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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Monday, February 18th, 2013

Read the transcript to the Monday show

February 18, 2013

Guests: Ana Marie Cox, Jonathan Allen, Ryan Grim, Ken Sullivan, Dr. Ranjan Batra


the Republican Party is going to have to ask itself is, can they say yes to
anything? Can they say yes to anything?


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: Well, the short answer is not anything that
comes from President Obama.


CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC ANCHOR: A chain of fierce politicking is under way.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Leaks don`t happen in Washington by

SEN. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: There is no leadership on the other side of
the aisle.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: The president really doesn`t want
immigration reform.

JANSING: With the president in the Republican`s crosshairs over



GINGRICH: With the level of hostility from the president,

BASHIR: Just in case Congress fails to producer compromise.

GINGRICH: I think it is very hard to imagine that his bill is going to
pass the House.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president has never really had great luck in

DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS: If the president proposes legislation --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just because the president`s name is on it.

GREGORY: -- do you think it will fail?

MCCAIN: Of course. Of course, it will.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With no other explanation given.

MCCAIN: Of course, it will.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s just ridiculous.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This particular Congress and the last Congress.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congress has not been very productive in these last
couple of terms.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They do wait until the very last couple of minutes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not cool anymore.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The so-called sequester.

RYAN: It`s the president who proposed this sequester.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The blame game is already under way.

RYAN: It`s the president who designed the sequester.

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Both sides blaming the other.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone signed up in this deal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s really everybody`s responsibility.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Here`s my belief, let`s take
Obamacare and put it on the table.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator Lindsey Graham.

GRAHAM: Obamacare is destroying health care in the country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He needs cameras --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What`s up with --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- and he likes to be on TV.

GRAHAM: Let`s don`t destroy the military and just cut blindly across the

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should we have an intervention?

OBAMA: These cuts are a really bad idea.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president has never really had great luck in

RYAN: There is no leadership on the other side of the aisle.

PAUL: He is really not serious.

RYAN: And therefore no agreement.

GREGORY: If the president proposes legislation, do you think it will fail?

MCCAIN: Of course.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is just not cool anymore.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s just ridiculous.


O`DONNELL: The Obama White House has drafted an immigration proposal which
got leaked over the weekend, provoking Barack Obama first responders Marco
Rubio staff to issue this less than half-baked press release. "The
president`s bill repeats the failures of past legislation. It is half-
baked and seriously flawed. It would actually make our immigration
problems worse and would further undermine the American people`s confidence
in Washington`s ability to enforce our immigration laws and reform our
broken immigration system. If actually proposed, the president`s bill
would be dead on arrival in Congress."

So what version of an Obama bill would not be dead on arrival in Congress?


GINGRICH: An Obama plan led and driven by Obama, in this atmosphere, with
the level of hostility towards the president and the way he goads the
hostility, I think it`s very hard to imagine that that bill -- that his
bill is going to pass the House.

GREGORY: The president obviously has some thoughts about immigration
reform which he has drafted and gotten his agencies to comment on. If the
president proposes legislation, do you think it will fail?

MCCAIN: Of course. Of course, it will.


O`DONNELL: Steve Kornacki, in the "we hate Obama world" of Republican
congressional politics, I guess it does make sense to me if the president
gets his name on something, those guys will try to kill it. So, why the
leak of an Obama plan?

STEVE KORNACKI, SALON: Yes. Well, first of all I think this is something
that is worth keeping in mind in general, through all the big policy
debates that are coming up. For instance, look at sequester and look at
the idea of potentially another grand bargain where Obama has said he wants
to balance the approach, you know, half-spending cuts, half entitlement
cuts, and half -- you know, more tax revenue. And the Republican response
to that is always OK, now be specific, put a plan forward.

This is what`s going to happen if Obama puts a plan forward on the
entitlements and everything else. They`re going to immediately reject it.

That said, I think there is a dance here. It is a really messed up,
screwed up dance that is ultimately going to get us to a kind of
immigration reform this year. And, basically, if the psychology of today`s
Republican Party, today`s Republican base is, it can`t be Obama-led. It
can`t be Obama`s bill. It can`t be Obama leading the Republicans around.

It has to be -- or it could be Obama putting the plan out, Republicans
talking about how it is tyranny, how it`s king Obama, how it`s being jammed
on their throats, doing everything you`re seeing right now. And
eventually, maybe a few weeks now, maybe a month from now, whatever it is,
they come back probably with something very similar to the framework that
Obama is now laying out. But it`s the Republicans who get to convince
themselves and convince their audience that they`re initiating it. They
had forced it to Obama.

It`s essential to the Republicans that it`d be seen within the Republican
world it`s something they forced on Obama and that they fought him when he
tries his tyrannical ways with them.

O`DONNELL: But can they do that now, now that there`s an Obama plan out

ARI MELBER, THE NATION: They can do that. I mean, I agree with Steve.
They don`t like him and it goes --

O`DONNELL: How long did it conclude take you to conclude the particular

MELBER: Lawrence, that`s why I`m here, the big ideas.

But it also goes to the critics and haters. Critics may disagree, but they
agree for a reason. They usually have a point or an alternative. Haters
are just going to hate.

And what we have in the Republican caucus is a dominant hater strain.
There are not a lot of people that want to do anything. So, that`s what
Chuck Hagel has in common with the entire immigration debate, is you could
be the most conservative senator, John McCain`s pick for the cabinet. As
soon as you get a little bit of Obama on you, they can`t work with you.

And it`s their problem. A lot of us have to deal with it, but it`s
fundamentally a failure of the Republican Party, and it is why they`re
going to continue to lose elections in and perhaps past the Obama era.

O`DONNELL: Paul Ryan wanted a piece of this anti-immigration Obama stuff.
So let`s listen to him.


RYAN: Leaking this out does set things in the wrong direction. Look, the
question that we always had to ask ourselves, particularly with this White
House, is President Obama looking for a bipartisan advantage or is he
looking for a bipartisan law? And by putting these details out, without a
guest worker program, without addressing future flow, by giving advantage
to those who cut in front of line for immigrants who came here legally, not
dealing with border security adequately, that tells us that he is looking
for a bipartisan advantage, and not a bipartisan solution.


O`DONNELL: Steve, it might tells us it`s not actually a complete
legislative proposal.

KORNACKI: No, it is a starting point. And again, it is what Republicans -
- one of their favorite lines of attack and that they switch back and
forth, that one of their favorite lines of attack against Obama is he
hasn`t been specific. He says all these, you know, this big, broad things
that sound good, but then he never puts the proposal out first.

Why won`t the president lead? Why won`t the president step forward?

And you could say if the leak did come from the White House, it is a little
weird that it leaked. But if this did come from the White House, this is
the president taking the initiative here and saying, here are the basic
principles that I`m going to insist on. Instead of taking it and saying
OK, here`s where we agree, here`s where we disagree -- it`s frame this is
tyranny, this is the White House only interested in pleasing its base.

It shows that the argument is going to work back. As far as the
Republicans are concerned, the argument is going to work backwards from
we`re against Obama.

MELBER: I got to say. It goes deeper than that. I mean, I am sick of
Paul Ryan and these guys getting up there and saying, well, we don`t know.
It might be a partisan thing.

We do know the Democrats passed the DREAM Act in the House. It had the
majority of senators behind it. It was filibustered by people like Rand
Paul and John McCain who just showed on the tape making these charge.

So, we have the roll call votes. We have the record. We know this was
about governing. Not just politicking. And so, it`s a lie when they try
to make it sound like, oh, this is just all a machination.

They`ve been literally obstructing something that`s had majority support
since 2010.

O`DONNELL: Now, you know, it`s not just who thinks Rubio`s was less than
half baked. Let`s listen to George Will on this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you struck on how over the top Marco Rubio`s
response was to this? I mean, it was a draft. It wasn`t -- the White
House wasn`t putting it out. He, you know, came out blazing on this.

GEORGE WILL, WASHINGTON POST: I`d like to see the details of what he finds
in it that is offensive or left out or that is important to add to it. In
that sense, it strikes me as this may tell us something about the many
pressures, conflicting pressures on Marco Rubio. He has been on the cover
of "Time" magazine, anointed the savior of the Republican Party. That`s a
big lot of pressure. And he -- I`m sure he`s heard from members of the
Republican Party, some of whom do not want to be saved with the kind of
immigration reform he has in mind.


O`DONNELL: Steve, I think this does show the pressure, the reflex of
nature of that press release was just, oh, you know, we`ve got to get
something out right away.

KORNACKI: Yes. You know, Rubio is in a weird position. He has been given
some leeway by sort of conservative opinion leaders. He made the rounds on
the sort of right wing radio talk show hosts, cable shows, in the last few

And he got some positive response from like, hey, we do need to move in a
direction of some kind of immigration reform, you are the guy to deliver
this. But at the same time, you`ve got this enormous sort of resistance
among the Republican grassroots who got a number of Republican House
members who are probably never ever going to vote against it, who are going
to demagogue this.

And again, you got that whole issue of it can`t be seen as Obama is
dictating terms to Rubio. So, he has really got to do a lot of sort of
grandstanding here --

MELBER: You can`t have the president dictating.

KORNACKI: Well, it`s grandstanding to the base. He can`t be seen as
cooperating with Obama, he has to be seen as forcing Obama. And he`s not
the only -- Lindsey Graham, that`s the same thing. That`s how he`s going
to try to survive.

O`DONNELL: I want to get to Lindsey Graham here. I have been waiting for
this one, this one I have been waiting for since the day Obamacare passed,
the proposals now to cut Obamacare. Let`s listen to what Lindsey Graham
said about that.


GRAHAM: Let`s take Obama care and put it on the table. If you want to
look at ways to find $1.2 trillion savings over the next decade, let`s look
at Obamacare.


O`DONNELL: Ari, when budget strains come along, there is always a look at
Medicare, and we`ve done -- Democrats have done Medicare cuts, cost
savings, whatever they want to call them, many times over the years.
They`ve done Medicaid-cut cost savings.

Why wouldn`t they also look at Obamacare which actually benefits the
population with more resources than Medicaid part?

MELBER: Well, I think the main reason will be that Obamacare has generally
been seen as a cost saving device, rather than a cost increasing device.
You look at Lindsey Graham in that clip and it`s like, how is he getting to
work? Is he taking a DeLorean? Did he come to work from three years ago,
or was it five years ago?

This guy is living in the past. We`ve had over 25 votes in the Congress to
repeal Obamacare. They have gone nowhere.

And so, again, I don`t mean to be so negative and worked up tonight. But
we are just watching something frozen in time, frozen in amber and full of
anger. It may be that, you know, Clinton famously picked up seats first
time since FDR that a second term incumbent had done that. It maybe that
Obama is on the way towards that.

This all may be really good for Democrats in a long term. What`s
frustrating is we have real problems out there and it`s not good for the
country to be so frozen and so reflexively anti-Obama.

O`DONNELL: Steve Kornacki, and Ari Melber, thank you both for joining me

MELBER: Thanks.


O`DONNELL: Coming up, why is Karl Rove praising Hillary Clinton? Might
it have anything to do with how much he hates President Obama?

And Stephen Colbert`s sister is running for Congress in South Carolina.

And in the rewrite tonight, the most memorable, quotable State of the Union
address in history, and just how it affected me. That`s coming up.


O`DONNELL: I loved President Obama`s first inaugural address and his
second. I was on the capitol grounds for both of those speeches.

But as I sit here right now, I can`t quote a single line from either of
them. But I can quote an inaugural address from 50 years ago. And so can
you. And there is a stunning new version now of President Kennedy`s
inaugural address. We`re going to show it to you later. You have to see
this re-worked, reinterpreted version of this. It`s an amazing new video.
That`s coming up.


O`DONNELL: Tonight, we know which lecture agency Hillary Clinton has
signed up with, so that she can do her part in the family business,
speaking for money. She joined the oldest of them all, the Harry Walker
Agency founded by Harry Walker in 1946, in New York City and run by his
family ever since. It is the same agency that processes the lecture fees
for Bill Clinton. Full disclosure note, they have processed lectures for
me over the years, all of which now go to the KIND Fund.

We also know tonight just how much Karl Rove hates Barack Obama. I mean,
hates him. Rove is now employing the old political trick of making his
hatred not seem partisan by praising a Democrat in his attacks on the


KARL ROVE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I would like to try my hand at answering
your first question, though. Would Hillary have made a better president?
And I think the answer --


ROVE: Yes, I`ll keep it brief.

First of all, yes, I think so. She would have had a necessary naive view
of the world. She is more hard-headed. We`ve seen that in her tenure as
secretary of state. She`s, for example, remember, she is in there saying,
you can`t just say that about Libya, you`ve got to do something about

Second, I think she would have had the recognition you`ve got to get
engaged. You can`t simply outsource it to Congress.

Third, she would have been more experienced. She was first lady for eight
years and was actively involved in the policy side of the White House.

She would have been more bipartisan. You look at the record in the Senate.
She went out of her way, in part because of Armed Services but in part
because of her interest to have bipartisan efforts across the aisles on big


O`DONNELL: Joining me now, Ana Marie Cox, columnist for "The Guardian",
and Jonathan Allen, senior Washington correspondent for "Politico", who is
currently working on a book about Hillary Clinton`s tenure as secretary of

Ana Marie, Karl Rove has an amazing awe and respect, suddenly, for Hillary
Clinton. Awe, as far as I can tell, is a device for attacking the

ANA MARIE COX, THE GUARDIAN: Yes, I think that is totally the case. I`m
not sure if my eyes can roll back far enough in my head to show the eye-
rolling --

O`DONNELL: We got the idea. We got the idea.

COX: -- they want to do at this. And it is just to laugh at this.

I mean, basically, you know he imbedded all of these criticisms of Obama in
his praise of Hillary, the naivete, the partisanship and whatnot. It`s so
transparent I`m shocked that the audience didn`t laugh out laugh.

I mean, even if you are on the partisan side of the divide, with Rove, I
mean, it`s a pretty blatant ploy. I have no doubt that once -- if --
should Hilary run or once she runs or should she run, I doubt if this is
going to be the kind of stuff that Karl Rove is going to be saying then.

And you know what? If they play this tape back, he will simply laugh
himself, like he doesn`t mind doing the double speak. He doesn`t mind
going back on his word.

O`DONNELL: I love the bit about her being actively involved in White House
policy when she was first lady. That, of course, became the utterly
disastrous effort to get health care reform in which they did not pass a
single sentence of Hillary`s bill.

Let`s listen to more about what Karl Rove said about how Hillary would have
been different as president.


ROVE: I think she would have surrounded herself with a broader range of
people. The Clintons strike me as collectors of people. They`re always
collecting interesting people and they keep them in their orbit.

And it`s not just sort of I`m surrounded by my Chicago pals who love me and
think I`m the greatest thing and all I got to do is go make another speech.
They`re out there like they collect people. I know that Clinton -- Bill
felt that she was more qualified. Hillary Clinton is the most qualified
person to seek the presidency.


ROVE: -- in 39 years. Now how he came up with 39 years is beyond me. And
look, Bill, don`t you understand that that means you are saying she is more
qualified than you are.


O`DONNELL: Jonathan Allen, I love the idea of more qualified people and
broader range of people when Bill Clinton, when he used that model Bill
Clinton chose one of his elementary school classmates as his White House
chief of staff in the first go-around.

It`s just -- I am sorry I`m having Ana Marie`s problem of keeping a
straight face while listening to Karl Rove on this.

Jonathan, is this a technique that we should expect more of? At that time
will Rove turn against Hillary Clinton? Somewhere about a year and a half
from now as she starts to really make moves towards the presidency?

JONATHAN ALLEN, POLITICO: Yes, pull out your calendar or maybe your wall
clock on that one.


ALLEN: Look, I think there are a couple of things at work here. Number
one, Karl Rove`s job is to divide the Democratic Party. That`s clearly the
effort here.

Number two, Hillary Clinton is -- has got approval ratings that are sky
high right now. One reason for that is I think at the end of the 2008
campaign, another cable station became sort of a fan of Hillary Clinton`s
as she was running against Barack Obama, he being the hated one, she being
the suddenly acceptable Democrat.

Look, you would rather attach yourself if you`re Karl Rove, to somebody as
popular than somebody who is not. A lot of Republicans in researching this
book in doing interviews say they like Hillary Clinton a lot better than
they like Barack Obama. Of course, that is intended as part as praise for
her, but also a slam towards him. This is not new meme.

O`DONNELL: And, Ana Marie, the point is not to attack Hillary Clinton.
It`s just that Rove as using her as this convenient device. And this thing
is he need not reach back to her first lady days, to the days where you can
say, no, no, no, that is not where you have examples. It would be in her
Senate career. It would be in her role as secretary of state.

But if he is going to praise her role as secretary of state, he would in
effect be praising President Obama. And he can`t allow himself to do that.

COX: That`s right. And also, I mean, I recall there was some upset at
this other cable station that shouldn`t be named about her tenure of
secretary of state about Benghazi, for example.

So, I mean, he is being very disingenuous in his praise, although we can be
genuine in ours. I mean, I think she`s done a fantastic job as secretary
of state. I think she did a fantastic job in the Senate.

She ran a campaign that I think she is proud of and that`s something that`s
notable about her, as well.

But also, let`s look at who she praises, who she aligned herself with.
She`s aligned herself with the president. You know, that is where her
loyalty lies. She is not someone that would put up with this kind of stuff
from Karl Rove. I don`t think she is taking him very seriously at this
point either. I mean, these are crocodile tears and crocodile praise.

O`DONNELL: Well, let`s listen quickly to someone who Hillary might be
running against for president in 2016t, Paul Ryan.


RYAN: Will I or won`t I? I don`t know. I literally do not know the
answer to the questions about what is the best role for me to play to fix
these problems for our country in the future. The point is I don`t know
the answer because I`m not putting a great deal of thought into it. I`m
not foreclosing any opportunity. I may or I may not. I just don`t know,
because right now, we`ve just had an election. We`ve got jobs to do.


O`DONNELL: Jonathan Allen, what are the odds? Clinton versus Ryan in

ALLEN: Well, you know, I think they`re longer than one to one. Paul Ryan
has got a field to get through. If H Clinton runs -- of course, we all
thought she was the inevitable candidate for a little while there in 2008,
and we`re proved wrong.

But certainly she would start out as a huge frontrunner, nobody else on the
map on the Democratic side. So, really, it`s a question about, can Paul
Ryan get through there?

I would just say James Garfield, the last sitting House member, the only
sitting House member ever elected president.

O`DONNELL: And, Jonathan, he is also up against -- the viewers of this
program know -- the history, doing the television age anyway that the
losing vice presidential candidate always goes on to never be president.

Ana Marie Cox, and, Jonathan Allen, thank you both very much for joining me

ALLEN: Take care.

COX: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, when do you think -- when do you think Mississippi
ratified the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery in this country? Send us
your guesses on Facebook or Twitter. The answers are going to be coming
up. Here is a hint. It actually took a movie to get them to do it.

And the most love-sick governor of our time, Mark Sanford, is back, and
running for Congress in South Carolina. And the frontrunner in the
Democratic Party to run against him is Stephen Colbert`s sister. She will
join me later this week on THE LAST WORD exclusive. We`ll preview that
race tonight.


O`DONNELL: If I ask you to quote a line from an inaugural address, most of
you will quote a line from before you were born. President Kennedy`s "ask
not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your
country." I don`t know about you, but I can`t quote any other line from
any inaugural address, not word for word. That amazing speech, the JFK
inaugural, has been re-interpreted and modernized and we will show you that
version of it latter. And yes, it`s one of those "get out your
handkerchief" kind of things.



STEPHEN COLBERT, "THE COLBERT REPORT": Holy cow, my sister is running for
congress. I am not sure I can support her, because she is running as a
Democrat. At this point, I got to say, I am leaning toward actual
candidate and former governor of the Appalachian trail, Mark Sanford. See,
I`m a family values conservative. And Mark, he just seems so steady.



O`DONNELL: In the Spotlight tonight, South Carolina`s special election to
fill a vacant Congressional seat. Democratic candidate Elizabeth Colbert
Busch, sister of Stephen Colbert, will appear here on this program and
finally settle the question of how her family`s name should be pronounced.
When she wins the Democratic primary, as she is sure to do after getting
THE LAST WORD bump in the polls, Elizabeth Colbert Busch will likely face
former Governor Mark Sanford, who is the frontrunner in the Republican

The former governor who lied about hiking the Appalachian Trail when in
fact he was off on a fling with his mistress in South America and has since
gotten divorced from his wife, and is on his way to marrying his mistress,
released his first television ad today.


add up. And so for years, while many have talked, I have fought to do
something about it. I have cut spending, reduced debt and made government
more accountable.

More recently, I have experienced how none of us go through life without
mistakes. But in their wake, we can learn a lot about grace, a God of
second chances and be the better for it. In that light, I humbly step
forward and ask for your help in changing Washington. I`m Mark Sanford and
I approve this message.


O`DONNELL: Mark Sanford`s position in the political hall of fame is
already assured thanks to this 2009 press conference.


SANFORD: I have been unfaithful to my wife. I developed a relationship
with a -- started as a dear, dear friend from Argentina. It began very
innocently, as I suspect many of these things do. In just a casual e-mail
back and forth, in advice on one`s life there, and advice here.

But here, recently over this last year, it developed into something much
more than that.

This is a whole lot more than a simple affair. It is a love story, a
forbidden one, a tragic one, but a love story, at the end of the day.


O`DONNELL: Ryan grim, if I was writing this movie, I`m just not sure who
wins this special election. That was -- that was the greatest press
conference in the history of political adultery. And I mean it. Because
he is the only politician who decided, in moment one, in press conference
one, what about the truth? What if I just actually tell the truth, and oh,
by the way, I`m in love with her and this is very serious stuff?

RYAN GRIM, "THE HUFFINGTON POST": You would cast Robin Williams for this,
right? And it would be one of his 25-minute speeches where he moves
everybody. Now, I don`t know if there is a God of second chances. There
is definitely a God of South Carolina politics, because he has answered our

We`re the ones that win. I mean, this is just going to be such a fun race.
You have the story of redemption. You even have Teddy Turner`s son thrown
into this. And then you have Elizabeth Colbert Busch. How amazing it is
that her last name is Busch? She spells it wrong, but --

O`DONNELL: She is going to be here this week. so we will be sizing her
up. I think she is obviously going to get THE LAST WORD bump this week, so
the polls will be different. But one of the tricky things about this
district, as bad as Sanford`s poll -- Sanford`s favorability, he`s got a 30
percent favorable with South Carolina voters, a 53 percent unfavorable.

The trouble is, in that district, Mitt Romney won 58 to 40 against
President Obama. So Elizabeth Colbert Busch, with the word Democrat beside
her name, is almost -- is probably worse than having the word Colbert
beside her name.

GRIM: She`s going to need all of the fundraising prowess of her brother,
and his the super PAC that can possibly be generated. It`s an unusual
district for South Carolina in the sense that there`s a much more transient
Republican population, a lot of folks that have come down from the north
who are fiscally conservative, but not that -- they don`t share that
Evangelical fervor.

On the other hand, a lot of the Evangelicals do embrace falling and

O`DONNELL: They believe in forgiveness, absolutely. I mean, Christianity
is all about being forgiven for your sins.

GRIM: So I think we`re writing off a lot of votes that we should not.

O`DONNELL: Right. I mean, that is the math. I mean, John McCain fit in
that district -- in 2008, 56, President Obama 42. But Mitt Romney 58,
Barack Obama 40, that seems to me that it makes it a referendum on Sanford.
If those Republican voters there can find him acceptable, then it is his.
And if they can`t, that would be the only chance for the Democrat to win.

GRIM: Right, with maybe some surreal combination of just grass roots like
energy created by Steven Colbert that we don`t even know exists. It may be
a sense of his power, but maybe he has way more on the ground than we can
ever imagine. There will be buses of Colbert backers.

O`DONNELL: The Colbert-Colbert family power, we`re going to find out about
it. Ryan Grim, thank you very much for joining me tonight.

Elizabeth Colbert Busch will be my guest, "THE LAST WORD" exclusive later
this week.

And coming up, the story of how a movie got Mississippi to finally ratify
the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery. Every other state had already done
it. But Mississippi didn`t get around to making it official until this

And in the Rewrite tonight, the enduring wisdom of the only inaugural
address I can quote, which is probably the only inaugural address you can
actually quote word for word or anyone can quote, since most presidential
inaugural speeches don`t leave us with lines we can actually remember.


O`DONNELL: On January 20th, 1961, my understanding of what was possible in
the world changed, changed utterly. A new possibility was born.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, do solemnly swear --

Kennedy, do solemnly swear --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- that you will faithfully execute the Office of
President of the United States.

KENNEDY: -- that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the
United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And will to the best of your ability --

KENNEDY: And will to the best of my ability --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the
United States.

KENNEDY: -- preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United


KENNEDY: So help me God.



O`DONNELL: The first Catholic president. That is what that moment was to
me, the breaking of a barrier to my future. A Catholic could be president.
And he wasn`t just Catholic. He was Boston and he was Irish. And all of
us Boston Irish Catholic little boys knew in that moment that if we did all
of our homework like the nuns told us to, and if we worked really hard and
if we were wicked lucky, there was no limit to what we might do.

An Irish Catholic could be president.

I know it seems like a small barrier to break to anyone born after the
Kennedy presidency, but to little boys and girls whose parents and
grandparents told them about job listings in the newspaper that said "no
Irish need apply," this was the beginning of a limitless possibility, in
our hopes and dreams, at least.

What followed that breakthrough moment was President Kennedy`s Inaugural
Address with the most memorable inaugural line in history.


KENNEDY: Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do
for your country.


O`DONNELL: Like the Gettysburg Address, it is a remarkably short speech,
especially by modern presidential standards. It took President Kennedy
just under 14 minutes to deliver the speech, including about four minutes
of interruptions by applause. So as written, it was only about a 10 minute

I can`t watch that speech without crying now. It is not a sad speech.
It`s full of hope and well-placed confidence, along with well placed
humility. But it is the knowledge that that presidency lasted only a
thousand days that gives the speech its tragic undertone.

In honor of President`s Day, Harvard University Tweeted a link to a new
version of the speech today. It is not a Rewrite of Kennedy`s Inaugural
Address. It is a re-interpretation. We`ll show you some of it now. To
see the full version, go to our website,

If you don`t cry watching this, it doesn`t mean you are less sensitive than
I. It just means you`re younger.


KENNEDY: We observed today not a victory of party, but a celebration of
freedom, symbolizing an end as well as a beginning, signifying renewal as
well as change.

For I have sworn before you and almighty God --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- the same solemn oath our forbears proscribed nearly
a century and three quarters ago. The world is very different now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For man holds in his mortal hands the power to
abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our
forbears fought are still at issue around the globe, the belief that the
rights of man come not from --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- the generously of the state, but from the hand of
God. We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let the word go forth from this time and place to
friend and foe alike that the torch has been passed to a new generation of
Americans --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined
by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing
of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed and to
which we are committed today at home and around the world.

COLIN POWELL, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Let every nation know, whether it
wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet
any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
This much we pledge and more.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But this peaceful revolution of hope cannot become the
prey of hostile powers. Let all of our neighbors know that we shall join
with them to oppose aggression or subversion --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- anywhere in the Americas. And let every other power
know that this hemisphere intends to remain the master of its own house.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So let us begin anew, remembering on both sides that
civility is not a sign of weakness.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And sincerity is always subject to proof.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never
fear to negotiate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let both sides explore what problems unite us,
instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let both sides, for the first time, formulate serious
and precise proposals for the inspection and control of arms.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And bring the absolute power to destroy other nations
under the absolute control of all nations.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science,
instead of its terrors. Together, let`s explore the stars.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean
depths and encourage the arts and commerce.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let both sides unite to heed in all corners of the
earth the command of Isaiah, to undo the heavy burdens and let the
oppressed go free.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Each generation of Americans has been summoned to give
testimony to its national loyalty. The graves of young Americans who
answered the call to service surround the globe.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now the trumpet summons us again, not as a call to
bear arms, though arms we need, not as a call to battle, though embattled
we are, but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- year in and year out, rejoicing in hope, patient in
tribulation, a struggle against the common enemies of man, tyranny,
poverty, disease, and war itself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global
alliance, north and south, east and west, that can assure a more fruitful
life for all mankind? Will you join in that historic effort?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the long history of the world, only a few
generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of
maximum danger. I do not shrank from this responsibility. I welcome it.
I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people
or any other generation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to
this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it. And the glow
from that fire can truly light the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And so my fellow Americans, ask not what your country
can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America
will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Finally, whether you are citizens of America or
citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength
and sacrifice which we ask of you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With a good conscience, only sure reward, with history
the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- asking his blessing and his help, but knowing that
here on earth God`s work must truly be our own.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need two yes`s, three abstentions or four yes`s and
one more abstention, and the amendment will pass.

DANIEL DAY-LEWIS, ACTOR: You have a night and a day and a night, several
perfectly good hours. Now get the hell out of here and get them.


DAY-LEWIS: Buzzard`s (inaudible), man. I am the president of the United
States of America, clothed in immense power. You will procure me these


O`DONNELL: That was Daniel Day-Lewis` sure to be Oscar winning portrayal
of Lincoln pushing for passage of the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery.
Of course, passing a constitutional amendment didn`t just require Congress
to pass it. It had to be approved by three fourths of the states,
something that Mississippi didn`t get around to until this month, thanks to
the movie "Lincoln."

A Mississippian went to see the movie, and wondered about Mississippi`s
role in ratifying the amendment, only to discover that Mississippi had not
officially ratified the amendment abolishing slavery.

Joining me now for an exclusive interview, Dr. Ranjan Batra and Ken
Sullivan, the two men who got Mississippi to move to the right side of

Dr. Batra, you went to the movie, as I understand it. You came out
wondering what was Mississippi`s role in ratifying the 13th Amendment. And
what did you discover?

much to my surprise, that -- well, the first surprise was that Mississippi
hadn`t actually ratified it -- the legislature hadn`t ratified it until
1995, which was you know a century and a quarter or more after the bill
became law.

But I was glad that they ratified it. But then, much to my surprise, I
found out that even then it was not official, because that information had
not been transmitted to the National Archives. So, in point of fact, we
still were not on the books as having ratified the 13th Amendment and
abolishing slavery.

O`DONNELL: And Ken Sullivan, how did you get involved?

approached me in the hallway and had a question one morning, and asked me
about this amendment and if I knew it had never been ratified by
Mississippi. And I said, well, Ranjan, I believe it was ratified in 1995.
I was a senior in high school here in Mississippi. And I remembered a lot
of coverage on that on the news at that time.

And so he said, well, why don`t you look into it and see what you can find.
And so I began to do some research, and actually found the same thing that
he had. And I called the National Archives, read the Constitution and saw
what it took in the Constitution to get an Amendment ratified. Had a lot
of help from Rod Ralss (ph), who works at the National Archive, sending me
information from the "Federal Register" and Records Group 11 at the
National Archives.

And through that information, I found out we had not filed it. And then I
went to our state capitol and retrieved a copy of the 1995 legislation
where the last paragraph read specifically as the Constitution and how to
proceed in ratifying an amendment. And it required the secretary of state
to transit that documentation to Washington.

BATRA: Yes, my role was finding the right person to do the work. Turns
out that if I had gone down to the state archives and tried to look for
this document myself, it may have taken me a year. But he had the
connections. And he knew -- his father knew someone who had actually
written the bill, is that right?

SULLIVAN: I believe so.

BATRA: Actually written the bill -- the bill for ratification in
Mississippi. And he knew exactly where to find it. So all that Ken had to
do was go down there and pick up his copy of the bill.

O`DONNELL: And Ken, what was your sense as to why this was never, after
being finally voted on 130 years later in 1995 -- the Mississippi
legislature votes on it. What is your sense of why the secretary of state
in Mississippi never passed it along to Washington for the official

SULLIVAN: You know there could be a lot of speculation to that.

BATRA: He might never have received it.

SULLIVAN: He may have not received it. It is my understanding, from what
I have researched, that that resolution was passed in what they call a
block vote. There were several resolutions blocked together that was read
in whole. And the Senate just did a voice vote. And that block of
resolutions passed.

So in that block of resolutions, it could have been just gotten shuffled to
the bottom and never found. It could have -- it could have been understood
that it was completed, that the legislature had voted on it. Whatever
happened, I have no idea. It would be total speculation.

O`DONNELL: Well --

BATRA: And the surprise here is the fellow at who
somehow figured out that Mississippi wasn`t in full ratification.

O`DONNELL: Well, we`re very glad you saw that movie, Dr. Batra, and Ken
Sullivan -- and you and Dr. Batra and Mississippi owes you a debt of
gratitude for your service to the state and to the country.

Thank you both very much for joining us tonight.

BATRA: Thanks you.

SULLIVAN: Thanks you.

O`DONNELL: The Ed Show is up next.


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