Guests: David Cay Johnston, Ted Strickland, Vincent Hughes, Amanda Terke
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: Ninety-seven days to go and the swing
states are swinging, swinging to President Obama.
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Our critics charge that letting
you keep more of your earnings would trigger an inflationary explosion,
send interest rates soaring, and destroy our economy.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hold on, it gets worse.
REAGAN: Well, we cut your tax rates anyway.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s not just trickle-down, it`s double-down,
BARACK OBAMA: Add a new $5 trillion tax cut on top of it.
AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Romney`s tax plan would raise taxes on 95
percent of this country.
BARACK OBAMA: Does that sound like a plan you can afford?
SHARPTON: Folks, this is outrageous! And the president knows it.
BARACK OBAMA: Guess who gets the bill for these $250,000 tax cuts?
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Raising taxes at this
point in this economy is a very big mistake.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They blame President Obama for raising your taxes.
BOEHNER: It`s time to put the rhetoric aside.
BARACK OBAMA: The problem we`ve got right now is our politics.
ROBERT GIBBS, OBAMA CAMPAIGN: He understands where the buck stops.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president`s doing very well in one swing state
MICHELLE OBAMA, U.S. FIRST LADY: This election is a choice about
supporting women and families in this country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A new Quinnipiac/CBS poll shows President Obama
BARACK OBAMA: The choice we face in November could not be bigger.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Democrats have been very good at having this
narrative that Mitt Romney is out of touch.
BARACK OBAMA: Now, we still have a long way to go.
MICHELLE OBAMA: This November, we get to decide.
DAVID LETTERMAN, COMEDIAN: How many of you would vote for our
incumbent president, Obama? How many --
MICHELLE OBAMA: I am fired up! I`m so ready to go.
O`DONNELL: With 97 days until the presidential election, new polling
shows the president has turned a key state, previously considered a toss-
up, into a safe Obama win.
And today, President Obama attacked Mitt Romney`s proposal to cut
income taxes for only the wealthiest Americans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Just today, an independent, nonpartisan organization, they
crunched all the numbers. They found that if Governor Romney wants to keep
his word and pay for this plan, of this $5 trillion tax cut, the only way
to do it is to cut tax breaks that you middle class families depend on. In
order to afford just a tax cut for somebody like Mr. Romney, 125 families
like yours would have to pay another $2,000 in taxes each year.
Does that sound like a plan you can afford?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The tax study President Obama touted was conducted by the
nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.
Today, the Romney campaign dismissed that study because, according to
them, the Tax Policy Center is, of course, quote, "liberal."
But last November, the Romney campaign called a study from that same
organization, quote, "objective, third-party analysis."
A "New York Times"/Quinnipiac poll shows that President Obama has
turned Pennsylvania from a toss-up into a safe win among likely voters in
Pennsylvania. President Obama leads Mitt Romney by 11 points, 53-42
percent. The lead is so wide that the Obama and Romney campaigns are
currently no longer advertising in that state.
In Florida, President Obama leads Mitt Romney by six points, 51
percent to 45 percent.
In Ohio, President Obama leads Mitt Romney by six points, 50 percent
to 44 percent.
And a "Detroit Free Press" poll of likely Michigan voters shows
President Obama leading Mitt Romney in that state by six points, 48 percent
of 42 percent.
Wins in those four states would yield 83 Electoral College votes and
secure President Obama`s re-election.
Here is team Romney`s newest attempt to win Ohio.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: In 2009, under the Obama administration`s bailout of
General Motors, Ohio dealerships were forced to close.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That is a curious way to advertise, considering that Mitt
Romney wrote an editorial in "The New York Times" in 2008 saying, let
Detroit go bankrupt. And in May, Romney said this --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My own view by the way was
that the auto companies needed to go through bankruptcy before government
help. And frankly, that`s finally what the president did. He finally took
them through bankruptcy. That was the right course. I argued for it from
the very beginning. So I`ll take a lot of credit for the fact that this
industry`s come back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now, Howard Fineman, "Huffington Post"
editorial director and MSNBC analyst and David Cay Johnston, Pulitzer Prize
winning columnist for "Reuters".
David, take us through this tax argument that`s going on now, between
the two campaigns.
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, REUTERS: Well, the president is doing something
that his predecessors did not, and that is, explaining how this really
works. So if you make less than $200,000 a year, if you think you should
pay higher taxes, so that people who make $1 million a year can pay less,
Romney`s got a really great plan. I don`t happen to share that particular
view, but -- and the savings are pretty big at the top. The average would
be about $1,600 a week that you would save.
The president`s making it very clear, you will pay for this. You will
have to pay for this at the bottom. And I think that`s hurting Romney very
Romney`s argument is to come back and say, no, this will create jobs.
And the problem we have with that, of course, is we have 12 years of
experience, now, with tax cuts to create jobs and it didn`t work.
O`DONNELL: Howard Fineman, you have seen what we`ve all seen with
Barack Obama, the candidate, is that the more he makes a particular
argument, especially the ones that are a little bit complex, the better he
gets at it. And here we see him with these leads in these polls in the
swing states, having made some of these arguments. It seems that he has
found the right spot in the tax argument.
And my bet here is that he`s only going to get better at refining and
simplifying that point.
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALSYT: Yes, they keep pushing on
what turned out to be an open door, Lawrence. A few months ago, a lot of
analysts, including this one, me, wondered if pushing the fairness argument
on taxes was risky for President Obama. But it turns out, in a time of a
bleak economy, when everybody`s looking for a fair shake, that this
argument really works. And it`s not just that rich people are going to get
more, what the president is saying now is, middle class voters are going to
And on top of that, Lawrence, he`s now -- having secured that ground,
he`s now going to the deficit argument on this too, which is very shrewd of
In a speech in Akron today, it was all about this topic. He didn`t
talk about anything else but this. It`s clearly working.
And the problem that Mitt Romney has is, once again, he`s being
pinioned on the fact that he`s not giving any details. He`s running an "I
don`t have to tell you any details" campaign. Not about his taxes, not
about his faith, not about his family, not about Massachusetts health care,
and not about the details of his tax plan.
If this so-called liberal think tank is wrong, let`s see his numbers.
He hasn`t put out any, which is why the Obama campaign is pushing on this
O`DONNELL: And, David, the fact that the Romney, as a candidate, will
not release tax returns, seems to me to help create an echo effect of the
president`s argument about taxes.
JOHNSTON: Oh, it helps a great deal. And let`s go to his IRA, you
could only put up to --
O`DONNELL: Romney`s IRA has $100 million.
JOHNSTON: Twenty million to $100 million, probably $100 million. You
can only put $5,000 a year into an IRA.
O`DONNELL: I`ve been trying to figure this out.
JOHNSTON: He put in something that they either valued close to zero.
But the more important part, the other investors in Bain who weren`t him,
they didn`t get those kinds of returns. They didn`t turned $5,000 over
maybe even 10 years, so $50,000 into $100 million. The managers of Bain
took care of themselves first and foremost ahead of their investors.
Now, what does that suggest to you about President Romney and who he`s
going to take care of if he`s elected?
O`DONNELL: Howard, the thing about $100 million in an IRA is there
are so many voters out there who have these IRAs, and they, you know, they
would be very, very lucky to be able to amass $100,000 in an IRA in the
course of their working --
FINEMAN: Yes, I would say most people who have one, and there are
tens and tens of millions who do, understand how they work. So, just those
numbers alone are killers out there on the campaign trail. And you`re
right, having watched every day to what the president`s saying, talking to
his people in Chicago, they plunged into this and the numbers are now
showing the effect of it.
The NBC/CBS poll I thought was fascinating, because people are pretty
lacking in bright hopes about the future right now. But they want a fair
shake. And that argument, which is an old Democratic argument, that the
Democrats put aside, really, for a while, has come back with a vengeance,
and unless Mitt Romney can show something about his own values, about who
he is, that will tell a different story than the one that`s being put
together, because of his pension for secrecy, he`s in deep trouble.
And that`s what these numbers in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida show.
Pennsylvania`s very significant, Lawrence, you`re right to focus on it. If
the Dems can take that off the table, that`s an enormous advantage for
O`DONNELL: Howard Fineman and David Cay Johnston, thank you both for
joining me tonight.
FINEMAN: Thanks, Lawrence.
JOHNSTON: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, the bat crap crazy wing of the Republican Party
is causing trouble for the Republicans who actually want to win the White
And Sarah Palin`s really mad at a guy she likes to call Dick. David
Corn and Karen Finney will join me.
And new information tonight on the voter suppression laws sweeping
across the country. Former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland will join me.
And later, what has happened to the price of cocaine in the four
decades of the war on drugs? Well, I don`t have to tell you.
Why are we still fighting the unwinnable war? The war on drugs is
once again in tonight`s "Rewrite."
O`DONNELL: Uniting the Republican Party so they can be one, big happy
family at their convention in Tampa isn`t easy with a party that includes
Michele Bachmann, bat crap crazy Congressman Steve King, and constant
troublemaker and Republican Party embarrassment Sarah Palin. We`ll see
just how big the Republican`s circus tent is going to have to be during
Karen Finney and David Corn will join me on that.
And Republicans are turning on -- they are turning against the most
powerful man in Washington who does not sleep in the White House. That`s
right. Grover Norquist is in trouble with his base. That`s coming up
O`DONNELL: As President Obama climbs in the polls, Republicans are
losing it. Unifying the bat crap crazy wing of the Republican Party with
the "hide your tax return" wing of the Republican Party in order to have
one big, happy family convention is looking more and more difficult. In
bat crap crazy news, Iowa Congressman Steve King still believes that the
Republican path to the White House goes straight through Barack Obama`s
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: It would have been awfully hard to
fraudulently file the birth notice of Barack Obama being born in Hawaii and
get that into our public libraries in that microfiche that they keep of all
the newspapers published. That doesn`t mean that there aren`t some other
explanations on how they might have announced that by telegram from Kenya.
The list goes on.
But drilling into that now, even if we could get a definitive answer,
and if that turned out to be that Barack Obama was conclusively not born in
America, I don`t think we could get that case sold between now and
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Republican Tennessee State Representative Kelly Keisling
had an aide forward an e-mail to his constituents that included a
conspiracy theory so indescribably insane, my only choice is to read it to
you in full.
"According to the newspaper`s coverage of this DHS whistle-blower, the
event would be staged -- a staged assassination attempt on the life of
President Obama that would be blamed on white supremacists and subsequently
used to enrage black and Hispanic communities, driving them to rioting all
across the nation. The faked assassination, says the CFP report, would be
carried out through the assistance of DHS agents and other colluders,
taking their orders from the White House.
The objective would be to stir up enough racial unrest to justify the
imposition of martial law in major urban cities, including erecting DHS
checkpoints, restricting travel, and delaying, possibly indefinitely, the
November 2012 elections."
And the most recent losing vice presidential candidate who will never
be president is really, really mad at a guy she likes to call Dick.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: It seems how Dick -- excuse
me, Vice President Cheney never misfires, then evidently he`s quite
convinced that what he had evidently read about me, by the lamestream
media, having been written, what I believe is a false narrative, over the
last four years, evidently, Dick Cheney believed that stuff. And that`s a
shame. So he characterized me as being a mistake.
Here`s where the mistake would have been, Greta. I believe it`s had I
not answered the call.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now are David Corn, Washington bureau chief,
and former -- and "Mother Jones" and MSNBC political analyst. And Karen
Finney, former -- there`s the former -- DNC communications director and
MSNBC political analyst. And pardon me for being thrown by Sarah Palin`s
urge, I think I saw on that video, to use the word "Dick" and "misfire" in
the same sentence and aim it at the former vice president of the United
Karen, Sarah Palin -- with problems like Sarah Palin, how does the
Republican Party have this one big, happy family event they`ve got planned
in Florida at the end of the month?
KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I can`t wait. I`m
so excited! I would say I actually think that maybe between now and the
start of their convention, we should have the bat-crap crazy watch, because
I feel like there`s plenty of fodder. We could probably do something just
about every day. Because, actually, you know you`re in trouble when you`re
the Republican Party and Sarah Palin is the least of the bat-crap crazy
when you`ve got -- what was that, an assassination attempt to -- I wish we
were that smart.
I mean, of course we`re not going to do something like that. But,
look, what I think we`re all looking forward to is how this one big, happy
family comes together in Tampa, amidst all of the sort of conspiracy
theories and, you know, the infighting.
And I don`t see Sarah Palin or Ron Paul going quietly into the night.
So it should be very interesting to watch.
O`DONNELL: David, we got an apology from Mr. Keisling in Tennessee
who had that e-mail sent out with the crazy conspiracy theory about
President Obama suspending the election because of a fake assassination
His apology, you know, he says, you know, I shouldn`t -- it shouldn`t
have been forwarded. He says, it should not have been sent out. He says,
it was inappropriate for distribution. He says he regrets the error, which
was the error of distributing it, and he pledges to be more cautious in the
He never says, oh, by the way, it was completely wrong. He just says
it was inappropriate for distribution. We`re just supposed to read that
stuff alone and not let the media find out about it.
DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES: What he meant to say was, I`m sorry it
didn`t go just to my Second Amendment e-mail list. That`s the problem
You know, per your earlier point or earlier question to Karen, I think
it`s pretty obvious, at the Republican convention, we just need to have one
crazy night, you know, pick Monday, Tuesday, whatever you want to be,
probably not Thursday, but, you know, pick one crazy night and put them up
one after the other.
The Muslim Brotherhood taking over the State Department, the self-
assassination plan. You can have two or three birthers. You can have the
taking your guns of black helicopters.
I mean, that would be pay-for-TV if you ask me, probably the highest-
rated night of the convention. It would get networks back on board
covering this stuff.
FINNEY: I was going to say, maybe that`s how they`ll get ratings.
CORN: This is a great marketing opportunity I`m giving you for
O`DONNELL: All right. Republican Pennsylvania Congressman Mike Kelly
stepped into the center ring of the Republican crazy circus today, warning
the world about what it means now that private insurance plans must cover
contraception services. Let`s listen to Mike Kelly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIKE KELLY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: So I know in your mind, you can
think of the times that America was attacked. One is December 7th, that`s
Pearl Harbor day. The other is September 11th, and that`s the day of the
I want you to remember August the 1st, 2012, the attack on our
religious freedom. That is a date that will live in infamy, along with
those other dates.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Karen, Mike Kelly has 5,722 children, because he does not
believe in contraception. I mean, you know -- Karen Finney, go ahead. I
don`t know what to say about what I just saw.
FINNEY: There`s the thing on this, that we didn`t really get to talk
about the last time we were talking about aspirin between our knees, so I
guess thanks to him, we`re going to talk about it again. You know, the men
who sleep with women, they ought to be just as happy as women that we have
access to birth control, because, you know, a lot of guys don`t come
prepared, so I don`t know what this guy is thinking, but I think a lot of
women see today as a very important day, when we actually were able to take
control of our health care and not have the government tell you what we can
and can`t do.
I don`t know how else to make any sense to have that.
CORN: It`s really confusing, because he compared today to September
11th, which was, of course, engineered by Osama bin Laden. But also,
Barack Obama is in charge of this attack, but he also killed Osama bin
Laden. And it`s, I don`t know, I find this really hard to keep track of.
Can you give me a wiring diagram or something, so I know what days to
really drape in black?
O`DONNELL: Pearl Harbor day is the equivalent of -- now of August
1st, 2012. It`s --
FINNEY: And access to medicine.
CORN: And what are you going to do on August 5th, when we get free
mammograms and colonoscopies?
O`DONNELL: Oh, yes.
FINNEY: Think about that, women having access to medicine is a day
that is akin to 9/11, is what this man just said. That`s the thinking
going on in that building behind me.
O`DONNELL: David Corn, Ted Cruz, who won the Republican nomination
for the Senate seat in Texas last night, has said that the entire mission
now of the Tea Party is to push Mitt Romney farther to the right. I mean,
I`m not sure how much more to the right Romney has to go during the
campaign, but what they mean is, when they elect him president, they are
going to enforce, day in and day out, that he stay the right-wing Mitt
Romney, not that Massachusetts Romney.
CORN: Well, I`m looking forward to the primary pallet in 2016 between
Mitt Romney and, I don`t know, Ted Cruz. I mean, that`s what they want to
But as the polling that, you know, you talked about earlier and we`ve
been talking about all day shows, Mitt Romney is not faring well, if he
doesn`t start capturing more of the middle, more of those independent
votes, he`s not going to become president, so they won`t have to worry
about keeping his feet to the fire.
O`DONNELL: David Corn and Karen Finney, thank you both for joining me
on this day that will not live in infamy.
CORN: We hope not.
Coming up, voter suppression is not quite as easy as Republicans think
it is, as they found out in a Pennsylvania courtroom this week. We`ll have
the latest developments in the Republican voter suppression campaign.
And in the "Rewrite" tonight, how many more lives will we sacrifice in
the unwinnable 40-year war, the war on drugs?
O`DONNELL: Author, screenwriter, playwright and occasional actor Gore
Vidal left us yesterday at 86 -- age of 86. In 1968, during the Democratic
National Convention in Chicago, which turned into rioting in the streets,
Gore Vidal debated conservative Republican William F. Buckley, Jr. at the
height of the Vietnam War on ABC News.
If you think debates get rough on cable news, wait until you hear
these two distinguished gentleman throwing around terms like "crypto-Nazi"
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GORE VIDAL: You must realize what some of the political issues are
here. People in the United States happen to believe that the United
States policy is wrong in Vietnam and that the Vietcong are correct in
wanting to organize their own country in their own way politically. This
happens to be pretty much the opinion of Western Europe and other parts of
It is a novelty in Chicago, and that is too bad. But I assume that
the point of the American democracy is something you can express any point
of view you want.
WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY: Shut up for a minute. Some people are neo-Nazi
and they were well treated by people who ostracize them. And I`m for
ostracizing people who egg on other people to shoot American Marines and
VIDAL: As far as I`m concern, the only sort of pro or crypto-Nazi I
can think of is yourself.
BUCKLEY: Now listen you queer, stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I`ll
you in our Goddamn face and you`ll stay plastered.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gentleman, let`s --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go back to his pornography and stop making any
allusions of Nazi infantry in the last war.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You were not --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: We`ll have more of Gore Vidal later. And it`s intern
night once again here on THE LAST WORD. Following many, many years of LAST
WORD tradition, Sherman Fabes of Staten Island and the University of
Missouri now gets to tell you what`s coming up in the show. Go, Sherman.
SHERMAN FABES, THE LAST WORD INTERN: Thanks, Lawrence. Coming up, he
used to be the most powerful man in Washington. Now Grover Norquist could
be losing his base, though. And why can`t the people who want voter I.D.
laws remember what`s in those voter I.D. laws? That`s coming up.
And in the Rewrite, the war that cannot be won, the war on drugs.
That`s coming up.
O`DONNELL: Beautifully done. Way to go.
O`DONNELL: In the Spotlight tonight, voter suppression. Last week we
showed you just how much the governor of Pennsylvania, the man who signed
the new voter photo I.D. bill into law, knows about the acceptable forms of
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. TOM CORBETT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Other forms of I.D.s, so I don`t
know where people are getting the data as to how many people don`t have,
because the other forms of I.D. can be student I.D. We`ve been working
with the nursing homes to get people new I.D.. It can be military I.D.
There`s two or three other forms, right now off the top of my head. I
don`t have it here in front of me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And tonight, meet Pennsylvania Secretary of the Common
Wealth, Republican Carol Aichele. Yesterday, during the state trial on the
photo I.D. law, Secretary Aichele said, quote, "I don`t know what the law
says." She also said that she doesn`t know exactly how many voters will be
affected by the new law, but believes that 99 percent of voters will have
the right I.D.
Meanwhile, the state of Pennsylvania estimates that about 758,000
people, or about nine percent of Pennsylvania voters, do not have proper
I.D., according to the new law. The American Civil Liberties Union puts
that number closer to a million.
Today, during the last day of the trial, Philadelphia`s Democratic
deputy city commissioner said, "I`m anticipating a mess on election day."
Joining me now, Pennsylvania State Senator Vincent Hughes and former
Ohio Governor Ted Strickland. Senator Hughes, what is the latest status of
the case, the trial in Pennsylvania?
STATE SEN. VINCENT HUGHES (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, Lawrence, thank
you for giving me the opportunity to be with you. Essentially, things kind
of wrapped up today. The judge is predicting, I believe, the week of
August 13th, to render a decision. What we know so far, and everything
that we followed in the proceedings is that it hasn`t gone very well for
the state, capped off by the secretary of state`s comments that you just
There`s been some very compelling testimony from anecdotal stories,
especially by those individuals who filed the suit, Miss Applewhite, Miss
Gonzalez, Miss Lee, talking about all kinds of issues that they`ve had to
go through with respect to trying to get their identification.
And we need to be clear, this is -- this law is simply a voter
suppression move. It is a return to a poll tax. It is partisan in nature.
But it is absolutely a return to a poll tax. People are having to spend
hundreds of dollars to try to locate their appropriate identification,
largely their birth certificates. They`re having to go through all kinds
of hoops to get that identification, so they can get their photo I.D.
And it really is falling badly -- at least on the outside looking at
the court operator, it doesn`t look very good for the court. But I`m not
into predicting court decisions. This issue has been very partisan in
nature. I think we need to wait, but I think we need to also keep our
fingers crossed. But I think this is going very well for the people and
their right to exercise their franchise.
O`DONNELL: Governor Strickland, what should happen in this case, like
the Pennsylvania case, where basically you have a secretary of state
saying, I don`t know what`s in the law. It`s her job to enforce it in that
state, make it work. Doesn`t even know, because of, obviously, the
complexity of it, and the fact that it just doesn`t make any sense.
What is the right judicial remedy at this stage?
TED STRICKLAND, FORMER GOVERNOR OF OHIO: Well, Lawrence, what we`re
facing, not only in Pennsylvania and we`ve faced it in Ohio and other
states, is a planful, purposeful attempt to keep legitimate voters from
casting their votes. That is a shameful set of circumstances. Every
Republican in these states should be ashamed of what their party is doing.
Now, the courts, I think, have the ultimate responsibility to make
sure that the rights of the people are protected. And I would hope that
that would be the outcome, certainly, in the Pennsylvania case. Here in
Ohio, we`ve got a case, because the legislature says that people are going
to be deprived here in Ohio from voting on the weekend before the election.
That`s a time when many thousands of Ohioans have voted in the past.
And so the Obama administration, with the Ohio Democratic Party, have
joined in a suit trying to get that changed as well. But look at what`s
happening in many states. And it is truly shameful behavior. It is an
insult to our democracy. And the leaders of the Republican party who are
engaging in this kind of behavior really should be hugely ashamed of
themselves, because they are attacking the most fundamental part of our
nation`s democratic process. And that is the right of citizens to cast
O`DONNELL: Governor Strickland, when you look out at these laws that
have -- in the Ohio law, and others around the country, they all seem to
imply that in the past, there has been some kind of problem that`s being
remedied. Like, for example, in Ohio, that early voting in the days before
the election, was there, in the past in Ohio some problem with that form of
STRICKLAND: Lawrence, they have a solution for a problem that doesn`t
exist. And quite frankly, they are willing to deprive hundreds of
thousands of people of their legitimate right to vote in order to solve a
nonexistent problem. That`s why, I think, most Americans understand this
for what it is. It is a shameful, planful attempt to deprive poor people
and minority folks and students and older people from their legitimate
right to vote.
That is shameful behavior.
O`DONNELL: Pennsylvania Senator Vincent Hughes and former Ohio
Governor Ted Strickland, thank you both very much for joining me tonight.
STRICKLAND: Thank you, Lawrence.
HUGHES: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, the futile war America keeps fighting, the
endless war on drugs. That`s in tonight`s Rewrite.
O`DONNELL: In 1971, Gore Vidal`s feud with fellow novelist Norman
Mahler went public on "The Dick Cavett Show." Gore Vidal`s debate strategy
that night was mostly to let Norman Mahler make the case against Norman
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VIDAL: I`m beginning to see what bothers you now. Okay, I`m getting
MAHLER: Are you ready to apologize?
VIDAL: I would apologize if -- if it hurts your feelings, of course I
MAHLER: No, it hurts my sense of intellectual pollution.
VIDAL: I would say, as an expert, you should know.
MAHLER: I guarantee you, I wouldn`t pick any of the people here,
because they are smaller.
VIDAL: In what ways?
MAHLER: Intellectually. Intellectually smaller.
VIDAL: Let me turn my chair and join these three. Perhaps you`d like
two more chairs to contain your giant intellect.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Yes, television was once great.
O`DONNELL: In tonight`s Rewrite, how long do you fight a war that
cannot be won? That is first and foremost a moral question. It is also a
political question, because all wars are political, and no war is more
political than our longest war, the war on drugs.
We fought the Vietnam war long past the point when we knew we could
not win. And in the process, sent 58,193 Americans to die there in a 14-
year period. Before we ended American involvement in the Vietnam War, we
started the war on drugs, which is now 41 years old.
The objective of the war on drugs is to end illegal drug consumption
in the United States. The war plan was that in the march toward victory in
the war on drugs, the price of drugs would be driven sky-high as the
government seized more and more drugs and made drugs more rare. And
therefore, much more expensive.
Eduardo Porter (ph) reported last month in "the New York Times" that
according to Drug Enforcement Administration data, the street price of one
gram of pure cocaine from your local dealer is 177.26 dollars. That is a
lot of money. That`s more than I`ve ever paid or will pay for one gram of
It sounds like the war on drugs is working, at least driving up the
price of cocaine. But the price of cocaine is, in fact, 74 percent cheaper
than it was 30 years ago. There`s the retail price of pure cocaine,
tracked over the last 30 years.
We have seen similar drops in the price of heroin, at the same time.
The government has spent 20 to 25 billion dollars a year trying to drive
that price up, bend that curve up. Every dollar spent on that war on drugs
simply makes the failure of the war on drugs more and more expensive.
The warriors against drugs would tell you that if the price of cocaine
drops like that, the use of cocaine will increase. But cocaine has dropped
right along with the price. Every theory of how the war on drugs would
work has been proven wrong. And the war on drugs now functions as a
massive transfer of wealth to drug cartels and a relentless destroyer of
lives here and in drug trafficking countries.
The Rand Corporation has done a study showing that if marijuana were
legalized just in California, Mexican drug cartels would lose about a fifth
of their annual income from the United States, which is now 6.5 billion
dollars a year. It makes you wonder how much money the drug cartels must
be funneling into the California campaigns against legalizing their
The greatest tragedy in the war on drugs are the innocent casualties,
the men and women, boys and girls who end up in our legal system and our
prison system because of an innocent exploration with marijuana and other
drugs. That is the part of the war on drugs that is manufacturing
criminals, taking people who would otherwise never get arrested and ruining
their lives, throwing them in jail, making them unemployable when they get
out, and moving many of them closer to a life of crime now that they are
ex-cons instead of mere pot smokers.
That could have happened to President Obama, but it didn`t. Not
because he was lucky, but because his experience with drugs is the normal
American experience with drugs. Most people never come close to getting
arrested for recreational drug use. Recreational, experimental drug use in
this country is normally a phase of a few years or maybe 10 years, that
becomes a faded memory or a very occasional pleasure after people turn 30
or get married or get pregnant.
The American experience is that people simply age out of drug use and
most of them then spend the rest of their lives in a much more dangerous
relationship with perfectly legally obtained alcohol. But just by chance,
by bad luck, some recreational drug users get their lives ruined by the war
Bad luck is not equally distributed in our society, so the bad luck
casualties of the war on drugs are disproportionately poor and
disproportionately African-American. We call it the war on drugs, not the
war on young African-American men. But if you look at the victims of our
war effort, our war on drugs, the American government`s war on drugs, the
war that we pay for, it`s hard to continue to call it a war on drugs.
Drugs have not suffered in this war. The war has not reduced the
supply of drugs or increased the prices of drugs. The war has not harmed
drugs in any way. It is a war in which the only damage done is collateral
damage. Drug addicts, who need treatment, are thrown in jail instead.
Young people going through the now-completely normal rite of passage with
drug experimentation get their lives ruined for no good reason.
We have sacrificed the lives of millions to a war that cannot be won.
We`ve gone from a president who tried to make us believe he didn`t inhale
to a president who simply refused to answer whether he used cocaine, to a
president who honestly described his cocaine experimentation and marijuana
phase. And through it all, the war on drugs rages on.
How did we let it happen? How do our presidents and politicians who
know better let it happen? Why are we in the 41st year of the merciless
sacrifice of the innocence? Why do we sacrifice millions of lives to a war
that cannot be won? And perhaps, most importantly, what have we sacrificed
in ourselves that allows us to turn away from this crime against humanity
day after day?
Ireland`s most renowned poet, William Butler Yeats, wrote the answer
in this line, 96 years ago: "too long a sacrifice can make a stone of the
O`DONNELL: Viewers of this program know Grover Norquist as the most
powerful man in America who does not sleep in the White House. Tonight,
let me introduce you to Grover`s conservative arch enemy, Frank Gaffney.
Gaffney has a 10-part web course, the Muslim Brotherhood in America, which
counts among its students, bat-crap crazy Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.
In the course, Gaffney explains how he believes radical Islamic
fundamentalists have infiltrated the American conservative movement and
claims one of those operatives is Grover Norquist.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANK GAFFNEY, CENTER FOR SECURITY POLICY: My own organization, the
Center for Security Policy, sublets space from Americans for Tax Reform.
That`s right. For seven long years, we shared elevators, a hallway,
lavatories, a conference space and even a Xerox room. I consider this
unlikely arrangement to be an act of providence.
Shortly after we moved into our offices, one of my colleagues pulled
me aside and said, did you know there`s an Islamist front group on the
other side of that Xerox room? I didn`t at the time. But from then until
now, I have been trying to make sure, privately at first and publicly since
early in 2003, that conservatives and other Americans are aware of the help
Grover Norquist has given and is giving to the Muslim Brotherhood and
others promoting the Sharia agenda in America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now is Amanda Turkel, a senior political
reporter for "the Huffington Post." Amanda, I guess what this means is, if
you make your political bed on the side of the aisle that attacks Islam,
don`t be surprised if they get uncomfortable with some of your
associations, I guess. This is the crazy going after Grover Norquist now.
AMANDA TURKEL, "THE HUFFINGTON POST": I mean, Grover Norquist happens
to have a Muslim wife, and he was --
O`DONNELL: Well, that`ll do it! That`s enough, right? That`s enough
for those guys.
TURKEL: Not only that, he was the chief strategist for George W. Bush
and his outreach to Muslim and Arab Americans. So in Frank Gaffney`s
world, it seems to be enough if you have associations with Muslim Americans
or have if you happen to be Muslim American. So this is an interesting
fight now playing out on the right between Norquist and Gaffney.
O`DONNELL: And Amanda, why does it sound like a landlord/tenant
gripe. He talks about, I sublet space from Grover and now I`m wicked mad
TURKEL: It seems very, very personal, like there`s some sort of
vendetta there. And I`m not sure what it is. But people have reviewed,
other conservatives have reviewed the evidence that Frank Gaffney has put
out there against Grover Norquist and other individuals Gaffney has gone
after, and they`ve said, this seems to be nothing more than conspiracy
theories and bigotry.
O`DONNELL: What is Gaffney`s big evidence against Grover Norquist
being some sort of infiltrator?
TURKEL: I mean, it`s very unclear. It`s like with conspiracy
theories, you can keep going down and down these rabbit holes. He points
to everything. But there`s nothing concrete. The Board of the American
Conservative Union, which includes people like the head of the NRA, the --
former Ambassador John Bolton, who was in the Bush administration, wasn`t
exactly seen as sort of always reaching out to the Muslim community,
they`ve rejected Gaffney`s claims on Grover Norquist.
O`DONNELL: Well, I have to say, I know Grover Norquist and I will
rise in his defense on this one particular matter. Amanda Terkel of "the
Huffington Post," thank you very much for joining me tonight.
TURKEL: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: You can watch THE VERY LAST WORD online at our blog every
night, TheLastWord.MSNBC.com, featuring David Cay Johnston and the other
guests on this show, the people who get to say a few more things that they
wanted to say that they didn`t quite get to say in our little time period
here on the air.
"THE ED SHOW" is up next.
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Guests: David Cay Johnston, Ted Strickland, Vincent Hughes, Amanda Terke