Guests: Kerry Sanders, Jared Bernstein, Van Jones
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, HOST: Republicans in New York take a giant leap forward on same-sex marriage. Republicans in Washington, they‘re afraid to move in any direction.
RICK SANTORUM ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I liked it, signed it.
GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS: You signed it?
SANTORUM: Yes. How about that?
BECK: I could kiss you in the mouth.
O‘DONNELL (voice-over): Republicans have a problem. They‘ve signed away the ability to do their jobs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An impossible position.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Republicans saying tax increases are a complete nonstarter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s a very difficult situation.
O‘DONNELL: Eric Cantor is so afraid of the Tea Party, he can‘t even talk about taxes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But what did you think of Eric Cantor‘s tantrum and departure?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not much.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The temper tantrum he threw this week—I thought that was disgusting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eric Cantor walking out dramatically.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Walking out under any circumstances in such a dire situation is, you know, just an abject stepping down from leadership.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Tea Party has pressured so much moderation out of the party.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eric Cantor placed themselves in an impossible position.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What happens when Republicans go along with a debt ceiling increase?
SEN. JIM DEMINT ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: Not only are those individuals gone, but I suspect the Republican Party will be set back many years.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here‘s the ratio between Boehner and Cantor.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Cantor throwing Boehner under the bus.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I know the frustration that he feels.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Boehner, who‘s got the mud on his face and Cantor is the fair head boy.
CHRIS JANSING, NBC NEWS: Does it make the Democrats look like the grownups?
O‘DONNELL: And Republicans are all afraid of the most powerful man in Republican politics, Grover Norquist.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: They don‘t want to talk about taxes.
VAN JONES, POLITICAL ACTIVIST: He wants to drown America‘s government in a bathtub.
O‘DONNELL: Van Jones is here.
And there is a deal on marriage equality.
DYLAN RATIGAN, MSNBC HOST: Breaking news out of the Albany legislature, the road paved for a vote on gay marriage in the state of New York.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Uniform, fair and equal rights before your government.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just want to see all sorts of marriages be equal.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe that discriminating against people was wrong. I have no choice. I was born that way.
O‘DONNELL: Good evening from New York.
President Obama is stepping in to negotiate an agreement to reduce the deficit and raise the debt ceiling after the Republican participants in bipartisan negotiations walked out yesterday.
Congressman Chris Van Hollen described the impasse this way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: The reality here is that until our Republican colleagues are more concerned about the need to reduce the deficit, than they‘re worried about Grover Norquist will say, we‘re going to have a really difficult time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Grover Norquist is the increasingly well-known anti-tax zealot who has obtained the signatures of most of the Republican members of Congress on a pledge to never, ever raise taxes in any way, including even by eliminating tax loopholes.
Grover Norquist‘s lock on Republican tax policy makes him the most powerful man in Republican politics. And Republican congressional leaders know that and accord him the fealty their position demands.
Republican House leader Eric Cantor walked out of talks with Democrats thereby thrilling Norquist and surprising Cantor‘s theoretical boss, Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner.
“The Associated Press” reports “Cantor didn‘t inform Boehner of his decision to leave the talks until Thursday, shortly before the news broke.”
And so, to prevent a fast-approaching, catastrophic debt default by August 2nd, the president has scheduled separate meetings on Monday with the Senate Republican leader and the Senate Democratic leader. The president will let the children who run the House of Representatives take a much need time-out while he explores what‘s left of a sense of responsibility among Senate Republicans.
But it may be too late if we are now unfortunate enough to be served by a United States Senate where Republican Jim DeMint speaks for anyone other than himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ABC NEWS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What happens to Republicans who go along with the debt ceiling increase? If they go along with the debt ceiling increase without a balanced budget amendment or any of the kind of stuff you‘re talking about?
SEN. JIM DEMINT ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: I think for the most part, they‘re gone. It would be the most toxic vote we could take. If you look at the polls, Democrats, Republicans, independents, they do not think we should increase the debt limit.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, Republicans that go along with the debt ceiling increase are gone.
DEMINT: Well, I can‘t say that 100 percent, but I think based on what I can see around the country, not only are those individuals gone, but I suspect the Republican Party would be set back many years because you‘re going to immediately see third-party activity.
You know, Geithner‘s trying to scare everyone, we‘re going to default. First of all, we‘ll never default. If it‘s the last penny we have, we‘ll pay our debts.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But let me understand, you‘re saying you don‘t believe the treasury secretary, that August 2nd is drop dead and the economic consequences are—the White House has said catastrophic.
DEMINT: No, I don‘t believe him. It‘s not true.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Joining me now, Vice President Biden‘s former chief economist and currently senior fellow on the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Jared Bernstein, and Van Jones, former adviser to President Obama and president and co-founder of rebuildthedream.com.
Jared Bernstein, is there anything you can say tonight that might, might convince Jim DeMint that there really is a debt ceiling and that Timothy Geithner is not lying about it?
JARED BERNSTEIN, CENTER ON BUDGET AND POLICY PRIORITIES: That‘s a very tall bar, Lawrence.
How you doing, Van, by the way?
VAN JONES, REBUILDTHEDREAM.COM: Good to see you, sir.
BERNSTEIN: You know, when I first heard that in my earphone, my jaw kind of dropped here. You know, this is—this is someone who‘s essentially saying the tooth fairy‘s hovering over my left shoulder. We simply—the idea of even suggesting a default at this point where the economy is as fragile as it is, where the middle class is struggling the way it is, with unemployment 9 percent is just unfathomable to me and such a dereliction of responsibility.
Now, you can give this a spin and say, well, they‘re just trying to position and posture. The time for that is well, well past. I‘m an economist. I look at how the middle class is faring, how this economy is trying to get some escape velocity to this recovery. This is an albatross, a weight around the economy‘s neck. And any political representative who makes this worse is engaged in deep, deep dereliction of their duty.
O‘DONNELL: Jared, this was a time in the Senate when people like DeMint were completely ignorable. We would have Jesse Helms and other statements that had nothing to do with where the governing was going to get done and how the governing decisions were going to be made.
Is it your sense that Jim DeMint speaks for anyone other than himself in the United States Senate at this point?
BERNSTEIN: I don‘t think he speaks for a majority of Republican
senators. He may not just be for himself, which is scary and unfortunate -
but I believe that there are enough responsible leaders on both sides of the aisle that, in fact, we‘re going to pull this thing out. But I‘m less confident of belief today than I was starting yesterday morning, given the behavior we have seen.
O‘DONNELL: Van, you‘ve joined me in identifying Grover Norquist as the guy who controls Republican thinking on this subject. I want to take a look at what you had to say about Grover Norquist last night. We have some video.
JONES: We had some fun last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: Look at that great leader, Grover Norquist. This guy, he has proudly said on the record that he wants to shrink America‘s government down to the size that he can drown it in a bathtub. He wants to drown America‘s government in a bathtub.
Who talks like that?
JONES: Who—who even thinks like that? That is not a very patriotic statement, sir.
Their contempt for America‘s government perfectly matches their plans for the American people. Paul Ryan‘s budget would knock out more critical American infrastructure than our sworn enemies ever dreamed of knocking out, these massive cuts wouldn‘t just kill Medicare—as the states and cities adjusted to all that, states and cities would wind up sitting down first responders.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Van, I‘ve never seen the case made better than that. I‘ve introduced this audience to Grover Norquist, had him on the show, then explained his power over Republican tax thinking, which is really you need to control to control the outcomes in the government.
If you can control that lock on no taxes and the refusal to fund the government, then governing becomes a discussion of nothing but spending cuts.
JONES: Cut, cut, cut. You know, one of the things I think that‘s important for us to remember, the most important oath that any of our officials takes is not a tax pledge to a lobbyist. It‘s the oath you take to uphold the Constitution and to stand for the American people.
And the fact that we now have people who have a double oath, a double oath, one to the American people and one to Grover Norquist. Now, hijacking the ability of the American people to solve problems is an outrage. American families, when we have a budget problem, you don‘t just say, well, we‘re going to have to starve grandma. That‘s not what you say.
You say we‘re going to cut back on nonessential expenses, but we‘re also going to make sure that junior gets a paper route to get some more revenues. America‘s families solve our budget problems with a balanced approach. America‘s government can no longer solve America‘s problems with a balanced approach because we have a dual loyalty problem with half of our government.
And I‘ve never heard of anything like this before.
O‘DONNELL: You know, Mitch Daniels, when he was thinking about running for president, I had him on this show. I asked him if he would take the Grover Norquist pledge. And he said, the only oath I should take is the oath of office.
JONES: Thank you.
O‘DONNELL: And then he decided not to run for president. I said at the time, well, you know, you‘re dead. I mean, I said this candidacy‘s dead because this guy is far too reasonable.
Mitt Romney has just signed the pledge.
Jared, go ahead.
BERNSTEIN: Yes. You know, an interesting thing happened last week that I‘d like to put on the table here. A number of Senate Republicans voted to end a tax subsidy for ethanol against, of course, the screaming and whining of Grover Norquist.
I looked at that as a break in the force. Now, sure, the House Republicans are doing their thing. But I believe that there is a beginning of a sensibility on the tax expenditure side. We spend about—the treasury forgoes about $1 trillion every year in tax breaks and loopholes. You‘ve got the carried interest loophole for the big investment guys.
You‘ve got ethanol, oil, all those subsidies.
And there are Republicans including some—you might not expect who are starting to look at those tax expenditures, that spending through the tax code has a potential target. And we saw 34 Republicans in the Senate get behind that cut.
So that goes right up against the Norquist pledge. And I think it‘s one bit, one tiny pinprick of light there in the tunnel.
O‘DONNELL: Yes, we gave Tom Coburn a hero‘s spotlight that night on this show when he led that fight on that for Republicans and that fight against Grover Norquist. But we now see that in the House, they walked out of the budget negotiations—Cantor—simply because they were talking about tax expenditures. No one—the Democrats, the vice president—no one was talking about raising income tax rates of any kind, just going at the expenditures.
BERNSTEIN: That is a key point. That is a key—I wrote about that on my blog today. It‘s a key point. No one—you know, the thing that you hear Republicans inveigh against the most and the conservative supply side fairy dust economists, the thing they inveigh against the most is an increase in tax rates. But if you broaden the base and close loopholes, you‘re not increasing rates. And so, that‘s the way—that‘s the direction this panel needs to head now, I think.
O‘DONNELL: Van, Senator Chuck Schumer said today that they were looking at possibilities in Medicare, what they call a delivery system in Medicare. There might be some ways to shave things there, not cuts that would in any way affect beneficiaries.
This is the kind of cut that Democrats have done many times before. President Clinton did $200 billion in that, his first six months. He did a big Medicare cut. But it was all on the providers‘ side of the equation.
If Democrats go into Medicare in that way, will that undercut any of the argument they‘ve been making against Paul Ryan?
JONES: You know, we‘re going to have to get all the way through this process, but I will say this—somebody throws you a hand grenade, you can fiddle with it or throw it back. And part of the problem is that we get so earnest trying to figure out—well, maybe we can do this—and we‘re holding the hand grenade they want us to hold.
Here‘s the bottom line: Medicare—the main threat to Medicare is coming from the Republican Party. That‘s the main threat. And Democrats need to stand up and understand the basic principles of this program which is a sound program.
And when we begin to accept the terms of debate of the other side and start to fool around and fiddle with the hand grenades, we always wind up with the explosion in our faces.
O‘DONNELL: Jared Bernstein, have the Democrats accepted, as Van says, too many of the terms of debate set by the other side?
BERNSTEIN: Look, the Democrats have held fast on this issue of revenues. Someone who makes an argument that the Democrats have been spineless and self-negotiated and folded too soon, I don‘t think they can make that case here because I think the Democrats, President Obama, Vice President Biden, every day I read in the paper that they‘re holding fast on the revenue piece of this, and that‘s critical.
And when they sat down at the table, they didn‘t have a 50/50 spending cut revenue plan. They actually had $3 of spending cuts to $1 of revenue. So, they‘ve been bargaining in good faith from the very beginning.
JONES: That‘s what we‘ve spent.
O‘DONNELL: Van, what do you do when Republicans say, all right, we‘ve talked about what we want to talk about, spending cuts. We maybe have reached a few tentative areas of agreement, if not specific agreements. But now, that you want to talk about revenues, you want to talk about anything involving the tax code, we‘re leaving.
How do you—how do you have the next conversation with them?
JONES: Well, I tell you what—I think the American people, ordinary folks, I‘ve been out in the country. We just launched this new campaign called rebuildthedream.com. The whole point of it is: most Americans get it. They know we‘re going to have to have a more balanced approach. The polls show it, that we cant just have this lopsided cut, cut, cut.
You know, frankly, the private sector already imposed an austerity program on this, that was Wall Street with the crash, it‘s called the great recession. We don‘t need a public austerity program imposed upon us, on top of the private sector austerity program.
What we need to do is to make sure that we have a balanced approach going forward. And I think that the pain that ordinary people are going through already in the country, these veterans who are coming home to no jobs, no hope and nothing, these kids who are graduating this spring into the worst job market in two generations, homeowners who are under water desperately and these banks that we rescued won‘t even let them renegotiate the principles or the rates. That level of pain needs to be heard from in Washington, D.C.
And instead what we hear is, we‘re going to destroy Medicare. And if you try to raise one penny more revenue from the richest people in America, we‘re going to walk out on you.
And you and I both know we could deal with the deficit just within 10 years just by going back to Bill Clinton‘s good, smart tax policies and military expenditure levels, and we‘d be done.
So, my concern at this point is when you have these kinds of shenanigans going on in Washington, D.C., and the American people are hurting, that at some point, we‘re going to have to stand up and bring good sense and wisdom back to Washington, D.C.
O‘DONNELL: Jared, a quick last word.
BERNSTEIN: I couldn‘t agree more. I mean, it‘s the wisdom of the American people that will ultimately have to solve this deal.
You know, the Ryan budget takes $3 trillion from low income programs. It gives $1 trillion to the richest people who are the only ones who are actually doing OK right now. I can‘t imagine why that‘s OK people when they know what it‘s really about.
Those 20-plus million un- and underemployed people, there‘s a number of Tea Partiers in that group. It‘s time for politicians to hear from the Americans that this is behavior wholly unacceptable. Sit down at the table, get the deal done, get past the debt ceiling, get back to work.
O‘DONNELL: Jared Bernstein and Van Jones—thanks for your eloquence and insight tonight. Thanks for joining me.
JONES: Glad to be here. Thank you.
O‘DONNELL: Coming up, as if Grover Norquist isn‘t putting enough pressure on Republican candidates, the Tea Party wants them to put their names on the Medicare-killing and vote-killing Paul Ryan budget.
And next, just two days before the New York City gay pride march, Republicans have decided to allow an up-or-down vote on marriage equality tonight in Albany. Former Clinton adviser on gay issues, Richard Socarides, is next.
O‘DONNELL: Today, the Casey Anthony trial for the first time commanded live coverage on all the cable news networks. Even I started to watch it for the first time. Kerry Sanders has been covering the trial for NBC News. And he‘ll join me to discuss how this case has captured the country‘s attention.
And next, as a vote on marriage equality approaches tonight in the New York state Senate, supporters of same-sex marriage are still just one vote away from winning.
O‘DONNELL: Tonight, the New York state Senate is expected to take up an up-or-down vote on making marriage legal for same-sex couples in the state of New York. Republican state Senate majority leader, Dean Skelos, released a statement saying, “This is a very difficult issue, and it will be a vote of conscience for every member of the Senate.”
Earlier today, Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state‘s legislative leaders reached an agreement on language that would protect religious institutions which pave the way for tonight‘s vote.
Only 31 out of 62 New York state senators have publicly endorsed the marriage equality measure, which is now one vote short of a majority. The new language agreed to today is aimed at Republican senators who say they oppose the measure on religious or moral grounds.
If the bill passes, New York would become the sixth and the most populous state to allow same-sex marriage, doubling the number of people in the nation eligible for same-sex marriage.
Joining me now is Richard Socarides, the president of Equality Matters, and former White House senior adviser to President Clinton on gay civil rights issues.
Richard, thank you very much for joining me tonight.
RICHARD SOCARIDES, EQUALITY MATTERS: Thanks for having me.
O‘DONNELL: Andrew Cuomo has made this his priority. I have not seen a governor take this on the way he has and with this single-minded approach to getting this thing done. Is that why where we are tonight?
SOCARIDES: It‘s certainly one of the reasons, if not the main reason. And, you know, we haven‘t seen anybody in American politics really ever, certainly no stray politician, take an issue on like this. But he has really made it his signature issue.
And early, you know, he—during his campaign, his recent campaign, he‘s only been governor about six months. During his recent campaign, he said this was going to be important to him. He said he was going to work on it.
But there was a meeting right at the beginning of March, a small group of us were called up to Albany, in secret, the day before, and he surprised us. And he said I‘m going to work on this as hard as I worked on anything in my life. The time for this is now.
And he very smartly knew that the time to do this was early on in his term when he was popular. His numbers are very high. His, you know, favorability numbers that are so important. And he knew he could get the legislature to go along with him right now.
So, it was very confident, very capable political leadership is the number one reason for sure that this is happening now.
The other two reasons, of course, is that we see the public opinion has shifted nationally, but that shift is even more dramatic in New York. And the gay rights groups really got their act together.
Governor Cuomo said to them at that meeting I was at, he said, you have got to work collaboratively. You‘ve got to work cooperatively. There need to be no missteps. There need to be no hiccups. We need to do this kind of in secret.
I mean, you know, it wasn‘t like a secret plan, but it was an under the radar plan. And that‘s another reason why he was so successful at it because he was able to do it without alerting the right, without alerting the anti-gay groups early on that this was his plan.
But if he is able to pull this off tonight, and we think he will, we think we probably got—we‘re one vote short of publicly committed people, but we think we‘ve got 33, 34, maybe even 35 votes. He will be able to, if he can pull this off, will be able to pull off this bipartisan, you know, wish it were more bipartisan, but it is bipartisan because the New York legislature is a divided government. He‘ll be able to pull off the first bipartisan legislative victory for same-sex marriage, a very divisive issue in American politics.
And we think it will be a real turning point—certainly, a momentous moment in the history of the gay rights movement.
O‘DONNELL: And what Democratic Governor Cuomo has known he was going to have to do from the start is reach across the aisle. This couldn‘t be solved by Democrats with Democrats.
And when we look at Washington politics with the focus that we always have on Washington politics, it‘s become kind of unimaginable in this country that that could happen, that a Democrat could sit down, close the door with Republicans, and reason with them, which it sounds like that‘s what he‘s been doing.
SOCARIDES: Well, he‘s reasoned with them—I think he‘s probably had some old-fashioned arm-twisting, too. And I think maybe perhaps on a state level, you can negotiate for that highway probably in somebody‘s district, something you‘re familiar with in your previous career on some of those tax bills.
But, you know, I think what he was able to do is do it in a very self-confident way. And what he realizes is that this was an issue of conscience that you could reason with people of good faith if you could have a discussion with them. And yes, he‘s pulled it off.
And the leadership he‘s shown on this—you know, we‘ve talked a lot this week because President Obama gave that speech to the DNC—to the gay part of the DNC last night and where he kind of—you know, President Obama‘s decided he kind of wants to have it both ways, right? He wants to be neither for it, nor against it, he‘s evolving.
But the political leadership we‘re seeing Governor Cuomo show is really extraordinary. And we hope that President Obama shows some of that.
O‘DONNELL: I‘ve got to have you come back and talk about President Obama, because what fascinates me is the amount of attention he gets on this subject compared to the president you worked for, Bill Clinton, who I think seemed to escape these pressures while doing a very different job. Barack Obama‘s done much more and had to undo some of the things Clinton about.
SOCARIDES: Yes, it was 20 years ago, right?
O‘DONNELL: I guess—
SOCARIDES: What difference 20 years can make?
O‘DONNELL: I do want to hear the analysis of how those two presidents
SOCARIDES: I‘d love to come back and do it.
O‘DONNELL: Richard Socarides, thank you very much for joining me tonight.
Coming up, we told you that Republican Congressman Paul Ryan‘s budget is going to be trouble for Republicans. Just ask former Senator George Allen, who‘s trying to regain his old seat. That‘s in tonight‘s “Rewrite.”
And what‘s funnier than Republicans dancing away from their own budget plan? We‘ll bring you the best of the week in late-night comedy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIMMY FALLON, LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON: Did you see in?
President Obama and John Boehner played golf against Joe Biden on Saturday. And they won $2. Just 7 trillion more rounds like this, we‘ll pay off that deficit in no time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: We hope you‘ll join us here Sunday night for an MSNBC special presentation “Erasing Hate.” We take you on the extraordinary journey of Byron Widner who spent much of his life as a Neo-Nazi skinhead until he decided he had to change his life.
For help, he then had to turn to people who he had considered his enemy. To become the person he wanted to be, he would need to remove the tattoos that covered his body, ink that had been his head-to-toe symbol of his rage.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BYRON WIDNER, NEO-NAZI: My racial philosophy was we were the master race, why people were meant to rule the world. I got the hate tattooed across my knuckles when I was about 15. I always liked the word hate. I thought it was really cool at the time.
I was about 17 or 18 when I started getting swastikas and iron crosses and all that stuff on me. I really was embracing the whole Nazi skinhead thing at that time.
The SS bolts, they kind of speak for themselves. You can‘t be a Nazi without a pair of SS bolts on you.
Back in the day, in late ‘80s and early ‘90s, you were required to actually earn your “bolts,” quote, unquote. And what you had to do is actually attack a minority one on one and beat them.
At the time, murder wasn‘t extreme. I mean, but—you know, it was kind of just one of those things that could happen. But now hindsight, it was, you know, drive-bys, things like that would be very extreme.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: You can see Brian‘s transformation in our special “Erasing Hate” this Sunday, at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only on MSNBC.
All of the cable news networks went to live coverage today of the same story, the trial of a mother accused of murdering her 2-year-old daughter. Why has the Casey Anthony trial gripped the nation? I‘ll ask NBC‘s Kerry Sanders who is covering the trial in Orlando.
And Paul Ryan‘s plan to end Medicare as we know it could also end the careers of many of his Republican colleagues. The latest proof is in tonight‘s “Rewrite.”
O‘DONNELL: In the “Spotlight” tonight, it‘s been a week of big-news stories. Republican walkouts in Washington, America‘s most-wanted criminal grabbed in Santa Monica and flown back to Boston to face trial on 19 murders.
But there‘s only one story that could capture live coverage from all of the cable news channels today. The most-watched trial in America since the people of the state of California versus Orenthal James Simpson.
Today, Lee Anthony, the brother of Casey Anthony, broke down on the witness stand during his sister‘s murder trial.
Unless, you‘ve been on another planet, then you know 25-year-old Casey is charged with killing her daughter, Caylee, and dumping the 2-year-old‘s body in the woods near her home. Prosecutors say the child was smothered by her mother with duct tape.
The defense claims that Caylee accidentally drowned in the family‘s backyard pool. And that Casey‘s bizarre behavior and lack of signs of remorse after her child‘s death were the result of having been sexually abused by her father at age 8.
Joining me now from Orlando, NBC News correspondent Kerry Sanders.
Kerry, thank you very much for joining me tonight.
KERRY SANDERS, NBC NEWS: Absolutely. And a lot of people, after hearing those facts, may be wondering—why is this trial then getting so much attention?
There is a 31-day period in these events that have drawn people‘s attention. Little Caylee disappeared at the time. They didn‘t know whether she had been taken by a nanny, as her mother claimed, or what.
But for 31 days, Casey said nothing to anybody about her daughter being gone. Now, you know how most parents would react if their children were gone for just minutes. And so, for 31 days, complete silence.
Then when she finally spoke up, she said that a nanny had taken her child. Well, that story has been obliterated. In fact, the defense has even said it was all made up and that young Caylee died.
And so, you have the prosecution here saying that this 2-year-old child was killed by her mother in a premeditated way, with three pieces of duct tape across the nose and mouth and that she was poisoned with chloroform. And the reason, the prosecution says, that Casey did this to her little child is because she wanted to live the carefree life of a party girl and go out to nightclubs around town.
Enter her mother now into the prosecution and the defense‘s case. Cindy Anthony has been on the stand six times. One of the most important pieces of evidence that the prosecution presented was the home computer and the searches on the home computer for how to make chloroform and other things. Well, up until Cindy Anthony took the stand and discussed this, it was believed that there had been multiple searches and that nobody else was home at the time of those searches other than the mother, Casey.
And this is what Cindy Anthony revealed as she was on the stand to the jury.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CINDY ANTHONY, CASEY ANTHONY‘S MOTHER: If those computer entries were made, then I made them.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it your testimony in front of this jury that you were home between 2:16 and 2:28 p.m.
ANTHONY: It‘s possible. I mean
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Were you or weren‘t you?
ANTHONY: That day --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Objection.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Overruled.
ANTHONY: The only thing that triggers that day for me is those computer entries.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you type those words into the search bar on Google?
ANTHONY: I don‘t recall typing in how to make chloroform. I recall typing in the word “chloroform.”
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Were you on that website 84 times?
ANTHONY: I was on it several times.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Were on you that website 84 times?
ANTHONY: I don‘t know. I don‘t know.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you do 84 searches for the effects of chlorophyll on your animals?
ANTHONY: I didn‘t do 84 searches of anything, but I don‘t know what my computer does while it‘s running.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Kerry—go ahead.
SANDERS: In addition to what Cindy—go ahead, Lawrence.
O‘DONNELL: I was going to say, the other part of the testimony today, just the part that I caught, and I love you orienting me on this because I‘m one of those people who‘s walking by the TV today watching for the first time. And what I was watching was Lee Anthony crying on the witness stand. And I wasn‘t quite sure of the relevance of what he was talking about.
SANDERS: OK. Well, first of all, there is the question of who is Caylee‘s father. And from the very beginning, there was never any sort of answer because there was no father in the picture. And you had Casey and her brother, Lee. And so, if you take the two names and you put them together, it might suggest that there is some sort of inappropriate relationship.
And the defense has suggested that Casey has been the victim of sexual abuse from her father beginning at age 8. And they‘ve suggested with some innuendo that her brother was also trying to sexually molest her.
And so, the FBI actually even looked into this because they wanted to know, who was the father? And so they took some of Lee‘s DNA, and they matched it against Caylee‘s. And they ruled him out. He was not the father.
And Casey has said all along that the father died in a car accident, was never part of Caylee‘s life.
So, that sets the stage for she is now giving birth, OK, and Caylee is born. They‘re at the hospital. And lee is completely out of the picture. He knows nothing.
And so he‘s on the stand now talking about how he felt discovering that his sister has given birth and the family has excluded him.
O‘DONNELL: Let‘s take a look at his testimony.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEE ANTHONY, CASEY ANTHONY‘S BROTHER: -- my mom and I was also angry at my sister. I mean, I was just angry at everyone, in general, that they didn‘t—they didn‘t want to include me, and didn‘t find it important enough to tell me, especially after I had already asked.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Kerry, what‘s your quick take on how this trial has captured the nation‘s attention this week the way it has?
SANDERS: You know, we‘re on 27 days of testimony. I‘ve heard all types of reasons that people are captivated by it. I think it is the family—the family dysfunction that is playing out here, plus the cute picture of a little girl.
And I go back to that 31 days. That silence for 31 days is just so mystifying and so bizarre that it draws people to see what could have happened. Was there an accidental drowning, or was there something far worse, a child being drugged, poisoned and having duct tape put over their mouth and murdered.
O‘DONNELL: NBC‘s Kerry Sanders, you‘ve got me hooked. Thank you very much, Kerry. Thanks for joining me tonight.
O‘DONNELL: Coming up, Republicans running for office are finding out how damaging their rising star, Paul Ryan, is to their campaigns. That‘s in “The Rewrite.”
And later, how did the late-night comedy writers get through the week without Anthony Weiner around to kick anymore? They get THE LAST WORD.
O‘DONNELL: Hey, this Whitey Bulger thing is getting wicked weird for me. I told you if you saw last night that I grew up in the neighborhood close to where Whitey grew up. And then he was found hiding out for the last 15 years steps away from where I live now. We‘ve both been living in the same neighborhood for all that time.
Today, I confirmed something I suspected yesterday and couldn‘t confirm until today. I know someone who has an apartment in the same building where Whitey was hiding out for the last 15 years. More about that on Monday.
“The Rewrite” is next.
O‘DONNELL: Time for tonight‘s “Rewrite.”
Republican Congressman Paul Ryan‘s plan to kill Medicare as we know it was greeted by some relatively neutral observers in the media as bold, brave, adult. Then all the Democrats had to do was describe the plan—just accurately describe it. And the voting public turned against it dramatically, such that as reported here last night, the Ryan plan is not only opposed by a majority of voters, but Paul Ryan himself is now the most unpopular Republican elected official in Washington.
Now, the Ryan plan has provoked a Republican civil war on the Republican primary campaign trail for congressional candidates, some of whom wish they could rewrite the Ryan plan.
“Politico” reports today that the Ryan budget plan has become a litmus test in the Republican primaries for House and Senate seats. “Politico” quotes a California Republican operative, Jason Roe, saying, “It really is going to be the barometer for the conservative orthodoxy to measure your commitment to doing the heavy lifting. This is almost like the Grover Norquist no-tax pledge.”
The trouble is being—the trouble is that the Ryan plan can help you win a Republican primary. But it can also help you lose the general election against a Democrat who, of course, will be opposing the Ryan plan.
Take the case of the Missouri Republican primary campaign for Senate where Sara Steelman is being pressured to support the Ryan plan but has only been willing to say she, quote, “would love to be able to vote for the Ryan plan.”
She‘s willing to put the word “love” in the same sentence as the Ryan plan, but she is not willing to say she would actually vote for it.
Then there‘s the Virginia Senate Republican primary where former Senator George Allen who lost his seat to Jim Webb is running to win back his old seat now that Webb has decided not to run for re-election. Here‘s how Allen answered the question of how he would vote on the Ryan plan: “I‘m not a U.S. senator. If I were a U.S. senator, yes, I would vote yes or no on it.”
Jamie Radtka, Allen‘s Republican primary opponent, fairly describes that as “a poll-driven platitude designed to avoid controversy.”
And then there‘s Florida where Medicare is, of course, a way of life. Republican Senate candidate Mike is understandably even more fearful of the Ryan plan than most Republicans. You can hear him in the grip of that fear when he‘s being questioned about the Ryan plan on an Orlando radio talk show. He‘s speaking so quietly, we have to give you subtitles.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAY JUNIOR, RADIO HOST: The question is simple: You‘re a senator today. The Ryan plan comes across your desk. Are you voting yes or no?
MIKE HARIDOPOLOS ®, U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: Again, Ray Junior, I‘m not getting into that today because it‘s not the vote I‘m dealing with.
JUNIOR: No, but you‘re on my show. This is—this is the question I‘m asking. We‘re trying to figure out whether we want to vote for you to become a U.S. senator. Are you voting for the Ryan plan or not?
This is not what you want to talk about. This is what I want to talk about. I want to know, do you vote for this bill or not?
HARIDOPOLOS: What I‘d like to talk about is simple. What did I do in the state legislature --
JUNIOR: I‘m not interested in what you want to talk about, Mike. I‘m interested in what the voters want to talk about. The voters want to talk about the budget. And I make sure I want to talk about, my show. Tell me, are you voting for the Ryan plan? Yes or no?
HARIDOPOLOS: Again, I don‘t have all the information in which to make that decision yet.
JUNIOR: How could you possibly not have all that information? You‘re running for Senate.
HARIDOPOLOS: Ray, I thought you wanted to talk about what we‘ve accomplished, not about a hypothetical. A lot of people are talking about hypotheticals—if they run, if they win. Let‘s talk about what I actually accomplished.
JUNIOR: Every—listen, no, no, no. You‘re not doing that, Mike. Every single thing a person talks about on the campaign trail is a hypothetical, 100 percent of it. There‘s nothing that‘s not hypothetical. The only way we know whether it‘s going to be true or not is when they get into office is if they follow through on the things they said they would do.
That‘s why I‘m asking you. Would you vote yes or no on Ryan?
HARIPODOLOS: Exactly what I‘m bringing up to my point is—I made a promise to balance the budget, not raise taxes, not raise fees.
JUNIOR: OK, does the Ryan plan do that? Does the Ryan plan do that?
HARIDOPOLOS: Look, the Ryan plan is what‘s in Washington.
JUNIOR: OK, get him off my phone. I don‘t want anything to do with this guy. Get rid of him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: That‘s right. A Republican radio talk show host kicks a Republican Senate candidate off the show because of the Ryan plan. The Ryan plan is dead in the water in Congress and has absolutely no chance of ever becoming law, but it still has power, a lot of power. It has the power to destroy Republican candidates.
O‘DONNELL: Newt Gingrich‘s double trouble at Tiffany‘s, Jon Huntsman‘s campaign for vice president, and last weekend‘s golf summit, just some of what kept the writing staffs of the late-night comedy shows very busy this week.
FALLON: Did you see this? President Obama and John Boehner played golf against Joe Biden on Saturday. And they won $2. Just 7 trillion more rounds like this, and we‘ll pay of that deficit in no time.
That‘s right. Joe Biden‘s team lost a round of golf this weekend. If you thought losing was rough, you should have seen Biden when he found out the last hole wasn‘t a clown‘s mouth.
JON STEWART, “THE DAILY SHOW”: But who knows, maybe a nice round of golf is all it takes to break the tension between the White House and Congress. We all know how relaxing golf can be. I believe we have audio of their game.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John, I can‘t help but think there‘s a compromise to be—mother (EXPLETIVE DELETED)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I think we could find an agreement on the provision. (EXPLETIVE DELETED)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID LETTERMAN, “LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN: And the former governor of Utah, Jon Huntsman --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
LETTERMAN: -- is—he‘s running for president. And this guy, he‘s one of those guys, he can do everything. He speaks Chinese. He speaks Chinese.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really?
LETTERMAN: In a couple of years, we‘ll all be speaking Chinese. Who cares?
JIMMY KIMMEL, JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE: You know, Governor Huntsman‘s announcement puts him somewhere between Ron Paul and Count Chocola as the favorite to win the GOP nomination. Really at this point, if you‘re white and own a suit with an American flag pin on it, you‘re automatically a Republican candidate for president.
FALLON: During a speech last week, Texas Governor Rick Perry accidentally referred to Twitter as tweeter. Perry apologized for the gaffe and asked everyone to friend him on headbook.
CONAN O‘BRIEN, CONAN/TBS: A spokesman for Texas Governor Rick Perry says that there‘s a 50/50 chance he‘ll run for president. Yes.
Meanwhile, Sarah Palin said there‘s an 80/50 chance that she will.
Today, Sarah Palin ended her bus tour, reportedly canceling events in Iowa, South Carolina and New Hampshire. Yes, yes.
Yes, when asked—when asked why. Palin said, it turns out those places are nowhere near each other.
LETTERMAN: Newt announced he‘s running for president, and everybody
said—aaayye. And then his top advisers quit. And then his fund-raising
his campaign fund-raisers, they all quit.
So, now, Newt is thinking, I don‘t need this. I‘ll just put it on my Tiffany‘s credit card. That‘s what he said.
O‘DONNELL: The late-night gang always gets Friday‘s LAST WORD.
Don‘t forget, our MSNBC special “Erasing Hate” this Sunday night, at 9:00 Eastern.
“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” is next. Good evening, Rachel.
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