THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
February 6, 2013
Guests: Zach Wahls, Daniel Hernandez, Ari Melber
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: Republican Governor Bobby Jindal failed
miserably in his big star turn as the official Republican responder to the
first Obama State of the Union address. Marco Rubio will be the next
unlucky Republican to do the State of the Union response next week.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don`t have a new Obama, we have a new strategy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president has developed a strategy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That includes gun, immigration and the looming
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Washington has to
deal with its spending problem.
SEN. KELLY AYOTTE (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: I think it`s time for us to cut
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Republican Party just isn`t there.
JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC ANCHOR: There are things the Republican Party
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trying to put some new paint on the brand.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They`re going for a full makeover.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Hi, I`m Marco Rubio.
MARTIN BASHIR, MSNBC ANCHOR: It`s a big week for Marco Rubio.
RUBIO: Hi, I`m Marco Rubio.
BASHIR: He`s going to be delivering the Republican response.
SCARBOROUGH: It makes sense, doesn`t it?
BASHIR: To the president`s State of the Union address.
RUBIO: What we have to do is basically identify our principles.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The response to the State of the Union.
RUBIO: That`s hard work.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bobby Jindal did it.
GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: Good evening and happy Mardi Gras.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He`s still recovering.
RUBIO: What are we for? That takes time to explain to people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Health care, taxes, the economy.
RUBIO: That takes time to explain to people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Republican Party just isn`t there.
BOEHNER: Washington has to deal with its spending problem.
RUBIO: That may take more than one election cycle.
BOEHNER: I`ve had enough of it. It`s time to act.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Goodbye, fiscal cliff and debt ceiling.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get used to this new word.
ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: The sequester.
TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: The sequester.
BOEHNER: I don`t like the sequester.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It would be brutal for everybody.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These cuts are so massive.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The doomsday machine.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something so terrible.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Slow down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`ve got immigration, we`ve got gun control, and
also electoral changes.
REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: It`s time for them to exert a
RUBIO: What we have to do is basically identify our principles. That
takes time to explain to people. That may take more than one election
BOEHNER: I`ve had enough of it. It`s time to act.
O`DONNELL: John Boehner announced today that Marco Rubio will deliver
the Republican response to President Obama`s State of the Union address on
Rubio aides are already busy trying to spread the nonsense that Marco
Rubio will write his own speech.
He may also deliver a Spanish version of the speech that gets written
for him by a team, with some input from him.
Senator Rubio did an interview with BuzzFeed last night while drinking
beer, a necessary proof to political reporters that you`re a regular guy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUBIO: What we have to do is identify those principles and turn those
into policies that speak to the 21st century.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Marco Rubio seems to think Republicanism is so wicked
complicated that it takes like years to teach.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUBIO: To convince people that what we stand for, that free
enterprise and limited government is the best way to create the condition
for their dreams to be possible. That`s hard work. That takes time to
explain to people, that takes -- that may take more than one election
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Krystal Ball, it sounds like it`s going to take more than
12 minutes after a State of the Union address to teach America this very,
very complicated thing that free enterprise is good for you.
KRYSTAL BALL, THE CYCLE: Yes, they`ve been trying for a long time and
Americans just aren`t getting it. I think that`s the problem.
You know, what`s interesting, I went back and re-read Mitch Daniel`s
State of the Union response last time around.
O`DONNELL: Homework. That`s allowed here on the show.
BALL: You`re impressed, right? I know you`re impressed.
O`DONNELL: That gives you an unfair advantage over the host of the
BALL: I`m not like guys, I don`t just remember it word for word. I
have to go back and read it.
But, you know, the problem was not the rhetoric. The rhetoric in his
speeches very moderate, he said things like an opposition that would earn
its way back to the leadership, must offer not just criticism of failures
that any can see, but a positive and credible plan to make life better.
It sounds a lot like the rebranding that they`re trying to do now.
The problem is not the things that they`re saying. The problem is the
things that they stand for.
And Marco Rubio in particular, I`m really pleased that he`s putting
himself out there on immigration, it is a politically courageous move. But
on every other issue, he`s very far to the right. Including, I mean, this
is a guy who voted against the fiscal cliff deal.
O`DONNELL: But he is good about sounding reasonable. I want to
listen to something else he said to BuzzFeed about this false choice about
Let`s listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUBIO: It`s the false choice that`s out there. You`re either for big
government or for no government. Government all has a role to play. I
believe government has a role to play in financial aid. I mean, I never
would have gone to school without federal financial aid.
I believe government has a role to play in the safety net. You can`t
have a vibrant free enterprise system if there isn`t a safety net to catch
people who have tried and failed so they can stand up and try again. We`re
too prosperous a nation and too compassionate a people not to help people
who can`t help themselves.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: No Romney echo there.
CHRIS HAYES, HOST, "UP WITH CHRIS HAYES": No. I mean, I think, one,
they have learned one important lesson from the campaign, which was they
got so caught up in the rhetoric of their own donor circle, as opposed to
their own voters. No, this is really true.
O`DONNELL: It is.
HAYES: They went around, they spent all their time talking to Ayn
Rand reading, besieged, whining billionaires about the horrible specter
that was Obama, right?
And they actually thought this is what voters wanted it hear. And the
moment -- the iconic moment of course is the 47 percent moment when Mitt
Romney is actually talking to his donor class, but they actually embody
that. And if you go back and look at the RNC, this whole "We built it"
thing, you know, a very small percent and of Americans are small business
owners, right? You cannot target a message to the median voter that says
we carry small business owners. Most people earn wages for a living,
HAYES: And so, they have learned and Marco Rubio I think is actually
quite a deft politician to be totally honest.
HAYES: They have learned the lesson, right? They have learned the
lesson to not just listen to their donor class and tell the story their
donor class wants to hear if they want to win national elections.
Now, the problem is people aren`t totally, you know, easily
hoodwinked, right? The question is what you deliver on. And the votes
right now I think are mostly the same, right?
The whole idea that Eric Cantor and Marco Rubio had is we can change
the rhetoric, we can stop giving this sort of blatantly offensive vision of
America of makers and takers, which no one really likes and instead sell
our same policies in this kind of language of upward mobility, which is
what Marco Rubio is doing.
And I do think that will help at the margins, but the deeper problem
is there are actual interests at play, actual social benefits people care
about, and actual rights people want to defend that have to be delivered
on. And that you can`t get by on just changing rhetoric.
O`DONNELL: Well, there`s the trick on the Rubio statement, he speaks,
you know, in a sensible way about federal financial aid for education but
he and his party want to cut it and that`s the part he didn`t say.
BALL: Right. And he talks about the safety net in general and how we
have to protect it but as Chris was saying, you can`t Frank Luntz your way
out of this. You cannot just, you know, call it a death panel or change
the way that you`re talking about these things without fundamentally
changing the policies that you`re talking about here and that`s the issue,
is they have this sort of no-win situation where if they move too far from
where they`ve been, they`re in danger of losing people on the right,
they`re in danger of these ugly primary battles, they`re trying to avoid
At the same time, they`re trying to piece back together a national
coalition, which frankly right now they do now have.
O`DONNELL: The optic of Tuesday night, Bobby Jindal got wiped out, it
set back his career years, he is still trying to climb up to where he was
I think Marco Rubio run as very similar risk. The cosmetics on him
are odd because he -- it can read well some of the things he has, but there
are times when he looks 12 years old and he could look like a very tiny
character after a presidential address.
BALL: You don`t ever have that problem, do you?
HAYES: No, no, of course not. I know nothing about that. Appearing
without gravitas? That is completely alien to me.
No, I think it`s a fascinating institution, the institution of the
State of the Union response. On one level, it`s so high profile. At the
other level, it`s pretty much set up to fail.
I mean, you cannot compete with the pomp and circumstances of the
commander in chief, of the president of the United States. And so,
anything that comes off of that shot to this kind of after-thought always
looks atmospherically like an after thought, which is what it is.
We didn`t used to have these, right? This is a modern incarnation
after lobbying for balance.
HAYES: I do think this. I do think Marco Rubio is a gifted
politician. I think he`s actually a pretty good speechmaker. I do think
that right now, it`s fascinating investment in the personage of Rubio
because he`s able to singularly to square a circle the Republicans faced,
right? Which they have to get right with Latino voters, they can`t lose
75-25 in the national elections, (INAUDIBLE) and here, lo and behold Marco
HAYES: Who is a Spanish speaker, you know, child of immigrants, and
he can be the one person and he is selling himself that way. The problem
is, it`s the problem of the coalition. It`s the problem of who are
Republicans and what do they stand for.
One individual, however powerful his rhetoric and symbolism, won`t be
able to do what they believe they can.
O`DONNELL: Yes, a character cannot replace a policy.
HAYES: Right. That`s right.
O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes and Krystal, thank you both for joining me
BALL: Thanks, Lawrence.
HAYES: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, Chris Christie is now amazingly in day three of
answering questions about his weight, questions that are getting tougher
And there is no evidence tonight that if Chris Christie runs for
president, he will be running against Hillary Clinton.
And are you afraid of Ashley Judd? Of course not. Who could possibly
be afraid of Ashley Judd? Well, it turns out Karl Rove and Mitch McConnell
are, really, really afraid of Ashley Judd.
And in the rewrite tonight, the story of a politician who did the
right thing even though he knew it would cost him politically -- even
though he saw his father`s political career end because his father did the
right thing. The rarest thing in politics is in tonight`s rewrite,
And be sure to like us on Facebook, please. This is begging you`re
hearing right now. They told me to beg you about this. Please like us on
O`DONNELL: The cosmetics of politics, Hillary gets accused of maybe
having a face lift and Chris Christie keeps getting tougher questions about
his weight. That`s coming up.
And just by thinking about running for Senate, Ashley Judd is suddenly
terrifying the Republican Party.
O`DONNELL: Day three of cosmetics and politics today. FOX News
suddenly became fascinated with Hillary Clinton`s latest look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this the face of presidential ambition? Days
after retiring as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, somebody has
launched a new Web site for her showing off this glamorous new face.
Well, that`s fueling rumors about a run for president in 2016, but her
aides say it`s simply a way for fans and the media to reach her.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Two hours after that comment, FOX`s Steve Doocy tweeted,
"Saw some lefty blogs thought I said Hillary Clinton had a new facelift,
nope, I was saying the Hillary Web site had a new pic, a facelift for
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was upset today after hearing these
comments made by Bill Clinton`s former White House doctor, Connie Mariano.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR.CONNIE MARIANO, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PHYSICIAN: It`s almost like a
time bomb waiting to happen unless he addresses those issues before he runs
I`m a Republican so I like Chris Christie a lot. I want him to run.
I just want him to lose weight.
I`m a physician more than I`m a Democrat or a Republican. I worry
about this man dying in office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Chris Christie, who has publicly talked about his weight
three days in a row now had this reaction to Dr. Mariano`s comment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I find it fascinating that a
doctor in Arizona who`s never met me, never examined me, never reviewed my
medical history or records, knows nothing about my family history, could
make a diagnosis from 2,400 miles away. She must be a genius. This just
another hack to wants five minutes on TV.
And it`s completely irresponsible, completely irresponsible. My
children saw that last night. And she sat there on TV and said, I`m afraid
he`s going to die in office. My 12-year-old some came to me and asked me,
dad, are you going to die?
If she wants to get on a plane and come here to New Jersey and asks me
if she wants to examine me and review my medical history, I`ll have a
conversation with her about that. Until that time, she should shut up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: OK, Richard, Wolffe, I find it fascinating that Bill
Clinton`s White House physician was a Republican. What the --
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Who knew? And she had such
a close relationship with him, too.
O`DONNELL: Right. So, I mean, it`s get so long interesting for Chris
Christie. This has become an issue that has traction. The doctor probably
shouldn`t have said die in office, find another way to phrase that, come up
short of that somewhere. But this is a real thing, it`s not going away.
WOLFFE: And, by the way, in spite of his righteous indignation, you
don`t have to be a genius to diagnose that he is seriously overweight. So,
the diagnosis is pretty clear.
You know, we live in a world where presidents release their full
medical records, where they face real questions about their health, their
ability to survive four years in office, and crucially, if you are in his
situation, the health of the vice presidential pick.
So, he could run a completely different campaign where the vice
president is almost looked at as someone who will have a reasonable chance
of going into office but that`s not the kind of presidential run you really
want to have.
O`DONNELL: Karen Finney, I think we have safely say that Hillary
Clinton has not had a facelift, that what we saw there was kind of a little
photoshopping. I believe my head shot has been touched up at my
instruction trying to fix all sorts of problems that I have there.
KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I mean, can you blame
her for not wanting to have a picture that actually showed the wear and
tear of the last 20 years or at least the last hundred and some however
many miles she`s traveled as secretary of state? I mean, of course she
wanted to look good. Hello! I mean, who wouldn`t want to.
I find it fascinating, though, that yet again FOX News, that`s the
best they can do. Really? It`s time to get a life. Every little thing
that Hillary does -- I`m surprised they didn`t accuse her of changing her
hair style, because if you`ll notice, it was flipped under, whereas in the
Benghazi hearing, for the hearing, it was flipped this way. I mean, that`s
the kind of stuff these guys are tracking.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to something that Chuck Todd said this
morning on the "Today" show about Hillary Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK TOBB, MSNBC ANCHOR: I want to say a web site is just a web
site, but if you click on the contact button, look at all the information
they want you from, your e-mail, your -- a way to get back to you. Contact
information, something tells me that data is just not going to go away and
they`re going to throw it.
So, I think you can look at it as it`s the very beginnings of how the
structures would be put in place should she decide to do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: They just want some contact information, Richard. Come
WOLFFE: What`s up with that? You know, the fact you roll this out
straight after doing 12 gazillion interviews, who thought -- it`s just a
FINNEY: Come on, guys!
O`DONNELL: All right. Karen, go ahead.
FINNEY: In fairness, she is now a former first lady, a former
senator, a former secretary of state, there is a lot of interest about what
she`s going to do, right? There`s no shame in having a little Web site and
saying to people, hey, if you want to give us your information, we`ll let
By the way, if she doesn`t run for president and she launches some
kind big initiative, that is very good P.R. for her.
O`DONNELL: Richard, the Christie versus Hillary phenomenon, they are
each the member of their party that is getting the most presidential run
attention in this situation. To what extent are you guessing at this point
that one is eyeing the other as the possible debate partner in a general
WOLFFE: Well, if they have presidential ambitions and they both
clearly do, then you are trying to size up the opposition. But let`s just
be clear. One of them has a reasonably clear path to the nomination and
the other really doesn`t.
WOLFFE: And Chris Christie has to somehow figure out how he gets to
the general election phase to have that kind of debate. For Hillary
Clinton, if she chooses to do this, it`s a much different path.
O`DONNELL: All right. Karen, I`m starting to wonder about Christie,
just in today`s response to this thing about the weight.
Now, that was a pretty obscure interview on television that he then
raised into this much bigger thing with this very passionate reaction. It
doesn`t seem like he`s quite practiced in the presidential campaign level
of this kind of thing where you have to be very careful about what you
comment on because you make it a bigger story.
FINNEY: Well, I think one of the things we know about Chris Christie
is he does not have thick skin. This is not the first time when someone`s
made a comment about his weight that he`s sort of overreacted, and over-
responded, if you will.
I got to say I agree with you guys that I wish Dr. Connie hadn`t made
the comment about dying in office. But I mean, she`s a great doctor. I
mean, I remember her when she was President Clinton`s doctor and I
personally follow her advice. I mean, this is a woman who knows what she`s
So, he might just want to -- you know, he can say what he wants in
front of the cameras, but actually she`s probably making a fair point.
And the thing is, he himself as you pointed out, Lawrence, he makes an
issue of it all the time. He`s pointed out the fact he believes he needs
to lose weight. I mean, he`s had moments where he`s said, of course, I`m
overweight, of course I need to lose weight. I mea, he`s going to have to
get a better answer and stick with it.
O`DONNELL: Karen Finney and Richard Wolffe, thank you both for
joining me tonight.
WOLFFE: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Republicans are so scared of Ashley Judd running against
Mitch McConnell for the Kentucky Senate seat that they`re already attacking
her and she`s not even running yet.
And in the rewrite tonight, the rarest thing in politics, a story of
O`DONNELL: In the rewrite tonight, like father like son. The story
of political bravery of Mario Cuomo and Andrew Cuomo -- why Andrew Cuomo`s
approval rating has suddenly dropped in New York state simply because he
chose to do the right thing. That`s coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT PELLEY, CBS NEWS: Should scouting be open to gays?
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes.
PELLEY: Why so?
OBAMA: Well, I think that -- you know, my attitude is, is that gays
and lesbians should have access and opportunity the same way everybody else
does in every institution and walk of life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: In the spotlight tonight: scouts dishonor. Despite
President Obama`s endorsements to drop the ban, the Boy Scouts of America
decided to hold off on a vote on whether to change its policies and allows
gays to join its troops. In a statement, the organization said, "Due to
the complexity of this issue, the organization needs time for a more
deliberate review of its membership policy."
A final decision won`t be reach until May, but a new Quinnipiac poll
finds that 55 percent of Americans believe the Boy Scouts should lift the
ban. Only 33 percent believe that it should stay.
Joining me now, Zach Wahls and Daniel Hernandez, the former intern who
helped save Gabby Giffords` life and author of the new memoir "They Call Me
a Hero, A Memoir of My Youth."
Zach Wahls, are you in a Broadway play or something?
ZACH WAHLS, GAY RIGHTS ACTIVIST: Absolutely not.
O`DONNELL: I`m getting the feeling you know something about this
WAHLS: That`s right. I`m an Eagle Scout. This is the Eagle Scout
knot right here.
O`DONNELL: An Eagle Scout is like what? It`s like a general or
WAHLS: Yes, more or less. It`s the highest youth award that somebody
can get in the Boy Scouts.
O`DONNELL: I was not -- I was a street punk. I wasn`t in the --
WAHLS: Well, you know, I`ve got gay parents, so very straight and
narrow, the whole thing. But, you know, this is absolutely something that,
you know, we were a little disappointed about. Our organization, Scouts
for Equality, has been working on this for the last seven months. And what
we thought that today`s announcement was definitely punting the ball.
If they had the votes to actually shoot the whole thing down, that
would have happened today and it didn`t. So we`re feeling pretty
optimistic about the future.
O`DONNELL: Daniel, were you a scout?
DANIEL HERNANDEZ, AUTHOR, "THEY CALL ME A HERO": I wasn`t. I was
like you, one of those punks who just started getting involved in different
O`DONNELL: Cute little uniforms.
HERNANDEZ: Although the uniforms are awesome and I wish I had some of
those awesome patches. But I think the decision today is a victory in and
of itself because we didn`t get a straight no, like Zach said.
O`DONNELL: That`s the interesting part. They`ve been pretty hard
line about this.
So Zach, your mothers are gay.
WAHLS: That`s right.
O`DONNELL: And you joined this organization knowing that they would
not let your mothers be involved, say, on the Girl Scouts side as a troop
leader or something like that.
WAHLS: Right. So I joined the Cub Scout program when I was six years
old because I wanted to experience the great outdoors and all that stuff.
But my moms did get involved. It was a don`t ask/don`t tell policy and the
leaders in Iowa, where I was growing up, were willing to turn a blind eye.
And so my mom, Jackie, actually became a den mother, a mama grizzly,
if you will, and was a highly revered leader for a long time. Then when I
got into Boy Scouts she became a youth advancement rank coordinator. So if
you ever earned a merit badge or moved up a rank, she was keeping track of
So they were part of the scouting experience. And I saw first hand,
there`s no incongruence with scouting values and LGBT people. What people
who are trying to speak out against lifting this ban, it`s not really about
the Boy Scouts. It`s about the problem that they have with people who are
gay, people who save people`s lives, people like my moms who work for the
Veterans Affairs hospital and protect their men and women in uniform.
O`DONNELL: Daniel, what does this kind of change -- for those of us
who live outside of Boy Scout world, what does it mean to the larger
community, do you think?
HERNANDEZ: I think it`s one of the parts of the larger sea change in
acceptance of the LGBT community. I think things like what we`re working
on with GLAAD and other organizations is we are not an outsider group. We
are mainstream America. We put our pants on one leg at a time just like
O`DONNELL: You puts short pants on.
HERNANDEZ: And short pants.
O`DONNELL: There are going to be jokes. Look, if you show up like
that, there`s going to be jokes.
HERNANDEZ: But I think it goes towards saying people in the LGBT
community are just like everyone else in mainstream America. So letting
them be a part of the scouts I think is an important step. It`s a symbolic
step in a lot of ways, but it`s an important one because it shows we are
just like everyone else. Our kids want to be involved in this kind of
issue as well.
WAHLS: I want to hone in on that really quickly. In this Quinnipiac
poll that you mentioned 63 percent of Catholics supported raising the ban.
We`ve already from various Presbyterian clergy, various United Methodist
ministries, the Episcopalian church, ELCA, United Church of Christ, have
all spoken out in praise of this move.
It`s really only a couple of folks on the fringe who are speaking out
O`DONNELL: Daniel, you`re one of the people in this country who has
lived through the tragedy of having your life changed instantaneously by a
mass murder, well equipped by our firearms industry and by our laws that
allow such easy access to it. You also have Congressional experience.
Where do you think we`re going with President Obama`s attempt to push
through some reforms?
HERNANDEZ: I think it`s so encouraging to see such bold moves coming
from the Obama administration, as we`ve seen, not just on this issue, but
on the issue of immigration, to see him coming out and saying strongly --
O`DONNELL: By the way, at the same time.
HERNANDEZ: At the same time, which is something that I think a lot of
people never would have expected. But to see him coming out and starting
this task force -- as a young elected official, I was so struck by what
happened in Sandy Hook. I lived through Tucson. But for a long time, I
said I`m not going to get involved in this issue; this is not going to be
something that I`m going to politicize.
But we saw Aurora, we saw Oak Creek in Wisconsin. We saw all these
shootings. But when it hit close to home, when it was our children, our
most vulnerable, I think that was when the sea change started. And seeing
Gabby last week at the Senate testifying and saying, we need you to be
brave, we need you to be courageous, and Americans are counting on you,
that wasn`t just a message for the U.S. Senate. That was a message for all
of our elected officials, up and down from the state house all the way to
the White House.
O`DONNELL: Zach, on this issue, it`s a children`s protection issue
that the Democrats are trying to frame. It seems like the kind of thing
that the Boy Scouts would want to get behind, for example. But they`ve
really -- what they`re trying to say here is, how much risk should be
involved in going to kindergarten in America?
WAHLS: No, none. Absolutely none. Just like there shouldn`t be any
risk in being a Boy Scout. You know, frankly, when I look at these kinds
of sporadic massacre, the people who have been responsible form most of
these, looking over the last 10, 15 years, are young adults who are not
properly prepared for the life experiences of being a person who has a lot
of responsibility. I think as a society, we have a very serious question
to ask ourselves about how are we preparing our least experienced adults to
deal with the pressures and the tribulations of modern society.
O`DONNELL: And Daniel, the way this -- I`ve made the point about --
you made the point about immigration and gun control at the same time.
It`s hard to explain to civilians how difficult it is in the Congressional
pipeline to move two things at once.
HERNANDEZ: To move anything.
O`DONNELL: Anything at all, especially at once.
HERNANDEZ: When we looked at the last session, it was one of the most
unproductive Congresses. So to see that the president says, these are such
important issues that I know I can get people on my side, including
Republicans -- when we saw that gang of eight Republicans and Democrats in
the Senate saying we`re going to take on immigration, including people from
my state, Senators John McCain and Senators Jeff Flake, that`s an
It`s going to be tough, especially when we`re talking about things
like gun control. I think that`s the wrong message. The gun safety thing
is more important. Coming from a state like Arizona where we have a gun
culture, it`s not about taking people`s guns away. It`s about imposing
these common sense changes to legislation, to have background checks and to
making sure that we`re reducing the easy availability of assault weapons
and extended magazines, because these are not things that you need when you
go hunting, like if you`re a Boy Scout. But they are not things you need
O`DONNELL: Zach Wahls, our senior Scouting analyst, thank you very
much for joining us tonight. And Daniel Hernandez, great to finally have
you in the studio here. Thank you very much for joining us.
Coming up, how afraid is Karl Rove of Ashley Judd, of all people?
He`s so afraid that he`s actually running ads against her before she`s even
decided whether she`s going to run for Senate in Kentucky.
And in the Rewrite tonight, the political bravery that has cost Andrew
Cuomo 15 points in the polls.
O`DONNELL: Here`s a trick question for politicians: what won`t you do
to win an election? Pure politicians believe that they should do anything
to win an election, say anything to win an election. So when you ask a
politician what won`t you do to win an election, it sounds like a trick
question, when it should be an easy question.
Do you have a line in the sand, moral or otherwise, about anything?
Mitt Romney is our finest contemporary example, thanks to 20 years of
video, of a politician who was willing to take any position necessary to
win an election. Pro-choice on abortion rights when he thought that would
win him an election, opposed to abortion when he thought that would win an
We in the media actually lost track of how many issues Romney flip
flopped on. But Romney was really just doing a heightened version of what
politicians have always done in both parties. One example I`ll never
forget was Bill Clinton desperately trying to separate himself from his own
tax policy on his way to reelection.
He actually told a Texas crowd at a fund raiser in 1995, quote,
"probably there are people in this room still mad at me at that budget
because you think I raised your taxes too much. It might surprise you to
know that I think I raised them too much, too."
I cannot tell you how much that comment outraged Democrats in the
House and Senate who fought hard to pass the Clinton tax increase, a bill
that passed each chamber by exactly one vote. But, hey, that`s what
politicians do, right, tell people what they want to hear, no matter what
the truth is.
The truth is not a factor in most political calculations by most
politicians. When you see politicians doing the right thing, saying the
right thing, it is almost always because their polling data tells them that
the right thing also happens to be the politically convenient thing.
There`s nothing more rare in politics than a politician doing something he
or she knows will cost politically, hurt in the polls.
We saw President Obama do that with health care reform, pushing it
through Congress with a majority of Americans opposed to it in the polls.
The president knew that would cost him support, but he did it anyway
because he believed it was the right thing to do. A typical presidency
doesn`t include such political bravery about anything.
Most political careers never involve political bravery, never. So
when we see it, we must salute it. We must encourage it, or we risk never
seeing it again.
We saw it a few weeks ago, but many of us, including me, didn`t
realize we were seeing it at the time. We thought we were watching a smart
politician take the lead on the national issue of the day and do the right
thing in a way that would benefit him politically. But now that he`s
dropped 15 points in the polls after doing that, we now know that what we
saw was one of those rare outbreaks of political bravery.
New York`s Governor Andrew Cuomo pushed through tough new gun and
ammunition control legislation with lightning speed and signed it into law
on January 15th. Just before doing that his approval rating in New York
was at 74 percent in the Quinnipiac University poll. In their latest poll,
the governor`s approval has dropped 15 points.
Maurice Carol (ph), a long-time New York political observer and
director of the poll, told the "New York Times," quote, "gun control
clearly, clearly has a big impact on his serious dip in the job approval."
When asked about his drop in the polls, the governor told reporters
"we are not here to duck the tough issues. We are here to take on the
tough issues. And that is exactly what politicians usually say when they
are actually ducking the tough issues.
The largest drop in the poll for Andrew Cuomo was among Republicans.
Andrew Cuomo actually had 68 percent approval rating with Republicans
before the gun and ammunition legislation. And he now has a 44 percent
approval rating with Republicans, a 24-point drop. He dropped 16 points
among independents. Even among Democrats, Governor Cuomo dropped eight
Governor Cuomo took an action that he did not have to do that lost him
political support across the board, including in his own party. When
questioned by reporters about his drop in the poll, Governor Cuomo gamely
suggested that the more people understood the new law, the better they`re
going to feel about it and presumably about him.
But Andrew Cuomo knows well where political bravery can lead. His
father was the popular three-term governor of New York who had been
presumed to be the front-runner for the Democratic nomination for president
whenever he chose to run, which he never did. I thought Mario Cuomo was
going to be governor forever, until one day in a Senate elevator the most
colorful character in the building told me otherwise. The then Republican
Senator Alfonse D`Amato was the Senate`s fish out of water, the guy who
just didn`t fit in with all the elegant pin stripes and cuff links and
Think Joe Pesci in "My Cousin Vinny." Now set that movie in the
Senate and you have Al D`Amato. In a colorless place, Al was beyond
colorful. He was fun. He could be wild. He once sang songs on the Senate
floor. He was great to have on your side when fighting for things that New
But he was a fierce opponent, the most ruthless in the Senate. And so
when he grabbed me, literally grabbed me by the lapels in the Senate
elevator, just the two of us, and vented his latest rage against Mario
Cuomo, I knew Mario was in trouble. Al said he was going to get Mario.
Now, I`m not going to quote Al here, because I have to clean this up a lot
to get it past the MSNBC censors.
Al wasn`t grabbing my lapels because he was mad at me. He was mad at
Mario. He was talking to me because he liked me and confiding in me and
letting me see his rage was his way of letting me know he thought I was a
good guy. I get that part.
Al said he was going to get Mario. He was going to run against him
for governor or he was going to find someone to run against him for
governor. And he was going to get Mario on taxes and the death penalty.
And a couple of months after that, Al D`Amato found George Pataki, an
obscure upstate legislator, and run him against Mario Cuomo on taxes and
the death penalty, especially the death penalty.
Mario Cuomo was against the death penalty. All he had to do to beat
the unknown George Pataki was to give something on the death penalty, say
he was in the favor of death penalty in the case of cop killers. It was a
purely academic point. New York had not executed anyone in 31 years. And
after the pro-death penalty unknown George Pataki beat the great Mario
Cuomo in 1994 and became governor, New York State still never executed
But it wasn`t an academic point to Mario Cuomo. It was a moral
principle. Changing his opinion on the death penalty in any way was the
thing Mario Cuomo would not do, could not do to win an election. As George
Pataki overtook Mario Cuomo in the poll, the pressure to say something new
about the death penalty became intense on the governor. He was fighting
for his political life.
Veteran New York political reporter Gabe Pressman (ph) at a Cuomo
campaign stop, asked the governor if he would rather actually lose than
change his mind on the death penalty.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARIO CUOMO, FORMER GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK: My position has always been
the same. The death penalty is wrong. The death penalty degrades. The
death penalty doesn`t deter anybody. It costs a lot of money. It`s
unfair. It`s killed innocent people. Life in prison without parole is the
I have said it a thousand times. I lost to Ed Koch in `77. People
said it was the death penalty. I was 38 points behind him in 1982 and
people said you couldn`t possibly take that position. My mother asked me
to give up the position.
I`m going to die with the position. It could kill me in this
election people say. OK.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you ready to take that?
CUOMO: Nobody wants to lose. I want to win. There`s a lot I want to
do for this state, things like this pier. We can do all sorts of wonderful
things. And I`m better equipped than anybody to do it. I know that.
But if I were to give away my soul on this issue, no New Yorker would
want me. No New Yorker should want me. The one thing you should get from
your politicians -- and we don`t get them from all politicians -- is the
truth. At least let this bum tell me the truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: "At least let this bum tell me the truth." Mario Cuomo
was a politician. He didn`t always tell the whole truth and nothing but
the truth. He spun things like other politicians do sometimes. But on
this hugely important issue, this political issue, this moral issue, this
life-or-death issue, the death penalty, Mario Cuomo never considered
telling voters anything but the truth about his moral and practical
opposition to the death penalty. And he kept telling that truth knowing
that it was costing him the election.
The gubernatorial campaign of 1994 turned out to be Mario Cuomo`s last
hurrah. He held on to his soul in that campaign, but he lost the
governorship. And now there is another Governor Cuomo in Albany with the
political bravery to do the right thing on gun and ammunition control,
knowing that it hurts him politically. And us Cuomo watchers are not
O`DONNELL: Karl Rove is afraid, really, really afraid of Ashley Judd.
His super PAC released this ad today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know what this country really needs? An
independent voice for Obama.
ASHLEY JUDD, ACTRESS: I am committed to President Obama and Vice
President Biden. I think he`s a brilliant man.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Someone who will never forget where she came from.
JUDD: And it just clicked, Tennessee is home.
And it just clicked --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kentucky --
JUDD: -- is home.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ashley Judd, an Obama following, radical Hollywood
liberal, who is right at home here in Tennessee -- I mean Kentucky.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: In 2012, American Crossroads spent over 103 million
dollars in support of Republican candidates. Of that 103 million, only
1.29 percent was spent on candidates who went on to win their elections.
The other 98.71 percent was wasted on candidates who lost.
That means American Crossroads wasted over 102 million Republican
dollars. Here`s what Republican Joe Scarborough said today about Karl
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Is Karl Rove right that you got to be
gatekeepers? Not you, because you`re of the position, but people who are
like party chairs, big fund raisers?
JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC ANCHOR: Of course. Of course they are. But I
don`t know that Karl Rove, after his performance in 2012, should be the
gatekeeper. He was inside the bubble as much as anybody else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Ari Melber, I`m not neutral on this because, like the ad
said, I actually am an Obama following, radical Hollywood liberal. So when
they say that about Ashley Judd, I`m really hurt.
ARI MELBER, "THE NATION": Well, you booked the right guest. We have
that in common.
O`DONNELL: Ashley Judd, look at this PPP poll of Kentucky voters,
Ashley Judd at 43 percent, Mitch McConnell at 47 percent. Now, what that
means is Mitch McConnell is in grave trouble. As you know, Ari, an
incumbent is supposed to poll over 50 percent, usually significantly over
50 percent. Whenever they poll below 50, they`re in grave trouble. The
presumption is that if the election were held literally today with those
numbers, the undecideds would go to the challenger, Ashley Judd.
She`s a shoe-in, is what I`m saying.
MELBER: Well, there`s a lot of time. But there is no doubt that
Mitch McConnell has a problem here. And it`s a problem that is even deeper
than whoever runs against him. He has not solidified his support among his
own base, the Tea Party. You know, he went against Rand Paul initially in
Kentucky. He doesn`t have as much control of the grass roots as he once
Believe it or not, people forget Kentucky is a state that does elect
Democrats. So you had Ford, Huddleston, if you go back far enough, Alvin
Barclay, who was a liberal Dem that went on to be vice president. This is
not a place that is for Republicans only. So he`s got to be nervous.
O`DONNELL: Ashley Judd at 43 percent, I just really want to double
underline this, that is extraordinary, that you could put her name in a
poll, she would poll within the margin of error basically with an incumbent
senator who has been there forever. It is a conservative state. I mean,
she is -- the Democrats better be begging her to run.
MELBER: Right. And I think she does something that a lot of
traditional Democratic potential candidates in the state cannot do. She
bring as type of luster, the celebrity status, that makes it harder to do
the usual attack. In other words, the idea that someone you haven`t really
heard of is a weird, sellout, crazy Dem and only follows Obama, I mean,
that`s playbook, right? That actually could run against someone who is not
a left leaning Hollywood liberal. Again, no offense.
O`DONNELL: And this word Hollywood with Ashley Judd is not going to
hurt her. That`s why they know her name. Those 43 percent know that
MELBER: Yes. They know that. They know they`ve heard of her. And
they are actually going to hear her out. We don`t know a lot about her
positions yet. And there will be time if she got into it. But I think
there`s no doubt that she has a repellant around her that helps basically
deal a blow to the main thing here.
And again, to go back to the point you started with, the McConnell
camp, if you look at their public statements, says we`re not worried about
this at all. And not only the numbers but the fact that major Republican
players here are running ads just shows how worried they already are.
O`DONNELL: There`s no incumbent in the world who isn`t worried when
they`re at 47. And they are panicked when there`s an unannounced
challenger at 43.
MELBER: Yeah. The other part for Karl Rove is it is good for him to
have people like us in the media talking about anything but his competence.
The competence problem, the wasted money you showed, the low record of
victories they have, that`s what we should also be talking about, not just
the fact that he`s got a problem for the Tea Party.
O`DONNELL: Ari Melber, the closer, gets tonight`s LAST WORD. Hey,
you know what, since I asked you to like us on Facebook, THE LAST WORD
Facebook page, we`ve actually gotten another 1,000 likes on Facebook.
Ari, were you one of those 1,000?
MELBER: I am pre one of those 1,000.
O`DONNELL: You liked us. Of course, you did.
MELBER: Well, Hollywood liberals love the Lawrence O`Donnell page.
O`DONNELL: Of course you are. So hey, like us on Facebook, like us a
lot, keep liking us. "THE ED SHOW" is up next.
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