IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Thursday, May 17, 2012

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guests: John Heilemann, Karen Finney, Jonathan Capehart, Dorian Warren, Maggie Haberman, Nick Hanauer, Mario Batali

EZRA KLEIN, MSNBC POLICY ANALYST: That`s does it for us tonight.
We`ll see you again tomorrow. Until then, you can check out my work on Now, it is time for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell.
Have a great evening.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: Another wicked, crazy Republican
billionaire has emerged with an idea about how to get you to hate the
president. And while you`re at it, he wants you to open an account at TD
Ameritrade and buy Chicago Cubs tickets.


ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: Republicans have a new plan in the works.

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC HOST: A political bombshell today.

WAGNER: To resurrect the Jeremiah Wright attack against the

MARTIN BASHIR, MSNBC HOST: The scheme that`s dominated headlines all

WAGNER: "The New York Times" obtained the proposal.

TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Here`s the report. I have it in my hand.

BASHIR: Titled "The Defeat of Barack Hussein Obama."

HALL: The Ricketts plan to end his spending for good.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts.



WAGNER: Would bankroll the initiative, the billionaire, with $10

BASHIR: To argue that the president misled the nation.

HALL: What are the words "metrosexual black Abe Lincoln" mean?

BASHIR: Portraying himself as, quote --

WAGNER: "Metrosexual black Abe Lincoln".

MITCHELL: This came from Fred Davis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John McCain`s lead media strategist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s not how you win independents.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John McCain nixed the idea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not a winning idea.


WAGNER: Fear mongering, race-baiting.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is hate porn.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gutter politics.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: How does Mitt Romney respond to this?

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Haven`t seen the papers this

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m going to hide from the press.

ROMNEY: I`ll be right back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The lack of courage on the part of Mitt Romney.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It takes attention away from the key issues.

ROMNEY: I`m not familiar with exactly what I said but I stand by what
I said, whatever it was.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Overall, this is terrible for our democracy.

ROMNEY: Whatever it was. Whatever it was. Whatever it was.

together to solve a set of monumental problems.

ROMNEY: I stand by what I said.

OBAMA: Either black, white, or Latino, or Asian.

ROMNEY: Whatever it was.

OBAMA: But rather problems that confront us all.


O`DONNELL: The day begun with the revelation of a plan of attack
against President Obama that Republicans began to disown quickly and Mitt
Romney demonstrating his usual followship instead of leadership took his
position only when it became absolutely clear he had no other choice.

On the campaign plane this morning, Romney was asked about the new
plan of attack against President Obama. And this was his reaction.


REPORTER: Sir, have you seen the report in "The Times" this morning?

ROMNEY: I haven`t seen the papers this morning.

REPORTER: Governor, do you think Reverend Wright is off limits in
this campaign?

ROMNEY: I`ll be right back.

REPORTER: Get a copy of "The Times".

REPORTER: Then come back.

REPORTER: They have a copy you can borrow.


O`DONNELL: On the plane, Romney had time to read the "New York Time"
piece which revealed the plan, "The Defeat of Barack Hussein Obama: The
Ricketts plan to end his spending for good." That`s the title of hit.

The Ricketts plan was to be funded by a crazy billionaire named Joe
Ricketts, the founder of TD Ameritrade. If you want to stop and take your
money out right now, feel free to. And the owner of the Chicago Cubs -- if
you feel like canceling season tickets, please go ahead.

The attack on President Obama was to center on his past relationship
with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. The plan describes Wright`s preaching
as black liberation theology and calls President Obama a metrosexual black
Abe Lincoln. I told you this Ricketts guy was crazy and is crazy.

The proposal admits the plan faces a serious problem in that voters,
quote, "still aren`t ready to hate this president," end quote.

The plan was for the crazy Mr. Ricketts to find quote, "an extremely
literal African-American," end quote, to help America learn to hate this
president. The plan was drafted by Republican strategist Fred Davis who
worked for John McCain in 2008. The plan in writing calls John McCain
quote, a crusty old politician who often seems confused, burdened with a
campaign just as confused.

John McCain`s office responded first thing this morning. Quote,
"Senator McCain is very proud of the campaign he ran in 2008. He stands by
the decisions he made during that race and would make them again today if
he had to do it over." The McCain statement was a clear warning to the
Romney campaign and to Republicans everywhere that if the crazy Ricketts
plan is carried out, John McCain would make the decision to denounce it.
He would make, as he put it, the same kind of decision today that he made
in 2008.

This afternoon, when Romney was ready to stake out his position on the
metrosexual black Abe Lincoln, he really had no choice.


ROMNEY: On the aircraft this morning I was asked by someone here
about whether I had seen the New York Times article with regards to a PAC
that was presumably being formed to attack President Obama and if I had a
reaction to it. I had not seen the article at that point. But I read the
article on the aircraft. As I read the article, I want to make it very
clear, I repudiate that effort. I think it`s the wrong course for a PAC or
a campaign.


O`DONNELL: Joining me now is John Heilemann, national affairs editor
for "New York Magazine" and MSNBC political analyst. Karen Finney, former
National Democratic Committee Communications director and MSNBC political
analyst. And Dorian Warren, assistant professor of political science at
Columbia University and a fellow at Roosevelt Institute.

Former Senator McCain adviser Mark Salter told ABC News what I think
everybody can maybe figure out is that this was leaked probably by someone
who wanted to stop it from happening. He said any day spent on anything
other than President Obama`s management of the economy is a wasted day.

Karen Finney, would this plan in your judgment have been stopped if it
had not been leaked ahead of time?

KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It surely does not seem that
it would. It seems that there was -- you know, if you think about Fred
Davis` desire to proceed with this kind of campaign four years ago, I think
there would have been voices thought to be the only way to take down
President Obama, I suppose, during this campaign. But again,
misunderstanding sort of where the country is right now, you know?

But let`s be very clear, Lawrence, about what this was about. This
was about a back door way to inject race and fear into this campaign and to
have a character assassination, because remember. All of this is tied to a
Web site that`s called Character Matters which is part of this whole
strategy. So, that`s what this is. We should be very clear. This is
about injecting race into this contest.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Mitt Romney actually said about
Reverend Wright. He was asked this question this morning on the plane, is
Reverend Wright off limits? Well, he actually had brought up Reverend
Wright during a Sean Hannity radio show back in February. Let`s listen to


ROMNEY: I think, again, that the president takes his philosophical
leanings in this regard not from those who are ardent believers in various
faiths but instead from those who would like to see America more secular.

REPORTER: You had an interview with Sean Hannity in February, you
said that you thought Obama was trying to make America a less Christian
nation. It was responding to a quote that he had just played for you on
the radio. Do you stand by that? And do you believe that President
Obama`s world view was achieved by Reverend Wright? And if so, do you see
evidence of that in his policies?

ROMNEY: I`m actually going to -- I`m not familiar precisely with
exactly what I said. But I stand by what I said whatever it was.


O`DONNELL: Dorian Warren, I`m familiar with what he said and I guess
he stands by with what he said. It doesn`t get stranger than that in
responding to a very clear question.

DORIAN WARREN, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Very strange. In fact, I think
there`s a way in which both Romney and this effort to inject race and
Wright back into the campaign could backfire for Romney, because it
reintroduces people to Reverend Wright which reminds voters, oh, by the
way, the president is Christian and not Muslim. Then it brings up doubts
especially from social conservatives about Romney`s Mormonism at the same

So, there`s a way this could backfire on Romney as well as on the
super PAC that`s trying to inject, as Karen said it so well, racial fear
into this election.

O`DONNELL: John Heilemann, I think of myself as the white metrosexual
Abe Lincoln.


O`DONNELL: I`m having trouble getting what -- what`s their complaint
there? What is it they don`t like about either metrosexual or Abe Lincoln?
It can`t be that they don`t like black. That couldn`t be it.

I think I view that way myself.

If you read the proposal -- I keep thinking that this -- this is
obviously a scurrilous proposal, and I don`t disagree with anything either
of you or two guests have just said. But it`s mostly the pros in the
proposal in the plan is so purple and so ridiculous. You kind of read it
and think this is just silly. It`s bad politics.

And there`s nothing I think about the president`s biography that was
litigated in 2008. I mean, there`s no doubt that Reverend Wright posed a
real political threat to President Obama. He knew that in 2008, that`s why
he gave that big race speech.

But it`s now four years later. Republicans have said that the
president`s real vulnerability is on his management of the economy, on his
record, they`re right. That`s where his hand is weakest. There`s no swing
voter in America who cares about anything from Obama`s biographical past
anymore, unless there are some actual scandal that we`ve not ever heard
about, which I don`t believe is true.

None of those things are going to matter. And so, this is a huge
distraction. It`s a huge waste of time.

Today was a big good day for the White House, because what they got
out of this -- and I was down there today talking to officials about this -
- what they got was the Romney campaign to repudiate this. And to the
extent it was going to be part of the campaign, it`s not going to be part
of the anymore.

MATTHEWS: John, I think John McCain was a key player in the way this
unfolded today. In this plan, they specifically site the ad that McCain
refused to run last time around and how he should have run it. And he was
a clown not to.

Let`s look at the ad John McCain refused to run, the kind of thing
that these guys would have run.


NARRATOR: Long before anyone knew who John McCain or Barack Obama
were, one chose to honor his fellow soldiers by refusing to walk out of a
prisoner of war camp. The other chose not to even walk out of a church
where a pastor was spewing hatred.

JEREMIAH WRIGHT, PASTOR: Not God bless America, God damn America.

NARRATOR: Character matters, especially when no one`s looking.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I`m John McCain and I approve this


O`DONNELL: Karen Finney, when John McCain said this morning I would
make the same decision again, it seemed to me he was clearly saying to
these people if you do this stuff, I`m going to make that same decision
again and rule it out of order.

FINNEY: Absolutely. And, you know, Lawrence, I`ll go a step further.
I think anyone who employed Fred Davis, remember, he did the Debbie-spend-
it-now ads, should fire him. I mean, this is the kind of immoral activity
this guy think candidates should be prepared to go to.

You know, the other thing I just want to mention, remember that Barack
Obama not only repudiated this, but he did so very specifically point by
point and he went to Bill O`Reilly. He didn`t just do some mealy mouth
B.S. taking two questions from reporters. He went to a number of news
outlets and he sat down with Bill O`Reilly and went point by point as to
why he repudiated this.

O`DONNELL: Karen Finney, Dorian Warren and John Heilemann -- thank
you all for joining me tonight.

Coming up: Citizens United has created crazy billionaires united to
defeat President Obama. We`ll have more on the latest crazy billionaire`s
plan to convince America to hate the president.

And later, rich guy Mitt Romney says if you tax him, you will kill job
creation. An even richer guy says don`t believe it. It`s the middle class
that creates jobs. Nick Hanauer will join me in a LAST WORD exclusive.

And Bill O`Reilly is in rewrite tonight. He agreed with a guest last
night that said President Obama is not as smart as President Nixon. Yes,
that President Nixon. The anti-Semitic, criminal president who sacrificed
more than 20,000 American lives in Vietnam for no reason.

And celebrity chef Mario Batali gets the LAST WORD tonight as he and
his family complete one full week of eating only what they could afford on
a food stamp budget. Mario Batali joins me from one of his restaurants.
That`s coming up.


O`DONNELL: Celebrity chef Mario Batali has been living on a food
stamp budget for the last week. That`s $1.48 per meal. And he`ll join me
to tell me how he and his wife and family have done it.

And in the rewrite tonight, Ben Stein told Bill O`Reilly is not as
smart as President Nixon. So how smart is Ben Stein? Bill O`Reilly, Ben
Stein, and Richard Nixon -- all in tonight`s rewrite.



REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA: What was interesting to me is that
this is all going to be funded by the owner of the Chicago Cubs. I hope
they`re as successful with this campaign as the Cubs are on the baseball


O`DONNELL: Joining me now Maggie Haberman, a senior writer for
"Politico" and Jonathan Capehart, "Washington Post" opinion writer and
MSNBC political analyst.

Well, they are running scared at the Chicago Cubs and TD Ameritrade,
the two companies that have an association with the latest crazy
billionaire to emerge. I just want to read you the first sentence of a
Chicago Cubs statement from Ricketts` son, Joe Ricketts.

"As chairman of the Chicago Cubs, I repudiate any return to racially
divisive issues in this year`s presidential campaign, or in any setting
like my father has."

Jonathan Capehart, I don`t quite get what he`s saying there about his
father. His father was part of a group that was trying to push this crazy
idea forward until they got caught today.

caught. This is supposed to be financed by his father`s super PAC, I think
it`s called Ending the Spending.

And the "New York Times" did a great service later in the day after
putting this huge story on the front page, they provided a link on their
Web site to the entire plan. And Jeff Zeleny later in the day tweeted out
something that I think most people hadn`t paid attention to which is
something that`s on page 46.

Now, while Mr. Ricketts and everyone is trying to walk this back.
This wasn`t really a plan. No one really approved it. It wasn`t really
going to go anywhere. I`m focused on the economy and jobs.

On page 46, the drafters of this plan say after your preliminary
approval at the New York meeting, comma. This was more than just some
rinky-dink proposal, some radical proposal that came out of left field.
This was something that they sought. This was something that got if not a
green light, a yellow light and was almost there until it got leaked.

O`DONNELL: Yes. He obviously had approved it and was ready to go
with it. And, Maggie, the Cubs are kind of nervous about this. TD
Ameritrade is nervous since he`s associated with them. They in response to
questions about it at TD Ameritrade said, "Obviously, he is a founder of
the company, but his thoughts, opinions, and activities are not those of td
Ameritrade. His political work is independent of any involvement with the

However, he would not be able to afford this political work if he
hadn`t made all this money at TD Ameritrade.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, POLITICO: Right. I think this is sort of the issue
where you have similarly Mitt Romney talks about Bain and when he left Bain
and what happened after Bain. It`s hard to move him away from where he is.
It`s hard with Ricketts as well as.

I think, obviously, this is brand damaging potentially for these
companies, for the Cubs, for TD Ameritrade. You know, Joe Ricketts has
been making himself a player in politics since the 2012 elections. He
helped fund activities against Harry Reid. He helped some activity in the
Nebraska Senate primary on the Republican side, that wrapped up just this

So he is making a lot of moves. I don`t think anyone, obviously if
you`re him you don`t want to see it end up this way. And, certainly, if
you`re these corporate entities, this is not good P.R.

O`DONNELL: And, Jonathan, their biggest problem they had, they
recognized in the design of the plan -- well, the ambition of the plan, is
that the problem they were facing was America doesn`t hate Barack Obama.
And that`s been the sticking point on this. Their mission was to get
America to hate Barack Obama.

CAPEHART: Yes, throughout the plan, it talks about -- and yet people
still like him. And yet people still like him.

So we`re going to have to go the lowest road possible to try to get
people to not like him, particularly independents is who they were going
for. The only problem is the only people who would be susceptible to that
kind of message that they were trying to push are people who already don`t
like Barack Obama and who weren`t going to like him no matter what he said,
no matter what he did. So I`m really wondering about the utility of this

To jump on something that Maggie said, there`s also another piece of
this. Talk about the business interests here, particularly the Chicago
Cubs. Mr. Ricketts has, you know, made what might be a fatal mistake. He
is looking to the government -- the city of Chicago for some money to help
him renovate his stadium. And who`s the mayor of Chicago but Rahm Emanuel,
the former chief of staff to the president of the United States, Barack
Obama. He`s not returning any of the phone calls.

O`DONNELL: I`m so glad you brought that up, because as a self-
confessed socialist, there is no form of socialism I despise more
energetically than sports socialism which is Republicans` favorite type of
socialism. This Ricketts family wants some sports socialism pulled
straight out of Chicago taxpayers in order to do their plans with their

And, Maggie, this is the kind of thing that is all over the wild
inconsistencies of this kind of billionaire`s thinking of, you know, I hate
all -- Obama is this crazy socialist. But, oh, with my other hand, I would
like to take sports socialism money and put it in my pockets.

HABERMAN: There are different realities of the business world, right?
Which is that, you know, subsidies and tax breaks end up playing a role for
a lot of companies. I think one of the things that`s been chasing Mitt
Romney all week with Bain has been certain companies that he started while
he was at Bain, or companies that they took over that were getting tax
breaks. Things that they touted for instance in their positive pushback
web video, that company got some tax subsidies.

So yes, it is very, very complicated. I don`t think -- again, this is
not -- this didn`t blow up in a way anyone would have wanted. If they were
going ahead with this, it`s not going to stay a secret. If they did it,
everyone was going to know who did it. This wasn`t going to be a surprise,
they were going to have to claim ownership of it.

Fred Davis, who has been behind this plan and who wrote this plan,
which I think most people -- the details as Jonathan said of that plan are
what was especially surprising to see. It was very, very detailed. It was
very specific -- things that you don`t typically see certainly on paper in

But Fred Davis is known for incendiary ads. This is something that he
does. So, it`s sort of not a huge surprise to see it come from him. This
would be the first time you would see the Jeremiah Wright issue being
tested in a general election. I think that`s what they were banking on.

O`DONNELL: Jonathan Capehart and Maggie Haberman, thank you both very
much for joining me tonight.

HABERMAN: Thank you.

CAPEHART: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, celebrity chef Mario Batali is finishing his
week of eating on a food stamp budget. That`s $1.48 per meal for each
member of his family, his wife and two sons. Mario Batali will join me
from one of his restaurants coming up.

And in the rewrite, actor/pundit Ben Stein told Bill O`Reilly last
night that President Obama is not as smart as Richard Nixon. Yes, the
Richard Nixon that was driven from the presidency for committing high
crimes and misdemeanors. Yes, the anti-Semitic, criminal Richard Nixon.
We`ll find out how smart Ben Stein is in tonight`s rewrite.


O`DONNELL: Celebrity chef Mario Batali and his family have been
eating on a food stamp budget for a week. I`ll ask him why he chose to do
that and what he and his wife and kids have learned from it. Mario Batali
will join me from one of his restaurants coming up.

And in the rewrite, actor/pundit Ben Stein told Bill O`Reilly
President Obama is not as smart as the worst president we`ve ever had --
the anti-Semitic criminal, out of control Richard Nixon. Ben Stein, Bill
O`Reilly, and Richard Nixon are all together in tonight`s rewrite.

And then there`s this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There can never be enough super rich people to
power a great economy. Somebody like me makes hundreds or thousands of
times as much as the median American, but I don`t buy hundreds or thousands
of times as much stuff.


O`DONNELL: That`s an excerpt from a six minute speech that
brilliantly argues that the rich are not America`s job creators. And that
speech was considered so controversial by its sponsors that they would not
put it on their Web site. The rich guy who made that speech joins us in a
LAST WORD exclusive.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many jobs were you able to create when you
were at Bain Capital?

ROMNEY: Well, the number is over a hundred thousand.

My job creation number in the private sector has created more jobs
than President Obama has created in the entire country.

Tens of thousands of jobs created by virtue of the work that we were

Those businesses have now added over a hundred thousand jobs. I have
a record of learning how to create jobs.


O`DONNELL: Mitt Romney has now spent years on the campaign trail
running on his so-called job creation record. At last count, Romney says
he helped create over a hundred thousand jobs. But another incredibly rich
guy says the notion that rich people create jobs is completely false.

That was considered so partisan by the TED Conference that they
refused to put this man`s speech on their website, as they do most of their
other speeches of their conferences. And under pressure today, the TED
organization finally released that video.

Here`s Nick Hanauer, venture capitalist who became the first non-
family investor in


confidence that rich people don`t create jobs. Nor do businesses, large or
small. Jobs are a consequence of a circle of life like feedback loop
between customers and businesses. And only consumers can set in motion
this virtuous cycle of increasing demand and hiring.

In this sense, an ordinary consumer is more of a job creator than a
capitalist like me. That`s why when business people take credit for
creating jobs, it`s a little bit like squirrels taking credit for creating
evolution. It`s actually the other way around.


O`DONNELL: Joining me now for an exclusive interview is Nick Hanauer,
author of "The Gardens of Democracy, a New American Story of Citizenship,
the Economy and the Role of Government."

Nick, your message is a very simple one. It`s taught somewhere around
the first week or so of any kind of economics course. Which is that
consumer demand rules everything. And it`s something that Henry Ford knew.
He knew when he was making -- when he was mass producing cars, that the
workers in his factory had to be able to afford to buy them to generate and
keep that demand going.

HANAUER: Correct. Correct. Only consumer demand can animate hiring.
Although it`s not quite true that economics textbooks reflect that idea,
because that idea is -- what`s necessary in order to reach that conclusion
is to understand that the economy is an ecosystem and subject to the same
kinds of feedback loops that natural ecosystems are.

Once you understand that, then it becomes transparently obvious that
this trickle down orthodoxy is a complete and bogus lie, and that the true
nature of job creation lies in this -- in animating consumer demand and the
feedback loop that comes from it.

O`DONNELL: I want to show one more piece of your speech -- your talk
at TED for two reasons. One, because it`s been suppressed, and so now that
we have it, we`re so excited. And the other is it beautifully puts this
notion about consumer demand and how the rich absolutely cannot generate
enough consumer demand. Let`s listen to that.



HANAUER: There can never be enough super rich people to power a great
economy. Somebody like me makes hundreds or thousands of times as much as
the median American. But I don`t buy hundreds or thousands of times as
much stuff. My family owns three cars, not 3,000. I can`t buy enough of
anything to make up for the fact that millions of unemployed and
underemployed Americans can`t buy any new cars, any clothes, or enjoy any
meals out.


O`DONNELL: Nick, the point couldn`t have been made more perfectly.
I`ve never heard it made so well.

HANAUER: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Look, we`ve got three cars. That`s it. I can`t go out
and buy 3,000.

HANAUER: Right. And -- but think about what the economy would be
like if the 280 million Americans who aren`t in the top one percent had
seen their wages rise as fast as mine have over the last 30 years. They
could buy a lot more cars. And as a consequence, our economy would be
growing far faster than it is.

O`DONNELL: And it seems that one of the points you make is that in
order to keep these tax rates on the rich low and get these policies
across, they have to come up with some sort of an almost divine reason this
should be. Hence this new notion of job creators and job creators residing
among those people who simply are, in Wall Street anyway, just shuffling
money all day. They`re not running any factories anywhere.

HANAUER: It`s true. When somebody like me, a capitalist, claims to
be a job creator, it sounds like what we`re doing is describing how the
economy works. But what we`re actually doing is something far more
interesting. What we`re doing is making a claim on status and privileges.

Look, there`s a small leap from job creator to the creator. If you`re
the creator, you`re very much at the center of the economic universe and
deserve status and privileges, which is how, in a democracy, you can come
up with this astounding 233 percent differential between the tax rates I
pay, 15 percent on capital gains, dividends, and carried interest, and the
35 percent top marginal rate on work that ordinary Americans pay.

You can`t get there any other way than essentially deifying
capitalists. I`m not saying capitalists don`t provide an important role in
the economy. I think what I do is awesome and useful. But Americans need
not deify what we do. In an ecosystem, all parts of the ecosystem are
equally important.

O`DONNELL: Quickly, before we go, you make the point that hiring a
new employee is a last resort for someone running a business.

HANAUER: Absolutely. Capitalists like me -- you know, for us when
you`re running a business, hiring more people is a course of last resort.
It`s what we do if and only if rising customer demand requires it. And
more to the point, the measure of the quality of a business, how profitable
it is, is largely the difference between how few workers we hire per unit
of sales, versus our competitors. Right?

The fewer jobs I create per unit of sales, the more profitable my
company becomes. In that sense, calling ourselves job creators isn`t just
inaccurate; it`s somewhat disingenuous.

O`DONNELL: Nick Hanauer, I think no one has explained this more
clearly. Thank you very much for joining me tonight.

HANAUER: Very happy to be here. Thank you.

O`DONNELL: You can see Nick`s entire speech, and it`s only six
minutes long. You will learn more in that six minutes than any other six
minutes you will spend. You can see it all online at our blog,

Coming up, celebrity chef Mario Batali and his family spent the last
week eating on a Food Stamp budget, 31 dollars per person per week. That`s
about 1.48 per meal. Mario Batali joins me in a LAST WORD exclusive to
talk about why the Food Stamp Program is so important.

And in tonight`s Rewrite, an all star cast, Bill O`Reilly, Ben Stein,
and Richard Nixon. Ben Stein told O`Reilly last night that the anti-
Semitic criminal president was smarter than President Obama. How smart is
Ben Stein? We`re going to find out next.


O`DONNELL: Time for tonight`s Rewrite. Last night, Bill O`Reilly
asked a question he thought we could all agree on.


BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: My final question is, Barack Obama is
a smart man. You would say that, right? He`s a smart man.



O`DONNELL: Uh-oh. Disagreeing with Bill O`Reilly. This isn`t going
to go well.


O`REILLY: You wouldn`t even say he`s a smart man, huh?

STEIN: I would say he`s a smart man. I don`t think he`s a -- I mean,
he`s not in the same league of presidential genius as Nixon, for example.
But he`s smarter than the average bear.

O`REILLY: That`s all I`m saying.


O`DONNELL: And there we have another classic O`Reilly moment, where
O`Reilly tries to create the image of fair and balance for his viewers,
most of whom, like Ben Stein, are not willing to say that Barack Obama is a
smart man.

When the Fox News audience hears Bill O`Reilly say Barack Obama is a
smart man, they think wow, Bill is being way, way too fair. Here`s Bill
O`Reilly, who thinks he is a very smart man, asking Ben Stein, who thinks
he`s a much smarter man, is Barack Obama a smart man.

And the agreed upon ruling seems to be, no. Certainly not as smart as
President Richard Nixon. But maybe smarter than an average bear.

If Ben Stein looks familiar to you, it is more likely to be from his
acting career than his pundit career. More people worldwide have seen him
in "Ferris Bueller`s Day Off" than will ever see him on Fox News. Ben
played a high school teacher in "Ferris Bueller`s Day Off."

And on Fox News, he plays an economist. The qualifications for the
use of the label economist are lower at Fox News than anywhere else in the
world. Ben is not by anyone else`s reckoning an economist. He majored in
economics in college, as did I, but that doesn`t make Ben or me an

And Ben knows that. But Ben is related to an economist, a famous
economist. Ben`s father, Herb Stein, who I briefly knew toward the end of
his career, was a genial man, very well liked by both parties, who served
as President Nixon`s chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.

Calling Ben an economist is like calling me a cop or a lawyer because
my father eventually was a Boston police officer who went to law school
nights and eventually became a lawyer. It`s easier for me to believe that
the people at Fox News who write those labels don`t know what an economist
is than it is for me to believe that Ben is lying to the people at Fox News
than he is an economist.

And it`s impossible for me to believe that Ben really thinks Barack
Obama is not a smart man. Ben and Barack have similar academic
credentials. They went to the same college, Columbia. Ben went to Yale
Law School. Barack went to Harvard Law School. That`s a coin toss. But
most of the legal world is still a bit more impressed with Harvard Law

The Supreme Court now has five Harvard Law School graduates and three
Yale Law grads. And Barack was not just a member of the Harvard Law
Review; he was the president of the Harvard Law Review.

Ben, I`m afraid, didn`t make the law review cut at Yale. So Barack
Obama`s academic distinction is not just higher than Ben Stein`s. It is
higher than every president who has been elected in my lifetime. President
Nixon, who Ben thinks was a genius, went to Whittier College and Duke Law
School, and was considered by many who worked with him to be, in O`Reilly`s
phrase, a smart man in some ways.

But Richard Nixon is the president who got elected on his lie about
having a secret plan to end the war in Vietnam, and then continued that war
for four more years, costing another 20,000 American military deaths, and
achieving absolutely nothing in that war that wasn`t achievable on his
first day in office, nothing, by the time Nixon eventually, in effect,
completely surrendered to the North Vietnamese.

Nixon is also the president who took the single most socialistic
action imaginable. He instituted wage and price controls, something that
only had marginal support among some very liberal economists and even then
only under certain crisis conditions. President Nixon did this while Ben
Stein`s father was serving as his principle economic adviser.

Richard Nixon, Ben Stein`s definition of presidential genius, is also
the man who said this.


prejudice in the sense that one must recognize that all people have certain
traits. The Jews have certain traits. The Irish have certain traits. The
Jews are very aggressive, abrasive, obnoxious personalities, but they`re
just able people. I didn`t notice many Jewish names.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, they don`t go fly airplanes. That`s one


O`DONNELL: Ben Stein, who is Jewish, has heard all of the anti-
Semitic Nixon quotes. And yet he still assigns presidential genius to a
known anti-Semite. And Ben Stein`s hero, Richard Nixon, was such a genius
that he got himself impeached by the House of Representatives and chose to
resign -- resign the presidency instead of going to trial in the Senate,
because Republicans senators told him he would be convicted of high crimes
and misdemeanors.

Still, Ben Stein wants you to believe that the worst president we`ve
ever had, the president who wasted over 20,000 American lives in Vietnam,
the proven anti-Semite, the president who got caught and driven out of
office for his part in a criminal conspiracy, that man is the stuff of,
quote, "presidential genius."

And President Obama`s intelligence should not be compared to anything
more than an average bear. Oh, the twists of mind that are necessary to
come up with that, to justify wasting lives in Vietnam, to justify anti-
Semitism, criminal conspiracy, and indeed to any right thinking
conservative to justify wage and price controls, those twists of mind are
poisonous to contemplate.

Richard Nixon himself never claimed to be a genius, never. And in the
end, he claimed only this.


NIXON: Well, I`m not a crook.


O`DONNELL: And even that wasn`t true.



MARIO BATALI, CELEBRITY CHEF: At the big Food Bank for New York fund
raiser about a couple of weeks ago, I challenged everyone to try to walk a
mile in another person`s shoes. And that was to see if you could live on
Food Stamps.

What it really does is it causes us to think about what hunger is,
whether the state is responsible for feeding people, what kind of things
are going on in our politics. And what really makes it a great engine for
our discussion at the house is we really have to think about what we`re


O`DONNELL: That was celebrity chef Mario Batali on day four of the
seven-day Food Stamp Challenge, a hunger awareness campaign led by Batali
and for the Food Bank of New York City, that encourages Americans to try
eating the equivalent of a Food Stamp budget, which is 31 dollars per
person for the week, 1.48 per meal.

Today, Mario Batali, his wife, and their two teenage sons are on their
seventh and final day of the Food Stamp challenge.

Joining me now from one of his New York restaurants, Bobbo (ph), Mario
Batali. How is day seven going? How are you feeling? How hungry are you
right now?

BATALI: Well, I`m looking forward to dinner in about 20 minutes, but
I must say I`m not starved. I`m certainly not withering away. But it was
an interesting challenge.

The family really kind of rallied around the flag. We thought about
it and talked about it in ways that we had never really thought about food.
Food has always been kind of a gift for us and something that we really
appreciated but never had to think about in terms of budgeting.

O`DONNELL: Yeah. You had to go into the market place, as it were,
struggling to put something on the table and try to make it stretch. I
mean, did you find by day three that you were coming up with different
stretching the dollar strategies?

BATALI: Well, I think stretching the dollar is the key to this, in
understanding that if you can, shopping at more than one store was really
part of the key to understanding it and getting through with it. Often
enough, they have to manipulate their own supply and demand. And they only
offer the really good deals when they`re trying to move something quickly.

So we were lucky enough, living in New York, to go to four different
stores. But I know that there are food deserts or places where it`s very
difficult to find food, which would make that a lot more difficult to kind
of achieve. But at that point, then you really have to give it over to
allowing the store to kind of dictate your menu by buying what`s on special
this week, which may not be chicken breasts. It may be chicken legs.
Which may not be flank steak. It may be beef chuck.

It`s understanding that you really have to think about in a different
way and allow the store and the supply to drive what you`re going to eat.

O`DONNELL: As you know and part of your motivation for this is in
Congress the Food Stamp Program is under siege. There are dueling
proposals about how much to cut it and cut it very significantly. How do
you cut 1.48 per meal?

BATALI: Well, the proposal is somewhere between 20 and 30 percent.
So I guess you`re going to cut it between a quarter and 50 cents. I think
what`s more significant than the actual number itself is why we would be
cutting anyway. It seems to me when we realize that 75 percent of the Food
Stamps go to families with children, the idea of not investing in our human
capital is perhaps the most preposterous of all ideologies.

Certainly giving children enough food so that they`re not hungry, to
allow them to come to fruit is what this county should stand for, and where
we have stood by for 100 years, in investing in our own people.

O`DONNELL: And then we will cut the Food Stamp program. We will send
some kids to school hungry. Then we will complain about what`s happening
to their low grades.

BATALI: Standardized test scores go down if you don`t have enough
food in your belly to think about what the answer is. You`re more thinking
about if you`re going to get lunch.

O`DONNELL: Mario Batali, this has been a really instructive week for
all of us that you`ve gone through. And thank you very, very much for
joining and sharing your story tonight.

BATALI: It`s an honor. Thanks for having me.

O`DONNELL: And a sad LAST WORD tonight. Five-time Grammy winner
Donna Summer has died after a long battle with cancer. She began her
singing career in her hometown of Boston. She and I are from the same part
of the city, Dorchester. It was in Europe where she became a hit.

Needless to say, no one from the Jeremiah E. Burke High School has had
a bigger impact on music or popular culture worldwide. Donna Summer was 63
years old.


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.>