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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Friday, November 16th, 2012

Read the transcript to the Friday show

November 16, 2012

Guests: Maggie Haberman, Abigail Disney, Ben Jealous, Karen Finney, Janet Murguia, David Maraniss

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: With David Petraeus limping off into the
sunset on this Friday night, it`s time -- you know, yes, I think it`s late
enough -- it`s time for a little honest talk about sex. And what better
way to warm up for that than talking about taxes and stupid stuff Mitt
Romney says.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is Speaker Boehner ready to make a deal?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president convened a powwow with congressional

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC ANCHOR: Sitting down with top congressional

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: The congressional meeting at the White
House today.

WAGNER: To begin negotiations --

TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: About how to avoid that so-called --

MITCHELL: Fiscal cliff.


WAGNER: Fiscal cliff.

beginning of a fruitful process.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The issue is taxes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s only one bad word -- taxes.

very bad idea.

terrible idea.

BOEHNER: To show our seriousness, we put revenue on the table.

MCCONNELL: We`re prepared to put revenue on the table.

LUI: Offering some wiggle room.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: We have the cornerstone --


REID: -- to being able to work something out.

PELOSI:" -- before Christmas.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They know they have to work together.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a spirit of cooperation.

OBAMA: Tomorrow is Speaker Boehner`s birthday. We didn`t know how
many candles were needed.

BOEHNER: Yes, right.


WAGNER: Interrupting that reverie this week was the ghost of
Christmas past.

best. Thank you so much.

WAGNER: Mitt "47 percent" Romney.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is the gift that keeps on giving.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Republicans did not take too kindly to Mr.
Romney`s words.

GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: This is completely unhelpful.

SEN. KELLY AYOTTE (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: I don`t agree with the

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: House lost members. Senate lost
members. We lost the presidency.

AYOTTE: And we`ve got some big challenges.

CHRISTIE: It`s time to pivot and move on.

LUI: General Petraeus finishing up testimony.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Petraeus goes to Capitol Hill.

LUI: Before the House Intelligence Committee.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There`s a lot of moving parts here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Petraeus finds himself under investigation now.

LUI: He`s under fire for his affair with biographer Paula Broadwell,
Paula Broadwell.

PAT ROBERTSON, TELEVANGELIST: She is a marathon runner. Ironman
triathlon. I mean, it`s -- he`s a man.


O`DONNELL: Ten days after his re-election victory, new Gallup polls
show President Obama`s job approval is at 53 percent, his favorability at
58 percent. The president`s party, the Democratic Party, has a 51 percent
favorability. The Republican`s favorability is at 43 percent.

Those numbers are on the minds of everyone who filed into the
Roosevelt Room in the White House today for the president`s meeting with
House and Senate leaders.


OBAMA: I think we`re all aware that we have some business to do, and
we`ve got to make sure that taxes don`t go up on middle class families,
that our economy remains strong, that we`re creating jobs. Our challenge
is to make sure that, you know, we are able to cooperate together, work
together, find some common ground, make some tough compromises, build some
consensus to do the people`s business, and what the folks are looking for,
and I think all of us agree on this is action.


O`DONNELL: No politician ever likes to use the phrase tax increase
and Republican talking points formerly forbid it. So feel free to
substitute the phrase tax increase when you hear the word revenue.


BOEHNER: To show our seriousness, we`ve put revenue on the table, as
long as it`s accompanied by significant spending cuts. And while we`re
going to continue to have revenue on the table, it`s incumbent for my
colleagues to show the American people that we`re serious, that cutting
spending and solving our fiscal dilemma. I believe that we can do this and
avert the fiscal cliff that is right in front of us today.

MCCONNELL: We`re prepared to put revenue on the table, provided we
fix the real problem.


O`DONNELL: Reality is settling in, in of all places, Las Vegas, where
the Republican Governors Association is meeting. "Politico" reports, "The
people have spoken. I think we`re going to have to be flexible now," said
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell when asked if his party would have to be
open to taxes on the highest earners. "Elections do have consequences.
The president campaigned on that."

The General Custer of the Republican Party, the last man standing
against tax increases is, of course, General Limbaugh.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: The Republicans are establishing
the mechanism to cave on tax increases. Some governors are -- McConnell,
we`ve got the sound bite, ready now to talk about revenues as long as
there`s talk of spending cuts.

So Obama wants $1.6 trillion in new taxes. Now, here`s something to
think about. How is he going to get that? And he will.

This is -- see, this is the thing that we`ve got to realize. This is
going to happen. It may be $1.2 trillion, but he is going to get this.

Boehner says let Obama lead and see where it takes us. McConnell says
we`re fine and dandy on the revenue side now. Republicans are the ones
that always -- OK, we lost the election, we`re going to have to moderate
our tone and our beliefs and all this. So we`re -- we`re on the verge here
of watching it cave.

I`m seeing the signs of Republicans giving in on opposing new taxes.
At the highest levels, I can see this. Well, elections have consequences.


O`DONNELL: Rush is now certain that his tax rate is going up. Way,
way up -- way, way up, all the way up to where it was for eight years
during the Clinton presidency -- the eight years when Rush Limbaugh
continued to get himself bigger, better and faster private jets.

But when we return to the Clinton tax rate for the Limbaugh bracket,
Rush insists that happy days will not be here again.


LIMBAUGH: It`s going to fundamentally change the relationship of
citizen to state. It`s going to fundamentally remove capitalism as the
U.S. primary economic system.


O`DONNELL: Krystal, they were not carrying white flags coming out of
the White House. But John Boehner and Mitch McConnell could not have
sounded more defeated on day one. I mean, they may rally and fight some,
but I didn`t hear any fight today.

KRYSTAL BALL, "THE CYCLE" CO-HOST: Yes. And you have to think for
Boehner in particular, he`s thinking too about his own legacy, which thus
far as speaker of the House has been marked by historic gridlock, record
low approval ratings, his caucus holding the country hostage for various

So I think he wants to be seen as that kind of speaker who can strike
a deal, who can reach across the aisle, who can make things happen. So I
do think he`s thinking of that, not to mention the drubbing that they just
took in the election and the fact that they have to move on this issue.

I mean, they have no political leverage. The president has taken on
such an intelligent spot and saying, you know what, guys? Let`s go ahead
and extend the tax cuts for 97 percent of Americans, then talk about these
other 3 percent and figure that out.

How do you defend against that position?

O`DONNELL: Maggie Haberman, the politics are fascinating for Boehner,
because in the Senate, they don`t need anything for McConnell. McConnell
can just stand up and speak against it all day, as long as six or seven
Republicans vote with the Democrats on some package.

Boehner has to bring up the bill in the House. He has to allow it to
occur. That`s a totally different dynamic for him.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, POLITICO: Totally different dynamic, but I think to
your point at the beginning of this, this was an appearance of conciliatory
language, right? The devil is going to be in the details.

He is absolutely going to have to find a way to get his conference,
which has not been particularly willing to engage on these issues in the
past to do so here. He has more impetus to do it now, as Krystal said,
because of legacy, but also the reality that this is politically unpopular
at the moment to where the Republican Party has been. They need to move
forward in a different way.

And that RGA meeting where you saw governors say the people have
spoken, they`re all feeling this right now.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Kent Conrad, retiring Senate Budget
Committee chairman, Democrat, said today about these Republicans talking
about revenues and how unprecedented it is to his ear.


SEN. KENT CONRAD (D), NORTH DAKOTA: Revenue is the issue. I`ve been
involved, as you know, in intensive negotiations with Republicans in
Bowles-Simpson, the Group of Six, the Group of Eight, hundreds and hundreds
of hours. And at the end of the day, the big difference is on revenue.
Republicans, until now, have absolutely been opposed to any change in
revenue. Now that`s starting to change.


O`DONNELL: Not only is it starting to change, but even Rush Limbaugh
is saying it feels over to him. It feels like it`s done and his rates are
going up.

BALL: Well, and there`s safety in numbers. The more that you see
people coming out, respected leaders in the party, people who are respected
and admired by the far right of the party, the more you see them come out,
the safer it is -- because what ultimately are Republican Caucus members
worried about? Primary challenges.

So if you have a lot of people who are going along, who are saying,
you know, maybe we can increase revenue a little bit, then it`s very --
then you`re less likely to have that, be that one person that the Club for
Growth targets as a RINO and puts up a primary challenger against.

So the more that we see governors, leaders coming out and saying we`re
open to this, I think the more you`ll see people falling in line.

O`DONNELL: The tax argument has been rates versus reductions.
Republicans and Romney saying, oh, you know, you can get whatever more
revenue you might need through limiting deductions and that sort of thing.

Let`s listen to what Kent Conrad said today to John Harwood, very
important. And this I think is the part the Republicans sound like they`ve
given up arguing. Let`s listen.


JOHN HARWOOD, CNBC: If as the president said you find that you can`t
get enough from loopholes and deductions, do you see Republicans giving on
the top rate and it goes up somewhat?

CONRAD: You can`t do it without raising rates, at least on capital
gains and dividends. You could do it mathematically, by not going up on
the top rate that is from 35 percent to 39.6 percent. But that presents
some very difficult challenges in terms of the so-called tax expenditures,
because if you don`t go up on the top rate, you have to go deeper into tax
expenditures. That means you start affecting very popular things like home
mortgage deduction, like the health care deduction.


O`DONNELL: Maggie, that`s basically what Bill Clinton was saying at
the convention -- the math doesn`t work. And Kent Conrad is going to be
able to do that every day and other Democrats now are well-versed in that
every day.

And the Republicans, I get the feeling the Republicans realize that
argument is working.

HABERMAN: I think that`s right. I mean, I think that -- look, one of
the arguments about Mitt Romney, and you raised this from the convention
time, the math doesn`t add up was because they weren`t saying what was in
the math. That was a big problem for the Republicans throughout this

We are now past that point. We`re going to have to say it. Mitt
Romney`s argument was -- we`ll tell you once we`re elected what this plan
looks like. That`s over. They are going to now to have to move on. It is
true that it doesn`t add up.

And now, what you`re hearing is a conversation about not just rates
versus deductions but also sort of rates versus revenue. I think that`s
going to be a big part of where this argument goes.

O`DONNELL: Maggie Haberman and Krystal -- thank you both for joining
me tonight.

BALL: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, it`s not just lawmakers who are talking to the
president about the fiscal curb and budget deals. Ben Jealous of the NAACP
met with the president today, and he`s coming up next.

And more Romney tape has been revealed showing how bitter he is about
Latino voters and just how disappointed he is in white men.

And in the "Rewrite", as week one of the Petraeus sex scandal comes to
a close, it`s time for that little talk I`ve been meaning to have with you
about sex. Sex talk, coming up in the "Rewrite". I dare you to miss that.


O`DONNELL: We now have more tape of Mitt Romney`s "I`m sorry I lost"
conference calls with his big money donors.

And in the "Rewrite" tonight, sex talk and lots of it. Do I have your


O`DONNELL: The president met with leaders of progressive
organizations today at the White House to discuss his second term agenda,
including representatives of the NAACP, the Urban League and the Human
Rights Campaign. We`ll be joined by someone who was in that meeting in a

And, yesterday, President Obama brought his campaign to tax the rich
to the rich. Yesterday at the White House, the president`s deputy budget
director met with a group that calls itself Patriotic Millionaires --
people who are willing and ready to pay more in taxes under the Obama tax


have done very well. Millionaires have become multimillionaires, and
multimillionaires have become billionaires and our middle class has

I`m happy to pay more taxes because it`s my duty. I love my country.
I love what it represents. It turns (ph) ability people need to have.


O`DONNELL: Joining me now, two people who have been part of these
talks in the White House, Abigail Disney, philanthropist and filmmaker, and
Ben Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP.

Ben Jealous, you met with the president today after he met with the
congressional leaders. Did you get any idea in that meeting what had gone
on with the congressional leaders?

BEN JEALOUS, NAACP PRESIDENT & CEO: Look, he was very clear that he
thinks a deal is possible, that it`s not a sure thing, but that it`s

He was also very clear, and this is why we were there, that he`s going
to fight for the working class. He`s going to fight for middle class
people in this country. He`s going to make sure that Congress really feels
the pressure.

And we all need to make sure that congress feels the pressure to get
this deal to him to extend the tax cuts for working class people in this
country, for that 98 percent of us that right now is being held hostage.
The Senate passed a bill, the House needs to pass the bill, too, so that he
can sign it.

O`DONNELL: Abigail Disney, do you realize that the president is
proposing that the top income bracket go up 4.5 percent from 39 percent to
-- do you understand?


O`DONNELL: This is going to be as bad and oppressive as it was during
those eight horrible years of the Clinton administration.

DISNEY: Yes, those eight years of prosperity under the Clinton
administration. Exactly. So all he`s proposing is that we go back to what
we had in the `90s when we saw fortunes get built, you know?

O`DONNELL: Yes, the rich got nothing but richer during those years.
That was a great period to have money.

DISNEY: Right. The middle class thrived and we had balanced budgets
and even surpluses back then.

O`DONNELL: Why -- why do you think that there`s been such a strain on
the Republican side, possibly up to now, about letting something happen to
this top tax bracket, because clearly people in that bracket split their
votes between President Obama and Mitt Romney and plenty of rich people
voted for President Obama.

DISNEY: You know, I can`t tell you, because it defies logic at this
point. We`ve had 10 years since these tax cuts and we`ve seen the results
of them. We are looking at a horrific deficit, all traceable really to the
root of this tax cut, the two wars that weren`t funded, and the fiscal
cliff that we fell off of in 2008.

So, you know, we`ve watched the results of what happens when we don`t
tax at those levels and we`ve watched the middle class get, you know, the
crap beaten out of them in the process. So I really am lost trying to

O`DONNELL: We have a new Gallup poll today that shows 45 percent of
Americans now say they favor a balanced approach to reducing the deficit
with an equal amount of tax increases and spending cuts. That`s up 32
percent -- that`s up from 32 percent, only 32 percent, of last year.

Ben Jealous, in your opportunity with the president today and others,
and the groups that were represented, were other subjects discussed beyond
just the current budget situation?

JEALOUS: Sure. I mean, you know, we talked about the need to get
this country back to work. This country works better for all people, and
the need to really focus on jobs. You know, we`ve done our own polls with
black voters and 2-1 said, you know, this president, this government needs
to focus on jobs.

But we were also very clear that this is step by step and for the next
six weeks, what this country has to focus on is making sure that we pull
back the working people in this country from this fiscal cliff. And we go
ahead and we extend their tax cuts because we`re talking about $3,000 being
pulled out of the pocket of a family that just makes $50,000. You know,
that is absolutely a leg issue.

When the foreman calls for us to pitch in to make breakfast, you know,
the chicken can just give an egg. But the lamb has to give their entire
leg. And for the rich, this is really an egg issue. You know, for the
rest of us, this is truly a leg issue. And so, we were happy to see this
president on fire, as we are on fire, to make sure that Congress just goes
ahead and pulls the working people up in this country back off this fiscal

O`DONNELL: Abigail, there are two prominent pockets of wealth in this
country on each coast. There`s the Wall Street wealth just on the other
end of Manhattan and they seem very resentful, and there`s Hollywood wealth
that you`re a part of. And there`s something about that West Coast pocket
that isn`t at all resentful about paying a larger share into this community
that this government serves.

What is the difference? I mean, you`ve been around both of those
communities, what is the difference?

DISNEY: You know, I couldn`t say I know the difference. I`ve lived
in both places. I just know that for my purposes, I`ve gotten to the point
of understanding, well, there`s plenty. You know, I mean, there`s
limousine liberals.

I`m a subway limousine. I don`t need a limousine. And how many
dancing lessons do your horses need?

So I`ve watched this plutocracy grew up in Manhattan the last 20
years. It was ridiculous in the `90s and now it`s obscene in the last 10
years. And I think there`s grown a real, interiorized sense of
entitlements on -- really kind of have come to believe, look, I`m pulling
in a billion dollars a year because, well, I`m that great a guy.


DISNEY: And that`s really kind of the frightening thing to me. I
think that`s why they`re so angry about letting go of not just this 4.5
percent in taxes but also, you know, we would love to talk about the
capital gains, I mean, the carried interest loophole and other things. I
mean, just these small provisions in letting these tax cuts lapse just for
the 2 percent and getting capital gains taxes back to where they were under
the Clinton administration, and taxing dividends like ordinary income --
those things will get us to almost $1 trillion over 10 years. That gets us
halfway there to being one to one.

O`DONNELL: That`s right.

DISNEY: You know, I can`t imagine how anybody can look at this
situation we`re in and not say, you know, if my life is not going to be
materially affected in a bad way by this kind of a tax increase, why would
I object?

O`DONNELL: Abigail Disney and Ben Jealous -- thank you both very much
for joining me tonight.

JEALOUS: Thank you.

DISNEY: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, new tape shows Mitt Romney is wicked mad at
Latino voters and more, surprisingly, he`s actually wicked disappointed in
white men.

And it`s sex night tonight in "The Rewrite" -- thanks to the very,
very bad judgment of David Petraeus.


O`DONNELL: We have new tape of Mitt Romney saying stupid stuff to his
rich donors. That`s coming up.

And President Obama`s second term unofficially began today with his
meeting with congressional leaders. Great expectations for the Obama
second term. That`s later.

And in the "Rewrite" tonight, David Petraeus, Bill Clinton, John
Edwards, and lots and lots and lots of talk about sex.


O`DONNELL: In the Spotlight tonight, the Romney tapes. ABC News has
released more of the audio and transcript of the phone calls they obtained
this week of Mitt Romney talking to his disappointed, some might even say
fleeced campaign donors. According to ABC News, Romney told them, "we`re
still having a hard time just contemplating what could have been versus
what is." And "it just doesn`t seem real. We`re still in the stage of
denial at my house. We still think the campaign is going on."

No word yet on whether Romney is seeing a neurologist for this
condition. Romney, who believed the successful way to campaign for
president was to promise more tax avoidance gifts to the richest Americans,
was intensely bitter about Hispanic voters.


ROMNEY: He did two very popular things for the Hispanic community.
What the president did is he gave them two things. One, he gave them a big
gift on immigration with the DREAM Act amnesty program, which was obviously
very, very popular with Hispanic voters. And then number two was
Obamacare. And so for any lower income Hispanic family, Obamacare was

I mean, for -- the average income per household in America is 50,000
dollars a year. That`s the median, 50K per year. For the Hispanic
household, my guess is it`s lower than that. Maybe it`s 40,000 a year.
For a home earning, let`s say, 30,000 a year, free health care, which is
worth about 10,000 a year, is massive. It`s huge.


O`DONNELL: Mitt Romney now realizes, quote, "on the issues, we were
not good." That`s what he actually said on the tapes. He said, "what
would we do with the Hispanic" -- "what would we do with the Hispanic
community was not as popular obviously. We talked tough on immigration and
said we weren`t going to give amnesty. And of course, we were going to
repeal Obamacare. So on the issues, we were not good."

And Mitt Romney has figured out a few weeks too late what some other
Republicans have already figured out, that Republicans simply have to
change their immigration policy.


ROMNEY: Clearly, we have to have an immigration plan. This idea of
just kicking this down the field until every four years the Democrats use
it as an issue to hit us over the head with is nuts.


O`DONNELL: One angry member of the conservative entertainment complex
is in complete agreement with Romney`s political analysis.


BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: When I said that on election night,
that the various groups were breaking for President Obama, and it was
primarily because of free stuff, and then the exit polling showed that, I
got attacked as being a racist right away by the Democrats. They attacked
me not on what I said, because what I said was absolutely true. But trying
to send a warning, don`t you say that free stuff is why we got elected or
we`ll call you a bigot. You always know you win when they start that.


O`DONNELL: That data challenged cable news host, whose audience has
actually declined dramatically since the election, obviously has no idea
that the people who get the most stuff from the government are age 65 and
over. And they voted for Mitt Romney 56 to 44.

Joining me now, Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La
Raza, the nation`s largest Hispanic civil rights organization, and MSNBC`s
Karen Finney.

Karen, I want you to listen to something that -- this was also on the
call. The Romney pollster has another explanation for the loss. He says
on the call, "the way we figured it out is 900,000 fewer white men voted in
our target states than in 2008 and 607,000 more African-Americans and
Hispanics voted."

Karen, I could have told them if they were relying on lazy white men
to get out there to the polls, come on.

KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: That`s not where you want to
put your money, right? But you know what that shows? Like we said, their
strategy, go after the white vote. I just had to love earlier this week
when Ryan was like, there were all these urban voters that came out of
nowhere. If you read the census, you would know that actually there are
black people and Latino people who are registered to vote, who might
actually come out to vote. And if you don`t give them something to vote
for, they probably won`t be voting for you. They`ll be voting for the
other guy.

O`DONNELL: Janet, the thing I love about the way Romney talks about
they have to change immigration policy, he talks about it as if, of course,
he has nothing to do with what policy choices, say, the Republican nominee
for president makes, even if that Republican nominee is Mitt Romney.

chance to talk more specifically about immigration in the campaign. Of
course, he chose not to. And I think that he has this concept of gifts
confused with sensible policy solutions, which I think he failed to offer
in terms of the Hispanic community. He -- I think it reflected a broader
misunderstanding of communities of color, but the Hispanic community in

And the comments were offensive and wrong. And I just think that we
need to hopefully now move on. And it`s encouraging to see that the
Republican leaders, or at least some of the Republicans -- those in the
Republican party are emerging to acknowledge that they obviously rejected
his comments, more and more. And I`m encouraged by folks like Senator
Marco Rubio and Governor Susanna Martinez saying that we need to step away
from that direction.

I think that`s more encouraging. And I`m more interested in what the
Republican party is going to do now. I think there is an opportunity
around immigration.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to another bit of the Romney tapes where he`s
talking about a phone call he got from President Clinton after the


ROMNEY: I spoke with President Clinton the day before yesterday. He
called and spent 30 minutes chatting with me. He said a week out, I
thought you were going to win. And he said, but the hurricane happened and
it gave the president a chance to be presidential and to look bipartisan.
And the -- he got a little more momentum.

Of course, he also said that when he was watching Ann speak at the
Republican convention, he decided he was tempted to join the Republican
party. So he may have just been effusive with generous comments as he


O`DONNELL: Karen Finney, does your friend Bill Clinton pander to
every single person he speaks to at any point in his life? I mean, the
Hurricane Sandy thing, if Bill Clinton really thinks that, Bill Clinton is
wrong. That is now how President Obama won.

FINNEY: I think you hit on something in the opening. He must be on
psychotropic drugs. There`s no way that Bill Clinton and he had that

But I want to go back to this point about the Latino community and the
African American community. Because here`s the thing: what I`m worried
about is I feel like we`re hearing let`s change our words, right? What`s
the right thing we have to say, without the understanding that it`s your
policy. It`s also that you don`t make people feel welcome in your party
when you talk about people as aliens or when you say those people and the
free stuff, and you decide, you know what, we don`t even have to go talk to
them and ask them for their vote or show them the respect that.

That is a fundamentally deeper problem this Republican party has right

O`DONNELL: Janet Murguia and MSNBC`s Karen Finney, thank you both for
joining me tonight.

MURGUIA: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, four more years. What to expect in President
Obama`s second term from the author of "Barack Obama, The Story."

And in the Rewrite, it`s not about the sex. It`s about the judgment
of David Petraeus. But in talking about the CIA director`s very bad
judgment, I am going to have to talk about sex, a lot. But hey, it`s
Friday night. It`s late in cable news world, anyway. So we can go places
we don`t usually go tonight.


O`DONNELL: With David Petraeus taking his place in the adultery hall
of fame, just down the hall from John Edwards and around the corner from
Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton, it`s time for a little sex talk here on THE
LAST WORD. Let`s, first of all, Rewrite the concept of marital fidelity.

What most people mean by the fidelity is actual sexual exclusivity.
Consider the marriage of Bill and Hillary Clinton. Now nothing I`m about
to say about their marriage is fact. We can never really know the facts
about anyone else`s marriage. But what I am going to say I think is
reasonable supposition based on the available external evidence.

I think the Clinton marriage is full of love. Bill for Hillary,
Hillary for Bill, both of them for Chelsea, Chelsea for them. I think the
Clinton marriage is stable, solid. I think Bill and Hillary Clinton are
fully committed to their marriage, to each other and always have been.

I think the Clinton marriage is simply a good marriage. I think the
Clinton marriage works. It works for them. And it does not include sexual
exclusivity. It is, in that sense, a thoroughly modern marriage, or a
thoroughly traditional French marriage.

To be faithful is something much larger than sexual exclusivity. Bill
Clinton is a faithful family man. He`s a faithful father to his daughter.
And yes, he`s a faithful husband to his wife, loyal to her, supportive of
her, devoted to her. But he has not always been sexually exclusive to her.

Bill and Hillary Clinton are both smart enough and loyal enough to
each other and love each other enough to realize that the sexual
exclusivity issue was never going to be a big enough problem to end their
marriage, because they don`t define marital fidelity as simply sexual

And they`re not the only ones. The Clintons obviously judge marital
fidelity to be something much bigger than that, and their judgment has been
proven right. So the Petraeus affair is not about infidelity. It`s about
sexual exclusivity. It is about the consequences of the bad judgments that
David Petraeus made in his relationship with Paula Broadwell and others in
the story.

No adult in the 21st century should be shocked that either David
Petraeus or Paula Broadwell had sex outside of their marriage. It happens.
It happens all the time.

And no adult in the 21st century should presume to guess how it
happened in this case. You should leave the guessing to the adults of the
18th century, some of whom, for some strange reason, are still around.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is -- he`s a lieutenant colonel. She is an
extremely good looking woman. She is a marathon runner. She run Ironman
triathlons. So she`s out running with him and she`s writing a biography.
I think the term is propinquity. And there was a lot propinquity going on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think a lot is the word.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who knows. A man is off in a foreign land and
he`s lonely and here`s a good looking lady throwing herself at him. I
mean, it`s -- he`s a man.


O`DONNELL: Sounds like the Viagra kicked in right before the show.
Yes, David Petraeus is a man. And he was also the head of the CIA. And
the only relevant question that should make us ask is what does this tell
us about his judgment, since his job relied so heavily on his judgment?

The 1950 spy novel notion that extramarital sex somehow could make
Petraeus subject to blackmail is utterly childish. The judgment issue is
the only one worth examining here. And what we see at every stage of this
story is David Petraeus` judgment is terrible.

His terrible judgment is not about the sex. It`s about the e-mails
about the sex. General Petraeus engaged in risky behavior involving his e-
mail. And he did it with a person who engaged in even more risky behavior
with her e-mail.

His bad judgment was that he and she could keep their little secret.
She made the stunningly intemperate decision of thinking she could get away
with sending angry e-mails to another woman about General Petraeus. And
that led us down a trail of a series of terrible judgments made by David

While he was stationed in Florida, General Petraeus welcomed into his
life some military groupies, a local doctor and his wife, Jill Kelley, and
her very troubled sister. Generals, senators, congressmen, movie stars, et
cetera, all have people who crave a place in their entourages. They have
to be very careful of these people.

Jill Kelley and her sister were both graduates of a reality TV show
before they met David Petraeus. They obviously loved throwing around their
association with the general. And that alone should have been reason
enough for General Petraeus and General John Allen to keep them at very
long distances.

Jill Kelley and her husband had bankrupted a cancer charity that they
created after spending virtually all of the money on themselves instead of
on cancer research. That`s who Generals Petraeus and Allen had the very
bad judgment to befriend so closely.

They both wrote breathtakingly stupid and pointless letters to a judge
on behalf of Jill Kelley`s sister, who was in a custody battle over her
son. She obviously did not know that Jill Kelley`s sister had violated
many court orders in that case. She had renamed her son without telling
his father. She had moved with her son to Florida from Washington, D.C.
without permission.

And court records also show she didn`t correct her son when the boy
began to call her sister`s husband "dad." Of course the judge ignored the
general`s silly letters. But the generals did not have the good judgment
to know that their silly letters would be ignored by a judge.

Is David Petraeus the first high ranking general to have an affair?
General and President Dwight Eisenhower could tell you that no, he isn`t.
Is David Petraeus the first CIA director to have an affair? Surely he

But what he is is a four-star general and a CIA director who had the
profoundly bad judgment to engage in the kind of affair that got wildly out
of control and left hard drives full of proof of the affair. And so the
Petraeus affair is not about the sex. And I know whenever people say it`s
not about the sex, it is about the sex.

But for me, it is not about the sex. I mean it. We should look at
the Petraeus affair as a useful window, perhaps not the only window, but a
useful window into the man`s judgment. And everything we see through that
window is a series of very reckless judgments.

One good thing about the Petraeus affair is that he`s finally getting
some balanced coverage in the news media. "Time" magazine, which has
previously been as worshipful of General Petraeus as the rest of the media,
has this in the middle of its Petraeus affair cover story, "Petraeus is a
remarkable piece of fiction created and promoted by neocons in government,
the media, and academia, argues Douglass Macgregor, an outspoken retired
Army colonel. How does an officer with no personal experience of direct
fire combat in Panama or Desert Storm become a division commander?"

And so in the space of a few days, David Petraeus has gone from being
a remarkable piece of fiction to a bumbling character in an unremarkable
soap opera. This is not a story about sex. It is a story about judgment.
It is a story about a man`s judgment, a man who had people`s lives in his
hands as a general, and as CIA director.

The question President Obama had to answer for himself last week was
how much bad judgment was he willing to tolerate in his CIA director. And
President Obama`s answer was none.



OBAMA: Excuse me, there`s actually one other point that I wanted to
make. That is that my understanding is that tomorrow`s Speaker Boehner`s
birthday. So for those of you that want to wish him a happy birthday, we
will -- we`re not going to embarrass him with a cake because we didn`t know
how many candles were needed.


OBAMA: But we do want to wish him a happy birthday.

BOEHNER: Thank you.


O`DONNELL: That`s how today`s budget negotiation meeting began.
Today was, in effect, the president`s first day of legislative work for his
second term. Joining me now to discuss the prospects for the president`s
second term, "Washington Post" associate editor David Maraniss, author of
"Barack Obama, The Story."

David, you wrote in "the Washington Post" about this, "second terms
often bring a new set of frustrations for a president following the laws of
diminishing returns and lame duckiness. But history also shows that a
second term is required to create or to ratify presidential greatness. And
in that sense, Obama is not ambivalent about his ambitions."

What do you think the president`s ambitions are for the second term?

ambition is pretty clear. It`s to reach some measure of greatness, which
can be judged by history that way. There`s a difference, Lawrence, between
expectations and possibilities. So I`m not necessarily expecting it.

But I think that his re-election and the way his first term set him up
for a second term offers that possibility.

O`DONNELL: David, I`m wondering what greatness -- how greatness would
be defined or what greatness options would be available to him, in the
sense that when you`re facing a big budget package, it`s -- that`s all
changeable law. Bill Clinton did a great thing in his first term by
getting a handle on the deficit with tax increases and all that. Then
George Bush comes in and changes those rates.

What of lasting importance is achievable in this second term?

MURGUIA: I think it really is health care. And I think of it like
this, Lawrence, that he passed it in the first term, but had he not been
re-elected, it would have been greatly emasculated by the Republicans. And
now it has a chance to actually take effect, and so people will finally
know what it means and what it will do for millions of people.

I think that, in and of itself, will be not just a great achievement
of the first term but possibly of the second term -- or probably in the
second term. I agree with you. I don`t think that economic policy, in and
of itself, lasts for decades afterwards. So the grand bargain, whatever it
is, might get the country on a path back to something more fiscally sound.
But that`s not going to be it.

I think it will be health care and then something beyond that.
Immigration, I hate the word reform -- but a new immigration policy is sort
of a -- not a great measure, but will help his legacy some. And then he
has to look for some third thing. Whether he can get to that, whether it`s
climate change or -- and I think it`s more likely some measure of climate
change than an issue that`s closer to your heart and to mine, which is
actually dealing with the insanity of guns in this country.

O`DONNELL: Yeah. And on the health care thing, David, it`s such a
complex piece of legislation. It`s obviously one that is going to require
more adjustments and monitoring, especially in those first couple of years.
They`re going to pick up new information about how it`s working, not
working, what needs to be improved.

And so he`s going to have maybe an 18-month window there where they
really know something about how it`s working and they`ve got things to fix.

MARANISS: I agree with that. That is why I think that that is the
major event of his next two years as well. And so, you know, I think
people forgot about that to a certain extent during the campaign, that it
had been passed, but now is the time when it becomes the reality. That`s
hugely important.

O`DONNELL: And David, what is your sense of how this president --
given what you know in your biography of Bill Clinton and other work -- of
the way presidents start to think about that word, legacy. At some point
after that re-election night, that word starts to get in their heads. How
do you think it will affect President Obama?

MARANISS: I think it was in his head much earlier than his re-
election. I really think that so much of his presidency, and of his
political career can be explained by the fact that he never really wanted
to just survive. In other words, he wasn`t just doing something tactical
for the moment, which was Bill Clinton`s specialty.

But -- and so that often led to frustrations. But he always wanted to
set it up so that he wouldn`t be trapped in a place where he couldn`t
possibly achieve something greater. And I think that`s what he is now, but
that`s what he`s been thinking about for a long time.

O`DONNELL: David Maraniss gets tonight`s LAST WORD. Thank you,

MARANISS: Thank you, Lawrence.

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


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