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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Monday, March 19, 2012

Read the transcript to the Monday show

Guests: Chuck Todd, Ryan Lizza, Dan French, Corrine Brown, Mark Thompson, Jonathan
Capehart, Dana Milbank

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Mitt Romney may be on his way to a
win in Illinois tomorrow. But he is still not on his way to winning enough
delegates to get the Republican nomination for president. And that is very
good news for the Obama reelection campaign.


MARTIN BASHIR, MSNBC HOST: For the men of 2012, things are getting
wild on the campaign trail.

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC HOST: Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum battling
head to head for Illinois.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Can Rick Santorum really win this thing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Romney is ahead in the polls in Illinois.

MATTHEWS: Likely Republican voters in Illinois favor Romney 45
percent to rick Santorum`s 30 percent.

BASHIR: Rick Santorum is nothing if not a fighter.

same page as President Obama on all of these issues.

BASHIR: For a man who doesn`t like pornography, he does like to
fight dirty.

SANTORUM: Unfortunately, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are on the
same place.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is for the first time trying to go really

SANTORUM: We still believe that there are plenty of delegates out
there for us.

KRYSTAL BALL, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: He is looking towards a brokered
convention and planning for that.

REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: We`re not making plans right now for
brokered convention.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I just don`t think it`s going to
happen. It`s never happened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s just going to be a big, nasty mess.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They also have Ann Romney going after that female

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Republicans are getting killed with women.

MITCHELL: Republican opposition to contraception is turning into
dollars for Democrats.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It translates to activism, and activism is what
gets the voters out to vote.

MCCAIN: We need to get off with that issue in my view.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Welcome back, John.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt Romney`s treatment of his family dog.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s so easy and delicious to talk about every
time to just sort of remind you of something quirky in Mitt Romney`s past.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The story that has grown legs and just won`t go

precious creature on the top of your car is inhumane.

SANTORUM: The issues of character important in this election.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you can`t be nice to your dog, who are you
going to be nice to?

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You can`t drive a car with
a windmill on it.

STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: That`s right. You can`t drive a car with
a windmill on it. Because if you put a windmill on top of your car, then
where does the dog go?


O`DONNELL: Mitt Romney has a big lead in delegates, but he may never
win enough in the primaries to lock up the Republican nomination before the
convention begins August 27th in Tampa, Florida. And that is Rick
Santorum`s big hope.


O`DONNELL: Well, what I`ve said is that I think it`s going to be
very difficult as this goes on for anybody to get to that magic number.
And what I`m going to do is continue to work hard to make sure that there
is a conservative who`s the nominee of this party. We cannot win this
election. We`ve proven in the past when we nominate moderates, when we
nominate or a twiddle-dum versus a twiddle-dee, we don`t win elections.


O`DONNELL: But is there any chance the Republican Party will give
the nomination to Rick Santorum if he keeps saying things like this?


SANTORUM: I don`t care what the unemployment rate is going to be.
It doesn`t matter to me. My campaign doesn`t hinge on unemployment rates
and growth rates.


O`DONNELL: Mitt Romney saw his opening and he went for it.


ROMNEY: One of the people who`s running also for the Republican
nomination today said that he doesn`t care about the unemployment rate,
that doesn`t bother him. I do care about the unemployment rate. It does
bother me. I want to get people back to work.


O`DONNELL: Joining me now are: Chuck Todd, NBC news political
director and host of MSNBC`s "THE DAILY RUNDOWN," and Ryan Lizza,
Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker," and Ryan Lizza officially
named Alec Baldwin`s favorite journalist in the print journalist in the
political world.


RYAN LIZZA, THE NEW YORKER: I didn`t know we were going to discuss

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: It means you`re not Steven Baldwin, that we

O`DONNELL: Alec did not choose his favorite TV --

TODD: Political director. That`s OK.

LIZZA: But you`re mine, so --

O`DONNELL: So, I want to go to this thing that Santorum just said
about -- you know, if we don`t nominate the conservative, we lose. We
always lose if we don`t go with the hard-core conservative.

What`s his -- how accurate is he on that one?

TODD: Well, it depends on what you define as -- Bush versus McCain?
Yes, they chose the conservative in that case --

O`DONNELL: The more conservative.

TODD: The more conservative guy. But Dole, they chose -- if you
look at knit terms of when the final two were there and the party went with
the more conservative versus the more moderate -- well, there`s a case to
be made that at the time, whoever the more moderate one was, would go on to
lose. McCain, Dole, you could argue, to some extent H.W. Bush in `92, if
yu wanted to do that. Certainly Ford/Reagan.

So, I see where he`s going with this to a point. It`s not as bright
lines as he would like to make it because Reagan, of course, as the one
example that they truly worked.

O`DONNELL: Ryan, is there a way to go into a Republican convention
without a nominee?

LIZZA: Yes, sure.

O`DONNELL: And then come out with one who can win?

LIZZA: Well, here`s the thing about this, though. All right. So,
this all ends in Utah on June 26th. The convention isn`t until late
August, right? So, something`s going to happen in that period of time,

So, if Mitt Romney doesn`t actually get to 1,144, they`re not going
to sit around and wait for the convention to decide all this, right? The
whole invention of the convention was free mass communications. Everyone
actually had to get together and be in the same place to decide the

I imagine they`re not going to let that happen. There will be e-
mails and phone calls and there will be some level of figuring this out,
sorting it out before late August, if we get our dream scenario. Not to
kill the dream here.

O`DONNELL: What could they do, Chuck, before the convention that we
could in any sense take seriously as a declaration of who the nominee is?

TODD: Well, they could do a couple of things when you have
candidates drop out. You know, there`s a couple parts of this -- the RNC I
don`t think understands its rule.

O`DONNELL: What surprising that would be.

TODD: They just came up with this, frankly. You give them a little
bit of, and the person that came up with it is no longer.


TODD: That`s Mr. Steele. So, for instance, it says in their rules
that any candidate to be considered for the nomination has to win at least
five states, in some form or another, a plurality of five states.

OK. Right now, Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich have delegates but are
unlikely to get to the five states. Well, what happens to the delegates?
They`re going to get back to us on that.

But my point is, when I say that there is still a lot of parts to
this process that we don`t understand the rules -- you have a very, what I
would call a fragile, unstable nominating process -- rule process.

I think if you`re Reince Priebus, you`re just hoping beyond hope that
somehow Romney gets to 1,144.

Now, we`ve done the math, it is very hard -- if Santorum, if we go on
to this demographic back and forth and Santorum does win Wisconsin, you
know, albeit narrowly, and we have this back-and-forth like this, he`s not
going to get to 1,144. Or if he gets there, he only gets there because
unpledged, unbound delegates from Iowa and Minnesota somehow verbally agree
that they will vote for him on first ballot, stand with him, all of those

But he does -- Santorum has no chance of getting 1,144. For Romney,
I hate to say, it`s sort of a little better than 50/50. But that`s it.


LIZZA: What`s the last state? Utah. I mean, imagine if he goes
into Utah this close to sealing --

TODD: Well, Utah, we know he`s going to get it all. The question
are these state conventions. That`s where this stuff is -- this is, by the
way the other media --

O`DONNELL: Explain the state conventions rule. People think, you
count the votes primary night and it`s over.

TODD: Well, first, let`s just do Iowa. A lot of media outlets have
allocated delegates for Iowa. No delegates have been awarded in Iowa.
That`s why the "Associated Press" delegate count, frankly, is wrong.

O`DONNELL: We do a different count from them.

TODD: We do a small conservative, small c conservative count because
of these rules, because you go there and it could be the Paul people do
better than they did on their vote, over-perform. Maybe the Romney are
better organized here. Santorum`s folks think they`re going to do better
at these state conventions.

Colorado is going to do this, Minnesota, Iowa, go down the list. And
even in Illinois, we`re going to only have some of the delegates awarded
tomorrow, not all of them.

O`DONNELL: Chuck, on "THE DAILY RUNDOWN" this morning, you made the
case that a really fractious, bitter primary battle like this is not very
helpful to the Republican Party, using the 1964 example. And I don`t want
anyone to get worried we`re going into ancient history here.

We have an audio visual aid, we`re going to show this Lyndon Johnson
ad, this great ad that Lyndon Johnson was able to do against the Republican
nominee Barry Goldwater after all the Republicans had beaten up their
nominee. Let`s watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor Rockefeller, before the convention, he
said Barry Goldwater`s positions can, and I quote, spell disaster for the
party and for the country. Or this man, Governor Romney, in June, he said
Goldwater`s nomination would lead to the, quote, suicidal destruction of
the Republican Party.

So even if you`re a Republican with serious doubts about Barry
Goldwater, you`re in good company.


O`DONNELL: You can write that one right now.

LIZZA: First of all, people had long attention spans back then.



LIZZA: I tend to think that quotes from your opponents in the
primaries, they don`t have that much impact in the general election because
you have the video of Hillary Clinton attacking Barack Obama. Sure, you
can use that. But then you have Hillary Clinton standing right next to
Barack Obama. You have the opponents endorsing them and going out there
and saying new, positive things -- usually overwhelms all the mean things
they said about each other during the primaries.

O`DONNELL: Chuck Todd and Ryan Lizza -- thank you both very much for
joining me tonight.

Coming up, if your teenage son just went out to buy a snack, you
probably have nothing to worry about -- unless you are black in America.

A former federal prosecutor will join me to explain exactly what the
Justice Department can do in the case of Trayvon Martin.

Also, here to comment on the case, the congresswoman who represents
the district where the killing took place, Congresswoman Corrine Brown.
We`ll also here from Jonathan Capehart and Mark Thompson, the host of "Make
It Plain," on Sirius XM radio.

And on the "Rewrite": Mitt Romney tries and fails to rewrite his
mandates on health insurance mandate a week before the Supreme Court just
might rewrite the entire health reform law.

And later, how his opponents hope to make Mitt Romney seem very
strange. It`s an old story of a man and a dog.


O`DONNELL: For 22 days now, a primitive Florida law that you could
not believe was actually enacted in the 21st century has been protecting
the man who shot and killed Trayvon Martin.

Coming up, we`ll have a federal prosecutor here who will review that
Florida law and show us exactly what federal law can be used to override
it. If you think that there`s nothing that can be done in this case, you
are wrong.

Stay with us. You`re going to hear from a federal prosecutor about
exactly what the federal government can and should use here to follow up on
this case.


O`DONNELL: In Florida and more than a dozen other states, you have
the right to stand your ground. In 2005, Florida was the first state to
enact a law pushed by the National Rifle Association using the concept of
standing your ground in self-defense. Arthur Hayhoe, director of the
Florida Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, calls the law, quote, "a right to
commit murder".

For the last 22 days, George Zimmerman has been hiding behind
Florida`s "stand your ground" law. This is a 911 call placed by George
Zimmerman on the night that he shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
This tape tells us everything -- everything George Zimmerman knew about
Trayvon Martin before he shot him.


had some break-ins in my neighborhood and there`s a real suspicious guy by
retreat view circle. The best address I can give you is 111 Retreat View
Circle. This guy looks like he`s up to no good or he`s on drugs or
something. It`s raining and he`s just walking around looking about.

DISPATCHER: OK. This guy, is he white, black or Hispanic?

ZIMMERMAN: He looks black.

DISPATCHER: Did you see what he was wearing?

ZIMMERMAN: Yes, dark hoodie, like a gray hoodie. He had jeans or
sweatpants and white tennis shoes. He`s here now. He`s just staring.

DISPATCHER: He`s just walking around there?

ZIMMERMAN: Looking at all the houses. Now he`s staring at me. He`s
got his hand in his waistband. And he`s a black male. He`s got a button
on his shirt.

DISPATCHER: OK. How old would you say he looked?

ZIMMERMAN: Late teens.

DISPATCHER: Late teens, OK.

ZIMMERMAN: Something`s wrong with him. He`s coming to check me out.
He`s got something in his hands. I don`t know what his deal is.

DISPATCHER: OK. Let me know if he does anything. We`ve got them on
the way. Let me know if this guy does anything else.


These (EXPLETIVE DELETED) always get away. He`s down towards the
other entrance of the neighborhood.

DISPATCHER: OK. Which entrance is that that he`s heading towards?

ZIMMERMAN: The back entrance.

DISPATCHER: Are you following him?


DISPATCHER: OK. We don`t need you to do that?



O`DONNELL: But George Zimmerman defied the police and continued to
follow Trayvon Martin. The next thing we know is that more 911 calls
started pouring into the police from witnesses in the neighborhood who were
hearing screaming.


DISPATCHER: 911, do you need police, fire or medical?

CALLER: Maybe both, I`m not sure. There`s just someone screaming

DISPATCHER: What`s the address that they`re near?


DISPATCHER: OK. Is it a male or female?

CALLER: It sounds like a male.

DISPATCHER: And you don`t know why?

CALLER: I don`t know why. I think they`re yelling help, but I don`t
know. Just send someone quick.

DISPATCHER: Does he look hurt to you?

CALLER: I can`t see him. I don`t want to go out there. I don`t
know what`s going on.

They`re coming.

DISPATCHER: So you think he`s yelling help?


DISPATCHER: What is your phone number?

CALLER: There`s gunshots.

DISPATCHER: You just heard gunshots?



CALLER: Just one. Get down. No, come here.

DISPATCHER: Is he no longer yelling?

CALLER: No one`s -- I don`t know.

Jeremy, get in here now. Jeremy, get up here.

DISPATCHER: All right. Is he right outside?

CALLER: Yes, pretty much out the back, yes.

DISPATCHER: Is he in front of it or behind that address?

CALLER: He`s behind my house.


CALLER: Just stay away from the windows.

DISPATCHER: I don`t hear him yelling anymore.


O`DONNELL: Today, the Congressional Black Caucus called on the
Justice Department to step in and conduct the investigation that the local
police have so far refused to do.

Joining me now, Congressional Black Caucus member, Congresswoman
Corrine Brown, who represents the district where Trayvon Martin was killed
and former United States attorney for New York, Dan French.

Congresswoman Brown, do you have the support of Governor Rick Scott
and others in the -- in Florida for this kind of investigation?

REP. CORRINE BROWN (D), FLORIDA: No. I have the support of the
mayor of Sanford, Florida. And I have talked with him. I spent five hours
with him and the city councilwoman.

And the mayor will be here tomorrow. And we have a meeting with the
United States Justice Department.

O`DONNELL: In Washington?

BROWN: In Washington.

O`DONNELL: The mayor`s coming up here for that?

BROWN: That`s correct.

O`DONNELL: Has the governor said anything about that?

BROWN: I have not talked with the governor.

O`DONNELL: Dan French, you`re a former prosecutor. The facts as you
hear them presented so far, what would you do with this case?

DAN FRENCH, FMR. U.S. ATTORNEY: The United States has a hate crimes
law. And it`s a very simple statute. If you hurt or kill somebody because
of their race, it`s a hate crime.

If you kill them, you can face life in prison. The Justice
Department has the authority to investigate those cases in the interest of
justice. I think in this case, you have that. Certainly have --

O`DONNELL: Let me stop you on that -- in the interest of justice.
That`s a guideline phrase in federal law for federal prosecutors when
they`re looking at these different cases and they say, why this one, why
that one? Sometimes there`s a -- in fact, community outrage, as in this
case, is taken into consideration in what they call, in the interest of

FRENCH: And that`s exactly right, because you could have a situation
where the state asks you to investigate it or the locals ask you to
investigate it.

O`DONNELL: And if they don`t, you can still --

FRENCH: In the interest of public justice. That`s all you need
here. And the congresswoman has asked for an investigation. We know that
the chief of police and the mayor seemingly want a meeting with the Justice

The Justice Department has the authority to investigate. And I
predict tomorrow, you`re going to hear or soon thereafter that they`re
going to investigate this case.

O`DONNELL: The law that Florida enacted in 2005 is depending on what
the witness situation is, a license to kill. If you don`t have witnesses
who can contradict your story, it sounds like there`s nothing you can`t get
away with.

BROWN: The key here is that there`s no good ending to this. We have
a baby that`s dead, any parent`s nightmare. In addition to that, the young
man can never, ever tell his side of what happened.

And clearly you have -- I`ve been listening to the news and you`re
seeing that you had -- this person was a self-appointed -- clearly he had
not gone through the training of a neighborhood watch because the police
asked him to stand down. He did not. And five minutes later, this boy is

O`DONNELL: Could you see this coming? "The Orlando Sentinel" did an
article saying in the five months after this law was enacted, there were at
least 13 shootings in central Florida where self-defense were claimed.
Only one of them was actually armed. That`s just in the first five months
after the 2005 enactment.

BROWN: Listen, I think there`s something wrong with this underlying


BROWN: And as we speak, he still can have a gun. Do you understand?


BROWN: Because he was not arrested. Now, if this happens on a
police force, you automatically ask the police officer that he get a desk
duty when the investigation is going on.

That is not even true with this case. That person still has the
right to carry a gun and have the license that have not been revoked.
There`s something wrong with this picture.

O`DONNELL: Dan French, take this case out of Florida, bring it to
New York where you used to be a prosecutor, New York state law. What would

FRENCH: In New York and really in the vast majority of states,
there`s something called the duty to retreat.

O`DONNELL: Duty to retreat, in self-defense?

FRENCH: In self-defense. And then if you ultimately are charged
with a crime, it`s an affirmative defense that you did self-defend
yourself. Florida`s really turned it on its head. So, in Florida, what
happened --

O`DONNELL: So the question of what you did in self-defense becomes
an issue if you`re charged with a crime in a place like New York state or
30 other states?

FRENCH: Correct, correct. It`s an affirmative defense that you
bring at trial. Florida flipped it around.

So, in Florida, if you stand your ground and you kill somebody, in
this case, if that`s the claim, they stood their ground and they killed
that person, before the police can bring that case, they have to
demonstrate there was probable cause to believe that your conduct, the
force you used, was inappropriate.

They took it a step further under Florida law, that`s a hearing that
has to occur before you get to trial. A judge will sit and decide whether
your force was appropriate. So they`ve turned that entire system on its
head, or at least how it is in most other states.

O`DONNELL: Completely empowering the man with the gun?

FRENCH: Well, it shifts the burden. It puts the burden in a
different place.

BROWN: But, come on. This young man was visiting his daddy and was
walking home from the 7-Eleven. He was not doing anything. I mean, in
America, you`re not safe to walk your streets home and the police ask you
to step down, you did not?

This case has not been handled properly, so that the person told the
officer -- well, he was the aggressor. But my question to you is, well,
what was he doing? I mean, why did you pursue him? He was walking home.
Was he committing any crime? No.

O`DONNELL: Well, we know --

BROWN: There`s something wrong with this.

O`DONNELL: We know from this tape everything he knew about Trayvon
Martin. And this is it. He looks black. That`s it. That`s everything he

From what you`re hearing in these tapes, Dan French, do you see the
elements to make a hate crime case here because that`s the only thing he
knew about who he shot?

FRENCH: There`s only two elements. They couldn`t have written a
more simple federal statute. There`s two elements. If you commit a crime,
you willfully do it. You injure somebody or kill them because of their
race, that`s a hate crime.

And if you kill them, you face life imprisonment. It`s that simple.

In the U.S. Department of Justice, the attorney general has the right
to investigate that case in the interest of justice. I think in this case
there is an interest in justice in doing so. The congresswoman has asked
for this. The Black Caucus has asked for it.

More importantly, the mayor of that city flying here tomorrow to talk
to the Justice Department, I think you`re going to see the Justice
Department turn around and investigate this quickly. I think you`re going
to hear about it quickly.

O`DONNELL: Before you leave tonight, could you take some time to
brief Congresswoman Brown about the hate crime statute. Take that statute
into the Justice Department tomorrow. Let`s hear what they say.

BROWN: You know my mother said about this? She said she thought we
was past this.

O`DONNELL: Should be past this. Should be long past this.

I really want to hear tomorrow what they say about the hate crime
statute in the Justice Department.

Congresswoman Corrine Brown, and former federal prosecutor Dan
French, thank you both very much for coming in tonight.

FRENCH: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: We have much more to come on this case, coming up,
including what the local police chief said about Trayvon Martin. Mark
Thompson of "Make It Plain" on Sirius XM Radio and Jonathan Capehart will
be my next guests.


O`DONNELL: You live in a country where your teenaged son can get As
and Bs in high school, be well-liked by his teachers, never get in trouble
with the law and run out to buy a snack during halftime of the NBA All-Star
Game and never come home, because someone decides he has the right to
execute your son.

You can be forced to stand by as your son`s killer tells the police
the story that fits the new so-called Self-Defense Law, that allows the
shooter to get away with murder or manslaughter. That`s the country you
live in, if you are black in America.

Joining me now is Jonathan Capehart, MSNBC contributor and opinion
writer for "the Washington Post," and Mark Thompson, the host of "Make it
Plain" on Sirius XM Radio.

Jonathan, you wrote today, "one of the burdens of being a black male
is carrying the heavy weight of other people`s suspicions." And it never

when my editor finally read my piece, he said that he liked it; it was very
good and very important. And I said, well, I felt compelled to write it
because I could have been Trayvon when I was his age, when I was 17.

And I still could be, because people have all sorts of suspicions.
Growing up, I was told -- given a series -- a list of don`ts. Don`t run in
public --

O`DONNELL: Your mother told you.

CAPEHART: Yes. Don`t run in public lest someone thinks you stole
something or you`re up to no good. Don`t run in public with anything in
your hands. And the other one was, don`t talk back to the police, which is
a universal rule for anyone, that anyone should follow, but for African-
Americans and for African-American men in particular, I mean, your life is
in your hands if you talk back to police.

O`DONNELL: Mark Thompson, that`s the way it`s always been with
police. The rules that Jonathan Capehart`s mother gave him were smart ones
for dealing especially with urban police in this country. But this was not
a police matter. What are your callers on your radio show saying about it?

of the rare occasions -- tonight, we talked about it on the show tonight
for two hours. I took nothing but calls and allowed people to express
themselves. It`s one of the occasions where I had unanimity among my

Everyone agreed that this is frightening, that this is terrible.
People were very, very passionate and upset, and compared it to so many
other cases we`ve seen before, Armadu Diallo (ph), Johnny Gamage (ph), Sean
Bell, Oscar Grant, Remarly Graham (ph) recently.

But again, the difference in all of those cases is that these were
police officers. This was a civilian, which probably makes it more like
cases we`ve heard many, many years ago, like -- like Emmett Till. This was
a murder. But even the difference there, in the case of Emmett Till, you
had a young man who was accused of violating one of the racist social
morays of that era.

What did Trayvon Martin do? He did nothing. He was just being while
black. He was just there and he had to die for that. This is a very, very
painful ordeal.

O`DONNELL: Well, we just heard in the previous segment on the audio
tape of the 911 call the one thing that Zimmerman knew about him. He looks
black. That`s all he needed. He looks black.

CAPEHART: He looks black. He looks suspicious. He`s up to no good.
I think he might be on drugs or something. You hear all those things --

O`DONNELL: Or he might not. The only thing I know for sure is he`s
black. I don`t know anything else for sure.

CAPEHART: Right. And listen -- and that`s what troubled me so much
about that 911 call, Zimmerman`s 911 call. I kept thinking, but that could
have been me. I`m just walking down the street with a bag of skittles and
an iced tea and suddenly, I`m suspicious, up to no good, must be on drugs
or something.

O`DONNELL: And Mark, this is a kid who`s on his way back to his
father`s home in a gated community. So one of the lessons here is, yeah,
it could have been Jonathan Capehart, and you just don`t have any idea
where this might or might not happen.

THOMPSON: All of us who have children -- I have a little boy.
Anybody who has a little boy that plays football has a picture just like
the one we`ve seen of Trayvon Martin in his football uniform. And I
thought about that. That could have been my son.

And so not only are we dealing with the suspicion, but we`re dealing
with the reality that is there anything we can do to protect our own
children, to make sure this doesn`t happen to one of them? I think we have
to resolve ourselves to do all we can to do just that.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to Trayvon`s mother this morning with Matt
Lauer on "The Today Show."


MATT LAUER, "THE TODAY SHOW": What do you think he was reacting to?

BRINA FULTON, MOTHER OF TRAYVON MARTIN: He was out there reacting to
the color of his skin. He committed no crime. My son wasn`t doing
anything but walking down the sidewalk.


O`DONNELL: Mark, he was reacting to the color of his skin.

THOMPSON: I think the -- your last segment was excellent, Lawrence.
I think that that really made the case for this being a hate crime. I hope
that meeting in Washington tomorrow is successful. This certainly is a
hate crime. He said he was black and he was suspicious simply because he
thought he was black.

And as far as this Stand Your Ground Law in Florida, we might need to
question whether or not that`s even Constitutional. I mean, I know we have
a Second Amendment, but I don`t know that anyone has a right just to kill
someone based upon their own judgment.

O`DONNELL: Let`s hear from Trayvon`s father, what he had to say about


victim is a slap in the face to me and my family. It`s a slap in the face
to our community. My son was being attacked. He wasn`t the aggressor in
this instance.

The Sanford Police Department is trying to make George Zimmerman out
to be the victim. And the victim is clear, Trayvon Martin, who`s dead in
the grave.


O`DONNELL: Jonathan, he`s making a reference to some of the things
the police chief has said after the fact about this, saying, well, what was
Trayvon doing? This is the kind of thing that you`re faced with after
these incidents. You know. In the black community, you don`t really have
these questions. You can kind of -- you have a feel for who was up to
something that might get them in trouble and who wasn`t.

CAPEHART: Right, right. And it just sort of boggles the mind how --
that someone as known to the Sanford Police Department as George Zimmerman
is, who has made 46 calls to the police department since January 1st, 2011,
to know and understand that this is a guy who has them on speed dial, a guy
who, you know, is a wannabe cop -- I don`t know if they knew he had a nine
millimeter weapon.

But they did know enough to hear on the phone when he got out of his
car, knew enough to ask "Are you pursuing him"? When he said, yes, the
police officers said, we don`t need you to do that. And of all the lines
that George Zimmerman crossed in that incident on February 26th, that is
the one that is the most egregious.

No citizen should refuse an order like that, especially if that
citizen has a gun. A nine millimeter weapon, when the person you`re going
after is 11 years younger than you, 100 pounds lighter than you, and is
only armed with a bag of skittles and an iced tea.

O`DONNELL: Mark Thompson, that`s why I had a former federal
prosecutor, an experienced prosecutor to come in here tonight and say -- I
just asked him, point-blank, what would you do with this set of facts? And
he would file a hate crimes prosecution based on the evidence he`s seen so

THOMPSON: I think that needs to happen swiftly. I do think the
authorities down in Florida, including Bill Lee, they need to do a little
bit more to assure people that this gentleman really is isolated, so you
don`t do this. When you don`t act on this quickly and you don`t deal with
it and isolate someone like him, it continues to convince people that this
is institutional racism.

I mean, he`s even begun -- Bill Lee and the authorities have even
tried to make certain excuses for this gentleman. There are even reports
that they tried to get witnesses to change their account of what happened,
witnesses who said they heard Trayvon screaming, where they attempted to
turn them around and make them say that it was Zimmerman who was screaming.

That needs to be addressed swiftly. And if Bill Lee won`t do it, I
certainly hope the Justice Department will.

O`DONNELL: I got a very perceptive Tweet today from one of my Twitter
followers saying that the local police department is now invested in
Zimmerman`s story, and we can`t rely on them from this point forward
because they`ve invested in it already.


O`DONNELL: We`re not finished with this. We are finished with it for
this segment. But we`re not finished with this story. Jonathan Capehart
and Mark Thompson, thank you both very much for joining me tonight.

CAPEHART: Thanks, Lawrence.

THOMPSON: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Mitt Romney continues to have trouble Rewriting
his position on the individual mandate that he imposed in Massachusetts.
You have to just see this amazing Powerpoint presentation on how to enforce
health care mandate that is Mitt Romney did. That`s going to be next in
The Rewrite.


O`DONNELL: In the Rewrite tonight, were it not for this, Mitt Romney
would already have the Republican nomination locked up.


going to make this a central issue in the campaign because they can,
because they oppose government-mandated health care. They opposed, whether
at a state or a federal level, government taking over one-sixth of the

This is what Governor Romney did as governor of Massachusetts. This
is what he advocated that Barack Obama do as president. And unfortunately
President Obama listened to him.


O`DONNELL: Romney`s tortured attempts to Rewrite his position on
health insurance mandates continue.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People are circulating a clip of you back in the
last campaign, during an ABC News debate, in which Charlie Gibson asked you
a question about national mandates and you seemed to back them. I`m going
to play you the clip and then give you the chance to respond. Here it is.



CHARLIE GIBSON, ABC NEWS: Although you backed away from mandates on a
national basis.

ROMNEY: I like mandates. The mandates work.

didn`t know you were going to admit to that. You like mandates.

ROMNEY: Let me tell you what kind of mandates I like, Fred.

F. THOMPSON: The ones you come up with.

ROMNEY: Here`s my view: if somebody can afford insurance and decides
not to buy it, and then they get sick, they ought to pay their own way as
opposed to expecting government to pay their own way. That`s an American
principle. That`s a principle of personal responsibility.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So Charlie Gibson said that you had backed away
from mandates on a national basis and you said, no, no, I like mandates.

ROMNEY: You know, as you said, as you introduced this topic, people
have looked at this topic 100 times, more than 100 times. I have allowed
and agree that a state should have the capacity, if it wants to have a
health care mandate. We had that in my state.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why did you say that there about a national

ROMNEY: Time and again, I pointed out I`m not in favor of a health
care plan that includes a national mandate.


O`DONNELL: Yeah, but the problem is Mitt Romney also pointed out that
he, in fact, favored a federal mandate on "Meet the Press" in 2009, in the
thick of the debate over national 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: Wyden/Bennett -- there`s Mitt Romney sponsoring the
Wyden/Bennett bill, sponsored by Democratic Senator Ron Wyden and
Republican Senator Bob Bennett of Utah. The key provision of that bill was
the individual mandate, complete with a tax code-enforced fine.

Romney was actually in favor of using more enforcement mechanisms than
just taxes to force people to buy health insurance in Massachusetts. Here
is his Powerpoint presentation in 2006 of how the Massachusetts health care
mandate would be enforced.


ROMNEY: We`re going to mandate that you have insurance. Now how do
we mandate it? Well, I won`t spend a lot of time on this other than to
indicate that we`re going to insist that everybody be covered one way or
the other, and that those who don`t comply have certain problems. They`re
going to lose their personal tax exemption. We will withhold any of their
tax refund. We`ll keep it in an account at the state level, which we`ll be
able to tap to pay the hospital if they go there for free care.

The legislature has also put in place consideration of not providing
Driver`s Licenses to people unless they can show their health insurance
coverage, and so forth.


O`DONNELL: Whoa, no driver`s license without health insurance? And
Romney was cool with that. That`s way beyond anything President Obama and
the Democrats contemplated in their individual mandate. In fact, as I have
pointed out repeatedly, the Obama health insurance mandate is something of
a mirage. There is no real enforcement mechanism in it.

There is a very, very small tax penalty of a few hundred dollars in
the Obama plan. But what if the penalty isn`t paid? What if you refuse to
pay that little tax penalty? You know, it`s one thing to give me a parking
ticket. It`s another to make me pay the parking ticket.

What is the federal government`s power to make you pay your penalty
for not having health insurance? The answer is virtually none. The Obama
law addresses this in two ways. First, in the section called "waiver of
criminal penalties." It says, "in the case of any failure by a taxpayer to
timely pay any penalty imposed by this section, such taxpayer shall not be
subject to any criminal prosecution or penalty with respect to such

So there it is. The penalty for not paying the tax penalty is no
criminal prosecution or penalty at all. But just to make sure the IRS
doesn`t get any crazy ideas about pursuing non-criminal penalties against
you, civil penalties like garnishing your wages or a lien on your property,
there is this section of the health care law, "limitations on liens and
levies.." "the secretary shall not file notice of lien with respect to any
property of a taxpayer by reason of any failure to pay the penalty imposed
by this section or levy any such property with respect to such failure."

The evils of the individual mandate will be presented to the Supreme
Court of the United States next week in arguments made by the state
attorneys general who have brought the cases to overturn the law. We will
discover next week whether any of the justices have read the law closely
enough to ask the question, is a mandate really a mandate if it doesn`t
have a real penalty?


O`DONNELL: Some Republicans believe the Mitt Romney campaign is, in
some ways, a rerun of the Al Gore campaign for president in 2000.
Republicans did everything they could in 2000 to make Al Gore seem kind of
strange. And Rick Santorum is now using the Gore-bashing playbook on Mitt
Romney. And nothing makes Mitt Romney seem stranger than Romney`s dog.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Quite frankly, I`m not sure I`m going to listen to
the value judgment of a guy who strapped his own dog of the top of the roof
of his car and went hurling down the highway.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nice if they were like every other American and
say, what the heck was he thinking putting the dog on the top of the roof?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The family dog is one that resonates with some
people. If you can`t be nice to your dog, who are you going to be nice to?

SANTORUM: As far as Seamus dog issue, look, all I would say is the
issues of character are important in this election. We need to look at all
those issues and make a determination as to whether that`s the kind of
person you want to be president of the United States.


O`DONNELL: Joining me now, "Washington Post" columnist Dana Milbank.
Dana, issues of character, Rick Santorum answers with a straight face that
the dog is a serious issue of character.

DANA MILBANK, "THE WASHINGTON POST": We know because Rick Santorum
has talked about man-on-dog in the past. So he takes this issue very

O`DONNELL: He does. But you saw this coming. You wrote a column --
what was it, January -- entitled "Mitt Romney`s Al Gore Problem." Did you
think it would take the form of a dog?

MILBANK: You know, it does in so many different ways. I liken it to
he looks like a person and he sometimes acts like a person, but every once
in a while, you realize there`s a glitch in the Matrix and that he`s not
like everybody else and he`s a bit of an alien. We had that with Gore. We
have that going on with Romney now.

I didn`t think the dog thing would take off. It was -- his son just
mentioned it in an offhanded way. But now whenever you see somebody who`s
not involved in politics, the first thing they want to talk about is,
what`s up with Romney and this dog?

O`DONNELL: But now you are a very attentive dog owner.

MILBANK: I am. I go almost nowhere without her.

O`DONNELL: What do you think dog management tells us about someone`s
ability to manage the executive branch of the United States government?

MILBANK: Look, there`s something like 40 percent of American
households have dogs. A larger number have had them before. People in
America tend to treat their dogs like their children, or in some cases
better than their children. I brought this shot of people actually have
special dog seat belts for their dogs, to keep them secure in the car.

And I think that for American pet owners to see the animal treated in
that way would say -- not is he going to treat the nation like the dog on
the roof of the car, is he going to treat the Democrats that way. It just
says something`s a bit off in this guy. Can`t put my finger on it, but
that`s not right.

O`DONNELL: And what dog owners are looking for, I assume, is some
sort of respectful relationship, both ways, between man and dog, sort of
well-behaved dog under the control of an owner that respects the dog and
doesn`t do things like throw the dog on the roof to drive to Canada.

MILBANK: True. Throw him on the roof, and then explain that the
reason why it was OK was because it was an airtight container. Now to me,
that seems much worse than actually putting the dog on the roof of the car.

O`DONNELL: It is one of those stories that whenever you try to make
this sound better, it probably isn`t going to make it sound better. In
politics, it`s the kind of story you just get away from.

MILBANK: I don`t know how you get away from it because everybody
loves to talk about dogs. It`s going to happen over and over again. Every
time somebody writes a column about a dog in our newspaper, unfortunately
they --

O`DONNELL: But you -- and you have no biases about this? You call
them as you see them with dog owners?

MILBANK: Look, I remain neutral as a journalist. I do have a dog who
is a Dog Against Romney and insists on making herself present whenever I
discuss the issue.

O`DONNELL: She`s made that very clear.

MILBANK: Very clear to me.

O`DONNELL: No Romney voters in the household. Dana Milbank of "the
Washington Post," thank you. And who`s that?

MILBANK: Oh, hello, ZZ.

O`DONNELL: ZZ, And ZZ, thank you very much for joining me tonight,
the both of you. Look at that, dog tricks right here on THE LAST WORD.

You can have THE LAST WORD online or at our blog, TheLastWord.MSNBC.
No, no, no. Don`t shoot me. Take a shot of this down here under the desk.


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