'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Wednesday, November 5th, 2014
Read the transcript to the Wednesday show
Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
Date: November 5, 2014
Guest: George Mitchell, Robert Reich, Ed Murray, Michael Tomasky, Steve
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel. I`m glad you binged
watch "Alpha House" last night. I did that recently, too, and I discovered
the amazing performance of Rachel Maddow in one of the episodes of season
two. There is now a new best actor from the cable news world among us.
RACHEL MADDOW, "TRMS" HOST: I was so glare -- I was in the last episode.
I was so bleary-eyed by the time I got there, even I liked it.
O`DONNELL: It was genius.
MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence. It`s nice of you to say.
O`DONNELL: Thanks, Rachel.
Well, the Senate is now two months away from having a new majority leader.
One of the real masters of the Senate is here to tell us what to expect
from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The American people sent a
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY: I got a call from the president.
OBAMA: Everyone who voted, I want you to know that I hear you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He`s going to have to reach out.
OBAMA: Obviously, the Republicans had a good night.
MCCONNELL: First thing I need to do is to get the Senate back to normal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, they have an obligation to help govern.
MCCONNELL: Maybe there is some things we can agree on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the loosest I`ve ever seen the minority leader.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s going to the hardest job in Washington.
MCCONNELL: And Ted Cruz, too.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Regulatory abuse, lawlessness, abuse of power,
the IRS, Benghazi.
MCCONNELL: There will be no government shutdown and no default on the
OBAMA: They expect the people they elect to work as hard as they do.
MCCONNELL: Reagan never had the House, Lyndon didn`t have the House or the
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a wave election, but not a mandate election.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Whey they punish the Democrats more than the
OBAMA: Political analysis, that`s your job.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t know that we`re going to have a huge kumbaya
OBAMA: Why don`t you get a drink with Mitch McConnell?
Actually, I would enjoy having some Kentucky bourbon with Mitch McConnell.
STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: Let`s go live to Mitch McConnell.
O`DONNELL: Master of the Senate, that`s what some observers call LBJ now.
But no one called Lyndon Johnson that when he was the majority leader of
the United States Senate, for a couple of reasons. First, it`s very hard,
even for senators to see how well a majority leader does the job, because
most of the job is done behind closed doors.
And second, in LBJ`s days, the job just wasn`t that difficult. LBJ`s
Senate was tending to a much smaller, and much simpler government.
Medicare and Medicaid didn`t exist. Two of our most important and
expensive and complex programs that need constant complex legislative
fixes, Medicare and Medicaid, never crossed LBJ`s Senate desk.
The budget committee didn`t exist. No one ever asked LBJ how much
legislation was going to cost. And if anyone did, he never knew the
answer, because back then, no one knew how to even estimate the cost of
legislation. The Congressional Budget Office didn`t exist. So the
majority leader didn`t have to come up with complicated ways of paying for
legislation that would be acceptable to the CBO.
LBJ never had to pass a budget resolution or the much more complex omnibus
budget reconciliation bills, because budget and their companion
reconciliation bills had not yet been invented. And luckily for LBJ, the
Senate Ethics Committee had not yet been invented and it`s as if the
filibuster had not yet been invented.
LBJ had to file exactly zero cloture motions to break filibusters. Harry
Reid has filed 569 cloture motions.
Mitch McConnell will soon become the 29th majority leader of the United
States Senate. And he may have the most difficult challenge within his own
party that any majority has ever had since the considerable faction of the
Republican Party is now opposed to virtually everything the government does
-- opposed, in effect, to governing.
Mitch McConnell learned the ways of the Senate back when bipartisan
cooperation was common and gridlock was rare. In the mid-1980s, Senator
Mitch McConnell worked repeatedly with Democrats and other Republican
senators to pass sanction against the apartheid supporting government of
South Africa. And Senator McConnell did that against the wishes of the
most popular Republican president of his lifetime, Ronald Reagan.
For people who are hoping Mitch McConnell can switch from being a master of
gridlock back to being able to cooperate with opposing parties, there is
hope in what Mitch McConnell is saying now, beginning with his gracious
comments last night about Alison Lundergan Grimes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCONNELL: A little while ago, I spoke with my opponent. Secretary Grimes
ran a spirited campaign. She earned a lot of votes and she earned my
respect. It took a lot of guts to take on a race like this. Because of
the business we`re in, it also meant she`d take some heat. I admire her
willingness to step into the arena and fight as hard as she did.
We need more people who are willing to do that, not fewer. She deserves a
lot of credit for it. This was certainly a hard fought contest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: In a press conference today, Senator McConnell said this --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCONNELL: Earlier today, I got a call from the president, also from
Senator Reid and the Speaker and Ted Cruz, too, which I thought you would
be interested in. All of them I think have the view that we ought to see
what areas of agreement there are and see if we can make some progress for
I would like to remind people that divided government is not unusual in
this country. We`ve had it frequently, I think maybe more often than not
since World War II. When American people choose to divided government, I
don`t think it means they don`t want us to do anything. I think it means
they want us to look for areas of agreement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now, one of the real masters of the Senate, the 15th
majority leader, former Senator George Mitchell.
Senator Mitchell, can`t thank you enough for being with us tonight.
GEORGE MITCHELL, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Thanks for having me, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: This is really an honor for me. I used to sit there in the
back benches, marveling at your every move that we barely understood.
I want to read you something that one of your successors, Tom Daschle,
Democratic majority leader of the Senate, said today about Mitch McConnell,
said last night actually about Mitch McConnell. He said, "I actually think
Mitch is going to go for history. He`s had to play the game and he`s had
to do what he had to do to get where he is, but he has a chance now for
however long to make history. This is his real chance to get some real
traction and to make a mark."
Do you agree with Senator Daschle?
MITCHELL: I`m not quite as optimistic about the results, although I don`t
doubt Senator McConnell`s intelligence, which is very high. I know him
quite well, worked with him while I was in the Senate. He`s a very smart
man and senator.
The problem is that, first, the position of majority leader is far more
difficult than the position of minority leader. It`s a fact of life in
American politics and particularly in the Senate that it`s a relatively
easy task to gain cohesion when you`re in the minority. It is an
extraordinarily difficult task to gain cohesion when you`re in the
majority. For one thing you have more people, harder to get.
O`DONNELL: You had 57 Democrats at the peak.
MITCHELL: Had 55.
MITCHELL: Fifty-five, yes. And it was -- there you go -- and that was not
nearly as tough a time as it is now. It was 20 years ago, it seems like
three centuries ago in terms of the pace of American politics, and the
differences that occur.
The second is that there are real differences. This is not just all
politics. Politics is included. But there are clearly substantive
differences in American life. Attitudes to what the government should or
O`DONNELL: Hard for people to believe, but sometimes these senators mean
what they say. They are opposed to the Senate philosophically --
MITCHELL: They do. I think there was a tendency to underestimate the
degree of genuine conviction when people disagree with you. I think you
have -- I take it at face value because I confronted it very often.
However, I think on the plus side, the area where Tom Daschle may have been
referring to is that there are plainly some area where is they are in the
mutual self-interest of both sides to get together to resolve problems.
Senator McConnell specifically said there would be no government shutdowns.
MITCHELL: He has a clear personal and political interest in there not
being a government shutdown. That`s not true of all Republicans, of
course. But I think that -- it`s a small thing you think not to shut down
the government, but actually if you can agree on a budget, that`s a big
thing. If you can agree not to shut down the government, that`s a step
And there are specific issues on which the parties have a mutual interest -
- both in terms of their commitment to the national interest and a
commitment to their political positions -- immigration comes immediately to
The Republican Party position on immigration was devastating to them in the
last presidential election and will be again unless they find a way to
moderate it. The effect isn`t felt in midterm elections for a whole
variety of reasons, political and other.
So, they have a political interest in resolving it in addition to a genuine
national interest. Democrats have a strong political and national
interest. So, it`s not hard to see the possibility of reaching agreement
there on a very important area.
O`DONNELL: Does it help that President Obama will not be running for
reelection and what they do, what Republicans choose to do can`t help
President Obama`s personal political fortunes?
MITCHELL: I don`t think they`ll think in those terms. I think they`re
thinking more about Hillary Clinton than they are about President Obama.
If you watch the news as I do, I`m not an insider, obviously.
But I think that motivation will be their self-interest. And I think it`s
a good thing that there is an interest in dealing with an issue like that.
And there`s several others.
But there`s going to be a lot of difficulty, a lot of areas where
compromise is not possible. Remember, to pass a bill, you don`t just need
the Senate and the president, you still need the House. And the House is
even more conservative than it was the last time. And I think you`re going
to see some differences between the majority of Republicans in the Senate
and the majority of Republicans in the House, as well as internally in each
So, it`s a tough task. I wish them very well and I hope what I just said
about the areas that do exist for some compromise, they`re able to act on
and find out this as well.
O`DONNELL: I want to take us back where the president made a joke about
having a drink with Mitch McConnell and see how that also came into play
today. Let`s watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Some folks still don`t think I spend enough time with Congress.
Why don`t you get a drink with Mitch McConnell, they ask. Really? Why
don`t you get a drink with Mitch McConnell?
REPORTER: Are you going to have a drink with Mitch McConnell now? You
joked about at the White House Correspondents Dinner.
OBAMA: You know actually, I would enjoy having some Kentucky bourbon with
Mitch McConnell. I don`t know what his preferred drink is -- but my
interactions with Mitch McConnell, you know, he has always been very
straightforward with me. To his credit, he has never made a promise that
he couldn`t deliver. And, you know, he knows the legislative process well.
He obviously knows his caucus well.
You know, he`s always given me, I think, realistic assessments of what he
can get through his caucus and what can`t. And so, I think we`re going to
have a productive relationship.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: If you were advising the president on how to deal with Mitch
McConnell, a man you know on this personal level, have a drinks level, what
would you tell him he needs to do now?
MITCHELL: Well, I think that the schmoozing part of the -- the criticism
of the president I think is a valid one. I don`t think there`s enough of
it, or at least not enough that`s visible. At the same time, I think those
who make the argument overstate its effect.
MITCHELL: There isn`t a member of Congress worth his salt who`s going to
cast a vote because the president put his arm around them or had a drink.
But it does reduce the level of hostility and rancor.
Lawrence, I`ll tell a story, on the day I was elected Senate majority
leader. The first person I called was Bob Dole, the Republican. I went to
And I said to him, you`ve been here 20 years. I`m a newcomer. But I know
enough to know that these are tough jobs and we need to trust each other.
So, I said, I`m here to tell you how I intend to behave towards you and ask
you to behave towards me in the same way.
He was delighted. We shook hands on pretty basic stuff. I wouldn`t
surprise him, wouldn`t embarrass each other.
Not once ever did a harsh word passed between us in public or private. At
the same time, we disagreed almost every day.
MITCHELL: It didn`t reduce the number and the substance of the issue, but
it reduced the personal rancor and made life a little bit easier than it
was, and enabled a little more progress.
This highly personal hostile stuff makes work a little bit tougher. So, I
do think the president should and I think will do more of it. But I don`t
think we should think that`s going to --
O`DONNELL: Should the president meet with the Senate majority leader one-
on-one? Not just as he`s going to do with the speaker and this group of
So, it seems to me, I think I would advocate meet him one-on-one. He`s in
charge of your nominations. He has unique powers that no one else you deal
with on the Hill has. He`s who is going to deliver you an attorney general
confirmation or not. I would -- I would just try to get something going
one-on-one with McConnell.
MITCHELL: I served as majority leader under a Democratic president Clinton
and before that, under a Republican president, first President Bush. And I
did on occasion with President Bush meet one-on-one, a couple of time, they
were kind of tough meetings. And I met more often one-on-one with
President Clinton, because he was of my own party and we strategized more.
I think it`s a very good idea. I think if nothing else, it creates kind of
a bond, and hopefully a mutual interest in getting something done. What
you really need to do is figure out the other guy`s self-interest, and then
figure out a way, how can I meet that self-interest while meeting the needs
of the country?
The problem now, Lawrence, I`ll be frank with you, when I was there, we sat
down and said what`s the best thing for the country. Once you figure that
out, you try to figure out the politics. Now, it`s the cart before the
horse. What`s the politics and once we decide the politics, let`s think
about what`s right for the country.
If they can just kind of get the horse back in front of the cart and the
right sense of priorities, then you do that through personal discussions,
through persuasions, through listening. Listening is very important and
treating each other with respect.
O`DONNELL: George Mitchell, I could listen to you all night. I wish
Washington would listen to you all night. Thank you very much for joining
me tonight. I appreciate it.
MITCHELL: Pleasure to be here.
O`DONNELL: It`s a big honor for you the show to have you here.
Thanks, Mr. Leader, to me.
Coming up, the silver lining in last night`s election. Important stories
that got buried in the election coverage of the big Senate races, and Rand
Paul`s campaign for president got serious today. He`s taking on Hillary
Clinton now every way he can.
O`DONNELL: There was good news last night -- good news that got buried in
all the election coverage. And that`s next.
O`DONNELL: And now for the good news. Many good things got buried in last
night`s election coverage of the big races. Marriage equality is now legal
in 33 states after a judge ruled yesterday that Missouri`s ban on same-sex
marriage was unconstitutional, allowing same couples to receive marriage
A district judge also ruled yesterday that Kansas` ban was
unconstitutional, but that ruling has been stayed for another week.
Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia last night joined Colorado and
Washington state in legalized marijuana for recreational use.
In California, voters said yes to Proposition 47, which turns low-level
felonies like drug possession, shoplifting and forgery to misdemeanors.
Supporters of that measure say it will save the state hundreds of millions
of dollars and reduce unnecessary overcrowding in prisons.
Voters in Washington state passed a measure expanding gun background checks
in private sales and transfers, and rejected a separate measure that would
have prevented the state from expanding background checks beyond federal
And the Republican states of South Dakota, Alaska, Arkansas and Nebraska
all approved measures that increased the minimum wage above the federal
minimum of $7.25 an hour. Illinois voters also passed a nonbinding minimum
wage measure that needs to be approved by the state legislature in order to
President Obama said today that he hopes these minimum wage increases are a
sign that it can be done at the federal level.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: In the five states where a minimum wage increase was on the ballot
last night, voters went five for five to increase it. That will give about
325,000 Americans a raise in states where Republican candidates prevail.
So, that should give us new reason to get it done for everybody, where the
national increase in the minimum wage.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, author of
"Aftershock: The Next Economy and America`s Future", and Seattle Mayor Ed
Murray who earlier this year signed into law raising Seattle`s minimum wage
to $15 an hour.
Mayor Murray, some people around the country hear that and they think, how
can Seattle possibly bear $15 an hour, won`t that send jobs running out of
MAYOR ED MURRAY (D), SEATTLE: I think that`s the opposite. We can`t
afford not to. This is a city attracting a lot of creative people. It`s
the fastest growing city in America, but it`s becoming an unaffordable
If we don`t pay people a decent wage, we will not be able to stimulate the
economy and be able to grow the way we grow. If to you pay people a decent
wage, they`re actually going to go out and buy things. That`s going to
create more jobs.
O`DONNELL: You now are tied for highest minimum wage, Mayor Murray,
because San Francisco last night voted to increase the minimum wage
actually to match you, to match that $15 level. So, trend you started is
moving south now.
MURRAY: And that`s the hope. You know, it`s not just something we want to
have happened in Seattle. This is hopefully cities showing once again
other levels of government about how you can get things done.
O`DONNELL: Robert Reich, fascinating political phenomenon last night. We
saw the party that generally opposes increases in the minimum wage.
Republicans win Senate seats in states, where the same voters voted to
increase the minimum wage. Arkansas really striking, 66 percent of
Arkansas voters voted to raise a minimum wage. That`s 10 percent more than
voted for that Republican Senate candidate.
ROBERT REICH, FORMER LABOR SECRETARY: You find just similar numbers,
Lawrence. In South Dakota, Nebraska, and also even in Alaska, you have an
extraordinary wave of people in very conservative states. These are the
reddest of red states. These states did not even go for President Obama in
2012. They have elected Republicans over and over again.
But 60 to 70 percent of their voters say yes to a minimum wage increase
that the right wing says is going to kill jobs. What does that tell you is
that issue of jobs and wages and the economy is central to Republican
voters as it is obviously to voters all over the country, and Democrats
need to start talking more about jobs and wages and making the middle class
and the poor really participants in this economy.
O`DONNELL: Robert Reich, Mitch McConnell himself used to vote for
increases in the minimum wage in the Senate, what is now a long time ago
for him. But what do you think of President Obama`s point, the point of
being able to transfer some of this minimum wage energy that`s out there in
the states into federal legislation?
REICH: Well, I think that`s absolutely right. If you can get four of most
conservative sates in the country to vote for an increase in minimum wage,
you know, it`s one thing -- with all due respect to Mayor Murray in Seattle
and San Francisco, it`s one thing if Seattle and San Francisco go for a
higher minimum wage, but when you get Alaska and Arkansas and South Dakota
and Nebraska going for a higher minimum wage, you know that something is
going on in this country.
And I think the president is absolutely right. Point the finger at the
Republicans in the Senate and in the House that are not going to support an
increase in the minimum wage.
O`DONNELL: Mayor Murray, it seems that this argument doesn`t change. The
dynamics of it don`t change. Do you have -- are you hoping that you`re
going to be able to bring empirical evidence down the road, we raise the
minimum wage to $15, here`s what happened to our economy, to the
neighboring economies. Here`s what happened to unemployment. Here`s what
happened to job migration.
Will those kinds of studies be available for what`s happening in Seattle?
MURRAY: I think they`re available now. It`s the last 34 years of a failed
economic model, a model that is destroying the middle class, a model that
is making it hard for people to send their kids to get a higher education.
And thus, those kids are not getting the jobs that we need folks to get in
our city, to have those creative skills.
So, I actually think the evidence is there. This is a city that has a very
innovative job market. But we`re having real challenges graduating the
kids from our schools to get those jobs. And it goes right back to that
issue of economic equity. And we`ve got to start some place and cities, I
think, once again in this country are showing other levels of government
how you can actually create a more equitable society.
O`DONNELL: Robert Reich, given what you`ve heard from Mitch McConnell and
you now know to be the makeup of the Senate, if you were in President
Obama`s cabinet, after having been in President Clinton`s cabinet -- what
would you advise the president in terms of where to look for, possible
areas of agreement?
REICH: Well, I say to him to beware of possible areas of agreement. That
Keystone XL pipeline, that`s one of the key things they`re going to want to
push. They`re going to want to push, you know, that Social Security COLA
change the president flirted with. They`re going to want to push some tax
reform under the aegis of tax reform that isn`t going to be at all.
I tell the president, just beware. Don`t be seduced by this necessity of
compromise. Stick to your guns.
The Democrats learned something, I hoped, about the minimum wage increases
in these states and around the country, that the Democrats have a powerful
message if they`re willing to use it. And that is most Americans right now
don`t feel that they`re in a recovery. They feel that most of the gains
from the economy have gone to the top and they are right.
And if the Democratic Party means anything at all, it means bolstering the
economic position of the average American against this tidal wave of big
corporate and Wall Street millionaire, money and politics, and economy
that`s not working for everybody.
O`DONNELL: Well, in his press conference today, the president certainly
sounded like he was sticking to his guns, as you would advice, Robert
Reich, but still interested in where they might be able to find areas of
Robert Reich and Mayor Ed Murray, thank you both very much for joining me
MURRAY: Thank you. Appreciate it.
REICH: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, Rand Paul is already running hard against Hillary
And later, Mitch McConnell and President Obama share an opponent -- Ted
O`DONNELL: In the "Spotlight" tonight, Rand Paul versus Hillary Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: In Kentucky in particular, I think this
election was basically a repudiation of the president but also of Hillary
Clinton. Mrs. Grimes said she was a Clinton Democrat, not an Obama
Democrat. But no matter what kind of Democrat she was, it didn`t seem that
Hillary Clinton or the president had coattails that were present tonight.
Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton have been all over the place. They`re
trying to make it out as if they`re somehow better for Democrats. Well, in
Kentucky, they were soundly rejected.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: In addition to his election night, the media blitz against
Hillary Clinton, Senator Paul also posted a Facebook album, entitled,
"Hillary`s Losers," showing photos of Clinton campaigning with Democratic
candidates including Bruce Braley in Iowa, Michelle Nunn in Georgia, and
Kay Hagan in North Carolina.
According to last night`s NBC News exit polling, 42 percent of voters think
Hillary Clinton would make a good president in 2016, 53 percent of voters
do not think Hillary Clinton would make a good president. That same poll
says 26 percent of voters think Rand Paul would make a good president and
61 percent of voters do not think Rand Paul would make a good president.
Joining me now is columnist for the "Daily Beast," Michael Tomasky.
Mike, according to the old math of politics, those two negative numbers on
Hillary and Rand Paul mean that neither one of them can be president. You
can`t -- you can`t run against a majority negative number. But these are
very, very early and weird numbers to try to use in something like this.
But Rand Paul clearly sees his general election and he wants to show
Republicans this is how I will run against her if you just give me that
MICHAEL TOMASKY, COLUMNIST, THE DAILY BEAST: That`s exactly what he`s
trying to do. I don`t think most people, most, you know, reasonably fair
minded people think that it`s Hillary Clinton`s fault that Alison Lundergan
Grimes lost or that Bruce Braley lost or Michelle Nunn or whomever else she
campaigned for. In fact she probably helped them all by a couple of
points. So, you know, these defeats can`t seriously be laid at Hillary
However, Rand Paul is talking to the right-wing base. And he`s
establishing a meme, and he`s establishing a -- he`s trying to get it into
their heads that he`s the guy who`s -- willing to get into the ring and
throw punches at the Clintons. And this isn`t the first time he`s done it,
Lawrence. As you`ll recall, during her book tour, he was out there saying
those things. Going after both Bill and Hillary Clinton.
So what he is trying to -- he has stolen a march on all of his competitors
who haven`t really gone after the Clintons and on the assumption that
Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee. He is establishing in the
minds of the Republican base, I`m the guy who`s willing to get in the ring
with them, I`m in their weight class.
O`DONNELL: And it seems like a smart way to run in what is now in effect
the Republican primaries because he`s -- there`s no Republican base voter
who doesn`t want to hear something negative about the possibility of
Hillary Clinton being president, whereas many of them don`t want to hear
something negative about Ted Cruz or something negative about some other
Republican, and so Rand Paul wants to play to every Republican voter by
TOMASKY: That`s exactly right. And, you know, they will talk to one
another and they`ll say that Paul, he`s got his eyes on the prize. You
know, he`s going after the right target. He`s going after the person that
we should be going after. Now all the others are going to start piling on
and doing the same thing that he`s done, but he got there first.
O`DONNELL: He is saying things that other Republican candidates haven`t
said. Listen to what he`s saying about being a more welcoming party.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: We need to be a more welcoming party. I tell people we want people
with tattoos and without tattoos, with earrings, without earrings. Working
class, rich, middle class. We need to be more open and more diverse.
Black, white, brown. And we haven`t been. And it`s not because we have
bad policies. I`ve never said Republicans have bad policies. I`ve said
Republicans the perception of who we are isn`t good and that we need to
have a better attitude and present a better face to people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Mike, what`s your guess about how Republicans audiences react
TOMASKY: You know, I think they probably like it pretty well. He has his
problems with portions of the Republican base, there`s no question about
that. They don`t all like his libertarianism, particularly with respect to
foreign policy. But I think when they hear a Republican talking like that,
they know that that Republican can make inroads into constituencies that
Mitt Romney certainly wasn`t able to. And that a lot of other Republicans
aren`t able to.
It`s very smart of him to talk earrings. You know, that`s like George
Wallace invoking the beautician. You know?
TOMASKY: It`s a very smart particular thing. And it does mean and polls
that I`ve looked at over the last few months have reflected this. That
Rand Paul can compete with Hillary Clinton in a state like Colorado in a
way that a lot of other Republicans probably could not.
O`DONNELL: Mike Tomasky, thank you very much for joining me tonight for
round one of Rand Paul versus Hillary Clinton. Thanks, Mike.
TOMASKY: Thanks a lot.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, in the "Rewrite," the day after midterm elections
are often difficult for a president.
What President Obama did today was a big improvement over what the last
Democratic president, Bill Clinton, did after his big losses in the midterm
O`DONNELL: As President Obama said today, Republicans had a good night
last night. But the president made it clear in his press conference today
that he would stand his ground against Republican attempts to repeal or
partially dismantle the Affordable Care Act while trying to find areas of
cooperation to work with Republicans.
The president apologized for nothing he has done as president. Unlike Bill
Clinton who said this after his first midterm election when the Democrats
lost the Senate and lost the House for the first time in 40 years.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: Probably people in this room are still mad
at me at that budget because you think I raised your taxes too much. Well,
it might surprise you to know I think I raised them too much, too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was Bill Clinton in front of a rich Texas audience
actually apologizing to them for raising the top tax bracket too much. He
went on in that speech to try to blame that on the Democratic Congress,
which actually raised the top tax bracket to precisely the level Bill
And the politically disastrous results of President Clinton`s first midterm
did not end on election night.
Here is an issue that President Obama did not have to face today that
President Clinton faced in his press conference the day after his first
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you have any message for the Democrats in
Congress like Senator Shelby who are considering or might be considering
switching to the Republican Party?
CLINTON: I think he did switch.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But my -- if there are Democrats in the House who are
CLINTON: I see. Well, first of all, let me say that if we can have a
bipartisan coalition, then we can be both nonpolitical and more centrist.
I ran for president saying that we should not be governed -- we should not
be governed by either Republicans or Democrats who are pushed too far in
either direction. That most of the good ideas are ideas that take us into
the future, not push us left or right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: So there was President Clinton being asked if he had anything
to say to Democrats thinking about switching parties. And he couldn`t
think of anything to say to them. And so Democrats in Congress and all
over the country began switching to the Republican Party in droves. A
total of 137 elected Democrats nationwide switched parties in Bill
Clinton`s first term.
Two Democratic senators switched parties. Ben Nighthorse Campbell of
Colorado and Richard Shelby of Alabama who is still serving in the Senate
as a Republican. Seven Democrats in the House of Representatives switched
parties, running away from what they saw as the curse of Bill Clinton.
There were rumors today that Maine`s independent senator Angus King might
decide to switch from caucusing with the Democrats to caucusing with the
Republicans, but no one asked President Obama about that, and Senator King
"To change my alignment to a caucus which at this point appears openly
hostile to the president it seems to me would give up an important
There was a heated rumor today that West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin
might switch parties, but he shut that down. "No," Manchin said flatly
when asked if he would switch parties. "I`m a moderate Democrat, proud
President Obama is not spending his night tonight working the phones,
trying to talk Democratic members of the House of Representatives in the
Senate out of switching parties. President Obama remains proud of
restoring some of the progressivity of the tax code by restoring the top
Clinton income tax rate of 39.6 percent. And instead of apologizing for
that part of his record, Clinton style, President Obama said this today.
(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
insurance. 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 world. But we`ve 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: President Obama`s confident pride in his accomplishments today
at his press conference was a welcome rewrite to President Clinton`s
version of dealing with a loss of Democratic -- Democratic Party power in
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: People in America were restless and impatient and we want to get
things done. And when things are going good, we want them to do better.
And that`s why this is the greatest country on earth. That`s why I`m so
privileged to have a chance to be president for the next couple of years.
All right? Thank you, everybody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: For the first time in American history there will be 100 women
lawmakers in the United States Senate and House of Representatives.
Democrat Alma Adams will become that 100th woman when she is sworn in as
the next House member. She was elected in a special election in North
Carolina`s 12th District last night. The seat became open when Congressman
Mel Watt resigned to become head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency.
Because Alma Adams was elected in a special election, she will be sworn in
before other House members, possibly as soon as this week.
There are currently 79 women in the House of Representatives and 20 women
in the Senate.
Coming up, former Republican Congressman Steve LaTourette joins me to talk
about Mitch McConnell`s worst nightmare. Mr. Ted Cruz.
O`DONNELL: Well, one thing hasn`t changed for Mitch McConnell. The most
difficult person he had to deal with in the last session of Congress was
Ted Cruz who will surely be the most difficult person Mitch McConnell has
to deal with as majority leader.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: For six years we`ve been trapped in the Obama
stagnation and malaise. The era of Obama lawlessness is over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Texas Senator Ted Cruz may be happy with last night`s election
results, but that doesn`t mean he`s all that happy with the leadership of
his party. Senator Cruz actually refused to say if he will support Mitch
McConnell in the role of Senate majority leader after McConnell was
reelected last night. But Mitch McConnell knows he doesn`t need Ted Cruz`s
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: As recently as last night, Ted Cruz declined to say
whether or not he would support you for majority leader.
I`m wondering if you spoke to him. Did he pledge his support to you and if
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: Well, let me just make a
prediction for you. A week from tomorrow, I`ll be elected majority leader
of the Senate. Thanks a lot, everyone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now is former Republican Congressman Steve
Steve, I`m -- I am not betting against Mitch McConnell on that prediction.
STEVE LATOURETTE, FORMER REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN: Neither am I. I think
that very early one Mitch McConnell rising to the job he`s wanted for a
very long time. He`s going to impress upon everybody in his caucus
including Senator Cruz who the majority leader is. And Senator Cruz can
choose to be an outlier, but I think they will attempt to move to isolate
O`DONNELL: Well, Mitch McConnell made it a point to say that he had spoken
to the president and he`s spoken to Harry Reid. And I`ve never seen
anything like this before. He made it a point to mention that he had
spoken to a very low ranking junior senator, Ted Cruz. And it`s hard to
imagine, but I guess Ted Cruz is hard to imagine in general. But it`s hard
to imagine Cruz calling Mitch McConnell and not saying something about,
well, of course, I`m supporting you for majority leader.
LATOURETTE: Yes, you know, at the end of the day, I think Senator Cruz --
I don`t get this stuff. I mean, we had the same thing in the House where
12 knuckleheads, you know, don`t vote for John Boehner. I mean, so your
choice is going to Nancy Pelosi or in the Senate it`s going to be Harry
I mean, it`s really a dumb things to do. But I think Senator Cruz is
starting to perk up and there are a lot of stories prior to the election
about Democrats running from President Obama, not wanting to be seen with
him. Well, on the Republican side, Chris Christie was in demand, Rand Paul
was in demand, Jeb Bush was in demand. Nobody really wanted Senator Cruz
to come help them on November 4th. And there should be a message in that
to him, I hope.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Senator McConnell said today about having
so many possible presidential candidates in his caucus in the Senate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCONNELL: I know a lot of people who want to run for president. What I
tell them all is the best day you have will be the day before you announce.
I have no problem with people`s ambitions. I serve in a body with a bunch
of class presidents. They`re all ambitious or they wouldn`t be where they
are. I`m not troubled by ambition. And I think we can accommodate that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Steve, he has confronted Ted Cruz in the past and beat him in
this government shutdown and confrontation, all that stuff. It seems to me
that Ted Cruz has to now be very careful because he`s not just playing
around in that comfortable minority status. I say comfortable for people
who just want to do protest movements on the Senate floor. This majority
status, it`s a different operation.
LATOURETTE: Well, it very much is a different operation. When you`re in
the minority in the House or the Senate, you can be a bouncer or sit in the
back bench and say whatever the heck it is you want. There`s a different
responsibility when you`re in the majority. And Mitch McConnell gets it,
John Boehner gets it.
And Ted Cruz, I would hope would get it as well because a lot of people
would give a lot of meaning to yesterday`s elections and I`m going to tell
you that what I took away from it is the reason that it was all about the
president`s policies is the Republicans didn`t step in the landmines and
nominate crazy people that would become the focus of those elections
And I think that`s an important lesson for Ted Cruz and others who would
want to say, oh, we`ve got to -- you know, we`ve got to throw a couple more
repeals of Obamacare over the White House fence.
O`DONNELL: Now it seems to me, Steve, that Mitch McConnell is going to
have to allow one vote on the full repeal of Obama -- the Affordable Care
Act. Democrats might or might not filibuster that, we`ll see how that
goes. Before he gets down to trying to seriously negotiate anything with
Democrats he`s probably going to have to do that repeal vote.
LATOURETTE: Yes. I think that`s right. I mean, I was at a program today
where 1/2 of the Senate is new. And then so there`s a lot of people who
have never had the chance to cast a vote on the Affordable Care Act.
There`s a lot of people in the Senate and the House who`ve never -- don`t
know what it is to legislate or to offer an amendment. And so I think you
do have to have that symbolic vote so nobody can be attacked from the right
to say, yes, I stood up and I wanted to repeal Obamacare. But it`s not
going to be -- it`s going to be a message. It`s not going to be a sincere
O`DONNELL: Steve LaTourette, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
LATOURETTE: Good to see you.
O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes is up next.
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