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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Thursday, June 12th, 2014

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

Guest: Dick Armey, Margie Omero, Eric Boehlert, Nicholas Kristoff

ARI MELBER, GUEST HOST: You know, you would think the defeat of an
establishment Republican would actually change something. But so far, no
dice.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The race to replace Cantor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Intense maneuvering going on right now in the halls
of Congress.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The leadership battle that is ongoing right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kevin McCarthy is trying to hold on and move up and
become the majority leader. But you`ve got a challenge from Pete Sessions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody seems to love Kevin McCarthy. Nobody seems to
love the idea of putting him in there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has the support and votes and they`ll try to move is
on it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But it sounds like nobody wants to try to stop him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not only has national implications for upcoming
elections.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The further turmoil. Republican Party find itself
in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has even more to say about what is going on inside the
GOP.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, guys this is not the time to have a public debate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The rift it exposes in the Republican Party.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The establishment versus the more conservative sort of
Tea Party wing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know how this will be settled in the animal world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Republicans who are being eaten alive by, by their
own caucus.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How many little happy dances are going on in the
Democratic Party?

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

And here`s how influential conservative blogger Erick Erickson sees the
House leadership race to succeed Eric Cantor. Quote, "House Republicans
looked on the biggest electoral surprise of the year and are giving it the
middle finger. They will expedite a leadership election to affirm status
quo with Cantor`s right hand, Kevin McCarthy, picked as majority leader.
He`s just another in a long line of big spenders who think the Democrats
are the problem not government itself.

Look, Erickson is just stating a fact. Republican primary voters just hit
a boiling point that literally has no precedent in the history of
congressional elections. And right now, the GOP leadership`s rather
bizarre response if you hated Eric Cantor, you will love his long time
understudy.

And status quo when you look at this is actually generous. When you look
at the pure political numbers right there, replacing Cantor with McCarthy
actually nudges the GOP leadership slightly to the left. The American
Conservative Union last year gave Cantor a rating of 84 percent, compared
to McCarthy`s 72 percent.

Kevin McCarthy, the current Republican whip from Bakersfield, California,
has had a conventional rise in GOP leadership from the House Republican
steering committee, the deputy whip, to his current job. He`s the former
chairman of the Young Republicans and founding member of Young Guns, along
with Paul Ryan and, yes, of course, the recently defeated Eric Cantor.

And now, McCarthy is favored to get Cantor`s leadership possession over red
state Republican Pete Sessions from Texas.

Here`s what John Boehner said about that race today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I told the members
yesterday. This is a time for unity.

REPORTER: Do you want Kevin McCarthy to be House majority leader? And
also, how important is it, do you think, for unity in your conference to
have a red state Republican at the leadership table?

BOEHNER: Well, I do think the members are going to make the decision. We
are going to do it next week. And I`m sure some will argue it is too soon.
Some argue it is too long. But it`s important that we resolve this issue
in a fair amount of time, so that we can do the work that we were elected
to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Elected to do. But the issue today is what they were unelected to
do. What Eric Cantor was punished for. That came up last night on the
LAST WORD when we spoke with a Tea Party activist who helped Dave Brat beat
Eric Cantor, and she said this about this current GOP leadership race in
the House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMIE RADTKE, DAVE BRAT VOLUNTEER: I think Boehner needs to go. I think
he needs to step down. And conservatives in the House caucus, need to find
the courage to run somebody and nominate a strong conservative. In the
past, what we heard from is we don`t think we can do it, we can`t take on
the majority leader, we can`t take on the House speaker. That`s too big of
a goliath to take on.

But I think, we here, the normal grassroots in the seventh district showed
that it is possible to take down Goliath. And they need to do the same
thing up in Washington, D.C.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Joining me now in Washington, D.C., Eugene Robinson, columnist for
"The Washington Post," and MSNBC political analyst.

And a man who used to hold Eric Cantor`s job, former House Republican
leader majority leader, Dick Armey, one of the authors of the Contract with
America, former chairman of one of the biggest, Tea Party organizations,
FreedomWorks.

Good evening to you both.

DICK ARMEY (R), FORMER U.S. HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Good evening.

EUGENE ROBINSON, THE WASHINGTON: Good evening.

MELBER: Congressman, let me start with you. Do you feel from what we are
seeing here and what I just played, that the GOP leadership in Washington
have gotten the message?

ARMEY: No, it looks to me they`re missing an opportunity. First of all,
when I served in that position, I probably served longer than any
Republican we have known for 60 years and left on my own terms. I always
saw it as a job of service and responsibilities, given to me by my
colleagues. When I made the decision that I was going to leave Congress, I
announced that to the Congress in December of `01, and served throughout
all of `02.

I don`t know any good policy or administrative reason why Cantor should
leave the position now rather than finish his job.

MELBER: Congressman --

ARMEY: There may be political reasons. But political reasons are morally
inferior.

MELBER: Congressman, are you getting at the fact that the political reason
that many believe he is leaving in such a rush so there isn`t time for the
conservatives to organize and get one of their candidates in?

ARMEY: I don`t know what it is. I hate to think that. What they -- they
need to get away what end of the political spectrum you are, and look at,
do we have somebody who has a commitment to policy objectives for the
country, rather than political objectives for myself, and is willing to be
creative and innovative in pursuing good policy for this country.

This is what this job is about. This is not campaigning. It`s not about
politics. It`s about serving in a legislative body on behalf of the nation
and your constituents. They need to get a better focus on what their
duties are in the position rather than what might be their opportunity to
use it as the a steppingstone for something else in the future.

MELBER: Uh-huh.

ARMEY: Too much of that going on in Washington.

MELBER: Eugene, your thoughts?

ARMEY: Well, you know, Ari, I would look to step back and take a reality
based look at the situation. How many people in the country really think
the problem with the Republican caucus in the house is that it is not
conservative enough? OK?

OK, let`s poll that across the country. I don`t think you are going to get
a majority that thinks that the Republican caucus is not conservative
enough. But there is a segment of passion that Republican primary voters
whom we can call in shorthand the Tea Party who believe that that the
Republicans in the House are not conservative enough and they`re the tail
wagging this dog. They`re going to wag the party, I think more vigorously
than ever.

MELBER: Yes, Gene, I feel you on that. And they have gone to the right to
great peril in a lot of ways. But I also think that Congressman Armey is
speaking of something that goes left/right, but top/down.

Let`s take a listen to Dave Brat as he made his argument and touched on
some themes that could have come as well from, the bottom of Occupy
protesters on the left. This was election night.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVE BRAT (R), VIRGINIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: The issue is the
Republican Party has been paying way too much attention to Wall Street and
not enough attention to Main Street. So, the American people want to take
the country back. And, what motivated the race for me after the financial
crisis. We had Fannie and Freddie collapsed the housing market, and the
financial sector tanked. And I thought, surely, our political leaders now,
you know, we are on our knees, economically. We`ll learn some lessons and
get it right, and they didn`t.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: The bit about Fannie and Freddie is not 100 percent accurate. And
yet that frustration in the conservative base too solicitous to Wall
Street, Kevin McCarthy is part of that. And alternative candidate, Gene,
might not be?

ROBINSON: No, you know, that`s absolutely right. That`s a very good
point, Ari.

And an interesting point, because there could be a convergence of beliefs,
I think, between some Tea Party Republicans and some Democrats on that very
point. That there is something terribly wrong with Wall Street and the
fact that none of the bankers went to jail after the collapse, and the fact
that the whole system seems to be rigged against ordinary people.

So, if the House wanted to get together and sort of work on issues, perhaps
to the exclusion of some others, I think that would be a good thing for the
country. But it doesn`t look like that`s going to happen.

MELBER: No.

ROBINSON: That certainly hasn`t been happening over the last couple years.

MELBER: No, sir. And I`m not saying that I expect it to happen right now,
but I think its` notable that in the wake of the earthquake, they`re going
right to Kevin McCarthy, they`re going right to the understudy.

ROBINSON: They are.

MELBER: They`re rushing to it.

And, Congressman, I want to put up something from "Politico`s" Jake Sherman
about this Republican conference meeting. You used to work when you were
potentially challenging Speaker Gingrich at one point, you and Boehner were
colleagues. You know him.

ARMEY: I never challenged Speaker Gingrich. That`s not accurate.

MELBER: Well, I will let you get into it in a second. Let me let you get
into this, though.

Look at this, this is from "Politico". "Inside GOP meeting, Cantor quotes
Holocaust survivor says suffering is a part of life. Misery is a choice.
Boehner is crying and thanking Cantor."

If you would, walk us through what the House caucus meetings are like.
After that if you want to do Gingrich history, more than welcome.

ARMEY: Well, it seems to me that that meeting, and probably because of the
nature of it, is, about personalities. What you have to do is get beyond
personalities. Get beyond political parties. And get to the great
principles that govern this nation.

One of the things I like about Brat is he`s a free market economist. He is
trained in a disciplined understanding of what works and what does not work
in an economy, and he wants to make policy innovations that were releases,
the power of freedom in enterprise in the economy.

He`s got an idea that goes beyond himself, beyond politics, and beyond his
political party. That`s what we need.

We have about three or four policy innovative thinkers in the House of
Representatives that are identifiable to me at least on the side. I think
Brat will be one. Cantor was not. And I don`t know Kevin McCarthy.

But it sound to me that once again, it is all about, gee, what about me and
my politics and my place in the sun and my position. This is nonsense.

MELBER: Right. And, Gene --

ARMEY: Grown adult people shouldn`t be worrying abut such stuff.

MELBER: Right. And that`s strong criticism there and I think fair. And,
Gene, that goes toward the midterms, which is what message does the status
quo replacement if they achieve it, what does it send to the country and
the Republican base going into November -- Gene.

ARMEY: Well, I think it will anger a lot of the Republican base or
certainly that sector of the Republican base that voted the way it voted
the other day for a reason, to send a message. And will sound like the
message was not heard.

And what it means for the country is a bit less clear, except that I think
it puts Republican -- Republican congressmen still facing primaries perhaps
on notice. Not to veer or stray to the left on various issues especially
immigration.

MELBER: All right. Well, ignoring the screaming people on ground as
always, love to hear from both of you. So, I hope I can have you both
back.

Eugene Robinson and former Majority Leader Dick Armey -- thank you both.

And coming up, Iraq asks for help from the U.S. against militants sweeping
the country.

Meanwhile, Rick Perry stays on the campaign trail in California looking for
jobs. But ends up putting, may surprise you, he ended up putting his foot
in his mouth. Jonathan Capehart will explain.

And, first, if you thought the country was more polarized than ever. We
have the numbers. You can show your crazy until at Father`s Day. A new
report on the state of the American mine, also next!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Is America getting more divided? Pew reports the answer is yes,
but a new poll, a bunch of math and what it means for progressives. That`s
next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Hey, there. You ever feel like politics are just getting more
extreme these days?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO HOST: When we hear any Democrat talk about
immigration reform, we know what it means. We know that they want a
current inflow, constant inflow, of poorly educated and economically poor
people who are going to vote for them.

FMR. HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER TOM DELAY: What I hear from people,
particularly Christians, is that they want to bring God back into the
public arena. They want a revolution for the Constitution. They want
constitutional government. And they have a huge thirst for leadership.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A local man running for office in our state is suddenly
in the spotlight because of his controversial views.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In statements posted on Facebook, he seemed to be
advocating the death penalty of homosexuality.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Someone asked, "So just to be clear, you think we
should execute homosexuals, presumably by stoning?" Esk (ph) respond, "I
would be totally in the right to do it. Ignoring as a nation things that
are worthy of death is very remiss."

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MELBER: Now, you could say on the other hand intense rhetoric has always
been part of politics here and everywhere else. But research released by
Pew today reports some things are really getting worse. Pew says over two
decade the amount of ideological overlap between the two parties is
basically disappearing.

And whether you buy that interpretation or not, I think it depend on how
you define ideological priorities. There is another striking political
finding in today`s report that will interest progressives. It`s about
which side of the aisle is more proud or aware of their own beliefs. And
it turns out, it`s conservatives.

Take a look. Of the people that Pew found are mostly conservative, their
definition -- 61 percent of those people say they are conservative.
Meaning, they hold conservative views and they know they do. But, only 29
percent of conservatives are confused about thinking they`re moderates.
This is according to Pew.

Now look at people Pew found to hold liberal views on the bottom. Only 32
percent actually say they`re liberal. About half the rate of
conservatives. While the bulk of people that Pew says are liberal, 44
percent, they think they`re moderates.

So, maybe people who hold liberal views, backing economic opportunity, or
equality for all, maybe they think those are reasonable moderate positions
or maybe in many parts of the country the politics of word choice leave
people not wanting to even call themselves liberal. The conservative
machine, of course, has tried to make it a dirty word for a long time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: My opponent`s views on defense are the
standard litany of the liberal left.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How would you define the word liberal? And would you
use this word to describe yourself?

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I prefer the word progressive,
which has a real American meaning.

BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS: Are you the most liberal president in U.S.
history?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Probably not.

O`REILLY: Who would be?

OBAMA: You know, the truth of the matter is that when you look at some of
my policies, in a lot of ways, Richard Nixon was more liberal than I was.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MELBER: Joining me now is Democrat pollster and managing director of
research at Purple Strategies, Margie Omero. And Media Matters senior
fellow Eric Boehlert, who is also more liberal than Nixon, or Nixon is more
liberal than you.

ERIC BOEHLERT, MEDIA MATTERS: Yes.

MELBER: I don`t really care.

But what we are getting at here is the data backup, the anecdotes all the
way up to the candidate level there, Hillary and Barack. Not wanting to
say they`re liberal.

BOEHLERT: Right. Well, it`s been a branding campaign all most for 40
years. I mean, it starts really with Agnew going after the liberal media.
I mean, that became a cornerstone for the conservative moment.

Jimmy Carter, Michael Dukakis, you saw the clip with President Bush there.
So, I think it`s been a -- it`s been a campaign to make it a dirty word for
a long time. Today, of course, with FOX News and the right wing media, or
the echo chamber, I mean, that`s up -- they turned it up to 11. It`s an
insult.

MELBER: Is it striking that it goes all the way out to all the people who
are holding these liberal views.

BOEHLERT: Yes.

MELBER: And they think they`re moderates. What`s political consequence of
that?

BOEHLERT: Well, I don`t know. It depends on how they vote. If they keep
voting the same way, it doesn`t have a political consequence. But I think
a lot of it, flip side on the conservative side, they`ve also been very
proud, because again, you have national leaders who call themselves
conservatives as the clip showed. Not a lot of national Democrats run
around the country calling themselves liberal.

So, it feeds down. So there is, there is the right-wing attack. There`s
the media attack. And then, there are political implications from the
Democrat Party I think.

MELBER: Margie, your thoughts on all of this and then also the
polarization numbers in this report?

MARGIE OMERO, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: Sure. Well, the Pew studies shows
there are more people who have consistently liberal views. That`s a trend
that`s been going on. It mirrors nearly identically a trend that is going
on, on the right.

But I should just clarify that polarization is just for people who self
identify either as Democrats or Republicans.

MELBER: Yes.

OMERO: A majority of Americans have these mixed views that are sometimes
liberal, sometimes conservative.

The issue is that the most politically engaged voters are those on each of
extreme. And on top of that, what`s Pew really find troubling, and I find
troubling too, it`s not just the views. It`s that people have a lot of
animosity for the other side. They don`t want their family members to
marry some one, opposite party. They don`t want to socialize with people -
-

MELBER: Which is --

OMERO: -- on the opposite party.

MELBER: Right, which is bonkers.

OMERO: Right. And it reflects. I mean, here`s the implication, is that
it reflects, whether it`s the cause or the effect, greater polarization in
Congress. So when you have people, whether they`re political activists or
representatives who really don`t like the other side aren`t trying how to
understand the other side. It completely paralyzed our political process.

MELBER: Yes. And I`m not sure it has the to have a reflection in
Congress, Margie, in the sense that there are sort of ways that Congress
doesn`t reflect what people want, or think, or do. So, this may or may not
be reflective. And yet, for our body politic, for our civil society I
would say, if you want to be idealistic, it`s concerning. And the numbers
show that 27 percent of Democrats and 36 percent of Republicans say, the
people in the other party are actually a threat to the nation`s well-being.
A threat.

Now, some will say, oh, it`s a little worse for Republicans and that may
reflect ideology or their media diet. But what jumped out to me about that
is one out of four, one out of three, that`s really disconcerting for a
society.

OMERO: Right. I mean it really means, I think this is important for us
all to take into account. All think about. It really means people are
having a hard time understanding where the other side is coming from.

So, putting yourself in your opponent`s shoes and trying to find middle
ground. When I say it reflects what is going on in Washington. Studies
also show, including Pew`s analysis that members of Congress are more
polarized.

So, what`s happening is that no one is really able to come to the table.
And, certainly, you saw that now with Eric Cantor`s lost. It`s all part of
the same growing trend. And, unfortunately, the polarization piece is
happening on the left, as well as on the right.

MELBER: Yes, I think that an interesting point. One we will have to
continue to explore. I have been reporting on this program, why Eric
Cantor`s loss was not only right versus far right. It was also top down.
It was also out of touch, super interesting even if not traditionally
progressive.

But what do you think of the polarization piece. You`re not some one
concerned that members of Congress need to play more golf and eat more
steak.

BOEHLERT: Well, I think the good news is if you look at particular
agendas, immigration, raising the minimum wage, extending unemployment,
doing something about climate change. There are massive gun laws. There`s
massive agreement that Congress should start doing these things.

But I think, Republicans block everything, and the press sort of plays
these two parties can`t do anything when in fact there is one that is an
absolute road block. That leads to the perception we are polarized. The
good news is I think lots of overlap on key issues.

MELBER: Right. And, Eric, before we go here. We are here in Manhattan.
We are not far from FOX News. Would you be welling to walk over there and
hug somebody?

BOEHLERT: I would.

MELBER: You would?

BOEHLERT: I would.

MELBER: All right. Margie, we will look into your challenge next time.
Thank you both for being here tonight, Margie Omero and Eric Boehlert.

OMERO: Thank you.

MELBER: Coming up, you expect Texas Governor Rick Perry to know his
audience. Well, he messed up today. That`s coming up.

And, first, the politics of the crisis in Iraq. New reporting you`re going
to want to hear from Republicans want, yes, the Bush team back in charge.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: What we have seen over the last couple days indicates the degree to
which Iraq is going to need more help, is going to need more help from us
and it`s going to need more help from the international community.

In our consultations with the Iraqis, there will be some short term
immediate things that need to be done militarily. And, you know, our
national security team is looking at all right options. But, this should
be also a wake-up call for the Iraqi government.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Now, here is why this is a wake-up call for that Maliki government
that refused to come to the status of forces government with the U.S. and
has largely excluded Sunnis from the process.

Beyond the fleeing of nearly half a million of residents out of the city of
Mosul, reports of mass beheadings now and takeover of multiple cities in
Iraq by al Qaeda-inspired groups. Today, the Islamic state of Iraq and
Syria group seizing land to create a new Islamic state just became $425
million richer. That`s because it robbed the central bank of Mosul, plus
several smaller banks across the city. The ISIS is now suddenly the
richest terrorist organization in the world according to "The Washington
Post." And here you can see this progression. These insurgents as they
make their way across the Syrian border, east and south. They`re roughly,
70 miles from Baghdad now.

And all this has Senator John McCain angry.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: If I sound angry it is because I am angry.
To declare that a conflict is over does not mean that it necessarily is
over. It is time the president got a new national security team. It`s
time he got a group of people together that know what it is to succeed in
conflict.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Joining me from Iraq is NBC News chief foreign correspondent
Richard Engel.

Richard, what can you tell us about this increasing insurgency and this
cross-border problems?

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think Iraq is
in a state of collapse. And to talk about Iraq needing more help, the
government needing to get its act together, and to get back on the right
track, I think we may be beyond that stage. I think we have turned the
corner.

The country is breaking into three pieces. So when, when the president
talks about helping Iraq and changing Maliki`s policies. Maliki`s forces
are crumbling. They are surrendering. He doesn`t control Kurdistan where
I am in northern Iraq. He doesn`t control, western, and central Iraq.

Militias are arming. This is becoming a transnational problem. So when
you talk about helping Iraq, I`m not sure which part of Iraq the U.S. is
supposed to be helping right now. A bit like grabbing a piece of water.
It will continue to slip through your fingers because it is falling apart.

MELBER: And in your reporting, Richard, you have been talking about the
fact that in many areas the -- the weapons are not under control. U.S.
humvees being seized. The spillover from Syria. What do air strikes in
this context if ordered by the U.S., what would they achieve?

ENGEL: I have no idea. I don`t know who they would be striking. I don`t
know exactly where they would be striking. U.S. has been out of the loop
here for a while. Doesn`t have intelligence packets. All of these
different ISIS fighters would have to get back acquainted with the
situation. Once you leave, it is not like you re-plug back in and
immediately are where you left off.

Also, you, you will then become involved in the Syria fight. If you come
in here, back the Shiite government of Maliki, and you fight against the
Sunni rebels who are aligned with the Sunni rebels in Syria. Well then you
are part of the Syria conflict which I think the United States decided it
didn`t want to do.

I don`t know. If you decide to come back in here, you better have a vision
for all of these conflicts. For Lebanon, because that has been excluded in
all of this. Lebanon is part of this as well and Syria and Iraq.

So if he, let`s say he backs, let`s say the United States decide to back
Maliki, starts bombing somebody, where, I don`t know. How, I don`t know.
But they start bombing at Maliki`s behest. OK. Then you are fighting
against Sunnis.

Then on the other side, through Turkey, you are giving money and arms to
Sunnis. If that confuses me and I have been covering this region for
almost 20 years. I think it would confuse a lot of people in the region
who would say, really have no idea what the U.S. strategy would be right
now.

Vis-a-vis Iraq, Syria, Lebanon. We will be hearing more about Lebanon in
the coming days as Hezbollah and Iran and Shiite militias get more and more
involved in this.

MELBER: Sobering and very well put. Thank you for your reporting, from
Iraq, Richard Engel and stay safe.

Joining me now is Nicholas Kristoff, columnist for "the New York Times" and
Steve Clemons, an MSNBC contributor and editor at-large for the Atlantic.

Good evening, gentlemen.

You hear the reports there. Steve, let me start with you. Richard hits it
on the head. We had a something of debate in this nation about not going
into Syria as ugly as it was, going in, would be uglier. Going in and
trying to do air strikes to support, as he was saying, Maliki here, could
really complicate the spillover from Syria, Steve?

STEVEN CLEMONS, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think that is right. I think
Richard Engel did a beautiful job of describing an utter mess. And it
could become even messier because I do think -- I just spoke to senior
White House officials and state department officials just moments ago.
Wanted to emphasize to me that all options are on the table other than
boots on the ground. And with a strong intonation that air strikes, drone
strikes, are being contemplated.

But there is another dimension here could make what Richard describe even
worse. Barzani (ph) and Kurdistan has long said that Maliki`s failure to
hold government together and to deliver on democracy would likely mean that
Kurdistan would seek an alternative path. And if Kurdistan really does
break away that has implications for Syria and Turkey as well.

In addition, we haven`t talked that all about what Iran`s interests are.
Iran has grown very close to Maliki. And of course, when it sees the kind
of onslaught against Shia, shrines and temples for we have seen destroyed
in the last days and the Sunnis really beginning to move there. That is
another dimension of Iran potentially, entering the Iraq fray as well as
they have already in Syria. So this could get, very, very messy. And I
think that Richard is right. It is not clear that the United States has a
strategic map in place as to how to, to define where it will go.

MELBER: Right. And Nick, when you look at this as the Richard it
reporting, we in the U.S., including policy makers, may still be talking
about a type of nation state that is crumbling before our eyes in Iraq. A
warning we have heard from people about reason not new go in. It is also a
warning people said who wanted to stay in longer. I went to play senator
McCain today saying the solution here is to put in more of the Bush team.
Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: What do we need to do now? Obviously. The first thing we need to
do is call together the people that succeeded in Iraq. Those who have been
retired. And get together that group and place them in responsibility,
position so they can develop a policy to reverse this tide over radical
Islamic extremism in which directly threatens the security of the United
States of America.

And it is time that the president got a new national security team. It`s
time that he got a group of people together that know what it is to succeed
in conflict. And I would say the leader of that would be General Petraeus.
I would say that General Mattis is one. I would say that General Keen is
another one. I would say that Bob Kagan is another one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NICHOLAS KRISTOFF, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, I mean, this isn`t
a political football. This is a country. And the problem here isn`t
Democrats and it isn`t Republicans it is political. It is Mr. Maliki. And
Maliki has been a catastrophe. I do think that air power might end up
being a part of the solution. But only in the context of Al-Maliki sharing
power with Sunni militias and devolution of power from the center to the
regions.

MELBER: Can I ask you something? Can I ask you something? What do you
say to people who say that we have put so much into this country, or as
Richard Engel arguing, this x country, and that getting back into an air
campaign without a clear strategic objective is really restarting a part of
a war we are trying to end?

KRISTOFF: Well, it has to be done in the context of strategic objective
and the context of changes in Iraq. But if that happens then I think it is
worth considering. And you have to, you know, realize the alternative.
What we are headed towards is a catastrophe. In Syria, 160,000 people have
died there. And if it, expands to Iraq, then that will be bad for
terrorism, it is going to be humanitarian disaster. And it is not clear
that air power will make it any better. But, we are headed towards the
abyss.

MELBER: Steve, your thoughts on that. And also speak to the basic
reaction I think that many Americans may have which is I haven`t heard
about this in a while. And now, I am hearing reports that this whole thing
is dissolving and I feel like I am reliving a question from 2003 over how
much to bomb Iraq.

CLEMONS: Well, two things. One, I think Nick Kristoff frames it well in
the sense that perhaps with air power you might be able to pull something
together where you are able to decentralize power. You know, Joe Biden
before he became vice president and Les Gale (ph), the former council on
foreign relations put together a plan that was widely pillaried (ph),
called the dealt, the Biden-Gale plan, they would take these, these various
parts of the country, three, semiautonomous regions, loosely federate them.
That may be the best case today.

And so, we may be going back to sort of Joe Biden`s prescient, you know,
observations way back, that the interest of these three couldn`t be
balanced very well unless you created something like that sort of
structure. That might work. And I think that could create a strategic
frame.

But I think bottom line is we invaded Iraq. For John McCain to say put the
Bush guys back in place and have them redo this. We invaded Iraq when
there were no weapons of mass destruction. We opened a Pandora`s box.
People like myself on this station were saying this could end up becoming a
nightmare. We created sectarian lines in that country and awoke them in a
way that they had never been awoke end for many years. And this is now a
dividing line throughout the Middle East and North Africa region.

So the Bush administration created this drama and the idea that John McCain
would say let`s go back with the same sorts of intervention that we had
before as a way to save this problem, is, is crazy. Now, we need to find a
new equilibrium of parts, power centers, that have felt disenfranchised.

Maliki has Alienated the Sunnis. And the Sunnis need to come back.

MELBER: Right. And Steve, your point about the Biden-Gale plan was seen
at the time as pessimistic. It may just be realistic if we are in three
pieces.

I want to also mentioned from Richard Engel`s reporting on the ground, he
said today. The ethnic sectarians lines here looked like three pieces,
although he called them (INAUDIBLE) and Jihadistan, which is more ominous.

Nicholas Kristoff and Steve Clemons, we are out of time. We will hopefully
revisit this with both of you. Thank you.

CLEMONS: Thank you.

KRISTOFF: Thank you, Air.

MELBER: Coming up. Rick Perry may have just uttered his first oops moment
of the 2016 race by making a comparison between yes, homosexuality and
alcoholism. And where did he make the speech? It makes it even more oops.
Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: So someone you know who wants to be president said something to
his own supporters so tone deaf there were huge audible gasps in the room.
That`s next..

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: If Rick Perry is running for president again, his political
appearance in San Francisco last night gives a hint at the tone he may set
and it`s tone deaf.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: I may have the genetic coding that I`m inclined to
be an alcoholic. But I have the desire not to do that. And I look at the
homosexual issue as the same way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Yes, you heard that right. That`s Perry, in San Francisco last
night, comparing homosexuality to alcoholism. He was asked whether he
thinks being gay is a disorder.

There were gasps in the room of supporters according to press reports. And
Perry also said, quote, "whether or not you feel compelled to follow a
particular lifestyle or not you have the ability to decide not to do that."

Now this isn`t just idle talk. The governor`s incorrect beliefs here have
consequences. In fact this past weekend his state`s GOP platform
officially recognized quote, "the legitimacy and efficacy of counseling
which offered repair of therapy and treatment for those patients seeking
healing and wholeness from their homosexual lifestyle. When asked about
the therapy last night, Perry said he didn`t know whether it worked.

Joining me now, Jonathan Capehart an MSNBC political analyst who wrote
about this for "the Washington Post" today. Good evening.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Hey, Ari.

MELBER: Let me start with science, as you know, and this is relevant, when
people start talking about disorders like alcoholism. All right, the way
back in 1973, the American psychiatric association did official remove
homosexuality as any kind of disorder. And we look back at that history
today. They said quote "homosexuality doesn`t meet the criteria for
psychiatric disorder. We will no longer insist on a label of sickness for
individuals who insist their well. And thus we eliminate a justification
for the denial of civil rights to individuals whose only crime is their
sexual orientation is to members of the same sex. And they also said we
state no view on desirability of homosexual behavior.

Why hasn`t Rick Perry caught up with the science here?

CAPEHART: Well, it`s because Governor Perry is stuck in a time when, and
in a thought process where being gay is something that is shameful, a
disorder, something that can be corrected. You know he is governor of a
state whose state Republican party just adopted a platform suggesting
reparative therapy for gay and lesbians in Texas as a policy.

Now, we already know, I mean, California passed a law banning such a thing
in that state. And you know, you have the American psychological
association back in 1997 if memory serves saying that, you know, passing a
resolution calling such a thing dangerous.

MELBER: Right. The APA as we mentioned not only on the disorder side.
But then on the reparative therapy side have said there is no published
scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of reparative therapy in order
to change your sex orientation. Yet, Jonathan, this strikes me as
different than people who have earnestly held religious beliefs about
sexual conduct, right. Because when they talk about adultery which as you
and I know, in the Judeo Christian tradition is also wrong. They don`t
talk about an adultery disorder or Sabbath desecration disorder.

CAPEHART: Right. No, no. No they don`t. I mean what Governor Perry is
talking about this line of thought that he said in San Francisco is
something that is dangerous, quite frankly. Telling gay people that just
because of who they are, there is something wrong with them.

And that gay person, you know, I am openly gay. And I can tell you right
now as I wrote in the piece, you think if I had a choice in being gay that
I would actively select being someone who would opt for discrimination,
second-class citizenship and depending on the city, state, county or even
country you live in, being targeted for death. Absolutely not.

I mean, this is the way God made me. So, there is nothing wrong with me.
There is nothing that need to be fixed with me or anyone else who is gay.

MELBER: Yes, and you talk about God. Rick Perry talked a lot about God in
his last campaign. Take a look at one of these ads, this is so reminisce
of the note he struck in San Francisco.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PERRY: I`m not ashamed to admit I am a Christian. But you don`t need to
be in the pew every Sunday to know there is something wrong in the country
when gays can serve openly in the military, when our kids can`t openly
celebrate Christmas or pray in school. As president, I will end Obama`s
war on religion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: It`s, almost self parity, although aspect are serious, I can`t
take it too seriously unless he is back in the race. But this idea that --
that it`s reversed. It is actually religious people who are under the gun
here.

CAPEHART: Right. Which is, you know, a completely false argument. In
that ad, and in this whole conversation that we are talking about, keep in
mind, gays serving openly in the military, don`t ask, don`t tell, tossed
out. The American people support ending don`t ask don`t tell and
everything is fine. Same-sex marriage. Look at what we are talking about.
Every time I sit down to write about marriage equality in this country, yet
another judge in another state says that, that, state constitutional ban or
state law, is unconstitutional.

And on the question of whether being gay is, is a choice, or just the way
people are, a "Washington Post" ABC news poll back in march showed that 65
percent of the American people believe it is just the way, just the way
they are. Rick Perry need to join the am scan people on this.

MELBER: Jonathan Capehart, thank you for joining us and for your reporting
on this today.

CAPEHART: Thanks, Ari.

MELBER: Coming up the jokes don`t always write themselves. Well,
sometimes they do. Tonight, they are written by the late night comedians
and they will get the "Last Word."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: The political world has been up ended this week you. Know that.
Late night comedians have it covered from Eric Cantor`s unexpected loss to
Hillary Clinton`s new book tour. Here is your best of late night political
comedy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look, we are familiar with the 24 hour news cycle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tonight I am reporting on a surprise balloon drop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But yesterday, you finally lived up to the hype.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: House majority leader Eric Cantor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: House majority leader Eric Cantor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will lose his seat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have been fed a vicious lie the tea party is dead.
But it turns out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s alive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s alive!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cantor has spent 168,000 on steakhouses.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That makes sense. Very hard to conduct your campaign
when you got the meat sweats.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie said that`s it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No one saw it coming least of all Eric Cantor who
helped create the tea party by stitching together dead ideas and then
filling with rage and giving it a jolt of power and letting it loose on the
countryside terrified of fire and science.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He spent $5 million. Ladies and gentlemen, what is
wrong with this country when you can no longer buy an election?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cantor was basically the fourth most powerful
Republican in Washington behind Mitch McConnell, John Boehner and an AR-15
that fires baby eagles just like Jesus. How, how --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But now it is Cantor who ride off into the sunset while
John Boehner remains the sunset.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, no. Congress` current golden age of cooperation
and productiveness is all wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Texas Senator Ted Cruz has given up his dual
citizenship with Canada.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Texas Senator Ted Cruz renounced his Canadian
citizenship.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not to be confused with the reason most Canadians
renounce their citizenship, Rob Ford. That happens to a lot of people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s right Canada, we took Ted Cruz back. So now
take back Justin Bieber.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Obama pulled an unusual maneuver yesterday
afternoon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the second time in two days, President Obama snuck
out of the White House.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obama and his chief of staff ran to Starbuck`s on their
own.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But he had a cup of his favorite coffee, the Kenyan
socialist, he loves that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we could zoom in there. They even got his name
wrong on the cup.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It seems like Obama wants to be out of the White House
more than Hillary wants to be in it. And he goes, almost.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hillary Clinton has a new book, you excited?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Her staff is now doing some internal polling and I
thought, oh, my God, no.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One guy just went no.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So what got her husband in trouble? Come on. No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hillary Clinton said she wants to travel this year.
When asked where sunny will travel? She said New Hampshire, Iowa, maybe
spend two months in Florida.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MELBER: You know, we can`t compete with that. So the late night comedy
writers do get "The Last Word."

I`m Ari Melber in for Lawrence O`Donnell. Thanks for watching.

Chris Hayes is up next.



END

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