updated 9/25/2013 11:28:01 AM ET 2013-09-25T15:28:01

THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
September 24, 2013
Guest: Mike Castle, Zeke Emanuel, Steve Clemons


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: You are looking at live coverage of Ted
Cruz`s very long speech on the Senate floor, where he is entertaining
questions from other senators.

And where Ted Cruz tonight is apparently surrendering in his war
against Obamacare, in his way of doing that, is to talk endlessly on the
Senate floor at a time when it doesn`t matter at all.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: We should fund every bit of the government,
every aspect of the government, 100 percent of the government except for
Obamacare.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The debate over funding the government is
officially under way on the Capitol Hill.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Senate is expected to pass a clean bill.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator Cruz is trying to rally fellow
Republicans to filibuster it.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: We`re not going to balance a
Tea Party anarchist.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A final vote could happen on Sunday.

CRUZ: We should fund every bit of the government except for
Obamacare.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s been a fun-filled year for Ted Cruz. He`s
been called out. He`s been exposed.

CRUZ: Where is the urgency in this body?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They`ve all turned against him.

CRUZ: You don`t want an IRS agent deciding if your mom lives or dies,
because it makes health insurance less affordable. My premiums will be
higher.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of the stupidest tactics.

REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: The dumbest idea they have ever
heard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`ve ever seen.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: If you can`t get everything you want,
will you accept a compromise?

CRUZ: I think it`s a very good question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It makes absolutely no sense to run into fixed
bayonets.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ted Cruz is not thinking about the American
people.

CRUZ: If you will forgive me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is not thinking abut his colleagues.

CRUZ: I want to take the opportunity to read two bedtime stories.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s preposterous.

CRUZ: Sam I am. That Sam-I-am, that Sam-I-am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is his personality going to be a political
liability?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They`ve all turned against him.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: Filibuster is to stop people
from voting.

CRUZ: There is a point to this also.

REID: We are going to vote tomorrow.

CRUZ: There is a point to this also. And the point is --

(STATIC SOUND)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: About eight hours ago, Ted Cruz rose on the Senate floor
and said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRUZ: Madam President, I rise today in opposition to Obamacare.
Madam President, I plan to speak in opposition to Obamacare. I intend to
speak in support of defunding Obamacare, until I am no longer able to
stand.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That was a moment that Ted Cruz scheduled with the
blessing of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who negotiated the terms of
today`s speech, which Cruz desperately wants people to believe is a
filibuster.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REID: Mr. President, on the morning news I hear that there is a
filibuster today. I want to disabuse everyone. There will be no
filibuster today.

Filibuster is to stop people from voting. And we are going to vote
tomorrow. Under the rules, no one can stop that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: What freshman Senator Ted Cruz might not know is that a
filibuster is not just speaking for a very long time in the Senate floor.
A filibuster is something that is blocking the Senate from doing its
business.

But there was no business scheduled in the Senate today, which is what
makes Ted Cruz`s long speech just a long speech.

NBC News learned that in a private Republican meeting earlier today,
Rand Paul stood with Mitch McConnell, and advised Ted Cruz against his
strategy of supporting the House-passed bill that defund Obamacare by
blocking the House-passed bill that defunds Obamacare from coming to a vote
in the Senate.

Later, Rand Paul went to the Senate floor, and asked Ted Cruz a few
questions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: So, I would ask the senator from Texas, what are your
intentions? Do you want to shut down government? Or would you look to
find something to make Obamacare less bad and we would like to repeal it?
Or would you accept anything in between?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Now, Ted Cruz rambled a bit before he decided how he would
actually answer Rand Paul`s question that he was clearly unprepared for.
And he finally realized he had no real choice about his answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRUZ: The question that Senator Rand Paul asked is an excellent
question. The question is, do I, does any one here want to shut down the
government? And the answers is absolutely not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Of course, there was more to Rand Paul`s question than
that. And so, Rand Paul followed up with this question.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: Since we`re making it clear that the Republican message and
alternative here is not to shut down government, are -- our desires is to
have no Obamacare. We desire not to have it. We think he went the wrong
directs.

We don`t control all the government. We don`t control the Senate.
It`s controlled by the opposition party. We don`t control the presidency.

My question to you is, if you can`t get everything you want, if you
can`t defund Obamacare, which is what you and I both agree on and millions
people across America wants us to get rid of Obamacare, but if you can`t --
if you stand and argue and cannot get rid of it, will you accept a
compromise?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Ted Cruz fumbled around once again before he decided to
finally deliver a clear answer to Rand Paul`s question.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: Now, your question was, would I vote for something less than
defunding Obamacare? Personally, no.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now, former Republican congressman and Delaware
governor, Mike Castle, and MSNBC`s Joy Reid.

Mike Castle, I know we have never seen anything like this. In your
time in the House, do you ever remember your friends in the Senate who
supported your bill that you passed out of the House telling you that the
way we are going to supported it in the Senate is by blocking it from ever
coming to a vote?

MIKE CASTLE (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: No, I don`t remember that
ever happening. I -- you know, it`s a shame. And in my judgment, the way
it happened.

But I must also point out that -- that, we need to, to realize this is
a failure of this United States Senate. They don`t pass budgets -- they
don`t pass appropriation bills.

And what do you have? You have a situation when you get done to a
single vote to keep the government going, and this concurrent resolution.
At that`s a shame too. That needs to be taken under consideration, as well
I think.

O`DONNELL: Joy Reid, the Rand Paul role is fast night. He privately
stands with Mitch McConnell and most of the Republicans saying this is the
wrong way to do it. But he needs that Tea Party credibility that Ted Cruz
is trying to earn out there in the Senate floor. So, he goes out on the
floor, and publicly in a certain kind of way looks like he is being helpful
to Ted Cruz.

But he is asking the, the uncomfortable questions that none of Ted
Cruz`s real friend asked today, which is what happens if you fail?

JOY REID, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Right. No it`s -- this is so
entertaining, Lawrence, I have to say. Maybe it`s not important, but I
find this fascinating. I mean, you have Rand Paul looking sort of like the
sane one at this point, even though he himself was the architect of the
idea of the talking filibuster from the Republican side as a way to fight
for Tea Party values.

What you are seeing there, you pointed this out in your opening. This
is a performance. Ted Cruz performing for the right-wing base, performing
for right-wing donors like the Koch brothers. To see, this is my
performance of fighting for you.

But what he is doing is filibustering the Republican House Tea Party
bill. It makes no find a way. And Rand Paul has to find a way to not
humiliate Ted Cruz exactly, because it`s kind of catching on with him at
the base, but also to look like the adult, so that when he, too, runs for
president. People will pick him.

O`DONNELL: And, Mike Castle, there is a report tonight that Rand Paul
might actually vote the way Ted Cruz is going to vote, because he knows it
is meaningless. There is no way of prevailing. That way, he will keep
those Tea Party credentials.

But as you look at what the Tea Party has visited upon the Senate, and
the House. And given you are not a member of the Senate today largely
because of a Tea Party that ran against you that knocked you out of the
nomination in your state, what do you see as the workable future for the
Republican Party in the Senate having to deal with the Tea Party in these
types of situations?

CASTLE: You know, I actually agree with the Tea Party in certain
circumstances. I don`t n necessarily believe Obamacare is the right way to
go with health care in this country. But there are ways of doing things.

The important factor is you have to keep the country going, as best
you possibly can. We absolutely need to pass some sort of a funding
mechanism in the next few days, or we are going to have a government shut
down. And that`s going to be a political problem. That`s where I think
the Tea Party some times does not think.

The political problem is going to be that the president has a big
microphone. He`s the one who`s probably going to be able to blame
Republicans for holding that funding, and all of a sudden, the parks aren`t
open. Security is not there. A lot of other things happen, as far as non-
funding is concerned.

It is a tremendous problem for the markets in America. It`s
tremendous problem for individuals in America. I personally think it would
be a problem for the Republican Party. I don`t see how this is possibly a
win as far as the Republican Party is concerned.

I just think the Tea Party is being unreasonable with respect to that.
They can fight Obamacare however they wish. But this is probably not the
place to do it. There may be things they could have done -- could they
have asked for example for a delay of some period of time. Perhaps a year
or whatever it may be. It looks like they need that kind of time to get
rings ready. I think some of the Democrats might go along with that.

But the complete shutdown and defunding is not going to happen. And,
it -- and if it is tied into this whole business of not funding the
government, you have a shut down of government services. That is a real
black eye, and probably Republicans are the one going to get the black eye.

O`DONNELL: Joy Reid, Mike Castle makes a good point. There are
plenty of ways to have approached Obamacare once it became law that the
Republicans have sacrificed in this. I mean, we do deficit reduction bills
all the time in the Congress where they cut in various ways Medicare. They
make these cuts that are not easy for people to see.

And surely, the Obamacare program would have been up on the menu of
things that you could possibly take little trims out of here and there.
And Republicans, if they were playing the inside game, could have been very
good at suggesting those over time. But now it seems, if they, in the
future, were to suggest even some minor cut in Obamacare instead of doing a
cut in Medicare, they would have no credibility on that.

REID: You`re absolutely right. And, Lawrence, you know as well as
better than anyone else, that that -- the Senate is where the deals are cut
so that you request something that, is a minor, or a shaving off or
something on Obamacare. You can go back and campaign in your state, and
say, I won these concessions on Obamacare. There is a way you can work
that in your campaign.

But what`s happened to the Republican and unfortunately, it`s bled
from the House to the Senate, is this fictional view of government. They
don`t take the time to learn how government actually works. They have just
created this nonsense sort of false universe, where they can just stand of
and talk and suddenly Obamacare will fall. And it`s ridiculous, but it`s
because the guys get their news from Rush Limbaugh, they get their views on
the economy from Ayn Rand, they`ve decided that they don`t have to know how
to do government.

And it`s funny because, you know, Ted Cruz is up there reading "Green
Eggs and Ham," but what Republicans don`t understand is that at the end of
green eggs and ham, Sam likes the green eggs and ham. And that`s what
Republicans are really afraid of.

They`re afraid that if they don`t stop the Affordable Care Act right
now in its tracks, over time, people will come to like the benefit. They
won`t be able to undo it. It`s what happened with Medicare. And they`re
terrified it will happen with Affordable Care Act.

O`DONNELL: Joy Reid, and Mike Castle, thank you both very much for
joining us tonight.

REID: Thanks.

CASTLE: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, President Obama joins with Bill Clinton today
to defend Obamacare.

And in the rewrite tonight, why the Washington media refuses to
receive write their image of Ted Cruz as a smart guy, no matter how many
wildly stupid things he says.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Sarah Silverman is trying a new angle on encouraging young
people to vote.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH SILVERMAN, ACTRESS: Hi, this is Sarah Silverman. Register to
vote at ourtime.org, not our time, the other one, not the elderly dating
site. Ourtime.org, practically the opposite, but also hopefully there is
love involved.

Register to vote at ourtime.org, it`s so easy. Do it. Be a part of
this world, beside just Facebook.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Up next, the commander-in-chief and explainer-in-chief
explain Obamacare.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The notion that we
would resist or at least some would resist as fiercely as they would, or as
they have, make this their number one agenda, is perpetuating a system in
which millions of people across the country, hard-working Americans, don`t
have access to health care I think is wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: As Ted Cruz was mounting his fake filibuster on the Senate
floor today, as you can see, he is still doing at this hour, President
Obama sat down at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York City for a
candid conversation with former President Bill Clinton about his health
care reform law.

And the president tackled the Cruz opposition without ever using the
word "Cruz".

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: What we are confident about when people look and see that they
can get high quality, affordable health care for less than their cell phone
bill, they`re going to sign up. They`re going to sign up. And part of
what I think the resistance that we`ve seen ramp up particularly over the
last couple months is about the opponents of health care reform know
they`re going to sign up.

In fact, one of the major opponents when asked, why is it you
potentially shut down the government at this point just to block Obamacare?
He basically, fessed up. He said, well once, consumers get hooked on
having health insurance, and subsidies, then they won`t want to give it up.

Well, that`s -- you can look at the transcript. There`s one of the
major opponents of health care reform. It is an odd logic. Essentially
they`re saying, people will like this thing too much and then it will be
really hard to roll back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: He said we can look it up. So we did.

That refers to something Ted Cruz said to Rush Limbaugh last month.
Here is Ted Cruz, explaining the evils of Obamacare to drug addict Rush
Limbaugh in terms that Rush can understand.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRUZ (via telephone): As you know, the exchanges are going to be up
and running shortly. On January 1st, subsidies are scheduled to kick in.
And President Obama`s strategy is simple. He wants to get as many
Americans as possible addicted to subsidies, addicted to the sugar because
he knows in modern times, no major entitlement has been implemented and
then unwound.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO HOST: That`s right. He gets as many people
signed up to the exchanges as possible. It makes it all that much more
difficult to take it away from them.

CRUZ: That`s exactly right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: President Obama also talked about opposition to the law in
red states and told the crowd about the new version of "keep your
government hands off my Medicare".

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: There are a couple of states. Arkansas is a good example,
Kentucky is another good example, Idaho, interesting example. These are
states where, I just got beaten -- I mean, I, you know, I do not have a big
constituency in these states.

Well, I take that back. You know what, I mean, 40 percent still a lot
of people. I am losing by 20 percent in these states. But the governors
were still able to say, we`re going to set up our own state exchanges,
their own market places.

And each state is just using their own name for it. You know,
Kentucky, called, like Kentucky Connect. In Idaho, it`s called Idaho
Health Care Exchange.

And, yes, a story out of Kentucky where some folks were signing people
up at a county fair somewhere. And some guy goes up. He starts looking at
the rates, decides he is going to sign up. He turns to his friend and
said, "This is a great deal. This is a lot better than Obamacare." Right?

(LAUGHTER)

Which is fine. Because we, I don`t have pride of authorship on this.
I just want the thing to work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now, MSNBC`s Krystal Ball, co-host of "THE
CYCLE", and the University of Pennsylvania`s Dr. Zeke Emanuel, who served
as special advisor for health policy in the Obama administration.

Krystal, you`ve got to believe that story is going to happen over and
over again. That people are not going to realize that this good deal that
they`re signing up for is this much-dreaded Obamacare.

KRYSTAL BALL, THE CYCLE: Yes, I have actually been wondering about
that, as more and more of the provisions are rolled down and as January 1
comes. And people are actually covered by Obamacare. How many folks are
going to realize that the benefits that they`re getting are from Obamacare,
because we already have some provisions in place, like young people able to
stay on their parents health insurance for longer.

And I expect -- and a lot of people who got rebate checks from their
health insurance providers. I expect a lot of people who received those
benefits didn`t realize that it was coming from Obamacare. But I do think
eventually when people see how many more people are able to get coverage,
how much better their premiums are, how much better it is working -- I
think, ultimately, over the long term, people will realize Obama care had
something to do with it.

But in the short term, I think we`ll hear more and more of these
stories.

O`DONNELL: Doctor --

DR. ZEKE EMANUEL, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: I think that is a bad
thing. Can I say that is a bad thing t if they don`t realize it comes from
Obamacare?

And the main reason it is bad. People can still be both anti-
government, and take this benefit. They don`t connect the fact that it is,
government had made this possible, both by creating the exchanges and by
creating a subsidy that makes it affordable.

Therefore, they can feel legitimate in sort of being suspicious of
government, being anti-tax, yet taking all the goodies. I think that is a
big mistake.

So, when the president says, he doesn`t care if they take it and it
works -- it does have to work. But it also have to see it works because
government made it possible. It didn`t work in the private sector you.
You didn`t get exchanges work in the private sector without government
intervening and creating a mandate.

O`DONNELL: But, Krystal, this is an ongoing challenge, because in a
program like Social Security. You actually get a Social Security card.
You understood, OK, these are my Social Security benefits. It was never
blended in with something else and disguised as something else.

And the same thing with Medicare. When people turned 65 and they were
eligible for Medicare, they knew, OK, now, I am in Medicare. I get.

But this Obama care program, the availability of health insurance
that`s affordable on an exchange that doesn`t necessarily have the Obama
all over every piece of the documentation is going to be a challenge. And
that`s part of why I think the president and administration will continue
to talk about this -- almost every day of the remainder of this presidency.

BALL: Yes, that`s right. I don`t agree with Dr. Emanuel about the
fact that it would be better if people were more informed about the
benefits that they are receiving, and that government played a role in
this. Although I have to say for the short term, in a place like Idaho, in
a place like Kentucky, if the sign had in bright red letters, come sign up
for Obamacare, you probably wouldn`t get as good of a response as many
people to sign up for the program. And ultimately, it is very important
that people sign up and participate in the exchanges for the health of the
program, not to mention the fact the ultimate goal is to have more people
on health insurance.

By the way, I am sure you have seen some of those crazy ads that are
out, telling young people in particular to opt out of Obamacare, which
means don`t sign up for health insurance. I just think it is incredible
and outrageous that we are at a place where the Republican Party, the party
of personal responsibility, is urging young people few be risky, and
irresponsible and not buy health insurance. That`s unbelievable.

O`DONNELL: Doc --

EMANUEL: You should also make the point that they`re, they`re
encouraging people to violate the law, since the law says that you should
have health insurance. Otherwise you have off to pay a penalty.

BALL: Right.

EMANUEL: That is not typically the law-abiding Republican Party.

O`DONNELL: Dr. Emanuel, I can tell you I have been saving you the
pain of watching the Senate floor all day, where Mike Lee is up at the
moment, helping Ted Cruz rest his voice box for a little bit.

EMANUEL: Yes.

O`DONNELL: I can tell you -- not one of them, not Mike Lee or Ted
Cruz, has said one true thing, not one true thing, about what is actually
in the bill as written and signed by the president. Not one true thing.

I mean, I do think they have a bit of an argument about the
possibility of an impact on certain jobs, because there`s a 30-hour
threshold. But there`s nothing in the bill, you know that is trying in any
way to force people out of work. But what every single thing they -- every
other single thing they say about what`s in the bill, IRS agents deciding
whether your mother lives or dies, those guys get on the Senate floor, say
that with a straight face, because they either do not know or cannot
honestly describe what is actually in that law that you helped write.

EMANUEL: No surprise. I mean, this whole debate has been filled with
death panels. I mean, we go back to the summer of 2009, where created out
of whole cloth, something which doesn`t exist.

And, you know they have made quite clear that reality is not something
they`re interested in. They often talk about the bill as if it`s got 2,000
pages or 2,500 pages. In fact the bill is less than 1,000 pages. It`s
about the length of a Steven King novel. And they haven`t bothered to read
it either.

So I don`t -- I mean, this isn`t a debate about facts. This is as Ted
Cruz made quite clear, a debate about larger issues of ideology, and about
trying to get ready to run for president. And that`s obviously a tragic
mistake.

But I do think that -- the point is this is going to be better for
most Americans. And I think in the end, the fact that it is going to be a
good deal for people, they`re going to finally get insurance at an
affordable price. That is going to put downward price pressure and reform
the system to improve its quality. I think in the end, that`s going to win
out.

Ultimately, the American public is rational, understands what it`s in
its interest, and is going to see this as a huge step forward.

O`DONNELL: Well, it won`t surprise you to know that Ted Cruz was
still talking about death penalties tonight.

Krystal Ball and Dr. Zeke Emanuel, thank you both very much for
joining me tonight.

BALL: Thanks, Lawrence.

EMANUEL: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, President Obama`s message for the world at the
United Nations today.

And Ted Cruz is continuing to talk right now on the Senate floor. And
he is talking his way into tonight`s rewrite.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: In the spotlight, President Obama`s message to the world
for nearly 43 minutes to day President Obama addressed the U.N. general
assembly. The president laid out his strategy in dealing with variety of,
use, but with an almost exclusive focus on the Middle East and North
Africa.

Members of the Iranian and Syrian delegations were present as was
Russia`s foreign minister. But some of the president`s important points
were made for someone who was not in the room. Vladimir Putin. President
Obama had this to say to Vladimir Putin`s suggestion that Syrian rebels
might have been responsible for the chemical attack last month.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The evidence is
overwhelming that the Assad regime used such weapons on August 21st. U.N.
inspectors gave a clear accounting that advanced rockets fired large
quantities of sarin gas at civilians. These rockets were fired from a
regime-controlled neighborhood and landed in opposition neighborhoods. It
is an insult to human reason and to the legitimacy of this institution to
suggest anyone other than the regime carried out this attack.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: President Obama responded to Putin`s "The New York Times"
op-ed critique of American exceptionalism this way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I believe America must remain engaged for our own security,
but I also believe the world is better for it. Some may disagree, but I
believe America is exceptional. In part because we have shown a
willingness through the sacrifice of blood treasure to stand up not only
for our own narrow self-interests but the interests of all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me Steve Clemons, Washington editor-at-large for
"the Atlantic."

Steve, that was quite striking language to say what Vladimir Putin had
said without using his name was an insult to the intelligence of the people
in the room today. I hope they couldn`t have found a stronger way of
saying that?

STEVE CLEMONS, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, THE ATLANTIC: No, I think it was very
strong. I think he was basically, I mean, this president and vice
president Biden both made the whole notion about proliferation of weapons
of mass destruction, a defining effort off their administration.

April 2010, they hosted world leaders in Washington about exactly this
subject. And so, I think they don`t take lightly the notion that the kind
of gas attacks that we saw that killed nearly 1,500 people, probably
affected 15,000 people, are something that you can get away with lightly.

He did however have some other lines in there that were design ford
Putin as well. That were more accommodationist (ph) of to certain degree
of how Russia saw the potential stake holders in a peace process in Syria.
So, while he hit him hard in one place, he had very soft language in other
parts of the speech.

O`DONNELL: Yes, he had to acknowledge that, OK, that who did it thing
is behind us. And now, we are dealing with solving this problem. And he
is standing there, I think, triumphantly as the man who was able to bring
this problem under United Nations jurisdiction now.

CLEMONS: I think that`s absolutely right. I mean, you have something
that is a remarkable moment, potentially, both in presidential history and
perhaps in the region, where all of a sudden, you have got really
interesting movement with Iran. We saw the real outreach to Rouhani, while
they didn`t shake hand, they came pretty close to a very significant shift
with Iran. We have seen movement that we wouldn`t have expected in the
Middle East peace process. And, you have got a process where the chemical
weapons, strategic objective of the United States with Syria, at least
recently, on the chemical weapons is that they may be not only under U.N.
supervision, but disposed of and destroyed.

And so, you may have gone from a period just a few weeks ago where
Obama looked flat on his back in foreign policy, to now looking like a real
master of the game to use maybe the (INAUDIBLE) term.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what the president said about Iran today
in his address to the United Nations?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I don`t bleach this difficult history can be overcome
overnight. The suspicions run too deep. But I do believe that if we can
resolve the issue of Iran`s nuclear program, that can serve as a major step
down a long road toward a different relationship. One based on mutual
interests and mutual respect. And given the president Rouhani stated
commitment to reach an agreement, I am directing John Kerry to pursue the
effort with the Iranian government in close cooperation with the European
union, the United Nations, France, Germany, Russia and China.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Steve, he is really reaching out a hand to Iran there.

CLEMONS: Yes. Well, I think we are seeing the public side of the
reaching out which is really important. But we are not going to get a
change in U.S.-Iran relations which slow instrumentalism and growing
together and (INAUDIBLE) this ice slowly. This has been a three decade-
long tortured relationship. And there are vested interests that don`t want
these two nations to come together again.

If behind the scenes the president of the United States and the
president of Iran are aren`t saying we really have to work together to
bring this together and we need to show some angle. We need to show some
of the process in, in what this is to bring our public as long and that`s
there.

I assume, we are, we are jumping far forward in dealing with Iranian
leadership than we are seeing even here.

O`DONNELL: Steve Clemons, thank you very for joining us tonight.

CLEMONS: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, who is the best, the best presidential
strategist since LBJ? David Corn will join me. He has the answer.

And Ted Cruz is talking this way, at this very moment, there he is.
He is talking his way into the rewrite tonight, once again.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: NBC News obtained video from inside the Westgate mall in
Nairobi just as the siege ended. The video shows some people crawling on
the floor, including children and others rushing to exits as Kenyan forces
moved in.

Kenya`s president now says 61 people were killed in the attack and 175
were injured. The president declared three days of national mourning in
Kenya.

Five attacks were killed by gunfire. More than a dozen have been
arrested. The al-Qaeda affiliated group, al-Shabaab which means the youth
in Arabic, claimed responsibility for the attack and said it was
retribution for Kenya fighting al-Qaeda in nearby Somalia. The FBI is
investigating whether any of the attackers were American.

Ted Cruz is still talking on the Senate floor. And there you can see
him, against what, up over my shoulder, yes. That shoulder? No. It`s
hard to do. How do the weathermen do that on the local weather?

Anyway. He is still talking on the Senate floor almost nine hours
after he began which has earned him, five minutes of me talking about him
in tonight`s "rewrite" which is next!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALABAMA: So I intend to support you. And I`m
not going to move, vote to move a bill if we are sure, we are going to be
blocked from having any meaningful discussion on one of the most historic
damaging bills in maybe the last 100 years that would basically move us to
single payer government run socialized medicine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: So, they are being denied any meaningful discussion of
Obamacare? What about the last nine hours of Ted Cruz on the Senate floor?

That was Alabama`s Jeff Sessions you just heard. Joining Ted Cruz`s
fake filibuster and joining the Cruz strategy of showing support for the
House Republican bill by blocking the House Republican bill from coming to
a vote in the Senate, the single stupidest legislative strategy in the
history of the United States Senate.

Now, close your eyes and imagine, you know, actually this is really
easy to imagine. You don`t have to close your eyes. Imagine if Jeff
Sessions, has the one who came up with this unbelievably stupid strategy.
The stupidest strategy in the history of the United States Senate.
Everyone, everyone would be saying Jeff Sessions is stupid, every
Washington pundit. OK, most of them would not use the word stupid because
they`re more polite than that. But they would be finding ways of saying
that Jeff Sessions is way, way, way not smart. And nothing would inhibit
them from saying that.

They would then go looking for things in Jeff Sessions` background,
proving that he is not smart, they would find a lot throughout his career.
Jeff Sessions has said that the NAACP and American civil liberties union
are quote, "un-American and communist inspired." They would find that
former assistant U.S. attorney in Alabama revealed in 1981 that he heard
Jeff Sessions say that he used to think the Ku Klux Klan was OK until he
found out some of them were pot smokers. Jeff Sessions did not deny the
statement. His defense was it was a joke.

But the real reason that the Washington media would have no problem
saying that Jeff Sessions is not smart, and by the way, everyone in
Washington including Jeff Sessions Senate colleagues, Republican colleagues
firmly believe he is not smart. But the reason the media is satisfied that
Jeff Sessions is not smart is the wrong reason.

Jeff Sessions graduated from Huntington college in Montgomery, Alabama
and he got his law degree from the University of Alabama. And so, for the
Washington media, there is nothing in Jeff Sessions` academic back ground
to prevent them from thinking he is not smart.

But that same highly academically prejudiced Washington media refuses
to say that Ted Cruz is not smart because he has the word Princeton and
Harvard on his resume. There can be no other reason because virtually
everything Ted Cruz says is not smart. I mean, way not smart.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: You don`t want an IRS agent deciding if
your mom lives or dies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: No one in the Washington media is going to say that Ted
Cruz is stupid because he said that or the thousands of other things that
Ted Cruz says in the course of a normal day that he just tosses off like
that.

Ted Cruz says things that are profoundly wrong all day long. And the
Washington media does not hold it against him because they all believe that
he is smart enough to know the truth and understand the truth and that he
is simply lying about it in the Washington media actually respects lying.
They respect political lying. They believe it is part of the game because
they believe governing the thing that they are supposed to be covering as
reporters is a game.

But the things Ted Cruz says, are so relentlessly stupid that there
comes a time when even the Washington media would have to kids rewriting
all the things they keep saying how smart Ted Cruz is.

But so far, Ted Cruz blinded them from being able to see him as
anything but the smart guy from Princeton and Harvard. The glare of his
academic armor has blinded the Washington media. And that glare comes from
the gold Princeton ring that Ted Cruz wears every day, something no other
graduate I know of that institution or any other ivy league college
actually wears.

Look for Conan O`Brien`s Harvard ring next time he walks on stage.
You will not find it. Wearing the ring of the schools became way, way un-
cool in the 1960s and 70s. And the ivy league ring business continues to
exist only for those who need you to desperately know where they went to
college. They think jewelry proves that they are smart.

Now, many people think that because Ted Cruz was a good law student or
good lawyer, he is therefore smart, smart at everything he does, and they
are wrong.

Being a good law student does not mean you are a smart parent for
example or a smart driver or a smart eater or a smart senator. In fact,
law school performance is a predictor of nothing, including your potential
ability as a lawyer. And there are many high functioning lawyers who are
absolutely terrible at everything else they do. Just as there are high
functioning physicians and scientist whose are very bad thinkers in other
areas of life.

If you judge how smart a senator Ted Cruz is by what he says and does
in the United States Senate, by what he is saying and getting and doing in
the United States Senate right now at this moment as he stand on the Senate
floor, if you score him fairly on that he is, as he stand there tonight, on
the Senate floor, the stupidest guy in the building.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: In a new Quinnipiac poll of the New Jersey Senate race,
Democrat Cory Booker still has the lead, but the race is tightening. Cory
Booker is at 53 percent. Republican Lonegan is at 41 percent among likely
voters. In August, Cory Booker led Lonegan, 54-29.

Coming up, the answer to tonight`s question, who is the shrewdest
political strategist since LBJ? David Corn asked that question today and
has the answer for our next. Hint, he has one of LBJ`s old jobs.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Who is the best presidential tactician since LBJ? In an
article today from "Mother Jones" David Corn gives us his answer. The
articles entitled "Obama is the shrewdest political tactician since LBJ."

Joining me now, David Corn.

David, I got to tell you when I saw the piece today, I said get me
David Corn because I completely agree with you. And you now have five
minutes to convince the rest of the world. Go ahead.

DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, let me say that I sort of
posed that as a bit of an overstatement. But I gave the case for believing
that might be so. And basically if you look at President Barack Obama and
ask yourself, who are his most bothersome foes of late? The answer would
be Vladimir Putin and John Boehner, two men who probably don`t have much in
common with each other. Right?

But I think Barack Obama has really gotten the best of them in the
last couple weeks despite what Maureen Dowd and others in the Washington
conventional wisdom circuit say.

Let`s look at Syria. The president had one aim in mind, which was to
stop Bashar al-Assad from using chemical weapons again. Now, he looked
like he is going to attack. He went to Congress. It looked like he may
have a vote that would fail. And people thought he was doddering and
didn`t have true command of the policy making.

But what that did was drew Putin in and put Putin on the hook. Putin
had to exist that chemical weapons in Syria existed and were a problem and
he became in some ways a guarantor. He said he would be involved in
getting them out and cutting a deal with Assad.

And so, now, Assad is really kind of hand tied. He can`t go use
chemical weapons again without embarrassing, if not angering and ticking
off his number one benefactor, Putin. So, Obama drew Putin into this
thorny issue of Syria`s chemical weapons in a way that, you know, has the
put the issue to the side now. As long, you know, they can negotiate this
for the next five years. But as long as Assad isn`t using the weapons,
Obama has won. He scored it. When he scored what he wanted to achieve.

And if you look at Boehner, you know, in the last couple weeks he had
probably the worst couple weeks in Washington because he is in the center
of this Republican circular foreign squad. Obama wisely did not get
engaged with negotiating a budget deal or get involved in negotiating a
debt ceiling hike. He will get to that`s eventually, but he sort of
stepped back. And he let the other side, self-emulate. So, in the
spectacle tonight of Ted Cruz trying, doing a fake filibuster, while most
of the Republican party, Mitch McConnell and others are scratching their
head and saying this is just really dumb. And the Republicans look like
they`re -- like they don`t have a consensus. They don`t have a strategy.
They can`t work together with each other, let alone negotiate with the
other side.

The president did that by stepping back and letting, you know, giving
them enough rope to hang themselves. These are both really pretty savvy
tactical moves of late that have, I think, given him the upper hand at the
moment. You know, Syria is not resolved, the budget issue, the debt
ceiling crisis is not resolved. But, again, the president as often
happens, you know, doesn`t always look great coming out of the chute. But
he has a strong sense of strategy. And if you look at outcomes, he often
ends up, if not on top, at least with a better end of the deal. Yet, again
and again and again, he doesn`t control the narrative which allows
Washington pundits, myself included sometimes, to make it seem as he is not
doing as well as he may be doing.

O`DONNELL: Well, there is a theater critic component to Washington
punditry which -- and critic is part of it. It is criticism is the first
impulse it seems to me. And it is hard to kind of sit back and say hey, it
looks like they are kind of getting it as right as you can get it within
these circumstances?

CORN: Yes, tough stuff to do, Syria, the budget negotiations and
hostage taking, Republicans. And there is the info to have quick judge
right away and the president resist could judgment and says look at what
happens at the end.

O`DONNELL: David Corn, thank you very much for agreeing with me on
this subject writing. But it is a great piece. Everybody has got to look
at it. Thanks for joining us tonight, David.

CORN: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes is up next.

END

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