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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Thursday, April 25th, 2013

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

April 25, 2013

Guests: Jonathan Dienst, Kenneth Feinberg, David Corn

LAWRENCE `DONNELL, HOST: The next place the Boston bombing suspects
said they wanted to bomb was Times Square.


CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC ANCHOR: There`s a lot of new stuff coming to
light today.

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: New in the Boston bombing

JANSING: The Boston marathon investigation.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK: We thought there was a
possibility they could be a related attack here.

MITCHELL: The suspects were planning to detonate more bombs in New
York City.

BLOOMBERG: New York City was next on their list of targets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This information comes from the interview with the

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was only aspirational.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Delusions of grandeur.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Coming to New York for strike at Times Square.

RAY KELLY, NYPD COMMISSIONER: That plan however fell apart.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Undeveloped and aspirational.

KELLY: When they realized the vehicle they hijacked was low on gas.

JANSING: The mother meantime is contradicting authorities.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Never rejected anyone American, just because
they are American.

JANSING: She says investigators have not started questioning him.

MITCHELL: There must be a real gap here between what we believe
happened and what she believes.

world may have been fixed on places far away.

HAYES: Twenty-eight hundred people attempt to pick up the pieces.

OBAMA: Our hearts have also been here.

HAYES: After one of the worst industrial accidents in memory.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: Last week`s explosion in West, Texas.

HAYES: The explosion at the west fertilizer company last Wednesday.

REPORTER: It is still too soon to know what caused the fire or

GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: This tragedy has most likely hit every

OBAMA: These have been trying and difficult days.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just last year, federal regulators find the
company that operates the plant for safety investigations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The crater at the site in West, Texas, is 90 feet

OBAMA: There will be moments of doubt and pain. Instead of changing
who you are, this tragedy has simply revealed who you have always been.


O`DONNELL: Tonight, New Yorkers realize that they were lucky, that
the car the Tsarnaev brothers hijacked, 210 miles away in Cambridge did not
have a full tank of gas.


BLOOMBERG: Last night, we were informed by the FBI that the surviving
attacker revealed that New York City was next on their list of targets. He
told the FBI, apparently, that he and his brother had intended to drive to
New York and designate additional explosives in Times Square.

KELLY: That plan, however, fell apart when they realized that the
vehicle that they hijacked was low on gas, and ordered the driver to stop
at a nearby gas station. The driver used the opportunity to escape and
call the police. That eventually led to the shootout in Watertown, where
the older brother was killed in an exchange of gunfire with the police.

Up until that point, the two brothers had at their disposal six
improvised explosive devices. One was a pressure cooker bomb, similar to
the two that had exploded at the marathon. The other five were pipe bombs.


O`DONNELL: That new information came during the second round of
interrogation of the suspect in custody.


KELLY: The first interrogation of Dzhokhar happened on Saturday
evening into Sunday morning. And at the second questioning period was from
Sunday evening into Monday morning.


O`DONNELL: According to New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly,
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was more lucid during that second questioning, and that`s
when he told them about the spontaneous decision to drive to New York after
hijacking that car.

Investigators know that last year, Dzhokhar took two trips to New
York, once in April and once in November. In April, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was
photographed visiting Times Square with friends. Investigators do not know
if the trips were related in any way to any plans of attack.

The parents of the bombing suspects held a press conference today in
Dagestan. The father told reporters he will travel to Boston to visit his
son and to bring his other son`s body back to Dagestan for burial, if that
is allowed. The parents spoke at length with reporters and the mother
continued to say she did not believe her sons could be involved in the


ZUBEIDAT TSARNAEV, SUSPECTS` MOTHER: I thought America was going to
like protect us, our kids. It`s going to be safe. For, like, any reason.
But it happened. Opposite.

My kids just -- America took my kids away from me. Only America. I
am, like -- sure that my kids were not involved in anything.


O`DONNELL: Joining me now is NBC News national investigative
correspondent, Michael Isikoff and WNBC investigative reporter Jonathan

Michael, what happens in terms of the Miranda warning imposed at the
hospital has become an issue. You have information about how the sessions
went down inside the hospital.

Right. First of all, as you know, Lawrence, there is this controversy that
erupted today when Congressman Mike Rogers, chairman of the House
Intelligence Committee, said the judge in the case, Judge Bowler, had
interfered with the FBI questioning, ordered that the court appearance at
the hospital move ahead expeditiously, and that interrupted the

There was a strong pushback from the Justice Department today, saying
that that`s absolutely not the case. Look, he was charged on Sunday, late
on Sunday, about 6:00, I believe. And then according to court rules, the -
- he had to have his -- be read his rights and have that initial court
appearance without undue delay. That was the next business day.

The court -- the lawyers were appointed. The public defender`s office
were appointed Monday morning. But we did get some new details about what
took place inside the hospital room Monday afternoon, when -- about noon,
when he was read his rights. We have had the transcript before, but we
have some new details about, first of all, he -- about what took place in
it, that didn`t reflect in the transcript.

He looked pretty rough, I`m told. He was -- his face was splotched
and swollen. Bandaged on his left hand, unable to talk. Had to nod
affirmatively, and he uttered rather than said the word "no" when asked if
he could afford a lawyer.

But he appeared to be completely lucid And showed no sign of emotion,
remorse, contrition one way or the other. And probably the most telling
detail was when he informed of what penalty he was facing for the two
charges against him. It was a penalty of death. He was facing the death
penalty, and Tsarnaev did not register at all any emotion. In fact, the
heart monitor didn`t blip at all when he was informed he was facing the
death penalty.

O`DONNELL: Michael, I just have to follow up on this point about his
lucidity. And a question is how lucid could he be, presumably filled with
painkillers at that point. And so, there`s that whole issue of what is the
drug interaction with the consciousness that we`re seeing in that scene.

ISIKOFF: I think that`s a lot of questions that will -- that could
get raised by his lawyers, if at some point they want to challenge some of
these statements. Now, remember, because he hadn`t been read his Miranda
rights, everything he`s told investigators cannot be used in the criminal
case against him. And many ways, what he had to say may actually have hurt
him in some ways in trying to get a deal down the road to save himself from
the death penalty.

In particular, by telling investigators that there were no
accomplices, that the two brothers acted alone, that they didn`t have any
outside help, sort of takes away the biggest potential leverage he had.
I`ll tell you about who helped me, if you -- if you don`t give me the death
penalty. So he lost that.

So there`s still -- the -- we don`t know whether this cooperative
attitude that he displayed to investigators during those two sessions over
the weekend, we don`t know whether that`s going to continue. If he
continues to try to be cooperative or his lawyers take a -- the traditional
defense lawyer attitude of, you know, prove your case in court, and we`re
not saying anything more.

That`s the federal public defender`s office has not said a word so far
how this is going to play out, whether he`s going to continue to cooperate
is I think is a very big question that is going to play in a lot into this
debate in Congress, about whether the Justice Department acted correctly
here in trying it in the criminal courts, or as some of the Republicans
have -- have said, should be -- that he should be charged as an enemy
combatant and removed from the criminal process.

O`DONNELL: Jonathan Dienst, the parents gave this extraordinary press
conference today, the likes of which we have never seen. What do you think
are the things that the FBI is most interested in from the parents?

JONATHAN DIENST, WNBC: They need to know whether he met with anybody
over there, who was an extremist, maybe linked to radical groups, terror
groups, and remember, he traveled for six months last year from a January
through July time period overseas, to that region, back to see his parents.
They are tracking every move he made over there. Trying to find out who
did he meet with, did he get radicalized over there, did he receive any
bomb training.

They want to know if he had any help. Not only over there, they`re
also looking here as well. Did anyone help him in terms of testing or
obtaining materials?

As of now, there is no evidence of that. But that is some of the work
that`s going on.

O`DONNELL: And there is this character, Misha, we don`t have a last
name, but we`re talking about was Misha the person who radicalized the
older son. And let`s listen to what the mother said about that today.


TSARNAEV: We`re talking about like how he, being an Armenian, became
as a good Muslim man, you know? I was just really impressed. I -- there
was nothing -- not to like about. Nicest, really.

REPORTER: Nothing extreme about him.

TSARNAEV: Nothing extreme. Nothing. Well, then, Tamerlan thought
and I thought -- when he left, of course, we started talking about him.

Look at him. Isn`t it -- impressing, what he`s doing? He`s just so


O`DONNELL: And, Jonathan, the story came to New York today. And the
mayor and the police commissioner went out to talk about it and also tried
to talk to New Yorkers about how this isn`t an easy place to try to get
away with something like that.

DIENST: Well, look, since 9/11, this city has formed its own
counterterrorism division. There are 1,000 New York City police officers
every day assigned to counterterrorism duties in New York City.

Nonetheless, you had two terror suspects who had carried out
successful bombing of the Boston marathon. They had a car. They had a
gun. They had at least six other explosive devices on them.

And there was talk, based on the alleged confession in that hospital
room, talk among the brothers, that they were going to come to the city and
try to pull off an attack. And the mayor said today, doesn`t know if they
would have been successful in stopping them and finding them, if they had
not run out of gas, and that victim had not called 9/11, turning into that
major gun fight when police responded.

But, you know, the mayor says basically he`s very glad they didn`t
have to find out the answer to that question. Because, yes, they have lots
of resources, but intelligence is key in a case like this. If they were
lone wolves, which is the leading theory right now, very difficult to

The question that keeps popping up in my mind, we keep hearing the FBI
got one call from the Russians and so did the CIA. But the Russians didn`t
share much. What was the nature of that - what did the Russians have, and
what do they still have we don`t know about?

O`DONNELL: Michael Isikoff, and Jonathan Dienst, thank you both for
joining me tonight.

ISIKOFF: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Next, you will hear from one of the bombing victims who
lost her leg is determined to learn to walk again.

And the president spoke at a memorial for the 12 who died at the West,
Texas, fertilizer plant. The question investigators have to answer: is
this an industrial accident or was it manslaughter?

Also in Texas today, the newest American shrine to a man who doesn`t
deserve one was formally dedicated. In the rewrite tonight, how the
presidential library racket is beneath the dignity of the presidency.


O`DONNELL: In the moments after the Boston marathon explosion,
firefighter Matt Patterson ran toward the victims and found 7-year-old Jane
Richard, who had lost her leg.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She needed a tourniquet and surgery. I`m going
right to the business guy, asked for the belt, he takes it off without
hesitation. We have to stop the bleeding. It`s over. I make a
tourniquet. I`m looking up and down the street to where I can bring this
child for an ambulance.


O`DONNELL: Jane Richard is now recovering in a Boston hospital, as is
her mother and many other victims of the bombing. Jane`s brother, Martin,
who was killed in the bombing was buried on Tuesday.

Up next, one of the people making sure the victims are getting the
help and care they need.



second blast had already happened, and it blew a bunch of us into the bar.
And I suppose it hit me because I was the last one. I was on the ground.
Everybody was running to the back of the bar, to the exit. And I felt like
my foot was on fire. I knew I couldn`t stand up.

And I -- I didn`t know what to do. I was just screaming, "Somebody
please help me."


O`DONNELL: Doctors at Brigham and Women`s Hospital tried for a week
to save Heather Abbott`s foot but on Monday, Heather chose the option of
amputation below the knee.


ABBOTT: If I kept my foot, it was very badly mangled. It would
probably most likely never fully heal or be functional. It would likely be
shorter. One of my legs would likely be shorter than the other. And I
wouldn`t be able to live the lifestyle that I did prior to the injury.

So although the prosthetic is going to be something that I`ll have to
get used to, I think I have a better chance of living my life the way I
used to with that.


O`DONNELL: Heather Abbott was one of the lucky ones who was visited
by First Lady Michelle Obama who gave heather a presidential challenge


ABBOTT: She talked about the fact that she typically only gives this
certain coin out to military personnel who are injured, and she actually
gave one to me. So that was really nice.


O`DONNELL: Heather Abbott is one of 264 injured in the bombings, 31
victims remained hospitalized. One is in critical condition. At least 14
have had limbs amputated. And, of course, three were killed at the scene
of the bombing. Last week, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Menino
announced a fund to help the victims. As of today, that fund has received
over $23 million in donations.

That fund will be administered by Kenneth Feinberg, who has become
something of a specialist in this tragic field. He oversaw the
disbursement of funds for the victims of the September 11th terrorist
attacks. He served in the same capacity for the victims of the Virginia
Tech massacre, the BP oil spill, and the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater

Joining me now, Kenneth Feinberg.

Thank you very much for joining me tonight, Mr. Feinberg.


O`DONNELL: It is, I`m sure, as shocking to you as it is to the rest
of us that you are being recruited for another one of these difficult,
difficult duties, and trying to administer a fund like the Boston Fund for
the victims of this tragedy.

How is your approach to this similar to what you have done in the past
and how might it be different?

FEINBERG: Well, it`s similar in the see that it`s Aurora, or it`s
Virginia Tech, and it`s Newtown. It is private, donated money.

I`m amazed every time the charitable impulse of the American people,
that they unsolicited donations, that come in on all of these tragedies,
where the public wants -- individual members of the public wants to exhibit
their support for the victims.

Now, how much money there will be and who will be eligible to receive
the money will depend over the next few weeks, not months, on making
decisions based on the amount of money that`s available to distribute.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to Heather Abbott talk about what lies ahead
for her in recovery.


ABBOTT: I walked maybe 10 feet today on a walker. And, you know,
everybody was so proud of me. And I thought, oh, gosh, this is going to be
a long time. If this distance is something that people are proud of me at
this point for, you know -- I`m recognizing that, you know, I`m going to
have some pain, that is not going to be controlled. And it`s going to take
a long time to get to where I want to be.


O`DONNELL: Mr. Feinberg, there will come a day when Heather Abbott`s
file, as it were, is in front of you, and you have to make calculations
about how much of this fund should be directed to her. What are some of
the elements that come into play there?

FEINBERG: What`s the total amount of money, how much is going to be
reserved for the families of the four who died, how much should be reserved
for double amputees in your column, your list? How much should be reserved
for Heather and others, depending on how long they have been in the
hospital? Is there any -- is there enough money left to compensate mental
trauma or outpatient physical injuries?

These are, you know, decisions that will be made after we know how
much money there is to distribute, and we`ll also hold, Mr. O`Donnell, two
hearings, town hall meetings in Boston on May 6th and 7th to find out what
the families and the public think ought to be done with this money. And
then we will make final decisions and get the money distributed to Heather,
who is obviously eligible, and others by the end of June.

O`DONNELL: And it looks like some of the health insurers involved may
be helping you out, and helping everyone out by saying they`re going to
relieve the strain by waiving some of the out of pocket fees that normally
these patients would be suffering. And so, how long do you think it will
take to have an accounting of what the damages, and then also how long do
you think it will take before you have a real idea of how much money you
will have to administer?

FEINBERG: We`ll know how much money we have to administer by May
15th, maybe the end of May. We will get the claim forms distributed to all
of the claimants by the middle of May. We`ll begin that process, give them
one month. By June 15th, the claim forms will be back in. We`ll make a
final accounting. We`ll get the money out by the end of June.

But it`s very important, I see in all of these cases, you know this,
to dampen expectation. There is no way that there will be sufficient funds
to make everybody -- get a full -- a full compensation for their injuries,
for the lost loved ones. This is an outpouring of private charity.

But I must say that no matter how much money there is to distribute,
you`re not going to be able to compensate people fully. There`s just -- it
just can`t be done. And people have to understand that, I think.

O`DONNELL: All right. Well, you`re going to have a few more dollars
to administer. I`m going make a contribution during this commercial break.

Kenneth Feinberg, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

FEINBERG: Thank you very much.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, President Obama flew over West, Texas, today to
see the devastation after a fertilizer plant exploded. The question on the
ground for investigators, was it an industrial accident or a case of
wrongful death where the company faces a civil liability, or is it a case
of manslaughter?

That all comes down to the question of just how reckless was the
management of that company in maintaining the safety of that plant.



OBAMA: Together, you answered the call. You dropped your schoolwork,
left your families, jumped in fire trucks, and rushed to the flames. And
when you got to the scene, you forgot fear and you fought that blaze as
hard as you could, knowing the danger, buying time so others could escape.
And then about 20 minutes after the first alarm, the earth shook, and the
sky went dark, and West changed forever.


O`DONNELL: This afternoon, President Obama attended the memorial
service for the 12 firefighters and first responders who were killed in a
massive explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, on April 17th. A
total of 14 people died in that blast. The president and Mrs. Obama met
privately with the families after the service, which featured video
eulogies and a reminder of what was really lost.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our son, Jerry Chapman, was born April 7th, 1987.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Words cannot express how much I`m going to miss
my husband.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m representing my dad, Captain Kenneth Harris.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m the wife of the volunteer firefighter,
Morris Bridges (ph) Jr. This is his 2-year-old son Jamison Bridges.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m honored to have the opportunity to tell you
about my brother, Cyrus, and the amazing life he shined.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kevin Sanders was a husband, a father, a son, a
grandson, a brother, an uncle and a cousin, a nephew, a co-worker and a
neighbor, and a friend.


O`DONNELL: Federal and state investigators have not yet determined
what started the fire which ignited the blast. Records show the fertilizer
plant had 540,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate. That is 100 times more
ammonium nitrate than terrorist bomber Timothy McVeigh used 18 years ago to
blow up a federal building in Oklahoma City. The blast was powerful enough
to register as an earthquake and blew a crater 93 feet wide and 10 feet

It leveled the fertilizer plant and homes within a five-block radius.
This is what that blast did to a nearby apartment complex, and to a nursing
home, and to a children`s playground, and to the local school.

In January, BP pleaded guilty to 11 counts of manslaughter for the
deaths of 11 men who were killed in the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon
Rig in the Gulf of Mexico in April of 2010. The company was sentenced, and
a four billion fine and five years of probation was handed down. Two of
the rig supervisors have been charged and are awaiting trial for
manslaughter, accused of disregarding abnormal high pressure readings.

Alex Wagner, one of the benefits of a regulated economy, regulated
workplace, government regulation, is that we have -- if those regulations
are followed -- virtually eliminated the deadly industrial accident. And
to have this plant explode like this, not having been inspected in many
years, the first place you have to go is where were the regulators.

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC ANCHOR: Yeah. And the word "regulation" in this
society is almost a four-letter word. That -- the unwinding of regulation
in the workplace had a lot to do with the Bush administration, Lawrence.
We celebrated the man`s presidency today at the opening of his presidential
library. But if you look at what happened to OSHA, which is the
organization that oversees workplace hazards and really has the -- an eye
out for the American worker, 86 percent -- I believe 86 percent fewer
regulations were issued under Bush.

The man he appointed to head OSHA literally fell asleep on the job
multiple times while he headed OSHA. The notion of regulation became a
very bad thing under Bush. And unfortunately, the story of what happened
in West, Texas is a story of what`s happening to the American worker, who
is now forced -- it`s not just indignities. These are substandard wages
they are making. These are highly hazards conditions in many areas.

I mean, and it`s not just BP. This is the -- the workers in
Bangladesh who died in a fire making clothes for Walmart. This is
happening around the world. And it has to do with the way we treat the
American worker and what we have done to unwind the safety mechanisms that
are supposed to protect the American worker.

O`DONNELL: So after this explosion, after these fatalities in this
workplace, the governor of Texas goes to Chicago to lure business to Texas.
Let`s listen to what he says.


GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: All businesses have to look at their
bottom line. Taxes, regulation, legal system, work force, that`s what
government does. Government can either be a hurdle or government can kind
of smooth out the road. We think in Texas we`ve smoothed that road out
about as good as anybody.


O`DONNELL: Richard Wolffe, he is very proud of smoothing out that

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC.COM EDITOR: Yeah. And you have got to ask
yourself as governor, elected by the people in Texas, are you representing
business interests? Because that`s one measure of his success, right? He
brags about how many businesses he has pulled out of other states and
therefore created those jobs, even though he just pulled them out of
another state. But that`s one measure of him.

Another measure is are your citizens, are your voters safe when they
go to work. Do they come home at the end of the day? Are the volunteer
firefighters safe, volunteer firefighters? Isn`t that the heart of a place
like West, Texas? So it`s a very narrow view that Rick Perry has of what
his job is. And I -- that is written large for Republicans, I`m afraid, at
the national level too.

If their job is just to please the Chamber of Commerce, and that`s
just the National Chamber of Commerce, then they`re doing a great, great
job. But actually, maybe they also have responsibilities to voters who
want health care that`s affordable, who actually can buy the guns or
whatever they want to do, and then vote for Republicans. There are
Republicans who want to be safe when they`re out fighting fires.

O`DONNELL: Alex Wagner, I can only hope that there is as much
investigative energy of this case in Texas as there is in Boston for the
tragedy that occurred there. There`s a correct amount of investigative
energy being brought to that. But these industrial cases are, first of
all, treated as accidents instead of very suspicious possible manslaughter

WAGNER: Yeah. I mean, you look at the -- what happened in Boston was
horrible. But Lawrence, I think it`s so right that you`re calling
attention to this. Because this week this story has been subsumed by
details from Boston. And it`s an important story, but this is an important
story. And this is an important story because the long-range consequences
here are fairly significant for not just the American economy, but who we
are as a country and the way we treat each other.

I think it is worth noting, another part of this is federal funding.
And the administration has got to get on board. OSHA is so under funded
that they last I think inspected this fertilizer plant in the 1980s. At
present, OSHA has so little funding, that they can only look into one of
these plants every 126 years. It`s a joke. We have got to change the way
we regulate.

O`DONNELL: And lives are at stake in this case. Richard Wolffe and
Alex Wagner, thank you both for joining me tonight.

WOLFFE: Thank you.

WAGNER: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, the Obama administration has been very cautious
about Syria, and that, of course, is conflicting with Republican saber
rattling for war. And in the Rewrite, Teddy Roosevelt doesn`t have a
presidential library. But now George W. Bush does. How did that happen?
The presidential library racket is in the Rewrite.


O`DONNELL: Barbara Bush didn`t get the memo. Here is what Barbara
Bush actually said when asked if her son, Jeb Bush, should be the next
President Bush.


BARBARA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY: He`s by far the best qualified man,
but no. I really don`t. I think it`s a great country, there are a lot of
great families, and it`s not just four families or whatever. There are
other people out there that are very qualified, and we`ve had enough


O`DONNELL: The presidential libraries that aren`t really libraries
are in the Rewrite, next.



STEPHEN COLBERT, "THE COLBERT REPORT": The George W. Bush library is
opening. Except the history section. That`s being rewritten.

Nation, I am so pumped! Because this thing is going to be packed with
Bush-nography. More than 43,000 artifacts a 200 million e-mails will be on
display. And those 200 million e-mails could have almost 18 non-redacted


O`DONNELL: At today`s dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential
Library, no truer words were spoken than this.


Obama that this was the latest, grandest example of the eternal struggle of
former presidents to rewrite history.


O`DONNELL: Ha-ha-ha. That is the business that presidential
libraries are in, rewriting history. And to a large extent, controlling
history at taxpayer expense. In "Salon" today, Anthony Clark, who is
writing a book about presidential libraries, explains how they control
history by controlling access to presidential records. "The George W. Bush
library will begin accepting Freedom of Information Act requests for most
of their records on January 20th, 2014. But just because the documents are
subject to Freedom of Information Act requests does not mean they`re
processed and available for release. Soon after the availability date, the
backlog quickly will be measured in years, as is the case with the three
most recent libraries. The Bush library also may withhold certain records
at the request of the former president until January 20th, 2021, at which
time a new Freedom of Information Act backlog for those documents would
then begin to grow. There are many records journalists and historians are
eager to see that will not be released for a decade or more."

Now, real libraries are actually eager to make their collections
available to historians and other users. Presidential libraries are not,
because they are not really libraries. They are shrines. They are theme
parks of adoration. They are what you would expect to see in a
dictatorship, where public worship of the head of state is mandatory.

Not every president is worthy of a shrine, but every president gets
one. Well, every president since 1955, when Congress made the mistake of
passing the Presidential Libraries Act. Prior to that, Franklin Roosevelt
created his own presidential library at Hyde Park, New York, and then
donated that library to the government. That became the model of what was
to follow.

So Thomas Jefferson doesn`t have a government-maintained presidential
library, but George W. Bush does. John Adams and John Quincy Adams don`t
have presidential libraries, but Richard Nixon does. Realizing that the
presidential library thing has gotten way out of hand, Congress has tried
to control the explosive growth of the size and the scope of the shrines,
but the former presidents` lawyers keep finding ways around those

So modern presidents spend a career in politics debasing themselves by
begging people for money for their campaigns. Many of them actually make
the mistake of thinking that those very rich people giving them those big
bags of money are actually their friends. Some presidents believe that
those very rich people would really want to be deeply involved in their
lives even if they didn`t get to sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom from time to

And after a career of begging people for money, a career of always
having to calculate how their next political decision might affect their
endless need for massive donations, from Wall Street and the other wealth
centers of America, you would think that the one pure joy of watching your
successor take that oath of office as president is the realization that
you`ll never have to beg for money again.

But all of our ex-presidents now don`t miss a beat and just keep right
on begging, all those same special interests, all those same rich people,
because all of our ex-presidents immediately go about the business of
building a shrine to themselves. And there are no more pesky campaign
contribution limits to deal with. And they can collect any amount of money
from anyone, and they don`t have to tell anyone about it.

So you`re sitting there in the Oval Office in the last year of your
presidency, and the plans for your library taking shape right over there.
And let`s say, oh, I don`t know -- let`s say maybe Wall Street gets itself
in some serious trouble, and then let`s say they need, you know, some kind
of bailout. And let`s say you`re going to be the final decider on that
bailout, just how tough or how lenient the terms of that bailout will be.
Do you think contributions to your presidential library might go through
your mind at a moment like that? Maybe?

Do we really want a president sitting there in that situation, whose
first order of business after leaving office is to raise hundreds of
millions of dollars to build a shrine to himself? And that`s the part of
the financing of the presidential libraries that isn`t even controversial,
because that doesn`t involve sacred taxpayer money. Political fund-raising
is a dirty business. I`m not necessarily saying it is an illegal business.
But it`s a dirty business. It`s a highly compromising thing to everyone
who goes near it.

And raising money for presidential libraries is just as compromising,
and would be beneath the dignity of the presidency if the presidency itself
actually had any dignity, which of course it does not, as Richard Nixon and
others have proved. And so the shrines continue to multiply, and taxpayers
pay for the maintenance and ongoing operation of these shrines, which have
drifted far from any notion of being centers of scholarship.

The latest temporary exhibit at the Reagan Library was what they
called, quote, "treasures of the Walt Disney archives." Why that stuff
couldn`t have been exhibited a few miles down the road at the Disney
Studios without incurring any taxpayer expense is a question that will not
be asked by anyone at Fox News or in the Republican House of
Representatives in their next rant about indefensible government spending.


COLBERT: You can buy your tickets online now. Of course, some of
them will be for the Bush presidential library, and some will be for the
Gore presidential library. But the ticket counters will read them all as




CHUCK HAGEL, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The U.S. intelligence community
assesses with some degree of varying confidence that the Syrian regime has
used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria. Specifically, the
chemical agent Sarin. As the letter states, the president has made clear
that the use of chemical weapons or the transfer of such weapons to
terrorist groups would be unacceptable.


O`DONNELL: That was Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel earlier today in
Abu Dhabi. In a letter to Congress, the White House reaffirmed what the
president has repeatedly said: "the use of chemical weapons is a red line
for the United States of America."

But before jumping to any conclusions, the White House said, "given
the stakes involved, and what we have learned from our own recent
experience, intelligence assessments alone are not sufficient. Only
credible and corroborated facts that provide us with some degree of
certainty will guide our decision-making."

Secretary Hagel said the administration will respond carefully to any
new information.


HAGEL: We need all the facts. We need all the information. As to a
red line, my role as secretary of defense is to give the president options
on a policy issue. That`s a policy issue. And we`ll be prepared to do
that at such time that the president requires options.


O`DONNELL: Joining me now, David Corn, Washington bureau chief for
"Mother Jones" and MSNBC political analyst. David, it turns out some
senators don`t need all of the facts. John McCain saying today that we
should have intervened months ago. He doesn`t need to wait for anymore
facts. It has this feel of -- for some of these senators, of no lesson
learned from that last thing, you know, that Iraq thing.

DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES": Which we didn`t hear much talk about at
the Bush Library ceremony today, right? Obviously, John McCain, Lindsey
Graham and others are trying to bum rush the president into war in Syria.
I hate to say it, but it often seems like they have never met an
international conflict where more war, more U.S. intervention wasn`t the
only answer.

The portion of the letter that you cited a few moments ago to me is
really the key thing here. You know, the White House is saying, we have
evidence that leads to a likely assessment that chemical weapons were used
on a small scale, but that given what has happened in the past with Iraq
and WMDs, we need to get corroboration. So the president is taking what I
consider to be kind of a prudent course here. And he`s also talked about -
- or members of the administration have talked about what would be the
appropriate response if, indeed, they found out, say, some chemical weapons
were used on a small-scale basis.

Does that mean a total invasion? Back before the invasion of Iraq,
President Bush gave us sort of a binary outlook. Either we do nothing or
we have a full-scale invasion. There are often lots of options in between
those polar opposite. So I think the president is trying to move
cautiously here. But, you know, any time in politics when you say there is
a red line and the red line is crossed, it sometimes limits your options
and you almost back yourself into a corner.

O`DONNELL: Let`s -- the "New York Times" in an editorial this morning
actually said that we should only consider any change in the policy only if
there is incontrovertible proof of the use of chemical weapons and only if
other countries join in the response. And that seems like the minimal
standard, post-Iraq.

CORN: And that kind of was, you know, part of the standard the
president set for Libya in getting other nations involved to actually take
the lead in some of the military operations over there. Incontrovertible
evidence is a pretty good standard. And the president in that letter that
you cited, says that he wants U.N. investigation to continue, and try to
gather that response.

So the question we have here, which was a question we had 10 years
ago, Lawrence, is can we have sort of a reasonable, deliberative debate and
process in this country and politically about assessing the threat and the
actions, and a deliberate response to it, without, you know, having the
hawks, as I said earlier, bum rush the president and others into, you know,
a very quick military intervention.

O`DONNELL: David, you would think that your book "Hubris" would have
taught them everything they need to know about this, but they have more
reading to do. David Corn, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

CORN: My pleasure.

O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes is up next.


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