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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Monday, March 12, 2012

Read the transcript to the Monday show

Guests: Steve Schmidt, E.J. Dionne, Hogan Gidley, Rick Tyler, Tom Taylor, Michelle Goldberg, Steve

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: We have breaking news at this hour.
All national advertising has been suspended on "The Rush Limbaugh Radio
Show". We will be covering that in detail.

And we`ve got presidential campaign news with the Republican
nomination turning into a complicated math problem. Willard M. Romney
seems to think the solution is cheesy grits.


with you.

MARTIN BASHIR, MSNBC HOST: Just 24 hours from two important Southern
primaries --

TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Tomorrow`s Southern showdown.

BASHIR: -- polls show the inevitable Mitt Romney inevitably in a
tight race.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Romney leads with 31, but right behind
him Gingrich at 30.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Newt`s got to show well tomorrow night in Alabama
and Mississippi.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think the big surprise is how well Mitt
Romney seems to be doing.

BASHIR: Mitt is predicting a victory in the Alabama contest.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mitt Romney needs to prove he can win in the

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So let`s talk math, shall we?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The official delegate count is Romney at 377,
Santorum at 146.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Romney`s delegate lead being virtually

are uncommitted.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rick Santorum is not giving up on this math

SANTORUM: The math is not the issue.


SANTORUM: The issue is vision.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt Romney`s math is just like Mitt Romney`s
conservatism. It`s bogus.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s not winning. It`s keeping Romney from

BASHIR: Willard has somehow managed to turn on the Southern charm.

CHRIS JANSING, NBC NEWS: Eating grits, I think cheesy grits he
called them.

ROMNEY: I`ve got to start this morning with a biscuit and some
cheesy grits, I`ll tell you.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: Cheesy grits. That seems a weird thing to

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s not cheesy grits, it`s cheese grits.

KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: The pander fest that`s been
coming out of his mouth has been pretty stunning.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you`re going to pander, at least get it

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s not flip-flopping. It`s pandering and there
is a difference.

ROBERT GIBBS, OBAMA CAMPAIGN: That kind of stuff doesn`t really go
over well in the Deep South.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s almost like as if we`re watching Romney on
safari in his own country.

FINNEY: What he is, is not what the voters want.

WOODY HARRELSON, ACTOR (as Steve Schmidt): I can`t get him to stop
watching MSNBC which only makes him more miserable.


O`DONNELL: The Republican nomination is all about the delegates now.
And it`s beginning to look like no one will have enough.


ROMNEY: Can you imagine anything that would be a bigger gift to
Barack Obama than us not having a nominee until the end of August?


O`DONNELL: No, I cannot imagine a bigger gift to the Obama re-
election campaign, and that is now a serious possibility.

Rick Santorum`s delegate strategist, John Yob, who served in a
similar position in Senator McCain`s presidential campaign, said today,
"The delegate race is currently much closer than some would like people to
believe. It will get even closer as actual national convention delegates
are elected at county, district and state conventions across the country.
They represent the conservative majority of the Republican Party, and that
is a huge problem for a moderate candidate like Mitt Romney."

Rick Santorum likes his chances going into an open convention.


SANTORUM: When we go to this convention, if that`s where we end up,
it`s a conservative party. They`re not going to nominate. If the
opportunity provides itself at an open convention, they are not going to
nominate a moderate Massachusetts governor.


O`DONNELL: And the moderate Massachusetts governor continues to
insist that his inevitability makes him inevitable.


ROMNEY: We have a selection process. We`re in the middle of it.
I`m leading it strongly. I`m going to continue to lead it. You`re going
to see me getting the delegates I need to become the nominee, and we sure
as heck are not going to go to a convention all the way to the end of
August to select a nominee and have campaign -- working during a


O`DONNELL: All right. Let`s take a look at how the delegate count
looks now. The total needed for the nomination is 1,144. Mitt Romney
leads with 377. Rick Santorum is second with 146. Newt Gingrich has 112.
And Ron Paul has so far a meaningless collection of 31 delegates.

From his position in third place, Newt Gingrich still sees a clear
path to the nomination.


these delegate counts too seriously. Governor Romney has a very limited
number of delegates who are legally bound to him. This is probably going
to go on at least into June and July, and could go all the way to the
convention. My commitment`s going to be to reach out to every delegate
who`s not legally bound who they -- there are lots of delegates who you
pick, but they`re not legally required to be for their candidate.


O`DONNELL: Tomorrow, Republicans in Alabama, Mississippi and Hawaii
will vote. A robo-poll of likely Alabama primary voters shows Romney,
Santorum and Gingrich in a virtual three-way tie. The only certainty in
Alabama is a last place finish for Ron Paul. The same goes for
Mississippi, where robo-polls show Paul in a distant fourth. Gingrich and
Romney are in a statistical tie for the lead with Rick Santorum polling
third just outside the margin of error.

Joining me now is Rick Tyler, a senior adviser for the pro-Gingrich
super PAC, Winning Our Future, and Hogan Gidley, communications director
for the Santorum campaign. And MSNBC political analyst Steve Schmidt,
former adviser to John McCain`s 2008 campaign and a senior strategist in
the Bush/Cheney 2004 presidential campaign

Thank you all for joining me.

Steve, I want to start with you. You have your former delegate
counter now doing the job for Rick Santorum. This is a very, very tricky
process in a tricky science, and this year it seems more complicated than
ever with proportional share.

How do you see this thing playing out between now and the convention?

But the inevitability argument starts to collapse, Lawrence, as we get into
this math equation. And in the Republican Party, you have two highly
credible people on the political side, Rich Beason for the Romney campaign,
John Yob for the Santorum campaign.

And the representations by both campaigns have made the issue murky
enough that it collapses the rationale around why Rick Santorum should get
out of the race. And it`s totally unclear, I think, if you look at this
honestly whether you believe that Mitt Romney`s going to be able to
accumulate the necessary delegates to nominate by the end of the voting
portion of the campaign.

I do agree that if the campaign goes into the convention, the
campaign`s going to the convention without a clear nominee, and that`s
decided at the convention. I think that`s a huge problem for the party for
the November election.

And, of course, for Speaker Gingrich, you know, he has said in the
past that to remain credible, he needed to win Georgia. He did just that.
He said that he`s needed to win these Southern states, and we`ll see
tomorrow how he does in those states.

But I think all of the candidates need to keep winning and
accumulating delegates at this point in the race to keep going forward and
have a rationale to move their campaigns forward.

O`DONNELL: Hogan Gidley, for the Santorum campaign, is the realistic
approach now not so much winning the delegates necessary to lock up the
nomination, but simply preventing Romney from getting to that magic number
and going into an open convention?

HOGAN GIDLEY, SANTORUM SPOKESMAN: Well, both, actually, Lawrence.
And thanks for having me.

I think that we can easily stop Mitt Romney from getting that 1,144.
The dirty little secret that Mitt Romney won`t tell anybody is he keeps
saying that Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum can`t get to 1,144. The secret
is he can`t either. And he has yet to unify the space.

And for the reasons that we`ve heard already on the show, that those
delegates are not bound in many of those states. And so, he`s actually
counting delegates including states like Florida and Arizona as winner-
take-all states when they`re not, when they broke the RNC rules. The rules
state they now have to be proportional. And he`s counting these delegates
he doesn`t actually have in his back pocket at this point.

And so, in addition to those points, a lot of these delegates he`s
talking about haven`t even been elected at their state conventions yet.
So, there`s a long way to go in this game. We`ve got a whole another half
to play, and we`re going to keep playing.

O`DONNELL: And, Hogan, a week before the convention, the committee
meets to decide how to award some of the disputed delegate allotments that
we`ve seen already, including Florida, say. And so you`re going to be
making a case there, Romney`s going to be making a case there, the Gingrich
campaign will be making a case there about how to divide these up.

And so, the numbers we`re looking at right now, even though we
present them as solid numbers, could shift in that week before the
convention when the committee that decides the final count for some of
these states rules.

Isn`t that the way it`s going to work?

GIDLEY: Absolutely. And, you know, it`s so funny because you just
played a clip early in the show about Mitt Romney saying this is pretty
much over. It`s inevitable.

If it`s over and it`s inevitable, then what`s he doing building up
teams, what he`s doing spending money in other states? Why isn`t he home
at one of his houses on either coast just enjoying life just as it is

He`s still continuing to fight this battle because he`s concerned.
He knows if this goes to the floor, if this goes into committee, that at
these conventions, there are more conservatives there than moderates. And
he`s going to have a serious problem if we go up to that convention with as
many or more delegates than he has, and we`re going to have the team on the
ground, we`re going to have the votes because at the end of the day, the
conservative party is going to nominate a conservative and not someone
who`s lined up with Barack Obama on the major issues of the day.

O`DONNELL: Rick Tyler, let`s talk about who really is at that
convention. John Dickerson had a great piece in "Slate" today about this
process. And I think there`s something in this piece, the most detailed
thing I`ve read yet about how this delegate thing works in the Republican
Party. There`s something in there for every campaign to like.

But here`s what he said about who`s really going to end up deciding
this. He said, "When advisers to Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum talk about
the unbound delegate pool, they make it sound like it`s a huge group of
swing voters ready to be persuaded by the best argument. That`s not quite
right. Most are technically free to do as they please, but they are a
Romney-leading group."

Now, what do you say to Dickerson`s point there?

RICK TYLER, WINNING OUR FUTURE: Well, how can that be true? A lot
of the delegates, as Hogan said, haven`t been picked yet.

Look, the establishment`s in a panic, and the establishment is now
trying to control the RNC convention. That`s going to be the next big
fight. The second is to actually go into the states and get delegates
elected who you think will vote for you.

The truth is no delegate is bound either on the first vote or the
second vote. But let`s just say they`re bound on the first vote. If Mitt
Romney fails the first vote, which I predict he will, how enthusiastic do
you think they`ll be to vote for him in a second vote?

And I think it is Rick Santorum`s best chance to get the nomination,
and I think similarly it might be Gingrich`s best chance to get the
nomination, although I do believe Gingrich could beat Romney in a one-on-

O`DONNELL: All right. Let`s listen to what Rick Santorum said on
FOX News tonight.


SANTORUM: I think the people of Alabama and Mississippi are figuring
out if they want a challenger in the general election, we`ve got to get
this race in a one-on-one. And since Nevada, since the first four
primaries are over, we`ve either finished first or second in every single
state. Congressman Gingrich, the Speaker has only finished first in his
home state, hasn`t finished above third anywhere else.


O`DONNELL: Steve Schmidt, if we go into an open convention, what is
going to persuade delegates to line up behind one of these guys? Is it
going to be speeches? Is it going to be, you know, the kind of thing, the
kind of emotional-rousing moments that we get out of some of these debate
performances that we`ve seen? Or is it going to be backroom mechanics
running around, making deals? How would you imagine this thing getting

SCHMIDT: I think we`re in totally uncharted territory, if that
happens. It`s anyone`s guess, and it`s probably a combination of all of
the above, Lawrence.

But if none of the campaigns get the requisite number of delegates to
be nominated, I think the important thing is to understand we`re just in
uncharted territory. And I think that there`s a huge number of dynamics
that begin to take place.

I do think that if Governor Romney goes into the convention with the
lead, that doesn`t necessarily advantage him, as Rick just pointed out,
once the voting begins on the ballots. I just think it`s wide open. It`s
jump ball. Anything can happen at that point.

O`DONNELL: Rick Tyler, would you expect Newt Gingrich and Rick
Santorum and possibly Mitt Romney to ask to address the convention early
on, perhaps right after that first ballot?

TYLER: Well, the RNC has rules about that. The truth is, if you win
five states, just the plurality in the five states, you have equal access
to the convention floor. You have equal access to all the resources.
That`s why I say it`s going to be a big fight at the convention over who
gets control of the floor and who gets to speak and how much time they get,
because the rules state if you get a certain number of states, just the
plurality in those states, that you have equal access to all the
conventions, time, allocation, resources, all of it.

So, we`ll just see what`s going to happen. It`s going to be very

O`DONNELL: Rick Tyler and Hogan Gidley, hang in there. We really
want to see this. We really want to see that open convention.


O`DONNELL: Thank you very much and thank you for joining us tonight.

GIDLEY: I`m sure you do, Lawrence. Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Steve Schmidt, hang around, we`re going to come back and
talk about "Game Change" and John McCain`s reaction to "Game Change" and
your participation. So, we`re going to see more of Steve.

Coming up, the politics of religion and what Southern Republicans
think of President Obama`s religion and Mitt Romney`s religion.

And we do have breaking news developments in Rush Limbaugh`s
advertising problem. A report tonight that national advertising on his
radio show is being suspended. We`re going to have more on that.

And in "The Rewrite," Romney tells the political media a lie today,
knowing -- knowing -- that he can get away with it because the press does
not know how to call a lie a lie.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rick Santorum today won the Kansas caucuses,
beating Mitt Romney by 30 percent. Santorum was expected to do well in
Kansas because it`s also a giant square.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think Mitt Romney`s religion will be an
issue in your state, Governor?

GOV. ROBERT BENTLEY (R), ALABAMA: Well, I think that`s a very subtle
issue that probably may be a problem in many states, not just in Alabama.
But I do believe that Republicans are looking to see who can win the
presidency. And they`re going to look at that more than anything else.


O`DONNELL: In tonight`s episode of the politics of religion, we see
that the front-runner for the Republican nomination has a religion problem,
and the only runner for the Democratic nomination does, too.

A Public Policy poll of Republican primary voters in Alabama where
they will be voting tomorrow found that only 14 percent accept President
Obama`s constant professions that he is a Christian, 45 percent are
convinced President Obama is a Muslim, and 41 percent of the utterly
confused Alabama Republicans say they are simply not sure what the
president`s religion is.

Across the border, in Mississippi where they will also be voting
tomorrow, it looks even worse for the president. A mere 12 percent accept
President Obama`s statements that he is a Christian, and a clear majority
of 52 percent are convinced President Obama is a Muslim, with 36 percent
saying they`re not sure.

The politics of religion came up today in an interview President
Obama did with the NBC affiliate in Des Moines, Iowa.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have professed your faith, and yet there are
Republicans in Iowa and elsewhere who use words like you are waging a war
on religion. What do you think is the relationship -- the proper
relationship between faith and politics?

personal faith is very important to me. You know, I think the proper role
here is to recognize that faith-based groups can do a lot of good out there
that informs our values in who we are as a people. But when we start using
religion as a bludgeon in politics, when we start questioning other
people`s faith, we start using religion to divide instead of bring the
country together, then I think we`ve got a problem.


O`DONNELL: And if you think the president has problems, on Friday,
on Alabama radio, Mitt Romney was asked about Mormon theology on "The Rick
& Bubba Show."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Evangelical Christians don`t always agree that
Mormons are also Christians, it`s just another denomination. And one of
those issues concerns Israel. I have friends who are Mormons, and
sometimes, I get a feeling that the Mormon faith calls America the promised
land, not Israel, therefore they almost feel like that our biblical mandate
to always support Israel is not necessarily in play anymore.

Where do you stand on Israel?

ROMNEY: I am without question committed to Israel, as a Jewish

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One more time before we go because again this is
something we`re going to face. Do you as a Mormon believe America is the
new Promised Land, yes or no?

ROMNEY: You know, you`re going to have to go talk to the church and
ask what they think about that. There`s no question about the fact that
Israel is the Promised Land. That`s what the Bible tells us. And my guess
is other lands are promised to other people.


O`DONNELL: Joining me now is E.J. Dionne, "Washington Post"
columnist and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. He`s also an
MSNBC political analyst.

E.J., what other lands are promised to what other people? Where are
we going there?

mean, it is -- I couldn`t help but think that when President Obama was
asked about American exceptionalism, he thought other countries felt they
were exceptional, too. So, Romney`s going to issue a statement
backtracking from that particular statement.

But, you know, I do think religion has played a real role in these
primaries already. You did a little essay the other night on that polling
question about whether the religion of a candidate matters to a voter a
great deal, some, not much, or not at all?

If you look across the states, the voters who have said the religion
of the candidate matters a great deal to them have given very few votes to
Mitt Romney in these Republican primaries, 10 percent to 20 percent. The
difference between Santorum winning Tennessee and losing Ohio is a lot more
voters in Tennessee and Oklahoma cared about a candidate`s religion.

And how much of this is anti-Mormonism? Well, I think there is some
anti-Mormon sentiment out there, and I must say, I don`t agree with Mitt
Romney a lot, but I don`t think people should be voting against him because
of his religion. We thought we might have settled that in the John Kennedy
election in 1960.

O`DONNELL: Well, it turns out we settled nothing back then. Or
maybe we settled it for a few decades, E.J.

I mean, you never heard candidates for president being asked any
questions about religion until we got well into the 1990s. It really, I
think, got -- there was a little moment with Jimmy Carter where he
explained that he was a born-again Christian. We all kind of went --
what`s that, exactly? Oh, yes, we get it.

But then it passed. And then we didn`t hear anything about it for

DIONNE: I think we went -- we go through phases of this. The 1928
election with Al Smith was dominated by cultural issues, notably should we
have Prohibition or not, and by Smith`s Catholicism. Then along came the
Great Depression.

And as a Roosevelt supporter said, I don`t know why we`re fighting
about Prohibition when nobody can afford the price of a drink. And these
cultural and religious issues receded.

And I think Kennedy got elected in the middle of this period when,
after World War II, we felt very unified, all those World War II films show
a Jew, an Italian and an Irish guy fighting together in the war. And then
it started up again, the cultural politics, in the late `70s.

I thought it was going to recede in this Great Recession. It hasn`t
nearly to the degree I expected. And in this Republican primary, it`s come
back in a really big way. Not only because Mitt Romney is a Mormon, but
also because Rick Santorum`s candidacy is rooted in religious sentiment.

O`DONNELL: Yes, it is amazing that these reporters are going to get,
you know, a couple of questions in their lives, you know, with a
presidential candidate, and they`re going to waste it on his religion.
It`s just amazing.

E.J. Dionne of "The Washington Post" -- thank you very much for
joining me tonight.

DIONNE: Good to be with you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, we do have breaking news on the advertising
stampede away from Rush Limbaugh. We`ve just learned that national
advertising on the Rush Limbaugh radio show has been suspended. That`s
going to be next when we come back.

And in "The Rewrite," Mitt Romney turned 65 today and celebrated his
eligibility for Medicare by lying about Medicare, knowing full well that
the press will let him get away with it.


MADDOW: The priest who refused communion to a woman at the funeral
of her own mother because that woman is a lesbian has now been removed from
the church and placed on leave pending an investigation.

Barbara Johnson joined me here on THE LAST WORD to explain that the
priest, during her mother`s funeral mass last month, told her that he could
not give her communion because she was living with another woman. The
priest then walked off the altar when Barbara Johnson gave the eulogy, and
the priest then refused to go to the cemetery for the burial.

The archdiocese that oversees that church in Maryland sent a letter
to the church, which cited allegations of intimidation of church staff as
the reason for the priest`s suspension, the letter does not cite his
unwillingness to give communion to Barbara Johnson or any of his actions on
that day.

And the Archdiocese says it will have no further comment on the
matter. Barbara Johnson sent us a statement late today. "While we
understand this letter does not pertain to the events that occurred at our
mother`s funeral, we are hopeful that Bishop Knestout`s decision will
ensure that no others will have to undergo the traumatic experiences
brought upon our family. We urge all Catholics to put aside political
points of view and pray that our church will remain in Christ`s love."

Coming up, we have breaking news that national advertising has been
suspended tonight on Rush Limbaugh`s radio show. That`s next.

And in the Rewrite, Mitt Romney is now basing his run for the
presidency on the big lie, his biggest lie. And the political press will
let him get away with it.


O`DONNELL: Rush Limbaugh took a much needed day off today, but
promises to be back on the air tomorrow when he will surely attempt to try
to continue to pretend that his massive loss of advertisers won`t hurt his
show or wealth in any way.

That claim was made much more difficult within the hour when on reported that Premier Networks, which syndicates Rush
Limbaugh`s radio show, told its affiliate radio stations that they are
suspending national advertising for two weeks.

Rush Limbaugh is normally provided to affiliates for free in return
for running several minutes of national advertisements provided by Premier
each hour. These ads are called barter spots. These spots are how Premier
makes its money on "The Rush Limbaugh Radio Show" and other shows it

Joining me now on the phone is Tom Taylor, editor of
Tom, tell us what -- you broke this story tonight on the Limbaugh
suspension of national advertising. This comes after a weekend of more
criticism of Rush Limbaugh. What does this mean to his program?

TOM TAYLOR, RADIOINFO.COM: Well, hi, Lawrence. First of all, let me
explain what it does not cover. In fact, I`m looking at the note from
Premier Networks, which is owned by Clear Channel, by the way. What it
says is this suspension does not apply to in-program commercials provided
by Premier within any of its live news talk programming.

So you`re right, these are -- what it does apply to -- what it does
talk about is the spots that are barter spots. And these are sort of
running during the week. And I think -- I suspect, although Premier
doesn`t really talk about why they did this -- I suspect that they just
want to make sure that nothing happens, that there`s no friction on the air
involving an advertiser.

I think you`ve written -- or talked earlier about the situation with
Concentra. Did you talk about that earlier in the show?

O`DONNELL: No, we haven`t.

TAYLOR: OK, they`re -- I think basically the whole temperature level
of this thing is something that the syndicator and Rush himself would like
to bring down. And as you say, that`s why Rush had a round of golf today.

O`DONNELL: Well, how does this bring down the temperature if they
just say we`re going to suspend national advertising? I mean, the pressure
remains on the advertisers to publicly announce that they won`t advertise
there anymore,. And that`s why we`ve seen this stream of exits of

And just by taking a day off and then suspending the use of
advertising, I guess they think if that advertiser`s not being mentioned on
the air for two weeks, that advertiser will not get pressure for two weeks
to exit Rush`s show.

TAYLOR: And that could be the case with some advertisers. We have,
in some cases, in this cases, a kind of short attention span, don`t we? I
think a lot depends on what happens over the next few days.

This is a fairly arcane area, Lawrence. A lot of advertisers don`t
like to be near controversial or potentially offensive programming. And
they will instruct people, quietly, please don`t put us there. And
advertisers move in and out of this all the time. We just don`t hear about

This one we happen to be hearing about.

O`DONNELL: And do you think that two weeks is an amount of time where
Limbaugh and the syndicators can figure out what their next step is?

TAYLOR: Sure. And I think they`re now formulating strategy. If you
notice, the statement late last week, when Rush refuses to let a longtime
advertiser who had been with him since he was a local radio talent in
Sacramento on KFBK -- refused to let that advertiser back on the show --
that was actually handled by an outside crisis management person.

And that`s kind of the first time we`ve seen that. So I think you`re
seeing them try to get a handle on it. In fact, my headline in the
newsletter tomorrow morning is, "A Rush to Chill," that Rush Limbaugh and
Premier just want to cool things down for a while and let things quiet

I wouldn`t be surprised if Rush gets in some more golf.

O`DONNELL: All right. Joining me now from new York is Michelle
Goldberg. She is a senior contributing writer for "the Daily Beast" and

Michelle, will this cool things down?

don`t see any reason why it would. It seems that the boycott campaign has
a lot of momentum. I think it`s well over 100 advertisers have pulled out
now. And you know, people kind of smell blood in the water.

And at the same time as my colleagues at "The Daily Beast" reported,
you have the Huckabee show debuting during the same -- during the same time
-- during the same block with a lot less controversy. And that could
replace Rush in a lot of markets.

O`DONNELL: Now, we had Jane Fonda, Gloria Steinem calling for the FCC
to intervene here.

GOLDBERG: Yeah. That`s just --

O`DONNELL: -- over the weekend. And it`s just one of those things
that shows that the anti-Rush rhetoric continues to build. The momentum
continues to build. We had Hillary Clinton making a statement about what
she calls a kind of global attacks on women, contextualizing Limbaugh,
without mentioning his name, within the global picture that she looks at as
secretary of state.

Is it your sense -- what is your sense about where we are in the curve
of this story? Is this still --

GOLDBERG: Well, I think that because the story has its own momentum
and because it doesn`t seem like it`s going to abate, that`s why I think
that calls -- I think calls for FCC action are really misguided for a
number of reasons, as much as I admire Gloria Steinem.

But for one thing, I don`t think that the feminist movement should be
aligning itself with censorship. And beyond that, it just seems like a
really bad move at this point to turn Rush Limbaugh into a free-speech
martyr, when, you know, the free market that he loves so much is doing a
really good job of taking care of him.

O`DONNELL: Yeah, it seems like -- I mean, we`ve never seen -- to go
back to Tom -- Tom, have we seen an advertising exit like this, a publicly
announced advertising exit like this from any radio show?

TAYLOR: No. The last time we saw this sort of outcry was exactly
five years ago. It was March 2007. And it was Don Imus.

O`DONNELL: Yes. Michelle, on the Imus situation there, there wasn`t
anything about intervening with FCC or anything like that.


GOLDBERG: Yeah. There`s no reason to get the kind of government
censorship involved. I think that Rush Limbaugh has a right to say these
things. And people have a right to tell his sponsors how they feel about

O`DONNELL: Michelle Goldberg of "The Daily Beast" and Tom Taylor of, thank you both very much for joining me tonight.

TAYLOR: A pleasure. Good evening.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Mitt Romney`s big lie, his very biggest lie, is
in the Rewrite tonight.

And Steve Schmidt will come back and give us his reaction to HBO`s
"Game Change."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How`s he doing?

WOODY HARRELSON, ACTOR: I can`t get him to stop watching MSNBC, which
only makes him more miserable.




CONAN O`BRIEN, "CONAN": This week a Chicken McNugget that resembles
President George Washington was auctioned on eBay for over $8,000 dollars.
Yeah. Meanwhile, a Chicken McNugget that looks like Mitt Romney was eaten
by Newt Gingrich.



O`DONNELL: In tonight`s "Rewrite," the political media have a
problem. It`s a problem the press has always had and has never solved.
When should they call a lie a lie? When a candidate like Mitt Romney, who
lies much more than most candidates, says something that is utterly false,
the press will say, it`s not accurate. They might even use the word

They might use the word "untrue," but they will never, ever use the
word "lie." And that is what lying politicians like Mitt Romney count on
every time they try to get away with one of their ridiculous lies. We`ve
shown you in this space just how much of a lie it is when Mitt Romney
insists that he never favored a federal individual mandate for health

But in the silly rules of politics and political coverage, the word
"lie" just can`t seem to find its place.


advocated for the Massachusetts model that President Obama adopted, with
mandates, and then went out on the campaign trail and repeatedly -- well,
he repeatedly told -- didn`t tell the truth.

He went out and misled voters. He`s repeatedly had big-government
solutions and then gone out and told the public bald-faced that he didn`t
do the things that he did.


O`DONNELL: There`s Rick Santorum observing the rule of not calling a
lie a lie, because it just don`ts too impolite, too rough, too rude. No
candidate in history has benefited more from this politeness than Mitt
Romney. And now he is betting his entire campaign on it. The Romney
campaign released a memo to the press today about Medicare in which Romney
says President Obama is, quote, "ending Medicare as we know it," end quote.

The one word that best describes that assertion is "lie." But "the
New York Times" won`t call it a lie. "The Washington Post" won`t call it a
lie. They fear that word as much as they fear using profanity. And lying
politicians like Romney know that in a public discussion, where his lies
will never be called lies, all he has to do is keep spinning the political
media, because the media are so accepting of lies that they actually
invented a word for it to pretend that lying is something else, spinning.

The media invented that word to describe lies told to the media.
President Obama, like all Democrats, is clearly committed to the long-term
survival of Medicare as we know it. The lying Romney campaign points to
the 500 billion dollar in cost cutting that President Obama and the
Democrats have done as evidence that they are trying to end Medicare as we
know it.

Now, the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton, in his very first
piece of legislation involving Medicare, proposed and enacted, signed into
law over 200 million dollars in Medicare spending cuts that did not end
Medicare as we know it.

No one accused him of ending Medicare as we knew it. In fact, those
cuts, those cost reductions in Medicare strengthened Medicare`s long-term

Mitt Romney has foolishly signed on to a medicare plan advanced by
Congressman Paul Ryan that does, indeed, end Medicare as we know it. It
turns Medicare into a voucher program where the government gives you a
voucher and wishes you luck in the health care marketplace.

You would have no lifetime guarantee of the kind of medical coverage
that every American over 65 has a right to now. Mitt Romney`s handlers now
know that their embrace of the Ryan Plan, although it amuses Republican
voters in primaries, will destroy the Romney campaign in a general election
against President Obama.

The Ryan Plan will sink Mitt Romney versus President Obama in Florida.
The Romney campaign has clearly decided that they cannot wait until Romney
gets the nomination to start lying about Mitt Romney`s position on

Romney and his handlers also realize that that lying won`t be enough.
They will have to lie about President Obama`s position. The Romney
Medicare lie is the biggest lie the Romney campaign will have to tell to
have any hope of winning the presidency.

Today, Mitt Romney staked his campaign on that big lie. The Romney
campaign memo to the media about Medicare is actually a challenge to the
media about what to call Mitt Romney`s big lie.

And so there the drama begins. Will the media rise to this challenge
and call Romney`s big lie a lie?

Mitt Romney`s handlers know the political media very well. They are
betting that the political media still does not know how to call the Romney
lie a lie.



HARRELSON (acting as Steve Schmidt): Governor, I admit that this is a
dysfunctional campaign. But that is what I inherited. And I am doing my
level best to help us win this election.

JULIENNE MOORE, ACTRESS (acting as Sarah Palin): That`s what I`m
trying to do too, Steven. All you`re doing is screwing me up. That`s all
you`ve done this entire time, is get in my way.


O`DONNELL: That`s Woody Harrelson as McCain campaign senior adviser
Steve Schmidt and Julienne Moore as Sarah Palin in the new movie "Game
Change," which premiered on HBO on Saturday night. And re-joining me is
Steve Schmidt, MSNBC political analyst now, and former adviser to Senator
John McCain`s 2008 presidential campaign.

Steve, a lot of shocking things in the movie, not just your
confrontations with Sarah Palin. But I`ve got to ask you, the thing that
jumped out to me, did you really have to convince John McCain to stop
watching MSNBC during the campaign?

STEVE SCHMIDT, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, one of the things,
Lawrence, when you work with, you know, these men or women who are in these
situations is, you know, they`re interested in seeing and hearing what
people are saying about them. And it becomes debilitating, the,you know,
overwhelming amount of information that came in.

So I suggested throughout the campaign, not just with MSNBC, that
maybe the best thing to watch at night was ESPN. He`s a huge sports fan.
And I thought relax a little bit, focus on what people, you know, who are
actually going to vote watch. Focus on, you know, outside of all the
political talk.

And absolutely, I suggested that to him.

O`DONNELL: Well, I`m impressed that he didn`t lock himself in the TV
bubble of Fox News. But he was on Fox News yesterday with Chris Wallace.
He was asked about "Game Change." He was asked about you. Let`s listen to


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: What do you say to the guy who was
one of your top advisers in the 2008 campaign, Steve Schmidt, who said this
is all true?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I regret that he would make such a

WALLACE: We`ll leave it there.


O`DONNELL: Boy, I love that answer. He does not say Steve Schmidt is
not telling the truth.

SCHMIDT: No, look. I look at -- you know, I watched the movie. And
the movie is the truth of what happened in the campaign. And I think
there`s some important lessons that come out of this movie about how we run
campaigns today.

Senator McCain is someone I admire greatly. He`s a great man. And
one of the things I think for people who watch the movie, you get a sense
of Senator McCain`s decency, his nobility, a lot of the things that those
of us who have been around him, why we love him.

O`DONNELL: Let`s tale a look at a scene of you and John McCain, Woody
Harrelson and Ed Harris. Let`s look at this.


HARRELSON: Sir, I can`t control her anymore. I don`t know if she`s
getting on a campaign plane early in the morning or what she`s going to say
at night. We need to finish this campaign with as much dignity as
possible. And the only way that can happen is if you get her in line.

ED HARRIS, ACTOR: That`s not going to do it, Steve. She might start
turning on me.


O`DONNELL: Steve, there`s a lot I love about this movie, including
the truth of a moment like that, which is these elected officials hate
personal confrontation, especially at the high level of other officials
like that. I felt like I got an explanation about why I`ve never heard a
negative word of any kind from John McCain about Sarah Palin.

SCHMIDT: Well, you know, I -- you look at that scene. You know,
obviously in the campaign, I was asking for help. I had lost control of
the situation. She wasn`t listening to me anymore. I didn`t know, on any
given day, if we were going to get the airplane up in the air and where it
was going to land, if it was going to land where it was supposed to,
whether she was going to give the speech we had talked about, whether she
was going to allow the people who were supposed to be on the stage to be on
the stage with her.

And so we were trying as hard as we could, a group of us, and I was,
to try to get some order back into the campaign.

O`DONNELL: Steve, I want to take a look at your final moment with
Sarah Palin, and when she wanted to go out and give a concession speech in
addition to John McCain`s speech. Let`s look at this.


HARRELSON: Governor, this country has just elected the first African-
American president in the history of its existence. And it is the
concessions speech that will legitimize his succesion as commander in
chief. It is a serious and solemn occasion. And John McCain and only John
McCain will be giving the sacred speech.

This is how it has been done in every presidential election since the
dawn of the republic. And, you, Sarah Palin, will not change the
importance of this proud American tradition.


O`DONNELL: Steve, you got a standing ovation on that climactic scene
for your character in the movie. But Nicole Wallace had another climactic
scene where she comes to you and says she couldn`t bring herself to vote
for this ticket because Palin was on it. Did you vote for this ticket?


O`DONNELL: And did you have any struggle with that knowing at the
time you voted -- by the time you voted, were you at that point sure? What
state did you vote in, Steve? Where was your electoral votes going?

SCHMIDT: I voted in California.

O`DONNELL: Oh, no harm done. There was no chance.

SCHMIDT: I had a sense of what the outcome was going to be in
California. No. But listen, I think John McCain would have been a fine
commander in chief. I think he would have been a good president. I didn`t
hesitate to vote for John.

But I certainly respect Nicole`s position on this and -- and her
integrity. And I -- you know, as you look at the race, I think there`s an
important story. As I`ve said, this is about the collision of idealism and
cynicism. This is about the risk that ambition fuels, the assumptions that
were made, the wishful thinking that accompanied it.

And I think that we put someone on the ticket who was manifestly not
prepared to be president of the United States. And I have a great deal of
regret about that.

O`DONNELL: I just want to say to people, there`s nothing in the movie
that absolves Steve of any of the mistakes made in the Palin selection.

Steve, it`s on a loop on HBO. They`re showing it all the time. I`ve
seen it twice now. I can`t turn away from it when it comes on.

Steve Schmidt gets THE LAST WORD tonight. Thanks Steve.

SCHMIDT: You bet.



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