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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Thursday, April 17th, 2014

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THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
April 17, 2014

Guests: Sam Youngman, Nia-Malika Henderson, Blake Zeff, Adrian Karatnycky,
Lenny Gerber, Pearl Berlin


ARI MELBER, GUEST HOST: Eight million.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s been the battle hymn of the Republican
Party. That your very reason for getting up in the morning is to repeal
Obamacare.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: There is no way to
fix this.

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MAJORITY LEADER: The House has been fighting
to stop Obamacare.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: The law in trouble.

CANTOR: Since 2009.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A guaranteed applause line no matter who you
are.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: We are going to repeal every single word of
Obamacare.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But the Obamacare punching bag is now punching
back.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This thing is working.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: With a vengeance.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Obamacare, "The National Journal" reports is on
a winning streak.

OBAMA: We have 8 million people signed up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Eight million enrollees.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some Republicans seem to be backing down.

BOEHNER: Whoa, whoa, whoa.

OBAMA: They said nobody would sign up. They were wrong. They said
it would be unaffordable for the country. They were wrong about that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There really is no gain any more.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president is beating Republicans over the
head.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was the president is saying "go ahead make my
day."

OBAMA: The point is the repeal debate is and should be over.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MELBER: Conservatives have made a lot of bad prediction about
Obamacare since enrolment started last October. But this -- this might
have been the most spectacularly wrong one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL KRISTOL, WEEKLY STANDARD: I have always said that the failure of
Obamacare will dwarf -- the train wreck of Obamacare will dwarf the minor
derailment of the shutdown. Ted Cruz is going to look better and better.
He`s the guy who understood one thing that a lot of other Republicans
didn`t -- Obamacare is the center of gravity in American politics these
days.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Yes it is. "Weekly Standard" editor Bill Kristol really did
predict, that was October 27th, that not only would Obamacare be a, quote,
"train wreck", but Ted Cruz and his repeal crusade would be vindicated by
it.

Well, President Obama went to the briefing room today to tell the
press just what a failure his health care law has been.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The number of Americans who have signed up for private
insurance in the market places has grown to 8 million people, 8 million
people. Thirty-five percent of people who enroll through the federal
marketplace are under the age of 35.

Eight million people signed up through the -- through the exchanges.
That doesn`t include the 3 million young people who are able to stay on
their parents` plan. It doesn`t include the 3 million people who benefited
from expansions in Medicaid.

So, if my math is correct, that`s 14 million right there. You`ve got
another $5 million people who signed up outside of the market places part
of the same insurance pool. So -- we got a sizable part of the U.S.
population now that are -- in the first -- for the first time in many
cases, in a position to enjoy the financial security of health insurance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: That was the president saying this policy is working. This
policy is the law.

And here is why these numbers matter. The Congressional Budget Office
originally projected 7 million people would enroll in federal exchange
after the initial problems with the Web site, which many remember. That
estimate was revised downward to 6 million. So, today, 8 million people
enrolled is beyond the Obama administration`s wildest expectations.

The overall enrollment number isn`t the only important metric, of
course. Insurance plans need a certain percentage or share of young people
in order to remain basically solvent and affordable. The Kaiser Family
Foundation in 2013 estimated that more than a third of the enrollments
should be between 18 and 34 years old for these types of plans to succeed.
Again today, the president was able to announce, 35 percent of enrollees
are under 35.

When you look at these successes, the president also had some things
to say about the approach of Republicans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: This thing is working. I said before, this law won`t solve
all of the problems in our health care system. We know we`ve got more work
to do. But we now know for a fact that repealing Affordable Care Act would
increase the deficit, raise premiums for millions of Americans and take
insurance away from millions more, which is why as I said before, I find it
strange the Republican possession on this law is still stuck in the same
place that it has always been.

They still can`t bring themselves to admit that the Affordable Care
Act is working. They said nobody would sign up. They were wrong about
that. They said it would be unaffordable for the country. They were wrong
about that. They were wrong to keep trying to repeal a law that is
working, when they have no alternative answer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: They were wrong. That was the core message the president
delivered to a White House press corps that hasn`t always been sympathetic,
of course, to the efforts here on the ACA.

And with midterm elections undoubtedly in mind, the president also
went further on offense. Spelling out an opportunity here, an opportunity
cost as well for congressional Republicans who are obsessed with only
repealing this law.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: These endless, fruitless repeal efforts come at a cost. The
50 or so votes Republicans have taken to repeal this law could have been 50
votes to create jobs by investing in things like infrastructure or
innovation, or 50 votes to make it easier for middle-class families to send
their kids to college, or 50 votes to raise the minimum wage, or restore
unemployment insurance, that they let expire for folks working hard to find
a new job. The point is the repeal debate is and should be over.

I recognize that their party has gone through, you know, the stages of
grief, right -- anger, denial, and all of that stuff. And it`s -- we`re
not at acceptance yet.

If the Republicans want to spend the entire next six months or a year
talking about repealing a bill that provides millions of people health
insurance without providing any meaningful alternative, instead of wanting
to talk about jobs, and the economic situation of families all across the
country, that`s their prerogative. It seems as if this is the primary
agenda item in the Republican political platform.

I`m still puzzled why they made this their sole agenda item when it
comes to our politics. It`s curious. There is a lot of fear-mongering,
and a lot of political argument, debate. And a lot of, accusations are
flung back and forth about socialized medicine, and the end of freedom.
Then it turns out that, you know what, it is working for a lot of folks.
We still live in a free market society. And Constitution is intact. And,
then we move on.

I don`t know how long it`s going to take but in the meantime, how
about us focusing on some things that the American people really care
about?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Joining me now, Ezra Klein, editor-in-chief of Vox.com, and
former Pennsylvania congressman, Patrick Murphy, both are MSNBC analysts,
of course.

Welcome to you both.

Congressman, I want to start with you. You voted for this law. Here
you see the president going on offense in a way that we don`t always see.
He`s got the numbers to back him up.

I am reminded of a dictum from Henry Kissinger, not a health care
expert, who famously said, the test of a policy isn`t where it starts, it`s
where it ends.

The ACA is not over, but the enrollment period is. The president is
making the argument when you look at the end of this stage of the policy,
it`s a smashing success and Republicans were wrong, wrong in their
predictions and wrong in their ideology.

PATRICK MURPHY, MSNBC ANALYST: That`s right, Ari. And, as the Center
for American Progress, not only 8 million now, but another 26 million
within 10 years will be under Affordable Healthcare Act.

I will tell you it was awesome today to see President Obama having the
political courage to stand there and let people know, we got to own this as
Democrats. We shouldn`t be shy about this. This is -- finally, people
don`t have to make health care decisions as told by insurance companies.
They can make personal decisions.

I will say that even in ruby red states like Alaska, you have allies
of Democratic Senator Mark Begich who are running pro-Obamacare ad.
There`s a great ad about a runner named Jennifer who is now cancer free
saying thanks to that Democratic senator, the insurance companies don`t
make her personal health care decisions.

It`s a political win and it`s going to make a big difference come this
fall.

MELBER: Then you look at Medicaid, an issue, Ezra, you have
documented a lot and pointed out how important that holistic piece is.
There are really two ACAs in the country today. There is the fully
functioning ACA in places where Medicaid and exchanges are up and running,
and there are the states that have been much more aggressive against it.

The president spoke about that again today as well. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: This does frustrate me. States that have chosen to expand
Medicaid for no other reason than political spite. You`ve got 5 million
people who could be adding health insurance right now at no cost to these
states. Zero cost to these states, other than ideological reasons they
have chosen not to provide health insurance for their citizens.

That`s wrong. It should stop. Those folks should be able to get
health insurance like everybody else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Ezra, connect the dots on Medicaid and give us also, if you
would, your larger thoughts on today`s address.

EZRA KLEIN, MSNBC ANALYST: Yes, the Medicaid situation one of the
great moral scandals in American policymaking right now. You are dealing
with millions of people who could have completely government subsidized
health care insurance getting nothing instead. It breaks down in a strange
way.

If you`re a family of three and you make $17,000 in California, you
walk into a community health center. You walk out with full health
insurance paid for by the government because you can`t afford it.

If you are a family of three in Mississippi, and you make the exact
same amount, you get nothing. I mean absolutely nothing. Because, not
only is there no Medicaid expansion there. Because of the way the law was
designed.

What we expected everyone would do the Medicaid expansion, you are not
eligible for subsidies for private insurance either. You are not eligible
for subsidies into the Obamacare exchanges.

So, the absolute worst off people at Mississippi get nothing. Whereas
in the states that have expanded, they get completely comprehensive. The
argument Republican governors will make is that, well, they`ve don`t want
to pay for it. But for now, the Medicaid is 100 percent paid for by the
government. After that, it`s paid for 90 percent by the federal
government.

So, then the argument is, well, at some point in the future, the
federal government could decide to pass a new law paying for less. And
that`s true. In 10 or 15 or 20 years, the world could change. But they
could always pull out then.

So, to not be giving essentially, currently free, after this, nearly
free health care insurance to those folks, is genuinely appalling state of
affairs. A lot of people suffer for it.

Bigger picture, incredible thing that Affordable Care Act got 8
million. And it speaks -- it is a very badly launched law. Two months of
disaster. But it speaks to something I think a lot in Washington forgot,
which is that what is genuinely horrible is to not have insurance. And
people who are uninsured are willing to go through quite a lot to get
insured.

And that is why the law actually is now on a fairly firm foundation.

MELBER: Yes, Ezra, that is very well put. And there is an element of
privilege there when people talk about, oh, the broken Web site, which was
an issue for a period of time.

Congressman, certainly not one the administration is proud of. And
yet the problems associated with not having health care are far, far graver
than delays and the unfortunate confusion around the Web site. That`s why
we are moving forward.

Congressman, speak if you would of ability of the Republicans to
continue to opt out in the ways they have on Medicaid, et cetera.

MURPHY: Yes, real quick. It`s not how you start, Ari, it`s how you
finish.

But, to your question, how the Republicans are opting out. In my great
commonwealth of Pennsylvania, we have a Republican governor who has not
opted in under Medicaid expansion here in Pennsylvania. That is 600,000
Pennsylvanians in the dark.

That`s one of the main reasons frankly why this governor is probably
going to lose re-election. He is the most likely Republican governor to
lose office in a whole country.

But I will tell you, Ari, I know you are a lawyer. A lot of folks say
while the Supreme Court said that, Affordable Care Act was constitutional.
What they did do though, what people don`t understand, they gutted that
Medicaid expansion by saying -- well, states can opt out.

So, the John Roberts of the Supreme Court really did a number on the
bill because every state should have been in this thing, but it is what it
is.

Seven states that are Republican-controlled have opted in, and it has
gone to great success. But in states like Pennsylvania, now, it is a
political liability for the Republicans who did not play ball.

MELBER: Yes, I think that is right, and a lot of the headlines about
John Roberts, upholding the mandate which is key, it`s the core. At a
policy level of sort of the engineering piece. But what they did in
opening up a sort of a federalist rear guard action on the law, huge
consequences.

Ezra, where do we go from here, briefly?

KLEIN: They`re going to have to now make the law better for next
year. I mean, the Web site really did launch badly and I think something
as important to say is that the folks who need insurance deserve a good
experience. And so, they`ve got a much better team in place now. They`re
very, very focused on it.

So, the Medicaid expansion continues. People can sign up. There`s no
end to open enrollment. And then in terms of getting ready for next year,
a lot more insurers competing, they want a much smoother shopping
experience because it`s scheduled to bring in another 7 million to 8
million folks.

MELBER: All right. Someone who writes a lot about health care, and
someone who voted for this health care law, Ezra Klein, Patrick Murphy,
thank you both for joining us tonight.

KLEIN: Thank you.

MURPHY: Thanks, Ari.

KLEIN: Coming up, you probably heard about how a voter asked Rand
Paul about why he was supporting Mitch McConnell`s re-election. And he
said he`d explain in private. We actually had a reporter who heard that
private answer. It is a LAST WORD exclusive tonight.

And a potentially awkward moment, when President Obama is asked about
2016 and he gives props not only as vice president, as a candidate,
standing next to him, but also to one of Joe Biden`s potential rivals as
well.

And this is going to be good. Friends of the show will -- viewers of
the snow will remember a friend of the show, Lenny Gerber (ph) and Karl
Pearl (ph), who are become to talk about their lawsuit against the state of
North Carolina asking for their marriage to be recognized immediately.
That`s up ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHELSEA CLINTON, FORMER FIRST DAUGHTER: Marc and I are very excited
that we have our first child arriving later this year.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Today, Chelsea Clinton announced she and her husband Marc are
having a baby in New York.

In unrelated news, Vice President Joe Biden`s son Beau announced he
will run for governor of Delaware in 2016. He`s currently the state`s
attorney general.

And coming up, President Obama talked about Hillary Clinton and Joe
Biden running for president while standing next to Joe Biden.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Kentucky is a key state for today`s GOP. It`s home to the
party`s most senior office holder in Washington, Mitch McConnell, and one
of the most prominent Tea Party figures, Rand Paul.

So, any backroom beef between these two men gets politicos buzzing,
which is not to say there is beef per se, but there is a back room at the
least. That`s because yesterday, a constituent asked Senator Paul a
seemingly simple question why is he backing Senator McConnell`s re-election
in a GOP primary? It`s also a loaded question, many Tea Party
conservatives are tired of McConnell.

In the December poll, Kentucky Republicans preferred Paul over
McConnell, 59 percent to 27 percent. And Kentucky "Glasgow Daily Times"
reported on Paul`s approach to the inquiry from the constituent, quote,
"Paul declined to answer the question publicly, saying he would speak with
her in private and explain his reason for supporting the senior senator."

All right. But not like this hasn`t come up before when Glenn Beck
popped the similar question in July. Paul didn`t offer a private meeting.
Instead he dutifully endorsed Senator Mitch McConnell.

That was last July. When asked about the endorsement on Glenn Beck`s
radio program. Let`s take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLENN BECK, RADIO HOST: Can we start with the hardest question that I
have for you. And it -- it is this. Why are you endorsing Mitch
McConnell?

SEN. PAUL RAND (R), KENTUCKY: I`m here in Texas to endorse Don
Huffines. We`ve got our signals crossed here. Going back to Kentucky --
because he asked me. He asked me when there was nobody else in the race.
And I said, yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: There is someone else in the race now whether Paul likes it
or not.

And joining us is Sam Youngman, who was covering yesterday`s Rand Paul
event for the "Lexington Herald-Leader" and who interviewed Senator Paul
after that event.

Why don`t you start by telling us about this little back and forth?
What happened and what did you learn from witnessing any of the discussion
afterward about the endorsement?

SAM YOUNGMAN, LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER: Sure. Yes, I was surprised
that it made the news that it did today. We were standing in a courtroom
actually. About 20,30 people. A heavy Matt Bevin contingent was there.

I was sort of -- I will be honest with you. I was sort of nodding off
a little bit when the woman sitting next to me, 68-year-old woman, said, I
understand you are endorsing Senator McConnell, may I ask why?

Senator Paul then said this is an official event. It was put out by
his Senate office and not his PAC. He said, I don`t want to talk about
politics because it`s an official event. I sort of rolled my eyes a little
bit as I think any reporter sitting in that situation might.

But then, about 30 seconds later, he was asked, you know, what do you
thing the odd are of Republicans retaking the Senate? That`s usually an
issue he would be happy to talk about. He gave the same answer, it`s an
official event, but I`m happy to talk to you afterward.

After the event, I spoke with the woman who asked about the Matt Bevin
or -- excuse me, the Mitch McConnell endorsement. She`s wearing a Matt
Bevin t-shirt, very friendly. She explained she had a politically
pragmatic view. She said she understands that Senator Paul needs to
endorse senator McConnell to position himself to run for president in 2016.
I asked her is that something you would look to see? She said absolutely.

Afterwards, I listened in and she asked Senator Paul about the
endorsement. Senator Paul said, you know, look, endorsements are tricky.
He said his dad and he are close, and even they don`t agree on
endorsements.

The woman`s message to Senator Paul was, just don`t do it in a way to
alienate the rest of us.

MELBER: Right. And you`re talking about Matt Bevin, who`s sort of
the Tea Party challenger here to McConnell, who hasn`t necessarily got the
kind of attraction to really knock McConnell off, but it`s clearly
softening him. This is something Republicans are concerned about. Alison
Grimes running against him as a Democrat in the general.

Walk us through the relationship in your view between these two men?
I mean, we all know it is a little weird for any one, any politician to
say, oh, they`re not going to do politics at an official event. There
tends to be political answers and discussion in all events.

Do you think he is threading the needle right here, or paradoxically
attracted attention back to the issue to the fact that he wants to run as a
big independent challenger, Senator Paul, but he`s going along with the
Washington establishment here?

YOUNGMAN: Well, I don`t think there`s any question this caused some
tension. I mean, let`s not forget, four years ago, Rand Paul was
essentially the Matt Bevin in the race, running against Senator McConnell`s
sort of handpicked successor for Senator Jim Bunning who`s retiring.

That being said, I don`t think this incident was anything like what
you had with the Glenn Beck interview that you just played. You know, I do
think there have been times when Senator Paul has been tepid in his
endorsement raising a lot of eyebrows, well, how committed is he to this?

My own sense is, a year ago I was at a breakfast in Washington with
Senator Paul and I asked him if Senator McConnell had been a role model for
him since he joined the Senate. And at the time, he said Thoreau, Henry
David Thoreau was a role model, sort of skirting the question there.

Since then, I have seen sort of an evolution in the relationship. It
is not, between the two principals, not as transactional I think as it
appears. I do think there is a great deal of suspicion among their
supporters in both universes. But I do think the relationship changed a
great deal in the last year.

MELBER: Yes, look, one of the healthy parts is breaking the incumbent
cartel where everyone takes it as a given that you should be endorsed
because you`re an incumbent. But it`s hard for them to actually do that.
We`ve seen that in the McConnell example here.

Sam Youngman, political reporter for "Lexington Herald-Leader" --
thanks for joining us.

YOUNGMAN: Thanks, Ari.

MELBER: Coming up, what President Obama said about the prospective
Democratic candidates for president in 2016, including his own vice
president and his former secretary of state.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: President Obama did something on Wednesday that presidents
rarely do, a joint interview. When you`re the president, it`s hard to add
anyone to an interview that actually adds to it. By definition, the extra
guest is less powerful.

So, people notice, of course, when last year, President Obama granted
another rare joint interview with his outgoing secretary of state, Hillary
Clinton. Some politicos even said that interview was so important, it
signaled an early preference for a future Clinton presidency, which the
White House dismissed.

And joint appearances with the vice president are so rare that on the
campaign trail, you have a president and the veep, they`re usually
spreading their fire and in office, they`re deliberately separated for the
line of succession.

So, the number of joint interviews for President Obama remain slim,
but Obama and Biden did make a joint trip this week to tout a new $600
million federal job program. They took separate aircraft for that line of
succession but held a joint conversation with CBS`s Major Garrett and, of
course, 2016 came up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAJOR GARRETT, CBS: Even the optics of this will be viewed by some as
a prism of 2016. That`s going to be true whatever you do to the moment you
declare whether you are a candidate or not. Does that change your ability
to work on behalf of this president?

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is nothing I
would do differently. If I absolutely knew I wasn`t going to run, or
absolutely know I was, there`s nothing I`d do differently over the next
seven, eight, 10 months.

We have a very important job to do. The president and his agenda is
one I strongly believe in. And we have upcoming elections in 2014.

If I decide to run, believe me this will be the first guy I talk to.
But that decision hasn`t been made for real. And there`s plenty of time to
make that. We have a lot of work to do between now and November.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: For real.

Now, the last time another sitting president, vice president did a
joint interview -- it`s worth noting -- it didn`t lead to another
presidential campaign. It was in 2004 when President Bush and Vice
President Cheney decided it be best if they appeared together before the
independent commission investigating the 9/11 attacks.

This time, President Obama didn`t even try to be coy about how his old
rivals could be rivals once again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I`ve got somebody who I think will go down as one of the
finest vice presidents in history. And he has been, as I said earlier, a
great partner in everything that I do.

I suspect that there may be other potential candidates for 2016 who
have been great friends and allies. You know, I know that we`ve got a
extraordinary secretary of state who did great service for us and worked
with me and Joe to help make the country safer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Joining me now is one of the few strategists who served on
both sides of the 2008 Obama-Clinton battle, Blake Zeff, Salon`s Political
Editor. He`s a former aide to Clinton`s presidential primary campaign and
a former spokesman for Obama`s general election campaign, and Nia-Malika
Henderson, national political reporter for "The Washington Post" who was on
the campaign trail with President Obama both times he ran.

Welcome to you both.

Blake, what are we to make of this big joint interview?

ZEFF: This is a fascinating piece of video that you`ve just played. There
are so many little elements here that are just so delicious. But the thing
to me that really stands out is the way President Obama deals with the
whole issue, of course, with Vice President Biden.

And then he`s got the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. And when
you`re advising candidates like these or even the president, you know,
before a big interview, you always anticipate what are the questions that
are going to come up?

Now, one of the things that we want you to sort of make news on, and
what you should not make news on. And sometimes, you write a memo.
Sometimes you (ph) go (ph) to (ph) fake questions ahead of time.

They clearly said to him before this, don`t make news when they ask
you about Biden`s presidential hopes and with Hillary. So they ask him
about Biden and vice president standing right there.

President praises the vice president and of course, sneaks in, on the
other hand, my secretary of state is wonderful, too, just to -- you can see
the wheels in his brain turning while he`s doing it to make sure it doesn`t
look like he`s endorsing Biden but he`s not endorsing Hillary.

And of course, you can see the vice president`s face fall a little bit
as they mention the Security of State.

MELBER: Well, Blake, of course he -- of course, he is going out of his
way to mention Hillary Clinton. That`s proactive, not only reactive.

Nia, take a listen to what happened when Steve Croft asked him about
Hillary during that other interview. Let`s look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CROFT: Why did you want to do this together, a joint interview?

OBAMA: Well, the main thing is I -- I just want to have a chance to
publicly say thank you because I think Hillary will go down as one of the
finest secretary of states we`ve had.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Nia, I don`t want to over-parse. We never do that in media or
politics.

HENDERSON: Like never.

MELBER: But -- but are these coming up even?

HENDERSON: You know, not really, right, I mean, because that, I think
when -- when the Hillary Clinton interview and the joint interview there,
he was really seen as sort of a passing off of -- of the baton there. And
this is, I think in a lot of folks` eyes, pretty way (ph) Biden is (ph), it
maybe a little too late.

You`ve -- you`ve a -- a feeling in the Biden camp that there has been,
you know, sort of a lot of love given to Hillary Clinton, a lot of aides
that supported Obama are in that camp, too. So the sort of structural sort
of campaign in waiting doesn`t exist around Biden.

And so far, you haven`t had Obama give the kind of -- you know, sort
of passing off of the baton to Biden either or that you`ve seen him do with
Hillary Clinton. But so, I mean, you know we`ll see.

We don`t know what`s going -- going on in Barack Obama`s mind in terms
of who he would rather see in that role running. I think what we do know is
that he`s a competitive person like everybody who`s been in the oval
office.

And he wants to hand off the White house, the keys to the oval office,
to a Democrat. And he`s got to figure out which one could go the distance.

MELBER: Yes.

And the media piece and the public persuasion is part of this, Blake.
We`ll put on the screen President Obama appeared in a selfie with Vice
President Biden on their new photo account, Instagram account.

You love to see that big smiles all around. Of course, I should
mention that the Vice President posting that. Again, not to be too petty.

But Blake, Nia -- Nia raises the structural point right here, which is
beyond all the public posturing, there is the top people on staff and of
course, the donors and the money. And a lot more of that from early reports
does seem to be going more towards Hillary or interested in Hillary versus
Biden.

ZEFF: Oh, no question about it. I mean, look, the President doesn`t
necessarily control what aides and donors and all those people do. What
that tends to indicate is that this is where kind of the -- the popular
conventional wisdom is that Hillary will be the front-runner.

But what`s interesting is a lot of people sort of speculated, well,
maybe Biden sees the writing on the wall and isn`t really interested in
being president but wants to kind of keep his profile up. And that`s why
they`ve sort of invented this idea that he might run for president.

I don`t think that that`s true. I think the guy really wants to be
president.

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER: He`s run twice.

ZEFF: He`s been running for 25 years, this guy. And I think that, you
know, it`s always the principal (ph) himself is the last to understand that
it`s not necessarily looking good.

MELBER: Yes.

And Nia, the other thing about Hillary Clinton is I feel like she has
the resume part down. There`s really no question. And even her detractors
admit that.

The bigger question is the cover letter. Why do you want to do this?
Why do you belong in this job? "The New York Times" had.

HENDERSON: That`s right.

MELBER: .a big piece out, front-page piece looking at the fact that
she still had a hard time answering why and how she ran -- ran the state
department well and what her biggest achievement there was, which was
echoes of problems that, as Blake will remember, was hard for an answer
last time around.

HENDERSON: That`s right. And -- and famously hard for Ted Kennedy to
answer that, too, right, when Roger Mudd asked him that many years ago. He
gave a sort of a garbled response.

Hillary Clinton has got to figure that out as well. And she talked
about that as well. Last week, she -- she said, you know, the biggest thing
is figuring out what you would do.

Why you would run? And what you wanted to do in that office? We`ll see
what she comes up with. I think the -- the first argument will be what she
comes up with in her book, which is coming out in June.

We`ll all be reading it perhaps on the beach. But yes, I think -- I
think she`s got to figure out what her argument is to the American people
for a Clinton presidency.

She does have another advantage, I think, over Biden and the folks who
might be on the -- on the other side of the aisle as well. She has run
before. Biden, I mean, he`s run twice, but -- but pretty much dropped out
pretty early.

MELBER: Not exactly (ph) yet. Not.

HENDERSON: So she does -- yes, yes, not exactly really.

MELBER: Not closing the -- not closing the delegates, Nia. And you
raised yet.

HENDERSON: Right.

MELBER: .another question here with that book coming out, which is who
will post selfies of themselves reading the Hillary Clinton book.

HENDERSON: Please, no one, I hope. No more selfies. I`m done with
selfies.

MELBER: Only -- only time will tell.

Nia-Malika Henderson and Blake Zeff, thank you, both, for joining me
tonight. And coming up.

HENDERSON (ph): Thanks.

MELBER: .a glimmer of hope for a resolution to the crisis in Ukraine.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)


MELBER: Edward Snowden has been all over the news this week. "The
Washington Post" and "The Guardian" just won Pulitzers for stories based on
his leaks about the NSA.

And today, he pops up a Vladimir Putin`s annual phone in town hall.
Snowden currently resides in Russia as a fugitive from prosecution in the
United States. And he submitted his question through a video phone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SNOWDEN: Does Russia intercept store or analyze in any way the
communications of millions of individuals? Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: The Obama administration.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(UNKNOWN): Mr. Snowden, you are a former agent and in the past, I had
something to do with intelligence. So we will talk between ourselves.

Modern means of communications are used by criminals, including
terrorists. Of course, special services should use modern means to fight
crime, including crimes of a terrorist nature.

So of course, we do that, too. But that mass surveillance,
indiscriminate surveillance, we certainly do not allow ourselves. And we
hope, I very much hope, will never allow in the future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: The Obama administration was quick to respond, releasing a
statement through the embassy in Moscow, noting that, quote, "Russian laws
allow the control storage and study of all data in the communications
networks of the Russian federation."

Now, up next, is John Kerry closer to making a deal with Russia on
Ukraine.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Our strong preference would be for Mr. Putin to follow through
on what is a glimmer of hope coming out of these Geneva talks. But we`ll -
- we`re not going to count on it until we see it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: A glimmer of hope -- that is how the President described it. A
tentative agreement reached today in Geneva between Russian and Ukrainian
officials that stipulates militants must refrain from violence, lay down
their illegal weapons and return seized buildings to their rightful owners.

In return, Ukraine agreed to offer amnesty to protesters who had not
committed capital crimes. Secretary of State John Kerry called the deal a
good day`s work but cautioned that as of now, these are just words on
paper.

Back in Washington, the President reminded Moscow what is at stake.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Over the last week, we have put in place additional
consequences that we can impose on the Russians if we do not see actual
improvement of the situation on the ground. This whole exercise by the
Russians is not good for Russia either.

There are I think a number of articles today indicating the degree to
which an economy that was already stuck in the mud is further deteriorating
because of his actions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: And even as these negotiations move forward today, another
story whipped around the world and drew reactions from the highest levels
of government before the entire picture was even clear. There were reports
today that Jewish residents of a city in Eastern Ukraine received fliers
instructing them to register as Jews, provide documents and pay some sort
of fee.

A group that was said to be responsible for those fliers, however,
denied any involvement and the number and scale of the operation was not
immediately clear. The story went from a few uploaded pictures to
understandable international shock waves about militant anti-Semitism to
condemnations from the highest levels of government.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY: This is not just intolerable. It`s grotesque. It`s beyond
unacceptable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Any attempts to register or intimidate Jewish residents of
Ukraine are abhorrent, whether they`re isolated incidents or coordinated
efforts. But in a tense border standoff, where all sides are eager to
pounce on anything to vilify each other, it`s not clear whether cooler
heads really did prevail today.

Joining me now to discuss is an expert on the region from the Atlantic
Council, Adrian Karatnycky, who also runs the Ukraine Jewish Encounter, a
nonprofit group that aims to promote tolerance and pluralism in the
Ukraine.

Welcome.

KARATNYCKY: How are you?

MELBER: Let`s start with these allegations and put them in context for
us.

KARATNYCKY: Yes, I think there is a lot of question about whether that
specific document is representative of a concerted to, you know, hound and
round up Jews in -- in Eastern Ukraine. That said, there are a lot of very
crazy, ultra-right, neo-fascist groups that are circling around Crimea,
that are circling around Eastern Ukraine, that are encouraging the
protests, including the guy who was the -- the self-appointed governor of
the place where this letter came out, who was a member of a group called
the Russian National Union, an absolutely Nazi party with almost a
Swastika-like symbol.

And the irony of this is that Mr. Putin and Russian propaganda have
been sort of saying the people who made the revolution in Kiev, they`re all
Neo-Nazis, et cetera, while the deputy prime minister of Ukraine is Jewish,
governors of Odessa and Dnipropetrovsk, two major urban centers are also
Jewish. The -- even one of far right groups is a multiethnic far (ph) so
(ph) semitic but very conservative group.

So the problem is there is anti-Semitism on both sides. Ukraine has a
terrible tragic history.

MELBER: Yes.

KARATNYCKY: .of -- of many millions of Jews killed. This was the
homeland of a huge proportion of -- of the Jew -- of Jewish European life.
And you know, these issues have never really been teased out and purged out
of society in the way, say (ph), they have in Germany.

MELBER: Right. And yet, as a matter of diplomacy here as well as
journalism, for those of us around the world trying to make sense of it,
the terrible history here is distinct from what we know and how much we
know about this allegation -- the anti-defamation league, which is a major
organization that fights anti-Semitism, said today, quote, "We`re skeptical
about the flier`s authenticity.

But the instructions clearly recalled a Nazi era and have the effect
of intimidating the local Jewish community. We strongly condemn the anti-
Semitic content but also attempts to use anti-Semitism for political
purposes."

That`s a careful statement there. But it`s a caution not only against
the -- the terrible incidence of anti-Semitism that -- that exists, but
also the idea that we don`t want that legitimate concern about that to get
caught up in this shell game between these countries.

KARATNYCKY: I agree. But I do think we have to keep an eye on who
these guys are and who Mr. Putin is making alliances with. If you look at
the people, the European politicians that are now in closest alignment with
Mr. Putin, who came to Crimea and who passed a positive, a green light on
the referendum, these come from the most right-wing and anti-Semitic and
anti-immigrant and anti-gay.

MELBER: Sure.

KARATNYCKY: .groupings in Europe.

MELBER: So Adrian, moving that more broadly.

KARATNYCKY: Sure (ph).

MELBER: .as people look at this and they feel like they can`t tell
whether something`s good coming out of Geneva or the tensions are still on
high. Where do we go in the coming days?

KARATNYCKY: Well, I think that the more important thing in Geneva is
what didn`t happen in Geneva, which was the day before, the party of
regions, the major establishment party that was associated with the
discredited president, Mr. Yanukovych, held a Congress. At that Congress,
they made very moderate demands.

They wanted basically the rights of the Russian language. They wanted
basically typical kind of I would say, Republican slogans of more control
to the states and sort of -- sort of states` rights and -- and came out
singing the Ukrainian national anthem, using blue and yellow colors, making
clear that they were spooked by the men in green.

They were spooked by these guys with guns. And they`re spooked by the
far right groups that are actually being enabled by whether it`s Russian
military intelligence or a combination of Russian actions and native
discontent in -- in the region.

And they want to sue for peace.

MELBER: Excellent. Adrian Karatnycky, thank you for joining us
tonight.

Coming up, Lenny and Pearl are back on "The Last Word."


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: The lawyer who argued before the Supreme Court in favor of
upholding California`s ban on marriage equality now says his views on
marriage are evolving. Charles Cooper learned that his stepdaughter Ashley
is gay while he was defending prop 8 in court.

And according to a new book, he`s now helping her plan her wedding to
another woman. Up next, Lenny and Pearl, two women, who have been together
for decades, are now suing the state of North Carolina for the right to be
married while they still can.

They join us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Today, a federal appeals court heard arguments and (ph) had
(ph) challenged Oklahoma`s ban on same-sex marriage. The suits by a lesbian
couple who first went to court almost 10 years ago when only one state
allowed same-sex marriage.

In North Carolina, another state that doesn`t recognize gay marriage,
Lenny Gerber and Pearl Berlin say they can`t afford to wait another 10
years. The ACLU is filing -- has recently filed a federal suit on their
behalf, asking North Carolina to recognize the couple`s marriage from
another state.

The suit argues that recognizing the marriage is not only the right
approach to equality under the law. It`s also a medical necessity. That`s
because Ms. Berlin, who`s 89 years old, faces some serious medical issues.

She`s been to the hospital three times in the past two years. And as
the suit explains, quote, Ms. Gerber and Dr. Berlin constantly fear being
denied access and decision-making ability during a crisis, for example, the
medical professional should one of them access to the other in a medical
emergency.

Joining me now, friends of the show, Lenny Gerber and Pearl Berlin,
who have been together over 47 years.

Welcome to you, both.

GERBER: Thank you. We`re happy to be here.

MELBER: Great. I want to start with you, Pearl. How are you feeling
personally? And how is the suit going?

BERLIN: Oh, the suit is progressing slowly. My legal mind is -- is
really within (ph) -- I depend upon Lenny mostly for that. otherwise, I`m
feeling thin as a fiddle and ready to fight.

MELBER: All right.

Well, Lenny, I know you are an attorney and manage (ph) in (ph) the
(ph) legal stuff. Let me read a little bit from the suit that you have
here. You say that this basically, the way North Carolina approaches this
stigmatizes the adult plaintiff`s and relegates them to second-class
status.

That language is important, of course, because it -- it basically
cites the victory of the Supreme Court, where Justice Kennedy said that
DOMA imposes a stigma upon all who enter into same-sex marriages. Speak to
us about that idea that this is a stigma and an unfair discrimination.

GERBER: Well, just imagine if you walked into some store and you --
and -- and everybody was able to buy the things on aisle two. But they
said, no, aisle two is closed to you for some reason.

It`s -- it`s -- why am I different? I`m just another person with the
two of us are just a loving couple who have been together for almost 48
years now. And when -- when you set us aside and say, but you`re different.

You`re not good enough to be married. You don`t belong to this
wonderful institution. That`s a stigma.

MELBER: And Pearl, when you look around the country today, while you
don`t have the justice that you`re fighting for in this case, how do you
feel looking at a country that seems to be making a lot of movement on this
issue, a lot of people feeling differently and more inclusive of gay men
and women in America.

BERLIN: I`m well aware of it, and of course, very much pleased. And I
think that, with the progress we`ve been making, I just expect to be here
to see the day when we have full acceptance of gay couples in the United
States all over the country.

MELBER: And.

GERBER: Neither of us have any doubt that will happen. But this
question is will it happen in time for us.

MELBER: Right, in time for you. And that`s something the brief talks
about.

Lenny, what do you think about.

BERLIN: Yes.

MELBER: .what I mentioned just earlier in the broadcast, that you see
even people who are fighting against marriage equality, they start to
change their mind if someone -- they find out someone in their family turns
out to be gay?

GERBER: That`s exactly -- well, it`s.

BERLIN: That`s (ph) what (ph) happens (ph).

GERBER: .it`s what we`ve been predicting all along, that the more
people come out, the more people understand that their family members,
their neighbors, their teachers, their police officers are gay, and that
they know them, the -- the less prejudiced they are, because they -- they
see us as ordinary people.

BERLIN: We`re real people.

GERBER: We are real people, just the same as they are. So yes, that is
wonderful.

MELBER: Yes.

GERBER: And that attitude is changing all across the country. But
again, we live in North Carolina. And they have made it impossible for us
to be treated as married people.

And that we don`t have the time to wait for the state to evolve. They
need to do it now.

MELBER: Yes. Well, Lenny and Pearl, you both seem like real people to
me. I know you`ve been on the show with Lawrence before. I appreciate you
sharing your stories with us tonight.

Thank you.

BERLIN: It`s a pleasure.

GERBER: Our pleasure.

MELBER: Excellent. They get tonight`s last word. I am Ari Melber, in
for Lawrence O`Donnell. Chris Hayes is up next.


END

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