THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
January 23, 2014
Guest: Cecile Richards; Mark Herring
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, Mike Huckabee would like you
to control your libido and John Boehner is having a recurring nightmare.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Republicans are huddled in Washington right now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Republican National Committee is having its
winter meeting in Washington this week.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For the RNC winter meeting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will the ghost of past election defeats haunt
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Eventually Republicans will come around.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To build a kinder, gentler brand.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who is the leader? Who is the voice for the
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s a good question.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As for Speaker Boehner, he has to get something
for the caucus.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`re here to bring fiscally responsible
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Strategizing for 2014.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Remember why we`re here. We`re here to win
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let`s start first about the broad change of
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We start with the number 15. That`s how many days
Congress has left.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We should not default
on our debt. We shouldn`t get close to it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To reach a deal on raising the debt ceiling again.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`ve got to assume
folks aren`t crazy enough to start that thing all over again.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But the House is off this week and he says he`s
not going to raise it for nothing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Strategizing for 2014.
BOEHNER: The administration gets its debt limit increase and the
American people get their spending cuts. I thought the fight will be over
the debt ceiling.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will the ghost of past election defeats haunt
BOEHNER: We should not default on our debt. We shouldn`t even get
close to it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`ll see, though, if that`s really the politics
O`DONNELL: John Boehner got more bad news today. No, another one of
his Republican House members did not get arrested for buying cocaine. And
no, another Republican governor did not get indicted today.
For John Boehner, something worse happened. The secretary of the
treasury told him that we are getting very close to hitting the debt
ceiling once again. John Boehner has enjoyed the most chaotic and least
powerful speakership in modern times, mostly because of the debt ceiling,
which I think was actually predicted by someone on election night in 2010
when the Republicans won back the House of Representatives.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: This, by the way, is a challenge for Boehner in the House.
His worst challenge. He must and he knows it, pass a debt ceiling increase
in his Republican House of Representatives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was way back when most members of Congress did not
know what the debt ceiling was because it had always been increased
routinely and almost without comment and definitely without news media
attention. When President Obama was last asked about the debt ceiling just
before Christmas, he actually said something kind of crazy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Will you negotiate with House Republicans on the debt
OBAMA: Oh, Brianna, you know the answer to this question. No, we`re
not going to negotiate for Congress to do pay bills it has accrued. I`ve
got tot assume folks aren`t crazy enough to start that thing all over
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now are "Washington Post" columnist E.J.
Dionne, an MSNBC analyst, and Sam Stein, senior politics editor for "The
Huffington Post" and MSNBC contributor.
E.J., I`ve got to assume folks aren`t crazy enough to start that thing
all over again. Why would anyone assume that?
E.J. DIONNE, WASHINGTON POST: Well, I think the issue on the table is
how many times can a group of politicians keep making the same mistake and
not get sued by their supporters for political malpractice.
I mean, I truly think that the Republicans in the end will not go to
the brink. They suffered a lot in the polls when they shut the government
down. They feel like and the polls suggest, they`re on a better trajectory
I was talking today to a knowledgeable Democratic staffer. You know
all about those, Lawrence, who said their feeling is that Boehner is
putting out soothing words to the Tea Party that`s going to fight because
he`s already turned his back on them on the Murray-Paul Ryan deal, and he`s
sort of hang tough now.
But just arguing against everything that I just said, Paul Ryan said
they want to go after the so-called insurance company bailouts in
Obamacare. That`s a temporary provision to make sure some insurance
companies don`t get stuck with pools of enrollees who are sicker than the
average. So, maybe they`re going to go to the mat on Obamacare. I just
don`t believe they`re going to make that mistake again.
O`DONNELL: Sam Stein, is the president right to assume that
Republicans in his words aren`t crazy enough to fool around with the debt
SAM STEIN, HUFFINGTON POST: I don`t think he`s right, but he might be
posturing himself, too, right?
STEIN: I think what`s happening here is that, you know, a bit of
saber-rattling, a lot of showmanship. I think at the end, having talked to
some knowledgeable staffers myself, the likely conclusion is that you will
have a raising of the debt ceiling with some rather ceremonial policy
tacked on top.
For instance, last time they did it, they put in the language that
said the IRS had to certify people who got subsidies for Obamacare were
deserving of the subsidies. That was already law. But at least the
Republican Party was able to go back to the base and say, hey, look, we got
something in exchange. That could be the end result this time around.
The only thing that gives me pause to people I talk to on the Hill is
the timing of this. This is going to happen in late February. We are not
through the Republican -- or through any of the primary season right now.
So, people up for reelection do have to contend the fact that they are
still getting through their primaries, and that would probably dissuade a
lot of Republicans from casting a yes vote on this.
So, you know, the timing is really unfortunate this go around and it
could complicate things.
O`DONNELL: All right. Well, let`s listen to the two importantly
different things that John Boehner has said about this. First of all,
let`s listen to what he said about it last week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: We should not default on our debt. We shouldn`t get close
to it. I would hope that the House and the Senate would act on a bill to
increase the debt limit. What that vehicle is and how it`s going to be
unveiled, we`ll find out soon enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Now, that, of course, sounds pretty close to President
Obama`s position on it. But then today, when he got word from the
secretary treasury that this was coming up, Boehner`s response through his
spokesman was this statement. The speaker has said that we should not
default on our debt, or even get close to it but -- it`s a very big but --
a clean debt limit increase simply won`t pass the House, and there you have
it, E.J. Dionne. The negotiation has begun.
DIONNE: Right. Well, I think Sam is right, by the way. I think they
may well find in the end something relatively symbolic that will allow
Republicans to say they got something so that second statement will be
But it won`t really contradict the first statement. Again, I think
there`s been a shift in the balance of power among House Republicans. Only
a little over 60 Republicans voted against the Ryan-Murray budget. I think
a lot of the middle ground Republicans who are afraid of primary, and I
think that means there will probably be more than 62 votes against the debt
ceiling, but enough of them looked at the damage done and said they are
going to be able to look to the general election and say we`re on a pretty
good path now, why would we wreck it?
STEIN: Yes, let me just add on that. I think there`s a general sense
among Republican leadership that the biggest wounds they could suffer are
self-inflicted wounds at this juncture, that the president is low in the
popularity polls mainly because of the embarrassing rollout of the
Affordable Care Act.
And then why mess with a good thing? Why disrupt what seems like a
very promising political trajectory. That could overwhelm the entire
process. They could persuade John Boehner, Eric Cantor, to go to the
caucus and say listen, we need to think big picture here.
But if history is any guide, there will be a self-inflicted wound. It
might not come from the House. It could come from some like a Ted Cruz,
for instance, what he did in the past, which is go back to the lower
chamber, the House chamber and say you guys need to stand firm on this.
There are a lot of variables out there. It`s impossible to know how this
thing plays out at this moment.
DIONNE: I think what`s dangerous about what Ryan said is if it gets
too entangled into Obamacare, it`s a theological position of the Republican
Party that they`ve got to keep pushing to repeal Obamacare. So if it looks
at all like a Republican is, quote, selling out on that, it becomes harder
to do what is the sensible thing for them, which is just to pass a debt
O`DONNELL: Let`s go back to what the president said when he was asked
about this before Christmas. Will you negotiate with Republicans on the
debt ceiling? And he said you know the answer to this question. No, we`re
not going to negotiate.
Sam, that could not be clearer. Is the president going to have to
move a little bit? In that statement, I don`t see what movement he has.
STEIN: Well, you know, this has been the position of the White House
ever since the disastrous grand bargain negotiations in 2011. After that,
the White House basically said we`re not going to do this again. We -- the
mere act, the sheer act of negotiating itself is dangerous and damaging
potentially to the economy. We`re not going to partake in this.
And to their credit, as a political tactic, it`s worked. I know we
shut down the government in October and then we led up to the debt ceiling
lift towards the middle and end of that month.
But they got a relatively clean debt ceiling hike out of it. And the
same thing happened at the beginning of 2013. So, I guess the White House
feels pretty emboldened by this. And they recognize that in the past
standoffs, it`s been the Republican Party that shouldered the majority of
O`DONNELL: Well, it absolutely should not be negotiated. I`m glad to
hear the president saying it in no uncertain terms. I think he absolutely
has the power to not negotiate.
E.J., do you expect him to hold to that position?
DIONNE: I do, for the reason Sam said. Summer of 2011 was a real
disaster for the president. He ended up looking very weak out of the
process. He agreed to this terrible sequester, which is still crimping his
ability to do a lot of the things he wants to do. So, I think he`ll hold
I don`t think that rules out some symbolic gesture that some Democrats
would work out with Republicans. But if for some reason Boehner actually
backs up that second statement you read earlier with something substantive,
then we could face a real problem.
Again, it`s crazy, I suppose ever to predict the Republicans will
simply go in a straight line towards the sensible thing. But I think in
this case, because they see the politics running their way right now, they
might actually do it.
STEIN: And let me just I`d like to get your take on this, too,
Lawrence. But the key question is, who goes first? Does the House produce
a bill with their desired changes in it? And can that pass a House? Or
does the Senate try to pass a clean tension and put pressure on the House?
I`m not sure the Democrats have settled on a legislative tactic. And
I`m not sure which one will be more effectual.
O`DONNELL: I think for the Democrats in this situation, I don`t see
that they have much alternative other than having the Senate at least try
to go first. I mean, that`s the only way they can have strategic place to
execute. I don`t see how they really have a move other than that.
I want to get to the State of the Union Address which coming up
Tuesday night. And the Republicans have finally chosen someone for that
I want to put up a list of people who have had that job during the
Obama presidency, all the most prominent Republican of the time, the first
one, Bobby Jindal 2009. 2010, Bob McDonnell, of course. 2011,
Representative Paul Ryan went out there and did it. Then 2012, Mitch
Daniels. Last time the unforgettable and thirsty Marco Rubio.
These are big stars. And now what that list indicates if you do this,
you have an equal chance of being selected as the next losing vice
president or being indicted. The honor has gone to Congresswoman Cathy
McMorris-Rodgers we discovered this afternoon.
So, this is not someone, E.J., that America is very familiar with.
DIONNE: And I think that`s what they want. First of all, they have a
big problem with women voters made a little worse today by that Mike
Huckabee story you`re going to talk about later in the show. And so
putting up a woman fairly prominent in the leadership and unknown to
Americans is probably a good idea.
And she has no enemies and it suggests that they don`t want a fire-
breathing speech. It will be very interesting to see what she does with
this opportunity. What we do know is she`s not going to grab that glass of
water. No one is ever going to do that again.
STEIN: You`ve got to feel bad for her. The Madden curse for giving
this speech, I guess she`ll have to lose her next re-election and it was a
nice political career, but it ends now.
O`DONNELL: E.J. Dionne and Sam Stein, thank you both for joining us
STEIN: Thanks, Lawrence.
DIONNE: Good to be with you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, another day of subpoenas into the investigation
of Chris Christie`s administration. Steve Kornacki will join me next.
And Mike Huckabee is the latest Republican to say something very
strange about women and birth control.
And in the `Rewrite", Mitch McConnell`s new campaign strategy is
actually to be for socialized medicine, Kentucky-style. That`s coming up.
O`DONNELL: If you think listening to a State of the Union address can
be boring, imagine how boring it can be to listen to a State of the State
Address. During Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker`s State of the State
Address last night, Democratic Wisconsin State Assemblywoman Christine
Sinicki wrote this on Facebook. "OMG, this speech is so full of S-H-dot-
dot, I wish I could get up and walk out."
She later wrote, "Bottom line, the rich get richer and the poor and
middle class continue to get pic kicked in the butt."
When asked about the comment, she responded, I listened to the entire
speech. She listened to the entire speech. She said I will not apologize
for my remark, but I will apologize for swearing."
You don`t have to apologize for swearing. Not to me anyway.
O`DONNELL: Two more subpoenas were issued today in the investigation
around the George Washington Bridge lane closures. The U.S. attorney`s
office in Newark has served subpoenas on Governor Chris Christie`s campaign
committee and the New Jersey state Republican Party, seeking documents from
both related possibly to the bridge closures, the bridge lane closures.
Two lawyers for the political organizations have confirmed the subpoenas to
Joining me now, Steve Kornacki, who has been covering the story from
the beginning and is the host of MSNBC`s "UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI".
Steve, what is the significance of these subpoenas going out to the
political campaign? This seems to really be a broadening of the scope of
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: Yes. So the basic story here is we knew
the U.S. attorney`s office was looking into the allegations from the mayor
of Hoboken about whether the Christie administration linked Sandy aid with
a development project in her town. Now, this is the first indication, the
first confirmation really that the U.S. attorney`s office is also looking
at the question of the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal.
So, you have -- it is the U.S. attorney getting involved in that. And
the immediate question that raises is this legislative committee, it`s now
a joint committee in the New Jersey state legislature, the Senate and
assembly that sent out, last week they sent out about 20 subpoenas, that
was the big news last week.
A few weeks ago, they got back subpoenaed information from David
Wildstein and Bill Baroni, the two former Christie appointees at the Port
Authority. That subpoenaed information went public. It blew the story
wide open. It`s why we`re talking about it right now.
The immediate question of the U.S. attorney getting involved in this
raises, will that legislative committee survive? Will those subpoenas they
issued, will they now be answered? Will the public information we`ve all
been waiting for, will that ever actually become public? Because if the
U.S. attorney gets fully involved in this case now, there`s a lot of talk
in Trenton that he -- Paul Fishman is his name, he`s the U.S. attorney for
New Jersey, that he will essentially politely request that the legislature
step back and let him do his job and that they would only get in the way
with their subpoenas.
If that happens, this process will play out in a much less public way
than it`s been playing out. You know, we were privy to all these e-mails
and all these texts from Wildstein and Baroni. If the U.S. attorneys step
in here and shuts down essentially that legislative committee, in the short
term, at least, we won`t see all that.
O`DONNELL: Yes, so the good news for the Christie administration in
this is if the U.S. attorney does come in and in effect big-foot the
committees -- and we`ve seen this in other examples of this kind of dual
investigations at other times -- where once the federal prosecutors move
in, the legislatures tend to step back and let them do their work. If that
happens, things will probably get much quieter on this front. That`s the
good news for the Christie administration.
The really, really bad news is the U.S. attorney is not empowered to
ask questions about the George Washington Bridge just out of curiosity.
The U.S. attorney must be pursuing a crime. There must be on the horizon
of those subpoenas a crime that they think will -- could fall within this
KORNACKI: Well, yes. What`s interesting here, too, is -- the
question that everybody is asking sort of in Trenton about all of this, if
the U.S. attorney, if Paul Fishman takes over, he`s Chris Christie`s
successor as U.S. attorney. Chris Christie used the position to prosecute
cases exactly like this.
In fact, it was basically ten years ago, almost to the day that Chris
Christie has U.S. attorney subpoenaed the Democratic state committee. He
was subpoenaing Governor Jim McGreevey`s political operation. Now, Chris
Christie is basically on the receiving end of that from another U.S.
attorney U.S. attorney, from his successor as U.S. attorney.
The questions about Paul Fishman, though, are he`s very, very
different than Chris Christie. Chris Christie really loved the big public
corruption cases. He prosecuted them aggressively. He prosecuted them in
abundance. He prosecuted them in a way where the information would
frequently find its way into the press. Little, sort of devastating
damning details would leak out.
Nobody thinks Paul Fishman runs that kind of office. He also doesn`t
have much experience with the big public corruption cases. And the X-
factor everyone wonders, too, is how many people in Paul Fishman`s office
were there when Christie was U.S. attorney as well and how does that affect
if he does take over?
O`DONNELL: Steve, also, when you have a situation like this where
you`re a relatively obscure U.S. attorney because nothing really big in a
national way has come your way, when that happens to that U.S. attorney,
most of them usually react from the perspective of, I have to absolutely
leave no stone unturned. The thing that I want to be able to say at the
end of this is that I looked at absolutely everything so that they can
either confirm and prove suspicions or eliminate suspicions.
KORNACKI: Right, absolutely. And that`s -- look, the -- either
you`re in or you`re not in, is sort of the question from the U.S.
I will say it`s been notable. Like you said, he was a short-
term/long-term distinction here. It`s been notable to listen to Christie`s
staunchest defenders in New Jersey. They have been -- their spin for the
last week has basically been, they have trying to make the legislative
investigations seem like a partisan witch hunt. They`ve been talking about
how it`s too partisan, it`s too much controlled by Wisniewski.
And they`ve been saying, look -- we have one of Christie`s defenders
on the show over the weekend. He was saying it over and over again on our
air. He was saying I don`t want politicians looking into these. These are
serious matters that should be looked at by law enforcement.
So they have actually -- Christie and his defenders have wanted this
going into the U.S. attorney`s office, at least like he said for that short
term boost of it will quite time in the short term. But, right, look, hey,
the U.S. attorney doesn`t get any more serious than that. So, long term,
that could spell serious trouble.
O`DONNELL: Well, the one distinction I`d make, Steve, is I`m sure
that these public Christie defenders would say and wanted that. But I
would be almost equally as sure that Chris Christie himself did not want to
see this go into the attorney general`s office, because he knows exactly
what the powers are in there.
And, you know, guilty or innocent, you don`t ever want to end up in a
U.S. attorney investigation. I think he would much rather be tangling with
the questions of, will I submit to this political subpoena that I just got
from that legislative committee?
I think he would rather be in that posture. I think he better than
anyone else in his office knows that this tradeoff of getting some sort of
public rest from the noise through the U.S. attorney isn`t worth it
compared to actually having FBI agents on your case.
KORNACKI: Yes, I do know that Chris Christie would not want this
going into the U.S. attorney Chris Christie, especially the way he tried
O`DONNELL: Right, right.
"UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI" airs weekend at 8:00. It is mandatory
viewing for all of us.
Steve, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, preacher-turned-politician Mike Huckabee has a
new favorite word he`s using in his speeches now, "libido". Yes.
Now, I have a feeling that Cecile Richards and Joy Reid have something
to say about what Mike Huckabee has been saying lately, and they will join
And later, Virginia goes from a right wing, intensely anti-marriage
equality attorney general to a new and very different attorney general who
announced today that he will not defend the state`s ban on marriage
equality. Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring joins me tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE HUCKABEE (R), FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: And if the Democrats
want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are
helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing them a prescription
each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or
their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Wow. Mike Huckabee really knows how to get Cecile
And joining me now, of course, Cecile Richards, president of the
Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and MSNBC`s Joy Reid.
Cecile, I`m not exactly sure what Mike Huckabee just said, but I`m
sure you have a reaction to it.
CECILE RICHARDS, PRESIDENT, PLANNED PARENTHOOD: I`m not exactly sure
why I heard what he said. I`m not exactly sure what he meant, but he must
have missed whatever classes they were giving on how to talk to women. But
I think at the end of the day, what`s more important, Lawrence, is not what
he said, but it is the fact of what he believes. And that`s that women
don`t deserve access to birth control. But I also think it`s an
illustration of why politicians should not be making decisions about
women`s health care because he clearly doesn`t understand how birth control
O`DONNELL: Joy Reid, just as it seems, as it might seem to quiet down
on the Republican front, one of them will pop-up and say something nutty
about either abortion rights or birth control, which is just an area of
zero controversy, birth control. And somehow they manage to find a spot to
create a controversy.
JOY REID, MANAGING EDITOR, THE GRIO/MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. I think
anytime your argument involves the phrase uncle sugar, you probably already
lost the argument. I mean, the is -- what`s interesting is this really
assertive reasserting of the religious right and sort of imposing itself on
the vortex of leadership that really exists in conservatism right now. I
think there is sort of a mad scramble for who is going to decide the
direction of the Republican Party absence sort of real, official credible
leadership. That being with the House is sort of in disarray constantly
and can`t get things done.
So, you are saying the religious right, they used to really be the
strong part of the party really asserting itself and saying we`re going to
turn what seems to be a negative into a strength. We`re actually going to
proactively argue our position, our anti-choice position and find a way to
sell it. The problem is their messengers are people like Mike Huckabee and
he`s not really that credible, I think, with the women they need to bring
in, which are really single women and younger women.
O`DONNELL: Well, less anyone think it was some sort of slip of the
tongue today. Huckabee actually rehearsed this line on his weekend program
on FOX News this past weekend. So this was very much premeditated. Let`s
listen to how he did it this weekend.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE HUCKABEE, FOX NEWS HOST: For Democrats who reduce women for
beggars for cheep government-funded birth control is demeaning to the women
that I know who are far more complicated than their libido and the
management of their reproductive system.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Cecile, he really loves getting this word libido in there
now. That was right in his teleprompter, completely premeditated.
RICHARDS: It`s extraordinary. And the fact he doesn`t understand --
first of all, as you said, Lawrence, birth control is the most common form
of medicine that women use. Ninety-nine percent of women in America use
birth control. So for us, this isn`t a controversial issue. It`s a health
care issue. It`s an economic issue. And at Planned Parenthood, and women
all across the country have been fighting for equity, for all these years,
to finally get birth control covered, and have someone like Mike Huckabee
to talk about it as if it`s some sort of strange or extreme measure is
The fact is we have one of the highest teen pregnancy rates,
unintended pregnancy rates in the United States of any western
industrialized country, far more than we need. Birth control is something
every woman needs, and they need it not only to plan their pregnancies,
many women use it for other medical reasons as well, a fact that seems to
have escaped Mr. Huckabee.
O`DONNELL: This speech today comes on the same day that Harvard`s
Kennedy school of government, the institute of politics has announced that
Mike Huckabee will be one of its visiting fellows this spring where I`m
sure the students will have some questions for him. I just want to play a
little bit more of what Huckabee said today to his Republican audience.
Let`s listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUCKABEE: I think it`s time Republicans no longer accept listening to
the Democrats talk about a war on women because the fact is the Republicans
don`t have a war on women. They have a war for women for them to be
empowered to be something other than victims of their gender.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joy Reid, are you appreciative of the war for you that he
REID: If anyone is going to fight for me? I think uncle sugar is who
I pretty much want on my side, Lawrence.
Listen, the reality is, if you unpack what they`re doing at this
point, you`re seeing the religious right in the Republican Party move from
what really is in terms of polls maybe a sounder ground on the issue of
abortion which there is real ambivalence among the public and a real closer
polling, even among women on the questions regarding the various sort of
stages and the various issues surrounding abortion to birth control, which
is something that is not controversial to almost any woman alive.
And then the way that Mike Huckabee is arguing it, essentially saying
that women are begging the government for birth control because they are
out of control sexually, that is actually the anti-argument for fighting
for women because he himself is reducing women to this libidinous beggars
who are going around, you know, jonesing for birth control pill.
If you describe women that way, you can`t then turn around and say
you`re fighting for women because you`re literally doing the opposite.
He`s just insulted every potential female voter the Republican Party wants.
And again, the only people left really out there to bring across to the
Republican Party are really younger and single women. And single and
younger women are going to be absolutely repelled by an argument that has
now gone from abortion to birth control. It makes no political sense.
O`DONNELL: And Cecile, you know, obviously when you talk about birth
control and birth control pills specifically, birth control medication, you
are talking to men. Men, the reason we have birth control pills is because
we have men that we wouldn`t bother with them if men were trying to prevent
something that men can actually effectuate.
And so, men are the huge beneficiaries of those bills along with
women. And so, the alienation that you get into in terms of the voter
population when you start talking about, you know, there`s something wrong
birth control pills and we as a Republican party have an issue with that,
you`re not just alienating women there.
RICHARDS: You`re absolutely right. And men are as supportive of
birth control as women for all the reasons that he listed. Men like to
plan their families as well as women. The best news I`ve had, that I heard
on this show is that Mr. Huckabee is going to be going to Harvard, maybe he
can take an anatomy class, something on how women`s reproductive organs
work because it is clear that he`s missing a lot of information.
O`DONNELL: Joy, the Republicans have got a solution. They have a way
to appeal to that women voter. They`ve announced that a woman will give
the response to President Obama`s state of the union address. There is a
woman that the country has never heard of and there is Congresswoman Cathy
McMorris-Rodgers and she`s going to be in there Tuesday night. Once again,
that seems to be the Republican method on this. They think oh, we`ve got a
problem with women voters, how about this, we put a woman up to the
REID: Right. And the party that claims that they don`t support
affirmative action and quotas, the minute they have a problem with African-
Americans, they roll out a black guy. The minute they feel they have a
problem with women, they roll out a woman. It`s sort of the optics on that
they`re trying to effect rather than the policy. And the person they`re
rolling out, she has a 100 percent pro life record. So, she`s on the other
side of most women on the issue of abortion, simply the women again who are
the gettable sort of voters are younger women. And she has, I think, a 98
percent American conservative union rating. So, she meets the minimal
criteria. But the issue again, to much like sort of Marco Rubio and other
niche candidates that they put forward, you have a person with the same
policies that drive people away from the Republican party, but you just put
them in the guise, I guess, of the demographic that you want to attract.
That is not actually the way you attract new demographics to your party.
O`DONNELL: Joy Reid and Cecile Richards, thank you both for joining
RICHARDS: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, Ken Cuccinelli says gay people are destroying
their own souls. His replacement as attorney general says he will not
defend Virginia`s ban on marriage equality. Virginia`s new attorney
general will join me.
And Mitch McConnell is so afraid of losing his reelection campaign
that his attack ads against Obamacare while running ads in favor of his own
intervention in the health care market that was his idea. That`s next in
O`DONNELL: Canada has chosen an outspoken critic of Russian anti-gay
laws to carry the Canadian flag at next month`s winter Olympics. Haley
Wickenheiser is Canada`s most decorated female ice hockey player. She`s a
three-time gold medalist. Sports Illustrated once named one of the top 25
toughest athletes in the world.
Next in "the Rewrite" the health care entitlement that Mitch
McConnell, President Obama and I think is a very good thing. And yes, it
does involve the government giving people free health care and free health
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a night before Christmas four years ago,
liberals wanted Obama care but Kentucky said no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Well, Kentucky senator Mitch McConnell said no. And yes,
that was Mitch McConnell`s voice you just heard in that radio ad. But
Obamacare became the law of the land despite Kentucky senator`s opposition
and now Kentucky is saying yes to Obamacare.
As of December 30th, 116,152 people have signed up for health care
through the Kentucky state exchange, 85,420 qualified for Medicaid and
31,672 people signed for the new private insurance plans.
Mitch McConnell is now so worried about his reelection that he is
running television ads in January, something confident incumbent senators
don`t normally do until after Labor Day. And what is Mitch McConnell`s big
issue in his TV ads? Socialized medicine. But this time, he`s in favor of
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These days I don`t have much of a voice. But I
and so many Kentuckians have been helped by someone with a strong voice,
I worked at the Paducah gas distribution plant which has been vital to
our national security. I was exposed to radiation. And like many others,
I got cancer. But Mitch McConnell stepped in and helped create cancer
screening programs and provide compensation for sick workers. He knocked
down walls for us. He helped save people`s lives.
Mitch McConnell gives a voice to Kentucky`s working families. I know
firsthand he cares. Mitch gets results for Kentucky that no one else can.
That`s why I like to raise my voice, because we`re represented by a man
who`s fought hard for us and always will.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: I`m Mitch McConnell and
I approve this message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: What a tragic story. How could you not feel sorry for the
fellow in that ad?
And what it comes down to is, if you worked in a plant in Kentucky
that Mitch McConnell allowed to operate unsafely for decades and you get
cancer, Mitch McConnell is there for you. In 1999, after a scathing
Washington Post expose of the conditions at that plant and the health
problems of its workers, Mitch McConnell helped push a bill that provided
$150,000 lump sum payment to workers at that plant who developed cancer.
He actually flew to Kentucky to provide the very first check to the family
of a man who had already died of cancer.
The money did not come close to covering the man`s medical bills, but
his family appreciated McConnell`s public gesture. The man`s daughter
said, it was recognition that daddy had done good.
The McConnell health care entitlement, which is what it is, allowed
plant workers over age 50 to get free body scans and other free health care
services as well they should. And so, Mitch McConnell does believe that
the government should provide free health care and free cancer screening.
He believes cancer victims should not be left to fend for themselves in the
harsh health care marketplace. Mitch McConnell completely agrees with
President Obama on that.
But the senator isn`t quite as ambitious as the president is about
helping cancer victims. Mitch McConnell wanted to help some cancer victim
who were dangerously exposed to radiation at under regulated Kentucky
And President Obama, he set out to help all cancer victims, no matter
how they got cancer. And while he is at it, President Obama is setting out
to help everyone else in America have better, more informed, and more
affordable access to sensible health insurance and health care services.
And President Obama didn`t have to be politically embarrassed into
taking that position by an expose in "the Washington Post."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEN CUCCINELLI, FORMER VIRGINIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: The people of each
state will decide how much authority their state government has. And we
have made that decision in Virginia. And we are out to fight them on the
ballot with one of the strongest marriage amendments in the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That is Ken Cuccinelli who was the attorney general of the
state of Virginia until just days ago. And this is Virginia`s new attorney
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK HERRING, VIRGINIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: It is time for the
commonwealth to be on the right side of history and the right side of the
law. I will fight to end this oppressive bond and to guarantee the
constitutional freedom for loving couples to marry in Virginia. And that
is because of the oath I swore when I took office and that it my paramount
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now is Virginia`s new attorney general, Mark
Thank you very much for joining us tonight.
HERRING: Well, thank you for inviting me.
O`DONNELL: This has been a very big day for a new attorney general to
decide that you will not support and defend as attorney generals normally
do the laws of your state as they are being challenge in court. Tell us
how you came to this decision.
HERRING: Well, it is a big day for Virginia. You know, shortly after
the election, when it became apparent that I was the winner, I knew that
this was going to be an issue we are going to have to deal with very
quickly. There is a court case pending. It was filed last year in
(INAUDIBLE) federal court to loving and committed same-sex couples, one in
Virginia to recognized their commitment and relationship. They challenge
Virginia`s ban on marriage for same-sex couples in federal court. And
there, the case has been fully briefed on cross motions for summary
judgment and oral arguments were set on January 30th.
I tasked my solicitor general with pulling together the team of
experts to review the law, to review the Supreme Court president. And what
we found was that we believed that if the Supreme Court in the United
States were presented with the facts of this case, that they would find
Virginia`s ban was unconstitutional and violated the due process and equal
protection clauses of the 14th amendment.
So, consistent with my obligation and consistent with the rule of law,
I notified the court of the change in legal position from the state. Now,
that doesn`t mean the case will end until the case can be decided by a
court, the registrar of vital records who is charged with, you know,
continuing to enforce the ban, she will continue to do that. There are
other parties in the case whose lawyers will argue for the continued
legality of Virginia`s ban.
But what`s different is Virginia`s attorney general, in presenting the
state`s legal position, will argue that the laws, the wrong to ban is
unconstitutional and be on the side of the plaintiffs and those couples in
Virginia who are currently deny the right to marry.
O`DONNELL: There was another choice you could have made here, the
more political choice which is to say you go through that review and you
realized we don`t have a great position. You don`t think you have a great
position. But just allow the stuff to go ahead, just let this case keep
going. You stay quiet about it, politically quiet about it so you don`t
have to suffer any exposure on it and just see what happens.
And I got a suggest to you, I believe that most recently elected
attorneys general, especially those elected by such a tiny margin as you
were, it was 165 votes, something like that -- Anyway, I think that is the
safe political choice that a lot of people in your position would have
made. Why didn`t you do that? Why you decided to take this more bold
HERRING: Well, you know, it is really not about me. It is about
doing what is right and doing what the voters would like me to do. As
attorney general, it was my responsibility to present the state`s legal
position and that required me to do a thorough and careful analysis of the
law. And after independent review, I concluded that the law is
unconstitutional then I have an equal duty to not defend the law that is
unconstitutional. And it is also about the right of the couples in the
case. It is also about the rights of couples all across Virginia.
And you know, Virginia has -- we have a proud history in Virginia.
The contributions of some of our forefathers have made to democracy, Thomas
Jefferson, the author of declaration of independence, Madison, Monroe,
Henry and others.
But there have been times in our state`s history where we have argued
on the wrong side of some landmark Supreme Court decisions. Virginia
argued on the wrong side of the Brown versus board of education, school
desegregation case in 1954. Virginia argued on the wrong side of
(INAUDIBLE) versus Virginia case which struck down Virginia`s ban on
interracial marriage. Virginia was on the wrong side of Supreme Court case
where Virginia argued that female cadets should not be admitted to Virginia
And it was important to make sure that Virginia was on the right side
of history and on the right side of the law.
O`DONNELL: This is the law that you actually voted for in 2006. And
since that time, obviously, you have changed your views as a lot of people
have, including the president of the United States. And I`m interested in
how you are thinking evolve overtime and the mix of jurisprudence and
personal experience involved.
HERRING: Well, the vote was eight years ago, back in 2006. And I
saw, while I was speaking out at the time against other forms of
discrimination based on sexual orientation, I stop short on full marriage
equality and I was wrong for that. And I saw how that vote hurt people and
it was very painful for a lot of people. I continue to think about it. I
continue to talk to friends, to constituents, to my family. And I came to
see it very, very differently.
But it is important for people to know that the decision and the
actions I took today are not based on my personal policy positions in
support of marriage equality. The positions and decisions I took today
were based on a thorough analysis of what the law requires and what my
obligations as attorney general require me to do.
O`DONNELL: And it was also a politically very brave decision today.
Mark Herring, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
HERRING: Thank you for inviting me.
O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes is up next.
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