'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Thursday, October 31st, 2013

October 31, 2013
Guest: Michael Hiltzik, Wendell Potter, John Ridley; Steve Clemons

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Here`s a Halloween treat for you. An
8 year old dressed up as a Boston cop in 1925. He got a much bigger job
than that when he grew up and, yes, that is his sister, Eunice, admiring
his uniform. You can see that picture of the 35th president of the United
States at the Kennedy library.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The American public is mad as hell.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s been a rough couple weeks in Washington.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And they`re not going to take it anymore. It`s an
American horror story politically. Boy, is it scary.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People are sick of even their own

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sixty-three percent want a new member of Congress.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s a very negative rebuke for everybody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first shock wave really hit the Republican

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: It`s utterly maddening.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will anything spook Ted Cruz?

CRUZ: Count me a proud whacko bird.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who is the top leader? It`s Ted Cruz.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: That would be the end of the
Republican Party.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Signs of a party decline are already coming into

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Republicans have to be worried.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those numbers freak people out. Who cares? This
guy is scary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The number they care about is the fund-raising

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Boy, is it scary.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The rocky rollout of Healthcare.gov.

OBAMA: The Web site hasn`t worked the way it`s supposed to.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The GOP`s glitch-hunt against Obamacare.

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MAJORITY LEADER: I have a constituent that
received this cancellation letter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My constituents can`t keep their health care plan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A subpar policy.

OBAMA: Ever since the law was passed, you got to replace them with
quality comprehensive coverage.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How frustrated is he?

OBAMA: We`re in this together. And we are going to see it through.

CANTOR: We need to delay the mandate tax. We need to fix this

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think they`re going to do more than root for

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s been a rough couple weeks in Washington.

ANN COULTER: The shutdown was so magnificent, run beautifully. I`m
so proud of these Republicans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s an American horror story politically.



O`DONNELL: Now that Rafael call me Ted Cruz, has promised his fellow
Republican senators he will stop attacking them, he might need to get his
father to tone it down, too.


RAFAEL CRUZ, SEN. TED CRUZ`S FATHER: The attacks not just come from
the liberals. The attacks come from the other side too, all these
Republicans in name only. Washington is not used to what they have seen
with Senator Ted Cruz.

As a matter of fact, one of those RINOs came to him within the first
months like that saying, now, look, you`re a junior senator. You`re
supposed to be quiet.

And he said, I was not elected to be quiet. I`m not going to be

ATTENDEE: Was that John McCain who said that?

RAFAEL CRUZ: I refuse to answer on the grounds that it might
incriminate me.


O`DONNELL: Of course, Rafael Cruz, Sr. saves his harshest language
for the president of the United States.


RAFAEL CRUZ: We have our work cut out for us. We need to send Barack
Obama back to Chicago. I`d like to send him back to Kenya, back to



O`DONNELL: That was at a north Texas Tea Party event about two months
before Mitt Romney lost the presidential election.

And, of course, it was long after President Obama had produced his
birth certificate showing that unlike either Rafael Cruz, Sr., or Junior,
he was actually born in the United States.

Joining me now are MSNBC political analyst Steve Schmidt, senior
adviser on the McCain `08 campaign, and Joy Reid, MSNBC contributor and
managing editor of "The Grio".

Joy, this latest video about him wanting to send President Obama as he
puts it back to Kenya was pulled out today by "Mother Jones". It`s been
around. But they highlighted it.

And then, the senator put out a statement saying he doesn`t -- his
father doesn`t speak for him.

JOY REID, THE GRIO: Yes, it`s so precious when the guy whose son was
born in Canada does birther jokes. That`s adorable.

But it does sort of highlights kind of without the media officially
there, kind of the way conservatives are talking amongst themselves. And
that really is the problem. The problem is even with the 47 percent video,
this was Mitt Romney being asked by somebody in the audience how can we get
those moochers to stop taking our tax money and living on the dole. He
answered that question with 47 percent.

So, the conversations taking place inside conservatism, inside the
conservative base, they produce the hostility, the sort of rage, the
ugliness that shows itself outwardly in the politics of Ted Cruz. That`s
their problem.

O`DONNELL: Steve Schmidt, the other thing in that video is a strong
sense of superiority. That we are superior people to the other people
we`re talking about, be it the president of the United States or anyone
that votes for him.

damaging. When you look at the numbers the Republican Party image numbers
today after following the path laid down by Ted Cruz, you see the damage
that that has brought. This is a bad day for this to be out there for Ted
Cruz, because I think very clearly, even Ted Cruz by standing up today and
really for the first time acknowledging to his fellow senators, his
colleagues, distancing himself from the Senate Conservative Fund that I`m
not going to raise money to attack you anymore.

I think he understands that even his show while it is inspired some of
these people in the Tea Party, you know, it`s inflicting damage on him now.
And so, very perilous political situation and again I think the issue with
Rafael Cruz isn`t that it`s just a parent speaking, you know, he`s not the
only guy in the country who might have a crazy parent out there. The issue
is that he`s been identified in many, many serious news organizations as
Ted Cruz`s senior political adviser.

And I think it`s important that you communicate clearly not that my
father doesn`t speak for me but what`s wrong about that statement. The de-
legitimization of the president and that type of rhetoric has killed
Republicans and obscures our ability to make a policy argument. So, it`s

O`DONNELL: To go to Steve`s point about the polls, new NBC News/"Wall
Street Journal" poll -- it doesn`t have great news for any politician these

President Obama is at a new low for him with 41 percent positive
rating. But that is almost double the Republican Party`s positive rating
which is at 22. I have to say I didn`t know it could get that low. Tea
Party is 23. That`s where positive rating is, Joy Reid.

I want to go to something that is in "The New York Times" today.
Republican pollster on the issue of immigration reform is talking about
that and he said he worried about the Republican opposition to possibly
being based in racism. He said, "Racism may be a part of it. The
Republican Party needs to stop pandering to that," which I think is what we
just saw Rafael Cruz doing. "The Republican Party needs to throw in the
towel on the immigration issue."

REID: Yes, absolutely. And the thing that`s sort of interesting
about when Republicans try to recruit minorities and bring them into the
fold, what they wind up doing is bring in people who sort of primarily
feature -- one of the primary features is repudiation of their members of
their own group, right?

So, Clarence Thomas is popular because he constantly repudiates things
like affirmative action and sort of anathema to many African-Americans
which shows them that he`s pure of principle and better than other African-

And in the same way, they recruited Ted Cruz. Initially, Marco Rubio
-- he was the Tea Party guy who doesn`t bring Hispanic to the Republican
Party. He goes back to Hispanic and says I`ll bring you conservatism until
he did immigration reform. Once Marco Rubio stepped toward immigration
reform, he was seen as a traitor to conservatism.

And in comes Ted Cruz, -- similar profile. They`re both Cuban
American. But Ted Cruz is himself a Latino who says, no, I repudiate the
thing that 70 percent of my fellow Latinos want and that gives him the bona
fides within the conservative movement, but ironically it makes him useless
to them as someone to broaden the party`s base among Hispanic.

It`s sort of they get somebody who they like who can make other white
Republicans feel good about supporting a minority but who can`t help bring
in more minorities.

O`DONNELL: Steve Schmidt, you`ve got to think, when you hear someone
like Rafael Cruz, who`s, you know, very fluent in talking to Republican
audiences about what they want to hear. For him to be talking about
sending the president back to Kenya, if you want to look at an anti-
immigration frame that might have racial components to it, it seems to me
it`s right in there.

SCHMIDT: Look, there`s no doubt. It`s old news at this point that
the Republican Party can`t win national elections if it can`t do better
with Latino voters, if it can`t do better with Asian voters, with minority

And so, the damage here is being caused by ideologues and ideologues
are destructive in any political party, in any political organization
because an ideologue brings with them the capacity to look at the red wall
and insist that it`s blue. And we`re following ideologues down a policy
path that will ultimately lead to the destruction of the Republican Party`s
ability to compete as a national party. It will remain strong as a
regional party but not as a national party.

And so, when you look at the 22 percent caused by the way by the
tactlessness of so many Republicans for following this path that Ted Cruz
laid out when it was abundantly clear from the beginning that it was one
achievable, that it was unpopular and that the was no plausible exit
strategy from it, and at a time when Republicans have opportunities to
really define the policy deficiencies, I would argue in Obamacare, we`re
once again talking about distractions caused by Ted Cruz tonight.

And so, a lot of Republicans I think tonight look at Ted Cruz and wish
Ted Cruz would go back to Canada.

O`DONNELL: Joy Reid, everything Steve just said is what both Rafael
Cruz`s call establishment Republicans trying to go left. I listened to
Steve carefully. I don`t hear leftism in Steve Schmidt.

REID: He would be squish and RINO.

The irony is here is that Ted Cruz is perfectly following the
conservative model of Rush Limbaugh and other talk radio hosts. What they
do is they constantly prick at the sort of hurt feelings and anger and
range of their listeners to keep them hopped up and excited and listening
all the time every quarter out they got to keep rolling them over. Well,
Ted Cruz follows that model.

The Irony is that people like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, they are
happy to have a Democrat to beat up in the White house. They`re not
interested in winning elections. It doesn`t do them any good to have a
Republican in the White House because then what would they talk about?
They would have to become devoted to that president which doesn`t help
their ratings.

So, Ted Cruz is following the model of the people who least want to
win elections, but he`s using and claiming that could help win elections.
It`s so ironic but the reason why people like Steve Schmidt are losing
credibility among the base because they believe Rush and it will help to us
win the White House when clearly that`s not what Rush probably wants.

O`DONNELL: Steve Schmidt, the backlash seems to be under way by
establishment Republicans in Washington against Ted Cruz.

SCHMIDT: There`s no glory in losing election after election and
there`s no glory in committing yourself to strategies that are self-
evidently defeating the purpose of trying to build a majority that can win

So I think that people want to see a healthy Republican Party
advancing conservative principles making conservative policy arguments not
to see conservatives degenerate into a cult of personality.

And if you look at those polls as bad as they are, there`s no evidence
to suggest that they`re not on anything but a downward trend line. So, I
think as my former boss John McCain used to say, it`s always darkest before
it`s completely black when it comes to some of these numbers. You know, I
think there`s every expectation that they would be on a trend line to go

And so when you consider the damage that`s been done and people`s
ambition to see a Republican president again, I think it`s important to
despite all of the terrible news in these polls, there`s going to be a
governor re-elected on Tuesday in one of the bluest states in the country
with ultimately good number in a lot of communities where we have systemic
failure across the country.

So, it will be interesting Wednesday to try to find that silver cloud
up there. I think we`re going to see it.

O`DONNELL: Silver cloud of Chris Christie.

Steve Schmidt and Joy Reid, thank you both very much for joining me

REID: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, another episode of Obamacare horror story

And did you hear about President Obama`s big, big win in Syria this
week or America`s rapidly decreasing budget deficit? You haven`t? It`s
coming up.

And in the "Rewrite" tonight, everything you need to know and
everything Alec Baldwin needs to memorize about the new FAA rules on using
electronic devices on airplanes, and there will be a clip from "The West
Wing." And it`s the one that most of you on Twitter seemed to have
memorize since you`ve all been quoting it all day.


O`DONNELL: And now it`s time for tonight`s episode of "Too Late."

Sanford, Florida, the town where George Zimmerman shot and killed
teenager Trayvon Martin is now -- just now -- going to prohibit
neighborhood watch participant from carrying guns. The new rules will
state explicitly that residents acting under the authority of neighborhood
watch may not carry a firearm or pursue someone they deem suspicious.

Coming up, "The L.A Times" exposes another case of false media
hysteria about what`s really happening to people under the Affordable Care


O`DONNELL: In tonight`s episode of another Obamacare horror story
debunk -- the case of a California resident Deborah Cavallaro (ph), who
told her story on local television in Los Angeles and on network


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How much were you paying a nth and what are you
going to pay now under Obamacare?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right. I`m currently paying $293 a month.
Under Obama care, depending on the plan that I go with, it`s any place from
$478 to $500 a month for a, quote, "comparable" plan to what I have.
However, it`s not comparable in that I cannot go to my doctors or my


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So explain to me how it`s better for me?


O`DONNELL: Deborah Cavallaro, of course, was asking the wrong person.

But a "Los Angles Times" reporter watching her on television decided
to call her and compare the health insurance she had to the health
insurance she could get under the Affordable Care Act.

Michael Hiltzik found as he reported in his article headlined "Another
Obama care horror story debunked". Quote, "The bottom line is Cavallaro`s
assertion that there was nothing affordable about the Affordable Care Act
as she put it Tuesday on NBC Channel 4 is a product of her own
misunderstanding embedded by a passel of uninformed and incurious news

Joining me now, Michael Hiltzik, business columnist for "The Los
Angeles times" and the author of the recent book "The New Deal: A Modern

And Wendell Potter, a former health insurance executive with a new e-
book coming out December 6th entitled "Obamacare, What`s in It For Me, What
Everyone Needs to Know About the Affordable Care Act."

Michael, so tell me what happened when you got her on the phone
actually, according to your story, and you started comparing the plan she
had to what she could get?

MICHAEL HILTZIK, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES: Well, it was clear to me when
I listened to her when I read about what she had said and looked at the
clips that she wasn`t telling the whole story and probably didn`t
understand herself what her options were.

So I had her on the phone. I had Covered California in our state`s
exchange app and worked her through it, and she was surprised to learn this
$400 some odd a month plan she was pitched was not the best plan she could
get. She could get a better plan than she had for much less money than she
was paying because she had as many people who have had policies canceled
have had, she had junk insurance. It didn`t really cover very much.

Under Obamacare, she was eligible -- first of all, she was eligible
for $200 a month in income subsidies, premium subsidies and she could get a
bronze plan far superior to the plan she had for much less money.

So, she was perplexed. She was amazed. She was quite taken aback.

O`DONNELL: You know, I don`t want any of this to sound critical of
her because I think shopping for these kinds of plans is very difficult and
comparing apples too apples is difficult. It`s never been easy for
consumers to do this.

I just want to read, Michael, from your article, how you summarized
what she`s actually eligible for. You said she`s eligible for a good
silver plan for $333 a month after the subsidy, $40 a month more than she`s
paying right now, but the plan is much better than her current plan. The
deductible is $2,000 not $5,000. The maximum out-of-pocket expense is
$6,350 and not $8,500.

Her co-pays would be $45 for a primary care visit, and $65 for a
specialty visit. But all visits would be covered, not just two, which is
all her current plan had covered.

Wendell Potter, these kind of comparisons, I believe, are absolutely
necessary in every news story anyone wants to present about how someone is
"losing" under Obamacare.

right. More reporters should do exactly what Michael ha done. It`s what
we`re seeing is reporters generally not doing that at all and they`re not
looking at what insurance companies are doing and also to misinform people.

Aetna, for example, has been sending letters out to current customers
suggesting that they can enroll in plans early to avoid Obamacare. And
people are just not aware of the fact that they probably can get much
better coverage starting now for 2014 than they`ve been able to get in the

O`DONNELL: I want to put up a visual here. A chart of the so-called
winners and losers under Obamacare and a loser is being described as
someone who might have to buy a slightly more expensive plan but will also
have more benefits to it. There`s only 3 percent that come into that
category, 80 percent e big section of it unaffected. Those are largely
people who will have employer plans preserved as is.

There are 14 percent clear winners under this currently completely
uninsured people who will gain access to health care that they would not
have had. There`s a group of no real consequences at all about 3 percent.
So, this is the -- Michael, the 80 percent there is basically the group
that the president was talking about when he was campaigning for this
saying if you like your health insurance you can keep it.

But, Michael, I want to you talk about the journalistic
responsibilities in going into these stories and presenting these people as
witnesses against the Affordable Care Act.

HILTZIK: Well, frankly, it`s been pretty demoralizing to me to see
these people who are basically innocent. I mean, Deborah Cavallaro,
there`s a lady in Winter Haven, Florida, who has been trotted around by a
lot of TV new show named Deborah Barrett, who is supposedly also in the
same boat. She had junk insurance as it turns out. She`s eligible for a
lot of subsidies and she`ll do much better.

I think the responsibility of the reporters interviewing these
customers, these citizens, is that they need to educate themselves.
Journalism is an educational process. As a reporter, you have to educate
yourself and then you teach to the best of your ability your readers or
viewers as to what you learned.

Well, the reporter is who put these people on the air or quote them in
newspaper articles aren`t doing that. They basically have someone -- they
are following a narrative and narrative is people are suffering sticker
shock and they get somebody who says, well, geez, I`m going to pay a lot
higher premiums, I`ve got sticker shock and that`s the furthest the
reporter goes and that`s really not competent or responsible journalism
when you keep in mind that premiums people pay is just part of the cost of
insurance and medical care.

So nobody in the press or on the air seems to be looking at this a,
well, what do you get for that premium? What are costs going to be if you
get sick and how much better are you going to be with Obamacare compliant
plan that`s got limited deductibles, limited out-of-pocket expenses, free
preventative treatment -- all of those things compared to what you`ve got
which covers two doctor visits a year, that`s got sky high deductibles.
It`s huge out-of-pocket expenses.

You`ve got to put all that in perspective. If you`re not doing that,
you`re not competent to cover the transition from the old era of health
insurance to the Obamacare era.

O`DONNELL: Wendell Potter, any additional suggestions you would make
to reporters who are covering this kind of analysis?

POTTER: For one thing, give me a call.

O`DONNELL: Yes, let`s start there. That`s a good one.

POTTER: Because I spent 20 years inside the insurance industry. I
can point reporters to what they might want to be looking at to cover this
from perspective they haven`t covered it from before.

O`DONNELL: Michael Hiltzik of "The L.A. Times" and Wendell Potter --
thank you both very much for joining me tonight.

POTTER: My pleasure.

HILTZIK: Coming up, scenes from what some reviewers are calling the
best movie about slavery ever made, "12 Years a Slave", with the
screenwriter John Ridley.



decisions we`ve made to tackle our long-term challenges, America is
becoming more competitive from a business standpoint. We`re reforming a
broken health care system and as a consequence health care costs are rising
at the slowest rate in 50 years. We cut our deficits by more than half
since I took office and they keep going down.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: The "spotlight" tonight, good news
for President Obama. Seriously good news. The government shutdown
aftermath in Affordable Care Act Web site glitches have overshadowed some
major stories on two of the president`s top priorities, national security
and the economy. A new report from the treasury department shows that the
federal government`s deficit is the smallest it has been since 2008 before
the president took office. In the 2013 fiscal deficit stands at $680
billion or 4.1 percent of gross domestic product. $680 billion is about 51
percent less than it was in 2009 when the deficit hit a record high of 1.4

In other news, Syria has met a major deadline in the process of
getting rid of its chemical weapons of mass destruction. The organization
for the prohibition of chemical weapons said today Syria completed the
functional destruction of critical equipment for all of its declared
chemical weapons product facilities, fixing/filling plants rendering them
inoperable. Syria was one day ahead of the November 1st deadline. It had
been given inspectors -- inspectors said that they looked at 21 or 23
chemical weapons sites across Syria. They said the remaining two were too
dangerous to reach for inspection but the chemical equipment had already
been moved to other sites that experts visited.

The next target date is November 15th when inspectors and Syria must
agree to a detailed plan of destruction including how and where to destroy
more than 1,000 metric tons of toxic agents and munitions.

Joining me now, Steve Clemons, editor at large for "the Atlantic" and
Richard Wolffe, executive editor of MSNBC.com.

Steve, I don`t think you have been here since we were talking about
Syria a lot. And it turns out there`s been some real progress.

show that said that if President Obama could trade a messy war for actually
getting Syria to become part of the chemical weapons convention and we can
get back, you know, somewhat on the same side with Russia on trying to deal
with some global problems, that would be an enormous strategic success that
the president could say we`ve checked off a box and we`re not going have
another trillion dollar war.

O`DONNELL: And Richard Wolffe, I`m not hearing any complaints from
those who are saying the president seems indecisive on Syria. They don`t
seem to even notice what`s happening in Syria.

were so passionate about the victims suffering and now they forgotten about
all of that suffering. Of course, there are refugees are still camped out
in the horrific conditions but politics have moved on because they have
got, you know, another whack a mole to go hit. You know, I don`t expect
them to give the president credit, but the people who say they care where
you also have some more compassion of not being consistent.

O`DONNELL: Steve, there is also this report that U.S. officials
confirm today that Israeli military forces destroyed some Russian missiles
that the Syrian government was reportedly prepared to deliver to Hezbollah.
That`s the latest development.

CLEMONS: Those were in part Russian missiles that have come in and
supplies, as well as some Syrian S8 (ph) missiles and U.S. officials have
confirmed that over two strikes the Israelis have come in and destroyed
this. And they have done this previously. They have been engaged in
monitoring those sophisticated systems that could find their way to
Hezbollah and, of course, then be aimed at Israel.

And so, in this kind of fog of war, Israel has kept its eye on the
ball with things that it cared about even though it`s a complicated date,
even though Syria has been compliant on other things. It`s still
represents a major risk to Israel.

O`DONNELL: Richard Wolffe, the deficit just sliding right down there
to virtually no comment.

WOLFFE: Right.

Well, you know, I thought having tracked all of the Republican
comments over the last several years that we were facing this budget
Armageddon, this unsustainable debt that was crushing our children and
their grandchildren and everybody else. And it turns out not so much. You
would think that the people who care about fiscal responsibility so much
would at least acknowledge how we got here. Maybe try to take credit for
it themselves. Apparently they don`t care.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Senator Corker said today about Syria
in this hearing.


SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: Do you feel good about what our
country is doing with the opposition right now to allow them to have some
sort of say so in the future of this country?

ROBERT FORD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SYRIA: Senator, there isn`t a person
on my team at the state department who doesn`t feel frustrated, frustrated
by the Syrian problem in general, but I have to say we do provide support
to help them against the regime. We provide a lot of support. Ultimately,
Senator, Syrians must fix this problem and ultimately, Senator, it`s going
to require them to sit down at a table.


O`DONNELL: Steve, it is a calmer discussion now.

CLEMONS: It is a calmer discussion. You heard Bob Corker but Senator
Menendez, Senator McCain express dismay and lament that we didn`t really
have to some degree a fighting force out there with the Syrian opposition
engaged in the civil war. You know, they need to remember back to labor
day weekends when, you know, they were talking to constituents who wanted
nothing at all to do with the deeper integration into the civil war. The
success that Obama has succeeded in achieving is a strategic success with
chemical weapons but that doesn`t mean that the civil war, the problems
inside are going to be solved militarily.

And as we talked to in the past, there`s a warm and fuzzy side of the
Syrian opposition and there is a very nasty side to the Syrian opposition.
What we are trying to is get the Geneva process, the peace process that the
Russians are hosting to basically look at how can you have some deal
between the Syrian Assad regime and the moderates so that they can
basically come into control. That is where everything needs to go. And I
would hope Senator Corker and others would look at that as incremental
evidence we may get out of the Syrian mess eventually.

O`DONNELL: Richard Wolffe, is there any way for the White House to
get some credit for what`s going on in Syria in this current media climate?

WOLFFE: I think it`s an incredibly risky position for them to try and
engineer because there`s going to be another moral outrage in Syria. There
will be more cries and there will be more innocence killed and people will
say something must be done. So, if they try to say we achieved something,
the Syrians will have another outrage and do you really want to be out
there saying we made it better when it gets dramatically worse and it will
get worse.

O`DONNELL: And Steve, there`s something to be said on the diplomatic
end of this for the president to, as long as things are going well, why be
making public statements that may provoke Assad.

CLEMONS: Look. We`re having a few problems with the Russians right
now on which elements of the Syrian opposition should participate in these
peace talks. But we are talking to the Russians about having peace talks.
A month ago we were not. We were basically on a collision course not only
over Syria but over other global problems. So, I look at this as a very
positive trend. And I think they`re handling it fairly deafly in the White

O`DONNELL: Steve Clemons and Richard Wolffe, thank you both for
joining me tonight.

CLEMONS: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, in the "rewrite` tonight. Toby Zeigler,
Richard Shift, Alec Baldwin and the new rules for cell phones on planes.


O`DONNELL: Support for the death penalty in the United States is at
its lowest point in more than 40 years. The Gallup poll shows 60 percent
of Americans do support the death penalty for convicted murders which is
actually the lowest level since 1972 when 57 percent supported the death
penalty. Only once in the 77 years that Gallup has asked that question,
did those people against the death penalty actually outnumber people who
supported it in 1966, 47 percent opposed and 42 percent were in favor of
the death penalty then.

The rewrite is next.


O`DONNELL: The FAA has finally, finally rewritten the rule requiring
you to shut off anything with an on/off switch before the plane pushes away
from the gate. The announcement released today said the FAA has determined
that airlines can safely expand perm use of electronics during all phases
of flight and is immediately providing the airlines with implementation

The FDA actually issued their own top ten list of things passengers
should know about expanded use of PEDs on airplanes.

All right. Listen up, Alec Baldwin.

Number one, make safety your first priority. I think we can all agree
on that one.

Number two, this one is very important. Changes to PED policies will
not happen immediately and will vary by airline. Check with your airline
to see if and when you can use your PED.

Number three, current PED policies remain in effect until an airplane
completes a safety assessment, gets FAA approval and changes its PED

Number four, and this is the most important one. Cell phones may not
be used for voice communications. So you still can`t make phone calls on a
plane after it pulls away from a gate.

Number five, devices must be used in airplane or with cellular
function disabled.

And number six, properly stow heavier devices under seats or in the
overhead bins during takeoff and landing. That, of course, would be your
laptops, if you are thinking about there.

And number seven, during the safety briefing put down electronic
devices, books and newspapers and listen to the crew members` instructions
for the first time ever.

Number eight, it only takes a few minutes to secure items according to
the crews` instruction during takeoff and landing. I really don`t get why
number eight is even in there. It seems not to add anything at all but, I
guess the FAA felt they needed to say that.

Number nine, in some instances of low visibility, about one percent of
flights some landing systems may not be proved PED tolerant so you may be
asked to turn off your device. But again, we`re talking one percent of
flights here. So, there`s a 99 percent chance it` not going to be your

And finally, always follow crew instructions and immediately turn off
your device if asked.

After the FAA issued the new rules today, the White House tweeted
you`re welcome, Toby Zeigler. That refers, of course, to the fictional
White House staffer named Toby Zeigler played in NBC`s "the west wing" by
Emmy-winning acting wizard, Richard Shift.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We ask at this time that you turn off all
electronic devices and return your seat backs to the full and upright
position. We`ll be landing shortly at Washington Dulles airport.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sir, I need you to turn off the computer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m just about done.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I need you to turn off your laptop, sir.
Interferes with our navigational systems.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you say that it sounds ridiculous to most

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Zeigler, a message was patched up to the
cockpit for you. I`m not sure I got it right. Potus (ph) in a bicycle

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got it right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can`t use your phone until we land, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Replying in a lock (INAUDIBLE). It came off the
line 20 months ago and carries a tracking system. Are you telling me I can
take this down with something I purchased at radio shack.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can call when we land, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Also, I never got my peanuts.


O`DONNELL: And then Richard tweeted to me and a few other west wing
alumni, fiction wins. Not so fast, Toby Zeigler. Remember rule number
four, cell phones may not be used for voice communications.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can`t use your phone until we land, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are flying on a lock PED eagle series l1011
(ph). It came off the line 20 months ago and carries a tracking system.
Are you telling me I can take this down with something I purchased at radio



O`DONNELL: Up next, the must see film that has been winning praise
and Oscar buzz, "12 years a slave."


O`DONNELL: The movie "12 years a slave" opens in theaters nationwide
tomorrow and is already generating Oscar buzz. The film is based on the
true story of Solomon Northup, a free black men from new York who was
kidnapped and sold into slavery. Solomon Northup published his story as a
book entitled "12 years a slave," narrative of Solomon Northup, a citizen
of New York, kidnapped in Washington city in 1841 and rescued in 1853 from
a cotton plantation near red river in Louisiana. The book was published
eight years before the start of the civil war day, but then be in his New
Yorker review writes "12 years a slave" is easily the greatest feature film
ever made about American slavery."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Survival is not about certain death. It`s about
keeping your head down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Days ago I was with my family in my home. Now
you`re telling me all that`s lost. Don`t know who I am is the way to
survive? Well, I don`t want to survive. I want to live.


O`DONNELL: Joining me now screenwriter and executive producer of "12
years a slave" John Ridley.

John, this had to be a very difficult adaptation working from that
material, working from the language of that era in the book. How did you
approach it?

Lawrence, I looked at it as kind of a restoration project. The source
material, and I encourage everyone to read it, is one of the most powerful
documents that I`ve ever read and I tried to really approach it with an
invisible hand to excavate elements of the story to bring out Solomon`s
voice where I could. But to be as reductive as opposed to additive. As a
person of color in 2013, I didn`t want too much of me in the story.
Reading it and feeling the power of Solomon`s words. I wanted it to really
be about him. It is his story.

O`DONNELL: Let`s look at another scene. This is an odd one in its
way if Mr. Shaul (ph). Let`s watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Take comfort (INAUDIBLE). In his own time, you
could learn to manage them all. The curse of the pharaohs are a poor
example of white plantation class. This is nice.


O`DONNELL: A couple of things about that one, John. It`s nice
because she has basically become a mistress who is given a much better way
of life.

RIDLEY: Yes. It`s a very interesting scene. And one of the things
for me in telling this story, if it`s going to be at all enthralling, it
has to be informative and it has got to say something different, I think a
lot of people didn`t know certain aspects of slavery. You have (INAUDIBLE)
who are playing this character who would essentially married her way into a
slightly better lifestyle and to have this moment, this oasis, this
respite, for these other slaves who could go to her and get aid and comfort
on a Sabbath which is only day they had free, was a really beautiful scene.
But again, people coming into it thinking that slavery was only one thing.
There were degrees and variations of it. None of them particularly great
but just different. Some tonality in the story.

O`DONNELL: And incredibly difficult choices every slave had to make
about how to survive, how to move forward. Let`s look at one more scene.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you stopped crying for your children? You
make no sounds, but will you ever let them go in your heart?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are my flesh.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then who is distressed? Do I upset the master
and mistress. Do you care less about my loss than their well-being.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Master Ford is a decent man.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Under the circumstance --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Under the circumstances he`s a slaver. But you
chuckle at his boot. You luxuriate in this favor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I survive! I will not fall into despair! I will
offer up my talents to Master Ford! I will kill myself of him until
freedom opportunity.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. Ford is your opportunity? You think he
does not know that you`re more than you suggest? But he does nothing for
you. Nothing. You are no better than prized livestock.


O`DONNELL: John, it such a remarkable scene in so many ways. The
language in the scene, how much of that were you taking directly from the

RIDLEY: Some of it comes directly from the book. And a lot of it,
again, was researching the language trying to make it match and not be
overly theatrical in its presentation. That scene was very, very powerful.
The character Liza talking about her children that were torn from her at a
slave auction. You know, it is one of the phrases we always hear is talk
about traditional family values and it`s a catch-all phrase.
Unfortunately, for people of color, the traditional value of family,
really, as a character in there says extends to the length of a coin.
Those are things that people don`t think about or understand when we talk
about slavery and its impact even today about how families were looked at,
about the impact of individuals with their family and how that resonates
time after time, year after year.

O`DONNELL: And the impact on family for generations to come after the
slavery was over.

RIDLEY: Well, you have to remember as I know you know, Lawrence,
slavery is unfortunately, it is the vast majority of history of this
country. And the evolution of it, you know, slavery was not brought to
this country fully formed. It went from indigent servitude to slavery to
slavery predicated on the concept of racial inferiority. When that lasts
for several hundred years in this country and we get to 2013 and still we
have this calcified views of race, of class, of each other, we wonder where
these came from. It came from a doctor nation of all of us, of all of us.
And the only way to get past that is to have a concept of understanding of
our history, our shared history. This isn`t just African-American history.
This is American history.

O`DONNELL: John Ridley, dust off the tuxedo. You`re going to be very
busy during awards season. This is just a fantastic piece of work. I am
very, very, very happy to have you here tonight.

Thank you, John.

RIDLEY: Thank you very much for having me. Appreciate it.

O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes is up next.


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