THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
August 22, 2013
Guests: John Morse, Frank Smyth, Joy Reid, Eugene Robinson, James Kirchik; Howard Dean
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST, "LAST WORD": Yesterday, Antoinette
Tuff prevented a madman with a gun from killing children at an elementary
school. Today, the President of the United States called her to thank her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Students were back in class today at Ronald
McNair Learning Academy.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Let`s talk about the gun debate.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The incredible 911 audio.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Those 911 tape.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: It is going to be all right`s sweetheart, I just
want you to know that I love you, though. OK?
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Is this going to restart the conversation?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Colorado state legislature passed three strict gun
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Two Colorado state senators are now facing a recall
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The gun lobby mobilized to fight back, a corporate
lobby trying to overwhelm the voice of the American public.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: The real battle lies ahead in Washington.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: This delay is inexcusable.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: It is Thursday, August 22. There are so many
other issues looming large.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: President Obama speaking at the University of
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Bradley Manning`s stunning announcement.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: More revelations about the NSA. But first, we
are following another developing stories.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: New accusations that voter suppression in North
Carolina, the worst voter suppression laws in the country.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: They are scared to death to the people voting.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I want to see a Republican Party.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: A Republican Party that says, we want everybody to
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The Justice Department is pursuing a new course.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: It`s a federal challenge --
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: It is against -- Texas --
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: To the state`s voter ID law.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: There is a new electorate. They know that the
south has changed.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: There has to come a point where these two sides
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: That is why they`re trying so hard to deny the
right to vote.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: This about a legal challenge. The real battle
lies ahead in Washington.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The brave, quick thinking unarmed woman who stopped the
bad guy with a gun who walked into an elementary school in Georgia almost
was not there. Antoinette Tuff was reportedly scheduled to have the day
off on Tuesday, but a last-minute shift switch put her in the school`s
front office, where she was confronted by the gunman and successfully
talked him into surrendering. Her heroism, as you know, was captured on a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
911 OPERATOR: Stay on the line with me now, where are you?
ANTOINETTE TUFF, RONALD E. MCNAIR DISCOVERY LEARNING ACADEMY: I`m in
the front office. He just went outside and started shooting.
Oh, can I run?
911 OPERATOR: Can you get somewhere safe?
TUFF: Yes, I got to go. Yes, he is going to see me running. He`s
coming back. Oh, hold on.
911 OPERATOR: Put the phone down.
TUFF: He said he should have just went to the mental hospital instead
of doing this, because he is not on his medication.
911 OPERATOR: OK.
TUFF: Do you want me to try -- I can help you. Do you want me to
talk to them -- you want me to talk to them and try -- OK, but let me talk
to them and let`s see if we can work it out so that you don`t have to go
away with them for a long time.
SHOOTER: I`m already on probation.
TUFF: No, it does matter. I can let them know that you are not
trying to harm me or do anything with me, or anything, if you want to. But
that doesn`t make any difference, you didn`t hit anybody.
SHOOTER: You don`t know that.
TUFF: OK, let me ask you this, ma`am. He didn`t hit anybody, he just
shot outside the door. If I walk out there with him, if I walk out there
with him, so they won`t shoot him or anything like that he wants to give
himself up. Is that OK? And they won`t shoot him?
TUFF: He is on the ground now with his hands behind the back, tell
the officers don`t come in with any guns, don`t come in shooting or
anything, so they can come on in and I`ll buzz them in.
911 OPERATOR: OK.
TUFF: So, hold on. Just sit right there, and I`m going to buzz them
in, OK? So they know when they`re coming, OK? So, just stay there calm,
don`t worry about it. I`m going to sit right here, so they will see you
are trying not to harm me, OK? OK.
It is going to be all right, sweetheart, I just want you to know that
I love you though, OK? And I`m proud of you. That is a good thing that
you`re just giving up, and don`t worry about it. We all go through
something in life. You said, Michael Hill, right? OK. Guess what,
Michael, my last name is Hill, too, you know my mom is a Hill.
SHOOTER: Find out what they`re waiting for.
TUFF: He said, what are you all waiting for? What is taking them so
long to come on?
911 OPERATOR: All right. One moment.
TUFF: She says she is getting to them now, they`re coming. They`re
coming. So just hold on, Michael, go ahead and lay down. Don`t put the
phone -- OK, you just got your phone? OK, that is fine, tell them to come
on, come on. OK, he just got his phone. That is all he got, is the phone.
OFFICER: Do not move!
TUFF: It is just him. OK. It is just him. Hello?
911 OPERATOR: Yes.
TUFF: I`m going to tell you something, baby, I never been scared in
all the days of my life.
911 OPERATOR: But you did great.
TUFF: Oh, Jesus.
911 OPERATOR: You did great.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Twenty-year-old Michael Brandon Hill, who came to the
school apparently intent on killing people, possibly hundreds of people
with hundreds of bullets, in the end killed no one. Every spared child and
every spared teacher owe their lives to Antoinette Tuff. Every Georgia
family that is home tonight watching TV or out to a movie tonight instead
of being crushed by the grief of a loss of a loved one to one of Michael
Brandon Hill`s 500 bullets owes a lifetime of gratitude to Antoinette Tuff.
Michael Brandon Hill will not be the last deranged person with an
assault weapon and a virtually unlimited supply of bullets to enter and
American public school with the intent to kill. It will happen again at
some other time and place and it will happen soon enough. And it will
happen several times after that. And Antoinette Tuff will not be there.
But Congress and state legislators can save lives in those situations
by limiting access to firearms and to high capacity magazines for
ammunition. That is what lawmakers did in Connecticut after Newtown. And
that is what lawmakers did in Colorado after Aurora. Last month, new laws
went into effect in Colorado that limit high-capacity magazines to 15
rounds and require a background check for every gun purchase, including
private gun sales. Colorado has required background checks at gun shows
since the Columbine massacre.
A new poll shows that 82 percent of Colorado voters support universal
background checks in their state. But two state lawmakers are now facing a
recall election for their support of those new gun laws. It should come as
no surprise who is trying to force these lawmakers out of office. Of
course, it is the organization dedicated to making sure America`s mass
murderers are the very best equipped mass murderers in the world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Senate President John Morse is taking Colorado too far and
in the wrong direction. Morse is pushing major changes that leave you with
less freedom. John Morse, too extreme for Colorado. Recall Morse,
September 10. Paid for by the National Rifle Association committee to
restore Coloradan`s rights.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now is John Morse, Colorado State Senate
president. He is a former police chief and facing a recall election on
September 10th. John Morse, did you see this coming when you voted for
STATE SEN. JOHN MORSE, COLORADO SENATE PRESIDENT: No, I mean, when we
voted for them we knew people were upset. But we didn`t see the recall
coming until the first of April when they filed the paperwork, and then the
21st of April when they started paying signature-gathers to gather the
signatures. That is when we knew we would likely face a recall election.
O`DONNELL: And is there any polling on this at this point?
MORSE: Well, I saw a couple of Quinnipiac polls today. I mean, in
terms of, people support what we did back in March, they supported it in
March, they supported it before March, and they continue to support it.
O`DONNELL: And we once not so long ago had a federal law that limited
these magazines to below 15 rounds. Colorado was subject to that then. It
seemed to work perfectly well.
MORSE: You know, I mean, as a police officer I carried a firearm that
had one round in the chamber and 14 rounds in the magazine. I mean, I was
paid to go into dangerous situations and had 15 rounds at the ready. And
then another 28 rounds on my belt to be able to reload with two additional
magazines. And you know, obviously, it was more than I ever needed as I
drew my service weapon several times but never actually fired it at
O`DONNELL: And what we have been seeing in a lot of these mass
murderer cases, it is legally obtained weaponry. It is not stuff where
people have gone out into a black market to get specialized equipment. It
is what they can get over the counter, and the case in Colorado --
Connecticut, what the shooter`s mother could legally obtain, for example.
And so it seems that real legal restrictions would have real effects in
some of these kinds of cases.
MORSE: I don`t think there is any question about it. I mean, once
you get through that 15 rounds, and maybe you have got one in the chamber
so that you actual got to shoot 16 rounds, then you have to reload. And I
can tell you as a police officer we drilled with that constantly, because
we understood that that gun in my hand right now, empty is a paper weight.
And so however long it takes me to reload it and I`m practicing so that I
can do it as quickly as possible. But still, two or three seconds where I
have a paper weight, and that is when the real world has a chance to react
to this and to try to make something good happen.
And I mean, and I`m sure you`re aware, when Gabby Giffords was shot,
it was a 63-year-old woman who was able to keep the shooter from reloading
long enough for everybody else to dog-piling and put an end to that
horrific situation. And there were already casualties, obviously, but
there were fewer casualties and they would have been because of that
action. And that is really what the 15-round limit is all about.
O`DONNELL: How are you making your case to Colorado voters on this
MORSE: So I`m making my case to Colorado voters, just one vote at a
time on their door step. Talking about what I have done and who I am and
why I have done it and overwhelmingly, they support me. And certainly, you
know, if I had the chance to talk to every voter I would win this easily.
But that is not necessarily what is going to happen. But we have plenty of
volunteers out talking to folks, as well. But still, it is a tough slug,
and those on the other side are committed and you know, they`re going to
show up with their votes to vote. And so, we got to make sure our folks
show up, as well. And it`s going to be very, very, very difficult and very
tight. There`s no question.
O`DONNELL: Well, thank you for your bravery as a legislator. And
thank you for joining us tonight. Colorado Senate President John Morse.
MORSE: You`re most welcome, thank you for having me.
O`DONNELL: Joining me now, msnbc.com contributor Frank Smyth and
MSNBC`s Joy Reid.
Joy, I want to go back to Antoinette Tuff. Because we just -- you
know, for good reasons, we just can`t get our minds off of her. And there
is a great line at the beginning of what we played tonight. Where she says
-- she has a moment where she wants to run, she says oh, can I run? And
that is where heroism always comes from. It generally is a last resort.
Her first impulse is, how do I get out of here and save myself? She
realizes she can`t do that and then she goes on to do what she has to do.
JOY REID, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: And it is extraordinary what she does.
I mean, people train, you know, for years and years and years to be hostage
negotiators, to do what she did. To just have that a moment first of all,
of humanity and empathy, and that her first instinct toward this young man,
toward this gunman was to treat him as a young man. To try to empathize
with him. And to just talk to him, almost like a mom. I mean, I think the
reason that I, you and so many people are falling in love with Antoinette
Tuff, is that, you could feel her sort of maternal instinct, which is the
same thing that my kids felt from the ladies who worked in their elementary
school, form the people who worked in their middle school.
These people who worked in these professions, they don`t make a lot of
money. They love these kids and they do treat them almost as their own.
She almost was like a mother to this guy. And the thing that is so
frightening is that this guy was so clearly mentally, you know, ill and he
needed help. And he even understood that he needed help. She understood
that too. And I think it is an important lesson in why would somebody who
so clearly needs help be able to get his hands on an AK-47 and 500 rounds
O`DONNELL: And Frank, one of the striking things about it at the
beginning and the end is that this was clearly a performance on her part.
She, at the beginning, clearly, when she is not talking to him wants to
run, realizes she can`t. Goes into another gear, and then as soon as it is
over, you watch her collapse a little bit emotionally on the phone with the
other woman. Revealing that everything she was doing between those two
moments was a front, a brilliantly conceived and performed front.
FRANK SMYTH, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Well, I think she managed to
draw on her inner strength and her own energy and her faith. Which seemed
very hard for her. And be able to connect, as Joy said, and have empathy
and see this individual as a human being. I`m not sure if it was a front,
I think she -- her fear was always there. But she was able to walk through
that to overcome it, push it aside for a second. And then once the
situation was over, she was out of danger. Then she allowed herself to
finally feel that. I don`t think that is uncommon. What is amazing is
that she had the strength of will and the purpose and the determination to
see it through, and to connect with him. And she only did that because she
really was reaching out to him, I think with genuine compassion.
O`DONNELL: Yes, well, let me clarify. What I`m saying here is, once
she realized she couldn`t run, she was going to have to lean on and use
another part of herself. It was all real. And it was all in her. And she
was going to have to use all of those things that you were just talking
about, the skills she no doubt developed as a mother. But also, with all
those kids in school and everybody she has to deal with.
REID: Right. She is a bookkeeper, dealing with the kids and dealing
with people. Yes, it was a quick thinking, and brilliant thinking.
Because look, in a situation like that where somebody has a gun on, you at
that moment, you`re the person that`s in danger. You can either react, you
know, in any number of ways. You can just beg for your life. I mean, what
do you do with a situation the person has total power in a sense over you
because they are the one with the gun. They are the bad guy with the gun.
And, you know, what`s so maddening about the way, that the rights,
that the NRA talks about these situations, is they think that a normal
person`s instinct would be to reach into the drawer and grab a gun and
shoot back. That is not a normal human behavior. She had to make a split
second decision on how she was going to respond to this guy, in terror, beg
him, please, don`t kill me. Or whatever she`s going to do, or immediately
go into teacher/administrator, mother mode and talk to him.
O`DONNELL: How can I help you?
REID: That`s right.
O`DONNELL: She turned it into how can I help you with the trouble
that you have.
REID: Exactly. And it was.
O`DONNELL: And Frank, what are you hearing? You`re monitoring what
the NRA`s reaction is to all of these kinds of things. Have they yet
announced their tribute of dinner for Antoinette Tuff?
SMYTH: They are completely ignoring what happened in Decatur,
Georgia, like it didn`t exist. Both the official at NRA as far as I`ve
seen so far. As well as the twitter feeds. Instead they`re focused on
issues like the Colorado recall election on September 10th, with Senator
Morse and also Senator Heron. But this is an issue that the NRA and its
supporters just cannot process. They don`t want to deal with it. So, they
are not touching it. They just want it to go away. Because it belies that
the mantra that Wayne Lapierre put forth that only a good guy with the gun
can -- bad with a gun and what this shows is that it`s not necessarily the
case, there are other ways to deal with gun violence.
O`DONNELL: Well, my new mantra is, we all go through something in
life. The Antoinette Tuff line.
REID: Absolutely. Absolutely.
O`DONNELL: Joy Reid and Frank Smyth. Thank you both for joining me
REID: Thank you.
SMYTH: Thank you, man.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, Colin Powell versus Bill O`reilly, over
republican voter suppression. And James Kirchick, the American journalist
who I showed you last night, he high-jacked a Russian TV show to protest
Russia`s anti-gay laws, he`s going to join us tonight.
And marijuana is legal in some form in 20 states. But the federal
government still considers it illegal. So imagine what kind of a mess
marijuana businesses get into when they have to file their federal tax
returns. Tax scammers from marijuana is in the rewrite.
O`DONNELL: As reported here last week, Terry Dunlap, Sr., a 73-year-
old, former Ohio police chief accidentally shot a student last week during
a gun safety class. The student was only slightly injured and he told the
Columbus Dispatch, "Up until he shot me accidentally, it was a very
informative, very well laid out class, I learned a lot." And you know the
hunting trip with Dick Cheney was great until he shot the guy beside him.
And it turns out that this is not the first time Terry Dunlap
accidentally shot someone. The Dispatch reports that in 1977, Dunlap fired
his .38 caliber handgun into the air during a Halloween Hayride as a scary
effect for his daughter and her friends. A bullet ricocheted and hit a 14-
year-old girl in the leg. When she heard about the latest shooting, Cathy
Schmelzer said, quote, "Oh no, he has done it again."
BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS HOST: You object to showing an identification
card when you vote?
COLIN POWELL, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: No.
O`REILLY: Well, that is all the Republican Party wants -- that is all
they want is a voter ID.
POWELL: I object to putting in place additional levels of voter ID
O`REILLY: One. Show one!
POWELL: Disenfranchise those of our fellow citizens. I want to see a
Republican Party that rather than trying to make it more difficult to vote
and restricting the number of days and hours you can vote. A Republican
Party that says, we want everybody to vote and we`re going to give you a
reason to vote for us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Today, General Colin Powell took on another republican
over voter ID laws. This time it was North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory
who just signed into law a bill requiring voters to show voter ID in order
to vote. Governor McCrory was in the audience at a CEO forum in Raleigh,
North Carolina, when the former secretary of state said this, "I want to
see policies that encourage every American to vote, not make it more
difficult to vote. It immediately turns off the voting bloc the Republican
Party needs. These kinds of actions do not build on the base, it just
turns people away. What it really says to the minority voters is we really
are sort of punishing you. You can say what you like, but there is no
voter fraud. How can it be widespread and undetected?"
The Justice Department announced today that it will file another
lawsuit to block Texas photo voter ID law this time arguing that it
violates section two of the voting rights act, which prohibits any kind of
discriminatory voting laws and procedures. Last year, a federal court
ruled in favor of the Justice Department and blocked the Texas law. But
that decision was reversed after the Supreme Court June struck down section
four of the voting rights act.
In a statement today, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said, "We will
not allow the Supreme Court`s recent decision to be interpreted as open
season for states to presume measures that suppressed voting rights. The
department will take action against jurisdictions that attempts to hinder
access to the ballot box no matter where it occurs. This represents the
department`s latest action to protect voting rights. But it will not be
Eugene Robinson, this action by the Justice Department reminds people
that the voting rights act was not repealed. There was a section taken out
that that required certain states to get prior approval for these changes.
EUGENE ROBINSON, THE WASHINGTON POST: Exactly.
O`DONNELL: But everything is still there.
ROBINSON: Everything is out there.
O`DONNELL: To go after them when they do pass such legislation.
ROBINSON: It is still illegal to deny people the right to vote
because of racism or for partisan reasons or for, you know, for reasons
that are not legitimate. And the Justice Department has a lot of tools in
the voting rights act to go after it. Now, you know, it is inconvenient.
They have to let these things pretty much be passed. And then they can
attack them. But Eric Holder has indicated that he is going to pile in, as
soon as possible, and do what he can to uphold the part of the law that
O`DONNELL: And there is every reason to think that he can be
successful with this, because the Supreme Court deliberately left these
procedures in place. This court, this conservative court, said yes, these
kinds of cases should continue.
ROBINSON: Exactly. The court said specifically that. And the only
thing the court struck down was essentially the map of states that were
required to do pre-clearance, and it didn`t even say, you couldn`t do that.
It said you need a new map, they didn`t like the criteria and -- those
states were singled out. There were good arguments on the other side of
that question. But the bottom line is the voting rights act, minus that
one provision is intact and obviously will be important.
O`DONNELL: We unfortunately, do not have an isolated camera view of
McCrory`s face when Colin Powell -- he was using their words against them.
Because they said about voter fraud in North Carolina that it is
widespread, and undetected.
ROBINSON: Yes. And so, that makes absolutely zero sense, right? You
know, if there were widespread impersonation voter fraud, the Republicans
would be able to point to more than like maybe one case or two cases in the
past years. It doesn`t happen. It simply is not a problem. And so all of
these solutions, which are voter suppression, are solutions still in search
of a problem. They still have not found the problem.
O`DONNELL: And it is this, as you put it impersonation voter fraud,
you`d have to ask yourself, just -- OK, who wants to do this? Who is that
person who is so civic-minded he or she wants to vote a lot.
ROBINSON: Right. Right. You know, and is going to go up to a
neighbor or somebody and say, you know, I`m going to go down, can I go vote
in your name today? I mean, and it just makes no sense.
O`DONNELL: Yes, and the -- the Republican Party not listening to
voices like Colin Powell is clearly the biggest conceivable mistake they
could be making right now, just in terms of the demography of American
ROBINSON: There you have it, the demography of this country. You
know, this is going to be a majority minority nation in 2040, 2045,
whatever. That is a while. But major states are already
majority/minority. And others will fall in years to come. The Republican
Party, if it wants to be a national party, cannot afford to keep not just
ignoring, but actively alienating African-American and Hispanic voter, it
cannot do that and survive in its present form as one of two major parties
that alternate in the presidency.
O`DONNELL: And then what he was saying to a rally was, you are adding
after you do this, the intellectual insult to us to try to tell us, this is
not aimed at us.
ROBINSON: Yes. Right.
O`DONNELL: And we know it is.
ROBINSON: Yes. At least be honest about it. Right?
ROBINSON: Because that is an insult. And frankly, you know, I think
there is plenty of evidence that in last year`s presidential election, the
voter suppression efforts ticked off African-American voters so much that
they came out in droves.
O`DONNELL: Yes. Voter stimulation. Yes.
ROBINSON: And I predict that this will continue. I mean, you just --
you know, you keep doing this to people and they have recourses. They can
go vote and they can vote you out.
O`DONNELL: Eugene Robinson, thank you very much for joining us
ROBINSON: Great to be here, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, there is an industry that is begging to be
taxed, legally taxed. And that is the legal marijuana business. It is
legal in 20 states. And they are eager to pay their federal taxes. But
they would like to have a few deductions on their federal tax returns just
like every other business. That is coming up.
And my next guest is the American journalist who appeared on Russian
TV to talk about the Manning case. And then refused to talk about anything
but Russia`s oppressive anti-gay laws. He is going join me next, and he is
going to get to say whatever he wants.
O`DONNELL: Bradley Manning released a statement today in which he
changed his name and his gender.
The statement says, I want to thank everybody who has supported me in
the last three years, throughout this ordeal. Your letters and
encouragement have helped to keep me strong as I transition into this next
phase of my life. I want everyone to know the real me, I am Chelsea
Manning. I am a female.
Given the way that I feel and have felt as a childhood, I want to
begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me
in this transition. I also request that starting today you refer to me by
my new name and use the feminine pronoun, except in the official mail to
the confinement facility. I look forward to hearing from supporters and
having the opportunity to write back.
Up next, the American journalist who was invited on Russian television
to discuss the Manning case but kept talking about Russia`s anti-gay laws.
James Kirchik is next.
O`DONNELL: In the spotlight tonight, protesting Russia`s anti-gay
laws, the best protest I have seen so far of those laws occurred yesterday
on Russian TV. And the man who launched that protest will join me in just
You know, I showed you this last night. But it is worth another look.
Here is James Kirchik, on Russian TV, having been invited to discuss the
case of Bradley Manning, now known as Chelsea Manning. James Kirchik
changed the subject.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES KIRCHIK, FREELANCE JOURNALIST: You see the state of violent
attacks on gay people in Russia, the state of violent --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What about Bradley Manning --
KIRCHIK: You know, I am not really interested in talking about
Bradley Manning. I`m interested in talking about the horrific environment
of homophobia in Russia right now, and to let the Russian gay people know
they have friends and allies in solidarity from people all over, and that
we are not going to be silenced in the face of this horrific repression
that is perpetrated by the (INAUDIBLE), by your pay masters, by Vladimir
Putin. That is what I`m here to talk about.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I see. All right.
KIRCHIK: Yes, that`s why I`m here to talk about. And I don`t even
know how as a journalist you can sleep at night for what happens in Russia,
who are routinely harassed, tortured and some case, killed by Russian
KIRCHIK: How you can call yourself a journalist and how you can go to
sleep at night. You should be ashamed of yourself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now, Freelance journalist James Kirchik.
James, we showed the full version of that last night and we are going
keep that available on Web site because this is a perfect piece of video.
So what happened when you finished the segment and you left? Were you
in a studio there or where were you?
KIRCHIK: I was in the studio in Stockholm, Sweden, at the Swedish
television, the national broadcaster. And I went into the car, which had
been, you know, hired to take me to the airport because I had a flight to
(INAUDIBLE) where I am now. And about half way to the airport on the
highway, the call came from RT saying they cancelled the taxi and I was to
be deposited on the side of the road. I told the driver that I would pay
for the rest of the ride to the airport. He drove me to the airport and
then miraculously, the taxi company just decided to give me a free ride.
So there are some freedom-lovers in Sweden.
O`DONNELL: All right, well, we will never cancel your car, James, no
matter what you say.
KIRCHIK: OK, thanks.
O`DONNELL: On this or any other segment, we guarantee the car up
front. Now, I want to read you --
O`DONNELL: A bit of an exchange here that occurred today with the
Russian deputy prime minister writing a letter to the international Olympic
committee about this. And it is -- I`m just going to go through a couple
of the lines. It is breathtakingly absurd.
He said these legislations, meaning the anti-gay laws, apply equally
to all persons irrespective of their race, religion, gender or sexual
orientation and cannot be regarded as discrimination, based on sexual
So in his head, because it is illegal for straight to say anything
positive about gay people, then that is not discrimination, no one can say
KIRCHIK: It is utterly preposterous. And the excuses that they are
giving are ridiculous and they should not be listened to. And I really
don`t know what else to say. They`re just laughing at us, this is going on
O`DONNELL: Sorry, James, because of the delay, there is a little
crosstalk. But let me just add for you what the IOC`s president`s response
was, which was absolutely disgusting.
Upon receipt of this meaningless Russian letter that is full of
stupidity of all of this, their response was to say, the IOC clear that
support as human right, it should be available to all regardless of race or
sexual orientation. The games themselves should be open to all, free of
discrimination, and that applies to spectators, officials, media, and of
course athletes. We would oppose in the strongest terms any move that
would jeopardize this principle.
That is of course, a lie, because they are not opposing the anti-gay
laws which do indeed, jeopardize that principle.
KIRCHIK: I think you`re right. And it is hardly surprising. I mean,
the IOC has to be one of the most corrupt organizations in the world and it
has been for many, many years. So it does not at all surprise me that they
would be very craven in the face of Vladimir Putin.
O`DONNELL: How do you anticipate Russian TV? You mentioned on the
show they had been running pretty much non-stop coverage of the Manning
case, now known as Chelsea Manning and Snowden, and reveling in that. And
they have done maybe one segment, which we were able to find the one
segment they have done on the anti-gay laws in which they had about four or
five people beating up the gay activist who was on the show. And so, they
cover is wildly lopsided in terms of let`s do the stories that we love.
You know, the Manning story.
How do you think the change to Chelsea Manning is going to affect
their coverage of what is now the Chelsea Manning story?
KIRCHIK: Interesting question, I don`t think it will affect it much
at all because remember today, Russia is not broadcast in Russia. It is
broadcast in English overseas. So they can touch this in a very different
way. They can continue to uphold Chelsea Manning as a hero. And they can
just ignore the hold gender issue because Russians are not hearing it. So
they can continue to promote Bradley Manning/Chelsea Manning as a hero,
because that is a very anti-American cause. He makes America look very bad
what Bradley Manning did and to promote him as a hero as supposed to a
traitor, makes the United States look bad which is ultimately what RT`s
agenda is all about. And they can sort of waive away or sort of ignore the
whole transgender issue and how that might conflict with the official
policy of the Russian government towards transgender people because the
Russian people are not actually seeing what "Russia Today" is broadcasting.
O`DONNELL: Now, James, if you had been successful in changing the
subject of the show and those other people were actually willing to engage
in a discussion of the anti-gay laws, I assume you would have been willing
to do that, too?
KIRCHIK: Of course. Yes, absolutely. But then, that is not what
they wanted to talk about. The only discussion that they have had of the
anti-gay laws on "Russia Today" have been completely one-sided, completely
staged, utterly cynical conversations. They have apparently they had to
have an openly gay guy who works for them, who is apparently British who
works for them. And like most of the western journalists who work for
Russia today. These people are complete failures in their own countries.
And so that is why they get a job there, because they can`t get a job at
MSNBC or CNN or BBC or any respectable news outlet.
So he was sort of the kind of gay step and fetch it that they had who
was saying well, you know, Britain had a law similar to this one until
2003, which was not true. I mean, section 28 in the UK was nowhere near as
draconian as what has been passed in Russia. So, their conversations of
this law have been completely and utterly lie one-sided. So, of course, I
would have loved to have debated it with them. That was not in the cards.
O`DONNELL: James Kirchik, you did a heroic job on Russian television.
And thank you very much joining us tonight. And the car is waiting, the
engine is running, wherever you want to go.
KIRCHIK: Thank you very much, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up in the rewrite, taxing marijuana.
O`DONNELL: In the rewrite tonight, the small business tax equity act.
Now, I know it sounds boring, but it is really all about marijuana and how
to tax marijuana.
Now one approach would be for Congress to rewrite the law and legalize
marijuana in all 50 states and then just tax it and regulate is as a normal
business. Two Democratic members of Congress actually, Earl Blumenauer of
Oregon and Jared Polis of Colorado have introduced the bill to do exactly
that. That simple solution. They would tax marijuana at $50 an ounce, if
that is OK with you, which could raise about $20 billion a year.
Legalizing pot does not seem to have majority support at the moment in
either the House or the Senate. And as we heard from the White House
yesterday, President Obama does not support changing the federal marijuana
law, quote, "at this point," end quote.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: I can tell you the
administration`s position on this has been clear and consistent for some
time now. That while the prosecution of drug traffickers remains an
important priority, the president and the administration believe that
targeting individual marijuana users, especially those with serious
illnesses and their caregivers is not the best allocation of federal law
enforcement resources. But at this time, the president does not advocate a
change in the law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That little phrase, at this point, has given much hope on
the Internet to pot growers, sellers, and users that President Obama may be
evolving on marijuana in the same way that he evolves on marriage equality.
The other marijuana tax bill in Congress, the aforementioned small business
tax equity act is a more targeted and undeniably fair bill.
The same two Democratic congressmen are sponsoring this bill too. It
provides the right to use standard business tax deductions for marijuana
businesses in those states where those businesses are legal. California`s
legal medical marijuana dispensaries, for example, file tax returns just
like all other businesses. But on their federal tax returns, the IRS does
not allow them any business deductions on the grounds that they are drug
The small business tax equity act would simply allow medical marijuana
dispensaries and other legal marijuana businesses to deduct normal business
expenses, rent, things like that, on their federal tax returns, just like
every other small businesses in America.
If Republican rhetoric about fair taxation for small businesses means
anything, every Republican should be ling up to support this bill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: And that is why we
have been insisted to the president, when we say that raising tax rates on
small business people is not going to help solve the number one issue,
which is jobs, for working people in this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: But of course, Republican rhetoric on the tax experiments
for small businesses does not mean anything. It is just the language
Republicans have chosen to mask their opposition to fair taxes on our
highest income earners.
So, Republicans are perfectly happy to see a small business targeted
by the IRS, as directed by Congress, to deny that small business, the same
tax deductions and tax treatments that all other small businesses enjoy.
And we don`t hear a peep out of Republicans about that extreme tax
unfairness to that small business.
And so the march to legalization of marijuana continues in the state.
While the federal government continues its war against progress. A war
that it will lose as decisively as it has already lost the war on drugs.
O`DONNELL: Republicans are abandoning a bad idea in favor of a truly
crazy idea. Governor Howard Dean joins me next.
O`DONNELL: President Obama set off on a two-day bus tour today with
stops in Buffalo and Syracuse. And said this about the Republican efforts
to shut down the government over the affordable care act.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Rather than keeping
focus on a growing economy that creates good middle class jobs, you know,
we have seen a faction of Republicans in Congress suggest that maybe
America shouldn`t pay its bills that have already been run up. That we
should shut down government if they can`t shut down Obama care. You know,
that won`t grow our economy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: As more Republicans realize that shutting down the
government to defund Obamacare will not work, some Republicans are coming
up with a new plan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TOM COBURN (R), OKLAHOMA: I actually don`t think it is a smart
strategy to shut down the government as a method of defunding the
Obamacare. I think if they want to do it, do it on the debt limit. Don`t
do it on the shutdown the government because our economy is so precarious
right now. And shutting down the government won`t stop Obamacare one
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And Aid to House majority leader, Eric Cantor, told the
news agency Reuters that this idea is quote "a good leverage point." A
leadership bid told NBC News, Obamacare is one of the many things we can
pursue on the debt limit.
Joining me now, former DNC chairman, Dr. Howard Dean.
Howard, so it seems when the Republicans realize they have a bad idea
that won`t work, they jump to a truly crazy idea that would do much more
damage than their other bad idea that won`t work.
HOWARD DEAN, FORMER DNC CHAIRMAN: You know, it is just astonishing to
watch the self-destruction of the Republican party. I think -- I don`t
know what they`re doing. I mean, They just lurks from one idea to stand to
offend everybody to another. They have already offended African-Americas,
Hispanics, women and gay people. And now they`re going to the business
community. Can you imagine what is going to happen on Wall Street if we
don`t pay our bills? I mean, and the Republicans are going to be
responsible for that.
I think that they are trying everything they can to make sure that we
get the Congress back in 2014. It is amazing to me.
O`DONNELL: Well, I love that Coburn`s line there when he says the
economy is just much too precarious right now to risk shutting down the
government. So, let`s risk not raising the debt ceiling and putting the
government into default in this precarious economy.
DEAN: You know, the interesting thing, Lawrence, is actually when you
actually think about it, both will shut down the government. Because what
a responsible president, and President Obama is certainly a responsible
president is going to do, is they are going to pay the debt. That`s they
are trying to do actually is stop spending the money on the government.
So, it is the same thing, really. This is silliness.
I`m a little surprised Tom Coburn, who is no dope, would say such a
thing like that. Because he has to understand that if you don`t pay your -
- the president is going to pay the bondholders, because he is not going to
allow us to go into default, which means he is not going to be able to pay
Social Security and all of those other things.
O`DONNELL: When you listen to guys like that, you always have to
wonder is he just saying this because he wants to sound tough about
something and so he is going to hang his hat on the debt ceiling thing,
betting that he will never have to deliver on that. And that`s makes you
wonder about a lot of this rhetoric, how much of it is just -- these
Republicans needing to sound tough in front of certain audiences.
DEAN: You see, I don`t get this, the smart people in the Republican
Party know this is just -- this is just nothing but turning off the
American people. The voters are so tired of this. I just don`t understand
why they keep pursuing this. I understand they have to play to their own
base. Their own base is getting smaller every single day.
O`DONNELL: Governor Dean, quickly, before you go, you made a trip to
Iowa recently, which provoked a lot of questions about is Howard Dean
running for president? And so this is as good a time as any to announce,
we can make some real news here tonight.
DEAN: Well, no, Lawrence, I`m not going to announce anything. It is
much too early to think about that. For the time being, I`m going to
support Hillary Clinton. I am making a lot of trips throughout because I
want to take back state legislatures this year. I was in Utah. I was in
Iowa. I`m going to New Hampshire and Virginia and a few other states. But
I`m not allowed to do that list thing anymore.
O`DONNELL: OK. Well, given what I just heard and I`m going to review
the tape of this to study word for word in that answer. But as for now,
I`m putting Howard Dean down as a "maybe."
Former governor Howard Dean, gets tonight`s "Last Word." And that
last word is "Maybe."
Thank you very much, Howard.
DEAN: Thanks very much.
O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes is up next.
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THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL