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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Monday, February 23rd, 2015

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Date: February 23, 2015
Guest: Stephanie Miller, Michael Tomasky, Rebecca Keegan, Justin Chang, JD

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Rachel, I`ve never seen you so
excited about a four-letter word. Are you going to have a veto party?

RACHEL MADDOW, "TRMS" HOST: You know, it`s not that bad an idea.
It`s very exciting. We haven`t had any.

O`DONNELL: And it`s a real constitutional power. Let`s see it work.

MADDOW: Yay, civics. Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: First up tonight, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell. They
are Washington`s current masters of painting themselves into a corner and
they have done it once again.

And later in the rewrite, the four-letter word that has more possible
means than any other.


need a fully-funded Department of Homeland Security.

Border Patrol, port inspectors, TSA agents --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Coast Guard, FEMA workers, and secret
service agents.

OBAMA: -- will show up to work without getting paid.

security shouldn`t be controversial.

JOHNSON: It`s bizarre and absurd that we`re even having this
discussion in these challenging times.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Inside the Mall of America this afternoon,
heightened security.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shopping centers on alert after a terror
propaganda video targeting Minnesota`s giant Mall of America.

EARNEST: Congress should do their job.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: With the clock ticking, late today, another
Senate debate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The motion is not agreed to.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But no resolution.

any sense.

OBAMA: Let`s try to focus on some of the things we have in common.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Still no word on the British schoolgirls believed
to be on their way to Syria.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Turkish police are trying to find them and their
families are begging them to come home before it`s too late.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At least 11 students at Wesleyan University in
Connecticut were hospitalized Sunday after apparently overdosing on a drug
known as Molly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It feels like that can never happen to anyone.
But when it does, on that grand of a scale, it`s scarier.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 2015 will be the year when social issues were
arguably the star of the evening.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What I spoke about regarding incarceration is

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think we need federal laws that are

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was my 45 seconds in my life to get on
television and say something. So I thought I might as well use it to say
something meaningful.


O`DONNELL: With terrorist threats being reported against the Mall of
America in Minnesota, the Senate today failed once again to pass a funding
bill for the Department of Homeland Security, just four days before the
department could shut down because of a lack of funding. No Democrats
voted in favor of moving forward on the House version of the bill. And
they were joined by Nevada Republican Dean Heller.

Immediately after the vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
offered a stand-alone bill that would block any funding for President
Obama`s executive action on immigration.


MCCONNELL: The new bill I described offers another option we can turn
to. It`s another way to get the Senate unstuck from a Democratic
filibuster and move the debate forward.


O`DONNELL: Today, Senator Lindsey Graham warned about the damage a
shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security could do to Republicans who
are now of course in the majority in both chambers.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: For God`s sakes, don`t shut
down the premier homeland security defense line called the Department of
Homeland Security. If we do, as Republicans, we`ll get blamed.


O`DONNELL: And John McCain argued that Republicans would be better
going through the courts.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We now have an exit sign. And that is
a federal court decision saying that the president`s actions unilaterally
are unconstitutional. And I think we`ve got a great argument to the United
States Supreme Court where it will go.


O`DONNELL: Joining me now is David Axelrod, MSNBC senior political
analyst, former Obama senior adviser, and the author of the new book,
"Believer". Also joining us is Michael Tomasky, a columnist for "The Daily
Beast". We`re joined also by Ezra Klein, editor-in-chief of And
here with me in Los Angeles, Stephanie Miller, a syndicated radio talk show

David Axelrod, we`re seeing something that feels familiar, but this is
a new take on shutdown, because it`s only headed towards a shutdown of one
department, homeland security, because the Republicans are trying to pass a
bill that, in effect, removes the president`s -- neuters the president`s
executive orders on immigration in order to fund all of the department.
And the Democrats aren`t going to let that happen. How is this going to
play out?

these are the dogs that caught the car, Boehner and McConnell. They wanted
to run the joint. And they`re having to face the reality of what running
it means.

And they have the same problem they had been having right along, which
is they made this bargain with the right wing of their own party, but they
can`t control them. And I think the way it`s probably going to work out is
they may try and pass some sort of short-term extension and kick the can
down the field on the theory that maybe the courts will help.

I don`t think the courts will. They did a little forum shopping and
found a right wing judge to temporarily throw a wrench in the works, but I
don`t think that`s going to last. But I think that may be their way out
for now. But I don`t think it`s necessarily going to go away. And this is
the first of many problems they`re going to have with this group, the tail
that`s wagging the dog here.

O`DONNELL: Ezra Klein, if the Republicans don`t figure this out, and
they do end up, in effect, putting the Department of Homeland Security in a
situation of running out of money, what happens in that department?

EZRA KLEIN, VOX.COM: So, DHS is weird in this way. They`re basically
-- unlike a normal federal agency. Actually 85 percent of its workers,
roughly, would be able to stay on the job for two reasons.

One is that a lot of the Department of Homeland Security is funded not
by congressional appropriations but by fees. And what`s particularly
ironic about it is particularly the part that is funded by fees is the part
that does immigration enforcement. So, the particular part of the
Department of Homeland Security that the Republicans are angry at would
probably be just fine in the event of a shutdown.

But the other side is that the way shutdown is usually done as an
exemption for workers who are set to protect public safety. And a lot of
the Department of Homeland Security workers are classified as essential
under that rubric. So, for those reasons, most workers would be able to
stay on the job.

Now, you would have slow downs in some areas, including some
liberties, training and enforcement, bunch of others, but it wouldn`t be
like the Coast Guard has to stop working overnight. You`d have a fair
amount of people coming to work. And what, again, is particular ironic is
the immigration functions would primarily keep going on as normal.

O`DONNELL: You know, there`s a phrase that always comes to mind when
I watch these situations, it`s something that a very powerful legislator in
the House once said to me who you would know, David Axelrod, in a
situation. He said, I`m just trying to get this dead cat off my doorstep.


O`DONNELL: Mike Tomasky, is there anyone in the Republican leadership
who knows how to get a dead cat off the doorstep?

MICHAEL TOMASKY, THE DAILY BEAST: Mitch McConnell does. You know, he
knows a lot of things legislatively and in parliamentary terms. The
question is whether he wants to and whether he can.

His problem is the House Republicans and the more right wing faction
within the caucus because they don`t really care, because they`re probably
-- to be perfectly honest -- not going to pay any electoral price if this
happens, if there is a shutdown. The Republican Party as a whole, will
take a hit, will take the blame.

Polls will show, if there is a shutdown of DHS, next week, polls will
show that the Republican Party is much more to blame than the Democratic
Party. But there`s no repercussion for any of these guys at the polls,
because they are all in safe districts.

So, so much of what we see going on here, Lawrence, in this case and
many others, many others, is a function of the way the districts have been
drawn and the fact that these people, almost all represent safe districts
and they don`t have to worry about a general election challenge. They only
have to worry about a primary election challenge. So, they have to do the
most right wing thing they can do.

O`DONNELL: And, Stephanie, we have all of this going on when we have
the most public threat to the homeland, this reported threat to the Mall of
America in Minnesota.


O`DONNELL: And Republicans have been telling us for a long time, you
know, Islamic State is on the march, and they`re a threat to the homeland,
and we don`t want to fund Homeland Security.

MILLER: Yes, and I`m going to Minneapolis Friday, so this is very key
for me, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: We`ve got to get this fixed by then.

MILLER: It`s all about me. We`ve got to get this fixed.

No, but it is ridiculous. And, you know, as your other guests allude
to, Lawrence, the public once again is overwhelmingly on the president`s
side. They are for this immigration action. They are not for shutting
down the Department of Homeland Security. You know, once again, this is
going to blow up in the Republicans` face. And we are at a time of
unprecedented threats, obviously, and it just, it`s hilarious. As David
said, they are the dog catching the car.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what the house Republican chairman of the
homeland security, who`s the chair of homeland security, what he had to say
about this.


the Senate, to what they determine, what they send back to the House, and
we will probably see something come back from the Senate this weekend. And
we have to make some tough choices. But, Kate, I fully believe that we
shouldn`t be playing politics with national security agency like Homeland
Security, particularly given the high threat environment that we`re in
right now. And it would be irresponsible for lawmakers and policymakers to
shut down this national security agency at this very grave time.


O`DONNELL: David Axelrod, it sounds to me like he is expecting
eventually, Mitch McConnell to get a bill through the Senate that the
president actually will be able to sign that doesn`t do any kind of attack
on the executive orders.

AXELROD: I think that that`s right. And, again, it may just be a
short-term extension, but one point on what Michael Tomasky was saying --
it`s not just that they have to run in districts where they have to worry
about is a primary. The rewards are misaligned. They actually, in their
districts and with their base, that right wing base, there`s actual benefit
to doing what the rest of the country doesn`t want them to do, what is
clearly irresponsible. And that`s what`s dangerous here.

And it, ultimately, the leaders are going to have to figure out where
they`re going to draw the line and say, you know what, guys -- because they
can stand up to their base members if they`re willing to work with the
other side. And that`s what they`ve not been willing to do.

O`DONNELL: Mike Tomasky, who`s listening to John McCain and Lindsey
Graham in the Senate on this?

TOMASKY: I don`t know. That`s a really good question. You know,
Lawrence, one interesting thing that has happened to the Senate since last
fall`s election is the Republican caucus in the Senate has gotten much more

Now, we haven`t really seen that in action yet, but the Republicans
who won, the nine Republicans who won, many of them, six, seven, even maybe
eight of them, depending on how you count and how you categorize these
things are basically Tea Party Republicans.

So, the Republican caucus in the United States Senate has moved well
to the right. So, I`ve been wondering ever since the last election night
how that is going to play out, and this may be a really good test case to
see just how much farther to the right this new Senate is.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to a bit more of what John McCain had to say
about it.


MCCAIN: I remember the last time we shut down the whole government,
this would obviously be Homeland Security. The last time we shut down the
whole government, we turned away 600,000 visitors to our national parks
here in Arizona. I don`t want to see that movie again.


O`DONNELL: Stephanie, he`s going to have to see some kind of movie
again on this one. The rest of the Republicans don`t seem to remember all

MILLER: It always seems like weekend at John`s to me. Slap a pair of
sunglasses on him. I mean, you know, he was echoing Rudy Giuliani`s
comments this weekend, wasn`t he, I`m ashamed of my country, I`m ashamed of
my president. You know how low does the bar go where we just don`t care,
David, about shutting down the Department of Homeland Security when we`re
in the middle of these kind of threats?

O`DONNELL: All right. We`re going to take a quick break here.
Coming up in the rewrite, the four-letter word that has more meanings than
any other -- love, Giuliani style.

And next, Karl Rove uses Elizabeth Warren`s words to attack Hillary


tried to capture Washington and rig the system in their favor.




O`DONNELL: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is now using his
upcoming speech to the U.S. Congress in political ads in Israel. The ad
compares Netanyahu to Israel`s prime minister, David Ben Gurion, who had
his own tensions with the U.S. government. Today, two Democratic senators
invited Benjamin Netanyahu to a close-door meeting with Democratic senators
during his visit to Washington. Senators Richard Durbin and Dianne
Feinstein said they issued the invitation, quote, "to maintain Israel`s
dialogue with both political parties in Congress".

Up next, Karl Rove is actually attacking Hillary Clinton and he is
using Elizabeth Warren to do it.


O`DONNELL: Karl Rove has found a new way to do a Clinton attack ad.
His super PAC, American Crossroads, released this online today.


WARREN: Powerful interests have tried to capture Washington and rig
the system in their favor. The power of well-funded special interests
tilts our democracy away from the people and toward the powerful. Action
is required to defend our great democracy against those who would see it
perverted into one more rigged game where the rich and the powerful always


O`DONNELL: Joining me once again, David Axelrod, Mike Tomasky, Ezra
Klein, and Stephanie Miller.

Stephanie, there`s that very familiar voice, Elizabeth Warren. And
this looks like it`s a tough situation for Hillary Clinton.

MILLER: Girl fight! Girl fight!

Karl Rove has tried this before. First of all, Elizabeth Warren is
not running. She`s one of the many Senate women who have signed a letter
urging Hillary Clinton to run. They have just met, as you know, last week
in Washington.

I`m sure she will wholeheartedly endorse Hillary Clinton. It`s just
another Karl Rove chick fight.

O`DONNELL: David Axelrod, we asked Senator Warren for a comment on
this today, and we got no comment. We kind of expected something along the
lines of outrage about having used her voice in this ad. But she hasn`t
said anything so far.

AXELROD: Yes, that`s surprising to me. I would think she would speak
out. The last place I`d think she`d want to be is narrating a Karl Rove
Crossroads ad. But I don`t think -- I think this is more mischief making
on Rove`s part. I can`t imagine that they`re actually going to run this
spot and I think he wants to get some chatter going, you know, probably get
some chatter going.

But she should certainly want to separate herself out from this ad,
which is, in fact, malicious mischief making on the part of folks she
doesn`t want to be associated with.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to Robert Gibbs` reaction yesterday on "Meet
the Press".


doubt that the appearances are awkward at best. And they`re going to have
to do something in the very short term to deal with this in a way that puts
it off the table.

Look, Chuck, I think there are a lot of people who have watched the
slow roll of the Hillary Clinton campaign, really dating back to last year
with a book tour that some wondered why she was doing, speeches that some
wondered why she was doing. And, you know, I think, I think from a
Democratic perspective, things will get better when there is a formal
campaign, but there is a -- you know, there has been a slow roll of
concerning headlines for a long time.


O`DONNELL: Ezra Klein, there`s one political operative who thinks
there`s something to be concerned about here.

KLEIN: I think he`s right. First, I think this ad is very funny. I
think it`s just an online ad. I think Karl Rove is being very cheeky and I
think that his PAC has not had an incredible record and he would like to
remind possible donors that it`s still around and he`s doing the fairly
good job by releasing this ad, it`s way too early for it to actually matter
or do any damage to Hillary Clinton. It`s just really about publicizing
his PAC.

But that said, the attack that is in it, not the part where Warren is
voicing it, but the actual attack about the Clinton Global Foundation`s
finances I think is a real one. I think that the finances of the Clintons
are complicated, have been complicated for a long time. There`s both the
money Bill Clinton has raised from all kinds of donors, ranging from folks
in foreign government to large corporate donors, and then both his and
Hillary Clinton`s speaking fees.

And I think when you look at what is likely to be dredged up, when you
look at the things that are likely to provide new scandals or tough
headlines for them, their policy positions are so well-known and personas
so well-known, I think it`s the changes in their finances over the last
eight or so or more years that are going to provide a lot of grist for
their opponents in the coming election.

O`DONNELL: Mike Tomasky, do the Clintons have to take action with the
fund for example and announce a new set of contribution guidelines that
will feel more appropriate for a potential president?

TOMASKY: It depends on how this plays out. They may.

I take Ezra`s points. You know, I think that it`s going to be a
running story, the finances of the Clinton Foundation.

On the other hand, to me, right now, it`s a second tier issue. And I
think if there`s a huge scandal somehow, then it become as first tier
issue, and then it`s something that they really have to deal with.

But, yes, campaigns are about the economy. Campaigns are about the
future of the country. They`re not really about things like the Clinton
Foundation at the end of the day. And besides that, Bill Clinton can come
out and say, in response to Karl Rove, yes, OK, I take this money, but look
at what I do with this money. Look at the number of lives saves, look at
the water projects financed and look all the good work that`s been done.
Would you rather the Saudis spend this money funding Salafism around the
Middle East, you know? At least they`re doing this, the portion to it they
give to me.

MILLER: Yes, it`s not a hedge fund. They help poor people. They get
AIDS medicine for people. I mean, the Clinton Initiative is not some sort
of shady operation. I just think that`s a mainstream media --

O`DONNELL: I don`t think anybody`s found anything questionable in how
they use the money. That side of the story is the good side of the story.

Let`s look at something that the Bush campaign, we can call it that
now on this show anyway, a video that the Bush campaign released today.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Radical Islam has increased four-folds in five

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The doubling of the enemy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ISIS is much more organized than al Qaeda.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ISIS fighters are advancing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Brand new threats from Iran aimed squarely at
the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The White House appears to be turning its back on

facing now is the renewal of the Cold War.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There`s no real strategy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re facing a growing, expanding threat. The
strategy that we`ve had is not working.

How do we move forward?

JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: Everywhere you look, you sight
world slipping out of control. Under this administration, we are
inconsistent and indecisive. We have lost the trust and confidence of our
friends. We definitely no longer inspire fear in our enemies.


O`DONNELL: David Axelrod, your reaction to that one?

AXELROD: Well, that speech kind of got panned last week. But it
looks better when you edit it down to an advertisement, I guess.


AXELROD: I think that the question is, what exactly are you
proposing? Everyone knows the world`s complex and we have challenges, but
what are you proposing? The speech last week was primarily to say "I`m not
my brother". So, OK, what is your answer to these challenges? And I think
that`s where it`s going to get very dicey for Bush or all these Republicans
who are quick to say we should be doing something but not quick to be
saying what it is we should be doing.

MILLER: We should restore a place in the world under George W. Bush?
Really? And he`s his own man with 19 of 21 Bush administration advisers?
What`s America rising? Some sort of Cialis for Republicans kind of PAC?
What does that mean?

O`DONNELL: David, go ahead.

AXELROD: No, I quite agree with that.

The fact that Paul Wolfowitz is on his board of advisers can`t make
any American feel really comfortable about where this is going, because
that is a group basically that sees all of these problems as a nail and the
American military as a hammer, and we`ve seen where that story leads us.

O`DONNELL: We`re going to have to take a break --

KLEIN: I think, when you look at that --

O`DONNELL: Go ahead.

KLEIN: I think when you look at that ad you see Bush`s problem. It
is one after the other clip of things that George W. Bush is partially
responsible for.

O`DONNELL: Exactly.

KLEIN: There`s not going to be an ISIS if there was no invasion of
Iraq. You make a big deal of Putin. And you remember George W. Bush
saying, I looked into his soul and saw a man of peace.

So, Jeb Bush can say, I`m not my brother, but he`s about as closely
linked to his brother and as David says, has a lot of the same advisers.
It`s hard to see how it resolves into a good ad for him when people begin
digging into it.

O`DONNELL: All great points.

Ezra Klein, Michael Tomasky and Stephanie Miller, thank you for
joining me tonight. David Axelrod is going to hang around for a bit.

Coming up, you heard Graham Moore last night, talking about staying
weird at the Oscars. But he had a lot more to say after that. And that`s
coming up.


O`DONNELL: The Justice Department is asking a Texas judge to grant
the emergency stay that would block his own ruling from last week that put
a hold on President Obama`s immigration executive actions. The Department
of Justice says it plans to appeal the decision.

They government says, the President`s Executive action is an integral
part of the department`s comprehensive effort to set and effectuate
immigration enforcement priorities. The government asked the judge to
decide this by Wednesday. And, on Wednesday, February 25th, --


-- President Obama will participate in a town hall on MSNBC from
Florida, with MSNBC`s Jose Diaz-Balart. The discussion will be mostly
about immigration and will air at 8:00 p.m.

You can ask questions on Facebook and Twitter using hashtags,
Obamarepondez and Obamatownhall. Coming up, --


-- a little Oscar talk. And in the "Rewrite," I will tell you the
meaning of love, and I`ll do it without music.



BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH, ACTOR: I like solving problems, Commander. And
Enigma is the most difficult problem in the world.

CHARLES DANCE, ACTOR: No, Enigma isn`t difficult. It`s impossible.
The Americans, the Russians, the French, the Germans, everyone thinks
Enigma is unbreakable.

CUMBERBATCH: Good. Let me try, and we`ll know for sure, won`t we.


O`DONNELL: Last night, the writer of that scene, Graham Moore, won
the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for "The Imitation Game," a film
about famed British Computer Scientist Alan Turing.

After Moore gave his thank yous to the cast and crew, he ended his
speech with this --


tried to kill myself, because I felt weird and I felt different. And I
felt like I did belong.

And, now, I`m standing here and so, I would like for this moment to be
for that kid out there who feels like she`s weird or she`s different or she
doesn`t fit in anywhere. Yes, you do.

I promise, you do. You do. Stay weird. Stay different. And then,
when it`s your turn and you are standing on this stage, please pass the
same message --


-- to the next person who comes along. Thank you so much. I love
you, guys.


O`DONNELL: Backstage, after that, Graham Moore was asked how
difficult it was to speak about something so personal in front of a
worldwide television audience.


MOORE: It was really hard, but it felt -- I don`t know, I`m a writer.
When am I ever going to be on television.

This was like my 45 seconds in my life to get on television and say
something. So, I thought like I might as well use it to say something

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: What helped you turn it around when you
got that low.

MOORE: Depression is something that I have dealt with every single
day of my life since. But I`m very blessed to have a family that was so
supportive then and has been so supportive ever since.

My mother, who`s -- I think she`s over there somewhere -- will be
sitting next to me tonight. I know, for her, who has seen me at all the
stages of this, it was really meaningful.

And I feel very blessed to have had friends and family around who are
so supportive. And not everyone gets to have that. I am very aware of how
lucky I am.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now here in Los Angeles is Rebecca Keegan, Film
Writer for the "Los Angeles Times," Justin Chang, Chief Film Critic for
"Variety," and JD Heyman, Deputy Editor for "People" magazine.

That was quite a moment last night. But, I`ve got to say, if it was
the Writers Guild Awards, the depression is just assumed.


You do not -- you don`t have to mention that at that award, you know.
But he really had the most, I think, maybe touching personal moment up
there last night.

lot of personal moments and political moments, and a lot of really heavy
topics that people talked about.

In addition to the depression, Julianne Moore talked Alzheimer`s,
Eddie Redmayne talked about A.L.S. There were political speeches. It was
really interesting.

O`DONNELL: You know, I made exactly one prediction, and it`s the only
prediction I`ve ever made about awards because I could never figure it out.

It`s the beginning of the season. I said, you know, "Selma," "Glory"
is going to win Best Song. I managed to tweet that right before the
"Golden Globes."

It`s the most obvious thing in the world. It deserved it. Let`s hear


JOHN LEGEND, SINGER AND SONGWRITER: When the war is won. Glory.
When it`s all said and done. Glory.

We`ll cry glory. Glory. Oh, glory. Glory. Oh.



O`DONNELL: Justin, that was "Selma`s" way of really grabbing the
emotion of the night.

just watching it just now again. I think it was the best moment of the
night for me.

And I felt, in some ways, that it was -- the Academy, almost atoning
that -- atoning for shutting out, with only two nominations, one of the
best --


-- and most -- and, you know, just least-rewarded films this season.
And the way they left their feet and Chris Pine crying, it was just --

O`DONNELL: But, you know, it really is the power of that song. You
know, I cried when I heard it in the theater in New York.


I had a chance to hear them do that live at an event in New York.

CHANG: Right.

O`DONNELL: I don`t know, it must be over a month ago. And the same
thing happened. And in the room, when they do that live, it`s absolutely


room. It was amazing. And it`s unfortunate that --


-- more people hadn`t seen that and been moved by that in terms of the
whole campaign for "Selma." "Selma" just didn`t get the momentum that some
of the other --


-- pictures had. I think it`s a complicated reason as to why. I
don`t think it`s as simple as simply saying it was a racial reason.

But there were a lot of problems marketing that film inside Hollywood


-- and getting people in front of it. And anyone who saw that movie
in Hollywood loved it. Yet, unfortunately, it didn`t gel.

O`DONNELL: And there were mechanics involved that people out there
don`t get, which is, they distribute D.V.D.s to all the voters. "Selma"
was unable to distribute the D.V.D.s as early as the rest of them because
the final cut was late and all that stuff.

But, let`s go to John Legend`s speech after winning the Oscar for Best


LEGEND: We wrote this song for a film that was based on events that
were 50 years ago. But we say that "Selma" is now because the struggle --


-- for justice is right now. We know that the voting rights, that act
that they fought for 50 years ago is being compromised right now in this
country today.


We know that, right now, --


-- the struggle for freedom and justice is real. We live in the most
incarcerated country in the world.


There are more black men under correctional control today than were
under slavery in 1850.


O`DONNELL: Rebecca, sometimes, it`s a reach that, in this kind of
moment where you reach out to grab a political issue and pull it into the
room, I don`t see how he could have accepted that award without going

KEEGAN: No, I think you`re right. One thing I think that`s
interesting in the context of the "Oscars is so white," sort of controversy
that came out around the nominations is, if you looked at last night`s
show, there were a lot of minority presenters.

Probably, the signature moment is the clip you just played. So,
clearly, both the Academy and the producers were showcasing this issue of
diversity in a way the nominations overlooked.

CHANG: And, sometimes, --


-- I think, not to the most, best-advised effect. Because, you know,
I kind of cringed --


-- at the bit with Octavia Spencer. You know, a lot of people were
saying, "What is this, `The Help.` Are you treating her like," you know,
she`s -- you know, kind of making her perform in a way.

And even with David Oyelowo, I thought it was -- there was sort of a
strange attempt on Neil Patrick Harris and the writers to --

O`DONNELL: Well, you know, by the way, Neil Patrick Harris
mispronounced his name twice. He said Yellow --

HEYMAN: It`s a hard name -- Oyelowo.

O`DONNELL: But you know you`re going to have to say it in the show.
It`s in the prompter. I mean, it`s not hard to learn.

HEYMAN: Practice.

O`DONNELL: And then at a show that makes fun at Travolta having
mispronounced a name last year. I mean --

HEYMAN: These are the things that we love the Academy Awards for.

O`DONNELL: Yes, because we love --

HEYMAN: We do not want to see a smooth Academy Awards.


Anybody who tells you that they`re not disappointed in the Academy
Awards is not, you know, being a true American.



You`re supposed to be disappointed in the Academy Awards. That`s part
of it. And what`s nice about the Academy Awards is that they resolutely,
traditionally, every year, do disappoint us in one way or the other.

And it`s a very hard show to execute. There is no -- they don`t
capitulate to our modern needs --


-- to be entertained.


HEYMAN: And I love that about them. So, without these things, we
wouldn`t have, you know, something to talk about, so --


O`DONNELL: And what happens now to "Birdman" with these Oscars. I
mean, it`s pretty much run its course, its business cycle, already, hasn`t


CHANG: It will soon may get a boost as the Best Picture winner
typically does, you know. And I would say though that, you know, keeping
with the disappointment of the show, --


-- one of the most disappointing things for me is the fact that
"Birdman" won Best Picture and Director and Screenplay. And this is a
movie that`s funny because you have these speeches which are very personal,
people reaching out into the world, talking about important issues that
are, --


-- you know, important to them. And you have the Academy giving an
award to a film that, I think, is very inward-looking and very navel-gazing
and self-gratifying in my opinion.

O`DONNELL: But, you know, I think --

HEYMAN: I think it`s lively, lovely Oscars.

O`DONNELL: I think "Birdman" is a brilliant work of art. But I also,
you know -- the most important thing was said by Julianne Moore last night
when she said the arts are not a competition.

I mean, I think "Birdman" deserved to be called the Best Picture. I
think, seven or eight other movies deserve that, too, at the same time, you
know. I just --

HEYMAN: Correct. It was this -- where else are you going to see a
movie like "Ida" celebrated or -- you know, this blend of, you know,
cheesiness and incredibly high art is nowhere else in our culture.


So, I think it`s good. And I`m proud that "Birdman" that won and I`m
proud that all these other movies were recognized. It`s a rare moment in
our culture.

O`DONNELL: Rebecca Keegan, Justin Chang and JD Heyman, that`s all the
Oscar talk we can take for tonight. It`s over for the year.

It`s over, that`s it. That`s the last word on the Oscars, said right
here tonight. Thank you all very much.

KEEGAN: Thank you.

HEYMAN: Thank you.

CHANG: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up next in the "Rewrite," --


-- the meaning of love, Giuliani style.



Tonight`s "Rewrite" needs music. It cries out for music, because it`s
all about love. But for complicated legal reasons, including the fact that
some of these segments live online forever, we can no longer secure the
right to use any of the great music of our time on this program.

In fact, the only way we were able to just play for you "Glory", the
Oscar-winning song last night, is because it is in the news today. But we
won`t be able to play you that song, say, a week from now.

So, instead of cuing Barry Right -- Barry White right now to sing us
into a discussion of love, I`m going to have to go straight to what
instantly became the most quoted line any politician has ever said about

I have to read it to you because there`s no audio recording of it.
And here it is --

"I know this is a horrible thing to say. But I do not believe that
the President loves America."

That was, of course, Rudy Giuliani who said that now famous sentence
last week at a Republican event for Scott Walker in New York City.

Now, when a politician talks about loving America, you should always
ask him or her what he or she actually means. What does it mean to love
America. What does it mean to love a country.

When I say I love my mother, you know what I mean. If I say I love
ice cream, you know what I mean. And you know I mean completely different
from loving my mother, or loving my dog, or loving Gershwin, or loving the
view of the Manhattan Skyline.

Each one of those loves is a completely different kind of love. And
yet, we are stuck with the same four-letter word to express them all. If I
say I love --


-- the Rocky Mountains, you have no idea what I mean. At first, you
might think you do, just as you might think you know what someone means
when he says he loves a country. But you don`t.

When I say I love the Rocky Mountains, does it mean I love climbing
them. Does it mean I love climbing them in the winter or just in summer.

Does it mean I love skiing the Rocky Mountains, or does it mean I just
love staring down at them from 35,000 feet. Well, the answer is I just
love staring down at them from airplane windows.

But you had no way of knowing that when I said I love the Rocky
Mountains. That`s what I hear when I hear politicians say, --


-- "I love America." I hear a sentence that has no meaning. No
meaning, without further elaboration. Elaboration that never comes from

They just say, "I love America." And that`s enough. But what does it
mean. What does a Republican politician, Rudy Giuliani -- what does a
Republican politician mean when he says, "I love America."

Does it mean he loves everywhere, inside the borders of the United
States of America. Does it mean he loves Alabama even if he`s never been

Does it mean he loves Harlem, Greenwich Village, Alaska, Texas. Does
it mean he loves Texas even in the summer. Because the most famous Texas
Republicans in history flee Texas every summer, to get about as far away as
they can.

In Maine. Because they apparently don`t love Texas in the summer.


They love Maine in the summer. They cheat on Texas every summer.
Poor Texas sits there in the sweltering heat of summer, waiting and waiting
for the Presidents Bush to give up their summer mistress and start loving
Texas again. If they love Texas at all.


When a Republican politician says he loves America, does it mean he
loves the American people, all of them, including the ones who don`t vote
for him, or the ones who don`t vote at all.

Does it mean he loves the people who hate him. Because every American
politician is hated by someone. And many of them are hated by millions of

Unlike politicians, the American people understand that love is
complicated. And that love of country isn`t easily defined and might not
even be necessary.


Last year, a Pew poll showed that only 28 percent of Americans think
that the United States, quote, "stands above all other countries in the

A big majority of Americans, 58 percent, think that America is, quote,
"one of the greatest countries in the world, along with some others."

When Rudy Giuliani says he loves America, does that mean he loves all
Americans, including the people who think that America is just one of the
greatest countries in the world, along with some others.

Or does Rudy Giuliani think those people are crazy and unlovable and a
disgrace to their citizenship.


A country is a patch of dirt, a bunch of people, and a government. I
don`t think Rudy Giuliani is talking about the land mass of the United
States when he says, "I love America."

I don`t think Rudy Giuliani is talking about all of the people of
America when he says, "I love America." And I`m sure Rudy Giuliani is not
talking about the government because I know he hates a lot of what the
government does, including subjecting to the top income tax rate.

So, I have no idea what Rudy Giuliani means when he says, "I love
America." Today, in "The Wall Street Journal," Rudy Giuliani tried to
clarify what he meant by saying the President doesn`t love America. In an
op-ed piece he wrote, --


-- "I didn`t intend to question President Obama`s motives or the
content of his heart.


But, of course, that is exactly what Rudy Giuliani did. He questioned
the contents of the President`s heart, questioned what the President loves.

Right after Rudy Giuliani said he does not believe that the President
loves America, he actually said, and I`m going to quote here. He said,
"And he doesn`t love me."

What could that possibly mean. It could mean something romantic but I
don`t think it does.

But I think it does prove something. I think it proves that when Rudy
Giuliani talks about love, he has, and we have, no idea what he`s talking


There are a lot of gems in David Axelrod`s new book, including the
story about when the White House actually considered dropping Joe Biden as
the Vice Presidential nominee for the reelection campaign and replacing him
with -- well, they did a poll to find out who that should be.

That`s next.


David Axelrod is back with us. His new book is called "Believer."

David, I wanted to go to this passage about Joe Biden, one of the gems
that I find so fascinating in the book. I`m going to read it for our
audience. It says, --


-- "One day, Biden called me into his stately office down the hall
from Oval. `Do you remember that conversation we had at my sister`s house
in Delaware,` he asked, recalling the interview, in which he told Plouffe
and me that he felt he would be the better president.`"

"`Well, you know what, I was wrong. The right person won. He`s an
incredible guy and I am proud to work with and for him.`"


This was when he knew, David, that there was some rumblings in the
White House about the possibility of swapping him for Hillary Clinton on
the reelection campaign.

And I just want to read what follows that in the book. You say, --


"Swapping Clinton for Biden would have been seen as weak and disloyal.
I argued when some on the campaign suggested we had an obligation to test
it in polling. When we did, it made no difference. The subject never came
up again."


What would have happened, David, if Hillary Clinton polled well ahead
of Joe Biden for you in that poll.

DAVID AXELROD, AUTHOR, "BELIEVER": Well, I could use the old
political cop out and say --


-- I don`t want to talk about a hypothetical -- but I think that would
have posed a really difficult problem because, well, the bond between the
President and Biden is very, very genuine. They`re very close.

And, I believe, Biden has been an incredible vice president, as loyal
as could be. He`s taken on some really hard assignments -- the Recovery
Act, Iraq, and other things.


And I said in the book what I believed, which is, there is no
justification, under any circumstance, which is why I didn`t want to poll.
But I never really thought that it was going to amount to much.

As you know, Lawrence, people don`t vote for vice presidents.


They vote for presidents. And I don`t think any change on the ticket
was going to particularly strengthen us.

So, you know, the whole thing was, in my view, kind of empty exercise.
But I`m happy that it worked out the way it did.

O`DONNELL: There`s much talk about the passage in the book where you
described the President`s real backstage position on marriage equality.
But, politically, you didn`t want him to go there because you thought it
was better to play a longer game.

Now, you know, I find nothing kind of surprising or shocking about
that. I guess it`s because I`ve worked inside these kinds of decisions.

But, do you understand why people look at that and they think of it as
lying, that the candidate`s going out there and lying to the public.

And I guess it`s true. But is it -- is it your argument that it`s
lying for a higher purpose down the road.

AXELROD: First of all, he was always very clear that he thought gay
and lesbian Americans should have equal rights, but he acknowledged that
there were these concerns in the religious community and he tried to thread
the needle with civil unions.

But, look, history -- you`re a student of History. History is
replete. You know, there were plenty of folks who were angry at Lincoln
because they didn`t think he moved fast enough on emancipation.

Roosevelt accepted a Social Security bill that essentially --


-- excluded most of African-Americans by the way it designated work
categories that qualified. And, as you know, he ran as a kind of an
isolationist in 1940, even as he was trying to maneuver America into --


-- World War II, or what would become World War II. So, yes, I think
this is -- that`s how leaders -- they take circuitous routes to get the
country where they think the country needs to go.

And this President did do that on these issues.

O`DONNELL: David Axelrod, I wish we could go on and on. I mostly
don`t like this kind of book. This is one of the really, really good ones.
If you read one inside the Obama administration book, this is the one to
read. Believe it, my 40 years in politics. David Axelrod, thank you.
Chris Hayes is up next.


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