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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Thursday, June 21, 2012

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guests: Krystal Ball, Karen Finney, Ari Melber, David Cay Johnston, Eugene Robinson, Kirby Dick, Amy Ziering

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: Hey, it`s nudity and profanity night here
on THE LAST WORD. The Supreme Court ruled against the FCC and finally I
can say --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: New numbers show President Obama regaining the
lead over Mitt Romney.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Forty-nine percent prefer President Obama`s
economic vision.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The vision thing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s two visions for this country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two sets of policies, represented by two different
types of candidates.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Two completely different directions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt Romney, just one hour away from his biggest
campaign appearance yet.

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: Getting ready to make the uphill climb to
connect with Hispanic voters.

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC HOST: This is a very important audience.

MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN: He`s got a hill to climb here.

to address immigration reform.

the Department of Homeland Security is taking steps to lift the shadow of

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president has a 34-point advantage with Latino

ROMNEY: I will put in place my own long-term solution.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He didn`t say what his long-term plan would be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m here, but I have no answers for you.

ROMNEY: When I make a promise to you, I will keep it.

CONAN O`BRIEN, COMEDIAN: True or false, your dad went to college on a
croquet scholarship.



STEELE: He`s got a hill to climb here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has Mt. Everest to climb.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president today welcomed a group of students,
as you know, to the White House.

OBAMA: In just over a week --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At the end of this month --

OBAMA: -- the interest rates on federal student loans are scheduled
to double.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- student interest rate loans will double.


OBAMA: If Congress fails to act, more than 7 million students will
suddenly be hit with the equivalent of a $1,000 tax hike.

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MAJORITY LEADER: The president is not
interested in staying focused on jobs and the economy.

OBAMA: The stalemate in Washington threatens to make the situation
even worse.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE SPEAKER: He`s turned to the politics
of envy and division.

OBAMA: Keep it up, let`s get this done. Thanks, everybody.


O`DONNELL: Today, the Romney campaign tried to stop the governor of
the largest battleground state from talking about the improving economy
there while President Obama was trying to stop student interest loan rates
from doubling.


OBAMA: Others have said we`re just talking about student loans to
distract from the economy. That doesn`t make much sense because this is
the economy. This is all about the economy. This is all about whether or
not we are going to have the best trained, best educated workforce in the
world. That improves our economy. We can`t control every economic head
wind that we face. But this is something we can control.


O`DONNELL: The president`s remarks come hours after a "Bloomberg"
report surfaced saying that the Romney campaign asked the Republican
governor of Florida, Rick Scott, quote, to tone down his statements
heralding improvements in the state`s economy because they clash with the
presumptive Republican nominee`s message that the nation is suffering under
President Obama, according to two people familiar with the matter."

The Romney campaign reportedly made the request after Governor Scott`s
re-election campaign issued a press release touting the state`s
unemployment rate, which has dropped from 11.4 percent in January 2010 to
8.6 percent in May of 2012. The Florida governor was asked to say that the
state`s jobless rate could improve faster under a Romney presidency,
according to the people who asked not to be named.

Both the Romney campaign and Rick Scott`s office have called the
Bloomberg report into question. A new Quinnipiac poll of registered voters
shows President Obama with a four-point lead on Mitt Romney in Florida
where 29 Electoral College votes are at stake. Last month, that same poll
of registered voters showed President Obama trailing Mitt Romney by six
points, so that is a 10-point swing in the president`s favor in Florida in
one month.

And in the veep stakes tonight, another "X" goes up on our big board.
Last night, we crossed Chris Christie off the list of possible candidates
for the Republican vice president nomination. Today, the Purdue University
board of trustees crossed Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels off of our list by
unanimously electing him to be the next president of Purdue University.

And, of course, in other big board news this week, Tim Pawlenty has
now been recognized as the front-runner for the Republican vice
presidential nomination -- a status he achieved on this program 224 days

Joining me now, MSNBC contributor Krystal Ball and an Pulitzer Prize-
winning journalist David Cay Johnston, who is a tax columnist for

Krystal, this game of chicken over student loan interest rates
continue. It`s the fight about how do you pay for the provisions that
would allow those rates to stay low. How much farther can the Republicans
push this? It seems the president is working it so his advantage.

navigating these political waters. Essentially, I think a decision was
made at some point. Obviously, the Republicans in Congress are not going
to work with us on anything. We`re not going to be able to get anything
passed. So we need to focus on issues that are broadly popular and expose
the incredible obstructionism that has been in place obviously with the
Republican Party since -- I mean, they were planning it on his inauguration

I think this has been, you know, student loan interest rates is
something that people across the country broadly support. And to have the
president be the face of advocating for keeping them low is a very positive

O`DONNELL: David, Mitt Romney has a terrible problem in Florida.
That economy, sorry, was it`s just doing better than Mitt Romney wants it
to do.

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, REUTERS: It`s amazing people don`t understand how
much better the economy is. It would be a lot better if we had a bigger
stimulus, but it`s getting better, and yet all you hear is we`re going to
create jobs, jobs, jobs.

I`m sorry, the Republicans told us that two years ago. Where are the
jobs? They didn`t do anything to help create jobs. They helped destroy
jobs, schoolteacher, police officers, firefighters.

O`DONNELL: Let`s talk about the swing states unemployment rates,
because this is going to tell us just how tough this campaign is going to
be for the president in these states. National unemployment rate, of
course, is 8.2 percent. Colorado, 8.1 percent. Florida, 8.6 percent.
Iowa, 5.1 percent. Michigan, 8.5 percent.

Nevada, way above the average, 11.6 percent. New Hampshire, 5.0.
North Carolina, 9.4 -- significantly above the national average, and that`s
where the Democratic convention is going to be. Ohio, 7.3. Virginia, 5.6.
And Wisconsin, 6.8.

Krystal, as the Obama campaign tries to navigate that map, do they
emphasize going into the states where the unemployment is actually the
highest? Is that where they`re going to need to focus the most?

BALL: You know, the Obama campaign, it`s interesting has sketched out
more of a state by state strategy, to have state specific messaging. For
example, in Michigan, to really tout the auto bailout and Ohio as well.
Virginia, focus on local issues. So, I think they will navigate that on a
sort of state-by-state basis, but we shouldn`t get too caught up by the
fact that in Virginia, for example, the unemployment is quite low and Iowa,
because so much of the economic focus is on a national level.

So the trend line nationally is in some ways going to be more
important I think than what`s going on in the individual battleground
states. You know, right now, we`ve had this sort of slow and steadily
recovery. I frankly am nervous because the Republicans since they did take
over the House have blocked any kind of action. The Fed is doing very
limited amounts. We have this thing going on in Europe that is very scary
and we don`t know what the outcome is going to be.

So, if things were today in Florida, the new poll, that`s fantastic.
But if things start to go downhill, Mitt Romney is no longer going to have
this conflict with Rick Scott and other Republican governors having to say
tamp it down on economic optimism because -- I`m nervous about head winds
this summer.

O`DONNELL: Let`s take a look at this new ad that team Obama released


NARRATOR: The son of a single mom, proud father of two daughters.
President Obama knows that women being paid 77 cents on the dollar for
doing the same work as men isn`t just unfair, it hurts families. So the
first law he signed was the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, to help ensure
that women are paid the same as men for doing the exact same work.

Because President Obama knows that fairness for women means a stronger
middle class for America.


O`DONNELL: David, it`s an ad that is obviously talking about women,
but it`s also talking about the economy. And it seems that it has a
broader audience than women. What two-earner couple doesn`t want the wife
to earn more money?

JOHNSTON: Well, yes. Married men should be in the forefront of
promoting equal pay. Absolutely. This is an issue that should do wonders
for him in terms of getting people to turn out the vote. The Republicans
have made it very clear that they really don`t care about this issue. They
will put procedure and politics ahead of any effort to end gender pay
discrimination, which when you look at totally comparable jobs from public
records that we have, fewer women earn well paid jobs and make less money
in the same occupations.

BALL: And let`s just remember that Mitt Romney has been unwilling to
even take a position on the Lily Ledbetter Act and the Paycheck Fairness
Act. He won`t even say where he stands on these and I think that`s
something the Obama campaign needs to highlight.

JOHNSTON: And that`s part of his general policy. I have a secret
plan. I have a secret plan for immigration, secret plan to bring down the
budget deficits. Richard Nixon told us I have a secret plan in 1978 and
six years later, we were still in the war.

O`DONNELL: A secret plan to end the war.


O`DONNELL: Let`s take a glance at the national polls which don`t tell
us all that much at this stage. They are of registered voters. We have a
new national poll of registered voters, not likely voters, registered
voters, saying President Obama is at 50 percent. Mitt Romney is at 46

We have another "Associated Press" national poll of registered voters.
President Obama at 47 percent, Mitt Romney at 44 percent. But the trend
here on all of them, there`s a consistent edge, small edge, with registered
voters of President Obama nationwide.

BALL: Yes. And I think the Obama campaign has to feel good about the
fact that we have seen a slower recovery, slower job growth and yet he`s
holding on to a slight lead in national polls and is doing well in
battleground states. So that has to be comforting that maybe there`s more
wiggle room than we thought in terms of facing economic head winds and
having a more difficult summer than we anticipated.

O`DONNELL: David, between now and November, what is the likelihood in
the economic landscape? What is the possibility of an improvement that
would be noticeable to the electorate and what is the possibility of a
decline that could be noticeable?

JOHNSTON: Well, there`s significant risks of a decline, but in all
likelihood, we`ll continue to have very slow growth out of this because we
don`t have enough jobs. Population has been growing since 2000, more than
six times faster than jobs. And if the policies that we have now that
Romney wants to double down on worked, we would have abundant jobs right

But I think the risks are relatively small we`ll see some significant
collapse between now and then, which would be very bad for Obama. I think
one thing that`s important for the Obama campaign is getting out the vote.
That`s part of the lesson in Wisconsin. You can look good in the polls but
if people don`t go to the actual polls, it doesn`t matter.

O`DONNELL: David Cay Johnston, thank you very much for joining me
tonight. And Krystal Ball, who is now one of the new co-hosts of MSNBC`s
newest show, "THE CYCLE." It`s going to start next week, 3:00 p.m.

It`s going to start next Monday. So you`re move into the hosting
ranks here.

BALL: I am. Co-hosting ranks at least.

O`DONNELL: This is very exciting.

Stick around, do some co-hosting here.

Coming up, the Supreme Court threw out the FCC`s broadcast decency
rule today. So now we can say and do anything we want. So we`ve got
profanity and nudity coming up.


O`DONNELL: So you`re going to be hosting this new show starting next
week -- co-hosting.

BALL: That`s right. Yes.

O`DONNELL: So why don`t you co-hosting now? Why don`t you read
what`s coming up on the show? We have a prompter right there over there.
That`s right in there.

BALL: Cher made history today. She was quoted for the very first
time in a Supreme Court opinion. A unanimous Supreme Court opinion, thanks
to Cher, allows everyone on TV to say anything we want, including the word
Cher said on TV that got her case dragged in front of the United States
Supreme Court.

And while the Supreme Court was deciding what we could say on TV, they
also decided nudity is OK on TV. We`ll show you the nude scene that the
Supreme Court liked so much, coming up.



ROMNEY: I believe he`s taking your vote for granted. I`ve come here
today with a very simple message. You do have an alternative. Your vote
should be respected. And your voice is more important now than ever


O`DONNELL: That was Mitt Romney today speaking to the National
Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials in a desperate
attempt to chip away at the 34-point lead President Obama has over Mitt
Romney with Latino voters. President Obama is at 61 percent with Latino
voters. Mitt Romney is running at 27 percent.

Now, Mitt Romney bravely pretended to answer the now weak-old question
that no one, no one, has been able to get him to answer.


ROMNEY: Now, the president has been seized by an overwhelming need to
do what he could have done on day one but didn`t. I think you deserve
better. Some people have asked if I will let stand the president`s
executive order. The answer is that I will put in place my own long-term
solution that will replace and supersede the president`s temporary measure.


O`DONNELL: Of course, the solution to the problem would require a new
piece of legislation and Romney did not say whether he would allow the
president`s executive order stopping deportations to stay in effect until
Romney was able to replace it with a legislative solution. So once again,
Mitt Romney did not answer the question about what he would do on day one
about the president`s executive order.

Here is Romney`s outline of his so-called long-term solution.


ROMNEY: It`s critical that we redouble our efforts to secure the
borders. That means both preventing illegal border crossings and making it
harder to illegally overstay a visa. We should field enough border patrol
agents, complete a high-tech fence and implement an improved exit
verification system.

Reallocate green cards to those seeking to keep their families under
one radio roof and we`ll exempt from caps the spouses and minor children of
legal permanent residents. I would staple a green card to the diploma of
someone who gets an advance degree to America. I will stand for a path to
legal status for anyone who is willing to defend this great nation through
military service.


SCHULTZ: Joining me now are: Karen Finney, former DNC communications
director and MSNBC political analyst, and Ari Melber, correspondent for
"The Nation" an MSNBC contributor.

So he`s going to go to graduations with a stapler and a stack of green
cards and staple them to the diploma and the green card is going to say


O`DONNELL: Because the Republican Congress will not legislate that
green card on to the diploma, which is what I would require.

FINNEY: Actually, Ari had a great thought about the stapler. It
makes you think of staples, the one company that may succeeded.

O`DONNELL: The Romney-Bain success story, yes.

FINNEY: The thing is, if you listen to the story that he said, it`s
the same old stuff we heard from Republicans, it takes us back frankly to
before when John McCain actually did support immigration reform, the last
presidential cycle. It`s the same stuff we heard from Republicans.

And thing about it, the trick of it is, and I think the Latino
community remembers, he forgot -- they remember the debate in 2005 and how
divisive and ugly it was. They remember what John McCain was going to do
then he voted against it.

They also know a lot of what he`s talking about continues to undermine
American workers. It`s not creating good jobs with benefits. He`s talking
about guest worker programs and the same kind of programs that continue the
labor issues that we already have that aren`t good for this country.

O`DONNELL: And, Ari, he did not use the most famous Romney phrase on
this subject, and so for that we have to cut to video of a presidential
primary debate.


MODERATOR: So if you don`t deport them, how do you send them home?

ROMNEY: Well, the answer is self-deportation, which is people decide
that they can do better by going home because they can`t find work here
because they don`t have legal documentation to allow them to work here.


O`DONNELL: Wasn`t this the perfect audience for the whole deportation
thing? How could he forget that?

ARI MELBER, THE NATION: It`s memorable. When you`re giving speeches,
especially if they`re boring, it`s good to have a good thing that everyone
will remember. But no, he didn`t do that. He did change up the tone and
tone matters, particularly when you talk about marginalized communities.

The one thing I really did like in this speech is he made a point of
talking about how about half of the top venture top backed companies in
this country were started by immigrants, as a point you`ve talked about,
that we`re stronger when we bring in immigrants.

So, I like the tone to some degree. It was better than the earlier
tone you just showed. But the substance was not there.

At the end of the day, we have 11.5 million undocumented workers in
this country. And if you go piecemeal and say, well, I want to deal with
veterans because we love veterans and we do, but I don`t want to do the
rest of it. I don`t want to approach the DREAM Act and I don`t want to
give the president credit for doing something that even Republicans have
said is humane, then I don`t think he`s taking it very seriously.

O`DONNELL: We have a new poll of registered Latino voters in five
battleground states -- Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Virginia. They found
that Romney`s statements on undocumented immigrants, the statement on self-
deport, they make, and the statements about immigration laws in Arizona,
they are really hurting Romney with those people. They are less
enthusiastic to vote for him, 59 percent.

So his words have been heard before today.

FINNEY: That`s right. They have been heard. And again, it sounds
like what they`ve heard in the past that is not about moving forward in the
way that President Obama actually gets to go to this same group tomorrow
and talk about something that`s a positive development.

Ari and I were talking about this before we came in. This community
has followed this debate. They know what happened on day one when
President Obama came into the Oval Office. They know what`s been going on
in Congress. They know that it took to this point for the president to
finally say look, if Congress isn`t going to act then I`m going to have to
do this.

They`re much savvier than Romney is getting them credit for. And by
the way, he didn`t say anything that`s going to get him to the 30 percent
that he needs.

O`DONNELL: Yes. Let`s listen to what Jay Carney said today about why
the president had to take the action that he did and where the failure lies
in getting real progress in this area.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Congress has had the ability
to act on this ever since Republicans blocked the DREAM Act. So, we have a
situation here where the nominee of the Republican Party, the head of that
party at this point has said he would veto the DREAM Act. That is not
encouraging as a sign of cooperation or willingness by Republicans.


O`DONNELL: Well, there goes Jay Carney, reminding people that Romney
has said he would simply veto the DREAM Act.

MELBER: Yes, Romney said he would veto the DREAM Act. The DREAM Act
at one point had 55 senators supporting it. So, for most Americans who
don`t follow this as closely as we might, they say, oh, that sounds pretty
good. But it was subjected to a filibuster like so many other aspects of
the president`s agenda.

I don`t expect everyone to follow the cloture vote, right? But I do
think Karen makes a point, that for the task that Mitt Romney had today,
going into a community that voted double for his opponent, you know, 67 to
31 last cycle, he didn`t move the needle on that.

O`DONNELL: And, Karen, how can the president be accused by Mitt
Romney of taking these voters for granted and then at the same time accused
by Mitt Romney of issuing his order limiting deportations because he
doesn`t take them for granted, because he needs their votes.

MELBER: Right.

FINNEY: This whole week has been about Romney and the Republican
Party licking their wounds, because the political realities, they totally
got outmaneuvered last week. They got caught flat footed. They didn`t see
it coming.

I mean, you have Marco Rubio whining the president didn`t come to us
and all this. So, yes, this is Romney trying to have it both ways. As you
know, in modern elections, you put coalition of voters together block by
block, piece by piece. And again, if you can`t get some portion of the
Latino vote, it`s very hard to win a national election. They`re not buying
what he`s selling.

O`DONNELL: Ari, how much of this campaign on the Latino vote needs to
be -- is it strategically played nationally? You know, we talk about
battleground states and all this kind of thing. But the Latino vote seems
to be a vote that you can appeal to with a national message as opposed to
going into pacific places to deliver your message and find them.

MELBER: Yes, I think outside of Florida where you have other sort of
transnational issues in Cuba, which plays out differently, when you talk
about most of the Southwest, even parts of Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio
where you have increasing immigrant communities and their families that
have sort of gone into the Midwest, sometimes for jobs, I don`t think it is
as differentiated.

I think that you talk first, frankly, about the economy and education.
Those are the top line issues when you see what`s polled. But the tone and
the engagement and the seriousness that you approach the immigration
questions I think does play out as well.

FINNEY: And, by the way, having a discussion about the economy,
that`s a great conversation for Obama to have, because Romney, what`s
defending with the Ryan budget, that is not going to help the Latino

O`DONNELL: Yes. Karen Finney and Ari Melber, thank you both very
much for joining me tonight.

Coming up, women in the American military actually face a greater
threat from sexual assault in their barracks than they do of being killed
in battle. We`ll have the shocking stories of the women who have suffered
these assaults, including women who have served in the elite marine group
that stands guard at the White House for President Obama.


O`DONNELL: Cher changed our world today. Or I guess I should say
Cher changed our world once again today. The United States Supreme Court
ruled in Cher`s favor against the FCC that had issued a fine because Cher
used a word that the FCC doesn`t like on television. Now thanks to Cher,
we can say whatever we want.

And thanks to an episode of "NYPD Blue," the Supreme Court also ruled
that nudity is now OK on TV, too. The big victory for the First Amendment
is coming up in the Rewrite.

And Later, the shocking story of a real war being waged on women in
the American military. The most dangerous enemy they face are the sexual
predators in our military who have assaulted military women serving around
the world, including the Marines who stand guard at the White House.
That`s coming up.



year, Republicans announced that one of their chief legislative and
strategic priorities was to investigate the administration and damage the
president politically. Instead of creating jobs or helping the middle
class, Congressional Republicans are focused on this politically motivated,
taxpayer funding election year fishing expedition.


O`DONNELL: In the Spotlight tonight, at the White House today,
President Obama blamed Republicans for blocking the Democrats` plan to
extend low rates for student loans, which will double in a week.


OBAMA: If Congress fails to act, more than seven million students
will suddenly be hit with the equivalent of a 1,000 dollar tax hike.
That`s not something that you can afford right now. Now as I said, if this
warning sounds familiar, we`ve been talking about this for months. This
issue didn`t come out of nowhere. It`s been looming for months. But we`ve
been stuck watching Congress play chicken with another deadline.


O`DONNELL: And here`s why this is a fight Democrats want to have: a
"National Journal" poll found 50 percent favored the Democratic plan to pay
for keeping rates low by taxing some businesses. Only 34 percent supported
the Republican plan that takes money away from preventive care in the
president`s health care law to pay for those loan rates.

Joining me now is Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the "Washington
Post" and MSNBC political analyst Eugene Robinson. Gene, we -- there we
see a double-team. We see Jay Carney saying that listen, we`re here trying
to work on the economy, talk about the economy, get student loan rates
fixed. And these Republicans are just going on this investigative fishing
expedition, which they always said they were going to do with this

They were going to run investigations no matter if there was a reason
to do it or not.

EUGENE ROBINSON, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yeah, it really -- Lawrence,
it really underscores the narrative that the president`s campaign and the
administration are trying to get across, which is that this is a Congress
that is interested in defeating the president and not interested in doing
what it needs to do for the economy and for the American people.

There are a lot of people with student loans, and they`re not just
kids in school. Most of the increase in the student loan -- the amount of
student loans has been to older students who are really going to be hurt by
this increase, if indeed it happens.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what the president said today in blaming
the Republicans for protecting the top tax bracket, the high income earners
versus the student loan rates.


OBAMA: Over in the House, the Republicans said they would keep these
rates down only if we agreed to cut things like preventive health care for
women, which obviously wouldn`t fix the problem, but would create a new
problem. This is even as they were voting lock step for an economic plan
that would cut financial aid for nine million college students by an
average of 1,000 dollars and give 150,000 dollar tax cut to wealthy


O`DONNELL: And so that`s the president`s work day. The Republican
congressional work day seems all about investigation, investigation and
subpoena and contempt and all of that. And I want to read a piece from
"Politico" that we will all remember, November 8th, 2010. November 8th,
2010, the headline was, "Darrell Issa Plans Hundreds of Hearings."
"California Representative Darrell Issa is already eyeing a massive
expansion of oversight for next year, including hundreds of hearings,
creating new subcommittees and launching fresh investigations into the bank
bailout, the stimulus, and potentially health care reform. Issa told
"Politico" in an interview, `I want seven hearings a week, times 40 weeks."

Eugene, there we see the definition of a work year in Congress, 40
weeks. But this plan, it didn`t matter to Darrell Issa`s committee or to
Darrell Issa what they were going to investigate. It`s just we want to be
seen investigating.

ROBINSON: Exactly. And you know, they should be careful what they
wish for, because I think there`s a real danger politically in being seen
to do nothing but investigate, especially if the investigations seem to be
without substance and without reason. Meanwhile, everybody knows what
state the economy is in. Everybody knows certain things that need to get

And if Congress isn`t doing that, if instead they`re busy trying to
call administration officials on the carpet, I don`t see how that really
helps him that much.

O`DONNELL: And the other thing you would like to have, if you`re
going to run these investigations, is Mr. Clean running the investigations,
not exactly Darrell Issa. I want to read to you something that Ryan Lizza
wrote in the "New Yorker" back in 2011 about Darrell Issa. "Among other
things, he`s been indicted for stealing a car, arrested for carrying a
concealed weapon and accused by former associates of burning down a

Gene, that`s not the investigator in chief that you want in your party
in the Congress.

ROBINSON: I don`t think it is, really. Is this the first time
someone living in a glass house has begun to throw stones? I don`t think
so. But there you have it. Darrell Issa is not the guy I would want
leading the charge. But the Republicans seem to be stuck with him and I
don`t think they can control him.

O`DONNELL: Eugene Robinson of the "Washington Post," thanks very much
for joining me tonight.

Coming up, the Supreme Court smacked down the FCC today and quoted
Cher in a unanimous ruling about broadcasting profanity and nudity. That`s
in tonight`s Rewrite.

And later, there really is a war on women, women in the American
military. There`s an epidemic of sexual assault against women in our
military. You will hear from them about some of the horrors that they have
suffered. That`s coming up.


O`DONNELL: In a Rewrite segment that is now a year and a half years
old, I said "courts are carefully using the First Amendment to rewrite and
inevitably revoke the FCC`s right to regulate any speech or action on

And today, the United States Supreme Court officially and unanimously
rewrote what we can say and do and show on television. Now profanity is
OK. And nudity is OK. All thanks to Cher.

Well, OK, only half of it is thanks to Cher. And no, it is not the
nudity part. It`s the profanity part. In the unanimous opinion written by
Justice Kennedy, he tells the story this way. "In the 2002 Billboard Music
Awards, broadcast by respondent Fox Television Stations, the singer Cher
exclaimed during an unscripted acceptance speech, `I`ve also had my critics
for the last 40 years saying that I was on my way out every year. Right.

The FCC then idiotically imposed a fine on Fox for Cher`s use of the
forbidden word. Fox fought the case all the way to the Supreme Court,
which decided to hear the Cher case, along with a case brought by ABC to
fight an FCC fine imposed for an episode of "NYPD Blue."

Justice Kennedy described the offending nudity this way. "The episode
broadcast on February 25th, 2003, showed the nude buttocks of an adult
female character for approximately seven seconds, and for a moment the side
of her breast."

Justice Kennedy warned you, this is the shortest nude scene you`re
ever going to see in your life. So are you ready? OK, get ready. OK, get
ready. Here comes MSNBC`s second nude scene.






O`DONNELL: Attentive viewers of this program know that is the second
time we have shown this historic television nude scene. The fist time
being, of course, a year and a half ago, when I predicted the Supreme Court
would rule exactly the way it ruled today. For the freedom to be nude on
television, we can thank the actress Charlotte Ross who appeared in the
scene, and the two guys who desperately wanted to see her naked on
television and on their set, Steven Bochco and David Milch, the co-writers
of the episode, who were also the co-creators of that brilliant series
which won over 80 awards, including Golden Globes and Emmys.

The Supreme Court unanimously ruled against the FCC on the grounds
that its rule on what it calls, quote, "indecent material," end quote, is
just too vague. The FCC can do the smart thing and give up now. But it
has absolutely no history of doing the smart thing, so it will probably
attempt to rewrite its definition of indecent material into something more

And then the Supreme Court will, of course, eventually strike down
that definition, too. There are plenty of other completely constitutional
activities in the FCC`s jurisdiction to keep them all busy regulating
various activities in the telecommunications industry. But thanks to Cher,
Charlotte Ross, Stephen Bochco and David Milch, the federal government will
never be able to tell us what we can say and do and show on television.

But the legal right to be profane or naked is not something that any
of us choose to exercise in almost any workplace. And so for better or
worse -- well, come to think of it, this really is just for better -- the
MSNBC workplace rules still don`t allow profanity or nudity. But if Cher
comes on this show, as the Supreme Court proved today, Cher makes her own


O`DONNELL: More than 280,000 women serve in the United States
military. By joining the military, they now risk their safety in more ways
than they realized when they signed up. Today, women soldiers serving in
Afghanistan and Iraq are more likely to be sexually assaulted by a fellow
serviceman than to be killed in combat.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you report something, you better be
prepared for the repercussions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If a man gets accused of rape, it`s a setup.
The woman is lying.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I could choose to report it, but if I wasn`t --
if they found that what I was saying wasn`t to be truthful, then I would be
reduced in rank.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You could lose your rate. You could lose rank.
You could lose your school if you file a false report. So do you want to
file a report?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Even with the rape kit and everything and my
friend catching him raping me, they still don`t believe me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I reported it two different times to my squad
leaders. And he told me there was nothing he could do about it because
they didn`t have any proof.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They actually did charge me with adultery. I
wasn`t married. He was.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They took me before my lieutenant commander. He
says do you think this is funny? And I said what do you mean? He is like,
is this all a joke to you? I was like what do you mean? He goes you`re
the third girl to report rape this week. Are you guys all in cahoots? Do
you think this is a game?


O`DONNELL: All those stories are from "The Invisible War," a new
award winning documentary that exposes the shocking epidemic of sexual
assault in the United States military. Not only do these women suffer the
horrors of rape, but they are often shamed, isolated, blamed or discharged
after reporting the assault.

The documentary includes story of women who served at the Marine
barracks in Washington, D.C., the nation`s most prestigious Marine base,
the home of the Marines who stand guard at the White House.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: After my deployment to Operation Iraqi Freedom
in 2008-`09, my command officer recommended me for the Marine Barracks
Washington. I was excited. It was the tip of the spears as far as the
Marine Corps is concerned.

One of the first things I was told when I checked in was, don`t wear
any makeup because the Marines will all think that you want to sleep with
them. I thought that`s just ridiculous.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The atmosphere, off the bat at Marine Barracks
Washington, was horrible. People asked me what sexual favors had I
performed to get my orders there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was a senior officer in my command who,
the first time he spoke to me, he said female Marines here are nothing but
objects for the Marines to (EXPLETIVE DELETED).


O`DONNELL: Joining me now, producer Amy Ziering and director Kirby
Dick, the makers of this amazing and shocking documentary.

Amy, this is shocking beyond description. The fact that these stories
are coming from the Marine barracks in Washington, the Marines we see on
television all the time in their full dress uniform at the White House, not
to accuse any of them in particular, but where they live, this is

noticed, Lawrence, when we started doing this research was often this is
reported in the press as these anomalous situations. There`s tales of
scandal. There`s Aberdeen. What we tried to do in our film and show was
no, actually this is systemic, widespread epidemic that`s going on chronic
and daily in our U.S. military.

And one of the ways we did that was by focusing in part on Marine
Barracks Washington, where it`s ongoing. That was why we made a purpose of
inserting those instances in our film. In fact, three women that we spoke
with off the record at Marine Barracks Washington told me they had actually
asked repeatedly for transfers back into combat to leave that base -- that

O`DONNELL: Kirby, you get the feeling when you think about the
scandals that we read about, that that`s just -- they`re like speeding
tickets. It`s like, you know, who got pulled over for speeding today, as
opposed to the 10,000 cars that were going over the speed limit today.

KIRBY DICK, DIRECTOR, "THE INVISIBLE WAR": You`re absolutely right.
I mean, the numbers are staggering. According to the Department of
Defense`s own estimates, more than 19,000 men and women were sexually
assaulted last year in the U.S. military.

O`DONNELL: In one year.

DICK: In one year. So over the last several decades, hundreds of
thousands --

O`DONNELL: Is there something in military culture? Is there
something in -- is this group of people chosen from a subset of us who are
more aggressive, more trained to be even more aggressive?

DICK: Actually most men in the military are horrified by this. They
are not sexual perpetrators at all. But there`s a small percentage of
serial perpetrators that assault again and again. And the military has not
done enough to investigate, prosecute and incarcerate them.

Then what`s worse is when these serial perpetrators leave the military
with honorable discharges, they go out into society and continue to assault

O`DONNELL: So this is actually starting to have some of the contours
of the scandal in the Roman Catholic Church. It was probably a very small
number of priests, but they were not disciplined. They were not thrown
out. And the complainants were not dealt with honestly.

ZIERING: Yes, the majority of service members we interviewed and
spoke with, which was a very wide number of them, did say that more than
often than not, their commanders were good commanders and they had no
problems. But the problem was once they were in a base with a commander
who did not really reinforce the rules, prosecute these perpetrators and
really hold to an absolute zero tolerance policy for any kind of sexual
harassment or abuse, that`s when there were problems.

O`DONNELL: I want to listen to secretary of defense Leon Panetta said
after seeing your documentary.


LEON PANETTA, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Sexual assault has no place in
the military. It is a violation of everything that the U.S. military
stands for.


O`DONNELL: Listen, I know Leon Panetta. I have known him for a long
time. He had to be horrified by this. He has taken some actions. What
actions has he taken as a result of what he`s seen in your documentary?

DICK: Well, what he`s done is he`s elevated the decision to
investigate and prosecute these crimes from the level of unit commander to
the level of colonel or captain in the Navy. The problem is, it`s still
within the chain of command. It needs to be moved out of the chain of
command, so there`s no conflict of interest.

What we need here is an independent arbitrator to decide whether to
investigate and prosecute. And that`s the way it`s done in every other
civilian justice system in this country.

O`DONNELL: Amy, what are your hopes for where we will be a year from
now, once the documentary is kind of absorbed by the military. I`m sure
this is going to be seen by virtually everyone in the military.

ZIERING: Yeah, the military actually has responded extremely
positively to this film. It`s not an anti-military film. Every service
member we spoke with said I`m speaking up because I know the military can
be better. I love the military and I want them to hear this message and
only improve it. So we -- we hope that the military will see this film,
own this problem and really take it on with the same vigor and purpose that
they take on all the other things that they try and do.

O`DONNELL: The women, are they using their real names in the
documentary? Are they current service members? Are they mostly now
retired and out of the service?

DICK: They are mostly -- except for one that we shoot in shadow,
they`re retired and out of the service. But many are quite recent, within
the last two years. This is a problem that`s not going down. It`s --
these 19,000 numbers have been in place for the last five years.

O`DONNELL: That`s what has shocked me about it, as I`ve learned about
it through your documentary, is the size of it. It is a breathtakingly
strange and horrifying development in our military.

DICK: That`s why we made this film because so few people in this
country are aware of this. The military has done a very good job of
keeping this under wraps. And it`s really time to get out and have people
know about this. That`s why we made the film.

O`DONNELL: The documentary is called "Invisible War." Kirby Dick and
Amy Ziering, thank you both very much for joining me tonight.

You can have THE LAST WORD online at our blog,
And you can follow my Tweets @Lawrence. "THE ED SHOW" is up next.


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