THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
September 29, 2014
Guest: Peter Wallsten, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Laith Alkhouri, Pia Glenn,
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Rachel, remember when the John Boehner
House of Representatives began with dramatic reading of the Constitution on
the House floor?
RACHEL MADDOW, "TRMS" HOST: Yes. That`s right.
O`DONNELL: Right in there, it says that they alone have the power to
declare war, but who was listening that day?
MADDOW: Article 1, Section 8, it`s very small print. It`s an ital. It`s
Thanks, Lawrence. I appreciate it.
O`DONNELL: That`s right. Thanks, Rachel.
O`DONNELL: Well, it turns out -- the Secret Service`s biggest secret is
that they have been shockingly lazy about protecting the White House.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Secret Service is facing even more heat.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That White House fence jumper.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even worse than we were first told.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now we know he got well into the building.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Into the 80-foot long east room.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was only steps away from the first family`s actual
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Multiple layers of security failed here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you go garassing (ph) down the hall of the White
House without anybody stopping you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This will be deep trouble for the Secret Service.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The service has got to be ahead of the assassins or the
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The agency, as you well know, is already facing
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: About the agency`s mishandling of the 2011 White
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It took the Secret Service four days to realize the
residence had been hit.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How does it take the Secret Service four days?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somehow the White House perimeter is not totally
covered with video surveillance? That was a shock.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sasha and Mrs. Robinson, the grandmom, was home.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It leaves to more questions here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president and first lady were furious.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The head of the Secret Service goes before a
congressional hearing tomorrow.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s a lot to be disturbed about both these
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some very tough questioning tomorrow for Julia
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And she will have a lot of explaining to do.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is not going away lightly.
O`DONNELL: A man with a knife ran wildly through the White House before
finally being tackled by a Secret Service counter assault agent, deep
inside the White House.
And we know this, not because the Secret Service has reported it, but
because "The Washington Post" has discovered it in what is now a series of
exposes about Secret Service utter incompetence in the protection of the
White House and more importantly, the family who lives in it. According to
the information released by the Secret Service the day after that incident,
the man, quote, "was physically apprehended after entering the White House
north portico doors."
That sounded to people as if the man was apprehended immediately inside the
north portico doors, which would, of course, make sense. But no one at the
time, no one thought to ask how long after entering the White House north
portico doors was Omar Gonzalez apprehended?
Carol Leonnig has now done exhaustive reporting about security breaches at
the White House for "The Washington Post". And today, she writes that
after barreling past the guard immediately inside the door, Gonzales who
was carrying a knife dashed past a stairway leading to the family`s living
quarters. He then ran into the 80-foot East Room. Gonzalez was tackled by
a counterassault agent at the far southern end of the East Room, an ornate
space often used for receptions or presidential addresses.
The intruder breached the doorway to the greenroom of the parlor
overlooking the South Lawn with artwork and antique furniture.
The first family was not at home at the time of the incident. The Secret
Service official who spoke on the condition of anonymity told "The
Washington Post" that an alarm box near the front entrance of the White
House, designed to alert guards to an intruder had been muted at what
officers believed was a request of the usher`s office.
Today`s news comes two days after another shocking report by "The
Washington Post" that says, in November 2011, it took the Secret Service
four full days to realize that seven bullets had hit the exterior of the
upstairs residence of the White House. That night, the Obamas` younger
daughter Sasha and her grandmother, Marian Robinson, were home at the White
Secret Service Director Julia Pierson will likely face questions about
these security breaches when she appears tomorrow before the House
Oversight and Reform Committee.
Joining me now is MSNBC law enforcement analyst and former ATF agent, Jim
Cavanaugh, and "Washington Post" political editor Peter Wallsten.
Peter, you have worked on these pieces that have revealed to us things that
we did not think were possible at the White House. So many things, like,
for example, that people are not simply staring at that front fence all day
long, waiting for someone to go over. That someone was able to go over
that fence and not be seen by anyone to the point where he was actually
able to get all the way into the building.
PETER WALLSTEN, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, what we found and what my
colleague Carol Leonnig has found in her great reporting on this, her
ground-breaking reporting, is that multiple levels, there were multiple
levels of failure there. There were counter-surveillance officers outside
the fence who were supposed to be looking for suspicious people, they
didn`t see him.
There was an alarm that probably did go off when he crossed the fence, but
there is now in dispute -- it`s not clear what happened after that. There
might have been a dog that could have been released. The attack dog was
not released. It`s not clear why he was able to go through the door.
We learned today, we published today the news that in fact this alarm box,
as you said, was off, was muted. So, a guard standing inside the White
House who might have been alerted that somebody was coming did not get
early warning. And once he entered the door, which, by the way, was
unlocked, he was able to barrel right past her and continue on into the
O`DONNELL: And, Jim Cavanaugh, there`s various indications about why that
was muted. Some say the usher`s office wanted it muted because it was
going off and creating false alarms a lot, making a lot of noise. But,
Jim, there is one home and exactly one home in all of Washington, D.C.
where they leave the front door unlocked.
JIM CAVANAUGH, MSNBC LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Right. Exactly. At the
White House, they leave the front door unlocked. It`s crazy.
Really, it should be an electronic lock. It should be able to be opened
when dignitaries arrive. Certainly, I`ve been through that door. I know
you have, Lawrence, and many Americans have been as well, and into those --
the East Room and the ceremonial rooms.
But like Peter said, you know, seven separate systems failed here. This
wasn`t one thing that failed. It was the plain clothes team outside the
fence. It was the wimpiest fence on earth he got over. The dog wasn`t
released. The uniformed division officer in the north tower or box
couldn`t get to him.
You know, you release the dog. Secret Service officers will take a bullet
for the president. They can take a dog bite for the president, too. You
don`t make a decision not to release the dog because he might bite an
officer. You release the dog trying to stop the intruder.
And, of course, the door should have been locked. And an officer outside
the door, and you shouldn`t listen to the usher`s office when they tell you
to tell you to turn it down. You say no. We`re not turning it down.
We`re the Secret Service and we`re not doing it. And the chain of
command`s got to back you up.
O`DONNELL: And, Peter, about this front door not being locked, it is not
frequently used. It is a ceremonial entrance. It`s not like in the course
of a day they`ve got to keep that unlocked because there`s so many people
coming and going through that front door. I mean, I just want the audience
to understand, this door is rarely used.
It makes absolutely no conceivable sense that it wouldn`t have been locked
and this wouldn`t have just been a story of a guy running up to a locked
door who eventually gets caught either by the dog or by the agents who
eventually, no matter how sleepy they were that day would catch up to him
because he`s stopped by a locked door.
WALLSTEN: That`s right. There`s also supposed to be a guy in front of
that door, whether it`s locked or not. There`s supposed to be somebody
guarding that door both apparently on the outside and also on the inside.
And the protocol in the Secret Service is that if that alarm box had
sounded, the door would have been immediately locked.
O`DONNELL: And, Jim, both of the incidents that we`re talking about here,
the shooting where someone is shooting from way down below the south side
of the White House, we have a diagram up there, firing seven shots into the
building, apparently, according to one report, from simply sitting in his
car, that was a Friday night.
This jumping the fence was a Friday night. There`s something about the
Friday shift on the Secret Service in the White House.
CAVANAUGH: Well, there`s something about a whole lot of things that the
leadership`s got to take command of and change quick.
Look, Lawrence, Omar Gonzalez was arrested in July by the Virginia state
police who called ATF agents who went in there and found he had five
handguns and seven or eight long guns and all this ammunition. They called
the Secret Service. He was interviewed. He showed up a month later at the
White House with a hatchet in his back.
Now, here`s two chances to get ahead of a potential assassin. Now, maybe
they didn`t have enough to get a warrant. But he showed up with that
hatchet. They should have put -- got a warrant to put a tracker on his car
or something on his cell phone to know whenever he came in proximity of the
White House they would have been alerted.
They already had him with the guns and the map at the White House. They
had him at the gate with a hatchet in his back. They should have been
tracking him. That`s the investigative failure in my view, even if you
couldn`t arrest him.
O`DONNELL: And, Peter, just again, for the audience to understand the size
of this building, the distance that he traveled once inside that front door
is a longer distance than exists in most homes anywhere in the United
States. It is a vast room, the East Room that he passed through. That
room alone is bigger than most houses.
It`s incredible how far he actually got. And if he had known much about
the layout of the White House, he probably would have run up those stairs
into the living quarters if that`s where he really wanted to be. But we`re
lucky, in this instance, that this guy was not a professional assassin, as
it were, coming from some group with real deliberate and premeditated
carefully planned intent once inside that building.
WALLSTEN: That`s right. We were told it took him about 20 seconds to run
across the north lawn, past that fountain there. He went in the front
door. It`s not cheer exactly what path he took, but if he were to run
straight through to the cross hall, then take a left into the East Room,
the East Room is 80 feet long.
He got all the way to the far end of the building. That`s where the
doorway to the Green Room is. That`s pretty far to go, in a building that
I mean, it`s pretty amazing to think about this guy just running through.
He can control, really, had he had an explosive device or some real weapon,
had he had bad intentions he could have really controlled the building if
you could begin to imagine what he could have done.
O`DONNELL: Jim Cavanaugh and Peter Wallsten, thank you both very much for
joining me tonight.
WALLSTEN: You`re welcome.
O`DONNELL: Joining us now is D.C. delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a member
of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Secret Service Director Julia Pierson is scheduled to testify to that
What is your first question to Julia Pierson tomorrow?
DEL. ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON (D), DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Well, actually,
Lawrence, I am most concerned at this point, about the secrecy in the
Secret Service. They appear to take the secret part of their name as
seriously as they take protecting the president.
Remember, the first lady was not told about the shooting. And there has
been no report. We had to have what amounts to a report from "The
Washington Post" about that gun that lodged bullets in the White House.
And now, we have a jumper that penetrates the White House himself. The
first time that has ever happened in the history of the United States.
The combination of that shooting and the jumper really takes the threat
posed to the president of the United States to a new level. This president
has, according to the threat levels from the homeland security, has three
times the number of threats of his predecessors.
So, I want to know why the Secret Service, which is an expert agency,
didn`t even know bullets when they heard them. And I also want to know
whether or not the sequester has taken down their staff so badly that they
didn`t have the personnel to stop this shooter. There`s got to be an
And before they go about banning the public, they need a full investigation
of what happened. Let`s find out, let`s investigate first and then take
action, not take action and then investigate.
And I have gone down there today to see what they have been doing, and for
the moment the public, except for some 3-foot barriers, is able to get
I`ve also spoken with Director Pierson. I don`t know how much, but in
direct answer to your question, I don`t know how much she should be able to
tell us. She hasn`t had time to do a full investigation. So I hope this
is not a show hearing. I hope it is a problem-solving hearing.
O`DONNELL: According to Carol Leonnig`s brilliant reporting in "The
Washington Post", we know about this shooting thanks to a maid working in
the White House who found the cement on the floor inside that had cracked
because these bullets. And she, then, reported it to one of the ushers.
And then this went up the security chain of command at that point.
But -- and some of the Secret Service officers on the scene that night were
absolutely convinced it was a shooting, a deliberate shooting at the White
House, but what they believed happened is -- did not get reported up the
line. Officers above them decided, no, that`s not what it was. And they
were very surprised to be told to stand down very quickly after this
shooting by people up the line, up the chain of command who had a different
interpretation based on, we`re not sure what, about what happened there
NORTON: Yes, that raises a question of whether the Secret Service is in
denial. There ought to be a presumption that if somebody, if some agents
say that they heard bullets, they heard shooting, presume that it happened
unless you can show it didn`t, instead of the opposite way around. They
had, essentially we learned about this from whistleblowers within the
agency. And even though they reported it, there seem to have been, and I
use this word, some suppression of that information. That`s what I mean
about whether the Secret Service means secret from all the rest of us,
including the first lady.
O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton. Thank you very much for
joining us tonight. We`ll be watching that hearing tomorrow.
NORTON: Of course.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
Coming up, how Taylor Swift learned that she is a feminist, and why that is
an important lesson for women of all ages.
And in the "Rewrite" tonight, that congressman, Vance McAllister, who got
caught on video, making out with a woman who is not his wife, now has a new
MVP in his reelection campaign -- his wife.
O`DONNELL: In a 5-4 ruling today, the Supreme Court`s conservative
majority decided to allow Ohio to shorten its early voting period. The
ruling came 16 hours before early voting was scheduled to start. In
February, Ohio`s Republican-controlled legislature passed a bill reducing
the number of early voting days. That bill also eliminated the week where
voters could register and vote on the same day.
Up next, doing something to fight the Islamic state in Syria, versus doing
nothing. Do we really know which one of those choices is better?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that right now we`ve
got a campaign plan that has a strong chance for success in Iraq. I think
Syria is a more challenging situation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: President Obama acknowledged this weekend in an interview with
"60 Minutes" that the undeclared war with the Islamic State is complicated
by the fact that air strikes on Islamic targets benefit Syrian President
Assad`s ongoing war with the Syrian people.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I recognize the contradiction in a contradictory land and a
STEVE KROFT, CBS: Are we --
OBAMA: We are not going to stabilize Syria under the rule of Assad,
because the Sunni areas inside of Syria view Assad as having carried out
terrible atrocities. The world has seen them. Hundreds of thousands of
people have been killed. Millions have been displaced.
So, for a long term political settlement, for Syria to remain unified, it
is not possible that Assad presides over that entire process.
On the other hand, in terms of immediate threats to the United States,
ISIL, Khorasan group, those folks could kill Americans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Islamic State fighters shelled the border city of Kobani again
today. Eighty percent of the residents have already fled that city for the
border with Turkey. Turkish tanks are now reinforcing that border.
Joining me now is Laith Alkhouri, senior analyst for Flashpoint Global
Laith, the president said I recognize the contradiction in the
contradictory land and a contradictory circumstance. That`s the kind of
talk Americans hate. You see, we like our foreign policy very simple.
We`re very simple-minded about this. Good guys, bad guys. We`re good
guys, and we go and kill bad guys with our war weapons.
But the president is saying -- well, in this case, there`s some
contradictory circumstances here.
LAITH ALKHOURI, FLASHPOINT GLOBAL PARTNERS: Well, we are engaged in a very
asymmetrical warfare. You know, we`re not actually fighting a country,
although they claim themselves to be a state, we`re not fighting a guerilla
group that has spread large swaths of territory across Iraq and Syria.
But to add to the complexity of that, we have not had any kind of
diplomatic or otherwise any kind of engagement with the Syrian regime for
decades. So, we actually have lacked in some of the intelligence
gathering. We have lacked in some of, you kind, of rallying partners to be
able to infiltrate that kind of society, understand the culture more.
But to add to even a much bigger complexity than that, Syria has, Syrian
government has very powerful allies in the region. Iran, Hezbollah and
others like China and Russia which have played primary roles in preventing
us from actually acting in Syria before ISIS has expanded there.
O`DONNELL: One of the things the president said is that he is not denying
the complexity of what he faces, which is what some of his predecessors
have done in situations like this. They use very simple language. They
don`t recognize that there are -- that it is a, as he put it, a
contradictory land. That he`s going in there trying to do one thing in
Syria against one enemy in Syria as he sees it, but he knows that this
could help another enemy, as it were, that he sees in Syria.
ALKHOURI: Well, it`s very tough. It`s a very tough stance, not only for
the United States, but actually the allies and the original countries,
because they`re facing the same threat that the United States is facing.
ISIS has global visions. We`ve seen that in their propaganda. We`ve seen
that in their actions. They`re trying to take over in places like Jordan,
Lebanon and other places.
But, you know, that really allows, you know, taking ISIS down really allows
for Bashar al-Assad to, on the one side, rise up and also al Qaeda on the
other side rise up. And we`ve kind of focused on places like Yemen,
Waziristan, Somalia, to eliminate the threat we saw that was kind of
emerging and really imminent.
But we`ve kind of much ignored the rabid dog that we left unleashed in Iraq
and actually haven`t put measures for that rabid dog not to attack. So,
three years later, or over three years later now, we`re trying to bring
that dog back on the leash, and it`s going to be very, very tough.
O`DONNELL: The Islamic State has been very active in propaganda, in --
whether it be beheading videos or many, many other forms of online
communication that they`ve been using, it`s not just those videos. What
has been their reaction in terms of their communications strategy in
reaction to the American military strikes?
ALKHOURI: Well, they utilize a number of platforms for communication. And
we know they`re utilizing proprietary software to mask their identities,
mask their Internet traffic. Actually things like social media, Twitter,
Facebook and whatnot, but also, they`re utilizing what we call the dark
web, where they have platforms that are not -- they don`t appear on
searches on Google for example. You kind of have to know where to go and
you have to know who the actors are.
And behind these kind of platforms, they have kind of backdoors where
they`re able to interact. We see the number two in al Qaeda in Yemen after
he was killed, he had an actual -- an account on one of those platforms
where he was able to communicate with others, and he released articles kind
of encouraging attacks on the United States and the West.
So, those platforms exist, and we know the Islamic state and its fighters
are using it not only for recruitment but for communications and spreading
O`DONNELL: Laith Alkhouri, thank you very much for joining us again.
ALKHOURI: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, from the Spotlight, Taylor Swift and Emma Watson
talking about 21st century feminism.
And, in the re-write, a congressman who is leaning very heavily on the
woman he calls his wonderful, Christian wife to get him reelected.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAYLOR SWIFT, SINGER: I wish when I was 12-years-old, I`d been able to
watch a video of my favorite actress explaining in such an intellectual,
beautiful, poignant way, the definition of feminism, because I would have
understood it. And then earlier on in my life I would have proudly claimed
I was a feminist because I would have understood what the word means.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: In the spotlight tonight, feminism. 12-
year-old girls and all the rest of us now have that video of a favorite
actress defining feminism. Here`s Emma Watson at the United Nations last
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
EMMA WATSON, UNITED NATIONS WOMEN GOODWILL AMBASSADOR: For the record,
feminism by definition is the belief that men and women should have equal
rights and opportunities. It is the theory of the political, economic and
social equality of the sexes. I started questioning gender-based
assumptions a long time ago.
When I was eight, I was confused at being called bossy, because I wanted to
direct the plays that we would put on for our parents, but the boys were
not. When at 14, I started to be sexualized by certain elements of the
media. When at 15, my girlfriends started dropping out of their beloved
sports teams because they didn`t want to appear muscle (ph). When at 18,
my male friends were unable to express their feelings.
I decided that I was a feminist. And this seemed uncomplicated to me. But
my recent research has shown me that feminism has become an unpopular word.
Women are choosing not to identify as feminists.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now, Elizabeth Plank Senior Editor for mic.com and
Pia Glenn a contributor for "XoJane"
OK. I think I should get out of the way and let you talk. So Emma Watson
got this started last week and tell us what was then in Canada. That was
an interview she was doing on a talk show up there reacting so of think she
said. And there`s this -- it feels like a new feminism discussion going
PIA GLENN, CONTRIBUTOR, XOJANE: I think that`s lovely. I think that`s
wonderful. We still have some things to work out in the old feminism
discussion though. So that`s where I kind of take a little bit of issue
O`DONNELL: What do you mean?
GLENN: Was feminism fixed? No one told me. I don`t realize -- I mean,
it`s, you know, I`m sort of hesitant to usher in and celebrate this in a
way that erases the work that has gone on before it, and unfortunately, I
think that`s neither of those young ladies` fault. But the way the fervor
builds up and the way phrases are thrown about in this click-bait nation of
change the world, game changer, Emma Watson is a game changer.
She`s using her voice, and that`s wonderful. And we`ve been fighting for a
long, long time. So let`s keep up the fight and let`s throw them into the
mix, but there`s been a lot going on that we`re still working on.
O`DONNELL: And one of the things that have been going on for -- I guess
for decades now, is there`s been an attempt to poison this word, feminism.
And there`s the Rush Limbaugh phrasing of "feminazi" and all this stuff.
And so, in the last couple of decades we may have been growing, you know
some young girls who were confused about this was and been getting
misinformation about it.
ELIZABETH PLANK, SENIOR EDITOR, MIC.COM: Right. I think that why we can`t
underestimate the power of celebrity feminism. I think it`s very easy for
us to sit here as adult and talk about how maybe it is simplistic or how it
could go further, how it raises voices and all of those criticisms are
But we have to remember who these messages are for. Who`s the target
audience for Taylor Swift or Emma Watson? Its teenagers, its young people.
PLANK: And they are receiving of multitude of negative messages. But what
it means to be a woman? And what it means to be a man? You have Justin
Bieber being arrested for DUI and Miley Cyrus singing about sex, drugs and
all that other stuff.
And so I think when celebrities use their influence and power for good that
is incredibly important.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to Lena Dunham in a "NPR Fresh Air" interview I
guess it was released today where she`s talking about this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LENA DUNHAM, ACTRESS: My definition of feminism is equality. I think so
many young women have been misinformed about what feminism means. I think
it means, you know, growing out armpit hair and burning your bras and
storming to through the streets with a, you know, skewer ready to get men.
And what it actually means is that you believe in human rights and you
believe that, you know, women should be fairly compensated for the jobs
that they do and should be given the same opportunities and that they
shouldn`t be discriminated against or hurt because of their gender. And
that`s what feminism is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: So, Pia, there`s Lena Dunham trying to reclaimed the word.
GLENN: Right and good for her. You know once again, I just, I can`t help
but look at these ladies and see the same sort of very, very specific, very
privileged young lady. And that`s wonderful, but it`s kind of privilege
squared when they are that privileged. And, you know what? Emma Watson
checked her privilege, and that`s awesome. But it`s almost so much
privilege, but you have to lead with that, you have to right out of the
gate. Help us help you to connect those dots, otherwise you sound like a
bit of a parody.
She stopped her speech, Emma Watson, to worry about men`s feelings, her
speech on feminism. So the clip that people show a lot in the beginning is
fantastic. And then, she just hopped off the rails and said what about the
men? Let`s talk about men`s feelings. And the thing that`s dangerous is
that that`s been the fight. That`s been the argument. So to say we have
to invite the men to the table, let me pause my admittedly landmark speech
on feminism to really look after the men right now.
PLANK: But don`t we need to pay attention to what the men are feeling and
saying? I mean, we can`t --
GLENN: We do, but not first.
GLENN: I`m very sorry, but that`s the entire fight is equality. So
there`s a difference between creating an environment, creating an argument,
creating a platform where we`re all doing this, and you know, come on in,
you come on in. And the trans women and non-binary, gender queer people,
and men and women and children, we are doing these together. That`s not
the same thing as saying (inaudible) wait a minute, wait the minute are the
men OK? Do the men feel comfortable with what I`m doing right now? Let me
just worry about that. That`s a different thing. And that`s what she did.
That`s what she did.
O`DONNELL: Wasn`t she, in listening, what did you say to men, you need to
be in this too, and you have stakes in this? You have mothers, you have
sisters, you have friends, you have stakes.
GLENN: Right. And that`s why paused because that`s dangerous. And you
know, that a wonderful way in honestly. It has been for so long for me
under false (ph) for people who are really challenged with the idea of
equality. But we`ve learned and that`s why I take the issue.
A woman doesn`t have to be biologically connected to a man in order for him
to respect her. So when we make that argument we reinforce that I need to
tell you, think about your sister. What if she`s your mother? What if
she`s another human being on this earth who deserves your respect or not to
be assaulted or not to be screamed at on the street?
And when you talk about the demographic, you`re absolutely right. Of
course we agree this isn`t a song. This isn`t an Emma Watson "You Tube"
video. This is at the U.N. This is Taylor Swift taking every opportunity
she has to now defend Emma Watson, and then Lena Dunham jumps in. They go
to soul cycle and spin cycle together, you know. So they are here and
there`s a whole bunch of other people in this fight. We all want to do it.
O`DONNELL: Well, you know, I`m going to say, as long as they`re going to
get microphones thrown in front of them, I`d rather hear them talk about
this than whatever their latest movie or latest song. I mean, that`s the
good part about this.
PLANK: I agree. And I think, for me I agree with a lot of the criticisms
that you`re bringing forward, Pia. I think that it would be great if
Taylor Swift and Lena Dunham talked about the erasure of black women`s
voices in a moment, how does it is historic and systemic and consistent.
But at the same time I don`t -- I think their feminism is imperfect just
like the rest of us. And a woman doesn`t have to say something perfect for
it to be perfectly valid for her to say it.
PLANK: And I think, when we`re sort of sending these messages, I wish to
think about what messages we`re sending when we criticizing women who come
on board with imperfect versions of what they`re feminism means. We`re
teaching women to fear their own voice. And I think that`s incredibly
O`DONNELL: OK. We`re going to this conversation online after the show at
"The Very Last Word." There`s a camera right outside the studio. So all
the things you didn`t get to say here, you are going to you will get to say
Pia Glenn and Elizabeth Plank, thank you both very much for joining me
PLANK: Thank you.
GLENN: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, so how long do you want to live? How long? In a
stunning new article, Zeke Emanuel says he wants to live only to 75 which,
for him is 2032. He will join me and explain why he doesn`t want to become
a great, great-grandfather.
And in the rewrite, surely, you remember Congressman Vance McAllister. He
was the one caught on camera, kissing a woman who was not his wife. His
wife is now the star of his reelection campaign commercial.
O`DONNELL: Doctors have determined that the Kansas City Chief Linebacker,
Jovan Belcher was suffering from a brain condition that was likely the
result of multiple concussions when he shot and killed his girlfriend and
himself. The "Kansas City Star" reports that doctors conducted a new post
mortem analysis of Belcher`s brain which reveals chronic trauma or CTE.
CTE can cause dementia, aggression, confusion and depression among people
who suffered repeated head trauma including football players. The "Kansas
City Star" calls it a quote "potentially gain changing development at the
intersection of two of the NFL biggest threats -- head injury and domestic
The "rewrite" is next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. VANCE MCALLISTER (R), LOUISIANA: Life is filled with ups and downs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That`s Louisiana Congressman Vance McAllister`s opening line of
a reelection campaign ad. And here is one of life`s downs that he was
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYING)
O`DONNELL: That is Congressman McAllister caught on video at his Louisiana
Congressional office, making out with a woman who is not his wife and who
was at the time paid by Congressman McAllister with your tax dollars to be
a very devoted member of his congressional staff.
Now making out with her surely must have seemed like one of life`s ups for
Congressman McAllister at the time. But when the video came up, it seemed
to be a pretty bad down for his political career after having campaign the
for office on one of those classic Southern Republican, "I don`t make out
with women who are not my wife platforms."
I mean to be fare to Congressman, when he ran the last time he talked a lot
about being a church going family, but he did not ever explicitly say I
never make out with women who are not my wife. But it was clearly right
there in the subtext of everything that he did say in that first campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCALLISTER: If you allow me the honor to represent you in Washington, I
will fight to stop Obamacare, investigate the IRS and end the march of big
government into our lives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: As all Republican voters know, the words "I will fight to stop
Obamacare" include the subtext, "and I will not make out with women who are
not my wife", like those Bill Clinton Democrats do.
Now, Vance McAllister and I would like to live in a country where voters
never care about who a politician legally makes out with, but we don`t
speak French well enough, and so we live here. And like every male
American politicians before him caught making out with a woman who is not
his wife, Vance McAllister knew there was only one person who could save
his political career -- Mrs. McAllister.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLY MCALLISTER, WIFE OF VANCE MCALLISTER: But a man`s character is based
on how many times he gets back up and stands again.
MCALLISTER: I`m lucky to have been blessed with a great family and a
wonderful Christian wife.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: No, no, no, Congressman McAllister, you are way beyond lucky to
be blessed with a wonderful Christian wife, because Christianity is all
about forgiveness. But most Christians are no better at forgiveness than
atheists remembers of any less forgiving religions. But your wonderful
Christian wife has really taken the Christian lesson of forgiveness to
heart. And your truly amazing wife actually thinks that you`re not the
only lucky one in your marriage.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLY MCALLISTER: And I`m blessed to have a husband who owns up to admit
mistakes, never gives up, always finding for a good people of Louisiana.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Really? None of those high price campaign consultants who
wrote that campaign ad paused over the always fighting for the good people
of Louisiana a bit? Always?
I don`t know which good person of Louisiana the good Congressman was
fighting for in that security video right there. It looked to me like the
good people of Louisiana were the furthest thing from his mind that night
at the office.
Of course, always fighting for the good people of Louisiana is the kind of
thing that every hack campaign consultant wants to put in TV ads in
Louisiana. But in this case, everyone in Louisiana knows that that`s not
true about Vance McAllister. They have seen him on video, not fighting for
the good people of Louisiana.
So how about Vance McAllister, always fighting for the good people of
Louisiana, except when caught by video cameras that the Congressman doesn`t
know are there when he`s making out with a Congressional Staffer who is not
his wonderful, Christian wife.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROB LOWE, ACTOR, PARKS AND RECREATION: I take care of my body above all
else, diet, exercise, supplements, positive thinking. So I just believe
that the first human being who have lived 150 years is already been born.
I believe I am that human being.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Rob Lowe`s character on "Parks and Recreation" is what Doctor
Zeke Emanuel calls an American immortal. In his stunning new essay, in
"The Atlantic" entitled "Why I Hope to Die at 75," the article is
beautifully written, well reasoned and infuriating to some critics.
Joining me now is the author of this powerful essay, former Health Policy
Adviser of President Obama and MSNBC Contributor, Doctor Zeke Emanuel.
Zeke, I have to tell you, I know your writing. I know your work. I
thought I knew what you`re going to say it this piece. You didn`t say one
sentence of what I thought you were going to say. I found it absolutely
brilliant. We will not be able to do justice to it in this short am of
I want you quickly to explain to us two phrases in the piece that I think
get at the heart of it. And that is the American mortal, as Rob Lowe just
represented for us, and compression of morbidity.
DOCTOR EZEKIEL EMANUEL, FORMER HEALTH POLICY ADVISER OF PRESIDENT OBAMA:
So the American immortal is people who obsess about trying to live as long
as possible. They go on these special diets, they excessively (ph)
exercise, they take all sorts of supplements, they, you know, do everything
to try to forced to all every possible health problem, of course they won`t
And I think it`s become an obsession of many people in this country. And I
think this sort of drive to live as long as possible is what I`m really
writing against. That we really shouldn`t be obsessed by quantity of life.
What we really need to be obsessed is by what we can contribute, the
quality of our life, how we live.
The compression of morbidity is similar. It`s an idea that began in the
early 1980s. It is that as we live longer we`re going to live with fewer
disabilities and fewer years of disability. And the fact is that sort of
the last 20, 25 years of the longer we live, the more absolute disability
we actually add to our lives.
So it`s not that you live longer and you are actually leaving healthier.
We are in fact leaving longer and having more disabilities weather their
physical disabilities and ability to walk or mental disabilities, dementia
and other things.
And again, I say if you look at the numbers on physical disabilities and
dementia, you have to be a little sober. A lot of us are going to be in a
situation of being either physically limited or having mental capacities
limited. And regardless, even if you don`t have dementia, our mental
abilities slow down. We`ve become much more distributable, much less
creative, much less productive.
And for me, and again it`s a very personal essay, it`s not a policy essay.
I`m not sure I want to live like that and that`s the 75 point.
O`DONNELL: Well, you know, and that`s the part that fooled me. The point
you just made. It is not a policy essay. You`re not telling people what
to do. And you`re a policy guy. Everything else you`ve been writing about
in the past is policy. This is very personal. It is very warm. You talk
about your daughters disagreeing with you, your brothers disagreeing with
you about thinking 75 is OK. And it`s a really -- but what it does is
opens up this very important human discussion that you have to have with
ourselves, and maybe we should be having with our families.
EMANUEL: I`m trying to be provocative in a positive way, to make people
think about what is the meaning of their life and not just to assume it`s
to live ever longer to 150 years as Rob Lowe says.
O`DONNELL: Alright. We`re linking to this on our Web site
lastword.msnbc.com. It`s a 5,000-word piece. We have scratched at it.
You`ve got to read this piece. Television can`t do it justice.
Zeke, this is one of those things I call too smart for TV. There`s no way
in our little five minutes here we can do justice to the thinking in this
piece. So people have got to read it.
Doctor Zeke Emmanuel, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
EMANUEL: Thank you for having me, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you. Chris Hayes is up next.
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THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL