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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Monday, June 16th, 2014

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June 16, 2014

Guest: Howard Dean, David Frum, William Barber, MaryBe McMillan, David

ARI MELBER, GUEST HOST, "THE LAST WORD": Democrats are enjoying the
Republican infighting over who will replace Eric Cantor. Now, are
Republicans really divided? Some are saying yes, some are saying no, and
that sounds like a yes.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eric Cantor`s loss last week may have swung the door
wide open for Democrats.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three days away now from the Republican Party picking a
new majority leader.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People angling to see who`s going to be the next
majority leader.

that will reshape the leadership in the wake of the Eric Cantor defeat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Crushing defeat for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It reflects the convulsions within the Republican

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How divided is the Republican Party?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a divide within our party.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I don`t think it`s divided at all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Republicans are saying there isn`t any division, just
I think trying to spin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The top leader in a party was just tossed out of

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are very personal fights.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is mostly a fight over personalities.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an inside game played by inside players.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a party without a dominant leader.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Republican Party is in a death spiral.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is a big problem.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Republican Party right now is divided on a lot of

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I don`t think it`s divided at all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a divide within our party.


MELBER: Good evening, I`m Ari Melber in for Lawrence O`Donnell. This week
begins the countdown to a moment of truth for the management of the
Republican Party. Whatever you think of the outcome, representative
democracy did have a big impact last Tuesday when Dave Brat came out of
nowhere to knock Majority Leader Eric Cantor out of a job. This Thursday,
we`re going to see if representative democracy has much impact within the
Republican caucus in the House.

Republicans are basically in a bind here, they are caught between answering
the Tea Party thunder clap in Virginia and rallying around their status quo
leadership. Republicans say, the status quo is set to win on Thursday.
But even that storyline tests another assumption that I think was shredded
last week, the notion that GOP leaders are good are predicting in counting
votes. And as the status quo, Wall Street Republicans say they have the
votes for Kevin McCarthy to replace Cantor on Thursday, some are pointing
to their rush. That rush itself as a sign of weakness.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: McCarthy is a big favorite to win on Thursday which
traces the question, if the Tea Party was powerful enough to knock Cantor
off, why does it lack the power to name his successor?

REP. TOM PRICE (R), GEORGIA: Well, the length of time of this campaign,
the election that will be held for the majority leader in the House of
Representatives, is just a week long. So it tends to favor those
individuals that have the apparatus in place and therefore I think it tends
to favor Kevin McCarthy.


MELBER: You can hear it there. Those individuals that have the apparatus
in place. That`s just a reference to the current GOP House leaders. The
team, of course, rejected by conservatives at the voting booth just last
week. And as they dash to hold this vote before their energetic grassroots
Tea Party rivals might rally around an alternative, in this equation
McCarthy basically equals Cantor, swapping old for old. And well, just
about any other alternative equals Dave Brat. The more that that word or
that storyline gets out, the more that House leaders here risk alienating
their base, which they of course need to be very energized in November.

And today conservative blogger Eric Erickson argued the establishment`s
rush here to close ranks is actually going to bring even more division and
even more of those scary primary challenges to incumbent Republicans. He
writes, the House Republican Conference dismissing the voters of Virginia
as an anomaly in the Eric Cantor race and rapid consolidation behind Kevin
McCarthy has been a goldmine for conservatives in runoffs. Conservative
activists who typically give 25 bucks are suddenly emboldened to give 250.
They`re mad as hell. The House GOP going so quickly for Kevin McCarthy and
stacking the deck for him is one of the most useful things they could have
done for conservative insurgents who do make do make it to runoffs.

Now, one conservative insurgent who has emerged as a would-be Dave Brat in
this leadership fight is Tea Party Congressman Raul Labrador, the Idaho
Congressman won one of those defender of liberty awards for a perfect 100
percent score in the ACU`s Congressional ratings. Other honorees include
Ted Cruz and Michele Bachmann if you want a snapshot of what that kind of
100 percent club is. He did vote against the fiscal cliff deal and against
funding the government after the shutdown. Now, he`s campaigning openly
for the job.

Tonight, MSNBC obtained a letter he is sending around to colleagues arguing
that, quote, "Promoting by acclamation a member of the very Washington
leadership that`s failed to bridge the divide with Republicans outside
Washington struck me as exactly the wrong response." The simple fact, he
writes, "is Republicans will never again unite the country until we first
unite our party." He`s talking of course about uniting it along right-wing

Now, conservative Bill Kristol says, House GOP leaders are confident they
can beat back this kind of challenge and continue business as usual.
Quote, "the night after Eric Cantor`s defeat, the House Republican whip,
amiable Kevin McCarthy, the parent front-runner to succeed Cantor as
leader, was telling a group of lobbyists pulled together by the Chamber of
Commerce in a private room in a D.C. steak house, don`t worry, nothing much
will change, it will be business as usual in the House of Representatives.
That`s their steakhouse plan. And it certainly could be true. House
leadership races do usually go to the insiders.

But then again, tomorrow when we think about it marks the one-year
anniversary of the same House leaders lasts incorrect over a confident in
vote counting, it was then that Eric Cantor spent Tuesday at a D.C.
Starbucks assuring lobbyists he would win the day`s race by such a
commanding margin he didn`t even need to start election day in his own

Let`s discuss, joining me now Howard Dean, former Vermont governor and DNC
chairman, and David Frum, former economic speechwriter for President George
W. Bush and the founder of

Welcome to you both. Governor Dean, this is an insider fight that has a
lot more outsider pressure. What do you make of it for the Republican
Party and what face they put out will affect what the Democrats do in the

HOWARD DEAN, FORMER DNC CHAIRMAN: I think there is a battle going on
inside the Republican Party. It`s between those who want to win national
elections and those who don`t care. And those who want to make a
statement. I think Mr. Brat was somebody who wants to make a statement. I
doubt very much he would vote for anything that even looked like a
compromise with the president. And I think the Republicans, McCarthy,
Cantor, Boehner, are people who have been in Washington for a while and
they actually would like to change the views of the -- some of the
Republican Party, and the Tea Party people, because they know they can`t
win national elections unless they do.

MELBER: Yes, and David, what do you think about this? I don`t know if
you`re a big "Game of Thrones" fan. But they had the finale last night.
And one of the things that you see in the politics of "Game of Thrones" is
the process matters a lot and respect and dignity between the people
fighting matters. There is no respect here being shown for what the Tea
Party did last week by these House leaders.

DAVID FRUM, FRUMFORUM.COM: Well, the Tea Party is able to articulate a
very powerful and compelling critique of what is wrong. The problem is
they are unable to offer an alternative of what to do instead. I think
this is one of these classic cases where you have to say, look, the
democracy is about competing. The people tell you what the grievances are,
but you need competing leaders to offer constructive solutions. It really
is true that Republicans don`t like their leaders, rank and file don`t like
-- Republicans do not like their leaders. And they are expressing a lot of
the discontent that`s been floating in the country.

These have been very hard years and Republicans feel that hardship in the
same way that anybody else feels that hardship. They`re groping for
solutions. And then there are these people who come to them and say, look,
you`re not a true Republican unless you believe the following impossible
things. It would be as if Democrats right now we`re seeing their leaders
lose in primaries to people who say, you`re not a true democrat unless you
believe in universal single-payer health care and federal subsidies to
marijuana farmers and funding the military through bake sales. It can`t be
done. That`s not the answer, even though the grievances are true and

MELBER: Yes. You speak about the grievances. George will spoke about
that on Wall Street this Sunday. Take a listen to that.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cantor is the nexus between the Republicans and the
House and Wall Street. And the financial community generally. And he was
a supporter of reauthorizing the Ex-Im Bank and I think the export/import
bank, this will stun U.S. counter, play as larger role of this election as
immigration did. And they`re all part of the same conjurer of issues that
said this man is an insider, not paying attention to normal people.


MELBER: So, David, let`s say you`re right, that the Tea Party doesn`t have
the responsible alternative candidates here or a responsible alternative
vision. What about the idea that House leaders don`t even look like
they`re taking any of those economic grievances such as they are seriously?

FRUM: Well, the problem is -- I think that`s true, that they`re not. And
the Republicans have not had an effective and constructive economic
alternative. This is one of the drums I keep beating. What the
Republicans have been talking about for the past six years has been a
fiscal agenda. Having to do with how the government taxes and how the
government spends. They have not had an economic agenda which is relevant
to the concerns of everyday people. So that`s a big problem.

On the other hand, I don`t think talking about the Ex-Im Bank is pointing -
- that is another dog whistle. That is a salute to this idea that what is
wrong with the United States is that you can explain all the problems
because certain kinds of very small economic interests are getting certain
small advantages from the federal government. And as mistaken as that
might be that is not what is dragging down the wages of the American middle

MELBER: Governor Dean?

DEAN: Well, you know, I think it`s much more complicated in some ways.
The Tea Party are really frustrated, you know -- if you`re 55 years old
and you lost your job in the last recession, you either don`t have one now
still or you`re making half what you were before. They are seeing this
enormous demographic shift. People who look like them don`t run the
country anymore. The Democratic Party is this incredibly diverse party,
they are not. The Tea Party.

And so in their frustration, they lash out and refuse to take seriously any
solution of anybody. So I think that the establishment Republicans are
going to tough row to hoe here. There is no -- first of all, not only do
they not have any solutions, there is no solution that will satisfy the
Tea Party people except going back to the `60s. And I`m talking about the
1860s, not the 1960s.

MELBER: And David, how about that and that idea, that there`s a larger
cultural undertow here and that as I read, when you have bloggers like
Eric Erickson saying, great, ignore us at your peril, we`re going to run
even more primaries, and this civil war is by no means over for them.

FRUM: Look, the cultural issues are real. You cannot put an advanced
democracy both through a grinding, prolonged economic struggle and also
say, we`re going to have rapid ethnic shift at the same time. I mean,
those two things together, when countries are rich, they can accept ethnic
change. When countries -- if countries at least are homogeneous, they can
put up with suffering with more of a sense of shared understanding. But
what has happened, a lot of people see a country changing, changing in ways
that make them uncomfortable, at the same time as they are becoming worse

And it`s asking a lot of a democracy to absorb that. That`s one of the
reasons why the incumbent party, the Democrats is potentially very
vulnerable. And one of the things that makes me very frustrated as I watch
these contests is there is a powerful Republican case to articulate. That
core beliefs of the party about individual initiative and market-based
solutions, those remain powerful. But you have to modernize them in order
to make them effective. Otherwise, it`s -- the governor`s right, it would
be easy for a not very successful democratic administration to marginalize
its critics because what`s the alternative? There isn`t a practical one.

MELBER: Right, and there is a lack of an alternative vision there, and
also a lack of a real respect to the grassroots. Something actually both
parties care about, something the Republicans have claimed to want and Eric
Cantor claimed to be a Tea Party guy. It`s been fascinating to watch them
rush to avoid any meaningful Congressional discussion here as they race
toward that vote Thursday. Howard Dean and David Frum, thank you both for
joining me tonight.

DEAN: Thank you.

FRUM: Thank you.

MELBER: And coming up, North Carolina`s heading back to the capitol for
Moral Monday protests. Something we`ve been covering, what, if anything,
in another story, should the U.S. do in Iraq? We`ve got some very
interesting conversations there.

And President Obama is set to try to end the discrimination against LGBT
workers by anyone who does business with the federal government. Former
Congressman Barney Frank will be here to explain.


MELBER: Do you remember how the duck dynasty family supported Vance
McAllister for Congress, and then that was the same Vance McAllister who
became known to many as the kissing Congressman? Well now, it turns out
one of the duck dynasty cousins are running for that very same seat. Zach
Dasher, who is the nephew of Phil Robinson, announced his candidacy today.
Vance McAllister has not said whether or not he`s going to run for re-

And up next, North Carolina`s Moral Mondays turns its attention towards a
living wage. Reverend William Barber joins us, next.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Forward together!

(crowd): No more steps back!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Forward together!

(crowd): No more steps back!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Forward together!

(crowd): No more steps back!


MELBER: It is Monday. And at the North Carolina statehouse that means
it`s time for the Moral Monday protest. Today, several hundred activists
urged Republican legislators to regulate a living wage. These recurring
protests have put pressure on the legislature for its obstruction of
ObamaCare`s Medicaid funds and crackdowns on voting rights. And as we`ve
been reporting lately, the GOP legislature down there has been cracking
down on the protests themselves. It passed new rules to limit gatherings
and the type of noise that protesters can even make. About 20 people were
arrested today, although a local judge has also suspended some parts of
those new restrictions.

Mary B. McMillan of the North Carolina AFL-CIO was at the protest. She
joins me in a moment. She explained what`s at stake in a new op-ed in "The
Raleigh News and Observer," write in quote, "A devastating coal ash spill
fouls our waterways. And fracking, threatens our water supply, children as
young as 12 work our tobacco fields. Jobless North Carolinians struggle to
make ends meet on reduced and inadequate unemployment benefits. Teachers
work without pay raises, textbooks or teaching assistance. Children, the
aged and disabled are being kicked off Medicaid while hundreds of
thousands are left to get sick and die caught up in a Medicaid blockage of
lawmakers` own making. Citizens are made to overcome obstacles and
exercising their right to vote, even our right to vote, is under attack.
If we stand by and do nothing we are signing off on this moral bankruptcy."
Strong words.

And joining me now is the Reverend William Barber, head of the North
Carolina NAACP, and MaryBe McMillan from the North Carolina AFL-CIO.
Welcome to you both. MaryBe, tell us why you wrote that piece and what
you`re trying to get done here.

Union members and workers from around the state were in Raleigh today to
protest a long list of injustices and to say to our legislature that no
matter what kind of rules they invent, they cannot silence us and they
cannot hide from the truth we speak. It`s wrong to pay workers poverty
wages and then limit our right to bargain for any more. It`s wrong to
ignore the cries of the vulnerable and then rub salt in their wounds by
cutting Medicaid and unemployment benefits. It`s wrong and it`s completely

You see, we don`t believe the Koch Brother funded fear mongers who say, we
can`t pay workers more because it will cost jobs, who say, we can`t take
care of those in need because it will cost too much. We will not listen to
those who say we can`t when we know we can. We live in the richest country
in the world. Corporate profits are at their highest level in 85 years.
We can afford to pay workers a living wage. It`s time in this country that
we change the dialogue, instead of asking how much it will cost to pay
workers more, we should be asking instead how much it will cost if we

MELBER: Yes, and you mentioned the numbers there, Reverend Barber, we`ve
spoken about this before that even when the numbers are in the state`s
interests as in the Medicaid example, it seems to be sometimes Republican
politics that has stood in the way.

MCMILLAN: That`s correct.

REV. WILLIAM BARBER, NC NAACP: Well, indeed, extremist politics. Because
they`re being good -- there are good Republicans, you know, there are
Republicans who at least have the sense to, you know, do Medicaid
expansion. What we`re talking about with Tillis and Berger, McCRory is a
level of extremism just gone crazy. I mean, we are in a state where 36
percent of working people are working poor. And we`re 18 percent poverty.
And MaryBe is my great friend and she was there more than 2,000 people
gathered today, because it`s almost as though they want to just kick people
when they`re down.

All of the things that would help the working poor, they have gone after,
and then Thom Tillis tried to say he`s a moderate. They`re going after
earned income tax credit. They`ve gone after unemployment. They`ve taken
away Medicaid expansion. They`ve attacked public schools. We know
education is so critical for our poor people and working people to move
upwards and out of poverty. This is so morally, MaryBe said bankrupt and
so wrong, and that`s why so many people are rallying against -- I meet
Republicans all the time that say, listen, I didn`t vote for this.

You know, they may have voted for prayer in the school or may have voted
because they thought they were going to be against same-sex marriage or for
abortion, those hot-button issues that the White Southern Strategy often
uses to split people in the south. But what we see is a coming together
now. Because I meet Republicans, I meet people who happen to be white, and
others who say, listen, I didn`t vote for people to take my unemployment.
And to kill me by denying Medicaid expansion.


BARBER: And to close hospitals.

MELBER: And Reverend, I know you worked with Mayor Adam O`Neal on this.

BARBER: Exactly.

MELBER: And other Republicans. So, on the one hand you talk about
extremism. On the other hand you`ve been making the argument on the ground
that you work with whoever wants to make common cause here. Speak to us,
Reverend, if you would also about this larger context. You mentioned Mr.
Tillis who`s pursuing a promotion from North Carolina, North Carolina
legislature, wants to get up into Washington where they`re having their own
Republican debate right now over what happened to Eric Cantor. What do you
read, if anything, into Virginia and what the Republicans are trying to
figure out nationally?

BARBER: Well, you know, the first thing you read out of Virginia is
there`s nothing you can do to appeal and please the Tea Party extremism.
If you go extreme like Cantor they want you to be even more extreme. Here
in North Carolina, you know, we`re nonpartisan. But I`ll tell you it`s
interesting for somebody to want to be senator when they`re already
flunking as speaker. You know, that`s the real issue. He`s already hurt
North Carolinians as speaker, now wants to go further and be able to hurt
not only North Carolinians but people around the nation as senator.

We`ve actually have a study out now done by the tax and policy center that
shows that the agenda that MaryBe and the unions and NAACP and our movement
are pushing, Medicaid expansion, unemployment, you know, earned income tax
credit, all those things, living wage, is revenue-neutral. They`re trying
to say it costs $7 billion, we our study says that`s revenue neutral. It`s
their agenda that`s breaking and busting the state "Robin Hood in Reverse."
And actually they are mismanaging, and Berger and Tillis are part of this,
mismanaging not only our constitutional principles but our economic

MELBER: And let me play briefly for you, MaryBe, Ben Jealous talking about
voter registration, a big issue as part of Moral Mondays as well. Take a


BEN JEALOUS, FORMER PRESIDENT/CEO NAACP: The antidote to massive voter
suppression is massive voter registration. We as progressives have to get
back into having that conversation. That the time has come for us to
invest in massive voter registration again in the South. Because not just
the numbers of unregistered black voters but unregistered brown voters,
unregistered Asian voters. And also increasingly young voters.


JEALOUS: Right young whites.


MELBER: MaryBe, your thoughts on what you`re doing on that front before we

MCMILLAN: We`re going to organize and mobilize so that our voices echo
throughout every legislative district in this state. So from the mountains
to the sea, we will register voters. We will turn out voters. And we will
move this state and this country forward. As you heard Ben Jealous, it`s
not just about North Carolina, it`s about the south. A lot of people think
that the south is backwards. But the reality is the south is a reflection
not of our nation`s past but of our nation`s future. So it`s time for
America to decide, do they want our future to be one where workers are paid
starvation wages and our rights to vote are suppressed? It`s time for
America to decide and it`s time for workers to stand up and make their
voices heard.

MELBER: MaryBe McMillan and Reverend William Barber, thanks for telling us
about your work out there on Moral Mondays today.

BARBER: Thank you, and that`s what we`re doing, organizing the south.
Take care.

MELBER: Thank you. Take care to you as well. We are going to look at
another civil rights issue that often falls below the radar. What is
happening inside our prisons in this country? As hit TV shows like "Orange
is the New Black," prompt a broader discussion of our prison system. One
politician actually sent himself to jail, voluntarily, to see how we`re
doing. And he`s here for a "LAST WORD" exclusive. Should be interesting.

And first, as the U.S. sends about 170 troops to Baghdad for embassy
reinforcement and as the George W. Bush neocons claim they were right all
along, what is the truth on the ground in Iraq? Former Governor Howard
Dean who spoke to earlier, the first national candidate to swing the
Democratic Party against the war, he returns to help us separate some facts
from some fiction. That`s straight ahead.


MELBER: In the spotlight tonight, what should the U.S. do next in Iraq?


I`m not in favor of sending combat forces into Iraq at the moment. I don`t
see how those military objectives could be achieved without having some
people on the ground --

BILL COHEN, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: Absent that you`d have to say is
ISIS really damn enough to form into large groups to mount an assault
knowing that under those circumstances they could be targeted.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: When you have people murdering,
assassinating, in these mass massacres, you have to stop that. And you do
what you need to do if you need to try to stop it from the air or

now is feeling strong. The U.S. gets involved, it would have to accept
that it is joining a Shiite alliance against a Sunni movement joining that
alliance with Bashar Assad Syria, Iran, and Maliki`s government. That`s
what`s at stake.


MELBER: While President Obama said Friday that quote "we will not be
sending U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq," today, the president did
notify Congress that he may send up to about 275 troops who are quote
"equipped for combat," end of quote into Iraq to provide additional
security to the U.S. embassy and other facilities in Baghdad, an
understandable goal.

And yet as the violence continues to escalate, Republicans are saying it is
not George Bush`s entrance into Iraq, but rather Obama`s exit, that is
really to blame here.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I blame President Obama madly
(ph) for hands-off policy when it comes to Iraq.

REP. MIKE MCCAUL (R), TEXAS: It`s the president`s inability to negotiate a
status of forces agreement in Iraq, which has put us in this situation that
we`re in today.

that is one of the things that has led to the kind of crisis we`re seeing


MELBER: Joining us again, former governor Howard Dean, and also joining us
now, Richard Wolffe, executive editor of

Governor Dean, you were right, they were wrong. What are we to make up
what`s happening in Iraq now and this current political blame game?

Republicans have no credibility with this whatsoever. Hardly bears even
commenting on, on the kinds of things that we`ve heard from people like
Lindsey Graham. It`s just total self-serving. And it`s honestly -- it`s
just -- there`s no thought process going on there. So having disposed with
that, let`s look at what happened.

Bush sends a bunch of troops into Iraq on false pretenses. And I told you
ten years ago that this was going to result in the splitting up of Iraq
into a Kurdish, Sunni, and Shi`a segment. That`s exactly what`s happened.
I mean it`s happened. It`s not happening, it`s happened. We`re not going

Any placement of troops into Iraq, other than to protect American lives, is
absolutely foolish. And it`s not going to succeed. And I don`t believe
the president`s going to do it.

MELBER: And you say, Governor Dean, that these other folks aren`t worth
listening to, and yet Richard, the fact is as a political matter they are
being heard. Paul Bremer here with the rather phantasmagorical claim that
the only way this intricate, interstate, interreligious conflict will end
the right way is with the Americans back involved, like we haven`t tried
that take a listen.


PAUL BREMER, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: My experience, the experience
of Ryan Crocker, the experience of General Petraeus, the experience of all
of us who have been involved in this for the last decade is that only the
Americans can help the Iraqis broker across these sectarian and ethnic
lines. There is nobody else who can do it. We may regret that.


what they call in the foreign policy circles amazing chutes pa. Here is a
man who -- you know, there was one problem about colossally getting wrong
the invasion and the premise for the invasion. But Paul Bremer was almost
single handedly responsible for the unraveling of the country that followed
that, the disastrous early phase of the occupation.

Specifically, the interethnic and sectarian conflict that emerged from his
(INAUDIBLE) process, from disbanding the Iraqi army, and from trying to
take out the whole top layer, the whole elite, the Sunni elite that was
running Iraq for so long.

So it is very hard to accept his analysis of the situation and his really
blithe admonishments of this administration or any other, for that matter,
saying that they need to put troops in, they need to listen to him, and his
experience so is much better. His experience is responsible for the deaths
of thousands of Iraqi civilians. And the danger, the thing that nobody
talks about now and say, America must do this, that or the other, is
regardless of the dangers to American forces, whether on the ground or in
the air, what about the collateral damage to Iraqis who have suffered so
much already because of American intervention?

MELBER: Go ahead, Governor.

DEAN: Here`s the genie that`s been let out of the bottle. These guys have
no idea what Iraqi history is. Iraq is not a real country and it never has
been. It was held together by a horrible dictator, Saddam Hussein, with a
lot of secret apparatus to -- police apparatus and so forth.

Iraq is simply a line drawn after World War II -- I, after the collapse of
the ottoman empire. And it`s always been divided this way. And for us to
think that we`re suddenly going to put something together that for
thousands of years wasn`t together is just foolish hubris and plain

Now, do we want ISIS to be in the ascendancy? No. Do we need to recognize
that Maliki is a puppet of the Iranians? Yes. Maliki is not the solution.
He`s not the savior. He never has been. He was living in Iran in exile
for 20 years. This is a mess. This is not a mess that we ought to invest
in. We`ve done that before, 5,500 brave Americans lost their lives.
Almost 30,000 were grievously wounded. We have had enough of this country
and we ought to stay out of it.

MELBER: Yes. Governor, you talk about investment and part of the
political equation here at home is whether Americans can stomach watching
this problem dealing with the complexity of our own historic involvement.

I want to read something from Joseph (INAUDIBLE) who advises John Kerry,
among other things. He says general Colin Powell famously invoked the
pottery barn rule about Iraq. But he got it slightly. It`s not you broke
it, you own it. But you broke it, you pay for it. We broke Iraq, we paid
a huge price in lives, treasure, and legitimacy. It`s time to stop paying.

Governor, is that something that this president needs to say again and
clearly right now as Americans watch this crisis?

DEAN: Yes, as you know, I`m not always opposed to American force. I think
sometimes we do need to use force. And stopping genocide and things of
this sort. There is no American interest at stake immediately. There is
an American interest at stake if the jihadists get the upper hand. But the
Sunni rebellion is a combination of Islamic terrorism, but it`s also the
Sunni with legitimate grievances that -- based on Maliki`s attempt to
marginalize them.

So for us to get involved in this is just plain stupid. And we`ve done
stupid things before and it would be incredibly stupid to get involved in

MELBER: And so Richard, is the president then quickly take air strikes off
the table?

WOLFFE: No, I have to differ with governor Dean. There are American
interests at stake if the entire region descends into a Sunni/Shi`a civil
war across borders and throughout the region. There`s no way our interests
won`t be involved. Does that mean American forces go on the ground? Or
anywhere near it? Absolutely not. We actually conducted air support in
Libya and managed to change that situation there. It can be done with
minimal involvement but it won`t be clean and it won`t be easy.

MELBER: Right. And unlike Libya, the threat of escalation that entangles
us on the ground here I think is very real, much more real, that`s what
people are slightly concerned about.

Howard Dean, Richard Wolffe, thank you both for joining me tonight.

And coming up, how President Obama is leading the way on ending some LGBT
hiring discrimination.


MELBER: And up next, the president`s plan to end discrimination for some
LGBT workers, the man who has been leading that fight in Congress before
there were any presidential allies, former Congressman Barney Frank is here
to explain the battle ahead.


MELBER: The president is prodding Congress with another executive action,
this time moving on a nondiscrimination policy that probably has the votes
to pass, just not the urgency yet on Capitol Hill.

President Obama will sign a new executive order barring contractors who do
business with the government from discriminating against people based on
sexual orientation. In other words, if you run a company and want to fire
people for being gay, or straight for that matter, you can`t get work from
the federal government once this goes into effect.

A lot of companies do business with Uncle Sam. By one estimate this new
rule will protect 28 million workers in the U.S., or one out of five people
in the labor force. It is a start. But the other four out of five workers
are out of luck because Congress has declined to make it illegal for
businesses to fire people for being guy.

They have come close though. For years organizers have pushed the employee
nondiscrimination act called Enda with some success. Democrats got the
bill introduced by Barney Frank through the House in 2007. Then it died in
the Senate. Last year, however, it passed the Senate with 64 votes. Not
bad for today`s political gridlock environment.

But now Republicans are blocking it from a floor vote in the house. Jared
Pollis, the Colorado representative who is the only openly gay parent in
Congress, has tried to pick up where Barney Frank left off.


people in leadership positions here in Congress, elsewhere in the country,
who say, we are not in favor of discriminating against people based on
their sexual orientation. But we don`t want this law, this law will create
special rights. It is quite literally nonsense.

I feel an obligation to 15-year-olds dreading to go to school because of
the torments. To people afraid they`ll lose their job at a gas station if
someone finds out who they love. I feel an obligation to use the status I
have been lucky enough to get to help them.

It just seems to me so self-evident that an American who would like to work
and support himself or herself ought to be allowed to do that, judged
solely on his or her work ethic and talents, that I don`t know what more to


MELBER: Joining me now, an MSNBC contributor, former Massachusetts
Congressman, Barney Frank.

I don`t know what else to say either. You`ve been pushing this awhile. I
think you`ve been right on it, of course. Why don`t you share with us your
thoughts on this executive order and then how it fits into your long fight.

FRANK: The executive order is perfectly sensible and justified by one
additional factor. We`re not simply saying it`s wrong to discriminate
against people in getting a job because you don`t like who they date.

Remember, we are talking about the expenditure of federal funds. Gay,
lesbian, bisexual, transgendered people, I believe appropriately all
categories are covered by this order, pay taxes. So if a company gets a
federal contract and then says, but I don`t like lesbians, I don`t like
transgender people, I`m not going to hire them. That individual who`s the
victim of discrimination is being forced to pay for his own mistreatment.
Because it is all about taxes that go into this. And that`s the
fundamental justification.

By the way, the pattern for using executive orders to stop discrimination
goes back to John F. Kennedy. And in his administration, it was done for
race. And that was a very important point. And it continues. It is the
case, by the way, and you`re right, there are 28 million workers apparently
who work for federal contractors. Most of them are probably already
protected because the most enlightened, the most admired companies in
America already do this as a matter of good business. Because they find it
helps them attract people.

MELBER: Yes, sir. I think it would be fair to say, if you were one of
these Republicans always talking about the free market, the free market has
spoken repeatedly about the value of diversity and having a safe and happy
work environment, particularly when you think about cities like New York,
San Francisco, places that lead commerce.

On the bill itself, I want to ask you, in the short-term people are not
optimistic about this in the GOP house. But if you take the longer view,
and we`re going to put up on the screen, the number of co-sponsors for this
since you first introduced it in the house and Senate has been growing,
starting at 30, now over 56 in the Senate. Started in the low hundreds in
the house, up to 205 right now, which for Congressional junkies means
they`re only a few Congresspersons away from being able did bring it
directly to the floor if they wanted. Walk us through that. You built
that support and what`s the road ahead?

FRANK: You`re right, I should say -- well, I filed, by the way, I first
filed such a bill 42 years ago in the Massachusetts house. With the late
Congresswoman Belle who took the lead in the mid `70s in Congress before I
got there. And my friend and late colleague Paul Tsongas, who took the
lead in the Senate.

Here`s the problem. The Republican party as a matter of party policy is
dead set against anything that will be protective of gays, lesbians,
bisexual, transgender people. The party overwhelmingly opposed the repeal
of the don`t; don`t tell. They said it would cause chaos in the military.
That of course was totally untrue. They had all these myths about what
would happen if we had same-sex marriage. They`ve all been refuted.

And the fact is, it`s very clear. If that bill came to a vote on the floor
the house it would pass because you would get almost every Democrat and
enough Republicans, not a significant group but enough, to pass it. But
this is one of a number of issues where John Boehner is controlled by the
right wing. And I think probably the defeat of Eric Cantor, himself deeply
conservative, by someone to his right, probably reinforces their fear in
this regard.

MELBER: So while I have you here, let me play Governor Rick Perry on that
point and get your response, have a listen.


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.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t think gay marriage leads to cirrhosis of the
liver or domestic violence or DWIS. I don`t see how that`s similar.

PERRY: This conversation has always been about the states` rights to make
decisions on this host of issues. And the idea that somehow or other
Washington should be given total and full ability to make all these
decisions --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I get that but in terms of changing the behavior of
someone, I don`t think -- you wouldn`t think that someone who`s
heterosexual, you couldn`t change them into a homosexual, or someone
homosexual, you don`t think there should be therapy to try to change them
into a heterosexual?

PERRY: I don`t know. The fact is, we`ll leave that to the psychologists
and the doctors --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The psychologists have already weighed in, they`ve
dismissed the idea that sexual orientation is a mental disorder.


MELBER: Congressman?

FRANK: Well, let`s be very clear. It is true that Rick Perry does have a
genetic coding problem. He is coded to be pretty stupid as we remember
from the last time and he just repeats it here.

It is interesting he would cite the states` rights example. Because as I
said, the first case of the use of an executive order to prevent
discrimination, actually it goes back to World War II when the late great
labor leader A. Philip Randolph, quoted, let them march on Franklin Delano
Roosevelt to insist there be a protection for Negroes as they were then
called, African-Americans, against discrimination in employment leading up
in the war effort.

So yes, it is true that there were people who claim states had rights to
see that African-Americans were mistreated. And this is the same
principle. It`s not a case here even of states` rights. We`re talking
about federal funding. We`re talking about tax dollars that everybody
pays, including those of us who are gay and lesbian, bisexual and
transgender, and whether or not having paid the taxes to hire these
companies to do things we can be excluded from working for them.

MELBER: I hear you there. And also whether people who associate with
states` rights want to claim a state right to discriminate. That`s a
problematic position to say the least.

Former Congressman Barney Frank, thank you very much.

And coming up, why a city councilman decided to spend the weekend in


MELBER: The U.S. imprisons over two million people. That is the highest
in the world according to the prison policy initiative. And with so many
people going in and out of our prisons it`s a problem for all of us when we
mistreat inmates or send them back into society more likely to be violent
or commit crime.

Citizens and politicians don`t spend a lot of time dealing with that
although one politician just took a different tack. D.C. councilman David
Grosso spent over 20 hours in a maximum security prison near his district
in Maryland to get a firsthand sense of life behind bars.

Reflecting on the experience, he says, quote, "the next time a bill before
me on the D.C. council includes criminal sanctions I`ll look at it in a new
light because I`ve seen up close what it means to require someone to spend
time in jail."

Joining me now is David Grosso, an independent at-large member of the
Washington, D.C. city council.

Good evening. Tell us about what it was like there in jail for you.

DAVID GROSSO, WASHINGTON D.C. COUNCIL: Good evening, Ari. And thanks for
having me on.

You know, it was an opportunity for me to go into the prison and meet with
the inmates and spend really quality time with the inmates, trying to
understand what it meant to be there and what it meant to have that kind of
violence surrounding you every single day.

And what I really realized as I was there was that there`s not a whole lot
of reform going on, not a whole lot of kind of help to get these people
past where they were that put them in prison in the first place. And so,
it`s a real struggle. And how do we deal with that?

You know, I`m in the district of Columbia. We have thousands of our
residents returning back from prison every year. And you have to ask
yourself, as a local politician, what does that mean for my community, and
how do I prepare best to welcome these return citizens back to the city,
and what`s happening in the prisons is not just and it`s a clear violation
of human rights.

These folks are sentenced to their term for the crime they committed. Many
nonviolent offenders who go in nonviolently, for whatever, often because of
the war on drugs, and come out a different person because they had nothing
to there to help them get past what they were dealing with in the prison

MELBER: Yes. You didn`t just do this as a policy exercise, you did it as
you wrote, a personal exercise, the differences between you and some of the
folks in the prisons in Washington, D.C., you`re a politician, they`re not.
You have a job, they don`t. Wealth and class and personal life may be a
difference. Also race. You`re white, 91 percent of the prison population
in Washington, D.C. is black.

GROSSO: That`s right. And really, the policies that have been in place
for decade asks decades in this country, not just in the district but
throughout the country, have put a disproportionate impact on African-
Americans. The war on drugs is just one example.

We also have the whole school to prison pipeline issue that`s extremely
important to note. The fact that suspensions and expulsions in inner city
schools is rampant. We had a study done last year here in the district.
And believe it or not we actually had 181 pre-K3 and pre-K4 kids suspended
from class. That just starts them down the path of feeling unwelcome in
society and ultimately perhaps puts them in position I found a lot of these
inmates were in, one who is only 19-years-old who is facing 10 years for
nonviolent owe offense, but was a repeat offender so had a mandatory

MELBER: Right. And as you say, criminalizing behavior that in different
generations and frankly, some different communities, we treat as youthful
indiscretions and try to set kids back on the right road.

Thank you for being here. You get tonight`s "Last Word" and appreciate you
sharing that experience.

GROSSO: Well, thank you so much for including me and I hope we can get the
word out that prison reform is absolutely necessary.

MELBER: Yes, sir.

I am Ari Melber, in for Lawrence O`Donnell. Thanks for watching. You can
also find me on Facebook at And you can find
Lawrence, of course, and the whole "Last Word" team also on Check as both out if you have the time.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


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