'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014
Read the transcript to the Tuesday show
THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
April 22, 2014
Guests: Nia-Malika Henderson, Steve LaTourette, Geoff Stone, Steve Clemons,
ARI MELBER, GUEST HOST: Chris Christie delivers the buzz kill.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Whole lot of folks now are talking about
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HARDBALL: The genie its out of the bottle when it comes to
pot and politicians.
CRUZ: The brownies you had this morning provided by state of Colorado.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s the highlight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even the president weighed in, telling "The New Yorker"
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "I don`t think it is more dangerous than alcohol."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The coalition around pot legalization is not
exclusively on the left.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like Rand Paul who says it`s wrong to put pot smokers
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: If 30 years ago, you grew marijuana plants
in your college dorm, you should get your right to vote back.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Texas Governor Rick Perry signals he is down with the
decriminalization of pot.
GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: The legalization issue is not ever going to
happen. How you deal with small amounts is where I think you can make the
biggest and the best impact.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you ever smoked marijuana?
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: You know why I never answer the question?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mary Jane (INAUDIBLE) --
RUBIO: If I tell you that I haven`t you won`t believe me.
CRUZ: Whole lot of folks now are talking about legalizing pot.
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: You say it`s going to come down the
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Could New Jersey be the next state to legalize pot?
CHRISTIE: You know when it may come down the road, when I`m gone.
MELBER: Good evening. I`m Ari Melber, in for Lawrence O`Donnell.
Could pot save control of the Senate for Democrats? Some political
insiders think so.
Here`s one reason: this year, Alaska voters will vote on a ballot
initiative to decide if Alaska will become the third state in the nation to
completely legalize marijuana. That vote was supposed to happen in August,
but Alaska public media reports that vote is now expected to be pushed back
to the general election in November, which could mean a huge turnout boost
among younger voters who tend to favor Democrats.
Both Democratic Senator Mark Begich and Republican Congressman Don Young
have said they will support whatever the voters decide in their state. But
2016 candidates and their teams will be watching, you can bet, how pot on
the ballot affects turnout.
And a stunning new graph from Pew Research Center shows the remarkable
shift in public opinion on pot legalization in the last two decade. Take a
look here. In 1989, you can see, 81 percent said pot should be illegal,
only 16 percent thought it should be legal. Now, 54 percent of Americans
say pot should be legal. Only 42 percent continue to believe it should
Now, who supports legalizing pot when you break it down? Seventy percent
of voters under age of 30. That may not be a surprise among 18 to 29-year-
olds. But also, 63 percent of Democrats, 60 percent of blacks, 58 percent
of political independents, 56 percent of people in that middle range of 30
to 49, 55 percent of whites, and 55 percent of people 50 to 64. Who does
that leave? Who is left out of the anti-pot camp?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ever watch "The O`Reilly Factor"?
Anything you want to tell O`Reilly right now?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, Bill, what`s up?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me ask you this -- I can`t. OK, I`m high.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This man is a pothead.
BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS: Now I know I am going to get nailed from the pro-
pot people. Saying you went out and got the dopiest people you could find.
Pardon the pun.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on. That was not hard to find.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
O`REILLY: Most of them are just basically, middling intellect. They just
want to get high. That`s what the drug and intoxication world is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That was Bill O`Reilly`s pot special. He may be left of the anti-
Sixty-five percent of the people over the age of 65 are against
legalization. So, are 59 percent of Republicans. And by the way, 53
percent of Hispanics when you break it down.
The politics of pot have memorably changed as well from this --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON (D), THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When I was in England, I
experimented with marijuana a time or two. And I didn`t like it. And
didn`t inhale and never tried it again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: To this --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY LENO, COMEDIAN: I have to ask this question, remember, Senator, you
are under oath, did you inhale?
THEN-SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: You know I was telling, somebody
asked this question. That was the point.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Fact check. That is the point.
Now, when President Obama revealed in his autobiography that he smoked pot
and had done, quote, "a little blow", and then won a presidential election,
it started to change the calculus on presidential politics.
But he didn`t change the conversation about drugs or his history. He is
also changing the policies, and that`s important. In 2010, President Obama
led the fight for and signed something called the Fair Sentencing Act.
That reduced the racial disparities in sentences imposed on people for
offenses involving different forms of cocaine.
In December, the president commuted the sentences of eight people who
served more than 15 years for nonviolent drug offenses, part of a smart on
crime initiative. And then this week, Attorney General Eric Holder
announced the next step.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: There are still too many people in federal
prison, sentenced under the old regime and who as a result will spend far
more time in prison than they would if sentenced to day for exactly the
This is simply not right. As a society we pay much too high a price
whenever our system fails to deliver the just outcomes necessary to deter
and punish crime, to keep us safe. And to ensure that those who have paid
their debts have a -- have a chance to become productive citizens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: And reforming the war on drugs is not confined to Eric Holder`s
office. The Obama administration has found a somewhat unlikely ally in
2016, Republican presidential contender, Rand Paul, who praised President
Obama in a conversation with former Obama senior adviser, David Axelrod,
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: They say white kids, black and brown kids use drugs at the same rate
overall. Three out of four people in prison are black or brown. So, I
think the war on drugs, not purposefully, but inadvertently has a racial
And the president -- this is one thing I am happy to compliment the
president on, last couple days over the last year, he started commuting
sentences and letting people out. For a long time, we punished crack
cocaine different than powder cocaine. So, you can have the same amount,
but crack cocaine tended to be used more in the African-American community,
you had 10- and 20-year sentences, and the rich white kid going to college
got out in six months or not going to jail at all.
I think it`s a mistake to use drugs but I think it`s not something you
should have to give up your future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Senator Paul is pushing sentencing reform, but he doesn`t support
legalization of pot, neither does Chris Christie.
Christie said this in response to a question in his "Ask the Governor"
series about whether New Jersey should join the legalization bandwagon?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: I am not going to be the governor who is going to tell our
children and our young adults that marijuana use is OK, because it`s not.
I don`t care about the tax money that may come from it. And I don`t care
quite frankly that people think it`s inevitable. It`s not inevitable here.
I`m not going to permit it. Never as long I`m governor.
You want to elect somebody else who`s willing to legalize marijuana and
expose our children to the gateway drug and effects it has on their brain,
you have to live with yourself if you do that, but it`s not going to be
this governor who does it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Joining me now, Nia-Malika Henderson, national political
correspondent for "The Washington Post" and "The Huffington Post`s" Ryan
Grim, who wrote the book, "This is Your Country on Drugs: The Secret
History of Getting High in America."
Welcome to you both.
Ryan, tell us about this sea change?
RYAN GRIM, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Well -- I mean, I think it basically can
be credited to my book, right. It came out five years ago. If you put the
Pew poll up and put when the book came out, it just surged after that. It
happened without people actually reading it, which is magic, most
No, I mean, I think -- you know, there are a couple things going on here.
One, the population is aging. And so, we are at a place now where --
basically everybody who -- roughly, 65 and under, has not necessarily tried
marijuana but marijuana has been a part of their cultural experience for
their entire lives. And that hasn`t happened with any other drug other
than alcohol in the 200-plus-year history of the United States.
So, that, that`s a big deal. Because, that, that way when they, when they
hear reefer madness stories from the government or from the DEA or from
whoever pushing it being a gateway drug, you know, the stuff you hear from
Christie there, people know that doesn`t make sense. That doesn`t jibe
with of my own experience here.
So, that really is, a major factor. The other part is that -- crime -- you
know, crime statistics and drug policy are closely linked. So as crime has
fallen, since the 1980s, attitudes about drugs have become more liberal.
MELBER: Yes, Nia, speak to that. What Ryan is proposing here is that the
ultimate fact check on the danger of pot is getting high. And either you
are, as a young person, able to experiment with that, it was the old boomer
word they would use, or at least off to the point you can make up your own
mind. Pot like alcohol, depends a lot on the usage pattern, and there are
people who have real serious substance abuse problems with either drug and
alcoholism can be bad, but people can also enjoy a Pinot Noir and go on
with their lives.
Speak to the cultural shift and also the link to the politics of crime
which did strangle these issues in the war on drugs for decades for both
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, THE WASHINGTON POST: That`s right. I mean, you
know, in the 80s, you had -- the crack epidemic that really gripped the
inner city. And then you had, this explosion in terms of the prison
population, among African-American men especially. But since then, you
have had a real -- not quite a culture of chronic or pot or whatever you
want to call it. But certainly, everyone is familiar with it.
I will say this, I woke up on Easter Sunday getting ready to go to church.
And my building, you can smell pot throughout my building. I guess people
were celebrating 420. I was going to church. They wanted to celebration
in a different way.
So, it`s very much part of our culture now. And I do think we are going to
get into this period, where you are going to have to make evidence-based
arguments on this. Can`t be any more, crazy Joe Clark saying it kills your
brain cells son in the way he did in "Lean On Me." People are going to
have to have real scientific evidence to talk about pot. That`s what I
think we`re going to see over the next couple of years.
MELBER: Yes. And, Nia, I appreciate you raising that overlap between --
between the, holiday there of Easter and 420. I think that moved a lot of
people on the Internet. So, I`m glad we could touch on that. When you
talk about the facts here, Chris Christie, I want to go back to more of the
sound, Ryan, because he is making the argument, that Colorado shows
everything wrong with this approach.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: For the people who are like enamored with the idea of the income
-- the tax revenue from this, go to Colorado and see if you want to live
there. See if you want to live in a major city in Colorado where there is
head shops popping up on every corner, and people flying into your airport
just to come to get high.
You know, to me, it`s just not the quality of life we want to have in the
state of New Jersey. And there`s no tax revenue that`s worth that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Ryan, I don`t want to pick on any states. But I have had the
luxury of spending time in New Jersey and Colorado. Done a lot of hiking
in Colorado. Leave the pot out of it. It`s a beautiful state.
I don`t know if you want to pick quality of life fight with Colorado. But
walk us through what Chris Christie is doing there?
GRIM: Right. I think you are exactly right.
You know, it sounds crazy. And if you compare New Jersey and Colorado,
obviously, that is crazy. There actually is a kernel of truth to what
Christie is saying. I think that the people who are celebrating, you know,
you know, pot reform here, ought to be careful because -- you know, what I
found in the book is that, you know we went through this before. Like, and
in the 19th century, all of these, all of these drugs were legal. Cocaine
could be bought at drug stores. And, and people were celebrating the
virtues of it, in 1880s and 1890s.
But they became blights. And town by town, block by block, city by city,
state-by-state, and eventually, the federal government decided to ban it
because people didn`t like having these derelicts or these drug addicts
going into the drug store and buying cocaine and sitting outside and
looking like 19th century versions of crack head.
So, you know, the pot is often compared to -- the pot movement is often
compared to gay marriage. But gay marriage I think is something that --
you know, that`s over. You know, as that moves forward, it`s a self re-
enforcing thing. That`s not the case with drug policy.
We could move backwards here. If states aren`t careful about how they will
roll this out, there will be a backlash. People like Christie will be
ready to shut it down again.
MELBER: Well, and, so, you mentioned Christie then, Nia, look at the
contrast. Could he be running in a race where he has a credible opponent,
in Rand Paul or even someone else we haven`t thought about yet, who`s
actually saying not only should we be legalizing, but we should be dealing
with systemic, racial inequities a debate the Republican Party hasn`t had
in a long time.
HENDERSON: That`s right. It does look like, you know, Rand Paul gets into
the race and Chris Christie is in the race in 2016. That`s the debate they
would have. In some ways, you feel like Rick Perry might also be in that
debate about decriminalization as well because he has said, similar things.
There are these movements in the Republican Party, that are more, you know,
more evidence of their libertarian streak. Then you sort of have the law
and order side of the Republican Party competing with that.
So, I think we`ll see that possibly played out in 2016.
MELBER: Yes. I think it is one of the most vibrant parts of the debate
Nia-Malika Henderson and Ryan, thank you both for joining me tonight.
HENDERSON: Thank you.
MELBER: And coming up, Bob Dole strikes back and says Ted Cruz is not
ready for primetime, partly because he ties far to the right. And should
there be a law against lying in political ads. That`s what the Supreme
Court considered to day? Think about your answer and whether a ban on lies
would hurt the right-wing anti-Clinton machine. That`s straight ahead.
MELBER: Coming up next, the wild things the Tea Party is saying to try to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRUZ: All of us remember President Dole, and President McCain, and
President Romney. Now, look those are good men. They`re decent men. But
when you don`t stand and draw a clear distinction, when you don`t stand for
principle. Democrats celebrate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That was Senator Ted Cruz there, disparaging Bob Dole for not
defending true Republican principles when he ran for president.
Now, Bob Dole is skeptical if Senator Ted Cruz is ready to run for
president. In an interview with a paper in his home state of Kansas, Dole
said, quote, "a number of the younger members, first termers like Rand
Paul, Marco Rubio, and that extreme right-wing guy, Ted Cruz, all running
for president, now, I don`t think they have got enough experience yet."
And in an event in Kansas last night, Dole added, "I thought I was
conservative, but we`ve got some in Congress who are so far right they`re
about to fall out of the Capitol."
Meanwhile, Speaker of the House John Boehner has his own far right problem
in his home district in Ohio. A national Tea Party group spent over
$300,000 on communications against Boehner and for his Republican primary
challenger, 32-year-old high school teacher named J.D. Winteregg who never
held elected office.
Joining us is former Ohio Congressman Steve LaTourette, president of the
Main Street Partnership, and Josh Barro, correspondent for the Upshot,
which has just launched at "The New York Times," and he`s an MSNBC
Steve, I want to start with something fun, happy, I hope you can join me in
the spirit, which is Matt Bevin running against Mitch McConnell, put out an
ad that can only be described as adorable featuring a bunch of his
children. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: Mitch McConnell is telling a bunch of lies about my
dad. Don`t be fooled.
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Matt Bevin`s my dad.
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: My dad was an officer in the army.
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: My dad loves God.
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: And he leads by example.
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: He plays with us.
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: And he prays with us.
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: He loves our mom.
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: Matt Bevin is my dad. He`d make a great U.S. senator.
And I should know. I`ve known him my whole life.
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: My dad`s awesome.
MATT BEVIN: I`m Matt Bevin and I approve this message, and I approve these
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I don`t know if you have a favorite. The little kid with the
balloon is amazing.
If you have to use your family in an ad, that`s a pretty compelling way to
do it. And yet, you also walk us through the politics, which is, if you
are a challenger, you have to run ads defending yourself because McConnell
is, quote-unquote, "lying about you", that might suggest you are on the
STEVE LATOURETTE (R), FORMER OHIO CONGRESSMAN: Yes, that`s pretty clearly
a defensive ad, the only thing that would show desperation if they had
small animals in the ad, rabbits and kittens. But that`s a sign of
And, I think the polls show that he is not, he is not performing well. And
for a race that had high expectation on the far right, it`s really going to
turn into a fizzle I think.
MELBER: That fizzle you think is good for where the GOP is headed?
LATOURETTE: Oh, yes, absolutely. I think, you know, for all of the
bravado going into the election cycle, they have had recruitment failures
and also people that they thought were, were sort of big, big, up-and-
coming stars and they`re just not performing.
MELBER: Josh, speak to that. There is a view here that, you get into a
race. You say you`re in the Tea Party, which isn`t a card carrying
membership type of thing. So a lot of folks say that.
JOSH BARRO, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes.
MELBER: And you get a ton of attention. But that doesn`t necessarily mean
that you are loosening the grip on some of the establishment players,
whether that`s good, bad, people can debate.
BARRO: I think the big story of the Republican primary of the cycle is how
much less effective the Tea Party is at challenging incumbents. I think
Senator Thad Cochran in Mississippi is facing a serious Tea Party
challenge. But otherwise, Republican senators thought to be vulnerable or
who there was a lot of energy against, are going to cruise to victory.
The average of the polls that are out there show McConnell ahead of Bevin
by 30 points. That`s partly about Republicans having moved further to the
right and catered to their base, partly just about them being smarter
politically and not getting caught off-guard by these Tea Party challenges.
But I note, even though the Tea Party is less politically effective in
Republican primaries, there is still a ton of money swirling around this
group that`s spending the money against John Boehner in his district, this
is a group that raised and spent about $3 million last year and spent
nearly all of that on fund-raising and political consultants. Last year,
only spent $125,000 on actual campaign expenditures.
So, these groups, each if they`re not going to win elections for Tea Party
conservatives, they`re going to make political consultants very rich.
MELBER: Yes. And, Steve, you have been in the arena and seen all of the
dynamics. What do you think about the angle Josh is raising? Specifically
on the money going to some of these primary challengers?
LATOURETTE: Well, I think it`s -- I call it purity for profit. So, there
are a lot of groups that are raising a lot of money. If you look at their
overhead, they`re spending 80 percent, 90 percent on overhead, consultants,
Josh talking about, and very little is making it into the -- into the
campaigns of these challengers. And it prompted that great RINO
commentator, Ann Coulter, who recently say on FOX News that these groups
are con men and shysters that are enriching themselves under the guise of
doing something important, but they`re just enriching themselves.
MELBER: Yes, well, speak to that, because when you look at these recent
Supreme Court cases. Citizens United and more recent one, McCutcheon, that
work on different pieces of the funding, the cumulative result is more and
more money coming in. Are you saying basically that puts the profit motive
above, politics always required money? Puts profit motive more front and
LATOURETTE: Oh, yes. I think they`re -- some of the groups are in the
business of being in business. What they`re doing is they`ll send an
urgent plea, and the same thing happens on the Democratic side. But you`ve
got to send me 100 bucks, and if you send me 100 bucks, I will purify the
Republican Party of RINOs.
Well, first of all, that`s a stupid goal. Second of all, 80 percent of
that is actually going into their pockets to lead rather lavish lifestyles,
make nice salaries and very little of its making it on to the street.
And, Josh, that`s not exactly traditionally conservative either, is it?
BARRO: Well, no, it`s not, but it`s also -- it`s different when liberals
predicted when Citizens United came down, and there are all these
predictions about people were going to buy our elections. And certainly,
the influx of money in politics has affected electoral outcomes, but it`s
remarkable how much of this money is effectively wasted, at least on the
Republican side. Some of it being spent on actual campaign expenditures,
but in campaigns that are hopeless, that aren`t influencing elections or
policy. And a lot of it, like the congressman described, just going into
the pockets of people who make political ads and advise candidates for a
So, I think the effects of this increased money in politics on public
policy and on elections has been unclear and, a lot of it is not being
spent efficiently to achieve the goals of the people sending the money.
MELBER: Right, and that goes back to the professional political class,
versus incumbent class which are some times sort of different pieces of
Steve LaTourette, and Josh Barro, thank you both for being here.
BARRO: Thank you.
LATOURETTE: Thank you.
MELBER: Coming up, is it legal to lie in your campaign ads? Who gets
decides if you are lying? That`s a question the Supreme Court started
considering just today.
MELBER: In the spotlight tonight: campaign ad and the politics of lying.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
AD NARRATOR: Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy and sold Chrysler
to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When Mitt Romney and Bain closed the plant, I lost my
health care and my family lost their health care. And -- short time after
that, my wife became ill.
AD NARRATOR: Since 1996, welfare recipients were required to work. This
bipartisan reform successfully reduced welfare rolls. On July 12th,
President Obama ended the work requirement, gutting welfare reform.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My insurance was canceled because of Obamacare. Now
the out-of-pocket costs are so high, it`s unaffordable.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MELBER: The ads you just saw were deemed lies or mostly false by
journalistic fact checkers. Politicians get away with plenty of lies of
course. But today the Supreme Court heard arguments in a pretty
interesting case that might change whether there can be stricter punishment
for lying in politics including potentially jail time.
It all started with the 2010 house race in Ohio where an anti-abortion
group tried to run this billboard ad. Look at that. Against then-
congressman Steve Driehaus. The statement on the ad you just there was not
true. The ACA does not funnel federal money for abortion and a separate
federal law forbids it.
So the congressman`s campaign filed a complaint with the Ohio elections
commission which they with withdrew after he lost. And today, the Supreme
Court focused on whether the anti-abortion group can still challenge Ohio`s
the anti-lying law now that the race is over.
But the case could ultimately decide to whether the government has the
power to jail citizens for lying about politics. And that threat concerned
many justices across the ideological spectrum today as Justice Breier asked
at one point, the constitution says the state does not have the right to
abridge my speech. If I save things under this Ohio law there is a risk I
will be hauled up before a commission and could be punished. Why isn`t
that the end of the matter?
Joining me now is Geoff Stone, professor of law at University of Chicago,
and Sam Stein of "Huffington Post." He is also an MSNBC analyst. Welcome
to you both.
Professor, when we look at the history of speech in America, we think of it
as a place where we usually want to keep the government out. Many would be
surprised to learn that in Ohio, you could jail time even if you are not
involve in the campaign, but this commission found you were lying. Is that
a bad thing?
GEOFFREY STONE, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO: I supposed the bad thing
is unconstitutional. Nobody wants to encourage lies in public discourse.
The lies are not a good thing. But on the other hand, for the government
off to give around prosecuting people for false statement of fact is worse
than the lies themselves.
MELBER: Sam, when we look at the ads though, and a lot of the frustration
out there. People want to know, especially in this environment weep were
just talking about earlier in the show with all the money funneling around.
If you can spend that kind of money and you can lie almost with impunity,
people want to know why the government can`t try to do something to patrol
SAM STEIN, MSNBC ANALYST: Well, those ads gave me sort of this horrific
flashback. I`m having cold sweats here. So many false or borderline
false, I should say in the 2012 campaign. And I guess that answer to your
question is essentially that, politicians and campaigns have to police
themselves. And there are obviously defamation suits that you can bring.
But the government, it appears, the Supreme Court will rule, cannot police
free speech. And they can`t determine whether or not a campaign or a group
like Susan B. Anthony foundation has lied. So, this cones down essentially
to a thing that the campaigns have to police themselves. And that
reporters and outside groups also have off to call foul on.
MELBER: Yes. And so, Professor, what Sam is talking about there, is of
course the conventional first amendment response. And most of these kinds
of cases which is bad speech should be countered with more speech and not
restrictions on speech. But what about the areas of someone`s thinking
about this at home and saying hey, haven`t I heard about libel, and
slander, and don`t you have some resource in the courts?
STONE: Even a government official can sue in a private damage action for
libel against another individual, if the other person has recklessly or
intentionally made a false statement in fact about them. And this is
different than that. This is the government, investigating and prosecuting
individuals for criminal offenses for allegedly making false statements.
The difference this gives government officials the power to decide which
false statements they will prosecute and which they`ve don`t. And as a
general matter, we do rely, as Sam said, on public discourse, on answers,
by reporters, to bring the truth to light rather than to have government
officials to make the decision that who is telling the truth and who is
lying. To be given the power, you can be pretty sure they will abuse it.
And the prosecutors individual whose are criticizing them, not those that
are praising them.
MELBER: Well --
STEIN: Let me just tell a little bit. The big thing here with the
justices was who would determine what actually is a lie? I don`t know if
the viewer is able to see. But during the 10:00 a.m. hour or 9:00 a.m.
hour on this network represented for the Susan B. Anthony foundation came
on and insisted repeatedly that the billboard that they took out, which was
false, that the billboard they took out was in fact true. And so, who is
going to the arbiter of whether or not someone is telling the truth. Who,
as Justice Scalia said would comprise the ministry of truth. I think that
is a huge slippery slope the justices recognize and it is going to be sort
of the underpinning of why this law is going to be thrown out.
MELBER: Yes, professor. Go ahead, your thoughts on that point?
STONE: If the court would address the issue on the merits. My guess is it
would be an 8-1 decision as at only Justice Alito might uphold such a law.
The court decided couple years ago, the Alvarez case which involved
individual who falsely claim to won the congressional medal of honor. And
even there, the justices said that is unconstitutional. You can`t punish
people for a false statement. And so, it applied to this case. I think it
is pretty open and shut.
MELBER: Yes, that case was interesting. I mean, gain, these laws are
still on the books. So, as unconstitutional as they seem on their face,
and they haven`t had a chance to challenge them, which was part of what was
debated today. You have the background of the court coming down pretty
strongly as you mention in the metals case. In fact, Sam P.J. O`Rourke, a
comedian, submitted a brief and said hey, an opening it was read, by the
way, me, my family, my pets, we have all won medals of honor. And his
point was to lie about that to get out of the gate, the fact it is OK to
STEIN: Sure, believe a 6-3 decision in favor of -- sorry, in saying you
can in fact lie by your valor by military record. So, if that was the
decision for the justices back then, I do think that is going to be even
more unanimous decision here. I mean, they make a good point which is that
this isn`t just in Ohio. There are many, many states who have similar
laws, but essentially try to police political speech by saying, you cannot
lie. And, this should cause a ripple effect if everything goes as planned.
I`m curious what, what, whether you guys think it will be upheld on
grounds, or thrown out on grounds there is standing. That was the other
thing debated here.
MELBER: Right. And again, at a lot of times in these cases were the
issue, of course, expires because the election is over. But I think the
professor makes a good point as well which is it boils down whether the
thing is true. Then you have the government coming and debating what is
true and false. And that is very difficult territory.
Professor Geoff Stone and Sam Stein. Thank you both.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks.
MELBER: Coming up. U.S. troops arrive in Poland for military exercises in
Eastern Europe as the crisis in Ukraine continues to unfold.
And later, inevitable turn on the announcement of an impending birth in
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, THE COLBERT REPORT: Clearly Hillary Clinton has
engineered the birth of our first grandchild in a crave and political ploy
to seem endearing. I mean, not even Barack Obama stooped to be coming a
grandmother. It is so obvious folks Bill and Hillary clearly sat down with
their daughter and synced up Chelsea`s ovulation cycle with Hillary`s
campaign calendar. There is no other possible motivation for a couple in
their 60s to want their daughter to give them a grandchild.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Coming up, we have more outrageous claims about Chelsea and
Hillary Clinton and 2016.
MELBER: Vice President Joe Biden landed back in the United States just a
short time ago after his visit to Ukraine. And today, White House critics
continue to blast the Obama administration for not doing enough to counter
Vladimir Putin. We also learns tonight secretary of state John Kerry and
Russia`s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov spoke on the phones a few hours
ago. Secretary Kerry reportedly expressed concern over the lack of
positive steps by Russia here after the tentative agreement which reached
last week in Geneva to attempt to de-escalate the ongoing crisis in eastern
Kerry also alleged that pro-Russian separatists are increasing the number
of buildings they are occupying and he says they are threatening
journalists and Ukrainian citizens alike.
Meanwhile at the Pentagon, officials confirmed it was sending 600 U.S.
troops to Eastern Europe stationing 150 each in Poland, LaTVia, Lithuania
and Estonia. U.S. forces begin military exercises in Poland as soon as
Speaking in Kiev this morning, vice president Biden had this message though
for Vladimir Putin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No nation, no nation, has
the right to simply grab land from another nation. No nation has that
right. And we will never recognize Russia`s illegal occupation of Crimea
and neither will the world. We call on Russia to stop supporting men
hiding behind masks in unmarked uniforms sewing unrest in eastern Ukraine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: They`re sparring with Putin and then at home with the Republicans.
He is Senator John McCain`s response to Biden on "MORNING JOE."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The vice president saying if they continue
to do this what will we do?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What should we do?
MCCAIN: Again, the plans for energy. Give them weapons to defend
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Give them weapons.
MCCAIN: Some defensive weapons. That`s what they`re begging for.
Accelerate them into the EU. Get the IMF loan to them. There is a broad
range of options that we can do.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Joining me now is Steve Clemons, MSNBC contributor, and Washington
editor at-large for the "Atlantic" magazine where he writes about politics
and foreign policy.
Welcome and your thoughts first on Senator McCain there?
STEVE CLEMONS, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, nothing -- none of the things with
John McCain just recommended about an energy plan, a food plan, defensive
weapons, or an IMF loan will deter Vladimir Putin from continuing the rule
-- the role he has been on.
And so, I think part of the hard hammering of the president who has been,
you know, it is very hard when you are president of the United States in a
crisis like this to show strategic restraint. It is very easy to replicate
what happened in 1914 in an escalation of macho guys around the world who
didn`t want to pull back.
And so, I think to some degree what John McCain is advocating in trying to
-- you know, get the president to do would be very, very negative, very
escalatory and take us into a place the United States just doesn`t want to
MELBER: Yes. And I appreciate your point there. And I don`t want to
belittle the strategic differences here. But sometimes it sort of feels
like Republicans walk away like the end of an argument where you think of
something else you want to say and you want to come back and say it. And
then they will come back a day or two later here. This conflict has been
unfolding for some time.
And there isn`t a specific plan coming out of the Congress, that is very
different in, in its particulars than, what the administration is trying
how to do on economic isolation. Done in a sort of, incremental way.
CLEMONS: Look, we are on the verge of a potentially highly consequential
tectonic shift IN U.S./Russia relations for a very long period of time with
a very high cost to the west and high cost to Russia. That means we are
not just going to be looking at Ukraine, it means we`re going to be looking
at Russia`s, energy, oil interests around the world, what they`re doing in
Syria, how they position themselves vis-a-vis Iran, the global economy,
things like climate change.
Russia is engaged in a lot of the issues and it has giving us difficulty on
a lot of the issues. So, we are going to probably begin moving to
something that is a much more comprehensive engagement that, that at the
end of the day, Ukraine, may still be there, may still been a vice.
But we are at the verge of beginning to look much more comprehensively
about a struggle with Russia that we haven`t had for very long time and
having that policy right.
So McCain and other critics of Obama, just focused on this one incident are
missing the picture and where the White House is going.
MELBER: Let me read something from "The Washington Post" which I would
argue is a more serious version of a criticism of what the administration
has achieved thus far. Quote, "For weeks, Mr. Obama has held back on
forceful measures against Mr. Putin`s aggression in Ukraine on the theory
that a measured approach matched with diplomacy would yield results. The
policy has failed. Now, Mr. Obama must act or doomed Ukraine to
What do you think of that somewhat more nuanced view there was some success
supposed to be achieve that has not come to fruition?
CLEMONS: It is a very hard truth to say, but when you sit behind the desk
in the oval office. Ukraine is one major problem amidst many other
problems. Getting Iran off a nuclear track. Deterring North Korean
misbehavior. Dealing with where China is going. Freeing to send signals
across a lot of terrains is what the president of the United States has to
do when he sits behind the desk.
Everything is not Ukraine. And those people that would try to, compel the
president to put all of his chips in that basket would be wrong. This
president has been saying, that the U.S. economy, getting other strategic
bets right, matter far more for the future of the United States and frankly
the future of what we could consider the free world, than, than Ukraine.
No one wants to say that because it is politically incorrect. But
escalating it to such a high level and dismantling it, so this becomes the
defining moment for Obama is something he is trying to resist. And I think
it is the right approach.
MELBER: well, I hear you on that Steven. It may be somewhat politically
incorrect. I take your point in the way we talk about foreign policy and
being tough. On the other hand, there is a reason why Ukraine why Ukraine
is not in NATO. A lot of Western countries have never seen fit to make a
mutual treaty there.
So there are some very real background to what kind of protection this
country has even though I hopefully it doesn`t come to that.
Steve Clemons, thanks for joining us tonight.
CLEMONS: Thank you, Ari.
MELBER: Coming up, why is Chelsea Clinton under attack?
MELBER: You know, as soon as Chelsea Clinton announced that she was
pregnant, the attacks began. Has anyone ever asked a man if being a
grandpa should change his career plans?
MELBER: When George H. W. Bush was the Republican nominee for president in
1998, he had ten grandchildren. That was way ahead of Joe Biden in 2008
who had five grand kids. And Mitt Romney managed a full time campaign last
cycle. You might remember with a family of 18 grandchildren.
And as you will certainly remember, many people in politics and the media
questioned whether these grandpas could balance their extended families and
their campaigns. No, you don`t remember that? That`s because it never
happened. But it didn`t take long to go from this announcement last week -
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHELSEA CLINTON, DAUGHTER OF BILL AND HILLARY CLINTON: Mark and I are very
excited we have our first child arriving later this year.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: From that happy news to gender bending headlines like this. Quote
"Chelsea Clinton baby will Hillary Clinton be less likely to run in 2016?
And what to expect when she is expecting." Because even when it comes to
grandparents, who by the way if we`re going to do an fact checking they`re
not even, you know, usually the primary caretaker.
The political double standards are out in full force. In the conservative
"the New York Post" weighed today, with an open letter satire addressed to
Chelsea`s child. Dear baby Clinton Mezvinsky, welcome to advanced
gestation. Since you are new around here, I thought you would look to know
a little bit about what makes you so special. The reason is you are going
to live your whole life in make believe. Satire or not and attention bait
or not, the letter gingerly moved on to an obsession weighing Clinton
family planning as a matter of politics.
Quote, "although you will at all times pretend to be a normal baby, you
actually already have your own, your very own career, like doctor, fireman,
lobbyist, can you say campaign asset. Good, now let`s learn about skill
sets. You only need one talent. Ready. It softened the candidate like a
human bubble bath."
Joining me now is "Guardian" columnist, Jessica Valenti, who has written
four books on (INAUDIBLE). Her latest is "Why Have Kids?"
JESSICA VALENTI, COLUMNIST, THE GUARDIAN: Thank you. Thanks for having
MELBER: Absolutely. What are we to make of all this?
VALENTI: I think it is pretty predictable and pretty sad. I think it has
turned into an absurd sort of sexist side show. And but we should be used
to it. You know, I think people have always liked to attack the Clintons
from this sort of tabloid sensibility. That`s what we saw in "the New York
Post" today. But of course, we would never see these questions that asked
if it was a male politician.
MELBER: Talk to me because you have thought about the issues so much and
looked at both social science research and also how it goes down. What is
the sort of mental process that you think happens? Do people think, oh,
this is sort of maybe over the line but we will take the hit or do you
think there is more the feeling as I mention in the lead that they never
sat back and asked this question about Mitt Romney`s 18 grandchildren or
Joe Biden`s five, so they`re not even actually cued to how unfair they`re
VALENTI: I think they`re cued to how unfair they`re being. I think that
people are picking up on the sexism. Let`s face it. The GOP is on really
thin ice with women and on thin ice with women. So I`m surprised they`re
sort of, taking this, this line when it comes to Hillary. And they`re also
attacking Chelsea. You know, as soon as Chelsea announced the pregnancy,
the anti-choice movement sort of went in for the kill. Because nay
couldn`t wrap their heads around the idea that a pro-choice woman could
also want to become a mother.
MELBER: I mean, speak to me about that because that is -- that is the idea
that, what? If you believe in the right to choose. In their mind that
means you actually never want to have children, which is something a lot of
VALENTI: That you abort every pregnancy. Yes -- no, I mean, the idea for
anti-choice, there are two kinds of women. Women who have abortions and
women who have children. And of course, we know those women are one in the
MELBER: And I would say beyond the right, though, the one of the other
headlines we mention is from the Christian Science monitor. It comes from
the media. And we went through something with Palin and Hillary last
cycle. And the hope was it is like if you read Tina Frey`s book, she says,
you know, maybe by the end of it we got some of this out of our system.
What do you think?
VALENTI: No, I don`t think it is out of our system at all. But I think
the good news is that it is actually going to be very good for Hillary
should she decide to run and for every female candidate honestly.
MELBER: Let me read to you a little more from "The New York Post" letter
describing Hillary Clinton which goes beyond the Chelsea part.
Quote, "Grandma is not what grownups call maternal and was busy turning
$1,000 into $100,000 in the magical couch trading market when you are mommy
with the baby so she will have to make believe she is really helping out
with you. No crying if she gets the diaper on the wrong end."
I mean, what is up with all of this mommy/grandma phraseology, to deal
with, I guess the criticism about the money they made out of office which,
by the way, could be substantive critique if you dealt with it directly.
VALENTI: Right. Well, it is just reminding us again and again that she is
a woman if we already didn`t already know that. What`s really upsetting is
this idea that Hillary, either she is to maternal to run for office or and
she won`t, she can`t lead or she is not maternal enough and a ball buster.
So, there is no sort of winning either way.
MELBER: Right. And you know, earlier in the show, we were showing this
really lovely adorable ad from Matt Bevin with eight kids, a beautiful
family. And he is able to go in a Republican primary. And I like the ad.
But I have to tell you, no one is saying if he actually wins, Mitch
McConnell`s seat is he too busy with this large family.
VALENTI: How is he going to take care of his kids? Who is going to take
them to school? Who is going to make the doctor`s appointment? There has
never that question asked of male candidates.
MELBER: And you think you are a long way from, if Hillary runs, we are
still a long way from getting through this and sort of fact checking it?
VALENTI: No, I think we are a long way from getting through it. But I
think that it is going to benefit her in the long run because I think
American women are sick of it.
MELBER: Right. And then you get some of the backlash.
Jessica Valenti gets tonight`s "Last Word." Thank you.
MELBER: I am Ari Melber, in for Lawrence O`Donnell. You can find me on
Facebook at facebook.com/Arimelber and "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" is up
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