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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

Read the transcript to the Tuesday show

January 22, 2013

Guests: Mo Brooks, Cecile Richards, E.J. Dionne, Frank Smyth, Karen Finney

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: Tonight, here in Washington, the
president`s resolve has forced the Republican`s hand on the debt ceiling.

And later in this hour, Wayne LaPierre, the lobbyist who makes sure
that mass murderers have the most deadly weapons they can possibly have,
will make a statement in Nevada in response to the president`s inaugural
address -- in which, of course, the president said absolutely nothing about
gun ownership or the Second Amendment.


REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MAJORITY LEADER: Our conversation will look
to vote on a measure tomorrow.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The short term raise for the debt ceiling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three-month extension of the debt ceiling.

CANTOR: Temporarily extend the debt ceiling.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It really is unacceptable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a gamble.

CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC HOST: What`s the Republican strategy here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Three months is not good enough.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They may not even vote for this.

CANTOR: It`s about time that we come together, do our work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The partisan lines just got deeper.

the debt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Boehner has an 18 percent approval rating.

BOEHNER: The debt that`s crushing the future for our kids.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a party in a retreat.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A retreat of sorts.

LUKE RUSSERT, NBC NEWS: Is the plan going to pass tomorrow? The
three-month debt limit extension plan?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They may not even vote for this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It really is unacceptable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They will evolve or they will die. It`s that

stand out as one of the great days.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is 40th anniversary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today marks 40 years.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The 40th anniversary of Roe versus Wade.

GUTTMACHER: This allows a woman free choice.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Support for reproductive choice is at a record

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fifty-four percent believe abortion should be

GUTTMACHER: This is extraordinary.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was an assault on women`s access to
reproductive health care.

Supreme Court should overturn Roe v. Wade? Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Seventy percent say Roe v. Wade should not be

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a deeply personal issue. It`s one that
should be made by women.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Politics can change.

must we.


O`DONNELL: This time, all the president had to do to make Republicans
surrender was take the oath of office.

Today, House Republican leadership made this announcement.


CANTOR: Our conference will look to vote on a measure tomorrow that
will temporarily extend the debt ceiling.


O`DONNELL: That measure, which is expected to come to the floor early
tomorrow afternoon would temporarily suspend the debt limit until May 19th.
It says the debt limit shall not apply between those days, which would
authorize the Treasury to continue to pay debts incurred until that date.

But at a press conference tonight, after House Republican conference
meeting, John Boehner could not answer this very simple question from NBC`s
Luke Russert.


RUSSERT: Is your plan going to pass tomorrow?

BOEHNER: Pardon?

RUSSERT: Your plan going to pass tomorrow, this debt limit extension


O`DONNELL: At the White House today, Jay Carney was pleased to see
the Republicans moving in the president`s direction.


negotiate over Congress`s responsibility to pay the bills that Congress has
already incurred. That is true today. It will be true in three months.
It will be true for as long as he is president.

The House Republicans made a decision to back away from the kind of
brinkmanship that was very concerning to the markets, very business, very
concerning to the American people. So the fact that the House Republicans
have made this decision is certainly something that we welcome.


O`DONNELL: But Jay Carney would not say if the president is willing
to urge Democrats to help the new Boehner plan pass.


REPORTER: Does the president encourage members of the House to vote
for that bill? And will he sign it? Will he veto it? What`s the position
on the bill?

CARNEY: As I said, the bill still has to overcome concerns expressed
by the members of the House and the Senate before it can pass both
chambers, and reach the president`s desk. If it does and it reaches the
president`s desk, he would not stand in the way of the bill becoming law.


O`DONNELL: Jay Carney made this offer on behalf of the president if
Congress continues to find it impossible to do its job.


CARNEY: He believes we ought to do this for longer periods of time.
He believes that if it is difficult for Congress, they can turn it over to
him. He`ll take the heat for making sure that we pay our bills because it
is the responsible and right thing to do. So if that were what transpires
after this next round, if Congress produces something, he would welcome


O`DONNELL: Joining me now: Republican Congressman Mo Brooks of
Alabama, and Jared Bernstein, former chief economist of Vice President
Biden and an MSNBC contributor.

Congressman Brooks, what the -- what is going on here?

REP. MO BROOKS (R), ALABAMA: Well, you have democracy at work.

O`DONNELL: Yes, we do.

BROOKS: You`ve got a very serious threat to our future with these
unsustainable deficits. We are in perhaps the fifth consecutive trillion
dollar deficit year, total accumulated debt of $16 trillion, no end in
sight. And so, you have a long-term threat we have to focus our eyes on.
But we also have a short-term threat, and that is raising the debt ceiling
or not. No question.

O`DONNELL: Are you going to vote for the Boehner plan?


O`DONNELL: Why not?

BROOKS: Well, let`s get to the long-term threat, I want to do
whatever is necessary to avoid or minimize the risk of federal government
insolvency and bankruptcy.

To me, that would be debilitating to our country, devastating to our
economy, far worse than any economic period seen in the history of the
United States.

In my judgment, if the federal government becomes insolvent or goes
into bankruptcy because the debt burden has accumulated to such an extent
that it overwhelmed our ability to pay. In that context, then, I`m willing
to vote to raise the debt ceiling if one or two things will happen.

First, a balanced budget constitutional amendment must pass the United
States Congress and sent to the people.

O`DONNELL: No, that`s not going to happen.

BROOKS: No, it could happen. I disagree.

O`DONNELL: No, it will not. What`s the other one?

BROOKS: Well, it may not, certainly if we don`t try.

O`DONNELL: All right.

BROOKS: And the second is, substantial spending cuts, or something.

O`DONNELL: According to John Boehner that`s not going to happen

BROOKS: A sincere effort to try to address underlying cause of the
problem. The underlying cause of the problem of having to raise the debt
are these trillion dollar a year deficits that everybody agrees are

O`DONNELL: We get that position from Republicans.

I`m trying to get at what has happened within the Republican Congress
in the House such that the day after the inauguration, the Republican
leadership is saying let`s not raise the debt ceiling? Let`s pretend we
simply do not have one. And do that for a period of months.

Is that -- is that thing going to get the votes? That`s the question
that Luke Russert asked.

BROOKS: Well, I`m not on the whip team. I can`t give you a firm
answer. There will be no votes from Republicans and there will be yes
votes from the Republicans. I have no idea what the Democrats will do.

O`DONNELL: That`s the question, Jared. What Democrats do in this
situation? Should they vote for this thing, which by the way contains some
crazy provision about congressional pay, which is completely
constitutional? Describe what this provision does on congressional pay.

BROOKS: Which I disagree with. I concur your view --

O`DONNELL: Widely unconstitutional.

BROOKS: OK, I concur --

O`DONNELL: It suspends their pay as long as they don`t --

BROOKS: It puts their pay in escrow until basically the next Congress
if they don`t pass a budget. Look --

O`DONNELL: Let me just read one thing from the Constitution of the
United States.

No law varying the compensation for the services of senators and
representatives shall take effect until an election of representatives
shall have intervened.

You can`t pass a law about your pay during that Congress.

congressman here, I`m not an elected official.

What I hear him saying is we have a very difficult budget situation.
And therefore, we have to go full speed into total dysfunction. And I just
don`t see how those pieces add up.

I mean, if you`re really serious about trying to do something about
the deficit, which is, by the way, a medium, long-term problem, versus the
economy, which is a near-term problem, then you shouldn`t be screwing
around with the budget -- with the fiscal cliff and the debt ceiling in the
first place. In fact, all that messing around with the debt ceiling does
is threaten to raise our interest rates, make them higher, so our creditors
insist on an interest premium, it makes things much worse.

If you want to talk about stabilizing the debt, which I would hope you
and I would agree would be a goal, then we have to talk about raising $1.2
trillion over the next two years, because we have over $2 trillion in the
bank, through spending cuts and through tax increases. That $1.2 trillion
is not that heavy a lift with a functional Congress.

But we can`t get there if we`re playing around with this kind of crazy
legislation, that you yourself are not going to vote for.

O`DONNELL: Congressman Brooks, remember when you guys got the House
back from Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats, and the first thing you did was
go out there on the floor and read the Constitution? And the new rule was
going to be every piece of legislation comes with a constitutional
explanation -- and now, here you are in straight violation of the 27th

BROOKS: You give me the choice of which side to argue before a court,
I`m arguing that this is unconstitutional.

O`DONNELL: It sounds like complete disarray up there. Boehner and
Cantor, going forward, as far as you can tell, you don`t know. And Boehner
won`t say if he has the votes, Democrats are not sure. What should we do
with this thing? Should we vote for it kind of gives us some breathing
room or continue with this chaos? But it is chaos, isn`t it? Isn`t that
what it feels like up there?

BROOKS: Well, there is always a degree of uncertainty of an elected


O`DONNELL: It`s a little different.

BROOKS: I have been elected in office off and on since 1982. OK? In
the Alabama legislature and here in the United States Congress. And there
is always a crisis. It is always accompanied by a degree of uncertainty
how it will be addressed.

Now there are varying degrees, certainly this is at the top of the
list. It is always that way.

BERNSTEIN: Wait a second, Congressman. The debt ceiling has been
increased since the 1960s by I think -- I think 80 times, including 18
times over Ronald Reagan`s tenure.

The only time we had this kind of chaos over the debt ceiling was in
2011, the last time we ran up against this.

BROOKS: Time out for a second. We have never had this kind of series
of unsustainable budget deficits that threaten the future --

BERNSTEIN: Not true.

BROOKS: OK, World War II.


BROOKS: Aside from that. In relative peace time, we never had this
type of threat to the solvency United States of America.

BERNSTEIN: So I disagree.

BROOKS: Wait a second. You can disagree, that is fine, let me
finish. We have to act.

Now, I would love to act in a more accommodating way. But we have a
president who doesn`t seem to care about deficits and debt. He`ll mouth


BERNSTEIN: You`re in a good place.

BROOKS: I have -- I have seen this gentleman in the White House act
as he has acted now for four years, and he could have done a lot of things
concerning the deficit, the debt, he controlled the United States House, he
controlled the United States Senate --

BERNSTEIN: We don`t have much time. So, let me --


BERNSTEIN: -- put the talking points and the president aside, and
let`s talk about how we get to where we are to where we need to be.

I think this is going to pass tomorrow. And I think once that passes,
we have a number of months, that I would say you and your colleagues have a
number of months to achieve something that we can achieve, that the
president himself has put forward -- a sustainable debt to GDP ratio over
10 years. It includes $1.2 trillion more of debt savings. I would love to
see you and your members put all of this nonsense aside and work on that
goal. Half on the revenue side, half on the spending cuts side.

Do you think that`s something could contemplate?

BROOKS: It is not anything at all that the Democrats showed a
willingness to agree to. Unless you`re talking in terms of spending cuts,
the number priority of the federal government, which is national defense.
What other spending cuts have they risen to the top with?

BERNSTEIN: So, the president OK, the president --

BROOKS: Substantive spending cuts --


BERNSTEIN: First of all, they have already cut, and not just they,
you guys have already cut $1.5 trillion in spending from lowering
discretionary caps. Secondly, the president has put $400 billion on
spending cuts and entitlements, going outside the comfort zone of a lot of
Democrats, by the way. So, concrete cuts on the table, offered to John
Boehner in December.

BROOKS: Made the specific entitlement programs that the president is
going to take a lead on in cutting.

BERNSTEIN: Medicare -- he put Medicare and he put Social Security.

BROOKS: OK, Obamacare took --

O`DONNELL: Can you guys consider this conversation during the break
and when you go back up to the Hill, can you give John Boehner my copy of
the 27th Amendment on congressional pay?

BROOKS: I can assure you he`s already read it.

O`DONNELL: Congressman Mo Brooks and Jared Bernstein, thank you both
very much for joining me tonight.

BROOKS: Coming up, the president didn`t say a word about gun control
or the Second Amendment yesterday, but the NRA`s Wayne LaPierre has
scheduled an announcement likely to occur live in this segment in Nevada.

And Cecile Richards is here on the 40th anniversary of Roe versus

And in the rewrite tonight, what did Bill O`Reilly -- what did Bill
O`Reilly say last night in his show in reaction to President Obama`s speech
that slaveholders would actually have agreed with wholeheartedly? O`Reilly
in the rewrite, that`s coming up.


O`DONNELL: You would think after being wrong about everything. And I
do mean everything, after being wrong about slavery, after being wrong
about women getting the right to vote, after being wrong about civil
rights, wrong about Vietnam, wrong about weapons of mass destruction in
Iraq. After being wrong about that, and that is just the tip of the
iceberg, you would think that after being wrong about that, conservatives
would have some -- some -- self doubt about some things. But hard
headedness is what makes them conservatives. It is what makes Bill
O`Reilly Bill O`Reilly.

Bill O`Reilly and his reaction to the president`s inaugural address
and Republicans` criticism of the president`s inaugural address is in the
rewrite tonight.

That`s coming up.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The court said in a 7-2 decision that in the first
three months of pregnancy, only the woman and her physician may decide
whether or not she may have an abortion.

GUTTMACHER: It means that January 22nd, 1973 will stand out as one of
the great days for freedom and free choice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The American women must rededicate themselves to
the protection and the sacredness of all human life.


O`DONNELL: Today marks the 40th anniversary of historic Supreme Court
decision of Roe v. Wade. And on this day, a new NBC News/"Wall Street
Journal" poll finds for the first time, majority of Americans, 54 percent,
believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, according to
the poll. Thirty-one percent say it should always be legal, 23 percent say
it should be legal most of the time, 35 percent say abortion should be
illegal with some exceptions. And only 9 percent, just 9 percent hold the
Republican Party view that abortion should be illegal without any

The poll also found that 70 percent oppose overturning Roe versus Wade
compared to just 24 percent who support overturning the Roe versus Wade

President Obama released this statement today: "On the 40th
anniversary of Roe versus Wade, we reaffirm its historical commitment to
protect the health and reproductive freedom of women across this country
and the stand by its guiding principle that government should not intrude
in our most private family matters and women should be able to make their
own choices about their bodies and their health care. Today and every day,
my administration continues our efforts to reduce unintended pregnancies,
support maternal and child health, and minimize the need for abortion.

On this anniversary, we re-commit ourselves to supporting women and
families and the choices they make and redouble our efforts to promote safe
and healthy communities."

Joining me now is Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood.

Cecile, it is striking now that with the 40th anniversary, there are
no women of reproductive age in this country who were alive before Roe
versus Wade, who knew a world in which this wasn`t there to give them the
options that they need.

that NBC poll I think is fascinating. And it really shows that there has
been consistent support in this country for a woman making her own
decisions, and among the next generation, consistently the same belief --
that women, not politicians should make their personal decisions about
their health care.

O`DONNELL: And when you see that 9 percent, on what is the Paul Ryan,
the no exceptions position on abortion, the abortion that was held by all
of those crazy Republicans who tried to justify it this year by saying
things like, well, you know in rape, the female body has defenses against
pregnancy and rape, and all that nutty stuff. But that view is held by 9
percent of the population, which is an impossible electoral position for
the Republican Party.

RICHARDS: Right. That`s what I think, and that is what they are
saying at the Planned Parenthood. They are so out of step, the U.S. House
of Representatives and these politicians across the country who have been
under this unrelenting assault on women and on women`s health care access.

What we saw in the election is this extreme position on women`s
health, on overturning Roe, taking a position to get rid of Planned
Parenthood, that position caused Mitt Romney, probably cost him the
election, certainly with women and with younger voters.

And the more they continue, I think it`s going to cost other folks, as

O`DONNELL: And the polling is showing an expanding favorability for
abortion rights, which is not --

RICHARDS: That`s right.

O`DONNELL: -- never to be confused, and Republicans always do this.
It`s never confused with abortion. They pretend that women when they come
to this choice, those who chose abortion to do so happily, gleefully, that
it`s a light thing to decide to do.

But this is support for abortion rights that`s even stronger than
exists in Roe versus Wade.

RICHARDS: That`s right. And I don`t -- you know, I don`t know, I
feel like there are too many folks in office trying to play politics with
this issue. I don`t know if it`s their own particular point of view.

But what we see consistently, it is so fascinating to me at Planned
Parenthood -- people in this country can both have their own personal,
private opinions about abortion, what they feel like they would do
themselves, and yet understand that they can`t make that decision for every
woman in America, that no one can walk in another woman`s shoes. And I
think that`s what this polling is showing. That`s what we saw in the state
of Mississippi when they defeated overwhelmingly an amendment that would
have created this personhood amendment.

That is really where the American people are. And frankly, what the
American people want to government to do is help women get access to birth
control and family planning. This president, I know their Affordable Care
Act has done more to help advance women`s access to birth control than
anything we`ve seen in history.

O`DONNELL: How much do you think -- it`s hard to figure this out --
but how much would you credit your own work and the positive work done by
Planned Parenthood, in expanding people`s understanding of abortion rights,
and pregnancy rights, and the right wing`s crazy approach to it?

I mean, it seems to me when they make this crazy approach to it, they
actually create allies of yours who might have been on the fence and
unsure. And it just pushes them to your side.

RICHARDS: Absolutely, I think that`s what`s interesting in this poll.
I think the hardening support for abortion rights in Roe is really
reflected in that fact. And, you know, the past two years, the assault on
Planned Parenthood has only gained more supporters. We added 2 million
more folks to our organization, and also, most importantly a whole
generation of young women and men who say we`re never going back to the
days before Roe.

O`DONNELL: Cecile Richards, thank you very much for joining me on
this important day.


O`DONNELL: When President Obama said, quote, "We cannot mistake
absolutism for principle", that apparently was too much for absolutist
Wayne LaPierre to take. The NRA`s chief lobbyist is going to make a live
announcement coming up in this hour in Nevada. That`s coming up.

And why, why was Joe Biden running, literally running all over
Pennsylvania Avenue yesterday? What does that mean? What is the running
man up to? And what does it mean for Hillary Clinton?

That`s coming up next.


O`DONNELL: I`m getting texts from the final inaugural ball. That`s
right. The final inaugural ball is actually still under way at this hour.
The staff ball started at 6:00 this evening. It is the ball for all of the
presidential staff, campaign staff, people who have been working on all the
other inauguration festivities for the president this weekend.

The president, joined by the first lady, spoke to the staff about 9:00
p.m. Lady Gaga performed, and then Tony Bennett tweeted this. "On a date
with my lady tonight, Lady Gaga, White House ball."

And the latest text I have, Tony Bennett just came on stage. That is
the latest, from the staff ball -- the most well-deserved ball of any of
these balls that have happened all of this weekend.

Coming up, Wayne LaPierre apparently did not like President Obama`s
inaugural address, big surprise. But he is actually scheduling a live
announcement tonight, probably within this hour in Nevada. We will carry
it live if he does it on schedule -- the NRA chief lobbyist reacting to the
president`s speech.

And in the rewrite tonight, why conservatives who have been wrong
about everything, and I do mean everything, could not understand President
Obama`s inaugural address.


O`DONNELL: OK. Wayne LaPierre is speaking live in Nevada. We`re
going to go to that now.

Yesterday, in his Second Inaugural Address, President Barack Obama quoted
the Declaration of Independence. And he talked about unalienable rights.
I would argue that his words make a mockery of both.

I would like to talk to you about one line near the end of President
Obama`s speech, where he said, quote, "we cannot mistake absolutism for

Let me quote the president again. "We cannot mistake absolutism for
principle." So what is this absolutism that he attacks? And what are the
so-called principles that he wants us to settle for instead?

Obama wants to turn the idea of absolutism into a dirty word, just
another word for extremism. He wants you, all of you, and Americans
throughout all of this country to accept the idea of principles as he sees
fit. It is a way of redefining words so that common sense is turned upside
down, and that nobody knows the difference.

Think about it for just a minute. As families, when we`re broke, and
all of our credit cards are maxed out, we`re all forced to tighten our
belts. But when government is broke, and our bond rating is tumbling, and
the president wants more programs, borrowing more money is supposed to be
principled. And anybody who questions that is a no-good absolutist. Obama
code for extremist.

We as gun owners face that same kind of false ultimatum. We`re told
that to stop insane killers, we must accept less freedom, less than the
criminal class, and the political elites, less than they keep for

We`re told that limits on magazine capacity or bans on 100-year-old
firearm technology, bans that only will affect lawful people, will somehow
make us safer. We`re told that wanting the same technology that the
criminals and our elites are protected by for themselves is a form of
absolutism, and that accepting less freedom and protection for ourselves is
the only principled way to live.

Barack Obama is saying that the only principled way to make children
safe is to make lawful citizens less safe. Criminals couldn`t care less
about Barack Obama`s so-called principles. They don`t have principles.
That is why they`re called criminals. You all know that.


LAPIERRE: Obama wants you to believe that putting the federal
government right in the middle of every firearms transaction, except those
between criminals, will somehow make us all safer. That means forcing law-
abiding people to fork over excessive fees to exercise their rights,
forcing parents to fill out forms to leave a family heirloom to loved ones,
standing in line and filling out a bunch of bureaucratic paperwork, just so
a grandfather can give a grandson a Christmas gift.

He wants to put every private personal firearms transaction right
under the thumb of the federal government. And he wants to keep all of
those names in a massive federal registry. There is only two reasons for a
federal list on gun owners, to either tax them or take them. It is the
only reason.


LAPIERRE: And anyone who says that is excessive, President Obama says
you`re an absolutist. He doesn`t understand you. He doesn`t agree with
the freedoms that all of you cherish and Americans all over this great land
cherish in their hearts. If the only way he can force you to give them up
is through scorn and ridicule, believe me, he is more than willing to do
it, even as he claims the moral high ground.

He said it yesterday. In the very same sentence that Obama talked
about absolutism versus principle, he also scolded the critics -- he is
more than willing to demonize his opponents, silence his critics and slur
the NRA, in the words of Senator Charles Schumer, as an extremist fringe

And look how he demonizes the Republicans in Congress. When Barack
Obama says we can`t mistake absolutism for principle, what he is saying is
that precision and clarity and exactness in language in law should be
abandoned in favor of his nebulous, undefined principles.

I`ve got news for the president. Absolutes do exists. Words do have
specific meaning, in language and in law. It is the basis of all
civilization. It is why our laws are written down, so the letter of the
law carries the force of the law. That is why our Bill of Rights was
written into law, to ensure that fundamental freedoms of a minority could
never be denied by a majority.

Those are the principles we call unalienable rights. Without these
absolutes -- protections, democracy decays into nothing more than two
wolves and one lamb voting on who to eat for lunch.

I urge our president to use caution when attacking clearly defined
absolutes in favor of his principles. Mr. President, just because you wish
words meant something other than what they mean --

O`DONNELL: OK, that is enough of Wayne LaPierre for now. With me,
E.J. Dionne, Karen Finney, Frank Smyth, who has been following the NRA
closely. I just want to now play exactly what the president said yesterday
that has Wayne LaPierre so upset, this statement the president made about
don`t mistake absolutism for principle. Let`s listen to that.


OBAMA: We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute
spectacle for politics, or treat name calling as reasoned debate.


OBAMA: We must act. We must act knowing that our work will be
imperfect. We must act knowing that today`s victories will be only
partial, and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years, and
40 years, and 400 years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred
to us in a spare Philadelphia hall.


O`DONNELL: E.J. Dionne, of course that is just an intolerable
statement that the president made. I don`t see how the NRA could have
waited as long as they did to come out against it.

E.J. DIONNE, "THE WASHINGTON POST": He said Obama wants to turn
absolutism into a dirty word. I thought absolutism already was a dirty
word, and it didn`t take President Obama to do it.

O`DONNELL: LaPierre said absolutism is another word for extremism,
which, yes, in many instances, it is.

DIONNE: Yes. And so what I found odd about his talk is, first, this
at least looked moderately more reasonable than that crazy outburst he gave
right after Newtown. So somehow he is pulling back. But the second thing
is it is really tired NRA rhetoric where he says these laws will only
affect lawful people. Well, the whole point of a background check is to
keep guns out of the hands of lawless people, criminals. So they`re very
tired arguments that they just keep making.

O`DONNELL: And Karen, they always say it won`t always stop every one
of them.

absolutism that they like to say.

O`DONNELL: But the line in there where the president says we must act
knowing that our work will be imperfect, must act knowing that today`s
victories will only be impartial.

FINNEY: That`s why what he was saying was so twisted, right. The
absolutism I think that the president was speaking to was the idea that the
NRA says, well, why do anything? That is not going to solve what happened
in Newtown. How about Friday? There was a white supremacist arrested with
15 -- or 18 AR-15s in a truck and a mass high capacity magazines. Today,
there was a shooting at a school in Texas, a community college. We are
still learning the details.

But the president has talked about gun safety and keeping guns out of
the hands of people who should not have them. So we shouldn`t try at all
because we might not have been able to stop Newtown? No.

DIONNE: And just on that point, Justice Scalia agrees with Obama on
this absolutist issue, because Justice Scalia says that the Second
Amendment allows the regulation of various kinds of firearms.

O`DONNELL: And Frank Smyth, you have been watching Wayne LaPierre of
the NRA quite closely. I would assume this is pretty much on track with
what you would have expected after that.

FRANK SMYTH, "MOTHER JONES": This is on track, but Wayne LaPierre has
made a very calculated decision to try to co-op the decision and change the
terms of the debate at a critical time. The National Rifle Association has
an absolutist interpretation of the Second Amendment, something that I have
used, "the Washington Post" used a week ago on Sunday in their description
of their position on the Second Amendment.

That is what most people would consider an extreme interpretation, an
interpretation that would say that citizens have the right to have the same
force of arms as police and the military, fully automatic weapons. That is
the right of Roberts court, the Supreme Court, in an opinion written by
Justice Scalia. It`s the right of "the Wall Street Journal" editorial

O`DONNELL: And you maintain the goal of the NRA is for private
individuals to be able to match law enforcement and even military in fire

SMYTH: The driving force of the NRA is that they believe they want to
be insurrectionists in waiting, have the legal right to be heavily armed to
fight a future tyrannical government, which if you listen to Ted Nugent,
NRA director --


SMYTH: But if you listen to other Second Amendment activists, such as
neo-Nazi organizations, it`s what one of them called the Zionist occupied
government. So the NRA occupies a very dangerous space at the far right of
the American political spectrum, where white supremacist groups operate in
the shadow of the NRA. And the real message is they have an absolutist
agenda. It is what most people would call an extremist agenda.

And rather than be called out on this, what I think LaPierre is
attempting to do is change the terms of the debate in a pre-emptive strike.

O`DONNELL: What he did in that first few minutes, which I think is
all we probably need to hear -- he is just wrapping up there now. He says
-- he managed to come out against the president`s proposal for background
checks for all firearms transactions. Never mind that, of course, all
automotive transactions are also tracked by the government. And those
include some heirlooms. There are some grandfathers giving away the `57 T-
Bird to the grandson. And the government has to check the papers on this,

FINNEY: Also, it is so insulting, this idea that we shouldn`t have to
fill out any kind of paperwork to have a gun. But we have to fill out all
kinds of paperwork to vote. That seemed to be perfectly fine.


FINNEY: And in some states, I have to have a vaginal probe before I
can access a legal procedure, a legal medical procedure. And that seems to
be OK. I mean, the hypocrisy of these arguments is outrageous.

O`DONNELL: We just want to keep track of whatever the grandfathers
are giving that can kill people, like actually designed to kill human
beings. If that`s what you`re bequeathing to people in your will, yes, we
want to keep track of that.

DIONNE: It was also interesting that he went after the background
checks, because I think there is an excellent chance that Congress actually
is going to close --


DIONNE: That and the ban on the big magazines. So the fact that he
is going there I think says he is worried that people who want saner
regulations have actually gained ground on that.

O`DONNELL: And then, Frank, he says that the reason that the
president wants to track all these transactions is so he will then know who
all the gun owners are, so we can tax them or take them.

SMYTH: If you accept the premise that you could have a future
government, the first thing that the tyrannical government would do, in the
minds of the Second Amendment absolutists, is come to gun owners` homes,
seize their weapons and then probably imprison them. That`s inconceivable
to most of us in this country. But this is the fantasy that NRA leaders
and other Second Amendment activists are living with.

Most gun owners would have no problem with gun registration. But if
you are fearing the government, then the reason you don`t want any gun
registration is because it would give Big Brother the opportunity to take
away your guns.

O`DONNELL: These people register their cars. Do they like just not
get license plates and stuff? What do they do?

SMYTH: Most of them register their cars. Most of them pay taxes.

O`DONNELL: The government can come and take those cars, because they
know where they are. They have their addresses. .

FINNEY: Don`t forget, too, Ed, the NRA sort of whips up this
hysteria. What happens? Gun sales go up. What does that mean? That
means gun manufacturers make money. And the NRA has a direct, you know,
one dollar program with some of their gun manufacturers. So they get more
money. So let`s not forget that some of this comes back to commerce and
following the dollars.

DIONNE: And their membership goes up. And what you sense is going on
right now is a lot of what the NRA is saying is not aimed at influencing
the larger argument. I think they are saying some extreme things that are
hurting them in the larger argument. But they feel pressure from gun
organizations and others to their right. And I think that is really going
to mess up their strategy, because the people on the fence here are
moderate politicians responding to moderate voters.

And extreme arguments to boost their membership to fend off right wing
organizations is not going to get to those folks.

SMYTH: But I think, E.J., by capturing the term absolutist, and
saying Obama is trying to use that to label extremists, the NRA is trying
to preempt people from explaining their absolutism as, in fact, being
extreme. So in that sense, they are attempting to influence the moderate
middle, or people in the center of the debate.

O`DONNELL: Frank Smyth, Karen Finney, E.J. Dionne, thank you for
helping me cover the first rebuttal to the president`s State of the Union

DIONNE: Very open minded. You gave Wayne LaPierre a bunch of time.

O`DONNELL: We`re going to take a break. We`ll be right back.



BILL O`REILLY: -- although social justice is a noble goal. It is
simply impossible to do what the president wants to do.


O`DONNELL: That was Bill O`Reilly last night with his critique of the
second Obama Inaugural Address. To no one`s surprise, Republicans didn`t
much like the president`s speech. Senator Mitch McConnell said President
Obama proved, quote, "the era of liberalism is back."

That is, of course, a twist on Republicans` favorite quote ever by a
Democrat, which was Bill Clinton saying in his fourth State of the Union
address, "the era of big government is over."

Here is some of the crazy liberalism that Republicans had to endure


OBAMA: What makes us American is our allegiance to an idea
articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago. "We hold
these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal, that they
are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among
these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."


O`DONNELL: The president`s speech was not entirely original. He
lifted some of the language from his heroes. No, not Marx or Engels or
Castro or Bill Ayers. Here is some of the borrowed language.


OBAMA: Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we
learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality
could survive half slave and half free. We made ourselves new and vowed to
move forward together.


O`DONNELL: Thanks to Rick Hertzberg at "The New Yorker," we were
reminded today that in Abraham Lincoln`s Second Inaugural Address, he said,
quote, "every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another
drawn with the sword."

And it was Lincoln who previously said "I believe this government
cannot endure permanently half slave and half free." Here is a bit that
conservatives really hated.


OBAMA: Preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires
collective action.


O`DONNELL: Collective action? You can`t get more socialistic than
collective action, right? Fifty Years ago, at the other end of the mall, a
spot the president could see during his speech yesterday, Martin Luther
King Jr. said the same thing, using different words. Instead of collective
action, he said "we cannot walk alone."

In his "I Have a Dream" Speech, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King
Jr. said "many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here
today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny.
They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our
freedom. We can`t walk alone."

Of course, conservatives never much liked Dr. King. But conservatives
claim an enduring devotion to our founding documents, the Declaration of
Independence, the Constitution, even though they have always had trouble
believing those founding documents really apply to everyone. So of course,
conservatives just hated this.


OBAMA: We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths,
that all of us are created equal, is the star that guides us still, just as
it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall, just
as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints
along this great mall to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone, to
hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to
the freedom of every soul on Earth.


O`DONNELL: That is the social justice that Bill O`Reilly believes is
impossible. That is the dreaded liberalism Mitch McConnell is talking


OBAMA: It is now our generation`s task to carry on what those
pioneers began. For our journey is not complete.


O`DONNELL: That is the problem. That is the problem, conservatives
firmly believe that our journey is complete. They have always believed
that our journey is complete. When only white men had the right to vote,
conservatives believed that our journey was complete.

Conservatives, by definition, want to conserve. They want to
preserve. They want to preserve things, their things, including their
wealth, their voting rights and their marriage rights. And they don`t want
to share those things in any way. Conservatives have always been wrong
about these things.

Republican conservatives and Democrat party conservatives opposed the
march of women`s rights. Republican conservatives and Democratic party
conservatives opposed the march of civil rights. Now when I talk about
conservatives, I am not talking about just Republican conservatives. I am
talking about Republican conservatives, Democratic conservatives,
independent conservatives.

Conservatives always thought that everyone had as many rights as they
needed, and that people who didn`t have the right to vote, like women and
African-Americans, did not need the right to vote and would not know how to
use it if they had it. Conservatives don`t want to be on a journey. They
don`t believe we have a journey. Conservatives oppose progress in every
way they can.

Many conservative supporters of slavery in this country made the same
arguments against President Lincoln that Bill O`Reilly made last night
against President Obama.


O`REILLY: So it is quite clear that the president is willing to go
down in history as a crusader for social justice, no matter what happens to
the economic fabric of the country.


O`DONNELL: Supporters of slavery were always claiming that
emancipation would destroy the fabric of the country. They knew that was
their most potent argument. And there is Bill O`Reilly echoing it on the
150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.


OBAMA: We have always understood that when times change, so must we.


O`DONNELL: Sadly, we have not all always understood that. Bill
O`Reilly doesn`t understand that. Conservatives do not understand that.
And they never have, that when times change, so must we. They have never
understood that the Constitution must be constantly reinterpreted in the
context of the times. Like President Lincoln before him, President Obama
listed a series of things that we all take for granted today that the
Constitution did not provide for, such as a huge standing army, the biggest
one in the world.

We have shown you before on this program how much modern day
Republicans disagree with their hero, Ronald Reagan, on everything from tax
increases to debt ceiling increases to banning assault weapons. The only
other president who Republicans claim to admire almost as much as Reagan is
the first President, Abraham Lincoln.

But if they heard Lincoln say this in his first Inaugural Address they
would have booed him. Quote, "no organic law can ever be framed with a
provision specifically applicable to every question which may occur in
practical administration. No foresight can anticipate, nor any document of
reasonable length contain express provisions for all possible questions."

That is Abraham Lincoln calling the Constitution organic law, and
saying that the Constitution could not possibly have anticipated our every
governing question. I invite you to imagine, if you will, just close your
eyes and just imagine the right wing outcry if President Obama called the
Constitution organic law, instead of saying this.


OBAMA: We have always understood that when times change, so must we.


O`DONNELL: Liberals have always understood that. Liberals understood
it when President Lincoln said it, and liberals understood it when
President Obama said it yesterday, but conservatives have never, ever
understood that. When times change, so must we. And the day conservatives
actually do understand that, they will no longer be conservatives.


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