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Wednesday, Oct. 27th, 2010

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

Guests: Rep. Joe Sestak, Ann Kuster, Kathy Stein, Susie Essman, Hillary Swank, Tony Goldwyn


In final week of a campaign, when the polls tighten, as they always do, people tighten, too.  They get tense.  Some of them crack under the pressure and just go crazy.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We‘ve got six days until the election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And it‘s getting wild out there.

O‘DONNELL (voice-over):  Less than one week to go and the campaign trail has turned from circus to cage fight.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, “HARDBALL” HOST:  You‘ve got these guys going around acting like street thugs.

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC HOST:  A Rand Paul supporter threw a opponent to the ground, for no apparent reason, and then stomped on her head.

O‘DONNELL:  The Republican Party that was set to ride a wave to victory now scrambling to keep Tea Party Republicans from throwing it all away.

DAVID GREGORY, MODERATOR, “MEET THE PRESS”:  Whether it‘s Sharron Angle or Joe Miller, if you want to be in the United States Senate, you should ask—you should answer tough questions.

RACHEL MADDOW, TRMS HOST:  Do you think there should be a constitutional amendment, banning gay marriage?

JOE MILLER ®, ALASKA SENATE CANDIDATE:  That‘s up to the people. 

If you got a three-quarters vote, ratified.  I‘d vote for it.

MADDOW:  You would vote for it?

MILLER:  I would.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  How does a party with a 24 percent approval rating pick up 55, 60 seats?

O‘DONNELL:  The challenge: convince voters who are still in the recession hangover.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Forty-three percent of those surveyed say the country‘s economic conditions, nearly half that amount cited health care as their top issue, while 18 percent cited the size and power of the federal government.

O‘DONNELL:  Now, tough races are looking better for Democrats.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s check the “HARDBALL” scoreboard starting with the Senate race in California.

Senator Barbara Boxer up five over Carly Fiorina.

Republican Pat Toomey is up four over Joe Sestak.

O‘DONNELL:  And the Democrats see a way to hold the House and Senate.

MITCHELL:  They‘ve got this firewall strategy now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Making sure that we have a massive get-out-the-vote operation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Remember to vote.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Only you can save the future.



O‘DONNELL:  Good evening from New York.  I‘m Lawrence O‘Donnell.

Last spring, when the Democratic establishment decided to turn its back on a congressman and former three-star Navy admiral who sought the Democratic Senate nomination in Pennsylvania, he won anyway, defeating Republican-turned-Democrat Arlen Specter.

It might have been the best move the party leaders made this campaign season.  That‘s because in an anti-establishment year, Pennsylvania Congressman Joe Sestak can claim he stood up to the Washington crowd and is now nearly tied with his Republican opponent, Pat Toomey, in the race for the Senate.

Joe Sestak is now one of the great hopes for Democrats who are fighting to stop a tidal wave of Republican victories on November 2nd.


O‘DONNELL:  Congressman, how often do you wake up now in the final stretch of the campaign and gaze across that border to Delaware and wish you got lucky and got a nutty Tea Party candidate like Christine O‘Donnell to run against?

REP. JOE SESTAK (D), PENNSYLVANIA SENATE CANDIDATE:  I‘m pretty fortunate as it is.  I have the intellectual forefather of the extreme fringe of the Tea Party movement, Congressman Toomey.  I mean, imagine somebody who actually advocates no taxes for corporations and privatizing Social Security.  I think those policies are pretty extreme on their own.

O‘DONNELL:  Now, when you were running in the primary, did it help you or hurt you that the Democratic establishment, including the president and the vice president, backed your opponent?  You were running then as kind of the anti-Democratic establishment candidate back in the primary.  Was that helpful to you?

SESTAK:  I don‘t think it made a difference in that race.  And I don‘t think it‘s quite that much difference in this one either.

Look, Pennsylvanians are the most commonsensical people I‘ve ever met.  They‘re actually looking at who they want to represent them.

Do they actually want somebody whose values came from Wall Street, wants no corporation taxes, actually believes “made in America” is it an unfortunate tendency?

And so, they want to know if they‘ve got a representative who‘s going to serve them mainstream.  The small businesses should prosper with tax credits, and let‘s worry about our educational opportunity.

The independent Pennsylvanians and the common sense we‘re noted for are going to focus upon the two candidates.  And with such a stark contrast, they‘re going to go with somebody who‘s in the mainstream.  And that‘s why I‘m very confident.

O‘DONNELL:  What has changed in the politics of Pennsylvania since Barack Obama did so well there?

SESTAK:  Well, people have been slammed, their lives ripped apart.  And without any question, they‘re rightly upset.  They want to hold someone accountable.

But what they want is to believe again, to trust again.  And so, obviously they‘re looking at saying, who‘s in charge, but they‘re also wise enough to say, how do we get here?  And so, they‘re not going to vote for a wolf in sheep‘s clothing—and that‘s what Congressman Toomey is.

I mean, he went to Congress, helped dismantle the safeguards in Wall Street, went through the revolving door of politics, become a lobbyist for Wall Street founded firm.  Now, he wants to go back and do more damage by privatizing Social Security and repealing the safeguards that we put on Wall Street.  He wants to gamble again.

So, at the end of the day, that‘s really—and I know I keep coming back to it, is what‘s going to prevail here, common sense.

O‘DONNELL:  Now, you said, to “The New York Times, I‘m quoting, “I would argue my party began getting off the track when it made a political calculation for the 60th vote on health reform.”  What did you mean by that?

SESTAK:  Yes.  Look, we didn‘t seize the White House through political calculations, we did it through audacity.  We did it by doing the right thing—like a captain of the ship when I was in the Navy for those 31 years.  You walked among the crew, you listened to them.

At the end of the day, you let them get (INAUDIBLE), you told them what you were going to do.  Even though they didn‘t always agree with you, they went back and forth and kept doing what was right.  You didn‘t let them think you were making a decision for your job, or to have a majority, or to kind of have a compromise of principle.  I don‘t mind principle compromises, but we‘re compromising our principles down there.

And so, when I stood up to my party‘s establishment, that‘s what I ran on.  Look, people appreciate that they don‘t always want to agree with you.  But they don‘t want to think that you‘re making a deal with a health insurance company or Republican who become a Democrat just to get a deal through.

They want to know that it‘s good enough, something to do, that you don‘t have to do it by conviction, and by making principled compromise.  And we did compromise principles that we could get through and make sure people understood why that bill that eventually came out, the health care bill, was a good bill.

O‘DONNELL:  Now, you‘ve also said, based on your 31 years in the Navy, a commander of an aircraft carrier, “Everyone in the military is a Democrat, they just don‘t know it.”  I guess that means the absentee ballots that are going to come in to Pennsylvania from the military are going to be good for you.  What did you mean by that, “Everyone in the military is a Democrat, they just don‘t know it”?

SESTAK:  We all had health care in the military.  And we did it because it paid dividends to this nation of healthy productive warriors, like when I was on the ground for short mission in Afghanistan.  There were healthy warriors there.  And we didn‘t leave the military to go somewhere else in order to get health care for our children, our families.

And we don‘t promote you above a certain rank unless you have a certain degree in education—come on in, learn a skill, have a pension.  And so I said, everyone in military‘s a Democrat, they just don‘t know it, because we invest in our people.

But what we also do in the military is hold that investment, our people accountable for the responsibilities, those wonderful men and women.  And that‘s what I think is the best of both sides.

And when the Republican Senator Hagel endorsed me, we don‘t necessarily agree on anything.  We can do principle compromise.  Find out how best to invest in our people and their health, their education, their economic securities—but hold that investment accountable.  And so, that‘s what I meant.

And those two attributes, like we did during the Clinton era, those were the best way to move our nation forward.  And we created 23 million jobs during that era.  During the Bush/Toomey era, zero jobs and doubled our national debt.

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman Joe Sestak, the Democratic Party‘s healthy warrior in Pennsylvania—thank you very much for taking time on the campaign trail tonight to join us.

SESTAK:  Thanks, Lawrence.  Always a pleasure.  Have a great one.

O‘DONNELL:  In New Hampshire‘s second congressional district, Ann Kuster‘s Democratic primary opponent called her an unelectable progressive.  At a debate, she was asked, in a year when everyone understands the country is moving back toward the center and away from the more left progressive point of view, if you were to become the nominee, would you try to distance yourself from your own positions?

Kuster did become the nominee, stood by her progressive supporters, and is now actually leading her Tea Party Republican opponent, former Congressman Charlie Bass.

Joining me now is New Hampshire Democratic congressional candidate, Ann Kuster.

Ann Kuster, you are a study for Washington Democrats, progressives, moderate Democrats—they‘re studying your candidacy and say, how is she doing this?

Progressives believe that you‘re succeeding because you are sticking with your progressive ideals, your progressive issues, and that compromising toward the middle of the party would be a mistake for you.  That seems to be the case.  So far, according to the polls, you are proving right in New Hampshire.

How have you done this?

ANN MCLANE KUSTER (D-NH), CANDIDATE FOR CONGRESS:  Well, Lawrence, it‘s all about the grassroots.  Honestly, this campaign is all about real people and real lives, and we‘re focused here in New Hampshire on creating good jobs.

You know, Congressman Bass voted all those many years, 12 years, 15,000 votes in Washington, for all of those failed economic policies, encouraging companies to ship jobs overseas.  New Hampshire has lost 16,000 jobs to China.  It‘s more as a percentage of our total employment than any other state in the union.  And it‘s not what we want to be number one at.

So, I‘ve been talking to families all across my district, 130 house parties, and I‘ve just finished 30 diners in 30 days, and I want to care more about Main Street than Wall Street.  I want to care about creating jobs and helping working families.  And if those are progressive values, I am very happy and proud to stand up for them.

O‘DONNELL:  Now, just in case our audience is thinking—ah, she‘s got that liberal district in New Hampshire, the second congressional district in New Hampshire.  By my quick glance, in the last 100 years, it‘s been a Republican-held seat for all but about what, six or seven of those years?

KUSTER:  Absolutely, my entire lifetime.

In fact, Congressman Bass has been a Washington insider for so long, he ran against my mother for this seat.  I was raised in a Republican family.  And he ran against her in 1980, she lost to Judd Gregg who‘s now retiring 30 years later, and our Congressman Paul Hodes has stepped up and it‘s an open seat for the first time in 22 years.

And I tell people on the campaign trail, that‘s how hard it is to bring change to Washington.

But, you know, just as Joe Sestak just explained to your viewers, we need a new approach.  We‘ve got to put people first over politics.  And that‘s what my campaign is all about.

We won 72 percent of the Democratic primary, and I was also the challenger.  I did not come in with the party heavies on my side.  And I spoke plainly to people.  I went to their living rooms -- 130 towns and communities and living rooms.

And I said from the very beginning, we‘re going to win this race one handshake at a time, one question at a time, and just listening to people about the needs that they have.  They need help, and they need government to support the creation of good jobs.  Those families can thrive again once again here in New Hampshire.

O‘DONNELL:  How important has it been to your campaign to be able to get help from outside the state?  The Progressive Change Campaign Committee has raised over $140,000 for you.  A lot of donors to create that, the $13,000, it‘s like 10 bucks a donor.

With that kind of grassroots fundraising going on for you, I would imagine in that congressional district, that‘s real money?

KUSTER:  Well, it‘s real money where I come from.  What I‘m most proud of is that we‘ve been doing that grassroots fundraising right here in New Hampshire.  In fact, I‘ve raised more from New Hampshire donors than any other congressional campaign ever before.

And what I‘ve learned from this whole experience, and I learned it on the Obama campaign, actually, is that when someone puts down $10, $20, $30, toward the candidate that they believe in, that‘s going to stand up for the values that they believe in, they‘ll turn out to vote.  They‘ll put a sign on their lawn.  They‘ll come make phone calls and knock on doors.

We have thousands of activists all across New Hampshire.  And I‘m proud of the activists and donors that have joined us all across the country.  We‘ve got folks making phone calls from all around the country because they believe in this race, and they believe that democracy is not for sale.

I‘m getting crushed with out of state ads, and what is going to speak up on November 2nd right here in New Hampshire is people power.  And we‘re putting people over politics and we can‘t be stopped.

O‘DONNELL:  Ann Kuster, I‘m betting on you to be in the next freshman class in the Congress.

And I‘m wondering—what are you going to tell your fellow Democrats in the House who think of this election season as being an anti-Democrat season?  That that‘s what they‘re up against?

Here you are running not just as a Democrat, but as a progressive Democrat in a very strongly Republican district, historically Republican district.

What is—do you think there‘s a model that you have to bring to Washington to other congressional Democrats about how to do this?

KUSTER:  It‘s good old-fashioned politics.  It‘s people power.  This is shoe leather.  I‘ve been at this for over a year.  It‘s handshake by handshake, door knock by door knock.  Thousands phone calls are being made.  I have an extraordinary group of supporters and people who believe in people over politics.

And when I talk about a new approach, it‘s that people power, it‘s those small contributions, it‘s the volunteer effort that‘s going on all over this district.  That‘s what we need to do, is take government back from the special interests.

Congressman Bass has funded over half his contributions come from the special interests.  And that‘s who he‘s the voice for.  He voted for the deregulation of Wall Street.  He voted for the deregulation of offshore oil and gas.

These are the crises that people have felt and they‘re feeling the pain in their families, they‘re worried about our country.  And we need to take our country back and put it back in the hands of the people.  And that‘s what I‘ll bring to Washington, the voice of people power.

O‘DONNELL:  Ann Kuster, Democratic candidate for Congress in New Hampshire‘s second district, currently with a healthy lead in the polls—thank you for joining us tonight, Ann Kuster.

KUSTER:  Well, every vote counts.  Now, don‘t jinx me, Lawrence. 

Don‘t jinx me.


KUSTER:  We‘re working very hard, six days to go.  But thanks so much, it‘s been a real pleasure.  And thank you for having me on.

O‘DONNELL:  Thanks.

There‘s been another ugly twist in the story of the Rand Paul supporter who stomped on the head of a activist.  The guy who kicked the young woman‘s head is demanding an apology.

And later, when Karl Rove calls this election cycle “nutty,” and he‘s referring to his own party, and Joy Behar uses the B-word to describe a candidate, it‘s time for Susie Essman to help us get a grip on politics.


O‘DONNELL:  Stomp-gate deepens in Kentucky.  Rand Paul has fired the man guilty of stomping on the head of a activist.  But tonight, Paul is refusing to return that man‘s campaign contributions.  We‘ll have reaction from Kentucky.

And later, Academy Award-winning actress Hillary Swank joins me and gets THE LAST WORD.


O‘DONNELL:  It was a stomp heard around the country.  Twenty-three-year-old Lauren Valle of was outside a Kentucky venue where Senate candidates Rand Paul and Jack Conway were going to debate.

New video shows she approached the truck Paul was riding in, carrying a sign.  Moments later, she was pushed to the ground, her head stomped twice by Tim Profitt, a Rand Paul supporter.

Tonight, Profitt is charged with fourth degree misdemeanor assault, yet still feels he‘s the one owed an apology.

Here‘s what he had to say to WKYT-TV who agreed not to show his face.


TIM PROFITT, RAND PAUL SUPPORTER:  She‘s a professional at what she does.  And I think when all the facts come out, I think people will see that she was one that initiated the whole thing.

I would like for her to apologize to me, to be honest with you.


O‘DONNELL:  Rand Paul‘s campaign manager has since dropped Profitt as coordinator in Bourbon County and has banned him from future campaign events.

Joining me now: Kentucky State Senator Kathy Stein, a surrogate speaker for the Jack Conway campaign.

Senator Stein, this happened in your district.  Both the Conway and the Paul campaigns have denounced the incident.

What do you say to Tim Profitt who thinks he‘s owed an apology for this?

ST. SEN. KATHY STEIN (D), KENTUCKY-13 DIST.:  I say to Tim Profitt, grow up.  This is 2010, Mr. Profitt.  I don‘t blame you for not showing your face.

But, Mr. O‘Donnell, this is absolutely a travesty that this occurred, and the next day, the Rand Paul campaign said, well, this was a bit of a crowd control problem.  And they have continued to diminish the importance of it, and diminish the violence there.

And for Mr. Profitt to now say that she owes him an apology reminds me of the way we used to treat domestic violence issues 40, 50 years ago—that it was her fault for doing this.  And clearly it was not.

O‘DONNELL:  Let‘s listen to more of that interview with WKYT. 

Profitt also blames the police.


PROFITT:  If the police had done what they were supposed to do, it would have never happened.


O‘DONNELL:  Senator Stein, do you buy that?  You‘ve been at events like this, the police—


STEIN:  Mr. O‘Donnell, of course not.  I have worked closely with our urban county police force.  They are award-winning.  They are terrific.  And they were there to observe what was going on.

There was a huge crowd there, and they were asked by Mr. Profitt, apparently, and a couple other guys, to arrest this young woman prior to anything happening.  And they said, no, there‘s nothing we can arrest her for.  And now, Mr. Profitt and his cohorts are trying to blame not only her, but the police for this.  How ridiculous.

O‘DONNELL:  Another stage of the controversy now is that although Rand Paul is disassociating himself from Profitt, he apparently isn‘t willing to give back the $1,950 Profitt has donated to the campaign.  According to the “Courier-Journal” in Louisville, “Paul‘s spokesman, Jesse Benton, said that the campaign had adequately dealt with the situation and that it would not return Profitt‘s contributions.”

The Conway campaign has been calling for the return of the money.

What is so important about returning the money?

STEIN:  Well, first, Dr. Paul said that he disassociated himself and would not mention the person‘s name, who was a very highly placed member in his campaign coordination.  And then he said that he would give the money back.  Now, we hear that he‘s not going to give the money back.

If you‘re going to disassociate yourself with someone for such an outrageous act of violence, completely do it.  Give the money back, Dr.  Paul.  You don‘t need it.

O‘DONNELL:  Now, quickly, before we go—has this incident, do you think, calmed the crowds at Kentucky campaign events, made them kind of take a deep breath?  Or as this campaign gets even more tense in the final weekend, is there chance—is there a chance seeing any more violence?

STEIN:  Well, I certainly hope that the voters are paying very close

attention to this, particularly the women of Kentucky, and everyone else

who values peace in Kentucky.  I think that this has sent a warning to the

to the Paul campaign that—be careful.


You know, Rand Paul, you do not see Kentucky the way the rest of us see Kentucky.  You have proven that from the beginning of the primary until now, when you think it‘s OK for people to beat up a woman.

I can only hope in the last few days that we can talk about the issues and not have to worry about brown shirted jack thug or jackbooted people who will be thugs and beat people up.  We don‘t need that.  We don‘t need that anywhere.

O‘DONNELL:  Kentucky State Senator Kathy Stein with the Jack Conway for Senate Campaign—thank you for your time tonight.

STEIN:  Thank you, Mr. O‘Donnell.

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up, I‘ll talk with Susie Essman about the campaign‘s nuttiest candidates—and with Hillary Swank about her important new role.

And remember the dad of balloon boy, the man who thought up the elaborate runaway son in the balloon hoax?  He‘s out of prison and his next brilliant idea is one you have to see to believe.


O‘DONNELL:  We don‘t know what skills Richard Heene may have learned in the 90 days he spent in prison for the hoax involving his son and the runaway balloon, but marketing doesn‘t seem to be one of them. Henne, always an inventor of sorts, has for his latest creation turned from balloons to bears. 


RICHARD HENNE, INVENTOR:  Hi, I‘m inventor Richard Henne.  If you itch like a son of a twitch, then you need my latest invention, the patent pending bear scratch.  Check it out, you ever walk out in the woods and see a bear break off a branch to scratch his back?  No, he uses the entire tree.  The secret is in this naturally textured wood and all these tiny knots.  It gives you a deep, deep penetrating scratch.  man, this feel things good.  This thing is strong. 

God, that is a bear scratch. 

I‘m telling you, man, that‘s what I‘m talking about.  One move for 36-inch grove.  Keep on thatching for a full scratching.  Honey, I don‘t need you any more.  I can do it myself. 


O‘DONNELL:  Parent of the year, Richard Henne. 

Coming up, Joy Behar unloaded on Sharron Angle with the B word and now Angle says the campaign cash is pouring in.  Susie Essman is here to talk silly season in politics. 

And later, Hillary Swank joins me, the two-time Oscar winning actress gets tonight‘s LAST WORD.


O‘DONNELL:  Sharron Angle actually uses a decoy to dodge the press and talks about Second Amendment solutions.  Carl Paladino talks over and over again at how much he doesn‘t like men grinding in Speedos.  Christine O‘Donnell dabbled in witchcraft and wants you to stop masturbating right now.  Republican Rich Iott loves dressing up like a Nazi.  Joe Miller refuses to answer anything about his questionable employment record.  And, of course, we have the now world famous Jimmy McMillan running for New York governor simply because he thinks the Rent is Too Damn High. 

To most of us, this kind of campaign behavior is very hard to follow.  But for others, like our next guest, strange behavior is all in a day‘s work, especially when you work with Larry David.  In our spotlight tonight, one of the stars of HBO‘s “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” Susie Essman. 

Susie, was that—


O‘DONNELL:  Was that too tough on Larry David, to put him on a list—at the end of a list that includes all those nuts.  Larry‘s not that crazy. 

SUSIE ESSMAN, “CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM”:  No, he‘s not that crazy.  And he‘s also a die hard lefty. 

O‘DONNELL:  No Tea Party action? 

ESSMAN:  No Tea Party.  Tea Party to me is what I did with my sister when I was four.  We would have a tea party, you know, under the bed in the morning, Saturday morning watching cartoons.  We‘d have a tea party.  It‘s not an adult thing to do. 

O‘DONNELL:  You and I actually had the chance to talk about something that has turned out to be politically relevant right now.  It was during a discussion about “Curb Your Enthusiasm” that we did for the TV Guide Network.  TV Guide Network is running the show in syndication now.  And you are—you moderated discussions of the episodes after we as a group sat around and watched them together. 

Let‘s take a look at this clip from the discussion that we had about one of the episodes that involves an issue that has become big in this campaign in Delaware.  Of course, that issue of masturbation. 


ESSMAN:  Is masturbating in somebody‘s house a bannable offense, Patrick?  Would you ban somebody? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  If you don‘t clean up after yourself, that‘s just appalling. 

O‘DONNELL:  Easy for you to say.  Because it‘s a different process. 

It‘s a different choir.

ESSMAN:  Yes.  It is a little different for a man than a woman. 


O‘DONNELL:  We taped that this summer before we had any idea that Christine O‘Donnell—

ESSMAN:  Who knew?  It‘s a thing of beauty.  This is, you know, a comedian‘s paradise right now.  My favorite thing is the commercials.  There‘s one voice over guy that does all them, Democratic, Republican, same guy.  And I was watching it the other day.  Now it‘s just glazing.  You don‘t even hear anything that they‘re saying. 

But I was watching it the other day.  I was thinking, when I came up as a comic in the ‘80s, all the comedians would do a certain Jerry Seinfeld cadence, you know, and you just became numb to it.  That‘s what these commercials—it‘s all Lawrence O‘Donnell says he‘s anti-gay, but we saw him having a glass of rose.  Says he‘s pro-business, but he has an American Express card.  Can we really believe anything he says? 

It‘s all like the same.  I don‘t think anybody‘s listening.  I don‘t think anybody‘s listening to it. 

O‘DONNELL:  This stuff—here‘s the thing I felt about “Saturday Night Live,” when they did Jimmy McMillan on “Saturday Night Live”. 

ESSMAN:  I only saw it on your show the other night.  It was hilarious. 

O‘DONNELL:  Jimmy can‘t be parodied.  They did an accurate version.  Parody is supposed to take something and heighten it, and Keenan did exactly what the guy does. 

ESSMAN:  Did Tina then parody Sarah Palin or was that accurate? 

O‘DONNELL:  I think she heightened a little bit, but not that much. 


ESSMAN:  That was actually—and then when—I hadn‘t seen it before, and then I saw your clip.  I saw the parody of it, and then I saw him, and I was totally confused about who was who. 

O‘DONNELL:  Yeah, they did it so accurately.  The—we have Carl Paladino running for governor, and now losing by like 30 points in the polls.  It has something to do apparently with sending to many pornographic e-mails, some involving bestiality. 

ESSMAN:  Anything involving gay men. 

O‘DONNELL:  Who knows?  We didn‘t see all of the e-mails he sent.  One of the things I can imagine is what would be the discussion on Curb if these kinds of candidates were in the atmosphere of your universe on “Curb Your Enthusiasm?” 

ESSMAN:  You mean a Carl Paladino? 

O‘DONNELL:  Yeah. 

ESSMAN:  Oh God, Larry would just have to confront him, I think.  Larry would just have to—you know what‘s interesting, is that a lot of right wing people love “Curb Your Enthusiasm” because we‘re so politically incorrect. 

O‘DONNELL:  You‘re pals with Joy Behar. 


O‘DONNELL:  She‘s out there on “The View” using the B word.  I can‘t use it.   

ESSMAN:  You can‘t use in on this show? 

O‘DONNELL:  I don‘t think a man can use—you can use it.

ESSMAN:  I can say bitch.

O‘DONNELL:  You have said worse on Curb.  OK.  So Joy is talking about the Nevada Senate candidate in those terms.  Have we—does Joy have to kind of take a deep breath at this point?

ESSMAN:  No, I think she‘s doing everybody a favor.  It‘s like women come up to me all over the country and thank me for giving them permission to speak that way to their husbands, the way I speak do my husband, Jeff, on “Curb Your Enthusiasm”. 

O‘DONNELL:  That we cannot show on this—

ESSMAN:  No, you can‘t.  But they need that release.  Joy‘s just saying what everybody—there‘s this thing that comedians—we say what people are thinking but they‘re afraid to say.  That‘s what Larry does. 

O‘DONNELL:  You can say what I‘m thinking after the break.  Susie Essman of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” a new season of the show is slated to air in 2011 on HBO.  Thank you for joining us tonight, Susie. 

ESSMAN:  Caroline tomorrow night. 

O‘DONNELL:  I‘ll be there. 

In tonight‘s Rewrite, conservative female candidates are telling their male candidates to man up and get their man pants on.  Don‘t they understand they‘re just demeaning themselves?

Later, Hillary Swank‘s newest Oscar worthy role; the dramatic true story of a sister who battles against all odds to prove her brother is not a murderer.  Hillary Swank gets THE LAST WORD.


O‘DONNELL:  Time for tonight‘s Rewrite.  The stupidest phrase of this campaign season is also it‘s most popular phrase.  You‘ve heard it already more times than you can count. 


SARAH PALIN, FMR. GOVERNOR OF ALASKA:  Some of you need to man up. 

CARLY FIORINA ®, CANDIDATE FOR GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA:  Man up.  And do what you‘re asking other people to do. 


PALIN:  I join Sharron Angle in calling them to just man up. 

ANGLE:  Man up, Harry Reid. 


O‘DONNELL:  On top of all of that, Sarah Palin says the president doesn‘t have the cojones—her word—to secure our border with Mexico.  Does Sarah Palin know what cojones are?  Does she know that she doesn‘t have any?  And that if she is saying it takes cojones to do something, it means she can‘t do it.  No woman can do it.

Then there was this from Christine O‘Donnell during her primary with Republican Mike Castle. 


CHRISTINE O‘DONNELL ®, CANDIDATE FOR SENATE IN DELAWARE:  You know, I released a statement today saying Mike, this is not a bake-off, get your man pants on. 


O‘DONNELL:  Man up, man pants.  Here we have women candidates constantly throwing around sexist terminology which they obviously don‘t understand is actually sexist toward women.  They are saying the only way to do something correctly is to do it like a man.  Their idiotic campaign staffs are rehearsing them in this phraseology, thinking they‘re ingeniously demeaning the men they are hurling their anti-women chants at. 

If these women candidates want to argue the absurdity that one gender is better at governing than another, when are they going to realize what they should be saying is, woman up.  As in woman up, Harry Reid, if you want to be as good a senator as Sharron Angle would be.  And yeah, Sarah Palin should be say saying Barack Obama can‘t secure our border with Mexico because he doesn‘t have the Tatos (ph) to do it.


O‘DONNELL:  There‘s more Oscar buzz every day for my next guest, Hillary Swank, for her deeply moving performance as Betty Ann Waters, whose brother was arrested and convicted for the murder of a Massachusetts waitress.  Betty Anne knew her brother was innocent.  What she did next is the powerful true story told in the new movie “Conviction,” directed by Tony Goldwyn.  In this scene, Betty Ann has just learned her brother has lost all hope and tried to kill himself in prison. 


HILLARY SWANK, ACTRESS:  How could you do this?   

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What, this?  You‘d be better off. 

SWANK:  God damn, Kenny, you promise me you‘ll never do this again. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There‘s nothing left.  It‘s over. 

SWANK:  There‘s still the Supreme Court. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The Supreme Court?  The Supreme Court ain‘t going to (EXPLETIVE DELETED) hear this case.  I am (EXPLETIVE DELETED) done.  I was (EXPLETIVE DELETED) right from the start. 

SWANK:  You can‘t give up.  We‘ll find somebody else.  I‘ll take out a loan.  We‘ll get a top lawyer this time. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  When are you going to get it, there is no one else.  There‘s not a lawyer on Earth who gives a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) about me. 

SWANK:  There has to be.  You‘re innocent. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You sure about that? 

SWANK:  How could you ask me that?  How could you ask me that? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Doesn‘t matter whether I killed Mrs. Brower or not.  I‘m a piece of (EXPLETIVE DELETED).  I‘m no good to anybody. 

SWANK:  What about your daughter? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What daughter?  She‘s been poisoned against me. 

I‘m never going to see her again. 

SWANK:  That is not true. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I gotta go.  I‘m doing Mandy a favor.  She‘s the only good thing I‘ve ever did in my piece of (EXPLETIVE DELETED) life.  I got nothing to give her.

SWANK:  Please, Kenny, wait.  You promise me you‘ll never hurt yourself again.  Promise me. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I can‘t spend the rest of my life in here. 


O‘DONNELL:  Joining me now, the star of “Conviction,” two time Academy Award winning actress Hillary Swank and the film‘s director Tony Goldwyn.  Thank you both for joining me tonight.  Hillary, we just saw that scene, that powerful scene in the prison.  What did Betty Anne do after that? 

SWANK:  After that, Betty Anne was obviously—couldn‘t believe what had happened, didn‘t want to lose her brother.  So she got her GED.  She went to community college.  Then she went to college and then law school to become a lawyer to get her brother out of prison, because she firmly believed he was innocent. 

O‘DONNELL:  It is an amazing story.  I—my father was a Boston cop who went to law school nights.  And everybody said, hey, that‘s impossible.  But this story is much tougher.  Tony Goldwyn, you had an 18-year story to tell here, with this saga of taking her through her education, becoming a lawyer, then handling her brother‘s appeal. 

How did you put that together in the space of this movie?  It‘s just beautifully done? 

TONY GOLDWYN, DIRECTOR:  Thanks, Lawrence.  Well, we really—Pamela Gray (ph) our screenwriter and I came up with a sort of three-tiered time structure.  I didn‘t want to tell it in a very straightforward conventional way anyway.  So we take the time from—that she went to law school, also the time 10, 15 years earlier, when the crime happened and when they were young, and then much earlier we have sequences when they‘re children as well. 

And we kind of interweave those three time periods and are able to sort of—were able to excise big chunks of time and tell the story more efficiently in that way. 

O‘DONNELL:  Hillary, your character covers a long period of time.  She is moving through an educational experience, from high school dropout to lawyer.  First of all, by the way, I got to tell you, being from that area, you do a wicked good job on the accent , OK?  I was absolutely startled. 

SWANK:  Thanks.  Thank you. 

O‘DONNELL:  How did you build that character through time?  And how did she change through her education and through the experiences she was going through? 

SWANK:  That‘s a good question.  We shouldn‘t forget to add that we‘re

talking about a single mother of two.  You add that to it, and you‘re just

what she accomplished was extraordinary.  And that‘s the thing, is that this was this ordinary woman who was doing something that was so extraordinary. 


You know, I—it did span an 18-year time frame, so to understand who she was emotionally, and how she changed physically during those 18 years was a great challenge to me as an actor.  And to—this is a woman who transformed herself through sheer will and strength.  So to transform into her heart and to understand where she was coming from, where this drive, determination and selfless love came from was a lot of my work along with, like you said, figuring out that accent, which took me about eight weeks.  I think it was one of the more challenging ones I‘ve dove into to date. 

O‘DONNELL:  The accent is wicked hard.  I wouldn‘t recommend any actor trying it.  But you guys pulled it off.  Tony, I think you have the honor of directing Hillary in what is her next Oscar nomination, and I hope win.  And I hope possibly also for Sam Rockwell, whose performance is absolutely extraordinary.  I sat there watching the movie not knowing who I was watching for a while, the way he disappeared into that character. 

How did you get Hillary and Sam and the other characters to go that deep into these very local Boston area characters? 

GOLDWYN:  Well, it‘s all about finding the right actors.  You know, you just let them do what they do.  Hillary and Sam are both actors that just dig incredibly deep into every character that they do, and commit so fully.  So I never had other people in mind really.  They—I thought of Sam from the first time I started working on this story years and years ago. 

And, you know, when I thought of Hillary, I realized there was no one else to play this part.  So really it‘s just casting the right people. 


SWANK:  Yeah, but what I have to just say, though—

O‘DONNELL:  -- DNA evidence being brought to bear to solve some of these cases that never would have been solvable before.  What more do you learn about it by going through this particular story?  What do you think America needs to know about the judicial system, about what‘s going on, in terms of these kinds of wrongful convictions? 

SWANK:  Well, it‘s true that really every opportunity I get as an actor, I guess to see the world in a whole new way, in a way that I probably wouldn‘t had I not been an actor.  And to walk in Betty Ann‘s shoes for a while, and to see what happened to her, and how her life changed, and Kenny‘s life changed through—I mean, he spent 18 years in prison for a crime he didn‘t commit. 

The idea that that has happened not only to one but numerous people—the Innocence Project has worked through the use of DNA to exonerate 259 people to date.  And I think eight of those people were actually on Death Row.  We don‘t know how many people were actually executed who didn‘t have DNA, and how many innocent people are in prison who don‘t have DNA. 

So hopefully this movie will shine a bright light on I think a flawed judicial system.  And so we can look into—dive into how we can make sure this doesn‘t happen.  It works in a lot other ways, but not in these other very sad ways. 

O‘DONNELL:  Tony, you brought Peter Gallagher in to play Barry Scheck, who actually in the true story helps Hillary‘s character in the final appeal stages of this.  And Barry Scheck‘s been involved in this Innocence Project for many years now.  There are many, many stories to tell.  It‘s—

I think I can see a TV series in this movie.  What happens next? 

GOLDWYN:  Well, you know, you and I have discussed this before.  I would—there‘s so many incredible stories.  Every time you hear—every time I meet an exoneree, someone who‘s been released from prison for a crime they didn‘t commit, every one story is just extraordinary.  I haven‘t stopped telling them, and hopefully it will be seen more. 

The more people that become aware of these stories, that‘s really how things are going to change.  Because we get—you know, we want closure in our society.  And it‘s too easy to say, oh, that guy did it, he‘s in jail.  So that means he‘s guilty.  So the more you learn about this, the more you say, wait a minute, in a lot of these cases, we need to take a second look. 

O‘DONNELL:  I got to tell my audience, you cannot see better performances in any movie this weekend than “Conviction.”  You got to see this.  Hillary Swank and Tony Goldwyn, thank you very much for joining me tonight.  Hillary, you got to start shopping for those awards gowns.  You‘re going to need them. 

GOLDWYN:  Thanks, Lawrence.  We really appreciate it. 

SWANK:  Thanks for having us on.  We really appreciate it. 

O‘DONNELL:  You can have THE LAST WORD online at our blog,  And you can follow my Tweets @Lawrence.  That‘s tonight‘s LAST WORD.  “COUNTDOWN” is up next.


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