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Thursday, April 7th, 2011, 8p show

Read the transcript to the Thursday 8p show

Guests: Ezra Klein, Rep. Tom Graves, Sen. Claire McCaskill, Jonathan Capehart

           

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, HOST:  Harry Reid and John Boehner return to the White House tonight to try and stop a government shutdown.  And finally, Republicans admit what they are fighting for isn‘t money.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(MUSIC)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  There is no agreement on the policy issues that are contained with this.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER:  The only thing—the only thing holding up an agreement is ideology.

O‘DONNELL:  It‘s not about the money.  Democrats compromise on spending, but Republicans are now fighting over social issues.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Where the disagreement now lies are these so-called riders that are attached to the spending.

BOEHNER:  Forty or 50 policy restrictions that were attached to our bill.  There‘s far more than one provision that‘s holding up any agreement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Compromise is a dirty word.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, “HARDBALL” HOST:  They want no compromise.

REID:  We don‘t have time to fight over the Tea Party‘s extreme social agenda.

O‘DONNELL:  Tea Party politics is more important than damaging the economy and disrupting the lives of millions of Americans.

DYLAN RATIGAN, MSNBC HOST:  Disastrous effect of a shutdown that you probably haven‘t heard about.

ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY:  A lot of these young troops live pretty much paycheck to paycheck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What to do about abortion, what to do about public broadcasting.

BOEHNER:  Do not want taxpayer dollars used to fund elective abortions.

O‘DONNELL:  Republicans are also playing politics with a separate bill to keep the government running for just another week.

REP. HAL ROGERS ®, KENTUCKY:  If you vote against this bill, you are voting against the troops.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We just recently tried to pass a continuing resolution but the Republicans would not support that.

REID:  They won‘t take yes for an answer.

O‘DONNELL:  And just when you thought Republicans couldn‘t get more extreme, Donald Trump starts talking again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  He says things that almost no one else ever says.

DONALD TRUMP, REAL ESTATE DEVELOPER:  This country is going to hell. 

His grandmother in Kenya said he was born in Kenya.

O‘DONNELL:  The most dangerous thing about Trump, people believe him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Among Tea Partiers now, self-described Tea Partiers, Donald Trump gets more votes than anybody.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC NEWS:  He‘s not dabbling in this theory.  He is fully committed.

TRUMP:  They won‘t be laughing if I‘m president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You run or shut up.

TRUMP:  If I decide to run, I will do the best job.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE ®, NEW JERSEY:  I‘ll believe it when I see it.

MATTHEWS:  When it comes to hype like this birther thing of his, the guy is no apprentice.  He‘s a grandmaster.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O‘DONNELL:  Good evening from New York.

Twenty-eight hours to go, and there is still no resolution on the current budget impasse.  House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have returned to the White House for a second negotiating session with President Obama, who is making good on his promise to stay involved until a compromise agreement is reached.

We are monitoring any developments at the White House tonight.  Speaker Boehner and Senator Reid already met with the president for an hour and 20 minutes this afternoon.  Boehner said publicly today, there is no agreement on a number, but multiple sources reported that Republicans and Democrats are somewhere between $35 billion and $39 billion dollars in cuts.

The issue that could shut down the government is the policy riders.  The House Republicans attached 67 policy riders to H.R. 1, the budget bill they passed but the Senate defeated.

And the House Republicans are now demanding those riders in exchange for a deal.  Those could include an amendment from Congressman Mike Pence that prohibits funds from being made available for any purpose to Planned Parenthood or any of its affiliates; an amendment from Congressman Joe Barton that redefines greenhouse gases and prohibits the EPA from imposing regulations on gases emitted by stationary sources like power plants and factors; and two amendments that would bar funding for the EPA to regulate fossil fuel, combustion waste, or revoke work cleanups for water polluters.

Those are exactly the issues that Senator Chuck Schumer told me on this program last week would be unacceptable to Senate Democrats.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  If that was in the House bill, an insistence on complete defunding of Planned Parenthood, would you and the Senate be able to accept that?

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK:  The bottom line is that whether it‘s the Planned Parenthood or EPA, we will not accept those riders.  And any thought to the contrary is wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  This afternoon, Republicans in the House offered up another stopgap bill, which would cut $12 billion in spending and fund the government until midnight, April 15th, one more week.

President Obama told Boehner today he will veto that proposal if it should reach him.  The White House said the president would consider a clean bill to extend the deadline for government spending under the same terms and conditions as the last extension the parties agreed to.

Joining me now is Republican Congressman Tom Graves, who represents the ninth district of Georgia.

Thanks for joining us tonight, Congressman.

REP. TOM GRAVES ®, GEORGIA:  Great to be with you, Lawrence.  And good—and, you know, here we are on the eve of night of the Democrats‘ government shutdown, and, you know, still going at it—still fighting on behalf of America.

O‘DONNELL:  It sounds like you‘re looking forward to a shutdown.

GRAVES:  It‘s not that I‘m looking forward to a shutdown.  I‘m looking forward to a win for the American people.  They sent a strong message.  We‘ve got to stop this wasteful Washington spending.  And that‘s exactly what the House of Representatives has been fighting for, sent it to the Senate.

And you know the processes.  You know, all they have to do is vote on it, pass it and we would be out of this mess.  But, you know, the Democrats failed to lead last year.  They didn‘t pass a budget.  It‘s clearly their crisis.

And we‘re doing everything we can to continue the government functioning.  But you know what?  We got to save the taxpayers money.

O‘DONNELL:  Are you one of the voices in the meetings with John Boehner who shouts, “Shut it down, shut it down”?

GRAVES:  I don‘t know anybody who‘s been in a meeting with John Boehner yelling shut it down, that sort of thing.

O‘DONNELL:  When your whole Republican caucus, a couple of hundred Republican members of the House get together, they have shouted to him, “Shut it down, shut it down.”  Have you shouted that?

GRAVES:  I don‘t recall that conference meeting.  You know, our conference is unified, and that is saving the taxpayers money and changing the course of the fiscal mess in this nation.  And I would suppose the Democrats would be for that as well.

I mean, we have had two years of their experiment of more spending and higher taxes, and unemployment is still high.  Maybe we should try a new direction and let‘s empower the taxpayer and stop empowering government.

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman, can you vote for a bill that does not completely defund Planned Parenthood?

GRAVES:  You know, I‘m only going to vote for a measure to maximize the savings for the American people.  And I‘m looking for a bill that has the DNA of H.R. 1.

O‘DONNELL:  Can I get a yes or no on Planned Parenthood?

GRAVES:  Well, all I‘m telling you is that if there is wasteful spending, I will not be supporting it.  And I think there are a lot of—

O‘DONNELL:  Is Planned Parenthood wasteful spending?

GRAVES:  Planned Parenthood is absolutely wasteful.

O‘DONNELL:  So, you will vote against any bill that does not eliminate Planned Parenthood‘s funding?

GRAVES:  Well, let me ask you this, Lawrence.  I mean, you believe that taxpayers in this country—we are $13 trillion in debt.

(CROSSTALK)

GRAVES:  -- funds to Planned Parenthood?

O‘DONNELL:   Will you vote for a bill that does not eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood?

GRAVES:  I do not believe the American taxpayers should be sending money to Planned Parenthood.

O‘DONNELL:  Is there a yes or no?  Your constituents would like to know.

(CROSSTALK)

GRAVES:  That raises their money.

O‘DONNELL:  So, you‘ll vote against the bill?  If a bill comes to you with funding for Planned Parenthood and tell your constituents whether you will vote for it or against it.  This is a simple yes or no.

GRAVES:  I mean, it‘s clearly I‘m a sponsor of a measure that defunds Planned Parenthood.  I‘ve already voted for the amendments to do that and if—

O‘DONNELL:  Will you vote for the bill if—will you vote for the bill if your amendment is not in it?

GRAVES:  You know, if we do not achieve maximum savings for the taxpayer, ill not be supporting it.

O‘DONNELL:  Will you vote for a bill that funds Planned Parenthood in any way?

GRAVES:  I have no intentions of voting to fund Planned Parenthood. 

And I don‘t think the American people want us to fund Planned Parenthood.  Fourteen trillion dollars in debt, what are we doing sending money to Planned Parenthood or any other organization.  It doesn‘t matter if there‘s the left.  It doesn‘t matter if it‘s the right.

O‘DONNELL:  Just to get—just to get it clear, Congressman, you are willing to stop payment for the troops in order to stop any funding for Planned Parenthood if it comes to that?

GRAVES:  I don‘t know how you tie that because the day we voted -- 

O‘DONNELL:  Because they are in the same budget, Congressman.  And do not pretend they are not.

(CROSSTALK)

GRAVES:  Voted against it, can you believe that?  And even President Obama has come out opposing funding the troops.  That is phenomenal.  He‘s the commander-in-chief.  You would think of all things, he would want to fund the troops and keep the defense of this nation at the strongest it can be.

O‘DONNELL:  He is not opposed to funding the troops.  What he is opposed to is your bill that you took up today in the House -- 

GRAVES:  That funds the troops.

O‘DONNELL:  That excludes spending cuts for Defense and lumps all the spending cuts in every other category except defense, and therefore, that‘s your way of getting the troops‘ pay out of your political dilemma.  You don‘t want to face—you dare not face the political dilemma of allowing the troops not to be paid because you want to stop any money going to Planned Parenthood.  And for you to try to get around that -- 

GRAVES:  This has nothing to do with Planned Parenthood.

O‘DONNELL:  And you were trying to get around that with the vote you cast today.

GRAVES:  Lawrence, you‘re the only one that can tie Planned Parenthood to defending our nation.

O‘DONNELL:  You did.  You did.

GRAVES:  How on earth you tie that together?  That‘s amazing.

O‘DONNELL:  Because you did.

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  Because you put an amendment into the bill that funds the troops can defunds Planned Parenthood.  You made that one vote.  You did that.

GRAVES:  Today, Planned Parenthood was not a part of that vote.  It was not a part of that vote.  It was—it had to do with the District of Columbia.

Again, it‘s about taxpayer dollars.  Are we going to save the taxpayers money?  Are we going to be defenders of the taxpayers or are we going to be defenders of government?  And as the congressman from the ninth congressional district, I will always defend the taxpayer.

And unfortunately, there‘s a lot of folks out there that just want to fight for more government.

O‘DONNELL:  Now, Congressman, going forward, you—on the budget bill offered by the budget—your budget leader going forward into next year, Congressman Ryan, you are prepared to vote for the dismantling of Medicare for your constituents?

GRAVES:  This doesn‘t dismantle Medicare in any way.  It actually saves it.  It‘s going to be bankrupt in six years.

I assume you just want to keep the status quo.  Is that what you‘re advocating here?  We cannot keep the status quo.  We‘ve got to continue tackling these difficult challenges.  They have been put on the back burner for the past couple of years.

And under Congressman Ryan‘s leadership, we‘re putting them out there.  We‘re having a national debate about these issues because we want a better nation for our children and our grandchildren.  And, unfortunately, with this crazy Washington spending, it‘s going the wrong direction.

So, hey, Washington has not been forthright with the American people for too long.  We‘re willing to shed the truth on the matters right now, and put it out there for a debate.

O‘DONNELL:  And, Congressman, you were one who voted for the absurdly unconstitutional bill that Eric Cantor offered that proposed that a bill would become law just by passing the House of Representatives.  This after you showed such reverence for the Constitution when you began this Congress this session.

How could you possibly vote for such an absurdist unconstitutional cartoon?

GRAVES:  We are voting to keep the government operating.  I thought that‘s what you wanted.  You keep saying we wanted to shut down the government.  We keep passing measures to the Senate.

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman, we have one of your colleagues on last night who had the integrity to vote against that bill because it was grotesquely, grotesquely unconstitutional, and you‘re one of the people who took an oath to serve and protect that Constitution who voted for an obscenely unconstitutional bill.

GRAVES:  I‘m glad you‘re concerned about the Constitution, because nowhere in there does it say to fund Planned Parenthood.  In fact, the Declaration of Independence -- 

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  The Constitution says the House of Representatives cannot pass a bill and make it law.  And you pretended that it could.  You told that lie to your constituents.

GRAVES:  We passed a bill as language in it—the Senate can take it and amend it.  You know the process it.  I believe you have been a staffer on the Hill.  You know how it works.

O‘DONNELL:  You passed a ridiculously unconstitutional bill.  And you should be ashamed of yourself for doing it.

GRAVES:  Well, let me ask you this, Lawrence, what‘s so unconstitutional about H.R. 1 that the Senate won‘t take up.

O‘DONNELL:  Your insane bill says that the House of Representatives can pass a bill and it becomes law without the signature of the president.  High school students know that what you voted on was a lie.

Congressman, we‘re out of time.  Congressman Tom Graves of Georgia, thanks for joining us.

GRAVES:  Look forward to being back, Lawrence.  Thanks.

O‘DONNELL:  Come back.  Thank you.

Joining me now, Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat from Missouri.

Senator, I‘m sorry for using some of that time with the most insane unconstitutional thing to ever pass through the bodies of Congress.  But you know I get carried away sometimes.

SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI:  Sometimes.  But sometimes the situations here demand it.

O‘DONNELL:  Senator, the fight has been frustrating for everyone, including me, as you can see.  We‘re down to what Harry Reid says are just these policy issues—these 50 or 60 that have been put into these bills by House Republicans.  Do you see any way through this?

MCCASKILL:  I‘m very confused at this point.  In fact, I feel a little duped.  I have been somebody who has pushed my caucus for more cuts.  I thought the original cuts that my caucus put on the table were not substantial enough.  And I actually thought this was supposed to be about the money.

As it turns out now, they won‘t take yes for an answer on the cuts.  And now they want to talk about divisive social issues that frankly our country, reasonable people, are going to disagree.  We have for 40 years.  We‘ll continue to disagree.

Now is not the time to try to debate those issues.  Now is the time to make sure our troops get paid, and that our economy doesn‘t take a gut punch that it will take if the government shuts down tomorrow night.

O‘DONNELL:  Now, President Obama said that he would be willing to sign a very short-term continuing resolution for a matter of days just in order to keep the government funded while the negotiations continue.  Is that the reasonable approach to take under these circumstances?

MCCASKILL:  Well, I‘m going to cross my fingers that we quit playing political games on social issues and get to the business of a reasonable—we have met the Republicans—people need to remember now, we have more cuts on the table than Paul Ryan and Speaker Boehner began with.  We have said we‘ll cut more than what they originally proposed in cuts.  And if they will not allow us to move them ¾ of the way there and call it a day tonight, then I‘m hopeful that tomorrow we‘ll get a clean C.R. that we can pass that will either give us more time or at a minimum get our troops funded without doing social policy and arguing about Gitmo and all of the other junk they stuck in, the C.R. they sent down to us today.

O‘DONNELL:  Senator, what are the private feelings you‘re picking up from Republican senators as they watch what the House of Representatives is doing?  I‘ve heard Senator Coburn say that he thinks that the House of Representatives should just go along with the cut package as negotiated, and fight those other issues later, for example.  He‘s been willing to say that publicly.

I imagine that there are many Republican senators who are frustrated with what the Republicans in the House do.

MCCASKILL:  Of course.  And I think there‘s some real discomfort beginning.  You can tell by who comes to the floor and how defensive they sound.  I think they understand that the American people realize that we have compromised.

We have come up with real cuts, unlike where we began.  We are with real cuts now.  And here‘s the other thing, Lawrence.  You know, Paul Ryan laid out a budget this week that was startling in many ways.  We‘ve got to worry about this year‘s budget.  We‘ve got to worry about long-term debt.

We need to quit fiddling around with the next five months of this year‘s funding, get this done, put it to bed, and quit trying to play political games with this funding of the government.  You know, I sit on the floor today.

You know, some folks that work at the V.A. hospital call and these women passed their cell phone around the break room, you know, saying to my office, please don‘t let our paychecks stop.  We can‘t make our mortgages.  We can‘t buy food for our families.

This is a crisis for many families out there.  And I don‘t think that some of our friends down the hall understand that at this point.

O‘DONNELL:  I‘ve never seen this kind of irresponsibility in the House of Representatives before.

Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

MCCASKILL:  Thanks, Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up: Donald Trump is afraid to run for president because he‘s not as rich as he pretends to be, and he knows he will be the first fired by Republican primary voters.  But for some reason, he has a little trouble admitting that.

And the Republicans will tell you that the Americans want them to defund Planned Parenthood.  Which Americans are they talking about exactly?  Well, you‘ll see them.  They are in the “Rewrite” tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  The president, the speaker of the House and the Senate majority leader, can they make a last-minute deal on the budget and stop the federal government from shutting down?

And what do Tea Party Republicans really want to do more?  Cut the budget or destroy Planned Parenthood?  Ezra Klein joins me next.

And later, if any other Republican said the things Donald Trump said this morning, they probably would be cast aside as unstable.  But the really scary thing is the extreme wing of the Republican Party agrees with him, and NBC continues to employ him.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Policy riders that Republicans attached to the budget bill that passed the House of Representatives in February and then was defeated by the Senate could be the final sticking points in budget negotiations that are bringing the government to the brink of a shutdown.  The over 50 riders include things like prohibiting funding for fruits and vegetables for schoolchildren.

The Obama White House, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican House Speaker John Boehner are still negotiating the two most important riders that prohibit funding for Planned Parenthood and clean air regulation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REID:  They made the decision to shut down the government because they want to make it harder, for example, for a woman to get a cancer screening.  Do they really want to shut down the government because the Tea Party doesn‘t want scientists to make sure the air we breathe is clean and pure?  This is an extreme agenda that has nothing to do with a funding bill.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Joining me now is Ezra Klein, an MSNBC analyst and the columnist for “The Washington Post.”

Thanks for joining us tonight, Ezra.

KLEIN:  Good evening, Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  Ezra, could you take us on a tour of the Republican riders that they are trying to get into this deal and what those riders actually would do?

KLEIN:  I‘d be happy to.

So, there are a number of dozen of them—a ton of them are environmental in nature.  They range from everything from not allowing the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate carbon, to not allowing federal money to go to Florida to enforce clean water laws.  And they get in some ways weirder even from there.  There‘s a law not allowing the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to collect information on people who are buying a lot of shotguns and rifles all at once, people who are making large, multiple purchases.

There is a Planned Parenthood rider.  There are riders on the health care law.  There are riders and riders and riders to the point that this bill, this negotiation, is really no longer about the dollar amount which the two sides are very close on, but about almost every other policy issue that Washington deals with in the course of a year.

O‘DONNELL:  Is there a single rider or a set of riders that John Boehner absolutely has to be able to bring back to his caucus or he won‘t be able to pass a bill?

KLEIN:  It‘s become the EPA and Planned Parenthood.  But one thing I think we should begin to point out because this is what people are telling me all over town now, this is now as much about the policy as it is about shadow boxing.  It‘s as if they are trying to—the two sides are trying to show that they will not be the one in the next year or the next two years that loses negotiations like this one, because they expect there to be more.

So, it isn‘t really just about the EPA and it isn‘t really just about Planned Parenthood, though, those things are important to people on both sides of the aisle.  It‘s about showing that when we go to a debt ceiling or showing that when we have to begin fighting over Ryan‘s budget or the appropriations bill, the Republicans for Boehner or the Democrats for Reid and Obama will not be in the loser‘s seat, that they will be able to hold firm and win these types of negotiations going forward.  So, that‘s part of why this has become so hard.  They are trying to set the tone for the next couple of years.

O‘DONNELL:  It sounds inconceivable to me based on what I have heard Chuck Schumer say on this show, based on what we know to be Democratic Party politics.  That President Obama and the Democrats could go along with a defunding of Planned Parenthood.

Are we getting to the point here where tomorrow night, it could be the funding for Planned Parenthood that shuts down the government?

KLEIN:  It would be shocking.  The thing, though, that people will tell you if you talk to them long enough is that they are very creative and to some degree gimmicky solutions around these things.  If you remember the health care law, there‘s a big fight about abortion and the exchanges, could federal money go to it.  And we ended up with a compromise where you parceled off federal money.  So, well, the money going to the health insurers, they have to certify that it‘s not going to abortions.

You could—I have heard people suggest that you could have something like that, where Planned Parenthood still gets money but that money has certain conditions attached to it.  So, they have to use other money to support activities related to choice.  So, I do expect at the end of the day, we‘re going to end up with things that are somewhere in the middle and leave no one quite satisfied.

O‘DONNELL:  Well, that‘s already the structure of funding for Planned Parenthood as it stands, within federal government funding, is that it‘s segregated money.  It can‘t be used for anything that might be in some way by Planned Parenthood used to affect abortion services in any way.  There‘s so much else that Planned Parenthood does, so much else, that has absolutely nothing to do with that, that is absolutely crucial service to so many people out there who don‘t have easy and regular access to physicians for reproductive health and for other issues.

And it‘s such a tiny, tiny, tiny number, Ezra, as you and I know.  That‘s what‘s—I mean, there are so many things that are strange about Planned Parenthood being the thing that shuts down the government tomorrow night, including the tiny amount of money this is in the federal budget.

KLEIN:  And, as you say, there are already laws on the books about this.  The idea would be to even somehow make them stronger so people feel like they have a win.  But what really struck me about your interview this evening with Congressman Graves was he kept saying the maximum amount of cuts.  Democrats have repeatedly said they would like to bring in money from the mandatory spending, the 88 percent of the budget the Republicans have not wanted to look at.  And Republicans have said, no, absolutely not.

The idea that we are at anything like a maximum of cuts—these cuts are not about the money anymore.  They‘re small amounts of money.  They don‘t matter in the scheme of budget, and you could make up the exact same amount of money elsewhere, so far as the deficit is concerned, a dollar is a dollar is a dollar.

The problem now has simply now to do with the fight.  And it‘s not easy to back down from.

O‘DONNELL:  Yes, the maximum amount of cuts in this tiny little corner of the budget.

Ezra Klein of “The Washington Post”—thank you very much for joining me tonight.

KLEIN:  Thank you.

O‘DONNELL:  Five protesters were arrested on Capitol Hill this morning chanting “defund Planned Parenthood.”  Why some on the right can‘t seem to separate the fight over the budget from their demands to defund Planned Parenthood?  That‘s ahead in “The Rewrite.”

And Donald Trump tells Meredith Vieira he has people on the ground in Hawaii investigating the president‘s birth certificate.  He is surely lying about that one, which is what he does every time he talks about Barack Obama.  Jonathan Capehart will join to discuss the vile lies of NBC‘s biggest primetime star.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Time for tonight‘s Rewrite.  A final sticking point in a budget agreement has been the fight over the funding for Planned Parenthood, as we‘ve been discussing tonight.  Today, members of a small group who call themselves the Society for Truth and Justice were arrested in the Hart Senate Office Building near one of Harry Reid‘s offices.  They sat on the floor, all five of them, with arms linked together and blocked the hallway, which was enough to get them arrested by Capitol Police for unlawful assembly, but not before they yelled phrases like, “Harry Reid is a killer,” “abortion is murder,” and “defund Planned Parenthood.” 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CROWD:  Defend Planned Parenthood!  No compromise!  Defund Planned Parenthood!  No compromise!

(CROSS TALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Let‘s tell Harry Reid—Harry Reid wants to take the social issues out of the budget.  That‘s what we stand for, Harry Reid!  Take the funding of the criminal syndicate Planned Parenthood out of the budget!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  The group‘s spokesman—and no, I won‘t do him the honor of saying his name—said “we are simply exposing the fact that Senator Reid has blood on his hands, that he is willing to collaborate with a criminal syndicate, Planned Parenthood.” 

I would like to be able to Rewrite that person‘s understanding of Planned Parenthood, but the members of that group live beyond the reach of reason.  They are zealots.  And they are few, but they are powerful. 

There are only five of them—five—but their voices are controlling the budget negotiations conducted by the president of the United States.  There is nothing anyone can say that would help them see Planned Parenthood more clearly.  And in the minutes that remain in this segment tonight, I am not the best person to clarify what the value of Planned Parenthood really is, and what we would lose by defunding it. 

Not after Patty Murray got her turn at the microphone in the Senate press briefing room today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. PATTY MURRAY (D), WASHINGTON STATE:  I am really stunned, and I am angry as a woman that we have come to this after weeks of negotiating on numbers, where we have a principle in agreement on numbers, that there are those in the Republican party in the House who are willing to shut down the government, take people‘s paychecks away from them, because they want to deny women access to health care in this country.

Every woman and every man in this country ought to be saying, what are you doing?  They want a rider in a bill that says that women can‘t get access to cancer screening, can‘t get advice on family planning, can‘t get access to basic health care that women need. 

It is unbelievable to me that the United States of America is debating this issue at a time when our economy is hurting and people are worried about their paychecks.  That‘s not what we should be debating today.  And it is stunning to me as a woman that that‘s what they want today. 

These people came into power in the House by talking about how they were going to get jobs back and get the economy going.  They didn‘t come in saying they were going to eliminate Planned Parenthood and access to our young women‘s ability to get health care. 

I heard from a young woman named Maggie who at a very young age, 18, left a very abusive home situation.  She had cancer, cervical cancer, running in her family.  And only because she could get access through Planned Parenthood to cancer screenings was she able to get the care she needed. 

She is one story of hundreds of thousands.  And that‘s what the House Republicans want to shut this government down about?  This is wrong. 

We in the Senate are going to stand up.  We‘re going to work to come to an agreement on the numbers.  We know how important the economy is.  We know how important people‘s jobs are. 

But we are not going to allow them to push us into taking away women‘s rights to health care access in order to keep the government open. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  In tonight‘s Spotlight, Donald Trump‘s fake presidential campaign, which is now essentially a co-production of NBC and Fox News, used “The Today Show” this morning to spout more venomous lies.  Meredith Vieira asked the star of what is now NBC‘s highest rated prime time show about his campaign for president, which I promise you is not real. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, “THE APPRENTICE”:  Well, this is very serious.  I mean, I always take things seriously.  But I have never taken it seriously like this.  This is a very serious time in my life. 

I hate what‘s happening to the country.  I wish I didn‘t have to do it.  I wish this country was running so great.  And I wish Obama was the greatest president since Abraham Lincoln.  And I wish this was the greatest place in the world. 

What we‘re doing is unbelievable.  If you look at what what‘s going on, where our jobs are disappearing to foreign country, where the oil—you‘re going to be paying seven or eight dollars a gallon for your oil very soon. 

MEREDITH VIERRA, “THE TODAY SHOW:  But do you blame this all on Barack Obama? 

TRUMP:  Well, I blame a lot of it.  It‘s been a terrible presidency.  Look at Libya.  We go in.  We don‘t want to remove Gadhafi, but we‘re going to go fight and we‘re going this.  And now nobody knows what‘s happening.  And it looks like Gadhafi is going to beat the United States? 

VIERRA:  Would you as president say, let‘s get more aggressive?  Let‘s put boots on the ground if we have to? 

TRUMP:  I‘m only interested in Libya if we keep the oil.  If we don‘t keep the oil, I‘m not interested.  I don‘t know who the rebels are.  You know, they make the rebels like it‘s some romantic, beautiful novel, the rebels.

I hear the rebels are al Qaeda.  I hear they‘re Iran backed and Iran influenced.  Where were they getting those weapons before we came along?  From Iran. 

Gadhafi is going to go around saying he won the war against this country.  When you ask me what I‘d do, I‘m only interested in Libya if we get the oil. 

VIERRA:  All right.  So everybody wonders what the Obama doctrine is. 

TRUMP:  He doesn‘t have a doctrine.  He doesn‘t have a doctrine. 

VIERRA:  Would you?  What‘s your doctrine?  What would your doctrine be? 

TRUMP:  With respect to what? 

VIERRA:  Foreign affairs. 

TRUMP:  Foreign affairs is we take care of ourselves first.  OK?  We don‘t build schools in Afghanistan.  We go to Afghanistan.  We build a road.  We build a school.  Two days later, they blow up the road, they blow up the school.  We start building the road and the school again. 

In the meantime, we can‘t build schools in Alabama, in New Orleans, in Texas, in New York, my place where we are always fighting to get school money.  We are spending trillions and trillions of dollars.  My thing and my doctrine would be build, build, build. 

VIERRA:  Some positive news for you this new poll, NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll that shows you surging to second place among potential GOP candidates for 2012.  Why do you think you are connecting with voters? 

TRUMP:  I think that I connect with people because I happen to be smart.  I happen to have a lot of common sense.  I happen to know what I‘m doing.  I built a great company. 

And by the way, if I run, I look so forward to filing a declaration, because it‘s a great company.  I built a great company.  And I‘ll make that decision sometime prior to June. 

VIERRA:  What are you waiting for?  What are you waiting for? 

TRUMP:  Well, I hate to say it, I have the number one show on NBC.  Is that a correct statement.  I mean, “The Apprentice” is doing great, “The Celebrity Apprentice.” 

VIERRA:  What does that have to do with—

TRUMP:  It has a lot to do.  It sounds so trivial, and I hate to even bring it up, but I‘m not allowed to run during the show.  You are not allowed to have a show on and be a declared candidate. 

It‘s a great show.  And it‘s got phenomenal ratings.  And until that show is over, I can‘t declare, because otherwise, NBC would have to take the show off the air.  And I think that would be very unfair to NBC. 

VIERRA:  Recently, you spent a lot of time talking about President Obama‘s birth certificate or lack thereof.  You don‘t seem convinced that he has one.

TRUMP:  No, I‘m not convinced that he has one.  I‘ve had very smart people say, Donald, stay on the China issue, stay on the Saudi Arabia issue, stay on the India taking our jobs and the Mexico, which is NAFTA, which—

(CROSS TALK)

TRUMP:  Get off the birth certificate issue. 

VIERRA:  Why don‘t you? 

TRUMP:  Because you know what, three weeks ago, when I started, I thought he was probably born in this country.  And now I really have a much bigger doubt than I did before. 

VIERRA:  Based on what? 

TRUMP:  His grandmother in Kenya said he was born in Kenya and she was there and witnessed the birth.  OK?  He doesn‘t have a birth certificate or he hasn‘t shown it.  He has what‘s called a certificate of live birth. 

That‘s something that‘s easy to get.  When you want a birth certificate, it‘s very hard to get. 

VIERRA:  But it‘s considered the equivalent in the state.  In the state of Hawaii, they said they have seen this document.  It is evidence that he was born in the United States.  That‘s good enough for them.  Scholars have looked at it. 

TRUMP:  A birth certificate is not even close.  A certificate of live birth is not even signed by anybody.  I saw his.  I read it very carefully.  Doesn‘t have a serial number.  Doesn‘t have a signature.  There‘s not even a signature. 

VIERRA:  Do you believe he is lying? 

TRUMP:  I‘m starting to think he was not born here. 

VIERRA:  Do you believe he‘s lying?  Just answer. 

TRUMP:  Meredith, he spent two million dollars in legal fees trying to get away from this issue.  And if he weren‘t lying, why wouldn‘t he just solve it?  And I wish he would, because if he doesn‘t, it‘s one of the greatest scams in the history of politics and in the history period. 

You are not allowed to be a president if you‘re not born in this country.  He may not have been born in this country.  And I will tell you what, three weeks ago, I thought he was born in this country.  Right now, I have some real doubts. 

I have people that actually have been studying it, and they can not believe what they are finding. 

VIERRA:  You have people now down there searching in Hawaii? 

TRUMP:  Absolutely.  And they cannot believe what they are finding.  I would like to have him show his birth certificate. 

And can I be honest with you?  I hope he can.  Because if he can‘t—if he can‘t, and if he wasn‘t born in this country, which is a real possibility—I‘m not saying it happened.  I‘m saying it‘s a real possibility, much greater than I thought two or three weeks ago.  Then he has pulled one of the great cons in the history of politics, and beyond politics. 

VIERRA:  Do you consider yourself a Tea Partier? 

TRUMP:  I think so.  I‘m very proud—

VIERRA:  Yeah? 

TRUMP:  I‘m very proud of some of the ideas they put forth.  And the big idea is they want to stop this ridiculous, absolutely killer of spending that‘s going on.  What‘s going on in this country, the way we‘re spending money like drunken sailors, we are just absolutely going—and ultimately, we‘re going to destroy our own freedom. 

VIERRA:  But they want to stop it even at the cost of shutting down the government.  That‘s a possibility. 

TRUMP:  Well, excuse me. 

VIERRA:  Are you in favor of that? 

TRUMP:  It‘s not really shutting down the government.  It‘s cutting costs.  The kind of money that you‘re talking about is peanuts.  And I think the Tea Party has done an amazing service for this country, because people now—even very liberal Democrats—are starting to think for the first time, well, maybe we can‘t just keep giving everything away.  I think they performed a great service. 

VIERRA:  So if there were a partial shutdown of the government come Friday, that would be OK with you? 

TRUMP:  In my opinion—you know, I hear the Democrats are going to be blamed and the Republicans are going to be blamed.  I actually think the president would be blamed.  If there is a shutdown, and it‘s not going to be a horrible shutdown, because as you know, things will sort of—

VIERRA:  Well, a partial shutdown, right. 

TRUMP:  If there is a shutdown, I think it would be a tremendously negative mark on the president of the United States.  He‘s the one that has to get people together.  I‘m a deal man.  I made hundreds and hundreds of deals and transactions. 

He never did deals before.  How can you expect a man that is not a deal man, that never did a deal, other than frankly becoming president of the United States—he never did a deal.  How is he going to corral all of these people? 

VIERRA:  How would you do it now?  You‘re in the Oval Office right now.  It‘s Wednesday. 

TRUMP:  I would get everybody together, and we‘d have a budget. 

VIERRA:  They have all gotten together. 

TRUMP:  Well, that‘s because they don‘t have the right leader.  You don‘t have the right leader.  This is the president of the United States has to get this done.  And I think he probably will. 

Now I don‘t say he, but I think he and the group probably will get it done.  But it‘s pretty sad because the whole world is looking at us and laughing at us. 

VIERRA:  You‘ve criticized Obama quite a bit in this interview, and in the past.  What do you think he has done well? 

TRUMP:  Get elected.  I think he did a great job when he ran for office. 

VIERRA:  That‘s it? 

TRUMP:  Well, I think Obama-care is a total disaster.  I think the thing that he did best—

VIERRA:  OK. 

TRUMP:  -- best of all is get elected.  He got elected.  He ran an unbelievable campaign.  I want him to do well.  If I had my choice of having Obama do great as a president and do a really great job for this country and not running, as opposed to running and doing it—I would prefer that he did a great job. 

I love this country.  But this country is going to hell.  I would run a great, great country.  This country will be great again.  It is not great right now. 

We have huge deficits.  We have huge unemployment.  We have huge problems.  And we‘re not respected.  We‘re not respected in the world.  The world laughs at us.  They won‘t be laughing if I‘m president. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  We‘re not finished with NBC‘s Charlie Sheen, Donald Trump.  Coming up, “the Washington Post‘s” Jonathan Capehart on why Donald Trump breathes lies, and on who profits from those lies. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  I will be better than anybody.  I will do the best job.  If I decide to run, I will do the best job.  I will be best for this country.  And you may say, oh, gee, that doesn‘t sound like George Washington.  Well, guess what?  Before George Washington ran, he didn‘t sound like George Washington either. 

I will be and do a great job if I run and if I win. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  The ever modest Donald Trump comparing himself to George Washington this morning on NBC‘s “Today Show.”  Joining me now, MSNBC contributor Jonathan Capehart, editorial writer for the “Washington Post.” 

Thanks for joining me tonight, Jonathan. 

JONATHAN CAPEHART, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Hey, Lawrence. 

O‘DONNELL:  Jonathan, I want you to take a look at the ratings chart for Donald Trump‘s NBC show, “Celebrity Apprentice.”  It starts off below the eight million mark.  It also starts off low in the demo, the audience 18-49, 2.8. 

As he gets crazier, it goes straight up.  He‘s now above a three in the demo, which is the number NBC cares about the most.  He‘s at a 3.1.  He was at a 3.0 the week before.

It used to be on NBC in prime time you could get a show canceled off of NBC prime time if you fell below the 3.0.  I know.  It happened to me. 

But now that NBC is not the number one network, it desperately needs numbers like this.  I have said all along that this fake campaign is about these numbers.  It‘s the only way Trump could get attention to his show this time around. 

This was the way to pump up those numbers and his paycheck from NBC. 

CAPEHART:  Yeah.  There‘s no denying that, you know, this dance that Trump is doing with the American people, with Republican primary voters, I think has everything to do with whatever his business interests are.  “Celebrity Apprentice” is clearly a business interest of his.  And in every interview, if you‘ve noticed, he has done since playing footsie with the Birthers, he mentions his show. 

I think people are hearing about this guy.  They‘re hearing what he‘s saying.  And they figure, hey, let‘s watch his show.  This is America.  People do all sorts of things to get attention, to make money. 

Unfortunately, by dabbling in the Birther conspiracy theory, he is doing something more dangerous and more disgusting than making money for his company and for himself.  He is ruining the public discourse.  He is ruining, you know, trust in the person who is sitting in the Oval Office, which I think in the long run, if Donald Trump really cares about this country, he would cease and desist. 

There‘s plenty of information out there, facts, which he continues to willingly ignore. 

O‘DONNELL:  Jonathan, take us through the grandmother piece that he‘s now gotten obsessed with.  You today at “the Washington Post”—and people can go online and get your column, which they must read—you take us through every step of this and show just how much Donald Trump is lying about it. 

CAPEHART:  Right.  The grandmother piece is very interesting because this was debunked back in 2008 when it popped up.  A preacher here in the United States conducted an interview with not Barack Obama‘s natural familial grandmother, but his step grandmother, his grandfather‘s second wife, and interviewed her through a translator and over the telephone. 

And he asks her the question, you know, where was—were you there when Barack Obama was born?  And through this crazy lost in translation kind of moment, she says, yes, I was there.  And in earlier iterations, the tape was cut off there, and that‘s what spun off this conspiracy theory. 

But this preacher actually did a service by running the entire interview on his website.  And it goes through where the translator says, no, no, no.  He was—because Reverend McKay (ph) is the guy.  He kept asking, oh, when I come to Kenya in December, I would love to go to Mombassa and see where he was born. 

And the translator kept saying, no, no, no, he was born in America.  He was born in Hawaii.  His father was studying there.  He was not born in Kenya.  And yet that‘s been out there.  It‘s been knocked down in December of 2008. 

O‘DONNELL:  We have to send viewers to your article online to get all of the details of that.  But I think we‘re at the point now where Glenn Beck wears out his welcome at Fox News with Roger Ailes over going crazy in these kinds of things.  Charlie Sheen gets kicked off of CBS for saying crazy things. 

How crazy do you have to be, how many lies do you have to tell about the president of the United States, how much hate do you have to promote that Donald Trump has promoted, to get yourself kicked off of prime time NBC? 

CAPEHART:  You know, Lawrence, that‘s a question I don‘t have the answer to.  You‘re there in 30 Rock.  Maybe you can find out faster than I can. 

O‘DONNELL:  Jonathan Capehart of “the Washington Post,” thank you very much for joining me tonight. 

CAPEHART:  Thank you, Lawrence. 

O‘DONNELL:  “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” is up next.  Good evening, Rachel. 

END   

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