updated 3/4/2013 11:56:57 AM ET 2013-03-04T16:56:57

THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
March 1, 2013

Guests: Corey Dade, Irin Carmon


EZRA KLEIN, GUEST HOST: Tonight is not a normal night. Tonight is
the night that Washington truly and finally failed, that we did not manage
to avert the crisis at the last minute. Tonight is the night when we saw
that Washington is genuinely broken.

And tonight is the night that we`re going to tell you how to fix it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC ANCHOR: Sequester day is here.

CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC ANCHOR: Every indication is it`s too late.

CHRIS TODD, MSBNC ANCHOR: Too late for a fix, in case you`re
wondering.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Republicans have made a
choice.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Republicans saying we`re not going to agree to
any new taxes.

OBAMA: We cannot do any revenue. That`s a choice they`re making.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: This discussion about
revenue is over.

TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: We`ve gone through this before.

BOEHNER: This discussion about revenue is over.

Our stand on the debt limit has been clear, there can be no tax hikes.
Tax hikes destroy jobs.

SCOTT PELLEY, CBS NEWS: How did the grand bargain fail?

BOEHNER: I wasn`t going to be for higher taxes.

PELLEY: If this super committee --

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Failure is not an
option.

PELLEY: -- recommends increasing revenues --

BOEHNER: We don`t need higher taxes.

PELLEY: -- can you support that?

BOEHNER: That would be a stretch.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s another Washington failure.

BOEHNER: Raising tax rates would hurt the economy.

HALL: We`ve gone through this before.

BOEHNER: This discussion about revenue is over.

WAGNER: No revenues, no revenues, no revenues.

BOEHNER: Our position is very clear, we have outlined it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No taxes are coming out of this House.

OBAMA: Both sides need to be willing to compromise.

TODD: Why are we here?

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The Republicans refuse to
compromise.

TODD: Politically they can`t make a deal that includes some tax
increases --

BOEHNER: I can`t do that.

TODD: -- and keep their jobs.

BOEHNER: I was not going to be for higher taxes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Another Washington failure.

BOEHNER: There can be no tax hikes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Another Washington failure.

BOEHNER: Raising tax rates will hurt the economy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Another Washington failure.

TODD: So why are we here?

CARNEY: The Republicans refuse to compromise.

STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: I say we suspend monkey above the floor of
Congress. They do not reach a budget deal, the rope is cut and it is meal
time in the monkey house.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KLEIN: You could call that the monkey-quester.

You might have heard the urban legend speaking of animals. If you put
a frog in the pan of hot water and turn up the heat, it won`t jump out, and
it will just end up boiling to death.

That legend, that is not true. And, of course, it`s not true. Are
you crazy? Frogs have evolved over millions of years to not die in the
water.

If you have try to boil a frog, it will do what any living and feeling
creature will do. It will try to jump to safety. It will try to save
itself.

That is true for frogs. What it is not clear it is for is the
American political system in 2013. Not anymore. We have stopped knowing
how to jump out of the boiling water.

The sequester begins tonight. But I don`t want the talk to you about
the spending cuts or the way they`re made. We get so obsessed with each of
these individual manufacturing crises that we lose sight of the whole
issue. We have done this five times in three years, five times in less
than three years. We have created crises that they did not need to exist,
because minority Republicans have wanted to use them as a leverage, as a
hostage, to get policy concessions they could get in any other way.

But this time is actually different, in every one of the last four
crises, we have pulled back at the last minute.

We did not shut the government in February 2011. We did not breach
the debt ceiling in August 2011. Or go over the fiscal cliff in January of
2012. And we delayed the debt ceiling fight we`re supposed to be having
right about now.

But today, this sequester, this really bad thing that all sides agree
is a really bad thing is happening. Even though all sides agree that it
shouldn`t happen. And President Obama and Speaker Boehner publicly say
they don`t want it to happen.

This is the first time we actually let one of these happen. What is
stopping the sequester from being stopped? There is one thing, one single
policy decision that lies at the heart of all of these Washington crises,
it is the same thing that made the super committee fail and the grand
bargain fail and that led to this debacle that gave us the sequester in the
first place. It is the Republicans` insistence on making deficit reduction
a central issue, combined with their utter refusal to make serious tax
revenue part of a deal.

Now, it`s true, House Republicans did prepare during the fiscal cliff
to let Democrats vote to raise taxes by $600 billion, then let the law kick
in and see their taxes go up by more than $4 trillion.

But Grover Norquist agreed to score that one as a tax cut. And before
that happened, they rejected the deal at the White House for more deficit
reduction. So, over the last four years, we`ve cut about $1.8 trillion in
spending and we`ve raised about $650 billion-ish in taxes. Taxes have been
approximately a quarter of our total debt reduction.

But the GOP position at this point in time is no more. The tax debate
is completely over. They have preferred the sequester to replacement that
includes even a dollar, even a hint, a shadow of revenue.

In 2011, when the sequester was created, there were two ideas for
keeping it from happening. One, the super committee, which could maybe
come to a deficit deal before this sequester hit. The other idea, and this
was the big one, was the election would decide the tax issue. The American
people would decide the tax issue.

Here is Eric Cantor, House majority leader, speaking to "The New
Yorker`s" Ryan Lizza about the failed grand bargain, which would have
finished all of this in 2011 with a deal that had both taxes and spending
cuts in a recent interview.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MAJORITY LEADER: The reason why we said, no,
in that meeting don`t do this deal, because what that deal was, was
basically going along with the sense that you had to increase taxes. You
had to give on the question of, you know, middle class tax cuts prior to
the election. And you knew that they had said they were not given on
health care.

So that`s why we said no. I mean, let`s just get what we can now.
Abide by our commitment of a dollar for dollar. And, you know, we`ll have
it out as the president said on these two issues in the election.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

KLEIN: So it passed on the bargain, President Obama signed a debt
ceiling bill that gave us a super committee which failed because the
Republicans wouldn`t move very far on tax revenue. And that failure led to
the sequester, the sequester that wasn`t scheduled to take effect until
after the election. And by design, the election in which the tax question
would be decided.

Here is John Boehner on taxes the day after President Obama won that
election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER: And for the purposes of forging a bipartisan agreement that
begins to solve the problem, we`re willing to accept new revenue under the
right conditions. Tax reform done in a manner in which I have described
will result in additional revenue that the president seeks. We`re closer
than many think to the critical mass that`s needed legislatively to get tax
reform done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KLEIN: The president remembers that Boehner press conference well.
He remembered it today in the briefing room.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Speaker Boehner just a couple of months ago identified these
tax loopholes and tax breaks and said we should close them and raise
revenue. So it`s not as if it`s not possible to do. They themselves
suggested that it`s possible to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KLEIN: The problem we are having in Washington right now, the problem
leading to these crises is simple -- Republicans have an agenda that is not
popular enough to win them elections. But that they`re also not willing to
compromise on in a significant way after losing elections.

Now, normally, the way that would work itself out in our system is
they would lose elections, and they would then, and this is crucial, lose
power.

And the Democrats would simply move forward on their agenda alone.
But even though House Republicans got 1.5 million fewer votes than House
Democrats in 2012, and they also got fewer votes in the Senate and for the
presidency, House Republicans kept the House because of the way districts
are drawn.

So, now, you have a political party with an agenda that is not working
at the polls but that won`t for political reasons or can`t for political
reasons, compromise on that agenda. And so, the only leverage they have,
the only thing they can do is use their control of the House, not to pass
legislation. It`s not what they`re doing. But to create crises around the
moments when action would be need from them to stop something terrible from
happening if we do nothing.

This is a very dangerous way for political systems to work or for a
political party to willpower. The sequester is bad policy but it`s not the
end of the world. It will just hurt growth. But remember, the sequester
is bad enough that both sides swore it would never happen. Both sides said
the sequester was a punishment that would be so severe that it would force
them into a compromise.

The definition of crisis in this town of what is so bad that it cannot
be allowed to happen is weakening. And that is genuinely dangerous.
Because at the same time we are getting used to crises, we are getting
blase about them. And the Republican Party is getting used to causing
crises, and it`s deciding it prefers them to compromise, because it`s
shrinking base prefers it to compromise.

So now, they`re experimenting with simply letting a crisis happened.
But once crises become OK, how long until a political party that can`t
compromise actually cause a catastrophe? How long until the water actually
boils with the country still in it?

Joining me now, MSNBC analyst and boiling water expert, Jared
Bernstein.

Jared, it`s good to see you.

JARED BERNSTEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you. It`s nice to be here.

KLEIN: So what made this different? How come?

Tonight, my Friday night would be ruined because I would be calling
the Hill to figure out what was happening. Why is that not happening
tonight? Why am I here with you?

BERNSTEIN: Well, first of all, I`m glad you`re here with me, and the
reason you`re here with me is, talking about this, is because as the --
technically, because Republicans wouldn`t compromise on revenues, I would
say from the economic perspective, you have made this point before, if you
actually line them up from severity. If you talk about -- I`ll do it in
order from worst to best, the breaching the debt ceiling, defaulting on
your currency pretty bad, fiscal cliff, and then sequester.

The sequester as you just mentioned, I don`t think it takes the
economy from growth to recession. I think it takes the economy from
current slog to even sloggier slog. It shaves probably about half a
percent of GDP.

Now, GDP growth is already too slow. So, it`s taking the air out of a
bicycle that is too wobbly and that`s bad. But perhaps not as bad as some
of the other crises were, in terms of its dimension.

KLEIN: Right. So, it wasn`t quite bad enough. I mean, the
sequester, I actually think people haven`t fully appreciated this. The
sequester was an enormous political failure. The things it was meant to
do.

I was talking to a super committee Republican the other day. He said
the sequester was a problem in the super committee because it wasn`t bad
enough --

BERNSTEIN: Interesting.

KLEIN: -- that it made people want to compromise.

(CROSSTALK)

KLEIN: It was not swarthy enough.

BERNSTEIN: Yes. A little knife (INAUDIBLE).

KLEIN: A little knife (INAUDIBLE).

Now people can do something without sacrificing for it. But we do
have a possible government shutdown coming in a month, and a debt ceiling
two months after that.

And, you know, let`s say that you assume on any given what one of
this, you know, possible crises, you -- we have a 10 percent chance of
getting it wrong. If we just do this three times a year for 10 years,
we`re going to get a bunch of them wrong.

BERNSTEIN: I mean, there`s that. First of all, we should not
minimize the impact of the sequester. I think -- I think it`s a rolling
problem, accumulative problem. Perhaps the White House somehow overplayed
the sky is falling on March 1st or 2nd, that`s not going to happen.

But -- I mean, the Congressional Budget Office estimated the
unemployment rate would stay at 7.9 percent for the first half of the year
if the sequester sticks, and then go to 8.0 percent for the second half of
the year. So stuck exactly where it is. I think that`s pretty terrible
when you consider an alternative, of when instead of screwing things up, we
actually could be making them better. So that`s part one.

Part two, wherein -- you know, this comes from your analysis a second
ago. As we continue to become inured to these crises, I really do think
they wear not only on the political system, on the credibility of the
system, on the U.S. as the global economy, but on our ability to actually
be able to be a functional democracy that can diagnose problems and address
them.

KLEIN: And I think one thing you see in there. I talked to you about
the four crises or the five crises we created, the budgetary crises. The
other one that we become generally inured to, that you really don`t hear
the political system attempting to address them in real way, is the ongoing
job crisis, is the fact that we are at 7.9 percent unemployment. It might
go up now as you say from the Congressional Budget Office estimates up to 8
percent.

And what we`re doing is not just not helping, it is hurting. It is a
complete opposite. We`re doing sort of the anti-jobs, sort of austerity
policy. And we`re putting all of our focus into deficit reduction. And I
know, you were like me, were kind of amazed to see Ben Bernanke go to
Senate this week and say, you guys are doing this all wrong, if you do this
sequester and you hurt these jobs now, it`s going to be harder to reduce
deficit in the long-term.

BERNSTEIN: Yes. That`s because at a time like this, one of the best
ways to actually contribute to your revenues is to get the economy growing
quickly, so more people are back to work paying taxes.

So, when you have Ben Bernanke, who is no radical. In fact, I think
he is a Republican.

KLEIN: Appointed by George W. Bush.

BERNSTEIN: Appointed by George W. Bush, making these points, you know
we`re in upside down land. And you`re really -- see, where you are is
where I kind of landed now. You know, people say what should we do? Even
members of Congress ask me that. And, you know, the first thing that comes
to my mind is stop digging. Stop making it worse, take a Hippocratic Oath,
go home, work on immigration reform. Guns. I mean, there`s lots for you
to do. If you can`t help the economy, stop whacking at it.

KLEIN: I think that would be a good idea.

Jared Bernstein from Center of Budget and Policy Priorities -- thank
you for being here on a Friday.

BERNSTEIN: Sure.

KLEIN: Coming up, what does it mean when Republicans say the
president isn`t leading? I actually don`t quite know at this point, except
it is a funny thing to say from people who then wax poetic about the
Constitution. That is next.

And what does the "Harlem Shake" video have to do with the sequester
and spending cuts? More than you think.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I know that this has been some of the conventional wisdom
that`s been floating around Washington, that somehow, even though most
people agree that I`m being reasonable, that most people agree I`m
presenting a fair deal, the fact that they don`t take it means that I
should somehow you know, do a Jedi mind meld with these folks and convince
them to do what`s right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KLEIN: Did you catch that? Listen again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I should somehow you know, do a Jedi mind meld with these
folks and convince them to do what is right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KLEIN: The first nerd is wrong, I fear. Jedi mind meld, it`s a Jedi
mind trick, and there is a Vulcan mind meld in "Star Trek." I was prepared
to take away the president`s nerd card for that. But my friend Matt
Yglesias pointed out on Twitter that if Obama couldn`t do Jedi mind tricks
on Boehner, he probably want to keep that a secret, perhaps by making a,
quote/unquote, "mistaken" reference in the press conference.

Answer this cleverly, you have, Matt.

And the White House got in on the fun with this, they tweeted, "We
must bring balance to the force, #sequester, #jedimindmeld." And they
messed up two very important fonts from my childhood.

This is the segment you have been looking for and it is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: How do you think the president has handled
the sequester? The $85 billion in automatic spending cuts?

MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, no one can
think that was a success for the president. He didn`t think the sequester
would happen. It is happening. But to date, what we`ve seen is the
president out campaigning to the American people, doing rallies around the
country, flying around the country and berating Republicans and blaming and
pointing.

Now what does it do? That causes the Republicans to retrench and to
put up a wall and fight back. It`s a very natural human emotion.

The president has the opportunity to lead the nation and bring the
Republicans and Democrats together. It`s a job he`s got to do and it`s a
job only the president can do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KLEIN: Among the Republicans, among the media, among Democrats, often
the answer for what we need to do next. The answer to try to fix the city
and get beyond the sequester, get Congress working again is very simple.
The president, the president should step up and lead.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: We need real presidential
leadership here. The president needs to get -- stand up to the plate.

SEN. KELLY AYOTTE (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: It is time for him to lead this
effort as the commander-in-chief of this country.

GOV. BOB MCDONNELL (R), VIRGINIA: The president has got to lead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is time for leadership. It is time for him to
engage and come down one mile, deal with the senate, if he really wants to
lead.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS: Here is a tip: if you are reckless
enough to create a crisis for the nation, you had better know how to fix
it.

MCCONNELL: All the while pretending he is somehow powerless to stop.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: Sadly, this is the, quote, "leadership" in
the age of Obama.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

KLEIN: Mr. President, why wouldn`t you lead?

In fact, President Obama got this exact question a couple of times at
his press conference today. Here is his explanation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Mr. President, to your question, what could you do? First
of all, couldn`t you just have them down here and refuse to let them leave
the room until you have a deal?

OBAMA: You know, the -- I mean, Jessica, I -- I am not a dictator.
I`m the president, so ultimately, if Mitch McConnell or John Boehner say we
need to go to catch a plane, I can`t have Secret Service block the doorway,
right? So --

REPORTER: I`m sorry --

OBAMA: I understand. And I know that this has been some of the
conventional wisdom that has been floating around Washington that somehow,
even though most people agree that I am being reasonable, that most people
agree I`m presenting a fair deal, the fact that they don`t take it means
that I should somehow, you know, do a Jedi mind meld with these folks and
convince them to do what is right.

Well, you know, they`re elected. We have a constitutional system of
government. The speaker of the House, and the leader of the Senate, all of
those folks have responsibilities. What I can do is I can make the best
possible case for why we need to do the right thing. I can speak to the
American people about the consequences of the decisions that Congress is
making or the lack of decisions-making by Congress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KLEIN: It is not pro-Obama or anti-Obama to say this cult of
presidential leadership, this idea that whatever is happening in Washington
is happening because either the president is leading or whatever is not
happening is not happening because the president just is not leading quite
hard enough. It is not too much to say that this is the single most toxic
and pervasive myth about how Washington works.

The American political system was designed by men who are terrified of
having a monarch again. And so, they consciously and they purposely
designed it to make the president weak. In the Constitution, Section 1 is
not about the president and how he needs to lead. It is about Congress,
and that`s not an accident. Congress is where the primary power in our
political system lies. It is Congress that can write and pass a bill to
end the sequester, the president cannot.

What does the president get to do? He gets to sign or veto a bill
that Congress passes. And what happens if he vetoes it? Congress can
overturn his veto.

And yet in this town, we insist the president has some special, causal
power events in Washington and in Congress, like he can use his special
president ray gun or his secret president eyebeams to dissolve opposition
to his agenda. Like he could and should be some kind of m monarch, and the
only thing standing between him and that, the only thing between us and a
truly powerful president who gets his agenda done is a training montage.

And the reason, generally, is -- the reason you hear is that he could
just use the bully pulpit. The president has some kind of special
persuasive power that can either move Congress directly or that can move
the American people to get them to move the Congress in turn. Obama called
it a Jedi mind meld, and while we`re docking him three nerd points for
that, the mind meld is from "Star Trek", Mr. President -- the fact that
half of Washington thinks he actually does have a Jedi mind trick, well,
I`m docking them 10 political science points for that, or at least 10
looking around at what`s going for years now points for that.

We actually have the evidence on this -- political scientist after
political scientist has studied it. And here is the truth. The bully
pulpit mostly doesn`t work. There are just about no examples of a
president using speeches to build public support for something the American
people disagreed with. Think about George W. Bush on Social Security
privatization, or Bill Clinton on health reform, or Ronald Reagan on Social
Security cuts.

The answer can`t be that Bush, Reagan and Clinton were just bad at the
bully pulpit. But even if that it wasn`t true, even if it wasn`t the case
and the bully pulpit is generally ineffective when tried, it doesn`t
matter. The core question of divided Washington, on that core question,
the president has used the bully pulpit, and the American people do
generally agree with him.

In a recent "USA Today"/Pew poll, a huge majority of Americans, 76
percent, 76, feel a combination of both spending and tax increases should
be a part of the next step in talking about the federal budget deficit.
Essentially, again, agreeing with the president. Seventy-six percent.

But Republicans in Congress don`t care because the people who voted
for them, or at least the people threatening to primary, they don`t want
tax increases and really don`t want them to compromise with this socialist,
Marxist president guy.

Frances Lee (ph), a political scientist at University of Maryland, has
looked at this historically, and she found that when the president -- when
any president takes a position on something, he makes it more likely the
other party will vote against it, even if it`s a totally nonpartisan issue,
like going to Mars.

Whatever he says to them is less persuasive, because he is saying it,
because he is the president of the other party. We saw this happened just
a couple of years ago. Remember when President Obama adopted the
individual mandate, the thing that Senate Republicans had introduced in
1990s in response to Bill Clinton`s health care bill and that Mitt Romney
had passed as governor of Massachusetts in 2005? And remember then, when
Republicans decided the individual mandate just wasn`t -- wasn`t just bad,
but was literally an unconstitutional policy? That`s what happens when the
president takes a strong stand.

So what else is left? One really unusual option was implied or joked
about by "National Journal" editor Ron Fournier today on Twitter. He
wrote, "POTUS can handle bin Laden but not Boehner?"

So Obama should dispatch the Navy SEALs to shoot John Boehner? That
seems like a bad idea.

And it`s not, of course, what Fournier meant, but it does get to the
core issue here, this idea that all things, from wanted terrorists, to
other members of the federal government, are ultimately under the
president`s control if he just tries hard enough at it.

Brandon Nyhan (ph), a political scientist, calls this a Green Lantern
theory of the American presidency, that just as the Green Lantern`s ring
allows him to do anything if he has enough will power, so too, can the
president do anything if he just shows enough will power.

But the president is not a member of the Green Lantern corps, at least
not yet.

John Boehner is speaker of the House, and he is a grown man with his
own ideas and his own consistency. The point of the Constitution and of
our electoral system is to make it such that the president can`t tell him
what to do. That is not to say the president doesn`t have a role in these
debates, but at the moment, he`s playing that role.

He said he is willing to sign some compromise proposal between the two
parties. He has gone on the road to tell the American people what he
thinks they need to hear. We don`t need more leadership from the White
House. We need more leadership from the House. We need House Republicans
willing to compromise with Senate Democrats.

And if that`s not happening, if they`re paralyzed because they can`t
move from an extreme position on the budget, then we need a media willing
to hold them accountable for it. If we don`t have that, then there`s
nothing the president can do but fold in the face of unreasonable demands.
And to do that, to do that would not be showing leadership either.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KLEIN: This is the part of the show, my favorite part of the show,
where I have two minutes to tell you about anything I want to tell you
about. And I am confident today I can do it. I am excited to do it. I am
optimistic about the future. And that is terrible news for me.

You want to know why? Well, let`s get the clock. All right, a new
study shows pessimists, sad people tend to live longer, specifically older
pessimists, like the guy who yells at you to get off of his lawn. Not only
do people with a negative outlook on life live longer, they`re healthier
while they`re living longer.

This research comes to us courtesy of the "Journal of Psychology and
Aging," which featured a study of German citizens, 11,000 of them -- so a
big study -- who every year inform the keepers of the German socioeconomic
panel database of their current level of happiness. And then they predict
how happy they will be in five years.

Now, personally, I don`t like that five-year plan question. But it
turns out younger people, between the ages of 18 and 39, they tend to
overestimate their future happiness. People between 39 and 65 usually
guess about right. They know about how happy they will be in five years.
But people over 65 often predict misery in their future.

So when the researchers checked back on the older negative Nellys,
after five years, to see if people are really as happy or unhappy as they
predicted they would be, what they found was that for every one standard
deviation increase in over-estimating their future happiness, that
correlated to about a 10 percent increase in their risk of death. The more
confident you were you would be happy in the future, the more likely you
were that you would be dead by then.

Now, you can`t do these things without charts. So here we go, this
tracks the pessimists and the optimists for 12 years after the initial
prediction. That top line, those are the pessimists who think doom and
gloom is in their future. They are more likely to be alive, and more
likely to be active and healthy than the bottom line, those optimists, who
after years of turning that frown upside down are not smiling anymore.

And this is after controlling for age and for gender and for income,
for education and self assessed health. Now keep in mind, this is a
correlation only. There is not a clear causal mechanism. It might have
something to do with if you think the future is awful, you might actually
try and change that. Or maybe there is something just wrong with the
study.

But whatever it is, remember, for now, it appears to be OK to be a
downer. Of course, when you want to say I told you so to all those happy
people, there might not be anyone around to tell the truth.

Oh, no, I lost the two-minute challenge. I should not have been so
confident in my future. Oh well. First time for everything.

Coming up, everyone talked about what Scalia during the arguments in
the Voting Rights Act case at the Supreme Court. But there were many, many
more clues about how the court will rule in what everyone else had to say.
That is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: It is always interesting to see the
Supreme Court justices in person. I mean, you read the transcripts. There
is no cameras. We never get footage of what happens in there. And it is
weird to see Antonin Scalia in person. It is weird.

(LAUGHTER)

JON STEWART, "THE DAILY SHOW": Does he -- I only read some of the
transcripts of what he was saying. He was saying certain things, like we
have to get rid of this because it is one of the last vestiges of racial
preferences, the Voting Rights Act, I guess.

MADDOW: That`s the neat thing about being there is person is you can
see, oh, actually he is a troll. He is saying it for effect.

(LAUGHTER)

KLEIN: In the Spotlight tonight, we have the audio, not just the
transcript now. We have the just released audio of what Justice Scalia
said on Wednesday that upset Rachel Maddow and Jon Stewart and all the
supporters of the Voting Rights Act Section 5, which requires all of these
nine states and parts of these seven to receive permission from the Justice
Department or a court before changing their voting laws.

So let`s listen to Justice Scalia refer to the Voting Rights Act as a
"racial entitlement".

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANTONIN SCALIA, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: In this last enactment, not a
single vote in the Senate against it. And the House is pretty much the
same. Now, I don`t think that is attributable to the fact that it is so
much clearer now that we need it. I think it is very likely attributable
to a phenomenon that is called perpetuation of racial entitlement.

It has been written about. Whenever a society adopts racial
entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal
political processes. I don`t think there is anything to be gained by any
senator to vote against continuation of this act.

And I am fairly confident it will be re-enacted in perpetuity, unless
a court can say it does not comport with the Constitution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KLEIN: Well, if it has been written about, well then, what more is
there even to discuss? This is some theory of judicial activism here. The
court must strike down what Justice Scalia believes Congress is too
cowardly to repeal, that is intuited that from them. Talk about a Jedi
mind meld. But Justice Scalia alone cannot decide the Voting Rights Act is
unconstitutional.

If you`re worried about the future of the law, if you`re worried about
whether at least five justices will vote to nullify the signature law that
protects the voting rights of minorities, then there is a lot more audio
you need to hear from that day, because there was a long hearing before the
Supreme court. And a lot was said beyond Scalia`s very novel judicial
theory, a lot that is perhaps more helpful in helping us see how the other
justices will vote and whether the act will actually survive.

Joining me is NPR national correspondent Corey Dade, who has been
through the whole transcript of the proceedings, and who helped us pick
through it and figure out what we actually did need to hear. So Cory,
thank you for being here and thank you for your help.

COREY DADE, NPR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Ezra.

KLEIN: So let me play this first clip you chose from Justice
Sotomayor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SONIA SOTOMAYOR, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: Assuming I accept your
premise, and there is some question about that, that some portions of the
south have changed, your county pretty much hasn`t. In the period we`re
talking about, it has many more discriminating -- 240 discriminatory voting
laws that were blocked by section five objections. There were numerous
remedied by Section Two litigation. You may be the wrong party bringing
this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KLEIN: What caught your ear there, or eye there?

DADE: Well, yeah, both. For starters, I thought it was interesting
that Sotomayor started in on the plaintiffs in this case, the lawyers
representing the plaintiffs early. I think he was into his third sentence
before she interrupted him with that question.

And what she is basically saying, if in fact, you, Shelby County, are
--

KLEIN: Shelby County brought this suit.

DADE: Shelby County, the plaintiff from Shelby County, Alabama,
brought this suit. Saying if, in fact, you do not discriminate against
minorities, explain these numerous, more than 200 instances where the
Justice Department has used Section Five to disqualify whole numbers of
your election changes that you`ve proposed. Answer that question.

KLEIN: And so this is her trying to move some of the other justices,
to make them see this is not just sort of a hypothetical issue, that there
are real abuses going on, which bring us I think to the second you picked
out, which is from sort of, in some ways, a key player here, Chief Justice
John Roberts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN ROBERTS, CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT: Do you know which
state has the worst ratio of white voter turnout to African-American voter
turnout?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do not.

ROBERTS: Massachusetts.

Do you know what has the best? Where African-American turnout
actually exceeds white turnout? Mississippi. Which state has the greatest
disparity in registration between white and African-American?
Massachusetts.

Third is Mississippi, where, again, the African-American registration
rate is higher than the white registration rate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KLEIN: So that is pointed.

DADE: Right, a little bit of gotcha here. He is bringing the point
that for every community that is covered that has a history of
discrimination, covered by Section Five, there is perhaps a parallel state
or jurisdiction that has racial disparities in registration or turnout.

But what he doesn`t say there is that the 2006 reauthorization of the
Voting Rights Act, the goal of that was not to increase minority voting,
representation or registration. That had been done across the south in
previous iterations of the law. The goal of this reauthorization was to
get to what is sort of called -- what civil rights leaders and activists
and scholars called the second generation forms of discrimination.

So voter I.D. laws, laws that scale back early voting that we saw
being debated in court last year. So those are the second generation
discrimination methods that are perhaps more difficult to see than just
looking at minority voting registration.

KLEIN: And so then I want to get into this last piece from Justice
Kennedy, the other major swing vote here, which is a bit more technical.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANTHONY KENNEDY, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: Can you tell me? It seems to
me that the government can very easily bring a Section Two suit, and as
part of that ask for bail in under Section Three. Are those expensive,
time consuming suits? Do we have anything in the record that tells us, or
anything in the Bar`s experience that you could advise us?

Is this an effective remedy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KLEIN: I am confused, help me.

DADE: The question is far more important than the answer in this
transcript. What Kennedy is setting up is the idea that if we were to
strike down Section Five, do the existing permanent provisions within the
law, including particularly Section Two, actually give sufficient
protection for minorities? And across the board, legal scholars point to
the fact, in their case, in their minds, that it doesn`t.

The difference between Section Five and Section Two is that Section
Five puts the burden of proof on the jurisdictions that have a racist
history in elections. Whereas Section Two shifts that burden of proof to
the plaintiff. So if you feel that you have been discriminated against,
you have a higher bar to reach. And the success rate for those laws is
much lower.

KLEIN: Corey Dade from NPR, thank you for helping to walk us through
this.

DADE: My pleasure.

KLEIN: Great. Up next, actual good news that came out of Washington
this week. I am not even kidding.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KLEIN: Politics suck sometimes. I mean, this week for instance,
politics has been terrible. They have just been figuring out how to make
America worse. But it actually wasn`t all doom and gloom in the Capitol.
In fact, something great happened yesterday, something that actually
received bipartisan support.

After a long 18 month battle, the House finally re-authorized the
Violence Against Women Act for another five years, by a vote of 286 to 138.
All House Democrats plus 87 Republicans voted for it. The Senate passed
the same bill last month, so now it moves to President Obama`s desk to be
signed into law.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I was pleased to see that the House passed the Violence
Against Women Act yesterday. That is a big win for not just women, but for
families and for the American people. It is a law that is going to save
lives and help more Americans live free from fear.

It is something that we have been pushing on for a long time. I was
glad to see that done. And it is an example of how we can still get some
important bipartisan legislation through this Congress, even though there
is still these fiscal arguments taking place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KLEIN: As its name suggests, the Violence Against Women Act funds
programs that help victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse. Even
better, the new and improved version also includes expanded provisions for
the LGBT community, undocumented immigrant women and Native American women.

Joining me now to explain exactly what the law will do is Salon.com`s
Irin Carmon. Irin, it`s good to see you.

IRIN CARMON, SALON.COM: Hey, Ezra.

KLEIN: So walk me through it. What has changed here? What do the
expansions in the Violence Against Women Act actually do?

CARMON: Well, Ezra, I want to start out by killing your buzz. I`m
really sorry to do this on a Friday night. It is certainly great that
Congress worked and that it came together, that they violated the Hastert
rule in order to pass VAWA in the House after this long delay. It is
certainly great that it finally passed.

But that said, we`re talking about real moved goal posts here. It has
been re-authorized twice, just about every time unanimously, since 1984,
when it was written. So now we`re really celebrating small victories here.
I know that is what we have.

KLEIN: But wasn`t the issue on this one, I mean, to be fair to
Congress a bit, that there were expansions that were holding it up in the
House? They said they wanted to do the old version and not the new
version.

CARMON: Yes, OK. But I would love it if the expanded version was
like the second coming of Bellhooks (ph) and was --

KLEIN: No capital letters in it at all.

CARMON: Yes, and only reparative justice for Native Americans. It is
true there are really significant and important expansions to VAWA this
time around. I think they have been over-hyped mostly by House
Republicans. They were especially worried about the provision that applies
to the non-native men on Native American reservations, that can be
prosecuted now by the tribal courts.

That is the issue that definitely has the most impact. Basically what
has been happening is that, unfortunately, Native American women are
subject to abuse at rates higher than the general population. There is a
culture of impunity on these reservations because the tribal authorities
only have jurisdiction over their members.

So frequently you have non-native people, especially white men, who
are married or partnered with Native American women. And they basically
know they can get away with it, because they`re under the federal
government`s jurisdiction. Often the U.S. attorney and the FBI are many,
many miles away. Often the tribal authorities can`t even enforce a
protection order when something is actually happening because it is out of
their hands.

So it is really important that the new VAWA includes the ability for
tribal authorities to prosecute those men. And what it also did was insert
anti-discrimination language and (inaudible) when it comes to gender and
sexual identity. There are these grants called Stop Grants that are
administered by the state. Now some people who claimed that because gender
and sexual identity wasn`t specifically noted, now they have no longer an
excuse to discriminate against LGBT people in those resources.

KLEIN: Irin Carmon, thank you for both killing my buzz and explaining
the law to us tonight. I appreciate it.

CARMON: Thanks, Ezra.

KLEIN: Coming up, what this Harlem Shake video has to do with the
sequester and with saving federal dollars.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KLEIN: I think it is safe to say that the Harlem Shake meme peaked
with a version of what I`m about to show you, a family of six at home
cooking dinner. It`s got parents freaking out, a toddler in a giant soup
pot, another on the fridge, the oldest brother dancing with a toy horse,
and one of the daughters repeatedly punching her toy doll. It is kind of
amazing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KLEIN: So given all the different versions that exist, again few of
them as good as that one, each group who did their own Harlem Shake video
had to up the ante. So enter the Colorado College ultimate Frisbee team.
Here is what they pulled off with the permission of a Frontier air flight
crew on the way to San Diego, the mile-high Harlem Shake. .

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KLEIN: The mustachioed gentleman in the front is my favorite. The
team members told NBC News that they made sure everyone on board the flight
knew what was happening. Frontier Air told NBC News the fasten seat belt
sign on the flight was indeed off when this happened. And quote, "all
safety measures were followed."

But in spite of all that, the Federal Aviation Administration is
actually investigating it, quote, "to make sure no federal regulations were
violated," according to an agency spokesman. They are even going to
interview the flight crew and the passengers.

This is the sort of thing conservatives are complaining when they talk
about an intrusive federal government. At a time of horror sequester cuts,
which means that on Monday the FAA will begin the process of shutting down
168 air traffic control towers by April 1st, and another 21 by September
30th, maybe the FAA could be a bit wiser about spending taxpayer dollars.

It is hard to see much wrong with what the Colorado College ultimate
Frisbee team did. They had the flight crew`s permission. They made sure
the passengers knew what was happening. And this gets you a government
investigation? It is a bit ridiculous.

In any case, they needed to do it. Someone had to one up Al Roker`s
dancing cupid from "The Today Show`s" Harlem Shake video.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KLEIN: That is the last Harlem Shake for this Friday night. I am
Ezra Klein in for Lawrence O`Donnell. You can read more of my work at
WonkBlog.com.

Up next is "LOCK-UP BOSTON." You`re going to jail.

END

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