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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

Guests: Chuck Todd, Arianna Huffington, Chris Dodd, Roseanne Barr, Richard Wolffe

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, HOST:  Rachel, thanks for letting me appear on your show tonight without having to actually get dressed early to appear on your show, by using my videotape.


O‘DONNELL:  I am learning so many new and smart ways to think about gun and ammunition control from you.  Keep this going, please.

MADDOW:  Thank you.  And congratulations on your discussion with congressman franks last night.

O‘DONNELL:  Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Thanks.

O‘DONNELL:  Tonight, President Obama is hosting a state dinner at the White House for the president of China.  There are serious economic and human rights issues on our agenda with China.  Many Democratic leaders are attending.

But the Republican speaker of the House, third in line to the presidency, John Boehner, had something more important than a state dinner for the nation holding 7 percent of our national debt.  He voted to repeal health care reform.



CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS:  President Obama is going to be welcoming the Chinese President Hu at this hour.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It‘s part of his four-day state visit fraught with diplomatic challenges.

O‘DONNELL (voice-over):  President Obama comes face-to-face with his most challenging adversary.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  It is my pleasure to welcome President Hu to the White House.

O‘DONNELL:  No, not the president of China.

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA:  Obamacare is the crown jewel of socialism.

O‘DONNELL:  It‘s the Republican determination to dismantle Democratic achievements.

BACHMANN:  Repeal a president.  Repeal the current Senate.  We are here to stay.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  As Virginians, we did not accept the change of George III, nor will we accept the change of Obamacare.

O‘DONNELL:  House Republicans remain focused on last year‘s health care struggle.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Repeal it today.

KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST:  Republicans today platform-dived right into the six inches of water in which their base now slowly dries.

O‘DONNELL:  But fighting last year‘s fight may not help the Republicans.

MADDOW:  The Republican support for repeal is dropping.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  A new NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” Poll showing 35 percent strongly favor a repeal, while 34 percent strongly oppose it.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS:  Thirty-nine percent felt health care was a good idea, 39 percent thought it was not a good idea.

LUKE RUSSERT, NBC NEWS:  Members from both sides feel they have the high ground.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, “HARDBALL” HOST:  In other words, a game.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We know it‘s going nowhere.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS ANCHOR:  Tonight, we‘re debuting our new NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” Poll.  It shows that dramatic turn in opinions.

TODD:  His job approval rating is now sitting at 53 percent.

MATTHEWS:  More people now say the country‘s on the right track than any time since the first year of this administration.  Republicans, believe it or not, through some time machine magic, they believe themselves now responsible for jobs that were created before they took office.

OLBERMANN:  Now that they passed repeal, they can—they can—anyone? 


TODD:  The nation kind of came together a little bit in the wake of the Tucson tragedy.  They‘re just feeling good again.

OBAMA:  I want America to be as good as she imagined it.


O‘DONNELL:  Good evening from New York.

Tonight, President Obama hosted a state dinner in honor of Chinese President Hu.  Guests included Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, CEOs from JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, actor Jackie Chan, and, of course, Barbra Streisand, a regular at Democrat presidents‘ state dinners.

Invited but not attending were Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who called the Chinese president a dictator yesterday.  Harry Reid will meet with that dictator tomorrow.

And Speaker of the House John Boehner, who doesn‘t seem to like state dinners much—this is Boehner‘s third absence from an Obama state dinner.

A new NBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll, however, shows that post-partisan civility is a winning strategy—or so it seems.  President Obama‘s job approval rating has jumped eight points to 53 percent since the legislative successes of the lame duck Congress, and the calls for unity following the shootings in Arizona.

The good news for Obama is reflected across the board.  Among independents, he surged from 35 percent in December to 46 percent now.  Among Democrats, he went from 76 percent to 86 percent.  And among Republicans, his numbers rose from 11 percent to 15 percent.

Meanwhile, the very brief honeymoon for congressional Republicans is over, before they even get started.  That‘s how brief it was.  Just 25 percent of those polled say that Republicans in Congress will bring the right kind of change.  And a majority, 55 percent believe congressional Republicans will be too inflexible in dealing with President Obama.

So, do these polls indicate that a newly centrist President Obama outmaneuvered overreaching Republicans, or do they simply reflect a shocked nation rallying around their president after a horrific tragedy?

Joining me now is Chuck Todd, chief White House correspondent, and political director for NBC News.

Chuck, I, like most of my audience, do not have the time or the wisdom to dig into these polls the way you do.  Brief us—what do we need to know from this poll?  What does it mean for the president?

TODD:  Well, one thing is, we‘re not going to know the answer to your question for another poll or two, for another couple of months.  The question is: is this rise for President Obama, is it short-term, is it all Tucson or is it a little bit of everything?

I think you see three pieces of contributing factors in the president‘s job rating and the spike in the president‘s rating.

First, a little context here—he hasn‘t been this high in his job rating since the month before the health care town halls.  That‘s July 2009.  Ever since health care began, and you more than anybody else on this network said that this thing was going to become a weight around his ankles politically, it sure did that.  This is the first time he has basically gotten to this point since before the health care debate started.  So that‘s the first thing we need to realize.

But the second, you‘ve got the Tucson tragedy -- 74 percent approved of the way the president handled that.

You have the fact that there‘s economic optimism across the board.  These numbers—they were optimistic signs about the way people feel about the economy in the next 12 months, where the direction of the country was going, is actually the best.  Most people saying the country is on—more people still say the country is on the wrong track, but it was the highest right track number we have seen in over six months.

And you had this long-term look, in five years, as America going to be in a better place than it is now.  A majority says yes.  Just six months ago, Lawrence, a majority said no.

So, there‘s that optimism.  Throw in the Tucson tragedy.  And then you have the lame duck Congress and what happened there and the way they‘ve determined to think President Obama is going to be—strike the right balance when dealing with congressional Republicans.  Fifty-five percent say that.  And yet, it‘s another 55 percent that say Republicans are going to be too inflexible what they try to do with President Obama.

So, it‘s as if voters are saying, and let‘s consider where we are right now, Lawrence, five days away from the State of the Union.  So the benefit of the doubt is suddenly now with President Obama where two months ago, we would have assumed at this point in time it would have been with the Republicans.

And now, Republicans, sort of the burden of proof—as one of our pollsters put it—is now on the Republican side.  They have to prove that they‘re ready to govern.  And it seems that that‘s where the public sits right now.

O‘DONNELL:  What are the president and his speechwriters finding in this poll as guidance for what they will be successful with in the State of the Union address?

TODD:  It‘s funny.  It‘s almost as if you were on our pollster call this morning.  I know you weren‘t.  I‘m not trying to say you set me up there.

But, Peter Hart, who‘s—you know, we have a Democrat Peter Hart, Republican Bill McInturff, they put—they do this poll together and they looked at this thing and Peter Hart said, you know, if he were in charge of advising on the State of the Union, he would look at all of the positive and negative things people say when they say the country‘s off on the right track or wrong track, and just look at those words and phrases and be focusing on jobs, the economy, and making people feel hopeful again on that front—what signs that the economy is getting better, and choosing those words over and above anything else.

We have this one open-ended question where people are worried about, you know, is there going to be a manufacturing jobs back, and things like that.  And that that should be the targeted way the president should be looking at things.

O‘DONNELL:  Well, I was struck by how he is perceived, Chuck, in this poll in terms of liberal, moderate.  We have 40 percent saying that he‘s a moderate, 45 percent seeing him as a liberal.  And my favorite people in America, the 11 percent who think Barack Obama is a conservative.

Let‘s ignore them for the purposes of adult analysis of this poll.  But between those 45 percent who see him as a liberal and 40 percent who see him as a moderate—how does that mix work for the White House?  Did they like the way that looks?

TODD:  I think cartwheels would be the way to describe where David Plouffe and Robert Gibbs were when they heard about this number.  This is exactly where they would love to become October of 2012 when you talk to the folks in there.

But one thing our pollster said is be careful of this number.  They‘re curious to see, is this a short-term thing, is this the result of the Tucson speech where you had this sort of universal approval, and they thought, boy, this guy is really the rational adult in the conversation.  He‘s the guy that has a calming way about him, and that that may have influenced this number.  They‘re curious to see where this may be in April.

Because—think about this, Lawrence, we‘ve tested this going back to March of 2008 when he was a candidate.  Even when the president was doing enormously well with independents and moderates, a majority of the country said, they thought he was a liberal.  This is the first time that a majority of the country did not think he was a liberal.  So, there‘s one of those poll questions you say, OK, that could be a blip, but we‘ll wait to see in March.

O‘DONNELL:  Chuck Todd, co-host of “THE DAILY RUNDOWN” and political director for NBC News—thanks for joining me tonight, Chuck.

TODD:  You got it, sir.  Good to see you.

O‘DONNELL:  Joining me now is Arianna Huffington, cofounder and editor of chief of “The Huffington Post.”

Arianna, to that number, that we just discussed -- 40 percent saying Obama‘s a moderate, 45 percent see him as a liberal.  Which is he?  Tell us -- you know what a moderate is, you know what a liberal is.  Tell them what it is.

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM:  Lawrence, these polls were conducted after the Tucson speech.  It was conducted between the 13th and the 17th of January.  So, I think this poll captures the mood in the country.

You know, this is a good country.  It‘s an optimistic country.  We all came together.  Obama is a decent, good man.  You know, that was obvious during his speech.  Even by those where he has detractors.

But it‘s not sustainable.  There‘s no way this is sustainable when you look at the underlying facts about the economy—and the fundamentals of our economy are not good, period.  And the fact that we have 56 percent of these people in the poll who think the country is on the wrong track, and 50 percent who approved of Obama‘s handling of the economy, it‘s really an indication of how the job numbers don‘t improve, if the foreclosure numbers don‘t improve.  And there‘s no way that this can be sustained.

And I‘m sorry Robert Gibbs and David Plouffe are doing cart wheels because they‘re really missing something which they still have time to correct, maybe.  But they won‘t have time to correct a few months from now.

O‘DONNELL:  What do you make of the increase in here of support among Democrats?  Seventy-six -- 10-point jump among Democrats.

It interests me because it goes to the question, not definitively, but it goes to the question of, how did that deal with Republicans—that compromise tax deal in the lame duck session with Republicans, how did that affect his base?  And it seems like what this poll says is, after that, he has stronger support among his base.  But then again, we have the Tucson aftermath to consider in that number, too, don‘t we?

HUFFINGTON:  Yes, absolutely.  I think the Tucson aftermath has to be considered in all the numbers, especially when you compare it to the way he handled Tucson with the way with Sarah Palin handled Tucson.  I mean, she‘s such a perfect folly for him, sort of the opposite of his kind of leadership.

And—but I think the key here is, if he can build to go to the State of the Union, which is ahead of us, if he can build on the Tucson speech to put flesh and blood on basically the challenge issue during the Tucson speech, which is to expand the circles of our caring, to make sure the American Dream is bequeathed to future generations, to take Christina, the symbol of that speech and say, can we do this for all our children—and, you know, the 20 million children who are living in poverty.  And therefore, to move it beyond liberal, conservative, beyond left and right and try to create a kind of shared political agenda.

O‘DONNELL:  What would be in that agenda that you think he could announce in the State of the Union address, given—and does he have to announce a realistic agenda given that he has a Republican House of Representatives?  Or should he just ignore the Republican House of Representatives and announce an agenda that is agreeable to him and the Democratic side?

HUFFINGTON:  I think he should announce an agenda that‘s the right agenda for the country—not just for the Democrats, not for him, for the country.

You know, we all talk about the middle.  What about talking about what (INAUDIBLE) call the vital center, which is very different than the middle, because it‘s really about a shared agenda, which brings the best out in people, which recognizes our responsibility to those left behind—and he can use Tucson, use Christina to talk about our children, because our children are doing worse under Obama than they were doing under Bush.  I know this is a factor of the economy he inherited.  But nevertheless, that‘s a very stark reality.

And if he addresses that, and puts down a road map, how we can deal with these major problems we‘re facing, I think he will begin to have the country with him.

O‘DONNELL:  This poll, by the way, shows majority support for more strict control on guns and ammunition, and if we‘re going to see leadership in the State of the Union address, what better issue to step out there on.

Arianna Huffington, founder of “The Huffington Post”—thank you very much for joining us tonight.

HUFFINGTON:  Thank you, Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  Ahead on THE LAST WORD: Republicans pass the repeal of health care reform in the House.  And now, Eric Cantor is daring Senate Democrats to vote on it.  A champion of that health care bill, former Senator Chris Dodd joins me.

And so far, there is one declared presidential candidate who‘s not afraid to say what she thinks about Sarah Palin.  Roseanne Barr is in the “Spotlight.”


O‘DONNELL:  Today‘s Republican vote to repeal health care reform in the House may be symbolic, but what‘s going to happen if Republicans take back the Senate in 2012?  With two more Democrats leaving, the chances are better than ever.  Christopher Dodd joins me for his first interview since leaving the Senate, next.

And later, you‘re just not going to believe what Rush Limbaugh did today. 

Seriously.  You‘ve got to see this.  We have the video.


O‘DONNELL:  After seven hours of debate, the Republican-controlled House made good on its promise on voting on repealing the health care law.  And tonight, they did just that.  The vote: 245-189.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid promises to, quote, “continue to protect Nevada families, seniors and small businesses from attempts to repeal health insurance reform by the extremist wings of the Republican Party.”

Trouble is, when every House Republican and three Democrats vote for repeal of the health care reform law, Senator Reid is in a confrontation with more than just the extremist wings of the Republican Party.

Today, Republicans challenged Reid to allow a vote on repeal in the Senate.


REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MAJORITY LEADER:  We are going to be a results-driven congress.  And so, I‘ve got a problem with the assumption here that somehow the Senate can be a place for legislation to go into a cul-de-sac or dead-end.  And Leader Reid continues to say that he is not going to bring this up for a vote in the Senate.

The American people deserve a full hearing.  They deserve to see this legislation go to the Senate for a full vote.  Interestingly, Senator Schumer says that this is a political win for the Democrats.  If so, let‘s see the votes.


O‘DONNELL:  Speaker John Boehner says, tomorrow, a resolution will be offered directing House Republican committees to begin drawing up alternatives to the current law.

Joining me tonight in THE LAST WORD exclusive interview, his first since leaving office: former Connecticut Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd.

Senator Dodd, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

CHRISTOPHER DODD (D), FORMER CONNECTICUT SENATOR:  Lawrence, a true pleasure to be with you.  Congratulations on your show.

O‘DONNELL:  And it should be a much more relaxing week for you now that you‘re not under these pressures.

Health care repeal in the House—everyone says it has no prospect in the Senate.  But is it possible in the looser rules of the Senate, for someone to just tack on repeal of health care reform as an amendment to some other vehicle that‘s moving through the Senate?

DODD:  Well, that‘s always a possibility.  And you know the Senate so well, Lawrence, and the rules are, loosen up and that someone could actually try and do that, and might even get away with it under some circumstances.  But I would hope—and coming out, I was going back home and I pulled out some statistics.

Connecticut is a small state and I no longer represent my state in the Congress.  But I was just curious what this would mean in my little state of 4 million people, if repeal were to prevail.

I‘ve got 53,000 small businesses that would lose their tax credits that they receive for providing health care to their employees.  They‘ve got 191,000 children in my state who have a preexisting condition, which under this bill would allow them to get coverage.  Under repeal, they‘d lose it.

I have 117,000 seniors right now who have to pay co-pays for preventive medicine, mammograms, colonoscopies, diabetes screening.  Repeal it and those co-pays come back in.  The donut hole would also be, that $250.

I‘ve got $250 million coming to my 29 hospitals that are critical for them to reduce costs and to improve care.

Those are just some small statistics that if you repeal the bill in my state, what it means.  And by the way, that small business number, the head of a Chamber of Commerce in my state announced that he was vehemently opposed to repeal because of what it would mean to his employees and his ability for the first time in 25 years to provide health care for them.

O‘DONNELL:  Leaving repeal aside, going forward—whenever the Congress does get the deficit reduction, which may not be for a few years—

DODD:  Right.

O‘DONNELL:  -- but at some point it is going to.  Certainly, the president when he feels we‘re clear of the recession, and we‘re in a growth period, that allows enough confidence to move into the deficit reduction zone, it‘s going to happen.  And as you know, there‘s been no real serious round of deficit reduction that did not include cuts to Medicare and cuts to other programs like that.

So on the health care reform bill, isn‘t the more likely outcome at some point in the future, that there will be some kind of haircut, some sort of shaving and trimming around the edges of the bill already passed, since it will probably have to do its share in deficit reduction as well as the other programs that will be on the line when deficit reduction comes up?

DODD:  Well, that could be.  And again, having been in the Senate for 30 years, and involved in the crafting of this bill, in the absence of my great friend Ted Kennedy, who got sick and, of course, passed away, as well as being involved in the financial reform bill, I‘d never—you know, bills of this size and magnitude obviously require second looks.

I‘d be far more impressed with the House Republican leadership if they were approaching this with that in mind, looking at it in detail.  The idea of having a seven-hour debate and repealing a bill of this significance—recall, Lawrence, if you will, that we‘re talking about the health care costs eating up as much as 30 percent of the gross domestic product of our country if we didn‘t step in to deal with cost issues.

And so, repealing this, after seven hours of debate, rather than the hard look involved—and I suspect at some point on deficit reduction a lot of issues will have to be looked at, including the ones you mentioned.  But that‘s a far different scenario, if you will, than repeal of this entire bill, which I think would be a devastating hit for the country economically as well as for individuals.

O‘DONNELL:  You saw a couple of friends of yours announce their retirements from the Senate, meaning they‘re not going to run for election in two years.  Kent Conrad will be giving up his seat in North Dakota.  It seems very unlikely that the Democrats will be able to hold on to that seat without Kent Conrad running for it.  And Joe Lieberman in Connecticut is not going to run for re-election.

Let‘s start with Connecticut.  Will the Democrats be able to hold on to the Lieberman seat in Connecticut?

DODD:  Well, I believe so.  And again, Lawrence, being around politics for almost four decades, people who two years out will start telling you what‘s happening in the country two years hence.  I always find it rather amusing.  The ground can shift so quickly and so dramatically.

Even in North Dakota, Earl Pomeroy up there, popular congressman for many years, lost this time around, but has run statewide on numerous occasions and well-liked.  I wouldn‘t—writing the funeral passages for the Democratic Party in the Senate is vastly premature.  And in Connecticut, we‘ve already had a couple of people express strong interest.

I talked to Chris Murphy tonight, in fact, called me, the congressman, who has been in several terms, who I think is going to run.  I hope he does.  I think he would be a good candidate.

Susan Bysiewicz, who a former secretary of state, has already indicated her interest.  We‘ll have a very, I think vibrant contest for the nomination.  And again, I think the Democrats will do well.  I think they‘ll do a lot better than people are predicting.

The president is already in a stronger position than anyone who have predicted even three or four weeks ago, five weeks ago.  So, again, these prognostications about 2012 are very, very early indeed.

O‘DONNELL:  Is there any way you could help talk Linda McMahon into running for the Senate again?  And she‘s very good.  She‘s a very good Republican at losing Senate campaigns in Connecticut.  I think she could lose that again, don‘t you?

DODD:  Well, it was sort of a—the state sort of is a stimulus package in the state.  At a time, that $50 million I think really helped an awful lot of people in the state.  So, we appreciate the fact that she spent the money in Connecticut, and again, I‘m delighted to see Dick Blumenthal get elected to the Senate.  I think he‘s going to be a fine member of that body.

O‘DONNELL:  Former Senator Chris Dodd, always a senator to me—thank you very much for joining us tonight.

DODD:  Thank you, Lawrence, very much.

O‘DONNELL:  Ahead on THE LAST WORD, what Rush Limbaugh did on his show today is—it is indescribable.  You have to see it.

And, Dick Cheney is in tonight‘s “Rewrite.”


O‘DONNELL:  Covering breaking news is something of a challenge for Rush Limbaugh on his three-hour radio talk show.  When President Obama and Chinese President Hu held a press conference in the middle of Rush‘s radio show, he kept his listeners in the loop by watching the two presidents on Fox News and telling his audience what they were saying.  This is how he did it. 



Nobody was translating.  But that‘s as close as I can get. 


O‘DONNELL:  That‘s half true.  Somebody was translating.  But that is the closest he can get. 


O‘DONNELL:  In the spotlight tonight, as Congresswoman Gabby Giffords‘ condition continues to improve—she actually stood up today with some assistance—a federal grand jury indicted Jared Loughner on three counts for the attempted assassination of Congresswoman Giffords and the attempted murder of two of her aides.  More charges will follow those. 

Meanwhile, Sarah Palin continues to attract criticism in the aftermath of the Tucson massacre.  In an e-mail to his supporters today, former Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson said, quote, “there has been a stream of violence and threats of violence by the right wing against Democrats.  Gabby warned against it, and then became a terrible victim of it.  Palin has instigated it, and then tried to pretend that it doesn‘t exist.” 

Grayson‘s comments come on the same day that Sarah Palin‘s unfavorability rate reached an all-time high at 56 percent.  But as we saw on Fox News “Hannity” this week, Sarah Palin continues to pretend not to be phased. 


SARAH PALIN, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR:  I am not ready to make an announcement as to what my political future is going to be.  But I‘ll tell you, Sean, I‘m not going to sit down.  I‘m not going to shut up. 


O‘DONNELL:  Joining me now, Roseanne Barr, author of “Rose-Anarchy, Dispatches From The Nut Farm.” 

Roseanne, you having a little trouble there with your—are you OK? 

ROSEANNE BARR, ACTRESS:  I had it up too loud.  But I‘ve recovered, I think. 

O‘DONNELL:  I‘ll whisper, I‘ll talk softer. 

BARR:  No, I adjusted it. 

O‘DONNELL:  Roseanne, as the only—the only declared candidate for president, what do you make of the way the undeclared candidate for president, Sarah Palin, has handled the aftermath of the shootings in Tucson? 

BARR:  Well, you know, I think initially, she made it all about her.  And that turned a lot of people off.  But I saw her on television the other day, on Fox, of course, on about four of their shows.  And she was making a point that—you know, I felt that she was communicating the right kind of ideas. 

That‘s kind of what I like about her.  After she talks to the right people, she kind of simmers down and gets the right idea, which is why I hope she will meet with me, so I can speak for a lot of American women that she might want to expand her vision in order to represent, such as the health care repeal vote. 

I‘d like her to hear what American women, unlike herself, have to say about that. 

O‘DONNELL:  Let‘s listen to what she said on Fox.  She appeared on Sean Hannity‘s show, and she was defending her use of the term blood libel in her original video statement that she put on her Facebook page.  Let‘s listen to how she defended that. 


PALIN:  I don‘t know how the heck they would know whether I did or didn‘t know the term blood libel.  Nobody‘s ever asked me.  And blood libel obviously means being falsely accused of having blood on your hands.  In this case, that‘s exactly what was going on. 

Yes, the historical knowledge that people have of the term blood libel, it goes back to the Jews who were falsely accused back in Medieval European times using the blood of children. 

And, you know, the criticism of even the timing of this statement is being used as another diversion, because I believe that there are many on the left, many critics, who don‘t want, for instance, Congress to buckle down, get back to work.  There‘s this trifecta thing going on in our country right now that‘s going to bring America to her knees, if Congress doesn‘t start addressing the issues at hand. 


O‘DONNELL:  So how do you think she did on that one, Roseanne? 

BARR:  Well, she successfully changed the subject real well.  But I just want to say, I am a Jew.  I am a Jewish person.  And the term blood libel is about akin to using the “N” word, because that is a terrifying term for Jews to hear, because it represents centuries of discrimination and horror. 

And I just really—I think she picked an unfortunate term to use.  And I‘m like what‘s next, is she going to talk about the Prodigals of the Elders of Zion?  Those are horrible terms that shouldn‘t even be involved in any kind of American lexicon, let alone political discourse, ever.  Thank you for that—giving me that. 

O‘DONNELL:  You know, her poll numbers have gone down lately.  And this—that past week didn‘t help at all.  There are some new numbers out indicating that her popularity is at an all-time low.  And there are only eight percent of Americans view Palin in a very positive light.  It looks like—

BARR:  Well, you know what‘s sad about—

O‘DONNELL:  Go ahead, Roseanne. 

BARR:  I mean, I think that she‘s a likable person.  And like I say, you know, I think she identifies problems that need to be identified.  It‘s just her solutions to those problems are not good for America.  And I don‘t think she‘s on the right track with her solutions. 

O‘DONNELL:  She will refuse to say what her future political plans are.  It‘s my belief she will absolutely not run for president, not when there‘s only eight percent of the country viewing her very favorably.  And she‘s on her way to billionaire status if she just keeps going with her television career, and other things. 

Do you think she‘s going to run?  Or do you think she‘s going to be happy being a TV star? 

BARR:  I think she‘s a celebrity.  And I think she should get my book, Rose-Anarchy,” which is all about me exorcising the whole demonic possession of celebrity, and how I was able to survive it and regain my soul. 

And I think she should take a look at my book, because it has a lot of solutions in there for her, as well as the rest of the world, Lawrence. 

O‘DONNELL:  Roseanne, Congress is back to work.  And they are back to work on—

BARR:  We should all be shrieking in horror. 

O‘DONNELL:  They‘re back to work on last year‘s homework.  They want to redo that health care reform assignment.  The Republicans are going to vote on repealing it.  It won‘t be repealed, because the Senate won‘t take action on it.  What do you make of this start for the Republicans? 

BARR:  I think it‘s a continuation of their entire policy, which is, you know, pandering to their base, the fundamentalists, crazy people like Sarah Palin, and, you know, those kind of people who don‘t think that any woman should have reproductive rights in this country. 

Instead of going, you know, back to work, and like helping the economy and getting jobs and helping people to have decent health care, they‘re taking aim at women‘s rights to reproduction and birth control. 

And these guys are just shameless.  They always cut from widows and children, and that is just not American and not right in my opinion. 

O‘DONNELL:  If you could sit down with them, Roseanne, in a closed door session, with House Republicans, what would you tell them? 

BARR:  I would tell them, you know, you guys, you need to, like—well, I don‘t know.  I just would want to tell them, you guys are not doing right for the American people.  Seriously, I don‘t know what you‘re thinking.  But just like three years, or four—three years ago, you were telling us we‘re not supposed to talk bad about Bush because we‘re in a time of war and to respect the presidency of the United States, because he‘s the commander in chief. 

OK.  Well, we‘re still at war.  And, you know, now you‘re disrespecting the president that the American people, for sure, fairly elected.  And I mean, what are you doing?  Whose side are you guys on?  That‘s what I‘d ask them.  I would go, you guys—say, you guys need to get your stuff together.  And like actually represent the taxpayer who sent you here, instead of the lobbyists who are paying you. 

O‘DONNELL:  Roseanne, your name was not included in the latest NBC poll about possible presidential candidates.  Are you doing any of your own polling?  Or are you judging your popularity on the huge ratings of your previous television starring roles of your show? 

BARR:  Well, I know I‘m getting a good rating.  But I tell you, I base it all on when I go out to the mall and I just start talking to people over at the mall.  Especially I talk to people, women of my own age, and men, and people who have children, and family people.  And they‘re like, you give them hell, Roseanne.  It‘s making he feel pretty good, like I‘m doing something good. 

And for the taxpayer and the voter, who‘s totally not—has no representation anywhere, seriously.  It‘s just lobbyists and lobbyists and lobbyists. 

O‘DONNELL:  Roseanne Barr, the one presidential candidate who doesn‘t talk to lobbyists, and the author of the new book “Rose-Anarchy, Dispatches From The Nut Farm.”  Thank you very much for joining me again, Roseanne. 

BARR:  Thank you again for having me. 

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up, President Obama becomes the subject of a book by an anonymous author.  We do some digging to find out who‘s behind “O,” the novel. 

Still ahead in tonight‘s Rewrite, Dick Cheney, he‘s back.


O‘DONNELL:  Time for tonight‘s Rewrite.  In the growing number of sensible people willing to discuss the possibility of limiting access to high-capacity ammunition magazines like the one Jared Loughner is accused of using in the Tucson massacre, an unlikely voice was heard today. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Do you think that this incident, that there is something that you would support, measures in gun control that could be changed that could help avoid this in the future? 

DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Well, I‘m not sure exactly what they would be.  I‘d certainly be willing to listen to ideas.  I‘ve always been a gun advocate, obviously had a strong voting record on behalf of the Second Amendment.  That‘s just what I believe. 

And whether or not there‘s some measure there in terms of limiting the size of the magazine that you can buy to go with a semiautomatic weapon, we‘ve had that in place before.  You know, maybe it‘s appropriate to reestablish that kind of thing. 

But I think you have to be careful, obviously, that the court—the Supreme Court ruled on the Second Amendment.  It‘s an important part of our historic legacy. 

And we‘re looking for ways to make sure this never happens again.  But you‘ve still got to go back to the fact that it looks like the cause of this particular tragedy was this one individual who apparently has a very serious mental problem. 


O‘DONNELL:  I just have to hear that one more time. 


CHENEY:  Whether or not there‘s some measure there in terms of limiting the size of the magazine that you can buy to go with a semiautomatic weapon, we‘ve had that in place before.  You know, maybe it‘s appropriate to reestablish that kind of thing. 


O‘DONNELL:  What you just heard is the old Dick Cheney.  Everyone who knows Cheney will tell you he was a different man before 9/11, a reasonable man.  In 2005, the national security adviser to the first Bush White House, Brent Skowcroft, said “I consider Cheney a good friend.  I‘ve known him for 30 years.  But Dick Cheney, I don‘t know anymore.” 

The Cheney you just heard is the Dick Cheney Skowcroft used to know, a Republican who thinks maybe you should limit the size of the magazine you can buy with a semiautomatic gun.  This comes a week after Rupert Murdoch‘s “New York Post” ran an editorial in favor of limiting access to these magazines. 

There is now a consensus of the reasonable; something must be done about the bullet capacity of these weapons.  But newspapers from “the New York Times” to the “Los Angeles Times” have rushed onto their front pages what they consider very wise articles about why this won‘t happen.  Their front-page stories are pundit predictions masquerading as news. 

And they‘re helping to shape a political conventional wisdom that ignores the most important thing, and the rarest thing that can happen in politics: people are changing their minds.  Dick Cheney is changing his mind.  And in politics, when people change their minds, anything can happen.  And when Rachel and I do back-to-back tributes to the wisdom of Dick Cheney, as we have now both done tonight on this issue, it‘s time to start to believe that anything—anything can happen. 

Meanwhile, “the New York Times” and the “Los Angeles Times” would do well to remember that their front pages are for reporting the news, not predicting the news.


O‘DONNELL:  On January 25th, “O” a presidential novel will be released. 

The book is a futuristic imagining of a president named “O” trying to win

re-election in the not-so-distant future of 2012.  And it would not have

nearly as much buzz had the author not chosen to remain anonymous.  The publisher will only say he or she is, quote, “someone who has been in the room with Barack Obama and knows this world intimately,” which narrows it down to a couple of thousand people. 

Names being tossed around include “Primary Colors” outed author Joe Klein, McCain aide Mark Salter, and Robert Gibbs, David Axelrod, others who are leaving the White House, and even best-selling author Barack Obama himself. 

Another name in the mix is MSNBC analyst and author of “Revival, The Struggle for Survival Inside the Obama White House,” Richard Wolffe.  All right, Richard—


O‘DONNELL:  Raise your right hand and swear under oath you wrote it or deny under oath that you wrote this book. 

WOLFFE:  You know, I am going to talk to you on the advice of my 10-year-old daughter, who noticed that my previous categorical denials to my friends at “The Daily Beast” have done nothing to stop the speculation.  So on her advice, I am actually going to admit to being the author of this book, in the hope that I can end it once and for all.

I am not the author, unless I am the author.  But please, just stop it. 

O‘DONNELL:  Good, that eliminates another suspect that I came up with today.  I was looking around to see, are there any precedence for this kind of work, a futuristic fiction writing using real characters in politics.  And I found “New York Magazine” in April of 2008 had an article entitled “Four Days in Denver,” a fictional imagining of what the Democratic convention was going to be like a couple of months ahead of time. 

And I‘m not sure we can zoom in on the author‘s name for this piece.  But you will find that it was written by one Lawrence O‘Donnell.  And—

WOLFFE:  Who can forget the seminal text? 

O‘DONNELL:  Yes, exactly. 

WOLFFE:  Lawrence O-Donnell, it‘s a clue. 

O‘DONNELL:  It‘s a little clue, the “O” thing and all that.  In fact, I will confess to you, Richard, I was asked to write exactly this kind of futuristic fictional novel about this White House going into re-election, on the basis of that “New York Magazine” piece.  But like you, I don‘t feel that this is the moment to reveal whether I‘m involved in this particular project or not. 

WOLFFE:  If it wasn‘t you, or a twin, then clearly someone else was offered the same deal, and took it up.  And look where you are, and look where anonymous is right now, huh? 

O‘DONNELL:  So this is a great idea for selling this book.  I mean, we are all going to have to now grab this book and start reading it and try to figure out whose prose style is this, right? 

WOLFFE:  We are.  Of course, we can play the guessing game, which according to the early reviews, may be more enjoyable than the book itself.  I haven‘t read it, I admit, because clearly why would they send me a copy of my own book. 

The running list—you know, I have to say, I have had my doubts about Ryan Lizza.  Ryan, if you‘re listening, you promised the book on the campaign.  They still haven‘t delivered it.  It‘s been delayed a little bit.  You‘re not fooling anyone with those worthy stories about cap and trade legislation. 

So I‘m keeping my eye out for someone like that.  Or possibly someone who actually really is anonymous, like a campaign aide who maybe was an advance travel person, who actually really is kind of anonymous and couldn‘t sell a book otherwise. 

O‘DONNELL:  You know, I actually think, from writer to writer, it is wrong to ask someone if they wrote a book where the author is listed as anonymous.  When I read “Primary Colors,” I thought Joe Klein wrote this book.  But I wouldn‘t say to him—as a friend, I wouldn‘t say to him, Joe, did you write this book.  If he put anonymous out there—

WOLFFE:  You think there‘s a moral argument for that? 

O‘DONNELL:  Yes, so much for the rules of authorship.  Richard Wolffe, thank you very much for joining us tonight. 

WOLFFE:  Thank you, Lawrence O‘Donnell. 

O‘DONNELL:  That‘s THE LAST WORD.  A reminder, you can follow us on and Facebook and Twitter.  “COUNTDOWN” is up next. 


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