THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
December 11, 2012
Guests: Ryan Grim, Duncan Hosie, Jonathan Turley, Howard Dean, George Takei
ALEX WAGNER, GUEST HOST: It`s back! The debt ceiling.
TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: House Speaker John Boehner took to the
House floor only a few hours ago.
ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: John Boehner was on the floor.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: People know that the
president and I met on Sunday.
MITCHELL: And said his meeting was nice.
BOEHNER: It was a nice meeting. It was cordial.
MITCHELL: Cordial. But where are the cuts?
BOEHNER: We have to cut spending.
HALL: Holding back when it comes to spending cuts.
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC ANCHOR: Republicans have been ratcheting up their
BILL KRISTOL, WEEKLY STANDARD: Get the tax issue off the table.
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO HOST: We don`t have the leverage.
ALAN SIMPSON (R), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: You can`t tax your way out of
LIMBAUGH: The power isn`t there.
HALL: Throw in the towel on this tax rates issue.
SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: They have the debt ceiling.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Keep your eye on the debt ceiling.
TODD: The debt ceiling part of this deal.
CORKER: The leverage is going to shift.
TODD: It`s their leverage.
CORKER: The leverage is going to shift.
TODD: And maybe their only leverage.
BOEHNER: An increase in the debt limit.
MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN: And you want to have leverage.
TODD: It`s their leverage.
BOEHNER: That`s not fixing our problem. That`s making it worse.
THOMAS ROBERTS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Investors are preparing to go off the
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is almost a game of chicken right now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Negotiation 101.
ROBERTS: Are Republicans feeling the pressure?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have stopped being tethered to reality.
BOEHNER: Where`s the president`s plan?
We`re still waiting for the White House.
I think it`s time for him to leave.
He`s got an obligation to put forward a plan.
By putting his plan on the table.
That can pass both chambers of the Congress.
Something that the Congress can pass.
UNIDENTIFEID MALE: We have stopped being tethered to reality.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is real? How do you define real?
BOEHNER: I`m an optimist. I`m hopeful that we can reach an
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They`re keeping it pretty close to the vest.
TODD: The less said, the better the news may be.
BOEHNER: I`m hopeful that we can reach an agreement.
ANN COULTER, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: The Republicans are totally
over the barrel.
BOEHNER: Let`s be honest, we`re broke. We have to cut spending.
COULTER: They`ll be pushing all that and we`ll go to the Senate and
WAGNER: Good evening. I`m Alex Wagner, in for Lawrence O`Donnell.
Just 21 days until we go off the fiscal curve, Speaker John Boehner
went to the floor of the House of Representatives to provide an update on a
deficit reduction deal.
With President Obama holding no public events today, it was the
perfect opportunity for Boehner to try and change the narrative of the
current tax debate and shift some of the pressure onto the president.
But the White House was ready to respond with props.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: We`re still waiting for the White House to identify what
spending cuts the president is willing to make. Where are the president`s
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It`s not a mystery. We`ve
seen this before. This is the document that contains the specific spending
The speaker of the House sent us a proposal two page long that
included one sentence on revenue. Pages 17 to 45, details on proposed
sending cuts by the president. Pages 17 to 45. I recommend them to you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WAGNER: Speaker Boehner`s attempt to play the legislative reality
card was met with a reality check from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: If the president doesn`t agree with our approach, he`s got
the obligation to put forward a plan that can pass both chambers of the
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: We have been calling upon
the speaker to bring forth middle income tax cuts now for a very long time,
in fact, since last summer when it passed the United States Senate. The
president stands ready and poised with his pen to sign it. Democrats in
the House have a discharge position to bring that bill to the floor.
What stands in the way is an act on the part of the Republican
majority to bring a middle income tax cut to the floor of the house.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WAGNER: One congressional Republican leadership watcher provided this
update today on the state of John Boehner`s negotiating position.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LIMBAUGH: John Boehner is speaking now from the well of the House.
He`s reporting in. He says he`s an optimist, but he doesn`t sound
optimistic. In what he is explaining, stressing the need to cut spending,
did say he`s hopeful we can reach an agreement.
No matter where you turn now, I don`t care where you turn. In the
conservative intelligentsia, you are seeing the Republicans have no prayer
now. They`re just going to have to cave in on this rate increase on the
rich. They`re just going to have to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WAGNER: The president`s public schedule is curiously clear, which
could mean he`s busy working behind the scenes on a deal. We know that
President Obama and John Boehner met privately on Sunday and NBC News is
reporting the two men spoke on the phone tonight the discuss the latest
The White House is not talking about the details.
Let`s bring in Beltway bosom buddies, Sam Stein, "The Huffington Post"
White House correspondent and political editor and MSNBC contributor, and
Ryan Grim, "The Huffington Post" Washington bureau chief.
I can imagine that it`s just going to be fisticuffs all night with the
two of you on this. Highly, highly awkward.
Gentlemen, let`s talk first about this "loose lips sink ships" policy
that seems to have been adopted in a bipartisan fashion.
Ryan, are we to believe that the fact that we are not learning
anything about the specifics of any deal is a good sign?
RYAN GRIM, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Depends on what you mean by good. If
you think this deal is a good thing, then maybe that is good.
I might rather see it go off the side of this desk here. But it`s a
little more serious for sure. That they have all agreed they will be nice
to each other for at least a few hours after they have exchanged these
The last time that Geithner came over, you know, Geithner didn`t come
with paper. So Republicans typed it up on paper and then leaked it out and
said here`s what Geithner came with. Look, isn`t this horrible? This is a
So they kind of created the joke and then called it a joke. So, the
fact that they`re not mocking each other, I guess we can call that somewhat
WAGNER: There`s not a physical food fight yet.
But, Sam, we heard rumors that perhaps the White House made another
offer down from $1.6 trillion to $1.4 trillion. Is that any opening for
the Republicans to cave on tax increases?
SAM STEIN, THE HUFFINGTON POST: First of all, that was some of the
worst political analysis I`ve ever --
WAGNER: Well, and the worst political reporting. Let`s be honest.
STEIN: Yes, it`s just pathetic.
GRIM: He`s not going to make something stuff as we normally do.
WAGNER: Yes, that`s why we bring him on the program.
STEIN: The White House did a counter offer. It came on Monday. It
brought the revenue rates down from $1.6 trillion to $1.4 trillion. We
don`t know how or in what fashion they made the reduction.
And then in Boehner`s office went back with another response this
afternoon. We don`t know necessarily all the details he had in there. You
know, they`re in the stage where they`re doing counteroffers. And they had
a phone call tonight.
And this is just the natural progress of how this is going to get
resolved. It`s always been the natural progress of how this is going to
get resolved. There`s been a lot of noise around this, in part because we
like drama. We like standoffs. We like the sort of not knowing what the
resolution might be.
But, in actuality, these sides have been talking about the same thing
for a year and a half, two years now. They know the framework of what`s
available, what`s doable. It`s just the question of when can they do it.
And I think in Boehner`s self interest is to hold out as long as he
can so that he can turnaround to his caucus and say, look, I tried as hard
as I could. I got as much as I could. Now, it`s time that we have to jump
WAGNER: But in as much as this is a redux, the twilight zone version
of 2011, the one thing that is new, the new element on the table, if you
will, Ryan, is the debt ceiling, which is not something the president asked
for before. And if we talk about red lines, that would seem to be run for
Republicans. That is their leverage. That is precious to them.
This is the president speaking firmly about his belief that the debt
ceiling must be part of a broader package of negotiations. Let`s take a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to send a clear
message to people here. We are not going to play the game next year. If
Congress in any way suggests they`re going to tie negotiations to debt
ceiling votes and take us to the brink of default once again as part of a
budget negotiation, which by the way we have never done in our history
until we did it last year, I will not play that game, because we`ve got to
-- we`ve got to break that habit before it starts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WAGNER: Ryan, that was the president speaking on December 5th to the
Business Roundtable. The Roundtable has since sent a letter urging both
parties to come to an agreement. They have not specifically mentioned the
I don`t think there`s much of an appetite anywhere in the world, let
alone in Washington, for us to go through this again in three months. At
the same time, to get that done, it would seem like the Republicans and the
Democrats are going to have to do something on entitlement programs.
GRIM: Well, they`re already offering to do something, which is up to
$400 billion roughly in Medicare and Medicaid and other health care
savings. They`re saying they`re keeping Social Security off the table.
You know, we`ll believe it when they see it. They may reduce the rate of
growth of Social Security.
But the president is being very firm here saying, look, I`m just not
going to play this game.
And, generally speaking, Sam is wrong about anything, but I think he
was right in that John Boehner is hoping that he kind of gets pushed up
against this cliff so that when he folds, it looks like it was the only
choice that he had.
Look, there`s nothing else that I could do. And nobody else, not Eric
Cantor, not Tom Price -- nobody was going to get you a better deal than
STEIN: And, you know, what you`re seeing from the top of the party to
the lower ranks is that a recognition that this fight over tax cuts and tax
rates is not good for them and that they want to move it to the debt
ceiling fight in a month or two from now. There`s no reason to believe
that fight is going to be that much better for them. They suffered
miserably after the July 2011 standoff. I don`t think the country has much
of an appetite to relitigate that whole thing after going through this
whole thing and the business community does like it as well.
So, you know, I get that this is a bad situation for Republicans. But
I don`t really see the calculus behind saying, OK, if we can just, you
know, threaten the credit of the United States government all things will
be great for us.
GRIM: Yes. And they`re running out of stuff to cut, too. I mean,
they did trillion plus cuts last year. Now, they`re going to come up with
another half trillion. It`s not easy to find things that anybody will
agree to cut.
So, if you keep doing this every time you raise debt ceiling is to cut
another trillion, you run out.
STEIN: It`s like they want to do this so they can pursue really
unpopular policies, like reducing Social Security benefits. It`s just very
weird political calculation.
WAGNER: And remember back in the day when talking about increasing
taxes was an anathema in American politics? It is no longer. The
president ran on that message, which is a testament to how far we`ve come
since George H.W. Bush.
Given that, I wonder, Sam, where you think Norquist ends up in all of
this, right? They`re sort of hard-line pledge community, if they end up
raising taxes, no matter what Kabuki Theater is around it, it will be a
violation of the pledge. Does Grover Norquist -- does he still have clout
in the GOP?
STEIN: I think he ends up drinking a strong glass of merlot with John
Boehner after this is all done.
GRIM: No pledge. I`ll never do it again.
WAGNER: Right, right.
STEIN: I mean, listen, it does seem pretty clear at this juncture
that the pledge will be broken, right? If it`s not via the Bush tax rates,
it will be via the payroll tax cuts, which no one is talking about. But
that`s a tax hike. If that lapses, that`s a tax hike, by the definition,
same definition to the Bush tax rates.
So, Grover, I don`t know what this means for his long term clout. In
the short run, I think he`s going to have to do some rebuilding. He`s
going to have to try to buck up people. And I think he`s going to also
have to go out there and create consequences politically for the people who
violated the pledge. Otherwise, the pledge is basically pointless, right?
GRIM: That`s right.
WAGNER: We will see how Grover nets out Beltway booze and buddies in
front of the camera, arch enemies behind the camera.
Sam Stein and Ryan Grim, both of "The Huffington Post" -- thank you
both, my friend, for joining me today.
STEIN: Thank you.
GRIM: Thank you.
WAGNER: Coming up, two LAST WORD exclusives.
First up, college student Duncan Hosie takes on Supreme Court Justice
Antonin Scalia over his laws comparing bans on sodomy to bans on murder and
bestiality. Duncan Hosie joins me and law professor Jonathan Turley.
And then when the show ended, George Takei and Lawrence did not stop
the conversation. The part of the exclusive interview you didn`t see is
tonight`s LAST WORD.
And if you think the president won`t be able to achieve anything in
his second term, think again. What`s already in motion whether the GOP
likes it or not. That`s coming up next.
WAGNER: A college freshman goes toe-to-toe with Supreme Court Justice
Antonin Scalia. That student joins us for an exclusive interview, next.
WAGNER: "We are a government of laws, not of men." Those are the
words of associate justice to the Supreme Court, Antonin Scalia. Scalia
said that and a whole lot more during a headline grabbing appearance at
Princeton University that included a Q&A session with students.
It was then that Scalia was asked by a Princeton freshman about his
past writings on gay rights, including his dissent in a 2003 case, Lawrence
versus Texas, which likened sodomy to among other incomparables, bestiality
In that case, the high court ruled 6-3 that states cannot outlaw
sodomy among consenting adults of the same sex.
Disagreeing in his dissent, Scalia wrote in part, "Texas` prohibition
of sodomy, neither infringers upon a fundamental right, nor is unsupported
by a rational relation to what the Constitution considers a legitimate
state interest, nor denies the equal protection of the laws. Emphasis
added. I dissent."
Scalia continued, "The Texas statute undeniably seeks to further the
belief of its citizens that certain forms of sexual behaviors are immoral
and unacceptable. The same interest furthered by criminal laws against
fornication, bigamy, adultery, adult incest, bestiality and obscenity.
When questioned on those comments, as well as others, Scalia has made,
comparing homosexual behavior to murder by a freshman Duncan Hosie who is
gay, Scalia doubled down, reaffirming the comparison he made nearly a
He told the student, quote, "If we cannot have moral feelings against
or objections to homosexuality, can we have it against anything? It`s a
reduction to the absurd. I don`t think it`s necessary, but I think it`s
effective. I`m surprised you weren`t persuaded."
All this comes, of course, on the heels of the Supreme Court deciding
to hear two cases on marriage equality. One dealing with California`s
Proposition 8 and the other with the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
Joining me now in a LAST WORD exclusive to explain why he wasn`t
persuaded, Duncan Hosie, the Princeton freshman who questioned Justice
And also joining me, Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington
University Law School and a constitutional expert.
Duncan, let`s go to you first. Let -- describe the scene for us in
the room. What happened and were you able to press Justice Scalia, or were
you only able to ask just one question?
DUNCAN HOSIE, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY FRESHMAN: I think there`s a
fundamental difference between arguing that the Constitution doesn`t
protect gay rights and the Constitution justified that we need to use this
language when talking about gay rights.
And that was the point of my question. I wanted to confront Justice
Scalia to talk about whether the rhetoric cited in his Lawrence versus
Texas dissent, the rhetoric that he used in 1996 dissent in Romer versus
Evans in which he compared gay sex to murder among other things.
I wanted to ask him are those things really necessary to make his
point. I don`t think he really answered about that question. I can talk
He was polite with me. He was cordial with me. I think he was
respectful with me. But he didn`t really address the question.
I think the response in the room was excellent. After I asked my
question, I received a round of applause from Princeton students.
Princeton does a lot of work to integrate the town into the community.
And so, there were many older residents there. After Scalia started
talking, the older residents gave him a round of applause, which I think
highlights the generational difference in views on marriage equality and
gay rights as a whole. So, there was a back and forth in terms of who got
But again, I think he was polite and cordial in how he responded. I
don`t think his response, though, is accurate. I mean, he compared it to
the reduction to the absurd. I think his response was absurd in many
aspects in the sense that, you know, there`s really no comparison between
intimate homosexual couples trying to have intimate relationships and
people murdering others or people engaging in bestiality and incest.
And he really didn`t defend those comparisons at the level that I
think he needed to because of the structure and inflammatory nature of
those comment. I wish he had. He`s accurate. I`m not persuaded.
And I think he needs to persuade a lot more Americans about his views,
because I think they`re becoming increasingly out of the mainstream.
WAGNER: Jonathan, you`ve been particularly critical of Justice
Scalia. And he tends to sort of veil his arguments in this claim to
morality or morals. Has that always been true? And isn`t that a rather
porous veil given some of the decisions he handed down?
JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Well, it is certainly
true that Scalia has a history, first of all, of making public statements
that many of us find very difficult to square with judicial codes of
You know, many judges don`t make speeches at all on subjects related
to depending cases. The court has two pending cases and he just spoke
about one of the court issues in those cases. He`s done that before. It`s
At one time, a chief justice would call him up and say, look, you
know, you`re in an exclusive club here. The price of the ticket is stop
making these speeches because there`s an appearance that he`s maintaining a
base, his own constituency.
But what`s more troubling, and I really want to commend Duncan. He`s
a remarkable student who represents his university well and represents
frankly all of us well. And -- but what Justice Scalia was talking about
did succeed in reducing this to the absurd.
That he talks about what`s often called a slippery slope. If you
don`t let legislatures declare things immoral, all of these will happen.
But he`s the one on the slippery slope. If you allow the majority to
declare anything they want immoral, you go back to Loving v. Virginia when
they criminalize mixed marriages. That`s what you get when the majority
can simply criminalize what they consider to be immoral.
WAGNER: Duncan, it would seem that Justice Scalia is holding onto a
world view that is increasingly, I mean, in the words of one prominent
spokesperson, it is -- people are literally dying out. This is something
that this point of view will no longer exist in several decades, if not
simply years from now.
I wonder what the reaction on campus was, because the issue of gay
marriage or marriage equality is often divided along generational lines. I
would imagine the student body at Princeton, regardless of their political
affiliations, feels generally that this is a civil right.
But I ask you, what was the reaction on campus to Scalia`s comments?
HOSIE: I received an overwhelmingly positive reaction. I opened my
e-mail this morning and I had 92 e-mails. Some of them were from people
all over America, because the story was picked up by "The Associated
Press". I had an e-mail from someone in Arizona, Alaska, Alabama, I mean,
just everywhere in the country.
On campus though, I have received such supportive comments. It`s been
really helpful to me because I think this has been -- you know, it was a
very courageous thing. It took a lot of courage on my part. It`s
something I was really nervous about doing. Something I thought that maybe
I wouldn`t do.
And I think it`s also important to point out that I don`t understand
why conservatives like Scalia don`t support gay marriage because I think
gay marriage and gay rights as a whole are really consistent with
Conservatives believe in promoting marriage as the bedrock of our
society. If we want to promote marriage, we should allow more people to
enter it, more people who are committed to each other, who want to make
sacrifices to each other, more people who are willing to, you know, spend
their lives in these committed relationships. That is a conservative
principle. And ultimately I think that that in itself is consistent with
WAGNER: Duncan Hosie, speaking the truth, and just a freshman. So
impressive, my friend. Thank you for joining us tonight.
And, Jonathan Turley, professor of law at George Washington University
-- thank you as well.
TURLEY: Thank you.
WAGNER: Coming up, Republicans still don`t understand what went wrong
in 2012, so now they have a committee that will tell them what went wrong,
besides the whole Mitt Romney thing. Governor Howard Dean joins me to
And later, what Republicans can`t stop in Obama`s second term,
progress. That`s coming up.
WAGNER: Republicans put together a committee to figure out what went
wrong and conveniently leave out the people at the root of all the 2012
problems. Governor Howard Dean joins me, next.
And later, they didn`t stop with when the show ended. More of
Lawrence`s exclusive interview with George Takei is coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I don`t accept for a moment that
conservatives have lost the argument. I don`t think the argument has been
made, not by the party. Yes, I make it every day here. And some people on
Fox and other talk show hosts and the blogs, yes. But none of us get
The only way you can say conservatism is losing is in the sense that
the Republican party is afraid to use it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WAGNER: In the Spotlight tonight, how did it all go so wrong for the
Republican party? Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus has
launched the so called Growth and Opportunity Project to answer that very
question and recommend a plan for future elections.
Five Republicans will chair the project, only one of which you`ve
probably heard of, former George W. Bush Press Secretary Ari Fleischer.
"Buzzfeed" notes that two members, Ari Fleischer and Henry Barber, are poll
truthers, who accuse pollsters of over sampling Democrats and
underestimating the Romney vote in a bid to secure an Obama victory in
After learning about the project, "Washington Post" conservative
columnist Jennifer Ruben wrote today "you can almost hear the cries from
the right wing blogosphere objecting to any substantive policy changes on
immigration or gay marriage, and see the eye rolling from grizzled veterans
who think it is beneath the dignity of Republicans to feel your pain. But
if the party does nothing, there is every reason to believe it will keep
Here`s what Karl Rove believes the Republican party needs to change.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KARL ROVE, FORMER WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER: I hate to say it, but
we need to copy what Howard Dean did. That is make our ground game in all
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WAGNER: Joining me now, the man behind the 50 state strategy, former
DNC Chair Howard Dean. Governor Dean, did you ever think there would be a
time where Karl Rove would be saying we need to be more like Howard Dean?
HOWARD DEAN, FORMER VERMONT GOVERNOR: I did not. It comes as a large
surprise to me as well. Look, it is true that the Obama ground game is the
best I ever saw. It was unbelievable. And the Republicans can duplicate
that. They have a lot of work to do. Their ground game this time was
better than it was last time, but they`re way behind.
The big problem, though, is that ground game is not enough to win.
The fact of the matter is you can not peddle hate of immigrants, gays,
lesbians and women by saying that God`s will was to make women pregnant
when they`re raped. You can`t -- if that`s what you believe, if that`s
what conservative principles are, you may as well go some place else
because this country has not bought it anymore. We`re done. The argument
And these guys are going to have to change their philosophy, not just
their ground game.
WAGNER: Governor, according to Reince Priebus, the Growth and
Opportunity Project will focus on these eight areas: one, campaign
mechanics and ground game; two, messaging; three, fund raising; four,
demographic partners and allies; five, third party groups; six, campaign
finance issues; seven, presidential parties; eight, lessons learned from
the Democratic campaign tactics.
I saw this list. I see who they`ve appointed. Is this anything other
than Reince Priebus` bid to win reelection as RNC chair? As you said,
where is the beef in all of this?
DEAN: Here`s the interesting thing. I`ve been on the same podium
with Ari Fleischer. And when you get him into a situation where he can
talk openly, he`s not a right winger. So I -- some of the other folks I
don`t know all that well.
But the problem with the party is they`re so afraid of their right
wing that even the people who aren`t right wingers sound like them. And
they won`t stand up against them. One of the problems Romney had was he
criticized Mourdock when Mourdock came out and talked about God`s will
being -- you know, when women get raped and get pregnant. And then he
continued to run ads for him in Indiana.
So you have to stand up to somebody. And standing up to people is
what folks value in a president. And Mitt Romney wouldn`t do it. And I
don`t see any evidence that the Republican party is willing to stand up to
the hate wing of the Republican party. They are going to have to do that
in order to win, because that`s not an attractive platform that they have
WAGNER: Governor, David Brooks of the "New York Times" would seem to
have a differing opinion. He seems decidedly optimistic about the future
of the party. He writes today, "the Republican party has a long way to go
before it revives itself as a majority party. Over the past month, the
Republican party has changed more than I expected. They are moving in the
right direction and moving fast."
He cites a number of things including the fiscal tax -- sorry, the
fiscal cliff looming ahead of Republicans and the sort of begrudging view
towards reality that the tax rates are going to rise. He talks about Marco
Rubio and Paul Ryan addressing the Jack Kemp dinner, and sort of offering a
more palatable vision for the GOP.
But at the end of the day, Marco Rubio has said I don`t want to pursue
comprehensive immigration reform. This is something best approached on a
sort of piecemeal basis. And look --
DEAN: Let`s be honest here, Alex.
WAGNER: Exactly, yes. Go ahead.
DEAN: Marco Rubio has said that he isn`t so sure science is a
legitimate form of evaluating how old the Earth is. Gave me a break here.
You can put lipstick on a pig, it doesn`t change the pig. Really and
truly, these guys are just trying to dress themselves up and avoid talking
about these tough issues.
They`re going to talk about these issues. As long as they keep
nominating people like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, they`re not going to
be able to avoid these kinds of issues. And as long as they have primary
voters who make Mitt Romney more and more -- as he called himself, a severe
conservative -- he was severe all right. They just can`t win.
They can win if they change themselves. They got to stop beating up
on gays. Stop beating up on immigrants. Stop beating up on Muslims. And
understand what America is really about. And it really is about
opportunity. And the young people who voted 65 percent for Obama, they
would vote Republican if it was just on fiscal grounds. But they`re not
going to vote Republican when the Republicans are preaching hate of the
people they grew up with and who are their friends. It`s just not going to
WAGNER: Governor, I thought this was one of the more outrageous
things I heard. Republican campaign consultant Scott Tranter (ph) was
speaking at a Pew Center panel yesterday and this is what he said about
voter I.D. laws.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of us are campaign officials -- are campaign
professionals and we want to do everything we can to help our side. And
sometimes we think that`s voter I.D. Sometimes we think that`s longer line
lines, whatever it may be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WAGNER: Effectively he`s saying we may want to double down on
disenfranchising voters in order to win.
DEAN: This is the fundamental problem with the Republican party.
It`s not entirely clear to me that they believe in democracy. If you think
it`s OK to reduce the number of people to vote so that your side can win,
explain to me how you value democracy in the great scheme of one of the
greatest democracies in the history of the world.
It`s not clear to me that taking away people`s right to vote is the
same as democracy. Now the only voter fraud that happened in the last
election were a Republican group in Florida, which was indicted -- and then
Virginia, and then an individual single Republican woman who voted twice, I
suppose to prove a point.
That`s the only voter fraud there is. The voter I.D. laws are clearly
aimed at restricting the abilities of poor people and young people to vote.
If that`s what you think it takes to win, you probably shouldn`t be running
your campaign in the United States. China, perhaps. Russia, be my guest.
That`s not American.
WAGNER: Governor Howard Dean, thank you for joining us tonight.
DEAN: Thank you.
WAGNER: Thanks, as always, for your time. Coming up, the president
may get everything he wants accomplished. Maybe, just maybe, no matter
what the GOP has to say for it.
And more of Lawrence`s exclusive interview with George Takei on
marriage equality and the Donald. That`s coming up.
WAGNER: As President Obama`s first term comes to a close, one might
look back on the landmark policies he enacted in four years: financial
reform, a national health care plan, the rescue of the American auto
industry, the winding down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. One might
look at all of those and sigh, as in there is no way he`s going to get
anything done in the next four years.
Between rounds of the boxing match that is the fiscal curb, malcontent
Republicans have issued proclamations about the implications of dreaded
presidential overreach. Squander the good will now and you will pay the
price later, Mr. Obama, which is to say squander the good will now and we
will continue to do exactly the same thing we`ve done for the last four
Never mind the strategery in doubling down on intransigence and
dysfunction. Isn`t part of good will playing by the rules? Anyway,
setting aside the hypocrisy of threats made amid this tender flowering of
so-called good will, the reality is that President Obama may end up
overseeing one of the most progressive eras in American history, whatever
good will or bad vibes are circulating in the universe and on Capital Hill.
The news that the Supreme Court is set to take up the issue of
marriage equality is inconclusive. But it bodes well for an America that
aims to treat its citizens, which is to say all of its citizens, equally
under the law. Most Republicans know this. And if they don`t, history is
a useful guide.
In 1967, 16 states banned interracial marriage when the court
legalized the union of men and women, regardless of their skin color. In
1954, 17 states had segregated school systems when the court declared in
Brown versus Board of Education that separate was not in fact equal.
And in 1973 when Roe v Wade was decided, abortion was legal in only
four states. Given the court`s historic inclination to favor expansion of
civil rights and personal freedoms, even when public opinion is not firmly
on its side, it would seem entirely plausible that the nine justices will
conform what a majority of the country believes is right, and uphold the
constitutionality of marriage equality.
If this is, in fact, the result, President Obama will guide one of the
last remaining civil rights battles to completion, a moment that may come
to define his presidency as much as anything he has done to date.
Similarly on the subject of immigration, President Obama has made
clear that comprehensive immigration reform will happen in the next four
years. Stung by humiliating losses at the polls in November, the GOP
understands keenly the problems it faces among the young, the brown and the
young and brown. The only question is just how long it takes the
Republican party to come to terms with this.
If conservatives are smart, they will try and find a seat at the
table, lest the president and the Democratic party secure the votes of
every single one of the 11.1 undocumented immigrants who play a
foundational role in both the spirit and the economy of this country, as
well as their children and their children`s children.
If the Grand Old Party is unable to quiet the most extreme and
divisive members within its own ranks, then the bigoted and anachronistic
southern strategy upon which they have operated thus far will become the
There are enough moderates on the right who understand the stakes of
this moment, and the demographic cliff facing the party. And they are the
ones likely to make a deal on immigration. What remains to be seen is
whether they are treated as outcasts or as the party`s new standard
Given the potential history making social progress that could take
place in the next four years, it is President Obama`s first term that may
strangely pale in comparison with his second. For Republicans to get in on
the game, they must acknowledge that the country has changed, and so too
must they, ideally with full hearts and with good will.
As the president has said countless times, the arc of the moral
universe is long but it bends towards justice. The GOP has taken full
advantage of this and dragged its feet on justice, but that time, and
unless action is taken the party`s time, is coming to a close.
WAGNER: "Star Trek" legend George Takei made news when he wrote a
blog post advocating higher taxes for high income earners like himself.
Takei joined Lawrence O`Donnell and LAST WORD producer/Trekkie Nick Ramsey
to talk about just that.
After every show, guests get a chance to talk about the things they
didn`t get to say on air for an online segment called "The Very Last Word,"
which is then posted to the show`s website. Here is more of that LAST WORD
exclusive interview. Lawrence asked Takei about being an activist for
marriage equality and why exactly he met with Donald Trump.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: So, George, how you doing
convincing Donald Trump that he needs to pay higher taxes?
GEORGE TAKEI, ACTOR AND ACTIVIST: We didn`t talk about that part of
it. I was advocating for --
O`DONNELL: You met with him this week?
TAKEI: I did. Day before yesterday.
O`DONNELL: You did his show, "Celebrity Apprentice."
TAKEI: That`s right. And when we were promoting that, I said I would
like to have lunch with you and discuss your concern about marriage
equality. And I expected him to demur. He said, you know something,
George, I think I could learn something from you. And so he agreed to it.
I was a little taken back, I must say. But we couldn`t get our
calendars to jibe. I was working on a TV series in Pittsburgh. Then I
went from that to working on a musical called "The Legions" in San Diego,
which broke all records there. And we`re headed to Broadway this fall.
O`DONNELL: What is that? I just read something about that.
TAKEI: It`s about the internment of Japanese-Americans.
O`DONNELL: I was just reading about it, yes.
TAKEI: We broke the 77 years history of the old Glob Theater, which
has a distinguished history of outstanding productions. We broke their
record in terms of box office dollars as well as attendance. It was a
great success. But --
O`DONNELL: So you try to talk sense to Donald Trump. Didn`t you know
going in, there`s no such thing as talking sense to Donald Trump?
TAKEI: Well, but he`s a good businessman.
O`DONNELL: Could you show him a businessman`s reason why he, for his
business life, should think the way you do?
TAKEI: Well, there are going to be more marriages here, more
celebration of their marriages, people coming from other states like New
Jersey, that doesn`t have marriage equality, coming to New York to
celebrate and legalize their union.
The core value of marriage is two people who love each other and who
are committed to each other. It isn`t necessarily defined by gender. And
-- because, you know, opposite sex marriages often are horrific.
O`DONNELL: Really? What are you talking about? What are you talking
TAKEI: Well, let me show you a copy of "The Inquirer." People that
get married in Las Vegas overnight and then they are fighting and yelling
and suing each other and they get divorced.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sometimes they don`t remember they got married.
TAKEI: That`s right. That is not a marriage. That`s not what we
should sanctify. And what we`re talking about is civil law, not
ecclesiastical law. There`s a distinction there. And those who love each
other and want to protect each other, because one may be older than the
spouse and you want security for your spouse for whatever may happen -- and
our laws do not provide that.
We want security for when we should pass or when -- well, I can give
you an example. We had friends -- it`s past tense now -- in Washington,
D.C. They`ve been together for over a decade. One partner went out of
town on a business trip, came back, opened his apartment door and his
partner was on the floor, having passed out -- or died of a heart attack in
His only -- the deceased partner`s relative was a lawyer brother in
Boston from whom had been estranged. He came and took everything. The
laws were against the one that spent more lives -- they shared their lives
and their fortune and yet he lost it all.
So this grieving partner lost not only the love of his life, but
everything that they had built together. There`s that kind of injustice.
And this kind of barrier that we insist on -- legalistic barrier that we
insist on putting up is to me unfathomable, because in the case of our
being incarcerated during the Second World War, we looked different. We
were visibly identifiable.
But 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
And this will be as old and passe, because, you know, 70 percent of
young people under the age of 35 all support marriage equality.
O`DONNELL: The opposition is just aging out.
TAKEI: That`s right. It`s a matter of time.
O`DONNELL: You know, I`ve driven by northern California, one of the
internment camp locations up there. Yes. There`s really nothing there
except you have to know on the map that this is where this was. No
TAKEI: They were all in the most December desolate place of the
O`DONNELL: Yes, it`s a completely desolate place. And it`s an
astonishing thing to ponder. I pulled over and I look at the little
identifier that tells us that this is where it is. I was showing it to my
daughter and talked about it. We`ve driven by it a couple of times,
It is just so astonishing that that was so recent, so easy to do at
the time, so hard to see what was wrong with it from the people outside
those camps who put you there.
TAKEI: And it was totally irrational. Because it was Hawaii that was
bombed. But if they had interned -- the people of -- the Japanese-
Americans on Hawaii, in the Hawaiian territory, were not incarcerated,
because they were about half the population and the economy would have
We who were on the West Coast were thinly the spread out. We were
primarily in the rural areas, farmers. And so -- and some were acquiring
land and becoming quite successful.
And so it was hysteria and greed and lack of political leadership.
Interesting historical note, we had an attorney general in California who
took the oath on the Constitution of the United States, and he knew the
Constitution. Yet when he sensed that the Get Rid of the Japs Movement was
the most popular issue in California, his -- he wanted to run for governor.
He ran for governor on that plank of get rid of the Japs, and he won.
Later, he was appointed -- after he served as governor of California,
he was appointed to be the chief justice of the United States Supreme
Court. His name is Earl Warren. And he never owned up to that checkered
history of his.
O`DONNELL: It is amazing how quickly people sped away from it. My
sense of it is -- I wasn`t alive at the time. But my sense of it is that
there was a realization that set in with higher speed than normal that, oh,
we were grotesquely wrong, but we`re not going to talk about it. Say in
the Earl Warren case, we`re just going to go forward and leave this behind,
and try not to leave a trace of it, as there virtually isn`t in terms of
any of those structures or anything.
George, I love having a co-host. I need you to come back. I need you
back. This is so great.
TAKEI: No. Joe is wonderful. You have a great show here. And I am
O`DONNELL: Yes. Thank you very, very much, George.
WAGNER: You can see "The Very Last Word" on the blog at
LastWord.MSNBC.com. Be sure to join me on MSNBC at noon weekdays for my
show, "NOW." "THE ED SHOW" is up next.
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