THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
March 4, 2014
Guests: William Taylor, Charles Kupchan, James Kirchick, Miriam Elder,
Terry Golway; Wayne Slater
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Wendy Davis just delivered her
victory speech in the Texas primary. We will bring that to you later.
But first, world leaders are wondering if Angela Merkel is right and
that Vladimir Putin has lost touched with reality. And Hillary Clinton
just made her first public comments about the crisis in Ukraine.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Major developments today in the volatile crisis
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Russian troops amass in Crimea.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke to
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Vladimir Putin denies they`re even Russian.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a bit of a rambling press conference to be
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF THE STATE: He really denied there were
troops in Crimea?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, he did.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What Russia did was wrong and I will not sit
here and apologize or defend military aggression. Military intervention is
never the answer.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, you know, what are the real options?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is little appetite in the U.S. or Europe to
get involved militarily.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there an exit ramp approaching?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Providing this off ramp.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This morning, Secretary of State John Kerry
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Secretary Kerry is in Ukraine`s capital of Kiev.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kerry`s arrival coincides with a proposed aid
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will Europe go along with the United States to
make it truly effective?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s not a clear black and white in this case.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s because Europe and the U.S. aren`t entirely
on the same page.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) about sanctions.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Angela Merkel is opposed to kicking Russia out
of the G8.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Angela Merkel`s comments.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Merkel basically questioned Putin`s state of mind.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is living in a different world and the
Europeans understand that.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is a strong
belief that Russia`s action is violating international law.
O`DONNELL: In a press conference today, Vladimir Putin said "I am
certain that the Ukrainian military and the Russian military will not be
facing each other. They will be on the same side in a fight."
But hours before he said that, Russian troops outside a Ukrainian base
fired warning shots at unarmed Ukrainian soldiers who were marching towards
According to Vladimir Putin, those were not Russian troops, but, as he
put it, quote, "local defense units." Putin continued to deny that Russian
troops have invaded Ukraine.
Putin had this to say about what he called the United States meddling
in the region: "I sometimes have an impression that there`s some laboratory
in the U.S. where they conduct experiments using these countries as rats,
and they do not understand the consequences."
President Obama said this about Vladimir Putin today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: There have been some reports that President Putin is pausing
for a moment and reflecting on what`s happened. I think that we`ve all
seen that from the perspective of the European Union, the United States,
allies like Canada and Japan and allies and friends and partners around the
world, there is a strong belief that Russia`s action is violating
I know President Putin seems to have a different set of lawyers making
a different set of interpretations, but I don`t think that`s fooling
anybody. I think everybody recognizes that although Russia has legitimate
interests in what happens in a neighboring state, that does not give it the
right to use force as a means of exerting influence inside of that state.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Secretary of State John Kerry was in Ukraine`s capital
city of Kiev today where he announced the United States is offering Ukraine
an assistance package that includes a $1 billion loan to help with recovery
and its upcoming elections.
John Kerry continued to be the administration`s tough talker about the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KERRY: The contrast really could not be clearer -- determined
Ukrainians demonstrating strength through unity, and the Russian government
out of excuses, hiding its hand behind falsehoods, intimidation and
provocations. In the hearts of Ukrainians and the eyes of the world, there
is nothing strong about what Russia is doing. If Russia does not choose to
deescalate, if it is not willing to work directly with the government of
Ukraine as we hope they will be, then our partners will have absolutely no
choice but to join us to continue to expand upon steps we have taken in
recent days in order to isolate Russia politically, diplomatically, and
I would emphasize to the leaders of Russia, this is not something we
are seeking to do. This is something Russia`s choices may force us to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Secretary Kerry was absolutely visibly shocked today to
discover from our own Andrea Mitchell in Kiev that Vladimir Putin was
denying that Russian troops have entered the country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC: He denied that there were any Russian troops
in Crimea, occupying Crimea. He blamed the crisis on United States
interference saying that the U.S. --
KERRY: He really denied there were troops in Crimea?
MITCHELL: Yes, he did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Tonight, senior administration official announced the U.S.
will not attend the G8 Summit in Sochi in June unless Russia changes
At his press conference, when asked about the G8, Vladimir Putin said,
"As for the G8, I do not know. We will be ready to host the summit with
our colleagues. If they do not want to come, so be it."
Joining me now, William Taylor, the former ambassador to Ukraine under
both President George W. Bush and President Obama. And Charles Kupchan,
senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Ambassador Taylor, given everything we`ve picked up today, including
possibly most importantly Vladimir Putin`s press conference, where do you
see the state of the crisis tonight?
WILLIAM TAYLOR, FORMER AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Well, we can look for
one of two options. One, the first scenario would be that the Russians
decide that they will sit down with the Ukrainians. They`ll have a
discussion on how to structure the process going forward. The alternate
scenario is the Russians send troops in across the eastern border of
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can`t hear anything.
O`DONNELL: Ambassador, I have to ask you about John Kerry`s presence
there today. It seems with him in Kiev, it would be inconceivable that the
Russians would make a move while secretary of state is actually in the
country. Is it a wise idea to continue to send high-leveled administration
officials to be in some ways resistance shields to what Vladimir Putin
might do next?
TAYLOR: Well, the main reason, of course, Secretary Kerry is there is
to demonstrate support for this new government in Kiev. This new
government has an interim president designated by the Rada, the parliament.
It has a prime minister.
Secretary Kerry is there to have conversations with them and to
demonstrate that we are fully supportive of this government.
O`DONNELL: Charles Kupchan, today Vladimir Putin denied the
legitimacy of the government in Ukraine saying that there is no one -- no
counterpart there for him to deal with.
CHARLES KUPCHAN, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Well, you know, I
think this was just another cynical and pretty hypocritical defense of a
land grab in the Crimea Peninsula. To the degree that there was a coherent
argument in Putin`s press conference, it was that Yanukovych left power
unconstitutionally. He was thrown out.
But to have Vladimir Putin defending the rule of law in Ukraine,
calling for the restoration on constitutional rounds of Yanukovych really
goes right into the face of the fact that Putin does not abide by the rule
of law at home. If he`s so concerned about coups, why didn`t he go to
Egypt when the Egyptian military toppled Mohamed Morsi?
The bottom line is that what happened in Ukraine, this popular
revolution, was a serious blow to Russia, to Putin, to the idea of building
a Eurasian union with Ukraine as a junior partner. He`s lashing out to
grab what he can, the Crimean peninsula. It has nothing to do with his
belief in the principle of the rule of law or the illegitimacy of the
O`DONNELL: We have an incomplete early report of what Hillary Clinton
said tonight in California at a fundraiser actually about Ukraine. And she
is reported to have said, to have drawn a comparison between Russia`s
decision to issue passports in the Crimean region to the population
transfers that were carried out by Nazi Germany before World War II --
Ambassador Taylor, this is former Secretary Clinton`s first public comment
on the matter. I want to be fair to her. I think we need a much larger
context for what she`s actually said tonight that we don`t yet have.
But what do you -- what more would you anticipate hearing from
Secretary Clinton about this?
TAYLOR: Secretary Clinton cares very much about Ukraine. She spent
time there. People around her know the country very well. I would imagine
she would be a very strong supporter of this new government, and I would
imagine she would be a very strong critic of the hypocrisy being shown by
O`DONNELL: We`ve had some talk on this program and elsewhere about
the chess board with Russia, and the very -- the different interests we
have with Russia from Syria to Iran to Ukraine, and moving one piece on the
chess board has to keep in mind the others.
Chess, having been used so often in this model, one of the great
Russian chess players, Garry Kasparov, tweeted today about this. "Less
than Putin`s skill, it`s that he is not playing by the rules of the free
world, the rules the free world feels obliged to follow. So again, not
like chess at all."
Charles Kupchan, not like chess at all because Vladimir Putin observes
KUPCHAN: That`s exactly right. He`s playing by his own rules. He is
engaging in behavior that`s really beyond the bounds. At the same time, we
have to figure out how to respond to this in a way that`s resolute, that
says this is unacceptable, but not in a way that jeopardizes other American
interests, some of which, frankly, are more important, more immediate than
that of the Crimean peninsula.
They include getting out of Afghanistan without the country falling
apart. They include shutting down Iran`s nuclear program, they include the
civil war in Syria, which could lead to a broader conflagration in the
Middle East. Russia is a player in all of those.
So, even though I`m very supportive of the need to respond to what`s
happened, we do have to look at that wider picture and say what can we do
with Russia. How can we make it clear that what they`ve done is
unacceptable, without, at the same time, hurting ourselves by making it
more difficult to obtain what we want on these other issues?
O`DONNELL: Ambassador Taylor, if you were still serving in Ukraine,
or in any other position in the State Department, in the Obama
administration, what would you be urging the president to do at this point,
which the administration is not very doing?
TAYLOR: First of all, I would say that the issue of Ukraine is very
important to us. It`s not entirely clear to me what the Russians are doing
that benefits us in the Iran discussions, or in Syria issue. So, I would
say that in those two, we should not be hesitant to support the Ukrainians,
in thinking about Iran and Syria.
In doing more, I would say they need to -- the administration actually
needs to take the actions that they have talked about, that they have
promised. Go from G8 to G7. There`s no reason for Russians to be in the
G8. Impose the sanctions that they`ve talked about. The personal
sanctions on the people who have made decisions that violate international
law, and the broader sanctions that have been effective over time in Iran
and then South Africa?
O`DONNELL: Charles Kupchan, quickly before we go, any chance of
getting other members of the G-8 to go along with expelling Russia?
KUPCHAN: I think the answer to that depends on what happens in the
coming days. If Putin backs off, and he has told those troops that were
exercising in the south to go back to their barracks, if he looks to be
ready to talk about the disposition in Crimea, if he looks ready to leave
the rest of Ukraine alone, then I think it`s going to be difficult to get a
united front about kicking Russia out of the G-8.
If he ramps it up, he gets more provocative, he starts messing around
in eastern Ukraine, then I think he`ll get a pretty strong united front in
favor of what Ambassador Taylor was just talking about, which is an
escalating set of sanctions against this act of aggression.
O`DONNELL: Well, he`s still denying those are Russian troops that he
might have to order back to their barracks. So, it seems like we`re a few
steps away from that.
Former Ambassador William Taylor and Charles Kupchan, thank you both
very much for joining me tonight on this important story.
TAYLOR: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, what are the Russian people thinking about the
situation in Ukraine? And how do we find out what the Russian people are
really thinking? Where the dissent is, how much dissent is there? That`s
And later, an expert on machine politics will analyze the Putin
And in "The Rewrite" tonight my answer and only my answer to the
question, has Vladimir Putin lost touch with reality? Angela Merkel says
he has. Madeleine Albright says he`s delusional. I think there might be a
O`DONNELL: What does dissent in Russia look like these days? We`re
going to show you a coup of examples of that next. And we`ll include the
example of that anchorwoman in Russian television who said she objects to
the invasion of Crimea. That`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look what happens to a simple political blogger
who investigates government corruption. Meet Alexei Navalny. He was four
hours late to our interview because he was interviewed by the FSB, Russia`s
federal security service, a weekly occurrence.
ALEXEI NAVALNY, ANTI-CORRUPTION FOUNDATION: I am forbidden from going
on Russian television. I`m legally barred from running for any political
office. And I`ve been arrested many times for organizing anti-government
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why do you do it?
NAVALNY: If you look at Putin --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then our mikes cut out. Seriously, this
NAVALNY: These are things that, bugs in the office makes this problem
for this equipment. Twice, we find bugs and video cameras in my office.
In a funny situation, they took this bug and send it to the FSB for their
expertise. So bugs returns to the guys who placed it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was "The Daily Show`s" final report from Sochi one
Last night on Russian television, there was this startling moment on
this English language network that many Western observers said was a rare
moment of dissent in Russian media.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ABBY MARTIN: Before we wrap up the show, I wanted to say something
from my heart about the ongoing political crisis in Ukraine and Russia`s
military occupation of command. Just because I work here for RT doesn`t
mean I don`t have editorial independence. I can`t stress enough how
strongly I am against any state intervention in a sovereign nation`s
What Russia did is wrong. I admittedly don`t know as much as I should
about Ukraine`s history or the cultural dynamics of the region, but what I
do know is that military intervention is never the answer. And I will not
sit here and apologize or defend military aggression.
Furthermore, the coverage I`ve seen in Ukraine has been truly
disappointing from all sides of the media spectrum and ripe with
Above all, many I heart goes out to the Ukrainian people who are now
wedged as pawns in the middle of a global power chess game. They`re the
real losers here. All we can do now is hope for a peaceful outcome for a
terrible situation and prevent another full blown Cold War between multiple
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That Kremlin-funded network responded with this statement,
"Contrary to the popular opinion, RT doesn`t beat its journalists into
submission and they are free to express their own opinions, not just in
private but on the air. This is the case with Abby`s commentary on the
Ukraine. We respect her views and the views of all of our journalists,
presenters and program hosts, and there will be absolutely no reprimands
made against Ms. Martin.
In her comment, Ms. Martin also noted that she does not possess deep
knowledge of reality of the situation in Crimea. As such, we`ll be sending
her Crimea to give her an opportunity to make up her own mind from the
epicenter of the story."
Joining me now: James Kirchick, a fellow at the Foreign Policy
Initiative, a correspondent for "The Daily Beast" and columnist for "Tablet
Magazine". And Miriam Elder, the foreign editor for "BuzzFeed." She lived
in Russia for seven years, a Moscow correspondent for "The Guardian."
James, you had a famous run-in on RT-TV quite a while ago, which
brought you to this program the first time. I really want to get your
reaction to what Abby Martin had to say.
JAMES KIRCHICK, FOREIGN POLICY INSTITUTE: Yes, I think this was
managed or controlled dissent. There are real Democrats and oppositions in
Russia, like Alexei Navalny who you showed earlier. Those people tend to
be beaten up and thrown into jail.
And then you have sort of the official or puppet opposition. And
these are, you know, parties and politicians who are paid and sponsored by
That`s what Abby Martin is. She cashes checks from Vladimir Putin.
So, she spends 60 seconds voicing her disagreement on Russian behavior in
Ukraine that doesn`t counter what she does every day on her show, which is
spout Kremlin propaganda.
And not just Kremlin, but this woman, we need to be clear, is an out
and out lunatic. She`s a conspiracy theorist. She`s a 9/11 truther. She
thinks that water fluoridation is a government conspiracy, which the last
time you heard that was probably from the John Birch Society. She`s
compared Israel to Nazi Germany.
So, to portray her some sort of brave truth-telling hero is really
inaccurate. And all that`s going to happen now is RT is going to be able
to hold up and dangle this little moment of pseudo-dissent and say, look,
we`re a legitimate news network. We have differing points of view. That`s
really not the case for anyone who watches RT.
O`DONNELL: And Abby Martin tweeted today after her network said she
was going to the epicenter, Abby Martin tweeted, "I am not going to Crimea,
despite the statement RT has made. Please update accordingly," she was
Miriam, just to clarify in RT, it`s not actually seen in Russia.
Isn`t this for foreign -- it`s a Russian network news production in the
English language for foreign consumption. So, no one in Russia saw her do
that on TV?
MIRIAM ELDER, BUZZFEED FOREIGN EDITOR: Yes, that`s precisely right.
O`DONNELL: Yes, I mean, you know, that`s where if you`re in the
Kremlin, that`s where you want the dissent to be on TV that no one in
Russia can see.
ELDER: Well, exactly. If you look at the way the Russian government
controls its media, it`s really easy to understand this move as being
honest or not honest.
Russia canceled its live streaming of the Oscars the other night at
the last minute, and it`s understood from the journalists because they were
scared of things like Jared Leto did, speak up for protesters in Ukraine.
And when it was aired the other day, they cut it out.
So, to think this explosion of dissent came out of nowhere is a little
hard to believe.
O`DONNELL: James, you spent time there, what is your sense about how
we could now get at what`s going on within the Russian population? What
are they consuming by way of information about this? How much dissent is
there to that information that they`re consuming? Do we have -- do we run
polls there regularly?
I mean, if this kind of situation was happening in the United States,
there would be a "New York Times" poll by now indicating, you know, what we
feel about what`s happening in our neighboring country. How do we get at
what`s going on there? Inside Russia.
KIRCHICK: I don`t doubt that most Russians probably support what the
government is doing right now. But you have to understand that practically
all of the media, television, where most Russians get their news, is state
controlled. The really only independent news sources, maybe a handful of
newspapers, independent Web sites, Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, the
BBC. But the penetration of those sorts of media is not very high.
So, unfortunately, it`s very difficult for the average Russian to
really understand what`s going on in their world because they`re basically
getting in Russian what you see on RT, which is basically lies and
O`DONNELL: But, Miriam, what about Internet access for the more kind
of alert dissenters who know where to look around the world for other
sources of information?
ELDER: Yes, incredibly lively. And I think that Jamie is right, when
it comes to the older population in Russia who does get most of their news
from state-controlled television, but kids there on the Internet all the
time. And if you look at the main discussions on Twitter, on Facebook, on
the Russian version of Facebook, it`s incredibly lively. There`s tons of
dissent, and that`s fear is really owned by the dissenters.
And I think a really interesting thing now is going to be what the
Kremlin does with the Internet precisely to clamp down on that kind of
O`DONNELL: To both of you, James and Miriam, James, first, do you --
would you anticipate that the dissent could bubble up to the level on this
that we might see some kind of external protests in Moscow or elsewhere?
KIRCHICK: Well, I believe there were -- or there was a small protest
with a couple hundred people protesting the action, which brought back
memories of 1968 when Russians bravely protested the invasion of
Czechoslovakia. And like then, this protest was broken up, people were
beaten and carded off to jail. And there have been much bigger protests in
recent Russian history with tens of thousands of people that were also
broken up in such a way.
So, it`s certainly possible. There obviously are Russians who are
brave enough to go out and withstand the police forces. And I think we in
the West need to do everything we can to stand with them.
O`DONNELL: Now, Miriam, if you listened to Putin`s press conference
today, he said a lot of perfectly reasonable sounding things, that if
you`re a Russian with very limited news access, that would sound very
reason to believe you. That this was a violent overthrow of a government,
they violated the constitution of Ukraine, that there is no leader there
for him to deal with.
The thing that sounded most fanciful and was probably hard far lot of
people is: no, those aren`t Russian troops. They`re just local people.
But most of it, he said, you know, Yanukovych did a bad job, wouldn`t
get re-elected. I told him he wouldn`t get reelected.
There`s plenty of what he was saying, I want to be fair to the Russian
people who are consuming this in that controlled news environment, that
we`re not saying that if you`re buying the Putin view of this, you know,
that that`s just -- you`re just being dumb. I mean, there`s a lot of ways
in which he presents this that can sound reasonable if you hear nothing
ELDER: Absolutely. And this has been one of the most amazing things
of the Putin project since he`s come to power. He creates this kind of
alternate reality. At first, he did it domestically.
When you`re in Russia around election time, it`s incredible -- the
talk of democracy, the posters on the streets, the people out at rallies,
the lines at election booths. I mean, these are things that the Kremlin
orchestrates very, very carefully. We`ve seen it done at home for a long
time. And now, this is the first time he`s moved beyond his borders to do
So, this is a very controlled campaign. It`s a theatre.
O`DONNELL: James Kirchick, welcome back to the show. And thanks for
joining us again.
And, Miriam Elder, thank you very much for joining us again.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, Vladimir Putin`s political machine.
And later, breaking news from Texas: Wendy Davis has become the first
woman since Ann Richards to win a primary for governor of Texas.
O`DONNELL: In the "spotlight" tonight, Putin`s political machine. On
reuters.com, Terry Golway writes, Russian president Vladimir Putin calls
them his brothers, this group of burly motorcyclists who see themselves as
road warriors, fighting for the greater glory of mother Russia. They`re
known as the night wolves and Putin himself has ridden with them on that
icon of American wanderlust, a Harley Davidson, even as Russia was
preparing to send troops to Crimea to reclaim the peninsula from Ukraine`s
new government. The night wolves announced that they would ride to the
troubled region to whip up support for their powerful brother and Harley
Joining me now is Terry Golway, the author of "Machine Made, Tammany hall
and the creation of modern politics."
Terry, I love this book. There are examples in here for all sorts of
things. Where is the camera to pick the shot of this book? I`m going to
stick it out here so you can find that book that I`m try to sell.
Somewhere, I think, we have the picture of Putin on the Harleys with the
guys who are riding the Harleys into Ukraine as we speak. We have seen in
our own history, our own politics. In this book we see violence used as a
political tool. This is something that -- a period this country went
through right here in New York with violence.
TERRY GOLWAY, AUTHOR, MACHINE MADE: Absolutely. Tammany hall, of course,
was in some cases a political gang itself in the early 19th century. And
it was a reaction to gangs that were anti-Irish, anti-Catholic that invaded
catholic neighborhoods on Election Day. And Tammany often responded in
kind. I mean, it went to the gangs of New York to recruit people like
Richard Croaker, who was one of the more famous Tammany bosses, as well as
boss tweed who really became a neighborhood celebrity as a result of being
a fire chief and a gang leader.
O`DONNELL: And the score says a movie "the gangs of New York" with Daniel
Day-Lewis had some of these characters in there, DiCaprio. And so, when
you say Tammany hall now, I think, the word association is corruption and
maybe there`s not any other word that`s associated with it in the modern
mind. Tammany hall was corruption. It was thuggery (ph). It was all
sorts of stuff. What else was it that people should know about it that
GOLWAY: Tammany hall was about social reform. Tammany was about minimum
wage, Tammany hall was making life easier for immigrants. Tammany hall was
a voice for the voiceless. Tammany hall was a friend for the friendless.
And that part of Tammany`s history which was so important in understanding
how immigrants became Americans, how the working poor took a step up the
ladder, that`s Tammany`s story.
O`DONNELL: Tammany hall wanted power. Those guys wanted power and they
believed in a democracy, the way for them to hold that power is to serve
that population that is providing the majority of votes. And that was an
underclass that was providing those votes.
GOLWAY: That`s right. I mean, Tammany represented the butcher, the
barker, the candlestick maker, whereas the elites, you know, the
Republicans, where wigs, whoever was in the opposition, generally were the
civic elites. They were, you know, the rich people who had stuff. Well,
Tammany represented the people who not only wanted stuff, they need stuff.
O`DONNELL: And they were builders. They are these things around the city
in this region that would not be here monuments of public works that
wouldn`t be here without them.
GOLWAY: The George Washington bridge, which you may have heard.
O`DONNELL: Yes. Now, on Bridgegate you recently wrote about Chris
Christie and Bridgegate, Chris Christie the amateur is the title of your
piece on that and it says bridgegate appears to be not an aberration, but
merely, a particularly ugly example of a method of operation that utilized
all the brute force of the political machine and none of its finesse. So
it looked like the Christie gang was -- they thought they were caught in
Tammany hall, but they didn`t understand the finesse part.
GOLWAY: Exactly. Well, because they were amateurs. And you know, you
pointed out on the show several times, you know, for example, when the
Christie team released that ridiculous press release that attacked
Wildstein`s high school record and such. I remember you sort of said who
are these people? And that`s precisely the question that should be asked.
The thing is, Chris Christie, and others in American politics have sought
to demonize politics. They prosecuted politics. They`ve looked upon our
fellow politicians, not as colleagues, but as people who should be on a
perp walk. And when you start looking at politics that way, when you look
at the person opposite of you as a prospective felon, things don`t happen.
And when you refuse to compromise, when you refuse to cut a back room deal
and you know what, I respect back room deals because that`s how democracy
gets done. But when you claim to be above that, you`re not going to be
very effective. One of the characters in my book, Ed Flynn, who was very
close to Franklin Roosevelt and was sort of raised by Tammany. He had a
word for people and it was the worst word you could possibly use --
O`DONNELL: The amateur. And it would have been an amateur who would have
walked into Tammany hall that said hey, I have a plan to get back at this
mayor. And it involves hurting the voters and leaving them stuck in their
cars for hours and end. There wasn`t anybody in Tammany hall who wouldn`t
have said you`re absolutely crazy. Your plan has to be invisible and it
can hurt a single voter.
GOLWAY: Exactly. I mean, if you`re going to involve in something,
somebody once said, if you are going to create a scandal, make sure it`s a
scandal that people don`t understand. And people understand traffic jams.
O`DONNELL: The book, the important book is called "Machine Made; Tammany
hall and the creation of modern politics." It takes us all the way to the
presidency of FDR. You will not understand FDR. You don`t know where the
minimum wage came from, you don`t know where a lot of important things in
the society came from without understanding Tammany hall.
Terry Golway, thank you very much for writing this book and joining us to
GOLWAY: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up in "the rewrite" some European leaders are very
worried about Vladimir Putin. They think he`s in his own world as Angela
Merkel put in. Madeleine Albright says he is delusional. I actually think
it`s something else. And that`s something else is next in the "rewrite."
O`DONNELL: In tonight`s "rewrite" mind of Vladimir Putin.
German chancellor Angela Merkel got the speculation about Putin`s mental
state started, when "The New York Times" reported her telling President
Obama by telephone that after she spoke with Putin, she concluded that he
is, quote, "in another world." The "Times" says that people briefed on the
call said that Merkel is not sure that Putin is in touch with reality.
Experienced Kremlin and Putin watchers began to chime in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I agree with what Angela
Merkel said, that he`s living in some other world. I think that either he
does not have the facts, he is being fed propaganda, or his own propaganda,
it doesn`t make any sense.
There are no calls for assistance. There is not this kind of a crisis in
terms of the way that the Russian-speaking people are in some way being
harmed and so this is all made up. And I think it`s part of a much longer-
term plan that Putin has had, which is to try to recreate some form of
relationship between Ukraine and Moscow. I think that is the tragedy
that`s going on. Putin is in my ways, I think, delusional about this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: At the United Nations, Samantha Power followed in a long
tradition of American U.N. ambassadors telling their soviet and now Russian
counterparts that they are inventing their own facts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAMANTHA POWER, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: So many of the assertions
made this afternoon by the Russian federation are without basis in reality.
Let`s begin with a clear and candid assessment of the facts.
It is a fact that Russian military forces have taken over Ukrainian border
posts. It is a fact that Russia has taken over the ferry terminal in Kerch
(ph). It is a fact that Russian ships are moving in and around Sevastopol.
It`s a fact that Russian forces are blocking mobile telephone services in
some areas. It is a fact that Russia has surrounded or taken over
practically all Ukrainian military facilities in Crimea. It is a fact that
today Russian jets entered Ukrainian air space. It`s also a fact that
independent journalists continue to report that there is no evidence of
violence against Russian or pro-Russian communities.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Then came Vladimir Putin`s press conference today in which he
said some very reasonable-sounding things. For example, he says that he
told Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych before he fled the country that
he had no chance of being reelected. Some perfectly respectable political
punditry thereby Putin. But he also said in that press conference that the
sharp drop in the Russian stock market and the value of the ruble, sharp
drop in the value of the ruble had nothing to do with the events in Ukraine
and were entirely the fault of what else, the Federal Reserve. Yes, our
The Russian central bank was then forced to spend about $20 billion to
support the currency and they instantly raised interest rates by 1.5
percentage points. Putin`s most un-tethered moment in that press
conference was, of course, when he was asked about the Russian soldiers who
have invaded Crimea.
Question, Mr. President, clarification, if I may. The people who were
blocking the Ukrainian army units in Crimea were wearing uniforms that
strongly resembled the Russian army uniform. Were those Russian soldier?
Vladimir Putin, why don`t you take a look at the post soviet states. There
are many uniforms there that are similar. You can go to a store and by any
kind of uniform.
Question, but were they Russian soldiers or not
Vladimir Putin, those were local self-defense units.
Now, if Putin said that to Angela Merkel in a way that left Merkel believes
that he believes that, then she is, of course, absolutely right, that Putin
is in another world. But as of tonight, I for one am prepared to give
Vladimir Putin the benefit of the doubt on this. I see no reason on the
face of the evidence as of now to reach the conclusion, or should we say,
the diagnosis that Putin is delusional. It seems more likely that he is
simply employing that tactic that most politicians here and around the
world employ every day to varying degrees. Putin is simply lying.
When Putin talks about his soldiers that he sent into Ukraine being local
self-defense units, he`s just lying. How is that statistically different
stylistically different than Chris Christie trying to use a nonexistent
Now, I`m not in any way equating the government of New Jersey and the
president of Russia. The New Jersey scandals are, of course, completely
unimportant, just nothing when juxtaposed to the most important story in
the world tonight, which is what is happening in Ukraine. But we should be
able to see that politicians from Trenton to Moscow and everywhere else
around the world use identical techniques in defending themselves. They
reach for and use, without blinking, invented facts. For civilians, that
could get you diagnosed as delusional, but for politicians, for most of
them, it`s the life they`ve chosen.
O`DONNELL: Big win for Wendy Davis in Texas tonight. We`ll bring her
speech and the latest election results in Texas, that`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WENDY DAVIS (D), TEXAS GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you all so very,
very much. It`s wonder to feel look out and see all your faces. And when
I look at you, I know in my heart that we`re going to do this. In calling
the race for me tonight, I`ve become only the second female gubernatorial
candidate since Anne Richards.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now at the Texas election anchor desk, Wayne Slater,
columnist from the "Dallas Morning News" and MSNBC`s Krystal Ball.
Krystal, big win for Wendy Davis. Over 34 percent reporting, she has 77
percent of the vote against her challenger.
KRYSTAL BALL, MSNBC HOST, THE CYCLE: Yes. This result was no the really
in doubt, but still it was a good chance for her to sort of get her sea
legs. She has made a couple of mistake with regards to her file, not being
completely precise. But I think it has been a good opportunity for her to
sort of realized the increased scrutiny that shall fate of the statewide
level and look, it is a tough, really, uphill battle. But she is giving
Democrats in the state of Texas a lot of hope that they haven`t had in
quite a long time.
O`DONNELL: Wayne Slater, the Republican nominee to no surprise is Greg
Abbott. He won his easily and so the fight is on. We have our nominees.
WAYNE SLATER, COLUMNIST, DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Absolutely. One of the fast
stating things in the last couple of days, Greg Abbott is republican who
has spent months cultivating the farthest right edge of the tea party
voters, the birther secessionist wings of the Republican party, or as we
call them moderates here in Texas.
But it`s very interesting. The last few days, he has done something which
suggests a slight movement towards general election. He`s showcasing his
wife, who is a Latina. He has put a commercial up appealing to Hispanic
votes. And he has after voting today here in Austin, come out and said I
am a multi-culturist. That`s something that you would never hear someone
like that say before.
We`re in general election mode right now, moving towards, if not moderate
voter, at least moderately conservative voters.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen more about what Wendy Davis had to say tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID: Greg Abbott, he wants to dictate for all women, including victims
of rape or incest the decisions that they should make. I will a governor
who fight for the future of Texas. Greg Abbott is a defender of the status
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Now, she`s running, the last pole we have here is from February
17th, Greg Abbott 47, Wendy Davis at 36. Greg Abbott being below 50, she
as 36. That`s within striking distance. There`s a real possible campaign
there. I want to show an ad Wendy Davis has about Ted Nugent. And we
haven`t polled in Texas since the Ted Nugent episodes and this ad. So
let`s look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My name is Nicole. I`m 34 years old and I`m a rape
I`m speaking out because it really bothered me for Greg Abbott to partner
with Ted Nugent knowing his history of being a predator. I think that it
sends the wrong message. That he partners up with this man who is very
vocal about liking underage girls. There`s something wrong with that.
It`s not OK.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Wayne Slater, what is the effect of that in Texas?
SLATER: Right. Let me tell you, it has real potential effect. Wendy
Davis has to do two things. And Krystal is right. this is an uphill
battle for her. She has to appeal to Hispanic voters to turn out in
numbers that are larger than they have, certainly in the last couple of
decades. She`s also got to appeal to women, moderate suburban women, some
Republican-leading women. The kind of women in 1990 voted for Anne
Richards, 61 percent of the women in that year voted for Richards, helped
her win the governor`s office.
Wendy Davis has to do, and this unforced error of pulling Ted Nugent on the
stage, exactly what this commercial said, is the kind of thing that Wendy
Davis` campaign will be reminding voters of, especially these moderate
women voters between now and November.
O`DONNELL: Krystal, so far, a white vote for the tea party challengers
against the establishment in Texas tonight.
BALL: Yes. Steve Stockman who was basically courageously testing whether
or not there was such a thing as too crazy and out there for a Republican
primary in Texas has shown that, in fact, he is too nutty for even the
Republican primary electric rat in Texas. I mean, this is the guy who had
a campaign bumper sticker saying something like if babies had guns then
they wouldn`t be aborted. He may literally be the craziest member of
Congress in a very crazy Congress. So he has been defeated. Good for John
Cornyn who was also an extraordinary conservative person.
O`DONNELL: And this is that night in American political history when the
new generation of Bushes, George P. Bush, has won a statewide election in
Texas for the commissioner of the general land office, and his march to the
presidency is under way. Wayne Slater and Krystal Ball, thank you both
very much for joining us tonight. Chris Hayes is up next.
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