'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Monday, March 5, 2012

Guests: E.J. Dionne, Karen Finney, Kamala Harris, Ryan Lizza, Senator Harry Reid, Will Healy

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: We have breaking news from one of the
advertisers that dropped Rush Limbaugh. And we should have seen this
coming. Rush Limbaugh says liberals made him call Sandra Fluke a slut and
a prostitute.


CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Rush Limbaugh is on the defense.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: The apology to her over the
weekend was sincere.

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC HOST: Rush Limbaugh has apologized.

CHRIS JANSING, NBC NEWS: Apologizing this weekend for calling a
Georgetown student a slut.

statement like this changes anything.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His apology was a non-apology.

FLUKE: He`s under significant pressure from his sponsors.

MITCHELL: AOL is now suspending its advertising.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That makes a total, if you`re counting, of nine

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Rush Limbaugh debacle last week was
incredibly damaging to the party.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Many Americans perceive Rush Limbaugh as the face
of the Republican Party.

MITCHELL: Let`s talk about women.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Independent women may be the key swing group in
this election.

MITCHELL: Let`s look at some of these numbers.

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: Oh, my, so many numbers to unpack. The new
NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll. The NBC poll that`s out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Forty percent now have a less favorable opinion
of the GOP.

MATTHEWS: And where is Mitt Romney in all of this?

AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Thirty-nine percent of Americans have an
unfavorable view of women.

KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Maybe he should stop talking
about the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees.


MARTIN BASHIR, MSNBC HOST: This unauthentic, robotic, maybe even a
bit of a muppet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He`s a net loss of 11 points.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s lost control of his public image.

MATTHEWS: The president reads Romney six points.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His approval rating is 50 percent.

SHARPTON: Fifty percent of Americans now approve of how President
Obama is doing his job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This race has really hurt the Republican brand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at the front runner, Mitt Romney. I mean, I
know Romney looks like a president, but we don`t always get the job we look
right for. If we did, I`d be the king of the snakes!


O`DONNELL: Good evening from Washington.

With advertisers fleeing his radio show over the weekend, on Saturday,
Rush Limbaugh did something he absolutely never does. He issued a written
apology. This time to Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown law school student he
called a slut and a prostitute on his show last week, realizing that that
wasn`t good enough to preserve his advertising-driven income of more than
$50 million a year. Rush Limbaugh began his radio show today with an
explanation and his version of an apology.


LIMBAUGH: This is the mistake I made. In fighting them on this issue
last week, I became like them. Against my own instincts, against my own
knowledge, against everything I know to be right and wrong, I descended to
their level when I used those two words to describe Sandra Fluke. That was
my error. And I again sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for using those two
words to describe her.


O`DONNELL: The advertisers` stampede away from Rush Limbaugh is now
up to 12, and at least two radio stations have announced they`ll stop
airing his program.

Today, Limbaugh pretended to be unconcerned about the lost


LIMBAUGH: Those advertisers who no longer want your business, fine.
We`ll replace them. It`s simple. Really, advertising is a business
decision. It`s not a social one.

Only the leftists try to use extortion, pressure, threats to silence
opposing voices. We don`t do that.


O`DONNELL: Limbaugh`s written apology on Saturday and the apology he
gave today on his show were directed to Sandra Fluke, who became a public
figure only when Republican Darrell Issa prevented her from testifying at a
congressional hearing.

There is, really, only one reaction to Rush Limbaugh`s apology to
Sandra Fluke that matters. This is her reaction to the apology on "The
View" this morning.


FLUKE: I don`t think that a statement like this issued saying that
his choice of words was not the best changes anything, and especially when
that statement is issued when he`s under significant pressure from his
sponsors who have begun to pull their support from the show.


O`DONNELL: Limbaugh`s apology may not have been good enough for
Sandra Fluke, but it was good enough, and it was accepted by someone who
Limbaugh did not even apologize to.


ROMNEY: I certainly accept rush`s apology. Not on my behalf, but I
accept it as being what he thought was the right thing to do. I have no
disagreement with him on that.


O`DONNELL: Not surprisingly, a new NBC News/"Wall Street Journal"
poll finds Romney running almost 20 points behind Obama with women voters.
President Obama at 55 percent and Mitt Romney at 37 percent.

Joining me now are "Washington Post" opinion writer and NBC political
analyst, E.J. Dionne, and former DNC communications director and an MSNBC
political analyst, Karen Finney.

Thank you both for joining tonight.

E.J., you have breaking news from one of the advertisers who has
dropped Rush Limbaugh. Tell us about it.

E.J. DIONNE, THE WASHINGTON POST: I didn`t think it was breaking
news, but I happened to be at a dinner tonight. And David Friend of the
Carbonite Company, one of the companies that dropped --

O`DONNELL: Longtime -- I`ve been listening to Rush for years, many,
many years. Carbonite`s been with him for at least 10 years, maybe more.

DIONNE: You know, we tend to, when we talk about this, to make it all
about politics. And I asked him the simple question at dinner, why did you
drop your advertising? And he said, I have daughters the same age as the
woman he attacked.

And I think that the reason this was different -- I mean, Rush
Limbaugh has said a lot of outrageous things about a lot of people over the
years. We tend to let it go by when he says it about public figures. And
in fairness, some people on our side have said outrageous things about
right-wing public figures.

But this was a young woman who just chose to stand up on a particular
issue, we wanted out there, could be a lot of people`s daughter. Connie
Schultz, just before your show, was on Rachel Maddow. And she talked about
her daughters.

I think this connected with people in a personal way, and it created a
problem for him like he`s never had before.

O`DONNELL: But it could not be Rush Limbaugh`s daughter because in
his four marriages, he has never had a child, a daughter, son.

He had a lot to say today, Karen. He went on and on, was rambling in
all sorts of directions.

I want you to listen to this other excuse he wandered into where Rush
Limbaugh compares himself to rappers who win Grammys for mean things they
say about women.

FINNEY: Oh, my.

O`DONNELL: You`re going to have to hear this. Let`s listen to it


LIMBAUGH: Fewer and people and fewer and fewer businesses and fewer
and fewer institutions actually have a moral core, or they`re not willing
to stand up for their moral core.

And you talk about the double standard. One of the greatest
illustrations of it is that rappers can practically say anything they want
about women, and it`s called art. And they win awards for it.


O`DONNELL: I don`t even have a question. Go.

FINNEY: Rappers can say anything they want about women, and you know
what? We don`t have to buy their product just as advertisers can say, you
know what? We`re not going to advertise on someone who talks like that
about women.

I mean -- but here`s the thing I want us to not forget. It`s not just
that he called her a prostitute and a slut. He said, if I`m going to pay
for you to have sex, I want to see the video. I want you to put up -- I
mean, it was more disgusting than just two words.

And if -- her story wasn`t even about having sex. And even if it was,
who cares? It`s not his business.

This kind of slut shaming, as Krystal Ball has called it, this kind
of, you know, objectifying and making it about sex is really disgusting,
and that`s what people are reacting to.

And it is great, I think a lot of women appreciate the fact that men
are coming forward on this as well because, you know, for Mitt Romney -- I
mean, I`m sorry, he has granddaughters. He`s got sons who are married to
women. He`s married to a woman. He missed the opportunity to do the one
thing that has eluded him all campaign. That is to get respect.

If he would have stood up to Rush Limbaugh, I guarantee you people
would respect him for that. He`s too much of a coward to do it.

O`DONNELL: Go ahead.

DIONNE: Just on the rappers thing, I`ve actually wrote -- I`ve
written a couple of columns criticizing rappers for misogyny. I supported
Bill Bennett on this issue.

Secondly, Republican presidential candidates don`t go on the rapper`s

O`DONNELL: Or interviews.

DIONNE: You know this is --


O`DONNELL: I didn`t see Romney at the Grammys. I didn`t see any of
them at the Grammys.

FINNEY: And also, rappers don`t actually, you know, attack individual
college students, you know, with their art. They don`t use the platform
that they have to attack individual people in such a vicious and disgusting

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what George Will said yesterday, his
reaction to how Republican candidates and Republicans generally reacted to
Limbaugh. Let`s listen to that.


GEORGE WILL, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: What it indicates is that the
Republican leaders are afraid of Rush Limbaugh. They want to bomb Iran,
but they`re afraid of Rush Limbaugh.


O`DONNELL: It is as simple as that, E.J.

DIONNE: God bless George Will. I mean, it`s really -- that`s exactly
right. And that you`re talking about, what, 12 million listeners? And the
assumption is most of them vote in Republican primaries. And so, there is
this fear.

But what`s also striking is Karen mentioned that he said she should
make sex tapes and make them public. This whole thing about contraception
is supposed to be a defense of traditional values, and then we have Rush
Limbaugh saying something like that? I mean, George Will is a real
conservative. He`s offended by stuff like this.

O`DONNELL: And, Karen, to your point on Romney -- how easy would it
have been for him to say, this is a horrible thing to say. What he came up
with was -- I wouldn`t have used those words.

Now, when you say I wouldn`t have used those words, you`re saying I
completely accept the concept all the way through.

FINNEY: Absolutely. And I think as the poll numbers show, women know
that code. We know that code. We know that code when you say, you know,
humina, humina and don`t really have an answer.

You know, I want to take this to a personal level for a moment. You
know, yesterday, I was in Selma on the Edmund Pettus Bridge with John
Lewis. And one of the things when you talk to the people who participated
in the civil rights movement is the courage that it took to stand up and
speak out -- whites, blacks, Jews, Christians, you name it, all across this

So the cowardice of this Republican Party is really stunning. And I
really hope that certainly people in my party do not let them get away --
that was not an apology. You see the right wing now coming to, you know,
his defense. Everybody from Bill O`Reilly to, you know, RedState.

And it`s really disgusting, and we cannot be silent.

And the Republicans who are staying silent are endorsing that behavior
the same way that when they were silent, they endorsed the birther
controversy, for goodness sakes.

DIONNE: And I think it`s worth noting the Republicans do speak out,
one of them was John McCain. Now, granted, Rush Limbaugh wasn`t very kind
to John McCain. But he used some very strong language today. And I think
more of them have to do it.

O`DONNELL: Now, let`s listen to what Romney said about this to Sean


ROMNEY: I do think the language that comes from the left has been, in
many cases, simply outrageous. Frankly, I find it just very, very
dispiriting, and I wish our president would pay as much attention to people
on his side of the political spectrum and tell them, hey, rein it back,
guys. This is not the way that we ought to be working with each other in
this country.


O`DONNELL: OK. I`m open to Mitt Romney to tell us exactly who it is
who he wants the president to say, stop saying what. What is he talking

FINNEY: Stop defending that young girl. I mean, is that really what
he`s trying to say? I mean, you know, look, E.J. made a really great
point. There have been times when on the left we have criticized Sarah
Palin and Michele Bachmann earlier this year because of her migraines.

I personally and other women that I know who are Democrats actually
defended that because, again, the point is, none of this is acceptable,
Republican, Democrat, what-have-you. Again, who is Romney talking about?

You know who he`s talking to is those right-wing conservatives.
They`re not going to vote for him anyway. He had a shot to actually gain
some votes, gain some respect, and he passed on it.

O`DONNELL: E.J. Dionne and Karen Finney, thank you both very much in
joining me tonight in studio in Washington.

FINNEY: Good to have you here.

O`DONNELL: Great to be here.

Coming up, the Republican primary is hurting Republicans, and new
polls show it is helping President Obama.

And in "The Rewrite" -- the big lie, the very big lie that Mitt Romney
keeps getting away with in every Republican presidential debate.

And later, someone compared it to the Super Bowl. Last night in
Washington, to raise money for the KIND Fund, I debated Ann Coulter. I`ll
let one of the conservative students in that audience tell us what he
thought of the debate.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So Mitt Romney`s five adult sons, why should
people get excited and not terrified by your presence on the campaign

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we connect with the younger voters. Our
average age is 36, while our median age is 35. And we like the same things
as young people such as sport, cinema and doo-wop. See?

CROWD: We`re just like you, America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Our thanks to Stephen King for
creating those boys.



O`DONNELL: President Obama will hold his first press conference of
the year at 1:15 Eastern Standard Time tomorrow, just hours before the
media locks its focus on the 10 states that will cast votes for the
Republican presidential nomination on Super Tuesday. New polls today are
showing that the Republican nominating process cannot end soon enough for
most Republicans in the Republican Party.

According to a new NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll, four in 10
Americans say the Republican nominating process has made them feel less
favorable toward the Republican Party. Only 12 percent say the Republican
nominating process has made them feel more favorable toward the Republican

"New York Post" conservative columnist John Podhoretz spoke for the
Republican establishment in his latest column. "Maybe, just maybe, if
Romney does well, by which I mean he wins" all but wins - wins or -- I
can`t read -- "all but wins in Ohio and Tennessee, the two most important
states to watch -- we can get out of the political doldrums in which we
have been trapped for months and months and months, and months and months
and months, and move on. This would come as a relief to me and countless
others like me frankly because I can`t take much more of it."

Ohio polls out today show that Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are
running in a virtual tie in that state. A Suffolk University poll has
Santorum ahead of Romney by four points which is within the margin of
error. A Quinnipiac Poll has Romney ahead of Santorum by three points,
also within the margin of error. And in Tennessee, a robo poll has
Santorum up by five points.

"RedState" editor-in-chief, conservative Erick Erickson has given up
on the Republican field and today chose some very bitter words to
essentially say, President Obama is going to win re-election.

"There are people like me who are pretty sure that as much as Romney
will struggle against the president, why, yes, Rick Santorum would be post,
too. We are going against the second coming of Jimmy Carter battling to
find the tallest midget to put up against him."

Joining me now, Obama campaign national co-chair and California
Attorney General Kamala Harris and "The New Yorker`s" Washington
correspondent, Ryan Lizza.

Thank you for joining me in studio tonight.

Kamala, you`ve just flown across the country from the single biggest
delegate catch in -- I mean, Electoral College catch in the general


O`DONNELL: Which, of course, is locked up for President Obama. But
when you look at what`s happening in Michigan and Ohio, in these states
that the Republicans have been campaigning in and in swing states that the
president has to win, it seems like the Republicans couldn`t be paving a
better road to Democratic victory.

HARRIS: I think that`s right. But I think it`s not without merit
that you see these poll numbers.

The president has been working very hard through this, his first term,
in the midst of great challenges. And he has seen success. And I think
the American people know it. And as we get closer to the election, the
numbers will continue to reflect that he is the fighter for middle-class
values. He is the one who has cared about the need for all of us to have
meaningful health care. He is the one who cares about the middle class on
the foreclosure deal that we just completed, $25 billion for the United

And so I think the right thing is happening, but based on merit.

O`DONNELL: And he`s also not the candidate who`s driving the campaign
discussion off into very strange territories like contraception and such.
I want to take a look at some of these factors in the new NBC News/"Wall
Street Journal" poll showing President Obama versus Romney head to head

We show him leading independents in this poll 50-44. We show the
president leading with women voters 55-37. Midwest voters, let`s see, it`s
up there now -- Midwest voters, 52-42.

Ryan, in your latest article, it`s numbers like that that you think
are scaring establishment Republicans, and you think there might be some
who are actually hoping that the primary process does not deliver a fixed
nominee to that convention. Maybe they can sort everything out at the

RYAN LIZZA, THE NEW YORKER: Well, what I tried to argue is that, you
know, primaries don`t necessarily deliver a consensus candidate. Primaries
are a relatively recent invention, and it`s not a guarantee that going from
state to state when you have two candidates representing different factions
of the party, that you`ll get -- that you`ll get a process where everyone
comes together at the end.

And, you know, you need sometimes what political scientists refer to
as a consensus-forcing institution. And you don`t have that anymore in

And so, the argument I threw out there was, you know, perhaps a
convention where you get -- where you have all the factions of the
different party represented, on board, and you have that consensus-forcing
institution, help them come together, if it`s around Romney or something
else. It will likely be around Mitt Romney.

Right now, you have Romney as the 40 percent candidates. That`s how
many votes he`s won so far, 40 percent. And you have a sizeable faction of
the Republican Party, mostly evangelical voters. Romney has lost them by
between nine and 24 points in seven contests with entrance or exit polls,
nine and 24 points.

You have this big chunk of the Republican Party that is withholding
support of this guy, and he`s going to have to do something if he wins this
-- to bring the party back together.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Harry Reid told me today about what
he thinks Mitt Romney`s problem is connecting with voters.


O`DONNELL: What is the Romney lesson about the tax code?

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: First of all, I have nothing
against rich people. I think Mitt Romney is a very fine man.

But look, in the past, rich people have fared pretty well running for
president. Mitt Romney has obviously been a rich person his whole life.
He can`t identify with regular people. He can`t identify with people in
NASCAR. He can`t identify with the people putting those automobiles
together that he didn`t want them to be able to put them together.

He said, I gave a few speeches last year, didn`t make much money. It
was $340,000 he made.

His tax rate is far less than Warren Buffett`s secretary which the
Buffett Rule certainly comes into play here. So he doesn`t identify with
regular guys and women.


O`DONNELL: Kamala, we`ve seen rich Republicans self-finance somewhat
-- Meg Whitman in California try to take the governorship, go against Jerry
Brown, couldn`t do it. We`ve seen rich Republicans struggling as

HARRIS: Well, listen, I think Harry Reid is right. Today in
Sacramento, the capital of California, at least 5,000 students converged on
the state capitol. They occupied the dome. And they were there protesting
because they want access to affordable education.

And this comes in the midst of statistics that are telling us that for
the average California family who has an income of $100,000, it would be
more expensive to send their child, the student, to the University of
California system or the state college system than it would be to send that
child to Harvard or Princeton or Yale.

This is where we are now as a country. And young and old want to know
that we have people who understand with, empathize and identify with the
middle class and the need to support the middle class if we are going to
support the future of our country.

O`DONNELL: Ryan, what are you expecting from the president tomorrow
in this news conference? Is there anything he can credibly say about what
he hopes to accomplish governing between now and Election Day?

LIZZA: No. I mean, what the Obama White House and campaign has been
very effective at doing during the Republican primaries is every once in a
while, inserting themselves in at opportune moments to play up this extreme
contrast between a party and a presumptive nominee, going after the right
wing of his party, constantly moving to the right, and a president who`s
sticking to the middle, running a general election campaign.

The most recent thing they did, of course, was call this young woman
to buck her up, to really get the sort of Obama versus Rush Limbaugh thing.
What they`re trying to do is they can`t run against Romney now, so they`re
trying to run against the Kochs, and Rush and some of the extreme right.
That`s why they`re doing a press conference on Super Tuesday.

O`DONNELL: Kamala Harris, you`re my attorney general in California.
We both live in California, and the only way I see you in the same studio
is that we both have to come to Washington.

HARRIS: And I`m here meeting with the national attorneys general. So
welcome all 50 of us in town right now.

O`DONNELL: Thank you very much. Ryan Lizza, also thank you very much
for joining me tonight. Thank you both.

Coming up, my interview with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on
everything from Rush Limbaugh to the 2012 election.

And later, last night here in Washington, I debated Ann Coulter at
George Washington University. We`ll give you a fair and balanced review of
the great debate.



GEORGE WILL, "THE WASHINGTON POST": The fact is, there is an economy
of politics. There`s only so much time, so much enthusiasm and so much
energy. And I think there may come a point when people look at the math
and look at the defects of the Republican nominee, whoever it is, and say,
we have a better chance of maximizing the real objective, which is to stop
Obama, by getting all the gavels in Congress, all the committee
chairmanship in Republican hands.


O`DONNELL: In the Spotlight tonight, a LAST WORD exclusive. With
Republican opinion leaders like George Will and Eric Erickson giving up on
winning the presidency, Republican energy and money will increasingly be
aimed at seizing control of the United States Senate.

I met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid today at the Capitol to
discuss what`s at stake in this year`s Senate campaigns and, of course, the
Limbaugh factor.


O`DONNELL: Senator Reid, the last vote you had here in the Senate was
the Blunt Amendment, 51-48. It was a close vote. Senator Schumer has
pointed out that if the Republicans were to take over the Senate this
election, they would pass the Blunt Amendment.

This is something, among many other things, that the fight for the
Senate is now all about.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: That was really a memorable
vote for me because it brought back a lot of memories of what I had worked
with Senator Snowe 15 years ago. It was me and Senator Snowe that started
this contraceptive issue.

We believed that -- back then if you were going to stop the number of
abortions, look at the cause of half of them, and that`s unintended
pregnancies. So we brought this up. We had -- there was a little
controversial, but we passed it, that if you were a federal employee, your
insurance would cover these contraceptives.

And that paved the way where we are now. And Senator Schumer is
absolutely right. That vote was very, very close, 51 to 48. Slight change
and I don`t think it would be a good day for women in America.

O`DONNELL: Well, that`s why Rush Limbaugh is saying today on his
radio show that that vote on the Blunt Amendment is proof why you need to
be defeated, that -- he said that no one should ever think about
compromising with Democrats in the House or the Senate, should only think
about defeating them.

REID: Well, Rush Limbaugh is someone who has learned that you -- even
in the Rush Limbaugh world, there`s certain things that you can`t say. And
what brought his attention to this is lots and lots of sponsors of his
program said no more; you`ve gone too far.

Rush Limbaugh, each day that goes by, has become less credible with
the American people.

O`DONNELL: What do you say to -- how do you get a message out to
people who are thinking about coming up to the Hill to testify in the
Senate or the House, after something like what we`ve seen with Rush
Limbaugh. Here`s a law student who Democrats invited to come up to the
House of Representatives and offer testimony.

And she gets called a prostitute. She gets called a slut repeatedly
on the biggest national radio show in the country. What do you say about -
- to witnesses who say, I don`t want to have anything to do with what you
do up there, because I`m afraid of what might happen to me if I do?

REID: The world of Washington has changed. When I first came to the
Senate, Barbara Mikulski was the lone woman who was a Democrat. Now we
have 12 women. And after this election, with a little -- with some good
fortune, we`ll have six or seven additional women.

We cannot have something like this take place. It`s embarrassing to
our country. It`s embarrassing to the Congress to have a woman who had
something to say. She was invited to testify and was disinvited by an all-
male group of people.

Washington has changed. You can`t do that to women in America

O`DONNELL: Many people have responded to what they`ve seen up here
calling it a war on women. Is that politically a fair characterization for
what`s going on?

REID: Lawrence, I don`t know about a war on women. I do know this.
We were trying to hold a position we think is pretty important. And that
is that women are entitled for contraception -- contraceptives of their
choice. That`s what this was all about.

O`DONNELL: Others are concerned now -- are focusing on the Senate and
the House elections. George Will, a much more sane Republican voice than
Rush Limbaugh, is also concentrating here. He said yesterday he`s almost
given up on the hope of a Republican coming out of this crazy Republican
presidential primary and winning the presidency.

So he is saying it`s time to start focusing on the Senate and winning
back the Senate. Do you fear that this failure of the performance of the
Republican presidential candidates will, in fact, focus real Republican
energy on trying to take away your majority leadership?

REID: People around the country -- Republicans around the country,
are not like these people here in the Senate that are Republicans or in the
House. When I came to Washington, we had many, many moderate Republicans.

You know their names as well as I do. Danforth, an Episcopalian
minister from Missouri, Hatfield and Packwood. We had John Heinz from
Pennsylvania, John Chafee from Rhode Island, and on and on. You could
count up to 20 moderate Republicans.

O`DONNELL: As you pointed out, it wasn`t limited by region, the
northwest, the Midwest, the northeast.

REID: No, that`s for sure. And so mainstream Republicans don`t
accept all this crazy stuff that you see taking place within the Republican
run for presidency. But the sad part about it is the House of
Representatives, we all know, is dominated by the Tea Party.

What people don`t realize is the Senate, about 40 percent of
Republican senators are Tea Party folks. Look at what happened. We have a
moderate Republican elected from Missouri. He had experience in House
leadership, Roy Blunt.

He runs for a spot here, third or fourth down the hierarchy of
Republican leadership. He damn near got beat because he was running
against a Tea Party guy from -- Johnson from Wisconsin.

So the American people aren`t going to accept what the Republicans
have been trying to do on the presidential level, with these people, with
this -- I mean, this is so absurd what they`re doing in the presidential
elections. But they`re still doing it in our Congressional elections.

What we need is the Republicans to get back where they were, to get
back to being a John Chafee Republican, to be a John Heinz Republican, a
Danforth Republican. But you work together.

You know, my caucus that I have represents America. I have Bernie
Sanders, who when he was first elected was a socialist. He`s an
independent. I have Barbara Boxer, one of the most progressive members in
the entire Senate. But on the other side, I have Mark Pryor from Arkansas,
a very moderate man. I have Claire McCaskill from Missouri. I have Ben
Nelson from Nebraska.

So my caucus has these extremes on both sides. But it has also the
mixture that gets us to where we are. And that`s why we`re able to stick
together and do things that we believe are right for this country.

We want to work together. We understand legislation is the art of
compromise, consensus building. Nothing wrong with that.

And Republicans throughout the country also believe that. But they
don`t have Republican leaders that are leading them down the path that we
used to have to bring about good things in our country.

O`DONNELL: Harry Reid, thank you very much.

REID: You bet.


O`DONNELL: Still to come, my evening with Ann. It is impossible to
prepare for a debate with Ann Coulter, as I discovered last night here in
Washington. There is just no way of knowing what she`s going to say next.
We`ll get the reaction from some people who were there.

And later in the Rewrite, if Mitt Romney becomes the Republican
nominee for president, President Obama will trap him with the lie he has
been getting away with simply because he is running against the most
incompetent Republican candidates ever.


O`DONNELL: In tonight`s Rewrite, Mitt Romney and the individual
mandate. Nothing has animated the Tea Party more than the mandate in the
health care reform bill passed by the Democrats and signed by President
Obama requiring individuals to purchase health insurance. It is identical
to the mandate that the front-runner for the Republican presidential
nomination signed into law in Massachusetts.

It is very hard to think of a greater insult to the Tea Party, a
greater Republican insult to the Tea Party, than having a Republican
nominee for president who signed an individual mandate into law years
before President Obama did. And Mitt Romney knows exactly how insulting
that is to the Tea Party, which is why he handles that problem with typical
Romney dispatch.

He lies about it. Mitt Romney has lied in every debate about the
individual mandate and gotten away with it. He has gotten away with it
because he`s been campaigning against the most ridiculous set of Republican
presidential candidates ever. Here is Mitt Romney`s big lie.


he was for a federal individual mandate. That`s something I`ve always
opposed. What we did in our state was designed by the people in our state
for the needs of our state.

You believe in the Tenth Amendment. I believe in the Tenth Amendment.
The people of Massachusetts favor our plan three to one. If they don`t
like it, they can get rid of it. That`s the great thing about a democracy
where individuals, under the Tenth Amendment, have the power to craft their
own solutions.


O`DONNELL: A federal individual mandate, something I have always
opposed. That`s the sound of Romney lying. When Romney tries that same
lie in a debate with President Obama, he will not get away with it, thanks
to this "Meet the Press" video from June of 2009, in the thick of the
debate over the Obama approach to health care reform.


ROMNEY: The right way to proceed is to reform health care. That we
can do, as we did it in Massachusetts, as Wyden/Bennett is proposing doing
it at the national level. We can do it for the nation. We can get
everybody insured.


O`DONNELL: "The way we did it in Massachusetts." And there`s Mitt
Romney endorsing the Wyden-Bennett bill, sponsored by Democratic Senator
Ron Wyden and Republican Senator Bob Bennett of Utah. The key provision of
that bill is the individual mandate, complete with a tax code-enforced
fine, just like the Obama individual mandate and the Romney individual
mandate before it.

Senator Bennett explained that his support for the individual mandate
began in 1994 when it was an entirely Republican idea.


SEN. BOB BENNETT (R), UTAH: I first got involved in it when Mrs.
Clinton, as the First Lady, started putting forth some ideas. And at that
time, the conservative approach, to which I gravitated quite naturally, was
to have an individual mandate.

Now I am condemned for supporting the individual mandate. I still do,
because if you are going to take the position that we do in this country,
that if someone is ill, we will take care of them, regardless of their
ability to pay -- someone shows up in an emergency room bleeding, we don`t
say, if you don`t show me an insurance card, we`re going to throw you out
in the snow and let you bleed to death.


O`DONNELL: Did you catch the part about him being condemned? You
just heard Senator Bennett say he was condemned for supporting the
individual mandate. How condemned was he? A Tea Party challenger defeated
the incumbent senator in a primary campaign in Utah for the Republican
nomination for Senate.

Senator Bennett, incumbent senator, actually finished third in that
Republican primary because he supported an individual mandate in health
care. Mitt Romney followed his Utah friend`s tragic political demise over
the individual mandate very closely. Mitt Romney`s tactical decision on
how to avoid the political fate suffered by a far less prominent proponent
of the individual mandate than Mitt Romney himself has been to simply lie
about it.

The media has, for the most part, let that lie slide. And the
incompetent Republican candidates Romney has been running against don`t
even know it`s a lie. But it`s one of the many lies that the Obama
campaign is hoping, just hoping, Romney tries to get away with on a debate
stage later this year, because they know that if Mitt Romney tries a lie
that big in a debate with President Obama, the president will crush him.



PRESIDENT: What we aimed at doing is just bringing in a fun debate with
two people who are very passionate about their political ideologies. It`s
not like this is something comparable to a Super Bowl.

O`DONNELL: That was Joe Maniscalco, president of the College
Democrats at George Washington University, doing what show promoters must
do, exaggerating wildly my debate with Ann Coulter at George Washington
University, was nothing like the Super Bowl. There was no halftime show.
Madonna wasn`t there. M.I.A. didn`t even show up.

But here is some of what the audience was hoping to see.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m here to watch Lawrence O`Donnell decimate
Ann Coulter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, the economy and jobs for sure, health
care, always, and education are my major issues. I am pretty sure -- I`m
certainly hoping that all this war on women stuff that`s been happening in
the last few weeks comes up.


O`DONNELL: The debate was free form, no time keeping, no score
keeping. And so each member of the audience could keep their own


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was reasoned. He was funny. He was
(INAUDIBLE). He took it seriously but not too seriously.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Know your audience. And I`m not sure how Ann
Coulter missed that lesson. But to say in a roomful of college students
that, number one, you should not have the right to vote until you`re at
least in graduate school or beyond, because she believes that voting age
should be 26. And number two, in a roomful of at least 50 percent women,
that women should never have the right to vote, was shocking to me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Afterwards, I heard a lot of people talking
about, I`m Republican, but --


O`DONNELL: Immediately after the debate, I received this tweet from
Will Healy. "I`m a Republican at GW. And after that debate, I felt I was
sitting on the wrong side.

Joining me now, Will Healy, a freshman at George Washington University
from Long Island. Will, thank you very much for joining me tonight.

having me.

O`DONNELL: I got that Tweet. I said to myself, I wonder what Will`s
doing tomorrow night. So you went in there ready to cheer for Ann. So
what did you hear that made you think, hey, I wonder if I should maybe be
slipping over that way?

HEALY: Well, I feel more socially liberal. I feel I`m much more
libertarian. And throughout the debate, she just said things where I just
looked at her like she was a crazy person.

O`DONNELL: Are you a Ron Paul leaning Republican?

HEALY: Yes, I`m a Ron Paul-leaning Republican.

O`DONNELL: And by the way, I don`t quite get party affiliation in
college. When I was in college, students didn`t care about party. They
kind of grew into it way later. And so I was surprised to see so many
Democrat. And by the way, let`s just acknowledge, the room was
overwhelmingly Democrat.


O`DONNELL: Sort of like four to one, something like that.

HEALY: It was.

O`DONNELL: So Ann went in at a real disadvantage with the audience.
But when I discovered somewhere earlier in the week that she had said that
the voting age should be 26, I had this feeling I was going to do very well
with the college crowd when I pulled that one out. That kind of set her

HEALY: Yeah.

O`DONNELL: But she stuck to it, which is what I loved about it. She
didn`t try to back off from it at all.

HEALY: Yeah. She just said things -- she`s in a debate with college
students, and she says that people under the age of 26 shouldn`t be able to
vote because they`re too stupid. And women shouldn`t be able to vote, that
way a Republican can be president.

I don`t think you should be able to push somebody down and keep them
out of voting just so a Republican can win.

O`DONNELL: So what was the reaction afterwards among -- because you
were on the kind of Coulter side of the room. What were you hearing on
that side of the room?

HEALY: I talked to a few people. I was sitting with somebody else
who also agreed with me that we felt we were sitting on the wrong side. We
were definitely cheering for you more and clapping at what you said and
kind of looking at her dumbfounded throughout the debate.

There were definitely people who agreed with a lot of what Ann said.
And I don`t think she represented a majority of the Republicans or
Republicans in general. And she was mainly there for shock value, I feel,
especially with what she said.

Personally, I didn`t talk to many people. I kind of got out of there
as fast as possible.

O`DONNELL: Yeah, your Tweet was at 8:32 p.m. And it was over at 8:28

HEALY: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. I Tweeted that as I walked out the
door on my phone.

O`DONNELL: I`ve known Ann since she worked at MSNBC, going back to
1996, `97. And I do know that she feels under appreciated as a comedian.
She delivers some of those truly audacious lines, thinking that there`s a
laugh line there, but they don`t always work that way.

HEALY: Well, she seemed to believe what she was saying. She was
doing it for the shock value. She did it for the shock value. She
believed what she said. She stuck to it, as you said in the debate.

Good for her for sticking to her guns. She`s in a debate, though, and
you don`t really say stuff like that ever.

O`DONNELL: We raised 18,000 dollars last night for the KIND fund.
About 1,000 kids in that room last night, that`s about how many kids in
Malawi will now have desks next year in school because of what we did last

And those desks will last for years. So thousands and thousands of
kids benefited from the fun we had last night at G.W. And just got to tell
you, I loved being at GW last night. It was really fun.

Thanks, Will, very much.

HEALY: Thanks for having me.

O`DONNELL: Thanks for being there last night. Will Healy gets THE


Copyright 2012 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.>