THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
December 26, 2012
Guests: John Harwood, Robert Reich, William Vizzard
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: Oh, I guess it is show time. I`m actually
trying to actually finish my Christmas shopping. A little bit behind, but,
you know, online shopping, I still I can -- it will get done. Plenty of
time to do it during the commercial breaks.
Let`s do this show.
With only three business days left until we go off the fiscal curb, says
the teleprompter, Republicans and Democrats are exactly where I always
thought they would be. Not even close to an agreement.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Christmas is over and most people have the day off.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a dysfunctional Congress.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But the politicians are still pretending to work.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People don`t like Congress.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is up to the Senate to act.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Harry Reid is working on legislation.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Harry Reid, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and the
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president is cutting his Hawaii vacation short to
deal with the fiscal mess.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s a pretty complicated mess that they have on
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the famous fiscal cliff.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really, it`s kind of like falling down stairs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a dysfunctional Congress.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Speaker Boehner needs to bring his party along.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s pretty clear from the failure of "Plan B."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Crash and burn.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That he could not bring them along.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Boehner doesn`t seem to have full control of his
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was soundly rejected by his party.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were this close.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Republicans will be blamed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This close to a solution.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re going to head over that cliff.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks like we`re off the cliff.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know it`s hard for the Republicans.
LUKE RUSSERT, NBC NEWS: The minute those leaders move forward, they get
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something we don`t have much hope for.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Meaningful gun control.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is on gun control.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not every gun should be available at any time, anywhere
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a dysfunctional Congress.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the NRA is still doubling down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The conversation still wages on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On its plan to add more guns to schools.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A completely dumb-ass idea.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t think the NRA is listening.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can call it whatever you want to call it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have dysfunctional Congress.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Congress hasn`t confirmed
the director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a dysfunctional Congress.
OBAMA: In six years.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dysfunctional, dysfunctional, dysfunctional Congress.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re not going to allow what has happened in the past
to go on.
O`DONNELL: Congress has just three business days to pass legislation to
avoid going over the fiscal curb.
President Obama has cut his Hawaii vacation short and is on his way back to
Washington. The Democratic-led Senate will be in session tomorrow but the
Republican House is staying home. The Republican leadership aides tell NBC
News the House will not be in session for legislative business tomorrow.
Today, Republican House leaders released a statement calling on the Senate
to act first. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid quickly responded with a
statement of his own.
"House Republicans pushed middle class families closer to the cliff by
wasting an entire week with their incompetent Plan B stunt. It is time for
House Republicans to put middle class families first by passing the
Senate`s bill to protect 98 percent of Americans from a tax hike on January
1st. The Senate bill could pass tomorrow if House Republicans would simply
let it come to the floor."
Despite the impasse in Washington, a new Gallup poll shows 50 percent of
people still believe it is likely that President Obama and Republicans will
reach an agreement before we go over the curb on January 1st. Among the
believers is conservative "Weekly Standard" editor Bill Kristol.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL KRISTOL, WEEKLY STANDARD: I think what will happen is Republicans
will be faced on Monday, on December 31st, with having to vote on a much
worse proposal than the one they didn`t give Speaker Boehner the majority
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Plan B. So, do we end up going over the cliff or
KRISTOL: I think not. On December 31st, in a bizarre open vote when both
party members release their voters to vote their conscience, they save 95
percent of taxpayers from an income tax hike.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The new Gallup poll shows that 54 percent approve of how
President Obama is handling the budget negotiations, just 26 percent
approve of how Speaker Boehner is handling negotiations, and 45 percent
Democratic leaders in Congress, how they are handling the negotiations,
while just 26 percent say they approve of how Republican leaders in
Congress are handling those situation.
Joining me now are: John Harwood, CNBC chief Washington correspondent and
political writer for "The New York Times". And Robert Reich, former labor
secretary and a professor at University of California at Berkeley. He`s
also the author of "Beyond Outrage."
John Harwood, you`re in Washington, so you can tell us all the behind the
scenes maneuverings and meetings that have gone on all day between the
House leadership and their staff and the administration and their staff.
Just catch us up, John, on everything, all the big news that happened
JOHN HARWOOD, CNBC: Right here, Lawrence. Nothing. Nothing happened.
But I have to say, though, I`m still with Bill Kristol and that 50 percent
tooth fairy crowd in thinking the Republican leadership in the Senate and
then, as a result of that, in the House are going to decide that they`ve
already taken enough punishment. The punishment will get worse after
January 1st and that ultimately they will accept, at least temporarily,
perhaps not as a permanent solution, but at least temporarily, the deal
that Bill Kristol said was worse than the one they rejected from a
Republican point of view, that they rejected in the Plan B proposal,
because the outcome of this at the end of the day is pretty clear, and even
people who are stubborn ideologically understand where their political
bread in the long run is buttered as a party and those poll numbers showed
a lot of the story that you just showed.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Chuck Schumer told David Gregory about
what he thinks happen if we do go over the cliff.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Make no mistake about it, if we go over
it, and God forbid, I still don`t think we have to, the American people
will blame the Republican Party and they`ll come right back and pass
something. So I don`t think the middle class is at risk. If we go over
the cliff, our Republican colleagues will come back and say, uh-oh, and
then pass the bill we passed in the Senate already.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Robert Reich, I think Chuck Schumer speaks for most Democrats
in Washington. They have the firm belief that if we go over the so-called
cliff, the Republicans will actually act very quickly, and that is part of
why Democrats aren`t so afraid of going over the cliff.
ROBERT REICH, FORMER LABOR SECRETARY: That`s exactly right, Lawrence. The
problem is, with the fanatics particularly in the House of Representatives,
the Republican fanatics, who would not even vote for an extension on the
Bush tax cut for everybody. Even -- they didn`t even want millionaires to
have any increase in taxes. Those fanatics, being as fanatical as they
are, might not even do what most of us assume they would do if we went over
the curb and eventually come around.
In other words, you know, even the Republicans as a whole are taking a
shellacking in the polls, individual Republicans, when they go back to
their districts, they`re most worried about being attacked from the right,
having a primary challenger in 2014 from the right.
So, it`s not exactly clear right now that the Democrat strategy which I
have been touting and you have been touting and most of us assume will be
the strategy if we go over the curb -- that is, come up with a bill that
provides a middle class tax relief retroactive to the first of January.
It`s not 100 percent sure that`s going to work any longer now that we know
now fanatical the fanatics are.
O`DONNELL: John Harwood, tell me how the Republicans who refuse to go on
with the Boehner Plan B could somehow, between now and New Year`s Eve, go
along with something else that was possibly less attractive to them. What
is the story that they would then tell that they felt they couldn`t tell
last week? I`m just having trouble imagining how the Republicans who have
been against this somehow line up for something.
HARWOOD: Well, two-part answer to the question, Lawrence. The first is
the House Republican caucus is insulated from national public opinion as
Secretary Reich indicated. But they`re not impervious to it altogether. A
lot of it -- first of all, a lot of those House members want to be senators
some day and so they have the stake in the beating that their party`s brand
in our NBC/"The Wall Street Journal" poll, the Republican Party has been
under water in terms of its reputation for six years in a row.
So, people are absorbing the fact that the American people look at the
Republican Party as more ideological and less flexible, less open to
But the second part is it would not necessarily be a concession by the
people who are uttering the primal scream over spending within the House
Republican Party, it`s more the leadership, and in particular, the speaker
taking the risk of being willing to put on his floor, his House floor, a
bill that would not command a majority of the Republican majority, and
allow it to pass with Democratic votes and some Republicans.
At some point, John Boehner goes there. I don`t know if that`s going to be
on December 31st or the first week of January. If it`s not the first week
of January, I think it would be fairly soon after that, because again, the
reason why smart people like Tom Cole and Bob Corker and John Cornyn have
said we ought to give on the tax cuts of people under $250,000 is that they
know that`s where the thing is going to end up unless they cut some deal
and bring their caucus along on some higher threshold. The president
offered $400,000. They could get that. They could probably get $500,000.
O`DONNELL: Robert Reich -- go ahead, Bob. Go ahead, Bob.
REICH: Well, I was going to say, you know, now is the time when we really
find out whether Republican leadership is an oxymoron. We not only have to
rely on John Boehner having enough leadership and guts and gumption to put
something on the floor that his majority of Republicans are not going to
vote for, but we also have to rely on Mitch McConnell in the Senate being
willing to agree not to filibuster and to allow tomorrow or the next day a
bill to go through Senate that is basically what the president wants, so it
then can put pressure on the Republicans in the House.
HARWOOD: H did it in 2011 on the debt limit.
O`DONNELL: John, there`s something fascinating --
REICH: Yes, that`s right. That`s what people are hoping for.
O`DONNELL: There`s something fascinating to all of this. Ben Bernanke
gave this situation the name fiscal cliff which sounds very dramatic and
very scary. But what it is, is an act of Congress that they actually voted
for. Those -- 174 Republicans voted for this law that would then take
effect on January 1st with all these spending cuts in it, and Democrats --
95 Democrats in the House voted for it, 74 votes for it in the United
And now, Congress is afraid of actually going through something that it
voted for to occur on January 1st because it all feels too dramatic to
them. And so, there`s something very peculiar. The crisis that Congress
is facing is can they undo something that they voted for, and can they undo
it by New Year`s Eve?
HARWOOD: It is bizarre and that`s why --
REICH: It`s irony and paradox upon irony, because remember, the reason the
fiscal cliff is supposed to be so dangerous and the reason why so many so-
called serious people, deficit hawks in Washington, are worried about the
fiscal cliff is that it`s too much deficit reduction too fast. So, that
all of this takes place against a debate about how to reduce the budget
deficit. That`s why you get into this theater of the absurd.
HARWOOD: Well, and look at the clip, the tape you showed at the opening of
the program with Keith Boykin over and over again talking about this
dysfunction of Congress. This is the emblem of the dysfunction of
Congress, that they made a law so onerous in the belief it would make them
do something less onerous and now they`re right up against it.
O`DONNELL: They really know how to make these crises happen.
CNBC chief Washington, political correspondent and writer for "New York
Times", John Howard, thank you very much for joining me.
And former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, thank you for joining me tonight.
REICH: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, the NRA has done much more damage than you think.
And they`ve made gun ownership much harder to trace.
And the Romneys keep trying new explanations for why Mitt lost. But they
aren`t getting any closer to the truth.
And as some of you on Twitter already know, I am wearing a Christmas gift
or two on the show tonight. There is still time to tweet your guesses
about what it is. The answer to what Christmas gift or gifts am I wearing
is coming up.
O`DONNELL: This just in: the guesses -- some of the guesses from Twitter
about what my Christmas gift is that I`m wearing tonight, some of the wrong
guesses: a superhero outfit. That was John who guessed that. Nicole,
Donald Trump`s toupee. Sorry, Nicole, that`s not it. All the sweaters
Teresa Smith, close. Cashmere socks, she says. I hate woolen socks. But
yes, I actually didn`t realize I was wearing Christmas gift socks, which I
am right there, with the Vans. I didn`t realize it until someone tweeted
that as a guess.
What I was thinking, of course, was what John then for you, Rosary
(INAUDIBLE) guessed was a necktie. I actually ask for neckties for
Christmas and birthday. That`s how boring I am about gifts. But you know,
in this job, you never have enough neckties. So, yes, it was the necktie,
and Gay Apostolics actually guessed tie and socks.
So the big winner tonight on the Twitter guessing game, Gay Apostolics.
We`ll be back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Considering Congress doesn`t confirm the director of the Bureau of
Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in six years, the agency that works most
closely with state and local law enforcement to keep illegal guns out of
the hands of criminals, I suggest that they make this a priority early in
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Even if the Senate eventually does confirm President Obama`s
pick for ATF director, the director will be unable to do that job
According to today`s "New York Times," the bureau is prohibited from
creating a federal registry of gun transactions. When law enforcement
officers recover a gun and serial number, workers at the bureau`s national
tracing center begin making their way through a series of phone calls
asking the first manufacturer, then the wholesaler, and finally the dealer
to search their files to identify the buyer of the firearm. About a third
of the time, the process involves digging through records sent in by
companies that have closed. In many cases, searching by hand through
cardboard boxes filled with computer printouts, hand-scrawled index cards
or even water-stained sheets of paper.
The ATF uses this method because the idea of establishing a central
database of gun transactions has been rejected by lawmakers in Congress who
have sided with the National Rifle Association, which argues that such a
database poses a threat to the Second Amendment.
On Friday, David Keene, the president of the NRA, said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID KEENE, NRA PRESIDENT: Next week, we will be available to any of you
who are interested in talking about these or other issues of interest to
you. So contact us, please, at that point. We will be willing to talk to
anybody beginning on Monday, and I look forward to talking to you and
answering any of your questions next week.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Well, not exactly anybody. We`ve been asking the NRA to come
on this program since he said that on Friday. We`ve been told that no one
is available. We`ll see if someone from the NRA becomes available tomorrow
Joining me now is William Vizzard who was an ATF special agent for 23
years, is now a professor of criminal justice at California State
University, Sacramento, and MSNBC political analyst Karen Finney.
Professor Vizzard, I was shocked reading "The New York Times". I don`t use
the word "shock" lightly about this, that the ATF has been, in effect, so
disabled by this NRA lobbying just on how we try to keep track of gun
WILLIAM VIZZARD, FORMER ATF SPECIAL AGENT: Oh, it`s more extensive than
simply keeping track of gun transactions. They`ve been disabled largely by
the Firearms Owners Protection Act of 1986 or the (INAUDIBLE) Biltmore (ph)
Act, among other things. Their ability to control dealers who violated the
law was very limited, even though a majority of dealers don`t, but there
are a certain percentage that do.
Controlling unlicensed dealing is virtually impossible, and the original
Gun Control Act of `68 didn`t really extend much authority to the ATF, and
the `86 statute cut that back substantially.
So, in addition to other controls that have been placed on ATF, the
underlying law really does not provide them the mechanism to regulate gun
O`DONNELL: Karen Finney, there is nothing in what we learned today about
how the NRA has its hands tied that is in any way involving the
constitutional right to bear arms. The constitutional right to bear arms
stands there unmolested, and then there`s the ATF just trying to do a basic
job that the NRA has successfully lobbied to prevent them from doing.
So, the whole issue of the kinds of legislation we really need in the gun
arena is a much wider range of legislative vehicles than anyone is really
contemplating right now.
KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: But also, Lawrence, I mean, think
about -- when we talk about common sense, I mean, most people -- one of the
most interesting things when you said you were shocked, I did some research
a while back, and I think most Americans would be shocked -- I think were
shocked to find out.
Because it`s unthinkable -- I`ve used this example before -- I can`t buy
Sudafed one day early because of the computer database system that tracks
how much you buy and when you buy it. I think most Americans in polls are
shocked to realize there isn`t a system where, for example, a police
officer, let`s say in Aurora, Colorado, would know that someone in their
community was amassing large amounts of ammunition and weapons. Or that,
you know, these records, once background checks are done, are destroyed
within 24 hours because somehow that is an impingement on the Second
I mean, we have to take a very different approach, I think, and talk about
the responsibility of these rights and not just sort of erring on the side
-- you know, far erring on the side of supposedly protecting gun owners.
What about protecting -- you know, again, we talked about the protective
right to vote and other areas where we also have responsibilities.
O`DONNELL: William Vizzard, when you were an ATF agent, what were the
tools you needed law that you didn`t have? What frustrated you the most
about what you weren`t able to do?
VIZZARD: Well, it depends whether you`re looking at the original `68 law
or whether you`re looking at the post-`86. There has never been an
effective system of recording gun transactions. It`s not just an issue of
Let me give you an example. The NRA has been the most vehement critic of
ATF in the Fast and Furious fiasco, which admittedly was a substantial
error. But in that case, the ATF didn`t provide the weapons, it just
didn`t intervene on the surface of legal sales and were, in fact, probably
But they have consistently lobbied for a law that allows any individual in
many states to walk in and buy as many weapons as they want of any type and
walk out the door with them at that moment without any check, without any -
- other than a criminal record check.
So, for instance, in the issue of gun trafficking to Mexico, an individual
can walk in and buy 50 AK-47 type -- not AK-47s, but AK-47 type military
semiautomatic rifles and walk out the door with them. Nothing -- you know,
ATF isn`t essentially aware of this. There is no notification. There is
no central database. You don`t know if the person goes down the road and
buys another 25 or 50.
This has been the historic pattern in trafficking to states like New York
that have more strict firearms regulation out of areas like South Carolina,
So what`s missing are a whole series of things. Some sort of national
FINNEY: And --
VIZZARD: -- better laws restricting unlicensed dealers. Our clear
definition of who is a dealer, stricter controls on dealers, reinstituting
felony crime for falsifying records.
Currently, if you walk into a dealer and audit that dealer and they`re
missing 1,000 guns, and this literally has happened, and they can`t explain
where the thousand guns went and you obviously know that they were sold
somehow unlawfully, the most you can charge them with is a misdemeanor, and
no U.S. attorney will charge a misdemeanor. There just isn`t room for it
in the federal court. So --
FINNEY: And, you know, Lawrence, if I could, think about the hypocrisy.
That you have Wayne LaPierre talking about the importance of having a
database to track, you know, mental health illness. It`s a total P.R.
trick to try to divert attention from the things we`re talking about here
that, again, are very common sense, that I think most Americans would be
shocked to find out are not in place.
What is the NRA trying to do in the wake of these tragedies? Talk about
mental health, talk about video games, for heaven`s sakes -- when they
really should be acknowledging that these kind of systems are very much
O`DONNELL: Former ATF agent William Vizzard, thank you very much for
joining us tonight.
And MSNBC political analyst Karen Finney, thank you very much for joining
VIZZARD: You`re welcome.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, the Romneys -- the poor Romneys are still struggling
to explain why Mitt lost. Their latest explanation, we can only hope, is
the last Romney lie of 2012.
O`DONNELL: So, I thought I knew this guy. But I didn`t know the half of
it. I knew he was an Oscar-nominated actor, a great actor who I had the
pleasure of working with, but I found out today the most fascinating part
of his life, the part that would make a great movie. And all of that
happened before he became an actor. And I learned that today in his
obituary. That`s in tonight`s rewrite.
O`DONNELL: In the spotlight tonight, the public musings of losers. Here`s
how Mitt Romney explained why he lost to President Obama just days after
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What the president`s
campaign did was focus on certain members of his base coalition, give them
extraordinary financial gifts from the government, and then work very
aggressively to turn them out to vote, and that strategy worked.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That explanation got Mitt Romney attacked and condemned by the
likes of Bobby Jindal and other prominent Republicans. And so, the Romneys
are now trying a new story, this time with the "Boston Globe." Tag Romney
said this about his father. He wanted to be president less than anyone I
met in my life. He had no desire to run, says Tag, who worked with his
mother and to persuade his father to seek the presidency. If he could have
found someone else to take his place, he would have been ecstatic to step
aside. Too bad he never told Newt Gingrich that.
Joining me now, MSNBC`s Richard Wolffe and Joy Reid.
Joy Reid, these poor people. I`m on the verge of feeling sorry for them,
trying to come up with these crazy reasons about why he lost. And now they
want to pretend that this guy who lived his whole life in order to run for
president didn`t really want to run for president.
JOY-ANN REID, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I know, Lawrence. There is
nothing more failing than failing to win something and say, I didn`t want
to win, anyway. Who wants that, right? You know, and the problem with
that, of course, is the history. We know that Mitt Romney didn`t want to
be president so badly he tried to do it twice. We know that no one that
lived in Massachusetts in 1994 believes that had he beaten Ted Kennedy that
Mitt Romney wouldn`t have been a candidate for president in the year 2000.
He then ran for president two times and ran scorched earth campaigns
against not the general election, his primary opponent, you know? As you
said, ask Newt Gingrich. Ask the guys who ran against him in the `08
primary, Giuliani and Ron Paul and the others, if this guy didn`t want to
be president. His delegates pushed out Ron Paul, winning-delegate in May
to show Ron Paul out of the way, so Mitt Romney can be president. He did
everything humanly possible to be president and he failed.
O`DONNELL: Richard, does no one in the Romney family have any kind of ear
for what honesty sounds like?
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I`m not sure if they know
what humanity looks like. You know, they said the Romney sons say they
cannot think of a person who wants to be president less than their father.
I humbly suggest they need to meet more people, because there`s a lot of
people who don`t want to be president, and you know, here`s the paradox
that runs through the entire Romney campaign, such as it was, which was you
had somebody desperate to be president and who was desperately
uncomfortable being a candidate for president.
And you know, you can`t fake that. You cannot pay for kind of message over
it, it`s not about the 370,000 votes they lament were not theirs that would
have won them the election. Only 370,000 votes.
Now, if you`re Al Gore and you lose an election by an excruciating the
close margin, or actually win it by an excruciating the close margin, then
you have the right to lament the margin of defeat. But 370,000 votes is
not a slow margin of defeat. They are struggling to comprehend what
happened in the election, who that father is and why on earth the country
couldn`t relate to a man who didn`t want the campaign to be president.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what the Romney son`s story used to be.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was really reluctant. I didn`t want I am to do it.
I tried to convince him not to. I know you didn`t, but I just felt like
for us as a family, this wasn`t the best thing, but josh said as a country,
we think it`s the right thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: So dad didn`t want to run for president but the kids couldn`t
convince him to not run for president. I guess, you know, they just didn`t
think anyone would roll that videotape with this latest new spin.
I want to get more into this "Boston Globe" article because it`s kind of a
fascinating look back at what the Romney campaign didn`t understand. There
is this from the globe.
In Florida, for example, the Romney campaign said it had fewer than 200
staff members on the ground, a huge commitment of its total of 500
nationwide, but the Obama campaign had 770 staff in Florida out of 3,000 or
so nationwide. They had more staff in Florida than we had in the country
and for longer, said Romney adviser Ron Kaufman.
Joy Reid, it is astounding to me that this would come as a big surprise to
them. This is the kind of thing that you can check, keep pace on what the
other campaign is doing.
REID: Yes, absolutely. It was no secret the Obama campaign had those
boots on the ground really since 2008. They never really left. And the
thing is that you really see the hubris of Mitt Romney and of his campaign,
because they didn`t even believe they needed staff. They didn`t believe
they needed staff in places like Ohio which is critical to any presidential
And I think the reason to that goes to something that actually Mitt
Romney`s brother said about him, Scott Romney. The older brother of mitt
Romney, he actually told PBS this year about Mitt, I think he believes he`s
the only person in this position who can straighten out this country.
There was this belief that mitt had that it was self-evident that he must
be president, that he`s the only one that can save the country from Barack
Obama. And it was evident in the fact that it didn`t bother him to change
everything about himself, everything about his past, everything about his
former beliefs to repudiate his governorship, whatever it took, because he
had this belief, as did Ann Romney, as did his kids, that he was somehow
destined to be our president.
O`DONNELL: Richard Wolffe, 500 nationwide that Romney had for a
presidential campaign just kind of amazes me. But I want to go on to
another thing in "The Globe`s" story. It`s Beth Meyers. She was worried
about the campaign`s appeal to women voters. She says to "The Globe", "I
wish I had expressed my deep concern more vociferously at that point. This
was May/June when they really went on the offense," Meyers said. "I
remember thinking, this bothers me."
Well, Richard, that`s nice. This bothers you. It`s only a majority of the
vote, the women`s vote. Kind of think you would mention if it bothered you
in a real campaign.
WOLFFE: You know, if you`re senior campaign adviser, (INAUDIBLE) of the
candidate, you don`t say bothering thing until after the election. You try
to do it at the moment you can make a difference. And look, there is
something bigger here that Joy was touching on, which is not just a self-
belief that they had, and this isn`t just a Romney problem, it`s a
Republican Party problem, arguably the entire problem facing the
conservative echo chamber right now which is the they were delusional about
the whole presidency, about President Obama himself.
It was so self-evident to him that he was incompetent, that this president
was a fluke, that his support had just faded away and that the an anti-
Obama forces were so driven by this all consuming hatred of everything
Obama stood for that he was going to be a cinch. You didn`t need to
organizers on the ground. You don`t need to speak up when this whole
bothering thing was going on, because Obama was finally going to lose. He
was such an idiot, he had to lose. That`s the moment they are now in.
How could that world view have been wrong? You don`t need to invest in
people, you don`t need to put ads up if you`re going against an incompetent
O`DONNELL: It`s fascinating reading this globe stuff, because in a way
there are no surprises in it, meaning the Romney campaign turned out to be
as ridiculous inside as it appeared to be from the outside. There was no -
- there was nothing surprising going on in there.
Richard Wolffe, executive editor of MSNBC.com, and Joy Reid, managing
editor of the Grio, thank you both for joining me.
REID: Thank you.
WOLFFE: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, I`m actually going to finish my Christmas shopping
right here on TV. That`s right, I haven`t finished, but online shopping.
Guess what I`m going to buy on line as gifts for my friends and coworkers?
Take a guess.
O`DONNELL: Am I? I guess I am, the only one who didn`t finish Christmas
shopping by the close of business Christmas Eve. But there`s Internet
shopping, and I`m not going to finish it tonight but get some done before
the show is over. A little late Christmas shopping right here on live TV,
and "the rewrite" is coming up next.
O`DONNELL: With the great character actors, there comes a moment where you
are forced to say, who is that? You know who the stars of the movie are,
and you knew that before you went to see the movie. But you don`t know who
those character actors are, those supporting actors.
When I went to see "Dog Day Afternoon," I knew I was going to see an Al
Pacino movie. He was already a huge star from "The Godfather." I expected
the movie to be masterfully directed by Sidney Lumet, who was already one
of the greatest directors in the history of film. The ingenious script
from Frank Pearson was one of the many surprises of that movie, including
the performances by a supporting actor who made me stare in awe wondering,
who is that?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, quit while you`re ahead. Get him for
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Armed robbery.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody has been hurt. Release the hostages. Nobody is
going to warned of a kidnapping charges. The most you`re going to get is
five years, you get out in one year, huh?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kiss me. I like to get kissed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re a city cop, right? Robbing a bank is a federal
offense. They got me on kidnapping, armed robbery. They`re going to bury
me, man. I don`t want to talk to someone who is trying to calm me. Get
somebody in charge here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m in charge.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t want to talk to a flunkie pig trying to calm
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get back there! Get over there! Get over there, will
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He wants to kill me so bad, he can taste it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was my who`s that moment with Charles Durning. That was
when I needed to know his name. I had seen him already several times in
small parts in a couple movies, including a few years earlier "The Sting"
which won an Oscar that year for best picture, but "Dog Day Afternoon" was
the first time I saw Charles Durning`s power as an actor unleashed.
A few years later a lot of people had that moment with Charles Durning when
they saw him falling in love with Dustin Hoffman`s character in "Tootsie."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, I only took two pictures my whole life, my
high school graduation and my wedding, and my wife for standing next to me
in both. And I never said I would want anybody to fill her place. Well,
that changed last weekend.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lester?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Leslie.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Leslie?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have to do this now or I won`t get through it. I
know this is kind of quick, but that` how I am. I never did believe it not
getting down to it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, oh, oh no.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know it`s fast. Take some time to think about it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the answer is no, then I`ll know you took me
seriously enough to think about it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just need to be alone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: I had the honor of working with Charles Durning in the short-
lived TV series in which he was playing a Supreme Court justice. I was
lucky enough to hear his stories about show business, but there was so much
more to his life, especially before show business. Which I learned about
only today reading his obituary, which rewrote my understanding of Charles
I knew that he didn`t make his professional debut as an actor until he was
well into his 30s and that his big break as an actor came 40 years ago in
the Broadway hit that championship season when Charles Durning was 49-
years-old. The first thing that felt like success to him happened when he
was 49-years-old. As an acting student, he had been told he didn`t have a
chance of making it for three reasons. You`re too short, you`re too fat
and you have no talent. And his laugh -- his laugh would make that story
sound painless when he told it.
As I learned today, he had more than his share of pain before becoming an
actor, but those aren`t the stories he told on the set. The "New York
Times" told me today that Charles Edward Durning was born into poverty in
1923 in highland falls, New York on the Hudson River. Charles was the
ninth of ten children, and five of his sisters died of smallpox or scarlet
fever in childhood. Three of them died within two weeks.
And World War II. He was in the first wave of troops to land on Omaha
beach on d-day. He was his unit`s only survivor of the war. He was
stabbed in hand-to-hand combat. He killed the German soldier who was
stabbing him. Had to kill him with a brick. When Charles Durning looked
at that dead German he had just killed who seemed no more than 15-years-
old, he held him in his arms and cried.
He was awarded three Purple Hearts and a Silver Star. "The Times" points
out that he avoided discussing his combat service until later in life, but
it was for that service that in 2008 France awarded him the national order
of the Legion of Honor.
I`m one of the lucky writers who got to write for Charles Durning. It is
not a small group. There are probably at least 300 of us, if you include
all of the plays and the television episodes he`s been in, including most
recently Seth McFarland`s "Family Guy" and "Rescue Me" where he played
Denis Leary`s father.
I thought I knew Charles Durning from our chats on the set and when I would
run into him later at the pacific diner car in Santa Monica where he love
to have big steak dinners with his good pals, Bert Reynolds. But I only
knew the actor Charles Durning, which means I didn`t know the half of it.
I only knew the last 40 years of his life, not the first 49. Not his
unimaginably difficult childhood, not his heroic war years. I didn`t know
the half of Charles Durning`s life that would make a truly great movie.
Charles Durning left life`s stage on Christmas Eve. He was 89-years-old.
O`DONNELL: Expiration date -- oh, yes, we`re back.
Well, so, guess who didn`t exactly finish his Christmas shopping by the
close of business on Christmas Eve. So, I`m catching up right now on "the
Last Word" Web site, lastword.MSNBC.com, making, of course, contributions
to the kind fund in the name of friends and co-workers and co-workers who
are friends, and they know who they are, like, let`s see, senior producer -
- where is my list -- yes, senior producer Kiana Burns who will soon be
getting -- I`m going to get her the scholarship.
I`m going to get her the -- we`ve established a new program in the kind
fund to pay girls` tuition so that girls can attend schools in Malawi, the
scholarships for girls in Malawi is a new component to the kid fund. Kids
in need of desks. We are still, of course, raising money to have desks
made in Malawi, by workers in Malawi and delivered to schools there. And
since I last updated you on this last week, we raised another $240,262
through Christmas day, $42, 273 of those dollars were for scholarships for
girls to stay in school.
Now, I for one, will be buying desks and scholarships as holiday presents
for the next several days. That`s just how far behind I am on my gift
giving, and you can too, of course. We`ve raised close to $700,000 in the
month of December alone, bringing our grand total raised since we started
this program two years ago to $5,188,737.
I have thanked many of you directly on Twitter and I wish I could thank
everyone directly for your contributions. You are improving the lives of
the workers who make these desks and their families, and you`re bringing
new vitality to classrooms full of eager learners in Africa. You`re
providing desks to kids and teachers who have never seen desks in their
classrooms. And you`re lifting the spirit and enthusiasm in every school
that the kind fund has reached. You really have done an amazing job.
Now, of course, I have to get back to my Christmas list here. Let`s see.
Casey Dolan gets a girls` scholarship. Steve Lewis, Steve got desks last
two years, I think scholarship this year. RJ Freed (ph), I don`t know,
desk I think for RJ.
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Good evening, Americans. Welcome
to "THE ED SHOW." I`m Michael Eric Dyson, in for ED Schultz.
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