`re nowhere.

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC ANCHOR: Speaker John Boehner issued a counteroffer

CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC ANCHOR: The White House quickly dismissed it.

right now is still out of balance.

LUKE RUSSERT, NBC NEWS: It`s more of the same. It`s not going to

OBAMA: It`s not me being partisan. It`s just a matter of math.



JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Magic beans and fairy dust.

GROVER NORQUIST, ANTI-TAX LOBBYIST: President Obama overplayed his

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Obama did win the election.

NORQUIST: Me thinks somebody made him king.


NORQUIST: He doesn`t see where he stands in the universe.

BOEHNER: I would say we`re nowhere, period. We`re nowhere.

JANSING: Are we that far apart?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Both sides want a deal.

OBAMA: It`s just a matter of math.


GROVER: Try and stay away from hypotheticals --

REID: It won`t pass.

NORQUIST: -- discussions about unicorns.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re talking about unicorns.

NORQUIST: Unicorns.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They`re imaginary beasts.

CARNEY: Magic beans and fairy dust.



BASHIR: An enchanted universe.


CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: The whole thing is going wacky.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really, really strange.

BOEHNER: I would say we`re nowhere.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t envy the position the speaker is in.

BOEHNER: Period. We`re nowhere.

JANSING: If you`re a conservative Republican, you just might feel
under attack.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: John Boehner`s power move.

BOEHNER: Roll over and do what I ask.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Boehner went after freshmen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Having the reins on the Tea Party.

RUSSERT: It`s an interesting element.

HALL: Does he have real allies at this point?

TODD: Conservative groups lashed out.

NORQUIST: Tea Party two is going to dwarf Tea Party one.

BOEHNER: You can`t be serious.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: John Boehner`s power move.

BOEHNER: Roll over and do what I ask.


O`DONNELL: There are just 27 shopping days until we go off the curb,
which means there are just 27 days for John Boehner to make House
Republicans come to their senses.

A new poll today shows just how much confidence the American people
have that John Boehner can do that.

A Pew Research/"Washington Post" poll finds that only 40 percent of
Americans expect House Republicans to reach agreement with President Obama
on taxes and spending before January 1st; 49 percent expect we will indeed
go off the cliff, which as regular viewers of this program know is really
just a curb, at first, at least. And 53 percent of Americans believe the
congressional Republicans will be to blame if we do go off the curb.

When asked in an interview, when he and House Speaker John Boehner
will sit down together and hammer out a deal, President Obama said this:


OBAMA: I don`t think that the issue right now has to do with sitting
in a room. The issue right now that`s relevant is the acknowledgement that
if we`re going to raise revenues that are sufficient to balance with the
very tough cuts that we`ve already made and the further reforms and
entitlements that I`m prepared to make, that we`re going to have to see the
rates on the top 2 percent go up. And we`re not going to be able to get a
deal without it.


O`DONNELL: Speaker Boehner`s counteroffer yesterday to President
Obama which included a mythical increase in tax revenue of $800 billion
obtained by reducing or eliminating unspecified tax deductions was taken
seriously by no one in the Senate except Republican Jim DeMint.

Speaker Boehner`s $800 billion tax hike will destroy American jobs.

The Heritage Foundation skewered the Boehner counteroffer on its blog.
"At first blush, it appears little more than categorical preemptive
capitulation. To be fair, the details of the Republican proposal are
extraordinarily vague -- to the extent it can be interpreted from the hazy
details now available, it is a dud. It is utterly unacceptable."

President Obama said today there is a time and a place to discuss
reforming the tax code. But that time is not now.


OBAMA: What I`ve suggested is let`s put a down payment on taxes,
let`s let tax rates on the upper income folks go up. Let`s let those go
up. And then let`s set up a process with a time certain at the end of 2013
or the fall of 2013 where we work on tax reform. We look at what loopholes
and deductions both Democrats and Republicans are willing to close. And
it`s possible that we may be able to lower rates by broadening the base at
that point.


O`DONNELL: Joining me here in Washington are Congressman Tim Walz,
Democrat from Minnesota, and Karen Finney, former DNC communications
director and MSNBC analyst.

Congressman Walz, you introduced today in the House a discharge
petition which is a way for normally the minority to try to get, to force a
vote on something that the leadership doesn`t want. This petition would
basically bring to a vote in the House the bill that the Senate passed,
which is basically the president`s version of the tax structure that he
would like to see.

What`s happening with the discharge petition?

REP. TIM WALZ (D), MINNESOTA: Well, we`ve got 151 people signed on to
it. I think we`ve got momentum.

O`DONNELL: How many signatures do you need to allow --

WALZ: Two hundred eighteen.

O`DONNELL: Which is basically what it takes to pass.

WALZ: That`s what`s going to take that. It`s going to take the
Democrats plus 27 Republicans to basically do what all of us heard when we
were home is don`t let taxes go up on those $250,000 and below, and deal
with the other later.

And they argued that`s what they wanted. It has passed the Senate.
The president said he would sign it. They can keep their pledge to Grover
and the American people have certainty this.

And then the fiscal curb is a shorter curve because that part is
solved, the American people have certainty to spend into the economy during
the holiday season, and it makes sure that no one gets the tax increase on
that first $250,000. That`s all 100 percent of the public. The last 2
percent of it is those making more than $250,000 and they only pay above.

So, I would argue this is a pretty easy thing to do. I would argue
every one of my colleagues heard it during my campaign. I never heard a
single constituent tell me, we want you guys to keep arguing, fight about
the stuff you disagree with, please don`t do anything. They said find
common ground, pass what you can.

So, my approach to this was, is, if we can`t agree on the other, let`s
take piece out of this that we all agree on and just pass. And I think
that changes the whole calculus of the debate.

O`DONNELL: It`s so interesting for everyone in the House to see you
on this, because back in August of this year, you voted the other way on
this same notion.

WALZ: I did.

O`DONNELL: What`s the difference for you as a Democrat? Eighteen
Democrats and you voted the other way on this in August. What`s the
difference between then and now?

WALZ: Democracy requires compromise. It was fresh. It had just come
out of the Senate. I was saying with land prices going up, we should do
something with the estate tax to make sure that some of my farmers were not
caught because of rising prices.

But the fact on the matter on this, I`m not going to hold up
everything else for this piece. We can come back and deal with that later.
It still needs to be fixed.

But a government -- it`s incumbent on us compromising, putting the
best and the most important needs of the vast majority of people first. So
I`m willing to go. I voted with the Republicans on the other hand. I
voted to extend all the tax cuts which I disagreed with but I didn`t want
to go two years ago off that cliff.

So, we said let`s give it another year. Let`s get this done at the
end of 2011. Now, here we are again. Let`s pass what we can.

So I think continuing to ask compromise -- I`m certainly willing to do
it. I think my colleagues are willing to do it. And now, all I`m asking
for is 27 Republicans to make sure taxes don`t go up on the middle class.
It doesn`t seem that difficult.

O`DONNELL: Karen Finney, the other thing that changed since
Congressman Walz`s last vote on this thing, is that the voters have spoken.

FINNEY: Yes, they have.

And you know what? Think about the fact that the voters have spoken
and as the president pointed out, more people than even voted for him agree
with him on this approach that we`re talking about.

And the Republicans have had several weeks to make their case and it
sounds like the very same case we heard coming out of Mitt Romney that the
voters rejected. They`ve had a few weeks to make their case and what? The
polls today say people still aren`t buying it. More people don`t like it.

So Mitt Romney couldn`t convince the American people that it was a
good deal and here you have the Republicans in Congress that can`t convince
the Americans that that`s a good deal.

They`re not stupid. Americans don`t want this. And it`s like the
Republicans are sort of being sort of petulant with one another rather than
understanding, you lost. The American people don`t agree with you.

And the president wisely is recognizing he`s got the hand right now to
sort of wait it out. Unfortunately, the Americans will be the ones to

Let the Republicans go home and explain that to their constituents. I
mean, that`s one of the things that is so brilliant about this move, is it
really holds the American accountable. Make them go home and have to
explain why it is that middle class people in their districts were
perfectly fine to just screw them over. Let them explain it.

O`DONNELL: And, Congressman Walz, a discharge petition is so rare
that I never remember the actual rules of them from one instance to
another. Is there a time limit on how much time you have to get

WALZ: No. Once we get them, we have to wait seven days to get it
done. Our calculus on this, if we get this done right, it`s prepared and
on Christmas Eve, we can vote on this and be home by Christmas Eve.

The beauty of this is we don`t need to go through all this if Speaker
Boehner would just bring up the bill and let us do it. It is the politics
of the possible. This will pass. It will go to the Senate. It will be
signed by the president.

And every single person in this country will assure those tax rates
stay the same. And every economist out there tells us that that disposable
capital, especially this time of year, has a huge job increase. It creates

FINNEY: Which is part of the reason why it`s so smart that the
president is going to the Business Roundtable tomorrow and increasingly the
Republicans are sort of being pushed farther and farther into a corner and
isolated. The business community says the president is being pretty
reasonable. We agree with this.

The president is meeting with all kinds of people from all different
parts of the economy. People seem to agree with him. The majority of
Americans agree with him. And yet, we`ve got Grover Norquist and John
Boehner and a couple of the bat crap crazies, as you like to call them,
holding the rest us hostage.

WALZ: They will all vote for this at some point in time. So, the
question will be is: do we go off the curb or the cliff and do you have to
go back when someone asks you, why did not you vote for this on December
5th when you could have done it? Why did you wait into January? Let the
markets crash. Take that uncertainty out and cause the stress to the
American families, when you could have passed it then? Because they will
absolutely vote for it.

O`DONNELL: You know, I had Democratic senators tell me months ago
that they were hearing from a couple of Republican senators in the
cloakroom that they actually need us to go off the cliff so they can then
cast a vote that is purely interpreted as a tax cut no matter how you look
at it.

Have you heard anything like that from any whispers from the
Republican side in the House?

WALZ: No, I -- no. Not in there. And it is strange. I would have
thought a month, there is a different reality out there. There`s a new
reality in this.

O`DONNELL: It set in with you.

WALZ: It certainly has. You know, I said I`ve been reasonable to
compromise on this.

No, I don`t think it has yet. And for me, what is so unfortunate
about this. This is what drives the American public crazy, is every single
one, they got to look them in the eye. They`re going to vote for this.
They know it is the right thing to do and yet they`re going to say I don`t
want to do it now and make it worse.

I am one of those, Lawrence, that does believe that this can send
shudders to the market. I got a lot of constituents who have a lot of
uncertainty about what this is going to bring. It does anything, it erodes
faith that we can get anything done.

I think that`s the sad part about this. I think you turn this thing
on its head. That by the end of the week, we have that part off the table,
because there could be no argument to hold this up unless you say we`re not
going to give this to you until we exact cuts from you.

Well, my take is: show me what those are and I`ll talk about
amendment. We can`t agree on that now.

FINNEY: But also, we`re talking about exacting cuts, but we`re also
talking the Republican Party increasingly being seen as the party that
protects the top 2 percent. That`s really what this --

WALZ: Yes, I can`t see any reason other than that why you wouldn`t do

O`DONNELL: Congressman Tim Walz and Karen Finney, thank you both for
joining me tonight.

WALZ: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, John Boehner is cracking down on conservative
House Republicans. What`s that all about? Jonathan Capehart will have to
figure out for us next.

And Sunday night, Bob Costas said what had to be said. About a tragic
murder-suicide that is the biggest story in football these days. And he
was then attacked for saying it by the likes of Mike Huckabee and Herman
Cain. Tonight, Bob Costas will join me in an exclusive interview.


O`DONNELL: I have something to say tonight that`s not easy for me to
say. Something I wish didn`t have to say. Having worked in the United
States Senate myself, I hate to have to tell you, I really have to tell you
that today was a day of shame in the Senate and a day of personal betrayal.
And I`ll tell you why in tonight`s "Rewrite".



BOEHNER: So for this gratitude I offer you this simple phrase: God
bless us, everyone. And for my family to yours -- merry Christmas.


O`DONNELL: That was House Speaker John Boehner earlier tonight
lighting the Capitol Christmas tree but the House holiday cheer stops right
there. As John Boehner fights over the fiscal cliff with Democrats and the
president, he is cracking down now on some House conservatives that he
thinks are a bit too free-spirited.

John Boehner kicked two Republicans off the House Budget Committee.
He got rid of another two on the Financial Services Committee. All four
voted against the 2011 debt ceiling deal between President Obama and
Republican leadership. The two on the Budget Committee actually voted
against Paul Ryan`s budget, the chairman of the Budget Committee earlier
this year.

Speaker Boehner issued these punishments with the full support of the
Republican leadership, including the Majority Leader Eric Cantor and
Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy.

Jonathan Capehart, this is fascinating.


O`DONNELL: I am interpreting this as a positive thing for President
Obama and the Democrats in an attempt to at some point either before or
after going off the cliff, reaching some kind of deal with Boehner, because
what Boehner`s message seems to be to these conservatives who are willing
to vote for something because it`s not conservative enough, I need better
team players if I`m going to walk back from the White House with a deal. I
need your vote on it.

CAPEHART: Right. By removing the two from the House Budget
Committee, Congressman Amash and Congressman Huelskamp, basically, what
he`s doing is putting in people who will do what he says.


CAPEHART: People who will get him the votes out of the Budget
Committee that would then make it possible for him to take it to the floor
and get a big vote. I don`t think we`re going to see John Boehner focused
so much this time as he was last time during the debt ceiling crisis,
trying to pass this thing with just Republican votes. It appears to me
that Speaker Boehner is trying to set up the situation where he can get the
proposal out of committee, get it to the floor and then just get the thing
passed with the magic 218 or north of that if he possibly can.

O`DONNELL: The conservatives, the crazy ones, are just really angry
about this. The Club for Growth released this statement. "Congressman
Schweikert, Huelskamp and Amash are now free of the last remnants of the
establishment leverage against them. We expect that these three defenders
of economic freedom will become even bolder and get even worse parking
spaces in their efforts to defend the taxpayers against the big spenders in
both parties."

So, here you have Club for Growth that was reliably getting all their
ideas rubber stamped by the Republican establishment in the House now
getting out there on the fringe, fighting with John Boehner.

CAPEHART: Right. Without those guys on those committees, Club for
Growth doesn`t have as much leverage as it did last night. And those
particular people, you can`t -- their power derive from their being on
those committees. Now that they`re off, they`re just four votes out there.
The power still resides with the speaker.

And the great thing about this is that what it really does show is
that Speaker Boehner, it`s not just punishing these four guys. He is
sending a clear message to the Tea Party Caucus, the raucous caucus that
has made his life a living hell since they came into Washington and said,
I`m tired of your games. I am tired of the problems that you`re causing
me, my leadership and also, I`m someone who wants to govern and I can only
govern if I make you understand that I`m not going to put up with it

O`DONNELL: It seems like an outburst that has been two years in
coming and is loaded with things like, we don`t have control of the United
States Senate because of you, Tea Party people, who have given us nuts as
Republican Senate nominees. And Boehner`s life would be so much better if
he was working with a Republican Senate instead of the Democratic Senate he
is working with.

CAPEHART: Yes. And also, though, I think this message is that the
speaker, he wants to govern. The whole point of coming to Washington is
not just to slash, cut, close. It`s about governing.

And, you know, John Boehner, for whatever you think of him, is someone
that wants to get a deal. He wants to govern. By doing what he has done,
he is saying, look, enough with the games. We don`t have the Senate as you
were saying. The only way we can do this is if I pull on the reins a whole
lot. Not just a bit. A whole lot, that`s what he`s done.

O`DONNELL: The striking thing is how much outrage there is not. We
had to comb around to find these online comments.

Jonathan Capehart, thank you very much for joining us.

CAPEHART: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, the bravest man in football this week is not
one of those fearless Giants on the field. It is Bob Costas. And he will
be my next guest in an exclusive interview.


O`DONNELL: What happened in the United States Senate today was
painful for me personally to watch. It was a day of shame and personal
betrayal on the floor of the Senate. That`s coming up in the "Rewrite".

And next, Bob Costas joins me in an exclusive interview.


O`DONNELL: In the spotlight tonight, Bob Costas. Sunday night on
NBC`s "Football Night in America," Bob Costas addressed the most important
football story of the day this way.


perspective on this? Well, a bit of it come from the Kansas City-based
writer Jason Whitlock with whom I do not always degree but today said it so
well that we may as well just quote or paraphrase from the end of his
article. "Our current gun culture," Whitlock wrote, "ensures that more and
more domestic disputes will end in the ultimate tragedy, and that more
convenience store confrontations over loud music coming from a car will
leave more teenage boys bloodied and dead. Handguns do not enhance our
safety. They exacerbate our flaws, tempt us to escalate our arguments and
bait us into embracing confrontation rather than avoiding it.

In the coming days, Javon Belcher`s actions and their possible
connection to football will be analyzed. Who knows. "But here," wrote
Jason Whitlock, "is what I believe: if Javon Belcher didn`t possess a gun,
he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today."


O`DONNELL: Joining me now for his first television interview since
those comments, NBC Sports broadcaster Bob Costas.

Bob, thanks for joining us tonight. I`m wondering when you decided
you were going to have to say something -- obviously you were going to have
to say something about this horrible murder-suicide that occurred, NFL
player killing the mother of his child right in front of his child, in
front of his own mother, then killing himself.

How did you decide how to do that in your show?

COSTAS: Well, I only had about 90 seconds. And half of that, or
close to half of it was devoted to another observation. And throughout the
day on the other network football programs, and then earlier, including in
the prior segment on our show, on "Football Night in America," the why`s
and where fors of what happened, the comments of his coach and some of his
teammates had all been covered.

So I was looking for a different way in. Where some people may have
misunderstood my comments was I took one aspect of it, as expressed by a
writer whom I quoted verbatim. I took one aspect of it. I do not think
that is the only aspect or possible aspect. There is clearly a domestic
violence aspect. There`s clearly the question, as I alluded to in a
general way, of what effect playing football, which we know has
debilitating effects on mind and body, at least for some -- what effect
that might have had.

What effect alcohol and drugs might have had. And then another aspect
of that is easy access to guns and a gun culture. And it was that aspect,
the gun culture that I focused on, not to the exclusion of the others, but
just because I didn`t have all that much time.

O`DONNELL: Bob, I read the full article that you quoted. And I
noticed that you, it seemed to me, to my eye, were carefully quoting the
article and specifically deliberately leaving out pieces of the article
that were directly political and directly about gun control. Was that a
deliberate choice within your show? Was it your sense that within your
show, better to not go into that zone?

COSTAS: Well, it`s not about that I`m afraid to go into that zone.
But if you`re going, to, you need more time and you need to be able to get
into some nuance. What I was talking about here -- and I`m sorry if that
wasn`t clear to everybody -- was a gun culture. I never mentioned the
Second Amendment. I never used the words gun control. People inferred

Now do I believe that we need more comprehensive and more sensible gun
control legislation? Yes, I do. That doesn`t mean repeal the Second
Amendment. That doesn`t mean a prohibition on somebody having a gun to
protect their home and their family. It means sensible and more
comprehensive gun control legislation.

Even if you had that, you would still have the problem of what Jason
Whitlock wrote about and what I agree with. And that is a gun culture in
this country. It demonstrates itself in different ways. It demonstrates
itself in the wild west, Dirty Harry mentality of people who actually
believe that if a number of people were armed in the theater in Aurora,
they would have been able to take down this nut job in body armor and
military style artillery, when in fact almost every policeman in the
country would tell that you that that would have only increased the tragedy
and added to the carnage.

But it also plays itself out -- and Jason Whitlock had some insight
into this. It plays itself out in the inner cities, where teenage kids are
somehow armed to the hilt. And it plays itself out -- and this I know the
why`s and where fors of, in the sports world, where young athletes are
disproportionately armed.

Tony Dungey, one of the most respected people in all the sports, on
our program on Sunday night, said that one year when he coached the Colts,
he had 80 players, before they cut the roster down -- 80 players in
training camp. He said how many of you guys own a gun? And roughly 65
hands went up.

Even if all those guns were obtained legally, you can`t have 65 guys
in their 20s and 30s, aggressive young men, subject to impulses, without
something bad happening. I posed this question. I didn`t have time to
pose it on Sunday night, but I`ll pose it here. Give me one example of an
athlete -- I know it has happened in society. But give me one example of a
professional athlete who by virtue of his having a gun took a dangerous
situation and turned it around for the better.

I can`t think of a single one. But sadly, I can think of dozens where
by virtue of having a gun, a professional athlete wound up in a tragic

O`DONNELL: Our friend Mike Lupica put it yesterday at the end of his
column, how many home runs could Babe Ruth hit without a bat? The people
who do not accept that way of looking at this have been coming at you
pretty hard. Bill O`Reilly has been on the case. Let`s listen to what he
had to say.


BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Belcher is solely responsible for the
horrendous crime which orphaned his baby daughter. He did it. He knew
right from wrong. He chose. He chose to inflict lethal damage.

There`s no question that Belcher was mentally imbalanced. You don`t
do what he did if you`re in charge of yourself. But to blame society or
guns or football is grossly irresponsible.


O`DONNELL: Your response to that?

COSTAS: Well, first of all, obviously Belcher is responsible for what
he did. I agree with O`Reilly to that extent. And Bill was fair to me in
contrast to some of the other stuff that went on across the street. He was
actually fair to me in full context last night. And I appreciate that.

No one is saying that Belcher is not responsible. In fact, earlier in
the day, I said that I was appalled by the way some of this had been
covered initially by some of the sports networks, where they made it seem
as if there was some equivalency, like there were two victims, that
Kasandra Perkins was victim one and Javon Belcher was victim two.

No. The person who committed suicide first committed a murder. And
he is responsible for that. However, the ready, easy availability of guns
makes mayhem easier. Could he have strangled her? Could he have stabbed
her? Of course he could have.

But the easy availability of guns makes this sort of thing just far
more likely to occur. If somebody points out that the country has a
problem with nutrition and obesity, that doesn`t mean they want to ban fast
food. But they are making you aware of some of the dangers and hoping to
moderate people`s behavior.

And if nothing else, even if some people disagree with me or
misinterpret what I said, if it started a conversation on this, then I
think that`s a good thing.

O`DONNELL: Bob Costas, it is my honor that you joined us tonight with
your first television interview on this. Thanks for joining us tonight,

COSTAS: Thanks, Lawrence. I appreciate it. >

O`DONNELL: And Thursday night at 9:00 p.m. on NBC Sports network,
"Costas Tonight," a year end special wrap-up.

Coming up, it is too early, way too early to talk about Democrat and
Republican maneuvering for the 2016 presidential campaign, if -- if -- if
you`re an amateur and you don`t know that that maneuvering is already
seriously underway. So Joe Klein and I will talk about the maneuvering for

And in the Rewrite tonight, what happened in the Senate today was
really hard for me to watch. And I know it was difficult for every senator
to watch, including the senators who shamed the Senate today by what they
knew was the wrong vote.


O`DONNELL: The Senate Rewrote itself today on the rights of the
disabled. And the United States Senate shamed itself today, once again.
It pains me to say that, it really does. Having worked in the Senate for
seven years, I think the Senate remains a great institution which has done
much, much more to be proud of than the rare occurrences that it should be
ashamed of.

I don`t usually think that when a vote doesn`t go my way in the United
States Senate that the Senate should be ashamed of itself. I think that
the Senate has a right, a moral right to arrive at outcomes that I don`t
like, to arrive at outcomes that I hate, and to arrive at those outcomes
through a reasonable exercise of Senate decision making.

I don`t think that every procedural roadblock that Republicans throw
in front of Senate Democrats is shameful. I`ve seen Democrats do the same
thing to Republicans. And I, working on the Senate floor, have tried to do
the same thing to Republicans myself.

In my seven years in the Senate, I didn`t recall one day of shame for
the Senate as a whole. Most senators were innocent bystanders in the
Judiciary Committee`s hearing that pitted Anita Hill against Clarence
Thomas. If, from the Anita Hill perspective or the Clarence Thomas
perspective, you found that hearing shameful, the shame was on the
Judiciary Committee, in my view, and not on the United States Senate acting
as a whole.

I tell you all this simply to stress how rare it is, how difficult it
is for me to proclaim a day of shame in the United States Senate. This was
such a day, a day of shame and sadness.

John Kerry in his role as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee was leading the Senate as the floor manager of a treaty. On the
other side of the aisle, the senior Republican on the Foreign Relations
Committee rose, not in opposition but in support of that same treaty.
Richard Lugar and John Kerry got 61 votes in the Senate today for
ratification of a United Nations Treaty on the Rights of the Disabled,
which was modeled on a law passed by the Senate 22 years ago, the Americans
With Disabilities Act.

In effect, it was a vote to export American law to the 155 nations
around the world that have signed this treaty, a treaty that has already
been ratified by 126 of those countries, including the United Kingdom,
France, Germany, China -- Russia has ratified it. Now you can pass
anything in the Senate with 60 votes except treaties, which require 66, a
two-thirds majority.

Every Democrat voted for the treaty and only eight Republicans voted
for the treaty; 38 Republicans disgraced themselves and disgraced the
Senate by voting against it and controlling the outcome. John Kerry tried
everything he could on the Senate floor to show Republicans the way to vote
for this treaty.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: It really isn`t controversial.
What this treaty says is very simple. It just says that you can`t
discriminate against the disabled. It says that other countries have to do
what we did 22 years ago when we set the example for the world and passed
the Americans With Disabilities Act.


O`DONNELL: The treaty was supported by organizations representing
people with disabilities and veterans groups. But that was not good enough
for 38 Republicans. It was supported by Senator John McCain, himself a
disabled veteran.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Bob Dole has been our leader on the
issue of disabilities from the moment he stepped foot into the chamber. To
Bob, it is unthinkable that Americans could not get over a curb or enter a
school building or even watch a debate in this chamber if they were in a


O`DONNELL: But that wasn`t good enough for 38 of John McCain`s
Republican colleagues, including his usual ally, Lindsay Graham. Treaties
take years to negotiate before they come to a vote. This treaty, though
signed by President Obama, was actually negotiated by President George W.

But that wasn`t good enough for 38 Republicans. Republicans made up
transparently ridiculous reasons to vote against it. They said it
threatened America`s sovereignty, even though Senator Kerry repeatedly
showed them that the treaty requires no changes in U.S. law and that the
treaty cannot be used as the basis for a lawsuit in U.S. courts.

The opponents then said it was inappropriate to consider a treaty in a
post election lame duck session, never mind that just since I`ve been
watching the Senate, they`ve approved treaties 19 times during lame duck

And then they said -- and this is what did it. This is what the 38 no
votes were trapped by, the tiniest possible interest group you could
imagine affecting the outcome of something so important, the home schooling
crowd. Then they said that the treaty endangered home schooling.

Home schooling fanatics expressed worry that the treaty could lead to
the government imposing new regulations on the home schooling of disabled
children, even though there is no language they could point to in the
treaty that could justify any such worry.

Republicans who knew this was a lie still based their vote on it,
because that is how much they live in fear of any interest group of any
size, with any affiliation with the Tea Party. The opposition to the
treaty was led by Tea Party darling Mike Lee of Utah, who is in the second
undistinguished year of what America can only hope is a short Senate

The senior senator from Utah, Orrin Hatch, who voted for the Americans
With Disabilities Act 22 years ago, voted against the treaty today because
he now, even after just winning reelection, lives in fear of Tea Party
protesters at his door of his local office in Utah. Orrin Hatch, who
embarrassed himself, some would say shamed himself in the Anita Hill,
Clarence Thomas hearings, has many, many times in his 35 years Senate
career cast honorable votes.

I`ve seen him do it. Cast honorable votes that were not politically
easy for him to cast. But those days are over for Orrin Hatch now. And
today proved it in a deeply personal way.

As the vote approached, former Senator Bob Dole, a dear friend of
Orrin Hatch`s, was wheeled on to the Senate floor by his wife, former
Senator Elizabeth Dole. Bob Dole, himself a disabled war veteran, was a
strong but on this day silent supporter of the treaty. Rolling the 89-
year-old former Republican Senate leader on to the floor was a move
designed to reach into the hearts of the senators on that floor who knew
Bob Dole well, who worked with him closely in the old days, senators like
Orrin Hatch, Chuck Grassley, Mitch McConnell, Richard Shelby, Thad Cochran.

Senator Dole went to the floor today needing just five yes votes from
old friends. Here`s how Bob Dole`s old friends voted.



Mr. Cochran, no.

Mr. Shelby? Mr. Shelby, no.

Mr. Grassley? Mr. Grassley, no.

Senators voting in the negative. McConnell.

Mr. Hatch? Mr. Hatch, no.


O`DONNELL: Bob Dole needed five votes today. Those five votes were
all he needed. Bob Dole reached into their hearts today and found nothing.
After the vote, John Kerry said, "it was one of the saddest days I`ve seen
in almost 28 years in the Senate."

We know that when Bob Dole leaves us, which I hope doesn`t happen for
a very, very long time, those five men, if they`re still with us, will rise
on the Senate floor and speak in honor of Bob Dole. They will mean every
word of their praise for their former leader and faithful friend.

But they will know and we will know that on the day when they could
have really honored Bob Dole, honored his wisdom, his vision as a
legislator, honored his friendship and his personal kindnesses to them over
many, many years, they failed Bob Dole. With one word, no, they failed
their old friend.

They dishonored themselves and they dishonored the United States


O`DONNELL: Tonight, we have new evidence that Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton is running for president. "Politico" revealed today that
Clinton sent hand signed notes with supportive words and encouragement to
Democrats who narrowly lost their congressional races. In one note,
Secretary Clinton wrote, "we will continue needing your voice in the public
square in the years to come. In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, the future
belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. Onward!"

Onward indeed. President Obama`s pick to chair the Democratic party
for the next four years, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, said this
about Secretary Clinton today on "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS."


leader who has a tremendous future as a leader of the United States of
America. I`m sure that she`ll be pressed into service. And knowing
Secretary Clinton, I`m sure she doesn`t plan to rest very long.


O`DONNELL: And in the race for the 2016 Republican presidential
nomination, moments ago, Congressman Paul Ryan spoke at the Jack Kemp
Foundation Dinner where Senator Marco Rubio was receiving a leadership
award Paul Ryan won last year.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: Marco is joining an elite group of
past recipients for this award.


RYAN: I`ll see you at the reunion dinner. Table for two. You know
any good diners in New Hampshire or Iowa? Right?


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Paul, thank you for your invitation
for lunch in Iowa and New Hampshire. But I will not stand by and watch the
people of South Carolina ignored.



O`DONNELL: Joe Klein, the games apparently have begun.

JOE KLEIN, "TIME MAGAZINE": Only for those of us who are severely

O`DONNELL: We can see the future so very clearly as it plays out in
front of us.

KLEIN: Yes, well, 2016 is going to be I think a lot more fun than
2012 was. And you know, up until a few weeks ago, I had the Democratic
ticket set. It was going to be a Hillary Clinton/David Petraeus ticket.
But I think that`s kind of -- you know.

O`DONNELL: You only have to Rewrite half of it.

KLEIN: Yes, well -- although, I mean -- we don`t even need to go

O`DONNELL: The Hillary -- what I`ve heard is that the people who are
in the financial end of Hillary`s campaigns have been alerted that they got
planning to do. Some of them are also Andrew Cuomo fund-raisers. And they
are alerted that there is planning that they need to do for him. So some
of them are pretty conflicted right now. That`s the best that I have on
what she`s thinking.

KLEIN: I`ve talk to some of those fundraisers and they are planning.
I think she is going to run. She is exhausted now. She`ll take a couple -
- she may not know she is going to run, although I suspect she kind of
does. She will take a couple of years. And at this point, she would be a
very, very formidable candidate, depending on what happens over the next
four years.

I mean, Mario Cuomo used to say between now and then a Pope will be
born, which means, who the hell knows what`s going to happen? The second
Obama term could be a disaster. I don`t expect it will be. And that would
make it harder for her. But she is as well prepared as anybody I have
covered in 43 years of doing this to be president of the United States.

O`DONNELL: The Republican movement is pretty clear. Rubio has
already gone to Iowa. They seem to be following the Romney model of you
start the minute the election is over.

KLEIN: Yeah. You know what? They got a big problem. And you were
just talking about it. You take Republican -- decent Republicans, Lamar
Alexander, Saxby Chambliss, a member of the gang of six -- who is the
third? Lindsey Graham, who is often rational when not talking about
foreign policy. What do all three of them have in common? They`re going
to get Tea Party challenges in 2014.

And you know, I read the speeches that Rubio and Paul Ryan gave
tonight. And they were wonderful about the need to reach out to the poor
and the afflicted and so on. But every Republican who votes for any kind
of revenue increase in these coming -- in these coming votes is going to be
facing a Tea Party challenge. And I suspect that that party is going to
have to come to terms with that. It may take another couple of cycles to
do it.

O`DONNELL: The Tea Party challenge today challenge today would not
even let these guys loose to vote for the American Disabilities Act going

KLEIN: It`s outrageous. It is just -- it is beyond outrageous. It
is the kind of crazy nut behavior that lost in this election. Mitt Romney
might have been a more successful candidate if he had stood up to the Tea
Party at any one point during the election. He was never outflanked to his
right during the course of winning that nomination. And I think that
Republicans are going to have to ask themselves, especially those who want
to be president, am I a going to be bullied by these people?

O`DONNELL: And everyone said it. All the commentators on television
and elsewhere said Romney needs a moment. He has to find a spot. Where is
it? Is it when Rush Limbaugh attacks a Georgetown law school student?
Where is that moment? Romney could never find it.

KLEIN: How about moving to the right of Rick Santorum on
contraception? If you`re going to run as a moderate -- and by the way, the
only time he was successful during the campaign was when he moved to the
center by reneging almost everything he had stood before, in the last month
of the campaign. When Bill Clinton ran as a moderate, the signal that he
sent to moderate conservatives was, I`m upset about welfare as well. And
we`re going to reform it.

And Romney didn`t do that. And Paul Ryan has a particularly, you
know, interesting moment coming, too. Because he has proposed a plan for
Medicare, Medicare Advantage, that is exactly the same as Obamacare is for
people under the age of 65. And so, I`m waiting for Paul Ryan to tell me
the difference between his Medicare Advantage plan and the Obama health
care exchanges.

O`DONNELL: I think we can settle this 2016 thing right now. If
Hillary runs, she wins, right?
Come on, come on, that`s not a big limb.

KLEIN: I stopped making predictions like six cycles ago. Because you
and I are great when we`re talking about things that happened in the past.
On things that are happening now, we`re really stupid when it comes to---

O`DONNELL: Joe Klein get the last very cautious word. Thank you very
much for joining me, Joe. "THE ED SHOW" is up next.


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

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

Sponsored links

Resource guide