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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Guests: Howard Fineman, Richard Wolffe, Jim Hightower, Robert Reich, Eugene Robinson

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: NBC pollsters have found one thing that
Republicans and Democrats agree on, nobody likes Congress.


DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES: Not going to see a magic unicorn jump out
of that bag.

O`DONNELL (voice-over): The president is ready to fight for jobs, and
Americans want him to win.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: His disapproval number is 51 percent.

JON ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: He needs it to be jobs first.

MARTIN BASHIR, MSNBC HOST: He`s lowest ever job rating.

ways to put America back to work.

ALTER: Jobs first, jobs first, jobs first.

OBAMA: We`re going to see if congressional Republicans put country
before party.

O`DONNELL: Republicans are trying to stop the president from winning
are also losing.

UNIDENTFIED FEMALE: Congress` approval rating is at the worst.

LUKE RUSSERT, NBC NEWS: This one specifically looks, it appears to be
doing nothing.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: Only 13 percent approved of the job Congress is

MATTHEWS: More than four out of five Americans don`t like the United
States Congress.

TODD: Fifty-four percent would vote out every single member of

CORN: As soon as he unveils anything, the Republicans will be dumping
on it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s a lot of vitriol in Congress. Lot of
vitriol at Congress.

O`DONNELL: And a funny thing happened to Mitt Romney on the way to
the nomination, Rick Perry.

TODD: He`s trying to contrast himself with Perry.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Reagan, Reagan, Reagan.

ROMNEY: Remember the screech you put in your ear?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Repeal Obamacare and cut baby cut, and drill,
baby, drill.

ROMNEY: You want to make a phone call at the airport, you take out a
quarter and you went to a pay phone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Reagan, Reagan, Reagan. And did I mention tat-
tat-tat, Reagan.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a guy that`s been running for president,
essentially, for the past six years.

ROMNEY: I`ve been in politics now long enough.

many jobs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rick Perry has got a very powerful appeal to the
red hot core of the Republican base.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Republican Party is rallying around Rick

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Leading the field with 38 percent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no way Rick Perry can win a general
election, no way.

O`DONNELL: And Sarah Palin makes her big announcement to the Tea
Party, announcing nothing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And unless and until FOX drops her from her
contract, I will not believe she`s running for president.

SARAH PALIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Right on, better late than


O`DONNELL: Good evening from New York.

With still 14 months left in the 2012 presidential campaign, a new
NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll shows President Obama with now the lowest
approval rating of his presidency -- 44 percent approve of the job the
president is doing, 51 percent disapprove. Though the president`s approval
rating is now the lowest of his presidency, it has not dropped
significantly over his last 21 months in office, according to the NBC/"Wall
Street Journal" polling.

The approval rating first dropped below 50 percent in December 2009.
It was at 47 percent, within the margin of error of his approval rating
this month. Since then, the president`s approval rating has dipped to 45
percent four times.

Despite the jobs crisis, a controversial health care bill, the
Deepwater Horizon disaster, midterm election Republican gains, the debt
ceiling fight, the S&P downgrade, ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and
relentless attacks from the Republican presidential candidates, President
Obama`s approval rating has actually been holding steady.

With two days until the president`s address on jobs and the economy to
a joint session of Congress, those polled scored the president poorly on
his handling of the economy. Thirty-seven percent approved, that ties the
lowest of his presidency. Fifty-nine percent disapproved, that is the
highest of his presidency.

Respondents were asked to address whether the president is facing a
short or long-term setback given events over the past couple of months.
Thirty-two percent say President Obama is facing a short-term setback from
which he will likely recover, and 54 percent say President Obama is now
facing a long-term setback from which he will not likely recover. That
number is virtually identical to George W. Bush`s score just after his
mishandled the Hurricane Katrina aftermath.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney addressed the president`s poll
numbers today.


if you look at your poll and other polls, make abundantly clear that they
have a high reservoir of skepticism towards Washington in general. And I
think that has been exacerbated dramatically by what they witnessed this
summer, where the opportunity to do something sweeping and bold and
bipartisan was squandered because there wasn`t the political will to make
it happen. And I think that is what you`re seeing registered in your
polls, where I think everyone associated with Washington is being viewed
quite dimly right now.


O`DONNELL: Congressional job approval poll numbers support Jay
Carney`s position. Only 13 percent approve of the job the Congress is
doing, 13 percent, while 82 percent disapprove. That is the highest
disapproval rating ever recorded.

Respondents were also asked if they could, would they, vote to defeat
and replace every member of Congress, including their own representative.
Fifty-four percent said yes -- that is the highest ever for that
hypothetical question.

Observing voters` record disapproval of Washington, the Republican
pollster who conducted the NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll wrote in a memo,
"We are entering a new phase of the American political dialogue that has
been irrevocably shifted in a way that will prove difficult to predict
historically, though this type of deep voter anger, unease, and economic
pessimism leads to unstable, unpredictable, political outcomes."

Joining me now from the Reagan Library, the site of tomorrow night`s
NBC News/"Politico" Republican presidential debate, editorial director for
the AOL/"Huffington Post" Media Group, MSNBC analyst, Howard Fineman.

And from Washington, author of "Revival: The Struggle for Survival
Inside the Obama White House," NBC analyst, Richard Wolffe. Thank you both
for joining me tonight.

Howard, with the debate tomorrow night, these presidential polling
numbers coming out today will surely inform some of the lines of attack
that the Republican candidates will be using. What does the White House
have to do now in dealing with these approval numbers? There`s something
real happening here.

question about it, Lawrence. And from having talked to Democrats both in
the Obama camp and outside of it, I think it`s clear that one thing the
president has to do politically, aside from whatever he says in his jobs
speech, is begin to make the case that the Republicans are just not the
alternative, that they are too scary an alternative, that they, in fact,
represent what`s wrong with life in Washington, D.C., more than he does.

And in the piece I published in the "The Huffington Post" today,
having talked to a top Obama advisor, he said that the White House, not
Obama personally, but the White House is going to go after the Republican
Congress for everything -- from the Paul Ryan plan, to cut, cap, and
balance, to the effort to roll back Wall Street reform. And they are going
to say that the Republican presidential candidates that we`re going to
watch on MSNBC tomorrow night, are racing to embrace the Tea Party.

And indeed, Rick Perry is very popular in the Tea Party, but the Tea
Party is an anathema and toxic to independent voters. So, the White House
is going to go after independent voters by pointing to the Tea Party and
try to try to turn out the Democratic base by painting a scary picture of
the Republicans in Congress.

O`DONNELL: Richard Wolffe, has the White House -- has the president,
in fact, already entered this new campaign-style rhetoric with him saying,
will the Republicans put party over country? That is as harsh a comment
he`s made about Republicans, I think, in his rhetorical history.

get a lot harsher. The competitive drive of this president, according to
the people around him, has really kicked in at this point. He`s sick of
being pushed around himself. He has -- he`s traditionally had this fourth
quarter push, this clutch player move that he`s shown in the past.

And while this isn`t the fourth quarter, we`re a long way, we`re not
voting in November, it`s going to be next November, those kind of instincts
are really kicking in. Again, to people who are -- that`s according to
people who are very close to him. And so, we`re seeing some of that tone
out of the Labor Day speech that he gave.

But there`s also -- look back where he was at in 2007, these head-to-
head numbers really don`t mean a lot. The ones we`re all talking about in
Washington. At this point in 2007, he was losing to Rudy Giuliani in a
nominal matchup. So, the poll numbers will change, the economy is surely
going to change in a year, whether you think you`re it`s going up or down,
but there`s no question the contest, the head-to-head debate, the fight
between these two sides is going to get a lot uglier and aggressive.

O`DONNELL: Yes, we can`t repeat often enough the warning against
early polls and particularly early polls like this. But, Howard, that`s
not to say that the candidates and the campaigns ignore them. They
certainly do take information from them and they have real concerns.

What`s the good news and the bad news in this poll for the Obama
campaign? It seems like the good side of it is the public still likes him
as a person.

FINEMAN: Yes, I think they do. Some might question that number, 70
percent say they still like them.

I don`t question it. I think that people would like to, would have
liked to have seen him succeed. The danger that he faces right now is that
many people seem to be concluding that he can`t succeed. That`s what that
long-range problem number is that you read earlier on. So, I think that`s
a problem for him.

The other silver lining for him, the other positive news for him,
obviously, is in the dismal numbers of Congress, half of which is run by
Republicans, and the fact that the Republicans don`t seem to have much
traction at all.

I will say this, this poll, however premature it may be, is going to
affect the atmosphere here in this room tomorrow night, Lawrence, because I
think it will embolden the Republicans to be even harsher and tougher on
the president than they otherwise would be. They`ll go after him more
tomorrow night than they otherwise would have.

O`DONNELL: Richard, as tough as the Republicans want to go against
the president tomorrow night, the poll indicates that 60 percent, 60
percent, believe that we should have a higher top tax bracket. They agree
with the president on the largest tax issue in front of us, that top tax

WOLFFE: Right.

O`DONNELL: And so, they are going to be, in effect, as gleeful as
they might be in attacking President Obama tomorrow night. The truth of it
is -- the president represents on taxation anyway, something close to 60
percent of voters.

WOLFFE: Yes. And he also represents the majority view of among poll
after poll that says that people actually blame the Bush policies and the
Bush administration much more than this administration for their current
economic position. Now, that doesn`t to say it`s a way out for the
president in terms of his own approval on the economy. But it does suggest
if the Democrats, if the White House, can get its act together and portray
this group of Republican candidates as embracing the Bush philosophy or the
Bush policies, even to a more extreme degree, then there`s a root out of
this mess that they are in, because these elections, as Obama`s aids keep
pointing out, they are a choice -- their choice between two candidates.
And this choice will be much more narrowly fought than it was in 2008.

Remember, President Bush won with a 2.5 percent margin of victory, and
that was considered a big win in 2004. So, this is going to be a close
race, much closer than it was in 2008, but when you put the choices up, you
say, which economy policy do you want -- the one you blame for the current
economy or a different one? Let`s see how that plays out.

O`DONNELL: Howard, John Boehner and Republicans have announced that
they are not going to do a formal response to the president tomorrow night
after his speech. They`ll offer themselves informally to the media, but it
looks like, then, that the Republican debate you`ll attend in California
will be, in effect, the response to the president`s speech.

In our poll, we do have a new lineup here in the Republican campaign,
Rick Perry and Mitt Romney clearly now have become the top two candidates.
No one else is close. Perry`s hit the highest number of any Republican so
far this year at 38 percent, Mitt Romney trailing far behind that at 23
percent. And then you get down to the single-digit crowd, Ron Paul,
Michele Bachmann.

This has become, as set up by this poll, in effect, a two-man debate
tomorrow night, hasn`t it?

FINEMAN: Yes, I think that`s right. And this is very important for
Rick Perry, obviously. He`s rocketed to the top in a very shrewd entrance
into the campaign. It turns out Michele Bachmann`s high point was when she
won the straw poll in Iowa. It`s been all downhill since.

And this is going to be Rick Perry`s moment on Wednesday night. He`s
back in Texas now supervising, fighting the fires in Texas, but he will be
here Wednesday night. And, you know, I`ve been reading his books,
everybody`s been reading his books and everything he`s said and kind of
studying the entrails of the career of Rick Perry. But he`ll be a case of
first impression, and in an odd way, it`s kind of a pre-buttal where you`re
going to see Rick Perry in the spotlight Wednesday night, right now looking
the most likely nominee, let`s say, a year ahead of time, versus the
president the following night.

So, people will get to see them back-to-back, and that will be very
instructive and very fundamental, because Rick Perry is a true believer in
the politics of slow-motion secession, as I call it, in the denial of the
importance of the role of the federal government even in Social Security,
in Medicare -- in practically everything the federal government does.

The president will have a chance to make the case for government on
Thursday, but he`s got to make it in a way that results in people believing
that immediate jobs will result. He`s been unable to do that so far. That
will once again be his challenge in a very difficult situation for the
president, because nobody is really expecting anything to result from the
speech on Thursday night.

O`DONNELL: MSNBC political analyst Howard Fineman and Richard Wolffe,
thank you both for joining me tonight.

WOLFFE: Thanks, Lawrence.

FINEMAN: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, the Republican candidates think they know how
to create jobs. That`s right -- tax cuts followed by tax cuts. Robert
Reich will analyze Mitt Romney`s jobs plan, coming up.

And Republican presidential candidate, Governor Rick Perry, is 24
hours away from his first presidential campaign debate.


O`DONNELL: Coming up, hundreds of thousands of people are at risk of
starving to death in the next few months if we don`t find a way to do more
to fight the famine in Somalia. But the Republican House of
Representatives actually wants to do less. They have voted to do less.
That`s in the "Rewrite."

Up next, Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry, his first presidential
campaign debate is tomorrow night on this network. We`ll tell you what to
expect, next.


O`DONNELL: Tomorrow night`s Republican presidential debate here on
MSNBC will feature the first-ever appearance on a national debate stage by
Texas Governor Rick Perry, who now has a 15-point lead over Mitt Romney in
the new NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll, and he leads Romney by nearly
30 points among Tea Party members.

Tomorrow will mark one of the few times Perry has taken part in a
debate anywhere. "Politico," which is partnering with NBC for tomorrow
night`s event, reports Perry has only participated in four debates during
his decade as governor. And in his reelection campaign last year, he would
only debate fellow Republicans, refusing to take on his Democratic

Yesterday, Perry missed his first chance to share a stage with his
rivals after withdrawing from a candidate`s forum in South Carolina to
return to Texas where wildfires have destroyed more than 1,000 homes.


PERRY: I`ll be real honest with you: I`m not paying any attention to
politics right now. There`s plenty of time to take care of that. People`s
lives and their possessions are in danger. That`s substantially more


O`DONNELL: Perry made those comments yesterday. Today, with the
largest wildfire still burning out of control near Austin and now being
blamed for two deaths, Perry`s spokespeople said that while the situation
is fluid, Perry still plans to travel to California for tomorrow night`s

Joining me now, Jim Hightower, editor of "The Hightower Lowdown" and a
former Perry campaign opponent.

Thanks for joining me tonight, Jim.

Lawrence, Thanks.

O`DONNELL: So, Rick Perry switched parties in 1990 at George W.
Bush`s urging. He ran against you, ran against you for Texas agriculture
commissioner. He won that race.

Did he win it because of his great performance in your debate?

HIGHTOWER: Well, we had no debate that I recall anyway. And, in
fact, my opponent at that time, 1990, was really not Rick Perry. It was
Karl Rove, who used his patented trash politics to come after me.

Perry was the product of the chemical lobbyists in the state
legislature. He was a Democrat at the time, and he carried legislation to
take away the pesticide authority that I had exercised as agriculture
commissioner of Texas. They did not succeed in that legislative fight.
So, Karl Rove, at the behest of Phil Gramm and Republican Party generally,
got Perry to switch parties to run against me.

But Perry was inconsequential back in those days. He never campaigned
statewide and didn`t know anything about Dallas or Houston or south Texas.
So, he was inept campaigner. So, Rove sent him out to west Texas to go to
Farm Bureau meetings while Rove raised about $3 million and put them in TV
ads trashing me. And it was those ads -- my real opponent in that race was
Karl Rove.

O`DONNELL: Jim, what do we know about his debate style given his
limited exposure to debating?

HIGHTOWER: Well, you know, he`s testy. He`s thinned-skin. You know,
he`s not particularly a nice guy. I don`t think he`s going to take well to
a lot of this.

But to me, I got to tell you, Lawrence, the issue isn`t whether or not
he can debate or not, the issue is what kind of governor has he been, who
might he be as president? Right now, great example today, he comes
flitting back here to Texas after being back on the campaign trail two days
after these fires are bursting out all over the state.

And, by the way, these fires are not an unanticipated consequence. In
fact, Perry`s own state officials say that they were inevitable, inevitable
not only because of the dry heat that we`ve been having, but also -- and
the high winds - but also because Perry, with his Republican super majority
in the legislature, managed to slash the budget of the volunteer fire
departments in our state by 75 percent in the last legislative session. We
don`t have firefighters enough to come fight these fires. People`s homes
are burning down because of his failure to stand up not today, not to come
in here and do photo ops, but months ago and, indeed, a couple of years ago
to fund our firefighting capability to stand up for this.

You know, yesterday -- we had a Labor Day on Monday, and yet the
firefighters, they were recruiting retired firefighters to come out of
retirement, pay their own way, buy their own supplies to come in here and
try to fight these fires because Perry and his anti-government, right-wing,
laissez faire land zealotry had slashed the budget of the majority of the
firefighting forces in our state, which are the volunteer departments.

O`DONNELL: Jim, my debt on who`s going to cause Perry the most
trouble tomorrow night is his fellow Texan Ron Paul, who surely knows the
most about him than any other candidates up there and has nothing to lose.
Ron Paul knows he`s not going to be anyone`s vice presidential choice. So,
he can just go in there and whack him.

I mean, Ron Paul`s going to be able to say back when I was supporting
Reagan, you know, Perry was working on Al Gore`s first presidential
campaign. He`s got those kinds of shots that I think he`s ready to take.

HIGHTOWER: Well, I think the main shots that we could take at Perry,
and Ron Paul or whoever, is he has been a complete corporate toady as
governor of our state. I don`t think this is anything that the Tea Party
wants -- a governor who takes corporate cash in exchange for doing
corporate favors. This guy has put the guber in gubernatorial in his 10
years as governor here. He has weakened our state.

We`re down at the level in Mississippi, and the important difference
is Mississippi is a poverty-stricken state. We`re not. We`re an
extraordinarily rich state, yet Perry stands up for the rich.

You know, George W. Bush, at least he campaigned as a compassionate
conservative. Perry is saying, yee-haw, you know, yes, we take money from
the corporate interest and serve them at the expense of the middle class
and poor folks. Get used to it. I can do for America what I`ve done for
Texas. I`ve got to tell you, that`s no idle threat.

O`DONNELL: Jim Hightower, columnist and author -- thank you for your
unique perspective on Mr. Perry tonight. Thank you very much, Jim.

HIGHTOWER: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, as I`ve said before, Sarah Palin is not running
for president, and she still isn`t running for president after her trips to
Iowa and New Hampshire this weekend.

And Willard M. Romney makes a promise in his jobs speech to file five
bills on his first day in office, to actually make them law on his first
day in office -- a complete impossibility. Robert Reich joins me with
everything Romney got wrong. That`s next.


O`DONNELL: In the Spotlight tonight, Willard M. Romney unveils his
jobs plan. He did it in north Las Vegas, Nevada, a state where the
unemployment rate is 13 percent, the highest of any state in the country.
In his 38 minute speech, Romney never once mentioned Nevada`s troubled
economy, its extraordinarily high unemployment, what caused that, or how
Romney`s jobs and growth plan would be of particular help to that state.

Instead, he offered science fiction imaginings of a job machine.


best people -- best-paid people in the world. It should be good to be in
the middle class in America. America should be a job machine, jobs being
created all the time, people looking for employees to join their
enterprises, young people coming out of college able to get jobs right
away, people coming out of vocational schools able to get jobs right away,
even those coming out of high school, knowing there`s opportunities for

We should have a job-creating machine in America.


O`DONNELL: And here`s what Romney dreams the American economy would
look like if his magical jobs machine actually looked.


O`DONNELL: In the first four years -- if I`m lucky enough to be
president, in the first four years, this will grow the economy at
approximately four percent per year for each of those four years. It will
add 11.5 million new jobs for Americans. That`s what I want to see


O`DONNELL: Here`s Romney`s absolute favorite, number one idea for
creating jobs.


O`DONNELL: The average of developed nations tax rate for corporations
is 25 percent. Ours is 35 percent. We`ve got to bring out tax rate down
to that same 25 percent level. I will do that on day one.


O`DONNELL: That is, of course, a lie. And Romney has probably paid
just enough attention to the federal government to know that it is
impossible to do that on day one, or any other day. Tax rates, as
President Obama and his predecessors have discovered, are completely under
the control of Congress.

On day one, if the country makes the mistake of electing him
president, Romney will make a big, forgettable speech, have a good lunch,
watch a long parade, and then go dancing. He will not be signing a tax
bill into law on day one. He will be allowed, on day one, to find the
chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance
Committee at the inaugural festivities and beg them -- beg them to consider
his tax proposals, knowing that they will consider them only if those tax
proposals meet the self-interest and the political interest of the

Romney`s other job-creating ideas are, of course, more tax cuts.


ROMNEY: We got to change that. They call it change to a territorial
system. We have got to end this repatriation tax and get money to come
back to America, to create jobs here and invest in America. I will
eliminate any tax on your savings if you`re in the middle class. No tax on
interest, dividends, or capital gains.


O`DONNELL: Joining me now is Robert Reich, former labor secretary in
the Clinton administration. He is now a professor of public policy at the
University of California at Berkeley, and the author of "After Shock."

Professor, I know you are well-versed in popular culture and in the
arts. And so introducing to you analysis of a science fiction notion like
a jobs machine is something, I think, you can actually -- you`re uniquely
empowered to address. Are there people in the basement of the Labor
Department working on a jobs machine?

If there are, Lawrence, I never saw them. In fact, it`s kind of an odd
idea, a jobs machine. It`s like calling corporations people. It`s not
clear what these things are.

Mitt Romney has the kind of odd idea -- and it is a bizarre idea --
that at a time when corporations are scoring record profits, at a time when
you`ve got them sitting on two trillion dollars of cash they don`t even
know what to do with, that somehow if you give them more tax cuts and
deregulate, so you reduce their costs even further, they will then create

They don`t create jobs now, he assumes, because their costs are too
high or they`re not making enough money. Well, the reality, of course, is
just the opposite. Corporations are extremely doing well. They`re doing
well in part because they are selling abroad. And they`re doing well in
part because they are paring U.S. payrolls and cutting wages.

But that is not a jobs machine by anybody`s definition of a jobs

O`DONNELL: Well, one piece of his jobs machine that he`s dreaming
about is this so-called repatriation provision in taxation. Explain what
Romney is up to with that.

REICH: Well, it`s -- there are various versions of this. I would
think that Romney is saying that if you can get corporations to repatriate
their earnings and not charge them any taxes on those repatriated earnings,
or give them a huge cash or a tax benefit, then they will take their money
from abroad and invest in the United States.

But the fact of the matter is the fastest-growing markets in the world
are outside the United States. Companies are there because that`s where
the customers are. Also, as I said, they don`t need more money. Companies
are doing very well.

The people who need more money in their pockets are not corporations.
They are people. They are Americans. The reason big corporations are not
creating more jobs in the United States is that they don`t have enough
customers in the United States, because American consumers are also
workers. And they are scared to death. They are losing their jobs. Their
wages are going down.

Romney and other Republicans refuse to acknowledge that the real
problem is consumers, workers, average-working people are being ignored by
corporate America.

O`DONNELL: And there`s so much that`s wrong with this repatriation
idea. The idea these companies have made huge profits overseas, and they
are holding them overseas because they are afraid of U.S. taxation, so
let`s just allow them, just this once, to bring that money back in and we
won`t tax it away from them. The problem is, we already did it.

We did it in 2004. So now if we do it again, what we`re encouraging
them to do in the future is hide that money, keep it overseas, until we
completely eliminate the tax on it once again, so you can bring it back in,
once again. They would never bring the money back to the United States if
we allowed them to do it this time.

REICH: Lawrence, the interesting thing is that no matter how many so-
called tax amnesties there are, Republicans -- and Romney is an example --
keep on saying well, if you have just another tax amnesty, that will be the
last one.

Well, you see how counter this runs to Republican`s philosophy with
regards to the rest of us. I mean, real people, no amnesty, no breaks. If
you give welfare or give a break or helping hand to anybody, give
unemployment insurance, they will take it and they won`t work. They will
be irresponsible.

Somehow corporations, though, if you give them special bailouts or tax
breaks or give them amnesty, they will be responsible.

O`DONNELL: What would you like to see the president advocate this
week in his speech?

REICH: Well, the thing to look for, Lawrence, is something that is
bold enough and big enough to deal with the size of the problem we have, to
supplement the fact that consumers and businesses are not spending in the
United States. It`s got to have, I would say, probably this year about 500
trillion dollars worth of spending on infrastructure, roads, bridges, all
kinds of things that we need that are desperately under funded right now in
terms of deferred maintenance.

We also should have a WPA, a Civilian Conservation Corps, such as FDR
had, for all of the long term unemployed who have almost no chance of
getting a job back.

Otherwise, we need to do something for home owners. A quarter of all
home owners are underwater. They owe more on their homes than their homes
are worth. We need to have a kind of process whereby the FHA or the
government overall can take a share of the mortgages, and take the debt off
the hands off a lot of people, and get a share of the upside gains, in
terms of an equity share in mortgages.

O`DONNELL: Robert Reich, former labor secretary in the Clinton
administration, thank you very much for joining me tonight.

REICH: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Over the weekend, Sarah Palin gave speeches in Iowa and
New Hampshire. But again she did not say whether she`s running for
president. That`s because she`s not. That`s coming up.


O`DONNELL: Yesterday, the United Nations reported that 750,000 people
are at risk of starving to death in the next few months because of the
famine in the Horn of Africa. Tomorrow, the Senate Appropriations
committee will vote on a bill that would drastically cut the emergency food
assistance that has made us the leader in food aid to Somalia. That`s next
in the Rewrite.

And later, no matter how much Sarah Palin doesn`t run for president,
some people continue to be tricked into thinking that she will. That`s
coming up.


O`DONNELL: Time for tonight`s Rewrite. At this hour, most, if not
all, of the well-fed children in our eastern time zone have had dinner,
many of them feeling quite stuffed by that extra scoop of ice cream that
they didn`t need for dessert. There is a virtually invisible segment of
poor children in this country who will go to bed hungry tonight, having,
through no fault of their own, fallen through the holes in our social
safety net.

Our culture likes to pretend they are not there. We rarely send news
cameras to find them, but cameras aren`t the answer to hunger. There are
enough news cameras in Somalia now to show us exactly what`s happening
there. The United Nations made the painful announcement yesterday that
famine has spread to yet another area in the country.

U.N. officials now believe that 750,000 people could die in the next
few months if we don`t increase our aid efforts there. And by we, I mean
the well-fed parts of the world. The countries leading the way on famine
relief in the Horn of Africa are the United States, which has contributed
more than any other country this year, Brazil, which has far more-pressing
domestic poverty issues to deal with than we do, Saudi Arabia and

But instead of taking pride in what we`ve done and trying to do more,
we, by which I mean the Republican House of Representatives, want to do
less. In June, House Republicans voted to re-write the Emergency Food
Assistance Programs, not by increasing them as the famine worsened in
Somalia, but to cut emergency food assistance, cut it by 75 percent.

Rick Leach, the president of World Food Program USA said today, quote,
"these life-saving food assistance programs face their most profound threat

Tomorrow, the Senate Appropriations Committee will vote on its version
of the bill. You can go to our website,, to see the
list of the members of the Senate Appropriations Committee. If you live in
one of their states, you should, right now, tonight, contact them, e-mail
them, tell them how you want them to vote on emergency food assistance.

We can only hope tomorrow when the roll is called in the
Appropriations Committee that the Republicans on the committee who curry
favor with the Christian right will ask themselves before voting, what
would Jesus do?

Matthew, Chapter 25, answers that question. "Then shall the kings say
unto them on his right hand, come, you blessed of my father, inherit the
kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world, for I was hungry
and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me water to
drink. I was a stranger, and you took me in, naked, and you clothed me. I
was sick and you visited me. I was in prison and you came unto me.

"Then shall the righteous answer him saying lord, when did we see you
hungry and fed you, or thirsty and gave you drink? And when did we see you
a stranger and took you in, or naked and clothed you? And when did we see
you sick or in prison and came unto you? And the king shall answer and say
unto them, in as much as you have done it for the least of my brethren, you
have done it to me."


O`DONNELL: Palin bulletin; Sarah Palin is still not running for
president, because, as viewers of this program know, she will never again
run for public office. She is far too busy running for billionaire. Sarah
Palin faked out a lot of people once again this weekend when she went to
Iowa to make what many believed was a major announcement, the announcement
they have long been waiting for.

My insistence here on this program that she will never run for public
office has irritated more than one Republican. Friend of the show Jeff
Jorgensen, chairman of the Republican party of Patawatami (ph) County,
Iowa, e-mailed one of our producers, Ethan Harp, this note two weeks ago in
anticipation of Palin`s speech in Iowa this weekend.

"Hi, Ethan. As you know, Governor Palin will be making a major
announcement in Iowa on September 3rd. If she announces a run for the
White House, I expect a public, on-air apology from your boss. After all,
it would only be right for your boss to publicly admit he was wrong."

OK, first of all, Jeff, I`m nobody`s boss. I know I dress like one on
TV. But I`m just one of the people who works on this show. I`m the front
man for everyone else who does the real work on this show. I have no power
to hire and fire anyone. That`s what a boss is.

And then secondly, I`ll apologize as soon as I`m wrong about Sarah
Palin running for president. And of course, as we now know, Sarah Palin
went to Iowa Saturday and announced absolutely nothing. She did the same
thing yesterday in New Hampshire.

Joining me now to discuss what Sarah Palin is really up to, the man
who can read Sarah Palin`s mind, Eugene Robinson, the columnist for the
"Washington Post" and an MSNBC political analyst.

Eugene, she keeps playing this game and playing it just well enough to
fool -- I don`t know -- whatever the critical number is that allows "the
New York Times" today to say that -- what was the line they said? "Ms.
Palin did not say whether she would run."

Come on. Gene, help me here.

EUGENE ROBINSON, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Lawrence, I`m with you. I`ve
been with you. She`s not running for anything. She`s not running for
office. She doesn`t like holding office. She held office, remember. She
was governor of Alaska. She quit. It was too much of a hassle. She`s not
running for president.

Yet she continues this -- this, you know, dangling the possibility.
And there`s always a gullible few, I think, who are willing to believe, who
kind of buy into the fantasy that Palin -- Palin for president. I don`t
see it now. I never see it.

O`DONNELL: Gene, Roger Ailes has helped us greatly with this. He
instituted the policy at Fox News that says if you`re thinking about
running for president, even before declaring, you have to get off my
payroll. She did not raise her hand and say, hey Roger, that`s me. She
and Mike Huckabee stayed on the payroll, therefore, telling all of us,
we`re not running.

ROBINSON: That`s exactly right, because if you even -- if the thought
had even crossed your mind that you might end up being a candidate, would
you do that to Roger Ailes if you`re a Republican? Would you alienate
Roger Ailes by keeping that a secret from him and embarrassing him?

I wouldn`t. And I don`t think any of them would. Huckabee didn`t.
And she didn`t. She`s not running for president.

O`DONNELL: She`s making very easy money from Roger Ailes, which she
would need to continue to make after she lost in the Republican primaries,
if she was ever silly enough to get in them, which she isn`t.

ROBINSON: Right. Look, there are already two actual candidates with
actual campaigns who are out there scarfing up her potential voters and her
constituency, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann. She has no campaign
machinery. She has -- she does not have the discipline and the single
mindedness that one needs to be a candidate in the first place.

So it just -- you know, as you said, it ain`t happening. Yet we
continue to talk about it because she continues to act as if it, well, it
might. Might be in Iowa. Maybe she`ll go to New Hampshire next. Maybe it
will be there. It`s not going to be.

O`DONNELL: It`s fascinating to watch this tease go on as long as it
has, and to watch people continue to fall for it.

ROBINSON: It is. It is fascinating. You know, she is so successful
at kind of keeping herself in the limelight. And, you know, she`s not
running to -- I guess she`s running to be king maker. Or she`s running to
be billionaire, as you posited earlier. I think that`s probably the most
likely scenario.

O`DONNELL: Eugene Robinson of the "Washington Post" and MSNBC, thanks
for joining us tonight, Eugene. And you`re going to join us tomorrow in
studio for the big debate coverage.

ROBINSON: Lawrence, by the way, it`s been five more minutes and she
still hasn`t announced for president.

O`DONNELL: There you go. You can have THE LAST WORD online at our
blog, You can follow my Tweets @Lawrence. "THE


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