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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Guests: Jonathan Capehart, David Frum, Jennifer Chrisler, Sen. Barbara Boxer

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, HOST: Some Republicans have decided that it‘s time to stop Michele Bachmann.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She‘s not going to vote at all to lift the debt ceiling.
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: Michele Bachmann is being rightfully called out.
O‘DONNELL (voice-over): Michele Bachmann feels great, but her Tea Party is Washington‘s biggest headache.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And they are sort of cult fringe as I refer to them out there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Really about these House Republicans.
O‘DONNELL: Tea Party, House Republicans still won‘t follow their leader.
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: We‘re waiting word from the speaker.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, WASHINGTON POST: It‘s always been whether John Boehner can wrangle his caucus.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: We‘re still a long way to go before the House goes along, where they get anything completely passed.
REID: If it‘s not accepted in the House, we can‘t extend the debt ceiling.
THOMAS ROBERTS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Why don‘t Republicans listen to that message?
STEPHEN COLBERT, “STEPHEN COLBERT”: Even if we default on August 2nd, they‘ll be not worse off than sub-Saharan Africa.
O‘DONNELL: Bachmann surges in the polls, so establishment Republicans attack her.
MITCHELL: Michele Bachmann is doing well, in fact, surging.
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: Michele Bachmann is rising.
MITCHELL: In our latest NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll.
TODD: Michelle Bachmann responded to a hit piece.
BACHMANN: I have prescribed medication.
TODD: The story claims Bachmann suffers from incapacitating migraines.
BACHMANN: It will not affect my ability to serve.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Costs her to miss at least two days of voting in the House.
MITCHELL: The genesis of this was the “Daily Caller.”
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michele Bachmann says migraines will not interfere.
O‘DONNELL: Rupert Murdoch flies back to the USA. Will his troubles follow him?
ROBERTS: So the British hacking scandal is making cell phone users here in the U.S. concerned.
O‘DONNELL: Senator Barbara Boxer joins me.
TODD: There‘s no let-up today in the phone hacking scandal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Members of parliament trained their sights on Prime Minister David Cameron.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Cameron faced tough questions during an emergency session of parliament.
RUPERT MURDOCH, CEO, NEWS CORP: This is the most humble day of my life.
JON STEWART, COMEDIAN: Not so humble you couldn‘t wait for your turn to talk.
O‘DONNELL: Good evening from New York.
Well, that didn‘t take long. Just one day after the “gang of six” bipartisan senators released their framework for deficit reduction, with the tentative support of 49 senators and a general air of welcome from the president, House Republicans are busy shooting it down. Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee and the leadership‘s designated hitter, today released a three-page memo attacking the “gang of six” proposal, which is actually only one page longer than Ryan‘s memo.
Ryan says the “gang of six” proposal is, quote, “a set of talking points and graphs that outlines an ambitious proposal that has serious flaws.”
The very first problem listed in the Ryan memo, of course, “heavy reliance on revenues.” That‘s the same issue House Majority Leader Eric Cantor raised in his statement last night. Cantor said, “I am concerned with the ‘gang of six‘s‘ revenue target. I continue to caution that a tax increase is the wrong policy to pursue.”
With Republican leaders still against tax revenue increases, a “gang of six” proposal should die as quickly as the so-called grand bargains that the president tried to discuss with the Republicans in White House meetings. It was obviously easy for the president to welcome the “gang of six” proposal yesterday.
He did not embrace it as some press reports suggested. Embracing a proposal means you agree with it, you know what‘s in it, and you agree with it. The president acknowledged that he does not know exactly what‘s in the “gang of six” proposal, and he welcomed it, though, as the latest entry in the debate, knowing, giving his experience with Republican resistance to tax revenue increase that the “gang of six” proposal would probably be dead within a day or two. That made welcoming that much easier for the president.
Saying nice things about the soon-to-be dead “gang of six” proposal kept the president true to form as he has been throughout the debt ceiling crisis. Every day in every way, the president plays the reasonable man character in this drama, the only reasonable man, knowing that the more unreasonable the Republicans sound, the easier it is for the president to continue to sound reasonable. The president has won this perception battle in the polls.
Our NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll shows 58 percent of people support the president‘s position that there should be a balanced approach to deficit reduction, and 62 percent of people say the Republicans should agree to a balanced approach, including some tax revenue increases. Everything the president has said and continues to say about the debt ceiling and deficit reduction is designed to appeal to independent and swing voters who will always hope that the president can find some sort of middle ground, some reasonable middle ground compromise with Republicans.
Some of what the president has said about deficit reduction, about spending cuts in Medicare and Social Security specifically, has troubled some liberal Obama supporters who are hanging on the president‘s every word. Medicare and Social Security cuts are unpopular throughout the political spectrum.
A poll released this month by the Pew Research Center found 50 percent of Republicans, 53 percent of independents, and 72 percent of Democrats say maintaining Social Security and Medicare benefits is more important than reducing the deficit. And a whopping 87 percent say Social Security is good for the country, 88 percent say Medicare is good for the country.
Talking about budget cuts in Medicare and Social Security is a very different thing from actually doing that. The president is gambling that he can talk about budget cuts in Social Security and Medicare during the debt ceiling standoff to score political points for reasonableness but never have to actually execute those cuts and pay the obvious political price for cutting popular programs. As long as the Republicans refuse to negotiate on taxes, the president knows he can make the occasional soft focus comment on what he calls adjustments to Medicare and Social Security and stress how difficult it is for him, as a Democrat, to even talk about that—but then never actually have to do anything about it.
For a politician in the middle of a reelection campaign, talking about tough choices and never having to actually make them is the perfect place to be. President Obama and the House Republicans are each doing exactly what the Obama reelection campaign needs them to do.
Joining me now is David Frum, the founder of
Thanks for joining me tonight, David.
DAVID FRUM, FRUMFORUM.COM: I have to say—you should be answering questions tonight. That was a very acute analysis.
O‘DONNELL: Well, David, can‘t the Republicans see that when the president jumped over that fence and said, OK, awhile ago, I‘m for the $4 trillion, let‘s do the grand bargain, and, oh, by the way, when we get down to settling that grand bargain, I‘m going to need tax revenue increases.
Couldn‘t they see from the start that the grand bargain was impossible, the president was not really committing to a big deficit reduction package because he was always going to include something that was impossible for House Republicans?
FRUM: But that was—this is where I bang head on table, right? Because I am—I‘m basically a right wing person, and if I can get a deal where you preserve the infrastructure of tax rates, you give up something on deductions, schedules, and credits, and you get a Democratic president to say, “Hey, I‘ll go first on Medicare, I‘ll squeeze ,maybe not the recipients but I‘ll squeeze the providers,” or “I will make some changes on Social Security,” it won‘t work when George w. Bush leads, but when a Democrat leads, OK, but you have to agree in this one-in-six, one-in-seven thing that you don‘t like. I say, let‘s explore.
And the president on health care and now again on this debt ceiling—as you say, he may have been very insincere and counting on Republican intransigence to save him from his own words, but the words were said, the door was there. And this could be the moment where Republicans got a lot out of a president who needed only a little—who asked only a little from them, overconfident that they‘d say no. We now see he was rightly confident that they‘d say no.
O‘DONNELL: David, according to our polling, the worst political outcome for the president would have been for the Republicans to take that deal that he seems to be offering them in the White House that included $3 trillion in spending cuts. The president would have had a very serious problem then if he went along with those $3 trillion in spending cuts, because as these polls show, the Democrat support for not touching Medicare and Social Security is at least as strong, and probably stronger, in those voters than the anti-tax, the purity of the anti-tax position is in Republican-based voters.
FRUM: Here‘s where the Punch and Judy show of American politics does a disservice to everybody. When the typical American poll respondents, here‘s cuts in Medicare, what they imagine is, hey, I‘m not going to get covered.
But when you are spending 60 percent more for the same or worse outcomes than anybody else, there is a lot of space to do cuts without actually interfering with people‘s real health and outcomes. And those—the cuts are not, hey, necessarily you have a higher co-pay, although that may be part of it. The cuts are reimbursement rates may go down, that there will be pressure on hospitals, that doctors will have less autonomy, that‘s what this famous comparative effectiveness review is, that more doctors will be looking at a computer screen telling them what the protocol for a certain treatment is.
The system will be squeezed, but it is so bloated -- 60 percent more allows for a lot of pressure that doesn‘t necessarily touch patients until you get well below—until you‘re getting down to levels that, say, Switzerland begins to spend.
O‘DONNELLL: Well, we disagree on how easy it is to cut Medicare. I sat in a room in 1983 with finance committee staff and we sat there and we pulled out $200 billion in Medicare cuts. It‘s the very first thing and the only really that Bill Clinton did to Medicare was cut it in the ‘93 bill, the omnibus bill that included tax increases and deficit reduction accomplished through Medicare cuts.
And in doing it, I got to tell you, David, it was a very painful and difficult thing to do. It was all taken out of the provider side.
The other thing about it, politically, is, it was done without a peep. There was not a single liberal objection anywhere in the Senate or in the House when Bill Clinton came in and did a very serious deficit reduction package as his first act as president and went straight at Medicare. But at the same time, went at the tax code and it wasn‘t this three-to-one ratio, it was a one-to-one. It was raised as much revenue as they cut in spending.
Democrats have done this before. They know how to do it. But nothing like the scale the president, I think, was pretending to be willing to do with Republicans.
FRUM: Presidents are what they say, not what they think. And this was the opportunity, certainly, a place Republicans could have leaned harder on the president to see how sincere he was.
Your point about the providers in 1993, it‘s very powerful. I mean,
we do not really know whether there are efficiencies there. All we can do
in government, you have limited tools. You pull the lever and then you hope something good comes out the other end, often it‘s very perverse.

But given how much spending there is, squeezing the providers, that‘s
look, that‘s how Sam Walton made his fortune and delivered prices to everybody. He squeezed the providers and hoped that they would actually be able to deliver products that were as good or almost as good at a lower price, and they did.

That may be the thing we have to hope for in Medicare if the country is going to avoid bankruptcy.
O‘DONNELL: And, David, I can tell you, the cuts were so noncontroversial, I would say, there were no more than two senators and maybe two House members who had any idea what any of those cuts were. There were hundreds of them in Medicare. They didn‘t even know what they were.
David Frum, founder and editor of, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
FRUM: Thank you.
O‘DONNELL: Still to come, why conservative media wrote a story on Michele Bachmann‘s migraines, and how her fellow Republicans are trying to stop her.
And calls for investigators into Rupert Murdoch‘s American holdings. Did Murdoch‘s employees break U.S. laws? Senator Barbara Boxer wants to know. She joins us.
O‘DONNELL: Coming up, congresswoman and presidential candidate, Michele Bachmann, had to bring a note from her doctor today. And Andrew Breitbart‘s favorite right-wing prankster is in “The Rewrite.”
MARTIN SHEEN, ACTOR: It‘s not up to us to decide what the voters get to use in evaluating us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A little odd coming from someone who wasn‘t exactly completely open about his health.
SHEEN: That was a big mistake.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was it? What do we know about Lincoln‘s health when he was running? Nothing.
Washington, Jefferson—what about FDR‘s health? And when he died in office, did people say, gee, why didn‘t he tell us he was sick? No.
Did they say I wish I didn‘t vote for him? No.
O‘DONNELL: After two days of scrutiny over her newly-revealed battle with migraine headaches, Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann continued trying to diffuse concerns about her ability to serve as president.
Today, at Bachmann‘s request, House physician, Dr. Brian Monahan, wrote a letter to Bachmann stating in part, “You are in overall good health. You have a well diagnosis of migraines, with aura for which you have had extensive evaluation. Your migraines occur infrequently and have no trigger factors of which you are aware and know how to avoid. When you do have a migraine, you are able to control it. It has not been necessary for you to take daily medications to manage this condition.”
The pressure on Bachmann is coming from those in her own party, including Karl Rove, this morning on FOX News.
KARL ROVE, ROVE.COM: It‘s going to be important for her to get her doctors out there quickly to provide the medical records and to provide the reassurance that people are going to want to have that this is not a serious issue.
O‘DONNELL: Word of Bachmann‘s migraines first surfaced Monday in the “Daily Caller,” a conservative-run Web site, which quoted three unnamed sources who claim Bachmann frequently suffers stress-induced medical episodes that can incapacitate her for days at a time.
“Politico” reported today Bachmann missed eight votes in the House last July while being treated at a Washington hospital for a migraine.
When asked about Bachmann‘s fitness for office, Tim Pawlenty said this today.
TIM PAWLENY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES: All of the candidates, I think, are going to have to be able to demonstrate they can do all of the job all of the time.
REPORTER: What does that mean?
PAWLENTY: If you‘re going to be president of the United States, you‘ve got to be able to do the job every day, all the time. There‘s no real time off in that job.
O‘DONNELL: Joining me now, MSNBC contributor Jonathan Capehart, opinion writer for “The Washington Post.”
Thanks for joining me tonight.
O‘DONNELL: Jonathan, the point of that brilliantly-written “West Wing” scene that we opened this segment with was that, look, we lived a long time without knowing anything about presidential candidate‘s health, without knowing anything about the president‘s health and the country did pretty well not knowing who had migraines, you know, who had, you know, some horrible illness that was going to catch up with him.
O‘DONNELL: FDR knew he was a sick man. He didn‘t talk about it in any way when he was campaigning or president.
Have we gone too far with “show me your medical records, I have to know everything about you if you‘re going to be president”?
CAPEHART: Well, it‘s part of a bigger issue of our modern age where there‘s information everywhere about everything and everyone. And I feel as though the American people want to know as much as possible about the person they are putting in the Oval Office and the person who can literally have their lives in their hands.
And so, you know, as a journalist, I‘m perfectly fine with knowing the health as much as I can know, as much as they release, because they‘re not under legal obligation to share their medical records. But I want to know that the person sitting in that Oval Office is not going to pass out, drop dead or whatever because the stress of the job is too much.
O‘DONNELL: And it sounds like Karl Rove wants to know. It sounds like the Republican establishment is getting very nervous about how Michele Bachmann is rocketing up in these polls.
They want to stop her, don‘t they?
CAPEHART: Right, this is part of a bigger issue. It‘s not so much that she suffers migraines. It‘s that she is number two in NBC New/”Wall Street Journal” poll, that she has been doing so incredibly well since she hired Ed Rollins, since she became more focused, more determined and driven to listen to what he tells her to do, and succeed at it.
She could very well win the Iowa caucuses. It‘s where she was born, Waterloo, Iowa, she represents the district of Minnesota, which is right next door.
But the other key thing in this—why you showed former Governor Tim Pawlenty, as long as Michele Bachmann is number two in the polls, as long as she‘s nipping at Mitt Romney‘s heels as front runner, there‘s no air for Tim Pawlenty. He can‘t gain any traction. And if he doesn‘t win Iowa, where does he win?
O‘DONNELL: And it always shows the weakness of the guy who‘s been thought of as the front runner, Romney. And it doesn‘t strike me that Rove and company are particularly out to protect Romney, they just want to get Bachmann out of this race because she‘s the distraction. She‘s the one who they believe can never be president, so let‘s not pretend she should be the nominee.
CAPEHART: Right. Folks like Karl Rove—you know, they are the establishment, but they are also the establishment that wants to win. They want to beat President Obama. And they know—we all know, Michele Bachmann, she might be able to win the Republican nomination, but could she go toe-to-toe with President Obama with all the advantages of the incumbency he has, plus, a whole lot of other advantages he would have? Could she beat him? Not a chance.
O‘DONNELL: The Obama administration is trying to figure out how to say it‘s perfectly OK if you have the occasional headache. You can be—you can still be president. They want to do whatever they can to get Michele Bachmann the nomination.
CAPEHART: Right. They want her there as long as possible.
O‘DONNELL: Right. MSNBC political analyst, Jonathan Capehart—thank you very much for joining me tonight.
CAPEHART: Thank you, Lawrence.
O‘DONNELL: Coming up, Rupert Murdoch‘s first round against the British government may be over, but he may be facing new questions from this side of the Atlantic. Senator Barbara Boxer joins me.
If you think Rupert Murdoch had a hard time yesterday, wait until you see what Senator Al Franken did to a supporter of the Defense of Marriage Act in a Senate hearing today.
O‘DONNELL: Still to come in this hour, Senator Al Franken destroys a witness‘ testimony during a hearing on the Defensive of Marriage Act. You really have to see this.
And Andrew Breitbart‘s protege, James O‘Keefe, tries to prove that foreign terrorists can get Medicaid. His target does something shocking, she actually follows the law. That‘s in the “Rewrite.”
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has long called for a legislative repeal of the so-called Defensive of Marriage Act. He‘s proud to support the Respect For Marriage Act, introduced by Senator Feinstein and Congressman Nadler, which would take DOMA off the books once and for all.
This legislation would uphold the principle that the federal government should not deny gay and lesbian couples the same right and legal protections as straight couples.
O‘DONNELL: That was the Obama administration continuing to evolve on the issue of marriage equality, yesterday, five days before New York becomes the sixth and largest state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee held the first Congressional hearing on legislation that would repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.
The most memorable moment was an exchange between Democratic Senator Al Franken and DOMA supporter Tom Minnery of Focus on the Family.
SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: Mr. Minnery, on page eight of your written testimony, you write, quote, “children living in their own married, biological or adoptive mothers—with their own married, biological or adoptive mothers and fathers were generally healthier and happier, had better access to health care, less likely to suffer mild or severe emotional problems, did better in school, were protected from physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, and almost never live in poverty, compared with children in any other family form.”
You cite a—a Department of Health and Human Services study that I have right here from December 2010 to support this conclusion. I checked the study out. And I would like to enter it into the record if I may.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Without objection, so ordered.
FRANKEN: And it actually doesn‘t say what you said it says. It says that nuclear families, not opposite-sex married families, are associated with those positive outcomes.
Isn‘t it true, Mr. Minnery, that a married same-sex couple that has had or adopted kids would fall under the definition of a nuclear family in the study that you cite?
TOM MINNERY, FOCUS ON THE FAMILY: I would think that the study when it cites nuclear families would mean a family headed by a husband and wife.
FRANKEN: It doesn‘t. The study defines a nuclear family as one or more children living with two parents, who are married to one another and are each biological or adoptive parents to all the children in the family.
And I frankly don‘t really know how we can trust the rest of your testimony if you‘re reading studies these ways.
O‘DONNELL: The lead author of that study confirmed to “Politico” today, quote, “Senator Franken is right.”
Joining me now, the executive director of the Family Equality Council, Jennifer Chrisler. She and her spouse are mothers of twin sons. Thank you for joining me, Jennifer.
Glad to be here.
O‘DONNELL: Jennifer, with testimony like that, being up against forces like that, you start to wonder, do—will any facts matter at all in this debate among the opponents of marriage equality?
CHRISLER: You know, I think the good news is is what‘s going to matter in this debate is that there are millions of loving same-sex couples raising kids like my spouse and I are and worried about all the things that go into parenting, like hugs and homework and bedtime and bath time. And that reality has penetrated the American public.
We are seeing it with the president standing up and saying that DOMA is wrong and anti-family. We‘re seeing it in New York, where this weekend hundreds of loving couples are going to make that commitment to one another and their families.
And it doesn‘t change the fact the opposition is going to continue to use these misinformation campaigns to try to persuade the rest of the people on what is, frankly, a losing battle for them.
O‘DONNELL: Jennifer, I want to show you one more moment from the hearing. This involved Chairman Patrick Leahy making a point about this.
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: If you have parents legally married under the laws of the state, one set of parents are entitled to certain financial benefits for their children; the other set of parents are denied those same financial benefits for their children.
Are not those children—at least in that aspect of finances, are not those children of the second family—are they not at a disadvantage? Yes or no?
MINNERY: It would be yes, as you ask the question narrowly, senator.
O‘DONNELL: That‘s one of the issues that the opponents try to evade, is they try to pretend that civil unions or the various other kind of arrangements are actually the same and there are no advantages to the children that who would come from legal marriage equality.
CHRISLER: Yeah, well, the reality is is that it‘s not the same. And the truth is is that DOMA only does one thing. And that is harm families, harm children, and harm the kids who really need the safety nets and the benefits that come with legal recognition when their parents are able to be married.
And, you know, not only are there the benefits and the rights and the responsibilities that the government confers, but there‘s the stigma and the symbolic trauma that our kids face every single day when they hear this anti-family rhetoric from the opposition.
The truth is is DOMA is anti-family, doesn‘t do anything but harm my family, and it does nothing to make the American family stronger today.
O‘DONNELL: Jennifer, tell us how you address or deal with your sense of the stigma that children might be picking up within your own family.
CHRISLER: You know, the truth is, is I have twin sons, Tim and Tom. They are nine years old. And they have understood from a very early age how much alike our family is to other families. They know that we, you know, participate in the same kinds of traditions. We take them to church. We worry about them getting to school. We participate in our communities.
And they know that there are politicians and people on the other side who would like to tear their family apart, who would deny them the security of mine and my spouse‘s relationship. And it is a very real fear and concern that they grapple with.
And we have to reassure them all the time, you know, that our family is strong, that we share the same love and commitment that other families do, and that, in fact, the American public is changing, and the president has said clearly that this is a bad law and that Congress today is showing the American public the truth about our families.
O‘DONNELL: Executive director of the Family Equality Council, Jennifer Chrisler, thank you very much for sharing your story with us tonight.
CHRISLER: Thank you.
O‘DONNELL: Coming up, Rupert Murdoch may have more testimony to give. Why he could face questions in the United States about his employee‘s activities.
And why is James O‘Keefe using a guy in a kilt to go after Medicaid?
That‘s in the Rewrite.
O‘DONNELL: Time for tonight‘s Rewrite. Andrew Breitbart‘s favorite performance artist, James O‘Keefe, is at it again, setting up one of his childish attempts to show you how stupid the government is. O‘Keefe‘s biggest star turn was his now completely discredited framing of Acorn with one of his edited videos.
This time, O‘Keefe went after a favorite right wing target, Medicaid, the federal government health care assistance program for the poor. One of his, quote, “undercover reporters” when into a public assistance office in Charleston, South Carolina, one of three such visits in the state.
The man is wearing a kilt, speaking in what he alone thinks is an Irish accent and calling himself Shaun Murphy (ph). You might recall from the Acorn video that O‘Keefe flavors flamboyant costuming in his videography. Shaun Murphy tells the state employee that he‘s affiliated with the Irish Republican Army and needs Medicaid help for 25 fellow Irishman in a nearby hospital who were shot in Belfast.
O‘Keefe‘s online post includes an edited version of the undercover video. His group, Project Veritas, says it proves yet another example of widespread Medicaid fraud.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Given that Shaun Murphy tells the state of South Carolina that he is a terrorist, seeks health care for foreign citizens, exports illegal weapons, and possesses incredible wealth, what would the Medicaid office do?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How many do you need?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There‘s like 25 of them.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That should be approximately 25 applications. You are welcome to make copies if you need more. These are the disability report. These don‘t have to be signed. So it is definitely not in my own best interest to divulge anything to anyone, because I could not afford it. I do not want to go to jail. So I don‘t know.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I don‘t want to go to jail either, so I don‘t want anybody to know what my business is.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, your business is your business. The only information that I will request is whatever information is needed to process applications.
O‘DONNELL: Now here‘s what you learn when you watch the unedited version of that videotape. The woman being targeted is not buying this story. It is taking very long pauses to think about what to say in response to the insanity that is coming her way.
If you work in a government office that is open to the public, dealing with crazy people politely is part of the job. There‘s no reason to assume that she believed a word the preposterous figure was saying. It is entirely possible that she had no idea what the IRA is or was. If she has for some reason followed what the Irish call “the troubles,” she would know that at no point in her lifetime have 25 IRA members been shot, and that no member of the IRA has been shot in the last three and a half years.
Also sharing any information Shaun Murphy told her would be illegal.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, one thing you need to know about Medicaid is that everything is confidential.
Any information, unless someone brings a subpoena to subpoena the records, then no information goes anywhere. If anybody walked in the door and asked me questions, I‘d tell them that federal law prohibits me from discussing any part of this.
Like I said, somebody would have to come here and subpoena our information in order for us to divulge any information.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They do threaten with high fines, which they don‘t pay me as much per year as they threaten to fine me. So it is definitely not in my own best interest to divulge anything to anyone, because I could not afford it. I do not want to go to jail.
O‘DONNELL: This honorable South Carolina state employee, obviously accustomed to dealing with crazy people, also repeatedly makes it clear that she‘s simply doing her job in responding to his inquiries about the application process, and there is no guarantee that he and his fictitious associates will receive any Medicaid assistance.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like I said, I‘m not promising. Does the hospital not have some type of charity program that could potentially help?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we‘re looking at everything right now.
O‘DONNELL: Now earlier today, we reached out to the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. Their press office said they‘d call us right back with their chief information officer on the line. But that never happened.
We do know that state officials are, for some reason, actually investigating this incident for any possible wrong doing on the part of state employees. On his Project Veritas website, James O‘Keefe triumphantly boasts that “in this time of economic uncertainty, the American people deserve to know how their tax dollars are being wasted. This should be a wake-up call for close scrutiny of the Medicaid system.”
He‘s right to say that the American people deserve to know how their tax dollars are being wasted. And now the people of South Carolina know that their tax dollars are being wasted investigating a goofy right-wing stunt.
DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Of course, I regret and I am extremely sorry about the fury it has caused. With 20/20 hindsight and all that has followed, I would not have offered him the job. And I expect that he wouldn‘t have taken it.
But you don‘t make decisions in hindsight. You make them in the present. You live and you learn. And believe you me, I have learned.
O‘DONNELL: British Prime Minister David Cameron expressing regret before parliament today over his decision to hire former “News of the World” editor, Andy Coulson, as his communications director. Coulson is one of many key players at the heart of the hacking scandal that now plagues Rupert Murdoch‘s News Corp in the UK and increasingly here in the United States.
The Justice Department has opened an investigation into News Corp‘s conduct o see if, in fact, there were efforts to obtain voicemails and telephone records of 9/11 victims in the United States. Just today, New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director Robert Mueller, urging them to revisit a 2005 complaint that employees at a News Corp subsidiary allegedly hacked into a New Jersey competitor‘s company computers.
And Senators Barbara Boxer and Jay Rockefeller are now calling on member of the Dow Jones and Company Special Committee to take a closer look at News Corp‘s senior executives. In their letter, they wrote “the American people need to be assured that this type of misconduct hasn‘t occurred in the United States, and that senior executives at News Corporation properties in our country were not aware of or complicit in any wrongdoing.”
While Rupert Murdoch insists that he has no knowledge of wrongdoing here in the States, he‘s making the moves of someone who needs serious legal help. In addition to hiring three public relations giants in the last week, the “New York Times” reports News Corp has just hired this man, Brendan Sullivan Jr. Sullivan is known as one of the most-accomplished criminal defense lawyers in the country, having represented the late former Senator Ted Stevens in his political corruption trial, and Oliver North in the Iran Contra affair.
Joining me now, one of the senators calling for a closer look into News Corp‘s U.S. practices, California Senator Barbara Boxer. Thanks for joining me tonight, senator.
SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: Thanks for having me on the show.
O‘DONNELL: Senator, what has provoked your interest specifically?
And why direct your letter to Dow Jones?
BOXER: Well, here‘s where we are, Lawrence, at this point. We do want to ensure the American people that their phones weren‘t hacked into, that there weren‘t payoffs going on, whether it‘s corporate espionage or anything else.
We want to make sure that American laws have been followed, including the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits American companies—remember, News Corp is an American company—from paying people off to gain an advantage.
And it looks like that has happened in Britain. And that would be, in fact, a violation of the law. And I think the fact they are lawyering up says they take the letter that Senator Rockefeller and I wrote very seriously.
And you asked my interests. I‘m a senior member of the Commerce Committee and Jay Rockefeller is a wonderful chairman of that committee. And we have teamed up here. We have oversight over the communications and mergers, news mergers. So that‘s why we are very concerned here.
O‘DONNELL: You have mentioned in your letter Les Hinton specifically, who was at “the Wall Street Journal” and then at British properties for Murdoch before that. It‘s that kind of cross fertilization of the personnel that in this scandal starts to become pretty worrying, doesn‘t it?
BOXER: It‘s very worrying. That‘s why we wrote to this independent oversight committee that was a condition of the sale when “the Wall Street Journal,” Dow Jones Company, which owns “the Wall Street Journal”—when that sale went through, one of the conditions by the family who owned “the Wall Street” was they, in fact, set up this independent committee.
And the whole idea was to ensure the integrity of “the Wall Street Journal,” So what did they do? They hired somebody who, frankly, is very closely—very closely entwined in this entire British scandal. He testified before the parliament that there was only one newspaper reporter that actually gained information through hacking. He admitted that he approved payments to that news reporter and a private investigator that went to jail on this.
So we‘re very concerned that the comments they‘ve made so far is no problem. And we just want to make sure that‘s true. And that‘s why we sent this letter today.
O‘DONNELL: And senator, the attitude expressed in “the Wall Street Journal,” very defensive article this week about this situation, saying hey, look, everybody does it. That‘s not the kind of thing I would imagine would give you much comfort about how things work in Murdoch‘s American media properties.
BOXER: Well, they are saying a lot of things. As you say, A, they‘ve lawyered up. They‘ve hired P.R. people. There‘s even an op-ed piece—an opinion piece that ran against Senator Rockefeller and my idea here, which is that there were violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. They said oh, that act had nothing to do with newspapers.
It has to do with all, all American corporations. So they are fighting back. And it could get ugly. But I‘ve got to tell you, truth has a way of coming to the surface. We‘ll keep asking the questions and making sure that our people are protected.
O‘DONNELL: Senator Boxer, before you go, I have to ask you about this small matter of the debt ceiling. Is the gang of six proposal, as thin as it is right now, without specificity, something you think that may be the thing that leads the way to a solution here?
BOXER: I think it could be part of the solution. And there are things in it that I think are good. There are things in it that I question. If you want to ask me more details, I‘m happy to say it, tell you what they are.
But the best thing about it is that Republicans and Democrats have come together. And in this environment, it‘s really important, and it gives me hope. And I think, you know, again, there are things in there that I really think are good. For example, there‘s revenue.
But in terms of budget enforcement, doesn‘t look like those revenues have much behind it by way of budget enforcement, where the spending cuts do. So these are things we need to look at.
I do like the fact, Lawrence, that they fund the Highway Trust Fund out ten years, which is terrific. As the chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, we need to fund infrastructure. They do that.
So there‘s good. There‘s not so good. But I do believe that this will give us some legs to put together something that will get us through this.
I just want to say, 89 times Congress has raised the debt ceiling, mostly under Republican presidents. The most—I think the 18 times under Ronald Reagan, that was the most we ever did it. And not one of my colleagues ever played games like this. And you‘re playing with fire here.
And America can‘t be a deadbeat nation.
O‘DONNELL: Senator Barbara Boxer of California, thank you very much for joining me tonight.
BOXER: Thanks.
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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