THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
March 25, 2014
Guests: Charles Kupchan, Nia-Malika Henderson, Jon Ralston, Cecile
Richards; Ray Halbritter
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Mitt Romney showed up at President Obama`s
press conference today -- in spirit anyway.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sticks and stones can break your bones.
MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The president`s naivete
with regards to Russia --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But words will never hurt you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you concerned that America`s influence in the
world, your influence in the world, is on the decline?
ROMNEY: -- has led to a number of foreign policy challenges.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think Mitt Romney had a point?
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: With respect to Mr. Romney`s
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt Romney thumped the president --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Obama had a zinger --
OBAMA: Russia`s actions are a problem.
ROMNEY: Naivete with regards to Russia.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Naive about the seriousness of Russia`s intentions.
OBAMA: They don`t pose the number one national security threat to the
ROMNEY: This is reality where they are a geopolitical adversary.
OBAMA: America`s got a whole lot of challenges.
ROMNEY: This is not fantasy land.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The world`s eyes are now on Vladimir Putin and Russia.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He so badly wants to see Russia viewed as a superpower.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The United States and its allies effectively kicked
Russia out of the G-8.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Russia now is more isolated than it`s ever been before.
OBAMA: Russia is a regional power.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hitting Vladimir Putin by calling Russia a regional
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is part of the Putin bravado and ego.
OBAMA: A regional power that is threatening some of its immediate
neighbors. Not out of strength, but out of weakness.
O`DONNELL: At the president`s press conference at The Hague today, he
discovered that the Romney campaign is alive and well, at least in the
hearts of some White House correspondents.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS: Do you think Mitt Romney had a point when he said
that Russia is America`s biggest geopolitical foe?
OBAMA: With respect to Mr. Romney`s assertion that Russia is our number
one geopolitical foe, the truth of the matter is that America has got a
whole lot of challenges. Russia is a regional power that is threatening
some of its immediate neighbors, not out of strength but out of weakness.
The fact that Russia felt compelled to go in militarily and lay bear these
violations of international law indicates less influence, not more.
Russia`s actions are a problem. They don`t pose the number one national
security threat to the United States.
I continue to be much more concerned when it comes to our security, where
the prospect of a nuclear weapon going off in Manhattan, which is part of
the reason why the United States showing its continued international
leadership has organized a forum over the last several years that`s been
able to help eliminate that threat in a consistent way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And, of course, the president was asked that question that
American presidents are always asked by White House correspondents who
sometimes like to pretend that the president of the United States is the
king of the world. Whenever another head of state makes a choice that the
American president doesn`t like, that president is always asked if
America`s influence in the world, that president`s in the world is on the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: In China, in Syria, in Egypt and now in Russia, we` seen you make
strong statements, issue warnings that have been ignored. Are you
concerned that America`s influence in the world, your influence in the
world is on the decline?
OBAMA: Well, Jonathan, I think if the premise of the question is that
whenever the United States objects to an action and other countries don`t
immediately do exactly what we want, that that`s been the norm, that would
pretty much erase most of 20th century history.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Yes. Presidents of both parties in the 20th and 21st centuries
have sometimes failed to bend other countries to their will. Nothing
remarkable about that. Unless you think the president of the United States
is the king of the world.
The president had more to say about this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I think that there`s a distinction between us being very clear
about what we think is an appropriate action, what we stand for, what
principles we believe in versus what is, I guess, implied in the question,
that we should engage in some sort of military action to prevent something.
The truth of the matter is, is that the world has always been messy. And
what the United States has consistently been able to do, and we continue to
be able to do is to mobilize the international community around a set of
principles and norms and where our own self-defense may not be involved, we
may not act militarily. That does not mean that we don`t steadily push
against those forces that would violate those principles and ideals that we
So, yes, you`re right. Syria`s civil war is not solved. And yet Syria has
never been more isolated.
With respect to the situation with Ukraine, we have not gone to war with
Russia. I think there`s a significant precedent to that in the past.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Yes, I guess there was a significant precedent for the
president of the United States deciding not to go to war with Russia.
Now, I don`t have time to mention all of the presidents who have decided
against going to war with Russia, but here`s a snapshot of them --
beginning with Republican Dwight Eisenhower in to the cold war. Oh, and
while they were at it, every Russian leader and Soviet leader decided not
to go to war with the United States.
So, Vladimir Putin knew that the United States was not going to go to war
with him if he invaded Crimea, no matter who was president of the United
So what was to prevent Vladimir Putin from invading Crimea? What military
was going to stand in his way? The Ukrainian military.
And so, it was going to be even easier than Ronald Reagan`s invasion of
Granada, no matter who was president of the United States. And everyone
knew that, except apparently some members of the White House press corps
who continue to believe that the president is of the United States is
responsible for every bad thing that happens in the world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The point is that there are always going to be bad things that
happen around the world. And the United States is the most powerful nation
in the world, understandably is looked to for solutions to those problems.
There are going to be moments where military action is appropriate. There
are going to be sometimes where that`s not in the interests -- national
security interests of the United States or some of our partners, but that
doesn`t mean that we`re not going to continue to make the effort or speak
clearly about what we think is right and wrong, and that`s what we`ve done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now, Eugene Robinson, MSNBC political analyst and
opinion writer for "The Washington Post", and Charles Kupchan, a professor
of international affairs at Georgetown and a senior fellow on the Council
of Foreign Relations. He was the director for European affairs on
President Clinton`s National Security Council.
Gene Robinson, the Romney campaign lives.
EUGENE ROBINSON, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, yes. It`s finally getting some
traction. It`s finally, you know, they`re going to catch up one of these
days. Maybe by the time President Obama leaves office.
But, you know, when I was coming into the studio this evening, I bumped my
head on the light and it hurts. So I`m blaming the president because
clearly his influence is waning. It doesn`t extend to Nebraska Avenue in
O`DONNELL: And, Charles Kupchan, there is a long list of Soviet actions,
Russian actions over the objections of American presidents, including
George W. Bush, to go back most recently, and there were no -- the people
who were saying today that President Obama simply wasn`t tough enough to
prevent this from happening did not say that George W. Bush was not tough
enough to prevent something similar from happening in Georgia.
CHARLES KUPCHAN, GEORGETOWN: That`s right. I mean, I think Romney was
wrong when he said Russia is the number one foe. And he`s wrong as he
That doesn`t minimize the gravity of what`s happened. I mean, Russia broke
the rule when it went into Crimea. It tore away that chunk of land from a
sovereign state. And for now, it`s still a small war, but we know from
history that small wars can turn into big wars.
But the bottom line is we need to keep our heads screwed on tight. This is
not a direct threat to American national security. Russia is about 1/5 the
strength it was when it was the Soviet Union. There are only three
countries have backed what Russia did, Afghanistan, Syria and Venezuela,
not very impressive.
So, we need to keep this in the right frame, and possibly if Putin stops
here, we can condemn it, we can sanction it, but we may be able to have a
working relationship with Russia on issues that are at least as important
as Crimea, including Iran, Afghanistan, and Syria.
O`DONNELL: Well, today we sent up one American astronaut with two Russian
astronauts. And so, we`re still cooperating on some things.
You know, I want to be fair to Mitt Romney about this whole situation that
he`s been drawn into today and that he`s voluntarily stepped into by going
on TV and talking about it. Let`s go back and listen to how Mitt Romney
made this point the first time he was asked about it and we know how the
Democrats and the president exploited it in the campaign.
But let`s listen to what Romney said when he first raised this in the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: This is without question our number one geopolitical foe.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN: You think Russia is a bigger foe right now than let`s
say Iran or China or North Korea?
ROMNEY: Well, I`m saying, in terms of a geopolitical opponent, the nation
that lines up with the world`s worst actors. Of course, the greatest
threat the world faces is a nuclear Iran and nuclear North Korea is already
troubling enough. But when these terrible actors already pursue their
course in the world and we go to the United Nations looking for ways to
stop them, who is it who always stands up for the world`s worst actors? It
is always Russia typically with China alongside.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Gene Robinson, when Wolf Blitzer pushed him for the
clarification, I think he actually went on to make a pretty good point and
a pretty good case for what he was trying to say about Russia.
ROBINSON: Right. And so, he maybe should have said it more clearly to
begin with, but yes, he makes the case that Russia has made a habit of, you
know, being the protector of states like Venezuela and Cuba and, you know,
the countries basically that are doing things that the Western alliance
opposes and often things in violation of international law and violation of
human rights. And Russia steps up to veto the resolutions fairly
regularly. It is clear.
But, you know, I mean, take a step back. President Obama said Russia is a
regional power. While it`s much shrunken from what it was in Soviet times,
I would argue that Russia is more than a regional power. And in fact, I
would argue that one of the reasons Russia is so prickly right now is that
people keep calling it a regional power.
And Putin doesn`t like that and I think a lot of Russians don`t like that.
O`DONNELL: Well, I think you might be able to define a regional power,
Charles Kupchan, by what is your capacity to invade? Is it only your
neighbors? Would we be taken seriously if the only place we could invade
was Nova Scotia?
But to go to Romney`s point there, which is, I think, a serious point. The
president pivots off of that. And did during the campaign, I think,
successfully make Romney`s ideas sound old fashioned, because what he was
reminding people of was look, the number one actual real threat to this
country is the threat that brought down the World Trade Center. That is
the 21st century threat. And that is what keeps this president awake at
KUPCHAN: That`s right. And, you know, I think a lot of the critics out
there call Obama`s behavior weakness. I think it`s prudence. And it`s
getting the priorities right.
And we don`t know where Putin is headed, right? He has said I`m going to
defend Russians wherever they are. That could be in Lithuania. It could
be in Latvia. If that happens, then we really are back in something that
looks like the Cold War.
But we`re really far away from that now. And until that kind of thing
happens, you`ve got to look at the situation with terrorism. We`ve got to
look at what`s going on in Syria. China in many respects looms on the
horizons as a much, much greater geopolitical threat than does Russia.
So, I think Obama is actually behaving impressively restrained, not wanting
to bang the war drums. Not going out there and using saber-rattling at a
time when what we need now is tough and resolute diplomacy. I think that`s
what we`re seeing.
O`DONNELL: Gene Robinson and Charles Kupchan, thank you both very much for
joining me tonight.
ROBINSON: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, the Vegas billionaire who bankrolled loser Newt
Gingrich and then loser Mitt Romney would like to try winning an election
for a change. He will be auditioning Republican presidential candidates
this week in Vegas.
And Cecile Richards is here for an exclusive interview about her reaction
to the arguments in the Supreme Court today over contraceptive coverage in
the Affordable Care Act.
And tonight`s big question is -- and I don`t normally do sports questions,
but tonight is the night -- should NCAA college athletes be paid for
bringing hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue into their
universities? The answer, my answer is in tonight`s "Rewrite."
O`DONNELL: There is hope for a better future relationship with Russia.
Two Russian cosmonauts and an American astronaut blasted off from Russian
space launch Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan tonight for a six-month stay on the
International Space Station. American astronaut Reid Wiseman told
reporter, "We`re three really good friends, climb into a Soyuz capsule to
fly into space. All politics aside, there`s no doubt it`s going to work
Up next, billionaire Sheldon Adelson doesn`t want to waste any more of his
cash on Republican losers.
O`DONNELL: "I don`t cry when I lose. There`s always a new hand coming
No, that wasn`t John Wayne in some western. Those were the words of
political gambler Sheldon Adelson who vowed in 2012 after losing big time
on candidates he backed to continue to play the money game in future
elections. Adelson and his wife Miriam were the biggest individual donors
of 2012 and the biggest losers. Pouring in more than $92 million to back
mostly losing Republican candidates like these.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
JOHN KING, CNN: She says you asked her, sir, to enter into an open
marriage. Would you like to take some time to respond to that?
NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No. But I will.
ALLEN WEST: I believe there is about 78, 81 members of the Democrat Party
that are members of the communist party.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congressman Connie Mack did not cast a vote for the
budget proposal. He was here in Florida to campaign for his U.S. Senate
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let`s give a welcome to macaca here. Welcome to
America and the real world of Virginia.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
O`DONNELL: The most reasonable candidate that Adelson backed was this
loser who got 47 percent of the vote.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president
no matter what. All right, 47 percent are with him, who are dependent upon
government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that the
government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe they`re
entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: According to "The Washington Post", Adelson doesn`t want to
back the crazies anymore. He wants to pick a winner for a change, someone
who can appeal to voters. The new strategy seems to favor 2016 hopefuls
like Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Ohio
Governor John Kasich, all of whom are reportedly scheduled to have one-on-
one chats, auditioned, if you will, with Adelson this week during the
spring meeting of the Republican Jewish coalition, which is being held at
Adelson`s Venetian Hotel in Vegas.
Adelson`s friend, Victor Chaltiel, told "The Washington Post", "He doesn`t
want a crazy extremist to be the nominee. He wants someone who has the
chance to win the election, who is reasonable in his positions, who has
convictions, but is not totally crazy."
Joining me now is "Washington Post" political reporter Nia-Malika
So, Nia, the Adelson campaign bumper sticker -- not totally crazy. That`s
where he wants to go this time.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, THE WASHINGTON POST: You know, those are the words
of his aides. That`s like you putting those words in his mouth.
Listen, I mean, Adelson is someone who has buyer`s remorse from 2012. And
a lot of Republican donors were experiencing the same thing after they
poured millions and millions of dollars into that campaign. It didn`t
really work for them. And there was something like a 2 percent return with
some of these super PACs.
So, now, Adelson is trying to be a bit more pragmatic, and who have a
parade of moderate candidates out there. Now, Adelson is someone who
certainly likes this attention and in some ways, this is like they`re going
to have to go in and kiss the ring of Adelson in many ways and figure out
if they can cozy up to him and get some of his millions of dollars in the
run-up to the 2016 campaign and when and if they declare.
O`DONNELL: They`re calling this the Sheldon primary, because so much money
is at stake in getting his backing. And Adelson`s friend told "The
Washington Post" that he is concerned about the impact the George
Washington Bridge traffic scandal in New Jersey has on Christie`s political
image. He also said Adelson admires Bush and believes that he has the
unique potential to do what Romney could not -- win over a large number of
nonwhite voters. Bush, whose wife is Mexican-American, speaks fluent
Spanish. Jeb Bush, because he`s bilingual, because of his wife, he has a
better chance to reach out and get more access to the minorities."
That`s the thinking, Nia, in Adelson world.
HENDERSON: That is the thinking. And listen, this is a world apart from
where they were in 2012. Backing Newt Gingrich, obviously, a losing
candidate. They backed him and really prolonged the primary in 2012 and
damaged Mitt Romney going into the general.
But this very sort of big tent approach to 2016 where they think somebody
like Jeb Bush could attract more minorities, this is in line with the sort
of party line of Republicans as well. You think about that autopsy that
they released after 2012. This is their thinking as well.
Apparently, Huckabee has also come up as someone that Sheldon Adelson might
like also. He`s said to be looking at a potential campaign.
But, you know, we`ll have to see. There`s a whole parade of these folks
who are going to be out there from Thursday to Sunday. I think Dick Cheney
is also on the lean-up to speak. Cory Gardner is going to be out there as
So, this is going to be a really motley crew of Republicans out there, with
Adelson to name a favorite. We`ll see how quickly he`ll do that and
whether or not this will mean anything for other Republican donors.
O`DONNELL: Also joining us now from Vegas is Jon Ralston, a political
journalist in Adelson`s home state. Of course, he is the host of "The
Jon, something tells me that Sheldon Adelson wants something from
government that he believes a president of the United States might be able
to help him get.
JON RALSTON, POLITICAL JOURNALIST: What a cynical view that is, indeed. I
bet he wants a lot of things, like most billionaires do. One is to pay
With Sheldon Adelson, though, of course, there`s a couple of things always
on his mind, always Israel, as you know. And of course, his latest crusade
is to stop online gaming from interfering with his business and creating
what he calls a moral hazard, which has drawn a lot of criticism from
people who figure what`s gong on in your casinos, Mr. Adelson.
So, he certainly does want something from government. I learned today that
almost every single one of those supplicants you just mentioned are coming
to kiss his ring. But if they think he`s going to listen to them, it`s
going to be the other way around.
O`DONNELL: Yes, tell me how that goes, Jon. You` been around Adelson.
What is it like when these guys have to meet with him?
RALSTON: Well, he`ll say I`ll have coffee with you for 15 minutes and
essentially he`s going to lecture them, I would guess, for about an hour.
Now -- and there will be a lot of head nodding and maybe a ring kissing or
two in there. But he has very, very strong views.
You know, he didn`t like Mitt Romney. He thought Mitt Romney was too
wishy-washy. I think these guys know that. But he has not, from what I
understand, made a choice on who his favorite is. He doesn`t know these
guys as well as he knew some of the folks, especially Newt Gingrich as you
I do think that he is going to be predisposed to someone outside of
Washington, to a governor as opposed to a senator or a congressman.
O`DONNELL: Jon Ralston, and Nia-Malika Henderson -- thank you both for
joining me tonight.
HENDERSON: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, Cecile Richards joins me to talk about the argument
about contraception in the Supreme Court today.
And later, the rest of the show is going to be sports night -- paying
college athletes, that`s the big question that I will answer in "The
And then also, the NFL team in Washington, D.C. made an announcement about
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: If you don`t want this for your
family, it`s totally fine, and I would defend your right never to have to
use birth control, but why would you put that on every other woman? And
then where do you stop? What`s the next moral objection? Do they then
object to vaccinations? Where do you take it from here?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: In the spotlight tonight, corporations
get religion. You just heard California senator Barbara Boxer ask the
question that Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked during today`s
oral arguments that focus on for-profit companies the right to deny
coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
During the 90 minutes of oral arguments, the nine justices were not
surprisingly divided along what seemed like ideological lines. With the
three women on the bench, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Ruth Bader
Ginsburg, dominating the opening minutes of the oral arguments.
Justice Sotomayor asked, if the company`s claims were, quote, "limited to
sensitive materials like contraceptives or does it include items like blood
transfusions, vaccines for some religions, products made of pork. Is any
claim under your theory that has a religious basis, could an employer
preclude the use of those items as well?
Much of the Hobby Lobby`s arguments centered on the 1993 freedom
restoration act which was initially intended to protect an individual`s
religious rights and whether that law now extends to for-profit
Camera-hungry Ted Cruz rushed over to the steps of the Supreme Court today
to tell the world with absolute certainty how the court will rule on this
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: I`m going to make a prediction right now. I
predict that the United States Supreme Court is going to strike down the
contraception mandate because they`re going to say the federal government
does not have the authority to fort force people to violate their faith
particularly when they`re granting exemptions to every other powerful
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now for an exclusive interview is Cecile Richards.
President of Planned Parenthood Action Fund.
Cecile, you were in the courtroom today. What is your sense after having
listened to the argument of how this is going to go?
CECILE RICHARDS, PRESIDENT, PLANNED PARENTHOOD: Well, first, of course,
the most incredible thing about being there today was to see the power of
these three women on the Supreme Court. It was absolutely different kind
of hearing that any have ever been, you know, witnessed before.
And as you said, Justice Sotomayor came out swinging from the very first
comment. And they really dominated this conversation. The wonderful thing
was having women on the court actually represent the interests of women.
And that was, I think, what was so stark was the fact that they were
actually talking about, what is the harm here for the thousands of women
who are going to be affected, potentially millions of women who were going
affected and that ran throughout the proceedings.
O`DONNELL: Yes. I mean, let`s just imagine for a moment, that court today
without those women on it. And whenever people are wondering what they`re
voting for for president, those women are on that court because a
democratic president, Bill Clinton put Ruth Bader Ginsberg there and the
democratic president Barack Obama put the other two women on that court.
And Cecile, the women see this issue differently. We have an NBC/"Wall
Street Journal" poll that shows that 53 percent of all adults say that the
companies should not be exempt. Among women voter, 68 percent of women as
opposed to 53 percent of the entire, 68 percent of women believe these
companies should not be exempt.
And so, to not have women`s views represented on that court today just
would have been egregious.
RICHARDS: Absolutely, Lawrence. And I think that`s precisely right. I
mean, the interesting thing is the lawyer for Hobby Lobby opened up by
saying that birth control is a very, you know, controversial issue.
Well, it isn`t for women. Ninety nine percent of women in this country use
birth control at some point in their lifetime. And as your poll shows,
women actually believe that this is a benefit that they`re entitled to,
that it`s related to their health, their well being, their ability to plan
their families, their ability to finish their education, and to work in the
O`DONNELL: There is some stunning precedence from Justice Scalia in a 1990
case. I just want to read this. I just don`t see how he can possibly
rule, how he can flip his previous position to rule in favor of the
companies here. You`re aware of this, but I want the audience to hear what
he said in a 1990 case centered on the religious use of peyote.
Justice Scalia wrote, it may fairly be said that leaving accommodations to
the political process will place at a relative disadvantage those religious
practices that are not widely engaged in. But that unavoidable consequence
of democratic government must be preferred to a system in which each
conscious is a law unto itself. Or in which judges weigh the social
importance of all laws against the centrality of religious beliefs.
Cecile, it`s hard to see how the author of that opinion in 1990 could go
the other way on this case.
RICHARDS: I agree, Lawrence. And I think the other thing that was sort of
stunning and frankly Justice Scalia was the one who said it, was the
ignorance of, and apparently lack of compassion or interest in what it
would mean for women to not have access to birth control. I mean, he
really referred to it as a very minor inconvenience, something that didn`t
And look, we`re talking about women who are working as hourly wages for a
huge fortune 500 company. And who contribute to their health care package.
And the fact that these are women who would lose access to a benefit that
all other women in this country have.
It seemed to me that the lack of interest by many of the justices on
actually what the impact was on women, including Justice Scalia was pretty
stunning in the 21st century.
O`DONNELL: The territory that`s being fought over here is actually smaller
than it might sound like. There are 20 possible contraceptive methods
covered by the Affordable Care Act. And this company is actually willing
to pay for 16 of those. There are only four of them that they consider to
be abortive in some way. So they believe that moves them out of
contraception into the territory of abortion, but they`re actually willing
to cover 16 other methods of contraception.
RICHARDS: But, you know, yes, that`s correct. Although the important
thing about -- this was actually one of the questions that was posed today
which is actually, the position of the Hobby Lobby attorney was that, in
fact, under what they were arguing, an employer could refuse to cover any
So may have drawn it narrowly, but the argument they`re making is that any
employer should be able to object for whatever reason to covering any form
of contraception. That`s going to affect potentially millions of women in
O`DONNELL: Yes. I mean, it makes sense because what they`re actually
asking for is such a narrow ruling that there wouldn`t really be a
principle behind it. They have to broaden it out to say yes, this applies
to all contraception if some other company wants to do that.
Well, we will see how this one goes. I`m not as sure as Ted Cruz is about
the outcome of this one.
RICHARDS: That`s right.
O`DONNELL: Cecile Richards, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
RICHARDS: Good to see you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
Coming up, the Washington, D.C. professional football team makes a very big
announcement about the name of the team. And in that announcement, they
avoid using the name of the team as much as possible. That`s coming up.
O`DONNELL: Washington state officials announced a short time ago that
emergency crews have recovered two more bodies and have located eight more
in that massive mud side near the town of Arlington. That brings the death
toll to 24. Emergency personnel say they have found no signs of life in
the slide zone but will continue to search.
The "rewrite" is next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: March madness is here and as much excitement is created
by this college basketball tournament, there is a big debate in college
sport now. Should athletes be paid? A new poll out suggests 64 percent of
the public opposes paying players with only 33 percent in favor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: In tonight`s rewrite, I change my mind. Or maybe it`s more
like I make up my mind.
I don`t think I spent more than five minutes of my life thinking about
whether college athletes should be paid. And I am very slow thinker, so I
never had a strong opinion on this subject until Sunday morning when two
former college athletes on "Meet the Press" outlined positions that made a
lot of sense.
The question before them was in a world where college coaches are making $5
million a year and some of the big teams are making well over $100 million
in profit for their universities, shouldn`t players be getting a piece of
that action? The guy on "Meet The Press" representing the NCAA of course
said absolutely not.
And Arnie Duncan, the secretary of education who played basketball for
Harvard agreed that athletes should not be paid, as did Reggie Love, former
assistant to President Obama who played basketball and football at Duke.
But then, Reggie love Arnie Duncan suggested a compensation package for
college athletes that`s even better than money.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REGGIE LOVE, FORMER BASKETBALL PLAYER: There are additional things that
could be done to give kids an additional opportunity to --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like what. Make the case. What would you see?
LOVE: I think an education trust. I just got out of graduate school,
right? I think that graduate school cost me almost $200,000. I think
every student athlete who plays for a university should be able to go to
that university, assuming they can do the work, they should be able to be
educated, graduate school.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that`s really important. People talk about
helping them graduate from college, yes they should do that. But MBA,
Masters, PhD, having some Philly for the rest of your life to go back and
get education. I think that`s worth considering.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: It is worth considering. And I had never considered it until I
heard that on "Meet The Press." Paying college athletes is a bad idea.
You would never be able to arrive at a fair amount to pay each player who
plays for a profit team. And those paychecks would separate the athletes
in college even more from the college experience that the rest of the
students are having.
But taking the college athletics scholarship concept and stretching it
beyond college to law school or medical school or any graduate education
program, is the perfect way to allow them to share in the massive wealth
that they are creating.
Now obviously, not all college athletes are equal as economic assets.
Reggie Love was a lot more valuable to Duke then Arnie Duncan was to
Harvard. Just as an economic asset, I mean, Arnie Duncan produced exactly
zero profit for Harvard university. He played on a basketball team that
like all Harvard teams is at best a break even proposition last year.
Harvard basketball took in approximately $1.4 million in revenue which
nicely covered the team`s expenses of $1.4 million.
In the one year that was an NCAA athlete at that same college as Duncan,
I`m not sure our baseball team produced any revenue for the university. I
don`t remember them actually selling tickets to Harvard baseball back then.
I think people just kind of showed up, and wandered in and watched. That
was it. So we probably caused the university a few thousand dollars.
But Reggie Love, on the other hand, played on a football team that made
millions in profit and a basketball team that made even more in profit for
Duke University. Last year, Duke`s basketball team hauled in about $26
million in revenue. The accounting system indicates that the basketball
team had more than $15 million in expenses, which means that Duke
basketball team delivered nearly $10 million in profit to the university,
13 players delivered nearly $10 million in profits the university. They
do that every year. Sometimes, more profit on the Duke basketball team.
And If that sounds like a lot, it is nothing compared to the UT football
team. The University of Texas football team took in $109 million in
revenue, which gave the university a profit of about $82 million.
So, here is the "Last Word" proposal for compensating college. If you play
for a college team that produces in profit for your college, then you get
to bask in the glory of being a college athlete. That`s it. That`s your
compensation. The sports teams that produce no profit are usually as
institutions nothing known for things other than sports.
You close down the Harvard football team tomorrow and most students would
never notice. You close down the Notre Dame football team, close down
University of Michigan football team, the crimson tide of Alabama and you
have robbed those institutions of a significant portion of their identity.
So if you play for a college team that produces $5 million or more in
profit for the university, that university should guarantee you not just
full college scholarship but a full scholarship in all of its gradual
programs. If you want to go to law school and your university doesn`t have
a law school, then your university should make some kind of cooperative
arrangement with a law school so you can get your law degree for free after
making a profit for your university.
Same with medical school or any masters program, any PhD program, going on
to the business school, law school and medical school and you played
football for the university of Texas, you should be able to do all of that
on the UT campus at UT expense.
Now, most college athletes aren`t going to profit from this deal, because
like most other college students, they won`t go to graduate school. And
there`s a tiny slice of college athletes who won`t need this help because
they`re going to become professional athletes for a few years anyway and
some pretty good money before they start auditioning for jobs at ESPN.
At the big degree granting sports businesses that called themselves
universities, the most valuable laborers, economically, the most valuable
laborers are not professors. They are the $5 million coaches. They are
the players down there on the football field, some of whom are already
suffering the beginnings of brain damage. They are the basketball players
who are leading their schools into this thing we call march madness. And
it is madness. Not to treat them more fairly.
They are producing more revenue per player for their colleges than anyone
who is paying full tuition. They are producing more revenue than most of
the biggest charitable contributors to those universities. And they
deserve more than just fleeting glory.
O`DONNELL: The Washington, D.C. NFL team made a big announcement about
their name, but they actually avoided using their name in that announcement
as much as possible.
Up next, an exclusive interview with a representative from the Oneida
O`DONNELL: Dan Snyder, the owner of Washington`s NFL team made a big
announcement yesterday and it is not that he is changing name of the team
from what it currently is. In a letter he posted on the team`s Web site
last night, he announced that over the past four months, he has traveled to
26 reservations across the country to listen to the views and concerns and
struggles of Native Americans.
Speaking of his travels, Snyder said quote "the more I heard the more I
have learned and the more I saw, the more I resolved I became about helping
address the challenges that plague the native American community and
speaking face to face with Native American leaders and community members,
it is plain to see they need action, not words."
Dan Snyder in the Washington NFL team created the original Americans
foundation with a mission to, quote, "provide meaningful and measurable
resources that provide genuine opportunities for tribal communities."
Joining me now in an exclusive interview with Ray Halbritter. He is the
representative for the Oneida Indian nation and CEO of Oneida enterprises.
Ray, what is your reaction to what Dan Snyder has announced?
RAY HALBRITTER, CEO, ONEIDA ENTERPRISE: Well, you know, after owning the
team for 15 years and now showing an interest in American Indian issues,
that`s a good thing. And if he`s able to provide some help, that is good.
However, the issue of the team`s name is a dictionary defined (INAUDIBLE),
derogatory term that`s a racial epithet. And you can`t honor people by
simply throwing money at an issue.
O`DONNELL: Let me take this opportunity to prove to Dan Snyder that it`s a
racial epithet. And that`s his own statement. He refuses to use it in the
statement. He says, as I just read, the more I learned, the more I
resolved, I became about helping address the challenges that plague the
native American community. He did not say the challenges that plague the
HALBRITTER: Yes. If he really care and wanted to honor American Indian,
he would stop using a racial epithet as the name. But of course he is
profiting millions and millions of dollars in this team and marketing this
to America and the world.
O`DONNELL: Let`s take a look at an ad from the national Congress of
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will Rodgers, Geronimo, unyielding, strong,
indomitable. Native Americans call themselves many things. The one thing
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Ray, it`s a very powerful ad. And it turns out the Washington
team has now gotten a native American executive direct for of their new
foundation to say that name is perfectly OK and native American communities
have been using it as a term of honor for a long time.
HALBRITTER: Well, I seriously doubt that he would go to Indian people.
And I seriously doubt that Dan Snyder went on his trip when he was
traveling and said to everyone, hi, it`s so nice all are people. And what
bunch of nice are kids you have.
Social science have made it clear that this is detrimental to the well-
being and self-esteem of American Indian youth. And teen suicide rates are
epidemic in Indian country. And probably the foundation of youth and a
people is the belief in themselves. And when a professional team like
this, which is arguably part of one - the ESPN, one of the most powerful
media networks in the world, is using a racial epithet, it`s very confusing
and damaging to these children, and social science has proven that.
And unless we stop that, this continued - this harm will continue, and
that`s unfortunate for the kids.
O`DONNELL: Ray Halbritter gets our last word today. Thank you, Ray.
HALBRITTER: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes is up next.
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THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL