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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Thursday, February 17th, 2011

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guests: Ed Schultz, Lena C. Taylor, Rep. Chris Van Hollen

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, HOST:  The new Republican governor of Wisconsin sent a state police to hunt down state Democratic senators who refused to show up and vote on his plan to cut workers‘ rights.  One of the senators who is in hiding will join me from an undisclosed location.

And Ann Coulter is back, yes, on MSNBC.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(MUSIC)

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS:  Let‘s talk about the situation in Wisconsin.

REP. PAUL RYAN ®, WISCONSIN:  It‘s like Cairo has moved to Madison these days.

FMR. SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD ®, WISCONSIN:  Try to take away the rights of workers throughout the state, they react.

O‘DONNELL (voice-over):  Union workers in Wisconsin take to the streets, protesting the new Republican governor‘s plan to cut state workers‘ bargaining rights, cut their benefits, after cutting taxes.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, “HARDBALL” HOST:  Shrink the employees‘ collective bargaining rights.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS:  Collective—

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC NEWS:  -- bargaining rights.  The pictures out of Wisconsin are amazing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Largest pro-democracy movements in this state really since the ‘60s.

FEINGOLD:  This is a tremendous, inspiring reaction.  We are ready to take the fight against those who want to destroy the rights of working people in our state.

TODD:  Where over a thousand teachers that called in sick yesterday to protest this bill.

O‘DONNELL:  Support for the workers divides along party lines.

RYAN:  It‘s not asking a lot.  It‘s still about half of what private sector pensions do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Critics, including President Obama, disagree.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  It seems like more of an assault on unions.  Public employees—they‘re our neighbors.

FEINGOLD:  It‘s not like people are just looking for something to be upset about.

FMR. GOV. ED RENDELL (D), PENNSYLVANIA:  Meanness takes hold after a while and it takes hold and it poisons the whole atmosphere.

O‘DONNELL:  Democratic senators in the state are now taking extreme measures.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Democratic lawmakers there are now fleeing the state.

TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Police officers are now looking for Democrats in the state‘s legislature who are refusing to show up for a controversial vote.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The legislative agenda has ground to a halt.

O‘DONNELL:  While workers protest in Wisconsin, Washington Republicans work on their own cuts and threaten a government shutdown.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  The only people cheering for government shutdown around here are Democrats.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER:  We‘re terribly disappointed that Speaker Boehner can‘t control the votes in his caucus.

LUKE RUSSERT, NBC NEWS:  If March 4th comes around and there is no agreement on this current budget, there will be a government shutdown.

BOEHNER:  Read my lips: we‘re going to cut spending.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT:  Read my lips.

BOEHNER:  We‘re going to cut spending.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O‘DONNELL:  Good evening.

Wisconsin Democratic lawmakers on the lam have been found, hiding out from Wisconsin state troopers reportedly in Rockford, Illinois, after crossing state lines before taking off again for an unknown location.  They fled their state capitol today in order to prevent the Republican-dominated legislature from reaching a quorum and passing a bill that would have stripped public employees of their bargaining rights and cut back their health and pension funds.  It‘s a last-ditch effort to give protesters more time to pressure Republican lawmakers to reconsider their votes on a plan that Republican Governor Scott Walker said was necessary to balance the budget.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CROWD:  Kill the bill!  Kill the bill!  Kill the bill!  Kill the bill! 

Kill the bill!  Kill the bill!  Kill the bill!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Republican Congressman Paul Ryan said the uprising in Wisconsin looks familiar to him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN:  It‘s like Cairo has moved to Madison these days.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  President Obama said he understood that, quote, “everybody‘s got to make some adjustments to the new fiscal realities,” but he also offered a defense of the protests.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  Some of what I‘ve heard coming out of Wisconsin, where—you‘re just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain generally, seems like more of an assault on unions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Speaker of the House John Boehner immediately pushed back on what he called the president‘s attack on the Wisconsin governor and hailed Governor Walker as a hero who was, quote, “daring to speak the truth about the dire fiscal challenges Americans face and liberate our economy.”

So, the Wisconsin uprising has gone national.

Joining me now is Wisconsin State Senator Lena C. Taylor, who is hiding with 14 other Wisconsin Democrats in an undisclosed location.

Senator Taylor, can you say where you are tonight?

STATE SEN. LENA C. TAYLOR (D), WISCONSIN (via telephone):  Where I am is taking the stand for the people—for the workers of Wisconsin so that we can protect (AUDIO BREAK) our trail blazing ways to make sure that they (AUDIO BREAK) about what we‘re standing for.

O‘DONNELL:  Senator, there are two Republican state senators, Senator Dale Schultz and Senator Van Wanggaard who seem to be possibly wavering a bit and seeking a possible compromise.  Do you have any way of being in contact with them right now?

TAYLOR:  We have put out a compromise amendment (AUDIO BREAK).  We heard about it.  I don‘t know (AUDIO BREAK) finance committee where this bill was originally heard on Friday.  We were at hearings on Monday.  Republicans refused to continue to hear from the people of Wisconsin.  Democrats have heard from 3,000 more people and counting.  And I am not aware of a Schultz amendment being done in finance or any more discussed.

O‘DONNELL:  Senator Taylor, we are having a lot of trouble with your cell phone.  It‘s cracking up a little bit.  So, we‘re going to try to reestablish better contact with you and try to get back to you.  Thanks for joining me, and I hope we can get back to you.

Joining me now from Madison, Wisconsin, is our own Ed Schultz, host of

“THE ED SHOW.”

Ed, what is the feeling out there on the ground today?

And it looks like we don‘t quite know what the feeling is with Ed Schultz out there on the ground today.  And no one in the control room seems to know if we have Ed Schultz or Senator Taylor.

We don‘t—all right.  We‘re going—we‘re going to have to go to a break and see if we can establish some contact with either Senator Taylor or Ed Schultz in Wisconsin.  We‘ll be right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up: we‘re going to try to reconnect to Wisconsin and get the intrepid Ed Schultz live on the show.

And, Ann Coulter returns tonight to MSNBC.  She says the Republican Party can‘t afford a repeat of 2008 and get stuck with a loser like John McCain.  So, she says the only hope in 2012 is Chris Christie, but he says he won‘t run.  Ann Coulter is in “The Spotlight.”

And, Sarah Palin attacks the president‘s budget and makes fun of the first lady‘s breastfeeding awareness campaign.  And she does it all in front of an audience this time instead of Facebook.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  We‘ve got our connections to Wisconsin back up and joining me once again by phone is Senator Lena C. Taylor, who is in hiding with 14 other Wisconsin Democrats in an undisclosed location.

Senator Taylor, is there any possibility, any elements of compromise that you think you can find with the two possibly wavering Republicans in the Wisconsin Senate?

TAYLOR:  I would hope that more than just Senator Wanggaard or Schultz, as you had mentioned earlier, would be interested in trying to listen to the thousands of people.  I mean, every day, there has been 10,000 to 15,000 people who have come to the capitol in order to be heard.  Republicans have shut them off and have decided not to continue to hear them, and Democrats have allowed them to listen.

So, we hope that individuals will hear their voices and will embrace some of the issues that are way beyond a budget repair bill and really go to dying people‘s rights, health care, it goes to attacking our seniors.  This is really overreaching by our governor.

O‘DONNELL:  What would be your counterproposal tonight to the Republicans in the Senate?

TAYLOR:  I think the first thing is the governor has to be willing to sit down at the table with the citizens of Wisconsin who are workers.  And more importantly, you can‘t say that you don‘t have anything to offer.  You need to come to the table and say this is where we are and can you help us come up with solutions?

If our governor does not have the savvy to figure out the solutions, then allow the workers to tell you about efficiencies or things that can be done.  But at least give them an opportunity to agree or disagree with some offer that the governor has.  So, that‘s thing number one.

And I think thing number two is: we don‘t disagree, necessarily, with benefits—meaning pensions and health care.  There may have to be a different amount paid in.  People have agreed.  Workers have agreed to that.

But the issue is denying them the ability to sit at the table and talk about the conditions of their work environment and the conditions, for example, that our children are taught in or so on and so forth.  There are many state workers that are affected by this.

O‘DONNELL:  So, Senator, the key points here is really the negotiating power of the unions going forward and what they will be allowed to negotiate on, because that is one of the components the governor wants to eliminate their ability to negotiate anything other than their salaries.

Is that the governor‘s position?

TAYLOR:  That is correct.  The governor there—has asked for there nothing but wages that can be discussed.  But when you consider the fact there‘s been a freeze, right, in salaries or increases, then that means that technically you haven‘t given them anything that they can negotiate on, as well as this budget repair bill has—at least a third of it has policy things that have no fiscal impact.  And so, there‘s no reason that those things should be included.

So, it would be great if the governor would also not put those non-fiscal items within the bill.

O‘DONNELL:  Senator Taylor, what could get you to return to Wisconsin and return to the Senate?

TAYLOR:  I think the Senate Democrats decided that when the Republicans refused to listen to the thousands of individuals who came and we continue to do a hearing that we need to slow this down.  We need—it was Friday that this bill got introduced.  And they rushed through a hearing and cut people off and left a gentleman in the hearing room to not hear him.

So, slowing it down and not ramming it down the throats of the workers of Wisconsin so that they can at least, at the very least, have an opportunity to be heard and for the governor to sit down and do what he‘s been paid to do—be the governor.  Sit down at the table.  Negotiate with the workers of Wisconsin.

Stand up and do what we sent you to do, which is be a governor for all of Wisconsinites, not just your friends or those special interest groups who did something for you, because the bill also doesn‘t treat all unions the same.  He did favors for his friends.

O‘DONNELL:  Wisconsin State Senator Lena C. Taylor—thank you very much for joining me tonight.

TAYLOR:  Thank you for having us and allowing the voice of Wisconsinites to be heard today.

O‘DONNELL:  We need to hear that.  Thank you very much, Senator.

Joining me now from Madison, Wisconsin, is Ed Schultz, host of “THE ED SHOW” right here tonight at 10:00 p.m. tonight.

Ed, what is—any new developments out there tonight that indicate to you there is a possibility for some progress?

ED SCHULTZ, “THE ED SHOW” HOST:  Well, you know, Lawrence, I was listening to that interview you were doing with the state senator, I‘m wondering, how is this going to be resolved?

And I think we‘re a long way from that.  There is a tremendous amount of resolve within the protesters here in Madison, Wisconsin.  It‘s going to be a full week tomorrow.  And I don‘t see them backing down at all.

I was just in the rotunda a little while ago and talking to many of the people that have been here for days.  And they‘re not going to back down.  They feel like that there is a grave injustice being done here, tremendous resolve, and they really believe that the governor is morally wrong.

He‘s trying to balance the budget, and there are arguments out there that there is no budget crisis.  But he‘s trying to do this on the backs of middle-class Americans.  He‘s trying to do this and not asking everybody in the state to sacrifice something.  And that is one of the big things that there problems are.

The other thing—

(CHEERS)

SCHULTZ:  -- and you can sense by this crowd, I mean, there is a lot of pent-up aggression here.  They want America to know how they feel on this.  And I don‘t see how this is going to resolve anytime soon.

O‘DONNELL:  Ed, you have taken this story national.  You said on your program you haven‘t heard from the president about this, you haven‘t heard from people in Washington about it, you couldn‘t get responses from people like Nancy Pelosi when you tried to.

You have gotten those responses today.  You‘ve provoked it.

Let‘s listen now to what President Obama had to say about this today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  And I think it‘s very important for us to understand that public employees, they‘re our neighbors, they‘re our friends.  These are folks who are teachers and they‘re firefighters and they‘re social workers and they‘re police officers.  You know, they make a lot of sacrifices and make a big contribution.  And I think it‘s important not to vilify them or to suggest that somehow all these budget problems are due to public employees.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Ed, does Wisconsin need to hear President Obama say more?

SCHULTZ:  I think the president was speaking there in generic terms about how he believes in the concept of unions and how valuable these people are to the operating of the government and the basic functions of the state of Wisconsin.

But he also said in that interview that there are fiscal realities that have to be addressed.  And it somewhat is being interpreted by a lot of Wisconsinites that the president is opening the door for Governor Walker to come in here and make the arbitrary cuts against these middle-class Americans without it really being justified.

I did call out the leadership of the Democratic Party because, Lawrence, you know, I think this is part of a much greater plan.  I think this is not only about balancing a budget and there‘s a debate about whether there really is a budget crisis, but this is about union-busting.  And Karl Rove even said that yesterday, talking about how they‘re trying to diminish the membership of unions around this country, and, of course, that, of course, would affect the pocketbooks of a lot of campaigns for the progressive movement.

You‘re seeing this in Ohio.  You‘re going to see it in Florida.  You‘re going to see it in other states as all part of a bigger plan.  And this crowd understands that.

So, I think the president, in my opinion, and from the people I‘ve talked to here in Wisconsin, they want him to take an unequivocal stand that the governor is wrong in attacking labor like this and expecting a certain amount of people in this state to have to bear the major brunt of doing anything financially for the budget.

And on the other thing, you know, where is Harry Reid?  This is a—this is a fundamental foundation of the Democratic Party to stand with labor on all issues.  Senator Schumer, Senator Durbin, they have been ominously silent on this because many liberals in this country and workers and middle-class Americans think this is ground zero for 2012, that this is standing up for workers in America.

And if they can‘t stand up here and if the Democrats can‘t be vocal about it, when are they going to do it?

O‘DONNELL:  Ed, I think the proof that this is about union-busting is what we just heard from Senator Taylor.  Senator Taylor said that the Democrats in the Senate are prepared to negotiate on the financial items.  They are prepared to negotiate on how much an increase there might be in terms of public workers, contributions to their health premiums and to their pensions.  They‘re willing to talk about a possibility there on the numbers.

But the thing that they‘re stuck on is this absolute and strict limitation on what the union function can be.  And that seems to me to bring this down to pure old-fashioned union-busting.

SCHULTZ:  Well, that‘s the feeling here on the ground, Lawrence.  I mean, these Americans are willing to sit at the table and talk about budget issues.  But they don‘t want to be arbitrarily browbeaten and told, you know what, you can‘t talk about it.  This is the way it‘s going to be, it‘s my way or the highway, and if you don‘t do it, there‘s going to be a lot of cuts.

Well, that‘s just not how things should be done.  It‘s very heavy-handed.  It plays right into a bigger national picture.

And I do think that we were seeing some real leadership by these senators in Wisconsin who decided to walk out today and give this governor a defeat.

(CHEERS)

SCHULTZ:  And they are standing in solidarity, speaking for these workers because they know the serious impact that this is going to have.  I have talked to people here on the ground repeatedly, teacher after teacher, firefighter after firefighter, nurse after nurse, public worker after public worker, that this is real money.  This is—this is discretionary income to their family kitchen table in the thousands of dollars.

Now, I don‘t know how you build an economy when you‘re taking money away from people and then in the future—

(CHEERS)

SCHULTZ:  -- you would be restricting their ability to go to the bargaining table in fairness and negotiate for possibly a better life.  And I think this cuts right to the fabric of this state, the history of this state, where labor started back in the 1800s.  It cuts right to the fabric of whether we‘re going to build our economy in this country, or if we‘re going to gut the middle class.

And Governor Walker is very callous about this.  And he‘s coming off as a very rude and callous person, saying, hey, look, this is the way it‘s got to be and you have to pay it.  But he won‘t do that to the top 2 percent.  That‘s another issue.

O‘DONNELL:  Ed Schultz, we can‘t wait to see “THE ED SHOW” go live from Madison, Wisconsin, tonight at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.  Thanks for joining me tonight, Ed.

SCHULTZ:  Thank you, Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  Now, to the national budget battle.  Another Republican stepped up to attack President Obama‘s budget plan for next year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR:  President Obama trying to get away with telling the American public that his plan is actually a good plan for this country when he‘s not talking about reforming entitlements and he‘s not talking about really chipping away at that $14 trillion debt that will bring America to her knees.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Speaking for money to a group of Long Island business officials, Sarah Palin then offered her thoughts on what can steer America off of what she called the road to ruin, including what to do with entitlement programs like Social Security.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  You do that by just applying common sense, constitutional, time-tested truths about capitalism and free-market enterprises.  New enrollees in our government entitlement programs, they need to be told it‘s not going to be the same as it had been in years past when you had a big base of workers being able to pay into a system and then you receive what it was that you invested and you trusted government to invest for you at the end of the day in your retirement years.  It‘s not going to be that way anymore for new enrollees.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Major spending cuts being promised by Republicans is what is threatening a government shutdown come March 4th if Congress can‘t agree on a continuing resolution to fund the government.  What does Palin think of a government shutdown?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  If that‘s what it takes, let it be for a week or two there, this message that is sent to our politicians who are so tone-deaf to what the people of America are saying.  What the people of America are saying is enough is enough, no more status quo.  We don‘t want to keep growing that debt and allow deficit spending.

The message was sent, and tone-deaf politicians, they‘re going to be fired and they‘re going to be replaced in the next election cycle if they don‘t listen this time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Joining me now, ranking member of the House Budget Committee, Democratic Congressman Chris Van Hollen.

Congressman Van Hollen, can you explain to Sarah Palin what it would be like in America with a government shutdown that she imagines running a week or two?

REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND:  Well, Lawrence, it‘s an example of the reckless approach we‘re seeing here on the House with the House Republicans.

What it would mean is this: millions of Social Security recipients would not get their Social Security checks.  Doctors who take Medicare patients, our neighbors, our parents, they wouldn‘t be paid.  Everything would be ground to a halt.

We saw what happened in 1994.  At that time, the Republicans in the House thought, hey, the American people will never notice that the federal government just went on the blink.  And what happened was in a very short period of time, people began to realize just what that would mean and how it would affect their daily lives.

And so, it is very reckless both of Sarah Palin as well as Speaker Boehner today, who began to sort of take the “it‘s my way or the highway” position with respect to negotiations between the House and the Senate.

O‘DONNELL:  Well, let‘s listen to what Speaker Boehner had to say about this today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER:  Our goal here is to cut spending.  But I am not going to move any kind of short-term C.R. at current levels.  Read my lips: we‘re going to cut spending.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman Van Hollen, he‘s going to cut spending.  Is there—is there a spot where you can find for compromise with him at this point?

VAN HOLLEN:  Well, as you know, Lawrence, the president just presented his budget this week and said we have to come up with cuts right now.  That‘s why the president has proposed $400 billion of cuts over period of time, taking that discretionary spending as a percentage of the economy down to the lowest level since the Eisenhower administration.

The difference is this: we need to come up with a responsible plan for doing that, not a reckless one.

And the bipartisan commission, Republicans and Democrats alike, who are charged with coming up with a plan to reduce the deficit, warned us very clearly, yes, come up with the plan as the president has to cut spending and the deficit, but no to immediate deep cuts because it will hurt the economy and put people out of work.

What they‘re doing here will not create one single job.  In fact, as Speaker Boehner acknowledged the other day, people will lose their jobs.  His response?  So be it.

So, that‘s what we‘re facing here, and a very callous attitude toward any kind of public employees.  We‘re seeing that same kind of thing in Wisconsin.  So, it‘s fitting that we tie those things together, because that‘s their view.

This will not just hurt public employee jobs, however.  It will also cost us other thousands of jobs throughout the economy by doing this deeply and recklessly now as opposed to a plan.

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland—I think you‘re going to have a very light night on March 4th when this deadline approaches.  Thank you very much for joining us tonight.

VAN HOLLEN:  Good to be with you, Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  Sarah Palin took her turn today, making fun of the first lady‘s support of breastfeeding.  That‘s coming up in tonight‘s “Rewrite.”

And, Ann Coulter joins me to handicap the Republican field of presidential nominees for 2012.  She says if Chris Christie doesn‘t run, the GOP will get stuck with another loser like John McCain, and it‘s up to her and her buddies, Rush and Hannity, to not let that happen again.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANN COULTER, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR:  If you don‘t run, Chris Christie, Romney will be the nominee and we‘ll lose. 

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE ®, NEW JERSEY:  Here‘s the truth that nobody‘s talking about: You‘re going to have to raise the retirement age for Social Security.  Oh, I just said it.  And I‘m still standing here.  I did not vaporize into the carpeting.  And I said it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  In the Spotlight tonight, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie‘s blunt speech yesterday in Washington has more Republicans calling for him to run for president.  The leading cheerleader of the Christie for president movement is Ann Coulter, who made news at CPAC last weekend by saying Christie is the only Republican who can beat Barack Obama. 

And Tuesday, she continued her Draft Christie campaign by comparing him to the most admired Republican of the 20th century, Ronald Reagan. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COULTER:  I don‘t care if he wants to run.  His country needs him. 

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  Do you agree with him on social issues and some—

COULTER:  He‘s pro-life.  There are a lot of false rumors about him. 

HANNITY:  Health care, immigration, some other issues he‘s—

COULTER:  There are a few things he‘s a little bit soft on.  But by the way, our whitewash memories of Reagan, he was soft on a few things, too. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Joining me now, my former MSNBC colleague, Ann Coulter. 

Ann, thank you for being here tonight. 

COULTER:  Thank you for having me. 

O‘DONNELL:  Does MSNBC still appear on your resume anywhere?  Or has that been whitewashed Soviet style? 

COULTER:  It‘s the only network I‘ve ever worked for.  Started with you. 

O‘DONNELL:  There you go.  Here‘s the idea for tonight. 

COULTER:  Yes. 

O‘DONNELL:  We‘re going to try, for a change of pace for you—

COULTER:  Yes. 

O‘DONNELL:  We‘re going to try to find areas of agreement.  Going to reach across the aisle for areas of agreement. 

COULTER:  Can I play, too? 

O‘DONNELL:  Yes, yes, indeed.  So, for example, an area of agreement we seem to have, Mitt Romney is a loser.  Please expound. 

COULTER:  Well, I wouldn‘t say that.  I mean, he may well be the best candidate if it‘s not my love, Chris Christie.  And when it came down to three candidates, Huckabee, McCain, or Romney, I was totally for Romney, if that‘s what my choice is. 

Maybe I‘m wrong about my predictions saying he would run and -- 

O‘DONNELL:  You‘re completely right.  You said Romney would lose. 

You‘re totally right about that. 

COULTER:  The funny thing about this is I normally hate, hate, hate playing the prediction game, because you come to me for my historical sweep, the larger analysis.  You can ask a homeless guy to make a prediction.  Who cares? 

But in this case, I gave a prediction.  And I warned the CPAC kids, maybe you can laugh at me in two years, but there it is; that‘s my prediction.  You run Chris Christie; he‘s the only one who can beat Obama.  If it‘s not Christie, it is going to be Romney—if Christie doesn‘t run. 

O‘DONNELL:  Let‘s just deal with a couple more, because I think the problem is there is something wrong with every one of those people in the field right now. 

COULTER:  Other than the magnificent Christie. 

O‘DONNELL:  What‘s the flaw on Huckabee? 

COULTER:  I can‘t do this. 

O‘DONNELL:  OK.  This would be violating the right-wing conspiracy.

COULTER:  it‘s not quite—

O‘DONNELL:  Will you get kicked out?  If you sit here and say here‘s what‘s wrong with Huckabee, here‘s what‘s wrong with Pawlenty -- 

COULTER:  OK, how about you tell me why all Democrats have to kiss Al Sharpton‘s ring? 

O‘DONNELL:  Al Sharpton‘s not running for president. 

COULTER:  Neither is Huckabee right now. 

O‘DONNELL:  I, by the way, maintain that the only one who has nothing wrong with him, no prohibitive negative, is Pawlenty.  I see Pawlenty as the guy who can win the nomination and be a reasonable threat to Barack Obama in the general election. 

COULTER:  -- Chris Christie.  What‘s the alleged problem with him? 

He‘s very smart.  He‘s very articulate. 

O‘DONNELL:  There have been some problems identified, not by me, but

by your friends in the vast right-wing conspiracy.  But I want to go back -

-

COULTER:  I‘m talking to Mark Levin.  Having a Twitter war.

O‘DONNELL:  We‘ll get to Mark.  Mark‘s got something here that I‘m going to read to you, that he has said about your position on Christie.  Sarah Palin we agree cannot win the nomination. 

COULTER:  No.  I love her.  I think she could win the nomination.  I especially love her for her enemies.  I‘m insanely jealous of that.  I love her for how she makes liberal heads explode. 

I wrote “The Conservative of The Year” piece on Sarah Palin for “Human Event,” Ronald Reagan‘s favorite newspaper.  But I think it would be a step down for her to run for president.  It‘s like saying Rush Limbaugh should run for president. 

She‘s huge.  She has enormous power.  She sends out a Twitter on death panels and everyone‘s talking about it.  I think it would be crazy for her to run for president. 

O‘DONNELL:  So you think, for example, that‘s more power than actually being able to negotiate treaties and pass health care reform bills or repeal them, for example, if she was president, that that—maybe she‘s got more power on the Discovery Channel or wherever she is? 

COULTER:  So can Chris Christie.  On the Discovery Channel?  She sends out a Twitter and everybody‘s talking about it. 

O‘DONNELL:  Let‘s go back—I want to go back to your—you have a very warm memory of one of the meetings of the vast right-wing conspiracy that took place on a Thanksgiving a few years ago.  Let‘s listen to what—

COULTER:  Oh, yes. 

O‘DONNELL:  -- your memory was of that.  We‘ll listen to that. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COULTER:  And the last time you and Mark Levin and Rush and I were all talking about this, Thanksgiving 2007, I asked you all who you supported and you said what Mark Levin is saying now, I hate them all.  And we ended up with John McCain. 

Well, I‘m not letting you do that this time.  We‘re picking the best candidate and getting behind him. 

HANNITY:  I don‘t hate them all.  I don‘t know what you‘re talking about. 

COULTER:  I‘m quoting Mark Levin on that. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  You really embarrassed Sean on that.  He—I don‘t hate them all.  He had to get that in there.  He had trouble keeping a straight face on “I don‘t hate them all.”  You guys hated all of the Republican candidates. 

COULTER:  I hate them all was a direct quote from my second love, Mark Levin.  And, you know, I agreed with him on everything.  But we have to run somebody.  And it‘s obviously got to be Chris Christie. 

O‘DONNELL:  So secretly you all hate them all again except for—

COULTER:  I haven‘t conferred with them yet this year. 

O‘DONNELL:  Let me help you right now confer with Mark Levin, radio host, very conservative guy.  He doesn‘t agree with you on Chris Christie.  Here‘s what he has to say about it.  He says, talking about you, “does she support his positions on gun control, amnesty, the appointment of an Islamist to the bench, the green agenda, his campaigning for Mike Castle, his MIA on health care litigation, et cetera?  And how does she think this would energize the base outside of New Jersey?” 

COULTER:  Well, I could take those one by one.

O‘DONNELL:  Let‘s do it.  For example, who‘s the Islamist to the bench?

COULTER:  I can explain that. 

O‘DONNELL:  Go ahead, explain that. 

COULTER:  But if I could make a corporate point first, and that is Christie is very articulate.  He has taken brave positions that no other Republican was willing to take, taking on the teachers union. 

O‘DONNELL:  Saying I‘ll raise the Social Security retirement. 

COULTER:  Right, and amazingly every once in a while a politician comes along and says the truth and the people love it.  He‘s one of them.  We haven‘t seen that for 20 years.  On the issue by issue points, there are a few things I disagree with him on. 

We can talk him out of it.  You can change someone‘s mind.  You can‘t inject an IQ in a candidate.  He is smart.  And he is very articulate.  And that‘s why I love him.  And we‘ll change his mind on a few things. 

On the Islamist on the bench, I‘ve looked into that.  It‘s a tempest in a teapot. 

O‘DONNELL:  But not in Republican circles. 

COULTER:  I‘m a right-winger.  No.  This is the way—

O‘DONNELL:  So there‘s exactly one right-winger right now who‘s OK with Islamists on the bench.  Is it just the one Islamist that‘s OK? 

COULTER:  This is the—I think this is a cheap way to go after people.  Lawyers defend clients.  They‘re often clients who are in trouble.  This is a Muslim lawyer who‘s worked very closely with law enforcement. 

And by the way, the entire U.S. attorney‘s office was in favor of this guy. 

He was one of seven judges Christie nominated to the Superior Court. 

O‘DONNELL:  The headline‘s going to say Ann Coulter says Mark Levin‘s argument is cheap.  OK, we‘re going to get—because you just—

COULTER:  No, I didn‘t.  No.  No.  I love Mark Levin and love everything you say. 

O‘DONNELL:  You said that—you know, you agreed with Hannity that—

COULTER:  Like a tobacco lawyer.  If I could go back, the cheap argument.  It‘s the way Carville used to talk about Ken Starr, the tobacco lawyer, tobacco lawyer.  I don‘t think it‘s fair to go after a lawyer for his clients. 

O‘DONNELL:  OK.  You said that you agreed that Christie is soft on a few things.  You agreed with Hannity on that.  I guess you‘re going to work on him on that. 

But you also made the point that Ronald Reagan was soft on a few things, too.  What was Reagan soft on, other than raising taxes, which he did a couple times? 

COULTER:  I‘m not telling you.  I‘m not going to attack the blessed memory of Ronald Reagan.  You know, when he was governor, the—his—the biggest regret of his life was that he signed an abortion law.  Now, this was before Roe v. Wade, so give him a break.  It wasn‘t a big issue.  And he said that was the biggest mistake he ever made. 

O‘DONNELL:  He also raised taxes, which is something—

COULTER:  But overall. 

O‘DONNELL:  Does Hannity know that Reagan raised taxes? 

COULTER:  Hannity knows all. 

O‘DONNELL:  Oh, OK. 

COULTER:  He knows more than you.  You‘re a Democrat. 

O‘DONNELL:  You‘re not on the payroll over there, but you can sound like it sometimes.  This tribe, this conspiracy loyalty you have—so Christie doesn‘t run, what are you—and then you‘re going to end up with some nominee who then you‘re going to pretend you didn‘t say this, right? 

COULTER:  I already told you, I could be wrong.  Prediction is a prediction, but I do think that Christie is our very strongest candidate.  And by the way, come August, if the Supreme Court overturns Obama-care and if Republicans manage to cut spending, maybe I tell Christie don‘t run this year; Obama is going to get re-elected. 

Because if those two things happen, if Republicans manage to cut an enormous amount of spending and Obama-care is overturned, Obama will probably get reelected. 

O‘DONNELL:  Ann Coulter‘s strategy for the re-election of Obama, the success of the Republican agenda.  My former colleague here at MSNBC, Ann Coulter, thank you very much for braving that position at the table tonight.  Thanks for coming in. 

COULTER:  Thank you for having me. 

O‘DONNELL:  Sarah Palin took a page from the book of Bachmann and slammed Michelle Obama for supporting breast-feeding. 

And later, Lady Gaga stood up for the repeal of Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell, and got the attention of the Senate majority leader.  Now she‘s got a new cause.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Time for tonight‘s Rewrite.  Last night, in this space, we talked about Congresswoman Michele Bachmann‘s junky-like need to criticize Barack and/or Michelle Obama.  Michele Bachmann, a mother of five, who breast fed all of her babies, actually criticized Michelle Obama for supporting, yes, breast-feeding. 

Now comes the most recent losing vice presidential candidate who will never be president, yes, Sarah Palin, taking her turn to make fun of the First Lady for supporting breast-feeding.  Here‘s Palin today during an appearance with the Long Island Association, one of New York‘s biggest business associations, blaming President Obama for the rise in commodity prices, and finding a way to reach over and make fun of Michelle Obama in the process. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA:  Commodity increases, which of course you know result in then higher costs of living for the rest of us as we‘re buying our groceries at the grocery store—ask any mom who is out there buying cases of diapers, still, all these years later—cases of diapers, and a can of formula, milk for the baby—

No wonder Michelle Obama is telling everybody you better breast-feed

your babies.  Because, I‘m looking and I‘m‘ going, yeah, you better,

because the price of milk is so high right now, regardless of the political

you know, do it for economic reasons. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Very funny.  Here‘s what‘s not funny about breast-feeding, and why the First Lady wisely encourages it: breast-feeding helps protect babies from infections and illnesses.  Children who are breast fed for six months are less likely to become obese.  Breast-feeding also reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. 

Mothers who breast-feed have a decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancers. 

Guess who used to know this?  Governor Sarah Palin.  Governor Sarah Palin, who issued the following proclamation: “whereas breast-feeding is recognized as an unequaled means of providing food for infants, breast-feeding can offer children a protection against serious health conditions, including obesity, Diabetes, and high blood pressure.  Breast-feeding also saves lives by reducing the incidence of life-threatening cancers in women and preventing premature deaths in infants. 

“Whereas government and community organizations have a vested interest in protecting and promoting breast-feeding, during October, organizations throughout our state will promote the importance of breast-feeding.  Now, therefore, I, Sarah Palin, governor of the state of Alaska, do hereby proclaim October 2007 as Breast-Feeding Awareness Month.”

It is now sadly obvious that nothing, absolutely nothing, can stop Sarah Palin, the most bitter loser in the modern history of presidential campaigning, from criticizing everything Michelle Obama says, even if Palin has said it herself.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Lady Gaga is back in political mode.  She was on ABC‘s “Good Morning America” today talking about her latest cause. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LADY GAGA, SINGER:  Today was a latex condom-inspired outfit because we‘re here to talk about safe sex.  So it was quite easy.  Today I really wanted to head to toe be representative of what we women and people all over the world need to be concerned about, which is the leading cause of death in women all around the world, which is HIV. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Lady Gaga is promoting a new lipstick, the profits of which will go toward HIV and AIDS prevention efforts around the world.  Gaga was once again the talk of the Grammies this weekend.  Before even going inside, she arrived in a very large egg. 

She explained it all to Jay. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GAGA:  I think it‘s about bringing people together.  And the performance we did last night at the Grammies was—and what we‘ve been doing with the egg and the rebirth. 

JAY LENO, “THE TONIGHT SHOW”:  Yeah. 

GAGA:  It‘s meant to signify an artistic statement of birthing a new race, and it‘s a race with no prejudice, a race within the race of humanity that bears no prejudice against anyone.  So that‘s really the statement in itself. 

LENO:  That‘s really good.  Really good. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Lady Gaga could not be here tonight.  So joining me now in place of Lady Gaga, Alex Wagner, of course, White House correspondent for “Politics Daily.”  Thanks for joining me tonight, Alex. 

ALEX WAGNER, “POLITICS DAILY”:  That‘s quite an intro.  Thank you, Lawrence. 

O‘DONNELL:  You know, when you can‘t get lady gaga, number two—

WAGNER:  The next best thing.  I was actually wearing latex horns earlier tonight, but took them off, just because with the makeup, it was a little bit much. 

O‘DONNELL:  Good to know.  Now, “Good Morning America” also had Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann on the same show this morning with Lady Gaga.  She was asked what she thought about Lady Gaga.  Let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA:  You know, I don‘t really know that much about Lady Gaga.  I hate to say it.  I have a lot of children, but I don‘t know that much about Lady Gaga. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  OK.  Bachmann‘s got five kids between the ages of 16 and 28. 

WAGNER:  Yes. 

O‘DONNELL:  Now, let me just tell you—I don‘t have to tell you this, Alex.  It is impossible to have a 16-year-old and not know everything about Lady Gaga.  I mean, I don‘t want to get into what‘s going on in the Bachmann family, but if you‘re doing—in the second minute of conversation with any 16-year-old, Lady Gaga comes up.  How can she not know? 

WAGNER:  Well, I think that‘s what we call a willful looking of the other way. 

O‘DONNELL:  OK. 

WAGNER:  You know, that‘s probably also the last time Michele Bachmann and Lady Gaga are going to be in the same room other than at the beginning of a very bad joke. 

As far as the Tea Party and as far as the Republican party and Lady Gaga, look, I think there is definitely a cultural difference we‘re talking about here.  Lady Gaga, as you know, has been involved in a lot of progressive causes, including today AIDS activism, and then also, of course, Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell and immigration. 

So it‘s not that surprising to me that they‘re not sort of on the same team as far as batting lineup.  That said, you know, I think there is a certain generational gap and a certain apprehension that a lot of that generation has with regard to Lady Gaga, who‘s very much pop star two or three point zero, and has really harnessed the Internet and social networking in a way that is I think unfamiliar and kind of scary to a lot of older, you know, politicians. 

At the same time, they understand her power.  And they don‘t want to sort of denigrate or dismiss her.  So, you know, just having a hands-off attitude like I don‘t know who she is is probably the safest bet. 

O‘DONNELL:  That‘s interesting.  I‘m going to give Michele Bachmann credit for lying about that.  She does know who Lady Gaga is.  She does talk to her kids enough to know that.  But it‘s interesting that she did not attack Lady Gaga, who‘s there talking about safe sex.  Michele Bachmann is opposed to all sex outside of marital procreative sex, so there was an open shot there that maybe is the first time Michele Bachmann didn‘t take that shot. 

WAGNER:  Yes, definitely.  I think—and it‘s not just the latex suit.  Lady Gaga is kind of the Teflon Don when it comes to this stuff.  I think that‘s twofold.  One, if we‘re looking at current event, Lawrence, setting aside—not to be too heavy handled with this, but the president is meeting with Mark Zuckerberg, the president and CEO of Facebook tonight in California. 

You know, the Egyptian government was just overthrown by youth and revolt who were largely organized through social networking.  I think there is a lot of respect that comes with, you know, this new technology and this new generation and the cultural spokespeople for this generation. 

O‘DONNELL:  When you can‘t get Lady Gaga, you call Alex Wagner.  Alex Wagner of “Politics Daily,” thank you very much for joining us tonight. 

WAGNER:  Thanks, Lawrence. 

O‘DONNELL:  You can have THE LAST WORD online at our blog, TheLastWord.MSNBC.com.  You can also follow us on Facebook and follow me @Lawrence on Twitter.  That‘s tonight‘s LAST WORD.  “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” is up next.  Good evening, Rachel. 

END   

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