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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' Wednesday, February 5, 2014

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February 5, 2014

Guest: Brian Murphy, Andrea Bernstein, Nia-Malika Henderson

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: "American Idol" contestants have become
stars and now, it was bound to happen, one of them wants to become a
political star and a congressman. Clay Aiken will join me to tell us why
he`s decided to run.

But first, Chris Christie wanted David Wildstein to work at the Port
Authority so badly that he had to invent a job at the Port Authority for
David Wildstein that did not previously exist. David Wildstein, of course,
has resigned in a cloud of scandal and took the Fifth Amendment when asked
about that scandal.

And today, the Port Authority eliminated the job that only Wildstein held.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could you state and spell your last name for the






JON STEWART, COMEDIAN: Who is this Wildstein guy?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Former Christie Port Authority appointee, David

STEWART: And why should we believe him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The lawyer for David Wildstein write, quote, "evidence
exists tying Mr. Christie to having knowledge of the lane closure."

STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: Evidence exist, ohhh.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s a curious choice of words.

COLBERT: It exists.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It raises questions about what does he have?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He hasn`t presented that evidence yet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why doesn`t the committee have it?

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: How do I feel about David now?

COLBERT: This is just the governor`s word against David Wildstein.

AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: They created a director level job.

STEWART: They created a brand-new position just for him.

SHARPTON: Specifically for David Wildstein.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What this has done has made Christie look so

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chris Christie, I mean, he`s trying to get back out

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For the GOP field at large.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Perhaps still has ambitions to run in 2016.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Christie was the man to beat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of Republicans looked at their poll numbers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The pack looks very different with Christie falling
to the middle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The bridgegate battle gives way to a high school
parking lot fight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What this has done has made Christie look so
uncredible as a presidential candidate.


O`DONNELL: Here is the first time that most of us saw David Wildstein.


counsel, I respectfully assert my right to remain silent under the United
States and New Jersey Constitutions.

On the advice of counsel, I again, assert my right to remain silent.

On the advice of counsel, I assert my right to remain silent.


O`DONNELL: Right up to the time when David Wildstein took the job at the
Port Authority that was invented for him by governor Chris Christie, David
Wildstein operated under the pseudonym Wally Edge, not because Carlos
Danger was already taken but because Walter Edge was a former governor of
New Jersey who had a hand in the creation of the Port Authority in 1921.

Wally Edge was the name that David Wildstein used on his New Jersey
political blog that became required reading in New Jersey politics. It was
at that blog that David Wildstein hired our own Steve Kornacki for what
became Steve`s first political reporting job.

As Steve has told us, no one actually knew who Wally Edge was, and Steve
didn`t know who Wally Edge was until Wally Edge hired Steve to work at that
political blog.

There is absolutely nothing wrong about running an anonymous political
blog, but there is nothing about it that would qualify anyone for a
professional position at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

And so, Wildstein`s appointment to that job was greeted with skepticism by
many in New Jersey and at the Port Authority. In what is now an
extraordinary article to look back on, written almost two years ago for
"The Bergen Record", Shawn Broberg reported that Wildstein seems to serve
as the administration`s eyes and ears within the byzantine agency.
Wildstein himself wouldn`t tell "The Bergen Record" what he actually did at
the Port Authority.

But the governor`s press secretary, Michael Drewniak, now under subpoena in
the scandal investigation, was eager to explain and defend Wildstein`s
appointment to the Port Authority.

Drewniak said, "Wildstein is there in that job because he`s well suited to
the task of playing a role in reforming the Port Authority in accordance
with the governor`s goals. That sure sounds the governor`s eyes and ears
at the Port Authority.

One source told "The Bergen Record", back then two years ago that, quote,
"he became the watcher of the entire agency. What he was watching for was
strict adherence to the Christie agenda," end quote.

The governor`s now subpoenaed press secretary, Michael Drewniak, pleaded
guilty to that, telling "The Bergen Record" agent Wildstein, if he`s not
liked for that role, if he`s accused of being in that regarding -- then we
plead guilty.

That`s not the exact quote. Let`s see if we have it right up on the
screen. I don`t know. Well, put it up on the screen, I can`t read it from
here. Let me see if I can try it.

If he`s not liked for that role, that`s right, and if he`s accused of being
zealous in that regard, then we plead guilty.

Bill Baroni who was installed as the Port Authority`s deputy executive
director by governor Christie, and was forced to resign in the scandal
along with Wildstein, told "The Bergen Record" then, two years ago, that
Wildstein was at the Port Authority to, quote, aggressively pursue two
things -- to pursue New Jersey`s and Governor Christie`s priorities and to
reform this agency.

If there are people who have been here for decades who don`t like the fact
that we have real -- a real aggressive approach to getting these projects
done, they should get used to it. Our job here is not to make friends.

Well, they succeeded at that job. When David Wildstein was forced to
resign in scandal, Governor Christie released this statement, "Mr.
Wildstein has been a tireless advocate for New Jersey`s interests at the
Port Authority. We are grateful for his commitment and dedication to the
important work of the Port Authority and thank him for his service to the
people of New Jersey and the region."

That statement, as with all such press releases in Governor Christie`s
office was written under the supervision of the subpoenaed press secretary
Michael Drewniak. Michael Drewniak is still Chris Christie`s press
secretary. And Chris Christie`s press office run by Michael Drewniak on
Saturday sent out a talking points memo to defenders of Chris Christie
about David Wildstein.

That memo attacked David Wildstein using the very information included in
Shawn Broberg`s almost 2-year-old article. That same article in which
Drewniak himself personally defended Wildstein on the record, in quotes,
against those same acquisitions that Drewniak`s team is now trying to use
against David Wildstein.

It`s that article in which Drewniak said, we plead guilty about David
Wildstein being zealous in his action at the Port Authority. Team
Christie`s talking points included, of course, the now famous reference to
David Wildstein being, quote, "publicly accused by his social studies
teacher of deceptive behavior."


STEWART: Publicly accused by his high school social studies teacher of
deceptive behavior? What does that even mean? Wildstein stand up.


You didn`t have to go to the bathroom, did you? You just wanted a hall
pass. You son of a bitch. Why can`t you be more like star athlete and
class president, Chris Christie?

COLBERT: Folks, that is a damning list. And it doesn`t even mention the
troubling rumors that Wildstein is a known associate of scandal plagued
Governor Chris Christie.



O`DONNELL: Joining me now is Brian Murphy, a professor at Baruch College,
and a former political reporter in New Jersey. And, of course, Brian
worked for David Wildstein in 2002 as managing editor of and he`s also a friend of Bill Baroni`s.

Also joining me is Andrea Bernstein, a senior editor of WNYC, where she
also created the transportation blog.

So, Brian, it all is coming down to David Wildstein these days. Of course,
there`s Bridget Anne Kelly which no one has heard from including her voice
pleading the Fifth Amendment. But the Christie camp actually using
elements of this 2-year-old article to attack David Wildstein, an article
in which the same players in the Christie camp actually were defending
David Wildstein against these kinds of accusations is just an amazing thing
to see tonight.

BRIAN MURPHY, BARUCH COLLEGE: So you weren`t convinced by this? You
didn`t find this to be a really smart press move?


O`DONNELL: Brian, I`m kind of in the makeup your mind position on this.
It`s so -- it`s just a riot to see Drewniak and these guys, you know,
saying all these praiseful things about Wildstein at every moment they
possibly could, right up until Friday when suddenly Wildstein`s lawyer
releases this document saying that Wildstein says that evidence exists that
contradicts Chris Christie`s story. And then, it`s pure attack mode on
David Wildstein.

MURPHY: Right. I`m not really convinced that Michael Drewniak saw this
before it went out. Or if the professional communications staff and the
governor`s office did see this, I can`t imagine that anyone who was a paid
professional on that staff would have given the green light to this

This just seemed like when I read it, something that had been cooked up,
maybe in panic, maybe in anger, maybe in a bit of both by either the
governor or people very close to him, perhaps people who have been long
time, really long-time backers. It just doesn`t strike me as something
that came out of the professional communications office. Especially -- and
who would get to the point where you see, you know, make sure you use the
part about his social study teacher, right? Because that`s going to blow
the thing open.

O`DONNELL: Remember, this is the same professional communications office
that in the article two years ago said we plead guilty.

Andrea Bernstein, if not the professional communications office, who at
team Christie, including possibly the governor is sitting around typing up
these things?

ANDREA BERNSTEIN, WNYC: Well, I mean, I think this is another question
that we don`t know the answer to. I mean, I think the key question here is
all this stuff was known for decades about David Wildstein and what he did
in high school by no one better than Chris Christie himself. So knowing
this information, why do you give him the job of director of interstate
capital projects for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey?

I mean, this wasn`t a nothing job. This was a really important position
where he was in charge of doling out billions of dollars for capital
projects, much of that in New Jersey.

And what we know now is that David Wildstein was taking money and putting
them into projects that solved other problems for Chris Christie, lots and
lots of money. So it wasn`t just tying up traffic on the George Washington
Bridge that he was doing. But he was arranging the kinds of mega projects
that advanced Chris Christie`s political fortunes and were it not for this
traffic tie-up on the George Washington Bridge probably would have helped
him position himself for a 2016 campaign.

O`DONNELL: Andrea, elaborate what kind of projects that the Port Authority
was able to do with David Wildstein and others` guidance that helped
specifically Chris Christie and helped New Jersey specifically.

BERNSTEIN: Well, for example, there was a project lifting up the Bayonne
Bridge. Now, this is a project that a lot of people wanted to get done.
And David Wildstein really pushed and got it through. I mean, I think the
key issue was it had a big supporter for the labor unions who then went and
endorsed Christie for reelection. It was a huge endorsement for him. It
was very early on his campaign. It scared off Democratic challengers.

Then, that group turned around and made giant contributions to the
Republican Governors Association, which Chris Christie chaired. There was
also billions of dollars that went into the Pulaski skyway, which is a road
leading out of the Lincoln Tunnel in -- excuse me, the Holland Tunnel in
New York City.

Now, this seems like a mundane project, but the key thing about it is that
it meant that Chris Christie didn`t have to spend New Jersey funds. So it
solved a big budget headache.

And interestingly, when I asked Michael Drewniak about these projects just
a couple of weeks ago, his response then, as it has been, was these were
very important projects for the state of New Jersey. How can you fault
Governor Christie`s team for pushing for them? So, it`s sort of a which is

Is he somebody who was unstable and manipulated a high school teacher? Or
is it somebody that was doing the work of the state of New Jersey
effectively in his position as director of interstate capital projects.

Now, as you mentioned, the top of the segment, I learned and some other
reporters learned this week, that this position had been eliminated. Which
sort of goes to, was it key? Was it important?

Or was it something that was created so that David Wildstein could carry
out Chris Christie`s will at this authority? Which is, let`s not forget, a
by-state authority, New York and New Jersey. It runs the airports. It
runs the bridges and tunnels between New York and New Jersey. That`s its

O`DONNELL: Brian Murphy, the bottom line, which is literally the bottom
line on the Christie defense statement that went out this weekend says,
bottom line, David Wildstein will do and say anything to save David

Is that the David Wildstein you know?

MURPHY: I think that David Wildstein is -- the line I`ve used before is
that I think David Wildstein isn`t going to be the only one left without a
chair when the music stops. I think if he says that he has either -- he`s
aware that there is evidence that the governor knew about this, that would
be something that Chris Christie should take very seriously.

BERNSTEIN: I would just add to that --

MURPHY: I think that -- yes.

O`DONNELL: Go ahead, Andrea.

BERNSTEIN: To that point, Lawrence, at the governor`s marathon January 9
press conference, Governor Christie went out of his way to say I don`t know
what David Wildstein was doing in high school, I hardly knew him. I was a
star athlete. I was president of the student body. Essentially he was
saying who was David Wildstein?

Now, maybe this wasn`t the greatest thing to say about somebody that is
now, you know, staring down the barrel of multiple federal investigations

O`DONNELL: Brian Murphy and Andrea Bernstein, thank you both very much for
joining me tonight.

BERNSTEIN: Thank you.

MURPHY: Thank you very much.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Clay Aiken is here. For the first time, he joins me
live to talk about why he`s running for Congress.

Hey, Clay. How are you doing?

CLAY AIKEN: I`m doing well. Thank you for having me.

O`DONNELL: Today was the big announcement day down there in North
Carolina, huh?

CLAY AIKEN: It was, big day.

O`DONNELL: All right. We`re going to hear from you about day one of
campaigning, coming up. Thanks for being here, Clay.


O`DONNELL: OK, this is getting wicked weird. Pat Robertson agrees with
me, and Bill Nye the Science Guy.

Listen to what Pat Robertson.


PAT ROBERTSON, TELEVANGELIST: To say that it all came about in 6,000 years
I think is just nonsense. I think the time we come off of this stuff and
say this is impossible.


O`DONNELL: So, Pat Robertson thinks that Bill Nye the Science Guy won that
debate on Evolution versus Creationism.

Up next, why Republican primary voters have a new favorite, and it has
something to do with Chris Christie collapsing in the polls.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The winner of the 2011 Iowa straw poll is Congresswoman
Michele Bachmann.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Herman Cain has vaulted to the top of the new NBC
News/"Wall Street Journal", ahead of Mitt Romney.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Newt Gingrich has surged to the top of the Republican
presidential race has been confirmed in yet another national poll.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Debut here what Rick Santorum said. He`s the man of
the hour in Republican politics, the latest leader in the Republican race
at the top of the national polls.


O`DONNELL: And tonight, there is a new front-runner for the next
Republican presidential nomination, with the former front-runner Chris
Christie hurt by overzealous and possibly criminal staff who, as he put it,
embarrassed and humiliated him. The new front-runner is former preacher,
former Arkansas governor and 2008 Republican nomination loser, Mike

Here`s what it took for Mike Huckabee to become the new front-runner.
First, of course, Chris Christie had to collapse in scandal and then, Mike
Huckabee had to say this.


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
with birth control because they cannot control their libido or their
reproductive system without the assistance of the government, then so be


O`DONNELL: A week after that, what happens? A CNN poll shows that Mike
Huckabee is right up there in front of the pack now of the Republican,
possible Republican presidential candidate next time around.

And so once again, the Republicans have a front-runner for their
presidential nomination who has absolutely no chance of ever actually being
elected president of the 50 United States of America.

Joining me now are MSNBC political analyst Steve Schmidt and "The
Washington Post`s" Nia-Malika Henderson.

Nia, I know Steve -- I will let Steve take a little pause to get over the
nightmare of that video we just showed over various people who at various
crazy times who have been front-runner. And now Mike Huckabee.

Huckabee has always brilliantly strung everyone along, talking to different
reporters saying he was looking at this field and possibly entering the
field in 2016. Then, this very quotable, you know, message that he had
about women and the Democratic Party. Uncle Sugar, whoever thought of

But again, I think it is 2012 all over again. We talked about, all those
people who went -- I covered all those people, and the sort of the polls
determined where I would go next. And, you know, very much from week to
week it could be, you know, Bachmann, it could be Cain. You have this
field that seems to be dividing once again, like we had in 2012, which was
Romney and not Romney.

And then here it seems to be sort of the same thing. So, the Christie wing
and then the not Chris Christie wing. I think what will be interesting to
see is if people start to crowd the field that are in the establishment
wing like Chris Christie is.

O`DONNELL: Steve Schmidt, we`re obviously seeing a Christie effect in that

punitive front-runner. The instability now that the situation has caused
in the race is now people are speculating about a lot of different
candidates. Mike Huckabee now top of the polls.

The problem, Lawrence, is for Republicans, if you look at just the states
Democrats have won six out of the last six elections, there are 242
electoral votes. And that`s a tough wall to overcome with 270 needed to

And the question, when you give consideration to a Mike Huckabee candidacy
is, what state when you look at the country does Mike Huckabee pick up that
we haven`t already won. There`s just not a good answer for that. There`s
no a candidate you can win in a general election with if you`re a
Republican and you care about winning.

O`DONNELL: Nia, I want to put the poll back on the screen. It remains
fascinating in Chris Christie terms. There`s Mike Huckabee at 14, Rand
Paul at 13. That`s basically a tie.

You move down a notch to Jeb bush at 10. But there`s Chris Christie at 10,
right there with Jeb Bush now in the middle of the worst scandal any of
these guys have been near.

And then what I think is significant -- there`s three people below him.
Paul Ryan is right now under Chris Christie`s worst situation of scandal,
polling below Chris Christie. Marco Rubio is polling below him and Ted
Cruz is polling below him.

That should -- I mean, not just create problems for investors in a Christie
presidential campaign, but people who are thinking about Rubio, people are
thinking Ted Cruz. They`re looking at that going, wait a minute, Chris
Christie is in flames and Ted Cruz is running behind him.

HENDERSON: Yes, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio. He was on the cover of "Time"
magazine as the Republican savior. It doesn`t help that he was backing the
Senate plan around immigration.

I think again you have to look at folks like a John Kasich out of Ohio.
He`s up for re-election, looks like he`ll win. He`s polling at about 53
percent. He`s part of a Midwestern renaissance. That unemployment rate
there used to be 10 percent. It`s about 7 percent.

I think he`s going to be somebody, who doesn`t have a lot of name
recognition and maybe that`s a good thing. We see what good that did for
Chris Christie, but I think that`s going to be where investors start to
look as they look to 2016, who is going to be that candidate for the
moneyed class.

O`DONNELL: Steve Schmidt, who is not on the current list of usual suspects
might emerge and end up being the real front-runner here.

SCHMIDT: When you look, Lawrence, how staggeringly unpopular the
Republican brand is in Congress. Just unthinkable that we would nominate a
United States senator to be the Republican nominee in 2016. So, you have
to look at the governors, not at the talk radio hosts.

Brian Sandoval in Nevada, not hugely well known nationally, talented
political leader. Scott Walker up in Wisconsin. John Kasich in Ohio we
just talked about for a second.

But if you`re a Republican governor, or even someone who has a profile, has
popularity outside of politics, I think it is as wide open a field as you
could possibly construct at this moment in time. Anyone could win it.

O`DONNELL: Thanks, Steve.

Steve Schmidt and Nia-Malika Henderson -- thanks for joining me tonight.
And you should both stick around and watch this next segment, because we`re
going to make political history here tonight. This is Clay Aiken. He`s
going to get his last word tonight on his first day of campaigning for
Congress in North Carolina.

Nia, don`t go anywhere.

HENDERSON: I won`t do this (ph) --

O`DONNELL: Is next.


O`DONNELL: And the spotlight tonight, it was bound to happen, an "American
idol" runs for Congress.

Joining me now, Democratic congressional candidate for the second district
of North Carolina, Clay Aiken.

Clay, thank you very much for joining us tonight on what is now your first
day of campaigning for this seat. How did day one go?

day. I tell you what. It`s been a good day. It has been a positive day.
We`ve heard a lot of incredible feedback and had a lot of positive support.
But I tell you what, this is a hard job.

O`DONNELL: Well, you announced your candidacy in a video that I think is
an extraordinary video. I want to show some pieces of it, beginning with
how it actually begins. Your initial statement about this. Let`s watch


AIKEN: I was 1-year-old. And my mother knocked on that door with only a
diaper bag, the clothes on our backs and me in her arms. She needed a
place to stay where she should escape from my father and start a new life.
And she found that place here, in the home of a friend. For eight months
we stayed in this living room and slept on a mattress on the floor, a tarp
hung around the bed for privacy.

I`m Clay Aiken. And I don`t remember that time. Mom thinks that`s for the
best. My father could be a violent man who would get drunk and angry and
he decided mom was the reason for the pain in his life. I saw later when I
was older the pictures her bruised face and blackened eye in police

In some way, this is where my life really began, on a floor of a living
room in a small North Carolina home where my mother and I only had each
other. And she protected me, not just from my father, but from as many
harsh realities as she could. And more often than not, she would distract
me with music. So much of who I am was shaped in the early years and it`s
part of why I decided to run for Congress.


O`DONNELL: Clay, that is as personal an opening statement as I have ever
heard in a political candidacy. I can imagine some of that was not easy to
go over.

AIKEN: You know, some of the stories of my past, I`ve shared before, but I
don`t think any of them have meant as much as when I told that. Because,
you know, I`ve said in the past that I believe that I`ve been allowed this
opportunity and this platform in the public eye to speak about issues that
are important to me. But to do this today and to share that today in that
way as an intro to what I think is probably the most important thing that
I`ll do, I think it made it a lot more important to me.

O`DONNELL: And, you know, listen, what`s interesting to me about this
video is here you are, an amateur in this field coming into it, this is
your first professional day, and this is a very impressive video because
you`ve got a lot of the rules of politics in there. The former speaker of
the house that you`re trying to be a member of, Tip O`Neill, of course,
famously said all politics is local. And that video really localizes you
to that district and that place.

And now, I want to play a piece of your video where you get into the hard
politics of why you`re running and the distinction you draw between
yourself and the current incumbent Republican congresswoman in that
district. Let`s listen to what you say in your video about Renee Elmers
who is the incumbent you`ll be running against if you get that democratic
nomination. Let`s listen to this part.


AIKEN: Even though she knew that voting for massive cuts to the military
was bad for our country and our district, she voted for them anyway ten
times after her party leaders told her to. And when her party leaders told
her to vote for the government shutdown, she did 21 times. Even though she
said herself it would be a disaster for the economy. And then she
complained that she need her paycheck.

These votes hurt North Carolina. They hurt our military readiness and they
led to thousands of civilians at Fort Bragg being furloughed. Cuts to
child care for 5,000 children who live on base, cuts to medical and dental
clinics, in the counseling and survivor outreach for the family of fallen
warriors. Even free phone calls so families could call soldiers serving in
Afghanistan were cut back.

This is what`s wrong with Washington. That a congresswoman would go there
and vote against the best interest of North Carolina military family and
those that depend on the military for their jobs. To do it when you know
is wrong is even worse. And to do it because your national party told you
to, well, that`s what in the end convinced me that if I didn`t try to do
something about it, that I couldn`t complain if no one else did.


O`DONNELL: Clay, I`ve got to say that`s as strong a statement I have heard
from a Democrat about the government shutdown and about this kind of budget
cutting that the Republicans have been pushing in Washington.

AIKEN: You know, I think that we are in the second district experiencing
what is really indicative of what this entire process has been like.
People who have stood in the way of progress, people who have gone to D.C.
and voted the party line. You know, I say also in the video at one point
that, you know, I like to believe that everybody goes to Congress because
they want to do so good. And of course, I have ideological differences
with people. And may not see that their way is the way that I would do it,
but I want to believe that everybody goes and does the right thing, you
know? And is doing it for the right reasons at least.

But when you see what`s happened in this district and so many other
districts around the country, where people have gone to D.C. and they`ve
just lined up behind the people in their party, lined up behind the leader,
taken votes, cast votes in order to get leadership positions for
themselves. It`s days heartening. It`s frustrating. I think the entire
country is tired o tired of this kind of dysfunction in Washington. It
bothered me to the point where I said I need to stop doing what I`m doing
for me and actually give a voice to some of these people who are not being

O`DONNELL: Clay, we are now meeting for the first time and through the
magic of this satellite, but you and I have mutual friends including one
very tall one. The tall half of Pen Teller (ph), who tells me who are the
nicest, maybe politest guy he knows. And it leave me wondering, are you
ready for this rough and tumble that you`re going to be getting into in a
North Carolina congressional race?

AIKEN: You know, first of all, it`s very nice of Pen. He was just texting
me while I was sitting here waiting for you. You know, I`ve been through
quite a bit in the past ten years in the entertainment industry and I think
I`ve got a pretty thick skin. I will say that I`ve learned and discovered
and realized over the past week or so that politics is really the only
business, the only industry where one person`s success is wholly dependent
on the failure of someone else. And that is not like that. In any other
industry, you can be successful and your competitors can be successful. I
can be successful, Other singers can be successful.

But in politics, you only win if the other person loses. And I think that
type of attitude has to change. Because what we see is people going to
Washington and they`re not trying to do what`s right for the district that
they`re representing. All they`re trying to do is make the other side look
back. All they`re trying to do is try to destroy the other side so they
look good. And we`ve got to dispense with that. So, am I ready for it?
I`m certainly tough enough. Do I plan on practicing the same kind of
politic that I have seen practiced in this district for the last 3 1/2
years? No.

O`DONNELL: Congressional candidate Clay Aiken, thank you very much for
joining us on your first day of campaigning. And Clay, I got to tell you,
on the first day of someone turning pro in politics, I have not seen
anybody turn out a better campaign announcement than that and a better more
strongly and passionately put political rationale for running. So thank
for joining us on this important night for your career.

Thanks, Clay.

AIKEN: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, an extraordinary moment in the House of
Representatives that you must witness. A congressman attacks the war on
drugs like no one in Washington has before him. That is next in "the

And after that, that congressman Steve Cohen will join me.


O`DONNELL: The women from puss riot met Stephen Colbert to last night.


STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, THE COLBERT REPORT: You seem like nice couple of
kids. What I don`t understand is why you would you be going against
someone like Vladimir Putin who is just trying to preserve the peace and
bring Russia into a brighter future. What do you have against Vladimir
Putin? He`s a strong man. That`s what Russia needs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have different ideas about a bright future and we
don`t want a shirtless man on a horse leading us into that.


O`DONNELL: An extraordinary" rewrite" is next. And I can say that because
it is not my contribution to the "rewrite" that is extraordinary. You`ve
got to see this. Stay with us.


O`DONNELL: In the "rewrite" tonight, once again, America`s longest war. A
$3 trillion failed policy that has produced murder and mayhem here and
abroad for over 40 years, the war on drugs. That`s the name that President
Nixon gave to this war before he was forced to resign the presidency under
the threat of impeachment in the water gate scandal. The war on drugs
turned out to be one that all subsequent presidents could not resist
continuing to fight. And of course, it is not a war of drugs, It is a war
on drug dealers and drug users. But we don`t want to call it that because
we know who the drug users are.

The drug users are our children. The drug users are our sisters, our
brothers, they are our fathers, they are our mothers. They are otherwise
law abiding Americans who use marijuana to as much intoxicating effect as a
glass of wine, and they are Wall Street cocaine users, and some of them are
tragically fatally heroin addicts.

The addicts need help, not a prison sentence. The addicts need treatment.
We have the resources to provide that treatment for addicts who can`t
afford it. But we waste that money trying to arrest them and to imprison
them. And so, some of us publicly and in some cases passionately insist
that the war on drugs is a failure but we don`t get to say it directly to
one of the generals conducting that war.

Yesterday, Congressman Steve Cohen of Tennessee did exactly that in an
extraordinary exchange in a congressional hearing. I have never heard a
member of Congress more forcefully and effectively describe the madness of
the war on drugs in a congressional setting. He brought intelligence and
compassionate and life experience to everything he had to say. Congressman
Cohen will be my next guest. But first, you must listen to him speak for
so many of us directly to the leaders of the war on drugs.


REP. STEVE COHEN, TENNESSEE: I would submit, with all due respect to my
fellows on the other side, that schizophrenia, which my father was a
psychiatrist and taught me something about, could be described as a party
that talks about saving money all the time and being concerned with
deficits and being totally driven by that, but not being concerned at
saving money when people are in jail for marijuana and mandatory minimums
the judges said were awful. And for nonviolent first-time offenders who
are serving lifetime sentences in jail, costing us $30,000 a year and the
population of that jail has gone up 800 percent in the last 30 years.
That`s schizophrenia. You`re concerned about costs, in cutting costs, but
not when it`s jailing a population.

Mr. Botticelli, your hands are tied on schedule one. But it is ludicrous,
absurd, crazy, to have marijuana in the same level as heroin. Ask the late
Phillip Seymour Hoffman, if you could. Nobody dies from marijuana. People
die from heroin. And every second that we spend in this country trying to
enforce marijuana laws is a second we`re not enforcing heroin laws. And
heroin and meth are the two drugs that are ravaging our country. And every
death, including Mr. Hoffman`s is partly the responsibility of the federal
government`s drug policy for not putting total emphasis on the drugs that
kill, that cause people to be addicted and have to steal to support their
habit. And heroin and meth is where all of your priorities should be.

Heroin is getting into arms of young people. And when we put marijuana on
the same level as heroin and LSD and meth and crack and cocaine, we are
telling young people not to listen to the adults about the ravages and the
problems, and they don`t listen because they know you`re wrong.

With all due respect, you should be listening to scientists. I understand
the parents who are grieved because their child died for an overdose. They
didn`t overdose on marijuana. And you`re listening to them rather than the

Mr. Botticelli, it may go back to "A Few Good Men" the movie, Jack
Nicholson, `you can`t handle the truth.` The truth is the drug war failed.
Your direction on marijuana is a failure. Get to dealing to saving kids
from heroin overdoses.

Now, you talked about alcohol and you may have gotten to this. Cirrhosis
of the liver, pretty serious thing. Violence against spouses and women,
people don`t smoke marijuana and beat up their wives and girlfriends. They
get drunk. Sometimes they beat up their wives and girlfriends. Maybe the
reason there`s so many more people smoking marijuana now is because they`re
not listening. And maybe doing other drugs, too. But it shows the war on
drugs has been a failure. It has been a serious failure.


O`DONNELL: Congressman Steve Cohen, I can tell you, you are getting teary
eyed standing ovations in living rooms around the country right now. We
are going to talk about this coming back in a minute. Thank you very much
for your words.

We`re going to be back with Congressman Steve Cohen.


O`DONNELL: Broadway dimmed the lights tonight at exactly 7:45 p.m. to
honor Phillip Seymour Hoffman who died on Sunday at the age of 46. Phillip
Seymour Hoffman appeared on Broadway in three plays and was nominated for
Tony for each of those performances. And here is a moment of Zen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please welcome Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Welcome back.

I`m going to say this right now and I am not a man prone to hyperbole,
world`s greatest actor. Phillip Seymour Hoffman, world`s greatest actor.




COHEN: Cirrhosis of the liver, pretty serious thing. Violence against
spouses and women. People don`t smoke marijuana and beat up their wives
and girlfriend girlfriends. They get drunk, sometimes they beat up their
wives and girlfriends.


O`DONNELL: Joining me now, Tennessee`s congressman Steve Cohen.

Congressman Cohen, I`ve been to a lot of congressional hearings, Senate
hearings especially. And I`ve always had an eye on, especially when I was
sitting there in the back chairs, in the staff chairs of who`s working
right off their talking points word for word. And I could see you had some
notes up there, but I think you went way beyond what was on the paper in
front of you.

COHEN: I don`t do notes. I`m kind of like Butch Cassidy and I shoot
better when I`m not trying to --

O`DONNELL: It sure seemed that way.

And what I was seeing there was a mastery of the facts and a willingness to
bring real world experience to this, including your own knowledge of people
with these problems and people who have had these problems. And you
mentioned Philip Seymour Hoffman. I have to think that his death was part
of what pushed you in the emotional direction you went.

COHEN: I`ve known a lot of people who have, from the `60s, `70s, whatever,
who have smoked marijuana. Most of them were very successful business
people, political leaders, titans of industry and it hasn`t affected their
job performance whatsoever. And I`ve known a young man who was a son of a
girl I dated, a woman I dated who died of a heroin overdose.

And I`ve known another friend who was a Navy S.E.A.L. who smoked marijuana
when he had pancreatic cancer who was up here in Bethesda, Maryland. And
his mother said him, the only thing that makes him smile or eat is
marijuana. And I thought this is insane to not allow somebody who is dying
to have marijuana that makes them eat and smile.

Marijuana isn`t our biggest problem. But since Harry Anslinger in the 30s,
we`ve had this war, a lot of it precipitated on race towards African-
Americans and Latinos and continued through the years that has been a loser
of a war, costing a lot of money, taking people`s liberty. The United
States government should not take people`s liberty for something that is
really not more harmful than alcohol.

O`DONNELL: You made the point yesterday that marijuana was made illegal
largely out of fear of Mexicans who were coming into the United States back
at that time. And also, that marijuana is classified essentially the same
as heroin in this war on drugs. And is that, do you think, the -- it`s
hard to identify what is the single biggest madness in that war. But this
is one of them. The idea that marijuana is the equivalent of heroin.

COHEN: It`s schedule one as heroin is, opium and cocaine is schedule two.
And it`s based on a system for determining drugs in the schedule on
potential for abuse and medical as a medicine. Well, I think people have
seen the 20 states it`s good for medicine. It deals with nausea and it can
help. And also the abuse, it`s not like these other drugs. You don`t get
addicted in marijuana, the addiction that makes you knock off a set of a 7-
11 and kill somebody because you got to get a fix. I mean, you know, it may
drive you to a Ben and Jerry`s or a donut shop, but that`s not going to
hurt the guy at Ben and Jerry`s or the donut shop. They`re going to like
it. It`s good for profits.

And so, it`s just crazy. And one of the things I wanted to do is change A,
to let the drug people get involved - the statutes don`t even allow them to
give their opinions on changing the schedule, and also to have the
scheduling affect include the likelihood of causing death, or addiction.
But it`s -

O`DONNELL: We are, sadly, out of time. Congressman Cohen, thank you very
much for joining us on this - it`s just an extraordinary statement that you
gave in the House and I really wanted people to hear it tonight. Thank you
very much.

COHEN: You`re welcome, and thank you for re-publishing it.

O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes is up next.


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