'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Thursday, October 9th, 2014
Read the transcript to the Thursday show
Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
Date: October 9, 2014
Guest: Joycelyn Elders, Mark Follman, Dale Ho, Sam Harris, Maria
Chappelle-Nadal, Matt Pierce
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Well, as most of you know by now, there
was a big brawl on Bill Maher`s show on Friday night, and none of them were
even drinking yet. The man who got it all started is my first guest
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An explosive exchange.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Friday night`s hated exchange.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Actor Ben Affleck, TV host Bill Maher and author Sam
Harris had an explosive exchange.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hot debate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should we be able to criticize Islam?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have to be able to criticize bad ideas. Islam at
this point is the mother lode of bad ideas.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What Sam Harris said was outrageous.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do think it`s racist.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s gross and racist.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s gross. It`s racist.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s not. But it`s so not.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need to get beyond this shallow debate.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is what Islam is. This is what Muslim people
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s ISIS. There`s global jihadists.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Muslims are this, or the Muslims are that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How about more than a billion people that are
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The conversation will no doubt continue.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will certainly continue for better and for worse.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re not listening to what we are saying.
O`DONNELL: It`s not often that a TV talk show argument gets talked about
more than a few minutes after that TV show ends. But a batch of articles
continue to appear today, including Nick Kristof`s in "The New York Times,"
about the argument that Ben Affleck and Nick Kristof had with Bill Maher
and Sam Harris on Bill Maher show on Friday night, an argument that Nick
Kristof said today was, quote, "a TV brawl."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAM HARRIS, AUTHOR: We have been sold this meme of Islamaphobia where
every criticism of the doctrine of Islam gets conflated with bigotry toward
Muslims as people and that is intellectually ridiculous.
BEN AFFLECK, ACTOR: It`s gross, it`s racist.
BILL MAHER, TV HOST: It`s not. But it`s so not. It`s so not.
AFFLECK: It`s like saying a shifty Jew.
MAHER: You`re not listening to what we are saying.
AFFLECK: You guys are saying, if you want to be liberals, believe in
liberal principles, freedom of speech, like, you know, we are endowed by
our forefather with inalienable, like all men are created equal.
HARRIS: Ben, we have to be able to criticize bad ideas.
AFFLECK: Of course we do. No liberal doesn`t want --
HARRIS: But Islam at this moment is the mother lode of bad ideas at the
MAHER: That`s just a fact.
HARRIS: There are hundreds of millions of Muslims who are nominal Muslims
who don`t take the faith seriously, who don`t want to kill apostates, who
are horrified by ISIS, and we need to defend these people, prop them up and
let them reform.
AFFLECK: ISIS couldn`t fill a double a ballpark in Charleston, Virginia,
and you`re making a career --
HARRIS: It`s all jihadists. It`s global, it`s the phenomenon of global
NICK KRISTOF, NYT: This is such a caricature of Indonesia, of Malaysia, of
so much of the world and this does have the tinge a little bit of the way
white racists talk about African-Americans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now is Sam Harris, whose new book is "Waking Up: A
Guide to Spirituality Without Religion." His first book, "The End of
Faith," won the 2005 PEN Award of NonFiction.
Sam, I want to give you the rules of discussion on this show. When I shout
over you, you must immediately stop and agree with me, OK, in order to
continue the discussion.
HARRIS: I will do my best. You`re even harder than Ben Affleck.
O`DONNELL: It is, it`s going to be a tough one.
So, you know, I`ve been reading what nick Kristof has written about this
today and what other critics of you have written about this today, and
there`s something fascinating in every one of those articles. And that is
how much they agree with you.
I want to read you a passage from Nick Kristof`s column today, and this is
something that I swear if it had no author`s name on it, I would expect to
see the name Sam Harris somewhere near it.
He says, "Today, the Islamic world includes a strain that truly is
disproportionately in tolerant and oppressive. Barbarians in the Islamic
State cite their faith as the reason for their monstrous behavior, most
recently beheading a British aid worker devoted to saving Muslim lives and
give all Islam a bad name. Moreover, of the 10 bottom-ranking countries in
the World Economic Forum`s report on women`s rights, nine are majority
Muslim. In Afghanistan, Jordan and Egypt, more than three-quarters of
Muslims favor the death penalty for Muslims who renounce their faith,
according to a Pew Survey. The persecution of Christians, Ahmadis,
Yazidis, Bahai, and Shiites is far too common in the Islamic world."
And, Sam, when I read that, and I listen to that discussion on Friday
night, it seems the key line in it is when Bill Maher said, "You`re not
listening to us", and I think that`s easy to happen in those TV back and
O`DONNELL: But it`s so interesting how much you all actually agree, where
the areas of agreement actually are.
HARRIS: Well, the irony is even when someone like Nick Kristof thinks he`s
not agreeing with me, he`s actually proving my point. So, he`s arguing
that we`re not acknowledging all the people who are making heroic efforts
to reform the faith, or to criticize so-called extremism, but then he goes
on to say how much courage this takes because their lives are in danger in
dozens of Muslim countries merely for advocating for human rights, which,
of course, proves my point.
The point is that there is a -- what we`re calling radical Islam or
extremist Islam or fundamentalist Islam is massively well-subscribed in the
Muslim world. There are reams of polling data to attest to this, mostly
the Pew polls, but also Gallup polls.
And so, he`ll cite a country like Indonesia as being the poster child for
Muslim moderation. And it is. It is moderate compared to Pakistan or
Sudan or Saudi Arabia, but 70 percent of Indonesians want to live under
Sharia law, and when you ask specific questions about what sorts of
punishments they want enforced, 40 percent want adulterers stoned to death.
Now, it`s true only 16 percent want apostates stoned to death, but that`s
the best -- more or less the best results you get on that question in the
Muslim world, with the exception of the place like Albania.
So, when you look at any of the specific questions, and this is my
argument, that specific beliefs have consequences, you have a really
terrifying level of subscription to very scary ideas like apostates should
be killed, or blasphemer should be killed, or the Danish cartoonist should
have been killed or prosecuted.
These are -- in many, many countries, these numbers are up around 70
percent, 80 percent in places like Pakistan, and we have to talk honestly
about it. This is not the fringe of the fringe. This is mainstream. It
may not be mainstream in Los Angeles or New York, but it is mainstream
worldwide for Islam.
O`DONNELL: Well, there`s always a huge gap between beliefs and acting on
beliefs I think in this kind of arena in particular. And so, that`s
another part of this that I think the other side of the debate that you`re
in, which is I say, is with people who largely agree with you includes, I
think, that notion, that they feel on their side of the table that you are
saying that these people -- that poll says, therefore, that Indonesians are
ready to go out there and behead people.
HARRIS: Well, you know, this is something I asked in the green room after
our fight on the panel. In response to Nick and Ben`s point that there are
so many people who stand up against ISIS, there have been demonstrations,
there`s a #notinourname.
But I asked both of them, what would happen if we had burned a Koran on
tonight`s show? They knew what would happen. There would be riots in
scores of countries. Embassies would likely burn, people would certainly
get killed, and we would spend the rest of our lives hiding from theocrats,
under a credible threat of death.
Now, that`s just a fact. It`s a fact that neither of them would deny. And
yet, what we have in response to ISIS, ISIS who is crucifying people on the
side of the road, raping women by the thousands, torturing women and
burying children alive, in the name of Islam, we have a hashtag and we have
some demonstrations. Now, I support the hash tag, I support those
demonstrations, but we need a groundswell of repudiation of this kind of
And the problem is, and I`m not denying that some people repudiate it, and
many millions of Muslims are horrified, but the problem is, ISIS is
behaving in a way that is sanctioned by a literal reading of the Koran and
the Hadith. You can take sex slaves among the infidels. You should cut
the infidels` heads off.
This is a plausible version of the faith, and it`s not a plausible version
of Buddhism. So, the comparison to the Buddhists who are in Myanmar now
killing Muslims is facile one because these Buddhists are killing Muslims,
it`s horrible, it is a sign of tribal violence, but it is not a sign of the
honest implementation of the doctrine of Buddhism. You can`t find anywhere
in the Pali canon that tells you to go destroy the lives of innocent
That is something that ISIS is doing, and they are doing it very much in a
paint by numbers way, and the challenge is for Muslims to speak honestly
about this and to reform the faith, find a way of contextualizing these
beliefs and reinterpret them. And there are Muslims who are doing that.
Irshad Manji is doing that, Maajid Nawaz is doing that. I totally support
But the Muslims who get on television, people like Reza Aslan and the
liberal apologists like Glenn Greenwald and Nicholas Kristof who say that
this has nothing to do with Islam, ISIS, or al Qaeda, they`re just playing
hide the ball with the articles of faith. And I think that`s dishonest and
ultimately dangerous for all of us.
O`DONNELL: Well, one of the things they`re saying, Sam, is there are many
articles of faith in the Koran and in the Bible, and there are passages in
the Bible that say, you know, the penalty for adultery is death.
HARRIS: That`s true.
O`DONNELL: And there are passages in the Koran that say you should not
kill anyone, and then there are other passages that say for certain reasons
But, you mentioned Reza Aslan, here`s what he wrote about this -- about
your -- in writing about your argument on television under the headline,
"Bill Maher is not the only one who misunderstands religion." Under that
he writes, "People of faith are far too eager to distance themselves from
extremists in their community, often denying that religious violence has
any religious motivation whatsoever. This is a especially true of
HARRIS: Yes, I saw that.
O`DONNELL: Now, Sam, if I saw Bill`s name attached to that or if I saw
your name attached to that, I would think, yes, that`s pretty much what
HARRIS: Well, I give Reza credit for making that point. I think that was
in response to the blog post I wrote the day before. But he usually
doesn`t make that point, and there are many things in his article that take
that point back.
For instance, he says that no religion is intrinsically violent, it`s all a
matter of interpretation, and Buddhism is just as potentially violent as
Islam and cited the Burmese Buddhists and all of that just muddied the
message. The basic point that most people want to believe is that all
religions are equally benign or equally irrelevant. They are more or less
teach the same thing when they`re wise, they teach the same things when
they`re not wise.
And for the most part, people -- good people will be good and bad people
will be bad with or without religion. And that -- it`s all a matter of
politics and culture and economics, and religion has never really pulling
the strings of human behavior. Nobody is really blowing themselves up in a
crowd of children because they think they`re going to get to paradise and
get 72 virgins.
The problem is everything I said in that paragraph is false, and we have to
grapple with this fact. People really believe these things. And they are
really motivated by their beliefs.
And if you believe Koran is the perfect word that created the universe, it
is absolutely rational to hate the infidel, to think the infidel is going
to just burn in hell for eternity, and that`s a good thing because God
wants it that way and you should spread to the one true faith to the ends
of the earth and you are in a perpetual state of war against unbelievers.
That is -- that is arguably one of the central messages of the Koran. It`s
not the only message, as you point out, and there are a few lines like
there`s no compulsion in religion, for instance, which you can hold up
against that tide of animosity and reformist Muslims have to do that. But
they have -- they don`t have as many tools as we want them to have and we
just have to speak honestly about that. And we have to encourage liberal
voices in the Muslim world.
O`DONNELL: Sam, I think one of the things we are talking about here or
that`s involved here is the maturation curves of religions. Christendom
was once a pretty murderous operation.
O`DONNELL: The Inquisition was all about murdering people for not being
good Christians and not being convincing Christians after they had
converted. Just conversion wasn`t good enough and so -- but what happened
after some point was that Christianity matured out of that thinking and
they matured out of thinking that the penalty for not observing the Sabbath
should be death.
And so, no one is killed anywhere in the world now for not observing the
Sabbath. No one is stoned to death for that anymore.
O`DONNELL: So I guess what I`m looking at when I look at this situation
now with these fanatical interpretations of passage of the Koran is, when
and how will that same maturation curve be followed in Islam?
HARRIS: Well, the first thing to point out is we don`t have centuries to
wait for this process. It took centuries, as you say.
HARRIS: And it was based on the collision with science and secular human
rights and secular ethics. It took a long time. We need to hasten this
process through honest conversation.
O`DONNELL: And, I mean, another part of it is it simply became unbearable
in Western society. That was another one of the factors. It was
unbearable to live like this. Here in this country, burning witches at the
stake in my home state of Massachusetts.
HARRIS: Yes, and I should point out that no one is suffering under the
excesses of Islamic dogmatism more than Muslims. The Muslims of the world
who are suffering this, far more than the West is and it`s out of
compassion for them that we should try to inspire a renaissance and a
reformation in the Muslim world.
O`DONNELL: Sam Harris, thank you very much for joining me tonight, and I
wanted to make sure you were able to finish your sentences tonight.
HARRIS: Yes. Thank you so much, Lawrence. It`s a pleasure.
O`DONNELL: Thanks, Sam.
Coming up, new protests over another police shooting in the St. Louis area.
And in "The Rewrite" tonight, a forgotten political prediction. A very big
one. But we have the video and it will make people who voted for President
Obama`s reelection an awful lot happier than people who voted for the other
And, who -- I mean, who would ever think of making angry comedian Louis
Black an ambassador? If there is anyone out there with worse diplomatic
skills than Louis Black, please step forward. The man who wants to make
Louis Black an ambassador will join me later.
O`DONNELL: There is a new round of protests in Missouri after a new police
shooting there and a planned weekend protest in the killing of Michael
Brown. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: It`s been two months since Michael Brown, an unarmed black
teenager, was shot six times and killed by a white police officer.
Tonight, protesters gathered in Ferguson, Missouri to begin a four-day
weekend of protests against police violence.
But at this hour, protests are happening 12 miles south of Ferguson, where
last night, an off-duty police officer shot and killed 18-year-old
Vonderrit Myers sparking a separate bursts of protests in the streets of
But unlike the Michael Brown case, St. Louis police say they recovered a.9-
millimeter handgun from the crime scene that they say was used by Vonderrit
Myers in the confrontation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAM DOTSON, ST. LOUIS POLICE CHIEF: The suspect pointed a gun at the
officer and fired at least three rounds at the police officer. We believe
this to be true because there were three projectiles that we recovered,
with trajectories going towards the officer, down the hill. And one piece
of ballistic evidence located behind the officer.
At that point, the officer returned fire. As the officer moved towards the
suspect, the suspect continued to pull the trigger on his gun. Once we
recovered the gun, we learned that that gun malfunctioned and it was
jammed. So, even after the suspect fired three shots at the officer, he
continued to pull that, the officer returned fire as he was being shot at.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The officer who was working as a security guard for a private
company at the time fired 17 shots, hitting Vonderrit Myers five to seven
times, according to the autopsy report. Court records indicate that Myers
was on house arrest and awaiting trial on a gun charge. Myers` family says
he was carrying only a sandwich, not a gun. His mother told the
"Associated Press", "Police lie. They lied about Michael Brown, too."
Earlier tonight, St. Louis mayor told Chris Hayes that the Department of
Justice will be involved in the investigation of this case.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP
MAYOR FRANCIS SLAY, ST. LOUIS, MO: We understand that there was high level
of emotions, particularly at the heels of what happened with the shooting
of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. So, this was handled carefully and
very deliberately, and we think that helped but, you know, we understand
that there is still a high level of emotion and anger. So, what we do from
now matters and we want to make sure that we do this right, that we get it
right. That`s important.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now from Ferguson, Missouri, is MSNBC`s Trymaine
Lee, and Missouri State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal, who represents
Ferguson in Missouri`s 14th district. And on the phone from St. Louis, St.
Louis` Shaw neighborhood is Matt Pierce, an "L.A. Times" national reporter.
Matt Pierce, first of all to Shaw, the reaction -- the police reaction to
this shooting and the response to it, anyway, their openness about the
information about it seems to be very different than what happened in
MATT PIERCE, L.A. TIMES (via telephone): Yes, I think that`s true. You
saw the police try to release an account of what happened with the shooting
as soon as possible the night it happened. We saw further details released
And I think they probably learned a lesson from what happened in Ferguson
in which you saw information trickle out pretty slowly and the officer`s
name was released until several days later. We haven`t seen the officer`s
name released here, but we did get a relatively full narrative of what
police believe happened, which has sort of smoothed this process along for
You know, the family disagrees with the police narrative of what happened.
They say Vonderrit Myers just had a sandwich in his hand, not a gun, but
they`re going to be meeting with officials tomorrow to talk about where
this process goes next. I think this is a little smoother than what
happened in Ferguson.
O`DONNELL: Senator, about 30 years ago, a police captain told me that
situations that happened to Michael Brown, the way he described it, he
said, police officers can do something in a matter of seconds that sour the
community for a generation. And that may be part of what we`re seeing
tonight, where the shooting in Shaw may have been a good police shooting by
the rule book according to the law, but it`s very difficult to have that be
the first impulse of any community there after what they know happened to
STATE SEN. MARIA CHAPPELLE-NADAL (D), MISSOURI: You`re exactly right, and
what people are saying on the ground right now is the excessive use of the
gun, 16 shots, 17 shots, was truly more than what was necessary. And what
my constituents, as well as people in the region are thinking right now,
why is it that another young man is being killed?
And so, what is really important right now is that we get all of the facts,
and there are multiple stories that are going around in social media, and
we just have to really be careful about that. But the wounds are still
there, people are still angry, they`re still hurt, so that is what you feel
in the air right now.
O`DONNELL: Trymaine Lee, what was the plan -- before this shooting in
Shaw, what was the plan for Ferguson this weekend and how might it be
changed because of this shooting?
TRYMAINE LEE, MSNBC NATIONAL REPORTER: Organizers had hoped that people
descending from all over the country here to Ferguson would highlight that
the issues concerning, especially young black men and their relationship
with the police, is not just about what`s happening in Ferguson, or a
municipality next door, or even St. Louis.
So, by bringing everyone to this city, on two months anniversary almost of
Michael Brown`s killing, they want to highlight that. But what we`re
seeing in St. Louis now is an extension of what`s going on in Ferguson
every single night, at this point right across in the police station.
People have been out here beating the drum and in raising the call again
for what they believe will be justice for Mike Brown, which is again an
arrest of Darren Wilson. So, organizers again hope to bring everyone here
to bring that sound loud and clear, that they want an arrest and they want
an indictment. They want justice.
O`DONNELL: Senator, do you see a difference in the way the police and
local officials handled the immediate aftermath of the shooting of Mike
Brown versus what we`re now seeing in this most recent shooting?
CHAPPELLE-NADAL: Well, you know, there have been actually two shootings in
St. Louis City at this point, and I have to say that I`m very proud of the
St. Louis police department for being very transparent and open with all of
the facts. That is a difference with what has happened in Ferguson where
people didn`t know what the truth was.
And so, I think part of all of what is going on is that they have been
open, and as a result of that, people who live in St. Louis City haven`t
been as angered as people who live in Ferguson. And that I`m very happy
O`DONNELL: We actually have some live video coming in from Shaw and from
people moving in the streets there.
Matt Pierce, is there any indication that the police there intend to
enforce some kind of rules on the protesters in terms of their behavior?
PIERCE: You know, honestly, the response has been way different from what
we saw in Ferguson. In Ferguson, we saw lines of riot police in the
street, SWAT teams. When you`re standing in the crowd at Shaw, all you can
see in the distance are police lights. You couldn`t actually, they`re so
far away, you couldn`t actually see any officers. There is a police
They`re really keeping their distance here in St. Louis City. And keep in
mind if it`s a separate agency, they`re the ones who primarily handled the
demonstrations in Ferguson which were, you know, St. Louis County and then
Missouri Highway Patrol came in to organize things. So, this is a
different agency and we`re seeing a little different response, more hands
O`DONNELL: Yes, it`s a good point. The video coverage we have right now,
I don`t see any police officers in the shot anywhere. It`s a very, very
different atmosphere from what we saw in Ferguson during those early
protests. We`re going to stay with that and come back to it if anything
MSNBC`s Trymaine Lee, Missouri State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal, thank
you for joining me. Also, Matt Pierce of "The L.A. Times", thank you for
Coming up, what has the surgeon general said or done about Ebola? That`s
kind of a trick question. A former surgeon general, Joycelyn Elders, you
remember her, will join me next.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: In the spotlight tonight, now even Ebola
has politics surrounding it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Political correctness has caused us to
underplay, you know, the threat of Ebola.
REINCE PRIEBUS, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: The IRS, Syria,
Ebola, the secret service. I mean, what`s going well, when regard to this
REP. THOM TILLIS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Senator Hagan has failed the people
of North Carolina and the nation by not securing our border. Ladies and
gentlemen, we`ve got an Ebola outbreak. We have bad actors that can come
across the border.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: It has been 11 months since President Obama nominated Vivek
Murthy to be the Surgeon General of the United States, but Doctor Murthy`s
nomination is being blocked in the Senate.
Here is a clue about why the good doctor is having a bit of trouble getting
confirmed. A couple of years ago, he tweeted this. "Tired of politicians
playing politics with guns, putting lives at risk because they`re scared of
NRA. Guns are a health care issue."
Today, House Republicans agreed to authorize $700 million in funding
requested by President Obama to support the Ebola fight in West Africa, but
Republican Senator James Inhofe is now blocking approval of that in the
Senate, saying that the defense budget is already stretched too thin.
Officials will start screening passengers arriving from West Africa at five
major American airports, following the death of Thomas Eric Duncan
yesterday, a Liberian man, who travel to Texas and was then diagnosed with
Ebola. The Dallas county sheriff deputy who was briefly inside the home,
Mister Duncan was visiting, tested negative for Ebola and was release from
the hospital today. The current Ebola outbreak, the largest in history has
killed more than 3,800 people.
Joining me now is Mark Follman, Senior Editor of "Mother Jones" and Doctor
Joycelyn Elders, former U.S. Surgeon General.
Doctor Elders, welcome back to Washington via the satellite hookup that
you`re on right now. I`m sure you don`t miss Washington, but tell us if we
had a surgeon general today, what role would the surgeon general be playing
in this crisis, including informing the president and keeping the president
alert as to exactly what the various options are?
DOCTOR JOYCELYN ELDERS, FORMER U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: I think the role of a
surgeon general is, first of all, to make sure that every American citizen
has the best health possible. And we need to make sure that we promote
good health practices, prevent disease and make sure that the president and
the Congress is well informed of what they need to do to keep America
And now we are all very concerned about Ebola. We do not have a drug that
we know that will take care of this virus. And one of the things that`s
wonderful, it`s not very contagious, that is, it`s not spread through air,
it has to be spread through body fluid, like urine, saliva, blood, sweat,
feces. But we`ve to end -- we can get it early. It`s usually not
contagious until the person becomes -- has symptoms. So that`s wonderful.
But if we don`t start early, this disease -- this virus kills 50 percent,
at least 50 percent, of all of its victims. And so far we`ve been losing a
lot of health care professionals because they come into the emergency room,
they come in contact with them, so we need to educate our people that this
virus is one that can be contained if we follow the rules.
That is, we`ve got to identify the patients. We`ve got to do trace contact
-- contact tracing, so that we can notify people, and then we`ve got to do
everything we can to keep everybody healthy. And this is of what we need
to educate our people. We`ve got to educate, educate, educate.
O`DONNELL: Mark Foolman, it seems that for some politicians, anyway, this
is an opportunity to turn this into a political issue, and one of the
things that has already been turned into a political issue, more than we
have seen before, is simply the confirmation of a surgeon general, which
predates the problem we have right now.
But we`ve had surgeon general`s like Doctor Elders and others in the past
who were kind of -- who are pretty well known, pretty famous faces on
American television so that when a crisis like this would come up, they
could go and speak to television audiences in a way that felt familiar to
them. We don`t have that person in our public life now.
MARK FOLLMAN, SENIOR EDITOR, MOTHER JONES: Right, and I think the fact
that we don`t is reason for legitimate concern. It`s been raised in recent
weeks, and of course we don`t have a surgeon general because Obama`s
nomination of Doctor Vivek Murthy -- Murthy -- excuse me -- was torpedoed
in the spring in the Senate, because of him raising the guns issue as a
public health issue.
And you know, I think the context of the NRA in this particular situation
runs a bit deeper than people may even realize the reason that people are
legitimately concerned. That we don`t have a surgeon general right now to
speak with a voice and authority about an issue that`s potentially great
concern to the country, is the very reason that I think the NRA went so
aggressively after Doctor Murthy and his nomination.
You know, at the time, people talked a lot about the politics of it, more
in the context of business as usual. But I think really the NRA
legitimately feared Doctor Murthy because he was a powerful voice of
authority on guns as a public health issue.
O`DONNELL: Mark Follman, thanks for joining us tonight. And Doctor
Elders, it`s been an honor to welcome you back in to the Washington
discussion. Thank you very much for joining us tonight.
ELDERS: Thank you for having me.
FOLLMAN: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, I`ve got something for you that you`re going to need
in your next argument with your Republican uncle. That`s on the "rewrite".
And later, Ambassador Lewis Black. That`s right. The angriest man in the
world, Lewis Black, is going to show off his diplomatic skills.
O`DONNELL: This is live coverage of where protesters are in Shaw. The
Shaw neighborhood of St. Louis, protesting the shooting death of 18-year-
old Vonderrit Myers.
Very different response to by police to what we saw in Ferguson. Police
are giving this protesters room.
We will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANN HART COULTER, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE SOCIAL/ POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: If
we don`t run Chris Christie, Romney will be the nominee and we`ll lose.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: In the "rewrite" tonight, political predictions. And yes, as
you know, that is one of my favorite political predictions ever. Ann
Coulter saying, if Romney is the nominee, we`ll lose. There`s so much to
love about that political prediction.
First of all, that it was true. But the other great thing about that
political prediction, like so many political predictions, is that the
author of this political prediction rewrote it instead of sticking with it.
And finally, in this case being right about something.
Ann Coulter eventually switched to being a Romney cheerleader on what she -
- on what she formerly so sure was going to be the sinking ship of the
Romney presidential campaign. And so that, doubles the fun of rerunning
her prediction about Romney become the nominee and losing.
Political commentators like Ann Coulter make much more colorful predictions
than politicians do, especially politicians named Romney. The only
colorful things Mitt Romney has ever said are all on his gaffe reel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY, FORMER REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Ten thousand bucks?
I love this country. I should love this state. This feels good, being
back in Michigan. You know, the other trees are the right height.
I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.
I`m in this race because I care about Americans. I`m not concerned about
the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I will fix
I was a severely conservative Republican Governor.
Corporations are people, my friend.
Any old girlfriend`s here. I have to be careful. Ann`s not here today.
Who let the dogs out? Who? Who?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Please, please run again.
Here is a Mitt Romney prediction from May of 2012 that is easily
forgettable, not just because Mitt Romney said it. But just because it`s
such a boring sounding, off the shelf politician`s prediction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: I can tell you that over a period of four years, by virtue of the
policies that we put in place, we get the unemployment down to six percent
and perhaps a little lower.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: OK. So there is Mitt Romney saying that if he was elected
president the unemployment rate would go down to six percent at the end of
2016, a little over two years from now. Now I know what you`re thinking.
We didn`t elect Mitt Romney so the unemployment rate is never going to go
This is just -- this is what the Bureau of Labor statistics has just
reported, actually, they reported this over a week ago. That in the last
month, the unemployment rate declined to 5.9 percent. That is a full two
years ahead of when Mitt Romney promised his economic plan would get us
down to a six percent unemployment rate.
Now, if you got in arguments with your Republican uncle during the last
presidential campaign about which candidate was going to be better for the
economy, please go to our Web site, thelastword@MSNBC.com after the show
and get the link to this segment that you are watching right now. And send
that link to your Republican uncle, so he can hear Mitt Romney saying, in
his own words, that if you give him a full four years in the presidency,
the unemployment rate would go down to six percent.
And so your Republican uncle can also learn that the unemployment rate is
now 5.9 percent after just two years of the Obama second term. Because
when your Republican uncle was telling you that the Romney economic plan
was better, he didn`t just mean for the rich, he meant better for everyone,
including the unemployed. That`s what Mitt Romney always said. His
economic plan was better for everyone.
Now, very few Republican uncles are going to be converted to Liberal
Democrats after watching this segment. OK, none of them are, but at least
you get the satisfaction of a very clear and very important "I told you
And give your Republican uncle a big hug from me at thanksgiving.
O`DONNELL: A programming note at this hour tomorrow, right here on MSNBC.
You will be watching the "2014 American Latino American Media Arts Awards"
which celebrate Latino American achievement in music, television and film.
MSNBC`s Alex Wagner hosts the post-game coverage after the "ALMAs" starting
at 11:00 p.m. Eastern.
Up next, the angriest ambassador in the world, Ambassador Lewis Black.
O`DONNELL: We have breaking Supreme Court news tonight. The United States
Supreme Court has blocked the state of Wisconsin for implementing a law
requiring voters to present photo I.D. And in Texas, a federal judge has
blocked that state voters` I.D. law ruling that the law amounted to
unconstitutional poll tax.
A spokesman for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is also the
Republican candidate for governor, says the state will appeal.
Tonight`s decisions on voting rights are surely good news for comedian
Louis Black, who is now celebrity Ambassador Lewis Black, thanks to the
American Civil Liberties Union.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
DALE HO, DIRECTOR, ACLU VOTING PROJECT: Thanks a lot for agreeing to be
here as celebrity ambassador on voting rights, Lewis. We`ll try to make
this photo shoot as painless as possible.
LEWIS BLACK, AMERICAN COMEDIAN: But no photo shoot is painless, but I`m
happy to help. It`s important, I mean, who is denying people the right to
HO: You would be surprised. We`re fighting people trying to suppressed
voting all over the country. Unlike in North Carolina, they slash the week
of early voting that affects over two million people.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. Can I just get you to look at the lens?
BLACK: Why stop people from voting early?
HO: Well, early voting makes it easier to vote and that can decide an
Here, this is the picture I carry around with me everywhere I go in case I
got a chance to talk about early voting. Look at that line.
BLACK: What the hell is that? Is it black Friday? I mean, you think that
the people of Florida would want their voters to, like, you know vote?
What`s next, the poll tax?
HO: Well --
BLACK: No (bleep) way.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE)
HO: Voter I.D. like they tried to implement in Wisconsin costs money. It
essentially is a poll tax. And look what they made Wisconsinites do just
to get one of these I.D. cards. This is an actual document from the state
of Wisconsin, which is supposed to show how easy it is to get an I.D.
BLACK: This looks like a chart showing how tough it is for a sperm to find
a fertilized egg, which explains why it`s so tired when it finally gets
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right guys?
BLACK: Elected officials shouldn`t get to choose who gets chooses election
officials. Look, people marched and fought and died for the right to vote
and they want to legislate away that sacrifices to stay in power? Not on
my watch, baby.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If I can --
BLACK: Take the picture!
O`DONNELL: Joining me now is the director of the ACLU`s voting rights
project and Lewis Black co-star, Dale Ho.
Dale, that must have been, maybe the most fun you`ve had on the job.
HO: It was a lot of fun. It was a tremendous pleasure to work with Lewis.
And -- but the day like today are pretty fun, too, when you get the Supreme
Court stepping in and stopping a voter I.D. law from going into effect in
Wisconsin. And you get another judge in Texas stopping that states I.D.
law. So it`s been a pretty good day, I`d say.
O`DONNELL: Well, yes, I going to say, these federal judges do seem to be
seeing those laws pretty clearly for what they are.
HO: Well, you know, there was evidence at our trial that 300,000 voters
didn`t have -- registered voters in Wisconsin didn`t have one of these
forms of I.D. and that hundreds of voters in this election had already cast
And what the Seventh Circuit Court Of Appeals try to do was let Wisconsin
change the rules of the game in an election that was already under way.
They were going to invalidate those ballots that had already been cast.
Unfortunately, the Supreme Court saw through that and realized it was an
absolutely crazy thing to do in the middle of an election.
O`DONNELL: And what -- it seems though yet you see is two courts going in
this direction tonight. It`s hard to imagine that they -- that`s not where
the momentum now is.
HO: Well, it feels good.
HO: And I hope the facts -- I hope that you know bears out to be the case.
What we have from the Supreme Court today isn`t a final ruling, though. I
think we should make that clear. The question that was before the court
was only whether or not this law in Wisconsin could be implemented in time
for the November election. And the Supreme Court said no, not right now,
but we`re going to wait and we`re going to hear the merits of this case
So we don`t have a final ruling, and I think it would be silly to think we
have this thing in the bag right now, but it definitely avoids us and puts
some wind in our sails.
O`DONNELL: Now, Lewis Black has written an open letter with your guidance
to politicians, who were trying to restrict voting rights. I`m going to
read from it. I`m not going to do Lewis Black, OK? I`m just going to read
To all politicians who have ever tried to block access to voting, what the
hell is the matter with you people? You need to get your head on straight.
The cornerstone of this great country is the right to vote and you should
be fighting to make sure that every citizen who can vote does, and instead
you`re creating obstacles for voters. Well, that makes a lot of sense,
And I cannot read the rest of it even with those little, you know,
profanity stars in.
So, Dale, you know -- as you`re in one of those situations, anything you
can to get the message out, and Lewis Black seems to be a pretty helpful
HO: Yes. He did. He did a great job and like I said it was a tremendous
-- tremendous pleasure having the chance to work with him.
O`DONNELL: Dale Ho, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I really
HO: Thanks a lot, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes is up next.
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