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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

August 23, 2012

Guests: David Cay Johnston, Thomas Friedman, Sandra Fluke

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: Crazy Republican Todd Akin refuses to take
orders from Rush Limbaugh. But Mitt Romney is not a crazy Republican, so
he follows Limbaugh`s orders.


TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: The Republican National Convention is set
to kick off in Tampa.

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: The talk of the town is not the economy but

REP. TODD AKIN (R), MISSOURI: If it`s a legitimate rape, the female
body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He didn`t say he was wrong.

AKIN: I ask for your forgiveness.

This is not about me. This is not about my ego.

WAGNER: All of a sudden, that hurricane isn`t looking so bad after

RON REAGAN, MSNBC ANALYST: The Republican Party has created a

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`ve been hearing a lot about Ryan`s position
on abortion.

splitting hairs over rape.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Basically the same as Todd Akin.

WAGNER: The vice presidential candidate has co-sponsored 38 anti-
abortion bills.

HALL: The Romney-Ryan economic plan.

RYAN: We have to cut spending.

HALL: Little information on the plan.

RYAN: We have a long debate about this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They don`t offer any specifics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The numbers have to work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s mathematical nonsense.

WAGNER: Team Romney defending its decision to release only two years
of tax returns.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I never paid less than 13

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Taxes are not an issue.

ANN ROMNEY, MITT ROMNEY`S WIFE: The more we release, the more we get

MITT ROMNEY: I never paid less than 13 percent.

ANN ROMNEY: There`s going to be no more tax releases.

REAGAN: The Republican Party has created a monster.

LUKE RUSSERT, NBC NEWS: In just over a week, Mitt Romney will
officially accept the Republican nomination for president.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s the official platform of the Republican

CHRIS JANSING, NBC NEWS: The most conservative platform in party

KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC ANALYST: Those aren`t the voters Mitt Romney
needs to win this election.

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


O`DONNELL: Tonight, with only 75 days until the presidential
election, now Republicans are attacking Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan for
distancing themselves from the new hero of the anti-abortion movement,
crazy Republican congressman, Todd Akin.

Rush Limbaugh issued this order to Republicans yesterday.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Any and all of you Republicans,
when you are asked why you don`t have a rape exception in the party
platform on abortion, don`t answer it. Don`t get into the substance.
Don`t answer the question, Republicans. Don`t go anywhere near it.


O`DONNELL: And here is a local Denver news broadcast earlier today.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Political specialist Sean Boyd (ph) just
finished an interview with Romney.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what did you ask him?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, I had about five minutes with him and
we got through a fair amount of material actually in that five minutes.
The one stipulation to the interview was that I not ask him about abortion
or Todd Akin.


O`DONNELL: Mike Huckabee came to the defense of Todd Akin today,
writing, "I`m waiting for the apology from whoever the genius was on the
high pedestals of our party who thought it wise to not only shoot our
wounded but run over him with tanks and trucks and then feed his body to
the liberal wolves."

Jennifer Mason of Personhood USA tells "The Daily Beast," "Romney and
Ryan have turned their backs on the Republican Party platform in cases of
rape. That`s a huge problem. "

A new robo poll of likely voters in Missouri conducted yesterday shows
that Claire McCaskill now leads Congressman Akin by 10 points, 48 to 38

Here is how Todd Akin`s campaign manager and his son, Perry Akin,
interpreted that poll. "If Claire McCaskill can`t break 50 percent after a
week like this, Democrats should ask Claire to step down."

Senator McCaskill does not take a robo polls seriously. Today she
tweeted, "Rasmussen poll made me laugh out loud. If anybody believes that,
I just turned 29."

Today, NBC News released its presidential election battleground map
based on the latest polling. The map is exactly the same it was in June.
President Obama leads Mitt Romney, 237 to 191 electoral votes. And a slew
of new polls have encouraging news for the Obama reelection campaign.
Among likely voters, the president leads Mitt Romney in Florida by three
points and in Michigan by six point, in Ohio by six points, in Pennsylvania
by nine points, in Wisconsin by two points, and nationally by two points.

Joining me now, MSNBC`s Alex Wagner and Chris Hayes.

Alex, Rush Limbaugh gave the order yesterday, do not, do not, do not
under any circumstance take any questions, answer any questions about not
having any exception for rape and the abortion position of the party.

Mitt Romney is certainly following that order.

WAGNER: Don`t ask, don`t tell. It rears its ugly head again.

I mean, wouldn`t you? I mean, this is the point the Republican Party
has sunk to. There are four days until the Republican National Convention
and the vice presidential nominee and the presidential nominee are talking
about rape.

They`re not talking about the economy. They`re not talking about job
creation. They`re not talking about Obama`s record as commander-in-chief
and chief executive of the country.

They are talking about rape and their position on abortion in the
cases of rape and incest. This could not be more uncomfortable for Mitt
Romney. Not only that, but this whole week has exposed this position the
Republican Party has had on issues of choice, on reproductive freedom.
It`s extreme and has been for years.

Mitt Romney in 2007 got into bed with Dr. James Willke, this theory
that women couldn`t get pregnant when they`re raped. Mitt Romney said in
2007 he was a valuable surrogate. And now Romney is faced with the
repercussions of those choices. And I think he is someone who thought he
could skate by until November with nobody paying any attention to anything
he had done and nothing that his vice presidential nominee had done.

O`DONNELL: And, Chris, we were promised or suggested there could be a
campaign about issues when Paul Ryan was chosen. It turns out Ryan didn`t
give us that, but Akin did.

This is a debate about issues. The abortion position is a real issue
in this campaign. It`s a real issue in every presidential campaign. It is
the Republican Party platform and there`s a component of that issue, the
rape provision that we`re all talking about, that Rush Limbaugh and others
now realize they must not talk about publicly. That`s a real issue we`re
trying to talk about.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Yes. It`s a real issue because the amount
of rape that`s experienced in this country by women, also by men
particularly in the prison system, when you`re talking about men, but the
amount of rape that women experience in the country is horrifically high.
I mean, the numbers and estimates, about one in four women. These are
obviously difficult things to establish.

Thirty thousand pregnancies possibly a year. This is not a rare
occurrence in the way that Todd Akin claimed it was.

But to me, what`s fascinating is American public opinion on abortion
is very complicated. It`s one of the most complicated matters of public
opinion to get a fine grain analysis from a polling perspective. People`s
opinions and intuitions shift a lot based on how you ask the question.

But the one that`s consistent is the closer you get to the extremes,
the more the American people recoil. And one of the things the pro-life
movement did very well was fight the battle on the extremes in the other
direction. So, the whole strategic idea behind making pro-choice folks
defend partial birth abortion was to make their opponents defend their most
extreme positions.

We are now on the exact other side of that debate in which they have
to defend their most extreme positions and the polling on this completely
clear. The American people recoil, and I would say rightly so at the
motion of forcing a woman raped to carry that pregnancy and that`s the
official position.

WAGNER: Can I also say one thing, Lawrence? I think what has been,
as a woman, so repugnant about this entire talking point, if you will, is
the way in which the Republican party and conservatives have talked about
women who have been raped. And the idea they`re somehow seeking loopholes,
that this is like a tax shelter.

I mean, rape is an incredibly traumatic thing. Even statutory rape
has somehow been downgraded. That`s something that`s illegal in this
country for a reason.

HAYES: Right.

WAGNER: There are physical, there are mental, there are emotional
repercussions here, and none of that has been taken into account in any of
this discussion. I would also say, if you`re talking about women, this is
the most tangible evidence the Republican Party does not emotionally care
about what women go through when they`re raped. Nor does it create any
safe harbor for victims of rape.

O`DONNELL: I think, there`s such an important issue at the center of
all of this on abortion, which is no one likes abortion. And so, Chris`
point how complicated it is to poll is very real, because it`s something
that no one like. There`s nothing positive to say about it. That doesn`t
mean it isn`t necessary. That doesn`t mean it isn`t something that some
people will have to turn to.

And so polling something people generally feel negative about it`s
easy to get negative responses on it, depending on how you answer those
questions. But where it gets difficult is where you raise something like
rape. And that clarifies the thinking of most people.

And most people very easily come to the conclusion that rape survivors
should have the option of abortion. And once you say there should be an
option, the Republican position starts to fall apart, because their person
is personhood, their position is, you know, citizenship at conception, and
once that`s your position, you can not possibly allow -- there`s no such
thing, Chris, as a reasonable exception under that concept.

HAYES: Right. I think that`s exactly right. And I actually think,
just from a perspective of philosophical -- moral, philosophical reasoning,
it`s very difficult to understand how you could both adhere to the notion
that the fetus of three hours duration after conception is a full person
and make an exception for rape.

I don`t actually understand the moral reasoning that gets you there.
You think it`s a person, you think it`s a person. You think abortion is
murder, you think abortion is murder. That`s the view of the base of the
Republican Party.

And what`s also remarkable with the Todd Akin moment is something that
I think has been a theme throughout this campaign. There was this story
that was written partially by conservatives around the Tea Party that the
party was not the party of evangelicals and social conservatives, it was a
party of fiscal discipline. It was the party that was fed up with taxes
and spending and deficits.

It`s always been the same party. You can call it whatever you want.
It`s the same people who are writing the platform. It`s the same activists
and delegates who are going to be in Tampa this week.

They care about this. This isn`t some hand waving. They care about
this, they believe in this. This is what the party represents.

WAGNER: And now, they`re furious that Mitt Romney is refuting their

O`DONNELL: Well, Alex, how much of a problem does Romney have now?
Mike Huckabee coming out clearly on the attack. That`s just an attack
against Romney and Ryan what Mike Huckabee did today.

WAGNER: Well, this gives credence to all the sort of conservative
base theories that Mitt Romney isn`t really one of them. I mean, and that
has always been a problem he has. But I mean, think the bigger question
for Mitt Romney lies not in the conservative base, but as Mike Murphy
outlines in an op-ed is with swing voters and independents. I mean, those
are the ones he needs to win over.

His choice of Paul Ryan I think flummoxes all of us, because Paul Ryan
is ideologically an extremist. Now he has the rape stuff, the Medicare
stuff, he has these extremist positions that he`s going to have to defend
because he`s already courted these folks.

And now he has doubly as the ire of the Mike Huckabee and the sort of
Family Research Council folks who said, hey, wait a second, you`re
undermining one of our pillar positions on abortion.

O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes, that part of the Republican politics was
always willing to accept a wink here and there from the George H.W. Bushes
and others who were highly suspect into just how fervently they believed
all the anti-abortion talk they got dragged into, but today anyway, that
side of the party seems to be saying hey, wait a minute, you better start
kowtowing to us, too here.

HAYES: Well, I mean, if you look at -- that part of the party is
ascendant in almost every direction. And the place where the rubber hits
the road at the policy levels have been actually -- at he state level,
where they control all levels of government and had done essentially
everything in their power, actually implemented state policies that makes
getting abortions more and more difficult, had pushed the envelope, had
been pushing things that are sort of facial challenges to Roe v. Wade and
the logic of Roe v. Wade.

And so the big question has always been, at the end of the day, right,
who is Mitt Romney going to put on the Supreme Court? Because this is a
constitutional issue and it`s a constitutional issue that will be decided
by Supreme Court justices that may or may not be appointed by the next
president. And we know based on what the platform is ands the structural
nature of that coalition who that`s going to be.

It`s gong to be someone who wants to overturn Roe v. Wade. That is
just the obvious black and white fact of the matter.

O`DONNELL: Alex Wagner, as bad as things may sound for Akin in
Missouri these days, I share Senator McCaskill`s disbelief she`s suddenly
pulled a 10-point lead in that race.

What`s your feeling about what`s happening there?

WAGNER: Yes, I think those are some kind of robots that are doing
that poll.

Look, if I were Claire McCaskill right now, I would be saving my
pennies and giving them to Todd Akin so he can stay in the race.
Ultimately if he stays in the race, I think it`s a very good thing for
Claire McCaskill, but I have hard to believe there`s a 10-point turnaround
in the course of a few days.

HAYES: They wanted Todd Akin from the beginning. They smartly
dropped ad money to troll the Republican base into electing him into the
primary successfully.

And the fact of the matter of is Claire McCaskill does not poll well
in Missouri. She`s not very popular. That state is trending to the right.
She has a real uphill battle in this race, even if Todd Akin stays in.

O`DONNELL: She`s the only person standing now between Todd Akin and
the United States Senate seat.

Alex Wagner and Chris Hayes, thank you both for joining me tonight.

HAYES: Thank you.

WAGNER: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, we have 900 pages of new information about Mitt
Romney`s money. But not one of those pages is a tax return. THE LAST
WORD`s taxman David Cay Johnston will join us, as will Krystal Ball.

And another speaker has been added to the list of the Democratic
National Convention speakers. Sandra Fluke will address the convention and
she will join me tonight for an exclusive interview.

And in the "Rewrite" tonight, who`s crazier -- Todd Akin or Allen
West? We will leave it to some unbiased children to decide.



UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: You need a time-out.


O`DONNELL: Mitt Romney is now desperately floating yet another
ridiculous reason why he will not release his secret tax returns, and this
time he is hiding behind his religion. That`s next with Krystal Ball and
tax reporter David Cay Johnston.

And in "The Rewrite" tonight, the man who was very clearly on his way
to winning the title of craziest member of the House of Representatives was
suddenly overtaken this week by Todd Akin. But Congressman Allen West`s
campaign opponent has found a way to help people remember just how crazy
Allen West is, from the mouths of babes.


UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: Get the beep out of the United States.



O`DONNELL: In the case of United States of America versus Mitt Romney
and his secret tax returns, Mitt Romney claims a new defense. He now
claims he`s not releasing his secret tax returns because he doesn`t want
his charitable contributions to the Mormon Church to be made public.

In a new interview in "Parade" magazine, Romney lied. "One of the
down sides of releasing one`s financial information is that this is now all
public. But we had never intended our contributions to be known. It`s a
very personal thing between ourselves and our commitment to our god and to
our church."

Trouble is, Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney already disclosed that to the
same magazine back in December. When asked by "Parade" magazine in
December, Mitt Romney said to the question, do you tithe on a regular
basis? Romney answered, "Yes, I`ve given away 10 percent of what I`ve
earned pretax." Very specific there.

Romney has also talked about his tithing on television.


MITT ROMNEY: I made a commitment to my church a long, long time ago
that I would give 10 percent of my income to the church. And I followed
through on that commitment.


O`DONNELL: And both Romneys have talked about it in the last two


ANN ROMNEY: We pay our taxes. Beyond paying our taxes, we also give
10 percent of our income to charity.

MITT ROMNEY: Every year I paid at least 13 percent, and if you add in
addition the mount that goes to charity, the number gets well above 20


O`DONNELL: Only Mitt Romney could come up with a new reason today for
hiding his tax returns that contradicts both Mitt and Ann Romney, because
none of the reasons Mr. and Mrs. Romney have given for hiding their secret
tax returns have worked. They keep inventing new reasons.

Who can forget Ann Romney`s classic ammunition reason?


REPORTER: Why not be transparent and release more than the 2010 and
the estimates for 2011?

ANN ROMNEY: Have you seen how we`re attacked? Have you seen what`s

REPORTER: So it`s because you`ll just continue to face more

ANN ROMNEY: That -- well, it will just give them more ammunition.


O`DONNELL: Romney money hunters have a new treasure trove of
documents to study, thanks to Gawker posting this story. "The Bain Files:
Inside Mitt Romney`s Tax-Dodging Cayman Themes."

Gawker has posted more than 950 pages of internal audits, financial
statements and private investor letters for 21 cryptically named entities
in which Romney had invested.

Joining me now, MSNBC`s Krystal Ball, and David Cay Johnston, Pulitzer
Prize-winning reporter and tax columnist for "Reuters."

David, first of all, what do you make of the 900 pages of Romney money
documents that came out today?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, REUTERS: Well, they`re very revealing that Romney
and Bain do everything they can to avoid and delay taxes. Particularly
below 15 percent tax on dividends. Four years ago, a bipartisan by the
Senate subcommittee on investigations, Norm Coleman, Republican of
Minnesota, and Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan, both side it`s an open
secret that there`s tax avoidance going on through a particular kind of
vehicle used in the Cayman Islands and elsewhere, and these audits that
Gawker got suggest strongly that`s exactly what they`ve been doing.

If Romney will avoid a 15 percent tax, what else will he try to avoid?
That`s a pretty low tax.

O`DONNELL: Well, one of the other things he might try to avoid is the
10 percent tithing that his religion likes people to comply with.

And, Krystal, what we`ve just seen is both Mr. and Mrs. Romney hide
behind their religion in each way they`ve dealt with this. They are saying
we`re not going to show you the tax returns, but we pay 13 percent and then
if you throw in the amount we give to charity, the amount we give to the
church, then Romney thinks that`s somehow to be included in his taxes. He
wants to conveniently use the church to kind of make himself look good and
now the new tactic, hide behind the church to continue to hide his tax

KRYSTAL BALL, MSNBC HOST: Well, it`s an unbelievably flailing
response after a number of unbelievably flailing responses. It`s just
remarkable they had no strategy to deal with this. I think it`s a sign
that of the Romneys didn`t feel like there was anything unusual about their

What would people be concerned about? Why would they want to know
about this? What they don`t understand about all of our Cayman Island
accounts and Swiss bank accounts and equity swaps. That`s the problem?

So from the begin, they haven`t had a strategy to deal with this. And
they thought they could stonewall and give no information and that could be
enough to get them through. But I think what the Gawker dump shows today,
in addition to the extent of the tax avoidance schemes, it also shows this
issue is just going to continue coming from now until election day, as long
as people still have questions, which if the Romneys aren`t going to
release tax returns, American people and journalists are going to continue
to have questions about what exactly is going on and what exactly they`re

O`DONNELL: Here is more of what the Romneys said about tithing to
"Parade" magazine. "I love tithing," Ann Romney tells the magazine. "When
Mitt and I give that check, I actually cry."

"So do I," Romney adds, "But for a different reason."

David Cay Johnston, you know something about tithing to the Mormon
Church. I think this is one of the really radioactive areas for him. As
you point out, here`s somebody who`s supposed to be paying a 35 percent
income tax rate, does everything he can at his level to push it all the way
down on the one return we`ve seen to 13, could be way lower than that, as
we know.

It is up to him. It is up to him exclusively, isn`t it, to decide how
much that check to the Mormon Church is. He doesn`t have to show the
church tax returns to prove to the church that they`re getting 10 percent,
does he?

JOHNSTON: Well, to keep what`s called his temple recommend, a sort of
sealed approval that you`re living a proper life, he would have to certify
to other church officials, his bishop and stake president perhaps that he
had paid 10 percent.

But the implications the gifts might even be much larger than this,
who`s going to criticize them for giving away a lot of money, and why don`t
they just release a net number for total giving of all kind and not just
who it went to as part of the tax returns. They could easily redact that
section of the return, if that`s what he`s worried about.

I mean, this is silly.


BALL: They`re just worried that the American people are going to see
just how good and generous they are. That`s the real thing that they`re
hiding in the tax returns.

O`DONNELL: Let`s look at the pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA has
an ad now about Romney and the defenses on tax returns.


ROMNEY: The fascinations with taxes I paid I find to be small minded.

I never paid less than 13 percent.

NARRATOR: But under one of Ryan`s budget plan, Romney would pay only
1 percent. That`s right. Mitt Romney is worth $200 million. But under
Paul Ryan`s budget, he`ll pay only 1 percent in taxes -- while middle class
families would pay $1,000 more.

Romney and Ryan, if they win, the middle class loses.

Priorities USA Action is responsible for the content of this


O`DONNELL: The new NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll asked voters
how Romney`s tax returns on the federal income tax rate that he pays makes
them feel. Six percent say they feel more positive about him because he
pays such tiny taxes, 36 percent said they feel more negative about him, 41
percent not much different, 17 percent didn`t know enough.

Krystal, those are pretty problematic numbers politically.

BALL: They`re very problematic numbers, especially when you have a
very close election, a very close race. And when you have ads being made,
so that message is only going to get out there more and more. And I love
the fact that under Paul Ryan`s plan, Mitt Romney would pay less than 1

But we shouldn`t lose sight of how shocking it is that he`s paying 13
percent. I mean, that`s astonishingly low tax rate. It`s somewhat
offensive that Paul Ryan, who`s also very wealthy but not at the sort of
height as Mitt Romney is actually paying a higher tax rate than Mitt
Romney. It doesn`t make any sense.

And it illustrates how they are two sets of rules in this country.
And I think the Gawker documents also illustrate that. There`s one set of
rules for people like Mitt Romney who can pay for these elaborate tax
avoidance schemes and there`s another stet of rules for everybody else.

O`DONNELL: David Cay Johnston, the Ryan tax returns, he`s paying a
rate of about 20 percent, which goes pretty much without comment in the
environment in which Romney is paying a 13. And Paul Ryan has inherited
millions and millions of dollars through his own family, through his wife`s
family. He`s a very rich person by any standard other than the standard
of, say, the Romney children.

But that goes kind of completely unnoticed that he`s paying as low as
20 under these circumstances.

JOHNSTON: Well, even his 20 percent is at that low end for people in
his income category.


JOHNSTON: Most people are paying more like 24 percent, 25 percent of
their income. It`s because of the income he`s required to report for tax
purposes, most -- a great deal of it comes from his salary as a member of
Congress. And, of course, we tax wages more heavily than capital.

And the fundamental goal of the Ryan and Romney tax plans is people
who are already wealthy will be exempted from taxes on what they earn from
their wealth. No capital gains, no dividends taxes, no gift taxes, no
estate taxes. That`s their goal.

Workers would be taxed. The very wealthy would be able to live tax

O`DONNELL: Krystal, we don`t have any of the details that Mitt Romney
and Paul Ryan would favor in terms the tax policy, they`ve talked about
wanting -- Ryan keeps talking about wanting to get rid of what he calls tax
shelters. And I`m actually surprised that the Romney campaign hasn`t shut
him down on ever using that phrase.

It`s probably a slip. He`s probably not going to say that tax shelter
thing. But they won`t ever specify which one. You can`t get Paul Ryan to
say oh, yeah, I`d close down can the tax settler that Mitt Romney used to
get his income down to 13 percent.

BALL: Of course not, because the people that are backing their
campaign and then themselves are benefiting from those tax shelters. So
they`re not going to be specific. And they`re also not going to be
specific on the tax loopholes that they`re going to close because the
numbers don`t add up. And what you`re looking at is having to close a lot
of loopholes that actually middle class families benefit from.

So that`s why, when you look at the Romney plan, such as it is, such
as what we know about it -- that`s why the analysis says that middle class
families and lower income families will actually pay more under a Romney
plan if they actually do what they`re proposing to do.

O`DONNELL: Krystal Ball and David Cay Johnston, thank you both for
joining me tonight.

BALL: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, when Congressman Allen West said bat crap crazy
stuff, no one in his party objected. So Todd Akin had every right to
believe that his party had no problem with crazy. That`s in the Rewrite.

And later, why Republicans now fear talking about abortion. Sandra
Fluke will join me.


O`DONNELL: In the Spotlight tonight, the conservative party that
America needs. That`s right, we do need a conservative party as long as
we`re going to have conservatives in this country. Conservatives should
have someone they can vote for. Conservatives not so long ago were able to
find reasonable comfort in the Republican party, but that party has been
taken over by radicals.

And now the radical Republican party is making governing virtually
impossible. This week, "New York Times" columnist Thomas Friedman wrote,
"true conservatives know that both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush used
both tax revenue and spending cuts to fix budget shortfalls. Ryan-led GOP
radicals say no new taxes, find all the savings through spending cuts.
That`s never going to happen and shouldn`t."

Joining me now, three time Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for "the
New York Times," Thomas Friedman, co-author of the best selling book "That
Used To Be Us." It`s now out in paper back.

Tom, you began your column saying there has been lots of talk that
Paul Ryan`s nomination ensures that we`ll now have a real debate about the
role of government. That`s actually funny. Why did that turn out to be

THOMAS FRIEDMAN, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, it turns out to be funny
I think on two grounds, Lawrence. One, that -- you know, the idea that
we`re having an election, we might actually have a debate about one of the
great challenges the country faces, that`s number one. And number two,
debt, deficit and entitlements is just one of what I would say are at least
the four major challenges we face.

One is immigration. Second is energy and climate. Third is education
in this really hyper connected world, where you can not get a good job
today, one that will pay a decent wage, without some form of post secondary
education. So, you know, the Ryan plan, obviously, seems to be, you know,
getting us at least some headway on the first. It`s -- I`m not sure how
serious the debate`s been. But we`ve still got the other three that are
hugely important.

O`DONNELL: Let`s talk about the other three that really I think are
well on their way to being fully ignored in this presidential campaign:
education, energy and climate, and immigration policy. What would -- what
would the reasonable Republican conservative positions sound like in
education? And is there anyone out there who sounds like that?

FRIEDMAN: Before I say that, and it`s very important, I think the
point I`m try to make is that we`re not -- we don`t just need debates on
these issues. We actually need deals. We need compromises. And that
compromise we know can only come between a center left and a center right.
If there is no center right, there`s not going to be a deal.

So let`s go through those categories. For instance on let`s say debt,
deficits, and entitlements, you`ve got the Ryan Plan that says let`s get it
all from spending and let`s actually cut more taxes. There`s not going to
be a deal on that ground. But you have people like Tom Coburn out there,
Republican senator from Oklahoma, who was on the Simpson-Bowles commission,
voted in favor of it, has taken on Grover Norquist for his no tax lunacy.

You know, if that were the official Republican position, that we do
need to have some revenue on the table and spending, I think you would see
a deal with Obama. That`s number one.

On education, you have some people in the party, but during the
primaries they were calling for shutting down the Department of Education.
Yet you have Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, who if you listen to
his education policy, teacher reform, more charters, more school choice,
common core standards, there`s a lot of overlap with President Obama. And
he said so himself.

On energy and climate, well, we know today Romney came out with his
version of "drill baby drill" basically. Yet you have republicans like Bob
English, former congressman from South Carolina, who`s running now an
institute at George Mason University, who says let`s have a market-based
solution to energy and climate, but it has to start with pricing everything
honestly. That means pricing the pollution and carbon emissions of coal,
oil and gas. And then let`s let the market work when everything is priced

On immigration, of course, you have Rupert Murdoch and Mike Bloomberg
touring the country last week, calling for an immigration policy that deals
humanely with illegal immigrants who are here, and at the same time opening
our borders to the most energetic and immigrants that we need to grow our

So in all four of those areas, you actually have Republicans arguing I
think very sane, intelligent center right positions, which with a center
left Obama administration I think you could have deals on all four.
Unfortunately, those center right positions aren`t where the Republican
party is today.

O`DONNELL: And Tom Coburn, who you mentioned as being willing to talk
about raising revenue as part of a compromise, is of course retiring from
the Senate.


O`DONNELL: So you have another voice going out the door. Tom, the
dynamics of compromise are now very, very, very difficult in Washington.
It used to be not that long ago, half a generation ago in politics, that
each side knew that the other side was going to have to get something.
They were going to have to get something.

And each side might hate every single thing the other side wanted, but
they knew the other side was going to have to get some version of one of
those things that they hated. And they just knew that that`s where it was
inevitably going to end up.

So they both kind of started equidistant from each other, I guess I
would say. What we`re seeing now with what you describe as -- on the Ryan
position on budget negotiations, which is to say no negotiations at all on
revenue, is it doesn`t allow the normal Democrat strategic approach to that
that you used to see. It mean, it seems to me, that it freezes the
Democrats away from compromise, because they feel if they start to take a
step towards where Ryan is now, there is no middle there, as you`ve said.

FRIEDMAN: This has been the challenge. I`ve been critical of
President Obama. I understand the dynamic here. Where I`m critical of him
is saying, I get it. You have no partner there. Go to the people,
leverage the people. Because I think, Lawrence, just for the reasons
you`ve said, I don`t see any other way, other than really leveraging the
public and making them understand what are the stakes.

Because, you know, we` got this kind of scorched Earth approach now to
every issue, as you know. I don`t have to tell you. You know, in the old
days, the Democratic party was made up of northern liberals, western
liberals and southern conservatives. And the Republican party was more
liberal Republicans in the north and conservatives elsewhere. So because
both parties were themselves coalitions, they had to actually negotiate
within each party before they negotiated with each other. And that made
the foundation really for a natural compromise.

O`DONNELL: Tom, before we go, I always found when I was working
there, the negotiations within the party were the hardest one. Those were
the ones that drove you absolutely craziest.

Tom Friedman, "New York Times" columnist and co-author of the book
"That Used To Be Us," thank you very much for joining us tonight.

FRIEDMAN: Pleasure, Lawrence. Thanks for having me.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, now that the Republicans are trying to win
elections, suddenly they don`t want to talk about abortion. Sandra Fluke
will join me for her perspective on this very crazy week in presidential

And speaking of crazy, Allen West back tonight in the Rewrite.



REP. ALLEN WEST (R), FLORIDA: I believe there`s about 78 to 81
members of the Democratic party that are members of the Communist party.

Get the hell out of the United States of America.



O`DONNELL: He`s really something, isn`t he? But it has been a
terrible week for Allen West`s previously strong campaign to become the
publicly craziest member of the House of Representatives. Allen West
easily overtook Michele Bachmann when she started running nor president and
tried doing her imitation of a sane person.

Then, from out of nowhere this week, came Todd Akin who created
congressman headlines like we have never seen. Even Republicans condemned
their crazy Republican colleague. Everyone from Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan
to Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, they all objected to what Akin
had to say about rape.

But none of them, not one of them objected to Allen West saying this
about President Obama.


WEST: He does not want you to have self-esteem of getting up and
earning and having that title of American. He would rather you be his


O`DONNELL: Not one of those holier than Todd Akin Republicans
objected when Allen West said this to Debbie Wasserman Shultz: "you are not
a lady. You are the most vile, unprofessional and despicable member of the
U.S. House of Representatives."

They did not object when Allen West said, "I must confess, when I see
anyone with an Obama 2012 bumper sticker, I recognize them as a threat to
the gene pool."

There`s Allen West deliberately trying to say the craziest crap he can
think of just to get attention. And he has to spend this week watching
another crazy Republican congressman get all the attention for saying
something that congressman didn`t even intend to be controversial at all.
Poor Allen West.

The guy works really, really hard at being publicly crazy. And then
this Akin guy comes along and just stumbles into the craziest congressman
championship. Patrick Murphy, who happens to be running for the same
Congressional seat that Allen West is running for, must have felt sorry for
Allen West because he bought television time to remind voters what Allen
West crazy sounds like.

He didn`t rewrite any of Allen West`s words. He just gave them to
other people to recite, which is an ingenious way of helping to emphasize
just how crazy Allen West sounds.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You`re not a lady.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re the most vile --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- despicable member of the Congress.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Communist party.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get that beep out of the United States.

GROUP: You`re a threat to the gene pool.

things and worse. But bullying and name calling has no place in the
playground or in Congress. I`m Patrick Murphy and I approve this message.
I`ll reach across the aisle to solve problems. Allen West --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You need a time-out.




attacked earlier this year, the difference between President Obama and Mr.
Romney became very clear. Mr. Romney could only say that those weren`t the
words he would have chosen. Well, Mr. Romney, you`re not going to be the
candidate we choose.



O`DONNELL: That was Sandra Fluke introducing President Obama at a
recent campaign event. And she is now the latest addition to the speaker
lineup at the Democratic National Convention. Joining me now for an
exclusive interview, Sandra Fluke.

Sandra, I would like you to listen to the man who attacked you in the
past. Listen to his advice to Republicans yesterday.


Republicans, when you are asked why you don`t have a rape exception in the
party platform on abortion, don`t answer it. Don`t get into the substance.
Don`t answer the question, Republicans. Don`t go anywhere near it.


O`DONNELL: Sandra, I`ve been showing that tape repeatedly on the show
since yesterday, because I believe it`s a very important turning point.
There`s Rush Limbaugh saying the Republican position on abortion is
indefensible to a majority of Americans. That is a real turning point for
him and for Republicans.

FLUKE: Yes, it`s a very telling quote. I mean, to say don`t get into
the substance, a really wise woman, Lily Ledbetter, actually said to me,
don`t listen to anything that a politician says during a campaign or
statements that they make when they`re under political fire, just look to
their record. And that`s exactly what Mr. Limbaugh is advising that we not
do, because the record of Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan and the Republican party
platform for so many years is very clear on this point.

They have not supported a woman`s right to abortion, even in cases of
rape. And now the country is becoming more and more aware of that.

O`DONNELL: The media has reacted with great surprise with what Todd
Akin said. But I have to say, studying people who hold his beliefs, I did
not find it that surprising that he had a fake rationale underneath it for
his belief about abortion and rape.

FLUKE: No, it is -- you`re absolutely right. It`s a commonly held
belief in anti-choice communities. And what I don`t think has been
discussed enough is that doctor -- and I use that term loosely -- Dr.
Wilke, who has been espousing this belief since the mid 1980s, is actually
someone who Mr. Romney courted as an endorser and a supporter in the
earlier election. He called him an important surrogate for Mr. Romney`s
pro-life agenda.

So he has really fully adopted these just completely inaccurate and
really offensive statements about women not being able to become pregnant
from a rape.

O`DONNELL: Sandra Fluke gets tonight`s LAST WORD. And Sandra,
congratulations on getting that speaking slot at the convention. Can`t
wait to hear what you have to say.

FLUKE: Thank you very much.

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


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