THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
February 13, 2014
Guests: Alec MacGillis, Ted Strickland
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: If you were surprised at what team
Christie did at the George Washington Bridge, then you don`t know how Chris
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Relentless, 83 million people hit by yet another
nasty winter storm.
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Nothing worse than weather.
RACHEL MADDOW, TRMS: The release of 18 subpoenas in New Jersey
related to the George Washington Bridge scandal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This isn`t like the storms we had in the past.
CHRISTIE: You have no control over it and complete responsibility for
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a bigger storm.
MADDOW: Behold, the new subpoena to the office of New Jersey Governor
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A combination of punches.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was the debt deal that almost wasn`t.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Senate voted Wednesday to extend the
nation`s borrowing limit.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rival factions of the Republican Party clashed.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ted Cruz could not have predicted the chaos that
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Playing with the debt ceiling is
like playing with fire.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: McConnell and Cornyn literally worked the Senate
floor to rally support.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was no game plan.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is there anybody who knows how to fly this
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To give you an idea of just how bad this winter
has been, this is already the 15th storm of the season.
MADDOW: It`s totally ballooning scandal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Still more than a month to go until the official
end of winter.
CHRISTIE: I`d like the winter to be over.
O`DONNELL: For most people outside New Jersey, the George Washington
Bridge scandal was the first time they had ever heard of controversy
surrounding Governor Chris Christie, but for many inside New Jersey, the
news was not so surprising. In an article in the "New Republic" entitled
"Chris Christie`s entire career reeks. It`s not just the bridge."
Alex MacGillis digs into Chris Christie`s rise in New Jersey politics,
writing, "Even post-bridgegate, the prevailing interpretations of Christie
fundamentally missed the mark. He has been so singularly successful at
constructing his own mythology as a reformer, a crusader, a bipartisan
problem-solver that people have never really seen him clearly. The problem
with Christie isn`t merely that he is a bully, it`s that his political
career is built on a rotten foundation.
Christie owes his rise to some of the most toxic forces in his state.
Powerful bosses who ensure that his vow to clean up New Jersey will never
come to pass. He has allowed them to escape scrutiny, rewarded them for
their support, and punished their enemies.
All along, even as it looked like Christie was attacking the machine,
he was really just mastering it."
MacGillis chronicles Christie`s rise, starting with Christie`s first
campaign where he casts himself as a reformer and crusader for stricter
ethics guidelines. He ran this ad --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: Hi. My name is Chris Christie. I got into this race for
Morris Freeholder for the promise of a better future for my family and
yours. But "The Daily Record" has called the current incumbents fumbling,
bumbling amateurs. And now they`re being investigated by the Morris County
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Great ad, huh? But it wasn`t true. His opponents were
not under investigation.
But in the final days before the primary, there was no time to respond
and so, Chris Christie came in first in that primary, pushing out the
Later, they successfully sued Chris Christie for defamation, which is
so rare in a political campaign you can`t believe it, sued for defamation
successfully. Christie was forced to issue a formal public apology that
said in part, the ads, quote, "were not accurate. Neither of you were
under investigation by the Morris County prosecutor at anytime. I fully
intend in any future campaigns in which I am involved to be much more
sensitive to the impact of such tactics."
Three years later, Christie lost his re-election bid. He later sought
the advice of Republican power broker Bill Palatucci who told Christie to
raise money for 2000 presidential campaign. Christie did just that raised
$350,000 for the Bush/Cheney team. And in 2002, President Bush appointed
Christie U.S. attorney for the state of New Jersey. During his time as a
U.S. attorney, controversies erupted over financial dealings that his
brother Todd was involved in. How Christie handled settlements of federal
cases, and who he decided to prosecute.
As MacGillis writes, "What bridgegate has laid bear is the skill and
audacity with which Christie constructed his public image. Christie may
have been misunderstood for so long because his transactionalism diverted
from the standard New Jersey model. He wasn`t out to line his own pockets
or build a business empire.
He wasn`t even seeking to advance a partisan agenda. And yet, it was
transactionalism all the same. Christie used a corrupt system to expand
his own power and burnish his own image, and he did it so artfully that he
nearly came within striking distance of the White House.
When he got cozy with Democratic bosses, people only saw a man willing
to work across the aisle. When he bullied his opponents, they only saw a
truth teller. It was one of the most effective optical illusions in
American politics until it wasn`t."
Joining me now is Alec MacGillis from "The New Republic" and author of
the article, and former governor of Ohio, Ted Strickland.
Alec, this article collects an awful lot of material that I have seen
here and there in different places and different pieces. And it shows that
what we`re seeing in everything that`s happened this year, with team
Christie in New Jersey is simply the next chapter. It`s the current
chapter of a story that`s been going on for a while.
ALEC MACGILLIS, THE NEW REPUBLIC: Right. That`s really what we
wanted to do here, just to sort of step back and reappraise his career
through what we`ve now seen with bridgegate, to sort of connect the dots in
a way. A lot of what have is in this piece has been out there here and
there. I wanted to revisit it, go back, talk to people again and figure
out what really happened.
I should say here there`s a lot of credit that goes to the reporters
of New Jersey who have been working on this story for years and years. And
I think really just didn`t have their work and the sort of warning signs of
what they were raising paid enough attention to. So, what we wanted to do
here was really pull it together and really explain that what we`re seeing
now with bridgegate should not have been all that surprising. Really, this
has been coming for a long time. But people were missing it. People were
looking at Christie one way when, in fact, there was sort of this other
side of the coin that they were missing.
O`DONNELL: Ted Strickland, I have to say, a lot of this material I
already knew. I didn`t know all of it. But I was one of the people who
was unsurprised because of the knowledge I had about a lot of these cases
in the past. But I think what Alec is absolutely right about is that Chris
Christie totally mastered the national media virtually all of the
mainstream media outside of New Jersey in terms of managing his own image
up until now.
FORMER GOV. TED STRICKLAND (D), OHIO: Lawrence, this man put his
finger in the face of a teacher and screamed at her. He called a former
Navy SEAL an idiot. And, unfortunately, much of the media interpreted that
behavior as strength of leadership.
It`s far from strength of leadership. He is, has been a bully. I
think it was very transparent. When I went to New Jersey and spent a
little bit of time campaigning with Barbara Buono, his opponent, she told
me he was out there making these deals, cutting deals, and unfortunately,
she just didn`t have the resources necessary to bring all of it to the
But like you, Lawrence, I wasn`t surprised when this scandal broke.
Because I think it was inevitable that someone with Chris Christie`s
attitude and arrogance was eventually going to implode, as he has.
O`DONNELL: Alec, let`s go back to his years as U.S. attorney, because
that`s his big claim on public service. That`s why he should have been
elected governor in his claim. And that was one of those things where -- I
mean, the records are right there.
A U.S. attorney is someone who is a appointed politically, usually
recommended from inside, either the senator from that state who`s in the
party of the president, who is usually kind of pushing those things. But
it`s ultimately a presidential appointment. And Chris Christie coughed up
his $350,000 for the Bush campaign out of New Jersey, and, you know, who
else were they going to go to when it was time for U.S. attorney?
MACGILLIS: Exactly. But there was a lot of protests at the time from
the local -- the state bar association, the local newspapers who pointed
out that this lawyer who singularly little qualified for the job, and this
is one of the biggest U.S. attorney offices in the country. It was right
after 9/11. So, there was going to be a lot of serious stuff coming
through that office at 9/11. And here you had someone who was a small firm
lawyer who had done a lot of -- some medical malpractice work, securities
work, some lobbying, had barely stepped foot in federal court. And he got
this hugely important job.
One of the things I go into in the piece is how he managed to get the
approval of Bob Torricelli, who was at the time the senior senator from New
Jersey who had the prerogative to clear the nomination. And he was himself
at the time under federal investigation for campaign finance stuff that he
had been doing. And so, there is some interesting conversations between
him and Chris Christie over what it would take for Torricelli to give
Christie the nod to get that job.
But you`re right, that was the job that made him. And what was so
really brilliant about how he handled that job, how he sort of established
himself as this guy with very little experience was to make himself into
this big public corruption fighter -- 130 officials in New Jersey pled
guilty or were convicted in his years.
The key, though, is the people who he decided not to go after. And
they are some of the most powerful power brokers in the state. And they
became only more powerful because of the people he did go after. They were
the ones left standing. And they literally got more turf under their
control. And it`s those people who have now been such key allies of his.
O`DONNELL: Ted Strickland, talk to us about a governor`s office. You
ran your governor`s office. You have a deputy chief of staff who has told
someone, create a big traffic jam on the busiest bridge in the world, which
is in your state.
That traffic jam goes on for days. It goes on for the better part of
a week. It is highly controversial.
Given everything we know about the dimensions of the Christie, team
Christie`s model of what happened at the George Washington Bridge, and
Chris Christie`s response being, I knew absolutely nothing about it during
-- while it was happening, before it was happening. And they absolutely
could not possibly have done it because I wanted them to.
What are the odds of those elements being true?
STRICKLAND: It`s hard for me to believe, Lawrence. I`ve worked in
the governor`s office. My state is a large state, as is New Jersey. I had
a close knit group of people that I worked with on a daily basis, as did
Now, during his two-hour press conference, he tried to deflect some
responsibility, I think, by saying oh, I have 48,000 or, you know, several
thousand state employees to look after.
But we`re talking about his five or six closest employees, people who
he had worked with for many years. And either he knew and is not telling
the truth, Lawrence, or he allowed a culture to develop within that office
that allowed his staff to believe that he would approve of what they were
doing. And neither scenario makes Chris Christie look so good. He must be
a terrible judge of character. And then he said -- well, they lied to me
and I`m disappointed and mistakes were made.
Lawrence, when you make a mistake, you can have a pure motive and make
a mistake. These weren`t mistakes. This was a cold, calculated planful
effort to recklessly endanger the public. By closing off those lanes and
interfering with emergency vehicles and the like. I mean, this is serious,
serious stuff. And it`s hard for me to believe that Chris Christie just
simply was out of the loop and had no idea.
O`DONNELL: Yes. And he says that his staff embarrassed and
humiliated him. But he has yet to say anything apologetic to New Jersey
about actually hiring those people. That was -- they were his decision.
Alec MacGillis and former Governor Ted Strickland, thank you both for
joining me tonight.
STRICKLAND: Thank you.
MACGILLIS: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, Ted Cruz finally has a name for the cool kids
like him in the Senate, the rump kamikaze caucus.
And in the rewrite tonight, the president of France and his new first
lady who Stephen Colbert can tell you is no lady.
And later, the Oscar nominated director of "12 Years a Slave", Steve
McQueen, joins me here in the studio.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONAN O`BRIEN, COMEDIAN: To stop the spread of disease, the city of
Vancouver has allowed crack pipes to be sold in vending machines. Yes,
crack pipes sold in vending machines. Yes. The plan is being called
dangerous by mayor of New York City and genius by the mayor of Toronto.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: This -- this is what John Boehner has to contend with
(BEGIN VIDEOI CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are one majority in the House of
Representatives, a Democratically elected --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You betcha we are. You betcha we are. And no
bill gets passed unless the House agrees to it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Half the bills you`re passing are pure -- and I
think I may be generous in my percentage -- are absolutely political
theater because you know they will die in the Senate. You know that a
Democratic president will kill them.
What do you expect to do when you are in the majority in one branch of
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re doing what we took an oath to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now, Alex Wagner, host of MSNBC`s "NOW WITH
ALEX WAGNER", and E.J. Dionne, columnist for "The Washington Post" and
Alex, thank you for keeping the straight face as long as Louie Gohmert
was actually talking. That`s not easy to do. So there what it feels like
to be John Boehner, right?
Lou Dobbs, who is for, you know, every Republican ideal that comes
along thinks this guy is a nut.
ALEX WAGNER, NOW: Yes. Well, I mean, but, Lawrence, we talk about
the goal post moving right. They`re out of the stadium. They`re down the
block in some far right galaxy that is light years away from our solar
The ad that was running against Mitch McConnell today in the state of
Kentucky that basically says he might as well join the Democratic Party --
I mean, the sense of actual sort of reason has gone out the window, which
is why finally you`re seeing John Boehner review the raucous caucus and
saying we`re just going to do this. We`re going to try and govern.
And it`s a long time coming, but I think the day might be here. I say
that with an asterisk and a slight sense of --
O`DONNELL: Let`s see what professor Dionne thinks.
O`DONNELL: E.J., you`ve been watching these goings on for decades,
and we have never seen anything quite like this. And you see Lou Dobbs
really was kind of playing the part of John Boehner in that conversation
And the interesting thing that Boehner said the other night, you know,
when he said, OK, we`re going to do this with debt ceiling vote and we`re
going to do it with votes from the other party. He said we`ve done it
before and we`ll do it again. That was the little thing he said, we`ll do
What do you think the prospects are of him doing it again and in what
E.J. DIONNE, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, I think the most interesting
issue on the table for doing it again is immigration reform, because I
think when you looked at the 221 votes for -- to extend the debt ceiling,
which was all but a couple of Democrats and 28 Republicans, a lot of those
Republicans are people who would also vote for immigration reform. That`s
Now Boehner is sending all these signals to try to appease the Tea
Party. We can`t do this because we don`t trust Obama. But he`s also
sending a lot of signals to the supporters of immigration reform away from
the cameras that he would actually like to pass something. So, I think
that`s where there`s promise.
But there`s a structural problem here that goes to what Alex was
saying. The Tea Party represents maybe 20 percent, 25 percent of American
opinion. So, that 75 percent of us are on the other side, either center or
moderate right center or left. But those 25 percent make up a majority of
Republican primary electorates in a whole lot of states in a whole lot of
So, you have a lot of Republicans who are just petrified that they
will be voted out of office if they sound reasonable, if they don`t sort of
toe this line. And that`s a terrible structural problem in our politics
when 25 percent of us have all that power in one house of Congress.
O`DONNELL: And you got "The Wall Street Journal" calling Ted Cruz
group the kamikaze caucus.
Alex, you mentioned that ad against Mitch McConnell. We happen to
WAGNER: Oh, do you?
O`DONNELL: Let`s show it to E.J. Dionne.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AD NARRATOR: McConnell is unpopular in Kentucky because he doesn`t
stand for anything. His ideology is power. It`s why McConnell has voted
to raise the debt limit ten times. And why he worked with Joe Biden to
pass a $600 billion fiscal cliff tax hike. McConnell even joined Harry
Reid in opposing Ted Cruz`s effort to defund Obamacare.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: So that`s life in Kentucky in his Republican primary.
WAGNER: This has happened before when McConnell has done the hard
work of actual governance and one would say leadership. He used it to his
advantage ultimately and ran an ad that sounded more like a Ford or Chevy
ad. Mitch McConnell, actual governance.
You know, that may not work --
O`DONNELL: Nice voiceover there.
WAGNER: I don`t get paid handsomely for that. So, let`s just keep us
amongst us. But that`s a general election strategy. And Mitch McConnell
may, you know, everyone in the Republican Party has primary worry, but if
he can survive it, that`s how he gives the Democrat a run for her money.
O`DONNELL: Yes, E.J., Ted Cruz put Mitch McConnell through hell on
this debt ceiling vote. They had a way of doing it where Republicans could
kind of look the other way and let the Democrats just vote for it
themselves. But Ted Cruz insisted no, no, no you must get to a 60-vote
threshold which then meant some Republicans would have to vote for it.
They couldn`t get there so McConnell himself had to walk out and do it.
And then, John McCain and others gave them cover by pushing the vote well
over 60 so that no one individual Republican could be blamed for being the
one who passed this thing.
DIONNE: Right. First of all, if I ever run for office, I want Alex
to do my voice-over. So, you`re going to get a call from me.
O`DONNELL: It`s that gravitas voice-over you want.
DIONNE: It`s beautiful.
DIONNE: Two things. If you`re Alison Lundergan Grimes, you like
seeing that ad on the air. It`s one of the reasons people don`t like
primaries. And Mitch McConnell is all about power. She could use that
same argument another way.
The second thing is that if you had a vote in, among Republicans in
the Senate now between Ted Cruz and Barack Obama and it were a secret vote,
Ted Cruz would lose to Barack Obama. They are so angry at him, what he did
yesterday, putting all those Republicans on the line, having to vote
responsibly on the debt ceiling. But it is a great old legislative trick
to make sure no one is the last vote in.
When I covered the state legislature in Albany, the assembly, there
were 150. So, 76 was a majority. And it was always said that 76 was a
close vote, 77 was a landslide. Because if it was 77, they arranged who
got to vote for it and against it, depending on who was in a safe and
O`DONNELL: Yes, and, Alex, the -- what about going forward with
McConnell? I mean, if there`s going to be some governing here, it`s got to
be done in both bodies. We see Boehner`s problems, we`ve seen his
frustrations. We`ve always seen him go with votes from the other party.
McConnell it seems to me is in a trickier position than Boehner is.
WAGNER: You know what I thought was strangest about McConnell having
to take the walk to the voting gallows as it were, was the fact the Susan
Collins and Lisa Murkowskis said we always carry the football over the line
for you. We`re not going to do it this time.
And that sense of frustration that they`ve been put in a position
where they always have to be the water carriers for governance, that
frustration, I think, is almost as worrying as anything else. Because the
Republican Party has been relying on those people to cross the lines and be
unafraid of repercussions from their own party. And when they are giving
it up and forcing Cornyn and McConnell to do what they did, that`s a
O`DONNELL: Alex Wagner and E.J. Dionne, thank you both for joining me
WAGNER: Thanks, Lawrence.
DIONNE: Great to be with you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, the new politics of the Affordable Care Act.
Joy Reid will join me.
O`DONNELL: In the Spotlight tonight, the politics of the Affordable
Republicans have been planning to run against the affordable care act
in their congressional campaigns this year. And they have been expecting
the Democrats to run away from the affordable care act in their campaigns
this year, but some Democrats believe the affordable care act is actually
their route to victory.
Senator Mary Landrieu running for reelection in Louisiana, a state the
President Obama has never been able to win, is campaigning hard for the
expansion of Medicaid under the affordable care act. Her campaign web act
says petition Governor Bobby Jindal now. Our governor may not like the
president, but this is not about the president. It is about providing
health coverage for 240,000 Louisianans who work 40 or 50 hours a week, but
still make too little to qualify for assistance in the new marketplace and
too much to qualify for Louisiana`s current Medicaid. Tell Governor
Jindal, accept the Medicaid expansion and close the Jindal gap.
And in Florida, Congressman Joe Garcia is running this ad in his
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tea party billionaires think attack ads can cover
the truth. Joe Garcia is working to fix Obamacare. He voted to let you
keep your existing health plan and took the White House to task for the
disastrous health care Web site. And Joe Garcia wants to hold the
insurance companies accountable so they cannot deny coverage for
preexisting conditions or drop coverage when you get sick. Attack ads
can`t change the truth. Joe Garcia is doing what`s right for Florida.
House majority PACS responsible for the tent of this ad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joy Reid, so there`s a couple of different ways to take
the affordable care act and run with it. Mary Landrieu, I think it seems
brilliantly in Louisiana. She really knows her state saying to people,
look, this is sitting here, the federal government is giving us this and
your governor won`t let you have it.
JOY REID, MANAGING EDITOR, THE GRIO/MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. I mean,
it sort of act of anti-human (ph) politics, right? That the thing you make
unpopular is a benefit for someone else that seems to take away from you.
But the thing that`s popular is a benefit for you. And so, what`s
happening with the affordable care act is it`s reached that stage where
enough people have enrolled that other folks in the states that aren`t, you
know, getting the full benefit, meaning not getting the Medicaid expenses
say wait a minute, this is something for me. And so now, Democrats who are
smart are able to run on a platform of, this is something, it isn`t for
those guys over there that you may not like these thinker free loaders, you
think are takers, whatever. It`s for you and you`re not getting it. And
it is a smart way to run.
And I know Joe Garcia got a really tough district, a swing district in
Miami-Dade. But Florida has had 300,000 people enroll in the affordable
care act so far. They have reached 60 percent of their goal of enrollment
in the entire 2014 already right now in February. So, that`s a state where
people know their neighbors are getting it. They know that other people
that they can actually contextualize and visualize are getting the benefit
they wanted to.
O`DONNELL: Well, let`s look at some of these new numbers that came
out today on enrollment, 3.3 million people have now signed up for coverage
through market places established in affordable care act. 1.1 million
enrolled in January. It`s a 53 percent increase in that month alone, 25
percent of the enrollees are ages 18 to 34, a key demographic for the
And so Joy, with more and more people enrolling in this, one of the
things that`s going to happen in Louisiana is that there will be people at
work beside you who, because they work for hours than you or they might be
one pay scale above you, they qualify oddly for these subsidies under the
private insurance component of the affordable care act. But you, who would
qualify for the Medicaid provision get absolutely nothing. And you get
nothing thanks to your governor.
I mean, that conversation in the workplace, where these workers are,
who are just near these qualification thresholds is going to be one that
drives this story locally and to the voting booth.
REID: Right. And it`s going to drives it in red states. I mean, if
you look at the state where is you`re seeing accelerated sign-ups, people
signing up whether it`s through a state or a federal exchange, it seems
like Alabama which is also at 60 percent of their threshold. And states
like Kentucky, where people who detest President Obama are nonetheless
signing up for Medicaid as well and some for the first time getting health
care. If you know someone like that, if your neighbor to your point is
getting the Medicaid expansion but you just missed the cutoff, there is
only one person you can blame if the Democrat running in your district or
the Democrat running for governor in your state is smart, the blame will
fall on your governor or state legislature, which in these southern states
O`DONNELL: Dan Pfeiffer, senior advisor of President Obama said the
case for repeal is infinitely harder now that people actually have
coverage, a message of elect me so I can take health care away from my soon
to be constituents is a dead-bang loser.
REID: Yes. And you can see, Lawrence, that is why the Republicans
fought scorched earth to try to delay and to stop and to repeal and all of
the things that they did last year. Because Republicans really did
understand that once the law actually took effect last October, however
badly the rollout was, as soon as any number of people got it, that was a
number of people you could not then take it away from. It was the same
issue when Medicare was passed. The conservatives did not like it. But
once it existed, now their constituents say hands off my -- get your
government hands off my Medicare. Now, that you have it, it`s really more
like nine million people. Because I think it is about six million that
have gotten Medicaid already. These people now have the insurance.
Repealing it takes something tangible away from people and that`s an
impossible campaign message. That`s why you haven`t really heard
Republicans say repeal anymore. They are now talking about we`ve got a
plan that would do it better. But the underlying assumption is there`s
still going to be an affordable care act. We just want to change some
O`DONNELL: Well, the Medicaid component was always supposed to be the
largest provider of health coverage in the affordable care act until the
Supreme Court said that is not mandatory for the states. That can be
optional. And then we knew that governors like Jindal, any Republican
governor with national aspirations wasn`t going to allow the Medicaid
provision in their state very likely, and that`s what we see. And I think
the way Mary Landrieu has framed that issue is politically the most
effective version of it that I`ve seen.
REID: Absolutely. And about a state again like Florida where
governor Rick Scott, who was a former hospital executive, with the issues
he had with the giant Medicare fraud, but that aside, he was a hospital
executive. He actually wanted to take the money.
This is 100 percent federal match that you`re saying California
residents who pay taxes just like I do get it and we don`t. This is
literally leaving money on the table. So for somebody up for reelection
like Rick Scott, he`s in a terrible position, because the right political
position for him to take is let`s not take the federal money.
O`DONNELL: But within that faction of his party. But in overall in
Florida, that is probably not the right position to take, but he`s ended up
in both of them.
REID: He`s stuck, because his tea party positioning required him to
say no. But the actual activity in his state shows people want the
insurance. They`re signing up in droves. That`s why Steve Basheer in
Kentucky has been successful and that`s why Kasich in Ohio said no, give me
the money because people wants the insurance that showing it by signing up
O`DONNELL: Joy Reid, "the Reid Report" starts soon.
REID: Starts very soon. February 24, right here on this very
O`DONNELL: It is at 2:00 p.m.
REID: 2:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. Enough time for people to
watch and then get over it in time to really watch the real thing, which is
"the Last Word."
O`DONNELL: Stop it. I mean, that thing, at 2:00, the audience is
going to be done. They`re going to say OK, that`s it.
REID: They can take a long nap.
O`DONNELL: This could be hard for the rest of us. Thank you very
REID: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, France has a new first lady. And that guy with
the French sounding name on comedy central could not be happier. That`s in
And later, there`s little over a week left to get your ballots in for
the Oscars. And if you`re still undecided, Steve McQueen director of "12
years a slave" is here to help you.
O`DONNELL: France`s new first lady who`s not much of a lady is next
in "the rewrite."
O`DONNELL: Finally, our long national nightmare is over. I mean,
France`s long national nightmare is over. And once again, there is a
French first lady. The new French first lady`s debut was at the White
House state dinner Tuesday in honor of the visiting president of France.
Apparently everyone with a French sounding name was invited. And so even
Stephen Colbert was there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, THE COLBERT REPORT: Folks, I got to tell you
it was a magical evening, OK. Here`s our prove. Here is the little card.
Here`s the card that tells you what table you`re at, OK. There`s the White
House seal right up there. Stay on this. And then table 19. OK. Which
was a good one, all right? And also -- I also stove the gravy boat. All
right? This was the state dinner to be invited to because it was in honor
of French president and thoughtful croissant Francois Holland. When last
we dish on Francois` private life, (INAUDIBLE). Because he had been caught
stepping out on France`s first lady, Valerie (INAUDIBLE) who he`s not
married to, with a second lady actress Julie Gallet (ph).
So, last night, there was one big question hanging over this dinner.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who is he going to bring along as France`s first
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you have a foreign guest, out president and
first lady would be seated next to the spouse.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As of late last night, organizers here at the
White House hadn`t even decided who would get that coveted seat, typically
reserved for the visiting leader`s spouse.
COLBERT: So it all came down to who would be seated next to Mrs.
Obama. Well, let`s see. There`s the president and there`s Francois
Holland and there is Michelle Obama. And who is next to her? It`s me!
Ladies and gentlemen, I`m the first lady of France! Thank you. Merci.
Some of those flowers were thrown very hard at my face. OK. Let me
get French here. Let me get French here. I`ve got to smoke. I`ve got to
smoke. And I`ve got to get my baguette. And of course, I got to smoke my
baguette. No, I can`t get this thing started.
Anyway, nation, this is so much responsibility. Every first lady has
her initiatives. Michelle Obama is nutrition and military families. Mine
will be reviving the guillotine and finally bring Jean Valjean (ph) to
justice. No free bread!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: It took 160 years for the book "12 years a slave" to be
adopted as a movie first. Film had to be invented then motion pictures had
to be invented then an art historian in Amsterdam had to find the book and
then suggested to the now Oscar nominated director, Steve McQueen and
suggest that he adopt that book as his next movie. Good thing Steve
McQueen and that art historian lived together.
Steve McQueen joins me next.
O`DONNELL: British director Steve McQueen read "12 years a slave"
when his partner discovered the 160 year old book and suggested it to him
as the basis of his next film. The result? An Oscar nominated movie, an
Oscar nominated director, a best actor nomination, a best supporting actor
nomination, a best supporting actor nomination, best supporting actress
nomination, as well as nomination for best adapted screenplay by John
Here is a scene with Lupita Nyong`o, nominated for best supporting
actress and Michael Fassbender nominated for best supporting actor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You made it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, really. You know why? I got this from
mistress. (INAUDIBLE). 500,000 cotton day in and day out. More than any
man here. And for that, that`s all I ask. And this year, what I went the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Steve McQueen, you found such amazing life details to use
to tell this story. When she holds out that bar of soap, I think in the
American viewing audience, plenty of people who have thought a lot about
slavery, read a lot about it, have not thought about the details of things
like how did they bathe? How did they live day to day. What did they have
in terms of just the very basics of life.
STEVE MCQUEEN, DIRECTOR, 12 DAYS OF SLAVE: I mean, that`s the amazing
thing about "12 years a slave" the book. It goes into so many details. In
fact, it`s microscopic. So, when I discovered the book, I mean, it was
crazy, it was like a finished screenplay already. It was so minute and so
sort of exacting that it triggered imagination. I wanted to see those
images. How could I not? And I think once you can dramatize those words
from that book, then it becomes for me, there`s a larger reach to the
reality of what slavery was. It`s not a theoretathized (ph) idea. It`s an
O`DONNELL: I think -- I mean, as we seat here tonight, I find it
impossible to imagine. I don`t know about you that we ever could have had
a film like this without that first person account of that 12 years
experience of slavery. This free man in from the north who is basically
kidnapped into slavery in the south, without that first person account
would we have ever gotten this level of detail?
MCQUEEN: No, I don`t think so. And you know, there was talk earlier
on about is it a true story? It`s been verified so many times because
people went back to that -- to the plantation. And they questioned the
people who were there. They say, is this happened? And we met some people
in the book who were still surviving. Unfortunately, the main character
was not there. So, we don`t know what happened to her. You know, it`s
just incredible to detail a book. And it is just -- yes, to have that
first-person account, similar to Anne Frank`s diary, you what he sees, you
see. So basically, we are sort of northern (ph).
O`DONNELL: I want to show those scene from the film and there are so
many wonderful details of this, including the elegant chamber music. And
we see Paul Giamati who`s playing -- who has a certain kind of aristocratic
bear, not dissimilar to the way we saw him playing president John Adams in
an HBO series here in the United States. It`s the kind of scene, it`s the
kind of room that in our film in this country has always been -- tends to
be filled with the noble aristocrat who is somehow running the country.
And what we see in this room is a level of nonviolent savagery that`s just
unimaginable. We just going to run this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Ford, splendid seeing you, sir. What catches
your fancy? This lad?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 1,000 for plat.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a considerable talent, I assure you. 7700
for Eliza. My fairest price?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You will accept a note.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please, sir. Do not divide my family. Do not
take me unless you take my children.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Quiet.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have the most faithful slave in me that`s
ever lived. But I beg that you don`t separate us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will give you something to cry about. Randall,
come forward. Come, come, come. Like ripe fruit. May I take your stick?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Observe this. Chop, chop, chop. Very good. Very
good. He will grow to a fine beast.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 600 for the boy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Steve, stunning. Especially in this country because a lot
of people want to retain the notion that there were the good slave owners.
And that there were plenty of people that will tell you, although, there
were some people that treated their slaves very nicely. But what scene
communicates so vividly is that, just a minute, the first thing they did
with them is that they bought them. They bought them as if they were in a
MCQUEEN: Yes. And Paul Giamati there, he`s just an amazing actor. I
mean, he seems like can you tell us on that day? He did variations of
takes. He was dancing through the room in a way in his choreography. But
also, you know, he embodied that moment someone who, yes, I mean, they were
livestock, that`s all. They weren`t human. They were livestock to be sold
and bought and you can do what you wanted and needed so to interpret. That
means it is a vision like to show the industry of slavery. There was no
O`DONNELL: And the separating, as that scene shows so painfully of a
mother from her children. These are the kinds of things that I think, the
current American sort of hazy notion of slavery doesn`t focus on. That it
-- I mean, let`s say that none of those people were ever beaten by their
slave owners. The savagery that occurred to them in that room is just
unimaginable by any Americans today.
MCQUEEN: Yes. It`s barbaric. It`s horrific. It`s disgusting. It`s
dreadful. But it happened. And, you know, and all you have to do is walk
outside your house tonight and you see the evidence of slavery. But the
situation right now is that people are being receptive to the story.
Because I think people want to engage with it now, finally. I mean, I
understand for such a long time people have shied away from it because of
what I just said. It was not particularly a, you know, appealing time in
history. But now, people want to engage. And you know, it`s never too
late to sort of learn and find out and try to sort of look to our past and
look at where we are in present for a better future. And I think people
are doing that.
O`DONNELL: Steve McQueen, I cannot thank you, John Ridley and the
entire team for delivering this film to us. Whatever happens on Oscar
night, it is one of the greatest contributions to our understandings of
ourselves in this country through film. Thank you.
MCQUEEN: Well, yes. Forgive me. Not only to this country, but to
the world. There were other countries that were involved in it. It`s not
just America`s history. It`s the world history, unfortunately.
O`DONNELL: Steve McQueen gets tonight`s Last Word.
Thank you, Steve.
Chris Hayes is up next.
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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Thursday, February 13th, 2014
THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL