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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Read the transcript to the Tuesday show

Guests: Ed Rollins, Joe Arpaio, Alex Wagner

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: Herman Cain is on the fence.


Electrified on top. It can kill you. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After he told David Gregory and others that it was
a joke.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He`s changed his mind again.

CAIN: Electrified with a sign on the other side that says, "It can
kill you."

That`s a joke.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It didn`t sound like a joke.

CAIN: I don`t apologize for using a combination of a fence and it
might be electrified.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you serious?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It sounded serious at first then it was a joke.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s taking both sides of the fence.

CAIN: Twenty feet how with barbed wire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s a joke. That`s not a serious plan.

CAIN: I think we`re splitting hairs here. I apologize if it offended

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s dehumanizing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An immigration firestorm.


CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: With staunch anti-immigration sheriff, Joe

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Self-proclaimed toughest sheriff in the world.

fence. It doesn`t kill people.

laughing matter, the border fence.

CAIN: Some people don`t think it was a good joke.

BACHMANN: It is not a joke.

CAIN: America needs to get a sense of humor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The front-runner right now --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Herman Cain is great.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does he know what a neocon is?

CAIN: The day after I get elected I`m going to take a nap.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s ignorant of global affairs.

CAIN: The second day, I`m calling the national security team together

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To name the leader of, I`m quoting here, Uzbeki,
beki, beki, stan, stan.

CAIN: OK, so yes. I miss some of these things. Call me Haagen-Dazs
Black Walnut.


ANN COULTER: If we don`t run Chris Christie, Romney will be the
nominee, and we`ll lose.


O`DONNELL: Now that Herman Cain has replaced Michele Bachmann as the
Republicans` favorite candidate who will never be president, Bachmann is
reverting to the most desperate of measures to get attention and money --
Donald Trump. Bachmann held a tele-town hall with Trump who has not
endorsed her which she used today in a fund raising e-mail looking for
contributions of $25 or more.

Herman Cain has surged to the top of the national polls meanwhile.
And in Iowa, Cain is now in second place with 20 percent while Michele
Bachmann has dropped to fourth place with 11 percent.

Bachmann was born in Iowa. She has spent more than 80 days
campaigning in Iowa. And she won the Iowa Ames straw poll this summer.

Herman Cain hasn`t been to Iowa since the straw poll on August 13th.
Instead, Cain has spent most of this month on a personally enriching
publicity tour for his book that took him to Tennessee, Texas and Virginia
-- states that won`t vote until March. Cain also spoke at a Christian
University in Ohio, which holds its primary in March. He visited with
anti-immigration Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Arizona which has its primary at the
end of February, and Cain met with Donald Trump here in New York which
holds its primary at the end of April.

"The New York Times" reports today that Michele Bachmann is trying to
take advantage of Cain`s absence in Iowa, to get caucus-goers to take a
second look at her. Polls show that Republican voters do not think
Bachmann, who was against raising the debt ceiling and who believes the
Founding Fathers worked tirelessly to end slavery, is electable.

But Republican support is surging for Herman Cain whose signature
issue is creating a new 9 percent federal sales tax and who claims that
African-American voters have been brainwashed and whose stated strategy for
border control is an electrified fence and a moat filled with alligators.

In "The New York Times" today, Michele Bachmann actually went after
her former campaign manager, Ed Rollins, for publicly discussing her
faltering campaign. When it comes to personnel issues, I act
professionally and respectful of former employees. I just assume that`s a
two-way street. It`s disappointing when it`s not. I guess I should have
done that Google search."

Joining me now is Republican strategist Ed Rollins. Ed --

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: That`s a nice introduction.

O`DONNELL: Thank you very much for being here tonight. If she had
done the Google -- I assume that Google search is a Google search on Ed
Rollins. She would have found somebody who helped get Ronald Reagan
elected president of the United States.

What is she talking about? What is your problem with Michele
Bachmann, what is her problem with you?

ROLLINS: I don`t have a problem with Michele Bachmann. We left on a
nice note. I was tired of the campaign and I was basically worn out, I was
working 16-hour days. I did everything we set out to do.

I left her with a strategy memo. The strategy memo was to stay in
Iowa and win Iowa. That`s the ticket out.

Now, obviously since then she`s been in Arizona, she`s been in
California, she`s been in other places and she basically needs to be
focused in Iowa. That`s all I have said. I have -- I obviously criticized
her -- I was asked by Chris Matthews on a show, did she make a mistake when
she attacked the governor of Texas on the HIV thing? I basically said, it
was a mistake. It was a mistake not attacking, but the next day basically
saying it caused retardation when she didn`t have any facts.

O`DONNELL: The HPV virus he wanted to have mandated.

ROLLINS: But I have great affection for her. I mean, I wish her
nothing but goodwill. I`m done with politics.

I`ve done this for 40 years and the only difference is, you know, when
you`ve done it for 40 years, you`re done nine presidential campaigns, you
know what the pattern is. And it wasn`t just 25 years ago when I did
Ronald Reagan. I was there with Mike Huckabee in Iowa just four years ago.

And there`s a pattern and there`s a way that you deal with Iowa, New
Hampshire and South Carolina, and then after that basically go to more of a
national campaign. But those early states, it`s retail politics.

O`DONNELL: Let`s talk about the shooting stars we`ve seen in
Republican politics this year. We saw Donald Trump shoot up in the polls
then evaporate. We saw Michele Bachmann do that. Now, Cain is having his
curve up into the polls.

Is there something in the Michele Bachmann curve in the polls that
kind of predicts where we`re going to go with Herman Cain? And one of the
things I`m wondering about is, here`s someone who`s dedicate to Iowa,
spending all of this time in Iowa. And Iowa, she becomes less and less
popular the longer she stays there.

Is there something about the candidacies where the familiarity breeds
a resistance to the candidates?

ROLLINS: Sometimes. It`s also a lot of self-inflicted wounds along
the way. Obviously, Mr. Cain is struggling with his fence debates the last
few days. Mrs. Bachmann who obviously is a good member of Congress but
hasn`t ever been in the presidential game.

It`s a different game. It`s amplified 20 times what any congressional
race ever is. It`s the media, the scrutiny. Every single word you say
gets basically highlighted and you just have to be very careful what you

O`DONNELL: What do you make of this shifting loyalty of the
Republican electorate from very high support for Michele Bachmann,
previously high support for the mythical candidacy of Trump and now to

ROLLINS: There`s a segment of the population, Republican conservative
Tea Party, what-have-you, that are looking for a champion. They don`t want
Romney. Romney basically has been running for six years, has about 25
percent, 30 percent of the vote.

There`s another 60 percent out there looking for someone else and they
basically that 25 percent that Mr. Cain has today or Michele had for a
period of time, not quite that high, kind of shifting back and forth. I
like them, I don`t like them.

And I think at the end of the day, they`re going to settle in here.
Two-thirds in the most recent polls, two-thirds of the voters say they`ve
not settled on their candidate yet. So, there`s a long ways to go, but
these early states are about organization.

And, you know, 40,000 votes basically win the Iowa caucus. It`s
dragging people out in the middle of the night, identifying them, getting
them on the cold night to stand in the schoolhouse or firehouse and vote.
And that`s a lot of organization. Cain has no organization.

O`DONNELL: Well, yes. This is -- and this is a thing I always kept
my eye on on the Trump candidacy. One of the reasons I always knew it was
a joke among many reasons is he didn`t hire anybody who wasn`t making any
organization moves whatsoever. And he`s the kind of guy who would know
that you`d have to make organizational moves. So, he was kind of showing
he was never serious.

Cain, because of his failure to make organizational moves, especially
when he starts a surge in the polls, leaves people wondering -- is this guy
really running for president?

ROLLINS: Well, I think he`s got caught up in it. I think he started
out -- he`s a great salesman obviously. I think he started out basically,
you know, I`m going to try this thing. Done an unsuccessful senate
candidate in Georgia few years ago. And I think a lot of people encouraged

You know, it`s one of these -- you`ve been around politics all your
life, people say, you should run, you`re really great. Well, what does
that mean? You know, it`s just -- who comes in and is the reality check
saying, haven`t got a snowball`s chance in heck of running, so why do it?

I think what`s happen to Cain, though, is that he basically, he
started -- he was a Tea Party darling the first debate. Bachmann, others
came in and took that away from him. He stumbled on Muslims and a few
other things.

He`s now got this rise again. And I think he`s caught up in it.
There`s still no organization. He`s not going to be the nominee of the
party. I bet a lot of money on that.


ROLLINS: And at the end of the day, the guys who have organization
and money and a pretty good retail politics, may not be a good debater is
Governor Perry who for 25 years has never been defeated. But he`s a good
retail politics. That`s what New Hampshire, that`s what Iowa is about.

And Iowa is his ticket. He`s got -- he`s got to come out of Iowa with
a win and I just see Romney will probably win New Hampshire.

O`DONNELL: And this, the Cain campaign makes a lot more sense as a
business proposition than a political proposition. His campaign has
purchased $36,000 worth of his books at full price which means Herman`s
getting the full royalty on those books. It`s increasing his value as a
motivational speaker which is actually his principle occupation when he`s
not running for president.

So, he has that to go back to at a much, much higher visibility level.
And you can see why this guy is a successful motivational speaker.

So, it seems that there`s much more of a -- you know, the future of
Herman`s business at stake in this campaign than the future of Herman`s
political career.

ROLLINS: As I said, I bet everything I know about politics that he`s
not going to be the nominee. That doesn`t mean he`s not going to come out
of this a winner. There will be a lot of losers. He`ll come out of this a

And, clearly, he`s a guy that could go into a cabinet today, could do
a whole variety of things. But people are going to know who he is.
Equally as important, even without money and organization, he may be able
to hang around for a while, even after Iowa and he may be able to do what
Gingrich --

O`DONNELL: He can campaign on a suitcase.

ROLLINS: Campaign on a suitcase and people are going to be
entertained by him, but they`re not going to vote for him.

O`DONNELL: Who profits from Herman Cain`s staying in the race at this
point? When you look at the Romney versus Perry campaign?

O`DONNELL: Romney profits. Romney -- this would be the vote that
Perry`s fighting for. It`s the evangelical vote, the conservatives, the
Tea Party vote that Romney is probably not going to get it until he`s the
nominee. But it`s certainly the vote Perry has to get. It`s certainly the
vote that Bachmann, Santorum and the others in this race have to get.

So, I would say, right now, it`s affected Perry the most. You saw it
directly go from Perry who jumped into the race late and basically didn`t
do well on the first three debates, move to Cain in the last debate. I
think, you know, if Perry has a better debate tonight, gets out and does
retail politics, starts running a real campaign with television and
grassroots organizations, then you can see some of that come back.

O`DONNELL: We know that Cain needs organization. If Cain calls, does
Ed Rollins take the call? Jump back in?

ROLLINS: Ed Rollins is done. Thank you very much. Mrs. Bachmann was
my last campaign and my last one should have been Ronald Reagan in 1984. I
won 49 states, or he won 49 states.

O`DONNELL: Breaking news. Ed Rollins will not work for the Herman
Cain campaign.

Ed Rollins, thank you very much for joining me this evening.

ROLLINS: Thank you very much.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Herman Cain met with Arizona`s Sheriff Joe
Arpaio to talk about the border fence and immigration. We`ll see which
side of the fence Herman Cain came down on this time.

And a new poll shows approval for legalizing marijuana at an all-time
-- pardon the expression -- high, but the federal government still says pot
is as dangerous as heroin. That`s in the "Rewrite."


O`DONNELL: Coming up, South Carolina`s new voter ID law will prevent
legitimate voters from voting and Melissa Harris-Perry will explain why
that is exactly what it is intended to do.

And Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona is one of the most controversial law
enforcement figures in America. Herman Cain discussed electrified fences
with the sheriff yesterday. The sheriff joins me next.


O`DONNELL: Our southern border is the scene of perhaps more unbridled
hope than anywhere else in the country. The hope-filled eyes of immigrants
crossing that border both legally and illegally in search of a better life
-- in the hope of finally being able to provide for their families. Our
southern border is also the scene of relentless grief and tragedy.

As enforcement of our border security has intensified, crossing that
border illegally has become more and more dangerous and more deadly. Many
of the hopeful who die crossing the border, men, women and children, die in
the Sonoran Desert where they frequently get dehydrated, starved and get
lost. Eighty-eight human remains were found on the Arizona border just in
the six months from last fall to last spring. The crackdown on our border
has forced people to choose more desolate and difficult areas to cross

Even for those who are safely legally in this country, living near the
border in the shadow of illegal immigration can be deadly.

"The Huffington Post" reports that Juan Varela was shot in the neck in
his front yard in Phoenix, Arizona, last May by his neighbor, Gary Kelly.
Moments before killing Varela in front of his mother and brother, Kelly
yelled, "Go back to Mexico or die."

Varela was not an illegal immigrant. He was a fifth generation
American citizen.

In May, 2009, 9-year-old Brisenia Flores and her father, Raul Flores,
were murdered by a Minuteman vigilante group. The child and her father
were both American born U.S. citizens. After the group shot and killed
their father, Brisenia pleaded with them, saying, "Please don`t shoot me."
They then shot her in the face at pointblank range.

The leader of the group, Shawna Forde, was convicted of first-degree
murder in February and sentenced to death.

There is at least one presidential candidate who believes there is not
enough grief and tragedy on our southern border.


CAIN: We`ll have a real fence. Twenty feet high with barbed wire,
electrified. With a sign on the other side that says, "It can kill you."


O`DONNELL: When asked about his idea of a lethal electrified fence on
"Meet the Press," Herman Cain had a surprising change of heart about it.


CAIN: That`s a joke, David.


CAIN: It`s a joke. That`s a joke.

GREGORY: That`s not a serious plan?

CAIN: That`s not a serious plan. No, it`s not.

GREGORY: You got a big laugh but that`s not what you`d do?

CAIN: That`s a joke. I`ve also said America needs to get a sense of
humor. That was a joke, OK?


O`DONNELL: Today, Herman Cain tried another tact on securing the


CAIN: Here`s my serious answer to that question. I believe we need
to secure the border for real. Part of that solution would be an actual
fence. It may not be electrified. That was an exaggeration, hyperbole.


O`DONNELL: Yesterday, Herman Cain was in Arizona saying this about
his electrified fence.


CAIN: I don`t apologize for using a combination of a fence and it
might be electrified. I`m not walking away from that. I just don`t want
opinion about it. It was a joke to the extent of the context it was used
in that speech. But in terms of what we need to do, I full intend to do


O`DONNELL: Standing beside Herman Cain when he said that was
Arizona`s Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the self-proclaimed toughest
sheriff in America.

Joining me now, Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Thanks very much for joining me tonight, Sheriff.

know if I`m self-proclaimed, but that`s OK.

O`DONNELL: OK. Well, people think you`re pretty tough.

Tell me about your conversation with Herman Cain about the electrified
fence idea.

ARPAIO: Well, you know, I didn`t know about this until I met him in
my office. We had a short meeting and a press conference. But I believe
that he`s frustrated just like the president is and politicians and the
people of this country about doing something about illegal immigration.

So I believe that he said that under frustration and maybe it was a
joke. But we have to do something at that border and in the interior of
the United States to arrest those in this country illegally and those that
cross the border illegally. We have to do something, Lawrence.

And you mention about some murders. We`ve had police officers killed
just recently by illegal aliens. So, murders occur across all different
types of professions. So, we have to keep that in mind, too.

O`DONNELL: Yes. Absolutely. The killing of law enforcement is the
securing of the border is very much a part of the tragedy of the region
involving all of this.

Do you think, as Herman Cain seems to think, that it is a legitimate
function of American law enforcement to set up a machine that passively
kills people for crossing the border?

ARPAIO: Oh, I don`t agree with that. Once again, I don`t think
that`s that what he meant. I was a director of Mexico City for many years,
head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement. I had my operation plans. Nobody will
listen to me.

But I`ll tell you -- when I was there, we were operational. I worked
with the Army and the federal police. Why can`t we send the border patrol
on a bilateral mission to work on the other side of the border, working
with the Army and federal authorities? If you can`t -- if you`re afraid
it`s too dangerous, let`s send our military across the border working with
their military, federal police, to clean up this mess -- this violence that
we have in Mexico.

O`DONNELL: So you -- let me get it straight. You take Herman Cain at
his -- he`s had so many different positions in the last three, four days
about the electrified fence.

The idea that we should have a fence that is electrified at the level
that it will kill people if they touch it -- you take that to be a Herman
Cain joke?

ARPAIO: Yes. I don`t -- I talked to him. I don`t believe that`s
what he meant. He`s just frustrated and people say things under the
frustration. They want something done.

But I`m sure that he doesn`t mean to kill those people crossing the
border illegally. By the way, it is a crime. But it`s not -- it`s not a
crime you go to the death chamber for. It`s a misdemeanor.

O`DONNELL: Last presidential election you endorsed Mitt Romney which
was awkward to put it mildly in the state of Arizona where the eventual
nominee, John McCain, is from. You said of Mitt Romney last time around,
"I like him, he`s a man of principle, of good character. He did a great
job in Massachusetts and I feel he`s going to make a great president." Do
you still feel that way about Mitt Romney?

ARPAIO: Well, Michele Bachmann visited me in my office 30 days ago.
Governor Perry called me. Governor Romney called me. I don`t know why
they`re calling me. It`s not because, as I mentioned on the other show,
I`m tall dark and handsome, but I presume they want my endorsement.

But I haven`t made any decision. I met Cain yesterday, but I was with
him three months ago in Las Vegas. We were both giving a speech. So, I`m
going to evaluate all of them and if they want to talk to me, be my guest.
I talk to everybody.

O`DONNELL: Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona thank you
very much for joining me tonight.

ARPAIO: Thank you, sir.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, registered voters in South Carolina could face
problems voting in next year`s presidential elections. We`ll talk to
Melissa Harris-Perry about the state`s new voter photo ID law and how it
will change the outcome of elections.

And support, public support for marijuana legalization is at a record
high. But the federal government still thinks marijuana is as dangerous as
heroin. That`s in the "Rewrite" tonight.


O`DONNELL: NYPD Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna whose brutality
against "Occupy Wall Street" protesters many of you saw for the first time
on this program has been investigated by the New York Police Department for
his use of pepper spray which was clearly in violation of the department`s




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pepper spray! Seriously? Pepper spray! Pepper
spray for what?



O`DONNELL: After seeing that video, I made this prediction about the
department`s investigation of Inspector Bologna --


O`DONNELL: Of course, as his internal affairs investigation proceeds,
the culture of the department will do everything it possibly can to protect
Inspector Bologna. And remains very, very unlikely that the police
department investigation will result in the disciplining of Inspector
Bologna or any other officer.

The spirit of these investigations is always a mix of investigation
and instinctive institutional cover-up.


O`DONNELL: We now have the results of this police investigation, an
investigation that never would have occurred were it not for the wide
dissemination here and elsewhere of that video, which stands as irrefutable
proof of Inspector Bologna`s violation of department rules. He has, thanks
to the video, been found in violation of those rules.

His punishment is that the department has taken away ten of his
vacation days. Inspector Bologna has, in effect, been rewarded with ten
more work days on the streets of New York, where he will have the
opportunity to continue to violate the rights of New York citizens.

Still to come tonight, President Obama`s re-election campaign has not
yet unleashed its strongest weapon: First Lady Michelle Obama. That`s
coming up.

And South Carolina`s new photo identification law will deny some
people their constitutional right to vote. Melissa Harris-Perry joins me



GOV. NIKKI HALEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Picture I.D. -- as long as
there`s picture I.D., whether it`s passport, whether it`s driver`s license
or whether it`s valid picture I.D., this will allow them to vote. But more
importantly, this maintains the integrity of the process.

When someone goes to vote, they actually have to prove who they are.
That`s a great thing for every citizen in South Carolina.


O`DONNELL: That was Republican South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley
promising on may 18th that the Voter I.D. bill she was signing into law
that day was, quote, "a great thing for every citizen in South Carolina."

But according to a new analysis by the Associated Press, South
Carolina`s new voter photo identification law appears to be hitting black
precincts in the state the hardest. South Carolina`s photo identification
law requires people to show a South Carolina driver`s license, state
identification card, military I.D., or passport when they vote.

Without those forms of identification, the only other ways to vote are
through a provisional ballot or absentee ballot. The A.P. analysis shows
that among the state`s 2,134 precincts, there are 10 precincts where nearly
all of the law`s effect falls on non-white voters who don`t have state-
issued driver`s license or I.D. cards, a total of 1,977 voters.

The precinct that votes at the historically black Benedict College
Campus Center has 2,790 voters, including only nine white voters. In that
precinct, 1,343 of the precinct`s non-white voters, 48 percent, lack state

The U.S. Justice Department is currently reviewing the South
Carolina`s voter I.D. law. Any election law changes made there have to be
cleared by federal authorities under the Voting Rights Act, because of past
voting rights abuses in that state.

This year, 34 states introduced legislation to create or strengthen
voter I.D. laws. Of those, seven have been enacted so far: Alabama,
Kansas, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin.
There are new restrictions -- these new restrictions should have a
significant impact on the outcome of the 2012 presidential election.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, the states that have
already placed further restrictions on voting will provide 171 electoral
votes in 2012. 63 percent of the 270 needed to win the presidency.

Joining me now is MSNBC contributor and Tulane University professor of
political science, Melissa Harris-Perry. Thanks for joining me tonight,


O`DONNELL: Melissa, it seems very clear what the intent of these
designs are. You never see politicians touching anything around the rules
of voting except in ways that they believe will help their party. This is
all taking place -- almost all of it taking place in Republican states with
what seems to me to be a very clear intent.

HARRIS-PERRY: Sure, but here`s the point. It almost doesn`t matter
what the intent is. Hopefully the involvement of the Justice Department
under the pre-clearance laws should get us to a good place on this.
Because the point here is that the impact is disparate.

Even if the intent is neutral -- in other words, even if those who
draft these laws claim that there`s no partisan or racial purposes behind
it, if the impact is clearly a disparate impact, one that even if the
intent is neutral has a -- you know, a kind of clearly identifiably
different impact on certain populations, particularly those that we think
of as more vulnerable to these kind of voting rights restrictions, African-
Americans, Latino voters, elderly voters, disabled voters, then the Justice
Department ought to be able to step in and say that these are unfair

O`DONNELL: The Brennan Center for Justice has shown, just to put a
statistical framework around the people we`re talking about here, that 11
percent of voting age U.S. citizens -- totally legitimate voters, 11
percent of them do not have state-issued photo I.D.s. Of African-Americans
and the elderly, that is much higher. Twenty five percent of African-
Americans, legitimate registered voters, do not have I.D.s. Eighteen
percent of people over 65, the most reliable voting group in terms of
actually showing up and voting, do not have state-issued photo I.D.s.

Those people are all going to have trouble voting under these laws.

HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And there`s two really important kind of
moments here. One is people are saying things like, well, you have to show
your I.D. when you go to cash a check at a grocery store or something, for
example. And so they`re making this claim that if you have to do an
economic transaction with an I.D., then a political transaction should also
require an I.D.

But our democracy is really quite different than a consumption moment.
Your right to vote is a right. It`s a sacred trust. It is the basic sort
of tie of a democratic citizenship to the state, to the government. So we
should not be putting restrictions around it. It is not a right to
consume, you know, consumable items.

The second thing I want to point is you`re making a link here with the
electoral college. Some of these are states that are in play. They`re
purple states. But a lot of precincts and districts, when you look at
them, this may have a little less to do with the presidential election and
everything to do with the congressional elections and the state-based

In other words, some of these are very safe, red states where we
expect all those votes to go to whoever the Republican nominee is. But the
difference of who would get elected to the U.S. House of Representatives,
to those gubernatorial houses, to those state houses, that can be
enormously fundamentally swayed by these laws.

As we`ve seen, who`s in that Congress, it makes a huge difference, no
matter who is in the White House.

O`DONNELL: Melissa, I think your point about the impact of these
things is going to weigh very heavily in the Justice Department`s
evaluation of these new laws in the states where the Justice Department as
the ability to oversee them, in effect. But there was a very interesting
point that I was watching Chris Hayes -- "UP WITH CHRIS HAYES" this weekend
with you as a guest, which I do every weekend morning now.

John McWhorter made I thought a very interesting point in the
discussion where he said that the new crusade may become -- what used to be
a voter registration crusade, it may become a photo I.D. crusade, that it
may be that if these laws hold, the task to overcome them or to increase
the fairness of voting may be in helping people get these photo I.D.s or
showing them what their other alternative ways are with absentee ballots
and so forth, that that may be the new education campaign necessary.

HARRIS-PERRY: Sure, and I hear John on that. You know, John is
certainly much more sort of an individualistic conservative, kind of up by
your boot straps kind of guy. So he`s always going to look at a set of
restrictions and say, how do we make sure that individuals can get over
these hurdles? I appreciate that. And that probably is -- particularly in
those states that don`t have Justice Department oversight, those that
weren`t basically part of the Confederacy at one point, that may be the
only thing that those interested in real serious voter registration can do.

The fact is these laws are wrong and they`re anti-democratic. We need
to also be about making sure that those structural impediments come down,
so that voting can be fair in this country.

O`DONNELL: Melissa Harris-Perry of MSNBC and "The Nation," thank you
very much for joining me tonight.

HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: A Gallup poll shows a dramatic change in the support of
the legalization of marijuana. Why has no one in Congress changed their
minds about the legalization of marijuana? That`s next in the Rewrite.

And Later, why no one -- no one can help the president`s re-election
campaign more than First Lady Michelle Obama. That`s coming up.


O`DONNELL: Time for tonight`s Rewrite. America continues to Rewrite
its attitude toward legalizing marijuana, while the federal government`s
attitude remains etched in granite. Since Gallup started asking Americans
if marijuana should be legal back in 1969, most have always said no, until

In a Gallup poll released yesterday, 50 percent said pot use should be
legalized. That is, pardon the expression, a record high. A minority of
46 percent continue to say marijuana should not be legalized. That is a
drop of almost 40 points since 1969, when 84 percent were absolutely
certain that pot should never be legalized.

Now, in a democracy, we should expect such a dramatic shift in public
opinion to be reflected in our public officials. But in the United States
Senate, which would have to vote to legalize marijuana nationally, support
for legalizing marijuana has gone from zero percent in 1969 to zero percent

Even though the United States Senate now includes some admitted former
pot smokers, who now have no intention of making legal what they once got
away with. President Obama, himself a former pot smoker, whose academic
and professional achievement was obviously unhindered by the occasional
high, appointed Michelle Leonhart as head of Drug Enforcement

The Obama administration, in the person of the head of the DEA, has
insisted that marijuana remain classified a Schedule One drug, which means
the Obama administration officially considers marijuana to be just as
dangerous as heroin.

Now we know that no one -- no one in the Obama administration is
stupid enough to actually think that. But we also know that politicians
have no intention of facing reality any time soon when it comes to
marijuana. Politicians will continue to allow young lives to be ruined for
mere possession of marijuana.

Politicians will continue to allow people to be arrested, allow people
to go to jail, allow people to get criminal records, get kicked out of
school, get fired, be turned down for jobs because they try or use
marijuana, something more than one president of the United States has done
and gotten away with.

Meanwhile, America is going to continue to get high, as it always has,
legally on booze and illegally on a lot of things, including marijuana,
which is a much, much healthier choice than whiskey. Senators, members of
Congress, presidents, vice presidents and Supreme Court Justices are going
to continue to get high, many of them every day and every night.

Many of them will do it publicly and loudly and legally at restaurants
and campaign fund-raisers and at state dinners. They will raise their
glasses and get high. And they will continue to put people in jail for
using a harmless, non-liquid way of getting high like marijuana.

Such hypocrisy carries an even stronger stench than the alcohol-
drenched breath of those politicians and judges and prosecutors and DEA
officials. I really don`t know how they can sleep at night, without the


O`DONNELL: First Lady Michelle Obama has managed to stay out of the
critical spotlight for the most part by focusing on issues like military
families and healthy eating. But now duty calls.


back? Are you fired up? Are you ready to go?


O`DONNELL: The president will bring out his top gun tomorrow. The
First Lady will join the president on the bus tour in Hampton, Virginia,
where they will discuss the importance of hiring veterans. She and Dr.
Biden will also attend game one of the World Series as part of their
Joining Forces Initiative.

The First Lady has already headlined 18 fund-raisers since May, where
she talks about life in the White House.


M. OBAMA: After a long day in the Oval Office or after he`s traveled
throughout the country and when the girls have gone to bed, Barack spends
most nights poring over stacks of letters. He reads their stories word for
word -- the woman dying of cancer because her health insurance wouldn`t
cover her care.

And I see the concern on Barack`s face. And I hear that passionate
and determination. He tells me, we have to fix this. We have so much more
to do.


O`DONNELL: Today, "Politico" characterized her role in the campaign
as essential. "Those themes of empathy, family and struggle are vital and
a standard part of any First Lady`s message. But with the nation`s
economic worries dragging on the re-election effort, Obama`s contributions
bear a heavier burden. Promoting the appeal of the First Family is more
than a routine job. This time, it`s essential."

The First Lady enjoyed a 65 percent approval rating last month,
according to one poll, while only 44 percent of the country approves of the
job President Obama is doing.

Joining me now is MSNBC contributor Alex Wagner. Alex, thank you very
much for joining me tonight.

ALEX WAGNER, "THE NATION": Thanks for having me, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: She really is a powerful asset on the campaign trail. Is
this the time to send her out here?

WAGNER: Yes. Keep her out there. I think Michelle Obama does two
things. As "Politico" points out, this is something that`s done. Laura
Bush did this. Every political wife in history basically does this at some
point. I think empathy and the humanization of the commander in chief is
very necessary.

But I think there`s a residual thing that Michelle Obama does, which
is she`s comported herself with resolve and conviction. There`s a grace
and a steeliness. And as Obama has really I think suffered and really been
buffeted about some fierce criticism about how -- you know, selling the
farm to the Republicans and sort of being wishy washy on key issues,
Michelle Obama has that titanium steel.

And I think by virtue of association, she helps Obama on that front..

O`DONNELL: Let`s take a look at Anita Perry recently on the campaign


don`t have to tell you, we`ve been brutalized and eaten up and chewed up in
the press.


O`DONNELL: Can you imagine what would have happened to Michelle Obama
if she ever said anything like that? We don`t have any tape of Mrs. Romney
on the campaign trail. I asked for it, to kind of do a, you know, head to
head comparison of who she might be up against.

I don`t see anybody on the Republican side who can go one-on-one with
the First Lady. Not that they ever have to, but they are compared.

WAGNER: The Obama campaign would do well to just show flash cards of
Marcus Bachmann and Anita Perry and to some degree Ann Romney, who has
seemed to have learned some lessons from 2008. But you have Anita Perry
out there crying about the memory of her grandfather, who she apparently
still communes with in the afterlife, comparing Perry`s candidacy for
president to Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt and the burning

And it`s really whackadoo stuff. You have Marcus Bachmann in
reparative therapy. Compared to all that, Michelle Obama`s comments in
2008 about being proud of her country seems like child`s play. It`s benign
stuff compared to what`s being said by other political spouses this go

O`DONNELL: How much more shopping at Target do we expect to see? The
challenge is she`s no longer that, you know, relatively simple mother of
two who she was in the last presidential campaign. She`s First Lady of the
United States of America.


O`DONNELL: How do you humanize her?

WAGNER: Well, like I said, I think Michelle Obama really connects
with the American voter. And I think there`s a sort of -- there`s a pre-
existing mystery. There`s a sort of not lust, but a real intrigue around
the First Lady, which is why she can command 10,000 dollars for a photo op.

The First Lady holds the keys to the president`s mind and heart. I
think because of that, and because of the fact that she has not endured the
same scrutiny that any candidate would, there`s a real desire to know more
about her.

Based on how Michelle Obama has comported herself thus far, I think
she`s very well placed for the next four years.

O`DONNELL: She was the best spouse of a candidate I saw campaign last
time, and possibly ever. I saw her in a huge venue in Los Angeles when it
was really crucial. I`ve never seen anything like it. She`ll be at least
as strong this time around.

MSNBC contributor Alex Wagner, thank you very much for joining me

WAGNER: Thanks, Lawrence.

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

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" is up next. Good evening, Rachel.


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