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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Monday, April 8h, 2013

Read the transcript to the Monday show

April 8, 2013


Guests: Jon Favreau, Julia Louis-Dreyfus

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: The president went back to Connecticut
today to talk to the people who Republicans are hoping America will forget.


from the promises we made. We`re not forgetting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Obama will be in Connecticut this

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It really is a make or break week.

TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Make or break week --

OBAMA: This week --

HALL: -- for gun legislation.

OBAMA: -- Connecticut has shown the way. Now is the time for
Congress to do the same.

HALL: The U.S. Senate is about to reconvene.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congress is back tackling gun legislation.

HALL: After a two-week recess.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: Let`s have a debate on
violence in America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thirteen Senate Republicans have threatened --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Threats of the filibuster.

REID: Senate Republicans seem afraid to even engage in this debate.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I don`t understand it. The purpose of
the United States Senate is to debate.

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC ANCHOR: They`re going to filibuster a bill
they don`t even know.

MCCAIN: I don`t understand it. What are we afraid of?

REID: Ninety percent of Americans believe we should do something.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t think 90 percent of Americans agree that
today is Monday.

REID: The least Republican owe them is a vote.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Allow a vote. (INAUDIBLE) but allow the vote.

REID: There`s simply no reason for this blatant obstruction.

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC ANCHOR: The second storm is brewing over the

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC ANCHOR: Wednesday, the president will formally send
his budget to Congress.

WAGNER: Send his budget blueprints to congress.

OBAMA: This is the compromise I sent to the speaker last year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She`s getting some criticism from the left.

TODD: The question is whether anger from the left makes Republicans
give the budget a second look.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The president is showing a
little leg here.

TODD: There you go.

GRAHAM: It is somewhat encouraging.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president offers a tantalizing budget

OBAMA: It`s not my ideal plan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m not saying the president`s plan is perfect.

OBAMA: It`s a compromise I am willing to accept.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For John Boehner to just call it essentially a
waste of time, it`s not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It really is a make or break week.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A make or break week.

WAGNER: Members of Congress, welcome back.

HALL: After two week recess, please, please, get to work.


O`DONNELL: Today, the president went to Connecticut to talk about
first principles, the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.


OBAMA: The kids at Sandy Hook were aware they were where they were
supposed to be. So were moviegoers in Aurora. So were those worshippers
in Oak Creek, so was Gabby Giffords. She was at a super market, listening
to concerns of her constituents.

They were exactly where they were supposed to be. They were also
exercising their rights, to assemble peaceably, worship freely and safely.
They were exercising the rights of life and liberty, the pursuit of


O`DONNELL: The right to life is self-evident, so said our Founding
Fathers. We hold these truths to be self-evident. The first right the
Founding Fathers mentioned was the right to life.

Rights can come into conflict with other rights. My right to swing my
fist ends where your nose begins. The right to bear arms, if it is to be
interpreted as individual right, can come into conflict with your right to

The right for Nancy Lanza to bear arms, her right to own arms, her
right to share her arms with her gravely disturbed son came into conflict
with 26 individuals` rights to life in Sandy Hook Elementary, rights that
were snuffed out by the legally obtained assault weapon and legally
obtained high capacity magazines that Nancy Lanza`s son used to kill her
and then killed 20 children and six adults in an elementary school.
Government`s job is to balance those rights. The government is now
populated by some who hold the right to bear arms higher than the right to

President Obama is not one of them.


OBAMA: We`ve got to believe that, you know, every once in a while we
set politics aside, we just do what`s right.


You got to believe that. And if you believe that, I`m asking you to
stand up.


If you believe in the right to bear arms like I do, but think we
should prevent an irresponsible few from inflicting harm, stand up. Stand
up. If you believe that the families of Newtown, and Aurora, and Tucson,
and Virginia Tech, and thousands of Americans have gunned down in the last
four months deserve a vote, we all have to stand up.


If you want the people you send to Washington to have just an iota of
the courage that the educators at Sandy Hook showed when danger arrived on
their doorstep, then we`re all going to have to stand up.

If we do, if we come together, raise our voices together, and demand
this change together, I`m convinced cooperation and common sense will
prevail. We will find sensible, intelligent ways to make this country
stronger and safer for our children, so let`s do the right thing.


Let`s do right by our kids. Let`s do right by these families. Let`s
get this done, Connecticut.

Thank you. God bless you. God bless the United States of America.


O`DONNELL: Krystal Ball, it sure sounds simple when he talks about
it. But we are trying to find a balance. There`s a right to bear arms,
there is a right to life. These things have to be balanced. This is
exactly what government is for.

KRYSTAL BALL, MSNBC`S "THE CYCLE": That`s right, 90 percent of
Americans think it would be reasonable to have at least a background check
before you exercise your right to bear arms.

And one thing that was clear to me in this speech and I think has been
clear to us all along, has not been clear to everyone, is that the
president`s engagement on gun control is not some political tactic. It`s
some chess move. This is an issue that he cares deeply about, and is
willing to use his political capital, as much as he possibly can, to get
something done.

Now, will we actually get something done? It`s not looking great in
terms of universal background checks, but I have to say, on an issue where
90 percent, 9 out of 10 Americans support universal background checks, if
Republicans block this at this moment, they may be able to do that in the
short term, but if there`s no long term price to be paid for that, we don`t
have a democracy in this country.

O`DONNELL: Ari, the right to life, which Republicans like to talk
about in terms of abortion cases, they completely ignore pretending that
the Second Amendment is a right that is paramount and rises above all

ARI MELBER, THE NATION: They do. And sort of the
constitutionalization of the political differences is applied selectively.

I`m reminded of what Senator Cruz did and you reported on here, he
talked about the notion that there`s no limits on any rights. Well,
actually, the First Amendment has limitations, the Second, the Fourth has
many limitations because of the aggressive interest of the police in
calling anything a reasonable search and seizure.

So, we do have a blueprint for this. We know how it works. And
nothing that`s on the table on the Hill right now would confiscate guns at
all. So, that`s not even an issue.

I agree and want to echo something Krystal said that`s important and
what you showed in that long excerpt from the speech tonight, this was not
a political speech. This is against the White House`s political agenda,

We all know and anyone that spent any time looking at Congress knows
that it is difficult for either party to take on guns or the NRA, nor does
the president politically want to make this the big focus when there`s
immigration and budget he is going to introduce on Wednesday.

What we are seeing is I think the best of Barack Obama this week, a
man who`s putting the country first to adopt John McCain`s famous appeal,
but doing it in a real way, with political risk because it`s that

And the last thing I`ll say. You know, one of his advisers said
although he made many tough decisions, the day of that massacre was the
toughest day of his presidency in his mind. I think we see that in the
rigor he is bringing to try to do the right thing here.

O`DONNELL: The president watched "60 Minutes," as did I. Scott
Pelley did a great job speaking to victims of families, the parents who sat
there talking about what it is like to lose a child.

President Obama used that today. Let`s listen to this.


OBAMA: I`ve heard Nicole talk about what her life has been like since
Dylan was taken from her in December. One thing she said struck me. She
said every night, I beg for him to come to me in my dreams so that I can
see him again. And during the day, I just focus on what I need to do to
honor him and make change. Now, if Nicole can summon the courage to do
that, how can the rest of us do any less?

SCOTT PELLEY, CBS NEWS: How do you stay in touch with the child that
you lost?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, I dream about him all the time and we
talk and he and I talk, when I take my walks, I just feel him. If I ask
him to be present, he is. And I know he`ll always be there. And I have
faith, too. I have faith that he is.


O`DONNELL: Krystal, it`s not easy for these parents to do what they
did on "60 Minutes." They`re strongly behind the president on this.

BALL: Absolutely. Just incredibly courageous to be willing to grieve
publicly and put themselves out there in the public sphere in this way.
And I just have to think not to switch back to the crass politics of this,
but for Republicans not to even have the courage to vote no, but to block a
bill from even coming to the Senate floor. I just don`t know how you
defend that, I don`t think you can defend that.

And the other part of the speech tonight from the president was
framing this saying they`re using these tactics to block even taking a
vote. These families deserve to have a vote.

And I think that framing is incredibly important. I think it could
actually be something that maybe brought filibuster reform around because
it is an idea that makes sense to American people.

O`DONNELL: It`s a price of having a weak minority leader, Mitch
McConnell, so weak in his home state, that he is now had to join this group
saying we will filibuster. Leaders on either side never join filibusters.
But he is talking about doing that.

I want to go back to this, because Francine Wheeler is one of the
voices are hoping America doesn`t hear, and who President Obama and "60
minutes" are doing everything they can to make sure does hear.

Let`s listen to that.


OBAMA: Over the weekend, I heard Francine Wheeler, who lost her son
Ben that day, say that the four months since the tragedy might feel like a
brief moment for some, but for her it feels like it has been years since
she saw Ben. And she`s determined not to let what happened that day just
fade away.

FRANCINE WHEELER, LOST SON TO MASSACRE: People do change because the
country goes in different places, but we`re going to bring it right back so
that America can see, four months to them, it feels like it just happened a
moment ago.

PELLEY: To you.

WHEELER: And yet -- and yet it`s been years since I`ve seen my son,
OK? So we`re just -- we`re not going anywhere, we`re here, and we`re going
to be here.


BERMAN: You know, I mean, that`s hard to watch because I don`t think
anyone who hasn`t been through something like that fully knows what she is
going through, but I think any tragedy like this goes back to what we are
as a nation. That`s why as you pointed out, Lawrence, the president was
talking about our very founding principles tonight because we have to
figure out what we do as a nation, as a democracy, to resolve and regulate
in this area.

And I can tell you, if we don`t have votes, what we were saying
earlier, we don`t have a democracy. And that is the surest way to start a
wider outrage in this country, because it goes beyond what we do, goes to
the point that we`ve got a minority party that doesn`t even want to have a
debate in the light of day, and that`s wrong.

O`DONNELL: Krystal Ball and Ari Melber, thank you both for joining me

BALL: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, why Margaret Thatcher is not remembered as a
socialist. She did strongly support good socialist programs and she helped
get rid of some of the bad ones as any good socialist would do.

And in the "Rewrite," why we should thank Jay-Z and Beyonce for
highlighting that is this country`s policy toward Cuba.

And if you have been moved by the words of Barack Obama in speeches,
you`ve probably been moved by some of the words written in those speeches
by Jon Favreau who will join me.

And joining me later, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the funniest fictional vice
president ever on TV. We`re going to find someone to help us lighten us up
a little bit tonight. She`s going to do it.

Stay with us.


O`DONNELL: Americans in poverty and the unemployed seem easy to
forget about for Washington politicians as the sequester cuts will make
life even more difficult for people experiencing hard times these days.
Their plight depicted in a new Broadway play called, "Hands on a Hard
Body", about people competing to win a pickup truck. I saw that play this

Unfortunately, for them, they don`t have lobbyists to represent them
in the halls of Congress, but they do now have the voice of -- and I mean
this -- the best presidential speechwriter in history. And he will join me



OBAMA: Now what`s important to understand is not everyone will feel
the pain of these cuts right away. The pain, though, will be real.


O`DONNELL: That was President Obama on the first day sequestration
took effect on March 1st. Who was being hurt by the sequester budget cuts?

In his first column for "The Daily Beast" the president`s former
speechwriter writes, "We can ask Americans who are losing their jobs at
military bases in Tennessee, Illinois, and Virginia. We can ask the health
care employees facing layoffs in New York, or the contractors in Oklahoma,
or the teachers in Iowa, or the workers cleaning up nuclear waste in
Washington. We can ask the children in Ohio and Pennsylvania who will no
longer receive early education that Head Start provides. We can ask the
scientists and researchers at Duke and University of Florida who must end
their pursuit of discoveries that could change or save lives.

We can ask the hungry families in Utah who can no longer rely on the
local food pantry, the disabled tenants in California that will lose
housing vouchers, the elderly cancer patients in South Carolina being
denied chemotherapy treatment, or the 39-year-old Army veteran in Maryland
who believes the only way to survive his pay cut is with another combat

Every memorable speech given by Senator Barack Obama and presidential
candidate Barack Obama and President Barack Obama was made better,
stronger, and more moving by the help of Jon Favreau, who left his post as
the president`s top speechwriter, not long after his second inaugural

When Jon Favreau left the White House, President Obama said he has
become a friend and a collaborator on virtually every major speech I have
given in the Senate, on the campaign trail, and in the White House.

Jon Favreau joins us now from Washington.

Thanks for joining us tonight, Jon.


O`DONNELL: And I hope it becomes a regular thing. I would love to
spend all of this time praising your writing, just writer to writer.

FAVREAU: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: But I`ve said it, I think your team was the best
speechwriting team the White House ever had. I think the president is the
best presidential speechwriter of his own material that I`ve ever heard.
And I`m assuming that you as boss of that team are the best of the best.
So, thanks for that, Jon.

And I`m fascinated in how much focus the people who are suffering, the
sequester cuts and the cuts to come, are not getting attention in the
crossfire, I guess, of all of the issues floating around Washington these
days. The only attention that even goes anywhere near their direction is
this obsession with budget cutting that Republicans continue to push.

FAVREAU: Yes, that`s right, Lawrence. I mean, a month ago a lot of
Republicans and some folks in the media were saying the president was
exaggerating the effects of the sequester. A month later, we`re seeing
that these effects and cuts are real and they`re hurting a lot of people.

I mean, kids are losing education. These are elderly cancer patients
being turned away. And, you know, the Republican economic plan after the
2012 election is still basically the sequester on steroids. It`s a super
sized sequester.

It is going to get rid of most government services and investments
outside of health care, defense and Social Security. And that means that
everything that we`re seeing now, all of these cuts, all this pain that a
lot of people are feeling is going to be magnified if that comes to pass.

And so, the question for Republicans is, is there going to be one
candidate, one 2016 candidate who stands up and says, I`m a small
government conservative, I don`t want a lot of spending but this goes too
far, this is not what this party stands for, this is not how you build a
strong economy or strong middle class.

O`DONNELL: Another question is, is there anything the president can
say that Republicans will be even willing to entertain? I mean, we saw the
president`s budget come out with a lot of steps toward Republicans,
including this notion of chain CPI, immediately dismissed by John Boehner.

Let`s listen to FOX News, Neil Cavuto, his reaction to how John
Boehner has reacted to the president`s budget proposal.


NEIL CAVUTO, FOX NEWS: Rejects it out of hand, apparently because the
president includes tax hikes in the deal. Now, keep in mind, the tax hikes
the president is talking about were and are the same kind of hikes Speaker
Boehner himself was negotiating a little more than a year ago -- closing
tax loopholes and credits that would make for a cleaner tax code. And now
coupled with the first ever shot at reining in out of control entitlements.

And for Boehner to just call it essentially a waste of time, well,
it`s not. This is the same Boehner who hated it when the White House did
the exact same thing to his buddy Paul Ryan when Ryan was trying to rein in
Medicare. Time to stop saying no and at least start saying maybe.


O`DONNELL: Jon, Lindsey Graham has said maybe. He`s the Republican
voice willing to listen to this. But it`s very hard to get a crack in the
Republican wall for President Obama.

FAVREAU: It is. I mean, I was on -- the last trip I was on with the
president, we were in Virginia, and there was a Republican congressman that
came with us, Scott Rigell, who represents a district effected by the
sequester because of military bases. And this is a Republican who said to
the president, I am willing to consider revenues. I am willing to consider
closing loopholes for millionaires if it means protecting the jobs in my

And he was later destroyed by his caucus and all kinds of special
interest groups for even, you know, contemplating compromise. This is
exactly the thing we need to stop. This is what drives people insane about

The president and his budget has met the Republicans more than
halfway. The ratio of spending cuts to revenue so far since the president
took office is more than two to one. And yet, they are still saying no to
a dime of tax hikes on the richest people in the world. I mean, it`s just
-- it`s really unfortunate.

O`DONNELL: Jon Favreau, thanks for joining me in what I hope is the
first of many appearances here on THE LAST WORD.

FAVREAU: Thank you for having me, Lawrence. Appreciate it.

O`DONNELL: Thanks.

Coming up, travel to Cuba may be a crime for you. But not for Jay-Z
and Beyonce, and that is the single, stupidest thing in American foreign

That`s coming up.


O`DONNELL: What is a British conservative? A British conservative is
way more liberal than an American liberal. But American conservatives
don`t know that, which explains a lot about what they love about Margaret
Thatcher, who was a British conservative, which is to say a British
socialist. That`s next.


O`DONNELL: In the Spotlight tonight, the death of socialism in the
United Kingdom. Today in his farewell to Margaret Thatcher, conservative
columnist George Will said she "helped bury socialism as a doctrine of
governance." Today, it was hard to tell who Republicans loved more, Ronald
Reagan or Margaret Thatcher. It is also hard to tell which of them
Republicans mythologize more.

Today`s fond Republican memories of Margaret Thatcher were as much
mythology as reality. Republicans falsely credit Reagan and Thatcher which
bringing down the Soviet Union when they did no such thing. The Soviet
Union collapsed from within. To believe that the Soviet Union would be
thriving today were it not for Reagan and Thatcher is to believe that
communism is a good idea, that communism works. In fact, imperialistic
dictatorial communism collapsed of its own horrible weight.

It simply could not survive in a modern world where the dynamism of
capitalism and freedom is necessary in every economy, as is, by the way,
some socialism, as Margaret Thatcher well understood. It is not as if no
one knew that the Soviet Union was going to collapse. Well, it`s actually
as if only one person knew. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan predicted in
1979 that the Soviet Union would collapse. The Soviet Union`s horribly run
economy couldn`t possibly provide for the people of the many different
countries who were thrown together against their will under the thinly
stretched banner of the imperialistic Soviet Union.

And as mentioned, the other false credit Margaret Thatcher gets is for
killing socialism and burying it, as George Will said. What do you call a
socialist who gets rid of bad socialism and keeps good socialism, like I
would? I call that person a good socialist, like Margaret Thatcher.


adequate health care should be provided for all regardless of ability to
pay must be the foundation of any arrangement for financing the health
service. We stand by that.


O`DONNELL: Ah, there`s Margaret Thatcher voicing her unyielding
support for socialism in Britain`s health care sector. Now, as I`ve said
before on this program, there`s good socialism and bad socialism, just as
there`s good capitalism and bad capitalism. And what we should always be
trying to do is use good socialism where necessary and good capitalism
where necessary, which is all Margaret Thatcher tried to do. She saw that
it would be better for British Airways to be run as a private company
instead of run by the government.

But she did not think health care should be left to the vicissitudes
of capitalism. Or there wasn`t a large enough role for socialism to play
in housing, for example, in Britain. She was in favor of that. Nor did
she seek to abolish the government funded pension system for all, their
form of Social Security, which like ours is a socialist program. She
actually boasted about spending more on socialism than the Labor Party.


THATCHER: For every one pound Labor spends on the National Health
Service, this government has spent three.


O`DONNELL: She also bragged about spending more on the Social
Security system.


THATCHER: Next month, the old age pension will go up by 11 percent.
And that despite the worst recession since the 1930s.


O`DONNELL: Now each of those things are beyond the pale for our
Republicans who loved Margaret Thatcher so much, as is, of course,
extending unemployment insurance.


THATCHER: The world recession has brought high unemployment to almost
every country. Again and again, Tory governments took the lead in
extending unemployment insurance.


O`DONNELL: And Republicans who today are trying to cut funding for
the disabled in Social Security would be horrified by what Margaret
Thatcher did on spending for the disabled.


THATCHER: Spending on people who are sick and disabled has very
nearly doubled under this government again after allowing for inflation.
This October, we gave extra help to the 2.5 million pensioners who need it
most. And we also abolished the earnings law.


O`DONNELL: Of course, Sarah Palin`s handlers did not tell her about
any of this before they wrote a statement for her praising Margaret
Thatcher, and posted it on Facebook. She was at least a tax cutter, I`ll
say that for Margaret Thatcher, but not the kind of tax cutter a Republican
in this country could ever vote for. She cut the top income tax rate
bracket from 83 percent to 60 percent. You see, British conservatives like
Thatcher are way to the left of American liberals.

There is no American liberal who would advocate a 60 percent top
income tax rate. In her last year, she did manage to get the top income
tax rate down to 40 percent, only in her last year, which is still higher
than Barack Obama`s top income tax rate of 39.6 percent. And yeah, those
two tax rates are close, but hey, higher is higher, and all the Margaret
Thatcher worshippers out there tonight wouldn`t be screaming -- squirming
right now if they had the lower tax rate, if the Thatcher tax rate didn`t
end at a spot above the Obama top tax rate and the Clinton top tax rate.

But she didn`t do that. She didn`t get the tax rates lower because
she wasn`t conservative enough. I repeat, get this, British conservatives
aren`t as conservative as American conservatives, and British conservatives
are more liberal than American liberals. Margaret Thatcher left office
with the lowest bracket, the lowest income tax bracket, at 25 percent,
where today`s Republicans want the highest income tax bracket to be. She
also doubled the British sales tax, the value added tax. She doubled it to
15 percent, a tax that dramatically increases the costs of everything you
buy in that country.

That is a sharply regressive tax, but it is still a tax, a tax used to
fund social programs. And Margaret Thatcher doubled that tax. And yet she
is still loved by American Republicans who are ignorant of every single
thing I have told you so far. When Thatcher came into office, taxes as a
share of GDP were 33 percent. When Thatcher left office, that was 35
percent. Grover Norquist and all of the Republican worshippers of Margaret
Thatcher are outraged today that we are averaging 18 percent. Those
Republicans insist that it is outrageous in this country for taxes to be 18
percent of our GDP, which is about half of what they were under Margaret
Thatcher. Half!

Barack Obama is half the taxer that Margaret Thatcher was, half the
socialist that Margaret Thatcher was. President Obama has not dared
propose a health care program as purely socialistic and complete as
Margaret Thatcher`s completely socialistic health care system, the one she
supported and bragged about. But Republicans call Barack Obama a socialist
as if it is an epithet, and they call Margaret Thatcher a hero.

Ignorance is the first requirement for Republicans adoration of
Margaret Thatcher. Sarah Palin and most Republican presidential candidates
would be horrified to discover that Margaret Thatcher actually believed in


THATCHER: I began with Charles Darwin and his work on the theory of
evolution of "the Origin of Species." Darwin`s voyages were among the high
points of scientific discovery. The beliefs of Darwin`s era should help to
see us through, the belief in reason and the scientific method.


O`DONNELL: And every elected Republican in Washington would refuse to
applaud if they heard Margaret Thatcher say this.


THATCHER: It is mankind and his activities which are changing the
environment of our planet in damaging and dangerous ways. The problem of
global climate change is one that effects us all, and actually will only be
effective if it is taken at the international level.

It is no good squabbling over who is responsible and who should pay.
Each country has to contribute. Those countries who are industrialized
must contribute more to help those who are not. These protocols must be
binding and there must be effective regimes to supervise and monitor their


O`DONNELL: Thatcher was horribly conservative and horribly wrong
about some things, and I do mean horribly. She supported Apartheid in
South Africa, and regarded Nelson Mandela and his African National Congress
as terrorists, and she was sharply anti-gay rights.


THATCHER: Children who need to be taught to respect traditional moral
values are being taught that they have an inalienable right to be gay.


O`DONNELL: Margaret Thatcher the socialist, is gone, but Margaret
Thatcher the socialist was forgotten long before she was gone.


O`DONNELL: In tonight`s Rewrite, Rewriting the crime of going to
Cuba. Jay-Z and Beyonce`s trip to Cuba last week presents us with a crime.
Either they committed a crime by going there or it is a crime that they get
to go there legally and you can`t. But the biggest crime of all is the
single stupidest piece of American foreign policy that all presidents,
Democrat and Republican embrace, the United States embargo on trade and
tourism with Cuba.

Of course, Beyonce and Jay-Z and anyone else should be able to go to
Cuba for a vacation to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary, as it was
originally reported in their case. Now that the couple`s lawyers are
controlling the message, the trip is described as a legal cultural exchange
with Cuba. But they did bring body guards with them who would not fit
under our government`s definition of who would be allowed to participate in
a legal cultural exchange trip to Cuba. And they also brought their
mothers. That`s right, Beyonce`s mother and Jay-Z`s mother came along for
the ride.

If their trip was legal, they got very special treatment from the
Obama administration, specifically the Treasury Department, which
authorizes such trips. The couple`s lawyers refuse to disclose any detail
of the trip, but all indications at this stage are that they did not travel
with a group that has a license to travel to Cuba, like, for example,
Smithsonian Journeys, which offers trips starting at 5,880 dollars per

Thousands of Americans are on those legal trips every year, and
probably many, many thousands more Americans simply slip into Cuba from
Mexico, much cheaper that way, and then return via Mexico, so that there is
no trace of them having been in Cuba, because Cuban authorities routinely
don`t stamp American passports because they, of course, want to help us
violate our stupid American laws about visiting Cuba.

Going to Cuba was easy for me because I have the general license to go
to Cuba any time I feel like it. That license is granted to all
"journalists." Violating our stupid law about travel to Cuba turns out to
be not very risky. You can be fined, but almost no one actually gets hit
with a big fine when they get caught. And the typical fine is about a
thousand dollars.

The problem for Americans occurs when we are trying to re-enter this
country. You know that little form you fill out that asks what countries
have you visited while you were away? When I came back to this country
through Mexico, I filled out that line saying that I had visited two
countries, Mexico and Cuba, and I handed it to the agent when I was going
through. The agent, I was ready to show the agent my MSNBC ID. But he
looked at the form, looked at those two words, Cuba and Mexico, said
absolutely nothing, and just waved me on.

Another agent did the same thing with a friend of mine who was on that
same flight. And I advised my friend to actually tell the truth on the
form, even though there was no legal basis for his trip to Cuba. He put
Cuba and Mexico on his form. The agent looked at that, asked no questions,
and just waved him into the United States of America. What tens of
thousands of other people do in that situation is simply put the word
Mexico on that form. They never mention Cuba, and, in effect, lie their
way back into their country.

We can thank the electoral college for all of this insanity, because
Florida is a swing state, with a lot of electoral votes, and because we
know that it can be won or lost by very slight margins. So presidential
candidates, both Democrat and Republican, pander as desperately as they
possibly can to win every vote in Florida, including that segment of Cuban
American voters who still believe the embargo is a good thing. Those
voters control our inane Cuban policy.

They are represented by members of Congress who take this policy
seriously, or at least pretend to. Two of them have written a letter to
the United States Treasury asking about Beyonce Knowles Carter and Shawn
Carter`s trip to Cuba. The letter includes this little speech, "the
restrictions on tourism travel are common sense measures meant to prevent
U.S. dollars from supporting a murderous regime that opposes U.S. security
interests at every turn and which ruthlessly suppresses the most basic
liberties of speech, assembly and belief."

Florida Senator Marco Rubio, the most prominent member of Florida`s
Cuban American community, is also complaining loudly about the trip. And
what has our crazy embargo that these members of Congress and Marco Rubio
love so much achieved? What has it actually achieved after all these
years? Absolutely nothing. Thanks to the embargo, the Castro Brothers
were able to stay in power their entire lives because they always had a
villain to point to to explain why life in Cuba is so harsh, why obtaining
the basic necessity of life was so difficult.

The Castros had blamed every problem in Cuba on the United States. By
contrast, we dropped the American travel ban to China in 1971. And what
has happened in China since then? China rather quickly got infected with
Coca-Cola and Levis, which is to say in Coke`s case at least, semi
addictive capitalism. And the march towards more capitalism has been

Look at China today. It`s economy, which is now a mix of socialism
and capitalism, is now the envy of most of the world. Cubans certainly
envy the Chinese economy. Cubans wish they could be more capitalistic like
the Chinese or like us. And nothing would speed the eventual demise of
communism in Cuba more than dropping the American embargo and dropping our
restrictions on travel to Cuba. The president can`t do this alone because
the most egregious parts of the restrictions are written in law.

Congress will have to repeal that law someday. But now that President
Obama never has to run for re-election, never has to win another vote in
Florida, he is politically free finally to do the right thing. And now
that the president`s friends have been seen traveling to Cuba, now is the
perfect time for him to do the right thing. Now is the perfect time for
him to be the first president who says the first sane thing about our
embargo of Cuba, that it must stop, that we must have free and open
relations, including diplomatic relations with Cuba, that there is no
conceivable reason for China to receive more favorable treatment from this
nation than Cuba does.

Now we have a Don`t Ask Don`t Tell policy at our border when Americans
return from Cuba. But any agent who catches you traveling to Cuba
illegally can decide at that moment to make your life hell. One such case
actually dragged through the courts for years. But from this day forward,
now that we see that the president`s friends can come and go freely from
Cuba, this government has forfeited the moral right to penalize anyone for
traveling to Cuba.

And for that, we should all thank Jay-Z and Beyonce and their mothers
and their bodyguards for setting the precedent that we should now all be
allowed to live by.



JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS, ACTRESS: I thought maybe we could agree that at
any joint meetings that you and I have with the president, I will be first
in and I will be last out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fine, but as senior strategist, I`ll already be in
the room.

LOUIS-DREYFUS: Are you suggesting that a senior strategist is a
higher position than a vice president?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It depends on the vice president.

LOUIS-DREYFUS: Yeah? Well, this one is me, and I`m (EXPLETIVE
DELETED) great.


O`DONNELL: That`s three time Emmy winning actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus
in HBO`s "Veep," playing the funniest fictional vice president ever. And
she`s joining me now from Burbank. Julia, I have to ask you, I have seen
every episode of "Veep." I plan to see every episode of season two, which
starts Sunday night.

LOUIS-DREYFUS: Yes, that`s right.

O`DONNELL: I don`t know what party you are in. I don`t know if
you`re a Democrat, a Republican or a Libertarian. I`m pretty sure you`re
not a Libertarian. But I haven`t figured this out yet. Could you please
tell America?

LOUIS-DREYFUS: I cannot tell you. I cannot tell you. I will not
tell you. And actually, to be honest with you, we never really discuss it.
What we really discuss is keeping it -- I`m not going to say nonpartisan,
but unidentifiable. Because the whole idea is about behavior. And by
aligning ourselves with a party, then all of a sudden it will seem like we
are poking fun at the other side. And we are poking fun at everybody.

So we want to make it without political bias, if we can. We try. It
is hard by the way, but that`s what we go for.

O`DONNELL: You have talked to Joe Biden about this?

LOUIS-DREYFUS: Yeah, I did. I got a really -- an incredible voice
mail message from him and -- in which he called to say -- to say
congratulations on winning the Emmy, which was unbelievable. Then he
extraordinarily apologized for not calling me sooner to congratulate me.
It was just amazing. But he couldn`t have been nicer. And I am very happy
about that, because the last thing in the world I want him to think or any
vice president to think is that we`re poking fun at a specific vice
president, because we`re not.

O`DONNELL: I got to say, that does sound like something that your
character, your vice president would do, call up the actress playing the
vice president.


O`DONNELL: -- saying congratulations.

LOUIS-DREYFUS: Yes, exactly. That`s a good idea for a story line, by
the way. The only problem, of course, would be she would say something on
the voice mail that she shouldn`t say. And then we would have to figure
out how to delete that voice mail -- I don`t know what -- through the CIA
or something. I don`t know how does one delete voice mails.

O`DONNELL: Just to keep this writing session going, what we would do
is she would come on a show like this as a guest and she would play the
voice mail to the nation, an awaiting nation, wanting to hear exactly what
that vice president had to say.

LOUIS-DREYFUS: That`s right, exactly, that`s right. And then you
know what would hit the fan.

O`DONNELL: Exactly.

LOUIS-DREYFUS: So I think, yeah -- anyway, we have an episode. Right
now, we have an episode.

O`DONNELL: There you go. That`s -- it is usually harder than that,
isn`t it? These guys work pretty hard writing these episodes?

LOUIS-DREYFUS: Yes, yes, we do work very hard putting them together,
but apparently it has become a cinch.

O`DONNELL: Yes. So "Veep," it premiers this coming Sunday, April

LOUIS-DREYFUS: Yes, it does.

O`DONNELL: so you are scheduled to get another Emmy for season two.

LOUIS-DREYFUS: Oh, please. Oh, please. Are you kidding? I am so
grateful to have the opportunity to do the show for a second season and
work with these fine actors. We have had a ball. We get to -- we are --
if you think the first season was nuts, this season gets even more insane.
We go to some pretty humiliating places. So I think you might dig it.

O`DONNELL: All right, Julia. Your pick up truck full of Emmys is
waiting to drive you home outside the studio. Thank you very much for
joining us tonight.

LOUIS-DREYFUS: Thanks, Lawrence. I appreciate it.

O`DONNELL: And Chris Hayes is up next.


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