THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
October 1, 2014
Guest: Carol Leonnig, Susan Crabtree, John Tomlinson, William LeoGrande,
Peter Kornbluh, Susan Love
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Steve. Thanks for that.
That is the most professional baseball I`ve seen all year. That is as much
as I have watched the entire --
STEVE KORNACKI, "UP" HOST: And you saw the best part, the underdog team in
the dramatic comeback.
O`DONNELL: All I needed to see. Thank you, Steve.
O`DONNELL: Well, we asked for it, we got it. The Secret Service
JULIA PIERSON, THEN-SECRET SERVICE DIRECTOR: This is unacceptable and I
take full responsibility.
REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: It`s time that she be fired.
O`DONNELL: She should have already submitted her resignation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Director Pierson should resign today.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She needs to step down.
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: My confidence and my trust has eroded.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You think it`s time for her to go?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sadly so.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Secret Service Director Julia Pierson has resigned.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ax has fallen.
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: New leadership of that agency
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Luckily, after she`s escorted out of the building, it
should be pretty easy for her to get back in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maintaining the job wasn`t tenable anymore.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The calls were growing louder for her to step down.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bruising testimony on Capitol Hill.
O`DONNELL: She tried to give defensive speeches instead of answers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s something just deeply wrong here that needs to
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Better lock in the front door?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They installed the porch light, so that`s good.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They`re going to leave the TV on, yes, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are things actually going to get fixed?
O`DONNELL: Twenty-four hours ago, calls for the resignation of the Secret
Service director began on this program and others and by mid-afternoon
today, Julia Pierson delivered her resignation to Department of Homeland
Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.
In an interview with Bloomberg News, Pierson said, "I think it`s the best
interest of the Secret Service and the American public if I stepped down.
Congress has lost confidence in my ability to run this agency. The media
made it clear that this is what they expected."
The president`s family woke up to this headline this morning in their local
paper, "Man with gun was feet from Obama." That was the latest in a series
of stunning revelations by "The Washington Post`s" Carol Leonnig. This
morning`s "Washington Post" front page was clearly the last straw for the
The White House press briefing was delayed three hours today and began
immediately after the Secret Service director submitted her resignation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EARNEST: This afternoon, the president had the opportunity to telephone
Director Pierson, to express his appreciation for her service to the agency
and to the country. Director Pierson offered her resignation today,
because she believed that it was in the best interest of the agency to
which she has dedicated her career. The secretary agreed with that
assessment. The president did as well.
Over the last several days, we`ve seen recent and humiliating reports
raising questions about the performance of the agency. And the president
concluded that new leadership of that agency was required.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joseph Clancy, former special agent in charge of the
presidential protective division of the Secret Service was named acting
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EARNEST: The president has -- is very appreciative that somebody with the
resume and skills of Joe Clancy is taking responsibility for leading the
Secret Service during this interim period. Mr. Clancy is somebody who`s
taking a leave of absence from his private sector job to re-enter
government service. That is, I think, a demonstration of the sacrifice
that he`s making, principally because of the loyalty he feels for this
organization, this agency that he served for so long.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joseph Clancy woke up this morning as the director of Comcast
corporate security. Comcast is, of course, the parent company of NBC
The administration announced plans to appoint a panel of independent
experts to investigate the White House fence jumping incident and related
security issues concerning the Secret Service. That panel will submit
their recommendations by December 15th, one of which certainly will be lock
the damn door.
The 42-year-old man who jumped the White House fence and ran deep into the
building through that unlocked front door pled not guilty today to three
charges, including the federal offense of unlawfully entering a restricted
area while carrying a deadly or dangerous weapon. The judge in the case
ordered Omar Gonzalez to undergo mental competency exam by the D.C.
Department of Health.
Joining me now are "The Washington Examiner`s" Susan Crabtree and "The
Washington Post`s" Carol Leonnig. They have broken story about the Secret
Service security breaches this week. And also, John Tomlinson, a former
Secret Service deputy assistant director.
Carol, I want us all actually to listen to how the day began for the White
House. Here is the White House press secretary on "MORNING JOE" this
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC ANCHOR: Are you telling me this morning the
president of the United States and the first lady have confidence in Julia
Pierson to run an agency that`s supposed to protect their two daughters?
EARNEST: Yes, Joe, they have confidence in them. I think for the reasons
that I lay out. These are men and women who wake up every day,
professionals, prepared to put their life --
SCARBOROUGH: I`m not talking about the professionals. I think the
professionals actually deserve to have better leadership than they have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: So, Carol, six hours later, Josh Earnest is singing the praises
of Joseph Clancy who`s coming in right after the resignation, that there
was no indication it was coming as the day began.
CAROL LEONNIG, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, I think there was a bit of an
indication. It probably wasn`t being shared by the White House press
secretary. But you remember that probably around 10:00 last night,
Congressman Chaffetz was the first lawmaker to say, OK, I`m calling for
this director`s resignation. And he was quickly followed by a series of
lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
On Tuesday morning, Elijah Cummings -- forgive me, Wednesday morning, I`m
losing my track of my dates, Wednesday morning, you heard Elijah Cummings
in an interview say that he was not comfortable with Director Pierson
remaining in that job. And he was not sure that she was the right person
to fix the problems. I think you could feel literally the ground shift
Tuesday morning, although certainly, we didn`t expect it this quickly.
O`DONNELL: Susan Crabtree, as I was watching that hearing yesterday in her
first round of questioning, somewhere around there, I think I tweeted, she
could lose her job in this hearing. And as the hearing progressed, I
didn`t see any turn in it at the point where you could say, OK, now she`s
being very clear, she`s being, you know, responsive in a way that that
committee had to hear. She`s being responsive in a way the White House had
She could have gone into that hearing and saved her job, but that`s not
SUSAN CRABTREE, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: You`re right. I got an early
remarks, her prepared remarks. So I was very impressed with her opening
statement where she said she was going to take full responsibility and that
it would never happen again. A White House intruder would never be allowed
to get into the ceremonial heart of the White House.
So I was impressed with that. I put up a story as quickly as I could and
then the moment that the questions started, she seemed to appear to have
melted, do the whole Washington speak where you provide a lot of
information but you don`t answer the question.
She seemed to be backpedaling saying she didn`t understand the question.
It was a pretty bad performance and I think at the end of the day,
lawmakers -- I actually heard that there was the closed part of the
hearing, because you know part of it was closed, it was a classified
portion, was even more brutal and she performed even worse.
O`DONNELL: John Tomlinson, as a Secret Service agent, it`s -- you know,
morning comes in the White House, "The Washington Post" comes through with
a headline, "Man with gun was feet from Obama." During any presidency,
tell us what would happen in the White House with the headline like that,
the reaction you would expect from the first family, from children of the
president who are old enough to read.
I can just imagine what all the people in the security detail and the White
House must have been feeling seeing that headline this morning.
JOHN TOMLINSON, FORMER USSS DEPT. ASST. DIR.: Well, the disappointment and
the embarrassment doesn`t just go to the detail. It goes to the Secret
Service organization, both past and present. It`s -- this is an
unfortunate chapter that we`re all facing.
The ultimate consumer here is those we protect, the president and his
family among them. So, when we say -- when we`re looking at this morning
what are we facing, we`re clearly, we`re still facing an embarrassment.
But I would suggest to you that the director, who was committed to the
Secret Service -- clearly, she didn`t want to leave her 30 years of service
in this form. But she thought it best for those we serve as well as the
men and women that make the service.
So, I respect her for what she did and the speed with which she did it.
And I`m also grateful that the president has chosen somebody like Joe
Clancy to fill her chair, so to speak.
O`DONNELL: Carol Leonnig, we have this one resignation, but she wasn`t the
one whose job it was to watch the fence when that guy got over. She wasn`t
the person whose job it was to watch the White House lawn when he ran
across it unmolested. She wasn`t the one who was supposed to protect the
White House front door, the agent who just got overwhelmed by this guy
coming through the front door -- an agent clearly who is incompetent for
that particular position.
What about those people, what about the names of those people who very
specifically failed in their assigned duties at that hour?
LEONNIG: So, you know, there are a lot of things we don`t know about this.
But I would be hesitant to judge those individuals this instant. I`ll tell
you why. I`ve heard -- when we did this extensive investigation into the
2011 shooting, what we found were a lot of officers who really did handle
themselves pretty well, but supervisors who didn`t and training that wasn`t
provided that would have told them what to do.
In this review, you know, at first glance -- you know, I was curious, why
didn`t they release the dog. It`s the failsafe to, you know, stop an
intruder if you can`t collar them.
But it seems as though, based on reviewing a lot of the data, watching
sources, looking at the videos, it looks like the dog handler maybe did the
right thing by trying to keep the dog from attacking other officers who
failed to follow protocol. Maybe they weren`t trained properly. And they
all rushed at the same time after this guy. Doing that is going to confuse
the dog, could lead to another series of problems.
Ultimately, it`s about training. And what`s fascinating about this fence
jumper is uniform division. The guys who are in charge on the ground of
protecting the north lawn and stopping an intruder from getting into the
White House, there are fewer of them than the Secret Service is authorized
to have on duty. They are overworked. They`re the lowest morale of any
agency I`ve ever seen.
And so, I wonder if they`re overworked and being called in for off-duty and
they have this incredible churn through the agency. People are leaving
like crazy. There`s all this transition.
Are they getting a briefing on how to handle an intruder that comes into
the building? I`ve heard they have not.
O`DONNELL: John Tomlinson, what`s your reaction to that. That`s
absolutely stunning that you could possibly have people guarding the front
side of the White House who are not briefed and not trained on how to
handle what happened that day.
TOMLINSON: And I appreciate the frustration in your voice and the
frustration by those we serve. What I would suggest is that a review is
underway. And before we indict any of those people for poor performance,
before we indict the Secret Service for inadequate train, I think we owe it
to the organization, we owe it to the process, and we owe it to the
ultimate consumer, those we protect, to wait until -- to see exactly what
comes out. And then make a determination in an informed way as to what was
done, what was done well, and what was accomplished in the way that we`re
trained to perform.
You know, there`s a zero tolerance that the service does. And, you know,
the mantra that training is perishable. It`s a perishable skill. You
can`t stop doing it. There`s no status quo here.
Let`s look at the review. Let`s give Joe Clancy, the senior Secret Service
staff together with the Department of Homeland Security to kind of put this
I`m just -- as a former agent, I`m proud to have Joe Clancy coming back and
I look forward to what he and the senior staff are going to be able to
accomplish. Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Susan Crabtree, what I`m hearing about this is a Washington
reaction. This is a pure Washington reaction where you get the resignation
or you fire the boss of agency, the failures, the people who individually
failed in their jobs on the patrol of the front of the White House there.
They`re not supposed to be examined in any way at this stage. We`re
supposed to just assume that there`s something, you know, complicated about
that that we might not understand. The agent sitting at the front door
gets overwhelmed? That agent clearly is incapable of doing that job.
Come to New York City. Take a look at the bouncers they have out in front
of the nightclubs. OK? Try to get by one of them, OK? It isn`t possible.
But you can run right over a Secret Service officer sitting at the front
door of the White House and Washington says, oh, we must not judge that.
CRABTREE: Well, I, too, have heard complaints about the lack of training
and that officers and agents have complained that they learn from each
other, word of mouth, e-mails. They should be going to these classes and
Now, that aside, we have learned a big lesson here -- lock the front door.
There`s going to be an -- there is already installed an automatic lock on
front door, and Julia Pierson was quick to remind law makers that that has
already been installed.
We have -- there was 16 fence jumpers in the last five years. So, they
didn`t catch this one. And I do think that we have -- Pierson has
accountability now that she resigned.
O`DONNELL: Look, locking the front door has now solved everything about
the problem that we saw with that guy going over the fence. We don`t need
a big long investigation about what else you need to necessarily do. But
you do have to get rid of people who are incapable of actually doing the
job and the word definitely people like that involved in this fence-
Susan Crabtree, Carol Leonnig, John Tomlinson, thank you all very much for
joining me tonight.
TOMLINSON: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
Coming up, Jordan Davis` parents reaction to the first degree murder
conviction today for the man who killed their son for playing music too
And later, if you voted for Jimmy Carter for president in 1976, you should
feel very good about that vote because today we learned that you prevented
a war with Cuba that Henry Kissinger was secretly planning if the
Republicans won that presidential election. Kissinger`s secret war plan
was revealed today. We have the memos.
O`DONNELL: Seven months ago, a Florida jury could not decide if Michael
Dunn was guilty of first murder for killing an unarmed teenager who he
thought was playing music too loud. The jury in the retrial had no problem
making that decision. That`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN PHILLIPS, ATTORNEY FOR JORDAN DAVIS` FAMILY: It`s been a long two
years. I obviously don`t have much to say except for one thing, and
that`s, I had a baby last night. And I looked at him and I made a promise
to Rob that he would not be born in a world where there`s no justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was the lawyer for the family of Jordan Davis.
Today, a Florida jury found Michael Dunn, the man who shot and killed
Jordan Davis, guilty of first degree murder. Michael Dunn claimed he
killed Jordan Davis because he feared for his life after asking Jordan and
his friends to turn down their car radio outside of a gas station
convenience store in November 2012.
Today`s verdict comes seven months after another jury could not come to a
unanimous decision. That jury did find Michael Dunn guilty on three counts
of second degree attempted murder for shooting at the three other
passengers in the car and one count of firing into an occupied vehicle.
At the first trial, jurors deliberated for more than 30 hours. Today, the
10 white and two black jurors deliberated for less than six hours.
Michael Dunn faces life in prison without parole. Jordan Davis` parents
said today`s verdict is justice for their son.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LUCIA MCBATH, MOTHER OF JORDAN DAVIS: We know that Jordan`s life and
legacy will live on for others. But at the same time, we`re very saddened
by the life that Michael Dunn will continue to live. We are saddened for
his family and for his friends and the community that will continue to
suffer by his actions.
But we are very grateful that justice has been served -- justice not only
for Jordan, but justice for Trayvon and justice for all the nameless faces
and children and people that will never have a voice.
RON DAVIS, FATHER OF JORDAN DAVIS: I wanted Jacksonville to be a shining
example that you could have a jury made up of mostly white people, white
men, to be an example to the rest of the world to stop the discriminatory
practices, stop discriminating, stop looking where we have to look at
juries and say what the makeup of juries are.
I want to give my heart and my prayers to all the mothers and fathers out
there that have lost children -- that got no justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining now the host of MSNBC`s "THE REID REPORT", Joy Reid, a
long road in this case. Two trials, Joy, and now convictions in all
JOY REID, THE REID REPORT: Yes, two years that this family has gone
through. You and I both interviewed Lucia McBath and Ron Davis. I mean,
the people who couldn`t be more poised and more determined not just to help
their own situation but other families in their similar situation. They
bonded with Trayvon Martin`s family and others, including the family of
Michael Brown. So, kudos to them.
But something Ron Davis said that was very interesting. He said that the
verdict really meant a lot to them because of the makeup of the jury
through that you could get justice. But the makeup of the jury is really
A friend of mine, Lisa Bloom, has written about this. This jury had one
African-American man on it. And I think that`s really important. The
previous jury that deadlocked had two black women on it. But I think this
jury I think having that perspective in the room is so critical. And as
you can see, the verdict was a lot more succinct, a lot quicker.
O`DONNELL: Yes, actually, let`s listen to the way Ron Davis put that
today, the point you just made.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVIS: I want to thank the circle of fathers, the Trayvon Martin
Foundation, gathering fathers together, teaching us even if we`re
disappointed in the court decisions that we don`t go out and we don`t riot.
We don`t go out and tear other people`s property up. What we do is stand
as soldiers, stand as great men and be a shining light to let people know
that we can handle adversity and there`s different ways to handle it
without making an embarrassment of yourself. And I stand here as a soldier
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: A soldier for his son. The dignity of these parents are truly
extraordinary. They told me they`re going to come on this program tomorrow
night. I can -- I don`t know how they do it, and I wouldn`t know how they
could possibly do it tonight, but they find a strength, Joy.
You see, Trayvon Martin`s parents, you see them rise to this incredible
life challenge and somehow go forward.
REID: Yes. And it is incredible. The first time I met these parents, the
pain is so evident. It`s so close to the surface, but they are able to
articulate a case for justice, not just for their child, but for young
black men everywhere. You know, there is this unintended fraternity that
Ron Davis and Tracy Martin, Trayvon Martin`s father are in that they didn`t
want to be in, but they really bonded.
And a lot of these families have come together to say that the bigger
picture here is that a young black man should be able to play his music
loud, make some mistakes, do a few things wrong, maybe cut school, and not
have to die for it.
And I think that a lot of people weren`t expecting this verdict. I`ll
admit I was not expecting this verdict, because there`s a sense of fatalism
that set in in the African-American community. But the fact that this jury
could look at a case where a man not only shot at a car but also squared up
and shot at the car as it was driving away, as the car was retreating. And
then a jury previously only convicted him of shooting at the car and at the
three people who survived but were unable to commit on the murder, the
death of the person who died, it was really distressing to a lot of people.
So, I was getting a lot of texts today from lawyer friends, from friends in
Florida who are saying wow. You know what? Finally, this was a case where
the jury saw what seemed evident to us. I think a lot of people feel
heartened by that.
O`DONNELL: Really -- I mean, looked at dispassionately, it was a pretty
easy case for the jury. The guy fled the scene. Everything that could
possibly indicate guilt was there.
REID: And, by the way, Angela Curry needed to win this case. She lost the
Trayvon Martin case. She tried this personally because this was a win that
she needed to.
O`DONNELL: Joy Reid, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
REID: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Be sure to join us tomorrow night. Jordan Davis` parents will
join me for an exclusive interview.
Coming up in "The Rewrite", Mitt Romney is rewriting his vow not to run for
president one more time.
O`DONNELL: Remember when Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger expanded the
Vietnam War that they were on their way to losing by bombing Cambodia?
Remember when Jerry Ford and Henry Kissinger bombed Cuba? No, you don`t
remember that because the mad bomber in the White House was stopped by
There is more at stake in presidential elections than we ever realized on
election night. Thanks to a stunning new book, we now know that Henry
Kissinger was plotting major military strikes against Cuba including
bombing while serving as President Gerald Ford`s Secretary of State.
Ford and Kissinger agreed that bombing Cuba would have to wait until after
the 1976 presidential election, which the world should be ever more
thankful tonight to Jimmy Carter for - - for Jimmy Carter winning and
finally driving Henry Kissinger out of the war planning business.
On February 25 of the election year, Henry Kissinger, National Security
Adviser, Brent Scowcroft and President Ford discussed attacking Cuba in the
Oval Office according to an official memo of that meeting. Kissinger said,
"I think we`re going to have to smash Castro. We probably can`t do it
before the elections." President Ford replied, "I agree."
A few weeks later, in the Oval Office, Kissinger said "I think sooner or
later we have to crack the Cubans. I think we have to humiliate them."
And after that, in a meeting in the White House Situation Room that
included Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Kissinger said, "If we decide
to use military power, it must succeed. There should be no halfway
measures. We would get no reward for using military power in moderation."
Joining me now are the men who discovered Henry Kissinger`s secret plans
for the war that the election of Jimmy Carter prevented. American
University Professor William LeoGrande and National Security Archive Senior
Analyst Peter Kornbluh, co-authors of "Back Channel to Cuba -- The Hidden
History of Negotiations Between Washington and Havana."
Gentlemen, this book just burns in the hands. You`ve got all the memos in
William, when you came across -- to think -- it`s so stunning that after
the bay of pigs, you know, back 15 years before Henry Kissinger is having
this discussion, to think that at any point after that an American
President in the Oval Office could be plotting an attack on Cuba is -- it`s
hard to stun me about what happens in the Oval Office. This does.
WILLIAM LEOGRANDE, PROFESSOR, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: Well, you know, the
background, of course, is that Kissinger had been interested in normalizing
relations with Cuba as an extension of his d‚tente (ph) with the Soviet
Union and his opening to China. And there were negotiations that began in
1974 and 1975.
But then the Cubans decided that they would send troops into Angola to
repel the South African invasion of Angola on the eve of its independence.
Kissinger was so angry that the Cubans had upset the structure of decant
(ph) by intervening in Angola that he became just viscerally angry and
decided to commission these contingency plans and approach the President
about using them.
O`DONNELL: And Peter, you hear what sounds like personal rage on
Kissinger`s part that some other country in the world could decide that
they have the right to somehow get involved in another foreign country.
This after this guy runs a disastrous Vietnam War for years and all sorts
of other interventions that he was up to 24 hours a day. He`s outraged
that Cuba would ever reach into another country for anything.
PETER KORNBLUH, SENIOR ANALYST, NATIONAL SECURITY ARCHIVE: Particularly a
small Caribbean island nation projecting military power far away into
Africa. This was a stunning surprise for Kissinger who of course thought
only U.S. imperial power could change the course of other countries faiths
around the world.
And he had said to CIA into Africa into this conflict and that is in sense
with prompted Fidel Castro to respond. But you can see the imperial
arrogance in the actual memorandum of conversations he has with the
President. He goes and says "how can this pipsqueak think he can get away
with us? We have to smash Castro." And then he said "We may have to do it
after the 1976 elections."
O`DONNELL: You know, you may have detected that I am not a fan of Henry
Kissinger. But prior to today when I got my hands on this book for the
first time, I would -- if someone speculated about this kind of stuff to
me, I would have said no, no, they weren`t that bad. They weren`t that
bad, these memos are that bad.
LEOGRANDE: It was extraordinarily dangerous idea. Because we had promised
the Soviet Union that we would not attack Cuba in exchange for the
withdrawal of Soviet nuclear weapons from Cuba at the time of the Cuban
So Kissinger is really proposing that we break the agreement with the
Soviet Union that ended the missile crisis and reopen that whole
confrontation with the Soviet Union. And in some of his military advisers
warned him, the Soviet Union was not as weak in 1975 and 1976 as it was in
1962. And the possibility was that the Soviet Union would not retreat in
the same way.
O`DONNELL: And thanks to our most demented Foreign Policy in the history
of the phrase foreign policy which is our Cuban Policy, you have Vladimir
Putin now going back down to Cuba trying to reopen some of the assets that
the Soviet Union had in Cuba which she`s capable of pulling off now because
we continue to maintain this crazy closed door with Cuba.
KORNBLUH: You know, it`s been almost 15 years since the collapse of the
Soviet Union and the breach of any relationship between Russia and Cuba in
any significant way. And that was a window of time for the United States
government to get in there, normalize relations with Cuba and give Cuba
every incentive not to turn back towards Putin and not be to beholden with
any issue in Russia at this time.
But we have Barack Obama, he has not taken up this challenge yet. We have
an article coming out in the "Nation" magazine next week which says "Barack
Obama, here are the lessons from the secret diplomacy that`s gone on over
the last 50 years. Do you need to notice sit out with Fidel Castrol?"
O`DONNELL: But the bigger problem is that in `96, the Congress legislate
this policy in effect and Bill Clinton signed it into law which makes it
not just the Presidential Actions to reverse now.
LEOGRANDE: It`s the Helms-Burton legislation that was passed in 1996 does
write the embargo -- the economic embargo against Cuba into law.
LEOGRANDE: And so the President can`t just unilaterally remove the whole
embargo. But that same legislation wrote into law the President`s
authority to use his executive power to license certain commercial
transactions. So -- and every president has used that power to some
extent. Even George W. Bush --
O`DONNELL: What`s the example of -- what a transaction the President could
LEOGRANDE: A lot of telecommunication companies to do businesses in Cuba
to sell cell phone -- to sell cell phone service, to open up the internet
to Cuba. All of those things could be done by the President licensing
authority, to license Cuban pharmaceuticals to be sold in the United
O`DONNELL: Could do President licensed commercial air travel directly to
LEOGRANDE: Yes, I believe he could. The one -- the two things that the
President can`t do because of the law is to lift the embargo completely,
and to allow simple tourist travel because there`s legislation that
prohibits both of those things. But short of those two things, the
President has enormous discretion.
O`DONNELL: I thank you for this book and the world should thank Jimmy
Carter for getting those people out of the White House when we need to get
William LeoGrande and Peter Kornbluh, thank you both very much for joining
KORNBLUH: Thank you.
LEOGRANDE: Pleasure is mine.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, in the "rewrite," Mitt Romney rewrites his comments
about 47 percent of the voters and in the process, he makes it just a
O`DONNELL: Mitt Romney just can`t quit you. That`s next in the `rewrite."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: And I won`t get a third
chance. I`m not doing again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was four months after Mitt Romney lost the Presidential
election to Barack Obama. And it was his first major post election
interview and the first time he said publicly he will never, never run for
president again. But that didn`t stop people from continuing to ask him
about running again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: I`ve had my turn. I gave it two good shots. Didn`t win. And now
it`s time for someone else to do it. So, I`m not running for president.
ROMNEY: I`m not running for president.
ROMNEY: I`m not running and talk of a draft is kind of silly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And then as the summer of 2014 drew to a close no front-runner
emerged in the Republican Presidential field of candidates, Mitt Romney
said this to his adoring fan radio host Hugh Hewitt.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
ROMNEY: I`m not going there, Hugh. I know you`re going to press. But you
know this is something we gave a lot of thought to when early on I decided
we`re not going to be running this time. And again, we said look, I had
the chance of running, I didn`t win. Someone else has a better chance than
I do. And that`s what we believe and that`s why I`m not running and you
know, circumstances can change but I`m just not going to let my head go
there, I remember that great line from the dumb and dumber where the --
HUGH HEWITT, RADIO SHOW HOST: So you`re telling me I have a chance?
ROMNEY: There you go, you remember. You`re telling me I have a chance?
That`s one of a million.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Well, we now know what Mitt Romney`s favorite movie is. And
that rewrite of Mitt Romney`s answer of the "Will he run again?" question.
If you can see the seeds of the next Mitt Romney campaign. First the use
of the word "we" where any normal person would use the word I as in "I
decided we`re not going to be running this time." That`s pure political
And then there`s the phrase the political media correctly grabbed out of
Mitt Romney`s new answer to the "Will you run?" question "And you know,
circumstances can change."
Circumstances can change. No one who has actually decided not to run says
circumstances can change. We in politics know what that means and Mitt
Romney knows that. He knows how to slam the door on running, which he did
when he said "I`m not doing it again" in 2013. And he knows how to reopen
the possibility, which he did. By saying "circumstances can change". That
was a politicians way of saying "I`m definitely considering another
Politicians usually choose friendly venues or friendly reporters for
sending these signals to the political community. Mitt Romney went on Hugh
Hewitt`s radio show knowing that there was no chance that Hugh Hewitt would
ask him an uncomfortable question. That there was no chance he would be
cornered into saying something he didn`t want to say. It`s very clear that
Mitt Romney chose the Hugh Hewitt radio show to say "circumstances can
change". And here is the circumstance that changed.
The same week Romney was on the "Hugh Hewitt Show," a USA today poll of
Iowa voters showed Mitt Romney with a gigantic lead over every other
possible Republican candidate for president. So what did Mitt Romney do
after dropping that circumstances can change bomb on Hugh Hewitt`s radio
show and getting a poll showing him 30 points ahead of the rest of the
He invited a "The New York Times" reporter to visit him at his summer home
in New Hampshire knowing that that reporter cared about nothing more than
the question of, are you going to run again. That is not what a politician
does when he is trying to avoid that question or when he really isn`t going
to run again.
And Mark Leibovich`s "The New Your Times" magazine report of their
encounter, Mitt Romney talks about the agonies and embarrassments of being
a quote "loser for life" those are Romney`s words. He talked about what
his after George Romney`s life was like after he exited politics a loser.
"I remember my dad becoming quite frustrated." Romney said. "He used to
say that Washington is the fastest place to go from who`s who to who`s
that." It seems that Mitt Romney`s children might find themselves with
similar memories with their dad. Leibovich reports, "No matter how content
he appeared when the conversations turned to his disappointment in losing
his voice dropped. It really kills me," he said. "It really kills me."
He became inaudible and it seems as if he might tear up.
Mitt Romney is as healthy a 67-year-old man can be and so he faces a life
of tearing up for the next 30 years or so when he thinks about losing to
President Obama. Or -- or he can try to find something to cheer himself
up, like running for president.
Leibovich`s article leaves little doubt that Romney is already running for
president. The only thing that could stop him now, stop him in his tracks
would be a series of polls showing Romney down there with Ted Cruz, Chris
Christie and Rick Perry in single digits with a front-runner 30 points
ahead of him.
But Romney knows the first thing he`s going to have to do in his
presidential campaign is fix the biggest mistake of his last presidential
campaign. The impious 47 percent video captured by Scott Prouty, a
bartender at the event where Mitt Romney was asked a particularly mean
spirited question that he answered in kind.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the last three years, all everybody`s been told it,
"Don`t worry, we`ll take care of you" how are you going to do it, in two
months before the elections to convince everybody you`ve got to take care
ROMNEY: There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president
no matter what all right. There are 47 percent who are with him. Who are
dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe
that the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe they
are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That --
that`s an entitlement and the government should give it to them and they
will vote for this president no matter what.
And I mean, the president starts off with 48, 49, 43 -- he starts off with
a huge number these are people who pay no income tax. Forty seven percent
of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn`t
connect and he`ll be out talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean
that`s what they sell every four years and so my job is not to worry about
those people -- I`ll never convince them that they should take personal
responsibilities and care for their lives. What I have to do is convince
the five to ten percent in the center that are independents that are
thoughtful, that look at voting one way or the other depending upon in some
cases emotion, whether they like the guy or not, what it looks like --
(END VIDEO TAPE)
O`DONNELL: Romney`s new defense for what you just heard him say there is
to blame the questioner. He told Mark Leibovich "my mistake was that I was
speaking in a way that reflected back to the man." That`s his entire
defense. He was telling a rich guy like himself at a fundraiser what the
rich guy like himself wanted to hear.
Mitt Romney remains so tone deaf to the basics of politics that he doesn`t
understand that his explanation of the politically deadly thing that he
said is just as politically deadly. Mitt Romney actually thinks that
saying "Hey, I was just telling the guy what he wanted to hear is not a
condemnation of himself as a craven pandering politician who is not very
smart about how he panders."
Nothing, absolutely nothing could possibly demonstrate the abject weakness
of the likely Republican Presidential candidates more than Mitt Romney
being the new Republican front-runner once again.
O`DONNELL: Tonight, the Empire State Building is pink in honor of Breast
Cancer Awareness month. The breast cancer awareness campaign which is
international and multimedia also includes this video.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TEXT: One woman. One day. One bra fitted with a hidden camera.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can I get a flat white, please.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Sure.
TEXT: Your breasts are checked out every day. So when was the last time
you checked your own? Checking your breast regularly helps prevent breast
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now is Breast Cancer Specialist and President of the
Susan Love Research Foundation, Doctor Susan Love.
Doctor Love, that video seems targeted at a younger audience, but I know
there`s a lot of issues out there about exactly who should be checked in
what ways at various ages. Could you walk us through that?
DR. SUSAN LOVE, BREAST CANCER SPECIALIST: Well, yes. You know, I think
the video really trivializes the situation. And breast exams and checking
your own breasts have actually been shown not to make the difference in the
outcome of breast cancer.
Mammography really now we know starts better around 50 if you`re not at
high risk. And the problem really is with early detection is that Biology
trumps everything else. And so if you have a very aggressive cancer, you
can find it early and still die. And if you have a slow-growing cancer,
you can find it late and be fine. And there`s a subset of cancers that
maybe we can make a difference and shift it.
But the answer really isn`t probably awareness or screening. The answer is
to find the cause and end breast cancer. And you know we found the cause
of cancer in the cervix. We have a vaccine. Let`s find the cause of
breast cancer and just make it history.
O`DONNELL: Doctor Love, how far are we from that given the current state
LOVE: Well, not as far as you would like. I mean, most of the research
goes on to treatments and finding new ways and that`s good. And we
certainly want a cure for those women living with metastatic breast cancer,
which is deadly. But we don`t have enough research looking at what could
be the beginning of it. Could it be a virus or bacteria? You know, could
it be something that really triggers and causes the initial mutation that
starts this all going. Because if we could find that, then we could
prevent it. And that`s really the home run.
O`DONNELL: And what`s the 30-second message, if you got a 30-second TV ad
that you were allowed to do, what would you say -- what would you use it
for? I won`t even limit you to awareness. What would you lose that ad
LOVE: Well, I would say that when the NFL is wearing pink, we`ve achieved
awareness. Now we have to find the cause and end breast cancer so our
daughters and our granddaughters will live in a world without breast
O`DONNELL: So flood the zone with research.
LOVE: Flood the zone with research and make the research not be the same
old-same old. Let`s just find something slightly better. Let`s make the
research be really creative and find something totally new. That`s what we
have to be doing.
O`DONNELL: Doctor Susan Love, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
LOVE: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes is up next.
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THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL