THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
November 13, 2012
Guests: Justin Ruben, Richard Wolffe, Spencer Ackerman
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: Tonight, America has a new biggest loser.
Move over, Sarah Palin. You are now no longer the most recent vice
presidential candidate who will never be president.
MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I so wish that I have
been able to fulfill your hopes to lead the country.
KRYSTAL BALL, MSNBC HOST: I know the election was a long time ago.
MARTIN BASHIR, MSNBC HOST: One full week since Election Day.
BALL: I just wanted to refresh everyone`s memories.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R). WISCONSIN: We made this campaign about big ideas
and big issues.
BASHIR: Big issues.
RYAN: It just wasn`t enough at the end of the day.
BASHIR: That lost.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They lost.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: They lost.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This was a real shellacking.
TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Losing never feels good.
RYAN: We were surprised at the outcome.
ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: What are the lessons for
DAVID FRUM, CONSERVATIVE COLUMNIST: The primary problem is an
KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: No, the problem is --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A demographic problem.
FINNEY: -- disrespecting women the last two years.
RYAN: We were surprised in the outcome.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He`s not going to be a leader in the party.
RYAN: The president won the race. I congratulated him on the race.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Something must be done.
STEVE SCHMIDT, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: The Republican Party needs to
get it together.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The hard part is how you get there.
CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC ANCHOR: Congress returns for its lame duck
THOMAS ROBERTS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Back from recess with a daunting task.
HALL: To avert the fiscal cliff.
JANSING: To avert a fiscal crisis.
BALL: The issue is taxes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Bush era tax cuts.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I refuse to accept any
approach that isn`t balanced.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Flex a little bit.
OBAMA: The majority of Americans agree with my approach.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have a little swag.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s what the American people asked for.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Something must be done.
HALL: So close but yet so far.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They must work together.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s time to do this simple thing.
ROBERTS: But overshadowing all of that --
HALL: Commanders in crisis.
ROBERTS: -- the Petraeus affair.
JANSING: We knew the other shoe was likely to drop.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The story is changing by the hour.
JANSING: But this is big.
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: Another top military general has been linked to
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Really?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Really?
JON STEWART, COMEDIAN: If it`s not "Homeland", it`s "Melrose Place."
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: There are stakes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The entire military establishment is now ground to
MATTHEWS: And one of them is our country`s security.
O`DONNELL: Of the many mistakes Mitt Romney made as a presidential
candidate, perhaps none was more costly than choosing the presidential
campaign`s biggest loser, Paul Ryan, as his vice presidential candidate.
Florida was lost the day Romney chose Paul Ryan whose plan to eviscerate
Medicare as we know it was rejected by Florida voters.
While he was he at it, Paul Ryan helped Mitt Romney lose Paul Ryan`s
home state of Wisconsin. Paul Ryan also managed to lose his hometown in
Wisconsin where he still lives.
It wasn`t Paul Ryan`s youth and inexperience that sunk him, it was his
ideas, his worship of Ayn Rand, and most of all, the Ryan plan to end
Medicare as we know it and profoundly change America as we know it. But
don`t expect Paul Ryan to admit that any time soon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: The president wins 330 some electoral votes, does Barack
Obama now have a mandate?
RYAN: I don`t think so because they also reelected the House
Republicans. See, I think these ideas we talked about, I think they`re
popular ideas. This is a very close election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: There is now nothing other than time in the gym that
separates Paul Ryan and Rush Limbaugh.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: We`re just laying down! And we
didn`t lose this election by that much, especially when you look at the
turnout. This was not a shellacking landslide.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: This is what Rush Limbaugh used to think it meant when a
presidential candidate won 332 Electoral College votes and he thought this
right up until the day before the election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LIMBAUGH: All of my thinking says Romney big. Not even close -- 300
plus electoral votes for Romney.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Even though President Obama very clearly ran on raising
income tax rates for top earners, Paul Ryan claims he is not so sure that`s
what America actually voted for.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: His argument is people voted for him because they believe
tax rates should be raised. Do you disagree?
RYAN: Well, I don`t know if I agree with that because we have divided
government. They also voted for House Republicans to maintain their
majority, who took a very clear stand against that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Never mind that more votes were cast for Democrats in the
House of Representatives than Republicans. In the House, Republicans
maintained their majority, strictly through gerrymandering their districts.
And never mind that election exit polls show that 13 percent of voters
said they should increase all tax rates on everyone, and another 47 percent
said increase tax rates for incomes over $250,000. So that adds up to 60
percent of Americans in favor of at least the Obama tax rate increases and
some of them in favor of more.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, one of the lucky ones who dodged the
bullet in Mitt Romney`s selection of a running mate, tells "Politico" that
it`s time for Republicans to "Stop being the stupid party. We cannot be --
we must not be the party that simply protects the rich so they get to keep
their toys. It is no secret we have a number of Republicans damage our
brand this year with offensive, bizarre comments -- enough of that. It
can`t be tolerated within our party. We have also had enough of this
dumbed-down conservatism. We need to stop insulting the intelligence of
Joining me now, MSNBC`s Joy Reid and Ari Melber.
Joy, so stop being the stupid party. That`s kind of a tall order
right now for the Republicans, isn`t it?
JOY REID, THEGRIO.COM: Yes. I think, you know, Bobby Jindal, I guess
he has some coherent advice. I`m not sure that if you look at his stance,
like offering some teaching creationism in public schools, I`m not sure
that he`s going to help them in his own state.
And it`s interesting that Paul Ryan sort of made these assertions that
we didn`t really lose, we actually kind of won because the House of
Representatives -- he made a really good point. I mean, look at Florida.
All of the Republicans in swing districts, people who were the most
associated with Paul Ryan`s ideas, people like Allen West, for instance --
They lost in those swing districts because those guys, especially
West, who really championed Paul Ryan`s ideas, went to bat for them, he did
town halls, contentious town halls defending the Ryan budget he voted for
twice. Well, he lost.
O`DONNELL: And, Ari, it`s not as if the president had a great economy
to run on. What he had to run on was -- if you elect me, this is what I`m
in favor of, this is what I will do, and he got to say, this is what the
Republicans will do if you elect them. And the Republicans actually agreed
this is what we will do if you elect us. We absolutely will protect the
rich and we absolutely will turn Medicare into something you don`t
ARI MELBER, THE NATION: Yes. I mean, I have a lot of thoughts here.
Number one is, you know, viewers of the LAST WORD will remember that you
have also called this the stupid party. So you were ahead of the Bobby
Jindal curve, and I don`t know if you were trying to help them or not,
clearly Governor Jindal feels that`s what they need, they need to be told
they sound stupid and look stupid and also mean, I would, you know, put
that in there as well.
I think the conversation that was important, Lawrence, and here is why
-- it`s good to come off the election and do some interpretation. I will
give credit to Sean Hannity and others who for whatever reasons, without
getting into motives, are finally coming around to a better, sane view
about doing something about immigration reform in this country instead of
just denigrating people, and they got there through math.
But when you look at interpreting results, the bottom line is -- look,
Paul Ryan has got a talking point here about the House. Well, you could
interpret the Senate, too. But, you know, only a third of the Senate is up
for election every two years because of the Constitution. And as you
pointed out in the open, Lawrence, only a small portion of the House is
effectively up for election because of gerrymandering.
So, anyone that follows politics understands that Paul Ryan, unlike
some of his compatriots isn`t dealing with the math yet.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Sean Hannity said about what the
Republicans are going through right now.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s going to be a close race. We thought we had
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: There`s been a lot of anger,
criticism, the circular firing squad has been created, and I urge people to
just stand back from this. It happens every four years for the team that
loses, whether people want to admit it or not -- some of it healthy, a lot
of it unhealthy.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: As you point out, Ari, Sean Hannity is doing some of the
healthy criticism. He is one of the leaders right out of the gate saying
we absolutely have to move left ward on immigration reform.
And of course, Joy, he`s not going to admit it is a move left ward,
but that`s exactly what he is proposing.
REID: Yes. You know, Sean Hannity definitely speaks for what you
might charitably call the hack wing of the Republican Party. He is for
whatever will help Republicans get elected, right? That`s what Sean
REID: I think the risk, though, is that the base of the party is not
going to be easily moved to the left. They still have to deal with people
who for 30 years have been fed a message that, you know, this is your
country, those people are trying to take it from you. Those illegals -- as
they like to call illegal immigrants -- are out to take what`s yours, what
you worked hard for.
How do you, even if Sean Hannity and you have, you know, great ratings
on the radio, how do you tell that base to sit still or a move away from
what they`ve been told are their hardcore, rock-ribbed and absolutely 100
percent right and valid values.
I don`t get how the Republican Party -- I understand how the hack part
of the party can make the pivot and how the politicos can do it. How are
they going to get the base to do it?
O`DONNELL: Well, Ari, there`s a very interesting difference here I
think between these two top right wing radio talk show hosts. Rush
Limbaugh is number one in ratings, Sean Hannity is number two in radio talk
ratings in this country.
I think one of the differences is Rush Limbaugh doesn`t actually care
if Republicans win. He wants them to win, but he`s not going to adjust his
thinking and his approach to things in order to help them win or guide them
Sean Hannity is actually much more of a practical politician in that
sense, what Joy so unkindly calls a hack. But what Sean Hannity is doing
is exactly what staffers are doing in the Republican House of
Representatives right now, Republican staffers in the Senate are doing,
they`re looking at this and saying what can we move on? We`ve got to move
or we cannot win elections.
And it seems to me one of the big differences between Rush and Sean
Hannity is one of them really cares about Republicans winning elections.
MELBER: Yes, I mean, that`s the distinction. I think the problem
there is one that David Frum, a conservative who people have seen on MSNBC
and elsewhere here in the post election period, David Frum called it, you
know, the conservative entertainment complex.
And to your point, Lawrence, people like Rush are completely in the
O`DONNELL: Yes, 100 percent.
MELBER: And the conservative part is just part of the branding, but
that`s all it really is. I don`t mean branding like in politics, I mean
branding to make money which Rush Limbaugh is very good at, not good at
And you won`t hear any assessment of his role. I mean, look, the guy
got out there, and was a sexist, crude, mean guy, and it led to all sorts
of things. You went to the Democratic convention, and you saw Sandra Fluke
and others punching back, punching hard, bloodying Rush Limbaugh in terms
of politics -- not bloodying his bottom line, not bloodying the big checks
he gets to take home, which may be all he cares about.
So, your point, Lawrence, I do think what we have to watch for those
of us who care about the politics and the policy and the outcomes here is
who are the responsible people, and can any of us, even with disagreements
make space for them. I welcome folks that want to come over, and work on
some of the problems together.
O`DONNELL: And watching the Limbaugh versus Hannity battle this year
is going to be fascinating because Limbaugh is saying don`t budge an inch
on immigration. And Sean Hannity saying let`s move, we`ve got to move.
And Sean Hannity is the one getting backed up by other Republicans. I
haven`t heard anyone backing up Limbaugh.
We`re going to watch that war as it goes on.
Joy Reid and Ari Melber, thank you both for joining me tonight.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, the president met with liberal supporters in a
closed door meeting at the White House today. One of those supporters will
join me next and I will try to get him to leak on national television every
single thing that the president said. Wish me luck on that one.
Also tonight, another episode of generals gone wild. General Petraeus
and Allen and the way, way, way too many women in their lives.
And in the "Rewrite" tonight, the Republican senator who wants the
party to go all out liberal on some issues. Guess who that is? Tweet me
your guesses about who that is. I`m going to give you one hint -- some
people think he is actually the most conservative Republican senator.
And finally tonight, the earliest presidential campaign endorsement in
history, a major American newspaper endorsed a candidate today for election
in 2016. Tweet your guesses on who got that presidential endorsement for
2016. That`s coming up.
O`DONNELL: I am by my count -- which could be wrong -- the only
person in the American media who is willing to admit that I cannot judge
who among our generals is good or bad at waging war. I am -- like everyone
else in media -- someone who deliberately avoided military service. My
complete lack of military experience humbles me when it comes to analyzing
military tactics, which is why I have never spoken a word of praise about
the media`s most praised military leader of our time, General David
Though I don`t know anything about warfare, I do know something about
life, and I can tell you -- we got some bat crap crazy generals these days
when it comes to living their lives.
That`s coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Is the president willing to compromise on his insistence
that Bush tax cuts are not extended for the top income bracket?
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No. He will not sign such a
bill. That bill would never pass the Senate, but if somehow miraculously
it did, he would not sign it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The president`s legislative power comes down to signing
bills or vetoing them -- which is why the question of what he will sign and
what he will veto is so crucial to the legislative process. Most of the
time, most presidents duck that question.
During the legislative process, presidents rarely issue veto threats
like the one we heard repeated today from Jay Carney.
In a closed door meeting at the White House today with labor leaders
and other liberal supporters, the president is reported by "The Huffington
Post" to have said, quote, "I am not going to budge. I said in 2010 that I
am going to do this once and I meant it."
The thing he did once, of course, was allowing a two year extension of
Bush tax rates for everyone, including top income earners. The president
now wants to continue the Bush tax rates for everyone except top income
earners. Such a bill has already passed the Senate but is stuck in the
And if no such bill passes by end of the year, in January all the
income tax rates will go back up to the Clinton tax rates. So if
Republicans in the House succeed in preventing anything from happening this
time, something will actually happen, and everyone`s tax rates will go up.
Joining me are: Justin Ruben, the executive director of MoveOn.org,
and Ezra Klein, columnist for "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC analyst.
Ezra, I want to start with you on something. Justin was in the room
with the president today, and I`m going to try to torture him in a second
to get what the president said. But we have what`s being treated as
breaking news tonight by some of the newspapers that the president`s tax
revenue target in going forward is 1.6 trillion. It`s actually something
he said before when he said his opening position in negotiating this is his
past budget position. But what is the emphasis now on the 1.6 trillion in
additional tax revenue due to where these tax discussions are going to go?
EZRA KLEIN, THE WASHINGTON POST: Right. I can confirm that`s true.
They are looking for 1.6 trillion. But I think actually people are missing
what`s important about the White House position.
What the White House is saying and this matters for these negotiations
-- John Boehner`s position is he is open to revenue, but not if it includes
increasing the top tax rate. So, he is only doing it through some mystery
process of tax reform where you have a large amount of revenue, but still
at either 35 percent of the top tax rate or if Boehner and the Republicans
have their druthers, you have a lower tax rate, maybe 28 percent as in
The White House has said they are not interested in that. They do not
believe the math will work out. They think that even when you can make it
work on paper, you have to do such drastic, radical things like eliminating
charitable deduction or the health care exclusion at the top brackets
entirely, that it wouldn`t be worth doing even if you could.
And so, their view, it is not a compromise to say that in some kind of
future tax reform process, you`re going to get that money, that they are
not going to sign anything that doesn`t include the top tax rate going up
at the end of December.
O`DONNELL: Justin, you were in the room with the president today.
Can you confirm that quote that "The Huffington Post" has the president
saying, "I`m not going to budge, I said in 2010 that I`m going to do this
once and I meant it"?
JUSTIN RUBEN, MOVEON.ORG: Well, I actually don`t remember if those
are his exact words, and also, you know, the president asked us to keep the
contents of that meeting off the record, who said what. But, you know, at
the top level, that was definitely the message which is what he said
publicly, that, you know, he campaigned on the idea that we can`t possibly
afford extension of the Bush tax cuts for the rich and that that`s -- and
he -- you know, that`s -- nobody should be surprised that he is going to
stick to his guns on that.
And that was -- you know, that -- you talked about how unusual his
commitment to veto that was, that`s true, that`s something that
progressives really fought for last year. I remember, you know, 250,000
people petitioned him to take that position and were working all year last
year, ultimately when the president came out and did it, it was a big deal.
So obviously, we were heartened to hear him reiterate that today.
O`DONNELL: Did anyone ask him if he was willing to go off the fiscal
cliff in January if the Republicans have not agreed with him on these top
RUBEN: You know, what I -- what I heard, I think what we said is you
need to -- you know, you need to stick to your guns, and understand we will
have your back. Obviously everyone is hoping for the Republicans to come
to their senses, but if they don`t at the end of the year, they`re still
clinging to this position that Donald Trump can`t be asked to pay one
single tiny cent more to help the country meet its needs and everything
else needs to be kind of held hostage to that, then we can`t get mugged
America can`t get -- you know, we can`t have another hostage
situation, we have to stand firm. What I think all of us were saying to
the president is we will have your back and their message obviously is we
don`t, you know, this is not a place that -- this is not a place we can
afford to give in, so that`s a good sign.
And the other thing I think -- the other thing they said that they
have been saying publicly, right, is there`s a way to avoid this, and
that`s just what you said, it is just extend the tax rates for the middle -
- you know, extend the tax cuts for the middle class. That can be done
now, it has already passed the Senate. I think they`re going to keep
saying that and so are, so that everybody understands, if we end up in that
situation, whose fault it is.
O`DONNELL: And, Ezra, it is not just the people in that room that
have the president`s back, we have polling indicating a clear majority, 53
percent believe that if we do go off the fiscal cliff, which as you know on
this show was renamed the fiscal curve because it`s just one little step at
the beginning, that the Republicans will be to blame for those tax rates
going up on everyone first week of January.
KLEIN: Yes. And on my book, they call it austerity crisis, because
it`s all about it. So, I think everybody agrees fiscal cliff ain`t great.
Yes, this is how the White House sees it, and they see it more broadly
that they have a responsibility here and responsibility to markets, and to
the economy, and to business, and to job creators, and that responsibility
is to end this period in American economic governance in which we are yo-
yoing from one crisis to another. That even if the Republicans do want to
go over the cliff, the curve, the crisis, whatever you want to call it.
And even if they wait those extra couple of months and we head into
the debt ceiling, the White House is pretty -- is pretty intent on standing
firm. They feel that this kind of legislating, this kind of hostage-taking
needs to be broken and that after this election and given what polling is
showing now, and given what just happened to Republicans in the last
election, they`re in a place to break it.
O`DONNELL: Justin, can you tell us one thing the president said in
the meeting, any good joke he told, anything?
RUBEN: Well, he -- you know, one thing that I really heard from them
was that they understand that this is a different situation than 2011 and
2010, that they -- that they -- that this election was a mandate, that
political circumstances were totally different, and so -- and that we have
an opportunity now. One thing they really have been talking about publicly
and in this meeting was the need for investment in the short term that can
So that was -- you know, that was -- he said, the president said
that`s absolutely something that he wants to see in a deal, and that
obviously -- that`s a good thing to hear as well. It wasn`t a joke, but it
happens to be really important.
O`DONNELL: That`s the real deal.
Justin Ruben of MoveOn.org, and Ezra Klein of "The Washington Post"
and MSNBC -- thank you both for joining me tonight.
KLEIN: Thanks, Lawrence.
RUBEN: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, 2016 isn`t too far away for one major newspaper
-- major American newspaper today endorsed a presidential candidate for
2016. That`s coming up.
And new names in the General Petraeus investigation -- all the crazy
latest details are coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the president see this in general as an
unwelcome distraction at a time when he`s -- just was reelected and has a
bunch of priorities in terms of fiscal cliff and in terms of his cabinet?
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I certainly -- I think
wouldn`t call it welcome.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was Jay Carney today, trying to explain how the
president feels about the mess that is the Petraeus affair. In the
Spotlight tonight, another day, another four star general investigated.
This time, it is General John Allen, who took over as commander of the U.S.
Forces in Afghanistan after Petraeus became director of the CIA.
In October, Allen was also nominated by the president to be the
Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. But the White House put that
nomination on hold after it found out that Allen is currently being
investigated by the Defense Department for sending potentially
inappropriate and flirtatious e-mails to Jill Kelley.
That`s the same Jill Kelley who received questionable e-mails from
Paula Broadwell. The FBI`s investigation into those e-mails eventually
revealed Broadwell`s affair with General Petraeus, which eventually led to
And remember Jill Kelley`s shirtless FBI agent friend who started the
whole investigation? It turns out he was also the person who called House
Majority Leader Eric Cantor and told him what he knew. One more character
connecting Petraeus and Allen in this messy web is Jill`s twin sister
Natalie. Just weeks ago, both generals wrote letters in support of Natalie
for -- in a custody battle over her four-year-old son.
"The Washington Post" is now reporting that according to advisers
close to Petraeus, Petraeus only resigned after National Intelligence
Director James Clapper told him to do so.
Joining me now, Spencer Ackerman, senior writer for "Wired," who
writes for their national security blog, "The Danger Room," and MSNBC`s
Richard, I don`t know, I don`t know much about waging war. I do know
a little bit about living life. And these generals are writing absolutely
crazy letters, which I don`t have time to read, to a judge in a custody
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.
O`DONNELL: A woman who has lost custody of her son. And in this
country, it is not easy for women to lose custody of children in these
situations. The judge has decided that she is a liar. She changed the
kid`s name without telling the father. She took the kid out of state
without telling the father. All sorts of crazy stuff that`s documented in
And you have these two generals writing to the judge, as if they know
something about it, telling him that oh, no, no, she should get more
custody of the child. These letters to the judge I think are the major
evidence of just how out of it these two generals are.
WOLFFE: Right. Look, I don`t know that any of us can pronounce on
the rights and wrongs of any other person`s family business. But what on
Earth are these generals thinking of? I mean, do they not have enough to
do? One of them was responsible for U.S. forces in Afghanistan. As I
recall, there may be a conflict going on there and there has been for some
Does the FBI not have enough to do that one of its agents can pursue
what seems to be something driven by personal motives, never mind whether
he can keep his clothes on or not. You just wonder, the general -- General
Allen, who again, Supreme Allied Commander nominee, but at the time engaged
with the war in Afghanistan, is reported to have sent 20,000 to 30,000
pages of documents to this lady.
Is there not enough work for any of these people out there?
O`DONNELL: Spencer Ackerman, there is not a reasonable judge in
America who would read a letter from someone not involved in the case, who
doesn`t know the evidence in the case, and in any way adjust their judgment
accordingly, which means these generals naively, stupidly wrote these
letters on September 20th and on September 22nd, thinking they could
actually influence a judge in this case.
If they don`t have lawyers that they would check with and say, should
I write this letter, then they are just incompetent at living their daily
SPENCER ACKERMAN, "WIRED": The thing that was so strange to hear
today was to watch the Pentagon insist to reporters that there`s nothing
that they know of that`s untoward besides flirtation revealed in the e-
mails between Kelley and General Allen. Allen has had an absolutely star
crossed tenure in Afghanistan. He has had scandal after scandal, from the
Bales attacks in southern Afghanistan that left 16 innocents dead, to the
Koran burnings, to the images coming out of Marines urinating on a dead
And he`s actually been able to level with a lot of us in the press
about the progress not really being as rapid as he would like. And you see
this happen -- to have Allen swept up in all of this was kind of
cataclysmic today at the Pentagon. A lot of us went to sleep last night
just thinking this was a scandal about General Petraeus. And then suddenly
Allen is involved in it. It was absolutely surreal.
O`DONNELL: And Richard, one of the things that`s happened here over
the years is that Petraeus has been glorified by the media. It is not
something I have felt capable of contributing to, since I don`t know
anything about the military, never having spent a day in it. But that
doesn`t inhibit other reporters from judging these guys as if they can
tell, you know, who is good at this generaling thing and who isn`t.
And there`s just a lot of revision that the media itself has to go
through on these people.
WOLFFE: Look, Petraeus has -- it is no secret, he has run the best
press operation of any general anywhere in the armed forces, for many
decades. And he -- that has given him no cushion, no insulation among the
same reporters who are gleefully report about this situation now.
Look, in spite of the conspiracy theories on the right, this is a sex
story. And it`s compelling to the media. But that`s what it is. I used
to work in the tabloid papers. This is a voyeuristic exercise. We can
dress it up. People in the White House briefing room can try and
articulate questions in a very intelligent sounding way.
But that`s what it is. It`s a sex story. It is very painful for the
individuals involved. But whatever his reputation on the battlefield, it
really has very little to do with this.
O`DONNELL: Spencer, as we know, Dwight Eisenhower had an affair that
was conducted reasonably and quietly and never broke out wildly like this.
What you`re seeing with Petraeus and with General Allen is associations
with people who are not reliable people. They`re not stable people, which
means that they aren`t stable people themselves.
I mean, these two generals are not stable enough to carefully choose
their associations so that their lives don`t collapse as a result of it.
ACKERMAN: I am not going to psychoanalyze either of these men.
O`DONNELL: That`s what I am here for, so you don`t have to. So go
ACKERMAN: What certainly seems to be the case with Petraeus is that
he seemed to have thought that he could have survived this incident. And
it is his boss, Director Clapper, sort of sending him back to reality, in
effect firing him.
We know that as recently as the week of October 29th, he had talked to
the FBI. His mistress had let him know -- the FBI had known that he had
confessed to the affair. And he had no intention of resigning.
It is very hard to understand how this guy could have thought he could
survive this. And yet he did.
O`DONNELL: I am telling you, for me, when I read these crazy letters
to the judge, I don`t want these guys making any serious judgments about
anything. They don`t know what evidence is. They don`t -- it is just
Anyway, Spencer Ackerman and Richard Wolffe, thank you both very much
for joining me tonight.
WOLFFE: Thanks, Lawrence.
ACKERMAN: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, the newspaper that has already picked its
presidential candidate for 2016. And the senator, the Republican senator
who wants his party to go far to the left of the Democratic party on some
issues, including drug prosecutions.
That`s next in the Rewrite.
O`DONNELL: The fast and furious Rewrite of the losing Republican
party platform continues tonight. A consensus has emerged among Republican
Rewriters that the first place they can do business with the Democrats and
appeal to more voters is immigration reform.
In the Senate, Democrats would need no more than a half dozen
Republicans to join them on immigration reform to pass a bill. The most
important new Republican immigration reformer in the Senate emerged today,
the man who many mistakenly think of as the most conservative Republican
He is possibly the wackiest Republican senator, but because is a
libertarian, he is both a liberal and a conservative at the same time. And
so on immigration reform, Senator Rand Paul is now the most liberal member
of the United States Senate.
He told "Politico" this morning he wants to carve a compromise
immigration plan with an eventual path to citizenship for illegal
immigrants, a proposal he believes could be palatable to conservatives.
Paul is working on a novel plan that he says would assimilate many of
the 12 million illegal immigrants currently in the country. Quote, "if we
assimilate those who are here, however they got here, don`t make it an easy
path for citizenship, there would be an eventual path, but we don`t make
anybody tomorrow a citizen who came here illegally. But if they`re willing
to work, willing to pay taxes, I think we need to normalize those who are
That is to the left of the Democratic party position on immigration,
if there is a Democratic party position on immigration. No one has been
advocating a path to citizenship for everyone who is here illegally. But
now Rand Paul is. The most the Democrats have been pushing, if you can
call it pushing, is some form of a DREAM Act for kids who have grew up in
the United States and been educated here, graduated from our colleges, join
our military, a very narrow approach to immigration reform.
The DREAM Act does nothing to address the problems of the undocumented
grandmothers among us. Now comes Rand Paul saying he wants to go far
beyond the DREAM Act.
And there`s more. Rand Paul wants to work with the liberal chairman
of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Patrick Leahy, to eliminate mandatory
minimum sentences for some drug possession cases.
This is the part of libertarianism that is liberal. Real libertarians
are opposed to all drug laws. Real libertarians say that you should be
able to consume anything you want, that you should be free to harm your
body with whatever you choose to ingest.
Like his father before him, Rand Paul is a tortured libertarian, which
is to say he is a Republican libertarian, who goes along with restricting
reproductive freedom because his party tells him to. But the glimmers of
real libertarianism that the Paul family bring to the national stage
include things we will hear from no other politician in Washington.
Rand Paul, like his father, wants to reduce, if not eliminate, our
military footprint overseas. This position is to the left of everyone in
the Democratic party. Rand Paul will be able to find no Democratic co-
sponsors for a bill that would downsize the military as much as he would
With his father, the perennial presidential candidate headed for
retirement at the end of the year, "Politico" asked Rand Paul if he will
run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. Senator Paul`s
reply was "I`m interested in the national debate."
And we should all be interested in having Senator Paul in the national
debate, especially as a Republican presidential candidate. He won`t win a
Republican presidential nomination, of course. He has no better chance
than his father did. But he will force Republicans to listen to liberal
ideas, just like his father did.
He will also thrill the Republicans with how conservative he is on tax
and budget issues. Rand Paul has paid his dues as a conservative, and
seems to believe that in the wake of last week`s Republican defeat at the
polls, he can now step forward and offer his more liberal ideas to widen
the party`s appeal to voters, as long as he never admits that they are
He told "Politico" "I think I might have the ability, because nobody
really questions, at least not so far, whether I`m conservative enough."
Senator Paul told "Politico" he wants to, quote, "get out in front of
rewriting the Republican party platform," because, quote, "I want to show
what conservatives would or can accept."
And so the man who has major problems with the Civil Rights Act,
something he would have voted against if he were in the Senate at the time,
is tonight intent on leading the Republican party toward some positions to
the left of the Democratic party.
Such is the magic of American politics in this era of Democrats,
defeated Republicans, and libertarians.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I have made it clear that, you
know, I will certainly stay on until the president nominates someone and
that transition can occur. But I think after 20 years -- and it will be 20
years, of being on the high-wire of American politics and all of the
challenges that come with that, it would be probably a good idea to just
find out how tired I am.
Everyone always says that when they leave these jobs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: In the earliest ever presidential candidacy endorsement by
a major American newspaper, today the "Buffalo News" endorsed Hillary
Clinton for president in 2016. The 139-year-old newspaper doesn`t have to
know who the Republican nominee is going to be. They don`t have to know
who the other Democratic candidates for president will be.
The "Buffalo News" knows enough. They want the woman they endorsed
twice already in her Senate campaigns in New York to become president of
the United States in 2017. It is not as if the "Buffalo News" doesn`t know
who the other likely candidates are, especially on the Democratic side.
The "Buffalo News" has always had a sharp political team delivering
its coverage of presidential politics. They know well at the "Buffalo
News" that the hugely popular governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, who they
endorsed in his gubernatorial campaign, is laying the groundwork to run for
president in 2016.
They know that in 2016, Elizabeth Warren will have been in the Senate
the exactly the same length of time Barack Obama was in the Senate before
he ran for president.
They saw Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick rouse the crowd at the
Democratic National Convention this year, almost as much as President Obama
did. The editors of the "Buffalo News" know about all those people, all
the potential candidacies, and they`ve made their choice, Hillary in 2016.
Joining me now is Jonathan Allen, senior Washington correspondent for
"Politico" and co-author of an upcoming book on Hillary Clinton`s rise and
her potential 2016 presidential bid.
Jonathan, what else does Hillary Clinton need? She has the "Buffalo
News" endorsement. What`s she waiting for?
JONATHAN ALLEN, "POLITICO": You know, Lawrence, you know New York
politics better than I do. That`s an upstate newspaper endorsing her,
certainly one in a Democratic area. But that`s the area she had to win
over when she ran for the Senate. I think she needs a lot of other things.
First and foremost, I would say nothing that she has done or that any
of the people around her have done have disqualified her over the past four
years in secretary of states role. I think what you have seen, instead, is
a rise in her popularity. I think the "Buffalo News" is the beginning of a
drum beat that she will hear a lot of over the next two years, as she
thinks about this, makes a decision.
That`s going to be a lot of people who want her to run. You know
politicians as well as anybody. They`ve got a little bit of an ego.
They`ve got a sense of duty. They believe in public service. And it can
be very hard to say no when there are a lot of people asking you to run.
That said, not at all clear that she has made a decision yet. And
certainly she doesn`t have to for at least another couple years.
O`DONNELL: Now I know a lot of people in Washington have never read
the "Buffalo News" or actually held it in their hands, which I have done
many times in Buffalo, including visiting them for editorial board meetings
and such. They are a very serious paper, the most important paper north of
New York City in the state.
And Hillary Clinton knows that this is early and obviously they`re
having fun at the "Buffalo News." But they mean it. And she also knows
that all of the people who are in the party who are calling for her to run
mean it. She heard that call once before, when she was First Lady, and
Charlie Rangel and others were saying, please, run for Senate.
We haven`t seen her turn down that call in the past.
ALLEN: No, I think it`s -- it speaks to who she is as a person. This
is somebody who does strongly feel that sense of duty, who strongly feels
public service as a calling. Before she was the first lady of Arkansas,
she served as the chairwoman of the Legal Services Corporation under Jimmy
Carter. A lot of people don`t know that.
But it`s the government agency that does legal services for the poor.
So this is somebody who really cares about public service a lot.
O`DONNELL: Jonathan Allen, I think you`re going to be following a
candidate into a presidential campaign with your book. Jonathan Allen of
Politico gets tonight`s last word. Thanks, Jonathan.
ALLEN: Take care, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: "THE ED SHOW" is up next.
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THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL