THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
December 20, 2012
Guests: Ryan Grim, Joy Reid, Jonathan Capehart, Dani Leshgold
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: If I knew last night that John Boehner
didn`t have the votes to pass his "Plan B", why didn`t he?
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Tomorrow, the House
will pass legislation --
ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC ANCHOR: Republicans will be voting on Boehner`s
BOEHNER: -- to make permanent tax relief for every American.
ANN COULTER, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: They`ll pushing all that and
they`ll go to the Senate and we`ll lose.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was not even clear if Speaker Boehner has
REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MAJORITY LEADER: Yes, we are going to have
the votes. Yes, we`re going to have the votes. Yes, we`re going to have
MARTIN BASHIR, MSNBC HOST: Wasting everyone`s time.
REPORTER: Will there be a vote tonight?
REPORTER: Will there be a vote tomorrow?
WAGNER: The meaningless floor vote is even more meaningless.
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: This is absolutely
LUKE RUSSERT, NBC NEWS: This is some sort of dance.
REID: These are gyrations I`ve never seen before.
RUSSERT: Something happened on Monday.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A bunch of really conservative members called up
RUSSERT: What exactly happened.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And said, we don`t like this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: House Republicans have refused to govern.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every time this guy takes a foot forward, he gets
slammed in the back of the head with the prying pan.
BOEHNER: I did my part. They`ve done nothing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Boehner has a plan C next to Mayan apocalypse
REID: The bill has no future.
BASHIR: Merry Christmas to you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In Washington this afternoon, Vice President
BASHIR: Joe Biden spoke today for the first time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Met with law enforcement officers.
WAGNER: The first gun violence task force meeting.
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The president is
absolutely committed to keeping his promise.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was not chosen casually or by accident.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Joe Biden is a good pick to head it up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has such a long history with these issues.
BIDEN: We have to take action.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are 5 percent of the world`s population.
CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC ANCHOR: Five percent of the population world.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we`ve got 50 percent of the guns.
JANSING: Half of the world`s guns.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`ve got to deal with that glaring statistic.
O`DONNELL: Only six more days until the cliff now.
After House Republicans revolted tonight and John Boehner had to send
them away on their Christmas recess, there are now only six days left,
starting the day after Christmas for John Boehner to figure out a way to
avoid going over the fiscal curb on January 1st.
Tonight, the House of Representatives was supposed to vote on Speaker
Boehner`s "Plan B" bill that would allow tax rates to increase on
millionaires, but when Speaker Boehner realized he did not have the
Republican votes to pass that bill, something he could have learned last
night if he had been watching this program, Boehner called a special
meeting with House Republicans.
A source in the room tells NBC News that Speaker Boehner pleaded for
votes. He told Republicans they would lose their negotiating power if they
didn`t pass "Plan B".
During the meeting, conservative radio host Mark Levin wrote on
Facebook, "I am told the leadership in the House is now threatening members
with losing their posts if they do not vote for the Boehner tax increase."
Then, just after 8:00 p.m., Speaker Boehner issued the following
statement. "The House did not take up the tax measure today because it did
not have sufficient support from our members to pass."
Here is House Majority Leader Eric Cantor exiting that meeting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Will there be no vote tonight?
REPORTER: Will there be a vote tomorrow?
REPORTER: Are you ditching "Plan B"? Will there be a vote today?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And here is Republican Congressman Steve LaTourette`s
account of what happened in that meeting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. STEVE LATOURETTE (R), OHIO: The speaker, on an unusual mood, led
us in the pledge and the prayer, he gave the Serenity Prayer and then went
to the microphone and said there was going to be a short conference, we`re
not going to have the votes, as a result, we`re not going to be here, as a
result, we`re not going to be here, we`re not going to be here until after
Christmas. And maybe we don`t come back at all this year. I hope you have
a merry Christmas.
REPORTER: Was there any plead by any other members to encourage and
to go along with this vote?
LATOURETTE: No. I mean, we have been doing that for two years with
these people and all they -- they become martyrs. They become martyrs in
the eyes of these extreme groups.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: One of the martyrs, the office of Republican Congressman
Huelskamp who Speaker Boehner removed from his committee assignment,
released a statement tonight reading, "Congressman Huelskamp has stated
consistently that the House should stick to its original objective of
extending all Bush/Obama tax cuts. Republican leadership thought they
could silence conservatives when they kicked us off our committees. I`m
glad that enough of my colleagues refused to go back down from the threats
and intimidation, thus preventing the conference from abandoning our
House Republican leadership did not see this coming.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: Tomorrow, the House will pass legislation to make permanent
tax relief for nearly every American.
CANTOR: We`re going to have the votes to pass both the tax --
permanent tax relief bill.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now from Capitol Hill is NBC`s Luke Russert.
Luke, how did this happen?
LUKE RUSSERT, NBC NEWS: Well, it`s fascinating, Lawrence. There`s,
I`ll give you the rundown.
Boehner announced his "Plan B" on Tuesday. It was immediately met
with some skepticism amongst very conservative members of the House GOP
conference. He then added a few sweeteners. He said, look, we`re going to
deal with the sequester by making sure there will be no defense cuts. We
are going to offer over $200 billion in spending cuts for you to vote for
So, this deal that was rejected tonight would have raised taxes for
those making $1 million or above. It would have cut things like meals on
wheels and we`ve heard about food stamps in order to pay down the deficit,
as well as making sure that the defense cuts would not go into effect.
And all of that was not good enough for the House Republican
conference tonight. It`s really quite extraordinary when you think of the
history of American conservatism and you think governing that a deal like
that, which is so much in favor of the Republican Party, was just outwardly
rejected by the conference, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Luke, we seem to have conflicting leaks at this stage is
in their meeting tonight. We have Mark Levin having a source saying that,
oh, you know, it was threats and intimidation. We just had Congressman
LaTourette saying, no, Boehner just walked in there and gave up.
What do we know about the meeting?
RUSSERT: Well, from what I`ve heard from members was that Boehner
walked in there, he was calm, he was somber and solemn. He basically said
that they not have the votes, that they`re going to lose their negotiating
power because of this, and then Representative Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania
stood up and try to have one last plea, actually screaming saying, we need
to rally behind the speaker. We are hurting ourselves by not supporting
this "Plan B." Folks just shook their head.
And then at that point, they realized, all right, we`ll have a merry
Christmas. Perhaps we`ll see you afterwards. I haven`t heard anything
about the committee assignments. That could come from aides close to
leadership. You never know the conversations they might have. But I`ve
not heard anything outwardly like that.
O`DONNELL: And, Luke, as to the bold statements yesterday, 24 hours
ago, by the speaker, that this was going to pass and it was going to do it.
It`s now my sense that Boehner knew, as well as I did then, how much
trouble he was in and publicly he was trying to assert that it would pass,
because that`s actually part of the way they communicate with their
membership. The members see the speaker on television saying it`s
absolutely going to pass, and some of them start to think, well, he must
have the votes.
RUSSERT: Absolutely. It`s a negotiating tactic that`s employed by
leaders on both sides, sort of this optimism, that you want to be on the
winning team and every one remembers the winner so come right along.
But Steve LaTourette, the congressman you showed earlier, he had an
interesting name for these 40 or so conservative members. He called them
You are starting to see now, Lawrence, this divide between Republicans
here on Capitol Hill, as the ones who were very concerned about groups like
Heritage Action and these outside conservative groups score them, and the
ones that say, you know what? We were sent here to govern and we need to
work for the betterment of the country.
What I`m going to look at going forward, in all intents and purposes
now, it looks like we are leading towards going over the fiscal cliff,
unless something rise from the ashes here. But do Senate Republicans get
involved in the negotiating and try to give Boehner some cover, can Mitch
McConnell perhaps strike up a deal that would get a lot of Senate support
and maybe move forward.
Obviously, everything with revenue gets started in the House, but who
knows? Maybe it`s way forward on this. But it`s quite surprising to see
this much of a divide with the House GOP.
O`DONNELL: Luke, did anything happen tonight to change the prospects
of John Boehner being speaker next year?
RUSSERT: Because Eric Cantor was very much behind John Boehner on
this vote, I would say I`m leaning no. All that being said, though, he
definitely has an element within his conference that would most likely not
be there in support of him if there is a viable, conservative alternative.
But from that conservation I have members tonight, is they said, look, if
this was really the final vote, and Boehner really needed us, we would have
gone along for him and we feel for the guy.
But Republicans, it is interesting, Harry Reid said this was a dance.
This was ideological. They realize that too, that there was no way forward
for this bill. Hence, Boehner maybe losing his speakership story is
something that will get a lot of press in the next few days.
O`DONNELL: NBC`s Luke Russert, thanks for your reporting tonight,
RUSSERT: Take care, Lawrence. Be well.
O`DONNELL: Joining me now, NBC`s Ezra Klein and Ari Melber.
Ari, the Republican started to realize some of the things that
everyone else had been saying about this. As Luke was just saying, they
started to realize, wait a minute, we are voting for something that we know
won`t be taken up by the Senate, it won`t be signed by the president, it
won`t become law. But we are being asked to vote for a tax increase. What
is the point?
And John Boehner could not convince them that there was a point.
ARI MELBER, THE NATION: Right. He couldn`t convince them, and John
Boehner can`t convince the White House who he still has to negotiate with,
or the public, because this was such a charade.
I mean, let`s take a step back. This was John Boehner`s back up plan.
He now needs a back up plan for the back up plan. That`s a bad thing for
Unfortunately, it`s a bad thing for the rest of us because there isn`t
any leadership going on here. But I think to echo one thing that Luke
Russert was reporting. This was a watershed moment of sorts for the tax
crusaders, because Grover Norquist and Americans for Tax Reform basically
came out with the very weird statement that this tax wasn`t a tax. So even
they, the supposed red line guardians of these, you know, endless debates
about taxes have said you can do it and these folks said no for the reasons
you explained. So, they are in a real pickle.
O`DONNELL: Well, they said no following the reasoning of Rush
Let`s listen to what Rush had to say about this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO HOST: If Boehner agrees to raise taxes on the
rich. Then the Republicans are conceding that that`s the problem. And
that deficit reduction and debt reduction can be addressed by raising taxes
on the rich. Obama`s got the eraser and that`s his objected. And if he
can get the Republicans to agree with his premise that the reach aren`t
paying their fair share, then the Republicans are giving up a lot of what
they are known for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Ezra Klein, that seems to be what it came down to for the
Republicans who stopped John Boehner tonight.
EZRA KLEIN, WASHINGTON POST: Because being known for being the guys
who cut taxes on the rich is working out so well for them lately.
O`DONNELL: Exactly, yes.
KLEIN: We`ve learned three things recently. Plan A was to deal with
Obama. We learn Speaker Boehner does not have the votes in his conference
to pass a deal with President Obama.
Plan B was to just do one in his conference. To just do a deal the
Republicans would like.
We know he doesn`t have the votes to just do his own bill if it
wouldn`t get a signature from the president.
The only viable plan C Boehner could possibly to get something pass is
to get a deal that he has some Republican support for and some Democratic
support for. The long time Boehner role where you need heavy majority
support from the Republican caucus will not pass anything. And the problem
is conservatives in the House know it, too. And I do wonder come January
3rd, when he needs to run for reelection as speaker, remember, you need a
majority in the entire House. Not just a plurality, not just more than the
So if a couple of conservatives decide this guy is now going to cave
because he doesn`t have a choice, and they just run, somebody gets 25 or 30
votes. That`s enough to deny him speakership until a consensus candidate
comes along, a Kevin McCarthy or Eric Cantor. And the GOP rallies around
It looks like a bad situation to Boehner for me.
O`DONNELL: Ari, I think Ezra has just really raised the key question
for John Boehner`s future. At minimum, he may have a serious struggle at a
first ballot victory as speaker.
MELBER: Yes, they don`t need that much to do it. And, look, this
goes back to a lot of the changes that earlier GOP caucuses made. The
House has changed a lot. It has become a much more majoritarian
And the Republicans decided you basically need a majority of majority
to pass things. That`s not required, of course, under the Constitution,
but what they said was they don`t want to do anything that`s really
bipartisan. It wouldn`t take, of course, as you`ve reported on the show,
that many Republicans to team up with a Democratic mainstream majority to
get something done.
Barack Obama, by the way, is dealing with a lot of irresponsibility
actors here, because John Boehner is worried about his job as he is about
the rest of the jobs around the country. So, I understand that
Having said that, the president has offered too much at this juncture
for someone who was just reelected with a mandate on these very issues.
So, they need to step back. They need to start from scratch. It looks
like the way to do that maybe post-curve.
O`DONNELL: Well, listen to what Congressman Dan Burton, one of the
archconservatives traditionally in the House, says about what he thinks is
He said, "Let`s say that we don`t do anything --which is where they
are now. He lets us go over the fiscal cliff and they are going to blame
Republicans and the president is going to be the savior. If we go over the
fiscal cliff, the president just comes back and says, OK, we are going to
give tax cuts to everyone under $250,000. Who is going to vote against
that? Everybody will vote for that. Everybody."
Ezra, that`s Dan Burton`s reading of what possibly lies ahead and that
is precisely why John Boehner knew the leverage is with President Obama.
KLEIN: Yes. This gets into some complicated budget math. But it
does seem, it`s not that complicated.
Right now, from where we are now, the deal President Obama offered
John Boehner is a $1.2 trillion tax increase against where we are right
now. After January 1st, the deal President Obama offered is approximately
a $3.8 trillion tax cut. It is a lot easier to sell a $3.8 trillion tax
cut than a $1.3 trillion tax increase.
The deal is the same. But that makes it also easier if President
Obama chooses to go this route, which I don`t know if he will, to offer a
$3.5 trillion tax cut, which would be $300 billion more in revenue, or
maybe even a larger tax increase from current policy than that.
So this does snap into a difficult place for Republicans, where a big
tax increase from where we are now becomes a big, big tax cut.
O`DONNELL: From the start, six months ago, we have been saying that
once you are off the cliff, then everything the president is proposing
becomes even easier to pass.
Ezra Klein and Ari Melber, thank you both for joining me tonight.
MELBER: Thanks, Lawrence.
KLEIN: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up: more on Boehner world out-of-control.
And during, the first meeting of vice president`s task force on gun
violence -- during that meeting, there were more funerals being held in
Connecticut. Joy Reid and Jonathan Capehart join me.
And in the "Rewrite" tonight, the conservative case -- conservative
case -- for an assault weapons ban.
O`DONNELL: John Boehner`s House is out of control tonight. Will it
still be John Boehner`s House in January? Can he survive as speaker?
We`ll have more on that, coming up.
And in the "Rewrite" tonight, a special guest rewrite by a
conservative who is now in favor of an assault weapons ban. This is a
very, very special rewrite. This is someone who has had to study very
closely what assault weapons massacres can do to people. You really want
to hear what he has to say. That`s coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LATOURETTE: It`s unbelievable. This is horrible. I`m angry. I`m
sad for my friend, the speaker. And I`m sad for the country, (INAUDIBLE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Since "Plan B" never had any chance of becoming law
anyway, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said earlier today a big
deal is still possible.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president is ready right
now to negotiate a compromise along the lines of the one he put forward.
It`s available. It`s a good deal. It`s right here.
The President of the United States Barack Obama has put it forward.
It`s a good fair deal and a balanced deal, and they ought to continue to
negotiate to try to achieve something big for the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now is Ryan Grim, "Huffington Post" Washington
Ryan, what we saw there is Jay Carney to try to continue, because
they`ve been winning it so far, win the public perception that the public
is doing everything he can to solve this problem if necessary and the
Republicans are not. They are locked in some unmovable spot.
And when you see Representative LaTourette saying this is horrible,
what his fellow Republican have done is horrible, it seems to me that as of
tonight, once again, the president is still winning the public perception
that he is trying harder than the Republicans are to solve this problem.
RYAN GRIM, HUFFINGTON POST: That`s right. You know, he makes it
painfully clear that he is extremely eager to reach a deal. It has
penetrated the public consciousness to be sure. You know, the numbers are,
you know, in the 60 percent to 70 percent range on who wants to reach a
deal and who`s approach you favor more in handling this Obama versus
But it has even penetrated the Republican conference.
GRIM: You know, Dan Burton as you played the last clip, he is very
clear of what will happen. If we don`t do something now -- and it looks
clear that they are not going to do something now -- then, after January
1st, Republicans are going to get hammered. They`re going to get blamed
for taking over the cliff and then they are going to have to swallow
whatever Democrats can muster at that point.
So, even Republicans, you know, dozens of them I`d say at least, if
not the entire conference, obviously, recognize that that the public
perception is the one that you just laid out.
O`DONNELL: Now, Ari Melber just mentioned on previous block that he
thinks the president has gone too far in what he has apparently offered
John Boehner. And we talked about this last night on the program, what
Democrats worry about this is this adjustment to the consumer price index,
the indexing of Social Security payments that would reduce Social Security
very, very slightly, less than a percentage point.
And actually, we did a piece last night with Bob Greenstein saying
that we had to do on our Web site where I think there was actually
something of a scoop in him explaining something that he understood from
the White House about that offer on the indexing of Social Security
Let`s listen to what Bob said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLP)
ROBERT GREENSTEIN, CENTER FOR BUDGET AND POLICY PRIORITIES: I think,
that when the president suggested it in his offer early this week, my
understanding is that he thought and he and Speaker Boehner were just about
done, that this was part of -- I can agree to this if the overall package
looks like the following.
And then as I understand it, the speaker went back and he talked to
the Republican leaders in the House. They once again pulled the rug out
from under him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Ryan, Bob is saying, as I understand it, is a very modest
way I believe of him saying the White House has told me that the Democrats
in power checked with Bob Greenstein on these kinds of policies, especially
anything involving CPI and Social Security, they would run it by him, and
my sense of what Bob was saying is, they were very, very, very close to a
deal on Monday. It was basically there. And so, the president used the
CPI as his final card to close the deal and that`s after that is when John
Boehner discovered once again that this House was not going to back him on
any deal with president.
GRIM: Yes, I think that is right. Bob is extremely well-respected
liberal policy thinker in this field, and, you know, we have been rough on
the president for offering this chained CPI. But if it turns out that he
is able to offer this, you know, Boehner then backs away from it, moves to
his own plan, falls on his face and then Obama is able to then withdraw it
again and say look, you had a chance to take this, I look reasonable to
centrist for having offered it. Now, I`m taking it away because it`s
obvious that you don`t have -- you don`t have a party to bring to the table
here and we`re going to have to do this with Democrats.
It`s not going to be the Tea Party, me and Harry Reid negotiating this
anymore. It`s going to be Nancy Pelosi, you and 30 and 40 Republicans that
you can cobble together, and then Harry Reid and a few Republicans. That`s
a completely different playing field and it`s one that Social Security cuts
don`t need necessarily to be on the field for.
O`DONNELL: Ryan Grim of "The Huffington Post" -- thanks for joining
me on this breaking news.
GRIM: Thanks for having me.
O`DONNELL: Coming up: Joe Biden got to work today reforming our gun
And in "Rewrite" tonight, a Republican gun owner will make the
conservative case for an assault weapons ban.
O`DONNELL: Today, there were six more funerals for the victims of the
Sandy Hook Elementary School Massacre. Anne Marie Murphy was teacher`s aid
for special needs children at Sandy Hook. Officials say she was found
trying to shield the children in her care. Six-year-old Catherine Hubbard
loved animals. In lieu of flowers, her family asked for people to donate
to Newtown`s local animal center.
Benjamin Wheeler, also age six, was a budding musician who loved the
Beatles. The song "Here Comes The Sun" was played at his funeral today.
And a number of Boy Scouts lined up outside the church to pay tribute to
the Cub Scout.
Six-year-old Allison Wyatt taught her little how to ride a bike. Her
parents say she wanted to be an artist when she grew up.
Six-year-old Jesse Lewis` family members remember him, quote, "in his
boots, no socks, ripped jeans and t-shirt, an Army helmet strapped to his
head, a smudge of dirt on his cheek, tromping through the pasture on his
way from one adventure to another."
And friends and family of 30-year-old Lauren Russeau held a memorial
service for the full time substitute teacher. Her mother told "the New
York Daily News," quote, "they need to take those assault weapons and burn
them into a heap, maybe make a bridge out of them."
Three hundred miles away from Newtown, Connecticut, Vice President Joe
Biden held the first meeting of the Task Force for Reducing Gun Violence.
Attending the meeting were law enforcement officials from across the
country, as well as members of the president`s cabinet.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have to have a
comprehensive way in which to respond to the mass murder of our children
that we saw in Connecticut. The president is absolutely committed to
keeping his promise that we will act and we will act in a way that is
designed, even if, as he says, we could only save one life, we have to take
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now, MSNBC`s Joy Reid and Jonathan Capehart.
Joy, I some people are concerned that this task force may be dragging its
feet, but it looks to me like they`re moving quickly and the president has
set a January deadline -- probably late January -- for getting something
out of them.
JOY REID, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah, and Lawrence -- and first of
all, just let me say, it is so hard to watch that when you read all of
those bios of those kids. As a parent, it`s just excruciating. But I
think it points out the fact that we are in the moment now of the highest
grief for the country. We`re in the moment now of the highest pressure
point on Republicans.
And even now, first the half of the show, you have been talking about
the rejectionist wing of the Republican party in the House. You can`t even
pass things that would be good deals for them. It would be tough enough to
pass something in the lame duck. I`m one of those who is skeptical of
giving it another month and thinking that yes, there will be fewer
rejectionists, there will be fewer Tea Partiers in the House.
Passing something through this Congress, particularly with John
Boehner`s failure to be able to lead his caucus, is going to be hard
anyway. I was one who said the president should have done this in the lame
duck. This is the pressure point that he should have used. I`m hopeful,
though, that Joe Biden can make it work.
O`DONNELL: Well, there is a lot of movement. You had Republican
Senator Rob Portman saying he`s now open to thinking about this. And there
are people on the Democratic side who have always had problems with gun
control issues. Pennsylvania`s been one of those states. Senator Casey --
Bob Casey in Pennsylvania occupies the seat that Harris Wofford used to
occupy. And Wofford was defeated largely based on voting for gun control.
Let`s listen to what Bob Casey said today about this.
Wait, we don`t have the tape. I have to actually read this. He said
"the power of the weapon, the number of bullets that hit each child, that
was so -- to me just so chilling. It haunts me. It should haunt every
public official. If those two bills come before the Senate, I will vote
Jonathan Capehart, that is a definitive statement. That is not saying
I`ll vote for it in December, but I`ll soften in January. And he is in a
tough spot politically, in the past, to say something like that.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes, look, what happened in
Newtown, remember, it is a week ago tomorrow. Just seven days that this
massacre happened, that this tragedy befell that community and befell the
country. And so it was powerful because it was children, because it was an
elementary school, because it was someone from the outside going in to
create such carnage that it had -- I mean, only the hardest of hearts could
not be moved, impacted to change their minds on this issue, and to spur
those who are in favor of gun control into action,, as we`re seeing with
I`m going to have to disagree with Joy in this. And I bring up the
seven days because with the holidays coming and New Years and the new
Congress coming in, there really isn`t -- just physically not enough time
actually to get enough -- get legislation written and get it passed to have
anything become law before the new Congress comes in.
Heaven help anyone who comes into the 113th Congress who doesn`t vote
to bring about some kind of control to the amount of assault weapons, the
cartridges, the high velocity ammo. Heaven hope those people who vote no
on common sense gun control in the next Congress.
O`DONNELL: Well, Senator Scott Brown, who is not supposed to be in
the next Congress, because he just got defeated by Elizabeth Warren, is
still talking about what he would vote for in the next Congress, because he
believes John Kerry`s seat is going to open up in Massachusetts. He`s
going to get to run for it.
He says he would support an assault weapons ban now, which, Joy, says
to me this is a guy who wants to win an election in the state of
Massachusetts next year. And you couldn`t win it with any other position.
REID: Yes, absolutely. And I think swing state and blue state
Republicans are going to be under a lot of pressure. Look, if they do
public hearings on this, if this is a very public process, if it doesn`t
retreat behind the closed doors of the task force, that we keep these
families, and just the families in Newtown, but families and victims of gun
violence around the country, very visible, then hopefully you can maintain
You know, I -- as I said, I wish they had done it in the lame duck.
But I am going to remain hopeful, because these stories are so powerful.
And to y our point, Lawrence, because it is kids -- or both of your point,
because it`s children, it makes it harder to turn away or go back.
By the way, I think we have shown and demonstrated that the NRA is
losing power fast. And so we just really need to make sure that people
take advantage of that momentum.
O`DONNELL: And Jonathan Capehart, the president has said -- and I
don`t remember hearing a president say something like this in December
before -- this will be in my State of the Union Address. He`s guaranteeing
us a number of paragraphs, in effect, about this. I think those will be
powerful paragraphs. I think we are likely to see someone in the gallery
who has been affected by this kind of mass murder. I think January will
not be too late to get started on this.
CAPEHART: Right. And that`s why I think that the momentum that Joy
is afraid is going to dissipate actually won`t. He has given that task
force a month, a little bit more than a month to come up with some
recommendations, get them in order, so that when he delivers the State of
the Union Address, which could be late January, early February -- and as
you say, with the power of those paragraphs in that speech, the power of
seeing survivors or the parents of one of the slain children or all of them
there in the gallery, it would be very, very hard for that new Congress to
look at those families` faces and to say -- to vote no on something that
would relieve their pain and relieve the nation`s pain.
REID: Also on a more cynical note, I think the NRA has proved that it
is not necessarily a guarantee that if they organize and spend against you,
that you are going to loose.
O`DONNELL: Exactly. That`s right. Joy Reid and Jonathan Capehart,
thank you both for joining me tonight.
REID: Thank you.
CAPEHART: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: The judge who sentenced the man who shot Gabby Giffords
and killed six other people will actually do tonight`s Rewrite. That`s
O`DONNELL: If you were lucky enough to pick up an "Los Angeles Times"
today, you found this on the op-ed page, "A Conservative Case For a Ban,"
an assault weapons ban. I was fascinated of course. And I immediately
grabbed it to read it, by Larry Allen Burns. I had no idea who Larry Allen
Burns is, until I read the first sentence, which, as op-ed pieces go, was
quite a grabber.
"Last month, I sentenced Jared Lee Loughner to seven consecutive life
terms, plus 140 years in federal prison for his shooting rampage in
Now judges do not write op-ed pieces. This is -- they don`t have this
kind of communication normally with the public, extra-judicial
communication they call it. So I knew I was holding something
extraordinary in my hands as soon as I read that first sentence.
And I knew by the third sentence in that this was tonight`s Rewrite,
that I was going to just hand it over to this judge to make this
conservative case, as he puts it, for a ban.
He says, that tragedy left six people" -- I`m going to read this op-ed
piece in its entirety. The judge said, "That tragedy left six people dead,
more than twice that number injured and a community shaken to its core.
"Loughner deserved his punishment. But during the sentencing, I also
questioned the social utility of high-capacity magazines like the one that
fed his Glock. And I lamented the expiration of the federal assault weapons
ban in 2004, which prohibited the manufacture and importation of certain
particularly deadly guns, as well as magazines that can hold more than 10
rounds of ammunition.
"The ban wasn`t all that stringent -- if you already owned a banned
gun or high-capacity magazine you could keep it, and you could sell it to
someone else -- but at least it was something.
"And it says something that half of the nation`s deadliest shootings
occurred after the ban expired, including the massacre at Sandy Hook
Elementary in Newtown, Conn. It also says something that it has not even
been two years since Loughner`s rampage, and already six mass shootings
have been deadlier."
The judge said, "I am not a social scientist, and I know that very
smart ones are divided on what to do about gun violence. But reasonable,
good-faith debates have boundaries, and in the debate about guns, a high-
capacity magazine has always seemed to me beyond them.
"Bystanders got to Loughner and subdued him only after he emptied one
31-round magazine and was trying to load another. Adam Lanza, the Newtown
shooter, chose as his primary weapon a semiautomatic rifle with 30-round
magazines. And we don`t even bother to call the 100-rounder that James
Holmes is accused of emptying in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater a
magazine. It is a drum. How is this not an argument for regulating the
number of rounds a gun can fire?
"I get it. Someone bent on mass murder who has only a 10-round
magazine or revolvers at his disposal probably is not going to abandon his
plan and instead try to talk his problems out. But we might be able to take
the "mass" out of "mass shooting," or at least make the perpetrator`s job a
"To guarantee that there would never be another Tucson or Sandy Hook,
we would probably have to make it a capital offense to so much as look at a
gun. And that would create serious 2nd Amendment, 8th Amendment and
"So what`s the alternative? Bring back the assault weapons ban, and
bring it back with some teeth this time. Ban the manufacture, importation,
sale, transfer and possession of both assault weapons and high-capacity
magazines. Don`t let people who already have them keep them. Don`t let ones
that have already been manufactured stay on the market. I don`t care
whether it`s called gun control or a gun ban. I`m for it.
"I say all of this as a gun owner. I say it as a conservative who was
appointed to the federal bench by a Republican president. I say it as
someone who prefers Fox News to MSNBC, and National Review Online to the
Daily Kos. I say it as someone who thinks the Supreme Court got it right in
District of Columbia vs. Heller, when it held that the 2nd Amendment gives
us the right to possess guns for self-defense. (That`s why I have mine.) I
say it as someone who, generally speaking, is not a big fan of the
"I even say it as someone whose feelings about the NRA mirror the
left`s feelings about Planned Parenthood: It has a useful advocacy function
in our deliberative democracy, and much of what it does should not be
controversial at all.
"And I say it, finally, mindful of the arguments on the other side, at
least as I understand them: that a high-capacity magazine is not that
different from multiple smaller-capacity magazines; and that if we ban
assault weapons and high-capacity magazines one day, there`s a danger we
would ban guns altogether the next, and your life might depend on you
"But if we can`t find a way to draw sensible lines with guns that
balance individual rights and the public interest, we may as well call the
American experiment in democracy a failure.
"There is just no reason civilians need to own assault weapons and
high-capacity magazines. Gun enthusiasts can still have their venison
chili, shoot for sport and competition, and make a home invader flee for
his life without pretending they are a part of the SEAL team that took out
Osama bin Laden.
"It speaks horribly of the public discourse in this country that
talking about gun reform in the wake of a mass shooting is regarded as
inappropriate or as politicizing the tragedy. But such a conversation is
political only to those who are ideologically predisposed to see regulation
of any kind as the creep of tyranny. And it is inappropriate only to those
delusional enough to believe it would disrespect the victims of gun
violence to do anything other than sit around and mourn their passing.
Mourning is important, but so is decisive action.
"Congress must reinstate and toughen the ban on assault weapons and
That was the op-ed piece by Judge Burns, who was appointed to the
federal court by President George W. Bush.
O`DONNELL: I recently received a copy of this letter. "Dear KIND, my
name is Dani Leshgold and I am 13-years-old. I`m writing to submit a
donation of 3,360 dollars, 70 desks. I learned about your organization
from a news segment on "The Lawrence O`Donnell Show" on MSNBC. At the
time, I was preparing for my bat mitzvah. As part of the process, I was
looking for a mitzvah project. A mitzvah project is where you identify an
area where you can contribute your talents or funds to make a different to
people less fortunate than you.
"I was very inspired by the work that KIND is doing in Malawi. I can
imagine how happy the students are when desks come to their schools and
they no longer have to sit on the floor to study and learn. I`m so excited
to be making this donation. I worked very hard to make this money. I did
a big bake sale and also solicited many friends and relatives for
"I made many people aware of KIND. And perhaps some will contribute
more on their own. Please write me back so I know you have received my
donation. Thank you so much."
Dani Leshgold, we received your donation and your letter. Thank you,
very, very much for doing this. I really, really appreciate it.
So you saw those kids sitting on the floor like that. And it would
never cross your mind, going to school in this country, that it would not
be possible to not have a desk in the school?
DANI LESHGOLD, RAISED MONEY FOR KIND: Yes. Well, nowadays, we
complain about homework and going to school and these kids are lucky to
even be going to school. And they are happy to be going to school.
O`DONNELL: It puts it into perspective. We introduced -- I think you
have seen we introduced a girl`s tuition program also in Malawi. And we
have raised about 121,000 dollars for that, just in the couple of weeks
since we announced that.
But you have right there on that card the new grand total that we have
raised. And we have broken a certain threshold that is very important, a
big number. And I want you to announce that for us.
LESHGOLD: Five Million, four thousand, four hundred and 75 dollars.
O`DONNELL: When we started on December 3rd this season of soliciting
more help, we were down at about 4.5 million dollars. And I had a secret
hope of getting up to five million, but I thought this would be a really
tough year to do that. It`s been -- so many people are unemployed. We had
the hurricane disaster in the northeast and people trying to dig out from
But we made it, and thanks to you and others. And I understand you
actually -- since you wrote that letter, you have actually pulled in a
LESHGOLD: Yeah, we now have enough to buy 80 desks.
O`DONNELL: That is fantastic.
O`DONNELL: What about other kids? What school are you at here in
LESHGOLD: I go to Wildwood.
O`DONNELL: And you got any friends there who are interested in
helping out too?
LESHGOLD: Probably, yes.
O`DONNELL: All right. Let`s get some help from Wildwood. Maybe they
want to help on the -- tuition, by the way, at one of the Malawi schools is
177 dollars, a little different from Wildwood, right?
O`DONNELL: Dani Leshgold, thank you very, very much. I really,
really appreciate you doing this. Thank you very much.
LESHGOLD: Thanks for having me.
O`DONNELL: "THE ED SHOW" is next.
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THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL