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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Thursday, September 15th, 2011

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guests: Bruce Bartlett, Jonathan Capehart

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: Well, John Boehner doesn`t sound
conciliatory anymore.


CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: Feels like deja vu all over again.

with ourselves.

TODD: Mr. Boehner basically saying, thanks, but no thanks.

O`DONNELL (voice-over): Speaker Boehner stops pretending that he
might not lead the Republican attack on the president`s jobs bill.

BOEHNER: I don`t think there are viable options.

TODD: A complete rebuke of the president`s job plan.

SEN. JIM DEMINT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Venture socialism.

TODD: This is the ultimate moving the goalposts.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The opposition on point by point --


DEMINT: It`s hard for me to listen to him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the devil`s in the details.

MCCONNELL: His economic policies simply haven`t worked.

TODD: And we`re against them.

DEMINT: The political program to try to defer the blame.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it`s going to be really hard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know it will not be fun.

are socialists.

O`DONNELL: Democratic leaders insist they are still behind the


you could escape that.

TODD: Democrats publicly skeptical.

OBAMA: This fight could not be more important.

TODD: Are you guys ready?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you`re a Bob Casey, obviously if you`re a
Manchin, if you`re a Kay Hagan --

TODD: Senators starting to hand wring.

O`DONNELL: And the Republican seal of approval now comes from Dick
Cheney and Donald Trump.

TODD: With Rick Perry in New York last night --

PERRY: I`ve got to think Donald`s got some advice for me.

TODD: Where did the Donald take him?

DONALD TRUMP, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: I think he`s a very impressive guy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fancy, expensive Jean George.

TRUMP: Texas is a big spotlight also.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Costing the average guest $127.

Cheney. This is a man of wisdom and judgment.





O`DONNELL: A week ago tonight, President Obama went before a joint
session of Congress and called on lawmakers to pass the American Jobs Act
right away, right now. Today, in a speech to the Economic Club of
Washington, House Speaker John Boehner finally gave his fullest response to


BOEHNER: Some of the president`s proposals I think offer an
opportunity for common ground. But let`s be honest with ourselves: the
president`s proposals are a poor substitute for the pro-growth policies
that are needed to remove barriers to job creation in America.


O`DONNELL: Boehner laid out the country`s economic problems as he
sees them.


BOEHNER: The situation was created by Washington`s inability to let
our economy work. It was created by government intrusion and
micromanagement. Job creators in America basically are on strike. They`ve
been slammed by uncertainty from the constant threat of new taxes, out-of-
control spending, and unnecessary regulation.


O`DONNELL: Not surprisingly, Boehner listed one of the government
threats to job creation as, of course, taxes. But this time, he`s talking
about tax cuts.


BOEHNER: It strikes me as odd that at a time when it`s clear the tax
code needs to be fundamentally reformed, the first instinct to come out of
Washington is to come up with a new host of tax credits that make the tax
code more complex.


O`DONNELL: President Obama has proposed a $4,000 tax credit to
businesses who hire people who have been out of work for six months or

And speaking of the president`s American Jobs Act, one House
Republican has responded with his own legislation, with the same title as
the president`s American Jobs Act of 2011. Here it is. It was introduced
by Texas Republican Louie Gohmert. It`s exactly two pages long. It
proposes only one thing: cutting the corporate tax rate to zero.

Joining me now are: Ezra Klein, "Washington Post" columnist and MSNBC

And Bruce Bartlett, former senior policy analyst in the Reagan White
House, and deputy assistant secretary at Treasury. He is now a columnist
for the "Fiscal Times" and a contributor for "The New York Times."

Thank you both for joining me tonight.


O`DONNELL: Bruce, I`m struck by this bill, this Republican bill to
cut the corporate tax rate to zero because as I`ve been listening to
Republicans -- oh, these many months -- it seems that the argument behind
everything they`re saying would lead to virtually all tax rates to go to
zero. I can`t figure out what they think the optimum tax rate is. Is
there a tax rate that`s too low?

BARTLETT: Well, I think we`re already at rates that are really too
low to raise the revenue the government needs. But you`re absolutely
right. I`ve never once in my life heard a Republican say that a tax cut
was too large or tax rates -- cutting rates to some level such as zero is
too much.

And you`re right. Implicitly, they believe tax rates should be zero.

O`DONNELL: Ezra, was the speaker still making that phrase about
common ground, but what common ground? After the speaker`s speech today,
what common ground was left between the president and the Republicans in
the house?

EZRA KLEIN, MSNBC POLICY ANALYST: Not a ton. And what struck me,
though, was there wasn`t all that much common ground left between John
Boehner and the economy today. I went through the speech shortly after it
was given and I looked for some of the words that weren`t there.

And remember, this speech was about why the economy is not working
yet, why we are still at 9 percent unemployment. It never mentioned Wall
Street, never mentioned foreclosures, negative equity, household debt,
emerging markets, European debt crisis, demand. It never mentioned demand.

It mentioned only one thing as the cause of our problems, which was
government. And that was how you got to a solution, which was only one
thing, which was less government, less regulation, lower taxes.

That`s sort of fine as a political document but doesn`t really give
you a road map for understanding the crisis that we`re in.

Liberals get tagged a lot for believing the government can solve all
of our problems, but conservatives can be a mirror image of that sometimes,
and Boehner was today, in which they believe government is the sole cause
of all of our problems. And that ain`t right either.

O`DONNELL: Bruce, how do Republicans explain, or do they bother to
explain how the golden age of Reagan had a corporate tax rate that was
higher than the corporate tax rate is now or was under Bill Clinton?

BARTLETT: Well, really, the substance of the Reagan years has been
whitewashed from the Republican memory.

Remember, the top tax rate was 50 percent on individuals up until
1986. Among the things that Reagan did in the `86 tax reform was to raise
the capital gains tax to 28 percent. The top 1 percent of taxpayers paid
1/3 of their income in federal taxes during Reagan`s administration. And
now, it`s down to about 10 percentage points less. It`s dropped by about

And economists are increasingly focusing on the fact that a lot of the
negative trends that -- things that we`re dealing with in the economy today
really seem to have started about 10 years ago. I don`t know what happened
10 years ago that would have caused anything to change, though.

O`DONNELL: Ezra, the speaker of the House formally ruled out any
possibility of the pay for side of the Obama jobs bill, which is the
taxation part of it, the increases in tax revenue due to adjustments, to
deductibility issues for the top taxpayers. Where does the Obama bill go
from here if the speaker is basically saying we won`t give you any of that
tax revenue that pays for it?

KLEIN: Maybe it doesn`t get paid for it, maybe it goes nowhere at
all. You know, it was fascinating to me. It seemed to be a major break in
administration strategy when they released those pay-fors. As you
mentioned every single one of them was on the tax side. Every single one
of them were things that Republicans and to some degree Senate moderate
Democrats had rejected in past couple of years.

And it was striking because for the first time, the administration
didn`t end up offering the compromise at the beginning. They said we`re
going to give you a popular-seeming jobs bill, we`re going to only tie
ourselves to popular tax increases on the rich, and if you want to oppose
us on that, we`re happy to beat you over the head for a while with the fact
that you refuse to spend money on the jobless by raising taxes on the rich.

So, where it leaves the bill is in a political place that the bill in
some ways was always going to end up in, which is whether or not Obama can
leverage what they believe to be a popular package and create enough public
pressure on the Republicans that they break and at least let some or most
of it through.

O`DONNELL: Bruce, what is your sense of what the political dynamics
are for the Republicans on the Hill on this? Are they at some point going
to feel the pressure to come up with something more than Louie Gohmert`s
one-pager on eliminate the corporate tax as their only proposal for job
creation legislatively?

BARTLETT: Well, I think over the last week, you did see some cautious
movement in the direction of supporting the president`s jobs bill. But I
think that came to a screeching halt the moment he put out his pay-fors.
And as was pointed out, they were all tax increases. It was almost as if
Obama was raising -- waving a red flag in their faces just daring them to
come out against it.

And they obliged him by doing so.

Frankly, I have to question the president`s political judgment in
being so in the face of the Republicans by putting forward these pay-fors
that he had to know and everybody knew they would absolutely reject

O`DONNELL: Ezra, as Bruce and anyone who`s worked on legislation
knows, the pay for side is the hard -- that`s the killer. That`s the part
that is very, very hard to get either right politically or in policy terms.

What alternatives? What pay-for alternatives did the president have
that he could possibly have chosen that would have both made sense to his
party and had a chance with Republicans?

KLEIN: There`s probably not a lot that would have a chance in the
broad sense. So right now, we`re in a situation where the supercommittee
needs to come up with about $1.5 trillion or so in pay-fors on its own
before you get to the extra $450 billion for this package.

So, what you need to do in order to get Republicans on board is you
would need to add $450 billion in spending cuts, somehow very concrete
spending cuts over 10 years. You can do that. You can dig into Medicare.
You can dig into Medicaid. You can dig into Social Security. You can dig
into defense.

There isn`t a whole lot more at this point we can do in non-
discretionary, non-defense discretionary spending. That would have been
harder with his party.

But the question the White House began to ask is, well, are
Republicans really going to come on board for that either? Because,
obviously, there`s always been this deal on the table, $4 trillion deficit
deal, which is what Boehner and Obama were discussing before the
negotiations broke down. That`s a larger one than what the supercommittee
needs to do, but Republicans have really not been willing to say yes.

So, the new theory was instead of offering up a compromise, that they
will say no to it, now you`ll be yoked to unpopular compromise policies
which made the Republicans something they`ll try to pass on their own later
come out with something you can sell politically and hope that will either
increase pressure on Republicans or if it doesn`t do that, let`s be honest
about the strategy here, help get you re-elected.

O`DONNELL: Now, the Republican chant about why the economy is so bad
is too much taxation, and they ignore that we`ve had much higher levels of
taxation in the past with much stronger economies, and then also, of
course, regulation. Regulation is just drowning this economy and tying it
up in knots and making everything immovable in this economy.

Let`s listen to what Speaker Boehner said today specifically about
regulation and how that`s going to be the second prong in the Republican
attack on how to fix this economy, cut taxation and regulation. Let`s
listen to what he said about regulation.


BOEHNER: We all know there are some regulations that are need. There
are reasonable regulations that protect our children and keep our
environment clean. Well, then, there are excessive regulations that
unnecessarily increase the cost for consumers and small businesses.


O`DONNELL: Well, at least he`s one of the Republicans who admits that
we need some regulation. There are those out there who don`t even grant

But, Bruce, what is the empirical evidence? What do we know about
what regulation does to the economy? What is the negative drag on the
economy from regulation?

BARTLETT: Well, look, government regulation is a very -- imposes a
large cost on the economy. But to make the argument that regulations are
what`s holding us back today as opposed to some other thing, you`d have to
show that there`s been a significant increase in regulation just since
2008. And there`s absolutely no evidence of that.

In fact, if you look at the surveys by the National Federation of
Independent Business, they show that the burden of regulation is less than
it was back in the 1990s, when the economy was booming. So, I think what
Republicans are doing here is simply using the poor state of the economy as
an excuse to pursue the agenda that they pursue year in/year out, which is
they always want to deregulate the economy and set the businessman loose.

But there`s absolutely no evidence that this will do any good.

O`DONNELL: Thank you both. Ezra Klein of MSNBC and "The Washington
Post," and Bruce Bartlett, formerly of the Reagan and George H.W. Bush
administrations -- thanks for joining me tonight.

KLEIN: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says that you can
forget what you read in the "New York Times" this morning, Democrats really
are solidly behind President Obama`s jobs plan, enthusiastically behind it.
The importance of keeping that image of unity up is next.

And later, the Republican Party`s obsession with Donald Trump. Now,
it`s Texas Governor Rick Perry who is paying homage to Trump for some
reason that Jonathan Capehart`s going to have to explain to us.


O`DONNELL: As some Democrats begin to publicly criticize the
president`s jobs plan, he sends members of his policy and re-election team
to Capitol Hill today to get all Democrats on board to fight for his bill.
This as the White House works to increase the pressure on Speaker Boehner.

And later, Savannah Guthrie`s exclusive interview with author Joe
McGinniss, the man who moved next door to Sarah Palin while writing a book
about her. You will learn more about Palin`s future plans.



MCCONNELL: While the president was out in Ohio insisting over and
over again that Congress pass the bill, it seemed like the only Democrats
who were even willing to talk about it here on Capitol Hill were tearing it


O`DONNELL: That was Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell today,
noting the growing Democratic resistance to the president`s jobs bill. The
White House dispatched advisers David Plouffe and Gene Sperling to the Hill
today to convince dissenting Senate Democrats to support the president`s

Complaints in recent days ranged from the bill includes too much
spending to the bill, includes too many tax cuts to it, unfairly eliminates
subsidies for oil companies while ignoring other big industries. After the
private 90-minute meeting, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin told reporters,
"We`re not going to get 100 percent of our caucus, but believe me, if it`s
up to the Democrats to pass the president`s plan, it`ll pass."

Senate Minority Leader McConnell saw the meeting as a sign of


MCCONNELL: One would think they`d want to be briefed on details
before the president demanded they pass it right away, not after. But then
again, the White House probably expected stronger support from Democrats
than it`s gotten so far.


O`DONNELL: Joining me now, editorial director for AOL, "Huffington
Post," MSNBC political analyst Howard Fineman.

Thanks for joining me tonight, Howard.


O`DONNELL: Howard, I`m confused by Dick Durbin`s statement. He`s
saying, we`re not going to get 100 percent of the Democrats in the United
States Senate, but if we Democrats have to pass it we will.

They need 60 votes to pass it in the Senate. They`re nowhere close if
they don`t have all the Democrats.

FINEMAN: Yes. He`s saying we`re not going to get 100 percent of the
Democrats in the United States senate but if we Democrats have to pass it
we will. They need 60 votes to pass it in the Senate. They`re nowhere
close if they don`t have all the Democrats.

O`DONNELL: Yes. That was less than a ringing endorsement from one of
the president`s closest allies. And you know you`re in a bad situation on
the Democratic side where you have Mitch McConnell giving you lobbying
advice on how best you ought to operate things.

I think having spoken to some people on the Hill who know about that
meeting that while David Plouffe and Gene Sperling, the two people who came
up and briefed, you know, made the best case they could, you know, it was
not -- it was not a happy -- it was not a happy meeting for the reasons
that you said. There are conservative Democrats in the Senate who don`t
want to support it because of -- they don`t like the idea of a big bill.

You know, it doesn`t sound good. They`ve had too many big bills from
the president, they`re worried about it. And then you have the progressive
caucus on the other side saying no tax cuts at all, please.

O`DONNELL: Mary Landrieu`s got a problem with it because it goes
after oil companies. And Louisiana senators always, always protect the oil
industry. That was predictable. We could see that coming.

What other problems do they have with what other Democrats in the

FINEMAN: Well, last night I had an interesting conversation with Kay
Hagan, the Democratic senator from North Carolina. She was elected in 2008
on the ticket with Barack Obama. Barack Obama won North Carolina by less
than half of 1 percentage point. Kay Hagan reminded me that she had won
her race in North Carolina by nine points. So I don`t know how many of
those nine points she`s willing to give up for the sake of her president.

She`s concerned because she wants to look and see, again, if big
pieces of legislation with big names on them are going to be able to be
sold to her constituents back in North Carolina.

You know, a lot of people were urging Barack Obama do something, do
something, do something. He came up with a big bill with a big number.
But the problem is for a sort of moderate Democrat like Kay Hagan from the
swing state of North Carolina, and Obama`s determined to try to win North
Carolina again, you know, you had the stimulus bill of a while back, you
had the health care, the big sweeping health care legislation, a lot of
swing voters in her state are worried about big bills with Barack Obama`s
name on it. It`s as simple as that.

O`DONNELL: Howard, the White House seems to be taking some cues from
programming here on MSNBC. Adam Green and other guests on this show have
frequently said the president should be out there in these legislative
battles, selling them through speeches, through campaign-like speeches out
on the road. Chris Matthews repeatedly saying, isolate those bridges in
the Republicans` districts and show them.


O`DONNELL: This is the one. This is what needs the help.

FINEMAN: Right. Yes.

O`DONNELL: So, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney announced today
that next Thursday, the president will speak at a bridge in need of repair
that happens to connect Ohio and Kentucky. Let`s listen to what Jay Carney
said about that.


mystery, Mike, that we are out there, you know, loudly and with great
intensity arguing that we in Washington need to do the bidding of the
American people and take action on the economy. So, yes, he`s traveling,
as he promised, the president did, in his speech to Congress across the
country to highlight this urgent need and to engage the American people in
calling on their members of Congress, their senators to pass the bill, to
take action, to grow the economy, to take action, to incentivize the
private sector, to hire more workers.

This is the number one priority of the American people. And it also
happens to be the number one priority of this president. So, if you`re
asking me if by going to this bridge, are we hoping to draw some attention
to this urgent need? The answer is unequivocally yes.


O`DONNELL: Howard, is there any particular political significance to
a Kentucky-Ohio bridge?

FINEMAN: Well, the significance obviously is that it`s -- it involves
connecting John Boehner`s district with Mitch McConnell`s state, and so
it`s a twofer. It`s across the Ohio River. And, you know, I think it
makes the point.

The problem is that the president`s got to not only convince people
that it`s necessary to fix these bridges and falling pieces of
infrastructure in America, but that this will not only create jobs but that
it makes overall economic sense and it`s the most shrewd and efficient and
careful use of money we could make at a time when we`re broke as a country.

It`s a difficult argument to make. He has to make it. I think he
deserves great credit for following Chris Matthews` advice.

But it has to be part of a larger sales job. And as far as not having
consulted with Congress in advance, I mean, Congress knows -- they knew
pretty much what he was going to be proposing here.

But you`ve got to remember, Lawrence, that the president and this
White House has a terrible relationship with the Democrats on Capitol Hill,
has always had a bad relationship with them. You know, the chief of staff
at the White House, Bill Daley, who`s from, you know, one of the great
political families, you know, does not have close relations with Democrats
on the Hill, does not have systematic relations with Democrats on the Hill
and there`s a lot of grumbling on the hill about the lack of coordination
between the White House and the Democrats.

And don`t forget, Barack Obama came in on a wave of his own, that he
was the answer, that his movement was the answer. And right now he`s
paying the price for that splendid isolation that got him elected. It`s
what was his appeal initially, but it`s -- and one of the things in
addition to the state of the economy that`s causing him so much trouble

O`DONNELL: Well, Democratic presidents having trouble with Democrats
on the Hill. You can check with Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. That is an
old tradition.


O`DONNELL: Howard Fineman, thank you very much for joining us

FINEMAN: Thanks, Lawrence. Take care.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Rick Perry apparently hadn`t done enough damage
to his campaign this week. So, he came to New York City to praise Donald

And the Republican Tea Party congressman who remains a deadbeat dad is
back in the "Rewrite" tonight.


O`DONNELL: In tonight`s Spotlight, Rick Perry is in Iowa this
evening, but last night he was here in New York City. After asking for an
audience with Donald Trump -- yes, the same Donald Trump who knowingly
misled Republicans and easily fooled pundits this past spring by pretending
to be flirting with his own presidential bid. Viewers of this program, of
course, always knew better.

The two met at Trump Tower, then dined not at a pizza chain in Times
Square, as Trump and fellow television performer Sarah Palin did back in
May, but at a pricey French restaurant that no mere governor could ever
afford, which happens to sit inside the Trump International Hotel.


be talking about, you know, how to create jobs in America. Donald Trump`s
pretty good about creating jobs. And I`ve got to think Donald`s got some
advice for me.


O`DONNELL: Joining me now, MSNBC contributor Jonathan Capehart,
opinion writer for the "Washington Post." Jonathan, thanks for joining me


O`DONNELL: What the -- what -- what? Please. Explain.


O`DONNELL: What`s he thinking? Doesn`t he know that the reality star
on TV whose opinion matters with America is Simon Cowell? Why isn`t going
to see Simon Cowell?

CAPEHART: Well, Simon Cowell has never run for president or even
flirted with running for president or even pretended to flirt with running
for president. Look, the reason why Republicans are going to, you know,
kiss the ring of Donald Trump is because when he was flirting with running
for president, he blew out there and climbed to the top of the polls,
knowing full well he was going to go and re-up -- what is this, his
"Celebrity Apprentice" show, or his "Apprentice" chain.

What Perry does by going to New York and meeting with Donald Trump is,
one, you know Donald Trump is going to get press coverage, media coverage.
Two, Donald Trump lives in the -- as you know, Lawrence, the number one
media market in the country. And three, it`s a way of you just sort of --
you don`t even have to say anything. You can just show up with Donald
Trump, and as we saw, all those pictures of Governor Perry and Donald
Trump, they`re not talking about anything of substance.

In fact, they`re not talking. They`re walking in and out of
buildings. It`s good for Perry. And it`s good for Trump.

O`DONNELL: Now, Jonathan, you had your own chat with Donald Trump
yesterday. How did that go?

CAPEHART: It went fine. You know, we started talking after he saw a
piece that I wrote basically saying, you know, will Governor Perry end up
being the next Donald Trump, that is someone who bursts onto the scene,
rises to the top of the polls, and then implodes and gets out of the race?
He didn`t quite like the fact that I said he fell or he imploded.

So we got to talking. So I called him yesterday. I wanted to find
out what he thought about the debate in Florida. And we had a nice little
conversation. Clearly, Donald Trump likes Governor Perry. He likes Mitt
Romney. He told me that he thought they both did very well and pooh-poohed
all the criticism of Governor Perry`s debate performance.

But clearly he thinks that there are some people who were on that
stage who shouldn`t be there. He is relishing the role that he`s playing
within the Republican nominating field. His chief political guy, Michael
Cowan -- I believe his name is -- went on ABC and talked to the folks there
and called Donald Trump the godfather of politics.

Donald Trump is very proud of something that he saw on "Newsmax,"
which said that basically Donald Trump has become his own Iowa, because
Perry and Bachmann and Romney and all of these folks who are seeking the
Republican nomination are either getting him on the phone or going up to
New York to see him in Trump Tower.

O`DONNELL: Now, there`s also the matter of Dick Cheney. And let`s
listen to what Romney had to say about the possibility of having a vice
president, if he could be lucky enough to be able to choose a vice
president as capable as Dick Cheney. Let`s listen to this.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Last weekend I was watching
C-Span, and I saw Vice President Dick Cheney. And he was being asked
questions about a whole host of issues, following 9/11, the affairs in
various countries in the world. And I listened to him speak. And I said
whether you agree with him or disagree with him, this is a man of wisdom
and judgment. And he could have been president of the United States.

That`s the kind of person I`d like to have, a person of wisdom and


O`DONNELL: Jonathan, where`s this going? Are we going to start
hearing praise about Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew, who actually got caught
with bags of cash in the White House when he was vice president, the
Republican vice president? What do you have to do to get ruled out of the
game in Republican politics now?

CAPEHART: Well, clearly -- well, to get ruled out, have moderate
views. That`s what you need to do to get ruled out of the republican
party. But you have to keep something in mind. This is something I always
have to remind myself. Romney and Perry and Bachmann and all these folks
are striving to get the Republican nomination.

They`re not even thinking about the general election and the things
that they will need to do and say in order to appeal to a broader
electorate. If what it takes is to praise Dick Cheney to get the
nomination, because you saw in that clip as he praised former Vice
President Cheney, there were people behind Mitt Romney who were nodding in

This is a crowd and this is a party that likes Dick Cheney, by and
large, and likes the fact that after he left the White House, he didn`t
stay silent. He kept taking the battle to President Obama in terms of
foreign policy and the war on terror. And that`s what they`re responding

And so Mitt Romney is looking for every vote he possibly can in every
corner he possibly can to get that nomination.

O`DONNELL: MSNBC contributor and opinion writer for the "Washington
Post" and now THE LAST WORD`s senior Trump correspondent, Jonathan
Capehart. Thank you very much for joining us tonight.

CAPEHART: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Yesterday, Tea Party Congressman Joe Walsh missed his
child support hearing in Illinois because he was too busy in Washington
being an ignored freshman congressman. That gets him tonight`s Rewrite.

And later, author Joe McGinniss moved to Wasilla last year to write a
book about its most famous resident. We`ll show you his exclusive
interview with "The Today Show`s" Savannah Guthrie, coming up.


O`DONNELL: Time for tonight`s Rewrite. Remember this guy?


REP. JOE WALSH (R), ILLINOIS: I won`t place one more dollar of debt
upon the backs of my kids and grand kids unless we structurally reform the
way this town spends money.


O`DONNELL: "I won`t place one more dollar of debt on the backs of my
kids." That`s Tea Party Congressman Joe Walsh. He`s been on this show a
few times. But I banned him when I realized he is 117,000 dollars --
117,437 dollars behind in his child support payments to his first wife,
Laura Walsh, for the support of their three children.

There is now a withholding order on the congressman`s salary to cover
his current child support obligations; 2,134 dollars a month is taken out
of his 174,000 dollar congressional salary to cover his current

Now, one of my rules about guests -- in fact, it may be my only rule -
- is that I don`t allow anyone to come on this show unless and until they
pay their child support obligations in full. The judge in the Walsh child
support case in Cook County, Illinois was not amused yesterday when Walsh
didn`t show up for a hearing in the case.

When his lawyer explained his absence by saying, "Mr. Walsh is a U.S.
congressman," the judge replied, "well, he`s no different than anyone

Congressman Walsh`s spokesman tried to pretend to us today that the
congressman just had to be in Washington yesterday for all the important
work of a freshman congressman, who is not taken seriously by anyone on
Capitol Hill.

The congressman`s only official act yesterday was to vote. And he was
called upon to do that only once. The Republican bill passed the House,
232 to 186. Everyone knew ahead of time that Congressman Walsh`s vote
wasn`t going to matter. The margin was just going to be too great for any
individual vote to matter. That`s exactly the kind of vote a member of
Congress can and does miss if he or she has something more important to do,
like, you know, maybe pay child support, which every member of Congress
should agree is more important than voting on a bill, and in fact, is more
important than being a congressman.

In fact, 11 members of the House, including Michele Bachmann, missed
that vote yesterday because they, not unreasonably, decided they had
something more important to do. Congressmen cast hundreds of votes,
thousands of votes, most of which are not important and have big margins in
them. It doesn`t matter whether they voted or not.

And they use their judgment about which votes they can miss.
Congressman Walsh could have easily missed that vote. The deadbeat dad
congressman continues to get invited on other shows where he freely
discusses anything but child support. No show on any network, including
this network, should ever allow Congressman Walsh to do any more of his
phony posing.


WALSH: I won`t place one more dollar of debt upon the backs of my
kids --


O`DONNELL: No more of his lying about his concern for the financial
burdens that his kids face. Joe Walsh actually tries to use his TV
appearances as additional excuses for why he can`t show up for his child
support hearings. His spokesman told us today that one of the reasons he
couldn`t be in an Illinois courtroom yesterday is that he had media
appearances to do in Washington.

Any network that lets Joe Walsh come on any show, that lets Joe Walsh
come on, any host of any television show who interviews Joe Walsh runs the
risk of being used as a reason why Joe Walsh can`t go to court and answer a
judge`s questions about his child support debt.

Joe Walsh is a disgrace to the United States House of Representatives.
He is a disgrace to the Republican party that claims pride in its shared
family values. And no news network, no television interviewer should
enable his lie that his fulminating in Congress or on TV is more important
than paying his child support.

Oh, and you know that vote that he cast yesterday? The one where his
vote didn`t matter because the winning margin was so big. The vote that he
pretended was so important that he couldn`t be at his child support
hearing? Joe Walsh made sure his vote didn`t matter because he didn`t even
vote yes or no. Joe Walsh voted present.

So much for his excuse for not being present at his child support
hearing yesterday and not being present as a good and decent and honorable
provider for his children.


O`DONNELL: When best-selling political author Joe McGinniss moved to
Wasilla, Alaska in May of last year to write a book about Sarah Palin,
Palin immediately went on the defensive. The book is now out. And it is
filled with allegations about the Palins` marriage, their parental skills,
even claims of past cocaine use.

The Palins deny all of that. Author Joe McGinniss talked exclusively
with "Today Show`s" Savannah Guthrie.


SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, "THE TODAY SHOW" (voice-over): From the moment she
stepped onto the political stage, Sarah Palin has been a force.

between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick.

GUTHRIE: Self-styled mama grizzly.

PALIN: You no doubt don`t want to mess with moms who are rising up.

GUTHRIE: Reality TV star.

PALIN: Dang it!

GUTHRIE: Her large family fascinating the country with its dramas,
babies and feuds.

PALIN: I hear he goes by the name Ricky Hollywood now.

GUTHRIE: But now a controversial new book takes aim at the image
Palin projects to the world. "The Rogue," a 318-page takedown of Palin by
best-selling author Joe McGinniss paints a scathing portrait of the woman
who could have been vice president.

JOE MCGINNISS, AUTHOR "THE ROGUE": An utter fraud. An absolute and
utter fraud.

GUTHRIE (on camera): You call her a tenth-grade mean girl.

MCGINNISS: Oh, that`s -- those are kind words compared to a lot of
what you`d hear in Wasilla today. The thing that I found, Savannah, that
really surprised me was that the people who know her best like her least.

GUTHRIE (voice-over): McGinniss spent four months in Alaska. He
claims he spoke to approximately 200 people, a mix of Palin`s old
associates, acquaintances, and former friends. But his book was causing
controversy before he wrote even one word.

(on camera): She had a problem with you living next door.

MCGINNISS: Well, she did. And I don`t know why she did because --

GUTHRIE: Really? You don`t know why?

MCGINNISS: I really don`t.

GUTHRIE (voice-over): McGinniss says it was just happenstance that
the woman who owns the property next door to the Palins in Wasilla offered
to rent her house to him for the summer while he did his research. Palin
revealed who her new neighbor was on Facebook, writing, "wonder what kind
of material he`ll gather while overlooking Piper`s bedroom, my little
garden, and the family`s swimming hole?"

And on her reality show.

PALIN: And Piper whispered to me as we were coming up the lawn, mom,
that neighbor`s out there. He`s watching us. He`s watching us.

GUTHRIE: an editorial in the local paper warned McGinniss, "Alaska
has a law that allows the use of deadly force in protection of life and

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Has that been a problem or do you
just go with the flow?

PALIN: You know, like Todd says, some people just need to get a life.
But bless his heart, he needs to get a life.

MCGINNISS: I was surprised at Sarah`s reaction, but it taught me
something very interesting. She overreacts. She has no modulation in her
responses to stress. In other words, she freaks out.

GUTHRIE: McGinniss insists he was not there to spy and that anything
he learned about the Palins from living next door did not go into the book.
But the experience becomes a huge part of the story.

(on camera): You really became a character in the book.

MCGINNISS: Well, Sarah made me a character. She`s a phenomenon. I
said that to Todd when he came tromping across my lawn to confront me about
living next door. He said, why are you writing about her anyway? I said,
well, Todd, I`ve been writing about politics since 1968. Your wife is a

There`s been no one like her in American politics before. No one has
come from nowhere to get so far.

GUTHRIE (voice-over): In a statement to NBC News, Todd Palin writes
that McGinniss is a man who, quote, "traffics in innuendo and falsehoods.
And spent the last year interviewing marginal figures with an ax to grind
in order to churn out a hit piece to satisfy his own creepy obsession with
my wife."

But McGinniss says talking to those who knew Palin convinces him there
is much less than meets the eye. He accuses the famed hockey mom of using
her children as props and reports she was not much of a mother at all.

MCGINNISS: People who`ve known that family for the entire period of
time that those children were growing up told me in ways that I found very
believable that Sarah Palin was virtually non-existent as a mother.

GUTHRIE: McGinniss describes a rocky Palin marriage, with Todd and
Sarah fighting incessantly and threatening divorce, something they`ve
denied in the past. Another bombshell; McGinniss writes that both Todd and
Sarah have used cocaine in the past, a claim that has not been verified.

(on camera): How do you substantiate something like that?

MCGINNISS: Well, you talk to somebody who snorted it with her. And
you talk to many of Todd`s friends, who describe him as having been on the
end of the straw frequently in his youth. I`m not saying that Todd and
Sarah Palin today abuse cocaine or even use it. But there`s no question
that they both did at one point in their lives.

GUTHRIE (voice-over): McGinniss also quotes friends who speak of a
sexual encounter Palin had with basketball star Glen Rice in 1987, while
she was a sports reporter for a local Anchorage station, prior to her
marriage. It`s not clear from the book whether Rice admits or denies the
encounter, but he told McGinniss, "in a short time, we got to know a lot
about one another. It was all done in a respectful way, nothing hurried."

He continues, "she was a gorgeous woman, super nice. I was blown away
by her. Afterward, she was a big crush that I had."

McGinniss portrays Palin as hands off when it came to governing
Alaska, but a ruthless political opportunist, who crushed her enemies and
rarely lived up to the fiscal conservative image she championed.

MCGINNISS: Hypocrite, you know, at the best. At best she`s a

GUTHRIE (on camera): And at worst?

MCGINNISS: At worst she`s a vindictive hypocrite.

GUTHRIE (voice-over): McGinniss says the Palin enemy list in Alaska is
long but acknowledges he talked to few friends.

(on camera): Do you think you were fair to her in the book?

MCGINNISS: I think I was as fair as I could possibly have been given
the fact that she told all the people who were closest to her not to talk
to me.

GUTHRIE (voice-over): Now as Palin tantalizes supporters with travel
to early primary states, many wonder just what are her political

PALIN: Polls, they`re for strippers and cross-country skiers.

GUTHRIE: McGinniss says everything he learned about Palin convinces
him she won`t run.

MCGINNISS: I think she`s going for the easy money. She`s going to
take the path of least resistance. I don`t think that she`s going to run
for president.


O`DONNELL: I didn`t have to move into the house next door to figure
that out. If you`d like to hear more from Todd Palin about the book, his
entire statement to NBC News is available on



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