'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Thursday, November 6th, 2014
Read the transcript to the Thursday show
Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
Date: November 6, 2014
Guest: Chris Murphy, Richard Blumenthal, Aaron Hicklin, Stuart Milk
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Well, it`s Person of the Year Time and
"The Advocate" magazine is the first one out of the gate. The editorial
director Of "The Advocate" will join me exclusively to reveal the Person of
But first, what should Democrats in the Senate do now?
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Hope springs eternal.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: John Boehner returned to Capitol Hill this morning.
BOEHNER: I missed you all.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And he wasted no time coming at the president.
BOEHNER: You play with matches, you take the risk of burning yourself.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It almost sounds like the honeymoon is over before it
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of people scratching heads today.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: McConnell and Boehner still talking about repealing
BOEHNER: The House, I`m sure, at some point next year, will move to repeal
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Both sides seem to be on their heels.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What`s going to be different?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hope and change, that`s the Republican message.
JON STEWART, COMEDIAN: The Republicans can`t claim that as their message.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, they can! Yes, they can!
BOEHNER: Finding common grounds can be hard work.
STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: Are you Democrats going to finally just get out
of the way? Stop being such obstructionists?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They do have this meeting tomorrow.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president is set to host the highest-ranking
members from both parties.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just a beginning of a lot of outreach.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can the dueling parties really find common ground?
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I think you`ll see an end to gridlock.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: Let`s see if we can put together
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: It doesn`t mean we have to
be in perpetual conflict.
STEWART: Who the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) are you people?
O`DONNELL: Fourteen leaders of the House and Senate are heading to the
White House tomorrow for their first meeting with President Obama since the
election. Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid are virtually assured of being
elected as majority and minority leaders of the Senate.
But there are some Senate Democrats who are refusing to say that they will
vote for Harry Reid as their leader.
Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota told "The Washington Post", quote,
"I think we`re going to have a discussion about how we move forward, and I
think until we have that discussion, I don`t think anyone should be making
any judgments about leadership."
West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin expressed frustration with Harry Reid`s
leadership, saying in "The Washington Post", quote, "Harry, let us vote.
Let`s do something. It`s easier for me to go home and explain what I voted
for and against than to explain why I don`t vote at all."
Senator Angus King, an independent from Maine who said he would caucus with
the Democrats once again, refused today to answer whether he would vote for
Harry Reid as minority leader. Senator King said, quote, "I can only make
one hard decision a day."
Speaker of the House John Boehner said this about his relationship with
President Obama today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: Listen, I`ve told the president before, he needs to put politics
aside and rebuild trust. And rebuilding trust not only with the American
people but with the American people`s representative here in the United
So, my job is not to get along with the president just to get along with
him, although we actually have a nice relationship. The fact is: my job is
listening to my members, and listen to the American people and make their
priorities our priorities.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now, two Democratic senators, Senator Richard
Blumenthal of Connecticut and Senator Chris Murphy also of Connecticut.
Senator Blumenthal, first to you, is Harry Reid in trouble with his caucus
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: I don`t think that Harry Reid is
really in trouble. I will support him. I think others will.
But there does need to be a serious conversation about our strategy going
forward. And one of the lessons this round of elections is that we really
need to embrace our principles, stay true to our convictions. Democrats
who ran away from those core principles didn`t do any better because of it.
And there were victories for the minimum wage in four states, for gun
safety measures in the state of Washington. The result in Colorado showed
that the reproductive rights issue is very much on our side.
So, I think there is a basis for hope here and a strategy going forward
that stays true to our principles and convictions.
O`DONNELL: Senator Murphy, Mitch McConnell ran an obstructionist roadblock
on his side of the Senate here for the last few years, the likes of which
we`ve never seen.
Harry Reid found himself filing more cloture motions to end debate and move
forward than any other majority leader in history. Will the Democrats now
simply turn the tables on the Republicans and play the game on the minority
side exactly the way the Republicans have?
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: Listen, I hope the lesson for this is
not that you get rewarded politically for total and complete utter
obstruction of the process. I think we`re just going to have to pick our
battles. I mean, I`m not going to give an inch, for instance, on repeal of
the health care reform law, a law that`s working for millions of people all
across the country.
But are there places we can talk to each other? Is tax reform a place
where there might be common grounds? Absolutely.
I just don`t want to get into a cycle here where the minority is at
perpetually every corner and turn using the filibuster to stop debate from
Listen, I think we would benefit from having some votes, because what we
found, as Senator Blumenthal mentioned is the American people are with us
on minimum wage rights, they`re with us on infrastructure spending. So,
let`s have some -- and listen, they`re with us on the health care reform.
They don`t want it repealed.
I don`t think they would be hurt by having votes on issues to show some
differences between the two parties that maybe weren`t really made clear
over the last couple of years.
O`DONNELL: Let me go to that giving an inch on the Affordable Care Act,
Senator Murphy. It will no doubt be brought up by Mitch McConnell, I
suspect once and not more than once, of a vote on the full repeal of the
Affordable Care Act just to fulfill that -- or take that Republican dream
as far as it can go.
My question to you when you say don`t give an inch is, will you oppose the
motion to proceed? Will you try to prevent the Republicans from actually
getting a vote on the full repeal in the Senate?
MURPHY: Listen, I`ll use every tool at my disposal to make sure we
preserve the Affordable Care Act. This is as important as it gets for the
people in my state.
Connecticut has cut in half the last six months the number of people
without insurance. And the reason that you largely saw it disappear from
Republican campaigns is that they know that it`s working by every available
metric. So I think you`re right that they don`t want to fight over this
for the next two years, because they see the growing support for it. But I
think that`s one of the issues of which we should use every tactic
available to us to shut it down before it gets to the point of compromising
anybody`s health care.
O`DONNELL: So, Senator Blumenthal, what I`m hearing from Senator Murphy is
on this one, on repeal of the Accordable Care Act, the Democrats will use
what was the Republican strategy for the last few years. They will try --
Democrats will prevent that from even coming to a vote?
BLUMENTHAL: I strongly oppose the filibuster, especially the abuse of the
filibuster. It`s not so much the us, it`s really the abuse that was the
trademark of the Republicans in the last session. We`re still in that
But I would use, as Senator Murphy said, every tool at our disposal. The
rules are the rules. And the Affordable Care Act I think is an issue that
will disappear. It`s working in Kentucky, it`s working in Connecticut.
Soon, it will be working across the country. And as much as they want to
propose incremental changes, I think it will disappear as an issue.
My hope is, on tax reform, on immigration reform, on campus sexual assault,
where there are already coalitions, bipartisan coalitions. We passed
immigration reform once. We have strong bipartisan support for a measure
on campus sexual assault. On transportation infrastructure, there`s
already a bill for infrastructure that would not only rebuild our roads and
bridges and railroads, but also provide more jobs. And on veterans`
issues, we passed a bill and we have another bill in the works, a more
omnibus measure that has bipartisan support.
I think there are real opportunities for Republicans to join in governance,
not obstructionism, which has been their modus operandi. Whether they`re
willing and able -- and I think able is a key question here -- to be
cohesive, given their apparent disunity coming out of this election, I
think is the big question.
O`DONNELL: It is a big question. And the "National Review" has weighed in
on this, a conservative publication. I want to read you what they`ve
written, what they call for Republicans, the governing trap.
It says, "The desire to prove Republicans can govern also makes them
hostage to their opponents in the Democratic Party and the media. It
empowers Senator Harry Reid whose dethroning was in large measure the point
of the election. If the Republicans proclaim they have to govern now, they
run Congress, they maximize the incentive for the Democrats to filibuster
all they can and for President Obama to veto the reminder, then the
Democrats will explain that the Republicans are too extreme to get anything
Senator Murphy, if a Republican on the Senate floor were to show you that
editorial, that advice from the "National Review", and that Republican was
thinking that he or she agrees with that, that they should not get into the
governing trap, what would you say to that Republican?
MURPHY: Well, I think this going to be a legitimate issue for them. I
think a lot of them came to Washington in order to destroy it from within,
often, to do that, all you need to do is neglect the government, is to not
pass reauthorizations of legislation, to shut down the government for
periods of time, to let it atrophy.
So, I think there`s going to be a lot of pressure on the Republican
majority to walk away. But here`s my advice. I think that we` perpetually
caught in an electoral cycle, whoever is perceived to be in the power is
gong to bear the brunt of the voter`s anger, because they perceive nothing
happening in Washington that`s relevant to their lives.
So, if I`m a Republican political consultant, I would tell them to try to
govern. I would tell them to try to govern and reach out across the aisle,
because it may be the only way to preserve yourself as a political majority
these days is to actually do bipartisan deals. Otherwise, we may just be
stuck in a political and electoral cycle in which the bums are thrown out
every two years because people are sick and tired of business as usual down
O`DONNELL: Senator Blumenthal, what`s your sense of Mitch McConnell? I
think the big question right now is what does Mitch McConnell really wants
to do? Decades ago, he`s been there for decades. And decades ago, he was
one of the cooperative working Republicans on that side of the aisle,
compromise with Democrats to get things done, knew how to do that.
Is it your sense that he would like to try to reach back to that? Which is
a separate question, which is will he be able to? What is in his heart?
What would he like to be able to do as leader and then what will his caucus
allow him to do?
BLUMENTHAL: Well, there are two roles that I think I`m very ill equipped
to perform. One is to be a Republican consultant. And the other is to be
a psychoanalyst and try to perceive what`s in Mitch McConnell`s mind or in
his heart for that matter.
But I do think in the long run -- jobs, economic growth, driving the
economy forward, providing skill training, meeting the needs of our
veterans, providing more infrastructure, given that he niece this position
of power to which he has aspired for so long, there is something about
legacy here, and about rising above party. I hope that he is equal to that
task. I hope it`s part of his dream or aspirations. Certainly, we`ve come
there, Senator Murphy and I to govern, not to make message points or
But Senator Murphy is absolutely right. There is a group that has come to
Washington to try to drown government in the bath water, so to speak. And
they can do it, either by refusing reauthorizations or by trying to
strangle revenue, which is ultimately the way the government is run and
needs to be funded. And we may well have a fight on our hands with that
fringe minority of the majority now in the United States Senate that may be
beyond Mitch McConnell`s control.
That has been the lesson on the House side. And I hope it is not repeated
in the Senate.
O`DONNELL: Senator Murphy, quickly, before we go -- your impression of
Mitch McConnell and where he stands now. Former Democratic leader of the
Senate, Tom Daschle, has said he knows Mitch McConnell worked with him in
the Senate. And he personally any way is betting that Mitch McConnell is
actually going to rise to the occasion and be the kind of responsible
Republican leader that we have seen in previous generations in the Senate.
MURPHY: Well, I think we have experience to draw on here. These are the
same things people said about John Boehner. People said, well, John
Boehner is a deal maker. He has a history of working with Democrats and
what happened? He ultimately decided it wasn`t worthwhile to take on the
right wing Tea Party minority within his caucus and I worry that that`s
going to repeat itself with Mitch McConnell.
He is a deal maker, but ultimately Boehner wasn`t willing to take on his
fringe. That may be the way that McConnell goes as well. We`ll see.
O`DONNELL: Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, thank you both
very much for joining me tonight.
MURPHY: Thanks a lot.
BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
Coming up, why Republican strategists were surprised that Democrats ran
away from President Obama and his accomplishments?
And Washington, D.C. voted to legalize marijuana, but will Congress
overrule those voters?
And the gay rights magazine, "The Advocate" has chosen their person of the
year. The editorial director of "The Advocate" will join us with the big
reveal, exclusively right here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Last night at approximately 11:27 Eastern Time, the
Republicans gained control of the U.S. Senate. And results were almost
immediate, the economy now growing in a robust 3.5 percent. Gas this
morning, under 3 bucks a gallon. Look, the stock market at record levels.
Deficits cut in half. Ten million more Americans had health insurance.
STEWART: That is incredibly impressive lists you ticked off of what
happened under Obama and the Democratic Senate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, please, John, if Democrats did all that, they would
have been out there bragging about it for months. It would have been the
central message of their campaign, instead of their actual message, which
was like -- I`m quoting here, "We`re sorry, don`t be mad. We don`t like
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now is MSNBC political analyst and "Washington Post"
columnist, E.J. Dionne.
E.J., along that line from "The Daily Show", I want to read to you some
quotes from Republican strategists, their analysis of why Democrats lost.
This is Rob Collins. He`s the executive director of the National
Republican Senatorial Committee. He said this about Democratic candidates:
"They were so focused on independence that they forgot they had a base.
They left their base behind. They became Republican-lite. I can`t
remember a Democrat who spent any kind of money in a significant way
talking about the economy. If I had a choice between talking about the
number one issue we saw in every single poll," by which he means the
economy, "and talking about a single issue, I would be talking about the
number one issue."
E.J., it`s as if we are hearing from a disgruntled liberal in the
Democratic Party when you listen to that Republican strategist.
E.J. DIONNE, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, you know, the Democrats were kind
of tied themselves up in knots on the economy, because as that skit showed,
there is a lot of progress to be described and particularly when you
consider that when Obama took office, the economy was collapsing and now
it`s growing again. But a lot of pollster, including a lot of liberals
say, wait a minute, if we brag too much about the economy, people won`t --
will think that we`re out of touch because there are a lot of people
hurting out there. Wages are stagnating, which they are.
And so, what they never did, it`s almost like instead of solving that
problem, which is to say here`s all the progress, we`ve made. And by the
way, if the Republicans had gotten their way, we wouldn`t have been able to
do these things, so don`t elect them, but we know there are these other
problems and that`s what we`ve got to deal with next.
They could never get their act together to brag about what they could brag
about and at the same time feel -- you know, speak to that discontent that
was out there. So, they had little bits and pieces of an economic message
here and there about minimum wage and equal pay, but they let the
Republicans have a national "we hate Obama" message and nothing strong
enough to push back.
O`DONNELL: Here`s another Republican strategist Brad Dayspring with the
National Republican Senate Campaign Committee. He said, "If you are
running to Mark Udall`s campaign, there`s an argument to be made that
unemployment was higher when he took office. There`s an argument that gas
prices were higher when they took office. But they never made it. They
stuck to a flawed strategy that talked about birth control and abortions
through the election. That was something we never understood."
E.J., it`s always fascinating after these things to find out what was the
other side thinking when they were watching your campaign? And that view -
- again the view of the Udall campaign from Republicans saying, why didn`t
they expand this message into the Democratic successes?
DIONNE: You know, after the `92 campaign, I got wind of a memo that Stan
Greenberg had written, then-Bill Clinton`s adviser, that was -- the
campaign he would have run against Bill Clinton. I said I want to see it.
He said I`m not going to give it to you until after the election, because
my campaign is better than the campaign Bush is running. And so it`s too
bad these Republicans didn`t leak these talking points to the Democrats
before the election happened.
But I do think that the Democrats going forward have to learn from this,
from this election, which is they did not have a coherent argument that: A,
sort of talked about what they accomplished, talked about the fact that you
needed government to act to accomplish these things. They`re so afraid of
defending government`s role. But that`s their central argument, that
government can do things.
And at the same time, talk about how are they going to lift up people`s
wages. How are they going to solve this problem of economic stagnation?
And when the number one issue is the economy and you`re talking about a lot
of other stuff, it`s a problem. And in the red states, I think there was a
particular fear that anything that sounded vaguely Obama was going to hurt
those candidates. So, it kind of pulled them back from talking about
anything that might have helped them.
O`DONNELL: E.J., we just happen to have a 41-second statement that the
Democrats could have used in their campaign, running the positive kind of
campaign, the accomplishments-oriented campaign that the Republican
strategists feared that they might. And those 41 seconds were delivered by
President Obama yesterday. Let`s listen to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This country has made real
progress since the crisis six years ago. The fact is, more Americans are
working. Unemployment has come down. More Americans have health
Manufacturing has grown. Our deficits have shrunk. Our dependence on
foreign oil is down, as are gas prices.
Our graduation rates are up. Our businesses aren`t just creating jobs at
the fastest pace since the 1990s, our economy is outpacing most of the
But we just got to keep at it until every American feels the gains of a
growing economy where it matters most, and that`s in their own lives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: E.J., if you lived in the states bombarded by TV ads and
campaigns, you wouldn`t know any of those things, except that gas prices
have gone down, and the only reason you would know that is because you went
into a gas station to get some gas.
DIONNE: You know, President Obama gave a speech kind of like that before
the election that I actually wrote a column about, because I`ve been
personally obsessed with this problem, how do you deal with the two halves
of the economic equation -- lots of progress, but stagnating wages. But
Democrats just didn`t want to pick up on that.
And the problem is that when one side is attacking your guy and your side
is not defending him, then the argument that`s out there for people is
almost an entirely negative argument. So that voters in these states heard
a ton of negative stuff about the president and not enough coming back at
them to say, wait a minute, he`s really not that bad.
O`DONNELL: And way better than not that bad.
DIONNE: Right, exactly.
O`DONNELL: E.J. Dionne, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
DIONNE: Good to be with you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, guess which president of the United States Fidel
Castro considered his friend?
But first, who has "The Advocate" named as the Person of the Year? We have
that reveal coming up exclusively. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: In the "Spotlight" tonight: Person of the Year. It`s Person of
the Year season once again. "Time" magazine created the concept back in
1927, choosing Charles Lindbergh as his first Man of the Year because it
was inconceivable that a woman would be chosen back then. Since then,
"Time`s" most notable picks have included Adolf Hitler, wasn`t chosen for
being admired. John F. Kennedy, and Mark Zuckerberg.
"The Advocate" magazine is their first out of the gate with their pick for
Person of the Year.
And joining me now, for the big reveal of this year`s Person of the Year,
is "The Advocate`s" editorial director, Aaron Hicklin. Aaron, first of
all, I would like to reveal some of the runners-up because it shows what an
incredibly tough year you had in making this choice.
Among the finalists -- Tim Cook, --
AARON HICKLIN, DIRECTOR, "THE ADVOCATE": Uh-hmm.
O`DONNELL: -- Laverne Cox, Michael Sam -- a history-maker, Neil Patrick
Harris, Ellen Page, Robin Roberts, it goes on. Very tough year to make
this choice, isn`t it.
I mean, what a year. And, I think, increasingly, and I`ve been to -- I`ve
been in LGBT media for some time now. Just the diversity of role models
that are emerging is phenomenal.
Some of these people weren`t even on our radar --
HICKLIN: -- a year ago. People like Michael Sam, for example, who has
really blazed a path for athletes, out-athletes in sport. You know, it`s
incredible that we now have a CEO of a major company like Apple out, just
showing that the glass ceiling is there to be broken for young LGBT people
who want to see role models like these. We haven`t had these role models.
Any of these people could have been our Person of the Year.
O`DONNELL: But, in the end, after all that deliberation, the Person of the
Year for "The Advocate" is --
HICKLIN: Drum roll.
HICKLIN: Vladimir Putin.
O`DONNELL: Vladimir Putin.
This strikes me as one of those "Time" magazine-type choices where this is
not about admiration. And there, we see a little -- could we get that
cover back up there -- because we see the echo, basically, of the "Time`s"
O`DONNELL: -- making Hitler Man of the Year with that little -- putting
that print right in the mustache spot.
HICKLIN: Uh-hmm. You know, it`s very easy to celebrate people and we do
that all the time. It`s a really important role for "The Advocate," to
celebrate "Advocate," to embrace people who are really leading by example.
But, sometimes, I think, we also have to shine a spotlight on people who
misuse power. And, you know, Vladimir Putin, through his rhetoric and his
words, has made Russia a very tough place to be if you`re an LGBT person.
I think I saw a statistics somewhere that only one percent of LGBT Russians
are out and transparent about their lives. It`s shocking statistics, if
true. And, I think, none of that is helped by Putin`s rhetoric.
And this is a man who grudgingly welcomed gay people to the Sochi Olympics
by saying, "You`re welcome here as long as you don`t touch children." That
kind of really reminds me personally of the kind of ancient Russian blood
rival against Jews. I mean, when you start using your children as a kind
of -- as a kind of political weapon in that way, you really demonize the
O`DONNELL: We are now going to be joined by an "Advocate" reader. And
Stuart Milk is the President of the Harvey-Milk Foundation. Stuart, what
do you think of the choice.
STUART MILK, PRESIDENT, HARVEY-MILK FOUNDATION: Well, you know, I`m torn.
On the one hand, I like the fact that we are talking about global rights of
people, are interested in what`s happening globally and around the world.
The part that concerns me is that there`s a whole list of folks who are, I
would say, equal to Vladimir Putin in terms of his using, for political
expediency, minorities, including LGBT minorities.
You know, last year, this time, India had not -- had decriminalized same-
sex relationships. So, that`s been re-criminalized, so you could have had
the Indian Supreme Court.
The president had just pointed out -- put Russia, Hungary and Egypt
together in a speech in New York, pointing out to the constant onslaught on
civil rights and civil liberties and civil society in those countries. So,
those are -- those are places that have equally harsh degradation of LGBT
people and other minority groups.
So, you could put Prime Minister Ubon (ph) on that list as well. You know
-- so, part of -- the part that I`m also concerned about is that the
average Russian will not see this "Advocate" article.
But this gives, unfortunately, the Russian President the ability to say,
"Look, I`m doing my work. The west and a gay publication from the west is
picking on me. And that shows I`m standing up for this cultural
authenticity" that he`s always talking about, which is, again, just a cheap
form of political expediency to strike at people`s fear, to strike at
discrimination that`s in that whole region, not just Russia but parts of
the E.U. that LGBT people are not visible. So, the one percent that may be
out, that`s not just Russia.
That`s a whole region where people are not visible. And, therefore, no one
knows a person who`s LGBT. And, unfortunately, as the article talked
about, you know, this is not something that, unfortunately, is going to
It`s a cultural bias. And we have a lot of work to do but this, at the end
of the day, I think, will be used by Putin to point to his so-called
success in protecting Russians from western thought.
O`DONNELL: Aaron, obviously, this is a controversial choice and you knew
you`re going to get reactions like Stuart`s and others. I`m sure there`ll
be other reactions to it. What about Stuart`s point there about "Is this
good for Putin," "Does this actually help him domestically."
HICKLIN: First of all, I just want to say, clearly, there are many
villains we could have chosen for Person of the Year.
O`DONNELL: Yes, yes.
HICKLIN: Equally, there are many champions. I mean making that decision
is very hard. I think, by his rhetoric and his language, Putin was a very
obvious choice for us.
Yes, I think, the LGBT community is being used as a kind of totem that the
west represents. And we are against the west, therefore, we`re against
LGBT -- values and equality.
But, for me, this is about also appeasement. And that`s why we referenced
that famous "Time" cover of Hitler because, I think, you know, by appeasing
Putin, by appeasing Russia, we`re essentially saying it`s OK, we kind of
want what`s going to connive in his mistreatment of our LGBT population.
That`s really the point of this cover.
O`DONNELL: Well, the controversy will continue. It started right here
tonight. Aaron Hicklin and Stuart Milk, thank you both very much for
joining me tonight.
HICKLIN: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, a very special "Rewrite" about a couple of guys who
taught us a lot about how to enjoy life while pretending to teach us about
O`DONNELL: A few years ago, when composer, Leonard Bernstein`s son, Alex,
called in to a radio show to get advice about his car, this happened.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RAY MAGLIOZZI, NPR RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: You`re not ruining your car.
Well, you are ruining your car.
TOM MAGLIOZZI, NPR RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: No, don`t tell him that.
RAY MAGLIOZZI: We could be honest. Alex is an adult. He can take it.
You are. But, in the long run, what`s the difference.
You`re never going to break yourself off this habit, so it`s better that we
just tag you that you`re not ruining your car and you can go off happy and
just keep doing what you`re doing.
Yes, just forget you ever called us.
TOM MAGLIOZZI: But if nothing else, it will remind you, every time you
double-clutch, it will remind you of that wonderful summer you spent in
ALEX BERNSTEIN, LEONARD BERNSTEIN`S SON: Yes.
TOM MAGLIOZZI: It will remind you of your dad --
TOM MAGLIOZZI: -- and the joy he`s brought to everyone.
RAY MAGLIOZZI: Yes. And that`s --
TOM MAGLIOZZI: And that`s the reason why you should continue to do it.
RAY MAGLIOZZI: And, in fact, I think, everyone who has a manual
transmission should double-clutch in honor of --
BERNSTEIN: Oh, I love it.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: I first heard the lovable Boston-accented voices of Click and
Clack, the "Car Talk" co-hosts when they were on local Boston radio. Ten
years after they started on Boston University`s radio station, they went
national in 1987 on NPR and rewrote the mission of NPR from informative to
entertaining, at least, during "Car Talk."
In the 35-year run of "Car Talk," it became the most successful show in NPR
history. If you are having a problem with your car, you could listen to
"Car Talk" in the hope that you would hear a solution.
And if you didn`t own a car, you could listen to "Car Talk" for the fun.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RAY MAGLIOZZI: Don, somebody who`s the bridge manager.
TOM MAGLIOZZI: Hello, Don.
DON, CALLER: Hello, Gail.
TOM MAGLIOZZI: Oh, this is cruel.
GAIL, CALLER: My goodness. Really, I was ready to pay the two dollars and
I didn`t --
TOM MAGLIOZZI: Yes, sure.
DON: Gail, we chased you for four miles and you didn`t stop.
TOM MAGLIOZZI: No, wait a minute. Don, who are you really, Don.
DON: I`m the bridge manager at the Betsy Ross Bridge.
TOM MAGLIOZZI: You really are.
DON: I really am.
GAIL: Oh, my God.
DON: And if we don`t get this two dollars fast, we might have to close
this bridge up.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The brothers` real names are Tom and Ray Magliozzi. I remember
being surprised to discover that they were both graduates of MIT --
surprised because MIT certainly doesn`t think of itself as being in the
business of turning out car mechanics.
When Tom and Ray were invited back to MIT in 1999 as distinguished
graduates to deliver the commencement address, Tom, 12 years older than
Ray, told the story of how "Car Talk" got started because of a near-death
experience that Tom had when he was driving to work near Boston to one of
those jobs that MIT graduates are supposed to have -- an engineer in a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM MAGLIOZZI: I was driving in a little MG, weighed about 50 pounds. And
on Route 128, I was cut off by a semi. And I almost, as they say, bought
And as I continued my drive, I said to myself, "If I had, in fact, bought
the farm back out there on Route 128, how ticked off would I be that I had
spent all my life, that I can remember at least, going to this job, living
a life of quiet desperation."
So, I pulled into the parking lot, walked into my boss` office and I quit
on the spot.
RAY MAGLIOZZI: So, now, most people would have just bought a bigger car.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Tom decided to open a do-it-yourself auto repair shop and Ray
joined him in that business. And then Tom was invited to appear on a WBUR
radio show as a guest to talk about car repair.
The next week, he was invited back as guest on the same show and he brought
his little brother with him. And soon after that, they were offered their
own show on WBUR.
The brothers had no idea how to host a radio host and WBUR had no one to
teach them, so they decided to watch the co-hosts of the show that was on
right before them.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RAY MAGLIOZZI: We would watch them through the glass and we would see how
far away from the microphone they sat. And we noticed that they wore
And we noticed that they pressed the lighted buttons on the phone to talk
to callers. And so we patterned ourselves after what they did.
TOM MAGLIOZZI: And I`m proud to say that after 23 or 4 years on the radio,
we have learned absolutely nothing.
TOM MAGLIOZZI: No, it`s absolutely the truth. I mean, people say, "Tell
us about radio." We have no idea.
TOM MAGLIOZZI: We sit in front of the microphones and we know nothing
about radio, nothing.
RAY MAGLIOZZI: We`ve never made any attempt to learn anything either. And
we do laugh a lot -- well, too much sometimes. And I`m sure people
TOM MAGLIOZZI: Oh, plenty.
RAY MAGLIOZZI: And there are many people who can`t stand us because --
TOM MAGLIOZZI: Oh, my wife is one of them.
RAY MAGLIOZZI: -- my brother laughs so much. That`s right. Well, that
goes without saying.
RAY MAGLIOZZI: Which wife?
RAY MAGLIOZZI: All of them.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: In their MIT Commencement address, they tried to reach the MIT
graduates who they suspected were feeling what Tom and Ray were secretly
feeling on their MIT graduation days.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAY MAGLIOZZI: Most of you will leave here today with a pretty good idea
of where you`re going and what you`re going to do. Some of you have no
clue. And you`ll just have to move back in with your parents if they if
they haven`t rented out your room already. But others among you may have
charted a course or had one charted for you that you know is wrong.
You may feel creative energy coursing through your body, don`t ignore it.
If you feel the urge to create and discover and to do something that will
bring you fulfillment and happiness, do it now while you`re young.
You will never have more energy or enthusiasm, hair or brain cells than you
have today. Did you know, when Albert Einstein was less than half my age,
he was already world famous for his special theory of Relativity.
When Isaac Newton was less than half my age, he was already famous for
having invented Calculus and he pretty much had written your entire 801
Physics textbook. Mozart, when he was half my brother`s age, had been dead
for three years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: You can still reruns of "Car Talk" on NPR but the show actually
stopped production two years ago. And, now, we know why. Tom had
On Monday, Tom died. NPR released a statement saying the cause was
complication from Alzheimer`s disease. Tom was 77 years old.
Tom once hoped for immortality. And in a story the brothers told at the
end of their commencement address at MIT, Tom asked a mysterious wise man
who, of course, they called "Deepak," how he could live forever.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAY MAGLIOZZI: Tommy and I go to him from time to time to learn the
answers to weighty questions like "What is the meaning of life," "What are
next week`s winning lottery numbers going to be?"
And we went to him recently and Tommy and I sat with him. And Tom asked
him how he could attain immortality.
Deepak sat for a minute, got up and turned off the TV. "Baywatch" had just
And he said, "My son, if you wish to attain immortality, you must do the
following -- you must work hard every day, seven days a week, never taking
time off. You must attend no social functions. You must not smoke. You
must not drink. And you must not go with women."
Never had we received such a definitive answer to any of our questions. We
were astounded. And Tommy asked --
TOM MAGLIOZZI: I say to Deepak, "You mean if I do those things, I will
RAY MAGLIOZZI: "Oh no, my son," he said, "it will just seem like forever."
Have fun, enjoy the ride and don`t drive like my brother. Congratulations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Ray told the MIT graduates that day, "I just want to encourage
you to never get so involved in your work, whatever it is, that you forget
to have fun." Ray`s big brother never forgot to have fun.
O`DONNELL: On this day in history, November 6th, Fidel Castro wrote a
letter to the President of the United States, calling him "My Good Friend."
Fidel Castro was 12 years old.
The president was Franklin Delano Roosevelt and it was the day after
President Roosevelt was reelected in 1940. Fidel Castro wrote in English,
"My good friend, Roosevelt. I don`t know very English but I know as much
as write to you. I like to hear the radio and I am very happy because I
heard in it that you will be president for a new period."
"If you like, give me a 10 dollars bill, green American, in the letter
because never I have not seen a 10 dollars bill green American and I would
like to have one them."
Fidel signed the letter -- Your friend, Fidel Castro. And then, in a P.S.
he added this to the president -- "If you want iron to make your ships, I
will show you the biggest mine of iron of the land." Fidel never got his
10 dollars but he did get a form letter from the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": Legally, when you`re down
doing your job, you know, and after hours, legally, you guys could all get
together and smoke pot.
FMR. SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: We could.
COLBERT: You could.
GILLIBRAND: We could.
COLBERT: Maybe that would help. Maybe you and Mitch McConnell get
And I`m not saying -- I don`t smoke pot but maybe you guys could smoke pot.
And like you`re like, "What are we talking about? You`re cool. I love
you," you know -- you know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Stephen`s suggestions of foster bipartisanship in the Senate might not be
as easy as he made it sound. Here to tell us why, MSNBC Contributor and
"New York Times" reporter, Josh Barrow. Josh, so D.C. voted to, basically,
JOSH BARRO, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Right.
O`DONNELL: What happens next.
BARRO: Well, so the thing is, then all of the laws that are made in the
District of Columbia are really basically at the whim of Congress. There`s
a law that was passed in 1973, giving the district home rule.
Before that, basically, all of its laws were made by Congress.
And so, Congress has, in many cases, over the last 40 years, put things in
appropriations, bills, or other pieces of legislation that basically say,
"Well, D.C. passed this law but, not really. We`re going to override it. "
They did that, for example, with a domestic partnership law that the
district passed in 1992 before gay marriage was really on the agenda in any
states. For 10 years, they`ve locked implementation of that.
They`ve done that with needle exchange and a variety of other things. Even
the law limiting the heights of buildings in the District of Columbia is a
federal law. Congress would have to repeal that if the district ever
decided it wanted to allow taller buildings.
O`DONNELL: And Congress can do this whenever it wants, right.
BARRO: Congress could repeal the home rule law entirely if it wanted to
take away --
O`DONNELL: No, but on the pot thing.
BARRO: Right, right. Yes.
O`DONNELL: It`s been voted in by the voters.
O`DONNELL: Congress can act to, basically, make that inoperative whenever
they feel like.
BARRO: Right. And, typically, it would be done in an appropriations bill.
It would have to pass both the House and the Senate and then the President
will have to sign it. So, my expectation is they probably will not over
overrule it. Andy Harris who`s a Republican congressman from Maryland has
been saying very loudly that he`s going to fight very hard to get it
And the argument is a little bit stronger than it usually is with laws in
this district. Because you can say, well, they`ll sell marijuana in the
district but he`ll bring it to Maryland, so he can credibly claim to have
an interest in his own district in it.
But, still, There`s been a lot of resistance, especially from Democrats,
over the last couple of decades to anything that interferes with the
district`s own governance but it will be --
O`DONNELL: But will be such a peculiar issue --
O`DONNELL: But, now, here`s Rand Paul today. Rand Paul is saying, "I am
not for having the federal government get involved." He hasn`t taken -- he
says, "I really haven`t taken a stand on the actual legalization but I`m
against the federal government telling them that they can`t."
O`DONNELL: So, Rand Paul says, district can do it at once.
BARRO: Right. And Rand Paul may end up being the chairman of a relevant
sub-committee in the Senate for regulating District of Columbia, so his
view is important.
Also, in the House, Darrell Issa, who Democrats haven`t liked on a lot of
issues, has actually been pretty friendly to the idea that the District of
Columbia should run its own affairs and the Congress shouldn`t, you know --
let federal policy fights run in the way of policy-making in D.C.
O`DONNELL: All right, well, we`ll see. We`ll see if Sen. Gillibrand ends
up smoking pot --
-- with Mr. McConnell. Josh Barro, thanks for joining us.
BARRO: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes is up next.
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