Skip navigation

'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Monday, May 12th, 2014

Read the transcript to the Monday show

  Most Popular
Most viewed

THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
May 12, 2014

Guests: Richard Clarke, Patricia Murphy, Bill Rhoden, Marc Ginsberg

ARI MELBER, GUEST HOST: Some Democrats have decided it is time to beat
back the GOP`s political fixation on Benghazi. Tonight, we`ll hear from
the former Bush counter-terror czar who warned against politicized policy
making on the road to war with Iraq. Richard Clarke, a veteran of the
Bush, Clinton, and Reagan administrations is here to put Benghazi in
context.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Republicans and Democrats have very different ideas
of the meaning of the word "fair."

REP. STEVE ISRAEL (D), NEW YORK: They`re not interested in a legitimate
inquiry.

REP. XAVIER BECERRA (D), CALIFORNIA: Right now, we know the Republicans
are raising campaign funds.

ISRAEL: They are interested in a campaign strategy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re taking a closer look at the concerted effort by
Republicans to stop a Clinton campaign before it officially gets started.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Republicans are really grasping at straws here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know the numbers -- eight committees, 50
briefings, 25,000 pages of documents.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Drudging up this whole question about Benghazi again
and again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where was the president and what did he do the night of
the attack?

REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: We were the last flag flying in
Benghazi and I would like to know why.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All the questions they are seeking to answer have
been addressed exhaustively.

I would like to know why.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hillary Clinton has already answered that very
question.

ISRAEL: They`re not interested in a legitimate inquiry. They are
interested in a campaign strategy.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: This is about judgment.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: If she`s going to run on her record --

PAUL: We didn`t provide adequate security in Libya, didn`t send
reinforcements.

RUBIO: -- she`s also going to have to answer for its massive failure.

ISRAEL: They are interested in a campaign strategy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the criticism that this latest round is
politically motivated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Republicans are really grasping at straws here.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MELBER: Good evening. I`m Ari Melber, in for Lawrence O`Donnell.

We begin with news in the Democrats` counteroffensive on the Benghazi
select committee. Not just delaying their party`s nominations to that
committee or contemplating a boycott which we`ve heard about, but putting
pressure on the Republicans now to depoliticize and change the committee`s
actual composition.

This evening, Georgia Congressman John Lewis released this statement.
Quote, "The House Republican effort to exploit the deaths of those brave
Americans is utterly exposed by naming the deputy chairman of the NRCC to
the select committee on Benghazi. I`m calling on Representative
Westmoreland to step down from the committee on Benghazi immediately. The
political position he holds and the partisan behavior he has exhibited make
it clear he has no business sitting on this committee."

Congressman Lewis also voted against the establishment of the select
committee but he thinks the Democrats do need to participate and take a
seat at that table, however compromised it may be.

Yesterday, committee chairman, Republican Trey Gowdy, tried to assure the
chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, Xavier Becerra, that the
investigation would be non-political and bipartisan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOWDY: I don`t run my committees the way that the Democrats are fearful
of. I want a process, Chris, that at the end of it you are welcome to draw
different conclusions from the facts. But I want everyone to say it was
fair, it was exhaustive, and we know more than we did when it started.

BECERRA: Make it a process where we can`t be excluded from the interview
of witnesses, where we can`t be excluded when a decision is made to
subpoena a witness. Make it so that we`re all in the room when we`re
reviewing the documents that are supposed to be evidence. What we don`t
want to be is excluded. We don`t want the American public to be shut out.

GOWDY: How does it benefit me, Xavier, when I have say from day one, I
want this to transcend politics and I want it to inspire trust in you and
our fellow citizens?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: How does it benefit him? One answer to Gowdy`s question is if the
Democrats don`t participate in the investigations, the Republicans will
have free rein to continue to politicize a very real tragedy.

At the NRC spring meeting on Friday, another political event, Senator Rand
Paul previewed one way his party could use the Benghazi attacks as
political leverage in 2016.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: This is about judgment. And we`re talking about should we -- should
we as a country have a commander in chief who didn`t provide adequate
security in Libya, didn`t send reinforcements, and then gave us nothing but
spin? My opinion is that Hillary Clinton has precluded herself from ever
being considered for that position.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Republicans say they want this new Benghazi investigation to,
quote, "transcend politics." That`s difficult when this investigation was
created in the first place primarily as a political stunt.

Joining me now is Richard Clarke, former senior White House
counterterrorism adviser who served under three presidents including George
W. Bush. He`s also the author of a new book, "Sting of the Drone," and
MSNBC.com executive editor Richard Wolffe.

Welcome to both of you.

Richard Clarke, let me start with you.

Is there more that we can learn here, and is this committee as we
understand it today the right venue for that learning?

RICHARD CLARKE, "STING OF THE DRONE" AUTHOR: No, there`s nothing more.
This has been completely examined, examined many times. And we shouldn`t
even dignify this with pretending that it`s a serious effort.

The fact of the matter is everyone in Washington, on both sides of the
aisle, knows this is a political stunt, and that`s all that it is. It`s a
political stunt using the lives of dead Americans, and there`s no reason in
my mind to give the Republicans or anybody who says that this is serious
any credibility whatsoever. Just call it for what it is.

MELBER: And, Mr. Clarke, when you talk about what it is and what we know
out there, you have of course the Pickering report.

CLARKE: Right.

MELBER: And one thing that it did that this committee doesn`t seem to have
outlined yet is it describes very clearly its purpose, looking at security
and looking at whether there was a breach, is the language of this report,
by any State Department officials all the way up to the secretary. And
they didn`t find that breach, though they did find two lower-level
officials weren`t proactive. Go ahead.

CLARKE: They dismissed an assistant secretary of state for diplomatic
security. I was an assistant secretary of state. I`d like to think that`s
a fairly senior job.

They dismissed an assistant secretary of state. They found where the
reporting stopped and stopped at that level. They took appropriate action.

Look, the truth is Chris Stevens was a great ambassador. But Chris Stevens
knowingly took a risk that resulted in his death. People are reluctant to
say that. But that`s the truth.

MELBER: Right.

CLARKE: There`s nothing beyond that.

We have 500 diplomatic missions around the country, around the world, 500
diplomatic missions -- consulates, embassies. The notion that we have a
Defense Department SWAT team on standby that can rush in a matter of hours
to save every one of those missions is foolishness. And professionals know
that.

There was no backup. There was no way that you could get military forces
in there in time.

MELBER: Right.

CLARKE: And even if you had, what would they have done at that point by
the time they arrived? This has all been examined five ways from Friday.

The only point of continuing this discussion is to try to smear the former
secretary of state, who wasn`t involved in any of this decision-making.
That`s all this is about.

MELBER: And you mention, Ambassador Stevens, the Pickering report notes on
page 6, that he went there of his own volition and it`s standard practice
not to have that be an order from Washington, a courageous act to your
point, not one that necessarily involves any sort of cover-up. Definitely
not one that`s been found.

You followed this for a while, Richard Wolffe. I want to read from your
book when you talk about a version of this in 2012. You say Obama in his
debate had reviewed his own comments in the Rose Garden and knew them
better than Romney, especially his reference to the attacks as part of
generic act of terror. Romney had repeated his own talking points so often
he was unaware of the details of the Rose Garden statement."

You show that in your reporting, Richard, to make the point that
campaigning by talking points doesn`t always work. Here we`re seeing two
years later an attempt at House oversight and governing by talking points.

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC.COM: Right. And I don`t believe that the current
Republican leadership has learned the lesson of Romney`s mistakes, which is
that if you seek to politicize something like this, American voters may not
be able to put Benghazi on a map but they certainly can understand this
kind of opportunism and it`s distasteful to say the least. It`s
inaccurate. When you consider what the talking points currently are. And
it backfires because you`re trying to exploit a tragedy.

Democrats made many mistakes through the course of the Iraq war, which
Richard knows very, very well. But when you look at the number of attacks
that were launched on American targets throughout, when you look at the
questionable tactics, strategy, unfolding of that war and the run-up to it,
Democrats, even when they controlled the House and the Senate didn`t go to
these ends, and they didn`t go to these ends because no matter what the
party wanted to fire up the base, at leadership level, they said this was
bad policy, bad politics, the war needed to wind down through the chain of
command, not through this kind of witch hunt.

MELBER: Mr. Clarke, you were intimately involved in that period. Your
thoughts on that assessment?

CLARKE: Look, I had two embassies blown up on my watch. Every
administration has embassies attacked and diplomats killed. Certainly,
Ronald Reagan had a heck of a lot of diplomats killed on his watch.

Nothing like this ever happened as a result, because it used to be that
these issues of national security were non-partisan. And one looked at the
facts. And one looked at the career people like Tom Pickering.

It`s not just Tom Pickering, who`s an eight-time ambassador. No one in the
history of the United States has ever been an eight-time ambassador other
than Tom. Tom Pickering is not the only one on that committee. It`s also
the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. To translate that into
English, the former highest-ranking U.S. military officer.

MELBER: Right.

CLARKE: Career officer. That`s who wrote that report.

In the past, that would have been enough. Two non-partisan career people,
each of whom had served over 40 years, one in the foreign service, one in
the military.

They say this is the truth. That`s usually the end of the story. It`s not
on this because people want to make partisan hay out of a national security
issue in which Americans died.

MELBER: Right. And, Richard Wolffe, that`s something that Speaker Boehner
hasn`t confronted. We played the sort of weird sound of him refusing to
deal with the fund-raising. Take a listen to him responding to the idea of
Democrats boycotting this compromised committee.

So, let me read, it actually. "It will not impede the investigation," he
says. "I do not think it will cause us to have to adhere to a higher
standard if they don`t participate."

What do you make of this piece of it? Who should be involved?

WOLFFE: Well, if it`s not bipartisan, if it`s not open, then what kind of
investigation is it? And I do think you`re in a world where Rand Paul can
come out and make a statement saying that there was inadequate security, as
if you could seriously put a diplomat working right on the edge of what is
normal diplomatic behavior in an extremely dangerous part of an unstable
country, as if you could put that person behind some military barrier,
maybe some kind of green zone, and allow them to do what he set out to do.

It`s a fundamental misunderstanding. You cannot challenge how an
administration operates, especially if you want to run an administration
yourself as a presidential nominee and make that kind of statement.

So, I think it`s flawed in terms of the investigation. I think it`s flawed
when you look at the kind of talking points Republican wannabe presidential
candidates are putting out there. They don`t understand how foreign policy
works or how diplomats, again, in volatile countries have to operate.

MELBER: Yes. And, Mr. Clarke, while I have you here, one other topic of
course -- the unfolding crisis in Nigeria. Boko Haram now on the terror
list, something you spent a lot of time on. As well as the U.S. now
looking to collaborate with the Nigerian government with the use of drones.

Your thoughts on that crisis.

CLARKE: Well, the film we saw today of half the girls was actually
encouraging in two respects. One, we saw half the girls in one place.
Which means a rescue of at least half the girls could be possible.

Number two, we saw the tree cover. And the tree cover was pretty thin. It
wasn`t the triple canopy that we had earlier been told existed. So, had a
drone been going overhead at the time of that filming, one could have
identified that the girls were there and seen them.

So, there is some hope, I think, that U.S. reconnaissance might actually
help the Nigerians. But we`re working with a very weak Nigerian government
here. So, even if we found them, I`m not sure the Nigerians are capable of
rescuing them.

MELBER: And going in there and doing what needs to be done.

Richard Clarke, I should mention again, the author of the new book "Sting
of the Drone", and Richard Wolffe of MSNBC -- thank you both for joining me
tonight. Appreciate it.

Coming up, are the Republicans starting to realize that they may be losing
the war over the ACA? We have a chart to show you. Ezra Klein and E.J.
Dionne will join me to talk about that next.

And it was the pick that made history but the kiss may have eclipsed it.
Jonathan Capehart will join me to talk about the Michael Sam backlash.

And, some 2014 Senate races that are looking -- dare we say it -- yes,
better for Democrats tonight. What the new polls in three key Southern
states are telling us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: You know, you`d think a city that gave out free condoms stamped
with "NYC" right on the wrapper would want people carrying them around,
right? Well, until today in New York City if someone was arrested while
carrying condoms, those condoms could actually be confiscated as evidence
of prostitution.

Today, the New York City Police Department announced it will limit that
practice of seizing condoms as evidence against suspected sex workers. The
practice came under fire for undermining efforts to promote condom use
among sex workers.

Now, coming up, the Affordable Care Act is so much more popular when you
call it anything but Obamacare. Ezra Klein and E.J. Dionne join me next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: There may be an important new development in the politics of
Obamacare. Some House Republicans are realizing that attacking the ACA is
a losing strategy. "The Hill" newspaper reported on that trend today, in
fact, noting that the GOP goes quiet on Obamacare.

Tonight, we checked on the main indicators of congressional action,
hearings and floor votes on the ACA, and found what may be a trend. House
Republicans voted to repeal or amend the Affordable Care Act more than 50
times since they took control of the House. It was their favorite thing to
do for a while.

And you can see it here. It was their first priority in early 2011, right
after the Tea Party victory in the mid-terms. Things slowed down in the
middle there and spiked around the troubled launch of the ACA Web site and
then as enrollment closed. And then those total enrollment numbers came
out. We remember that. The 7 million figure, now updated up to 8 million.
That even beat President Obama`s own projections.

And the GOP`s just say no message started looking pretty ridiculous. For
the rest of this month, there are no repeal votes scheduled and very few
hearings.

Now, officially, the party`s operatives say nothing changed. The Senate
Republican spokesperson asserted today that, quote, "There`s absolutely
zero evidence that any Republican is talking about Obamacare less."

OK. That might be technically true, but it doesn`t address the type of
talking that matters more in politics -- talking on the House floor about
votes or talking at hearings that actually affect oversight.

Joining me now, Ezra Klein, editor in chief of Vox.com and an MSNBC
analyst, and E.J. Dionne, columnist for "The Washington Post" and an
analyst as well.

Welcome, gentlemen.

E.J., what are we seeing here? It seems to be a shift even if they won`t
admit it.

E.J. DIONNE, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, there`s one word that tells you
all you need to know about Obamacare right now, and the word is "Benghazi."
If Obamacare were still as unpopular, still as good an issue for the
Republicans as they thought it was before, they`d still be talking about
it. And they have come to realize, as some of them warned right at the
beginning, that when you`ve got as many as about 15 million Americans who
got health insurance because of the Affordable Care Act, it was going to be
very hard to say we want to throw those people off health insurance.

And even if Obamacare is unpopular because people who don`t like the
president will say they don`t like Obamacare, people rather like the care
part. So that in Kentucky right at the beginning President Obama told the
story of someone who said Kynect, the Kentucky version of Obamacare, Kynect
is so much better than Obamacare.

So, I think they know that they`ve reached the end of the line on this.

MELBER: Yes, you mentioned Kentucky. Let`s look at that. You can see
that disparity there between the Obamacare brand and Obamacare as policy --
57 percent of votes have an unfavorable view of Obamacare. Only 22 percent
say they have an unfavorable view of K-Y-N-E-C-T, that`s the name for
Kentucky`s health insurance exchange, which was, yes, spoiler alert,
created under Obamacare.

That`s something that`s gotten attention, Ezra. You`ve written about it.
Connect that, if you will, here to what we`re seeing among House
Republicans, which is just less appetite to hate on Obamacare.

And I see what you did there with connect that. Very good.

MELBER: Thank you.

KLEIN: There is sort of a secret to Obamacare, which is that there is no
such program as Obamacare anywhere in the country. There is nowhere in the
country where you can walk in to a building that has the word "Obamacare"
on it and go up to the guy and say I`d like some Obamacare, please, and
give him some money.

Instead, every single state has a health insurance exchange, whether run by
the federal government or not, that is named something the state wants it
to be named. In California, it`s called Covered California. In
Washington, it`s called the Washington State Health Connector. And
Kentucky it`s called Kynect.

Every state has their own Medicaid program.

So, there is this kind of national abstraction called Obamacare. But in
every state, there is a separate program. And that program works
essentially on its own. It`s got its own risk pool. And you`re going to
see, by the way, over the next year some of those programs do incredibly
well like probably in California and some of them do very badly like in
Mississippi.

So, one thing you will see as time goes on is there are going to be places
where Obamacare -- although not known always by that time, is bulletproof
and a huge success in some places where often because of the local
government has tried everything in its power to not be helpful, to not
expand Medicaid, to not do any outreach for the exchanges, to not get
insurers in to compete. It`s going to be a total disaster for their
citizens until somebody can come in and actually try to make it work.

So, what you will see, I think, is this kind of splintering of the politics
around the program. And I think because of that in different states,
you`re going to see very, very different politics emerge over how happy
people are with not only the program but how terrified they are by the
prospect of repeal.

MELBER: Yes, Ezra. I think that`s such an important point. I think it`s
politically bad for Republicans in a lot of places. And, E.J., what Ezra`s
talking about is there is no Obamacare product, there`s a set of rules, not
like if you have a regulation you have to wear seat belts, that may affect
the way some cars are made and it may affect cost but there isn`t actually
a federal government seat belt. Obamacare`s a lot longer and a lot more
complex but there`s that same dynamic.

And if you look at a poll that really assesses this repeal effort you see a
strong majority of people here no longer want to repeal or even repeal and
replace the law. Sixty-one percent of Americans saying keep it as is or
with a few changes. Only 38 percent say they want repeal, E.J., if that`s
sort of your ceiling on repeal, how do you run in the mid-terms on a 38
percent strategy?

DIONNE: You can`t except to mobilize your base, which hates Obamacare.

By the way, maybe we should refer to it as the health care program
previously known as Obamacare.

MELBER: I like that.

DIONNE: I think what you`re also seeing for Democrats is that in states
where governors or Republican legislatures have refused to accept the
Medicaid expansion, you have Democratic politicians, Mary Landrieu in
Louisiana has already done, Kay Hagan in North Carolina can do it, running
against the state legislature and saying, wait a minute, these guys, local
guys, Republicans are keeping all these people from getting health
insurance, all these hospitals from getting money that they need,
particularly rural hospitals, and suddenly, you have a new enemy. It`s not
Obama and Obamacare. It`s the Republican officials that these Democrats
can run against to win their elections this year.

MELBER: Absolutely.

You know, the other interesting thing is sort of whether there`s just a
general softening here.

And, Ezra, something that people in Washington were talking about that
hasn`t gotten a lot of attention yet, is the fact that John Boehner`s key
spokesman, who also went and worked for Paul Ryan on the Republican
presidential ticket, is leaving his job being the spokesman for John
Boehner and all that entails, to go work for basically a health insurance
lobby group that`s been pretty down with the ACA. Your thoughts on that?

KLEIN: Yes. So, this is Brendan Buck. He`s gone to the American Health
Insurance Plan. So, he`ll be lobbying for the health insurance.

I don`t necessarily see, or I wouldn`t read a huge amount into that.
Another former Boehner guy recently went to be head of the lobbying for the
sort of emergent marijuana trade association. You know, there is a sort of
a grand tradition on K Street of people moving from Congress to all kinds
of things that their bosses may or may not support.

You know, I think that there is a connection between Obamacare and Benghazi
in one very, very important way, which is that it doesn`t almost matter
what the politics are. This is something the Republican base really
believes. They believe in repeal of Obamacare, they believe in a cover-up
around Benghazi.

And whether John Boehner wants to move on from this or not in the long run,
or at least long run over the next year or two, he`s not going to be able
to. I think there`s probably going to be some softening at the top
strategic levels of the party.

But one thing the Republican Party his not been incredibly good at in
recent years is holding back the passions of the base even when they see
the passions of the base as against their strategic interests.

MELBER: I think that`s right. It`s hard to surf over an undertow that`s
that strong. You also raised the question, Ezra, of whether there are
closet hippies working for John Boehner looking to get everyone higher and
more covered under health insurance.

KLEIN: You never know.

MELBER: We`ll have to explore that.

DIONNE: That`s very encouraging.

MELBER: Ezra Klein, E.J. Dionne, thank you both for joining me. I
appreciate it.

DIONNE: Good to be with you.

MELBER: And coming up, the implications for LGBT equality in one very
public kiss.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: In the spotlight tonight, a political breakthrough in the NFL
draft, with major implications for the equality movement. You don`t need
to be a football fan to know the seventh round of the NFL draft doesn`t
usually make news all around the world. But the St. Louis Rams did just
that by drafting Michael Sam -- meaning that in the year 2014 after
breakthroughs from gay rights from the Supreme Court to the White House,
the NFL now has its first openly gay player.

As it happens, Sam learned about the historic pick standing next to his
boyfriend.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There you see him on the phone. And there you see the
raw emotion. We`ve seen this so many times over and over again for so many
players.

MICHAEL SAM, ST. LOUIS RAMS PLAYER: Yes, sir. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ESPY`s and the (INAUDIBLE) courage award that he`s
receiving at the ESPY`s, a little smashing of cake in the face and it`s a
good time all the way around.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Whether you`ve seen that moment play on the loop across the TV and
in the internet today or if you just watched it now for the first time, you
probably know exactly how you feel about it.

For many, many people and I`d argue almost all young people it`s touching,
encouraging or even, best of all, almost mundane. And after the last few
weeks of stories about bigotry, intolerance in sports, it feels good to see
real action toward progress, toward breaking barriers, not just an extended
conversation about the words people shouldn`t use.

That moment also presents many people with a choice. Because the people
who saw it differently, and some of them are Michael Sam`s future
colleagues, they lashed out. They used slurs. And in another sign of
progress, I think many of them then had to rush out apologies and
explanations.

And that`s because they are on the losing side here. That`s a political
fact. A professional fact. And most certainly a demographic fact. The
reactions of intolerance aren`t gone, but they are endangered. They are
dying out. And as these kinds of cultural moments occur more frequently,
more Americans are faced with the choice between the future and the past,
and I think sometimes the most important political choices aren`t only the
ones we make on a ballot. They`re the ones that come in everyday life.

Joining me now is William C. Rhoden, columnist with the "New York Times,"
and Jonathan Capehart, an MSNBC political analyst.

Jonathan, let me start with you. How long until that kind of moment isn`t
controversial at all?

JONATHAN CAPEHART, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: It`s going to be a
while. I mean, as we`ve seen the reactions on twitter, the reactions in
other places, clearly a generational divide, as you said, and I think
rightly so. Younger people, not a big deal. Completely mundane, touching.

But for people of a certain age, maybe around my age and older, it`s a bit
jarring to see two men kiss, two men, a sports guy, a football player
kissing. But the thing is what`s happening here, and why that kiss is so
important. It goes to show how far we have come in this country when it
comes to looking at gay and lesbian people with respect.

Michael Sam is openly gay, but he is a football player who wants to play
football in the NFL and was drafted by a professional football team. Yes,
he has to -- yes, he has to make the roster and he has to do all those
things. But he crashed through a huge barrier, and the idea that he was
able to have someone with him to share that moment with, not just anybody
but his boyfriend, and friends and family around him, for them that`s not a
big deal. That`s what made to me anyway that moment, that one kiss of many
that we saw so incredibly powerful.

MELBER: Bill?

WILLIAM C. RHODEN, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: Yes, there was a lot of
kissing. No question about that. I was at radio city music hall when it
happened. And it was a stunning moment because again, this big linebacker,
you know, and his boyfriend kissing. And I think it caught everybody off
guard. People argue what happened -- I`m not a big fan of it even when
it`s like, you know, the guy and his fiance and like, you know, OK, enough
is enough.

But I get it. This is a barrier that`s been broken. We have to deal with
it. One thing I would say is this, however. That when you are the first.
OK? When you are the first it can`t be just a one-way street. I mean, you
have to expect to get pushback and there`s going to be pushback.

MELBER: What kind of pushback do you have to expect?

RHODEN: What we saw on twitter. You know, now that was ignorant pushback.
It was ignorant pushback. But we have the same problem about racism in
this country. And it`s interesting that as we speak now we have two
dynamic things going on. In the NBA they`re dealing with racism. The NFL
is now dealing with sexuality. And I think that to deal with things openly
there has to be an open back and forth dialogue.

Tolerance can`t just work one way. You can`t just be one way, that anybody
who speaks out -- now, I think you can speak out a certain -- if you speak
out of ignorance you can -- but I think people -- this cannot turn into a
Gestapo type situation where if you express discomfort with something then
you`re cast as a home homophobe and you`re fined by the league. I think
there has to be back and forth.

MELBER: Speaking of back and forth, let me go to Jonathan.

CAPEHART: OK. So what you`re saying is that Michael Sam has to put up
with people disrespecting who he is, that Michael Sam has to put up with
people who don`t like who he is and he just has to put up with it and take
it? That`s not --

RHODEN: Opposed to what? As opposed to what? I mean, this is the real
world.

CAPEHART: But he`s supposed to -- what you`re saying is he`s supposed to
be silent. That he`s supposed to stand silently by --

RHODEN: I didn`t say that. No. What I said, there has to be a national
back and forth discourse. It can`t just be a one-way thing that if anybody
expresses discomfort then they`re cast as a --

MELBER: Well, bill, let me ask you -- let me jump in and ask you a
question because you`re talking about discomfort. And I think I understand
part of what you`re saying, although we also have to be careful not to use
euphemisms to make some of the so-called discomfort better than it is.
Some of these players put up messages on the internet saying they were
disgusted by this, this is gross, this is wrong. Yes, we have an open
public square.

RHODEN: Right.

MELBER: But haven`t we learned something through these controversies of
the past few weeks that it`s helpful to have institutions assert
responsibility and accountability?

RHODEN: Yes. Again, there has to be an intelligent discussion. Going on
twitter and Instagram and being ignorant, whether you`re talking about
sexuality or racism, is not acceptable. But you have to be able to -- but
this is new. I mean, it`s not like this happens every day. This is a
historic moment. All right? It`s not like there`s a precedent for this.
There really is not a precedent for this.

CAPEHART: But hatred`s not new. Bigotry`s not new. Ignorance isn`t new.
And so, when someone denigrates somebody else for who they are, it`s not --
I understand you`re saying that it has to be a two-way conversation. But
tolerance, no, should not be a two-way street. It`s a one-way street. You
cannot --

RHODEN: See --

CAPEHART: You cannot say to someone that who you are is wrong and, an
abomination, is horrible, you know, get a room and all those other things
that people said about Michael Sam, and not be forced -- not forced. But
not be made to understand that what you`re saying and what you`re doing is
wrong.

MELBER: We`re out of time. So briefly.

RHODEN: Your question, I think it was an important question, is does he
have to take it. All I`m saying is that when you are a pioneer, whether
you`re Jackie Robinson -- when you`re a pioneer, there`s a certain
responsibility that`s going to come with being a pioneer. A certain weight
that you`ve got to carry.

CAPEHART: That I get. But then the person who`s doing -- who has the hate
in their heart or the bigotry in their heart or the homophobia in their
heart has to be made to see that the way they think and feel is wrong.

MELBER: Right. And I think that`s an important point to pause on and also
goes to whether we learned from Jackie Robinson. He endured a tremendous
amount. As we go down this road, can we as a society stand up and actually
ask people who are breaking barriers to endure less because they are
breaking barriers. That`s parity of this.

Jonathan Capehart and Bill Rhoden, thank you both for joining me.

And coming up next, there is something strange happening in southern
politics. Patricia Murphy will explain. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: The North Carolina businessman who ran against Clay Aiken in the
democratic primary for the second congressional district has died, leaving
that race still undecided. Keith Crisco died after a fall in his home. He
was 71-years-old.

Now, Aiken is currently 369 votes ahead of Crisco, who had not yet conceded
that race. Now, Mr. Aiken issued this statement today. Quote "I am
stunned and deeply saddened by Keith Crisco`s death. Keith came from
humble beginnings. No matter how high he rose, to Harvard, to the White
House, and to the governor`s cabinet he never forgot where he came from.
He was a gentleman, a good and honorable man and an extraordinary public
servant. I was honored to know him. I`m suspending all campaign
activities as we pray for his family and friends."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: You may have heard Democrats will have a hard time holding on to
the Senate in the midterms. You might even have heard that from Democrats.
One of the reason is they simply have more seats to defend. Of the 36 that
are up in 2014 the Dems hold 21. But new numbers out today show some signs
of hope for Senate Democrats` chances of holding on to the majority and
they`re in the south.

Take Kentucky here. A new NBC/Marist poll shows Republican leader Mitch
McConnell is essentially tied with the secretary of state there, Allison
Lunder-Grimes. McConnell leads 46-45. And that is a state that backed
Governor Romney by 23 points. McConnell was first elected to the senate
when Grimes was turning 6-years-old and his long time in office hasn`t been
kind to his approval rating. He has a net negative of five percent. More
voters disapprove of him than approve.

Meanwhile over in Arkansas, Senator Mark Pryor has shed his status as the
most vulnerable democratic incumbent. New polls show him holding a double-
digit lead against Republican challenger Tom Cotton.

Then there`s Georgia, one of the reddest states in the U.S. Republicans
hold both Senate seats, nine of 14 house seats, and the governor`s mansion.
But Michelle Nunn is running as a different type of Democrat and drawing on
the state`s fond memories of her father, Sam Nunn, who served for 24 years
there. She is now statistically tied with most of the potential GOP
nominees except for David Purdue, a former Reebok CEO who also has family
ties. His cousin is the former governor there. And a recent local poll by
the "Atlanta Journal-Constitution" shows Nunn performing better against
both of the establishment GOP candidates.

Joining me to discuss all of this from Georgia is Patricia Murphy, founder
of citizen Jane Politics and a contributor to "Daily Beast."

Let`s get right to it. Some of these Democrats seem to have figured
something out. What do they know that the rest of the party may not?

PATRICIA MURPHY, EDITOR, CITIZEN JANE POLITICS: I don`t know at this
minute if it`s exactly what the Democrats are doing or what the Republicans
aren`t doing. And when you look at these Republican challengers, even the
incumbents in some cases, the Republican agenda in Congress and the House
and Senate, which I think we can all agree has been pulled to the right by
members of the tea party, it has even pulled the leaders to the right by
members of the tea party, Republicans have not done what a lot of these
southern states have wanted them to do.

And I really want to point first of all to the farm bill and also point to
immigration reform. I talked to a number of farmers in southern states who
said that they wanted that farm bill passed a long time ago. It also made
it very difficult for them to do business until Congress did pass it.

We saw a big blowup within the tea party not getting it through the house
until it had some changes made to it. So eventually, it did get through
but only after a long delay. That put farmers in a really tough position.

Tom Cotton voted against the farm bill. All three of the house members
from Georgia also voted against the farm bill. They`re having a really
tough time explaining that. Also on immigration reform --

MELBER: Let`s pause --

MURPHY: I`m sorry. Go ahead.

MELBER: Yes, let`s pause on the farm bill before we go to immigration
because you make an important point there, which if I understand you right,
that some of these incumbents were more tied to the games in Washington and
trying to back up Boehner and mess around than they were thinking about
maybe what we always hear, which is politics is local.

MURPHY: Well, I think Boehner actually wanted to pass it. I think the tea
party people and even the Republicans who didn`t want to be challenged by a
tea party person or had a challenge out there looming from a tea party
person, they wanted to keep their base at home happy. They just don`t want
to lose their jobs.

For Republicans in Congress right now they`re going to lose their jobs. In
a lot of cases in the house to a tea party Republican. They want to stay
as far right as possible as they can. That has driven the entire
congressional agenda to the right. That means things that used to pass
without a lot of questions, the farm bill, the budget, the debt increase,
all of this has been stopped in its tracks by tea party members. It has as
a result, I think, damaged the brand of Republicans when they start to look
at statewide races. So now when a congressman who voted against the farm
bill and knew he could fend off a challenge in his district, has to now run
statewide and explain to farmers across the state why he didn`t support
that bill, it`s a really tough vote to defend. And I think Democrats are
really being helped in a lot of these cases by what`s happening within the
Republican party itself.

MELBER: Yes. And I guess one of the things that some of the tea party
Republicans would say is that they wanted to cut more out of the food stamp
budget of that farm bill. I don`t know if that helps them on the ground,
to your point.

Also in Arkansas we see Bill Clinton`s popularity surging back up to a
potentially all-time high 68 percent favorable there. What does that tell
us about sort of some of these shifting historical moods?

MURPHY: Well, I think obviously Bill Clinton -- anybody who wants to
attack Bill Clinton or Hillary Clinton or go after the Clintons right now
on any various storylines, it`s just a waste of time. And the voters I
talked to in these southern states, they really are exhausted of politics.
They want Congress to get something done. And when you look at the farm
bill, look at immigration reform, they understand it`s difficult. They
understand the political realities. But they know better the realities in
their own lives. They know crops are not getting picked. They know crops
are rotting in the field. They know that they are not able to do their
business. They can`t keep their family business together because of
politics in Washington. And I think that is becoming more and more
difficult to defend in individual districts. And when you run statewide
these individual realities for your politics don`t really mean a whole lot
to people from around your state. They just want to know why you`re not
getting anything done. And it`s tough, it`s more, more difficult for these
statewide candidates to explain.

MELBER: Yes, that makes sense. And you`ve got to wonder whether having a
repeat Benghazi hearing is going to help close the circle on that. I think
for some of them the answer is no.

Patricia Murphy, thank you very much.

MURPHY: Thanks. Thanks a lot.

MELBER: Up next, Ambassador Marc Ginsberg joins me on new information
about the missing girls in Nigeria.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: The world got its first look at some of the Nigerian schoolgirls
kidnapped nearly a month ago by the terrorist group Boko Haram in a 17-
minute video released today by AFP. About 130 girls, most of them
Christian, can be seen there, wearing conservative Muslim garb and now
reciting the Koran.

The video also shows the leader of Boko Haram carrying an AK-47. He`s
shown in a different location from those girls. And he says they were
converted to Islam and won`t be freed until Nigeria releases imprisoned
Boko Haram fighters.

Senior U.S. officials also confirm today that the U.S. military`s flying
manned surveillance flights over Nigeria at the request of the Nigerian
government to help in this search. International pressure continues to
grow as well. The White House deployed the first lady to again speak out
on this issue in their weekly address.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: My husband and I are
outraged and heartbroken over the kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian
girls from their school dormitory. In these girls Barack and I see our own
daughters. We see their hopes and their dreams. And we can only imagine
the anguish their parents are feeling right now.

Let us all pray for their safe return. Let us hold their families in our
hearts during this very difficult time. And let us show just a fraction of
their courage in fighting to give every girl on this planet the education
that is her birthright.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Joining me now, former U.S. ambassador to Morocco and former White
House adviser Marc Ginsberg.

When you look at that video and you see that not all of the girls are
assembled together, what does that tell us about a potential rescue
mission?

MARC GINSBERG, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO MOROCCO: Well, Ari, it basically
complicates it because even though we saw in this video that there are
approximately 130 of the girls assembled, that means that of the total
there`s 276 that were actually kidnapped. So doing the math, it`s quite
evidence that there`s a significant number, over 100 that are still -- 150
almost that are being held in different locations.

The question is are they being held inside Nigeria or are they being held
in other places including Mali, Cameroon, et cetera, because of the fact
that Boko Haram has had links to Al Qaeda in the Maghreb, which I`m well
familiar with and have been following this relationship between the two
organizations and that`s what`s most disconcerting.

MELBER: Ambassador, you`ve said that it looks like they may be trying to
change this from an abduction scenario to a barter scenario. What do you
mean by that?

GINSBERG: Well, just today the leader of Boko Haram, as you saw in the
videotape you just displayed, for the first time is trying to in effect use
the kidnapped girls as barter to force the Nigerian government to release
those Boko Haram prisoners that are being held by the Nigerian government.

Now, that has a good side and a bad side, Ari, because on the good side it
means that at least the girls will be held in one place because Boko Haram
will not want to release them until they are actually able to get some
negotiation under way, which I believe, by the way, from my sources is
quietly happening with the Nigerian government. Number one.

Number two, the bad side of this is that if the Nigerian government balks
at negotiating with Boko Haram, there`s a possibility of physical harm
coming to these girls because of that.

MELBER: And they have a policy which you and others have pointed out. Let
me play a state department reaction here about something we hear about a
lot, which is whether you negotiate with these kind of murderers and thugs
at all. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEN PSAKI, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: Nigeria is in the lead. We are
simply supporting their efforts. We, as you know also, our policy is to
deny -- the United States policy I should say is to deny kidnappers the
benefits of their criminal acts including ransoms or concessions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: You`ve done diplomacy in this region. Walk us through the
difference between what we do and sometimes the approach there.

GINSBERG: Well, time and again we`ve seen even the French government
negotiate with leaders of Al Qaeda in the Maghreb. We`ve seen this happen
in Mali, where French journalists were kidnapped and then they were quietly
released and brought home to a welcome reception in Paris. So the United
States may in effect and Britain may in effect have this absolutist policy,
but Nigeria and the French, for example, who have so much supervision over
Al Qaeda operating in western Africa and have struggled with Al Qaeda in
Mali and elsewhere, have had a policy of negotiating with Al Qaeda in order
to release kidnapped French citizens.

MELBER: Yes. And that`s the open question here among many as to what the
regional response will be if this does continue to be, as you`ve mentioned,
potentially more of a ransom situation.

Ambassador Marc Ginsberg gets tonight`s "Last Word." Thank you.

GINSBERG: Good to be with you, Ari.

MELBER: I am Ari Melber in for Lawrence O`Donnell. Chris Hayes is up
next.



END

<Copy: Content and programming copyright 2014 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Copyright 2014 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>




Watch The Last Word With Lawrence O'Donnell each weeknight at 10 p.m. ET


Sponsored links

Resource guide