'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Thursday, October 15th, 2015
Read the transcript to the Thursday show
THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
Date: October 15, 2015
Guest: Jonathan Allen, Sam Harris, Maajid Nawaz, Dick Van Dyke
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: That does it for us tonight, we`ll see you again
tomorrow, now it`s time for THE LAST WORD with Lawrence O`Donnell.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST, THE LAST WORD: While Donald Trump is now
dictating the terms of the next Republican presidential debate, and he will
get exactly what he wants, because for once, Donald Trump is right.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, CHAIRMAN & PRESIDENT, THE TRUMP ORGANIZATIONS & FOUNDER,
TRUMP ENTERTAINMENT RESORTS: So we`re in first place everywhere. I mean -
I mean --
JEB BUSH, FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: I`m 5-0 in my fantasy football --
For the record --
TRUMP: I`m amazed at how he`s not resonated.
BUSH: Yes, I don`t know what to tell you -- I`m not going to scream at
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump is far ahead of the field.
TRUMP: Three months, right? It`s a long time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ben Carson is his immediate threat.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t think he`s found that weak spot in Carson or
he would go after it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s making outrageous comments every day, saying crazy
things, yet, you`re going up in the polls. Stop stealing my campaign
SETH MACFARLANE, TELEVISION SERIES SCREENWRITER: Well, it would be way
funnier if Trump won. It would be far better for the health of the country
if Bernie Sanders is the next president.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), VERMONT: We have raised $2 million.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I actually am aroused by him. I like an old Jewish
guy who is a socialist, that`s my type of guy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who has better hair, you or Donald Trump?
SANDERS: Oh, well, that goes without saying.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks like America is finally ready for an old white
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Donald Trump is tired. He is tired of being made tired by
being forced to stand on debate stages for more than two hours.
Many observers thought Trump looked tired during the last Republican debate
which lasted three hours. Now Donald Trump is threatening to boycott the
next Republican debate on "Cnbc".
And in a letter to "Cnbc", co-signed by Donald Trump and Ben Carson, they
say they will not participate in a debate that is more than 120 minutes
long including commercial breaks.
Further, the debate must include opening statements from all of the
candidates and closing statements from all of the candidates.
"Cnbc" then issued this statement, "our practice in the past has been to
forego opening statements to allow more time to address the critical issues
that matter most to the American people."
We will certainly take the candidates` views on the format into
consideration as we finalize the debate structure." Translation, "Cnbc"
will give Donald Trump exactly what he wants for two reasons.
The first is of course ratings, which is the guiding light for virtually
every decision made in commercial television, and the second is that,
Donald Trump is absolutely right.
The first Democratic debate on "Cnn" had opening and closing statements and
was a better debate for it. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton`s opening
statements were among their strongest moments of the night.
So strong that Hillary Clinton has turned her opening statement in the
debate into a campaign commercial.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I`m Hillary Clinton, I have
been proud and privileged to serve as first lady, as a senator from New
York and as Secretary of State.
I`m the granddaughter of a factory worker and the grandmother of a
wonderful 1-year-old child. And every day, I think about what we need to
do to make sure that opportunity is available, not just for her, but for
all of our children.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Debates are a flawed test, to put it mildly, for choosing a
president. Once elected, presidents don`t debate. They don`t debate
It is not part of the job, but giving speeches is. Presenting their
thoughts in a carefully composed way, usually with the assistance of a
teleprompter is part of being president.
Done right, the opening and closing statements in a presidential debate
could be the most presidential moments you see in the debate.
And as for the time limit on the debate, the networks have been playing
games with the length of the debates simply to sell more commercial time.
Something that Trump complained about today and he`s right about that.
"Cnn" scheduled the Democratic debate to begin at 8:30 p.m. and sold
commercial time on that basis.
And the first time we heard a candidate speak was 8:48 p.m., and two hours
after that, the debate was over, and no one complained that it was too
Joining us now, Alex Wagner, political analyst for Msnbc, also with us,
Kasie Hunt, Msnbc political correspondent and Jonathan Allen, the chief
political correspondent for "Vox".
Alex, so two hours, is that enough of Trump and company?
ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC: Yes!
O`DONNELL: OK --
WAGNER: Like before you can even --
O`DONNELL: OK --
WAGNER: Finish your sentence, yes.
O`DONNELL: OK --
WAGNER: I know, I agree with you, I think Trump is totally right here.
Three hours was an insane amount of time. I don`t think we got any further
into the issues.
I mean I think, the difference between the Democratic debate and the last
Republican debate wasn`t just the time, Lawrence, but also the substance.
And if there`s a -- if there`s a call that should be put out, it should be,
OK (AUDIO GAP 00:00:36-38) --
O`DONNELL: And Kasie, I mean, if they want to focus it more on the
frontrunners, tell Chris Christie to stay home.
KASIE HUNT, MSNBC POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You try and tell --
WAGNER: Yes, exactly --
HUNT: Chris Christie to stay home, Lawrence, to see how far you get. I
mean, look, I think that to a certain extent, there is something to be said
for mixing this up. I don`t necessarily think that every debate that
happens should be three-plus hours long.
But I do think that you got a chance to see a side of Donald Trump in the
very long debate that we don`t normally see. He does short campaign
rallies to thousands of excited crowds, people.
And in that particular case, he was forced to get tired, he was forced to
stand on his feet for a while. And frankly, he didn`t have the crowd, it
was a Reagan Library crowd for people who were more interested in hearing
from Jeb Bush.
And I think you got him more (INAUDIBLE) picture and I think it explains a
lot about why he doesn`t want to spend three hours on the stage this time.
O`DONNELL: And Carly Fiorina`s campaign is out there tweeting wildly about
this, saying, "its seems Jeb Bush isn`t the only low energy guy! It looks
like Donald Trump, Ben Carson don`t have endurance to debate Carly Fiorina
for three hours."
Jonathan Allen, what`s your prediction at this point? Does Donald Trump get
his way on this debate?
JONATHAN ALLEN, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, VOX: I think Donald Trump
is likely to get his way, obviously, as he points out all the time, he`s
the ratings king.
O`DONNELL: Yes --
ALLEN: You can`t have a debate without the first and second place
candidate. So, I think he`s likely to get everything he wants or very
close to everything he wants.
But I agree with you, I think it makes sense for a number of reasons that,
that`s going to happen, but most of all, it`s because you can`t have a
debate without the number one.
O`DONNELL: The money report cards are coming in on fundraising for this
last quarter, Ben Carson leading with $20 million, Jeb Bush picking up only
$13.4 million followed closely by Ted Cruz at $12 million.
Carly Fiorina at half that, $6.8 million, Marco Rubio, $6 million, Rand
Paul, down at $2.5 million. Others haven`t, you know, reported. Alex
Wagner, how do you read that?
WAGNER: Jeb Bush has a real case to make. I mean, the enthusiasm for --
the whole -- the whole reason for his candidacy was, he was going to
overwhelm people with this money flow and that it would be too terrifying
to go up against Jeb Bush.
I don`t think anybody is particularly scared. And then you have
established -- I mean, Kasie can speak to this probably better than I can.
You have establishment donors that are now giving Marco Rubio a real
And the more legitimate he becomes, the scarier it is for Jeb Bush.
O`DONNELL: But Marco Rubio is still raising half the money Jeb Bush is
HUNT: He`s still raising half the money, but he has more cash on-hand to
the point where I have campaign aides fighting in my inbox about how much
cash exactly is available.
Does Rubio have more? Does Bush have more? Both men are raising some
general election money, let`s not forget that, so that`s money that they
actually can`t use.
There`s an argument that Rubio raised more of that, so his actual primary
cash on-hand is a little bit lower than Jeb Bush`s.
But the reality is for -- the reality is, Rubio is rising in the polls,
he`s -- he maybe raising less money, but he`s spending less money than Jeb
And Jeb Bush who is on the air in New Hampshire can`t move his numbers.
And that`s what his donors are so freaked out about.
O`DONNELL: And Jonathan Allen, that`s probably the worst news for Jeb
Bush, is that New Hampshire, which is a place where he should do well, the
advertising isn`t working and that was ultimately the way they were going
to go in there and win it.
ALLEN: Well, let`s not forget New Hampshire was a tough state for his
brother in 2000 in the Republican primary. But you think it would be
fairly well aligned.
From certainly he`d be doing better than he is doing. They can spend a lot
of money, maybe not to move the needle there.
I think would that be interest to look at when the reports are fully
available and I`ve had a chance to look at them.
Is exactly where he is spending his money, how much of that is spending
money on TV ads for later in the cycle and how much of it is being spent on
the ground in various states versus bloated staff and other things that
candidates tend to spend on.
O`DONNELL: And we`re already getting reports that they are cutting back on
spending, Alex, that`s always that first indicator of the --
WAGNER: Right --
O`DONNELL: Campaign in trouble when -- well, especially when it`s the big
wealthy campaign that`s supposed to have unlimited resources.
WAGNER: Well, and then it becomes a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy,
right? I mean, then the support even further --
O`DONNELL: Yes --
WAGNER: Arose because you see the guy that used to fly private is now
driving around Iowa, and that is sort of a bellwether for, oh, something is
really wrong with --
O`DONNELL: Right --
WAGNER: With the campaign. And you see donors of the party even faster.
HUNT: An we saw those reports starting a month or so ago almost, which
tells you that they knew that they had to protect this number several weeks
This is not something that`s just come up, so --
O`DONNELL: We had a moment today with Carly Fiorina on the campaign trail
which contrasts very sharply with Donald Trump when a member of her
audience got up and started talking about Muslims.
Let`s watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, the Muslims, they`re really raising hell right
now. They want to change our whole country to suit them. If they don`t
like the United States, get out of here, take your camel and beat it.
CARLY FIORINA, FORMER BUSINESS EXECUTIVE: Well, you know, people are so
frustrated and angry with the immigration situation.
Let me say that one of the most important things about this nation is that
we judge people as individuals. We judge people as individuals.
We don`t lump people in a category and say you`re this, so therefore you
think that. I`m not willing to condemn any group of people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: All right, Alex Wagner, Donald Trump should be taking notes.
WAGNER: Yes, he should be taking notes, but to some extent, even Carly
Fiorina I think plays into a group of dissatisfied middle American voters
that are the legacy of George Wallace and to some degree Ross Perot and
certainly Pat Buchanan.
But they`ve been around for decades and they`re not going anywhere. I
mean, and the reality is, look, Donald Trump is a force of nature, but he
is also tapping into something that is very much still part of American
And Carly Fiorina is also tapping into a dissatisfied, xenophobic and
nativist group of voters. And if they`re careful -- I think she should be
commended for pushing back on that.
But at the end of the day, neither one of them is ever going to be able to
speak as vociferously and as -- I think probably powerfully in shutting
down that kind of line of attack.
Given the fact that there is some part of that base that they will continue
O`DONNELL: And Jonathan Allen, what she did not say to that audience
member is, you`re wrong.
ALLEN: That`s right, Lawrence, she didn`t say you`re wrong. But that was
a pretty forceful statement, I think.
And especially coming from Fiorina, if Alex is right and that she`s
courting the nativists in a way that Donald Trump is, this was certainly
not a way to do that.
And I think having candidates draw lines and talk about what it is to be an
American and how we respect each other`s, you know, the places where each
other came from before we`re all citizens.
I think that`s an important moment for her and she probably gained, you
know, 10 percent in the Democratic primary from it.
O`DONNELL: And Kasie, Carly Fiorina had already gone on record saying she
thought Ben Carson was wrong to say that a Muslim should not be president.
HUNT: Well, I think -- think about how that moment might have played out
with any of the other candidates in the Republican field. And I do think
that Carly Fiorina distinguished herself there.
The other thing I would say more broadly is, I was struck listening to the
Democratic debate by just how different the conversations are that the two
parties are having right now.
The number of times the word border was mentioned in the Democratic debate,
hardly at all, dozens of times on the Republican side.
They`re focused about -- they`re focused on security and making sure that
essentially that the country itself is surrounded and remains almost the
same in some cases.
There`s a climate of fear, they`re talking about terrorism. The Democrats
are talking about how do we accept more people, how do we open things up?
I think it was just a striking difference.
O`DONNELL: We are just about at the 90th day of the Trump lead in the
polls, not the beginning of the campaign. But he`s been at the top of all
the polls for 90 days.
That compares -- compares to some of the bubbles we saw last time around.
Newt Gingrich did 53 days at the top of the polls, Rick Perry did 41,
Herman Cain did a glorious 22 at the top of the polls --
WAGNER: And 16 days --
O`DONNELL: Or --
WAGNER: Santorum though --
O`DONNELL: Yes, and then all does.
HUNT: Yes, but you know who ended up winning and fighting with Mitt Romney
all the way to the end was Rick Santorum --
WAGNER: Yes --
HUNT: Who was only at the top of the polls for 16 days.
O`DONNELL: So how many more days?
WAGNER: How many more days that Trump is at the very top? Thirty seven.
O`DONNELL: All right, 37, we`re going to be back here.
Thirty seven nights from now -- all right, everyone stand by, we`re going
to take a quick break. Coming up, now, I thought Hillary Clinton won the
debate, but what do I know?
It turns out focus groups and online polls tell a different story. And
author Sam Harris along with Maajid Nawaz will be here to discuss their new
book, "Islam and the Future of Tolerance"; it is a book that began with an
argument and ended with agreement.
O`DONNELL: Alex Wagner, a fill-in the blank quiz.
WAGNER: Not list? --
O`DONNELL: Of all the --
WAGNER: Catching up --
O`DONNELL: Presidential candidates, Donald Trump has the biggest what?
WAGNER: Donald Trump has the biggest lead consistently over the rest of
O`DONNELL: Tax return! Let`s take a look at the picture -- where is it? He
filed his tax returns today, tweeted about it and stacked up what may or
may not be his tax return.
Beside it --
WAGNER: Definitely --
O`DONNELL: Is that it`s Donald Trump and, you know, the credibility level,
who knows? But he`s got a big tax return, that`s for sure. It`s got to be
bigger than --
WAGNER: That was a dangerous question, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: You know what I was risking was the first thing that would come
to your mind, but you know, that`s what we do here.
WAGNER: Which is what we call skating on thin ice at Msnbc --
O`DONNELL: All right, up next, did Bernie Sanders really win that debate?
It`s coming up.
O`DONNELL: Last night in Los Angeles, Seth MacFarlane was Bernie Sanders
warm up act at a Bernie Sanders campaign rally.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MACFARLANE: I am a capitalist. I like eating at Sugarfish.
I like drinking Fiji water. I like going on Amazon.com on my phone and
then sitting up 2 hours later and $6,000 later, with a stack of Blu-rays of
box of Cadbury cream mixed in a trombone waiting for me at my front door.
But doesn`t it seem that things have swung so far in one direction with the
top 1 percent of the country controlling more wealth than the other 99
There`s just a little bit of Democratic socialism, maybe is not the worst
For me, this man has removed my trepidation over saying aloud that
capitalism and Democratic socialism -- that not so scary word, can and
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The Bernie Sanders campaign announced that they have raised at
least $2 million since the debate Tuesday night.
Now, I along with most media observers thought that Hillary Clinton won
that debate, but what do we know?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANK LUNTZ, POLITICAL CONSULTANT: Twenty eight Democrats -- how many of
you walked in here supporting Hillary Clinton? Raise your hands. Half of
How many of you are still supporting Hillary Clinton? Only a small
percentage, so, who won the debate?
AUDIENCE: Bernie Sanders.
LUNTZ: Who do you think won the debate tonight?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hold on --
LUNTZ: Closed enough, all right, so --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: God --
LUNTZ: So, it looks like we`ve got -- what is that? One, two, three, four,
five, six, seven, eight, nine --
Nine to three, so, it looks like the young millennial voters here in our
group say Bernie Sanders won the debate tonight with a few votes out there
for Hillary Clinton.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Dan Pfeiffer, the former senior adviser to President Obama made
this observation on Twitter.
"Clinton had a great night, but Sanders winning the focus group and online
polls but losing the pundits is reminiscent of Obama in `O7-`O8."
Back with us, Alex Wagner, Kasie Hunt and Jonathan Allen. Alex Wagner, who
won? I give up.
WAGNER: I mean, OK, this is what we`re -- this is what we`re realizing
about this campaign season.
There is some -- there is someone that the media thinks is winning or
losing, and then there is the reality, it`s like the grassroots or the
I mean, to think Ben Carson is a great example of that on the right. Who
has more Facebook fans than Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders combined,
He is the darling of the grassroots. Bernie Sanders obviously has some
appeal that we in the media are not picking up on.
To the degree that the headlines yesterday all touted exactly the same
thing, which is that Hillary Clinton won.
And by and large, all of the grassroots, the polling, the donations, what
have you, out there in the world points to Bernie Sanders.
O`DONNELL: Jonathan Allen, I was very surprised to see Frank Luntz focus
group, people changing their minds -- Hillary Clinton supporters watching
that debate and then turning away from her and switching to Bernie.
ALLEN: That should really be the part of all of this, that is concerning
to her. Is not necessarily that undecided were looking for Bernie Sanders
and say he won or even voters elsewhere by saying he did a little better
job than her.
But to be worried about people hemorrhaging support, or hemorrhaging
support. I do think that the way in which she really won though is that
there were a lot of people in her campaign.
A lot of people in the professional, political class that were sort of
think that her campaign was off the rails. And being able to get it back
on is important.
The one thing I haven`t seen from Bernie Sanders yet is the ability to
build a nationwide campaign, to put together the kind of campaign staff to
do that -- be able to do that.
The ability to get super -- I don`t think we`re looking at a race here
where Bernie Sanders has a lot to do to get to the point where he`s
competitive for the nomination.
O`DONNELL: Oh, let`s go back to Frank Luntz`s focus group where the --
where Frank brought up that word that Seth MacFarlane just used, socialist.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LUNTZ: Give me a word or phrase to describe Bernie Sanders tonight.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For the people.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Strong.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Straight forward.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Confident.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Insider and outsider.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Direct.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sincere.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Powerful.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Educator.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Smart.
LUNTZ: But he`s a socialist. He actually answered the question of being a
socialist. I know you`re nodding your head, no. He is proud of being a
socialist, do you really think this guy can win? Do you?! And then that --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t think he can. I don`t think he can. He`s a
populist. I understand the appeal of his proposals, but I don`t think he
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the unrest --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the unrest in the country regarding looking for
radical change to some of the problems we`ve been facing is so deep that
this could be the year that someone like that gets in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: All right, Kasie Hunt, Bernie Sanders has an appeal that is --
that defies what we think -- what some of us thought we were watching in
HUNT: That`s right, and I think it may be part of the reason why you saw
Donald Trump attack Bernie Sanders on Instagram today as being weak.
Words like strong and powerful being used. But look, I do think partly to
Jonathan`s point, Facebook likes do not votes-make -- like -- just because
you have thousands of Facebook likes does not mean that those people are
actually going to show up for you.
This is not "American Idol". This is -- you have to get up, go out in the
cold, put your ballots down there and punch the ticket for someone.
And convincing people do that is more --
WAGNER: Right --
HUNT: Than just getting them to like you online.
WAGNER: But to be fair, the question was who won the debate? Which is very
different than who is going to win the election.
O`DONNELL: Yes --
O`DONNELL: Yes --
WAGNER: I mean --
O`DONNELL: Yes --
WAGNER: I think that`s important to divide --
O`DONNELL: Go ahead Jon --
WAGNER: Go ahead --
ALLEN: I was just going to say these focus groups are so small. How many
hundreds of people fewer than you would need to do a national poll that
would be reputable or do you have sitting in that room.
I just -- I`m not sure they`re worth as much as we think though --
O`DONNELL: All right, let`s go to the conclusive proof that Bernie really
arrived in this debate. Donald Trump is now attacking him. Let`s listen
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I watched Hillary last night with we`re going to give this, we`re
going to give that, we`re going to give that. She is the poor woman.
She`s got to give everything away because this maniac that was standing on
her right is giving everything away, so she`s following.
That`s what`s happening --
This socialist/communist, OK? Nobody wants to say it.
No! No, in all fairness to her, she`s standing there listening to this guy,
he is going to tax you people at 90 percent, he`s going to take everything!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No!
TRUMP: And nobody has heard the term communist. But you know what? I call
him a socialist/communist, OK? Because that`s what he is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Because Donald doesn`t know what a socialist or a communist is.
HUNT: Well, look, I think -- I can`t decide if Donald Trump is going after
Bernie Sanders because he`s afraid of him or because him going after Bernie
Sanders gives Bernie Sanders a couple more new cycles and that ultimately
hurts Hillary Clinton.
I think it could be one or the other, it depends on, you know, what level
of strategy you think --
O`DONNELL: Well, we`ll see --
HUNT: Mr. Trump is planning --
O`DONNELL: We`ll see if he keeps it up. Jonathan Allen, Kasie Hunt and
Alex Wagner, thank you all for joining us tonight.
Coming up, President Obama committed American troops to Afghanistan
indefinitely today as the Taliban`s war continues there, including the
Taliban`s religious war on women.
Up next, Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz, authors of the new book, "Islam and
the Future of Tolerance".
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA, CURRENT U.S. PRESIDENT: As Commander-In-Chief, I will
not allow Afghanistan to be used as safe haven for terrorists to attack our
nation again. I have decided that instead of going down to a normal
embassy presence in Kabul by the end of 2016, we will maintain 5,500 troops
at a small number of bases.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST OF "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL"
PROGRAM: On the day, when president Obama announced an endless American
military commitment in Afghanistan, page one of "The New York Times" today
carried the headline, "Fear of Taliban drives women out of Kunduz."
The "Times" quotes Dr. Hassina Sarwari saying, "I will not go back. I will
never go back." And, it tells the story of Fawzia Boustani, the only
female civil engineer working in Kunduz, who put on a burqa and fled when
the Taliban arrived. She, too, says she will not return.
Naheed Asifi, an afghan government official also fled. She was the head of
the women`s ministry office in Kunduz. She told The "New York Times," "If
your life is in danger and you know that there is a significant threat,
would you go back? I am sure you would not."
In 1,286 word article, "The Times" described what it called, "The Taliban`s
methodical campaign against women." But, it never offered a single reason
for that methodical campaign, and the article did not contain a single
reference to the religion that the Taliban says compels them to do this.
Joining us now, the authors of "Islam and the Future of Tolerance, A
Dialogue." Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz. Sam, I want you to tell the story
about how this book began with a bit of an argument between you two and how
you came then to agree to do this book.
SAM HARRIS, AUTHOR: Yes. Yes. Well, thank you, Lawrence. Happy to be
here. Well, yes, we had an inauspicious first meeting. I was at a debate,
where I was just in the audience. Maajid was debating and a friend of
mine, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who I know you know.
And, he had taken an opposing side in the debate, where he was more or less
arguing that Islam was a religion of peace. And, he was -- I think he will
admit unnaturally constrained by the terms -- the emotion of the debate
And, at the end there was a dinner for the presenters and the other
participants. And, Ayaan asked me if there was anything I thought I needed
to say in response to the debate. And, so, I directed a question at
We were sitting maybe 50 feet apart in a restaurant with, you know, 75
people or so listening to us. And, I said, you know, "Maajid, why cannot
you just be honest with us in this room? We are not being taped now. Is
your view of how to move Islam forward simply pretending that it is a
religion of peace when it is clearly not a religion of peace?"
And, as you might imagine, things broke down rather starkly there. It was
a very high testosterone apish moment. And, he said, you know, "Are you
calling me a liar?" And, that just, you know, then the crowd rescued us
and it was probably good we were not sitting at the same table.
But, I saw at a certain point, a basis for further conversation with him
and reached out to him. And, this book is the result. And, I think
readers will agree. I hope they will agree that it was a very productive
O`DONNELL: It really is. And, it is such a quick read, because it is
really this conversation that you are having with each other. Maajid, I --
your answer to Sam about this is complex, and actually in effect takes an
But, it was to paraphrase that it is not a religion of peace, it is not a
religion of war, it is a religion, which is something -- as someone -- I
had 12 years of catholic education, and I completely got that. And, I feel
that there seems to be a necessary amount of religious education required
almost to be able to participate in these discussions.
MAAJID NAWAZ, AUTHOR: Yes, thank you for having me as well, Lawrence. It
is a pleasure to be here and hello, again, Sam. Good to be on with you. I
agree with you in that summary there.
I think that, especially in your introduction, the point you made, the
challenge we are facing today is that there are plenty of people on the
politically correct side of this debate, who are prepared to take the view
that it is not a religion of war.
The problem is at the same time, what they are not prepared to do, what I
wish they were prepared to do more of is to recognize that though it may
not be a religion of war, it is also not a religion of peace.
And, ultimately, the correct conclusion is not to say that Islam has
nothing to do with the Taliban actions that you quite correctly documented
, and I highlighted the glaring absence of any reference in "The New York
Times" article to the fact that Islam is used as justification for the
I think the correct answer is not to say it has not nothing to do with
Islam, just as the correct answer is not to say that it has everything to
do with Islam. The correct answer in my opinion as a Muslim, as somebody
who spent all my whole life, up until now consumed, and I use that word
deliberately, consumed by this debate, I think it is correct to say, it has
something to do with Islam.
And, that something is the connection between belief and action; is the
connection between one`s interpretation of scripture, what one believes
scripture is saying to what one believes they must do. And, the two long
goes on the politically correct side on the liberal side of this debate,
which is my tribe, I am a liberal.
In fact, I ran for parliamentary liberal democrat candidate in Britain,
where for some reason too scared to actually make that connection and to
say there is something here to do with Islam as well as the many other
factors that cause radicalization such as maybe foreign policy or
grievances. But, Islam also has a role.
O`DONNELL: And, Maajid, I just want to clarify for the audience, you,
yourself have a radical Islamic history. You went through that period, if
you could just quickly summarize that for us.
NAWAZ: Exactly, and that is what I meant by somebody who has been
consumed by this for most of my life. I speak fluent Arabic, fluent -- I
spent 13 years on the leadership.
In fact, all the Islam`s organization for which I was sentenced to five
years in prison for my role in attempting to incite Egyptians against the
Hosni Mubarak regime in Egypt.
I was never a member of a terrorist organization, nevertheless I was a
member of an extreme Islamist organization, and I make those distinctions
in my dialogue with Sam in the book.
O`DONNELL: Sam, I found those distinctions especially clarifying -- Let us
talk about them now. You, too, agreed that a jihadist is someone who is
trying to impose Islamic rule by violence. And , an Islamic is someone who
would like to see Islamic rule in an otherwise civil society but does not
want to go to a violent level.
And, then there are these other interesting gradations that are talked
about in the book, conservative Muslim, moderate Muslim, liberal Muslim.
And, those terms are being thrown around today without an agreement on what
HARRIS: Yes. Yes, that was a very clarifying part of our conversation.
So, just to further clarify that. We are talking about the problem of
Islamism, the problem of political Islam. And, the subset of Islamist are
jihadists, who are willing to use immediate violence to impose their
And, the crucial issue here is, as Maajid point it out, that the link
between ideas and behavior, which is just denied across the board, on what
we are calling, the aggressive left side of the political spectrum.
And, those people who just followed -- off the edge of the world and
believe that everything that is happening in the Muslim world is the result
of U.S. Foreign Policy. There are no monsters in the world apart from
ourselves or those we have made.
We created the mujahideen. We created Al-Qaeda. We broke Iraq and
therefore ISIS emerged. The Charlie Hebdo cartoonists were murdered
because France treats its Muslim population so badly I mean this is pure
masochism and delusion.
There are set of very illiberal ideas. We are talking about theocracy. We
are talking about people who are opposed to gender equality, to gay rights,
to free speech, above all. I mean the freedom that guarantees all of our
intellectual and moral advances.
And, we have people on the left, who will blame a new hip cartoonists who
get murdered -- liberal cartoonists get murdered for drawing cartoons.
And, people on the left, line up to blame the cartoonists for their
insensitivity. That is how far this rot has spread into -- has driven us
into these preposterous moral stances.
And, that is why I think this conversation I had with Maajid was so
valuable to me, because he really alone among all the people I have
interacted with could clarify these issues from the point of someone who
had this limited experience.
And, yet that has not stopped liberals from deriding him as an Uncle Tom or
a porch monkey or native informant. I mean these are words that have come
from liberal journalists. It is quite an incredible situation we are in.
O`DONNELL: All right. We have to take a break here. When we come back I
want to ask you about something President Obama said today. He said that
we will stay in Afghanistan until the Taliban agrees to a peace settlement
with the Afghan government. Does that mean we are there forever? We will
be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA, CURRENT U.S. PRESIDENT: And, now it should be clear to
the Taliban and all who oppose Afghanistan`s progress. The only real way
to achieve the full drawn down of U.S. and foreign troops from Afghanistan
is through a lasting political settlement with the afghan government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Back with us Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz. Maajid, how long
will it take to get the Taliban to enter a peace agreement, a real one with
the Afghan government?
NAWAZ: Well, you know, Lawrence, until President Obama and all the leaders
across the world can recognize that, we are not dealing with just the
military problem. We are not dealing with just the legal problem. And, we
are certainly not dealing with just a political problem.
But, in fact, what we have in our hands here is a fully blown ideological
insurgency. I called the ideology Islamism as distinct from the religion
of Islam. Until we recognize that, I am afraid we will be there forever,
because we have been here before.
All of us, your viewers, yourself, and the American people will remember
when President Obama killed Bin Laden and declared that Al-Qaeda had been
dealt with before his second term.
And, you know, I was on the U.S. networks During those days warning
everyone that actually, you know, this is one head that has been
decapitated, and many more heads will grow on this monster; because,
actually, that is what happens when you deal with the ideological
When you kill the leaders, when you fight them, when you ban them, more
emerge until we render the Islamist ideology as unattractive, as soviet
communism, as Stalinism has become today. And, actually, the problem is,
we cannot even name the ideology and political lexicon these days.
O`DONNELL: Sam Harris, I want to get your reaction to Ben Carson saying
that he would not vote for a Muslim for president. He does not think we
should have a Muslim president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK TODD, NBC HOST OF "MEET THE PRESS" PROGRAM: So, do you believe that
Islam is consistent with the constitution?
BEN CARSON, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, I do not. I would not
advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would
not agree with that.
HARRIS: Well, the problem with that statement, If Ben went on to clarify
it a little bit. He walked it back. And, it certainly in the final
analysis, it seemed less bigoted than it first came out. But, the problem
with Ben Carson is that he is a bible-thumping Christian demagogue himself.
He is somebody, who think that Charles Darwin came up with the theory of
evolution, because he was led there by Satan. I mean so this is not a
rational point of view on world events on science or any other topic of
great importance. So, you know, Ben Carson worries me, but I think it is
understandable that he views the world that way, because he is a kind of
O`DONNELL: Maajid Nawaz, you probably have not been able to see much of
our presidential debates here. But, if you were allowed one question at
one of our presidential debates, what would that be?
NAWAZ: Would it be a question of the republican or the democrat?
O`DONNELL: Well, let us say the republican debate.
NAWAZ: Well, in which case I would certainly focus on both Trump`s
apparent acquiescence, as a member of his audience in one of his debates.
When somebody suggested that Muslims need to be dealt with across America.
And, Ben Carson`s comments that you just referred to.
For me, look, the issue is very clear. And, Sam and I agreed with this in
our dialogue. The issue, the challenge, the problem is certainly not
Muslim-Americans. In fact, you know, it is worthwhile mentioning, the
American public is less likely to vote for atheist than they are for Muslim
In fact, both those groups face incredible degrees of discrimination. But,
they are not the problem. The problem is those, who politicized their view
of religion. The problem of those Islamists that we named.
And, I would like to make that very clear in the form of a question to
either Trump or Ben Carson to present liberal Muslims as an example of
people that could be incredibly good presidents of the united states if
they were ever given that opportunity.
O`DONNELL: And, what about the democrats? What would you raise with them?
NAWAZ: I think with the democrats, it would be a question of foreign
policy to be frankly. As I hinted at earlier, I am incredibly let down I
feel by the approach to the Middle East, to the approach to the growth of
Jihadism, as a subset of the Islamist ideology in the middle east.
I think I suggest to them to take a lead from Prime Minister Cameron, who
has overcome what I have come to phrase as the Voldemort effect in his --
overcoming the fear of naming the Islamist ideology. And, I would suggest
to the democrats that they should take a lead from his book.
O`DONNELL: Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz, thank you both very much for
joining us tonight. I really appreciate it. The book is "Islam and the
Future of Tolerance."
Coming up, a lighter book, a much lighter book. Dick Van Dyke is here with
his new book "Keep Moving."
O`DONNELL: The "Associated Press" reports, days before the October 3rd
U.S. air attack on a hospital in Afghanistan, American special operations
analysts were gathering intelligence on the facility, which they knew was a
protected medical site, because they believed it was being used by a
Pakistani operative to coordinate Taliban activity, according to an unnamed
former intelligence official.
The Dossier included maps with the hospital circled. The president of
doctors without borders, which ran that hospital says, this would amount to
a premeditated massacre. Twenty-two patients and hospital staff were
killed in that attack. Doctors without borders launched a position today
calling for the Obama Administration to consent to an independent
investigation into that matter.
And, when we come back, we will change the subject and the mood. Dick Van
Dyke will join us.
O`DONNELL: Dick Van Dyke will join us next, to settle the question, who
won the debate? Bernie or Hillary
O`DONNELL: We have all been watching Dick Van Dyke most of our lives. If
you are Dick Van Dyke`s age, 89, you probably remember when he took over
the CBS morning show from Walter Cronkite in 1955.
And, if your T.V. watching began in the `50s and `60s, you probably saw
every black and white episode of the Dick Van Dyke show, which brought Mary
Tyler Moore to a national audience for the first time.
And, then there are the movies that kids and parents are still watching
every day, Marry Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and of course, Bye Bye
Birdie. Dick Van Dyke`s new book is called, "Keep Moving, and Other Tips
and truths About Aging" and he joins us now from our Los Angeles studio.
Dick, it is great to see you. Thank you for doing this. You know, I was
telling people today that maybe -- I do not know, ten years ago, I was
driving up to Malibu to meet my friend Cecilia Peck, who invited me to your
beach house for the day with my daughter who is about ten. And, I started
to explain to her who Dick Van Dyke is, and she stopped me right away and
said, "Oh, come on! Mary Poppins, Bye, bye, Birdie."
DICK VAN DYKE, AUTHOR: That is great.
O`DONNELL: She knew and when she saw you, she was of course, thrilled.
So, you get it from all ages all the time, do not you?
DYKE: Yes. It is wonderful. I do. Can I thank you on behalf of
everybody, for being a little island of sanity in all of this chaos. We
watch you every night.
O`DONNELL: Oh, great!
DYKE: It is such a pleasure.
O`DONNELL: Well, you know, there are amazing things I have discovered in
this book, and your previous book -- for example, your time with Martin
Luther King. Could you tell us -- tell the story about how you came to
participate in the civil rights movement with Martin Luther King.
DYKE: He was -- giving a speech at the coliseum at UCLA. And, Rod Serling
wrote the most beautiful, beautiful speech about -- the subject. And, I
was chosen to deliver it. I was so pleased. The only thing I am
embarrassed about is that somebody from the secret service said, "There has
been a threat on Dr. King`s life, and we just wanted you to know." I was
sitting next to him like this, a coward.
O`DONNELL: Yes. Well, I mean, that was obviously a real threat. And, as
we discovered a few years later --
O`DONNELL: You also tell a story back in that period about, in the
aftermath of the Watts riot in 1965, you got involved in that community.
And, there was a night where you invited a family from there you had gotten
to know to come to your house. And, the LAPD had a very strange reaction
DYKE: Yes, to this day, I do not know exactly what happened. Lenny
Engelsen, a Black Panther at that time, we were all going down afterwards,
they called us the guilty suburbanites to listen to some of the young black
men yell at us, but we did what we could.
I befriended Lenny, and he brought his family to my homeland, just for
dinner, for some reason I had a call from the police. They said the place
was surrounded with armed people. I do not know what happened and to this
day, I do not know. But, it all turned out fine.
O`DONNELL: The sweep of history in your life is amazing. And, I am not
concentrating on the show business stuff just because I think a lot of
people already know a lot about that. But , was fascinated to hear about
you listening on the radio to the presidential election returns when FDR
won and what that felt like.
DYKE: I think everybody knew that he would be going to win. Who are the
FDRs and the Moynihan`s today? We need them. There are too many
lightweights today. I voted for Harry Truman and then I voted for Ike, and
I would again.
O`DONNELL: What do you think is happening. I mean you go back to the time
when you had to listen to this stuff on the radio, to this world now where
we had the internet, we have this show, we have cable news, we have all the
saturation coverage of politics. It is a very different world now than it
was then. Do you think things were better then or better now?
DYKE: Well, communication, of course, is much better now. But
unfortunately some of the cable stations are slanders, so far as to almost
be propaganda politically. So, I think, you are have to listen to
everybody. Because, Ted turner did not know what he started, with the 24-
hour cable. No, I am a believer that Bernie Sanders did win the --
O`DONNELL: Oh, good. So, let us hear about that. So, you watched it.
You thought Bernie Sanders won?
O`DONNELL: You watched the whole debate, you thought Bernie won?
DYKE: Absolutely. Yes. I think that Bernie sound in an alarm. It has
been around for about hundred years. (INAUDIBLE)
O`DONNELL: All right, well that settles the question of the night on this
show, "Who won that debate?" Dick Van Dyke, says Bernie Won.
DYKE: I declare.
O`DONNELL: Dick, thank you very much for joining us. I really, really
appreciate it. Great to see you, again. The book is "Keep Moving and
Other Tips and Truths of Aging." Dick Van Dyke gets tonight`s "Last Word."
Thank you, Dick.
DYKE: I want to show you my --
O`DONNELL: What is it?
DYKE: It is a caricature of me.
O`DONNELL: Perfect! OK. We are going to put that -- get that one up
online. Thank you very much, Dick.
DYKE: You are welcome.
O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes is up next.
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