IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Guests: Alex Wagner, Eliot Engel, Austan Goolsbee, Michael Beschloss, Penn Jillette

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: If the Obama campaign wasn`t scared
yesterday, it should be terrified today.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love you, Barack!


CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: Democratic enthusiasm.


OBAMA: If you love me, you got to help me pass this bill.

O`DONNELL: New reasons for Democrats to find a new winning strategy.

RACHEL MADDOW, "TRMS" HOST: The economy, the economy, the economy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The poverty rate now stands at 15.1 percent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s $22,000 a year for a family of four.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: If you are in the lower 20 percent,
you are going to live 6 1/2 years less.

TODD: The message is being sent.

OBAMA: Hello, North Carolina.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: Third jobs speech in as many days.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Until the inequality in this country is dealt
with, you`re not going to see massive growth.

OBAMA: Every single one of you can help make this bill a reality.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: African-Americans experiencing the highest
poverty rate --

OBAMA: I sent Congress this piece of legislation. It`s called the
American Jobs Act.

MADDOW: Low numbers in terms of people`s faith in him to fix the

OBAMA: It`s about giving all of us a win.

MADDOW: But the feelings about congressional Republicans on that same
score are much worse.

OBAMA: Pass this bill.

O`DONNELL: But there are now two more Republicans who can vote
against the president`s jobs plan.

MARTIN BASHIR, MSNBC HOST: A dramatic upset.

MITCHELL: Special elections to replace Anthony Weiner.

BASHIR: Anthony Weiner lost self-control.

MITCHELL: Right here in queens.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we`re all waking up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There`s definitely some hand wringing.

O`DONNELL: But there is hope for Democrats.

to hundred for the United States Senate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s a lot of lunatics it seems --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn`t say that.

top ten in my graduating class of 13.

Donald`s got some advice for me.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Michele Bachmann, she might have
blown it.


BASHIR: I`ve been having trouble understanding the Christianity these
candidates represent.

PERRY: Unique Christian origin. And defend the values, those
Christian values. May God continue to bless this great country that we


O`DONNELL: Political history was made here in New York City last
night in an election outcome that has Democrats tonight worrying more than
ever about their party`s and their president`s election prospects next
year. A Republican decisively won the congressional seat last occupied by
Democrat Anthony Weiner. That seat had been held by Democrats for 88

If you think Democrats lost the seat because its previous Democratic
occupant had to leave under a heavy cloud of embarrassment, if not scandal,
you must think again. Scandal is not enough for Democrats to lose a New
York City congressional seat. There is no better proof than the former
House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel who was easily re-
elected in November 2010 in the middle of a highly publicized House Ethics
Committee investigation which ultimately led to his formal censure by the
House of Representatives.

Some Democratic spinners tried to blame yesterday`s loss on the weak
Democratic candidate, but weak Democratic candidates like Charlie Rangel
easily win New York City congressional seats in normal times.

The Republican candidate who took the seat away from the Democrats was
as weak a Republican as New York politics can produce. The now victorious
Bob Turner who has never been elected to public office will take to the
Republican House of Representatives a private sector career that includes
having been the head of the production company that created "The Jerry
Springer Show." It is doubtful the new Springer influence on House
Republicans will improve much the general tenor of the House of

Local New York television was filled today with man and woman on the
street, explanations of yesterday`s election. They were all minor
variations on an anti-Obama theme.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m not sure, but I`m really disappointed in
Obama. I was hoping much more.


O`DONNELL: Joining me now, Democratic congressman from New York,
Eliot Engel.

Thank you very much for joining me tonight, Congressman Engel.

REP. ELIOT ENGEL (D), NEW YORK: My pleasure, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Congressman, you have an office, a district office in the
Bronx. What are you hearing in your Bronx office? Is it similar to what
we were hearing all over local New York television today about New York
Democratic voters disappointed in President Obama and expressing it as they
did yesterday by voting for a kind of loony Republican candidate for

ENGEL: Well, I think a lot of it is the dissatisfaction with the
economy. People are scared. They don`t see any improvement in the
economy. There are a lot of Democrats who say to me -- tell the president
to be more feisty, to take it to the Republicans, to stop backing down, to
stand for something. There`s a lot of dissatisfaction with that.

There are some people who questioned the president`s policies on
Israel and were dissatisfied with the policies. And I think that came into

I think it all coming together was short of the perfect storm. But I
think the Democrats received a wake-up call and I think sometimes wake-up
calls may seem bad at the moment, but they actually turn out to be good if
you heed the advice that they give you.

I think the president going around and answering his critics and
talking about the jobs bill last week in front of Congress was a very good
first step, and I think the feisty Barack Obama that we all knew and loved
that we voted for in 2008, I hope he`s back. I think he`s back. If that
was any indication of his speaking to Congress last week, he`s back.

And, you know, when he left his speech and finished it, walked up the
aisle, I had an aisle seat. I whispered in his ear and I said, Harry
Truman 1948. And he smiled.

I think that`s what you have to have with Barack Obama. I think he
has to be feisty, give his vision. If the Republicans won`t go along with
it, then he runs against the do-nothing Congress as Harry Truman did in
1948 when they said he couldn`t win and he won because he took it to the
American people.

O`DONNELL: Congressman Engel, I don`t think we have to remind any of
our viewers that you have an aisle seat at every presidential address to
Congress. We saw you that night as we do every night.

I want to read to you a paragraph that appears, as I`m sure you read
it already, above the fold on the front page of today`s "New York Times"
about this election. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida,
the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, said the district`s
large concentration of orthodox Jews made it unusual and meant the race had
few national ramifications.

Congressman, I was shocked to read that as the Democratic Party
explanation as to how you lost this very traditional Democratic district in
New York City. There`s something about the Jewish vote there that suddenly
is non-representative of American voters.

ENGEL: Well, I would not agree with that statement. I do think that
there was a loss. It was exacerbated by the fact that many orthodox Jewish
voters wanted to send the president a message on Israel. This is sort of
nationalized. There were vote losses because of that.

But if we think that`s the only reason, then we`re misreading it. I
think that the reason, as I said, was that some voters stayed home. You
know, when it`s a special election, you have to have a reason to vote.
Very few people vote.

If you`re angry with the economy, if you`re angry and you think the
president hasn`t stood up for the values that he campaigned on, then you go
to the polls. And I think that people just want to see the old Barack
Obama. And I think that, again, if we take this election -- it wasn`t a
good election. And Democrats, we feel terribly about it.

But I think sometimes something good comes out of something bad, and
we have to realize that we have got to show why we`re Democrats, that we
believe in creating jobs for working people. We believe in preserving
Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid. We`re not going to toss those
away. We`re going to stand by our commitments. And we`re going to not
look to compromise every step of the way.

Compromise is wonderful if you have a partner to compromise with. But
the Republicans have shown I think in the debt ceiling debate they`re not
interested in compromising. They don`t want to raise taxes even for people
who can afford it. They don`t want to close tax loopholes for big
corporations. They don`t want big oil to pay their fair share. They`re
protecting the big corporations.

I think we need to take that to the American people. I think there
was a dissatisfaction. I don`t think it was because of a weak candidate
that we lost.

I think, again, we need to learn from this and if we learn to this --
you know, this is the precursor to 2012. 2012 is the big race. And I
think that if we do what we`re supposed to do by knowing what we stand for
and showing the voters, there will be more enthusiasm and voters will come
out and vote for us in 2012.

O`DONNELL: Congressman Eliot Engel, thank you very much for joining
us tonight.

ENGEL: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Joining me now, MSNBC political analyst and "Huffington
Post" reporter Alex Wagner.

Alex, the Democratic spin is out there. Just like when Scott Brown
won that Senate seat, Teddy Kennedy`s seat in Massachusetts, the Democratic
spin including from Debbie Wasserman Schultz, was, oh, you know, the
Democratic spin including from Wasserman Schultz, oh, the Democratic
candidate was weak and it wasn`t Scott Brown is a message that we are in
serious trouble in the upcoming election which it turned out to be.

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. On some level you could
understand they don`t want to say, hey, we really messed up, this is a big
defeat and it`s a big problem.

O`DONNELL: Oh, why not? Come on!

WAGNER: No, no.

O`DONNELL: No, that`s a good point. They have to spin. That`s their

WAGNER: And what I`ve heard from certain congressional aides is,
look, behind the scenes, they know it`s a big deal and they know it`s a
wake-up call. The alarm bell is ringing. And on a certain level, thank
God it`s 14 months before the election.

I think you have two things going on here. One is the Democratic
voters who are using this as a message delivery system. President Obama,
we are not happy with the economy --

O`DONNELL: Can anyone understand this as a message delivery system?
I`m unhappy with the liberal Democrat who I voted for so I`m going to vote
for Jerry Springer`s producer --

WAGNER: Well, yes, it is counterintuitive but I think they were -- in
the back of their minds to a certain degree, it was we kind of have a free
pass on this. The seat is going to get redistricted out of existence in
2012, he`s only going to be in power for a year, the stakes aren`t that

But the other thing compounding this, Lawrence, is those that stayed
home. That`s another serious problem for the White House. If there is a
considerable amount of a base that is just not going to the polls on
election day in 2012, that`s a big problem for President Obama. As much as
a fired up conservative base is.

O`DONNELL: Look, I am very New York centric tonight in this news
because I learned my politics in New York politics. And the only political
campaigns I`ve worked on were in New York state politics. So, this shocks
me to the core that they could -- you know, Staten Island is the unique
piece of New York City that always votes Republican. Mostly votes
Republican, because it`s an island unto itself. It`s a separate world.

WAGNER: It is.

O`DONNELL: But not there. So what I`m starting to wonder is, does
this indicate that the president, the Democratic president in running for
re-election might actually have to campaign in New York? New York`s a very
expensive state that never costs the Democrats anything. They never have
to buy New York TV time.

WAGNER: Right.

O`DONNELL: I mean, might he actually have to spend some money here
and some time?

WAGNER: I don`t think he can take anything for granted. This is --
you know, in the same way that Massachusetts, Ted Kennedy`s seat, went to
Scott Brown. This is -- this is a seat that hasn`t been Democratic in
almost a century. So if you`re the Obama campaign, you`re looking at every

O`DONNELL: There`s a Bloomberg poll out today that has all sorts of
troubles in here. It shows that 46 percent of independents say they
definitely, definitely will not vote to re-elect President Obama. He has
some time to change that poll. When they say I`m definitely going to do
something, it scares people.

Only 21 percent say they definitely will vote for the president. And
those are the people who are going to decide the outcome here.

Sixty-two percent of Americans disapprove of the president`s handling
of the economy. Only 33 percent approve. The president`s job approval
rating in this poll is 45 percent. That`s the lowest of his presidency in
that poll.

There are -- the numbers here, though, that help the president are
that more people trust him --

WAGNER: Right.

O`DONNELL: -- on the economy than trust these Republicans. How do
you take that information and turn it into a campaign?

WAGNER: Well, I mean, it`s a defensive strategy to a certain degree.
Look, it`s like the GOP, there is a real -- it`s -- the Republican field is
hugely unsettled. There`s a real dissatisfaction with the candidates that
are out there. One week it`s Perry, one week Romney. It looks like it`s
back on Romney again.

The administration is going to play hardball with that. That`s good
for them. But, at the end of the day, you got to be proposing something to
the American electorate and I think that`s a real challenge.

And in terms of getting people to the polls, he`s got to offer a
vision for the next four years. It can`t just be -- I won`t do what the
Republicans will do. It`s got to be something proactive and it`s going to
move the ball forward. And I think that`s a big challenge going into 2012.

O`DONNELL: Alex Wagner of "The Huffington Post" and MSNBC, thank you
very much.

WAGNER: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Despite his low job approval rating, voters say they trust
the president more than Republicans to fix the economy. Former
presidential adviser Austan Goolsbee joins me next to discuss how the
president can get his jobs bill passed.

And later, an exclusive interview with historian Michael Beschloss.
He has listened to all eight and a half hours of First Lady Jacqueline
Kennedy`s interviews conducted just months after her husband`s
assassination. Michael Beschloss will tell us what surprised him the most.


O`DONNELL: Governor Howard Dean says the president`s Americans Jobs
Act is brilliant politics. Austan Goolsbee joins me next to explain how
good policy makes good politics.

And later, Rick Perry went to Liberty University today to court the
religious right. The author of "God, No!" -- Penn Jillette joins me to
talk about religion and politics.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love you, Barack!

OBAMA: I love you back.


OBAMA: But if you love me -- if you love me, you got to help me pass
this bill. If you love me, you have to help me pass this bill. It starts
with your help.


O`DONNELL: That was two of the 24 times President Obama called on
Congress to pass this bill in his 19-minute speech at North Carolina State
University in Raleigh today. The president spoke to more than 9,000 people
packed into the school`s un-air-conditioned field house. The fired up
crowd was a bright spot for the Obama White House today.

So, too, is a new poll that shows support for the American Jobs Act.
The new CNN opinion research poll shows 43 percent of people support the
proposals in the American Jobs Act while 35 percent oppose them.

The individual proposals in the president`s job bill poll even better:
58 percent support cutting the payroll tax for businesses; 64 percent
support federal spending to build and repair bridges, roads and schools; 65
percent support extending the payroll tax holiday for employees; 74 percent
support providing federal money to states to hire teachers and first
responders. That last proposal, federal spending to hire teachers and
first responders, is popular with voters across the board -- men, women,
whites, non-whites, under 50, over 50, attended college, no college,
Democrat, dependent, Republican, liberal, moderate, conservative, urban,
suburban, rural, Southern, Midwestern.

Every single category of voters supports that proposal -- except one
category of voters, the voters who support the Tea Party. Fifty-five
percent of voters who support the Tea Party oppose giving federal money to
states to hire teachers and first responders and, of course, so do
Republicans in Congress.

Joining me now is Austan Goolsbee, former chairman of President
Obama`s Council of Economic Advisers. He`s now a professor of economics at
the University of Chicago`s Booth School of Business.

Thanks for joining me tonight, Austan.

see you again, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Austan, I think this is one of the perfect examples of how
good policy that can really have the effect it`s intended makes good
politics. When you look at the support numbers for the individual
components of the bill in that poll, it`s really quite extraordinary. Is
there -- is there a way to translate that support for individual components
-- this is something we saw in the health care legislation, too --
individual components of the bill had much more support than the overall
legislative package.

Is there a way to translate that kind of support into momentum

GOOLSBEE: You know, I certainly hope so. That`s got to be the
challenge the White House has is just to get out the door and into people`s
heads what`s actually in the bill, because, you know, the environment in
Washington is so partisan and poisonous just because one side`s saying it`s
Obama`s jobs bill, you got some groups of people saying, oh, then they`re
against it.

But I think if you start looking at the components, the components do
make a lot of sense and I would just wish everybody on all sides would take
a step back and just -- the economy is in a serious spot. We got -- the
events in Europe are really scary.

We`ve taken some heavy blows this year. We were growing fairly well
in 2010. 2011, we slowed down a lot because of these things that we can`t

We got to do something. And this isn`t a game. So I hope people can
try to get out of the gamesmanship mentality and if it`s some parts of that
-- I hope it`s the whole thing. I mean, I think what`s in that package
strikes me as makes a lot of sense.

O`DONNELL: Now, the front-runner in the Republican primaries right
now, Rick Perry, just -- at the Republican debate the other night just says
the president`s stimulus package, the Recovery Act, created zero jobs.
That`s his number. Zero jobs.

What`s the response -- what`s the Democratic response to that that
doesn`t sound like an economics professor talking? I`m going to ask an
economics professor to give me the English language campaign response to

GOOLSBEE: I mean, one is we can go back and try to get the data and
look at 2 1/2, 3 years ago what was happening. We`re losing 800,000 jobs a
month. We turned that around. We come out of a deep hole.

There`s every reason to think that these nonpartisan, whether it be
the Congressional Budget Office or the private guys, who strongly disagree
with Governor Perry are correct.

I -- in some sense, I don`t think we should do that. Rather than
argue about what or how successful these programs were three years ago, why
not acknowledge that we`re in a different moment?

Look, at that moment when the president takes office, the data now
shows that`s the worst six months in the 64 years that we`ve had data. And
there wasn`t a private sector that you could turn to. You couldn`t say,
well, let`s have some tax cuts and hope the private sector does it
themselves, because at that moment the government was the only choice there

Now, we`re in a different moment, but it`s still a scary moment. I
mean, we`ve slowed down. The job market is still -- we still got a very
high unemployment rate. And you`ve got these ill winds blowing from
Europe. We had the events in Japan. We`ve had oil prices.

The question of what we should do now, I think, is those aspects that
could help the private sector stand up. You saw the president in his
speech outline a bunch of those. Tax cuts for 150 million workers. Tax
cuts to the employers. Tax cuts for investment.

And then let`s rebuild the infrastructure of the country. I mean, I -
- somebody told me that 20 percent of the bridges in John Boehner`s own
district were rated as either about to fall down or something, whatever was
the lowest category. I mean, it`s across the country -- you can get 14
kinds of coffee, but you can`t get to the coffee shop without driving
through a pothole. I mean, that`s a mess.

O`DONNELL: I just want you to listen to one more thing the president
said today when he was talking about the Republicans and their attitude --
their political attitude toward this bill. Let`s listen to what the
president had to say.


OBAMA: Some of them were quoted as saying even if they agreed with
some of the things in the bill that they don`t want to pass it because it
would give me a win. Give me a win? Give me a break. We`re in a national
emergency. You got folks that are purposefully divided - purposefully --
thinking just in terms of how does this play out in terms of this election.


O`DONNELL: Well, he doesn`t sound like an economics professor there.
National emergency -- is that the level that the president has to go to in
order to get voter attention here?

GOOLSBEE: Look, he might. I think it is a national emergency. I
mean, how could you not view it as emergency? And then you look at all
this stuff happening around the world. I mean, there are a lot of big
problems. We`ve got to get the economy growing.

If the president`s right and there are people saying that, those
people should be ashamed of themselves. I mean, when the unemployment rate
is 9 percent, to be thinking, well, yes, I think that would help the
economy, but we -- let`s not do it anyway, you know, that`s just sad.

O`DONNELL: I hate to think we live in a country that only recognizes
the emergency when the bridge actually falls.

Austan Goolsbee, thank you very much for joining me tonight.

GOOLSBEE: Hey, great to see you again, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Michael Beschloss joins me in a LAST WORD
exclusive to guide us through the just released tapes of former First Lady
Jacqueline Kennedy discussing her life with JFK.

And in the "Rewrite" tonight, Rick Perry can`t stop talking about
being a devoted follower of Jesus Christ. But he is as devoted a follower
of Pontius Pilate.


O`DONNELL: In October 1962, the United States and Soviet Union came
close to nuclear war. The president remained at the White House throughout
the crisis, and we now know so did the First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy, at
her own request.

Coming up, a LAST WORD exclusive with presidential historian Michael
Beschloss on how Jacqueline Kennedy`s just released audio tapes are adding
to our understanding of American history.

Later, Penn Jillette joins me on Rick Perry`s campaign to become
Christian in chief.


O`DONNELL: When Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis died on May 19th, 1994,
"the New York Times" obituary the next days said "her silence about her
past, especially about the Kennedy years and her marriage to the president,
was always something of a mystery."

She is silent no more. In 1964, Jacqueline Kennedy gave a seven part
taped interview to former White House aide Arthur Schlessinger Jr., just
four months after President John F. Kennedy`s assassination. Now nearly
five decades later, we`re hearing those conversations for the first time,
in a newly released book, accompanied by 8.5 hours of audio, "Jacqueline
Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life With John F. Kennedy."

The revealing conversation show sides of6 the First Lady never seen
before. Here she is on her reaction to the Cuban Missile Crisis.


JACQUELINE KENNEDY, FORMER FIRST LADY: I said, please don`t send me
away to Camp David, you know, me and the children. Please don`t send me
anywhere. If anything happens, we`re all going to stay right here with

And you know, I said, even if there`s not room in the bomb shelter in
the White House, which I`d seen -- I said, please then I just want to be on
the lawn when it happens. You know, but I just want to be with you. And I
want to die with you and the children do, too, than live without you.

So he said he wouldn`t send me away. He didn`t really want to send me
away, either.


O`DONNELL: And the First Lady was very open in her discussion of
Lyndon Johnson in the role of vice president.


KENNEDY: It was so funny because Jack thinking of being vice
president and how awful it would be, gave Lyndon so many things to do. But
he never did them. He could have done more with the space thing. He just
never wanted to make any decision or do anything that would put him in any

So what he would really like to do is go on these trips. And he never
liked -- Jack would say, you can never get an opinion out of Lyndon at any
cabinet or national security meeting. He`d just say that he agreed with
them or just keep really quiet.

I think it`s so pathetic when all you can find to do with a president
who`s dying to give you a lot to do is take a state trip to Luxembourg and
Belgium. So that`s the kind of vice president he was. But Jack always
said he was never disloyal or spoke anywhere.

Bobby told me this later. And I know Jack said it to me sometimes.
He said, `oh, God, can you ever imagine what would happen to the country if
Lyndon was president?`


O`DONNELL: Joining me now for on exclusive interview, the man who
wrote the introduction and annotations to the book, historian Michael
Beschloss. Michael, thank you very much for joining me tonight.

asking me.

O`DONNELL: Michael, in today`s "New York Times," Maureen Dowd wrote,
"she maintains her reputation as JFK`s best image wizard, a novelistic
observer of history and the most deliciously original, glamorous and
compelling political spouse we`ll ever see."

Is that a reasonable summary of the Jacqueline Kennedy tapes?

BESCHLOSS: I rarely disagree with Maureen on some things and I sure
don`t here. I think that`s right. One of the things that really is a
surprise about this book is that she had so many different opinions about
people, very strong ones, pro and con. That we had a little bit of a hint

But I think the surprise is that these things had political impact.
Before this book, I think you would not have put Jacqui Kennedy among the
key political figures of the Kennedy administration. She did a lot for
historical preservation and certainly a lot for culture in the White House,
Pablo Casals and so on.

But you see the number of opinions that she had about people who
worked for John Kennedy. She even talks about urging of the president to
fire his secretary of state, Dean Rusk. He says, well, I can`t because he
has nowhere to go. He burned his bridges with the Rockefeller Foundation,
which is where he used to be. She said, well, couldn`t you find something
for him so you can get rid of him?

Kennedy, according to her, was resolved to let Rusk go by the end of
that term. It was not without her influence.

O`DONNELL: That`s such an interesting point. Because I`m going to
play another piece of tape right now, where you would get the opposite
impression. This is a part of the tape where she is discussing how she
formed her political views. Let`s listen to that.


KENNEDY: In my marriage, I could never conceive -- and I remember I
said it in an interview once. All these women, we got all these irate
letters. Someone said, where do you get your opinions? I said, I get all
my opinions from my husband, which is true. How could I have any political
opinions? His were going to be the best.


O`DONNELL: But you were just saying she did have some of her own
opinions that she expressed.

BESCHLOSS: I think John Kennedy would probably be slightly surprised
to hear that all her opinions came from him. They both had very strong
views. I think you have to go back, Lawrence, these were the times. This
was 1964. Women in her social group particularly were not -- it was not
considered attractive for a woman or a First Lady to have all sorts of
opinions that were at variants with those of her husband.

The other thing is remember in these tapes she`s making an effort to
do what JFK never got to do, tragically, which is this is almost in lieu of
his memoirs. This is to make the case for John Kennedy as president. That
case would not be served by saying, I had all sorts of opinions that
differed from my husband.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what she had to say about Martin Luther
King Jr. back at that time. I think everyone while listening to it will
realize it is -- it turned out to be full of irony. Let`s listen to this


KENNEDY: Well, he said what an incredible speaker he was during that
Freedom March thing. He told me of a tape that the FBI had of Martin
Luther King when he was here for the Freedom March. And he said this with
no bitterness or anything, how he was calling up all these girls and
arranging for a party of men and women. I mean, sort of an orgy in the
hotel and everything.

I said, Jack, that`s so terrible. That man is such a phony then.


O`DONNELL: Michael, your reaction when you heard that part of the

BESCHLOSS: Well, you remember I was talking about a point in time.
This was specifically spring of 1964. Robert Kennedy was filling her ears
with what J. Edgar Hoover was telling him from wiretaps that was on J.
Edgar Hoover`s -- excuse me, on Martin Luther King`s telephones and also
eavesdropping on his rooms and hotels and so forth, that King was doing
these things.

But particularly that King had made fun of President Kennedy`s
funeral. If you had to say one thing that would have alienated Jacqui
Kennedy at that point, it would be something like that. She wasn`t sure if
it was true. Nor was Bobby. But at least the idea that he might have was
enough to make her very angry.

O`DONNELL: Presidential historian Michael Beschloss, thank you very
much for joining us tonight, Michael.

BESCHLOSS: Pleasure, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, it took a wrestling match with God for Rick
Perry to find religion. Penn Jillette, author of "God, No," joins me to
discuss that one.

And in the Rewrite, what Rick Perry doesn`t understand about economics
and the lesson in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.


O`DONNELL: Time for tonight`s Rewrite. Republicans are feared and
get laughed at because of their denials of science, their recklessness
about raising the debt ceiling, their unwillingness to separate church and
state, and their apparent belief that government gets everything it tries
to do wrong, except when it decides to kill people.


BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Governor Perry, a question about
Texas. Your state has executed 234 death row inmates, more than any other
governor in modern times. Have you --



O`DONNELL: There is so much madness and so many lies flying around
the Republican debates that it`s hard to keep track of all of them. Here`s
one that passes uncontested by most debate moderators and is ignored by
most commentators who are busy dealing with more dramatic nuttiness in the
Republican debates.


dollars worth of stimulus in the first round of stimulus. It created zero
jobs. Four billion-plus dollars in this package. I can do the math on
that one. Half of zero jobs is going to be zero jobs.


O`DONNELL: OK. In fact, as everyone watching this show knows, the
president`s stimulus package actually created millions of jobs. It also
saved state and local government jobs for workers who would have been laid
off if their states had not been suddenly flooded with federal cash. In
the state of Texas, alone, the stimulus created at least 125,000 jobs.

Indeed, the great Perry success story of surging employment in Texas
during his tenure as governor is largely attributable to government jobs.
It is also mythology, of course, because it has a higher unemployment rate
than many other states.

In the decade that Rick Perry has been the governor of Texas, his
state has added 287,400 government jobs. In fact, the number of government
jobs in Texas has grown at more than double the rate of private sector
employment during Perry`s tenure.

But Republicans will continue to laugh at the idea that the stimulus
created jobs, just as they laugh at any discussion of the science of

The biggest liar about government jobs in Texas, Rick Perry, will
probably be able to get away with his lies in the debates, because no
matter how many public school teachers get hired to teach their children,
no matter how many police officers pull them over for drunk driving, no
matter how many of their relatives and friends get jobs as prison guards,
no matter how many air traffic controllers save them from dying every day,
it has become a matter of religious belief for Republicans that government
does not create jobs.

The Republican grip on reality has been loosening every day for years
now. We are moving ever closer to the point where the diagnosis of their
collective dementia may have to declare them lost to reality forever. How
much more lost can these people get?


WILLIAMS: Your state has executed 234 death row inmates --



O`DONNELL: Those people believe this.


PERRY: America is going to be guided by some set of values. The
question is going to be, whose values? It`s those Christian values that
this country was based upon.


O`DONNELL: The good Christian, Rick Perry, will continue to be
cheered by the lynch mobs in the presidential debate audiences, who don`t
seem to know that Christianity was found on the teachings of a man who was
unfairly put to death by government. Executed, Rick Perry style.

Republicans have been asked many times to consider what would Jesus do
when faced with governing questions of how we should share our burdens.
Tonight I ask Republicans to consider what would Rick Perry do if some
2,000 years ago he had been the prefect of the Roman province of Judah
instead of Pontius Pilate?


O`DONNELL: Rick Perry`s campaign for Christian in chief took him to
Liberty University today, in Lynchburg, Virginia, where he sought votes not
by outlining his positions on the governing issues of the day, but by his
false and relentlessly public piety.


PERRY: What I learned as I wrestled with God is that I didn`t have to
have all the answers, that they would be revealed to me in due time, and
that I need to trust him.

My faith journey is not the story of someone who turned to God because
I wanted to. It was because I had nowhere else to turn.

Trust that God wouldn`t have put you here unless he had a unique plan
for your life. He who knows the number of drops in the ocean, the -- he
counts the sands in the desert. He knows you by name. You`re never alone.


O`DONNELL: Joining me now, THE LAST WORD`s senior religion analyst,
Penn Jillette, author of the current "New York Times" bestseller "God, No,
Signs You May Already be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales."

Penn, thank you very much for joining me tonight.

PENN JILLETTE, AUTHOR, "GOD NO!": Thanks for having me.

O`DONNELL: So we`ve got an awful lot of religion in this political

JILLETTE: Seems like there`s a bit.

O`DONNELL: When Rick Perry thought he had nowhere else to turn,
didn`t want to turn to God, but thought he had nowhere else to turn, and he
turned to God, where would you have suggested he turn?

JILLETTE: I suggest all these turn to people. I think that there`s a
certain kind of love of humanity that I`d like to see more in there than
just this desperation and this clawing and the going inside himself, which
he calls God.

O`DONNELL: Now, he`s not the only Republican candidate who gets
rather religious in public discussion. I want you to listen to something
Michele Bachmann said a couple years ago about -- she`s actually explaining
-- you know, a lot of people think she`s attractive. I think that`s a fair
opinion about Michele Bachmann, which some people say she`s hot. She
explains here why God thinks she`s hot. Let`s listen to that.


watch TV, a lot of times you`ll see young people on TV. And they`ll say,
she`s hot. Or they`ll say, he`s hot. What does God say when he looks at
you or when he looks at me? He wants to say, she`s hot. He`s hot.

Because we are hot for him on the inside. Amen. When you are hot for
Jesus Christ, there is nothing that is like that life. He changes the
world through hot people.


O`DONNELL: Are you familiar --

Wait a minute. Are you going because you think I don`t have a
question? Because I don`t. I don`t have a question.



JILLETTE: I do. Are you familiar with Powe`s (ph) law?

O`DONNELL: Go. I ask the questions.

JILLETTE: Powe`s law -- you can find that on Wikipedia. Powe`s law
is that if someone is speaking very strong Christian rhetoric, it`s
impossible to separate it from satire. You cannot tell if they are
kidding. There`s no way to tell.

If that were on "Saturday Night Live" with someone saying it, I would
not question it for a second. There`s no way to tell that from Perry. No
way at all.

O`DONNELL: Want to try another Michele Bachmann bit?


O`DONNELL: She has another thing here about God and natural
disasters. Let`s listen to that.


BACHMANN: I don`t know how much God has to do to get the attention of
the politicians. We had an earthquake. We`ve had a hurricane. He said,
are you going to start listening to me here?


O`DONNELL: Now, why wouldn`t an earthquake and a hurricane get the
attention of politicians? She has a point there.

JILLETTE: I think it did. I think it did. That seems to me -- I
can`t believe she gets away with that to anybody. That seems so heartless.
It`s also -- her tone of voice is so kind of -- she`s kind of kidding,
right? Is she kind of kidding?

O`DONNELL: Later, she said she was kidding.

JILLETTE: But kidding is even worse? Isn`t kidding worse? Isn`t it
worse to kind of have --

O`DONNELL: You`re the religion analyst. I`m not sure -- I really --
I don`t get any of this.

JILLETTE: If it`s a joke that God is -- if it`s a joke about God
communicating with people through earthquakes and hurricanes, that`s a joke
I don`t think I would try to get away with in public.

O`DONNELL: Where -- how did we get to this point? I mean, this
discussion -- Reagan didn`t talk this way.

JILLETTE: I think it`s desperation. The number of non-religious
people in this country is growing at unbelievable rates. It has at least
quadrupled in the past ten years.

O`DONNELL: So you`re saying it`s your fault? You`re scaring Michele
Bachmann into talking that way?

JILLETTE: There`s no doubt about it. The earthquake did hit exactly
when my book went on sale, precisely when people were ordering it on
Amazon. That is when the earthquake hit. There`s exactly me joking about
a disaster, what I just accused Michele Bachmann of. Isn`t it?

O`DONNELL: There`s just no difference between the two of you?

JILLETTE: No way at all.

O`DONNELL: Penn Jillette. The book is "Good, No!" Thank you very
much for joining us tonight, Penn.

JILLETTE: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: You can have THE LAST WORD online at our blog, You can follow my Tweets @Lawrence. "THE RACHEL
MADDOW SHOW" is up next with her exclusive interview with Massachusetts
Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren.

Good evening, Rachel. We`re all going to be watching.


Copyright 2011 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>