THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
September 15, 2014
Guest: Brent Schrotenboer, Kavitha Davidson, Karen Desoto, David Rohde;
RACHEL MADDOW, "TRMS" HOST: That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you
again tomorrow. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE
Lawrence, I`m sorry, I ate 25 seconds. I`m sorry.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Oh, no, it was worth it, Rachel. And, you
know, when I was working in the Senate, we didn`t have music on hold. I`m
just lucky because I would have spent my whole day trying to choose which
one we should use.
MADDOW: And everyone would think your tractor was sexy.
O`DONNELL: That`s right.
MADDOW: Thanks, man.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
Well, the Minnesota Vikings benched their star running back on Sunday for
getting indicted for injuring a child, then they lost their game against
the Patriots. So, you ought to be able to figure out what the Vikings did
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today, the NFL continued to try and contain the
fallout of the past week.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was another rough weekend for the NFL.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Another disastrous weekend for the NFL.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Which is now dealing with four high profile abuse
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Defensive end Ray McDonald.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Panthers defensive Greg Hardy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson will
be back on the field this week.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ray Rice will appeal his indefinite suspension.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s a culture problem.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is bigger than Ray Rice. This is bigger than Ray
McDonald. This is bigger than Adrian Peterson.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s something else that Commissioner Roger Goodell
is gong to have to grapple with.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This ongoing storm of controversies sparks a series
of scathing condemnation and emotional commentary.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It has pushed women`s advocacy groups to publicly
call for his resignation.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Flying banners over the stadium, reading "Goodell
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can the NFL fix its PR problem by creating a position
that is in charge of social responsibility.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hours ago, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced
the hiring of four women.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Female domestic violence expert to advise the league.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Domestic violence experts who will serve as senior
advisers to the league.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s a cultural problem.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is bigger than Ray Rice. This is bigger than Ray
McDonald. This is bigger than Adrian Peterson.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now, the NFL is dealing with four high-profile
domestic abuse cases that are overshadowing the game.
O`DONNELL: The Minnesota Vikings lost to the New England Patriots
yesterday, by a lot -- after the Vikings decided that their best running
back, Adrian Peterson couldn`t play because he managed to get himself
indicted on Friday in Texas for one count of injuring a child, the child
being his 4 year old son who he whipped to the point where he cut the boy`s
naked skin in several spots, including the 4-year-old`s genitals.
Today, the Vikings decided that one big loss is enough of a price for the
team to pay for Adrian Peterson`s indictment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK SPIELMAN, MINNESOTA VIKINGS GM: We are trying to do the right thing.
This is a difficult path to navigate, regarding the judgment of how a
parent disciplines his child. Based on the extensive information that we
have right now and what we know about Adrian, not only as a person, but
what he has also done for this community, we believe he deserves to play
while the legal process plays out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And so if the New Orleans Saints are going to beat the Vikings
on Sunday, they`ll have to do it while playing against a somewhat
distracted Adrian Peterson.
And this weekend, Ray Rice returned to his high school in New Rochelle, New
York, where he was welcomed as a returning hero by the football coach there
who coached him 10 years ago. He was accompanied by his wife Janay who he
was seen knocking up with one punch in a video released last week that
earned him an indefinite suspension from the NFL. Ray Rice is now expected
to appeal that decision.
Joining me now is sports reporter who maintains the NFL`s arrest database,
"USA Today`s" Brent Schrotenboer. And also joining me is Kavitha Davidson,
a sports columnist for "Bloomberg View."
Brent, take us through the catalog of ignored crimes that have occurred in
the NFL when people were not focused on it the way we are now.
BRENT SCHROTENBOER, USA TODAY SPORTS REPORTER: Yes, there have been 730
NFL player arrests going back to January 2000. Very few of them got the
attention that these most recent incidents have gotten. I think that`s in
large part because there was video of the Ray Rice domestic incident. That
was one of 89 domestic cases in the NFL going back to January 2000 and many
of them, about 60 percent, resulted in some kind of punishment that
indicated some kind of guilt.
So, this is nothing new for the NFL. And often the NFL only gave the
player a one or two game suspension. So, the outrage is really stemming
from the video and the fact that it attracted so much emotion and
O`DONNELL: And, Kavitha, Adrian Peterson released this statement today in
which he said in part, "I am not a perfect parent," actually, he didn`t
have to tell us that. We already knew that. "But I am, without a doubt,
not a child abuser. I am someone that disciplined his child and did not
intend to cause him any injury, no one can understand the hurt that I feel
for my son and for the harm I caused him. My goal is always to teach my
son right from wrong, and that`s what I tried to do that day."
So, that statement, and a big loss on Sunday was enough to get him back on
KAVITHA DAVIDSON, BLOOMBERG VIEW: That`s essentially what it is, really.
He can pretty much thank the Patriots defense for the fact that he`s going
to suit up on Sunday again.
You know, this statement that he released is really no different than the
statement he released through his attorney when news of the indictment
first came down. There`s this cognitive dissidence that`s happening right
now where he`s saying he does really feel bad for the injuries that he`s
caused his child but he doesn`t think it counts as child abuse. This is
the way that he was disciplined as a kid and he actually attributes that
discipline to much of his success as an NFL player.
And that`s really the heart of the issue, his inability to see outside of
his own experience and to say, you know, maybe this was the wrong thing for
my parents to do and therefore, it`s the wrong thing for me to do to my
O`DONNELL: Well, I think the big hang up here is this phrase "child
abuse". And we all know that that child is normally -- is very frequently,
any way, associated with some form of sexual conduct.
And, Brent, that may be the problem here, is this semantics of this phrase,
"child abuse". And he says "I`m not a child abuser."
Well, we`re not so sure about that. It depends on how much of a pattern
there is here. But for him to say "I did not intend to cause the 4-year-
old any injury," and we see the pictures of the injuries he actually caused
and the broken skin, the open skin that he had to see while he was actually
SCHROTENBOER: Yes. It`s, the evidence is right there. And the Texas
prosecutor said on Saturday that he exceeded the standards of the community
when he caused these injuries to the child. And now, we fine out today a
Texas TV station is reporting that there`s another child that had injuries.
So, there`s a pattern here, apparently, and it goes back to his upbringing
and how he was socialized growing up, and that`s where, you know, a lot of
these criminal problems in the NFL stem from, is how these guys were
O`DONNELL: And, Kavitha, he`s been leaning up to today, I mean, he doesn`t
think this is right anymore. You know, what he was taught to.
But when we saw the texts over the weekend that he was sending to the
mother of the child in this case who he beat, he was very proud of his
disciplinary skills, specifically for using this switch, this little piece
of a tree branch that he was whipping this boy with.
DAVIDSON: Absolutely. He basically said to the mother, he`s going to have
some marks, and I think I maybe went too far, but my boys are going to know
what discipline is and what right and wrong is.
And we can have a whole conversation about spanking and whether that`s the
proper way to discipline a child and the cultural and regional and perhaps
racial differences that occur here, but the fact of the matter is this was
not a spanking. You can`t look at those photos and tell me that that was
ordinary discipline. That was anything but a beating or a child abuse,
And the important thing to note is those photos were taken five to seven
days after the actual incident occurred. This is -- these are very serious
injuries. These are very serious photos.
And frankly, the Vikings aren`t taking this seriously anymore. We thought
they were, but reinstating him today just shows where their priorities are.
O`DONNELL: Yes, and the Vikings` official position on whipping your child
to the point of bleeding is ah, it might be OK. That`s what he said.
DAVIDSON: Well, it might be OK -- it might be OK if he`s --
O`DONNELL: We are not to judge that. That might be perfectly reasonable.
DAVIDSON: He`s a standup citizen and, you know, the GM said he`s done so
much for the community and, oh, by the way, he happens to be the best
running back in the league and he happens to drive a $70 billion fantasy
football industry. And he`s the face of our franchise, and we`re just
getting a new stadium -- and all these reasons they can put out there. But
the ones that are coming out with, which are the same reasons that the
Ravens came out with in sending (ph) Ray Rice is, we know the man here, and
he made a mistake.
And I think we`re now starting to realize that even one mistake is one too
many, but it`s a pattern with Adrian Peterson.
O`DONNELL: Well, Brent, we`re just getting the word right now, breaking
news about one sponsor. Radisson Hotels have decided to suspend the
sponsorship of the Minnesota Vikings as of tonight. And that is the thing
that a lot of people watching the situation have been wondering about, when
do the sponsors speak if at all? Well, we just got one from Radisson
SCHROTENBOER: Yes. That`s probably what it`s going to take for the NFL to
get more serious about this issue. It`s going to have to affect the bottom
line. Previously, it really didn`t. It really was a normal part of the
business for them to have, you know, a rash of arrests every now and then,
and things would pop up. The average is about one a week.
And, usually, they amount to, you know, like a little line in the paper,
and people move on. And depending on how good the player is, the league
will maybe cut the player or not do anything at all. But it never really
got to the point that it started to affect the bottom line. So, that`s
really going to be, you know, a very important factor in all of this.
O`DONNELL: And, Kavitha, this whole, you know, it happened to me when I
was a kid thing, a lot of us can tell that story. In my neighborhood
growing up, every kid, every kid was getting smacked. Not this way, not to
the point where there were any marks, and it was happening to us in our
And the teachers were masters at inflicting corporal punishment on us. It
was happening to every one of us. And yet, as parents, I don`t know any
kids that I grew up with who actually behaved this way now with their own
DAVIDSON: Well, it`s definitely a choice. I think it`s kind of a spurious
argument to say that this happened to me as a kid, therefore it`s OK. And
I think it`s actually built on this level of hubris, as Adrian Peterson
actually said, I don`t think that I would be in the NFL essentially if I
didn`t have this discipline instilled in me, and he clearly thinks that
that was the way to do it.
And Charles Barkley came out and said something similar, this is the way
that black people in the South discipline their children. And I think that
that`s really disingenuous.
I think that Cris Carter, NFL Hall of Famer, said it best when he said, you
know, his mother did the best that she could with him, raising seven
children as a single mother, but now that he`s an adult, there are
thousands of things she was wrong with. There are plenty of lessons you
can learn from your parents and still acknowledge the mistakes they made
and try not to pass them on to your own children. It doesn`t seem like
Adrian Peterson has learned those lessons.
O`DONNELL: Yes, you`re supposed to learn from your parents, good things
about how to parent, and you`re very likely to learn some bad ways of
parenting from your parents and you`re supposed to bring your critical
facility to that and say, I`m not going to do that.
Brent, as this -- we have kind of a cluster right now of criminal arrests,
indictments now in the NFL.
It`s kind of hit a critical moments to bring much more attention to this
than we ever would have seen. Did you see this coming as you were tracking
these events in a more spread out way over time, that at some point, some
of them were going to cluster within the same week or two and it was really
going to become visible in a way like never before?
SCHROTENBOER: Kind of. I mean, this happened before. There was a cluster
in 2007 right when Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the National Football
League, took over, shortly after he took over.
And he responded then sort of the way he is responding to it now. He`s
getting tougher. He`s talking tough. He`s instituted a tougher player
conduct policy, and the arrests went down an a little bit from about 80 in
that one bad year to about 60 in the next year. So, it looked like he was
having some success with it.
But then there`s a baseline of one a week or 50 or 60 a year. So, these
rashes come and go. I think what`s changed here, as I mentioned
previously, is the video and, I think social media, the echo chamber of
social media kind of amplifies things. Not to minimize these issues at
all, but they`ve just been going on so long and they happen very regularly
in this population of young men between the ages of about 20 and 30.
O`DONNELL: And how many NFL football players are there?
SCHROTENBOER: About 2,500.
O`DONNELL: That`s an awful lot. One arrest a week, 2,500. Think of a
college of students getting one arrest a week or any assembly of 2,500
people getting one arrest a week. That is amazing.
Brent Schrotenboer and Kavitha Davidson, thank you both very much for
joining me tonight.
SCHROTENBOER: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, new details on exactly who gets the kind of deal
that Ray Rice got from New Jersey prosecutors.
And later, I`m going to talk about a hero of mine tonight, and it`s not a
O`DONNELL: We now have the Radisson Hotel statement on the Minnesota
"Radisson takes this matter very seriously, particularly in light of our
longstanding commitment to the protection of children. We are closely
following the situation and effective immediately, Radisson is suspending
its limited sponsorship of the Minnesota Vikings while we evaluate the
facts and circumstances."
Coming up, what are the chances of you getting the same deal from New
Jersey prosecutors that Ray Rice got? Those chances are exactly 99-1.
O`DONNELL: An Atlantic City grand jury charged Ray Rice with felony
aggravated assault in the third degree, causing bodily injury and one count
of simple assault, but the district attorney, James McClain, allowed Ray
Rice to enter into New Jersey`s pre-trial intervention program, PTI, as
it`s commonly called. If Ray Rice completes the program and does not
commit another offense, Ray Rice`s record will then be wiped clean with
absolutely no record of a conviction.
A new investigation by ESPN`s "Outside the Lines" found the pre-trial
intervention program offered to Ray Rice in the assault case involving his
wife was granted in less than 1 percent of all domestic violence assault
cases that were resolved.
A spokesperson for the office of Atlantic County prosecutor James McClain
told ESPN, "Mr. Rice received the same treatment in the court system that
any first-time offender in similar circumstances has received.
Joining me now is Karen Desoto, a former defense attorney and prosecutor in
So, Karen, that`s a standard statement that James McClain`s been giving
from the start, that he got exactly what everybody else gets. Now, we find
out 99 percent of them don`t get that deal.
KAREN DESOTO, FORMER NJ PROSECUTOR: Right. And we talked about this last
week, Lawrence, that it`s very rare. One of the reasons why it`s rare,
because PTI is not available for violent crimes, and this is considered a
O`DONNELL: It`s considered a violent crime.
O`DONNELL: This district attorney watched a video of Ray Rice punching and
knocking out his then-fiancee now wife.
DESOTO: And I can tell you that when I was a prosecutor, we had a
directive and we did not dismiss these cases. So, yes, it is very highly
unlikely and I would be very surprised as a defense attorney if I applied
for PTI and I got it in this particular circumstance, especially since he`s
an athlete, especially since it was aggravated assault, not just regular
assault and the videotape makes it very clear, which is something as a
prosecutor you don`t have.
But I can tell you, as a directive, you don`t dismiss them at all in
domestic violence cases. You have a separate unit for that. They`re taken
very seriously. So, this is a 1 percent, and this was a gift.
O`DONNELL: Now, some people have tried to suggest that James McClain might
have some trouble prosecuting this case if Ray Rice`s wife refused to
testify against him.
O`DONNELL: But you`ve got a videotape.
DESOTO: You have a videotape. In New Jersey, you have to corroborate the
videotape. So, you would put them on the stand. But I can tell you that I
put women on the stand that did not want to testify, and who did lie.
But this again, is a directive that you have to take as a prosecutor. You
have to do one or the other. You either have to dismiss the case or you
have to go forward.
And a lot of times, the judge doesn`t want to dismiss these cases because
it`s domestic violence, because there`s a policy that you don`t dismiss.
These are serious charges, and you have to make a choice as a prosecutor to
I wouldn`t have done it as a prosecutor. I think a lot of prosecutors
wouldn`t have and yes, she might have made a terrible witness. And in
cases you use police officers, you use other corroborating witnesses. And
if she gets on the stand and lies, then she gets on the stand and lies.
O`DONNELL: What do we know about the commit ca political pressure that can
come to the Atlantic County prosecutor, district attorney in a situation
DESOTO: Well, I can tell you, if you`re a --
O`DONNELL: These D.A.s, to my surprise, are appointed by the governor of
DESOTO: Correct. I think there`s probably a lot more corruption in places
where the district attorneys are elected as we have in (INAUDIBLE) case, we
have in Florida. I think there`s probably more corruption with elections
and money as there is in appointments.
But is there pressure directly? I mean, that depends on the case. If he`s
looking to do something political -- one of the great things about New
Jersey is it appointed and you don`t have to worry about elections and
money. The political pressure --
O`DONNELL: It also means there`s nothing that the county voters can do
about this guy except when they vote for governor and nobody`s thinking
about D.A.s when they`re voting for governor.
DESOTO: Well, the senator does get a say so in who becomes the country.
So, there are phone calls, and there are, you know, senators who do take it
very seriously, the county prosecutor, and they do weigh in.
O`DONNELL: And he could not be luckier that there`s so much -- James
McClain, I want to keep saying his name -- could not be luckier that there
is so much focus on Roger Goodell and the NFL, because that`s the heat
shield taking the heat off him and he had the first responsibility to deal
with this, long before it goes Roger Goodell`s matter.
DESOTO: Yes. I mean, listen, there are two different things. At the end
of the day, they`re probably going to point fingers at each other, meaning
that the NFL`s going to say the prosecutor had it. And they said this --
O`DONNELL: That`s their big thing is, hey, the prosecutor saw the video,
saw nothing wrong with it, let Ray Rice go.
DESOTO: Look, he got PTI. So, obviously, you`re going to use that. I
mean, remember, the NFL, these are assets that they`re trying to protect.
So, it puts them in a very awkward position, having to protect the player
but yet also discipline them. So, that`s not unusual.
But, of course, you`re going to lay blame somewhere else, because nobody`s
going to want to take the political heat and the controversy that`s come
out of this case.
O`DONNELL: Karen Desoto, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
Coming up, what the polls say about Americans` utter state of confusion
about how to deal with the Islamic State.
O`DONNELL: In the spotlight tonight, America`s state of confusion over the
Islamic State. Breaking news tonight, the United States military conducted
an air strike near Baghdad today, the first strike near Iraq`s capital
since the bombing campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq began last
A recent NBC News poll shows America is confused and wrong about the
situation in Iraq, as usual -- 62 percent of Americans now support the
United States taking action against the Islamic State, while 68 percent of
Americans say they don`t think U.S. action will work.
So, tonight, Americans are officially the most gung ho war pessimists in
the word. And a CNN poll has a very familiar-sounding finding, that 90
percent of the Americans believe the Islamic State poses a threat to the
United States, which happens to be identical to the 90 percent of wrong
Americans who said they believed that Iraq posed an immediate or long-term
threat to the United States in 2003.
U.S. military conducted air strikes against ISIL near (INAUDIBLE) -- oh,
well, don`t, don`t leave stuff in the prompter like that. There`s little
junction notes in there.
Joining me now, David Rohde and Richard Wolffe -- sorry about the notes to
self that somebody left.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC.COM: That was big news.
DAVID ROHDE, REUTERS: It happens.
O`DONNELL: But Richard, you can`t get a more confused citizenry than the
United States when you put the word Iraq in a poll.
Yes. It`s the definition of mixed emotion. And to be fair, policymakers
are almost as confused about what to do, who their friends are. We`re
seeing in Paris with nations gathering there. Very confusing picture of
who is actually supporting America. Who will do it publicly, who will do
it privately, even when you have a country like France organizing things
and they`re also paying ransoms to terrorists to ISIS to fund them. So it
take extremely complicate the situation that recent history makes that
confusion even worse. And we can`t even agree on what to call our
archenemies there now.
O`DONNELL: Yes. And David Rohde, this effort to get a coalition so, and
it`s so great because here you have all these commentators on American
television who are gung ho to do this, saying we must get this coalition
together so it doesn`t appear that we are doing this. You know, and I`m
going to, you know, pass this word secretly through television to the
entire world, you know. It`s never going to appear, no matter who we
assemble here, that we aren`t driving this whole thing.
DAVID ROHDE, REUTERS: It`s true, and dare I say it, maybe we aren`t doing
our jobs that well in terms of, you know, commentators and television to be
honest. It is an incredibly complex situation. There is a threat, but
it`s not the sort of threat that some Republicans have talked about that
they`re going to come kill us all immediately, but I don`t know if we can
ignore it and we`re still lost. We talked about this before. Are we at
war? Or is this some sort of limited counter terrorism operation?
And it`s easy to blame the president, you know. He`s trying to not use the
word "war", because he`s trying not to invoke that. It`s very unpopular.
But we as a society need to do a better job, I think, trying to understand
what we`re going to do and that this is war.
O`DONNELL: And Richard, the president has been quoted in one briefing with
some people saying he expects this to continue till the next until the nest
presidency and possibly the presidency after that.
WOLFFE: Sure. And that would not be unusual when you see it in terms of
the broader ideological movement. This is a Jihadi movement, the pre-dates
Al Qaeda that has changed and transformed over time and is more potent I
think most people can agree now than Al Qaeda in the territory it`s holding
and the sophistication of its arms. That means it is not strict speaking a
terrorists organization anymore. It`s somewhere between a terrorist
organization and a militia, a very large and successful militia. But
unlike what we`ve seen before. It`s powers, a cult, and the ideology that
it has now taken beyond what Al Qaeda had before that. That`s more akin to
something like a terrorist movement meeting the cold war. And it is going
to take an ideological effort of the many decades to convince people that
they should not support this because it is not an expression of their
desires as people or as Muslims.
O`DONNELL: Let`s take a look at Josh Ernest today in the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: I can say definitively
that the president has ruled out sending American boots on the ground to be
engaged in a combat role in Syria. The strategy that the president has put
forward to deal with threat post by ISIL in Iraq and Syria is
substantially different that was put in place in advance of the last
conflict in Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That`s just become the chant. It`s now the daily chant. It`s
a talking point that is it that briefing every day. It seems to me that
the White House is going to have to find ways to talk about this that is
are so simplistic as that boots on the ground phrase.
ROHDE: And basically what`s happening here is an expansion of drones
strikes and air strikes, now into Iraq but now we are going to Syria. And
I don`t think you`re going to see much change here. There are no ground
forces here. No one is coming forward. Turkey isn`t really pressuring the
Islamic state. So essentially Iraq and Syria will look like Yemen,
Pakistan, these places where we have carried out drone strikes. And drones
don`t solve these situations. They create a stalemate whack-a-mole is what
people call it. And that is al is going to happen. I don`t see it a
dramatic change in, you know, the military balance on the ground just do
the air strikes.
O`DONNELL: And Richard Wolffe, what`s your sense of what the alliance here
will look like if there is one, two weeks from now.
WOLFFE: Well, (INAUDIBLE) will be claiming huge support from Saudi Arabia,
a country, by the way, that beheads people, or be it at the end of what
they call a judicial process. So we have unusual allies in this case, but
they are nonetheless allies to a greater extent than we saw in the war
against Iraq, at least the last one. There will be support from European
countries as well, but in terms of limited action, this isn`t going to be
the same kind of televised war or much like the drone strikes David was
describing in the tribal regions at Pakistan.
You`re not going to see, you`ll see the aftermath. You will see what they
call so horribly, the collateral damage, and it will be a long, low-grade
war with regional support, but that`s not where the war is going to be
fought in terms of what we see in terms of the pictures.
O`DONNELL: And David, what will Saudi Arabia be willing to do publicly?
ROHDE: Host this training of some moderate Syrian opposition, and that
seems to be. But the administration claimed over the weekend that some
Arab states were going to carry out air strikes. They haven`t named them
yet. Which I think these countries are balking at bombing ISIS at this
point. They`re worried about their own security, you know, instead the
O`DONNELL: David Rohde and Richard Wolffe, thank you both very much for
joining us tonight.
ROHDE: Thank you.
WOLFFE: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, in the rewrite. Why football players have never
been, will never be and should not be, should not be expected to be role
models for anything other than the one thing they all know how to do.
(ARETHA FRANKLIN PERFORMING)
O`DONNELL: That`s Aretha Franklin at Harvard`s graduation a few months ago
where she received an honorary degree and sang a very old song like in the
way we`ve never heard it before. This weekend was the 200th birthday of
the star-spangled banner which was written in 1814, of course, by Francis
The first Harvard graduate I ever met was Chase Peterson who happens was
also the first Mormon I ever met. In fact, he was one of the very first
non-Catholics that I ever met. I grew up in an entirely Catholic
neighborhood of Boston where the name Harvard was mentioned only as the
final stop at the end of the subway. Chase Peterson changed that for me.
He was the Dean of admissions of Harvard College when I was a senior in
high school and he conducted my admissions interview and decided to admit
Most of the good things that have happened to me in some way trace back to
Harvard which opened opportunities that no one else in my family or
neighborhood ever had. I`ve never forgotten that I have Chase Peterson to
thank for that. And I`m not the only one.
So it is pretty much everyone on the Harvard faculty have a Ph.D. only the
medical doctors are called doctors, and Dr. Chase Peterson was not just a
graduate of Harvard college, he was a graduate of Harvard medical school.
He became the deep of admissions of Harvard College in 1967. And he
immediately hired Harvard`s first African-American admissions staff member,
John S. Harwell.
Chase Peterson made it the business then of the Harvard admission committee
to reach out to minority communities where admission to Harvard was as
unheard of as it was in my neighborhood and he offered a surprisingly warm
welcome to highly talented students who otherwise would not have applied to
After Harvard Dr. Peterson had a long and distinguishes career back in
Utah, back at home where he became the president of the University of Utah.
After retiring as president of the university, he continued working as a
teaching and practicing physician and offered his services to Salt Lake
City`s fourth street clinic for the homeless.
Dr. Peterson gave his last lecture at the University of Utah medical school
this summer. Yesterday in Salt Lake City, Chase Peterson died at the age
of 84. I`m returning to Harvard this weekend for my class reunion, a class
admitted by Chase Peterson. He will be remembered by us all as a man of
dignity, grace, and wisdom steeped in high academic achievement and
unerring modesty. We will talk about him with affection and gratitude, and
in my case, with awe.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The world is complicated enough. You don`t want to
have to explain to your kids that their heroes are not heroic but quite the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Well, it turns out that the child rearing there are a lot of
things you don`t want to do but you have to do, like explaining to your
children that some of their heroes are not all that heroic or not heroic as
If your child loves music as pretty much every child does at some point.
And if your child takes up the guitar as many children do and that child
then comes under the guitar spell of Keith Richards, one of the greatest
guitarist, it is your obligation as an a parent to make it very clear to
your child that as one reviewer put it, quote, "Keith Richards` genius is
in his fingers," end quote.
And that the rest of Keith Richards is an utter mess.
Keith Richards is not a role model for kids, and no one has ever pretended
that he is. We`re never surprised when musicians get in trouble or behave
badly nor are we surprised when the famous actors get in trouble and behave
very, very badly.
We long ago learned to admire their work and usually nothing else about
them. Why is it taking us so long or maybe it`s just taking the media so
long to recognize that professional athletes are not role models and have
not been role models for many decades.
The first big transgression by professional athletes were understandably
taken as isolated cases, those transgressions including the Chicago White
Sox throwing the world series in 1919 when the players decided the best way
to bet on themselves was to actually bet on themselves, losing the world
series and then make sure they lost the world series. They were acquitted
of criminal charges but it broke the hearts of American baseball fans and
got eight of the White Sox banned from the game for life.
And when I was in high school, Yankees pitcher Jim Boughton published his
book as a journal as a book entitled "ball four." And it forever changed
my view of professional athletes and change the nature of sports journalism
forever. Jin Boughton`s brilliant book firmly and finally exposed the New
York Yankees and professional baseball players and professional athletes,
generally, as human beings, not a hero among them, not a real hero.
Heroes weren`t playing baseball when Jim Boughton was playing baseball.
Heroes were ending segregation in those days. Heroes were getting African-
Americans the right to vote back then.
And after reading "ball four", it was very clear to me that professional
athletes should never be admired for anything other than their ability to
throw and catch balls or hit balls or slap hockey pucks or shoot baskets or
Occasionally, you will discover that some professional athletes like Bill
Russell lent a hand to some of our heroes like Martin Luther King, Junior,
but Bill Russell himself would never tell you that he was heroic for doing
that. This is one thing that Charles Barkley got right 20 years ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLES BARKELY, FORMER BASKETBALL PLAYER: I am not a role model. I`m not
paid to be a role model. I`m paid to wreak havoc on the basketball court.
Parents should be role models. Just because I dunk a basketball doesn`t
mean I should raise your kids.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Got that, parents? Parents should be role models.
Professional football players have never really been life role models, and
they certainly aren`t now. And yes, it is your job as a parent to guide
your children away from the idolatry of pro football players. The only
thing that they can learn from watching pro football players is how to play
football better. But hopefully not quite well enough that they go on to
actually, then, become pro football players themselves. Because then,
you`re going to have to spend some serious time talking to your kid about
that whole concussion thing thin pro football.
O`DONNELL: If you`re one of the 62 percent of Americans who want us to go
to war with the Islamic state, do you believe that the Islamic state is
capable of coming here to the United States and killing all of us, all 320
million of us? No? You`re not that delusional? OK. Well, at least one
United States senator is, and that`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: This is a war we`re fighting. It
is not a counterterrorism operation. This is not Somalia. This is not
Yemen. This is a turning point in the war on terror, our strategy will
fail yet again. This president needs to rise to the occasion before we all
get killed back here at home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Before we all get killed. That was Lindsey Graham saying that
320 million Americans are all going to get killed here at home, thanks to
President Obama. And we will be killed by the 20,000 or 30,000 or so
warriors of the Islamic state who at the moment, anyway, have their hands
full, trying to kill people in Iraq and Syria. Lindsey Graham marks the
height of American hysteria over the Islamic state. Today in Paris,
secretary of state John Kerry talked about the fear of Americans and
Europeans joining the Islamic state, saying, quote, "drying up this pool of
jihadis who get seduced in to believing there is some virtue in crossing in
to Syria to fight or to join ISIL is far more important than the military
component of fighting the Islamic state.
Joining me now is Shika Dalmia, a senior policy analyst at Reason
Foundation whose recent column in the week in entitled, stop freaking out
over the west`s jihadi tourists. We`re going to send that right over to
Lindsey Graham right now who seems to be, if someone is freaking out, it
seems it is Lindsey Graham. What, could you give us the statistical
perspective or these foreign fighters who are joining the Islamic state?
SHIKA DALMIA, SENIOR POLICY ANALYST, REASON FOUNDATION: Sure, Lawrence,
you now they are really, even by historical standoffs, rather small. You
mentioned that they were 20,000 to 30,000 ISIS fighters, out of which only
12,000 are foreign fighters, of which only 3,000 are western fighters. Out
of which only 70 are American fighters. So the numbers are really, really
If you compare it to the number of Americans who actually enlisted in the
Spanish civil war, the 70 pales in comparison. There were 2800 Americans
who fought on the side of the Republicans in to America in the Spanish
civil war, at the height of the Stalin regime, his repression and
persecution a thousands of Americans actually defected to the soviet union,
something we don`t often talk about. So you know, in terms of Americans
and westerners joining this fight, we really can`t do much damage here.
O`DONNELL: And you talk in your piece, which is great by the way. And
we`re going to have a link to it on our Web site about the Vietnam era in
which you reminded me and I`m sure many others it that there were thousands
and thousands of members of organizations that began as protest
organizations against the Vietnam war whose mission statement at the time
included the overthrow of the United States government.
DALMIA: That`s right. I mean, SDS, the weather underground, you know,
which was a notorious outlet at that time as well as the black panthers. I
mean, at least the weather underground and the black panthers, really, I
mean, the overthrow of the U.S. government was an express part of their
You know, the interesting thing about ISIS is that it really hasn`t
targeted the United States. It`s actually not al-Qaeda whose express
purpose was to target the United States. ISIS wants to set up its own
little shop in the Middle East and pretend that it has a caliphate from
which is going to run world (ph) Islam. They, until now, until they
started this being very ugly and grizzly beheadings, had not shown any
intention of tar getting the homeland. They were, you know, very much
interested in just spreading the sort of Islamic wars from a little part of
territory that they had grabbed in Syria and Iraq.
O`DONNELL: Well, as the Bush administration showed in 2003, and as we`re
seeing again now, it seems that the way to get support behind American
military action over hear is to say that there is a threat to the United
States, a very direct threat. Lindsey Graham putting it in the most hyper
hysterical terms that they`re coming here to kill us all.
DALMIA: That`s exact -- I mean, you know, this has been a pattern with the
United States. We inflate the threat overseas and then we overreact to the
threat that we create the very conditions that we are trying to fight by
increasing radicalization, you know, in that part of the world. If you
want to think about it, you know, we have had the war on terrorism going on
since 2001, which has been of longer vintage than the Vietnam war. This is
at the time when there has been a fair amount of Muslim migration through
the west and we have, you know, consider -- we have joined bundle out of
the Islamic countries. And off that, we have about 3,000 westerners who
have joined this fight in the Middle East. Not all of whom are with ISIS,
by the way.
So with the results that, you know, here is the threat of ISIS is really,
really very small to the homeland right now.
O`DONNELL: Shika Dalmia, thank you for helping us to stop freaking out
over this foreign fighters. Thank you very much for joining us.
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THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL