updated 2/18/2014 1:26:06 PM ET 2014-02-18T18:26:06

THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL>
February 17, 2014

Guests: Larry Hannan, Lisa Bloom, Mark Thompson, Brian Murphy, Bill Nye



LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, Chris Christie responded to
Steve Kornacki`s reporting. And there will be a retrial of the man accused
of murdering Jordan Davis.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From mistrial to retrial.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: After more than 30 hours of deliberations --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After four days of deliberations, a Florida jury
reached a partial verdict --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the trial of Michael Dunn.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On Saturday, a jury found Dunn guilty on three
counts.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Guilty of three counts of attempted second-
degree murder.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But not for the murder of teenager Jordan Davis.

AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: For the shooting death of 17-year-old --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jordan Davis.

SHARPTON: -- Jordan Davis.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jurors failed to reach a unanimous verdict on
the charge of first-degree murder.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Prosecutors say there will be a retrial.

ANGELA COREY, FLORIDA STATE PROSECUTOR: Retrying the case is
something that we`ve all had to do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dunn maintained he shot in self-defense.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He thought he saw the barrel of a gun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Police never found a weapon.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This was a mixed verdict.

SHARPTON: The jury did find Dunn guilty on three counts of second-
degree attempted murder, and one count of firing into the vehicle.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dunn fired ten rounds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three of those shots killed 17-year-old Jordan
Davis.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: On Saturday, the man who shot and killed Jordan Davis was
convicted on three counts of second-degree attempted murder. Michael Dunn,
who fired 10 times at the car Jordan Davis and three of his friends were
riding in, will be sentenced to at least 60 years in prison on those three
convictions for attempted murder. For Michael Dunn, who is 47 years old,
that is effectively a life sentence.

The jury could not reach a unanimous verdict on the charge of first-
degree murder of Jordan Davis.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COREY: We have to sit down with our victim`s family, obviously. We
hope to do that in the next couple of weeks. But as far as we`re concerned
right now, we intend to retry him, retry Michael Dunn on first-degree
murder.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Jordan Davis`s parents spoke shortly after the verdict.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LUCIA MCBATH, MOTHER OF JORDAN DAVIS: It`s sad for Mr. Dunn that he
will live the rest of his life in that sense of torment. And I will pray
for him. And I`ve asked my family to pray for him.

But we are so grateful for the charges that have been brought against
him. But we are so grateful for the truth. We are so grateful that the
jurors were able to understand the common sense of it all. And we will
continue to stand and we will continue to wait for justice for Jordan.

RONALD DAVIS, FATHER OF JORDAN DAVIS: All human beings. We love our
children. We love our families. And we don`t accept a law that would
allow collateral damage to our family members we raise them not to fear
each other. We raise them to be good citizens in America. And we expect
the law to be behind us and protect us. And that`s what I wanted the law
to do is protect Jordan as we protected Jordan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Michael Dunn`s defense attorney says he plans to appeal
the three convictions of attempted murder.

Joining me now, Larry Hannan, a court reporter who covered the trial
for "The Florida Times-Union". Mark Thompson, host of "Make It Plain" on
Sirius XM Radio. And legal analyst Lisa Bloom, author of the upcoming book
about the Trayvon Martin case, "Suspicion Nation."

Larry, tell us what it was like in the courtroom when this jury
verdict came back.

LARRY HANNAN, FLORIDA TIMES-UNION: It was incredibly tense and very
emotional. We saw both parents, the parents of Jordan Davis and the
parents of Michael Dunn, crying, which is obviously not something you would
expect. I said in my story that no one was really happy with this verdict,
even though Michael Dunn is almost certainly going to jail for the rest of
his life. There was a sense of incompleteness about it.

And I`ll mention Dunn seemed shocked. I really think he thought he
was going to be acquitted of all charges.

O`DONNELL: Well, Lisa bloom, Dunn is a very strange person based on
everything we`ve collected in the evidence so far. In his writings since
he`s been held awaiting trial, he seems to have very strange reactions to
things that happen around him, including when he`s in parking lots in
situations like he was in in this case.

LISA BLOOM, LEGAL ANALYST: Right. Well, that`s charitable, Lawrence.

I mean, I`ve read a lot of his jailhouse letters. He`s very arrogant.
He was quite confident that he was going to be acquitted in this case. He
really had no doubt about it. He referred to African-Americans as thugs
and gangsters on a number of occasions. He said it would be great if more
people would do what he did.

And he said, "The more I get to know those people," referring to
African-Americans, "the more prejudiced I become." I mean, this is a man
who was really quite open about his dislike of African-Americans. Those
letters, by the way, never made it into this trial.

O`DONNELL: Mark Thompson, 60 years in prison. Assuming he is
unsuccessful on appeal, that is the rest of his life. That is a life
sentence. How do you define -- how do you measure and define justice in a
situation like this? Is it the sentence? Is it the specificity that`s
returned in the verdicts combined with the sentence?

MARK THOMPSON, MAKE IT PLAIN: Well, ultimately, it`s all of the
above. But I think we have to acknowledge many people feel that justice
has not been complete, that it is partial. It`s hard to make sense out of
one being held responsible, as he was in four of the five counts. One,
being held responsible for attempting to murder three people in a car, held
responsible for shooting the car. And not held responsible for the fourth
person, who actually died in the car. I think that`s very confusing.

I think the good news out of all of this is of course he will serve
those 60 years. I think that`s without a doubt. The other good news is
that this is going to be retried. And the most important piece of good
news I think -- and I was watching the video as it was just being shown
before we came on, the tremendous dignity of this family -- Jordan`s
parents and what they represent.

I don`t know how many of us could be so strong under those
circumstances. And whatever the case may be, as they show their dignity
and they show their grace, we all must still continue on their behalf to
stand up for justice for Jordan Davis.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen then to more from Ron Davis, Jordan`s father.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVIS: He was a good kid. It wasn`t allowed to be said in the
courtroom that he was a good kid, but we`ll say it. He was a good kid.

There`s a lot of good kids out there, a lot of good nephews, a lot of
good grandsons, granddaughters, nieces. And they should have a voice, that
they shouldn`t live in fear and walk around the streets worrying about if
someone has a problem with somebody else, that I think it`s just collateral
damage. There`s no such thing to parents that their child suffered
collateral damage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Larry Hannan, what is the possibilities in terms of both
things that are coming? One, the defense appeal. And then secondly, the
prosecution retrial on one count.

HANNAN: Well, I think it`s difficult to say with the appeal right
now, but anytime a jury is out for 32 hours, there`s likely going to be
some areas for appellate attorneys to look at and argue that the jury
instructions weren`t good or some of the juror questions -- there were
eight of them -- were not answered properly.

As for the retrial, one of the more interesting things, and we just
heard Ron Davis kind of allude to it in his commentary-s we really didn`t
get to know Jordan Davis at all during the trial. Someone made the point
to me, the prosecutors acknowledged he had a big mouth.

But no one really told you stories about him. You never saw his baby
pictures. His parents didn`t really talk about him. And a lot of people
think the prosecutors made a mistake with that, that we learned a lot about
Michael Dunn but we learned almost nothing about Jordan Davis.

O`DONNELL: Lisa Bloom, what`s your reading of the defense appeal
prospects and the prosecution`s retrial prospects?

BLOOM: Well, I don`t see any grounds for appeal. Most of the jury
questions were agreed to by both sides, and the answers were fairly
obvious. So I don`t see grounds for appeal. Maybe there`s something when
a good attorney combs over it, but I don`t see anything.

The prosecution has said they are going to retry the case. Angela
Corey, the lead prosecutor, the state attorney, has said she`s going to
retry him for first-degree murder.

I think that`s a big mistake. Premeditation is an issue that
everybody got hung up on. The jury came back with second-degree attempted
murder. They could agree on that.

So, I say retry him for second-degree murder. I think that would
provide the accountability. And don`t make the case too hard for the
prosecutors to win. I think these prosecutors --

O`DONNELL: But, Lisa --

BLOOM: -- need to take a hard look at the mistakes they`ve been
making.

O`DONNELL: Lisa, did the jury have an option of returning second-
degree murder?

BLOOM: Yes, they did. The options they had were first-degree,
second-degree, third-degree, or manslaughter.

O`DONNELL: So why then -- why then would it be a better prosecution
to proceed on a second-degree charge if they already had that option to go
for second degree?

BLOOM: Because the prosecutors were going for first-degree murder.
They spent a lot of time arguing about premeditation, which is required for
first-degree murder. You also lose credibility in a courtroom when you`re
trying to win on charges you that just don`t have a factual basis for.
Technically, yes, premeditation can be formed in an instant. But most
people don`t think of it that way.

So, if I`m an attorney I`m only putting charges in front of a jury
that I`m pretty confident I can win.

O`DONNELL: Yes, that`s the big issue with premeditation, is it sounds
I think to most people like planning. It sounds like the word planning.
And they don`t realize that sometimes in these cases premeditation occurs
within a minute of the event.

But, Mark Thompson, I want to show the audience a political cartoon
that appeared in the "Miami Herald" here in Miami this morning, really
quite stunning. Referencing the situation with stand your ground laws here
in Florida -- tombstones with simple explanations of who`s under that
tombstone. And they all fit within things we`ve heard about particular
uses of stand your ground shootings and killings here in Florida.

Played music too loud is one of them. Texted in a movie theater is
another one. Wore a hoodie, it says on one of those tombstones. Looked a
bit threatening, it says on another tombstone. Road rage.

There`s a bunch of them there, Mark Thompson. And they all describe
reasons familiar to Floridians and now to the nation about what apparently
can get you killed here in the state of Florida.

THOMPSON: And, you know, that`s very true. I tweeted out that same
cartoon by Jim Moran (ph) in Miami over the weekend. We`ve got another
case coming up. The case of Ricardo Saenz (ph) who was 21 years old who
was shot down and another individual is claiming self-defense.

So, it is very, very clear that this is a problem. And even where the
stand your ground law is not formally invoked or imposed, there is
obviously this culture, this feeling in Florida, again, that African-
Americans are some type of existential threat.

It`s interesting, though. Not only do we need to change that law, but
maybe we need to inform more juries because the fact of the matter is when
you have a jury for a self-defense trial such as this it actually means
that a stand your ground hearing was either not pursued or didn`t prevail
before a judge. It`s kind of like premeditation. People need to be a bit
more educated on what those matters are. Premeditation does only take a
matter of moments.

But the bottom line is we still have to do all we can to let this
family know and to let all of our young people know that we care about
them. Jordan could have been my son. He could have been a son of any one
of us. Trayvon could have been a son of any one of us. And we have to do
all we can to let them know that as their parents, as all adults we`re here
to protect and defend them because if we don`t, our children ultimately are
going to use faith in us. It is our duty to protect all of our children,
and they must see us stand up for these young men lest they be our own.

O`DONNELL: Larry Hannan, I want to go back to Lisa`s point about a
first-degree murder charge versus a second-degree murder charge. If you`ve
hung around courtrooms a lot, you`ve seen juries plenty of time return a
conviction on what they call the lesser included charge. Someone charged
with murder one and then they end up being convicted of second-degree
murder or manslaughter.

What is your sense of why the jury didn`t go for a second degree
murder conviction or a manslaughter conviction?

HANNAN: Lawrence, I`m not sure, but it became abundantly clear during
deliberations that there were some jurors that didn`t seem to want to
consider any conviction for Jordan Davis. We don`t know which jurors those
were. But they did have the option of second degree and manslaughter.

And I think there were two or three jurors who honestly believed that
Michael Dunn was acting in self-defense when he fired at Jordan Davis, who
were willing to concede attempted murder because he later fired at the car
as it was driving away. So, that`s why they got him for attempted murder.

But for whatever reason, it was partly maybe Davis did curse at Dunn.
It`s partly maybe they believed the story that Jordan Davis had a shotgun
even though no gun was ever found. But for whatever reason, they just
couldn`t get anything else.

And I should also mention, Angela Corey also prosecuted George
Zimmerman and a lot of people said she couldn`t have gone for second-degree
murder, she should have gone for manslaughter instead. You know, it does
seem as though this office has a tendency to try to go pretty high and
sometimes it doesn`t work.

O`DONNELL: Larry Hannan, Lisa Bloom, and Mark Thompson, thank you all
very much for joining me tonight.

BLOOM: Thank you.

THOMPSON: Thank you.

HANNAN: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Jordan Davis`s parents will join me on Wednesday night at
10:00 p.m. here on THE LAST WORD.

Coming up, Chris Christie responds to yesterday`s report by Steve
Kornacki on this network.

And later, ESPN has done a survey of NFL players` reactions to Michael
Sam`s public declaration that he is gay.

And finally, tonight, the LAST WORD goes to Bill Nye, the Science Guy.
He is back to talk about his debate, if you could call it that, on "Meet
the Press" yesterday about climate change.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY FALLON, TV HOST: "The Tonight Show" started in the actual
studio where we are going to be. That`s where Johnny Carson was. That`s
where Jack Parr was. There`s Broadway, there`s Times Square. Something
glamorous about it, you know? And I think that is "The Tonight Show."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: I think NBC has promoted this enough. I think they have.
For you to already know that tonight will be Jimmy Fallon`s first night at
the desk of "The Tonight Show." Seth Meyers will be taking over Jimmy`s
old job at "Late Night" next week.

There is only one person who has hosted both of those shows. And
today he graciously tweeted this, "As the only man alive who`s hosted `The
Tonight Show` and `Late Night`, and I want to congratulate Jimmy Fallon and
Seth Meyers. They`ll both do great."

Seth Meyers responded to Conan almost instantly, "An honor to follow
in your footsteps. Also, I somehow locked myself in a janitor`s closet.
Send help."

To which Conan replied, "That`s not a janitor`s closet. That was my
dressing room."

The latest on the Chris Christie investigation is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Well, let me just clear
something up, OK, about my childhood friend David Wildstein.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: It`s been over a month since Chris Christie said that.
And he has cleared up virtually nothing about David Wildstein. But today
he did try to clear up something about a couple of other old friends of
his, the Michaels brothers.

Chip Michaels, the Port Authority police officer, and Jeffrey
Michaels, the New Jersey lobbyist. Governor Christie`s office issued this
written statement today: "The governor has never had any conversations with
either Jeff or Chip Michaels on this topic."

The topic was first raised by Steve Kornacki on this network
yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: The name Jeff Michaels may not mean much
to you but if you live in the small and insular world of New Jersey
politics, then you definitely do know that name. He`s a powerful New
Jersey Republican whose family had long and close ties to Chris Christie,
someone who has parlayed that connection into a wildly successful lobbying
practice and has invested tens of thousands of dollars of his own money in
Christie`s political future.

And it is his brother, Jeff Michaels` brother, Port Authority Police
Lieutenant Thomas "Chip" Michaels, who was apparently on the scene when the
Fort Lee lanes were shut down, who drove David Wildstein around as the
traffic mounted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Steve Kornacki`s report broke new ground in the
investigation, according to the co-chair of the special legislative
committee investigating the lane closures.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Is this something you were aware of before? Has your
committee encountered this in its investigation?

STATE REP. JOHN WISNIEWSKI (D), NEW JERSEY: Well, not in the context
you`ve laid out. I mean, obviously, we`ve all seen the e-mails that
mention Chip and mention people observing the traffic. But the detail to
which you`ve put this is something that the committee had not been aware
of.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: After Steve Kornacki`s report yesterday, the executive
director of the Port Authority, Patrick Foye, asked the port authority`s
inspector general to investigate any involvement of Port Authority police
officers in the lane closures at the George Washington Bridge.

Joining me now is Brian Murphy, a professor at Baruch College and a
former political reporter in New Jersey.

Brian, you worked with Steve Kornacki on assembling this report.

BRIAN MURPHY, BARUCH COLLEGE: Right.

O`DONNELL: And the mystery character that was emerging in the
documents that David Wildstein had released with all those redactions in
them that make them tough to work with was this character named Chip.
There were these referenced to Chip.

How did you figure out who Chip is?

MURPHY: I -- I`ve been going through these documents a little bit --
I don`t want to say obsessively. But it seems to go --

O`DONNELL: Go ahead, say obsessively. It`s understandable.

MURPHY: There`s more -- I thought there was something there and if I
just kept reading them enough, it would jump out. And I started making a
big Excel spreadsheet to make a timeline.

And the Chip reference in the text messages are about 200 pages apart.
But on the timeline, they`re right next to each other. And I realized Chip
is the person who`s sending these text messages. And that happened during
a snow day on Thursday.

And I got very excited and sent Steve an e-mail right away saying I
figured out who Chip is. Then we figured out later on that Chip is Jeff
Michaels`s brother, which was -- put it in a different stratosphere as far
as the revelation goes.

O`DONNELL: You and Steve have provoked a new style of response from
team Christie today because it does not contain an attack on the messenger,
unlike the previous team Christie responses.

MURPHY: That`s right.

O`DONNELL: Attacking "The New York Times," attacking MSNBC, attacking
anyone who brings up any information that they don`t like. It was this
very simple one-sentence line, simply saying -- answering a question that
was raised yesterday by you and Steve on the program. Did Chris Christie
talk to his close friend, Jeff Michaels, the lobbyist, who is obviously
very close to chip Michaels, the police officer who was there on the scene?
And it is very easy to imagine that some kind of conversation like that has
taken place.

Chris Christie felt that that speculation was so hot and so important
that he must specifically refute it with that one simple sentence that --
congratulations, Brian -- does not include an attack on you for some
reason.

MURPHY: Hey, MSNBC owes me one then.

I think it`s interesting. I think we have to be careful and we have
been careful about not suggesting too much beyond what the documents tell
us in this case.

But one of the interesting things that we learned, and I see that -- I
saw tonight on the way in that it seems like someone at the Port Authority
police department gave an interview to a local affiliate of a FOX -- FOX 5
in New York and said that -- their claim was that Chip Michaels tried to
alleviate traffic in the borough, Fort Lee, because there`s this e-mail in
the documents saying I have an idea on how to make this better. And we`ve
been wondering what that meant, whether that means genuinely making them
better or if it`s referenced right making them better in terms of making
them worse. The claim in that article is that Chip Michaels was trying to
make things better.

That runs counter to what I see in the documents where the general
manager of the George Washington Bridge, a guy named Bob Durando (ph),
sends an e-mail on Monday, the first day of the lane closures, saying that
a diversion that was implemented by the Fort Lee -- by the Port Authority
Police Department actually made traffic in the borough worse. And when you
look at where that diversion happened, it encircles this redevelopment area
that I`ve read about and that Steve has talked about, which we think could
be -- could have played a role in what was going on in Fort Lee.

O`DONNELL: Yes. I mean, that seems to target the redevelopment area.

MURPHY: It does.

O`DONNELL: That making it worse thing, or making it better, as you
would put it.

And it`s important to note that he was saying in that note, he was
saying that to Wildstein, wasn`t it? I have an idea about how to make this
better.

MURPHY: Right.

O`DONNELL: And let`s remember that Wildstein was told by Chris
Christie`s office, his deputy chief of staff, "Time for some traffic
problems in Fort Lee."

MURPHY: Yes.

O`DONNELL: So within that context better means time to make the
traffic problems even better, meaning from the Christie perspective, team
Christie perspective, which is to say much worse for the people of Fort
Lee.

MURPHY: Entirely possible. And it seems that might have been
actually what happened. And we also know that the message is that
Lieutenant Michaels sent to David Wildstein that morning, Wildstein, he was
sending him updates on what traffic was like in the borough and where --
how traffic was on the main thoroughfare, the I-95 feeder to the George
Washington Bridge.

As Chip Michaels was sending those updates to David Wildstein, David
Wildstein was turning around and sending them to Bridget Kelly in Trenton,
the governor`s deputy chief of staff. And that was happening -- the
turnaround time was extremely fast. So, that information was making its
way to Trenton from Lieutenant Michaels through David Wildstein, almost
instantaneously.

O`DONNELL: Well, Brian, great work on putting the two chips together,
who during the snow day began 200 pages apart.

MURPHY: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: And Chris Christie`s team obviously thinks what you`ve
discovered is important enough that it needs that direct response to it.
And, Brian, tomorrow might be another snow day.

MURPHY: I know. We keep getting that --

(CROSSTALK)

O`DONNELL: Hunker down with those documents tomorrow.

MURPHY: I will. Thank you very much, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Brian Murphy, thank you very much for joining us again
tonight.

MURPHY: Pleasure. Thanks so much, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Coming up, the Democrats have a new campaign playbook for
congressional campaigns. And Bill Nye the Science Guy will get tonight`s
LAST WORD.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: What do you think of the term
"Obamacare"?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I like it. I don`t
mind. And I tell you, five years from now when everybody`s saying, man,
I`m sure glad we got health care, there are going to be a whole bunch of
people who don`t call it Obamacare anymore because they don`t want me to
get the credit. We`re encouraging people to sign up. They`ve got until
March 31st to sign up for this year.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: In the spotlight tonight, the 2014
Democratic playbook on health care. President Obama is taking credit for
the affordable care act. And congressional Democrats are being urged to do
the same. Here`s what the president told house Democrats last week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We now have well over 3.5 million people who have signed up
and are getting insurance through the marketplace for the first time. That
does not count the close to seven million folks who have signed up for
Medicaid because of the law you passed or the three million young people
who are staying on their parents` plans. We`re starting to see data
already that the uninsured rate is coming down. We are going to keep on
pushing on this to make sure that here in America everybody can enjoy the
kind of financial security and peace of mind that good-quality health
insurance provides. And I just want to say thank you for all of you
hanging in there tough on an issue that I think ten years from now, five
years from now we`re going to look back and say this was a monumental
achievement that could not have happened had it not been for this caucus.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: "Politico" obtained a five-page internal memo sent to
Democratic house candidates with advice on how to campaign against
Republicans who want to repeal the law. In the memo the deputy executive
director of the Democratic congressional campaign committee writes, "the
best way to push back on the attacks we know Republicans will launch over
health care is to be on offense about what your opponent would do to health
care while highlighting your commitment to fixing and improving the law."

That playbook is getting a test run right now in the hotly contested
special election for a seat previously held by the late Republican
congressman Bill Young here in Florida in the 13th congressional district,
where voters will go to the polls on March 11th.

Here is the latest ad from Democratic candidate Alex Sink.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEX SINK, DEMOCRATIC CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: We can`t go back to
letting insurance companies do whatever they want. Instead of repealing
the health care law we need to keep what`s right and fix what`s wrong.
I`ll work with Republicans and Democrats for health care that`s affordable
and works for us.

I`m Alex Sink, and I approve this message.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now are former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell
and NBC political news analyst and MSNBC news senior political analyst
David Axelrod, a former senior adviser to President Obama.

Governor Rendell, I want to give you a political campaign strategy
decision to make. You have a choice of running against government or you
can run against insurance companies. Just if you had to pick one of the
two to run against in Pennsylvania to try to win an election, which one of
those things do you think you could make less popular and successfully run
against in Pennsylvania?

ED RENDELL (D), FORMER GOVERNOR, PENNSYLVANIA: Insurance companies.
No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

O`DONNELL: Yes. I mean, David Axelrod, the Democrats don`t have a
choice here. There`s no running away from this. They did it. They can`t
pretend they didn`t. It`s astonishing to me that they`re actually in
discussions at this point where they`re just kind of finally resolving that
oh, yes, we will run with this and we will say to people, you know, do you
want to allow insurance companies to go back to treating you the way they
have been?

DAVID AXELROD, MSNBC/NBC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: No, I couldn`t agree
with you more, Lawrence. You know, George Mitchell once said the only
people who believe Republican talking points are Democratic senators. We
tend to play the game sometimes on their side of the field. We ought to
play the game on our side of the field. The fact of the matter is this law
included a patient`s bill of rights on steroids. We debated that all in
the 90s, (INAUDIBLE). Now we have it. And the question for these
Republicans is why are they so nostalgic for the days when people with
preexisting conditions could get thrown off their insurance? Why are they
so nostalgic for the days when you got seriously ill, you will hit these
caps and insurance companies could throw you off your insurance? Why are
they so nostalgic for the day women got charged exponentially more for the
same insurance policy as men? Let them play that. I`d rather play it in
our side of the field. I think we`ve got the better argument frankly.

O`DONNELL: Ed Rendell, it seems now that the law`s in place and now
that there are beneficiaries to this law numbering in the millions. When
Republicans talk about repeal on the campaign trail, it seems that`s a
different territory than where they were, say, last year when they were
voting on repeals in the House of Representatives. Now they are really
talking about taking something away from people. And it seems to me that
is a much harder place for them to be on the campaign trail.

RENDELL: No question. David outlined a few. But how about senior
citizens who will be the predominant electoral block in the 2014 election?
They`re going to lose the extra money Obamacare gave them for the donut
hole in their prescription drug coverage. They`re going to lose that
money. That money`s going to be taken away from them. That`s a powerful
message.

We can`t repeat the mistakes of 2010 when we did try to run and hide.
We`ve got to smack back and smack back really forcefully saying OK, if you
repeal Obamacare here`s what you lose, here are the consequences.

First of all, most Americans don`t want to repeal Obamacare by 60
percent. Secondly, most Americans are sick and tired of these votes to
repeal Obamacare. They want us to concentrate on something else. They`re
going to get sick and tired of this campaign if that`s all the Republicans
have to say.

O`DONNELL: David Axelrod, Ed Rendell makes a great point,
specifically about that donut hole in the Medicare prescription drug
component. I know a lot about this bill. I sometimes forget that that is
part of that bill. That there`s this very significant Medicare benefit
that is within what is referred to politically as Obamacare. Obamacare is
thought of as this altruistic exercise for poor people who were not able to
afford health insurance on their own, who are going to get a government
subsidy or straight out Medicaid. And there`s so much else in it.

Isn`t it that the Democrats need to pick or any given candidate needs
to pick, maybe two and I would say at a maximum of three things that are in
the affordable care act and run on those things? And many of them, if not
most of them, should be running on the Medicare prescription drug benefit
fix because every senior citizen`s going to know exactly what that means.

AXELROD: There`s no question about that. And you`re right about the
bill, Lawrence. The bill, you know, we focus on those 15 percent of people
who lacked insurance coverage. But the bill gives so much more security to
people who have coverage. Seniors on Medicare because of this prescription
drug benefit you mention, the face of the benefit. But also all the other
things I mentioned and so many more that kids under 26 who can still be on
their parents` insurance. The rebates to people when their insurance
companies spend more than 20 percent of your premiums on administrative
costs and executive bonuses. $8.5 billion in rebates last year because of
this law.

But you`re right. You can`t give a laundry list. And I`m sure that
each one of these legislators will be testing different aspects of the bill
and they`ll be tailoring their appeal to their districts. But make the
Republicans explain why they think we ought to take all of that away. I
think that`s a tough row to hoe.

And I think Ed Rendell`s right, as well. They`re one-note on this.
They have no vision for the country. It reminds people of the obstruction
party that they`ve been. I think this strategy could play itself out. And
I think Democrats should lean in and not lean back.

O`DONNELL: OK. I think we`ve all worked our way to agreement here on
something. Ed Rendell is right.

David Axelrod and Ed Rendell, thank you both very much for joining me
tonight.

AXELROD: Good to be with you.

RENDELL: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, we now have an idea of what NFL players think
of actually having a gay player on their team. ESPN really did a survey of
NFL players on that subject. We`ll have that later. And we will close
tonight with political science. Bill Nye, the natural science guy, will
get tonight`s last word about political science.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: The British academy film awards were presented last night.
Cate Blanchett won for her role in Woody Allen`s "Blue Jasmine." And in
her remarks she honored a previous BAFTA winner.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CATE BLANCHETT, ACTRESS: I would like to dedicate this to an actor
who has been a continual profound touchstone for me. A monumental presence
who is now so sadly in absence, the late great Philip Seymour Hoffman.

(APPLAUSE)

BLANCHETT: Phil, your monumental talent, your generosity, and your
unflinching quest for truth, both in art and in life, will be missed by not
only me but by so many people, not only in this room and in the industry
but the audiences who loved you so dearly. You raised the bar continually
so very, very high. And I guess all we can do in your absence is to try
and raise it continually through our work.

So Phil, buddy, this is for you, you bastard. I hope you`re proud.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Michael, are you a gay man?

MICHAEL SAM, FOOTBALL PLAYER: I am a gay man. And I`m happy to be
one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That of course was college football star and NFL draft
prospect Michael Sam. ESPN conducted a poll of NFL players` reactions to
Michael Sam`s announcement. ESPN promised anonymity for the players who
responded to their survey, and they got replies from 51 players, almost the
number of a full team roster. A pretty good representative sample number
of a population that size.

The players responded to statements with a simple true or false
answer. The first item was "a player`s sexual orientation matters to you,"
86 percent said a player`s sexual orientation does not matter to them.
Next was "I had teammates or coaches who used homophobic slurs last
season," almost 2/3 of the NFL players who responded said they had
teammates or coaches who used homophobic slurs.

And to the statement "I would shower around a gay teammate," 3/4 of
the people said they would, leaving 1/4 of the players who would apparently
go home from every practice and every game very dirty and sweaty.

Yesterday President Obama made it very clear that he thinks what
Michael Sam has done is a very big deal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I really like the fact that Michael did it before the draft
because his attitude was, you know what? I know who I am. I know I can
play great football. And judge me on the merits. Think about basketball.
I mean, you know, you think about what the NBA was before African-Americans
were allowed to play on an equal footing. You think about what Jackie
Robinson ended up meaning not just to baseball but to the entire society.
I wouldn`t be sitting here if it weren`t for him. I think America`s
stronger where everybody is being treated, you know, with respect and
dignity.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Here is the best Valentine tweet that I saw this weekend.
From Melissa Harris-Perry, "best valentine ever. James H. Perry and I
welcomed our daughter yesterday." Look for Melissa`s daughter as a guest
here on "the Last Word" looks like about, I don`t know, 25 years from now.

Bill Nye is up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: It is freezing. I mean, it is really cold.
I have to admit I was surprised. Al Gore told us this wouldn`t happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Bill Nye did it again. On Sunday Republican Congresswoman
Marsha Blackburn took on Bill Nye, the science guy, for a so-called debate
on climate change.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R), TENNESSEE: Well, I think that what you
have to do is look at what that warming is. And when you look at the fact
that we have gone from 320 parts per million, 0.032 to 0.040, 400 parts per
million, what you do is realize it`s very slight. Now, there is not
consensus.

BILL NYE, AMERICAN SCIENCE EDUCATOR: Once again, the congresswoman is
trying to introduce doubt and doubt in the whole idea of climate change.
So what I would encourage everyone to do is back up and let`s agree on the
facts. Would you say that the Antarctic has less ice than it used to?
When you said, you asserted, Congresswoman, that a change from 320 to 400
parts per million is insignificant, my goodness, that`s 30 percent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now, Bill Nye, the reasonable guy.

Bill, you are having some fascinating public discussions these days.
And there you go, using exhibits and facts again.

NYE: Well, let me say --

O`DONNELL: Go ahead, Bill.

NYE: I said Antarctic. I meant Arctic. But I can`t help but notice
the Congresswoman didn`t notice that. I misspoke. I apologized.

O`DONNELL: You slipped those little mistakes right by them.

Bill, this is a difficult one because this is 21st century political
science. We have politicized science, especially on environmental subjects
now, for decades. And people simply will not hear in scientific terms I
think what others are saying. They hear what you`re saying in political
terms, and they don`t like it.

NYE: Yes. So I think what we need to do in the coming weeks and
months is talk directly to the voters. I want to encourage people in
Tennessee to really evaluate in the 7th district, to evaluate Congressman
Blackburn`s claims. They`re extraordinary. And I think you can see in a
very straightforward fashion that they`re not reasonable. So what we need
to do, everybody -- I mean, I know people on the other side are concerned
when guys like me or Michael Mann get strident about the situation, but it
really is very serious. I mean, this climate change that we`re causing is
something that is going to have tremendous economic impacts.

And so, I believe that those economic effects are starting to be
noticed locally. You know, they`re being noticed in Tennessee and of
course in New York and New Jersey. And now maybe people will be galvanized
to take action. So I think it`s important for people -- and I really
appreciate you taking the time to have me on. I think it`s important for
people in my position to really speak to the voters, really question what
their representatives are telling them.

O`DONNELL: Bill, the political formulation here I think in the
Republican or the opponents of your views that listen to you is that OK,
politically I know what this guy wants, what he wants is higher taxes on
fossil fuels, which he wants higher prices of fossil fuels, he wants it to
cost 150 bucks to fill up my SUV and it`s costing, you know, 110 bucks to
do that now and I don`t want to pay any more.

NYE: Well, that may be. But compare the cost to all of us for
repairing the damage on the New Jersey shore from Sandy. Compare the cost
to all of us for repairing New Orleans after Katrina. Compare the cost
just right now of the car wrecks in Atlanta. In Atlanta. In the winter.
Where they completely or are nominally completely unprepared for all this
ice and snow. These have direct economic costs that we are all paying for.
So this is an opportunity to move us forward. I know I say this all the
time. But I`m not kidding. It`s an opportunity to do things a little bit
differently at every opportunity that we come across.

O`DONNELL: George Will said about this that, you know, President
Obama and others say that the debate is over on this matter of science, and
George Will makes the point that in politics when you`re saying the debate
is over about some aspect of social science or natural science it`s usually
that you are on what is then the losing side of the political debate of the
issue. And he has a point in that the people on the Democratic and liberal
side are saying the debate is over, aren`t actually able to achieve
anything legislatively, and so politically they are not on a winning side
right now.

NYE: Well, that may be. But it`s also possible that people are --
guys on -- people on the progressive side are tire of fighting the same
fight. Miss Blackburn brought up the classic things about introducing
doubt, about pretending the number three is just like the number four. And
introducing this thing that comes around all the time where you - we need
to evaluate, we need to do cost-benefit analysis, which is roughly a
euphemism for let`s put off doing anything. Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Well, you know, number three is wicked close to the number
four, but it`s not the same number. Bill Nye, thank you very much for
joining us tonight.

NYE: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes is up next.

END

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