The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, Transcript 01/28/15
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: So, Rachel, last night, talking to a guy
in the men`s room about balls. Tonight, a nun talking about balls. I
don`t want the Super Bowl to ever come, because I don`t think I can live
without this subject, without you closing your show every night.
RACHEL MADDOW, “TRMS” HOST: I promise to find a way to bring it up next
week after the game is over. I promise –
O`DONNELL: Any help you need in doing that and extending into the show.
Rachel, thank you very much.
MADDOW: Thank you, Rachel.
O`DONNELL: Well, we`re not going to talk about that tonight on this
program. Rachel has done it for us.
But tonight, my first guest, who was a real American sniper, has some very
important things to say about the movie “American Sniper” and the real Iraq
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got some sort of savior complex?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just want to get the bad guys.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is simplified as a black and white view of the war.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The “American Sniper” is drawing big crowds.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The film already the winner of several awards.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Along with the accolades came controversy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some criticizing it as having a pro-war agenda.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, (INAUDIBLE) with this will be a recruitment show.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This isn`t propaganda, it`s Hollywood.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This one is just American hero.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t think it`s got a war agenda.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s a psychopath patriot and we love him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some Hollywood liberals are hell-bent on disrespecting
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somebody has to either be pure hero or pure traitor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chris Kyle is a hero, but he`s a complicated hero.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t like the way they called the Arabs in Iraq as
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They say a lot of (EXPLETIVE DELETED) in the middle of
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is not meant to be a political film.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People went to Iraq under false pretenses.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no context of why the U.S. is in Iraq.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tiny little omission.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every person I killed, I have clear conscience of.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just have tremendous respect for what he did.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You sit there for days just looking through glass.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m willing to meet my creator and answer for every
shot that I took.
O`DONNELL: At Salon.com, Garett Reppenhagen has written an article that
will be posted under the title “I was an American sniper, and Chris Kyle`s
war was not my war. Don`t make the mistake of thinking the hit movie
captures the truth of the Iraq conflict. I should know, I lived it.”
Joining me now is Iraq war veteran and former U.S. Army sniper, Garett
Garett, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
And your reaction to the movie and to this discussion that it has provoked?
GARETT REPPENHAGEN, IRAQ WAR VETERAN: Well, thanks for having me on the
show. You know, I think the major thing that we have to put into context
with this film is that it`s have a very particular point of view. Whether
it`s the true story of Chris Kyle or whether it wasn`t isn`t really my main
It`s the fact that the American public has a responsibility to take in as
much information as possible about this conflict to really fully understand
it and to understand the experiences of the people who lived it, like
myself, and the veterans coming home that are going through a lot and, you
know, not exactly what Chris Kyle went through. Many of them are going
through other things, as well.
So, there`s a larger context and a lot more dynamics at play here. In the
article, I mentioned it`s like looking through that sniper scope. You
know, Chris Kyle says in the movie, or the character says, you`ve got to
keep both eyes open to see the whole battlefield.
And I think that`s the analogy I`m trying to make for the American
audience, just keep both eyes open and be aware of what`s going on in the
O`DONNELL: You make a point in your article, which I`ve made, which is
it`s just a movie. And we`re constantly teaching this lesson, and I think
every awards season we end up teaching the lesson, the difference between
movies and history books, the difference between movies and the truth, and
whatever way the truth is findable, and movies are pretty much the worst
source of accuracy. There`s always manipulation in these kinds of movies.
I want to read another line from your article where you say, “My actions in
combat would have been more acceptable to me if I could cloak myself in the
belief that the whole mission was for a greater good.”
I just want to go to a spot in the movie where the Bradley Cooper character
explains his motivation for this. Let`s listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you want to die? Is that what it is?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then, just tell me. Tell me why you do it. I want
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Babe, I do it for you, you know that. You do it to
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, you don`t.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I do.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m here. Your family is here. Your children have
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have to serve my country.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (EXPLETIVES DELETED)
You don`t know when to quit. You`ve did your part. You sacrificed enough.
You let somebody else go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let somebody else go?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. You find a way. You have to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Garett, in that scene, the screen writer Jason Hall and the
film directed by Clint Eastwood allows the character`s wife, and I don`t
even like to call him Chris Kyle, because this is a fictional character as
presented here, but allows the character`s wife to say, you know, that`s
crap, the idea you`re doing this to keep us safe, to protect me.
But the whole thrust of the rest of the screenplay is to – is on the
sniper`s side in that argument. There`s no real exploration of that
question beyond what we just saw.
REPPENHAGEN: Well, yes. I think, you know, when you`re in Iraq and
Afghanistan or any combat zone, you`re sacrificing a lot, whether, you
know, it`s your own personal life, the lives of your friends, your physical
health, your mental health, your sanity, your soul in some aspects. When
you`re sacrificing so much, the why you`re sacrificing becomes very
You know, I think when you go to war with ambiguous causes like we did in
Iraq, for me it was personally difficult. As that unraveled, when we found
out there were no weapons of mass destruction, that there were no ties to
9/11, we basically opened the door for al Qaeda to come to Iraq and set up
shop. The conduct of the war started diminishing with events like Abu
Ghraib and other atrocities. It became a little difficult to accept the
You know, I had a lot of friends, professional soldiers that I worked with
every day that I respect the hell out of that have the same opinion that
the character in the movie does. It`s one of the ways we have to protect
ourselves to be able to go out there and leave the gate and do a mission is
to believe you`re doing the right thing. It`s soul-hurting and there`s
definitely moral injury involved when you start to lose that idea.
I think that`s the dangers of the American public not holding our decision-
makers accountable and not – making sure we don`t send our soldiers to war
when all peaceful solutions haven`t been exhausted.
O`DONNELL: In what you just described, there`s a really interesting
character dynamic to explore in this film, which the writer or director
might not have been able to do, or figure out how to do, which is how does
he hold onto that rational for what he does in this war, as the information
continues to pour in that the war was waged under what turned out to be
Without even getting to the question of whether the administration was
lying about it, there were no weapons of mass destruction, and the
situation that was visited upon Iraq as a result of the United States Army
going in there, has not ever turned out to be something you could clearly,
easily describe as being better than what was going on in Iraq before we
went in there.
REPPENHAGEN: Many of the service members that I was there with, you know,
despite the information that was coming in, it almost becomes impossible to
stop or impossible to believe, because you`ve committed so much to this
effort, because so much is relying on it. You have to believe the big lie,
because the alternative is so destructive to your own personality and your
own morals and values that you just can`t accept it. You have to move on
every day, drink water, drive on, continue mission, and that`s what a lot
of guys are doing.
So, in a lot of aspects, the individual service members, you know, we`re
left with the oath that we gave and the loyalty to our country. It`s very
hard to back up on. In a lot of ways, we weren`t necessarily the gun or
the person holding the gun pointing the trigger, we`re the bullets coming
out the other end of this democracy. And, you know, we were going to leave
that gun and we`re going to go and do whatever we were asked to do, and,
you know, it`s very tough to convince yourself otherwise and the detriment
to yourself after you come to that conclusion is very heavy.
O`DONNELL: Garett, this may be a distinction of the all volunteer army,
but if you go back to Vietnam where come bass forces were filled with
draftees, including people that were opposed to the war before they went,
when they were in Vietnam, and serving in Vietnam, they all remained pretty
vocal among each other about how, you know, this is bad, we shouldn`t be
here. I`m trying to think of non-profane ways to describe the kinds of
things I heard them talk about saying, you know, in their various camps
that they were in, in Vietnam.
How much of that talk did you hear in Iraq?
REPPENHAGEN: You know, I think there`s plenty. As soldiers, you know,
we`re prone to complain, because we don`t have a lot of power over our
personal lives or what we`re doing beyond our orders and somewhat our
mission is. So, there`s certain aspects that we hate and disagree with. I
probably talked to a hundred different soldiers that had a hundred
different point of views of why we were deployed to Iraq, from oil to the
holy war. And, you know, there weren`t really good reasons given by our
country, so a lot of service members were kind of inventing why they were
there, from what they were reading or what they were hearing or what they
So, it`s, like I said, it was really ambiguous at the time I was there,
especially as these things were kind of destructing. We thought we were
going to go home when Saddam Hussein was captured. You know, that didn`t
happen. We didn`t find weapons of mass destruction, that didn`t happen.
We gave false sovereignty over Paul Bremer left the country, we thought we
were going home, that didn`t happen.
So, we just started questioning why we were there, and our enemies started
transforming, you know, while we were on mission. So, it was a very
changing place. You know, I can`t – I can`t compare my circumstance to
anybody from Vietnam or really many other people who served in Iraq,
because nobody has a monopoly on the war narrative. It`s going to be
different on who you`re serving with, what your branch in, what your job
is, when you`re there, where you are, and a million other different
So, somebody might have a very different experience. I know truck drivers
who got into way more combat than I did, because that`s where the combat
was, was on the roads, where the IEDs and ambushes were. So, you know,
it`s hard to say one individual soldier has the one perspective of what the
war is like.
O`DONNELL: Garett, a branch of my family is pretty much all military,
including West Point grads. They – and one served in Iraq, and some of
the most negative analysis of what we were doing in Iraq I have heard from
them, and the most expert analysis of what we`re doing in Iraq. I`ve heard
it from them.
And that`s one of the things I was listening for in this movie, in the
history of American movies about wars gone bad, you know, which include
Vietnam, this is the first one I`ve taken seriously as a movie, not the
silly Stallone movies and certain things, but this is an attempt at a
really serious movie – completely ignoring the context of the war, and
what turned out at a certain point to be the essential hopelessness of it,
ever achieving the stated goal that president bush laid out in the first
place, which we were going to have this jewel of European democracy right
there in the Middle East in Iraq.
To completely ignore that, and to completely ignore the endless mistakes
that were being made by the administration, by commanders at different
points was really very surprising to me. I expected to – someone in this
film at some point to get that voice in there.
REPPENHAGEN: And they tease it out a couple of times, but they never
really fully investigate it. It`s too bad. I think it would have been a
much richer, fuller film if they did. It`s been described as a character
study on Chris Kyle. I don`t know how you can make that character study
without bringing in those dynamics which fully – you know, completely
understand what his frame of mind was and what the environment was in Iraq
and the political environment here at home.
O`DONNELL: I want to bring in Zack Beauchamp. He`s war correspondent for
Vox.com. Zach has written about this.
Jason Hall, the screenwriter for this movie, everyone keeps calling it
Clint Eastwood`s movie. It`s not his script. He doesn`t write the
scripts. Let`s just remember that.
He said when he pitched it to Bradley Cooper, when he pitched it to Warner
Brothers, he pitched it as a western. And this is the way people talk
about movies when they`re in development and when they`re putting them
together. They don`t talk about this is how true it is. This is how
accurate it is. And it isn`t really the inciting objective of making these
kinds of movies.
And so, what we`re talking about here is a movie, and because it`s centered
on this very controversial war, this debate is getting hotter and hotter
about the accuracy of it.
ZACK BEAUCHAMP, VOX.COM: Yes, I think the problem is that it`s a movie
that if you watch it and pay close attention to the dialogue, is clearly
obsessed with the morality of the war. You know, the opening defining
speech is Chris Kyle`s father talking about what kinds of people there are
in the world. There are sheep dogs that defend sheep against wolves. This
major metaphor that really defines the movie`s moral code.
And then it goes on to give this entirely apolitical description, as you
all have been saying, of the Iraq war, and the depiction thereof, and the
idea that you can have a discussion about the morality of war, specifically
the morality of the Iraq war, and do it in a black and white way which Kyle
is an unproblematic protector, is to miss the broader question, which is to
say political questions.
And so, thinking about the movie as a kind of morality – a lot of westerns
are, to go back to the original point here, and to say that you can talk
about that and you can depict that in an interesting way without just
totally assuming the main character`s point of view of the world rather
than critically interrogating it, is to make a huge mistake.
O`DONNELL: And here`s what a western needs, for the good guy in the
western needs a motivation – a motivation – to get into this fight. Then
he needs a villain or villains to conquer in that fight. This movie – and
that`s the essential glue of the western.
This movie invents all of those things, Garett. It indicates that his
motivation was seeing these terrorist attacks on the United States, when,
in fact, he tried to join the military before that. He said he always
intended to join the military.
And then it creates these mythical opponents in this thing, the sniper that
he`s working against on the other side, who is, to his credit in the book
that this is based on, Chris Kyle never made much of that and never said
that he was in this direct competition with this other sniper. But that`s
the kind of stuff a movie needs when people are sitting around, trying to
figure out how do we hold an audience in here to watch a movie set in a
grim war that America has turned against.
Garett, it`s the kind of thing that you expect from movies, but I guess the
stakes here for the public and the public discussion of it, the accuracy
issue, is just loaded for everybody who is watching this movie now.
REPPENHAGEN: Yes, it`s – you know, it would be refreshing if somebody in
Hollywood made a less dramatized version of warfare, that really kind of
shows what a service member goes through and the struggles that they
encounter. But I don`t think that`s likely to happen. It`s easier to
digest for a public to see a black and white world and not have to really
make those reaches. That`s why I really rather would watch documentaries
about the conflicts and I get a more intimate and real perspective on what
that conflict is like.
O`DONNELL: I want to keep this discussion going. So, if you guys can stay
with us, we`ll come right back, Garett Reppenhagen and Zack Beauchamp.
We`ll be right back with a little bit more of this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just don`t believe in what we`re doing here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, there`s evil here, we`ve seen it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, there`s evil everywhere.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, you want these mother (EXPLETIVE DELETED) to come
to San Diego or New York? We`re protecting more than just this dirt.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: We`ll be right back with former real American sniper, Garett
O`DONNELL: We`re back with former U.S. Army sniper Garrett Reppenhagen and
Zack Beauchamp from Vox.
Garett, in that clip we just showed during the break, the sniper character
in the movie says, you want us to have to fight these people in San Diego
or New York instead of Iraq. And there`s – and he wins that argument in
this movie, as if that`s a reality, that the people you`re fighting in Iraq
would somehow get themselves over to San Diego or New York if we weren`t
fighting them there.
Again, for that argument to end there, no room for two or three more lines
from the other character in that scene, is one of those moments where the
movie makes a decision, this is the argument that wins here.
REPPENHAGEN: Yes. I think obviously it`s certainly one sided and we`ve
had similar confidences like that while I was deployed in Iraq. You know,
a lot of ways it seems unrealistic for that to really happen. But with our
overuse of military and the other kind of practices and policies that we
have worldwide, it seems like we`re becoming very good at creating enemies
like ISIS and other terrorist groups that want to do just that. So, it`s
almost, I guess, the irony that the result of some of our combat in Iraq
was not eliminating these terrorists but creating more of them.
O`DONNELL: Zack Beauchamp, the screen writer Jason Hall has said that he
pretty much fell in love with Chris Kyle and really liked the guy, really
wanted to do a movie that Chris Kyle would like, that his family would
like, his kids would like, his wife would like. The co-authors of Chris
Kyle`s book, the ghost writers, Jim DeFelice and Scott McEwen, same thing,
they really love the guy. I`m sure he was probably a great guy in that way
and pretty easy to really like.
But once the writers of this material – and by the way, it shows you how
removed from this material Chris Kyle was. He didn`t write the book. Two
people wrote it for him. So, are those really his words, are those really
his thoughts? They`ve been adjusted by writers who were trying to sharpen
them up for the purposes of selling that book. Same thing with the
But that kind of adoration of the central character is one of the things
that leads to this kind of movie.
BEAUCHAMP: Yes. I think that`s the movie`s central problem. It`s not
that you can`t make an honest movie that honestly depicts Chris Kyle`s
world view, but that`s the problem. His view of the world is depicted as
the actual world, that is to say, a world in which terrorists are coming
for New York or San Diego unless we fight them in Iraq in 2004 seems to be
actually the case in the universe of the movie. The movie does very little
to dispel that and uses a variety of cinematic tricks to make it look like
that`s actually the way things were, which is probably not intentional in
the movie`s part.
What it`s trying to do is give a sense of what Kyle believed and how he
experienced the world, but it`s a difficult line to thread between
depicting your protagonist point and depicting, you know, actually how the
world was. And in the situation, this is politically charged. It`s
historically misremembered as the Iraq war by a large number of people, and
you really need to point out the actual political context – you know, the
lack of the weapons of mass destruction, the invasion was one of the best
things to have happened to al Qaeda for a long period of time. These are
things that need to be in the movie to give a real picture of what happened
and what viewers should take away.
O`DONNELL: I just want to read one passage from the book, before we go
here – again, this is a ghost written book, and it says this, in Chris
Kyle`s book, “Growing up, I wanted to be military, but I wondered how would
I feel about killing someone? Now, I know, it`s no big deal. I did it a
lot more that I`d ever thought I would, or for that matter, more than any
American sniper before me, but I also witnessed the evil my targets
committed and wanted to commit, and by killing them, I protected the lives
of many fellow soldiers.”
Garett, I have to get your reaction to that line in there, where he says, I
know what it is to kill people. It`s no big deal.
REPPENHAGEN: Yes, it`s certainly a big deal to me. You know, whenever you
take another person`s life, whether in combat or not, it has to be a really
introspective thing. You know, I question every day, you know, will I be
going to heaven or hell. I`ve been working to repent ever since.
One of the reasons why I work so heavily to help other veterans is to bring
good back into the world because of the life I`ve taken away. You know,
it`s something that`s really affected me and my whole personality and how
I`ve been ever since.
So, you know, I think that`s pretty crazy. I know as a sniper doing
counter ID, counter mortar, over-watch missions countless nights, 180
combat missions without the use of a military vehicle, on sniper missions,
you know, I know that, you know, they were planting IEDs to kill my
friends. But it`s not always like I said, a black and white world.
And the real enemies aren`t the ones that always die in combat. There`s a
lot of collateral damage and there`s a lot of really getting your target
identification wrong in killing innocent people. So, you know, it`s hard.
I can`t compare myself with Chris Kyle or any other military service member
out there. But for me personally, it`s a very difficult – very difficult
O`DONNELL: Garett Reppenhagen, thank you very much for joining us tonight,
adding your invaluable perspective to this discussion. The article is on
Salon.com, absolutely imperative reading.
Zack Beauchamp, thank you also for joining us tonight.
Coming up, a member of Congress who has just changed his mind about
abortion will join me.
And later, I finally agree with Ted Cruz about something.
O`DONNELL: Last week, Republican women in the House of Representatives
derailed a bill that would have banned abortions after 20 weeks.
Here`s what Republican Congressman Louis Gohmert had to say about, quote,
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R), TEXAS: There was an exception put on there that
unless there was a case of reported rape – reported to authorities. Well,
that became the dividing factor among some of our female members of the
House, Republican female members. But some were adamant they didn`t want
any exceptions, some were saying, no, we need to not require it be reported
to authorities. And so anyway, that should have all been hashed out before
it was announced that it was coming to the floor.
I`m told that they`re still going to be bring it back but because there was
such division among our Republican females, then they killed the bill that
day and that was extremely unfortunate. It sent the entirely wrong
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: In a new op-ed for the “Akron Beacon Journal,” self-described
pro-life Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan says he has changed his position
on abortion after talking to women. He writes, “These women gave me a
better understanding of how complex and difficult certain situations can
become. And while there are people of good conscience on both sides of
this argument, one thing has become abundantly clear to me, the heavy hand
of government must not make this decision for women and families.”
Joining me now, Congressman Tim Ryan.
Congressman Ryan, how long a process has it been for you to move from that
pro-life position that you look as a young state legislator in Ohio to
where you are now?
REP. TIM RYAN (D), OHIO: I think it started once I got into Congress. I
jumped right in. I don`t exactly know why, but I jumped straight into the
abortion wars, thinking that if we really wanted to, you know, reduce
abortions in the United States, that we had to address the issue of
unintended pregnancies and how we should promote, you know, birth control
and contraception, how we should encourage a woman to bring the baby to
term by making sure that the mom and the baby had health care, has proper
housing, had access to good food, adoption tax credits.
And really ran into stiff opposition from the pro-life community, who
fought on contraception. And that kind of opened me up to thinking hey,
I`m not so sure I`m agreeing with these folks on a lot of these positions,
and then really went on a journey really trying to meet women who were in
these difficult circumstances, and that happened, and then the health care
debate obviously brought the issue to the forefront, and then I was removed
from the Democrats for Life Advisory Board in 2008 or 2009.
And that process just continued and I kept having these meetings. So it`s
been going on for, you know, five or 10 years at this point.
O`DONNELL: As I read your story, it`s a familiar one to me. You brought
up Catholic, and talked about how that helped form your early opinions
about this, and your evolution on it. One of the interesting things is
that you are now a parent, you`re now a father. You`re a new father, and
it seems that that has also helped you see why people should be allowed to
RYAN: Well, anyone who`s been involved with a pregnancy, like my wife and
I were over the past year, year and a half, you have those moments where
you`re sitting in a doctor`s office. You have tests coming back. We`re
very lucky. Our son is healthy. She had – my wife Andrea had a very
healthy pregnancy, we have a healthy baby. But you do have those moments
where these results are coming back and you don`t know what`s going to
And I just feel like Uncle Sam should not be sitting in the doctor`s office
with parents and a doctor, having any role in making those decisions. That
should be left to the mother, the father, if they`re involved, and the
doctor, and someone close with – with regard to your religion. It
shouldn`t be the government involved.
And when we had Brady and we were going through the process of having our
son, Brady, that really became clear, that these are very personal
decisions. There`s so many complicated scenarios that you just can`t
factor in, that one federal law or one state law is somehow going to be
able to adequately apply to all of these varied circumstances. And that
became clear when I went through that with my wife and we were involved in
O`DONNELL: Congressman Tim Ryan, I wish we had more time tonight. Thank
you very much for joining us.
Coming up next, why I agree with Ted Cruz, for once.
O`DONNELL: Time for our premiere episode of “I Agree With Ted Cruz,” which
may also be the series finale of “I Agree With Ted Cruz.”
Today, Ted Cruz posted this on Facebook.
“Kudos to First Lady Michelle Obama for standing up for women worldwide and
refusing to wear a Sharia mandated head scarf in Saudi Arabia. Nicely
Here is Michelle Obama in Saudi Arabia being ignored by the dictator class
of Saudi Arabia who firmly believe that no woman who has ever lived is
their equal in any way. Not wearing a head scarf was the least of Michelle
Obama`s offenses in Saudi Arabia since Saudi Arabia doesn`t actually
require foreign women to wear head scarves. Simply being a woman was
enough for most of the dictators and assistant dictators who shook hands
with her husband to completely ignore Michelle Obama`s very existence as
she stood politely beside her husband, the president of the United States.
Up next, what would Rat Packer Dean Martin say about Apple? This Apple.
O`DONNELL: The most memorable quote to come out of the Rat Pack was when
Dean Martin said this about the Rat Pack`s fearless leader, Frank Sinatra.
“It`s Frank`s world. We just live in it.”
If Dean was working in tech or finance today, he might say the same thing
about Apple. In the spotlight tonight, it`s Apple`s world, and we just
live in it. Yesterday, Apple reported the largest quarterly profit of any
public company in history in the last quarter. Apple earned $74.6 billion
in revenue and $18 billion in profit. The company sold a record-setting
74.5 million iPhones, or an average of 34,000 iPhones every hour of every
day in the quarter.
In total, Apple sold over a billion devices in the past quarter alone. On
a conference call yesterday, CEO Tim Cook revealed that the highly
anticipated Apple Watch would ship in April. About the watch, Cook said,
“My expectations are very high on it. I`m using it every day and I can`t
live without it.”
Joining me now is senior tech editor at Vox.com Tim Lee. Also joining us,
the executive editor of the tech Web site Recode, Kara Swisher. NBC
Universal holds a minority stake in recode, but I don`t. So this is going
to be a perfectly fair discussion.
Kara, these numbers that I just read are stunning.
KARA SWISHER, RECODE EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Stunning.
O`DONNELL: I read – there`s something about saying them out loud.
O`DONNELL: You know, because I thought when I was in the store last week
getting the big giant iPhone, that, you know, they`re so lucky to have me
here as a customer.
O`DONNELL: But this is incredible what`s happening with this company.
SWISHER: Absolutely. I mean, it`s – this is a blowout quarter, and
especially when you compare it to pretty much every tech company that was
reporting this week. These results were just stunning. And it continues
to grow. And it`s interesting because, you know, Tim Cook, who`s the new
CEO, came after Steve Jobs, who`ve been working there under Steve Jobs from
– his entire career. Yet people were worried about him as a leader
following the great Steve Jobs. But he seems to have proved that he can
really deliver the numbers and also the products.
O`DONNELL: But Tim, they will turn on him, the media – financial media
certainly will, if the watch isn`t a big success.
SWISHER: No, no, no. These iPhones Plus has been a big success. I think
this watch is sort of an outlier. Although, you know, they turn on with
the Apple TV and it sold a whole lot this past quarter even though it
hasn`t been upgraded or refurbished. But the Apple Watch, I think most
people see this sector as a new area. Just the way they did when other
things, the iPad, was introduced.
And so I think expectations they were to sell 10 to 30 million of them,
which is – you know, a very small potato, they`re going to be quite
expensive. And I think the question is, are we ready for these watches?
We`ve seen a few. And they come and go, and it`s really hard to figure out
whether people want those. But, you know, this one is probably going to be
the iPod of these kind of watches. The one that will break through.
That`s the hope.
O`DONNELL: Tim Lee, I am prepared to buy any Apple product that I think is
going to, you know, make things better for me. But I`ve got my – I
believe this was the $40 Timex right here that`s on my wrist. I just don`t
understand yet what is in this Apple watch that`s going to make want to
trade my $40 Timex.
TIM LEE, VOX.COM SENIOR EDITOR: Yes, I think it`s a big question whether
there is, you know, applications for it that will really get people
excited. To some extend I think it`s just a convenience factor and it`s
hopefully going to be affordable and if it`s going to start at $350 some
people were just kind of try it out, you know, for the heck of it.
But I think, ultimately, like people will – developers will start working
on applications for it and we`ll just have to see whether they come up
with, you know, things to do with it that are really compelling.
O`DONNELL: I mean, here they`ve just come out with this really big phone
which Steve Jobs said, when he was still running things, was not a good
idea, and the watch, Tim, isn`t the watch just a really tiny version of it,
you know, beyond telling you the time, anything else you want to do with it
you`re going to need a microscope to read what it`s telling you, aren`t
LEE: Yes, I mean, so there`s this pattern that happens. You know, your
phone rings or buzzes and you pull it out of your pocket and you see the
text message you just got or the e-mail you just got. And I think one of
the big applications is just supposed to be instead of having to pull the
phone out, you can like turn your wrist and look at it.
And, you know, I mean, that`s some – how is that worth? I think some
people are willing to pay for that. I`m a little bit skeptical that it
will be a big hit on the order of an iPhone. But, you know, when you`re
selling 75 million iPhones a quarter, if kind of 20 percent of those people
buy watches, that can still be a pretty big market.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Steve Jobs said about big phones back in
2010 when his competitors started to introduce the bigger screens.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE JOBS, APPLE FOUNDER: To the best of our knowledge, it`s not possible
to make a smartphone that doesn`t have weak spots. I mean, you can make –
I think you can make a really big one, you know, that wouldn`t fit in your
pocket. I mean, some of these guys are making Hummers now, right? So you
can make a big Hummer where you couldn`t even get your hand around it. But
nobody would want to buy it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Kara, he was certainly speaking for me. I wouldn`t want to buy
O`DONNELL: – if it couldn`t fit my pocket. But the reason I ended up
getting it is a friend of mine had one at dinner, in the table, I looked at
it and I said, that`s way too big. I can`t do this with it. I picked it
up and I slipped it into my shirt pocket. To my surprise it fits in the
SWISHER: You know, they tested that.
SWISHER: Yes, I`m sure they tested that.
O`DONNELL: So Steve Jobs was right, it does need to fit in the shirt
pocket and –
SWISHER: Well, you know, a lot of Steve Jobs wasn`t – you know, one of
the things that they`re doing at Apple, and Tim has talked about that, it`s
not everything he said has to be the thing they follow for the rest of
time. It`s not like the bible of Steve Jobs here. One thing that he did
say, I mean, he said to us on stage, well, it`s a night that he never
wanted to do a phone many years ago. And then the next year he did.
So, you know, this is a developing innovative company. And that`s what`s
exciting about it. They`ve been able to innovate this long and continue to
deliver great products.
O`DONNELL: Kara Swisher and Timothy Lee, thanks very much for joining us
Coming up, Howard Dean will join me to discuss the nomination hearing for
Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch and why Democrats are quoting Bill
O`Reilly in that hearing.
O`DONNELL: Last night on this program, we broke the news about the new
“Ghostbusters” cast that will star Melissa McCarthy and “Saturday Night
Live`s” Kristen Wiig, Kate McKennon and Leslie Jones.
One of our producers tweeted at Leslie Jones to congratulate her. Leslie
responded by asking for a cake. And so the LAST WORD team sent a cake
upstairs to the “Saturday Night Live” offices and tonight we got this
response from Leslie. “Got my cake, yo.”
Howard Dean will be next and he`s not getting a cake.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: I think of Bill O`Reilly on FOX called
you a hero and says, quote, “You should be respected by all Americans for
standing up to gross injustice,” and I agree, I agree with Bill O`Reilly on
ERIC SCHULTZ, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This might be the only
time we cite Bill O`Reilly from the podium, but just a few days ago he
called her a hero and happy that she`s the new attorney general.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The U.S. attorney for the eastern district of New York, Loretta
Lynch, was introduced at her confirmation hearing for attorney general
today by both New York senators, Schumer and Gillibrand, which is customary
in such hearings. But New York Democratic senators have no power of
persuasion over the Republican members of the Judiciary Committee. That`s
why Democrats relied on another New Yorker, who Republicans do listen to.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Miss Lynch is going to be the new attorney
general and I`m heartened by that. I mean, this woman didn`t have to do
this. She did it because she didn`t like the injustice. So now she – and
she`ll get confirmed, right?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now is former Vermont governor, Howard Dean, and
former head of the Democratic National Committee.
So, Howard Dean, there you have the Democratic senators introducing her in
the Judiciary Committee. We know that means nothing to the Republicans on
the committee. But what are they going to say to Bill O`Reilly when he
says you got to confirm her?
HOWARD DEAN, FORMER VERMONT GOVERNOR: Yes, I think she is going to be
confirmed pretty easily. I do think that the hearings are really going to
be used as a wedge against Eric Holder who they – the Republicans really
don`t like. But I think Loretta Lynch, she`s a real pro, some of the
answers she gave today were really smart and really well thought out. And
I don`t think that her confirmation is in doubt.
O`DONNELL: And she was actually asked by one of the Republicans on the
committee, forget which one it was. Literally, are you Eric Holder, to
which she said no. I`m not even sure what he meant by that. You know, are
you everything we dislike about the Obama administration, I guess,
personified, something like that.
DEAN: Well, what they don`t like is Holder doesn`t put up with any crap
DEAN: And – you know, he stood up for voting rights where they`ve been
busy trying to take people`s voting rights away, and a number of other
things. And, you know he hasn`t always been politic, but he certainly is a
strong figure. And I think they resent that. And this is their chance to
– their only chance to sort of peripherally get him on the way out the
But Loretta Lynch`s record is pretty outstanding. Bill O`Reilly thinks
she`s “Law and Order,” she`s pretty “Law and Order.”
O`DONNELL: Now Jeff Sessions came up with a rationale for why every
Republican senator at least should oppose this nomination. Let`s listen to
I guess we don`t have it on video. I may have to read to you. Sessions
said, “I think that a person,” no, that`s the CO thing.
“At the outset of this nomination process I said that no senator should
vote to confirm anyone for this position, the top law enforcement job in
America who supported the president`s unlawful actions on immigration.
Unfortunately when asked today whether she found the president`s actions to
be legal and constitutional, Miss Lynch said that she did. I therefore am
unable to support her nomination.”
So, Howard Dean, how much of a problem do you think that`s going to be for
Loretta Lynch moving forward?
DEAN: I think it`s a fairly minor problem. You know, she`s entitled to
her interpretation of the law, her interpretation of the law, in fact, is
shared by most legal experts. So this is over the classic Republican, I
don`t like the laws, and I don`t like the action. Therefore, I`m going to
declare that it`s illegal or that it`s not factual or whatever.
You know, again, I don`t think it`s going to look very good for the
Republican majority to have one of their first acts to be turning down an
eminently qualified person to be attorney general of the United States.
And I don`t think they`re going to do it. I think they may have some no
votes. I expect that. I expect Senator Sessions to keep his word and vote
no. But I just think there`s going to be a majority of people who will
O`DONNELL: Well, the good news for the White House for Loretta Lynch is
that more Republican senators take Bill O`Reilly seriously than take Jeff
DEAN: Well, there`s another thing that she`s got going for her. Eric
Holder resigned as of the day of –
DEAN: – swearing in of his successor. So the longer they put off
confirming Loretta Lynch, the longer they`ve got to deal with Eric Holder.
And they don`t like that.
O`DONNELL: Yes. Vote against Loretta Lynch is a vote for Eric Holder.
DEAN: That`s right.
O`DONNELL: Howard Dean, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
Chris Hayes is up next.
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