updated 3/19/2013 10:51:57 AM ET 2013-03-19T14:51:57

THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
March 18, 2013

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

Guests: David Corn, Nia-Malika Henderson, Sam Stein

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: Good evening from Washington, where the
chairman of the Republican Party assembled a group of narrow-minded, out of
touch, stuffy old men to tell Republican leaders that they are narrow-
minded, out of touch stuffy old men.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC ANCHOR: Fewer debates, more outreach, earlier
convention.

MARTIN BASHIR, MSNBC ANCHOR: The Republican reboot is under way.

THOMAS ROBERTS, MSNBC ANCHOR: They`re much awaited sweeping election
autopsy.

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC ANCHOR: Cause of death, massive full body trauma.

REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIR: Focus groups described our party.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: As, quote, "narrow-minded."

PRIEBUS: As narrow-minded.

MATTHEWS: Out of touch.

PRIEBUS: Out of touch.

MATTHEWS: Stuffy old men.

PRIEBUS: Stuffy old men.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pretty scathing.

PRIEBUS: We know that we have problems.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this a communications problem?

PRIEBUS: Our principles are sound.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s a lot of talk about the language in the
presentation.

TODD: It offers a series of recommendations.

PRIEBUS: Our message was weak.

MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It`s not elegantly
stated, let me put it that way. I`m speaking off the cuff.

PRIEBUS: We weren`t inclusive.

ROMNEY: People don`t get work, they`re going to self deport.

PRIEBUS: Now, our primary and debate process.

ROMNEY: I`m speaking. I`m speaking. I`m speaking.

(CROSSTALK)

ANN COULTER, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: You want the Republican
establishment, that`s the Republican establishment.

ROBERTS: This autopsy is coming out on the heels of CPAC.

BILL MAHER, COMEDIAN: This open mike from hell.

ROBERTS: Two very different narratives.

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: We are not here to rebrand
the party.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: We don`t need a new idea.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Conservatives have been winning.

MAHER: Virtual who`s who of what the (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

PRIEBUS: We know that we have problems.

COULTER: Republicans keep screwing up.

TODD AKIN (R), FORMER CONGRESSMAN: If it`s a legitimate rape.

(CROSSTALK)

PALIN: We`re not here to rebrand the party.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: I am speaking.

ED RENDELL (D), FORMER PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNOR: You`ve got the whack oh
factor at work. It was a side show.

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: Oh, my goodness, yes!

COULTER: Conservatism is the only thing Republicans have going for
them.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: Today, 132 days since the election of 2012, the chairman
of the Republican Party has finally figured out exactly what happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRIEBUS: Our message was weak. Our ground game was insufficient. We
weren`t inclusive. We were behind in both data and digital. And our
primary and debate process needed improvement.

Focus groups described our party as narrow-minded, out of touch, and,
quote, "stuffy old men."

The perception that we`re the party of the rich unfortunately
continues to grow.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: How could all of that have possibly happened with a guy
like that running the party? In a speech in Washington today, Reince
Priebus described the 100-page report he has commissioned on why
Republicans lost in 2012 and what they should do about it.

The report made 219 recommendations, including the Republican Party
needs to stop talking to itself. We must embrace and champion
comprehensive immigration reform, and the number of debates should be
reduced by roughly half. And the Republican convention should be held
earlier in the summer.

Other than embracing comprehensive immigration reform, the report
suggested no other policy changes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRIEBUS: To be clear, our principles are sound. It all goes back to
what our moms used to tell us. It`s not just what you say, it`s how we say
it. It`s not about altering our principles. I think it is about the way
we communicate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The Republican who communicates the most responded this
way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: That`s not at all what they`ve
got to do. All they have to do, the Republican Party lost because it is
not conservative. It didn`t get its base out in the 2012 election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s been a real Republican problem, you give
people the impression they`re not wanted.

LIMBAUGH: No, we don`t. My point is we don`t do that. And it`s
going to be a big mistake if the Republican Party thinks they`re doing
that. Who is doing that?

That convention was story after story after story of the American
dream, being realized, by people of so-called diversity. If anything
scared people about our convention, it was the notion of hard work in the
era of food stamps and unemployment compensation.

The Republican battle has got to be to reshape what is thought about
them, not who they are and what they`re saying.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: This weekend, Republicans and libertarians attending the
Conservative Political Action Conference voted for their favorite
possibilities for the next Republican presidential nomination in 2016, the
winner of the CPAC straw poll was once again a member of the Paul family.
Rand Paul came out on top with 25 percent of the vote, his father, Ron
Paul, won the CPAC straw poll in 2010 and 2011.

Senator Marco Rubio placed second this time with 23 percent, and then
single digits support went to Rick Santorum, Chris Christie, Paul Ryan,
Scott Walker, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal and, of course, Sarah
Palin.

Joining me now, MSNBC analyst and McCain-Palin presidential campaign
senior adviser, Steve Schmidt, MSNBC analyst and Obama re-election campaign
adviser Robert Gibbs, and "Huffington Post" editorial director Howard
Fineman.

Robert Gibbs, this is your debut performance here on THE LAST WORD.

Remember, we actually have a motto here that`s very Republican. It`s
not what you say, it`s how you say it. So, I want you to keep that in
mind.

ROBERT GIBBS, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I have to say that lead in
provides an exceedingly low bar for which I can roll right over.

O`DONNELL: Yes.

GIBBS: You know, Chairman Priebus may have cued it perfectly for us.

O`DONNELL: Well, I mean, here, here we are months later, and he`s
figured it out, huh?

GIBBS: He might have spent less paper figuring out the two or three
things they did right in 2012 rather than all of what they did wrong.
Look, I think they got a Herculean task on their shoulders because it isn`t
about how you say it. Obviously, spending $10 million to do outreach with
the same old message is going to result in the same outcome. They`ve got a
huge problem I think in what they say, not in how they say it.

And I think the biggest problem for the chairman of the RNC is he is
not going to make any of these changes. As you mentioned, there`s one
policy recommendation. And there`s a lot of change the color, change the
logo recommendations.

The RNC isn`t going to make any of the policy decisions, that`s all
going to be made by this cast of characters that you just alluded to, that
were at CPAC. They`re the ones that are going to introduce the policies.
They`re going to comment on what`s going on and they may look because of it
out of touch, you know, way too conservative, ineffective, in many ways I
think exactly what the report outlined they shouldn`t be doing.

O`DONNELL: Steve Schmidt, the winner of the CPAC straw poll certainly
has a lot of new policy ideas that Republicans have not adopted, like
dropping all aid to Israel and pretty much zeroing out defense spending and
all sorts of things. It seems like they don`t even know about him. But
unless Rand Paul becomes the nominee, what would lead to any real policy
changes in the next presidential Republican candidacy?

STEVE SCHMIDT, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, Robert is right.
Policy changes aren`t going to be driven by the Republican National
Committee, where the organs of party. They`re going to be driven by the
candidates for president in the next round.

And, certainly, if you look at one of the recommendations was we had
too many debates and the primary season was too long. I come from the
school of there`s no such thing as a bad question, there`s only bad
answers. We had a lot of bad answers on a debate stage that on any given
night resembled a reality show. That`s what part of the problem is.

Now, one of the things as a Republican that gives you hope, is that
you look at some of the people to solve the leadership deficit in the
country, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, we have a cast of characters for the
2016 race that I think is very different than the cast of characters we had
in the 2012 race.

So I think there`s a little silver lining in that for Republicans.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Jay Carney had to say about this new
Republican report.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The best way to increase
support with the public for your party is to embrace policies to public
supports.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Howard Fineman, Jay Carney makes sense every once in a
while.

HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST: And he did right there. And this
report from RNC read kind of like a Soviet five-year plan or what -- we`re
going to have more production and we are going to reach out to the ethnic
minorities that we don`t understand. It had very little relationship to
reality, except there was a distant sound of their realization that, for
example, on gay rights, they`re way, way, way wrong.

Hillary Clinton today came out in favor of supporting gay marriage.
Young people -- in the RNC`s own report, young people are the ones leading
the way on that. And I`ll give Reince Priebus credit for saying in that
report that the issue of gay rights is a gateway issue for young people
that if the Republicans don`t get right on, no young people are going to
listen to him on anything else. It`s a gateway. It`s a gateway. So, they
said that.

They also alluded barely to the whole question of immigration and
immigration reform. Here you had the president today nominating Tony
Perez, Hispanic American, to be secretary of labor, putting the point that
it is not so much diversity as Rush Limbaugh says.

GIBBS: Right.

FINEMAN: It`s diversity. The Republicans just don`t get it. You
read that report, it sounds like they want to send an anthropological study
group out into America to look at Hispanics, and blacks, and young people,
and gays and so forth. They just don`t get it.

And the way you get to them is with issues -- health care, immigration
reform, gay rights, women`s rights. If they want minorities, if they want
to expand the party as they claim they do, it`s not a matter of data mining
and digital communication. It`s a matter of their stand on the issues.

And that`s the problem they`ve got because they`ve got CPAC over here
for the most part, Rand Paul sort of excepted, and they got their governors
who are successful because they are basically non-ideological in many ways.

O`DONNELL: And they`re in red states.

FINEMAN: And they`re in red states.

O`DONNELL: Roberts Gibbs, when Democratic strategists watch this CPAC
stuff and they listen to Reince Priebus, it must be very encouraging.

I mean, here -- this is all happening the week after Scott Prouty who
had made that video at the Romney fundraiser, the 47 percent tape, which
was the tape that showed us what Mitt Romney is actually thinking. There
wasn`t anyone there, I guess Marco Rubio to some extent took on that 47
percent tape indirectly, but they don`t seem to be acknowledging that the
concepts advanced in that video were devastating.

GIBBS: Right.

O`DONNELL: And you can prove it in the polls the following week of
the campaign.

GIBBS: Right. You can see -- look, just as Howard said, this is not
the packaging. It`s what`s in the cereal box. They`re trying to change
colors on the outside and pretend like there`s an entirely new product that
everybody is going to be excited on the inside.

You know, you mention governors. I think from a strategist
standpoint, I am reminded last time the Republicans were in the predicament
like this, they lost to a Democrat for a second term. Their congressional
leadership was deathly unpopular, it was the Tom DeLay days, and there was
a governor named George Bush in Texas who decided to become a compassionate
conservative, start talking about and appealing to the so-called diversity
that Rush talks about.

But I remember one of his first campaign speeches, this would have
been in mid-1999, he goes to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Los
Angeles and talks about increasing federal aid for education to Hispanics
and African-Americans.

Who in the party right now, who in the Republican Party gives that
speech?

FINEMAN: See, I think their problem is a littler deeper than that,
because even when they talk about aid to the less fortunate, they make it
sound like they`re dropping nickels in a tin cup. What Mitt Romney misses
and what the Republicans miss is that even rich people need government.

OK, even if it is just to build the runways for their golf stream
jets, OK? It`s not a case of charity. We`re all in this together. This
is the essential message that Barack Obama ran on with Robert and ran on
again in his re-election campaign. The Republicans don`t get that basic
concept.

Even when they`re talking about government programs, they`re talking
about them as charity. They`re not charity.

O`DONNELL: Steve Schmidt we`re out of time on this segment, but I
need a quick word before you go. Your reaction to CPAC.

SCHMIDT: Well, look, I said a couple weeks ago, it has become the
"Star Wars" bar scene of the conservative movement. It was certainly that
and more as we look at this.

Now, the good news for Republicans is, is that group`s power is mostly
illusory. They`re not going to decide who the next Republican nomination
is. They`re a group that`s going to make a lot of noise, and it`s going to
be incumbent on our serious candidates to call out the excesses of some of
the people at CPAC to be taken seriously by the middle of the country.

O`DONNELL: Robert Gibbs, Steve Schmidt, and Howard Fineman, thank you
all for joining me tonight.

GIBBS: Thanks for having us.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, a new poll showing a surge in the support of
marriage equality, support that now includes Hillary Clinton. But
according to John Boehner, he will never support marriage equality. But
John Boehner does have a startling new point of agreement with President
Obama.

And in the rewrite, how the story of Sarah Palin is the story of the
failure of our political media. That`s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: OK. Here is everything that I think you need to know
about CPAC.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COULTER: Well, I`ll put it in a nutshell. If we don`t run Chris
Christie, Romney will be the nominee and we`ll lose.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That was Ann Coulter in 2011.

Here was Ann Coulter in 2012 at CPAC.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COULTER: Romney of the four remaining is the most conservative. He
has the strongest position on illegal immigration.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Oh, and here is Ann Coulter at CPAC this past weekend.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COULTER: Even CPAC had to cut back on speakers this year by about 300
pounds. I`m now a single issue voter against amnesty. So Christie is off
my list.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: So, Ann was against Romney before she was for him, and for
Christie before she was against him, and each of those positions got
rousing applause at CPAC.

Up next, Hillary Clinton moves into the majority on marriage equality.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: A new "Washington Post" poll finds support for marriage
equality at all time high, 58 percent say that same sex marriage should be
legal and that 58 percent as of today now includes this woman.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: LBGT Americans are our
colleagues, our teachers, our soldiers, our friends, our loved ones. And
they are full and equal citizens, deserve the rights of citizenship. That
includes marriage.

That`s why I support marriage for lesbian and gay couples. I support
it personally and as a matter of policy and law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: What may be Hillary Clinton`s first policy announcement of
the next presidential campaign came 11 days after Bill Clinton who signed
the Defense of Marriage Act into law wrote an op-ed piece saying he
believes that DOMA is, quote, "incompatible with our Constitution."

The White House welcomed Hillary Clinton to the majority side of
marriage equality today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I can tell you that the
president believes any time a public official of stature steps forward to
embrace a commitment that he shares to equality for LBGT Americans he
thinks is a good thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Nia-Malika Henderson, first of all, who`s doing the
lighting for Hillary`s video announcements now?

(LAUGHTER)

O`DONNELL: It was very, kind of more Godfather-y than I expected,
that dark brooding look.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, THE WASHINGTON POST: It reminded me of the
video she -- when she announced in 2008. I mean, it was that kind of soft,
sing songy voice and lighting.

But, listen, I don`t think it is a surprise she has come out for same
sex marriage. Interesting this is her first post-secretary of state
announcement and now, of course, there`s a lot of buzz around her possibly
running in 2016.

I think we have seen dramatic shift in terms of public opinion. It
happened so swiftly. I mean, I still remain shocked how much changed over
these last couple years.

I mean, if you go back to 2008, Bush ran against same sex marriage and
that in many ways helped him in states like Ohio and Florida. And now, you
have potential candidates for president who are going to be full-throated
supporters of same sex marriage.

O`DONNELL: Interesting theory advanced in your "Huffington Post"
today, Sam Stein, what Nia just mentioned, Karl Rove running against
marriage equality provoked Democrats into more of a spirited defense of it
and more alignment with it, because Rove kind of forced the issue.

SAM STEIN, HUFFINGTON POST: Yes. I mean remember, in 2004 in states
like Ohio, it was such a divisive issue, same sex marriage, and you had
people very protective on one hand and people very scared of it on the
other. And I think over the course of four years, what we have had in
terms of political conversation is a number of people who had very personal
experiences with gay members of their family or the communities.

And so, it`s affecting people not just in Democratic circles but
Republican circles. Rob Portman this past week, his son is gay, and that
affected him. But we had a number of top conservative donors, especially
in the tri-state area, who have become devoted to the gay rights cause in
part because of family members and they are bankrolling candidates on that
issue. And I think that as much as anything else has been a huge boost to
the LBGT movement.

O`DONNELL: Now, let`s listen to John Boehner that insists no matter
how many relatives he has who may want marriage equality, he will never go
there. Let`s listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you imagine yourself in a situation where
you reversed your decision as Portman has on gay marriage if a child of
yours or someone you loved told you they were gay?

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Listen, I believe
that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. It`s what I grew up
with, it`s what I believe, it`s what my church teaches me. And I can`t
imagine that position would ever change.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Nia, there was one day working in the Senate I came back
to my office and said to myself is the difference between Democrats and
Republicans that Democrats can actually empathize with situations without
experiencing them themselves? Because I used to get these things from
Republican senators, could you put this in the bill, could you put that in
the bill, that they weren`t going to vote for it because one of their
family members had mental health issues.

HENDERSON: Right.

O`DONNELL: I was always thinking like, what if -- can`t you just
imagine what it is like for people, even if you don`t have this in your
family?

HENDERSON: Right. Can`t you imagine what it might be like to be a
struggling single mom, who might have to get state assistance for Medicaid
or food stamps? And it seems that their position is pretty firm, I mean,
in terms of ideology in this issue.

STEIN: Let me add to that because I think we created a culture in
politics where the worst you can possibly do is be accused of flip
flopping, right? But there`s a virtue to evolving. There`s distinction
between flip flopping and evolving.

But, you know, we have to understand that, over time, your opinion has
changed. Real life experiences affect your policies, and I think that`s a
good thing. Something as big as a civil rights issue as gay marriage or
gay rights in general, I would hope that our elected officials have open
mindedness about their ability to conceive it differently down the road if
it affects them personally.

O`DONNELL: Yes. Well, you`re not going to get any admission of that
sort out of John Boehner. I mean, his job there I guess was to give that
particular answer, his party would be horrified if he said anything --

HENDERSON: I mean, we`re just about to have the Supreme Court case,
DOMA, Prop 8, we know where he is in terms of supporting of DOMA. So, it
would be difficult I think for him --

(CROSSTALK)

STEIN: If you`re a Republican operative at this juncture, I mean, you
can`t deny the math, right? At some point, you have to look at this stuff
and you just say, wow, this new poll, 81 percent of people under 30 support
gay marriage, 44 percent of seniors. I mean, eventually, this will be well
majority held opinion in this country. Maybe it`s time to get ahead of the
curve.

O`DONNELL: They`ve been very good at denying math over at the
Republican group.

Nia-Malika Henderson and Sam Stein, thank you both for joining me
tonight.

STEIN: Thanks, Lawrence.

HENDERSON: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, the surprising agreement between John Boehner
and President Obama. They finally agree on something and it is no small
thing. It is a really huge thing, the debt.

And in the rewrite tonight, I am going to show you jokes that Sarah
Palin told at CPAC, not because they`re so funny, but to make a point about
the failure of our political media.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Police in the Dominican Republic confirmed that three
women were paid to falsely claim Senator Robert Menendez had paid them for
sex. Two of the women appeared on video published by "The Daily Caller"
the week before last November`s election. New Jersey voters wisely ignored
those videos then and Senator Menendez won in a landslide.

Investigators now say the women were hired by an attorney in the
Dominican Republic to make the videos. and they want to question that
attorney to see if it was his idea or he was paid by someone else to do
those interviews. No word yet from "the Daily Caller" or the lawyers for
"the Daily Caller."

According to "the Washington Post," Menendez is currently under
investigation by a grand jury over his role in advocating for the business
interests of a campaign donor.

Now what is the last thing you would expect John Boehner to say, other
than I support marriage equality, which you just heard him say he will
never say. Other than that, what`s the last thing you would expect John
Boehner to say? How about I agree with President Obama? That`s what you
will hear him say coming up.

And 10 years ago tomorrow, the United States invaded Iraq. David Corn
joins me for a look at the "Hubris" that led us into the Iraq War.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: We do not have an immediate
debt crisis.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Yes. John Boehner really said that. He said something
that liberal Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman has been saying for
years, while Boehner and Washington Republicans have been saying the
opposite. Paul Ryan chimed in the other day, echoing Boehner on the debt,
saying we do not have a debt crisis.

This is a very strange turn for Republicans who have based all of
their budget cutting proposals on the idea that we do have a debt crisis.
Republicans in the age of Obama have never wanted to mount a frontal,
philosophical attack on Social Security and Medicare because they`re the
two most popular things the American government provides.

So instead of saying we want to cut and/or eliminate Social Security
and Medicare because, like Ayn Rand, we do not believe the government
should be in the business of providing health care and/or pensions and
disability benefits to anyone, ever -- instead, Republicans have been
saying we love Medicare and we love Social Security, but we simply can`t
afford those programs in their current form because of our debt crisis,
because of our huge budget deficits.

And so reluctantly and bravely, we Republicans propose significant
cuts to Medicare and Social Security, cuts that we Republicans believe will
make those programs more solvent and last longer. Because remember, we
Republicans love Medicare, just love it, and we love Social Security. We
just can`t afford them. Dropping the budget crisis argument moved John
Boehner and President Obama much closer than they have ever been.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We don`t have an
immediate crisis in terms of debt. In fact, for the next 10 years, it is
going to be in a sustainable place.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is he right that we don`t have an immediate
crisis?

BOEHNER: We do not have an immediate debt crisis. But we all know
that we have one looming. And we have one looming because we have
entitlement programs that are not sustainable in their current form.
They`re going to go bankrupt.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How long do we have to solve our problems?

BOEHNER: Nobody knows where this is. It could be a year, two years,
three years, four years. It`s not an immediate problem, but we can --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You agree with the president on that?

BOEHNER: The American -- yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now are Krystal Ball and Steve Kornacki, co-
hosts of MSNBC`s "THE CYCLE." Krystal, it`s an amazing moment. And I got
to tell you, I don`t quite get it. I don`t know why Republicans are
abandoning the debt crisis talk.

KRYSTAL BALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: I think maybe they just found their
messaging wasn`t sustainable. I mean, they have been harping on the debt
crisis for so long, and yet we have low interest rates, we haven`t seen
inflation spike the way that they also warned us about. Deficits are
actually declining since their peak in 2009, at quite rapid rates.

So in a way, I think they aren`t sure where to be and aren`t finding
that this messaging is sustainable, and do want -- they recognize that just
being the party of austerity isn`t working for them. They`re trying to
move to something else. But then they can`t figure out what that something
else might be.

O`DONNELL: Steve Kornacki, you won`t be surprised to realize that
some people still do think that we have an immediate debt crisis. And
those two people are Sean Hannity and Rand Paul. Let`s listen to this,
just happened a few minutes ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: The president says we don`t have a
debt -- immediate debt crisis. John Boehner and Paul Ryan confirm that. I
find myself in disagreement. I think it is immediate, a clear and present
danger.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: He is just flat out wrong. We do have
an immediate problem. It`s gathering storm. It`s going to be enormous.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: So Steve, the debt crisis school of thought is now being
moved to the Republican fringe.

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC ANCHOR: We kind of -- you know, in a way, sort
of a back handed way, Paul Ryan confirmed last year and the last couple of
years that he didn`t think we had immediate deficit and debt problem,
because his budget last year didn`t come into balance for like 40 years.
It was one of the more underreported aspects of the 2012 campaign.

But actually now, you play that clip, you play that clip of Rand Paul,
and I half expect that we`re going to see Boehner sort of walk this back in
the days ahead. Because you play that clip from Sunday, and it almost
looked like Martha Raddatz put it to him in terms of, so you agree with
President Obama, and he was like, wait a minute. I just failed into that
trap. He had no choice but to say yes.

So I think we hear all -- we have this spending problem, this huge
spending problem. And we`re Greece. I doubt they`re going to be dropping
that argument any time soon.

O`DONNELL: Krystal, I just wish Martha Radditz had said, so you agree
with Paul Krugman, who is one of the rotating regulars there on that ABC
show, because Paul Krugman has been this lonely voice trying to talk sense
now for years about austerity, why we shouldn`t be going there, and the
difference between deficits and debt and exactly what the weight is of
each, and when we should take action on these things.

And to see the Republicans lining up not just with the president but,
as I said in my opening comments, with Paul Krugman, is a very special
moment. I don`t know how they continue to make their case for Medicare
cuts and Social Security cuts. This may be a signal that they intend to
back off from pushing those things?

BALL: Well, I think it has been a politically difficult conversation
for them. And frankly, in terms of their hope for those reforms was
through some sort of grand bargain. I think Democrats are looking at this
situation and they`re also saying, wait a minute, we don`t have an
immediate debt crisis. Deficits are coming down. What is it that
Republicans are going to give us in this grand bargain that we really want,
that would really be worth cutting the social safety net in the way that
they want to.

So I think they may have missed their window for those sorts of
changes.

O`DONNELL: And it may be their shorthand explanation of why they`re
not going to do any more governing this year. Krystal Ball and Steve
Kornacki, thank you both for joining me tonight.

BALL: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Sarah Palin`s jokes and David Corn on "Hubris."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: There were a lot of single young people attending CPAC.
And according to an ABC News report, there were a lot of bad pickup lines,
lines like this one: "why don`t you give me your number so I can give you
my information about my radio show." Seriously, that was an actual pickup
line heard at CPAC.

Also popular at CPAC, the obvious so who`s your favorite for 2016?

Up next, no one`s favorite for 2016, Sarah Palin is in tonight`s
Rewrite.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA: I love those hockey moms.
You know, they say the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull,
lipstick.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Unfortunately for Sarah Palin, a presidential campaign is
not a joke telling contest. She was by far, and I mean by far, the best
comedian of the 2008 presidential campaign, both ad lib and written comedy.
Much to the delight of many political pundits, her convention speech,
thanks to that joke and others, was judged by many in the media to be a
smashing success.

Sarah Palin presented the American political media with an
intelligence test that far too many of them failed, a political
intelligence test. Sarah Palin has been complaining about the lamestream
media for years because many of us in the lamestream media have been
critical of her and some of us highly critical. But she has never thanked
the members of the even lamer-stream media who spent some of the last few
years in her thrall, going so far as to suggest that she could be a real
challenger or even the frontrunner for the last Republican presidential
nomination.

They believed this and said this after she quit her governorship
halfway through her term. She quit. That moment was the moment Sarah
Palin was wisely declaring, I will never be a candidate for anything ever
again. And most of the political media didn`t get it because she didn`t
specifically say those words. Nothing could have been more obvious. She
was sick of the investigations in Alaska, sick of the audits of her
spending of campaign money, sick of the kind of scrutiny and the kind of
ethical standards politicians must live with.

But what was also obvious was that she loved stardom. She loved fame.
And she loved the dollar value of fame, which she immediately translated
into best selling authorship and book tours which pundits mistakenly saw as
laying the groundwork for a possible presidential campaign. The story of
Sarah Palin during those years was the story of the failure of the
political media, who just didn`t get her and actually thought she was still
an ambitious politician.

At CPAC this weekend, once again Sarah Palin could not have been
clearer. She was declaring as loudly as she possibly could that she is a
comedian first, political commentator second. Let`s just sit back and
enjoy the comedy stylings of Sarah Palin, including all the I hate the
president jokes. As you watch this, the point of it for me is that I want
you to picture all of the political reporters and all of the political
pundits and all the newspapers, "the New York Times," "the Washington
Post," who so gravely misunderstood Sarah Palin for so long and who failed
to comprehend on the day she quit her governorship that she was quitting
politics and entering show business.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: Ted Cruz, like a good Texan, he comes to town, he chews barbed
wire and he spits out rust. That`s what we need.

I was just thinking how much I like Texans. One reason, they don`t
mess around with our Second Amendment rights.

(APPLAUSE)

PALIN: And background checks? Yeah, I guess to learn more about a
person`s thinking and associations and intentions, More background checks.
Dandy idea, Mr. President. Should have started with yours.

(APPLAUSE)

PALIN: Remember No Drama Obama? If only. Now it is all drama Obama.
We don`t have leadership coming out of Washington. We have reality
television.

(APPLAUSE)

PALIN: Except it is really bad reality TV, and the American people
tuned out a long time ago.

We can`t just ignore, though, that we just lost a big election. Yes,
came in second out of two.

(LAUGHTER)

PALIN: Second position on the dog sled team, it`s where the view
never changes and the view ain`t pretty.

(APPLAUSE)

PALIN: Barack Obama promised the most transparent administration
ever. Barack Obama, you lied.

(APPLAUSE)

PALIN: Mr. President, we admit it, you won. Accept it. Now step
away from the teleprompter and do your job.

(APPLAUSE)

PALIN: Is it any wonder there`s such a run on guns and ammo for
Christmas presents a couple months ago? Considering politicians` attack on
the Second Amendment. I -- you should have seen what Todd got me for
Christmas. Well, it wasn`t that exciting. It is a metal rack, a case for
a hunting rifle to put on the back of a four wheeler. And then I had to
get something for him to put in the gun case, right? So this go around, he
has the rifle, I got the rack.

(APPLAUSE)

PALIN: Oh, Bloomerg is not around, our Big Gulp is safe. We`re cool.
Shoot, it`s just pop, with low cal ice cubes in it. I hope that`s OK. My
only piece of advice, because I a mama -- my only piece of advice to our
young college Republicans is, you have to be thinking Sam Adams, not
drinking Sam Adams.

(LAUGHTER)

PALIN: If these experts who keep losing elections, you keep getting
rehired, raking in millions -- if they feel that strongly about who gets to
run in this party, then they should buck up or stay in the truck. Buck up
and run. The Architects can head on back to --

(APPLAUSE)

PALIN: They can head on back to the great Lone Star State and put
their name on some ballot. Though for their sake, I hope they give
themselves a discount on their consulting services.

(LAUGHTER)

PALIN: It is about grave concern regarding a president claiming power
to direct drones, to kill whomever and whenever without accountability, but
no power to open up the White House for the school kids to get to go visit
over Spring Break.

God bless you, CPAC.

(APPLAUSE)

PALIN: And God bless the United States of America.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: The problem here is that
there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he can acquire a
nuclear weapon. But we don`t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Tomorrow is the tenth anniversary of the start of the Iraq
War, a war 53 percent of Americans now believe was a mistake. How that
mistake was made is the subject of the MSNBC documentary "Hubris, Selling
the Iraq War," based on the book of the same title by David Corn and
Michael Isikoff.

Here is Bill Keller, former executive editor of "the New York Times,"
discussing the media`s role leading up to the war.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL KELLER, FMR "NEW YORK TIMES" EXECUTIVE EDITOR: But there was a
kind of -- you know, kind of mainstream view that this was real. Add to
that the kind of -- just the competitive urge that motivates newspaper
reporters, the desire to get stories first, to get stories exclusively, to
get stories on the front page. You know, all of those came into play. And
in fact the Times wrote a number of really bad stories, inadequately
sourced, unskeptical stories about -- particularly about Saddam`s weapons
capabilities. And those stories were rewarded with lavish front page
display.

The Times also wrote a lot of very good stories, more skeptical
stories, and those tended to be buried on page A-13. So there is --
reporters respond to those sorts of incentives. So there was -- at least
some reporters, you know, went out looking to feed that hunger for scoops.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: David Corn, speaking of someone who never said anything in
favor of the Iraq War, I`ve always been kind of defensive for the media on
this, in that people would say to me at the time, how come they`re not
reporting on those aluminum tubes that can be used for this other thing --
I said the reason you know that is that you read it in "the Washington
Post" or "the New York Times." And the quibble we now seem to be into,
which feels a little bit like a quibble for me, is, well, this story was on
page one, but this story was on page 18.

I personally don`t invest more in a page one story than I do in a page
18 story.

DAVID CORN, AUTHOR, "HUBRIS": I think it is slightly more than a
quibble. I think what happened -- we get into this in the book, Mike
Isikoff -- I have a whole story in "Mother Jones" that came out today, is
that in any story you can pick, there tends to be a tone that the coverage
ends up creating. It can be in favor of something, against it. You ask
any president about any controversy, and there`s an overarching tone.

And in this instance, if you go back and look at the reporting, you`ll
see again and again, the tone is very accepting of what the Bush
administration was claiming. So a good example would be -- and not
everybody is as discerning as you are. A good example would be front page
story in "the Washington Post" -- use them as an example, could be anybody
else. "Today President Bush said that Saddam Hussein is working hand-in-
hand with al Qaeda." You know, he said this here, he said that there, this
is the evidence, da, da, da.

And at the very end of the story, they would quote an unnamed analyst,
because these people are not allowed to speak openly, who would say we have
no evidence to back this up.

O`DONNELL: And I would seize on that.

CORN: You would seize on it. And you could put on the show if you
have a show at the time. But the general thrust of the matter is -- and
you worked in Congress. You know that a lot of congressmen and senators
don`t get past the headlines or the first few graphs -- is that we should
take what Bush says with more weight.

And the thrust of the story really should have been, President Bush
said something contradicted by his own government. And that should have
been the lead, in and of itself, the fact that he was saying something that
was not proven. Again and again and again -- Colin Powell, that speech he
gave February 5th, 2003, everyone remembers that, you know --

O`DONNELL: That swayed a lot of people.

CORN: It swayed a lot of people. And the coverage was like over the
top. It was like writing about a rock star. But then if you turned inside
and you kept on reading 20 inches in, you would find people saying wait a
second, we don`t know about this, we don`t know about that.

So yeah, the people who dig deep can find this. And I remember at the
time this -- there was a tide. It was hard to swim against. He would give
that speech, then you go on TV and go --

O`DONNELL: You had some amazing moments on TV in those days.

CORN: A lot of fights. I said wait a second, the Post, the Times is
reporting. I`ve talked -- , I would do my own reporting. I have talked to
nuclear scientists about these aluminum tubes. And they would say the case
isn`t proven. You literally would be laughed out of the green room. And
this is not just from conservatives.

O`DONNELL: It was a wise man`s view of this, a serious man`s view.

CORN: -- a total media consensus. I`ll tell you one story. I won`t
embarrass the person, because it is someone we both know. But he told me
his opinion was going to be determined by what Thomas Friedman wrote, a guy
who worked for a major paper, who we see on TV all the time. There was a
consensus that dominated.

O`DONNELL: You`re right. I remember people surrendering their
opinion to Colin Powell, to influential columnists because it was so tricky
and complex an issue and the amount of homework was so massive.

CORN: They didn`t want to take the risk of coming to the --

O`DONNELL: We are out of time. We`re going to be showing "Hubris"
again on this network. David Corn gets tonight`s LAST WORD. Thank you,
David.

CORN: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: This Friday at 9:00 pm, don`t miss the replay of the
documentary based on David and Michael Isikoff`s book, "Hubris," followed
by "Talking Hubris," hosted by Chris Hayes.

"THE ED SHOW" is up next.


END

Copyright 2013 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>

Watch The Last Word With Lawrence O'Donnell each weeknight at 10 p.m. ET