THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
May 23, 2013
Guests: Jonathan Capehart, Zach Wahls
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: While the president delivered the most
important war policy speech of his presidency today, Republicans continued
their ignorance-fueled war on the IRS. And John Boehner actually repeated
the single stupidest thing he`s ever said.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now to the investigation into the targeting of
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are going to move now to the IRS scandal.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: By the IRS.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I`m not interested
who is going to resign. I`m interested who is going to jail.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Republican leaders are not backing down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Republicans are chomping at the bit.
BOEHNER: Somebody made the decision.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To tie this IRS mess to the president.
BOEHNER: It wasn`t some low-level employees in Cincinnati.
REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: You have Lois Lerner come forward and
plead the Fifth.
LOIS LERNER, IRS OFFICIAL: I will not answer any questions or testify
about the subject matter.
PRIEBUS: I think it raises questions.
BOEHNER: What we`re seeing from this administration is an arrogance
CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC ANCHOR: Today, the president will deliver a
major speech on terrorism.
ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC ANCHOR: Counterterrorism policy in the post-9/11
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In some cases, I
believe we compromised our basic values.
JANSING: And the justification for drone strikes.
OBAMA: America does not take strikes to punish individuals.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why does President Obama make this speech now?
OBAMA: We must define the nature and scope of this struggle.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My own view is it`s better late than never.
OBAMA: Or else, it will define us.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: It has been suggested that we are whacko
PRIEBUS: Ted speaks for a lot of Americans.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Are the American people unhappy with
us? Of course, they`re unhappy with us.
PRIEBUS: They`re just sick and tired of everything.
MCCAIN: One reason is because they don`t see us accomplishing
CRUZ: This disagreement is over one issue and one issue only.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: The debt limit is so consequential for
CRUZ: Can the United States Senate raise our debt limit?
MCCAIN: We finally get a budget, stay up all night and because
somebody doesn`t want to raise the debt limit --
RUBIO: The debt limit cannot be part of it. It has to be dealt with
MCCAIN: We are not going to go to conference (ph). You`re not going
to win every fight here. You`re not going to win every battle here.
CRUZ: It has been suggested that we are wacko birds.
MCCAIN: We could be doing so many things, and we`re not.
O`DONNELL: One day after Lois Lerner refused to testify to Congress,
she was put on administrative leave by the new acting commissioner of the
Internal Revenue Service, chosen by President Obama.
The move came after the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on
Investigations chairman, Carl Levin, joined by the ranking member, John
McCain, sent a letter to the new acting commissioner, Daniel Werfel, urging
him to suspend Lois Lerner immediately.
The letter details the Senate subcommittee`s own investigation of this
matter, which Chairman Levin has been conducting an investigation over a
year. The letter says the subcommittee asked the IRS why it was not
enforcing the 501(c)(4) statute, which states that social welfare
organizations should be used exclusively for the promotion of social
welfare, and instead enforcing the more lenient IRS regulation, which
states that a social welfare organization may be used primarily for social
It also asked the IRS about how they reviewed applications filed by
certain Democratic and Republican-leaning 501(c)(4)s.
Ms. Lerner and seven IRS colleagues spent six hours being interviewed
on a bipartisan basis by subcommittee staff. Ms. Lerner failed to disclose
the internal controversy over the search terms used by the Cincinnati
office to identify 501(c)(4) groups for further review. Ms. Lerner also
failed to disclose that she was fully aware of these issues as early as
Today, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government
Reform, Darrell Issa, released this statement, "After consulting with
counsel, Chairman Issa has concluded that Ms. Lerner`s Fifth Amendment
assertion is no longer valid. She remains under subpoena. The committee
is looking at recalling her for testimony."
Today, House Speaker John Boehner said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: Today is a new day, which means that we`re sure to get a new
story from the White House on the IRS scandal. White House was made aware
of it last month. Yet no one, no one thought they should tell the
president. Fairly inconceivable to me.
We are going to continue to seek answers until we get to the truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)\
O`DONNELL: Last night on FOX News, Speaker Boehner repeated his
breathtakingly stupid plea that someone, anyone, go to jail.
And he did so, of course, without saying what crime someone would go
to jail for.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: As I said last week, I`m not interested in who is going to
resign. I`m interested who is going to jail.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: On FOX News, John Boehner also said that -- Alex Hayes --
WAGNER: Alex Hayes, I like that.
O`DONNELL: Alex Hayes, you know, I should look over here before --
WAGNER: Anyway, go ahead.
O`DONNELL: Well, that`s an idea. Alex Hayes.
CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" HOST: Exactly.
O`DONNELL: I got to gavel this meeting to order here.
So there`s Boehner, saying, you know, someone is going to go to jail.
He`s repeated it last night to Greta Van Susteren, who didn`t say for what.
You know, like no one there cares about that.
Any reading of the law shows there is no even conceivable possibility
of a crime, based on anything that we have yet heard. We`re going to have
to hear something new for there to be a crime here.
WAGNER: I mean, Lawrence, if ineptitude was a crime, John Boehner
would have a life sentence, right? This -- what has happened? From what
I`ve read, right, from the investigations in the "L.A. Times" and "New York
Times," this was a bunch of overwhelmed civil servants in an office in
Cincinnati, they did not have tax law degrees. They were getting 70,000
applications a year, and there were 200 of them.
They were inundated. They were doing what the "New York Times"
describes as triage to deal with this. And maybe their form of triage was
bad. And they didn`t think about the political optics, they didn`t think
of the ramifications.
But at the end of the day, no one has proved any malice. There is no
crime here. It`s really bad management.
HAYES: In fact, even the inspector general, under oath yesterday in
the same hearing that Lois Lerner pled the Fifth, or according to Darrell
Issa, constitutional law scholar, did not pled the Fifth -- by the way,
I`ll stop myself. I`m curious as to what exactly they do when they recall
Like if she pleads the Fifth again, do they actually like strap her to
the chair and make her talk? Pleading the Fifth is just being refused to
O`DONNELL: Right. Theoretically, they would hold her in contempt of
Congress. That actually requires a vote of Congress. It`s a bad road to
go down. It won`t get them anywhere.
HAYES: Criminally, to get back to the open parenthetical, the problem
is that, you know, the inspector general testified under oath, or appears
to be no criminal wrongdoing here. Lois Lerner pled the Fifth yesterday
and David Cay Johnson said on my show, I thought was a good point, is that
there is now an active DOJ open investigation to what happened.
HAYES: She kind of has to plead the Fifth under those circumstances.
It would be malpractice by her lawyer not to advise her to plead the Fifth
if she is being right now as we speak investigated for criminal wrongdoing,
even if the consensus seems to be from everyone that knows what was going
on. There was no criminal wrongdoing.
O`DONNELL: And she is pleading the Fifth in a body where the head of
it has said someone has to go to jail.
WAGNER: Right, exactly.
O`DONNELL: But the -- it used to be -- Alex, that the Congress would
defer -- as soon as the Justice Department said we`re investigating, they
would go, oh, well, you have w better tools than we do. You`re also
professionals, we`re not. You know. We`re politicians.
And they would get out of the way and let the FBI and the criminal
investigation go forward.
Now, Darrell Issa and Boehner are saying, no, no, let us do this.
WAGNER: And can I also -- can we talk about the convenient use of the
Constitution by Republicans? I mean, this is a party that is sort waged
war on a broad and some would say -- irresponsible interpretation of the
Second Amendment. And when it comes to the Fifth Amendment, which is a
hugely important amendment, they have taken an incredibly narrow definition
and they are bastardizing the meaning of the Fifth Amendment, which I guess
should come as no great surprise, given what they have done here on the
Then with "The A.P." probes and the First Amendment, they have a very
convenient interpretation for each amendment, insofar as it is politically
expedient for them to interpret one way or the other.
O`DONNELL: But what the Fifth Amendment does do is render Lois Lerner
dysfunctional in her job. She is at the point where she can`t even talk to
her boss about this is what I did. So correctly, President Obama`s new guy
in there running I said you just have to go home. You can`t be here.
HAYES: Yes, and I also think, having watched this whole thing unfold,
and I think you and I have slightly different takes on this. I mean, I do
think that --
O`DONNELL: I believe I have a different take from everyone.
O`DONNELL: Here`s my bumper sticker. The IRS did nothing wrong.
O`DONNELL: I believe I`m alone in that particular category.
HAYES: And I think what I do think is what has been strange to me is,
as you have gone through, if you just read the I.G.`s report, the highest
ranking person who was the most responsible is Lois Lerner, whether you
think something wrong was done or not.
So, if there is anyone who is going to fall on their sword, as it
were, to have accountability, it would be Lois Lerner. Instead the two
people above her who as far as we know had essentially nothing to do with
any of this.
And so, what strikes me about this whole thing, every day we come into
the office and go, what should we do on the show tonight. We talk about
(INAUDIBLE). And a lot of times there will be a headline that`s really
awesome. Someone clicked on it. And you`re like, let`s do that, that`s
And then you read into the story and it`s like, oh. It`s not awesome.
It`s not interesting.
O`DONNELL: The airs go out of the tires.
HAYES: Kind of this boring and that is exactly what this story is.
It was like the first headline was like, whoa, Obama administration targets
Tea Party groups for heightened scrutiny on tax application? I read that
and I was like, man. And then --
WAGNER: That`s why this --
O`DONNELL: But that set the media frame. And they will never release
from that frame. There`s no amount of information.
HAYES: I agree. Yes and no. My feeling is that as it comes out --
as the media is forced to cover what is essentially a somewhat boring story
of bureaucratic malfeasance or just bureaucratic overwhelmed-ness or
bureaucrat incompetence or just bureaucratic bureaucratic-ness, in your
theory. This is how it kind of goes, that it does becomes less and less
sexy. It becomes less and less interesting.
I am genuinely curious the degree to which this have the kind of legs
WAGNER: They`re bundling this into this giant burrito of impeachment,
right? Now, you`re hearing Jason Chaffetz, Michele Bachmann asking --
constituents ask me every weekend why we aren`t impeaching this man.
Inhofe saying we may have to use the I-word.
I mean, they will take this as far as they can go. At the same time,
quasi-reasoned minds like Charles Krauthammer saying, hey, guys, memo, to
not try and impeach the president.
O`DONNELL: Here is "The Wall Street Journal" talking about your
notion that this may float up to the level there is less than we think.
"The Wall Street Journal" saying e-mails and other documents released
Wednesday suggest the Internal Revenue Service`s procedures used to target
conservative groups for added scrutiny were developed by lower-level
They`ve got the e-mails, the committees have thee-mails. They can`t -
- if they had one that said oh, look, look. Here -- here it came from the
boss, make sure you do this.
HAYES: I mean, we should be really clear here. Richard Nixon sat in
the White House and literally ordered audits of political enemies. And
that was a massive abuse of power.
And the thing that -- the real fundamental issue here, and I think the
fundamental misunderstanding, not just a tax law, as you have pointed out,
is just the notion of what the relationship between the White House and the
IRS is, in this case, and the White House and DOJ in another.
But just focusing on the White House and the IRS, what has been so
strange about this, in the beginning, what does Obama know and when did he
know it, and now, they got to the other side of the issue with the
criticism, like the Obama administration should have been more involved.
They should have told the president about the I.G. report. No, no, no, no,
the whole point --
WAGNER: Did the right thing in not telling him.
HAYES: -- is that the president should remain independent, that
everyone should be hands off on the I.G. report, because if you start
mucking around in the process of an I.G. report, then you have done
something really scandal-worthy.
O`DONNELL: The other crazy chant I`ve been hearing in every hour
almost of media coverage has been why isn`t someone fired, why isn`t
someone fired? The president cannot fire anyone at the IRS.
HAYES: We don`t want the president firing anybody.
WAGNER: He can`t.
O`DONNELL: He can`t. And the media does not recognize that. They
just go, why hasn`t he fired the speaker of the House? It`s the same
HAYES: We should say, it is for good reason.
WAGNER: And Ezra Klein has written a piece about just how hard it is
to punish people/fire them. Civil servants -- it`s a multi-hundred day
process. And that`s not fast enough for most Republicans.
I will say, Lawrence, I know Stephen Colbert funded a super PAC. I
think you should fund a 501(c)(4), just to prove --
O`DONNELL: There`s 501(c)(4), I should --
O`DONNELL: Exclusively versus primarily 501(c)(4).
WAGNER: Yes, America needs it.
HAYES: Primarily do politics.
O`DONNELL: I mean, look, my solution is very simple. Enforce the law
HAYES: That`s what the Levin-McCain letters.
O`DONNELL: That`s right. Just enforce the law as written. And you
know, I doubt the media is ever going -- you have hopes that the media is
going to get to that stage of this.
HAYES: No, I just have hopes that just from a sheer like -- I have to
produce a television show every day level, like is this interesting, I just
-- like, it`s not -- I don`t think it`s that interesting. I mean, I think
the actual details of it end up not sustaining the drama that is there.
You know, what was the headline was really dramatic. What is - what
are the bullet -- the third through 15th paragraphs of it are not dramatic.
WAGNER: Page 2.
O`DONNELL: Alex Wagner, and Chris Hayes, Alex`s show, noon time, five
days a week.
WAGNER: So they say.
O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes, the 8:00 p.m. guy, right here in this very
O`DONNELL: Can we reveal that, that there is a trick that goes on
that switches it from one to the other? We just did.
All right. Coming up, President Obama in his own words on the future
of war. Joy Reid will join me.
And it`s Ted Cruz versus the world. Republican Senator Ted Cruz is
now attacking Republicans.
And in the rewrite, the pope rewrites the church`s attitude toward
O`DONNELL: Seven-year-old Jane Richard was discharged from Boston
Children`s Hospital this morning. Jane lost a leg in the Boston marathon
bombing and was hospitalized in the ICU for 39 days, where she underwent 12
surgeries. Her 8-year-old brother, Martin, was the youngest person killed
in the bombing, and her mother, Denise, suffered a head injury and was also
The Richard family released this statement today, "While we remain
devastated over Martin`s death and all that has happened to us, Jane`s
determination for getting better is an inspiring source of strength for the
Up next, the president`s speech on the future of war.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We must define the nature and scope of this struggle or else
it will define us. We have to be mindful of James Madison`s warning that
no nation could preserve its the freedom in the midst of continual warfare.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was from the president`s speech today entitled "The
Future of Our Fight Against terrorism."
Now, we`re going to talk about the speech, because that`s what we do
here. But more importantly than that, I want you to hear this speech. I
want you to hear the president in his own words, as much as we have time
Here was his explanation and defense of the use of drones.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Beyond the Afghan theater, we only target Al Qaida and its
associated forces. And even then, the use of drones is heavily
constrained. America does not take strikes when we have the ability to
capture individual terrorists. Our preference is always to detain,
interrogate and prosecute them.
America cannot take strikes wherever we choose. Our actions are bound
by consultations with partners and respect for state sovereignty.
America does not take strikes to punish individuals. We act against
terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the American people
and when there are no other governments capable of effectively addressing
the threat. And before any strike is taken, there must be near certainty
that no civilians will be killed or injured, the highest standard we can
Now, this last point is critical, because much of the criticism about
drone strikes, both here at home and abroad, understandably centers on
reports of civilian casualties. There is a wide gap between U.S.
assessments of such casualties and non-governmental reports.
Nevertheless, it is a hard fact that U.S. strikes have resulted in
civilian casualties, a risk that exists in every war. And for the families
of those civilians, no words or legal construct can justify their loss.
For me, and those in my chain of command, those deaths will haunt us as
long as we live, just as we are haunted by the civilian casualties that
have occurred throughout conventional fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.
But as commander-in-chief, I must weigh these heartbreaking tragedies
against the alternatives. To do nothing in the face of terrorist networks
would invite far more civilian casualties -- not just in our cities at home
and our facilities abroad, but also in the very places, like Sana`a and
Kabul and Mogadishu, where terrorists seek a foothold. Remember that the
terrorists we are after target civilians, and the death toll from their
acts of terrorism against Muslims dwarfs any estimate of civilian
casualties from drone strikes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The president explained why he targeted Anwar al-Awlaki,
an American citizen in Yemen.
(BEGIN VIDOE CLIP)
OBAMA: He was continuously trying to kill people. He helped oversee
the 2010 plot to detonate explosive devices on two U.S.-bound cargo planes.
He was involved in planning to blow up an airliner in 2009.
When Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Christmas Day bomber, went to Yemen in
2009, Awlaki hosted him, approved his suicide operation, helped him tape a
martyrdom video to be shown after the attack, and his last instructions
were to blow up the airplane when it was over American soil.
I would have detained and prosecuted Awlaki if we captured him before
he carried out a plot. But we couldn`t. And as president, I would have
been derelict in my duty had I not authorized the strike that took him out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: No speech would be complete without someone from code pink
challenging the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PROTESTER: You are commander-in-chief. You can close Guantanamo
OBAMA: Why don`t you let me address it, ma`am.
We will insist judicial review will available for every detainee.
Now, ma`am, let me -- let me finish. Let me finish, ma`am. I -- this is
part of free speech, is you being able to speak, but also you listening.
And me being able to speak. All right?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joy Reid, president had a lot to handle in there on policy
and a very persistent speaker. I`m not going to call her a heckler,
because she had real points to make, and the president respected the points
she had to make. It`s a very unusual exchange.
JOY REID, THE GRIO: I thought that wound up being the most important
part of the speak for me, because the way he handled that heckler -- not a
heckler, protester, somebody who had a point to make about Guantanamo,
about what she perceived his true power to be to close Guantanamo and to
stop civilian deaths.
And he actually said at one point I`m going to go off script and say
that woman`s concerns are valid, because, you know, in a lot of ways,
Lawrence, being the president is the end of idealism, you know, because
that woman could have probably -- he probably would have agreed with her in
2004 and 2005 in saying there has got to be some way that the president of
the United States, with that immense power could close something like
Guantanamo, or could find some other way to deal with Americans who have
joined the forces, aligning against the United States.
But in the White House, it`s a lot more complicated. Being commander-
in-chief is a hell of a lot more complicated and that`s what he was trying
O`DONNELL: Well, to govern is to choose. And the choices are never
easy. And critics of government very frequently frame the choices as
easier than they are.
If you`ve got a known terrorist who by all -- everyone`s evaluation
involved is a very seriously deadly player against the United States, your
choices are, you can risk American soldiers lives to go get them, as he
explained today. You can take them out with a drone and risk other
people`s lives in his vicinity as a result of that, or you can to absolute
nothing. And see what happens.
O`DONNELL: Those are your choices. Which one do you want?
REID: Exactly. And he made the point that the Osama bin Laden raid,
which is in a lot of ways the gold standard of going after terrorists. It
was completely successful, even though they did have that first chopper
But it was a success and the way the president is a victim of his own
success. The people say why can`t you just put Special Forces on the
ground and go and get Anwar Awlaki.
But as he explained, you can`t do that with every case, because there
are also consequences to that, the backlash of the Pakistani people who
say, wait a minute, who authorized you to come into our country and go in
and pick up somebody and get them without our government participating?
You can`t keep doing that.
So, I think what the president -- I thought it was fascinating. It
was almost like being in a lecture, because he is a constitutional law
professor and you kind of see him thinking through about these complicated
issues. What if an American had joined a panzer division back in World War
II and we knew it, we knew he was a citizen and where he was and planning
raids against the United States, to make it really simple.
O`DONNELL: It wouldn`t even be slightly controversial to kill him.
There wouldn`t be any discussion of it in that case.
You know, it didn`t reveal anything to me about what the president
thinking -- what his thinking is on this. It was -- this is exactly what I
had assumed your thinking was. But I realized, oh, I`ve been assuming it.
O`DONNELL: Because he hasn`t really laid out this speech before. And
it makes me wonder why he hasn`t. It seems like this is a speech he could
have given months ago, and in certain ways, years ago.
REID: Yes, and I think all presidents always take into account the
risk of explaining their thinking. And exposing any weakness by saying I
am deliberating. It isn`t just as easy for me to say run and gun, get him.
There is a thought process and I think all presidents have that fear that
the opposition will use deliberation against them.
Look, Lawrence, I wish George W. Bush had done this speech, to be
honest. I wish we knew the deliberative process that went into his
thinking, because during his presidency, we did a lot of things that struck
many of us, including myself as being outside the bounds of what we thought
America was about.
But you want to know the thinking of the president, but at the same
time, we just tell presidents keep us safe, right? So, we kind of --
they`re damned if they do, and damned if they don`t. We don`t want to know
every piece of the puzzle when they`re trying to keep us safe. We just
want them to do it.
And so, now, we`re watching a president just lay it out. And I
thought it was important. It was a good civics lesson.
O`DONNELL: You know, people tried to ask, what did it feel like for
George W. Bush when he discovered that, you know, this thing turned out to
be false, there were civilian casualties, try to get a reaction like that
from Condoleezza Rice, how did you feel about civilian casualty? They
wouldn`t give you a word about it.
Here is somebody who is saying we agonize over this. We have to deal
with it. We have to confront it, but we do agonize.
I want to show how the woman who spoke in the middle of the
president`s speech found her way into his conclusion toward the end when he
was describing what victory will look like in this kind of war.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Our victory against terrorism won`t be measured in a surrender
ceremony at a battleship or a statue being pulled to the ground. Victory
will be measured in parents taking their kids to school, immigrants coming
to our shores, fans taking in a ball game., a veteran starting a business,
a bustling city street, a citizen shouting her concerns at a president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That is the real test of freedom.
REID: Absolutely. And when he was saying that, I kept just thinking,
you know, freedom from fear. You know, that was one of the four freedoms
that FDR laid out. And it is true. It`s impossible to have in a free
society, to be completely free from fear. And we found out that children
aren`t necessarily safe in school, that you`re not necessarily safe if you
take your kids to the movies. That you`re not necessarily going to the
So freedom from fear is impossible. But I kind of like that it`s
still the president`s ideal.
O`DONNELL: Joy Reid, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, it`s Republican versus Republican in the United
And today, the Boy Scouts of America voted to end the ban on gay
members. Zach Wahls will join me on that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Swift told us of two fictional lands,
Lilliputt and Befusco, that had been at war for years over which end of the
egg to open first. In Lilliputt, they opened the big egg, and in Befusco,
they opened the small end of the egg. And the big enders and little enders
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: If that man drives you crazy, you are not alone. In the
Spotlight tonight, Senator Ted Cruz versus the Republican party. As
Senator Cruz and his Tea Party pals, Kentucky`s Rand Paul, Utah`s Mike Lee
and Florida`s Marco Rubio, have been blocking a normally routine procedure
in the Senate that allows the Senate to enter negotiations with the House
of Representatives on a budget. The Tea Party gang of four wants to tie
the hands of the senators appointed to the conference negotiating team with
the House, and not allow those senators to include any discussions
whatsoever, not even a discussion of tax increases or raising the debt
Now, there are usually no negotiating limits put on senators in these
negotiations with the House. So Senator John McCain, who has been there a
while, cannot quite believe what he is seeing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Isn`t that true that the people that
the conferees would be held with on the other side of the capitol happen to
be a majority of our party.
So we don`t trust the majority party on the other side of the aisle to
come to conference and not hold to the fiscal discipline that we want to
see happen. Isn`t that a little bit bizarre?
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: So let`s get on with the process.
CRUZ: The senior senator from Arizona urged this body to trust the
Republicans. Let me be clear, I don`t trust the Republicans. And I don`t
trust the Democrats.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Steve Kornacki, talk about a Straight Talk Express. "I
don`t trust the Republicans." I guess Ted Cruz is being honest there.
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC ANCHOR: He is in a way. And it sort of
reflects -- I would say in the last generation of two, there have been two
major revolutions in the Republican party. And the first one was very
straight forward. It happened about 30 years ago. It made the Republican
party from a party -- a real big tent ideological party into an
ideologically conservative party. And it is like a late `70s, the `80s.
You had these primary challenges where guys like Jacob Javis, the old
liberal Republican senator from New York, pushed out and became a uniformly
conservative, anti-tax party.
That was kind of straight forward. What Ted Cruz represents and what
Rand Paul, Mike Lee from Utah, they represent this new revolution that`s
not so much about ideology, it`s about tactics. It`s about attitude. It`s
about absolutism. It`s about a total refusal to negotiate. It`s about the
idea that negotiating with Democrats, having conversations with Democrats
is akin to surrendering to the enemy.
And we`re the kind of Republican -- we`re the true believers. We`re
the outsiders. We don`t trust the establishment, because the establishment
is always going to sell us out. And selling us out means talking to,
compromising with, communicating with the enemy. And the thing is, the
thing that gives that power within the Republican party is that kind of
message, that kind of exchange you just saw on the Senate floor, what Ted
Cruz said sells to the Republican base today. What John McCain was saying,
as sensible as it was, that`s treason to the Republican base these days.
O`DONNELL: It has nothing to do with governing or even their
intention to govern. They don`t actually intend to prevail on this. This
is entirely about fund-raising. It`s entirely about exciting people. And
actually, that`s the part McCain doesn`t get or maybe he does privately,
that what Cruz is up to, and Rubio, it`s all about playing to people
outside of the Senate. They don`t care about this procedure.
KORNACKI: And the problem is -- the problem for the sake of governing
this country right now, if you care about that, is that`s where the power
is in the Republican party. It`s outside of the Senate. It`s outside of
the House. It`s outside of Capitol Hill. It`s in These republican
primaries, these Republican primaries that are dominated by very
conservative voters who take their cues from leaders like Rand Paul, from
leaders like Ted Cruz, from talk radio hosts who tell them that what you
just saw John McCain do on the Senate floor is exactly what`s been wrong
with the Republican party, exactly what`s been wrong with Washington.
And that`s why you need to vote in the new Tea Party candidate to take
O`DONNELL: And the thing that they`re stopping, because they`re
worried that, you know, you will raise the debt ceiling with this thing, it
is a resolution. It is not a law. It cannot raise the debt ceiling.
There is nothing they could possibly do in this discussion between the
Senate and the House that would raise the debt ceiling. And these guys
don`t even know that.
KORNACKI: Well, and the other thing is it comes on the heels of what
has been one of the favorite talking points of the right, of some of these
same people on the right for the last few years. Those Senate Democrats,
they won`t pass a budget. It`s been 800 days. It`s been 900 days. They
passed a budget. This is the next step.
O`DONNELL: Yeah, exactly. "UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI" airs here on
MSNBC, Saturdays and Sundays at 8:00 a.m. Eastern. Steve, thank you very
O`DONNELL: Coming up in the Rewrite, atheism scores a big political
victory, and the Pope finds common ground with atheists.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: Oh, my goodness! Yes!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Michele Bachmann has inspired the author of a new romance
novel, "Fires of Siberia." The author says the lead character was inspired
by Bachmann. The heroin is a conservative presidential candidate.
And next in the Rewrite, what happened when the Arizona House of
Representatives invited an atheist to give their morning prayer? We will
show you the video.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: You guys did a great job. And I guess
you`ve got to thank the lord, right?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah.
BLITZER: Do you thank the lord for that split-second decision?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I -- I`m actually an atheist.
BLITZER: Oh, you are, all right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: In other atheism news this week, the Pope has rewritten
the church`s historically harsh attitude toward non-believers. Maybe like
all thinking people, the Pope is a Ricky Gervais fan. And maybe the Pope
is secretly following Ricky on Twitter, where their British atheist has
almost twice as many followers as the Pope. And if that doesn`t prove that
Twitter is the Devil`s playground, I don`t know what does.
In his weekly radio address, the Pope got all performance arty and
inserted an imaginary atheist in a dialogue with the Pope. The Pope said,
"this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path
toward peace. If we each, doing our own part, if we do good to others, if
we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we
will make that culture of encounter. We need that so much. We must meet
one another doing good."
And here`s where the Pope inserts the imaginary atheist, whose line
is, "but I don`t believe, father. I am an atheist." To which the Pope
says, "but do good. We will meet one another there," which is a very big
improvement on, you will burn in hell forever, which was the official
Catholic position for the first half of the 20th century.
Ready to meet the Pope doing good, whenever and wherever he wants, is
Arizona State Representative Juan Menendez. When Representative Menendez,
a Democrat, was invited to give the morning`s opening prayer to start the
day of doing good in the House of Representatives, the Republican-
controlled House discovered what happens when you invite an atheist to give
your opening prayer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUAN MENENDEZ, ARIZONA STATE HOUSE MEMBER: Most prayers in this room
begin with a request to bow your heads. I would like to ask that you not
bow your heads. I would like to ask that you take a moment to look around
the room at all the men and women here in this moment, sharing this
extraordinary experience of being alive and dedicating ourselves to working
toward improving the lives of the people of our state.
This is a room in which there are many challenging debates, many
moments of tension, of ideological division, of frustration. But there is
also a room where, as my secular humanist traditions stress, by the very
fact of being human, we have much more in common than we have differences.
We share the same spectrum of potential for care, for compassion, for fear,
for joy, for love.
Carl Sagan once wrote, "for small creatures such as we, the vastness
is bearable only through love."
There is in the political process much to bear. In this room, let us
cherish and celebrate our shared humanists, our shared capacity for reason
and compassion, our shared love for the people of our state, for our
Constitution and for our democracy.
And let us root our policy-making process in these values that are
relevant to all Arizonans, regardless of religious belief or non-belief.
In gratitude and love, in reason and in compassion, let us work together
for a better Arizona.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That prayer got a Rewrite the next day in the Arizona
House by Republican Representative Steve Smith, who said that
Representative Menendez`s prayer was not a prayer at all. And so he asked
the House to join him in a second daily prayer that day, this one in
repentance for the atheist non-prayer that the House visited upon the House
of Representatives the day before.
But not all Republicans thought that repentance was necessary. The
speaker, the Republican speaker of the Arizona House said he appreciated
what Representative Smith was doing, but he didn`t have a problem with
Representative Menendez`s atheist prayer. So atheism marches on, in of all
O`DONNELL: Tonight, more than 1,400 volunteer leaders of the Boy
Scouts of America voted to allow gay members to join the troops, beginning
in January 2014. The Boy Scouts` ban on gay adults serving as scout
masters remain in place. Here`s what the president of the Boy Scouts of
America said tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WAYNE PERRY, BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA PRESIDENT: This policy, we
reaffirmed our duty to God. It`s a challenging, complex area. It`s a very
difficult decision for a lot of people. But we`re moving forward together.
And within our movement, everyone agrees one thing: no matter how you feel
about this issue, kids are better off in scouting.
Our vision is to serve every kid. We want every kid to have a place
where they belong, to learn and grow and feel protected.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now, MSNBC`s Jonathan Capehart and by Skype,
Zach Wahls, founder of Scouts for Equality. Zach, your reaction to today`s
ZACH WAHLS, FOUNDER, SCOUTS FOR EQUALITY: We`re very pleased,
Lawrence. It`s a really big deal. It`s a big step forward. And like you
said, it`s not enough. And parents like mine, a lesbian couple, will
continue to be banned from the organization. But I think what today`s
movement shows us is that the Boy Scouts are able to reconsider their
position on this issue, and that it`s likely they will continue to do so as
we move forward.
O`DONNELL: Jonathan, your reaction?
JONATHAN CAPEHART, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I think it`s a terrific
decision to allow openly gay scout troops -- I mean, openly gay kids who
want to join the scouts will now be able to do so. I do think Zach raises
the very important issue, and you talked about in the intro, is that gay
scout leaders continue to be barred from the scouts. And that`s something
that the Boy Scouts of America is going to have to address sooner rather
than later, because once those scouts, those gay scouts, you know, learn
all of these terrific things from the Boy Scouts, then they`re going to
drum these leaders out? These wonderful kids out once they become adults?
It doesn`t make sense. So the Boy Scouts of America, I think, has set
themselves up, in a positive -- in a positive way to get rid of this ban on
gay leaders. Because once they see that gay kids aren`t doing anything to
the scouts, other than learning all the good values that come from that,
then there`s no choice but to allow adults be scout leaders -- gay adults.
O`DONNELL: There is a pushback from the Family Research Council.
They told "the New York Times," "the fallout from this is going to be
tremendous. I think there will be a loss of hundreds of thousands of boys
and parents. This great institution is going to be vitiated by the
intrusion of a political agenda." Zach Wahls, do you think there will be a
significant loss of membership over this?
WAHLS: There are certainly going to be I think probably a few folks
who walk away. But I think that will pale in comparison to the number of
people who have walked away since the Boy Scouts doubled down on this
policy back in 2000, before the Supreme Court. And so it`s our point of
view that until we have full inclusion, the Boy Scouts probably won`t begin
to fully rebound.
But this step forward is definitely a positive step in the right
direction. Like Jonathan said, it really seems to us that the young scouts
who are going to be openly gay, who are 16, 17, earning their Eagle Scout
award, really coming up through the ranks, are going to be some of the most
effective agents of change we have ever seen, because they`re going to be
in places like the deep south and places like Utah winning hearts and
minds, because this is a nationwide non-discrimination policy, and not some
kind of a local option.
So even in places where, you know, we are still a little ways to go
when it comes to LGBT rights, we`re going to have protection at one of the
nation`s most preeminent youth development programs.
O`DONNELL: Jonathan, this takes place in a larger societal
environment, where we have more states legalizing same-sex marriage. We
have a major American athlete and professional sport, NBA player coming out
for the first time, while still playing, Jason Collins, just weeks before
this. There seems to be -- this seems to be part of that momentum.
CAPEHART: Right. There`s been major momentum when it comes to LGBT
issues, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues. Three states this
month alone have approved marriage equality. Next month, certainly by the
end of next month, the Supreme Court will rule on the cases involving the
so-called Defense of Marriage Act and California`s ban on same sex
marriage, Proposition 8.
Jason Collins came out, I believe it was May 1 or earlier this month.
Lots of things are happening. Lots of things are moving in the right
direction, in a positive direction. And it`s because of people in general,
but young people in particular who are pushing this country to open its
eyes to the people around -- to the people around it, the people around
them, and to, you know, show and accept the fact that not everyone is the
same. Everyone is different.
But at least here in this country, everyone shares the same values.
And discrimination is not one of those values, but equality is.
O`DONNELL: Zach Wahls, it seems that the Boy Scouts and any other
organization that is going to have an exclusionary policy based on
something like this runs the not so long-term risk, fairly short term risk
of becoming a subculture, a kind of odd subculture, off in a corner, that
would eventually not be able to be real participants in what is becoming
the more mainstream view.
WAHLS: Absolutely. And that was our greatest fear. Speaking as an
Eagle Scout myself, I spent more than 12 years in the program. I love
scouting. It really made me the man I am today. And it taught me a lot of
incredible lifelong skills. It gave me some of my best friends and some of
my most important values. So this is an experience that we want to be, you
know, accessible to all of America`s young men.
And the reality is that if they had maintained this ban on gay youth,
they would have continued to move further and further from the mainstream,
where the rest of America is. That`s not something that we want to have
happen. We want the scouting experience to be available to all men. And
we want it to be a program that is relevant, that people want to
If you look at the polling data, even a plurality of self-identified
conservatives, 45 to 42, supported ending the ban on gay scouts. So I
think that`s really a testament about -- like Jonathan was saying, where we
are with discrimination not being an American value, equality being an
American value, and just how important this organization can be and why
ending the ban is critical to maintaining its relevancy -- to maintaining
its relevancy in American society. Absolutely.
O`DONNELL: Eagle Scout Zach Wahls and Jonathan Capehart, thank you
very much for joining me tonight.
CAPEHART: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes is up next.
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THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL