'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Monday, December 10th, 2012
Read the transcript to the Monday show
THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
December 10, 2012
Guests: Robert Reich, Ari Melber, Caryl Stern
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: Tonight, who in America is betting on John
Boehner in his tax showdown with President Obama? Exactly no one -- not
even Rush Limbaugh.
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO HOST: I don`t think there`s a Republican alive
who could stop what`s going to happen.
MARTIN BASHIR, MSNBC HOST: With the fiscal cliff just 22 days away.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re down to the final three weeks.
BASHIR: The president is on the move.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m willing to
compromise a little bit.
TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: President Obama on the ground in Michigan.
OBAMA: I will work with Republicans.
ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC ANCHOR: Delivering a speech at an engine
OBAMA: I`m willing to compromise a little bit.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People want compromise.
OBAMA: I`m willing to compromise a little bit.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They want a bigger deal.
HALL: They are ready to make a deal on tax rates.
CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC ANCHOR: Republicans know that they have to give
LIMBAUGH: I don`t think there`s a Republican alive who can stop what
SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: They have the debt ceiling.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Corker has nailed this one.
CORKER: The leverage is going to shift.
MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIR: You want to have leverage.
CORKER: The leverage is going to shift to our side.
LIMBAUGH: We don`t have the leverage. The power isn`t there.
JANSING: Could a secret meeting seal the deal when it come to the
ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: The White House says it can happen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Obama and Speaker Boehner sit down at
the White House.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Their first one on one in more three weeks.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There`s a lot of maneuvering going on.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The heavy lifting is going to have to happen
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: If this week goes bad --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This week is going to be a critical week.
TODD: -- then we should start to worry about a deal not happening.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even if the speaker and president are cuddling in
the Lincoln bedroom --
STEELE: I think everybody just needs to cool their jets.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s not going to get us a deal.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Raising taxing will
hurt the economy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Boehner has said we can (ph).
STEELE: Your stuff stink. We don`t want it.
LIMBAUGH: The power isn`t there.
ALAN SIMPSON (R), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: If anybody out there who is,
quote, "rich" doesn`t think that their taxes go up, the drinks are on me.
BOEHNER: Raising tax rates will hurt the economy.
ANN COULTER, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: Republicans are totally over
BOEHNER: Raising tax rates will hurt the economy.
COULTER: We`ll push it all that and we`ll go to the Senate and then
O`DONNELL: With 22 days until we take that first step off the fiscal
curb, President Obama traveled to Michigan to keep the pressure on
Republicans in Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: If Congress doesn`t act soon, meaning in the next few weeks,
starting on January 1st, everybody`s going to see their income taxes go up.
It`s true. Y`all don`t like that, huh?
OBAMA: We can solve this problem. All congress needs to do is pass
the law that would prevent a tax hike on the first $250,000 of everybody`s
income -- everybody. That means --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Republicans now admit that President Obama has won the
debate on tax rates.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
BILL KRISTOL, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: My view is, get the tax issue off
the table. It`s the weakest one for the Republicans.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, FOX NEWS: Boehner does not have unity behind
him. So it looks as though his path is going to be to concede on rates.
LIMBAUGH: I guess what I`m saying is, I don`t think there`s a
Republican alive who can stop what`s going to happen. We don`t have the
leverage. The power isn`t there.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
O`DONNELL: Republican lawmakers continued to undermine Speaker
Boehner`s negotiating strength.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
CORKER: A lot of people are putting forth a theory -- and I actually
think it has merit -- where you go ahead and give the president the 2
percent increase that he`s talking about, the rate increase on the top 2
SEN. TOM COBURN (R), OKLAHOMA: Will I accept a tack increase as a
part of a deal to actually solve our problems?
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
O`DONNELL: No Republican makes more sense than the original House
defector on tax rates, Congressman Tom Cole.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TOM COLE (R), OKLAHOMA: They go off automatically. I can tell
you that the sun is going to come up in the east tomorrow and set in the
west. That doesn`t mean I had a darn thing to do with it coming up or
coming down. Those rates are going to go up. We either act now to keep
them from going up from as many people as possible or they`ll go up on
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: A spokesman for House Speaker Boehner tells NBC News that
negotiations between the White House and Republican policy staffers
continued today. President Obama and Speaker Boehner met privately
NBC News "First Read" team makes this point, "If the plan is to get
something passed by Friday, December 21, right before the Christmas
holiday, then the legislation has to be written by December 18th and that
means that Obama and Boehner must reach a deal by December 14th, 15th if
there is going to be a deal. So the time for posturing and P.R. is over."
A new political poll shows that likely voters support the president`s
tax increase on the upper brackets, 60 percent favor raising taxes on
households that earn more than $250,000, 38 percent oppose; 64 percent
favor raising tacks on large corporations, 33 percent oppose.
The poll asked likely voters, do you believe that if we raise taxes on
households that earn over $250,000 per year, it will have a negative impact
on the economy? Thirty-eight percent said yes, 58 percent got it right and
Today, President Obama outlined the deficit reduction legislation he
would sign into law.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: What you need is a package that keeps taxes where they are for
middle class families, we make some stuff spending cuts on things that we
don`t need, and then we ask the wealthiest Americans to pay a slightly
higher tax rate. And that`s a principle I won`t compromise on because I`m
not going to have a situation where the wealthiest among us, including
folks like me, get to keep all our tax breaks and then we`re asking
students to pay higher student loans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Krystal, the Republicans are on the run here. I mean, the
new reel that we get to run every night about the latest Republicans saying
this is absolutely hopeless is just amazing. I mean, Limbaugh is an
amazing spot tonight saying that he doesn`t think that there is any
Republican who can stop this.
KRYSTAL BALL, "THE CYCLE": My favorite has been Ann Coulter moment
where Sean Hannity --
O`DONNELL: She was saying, how do you win this if all the rates go
BALL: And I think they are exactly right. I mean, if you`re going to
have -- if you`re going to get what you want if you`re Republicans, you
have to be able to threaten something, either voter wrath or some
legislative outcome that they don`t want or further down the road the debt
ceiling but that`s not until further down the road. They just have nowhere
to go with this.
So I think truly the best thing, the smartest thing for them to do is
to go ahead, raise the rates for the upper incomes because they just have
nowhere to go in this debate, especially with the public against them the
way that it is, and because people like Limbaugh and Ann Coulter and
various congressional representatives have come out and said, you know,
guys, we should go ahead and do this, everybody is going to have cover for
at least not going crazy. Maybe some of them will vote no but at least not
going crazy when rates inevitably go up
O`DONNELL: Steve, the president just said the deal that he would like
to do would be the tax rates that we know about and then he has this little
line in here, "make some tough spending cuts on things that we don`t need."
Now, things that you don`t need are not tough spending cuts. There
isn`t anything there that`s available to be can cut that someone doesn`t
think we need.
STEVE KORNACKI, "THE CYCLE": Right. And this is where I think you
have to be careful and you can say, sure, the Republicans are kind of boxed
in here on the tax issue if we get to January 1st and nothing happens, they
lose on taxes. So, they will -- either that will happen or they will give
in on taxes. That much is true.
But I think the debt ceiling is very much an issue right now and I
think you can see that in some of the stuff leaking out about the
negotiations. Specifically, there was a report out last week said the
White House is thinking sort of the basis -- the framework for a deal was
coming into focus and that included the top rates for the wealthy going up
to 37 percent, not 39.6, but 37 percent, in exchange for raising the
Medicare age from 65 to 67. This would be a huge no-no to progressives.
And the question is, why, if the rates are already going to go up on
January 1st, would you settle for a deal like that if you`re the White
House? And I think it`s this -- I think this illustrates the leverage the
Republicans do have. They are threatening to use the debt ceiling, again,
like they did in 2011. That would take you about a month into 2013 when
that would happen. Obama has ruled out, explicitly, pointedly ruled out
invoking the 14th Amendment, which would give him a way around the
Republicans doing that.
If you`re not going to use the 14th Amendment and you`re dealing with
a party that is really intent on extracting concessions with the debt
ceiling, and you really don`t have leverage in that situation, you`re going
to need Republican consent to raise the debt ceiling. So, what they`re
trying to do is, instead of negotiating directly over the debt ceiling in
January, they are intent of rolling the debt ceiling it into these
discussions right now.
If you`re going to include the debt ceiling in this, you are going to
have to give something big to the Republicans, and I think that`s why
something like change CPI, something like raising the Medicare eligibility,
I think that`s why if these reports are true, if this is in the mix, that`s
why it`s in the mix.
O`DONNELL: But see that`s why I think the president said so
emphatically last week, I will not play that game on the debt ceiling.
It`s not that he has any new cards to play. He doesn`t have the 14th
Amendment. He said he won`t do that.
But I think, Krystal, what he`s saying he will do is, if you try to
hold him up on the debt ceiling the way Steve just outline, he will say to
you, I will not do it, I will not negotiate on the debt ceiling.
And what his leverage is, is sanity. His leverage is that everyone
now knows that allowing it to crash like these Republicans say they will is
an insane act and they will not commit that insanity.
BALL: I think it will be a lot harder for them. Last time they were
quite credible that they really would commit that insanity.
O`DONNELL: Yes, they were crazier then and they hadn`t lost the
BALL: They were, and we look in their eyes and we said, oh my God,
you really would do it. And it was right after 2010. I mean, they were at
their height in terms of these new freshman Tea Party members. The Tea
Party was in full swing.
Now, there is a difference story. Boehner does seem to have more
control of the caucus and I don`t think that they could credibly do it also
because the American people have looked back on that whole debacle and said
that was a mess, it was a disaster, it was the Republicans` fault.
So the president is going to have the American people on his side in
dealing with Republicans and the debt ceiling. That`s not to say that
they`re not concerned about it and would like to take it off the table.
For one thing, I`m sure the markets are not going to like it if we go
through any new debt ceiling debacle, but I don`t think it`s not as big of
a concern for them this time around as it was in 2011.
KORNACKI: If I could just say, though, again, all of this is behind
the scenes. We don`t really know what the discussions are. I`m giving a
lot of credence to what Ezra Klein wrote because he`s really, you know,
plugged in down there in Washington.
If it is true that raising eligibility for Medicare from 65 to 67, if
it is true, that something like change CPI is on the table, there has to be
a reason for that. There has to be a big reason for that because those are
O`DONNELL: Let me just say, I don`t think that`s true.
O`DONNELL: I don`t think there`s any chance of this administration to
agree to an age threshold increase in Medicare. Absolutely no chance. And
I don`t think --
KORNACKI: We have a history of them dangling it in 2011 and I think
that`s why there`s a little extra concern.
O`DONNELL: But I don`t think there`s any chance of them doing it in
exchange for any debt ceiling either. So that`s why I think the president
was saying what he was saying about the debt ceiling so clearly because
that is the next stage of the fight.
BALL: The other thing I would say, if we are going for that bigger
deal where we`re going to take on entitlements as well as the tax code, I
don`t see any way that it gets done before January 1st.
O`DONNELL: Oh, no. That takes most of the year at least.
BALL: Yes. And it`s going to be hard enough for Boehner to get part
of his caucus to go along with a tax rate increase if you`re then having to
go to the Democratic caucus with major entitlement reform. I mean, I just
don`t see that happening before January 1.
O`DONNELL: It would take month of working the Democratic works and
the House of Representatives to do anything on it. And then you`d never
get them for the age increase.
Krystal Ball and Steve Kornacki, thank you both for joining me
BALL: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, if we do go off the cliff, how long does it
take to hit the bottom? Robert Reich will tell us.
And who was the most influential American politician from the last 30
years? From 1980 until now? Tweet me your guesses, the answer will be in
And later, I have big announcement about a new feature of the KIND
Fund, Kids in Need of Desks. And I`m going to be -- I`m going to be
sitting right here, writing a beg check for it right here at this desk.
That`s coming up.
O`DONNELL: How bad would it get and how fast would it get bad if we
go off the fiscal cliff on January 1st? If I could ask Robert Reich one
question tonight, that`s what it would be and that is exactly what I will
And keep tweeting your answers about who is the most influential
person in American politics in the last 30 years? It`s probably not the
first name you think of. Think about it a little bit more. The answer
will be in tonight`s "Rewrite".
O`DONNELL: Viewers of the show know that the fiscal cliff isn`t
really as dramatic as that. It`s a fiscal curve, at least at first.
But if we go off and stay off the fiscal curve, we will eventually hit
the recession cliff. On "Meet the Press" Sunday, there were different
opinions about whether congressional Republicans or President Obama would
be blamed if there is a recession.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: We`ve got to get this behind us once
and for all.
DAVID GREGORY, "MEET THE PRESS" MODERATOR: If it means going over the
DURBIN: I can tell you, I don`t want to do it, the president doesn`t
want to do it. But we need to solve the problem. We cannot allow the
reckless position to drive us into another recession, a recession which the
Republicans will own.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This does real damage to the economy and to
millions of people if going over the cliff. This is not an abstraction.
You could begin a recession.
And Senator Durbin`s idea in the polls support him that the
Republicans will own this recession will last about one month because
presidents own recessions. Presidents own dramatic improvements and
things. We live in the Obama era, not the John Boehner`s era.
GREGORY: The other --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now is Robert Reich, former labor secretary and
a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. He`s also the
author of "Beyond Outrage".
Professor Reich, we know that the fiscal cliff is January 1st. If we
went off and stayed off, didn`t do any legislative repair to it, where do
you think the recession cliff would be?
ROBERT REICH, FORMER LABOR SECRETARY: Lawrence, worst-case scenario,
by probably the end of January, taxes are clearly going up on the middle
class, also major program cuts in discretionary spending are kicking in.
There`s not too much that the administration can do in terms of front-
loading anymore because the end of January, you`ve got to -- assuming that
there`s no deal at all -- you`ve got to make some adjustment with regard to
your spending and your spending is going to be cut.
Well, that means that you`re setting up the economy for a recession
maybe by March, maybe by April. We also have very powerful headwinds
coming from Europe that is in recession because it bought into austerity
economics and that`s what we would be buying into in a very big way if we
went off the fiscal cliff and nothing changed. We also have China that is
So, globally and also domestically, there is not enough demand to keep
the economy going and I would say the worst scenario of all -- I don`t
think it`s going to happen, but I think probably by March we`re going to
see some real problems in the economy if nothing happens.
O`DONNELL: Now, I think you and I agree if we do go off the cliff, so
to speak, on January 1st, that the negotiations to fix this problem would
begin somewhere around January 2nd?
REICH: Probably the 8:00 a.m. the morning of January 2nd. Actually,
they`re going on right now.
REICH: There is probably a slightly better than 50/50 chance that
there will be a deal before December 18th. But assuming that we`re close
to a deal, I think it`s going to happen right away and the Democrats are
going to be preparing legislation and it`s going to be introduced right
away, January 2nd, to make a middle class tax cut retroactive to January
O`DONNELL: Yes. Exactly. And I think one of the striking things
that we`re not hearing right now are a stand your ground Republicans in the
House or in the Senate. We`re hearing a lot of voices -- a lot of cracks
in the wall of Republican members saying, look, I think we better just go
along with this rate thing. Let`s just get this rate thing done.
I don`t hear other Republicans rushing to the microphone saying
absolutely not, under no circumstances we won`t do it.
REICH: No. Actually, the Republican edifice is cracking. And it is
interesting. It`s polling pressure, it is public pressure. It is the kind
of pressure that a democracy that proves that we are finally -- actually we
are in a democracy, we are still in a democracy, notwithstanding the
extraordinary power of big money. We did have an election.
But I think the Republicans are most persuaded by all of the internal
polling that they are doing, showing that they would be blamed if tax rates
went up or at least the middle class just simply did not get a continuation
of the Bush tax cuts and that is causing them enormous heartache. I think
that`s the civil war that`s been going on in the Republican Party since the
election and, frankly, Boehner and the slightly more level-headed members
of that Republican caucus are winning the day.
O`DONNELL: It`s my view that all of the president`s budget
negotiations with Republicans have led us to this point. And I actually
was of the view that when he did go along with the extension of Bush tax
cuts two years ago, that it was as good of a deal as he possibly have
gotten to go forward with this and it seems to me that the tremendous
strategic advantage that the president now has, that everyone concedes he
has, including Rush Limbaugh concedes he has, is something that he has
masterfully over time attained while being criticized by the press as not
being a leader in all this press talk about the way he`s done this.
REICH: I think that`s absolutely right, Lawrence. But the president
since the election has done something that he didn`t do in previous
negotiations during the first four years. He has very dramatically and
very, very powerfully gone to the public, continued the campaign,
essentially continued the same kind of campaign he had leading up to the
This time it`s raising tax rates on the rich and basically putting
Republicans back to where they came from. Basically saying, we won. I won
this election. You won this election and we are going to move forward on
the agenda that we had in this election.
This is something that the president has not done before nearly as
One more point, Lawrence, and that is that unfortunately we are still,
even though the president won, even though he`s winning on this strategic
issue, we`re still playing on the goal posts and within the field
established by the Republicans and that is the deficit reduction is the
most important challenge facing the economy. It is not.
O`DONNELL: Yes. Yes.
REICH: The most important challenge facing the economy is jobs, jobs,
more jobs. Economic growth. It is not deficit reduction and I think
hopefully the president, when he wins this particular scrimmage, will pivot
to the issue of jobs.
O`DONNELL: Robert Reich, I`m so glad you made that last point. Thank
you very much for joining me tonight.
REICH: Thank you very much, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, Republican soul searching continues. A new
group has been assigned the job -- a tough one -- of figuring out why
Republicans lost the last election. Someone should tell them that they can
find archived versions of this program at TheLastWord.MSNBC.com, where it
can all be explained to them very (INAUDIBLE).
And you have a few more minutes to tweet your guesses about who is the
most influential person in politics in the last 30 years, from Reagan era
to now? Who is that? The answer is in tonight`s "Rewrite".
O`DONNELL: Who`s the most influential person in American politics in
the last 30 years? From 1980 until now? Was it Ronald Reagan, Bill
Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton? None of the above?
The answer is coming up in tonight`s "Rewrite".
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK ARMEY, FREEDOMWORKS: We had a lot of candidates, quite frankly,
that did dumb things out there. I find that once the candidate wins the
primary, becomes the Republican nomination, the Republican party has an
obligation to that candidate.
I don`t think the Republican party schooled their candidates very well
or supported their candidates very well. We had at least two candidates
that should have won that, frankly, lost because they said some stupid
things on a subject that their party`s leaders should have schooled them to
stay away from in the first place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was former House Republican Majority Leader and now
Tea Partier Dick Armey. In the Spotlight tonight, Republicans soul
searching. Mitt Romney`s soul search took him to Vegas and a boxing match.
Romney`s soul apparently needs to see someone else publicly beaten and
The Republican National Committee announced today the creation of the
Growth and Opportunity Project, a five-member independent committee that
will consider what the Republican party did wrong and make suggestions on
how to fix it.
At least one Republican thinks that they won`t be able to fix their
problems by 2016 and be competitive in the next presidential campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: If their competitor in `16 is
going to be Hillary Clinton, supported by Bill Clinton and presumably a
still relatively popular President Barack Obama, trying to win that will be
truly the Super Bowl. And the Republican party today is incapable of
competing at that level.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Ari Melber, big surprise, Rush Limbaugh didn`t like that.
He did not like Newt Gingrich saying that Hillary is unbeatable. Let`s
listen to Rush.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: We can`t beat her. Here we are
on December 10th, 2012, and we can`t beat Hillary in a presidential
campaign in 2016. I didn`t know any of this. In fact, I don`t even think
this is a campaign now. It`s a coronation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: It`s Rush versus Newt. And needless to say, Newt made a
lot more sense. And actually he kept talking about it after the show.
He`s much more negative about where the Republicans stand now than he had
time to go into on "Meet the Press" yesterday.
ARI MELBER, "THE NATION": Yes.
O`DONNELL: And he saying he`s trying to figure it out. He`s kind of
thoughtfully taking some time to contemplate. He doesn`t have all the
MELBER: I think that`s right. He`s a politician. He takes failure -
- he takes losses seriously. You had that time with him on "Meet the
Press" a couple weeks ago. He made the public statement that he`s
underestimated Barack Obama twice, once last time when he thought he would
lose to Hillary, who we just saw him praising, and once this time.
I think this really goes to the rethinking that the Republican party
has to do. The L.A. Raiders used to say only the timid get intimidated.
And that`s Rush Limbaugh`s idea about bluster and saying we can win this
all on attitude.
Newt Gingrich has a different view here, which is this -- the entire
trend of history is moving against this party as currently constructed.
O`DONNELL: And remember, Newt was the Republican presidential
candidate who got immigration right. He was the one who wasn`t going over
there on the far right pandering. Let`s listen to more of what he said on
"Meet the Press".
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GINGRICH: I think this is much more than Mitt Romney. We didn`t blow
it because of Mitt Romney. We blew it because of a party which has refused
to engaged the reality of American life, and refused to think through what
the average American needs for a better future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And the reality of American life includes this
undocumented population which Newt wanted to do something humane about and
got actually booed once or twice for saying that. We now see a rush toward
the center, presumably, on some kind of immigration reform with
MELBER: Right. I think we see a rush on every issue that has to do
with sort of the core fabric of liberalism in American life, which is equal
rights and opportunity for all. Liberals have always gone to the mat for
that. But they`ve brought the rest of the country along with them.
So we`re seeing that in having a sane and humane policy on
undocumented workers and their children. We`re seeing it on equality and
looking at equality for marriage. And we`re going to see that go up to the
Supreme Court. And conservatives are going to have a hard time figuring
out how to react to that and deal with both the justice and the politics of
O`DONNELL: Hillary Clinton, if she wants people to be quiet about
2016, it`s not working. I mean, there it was on "Meet the Press"
yesterday. And she -- I have not seen a situation where four years ahead
of time, a party has had such a clear non-incumbent front-runner for a
MELBER: And part of it cuts against I think one of the most
misunderstood things about the last cycle. There was so much legitimate
and understandable excitement about Barack Obama that people -- many people
forget that was a 51-49 primary. It was a very close primary.
And so what you have here is not only the base of the party that she
brings, the people who really believed in her last time around, but then
what is accruing, which is a lot of the rest of the party feeling that she
is loyal to Obama and deserves a shot if we get there.
O`DONNELL: Ari Melber, thanks for joining me tonight.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, the answer to tonight`s Twitter quiz; who is
the most influential person in American politics in the past 30 years?
And later, I`m going to sit here and write a big check on TV.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lloyd Bridges.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lloyd bridges.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: In tonight`s episode of (foreign language), who is more
macho, Ronald Reagan, the first President Bush, President Bill Clinton, or
the man who will never be president, Newt Gingrich? Who among those four
men has had the most important and lasting influence on our politics and
Republicans will all say Ronald Reagan. And they will all be wrong
because they no longer understand Ronald Reagan or themselves. No one will
say one-term President George H.W. Bush. And everyone will be right about
that. Democrats will say Bill Clinton and they will be wrong.
That leaves the last man standing, Newt Gingrich. I think that I can
safely assume that none of you chose Newt Gingrich as the person who had
the most lasting and influential on our politics and governing. And that
is because the American media covers the presidency the way the British
covers the monarchy. They pretend that we have a king.
They pretend that no one could possibly be more important in the
governance of the United States than the president. The media simply
refuses to comprehend how powerful Congress is and how powerful the speaker
of the House can be, something the founding fathers clearly understood,
which is why the Speaker comes right after the vice president in the line
of succession to the presidency.
Why are Republicans wrong when they say that Reagan was such a great
president? Because nothing of Reaganism survived his presidency. There is
no Reagan legacy. Republicans lie to themselves and they try to lie to
history about Reagan being an anti-tax fanatic like Republicans have
become, but the Republicans` beloved Saint Ronald raised taxes 11 time as
That`s ten times more than Bill Clinton raised taxes as president.
Ronald Reagan also cut taxes as president. So what was Reagan? A tax
raiser or a tax cutter? The answer is both. And the tax raiser side of
Reagan would be condemned in today`s Republican party.
Much was made this year on this program and elsewhere that Ronald
Reagan could not possibly have won the Republican nomination for president
in 2012 without changing his positions on everything. Bill Clinton left
nothing after his presidency. No Democratic legislative monuments. Bill
Clinton had a cooperative Congress, Democratic Congress for only two of his
In those two years, the most important legislative achievements he
accomplished were two trade bills and one budget bill. The two
international trade bills had been mostly negotiated by the Republican
presidents before him and had strong support from Republicans and
Democrats. The North American Free Trade Agreement and the World Free
Trade Agreement that created the WTO are the most important things left
standing today from the Clinton presidency.
In his first year, Clinton bravely pushed through a Democratic
Congress, with no republican votes, a hugely important deficit reduction
bill, half of which was the largest tax increase in history, the other half
of which were the largest set of Medicare cuts in history, as of that time.
Clinton`s final six years as president left him as a relatively minor
editor of a Republican Congress` budgets.
The Clinton presidency also brought us Don`t Ask, Don`t Tell, which is
no longer with us, and the Defense of Marriage Act, which the Obama
administration now refuses to defend in court.
And so as soon as President Clinton was out of office, the tax code he
had rewritten to be more progressive was immediately rewritten by this guy
to be less progressive. When George W. Bush rewrote the Clinton tax rates
to be friendlier to the rich, some Democrat in the House and Senate voted
for the new Bush tax rates.
There was no lasting Clintonian tax principle that could hold
Democrats together against the Bush tax cut. Some Democrats who voted for
the Clinton tax rates actually voted for the Bush tax rates.
So nothing of Reaganism, whatever that was, lived after the Reagan
presidency. And nothing of Clintonism lived after the Clinton presidency.
What, then, of Gingrichism? Newt Gingrich was in Congress during all three
of the presidencies we`ve considered here: Reagan, the first Bush, and
During the Reagan years, when Republicans started drifting towards
budget agreements with Democrats to raise taxes, Newt Gingrich attacked
those Republicans. He wasn`t willing to take on President Reagan head on.
But in 1984, he actually called Senator Bob Dole, quote, "the tax collector
for the welfare state."
Never mind that Republican Senator Dole was doing President Reagan`s
legislative bidding. He was condemned by then junior Congressman Gingrich
just for considering tax increases.
When Bill Clinton pushed for the tax increase that he got in 1993,
Newt Gingrich said, quote, "the tax increase will kill jobs."
Newt was opposed to all tax increases. But he knew he couldn`t simply
say, I`m opposed to all tax increases. He had to come up with a reason, a
reason that he could sell at least to other Republicans, Republicans who
had voted for tax increases before. "The tax increase will kill jobs."
Newt Gingrich, who was not then the leader of the Republicans in the
House of Representatives, controlled every Republican vote and every
Republican vote in the Senate on Bill Clinton`s deficit reduction bill.
And because it cut spending but raised taxes, every Republican in the House
and the Senate voted against it. They voted the way Newt Gingrich wanted
them to vote.
The same Republicans who a few years earlier were negotiating with
Democrats overtax increases under President Reagan would not even discuss
any form of a compromise on the Clinton tax bill for fear of being caught
by Newt Gingrich considering a tax increase, for fear of being labeled the
tax collector of the welfare state.
On Friday, John Boehner said this about the tax increase on the top
income tax brackets that President Obama want. Quote, "I oppose tax rate
increases because tax rate increases cost American jobs."
Every Republican you have ever heard opposing tax increases in the
last 20 years has used words dictated to them by Newt Gingrich. Not one
Republican is left who uses the Reagan concept as keep taxes as low as
possible but raise them as little as possible when necessary. There is not
one Republican left in Congress who is a Reaganite on taxes.
All of them are Gingrichites. How strong and enduring is the Gingrich
legacy of opposing any and all taxes increases? There is exactly one --
one Republican left in the House of Representatives who voted for the last
tax increase compromise that any Republican voted for, the one President
George H.W. Bush signed into law in 1990. Exactly one.
The Gingrich anti-tax legacy is more powerful than anything President
Reagan and President Clinton left behind. Gingrich did not just give
Republicans a permanent talking point, that tax increase will kill jobs.
He gave them a belief, a near religious belief the tax increase will kill
jobs. He gave them the first commandment of Republicanism, all tax
increases must be opposed and must be condemned as job killers.
And so John Boehner today remains trapped, not by Tea Party
conservatism but by Gingrichism, the most lasting and powerful force in our
politics of the last 30 years. Here`s what else Newt Gingrich said in
1993, opposing the Clinton tax increase. Quote, "the tax increase will
kill jobs and lead to a recession. And the recession will force people off
of work and on to unemployment, and will actually increase the deficit."
Of course Newt was completely wrong about that, as I pointed out to
him yesterday on "Meet the Press." But religious belief never fears being
wrong, because in the realm of religious belief, nothing is provable.
There are no facts.
Newt Gingrich suffered a lot of humiliation in the last year on his
road to losing the Republican presidential nomination. The political media
will forever regard him as a loser And Ronald Reagan as a winner and Bill
Clinton as a winner. But a winner of what?
It turns out Newt Gingrich was playing a longer game than either one
of those presidents ever could. And so, yes, it`s Newt Gingrich who had
the most important and lasting influence on our politics and on our
governing, more so than any of the presidents he served under.
And every word -- every word John Boehner says to President Obama
about taxes now, every word was written for him by Newt Gingrich.
O`DONNELL: Since I asked for your help last week in getting out the
word about the KIND Fund, Kids in Need of Desks, with your help and your
contributions, we have raised 206,490 dollars. That`s enough to buy about
3,20 desk made by workers in Malawi, who support their families by making
About 9,000 students will be using those desks when they arrive at
classrooms. And they will stay in classrooms for many years. So those
9,000 students will easily become 50,000 student. And that`s just what
we`ve been able to do in the last week alone, give 50,000 students in
Africa better tools for a better education, that most basic tool, a desk, a
place to sit, a place to write, to read, a place to learn.
Since I partnered with UNICEF to create the KIND Fund two years ago,
we now have raised 4,734,944 dollars. You have filled me with awe each
year with your generosity.
And I am getting hesitant now telling you how much we have raised,
because it might sound like we have all the money we need. We don`t. If I
could bring you with me to see schools without a single desk, you would
know that we need every desk we can possibly pay for. Every one.
And at the pace we`re going, we are more than a generation away for
providing desks for every classroom just in Malawi. For the rest of my
career behind this desk, I will be asking for your help for Kids in Need of
Tonight, I want to introduce a new option you will have in
contributing to the can KIND Fund. And that is a tuition program I`ve been
working on with UNICEF for over a year now.
Some of the better schools in Malawi charge a tuition, a small
tuition. And that, of course, means some of the student who would thrive
in those schools cannot attend those schools. It`s especially difficult
for girls to attend those schools.
A family who can scrape up tuition money is more likely to spend it on
a son than on a daughter. Only seven percent of girls in Malawi complete
their high school education. In the rural areas of the country, girls are
only nine percent of all secondary school students.
We`ve decided to do what we can to help girls stay in schools and stay
in the better schools. And so the new option you will have when you go to
our website, LastWordDesks.MSNBC.com, will be the option of donating to our
girls` tuition program in Malawi.
And joining me now to discuss our hopes for our new KIND Tuition Fund
is my senior partner, Caryl Stern, president and CEO of the U.S. Fund for
Caryl, thank you very much for joining us.
CARYL STERN, U.S. FUND FOR UNICEF: It`s great to be back.
O`DONNELL: This was something we started talking about, as you know,
in your conference room in the UNICEF offices in Malawi last -- almost a
year and a half ago. And the girls` education issue is really critical
there. I think Malala and what happened to her in Pakistan showed the
world how important and difficult girls education can be in some places.
STERN: As you said, only seven percent of the girls complete
secondary school there. And we know that a girl who finishes her education
is less likely to contract HIV, less likely to be forced into prostitution,
less likely trafficked or even forced to marry early. So it`s an
investment in a girl`s entire future. It really is.
O`DONNELL: And these schools vary in their tuition rates. One of the
best schools I saw in the capital city was the highest. And we`ve
calculated that the package that they need is roughly 177 dollars a year.
STERN: For the year.
O`DONNELL: Yes. And that includes room and board. That includes a
lot of these kids -- they are not necessarily boarding schools. But they
live so far away -- their village is so far away, they have to rent little
rooms in these other villages to stay in. And so we`re incorporating that.
STERN: Which is actually really critical. Because oftentimes if a
girl gets the privilege to go, the only thing she really has to make money
then is to sell herself. So you are giving them a full life, not just --
O`DONNELL: Yeah. And the -- I want to get it started tonight. And I
want to get it started with a check from me that I will fill out -- finish
filling out right here. I`m going to get the tuition fund started with
STERN: Thank you so much.
O`DONNELL: And that will give us 150 tuitions for the coming year.
And we`ll go up from there.
STERN: Well, you know, I don`t even know what to say to you. The
campaign to date has been so phenomenal. I`ve had the privilege to go to
Malawi to see the children who are in classrooms, at desks. And I`ve also
had the privilege to see the children whom this will make a big difference.
O`DONNELL: I`m hoping for some of the girl schools in this country
where they have tuitions -- annual tuitions more than 25,000 dollars a
year, some of them might jump in here and start to help. Spence and
Marlborough and Archer, these schools around the country that I think can
STERN: That or just what we spend on the clothes for our children
alone for school will put a kid through school.
O`DONNELL: And we`ll take any amount that can help us.
STERN: Absolutely any amount.
O`DONNELL: Caryl Stern, president and CEO of the U.S. Fund for
UNICEF, and my inspiration, gets tonight`s LAST WORD. Thank you, Caryl.
STERN: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: "THE ED SHOW" is up next.
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