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Monday, March 21st, 2011

Read the transcript to the Monday show

Guests: Richard Engel, Howard Fineman, Rep. Gregory Meeks, Rep. Rob Andrews, Ed Markey

           

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, HOST:  U.S. and coalition forces say that most of Libya‘s radar installations have been destroyed and now, they will be focused on so-called “targets of opportunity.”  For some Republicans, however, any action taken by President Obama is just another target of opportunity.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(MUSIC)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We anticipate this transition to take place in a matter of days and not a matter of weeks.

O‘DONNELL (voice-over):  President Obama finally answers questions on why the United States has joined the battle against Gadhafi.  Or is it a war?

OBAMA:  Gadhafi needs to go.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS:  In the end of the third day of the operations, coalition air strikes have established a no-fly zone in the east.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And we assume he is alive, that he is hunkered down in a bunker.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Punishing air strikes drove pro-Gadhafi forces further from opposition bases.

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS:  Rebels tell us they are incredibly encouraged.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We are taking sides in a civil war.

O‘DONNELL:  The commander-in-chief makes military decisions on Libya, and watches the crisis on Japan while on a diplomatic trip to South America.  So, of course, Republicans attack him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What we saw is really I would call it a dual-track diplomacy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If we cancel this trip, and it looks like we‘ve launched a full-scale war.

REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  Some of my colleagues are upset that France may be in the lead.

O‘DONNELL:  Tea Partiers and some Democrats attacked the president, too, calling it a possible impeachable offense.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D), OHIO:  Only Congress has the power to declare war.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  But we haven‘t declared war.

KUCINICH:  But you know what, though?  We are in a war.

SEN. JIM WEBB (D), VIRGINIA:  I really don‘t believe we have an obligation to get involved.

MITCHELL:  What if this ends and Gadhafi is still in power?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The outcome is unknown, political objectives are really unclear.

(EXPLOSION)

O‘DONNELL:  Ad the most bitter Republican presidential campaign losers attack the president on everything else.

SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR:  Less dithering, more decisiveness.

RUDY GIULIANI ®, FORMER NYC MAYOR:  I have never witnessed a worse case of presidential decision-making, conduct of foreign policy.  Ever.

O‘DONNELL:  And finally, a Republican who‘s almost screwed up the courage to say he‘s running for president.

TIM PAWLENTY ®, FORMER MINNESOTA GOVERNOR:  And that‘s why today, I‘m announcing a formation of an exploratory committee to run for president of the United States.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O‘DONNELL:  Good evening, from  New York.

It‘s day three of Operation Odyssey Dawn.  More on that absurdist title later.

The mission: to enforce a U.N.-sanctioned no-fly zone over Libya and protect its citizens from attacks by Colonel Moammar Gadhafi.  Since Saturday, American warships in the Mediterranean Sea have fired over 100 Tomahawk missiles, which cost over $1 million each, targeting Gadhafi loyalist air defense systems.

In the past 24 hours, the U.S., French, and British-led coalition aircraft have flown around 80 missions, hitting at least 32 targets.  A defense official says we can expect aircraft from Qatar to join the effort as early as tomorrow.

Allied attacks have successfully deterred Gadhafi‘s loyalist ground forces from advancing on the de facto rebel capital of Benghazi and left a trail of burnt out loyalist tanks and armored vehicles.  That allowed rebel forces to advance 90 miles south.

“The New York Times” reports rebels are facing rocket and tank fire there tonight.  Fighting also continues in the Misrata, Libya‘s third largest city, and the last remaining rebel stronghold in western Libya.  Gadhafi loyalists surrounded that city.

The rebel goal is to take control of the Gadhafi‘s stronghold in Libyan capital of Tripoli where anti-aircraft fire has been reported tonight.

Last night, two cruise missiles, over $1 million each, struck Gadhafi‘s compound, which included command and control facility.  U.S.  military officials tell NBC News that Gadhafi‘s chief of staff ordered bodies removed at morgues and placed at the compound to make it appear as though allied forces were responsible for those fatalities.

Despite the attack on Gadhafi‘s compound, Vice Admiral Bill Gortney told reporters at the Pentagon that Gadhafi is not a target.

Weeks ago, President Obama said Gadhafi, quote, “must leave”—a call Secretary of State Clinton has repeated.  But on Sunday, Admiral Mike Mullen left open the possibility that Gadhafi might stay.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ADM. MIKE MULLEN, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN:  The goals of this campaign right now again are limited, and it isn‘t—it isn‘t about seeing him go.  It‘s about supporting the United Nations resolution which talked of limiting or eliminating the—his ability to kill his own people, as well as support the humanitarian efforts.

DAVID GREGORY, MODERATOR, MEET THE PRESS:  So, the mission can be accomplished and Gadhafi can remain in power?

MULLEN:  That‘s certainly, potentially, one outcome.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Hoping to counter the criticism the United States has taken too large a role in the Libya conflict, President Obama told reporters in Chile today that allied forces will transfer coalition command to NATO in the coming days.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  How quickly this transfer takes place will be determined by the recommendations of our commanding officers, that the mission has been completed—the first phase of the mission has been completed.  But let me emphasize that we anticipate this transition to take place in a matter of days and not a matter of weeks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Joining me now from eastern Libya, NBC News chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel.

Richard, thanks for joining us tonight.

What is the latest on the ground in Libya?

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS:  The rebels are trying to make advances.  They are incredibly encouraged.  They are thankful that the intervention has begun, and we saw rebels leaving from here in Tobruk, they were pushing out from Benghazi and they were heading toward this city of Ajdabiya, which is about 400 kilometers, 300 miles from here, a little bit closer to Benghazi.  They are trying to use this protective air cover they have now, and to degree a ground cover as the American and allied air and missile strikes are targeting Gadhafi‘s forces.

They are still meeting fairly heavy resistance when they get to places like Ajdabiya where Gadhafi‘s forces are dug in.  The rebels are not organized.  Sometimes, they don‘t even know who their commanders are.  They are poorly-armed.

And they were—when they don‘t have any resistance, they make quite rapid advances.  But as we saw today, without heavy outside military help, they are finding it very difficult to fight.

O‘DONNELL:  Richard, how did the rebels obtain information about what the allies have done and what safe paths have been cleared for them?

ENGEL:  We saw some of that today.  We went on to a highway which is about maybe 50 miles from here.

And we saw rebels that were by the side of the road, there were probably 15 or 20 of them.  They were in pickup trucks.  They had some rocket launchers with them.  They had machine guns, ammunition that they had taken from Gadhafi‘s forces, and they were determined to go to the front line.  They didn‘t know exactly where the front line was.

And they were stopping cars on the side of the road, exchanging information with other travelers, trying to figure out how far up Gadhafi‘s forces were, whether—

O‘DONNELL:  We just lost Richard Engel reporting live from Libya tonight.

We will be joined now by “The Huffington Post” and MSNBC‘s Howard Fineman who is here to discuss the president‘s decision to provide this military support to this Libyan operation.

Howard, we were just getting Richard Engel‘s live report from Libya, trying to determine exactly, for example, how the rebels coordinate with what they think is going on in the air.  It‘s—they don‘t have all the access and information that we do here, obviously, and so, they seem to be feeling their way through the different roads to figure out where they should be going next.

The president, Howard, did he feel his way into this, or was this—was this a steady course from the start that remained quiet publicly, while the planning was going on carefully in the background?

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, Lawrence, I think one way to understand what the president has and has not done is to set this standard for any president.  Have you successfully and clearly explained why we‘re seeing Richard Engel where he is?

In other words, we knew why Richard Engel was reporting from Iraq.  We knew why Richard Engel was reporting from Afghanistan.  We knew were Richard was in Egypt in Tahrir Square.

But what‘s he doing in Libya?  And I don‘t think the American people have a very clear idea of why the stakes are such that Richard Engel is live on our television screens—and in the larger context, what the stakes are for the United States and why.

Don‘t forget, Lawrence, until not too long ago—at least in most recent years, Moammar Gadhafi has tried to position himself as an ally of the United States.  He gave back a lot of his nuclear weapons capability.  He was providing intelligence to the United States in what used to be called the “war on terror.”

Now, the president is saying he has to go, but not necessarily being urgent or determined about it in the early stages.  It‘s been confusing substantively and strategically and in terms of timing.

Now, today, the president said, you know, we‘re doing the right thing here but we‘re only going to be doing it for a few days.  Don‘t worry, the allies are going to take over—I think, again, further confusing message all the way around.  Of everything that‘s happened so far since he‘s become president, I think it‘s fair to say that this has been the most confusing episode in his foreign policy leadership.

O‘DONNELL:  Let‘s listen to what John Boehner had to stay in his statement that he put out on this.  He said, “Before any further military commitments are made, the administration must do a better job of communicating to the American people and to Congress about our mission in Libya and how it will be achieved.”

There seems to be more than just Republican sentiment behind that, Howard.  That‘s coming from Democrats also, isn‘t it?

FINEMAN:  I think that‘s true.  And from the diplomatic community in Washington, I was talking to the ambassador for a major American ally, who didn‘t want to be critical, but, you know, less than fulsome in his praise with the president‘s decision-making here.  Leaders of think tanks, a lot of Democrats are grumbling.

And it‘s confusing, Lawrence, we have a terrific military correspondent at “The Huffington Post” named Dave Wood who did a piece on our site explaining that eastern Libya, the area around Benghazi, is one of the most fertile and has been one of the most fertile recruiting areas for al Qaeda in the whole world.  So, who are we defending here and why?  Who are we opposing and why?  That‘s unclear on the ground and it‘s unclear to the American people.

Now, in the early polls, they‘re sort of giving the president the benefit of the doubt.  They like the idea of a no-fly zone, because they don‘t think it necessarily means American military involvement.  But, of course, as the generals and the admirals will tell you, it could mean just that—which is why the president was trying to say on the road today—you know, don‘t worry, we‘re only there for a few days as Americans.

O‘DONNELL:  John McCain has his own angle on this.  Listen to what he had to say about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  He waited too long, there is no doubt in my mind about it.  But now, it is what it is, and we need now to support him and the efforts that our military are going to make.  And I regret that it didn‘t—we didn‘t act much more quickly, and we could have.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  There is no way Barack Obama is going to be more trigger happy than John McCain.  He didn‘t—he didn‘t do it fast enough.  McCain would have gone faster into Libya.

FINEMAN:  Well, that‘s easy to say in hindsight.  But, you know, if you aim for the king, you got to get him right away, and the same with Moammar Gadhafi.  Who knows what might have happened?

What the president was doing in part, Lawrence, was waiting for the Arab League to give regional cover and sanction for what the allies in Europe and the United States might have wanted to do.

But there‘s no question that the administration was divided on this.  They were not speaking with one voice.  There were lots of ferocious debates within the administration about what to do.  And I think that delayed the decision-making process to the point where Moammar Gadhafi, if we really do want to get rid of him, as the president said, Gadhafi must go, that‘s a much tougher proposition than it would have been a few weeks ago.

O‘DONNELL:  Howard, another part of John Boehner‘s statement that I don‘t have in front of me at the point, he basically agreed with President Obama‘s humanitarian effort and, of course, this suffering in Libya must be stopped.  That was just taken as a granted in Boehner‘s position.  And so, this notion of humanitarian military intervention seems to be half-accepted, but people just don‘t seem to know exactly how to define when you can—what qualifies for that intervention and what doesn‘t.

FINEMAN:  Well, that‘s right.  And, you know, do you remember, back in the days of George W. Bush, we were talking about him as Woodrow Wilson on steroids—you know, that he was having said in the campaign when he ran he wouldn‘t be into nation-building, he suddenly got into nation-building big time in Iraq.

Now, Barack Obama is really proposing something even more sweeping by implication, which is that any time a tyrant in any country is oppressing his people, killing innocents and so forth, that the United Nations has not only a right but a duty to have the Security Council pass a resolution to take that leader out by force.  I mean, that‘s sort of what is being proposed here.  That‘s what Sarkozy in a way, and France, is saying.  That‘s sort of what the president is halfway saying.

And don‘t forget, back during his own campaign, the president said, look, I‘m not against wars, I‘m against dumb wars.  And the question is, number one: is this a war?  And if so, is it a smart one?  And these are questions that are going to be debated in the days ahead.

Even if we dial back quickly, which I—the military people I talk to say is not likely.

O‘DONNELL:  Howard Fineman, they‘re going to be debated in the next segment of this show.  Howard Fineman of “The Huffington Post” and MSNBC—thank you for joining us tonight.

FINEMAN:  Thank you, Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up: more on the criticism facing the commander-in-chief for starting another military operation.  Some of President Obama‘s sharpest critics are within his own party.  We‘ll talk to two Democratic congressmen who disagree on the attacks against Libya.

And later, the nuclear power nightmare in Japan.  More smoke today from the crippled reactors, another evacuation of workers, along with bad news of just how long it could take to get the plant back under control.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  The Democratic Party is divided about the use of military force in Libya.  Up next: why some Democrats are upset President Obama has opened a third military operation and why others say it‘s absolutely the right thing to do.  In tonight‘s “Rewrite,” the problem with the ridiculous title “Odyssey Dawn.”

And later, Governor Tim Pawlenty‘s announcement of a presidential exploratory committee—it could be the flashiest exploratory committee announcement ever.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Two days after President Obama launched cruise missiles as part of an international effort to protect Libyan civilians from their homicidal dictator, the reaction from hawks and doves in Congress is not following along traditional party lines.

Republican Speaker John Boehner offered up a kind of liberal-sounding humanitarian support for the action taken so far, saying, “The United States has a moral obligation to stand with those who seek freedom from oppression and self government for their people.  It‘s unacceptable and outrageous for Gadhafi to attack his own people and the violence must stop.”  Boehner‘s statement sounds very similar to Congressman Anthony Weiner‘s, a progressive Democrat who is often to President Obama‘s left.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK:  We should participate in trying to help stop the massacre of innocents.  I mean, I don‘t think we should necessarily take the lead in every operation around the world, but if we‘re a powerful country, one of the ways we use our power is for good.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  If you think that sounds a lot like what supporters of the invasion of Iraq said, you‘re right, it does.

The intervention in Libya is revealing a real split inside the Democratic Party.  Anti-war Democrats are openly raising objections about the constitutionality of the president‘s actions.

Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich told the “Raw Story,” “I‘m raising the question as to whether or not it‘s an impeachable offense.  It would appear on its face to be an impeachable offense.”

Former presidential candidate Ralph Nader compared President Obama to President Bush and Vice President Cheney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RALPH NADER, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Barack Obama is committing the same crimes, in fact worse ones than Afghanistan.  And innocents slaughtered, we‘re creating more enemies.  He‘s violating international law.  He is not constitutionally authorized to do what he‘s doing.  He‘s using state secrets.  He‘s engaging in illegal surveillance.

The CIA is running wild without any circumscribed legal standards or disclosure.  Why don‘t we say what‘s on the minds of many legal experts: that the Obama administration is committing war crimes.  And if Bush should have been impeached, Obama should be impeached.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Joining me now are Democratic Congressman Rob Andrews and Democratic Congressman Gregory Meeks.

Congressman Meeks, what is the difference between President Obama and President George W. Bush on the issues outlined by Ralph Nader—foreign policy issues and issues involving Guantanamo Bay and process of terror suspects and—this litany of things in which people are saying he‘s basically the same as Bush/Cheney.

REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D), NEW YORK:  Well, there‘s huge differences.  Number one, I think that the clear objective of this mission is a no-fly zone, similarly as we did in Bosnia, in Kosovo, which is what we‘ve done after the Cold War.  And presidents did those without coming to Congress first.

Now, I‘m a member of Congress.  So, of course, I would prefer a president to come first.  But—come to Congress first.  But it is clear that in Kosovo, in Bosnia, it has happened on a no-fly zone before.  I‘m one who would have loved for humanitarian reasons for us to have done it in Rwanda also.

But—so, in this case, the president has laid down his objectives and he‘s not done it like George Bush.  George Bush went at it alone.  He said either you‘re with us or against us.  And when the French was against us, they changed French fries to freedom fries and all kind of craziness.

President Obama has said we got to make sure that we‘re working with people and that is the world coming together.  And so, you have the Arab League, you have the United Nations, at a 10-0 vote with Russia, China able to object if they chose to, did not.  So, he‘s bringing and we‘re working in conjunction with the rest of the world as opposed “I go alone” attitude that the Bush administration brought forward when it was in charge.

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman Andrews, let‘s listen to how the president justified his decision today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  Our military action is in support of an international mandate from the Security Council that specifically focuses on the humanitarian threat posed by Colonel Gadhafi to his people.  Not only was he carrying out murders of civilians, but he threatened more, said very specifically “We will show no mercy” to people who lived in Benghazi.  And in the face of that, the international community rallied and said, “We have to stop any potential atrocities inside of Libya,” and provided a broad mandate to accomplish that specific task.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman Andrews, what‘s wrong with that explanation?

REP. ROB ANDREWS (D), NEW JERSEY:  I have great faith in this president, but, Lawrence, I‘m concerned that the only vote that took place on that rationale took place in the U.N. Security Council and not the United States Congress.  I think the president should have brought that rationale to the Congress and made his case.  I‘m not persuaded by that case because I think it‘s inconsistent with our lack of action in the Sudan, in Yemen, as we speak tonight.

But I‘m very disturbed by the fact that the only decision-making body that took a vote was at the U.N. Security Council.  And I think that‘s a profound mistake.

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman Andrews, is that consistency of lack of action on the Sudan and other humanitarian crises around the world, a position we should strive to maintain?

ANDREWS:  We certainly should not maintain inhumanity in these circumstances.  But I would say this to you, Lawrence—if the fundamental building block of U.S. foreign policy is stopping tyranny, we‘re going to be very busy and have a much larger standing army than we do.  I think only when there is an urgent strategic interest to the United States should we take these kind of actions.  And I certainly think that definition should be made by the U.S. Congress in consultation with the president, not by an international organization.

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman Meeks, there‘s something wrong in the way the president has approached this according to polling data because he has 70 percent approval.  There is 70 percent approval for the no-fly zone and enforcement of the no-fly zone.  But President Obama gets only a 50 percent approval of his handling of the situation in Libya.

How do you explain that?

MEEKS:  Well, I think that individuals are looking at whether or not we‘re going to be out in the matter of days as opposed to a matter of weeks.  And once—you know, once we see that the president has, in fact, turned over the leadership of what‘s taking place in Libya to NATO, then I think that will go up.  It will show that he‘s working with the international community.  It will show that he‘s keeping his word to the American people, and he‘s concerned about the innocent individuals in Libya who are being killed by Gadhafi.

He is going by not necessarily the United States going on its own and trying to make our decision that this is what we‘re going to do, but he‘s going by the resolution that came out of the United Nations and the international community.  And should circumstances change, then I would want the president of the United States to come forward to Congress also.

O‘DONNELL:  This is another one of those peculiar circumstances that have united Congressman Kucinich and Congressman Ron Paul from opposite ends of the universe agreeing on a non-interventionist approach to this.

I want to thank you both for debating this one tonight.  Congressman Rob Andrews, Democrat of New Jersey, Congressman Gregory Meeks, Democrat of New York—thank you both for coming in.

ANDREWS:  My pleasure.

MEEKS:  My pleasure.

O‘DONNELL:  In Japan, news tonight no one wanted to hear: the all-out effort to get power to the damaged nuclear reactors won‘t end this crisis.  Is what we‘re learning in Japan provoking any changes here in the United States?  Congressman Ed Markey joins us.

And later, the first serious candidate enters the fray in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.  The big announcement today from Tim Pawlenty which was still a giant political “maybe.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  An American teacher who went missing when the earthquake and tsunami struck Japan just over a week ago is no longer missing.  The family of 24-year-old Taylor Anderson said they received a call from the U.S. embassy with devastating news that her body has been found.  Anderson had been in Japan teaching English for the past two years, and she was due to return home in August. 

Operators at Japan‘s Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant suffered several setbacks today.  Workers had to evacuate twice after smoke started to rise from reactors two and three.  They also discovered some of the key pumps in the cooling system at reactor number two no longer work. 

Replacements have been ordered, but when they will arrive is unclear.  The radiation coming from Fukushima forced the government today to ban the sale of raw milk, spinach and canola from four Japanese jurisdictions.  Traces of radiation were detected in the products over the weekend, although in amounts the government and health experts say do not pose a risk to human health in the short term. 

The USS George Washington is moving away from Japan because of concern that long term exposure to Radiation will damage the ship.  At a meeting in Washington today, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials said once again they do not expect radioactive material at Fukushima to have any effect here in the United States. 

Still, in light of the disaster, NRC says it is set to launch a 30 day quick look evaluation of the disaster preparedness and general conditions of the nuclear plants here in the United States. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL BORCHARDT, NRC EXEC. DIR. FOR OPERATIONS:  We‘ve looked at all of the information that we‘re getting from Japan.  We have looked at the design basis for the U.S. reactors.  We continue with the inspection program.  And we have a high degree of confidence that the 104 currently operating reactors—there‘s adequate basis to assure adequate protection. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Joining me now, Massachusetts Congressman Ed Markey. 

Thanks for joining us tonight, congressman. 

REP. ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  Thank you. 

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman what is your confidence level in our inspection systems, in this industry as a whole historically, in terms of the possibility of just human error occurring, even within systems that have certainly reasonable designs to them? 

MARKEY:  Well, there‘s always been an assumption that man has the ability to make nuclear power plants in a way that Mother Nature or defects in the plans of those designing the plants will not result in meltdowns.  But what we are seeing in Japan, once again, is a warning that Mother Nature laughs as man makes assumptions that it can protect against all of the eventualities. 

So my own feeling historically has been that there‘s been a lot of denial about the need to have truly effective evacuation plans and the distribution of potassium iodide to protect against thyroid cancer, the most likely serious consequence of being exposed to radiation, and that still moving forward, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is looking at, in fact, allowing for the licensing of new nuclear plants on earthquake prone parts of the United States. 

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman, I am going to put up a graphic of the 50 mile radius around the nuclear power plant closest to New York City.  I put up 50 miles because that‘s what the United States government is recommending in Japan, that you get 50 miles away.  Now, if Indian Point had anything happen to it, to evacuate 50 miles away from Indian Point means evacuating all of New York City except for Staten Island, much of the most populated sections of Long Island, all of Westchester County, a lot of Connecticut, Pennsylvania. 

It is impossible to evacuate that area of about 20 million people in the time you would have to do it, which is why precautions like you‘re talking about, like iodine, become all the more important. 

MARKEY:  Exactly.  In the event that there is a meltdown—and it happens quickly.  You have to assume that there might be four or five people who say I live over this way, my kids live over this way, I am getting on the highway and heading that way, even as you‘re being told by the emergency evacuation people you have to go this way. 

Meanwhile, there‘s going to people over here who are being told to go

this way who are going to go that way on the highway.  You can anticipate -

trying to evacuate 50 million people, chaos. 

           

One of the protections, of course, is to hand out potassium iodine pills, especially so the children do not contract thyroid cancer.  Yet, the Bush administration said no, they will not distribute it beyond a ten mile radius.  As you have pointed out, we are already evacuating people in Japan out to 50 mile radius. 

And the consequence would be that for people from ten miles out, the recommendation would be run and run as fast as you can.  Grab grandma, grab the kids and start running. 

And I just think it is unrealistic.  I think we should give people the prophylactic protections they need to protect their families against the most likely consequences, thyroid cancer. 

And to also go back now, after Japan, and take another look at these evacuation plans, to make sure that they will be effective. 

O‘DONNELL:  The first Governor Cuomo prevented the opening of the last nuclear power plant built in New York State, on Long Island, because it did not have a sufficient evacuation plan in his view.  Now his son, Governor Cuomo, is saying we should look at Indian Point and probably close it down because the evacuation plan makes no sense. 

The only plan they have is for 300,000 people within a ten mile radius, and even that plan has been judged inadequate and wouldn‘t work for exactly the reasons you‘re saying.  First of all, they don‘t have the people who are really going to be out there telling you where to go. 

That was optimistic of you, to suggest that there would be people out there telling you which way to go.  But you‘re right, people are going to be guessing which way they want to go when the evacuation starts, aren‘t they? 

MARKEY:  Well, the Shorum (ph) Nuclear Power Plant on Long Island, that Mario Cuomo was responsible for leading the effort to make sure it did not open, is a classic example.  They built it at one end of Long Island.  And yet, if people wanted to evacuate at the far end of Long Island, they would have had to have driven past the nuclear power plant that was melting down.

Because their only other option was either to swim to Connecticut or swim to London, because you would actually have to bring your family towards the nuclear power plant to get off of Long Island.  So that‘s just another classic example of where this hubris that an accident could never happen led to power plants being built in places that today we would never even consider it.

Although the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is considering licensing an A P 1,000 nuclear plant.  That‘s a power plant that one of its senior scientist says could shatter like a glass cup in the event of an earthquake. 

So I think we should step back.  My mother always said Eddie, try to learn as many lessons vicariously as you can.  It‘s better that way, rather than learning them yourselves. 

We should look at Japan.  We should realize there was an earthquake in Chile last year.  There was an earthquake in New Zealand last year.  There was an earthquake in Japan two weeks ago. 

The west coast of the United States is the fourth part of that quadrant in the Pacific.  We need to ensure that we now go back and ensure that Diablo Canyon, San Onofre, power plants across the country can withstand an earthquake. 

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman, I knew I was going to get your wisdom, the most dedicated voice on this subject in the Congress‘ history.  But to get the wisdom of Eddie Markey‘s mother is more than I could bargain for.  Thank you very much for joining us tonight, congressman. 

MARKEY:  I appreciate it.  Thank you, Lawrence. 

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up, do you ever wonder about the significance of those cheesy military operation names?  You know, like Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Noble Eagle.  Turns out most of them mean nothing.  They are intended to mean nothing. 

We will dissect the name given the no-fly zone in Libya, Operation Odyssey Dawn.  That‘s in the Rewrite.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Time for tonight‘s Rewrite.  As Operation Odyssey Dawn enters its fourth day, you have every right to wonder who at the Pentagon has been fired for coming up with the worst name for an American military adventure? 

The answer?  So far, no one. 

There are two reasons no one has been fired for this terrible name.  Number one, most of the media seems to think military action in Libya evokes many more important questions than who came up with the stupid name.  And two, the media is always excessively deferential to the Pentagon‘s war titles. 

In fact, the media is always excessively deferential to the Pentagon in general.  So the Pentagon gets away with murder and bad titles.

The television news media is especially forgiving about titles.  We know how tricky they can be.  And they don‘t always make perfect sense.  Like “The O‘Reilly Factor.”  What does that mean?  Why isn‘t it “The O‘Reilly Show?”  That would make sense.

But TV titles don‘t always make sense, like, for example, a show called THE LAST WORD that is on at 8:00 that is followed by two other shows on the same network.  So clearly what gets said on THE LAST WORD is not actually THE LAST WORD on that network or anywhere else.

But TV titles have never been under much pressure to make perfect sense.  In fact, it is probably TV titles that gave the people at the Pentagon the idea that they could use anything, literally anything they wanted as a title, and it would be accepted. 

Adam Ronsley of Wired.com had the grand impertinence to ask military officials about the title, Odyssey Dawn.  Our own Nick Ramsey piggy backed on “Wired‘s” reporting and called the Defense Department‘s U.S. Africa Command Office in Germany. 

Between Adam‘s report on Wired.com and Nick‘s notes, here is what we know.  Each command in the Defense Department is given a few two letter combinations they can use for their titles.  Under this ridiculously complicated system, the U.S. Africa Command was given three different sets of letters that it could use. 

The words had to begin between JF to JZ, NS to NZ, or OA to OF.  Now the group choosing this title chose the O group, OA to OF.  So the first word had to begin with an O. 

By the way, you‘re going to have to rerun this on Tivo in order to make any sense of it, or go online afterwards and look at the website.  You‘ll see it all explained again.  Because I am not repeating any of this. 

They had to use O for the first word.  So that‘s where they got Odyssey.  The second letter had to begin with letters A through F.  That‘s where they got Dawn. 

Now, according to Major Eric Hilliard (ph), an official spokesman for the U.S. Africa Command, Odyssey Dawn, quote, “has absolutely no meaning.” 

We completely agree.  But unlike current music lyrics, most of which have absolutely no meaning, there‘s actually something real at stake in Odyssey Dawn, life and death for thousands of people. 

Asking the name to have meaning surely is not asking too much.  O, Obama, Obama‘s Adventure?  Obama‘s Adventure has meaning.  It also has truth.  And it fits in the Pentagon‘s OA to OF bracket.  So does Obama‘s Bombs.  Full of meaning. 

But it‘s not exactly the way the Pentagon or the White House want us to think about this, nor is Obama‘s attack or Obama‘s Fight or anything else I could come up with in the OA to OF bracket, because I am one of those words have meaning guys and I am likely to come up with something wicked obvious and maybe a bit too meaningful. 

Help us out.  Send us your suggestion using the Pentagon‘s rules on how to name these operations.  Post your suggestion at TheLastWord.MSNBC.com. 

Come on.  How hard can it be?  Then I am the guy who titled this show

THE LAST WORD.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Today, the 2012 race for the White House finally began for real, sort of.  Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty became the first candidate to say he was forming an exploratory committee.  That is that phony stage of the campaign when you pretend you are exploring the idea of running. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIM PAWLENTY ®, FORMER GOVERNOR OF MINNESOTA:  This country was founded on freedom.  We, the people of the United States, will take back our government.  This is our country.  Our founding fathers created it.   Americans embraced it. 

Ronald Reagan personified it.  And Lincoln stood courageously to protect it. 

That‘s why today, I am announcing the formation of an exploratory committee to run for president of the United States. 

Join the team, and together we‘ll restore America. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  The smart Republican presidential campaigns always mention Reagan and Lincoln.  The not so smart forget Lincoln was a Republican.  Which makes Tim Pawlenty the smartest Republican to announce so far. 

And the only one.

Joining me now, Ed Schultz, the host of “THE ED SHOW.” weeknights at 10:00 p.m. here on MSNBC, and MSNBC‘s authority on all things Minnesota.  Tim Pawlenty, go. 

ED SCHULTZ, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Well, I think the Tea Partiers are going to like this guy.  He is a strict constitutionalist.  He has gone after education.  He was anti-health care. 

He didn‘t like the stimulus package.  He was slow to disburse the funds. 

So when it comes to running a tight ship financially, he is a good guy. 

O‘DONNELL:  I picked him as the nominee for the Republicans because he is the only one who doesn‘t have a prohibitive negative, like Romney has on healthcare and the others have in different ways, Haley Barbour, lobbyist and no appeal outside the south. 

It seems to me this guy, through process of elimination, will end up there.  Is he a good campaigner? 

SCHULTZ:  He is.  He‘s very good one on one, very likeable, very persuasive in a small group.  He‘s not the kind of guy that goes up in front of a convention and wow the socks off you.  But he is a smart guy.  And he has been around Minnesota politics for a long time. 

And one of the reasons why he had a tight re-election was because he is a staunch conservative.  He is a guy that is all about the money. 

O‘DONNELL:  -- in a only state that elects two Democratic senators, including Al Franken. 

SCHULTZ:  Exactly, exactly.  But he is a likeable guy.  And he‘s all about the budget.  And he will energize the base.  And people will come out and vote for him.  Had they not done it, he would have never won reelection.  He only won by 46 percent of the vote. 

O‘DONNELL:  He won re-election with 46 percent?. 

SCHULTZ:  He did.  Mike Hatch, the attorney general, many experts in Minnesota thought that he had the gubernatorial seat locked up.  But his lieutenant governor candidate made a misstatement about ethanol, which in the heartland, you can‘t do that—you got to know what you‘re talking about.

Hatch thought it was a trick question and, of course, he lost his cool at the media.  And that was late in the campaign.  And it gave Pawlenty an opening and he won by a margin. 

Tim Pawlenty, he has cut education.  He has left the state with a five billion dollars deficit.  He did some very interesting accounting and pushed some stuff off into the future years.  So maybe that‘s why he mentions Reagan a lot. 

But he is a true Minnesota guy.  He was a hockey player in high school.  He‘s an outdoor kind of guy.  He‘s good one on one.  And I think the Tea Party folks, the closer they look at him, the more they‘re going to like him. 

He is not as radical—nowhere near as radical as Michele Bachmann.  He is not going to say things that are just so far off the rails.  But he is a strong conservative.  He is a strong social conservative.  The social conservatives I think could embrace Tim Pawlenty. 

O‘DONNELL:  He knows how to pander, too.  I saw him say this thing about if I was there, I‘d vote against raising the debt ceiling.  Who cares if we don‘t raise the debt ceiling, which is easy to say since he has no responsibility over it.  And it‘s exactly what the Tea Party wants to hear. 

SCHULTZ:  It is.  No matter what the circumstances might be, a bridge can fall down in Minnesota and kill 13 people, and he will still fight infrastructure improvements. 

O‘DONNELL:  He was on the record against infrastructure spending before that bridge collapse. 

SCHULTZ:  Long time.  Yeah, he was.  This is no surprise.  He just doesn‘t believe in big government—or any kind of government, for that matter.  When it comes to education, of course, he‘s a big voucher guy.  He has cut money to school districts, to the point where some school districts in Minnesota have gone to a four-day school week, Park Rapids, Minnesota, because they didn‘t have the money.  They weren‘t getting the money from the state. 

O‘DONNELL:  If Minnesota can‘t be number one in math, they‘re going to be number one in how early the kids get out of school. 

SCHULTZ:  That‘s right.

O‘DONNELL:  Ed Schultz, host of “THE ED SHOW,” coming up at 10:00 p.m.

Eastern tonight.  Ed, thank you for our education on Minnesota.

SCHULTZ:  You bet.

O‘DONNELL:  You can have THE LAST WORD online or at our blog, The LastWord.MSNBC.com.  You can follow my Tweets @Lawrence.  “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW is up next.  Good evening, Rachel. 

END   

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