'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Thursday, May 9th, 2013
Read the transcript to the Thursday show
THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
May 9, 2013
Guests: Joe Manchin, Kirsten Gillibrand, Krystal Ball, Eugene Robinson, Ari Melber
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: Two LAST WORD exclusives tonight here in
Washington. The senator who could get background checks through Congress
is here. And so is the senator who`s leading the way on exposing the
military`s problems with sexual assault.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fight over gun control legislation has become
a fight for money, eyeballs and opinions.
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: We need to pick up five more votes.
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We remain optimistic. The
DURBIN: We can do this.
CARNEY: When it comes to background checks, that this will happen.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Every vote that would have undermined the
Second Amendment was voted down.
WAYNE LAPIERRE, NRA: The Manchin-Toomey bill wouldn`t have prevented
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They`re going to regret going to war with Joe
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Put it online and let NRA
members and myself vote on it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the guy they`re taking on. Families of
victims taking up the pressure.
ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC ANCHOR: Paranoia, gun lust and questionable
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The issue hasn`t gone away.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it`s because it`s in the chain of
command, because this is what our witnesses have told us, people aren`t
WAGNER: Twenty-six thousand people are sexually assaulted in the last
CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC ANCHOR: The damming new report shows the number
of military sex assault cases has climbed again.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Obviously, there is a failing in the training
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can`t train your way out of this problem.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The military culture has to be changed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t think it`s any different in the military.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it`s very different in the military.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It has to be scrubbed of this attitude.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There isn`t a climate by which they can receive
justice in this system.
MARK SANFORD (R), WON SOUTH CAROLINA CONG. RACE: Some guy came up to
me the other day, he said you look a lot like Lazarus.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mark Sanford`s career has had more ups and downs
than the Appalachian Trail.
SANFORD: I won the primary without your help. I won the runoff
without your help. I`ll win the general without their help.
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC ANCHOR: Boy, if he wins, he becomes the skunk at
the garden party, huh?
WAGNER: The victory of Mark Sanford.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Clear transgressions, character issues.
SANFORD: We`re all going to make mistakes in life.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re in state full of sinners that love
redemption, so that`s OK.
O`DONNELL: Last month, the bipartisan proposal to expand background
checks in the United States Senate failed in the way that only a proposal
of the United States Senate can fail with 54 senators, a majority of
senators voting to support the bill. Democracy was denied that day, thanks
to Senate rules.
But Senator Joe Manchin, the Democratic sponsor of the bill, refuses
to give up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MANCHIN: I truly believe that if we have time to sell the bill and
people will read the bill, and I`m willing to go anywhere in this country,
I`m willing to debate anybody on this issue, read the bill and you tell me
what you don`t like.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: At the National Rifle Association`s annual convention this
past weekend, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre, agreed with
Senator Manchin on one point. This fight is not over.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAPIERRE: While the Senate vote less than two weeks ago is
significant, it`s but one skirmish in what can only be defined as a long
war against our constitutional rights. As we sit here this morning, we are
in the midst of a once in a generation fight for everything that we care
about. We have a chance to secure our freedom for a generation, or lose it
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Senator Manchin, who had an "A" rating from the National
Rifle Association until this most recent fight issued a very provocative
challenge to the NRA during an emotional meeting with some Newtown
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MANCHIN: If they would look at it and look at the facts, and I would
ask my friends at the NRA, take our bill, put it online, and let NRA
members like myself vote on it. Let them vote. And see where they would
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: On Monday night, we had the opportunity to speak to one
such NRA member, Mike Weisser, a lifetime NRA member, a gun owner, a gun
dealer, who said this about background checks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE WEISSER, GUN SHOP OWNER: I don`t think the issue of background
checks really has anything to do with whether or not people are in favor or
opposed to the Second Amendment. I know a lot of people who aren`t gun
owners, and, of course, I know many gun owners. And all of us recognize
that a background check is a very important tool for keeping guns out of
the wrong hands. The fact that you have a tool like that doesn`t say that
you`re opposed to the Second Amendment or to the rights of gun owners to
own their guns. There`s no connection between those two things.
I`m happy to sit down with Wayne LaPierre or anybody and talk about
what we`re going to do in a reasonable and proper way to keep people from
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now here in Washington for an exclusive
interview is Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
Senator, we just heard, a gun dealer agreeing with you completely on
MANCHIN: Lawrence, I`ve been cleared through my state of West
Virginia and we have a very gun culture, if you will, and it`s pretty
natural for us to be born and raised and around guns and learning safety
and proper way to do it.
O`DONNELL: When did you start -- when did you get your first gun?
MANCHIN: I`ve got a BB gun first. I was probably 7, 8.
O`DONNELL: Can`t do too much damage with BB gun, but I have known
kids who got some serious --
MANCHIN: Single shot bolt action .22.
O`DONNELL: How old were you?
MANCHIN: I`m about 12.
MANCHIN: And then a .410. A .410 is, you know, a small shotgun. And
I got that and then moved --
O`DONNELL: I`m nodding like I know what a .410 is, because, you know,
in my neighborhood, there were a lot of them.
MANCHIN: You`ve got the .410, you got .16 gauge and then you got 12-
gauge. And then 12-gauge is your highest --
O`DONNELL: So, you grew up with this. You had guns in the homes and
normal thing. And now you come to this crossroads, and this country, after
Newtown. What -- did Newtown change your thinking?
MANCHIN: Well, I would like to think if you`re an American and you
have a family, it had to change you. Who would have ever thought that 20
babies would have gone -- truly babies, 5, 6 years old would have gone to
school and not returned safe?
So, with that being said, let`s sit down and put some gun sense to
this. And that`s really what it is. You`ve got nonsense, you`ve got
common sense, you should have gun sense.
I`ve been all over the state of West Virginia and people are just a
little bit skeptical of government, thinking that we`re too far, and gun
(ph) is a first step.
Really, it`s not. It has to go through a legislative process because
of the change of the Constitution. And what we`re doing is saying that if
you are a legitimate gun owner, law-abiding gun owner, you should be
treated like that and have the full rights of the Second Amendment. We did
that in this bill.
What we have said also in this bill, for those of us law-abiding gun
owners, we think there`s some responsibilities with gun ownership. And
we`re not going to sell a gun to somebody we don`t know. We`re not going
to give it to a person who`s mentally insane in our neighborhood or a
family member who`s not responsible.
If we know that personal contact, then why shouldn`t we be expected to
have a background check when we go to a commercial transaction at a gun
show or online when we don`t have that personal contact or that knowledge.
That just makes sense.
And to the gun owners, law-abiding gun owners in West Virginia, that
makes sense to us. And I can`t understand why the leadership of
organizations such as NRA would think that we are invading anybody. If
anything, this protects the Second Amendment. It expands it, the Second
Amendment rights, by law-abiding gun owners.
O`DONNELL: Now, you come from a state that is more conservative than
New Hampshire, than Kelly Ayotte`s state. What did you know about the
politics of this issue that she did not know before she cast a vote that
has hurt her in her polls back --
MANCHIN: I can`t speak for Kelly. We`re friends.
O`DONNELL: But what is your sense of how they`re misreading the
public on this?
MANCHIN: Lawrence, I`ve been involved directly and indirectly all my
life, but directly at 32, since 1982, that I`ve been involved in the
political process, running for House and delegate state Senate, governor of
my state, on and on. I`ve never seen an issue in my life, never, seen
anything that has 70, 80-plus percent of the people in all different
spectrums whether you`re Democrat or Republican, whether you`re
conservative or liberal, that says this makes sense.
I never had that happen before. And never had a situation to where
there was this much momentum moving in the right direction, and support and
didn`t have the political courage to do it. I don`t know.
So what I did, I knew it was going to be a difficult -- and my state
has got to be the most difficult. But I went back and kept talking. I`ve
got all of my gun enthusiasts involved from day one right after the
shooting. I says, you know, I think we have a responsibility as a law-
abiding gun owner to do things that make it better for us law-abiding gun
owners to make decisions that keep people that shouldn`t have guns. Why
can`t we do that ourselves and take the initiative?
So we started talking. And had everybody involved in this dialogue.
Give me your information. I gave you a copy of the bill.
There was a lot of people, Lawrence, that was involved -- 49 pages.
But we went section by section by section.
The first premise is, if I`m a law-abiding gun owner, I`ll do the
right thing. Don`t look at me as something wrong because you didn`t grow
up in a gun culture.
With that being said, we have a responsibility to say now, now I`m in
a commercial transaction. I don`t know that person coming to the gun show.
I`m on the Internet where there`s so much -- you know, transactions going
on, that I never have any facial contact with them or personal contact.
My goodness. That`s a beautiful check for us law-abiding gun owner.
I`m not going to sell it to somebody like that.
O`DONNELL: Now, so -- so you got this -- these people in the
dialogue, in your state, before the legislative process started, and during
the legislative process.
MANCHIN: They were with me.
O`DONNELL: When you go back to West Virginia now, are you in town
hall meetings or do you find yourself walking down the street, people
coming up to you and saying, hey, Joe, what did you do? Are people still
fighting on this vote in West Virginia?
MANCHIN: Both sections. And we sit down and go through it. I go to
town hall meetings. I go in the areas that I know are high gun ownership
and high gun advocacies.
And they`re thinking, you know, Joe, you`ve been always an NRA member,
you`ve been a lifetime member. And you`re a sporting person like us. What
did you do?
And I said let me tell you what I did. As a Second Amendment rights,
I`ve not only made sure that you have those rights, I enhance those rights.
You know, we couldn`t even take a gun if you`re going hunting to another
state and go through some states, you would be in violation just because
you had a gun.
MANCHIN: That clears this out. We clear all that up as a law-abiding
And what`s happened, they listen to the rhetoric and not reading and
not looking and seeing. And they`re not being told the facts. And that`s
what really bothers.
O`DONNELL: Do you actually have voters who challenge you on this,
change their minds while talking to you?
MANCHIN: Almost certainly.
O`DONNELL: Because that`s a rare thing. You know that. When they
want to get in a fight with a politician, they get in that fight to win.
MANCHIN: I want them to. That`s how I learn. And they said --
you`re going to register my gun and take my gun away. And I say, oh, you
MANCHIN: Let me show you the section that says if anybody tries to
use it for a registry, it will be a felony with 15 years of imprisonment.
We made it much more difficult and challenging. And no one has ever had a
registry up until now and we made it even more difficult, and much more
crime from that, as far as criminal actions.
So every time they say something, I said, well, let me show you this
section of the bill. Let me take you to this section of the bill. They
say, well, you can`t do anything with your family. I said, wait a minute,
we don`t even touch personal transactions, private transactions.
You can do with your family, you can sell it, give it, do what you
want to, your neighbor. You can post on your bulletin board at school,
church, or anywhere. Because you know why, we look at you as a law-abiding
But you don`t have that same knowledge when you go into a commercial
setting. If you go to a gun store, you go through that. If you go to a
gun show, you might have one group of people who are licensed dealers. You
have to do a background check. The next table over for a vendor, nothing.
And that`s just not a law-abiding gun owner has no problem. You know,
this is not universal. This is a criminal and mental background check.
And what bothers me right now, if we are in such a state of influx, if you
will, in this city of ours, Washington, to where something that makes so
much common sense, and the facts are here to support what we`re saying, and
80 percent of the people support what we`re trying to do, and we can`t
muster up the votes, something is wrong. And we`ve got to change.
O`DONNELL: Senator Joe Manchin, thank you very much for joining us
tonight. And this fight needs you, and we`re very glad you`re in it.
MANCHIN: It`s not over.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Senator, very much.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, the senator who is leading the fight against
sexual assault in the military, the epidemic in the military. New York`s
Kirsten Gillibrand will join me in a LAST WORD exclusive.
And in the rewrite tonight, the family most affected by the Boston
marathon bombings, the Richard family, in their own words.
O`DONNELL: As predicted here first and repeatedly, a new poll in
Massachusetts shows Congressman Ed Markey with a significant lead over his
Republican opponent, Suffolk University Poll puts Markey at 52 percent with
Gabriel Gomez at 35 percent. Markey also has a 52 percent favorable rating
with voters. The special election is set for June 25th.
Up next, a LAST WORD exclusive. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand on what
changing military rules can do to ensure military sexual assaults in the
military are taken seriously and prosecuted.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: If the man in charge for the
Air Force in preventing sexual assault is being alleged to have committed
sexual assault this weekend, obviously, there`s a failing in training and
understanding of what sexual assault is, and how corrosive and damaging it
is to good order and discipline.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.
This story has mushroomed over time, starting with both of us seeing
that amazing documentary, "The Invisible War" that Kirby Dick made, that
really opened my eyes to this issue.
You`re in the Armed Services Committee, studying it, and it`s come to
this point where we found this week, Colonel Jeffrey Krusinski who`s in
charge of the Air Force`s control of sexual assault cases ends up charged
with it himself.
Hence the frustration you exhibited this week, greater level of
frustration we`ve had before.
GILLIBRAND: Well, it`s a huge problem. One of the reasons why "The
Invisible War" was so effective, it put a face on this issue. Those are
real victims telling their stories and that`s why as chairwoman of the
personnel subcommittee on the Armed Services Committee, my first hearing
was on sexual assault and rape in the military, and I had the victims
testify first to tell their stories.
And that`s why we have to address the issue. We have 26,000 cases
last year arguably. And of them, only 3,000 or so reported. So, there`s a
huge gap between how many incidents there are and how many people have the
courage and ability and feel that they will be taken seriously and not be
marginalized or retaliated against.
And so, we need to increase the reporting. And that`s what we`re
trying to do. We`re trying to write a bill that will change how men, women
who are assaulted report these crimes, so they feel that justice could be
And so, we`re going to -- our bill is going to remove that from the
chain of command and have them report directly to a trained prosecutor who
knows these issues. And knows how to investigate the cases and prosecute
O`DONNELL: So this will be a separate entity within the military
system of justice.
GILLIBRAND: Just within the JAG Corps.
GILLIBRAND: And we have trained prosecutors now. And most --
O`DONNELL: And his is something we have out there in local
governments and in county prosecutors` offices. They have sexual assault
GILLIBRAND: It would be more parallel to the civilian system. Right
now, the way it is in the military, if you were raped or assaulted, you
have to report to your boss or your boss`s boss, and you can imagine a
victim saying I don`t want to do that, because my boss may know the person
who assaulted or raped me. He may think that I`m the troublemaker. He may
retaliate against me because it`s going to reflect badly on him.
There`s too many issues at stake. So, it should be somebody
independent, outside of the chain of command who is specifically trained to
understand these issues. Let them do the investigation. Let them make the
judgment of whether this should go to trial.
I think in that instance, more men and women will feel comfortable
reporting. You`ll have a better reporting rate. And justice will be done
in more cases.
O`DONNELL: Especially as you have heard in many -- well, many. In
some number of cases, the person who has done the assault is the commanding
GILLIBRAND: It could be the commanding officer, yes.
O`DONNELL: That`s the person you`re supposed to report to. So how
can that possibly work?
GILLIBRAND: Well, one of the things we did in the Last Armed Services
Authorization Bill is moved it up one more level. So it would be less
likely the perpetrator would be your commanding officer.
But still, what the victims tell us, and what was revealed in "The
Invisible War" and what came through in the hearings, was that the fear of
retaliation is so real, the last report that the Department of Defense
actually published, it says 62 percent of those who had experienced
unwanted sexual contact believed that if they reported, they would be
O`DONNELL: Isn`t there also just a big kind of institutional
bureaucratic "I don`t want this on my watch." If I`m the commanding
officer, do I want to be the commanding officer with the largest number of
sexual assault reported? Don`t I have some kind of incentive to keep that
number down, to suppress this, to talk people out of filing those
GILLIBRAND: Well, that`s the concern. And so if you have -- if you
have been assaulted or raped, you may have that fear you will be perceived
as a troublemaker. In fact, when we had the hearing and one of the victims
testified, she said I reported immediately. She said, but then I was so
marginalized, I was shunned. I was treated poorly by my commanding
officer, by other people in my unit.
She said my career was over. So when I reported, that was the
beginning of the he said of my career, because I couldn`t serve anymore
under those circumstances.
So, we hear time and time again from victims that they are
marginalized or retaliated against or they feel that their future in the
military is at risk by reporting.
So we believe, and many senators are working on this bill now, that if
we allow them to report outside the chain of command, allow that decision-
making to be made by a prosecutor, not the commanding officer, you will see
justice done more often and you will see more confidence within the system
that justice is possible for them.
O`DONNELL: And it seems like nothing less than the future of a
volunteer military is at stake. These numbers are wild, out of control
epidemic proportions. And in "The Invisible War", you see a father of a
daughter who gets assaulted in the military, and you can see that these
people are not going to continue to send their daughters and their sons who
are also abused into this military.
GILLIBRAND: And, Lawrence, just so our viewers know, more than half
of the assaults and rapes are against men. More than half.
GILLIBRAND: And you can imagine a male soldier never wanting to
report that happens to them. And you can imagine all of the reasons why.
So, we have to do better by the men and women serving. And assure
them that they will be serving and not be attacked by their colleagues, and
not be subject to this kind of treatment.
We have the best and the brightest serving in our military. We have
the greatest military in the world. And we ask everything of them. We ask
them to even die for their country. We should not be asking them to be
subject to sexual assault and rape.
O`DONNELL: It has been fascinating to watch this subject mushroom
over time, get bigger and bigger. It felt at certain moments like, OK,
well, that`s maybe the end of it.
But -- and by the way, I certainly have the feeling that -- tell me if
this is true -- that without women like you on the Armed Services
Committee, this would not be the issue it is now in the United States
GILLIBRAND: Well, I agree with you. I mean, a number of the men and
women on the Armed Services Committee, Claire McCaskill, Jeanne Shaheen,
Mazie Hirono, Dick Blumenthal, everyone is focused very intently on this
issue right now. And as the chairman of the committee, I held the first
hearing in 10 years on this issue.
That`s too long. This is nothing new. This has been going on for a
very long time.
But I think the advocacy brought to bear through "The Invisible War"
really matters because they put a face on the victims and told their
stories. We`re hoping that other victims will now feel more comfortable to
tell their stories, whether they report it or not and why they didn`t
report if they didn`t.
Another disturbing thing: when we had the hearings a couple days ago
and the secretary of the Air Force testified along with the chief of staff,
I was very disturbed that the chief of staff said that part of the reason
why you have such a high incident rate is a holdover from the hook-up
culture of high school.
This has nothing to do with a date that has gone badly. What we are
worried about are predators. Predators within the military who are often
recidivists who not only target their victims but will stalk their victims
and wait to a moment when they have easy access or can control the
situation. We have stories from victims saying that after they are raped,
they were then blackmailed and said if you reveal this happened to you, I
will kill you. I mean, that is the nature of these crimes. They are
violent crimes committed by perpetrators who should not be serving in our
O`DONNELL: Senator Gillibrand, the military is lucky to have you
fighting for their safety on their own bases, which is the ignored subject
up until now, thanks to you.
Senator Gillibrand, thanks for joining us tonight.
GILLIBRAND: Thank you, Lawrence, so much.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, the art of the comeback and why scandal might
not matter anymore in politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANFORD: I am one imperfect man saved by God`s grace, the one who has
a conviction on the importance of doing something about spending in
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: In the spotlight tonight, scandal versus policy. That was
Mark Sanford after voters in South Carolina`s first district made him the
latest candidate to complete a political comeback after scandal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANFORD: I`ve been unfaithful to my wife. I developed a relationship
with a -- started as a dear, dear friend from Argentina.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The original comeback kid the name he got from this, was,
of course, Bill Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Who is Gennifer Flowers? You know her.
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: Oh, yes.
REPORTER: How do you know her? How would you describe your
B. CLINTON: Very limited.
REPORTER: She`s a legend and is described in some detail in the
supermarket tabloid, which she calls a 12-year affair with you.
B. CLINTON: That allegation is false.
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER FIRST LADY: If the American people get a
chance, and if they`re trusted to exercise their vote right, because people
talk to them about real issues, this country will be OK. That`s what we`re
betting on and we`re just going to roll the dice and see what happens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The Clintons won that bet, big-time. Bill Clinton and
Mark Sanford`s victories just might be serving as inspiration to another
aspiring comeback kid.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY WEINER (D-NY), FORMER CONGRESSMAN: Today I am announcing my
resignation from Congress.
WEINER: So my colleagues can get back to work, my neighbors can
choose a new representative, and most importantly, that my wife and I can
continue to heal from the damage I have caused.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now, MSNBC`s Krystal Ball and Eugene Robinson.
Krystal, I think one of the good things about this election in South
Carolina is that it turned out it was about the issues. The voters didn`t
see the issues the way I see the issues. But they obviously voted on
policy instead of on scandal.
KRYSTAL BALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Well, I would frame it a little
differently. I would say they voted on partisanship instead of scandal.
But I think the underlying point is right, that the American people are
actually incredibly forgiving. They want to forgive. And Sanford seemed
like he was contrite. Lots of people have affairs. Lots of people have
At the end of the day, they decided that wasn`t enough to totally get
rid of this guy for good.
O`DONNELL: Gene Robinson, the history of political scandal is
interesting. Gary Hart`s presidential campaign collapsed over something
that I think we now know modern presidential campaign, post-Clinton,
anyway, could survive. Allegations of a brief affair were enough to ruin
Gary Hart in 1988. Four years later, Bill Clinton survives a much worse
level of scandal.
We`ve seen David Vitter in Louisiana survive touches of scandal. What
is this election of Mark Sanford telling us about voter`s attachment to
scandal when it comes to the ballot box?
EUGENE ROBINSON, "THE WASHINGTON POST": You know, Lawrence, I think
that was -- you were right to do that sort of historical review, because I
think historians may look back and say there was pre-Clinton and post-
Clinton, and that the comeback kid was the sort of watershed moment for --
for a change in acceptance of adultery, basically. I mean, it`s not that
Americans now love adultery. It`s just that I think there`s more of an
understanding that this happens in families, this happens to people, and
they can kind of look past it.
O`DONNELL: Yeah, Krystal, I mean, part of what you`re seeing in these
stories are reflections of what everyone has seen in their neighbors`
lives, in their friends` lives, in their families` lives, somewhere.
There`s some story that`s a little bit like what this politician just got
BALL: Yeah, lots of people can relate to it. And there`s also this
sort of desperation to see our politicians as normal, authentic, frail
human beings. You would almost prefer someone who had some sort of a
failure, came back from it, was able to really apologize sincerely. And I
think with Sanford, it obviously hurt him. I don`t know that he could run
for governor at this moment and be able to be successful.
But he took a couple steps back politically, ran for a seat that made
sense for him, in a district where the wind was at his back. But he was
able to do so successfully, because he seemed sincere and genuine that he
was, you know, a frail human being, but ultimately a decent person.
O`DONNELL: And Gene, there seems to be a possible positive reflection
here about what opposition research might mean in campaigns in the future,
as voters get less attached to scandal and more interested in how much do
you want to cut spending or how much do you want to cut taxes or how much
do you want to raise taxes. If those issues are clearly stronger than
anything you can say about something some candidate did 10 years ago or
five years ago that you`ve managed to dig out of his trash, it seems to me
we`re in a better place in our campaigns.
ROBINSON: You know, I think we are, Lawrence. And look, I think
there are things that still matter. You know, if someone stole money, for
example, in the past, or had criminal convictions or that sort of thing,
people are going to look at that differently from the way they now look at
an affair, a divorce. Remember the day when the big question, can a
divorced candidate be able to win. And now we know, obviously, yes.
BALL: And I think there`s a limit too. I don`t think John Edwards
could make a comeback, for example.
O`DONNELL: Yeah. There`s --
ROBINSON: That`s true.
O`DONNELL: There`s a level of horror, I guess.
BALL: There are lines. Yes.
O`DONNELL: It`s why I`m kind of carefully using the word "scandal,"
because as Gene points out, I don`t mean the word crime. I don`t think
crime is survivable. But, yeah, Krystal, you`re showing that there is a
level of scandal that is just too hard to even look at. And that would be
the John Edwards version.
BALL: That would be the John Edwards version. And there was -- I
mean, there were just so many circumstances there, the wife that was -- you
know, his wife dying of cancer and the family and what he forced his best
friend to do, and that all of this is happening while he`s running for
president. And it sort of fits in with what people kind of suspected about
him anyway, which doesn`t help.
So there is a line of going too far. And I think it`s important how
you handle the scandal. In the initial days I think being really honest,
brutally honest, really bearing yourself and your soul to the press and
answering every question you possibly can, which was the big mistake that
Anthony Weiner made in his early days. He was too -- he tried to hide it
for too long. And that ended up becoming more of an issue than actually
what he did.
O`DONNELL: Well, Anthony Weiner -- go ahead, Gene.
ROBINSON: No, I was going to say, that -- the Weiner case raises an
interesting question, though, because it is sort of an information age
transgression. And one wonders how voters even in New York are going to
deal with sexting as the sin rather than more conventional sins.
BALL: Actually sex.
ROBINSON: Rather than actual sex, exactly.
O`DONNELL: It`s interesting, Gene, because it may be the least
classically sinful of all of these so-called scandals, but it may also be
the weirdest one. There is a weirdness level that you can`t get over with
BALL: It`s harder to relate to sending pictures of your junk to some
random woman across country than it is -- everybody knows someone who has
had an affair or divorce.
O`DONNELL: Krystal, you`re the only one among us who could have said
ROBINSON: Exactly. And we`re glad you did.
O`DONNELL: That`s definitely THE LAST WORD in this segment. Krystal
Ball and Eugene Robinson, thank you both very much for joining me tonight.
BALL: Thanks, Lawrence.
ROBINSON: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, the family who suffered the most in the Boston
Marathon bombing tells their story in their own words. That`s in tonight`s
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN COLBERT, "THE COLBERT REPORT": I got to tell you, tonight I
am angry. And for once, that doesn`t make me happy.
COLBERT: And I think you know why.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The very unhappy Stephen Colbert reacted last night to his
sister`s loss in that special Congressional election in South Carolina to
the scandal plagued former governor Mark Sanford. Stephen Colbert was more
than a little bummed about his home state.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLBERT: The voters of South Carolina have spoken. Mark Sanford beat
my sister. And I believe that means Mark Sanford is now my sister.
COLBERT: And on behalf of my entire family, I want to say we`re
deeply sorry about him.
I feel so betrayed by South Carolina. Well, if they`re going to turn
their backs on my family, I`m turning my back on them. No, I am. From now
on, and I never thought I would ever say this, I am from North Carolina.
COLBERT: No, I have to. I have to! I`m a Tar Heel now. Whatever
the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) that means.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Whatever that means. The Rewrite is next.
O`DONNELL: Today in Washington, the House Homeland Security Committee
held Congress` first hearing on the Boston Marathon bombings. Former
Senator Joe Lieberman, who is in a position to have no access to any
information not available to the general public, told the committee, quote,
"to put it bluntly, our homeland defense system failed in Boston," end
But Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis, who testified to the
committee, told the "Boston Globe" this morning, quote, "there is no
indication that there was a huge systemic issue."
Today the body of Boston bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev was finally
buried at an undisclosed location. And today we have news from the Richard
family of Dorchester, the family who suffered more than any other in the
bombing and its aftermath. Eight-year-old Martin Richard was killed
instantly in the bombing, his seven-year-old sister, Jane, lost her leg.
His mother and father, Bill and Denise, were both injured and hospitalized.
While some Republicans on the Homeland Security Committee were busy
today trying to Rewrite the story of the marathon bombing, without any new
evidence to support such a rewrite, into a failure of President Obama`s FBI
and President Obama`s Homeland Security Department, Bill and Denise Richard
issued a statement today, telling us their story of the bombing and its
aftermath. It is a story of crushing tragedy, anguish, unspeakable pain.
And it is a story of courage and love in their most profound forms.
It is a story that deserves at least as much public attention as the
investigation and the suspects are getting. This is the Richard family
statement in full.
"Last evening, just 23 days after the bombing attack on Boston, our
seven-year-old daughter, Jane, underwent her 11th surgery. While she has
more trips to the O.R. ahead of her, last night`s operation marked an
important milestone, as doctors were finally able to close the wound
created when the bomb took her left leg below the knee. Part of procedure
involved preparing Jane`s injured leg to eventually be fitted for a
"By closing the wound, the incredible medical team at Boston`s
Children`s Hospital laid the ground work for Jane to take an important step
forward on the long and difficult road ahead of her. One of the things we
have learned through all of this is to not get too high or too low. We
take today`s development as positive news and look ahead with guarded
"If things go well, Jane could be ready to transition to the
rehabilitation stage of her recovery in the next few weeks. Getting to
this point has not been easy for Jane. In addition to all of the
surgeries, she has also had to fight off infections and other
complications. After not being able to communicate with Jane for the first
two weeks, she woke up with difficult questions that needed to be answered.
"There are not words to describe how hard sharing this heartbreaking
news was on all of us. As for the rest of the family, Bill and Denise were
discharged from Beth Israeli Deacon`s Medical Center a week after they were
admitted. While no sight has returned to Denise`s injured eye, her doctors
have been pleased with how she is healing from her surgeries. Bill is
healing from the shrapnel wounds and burns to his legs and we remain
hopeful there will be improvement over time from the hearing loss he
"It will be several months before we know what if any improvement
Denise or Bill will experience. Henry is back at school, which gives him a
needed sense of routine and normalcy. We will continue to stay together in
the Longward medical area until Jane is discharged. Our focus as a family
remains on healing from our injuries, both physical and emotional.
"We would like to take this time to also acknowledge the strength we
draw from the community. The outpouring of support from friends, family
and total strangers has been incredible. And it is uplifting to our family
in this most painful and difficult time. Well-wishers reach us, and they
help more than anyone can know.
"From the moment of the attack, all of us have been in the hands of
well-trained people who are incredibly good at what they do. We thank the
courageous first responders and Samaritans who stabilized and comforted us
on the scene, as well as the medical staff at the hospitals for quick
action and life-saving care.
"We particularly want to thank the people who quickly got to Jane and
addressed her injury in the street, because they saved her life. We also
salute those who stood guard over Martin`s body so he was not alone. Those
officers will never know how comforting that was in our very darkest hour.
The doctors, nurses, psychologists, social workers, technicians, orderlies,
volunteers and administrators at both Boston`s Children`s Hospital and Beth
Israel Deaconess Medical Center have been incredible. We will recover,
because of these dedicated and talented people.
"People near and far have made loving gestures and poignant
remembrances. We are aware of tributes and vigils across the area and
around the world. Martin was a big sports fan, and what has taken place
across the sports world from our local teams to our arch rival, by teams
and by individual players, reminds us why.
"Martin was Boston-strong. And now we must all be for him and for all
of the victims of this senseless attack, as well as their loved ones who
are going through a hell we wish we never had to know. Many of you feel an
incredible need to do more, which is understandable and gracious. We will
need help as we cannot get through this tragedy on our own. We know how
difficult it is to stand idle when something terrible happens.
"So we thank you for respecting our privacy and giving us space to not
only recuperate and rest, but also to ensure the one thing the attack does
not break is our bond as a family. As hard as it is for us to do so, we
ask for your continued patience as we work through something for which
there is no road map. There are no instructions. We look forward to
sharing another update when Jane leaves children`s hospital for rehab in
the coming weeks.
O`DONNELL: History was made in the 2012 election. For the first time
on record, the turnout rate for African-American voters was higher than the
turnout rate for white voters. The Census Bureau released a report showing
66 percent of black voters went to the polls, compared to 64 percent of
white voters. The overall turnout rate was just under 62 percent.
Up next, what First Lady Michelle Obama had to say about Chris
O`DONNELL: In a new NBC News/Marist poll, New Jersey Governor Chris
Christie is leading by more than 30 points in the New Jersey governor`s
race; 60 percent of registered New Jersey voters support Chris Christie; 28
percent support his Democratic opponent, Barbara Buono. Christie`s overall
approval rating remains high at 69 percent. And after announcing on
Tuesday that he underwent lap band surgery to control his weight, Christie
received some words of support from one very high-level Democrat.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: I think that that`s a very personal
matter. That`s something between the governor and his family. And I try
not to comment on people`s personal choices. I think Governor Christie is
terrific. And you know, his family is wonderful. And I, you know, wish
them the best.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now, MSNBC`s Ari Melber. Ari, there is the
First Lady saying I think Chris Christie is terrific. I think it`s kind of
a rough moment for Barbara Buono in running against him to hear those words
coming from Washington.
ARI MELBER, "THE NATION": It`s not what you need if you`re a Democrat
in New Jersey. On the other hand, this is, as you know, Lawrence, one of
those statements that normally historically would be considered standard
diplomacy, standard kindness from a First Lady, the least political role,
you know -- the representative of the first family, not an extraordinary
embrace of a Republican.
But nowadays, it is more rare to see anything across the aisle. So
people will obviously notice it.
O`DONNELL: And there`s this video that`s been released that Governor
Christie made for fun for one of those dinners that they have, which they
had this week in New Jersey. They showed it. And it`s all about him
losing the fleece that he was wearing out there responding to Hurricane
Sandy that everyone saw in all the news conferences. Let`s take a quick
peek at that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sir, we have a problem.
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: What now?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The fleece, sir? It`s missing.
CHRISTIE: So what? So what? What`s the big deal? I mean, you worry
too much. Stop worrying.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t think you fully understand the
implications that this is going to have on your brand.
CHRISTIE: Listen, the fleece was so last year. Think about it. I`m
back in the "Time" 100 Most Influential People in the World. Bruce is my
new best friend. I`m friends with Bon Jovi and now I`m back on "MORNING
JOE." That`s going to be a love fest.
Jon, Jon, it`s Chris!
JON BON JOVI, SINGER: Hey, there`s that guy again. He ain`t nothing
without his fleece.
CHRISTIE: I don`t know. Maybe there is something to this fleece.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Ari Melber, it`s all about the humanizing of the
MELBER: Look, the video is funny. I watched it. It`s great if you
go on Youtube. He`s got a lot of videos that are a big hit. I`ll say two
thoughts on it. Thought number one is that he`s tapping into a rich
tradition of American politics, which is anti-politics. That`s what John
McCain originally ran on, Barack Obama, to some extent, this idea that
you`re above politics. He`s adding a little more meta to it, which is
frankly a very now kind of thing, an ironic distancing from the idea that
everything he is doing is about national attention and running for office.
The other point I`ll make is more on policy. You will also see the
slight of hand that is so common to Christie in this video. He mentions,
for example, that he`s balanced the budget several years. And that might
be politically beneficial. And a casual viewer would think that was a
In fact, for those who know New Jersey Constitutional law, it is a
requirement that the budget be balanced every single year. So he`s
referring to something that is not an achievement at all. And there`s a
lot in policy land for Christie that goes like that. The hurricane
response, obviously an emotional and important thing, but ultimately I
don`t think taking money from the federal government, as a Republican, and
distributing and working with the president is any more than the basic
obligation he had.
And so while people feel strongly about it, he`s done a lot of victory
laps for what I would call basic job duties.
O`DONNELL: And Ari, there are limits to New Jersey support for
Christie; 55 percent of New Jersey voters do not want Christie to run for
president. And if he ran for president against Hillary Clinton, New Jersey
would vote against him; 52 percent of New Jersey voters would vote for
Hillary; 41 for Chris Christie. Not even close.
MELBER: Right. And look, there is some political undertow here, in
that he has been able to excel partly because he`s a blue state Republican
who can benefit at home from reaching out to Obama. That flips if he runs,
because New Jersey is not going to support any national Republican.
O`DONNELL: Ari Melber, our closer, once again gets tonight`s LAST
WORD. Thanks, Ari.
MELBER: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes is up next.
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