'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Monday, September 9th, 2013
Read the transcript to the Monday show
THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
September 9, 2013
Guests: Howard Dean, Steve Clemons, Keith Ellison, Anthony Weiner; Nia- Malika Henderson
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: The Senate delayed a vote on military
action in Syria tonight. Congress is hoping for a diplomatic deal. The
president says he is skeptical.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Over the last 4 1/2
years, I have shown great restraint when it comes to using military power.
CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC ANCHOR: Pressing his case.
ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC ANCHOR: Taking to the air waves.
JANSING: Six network interviews.
WAGNER: To convince a skeptical public.
JANSING: To (INAUDIBLE) the case for military intervention in Syria.
OBAMA: I don`t take these decisions lightly.
CHUCK TODD, MSNBCV ANCHOR: The Obama administration makes a final
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: The evidence is powerful.
SUSAN RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: There is no doubt about who is
OBAMA: The United States has to be involved.
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: This is a fluid situation
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hillary Clinton will make public remarks.
CLINTON: -- with statements from Russia.
TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Russia`s surprise announcement.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Russia pressuring the Assad regime to put its
chemical weapons arsenal.
JANSING: Put them under international control.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The real WMD is largely the AK-47. Those can kill
in pretty gruesome ways as well.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Back in Washington --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now, there is protest taking place.
WAGNER: Meanwhile, congressional Democrats are feeling pressure.
REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: We are very concerned.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have been hearing from our constituents.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: How do we address that issue?
VAN HOLLEN: All of us have a special obligation to look at the
KERRY: The evidence is powerful.
OBAMA: The United States has to be involved.
TODD: The administration is pulling out all the stops.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is all about building up the crescendo, if
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, lay out the case.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have we achieved everything diplomatically?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is there another way?
TODD: More is at stake than presidential powers.
WAGNER: The death toll stands at over 100,000.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The whole region, it would seem, is bracing for
O`DONNELL: At this hour tomorrow night, President Obama will have
completed his explanation to the American people about why he believes a
military strike on Syria is necessary. He will have a skeptical audience
according to a new "Reuters" poll. Only 16 percent of Americans think the
nation should get involved in Syria, 63 percent are opposed, 21 percent are
The president began to make his case during an interview blitz
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Over the last four and a half years, I have shown great
restraint when it comes to using military power. And I know how tired the
American people are of war generally and particularly war in the Middle
East. So, I don`t take these decisions lightly. But if we are going to
have any serious enforcement of this international ban on chemical weapons,
then ultimately, the United States has to be involved and a credible threat
may be what pushes the political settlement that I think we would all
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: But the debate took a turn today after John Kerry answered
this question during a press conference in London. Is there anything the
Syrian government could do to avoid an American military strike?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KERRY: Sure. He could turn over every single bit of his chemical
weapons to the international community in the next week. Turn it over, all
of it, without delay, and allow a pull and total accounting for that. But
he isn`t about to do it and it can`t be done, obviously.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Having heard that, Russia`s foreign minister released this
proposal. We are calling on the Syrian authorities to not only agree on
putting chemical weapons storage under international control but also for
its further destruction and then joining the organization for the
prohibition of chemical weapons.
Then, Syria`s foreign minister said it, quote, "welcomes the Russian
In a phone call later today, Secretary Kerry spoke directly to the
Russian foreign minister about the new proposal. A State Department
official tells NBC News that Secretary Kerry told Russia`s foreign minister
that the United States would not, quote, "play games," and would only
consider a serious proposal.
In her first public comments on the situation in Syria, former
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that Russia`s new proposal is
thanks to pressure from the Obama administration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: It is very important to note that this discussion that has
taken hold today about potential international control over Syria`s
stockpiles only could take place in the context of a credible military
threat by the United States to keep pressure on the Syrian government as
well as those supporting Syria like Russia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Then, President Obama said this about Russia`s new
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We`re going to make sure that we see how serious these
proposals are. And my preference consistently has been a diplomatic
resolution to this problem. This could potentially be a significant
breakthrough but we have to be skeptical because this is not how we have
seen them operate over the last couple of years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now, former senior advisor to President Obama
and MSNBC political analyst, David Axelrod; former DNC chairman and former
Vermont governor, Howard Dean; and Washington editor-at-large for "The
Atlantic", Steve Clemons.
David Axelrod, having worked with the president as closely as you
have, what do you think his reaction to be -- his operational reaction?
What will he do in reaction to this Russian proposal?
DAVID AXELROD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he was pretty blunt
about it. Obviously, this is the most desirable outcome if the Syrians
were willing to surrender their cache of chemical weapons and they were
handed over to the international community and destroyed. That would be
the greatest solution to this.
But, he properly has to be skeptical about it. He said trust but
verify. But it`s obviously a step forward.
I think the critical point was the one that Secretary Clinton made. I
don`t think anybody would argue that we would even have the possibility of
such a scenario had there not been a credible threat, were there not a
credible threat. And so, it really speaks to the strategy the president
has employed here.
The Russians and Syrians are not responding in a vacuum. They`re
responding to the possibility of an attack. And hopefully that can produce
a diplomatic solution.
O`DONNELL: Governor Dean, Charlie Rose did this extraordinary
interview with Assad which preceded this new round. It would have been
fascinating if he could have asked him directly about this new proposal.
But this does seem to change the discussion here in Washington.
HOWARD DEAN, FORMER DNC CHAIRMAN: It does change it for a bunch of
reasons. One is that we haven`t talked about yet or nobody has talked
about it yet, the Russians really do have an investment in Assad. And the
reason they do is because there are a lot of jihadists, some of whom which
come from Dagestan, which is Russian territory, that might end up in charge
of chemical weapons if they can`t fix this.
So, the Russians are doing this out of their own interest.
O`DONNELL: They are worried about those chemical weapons leaking over
O`DONNELL: It could hurt Russia.
DEAN: And being used against Russia.
So, Russia, I think this is a real proposal and I do agree with
Secretary Clinton and David Axelrod that this would not have happened if
Obama hadn`t threatened to use military force.
And they -- the Russians know that if we do use military force, it`s
going to undermine Assad, even though that`s not the president`s
necessarily -- his view, his goal. And those jihadists that the Saudis and
others are now financing on the rebel side scares the living hell out of
Russia as they should.
O`DONNELL: Steve, you have been nodding when the governor said that
we got here because of the president`s threat of military action, as
Secretary Clinton says. I think we`ve got a unanimous agreement here on
that part of it.
STEVE CLEMONS, THE ATLANTIC: Absolutely.
O`DONNELL: Let me ask you, the things that Secretary Kerry said, and
the president saying, they want to make sure that the Russians are not
playing games. How do you make sure? What should that conversation be now
between Secretary Kerry and the Russian foreign minister as they continue
CLEMONS: Well, there should be a concrete plan on -- with Ban Ki-moon
of the U.N. specified that areas need to be specified inside Syria. Those
chemical weapons moved expeditiously to those and the destruction of those
weapons to begin.
But what we need to understand about this deal, though, is that this,
while the president very narrowly defined from the very beginning that this
was not about Assad, this was not about regime change, this is about the
use and deployment of chemical weapons against 1,429 people who died and
probably 15,000 people who were affected, this probably gives Assad
something he wants, which is less pressure on the civil war.
A lot of people have been writing along, saying chemical weapons is an
issue. But also the civil war and helping those Syrians that have been
besieged during this conflict. We won`t declare it a victory because we
move on chemical weapons, but I think that Assad has more than enough
capacity to continue to rout those people he`s been fighting inside Syria.
O`DONNELL: I want to listen to this piece of the Charlie Rose
interview with Assad where he denies that there is any evidence at all that
they did this. Let`s listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BASHAR AL-ASSAD, SYRIAN PRESIDENT: The Russians have completely
opposite evidence that the missiles were from an area where the rebels
controlled. That reminds me about what Kerry said about the big lie that
Colin Powell said in front of the world on satellites about the WMD in Iraq
before going to war, when he said, "This is our evidence."
Actually, he gave false evidence. In this case, Kerry didn`t even
present any evidence. He talked, "We have evidence," and they didn`t
present anything. Not yet. Nothing so far. Not single shred of evidence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And David Axelrod now hours after that is broadcast, the
Russian foreign minister jumps on a possible offer to get control of the
chemical weapons that Assad is denying he used and the Syrian foreign
ministry also says, "We welcome this idea" that it seemed hours ago that
Assad would have den that it was possible that they even had any.
AXELROD: Yes, I think that the events of today have been an
affirmation of a number of points. One is they plainly have chemical
weapons. The whole word knows they have chemical weapons. I don`t think
there`s much doubt in anyone`s mind what happened on August 21st. And very
soon the U.N. inspector`s report is going to be disclosed and my guess is
that it will affirm everything that has been said.
It`s also clear for all this notion that we have heard in the debates
that the American military power would have very little impact on Syria
that they are quite concerned about it.
One of the things that was striking about that interview today was
that he was obviously very well-briefed on American politics. He tried to
hit every hot button there was. He invoked Iraq, the false testimony. He
said we thought Obama would be different than Bush.
You know, he was really speaking to an American political audience
trying to influence -- desperately trying to influence this decision.
But one thing at the end of this day, one thing we ought to conclude
is this is not the time to take the pressure off. The pressure is
beginning to produce results and we ought to see that through.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what President Obama told Savannah Guthrie
about, in response to this part of the Charlie Rose interview where Assad
said that you could expect anything as a reaction from him if there is a
strike. Let`s listen to this part.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: First of all, Syria doesn`t have significant capabilities to
retaliate against us. Iran does. But Iran is not going to risk a war with
the United States over this, particularly given that our goal here is to
make sure that chemical weapons are not used on children.
It is very unlikely that we would see the retaliation that would have
a significant impact on U.S. interests in the region.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Governor Dean, there is the president confident that he
knows what the aftermath would be in terms of what Assad is capable. Susan
Rice today linking up this use of chemical weapons to a possible threat to
the United States, meaning it could get to Hezbollah, the chemical weapons
could get to terrorist groups and that could conceivably find its way to
harming Americans somewhere in the world.
DEAN: Well, the interesting thing is this is the same really argument
that the Russians are afraid of. We have that in common.
The interesting thing for all of this is the Russians have really put
themselves on the hook. Their credibility is now on the line. If they
can`t get Assad to do this -- if Assad does this one more time, I don`t
think that Obama is going to ask Congress the next time.
So, I think this is a big breakthrough. A bigger breakthrough than
most people think. I don`t trust the Russians either. I have that in
common with most of the people who are involved with this, but the fact is
the Russians have put themselves in the position where they`re on the hook
if Assad now uses chemical weapons again.
O`DONNELL: Steve, there`s an interesting phenomenon going on now,
which is that the whole exercise of military strike against Syria is to get
them to stop using chemical weapons, which they have stopped doing. I
mean, might we pause and notice they have stopped? You have Assad on
television saying, well, we didn`t do it, which is a strong indication that
he probably doesn`t want to try to do this again under the pressure that
has already been visited on.
CLEMONS: You certainly have peer pressure. You have a climate
building, you are reminding people -- this is a history lesson, a learning
moment, to remind people who are not familiar with chemical weapons or
biological weapons how horrible these things are and how they can be used
in ethnic cleansing and killing lots of people in a specified area.
That said, I have generally agreed to the president`s position, that
if there is no response, if there is no building of awareness about this,
it really sets up a green light not just for Assad and Syria but the
interesting impact will be on American credibility with other nations
around the world. When Chuck Hagel was in Asia, the thing that Asian
leaders kept asking him about is how they were going to respond because
they worry about North Korea, or they worry X other government and they`ll
respond, and will the United States go through the same, long,
deliberative, convulsions over helping them if they are in similar
So, this has a big echo effect beyond Syria. It impacts America`s
posture and credibility globally depending on how this comes out.
O`DONNELL: David Axelrod, you have worked with this president when
he`s had to address the nation on important things and making important
cases to the public. What do you expect him to say tomorrow night? Give
us a preview of what you would anticipate him saying tomorrow night.
AXELROD: First of all, I`m absolutely confident that he`s going to
make a very strong case. I know him well as you said, and I know how
deeply he believes in this and what he is doing. Obviously, you know, the
politics of this are tough. And he has taken it on because he believes it
is important for all the reasons that Steve and Governor Dean have
I think first he`s going to lay out the evidence. He`s going to lay
out the facts of what happened. And then he is going to talk about the
implication that Steve just mentioned of letting that act go without any
accountability, without any consequence, the signal that that would send
not just to Assad but to back actors across the world.
You know, we may want to feel like we can be fortress America and turn
our back on this but it has a way of washing up on our shores and people
look to the United States of America to stand up in situations like this.
But let me say one other thing, Lawrence, that is important to note
about this Russian entreaty here. If this works out, it puts the United
Nations Security Council back in play. It puts an international action
back in play. It would have -- it would give us the ability in unison with
the rest of the world to force the Syrians to do what needs to be done
here, and that`s been missing, of course, because the Russians have been
exercising an effective veto in the Security Council.
So, that`s another element of why this is so important.
O`DONNELL: David Axelrod, Howard Dean and Steve Clemons, thank you
all very much for joining me tonight.
CLEMONS: Thank you, Lawrence.
DEAN: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, Hillary Clinton makes her first statement on
Syria and White House advisors say the threat of military action helped
begin diplomatic talks. Congressman Keith Ellison will join me next.
And later, New York candidate for mayor, Anthony Weiner, will join me.
And if you`re a New York City voter, tweet me your questions for Anthony
Weiner. New York City voters only. We`re going to do this on the honor
system, just the way we do everything else in New York City.
O`DONNELL: Registration for next year`s Boston marathon began today.
Next year`s marathon will accept an additional 9,000 runners for total of
36,000 participants. The organization the manages the race is making run
for the 5,633 runners who had to stop mid-race when the bombs exploded near
the finish line and they are allowing for people who want to run in honor
of the victims of this year`s attack on the marathon.
The 2014 Boston marathon will be held on Monday, April 21st, Patriots
Up next, the threat of military action in Syria.
O`DONNELL: Here is more of President Obama`s interview with NBC`s
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC NEWS: If this resolution fails in Congress,
would you act without Congress? The answer could be yes, no, or I haven`t
OBAMA: I think it`s fair to say that I haven`t decided. I am taking
this vote in Congress and what the American people are saying very
seriously. I think it`s important for me to listen, to engage in Congress.
We`re going to spend this week talking to members of Congress, answering
their questions and I`m going to speak to the American people tomorrow
And I will evaluate after that whether or not we feel strongly enough
about this that we`re willing to move forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now, Minnesota Democratic Congressman Keith
These are the easy votes. This is what you signed up for. The nice,
What is -- what is your decision about how to vote on the resolution?
REP. KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNESOTA: I am inclined to support the
president on this vote. I`m not all the way 100 percent because I am going
to keep on taking information, listening to people.
O`DONNELL: Just tell me what`s gotten you this far to the -- so many
people are saying undecided.
ELLISON: Well --
O`DONNELL: And you`re at the point where you can say, I`m leaning
toward it. What has you leaning towards supporting the president?
ELLISON: Mass atrocities against civilians. I mean, the reality is
that there is no doubt -- I have been watching this thing carefully for two
and a half years. I have been watching the diplomatic course of events and
how the world community has been stymied at every step. How Russia has
stopped, how they chased Kofi Annan out there and shut at monitors and
everything like that.
And now, not only have we seen massive refugee flood, 2 million
people, quarter million of them kids, or half a million. Six million
people displaced, over 100,000 killed.
Now, on top of that escalating violence, we have a gas attack?
I think that Assad is not going to stop unless he`s stopped. You
know, if you look back at 1982, his father killed 20,000 in Hama. And, you
know, there are people who did live to tell about it and still horrified
You know, I`m animated by things like Rwanda, Kosovo --
O`DONNELL: Memories of actions not taken.
O`DONNELL: And actions taken in Kosovo.
And, you know, the world community has to do something. I was a
staunch adamant anti-war advocate on Iraq, on Afghanistan and voted
repeatedly and getting the many resolutions to get out of Afghanistan. But
I believe the world as a community has to say something when we see gassed
And then, you know, they`ve already little gassings up in April, May.
This is mass atrocity.
So, now, where do we go from here? People say, well, what`s going to
happen next if we act? My question is, what`s going to happen next if we
We do have some indications which is that he has been slaughtering
people in an unabated fashion, creating refugees all over the region. Now,
he`s gassed 1,400. He`s -- I think he`s going to gas more.
So, I think he needs to be stopped.
O`DONNELL: Are you satisfied with the evidence that has been
presented in this case?
ELLISON: Yes, I am. And I --
O`DONNELL: Have you been in the classified briefings?
ELLISON: Yes, I have. And, but I`ve been in the classified briefing
O`DONNELL: By the way, can you tell us what reason do you know of
that they haven`t submitted this evidence to us to just put on television?
Is there anything you have seen where you say, well, I can understand why
you haven`t shown that to the world?
ELLISON: There are some things that I can understand and there are
others that I don`t. I have made it clear to White House officials you
need to seriously consider declassifying some stuff because -- of course,
they know more about what they can declassify than I do. But from what
I`ve seen, there are things that I think --
O`DONNELL: Are you expecting some declassification in effect tomorrow
night from the president?
ELLISON: I don`t have any expectations of that. I have just urged
them to look carefully at what they can declassify so that people don`t
have to just trust us, so that they can know -- they can see what we have
seen and say, yes, that`s kind of compelling.
O`DONNELL: What is your sense of the way your colleagues are making
up their minds? Are people doing a fair job of evaluating the situation?
Is there a lot of partisanship in it? Is there not much partisanship in
what you`re watching?
ELLISON: Well, you can`t take politics out of politics. So, there is
a bit of that.
Then, there are people who are simply pacifists. They`re not ever
going to support any military action. I respect that.
Then, there are people, and I`m less sympathetic to this group, that
says it`s not our problem and I don`t really care.
And then, there is other people who say, well, I agree with the
intelligence. I`m just not sure that a strike will achieve the goals that
you say they will and I need to know more.
So, we have seen people in various camps. You know, I don`t have a
problem with the anti-war pacifists because they are taking that position
as a matter of conscious. But I do have a problem with folks who say,
look, I am open to use of military force but not to help poor women and
children who have been gassed, just other stuff like I don`t know, oil
wars, I don`t know, stuff like that.
My bottom line is, you know, the world community has a responsibility.
We can`t let, you know, Rwandas go on like this, 800,000 people killed with
machetes. But the world could have and should have done something if we
have been threatened to do something, maybe it would have stopped.
I am very excited about the possibility of Russia finally coming to
the table. But, you know, we have been trying to get them involved for two
and a half years and they have promised and rejected and blocked and
obfuscated on numerous occasions.
And so, I`m not in the point where I`m willing to say your word is
good enough. You know, we`ve got -- they`ve got accelerate inking this
deal to the point where I think the world should, you know, slow down and
do the deal. At this point, I think the only that`s brought them to the
point where they are going to negotiate anything is the fact that they are
worried about what can happen as a result of the president`s decision.
O`DONNELL: There are a variety of ways to get people to the table and
the military threat turns out to be one of them. It may be what has done
ELLISON: Well, you know, I hope that it is. I can tell you this,
though, our troops have gone into harm`s way and so far we haven`t had to
worry about them getting gassed. There`s been worries about it, but they
haven`t been gassed.
If we let this thing float around and don`t do anything about this,
what will happen if we do need to ever deploy? You know, my son is in the
army. I`m worried about him. I`m worried about his colleagues. And I
honestly feel like this is, in fact, a red line.
I agree with Obama when he says it is not his red line it`s the
world`s red line, I buy that because, you know, we do have international
treaties. We have passed legislation on this stuff. He`s not out there by
O`DONNELL: But if we are about to find out if it is Congress` red
ELLISON: Well, yes.
O`DONNELL: Keith Ellison, thank you very much.
ELLISON: You bet. Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Really appreciate it. Thank you.
ELLISON: Thank you, sir.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, Hillary Clinton speaks for the first time about
United States intervention in Syria. Nia-Malika Henderson will join us.
And the rewrite tonight, the most laughable Republican take on
President Obama`s handling of the Syria crisis comes not from Rush
Limbaugh, but from one of the intellectual pillars of modern conservatism.
You will have to hear this to believe that anyone actually thinks this and
it`s coming up.
O`DONNELL: In the spotlight tonight, the White House enlists the help
of Hillary Clinton during a previously scheduled event at the White House
today, Hillary Clinton began her speech with her first public remarks on
Syria. The former secretary of state confirms she had just returned from a
meeting with President Obama and fully endorsed his and the
administration`s position on the need for a retaliatory strike on Syria.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: As the president has
said, the Assad regimes inhuman use of weapons of mass destruction against
men, women and children violates a universal norm at the heart of our
global order and therefore it demands a strong response from the
international community led by the United States. Achieving a political
solution that ends the conflict is in the interest of the United States.
The president and I discussed these challenges today. I will continue
to support his efforts and I hope that Congress will as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now "the Washington Post`s," Nia-Malika
Henderson, a helpful voice to be held from today for the president.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, I
think so. I mean, she essentially with the first to raised this idea that
it could be the president`s threat of military intervention that is
actually leading the side talks around Russia and Syria and having some
international oversight around chemical weapons.
I do think though, it could be that the White House in some ways in
selling these efforts is suffering from message muddle, right? And I think
you have had a lot of different explanations for why this is a good idea,
whether it`s moral, whether it`s about America`s place in the war, whether
it is national security, whether it`s really a proxy war where you had
Dennis McDonough making that argument on the Sunday shows.
So, in some ways it could be that I`m not sure how helpful Hillary
Clinton necessarily is to this. And we will, obviously, see the president
make his case tomorrow.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to more from Hillary Clinton today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: As has been emphasized many times and I did so as secretary
of state, the broader conflict in Syria is a threat to regional stability
and security of our allies and partners. As well as a humanitarian
catastrophe for the Syrian people and the neighboring countries attempting
to absorb hundreds of thousands now, more than two million refugees.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The more I hear the threat to the neighborhood and we know that
APAC here, the group that in lobbying efforts mirrors always the Israeli
government`s desires, working very, very busily here today on Capitol Hill
that there is as much regional dynamism in the White House decision here as
there is a specific reaction to chemical weapons.
HENDERSON: That`s right. I mean, you see the regional dynamism. I
think the Saudis have come out to say that they back this, obviously.
Israel, a lot --
O`DONNELL: Saudis and Israelis agreeing on an action. It is unusual
moment for the White House.
HENDERSON: Right. And then, I mean, you have on the Capitol Hill.
On Capitol Hill, a lot of dynamism there. And I think the White House`s
perspective was that they were hearing all of these things, congressmen
back in their district, were hearing all of these things from their
constituents. And that coming here could change their minds.
I think at the same time you have reed feeling that maybe the support
isn`t there. They are pushing this vote off and folks in the house, in
some ways not really wanting to take the vote on this. And so, I think
everyone feels like they got something of a lifeline with this recent
development that came out today where, you know, Kerry seemed to back into
this when he was completely like gaffe. And then it seemed like all of the
sudden, it could be a reality.
O`DONNELL: Well, I think we will see more on the Russian front
Nia-Malika Henderson, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
Up next the most amazing thing a Republican said about President Obama
and Syria today.
And later Anthony Weiner will join me so, you still have a few minutes
to tweet me your questions. We are going to take questions on twitter from
New York City voters only. And we are using the "Last Word" honor system
on this one as we always do. Questions for Anthony Weiner, hurry up.
O`DONNELL: George Zimmerman`s estranged wife called 911 from her
father`s house today and told the police that George Zimmerman was
threatening them with a gun and that he had punched her father in the nose.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHELLIE ZIMMERMAN, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN`S WIFE: Dad, get behind the car
or something. I don`t know if he is going shooting at us.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you guys outside?
ZIMMERMAN: Yes, we are. (INAUDIBLE). Dad, get inside the house.
George might have been shooting at us. I don`t know. We are going inside
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That is the woman who knows George Zimmerman better than
anyone else and she thought, quote, "George might start shooting at us."
George Zimmerman`s wife chose not to press charges today.
The rewrite is next.
O`DONNELL: There is an op-ed piece in "the Wall Street Journal" today
with a headline that is almost worthy of the onion.
Obama`s successful foreign failure. The piece by the conservative
essayist Norman Podhoretz was obviously written within serious intent. But
if you wanted to rewrite it as a parody of a Republican attack on President
Obama`s position on Syria, you would not have to change a word.
You would, of course, highlight the words incompetent and amateurish
as the piece does, and you would include, quote, "the anti-American
preacher, Jeremiah Wright and the unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayres" whoa
are of course included in this assessment of President Obama`s handling of
the Syria crisis. Community organizer is in there, of course, as is
socialist and left wing radical.
According to this parody of Republican thinking which is actually
Republican thinking, you can`t possibly understand why President Obama
wants to bomb Syria if you don`t understand that he is a left wing radical
socialist guided in his every thought to this very day by Jeremiah Wright
and Bill Ayers.
The piece never allows that the president has even once consulted with
the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff or his Republican secretary of
Now, get ready for the theory of the piece. Because you`re not going
to hear this right the first time I say it. That`s how strange this
unmunish (ph) kind of piece is. I told you that Norman Podhoretz uses the
words incompetent and amateurish, but he uses them in a sentence where
unlike the rest of the president`s Republican critics, he is insisting that
the president has not been incompetent and amateurish in the face of the
Syria crisis. He corrects his Republican friends who say that the
president has been incompetent and amateurish and insists that the
president`s Syria policy suggests exactly the opposite.
Let me suggest that it signifies not how incompetent and amateurish
the president is but how skillful. His foreign , far from a dismal failure
is a brilliant success as measured by what he intended all along to
And what is it that the president of the United States intended to
accomplish all along?
The fundamental transformation he wished to achieve here was to reduce
the country`s power and influence. Thanks to his handling of the Syrian
crisis, he is bringing about a greater diminution of the American power
probably better than his wildest radical dream.
You get that? I know. I know it is crazy and it is hard to follow.
It is just unbelievably weird and I don`t want to re-read that whole mess.
But, the essence of it is that the left wing radical president who
hypnotized a majority of voters twice into thinking he is not a left wing
radical has all along, thanks to constant guidance of Jeremiah Wright and
Bill Ayers been trying to reduce America`s power and influence in the
world. And so, the use of chemical weapons in Syria is a dream come true
for President Obama because it has offered him an opportunity to bring
about quote, "a greater ammunition of American power than he probably
envision even in his wildest radical dreams.`
That`s right. Norma Podhoretz, and presumably many of "the Wall
Street Journal" editors who thought this piece was actually worth printing
believed that the current president of the United States, the left wing
radical president closes his eyes on his pillow in the White House every
night and has wild radical dreams about the collapse of America and the
collapse of American power and influence.
But now, we know that when Norman Podhoretz rests his head on the
pillow and closes his eyes every night, he has very wild radical dreams
about the president of the United States. And his wildest radical dreams
actually top of the page treatment on the wall street journal op-ed page.
O`DONNELL: In the state Iowa, a person who is legally blind or
completely blind can now get a permit to carry a gun in public. Iowa state
law prohibits county sheriffs from denying gun permits anyone based on
physical ability. The Des Moines register reports that in Polk County
alone, three blind people have got the permits and those people could not
legally drive and were unable to read the application forms. Delaware
County sheriff John McLear (ph) told the register, if you see nothing but a
blurry mask in front of you, then I would say you probably shouldn`t be
Up next, Anthony Weiner.
O`DONNELL: Good news for Anthony Weiner tonight, the latest poll in
the New York City mayor`s race shows him running ahead of the five other
candidates. That is the other candidates who have absolutely no chance of
winning. Anthony Weiner is at seven percent, City controller John Liu is
running at five percent, Eric Salgado and Sal Albanese are at one percent
and Randy Credico and Neil Grimaldi are polling below one percent and that
is the first and only you have heard those names of those candidates on
Bill de Blasio has surge to a lead over all of the candidates in the
poll at 36 percent followed by a tie for second place with Bill Thompson
and Christine Quinn who are both at 20 percent, which brings us back to
Anthony Weiner who is in for third place with that seven percent.
And joining me now for his last television appearance before the polls
open tomorrow at 6:00 a.m. in New York City is Anthony Weiner.
Thank you very much for joining us tonight.
ANTHONY WEINER, NEW YORK CITY MAYOR CANDIDATE: It`s my pleasure,
Lawrence. How are you?
O`DONNELL: Just fine.
I have really just one basic question for you that I think a lot of
people have wondered about for different reasons over the course of the
campaign. For me it comes down to this which is what is wrong with you?
WEINER: I don`t understand the question. What is wrong with me that
I care so much about the issues that I fight for every day that I have my
O`DONNELL: No. What I mean is this. What is wrong with you that you
cannot seem to imagine a life without elective office?
WEINER: That`s ridiculous. Of course I can. Are you saying it`s
because I have things in my life that are embarrassing, I shouldn`t run for
office? OK. That`s a fair position.
O`DONNELL: No, I am not. I am going to be very clear to you now. I
have never once criticized you in any way for anything involving your
texting. I think your photography is just perfectly standard American
photography that is floating around the Internet now. I have never said
anything about that.
What I find strange about your campaign is what seems to be your
absolute desperate need for elective office and what seems to be your
inability to live outside of it. What did you do, for example, with your
time away from elected office? Did you find any problem anywhere in the
world that you thought I think I would like to apply myself to that and try
to help some people who might need my help? You didn`t do that. You just
set yourself up for running for elective office again.
WEINER: OK. You`re wrong. Is there a question I could possibly help
you out with?
O`DONNELL: All right. You started in politics right out of college
working here in Washington as a congressional aide. You got yourself
elected to city council before you were 30. You have been pursuing
elective office for over 20 years now.
WEINER: I have been serving the people in queens and the city.
O`DONNELL: Anthony, it does not seem to be a fully healthy pursuit.
WEINER: I know there are a lot of people who talk -- there are a lot
of people who talk --
O`DONNELL: If you take the totality of your life, Anthony, do you
think you have spent your time well?
WEINER: Yes. I think I have devoted almost my entire life to serve the
constituents that I have represented. I fought very hard for them. I
fought very hard for the middle class and those troubling to make it.
There are a lot of people who don`t believe that is a noble pursuit. I
disagree with them.
O`DONNELL: Well, what I would like to know why you didn`t find
anything to do during your time away -- I mean, look at President Bush.
WEINER: I`m curious about something, Lawrence. Let me try to squeeze
in a word here, you know. So, I took some time away from Congress after 20
some odd years that I devoted for public life. I think I`m entitled to
O`DONNELL: OK. And what did you do? You immediately offered your
services to lobby --
WEINER: I didn`t immediately do anything.
O`DONNELL: You did. You went out to make --
WEINER: I didn`t lobby at all. That`s not true.
O`DONNELL: You know it.
WEINER: Lawrence, I didn`t do it. It`s not supported by the facts.
It is not supported by the evidence. You`re just saying something that is
not true. It`s your show, but it`s not true. I didn`t lobby anybody.
O`DONNELL: Hustling your services.
WEINER: What do you mean hustling? Lawrence, you can use however
many words you like.
Lawrence, do me a favor. Do me a favor. I just need a hand signal
when the when harangue is done. You are putting a list of things that are
not true in front of everyone. I can tell you I didn`t lobby anyone. I
took time off from public service. I came back because I had some
important things that I thought I wanted to fight for that no one else in
the campaign was doing it. You think public service is not a noble thing
to do, I disagree with you. So, I guess we are at stand still.
O`DONNELL: Anthony, I think there is something wrong with you.
WEINER: I know, you just said. That repeating it doesn`t make it
O`DONNELL: I`m looking at your life.
WEINER: I appreciate it.
O`DONNELL: You are relentless about certain things in your life.
WEINER: That`s not true. I actually took time off from government.
I took time off from doing that. I guess you don`t like they did that.
O`DONNELL: You didn`t. You were a lobbyist, Anthony.
WEINER: I`m not a lobbyist. That is not true. Do you care that it`s
not true? Do you care that it`s not true.
O`DONNELL: Come on, I know the racket of ex-officials in this town.
WEINER: Lawrence, do you care that what you are saying to your
viewers is not true?
O`DONNELL: You did something for no money? Try to go out there and
do some good.
WEINER: You don`t like the way I --
O`DONNELL: Why didn`t you try to go out there and do some good? Why
don`t you do some good, somewhere anywhere in the world.
WEINER: Lawrence? Lawrence? Chillax, buddy. (INAUDIBLE) a second.
So, your critique of me is I have to be in public life, but wait a
minute, when you take time off from public life, here is a checklist of
things that we want you to do. I devoted that time to making some money
because I have to support my family and not being in public life. And now
I am back running for mayor.
OK, yes, we have established those facts. What news are you breaking
O`DONNELL: What I`m trying to get at, Anthony, is what drives you in
your pursuit of public office?
WEINER: In that case, ask me that question.
O`DONNELL: Anthony, I mean it from a psychiatric level.
WEINER: Dude, I don`t need your psychiatric question. You ask me a
question. Do an interview here.
O`DONNELL: You are being driven by some kind of demons?
WEINER: Lawrence, do you want to ask me a question or do you have me
on a hang with the split screen? It can`t be good TV for anybody?
O`DONNELL: All right, you know what, Anthony, we got about 20 seconds
left. Here is what I would like to do. I would like for you to stay. I
would like you to stay, if you will, and we will continue this online and
you can say what you like.
WEINER: Nobody watch the show.
All right, buddy. It has been great doing a split harangue with you,
Lawrence. At some point you ever want me to respond, you let me know.
O`DONNELL: The question is, Anthony, what is wrong with you? That`s
what I want a response to.
WEINER: OK. I heard the question. And I said, what do you mean
because I desperately --
O`DONNELL: All we are going to continue it online. We will find out
if Anthony Weiner sticks around. You`ll get the last word online if you
WEINER: Good night, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes is up next.
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