updated 2/26/2014 10:46:19 AM ET 2014-02-26T15:46:19

THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
February 25, 2014

Guests: Demion Clinco, David Rohde; Tom Colicchio


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Now, even Mitt Romney is telling
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to veto that bill.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pressure is mounting moment by moment on Arizona
Governor Jan Brewer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The increasing pressure on Arizona Governor Jan
Brewer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To decide whether to veto a landmark state law.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To veto a controversial new bill.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A controversial measure that would allow
business owners --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let businesses deny service --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To refuse to serve gays and lesbians.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This law, I mean, where do you begin?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John McCain, Jeff Flake.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The five Republican candidates for governor --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Apple, American Airlines and Marriott.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And even three Republican state senators who
voted for the measure have all come out against this bill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The bill attempts to create an exception.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Based on their religious beliefs --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For people who invoke their religious beliefs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Legislation touted as a religious freedom bill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just to cloak or prejudice.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I believe again this is about protecting people
of all faith, protecting religious beliefs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kathy Howard (ph) is defending the bill she
authored.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The outcry against the bill is simply a
political tactic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m not sure what she`s saying there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t buy the arguments on the economic
impact.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an untenable position.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pressure is mounting moment by moment on Arizona
Governor Jan Brewer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jan Brewer is under heavy pressure to veto a
controversial new bill.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because it`s wrong.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: Still no word tonight from Arizona Governor Jan Brewer on
whether she will sign into law Senate Bill 1062. The bill passed by
Arizona legislature last week would allow businesses to turn away customers
for religious reasons. Opponents say the bill would particularly target
the LGBT community last night.

Actor and gay rights activist George Takei explained why he`s
threatening to boycott Arizona if the governor signs that bill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE TAKEI, ACTOR: It is not religious freedom bill at all.
Ironically, their religious freedom is being well protected by gays and
lesbians in the military. And the economic vitality of Arizona is being
contributed to by gays and lesbians. The so-called religious freedom is
just a cloak for prejudice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: NBC News reports that three people close to Jan Brewer say
she will likely veto the bill. Her long-time political adviser Chuck
Coughlin (ph) said, quote, "It`s been her proclivity in the past to focus
on the priorities she wants them, the legislature, to accomplish, and this
was clearly not part of her agenda."

Jan Brewer`s office quickly responded to that report telling "Business
Insider", "Governor Brewer hasn`t yet made a decision. She will take the
time necessary to thoroughly review and evaluate the legislation before
taking action."

Tomorrow, Jan Brewer is expected to meet with the three Republican
state senators who voted for the bill but now want the governor to veto it.
They`ve changed their minds. Governor Brewer has until Saturday to make
that decision.

In the meantime, most of the business community continues to oppose
it. In addition to Apple, American Airlines, Marriott and the Arizona
Super Bowl host committee, today, the NBA`s Phoenix Suns, the WNBA`s
Phoenix Mercury, as well as Intel and Delta Airlines, all released
statements against the bill.

In its statement, Delta also mentioned Georgia, which is considering a
bill similar to Arizona`s SB-1062. Delta said, "If passed into law, these
proposals would cause significant harm to many people and will result in
job losses. Delta strongly opposes these measures and we join the business
community in urging state officials to reject these proposals."

Also against the bill, Mitt Romney, who tweeted today, "Governor
Brewer, veto of SB-1062 is right."

Romney joins Republican Arizona Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake in
supporting a veto. Here`s what John McCain told NBC News radio today.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The business community in Arizona has
been galvanized by it.

REPORTER: Do you think she`s going to --

MCCAIN: Well, I don`t know. I can`t predict. That`s up to her. I
can`t make a prediction. But there certainly has been a very big reaction
to it, particularly amongst the business community, which is the base of
our support.

REPORTER: Do you worry about the Super Bowl?

MCCAIN: I worry about everything. I worry about everything.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And here`s what Arizona State Representative Demion Clinco
had to say about the bill last week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STATE REP. DEMION CLINCO (D), ARIZONA: I believe I`m the only openly
gay member of this House of Representatives. And so it`s pretty appalling
to hear a dialogue that talks about using religion to discriminate against
both myself and my community. You know, when I was in high school, I was
actually assaulted because I was gay. So, I think as a result, I spent
most of my life downplaying the fact.

You know, I don`t ride in pride parades and I don`t really wear it on
my cuff, but I really feel compelled today to really put it out there. You
know, I don`t think that we deserve a bill like this anywhere in this
country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now, Demion Clinco, the Arizona state
representative you just heard from, and "Washington Post" columnist and
MSNBC contributor Jonathan Capehart.

Representative Clinco, what made you speak about the bill the way you
did, using your own personal reference, which as you said is not something
that you are inclined to do.

CLINCO: I used my own story because this is a personal attack against
me and everyone in the LGBT community in the state of Arizona. You know,
the community doesn`t deserve this sort of treatment. And I don`t think
there`s ever an excuse that we should sanction discrimination against a
minority group.

And it makes me very sad and very disappointed in a state that I was
born in and that I`ve been raised in, in a state that I`m very proud of.

O`DONNELL: Jonathan Capehart, in the Delta Airlines statement, they
made a very important point, both about Arizona and Georgia. This kind of
bill will cost jobs. That goes straight to one of the classic Republican
talking points about, you know, you don`t do anything at all that in any
way causes job loss.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, THE WASHINGTON POST: And Delta is making it clear
that they`re more than willing to relocate, to take jobs out of Arizona, to
take jobs out of Georgia if they need to in order to not be in a state
where such discriminatory laws are passed.

You know, the interesting thing here in your intro, Lawrence, you`ve
got the two senators from Arizona, the 2012 Republican presidential
nominee, the entire business community, other national businesses, all
breathing fire down Governor Jan Brewer, telling her not to do this. And
there`s no Republican, no conservative of any stature calling for it to --
calling for her to sign it into law.

And while -- as horrible as this measure is, I think that`s a sign of
progress, that there is unanimity around the fact that this law is just --
this bill is just wrong.

O`DONNELL: The -- Representative Clinco, I want to get your reaction
to something that was said on MSNBC by one of the Republican senators who
voted for this bill and now says he regrets that, that it`s a mistake.
He`s one of the senators who will meet with the governor tomorrow, Steve
Pierce. I want you to listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STATE SEN. STEVE PIERCE (R), ARIZONA: When I voted on it, I did not
look towards any kind of discrimination at all, I didn`t see that in there.
As the days went on after we voted, it was from constituents and the public
and the outcry from it. And, you know, I`ve been listening to things all
day about the discrimination. And I -- there is none in my view, and I
don`t -- if there is, I`m totally against it.

We made a mistake, and that`s about all I can tell you. We went the
wrong way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Representative Clinco, was he simply not listening to your
side of the debate in the Arizona legislature? Or did you and the
opponents of this bill simply not frame it in a way that indicated that it
would be a form of discrimination?

CLINCO: I don`t think that we could have framed it any clearer. I
mean, we articulated that we were concerned about the economic impacts to
our state, the loss of major sporting events and jobs and major businesses.
We articulated that it was specifically targeting, it was a clear attack on
the LGBT community and the reaction would be massive in scale.

And this was ignored. And this is often ignored by the extremist
right wing opponent of the party.

O`DONNELL: What do you make of Steve Pierce`s reversal on this? It
sounds like we should not accept his explanation of the reversal that no
one told me that it had this element to it.

CLINCO: I mean, it`s our job as legislatures to review these bills
and create analysis and really make sure that we`re doing the right thing
for our communities. And if somebody votes on a bill and doesn`t fully
understand the implications, then really they`re not doing their job. And
perhaps the voters will make that clear in the coming election this
November.

But it is really -- it is really disappointing to see this type of
vitriolic bill move forward and then as soon as it becomes national
attention, there`s a quick reversal.

This is part of a pattern in our legislature. Even in this week, we
see another bill coming forward in the next few days that`s targeting the
LGBT community, specifically around who can and cannot officiate a wedding.
So, this is just one of a series of bills that really are attacking the
LGBT community.

O`DONNELL: Jonathan Capehart, the meeting tomorrow is with those
three Republicans who publicly changed their minds and said this is a
mistake. That seems like it`s a pretty good sign indicating a veto may be
coming.

CAPEHART: I hope you`re right. I hope that it is a sign that
Governor Brewer is going to veto the measure. And it comes on top of the
report from -- as you reported on NBC News that people close to Jan Brewer
is going to veto this.

It wouldn`t be the first time that Governor Brewer has stood up to the
far right wing in her state, you know, staring them down and going against
their wishes. It`s my sincere hope that she`ll do it again before
Saturday. That she does it tomorrow, because it`s clear from State
Representative Clinco, to the national uproar over this, that this law just
should -- this bill -- I keep making the mistake, this bill should not
become law.

O`DONNELL: Representative Clinco, quickly before we go, do you have
any sense now of what the governor is going to do, working there inside the
legislature? What`s the word that you`re hearing?

CLINCO: I don`t know what governor Brewer will do, but I sincerely
hope in the interest of Arizona both economically and from a social justice
point of view, that she vetoes this bill. It`s wrong for Arizona and wrong
for our country and under no circumstances should we be legitimizing
discrimination in any way.

O`DONNELL: Representative Demion Clinco of Arizona, and Jonathan
Capehart -- thank you both very much for joining me tonight.

CAPEHART: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, President Obama and Speaker John Boehner did
something today that they haven`t done in years. They actually talked to
each other, face to face, in the same room, in the White House.

And in "The Rewrite" tonight, when you`re banning atheists from your
annual meeting, do not pretend that the Founding Fathers are on your side.
That`s what CPAC did today. Why Thomas Jefferson would hate just about
everything about the Conservative Political Action Committee, especially
the fact their buddies misquote him. That`s in "The Rewrite" tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The White House
promised the law would bring down health insurance premiums by some $2,000
per family. Instead, according to the administration`s own bookkeepers,
premiums will go up for two out of three small businesses in our country --
another sucker punch to our economy, another broken promise to hardworking
Americans.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That was John Boehner about 90 minutes after he had a
private meeting with the president at the White House today. Both sides
characterized the meeting as, quote, "constructive." They met for about an
hour according to the speaker`s office. They discussed several hours worth
of material, including manufacturing, trade promotion authority, flood
insurance, immigration, the president`s health care law, Afghanistan, the
appropriations process, California drought relief, wildfire suppression,
and the highway bill.

Not on the list is the legislative dream of both parties, tax reform.
The Republican version will be officially unveiled tomorrow by the chairman
of the House Ways and Means Committee, but the leaders of both parties in
the Senate held out no hope for getting tax reform done this year.

Joining me now is MSNBC policy analyst Ezra Klein, and David Corn, an
MSNBC political analyst and Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones".

David, it looked to me like John Boehner had exactly one thing on his
mind when he left the White House. I`ve got to go out on the House floor
and prove to my fellow Republicans that I am still one of them, even though
I was in the room with that guy for about an hour.

DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES: I thought you were going to say golf. But
I mean, I`m glad the guys are talking, but I think we`ve come to really
complete paralysis here in Washington. And not surprisingly, I blame
Republicans for much of that.

I think there`s nothing that the Republican Party can come to
consensus position on in which to have negotiations with the Democrats and
the White House over, whether it`s immigration reform, whether it`s tax
reform, you know, some of the big things that are out there. They got the
budget stuff, they put it aside, the budget ceiling stuff, they`ve taken
care of it.

So, I really think that both parties now are figuring out what to do
in terms of having something to talk about for the midterm elections this
coming November. So, I mean, there is not a single legislative policy
check that Boehner could write that he could cover.

So, if that`s the case, I hope they had a good lunch or at least nice
snacks.

O`DONNELL: Ezra, one indication the meeting is not all that serious
is the length of the agenda list that they allegedly talked about. I mean,
if they got all the way down to the drought in California, they were giving
each one of these subjects about 90 seconds.

But one subject that they did list there is a traditional serious
agreement point between Democratic presidents and Republicans in Congress,
and that is Trade Promotion Authority. That is the ability to advance
trade bills as was done under President Clinton on NAFTA and the World
Trade Organization. Those were all done with the so-called Trade Promotion
Authority, fast track authority and with a heavy dose of Republican votes
to get them passed, especially in the House of Representatives.

But even that, it seems like Boehner is unlikely to go to work with
the president on that.

EZRA KLEIN, MSNBC POLICY ANALYST: Yes. First, I enjoyed the image of
them having a (INAUDIBLE) interruption style meeting with a two-minute
clock and then they have to move on to wildfires.

Yes, the Trade Promotion Authority is in trouble. And it isn`t just
Republicans. We`re seeing a lot of Democrats do not want to see this mega
trade deal go through. A lot of them don`t like what they think is in it.
To some degree, we`ve seen drafts. We haven`t seen anything, of course,
like a final version because to some degree, there isn`t one.

But we`re in I think a moment in American politics where there is not
a lot of trust that any level of government, making deals kind of behind
closed doors. With either frankly Congress, but much more the point, other
government is going to get a lot of leeway.

So, you see not just a lot of skepticism from Republicans who are
deeply skeptical of President Obama on anything he might do, but a lot of
Democrats just don`t like what they`re hearing coming out of the process.
And so they don`t want to allow for a process in which they won`t be able
to make alterations to the final bill, which is what this kind of fast
track authority would offer.

That said, if you don`t have that kind of process, if you do kind of
have to relitigate each trade deal after you`ve already made all the
concessions and all the negotiations with your foreign partner, there`s no
way to get the deal done. So, at the moment, it looks like TTP is going to
join the long list of action items right now that`s just completely
paralyzed.

O`DONNELL: Which seems to include tax reform.

David Corn, I don`t want to make light of the meeting. I think
there`s a real value to it and I think there`s a real value to them talking
about, however minimally, every subject on that list, including California
drought, all of it, and even in a world where they can`t get anything done,
because these two people do have to fundamentally be able to talk to each
other. They should be able to talk to each other in non-confrontational,
non -- you know, one minute to midnight brinksmanship situations.

And this may be one of the only times they have had where they`re not
trying to in that moment desperately solve an incredible crisis created by
Congress.

KLEIN: Well, I think you`re right there. I think there should be
good lines of communication. I think it`s terrible every time House
Speaker John Boehner talks to the president, he has to go back to his
caucus and make it seem like he had an argument with the guy.

They don`t -- you know, half his caucus doesn`t like the idea of civil
conversation with any one -- you know, with this particular president in
the White House.

So, maybe that was a bold, brave move on the part of John Boehner to
sit down and be civil with the president. But I still look at the agenda
they put out, but also the agenda that exists in Washington now. And I see
very little room for any -- you know, for productive conversation, for real
movement.

And I think that`s largely because, you know, Boehner doesn`t have a
party to really represent in terms of negotiations. Representative Camp is
going to put out the tax reform plan tomorrow, but before he even does
that, McConnell today said is tax reform is dead.

O`DONNELL: Ezra, can you quickly run us through tax reform? I know
Dave Camp was working really hard with Max Baucus on it for a bipartisan
package when Baucus was chairman of the finance. Baucus is gone, now
ambassador to China. And so, Camp decided to go it alone.

What are the highlights and low lights of what he`s introducing?

KLEIN: So, first of all, that`s like saying Baucus is going to be
replaced by, eventually, Senator Ron Wyden, who is about the biggest fan of
tax reform you`ll find anywhere in the Senate. Camp`s plan and we don`t
have full details on this and I think it`s actually commendable. I did not
think camp was going to come forward with a full plan. I`m surprised that
Republicans are either letting him do it or that he`s going rogue enough to
do it.

But it appears to bring down the code, and I`m going to do this from
memory, down to two brackets, 10 and 25. Kind of, except if you`re rich,
then there`s a 10 percent surtax on top of you so you`re actually at 35
percent. But he`s not saying it.

But until we see what deductions he`s eliminating, it is very hard to
say what the actual effect of the plan will be or on who it will fall.

O`DONNELL: And I just have to leave the note, that when we say tax
reform, when we say Ron Wyden is a fan, and I`m a fan of tax reform, we`re
almost never talking about the same thing when we use that phrase. I
certainly am not a fan of Republican tax reform and Republicans are not
fans of Democratic tax reform. But it`s the phrase that everybody uses for
wildly different ideas.

David Corn and Ezra Klein, thank you both for joining me tonight.

KLEIN: Thank you.

CORN: Sure thing.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, they haven`t cast the movie yet because the
story is still playing itself out right now in real time. The disappearing
of a president, and that story is so hard to believe the details of it,
including the girlfriend who`s on the run with him. That`s coming up.

And later, Michelle Obama uses "SNL" grads to get her message out
there. That`s also coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: In "The Spotlight" tonight, a president escapes.

Friday night, immediately after leaving a public signing ceremony of
an important agreement, the president went straight to the helicopter at
his residence and disappeared. Ukraine`s President Viktor Yanukovych was
captured on a surveillance camera boarding a helicopter. He flew to
eastern Ukraine, close to the Russian border where he spent the night in a
state residence.

While there, he went on Ukrainian television to say defiantly that he
would not resign and that he would not leave the country, but then he did
not show up for a gathering of his allies. Instead, he got back in his
helicopter and flew 200 miles to his hometown, also in eastern Ukraine,
near the Russian border.

Everyone thought that eastern Ukraine was safe territory for Viktor
Yanukovych. But when he arrived at the airport in his hometown, he
discovered that authorities were blocking the takeoff of the two private
Falcon jets that were waiting for him.

He then fled by car, heading to the Crimean Peninsula 400 miles away
where his allies, the Russians, base their Black Sea fleet.

According to Ukraine`s new interior minister, the last we know of
President Yanukovych`s movements is when he was heading for Belbek Airport
in the south of the Crimean Peninsula. But he must have been alerted to
the fact that authorities were waiting for him there, and so, Yanukovych
gathered his team and asked who wanted to remain with him and who wanted to
leave now that the parliament had stripped him of power and charged him
with mass murder for the dozens of people who were shot and killed while
protesting his leadership. He had it off with an old friend from his
hometown who have reason with him in business and politics. And perhaps
with the president much younger girl friend, leaving his wife and son
somewhere in Ukraine to fend for themselves.

Since last night, rumors are flying about the president`s whereabouts.
One has him safely reaching a Russian ship in (INAUDIBLE). Others has him
somewhere on his yacht or he is hiding in a monastery in his hometown.
Another has him hiding in the historic port of Baklava, a former secret
Soviet submarine base, complete with nuclear warheads. It was also the
site of the world famous 1854 battle commemorated in (INAUDIBLE) poem "the
charge of the light brigade."

Joining me now is Reuters` foreign affairs reporter David Rohde. He
is a two-time Pulitzer prize winner.

David, let`s try to finish this movie, OK?

DAVID ROHDE, FOREIGN AFFAIRS REPORTER, REUTERS: You`re off to an
amazing start.

O`DONNELL: What does he do next? What are his moves? You`re down
there, who can he trust? Everyone thought he`s going east towards Russia.
He gets more and more support from Ukrainian people as you get closer to
Russia, but what`s happening?

ROHDE: What`s so surprising is how the people have turned against
him.

O`DONNELL: Even in the east?

ROHDE: Yes, in the east which is, you know, the most sort of pro
Russian part of the country. Who he`s going to turn to? Vladimir Putin.
And you know, will Putin hide him is the question, which is a big, you
know, decision he faces. But who knows. He could be in this monastery in
Bosnia.

O`DONNELL: That`s the other one, yes.

ROHDE: Brought him on to hid in monastery for years. You know,
pretended to be a new age guru. Moammar Gadhafi tried to hide from his
people. That did not work out well for him. Saddam Hussein. You know,
this is the latest example of a massive manhunt.

O`DONNELL: OK. Well look, the way -- I mean, for it to be a
successful movie, the way this thing is going to have to end is preferably
an American, to be played by an American actor will show up in some one-on-
one confrontation with him after the girlfriend has escaped or whatever.

But seriously, there was a feeling when he went to the eastern side of
the country that OK, he`s going to be able to hold on here. I mean, that
was my sensation of the way this was going to develop. He`s going to be
over there. The parliament is going to maybe try some maneuvers, but he`s
going to be in a power base over there.

ROHDE: It`s actually a good sign that he does not have a power base.
The entire country has turned against him. There`s basically over 100 dead
and he`s being personally accused of doing this. And it will be
interesting to see how this works out. Again, because I think Putin who
backed him expected more people to support the deposed president and again,
that`s not happening. I think it would be Ukrainian hero --

O`DONNELL: Can Putin make him his next Snowden. Can he actually have
him on a Russian ship right now over there and just slide him back into the
country? Can it become known that Putin has taken care of him?

ROHDE: I think eventually it could and that`s probably his best
chance to get out. It`s extraordinary that --

O`DONNELL: What is that cost -- how does that benefit Putin? What
does it cost Putin if he does that?

ROHDE: I think if --

O`DONNELL: If you see publicly doing that.

ROHDE: It`s a gamble for him in Ukraine. Ukraine is a mess
economically. They`re asking for $35 billion in aid. And Putin`s smartest
play is to wait and see if this new government just falls apart and can`t
handle the economy. If he takes the ex-president out and protects him,
that`s going to turn Ukrainians more against Russia. This is also going to
bring international pressure.

O`DONNELL: Does it win Putin anything in Russia?

ROHDE: It might. I mean, for strong men he supports in different
places. Assad as an example in Syria, it shows how loyal Putin is. But
it`s amazing that he`s in such a weak position right now, Yanukovych, so
quickly. And that he was set to fly out with the private jets and border
guards in the east that should have been loyal to him and Russia blocked
the flights. It`s just extraordinary.

O`DONNELL: It is an amazing story so far.

David Rohde, thank you very much for joining me tonight.

ROHDE: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, what brought the first lady together with Amy
Poehler and Will Ferrell.

And in the "rewrite," what Thomas Jefferson did say about religion and
what he did not say about religion. And why he wouldn`t much like CPAC
banning atheists from their meeting this year. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: The conservative political action committee, commonly
known as CPAC is gearing up for its annual meeting next month at the
Gaylord resort in Maryland. And the one thing that CPAC had to do this
week as the great event approaches is rewrite its imaginary rules about who
can participate. Since there are no real rules about who can participate,
rewriting their imaginary rules can be quick and easy as it was today.
They did it today in hours when they suddenly decided that an organization
American atheists could not participate.

American atheists had come up with the $3,000 necessary to secure
booth number 439 in the exhibition hall. There are some bigger, more
expensive booths which have been rented by bigger, richer organizations
like the National Rifle Association and the tea party patriots. But the
Atheists booth was a standard sized booth in a great location, right beside
the Republican national committee booth which is the same size as the
Atheists booth.

CPAC was happy to take the Atheists money because, as Megan Snyder,
spokeswoman for CPAC told CNN.com, conservatives have always stood for
freedom and religious and freedom of expression.

If you didn`t know that conservatives, and specifically CPAC have
always stood for freedom of religion and freedom of expression, you`re not
the only one. Other participants had no idea that conservatives have
always stood for freedom of religion and freedom of expression because they
don`t as CPAC them proved decisively.

Tony Perkins is a conservative who has never stood for freedom of
religion and freedom of expression as he proved once again today. Perkins,
who spoke at CPAC in 2012 said in an e-mail to CNN today, does the American
conservative union really think the liberties and values they seek to
preserve can be maintained when they partner with individuals and
organizations that are undermining the understanding that our liberties
come from God. Thomas Jefferson warned against such nonsense.

Well, in fact, Thomas Jefferson warned against the nonsense that Tony
Perkins peddles. Many conservatives mistakenly believe come Thomas
Jefferson said, quote, "without God, liberty will not last." The very
first time Thomas Jefferson said that was in 1966 when that quotation --
1996 when that quotation was invented in an article by Thomas G. West, the
conservatism of the declaration of independence.

The quote has been debunked as false, but that won`t stop conservative
Christians from clinging to it. The Thomas Jefferson foundation note, that
quotation has not been found in any of the writings of Thomas Jefferson.

In debunking that quote, "the Thomas Jefferson foundation notes that
he said something about god and liberty in notes on the state of Virginia.
Where Jefferson wrote, can the liberties of a nation be though secure when
we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the
people that these liberties are of the gift of God, that they are not to be
violated, but with his wrath.

Now, notice carefully here, you`ll notice that Jefferson does not say
that the liberties are the gift of God or that Jefferson thinks they are
the gift of god. What he says is that a firm basis for our liberties, for
maintaining our liberties is the belief in the minds of the people that our
liberties are the gift of God. You can`t tell from that line whether
Jefferson himself believes in God. But you can tell that Jefferson
believes that the best way to keep our liberties security is for the people
who do believe in God to believe that they would incur God`s wrath by
violating our liberties.

In Jefferson`s view, those liberties include freedom of religion and
freedom of expression, which, of course, includes the freedom to express
that there is no God. Jefferson wanted people to believe that if they
interfered with the freedom to express anything, including atheism that God
would be unhappy with them. Not just a constitution.

If they interfered with the free expression of atheism, they would
incur God`s wrath. That`s what Jefferson wanted them to think. So when
Tony Perkins tries to cite Thomas Jefferson who support his intolerance, he
is simply lying about Thomas Jefferson. But it is very unlikely that tony
Perkins knows he`s lying because it`s very unlikely that tony Perkins knows
any of Thomas Jefferson`s actual thinking and writings on religious.

If Tony Perkins could have asked what Thomas Jefferson thought of
atheists having a booth at CPAC, Jefferson would have told him, it does me
no injury for my neighbor to say there are 20 Gods or no God. That`s
another line that Jefferson wrote on notes of the state of Virginia.

And here`s more. Reason and free inquiry are the only effectual
agents against error. Nothing there about God showing you the way to the
truth, just reason and free inquiry.

Jefferson went on to say difference of opinion is advantageous in
religion. Tony Perkins certainly doesn`t think that difference of opinion
is advantageous in religion. And now CPAC doesn`t think so. As soon as
they heard that Tony Perkins doesn`t think so. CPAC will allow no
difference of opinion on religion now that Tony Perkins has objected to the
presence of people who have a difference of opinion on religion.

Jefferson wrote his notes on the state of Virginia years before the
constitutional convention, when most states still had established
religions. Jefferson hated that. And was very jealous of Pennsylvania and
New York because they had no legally recognized religions at all.

Jefferson admired the boldness of Pennsylvania and New York for making
that choice. The experiment was new and doubtful. When they made it, it
was answered beyond conception. They flourished infinitely. They do not
hang more malefactors than we do. They are not more disturbed with
religious dissensions. On the contrary, their harmony is unparalleled.
And can be ascribed to nothing but their unbounded tolerance.

Unbounded tolerance. That is not what Tony Perkins is famous for.
And it is certainly not a value represented at CPAC. Thomas Jefferson
added, let us reflect that the world is inhabited by a thousand millions of
people and that these profess probably a thousand different systems of
religion, that ours is but one of that thousand. That is not something
Tony Perkins reflects on. And that is not something that will be reflected
at CPAC.

Hours after welcoming the atheists to CPAC today and saying
conservatives have always stood for freedom of religion and freedom of
expression, the poor CPAC spokesperson, Megan Snyder had to say the
atheists would be getting their money back for the booth number 439 and
they were not welcome because American atheists would not, quote, "engage
in positive dialogue."

You know the positive dialogue that CPAC is just famous for.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: More background checks, dandy idea, Mr.
President. Should have started with yours.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, the only evidence they have for the
Republican war on women is apparently that some taxpayers don`t feel
obliged to play for Sandra Fluke`s birth control. I think that hair cut is
birth control enough.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With Obama, you have a guy who wants to remake the
space agency into an international outreach agency for Muslims.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: See? People go to CPAC, a lot of young people, to engage
in a festival of condemnation of the vast majority of Americans, including
many Republicans who do not agree with the extremist right wing and
libertarian CPAC agenda. Those people have a lot of fun at CPAC, but they
do not have one moment, not one moment of positive dialogue with anyone
they disagree with.

When Tony Perkins and CPAC are kicking the atheists out of the
building, they really should not be pretending that Thomas Jefferson would
be cool with that. They should not try to rewrite Thomas Jefferson.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: First lady Michelle Obama is using SNL grads for her
campaign on better food and more exercise for America`s children. That`s
next. Tom Colicchio will join me.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AMY POEHLER, ACTRESS: This is so fun. Mrs. Obama is standing next to
me like she`s my audience and I`m just telling her jokes. This is like a
dream. Getting kids outside and challenging them to be physically active
is a great cause. And let`s move is such an amazing initiative. It`s
taking off a little faster than my initiative, let`s help me move.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Michelle Obama took her next campaign to Miami today with
Amy Poehler. The first lady seems to be relying on "Saturday Night Live"
graduates to get her message across.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there one trick to having, you know, a great
beach bud for the summer? Getting healthy?

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: It`s not about
tricks. Getting a good body and staying healthy is about dedication and
consistency and eating right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So no entire honey baked hams?

M. OBAMA: Sorry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Mrs. Obama`s day began at the White House where she made
two announcements for the fourth anniversary of let`s move.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

M. OBAMA: The first is that we`re issuing new school wellness
guidelines to help build healthier learning environments for our kids. And
as part of this effort, we`ll be eliminating advertisements for unhealthy
food and beverages in our schools. Because I think we can all agree that
our classrooms should be healthy place where kids are not bombard with ads
for junk food.

Our second announcement today focuses on school breakfast. And I
cannot possibly overstate how important this is. Because right now,
millions of children in this country are showing up to school hungry every
day. And that`s why we`re expanding our school breakfast program, ensuring
that nearly nine million kids in 2,000 schools start their day with a
nutritious breakfast.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now, Tom Colicchio, chef and owner of Craft
restaurants and executive producer of "A place of the Table," a documentary
film about food insecurity in America.

Tom, we have come such a long way, when you consider what Michelle
Obama has been campaigning for with the statistical picture is much
improved since she started on this.

TOM COLICCHIO, OWNER, CRAFT RESTAURANTS: Yes. Actually, obesity
rates are down. But they are down in most kids between ages two and five.
And pretty much kept at bay now for other children. So, the message is
definitely getting across.

The importance of school breakfast breakfasts, as first lady pointed
out, really sort of decides feeding kids nutritious breakfast, they really
gets them learning. There was a study done recently by (INAUDIBLE) in no
kid hungry that kids that get breakfast, not before the bell, but after the
bell in school, math scores go up by 17 percent. So there`s a real
educational outcomes to feeding kids and getting it proper nutrition.

O`DONNELL: She said something today about some of the things we now
take for granted about no longer smoking and drinking. And these are all
messages that came from the White House prior to the Obamas being in the
White House. Let`s listen to how she put it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

M. OBAMA: Just as we no longer smoke or drink when we`re pregnant,
just as we no longer let our kids ride their bikes without a helmet or sit
in the backseat of the car without a car seat, today we know that we can no
longer let our kids eat whatever they want.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Now, you can still get some Republicans and Sarah Palins
make fun of what Michelle Obama is doing on health. And you have to
wonder, what would Sarah Palin have said about seat belts whence the
government was making them mandatory? What is her attitude towards bike
helmets on kids? Things that are completely taken for granted.

COLICCHIO: Right. I can`t imagine it`s the same rhetoric she`s
talking about today. You know, if kids eat healthy early on in age, later
on like they`re not going to have diabetes. They are not going to have
heart disease. I mean, right now, health care costs, food related
illnesses cost us about $169 billion a year. So, if you want to lower the
money that our government spends and spending on health care, this is a
good place to start.

But you know, also, in the message today was the idea that we`re going
to actually stop advertising to kids in schools especially on healthy food.
So we spend about $150 million. Advertisers spend about $150 million
advertising in school. This isn`t sort of just commercials for movie
theaters or whatever. This is in school. And they`re typically
advertising for food that`s unhealthy. And what this really does is
undermines the gains that we made in school and making school much
healthier. And also, undermines parents` ability to teach their kids and
feed them a healthy diet.

And so, you know, it`s a great step. But you know, what I didn`t hear
today, this was interesting, I didn`t hear pushback from the beverage
companies or food companies on what the first lady is saying. And that is
because they`re going to take this $150 million and just move it away from
school to other places where they reach kids whether it is gaming or movie
theaters and things like that.

And so, you know, the White House, the administration, to get a break
from Congress, they could actually, make a difference. But the real make a
difference is in the tax code. Because right now, advertising, especially
advertising for any food, is being treated as a business expense and
therefore it`s subject to a write off.

And so, if we actually look at the dollars that are being used to
advertise for unhealthy foods and no longer allow the tax break, then
actually they`ll take those advertising dollars and start advertising for
healthier foods and then we`ll really have something.

O`DONNELL: But the biggest possible push is from consumers asking
for, demanding the healthier food.

COLICCHIO: Yes. Well, of course. If consumers started demanding
healthy food then they`ll no longer advertise unhealthy food. But, you
know, I don`t think beverage companies are, where they make their money,
isn`t in water. They all own water companies as well where they make their
money is in the sugary drinks.

O`DONNELL: Yes. Sweetened the water and coloring it.

COLICCHIO: Exactly.

END

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