THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
October 17, 2013
Guest: Robert Costa, Mark Patterson; Richard Belzer
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: So, what were the lessons from taking
the government and the economy to the edge of the cliff?
President Obama said it should never happen again. And Mitch
McConnell agrees with him.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The 16-day government shutdown --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Federal workers going back to their jobs.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- finally came to an end.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let`s be clear. There
are no winners here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Back from the brink. At what cost?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An estimated $24 billion.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A $24 billion hit to the economy.
OBAMA: How business is done in this town has to change.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will Washington learn from the crisis in order
to face the next battle?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This certainly I think is a wake-up call.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: This fight, this debate will continue.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Although maybe not.
OBAMA: That`s not a surprise.
CRUZ: To see the House engage in a profile in courage. That was a
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: House Republicans got nothing in the deal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What they did end up getting were lower poll
OBAMA: That`s putting it mildly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Republican Party`s favorability ratings went
to an all time low.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We cannot do this kind of thing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some senator from Arizona, he was saying today.
MCCAIN: Which was a fool`s errand.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The shut down has been a fool`s errand.
MCCAIN: Which was a fool`s errand.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is really a fight for the soul of the
OBAMA: That doesn`t mean we can`t make progress.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president outlined three areas of focus.
OBAMA: Passing a budget, immigration reform, farm bill.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Obama trying to reshape the focus.
OBAMA: There as it lot of noise out there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The government is back open after a 16-day shut
down at least for 90 days.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was the big takeaway? Well, for one --
OBAMA: How business is done in this town has to change!
O`DONNELL: Republicans picked an unnecessary legislative fight with
President Obama and they lost, completely.
Today, President Obama explained that the economy suffered a big loss,
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: There are no winners here. These last few weeks have
inflicted completely unnecessary damage on our economy. We don`t know yet
the full scope of the damage, but every analyst out there believes it`s
slowed our growth.
And for what? There was no economic rationale for all of this. Over
the past four years our economy has been growing, our businesses have been
creating jobs and our deficits have been cut in half.
We hear some members who pushed for the shut down say they were doing
it to save the American economy. But nothing has done more to undermine
our economy these past three years than the kind of tactics that create
these manufactured crises. Some of the same folks who pushed for the shut
down and threatened default claim their actions were needed to get America
back on the right track, to make sure we`re strong.
But probably nothing has done more damage to America`s credibility in
the world, our standing with other countries, than the spectacle that we
have seen these past several weeks. It`s encouraged our enemies. It`s
emboldened our competitors. And it`s depressed our friends who look to us
for steady leadership.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The president also spoke of lessons learned from the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: One of the things that I hope all of us have learned these
past few weeks is that it turns out smart, effective government is
important. It matters. I think the American people during the shut down
had a chance to get some idea of all of the things, large and small, that
government does that make a difference in people`s lives.
And we hear all the time about how government is the problem. Well,
it turns out we rely on in a whole lot of ways. Let`s work together to
make government work better, instead of treating it like an enemy. We`re
purposely making it work worse.
That`s not what the founders of this nation envisioned when they gave
us the gift of self government. You don`t like a particular policy -- or a
particular president -- then argue for your position. Go out there and win
an election. Push to change it. But don`t break it. Don`t break what our
predecessors spent two centuries building.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: To learn from their hopeless battle with President Obama
and the Democrats that ended in the Republicans total surrender. Today,
Mitch McConnell said that the next time around, quote, "a government shut
down is off the table. We`re not going to do it."
Senator McConnell said that in a frank interview with Robert Costa for
the "National Review Online." Senator McConnell said, quote, "One of my
favorite sayings, an old Kentucky saying, there`s no education in the
second kick of a mule."
When Robert Costa asked McConnell, "When did you know this standoff
was finally ending?" McConnell replied, "I can tell you when I knew that
we`d end up here, July."
Joining me now, Robert Costa, the Washington editor for "The National
Review". And Kornacki, host of MSNBC`s "UP."
Robert, so there`s the Republican leader in the Senate saying it was
quite obvious to him three months ago that there was only one way this
thing was going to end.
ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL REVIEW: That`s exactly right, Lawrence.
Senator McConnell told me today that he knew in the summer the
strategy would never work, but it took a long time for many conservative
Republicans to come around to that idea, to accept that divided government
would not yield major concessions from the administration.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to one of the people that Mitch McConnell
could not convince that this battle was a bad idea, Ted Cruz on Mark
Levin`s radio show.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
CRUZ: You know it should have been the Senate Republicans that rode
like the cavalry to support the courageous stand House Republicans were
taking. Instead, they became the air force bombing our own troops, bombing
House Republicans, bombing conservatives. And you can`t win when one half
of Congress turns its cannons on the other half.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Steve, he loves military imagery, of course, being one of
the many members of Congress who never would dream of being in the military
himself. But he is saying the Senate Republicans were bombing our own
troops. His language is getting more inflammatory.
STEVE KORNACKI, UP: I mean, this is the game that Ted Cruz plays.
This is why, for everything you heard from Mitch McConnell, you heard from
Republicans, like Mitch McConnell, in the last 24 to 48 hours, about we`re
not going to go down the road. I am skeptical. I have my doubts, because
the basic game that Ted Cruz plays, for instance, he takes Obamacare, he
takes the shut down. And he says, we`ve got to force the shutdown, we`ve
got to threaten a default over getting rid of Obamacare.
What`s coming from the other side and what plays into Cruz`s hand from
the rest of the Republicans who don`t want to do that -- they`re not
disputing the policy. They`re not saying, well, no. We should try to
acknowledge, Obamacare, should be working with Obamacare. They`re just
arguing on tactics.
And that`s what Ted Cruz wants. He wants an argument within the
Republican Party, tactics where he is able to set himself up, test of
purity, the voice of purity. If you are a real conservative, if you`re a
real conservative like me, who really wants to take it to the Obama
administration, really wants to fight Obamacare, this is the way to do it.
And it sets him up to always be able to say, hey, look, these other
guys who won`t go with me. Not because I`m selling out the ideology of
conservatism, it`s because they`re squishes. They`re scared of sort of
hardcore conservatives as I am. I still see that dynamic prevailing right
O`DONNELL: But, Mitch McConnell in Robert`s interview sound as
adamant about this as President Obama did. When he started saying he will
not compromise on the debt ceiling, repeatedly, Robert. He says to you, he
says it again for. One, you asked him, how does the party get beyond this
And the first thing he says to you is, well, for one we`re not going
to do this again in connection with the debt ceiling and with the
government shutdown. And then one of my favorite moments, many favorite
moments, Robert, your question to him, about Senator Cruz. You said what
is your take on Senator Ted Cruz who led what McConnell had already called
in the article a quixotic venture. That`s the shortest answer in the
McConnell says, I didn`t have any observations to make on that.
COSTA: Classic McConnell. >
COSTA: We really see from that, Lawrence, how -- even Mitch McConnell
who has been a conservative leader in Congress who can`t question that he
is a conservative record, he recognizes the reality moving forward, is that
to have any kind of legislative maneuvering ability, to be able to cut any
kind of deal on entitlements, or taxes reform. He needs to have conference
He is exhausted by the process. He called it a quixotic effort. And
I think that really captures where McConnell stands on a lot of these
issues on the right.
O`DONNELL: He called it -- he said they squandered time over what he
said to you was this quixotic venture that had no chance of success. He
kept drilling that in.
It`s very interesting exchange in here, Robert. You have with him
about what everybody in Washington and observing the situation has been
thinking, which is that he is in a re-election campaign, it`s a tough
situation. I`m going to read this whole exchange.
You asked him, you said, "A lot of reporters think your decisions are
driven by political considerations in your home state, especially your
primary versus Matt Bevin and potential general election versus Democrat
Alison Lundergan-Grimes. How are those factors shaping your strategy?"
Great question. Fascinated the way he began his answer. He says,
"Oh, that`s the `Mother Jones` thesis." And I love that it is "National
Review" reporter asking him, the "Mother Jones" thesis. He then says, I
have nothing to say about my primary opponent. That`s his first and only
thing he says about the primary opponent.
Now, I`m going to go back to what he said about, Alison Grimes. But,
Robert, what about that is? He not worried about primary?
COSTA: I think Senator McConnell right now is quite confident about
his chances in the primary. He sees Bevin as a Tea Party challenger and
has support. But he`s not becoming a national Tea Party figure. He`s not
gathering momentum and donations from a lot of small dollar donors outside
So, McConnell is really focusing now from based our interview and
conversations on the general election on Alison Lundergan-Grimes. And she
is running against him as she is running against him as someone an
obstructionist in Washington.
So his point was quite cutting and frank in the interview. He said,
well, I just cut this deal. I made it happen in terms of governing. So,
you can`t make the argument. He thinks Alison Grimes, quote, "needs a new
rationale for her candidacy."
O`DONNELL: Yes, Steve Kornacki, he says in here, "It`s been a bad 24
hours for her."
She is accusing him of being part of the problem. But in the last 24
hours, he was part of the solution.
KORNACKI: It`s interesting because McConnell really has the dual
challenge that not a lot of Republicans have. A lot of times, we talk
about the Republicans who have to worry about Tea Party challenge, only
about the primary. That`s one of the issues that Mitch McConnell was
But he`s also in a red state. But he`s never been a real safe bet for
re-election, 30 years in the U.S. Senate. He`s usually winning his races
with 52, 53, 54 percent of the vote in Kentucky. So, if he also has --
it`s interesting. He sort of erring on the side of the general election
imperative here, and not the primary imperative.
But again, what I`m wondering is, I think within Republicans, among
Republicans in Washington, there`s probably a consensus coming out of this.
And let`s not go down this road again, let`s not go down the road of
government shut down and default. I don`t know if that`s trickled down to
the Republican base.
What I`m asking going forward is, does the Republican base believe
that if only their representatives in Washington would fight harder, they
could get rid of Obamacare tomorrow. If that prevails among the Republican
base, very interesting to see what a guy like McConnell is saying, two,
three months from now.
O`DONNELL: And, Robert, in the latest poll, Senator McConnell is
actually running a couple of points behind Alison Grimes.
COSTA: No, I think he realizes that Steve is right. That he has a
tough general election ahead. And as much as he has been talking about the
primary, it`s really Grimes who`s his chief competitor this year and next
So, I think McConnell, right now, he looks at the House as a
dysfunctional body. He has a lot of support and friendship for Speaker
Boehner. But when it comes to making things happen politically, he is the
person who has it. He talks about how the minority in the Senate is really
driving the conversation forward for Republican leadership.
That`s an important point because as the House almost falls away and
fade in terms of crafting legislation. It is McConnell again and again and
again who`s stepping into the center being the guy who cuts the deal.
O`DONNELL: Great questions in there about his relationship with Harry
Reid. Everyone should read the full interview. I have tweeted it out to
my universe, Robert.
COSTA: We appreciate that, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Everyday I could.
Robert Costa and Steve Kornacki, thank you both for joining me
COSTA: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up -- Joy Reid and David Corn join me with their
analysis about what the president says are the lessons of the government
And the government shutdown cost the United States $24 billion. And
that`s just the beginning. Ezra Klein and Mark Patterson will join us with
And the end of an era, a character who has been on more television
series than any other character, left the air last night, the actor who has
the record for the longest time playing a character. Richard Belzer will
join me. Detective Munch gets tonight`s LAST WORD.
And in the rewrite tonight, what Ted Cruz has in common with a father
who has 10 children on Medicaid. They both hate government.
O`DONNELL: When Cory Booker takes the oath of office in the United
States Senate, Cory Booker will become the fourth African-American elected
to the Senate. Republican Senator Edward Brook, Republican of
Massachusetts. He was first elected to the Senate in 1966. Carol Mosley-
Braun became the first African-American woman in 1988, followed by Barack
Obama in 2004.
Three other African-Americans were appointed to the Senate by state
governors: Roland Burress, Tim Scott, and Mo Cowan.
The first African-Americans to serve in the U.S. Senate was Hiram
Rhoades Revels in 1870, followed by Blanch K. Bruce in 1875. Both were
elected by the Mississippi state legislature during Reconstruction before
the 17th Amendment, of course was ratified in 1913. Senators were chosen
by state legislatures, not by direct popular vote.
Up next, the lessons of the shutdown according to President Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: To all my friends in Congress, understand that how business is
done in this town has to change. Now that the government is reopened and
this threat to the economy is removed, all of us need to stop focusing on
the lobbyists, and the bloggers and the talking heads on radio and the
professional activists who profit from conflict, and focus on what the
majority of Americans sent us here to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Boy, I`m glad he didn`t say the talking heads on TV.
Joining me, David Corn, Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones" and
MSNBC political analyst, and MSNBC`s Joy Reid, managing editor of "The
Joy you, have done enough hosting here at MSNBC to know what it is
like when the teleprompter is rolling by quickly. I don`t know if this
happened to you. But little mistakes are in the prompter, you go, wait,
that`s not -- I just said in a previous segment, that Carol Mosley Braun
was elected in 1988, as the word 8, wait a minute. I was there. The
prompter keeps going. You have to keep reading. Of course, she elected in
1992, the first African-American woman senator.
But to get back on track here, that`s so much for the corrections.
Joy, the president was really forceful today and what struck me about his
tone in the speech is -- it was identical to the way he was speaking right
after his re-election when he first started to say "I will not bargain in
any way on the debt ceiling."
JOY REID, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, absolutely. I think that the big
narrative on the right was that they just didn`t believe that Barack Obama,
when he said that after the election. Yes, whatever, because they were
still thinking about the narrative of 2011 when he actually in the end did
cut a deal to avoid going over the debt limit.
But this was a president who was really saying, straight forwardly,
no, no, seriously. I am not going to do it. They never believed him. He
never blinked. And thus, we had total surrender.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Nancy Pelosi had to say, and her
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), DEMOCRATIC LEADER: The cynicism is about the
fact the government was closed for 16 days, the full credit and faith of
America was in doubt, and why? Because of the anti-government ideologues
in the Republican caucus, the tail wagging the dog, and everybody described
it, just a few, 30-some, 100, 62 percent of their caucus voted to keep
government shutdown -- 62 percent of their caucus voted to default on the
full faith and credit of the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: But, David, across the way in the Senate, a majority of
Republican senators voted to reopen the government and raise the debt
DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES: Now, I think the president gave a good
Let me quibble with something. He went back to one of his preferred
positions which is the above Washington dysfunction position. You know, he
stepped back, you know from the negotiations when he couldn`t do anything
with John Boehner. He didn`t have good negotiating partner. He let Mitch
McConnell and Reid do a deal, and which he was unhappy to endorse.
But when he came out today and described what was wrong, what was
broken in Washington, it wasn`t what he had said a week earlier when he
were heading towards default, which was it was the -- close to what Nancy
Pelosi just said, a small band of ideological extremists in the Republican
Party in the House. He went back to the system is broken, there are
extremes on both sides. He used extreme with a plural, on both sides that
have gotten in the way of compromise here in Washington. And we have to
break through all of the noise from the lobbyists and the talking heads,
apparently on both sides.
And so this is, the comfortable position for him. He ran this way in
2008, tried to do it again, in 2012. He doesn`t want to point fingers the
way Nancy Pelosi did.
And I can understand he wants to be president of everybody. But we
have to keep reminding people, people have short attention spans, what
brought us to this point. And it`s not equal on each side. The extremes
are not equal here.
O`DONNELL: Joy, that -- that element struck me as the president in
complete triumph, just complete wipeout of the Republicans on this, just
not wanting to just, spike the football on them.
REID: And I agree with you, Lawrence, because, I think, look,
everybody understands. John Boehner is the one who said total surrender.
And that`s what they did. They got nothing. They literally held up the
government for 17 days, they got absolutely nothing.
And the president knows that he completely vanquished them. However,
they`re now about to go into a negotiation over the budget. And I mean,
maybe it is because, I just got finished "Tip and The Gipper" last week
that I`ve really sort of looking at it in the sense if you got to look the
bigger picture --
O`DONNELL: Excuse me, that`s "Tip and The Gipper" by Chris Matthews.
OK, we do not --
REID: By Chris Matthews.
O`DONNELL: We do not cite the book without the word Chris Matthews.
REID: Right. Just for a minute, listen, he has got to go negotiate
with the people shortly and sort of spiking the football would feel great
to his base. But we already know he beat the Republicans. Everybody knows
He has now got to deal with them and their leadership. It probably
wouldn`t help to spike the football with their name written on it.
CORN: Let`s remember too, let`s remember too. Going to -- these
negotiations we have had several times in the past few years. None of the
basic fundamental dynamics have changed. They have lost -- yes, they have.
But the House Republicans look at the list of quotations at "Mother
Jones", and others have cited on the network this evening from the House
Republicans, that they`re aiming and egging themselves on for another
fight. And so, again, the president`s not going into a -- you know into a
new situation. It`s the same old you know what with the same folks.
And why anyone thinks we can now get an agreement, with Paul Ryan who
will be running for the Tea Party presidential nomination, the Republican
Party, in 2016, is kind of beyond me. And the president has to -- not set
up expectations, he has to keep educating folks what he is up against -- up
against even in these negotiations.
O`DONNELL: Joy Reid, and David Corn, thank you both for joining me
CORN: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up in the rewrite: what drives Ted Cruz, who are
the voters who support Ted Cruz? You will meet one of them tonight`s
rewrite, a man whose family could not survive without government
And later, Richard Belzer is here, played the longest running
character in television history, 21 seasons as Detective Munch. All of
that ended last night in the final scene of "Law & Order SVU."
O`DONNELL: In the spotlight tonight, the economic impact of
government shut down. It`s still too early to determine all of the damage
the last 16 days caused to the United States economy.
But, yesterday, Standard & Poor`s gave us a preview. It estimates the
shut down cost the economy $24 billion. That`s $1.5 billion a day.
A new report by Macro Economic Advisers takes a broader look at the
cost of the brinksmanship. It finds that all the budget battles since
2010, all of the battles have cost the economy nearly 3 percent of GDP,
which adds up to $700 billion and more than 2 million jobs. The Bureau of
Labor Statistics announced today that the September jobs report which
should have been released on October 4th won`t be out until next Tuesday,
October 22nd, because of the government shutdown.
"The New York Times" reports the unemployment data are being watched
especially closely now because the Federal Reserve has said any decision on
whether to ease back on stimulus efforts depends on continuing improvement
in the labor market and without information from the Labor Department`s
Bureau of Labor Statistics no one knows if that is happening.
Joining me now, "The Washington Post`s" Ezra Klein, MSNBC policy
analyst. And Mark Patterson, former chief of staff to Secretary Jack Lew.
Ezra Klein, when you run by the numbers quickly, I think it`s hard for
you to land, but this cost of shutdown, and repeated shutdown, and repeated
brinksmanship is just astonishing.
EZRA KLEIN, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: These are huge numbers.
We should say this is impressionistic. People are taking their best guess
who have taking in the data. I think the macroeconomic advisers` number is
the really interesting one because there you are looking at spending we cut
out in the last couple years. It is a very common thing to look at in
addition to looking at, at, a certain policy on a certain index.
But the thing none of these numbers actually do take into account. I
think this is really important. Right? These numbers are about the harm
we he caused the economy through bad policy, through uncertainty, through
your showdowns, through brinksmanship. None of them deal with the things
we haven`t done to make the economy better, right? None of them deal with
the many things we could accomplish to improve the economy, to improve the
jobs situation while we were instead shutting down the government, fighting
over premature deficit reduction.
So that, I think, is the other side of this. Right. While Washington
is doing, Washington is doing damage, the other thing it is not doing is
sort of the affirmative good that we could use. Right? Infrastructure
investments we dent d didn`t do. All that could have actually help the
O`DONNELL: Now, Standard & Poor`s predicts today, if people are
afraid the government policy of brinksmanship will resurface again and with
it the risk of another shutdown or worse they will remain afraid to open up
their check books. That points to another humbug holiday season.
Now Mark Patterson, we have Ted Cruz out there not ruling out another
shut down. But you have, I think much more importantly, Mitch McConnell
definitively ruling out another shut down.
MARK PATTERSON, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF, TREASURY DEPARTMENT: Yes,
Lawrence. You know what? That`s great. And I am glad he said that
because it send a good message.
But you know what would send a much more powerful message if Congress
goes ahead and enacts a law to do away with debt limit brinksmanship
forever. And that is not hard to do. In fact, a version of it that is
actually inserted into the law they passed last night. All it would need,
all that would need how to be done is make it permanent. And it was
actually named after Senator McConnell. It is his provision. So, I think
doing something like that would reassure the world in a way that no
statements, no interviews and national review or elsewhere could do. And
it would be a really, a tremendous message to the world that we are not
scald (ph) law nation. We are going to pay our debts. And we are still
the stable country that lead the world in economic policy.
O`DONNELL: Mark, you of course, have read every word of the bill they
passed last night. Can you amplify for us a little bit what this provision
is that you are talking about?
PATTERSON: Yes. The way it works, Lawrence. And this was used to
raise the debt limit a couple of year ago. Senator McConnell authored a
provision that sort of inverts the process. What it does is it allows the
president to raise the debt limit. And, Congress has a chance to
disapprove that increase if they want to.
But of course it would take a law to do that. It has to pass through
both Houses with the president`s signature. And it is very unlikely that
such a law would pass. So, it, maintains Congress` congressional authority
over borrowing. And it gives them that oversight, that ability to object.
But it does not allow the threat of default to be a recurrent, ever-present
overhang over our economy.
O`DONNELL: Ezra Klein, Ted Cruz mentioned you today in the Mark
Levine radio show interview. So, as a point of personal privilege, I`m
going to give you a chance to respond. Let`s listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Big business has been given a one-year
delay contrary to the law, and yet President Obama shutdown the federal
government to deny that same delay to hard working American families. I
mean there is so much widespread agreement that this thing is a train
wreck. You have Wolf Blitzer on CNN saying the president should delay this
for a year. You got Ezra Klein coming out in "the Washington Post" saying
the president should delay it for a year.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Ezra, go ahead.
KLEIN: I didn`t know about that. Not only I didn`t know that about
that interview. I didn`t know I wrote that in "the Washington Post." I
think this is news to me. That sounds like an odd opinion for me to hold.
Look. The rollout of Obamacare, I have tried to be, and I continue to
be very tough on the administration. They rolled this out in a very, very
bad way. The Web site is no working. It is not working yet. It is
getting better. The load times are getting much, much better. We are
getting many more reports of people getting through. In the states, people
are getting through.
But the idea you should delay it for year, I don`t think we are
anywhere near that point yet. At any rate, you would never want to delay
the whole for a year because you have hundreds of thousands of people who
have already got insurance. Like one is you have all the states that are
running their own exchanges. But also, all the states are using Medicaid.
I believe in California, you are looking at 600,000 people through their --
in Oregon. They have already cut their uninsured rules by 10 percent using
You would be taking insurance away from all these people if you delay
the whole for a year. So, no. I think we should fix the law. I think the
Obama administration should do what they said they would do and make the
law actually work. But I don`t think we should be delaying for a year.
O`DONNELL: Ezra Klein and Mark Patterson. Thank you both for joining
KLEIN: Thank you.
PATTERSON: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, if you can watch Richard Belzer`s last scene on
Loner SPU after a 21-year run as detective munch without coming close to
shedding a tear, then you are a much tougher TV viewer than I am. We are
going to show that scene. Richard Belzer will join me. We will try -- we
will try not to cry.
O`DONNELL: New York mayor Michael Bloomberg had the law changed so he
could serve a third term. And it turns out if you are mayor of New York
for three full terms, you eventually run out of things to say, you run out
of things to comment on which is why, Mayor Bloomberg proved that today by
saying this. If I were a woman, I think I would wear high heels. He
actually said that. And if I were a woman, I think I would wear slippers.
Next in the rewrite, those people who hate government programs except
the government programs that they themselves benefit from. Those people
are called tea party Republicans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GREG COLLETT, FORMER STATE SENATE, IDAHO: I am (INAUDIBLE) and I am
running for state representative, position A in district 11. And I am -- I
have been happily married for 16 years to my wife Kelly. We have ten
children. We were former foster children. And eight of our ten kids are
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was Greg Collett last year when he was running for
state representative in Ohio. He was, of course, running as a Republican
because -- I`m sorry, Idaho, I`m just told in my ear. He was actually
hoping to win in Idaho, that`s why he was running as a Republican because
in Idaho the word Democrat is synonym for socialist. Collett was defeated
in the Republican primary. He ran, of course, in favor of lower taxes and
reduced spending. And quote "securing our individual god given rights,"
end quote. Perhaps his campaign would have gone better if he had cut
government spending during his campaign which he alone among the candidates
was empowered to do all by himself even though he had no role in government
then. If he had just said I am so intensely serious about cutting
government spending. I will take my ten children off Medicaid. He would
have cut government spending by $27,000 that year in Idaho. That`s how
much ten kids cost to cover in Idaho`s Medicaid program. That`s right.
The cut government spending guy has all ten of his kids on Medicaid
for years. Medicaid is funded by federal government money and state
government, the state government that Greg Collett was running to be a part
of when he said he wanted to cut government spending.
He is not just against government spending. He is against just about
everything government does. He has written a partial list of what he is
against. I am against marriage licenses as I am against property taxes. I
am against federal ownership of land. I am against national parks. I am
against driver`s licenses, license plates. Public funding of
transportation systems, building permits, public libraries, public schools,
He has also written, I am against the 17th amendment. That of course
is the amendment that allows voters to choose United States senators
instead of state legislatures, choosing United State senators. So, he is
against the direct election of United States senators which means he is
And of course, of course, he is one of those people who you see at
every tea party rally who says, as he recently wrote, I am against
government mandated health insurance exchanges. Well, I mean, if you are
against driver`s license and license plates, of course, you are going to be
against government mandated health insurance exchanges. That makes perfect
He also writes I am against Medicaid. Greg Collett is a God-fearing,
Mormon father of ten who believes the government should not provide health
insurance or health care of any kind to anyone and all ten of his kids are
The Greg Colletts of this country are the people for whom the
government was just shut down for 16 days. The Greg Colletts of Texas who
voted for Ted Cruz, the Greg Colletts of Kentucky voted for Rand Paul. The
government shutdown was designed to appeal to the crowd who is so
completely against government-mandated health care exchanges that they
believe the entire government should be shut down in order to prevent those
insurance exchanges from even existing.
Republicans were threatened with an army of incoherent Greg Colletts
in their congressional districts in their states if they would support a
rise in the debt ceiling. Those supporters, those Greg Collett types out
there would rise up. They find a tea party challenger to put in a primary
against any Republican congressman or senator who didn`t support shutting
down the government. That was the threat. And every day that the Greg
Collets of this country cheered on the government shutdown, the real Greg
Collett had ten kids who are on Medicaid, a program that could not be
shutdown because it was run by the states and funded automatically by the
Greg Collett is clearly something far beyond a mere Republican. Greg
Collett is a libertarian. And in his public statement of beliefs, Greg
Collett is a much, much more extreme libertarian than Rand Paul, a much
stronger libertarian than Rand Paul, but not in his life choices. Rand
Paul has never had any kids on Medicaid.
In Greg Collett`s rambling essay, defending his extreme libertarianism
while asking the government to pay for his children`s health care, he
wrote, individuals are to take responsibility for their own situations. If
they cannot meet their obligations, they should turn to their families for
support. If families are not able to help, they should go to churches or
other charitable organizations for assistance. Government should not be
Greg didn`t explain why the Mormon church his church has chosen not to
help him meet his family obligations, his obligations to his children. And
why no other charitable organizations have helped him meet what he calls
his obligations to his children, Greg Collett says that because he pays or
perhaps in the past has paid some taxes quote "I do not lose any sleep over
anything I do to redirect funds towards me," end quote.
But given that Greg`s children qualify for Medicaid because his income
is low enough, it is extremely unlikely that Greg actually pays even one
penny in federal income taxes, the primary funding source of Medicaid. And
if Greg does pay any federal income taxes, which as I said is
mathematically very unlikely, there is virtually no chance that he has paid
nearly as much in taxes as he collects from the government in Medicaid.
Now I for one am very, very glad that in the serpent`s nest of
irrationality that is Greg`s brain he has made the correct choice for his
kids and enrolled them all in a government health care system that is
helping to keep them all healthy. I am glad that he has not making his
children suffer for his political idea. I would call them political
beliefs, but he clearly doesn`t believe them. He just says these things.
So his being against everything government does isn`t really a belief,
it`s just a pose. As it is with Ted Cruz as it is with Michele Bachmann
whose family has lived on government agriculture subsidies while she rails
against government spending. The anti-government crowd is against
government only in theory. In real life, they are eager to take from the
government whatever is good for them. Libertarian, anti-government renter,
Greg Collett`s explanation in writing, for why his ten kids have been on
Medicaid for years is quote "it is the only practical choice," end quote.
The Greg Colletts of this country have no capacity to understand
anyone else`s problems. That`s what makes them dysfunctional as citizens
and voters. Greg Collett believes that Medicaid is the only practical
choice for his ten children. And he cannot comprehend that it is the only
practical choice for everyone else whose income is low enough to qualify
for it. And yes, Medicaid is socialism, pure and simple socialism, and it
is good socialism. And like all good socialism, it is the only practical
O`DONNELL: Longest running character in TV history joins me next and
I am going to have to fight off the tears.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have to admit that I did underestimate you at
first. But over time I realized that detective Munch was not only a
brilliant detective, but a very, very soulful man.
I will miss you very much, John munch.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was the retirement party we thought we would never
see. Detective John Munch played on two different television series over
21 seasons and made guest appearances on several other series. Richard
Belzer introduced Detective Munch on NBC`s "Homicide, Life on the street"
in 1993. Detective Munch the longest running character in the history of
primetime television. All that came to an end last night when "Law & Order
SVU fans" watched Detective Munch`s final season.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You had one hell of a run, Sergeant Munch.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did I? I don`t know where it all went.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My friend, thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m pulling them now. I`m looking at them now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Homicide. I mean SVU. Hold on. I`ll get you a
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now, my buddy, Richard Belzer.
Richard, I cannot imagine what it was like that day on the set, to
have your final wrap, final scene.
RICHARD BELZER, PLAYS DETECTIVE, SERGEANT MUNCH: It was much more
emotional than I thought it would be, Lawrence. And I must say that the
risk of being immodest, the thousand of fan mail I get, you know, from
twitter and whatever, those other services are, has been so moving and so
usually, you know, people will write. You are a jerk, or something, you
know, but there is hundreds and hundreds of people just saying they`re
going to cry they`re going to drink they`re going, don`t know what they`re
going to do. It`s like I didn`t realize, you know, until last night the
depth of the affection for the character. I mean, I know I was, you know
well-liked, but this was, I`m speechless for a change.
O`DONNELL: Yes, well. I mean, I realized that. I knew it was
coming. I mean, this was a huge television history moment. And, it is a
amazing, first of all, that the character ever transferred from homicide to
law & order, just an amazing feat.
But I want to show why this character did transfer. I want to look
back, when Detective Munch, man of few word in law & order, but he was much
more talkative in homicide. Let`s take a look at that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, can you switch that channel off.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All I got on is sitcoms and news magazines.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, yes, but soon, very soon, there is going to
be like 500 channels besides sports channel, weather channel, there will be
the ballet channel, dog food channel, the all Dradle network, don`t be any
books, newspapers, no telephones. It will only be the communicate with e
mail, and QVC. We will all be interactive. All you need to see and hear,
you will see and hear without ever having to rise from your bed. I am
talking high definition. I am talking virtual reality. I am talking
living in the fast lane. The electronic information super highway. You
better get ready, because it`s coming.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: So great to watch the great Ned Beatty in there. And you
predicted the world, you and of course, the homicide writers, Tom Fontana
and Barry Levine (ph) from the amazing creative gang there.
BELZER: I did that speech before I had a laptop.
BELZER: That`s how prophetic Tom Fontana was. And he let me add the
all Dreidle (ph) network to the list.
O`DONNELL: Was that yours? You wrote that?
BELZER: Well, just that word. That line.
O`DONNELL: Yes, perfect. And one of the great honors you had over
the years was the, the Muppets doing their version of Richard Belzer`s
Detective Munch. I think we can roll some of that.
BELZER: You got that. OK.
O`DONNELL: We can roll it while we keep talking. Stick it up there.
BELZER: I used to date. Look at Munch. With the, the tooth pick. I
tell you I could have died that day when I saw that. Because I used to,
years ago I was dating a girl and her mother said, you wear sneakers.
You`ll never be on "Sesame Street." like thieves wear sneakers in the 70s.
So, like, you know, 30 yea later I`m on sesame street.
O`DONNELL: You, Detective Munch guested on ten other series I think.
BELZER: Yes, yes. The main character.
O`DONNELL: The wardrobe is still around, right, in case there is a
call for a guest shot somewhere or? This could be something, right? Give
us some hope, Richard. Give us some hope.
BELZER: My schedule is wide open, Lawrence. So, if, any show wants
to have me on I`m there.
O`DONNELL: Richard, really, a beautiful performance all the way
through from start to finish. And that final scene was just incredible.
BELZER: Thank you, Lawrence. I really appreciate you have me on
O`DONNELL: Thank you very much for joining us, Richard.
BELZER: I want to thank all my great fans too.
O`DONNELL: Thanks, Richard.
BELZER: OK, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes is up next.
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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Thursday, October 17th, 2013
THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL