Skip navigation

'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Monday, October 12th, 2015

Read the transcript to the Monday show

  Most Popular
Most viewed

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
Date: October 12, 2015
Guest: John Danforth, Eliana Johnson, Margie Omero, Dean Valore, Janai
Nelson

MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: There`s something --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To use it, not the analogies --

BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It`s not hyperbole at all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS-PERRY: There`s something deeply troubling about blaming victims of
mass murder and even the holocaust for their own distraction.

But I have to say the most troubling part is the fact that Dr. Carson is
not only a top-tier candidate, he is also viewed in a deeply favorable
light.

America, I`m going to need us to do a little better. And that does it for
us tonight, Rachel will be back tomorrow, now it`s time for THE LAST WORD
with Lawrence O`Donnell, good evening Lawrence.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening Melissa, thank you very much.

HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks.

O`DONNELL: Most house Republicans are praying that Paul Ryan will save
them, but one Republican thinks only God can save them now. That
Republican will be my first guest.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE BUDGET COMMITTEE: I haven`t changed
my mind, my answer is still the same.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: House Republicans don`t seem to be taking no for an
answer.

RYAN: I have nothing more to say (INAUDIBLE) --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Paul Ryan does not want to have to run for speaker --

STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN & TELEVISION HOST: As one of his friends told
reporters, because he`s not a -- moron.

(LAUGHTER)

If that`s the standard, then Congress is loaded with qualified candidates.

(LAUGHTER)

REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The house is bordering on
ungovernable right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have this group, this Freedom Caucus who says
compromise is a bad word.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re much more concerned about reforming the
institution.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have a more modest goal
which is to make sure that Congress doesn`t do damage to the economy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are one day away from the first Democratic debate.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it`s not going to be
very well rated because Trump isn`t in the debate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No one on that stage I think wants this to be an all
out slug fest.

LESTER HOLT, JOURNALIST: Still no word from Joe Biden about whether he is
in or out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They`ve got an extra podium in case Joe Biden shows
up.

STEVE KROFT, JOURNALIST: Do you think if you run again or could run again,
you would be elected?

OBAMA: Yes.

KROFT: You do?

OBAMA: I do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Paul Ryan`s communication director tried to make his and Paul
Ryan`s life easier today by tweeting this first thing this morning.
"Before you ask, nothing has changed and I don`t anticipate any news this
week."

Republican Congressman Paul Ryan is the only member of the house to be
publicly begged by most of his party including conservative media to run
for speaker and to publicly refuse to run and turn his back on all those
beggars.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN: I haven`t changed my mind, my answer is still the same and I have
nothing more to say or nothing new to add.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You probably --

RYAN: So --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Heard from a lot of your colleagues.

RYAN: I have, but I haven`t changed my answer and I really have nothing
more to add. So, I`m just going to have to leave it at that -- all right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Chaos in the house has spread to the Benghazi Committee where a
former member of the Republican staff of the committee has accused Chairman
Trey Gowdy of running a politically motivated investigation aimed at
discrediting former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Chairman Gowdy called that, "a damn lie on the "Today Show" this morning
and he said this about the speaker`s job.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOWDY: The house is bordering on ungovernable right now, being a speaker
is a very difficult job. We need to have a family conversation and
sometimes you got to hit rock bottom before that conversation starts.
We`re getting close.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Lost on most observers of this crisis and most of the
participants in this crisis, is the all important fact that Paul Ryan
already has what I think is the best job in the Congress; chairman of the
all powerful Ways and Means Committee.

The only committee whose jurisdiction is actually protected by the
constitution. Chairman Ryan has jurisdiction over virtually all of the
revenue raised by the federal government and most of the spending.

Everything the Ways and Means Committee does from taxation to international
trade to welfare to Medicare to Social Security, all of it is vitally
important to all of us.

It is not one of those committees stuck with a bunch of stray cats and dogs
of government that no one cares about.

Chairman of Ways and Means is the dream job for anyone who actually cares
about policy, cares about governing and cares about power.

I`ve never known a chairman of the Ways and Means Committee who would ever
consider giving up that job to be speaker of the house.

For the chairman of Ways and Means that is now and always has been a
demotion. Joining us now Eliana Johnson, Washington editor of the
"National Review".

She broke the story about Representative Kevin McCarthy withdrawing his
name as candidate for speaker of the house. Also with us, Richard Wolffe,
the executive editor for Msnbc.com.

And joining us, former Republican Senator John Danforth; he is a former
senator from Missouri and he is the author of the new book, "The Relevance
of Religion: How Faithful People Can Change Politics".

Senator Danforth, we`re going to get to your book later in the show, feel
free to sneak in any references you want to before the book segment.

Let`s listen to what former speaker Newt Gingrich had for advice for Paul
Ryan this weekend, let`s listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH, FMR. SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I think Paul should be very
cautious, so when he is the most prestigious member of the house on the
Republican side, he has the best future, he`s still very young.

You see, it`s easy to get 218 on the first vote and then you get to keeping
the government open through a continued resolution and then you get to the
debt ceiling and if you`re not careful by Christmas, you resemble John
Boehner.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Do you agree with that, Senator?

JOHN DANFORTH, (R) MISSOURI, FMR. U.S. SENATOR: Right, I sure do. Who
would want to be speaker of the house? I mean, it is -- it is chaos and
totally dysfunctional Congress right now.

Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee can accomplish more. He has got
all of the interesting subject matter, virtually. Taxation, if there`s
going to be tax reform, entitlement reform, if there`s going to be that.

Matters that are really consequential for the future of the country. And
being speaker of the house, I mean, you`ve seen what`s happened. It`s just
absolutely impossible position to be in.

So, if I were in his shoes, I would stick with my present job.

O`DONNELL: What about the party though? I mean, tell us about the dynamics
of the party pressure to do it, everyone saying, Paul, you`re the only one
who can do this.

DANFORTH: But, I mean, the question is, do what? I mean --

(LAUGHTER)

O`DONNELL: OK --

DANFORTH: What is -- what is Congress doing now? What is the house of
Representatives accomplishing? What can the speaker do when he has 40 or so
rebellious people --

O`DONNELL: But on --

DANFORTH: Who are going to be --

O`DONNELL: On a personal level, that party pressure, how does that work on
someone like Paul Ryan, do you think in this situation?

DANFORTH: Well, I am sure that he`s very interested in what the members of
his party have to say.

But I think the more important thing for him is, in addition to the family,
you know, I mean, it`s going to be a big family drain if he were speaker of
the house, and I`m sure that`s important to him.

But in addition to that, where can he make the most difference? I don`t see
the speaker of the house making any difference with 40 rebels on his hand
taking the rule or ruin position.

But in ways and means, the chairman of that committee, that`s really
something. And he can guide public policy at least up to a point, so, I
think it`s the better job.

O`DONNELL: Eliana Johnson, who is or what is plan B if Paul Ryan holds to
his absolute no?

ELIANA JOHNSON, WASHINGTON EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW: Well, I think Newt
Gingrich can take to heart that Paul Ryan is absolutely taking his advice
and there are several plan Bs right now, though.

We`re in an odd situation in which the vast majority of the people who say
they would run for speaker are saying they`ll only run if Paul Ryan doesn`t
run.

So, it`s a rare historical moment. But there are several names being
thrown out there. The chairman of the (INAUDIBLE), Congressman Flores
threw his hat in the ring of Texas today, said he`ll run if Congressman
Ryan doesn`t run.

We`ve heard Peter Roskam, Jason Chaffetz will get in if Congressman Ryan
doesn`t run. And so, there are several names out there, but there`s nobody
who commands the broad respect that Paul Ryan does; the undisputed
intellectual leader of Republicans in Congress.

And unlike all these other names tested on the national stage because he
was Mitt Romney`s vice presidential nominee.

And as we saw, Kevin McCarthy didn`t have that experience and fumbled in
his first major national interview.

So, I think that`s something Republicans are really looking for.

O`DONNELL: Richard Wolffe, there`s also the question for Paul Ryan, where
would I go from there? And if you`re looking --

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC.COM: Right --

WOLFFE: At what`s happened to speakers of the house just during Paul
Ryan`s adulthood, the outcomes are not good. The -- John Boehner, the most
recent example, others being driven out in effect.

Tom Foley, Democratic speaker defeated in his own re-election which
obviously used to be automatic for speakers of the house that they`d be re-
elected to their positions.

And so if you`re Paul Ryan, whose future do you like if you`re looking at -
-

WOLFFE: Right --

O`DONNELL: The futures of all the past speakers of the house?

WOLFFE: Well, his present and his future, right? You know, if the
president --

O`DONNELL: Yes --

WOLFFE: Isn`t going to be much fun and the future -- if you have
presidential aspirations and surely if you`ve run for that vice president
once, you think about running at the top of the ticket later on, that`s not
going to happen either.

Because you end up being a wounded animal, essentially. You`ve had so many
problems trying to hold this coalition together, or you`ve been super
pragmatic and said, you know what?

This Hastert rule running with the majority of the majority, that`s no
longer relevant or even possible, so we`re going to have to create some
grand coalitions across the aisle which is of course going to be poisonous
for anything you would want to do later.

And again, it wouldn`t work in the present term either because you would
lose your caucus, too. There isn`t a good solution for a Republican house
speaker right now, and that means there`s not a good solution for the
Republican Party either.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Ted Cruz said today about this uprising
among Republicans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We were told if only we had
the Republican house, things would be much better. Millions of us rose up
in 2010, we won a tidal wave election. Very little change.

Then we were told the problem is the Senate, we heard over and over again,
well, it`s Harry Reid in the Senate, if only we could win the Senate, then
finally, we can do something. Said OK.

Millions of us rose up in 2014, won nine Senate seats, retired Harry Reid
as majority leader and won the biggest majority in the house since 1920s.

Been a little over nine months we`ve had Republican majorities in both
houses of Congress. What on earth have they accomplished? It is why people
are volcanic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Senator Danforth, if you got to speak to that same audience
after Ted Cruz, what would you say that he might have left out there?

DANFORTH: What is our government about? Is it about making decisions in
just a few months? No, it wasn`t designed that way by our founding fathers;
by the writers of the constitution.

What he just said is, look, we went to the polls, "we" being the
conservatives, we went to the polls, nine months later, we haven`t repealed
Obamacare and we haven`t defunded Planned Parenthood.

I mean, government, you really would have to have an all-powerful view of
the federal government if you thought that it could turn on a dime that
way. So, I think it`s just a mistake in view of the way the government was
set up.

O`DONNELL: And Richard Wolffe, one of the interesting things about the
demands that the house members, the so-called Freedom Caucus who are
holding up the situation for the Republicans in the house, their demands
actually include that the house operate more like the Senate, open up to
more amendments.

More of these things that we`ve seen, slow things down in the Senate.

WOLFFE: Right, they`re not talking about responsible government, they are
talking about irresponsible government.

So, the idea that this could be a protest body is fine if you`re in the
minority and that`s what I think quite perplexing about this Republican
Party at this moment.

Where it has power but chooses not to exercise it because the people
exercising that power are themselves suspicious.

So, you hear it already about Paul Ryan and the conservative media that
he`s just going to be another John Boehner, why?

Because he would want to get things done. You know, this is -- this is an
extreme view where actually they rail against paralysis, you heard Senator
Cruz saying right there.

But actually, they want to embrace it and perpetuate it. So, it`s not a
rational strategy. It`s one that really demands permanent opposition
because it seems to be more satisfying.

O`DONNELL: Eliana, since the house and the Senate are very good at not
getting things done, what are the odds that they actually get nothing done
on the selection of a new speaker?

And when we get to Christmas, the John Boehner resemblance that Newt
Gingrich was predicting is actually true and John Boehner is still the
speaker of the house.

JOHNSON: I actually think there`s a good chance of that, and the irony is,
of course that the Freedom Caucus asserted itself in what they may have
gotten in response is more John Boehner who has been the bane of their
existence.

And I think the bigger problem here is that leadership, not only as
Congress` power at an ebb here, but the house leadership has really lost
its ability to exert power in large part because of social media actually.

So the ways that we -- house leadership used to exert power by revoking
committee chairmanships and all of that, it can no longer do.

And I think the house and the Democrats will have to grapple with it when
they`re in power, need to come up with a different way of exerting this
power over its members.

That`s what`s really going on here, is that Boehner needs to come up with a
new way and the next speaker will have to come up with a new way to exert
influence over in Congress and enforce some discipline.

O`DONNELL: Senator Tom Cotton suggested Dick Cheney as a speaker of the
house since you don`t have to be a member of the house. How about Speaker
John Danforth?

DANFORTH: (INAUDIBLE) would say, not with his wife.

(LAUGHTER)

O`DONNELL: OK, all right, we`re going to take a break here -- Eliana
Johnson, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

Coming up, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders will finally face-off for the
first Democratic debate tomorrow.

And later, new reports released in the killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice by
a police officer, those reports say that the shooting was justifiable.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: "Cnn" is making a big deal about holding open a spot for Joe
Biden on the debate stage tomorrow night just in case Joe Biden announces
at the last minute that he`s running for president.

Professor Lawrence Lessig has already announced that he is running for the
Democratic nomination, but Professor Lessig will not be allowed to occupy
the empty Biden spot on the debate stage.

Because the debate rule say that his poll numbers are not high enough.
Professor Lessig will join us here for our debate coverage tomorrow night
on THE LAST WORD.

Coming up next, who does President Obama want to be the next president?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KROFT: Do you think you`d run again, you could run again or did run again,
you would be elected?

OBAMA: Yes.

KROFT: You do?

OBAMA: I do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: President Obama is not going to get the chance to vote for
himself for president again, and if you`re trying to guess who he will vote
for in the Illinois Democratic presidential primary, this might help.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: And I think Joe will go down as one of the finest vice presidents
in history and one of the more consequential.

And if you`re sitting right next to the president in every meeting, and you
know, wrestling with these issues, I`m sure that for him he`s saying to
himself, I could do a really good job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: A new national "Cbs" poll released on the eve of the debate
shows Hillary Clinton holding her solid lead at 46 percent with Bernie
Sanders holding steadily in second place at 27 percent and Joe Biden
running third to Bernie Sanders at 16 percent.

That same poll shows that if Joe Biden is not a candidate, Hillary Clinton
would get two-thirds of Biden`s supporters pushing her up to 56 percent and
Bernie Sanders would pick up the rest and move up to 32 percent.

Joining us now Richard Wolffe, executive editor, Msnbc.com and Margie Omero
is a Democratic pollster for Purple Strategies.

Margie, these polls with Biden in, Biden out, clearly show that he does
more damage to Hillary Clinton than to Bernie Sanders. But they -- what
they don`t show is any upward movement for him over the last, say, 60 days.

MARGIE OMERO, MANAGING DIRECTOR OF RESEARCH, PURPLE STRATEGIES & DEMOCRATIC
STRATEGIST: Well, there was a time earlier when some outlets were actually
not even including Biden in the match-ups.

And now they`re starting to put him back in and you saw as speculation grew
that his numbers grew.

I think they may be stabilizing because he hasn`t announced that he`s going
to be a candidate. In fact, he`s announced that he`s not sure if he`s
going to be a candidate.

So, I think it`s OK, it doesn`t mean that Biden can`t be successful, it
doesn`t mean that voters don`t want to see him come in.

You`ve seen other polls that show Democrats are divided as to whether or
not they want him to enter the race.

So, I think they are where you`d expect given that he is not yet an
announced candidate.

O`DONNELL: Richard, how does the Biden factor play in tomorrow night`s
debate?

WOLFFE: Well, clearly there are going to be questions there. There`s
going to be some gaming of the different scenarios. But Hillary Clinton
really ought to find that easy to move beyond that.

You know, be -- the harder questions are going to be the kinds of things
Joe Biden would raise about her position on foreign policy, about the
President`s record on foreign policy.

But those are not going to decide the core support of the Democratic voters
in these primaries and caucuses. So, I don`t think that his absence is
going to twist the field.

It might pose some tricky questions, but if Hillary Clinton can`t deal with
those, then she`s in serious trouble.

O`DONNELL: And Margie, this is Bernie Sanders big opportunity. He`s never
been seen, he`s been pulling the biggest crowds for Democrat, no question
about it.

But in terms of television audiences, he`s never had the exposure that
Hillary Clinton has had. Is there a special strategy that he should be
working on for this debate because it is going to be in many ways for him,
an introduction to many new voters?

OMERO: Well, I think you`re going to see him introducing himself to
people. People who are seeing him speak for the first time, they may know
a little bit about him, but they don`t know that much about him.

So, I think his first order of business is really saying who he is, his
background and what he`s about and the things that he stands for.

O`DONNELL: Richard, there`s a new poll -- in that "Cbs" poll, one of the
internal questions is about Hillary Clinton`s e-mail and how it`s affecting
voters and you have 71 percent of voters saying the way she used private e-
mail at the State Department was not appropriate.

Forty eight percent of Democrats saying it was not appropriate, 41 percent
saying that it was appropriate.

You can see that there is -- and there`s dissatisfaction -- another
question, are you satisfied with her explanations? Mostly dissatisfied.

This is registered voters overall, 59 percent. And then the issue of how
important is this as a voting issue for you?

And about 50 percent of voters say that it is either very important or
somewhat important. It`s -- these things are usually hard to figure out
exactly --

WOLFFE: Right --

O`DONNELL: How they`re affecting a candidacy. These questions get you a
little bit closer to figuring it out.

WOLFFE: In the absence of any other discussion about Hillary Clinton, yes,
this is going to be -- have an impact on her numbers.

She has to move beyond it by talking about what she is, what she
represents, the kind of narrative and the purpose of her candidacy.

But she also has to speak in a candid way about who she is as well. And I
think the character questions are more important than the e-mail questions.

So, she has to establish what kind of leader she would be. And I think for
many Democrats, and this may just be anecdotal or you may be seeing it in
the numbers.

The problem about the e-mails is that it won`t go away. She has to put it
to rest as an assertion of her own strength and that strength is what
people are going to want to see tomorrow night.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what President Obama said about the e-mail
controversy last night on "60 Minutes".

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I don`t think it posed national security problem, I think that it
was a mistake that she`s acknowledged.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Margie, a mistake that she`s acknowledged. There`s the
President calling it a mistake but Hillary Clinton has already called it a
mistake.

OMERO: Right, I mean, I think he is reiterating what she said about it. I
don`t -- and I think that that reflects where vote -- how a lot of voters
see the issue.

I mean, she`s taken some heat over this over the last few months. I think
at the same time, to Richard`s point, she`s been out, also talking about a
variety of issues at the same time.

And I think the debate prevents -- allows an opportunity for her to discuss
the issues more so than the daily news clip from folks who are attacking
her on the e-mail issue.

That said, I do think it`s something that has -- she`s struggled with a
little bit in the polls.

I think overall with the polls where you see people who are saying that it
affects their view, those are folks who are most -- for the most part are
already disinclined to vote for among Democrats, the numbers are really
quite different.

O`DONNELL: And Richard, Hillary Clinton`s strength has always been a
command of details, a better command of details than most other candidates
and certainly most other candidates she`s faced in her career.

Would you expect her to try to emphasize that tomorrow night?

WOLFFE: Yes, I would, I actually --

O`DONNELL: I mean --

WOLFFE: Think --

O`DONNELL: The risk -- the risk of it being that you can start to sound a
little in the weeds and a little boring.

WOLFFE: Right, and a little establishment.

O`DONNELL: Yes --

WOLFFE: So, it would be a major mistake for her to do that. I think her
strength is actually her strength.

O`DONNELL: Yes --

WOLFFE: She`s got to project the core essence of who she is, which is an
extremely strong leader and a strong woman, and someone who can speak
authentically at a time when voters(ph) -- Democrats and Republicans are
looking for that authenticity.

Policy substance does not equal authenticity at this time. Emotion,
character, forcefulness, direct communication and an honest answer to
questions, those are the kinds of factors that I think are shining through.

And that`s true for Bernie Sanders especially.

O`DONNELL: And, yes, Margie, I mean, that is -- that`s what Bernie Sanders
is running on basically, is I`ll tell it to you straight, I`ll give you the
absolutely unvarnished truth.

OMERO: Yes, I think you`re going to see both Sanders and Clinton really
want to talk about the issues in this debate. I think you`re going to find
a lot of Democratic voters who are going to find it refreshing.

A lot of people who are not Democrats watching this debate are going to
find it refreshing.

You`re not going to see the slug fest that you`ve seen in the Republican
debates where people are kind of barging into the conversation and then try
and get -- be part of a viral, you know, viral video where everyone is kind
of shouting at each other.

You`re not going to see that, at least not with Sanders and Clinton this
time around.

O`DONNELL: And Richard, Bernie Sanders has the imagine me as president
challenge. He`s not only --

WOLFFE: Right --

O`DONNELL: Introducing himself to a lot of new voters who won`t be
familiar with him, but he also has to get them to imagine him in the Oval
office.

With Hillary Clinton, she`s worked a lot in the Oval office as a Secretary
of State, she`s been there, that`s not hard to picture. Bernie Sanders has
to create that picture.

WOLFFE: He has to create a picture while on stage alongside people who can
project that already.

So that side-by-side comparison is going to be hard for Bernie Sanders,
much harder than when you`re surrounded by thousands and thousands of
people who are eager for your every word.

It wasn`t easy for Barack Obama right at the start, in fact, it wasn`t
really particularly easy for him even at the end of the primary debates.

Debating skills weren`t there. The way you project hope and change is not
really the same as the way you really slash and burn through a debate.

And even though it`s not going to be a slug fest it still requires those
skills. People want to see the fight brought to life on the stage.

If only it`s a fight against Republicans, Bernie Sanders has to embrace
that while also looking the part on that debate stage. That`s not easy.

O`DONNELL: Richard Wolffe and Margie Omero (AUDIO GAP 00:02:36-39) -- to a
report saying that the police killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice was
justified.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Eleven months after 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot and killed
in Cleveland while holding a pellet gun the first but not the last
investigation of that shooting has been completed. Here is video of what
happened to Tamir Rice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL (voice-over): The prosecutor in the case chose the unusual time
of 8:00 P.M., Saturday night to release two reports on the shooting. Each
of those reports found the shooting justified.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining us now is Dean Valore, a former county prosecutor in
Cleveland, Ohio, and former U.S. Assistant Attorney, specializes in use of
force by police. Also joining us now is Janai Nelson, the associate
director council for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

Dean Valore, what is your reaction to these reports, and what was the --
why do these reports exist? It is not something I have seen in any
prosecutorial chain of action before.

DEAN VALORE, FMR.COUNTY PROSECUTOR IN CLEVELAND, OHIO: Right. It is an
unprecedented move when Prosecutor McGinty first decided that he was going
to ask some independent experts to evaluate this evidence for him and make
report back for use in the grand jury.

So, when we learned that that was going to happen, it was a bit unorthodox
and unusual for the prosecutor to ask some outside source to do this. He
further took the step to then ask the county sheriff`s department to then
conduct the investigation and not the Cleveland Police Department.

Maybe because of conflict of interest, maybe just because he thought the
sheriff`s department was better suited to handle that. But, then, secondly
when these reports came out, everyone was sort of surprised here to learn
that the experts in question that wrote these reports, in fact, justified
their use of force as reasonable in the legal sense.

O`DONNELL: And, they -- what was the basis of the findings?

VALORE: The basis of the findings was at the time of the incident, the
experts analyzed the police reaction which is what all use of force experts
do, at the time of the incident the experts analyzed the use of force and
whether that was justifiable given the circumstances. And, in this case,
they perceived a threat of bodily injury of -- deadly bodily injury and
could then reasonably use deadly force as a response.

O`DONNELL: And, Janai Nelson, they reached these findings without ever
speaking to the police officers involved.

JANAI NELSON, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR COUNCIL FOR THE NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE &
EDUCATIONAL FUND: That is correct. They just looked at the video. They
dissected the video. They dissected parts of the record. But, what is
really key is to understand what was the officer thinking.

When Officer Loehmann arrives on the scene, jumps a curve, and winds up
within five to seven feet of Tamir Rice and shoots within two seconds, I
think it is rather relevant to think about what the officer was considering
at the time that he pulled the trigger.

O`DONNELL: And, what is fascinating is the reports get in to complete
supposition on that point, saying that they just assume that the officer
saw certain things, saw certain movements that are virtually undetectable
on the video. And, then that the officer makes decisions based on these
movements that take place in less than a second, some of the things they
are talking about.

NELSON: That is right. Well, the standard that applies the Supreme Court
decided in 1999 in a case called Graham versus Conner, that the standard to
determine whether an officer uses excessive force in a stop or an arrest or
seizure of a person is whether it was objectably reasonable at the time.

So, we are all supposed to freeze frame what happened the moment that he
arrives on the scene and -- Tamir Rice and determine what was reasonable at
that moment. Was it reasonable for him to pull the trigger on a 12-year-
old child who was holding a toy gun?

We do not know exactly where it was positioned at the time that he pulled
up. But, we do not look in hindsight, we really freeze frame at that
moment and determine what was reasonable for any officer to do at the time?

I think it is highly questionable that experts would analyze the facts and
considering the video and what we have all seen with our own eyes to
determine conclusively that this was a reasonable action on the part of the
officer, given what the circumstances were, given that Tamir Rice was not
posing a threat to anyone including the officer or himself at the time that
officer arrived on the scene.

O`DONNELL: Dean Valore, do you see anything in that video that allows you
as an experienced federal and state prosecutor, that would allow you to
reach the conclusion, and without any testimony from the officers
themselves -- any explanation from the officers themselves, reach a
conclusion that, that shooting is justified? Could you see a decision-
making process by the officer unfold in a way that you can evaluate?

VALORE: I do not see that clearly on the video. It is too short. It is
too -- the sequence of events of the pull-up and the firing of the weapon,
it is -- it happens too quickly for -- in my opinion, to be able to make an
analysis of whether that was reasonable under the circumstances.

I think that the investigation needs to be conducted further, which the
prosecutor said he is going to do. They are going to continue to
investigate. They are going to continue to talk to people. They are going
to continue to generate reports. And, I think that once more facts come to
light you are going to hear more opinions ability whether this is
justifiable or not.

I was surprised, frankly, that these experts gave the -- such a definitive
opinion that given that small frame of relevant conduct on the video
allowed them to say it was justifiable at the time. Ad, I think Janai is
right, that is the analysis that needs to be done.

O`DONNELL: The timing could not be stranger, 8:00 P.M. on a Saturday night
for any prosecutor to release any relevant information about an ongoing
investigation. Hillary Clinton tweeted first thing this morning about
this.

"Sending support to Tamir Rice`s loved ones. Too many black families are
mourning the loss of a child. We need to change that reality." And,
Janai, we have not heard from any other presidential candidates.

NELSON: Yes. Well, I certainly think that the issue of police violence is
something that should and I hope will factor significantly in this upcoming
presidential election. All candidates need to address this issue. It is
something that is really pulling our country in many different directions
and pulling us apart in many ways.

And, it is a critical issue for us to expect our elected leaders to
consider and to react to. And, this is one of sadly many cases that we
have dealt with in the past year, and we know that this is preceded this
past year as well. But, it is finally coming to light and becoming a real
national issue to confront.

O`DONNELL: Dean, why has this taken so long to get to this point?

VALORE: Well, to tie in with what Janai just said, in Cleveland
specifically like the rest of the country, there is a lot of tension in the
community, especially as it relates to the police activity. And, what the
prosecutor is doing and has done since this case was referred for special
investigation, he has taken enormous amounts of time.

So much so that in Cleveland, the family and their lawyers of this poor boy
have been pushing it themselves through the court system. And, ANOTHER
unprecedented move, they got a sitting judge to issue a complaint and make
a probable cause determination himself based on an affidavit of citizenship
that has never in recent memory being used in our state.

And, so, the amount of time that he has been taking and the amount of
thoroughness and the length that he is going with these investigations is
definitely unusual, but given the stakes and given the tensions and the
pressure mounting on all sides, a lot of people are thinking it is
justified.

O`DONNELL: Dean Valore and Janai Nelson, thank you both for joining us
tonight.

Coming up next, the presidential candidate who was proven right on the Iraq
war.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: The Iraqi Defense Ministry released more video of Iraqi troops
attacking ISIS militants trying to take back parts of Iraq that are under
the control of the Islamic State. Iraqi officials say air strikes were
also carried out by coalition forces against the Islamic State
Headquarters.

Thirteen years ago, almost exactly 13 years ago tonight, it was on October
9, 2002, then-Vermont Congressman Bernie Sanders explained his vote against
authorizing the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I-VT) DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am
concerned about the problems of so-called unintended consequences. Who
will govern Iraq when Saddam Hussein is removed and what role will the U.S.
play in ensuing civil war that can develop in that country?

Will moderate governments in the region at large, Islamic fundamentalists`
populations be over thrown and replaced by extremists? Will the bloody
conflict between Israel and the Palestinian authority be exacerbated. And,
these are just a few of the questions that remain unanswered

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Coming up next, a republican recommendation for fixing the mess
in congress and for how to proceed with the presidential election. It is
coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALAN ALDA, AS SENATOR ARNOLD VINICK, IN THE T.V. SERIES, "THE WEST WING":
Whatever happened to separation of church and state?

MARTIN SHEEN, AS PRESIDENT JOSIAH BARTLET, IN THE T.V. SERIES, "THE WEST
WING": It is hanging in there, but I am afraid the constitution does not
say anything about the separation of church and politics.

ALDA, AS SEN. VINICK: Are you saying that is a good thing?

SHEEN, AS PRES. BARTLET: I am saying that is the way it is, always has
been.

ALDA, AS SEN. VINICK: Do you think the voter really needs to know if I go
to church?

SHEEN, AS PRES. BARTLET: I do not need to know, but then I am not going to
vote for you anyway.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Former Republican Senator John Danforth has written a book
whose title would terrify the secretly atheist candidate for president
played by Alan Alda in the MSNBC series "The West Wing."

The book is, "The Relevance of Religion: How Faithful People Can Change
Politics." Back with us to discuss the book is Senator Danforth. And,
Reverend Danforth, you are an Episcopalian.

DANFORTH: That is right.

O`DONNELL: And, so, there is -- you know, I created that republican
candidate for president in "The West Wing." I was trying to give him the
worst problem I could think of. It took me a while. And, I came up with,
"What if he secretly is an atheist. Could you vote for an atheist for
president?

DANFORTH: Yes. I mean we have just had this debate very recently as there
should there be a religious test for holding public office, and the answer
is no. It is playing in the constitution.

O`DONNELL: So, your reaction to what Ben Carson had to say about he would
not vote for a Muslim candidate for president?

DANFORTH: No, I think that, that is mistaken and it is not -- it is not
true to the expressed terms of the constitution, but this book is really
not written for candidates for public office. It has to do with the tone
of American politics, and what has gone wrong with American politics.

And, as you pointed out in your first segment, something has gone terribly
wrong. I mean when the House of Representatives cannot even elect a
speaker, there is something wrong. And, what is the cause of this? And, I
think it has to do with what is it that politicians are hearing from the
American people, and what are they trying to evoke from the American people
in response?

I think what they are hearing from the so-called base of the party, the
kind of people who vote in primaries is do not compromise, do not give an
inch. And, you cannot do politics that way. And, you cannot do government
that way. And, that is not the way congress was set up.

So, part of this book is about compromise and about how compromise is
consistent with religious principles because the opposite of compromise is
enshrining one particular philosophical position or party or political
position as the highest good, and that is called idolatry. So, compromise
is very much consistent, I think, with the message that religious people
should be giving to politicians.

O`DONNELL: Yes, the title of the book I think will be misleading to a lot
of people because they will not expect to find this book saying, as it
does, attempts to translate religious beliefs in to stands on specific
issues are misguided for both religious and political reasons.

But, what about -- for example the belief, that abortion is murder, which
is a belief held by millions of people? If that person with that belief is
elected to office, where the congress and the lawmakers decide what is
against the law and so forth, why should not that view inform how that
person --

DANFORTH: First of all, that particular issue is over. It is no longer in
the hands of politicians and has not been since 1973 when Rowe versus Wade
was decided. But the point that I make in the book is that -- to translate
religion into one particular political view is idolatry.

And, it is just not correct to say, in my view, that religion compels
people to be republicans or democrats or vote for candidate "A" or "B" or
to have one particular philosophical position. There are plenty of good
faithful people right across the political spectrum. And, so, I think it
is important to recognize that.

But, there I think -- there are common messages that faithful people can
offer politics, which would make American politics much healthier and much
more workable than it is today. One is compromise, as I said earlier.
Another has to do with the common good.

I mean, what has happened to Kennedy is message about asking what you can
do for your country? And, the Americans would be willing to pay any price
for the defense of liberty. Is there any politician since then who has
ever asked us to pay any price at all? --

O`DONNELL: You mentioned in the book --

DANFORTH: And, the idea that there is a common good instead of just what
is in it for me is also very much a religious concept, I think it is one
that deserves to be heard.

O`DONNELL: You mentioned in the book one of the low points for you as a
republican was to watch every republican candidate on the debate stage last
time around refuse to raise their hand, and accept a deal in which they
would get 90 percent of what they wanted to say and have to give to
democrats 10 percent of what they wanted if what the democrats wanted was
to tax increase.

DANFORTH: Well, it can and it cannot be done that way. And, back when it
worked, when you were with Moynihan and when I was in the senate, that is
the way the senate finance committee worked for sure. Everything had to be
done on a bipartisan basis or it would not be done at all. Everything had
to be worked out.

And that is the way our congress was constructed. It is a place to work
things out. And, it is not functioning now because people are hearing from
at least some of their constituents, we do not want you to compromise.
There is a new verb to be primaried, and that is what people are threatened
--

O`DONNELL: Let us have a quick break. When we come back, this fascinating
thing, where you see religion as teaching compromise. Most people think
religion is absolutist. And, we want to get your view on Kim Davis`
refusal to do our job as a county clerk based on her religious positions.
We will be right back with Senator Danforth.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KIM DAVIS, ROWAN COUNTY CLERK WHO REFUSES TO ISSUE MARRIAGE LICENSES TO
SAME-SEX COUPLES: To affix my name or authoritative title on a certificate
that authorizes marriage that conflicts with God`s definition of marriage
as a union between one man and one woman violates my deeply held religious
convictions and conscience. For me, this would be an act of disobedience
to my God.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: We are back with former Republican Senator and permanent
Reverend John Danforth. Your reaction to Kim Davis.

DANFORTH: When you are elected to an executive position in government,
your job is to execute the law whether you agree with it or not. It is
just as simple as that.

O`DONNELL: It is as simple as that.

DANFORTH: But, I think that as far as the general public is concerned, I
mean there is this discussion now about accommodating people`s religious
beliefs, if they are minority religious beliefs, I am all for that, when it
is possible to do it. But that is very different from somebody who is
holding a public office. They have to execute the law.

O`DONNELL: You have said -- in your book, you talk about libertarianism
and how you see that as just fundamentally opposed certainly to
Christianity and Christian values, and you find it surprising that Paul
Ryan has claimed adherence to both -- to both humane and catholic priests.

DANFORTH: Yes, I really do not think he meant it. He spoke to the society
and said he agreed with that philosophy. No, I really do not think he
does. I think though that the philosophy of libertarianism is of extreme
selfishness and that really is counter to what religion is all about.

And, it is also counter to what our founders intended America to be all
about. It was one of the great concepts of our first four presidents was
the idea of virtue, and by that they meant commitment to the common good,
not just that we are all selfish.

One of the points of this book, really the point is that people really
should be more outspoken on behalf of the basic values of America, not
leave it just to the people who are angry or shouting or say that do not
ever compromise about anything or give me all the benefits I can get and do
not make me pay any taxes for them. So, I think that there is a role for a
different voice in American politics, and that is what I am trying to
encourage.

O`DONNELL: You actually quote Iran in the bookand saying things like, you
know, you should never try to help other people in any way, you should not
do that and you cannot imagine a politician getting up and actually quoting
her.

DANFORTH: No, that is why Ryan really did not mean it. I think he was
just being nice to an audience. But, no, he would not believe that.

O`DONNELL: All right, that is going to be the last word. Tonight, we are
going to keep Senator Danforth with us. We are going to do a very last
word, which we will post online, more about this fascinating book.

The book is "The Relevance of Religion," the author, former Senator Jack
Danforth. Senator, always great to see you. You really make me miss
working with you whenever we have these discussions.

(LAUGHING)

DANFORTH: Thanks.

O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes is up next.




END

<Copy: Content and programming copyright 2015 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Copyright 2015 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>


Watch The Last Word With Lawrence O'Donnell each weeknight at 10 p.m. ET


Sponsored links

Resource guide