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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Thursday, May 8th, 2014

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

May 8, 2014

Guests: Nicholas Kristof, Robert Reich, Nick Hanauer, Wanda Pratt, Mark
Chilton, Jonathan Cohn

ARI MELBER, GUEST HOST: People need jobs. City and states need
infrastructure improvements. America needs immigration reform -- we could
go on. So, what is the House voting on today? Benghazi.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you have been wondering, why the heck has there been
so much attention paid to Benghazi in the last few days.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Republicans push ahead on Benghazi.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It gives Republicans something to talk about.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why are we having the hearing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Again, politics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Democrats are pushing back, accusing Republicans of
using the issue to fundraise.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have never sought to raise a single penny on the
backs of four murdered Americans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All it takes is one email.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, the NRCC has this Web site. It`s called the that`s asking for money.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Help fight liberals by donating today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His own party undercuts him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Republican Party, it has gotten away from them.
Frankenstein running from the streets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can almost smell the incense. Benghazi. Benghazi.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The GOP is hitting hard on lots of issues that have
nothing to do with what voters say they care most about, the economy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not creating jobs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s not what the Republican Party is talking about.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re doing nothing about climate change. We`re doing
nothing abut anything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Things lake immigration reform, extending unemployment
insurance, jobs bills.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All they want to do is have hearings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give me a break.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give me a break.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give me a break.


MELBER: I`m Ari Melber, in for Lawrence O`Donnell.

And we begin with developing news tonight about a stunt in the U.S. House
of Representatives that could have very real consequences. Tonight, the
House did vote to form a select committee, devoted to investigating the
September 2012 attack in Benghazi. The measure passed almost entirely
along party lines, 232-186. The House is now authorized to assemble a 12-
member panel, seven Republicans, five Democrats.

But when it comes to the power to potentially compel documents and
testimony from people, including White House staff, this is basically a
committee of one, only the chairman, Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy, has
the power to issue subpoenas. Democrats say that is another sign the party
is one sided, partisan and illegitimate.

The Republican who authored the resolution to create the select committee,
well, he says Republicans should gear up for a battle with an uncooperative
Obama White House.


REP. PETE SESSIONS (R), TEXAS: This administration earned exactly the
title that has been placed on them today. Uncooperative. And I will tell
you that the American people, through this process, will find out who is
after truth and who is exactly for hiding the truth, because I believe that
it`s not just mismanagement at the top, but bad decisions that they should
and will be embarrassed to have uncovered by the select committee on


MELBER: We`ll talk about bad decisions tonight. If House Republicans
wanted this vote to focus scrutiny on the response to murders in Benghazi -
- so far, let`s be clear, they`re failing. That`s because as most major
news organizations have already reported this week. Republicans didn`t
even wait until the committee was formed to begin directly using the
inquiry for fund-raising.

Now, some Republicans, including Chairman Gowdy, say this fund-raising off
the Benghazi murders or the investigation of those murders must stop. OK.

But, GOP leadership won`t go that far. Majority Leader Cantor dodged the
question yesterday, as we reported. And today, Speaker Boehner couldn`t
bring himself to say this is wrong. Despite repeated questions on that
point from reporters.


LUKE RUSSERT, NBC NEWS: Speaker Boehner, four Americans died, should the
NRCC fundraise off your efforts with the select committee?

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Our focus is on giving the
answers to those families who lost their loved ones, period.

RUSSERT: But should the NRCC, their fundraising off of it right now, is
that the right thing to do?

BOEHNER: Our focus is getting the truth for these four families and to the
American people.

JAKE SHERMAN, POLITICO: But the campaign committee which you are very
involved in is fundraising off of this. Why is that happening?

BOEHNER: Our focus is on getting the truth for the American people and
these four families.


MELBER: It`s almost eerie when you see the politician in that sort of full
talking point mode, especially if it`s about an investigation of murders of

Now, before the vote tonight, the oversight committee`s ranking Democrat
underscored his party`s stance on all that fund-raising.


REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: They had been using the deaths of
these fo1/4 Americans for political campaign fundraising. I call on the
speaker of the House to end that process right now. We are better than


MELBER: Joining me now is Nicholas Kristof, columnist for "The New York
Times", and Steve Clemons, Washington editor at large for "Atlantic
Magazine" and MSNBC contributor.

Welcome to you both.

Nick, what are we learning about this inquiry and this vote today?

NICHOLAS KRISTOF, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, we are going to learn very
little about Benghazi, that`s been aired pretty thoroughly. But, boy,
frankly both parties have -- yes, they spin. They -- they do what they can
to fundraise. But it really has become kind of pathetic when at this point
the Republican Party, the domestic policy is to have new votes on repealing
the Affordable Care Act, and its foreign policy as it but continuing the
investigation of, Benghazi when there are -- I mean, they`re genuine
problems in the Obama foreign policy that deserve highlighting and
investigation. But Benghazi is not one of them.

MELBER: Uh-huh.

Steve, your thoughts here as we are reporting again this vote today from
the House, creating the special select committee to investigate Benghazi.

STEVE CLEMONS, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I have to say, I know a lot of
reasonable Republicans in the House of Representatives, and I am
disappointed in them today because they voted en masse. Not a single
defection that we`ve seen in the 225 Republicans that voted in favor of
really a meaningless committee.

I think that the Republicans had been missing something along the lines of
a birther controversy that they pretended to have with President Obama and
have now -- created another -- kind of controversy, which is a fake one.
But it`s going to be distracting for the nation, going to be polarizing.

To some degree, I am very pleased to see the attention on the fund-raising
dimensions. This really could backfire in a boomerang way on the
Republican Party for the recklessness of the act. When people look at the
callousness of how deep the desire is within the Republican Party to put
this at the forefront of their fund-raising. They`re not going to listen
to Trey Gowdy, the chairman of the select committee on Benghazi. They`re
going to try and raise every bit of money they can and use it as an
animating force in the party.

MELBER: Yes. And, Steve, I think you are putting a point on the real
contrast here with the chairman. So, he has the subpoena power. So, he is
in charge of the serious inquiry. So he has some sort of faith from the
leadership. And that`s brand new from Speaker Boehner down.

And yet, he doesn`t have the juice or the authority in the party to tell
them to knock off the fund-raising even on the very week they`re supposed
to start this thing.

CLEMONS: It is absolutely right. And I think when he begin to proceed
with detail by detail by detail, in terms of what he thinks he might be
able to get, I agree with Nick Kristof, there is not much more there, that
that will be boring. What will really matter is whether or not they can go
get $100 donors to become Benghazi watchers and begin ling up the new
eagles for the Republican -- Republican Party to come in and rally around,
what was a very horrible part of our American diplomatic history.

It`s very unfortunate that Chris Stevens was killed. You know, we`ve had a
commission by Tom Pickering and others that have said, hey, here`s what we
need to go and look at our missions around the world. That`s what they
should focus on, and they`re not.

MELBER: Yes, I think that`s well-put. The Pickering commission, of
course, led by diplomat there with experience, administrations from both

Go ahead, Nick.

KRISTOF: One of the real scandals there which, of course, the committee is
not going to focus on is Congress` unwillingness to fund security, which is
a real issue. And if you want to make embassies safer and make future
Chris Stevens safer, then what you do is allocate the money. And, you
know, that is what the party has been unwilling to do.

MELBER: Uh-huh. And, Steve, just to finish out the point there you were
raising on the, on the Benghazi watchdog language here -- you know, I have
worked in politics. I have covered politics. So, I have some what of a
high threshold for the crap and the ugliness.

I find this ghoulish. I find this gross. I find it disgusting. And I
wonder -- go ahead.

CLEMONS: It`s like being a -- you know, one of the crazy futuristic movies
where you are sitting, watching an audience there, watching a kind of
gladiator show. I mean, it`s -- it is disgusting in the sense that you are
inviting Americans to come in and look ghoulishly at a terrible unfolding
conditions. There should be a look at it.

But at the time that happened, you know, when Chris Stevens was killed,
there were any number of 40, 45 other missions around the world in similar
precarious situations. I would argue today that many of them sit in the
situation today. The Republican Party at the time, continue to defund the
security dimensions of State Department needs. And the whole notion of the
State Department, particularly under Hillary Clinton when they were
fighting for budgetary resources to go out there, there was enormous
pressure to draw down the diplomatic budget.

So, this is a very, very false, I think, and, you know, sort of ingenuine
interest in Benghazi for reasons that have nothing to do with Benghazi. If
they were interested in the fundamental issues, they would be looking at
other issues. They would be demanding competencies in other area. They
would be funding other sorts of diplomatic security activities. None of
that is going on.

MELBER: Right. And so, that goes back then to the governance questioning.
If there is no governing being attempted and no real legitimate governing
to do, then how do you even engage this.

I want to play Chuck Todd interviewing Congressman Clyburn, a member of the
Democratic leadership, on that question in how involved Democrats should be
in the committee. Let`s take a listen.


CHUCK TODD, MSNBC ANCHOR: Let me ask you a quick question on Benghazi.
There seems to be a split in the leadership about whether Democrat should
participate in this committee or not. What say you?


TODD: You want a full boycott?

CLYBURN: I do, because I think -- we`ve had seven hearings, four in the
House, two in the Senate. There`s one independent. We should not have a
select committee.


MELBER: Nick, what do you make of that view of some Democrats that they
shouldn`t even take the spots offered on this committee?

KRISTOF: I mean, I understand the unwillingness to engage in something
that seems fairly partisan that is likely to be a waste of time. On the
other hand, I mean, it does seem at the end of the day, this is Congress
that went to some degree, needs to defer to the majority. It may be better
to have minority party present.

So, I don`t know. I mean, the whole spectacle strikes me as a disaster if
you consider how many really important issues there are for Congress to be
facing right now.

MELBER: And, Steve, on that point, and you worked in the Senate. It seems
to me that if they have subpoena power, they`re going to be able to bring
Democrats to this function with or without their desire. So, having more a
straight, raw, strategic matter would make sense, rather than boycotting
the committee.

CLEMONS: Well, I think everything on Benghazi is basically out there
that`s important. So, I`m not worried about anything else they might or
any embarrassment they try to continue to achieve. I think, as I said
earlier, that I think this could backfire on the way they want to use this
for fund-raising.

I`m one of those -- I understand that many members don`t want to give
legitimacy to this processing committee and don`t go in. But as some one
that has worked in the institution, I think it`s always important when you
have the minority party represented, they have an ability to raise issues
too. They have an ability to stand up, ask questions, make points, and if
the American public sees on going abuse of that minority, that too will
come back and, and nip at the heels of the Republican Party.

So, I would if I were running the show, endorse, five, very, very good
solid Democrats to come in and basically continue to raise the profile of
what the legitimate question should be. I think that can be powerful.

MELBER: That`s well-put. We showed a little bit of Elijah Cummings on the
floor. He also had a very heated interaction with Darrell Issa who doesn`t
back down that often, but found himself apologizing over their aggressive
oversight of exaggerated scandal with the IRS.

Now, broadening out, Nick, given your work and your journalism around
foreign policy, you mentioned earlier -- this is not the only thing going
on. What else do you think Congress should be doing more positively in
foreign policy oversight and also please give us your thoughts on the
unfolding crisis in Nigeria?

KRISTOF: Well, indeed that is one thing that we could be undertaking. If
you -- I mean, the reason that Boko Haram has focused on attacking girls`
schools is that the way you transform a society, the way you fight
extremism, the way you develop an economy is to educate the population and

And when President Obama took office, he talked about starting a global
girls education fund. And he essentially hasn`t talked about it ever
since. I mean that was a great idea in 2008. It`s a great idea today. I
wish there were more people asking him about why it hasn`t happened.
Partly that`s because it is not going to get through Congress.

You know, likewise in this country, if you try to think what brings about
change, then I think early childhood education. I think he`s right that,
you know, that is the leverage that you have to not just put Band-Aids on
problems but over time, to change the structure and create opportunity.

MELBER: A fitting and hopeful note to think about beyond all of the other
drama in the House today.

Nick Kristof and Steve Clemons, thank you both for joining me tonight. I
appreciate it.

KRISTOF: Thank you.

CLEMONS: Thank you, Ari.

MELBER: Absolutely.

Now, what we have next is millionaires and what they really think about
income inequality and taxes. Robert Reich, former labor secretary, and
Nick Hanauer join me.

And Kevin Durant, the NBA MVP saved his biggest thank you for last. He
thanked his mom. Tonight, we have his mom, Wanda Durant, on the program.



JON STEWART, COMEDIAN: I am willing to grant Governor Perry the second
chance. Show us your new and improved grasp of the complexities of the

GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: I think Americans are really concerned about
how am I going to take care of my family. I am really worried about the 90
million people, they`re out of work.

STEWART: Did you say 90 million? Hold on. Hold on. Hold on.

Oops. You are so close. You are only -- off by around 80 million. Unless
-- unless of course you are including children, students, and old people,
past the age of 65 as part of your out of work force. But that would be
far too stupid for a man with glasses of ensmartenment.




BOEHNER: Our members believe strongly that raising tax rates will hurt the

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MAJORITY LEADER: An obsession to raise taxes is
not going to solve the problem.

BOEHNER: Raising rates will hurt the very people that we`re expecting to
upgrade jobs in the country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want to tax them some more. What do you think that
does to the business climate in America? How are we going to create jobs?

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO HOST: What is the moral argument for escalating tax
rates? What is the morality -- where is the morality in a progressive tax
system? Where is it?


MELBER: We have known for a long time where Republicans and conservatives
and many stand on the issue of wealth inequality. But millionaires in
America actually may feel differently.

According to CNBC`s first ever, specific, millionaire`s survey of 514
people, 51 percent believe that wealth inequality is actually a major
problem. And of those millionaires who believe that, 64 percent, support
raising taxes on the wealthy. While 63 percent support increasing the
minimum wage in order to lessen inequality of wealth across our labor
markets in the U.S.

Joining me now is former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, whose film
"Inequality for All" is available on Netflix, iTunes and on demand, and
entrepreneur and venture capitalist, Nick Hanauer.

Welcome to you both.

Robert, talk to me about the disconnect here because we hear a lot about
the 1 percent, with the implication that they`re bad for these debates.
This poll has a little more nuance to it.

ROBERT REICH, FORMER LABOR SECRETARY: Ari, what is happening in America is
very interesting. The very wealthy, including a lot of CEOs, and a lot of
people on Wall Street, are beginning to understand that, unless the middle-
class and the poor have more purchasing power, that they don`t have,
because, so much income of and wealth are going to the top these days.
Unless they have more purchasing power in the middle-class and poor,
they`re not going to be customers for all of the things that American
corporations have to sell.

And that means that a lot of people at the top would do better with a
smaller share of a rapidly growing economy than what they have now, which
is a large share of an economy barely growing at all because there`s not
enough demand for the goods and services.

MELBER: Right. You`re talking about sort of the sustenance in our entire
consumer economic situation.

Nick, you have started a lot of companies. You have created a lot of
wealth. And your ted talk and a lot of your advocacy has been about this
sort of middle out concept. Where do you see this headed?

NICK HANAUER, VENTURE CAPITALIST: Well, you know, I think no one
understands the most fundamental law of capitalism better than business
owners, which is if workers don`t have any money, we business people don`t
have any customers. And, you know, the reality of rising inequality is
beginning to sink in, you know, across the political spectrum., and up and
down, of and down the income scale.

I think that more and more -- more and more senior executives, more and
more wealthy people, certainly, you know, my group of friend, in wealthy
city like Seattle, are more and more coming to the fact it is self
defeating for rich people to pay no taxes and poor people to keep getting
poorer. As Bob says we would all be better off if most Americans earned
more and we earned a little built less.

MELBER: Hmm. And, Robert, given your expertise here on the economics and
the politics of having served under President Clinton, we want to point out
a millionaire`s political affiliation, not unlike any one else at any
income bracket has a huge influence here. And yet you see Republican
millionaires I argue isolated. Republican say, only to the tune of 20
percent Republican millionaires that inequality is this problem. What you
have then, Democrats, one might expect, much hyper, 86 percent.

But independent millionaires, Robert, are breaking towards the Democratic
view of inequality as a problem. Not the Republican view of the status

REICH: Yes. It`s the old story of reality breaking through, and the
independent millionaires and even a majority of total millionaires, I mean,
if you put them all of them together, a majority are saying, yes we think
this is a huge, growing problem, widening inequality. Yes, we ought to be
taxed more. Yes, many of them, in fact, a plurality are saying we want to
raise the minimum wage.

In other words, what we have assumed about American politics that we are
really rigidly divided by class in terms of some of these economic
policies, is starting to break down as the reality of what widening
inequality means for the economy is beginning to actually be absorbed.

MELBER: Right. You can`t really get action on these policies, as you both
know, without having some sort of common language and common reality.

Nick, take a listen to President Obama recently on this point.


whenever I can act on my own to create jobs and expand opportunity for more
Americans, I will. And since January, I have taken more than 20 executive
actions to do just that. I acted to raise more workers wages by requiring
workers on new federal contracts earn a fair wage of $10.10. And as long
as Republicans in Congress refuse to act, I`ll keep working with cities,
states and businesses to give more Americans a raise.


MELBER: And that`s important that I want to highlight. He`s talking
working with businesses, pressure on companies, collaboration where

Nick, you`re speaking to us from Seattle, where the Mayor Ed Murray has
been organizing directly in collaboration with the business community. Get
the minimum wage up. Tell us about that.

HANAUER: Well, I mean, you know, we have come very far on the idea of a
$15 minimum wage, Ari, as you know. I think it`s been 341 days since
"Bloomberg" published my piece, the capitalist case for a $15 minimum wage,
which the folks at "Forbes" characterized as near insane. And yet, 140
days later, the citizens in SeaTac voted in a $15 minimum wage and 340 days
later, we`re in the process of implementing one here in Seattle.

And I think an extraordinary thing happened, which was a bilateral
negotiation between labor and community leaders and businesses to phase in
a very, very sound compromise to get workers to $15 over -- over, you know,
four to seven years. And I think it is a very exciting development both in
Seattle but also for the country.

MELBER: And, Robert, when you look at your, as I mention, your former
boss, President Clinton, and Hillary Clinton, they have obviously been -- I
would arguer at least reframing some of the emphasis around their economic
record. Give us your insights on that. And whether for you it`s squared
with your experience in the cabinet?

REICH: Well, undoubtedly, the economic record under Bill Clinton was
sterling and we did see a reduction in inequality because the economy grew
so fast, and that was the responsibility and the result of policies that
came out of Bill Clinton`s administration. I was very proud to be part of
the administration.

It is true though that right now -- given how much inequality we have,
given the stagnation and even the decline of the median wage and so many
Americans working harder than ever, and not getting ahead, there is more
political capital to be had by sounding more populist than there was in the
1990s. So, I think we are going to see not just Hillary Clinton, but all
candidates, including a lot of Republican candidates sounding as if they
really are, and maybe genuinely are, more concerned about what`s happening
in this country.

Again, the business class, the Wall Streeters -- don`t over-exaggerate what
I`m saying -- they still want wages to be low. They still like fat
corporate profits. They`re not going to -- they haven`t got the religion
yet. But there is at least the beginning of a change in corporate board
rooms. And even on Wall Street about, the issue, widening inequality.

MELBER: Yes, that`s well put. I think that goes to some of the gap here
on the big issues, particularly the treatment of investment income.
Something you have talked about. A lot more, lot more room to maneuver for
these -- some of these millionaires.

Robert Reich, Nick Hanauer, thank you both for joining me tonight.

HANAUER: Great. Thank you for having us.

MELBER: And coming up, the most valuable mom of the year. NBA player
Kevin Durant`s mom is here. She`s going to join me for a good

And, House Republicans convene top insurance executives at a hearing. Now
watch what happened when Republicans ran their dark fantasies about the ACA
by people who actually work in that field.


MELBER: We are excited about this one.

In the spotlight tonight. The real MVP, last night, Oklahoma City Thunder
star Kevin Durant was presented with his first NBA MVP trophy in front of
thousand of screaming fans at his home arena. You can see him there. The
biggest fan in the crowd last night was certainly Durant`s mother, Wanda
Pratt, known to the thunder family as Mama Durant. For most of us, we were
first introduced to Mama Durant on Tuesday when her son delivered an
emotional, amazing tribute to her while accepting that MVP award.


KEVIN DURANT, NBA PLAYER 2013-2014 MVP: You wake me up in the middle of
the night in the summer times. Making me run up the hill. Making me do
pushups. Scream act me from the side line of my games at eight or 9-years-
old. We weren`t supposed to be here. You made us believe. You kept us
off the street. You put clothes on our backs. Food on the table. When
you didn`t eat, you made sure we ate. You want to sleep hungry. You
sacrificed for us. You are the real MVP.



MELBER: Wanda Pratt joins me now. How did it feel when he was saying all
that to you?

WANDA PRATT, KEVIN DURANT`S MOTHER: I was really overwhelmed by it all.
Every time I have heard it, it just, it brings tears to my eyes. So, I am,
I was just overwhelmed.

MELBER: The stories he told there, the adversity. How did you instill in
him these values that he, he so clearly exhibited in this speech and in his

PRATT: Well, I tried to be the example before them, both my sons. To
always work hard, to never quit, to be dedicated to something, to commit
just off to something. And I showed them that because I had done those
things towards them. And I would not allow them to quit anything that they
had started. No matter how hard it has gotten. They had to continue to
the end. And, so I think, those, are the values that you all see in Kevin

MELBER: Yes. And I was reading some of the other things that you have
said about all of this. And I noticed you talked how he was young in his
teenage years. He really wasn`t seeing a lot of friend or being able to
goof off because he was working so hard at his game. And that was a
choice. And that also was important for his development as he spoke in the
speech. Because he was growing up in Prince George County, an area that
had all kind of problems. So let`s take a listen to that part of the


DURANT: I come from a small county outside of Washington, D.C. called PG
county. Me, my mom, my brother, we moved so many different places growing
up. And it felt like a box. It felt like there was no getting out. My
dream was to become a Rec league coach. That`s what I wanted to do. I
wanted to stay home and help the kids out and be a coach.


MELBER: Had you heard him say that before, it felt like a box? And how
did you create an environment where he could have pride while also trying
to excel and get beyond that environment?

PRATT: Well, I had grown up in the same area. And I knew that I didn`t
want my sons to be caught up into the things that a lot of the kids had
been caught up into. And so, I was, really involved in their lives. I
mean, some would consider me a hovering mother. But I felt it necessary
for me to know who their friends were. To know the parents of their friend
to know. The environment in which they were going to be in which was the
activities center.

And so I made myself well known in their lives. And I think that`s what
really helped them to become, and particularly, Kevin, the person that you
all see. And so I knew the area. I knew what was going on there. I knew
that the things were happening. I didn`t want that for them.

MELBER: And we are talking PG County. Let me put up on the screen here.
A billboard about your son that was just erected there. It read from, Seat
Pleasant, Maryland, to NBA MVP. How does that feel? That community pride?

PRATT: Oh, wow. I can`t wait to see it. Hopefully it is going to be up
when I get back home. And I just can`t wait to see it. But I`m really
excited and I`m grateful that they acknowledged Kevin also. It was really
a great place. It is home for us even though there were rough times there.
but it is still a great place. And so, I`m grateful for them.

MELBER: Let me ask you me more question, you know, in the news business,
not really a fair question, but curious about your answer. What do you say
to people who look at what you have been able to do and what he has been
able to do and they don`t think they can make it that way? What do you say
to them?

PRATT: Well, they just have to look at us and say that they can. I mean,
we are the prime example. We start from really humble beginnings. And my
son has risen to the place of worldwide notoriety. Didn`t quite successful
into something positive. And so, they have to look at us and see that they
can. There is no other option. They have to say that they can.

MELBER: Wanda Pratt. Thank you for joining me. And if I can say so, have
a very, wonderful mother`s day.

PRATT: Thanks, Ari, you enjoy the rest of your weekend.

MELBER: Thank you.

Coming up a man who is trying a new tactic to ensure that everyone in North
Carolina can get married including some friend of the show, Lenny and


MELBER: Another twist in the fight over the L.A. Clippers. The team could
stay in the family. Shelley Sterling, estranged wife of Donald Sterling is
now arguing that she can legally maintain ownership of the NBA team. There
are reports that she has equal ownership of the L.A. Clippers and under the
terms of the family trust. The NBA of course issued a rare lifetime ban on
Donald Sterling and a fine for those racist remarks he made to his
girlfriend that were leaked. The league`s 29 other owners may vote to
force him to sell the entire team. Shelley Sterling may face scrutiny over
her past comments if the NBA considers her request to hold on to the L.A.

Now, up next, a local North Carolina elected official takes marriage
equality into his own hands. How he is starting a movement to force North
Carolina to change its ways.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We live in North Carolina. And they have made it
impossible for us to be treated as married people. And that we don`t have
the time to wait for the state to evolve they need to do it now. Neither
of us have any doubt it will happen. But this question is will it happen
in time for us?


MELBER: If Mark Chilton has his way, marriage licenses for same-sex
couples will happen in time for Lennie and Pearl that you saw there from
our interview. Chilton, a real estate attorney and former mayor in
Carrboro, North Carolina campaigned on the promise that he will defy state
law and issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples if he is elected as
register of deeds in Orange County, North Carolina.

On Tuesday night, Chilton won a three-way Democratic primaries garnering 42
percent of the vote, beating the incumbent in what is a heavily Democratic
district. Now, no Republican filed to run for office. So Chilton will
like become Orange County`s next register of deeds and only the second
partisan in a southern state to accept a marriage application.

Joining me now is Mark Chilton. How are you?


MELBER: You bet. What are you trying to do here?

CHILTON: Well, I am trying to be the register of deed of Orange County,
North Carolina, mostly. But I am a legal scholar as well as the a real
estate attorney. And after reading all of the cases that are involved
with, same-sex marriage, that have come down from the federal courts, it
seems very clear to me that North Carolina`s state constitutional amendment
against same-sex marriage is, definitely contrary to the 14th amendment of
the U.S. constitution.

MELBER: Well, let`s look at that amendment so we are all on the same page.
It says marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal
union that shall be valid or recognized in the state. This section is not
prohibit a private party from entering into contracts with another private
party nor is this section prohibit courts from adjudicating the rights of
private parties pursuance into such contracts.

What do you say to folks who look at that and say that as long as that is
the law it is not up to you to decide to whether it is unconstitutional.
That is only for the courts in your state.

CHILTON: Well, first of all, the North Carolina state constitution lays
out that my oath of office as a register of deeds will be number one
responsibility to uphold the United States constitution. And number two to
uphold the North Carolina constitution to the extent that it is not
inconsistent with the federal constitution.

So my obligation as an elected official is first and foremost, to call, to
support the, the maintain the United States constitution. So that`s what I
intend to do. And I think it is very clear. I mean, why would my oath of
office call for me to support and maintain the constitution of the United
States if I don`t have the authority to interpret the constitution and
apply it, you know, in a logical and reasonable manner that is based on
existing case law?

MELBER: I hear you on that. And what would you do if you end up in a
situation where you were under some sort of order to desist. You said you
want to both hold the job, you also want to approach it this way. Do you
end up in that kind of conflict? Are you prepared to quit or resign over
the issue?

CHILTON: No, I am going to obey any, you know, competent court order that
may be issued in connection with this. As an attorney, I`m oblige to do
that as well as an elected official. But you know, honestly, I don`t know
that any such order is necessarily going to be forthcoming. You know,
there are other states where this has happened. And where this situation
simply sits that one county in Pennsylvania is issuing same-sex marriage
licenses the rest are not. Couple are in New Mexico and the rest are not.

MELBER: Yes. I mean, politically, that makes this really interesting and
really for the folks fighting for these rights constructive. And you look
at North Carolina, which we mentioned people think of it as southern and
potentially conservative state. Although, the electoral politics there
have definitely shifted. President Obama was able to summon a coalition

But specific to this issue. Let me put up for our viewers here, 46 percent
of North Carolinians now say they do support same-sex marriage according to
a recent poll, an April poll, 43 percent oppose. That its split, but that
seems to be going in the right direction for you.

CHILTON: You know it really doesn`t matter though. Because the fact is
that, what the Supreme Court has said is that the purpose, sole purpose of
a law is to denigrate homosexuals, if that is the only thing you have got,
then, not a valid exercise of lawful authority. And it really doesn`t
matter whether that is popular fact or not. It happens to be, a popular
fact in, my home county of Orange County, North Carolina.

MELBER: Yes, you mention that. And Justice Kennedy has written about in
the earlier Colorado case, as well as in the recent case. Do you think
there are any states that have the kind of rules that don`t require stigma
against gays that are not anti-gay in their purpose.

CHILTON: I think to answer that question. You got to look at legislative
history behind each one. I can well imagine what the legislative history
looks like behind the various amendments. But I only really looked in
detail at North Carolina`s so-called amendment 1. And, you know, from that
it is very clear the legislator whose drafted it had no other purpose than
to, in mind, than to put down, gays and lesbians.

MELBER: You know, Mark, you sound like a lawyer in a good way by which way
you sound serious, detail oriented, and taking some of the oaths seriously.
So, it is interesting to talk to you.

Mark Chilton. Thanks for your time tonight.

CHILTON: Thanks for having me on.

MELBER: And coming up, House Republicans fail to get insurance executives
to say what Republicans really hope they might say about the ACA.



SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: That`s why I advised her against taking
leadership position at HHS. After all who would recommend their friend
take over as captain of the titanic after it hit the iceberg. Obviously,
she ignored my advice and accepted the nomination any way continuing her
pattern of public service.


MELBER: That there is what passes for a bipartisan compliment these days.
Senator John McCain today introducing Sylvia Burwell for confirmation
hearing to be secretary of health and human services. Burwell had strong
Republican support when she took over President Obama`s budget office. And
today was no different.

"The Washington Post" noted Republican senators were cordial which
disappointed some people spoiling for an Obamacare fight. The conservative
"Washington Times" deemed the hearing a quote "snooze fest." It was
another story, however in the House where an ACA hearing started, with sour


administration toasts to the law`s success with Hollywood allies declaring
this conversation over. We will continue our pursuit for facts for the
American people so that we can finally have a full accurate picture of this
health care law.


MELBER: And the most important hearing on Obamacare this week featured
another instance where Republican attacks could not survive sustained
contact with the facts. You may have heard the complaint that even though
more people are getting health care now, millions might not be paying their

Now that would be an epidemic if it were an epidemic. But when Republicans
raise that question with insurance executives this week, the people in the
know said the majority of ACA enrollees are paying up.


PAUL WINGLE, AETNA: It had 600,000 members who enrolled and roughly
500,000 members who paid. For those who reached their payment due date,
the payment rate though dynamic has been a low to meet the 80 percent

through April looked fairly consistent and ranged from 83 to 93 percent.
The payment rates for May are currently less because payments are still
coming and being posted.

DENNIS MATHEIS, WELLPOINT: We are seeing strong membership growth. And
large percentages of newly enrolled customers are successfully paying their
premiums by the due date.


MELBER: Joining me is Jonathan Cohn of the "New Republic" who wrote about
today`s and yesterday`s hearing.

Welcome. Let me start with those numbers, 83 to 93 percent. Although,
those guys were, sounding pretty nonplussed. Those are actually dramatic

JONATHAN COHN, THE NEW REPUBLIC: They are very good numbers. Remember,
the raw number of signups, the number of people who actually went through
the process and picked insurance plans is over eight million. So, if, you
know, 80 to 85 to 95 percent of them are actually paying their premiums,
that means, we are looking at somewhere like seven, six and a half, seven
million people who are getting actual insurance to the exchanges which by
the way, is exactly and almost on the nose what the congressional budget
office predicted.

And you know that should, you know, build, give us some confidence that
hey, you know, this law is, you know, at least in this respect is working
the way it was projected to work.

MELBER: Yes. This law is the law. This law is working. This law is
expanding private markets at a basic level. And you know, Jan Schakowsky
used some of her time to go directly at an attack on the score, on these
markets. Take a listen.


REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY (D), ILLINOIS: Republicans also questioned whether the
private health insurance, whether private health insurance would even exist
in 2014. In 2010, Senator Coburn said quote "there will be no insurance
industry left in three years." And that quote "private health insurance
will be dead in three years" unquote. I should note nearly four years have
passed since that statement was made. Is the private health industry dead?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Representative, no.

SCHAKOWSKY: Does anybody else on the panel believe the private industry
has disappeared? Private insurance industry. Thank you.


MELBER: It is borderline, farcical and yet there is a good reason it is
farcical. She is actually taking that Republican attack, seriously.
Right? It is only a joke, to actually take something that, that, Mr.
Coburn said and ask whether it is the case.

COHN: Well, and it is really -- it`s emblematic of the entire debate about
Obamacare. I mean, it has been, you know it was going to cause death
panels. It is socialism. It is going to destroy the private health
industry. All of these apocalyptic predictions. And none of them have
come true.

Look, the law is, it is a mix of good and bad. It certainly has the its
flaws. But, you know all of the available signs at this point. It is
actually working reasonably well. And we can say, I think with absolute
confidence that, predictions like those were always absurd. And, you know,
this just proves it.

MELBER: Yes. And you know, the president went down and did all this jokes
at the correspondents` dinner last weekend. He dealt a lot about health Always good, you know, in those environment as a politician to
be able to laugh at yourself. But if I can politically overanalyze humor,
and we do that sometimes in the news. I also thought that it reflect it a
certain confidence or even a swagger. We are past that. You weren`t
joking about back when it was actually getting in the way of
people getting coverage. And that goes to something else which is whether
this new, you know, nominee here, Sylvia Burwell, not only have Republican
support but being seen as a real competent overseer, what can you tell us
about her?

COHN: Well, she is a competent overseer. And she does have bipartisan
respect. I think the reception she got though is really a sign of how the
politics of Obamacare are changing. I mean, like you said, you know, we
wouldn`t, you know, President Obama wouldn`t be joking about it if there
were disaster. And you can rest assured that if the Republicans thought
there was real political gain in going after her today they would have.

But you know, at some point, you know, reality does interfere. Reality
comes up. And it has become hard to -- I know you had the tape of McCain
calling it the titanic. But nobody believes it is the titanic anymore.
You know, the reality interfered with the Republican talking points.

MELBER: Yes, I know it has been said that reality has the well known
liberal bias. That was a Colbert line. Apparently, the health care
reality must have an Obamacare bias. But as you say, the numbers bear that
out. And I think you are right when you think how many times the
Republicans have sought to get ACA conversation in the back door. Here
they have a nominee that they could try to crucify over. They are not
doing that. It is an interesting point.

Jon Cohn, thanks for your perspective. You get the "Last Word" tonight.

COHN: Thank you. And thanks for having me on.

MELBER: You got it, man.

I`m Ari Melber, in for Lawrence O`Donnell. And Chris Hayes is up next.


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