updated 12/10/2012 11:27:28 AM ET 2012-12-10T16:27:28

THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
December 7, 2012

Guests: Robert Reich, Steve Elmendorf, Chris Geidner, Ryan Grim, Ari
Melber, Howard Dean, Karen Finney

ALEX WAGNER, GUEST HOST: John Boehner is now fighting three battles
at once -- against the president, against his party, and now, against
marriage equality.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: This isn`t a progress
report because there is no progress to report.

CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC ANCHOR: Fiscal cliff negotiations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One-on-one right now.

JANSING: Are now a party of two.

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: The two most important players.

DAVID AXELROD, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISOR: The president and the
speaker.

MITCHELL: President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A two-man operation.

BOEHNER: There is no progress.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are seeing progress.

MITCHELL: There is a jobs report today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unemployment down to 7.7 percent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Better than expected, thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We dropped a whole point in a year.

BOEHNER: There is no progress.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Members of Congress are always upset.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are taking us to the cliff.

JANSING: The momentum is with the president.

ANN COULTER, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: Republicans are totally over
the barrel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you say over?

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: They should give in to Obama on the tax rate?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nothing is over until we decide it is!

HANNITY: We didn`t elect them to raise rate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not me!

HANNITY: We don`t have a revenue problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m not going to take this.

HANNITY: When are you going to fight?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let`s do it!

COULTER: How is that winning? That isn`t winning.

SEN. JIM DEMINT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I don`t think Republicans will
win.

JANSING: South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jim DeMint says he is resigning.

JANSING: His surprise announcement to step down.

DEMINT: I think I`m in a more powerful position.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you kidding me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He doesn`t have a law to his name.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s been a singular failure as a political
strategist.

DEMINT: I think I`m in a more powerful position.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The disarray of the Republican Party.

BOEHNER: There is no progress.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They don`t know what they stand for.

BOEHNER: No progress.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They don`t know what to do.

BOEHNER: No progress.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They have some real soul-searching to do.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Today, the United States Supreme Court --

MARTIN BASHIR, MSNBC HOST: The Supreme Court used this afternoon --

MATTHEWS: Said they would take up the issue of same-sex marriage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It really is an incredible day today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Important social issues.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Defense of Marriage Act.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the table for the Supreme Court.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will the court be ahead of where the public is?

MATTHEWS: What a question. What a story.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

Will the Republicans be able to face reality before we go over the
fiscal curb? With just 24 days to go, it fell to "FOX News Sunday" host
Chris Wallace to try to get through to the FOX News crowd.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One side is going to have to give. You know,
any bet on which side it`s likely to be?

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: On that issue, I think that the Republicans
are going to have to give. I mean, it was key issue in the election. It`s
unsustainable for Boehner and the Republicans to be in a position where
they are blocking a tax cut for 98 percent of Americans because they want
to protect the tax rates of the top 2 percent. That may be right or wrong
on its merits. But politically, it seems pretty clear.

And you see more and more conservatives and Republican office holders
who are caving on that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: Later that morning, House Speaker John Boehner updated
reporters on the negotiations with President Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER: This isn`t a progress report because there`s no progress to
report.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi went to the cameras almost
immediately after that with a few questions of her own for the speaker.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: The only obstacle standing
in the way of middle income tax relief are the Republicans` unwillingness
to ask the top 2 percent to pay their fair share. This top 2 percent,
which by the way gets a tax cut.

Why are you not bringing this to the floor? Is this a forever,
forever protection of the wealthiest people in our country at the expense
of the middle class?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: At a Virginia diner, having lunch with middle class people
who are facing a tax increase come January 1st, Vice President Joe Biden
put the pressure on Boehner in the way that only Joe Biden can.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Folks, this is not
hard. This ain`t rocket science. It would take 15 minutes from the time
the decision was made by the speaker of the House to pass and make
permanent middle class tax cuts.

The president would probably have me sprint up to the Hill to bring
the bill down for him to sign. It can be done like that. It is not
complicated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: The president and the Democrats have the poll numbers on
their side, 53 percent of people approve of the job President Obama is
doing, 53 percent trust him to handle the negotiations, while just 36
percent say they trust the Republicans in Congress.

And 65 percent of voters are with the president on a sticking issue in
these negotiations -- raising taxes on household income over 250,000, 31
percent oppose it.

And today, a new number is strengthening the president`s position in
the negotiations. The November jobs report shows the unemployment rate has
dropped to 7.7 percent. The economy added 146,000 jobs last month, and
that is one reason why today, John Boehner kind of, sort of maybe
entertained the idea of giving President Obama what he wants on tax rates,
at least rhetorically.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER: Even if the president got the tax rate hike that he wanted,
understand that we would continue to see trillion deficits for as far as
the eye can see. Listen, Washington`s got a spending problem, not a
revenue problem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: Joining me now are Richard Wolffe, the executive editor of
MSNBC.com and an MSNBC political analyst, and Robert Reich, former labor
secretary and a professor at the University of California-Berkeley. He is
also the author of "Beyond Outrage."

Richard, I want to go to you first here.

The president talked quite a bit in the election cycle.

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Quite a bit.

WAGNER: He did, period, about the fever breaking amongst Republicans
in Congress.

WOLFFE: Yes.

WAGNER: It`s been quite feverish of late, which is to say a lot of
back-and-forth, a lot of hot air blown from the House caucus. I wonder if
you think that fever might be breaking with the suggestion John Boehner
said, even if the president gets his way on tax rates, which would seem to
open the door to that possibility.

WOLFFE: It`s a bit to latch on to that. But I do think things are
moving. There is disarray. They cannot settle on a position. Very
different from the last time around.

And it`s true, the White House has said both publicly and privately,
look, we`re prepared to see all the tax rates go up. What are you going to
do about it?

That`s a very, very different dynamic from what we`ve seen before.
Interesting that only 65 percent number out there hasn`t changed.
Republicans know that they`ve got two-thirds of the country against them on
this particular piece of raising taxes on the wealthy, and that obviously
includes -- for those who don`t understand and clearly Republican
leadership doesn`t understand -- that does include a lot of Republicans.
There were 65 percent who voted just a few weeks ago. So, they`re going
against their party that is itself unsustainable.

WAGNER: Secretary Reich, when you have Chris Wallace stating the
obvious as it were, is it just a matter of time? I will point out to Rand
Paul on CNBC last night, floating the doomsday plan. Let`s take a listen
to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I have yet another thought how we can
fix this. Why don`t we let the Democrats pass whatever they want? If
they`re the party of higher taxes, all the Republicans in the House vote
present and let the Democrats raise taxes as high as they want to raise
them. Let Democrats in the Senate raise taxes. Let the president sign it.
And then they can own a tax increase.

And when the economy stalls, when the economy sputters, when people
lose their jobs, they know which party to blame.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: Is this not saying oh, we don`t care -- we don`t care about
this game is another way of saying we are coming to terms with the
potential loss?

ROBERT REICH, FORMER LABOR SECRETARY: Exactly, Alex. I think the
Republicans right now are trying -- they went through denial and remorse.
And now they are beginning, at least some of them seem to be beginning to
accept reality.

And that reality is, yes, we had an election. Most people do want a
tax increase on the rich. Most people do not want to see their own taxes
go up. Most people are in favor of extending the tax cuts for the 98
percent, lower 98 percent of Americans.

And Republicans see the writing on the wall. The Republican crackup
is not yet an avalanche. It is not yet a complete capitulation.

But I think that John Boehner understands and the Republican
leadership understands it`s only a matter of time. But there is not much
time left.

WAGNER: Richard, OK, that sounds like an inherently logical position.

WOLFFE: Right.

WAGNER: That they may be cracking, that there may be a deal done.
That seeming crackage, if you will, seems to be happening among Republicans
who are actual legislator.

WOLFFE: Right.

WAGNER: But conservatives do not seem to be going quietly into the
night. Erick Erickson writing on RedState has a new petition, and he has
joined Sean Hannity in this in calling for people to fight against the
reelection of John Boehner as speaker of the House. He writes on his blog,
we must make sure Boehner does not buckle this year. It gets easier after
the New Year.

RedState has a fire Boehner petition online for voters to sign. It
reads in part, "In order to save the future of our country, we need to stop
those in Congress who aren`t willing to put their foot down. We need an
articulate spokesman in the House who is fiscally responsible and won`t
cave on principle. As your constituent, I ask you to please stand on
principle and abstain from voting for speaker of the House on January
23rd."

WOLFFE: In abstention.

WAGNER: Yes, dreaded abstention.

WOLFFE: What a march in the streets for abstention.

You know, with all due respect to the senator for RedState, the
election to win was the one in November. And, you know, John Boehner is a
markedly more confident speaker now than he was last time around. When you
have people like Rand Paul saying, well, there is a way we could maybe
vote, but not vote, and let Democrats vote.

You know, this is what happened with the first Clinton budget that
went over so well where Republicans backed out and then wanted to take
claim for the economy that grew out of that Clinton budget and the Clinton
economic policies. They are saying we`re not voting for a tax rise or a
tax cut. We`re kind of abstaining all around.

Well, if that`s their position, fine. I think they call that not
leading.

WAGNER: Secretary Reich, what do you make of that? I mean, we talk
about Kabuki Theater. Is anything more kabuki than that, voting present
instead of yes, abstaining instead of casting a vote one way or another?

REICH: Well, it`s a game within a game within a game. And it`s an
insiders` game.

I mean, the fact of the matter is most Americans, even if they`re
called Republicans, even if they consider themselves conservatives, they
understand that 98 percent of Americans do deserve a tax cut, a
continuation of the Bush tax cuts. And they understand that the rich have
never been as rich, and they`ve never paid an effective tax rate that is as
low in living memory.

I mean, if we have a budget deficit at all, it is only fair. And you
don`t have to be -- again you don`t have to be a doctrinaire Republican,
you can be a commonsensical Republican to understand that this requires
that the Bush tax cuts not be extended for the richest 2 percent. It is
finally getting through.

And I think that, again, as Richard said, you know, you can be as
clever as you want, you can make all kinds of pretensions. You can
abstain, you can do whatever you want to do, this is going through.

WAGNER: When we talk about abstentions and Kabuki Theater, that`s
obviously small ball. But the fact that the president and the vice
president are saying we are not going to allow Congress to have the power
to fight another war over the debt ceiling --

WOLFFE: Yes.

WAGNER: -- that to me is a real line in the sand.

WOLFFE: It is.

WAGNER: Republicans are not going to give that up without serious
concessions from the Democrats. What do you make of it?

WOLFFE: There are going to be spending cuts in this deal, right.
This isn`t just about tax cuts for the super wealthy. There will be
spending cuts.

This is where John Boehner is going to have to say, hey, we balance
things out in some fashion. The president isn`t going to go through this
again. It`s not going to be, you know, Charlie Brown with a football all
over again.

And so, you know I understand that there are lots of my former
colleagues reporting on the White House who are convinced that the
president won`t get this through. This is a one-time negotiation, and the
White House knows it`s going to be too painful, and frankly, too disruptive
to the markets.

One thing the Republicans keep talking about is certainly. And yet,
they want the uncertainty of a default debate. It`s not going to happen.

REICH: Richard and Alex, if I can just add to, that we went through
this in 2011 with regard to the debt ceiling. The financial markets
reacted very badly. Most voters and the financial markets blame the
Republicans. The Republicans were the ones who were threatening the full
faith and credit of the United States. They don`t want to do this again.

And if they do try to do it again, if I were the president, I would
say forget about it. Just raise the debt ceiling automatically. It`s not
in the Constitution. There are no legislative requirements with regard to
all of this. Just do it.

WAGNER: And that indeed is the nuclear option.

Thank you to Richard Wolffe and Robert Reich.

REICH: Thanks.

WAGNER: Coming up, the Supreme Court will hear challenges to the
federal Defense of Marriage Act and California`s Prop 8, both of which ban
guy marriage. What are the chances a court headed by John Roberts will
favor equality? That`s next.

And Jon Stewart tells Chris Christie to his face that Republicans only
like government when it`s good for them. The same day Christie vetoes
health care exchanges in his state. Governor Howard Dean joins me next,
next.

And Republicans are pushing South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to
make the right choice to replace Jim DeMint. Will she pick right or far
right? That`s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WAGNER: With the exception of Newt Gingrich, Republicans fell over
themselves to run from Todd Akin after his legitimate rape comments. So
why were they still giving him money? That`s coming up.

And the Supreme Court will hear the appeal of an 83-year-old lesbian
who was denied federal tax benefits under the Defense of Marriage Act.
That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We cannot defend the
federal government poking its nose into what states are doing and putting
the thumb on the scale against same-sex couples.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: Five hundred and 526 days after President Obama made that
statement, for the first time ever, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed today to
take a serious look at the issue of marriage equality. The court today
granted a review of the voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage in
California called Proposition 8, and the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal
law, that declares marriage is only a legal union between one man and one
woman.

The Defense of Marriage Act bars the federal government from
recognizing the validity of same-sex marriages in states where they are
legal under state law. Nine states -- Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland,
Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, and Washington allow same-
sex marriage or soon will. So does Washington, D.C. record lines are
expected for those wanting a first come/first serve seat during the
historic Supreme Court proceedings.

As NBC`s Pete Williams puts it, today`s move by the Supreme Court
could result in the Roe v. Wade of guy rights.

Joining me now is political strategist Steve Elmendorf, chair of the
Gay and Lesbian Victory Funds and Chris Geidner, senior political reporter
for "BuzzFeed".

Steve, I want to go to you first on this. There has been a lot of
discussion and a lot of back and forth whether it`s a good thing for
marriage equality for the Supreme Court to take up these issues. Some
folks think better to leave it at the state level. There has been a lot of
progress there.

Are you bullish or bearish on this?

STEVE ELMENDORF, ELMENDORF STRATEGIES: I`m bullish. I think the
Supreme Court is going to do the right thing. You know, it`s hard to
predict, but I think the country has been moving so fast in the right
direction. The court is not immune to public opinion. The court is not
immune to the wind blowing through the country.

And it`s so clear where we`re moving and the progress we`ve made in
the last five years has been amazing. And I think the court is going to do
the right thing.

WAGNER: Chris, let`s talk a little bit about public opinion. Because
we have some polling that shows a breathtaking change of public opinion on
this. In 2008, 36 percent of the country supported same-sex marriage. By
this year, 48 percent support same-sex marriage, 46 percent oppose it. A
split, but a dramatic, a 20 percent increase almost in four years.

And I wonder, is there -- are we now reaching the point where anybody
running for public office is effectively going to have to support same-sex
marriage?

CHRIS GEIDNER, BUZZFEED: Well, I think that it`s definitely clear on
the Democratic side that when President Obama came out and said that his
evolution was complete, that the Democratic Party quickly fell in line.

With the Republican Party, clearly there are going to need to be
further discussions. And days like today will quicken the pace of those
discussions within the party. But they`re going to have to make decisions
about where they`re going to fall on this in history.

WAGNER: And, Steve, you are -- you are bullish. So this would fit in
with that. But it would make sense. It would seem as if the court was
going to make a sort of landmark ruling in favor of the arc of history and
civil rights, given the fact that they`re taking up both DOMA and Prop 8.

I wonder where you think Roberts fits into all this.

ELMENDORF: Well, it`s hard to tell me. I mean, I got to believe
that, you know, based on some of the other decisions he has made, I don`t
think he is quite as conservative as some people think. I think taking up
the DOMA case is really important because we really need to have the
Defense of Marriage Act struck down.

Marriage in the states is great. But at the end of the day, there is
an awful lot of benefits that come from the federal tax code, that people
who get married need to enjoy if you`re going to have a fair and equitable
situation in society.

So I think they made a big step forward here. And, you know, the
court is a hard place to read. Unfortunately, it`s not like the election.
We don`t have Nate Silver to read every morning to tell us how it`s going
to turn out. But we`ll all be watching closely.

WAGNER: Chris, there is a third issue that the justices haven`t taken
up yet, and that`s an Arizona law that bars some same-sex spouses from
access to state benefits. Where do -- where do we go on that? What
happens to that issue?

GEIDNER: Well, the Arizona case is a case in which the state
rescinded domestic partner benefits for state employees. And the same-sex
couples who sued said that they don`t have the option of marriage in
Arizona, and so rescinding the domestic partner benefits was
unconstitutional.

And they -- they won at the 9th Circuit at the court of appeals. And
the Supreme Court today only announced what cases they`re going to take.

It`s possible that they denied that request by Arizona Governor Jan
Brewer to take the case. And if they did that, then the -- they would
maintain their benefits and the appeal would be gone. Or the Supreme Court
could choose to take the -- to hold the case until they have decided these
other issues.

We`ll find out whether or not they denied the case on Monday most
likely when the court lists its other orders.

WAGNER: Steve, I want to play a little bit of sound. George Takei
was on the show last night, and he was offering his defense of marriage
equality. Let`s take a listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE TAKEI, ACTOR: The core value of marriage is two people who
love each other and who are committed to each other.

You want security for your spouse, whatever may happen. And our laws
do not provide that. In the case of homophobia, we are literally members
of the family. We are sons and daughters of heterosexual parents. We are
brothers and sisters. We are literally kin, blood kin.

And yet, we deny the LGBT member of the family the same legal
protections and rights that they enjoy. It`s irrational.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: Steve, we -- you know, this has been called a guy rights
issue, but really, it is a civil rights issue. And when you hear an
argument, an eloquent argument like that from George Takei, it is -- it
underscores the fact that this is an irrational argument, and it`s almost
sort of an inevitable, it`s the inevitable course for the United States.

I wonder what you make of House Republicans who have tried to stand in
the way of marriage equality. Do they have a platform to stand on if the
Supreme Court decides to -- given the fact that the Supreme Court has
decided to take up Prop 8 and DOMA.

ELMENDORF: Well, I think it`s very clear from the results of this
election that the Republican Party, if they`re going to succeed long-term,
if they`re going get back in the presidential election game, is going to
have to change their position on gay marriage. You know, younger people in
particular are just -- it`s inevitable. They`re moving more and more
towards this.

And, you know, if you listen to Ted Olson, who is a deeply
conservative Republican, who was Ronald Reagan`s solicitor general, you
listen to him talk about this issue, and he is going to be one of the
people arguing the case, there is a deeply conservative position to be
taken here that two people who love each other, who want to spend their
life together ought to have -- no matter what their sexuality -- ought to
have the same rights as two heterosexual people that want to live together.

And that`s just a basic fairness. And, you know, conservative
Republicans should be for two people who love each other. It`s family
values that two people who love each other want to be together.

WAGNER: Indeed. It is family values indeed.

Steve Elmendorf and Chris Geidner, thanks a lot.

ELMENDORF: Thank you.

WAGNER: Coming up, from now on, Jim DeMint won`t just be pushing the
fringe of the Senate to the fringe right. He is going to be pushing his
whole party.

And Chris Christie goes to Washington to ask for government help while
vetoing his own state`s moves to support health care reform.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WAGNER: Chris Christie goes to Washington to ask for government help
on the same day he shuns Washington health care reform.

And Ann Coulter blames one man for making the war on women a real
problem for Republicans. You could say he made it legitimate.

And next, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley has decided whether or
not Stephen Colbert should replace Senator Jim DeMint, and also whether
Nikki Haley should replace Senator Jim DeMint.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHEN COLBERT, "THE COLBERT REPORT": The decision on who will
replace DeMint falls on South Carolina governor and friend of the show
Nikki Haley. But who will she pick?

Let`s see. You want somebody young, somebody conservative, somebody
from South Carolina, maybe somebody who had a super PAC. Wait a second. I
know when I look at the U.S. Senate, I say to myself, you know what they
could use? Another white guy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: In the Spotlight tonight, how Jim DeMint`s departure will
hurt the Republican party. Governor Nikki Haley writes on her Facebook
wall that she will not appoint Stephen Colbert to South Carolina`s vacant
Senate seat. "Stephen, thank you for your interest, but you forget one
thing, my friend. You didn`t know our state drink. Big, big mistake."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. NIKKI HALEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: What`s the state drink?

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: There is a state drink?

HALEY: It`s milk.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: Haley also writes on her Facebook wall, I will make this
decision quickly. Number one, I will not take the appointment myself.
Number two, I will appoint a person who has the same philosophy of
government that Jim DeMint and I share.

Here is what Senator DeMint and the current Heritage Foundation
president told Rush Limbaugh yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, I guess safe to say
Boehner is not forcing either of you guys out, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s pretty true.

SEN. JIM DEMINT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It might work a little bit the
other way, Rush.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: Joining me now, MSNBC`s Ari Melber and "the Huffington
Post`s" Ryan Grim. Ryan, you can`t -- these guys can`t just go quietly
into the night. There has to be a little zinger, a little fork in the eye
to John Boehner no the out.

I wonder what you make of DeMint`s departure from the Senate. Is it
better for Democrats or for the Republican party?

RYAN GRIM, "THE HUFFINGTON POST": Well, it`s certainly better for Jim
DeMint. His salary increased something like six-fold. Plus, he can start
making income on the side that would have been unseemly for a senator.

And meanwhile, let`s give Jim DeMint serious credit. A lot of
senators come to Washington, middle class or upper middle class. Then they
live in the 170,000 dollar salary. And somehow 12 years later, they`re
worth 20 million dollars. And you don`t really know quite how that
happened.

Jim DeMint didn`t do that. His net worth was listed at something like
65,000 dollars, which has to make him one of the poorest people in the
United States Senate. So certainly he`s better off.

You know, he is an activist at heart. So going back into the movement
purely is good. And you know what? For political junkies, this is good
too, because nothing is more fun than South Carolina politics. And now
we`re going to have two race, 2014 and 2016 to watch. Whereas with Jim
DeMint, it was pretty much a forgone conclusion.

WAGNER: Ari, Jim DeMint`s record in Congress is not all that great,
which is to say actually pretty bad. Now he is good at some horse race
stuff. He picked some winners, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Jeff
Flake.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

WAGNER: But he is also the guy that gave his personal seal of
approval to crazies like Christine O`Donnell and Sharron Angle and Richard
Mourdock and Todd Akin. In the end, is this a net-net win for Republicans
who have some amount of their sanity, a shred of it left?

MELBER: Not necessarily. It`s true when they did the count of his 35
major legislative proposals, none were enacted into law. So as you are
reporting, Alex, it was really the king maker status and the relationship
with the Tea Party that he leveraged, more so than doing anything specific
on the Hill.

Having said that, what I think is particularly interesting is this
reflects sort of the weird moment that we`re in political life in the
country. Participation is very high. Democracy is very low.

And so while people are turning out to vote, and we have all this
incredible enthusiasm out there -- we just had this big long election -- we
have a Congress that everyone knows is broken. We have money that really,
you know, floods the system. And we have a Senate, in particular, that has
record-breaking filibuster and obstruction rates under this administration
as compared to every other in history.

So when we look at someone like Jim DeMint, who, as Ryan said, is a
bit of an activist and wants to make sort of big change, being in
government isn`t necessarily the place to do that. And we`ve spent a lot
of time talking about Grover Norquist, another person out of government,
who is in the minds of everyone serving in government. And that is a way
to make change.

WAGNER: Well, Ryan, we talked about the Heritage Foundation. And if
he is going to be an activist, is Heritage the right place for him to go?
Let`s keep in mind, Senator DeMint was the one that said if we`re able to
stop Obama on the Affordable Care Act, it will be his Waterloo. It will
break him.

The idea for an individual mandate, which is the centerpiece of the
Affordable Care Act, was birthed at the Heritage Foundation.

GRIM: Right. But I think Jim DeMint can kind of shape the Heritage
Foundation to his political will. And the fact that he is able to go to
the Heritage Foundation actually says a lot about where the two parties are
on the spectrum. You could never imagine a Democratic senator, the
equivalent of DeMint -- you know, you couldn`t imagine somebody like Bernie
Saunders, for instance, who caucuses with Democrats -- you couldn`t imagine
him leaving and going to run the liberal Center for American Progress. It
just -- there is just too much daylight between the center/left Democratic
establishment in Washington and the kind of left wing of the Democratic
party.

Whereas there is no daylight between the far right in the Senate and
the Washington establishment, the Heritage Foundation, AIE, these type of
folks. So what Jim DeMint going here does is it continues to strengthen
that infrastructure. And he is on the action side. He is on the election
side. So he is going to make sure that impure Republicans are not getting
through primaries, which is just going to keep pushing them that much
further to the right.

I don`t think he got any weaker by walking out of the Senate.

WAGNER: Well, I guess it`s how does it serve the Republican party,
though, right? These think tanks are supposed to be idea factories,
effectively. Can we actually imagine DeMint crafting a piece of viable
legislation that has to deal with immigration reform or energy reform or
any kind of reform period, Ari?

MELBER: No. Clearly not from his record. And I don`t think he would
claim otherwise. He is all about setting down standards, holding the line,
not working towards solutions, not trying to make government work.

I mean, what you can say about him is he has been honest about his
world view. It is a world view where we spend more time worrying about
billionaires than everyone else, and where government failure is sold as a
success. That is literally the idea.

And so they`re going to go out now and try to do more things to jam up
the Senate and to tie the hands of government. That`s why their deficit
goals. That`s why they`re obsessed with using a lot of long-term scare
tactics to basically continue to shrink this government.

The one quibble I have with what Ryan said is I`m not sure that he
alone controls this foundation. Cato has had a lot of pushback from the
Koch Brothers. At the end of the day, its the people who write those
checks.

WAGNER: Republican think tanks, good luck to you all. Ari Melber and
Ryan Grim, thank you both.

GRIM: Thanks.

MELBER: Thank you.

WAGNER: Coming up, Ann Coulter knows who to blame for the war on
women. And Chris Christie hates big government until Chris Christie needs
big government. Christie`s moves to the left, right and center are next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON STEWART, "THE DAILY SHOW": The week before the storm, you were
out there, President Obama couldn`t lead his way out of a paper bag with a
fist full of 20s and a tank.

Then right after the storm was over, you were like this man is a
leader.

(APPLAUSE)

STEWART: Like doesn`t that -- doesn`t that tell you something about
the game? What does that tell you about the game?

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: What it tells me is that people
have different skill sets at different times. That`s what it tells me.

(BOOING)

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: I see. So he wasn`t a leader until you need leadership?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: When it comes to his relationship with President Obama, New
Jersey`s Republican Governor Chris Christie is stuck between a rock and a
hard place, which might explain two things Christie did over the past 24
hours. First, Christie visited President Obama at the White House, asking
for 83 billion dollars in extra disaster aid to help clean with Hurricane
Sandy clean up.

The very same day, Christie vetoed a bill drafted by his state`s
Democratic legislature that would have built a health care exchange, a key
part of the president`s health care law, which aims, of course, to
subsidize insurance for low and middle income Americans.

In a statement explaining the rejection, Governor Christie cited a
lack of information from Washington. Quote, "I will not ask New Jerseyans
to commit today to a state-based exchange when the federal government
cannot tell us what it will cost, how that cost compares to other options,
and how much control they will give the states over this option that comes
at the cost of our state`s taxpayers."

That makes New Jersey state number 19 to say no to the Affordable Care
Act`s offer for a state-run health insurance exchange. And it puts
Christie in the ranks of governors like Jan Brewer in Arizona, Bobby Jindal
in Louisiana, and Scott Walker in Wisconsin.

During his appearance on "The Daily Show," Jon Stewart took Christie
to task over his Obamacare stance.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: The difference is that here we have people in New Jersey
who are in a crisis situation that could not be anticipated. And from my
perspective, the federal government has always stood up for that
proposition, whether it was in Katrina, Ike, Gustav, they`ve come forward
and done that. Nothing different here.

STEWART: Here is my point, and this is where I part ways with the
Republican party in an enormous way. If you have cancer and you don`t have
health insurance, that`s Hurricane Sandy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: Christie did tell Jon Stewart that he may change his mind on
a state-run exchange later.

Joining me now, former DNC chairman and former Vermont Governor Howard
Dean. Governor Dean, thanks for joining us. My first question is --

HOWARD DEAN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF VERMONT: Thanks for having me on.

WAGNER: What are the implications of Christie`s veto for New Jersey
residents?

DEAN: Well, leaving the politics aside, it`s very interesting. I
actually think the Republicans, who really don`t quite a clue on health
care, are actually, with this particular shenanigans, forwarding the notion
of a single payer. You`re now going to have a federal exchange, a uniform
exchange run by the federal government, presumably with uniform national
standards, in 19 states, all of which apparently are going to be run by
Republican governors.

So I think it`s pretty ironic that they`re doing this. As far as the
implications for the people of New Jersey, I think it`s fair to say that
the federal exchange will probably go into effect later than the individual
state exchanges, because of the scale that is needed to run a federal
exchange.

So I think the states that have signed up to do this will go ahead,
which means that the program will be in place earlier for people in states
where the governors have decided they would run the exchange.

WAGNER: Governor, we`ve been talking a lot about kabuki theater this
season. And it seems to me that a lot of these sort of state level fights
against implementing parts of the Affordable Care Act are a version of
Kibuki Theater on a state level, which is to say Chris Christie has taken a
beating from conservatives. We remember Rupert Murdoch saying that -- he
had a biting post on Twitter and said that the governor would be
responsible for Mr. Obama`s reelection because of the photo ops he had with
him during Hurricane Sandy.

It seems like this is almost Christie`s red meat to the conservative
base saying, look, I may be arm and arm with the president, but at the end
of the day, I`m still holding the line on conservative principles.

DEAN: I think that`s true. Although why anybody would pay any
attention to something Rupert Murdoch put on Twitter is beyond me. I`m
surprised he didn`t wiretap them first.

But the fact of the matter is there is a lot of posturing and bad
governance talked about by the Republican governors. In fact, at the end
of the day, I think they will be governors first and politicians second.
That is they will all take the Medicaid money, with the possible exception
of South Carolina, which seems to have a long history of doing things that
aren`t so good for its population.

And I think all those other places have great hospital systems. And
the hospital system are going to say look, we don`t have any support from
the federal government for uncompensated care anymore. Medicaid was going
to be it. And you`re going to turn down Medicaid and wreck your hospital
system? Not very smart. Because guess who is going to pick up that tab?
The people who buy insurance in that state.

And when people figure out that the governor`s action of refusing
Medicaid is costing them a lot of money and hurting their hospital system,
I don`t think any governor in the country, again with the possible
exception of South Carolina, is going to refuse that Medicaid money.

So this is Kibuki. This is theater, and they can`t do it.

WAGNER: There is also -- governors are much more -- I always say that
Republicans have an easier time in Capitol Hill under the Capitol Dome than
they do in the state house, because governors are much more -- they`re in
touch with and accountable to their constituents. And you got to think
that, as you said, as you outlined, this is not a great move for residents
of the state.

It undermines, especially the expansion of the Medicaid roles -- this
undermines, you know, a governorship, if you make this decision. And, yet,
Christie`s approval rating is still extremely high. This all happened
today, of course. But he is at 69 percent, which is down from 77 percent
right after Hurricane Sandy.

He is riding high, Governor Dean. Does this -- does this hurt him in
the long run, do you think?

DEAN: I think not taking the exchanges probably doesn`t hurt that
much because people don`t really fully understand the exchanges yet, and
because the federal exchange will actually probably move the cause of the
single payer further down the line.

But I think not taking the Medicaid money would be an enormous
mistake. I have not heard him say that. And I don`t think he will say
that. I think he is much too pragmatic for that.

WAGNER: There`s also -- we talk about Chris Christie being this sort
of standard bearer for bipartisanship, largely because of the photo ops
around Hurricane Sandy. But when you actually look at his political
record, he has not been particularly supportive of unions, and he has been
very much criticized by the left for shutting down infrastructure spending.

DEAN: I think, you know, he is basically positioning himself for
reelection. He has done that pretty well. But let`s not forget that
George H. W. Bush had popularity ratings in the 80s a year before his
election. So it`s a long, long, long way until November of 2013, when he
has to run for reelection, when we get a new governor in Virginia. And
anything can happen during that time.

But Christie is not a stupid politician. He has figured out that this
is a Democratic state. People like Obama. The state voted overwhelmingly
for Obama.

On the other hand, he is hoping to be, I think, maybe the nominee in
2016 for the Republican presidential nomination. And so I think you`re
exactly right. He is hedging his bets. He is saying things he can say to
feed red meat to the base, which he probably doesn`t intend to carry out.
And at the other hand, he is making photo ops with the president.

He`ll probably run on some sort of a bipartisan approach, because
that`s actually what people really want.

WAGNER: Can Chris Christie be everything to everyone? We shall see.
Governor Howard Dean, thanks as always.

DEAN: Thanks for having me on.

WAGNER: Up next, Republicans ran away from the legitimate rape
candidate in public, but still backed him in private.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TODD AKIN, FORMER SENATE CANDIDATE: First of all, from what I
understand from doctors, that`s really rare. If it`s a legitimate rape,
the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: In November, Missouri voters shut Todd Akins` whole thing
down by voting for incumbent Claire McCaskill, who won the Senate race by
16 points. Establishment Republicans publicly shunned Akin after his
remarks on legitimate rape, and vowed not to help his campaign.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee said in September that it
had, quote, "no plans to fund Akin`s campaign."

But according to "USA Today," the state party reported paying almost
exactly that amount, 756,000 dollars to Strategic Media Placement, an Ohio
firm that Akin had used to buy his TV ad time on October 30th and November
1st. The state party`s FEC report shows the funds were for W. Todd Akin.

And Republicans weren`t just worried that Todd Akin was costing them
the Senate. Ann Coulter blamed him for being the face of the war on women.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANN COULTER, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: Look, that whole war on women
chit chat, that campaign that was being waged against Republicans, it was
meaningless until Todd Akin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: Joining me now, MSNBC`s Karen Finney. Karen, when I found
out about this, I let out an audible yelp. I could not believe, after all
that, the NRSC ended up funding Todd Akin. What did you make of it?

KAREN FINNEY, FORMER DNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: You know, it`s
business as usual. Even at the time, I felt like they were hedging their
bets just a little bit, because it was not realistic to me that they would
give up the shot. If he wasn`t going to get out, they were not going to
give up the shot of potentially taking back that Senate seat. There was
just no way politically.

And they knew, frankly, that it wouldn`t come out -- the FEC reports
wouldn`t come out until after the fact. And then we can all get exercised
about it. But so what. Whatever happened, happened. I was not surprised.

WAGNER: Did whatever happened, happen? Does the Republican party see
any blowback from this? This is the Democratic Senatorial Campaign
Committee`s response: "it is not only wrong that the NRSC would provide
funds to support a dangerous extremist like Todd Akin. It was underhanded
and dishonest that they would purposely mislead the public about their
actions." Are they going to have to answer for this?

FINNEY: Probably not. I`ll be really honest about. Where I think
they`ll have to answer to it is in the bigger picture. And obviously not
surprisingly, I disagree with Ann Coulter on this one, even though she has
been saying some rather sensical things of late.

The war on women -- and this was the biggest calculation I think that
Republicans made. It actually really started with the whole incident
around Susan G. Komen and the Planned Parenthood defunding, where women
started to see and hear a level of conversation about the importance of
women`s health and the politicization of women`s health that they were very
uncomfortable with.

You They couple that with -- we forgot, those state measures -- and
there are some going on now where they`re trying to give fetuses tax status
and there are these personhood amendments still out there. Women were
already angry at the level of conversation, the disrespect in that
conversation, and the sort of lack of equality just in the way that that
conversation was being had.

Then we had the birth control piece. Then we had, you know -- and
even we ended up towards -- by election day, in the key battleground
states, majorities of women said access to abortion care was their top
issue over the economy and jobs.

So, again, it wasn`t just about what Todd Akin said. That galvanized
I think for a lot of women. And Mourdock`s comments I think galvanized for
a lot of people. But it was much deeper than that.

WAGNER: But you`re talking about Mourdock`s comments. The NRSC
supported Mourdock in his bid after he made his comments. I mean, the
question I guess for the Republican party is have they -- will they come to
their senses? Neither Akin nor Mourdock won.

FINNEY: Yeah.

WAGNER: It seemed to be a repudiation of all of their positions on
women`s health and women`s health care. And there is a fundamental
understanding that the Republicans need to muzzle, if not excise the
elements of their party that are putting this kind of Draconian legislation
forward.

FINNEY: Let`s see, Alex. Last week, the House Republicans had an
opportunity to show that they get it that women should be at the table.
And what did they do? Not a single woman chair. And then they -- of any
committees. And then they got in trouble. So they appointed a woman chair
of the administration -- administrative committee, right?

So no. I don`t think it`s really sunk into the consciousness of the
Republican party yet that, you know, you need to take these issues more
seriously, that there will be consequences and backlash. There may not be
against the NRSC at this point. But certainly, hopefully, they`ll learn in
the future that candidates -- and it`s also not a matter of just let`s not
say legitimate rape or transvaginal ultrasound.

It`s actually let`s not propose those things. It`s more than that.
And I think that`s part of what women have to do going forward, is holding
these guys accountable so that there are consequences for that kind of
language and that kind of action.

WAGNER: The appointments of the chairs was actually a head-slapping
moment for me. How could these guys screw this up again?

FINNEY: Yeah.

WAGNER: Really quickly, Karen, there seems to be a slight silver
lining. Maybe Eric Cantor and Vice President Joe Biden may be working
together to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.

FINNEY: Yes.

WAGNER: Are you bullish or bearish?

FINNEY: I`m hopeful. I got to say, I actually think that there is an
understanding of how important it is to get that done. So let`s be hopeful
there.

And who knows, Alex. Maybe that`s an opening to a better day for
women in the Republican party.

WAGNER: Karen Finney, you get tonight`s LAST WORD. Thank you for
ending on a high note, my friend.

FINNEY: Take care.

WAGNER: Be sure to join me for "NOW" at noon eastern, 9:00 a.m.
Pacific, weekdays right here on MSNBC. "THE ED SHOW" is up next.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED.

END

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