'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Monday, January 21st, 2013
Read the transcript to the Monday show
THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
January 21, 2013
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: On this, our 28th observance of Martin
Luther King Day, we held the 57th inauguration of the president of United
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Welcome to the Capitol and to this
celebration of our great democracy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After a divided first four years, he starts anew.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I, Barack Hussein
Obama, do solemnly swear.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Publicly sworn in from the capital overlooking the
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: Inaugurated for the second term in office.
OBAMA: My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment.
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: Today is a day to celebrate democracy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The celebration, the tradition, is really
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: An inaugural is obviously history.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is a strong theme of civil rights.
OBAMA: America`s possibilities are limitless.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: History of the civil rights movement.
OBAMA: It is now our generation`s task to carry on.
HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST: This speech was about an action
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: An ambitious, "think big" agenda.
OBAMA: We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or treat name-
calling as debate. We must act.
TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Forty-eight hours from now, things will
get back to what we see as normal.
TODD: Today is a day to celebrate the democracy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the day that they all voted for.
OBAMA: My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment. And we will
seize it so long as we seize it together.
O`DONNELL: For the first time in recent history, today a giant event
in Washington ran a few minutes early. And 10 minutes before noon, Chief
Justice John Roberts administered the oath of office to President Obama.
And then the president delivered his second inaugural address which lasted
just over 18 minutes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers
and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts.
Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are
treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal,
then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal, as well.
Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for
hours to exercise the right to vote.
Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the
striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of
opportunity, until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our
workforce rather than expelled from our country.
Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets
of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know
that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm.
That is our generation`s task, to make these works, these rights,
these values of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness real for
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Before leaving the inaugural platform as president for the
very last time, President Obama had the presence of mind to stop and take
in the moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I want to take a look, one more time. I`m not going to see
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: You know, Jonathan Capehart, he is not the only one there
who is getting a last look at that, but I love that he is the one who
really wants to take in that last look.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, that was a very powerful
moment, where he says hold up, wait a minute, wait a minute, I want to take
a look at this. And you can just see him, his eyes looking over the Mall,
taking it all in.
But the thing I found even more revealing, even more moving, was that
he had to move out of the way, because when everybody else was moving on,
they all wanted to go. But here is the president of the United States,
someone who is supposed to be above everything, nothing impresses him. And
yet in that moment, that was his time that he was taking for himself.
O`DONNELL: And, Krystal, we actually saw the president trying to slow
down his life for just a couple of more minutes of this, please?
KRYSTAL BALL, THE CYCLE: Just to take it in. And I actually, you
could feel that emotion from him the entire time. Even as he was watching,
you know, Chuck Schumer, the opening comments. And it was the side of the
president we didn`t see in the first term. He`s been much more open, much
more emotional, you think about after Newtown, for instance, even thinking
about right after the election, when he was thanking his field staffers.
He has just a real sense of how much it means -- not just obviously to
him, but to the country, to have -- not only elected an African-American
president, but to have reelected him. It sends a totally different
message, one term could have been a fluke, but two terms really sends a
message of who we are as a nation now.
O`DONNELL: Ari, you worked in the Senate. I worked there. When I
was working in the Senate, I have exactly one interest in these guys. The
first interest I had, is there a human being there? And you can tell right
away, they approach you on the floor of the Senate. There is a complete
vacancy in -- I don`t know, 80 percent of them, like total robotic vacancy.
They are nothing but mechanical politicians. They wanted to be that their
And then there`s the guys, the women who are really there, it`s a real
person. And that`s the kind of person who would know where he was at that
moment, to stop and make that turn.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I think that`s right. It
reminds me actually someone I spoke to in the Mall today when I was down
there, about 9:00 a.m. There`s a woman who was 86 years old and she said
the first inaugural she attended was for FDR.
And, I asked her what made her want to come down here and be at
Obama`s inaugural. And she said he had a stillness about him. I didn`t
know you were going to play that moment. But there is a stillness in that
moment, there`s a humanity to it, that I think people can almost identify
with, even though we don`t really know what it is to be in his shoes and
under that pressure, but you sense a real human being there taking that in.
O`DONNELL: Another real human being there, speaking at the inaugural
right now, is Joe Biden, let`s listen to a little bit of what he has to
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One-point-seven,
1.7 million of you have walked across the scorching sands of Iraq or been
in those godforsaken mountains and plains of Afghanistan.
Many of you, just having served one tour, you have served two, three,
four, five, the last time of the 23 or 24 times that I have been in
Afghanistan or Iraq. I was flying into Bagram in a C-17, I went into the
cockpit, the loadmaster was there.
I said, how many of you, is this your first tour? Nobody raised their
hand. I said second tour -- one. Third tour, two. Fourth -- one. Fifth,
Ladies and gentlemen we have never, never, never in the history of
America asked so much of a generation, and you have met it with incredible
The Joint Chiefs of Staff has prepared you in a way that always sort
of takes my breath away every time I see you in theater. One of the great
honors of my life has been to visit many of you when you were serving
abroad, from the mountain tops of remote FOBs above the Kunar Valley,
watching six of you sit up on a mountain top and get shot at every single
solitary night, and day in and day out.
To a striker brigade in Fallujah, watching you wipe off the blood from
the sick next to you, a wounded comrade, a day before, and saddle up and go
back out again and again and again. I`m not just saying this, folks, you
are amazing. You are an amazing, amazing generation.
And, folks, where your service ends ours begins. Our service as
citizens, to each and every one of you, only 1 percent of you have fought
these last two wars, one which is still going on, with 68,000, 68,000 of
you still in Afghanistan, every day and tonight as we speak.
Ladies and gentlemen, only 1 percent of you have served. But 99
percent, as Jill said, 99 percent, the remainder of the American people owe
you a debt of gratitude.
We have many obligations, we have many obligations. But your
commanders have heard me say many times over the last 15 years, we only
have one truly sacred obligation. We have obligations to our children and
to the elderly, to the poor, the disadvantaged. We have obligations to
But there is only one truly, and I mean this sincerely sacred
obligation this nation has. And that is to equip and prepare those who we
send into war and care for you and your families when you come home. That
is the only sacred obligation.
And, ladies and gentlemen --
-- I promise you, neither the president or I or Jill or Michelle or
the vast majority of American people will forget that obligation. And we
won`t forget it to your families, either.
I know the many times I was in Iraq with the General O and General
Austin, they heard me quote this a lot. But John Milton, the English poet
once wrote, he said, they also serve who only stand and wait. They also
serve who only stand and wait. To your spouses, to your mothers, to your
fathers and children, we owe a similar obligation.
I watched Jill every morning for the year our son, Major Biden was
stationed in Iraq, I watched her every morning before she went off to
teach, standing over the sink, stirring her coffee and muttering the same
prayer. Those of you who are spouses, there is not a day, an hour, a
moment that goes by, as much as you try to put it out of your mind, you
don`t worry, when your husband or wife, your son or your daughter is in
So we owe you, as well. Ladies and gentlemen, you are, and this is
not hyperbole, you are the heart and soul of this country. You are
America`s very spine. You are the spine of this nation.
And you also, you also are America`s promise. So God bless you all
and may God protect our troops. Thank you all so very, very much.
Now, I understand we have a live link, I want to know what is going on
there you, Colonel Kramer (ph)?
There`s a seven-second delay.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good evening, Sir. I`m Lt. Col. Sean Kramer (ph)
from Wisconsin and commander of 2nd battalion, 952 Regiment. On behalf of
the 28,500 service members and their families of the United States Forces
Korea, 8th Army and second infantry division.
O`DONNELL: That is the vice president at the commander-in-chief ball.
Jon Capehart, he seems to be crisscrossing with the vice president.
The commander-in-chief is the one where the active duty, military and
reservists are, which is obviously why he spoke to them directly.
But Joe Biden has had a very, very, busy day, literally running around
the area. We`ll be showing the video of that man literally running around
the parade. The president got out and walked a little bit. Joe jogged.
I think he doesn`t want us thinking about exactly how old or how young
CAPEHART: No, and did you notice one of the people he shook hands
with, as he jogged around and dove into the crowd, was Terry McAuliffe,
former -- person who`s running for governor in Korea. But Joe Biden is
enjoying an incredible moment for himself. And I think people have --
during the campaign, people talked about whether the president was going to
swap him out and bring Hillary Clinton in, whether Joe Biden was a
liability to the president because he is always sticking his foot in his
mouth in a loveable sort of way.
But whenever the president gets into a jam, whenever the president got
into a jam in the first term, who did he turn to, to get him out of it?
Joe Biden. When it came to guns, middle class relief, the fiscal cliff
deal, the debt ceiling mess of 2011. It was Joe Biden the president turned
The president chose Joe Biden for a reason. A creature of the Senate,
as he said at the luncheon today, he will always be a senator. And for the
president, Joe Biden is his brain trust, his institutional memory, and he`s
get it done guy.
O`DONNELL: There`s the running man.
MELBER: Lawrence, I think it also goes to --
O`DONNELL: I actually think he`s the most effective vice president of
-- certainly of my lifetime, because I don`t think that Dick Cheney`s
effectiveness of torture is something that --
BALL: For good or evil.
MELBER: I think, doesn`t it also go to the kind of leader that Barack
Obama has been, not only for the country, but for the Democratic Party. I
mean, to Jonathan`s point, Joe Biden was an early rival, who he said very
inopportune statements early on about Barack Obama. Hillary Clinton was a
John Kerry was seen by many Democrats as someone to leave on the side
of the road. I had a chance to catch up with him yesterday. He is super
excited if he is confirmed to take on this role.
It is a different kind of Democratic leadership. People who follow
the Democratic Party on its ups and many downs remember how many other
rivals and nominees have been left on the side of the road. And left,
really to be seen as somehow an embarrassment, even if they stood for good
things, Michael Dukakis, Walter Mondale, Al Gore for many years.
And I think it goes to Barack Obama`s leadership through strength,
taking people, building them back up. It is good not only for the party, I
think it`s good for the country.
O`DONNELL: We`re going to take a break.
Every president, their first presidential decision actually happens
before they`re elected. That is their choice of vice presidential running
mate. When I saw what was to become President Obama make that decision,
knowing Biden, as I do, I was so impressed by the quality of that decision.
We have to take a break. We`re going to have more on the inauguration
and on the dancing. We have to talk dancing. It`s been a very interesting
evolution on the Obama dancing tonight.
They started off stiff. It was like watching Steve Kornacki I think
tonight. But they got better.
We`re going to take a break. We`re going to be right back with our
dancing with the president`s analysis, coming up.
O`DONNELL: It is dancing night for the Obamas, and they started off a
little stiff. This is their first dance.
And, Krystal Ball, I was waiting for them to start dancing. And this
is what they did, I mean, come on, come on.
BALL: That is like the first dance at the wedding.
O`DONNELL: Well, here, I discovered another reason why I couldn`t be
president, because I can`t do that. I`m not dancing with anybody in front
of millions and millions of people.
O`DONNELL: It`s like so brightly lit. That`s not dance lighting.
Look at that. It`s so embarrassing.
BALL: It is -- I always think the first dance at the wedding is also
a very awkward tradition, everyone sitting around dancing. It`s
uncomfortable for all.
O`DONNELL: Ari, you`d be totally cool with it?
BERMAN: I would be totally cool with it, the main credential for
running -- Barack Obama dances very well alone, because he tore it up on
Ellen when he was alone.
O`DONNELL: Yes. Well --
BALL: But he`s thrown into the role now.
O`DONNELL: All right. The dancing gets better. We`ll see more
dancing. We`re going to be back with more dancing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates
about the role of government for all time. But it does require us to act
in our time.
For now, decisions are upon us. And we cannot afford delay. We
cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for
politics, or treat name-calling as reasonable debate.
We must act. We must act knowing that our work will be imperfect. We
must act knowing that today`s victories will be only partial, and it will
be up to those who stand here in four years, and 40 years, and 400 years
hence, to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Jonathan Capehart, I have a prediction, the next inaugural
address will not be as good.
CAPEHART: I think you`re right.
O`DONNELL: No one is going to have all of those rhetorical effects
that he has, no one is going to have the poetry.
CAPEHART: Well, we say that now. When Bill Clinton was president,
they said there won`t be anybody else who can delivery a speech like him.
O`DONNELL: Oh, really?
CAPEHART: And now, we have President Obama who in how many minutes
O`DONNELL: Eighteen and a half.
CAPEHART: Eighteen minutes, he packed in a lot of power in words, in
flourishes, excuse me, I wrote about this today. The most powerful moment
in that speech among many was when he mentioned the word, Stonewall,
talking about the Stonewall riots, the flash point rights of the gay
movement. But he didn`t just leave it there. Next paragraph, he talked
about, you know, equality for our gay brothers and sisters.
I tell you, that is a lightning bolt in the gay community, a community
that, you know, at one point viewed as a fierce advocate of now,
questioned, once he became president, questioned whether he was with them,
supporting them when it came to "don`t ask, don`t tell", same sex marriage.
And now, to hear the president of the United States use one of the
most powerful platforms that a president has in the inaugural address to
acknowledge and affirm their existence, and their role as -- part of the
American story. It is something that will be a pivotal moment in the gay
rights movement, and a pivotal moment in his presidency.
O`DONNELL: And, Krystal, that`s what`s so, I think, magic about
inaugural address, is that it doesn`t have to have specificity.
O`DONNELL: There wasn`t some, then, recitation of here`s what I want
to do legislatively because of thoughts that I have. It`s more a matter of
laying out core principles.
BALL: And it, in fact, shouldn`t have specificity.
O`DONNELL: Shouldn`t, right, and the audience is thrilled with it, as
And there is no demand for that specificity.
BALL: I mean, I was amazed how he beautifully he articulated a
progressive vision of America and connected that to our history and to who
we are as a people. I thought he did that beautifully. I was actually
surprised by sort of how directly progressive he was, talking about gay
rights, talking about women, talking about immigration reform.
I mean, he really articulated exactly what he sees for the country in
an incredible way. I was surprised by that.
And then there was a direct contrast with his first inaugural address,
which was more of the post-partisan we`ll change the tone in Washington.
Well, we have seen you can`t change the tone in Washington, you have to
work with how you have found it.
So, I found it to be an incredible moment. And as you pointed out you
could really tell that he recognized the importance of the moment, as well.
O`DONNELL: And, Ari, his language choice was so wise and inclusive,
that Krystal could say what she just has, and many liberals today have been
raving about the speech. A Newt Gingrich can have said what she did a few
hours ago. He didn`t think it was particularly a liberal speech, and
that`s because the choice of the language was not threatening to the way
Newt Gingrich thinks about the world.
MELBER: Right, and, look, we talked about the import of this day,
Martin Luther King Day, a federal holiday that was controversial, at the
time. MLK, at least in spirit, has become a more controversial American
Obama does something that Dr. King also did, which was root his
appeals to traditional values, although they involve new advances and
sacrifices, he always put it in that form, which I do think is appealing.
The other thing I`ll say briefly, because I want to echo what Jonathan
said, such an important point. There were four words in this inaugural
that did not appear in the 2009 inaugural -- gay, Medicare, Medicaid,
Social Security, OK? Both on the issue of rights and the issue of
supporting each other, not as a broad, gauzy principle, but in the
permanent and the specific debates that we`re also having in this country,
about whether or not we can afford to take care of each other and afford to
make good on the commitments we`ve made to the elderly, to veterans -- and
also to our fellow man, if I can be that grandiose.
O`DONNELL: This is the day for that.
MELBER: It was all in there. It was all in there, and I think that
is why it moved, as you said, Lawrence, moved people from all walks of
life, and all parts of the spectrum.
O`DONNELL: Krystal, thank you for dressing up. You actually went to
BALL: I did, yes.
O`DONNELL: Jonathan, I couldn`t be more disappointed.
O`DONNELL: Come on. I was hoping for Capehart black tie.
CAPEHART: I didn`t go to any balls.
O`DONNELL: This looks like a work day for you.
Ari, it`s cool enough. It`s black and white. At least, it looks
MELBER: This is my D.C. (INAUDIBLE)
O`DONNELL: Oh, I got some do after this.
We`re going to be back with a little more of this show, and more
dancing analysis. And we have Joy Reid. We have Richard Wolffe. We have
Oh, you want me to talk to that camera over there?
All right. We`re going to be back.
O`DONNELL: OK, now we`re going to see how the Obamas warmed up in
their second dance, the second time they had to get up on stage in bright,
glaring light and dance in front of millions and millions of people around
Let`s get to that moment. Yeah, there we go. There we go. That is
date night. Yeah. All right, there will be more dancing, more talk when
we come back here on THE LAST WORD.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are
created equal --
OBAMA: -- that they are endowed by their creator with certain
inalienable rights, that among those are life, liberty and the pursuit of
Today, we continue a never-ending journey to bridge the meaning of
those words with the reality of our time. For history tells us that while
these truths may be self evident, they have never been self-executing, that
while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by his people here on
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Sam Stein, that is obviously the president who was
uniquely delivered here to deliver that section of that speech.
SAM STEIN, "THE HUFFINGTON POST": Yeah, and I`m not going to say
anything original here because --
O`DONNELL: No, no, that`s not why you`re here. That`s why at 10:35,
we`re not expecting anything original. We used that earlier in the show.
By the way, if there is anything from the first half hour that you would
like to repeat, you just fee --
STEIN: No, I was just going to make the point that if you thought the
president and the first lady were good dancers, you should have seen me and
Ryan in the green room. That was really good and that was original. But
to your point.
O`DONNELL: And on your second dance did you get warmer?
STEIN: Yeah, you get into it a little more. It was a really
aggressive speech, right? It was a very -- it was an assertive speech. It
signaled something different from the president. I remember think,
watching it, that the first inaugural speech was so immemorable, compared
to this one, because this was a very up-front defense of what government
can do in society. I thought that was an important thing as a pivot point
for his second term, which will require government to be part of a lot of
policy solutions going forward.
So I was impressed by the speech. I thought it was very assertive.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what he said about climate change, for
example, which was not the kind of thing that would come up in the First
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that
the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.
OBAMA: Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but
none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought
and more powerful storms.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Ryan, it is interesting that he includes the denial of
science in there. That almost makes it a partisan comment now.
RYAN GRIM, "THE HUFFINGTON POST": Yes, you know, if you would have
read his speech or listened to his speech four years ago, you would think
the biggest problem facing the globe was partisanship and was people
arguing with each other in Washington. That was the thing that he was
going to come in and fix.
Now he is actually talking about something real, that actually is a
major threat. And he is doing it in an ideological way, saying you have to
believe in something, and you have to do things together to solve this
All along the way, he is smacking people around, these deniers. He
smacked around Paul Ryan earlier by employing his own takers rhetoric.
O`DONNELL: We have that actually. Let`s listen to what he said about
that. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We do not believe that in this country freedom is reserved for
the lucky or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how
responsibly we live our lives, anyone of us at any time may face a job loss
or a sudden illness or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The
commitments we make to each other, through Medicare and Medicaid and Social
Security, these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us.
OBAMA: They do not make us a nation of takers. They free us to take
the risks that make this country great.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That is such an important point, about how these programs
free us. You know, we don`t all have our grandmothers sleeping in the home
with us because they now have Social Security, Medicare, that changed the
dynamics of poverty among elderly, who used to be the most poverty-stricken
segment of society.
STEIN: And the conversation has been for -- what -- a year and a half
now about the numbers of it, now about the stories of it, which you just
illustrated, about how much this is costing us, what are the long-term
budget impacts of it.
What I was struck by, to go off of Ryan`s premise, in `08, we need to
come together because we`re all rational people and let`s do it for the
common good. Now it was, we need to come together because there are
serious problems out there. And climate change is one of them. But there
was other stuff, as well. Gun control was referenced when he talked about
Newtown. Immigration was referenced. He talked about it.
Women`s rights and equal pay, those things -- he said it is time for
the rational majority to say enough with this stuff. Enough with the name
calling. Enough of the climate denial. Enough of the takers versus makers
I thought that was what -- it was almost really an intense pivot, in
some respects, from what was happening in the first three years.
GRIM: The best news might be what wasn`t in there, and that`s being
all hung up about the debt and deficit. He didn`t go on and on and on.
Even in his speech at the convention, he talked about he wanted a grand
bargain, a four trillion dollar deal. So if this is an indication of where
he is going, we`re done with this grand bargain.
STEIN: I want to wait to see what he says in the State of the Union,
because these have to be considered jointly, right.
O`DONNELL: We`ll have you back.
STEIN: OK, good. .
O`DONNELL: No, this is an Inauguration night.
STEIN: I promise original thoughts when I come back for that.
O`DONNELL: Don`t start to reach into a future episode of this show.
The comedy team of Sam Stein and Ryan Grim, thank you both very much for
joining me tonight.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, the president`s call to broaden equality,
hearkening back to Seneca and Selma and Stonewall. Joy Reid and Richard
Wolffe will join me.
O`DONNELL: And now we`re going to take a look at the third and final
Obama dance of the night, where the couple had to dance in front of
millions and millions of people around the world.
Joy Reid, they started off -- the first dance was so stiff I couldn`t
believe it. Did you see the first dance?
JOY REID, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I was in the second dance, so I
couldn`t see anything --
O`DONNELL: They loosened up there. In the third -- since they had
the second basically as rehearsal, they were ready to go.
REID: They got it right. And the second one was very intimate. I
thought it was lovely. They sort of seemed to make the room disappear for
a few minutes. They seemed to have fun. So I guess they got it right.
O`DONNELL: Which is a hard thing to do in such a brightly lit, anti-
STEIN: And you have to realize that -- you know, from here you can`t
see what`s happening is that everyone is standing in this massive ballroom,
which is a big, empty warehouse. They`re all standing, gawking up at you
while you`re on stage. And you`re trying to be romantic. And all of these
people are screaming and flashing cameras at you and yelling your name.
It is the most unromantic setting ever. And then you have this singer
on stage with you performing. It is a surreal experience. I feel badly
for presidents and first ladies that have to do it.
O`DONNELL: -- regular Saturday night. We`re going to be back with
more of all of this, coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We, the people, declared today that the most evident of
truths, that all of us are created equal, is the star that guides us still,
just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls and Selma and
Stonewall. Just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who
left footprints along this great mall, to hear a preacher say that we
cannot walk alone, to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is
inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joy Reid, I believe a lot of people out there were saying,
what is Seneca Falls? What is that? As we know, it`s a market of the
women`s rights movements. In fact, in 1980 -- 1980, New York`s Senator
Daniel Patrick Moynihan, where Seneca Falls is, decided we should have some
kind of monument there. They passed a bill to do it. And of course they
started building it 11 years later. They had a dedication for it 13 years
1993, he got to stand there when this was really created. But that
was a passage that many people are grabbing on to today, saying this was an
extraordinary moment for an Inaugural, to cite all of those movements and
all of those rights achievements, that had been left out of the package of
rights delivered to us by the founding fathers.
REID: And that exact point, right. And that he talked about the
country -- and he has said this a lot in his speeches over the years, about
forming a more perfect union, getting closer to perfection. And he brought
everyone into it. It was a very communitarian speech, in the sense that he
said, you know, this union was formed with leaving some things out, that
women didn`t exactly have a place at the table, that African-Americans --
and this being Martin Luther King Day, that is so poignant.
And he mentioned gay Americans, who haven`t been mentioned before in
an Inaugural speech. I thought it was wonderful, because it talked about
the best of what the country can be. And it brought everybody into the
conversation. It was very unifying.
He made the attempt at unity. We`ll see if his opponents can pick it
O`DONNELL: Richard, it was striking to me that he -- here is the
president -- he is our 57th inauguration. He is, in effect, without
overtly doing it, criticized the Constitution, criticizing the framers in a
sense of like, you know, that they did leave out the following things, and
their notion of liberty, as far as we can tell, applied only to men of a
certain level in the economy.
He never said it that way, but that is really what was going on.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, but -- he is saying
yes, they fell short. But the ideals they put out there should still guide
O`DONNELL: They left a brilliant framework for improvement.
WOLFFE: Which is actually what King was talking about when he said
there had been this promissory note. The idea of King and actually the
founding fathers being the North Star here, he used it in the Nobel Prize
winning speech, which to me is one of the best speeches he ever wrote. And
he was really personally involved with that one too.
It gets back to a running theme for this president all along, which is
the world as it is versus the world as it should be. And what he says, all
along, is that even if I`m not up to it, even if I`m not the King or a
founding father or Lincoln, having that purpose, having that sense of
direction, the North Star is what we should strive for.
And striving for things is what actually creates something worthwhile,
even if you fail.
O`DONNELL: Joy, your general reaction to the speech today?
REID: I thought it was wonderful. I thought this was an opportunity
for Barack Obama to get back to sort of his rhetorical best. I thought
"Yes, We Can" still is the best speech I have heard him give. And he
really sort of walked away from that kind of rhetoric, because I think he
felt he needed to communicate more basically, more simply about policy.
This was not a speech about policy. But at the same time, it was the
most forthright defense of liberalism and liberal ideas that I`ve ever
heard a president give in an Inaugural Address. I thought it was wonderful
because he took liberalism, which has been put aside as being somehow apart
from the founding creed of this country, and he wove it in.
Had he said caring for the least of these, that is what this country
is about. Yes, we value individualism. But we believe that even that
little girl, even that person that`s born with nothing has the right to
have a shot, to have a chance. I thought it was wonderful.
O`DONNELL: One more quick break and we`re going to get more from Joy
Reid and Richard Wolffe. We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: And I`m confident that we can act at this moment in a way that
makes a difference for our children and our children`s children. I know
that former President Carter, President Clinton, they understand the irony
of the presidential office, which is the longer you`re there, the more
humble you become, and the more mindful you are that it is beyond your poor
powers individually to move this great country.
You can only do it because you have extraordinary partners, and a
spirit of good will, and most of all, because of the strength and
resiliency and fundamental goodness of the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Richard Wolffe, I love that point that you think of me as
this very powerful man, but the job, you don`t actually feel powerful in
WOLFFE: Right. That is a second-time president, right, someone who
has been -- he has had his shellacking and -- you know, what`s interesting
is he is also talking to a room of people who feel anything but humble.
And the reason they feel anything but humble is precisely because they can
take him down, whenever they want to.
Obviously, he is still the president, but they can make his life
extraordinarily difficult. And they have. But yes, here is someone who is
not begging for help, but he is politely asking, as a president can.
O`DONNELL: Joy,, there was a different tone in that lunch. This was
a friendly, accessible man seeming to be speaking to a company that we all
work in together. You had the feeling this was almost like, you know, the
corporate luncheon here, we`re all on the same team.
REID: Yeah. You know what? I think we`re now finally seeing the
Barack Obama unburdened by the prospect of another election. This is a guy
who is freed up in a way that he has not been really, you`d have to say,
for six years, since he was running for president, having to get elected,
and then having to go through this gauntlet of opposition that just seemed
so intransigent and unreasonable.
It had to have been a shock for him in just finding out just how
limited the powers of the presidency really are when Congress is determined
to oppose you. But this is a guy now who has the freedom to pursue his
agenda, to be with his words. And hopefully he can compel the other side
to work with him. You know, this is a day when everyone sort of tries to
come together. Who knows if it will have an actual impact.
But I think he is going to be a different guy. He is going to be a
guy that doesn`t have to negotiate on the same terms than he did before.
O`DONNELL: Richard, you have tracked him closely, certainly starting
with this first presidential campaign. You wrote the book about it. Where
do you see him going, that guy we just saw walking down Pennsylvania Avenue
with that very kind of easy wave that he has today?
WOLFFE: Oh, look, he is much more confident and relaxed today. That
is true. By the way, four years ago, almost to the day, the Republican
leadership were plotting how to obstruct him the night of the Inaugural.
But even setting that aside, look, I -- in some ways, yes, he can stake all
of this stuff out for the next couple of years. But he knows he cannot do
half of what he wants right now.
The interesting thing for me is how he thinks ahead for what he hopes
is going to be the last two years. He does have one more election where he
is going to be tested. And he wants to go back to that midterm where he
got his shellacking and overturn that. I think he has not put it beyond
him that there is going to be another honeymoon at the end of this. That
may be wishful thinking, but that is not out of his head.
O`DONNELL: We`re already seeing -- his approach to the debt ceiling,
Joy, this I`m absolutely not going to -- we`re already seeing that work.
REID: Yeah, no. From what I was hearing from sources, not only is he
not going to negotiate, he doesn`t even take their calls. He is like, this
is something for which I will not even take your call. Now if you want to
talk to him about other things, my door is open.
And he -- you know what, they`re going to raise the debt ceiling. You
talk about this no the show almost every night. He understands now that
the brinkmanship that the Republicans were able to bring to bear last time,
it just doesn`t exist for them now. This leverage they think they have,
you know what he has? This guy is popular with the American people. He is
a likeable guy. He`s got a great family.
Right now, the American people are with him. He`s probably got a few
more weeks of this honeymoon, maybe, before the sharks start to come back
into the water. But hopefully he is going to truly take advantage of it.
O`DONNELL: Joy Reid and Richard Wolffe, thank you for joining me on
this historic night. And America`s troubadour in chief, James Taylor, gets
tonight`s LAST WORD.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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