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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

Guests: Alice Rivlin, Dana Milbank, John Heilemann, Rep. Earl Blumenauer

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, HOST:  I can‘t believe we have to do this again.  I want to talk about the budget crisis, the debt ceiling, former Budget Director Alice Rivlin is here.  And I‘d hope we were done with this Anthony Weiner thing.  I hate these political sex scandal stories.

But just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We‘ve got to light more sparks all across America.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS:  President Obama another poll, may not have lost his edge over some of the Republicans.

O‘DONNELL (voice-over):  The president is trying to grow the economy, Republicans are trying to blame him.

TIM PAWLENTY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Politicians try to turn the American people against one another.

TODD:  Tim Pawlenty comes out swinging against President Obama.

PAWLENTY:  And our president needs to enter economic rehab.

TODD:  Floats an interesting idea of how to cut spending.

PAWLENTY:  Gas is $4 a gallon.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  Very concerned about high energy prices.

PAWLENTY:  Our national debt has skyrocketed.

CARNEY:  Debt incurred in part by two substantial tax cuts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The economic policies that got us into this mess in the first place.

OBAMA:  Go to Detroit where auto companies are coming back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Corporations are very healthy right now.

O‘DONNELL:  The president continues to fight Republican ideas that got us into this mess.

OBAMA:  We‘re going to once again lead the world in producing college graduates.

CARNEY:  And the trend remains very positive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And the importance of spending—

OBAMA:  Investing in research and technology, new industries.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  One that doesn‘t have any immediate fixes.

O‘DONNELL:  And which Republican is ahead?

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS:  Tim Pawlenty says he‘s not surprised that Mitt Romney is out front.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We already know who he is.

MITCHELL:  Palin in the lead, 25 percent.  Palin, 15 percent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He‘s not a perfect candidate, Martin.  He‘s not necessarily compelling or charismatic.  He‘s pretty boring.  He‘s a pretty boring guy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m feeling really sorry for Tim Pawlenty.  I have to say.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Boring can work.

TODD:  There are Tea Party tip brewing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Michele Bachmann is making serious hires.


MITCHELL:  Go after Sarah Palin.

TODD:  Went after Sarah Palin.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, “HARDBALL” HOST:  That‘s for you, Sarah Palin.

O‘DONNELL:  And there‘s a new Anthony Weiner development: pregnancy.

MATTHEWS:  The wife of Anthony Weiner is now pregnant.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  They‘ve called for Anthony Weiner to resign. 

What‘s the president‘s position?

CARNEY:  We have no comment on that story.

LUKE RUSSERT, NBC NEWS:  It‘s hard to see a way forward for Anthony Weiner.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  This isn‘t just hubris.  This can only be described as stupidity.

RUSSERT:  I spoke to one high ranking Democratic aide who told me, look, this guy is dead man walking.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Men can always be stupid.


O‘DONNELL:  Good evening from New York.

The economic outlook is not good for President Obama‘s re-election

prospects.  Unemployment has ticked up for the second month in a row,

provoking more speculation about the possibility of a double-dip recession

with the second dip coming while Republicans are looking for a nominee who can beat President Obama.



OBAMA:  I‘m not concerned about a double-dip recession.  I am concerned about the fact that the recovery that we‘re on is not producing jobs as quickly as I want it to happen.  Recovering from that kind of body blow takes time.  And recovery‘s going to be uneven.  Our task is to not panic, not overreact.


O‘DONNELL:  Here‘s the chairman of the Federal Reserve talking about what could cause a double-dip recession, although you won‘t hear him use the phrase double-dip recession.

He is clearly warning that the Republican rush to cut government spending could provoke the second dip in a double dip recession.


BEN BERNANKE, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN:  A fiscal consolidation focused on the very near term could be self-defeating if it were to undercut a still fragile recovery.  Fundamentally, the U.S. fiscal problem is a long-term problem.  And it should be addressed in a long-term basis.  And we can do that in a way that is credible, but we can do that in a way that doesn‘t create an unnecessary short-term fiscal shock.


O‘DONNELL:  The Republicans are demanding significant spending cuts in exchange for raising the debt ceiling.  Senator Jon Kyl, one of only two Republicans participating in the bipartisan deficit reduction and debt limit negotiations led by Vice President Joe Biden, told reporters that Republicans are now looking for $2.5 trillion in cuts.

The other Republican representative at the negotiations, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is finally, publicly acknowledging that there is a real hard deadline for Congress to raise the debt ceiling in order to avoid default, and that date is now August 2nd.

Sarah Palin remains unconvinced.


SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR:  I don‘t believe Timothy Geithner, as he cries wolf for the fourth time now, telling us that there‘s a drop dead date and crisis will ensue and economic woes will befall us greater than they already are if we don‘t increase the debt limit.  He‘s told us this a couple of times now.


O‘DONNELL:  Joining me now is Dr. Alice Rivlin, who served as budget director for President Clinton and as founding director of the Congressional Budget Office.  She is also a winner of the both the McArthur Prize and the American Academy of Political and Social Science Moynihan Prize.

Thank you very much for joining us tonight, Dr. Rivlin.


O‘DONNELL:  What would you say—what could you say to explain the importance of raising the debt ceiling to Sarah Palin?  And now, I know as budget director, you had occasionally found yourselves in rooms with members of Congress and the Senate who don‘t completely understand everything that you understand about the federal budget, and sometimes you‘ve had to teach them some elementary lessons.

Do you think you could find the language to get through to Sarah Palin on this?

RIVLIN:  Oh, I don‘t think it‘s very complicated.  If Sarah isn‘t understanding it, I think it‘s perhaps because she doesn‘t want to.  It‘s not rocket science, as they say.

We have run up a lot of bills on our credit card.  And we have obligations that we have to pay to all of our citizens, to the troops overseas, and we can‘t cover all of those with the income coming into the government in a recession.  So, we need to borrow some more.

Now, that doesn‘t mean that borrowing is a good thing in the long run, but right now, we have to raise the debt ceiling or we‘ll default on our debt.  We won‘t be able to pay our bills.  That‘s a very serious thing for a country that seeks to lead the world.

O‘DONNELL:  There has always been a certain amount of falls reluctance, kind of faux reluctance in the Congress to raise the debt ceiling, where the Congress always knew it was going to be done.  But it was going to be done by the party in leadership positions that had the burden of raising the debt ceiling.

And so, we frequently saw partisan votes against the debt ceiling.  We even saw Senator Barack Obama vote against raising the debt ceiling during the Bush administration because he could, because others would vote for it, enough would vote for it to raise it.

But have you ever seen as much what I think is real resistance to raising the debt ceiling?  A real willingness to experiment with what happens the day after, what the world looks like the day after we don‘t raise the debt ceiling?

RIVLIN:  No, I haven‘t.  It is really scary.  And some members of Congress are talking as though it was a risk we could take.  We could just say to the world: we‘re not going to pay our bills.  We‘re not going to pay interest on the debt.

Or even if we pay interest on the debt, we aren‘t going to pay the troops.  We aren‘t going to send out the Social Security checks.

That seems to me just totally irresponsible, unthinkable.  I can‘t believe that people are talking this way.  But they are.

O‘DONNELL:  What would happen to typical citizen out there who does not work for the government, who wouldn‘t have a government paycheck at risk in the failure to raise the debt ceiling, but does have a mortgage, might have a college tuition to pay or partial college tuition to pay, some large bills that loom every year that have to be dealt with, property tax bills, large expenses that come along?  How would that—how would that economic life, that normal American economic life be affected, say, a month after we had crashed through the debt ceiling without raising it?

RIVLIN:  Well, we‘ve never done this, so we don‘t know exactly what will happen.  But we do know that at some point, our creditors would just give up on us and our interest rates would go soaring to very, very high levels.

The rest of the world just wouldn‘t be willing to lend us more money, except at very high interest rates.  And that would affect everybody‘s interest rates.  It would affect mortgage rates, it would affect car payments, and it would tank the economy.

So, we just can‘t do this.  It‘s unthinkable, and we‘d rather get on with two things.  One is raising the debt ceiling.

But the other is fixing our basic problem which is: we‘re on an unsustainable track.  We‘re going to borrow too much money over the next few years with more than we can possibly borrow.

So, we have to slow the rate of growth of spending and we have to raise some more revenues, both.

O‘DONNELL:  You were in the Clinton administration when Bill Clinton had to approach deficit reduction from both the spending and the tax side of the equation and he did.  We are now facing another massive deficit situation and a massive debt situation, which everyone has agreed has to be addressed in some form.  There are some liberal Democrats who don‘t believe we have to balance the budget, but are willing to engage in exercises that will at least reduce the deficit.

You hear Chairman Bernanke seems to be saying that there is some risk in cutting government spending too quickly with the fragility of the economy as it is now—the fragility of this recovery where we just saw unemployment tick back up a couple of times.

What is your sense of what the timing of deficit reduction should be, given where we are in the economic outlook?

RIVLIN:  We need to do deficit reduction slowly, carefully, but in a very serious way.  And that means that we have to reduce the rate of growth of the big programs that are driving our spending in the future.  That‘s Medicare and Medicaid and to a lesser extent, Social Security.

Those spending programs will outrun our ability to afford them if we don‘t change them.  But we don‘t have to change them quickly.  We don‘t have to affect anything in the near term.

We also can cut things that are easier to cut many the near term, so-called discretionary spending for other programs and defense.

The chairman of the Federal Reserve is absolutely right.  We shouldn‘t do that too fast.  And we shouldn‘t raise taxes too fast.

But, if we do it slowly, carefully and get the long run situation under control, then we‘ll be OK.  And people will be able to see people like our creditors around the world and ourselves that we‘re back in charge of our government.  We‘re on a sustainable track.  And we‘re going to get there.

O‘DONNELL:  And that kind of deficit reduction we‘ve done before, Bill Clinton did what was considered at the time in 1993 so-called massive Medicare reductions that did not in any way alter the structure of the program.  It just altered reimbursement rates and costs within the program as we knew it, about $200 billion worth.  Congress knows how to do that when they can get themselves in a position that allows them politically to do it.

To go to where we are now in our debt story, we just came through a decade where at the beginning, the Clinton administration having left a surplus to a Republican administration.  We were projected at the beginning of the Bush administration to be sitting here today with a $5 trillion surplus, something of that order.  We now have a massive debt instead.

Most of that—single biggest component of that debt was legislatively enacted tax cuts and yet we have Republicans now in the presidential campaign and in Congress calling for even more tax cuts which would dig that hole even deeper.

Is there—what should the Democrats‘ counter to that argument be?

RIVLIN:  Well, the Democrats and the Republicans should recognize that both are to blame.  Cutting taxes without paying for it when we knew we were heading into this big problem of the baby boom generation retiring, cutting taxes in the face of that was irresponsible—so was adding to the entitlement benefits without paying for it.  Both parties are to blame.

I think the Democrat haves got to recognize that there must be changes in Medicare and Medicaid.  They don‘t have to be quick, but they have to slow the rate of growth of those programs.  We have to put Social Security back on a firm foundation.

But we also need to raise some more revenue.  We are a very low tax country.  The taxes revenues as a percent of GDP are at a historic low at the moment.  And we need to reform our tax system and in a way that will raise more revenue.

O‘DONNELL:  Alice Rivlin, budget director for President Clinton—thank you very much for joining us tonight.

RIVLIN:  You‘re very welcome.  Glad to be here.

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up: Rick Santorum joins Newt Gingrich in signing away presidential constitutional powers to a lobbying group.  And neither one of them is ashamed of that.

But, first, more calls from everyone except New York voters for Congressman Anthony Weiner to resign.  And NBC News confirms a new development in the story.  That‘s next.


O‘DONNELL:  Anthony Weiner‘s biggest obstacle to staying in office may be people in his own party.

And as I‘ve told you, this man, Grover Norquist, is the most powerful man in American politics today.  He has once again demonstrated his evil powers.  That‘s in “The Rewrite.”


O‘DONNELL:  A new twist to Congressman Anthony Weiner‘s political scandal.  Tonight, multiple sources tell NBC News that Congressman Weiner and his wife are now expecting their first child.

This news comes as the hosts of Sirius XM radio “Opie and Anthony Show” posted a photo of what they claim is the one photo that Anthony Weiner—Andrew Breitbart has refused to release publicly.  They say a video camera in their studio captured the image from Andrew Breitbart‘s phone while he was showing it to them during their radio show and that Breitbart told them it was a picture of Congressman Weiner‘s genitals.

A statement issued by the congressman‘s office just an hour ago says, “As Representative Weiner said on Monday when he took responsibility for his actions, he has sent explicit photos.  To reiterate, he has never met any of these women or had physical contact with them.  As he said, he deeply regrets the pain he has caused.  With the full support of his wife, he is working on righting these wrongs with his family and his colleagues.”

Today, eight of those colleagues, eight Democrats, joined the Republican call for the congressman to resign.  Former Democratic National Committee chairman and current Virginia Senate candidate, Tim Kaine, was the first to break his silence.


TIM KAINE, FORMER DNC CHAIRMAN:  Lying is unforgivable.  Lying publicly about something like this is unforgivable and he should resign.


O‘DONNELL:  By early afternoon, Pennsylvania Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz, an official at the Democratic National Campaign Committee, told “Politico,” “Having the respect of your constituents is fundamental for a member of Congress.  In light of Anthony Weiner‘s offensive behavior online, he should resign.”

Maine Congressman Mike Michaud and Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor soon followed suit.


SEN. MARK PRYOR (D), ARKANSAS:  I mean, ultimately, that‘s up to him and his constituents and his family, but, I think at this point, it would probably be a good thing if he would go ahead and resign.


O‘DONNELL:  By the end of the business day, Congressman Mike Ross, Congresswoman Niki Tsongas and Congressman Joe Donnelly also said Weiner should step down, so did former Governor Ed Rendell.


ED RENDELL (D), FORMER PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNOR:  He could resign and get treatment and I mean, real treatment—maybe inpatient treatment.  And if he can rehabilitate himself, can he someday down the road in New York run for office some day?  Maybe.  Maybe.

But he‘s got to resign.  He owes to it the party.  He owes to it the Congress.  And he owes to it the issues that he fought for.


O‘DONNELL:  Joining me now is “Washington Post” columnist Dana Milbank.

Dana, thanks for joining me tonight.

DANA MILBANK, WASHINGTON POST:  Good evening, Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  Dana, the people have spoken, if anyone cares.  A new poll by New York1 and Marist College shows only 30 percent of registered New York voters want Anthony Weiner to resign, 51 percent say, no, he should stay.  He should keep his job.

Can polls like that save Anthony Weiner?

MILBANK:  Ultimately they could, unless the Democrats in New York state decide to restrict him out of his seat.  So, in a sense, the voters may never get a say in this.

And it‘s not necessarily terribly fair to Anthony Weiner.  I mean, if he‘s going to be drummed out for bringing discredit on the House—well, if that‘s the standard to drum somebody out every time they bring discredit on the House, they wouldn‘t even be able to get a quorum around there.

And, certainly, people who have survived scandals have done far worst things than Weiner‘s done.  I think you pointed out, you got Barney Frank.  You got Bill Clinton.  You got Charlie Rangel.

Do two differences here, though.  One is Weiner just doesn‘t have that deep reservoir of support among his peers really ready to rally for him because they feel that he lied to them as well.  And that‘s why you see somebody like Allyson Schwartz saying what she‘s saying today.  That‘s a very bad sign for him.

And the other thing is, technology is working against him.  I think if you had Twitter pictures, or transcripts of sexting from Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, that whole thing might have turned out differently, too.

O‘DONNELL:  I would love to have Tim Kaine come on here and explained why he never called for the resignation in his state of Senator Chuck Robb when Chuck Robb was in some sort of sex scandal.  He never called for the resignation of Bill Clinton.

He was on the “Today” show with Matt Lauer.  Matt Lauer pressed him for calling for the resignation of Charlie Rangel when Charlie Rangel was being investigated by the ethics committee and all sorts of other cases.  Never, ever before did Tim Kaine think these people should resign.

To say the standard is lying?  You should resign for lying?  Who would that be?

MILBANK:  They have two dozen members of the House of Representatives left.

O‘DONNELL:  Yes.  I‘ve got an interesting tweet this afternoon that I want to put up as a new standard.  I think this the is the standard I would use for anyone calling for Anthony Weiner‘s resignation.  This is from Only4RM, “My new rule, no Congress critter can ask @RepresentativeWeiner to resign if she/he is unwilling to turn over computers ASAP for analysis.”

That one seems fair to me.  If you‘re going to call Anthony Weiner to resign, let me see your hard drives.

MILBANK:  Let me see your hard drives.


O‘DONNELL:  There‘s a better way of putting that.

MILBANK:  Well, I think that may be a standard that you‘d like to impose on them.

The truth of the matter is, you know, Tim Kaine worries about George Allen and the Democrats in the House are very worried about next year‘s election.  They don‘t control the House of Representatives.  They have very limited control over the ethics process.  And the Republicans can really use this in a way to hammer them next year.

It‘s almost identical to what was going on with Mark Foley.  And they just figured—the Republicans at that point figured this, that was really what was going to do them in somewhat accurately as it turned out.

O‘DONNELL:  It seems, Dana, that our politics is moving in a more prudish direction after a brief detour in the ‘90s toward the French and accepting everything Clintonian, we seem to be going to the other way.

Finally, the pregnancy in—Anthony Weiner‘s wife is now pregnant.  Does that somehow bring more sympathy to Anthony Weiner?  Does that make this somehow more difficult?

I can‘t factor in what it quite has to do with this story.  But it is the breaking news of this story.

MILBANK:  It‘s hard to play this out because as you pointed out, his constituents are at least for now supporting him.  You could say that it might bring some sympathy.  It also might make him look like more of a cad.

This may have been an argument for him to resign earlier, to spare

Huma this sort of becoming a national story right now.  There is a weird

footnote to all of this and that is that Bill Clinton actually officiated

at their wedding last year and added he said, you know, that you can never

tricky thing about marrying a politician, you can never really trust them regardless of their religion.


O‘DONNELL:  He didn‘t say that?

MILBANK:  He did actually say that.  I dig up the quote.


MILBANK:  She was warned, I guess.

O‘DONELL:  It just doesn‘t get more perfect.

Dana Milbank of “The Washington Post”—thank you for joining me tonight.

MILBANK:  Thanks, Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up, Michelle Bachmann brings a veteran Republican strategist on board whose first order of business is to take a big swipe at Sarah Palin.

And Newt Gingrich didn‘t think signing Grover Norquist no tax pledge was enough.  He found an even crazier pledge to sign relinquishing even more constitutional authority in a presidential campaign he has no chance of winning.  That‘s in “The Rewrite.”


O‘DONNELL:  Still to come tonight, Michele Bachmann lines up a veteran Republican strategist who knows a lot about running for president.

And Newt Gingrich signs away even more presidential constitutional power.  If a Democratic did that, Republicans would call it treason.  That‘s in tonight‘s Rewrite.


O‘DONNELL:  In tonight‘s Spotlight, the growing divide in the ranks of both Republicans and the Tea Party movement, as the Republican presidential campaign takes shape.  A feud has erupted between Michelle Bachmann‘s team and Sarah Palin‘s inner circle.  Veteran Republican strategist Ed Rollins, who worked on President Reagan‘s re-election campaign and most recently the Huckabee presidential campaign, went on Fox News radio to both confirm that he will head Michelle Bachmann‘s campaign if she runs, and to take the campaign‘s first clear shot at Palin. 


ED ROLLINS, ADVISER TO REP. MICHELE BACHMANN:  Sarah has not been serious over the last couple of years.  She got the vice presidential thing handed to her.  She didn‘t go to work in the sense of trying to gain more substance. 

She gave up her governorship.  I think Michelle Bachmann and others who worked hard—she has been a leader of the Tea Party, which is a very important element here.  She‘s an attorney.  She‘s done extraordinary things with family values. 


O‘DONNELL:  Michael Glassner, the chief of staff of Sarah Palin‘s Sarah PAC political slush fund, immediately responded.  “Beltway political strategist Ed Rollins has a long, long track record of taking high profile jobs and promptly sticking his foot in his mouth.  To no one‘s surprise, he has done it again, while also fueling a contrived narrative about the presidential race by the mainstream media.  One would expect that his woodshed moment is coming and that a retraction will be issued soon.” 

Well, Rollins didn‘t exactly apologize, but did allow that it was a comment quote, “I shouldn‘t have made,” end quote.  We are still patiently awaiting a Bachmann versus Palin war involving the principals themselves.  But so far, Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin have sadly had no comment about this matter. 

The political news is brighter for Willard M. Romney.  A new poll finds Romney breaking away from the pack with 25 percent support among Republicans.  The rest of the candidates are in single digits, with Gingrich at eight, Pawlenty at five and Huntsman at one. 

Joining me now to discuss all things 2012, John Heilemann, national affairs editor for “New York Magazine” and the co-author of “Game Change.”

John, “Politico” has sources saying that the relationship between Bachmann and Palin is now really fraying.  Now we see Ed Rollins out there.  Thank the political gods for Ed Rollins.  This is starting to be fun. 

JOHN HEILEMANN, “NEW YORK MAGAZINE”:  Yes, absolutely, very fun.  And look, there‘s nothing—first of all, let‘s take away the Ed Rollins is going to work for Michele Bachmann if she runs for president.  She is running for president.  She will announce that in Waterloo, Iowa at some point in the next 10 or 14 days.  And he will become the man who runs her campaign.  He‘s going to have extraordinary authority over—

O‘DONNELL:  Do you know when is she going to withdraw from the campaign?  You know when she‘s going to announce.

HEILEMANN:  Look, my view is that Michele Bachmann is a very credible candidate to a certain point.  That gets us to the real issue here between her and Sarah Palin and why Ed Rollins said the thing he said.  That is Iowa. 

There is only one pathway for Michele Bachmann to wherever she gets in the Republican nomination.  But it‘s through Iowa.  She has a good chance there, social conservatives, Tea Party.  She is from that state.  She‘s a hometown Iowa girl. 

Sarah Palin, if there‘s any pathway for her in a Republican nomination, it too starts in Iowa.  You have Ed Rollins here not making a mistake, taking a calculated—firing a calculated shot across the bow at Sarah Palin, letting her know that there‘s no way for the two of them to both fight in Iowa and both come out on top. 

So what Ed Rollins wants to do is let Sarah Palin know this is going to be a rough game if you decide to run get in it and run against my lady, Michele Bachmann. 

O‘DONNELL:  But Ed Rollins has spoken his mind a bit too much prior to signing up for this campaign.  There‘s a Tweet today from Ari Fleischer saying, “predicted, Ed Rollins will get almost as much press coverage as his boss, Michele Bachmann, and that‘s never a good thing,” which is true.  that‘s basic campaigning. 

Let‘s listen to what Rollins said about his own candidate in April of this year on this network on “HARDBALL.”


ROLLINS:  At the end of the day, you know, we‘re going to have a candidate who has been a governor, I assume.  There‘s no Washingtonians in this mix.  It ain‘t going to be Donald Trump.  I don‘t think it‘s going to be Congresswoman Bachmann. 


O‘DONNELL:  He is absolutely right.  It‘s going to be a governor. 

It‘s not going to be Bachmann.  He was right then.

HEILEMANN:  Those are back in the days when Ed Rollins was going to go work for Mike Huckabee and he thought Mike Huckabee was going to get back in this race in 2012. 

Now he has a different pay master.  I don‘t know if you remember, Lawrence, when Ed Rollins wrote his memoir of his great career in political consulting.  He posed on the cover with two boxing gloves on.  That is his reputation.  He is a puncher.

Ari Fleischer is right.  The only reason I‘m not as worried about that as Ari is that Michele Bachmann is not going to have a hard time getting media attention.  Ed Rollins will get his share, but she will—I definitely say she will get more than he does. 

O‘DONNELL:  Polls look mice for Romney right now.  But he is provoking a big fight in Tea Party world.  You have Amy Kramer, one of the Tea Party leaders of one of the factions of the Tea Party, saying look, if Romney‘s the nominee, we have to get behind them. 

In other words, we Tea Partiers have to throw away everything we believe in.  We have to throw away one of the central organizing principals of the Tea Party, which is the evil of Obamacare.  We have to just throw that away and support a candidate who has actually been in favor of that kind of thing. 

HEILEMANN:  Then you have others in the Tea Part who have been publicly on the record saying that they should do everything they can to find the most viable non-Mitt Romney candidate for president.  That split in the Tea Party is real. 

It really does point to a serious thing, a schism whereby there are some people in the Tea Party who think that it should become an important constituency within the Republican party, and other people in the Tea Party who think no, we are an outsider force.  We must fight for—we are about conviction.  We should fight for what we believe in.

I think that is one of the things that will be interesting to see over the next coming months.  What happens with the Tea Party?  Which of those two things it turns out to be and what effect that has on the shape of the race. 

O‘DONNELL:  I‘m rooting for the purists to win here. 

HEILEMANN:  You‘re a man of principle.  You‘re a man of principle.

O‘DONNELL:  John Heilemann of “New York Magazine,” thank you very much for joining me tonight. 

HEILEMANN:  Thank you, sir. 

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up, Newt Gingrich finds another conservative pledge to sign.  If you thought Grover Norquist‘s pledge surrendered too much power of the presidency, this one surrenders even more.  If any Democrat signed pledges like these, they‘d be accused of treason.  That‘s in the Rewrite. 

And Sarah Palin‘s bus tour, how illegal was it?


O‘DONNELL:  Time for tonight‘s Rewrite.  Former Republican senator and current presidential candidate Rick Santorum appeared, under orders from Glover Norquist today, to sign the Americans for Tax Reform Pledge.  With his signature, Santorum solemnly swears to never raise taxes for any reason, if by some miracle, we finds ourselves living in a country where Rick Santorum is actually president. 

Followers of this program know that Grover Norquist is the most powerful man in government who does not live in the White House.  He, more than any other individual, controls the anti-tax doctrine of the Republican party, which more than any other political principal limits the president‘s and Congress‘s ability to do or choose the right thing in budget legislation. 

Newt Gingrich, who has been more faithful to Grover Norquist than to his wives—well, his first two wives, anyway—calls Norquist quote, “the person who I regard as the most innovative, creative, courageous and entrepreneurial leader of the anti-tax efforts and of conservative grassroots activism in America.” 

While Grover Norquist was getting Santorum‘s signature in Manchester, New Hampshire, today, Newt Gingrich was 16 miles away in Hudson, New Hampshire signing yet another pledge, Michael George‘s Strong America Now Pledge. 

This one goes beyond the Grover Norquist pledge, which is exclusively about not raising taxes.  This one calls for balancing the budget in five years without raising taxes, which would require more drastic spending cuts than anyone has ever proposed. 

But the Strong America Now Pledge also requires the signatory to attend two days of budget training if elected president prior to inauguration.  Gingrich is the first desperate presidential candidate to sign this, the most absurd pledge ever placed before a presidential candidate. 

Let‘s just take a moment and imagine if Democratic candidates for president were signing pledges to lobbying groups about how they would conduct themselves and limit themselves as president, limit themselves constitutionally. 

Republicans would correctly attack those Democrats as having signed away the constitutional powers of the presidency.  If Democratic candidates for president ever, ever signed a pledge to repeal NAFTA or signed a Sierra Club pledge to raise automobile mileage standards, Republicans would accuse them of not only signing way the constitutional powers of the presidency—you know it—Republican would accuse them of nothing less than treason. 

Ann Coulter has accused them of treason for a lot less.  There has been only one Republican presidential hopeful this year—only one who had the courage to stare down Grover Norquist.  Only one who understood the words of the oath of office he hoped to take on inauguration day, preserve, protect and defend the constitution of the united states.  Only one who had the courage to come on this program. 


O‘DONNELL:  Will you sign Grover Norquist‘s—Grover‘s pledge? 

GOV. MITCH DANIELS ®, INDIANA:  Well, there‘s no certainty that I‘ll ever be a candidate for national office, Lawrence, but I‘ll answer your question, Lawrence.  I personally think, especially given the emergency our nation faces, genuinely a republic threatening emergency posed by the presence of the debt we‘ve amassed, and that which is out in front of us here, that anybody running for president should pledge to take one and only one oath. 

And that‘s the one that involves the Bible and the west front of the Capitol.  That‘s it be only pledge that I believe our candidate should be taking and the one that I would.



O‘DONNELL:  Sarah Palin‘s recent fame-based bus tour celebrating ignorance of American history tricked many sober political commentators into think she is going to run for president.  Now that the dust has settled on the bus tracks and Mitt Romney has emerged as an even stronger front runner in the polls, the nonsense talk about Palin running for president has mercifully stopped. 

Viewers of this program have always known that Sarah Palin is the most recent losing vice presidential candidate who will never be president and who will never run for president.  She will never run because she knows better than anyone how ill equipped she is to handle a campaign or actually be president. 

She knows how abjectly ignorant she is, in the same way that I know I know nothing about astronomy.  Absolutely nothing.  You can give me all night and I can‘t find the Big Dipper or the Little Dipper or anything other than the Moon.  Nothing. 

You know how you lie on your back in your sleeping bag and you stare up at the sky and someone starts pointing to a constellation?  I never see it.  I just see stars.  That‘s all I see up there.  Stars.  Every one of them indistinguishable.  They‘re like snowflakes to me. 

That‘s what American history is like to Sarah Palin.  Just a whole bunch of nothing she understands or knows anything about.  Remember, her answer about Paul Revere was not given 4,600 miles away in Alaska.  It was given in Paul Revere‘s hometown, where she had just learned about Paul Revere. 

She obviously has a zero comprehension rate about American history and a zero retention rate about something she‘s just been taught.  That‘s the way I am with the Zodiac.  I don‘t care how much you tell me about Scorpios.  I‘m never going to remember any of it.  Not a word.  Not for a minute.

Yes, I‘m a Scorpio.  And yes, I think someone once told me that I‘m a triple Scorpio.  But I have no idea what that means.  It‘s just not my subject.  And it‘s never going to be. 

Sarah Palin knows how many Paul Revere questions are out there if she were to run for president and she knows that not one of her answers would ever be better than this one. 


SARAH PALIN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA:  He who warned the British that they weren‘t going to be taking away our arms by ringing those bells and making sure as he‘s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free and we‘re going to be armed. 


O‘DONNELL:  During the Palin bus tour, I pointed out in this space that it was paid for by Sarah PAC, money Palin raised under federal laws controlling campaign finance.  Sarah Palin‘s child referred to the bus tour at one point as a vacation.  That child is old enough and experienced enough, in fact, to know the difference between a vacation and campaigning. 

If it was a vacation, and it certainly seemed to be, make that—that makes the funding of the trip a violation of campaign finance law, which it seems no one other than me cares about.  And now I‘m prepared to live with that frustration and move on. 

Especially since Democratic Congressman Earl Blumenauer is raising other legal questions about the bus tour.  He sent a letter to the Park Service yesterday asking whether federal resources were inappropriately used to support Sarah Palin‘s trip. 

Joining me now is Congressman Earl Blumenauer, Democrat from Oregon. 

Congressman, tell us what‘s in your letter, what you‘re asking about. 

REP. EARL BLUMENAUER (D), OREGON:  Well, we are facing a situation now where the Republican budget slashes 130 million dollars from the Park Service, that we have huge maintenance backlog.  And it appears as though we‘re giving VIP treatment to Sarah Palin. 

You‘re right.  It was either a vacation and violation of federal law, or there‘s being given special treatment for somebody that—just because of celebrity status.  I‘m trying to clarify exactly what the Park Service did, because I don‘t think it appropriate at a time when Republicans are trying to slash Park Service budgets and we‘re cutting back on services for ordinary Americans that we‘re going to be diverting resources to have lavish treatment of somebody‘s entourage. 

O‘DONNELL:  If it was some form of political trip, campaign kind of trip, it‘s not legal to use federal government property and federal government resources in that way on that kind of trip.  She did apparently get special treatment in getting to the Statue of Liberty.  The way the public gets there, the way I got there last time, you have to wait in line quite a while to get on the boat to get there.  What‘s the most you‘re expecting to find out about this? 

BLUMENAUER:  Well, I want clarification.  The notion—frankly, I am not somehow made more comfortable with the notion that well, we do this for other celebrities, that we give people early admissions and we give them special tours.  That to me is troubling.  I just—I don‘t think that they‘re ought to be special treatment for politicians or for actors or actresses. 

Our resources are stretched thin.  I‘d like to have clarification of this policy.  And if Sarah Palin is doing this for campaign purposes, she ought to be reimbursing the federal government.  And if it‘s a vacation, as you say, it looks like a violation of law. 

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman, I have to ask you if as a member of the Democratic party, if you think your Democratic colleague Anthony Weiner should resign? 

BLUMENAUER:  I don‘t see you how serve effectively after this amazingly egregious behavior, lying to the public.  I think your credibility is shot.  I think Anthony would be better served moving on to something else. 

O‘DONNELL:  But you didn‘t call for President Clinton to resign.  He lied under oath.  He lied to the public.  Was his effectiveness harmed by his egregious behavior? 

BLUMENAUER:  While I voted against impeachment—I didn‘t think it was an impeachable offense.  I was quite clear that I felt that President Clinton has compromised his credibility.  I thought America and he would be better served if he moved on. 

O‘DONNELL:  What do you think—what are you hearing—I know you‘re all out of town now, and so you can‘t have the kind of conversations you would have in the hallways about the Anthony Weiner situation.  But do you all feel as if perhaps you‘re under much more scrutiny than ever, that electronic communication has actually added to the amount of scrutiny that you‘re under? 

BLUMENAUER:  It‘s just different.  There are opportunities.  We‘re seeing this not just politicians, but everyday Americans are getting trapped.  They‘re finding out that anything they send out, whether it‘s a picture or it‘s reply to all, all of a sudden becomes the province of anybody with Internet access. 

This happens on a daily basis that there are mistakes that are made.  There are unfortunate communications.  There are people that are posting things on Facebook that they‘re going to regret for years to come.  I think it‘s actually a pretty significant national problem that people just don‘t have the experience to handle. 

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman Earl Blumenauer, Democrat of Oregon, thanks for joining us tonight.  Good luck with your Park Service investigation.  Let us know what you find. 

BLUMENAUER:  You bet. 

O‘DONNELL:  You can have THE LAST WORD  online at our blog,,and you can follow my Tweets @Lawrence.  “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” is up next.

Good evening, Rachel.


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