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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

January 9, 2013

Guests: Ari Melber, Senator Richard Blumenthal, Barney Frank, Richard Wolffe

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Oh, boy, pressure is on. I promised
you last night I would announce tonight whether I would pursue the
Massachusetts Senate seat that will be vacated by John Kerry when he
becomes secretary of state. And because I do everything at the last
minute, I still haven`t made up my mind. And I now have about 59 minutes
left to think about it.

Meanwhile, the biggest Republican in the country, and I mean the very,
very biggest, is still saying bad things about Republicans.


ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC`S NOW: Chris Christie is charging into battle.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Even though I think I`m right,
I`m not going to get everything I want.

WAGNER: Under the banner of bipartisanship.

CHRISTIE: We`re compromising where we need to. To try to bring
compromise and consensus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The boss, the master of disaster.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And he`s now a cover boy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Christie`s cover moment.

CHRISTIE: We`ve lost two national elections in a row.

party`s identity problem.

CHRISTIE: The Republicans lost at every level.

figure out who they are.

CHRISTIE: We`re finding areas of compromise. You`ve got to
compromise and get things done. Compromise and work together.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a new poll putting Christie`s approval at
73 percent.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Including 62 percent of Democrats.

MITCHELL: Chris Christie is everywhere.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: I`m here now with Governor Chris

MATT LAUER, THE TODAY SHOW: Governor Christie, good morning. It`s
good to have you.

MITCHELL: Chris Christie is a headline waiting to happen.

MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN: That means he`s got crossover

LAUER: Would you support a federal ban on assault weapon?

CHRISTIE: Depends on what they do now. These are complicated issues.

something about guns appears to be picking up steam.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Vice President Biden meets with both sides of the
gun control debate.

TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Vice President Joe Biden`s declaration.

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT: The president is going to act.

HALL: That the White House can take executive action.

BIDEN: Executive action that can be taken.

HALL: To address gun violence.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC`S HARDBALL: Out of the way, Obama is coming.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there room for common ground?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is going to be a tough one.

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC`S THE RUNDOWN: A heavy political level.

JANSING: The vice president`s plan is designed to be big.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Too comprehensive for passage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That could disappoint a lot of folks.

they say, if at first you don`t succeed, (EXPLETIVE DELETED) it.


O`DONNELL: Today, Republican Governor Chris Christie told Matt Lauer
that the Republican Party is in trouble.


LAUER: But are you happy with the course of the Republican Party
right now? Do you think it`s headed in the right direction?

CHRISTIE: Matt, we`ve lost two national elections in a row. I`d say
the answer is no.

LAUER: OK. Good. So now --


CHRISTIE: You know, you`re in politics to win to get your ideas.
We`ve lost two national elections in a row. We need to be thinking about
doing something different.


O`DONNELL: Today, Governor Christie appeared on five morning shows.
He is also on the cover of this week`s issue of "TIME" magazine. Today on
"MORNING JOE" Christie gave Republicans this advice.


JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC`S MORNING JOE: What are you getting right that
Republicans in Washington, D.C. are getting so wrong? What don`t they get?

CHRISTIE: We`re compromising when we need to. I`m in divided
government. And so I have Democratic Senate and Democratic assembly. So
what that means is that I`m not going to get everything I want.


O`DONNELL: Here is what Chris Christie thinks of the Tea Party.


CHRISTIE: And I don`t think they`ve had too much influence, and I
think there`s a lot of things at the core that`s --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don`t think that`s why the House Republicans
have not been able to get to a fiscal cliff deal?

CHRISTIE: Listen, I think there are so many reasons, Nora, why they
couldn`t, and a lot of them are personal. And I`ve talked about this in --


CHRISTIE: Well, I think they get into these kind of toxic
competitions with each other, and these internal kind of palace intrigue
things that happened, and don`t look at me puzzled, Charlie.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You mean Cantor and Boehner? Is that what we`re
talking about?

CHRISTIE: No, no. I don`t mean -- I wouldn`t limit it to just that.
There are competition among all these folks in that room.


O`DONNELL: Governor Christie supported an assault weapons ban in his
state. Here is what he said about a federal assault weapons ban.


LAUER: Would you support a federal ban on assault weapons?

CHRISTIE: Depends on what they do, Matt. My point is this --

LAUER: Why not just say yes or no?

CHRISTIE: Because it`s not that easy. I mean, I know in a short
interview like this, you`d like me to give you pithy answers, but you know,
the fact is, these are complicated issues. And my point is, I`m willing to
have that conversation. Now that`s a lot more than a lot of other people
are willing to say.


O`DONNELL: And today Christie continued to pressure House Republicans
to increase spending on Hurricane Sandy relief.


STEPHANOPOULOS: What specifically do you want your party in
Washington to learn?

CHRISTIE: Well, I mean, first off, that something like Sandy is and
was above politics.


O`DONNELL: According to a new national PPP poll, 51 percent of
registered voters view Governor Chris Christie favorably, 23 percent view
him unfavorably.

Christie is actually more popular among Democrats than Republicans, 52
percent of Democrats view him favorably, 23 percent unfavorably, just 48
percent of Republicans view him favorably, 27 percent unfavorably.

Governor Christie is most popular among independents, nationally, 52
percent view him favorably, 18 percent unfavorably.

Today, Governor Christie did not rule out a run for president.


STEPHANOPOULOS: What are the prospects of a Chris Christie-Hillary
Clinton presidential race in 2016?

CHRISTIE: You know, I -- there is a good at the prospects of anybody
else against anybody else.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The call comes in 2016, you`ll be ready?

CHRISTIE: Listen, I will be more ready than I was in 2012.


O`DONNELL: Krystal Ball, that`s as much of as "I`m running" statement
as you could possibly make this far ahead of 2016.

KRYSTAL BALL, MSNBC`S "THE CYCLE": Yes, I think that`s right. And
obviously, by all the press that he is embracing and being on the cover of
"TIME," et cetera, I mean, that`s specifically necessary for him to win re-
election in New Jersey. And you do notice also after coming out so
strongly against his own party, against John Boehner and the congressional
Republicans, he definitely dialed it back a bit today.

There was a lot more hedging, there was a lot more well, we`ll have to
see. I`m willing to have the conversation about the assault weapons ban.
But you do notice that for the national audience he is trying to be more
centrist, to be more palatable to the Republicans who would ultimately have
to get him through a primary.

O`DONNELL: And Ari Melber, the -- the federal assault weapons ban is
when he got very presidential. Republican presidential in his dealing with
that question. He just wanted to get away from that and not leave any
record there.

ALI MELBER, THE NATION: Yes, I mean, he was a federal prosecutor, he
has a mastery of many of these issues. He actually understands what it
means to use the state or federal laws that are available to try to
prosecute and deal with these matters. He knows how much prosecutors`
hands have been tied and with the expiration of the federal ban. So I
don`t think that his vagueness about saying it`s uncertain rings totally
true. But I disagree a little bit with Krystal. I think the --

O`DONNELL: What? I beg your pardon. Excuse me.


MELBER: Excuse me.

BALL: Excuse me.


MELBER: I think the --


I think the standard playbook when you are running, really in both
parties, is to hang back, really be super cautious about everything, and
try to create an aura of people almost recruiting you in. Whether you win
or lose, I mean, that`s what Romney did. That`s what a lot of folks do.

This is a little different to me. I think he -- he actually wants to
do is position himself as the leader of the Republican Party right now.
That is probably politically more dangerous than hanging back, but I think
he enjoys it. I think he thinks he will also ride that into becoming the
nominee. But first and foremost, he doesn`t like the way these guys are
talking and he thinks he`s as good as anybody else. That`s what he says on

O`DONNELL: Here is what I think he`s doing effectively for the
Democrats. I think he, Krystal, is helping make Washington Republicans
look ridiculous.


O`DONNELL: Because here is a tough-talking, tough-sounding Republican
who is saying they are ridiculous.

BALL: Right. Well, and a tough-sounding, tough-talking Republican
that Republicans used to, at least, love. I mean they adored this guy.
The Tea Party loved this guy. They swooned for him. So, yes, Democrats
are delighting in how direct he`s been in criticizing congressional

And going back to your point, Ari, I mean I think Chris Christie is a
very talented politician. I think that he is far more talented than anyone
the Republicans had to offer this year. And I don`t think that he is
stupid either. I think he realizes that not only would he have to get
through a primary but he`d have to have a shot at winning a general
election. And that is not going to happen. With the Republican Party
looking like it is right now.


O`DONNELL: All right, let`s listen to two New York Republicans
tonight on FOX News talking about the Republican Party and what they need
to do. Rudy Giuliani and that other New York Republican, Sean Hannity.



bills in the House of Representatives.


GIULIANI: Reducing spending. Let`s present a realistic picture of
how you can reduce this deficit and then dare the Senate to vote against
it, and then dare the president to veto it if the Senate should vote for

HANNITY: And if they have to, only essential areas of government get

GIULIANI: Absolutely right. I mean --


HANNITY: They have to be willing to shut it down until the president
cut spending.


O`DONNELL: Where has Giuliani been napping? This of course is what
the clowns in the Republican House of Representatives have been doing,
they`ve been passing these ridiculous bills. And as Giuliani puts it, dare
the Senate not to pass it.

The Senate doesn`t even look at them, Rudy. They`ve been doing this
for a while.

MELBER: Yes, well, I -- look, I always enjoy Rudy and Sean Hannity
playing truth or dare. I think it`s a fun activity. But they do look a
little out of touch and maybe that`s because Rudy is not following it very
closely. The House has outlined a bunch of different misleading budget
proposals and passed them, and passed versions of them and pushed the Ryan
plan. We know what that looks like. We know that it involves complete
disassembling of programs like Social Security and Medicare. And no, the
Senate will pass on it. It`s not a governing plan.

BALL: And by the way, that strategy has been a disaster because
Democrats don`t -- they don`t feel dared to pass the bill. And it allows
them to say this is exactly what the Republicans want to cut and what they
stand for, and the American people don`t like it.

O`DONNELL: And by the way, whenever we have had a divided Congress,
one body being Republican, the other being Democrat, neither one has ever

BALL: Right.

O`DONNELL: What the other body does. Like they just never care.

MELBER: Right.

O`DONNELL: I mean, when the Republicans controlled the Senate and Tip
O`Neill was the speaker of the House, he didn`t care what they passed in
the Senate. There is nothing new in that.

MELBER: Yes, and I mean, the idea that you`re going to, what, go to a
conference committee over 100 percent pure Tea Party bunch of cutting bill
is crazy. But Rudy has worked in Congress.

O`DONNELL: All right. We got to wrap it up here because I got to use
every --

MELBER: What are you going to do?

O`DONNELL: I got to use every minute I have to figure out whether I
really want to go after that Massachusetts Senate seat.

BALL: I think you should go for it.

MELBER: Have you conferred with Barney?

O`DONNELL: Do you think I should go for it?

MELBER: Have you conferred with Barney?

O`DONNELL: You know, I`m actually going to have Barney on the show
later, because after I floated my name last night, turns out he`s got
something to say about that.

MELBER: Really?

O`DONNELL: Yes. So he`s going -- he`s going to be here.

MELBER: I didn`t even know that.

O`DONNELL: But, OK, I`ve got Krystal`s support --

MELBER: I`m still very --

O`DONNELL: You used to work for John Kerry. People are looking to
you right now.


Because you know --

BALL: This is an important endorsement.

O`DONNELL: -- what it takes to do this kind of job in the Senate.
You --

MELBER: Look. Like Chris Christie --

O`DONNELL: The Melber endorsement.


Is what everybody wants.

BALL: Highly sough after.

MELBER: I had no idea.


MELBER: These are complicated questions and I`m going to continue to
review all the facts.

O`DONNELL: What a politician.

BALL: Good conversation we could have.

O`DONNELL: What a politician.

All right, we`re going to be back. I`m going to -- I`m going to
continue to try to figure this out.


That`s such a sneak peek.


O`DONNELL: OK, pressure is on. Got to make my big decision tonight
about whether to pursue the Massachusetts Senate seat. I promised I`d
announce it here on the show tonight. I said that last night that I would
do that, and I will, I will announce it as soon as I decided. As soon as I
actually make up my mind, which I have not yet done.

I wish I could be as decisive about this as Barney Frank. He decided
he wanted it. He called the governor, he asked him to appoint him. And
Barney Frank, Mr. Decisive Barney Frank, is actually going to join me later
in the show. So I think I have to decide before he comes on, because he`ll
just try to talk me out of it because he wants it.

All right, give me a -- give me a minute to think about this. We`ll
be right back.


O`DONNELL: Vice President Joe Biden spent an hour and 45 minutes
talking to gun violence victims and gun safety organizations at the White
House today. But it was his remark at the very beginning of that meeting
that sent gun worshippers into a frenzy.


BIDEN: We`re here today to deal with what requires immediate action,
urgent action, and the president and I are determined to take action.

I want to make it clear that we are not going to get caught up in the
notion, unless we can do everything we`re going to do nothing. It`s
critically important we act. The president is going to act, there are
executive orders, executive action that can be taken. We haven`t decided
what that is yet.


O`DONNELL: Immediately following that statement, the leading right-
wing Web site sported a headline that read, "White House Threatens
Executive Orders on Guns."

The -- we`re out -- we`ve lost our spot here. Oh, yes, Rush Limbaugh,
I knew we had something else. Rush Limbaugh scared his listeners this way.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: So when Biden, himself a liberal
Democrat, says that himself and the president and the Cabinet, attorney
general, all a bunch of leftist Democrats are talking about using executive
orders, when you say for what? It can only be to take guns. Away from
people. And who knew that an executive order could trump a constitutional

You know, after they finish that, why don`t they just issue an
executive order outlawing abortion if they really want to save lives?


O`DONNELL: This all sets up what could be a very difficult meeting at
the White House tomorrow. National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre is
sending James J. Baker, the director of Federal Relations, that means
lobbyist, for the NRA`s lobbying wing to represent the murder weapon
lobbying group in a meeting with the vice president.

The president also in attendance at tomorrow`s White House meeting
will be representatives from Wal-Mart, which first declined to attend the
meeting due to what they absurdly called a "scheduling conflict," they
released a statement today, saying, "Knowing our leaders could not be in
Washington this week, we spoke in advance with the vice president`s office
to share our perspective. We underestimated the expectation to attend the
meeting on Thursday in person, so we are sending an appropriate
representative to participate. We take this issue very seriously and are
committed to staying engaged in this discussion, as the administration and
Congress work toward a consensus on the right path forward."

Joining me now is the Democratic senator from Connecticut, Richard
Blumenthal, who will soon take action of his own by introducing an
ammunition control bill.

Senator Blumenthal, tell us first of all about the bill you intend to

introduce really has to be seen as part of a comprehensive set of measures
that I`m going to be supporting and introducing over the next weeks and
months, including a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines.

Extended background checks so that we cover the 40 percent of sales
that are now without any background checks. Mental health initiatives.
And also, I want to emphasize, I will support stronger executive action for
enforcement, which the NRA has long said ought to be done. They have said
there is no need for more laws, what we need is better enforcement of
existing laws.

So I would think they would welcome the vice president`s remarks, that
executive action, aggressive, pro-active enforcement of these laws will be
forthcoming, and it is needed, more resources, more support for the ATF and
other federal enforcers, but also at the state and local level, I think
there need to be more resources as well. And maybe there`s some common
ground here that will be reached tomorrow when the vice president
commendably, and I really do commend him for reaching out to the industry,
to the retailers like Wal-Mart, as well as to the NRA.

O`DONNELL: So Senator, what you are hearing and what the vice
president said, you actually heard an echo of what the NRA has been saying
for years, which is hey, we don`t enforce the laws we have.

BLUMENTHAL: And that`s part of the problem, and one reason why I have
offered the legislation that I am going to introduce is we have a law
already on the books that says anybody buying firearms or ammunition cannot
do so, is barred if they are a fugitive, a felon, someone seriously
mentally ill. Someone under a court order for domestic abuse.

And yet, while there are background checks for a lot of the firearms
purchasers, there are none whatsoever for ammunition purchasers. You can
walk into Wal-Mart and buy a shopping cart full of ammunition, pay for it,
walk out, no questions asked. And so what I propose is background checks
for people who don`t have pistol permits or hunting licenses, when people
buy ammunition.

Plus, when they buy more than a thousand rounds there ought to be a
report of it to state and local law authorities. Because that`s a lot of
ammunition. That`s a lot of bullets like the ones that were used in
Newtown and obviously underlying a lot of what is being done on this issue
is the seismic shift.

Really, the very important change that is taking place in public
opinion and in the political landscape. And I hope we can sustain this

O`DONNELL: Senator, I`m so glad to hear you talking about ammunition.
When I was working in the Senate, for Senator Moynihan, who you knew well,
his focus was on ammunition. He got cop killer bullets ban, these bullets
that used to be able to pierce the bulletproof vests that police officers
were wearing.

We also at the Senate Finance Committee put -- tried to put very,
very, very high taxation on certain kinds of lethal ammunition. And the
senator used to do a say, he used to do that a play on the guns don`t kill
people thing, you say guns don`t kill people, ammunition does. If we can
get a serious control and regulation, on monitoring of the flow of
ammunition, that would go a long way from where we are now and from what
allowed the tragedy to happen in your state in Newtown.

BLUMENTHAL: Absolutely right. You know, ammunition used to incur
reporting and registration requirements between 1968 and 1986. It was
struck down in 1986, largely because of the gun lobby, but the Senator
Moynihan pioneered this effort and championed it. And my bill actually
would bar Teflon-coated bullets, which are like the armor-piercing bullets
that were covered by the Omnibus crime bill. And so it would extend that
same kind of protection for our law enforcement whose armor can be pierced
by those kind of bullets and incendiary bullets, as well.

O`DONNELL: Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, thank you very
much for joining me tonight.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, my big decision on whether I will ask Governor
Deval Patrick of Massachusetts to send me to the Senate to replace Jon
Kerry and work with Senator Blumenthal on that bill, on the ammunition and
all the other aspects of that bill.

I would really like doing it. But then it is really hard work
compared to this anyway. All right, we are minutes away. We are minutes
away from my decision and my announcement of my decision, that`s coming up
in the "Rewrite."


O`DONNELL: In our overnight polling I now have a huge lead, well, I
mean, a lead, over Barney Frank on who Governor Deval Patrick should
appoint to John Kerry`s Senate seat when Senator Kerry moves on to the
State Department. And Barney Frank will join me later in what could be the
first debate of the campaign to be appointed to Senator Kerry`s seat. That
is coming up.


O`DONNELL: I got to say, when I ask for your help, you really come


O`DONNELL: I`m going to need your help with this decision. Let me
know on Twitter or Facebook whether I should be appointed senator, whether
I should ask the governor to appoint me senator, or if say Barney Frank
should be the appointed senator, or someone else should be the appointed


O`DONNELL: Here are some of your reactions about whether the
Honorable Deval Patrick, the governor of Massachusetts, who, as I said last
night, is by far the greatest governor of all time -- whether the governor
of Massachusetts should appoint me to take John Kerry`s place in the Senate
when John Kerry becomes secretary of state.

Ron Rosenberry-Chase says "I think you would be great at this. And
with your experience, you could hit the ground running." My point exactly.
Experience is everything in a situation like this.

Marianne Hood McCann says "you would be awesome. I do question where
you would benefit us the most, though, in the Senate or on TV. Either way,
you will always have our support."

OK, let`s get something straight. Anyone who think that a man in
makeup on television at an anchor desk is more important than a United
States senator does not understand the United States Senate. The most
junior, most powerless United States senator is infinitely more powerful
than anybody at an anchor desk anywhere, at any time, and more influential,
and more important in every important kind of way being important.

Joyce Jeffries Tweeted to Deval Patrick, "please consider Lawrence
O`Donnell to fill Kerry`s Massachusetts seat. Ideal choice."

Then Weldon Wendell commented on our website, "we don`t need another
elected or appointed government official one who is smug, self-centered,
and thinks he is God`s gift to the world. Lawrence, stay on TV. At least
there, when your smugness becomes overwhelming, we can turn you off."

Wendell, you can turn off C-Span, too. Don`t worry about that. The
Senate appointment, remember, would be temporary. It would last no more
than five months, whereupon, after a special election, Congressman Ed
Markey will be sworn in as the next elected Massachusetts senator. How do
we know Ed Markey is going to win the special election? Because I said so.

And by the way, the day after I said so on this program, that very
next day, John Kerry endorsed Ed Markey, OK?

The crazy Massachusetts law on replacing senators was written by
politically corrupt and legally corrupt members of the legislature. And so
it has led to some crazy possibilities.


BEN AFFLECK, ACTOR: I`m not going to get into speculation about my
political future.


O`DONNELL: That was all before Ben Affleck declared that he would not
run in the special election for the John Kerry seat and did not want to be
appointed as the temporary senator from Massachusetts. I, then, patiently
waited for media speculation to turn to another son of Massachusetts who
had settled in Los Angeles and achieved, well, a little less success in
show business than Ben Affleck, you know, like maybe one Emmy to his one

I waited and waited and waited. And then last night, I actually had
to float my own name. I had to float it myself, right here on this
program. And then I asked you for your advice on whether I should call up
the governor, call up Deval Patrick today and remind him of my service in
the Senate, including as chief of staff of two committees, first the
Committee on the Environment and Public Works, and then, more importantly,
the Committee on Finance.

You know, I could maybe tell the governor some war stories about how I
pushed through the biggest tax increase in history 20 years ago, maybe
entertain him with some of the funny stuff that happened on the Senate
floor when the Republicans weren`t half as crazy as they are now, and then
beg the governor to appoint me as John Kerry`s successor in the Senate. My
case to the governor, basically, experience matters.

And in our overnight polling, America spoke, spoke clearly in favor of
a Senator O`Donnell. In a poll we conducted on our website, I now have a
huge lead -- a huge lead over anyone else to be appointed senator from
Massachusetts. Forty percent want Barney Frank; only four percent want
Oscar winner and current Oscar contender Ben Affleck to take time off from
living the dream to cast some votes in the Senate for a couple of months.
And as I stared at the polling results today, 51 percent supported me.

As I stared at those results, constantly pressing the refresh button
to see each new vote, as the hundreds and hundreds of votes were cast, I
reached for the phone to call Governor Patrick. And then I realized I
don`t have his phone number. And then I realized what a stunning show of
weakness the poll was for me, that I could barely get a majority, just like
a 51 percent majority of my own website, my own visitors to my own website
to support my possible campaign to beg the greatest governor of all time to
appoint me to the Senate.

And then I realized that I would have to establish a residence in
Massachusetts, which I would have to do Mitt Romney-style and use the
basement of my brother Kevin`s house. And he is a freaking Republican,
which would make things like wicked uncomfortable at the breakfast table.
And then I stopped thinking about who I might want to have in that office.

I stopped thinking about, should it be me? I started thinking about
who do I know who has the governor`s cell phone number, who would be stupid
enough to give it to me? And I realized it was time for me to think much
more seriously about the needs of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the
United States Senate.

And so I decided not to call the greatest governor of all time today.
But I am now ready to tell him right here on this program who he should
appoint as John Kerry`s successor in the United States Senate. And I will
do that in our next segment.

Oh, and have I mentioned that my next guest is Barney Frank?


O`DONNELL: He is a graduate of Bayonne High School, in Bayonne, New
Jersey, where he was born. He graduated from Harvard College in 1962, and
continued graduate studies at Harvard and was a teaching fellow in
government. In 1964, he participated in Freedom Summer in Mississippi, as
did many other Jewish student his age, including Michael Schwarmer and
Andrew Goodman, who was killed that summer in Mississippi, along with James
Cheney, because they, like Barney Frank, were helping African-Americans
register to vote.

Barney Frank arrived in Mississippi before the murders of three of his
co-workers and he stayed after they were murdered. The world knew it took
courage to go to Mississippi that summer as a freedom rider. And after
those murders, the world knew how much courage it took. Barney Frank had
that courage.

I first heard him speak as a guest lecturer at Harvard in a course
taught by the renowned sociologist Nathan Glazer called Urban Social
Policy. Barney Frank was then a top aide to Boston Mayor Kevin White.
Barney Frank was by far the fastest talking lecturer I heard in my college
career and one of the most compelling.

He went on to serve on the staff of Congressman Michael Harrington
before getting elected to the Massachusetts state legislature. He picked
up a law degree from Harvard Law School while he was a state legislator.
And then in 1980, when Ronald Reagan won the presidency, Barney Frank was
first elected to Congress. He served 32 years in the House of
Representatives. And every day of those 32 years, he was the smartest guy
in the building.

He was not always the most effective. You need three things to be an
effective, accomplished member of the House. Two of them simply take time,
experience and seniority. The other requires a certain amount of luck.
Your party must be in the majority.

You saw what Barney Frank could do with experience, seniority and his
party being in the majority when he was chairman of the House Financial
Services Committee.


REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Why do you need bonuses? Can`t
we just give you a good salary, or give yourself a good salary? You`re in
charge of that. And do the good job? This notion that you need some
special incentive to do the right thing troubles people. Anyone wants to
answer, please go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`ll try, Mr. Chairman. It is a good question.
And it is complicated.


O`DONNELL: And when he wrestled the Dodd-Frank Banking Bill -- Bank
Reform Bill through the House of Representatives, you also saw him get
through something that many people thought was impossible. Last week,
after Barney Frank said he would like to be the temporary appointed senator
from Massachusetts when John Kerry becomes secretary of state, a former
chief of staff to Governor Deval Patrick Tweeted, "I respect Congressman
Frank and what he has accomplished, but there are better options for
Massachusetts Senate interim appointment."

We asked that former chief of staff who he thought the better options
are. He gave us the names of three women, a former president of MIT who is
currently on the board of General Electric and Qualcomm, a retired
Massachusetts Supreme Court justice and a Bank of America executive. He
also gave us the name of a man who is the head of the Massachusetts
Taxpayer`s Foundation. In other words, no one with any idea how the United
States Congress and specifically the United States Senate actually works.

The governor`s former chief of staff, who clearly doesn`t know how
Congress or the Senate really works, then told the "Boston Globe," quote,
"the theory that we have to send experienced people to Washington to break
the gridlock -- the experienced people are the ones creating the gridlock."

Now I know that the greatest governor of all time does not believe
that. But he did once employ the abject buffoon who in that statement just
accused Ted Kennedy and John Kerry and Ed Markey and Barney Frank, who each
served Massachusetts for decades -- he has accused them of creating the

Of course, the only Republicans that that guy has ever met are
Massachusetts Republicans. So he has no idea what it is like to serve in a
Senate with Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, and a House of Representatives
with Michele Bachmann and Allen West.

For a senator who will serve for over 100 days during critical budget
negotiations over the future of Medicare and Social Security, Massachusetts
will not be well-served by a retired judge or a bank executive or a former
university president who has to leave her corporate boards and engage in a
speed study of subjects she knows now nothing about.

The Honorable Barney Frank is ready to serve. He has been trained to
serve. He knows the subjects better than most senators will ever, ever
know the subjects. And Massachusetts will be lucky if he does serve as
their next appointed senator, which he will if the greatest governor of all
time does the right thing.

Joining me now, former Democratic congressman, the Honorable Barney
Frank of Massachusetts. Thank you for joining us, congressman.

FRANK: Thank you for the very generous words, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: I have made the case that there is nothing more important,
I think especially in a temporary appointment like this, at a critical time
like this, in these budget negotiations, with the sequester coming --
nothing more important than experience. It would be stunning to me if the
governor were to send some -- at this point political tourist of some kind
down there for a temporary run.

FRANK: Well, I agree. I wouldn`t say tourist. At least one of those
people, whom I know very well, former Chief Justice Marshal, frankly, I had
been thinking of her in the interim. And my view up until about two weeks
ago, 10 days ago, was that`s the kind of person that ought to get the
appointment, because, as you know from your experience, the first three,
four, five months of a new Congress, the Senate doesn`t do a great deal.

And I had no interest after 32 years of fairly intensive work in kind
of taking something ceremonial. And I was sitting in the Democratic caucus
over that New Year`s weekend. And I heard the bill outlined -- and I voted
for it. It was necessary to get things forward. It did raise taxes, to
some extent, on wealthy people. I heard what decisions are now going to
have to be made in February, March and April.

The fate of Social Security and of Medicare, The Republican effort to
use the debt limit, an outrageous arbitrary effort by them to hold hostage
older people and lower income people, the sequester that is going to be a
Republican effort to take the military and hold it harmless, so that we can
continue to have unnecessary troops in Western Europe and more nuclear
weapons than we need, and instead make greater domestic cuts.

So I now do believe experience is important in its two kinds. One is
in how the Senate works. I was a member of the House. But I spent a lot
of time working with senators, including, as you mentioned, the financial
reform bill. I was the chairman of a three week conference, including
senators, and worked closely not just with Chris Dodd and others, but with
some of the Republicans.

And I also have, frankly, been working on these issues. So there are
other people who are quite good. As I said, one of them at least who was
in that list -- I hadn`t heard it before -- Margaret Marshal, the former
chief justice, an extraordinarily able woman. And I had thought this would
be a great thing to do.

I just feel a little immodestly, perhaps now, given the fact that this
is not going to be a normal Senate -- these next three months will be about
as important a set of three months as we have had maybe since the New Deal,
because we have compressed these things in there. That is why I

And people said, well, you were not supposed to volunteer. And
frankly my view is that is kind of junior high school stuff. The
difference between me and a number of other people who want to be the
interim senator is I have said so publicly and the rest are being coy.

O`DONNELL: Yes. And it is a public position. And I think presenting
oneself publicly as an option is a crucial part of it. The Progressive
Change Campaign Committee has started a website.
They were highly instrumental and early backers of Elizabeth Warren`s

What I would like to see is that the interim senator be Barney Frank
and that you go into John Kerry`s committee assignments, so that
Massachusetts has a member of the Senate Finance Committee, which is where
Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security -- where all that jurisdiction is. And
you know there is going to be tremendous pressure on those programs in the
first two months, uniquely because of this sequester situation.

I mean, you and I are both staring at this first two months, three
months of this Senate session, saying this truly is extraordinary, that all
of their work is front-loaded like this.

FRANK: Right, no question. By the way, I`m very proud to say that
Elizabeth Warren on Saturday, at her ceremonial swearing in said very good
things about me. And we worked very well together. I would also want to
endorse your view that Markey should be and will be the next senator.
Frankly, Ed and I have worked together in Congress, before that in the
legislature. And I would like to think of this as something of a kind of a
relay team. There is the interim.

And I would have one difference with you, Lawrence. And I understand
the motivations. But I think this two-step process makes sense. That is,
I do think it is better to have an election than an appointment to the
Senate. You know, Tip O`Neill used to very proudly say that the House of
Representatives was the one body where you could not get there unless you
won the election. On the other hand, if you have a four or five month
delay, you go without a vote.

So I think the two-step process works well. And I think the rule that
whoever is appointed should not be a candidate -- it can`t be made legal,
by the way, because of the Constitution setting the Senate qualifications
and not allowing for any modification of them. But given that, as I said
on December 28th, I didn`t really want that job. When people asked me, do
you want the Senate appointment, I said I just retired. It is kind of like
being told a week before graduation you have to go to summer school.

But I care deeply about Social Security and Medicare. They are the
two most successful anti-poverty programs in America history. And to put
off Medicare or to deny a full cost of living increase to elderly people
living on 1,500 dollars, to protect a bloated military budget -- and it is
bloated not because we have bad people in the military, but because we have
put them in a situations where they shouldn`t be, and instead cut out on
environmental or education or housing -- those things trouble me deeply.

And literally as I sat there in the caucus and learned what the
decisions were going to be, as you said extraordinarily important decisions
crammed into a three-month period -- delay wouldn`t be an option because
you have these new deadlines -- then I felt really insistent that I wanted
to be there to protect things that I care about.

O`DONNELL: Congressman Frank and I hope Senator to be Frank, I would
hate to see the governor send someone into that job who has not been in a
discussion of chained CPI, not at a time like this. Thank you very much
for joining me tonight.

FRANK: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: We`ll be back with more right after this.



JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Sorry we had to postpone the
briefing, very busy day. I have a very important personnel announcement to
make. Actually, I`m just kidding. I`ll go right to the A.P.


CARNEY: First, I don`t make cabinet level personnel announcements.
The president does. Secondly, I would say that Jack Lew, who is the
president`s chief of staff, has been and continues to be an extremely
valuable adviser to the president.


O`DONNELL: That was Press Secretary Jay Carney punking the White
House Press Corp, and not announcing that President Obama plans to announce
the nomination of his chief of staff, Jack Lew, to replace Timothy Geithner
as Treasury secretary. The president is expected to do that himself

In other cabinet new, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis announced today she
is resigning, while Attorney General Eric Holder announced he will stay on
for a second term. Today, Jay Carney was asked this question about Jack


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has he been working on his signature a little?

CARNEY: Not that I`m aware of.


O`DONNELL: The Treasury secretary`s signature, you see, appears on
all Federal Reserve notes, dollar bills, issued during his tenure. Here is
Jack Lew`s signature. It really is. And here is what Jack Lew`s signature
would look like on a dollar bill. Now, not every important government
figure can have the style and flourish of John Hancock. Of course, it was
once said that Zachary Taylor, America`s 12th president, had handwriting
that resembled that of a near illiterate.

And of course, there is this. Whose signature is that? It might be
more illegible than Jack Lew. Well, open your wallet. Timothy Geithner`s
illegible signature became the very neat, very legible cursive in the
right-hand corner. Geithner told the radio show "Marketplace" he was
forced to change his signature before it was fit to print.

Richard Wolffe, when I was chief of staff at the Senate Finance
Committee, we of course had to confirm Treasury secretaries. And I had,
when I was all done -- there`s just this thing. It was run through the
committee. And the question was just when exactly is it going to be voted
on, on the floor? Because it is the floor vote, which was absolutely
guaranteed, but it`s just a matter of a crowded calendar. It is the floor
vote that really does make you Treasury secretary.

The guy was in there. He was doing the job. I kept getting these
calls, when is it going to happen, when is it going to happen. I finally
said to the guy, it is going to happen; what is he worried about? And he
said he wants to sign the money. It is a big deal. Signing that money is
a big deal.

school child --


WOLFFE: It is going to come any day now when you`re appointed --

O`DONNELL: Because I`m not going to go for Senate. So you know.

WOLFFE: Really? Did you break that news?

O`DONNELL: Yeah, I just made my announcement.

WOLFFE: So, you know, Washington still, in this day and age, 2013,
still has this fetish of a signature. And it is not just the bank notes,
right? I saw President Obama signing the health care law, 23 pens. Now,
by my reckoning, there are not 23 letters in his name. You know, every
curve is a new pen to hand to someone.

O`DONNELL: Congressman, senator.

WOLFFE: Right. So there is this fetish of a signature. There was
news about whether he auto-penned the tax cuts, tax hikes, whatever you
want to call it, in the last round. I think we`re stuck in a retro age,
right? It is embarrassing, the signature thing. But beyond the weirdness
of Washington and the collection of eight and 10-year-olds -- by the way,
my eight year old has a better signature -- does it matter?

O`DONNELL: No, my signature was beautiful when I was eight. Are you
kidding me? The nuns had me doing this beautiful thing that I can no
longer do. I completely lost connection to it. But there is a little bit
of talk of Jack Lew having trouble in confirmation.

WOLFFE: For a start, his signature is the most interesting thing
about Jack Lew, maybe the most controversial.

O`DONNELL: He is a super competent guy.

WOLFFE: He is incredibly competent. He is incredibly well liked.

O`DONNELL: And like all numbers, wicked boring.

WOLFFE: And tedious as ever he could be. But if you`re John McCain,
I am sure there is something you could find about him, maybe that he works
for a guy called Barack Obama. That would be enough. The fact that he
negotiated a deal which Republicans did not fair well in, in terms of the
tax deal, that`s another reason. But this guy is so confirmable. If he
isn`t, then no one is.

O`DONNELL: All right, Richard Wolffe gets tonight`s LAST WORD.
Thanks, Richard.

WOLFFE: Thank you.

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


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