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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

Guests: Ian Murphy, Jeffrey Sachs, Rep. Keith Ellison, Glenn Greenwald,

Alex Wagner

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, HOST:  The Republican governor of Wisconsin rushes into a trap set by a guy in Buffalo posing as—well, let‘s see, it would have to be someone the Republican governor really couldn‘t resist talking to—that‘s right, a wicked, rich Republican.



MIKA BRZEZINSKI, MSNBC HOST:  But this guy wants it all from the little guy.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS:  Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is refusing to back down.

O‘DONNELL (voice-over):  The governor of Wisconsin still refuses to back down, but now, he‘s having to explain a phone call.

GOV. SCOTT WALKER ®, WISCONSIN:  I take phone calls all the time.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The call is actually—it has been verified.

MURPHY:  You‘re not talking to any of these Democrat bastards, are you?

O‘DONNELL:  The governor tells someone pretending to be one of the richest conservative activists in the country about his plans to squeeze workers and to squeeze Democratic lawmakers.

WALKER:  You might ratchet it up a little.

THOMAS ROBERTS, MSNBC ANCHOR:  It was actually a prank pulled by a Web site the Buffalo Beast.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Screws have been tightened a little bit today.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS:  What are you going to do without the paycheck?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Crush these bastards.

STEPHEN COLBERT, TV HOST:  Yes!  Those free loaders with their cushy state jobs like snowplow operators, prison guards, and teachers.

O‘DONNELL:  And he calls another press conference.

WALKER:  I‘m not going to allow one prank phone call to be a distraction for the realities that we have a job to do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  That doesn‘t sound like union-busting?

WALKER:  If you look at the impact President Reagan had, he talked about doing the right thing for the right reason at the right time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And it‘s not about budget deficits.

O‘DONNELL:  The Wisconsin protests are now spreading as union workers fight more Republican tactics and budget cuts in other states.

TODD:  Well, the state budget battles began a few years ago in California are moving east, and it‘s catching on everywhere.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Pro-union protests in Ohio, Michigan, and as we just saw, Indiana.

O‘DONNELL:  The president stays silent on union protests and focuses on jobs, protests overseas, and the right to marry.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  North and south, east and west, voices are being raised together to oppose suppression.

ROBERTS:  According to Attorney General Eric Holder, President Obama has concluded that he can no longer defend a federal law defining marriage as only between a man and woman.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The Justice Department says it has concluded that that provision of the law, declining to recognize marriages in states where they‘re permitted, is unconstitutional.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Even you‘re evolving, Pat, I can tell.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, “HARDBALL” HOST:  You‘re not going to change his mind.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, I‘m going to change his mind.



O‘DONNELL:  Good evening.

Governor Scott Walker has insisted day after day that his budget repair bill is about saving money and not about union-busting.  But in a phone conversation with a man he believed to be billionaire David Koch, Walker let down his guard and said it.


WALKER:  This is about public-sector unions—you essentially are having taxpayers‘ money being used to pay to lobby for spending more of taxpayers money.  It‘s absolutely ridiculous.


O‘DONNELL:  The phone call was a frank.

Ian Murphy, the frank caller and editor in chief of the will join us shortly from Buffalo.

It is not just what Walker said about unions that has excited the governor‘s critics, it is his staff‘s desperate eagerness to put a man who said he was Koch on with their boss, without feeling any need to check if it actually was Mr. Koch.  That seems to put another check mark in the column of “bought and paid for by Koch Industries.”

Koch Industries was the second largest contributor to Walker‘s gubernatorial campaign, giving $43,000, the maximum allowed.  The Koch backed Americans for Prosperity-funded last week‘s counter-protests, and its president told “The New York Times” that Americans for Prosperity was working to encourage a union showdown, even before Walker was inaugurated.

And Americans for Prosperity has launched the “Stand with Walker” Web site which encourages every state—every state—to adopt Walker‘s so-called common sense reforms on unions.

Tonight, another state is on the list, an Oklahoma house committee tonight approved repeal of collective bargaining for state workers.

But back to the phone call.  Mr. Murphy‘s questions began when he wondered if anyone could get Governor Walker to take a call, after reading that some of the Democratic state senators couldn‘t get a call returned.  So, he worked on a voice, worked up a story, and called the office.


WALKER:  Hi.  This is Scott Walker.

IAN MURPHY, BUFFALO BEAST:  Scott.  David Koch, how are you?

WALKER:  Hey, David.  I‘m good, and yourself?

MURPHY:  I‘m very will.  I‘m a little disheartened by the situation there, but what‘s the latest?

WALKER:  We‘re actually hanging pretty tough.


O‘DONNELL:  The two exchanged niceties about Governor Walker‘s strategies, for getting Wisconsin 14 to return to the state to vote.  Walker stresses that he will not budge.  He will not negotiate.

And when asked about if this movement is spreading, he can‘t help but pat himself on the back.


WALKER:  Brian, the new governor of Nevada, called me last night.  And he that he was out in the Lincoln Day Circuit in the last two weekends and he was kidding me.  He‘s new as well as me.  He said, Scott, don‘t come to Nevada because I‘d be afraid you‘d beat me running for governor.  That‘s all they want to talk about, what are you doing to help the governor of Wisconsin.

I talked to Kasich every day.  You know, John‘s got to stand firm in Ohio, I think we do the same thing as well as Rick Scott in Florida.  I think Snyder—if he got a little more support, probably could do that in Michigan.  You start going down the list, there‘s a lot of us—there‘s a lot of new governors who got elected to do something big.

MURPHY:  You‘re the first domino.

WALKER:  Yes.  This is our moment.


O‘DONNELL:  And now for his moment, joining me now is Ian Murphy, editor in chief of the, and the most important phone caller of the day.

Ian, walk me through this.  You call the office.  Why didn‘t they say to you, we‘ll take a number and we will call you back?  I mean, that‘s the standard procedure when an office like this is receiving a call from someone who might be important, but in order to find out that‘s who it really is, they have to call back.

MURPHY:  Right.  Well, the second call I did make—the chief of staff did ask for my number so they could call me back.  But seeing as I was using Skype, that was impossible.  So I made up a story on the spot about my maid Maria who had accidentally washed my phone.  And so, now, I was calling me from the VOID, I said.  I was using the VOID and the Skype.  And, amazingly, he said, sure, that sounds totally believable.

And so, he gave me the time to call back, and I called back later, and got right to the governor.

O‘DONNELL:  And the governor seemed very comfortable and eager to talk to you.  Were you surprised that it went as smoothly as it did?  I mean, when you‘re on the phone, did you think he is going to—in the next sentence, he is going to catch me?  He‘s going to—I‘m not going to be able to keep pulling this off?

MURPHY:  No.  Just getting on the line with him was a feat in itself, I think, and I think he‘s just oblivious, generally—didn‘t surprise me.

O‘DONNELL:  And so—as the call got going, you were confident that this thing was going to—was going to work.  There was just about nothing you could say that would tip it?

MURPHY:  Basically, yes.

O‘DONNELL:  And you drew him in to criticizing this network.  He had some harsh things to say about MSNBC.

MURPHY:  Yes.  Well, not Joe Scarborough.  He‘s one of us.

O‘DONNELL:  Well, he was on “MORNING JOE,” and he said he thought he was treated fairly on “MORNING JOE.”

MURPHY:  Right.

O‘DONNELL:  And you also pulled him along in directions about, you know, what this fight is about.  When you came—when you came out of this conversation, why do you think now, after this conversation, why do you think this governor is not giving—going along with the agreement that exists thus far, the union is willing to make all the financial concessions he‘s asked for?  Why do you think he‘s hanging in there, holding on to the provisions that would in effect destroy the union‘s ability to negotiate?

MURPHY:  Profit for himself and his people he associates with.

O‘DONNELL:  And do you get the feeling that he‘s ready if this goes the way he wants it to, if he wins this, did you come out of it with the feeling that as John Podhoretz said today in his column, that he should run for president, if he comes—if he pulls this off and wins it all the way, he should immediately set off and seize the Republican inauguration for president?

MURPHY:  Oh, yes, he should.  Go for it.

O‘DONNELL:  Did you feel the Reagan comparison he was giving for himself was the way he now sees himself?

MURPHY:  Yes.  I felt that comparison deep down.  It‘s—it really rang true, especially considering Reagan was just pretty much out of his mind.

O‘DONNELL:  Ian Murphy, my phone answers have been warned, they will not be taking calls from any Buffalo numbers without calling back, checking who it really is.  Ian Murphy, editor in chief of, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

MURPHY:  Thank you.

O‘DONNELL:  Joining me now is Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and professor of economics.

Professor, thank you very much for joining us tonight.


O‘DONNELL:  You hear in that phone call the governor saying, I‘m talking to John Kasich every day.  This is what we have been suggesting here, that it feels to us like this is a national Republican governor‘s movement.  This is not just one state trying to get control of its budget.  It seems that that phone call shows us that this—the hope is that this governor will be able to spread something nationwide?

SACHS:  Well, this is absolutely coordinated.  There‘s no doubt about it, and it‘s not an accident that one Republican governor after another is trying to crush the unions, crush workers in general.  And what‘s astounding is we have the greatest inequality in income and wealth in the history of this country, and you have the billionaires going out to absolutely do the final deed of crushing workers to the maximum extent.  It‘s amazing what‘s going on.

O‘DONNELL:  George Will‘s column has what I thought was the smoking gun on this, even before the phone call, and it‘s praiseful.  George loves what the governor is doing and the governor says to him that he‘s hoping if his bill succeeds, that, eventually, union members will look at them and say why do we need this?

SACHS:  The reason they need it is that the wages have been going down, while the income at the top has been soaring.  And what these billionaires have been doing is buying up the whole Congress, now buying up the governors, to make sure they never have to pay taxes again.  And then we have these huge budget deficits because they don‘t pay taxes any more.  And what do they want to do?  Cut benefits for the poor, cut the education, stipends, cut the wages of the teachers.

This is—it‘s unbelievable the game that‘s going on in this country.  A little of it was exposed today, but this is absolutely vile, given what‘s been happening in the last 20 years.  We‘ve got workers down.  We‘ve got billionaires soaring.  And they‘re doing everything they can to put in that final twist.

O‘DONNELL:  And why would the Kochs care about a little union question in a state like Wisconsin?

SACHS:  Well, what they‘re—they have business in Wisconsin.  They have polluting industries all over this country.  They have bought up all the Congress on the energy committees in the House and the Senate on the Republican side, to make sure that we never do anything about the coal industry, about oil, about our dependence on imported oil, on climate.

They have bought everything they can in politics.  They‘re making sure they never have to pay a tax, never have to do any environmental control.

O‘DONNELL:  Would Ronald Reagan look at what‘s happening today and say, yes, Governor Walker is the inheritor of my spirit?  This is the lesson I was trying to teach by firing air traffic controllers when they went on strike?

SACHS:  He might.  I think—it is true that Reagan got a lot of this started of this unbelievable surge of income and wealth and equality.  We‘d never lived like we do now with the middle class disappearing in this country, and the rich in a contagion of greed trying to crush the bottom.  And I think Reagan did get that started.

People revered him to this day in this country, but the fact of the matter is when you look at how the middle class started this decline in America, it was in the 1980s when the tax cuts on the top were given.  The budget deficits opened up.  They started to squeeze education and social spending, and were breaking the country in two.  That‘s what‘s happening.

O‘DONNELL:  Now, and a lot of discussion that I‘ve listened to over the last year about public education in this country, there seems to be a rather relentless, conscious and sometimes subconscious attack on teachers unions.  Teachers are the problems.  The scores aren‘t going up because of the teachers.

It seems like they‘ve isolated the teachers as the reason why the schools are the way they are.  It seems to me that we‘ve got some kind of political spillover from that dialogue into anti-union talk that we hear now.

SACHS:  Well, that dialogue itself is a gimmick.  It‘s trying to find a cheap way to take a social crisis that we have in this country and find someone to blame.  You have poor kids that can‘t make it right now.  And so, blame the teachers, not blame the poverty, not blame the neighborhoods, not blame the inability of mothers to provide decent daycare for their children, get decent preschool.

So, this is part of the same story actually which is we‘re crushing the middle class in the country, and then the rich who want to pay no taxes are doing everything they can to blame the poor.  And it‘s out of control.  It‘s spiraling out of control.

And where is President Obama right now, frankly, when we need him to be defending the basic values of this country.  We need to hear his voice.

O‘DONNELL:  We are going to be talking about President Obama‘s role in the next segment.

Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University—thank you very much for joining us tonight.

SACHS:  Thank you.

O‘DONNELL:  The Congressional Progressive Caucus is standing by the protesters in Wisconsin.  Congressman Keith Ellison joins us next.

And later, a big reversal from President Obama today.  The president has decided the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional and has asked the Justice Department to stop defending the constitutionality of the law.  Glenn Greenwald will discuss that.


O‘DONNELL:  As the standoff in Wisconsin continues, the Congressional Progressive Caucus finally joins the fight.  Congressman Keith Ellison joins me next.

And later, the third time is the charm for Christine O‘Donnell.  Three failed bids for the Senate and she finally gets noticed by “Dancing with the Stars.”


O‘DONNELL:  It‘s day nine of the Wisconsin protests, and the statehouse is still surrounded by tens of thousands of protesters, while in Washington, D.C., hundreds rallied in solidarity.

Today, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker reiterated his threat that if his budget bill is not passed by week‘s end, he will begin the process of firing 1,500 state workers.


WALKER:  For us, the alternative is if we do not see this bill passed, we‘ve already mentioned that for this year alone, for fiscal 2011, that ends June 30th, the total number of jobs that we equated would be the equivalent of the $30 million we save by starting our wage and benefit reforms as of April 1st is the equivalent of 1,500 jobs.


O‘DONNELL:  Indiana‘s Republican Governor Mitch Daniels said he would not send state police after the 38 House Democrats who left his state for Democrat-friendly Illinois.  Those Democrats and the hundreds of supporters chanting in the statehouse hallways are protesting a Republican bill that would allow public and private sector workers to opt-out of their unions‘ membership and dues requirements.

Earlier today, Indiana Republican senators dropped that bill and replaced it with one that would establish a committee to study the provision‘s effects.  In Ohio, fleeing was not an option.  Republicans have a quorum, even without Democrats being in attendance.  An estimated 5,000 protesters chanted outside the Columbus, Ohio statehouse.  Inside, legislators held hearings on a Republican bill to prohibit all collective bargaining for state workers.

The Ohio Senate president said today they will rewrite that bill to allow state worker unions to negotiate wages only.

Joining me now, Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair, Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison.

Thank you very much for joining us, Congressman.

REP. KEITH ELLISON (D):  Good to be here, Lawrence.  Thank you for having us on.  Thank you for reporting this story.

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman, what can you in Washington do in what seems like a statehouse movement?

ELLISON:  Well, what the Progressive Caucus has done is made clear it stands with the people who are fighting for collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin.  We are very, very proud of our Progressive Caucus members, Gwen Moore and Tammy Baldwin, whose district, tremendous struggle is taking place, and we‘re going to be putting our heads together to do everything possible we can to support the right to collective bargaining because the fact is that this is an essentially right, workers rights or human rights in our view.

And the fact is, is that if we lose here, collective bargaining rights all over the country are going to be in jeopardy.  And I can certainly say that the downward trail, the downward trajectory of wages for workers across this country over the last 30 years has walked step in step with the declining union membership, which is done with union-busting measures all throughout this period of time, and none more serious than the PATCO, one that Reagan did.  But this one, of course, is of historic proportions as well.  And we‘ve got to hold fast.

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman, when you hear the governor of Wisconsin on that phone call today, the taped phone call talking about his consultations with other governors, including John Kasich in Ohio and others involved in these questions, it‘s very clear that this is a national campaign directed from statehouse.

ELLISON:  There‘s no—there‘s no doubt about it.  I mean, this—our strategy to defend workers rights, to defend dignity on the job site, has to be national in scope, because even though this is being played out in statehouses, the fact is that they have a national agenda and they have a historic agenda.  They are trying to set—reset the way that workers and employers interact with each other.

As you—as you heard him say in that call when he was bragging to who he thought was David Koch, that he was—that he was in a certain moment.  And so, it‘s very clear that they understand the gravity of this moment, and working people all over this country better get it, too.

And I would say that there‘s very few middle class Americans today who do not owe part of their prosperity to the union movement.  In fact, it was the union movement that helped make—helped bring the working class into the middle class.  This is everybody‘s business.  This is everybody‘s fight.

And I am so proud of union members who are in the uniformed services, like police and fire and others, who are standing in solidarity with other public employees because they understand how important this struggle is for them as well.

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman Ellison, would you like to se more from President Obama?

I mean, I believe that his silence is all about presidential politics.  He needs to win Wisconsin in two years.  He won it once before.  He has seen Republicans come in and win that state since he won it.  And it seems to me he‘s just waiting to see which way the wind blows in Wisconsin.  He doesn‘t want—if a majority of Wisconsin is on the governor‘s side, he doesn‘t want to be on the opposite side of them.

ELLISON:  Well, I will say that President Obama has made statements in support of the workers, and when he did, you saw a lot of people in the media criticize him and say he should keep out of it.  Well, the fact is that he has made some statements.  We should be grateful for that.

But, of course, I‘d like to hear more from President Obama.  He‘s made some statements.  He should get credit for that.  We would like to hear him make some more statements.  I think that President Obama should come to Wisconsin and stand with the workers.

And I tell you, you know, the fact is, is that it‘s working people who are going to be pounding for him in a couple of years.  It‘s working people whose policies that we elected him to pursue, and so, I think it‘s only sensible that he would stand on the side of labor at this time.

But, again, I want to be fair to the president.  He has made statements.  But more statements would be very welcome.

O‘DONNELL:  But now that it‘s down to the very—in Wisconsin—the very simple issue of will the unions be able to have real collective bargaining discussions?  That‘s all we‘re down to.  The financials of this have been surrendered already.

So, any point the president might want to make about deficit reduction and any parallels he might be afraid of in terms of the situation in Washington are no longer present.  There is no situation in Washington that‘s comparable to this.  This is about nothing but collective bargaining rights of unions.

Is it—are we really in a point where a Democratic president cannot find his voice to defend that?

ELLISON:  Well, let me just tell you—he has spoken out, and I want to encourage him and welcome more comments from him.

You‘re right, absolutely, Lawrence.  We are down to the nitty-gritty.  This is all about collective bargaining rights, and the people are not going to lose face, no matter who stands with them.

We want them to know the Progressive Caucus stands with the people of Wisconsin and Ohio and Indiana and all over America.  And we—yes, we want to hear more from the president, but I don‘t want to be the one saying the president hasn‘t done anything because, of course, to be fair, he has said statements in support.  But, of course, more statements would be welcome.

And I think it would be the right thing to speak up for collective bargaining rights, but it would also be politically astute, because if you look at it, most Wisconsinites are abandoning Walker.  Walker‘s poll numbers are declining.  His negatives are going way up.  This is clearly an overreach.

And after today when he thought he was talking to David Koch, he was revealed to have a very political strategy that had nothing to do with dealing with budget repair in Wisconsin, but everything to do with breaking the back of working people.  And if you can‘t have a say so in the job site, you‘re in trouble.

So, stand up, stay strong.  And thank you very much for having me on.

O‘DONNELL:  Progressive Caucus co-chair, Congressman Keith Ellison—thank you very much for joining us tonight.

ELLISON:  You bet.

O‘DONNELL:  President Obama has decided the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional and wants the Justice Department to stop defending the constitutionality of the 15-year-old law.  Glenn Greenwald analyses the big reversal.

And that move today led Monica Crowley, formerly of this network, to call the president, quote, “Mubarak Obama.”  That‘s in tonight‘s “Rewrite.”


O‘DONNELL:  In tonight‘s Spotlight, President Obama has concluded that the Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA, is unconstitutional.  DOMA defines marriages as only between a man and a woman.  It passed in 1996 with the support of such liberal senators as Joe Biden, Harry Reid, Barbara McCulskey, Tom Daschle, Pat Leahy, Jay Rockefeller, and Paul Wellstone. 

Today, Attorney General Eric Holder sent a letter to Speaker John Boehner informing him that the administration will no longer defend DOMA in appeals courts because, quote, “much of the legal landscape has changed in the 15 years since Congress passed the law.” 

Holder said Obama concluded that DOMA fails to meet a rigorous standard under which courts view with suspicion any laws targeting minority groups who have suffered a history of discrimination.  John Boehner‘s press secretary replied, “while Americans want Washington to focus on creating jobs and cutting spending, the president will have to explain why he thinks now is the appropriate time to stir up a controversial issue that sharply divides the nation.” 

DOMA will remain in effect and the administration will continue to enforce the law until a federal court abolishes it, or Congress repeals it.  White House press Secretary Jay Carney said today the president is still, quote, “grappling with the issue of gay marriage.” 

In December, President Obama said that he supported civil unions for gay and lesbian couples, but that his position on gay marriage was, quote, “constantly evolving,” because I am a politician. 

OK, he didn‘t say the because I am a politician part.  Joining me now is Glenn Greenwald, contributing writer to  Glenn, that‘s really what it is, right, with this president.  It‘s—you‘re watching a politician grapple with an issue, not a constitutional law professor or a man. 

GLENN GREENWALD, SALON.COM:  I think in general you‘re right.  In general that‘s true.  But I think this is actually a case where that may not be that true.  And I say this as a fairly frequent critic of the Obama administration.  But this seems to be a case where what they did really does deserve enthusiastic, unqualified praise. 

That‘s because the cynic might say that this is being to accommodate an important part of the Democratic constituency.  But it‘s really not true, because gay groups have been fairly placated by the repeal of Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell.  This was not really an item high on the list for gay groups. 

On the other side, you have social conservatives and right wing groups who still are triggered by gay marriage.  Only a few years ago, dozens of states voted to make bans on gay marriage part of their constitution.  So this is a case where there‘s a fair amount of political risk, very little political benefit. 

Yet, what they did is not only right on the merits, but really takes a big step towards removing a grave injustice that plagues the lives of tens of thousands of gay Americans. 

O‘DONNELL:  Elaborate on this distinction; they are going to enforce it.  But they‘re not going to defend its constitutionality on appeal.  Is that where we are?

GREENWALD:  That‘s an important distinction.  We should be glad that that distinction is being made by the administration.  Because what they are saying is there are lawsuits currently pending where the constitutionality of this law is being challenged. 

Generally, it is up to the Justice Department to defend the constitutionality of any statutes that Congress passes, unless—and lots of administrations previously have done this—they believe that it is so unconstitutional that they can‘t, in good faith, defend the constitutionality.  And that‘s what the administration is saying. 

But until Congress appeals it or until a court strikes it down with finality, it still is the law of the land.  And the president is therefore bound by the Constitution to continue to enforce it, even though he believes it is unconstitutional. 

That‘s the controversy of the Bush administration.  They would say we think this is law is unconstitutional; therefore, we won‘t follow it.  And you don‘t want presidents doing that. 

O‘DONNELL:  So there is precedent at the presidential level, at the administration level to decide we no longer feel we can defend the constitutionality of a given law. 

GREENWALD:  Absolutely.  The Clinton administration refused to defend the constitutionality of a law that said people who have HIV can‘t serve in the military.  The Reagan administration went into court and said they thought the Independent Council Statute that Congress passed was unconstitutional. 

Many administrations going back to Roosevelt and even before have said we are obligated to enforce this law.  But in court, we refuse to defend it as being constitutional, because we don‘t think it can be defended in good faith. 

O‘DONNELL:  What do you make of John Boehner‘s reaction.  It sounds kind of muted.  He didn‘t rush to the microphone to waive his hands and get all hysterical about this.  It‘s just a written statement.  Not saying anything terribly inflammatory. 

GREENWALD:  I think that the right wing of the Republican party, at least the establishment part of it, had made the decision that the reason they won this last election was because of issues concerning the economy and spending, and that social issues really don‘t play well with independent voters.  And you have seen them move away from it. 

The problem is they rely on voters who care a lot about these issues.  And I think you are going to see a lot more inflammatory rhetoric coming from the right wing of the Republican party over this issue.  That‘s why I think there‘s political risk involved. 

O‘DONNELL:  I mentioned some of the liberal Democratic senators who voted for the Defense of Marriage bill back 15 years ago to show that there is, in fact, a real evolution on this subject, that there are people who have changed their minds over time about it, and that there are plenty of people in the last 15 years who have moved in the direction of gay marriage. 

And do you think we are going to get to the point where you can actually be the president—none of the people running for president last year—in 2008, who were serious contenders for the Democratic inauguration, could come out and say I‘m in favor of gay marriage.  How far are we from that? 

GREENWALD:  What is amazing is—I mean, when I litigated cases back in the early part of the decade, I actually was involved in a case where I took the position that the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional, that gay people should be treated like women and African-Americans under law of the Constitution.

And back then, almost nobody was arguing that.  It was a very radical position.  Now, a mere nine years later, you have the Justice Department officially taking that position on behalf not just of DOMA but all issues involving gay Americans. 

So the fact that the president is saying that he is grappling with the issue of gay marriage I think is a signal that he very well may come out and change his mind, and say that he now favors it.  Polls clearly show a divided country, even on the most extreme question, which is should the government recognize same sex marriages. 

There‘s a real belief that it is unjust to deny gay people and gay couples the rights of straight couples.  That‘s what DOMA is about. 

GREENWALD:  Scheme up for us where do you think we go from here.  If the Justice Department makes this decision today, where are we two or three years from now on this? 

GREENWALD:  Well, I don‘t think there‘s much hope that Congress will repeal it, given who controls Congress.  Even when the Democrats did, they showed no interest in doing so.  I don‘t think they are ready to take that risk. 

But the reason why this is so momentous is because federal courts when it comes to determining the constitutionality of statutes listen to the Justice Department.  And if the Justice Department is standing up and saying there is no legitimate basis for this discriminatory law; we can‘t identify any legitimate government interest, that has a major impact on how federal courts and ultimately the Supreme Court, which is clearly where this is headed, will end up assessing this issue. 

O‘DONNELL:  Glenn Greenwald, contributing writer to, thanks for being with us on this big win today. 

GREENWALD:  My pleasure. 

O‘DONNELL:  Since Christine “No Relation” O‘Donnell‘s loss in the Delaware Senate race, she has created her own political action committee, started writing a book, and is considering an offer from “Dancing With the Stars.”  Can losing a Senate campaign make her almost as rich as Sarah Palin?  That‘s coming up. 

And earlier today, Monica Crowley likened the president‘s decision on Defense of Marriage Act to that of a dictator, suggesting he should be called Mubarak Obama.  That‘s in the Rewrite.


O‘DONNELL:  Time for tonight‘s Rewrite.  Up first, Fox News contributor Monica Crowley. 


MEGAN KELLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  I can‘t let you go without asking about this breaking news we started the show with, which is now the administration has decided to declare that the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and woman—signed by President Clinton.  They have declared that that is unconstitutional, and said that they are no longer going to enforce it. 

MONICA CROWLEY, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR:  It is beyond belief, Megan.  We are a nation of laws, not of men.  We are governed by the rule of law.  What the Constitution says is that the president doesn‘t get to decide which laws he likes and which ones he is going to enforces. 

He is the chief executive.  The law is on the books, the Defense of Marriage Act.  It is his responsibility under the Constitution to enforce that law. 

To me, that is a form of dictatorship.  That is Mubarak Obama. 


O‘DONNELL:  Mubarak Obama.  Nice.  Yeah, it would be a bad thing for the president to decide which laws he would enforce, as Glenn Greenwald just pointed out here, and decide which laws he would not enforce.  And President Obama knows that, which is why this president has specifically said he intends to continue to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act. 

What has changed today is simply that the Obama administration will no longer advance the faulty legal argument that the Defense of Marriage Act is constitutional in appeals court challenges to the law.  There is no whiff of dictatorship in the president‘s decision. 

Indeed, President Obama was elected by more votes than George W. Bush ever got.  So why else would anyone—anyone on Fox News want to combine the names Obama and Mubarak?  Maybe because Mubarak is Muslim. 


BILL O‘REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  The issue doesn‘t matter.  It doesn‘t matter.  Sane, clear thinking people understand the president is not a Muslim. 


O‘DONNELL:  Bill O‘Reilly continues to protest that Fox News has nothing to do with the lie that the president is a Muslim, while people like Monica Crowley try to find every way they possibly can to insinuate in everything they say about Barack Obama that he just might be.  Fox News‘ silliest employee Glenn Beck decided yesterday that he is big enough and strong enough to take on 400 rabbis, specifically the 400 rabbis who asked Rupert Murdoch to sanction Glenn Beck for all of his disturbing Nazi talk. 


GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  Most people who are not Jewish don‘t understand that there are the orthodox rabbis, and then there are reformed rabbis.  Reformed rabbis are generally political in nature.  It‘s almost like Islam, radicalized Islam in a way, to where it is just—radicalized Islam is less about religion than it is about politics. 

When you look at the reformed Judaism, it is more about politics.  I‘m not saying that they‘re the same line.  They‘re going to take it like that. 


BECK:  It is not about terror or anything else.  It is about politics.  And so it becomes more about politics than it does about faith.  Orthodox rabbis, that is about faith.  There‘s not a single orthodox rabbi on this list.  This is all reformed rabbis that made this list. 


O‘DONNELL:  So Mormon Glenn Beck says only orthodox rabbis are about faith.  We should only listen to orthodox rabbis.  And there is not a single orthodox rabbi on that list.  The Anti-Defamation League put out a statement today saying Beck‘s blatant comparison of radical Islam to reformed Judaism demonstrates his bigoted ignorance.  It also demonstrates that Glenn Beck is a liar. 

He said no orthodox rabbis signed that letter.  Not a single one.  He said later in the broadcast he knew that for a fact.  He double underlined it.  According to the Jewish Funds for Justice, who wrote the letter, it was signed by the heads of the reformed, conservative and reconstructionist movements, as well as prominent orthodox rabbis.  


O‘DONNELL:  Christine O‘Donnell has big news.  Or maybe she doesn‘t.  She claims she‘s been invited to compete on “Dancing With the Stars,” writing on her Facebook page Monday, “although I am utterly flattered, my initial thought was to decline, as two-year-old nephew has more rhythm than me and my two left feet.” 

Christine O‘Donnell solicited her Facebook followers for their input on whether she should try her luck on “Dancing With the Stars.”  She later added, thank you for your input, still undecided.  Book comes first. 

“Dancing With the Stars” will make the official announcement of who their next contestants are on Monday night.  Christine O‘Donnell, if she actually has been invited to participate on the show, has already violated one of the house rules for contestants, which is that they don‘t leak their participation before the show makes its official announcements. 

Joining me now, Alex Wagner, White House correspondent for “Politics Daily.”  Thanks for joining me tonight, Alex.

ALEX WAGNER, “POLITICS DAILY”:  Thanks for having me, Lawrence. 

O‘DONNELL:  Alex, I have my doubts.  She has credibility issues with me on this and several other things.  I have spoken to a couple of former “Dancing With the Stars” contestants today.  They tell me that you‘re sworn to secrecy when you get the offer.  And if you decide to do it, they‘re sworn to secrecy, so that when they make their big announcement for the show Monday night, it will be a big announcement, instead of a semi-leaked, deflated announcement, like Christine O‘Donnell may or may not have made it. 

What‘s going on here? 

WAGNER:  Look, I think the most surprising thing is Christine O‘Donnell spent a large portion of 2010 trying to convince the American public that, A, she was not a witch, and that B, she was a substantive person.  And here we have someone that is—she started a PAC in January, a political action committee, to ostensibly weigh in on the health care debate and on the economic debate going on in the country. 

Much of her Facebook page is occupied with—there are pontifications on Egypt, foreign policy, taxes, trade issues.  And then at the top, there is this “Dancing With the Stars” announcement.  I think it is shocking that Christine O‘Donnell legitimately seems to be grappling with the issue of whether she should not pursue higher office, but whether she should be contestant to win the Mirrored Trophy Ball on “Dancing With the Stars.”

O‘DONNELL:  Is it a big risk for “Dancing With the Stars” to have someone like her?  I mean, Bristol Palin is one thing.  She was never a candidate.  She is not actually a politician.  You don‘t want to ask Bristol Palin what she thinks the top income tax bracket should be. 

But a former Senate candidate, an actual politician, if you‘re “Dancing With the Stars,” you got to be worried that she might want to blurt out something about union bashing after she gets her scores. 

WAGNER:  Or satanic rituals.  Keep in mind, though, Lawrence, that Tom Delay was actually on season nine.  Apparently, there‘s a vacant seat there because we know where Tom Delay is, which is to say he is battling a three-year prison sentence for money laundering. 

It is not new for them to have right wingers on there.  Tucker Carlson was also on an earlier season.  In some sense, she is filling shoes that have walked on the parquet floor before. 

O‘DONNELL:  Tom Delay I think had convinced all of us and convinced prosecutors that his political career was over, completely over by the time he went on “Dancing With the Stars.”  would that be Christine O‘Donnell‘s, in effect, declaration if she goes on “Dancing With the Stars”? 

WAGNER:  I mean, I don‘t think so, actually, Lawrence.  I think she‘s much more following the Sarah Palin model of things, which is to say you can have your reality TV show and your book tour, and your cake and eat it, too.  The disconcerting thing, of course, is the blurring line between politics and entertainment. 

In the times that we‘re facing, I think a lot of Americans want people that conduct themselves with a certain amount of decorum and gravitas if they‘re going to be seeking higher office. 

O‘DONNELL:  Speaking of Sarah Palin—were we?  Yeah, a little bit.  There‘s this controversy that erupted today about maybe she was operating a fake Facebook page so she could compliment herself on her other Facebook page.  Is anyone getting to the bottom of that horrible Palin scandal? 

WAGNER:  Well, that alternate Facebook account—Lou Sarah I believe the name was—has been taken off line.  If we believe these memoirs that have been leaked by one of our former campaign aides, Palin is nearly obsessed if not haunted by the idea of Team Sarah, which is to say those against her and those for her.  It has sort of been her motivating factor in her post-McCain public life. 

So it wouldn‘t—to outsiders, it wouldn‘t be that surprising if she, in fact, was operating some sort of rogue operation on Facebook to ensure that Team Sarah remained whole and that she had positive feedback on Facebook. 

O‘DONNELL:  Alex Wagner of “Politics Daily,” thanks for joining us tonight. 

WAGNER:  Thanks, Lawrence. 

O‘DONNELL:  You can have THE LAST WORD online at our blog,  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, live from Lawrence, Kansas.


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