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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

Guests: Mark Thompson, Zach Wahls

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: Mitt Romney has decided that he can`t win
by campaigning against President Obama`s record in the White House. So,
now, Romney wants to campaign against Barack Obama`s record in high school.


talk about the president as a nice guy?

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think he`s a nice person,
I just don`t think we can afford him any longer.

DYSON: Well, not anymore.

ROMNEY: He tries to divide America. His course is extraordinarily

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: The Romney campaign is escalating its
attacks on President Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They`re now going personal and defamatory.

ROMNEY: He tries to diminish those who have been successful in one
walk of life or another.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The only way he can win is by fighting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can`t sit in the corner and, you know, pull
your blanky over your head and suck your thumb.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Seriously, what`s wrong with his campaign?

THOMAS ROBERTS, MSNBC ANCHOR: He is still taking a pounding.

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: The grand old wagon circle is beginning to
fall apart.

CHRIS JANSING, NBC NEWS: The pressure on Mitt Romney to release more
of his tax returns is intensifying.

TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Governor Romney does not want to release
his tax returns.

ROMNEY: I think people in my party just say, look, this is a

DYSON: Bill Kristol, George Will.

ROBERTS: Rick Perry, Ron Paul.


DYSON: Haley Barbour.


JANSING: High-profile Republicans who are saying Romney should
release his taxes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is setting up Romney for a death by a
thousand political cuts.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why hasn`t he just released them?

RICHARDSON: Just release them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What`s in them? What`s keeping him from releasing

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He really doesn`t want to come clean.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why are we talking about this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because he`s not running on any issues.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why are we talking about this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s running on, gee, Obama sucks and I`ve made a
bunch of money in business.

ROMNEY: Their opposition people look for anything they can find to

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I`ve released all of my tax

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Romney doesn`t have a lot of friends.

CHRISTIE: I think that`s the right way to go and that`s what I would
tell Governor Romney to do.

ANN COULTER, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: If you don`t run Chris Christie,
Romney will be the nominee and we`ll lose.



O`DONNELL: I said last night that yesterday was the worst day of the
general election campaign for Mitt Romney. It was so bad that last night,
conservative opinion leader Charles Krauthammer said this.


BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS HOST: If the election were held tomorrow,
tomorrow, who would win?



O`DONNELL: Well, as bad as yesterday was for Mitt Romney, today was a
bit worse. More Republicans are now calling on Romney for him to release
his tax returns and the "Washington Examiner" conservative columnist Byron
York said this. "At least at the moment, the vaunted Romney death star,
the machine that flattened his Republican opponents, just isn`t working."

BuzzFeed reports that the now-panicked Romney campaign, quote, "is now
prepared to go to eye for an eye in an intense, no-holds-barred act of
political reprisal, said two Romney advisers, who spoke on the condition of
anonymity. Very little will be off-limits, from the president`s youthful
drug habit, to his ties to disgraced Chicago politicians."

The Romney campaign apparently doesn`t seem to realize that voters
actually reached an understanding judgment of Barack Obama`s youthful drug
use after he revealed it himself in his book, "Dreams From My Father."

The Democratic National Committee added to the pressure on Romney`s
tax returns today with this ad.

The dancing horse in the ad is, of course, owned by Mitt Romney, and
as reported here, previously, is listed on Romney`s tax returns as a
$77,000 tax deduction.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Governor, will you release your income tax

ROMNEY: If that`s been the tradition, and I`m not opposed to doing
that, time will tell, but I anticipate that most likely I`m going to get
asked to do that around the April time period, and I`ll keep that open.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why do you have a Swiss bank account? And what do
you say to American people who asked about that?

ROMNEY: The money that I have is managed by a blind trust. I don`t
manage the money that I have.


O`DONNELL: Today, the Romney campaign released this Spanish language


CRAIG ROMNEY, MITT ROMNEY`S SON (translated): I`m Craig Romney. I
want to tell you about how my father, Mitt Romney, thinks. He really
values the fact that we`re a nation of immigrations. My grandfather George
was born in Mexico. For my family, the greatness of the United States is
about how we respect and help everyone, regardless of where we`ve come
from. As president, my father will work toward a permanent solution for
the system of immigration, working with leaders of both parties, I invite
you to listen to him.


O`DONNELL: So there`s team Romney thinking they can pick up Latino
voters by sending Craig Romney out to say, my grandfather, George, was born
in Mexico.

Why don`t they tell the rest of the heartwarming story of the Romneys
in Mexico, that George was born in Mexico because his grandfather hated the
ultra-conservative marriage laws of the United States, which allowed him to
legally be married to only one wife at a time? And so, he fled to the much
more liberal land of Mexico, and its much more liberal view of marriage,
which allowed Miles Romney to keep his five wives.

And so, the Romney family will always be grateful for Mexico allowing
Mitt Romney`s great-grandfather to define marriage in a far more liberal
way than the American way, and save him from being an American marriage

The one defender Mitt Romney has on his tax returns is the man who has
almost as much money as Mitt.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: The Obama people don`t want
Romney`s tax returns released so they can find out if they`re aboveboard.
It doesn`t matter what they say. They`re going to be mischaracterized and
used to hurt Romney. Romney`s right to hang in tough on this.


O`DONNELL: Joy Reid, it`s down to Rush. That`s what Romney has as a
defender on tax trends, the guy who has made maybe a couple hundred million
dollars himself.

JOY REID, THEGRIO.COM: Indeed. And the ad that you showed before
with Mitt Romney`s son, it kind of reminded me of like my tenth grade
Spanish class, when we had to do the recitation. It really was just that

Yes, you know, the problem that Mitt Romney has is that he doesn`t
seem to understand sort of ironclad rule of re-elect politics. A re-elect
is a referendum on the immediate past performance of the president, the
last three years. But it`s also a referendum on the character, history,
and profile of the opponent.

His history matters, because the voters have to decide, do we want to
replace this guy we know, who we`ve already grandfathered in the
information we knew about him. Like you said, he already wrote about drug
use. He grandfathered that in, we made a decision, he was elected.

But the voters want to know, should they replace him with Mitt Romney?
It`s Mitt Romney`s past and Mitt Romney`s character that voters need to
analyze and scrutinize, but he`s refusing to explain what it is that he`s
done in his life that makes him qualified to be president of the United
States, other than just being Mitt Romney.

O`DONNELL: Jonathan, is it only a candidate who doesn`t drink and
doesn`t take caffeine, who could possibly think that the American voter
will be outraged that a candidate smoked some weed in high school?

on! If you`re going to go at the president`s -- literally, youthful
indiscretions, then you have serious problems. And if the Romney campaign
thinks that talking about, you know, teenage drug use is going to change
the conversation from the present-day problem that Mitt Romney has about
his adult years` money making and his, you know, his job as governor, then
they must be smoking something.

I mean, Mitt Romney`s problem is this: he is flying in the face of a
tradition set by his own father. And that is, candidates for president
releasing their tax returns. George Romney in 1967 --

O`DONNELL: He`s running against his own father.

CAPEHART: His own father.


CAPEHART: George Romney was the first person running for president to
release his actual tax returns. Not put out a press release saying, here`s
how much money I made and here`s where it came from.

And he didn`t just release one or two years, the way that Mitt Romney
has released, he released 12 years, to make it clear, so that people could
know where --

O`DONNELL: Well, he said one year would prove nothing, two years
would prove nothing.

CAPEHART: Right. "One year could be a fluke" is the word.

Mitt Romney clearly must have something in those tax returns that he
doesn`t want anyone to see.

O`DONNELL: It`s at that point where you have to conclude --

REID: Right.

O`DONNELL: This is so politically damaging, the call is release tax
returns, do 12 of them like your father, at least, he won`t do it, he won`t
do it, he won`t do it. The damage keeps happening.

You get to a point here where you have to begin to logically conclude
that he has concluded, there`s more political damage for me in the tax
returns than in not releasing them.

CAPEHART: And the other piece of this is the fact that it`s not like
he`s never given his tax returns to anyone.

REID: Right.

CAPEHART: He gave 23 years` worth of tax returns to John McCain in
2008, when he was being vetted for vice president. So those tax returns
are done. They are in a box somewhere. Just transfer them from McCain `08
to, you know, the American people.

REID: It`s amazing, because --

O`DONNELL: I`ve heard speculation from at least one guy who has tax
returns similar to Romney`s, and a work history similar to Romney`s,
suggesting that one of the problems for Romney might simply be he`s
actually a billionaire. It`s way more than this $ $250 million, he`s got a
billion, and he made a judgment politically a while ago that billion isn`t
going to sound good and that`s the thing that he`s protecting -- as well as
all sorts of other possibilities.

REID: He didn`t pay any taxes at all.


REID: Right. I mean, isn`t it -- I mean, the thing is, he could have
done this in the spring when his audience would have been a Republican
primary audience. There were so many opportunities for them to do the very
simple political thing, which is, it`s campaigns 101, get it out yourself.

As you`re saying, there must be something in it they feel is so
indefensible that they couldn`t defend it. Is it that he paid no taxes in
one year, which is what everyone`s speculating about. The problem for
Romney is the media isn`t going to stop talking about this.


REID: The Obama campaign isn`t going to stop talking about this. No
one`s going to stop talking about it until he releases it.

O`DONNELL: And there`s a report indicating that Romney would not have
run if he thought he had to release his returns, which says Romney was
advised by the stupidest people in the history of American politics, who
said to him, oh, go ahead, run. You know, probably political consultant
who is stand to make millions of dollars on this campaign, said, oh, yes,
sure, run, you won`t have to release your returns.

CAPEHART: No, that must have been crazy. Remember, Mike Bloomberg,
mayor of New York City, was contemplating, came very close to running for
president. And I guarantee you, as mayor, he had to disclose his wealth,
where it came from, and you better believe that if he were to jump into the
race as president back in 2008, that he would have handed over his tax

The idea that Mitt Romney thinks he can run for president of the
United States and not do this most basic of sort of good governance,
sunshine, transparency actions that was a tradition started by his own
father, the idea that he thinks that he can get away with not continuing
the tradition --

REID: And run on Bain. And saying, but elect me because --


CAPEHART: And we left that part out.

That`s why we`re all talking about this.

REID: Exactly.

CAPEHART: He`s using Bain as sort of the foundation for his
candidacy, and now that we`re asking, OK, show, let`s see, now he doesn`t
want to talk about it.

O`DONNELL: And by the way, the other thing that a billionaire like
Mike Bloomberg would reveal as a candidate is here`s how much I`ve given to
charity and to various institutions that are not my church. That are, you
know, things that have nothing to do with me, over the years. Hundreds of
millions of dollars that the Bloomberg Foundation continues to give out

We`re not hearing any of that from Romney. He`s never come out and
say, oh, by the way, all of this money of mine, here are all the charitable
things I`ve done with it. Why isn`t he telling us that?

CAPEHART: Well, the only person I`ve heard talk about that was
Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison yesterday on with Chris Jansing, where she
said, he`s a big philanthropist, he`s given so much to charities --


CAPEHART: Exactly.


REID: Even the Koch brothers we know.

O`DONNELL: Joy Reid and Jonathan Capehart, hang around. We`re going
to come back and talk about George Zimmerman`s interview tonight.

Also, coming up, John McCain can only take so much crazy in Congress
and Michele Bachmann brought way, way too much crazy this week to the
Republican Party and John McCain wants to stop it. That`s ahead.

And as I said, George Zimmerman did an interview with Sean Hannity
tonight, just an hour ago. We`re going to be back with more analysis of
that interview, coming up.


O`DONNELL: Sean Hannity just did an interview with George Zimmerman
in which Zimmerman said he wouldn`t change a thing about the night he
killed Trayvon Martin. We`ll have more on that interview, coming up.

And in the "Rewrite" tonight, I`ll reveal the Democratic strategy that
can destroy, absolutely crush Grover Norquist`s control of tax policy in
Congress. That`s coming up.


O`DONNELL: The old John McCain was back today in the United States
Senate, the McCain who some Democrats used to like. The McCain who
wouldn`t go along with every crazy idea his party came up -- the old John
McCain took to the Senate floor to attack the bat crap crazy as ever
Michele Bachmann for accusing a State Department aide of being a secret
agent for the Muslim Brotherhood.

The target of Bachmann`s madness is Huma Abedin, who leaders around
the world recognize as always being at Secretary Clinton`s side and became
even more recognizable here when she was being chased by cameras during
coverage of the Twitter scandal involving her husband, former Congressman
Anthony Weiner.

And now I give you a moment of the old John McCain.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: These allegations about Huma Abedin
and the report from which they are drawn are nothing less than an
unwarranted and unfounded attack on an honorable citizen, a dedicated
American, and a loyal public servant.


O`DONNELL: Today Michele Bachmann`s former campaign chief of staff,
chief Ed Rollins, called Congresswoman Bachmann`s allegations against Huma
Abedin outrageous and unsubstantiated.

Adding, quote, "Having worked for Congressman Bachmann`s campaign for
president, I am fully aware that she sometimes have difficulty with her
facts. But this is downright vicious and reaches the late Senator Joe
McCarthy level. The Republican Party is going to become irrelevant if we
become the party of intolerance and hate. Mrs. Bachmann, you know better.
Shame on you, Michele."

So guys, the obvious question is, how much does this help Bachmann`s
possibilities of being named Mitt Romney`s vice president? Mark Thompson?

thought about it that way. It could help. But I think --

O`DONNELL: She`s actually not on our big board of possibilities, but
after today, you know, this could do it.

THOMPSON: Well, I think what bat girl does is, she helps appeal to
this lowest common denominator. They`re doing the dog whistling, they`re
trying to do anything that could be considered xenophobic, to appeal to a
reactionary base.

And frankly, that`s what Mitt Romney, up to a certain point, we
thought he was being held hostage to. It seems he`s bought completely into
that, and Michele Bachmann continues to maintain that type of argument,
that type of discussion, unfortunately.

O`DONNELL: And, Ari Melber, this raises a problem for the Republican
convention. Who can you allow on that stage? There`s already problems
with -- and normally, people who ran in the primaries and lost, they get
positions to speak, and there was only one woman in that field. You`d kind
of want to give her a position. But she`s out of her mind, so you can`t
let her get up on the stage.

Let`s listen to Newt Gingrich today talking about the possibilities of
Sarah Palin speaking at this convention.


LAURA INGRAHAM: Should Sarah Palin be given a speaking role at the
convention? Apparently she has not been invited to the convention and it
looks like some people are trying to keep her from speaking. What do you

Palin absolutely should have a speaking slot. She motivates and arouses an
entire base, and I think she absolutely should have a speaking slot.

INGRAHAM: You`re going to be speaking, right, Newt?

GINGRICH: Well, that`s up to the Romney people. I`m glad to do it if
they want me to. I would strongly support Governor Palin being given a
chance to speak to the country and I think she`d be very effective.


O`DONNELL: You`re going to be speaking, right, Newt? Well, uh, I
don`t know, they might think I`m too crazy too.

It`s a tough convention to get the speakers lined up.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: It is, and kind of the hangover of the
clown car of the Republican parties. Newt Gingrich said there that she
thinks he arouses the Republican base, I`ll leave Newt Gingrich and his
word choice alone to himself.

I think the problem is he`s wrong, actually, on the facts. About 40
percent of Republicans says there`s no chance they would vote for Palin
when polled on that question just last year by Pew. So, there is a
grassroots concern ability her.

But to the larger point you`re putting in context, Lawrence, there
isn`t a real reckoning from the guy at the top, Mitt Romney. He missed his
opportunity at the NAACP convention. I didn`t expect him to change his
policies of, you know, a 1 percent tilted tax plan, but I thought he might
have taken that opportunity to at least call out the fringe of the fringe.

And if you don`t do it, if you don`t have that the leadership, then it
continues and bubbles up. And it is not only anti-Muslim in this case and
bigoted, but traffics in a type of racism that`s been very unfortunate
throughout this campaign season.

O`DONNELL: So far, there`s only two Republicans they`re sure of will
speak at the convention, Mitt Romney and Chris Christie. They want Chris
Christie to do the keynote.

But let`s look at some video that indicates there could be problems
with Christie.


CHRISTIE: You know, first off, it`s none of your business.

If what you want to do is put on a show and giggle every time I talk,
well, then, I have no interest in answering your question.

Your rear end`s going to get thrown in jail, idiot.

Did I say on topic? Are you stupid?

Thank you all very much and I`m sorry for the idiot over there.

You know, you should really see me when I`m pissed.


O`DONNELL: OK, Mark Thompson, he`s going to have a teleprompter at
the convention. It`s not going to be like that where it`s a wide-open
situation where he might call someone an idiot. So he`ll be safe at the
convention, right?

THOMPSON: He`ll need it. And unfortunately, even with that, he`s
somebody whom is considered to be well-spoken and pretty placid. But we
see, that`s not exactly the case.

What`s incredible about all of this, I think, is John McCain, as you
said, looking like his old self, looking credible, looking honorable, and
looking like a statesman. Just 24 hours after he said Mitt Romney`s taxes
weren`t the issue, Sarah Palin was the better candidate. So for him to say
that, and now look even more credible today --

O`DONNELL: Introducing John McCain, to say once again at the
convention that Sarah Palin`s a better candidate than Mitt Romney. Whoa!

THOMPSON: Yes, it`s incredible, and his credibility today adds to
that. This is -- this is really going to be an interesting convention. If
I was the RNC, I`d do it on Pay-Per-View, because they could raise a lot of
money that way. Even if Ron Paul shows up and stages a big fight, it`s
going to be very exciting and peculiar.

O`DONNELL: Ari Melber and Mark Thompson, thank both for joining me

MELBER: Thank you.

THOMPSON: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Sean Hannity did just an interview with George Zimmerman
in which Zimmerman actually said he would not change a thing about the
night he killed Trayvon Martin. We`ll have more on that interview, coming



wish my great grandfather a happy birthday and a long journey in life.


O`DONNELL: That`s the great grandson of Nelson Mandela who celebrated
his 94th birthday today quietly with family. South Africa celebrated with
him. Thousands took part in volunteer projects and schoolchildren sang
happy birthday to him.

Coming up: why Grover Norquist should be afraid, very, very afraid, if
the Democrats choose a very simple strategy that could crush him. I`ll
tell you exactly how the Democrats can win the tax fight. That`s in the

And next, George Zimmerman just told Sean Hannity that he would not
change a thing about the night he killed Trayvon Martin. We`ll have more
on Sean Hannity`s Zimmerman interview, coming up next.


O`DONNELL: For the first time tonight, we heard directly from George
Zimmerman in a television interview. He went to the safest place he could
possibly go to do that. In an exclusive interview with Fox News, Sean
Hannity, Zimmerman gave an account what he says happened the night he shot
and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: There was one report, or police
report, that actually said you didn`t know after you fired -- you didn`t
think -- you thought you missed?

hit him, yes.

HANNITY: When did you know that Trayvon had died?

ZIMMERMAN: When I -- probably about an hour after I got to the police


O`DONNELL: George Zimmerman apologized to Trayvon Martin`s parents,
but as for that night, Zimmerman says, he would not do anything

And we don`t have the video for that. Here`s what he said. Hannity
said, "do you regret getting out of the car to follow Trayvon that night?"
Zimmerman, "no, sir, no." Hannity, "do you regret that you had a gun that
night?" "No, sir." Hannity, "do you feel you wouldn`t be here for this
interview if you didn`t have that gun?" "No, sir, I --"

Hannity, "do you feel that you would not be here?" Zimmerman, "I feel
it was all God`s plan. For me to second guess or it judge it --" Hannity,
"is there anything you might do differently in retrospect, now that time
has passed a little bit." "No, sir."

Joy, you watched the interview.

REID: It`s interesting. It wasn`t so much an interview as it was
Sean Hannity walking Zimmerman through a recitation of Mark O`Mara`s
version of his story. There was even a point where Hannity was doing about
twice as much talking as Zimmerman. He would say, so, you did this, and
then Zimmerman would say, yes, sir. And then when Zimmerman would try to
explain what happened and would leave out something that we`d heard in
previous Zimmerman testimony -- or, you know, previous testimony from the
police reports, Hannity would supply the missing word.

It was very strange. So I think for the defense, the strange thing
about it is number one, the prosecution is now going to go through this
tape looking for inconsistencies between the story he told tonight on Sean
Hannity`s program and the stories he`s told before. It`s a strange thing
to expose your client to.

But in the press release that came out before this interview, Mark
O`Mara made it clear that one of his purposes in doing this interview was
to get the fundraising going again. This is their audience. This is
Zimmerman`s sort of base. And he`s gone there in part to shore up the

O`DONNELL: Jonathan, what struck you about it?

CAPEHART: What struck me about it, and you read this "no regrets" --


O`DONNELL: It was God`s plan for Trayvon Martin to be dead.

CAPEHART: Right. So he says, "I have no regrets," Then later on, he
says, I want to apologize to the family. Then when Hannity goes after
Spike Lee and one of our colleagues here for rushing to judgment and
everything, what do you -- do you think Spike Lee owes you an apology, and
he says, yes. If I did something wrong, I would apologize. You notice,
all over the place?

REID: Right. And what was also strange about it is that he retells
the part of the story that I always thought was the strangest, where
essentially -- first of all, he said he didn`t think he`d even shot
Trayvon Martin, but you have multiple witnesses, including the first person
to speak to George Zimmerman afterward, who he reportedly said to the
person, I`ve just shot someone.

CAPEHART: I`ve just shot someone.

REID: But here he says, right, that he`s not even sure he had shot
him. But he did tell at least one witness that he had shot one, that he
didn`t know that he had died, that he didn`t know anything really until an
hour later. That was sort of strange.

But then he sort of retells this part of the story where he says,
after he pulls the trigger, Trayvon sort of sits back from having been
bashing him and says, you got me or you go it. And he says, well, I
interpreted that to mean, you`ve got the gun and I didn`t and that I`m not
going to fight anymore. And then when Trayvon slumped over, Sean Hannity
asked him, did you ever check to see if he had been badly hurt. And he
said, no.

O`DONNELL: But even if you don`t get into any of the account of
here`s what happened, you know, in a certain sequence, Hannity asked a
question that I think is actually a very good question, for which there is
only one logical answer. Hannity said to him, "do you feel you wouldn`t be
here for this interview if you didn`t have that gun?" Meaning, you
wouldn`t be in trouble. You wouldn`t be charged with this homicide if you
didn`t have that gun.

And Zimmerman says, no. You know, he says he thinks he, in effect --
he would still be here if he didn`t have the gun. No, he wouldn`t. This
we can prove beyond -- it`s impossible to suggest otherwise. If Zimmerman
did not have that gun, this would not have happened. Both of them would be
alive today.


O`DONNELL: And would Zimmerman have even gone and confronted Trayvon
at close quarters without a gun? I don`t think so. I don`t think he would
have gone near him. But if he did, no one would have died.

CAPEHART: You know, in detective Serrino`s -- Christopher Serrino`s
report, the capeus request, where he is asking that George Zimmerman be
brought in and arrested on manslaughter charges, he has, towards the end of
that two-page request, this whole thing could have been avoided if
Zimmerman had stayed in his car or if he had confronted Trayvon Martin, at
least identified himself as neighborhood watch, or a concerned resident.
And he didn`t do either.

O`DONNELL: You know, Hannity didn`t chase him down on that question,
but that question basically frames that and says, you know, look,
obviously, if you didn`t have the gun, none of this would have happened.
You wouldn`t be here. It couldn`t be more obvious.

REID: There`s even a sort of more problematic interpretation you
could have of that same question and answer. If what Sean Hannity meant
was do you think you would not be here, meaning you wouldn`t be alive if he
didn`t have the gun. And if he answered no to that, that undermines his
Stand Your Ground claim. Because the answer to that, if you really thought
you were in fear of your life, should be yes; if I didn`t have the gun, I
would not be here.

But if you were saying, no, I`d still be here, that`s problematic.
And the other sort of odd thing -- and this was really strange. I hadn`t
heard this before, is that when Sean Hannity asks him if he could have just
put himself in the mind-set of Trayvon Martin and thought, well, maybe
Trayvon Martin was running away from him, he said, no, that`s not possible.
He was skipping away. He wasn`t running away. What does that mean?

O`DONNELL: We will find out when they go to trial. Jonathan Capehart
and Joy Reid, thank you very much for joining me again.

Coming up, the long national nightmare of Grover Norquist`s mind
control of Congress is about to be over. That`s in the Rewrite.


O`DONNELL: In tonight`s Rewrite, the worst thing that could ever
happen to Grover Norquist. There is a way for the Democrats to Rewrite
their legislative strategy that would ruin Grover`s life`s work and free
every Republican in Congress from the dictatorial rule of Grover. The new
Democratic strategy that will completely destroy Grover`s power is simply
these three words: off the cliff.

Congressional Democrats should all get buttons made saying "off the
cliff." like, say, this one. Put bumper stickers on their cars saying,
"off the cliff," so that when Republicans see the Democratic cars in the
House and Senate garages, they`ll start to think, hey, maybe the Democrats
are finally serious this time.

Now, I know it sounds crazy to go off a cliff, it sounds reckless, it
sounds downright Republican to have a legislative strategy that says, let`s
just go off a cliff. That was the Tea Party strategy in the House on the
debt ceiling. They were willing to go off the cliff by refusing to raise
the debt ceiling, but the cliff I`m talking about is different.

This time, the only responsible thing to do is go off the cliff. A
fiscal cliff was written into law last year in the bill that raised the
debt ceiling. It says that if Congress and the president do not agree on
1.2 trillion in deficit reduction by New Year`s Eve, then budget cuts
amounting to 1.2 trillion will go into effect on January 1st, and half of
those cuts will be in defense spending.

Here`s what the cliff looks like. Here it is for non-defense
spending, on January 1st. It goes down 600 billion dollars. No one in
either party wants to see this happen, because this includes education
spending, infrastructure spending, everything except Medicare, Medicaid,
and Social Security. And even Tea Party members of Congress have some
spending in there that they want to protect.

Congress has never seen spending cuts like this before, a big crude
cut, where Congress can`t control exactly what is going to be cut, where
and by how much. And here is what the defense spending cliff looks like on
January 1st. Some Democrats might be OK with us going off this cliff on
defense spending. I, for one, would have no problem with it.

But no Republican wants to see us go off the cliff on defense
spending. Congressional Republicans are already in a bit of a panic about
the defense spending cliff. And that`s why they had Dick Cheney come up to
see them yesterday. Dick Cheney was there, not as a former vice president
giving them presidential campaign advice. He was there as a former defense
secretary, telling them how disastrous it would be, in his view, for us to
go off this cliff of defense spending, and what they would need to
desperately try to do immediately to protect in defense spending if we do
go off that cliff.

But there`s something else at the edge of the New Year`s Eve cliff
that Republicans fear even more than the defense spending cuts. And this
is the good news. The great news about the fiscal cliff. And it is the
worst thing that could ever happen to Grover Norquist. And that is the
complete and final expiration of all the Bush tax cuts.

There has always been an expiration date on the Bush tax cuts. And on
New Year`s Eve, it will finally arrive. And if Democrats just have the
courage to hold hands and jump off that cliff together, every income tax
rate will go up on January 1st. Not just the top rate, but the bottom
rates and the middle rates. All of the tax rates go up, straight up, on
January 1st.

Now, the Democrats don`t want to see that happen either. They only
want to see the top tax rates go up. But the Republicans are never going
to allow them to pass a bill increasing top tax rates. Never. The
Republicans have proven that they mean that. Democrats now have the chance
to prove that they are just as unyielding as Grover Norquist is.

And the only way that Democrats can do that is by going off the cliff
and letting all the tax rates go right up on January 1st, every one of
them. Because, then, the tax bill that the Democrats will introduce,
reintroduce, the Democrats` bill then that they`ll be trying to pass, it`s
now a tax increase -- they`re trying to pass it now and it`s a tax
increase, because what it does is, it raises, this year, the top income tax

Next year, on January 1st, if all the brackets have gone up, that very
same bill, introduced with the very same rates, suddenly becomes a tax cut.
A tax cut on all of the brackets, except the top brackets. And so then the
vote they will be asking Republicans to cast in the House and the Senate,
after we go off the cliff in January, will not be a vote to simply increase
the top tax rate. It will be a vote to decrease all -- all of the other
tax rates, right back to where they are now.

And according to their pledge to Grover Norquist, all Republicans must
vote for the Democratic tax bill then, because it is a tax cut and for most
brackets, and a tax increase -- it`s not a tax increase at all for the top

The Grover Norquist pledge will require them to vote for the
Democratic tax bill in January. A couple of Democrats in the Senate
started whispering this to me a few weeks ago, that they believe that the
only way to win this fight with the Republicans was to first, on New Year`s
Eve, go off the cliff. And now some Republicans in the secretly reasonable
Senate Republicans, a small handful of them in the Senate, have secretly
let it be known across the aisle that they are hoping that we go off the
cliff on New Year`s Eve, because then they cannot only vote for the
president`s tax policy in January, they can vote for it without breaking
their pledge to Grover Norquist.

In fact, it will keep their pledge to Grover Norquist. As I said, if
we go off the cliff in January, the pledge to Grover will require --
require all Republicans to vote for the president`s tax bill, because it
will then be a cut of most income tax brackets. The Treasury Department is
right now making plans for what will happen on the tax withholding tables
on your first paycheck in January after we go off the cliff and all the
income tax rates go up.

The strategists at the White House and the Treasury and the Democratic
leadership in Congress believe that if we go off the cliff, they will then
be able to pass the Democratic bill that cuts all of the tax rate back to
where they are now, except those top tax rates. And they`ll be able to do
that in a matter of days. The tax writing committee in the Senate knows
how to do this virtually instantaneously. So nothing -- nothing can give
the Democrats more power over tax policy than going off the cliff.

You might see a few more bucks withheld from your January paycheck,
maybe your first paycheck. But when Congress then quickly passes a bill
restoring your old tax rate, that January tax money will be refunded to
you. Congressional Democrats are going to need courage to do this, because
it`s a bold strategy, and boldness isn`t exactly their style.

And so tonight, THE LAST WORD "Off the Cliff" campaign begins. Call,
e-mail, Tweet your members of Congress and tell them you want them to go
off the cliff, and you`re ready to hold hands and go off the cliff with
them, even if it means a few more bucks withheld from your January
paycheck, because this time, doing the thing that sounds crazy, that sounds
reckless, going off the cliff is the only way to restore sanity and
fairness in taxation. And it`s the only way to end the dictatorial rule of
Grover Norquist.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Romney, you say you`re a moderate on social
issues, one who will defend abortion rights, equal rights for women, for
blacks, and for gays. In fact, you say you will do more to promote gay
rights than Senator Kennedy. You also sit on the national executive board
of the Boy Scouts of America, which has an exclusionary policy banning gay
members. Do you support that policy? And if not, have you ever done
anything as a board member to oppose it?

Scouts of America does a wonderful service for this country. I support the
right of the Boy Scouts of America to decide what it wants to do on that
issue. I feel that all people should be allowed to participate in the Boy
Scouts, regardless of their sexual orientation.


O`DONNELL: That`s Mitt Romney pandering to Massachusetts voters in a
1994 debate with Senator Edward Kennedy. Mitt Romney did not change the
Scout`s policy banning gay members and gay and lesbian parents from
leadership roles when he was on the Boy Scouts` National Executive Board.
And so yesterday, a secret scout committee decided unanimously to keep it,
saying the policy, quote, "reflects the beliefs and perspectives of the
organization. And while a majority of our membership agrees with our
policy, we fully understand that no single policy will accommodate the many
diverse views among our membership or society."

That didn`t accommodate Jennifer Terrell, an Ohio mom who was removed
from her position as a scout master in April because she is gay. Today,
she delivered 300,000 petitions to the Boy Scouts headquarters in Irvine,
Texas, asking to be reinstated and was denied.


It`s not OK. It`s just not. And my big concern was the kids in my pack
would think I abandoned them. I`m here. I`m not going anywhere. I`m
staying until I`m included.


O`DONNELL: The policy also ended scouting for Eric Jones, an Eagle
Scout. Eric was told to pack up and leave the scout camp where he was
working this summer in St. Joseph, Missouri, after he told the camp`s
director that he is gay. In 2000, the Supreme Court ruled five to four
that the Boy Scouts is a private organization and can deny membership to

Joining me now is Zach Wahls, founder of Scouts for Equality, and
author of "My Two Moms." Zach, tell us about Scouts for Equality.

group that I started in the wake of a petition delivery in June similar to
the one that Jennifer delivered today down in Texas. And it was a group
that I felt was necessary to act as a public face of scouts who also oppose
this policy. As an Eagle Scout and the son of a lesbian couple, obviously
it`s pretty clear where I stand on this issue.

O`DONNELL: And, you know, I don`t have any experience with Boy
Scouts. And so I really wasn`t sure how big a phenomenon it is. There`s
2.7 million Boy Scouts, which is a very substantial percentage, actually,
of the boys of that age. And according to the information that different
organizations that supply, -- that the members come from, Mormon Church
organizations, more Boy Scouts come from Mormon Church organizations than
any other place.

Does that -- do you think that has some effect on this kind of policy?

WAHLS: Oh, absolutely. The Mormon Church, if I remember correctly,
is responsible for 13 percent of all membership of youth units across the
country. So we`re talking about a very significant portion of their
membership that has a very specific set of beliefs when it comes to this
issue. And I believe that`s one of the reasons why the BSA has been to
hesitant to change this policy. They fear in a very real way of losing
that membership.

It`s one of the reasons why yesterday, the Boy Scouts went ahead and
reaffirmed this policy. There have been a number of things kind of working
against this policy over the last few months. And I think that there are a
number of things that are finally coming into focus. One of them was that
on Monday, the BSA learned that the vice president of their board, the CEO
of AT&T, Randall Stephenson, went on the record expressing his support for
ending this policy.

So at the point that the vice president of their board -- and this man
will be the president in just two years -- is publicly going on the record,
it`s pretty clear that this is not going to stand for much longer.

O`DONNELL: Zach, the Catholic church organization supplies the third
largest group of Boy Scouts. And so there is a very heavy religious
influence in the Boy Scouts, isn`t there, in your experience? I just don`t
know. I haven`t been around them.

WAHLS: That`s definitely true. The Boy Scouts, have been for a very
long time both a service and a religion organization. Every time you say
the Scout Oath, you pledge to do your duty to God and country.

O`DONNELL: Zach Wahls gets tonight`s LAST WORD. Thanks for joining
us tonight, Zach.

WAHLS: Yes. Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: "THE ED SHOW" is up next.


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