THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
June 11, 2013
Guests: Chris Hayes; Ari Melber; David Corn
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: His girlfriend calls him a man of mystery,
John Boehner calls him a traitor, and Rand Paul calls him a hero. Edward
Snowden is a man without a country.
STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: Behold the face of evil.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The search is on, federal officials are on the
ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC ANCHOR: Edward Snowden has dropped off the grid.
COLBERT: I want you to hug your doors and lock your loved ones.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Snowden`s whereabouts unknown.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: The Justice Department has already
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There is already an
investigation under way.
HAYES: It`s conducting a criminal investigation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Glenn Greenwald says his paper plans release more
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There will be more. Glenn has made that clear.
GLENN GREENWALD, THE GUARDIAN: It`s unaccountable, uncontrollable
CARNEY: It is entirely appropriate to debate these matters.
GREENWALD: There is no way to prevent abuse.
CARNEY: This is a matter that is absolutely appropriate for public
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let us now starting a major debate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president said we should have a debate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Debate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Debate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Debate.
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: Apparently, this is worthy of debate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the debate we have been wanting to have.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let us have that debate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, it isn`t, but we`re having it.
DAVID LETTERMAN, COMEDIAN: How many folks who are like who just go
through life dumb?
TODD: There sure isn`t a sense of outrage.
LETTERMAN: I don`t have a problem with that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is this guy a criminal or whistle-blower?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Whistle-blower versus leaker.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That debate is only growing more heated.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: He is a traitor.
It`s a giant violation of the law.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lawmakers insisting Snowden broke the law.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The law was broken by one person, who is Mr.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: I can tell you this: these
programs are within the law.
COLBERT: I want you to hug your doors and locked your loved ones.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congress was informed of most of these programs.
COLBERT: America is under attack by knowledge.
O`DONNELL: Tonight, we are learning new details about NSA leaker
When he was 9 years old, his family moved from North Carolina to
Crofton, Maryland, and Snowden then grew up in the shadow of the NSA,
located within walking distance of Crofton. Crofton was a suburb of
Washington, D.C., adjacent to the NSA, where PTA meetings probably have
members of the intelligence community bumping into each other on a regular
Had he been a dropout of any other public high school in America,
would he have ever been able to obtain a security clearance? That is
something we don`t yet know about Edward Snowden. But what we do know is
that when he dropped out of high school, his parents` marriage was coming
His mother, who is an IT clerk for the federal court in Baltimore,
filed for divorce from his father in 2001, the year Edward Snowden was
scheduled to graduate from high school.
His father, Lonnie Snowden, is a retired coast guard official who has
remarried and now lives in Pennsylvania. According to "The Guardian," the
only time Snowden became emotional during the many hours of interviews was
when he thought about the impact his choices would have on his family, many
of whom work for the U.S. government.
"The only thing I fear is the harmful effects on my family who I won`t
be able to help anymore. That`s what keeps me up at night," he said, his
eyes welling up with tears.
In May 2004, Snowden enlisted in the Army reserves. Snowden tells
"The Guardian," "I wanted to fight in the Iraq war because I felt like I
had an obligation as a human being to help free people from oppression," he
recounted about how his believes about the war were quickly dispelled.
"Most of the people he trained with seemed pumped up about killing Arabs,
not helping anyone."
Snowden says he was discharged four months later because he broke his
legs in a training accident.
Then came the most shocking transition in the young man`s life. As
"The New York Times" put it so awkwardly today, somewhere along the way, he
acquired a top secret clearance.
And at this point, that remains the central mystery of Snowden`s life.
How did a high school dropout get that top secret security clearance?
In 2005, he got his first job as a security specialist at an NSA
facility at the Center for Advanced Study of Language at the University of
Maryland, a school spokesperson confirms. He then got an IT job at the
CIA. He says that in 2007, the CIA stationed him in Geneva to maintain
security. "Much of what I saw in Geneva really disillusioned me about how
my government functions and what its impact is in the world," he says.
He said it was during this CIA stint in Geneva that he fought for the
first time about exposing government secrets. He left the CIA in 2009 for
a system`s administrator job with NSA contractors, including Booz Allen,
which stationed him on a military base in Japan, and a few months ago in
Snowden shared the Hawaii home with his girlfriend, Lindsey Mills, a
Maryland native. She describes herself on her blog as a world traveling,
pole dancing super hero, and performed with the Waikiki acrobatic troupe
for about a year.
A fellow troupe member told "The Honolulu Star Advertiser", friends
tell "The Washington Post" today that she was completely unaware of her
boyfriend`s decision to leak NSA documents. She blogged this yesterday,
"My world has opened and closed all at once, leaving me lost at sea without
a compass. At the moment, all I can feel is alone. I never imagined my
hand would be so forced. I don`t know what will happen from here."
In 2012, Snowden twice donated to Ron Paul`s presidential campaign,
according to FEC documents.
Here is what Edward Snowden told "The Guardian" about his greatest
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SNOWDEN: The greatest fear that I have regarding the outcome for
America, of these disclosures is that nothing will change. People will see
the media, all of these disclosures. They will know the length that the
government is going to grant themselves powers, unilaterally, to create
greater control over American society and global society. But they won`t
be willing to take the risks necessary to stand up and fight to change
things, to force their representatives to actually take a stand in their
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now, Alex Wagner and Chris Hayes.
And, Alex Wagner, having heard Edward Snowden`s greatest fear, I`m
almost guaranteeing him the delivery of his greatest fears, yes, nothing
will happen because in order for something to happen it will take an act of
Congress signed by President Obama, and I can`t imagine any legislation in
this area getting through either house of Congress.
WAGNER: Yes, Lawrence, you talked about how international security
has become the third rail of American politics, the idea, the suggestion,
that you would trim back what is a massive, massive effort costing us
billions of dollars a year, an effort that has 1.2 million or 3 million
people, Americans with classified top secret access. I mean, this is a
city -- it is a city of surveillance and it is built on the foundation of
fear and I think a lack of substantive cost-benefit analysis on whether or
not we should even have this infrastructure in place.
But for anybody to have that sort of, to broach that subject, the idea
that perhaps this inexorable march to an ever grander, an ever more
sophisticated surveillance state is not in our best interest I think is not
something that`s possible in American politics at this moment.
O`DONNELL: So, Chris Hayes, we have the new research Washington poll
showing that 56 percent find it acceptable that the NSA is look at phone
call records of everyone in the country basically, 41 percent not
acceptable. So Edward Snowden`s worst fear is that he doesn`t turn those
numbers around. And then those numbers if turned around don`t impose their
will on Congress and the president.
HAYES: Right, I think that your skepticism and Alex`s skepticism
about the genuine sea change in American politics, about the nature of the
top secret government that we built in the wake of 9/11 is absolutely
appropriate. Two things I would say is -- are these: one is, it is really
important to remember that the whole debate is being conducted on
asymmetrical footing, which is to say, we just don`t know a lot right?
And there are members and representatives of officialdom, whether it`s
Dianne Feinstein, or is director of National Intelligence Clapper, or it`s
the president of the United States who come forward and say, look, if you
know what we know, this stuff really keeps you safe.
And the argument as a citizen, it`s very hard to push back on that
because you either trust them or you don`t. But it`s really hard to get
into the weeds of counter examples. And so, I would say the public opinion
on this I don`t think is that strongly formed. I think it is public
opinion that is produced by the fact that secrecy creates a rigged argument
about the very thing we`re debating because it is not open for public.
I do think this won`t be a transformational moment, but that, it is
the beginning of a process that may lead to one.
And the last thing I would say on this, if you look at the real --
and, Lawrence, this is something I think you have a lot of thoughts about.
If you look at the Church Committee and you look at the last time there was
a real congressional-led call into account of covert activities, part of
what made that work was that it came in the wake of Watergate and
revelations of genuine abuse, real concrete abuse. It wasn`t an
abstraction of surveillance. It was oh, they were bugging Martin Luther
King, Jr., right?
And so, I think my reading of history is that surveillance systems of
this type are rife for abuse, and when there are actual documented acts of
abuse, I`m more inclined to believe we will see a turn-around in public
O`DONNELL: But, Alex, that is exactly what we d not have, is a
documented case of this kind of abuse, the Martin Luther King equivalent
type of abuse, the kind of momentum that created those investigations in
And we heard Snowden use the word "abuse", but just the word "abuse".
He doesn`t tell us what the abuse is. It`s entirely possible that his
notion of abuse is not abuse to a majority of Americans. And so, the
debate is also rigged on the Snowden side, where there are absolutely no
specifics involved -- supporting his argument that he absolutely had to
release this information.
WAGNER: Well --
O`DONNELL: Go ahead.
WAGNER: I mean, the ACLU has been sort of leading the fight on this,
and they`ve have been trying to gain more transparency around what exactly
is happened. But that is basically shut down at the Supreme Court level
because of the invoking the government invoking the state secrets
So, to Chris` point, I mean, there`s just a shroud of secrecy over
everything. I mean, I have to think, Lawrence, give the massive, massive
nature of the surveillance enterprise and the fact that we are contracting
now I think 34 percent of it is contracted out to private enterprise,
people like James Snowden who don`t -- or maybe are not beholden to the
operation in the same way that a government employee would be, you cannot
think that there will be more sort of information coming out as more young
men who are sort of fairly ideological and optimistic as presumably James
Snowden was, someone who went to fight in Iraq because he wanted to serve
his country, and prevent people from being oppressed, the more they`re fed
into the system, and the sort of given the magnitude of the system, given
the outsourcing, the more there will be leaks like this.
HAYES: And let me just say one more thing, Lawrence, I think, you
know, it`s important to separate out public opinion, concrete examples of
genuine abuse of it. But the third issue is whether it is constitutional
or not, which is a completely open question. I mean, the idea that -- I
mean, James Clapper`s argument right now it is fully constitutional for the
government to capture everything and store it in the library. And the
Fourth Amendment only applies to when you take the book off the shelf.
Now, maybe that is something that is a perfectly legitimate
constitutional argument, but it is pretty controversial constitutional
argument. I mean, I`m not quite clear, and I`m not a lawyer that I`m
comfortable with the notion that the Fourth Amendment allows the government
to record every single piece of data that`s out there. So, that`s the
third aspect out there.
There is a legal aspect to be pursued. And I think, you know, we saw
on ACLU lawsuit`s today on exactly those grounds.
O`DONNELL: Well, you know, the president was faced with a full
choice, when he took the oath of office, that was simply: does he want to
stop a program that has already started under President Bush? Does he want
to be the president who comes in and says, no, we don`t need this for our
security? This was not his idea. He was not the one who came up with
And the -- if the revelation this past week had been, when President
Obama took office, he shut down an NSA program that President Bush, his
administration had started in this area, the O`Reilly outrage in the world
about how unsafe this president has made the United States of America,
would be something -- would not be able to shout over.
WAGNER: I totally agree with that, Lawrence, but I think this moment
is a real crossroads for President Obama, in particular, as far as you
know, who he is on issues of counterterrorism and national security. We`re
not just looking at the NSA leaks, we`re talking about Gitmo, where 104
detainees are continuing to try and kill themselves through starvation.
We`re looking at record numbers of American drone strikes. We`re looking
at a very aggressive Department of Justice that is examining press records.
This all speaks to a very aggressive counterterrorism and surveillance
situation put in place and keep in place by President Obama.
O`DONNELL: Well, not of those in place were put in place by
WAGNER: Maintained. I misspoke, maintained and expanded.
O`DONNELL: All in reaction to an unprecedented threat that the United
States suffered on 9/11. And so, as we move -- as the distance from 9/11
moves, the connection to that threat, I think, becoming thinner for many
observers out there.
HAYES: And let me just say one last thing -- you precisely identified
the incentive structure play. There is zero incentive structure for anyone
ever to discontinue any program for precisely the reasons you say, which
means if you extrapolate that out, it can only grow, and that`s the
O`DONNELL: Yes, but one point I would make about the massive size of
this program is, the bigger it gets, the more ineffective actually is in
looking at any individual in the program. And I am going to repeat, until
this changes, I feel tonight completely unthreatened by anything the NSA
has done so far. And I`m sitting here waiting to be threatened as soon as
they can come up with something scary to me that the NSA is doing that
isn`t equivalent of what Google and all the phone companies were doing.
Every phone call I`ve ever made in my life left a record in a company
somewhere, it always has, always will, I am so far still not yet scared by
what the NSA is up to.
Alex Wagner and Chris Hayes, we will continue to have the great debate
that President Obama wants us to have on this I`m sure for many nights --
thank you very much for joining me tonight.
HAYES: Thank you.
WAGNER: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, there is a new possible scandal at the state
department. And this one is not about talking points for a Sunday morning
TV show. This one involves prostitution and possibly other crimes.
And in the rewrite tonight, this day in history 50 years ago in
Washington, in Alabama, in Mississippi, and in Boston -- the places where
civil rights history was made on June 11th, 1963.
O`DONNELL: An inspector general`s investigation indicates that there
could be a real scandal at the State Department, this one involving
prostitutes and pedophilia. David Corn will tell us about it coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Right now, our
immigration system has no credible way of dealing with the 11 million men
and women who are in this country illegally. And yes, they broke the
rules. They didn`t wait their turn. They shouldn`t be let off easy, but
they shouldn`t be allowed to gain the system. But at the same time, the
vast majority of individuals aren`t looking for trouble. They`re just
looking to provide for their families.
If you`re actually serious and sincere about fixing a broken system,
this is the vehicle to do it. And now is the time to get it done. There
is no good reason to play procedural games or engage in obstruction just to
block the best chance we have had in years to address this problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: For once, finally, the extremists in the Senate got steam-
rolled by an overwhelming number of senators trying to get something done
today. Eighty-four senators, including 30 Republicans voted this afternoon
to proceed on a bipartisan immigration reform bill.
One of the marginalized losers, Senator Ted Cruz, offered this prayer
on the Senate floor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: This bill is going to pass the Senate. But
as written, this bill will not pass the House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Apparently, Senator Cruz missed the top secret briefing
about immigration, that the speaker of the House gave this morning on TV.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: I would expect that the house bill would be to the right of
where the Senate is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is the most important thing you will get done
BOEHNER: I think immigration reform is probably at the top of that
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Signed into law?
BOEHNER: I think by the end of the year, we could have a bill.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One that passes the House, passes the Senate,
signed by the president?
BOEHNER: No question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now, Maria Teresa Kumar, founding executive
director of Voto Latino, who was in the room with the president during the
Maria Teresa, I`m getting the feeling that Ted Cruz has never met John
MARIA TERESA KUMAR, VOTO LATINO: You think so?
Hi, Lawrence. Nice to be here with you tonight.
You know, let`s be clear -- Ted Cruz was the only senator from a swing
state that voted against this bill. So that is to say he is not only an
outlier among the popularity for this vote, but more importantly, among
swing states senators where they realized that they need the Latino vote,
and their friends and family, in order to be in office.
O`DONNELL: Maria Teresa, what did your count tell you about how this
vote was going to go today? I have to tell you I was surprised it was over
KUMAR: You know there is a lot of work happening behind the scenes.
I think the fact the president not only had labor, but they also had
business and high tech and clergy flanking him, demonstrated really the
unity of the folks that are working behind the scenes to make sure it
happens. It`s become very clear to Republicans on the Senate side to make
sure that it passes.
And they`re trying to set by having 84 members of the Senate basically
vote on this, on the affirmative, they`re trying to send a clear message to
the House that this is a bipartisan legislation and that we need a
O`DONNELL: I want to listen to more about what the president had to
say today, because this is not just altruistic, not just that we want to
help the people who have the problem. There is an economic case to be
made. I want to listen to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Too often, they`re forced to do what they do in a shadow
economy, where shady employers can exploit them by paying less than the
minimum wage, making them work without overtime, not giving them benefits,
that pushes down standards for all workers. It`s bad for everybody,
because all the businesses that do play by the rules, that hire people
legally, that pay them fairly, they`re at a competitive disadvantage.
American workers end up being at a competitive disadvantage.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Maria Teresa, I have to say I haven`t heard that point
made so clearly before in this debate that economically, the current
situation is bad for everybody.
KUMAR: It is just not sustainable. What he`s saying is that
basically, we have close to 11 million people that are participating in a
black market, that we can`t regulate, that we can`t tax properly. And that
not only are they getting exploited, but they`re taking jobs away from
American workers because they are artificially suppressing the wages. And
how do you get America workers to make sure they`re accountable and that
they`re also competitive and making sure they`re paying competitive wages.
And then on the flip side, how do we make sure that we are also need
to address the issue of national security. We want to know who our
neighbors are. We want to make sure that people come out of the shadows
and that they can thrive in this country, and make sure that people who are
doing right but the laws stay.
O`DONNELL: Maria Teresa, congratulations for your successful push on
that Senate vote today and thanks for joining us tonight.
KUMAR: Thank you so much, Lawrence. Have a good one.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
Coming up, a real possible scandal at the State Department that if
true, is actually worthy of the word "scandal" involving Hillary Clinton`s
security guards, and ambassador and many others. David Corn will join me
And later, Ari Melber is keeping his eye on the wonderful world of New
And in the rewrite tonight, heroes and villains of the civil rights
movement, Jack Kennedy, Edgar Evers, George Wallace, and Louise Day Hicks.
O`DONNELL: In the spotlight tonight, new allegations of a State
Department cover-up. NBC News has obtained documents related to ongoing
investigations into eight allegations of misconduct among State Department
workers, contractors and even an ambassador.
An internal inspector general memo from last October stated that the
ambassador under investigation, quote, "routinely ditched his protective
security detail in order to solicit sexual favors from both prostitutes and
minor children." The memo also alleged that a senior State Department
official told diplomatic security to, quote, "cease the investigation"
while the ambassador remains in place. Other allegations from the October
2012 memo included members of secretary is Clinton`s protective security
detail, allegedly engaging with prostitutes while abroad. There were also
allegations of pedophilia, sexual assaults, extra-marital affairs that
presented counterintelligence concerns, unauthorized leaking of
information, work fraud, and possible underground drug ring.
A November draft report from the office of the inspector general
stated that inspectors identified several examples of undue influence from
within diplomatic security and from the top floor of the state department
raising concerns about the integrity of some internal investigations.
However, this finding was not in the final draft, which was published
this February. State department spokesperson Jen Psaki said the
investigations are ongoing, and that the October 2012 memo had quote
"unsubstantiated accusations in it."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEN PSAKI, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: The notion that we would
not vigorously pursue criminal misconduct is not only preposterous, it is
inaccurate. I can assure all of you that if the secretary or previous
secretary were presented with documented evidence of misconduct they would
take appropriate action. But I`m just not going to break down individual
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now, David Corn, Washington bureau chief for
"Mother Jones" and an MSNBC political analyst.
Well, David, this is actually the stuff of scandal. This is not about
Sunday morning talking points. If this stuff stands out to have some
substantiation to it, then, there are some serious problems there.
DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think you are right.
One -- a couple of key points. One is, if you look at all the recent
scandals and I`m using scare quotes out there, sometimes you have to wait
to get a little more information as we have seen in Benghazi and IRS before
you really know whether something is indeed wrong, and who it affects or if
it goes to the White House, or goes to the top floor of the state
department. So it may take a little while to sort that out.
You know, number two, though, there are allegations here that involve
the very high ranking state department officials, including one who is
extremely close to Hillary Clinton. And the allegation is that this person
intervened and helped to kill one of these investigations. Now, if that is
true, then that gets up to the seventh floor and something that Hillary
Clinton may have to answer to -- answer for.
So therefore, this is the type of thing that if you look at it at the
beginning it could become a problem for Hillary Clinton.
O`DONNELL: And what do you look for in the next stages of
developments of the stories inside this so-called scandal structure that we
CORN: Well, I think in looking at this particular story, you have to
sort of you know, I assume there is going to be reporters now who cover the
state department and will talk to state department sources who may have
something to stay about the whistle-blower, that could bolster the case or
might undermine the case. There may be good reasons why the expected
general took out some of the stuff. You never know, there may be a lot of
people who have beeves because their work is not fully appreciated, and
sometimes for the right reasons. So, I think -- no doubt Darrell Issa is
champing at the bit. There may have be interviews and congressional
hearings in the future where saw this information will begin to come out.
But there are like eight or so cases here. They are all rather, you know,
O`DONNELL: The whistle-blower is one of the investigators who worked
on some of this material. And some of it already has an echo of truth to
it in the sense we had that story about the secret service agents in South
America using prostitutes. And so, when this comes after that and you`re
talking about security personnel for the state department possibly using
prostitutes. That element doesn`t suddenly sound like a bad plot in a TV
CORN: No. And I hate to say this, but the accusation in the IG
report a and the state department was basically taint. They took things
out which shouldn`t be there which seems to call for, dare I say it,
another IG report. I mean, these are very serious allegations and they
can`t really trust Darrell Issa to do this, you know, in a bipartisan way.
So, I`m hoping that somebody knew. This is a job for a Senate committee to
take look at this.
O`DONNELL: DAVID corn, thank you for joining us tonight.
CORN: My pleasure, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, great news for Democrats in New Jersey about
Cory Booker`s Senate campaign and not so good news in New Jersey about the
campaign for governor.
And on the "rewrite" tonight, what one historian calls president
Kennedy`s finest moment occurred on this very day, 50 years ago.
O`DONNELL: If you have ever heard President Kennedy speak beyond,
maybe a little sound bite here and there, tonight is your night. You will
see what people loved about Jack Kennedy in tonight`s rewrite.
O`DONNELL: in an op-ed piece in today`s "New York Times," entitled
Kennedy`s finest moment, Tufts University professor Peniel Joseph reminded
us of this day, June 11th, 50 years ago. That day in history began with
the intensely racist governor of Alabama, George Wallace, standing in the
doorway of the University of Alabama to try to prevent the university`s
first two black students from registering. But the governor`s defiance was
crushed by a president who knew how to use federal power. President
Kennedy nationalized the Alabama National Guard so that the governor had no
control over them. The president had the students escorted by U.S.
marshals, and the governor was legally flattened at the door by deputy
United States attorney general Nicholas Katzenback.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NICHOLAS KATZENBACK, DEPUTY UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: I would
ask you once again to responsibly step aside, and if you don`t I am going
to ensure you that the orders of the court will be enforced.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The country was riveted by the confrontation in Alabama.
I was just a little boy then but vividly remember seeing the governor
standing in that doorway on TV and seeing him basically pushed aside by the
power of the president. The president from Boston, my Boston.
But I didn`t remember the rest of what happened that day until it was
pointed out today in professor Joseph`s op-ed piece.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good evening, this is Chad Huntley reporting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tonight, integration showdown, the Alabama story.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After the personal role of president of the United
States, and played in today`s drama at the University of Alabama, it seems
only natural that he should go before the American people and tell them
why. The president did not limit himself to discrimination problems in the
south. He hit broadside the discrimination everywhere in the country and
spoke of it as a moral issue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Professor Joseph, who is the author of "Dark Days, Bright
Nights" from black power to Barack Obama calls that speech on this day 50
years ago, Kennedy`s finest moment.
I remembered that speech when I watched it again today. And I
remembered that the president was telling us in Boston to not start to feel
superior to white men standing doorways in the south because the plague of
racism was everywhere in this country. And as clear as that seems now,
nothing like that had been said to the American people, to all of the
American people by their president.
The president was echoing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in a way that
would have seemed radical just a short time earlier and surely did seem
radical to many Americans on June 11th, 1963, possibly even most Americans.
Here is some of that speech that made many white Americans stop and think
for the very first time about what their president was telling them for the
first time, was a moral issue.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies, the president of the United States.
JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good evening,
my fellow citizens, this afternoon, following a series of threats and
defiant statements, the president of Alabama National Guardsmen was
required on the University of Alabama to carry out the final and
unequivocal order of the United States district court of the northern
district of Alabama. That order called for the admission of two clearly
qualified young Alabama residents who happened to have been born Negro.
That they were admitted peacefully on the campus is due in good measure of
the conduct of the students of the University of Alabama who met their
responsibilities in a constructive way.
I hope that every American, regardless of where he lives will stop and
examine his conscience about this and other related incidents. This nation
was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds. It was founded on the
principle that all men are created equal. And that the rights of every man
are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.
Today, we are committed to a worldwide struggle, to promote and
protect the rights of all who wish to be free. And when Americans are sent
to Vietnam or West Berlin, we do not ask for whites only. It ought to be
possible, therefore for American students of any color to attend any public
institution they select without having to be backed up by troops. It ought
to be possible for American consumers of any color to receive equal service
in places of public accommodation, such as hotels and restaurants and
theaters and retail stores. Without being forced to resort to
demonstrations in the street. And it ought to be possible for American
citizens of any color to register and to vote in a free election without
interference or fear of reprisal.
It ought to be possible, in short, for every American to enjoy the
privileges of being American without regard to his race, or his color. In
short, every American ought to have the right to be treated as he would
wish to be treated, as one would wish his children to be treated.
But this is not the case. We are confronted primarily with a moral
issue. It is as old as the scriptures and as clear as the American
constitution. The heart of the question is whether all Americans ought to
be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities. Whether we are going to
treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated. If in America,
because a man`s skin is dark cannot eat lunch in a restaurant open to the
public, if he cannot send his children to the best public school available,
if he cannot vote for the public officials who represent him, if in short
he cannot enjoy the full and free life which all of us want, then who among
us would be content to have the color of his skin changed and stand in his
place? Who among us would then be content with the counsels of patience
One hundred years of delay have passed, since President Lincoln freed
the slaves, yet their heirs, their grandsons are not yet freed. They are
not yet freed from the bonds of injustice. They are not yet free from
social or economic oppression. And yet this nation, for all its hopes and
all it posed will not be fully free until all of its citizens are free.
This is one country, it has become one country because all of us and
all the people who came here had an equal chance to develop their talents.
We can`t say to 10 percent of our population that you can have that write.
That your children can`t have the chance to develop the talents. That the
only way they`re going to get the right is to go in the streets and
demonstrate. I think we owe them and we owe ourselves a better country
Therefore, I`m asking for your help in making it easier for us to move
ahead and provide the kind of equality of treatment which we would want
ourselves, to give every child the chance to reach the limit of their
As I said before, not every child has the equal talent and motivation,
but they should have the right to develop their talent and their ability
and their motivation, to make something of themselves. We have a right to
expect that the Negro community will be responsible, will uphold the law.
But they have a right to expect that the law will be fair. That the
constitution will be color blind, as justice Holland (ph) said at the term
of the century.
This is what we`re talking about. And this is a matter which concerns
this country and what it stands for. And in meeting it, I ask the support
of all of our citizens. Thank you very much.
O`DONNELL: That was a Friday. The weekend newspapers, especially the
Sunday newspapers would have been flooded with coverage of the president`s
speech. But coverage of the speech was overwhelmed by what happened a
little after midnight that night in Jackson, Mississippi.
A white racist assassinated civil rights leader, Medgar Evers. I
remember hearing about the Medgar Evers assassination the next morning, and
feeling that sensation of one step forward and two steps back, that the
civil rights movement suffered for so long. The first black students
registered at the University of Alabama in the morning and Edgar Evers,
assassinated that night.
Also, that night in Boston, the chairwoman of the Boston school
committee, Louise Day Hicks was publicly confronted for the first time by
the Boston chapter of the NAACP. And so was set in motion a battle over
the desegregation of the Boston public schools in the president`s hometown.
That jack Kennedy would not live to see resolved. But we do know whose
side Jack Kennedy would have been on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KENNEDY: I want to pay tribute to those citizens north and south who
have been working in their communities to make life better for all. They
are acting not out of a sense of legal duty, but out of a sense of human
decency. Like our soldiers and sailors in all parts of the world they are
meeting freedoms challenged in all parts of the firing line and I salute
them for their honor and for their courage.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Good news and bad news for Democrats in New Jersey
tonight. That is coming up.
O`DONNELL: Great news for Democrats in New Jersey, Cory Booker, the
frontrunner for the nomination for Senate has a huge 27-point lead over his
likely Republican opponent, Steve Lonegan, 54 percent, 27 percent, not so
great news Democrats on the gubernatorial side. The Democratic
endorsements are piling up for New Jersey governor Chris Christie. Today,
democratic power player, Joseph DiVincenzo joined Sheriff Armando Fontoura
and a dozen black pastors and five Democratic mayors in backing Chris
Christie`s re-election. Essex County is one of the most important
Democratic constituencies in New Jersey.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH DIVINCENZO, ESSEX COUNTY EXECUTIVE: This is the reason why I
am supporting governor Chris Christie, is because what he has shown,
working across the aisle, the bipartisanship, and it is for real.
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I have watched politics in this
state for most of my life. And I never thought I would see a day like
this. And to be a part of it is even more gratifying.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Chris Christie`s opponent Barbara Bouno has picked up one
Republican endorsement so far from Spotswood mayor, Nick Policino.
And joining me is Air Melber, co-host of MSNBC`s "the Cycle."
So, Ari, good news and bad in New Jersey for Democrats today.
ARI MELBER, HOST, THE CYCLE: Lawrence O`Donnell, I just want to tell
you having been a part of "the Last Word" for years, I never thought I
would never see a day like today. And I`m honored to be a part of it.
I think the way Chris Christie talks is just, it is amazing. He is
clearly proud of himself, and he is proud of getting a Democratic
endorsement. But I think as you point out that is more of the function of
the fact that he is likely to win. San Su (ph) said, the true warrior only
fight battles he has already won. And we are seeing some Democrats in the
state go with the winning team.
O`DONNELL: Yes, I mean, they`re just betting this guy will be here
for a while. We`ve seen this before in other places, but not quite --
sometimes it is done very quietly and they don`t become public about it.
They kind of don`t actually do anything, to try to help the Democrat or the
Republican candidate, depending on which side they`re defecting from. But
the public defections are something that we don`t -- we are not going to
probably see in very many other places in terms of party elsewhere in the
MELBER: Yes. I don`t think this is any larger shift. I actually
don`t think it as much about bipartisanship, although I understand Chris
Christie wants to sell that. I think it is about political power. You
pointed out the other week that when President Obama did visit, he didn`t
find time to meet with the democratic candidate, also not something you
will see in every state, where there are competitive Democrats,
particularly when we got close to the election, the president in the White
House, a strong political team in the White House will find time to do
political events, New Jersey is special and special in a bad way for
Democrats right now.
O`DONNELL: And now to Cory Booker, the Quinnipiac poll shows him in
this Democratic primary with a massive lead, he has rush hot has declared,
Frank Pallone has declared. He is just way ahead of everybody here. Looks
like he is just taking off like a rocket in this thing.
MELBER: Yes, I think in many ways, Cory Booker is a national
candidate who has been in waiting for several years. He was, by far, the
most nationalized mayor. And you see examples of that in his relationship
with Silicon Valley, with getting Mark Zuckerberg out there, to donate
money, something that New Jersey students, obviously, benefited from. So
it was both branding but also very tangible, very good. He has a huge on-
line media presence which for many candidates as we know can be over-sold.
But I think in his case, he has walked the line of using social media,
ultimately to focus back on his work.
And that is always key. Politics is local, he is an twitter telling
people about how to you know, prepare for the storm and how to go to a soup
kitchen, real stuff.
O`DONNELL: Ari Melber gets tonight`s last word. Thanks, Ari.
MELBER: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes is up next.
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THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL