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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Thursday, March 21st, 2013

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

March 21, 2013

Guests: James Lipton, Joy Reid

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: History was made in Israel today by the
president of the United States.


United States of America --

CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC ANCHOR: President Obama is set to give a major

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC ANCHOR: A high-profile address.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the space and this is the visit that the
Israeli people wanted to see.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is an important speech.

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: The centerpiece of his trip --

OBAMA: America will do what we must to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.

MITCHELL: President Obama spoke directly to the Israeli public.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The speech that extended close to 50 minutes.

WAGNER: President Obama tackled the two-state solution.

OBAMA: Peace is necessary.

The United States is deeply committed.

WAGNER: The time is now for a two-state solution.

OBAMA: No wall is high enough, no Iron Dome is strong enough.

MITCHELL: There is so much symbolism here.

OBAMA: Israel is not going anywhere.

ALEX WITT, MSNBC ANCHOR: He has done a momentous job.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No doubt, this visit has been a success.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get ready, America, for a brand new Republican

REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIR: I know what our principles are.

one man and one woman.

PRIEBUS: I know our party believes that marriage is between one man
and one woman.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The future of their party is at risk here.

PRIEBUS: We have a party that`s going to be inconclusive.

WAGNER: The GOP is embracing gay marriage.

SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R), OHIO: I think this is something that we should
allow people to do.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eighty-one percent of young people support same-
sex marriage.

BOEHNER: A marriage is between one man and one woman.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Speaker Boehner says House Republicans are in a
good spot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The government is likely to stay open.

BOEHNER: The revenue discussion is over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At least for now.

JANSING: How would you describe the current state of the GOP?

BOEHNER: You`re asking me a question I can`t answer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a party in turmoil.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s not about the messaging. It`s the message.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get ready, America, for a brand new Republican

PRIEBUS: We have a party that`s goodbye to be inclusive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sign up today and get a free bag of weed.


O`DONNELL: The most memorable and most important day in the history
of American presidential trips to Israel was today. President Richard
Nixon was the first president to go to Israel. He may have done to simply
to distract public attention from the investigation that was corroding his
presidency and eventually led to his resignation, because we have had
precious few presidents more cynical than Richard Nixon.

The next president, Gerald Ford, did not go to Israel. President
Jimmy Carter visited Israel. But Ronald Reagan, in his eight years as
president, never thought Israel was worth the trip. Nor did his successor,
President George H.W. Bush. Then, President Bill Clinton made up for that
12 years of neglect by visiting Israel three times. And President George
W. Bush visited Israel once in the last year of his presidency.

So, not every president visits Israel, especially Republican
presidents. But modern presidential candidates do visit Israel.

Barack Obama actually first went to Israel in 2006 when he was still
an Illinois senator. He went again in 2008 when he was running for

You`ll know Chris Christie is serious about running for president when
he schedules a trip to Israel. Mitt Romney went to Israel last year in a
desperate attempt to exploit a Republican lie, that there was some kind of
difference between President Obama and it`s really Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu about what the borders of Israel should be. Romney was aided and
abetted in that lie by Netanyahu, who is an old friend of Romney`s. They
worked together 30 years ago at a Boston consulting firm.

As we reviewed on this program last night, Netanyahu left no room for
doubt that he wanted Mitt Romney to be the next president of the United
States. And Romney delivered a speech in Israel that echoed Netanyahu`s
talking points at that time on Iran.


and all measures to dissuade the Iranian regime from its nuclear course,
and it is our fervent hope that diplomatic and economic measures will do

In the final analysis, of course, no option should be excluded. We
recognize Israel`s right to defend itself, and that it is right for America
to stand with you.


O`DONNELL: Benjamin Netanyahu did everything he could to pretend that
the Romney position on Iran was somehow tougher than the Obama position on
Iran. The Romney speech was pure pandering from start to finish, which
means that it, of course, did not include the words "Palestine" or

So what happened today? When the man who Benjamin Netanyahu did not
want to be president spoke to an audience of 2,000 carefully screened by
Netanyahu`s government, composed largely of students? Well, of course,
first he was heckled, in Hebrew, which makes him the first president in
history to have to handle a Hebrew heckler. Then, came the first standing


OBAMA: I believe that you will shape our future, and given the ties
between our countries -- I believe your future is bound to ours.


OBAMA: No, no.

This is part of the lively debate that we talked about. This is good.


You know, I have -- I have to say, we actually arranged for that,
because it made me feel at home.

You know, I -- I wouldn`t feel comfortable if I didn`t have at least
one heckler.



O`DONNELL: The president then proceed to deliver a speech that surely
would have gotten him booed and heckled by many self-proclaimed friends of
Israel in the United States, if he had given that speech in the United
States, where pretending to speak for the people of Israel, and pretending
to defend their interests is a common past time of Republican politicians
who attacked this president`s choice for secretary of defense as somehow
being an enemy of Israel.

It is a common past time for FOX News commentators and other right
wing pundits. They would have shouted down this president for saying what
he was about to say, and they would have claimed that their shouting was
all in defense and support of the people of Israel. The president chose
today to speak directly to the people of Israel, including that heckler,
about the hopes and dreams and, yes, the rights and fair expectations of
the Palestinian people.

And not only did he not get booed for that, he was cheered for
speaking to the Israeli people about the Palestinian people. The strongest
cheers he got in his speech today surely, much to the discomfort of
Benjamin Netanyahu, were all for his vision of the future for Israelis and
for the Palestinian people.


OBAMA: Given the demographics west of the Jordan River, the only way
for Israel to endure and thrive as a Jewish and Democratic state is through
the realization of an independent and viable Palestine. That is true.



O`DONNELL: The president wasn`t saying things that other wise and
thoughtful observers of the situation haven`t said. But he was saying
things that no American president had said in this way, in this place,
directly to Israelis, who were able to immediately show the president and
the world that they share the president`s dream for an independent and
viable Palestine, and for basic human rights for Palestinians, and for a
future of peace and justice for Israelis and Palestinians.

Here is what made this the most important presidential speech ever
delivered in Israel.


OBAMA: The Palestinian people`s right to self-determination, their
right to justice, must also be recognized.


And put yourself in their shoes. Look at the world through their
eyes. It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of
their own.


Living their entire lives with the presence of a foreign army that
controls the movements, not just of those young people, but their parents,
their grandparents, every single day. It`s not just when violence against
Palestinians goes unpunished.


It`s not right to prevent Palestinians from farming their lands or
restricting a student`s ability to move around the West Bank, or displace
Palestinian families from their homes. Neither occupation nor expulsion is
the answer.


Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a
right to be a free people in their own land.


And I am going off script here for a second. But before I came here,
I met with a group of young Palestinians from the age of 15 to 22. And
talking to them, they weren`t that different from my daughters. They
weren`t that different from your daughters, or sons.

I honestly believe that if any Israeli parent sat down with those
kids, they`d say, I want these kids to succeed. I want them to prosper. I
want them to have opportunities just like my kids do. I believe that`s
what Israeli parents would want for these kids if they had a chance to
listen to them and talk to them. I believe that.



O`DONNELL: When is the last time you heard one of these self-
proclaimed friends of Israeli like Mitt Romney or Sean Hannity suggest that
Israelis should put themselves in their shoes, the shoes of Palestinians,
and look at the world through their eyes? You`ve never heard them say
that. That kind of humanity and common sense is never a part of what
passes for pro-Israel speech in the United States.

In the United States, saying it`s not right to prevent Palestinians
from farming their lands would not get you applause from a so-called pro-
Israel audience. Saying it`s not right to restrict a student`s ability to
move around the West Bank or to displace Palestinian families from their
home would not get you applause from those audiences in the United States.

But President Obama got rousing applause in Israel, from the actual
Israeli people from pointing out those injustices that are visited upon
Palestinians every day. What kind of politician gives a speech like that?
Having no guarantee ahead of time what the audience`s reaction would be? A
politician who is willing to take risks, big risks.

President Obama was willing to take the risk of being booed for saying
those things today, and instead, he was cheered and those cheers showed the
world a face of Israel that the American news media virtually never
presents, and that the Netanyahu government does not want you to see.

President Obama knows, he cannot be the only politician willing to
take a risk for peace. He knows he needs an Israeli partner for peace, and
so he asked for one this way. Without actually mentioning Benjamin
Netanyahu`s name.


OBAMA: And let me say this as a politician. I can promise you this.
Political leaders will never take risks if the people do not push them to
take some risks. You must create the change that you want to see.


Ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary things.


O`DONNELL: Joining me now, Alex Wagner, host of MSNBC`s "NOW WITH
ALEX WAGNER", and E.J. Dionne, columnist for "The Washington Post" and a
senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Alex, I thought the extraordinary thing about this speech, it`s a
combination of things: the president`s words and then the audience`s
reaction which was the most important thing. The audience`s reaction, I
thought, was a unique opportunity for the Israeli people to send their
message to the world about what they believe and hope their future can be.

WAGNER: And sort of life-affirming, wasn`t it? At just seeing the
way they reacted to the notion that Palestinians should have the same
chance at success that they have.

You know, Lawrence, you said that this is a really risky move for --
not a risky move, but a president that`s willing to take risks. I think
the other side of that, this is the rhetoric and this is the speech of a
man who is incredibly optimistic about the future and about the
possibilities of change and about the openness of people`s hearts and

I think it`s really notable that this speech was given at a
university. He clearly believes, and he said this numerous times during
his speech, the youth are really the future. They`re the ones that will
push the ball forward.

He -- I think he fundamentally believes that forgiveness is
genetically in their hearts, which is a really powerful -- look, this is a
president facing an incredibly dysfunctional city in which he governs. And
for him to go overseas carrying this message of hope and change that we
really haven`t heard since 2008 is a testament to his own optimism, and a
real vision that I think we all would be -- well reminded.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to something he said about the Palestinian


OBAMA: While I know you have had differences with the Palestinian
Authority, I genuinely believe you do have a true partner in President
Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad. I believe that.


Peace is possible. It is possible.


I`m not saying it`s guaranteed. I can`t even say that it is more
likely than not. But it is possible.


O`DONNELL: E.J. Dionne, he could not have gotten applause in the
United States by mentioning Abbas and Fayyad.

E.J. DIONNE, WASHINGTON POST: You know, Lawrence, I think there are
actually a lot of friends of Israel in the United States who agree with
what Obama said in that speech, because they were -- there was a key
passage in that speech. He talked about a Jewish democratic Israel.

And in Israel itself and among a lot of Israel`s friends in the United
States, there is a realization that if the occupation continues, if this is
one state, that one state is eventually going to have a Palestinian
majority. And so Israelis would have to choose whether they would have a
Jewish state that wouldn`t be Democratic or a Democratic state that would
no longer be a Jewish state. And that`s what Ariel Sharon, a famous left-
winger, came to do.

So, I think President Obama did something really important today, I
really agree with you on that. And it`s to say that the two-state
solution, which many people have been saying is dying, time is running out
on it. He`s saying, look, this is the only alternative we have for
justice, for Israelis and justice for the Palestinians.

And only to viable, thriving states can be at peace. So it was an
important day. And I`m glad he finally put his marker down.

O`DONNELL: E.J., just quickly before we go, President Obama does very
well with the Jewish vote in America. I think if he was able to speak out
directly to those people, he`d get a lot of applause on exactly the same
lines. What I`m talking about is that self-proclaimed group in Washington,
in Republican world.

The world that tries to say Chuck Hagel is somehow anti-Israel, this
kind of organized approach to the notion that there`s some separation
between the Obama administration and Israel. That was never true, and it
was proven completely untrue today with this speech.

DIONNE: You know, I heard an argument once between two folks who were
pro-Israel. And one said, you know, a true friend stands with you in a
fight, and the other one said, yes, that can be true. But it`s also true
that if you`re having the same fight over and over and if you lose the
fight, you might not -- you might go away. A true friend tries to stop the
fight. And I think Obama today was part of the -- he was that kind of true
friend. And I think a lot of friends of Israel want to end this conflict.

O`DONNELL: E.J. Dionne, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

Alex Wagner, I need you to hang around for one more segment. Can you
do that?

WAGNER: You got it, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: All right.

Coming up, why Senator Dianne Feinstein`s opposed assault weapons ban
is not dead. I know everyone is telling you to forget about it, it`s all
over, that it`s dead. That is not true. I`ll tell you why, coming up.

Also, the best television interviewer in history is here to tell us
how he got Tina Fey to do it one more time.


O`DONNELL: Up next, Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss insists he`s
not gay. Even though, no one asked.



BOEHNER: My opinions, borne out of my childhood, my faith, my
beliefs, that marriage is between one man and one woman. I respect other
people`s views.


O`DONNELL: Hmmm, OK. One man and one woman.

So I guess John Boehner is now opposed to divorce. According to "The
Washington Post" polling and historic high of 58 percent of Americans
believe same-sex marriage should be legal, but only 34 percent of
Republicans believe same-sex marriage should be legal.

Today, "Politico" published an informal survey of Republicans. When
asked if his views had changed on same-sex marriage, retiring Republican
Senator Saxby Chambliss said, "I`m not gay." Which many of us had actually
suspected already.

Senator Lindsey Graham who`s out for reelection next year resisted the
Saxby Chambliss urge to reveal his sexual preference, and instead said "I`m
with South Carolina. I believe in traditional marriage between a man and a
woman." The divorce rate, of course, in South Carolina is zero.

Senator Rand Paul violated his libertarian principles in saying, "I
believe in traditional, historic and the religious nature of marriage.
Marriage should remain a state issue."

Chris Christie said something incomprehensible to the "New Jersey Star
Ledger." Asked about Ohio Senator Rob Portman`s decision this week to
support same-sex marriage after his son revealed to him he`s gay, Christie
didn`t budge on his stance, which, of course, is opposition to marriage
equality. "But as far as how it affects my view, no," Christie said,
"because that question implies that somehow this is a political judgment,
and for me, it`s not."

Joining me now, MSNBC`s Alex Wagner, and Ari Melber.

Alex, Saxby Chambliss said, let me get it, I got it here, "I`m not
gay, so I`m not going to marry one." I guess that clears that up.

WAGNER: Yes. There are two things -- I`m not going to marry one is
already sort of one of -- like the otherness implicit in that is sort of
offensive. But actually, it`s even more offensive than that if you
substitute the question about gay marriage for interracial marriage. Well,
I`m not black, so I`m not going to marry one.

I mean, these are fundamental questions about equality. And the
marriage question, marriage equality, is a civil rights issue. And I think
it has dawned on certain corners of the Republican Party they can no longer
hold on to antiquated and perhaps bigoted views.

But it is going to be tough, Lawrence, as much as there is progress,
there is a base that is very, very violently resisting entering into the
modern era as far as this is concerned.

O`DONNELL: And, Ari Melber, of course, what John Boehner and Lindsey
Graham and these guys who say I believe in marriage of one man and one
woman, what they, of course, mean is they believe in a marriage of one man
and as many women as he wants in sequence and one woman and as many men as
she wants in sequence throughout her life, since, of course, they have
absolutely no problem with divorce, which really upsets the old one man,
one woman model.

ARI MELBER, THE NATION: Yes. If you look at the demography of it, it
has always been very weird that a country like the United States, which has
high church attendance, but very low, you know, sustenance rates for
marriage, has this sort of obsession.

But I think what Saxby may be trying to get at, but this may be
charitable. But the old saying used to be if you don`t like gay marriage,
don`t get gay married, which is the liberal libertarian way to look at it.
And I agree with Alex, he ended up sounding weird and bad, but maybe with a
couple more years he can get there.

I think what we`re seeing, Lawrence, in the end, this is all good --
growing pains but good this, this is not about ideology anymore, I don`t
think it`s about religion. When you look at the data, it`s fundamentally
about age. And not unlike a lot of the other shifts we`ve seen, it`s a
question of time for the conservatives and others who are locked in a
different era because as we have seen so dramatically with Senator Portman,
their own children raised in a conservative firmament are pushing back on
them and their friends are pushing back on them and this is a matter of

WAGNER: Can I say one thing, Lawrence? Josh Barro I think in
"Bloomberg View" expressed this. The best thing for the Republican Party
at this point would be for the Supreme Court to strike down Prop 8 and DOMA
so this becomes settled law of the land and they do not have to deal with
the schism inside their party and all the old guys who are culturally or
religiously or for whatever reason resistant to the notion of marriage
equality will eventually no longer be holding office and will die off, I
think is what Josh says, and the Republican Party can move past this.

O`DONNELL: Well, it would take a brave Republican in the meantime to
move against the party on this with only 34 percent support in the
Republican Party. And Rand Paul is not that brave Republican. It`s always
fun to watch him torn between libertarianism and Republicanism as he is on
this thing. The libertarian view, of course, is that government should
have nothing to do with religion in any way. They don`t understand why the
state would -- be issuing marriage licenses.

But, you know, there he is, stuck defending the Republican position.

And -- but Ari, going forward, if the Supreme Court doesn`t help out
the Republican Party this way, how long would it take for there to be some
beginning of peeling off of Republicans from the party doctrine on this?

MELBER: I think it would take several more election cycles to have
any kind of shift at the federal level or the RNC platform if we`re
measuring that way.

I think Alex is hitting on an important point --

WAGNER: Sam (ph) --go ahead.

MELBER: Sorry. Did I do that twice? It`s embarrassing. It`s
slavish (ph). There is a predicate here, which is the court is often used
as something that both parties will organize against when they`re outraged
about positions unchangeable. But at other times we have seen this
throughout history, the court becomes a permission structure to make

You know, the Republicans and the Democrats both had very poor records
on civil rights and over time, particularly with decisions like Brown that
were, of course, unanimous for many Republicans eventually it became a
permission structure. That`s why the entire caucus starts voting for the
Voting Rights Act and other things. It`s a checkered history so I don`t
mean to simplify it.

But if the court goes federal here, I do think it would actually take
some of this out of the political space, which could be good if you care
about human rights.

O`DONNELL: The A-team, Alex Wagner and Ari Melber, thank you both for
joining me.

MELBER: Thanks, Lawrence.

WAGNER: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Tina Fey`s return to her Alaskan roots and the
man, the only man who could get her to go back.


O`DONNELL: So guess what`s not dead? The assault weapons ban.
That`s coming up in the Rewrite.

And James Lipton got Tina Fey to do Sarah Palin one more time in an
amazing improv on his show. We will show the whole thing, and ask Jimmy
Lipton how he did it. That`s next.



TINA FEY, COMEDIAN: You know, Hillary and I don`t agree on everything

AMY POEHLER, COMEDIAN: Anything. I believe that diplomacy should be
the cornerstone of any foreign policy.

FEY: And I can see Russia from my house.



O`DONNELL: Seems like yesterday when you watch that, but it`s been
four and a half years since Tina Fey introduced her stunning impression of
Sarah Palin on "Saturday Night Live." And just when Tina Fey fans thought
they had seen the last of that Palin impression, one man, the only man who
could do this, was able to get her to do it once again Tuesday night.


introduce Sarah Palin, please?

FEY: We could try.

LIPTON: I`m the one taking the chance, not you, pal. You asked Joe
Biden if you could call him "Joe."

FEY: Uh-huh.

LIPTON: Shall I address you as governor? You served only half a
term. So what`s the right term of address?

FEY: Well, I`ll tell ya, I don`t know. I`m a half governor or you
could call me a maverick at large.


LIPTON: Perhaps even gov.

FEY: Gov would be fine by me too.

LIPTON: I know that you`re very fond of shooting wolves from a
helicopter, which is understandable enough. Have your views on gun laws or
wolves changed at all?

FEY: You know, Jimmy, I believe that --


FEY: -- if everybody had guns, then there would be fewer guns in the



LIPTON: I believe if everybody had guns there would be fewer people
left on the streets.

FEY: Also good.


LIPTON: Right? What about -- I know it`s a touchy subject, same-sex
marriage. What is your view on that, please?

FEY: Well, the Bible says it`s gross.


FEY: And I don`t judge it. A lot of the amazing, wonderful people I
met in the audience at "Dancing With the Stars" seem to go that way.

LIPTON: Right.

FEY: But no.

LIPTON: No? No same-sex marriage.

FEY: Marriage is meant for people who wear different kinds of swim


LIPTON: There`s a logic to that that is absolutely indisputable.
Now, whoever you are, countless women took up to you. Do you have any
fashion and hairstyling advice for them?

FEY: Well, I`m a fan of the Bump-It.


FEY: Also to a tan, a tan you couldn`t possibly have in Alaska. And
that`s really all you need.

LIPTON: Of greater importance, how does a woman like you make her way
through a man`s world?

FEY: I don`t think of it as a man`s world or a woman`s world unless,
again, we`re talking about marriage.


FEY: But I think of it as people being mavericks or not being


LIPTON: May I be permitted just one more.

FEY: OK then.


FEY: But you know sometimes people ask me stuff and I don`t answer it
anyway, so go ahead.


FEY: I`m a slippery one.


LIPTON: What do you think of Tina Fey`s portrayal of you?

FEY: It`s the best one I never watched.


LIPTON: Thank you very much. Thank you.


O`DONNELL: Joining me now, my friend James Lipton, creator, executive
producer, writer and host of Bravo`s "Inside the Actor`s Studio," which has
received a record 15 Emmy nominations in 18 years. And you just saw why.

Jimmy, I feel like I can call you Jimmy, because Tina does -- I mean,
Sarah Palin does. That is absolutely stunning for me, because I know
actors generally are very, very uncomfortable doing any kind of character
out of the structure that makes the character work, set, makeup, all that

Was that -- was that -- did you warn her at all you were going to pull
that on her?

LIPTON: Remember that my show is the only one, I think, of its kind
that has no pre-interview ever. That`s why I do all those blue cards. So
the guest never knows what`s coming next and neither do I. That`s the
secret, if there is a secret of "Inside the Actor`s Studio."

But if I`m going to ask them to do something on the stage, where they
might be inclined to say no, which would be embarrassing to them, I do ask
them before the show, in the green room. By the way, I said, would you let
me interview Sarah Palin. She said OK.

And let me tell you something, you talk about reality television, that
was reality television. That was real. There wasn`t one moment of that
was scripted. That was an improvisation. And I was improvising with one
of the two or three best improvisers in the world. That takes guts.

O`DONNELL: It was fantastic. It was like sneaking into an acting
class. It was a fantastic -- and you could tell how real it was. And
also, I mean, she knew she could bail at any point. At any point, she knew
if she just kind of bailed out of it as Tina Fey, she would be able to do
that. But I was marveling at how long the both of you were able to keep
that ball in the air.

LIPTON: She doesn`t bail. We talked about improvisation. She was
teaching our students, the Actor Studio Drama School at Pace University.
That`s where we were. And she was teaching them about improv. And the
principal of agree, must agree, and yes and, whatever you`re given, you
have to say yes and, and then add something to it. That`s exactly what we
were doing.

It was a long improvisation and it worked, not because of me, because
of her. She is amazing.

O`DONNELL: No, but your side of it is easy to underestimate. I mean,
you were serving her perfectly. You were in the Jimmy character, playing
it perfectly. What did it feel like -- you were working a scene with her.

LIPTON: Absolutely. We were improvising. Well, I`m from the Actor`s
Studio. I`m a vice president of the Actor`s Studio. I was trained by
Stella Adler (ph), Harold Klerman (ph), Robert Lewis. So I`ve had a little
bit of practice in that area.

But when you`re doing it with a master, like her, you are really --
you are being lifted off the ground. And that was what the experience was

O`DONNELL: Well, you`ve set a new bar, even for your show. Jimmy
Lipton, thank you very much for joining me tonight.

LIPTON: Thank you, Lawrence. It`s great to see you, although you`re
far away, I think, aren`t you? I don`t know where you are.

O`DONNELL: Well, we`ll be together again in New York soon. Thanks
very much, James. Thank you.

Coming up, I`m going to have to Rewrite those headlines about the
assault weapons ban being dead.


O`DONNELL: We`ve all seen the headlines: assault weapons ban dead.
You`ve seen those, right? Well, it`s time to Rewrite those headlines to
assault weapons ban not dead. That`s right, not dead.

Judging by my Twitter feed, many of you are very angry at Harry Reid
tonight for killing the assault weapons ban in the package of legislation
that was voted out of the Judiciary Committee. The Judiciary Committee`s
legislation on gun safety includes universal background checks, among other
things. An assault weapons ban was also in there.

The vote in the committee on the assault weapons ban was straight
party line, 10 Democrats in favor, eight Republicans opposed. But
unfortunately, the Judiciary Committee does not reflect the politics of the
Senate as a whole. The Judiciary Committee, like some other committees, is
a bit more liberal than the full Senate. Those committees can sometimes
pass bills that cannot pass the Senate.

It is not unusual for the majority leader of the Senate, whether he`s
a Republican or a Democrat, to slightly Rewrite committee passed bills
before introducing them to the full Senate. The majority leader`s rewrites
and edits usually have one guiding principle in mind, attracting the votes
needed for passage.

Committee chairmen have to do exactly the same thing to get bills
through their committees. The question is always the same: what happens to
a bill if a certain controversial provision is in it from the start and
what happens if it`s left out? And leaving it out does not mean the
controversial provision won`t end up in the bill through the amendment
process, which is exactly how Dianne Feinstein`s original assault weapons
ban ended up in the crime bill in 1993.

It wasn`t in the Judiciary Committee`s Crime Bill that was called up
on the Senate floor by the majority leader. And it wasn`t in the House
version of the bill at all.

And so Senator Dianne Feinstein offered it as an amendment on the
Senate floor and argued her case. And on November 17th, 1993, there was a
roll call vote on the Senate floor, and Dianne Feinstein`s amendment,
number 1152 to the crime bill, and the Feinstein Assault Weapons Ban passed
with 56 votes, including 10 Republicans.

Some of the Democrats who voted yes were from states where voting for
gun control took political courage. Max Baucus of Montana, David Born of
Oklahoma, Dale Bumpers and David Pryor of Arkansas, Kent Conrad of North
Dakota, Tom Daschle from South Dakota, Jim Exxon and Bob Carey from
Nebraska, Wendell Ford of Kentucky, Tom Harkin from Iowa, Sam Nunn from
Georgia, and Harris Wofford from Pennsylvania.

They deserve to be mentioned and remembered by name here and now,
because theirs was the kind of political courage that has largely
evaporated in the Senate. Most of the names I just mentioned are no longer
senators. And Democrats don`t have senators from places like Oklahoma,
Georgia and Kentucky anymore. And the Senate seat of former Arkansas
Democrat David Pryor, who I had the pleasure of working with in the Senate,
is now occupied by his son, Mark Pryor, who is far to the right of his

Harry Reid is the leader of that Senate, the Mark Pryor Senate, not
the David Pryor senate. Harry Reid is the leader of the senate where nine
of the 10 Republicans who voted for the 1993 assault weapons ban are no
longer senators. Harry Reid`s job is to figure out the right strategy for
bringing gun legislation to the Senate floor. It is the hardest job in the
Senate, and it is misnamed.

His title should not be majority leader. It should be majority
strategist or majority scheduler. Because no senator ever has to follow
the majority leader. And in today`s Senate, no senator ever will follow
the majority leader, Democrat or Republican, if there is a re-election risk
involved. And so the majority strategist, Harry Reid, had a choice: put
the assault weapons ban in the bill going to the floor, and watch as the
first amendment offered on the floor would be an amendment to strip out the
assault weapons ban, or bring the bill to the floor without the assault
weapons ban and watch Dianne Feinstein offer it as an amendment, just like
she did last time.

And Harry Reid is making the second choice. He announced tonight,
"once debate begins, I will ensure that a ban on assault weapons, limits to
high capacity magazines and mental health provisions receive votes along
with other amendments. In his State of the Union Address, President Obama
called for all of these provisions to receive votes, and I will ensure that
they do."

There was going to be a vote on the assault weapons ban on the Senate
floor whether Harry Reid included it in the original version in the bill on
the Senate floor or not. What we know now is that the vote will be up to
Dianne Feinstein. If she offers it on the Senate floor, as we know she
will, and fights for it as we know she will, there is a chance -- there`s
always a chance it could pass. There is time to make that happen.

But she cannot do it alone. And it won`t happen on the Senate floor.
It has to happen before we get to the Senate floor. If Max Baucus is going
to vote for the assault weapons ban again, Montana voters have to tell him
to do that. If Republican Dan Coats is going to vote for the assault
weapons ban again, Indiana has to tell him to do that. You have to tell
them to do it.

Harry Reid is doing his job. Dianne Feinstein is doing her job. But
the 57 percent of Americans who support the assault weapons ban have to do
their jobs. You have a few weeks, at least, to get this job done before
that bill comes up on the Senate floor. And in the meantime, you can
attack Harry Reid all you want for not miraculously doing this on his own.

But it`s kind of uncool for you to be attacking Harry Reid too loudly
if you haven`t done your job to make sure that your senator stands with


O`DONNELL: On Monday, the Republican National Committee released a
report saying "if we want ethnic minority voters to support Republicans, we
have to engage them and show our sincerity."

Just one day after releasing that report, Republicans showed their
sincerity this way in Arkansas, by passing a new measure requiring all
voters to show photo I.D. in order to vote, a measure that opponents of
that law say would suppress the vote, particularly among minority, elderly
and young voters.

Joining me now, MSNBC`s Joy Reid. Joy, Michael Steele said, look, you
can`t say this on Monday and then pass these kinds of things. This is part
of what`s alienating those voters.

JOY REID, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. Apparently, the
governors and legislatures out there in the world didn`t get the memo from
nice Reince Priebus about, you know, play nice with minority voters. Look,
the problem with these laws, Lawrence, is that they are far more likely to
disenfranchise black and minority -- black and Hispanic youth. Something
like 72 percent of African-Americans who go to vote are asked for I.D.
Something like 60 percent of Hispanics. But only half of white younger
people who go to vote.

So you`re disenfranchising people directly. And then black and
Hispanic youth are far more likely to report not voting because either they
don`t have the I.D. or they are perceived -- or they think they don`t have
the I.D. So what you`re saying is, on the one hand, we`re going to speak
more nicely to minorities. We`re going to talk about them in a way that
doesn`t offend them. But as a backup, just in case they`re recalcitrant
and keep voting for Democrats, we`re just going to make it a little bit
harder for them to vote.

O`DONNELL: And Joy, there`s 10 other states out there who are
considering doing this kind of thing. And I keep hearing people theorizing
that, in fact, these efforts may have increased minority turnout in some
places last year.

REID: Yes, I think there`s a direct sort of circumstantial case to
say that at least in Florida and in Ohio, you saw actually a bump in
turnout among minority voters, because of not only the fact of the laws and
knowing about them and learning about them, and people being outraged
because they felt disenfranchised, but just the fear of the law.

So even in some states that don`t have these restrictive laws, people
were worried that their right to vote was going to be taken away. And I
know a state like Pennsylvania, which has very restrictive laws, you had in
Philadelphia suburbs a lot of people coming out, saying we`re going to vote
in defiance of people who are telling us our vote is less valuable and less
valued and not wanted at the polls.

O`DONNELL: Joy Reid gets tonight`s LAST WORD. But this story is not
over. We`ll be back on it, Joy. Joy, thank you very much.

REID: Thank you.

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


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