THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
July 24, 2013
Guests: Peter Beinart, Steve Clemons, Harvey Fierstein
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: The suddenly prudish New York newspapers
want Anthony Weiner out of the race for mayor, but he actually showed up at
a candidate`s forum tonight and he got a big laugh.
MARTIN BASHIR, MSNBC ANCHOR: We are following multiple headlines this
AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Tracy Martin got a standing ovation.
TRACY MARTIN, TRAYVON MARTIN`S FATHER: We won`t let this verdict sum
up who Trayvon was.
ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC ANCHOR: The pioneers of prejudice have added
another despicable chapter to their musings on immigration.
REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: They`ve got calves the size of cantaloupes
because they`re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bob McDonnell under the scrutiny of Virginia
GOV. BOB MCDONNELL (R), VIRGINIA: I`m not going anywhere. I love
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He will pay back $125,000 in loans.
WAGNER: What was he thinking?
ANTHONY WEINER (D), NYC MAYORAL CANDIDATE: My wife and I are working
through things in our marriage.
WAGNER: What was she thinking?
HUMA ABEDIN, WIFE OF ANTHONY WEINER: Anthony has made these horrible
WAGNER: What is New York thinking?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right now, it works for the Clintons. Will it
work for Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anthony Weiner`s latest sexting scandal.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Newspaper editorials say Weiner should drop out
of the race of New York City mayor.
WEINER: It`s not about me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He sent an e-mail saying New York, I`m not going
to quit you.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Isn`t that from "Brokeback Mountain"?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wish I knew how to quit you.
MATTHEWS: Wow, he knows his movies.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ignore this sideshow.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s become a sideshow.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He`s learned absolutely nothing from the past.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not only was he doing the selfies last summer.
UNIDENTIFEID MALE: Selfies. Selfies are pictures of yourself.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is his own worst enemy.
WEINER: It`s not about me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, a campaign into the danger zone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Danger zone.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The expectation that is so low and getting
O`DONNELL: Risk taker Anthony Weiner who we now know has used the
name Carlos Danger for online sex chats, admitted today that his campaign
for mayor of New York is based on one very risky bet.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WEINER: I have posited this whole campaign on a bet, and that is that
at the end of the day, citizens are more interested in the challenge they
face in their lives than anything that I have done embarrassing in my past.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: A new poll will be released tomorrow showing how that bet
is going with the citizens of New York, but he is losing that bet badly
with the suddenly prudish New York newspapers.
"The New York Times" editorial today says, "The serially evasive Mr.
Weiner should take his marital troubles and personal compulsions out of the
public eye, away from cameras, off the Web, and out of the race for mayor
of New York City. He has already disqualified himself."
"The Daily News" editorial said, "He is not fit to lead America`s
premier city, lacking the dignity and discipline that New York deserves in
a mayor. Weiner must recognize his demons have no place in city hall."
"The New York Times" and "The Daily News" said anything about the
suitability of Rudy Giuliani`s demons at city hall, or in Gracie Mansion,
when he was mayor. In fact, those newspapers and most of New York media
watched largely without comment, as Mayor Giuliani hired an unqualified 28-
year-old press secretary whom he became very close to on the job. "The New
York Times" and "The Daily News" left it to "Vanity Fair" to expose
Giuliani`s affair with his press secretary, long after it was obvious to
the city hall press corps.
One source for the "Vanity Fair" expose said this is a real indictment
of the New York press corps.
The New York press corps stood idly by as Mayor Giuliani`s second wife
stepped completely out of public life while he was still mayor, refusing to
attend public events with her mayor husband, when the mayor moved out of
the official residence Gracie Mansion as his marriage was collapsing and
moved in with two gay men as their house guests, that was treated by the
New York media as a perfectly reasonable late 20th century Manhattan
marital transition because it was.
There was no reason to think sleeping on a gay couple`s sofa wasn`t
good for the mayor of New York, no reason to think that maybe using their
guest room wasn`t just a little bit humbling for someone who needed a
little bit of humbling. "The New York Times" did not order Rudy Giuliani
to, quote, "take his marital troubles and personal compulsions out of the
public eye, away from the cameras," as "The Times" has ordered Anthony
Weiner. "The New York Daily News" did not think that Mayor Giuliani being
forced to vacate Gracie Mansion by the collapse of his marriage meant,
quote, "he is not fit to lead America`s premier city" -- as "The New York
Daily News" said of Anthony Weiner today.
"The New York Daily News" did not think that Mayor Giuliani having an
affair with his press secretary, letting his marriage collapse very
publicly, and very bitterly, and being forced to vacate the mayor`s
official residence meant that Rudy Giuliani was, quote, "lacking the
dignity and discipline that New York deserves in a mayor" -- the words that
"The Daily News" aimed at Anthony Weiner today.
"The New York Times" never suggested that Arkansas Governor Bill
Clinton should stop his campaign for president in 1992 when one of his
lovers came to New York City to hold a press conference about their affair
and play tapes of their phone calls before the New Hampshire primary.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
GENNIFER FLOWERS, HAD AFFAIR WITH BILL CLINTON: Yes, I was Bill
Clinton`s lover for 12 years. And for the past two years, I have lied to
the press about a relationship to protect him. The truth is, I loved him.
Now, he tells me to deny it. Well, I`m sick of all of the deceit and
I`m sick of all of the lies.
Last night, I sat and watched bill on "60 Minutes." I felt disgusted
and I saw a side of Bill that I had never seen before. He is absolutely
lying. I`m disappointed but realistically, I never thought he would come
out and admit it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She`s a legend and is described in some detail in
the supermarket tabloid what she calls a 12-year affair with you.
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: That allegation is false.
FLOWERS: The man on "60 Minutes" was not the man I fell in love with.
I dealt with my hurt for -- I have dealt with my hurt for two years now so
this is nothing new to me. I would have liked to think that after a 12-
year relationship, he would have had the guts to say, yes, I had an affair
with this woman, but it`s over, and that`s the truth.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
O`DONNELL: Everyone knew Bill Clinton lied about that. Bill Clinton
lied to "60 Minutes" about Gennifer Flowers. He lied to America. He lied
to "The New York Times." He lied to "The Daily News", and they were OK
with that. They were all OK with that.
The New York media never came right out and said it, but what was
obvious was they thought lying about sex was OK. And then when President
Clinton lied about sex with an intern in the White House, the New York
media, along with most Democrats and liberals made it very, very clear that
they really did think that lying about sex was OK. They said it outright,
even under oath, as president. That`s what Bill Clinton did.
And in the 15 years since Bill Clinton told this lie --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: In the 15 years since the president of the United States
looked you, America, in the eye, looked everyone in the eye and said that
lie about sex, the New York media and many Democrats and liberals have
actually somehow become far less forgiving, far less understanding about
lying about sex. We are hearing shocked indignant from people who never
complained about Bill Clinton lying about sex, but now find Anthony
Weiner`s lying about something that wasn`t really sex to be outrageous, to
One of the founding principles of the gay rights movement that was
born in this city, in New York City, was that people should not be judged,
should not be rejected, should not be disqualified based on how they
experience sexual pleasure. And one of the conventions of the New York
media up until now has been that the quality of a politician`s marriage or
the lack of a marriage as in the case of the never-married mayor of New
York, Ed Koch, has nothing to do with how they will perform in office.
But what is it? What is it about Anthony Weiner that has driven "The
New York Times" and "The Daily News" and many Clinton-defending Democrats
and liberals to suddenly become so judgmental about a married politician`s
Joining me now, Peter Beinart and Joy Reid.
Joy, I just -- is it sexting? Is it the photographs? Is it the
technology, is it old fogies at "The New York Times" who think, you know,
affairs behind closed doors where there`s no pictures that emerge, that`s
one thing? But this crazy stuff the kids are doing.
JOY REID, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: These kids. Well, I think to be fair to
the New York media just for a moment, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: That`s not what we`re here for, Joy.
REID: To be fair, Weiner could have at least had the decency to dump
his wife in a national press conference like Giuliani did, or get New York
police officers to walk her dog, because that`s the way you do a sex
scandal, with the kind of dignity and comportment we expect in a New York
O`DONNELL: This great Giuliani, his wife discovered that the marriage
was over when he announced it in a press conference.
O`DONNELL: And this is the dignity, Peter, of Gracie Mansion. This
is the dignity of New York City hall that must be preserved.
I heard Rudy Giuliani cited today as one of the great oral class
mayors of New York, along with Bloomberg, whose shoes Anthony Weiner can`t
PETER BEINART, THE DAILY BEAST: Right. I think it`s partly the
technological change. We have crossed a frontier now. If Lyndon Johnson
could have done this, John F. Kennedy could have done this, believe me,
Robert Caro said in his biography, the parts of the body that were private
were never private when they were Lyndon Johnson`s. If he could have done
this, but no one has done it because no one has the technology. It`s a
The other thing may be that there are not Republicans in the story.
If you had conservative Republicans like baying for Anthony Weiner`s head,
with the possibility they could depose him as with Bill Clinton, a partisan
instinct might kick in. But they`re not part of the scene here, so I think
that`s why the media in some ways is playing that role.
O`DONNELL: I don`t care about the Republican side of this kind of
world, there isn`t really a Republican side.
BEINART: That`s the point.
O`DONNELL: What fascinates me is hearing liberals who defended Bill
Clinton all the way -- which by the way was a perfectly legitimate pose to
strike, that yes, lying about sex or the sex lives of these people should
be outside of the realm in which we judge how they do their work.
O`DONNELL: They have lost their grip on that concept because of
sexting, and I think they just don`t like Anthony Weiner as a person, which
is easy. He is an easy guy not to like. There`s something going on here.
REID: Yes, and it would be more legitimate if we had a critique of
Anthony Weiner`s tenure in Congress and maybe saying he was ineffective and
wouldn`t be a great leader. But, look, the three great Democratic
presidents of the 20th century, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy,
and you could argue Bill Clinton based on the economy, all of them had
You know, you had Franklin Delano Roosevelt`s nurse that he was
clearly apparently having an affair with. And we still celebrate him as a
great leader because we compartmentalize the decision making in terms of
the public good and the decision making in one`s marriage.
Ronald Reagan -- Nancy Reagan wasn`t his first wife. She was his
second wife. Do we think there`s something less good about Ronald Reagan
if you`re a Reagan fan because he was married twice because the first
marriage fell apart?
You know, people cheat. And, you know, I think that Anthony Weiner`s
sort of weird peccadilloes with the Twitter thing is weird, and if your
name is Anthony Weiner, you probably want to be more circumspect with what
you`re doing with your phone, but I think this is not the discussion we
have to have. Who is the best mayor for New York City based on their
record? I think that`s --
O`DONNELL: Another thing is why is -- Anthony Weiner in the record as
we know it so far, hasn`t touched anyone.
O`DONNELL: Other than obviously himself.
He hasn`t touched anyone.
O`DONNELL: Why doesn`t that somehow help him? It doesn`t seem to
help him. I get the feeling that "The New York Times" editorial writers
think that is sicker than the way Bill Clinton touched --
BEINART: Right. But remember, by 1996, we didn`t only know about
Gennifer Flowers, we know about Paula Jones. And the Paula Jones case,
which was the worse thing that Bill Clinton did, was clearly because that
was sexual harassment. And people got behind him because they understood
then what we don`t understand now. There is no relationship between how
people act in their private lives and their public lives.
Bill Clinton was privately reckless, publicly cautious. George W.
Bush, privately cautious, publicly reckless. People are far too
complicated to say, because he acted this way, he will act X way as mayor.
Human beings are too complicated for that.
O`DONNELL: We do not yet have our local NBC video of the candidates`
appearance, a forum, which I believe Christine Quinn did not show up for,
but Anthony Weiner was asked, this is according to Ida Siegal`s tweet of
"The candidates are asked, Facebook or Twitter, all answer, and the
crowd erupts in laughter when moderator asks, Weiner, Facebook or Twitter?"
That`s a New York crowd. They get a joke. They understand.
REID: He should have just answered yes.
BEINART: The irony is that the people are supposedly so puritanical
and moralistic. It`s the media that is puritanical and moralistic. People
actually repeatedly elect these guys.
O`DONNELL: I was watching New York 1 today, the local New York cable
channel, news all day, out in the street with a microphone.
It`s very hard for them to find someone who say they care about this.
There was one guy, they asked him, great response. Would you -- would you
vote against Anthony Weiner because of it. He said, of course not.
Then he was asked, you`re going to vote for him? Oh, no, I`m not
going to vote for him. He`s obviously for another candidate.
But you couldn`t get anyone on the New York street to animatedly come
out against Anthony Weiner on the basis of this. There could be other
BEINART: Because people want the Democratic right to make their own
decision and not have it be taken away from them by "The New York Times,"
"The New York Times" which did not call, as I recall, Herman Cain to get
out of the race, when he would not appoint a Muslim to the cabinet, did say
that Newt Gingrich --
O`DONNELL: I think sexting the pictures have driven "The New York
Times" a little crazy, and "The Daily News", a little crazy and they have
not noticed how they have broken with their own precedence in covering
these kind of things in the past.
Joy Reid and Peter Beinart, thank you very much for joining me on this
very tricky to talk about subject on this family show, but we`re finding
Coming up, NSA leaker Ed Snowden is already planning his future life
in Russia. He just doesn`t have permission to live there quite yet. And
he`s almost left the Russian airport today, so the story said.
And Vladimir Putin is a lot more welcoming to Ed Snowden than he is to
some other visitors planning to come for the Olympics. Anyone who is gay
or is suspected of maybe being gay, any tourists can be thrown into prison
for that now in Russia.
Actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein is angry about it to say the
least. He wrote a brilliant piece about it in "The New York Times" this
week. He will join me for an exclusive interview, coming up.
O`DONNELL: Now that it`s been painfully revealed that Anthony Weiner
used the name Carlos Danger in his online sex chats, "Slate" has created a
sex chat name generating. You plug in your name and it gives you your sex
In "Slate`s" sex chat generator, Lawrence O`Donnell becomes Diego
Jeopardy. Chris Matthews becomes Manolo Hazard. Bill O`Reilly becomes
Enough of that. You can go to "Slate" and plug in any name you`re
Coming up, it seems like Edward Snowden might, just might be
officially taking up residence in Russia when his lawyer visited the
airport. We will have the latest on the Snowden situation.
And Harvey Fierstein will join us with a few things about Russia that
Ed Snowden is going to need to know. He`s going to have to be very careful
about these things, and he`s not going to like them.
O`DONNELL: After one month and a day in Moscow`s international
airport, tonight, Edward Snowden is still stuck in the transit zone of that
airport. Earlier reports from Russia today suggested that Snowden would be
able to leave the airport and take up residence in Russia after receiving a
certificate from Russia`s federal migration services confirming that his
temporary asylum request is being reviewed.
But Snowden`s Russian lawyer told reporters that he did not receive
that certificate, and so, Ed Snowden remains in the airport. Snowden`s
lawyer arrived at the airport today with a shopping bag that some reporters
presumed carried the much anticipated certificate and that Snowden would
soon be leaving, but his lawyer revealed it was the -- the bag was full of
new clothes and Russian novels, including, of course, "Crime and
If Edward Snowden is allowed to take up residence in Russia, Snowden
plans to learn the language, study its culture, and find a job.
A State Department spokesman had this reaction today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEN PSAKI, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: We have seen, of course,
the press reports and are seeking clarification from the Russian
government. Obviously, any move that would allow Mr. Snowden to depart the
airport would be deeply disappointing. Our belief is the only place he
should be moving is back to the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Tonight, the House of Representatives voted on Republican
Congressman Justin Amash`s amendment that would bar the NSA from using the
Patriot Act from collecting Americans` phone records. The amendment was
defeated but just barely, 217-205. Voting for the amendment were 94
Republicans and 111 Democrats.
And a new NBC News poll finds that 55 percent of Americans say they`re
worried the United States will go too far in violating privacy rights, 36
percent say they`re worried the U.S. won`t go far enough.
Joining me now is Steve Clemons, Washington editor at large for "The
Steve, the last polling information indicates the debate that Edward
Snowden says he wants in his country is a debate that he is winning among
the American public.
STEVE CLEMONS, THE ATLANTIC: It`s amazing. And to see Justin, a
Republican from Michigan, on really with no preparation, very little
lobbying, receive 205 votes in the House of Representatives essentially in
favor of limiting the National Security Agency`s ability to collect this
information, is really stunning. You know, there`s this rule that, you
know, you can get 80 votes in the House on anything. You know, UFOs landed
in Roswell, New Mexico, 80 votes, or 80 signatures, but 205 votes a
precursor to the likelihood that some legislative instrument as you know
from your experience in Congress, is something that`s very achievable.
And so, I think the White House and the intelligence establishment are
looking at that with real fear today. This is the debate Edward Snowden
said he wanted to launch and one that the president of the United States
said he welcomed.
O`DONNELL: Well, the biggest movement in that vote, obviously, is 94
Republicans voting against a national security component of some kind,
never seen a vote like that there. Although it`s very far away from the
two-thirds they would need to override an Obama veto, and the United States
Senate, it`s kind of inconceivable it would get past filibuster tactics to
reach a vote.
I want to read something Glenn Greenwald tweeted tonight. "Michele
Bachmann, eloquent champion of the Obama NSA programs. Hope this get shown
on MSNBC tonight."
What Glenn is talking about, of course, is that Michele Bachmann voted
with the majority on this, which would say she voted with what is the Obama
CLEMONS: Well, I think in the case of Michele Bachmann, I think she`s
trying to look at where -- she`s leaving the house. Where is she going to
get speaking fees and whatnot in the future? She may very well have a
deeply grounded view that says whatever the NSA does is fine.
But I think it`s out of step with where many Republicans, as you just
said, and also many Democrats, frankly are in looking at the case of, you
know, yesterday, Ron Wyden at the Center for American Progress gave one of
the most amazing speeches I have heard on the subject yet, where he said
basically a secret interpretation of a law, interpreting, a secret
provision by a secret court sets up sort of a secret surveillance system.
And said this is not consistent with democracy, and this is big
brother, and we need to stop it. The fact that Michele Bachmann is on the
other side of this is disconcerting, but she`s leaving the House. Many
House members voted with Amash.
O`DONNELL: And Senator Wyden also suggested in a veiled way that
there is more in the NSA machinery than people realize and Snowden has
revealed, and he is, of course, bound by his secrecy oath to not reveal it.
Interesting thing in an NBC poll about Snowden, having gone to the
opinion poll about the issue, which is certainly something Snowden cares
about more than his own individual polling, because the Snowden thinking
seems to be dominating in the opinion poll on the issue. But Snowden`s
personal favorability rating, it`s 11 percent positive, 35 percent
negative, 24 percent are neutral, and 31 percent who just don`t know --
probably don`t know who he is.
But an 11 percent positive, 35 percent negative, is pretty bad stuff,
as far as that goes. So, he seems to not carry personal popularity. The
group he was most personally popular with were obviously -- one would
expect -- the 18 to 34-year-old group. Even then, 15 percent positive is
as high as he got with a 20 percent negative.
So, this is not transferring -- the issue is not transferring into
personal popularity for him.
CLEMONS: But that`s, in a way, that`s a good thing. You and I have
talked about this where Edward Snowden in a way with what he triggered with
the NSA debate in my book is a bit of an unusual hero.
But on the side of what else he divulged and on the other dimensions
of America`s intelligence apparatus, how it was looking at other
geostrategic rivals, that went across a line that I think many people can`t
tolerate, including myself. So, he became a muddy character for many
people to try to assess in that sense and I think that he continues to be
muddy because he`s over in Russia. He`s in a liberal society where, you
know, he is trying to basically find refuge, and he`s not here in the
United States fighting that out.
So, it makes him muddy, but it makes the issue vital for the nation.
I think it`s important that we track this through. I think it`s important
for the Obama administration, finally, to let him disappear, and to have
the debate we should have.
O`DONNELL: Steve Clemons, thanks for joining me tonight.
CLEMONS: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, more on life in Russia today with Harvey
Fierstein who wrote about Vladimir Putin`s, quote, "declared war on
And in the rewrite, a special guest rewrite by the president of the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: He was scrutinized by a neighborhood
watchman, George Zimmerman, because of the way he looked. Not necessarily
his skin color. There`s no evidence of that, but because high was a
stranger to Zimmerman, and was dressed in clothing sometimes used by street
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And last night`s rewrite, where played that sound bite and
deconstructed it and showed you at the end this picture of Bill O`Reilly
and Geraldo Rivera wearing hoodies. Hoodies that O`Reilly called, quote,
"clothing sometimes used by street criminals."
And then immediately after the show, I read this tweet rewriting my
rewrite. The tweet was from James Misarius. Wait, O`Reilly sells hoodies?
Now only $29.95. We then of course clicked on the link, went to O`Reilly`s
Web site, where indeed the guy actually sells hoodies himself. And yet he
still says hoodies make you look like a suspicious person. Bill O`Reilly,
still stranger than fiction.
Up next, the great Tony-award winning Harvey Fierstein with a warning
for Edward Snowden about life in Russia and a warning for you maybe even
thinking about maybe visiting Russia.
O`DONNELL: Russia`s president, Vladimir Putin, has declared war on
homosexuals. So far, the world has mostly been silent. So says Harvey
Fierstein in a "New York Times" op-ed this week. The piece cites Putin`s
support for the new law banning the adoption of Russian-born children, not
only by same-sex couples, but also to anyone living in a country that
allows marriage equality in any form. Putin has also signed a law that
allows tourists, that`s you, tourists to be thrown in jail if they`re
suspected of being gay or if they are pro-gay, and Putin signed a law
defining homosexual propaganda as pornography.
Joining me now in a "Last Word" exclusive to talk about why he isn`t
going to Russia anytime soon, four-time Tony-award winner Harvey Fierstein
whose hit musical "Kinky Boots" swept this year`s Tonys with six awards.
Harvey, thank you very much for my "Kinky Boots" pin, which I`m going
to try to put that on right now.
HARVEY FIERSTEIN, ACTOR: You can wear that with pride.
O`DONNELL: So, you know, I knew about the adoption thing that they
had done in Russia. Everything else I read in your piece I did not know.
FIERSTEIN: I know. And the scariest one is the one that`s still to
come. It`s rumored that he`s about to pass a law that says that they can
remove children from the homes of anyone who is gay or lesbian, even if
it`s their biological child, they can go in and remove those children.
It`s very frightening. Very frightening.
O`DONNELL: And you talk about there are people in Russia now who are
-- some gay and lesbians who are already beginning to plan their escapes
FIERSTEIN: Well, they don`t want to lose their children. They didn`t
have to. I mean, this is (INAUDIBLE). This is -- it just reminds me so of
the olden days and then you sort of wonder what have you got to gain from
this? And you say, what has Putin got to gain from war on homosexuals? We
won`t look at what else he`s doing and how else he`s failing and what`s
going on with their economy and everything else in their country.
O`DONNELL: You compare it to the Nazi playbook. You say Mr. Putin`s
campaign against lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, it is one of
distraction. It is a campaign of distraction, a strategy of demonizing a
minority for political gain, taken straight out of the Nazi play book.
FIERSTEIN: Well, and isn`t that what the conservatives are doing to
the homosexuals in the United States? I mean, it`s the same thing. They
say we are conservatives, w believe in smaller government. We don`t want
the government in our business, but now, who is in Virginia running for
governor of Virginia, he now wants to?
FIERSTEIN: Cuccinelli now wants to bring back the laws saying that
even married couples cannot have oral sex. I think that`s called big
government. And it has like the biggest kind of government.
O`DONNELL: So, your piece contains -- winter Olympics coming up in
Russia. And your piece contains a warning for tourists who might be going
there for the Olympics.
FIERSTEIN: Look. Four Dutch tourists were arrested the other day. I
think one had a rainbow pattern on their t-shirt and four of them were
arrested. It`s not that you are gay, it is not even that they think you`re
gay. If you say something pro-gay, if a teacher says to a student there is
another way of living, you get fined. If a newscaster reports a story in a
positive way towards gay, you can be fined. It`s horrendous.
O`DONNELL: If someone in Russia reported that Harvey Fierstein said
this tonight or wrote this in the "New York Times" --
FIERSTEIN: In a positive way.
FIERSTEIN: They can be fined. Yes.
O`DONNELL: So Edward Snowden, if he gets to settle in Russia, is
going to have to be very careful who he hangs around with or what he says.
FIERSTEIN: Well, it`s frightening. You know, I get messages even
from gay people in Russia, you know, thanks to facebook and tweets and all
that, saying we`re fine, and all that. And I say, you know, there`s just
something very -- having grown up with people with numbers tattooed on
their arms. There`s something that just gets me when people say, oh, we`re
just fine and all that. I had family members who thought it was just fine
to stay in Germany at those times. There is a war declared against us.
Somebody is willing to put you in jail because of who you are or what you
think. What you think. And to me, that`s very --
O`DONNELL: Who you sympathize with.
FIERSTEIN: And the only way to get back at people like that is take
the money away. You have to starve the rat out. Putin is a rat and you
have to starve him out. You know? Don`t put billions of the world`s money
into Russia for the Olympics. You know, take the Olympics somewhere else.
You know, that`s my feeling. My feeling is we should boycott the Olympics,
but I`m just one person.
O`DONNELL: You`re going to boycott the Olympics. You`re not going.
FIERSTEIN: I don`t like the winter Olympics because they wear too
much clothing. Summer Olympics, fine.
O`DONNELL: Figure skating, come on?
FIERSTEIN: The nipples are hard, but that --
O`DONNELL: Can you help me out here, see where it says -- just said
Harvey. There`s a prompter. There you go. I want to hear that voice
telling what`s happening on the show.
FIERSTEIN: Coming up next, the president wants you to know that he is
as frustrated with Washington as you are. No, he isn`t.
O`DONNELL: Not as frustrated as you are.
FIERSTEIN: That`s next in the rewrite, but I do love what Obama did a
couple weeks ago. Yes.
O`DONNELL: Stick around then and watch the rewrite.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, sir.
O`DONNELL: The White House has let it be known that President Obama
is going to name Caroline Kennedy as ambassador to Japan. Caroline Kennedy
is president of the John F. Kennedy library foundation and chairs a
committee at the institute of politics at Harvard University. She was also
an early supporter of President Obama in the presidential primary campaigns
of 2008, his first campaign for the presidency. The world, of course,
first got to know Caroline Kennedy by watching her play with her father in
the oval office.
The rewrite is next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have now run my last
campaign. I do not intend to wait until the next campaign or the next
president before tackling the issues that matter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: President Obama is trying to rewrite the future of the
American economy, and rewrite the possibilities for the remainder of his
presidency. First, today, he explained how he arrived at our economic
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: After World War II, a growing middle class was the engine of
our prosperity. Whether you owned a company or swept its floors or worked
anywhere in between, this country offered you a basic bargain. A sense
that your hard work would be rewarded with fair wages and decent benefits.
The chance to buy a home, to save for retirement. And most of all, a
chance to hand out a better life for your kids.
But over time, that engine began to stall, and a lot of folks here saw
it. That bargain began to fray. Technology made some jobs obsolete.
Global competition sends a lot of jobs overseas. It became harder for
unions to fight for the middle class. Washington doled out bigger tax cuts
to the very wealthy and smaller minimum wage increases for the working
And so what happened was that the link between higher productivity and
people`s wages and salaries was broken. Used to be that as companies did
better, as profits went higher, workers also got a better deal and that
So, the income of the top one percent nearly quadruples from 1979 to
2007. But the typical families` incomes barely budged. This growing
inequality, not just of result, inequality of opportunity. This growing in
equality, it`s not just morally wrong, it`s bad economics. Because when
middle-class families have less to spend, guess what, businesses have fewer
consumers. When the rungs on the ladder of opportunity grow farther and
farther apart, it undermines the very essence of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: As the president tried to inspire hope and momentum
despite the reality of Republican resistance, he reminded us today just how
much Republican resistance he has managed to overcome already.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: If you ask some of these folks, some of these folks mostly in
the house, about their economic agenda, how it is that they will strengthen
the middle class, they will shift the topic to out of control government
spending. Despite the fact that we`ve cut the deficit by nearly half as a
share of the economy since I took office or they will bring up Obama care.
This is tried and true.
Despite the fact our businesses have created nearly twice as many jobs
in this recovery as businesses had at the same point in the last recovery
when there was no Obama care.
OBAMA: I appreciate that. That`s what that`s about. That`s what
this is about. That`s what we have been fighting for. But with this
endless parade of distractions and political posturing and phony scandals,
Washington`s taken its eye off the ball. And I`m here to say this needs to
stop. This needs to stop.
If you think you have a better plan for making sure that every
American has the security of quality, affordable health care, then stop
taking meaningless repeal votes and share your concrete ideas with the
country. Repealing Obama care and cutting spending not an economic plan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The president mentioned many things today that require
congressional approval, but promised to continue to think outside the box
of congressional approval.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: So yes, Congress is tough right now, but that`s not going to
stop me. Whatever executive authority I have to help the middle class, I
will use it. Where I can`t act on my own and Congress isn`t cooperating, I
will pick up the phone and call CEOs, I will call philanthropists, I will
call college presidents, I will call labor leaders, I will call anybody who
can help and enlist them in our efforts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: In a moment, I`m going to be joined by E.J. Dionne to
discuss the president`s speech and what lies ahead. In the end, the
president`s speech came down to just one thing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The only thing I care about is how to use every minute of the
remaining 1,276 days of my term to make this country work for working
Americans again. That`s all I care about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: If we just stand by and do nothing in the face of immense
change, understand that the part of our character will be lost. Our
founding preset about wide opportunity, each generation doing better than
the last; that will be a myth, not reality.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was President Obama at Knox College today explaining
what`s at stake if congressional gridlock stands in the way of his agenda.
Joining me now, Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, a senior fellow
at the Brookings Institution and an MSNBC contributor.
E.J., this was the eternal optimist talking, especially when he was
talking about a legislative agenda that will require Republican
E.J. DIONNE, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: What I think this speech
was about is changing the nature of the debate in the country that
presidents are successful not only for what they do but for how they
influence what future presidents do. And how they influence the way people
think about things. FDR did that and Ronald Reagan did that.
And I think what he`s trying to do today, and this is supposed to be
part of a eight-week campaign where he is going to put more specifics on
the table as the weeks unfold, is to say that this core conservative idea
of trickledown economics doesn`t work. And that it`s not only unfair, but
that it`s bad economics.
And I was really struck when people starting saying, well, there isn`t
enough new policy here. It made me wonder, are conservatives smarter than
liberals, because conservatives knew Reagan`s job wasn`t constantly to put
new policy on the table. He was trying to set the frameworks of the
policies they wanted could prevail, and I think Obama was trying to do that
today, and I think it`s something he probably could have usefully done a
long time ago, but I for one was glad he did it today.
O`DONNELL: Yes. And he has to do it. I mean, you know, he`s not --
he`s the one person who has a job where he can`t sit there and say, is what
I`m about to say easy to do? He has to proceed as an optimist or he just
becomes retired as of now.
DIONNE: Well, also, I think he`s trying to remind people that if
there were real problems in the fall, if we have a debt ceiling crisis, it
isn`t because he wants a debt ceiling crisis. It`s because Republicans are
going to make this demands on government to slash it some more, that he
thinks and that a lot of people think, would be very bad for the economy.
And he is also trying, I don`t know if he can help, but he`s actually
trying to say, look, there are some Republicans, look at the Senate over
there, who would actually like to govern the way we used to govern
ourselves. Instead of having government by sabotage, which is essentially
what`s been happening on Obama care and a lot of other issues.
O`DONNELL: He is also reminding everyone where the center of the
governing playing field is. Everything he talked about was something that
at some point in our pa has been supported by Republicans and Democrats.
There wasn`t anything that was out there on the edge of the left or the
Democratic Party there. It was all mainstream stuff.
DIONNE: Right, it was all mainstream but in the broad, progressive
tradition in the party.
And just for you, Lawrence, I went back and looked at Daniel Patrick
Moynahan`s old book "came the revolution" back from 1986, and he was
talking about what Reagan and the conservatives did then. He said for this
new group of conservatives, capitalism evolved during post fourth year
(INAUDIBLE) into an all-encompassing ideology. That it was no longer just
about production. It was about creating a high level of civilization.
What Moynahan was saying is this new ideology didn`t say where does
capitalism work and where doesn`t it work? It was making it in to this
creed that Obama was saying it is not a creed, it is a system. Let`s
regulate it and fix it.
E.J. Dionne and Pat Moynahan get tonight`s "Last Word."
Thank you very much, E.J.
DIONNE: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes is up next.
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THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL