The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, Transcript 01/15/15
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Two-time presidential campaign loser Mitt
Romney has started his third campaign by calling all the other Republican
potential candidates – what else? – losers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is talk of Mitt Romney running for president
again. Did you know that? That`s the big news.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Despite saying the opposite for months.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, this will go well when he watches it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He reportedly will address the Republican National
Committee on Friday.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hitting up a certain level of ambivalence.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s never a good sign when you have to start your
speech with, hear me out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But the fact that he`s lost twice.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, everybody needs a hobby.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Romney`s worst enemy is Romney.
MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Ann drives a couple of
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here`s the guy that has the 47 percent.
ROMNEY: The 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It will be very difficult for him to overcome.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: House and Senate Republicans are huddling in Hershey,
Pennsylvania, to regroup, retreat and relaunch.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: Senator Joni Ernst will be
delivering the response of the State of the Union.
SEN. JONI ERNST (R), IOWA: I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm.
Never would have imagined that I would have this opportunity.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you`re hoping for a refreshed agenda, you would be
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I believe hope springs
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s almost certainly running, and I`m almost certainly
retiring, so I don`t care.
O`DONNELL: Tomorrow, Mitt Romney will deliver his first speech since he
very deliberately leaked the so-called news that he`s thinking about the
one thing he has never in his life stopped thinking about, running for
“The Wall Street Journal” ran an editorial titled “Romney Recycled”,
saying, “If Mitt Romney is the answer, what is the question? We can think
of a few worthy possibilities. The one that doesn`t come immediately to
mind is, who would be the best Republican presidential nominee in 2016?”
Last night, Rupert Murdoch said, he agrees with “The Wall Street Journal”,
said, “I rather agree with `The Wall Street Journal` this morning, which
sort of lacerated Romney. He had his chance. He mishandled it. You know?
I thought Romney was a terrible candidate.”
Rupert Murdoch did praise two other candidates, Jeb Bush and Rand Paul,
saying he liked both men, quote, “very much.”
But said this about Rand Paul, “I am very impressed by Rand Paul`s brain.
I think he will do well enough to move the debate. I don`t think he will
win. I would be very surprised if he won the nomination.”
Rand Paul was in New Hampshire yesterday where he made the Social Security
disability benefits program one of his talking points.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: The thing is, is that, in all of these
program there`s always somebody who`s deserving, but everybody in this room
knows somebody who`s gaming the system, what I tell people is, if you look
like me and you hop out of your truck, you shouldn`t be getting a
disability check. You know, over half the people on disability are either
anxious or their back hurts. Join the club. Who doesn`t up get up a
little anxious for work every day and their back hurts? Everybody over 40
has a back pain.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now is Kasie Hunt, political correspondent for
MSNBC. She covered Mitt Romney`s 2012 campaign and is at the Republican
National Committee`s annual meeting in San Diego.
Congratulations, Kasie. On the tough duty in San Diego. What`s going to
KASIE HUNT, MSNBC POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It`s a rough assignment,
No, we`re expecting tomorrow to hear from Governor Romney, as you say.
They`re his first public comments since this news broke that he`s
considering another run. But you know, I have to tell you, this
possibility is the talk of the halls here at the Hotel Coronado outside of
I`m picking up on a level of skepticism. You know, Romney has a very tight
core of loyal, top advisers who are running this. They`re making phone
calls. They`re reaching out to top financial supporters. But beyond that,
there are a lot of questions about who else might join up?
And a lot of them are saying, you know, we are happy that Mitt is – excuse
me, that Governor Romney is in the game. You know, we like him a lot. But
we`re just not sure about another run. And there are a lot of questions in
particular about whether he can shake off that cares about people like me.
The exit polls showed that most Americans didn`t think that Romney could
identify with them. While they thought that President Obama could. At
this point, the Republican Party has so many new faces to choose there,
there`s less appeal than there was in 2012.
O`DONNELL: Kasie, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
HUNT: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: I`m joined now by Joy Reid. She`s the host, of course, of
MSNBC`s “THE REID REPORT”, and Eugene Robinson, columnist for “The
Washington Post” and MSNBC political analyst.
Gene, going to that point that Rand Paul made about the disability system,
and he said everybody over 40 has back pain, I guess I probably will have
back pain when I`m over 40. But speaking for the over 40 group, what is
the political wisdom of going after the Social Security disability program?
EUGENE ROBINSON, THE WASHINGTON POST: I don`t see it particularly,
Lawrence. You know, this is a wonderful omen for columnists, because, you
know, you`ve got Rand Paul. He`s going to go after Social Security.
You`ve got Mitt Romney running for president. What could go wrong there?
I mean, this is shaping up to be a wonderful year.
O`DONNELL: Joy, I feel my role is to encourage them all. So, I`m not
going to say a critical word about any of them, because I want them all to
run for president. The Romney thing is fascinating because he was getting
very positive comment in Republican circles, right up until the moment last
week where he said, I want to be president.
As soon as he did that, it`s like they woke up from this fake dream that
Romney would be a great idea.
JOY REID, THE REID REPORT: Yes, remember when conservatives were touting
the polls that showed that Americans said if they could just do the
election over again, they would love to have Mitt Romney. But what`s
interesting is that I think a lot of the politics of people don`t want
reruns, is it really true? There are a lot of politicians who run multiple
times. John McCain tried to run a couple of times. Hillary Clinton, if
she gets in, will be running a second time, Ronald Reagan ran a couple
The problem is a lot of those past candidates didn`t run in the intense age
of social media that we do now and in the intense Internet age where
everything you ever said gets rerun in a commercial and gets pounded at
you. And I think that Mitt Romney does still have that 47 percent problem
and he does still have that image problem and he`s been so many Mitt
Romneys, that you can play lots of those different previous iterations of
Mitt Romney and that`s going to be hard for him.
But I don`t think his problem is that he`s a rerun, because you know what?
In our politics now, look at the list. Everyone is a –
O`DONNELL: But then there`s the problem of America hates losers.
So, they allow you, Gene, in the last few decades, they`ll reconsider if
you lost during the primaries. They do not like to reconsider nominees.
And I believe the last time they ever nominated a losing nominee was a guy
named Adlai Stevenson in the 1950s. And that was a Democrat by the way.
ROBINSON: Yes, it never quite worked out for him. So, American voters
don`t like to go for the candidate who actually lost in the general
election. That generally doesn`t have – Richard Nixon did lose a general
election and win one, so it can happen.
Look, if Mitt Romney has “The Wall Street Journal`s” editorial page asking,
you know, “if he`s the answer, what`s the question?” if he considers
getting into the place – I`d say it`s not really promising for him. I
would say he doesn`t have a majority support in the establishment wing of
the party. He`s going to have to share that with Jeb Bush, potentially
others who might get in.
And that`s a problem for him, because if he doesn`t have most of the
establishment wing, what does he have? He certainly doesn`t have the Tea
Party wing. He is not going to win Iowa, he never has and he probably
never will. So, you know, how does he get there this time?
O`DONNELL: What he has, Gene, is “The Washington Post.” by which I mean
“Washington Post” poll of December 14th, not that long ago.
Mitt Romney in this poll, way ahead, 21 percent when you put him with the
other candidates. More than double Jeb Bush in second place at 10 percent.
And so, you know, Joy, this is why I think Romney, among them all, has a
perfectly reasonable case to make about why he should be getting into this.
You`re right. He`s running on top of the polls more than double the next
REID: Yes, and the thing is, look, there are – there`s only one job right
now in terms of if you are a potential Republican candidate in the 2015
primary. That is to be the not Rand Paul, because you`ve got to presume
that Rand Paul is the most likely to be the populist interesting candidate
that the establishment tries to destroy, right? He is to the Republicans
what Howard Dean was to the Democrats. He`s the guy that the establishment
is going to put their money into not allowing to be the nominee.
So, the choices there are very few. But they`re all essentially viable,
and as viable. You`ve got Scott Walker, who is the governor of Wisconsin,
who has in his bona fides, that he defeated the unions in Wisconsin.
You`ve got John Kasich in Ohio. You`ve got Jeb Bush and you`ve got Mitt
Romney, at least right now.
So, he`s really got in a sense a one in four chance, if you look at it that
way, of being the establishment pick. And then the establishment –
whatever the populist and the Tea Party want, they pick the nominee.
ROBINSON: Lawrence, that poll may say more about Jeb Bush than about Mitt
Romney. And it may say more about the name Bush than a lot of people are
willing to admit. I think there is Bush fatigue out there, even within the
Republican Party. If his name were other than Bush, I think he would be
So, I think voters, when they get to know Scott Walker and others, may well
turn to somebody else. But Romney, I`m just – I`m not seeing it.
O`DONNELL: In that “Washington Post” poll, which they did at the same
time, when you take Romney out, Jeb Bush goes into the lead. He goes up
four points to 14. But Rand Paul stays right behind him there.
And you`re right, Joy, about Rand Paul is right behind Jeb Bush and it is
probably where all those other single digit – a lot of the other single
digit candidates would consolidate, possibly including Bobby Jindal, if we
can encourage him to run. I`m not sure how much encouragement he needs.
He`s going to London next week to give a speech, which he has already
released. The text of the speech, I guess he believes nothing can change
on planet earth between now and when he gives this speech in London,
attacking among other things, Hillary Clinton, former secretary of state.
REID: Yes, I think if there is a candidate we can write down who is not
nonviable, who is not Ben Carson –
O`DONNELL: Don`t say it.
REID: OK, but I want them to both to run.
Absolutely. I am actually dreaming of a Jindal-Carson ticket, because that
would be entertaining for me. It`s all about that.
But no, you know, Bobby Jindal is an interesting case, because in theory,
he is the kind of candidate that the Republican Party wants and needs.
He`s a person of color, who successfully ran statewide in a southern state.
But Bobby Jindal is so problematic. His delivery is so stilted and his
sort of denialism of his own first name is so weird, that it`s just hard to
imagine him as a credible president.
O`DONNELL: And, Gene, he`s doing what he`s obviously trying to work his
way up there into the single digits in the polls. He`s not even in these
ROBINSON: Yes, you know, trying to get from negligible to also ran. And
maybe he makes it there. But, you know, I see him on the wings of the
first few debates, maybe.
REID: Maybe some of them running for vice president, though, I mean, if
you`re on it.
And, of course, Chris Christie. I need him to run so that I – my theory
can be proved that he will flame out faster than Rudy Giuliani did.
REID: Yes, I think the hugging in the sky box picture of our future
president, I don`t think most Americans want that guy with that angry,
yelling face because a team that`s not – I don`t know, in New Jersey, like
the Giants play in New Jersey, they are the New York Giants.
O`DONNELL: I love that you begin with the least of his sins.
REID: No, I –
REID: The hugging, that is true. I think that`s just a stylistic notion
of somebody with that kind of bully boy personality. And that he even sort
of – doesn`t care about the feelings of the people in his own people in
his own state and the neighboring state about his ostentatiously love of a
team from another state. I don`t know if he, personality-wise, what the
American people are quite interested in.
O`DONNELL: Gene Robinson, I`m sorry to say, we`ve run out of time. If you
say anything discouraging –
ROBINSON: Chris Christie`s colon, what is it to you, America?
ROBINSON: Run, Chris, run.
Joy Reid and Gene Robinson, thank you both for joining me.
REID: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, Europe`s terror problem. A new cell discovered in
And businesses are trying to raise money and have raised money so that
students can go to see the Oscar-nominated movie “Selma” for free.
And, the “Rewrite” tonight, what is the difference between regret and
apology? Should we just regret slavery or should we apologize for it?
O`DONNELL: Last night, Salman Rushdie gave a speech at the University of
Vermont where he said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SALMAN RUSHDIE, AUTHOR, “THE SATANIC VERSES”: The moment somebody says,
yes, I believe in free speech but – I stop listening.
RUSHDIE: You know, I believe in free speech but people should behave
themselves. I believe in free speech but we shouldn`t upset anybody. I
believe in free speech but let`s not go too far. The point is the moment
you limit free speech, it`s not free speech.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Up next, Belgium police in a shootout with a suspected terror
O`DONNELL: The threat level has been raised in Belgium tonight after
police killed two gunmen and injured another in a shootout during a raid on
suspected terrorist cell. That raid is part of a series of searches by
authorities for extremists who are believed to have traveled to Syria.
Sources tell NBC News that these terrorists intended retaliatory attacks in
Belgium because of the U.S.-led bombings on the Islamic State. Belgian
officials are also investigating reports that Amedy Coulibaly bought
weapons from a dealer in Belgium before holding up a kosher grocery store
and killing four people last week.
This picture shows the weapons police found in Coulibaly`s apartment after
the attack. In Spain, authorities are investigating a possible terrorist
cell in Madrid after a Spanish newspaper reported that Amedy Coulibaly and
his girlfriend spent time together there around New Year`s Day before she
went to Syria.
Joining me now, Laura Haim and Steve Clemons, Washington editor at large
for “The Atlantic” magazine and MSNBC contributor.
Laura, what is the latest we know about this raid in Belgium?
LAURA HAIM, CANAL PLUS: What we know is that so far, according to our
French sources, there`s no connection between the Belgium cell and what
happened in Paris last week. However, it`s really important to understand
what is happening in Belgium.
Belgium is a very important place for the French-speaking foreign fighters.
Belgium, as you know, is a country where you can speak French, you can move
easily, you can cross the border really easily with France and with other
So, it`s a very, very important place, and you have a lot of radicalized
preachers in Belgium. The most radical preacher, the most radical French-
speaking preachers are in Belgium. So, it has been really observed by the
French authorities and by all the people who are in Europe to fight
O`DONNELL: Steve Clemons, we have some numbers that are indicative of the
scope of the problem that they are trying to chase there – 16,000 people
from 80 countries who have traveled to Syria to fight with Islamic
extremist groups, 930 from France, 600 from the United Kingdom, 550 from
Germany, 400 from Belgium, 100 possibly from the United States.
This presents an extremely difficult group of people to track.
STEVE CLEMONS, THE ATLANTIC MAGAZINE: It just shows that many societies
that consider themselves safe, consider themselves modern, maybe even as
inclusive societies, have a lot of flank exposed when it comes to fighters
that have gone off to train with ISIS.
And it also says something about ISIS, because, you know, ISIS is taking a
lot of people in and ISIS is somebody without writing today hasn`t really
given up much territory and is continued to expand its influence and areas
under its control, despite tremendous bombing raids by the United States
and its allies and a lot of pounding pressure.
So, they`ve been able to synthesize and integrate these different societies
into their fighting force and train them and now, we`re going to see, to
send them back to cause havoc and terror inside the countries they`ve come
O`DONNELL: Laura, there`s debate now raging in France about free speech,
where it is different than free speech, the principles of free speech
exercised here in the United States. There are certain limitations,
particularly in regards to anti-Semitic speech. There`s been an arrest of
a comedian for anti-Semitic remarks.
How is that argument playing out in France now?
HAIM: This is the argument, what`s going to happen and what`s going to
happen with people who perpetrate anti-Semitism art. The problem we see in
France in this moment, especially in the last two days is what the French
are calling the emotional hangover. There`s something up in there, you
don`t know which direction this country is going to go.
Yes, the country is really united. There was a lot of emotion, but nobody
knows what is going to happen next, especially in the suburbs near Paris.
We see – especially in some of the clams, young people from Muslim origin
who are refusing to stand up for what happened last week in Paris. They`re
saying now officially, “I`m not Charlie”. Of course, it`s the minority,
but it`s happening and people are worried about this minority movement
which begins in France.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what House Speaker John Boehner said today
about the foiled plot of an attack on the United States Capitol.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The first thing that
strikes me is we would have never known about this had it not been for the
FISA program, and our ability to collect information on people who pose an
REPORTER: Mr. Speaker, do you know something we don`t? Apparently he was
on social media talking about this. Is there more things that we don`t
BOEHNER: Well, I`ll just – I will let the whole story roll out there.
But it was far more than just that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Steve Clemons, here we go again with exactly how much of a
surveillance state we need to catch someone like Christopher Cornell, this
young man who was actually, as one of the reporters pointed out, talking
about this stuff on social media.
CLEMONS: Look, a targeted FISA program going after criminals seems to make
a lot of sense. The thing I think John Boehner was trying to tuck under
the rug was, isn`t it great that all of this other data that they have
there is working. He didn`t mention those things but that was I think by
implication what he was trying to say, is that security comes with a very
dense coverage of our society.
And I suppose that I think that`s a debate we need to continue to have.
There are ways in which this young man in Ohio could be caught without us
giving up every element of our digital liberty and digital space that we
have to live free and without observers watching everything we`re doing.
O`DONNELL: Steve Clemons and Laura Haim, thank you very much for joining
CLEMONS: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, attacks on education in Pakistan and what that means
for the future of terrorism.
And in the “Rewrite” tonight, you`ll be able to decide whether America
should just regret slavery or apologize for it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Just as we stand with the people of France
at this difficult hour, America will continue to stand with the people of
Pakistan as they build a future that is free from the threat of violent
extremism, wherever, whenever, and by whomever that is perpetrated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: In the spotlight tonight, extremism versus education. Kids
sometimes try to use lame excuses to stay home from school. This isn`t one
“Mama, please don`t send me to school, the Taliban will kill me.” An 8-
year-old boy said that to his mother in Pakistan this week. The week when
students first returned to the school in northwest Pakistan where the
Taliban killed 133 students and also killed staff members last month. A 15-
year-old student, who was injured in the attack, told the Associated Press,
he had one message for the Taliban – we are not scared of you. Another
student posted two photos on FaceBook, one of him and three classmates
before the attack and another after the attack with only one of those
friends left alive.
Kiran Nazish reported in “The L.A. Times,” “the raid underscored the
vulnerability of Pakistan`s schools, which have long been a battleground
for militants who view the country`s formal education system as inspired by
the west and therefore un-Islamic. Attacks on more than 1,000 schools over
the last eight years have sewn fear among the population.”
And joining me now by phone from Pakistan is “L.A. Times” special
correspondent Kiran Nazish. And joining us from Washington, Hassan Abbas,
former police chief in Pakistan and author of the new book, “The Taliban
Revival: Violence and Extremism on the Pakistan/Afghan Border.”
Kiran, thank you very much for joining us. When I read your article, I knew
we had to talk about this. You say in the article, at least a thousand
schools have closed down and possibly more. Some of those schools have been
replaced by religious schools that approach education in a very different
way. Could you explain what`s happening in those schools, the new religious
KIRAN NAZISH, “L.A. TIMES” SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): That`s
right. Well, the citizens (ph) that we have, like it is more than a
thousand schools, but these statistics are from 2013. They haven`t – we
haven`t been able to actually count how many schools have been destroyed.
There have been much more schools than a thousand.
But one of the ways – one of the things that has happened is, on the side
or in those – or the campuses, it depends on which part of Pakistan, that
a lot of these schools have replaced – at (INAUDIBLE) where, you know,
there are hundreds and thousands of (INAUDIBLE) there actually no
government or independent statistics of like how many (INAUDIBLE) there
are. And these (INAUDIBLE) are usually, you know, teaching right wing sort
of Islam and extremist version of Islam. And if you speak to police
officials in any part of Pakistan, (INAUDIBLE), you know, up north or down
south, you – most of them say that most of, you know, suicide attackers or
extremists at the militants that they have been able to catch have three-
fourths of them are (INAUDIBLE) graduates. So (INAUDIBLE) is essentially
having – they have a huge impact on how Pakistan has already become, you
know, this country with a lot of (INAUDIBLE) for good (ph) Talibans.
O`DONNELL: And, Hassan Abbas, education is an incredible challenge in
Pakistan, even before you get this issue of 25 million children who should
be in school, not in school of any kind, religious or otherwise in
Pakistan. And now we see that before we – some of us may be used to think
that it was dangerous for girls to go to school in Pakistan based on the
lesson of Malala Yousafzai, but now we see that it is dangerous for
everyone it seems.
HASSAN ABBAS, FMR. POLICE CHIEF IN PAKISTAN: Absolutely. The failure of the
government in Pakistan, in terms of education budget, in terms of
supporting the educational infrastructure that has been quite obvious. And
this new activity, the ruthlessness and the sheer brutality of Taliban
attacks on schools creates a further challenge.
But I must add that Taliban have been doing this for the last many years.
And it seems to me that the government in Pakistan and the security
services were perhaps looking the other way. They are ignoring this threat.
And in the meantime, Taliban expanded their influence through coercion,
through oppression, and now they have come to a point where they can and so
openly go to an urban center, go to a major public school and pick out
students who they wanted to kill, sons of the military officials, others.
So this is not – this has not happened overnight. As you rightly hinted,
this has happened because of poor government control and poor government
policy in regards to the education policy.
O`DONNELL: And, Kiran, you said in your report in “The L.A. Times” that
when they destroy these schools and then they replace them with the
religious schools, that a lot of parents try to resist and they try to set
up their own schools. Then they get threatened. And then, ultimately,
parents who don`t want to do this ultimately end up surrendering their sons
to some of these religious schools.
NAZISH: Yes, absolutely, especially in the Fata (ph) regions and the Suwat
(ph), which is where Malala is originally from. There are horrible stories
from Suwat of teachers and parents who are trying – who have tried to set
up schools in their backyards and, you know, and even, you know, with, you
know, having students sit on rocks instead of chairs to sort of (INAUDIBLE)
studying. They have been threatened. There have been many incidents of
shootings at teachers and there have been many, many incidents where
parents and teachers have been threatened by militants.
Essentially, after, you know, after 2007, the Pakistan military claimed
that there was an operation and, you know, the evident presence of the
Taliban from Suwat, you know, was taken out. But there is still a lot of
militant element in Suwat and other parts in the northwest frontier in
Pakistan. And it is, you know, the tribals were living in the northwest
side of Pakistan do complain that if they do want to send their children to
school, they`re either under threat or the schools, they`re not in place or
they`ve been destroyed. And sometimes the buildings that are destroyed are
not just new, you know, not just destroyed buildings, but sometimes they
have also been, over the years, used as hideouts by militants or places
where Pakistani military would find the (INAUDIBLE). So school buildings
have been used, you know, as – in (INAUDIBLE) to fight – either fight
militancy or, you know, be a place where militants would hide.
O`DONNELL: Kiran Nazish, thank you very much for joining us from Pakistan
tonight. And Hassan Abbas, thank you for joining us also.
Coming up, six years before Steve Scalise made a speech to a white
supremacist group, that Republican congressman voted against the state of
Louisiana apologizing for establishing and maintaining slavery.
O`DONNELL: Affective tomorrow, many restrictions on Americans traveling to
Cuba will be lifted, and getting there will be much easier very soon. U.S.
airlines don`t operate scheduled flights to Cuba, but after today`s
announcement, Delta and JetBlue said they are considering expanding to Cuba
and United Airlines made it very clear, telling NBC News, “we plan to serve
Cuba subject to government approvals and look forward to doing so from our
global gateways in Newark and Houston.”
Coming up, how to get free tickets to the Oscar nominated film “Selma.”
O`DONNELL: Louisiana Klu Klux Klan member David Duke ran for United States
Senate in Louisiana and he ran for governor in Louisiana and he managed to
get over 40 percent of the vote in Louisiana. Not despite having been a
Klan member, but because of it. In the process, David Duke seems to have
earned the respect of Republican Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise, who
has described himself as, his words, “David Duke without the baggage.”
Which could only mean David Duke without the Klan membership card but with
the same political positions.
His Republican colleagues in the House of Representatives, including
Speaker John Boehner, have publicly accepted his completely unbelievable
explanation as to why he spoke to a group David Duke founded called the
European American Unity and Rights Organization. Congressman Scalise first
said he didn`t remember addressing the group. And then he said it was a
mistake. And then he also said that he had no idea that David Duke`s group,
of all groups, is a white supremacist organization.
Steve Scalise won his House seat in a special election in May of 2008. Two
months later, the House voted on and passed a resolution apologizing for
slavery, something we know Steve Scalise was opposed to but we don`t
actually know how he voted on that House resolution because the resolution
passed the house by voice vote, no individual representatives` vote was
actually recorded. We have asked Steve Scalise how he voted on that
resolution, but he hasn`t responded to our request.
We do know that when he was first asked to vote on an apology for slavery,
he said, “why are you asking me to apologize for something I didn`t do and
had no part of? I`m not going to apologize for what somebody else did.”
He was then a member of the Louisiana legislature. It was 1996. And the
Louisiana legislature was considering a resolution, quote, “to acknowledge
the role of the state of Louisiana and the people of the state in the
institution of slavery to offer an apology to African-American citizens of
Louisiana for such role and to pledge a united effort to assure that all
citizens enjoy the full blessings of liberty.”
Steve Scalise was a member of a committee considering that resolution in
the legislature. It was offered by Representative Evonne Dorsey (ph). And
when he complained about being asked to apologize for something he didn`t
do, Representative Dorsey explained to him that the apology was not a
personal apology, but an apology by the government of Louisiana for its
role in the establishment and maintenance of slavery in Louisiana. Steve
Scalise made a motion to kill the resolution, but he lost that vote.
Then Representative David Vitter, who is now a United States senator but
was then a member of that committee, suggested a compromise. According to
the minutes of the committee meeting, “Representative Vitter stated that
apology is defined to include an implicit admission of guilt and stated
that an expression of regret might be more appropriate.” And so regret
carried the day. The resolution that was passed by the Louisiana
legislature substituted the words, “to express regret,” where it once said,
“to offer an apology.”
David Vitter is right. There is a difference between apology and regret.
You can regret what you had for breakfast this morning. But if you do an
egregious wrong to someone, at minimum, and I do mean at minimum, you owe
that person or those people an apology.
I will now read to you some of the laws of the state of Louisiana that were
written specifically to maintain and support slavery. They were adopted by
the Louisiana legislature. I leave it to you to decide whether the
Louisiana legislature should regret or apologize for what it did.
Louisiana law said, “a slave is one who is in the power of a master to whom
he belongs. The master may sell him, dispose of his person, his industry,
and his labor. He can do nothing, possess nothing, nor acquire anything but
what must belong to his master. The slave is entirely subject to the will
of his master, who may correct and chastise him, though not with unusual
rigor, nor so as to mame (ph) or mutilate him or to expose him to the
danger of loss of life or to cause his death. The slave is incapable of
exercising any public office or private trust. He cannot be tutored,
curator, executor nor attorney. He cannot be a witness in either civil or
criminal matters except in cases provided for by particular laws. He cannot
be a party in any civil action, either as plaintiff or defendant, except
when he has to claim or prove his freedom. Free persons and slaves are
incapable of contracting marriage together. The celebration of such
marriages is forbidden, and the marriage is void. There is the same nullity
with respect to marriages contracted by free white persons with free people
of color. Slaves cannot marry without the consent of their master and their
marriages do not produce any of the civil effects which results from such
contract. Children born of a mother, then in a state of slavery, whether
married or not, follow the condition of their mother. They are consequently
slaves and belong to the master of their mother.”
The Louisiana legislature did that, and the Louisiana legislature has not
apologized for that, thanks to Steve Scalise.
O`DONNELL: I`ve already urged you to see the important and now Oscar
nominated film “Selma.” And next I will tell you how you can get free
tickets to see it. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: Today is the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.`s 86th
birthday. The holiday celebrating his birthday will be Monday. David
Oyelowo stars as Dr. King in Ava DuVernay`s brilliant and the important
film “Selma,” which was nominated for an Academy Award for best picture
today on Dr. King`s birthday. Here is a sample of Oprah Winfrey`s deeply
moving performance in “Selma.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE, ACTOR, “SELMA”: You work for Mr. Dunn (ph) down at the
rest home, ain`t that right?
OPRAH WINFREY, ACTRESS, “SELMA”: Yes, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wonder what old Dunn will say when I tell him one of his
gals is down here stirring a fuss.
WINFREY: I ain`t stirring no fuss. I`m just here trying to register to
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Recite the Constitution`s Preamble. So you know what a
WINFREY: We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more
perfect union –
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many county judges in Alabama?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Name them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: “Selma” teaches much more than the horrors of life in the
segregated south and the particular difficulties that African-Americans
faced in trying to vote. Joining me now is Bruce Gordon, chairman of ADT
and the former president of the NAACP.
Bruce, you have formed a group to provide free tickets for kids, students
around the country, to be able to go see “Selma” in the theaters. How does
BRUCE GORDON, CHAIRMAN, ADT: It works quite simply. It`s easier to do this
than to vote.
GORDON: A student shows up with a report card or a school I.D., and they`re
admitted. So far, 275,000 students across this country will see this film
because of this initiative.
O`DONNELL: So you have arrangements with the theaters that when the kid
goes to the box office, shows this, they`re in?
GORDON: It`s just that simple.
O`DONNELL: Yes. Wow, that is fantastic. And the cities are – as I see
listed here, Chicago, Dallas, New Orleans, Oakland, Boston, Nashville, New
Jersey, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Sarasota, Washington, D.C.
There are so many lessons in this movie, so many things that I think
students will not find in their history books that do cover these periods.
And it`s – it is one of those very important must-see films.
GORDON: Fifty years ago the Voting Rights Act was passed. That`s multiple
generations. Students today, too many of them don`t realize the sacrifices
that were made that long ago so that they could live the way that they
currently do. They need to understand that. And in an environment where
that very act and law is under attack, these students need to know the
sacrifices that were made by many generations ago, populated (ph) at civil
rights movement, to give them the right – and their parents the right to
vote. They`ve got to understand that. Every American, frankly, needs to
O`DONNELL: Let`s take another look at the movie and on Dr. King`s birthday
a scene of David Oyelowo playing Dr. King.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE, ACTOR, “SELMA”: Dr. King. Good morning, doctor. Can we
get a statement, please?
DAVID OYELOWO, ACTOR, “SELMA”: Morning. Morning.
While rage and violence continues toward the unarmed people of Selma, while
they are assaulted with tear gas and batons like an enemy in a war, no
citizen of this country can call themselves blameless, for we all bear a
responsibility for our fellow man. I am appealing to men and women of God
and good will everywhere, white, black, and otherwise. If you believe all
are created equal, come to Selma. Join us. Join our march against injustice
and inhumanity. We need you to stand with us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Bruce, what do you hope this will add to young students`
understanding of the man, of Dr. King?
GORDON: I want them to understand that Dr. King`s generation was a
generation of sacrifice. That they were prepared to lay their lives on the
line, lose their lives in order to provide sort of the basic rights of
American citizenry. I think that young people are so far removed from that
era that they don`t know. And many of their freedoms that that generation
made possible, these young folks don`t realize the sacrifices that were
made so that they could be possible.
I also think that young people need to understand that society takes
activism. These folks were active. They challenged the status quo. They
were long-term thinkers. They said, we will sacrificed today for a better
tomorrow. Young people need to understand that it`s not instant
gratification, it`s not, what can I get tomorrow, it`s what should I
sacrifice and work hard on so that the future for me and my children will
O`DONNELL: “Selma” definitely deserves the best picture nomination and the
win, but what it is going to win is best song (ph), just like they did at
the Golden Globes. Common and John Legend have definitely delivered the
best song of the year in film.
Bruce Gordon, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
GORDON: Lawrence, thank you.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
Chris Hayes is up next.
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