The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, Transcript 10/13/15
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: That does it for us tonight, we will see you again
tomorrow, now it`s time for THE LAST WORD with Lawrence O`Donnell, good
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST, THE LAST WORD: Good evening Rachel. We`ve been
watching the debate here now and we`re going to do some early reactions to
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
O`DONNELL: Democratic presidential candidates have completed the first
hour of their first debate in Las Vegas.
The candidates clashed on gun control, foreign policy and what Bernie
Sanders call the worst foreign policy mistake in American history; the Iraq
There was no disagreement on Hillary Clinton`s e-mails as Secretary of
State and Bernie Sanders got the only standing ovation of the evening by
saying Hillary Clinton`s e-mails should not be an issue in this campaign.
Joining us now, Msnbc host and political correspondent Steve Kornacki, also
with us, Jonathan Alter, Msnbc political analyst and columnist for “The
And April Ryan, White House correspondent and Washington Bureau Chief for
“American Urban Radio Networks”. Steve Kornacki, your scorecard so far.
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC: So far, it`s a very good night for Hillary Clinton.
The one asterisk I put on that is the sort of – reminds me of a – of a
The first hour of this debate, we got home game for Hillary Clinton. What
did they talk about? They talked about guns, that`s the issue where Bernie
Sanders is most vulnerable with the Democratic base.
Hillary Clinton came ready with an attack on Bernie Sanders on that issue,
she was backed up by Martin O`Malley, in the end, Bernie Sanders really had
nowhere to go on that issue.
Then they said going into foreign policy, there was one moment there where
there was a question about Russia, about Vladimir Putin, yet Bernie Sanders
seemed totally unprepared to answer.
He was stumbling around, he was stammering, this is not the Bernie Sanders
people have come to know.
But just as we were coming on the air right now, the second hour of the
debate beginning and I saw they were shifting to Wall Street.
They were shifting to the idea of (INAUDIBLE) of breaking up the big banks.
This is much more Bernie Sanders home turf. So, maybe it`s going to be a
Bernie Sanders home game for the second half.
But so far, my main take away from this first hour is, we`re all thinking
about Joe Biden sitting there, watching this debate in the naval
observatory, trying to figure out whether to get in the race.
I don`t think he watches the first hour of this debate and says, yes,
there`s room to go after Hillary Clinton here.
O`DONNELL: Yes, Jonathan Alter, in watching that first hour, it was – I
didn`t miss Joe Biden.
JONATHAN ALTER, COLUMNIST, THE DAILY BEAST: Right, and he really has to
have an opening and a ground swell for him to get in this thing.
The other thing to understand about this debate is, it has competition on
television. The two biggest media markets are – you know, have baseball;
the Mets versus the Dodgers.
Men disproportionally watch baseball. That means by definition, among
Democrats watching this debate, it`s going to be more heavily waited to
winning viewers who are much tougher on gun control than male Democrats.
So, Hillary was scoring not just in the exchanges with Sanders, but with
the audience, which was women that she needs to hold and women who feel
very strongly on the gun issue, and she scored points with them tonight.
O`DONNELL: All right, April Ryan, one of the – one of the questions from
the audience was – through Facebook was, do black lives matter or do all -
APRIL RYAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT & WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, AMERICAN
URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: Yes –
O`DONNELL: Lives matter? And we saw Bernie Sanders answer to that – he
went straight ahead with black lives matter.
RYAN: Yes, that`s a really big issue for all the candidates. We`ve seen
recently that Hillary Clinton as well as Bernie Sanders have been talking
to people in the Black Lives Matter Movement.
It`s a very big issue right now, particularly as we are dealing with
criminal justice reform and community policing and training of police.
And seeing the accountability piece of the video tapes that we`re seeing
with Eric Garner and all these other people – Freddie Gray, all these
We`re seeing videotape from Walter Scott. And also, when they talked about
Black Lives Matter, I just can`t help but think about Martin O`Malley
talking about what he did in Baltimore and the issue of Baltimore.
Because that is all a part of the black lives matter issue as well; the
Freddie Gray incident in Baltimore with the police and also – and the zero
So, I think Black Lives Matter is a piece that`s going to follow these
candidates pretty much for the rest of this campaign season. It`s a real
O`DONNELL: Bernie Sanders had a lot of strong moments in this debate
including when they got into Middle Eastern policy, on Syria, he said, it
is a “quagmire in a quagmire.”
KORNACKI: Yes, he – also, he had the line on the Iraq war, he knew this
would come up, calling Hillary Clinton`s vote, calling anybody who voted
for the Iraq war in 2000.
He was saying that was the greatest foreign policy mistake. Although, what
was interesting is, we remember how vulnerable Hillary Clinton was on that
Iraq vote in 2008.
How much room that gave Barack Obama. The answer she has for it in the
year 2015, the answer she`ll have in 2016, is, hey, yes, remember that
campaign against Barack Obama where he questioned my judgment on Iraq, he
questioned my judgment on foreign policy?
Well, when that campaign ended, he made me his secretary of state. He had
enough confidence in my judgment despite that vote in 2002, that he put me
in charge of American foreign policy.
I thought that was an effective answer that she gave tonight and you think
back to 2008, she didn`t have the ability to give that kind of an answer
that time –
ALTER: Yes –
O`DONNELL: Yes, Jonathan Alter, it was really striking that she simply
used Barack Obama as the human shield on the Iraq question.
ALTER: Yes, I think it worked for her pretty well, but I do think there`s
also a sense in certain quarters of the Democratic Party that Sanders and
the other candidates, except for Webb, are more liberal on foreign policy.
So, for people who really focus on those issues, they remember not just –
not just the Iraq vote, but that she was pushing hard on Libya, you know,
she tried to blame it on the allies.
But she was really very interested in getting the administration to
intervene in Libya. But overall, people get a general impression in these
debates, the specifics are less important.
She is showing once again, as she did in most of the debates in 2008, where
she beat Obama routinely in those debates, that she`s a very effective
She`s poised, she has good cogent answers, she had a one-word answer that
worked very well for her when asked, do you want to respond on, you know,
on these e-mails?
And she just said, no! But in a way, that worked for her. That didn`t seem
defensive, which has been her problem in some other setting.
O`DONNELL: Yes, this was a moment where Lincoln Chafee was the only one
who was saying something negative about the e-mails.
And basically saying, you should have a scandal-free candidate with no
scandal at any point in their history. She was asked if she wanted to
respond to that and the `no` got a big cheer out of the audience.
ALTER: Right –
O`DONNELL: A one-word answer.
O`DONNELL: Yes. April Ryan, on the – on the gun issue, Bernie Sanders
kept repeating that he`s a senator from a rural state. He seemed – it
depends on how you were – how you were hearing it.
But it almost sounded like a much more elegant version of the very clumsy
Mitt Romney – I am in politics for Pete`s sake. Meaning, you know, I`m
from a rural state, what did you expect of me on gun control in the Senate?
RYAN: Well, he`s basically saying there`s game in there, you know. But
one thing in particular that I picked out from his conversation or his
speech on the gun control issue, he did say that the NRA gave him a D
So, he wanted people to understand that, yes, I am in this state where we
use guns for game, and we have guns, but at the same time, I go up against
And it was very interesting too, to watch how he got in this back and forth
with Martin O`Malley, the governor of Maryland, the then governor of
And Martin O`Malley was saying, hey, you need to come and see certain parts
of Maryland and how we deal with gun control.
And it was interesting to see Bernie Sanders basically dismissing and
saying, look, you were never in Congress and the crowd roared there.
So, Bernie Sanders has some points and people have to really take more of
an in-depth look. You can`t get it all when people are going back and
forth in that moment, that heated exchange.
But I think he made a really key point to say that the NRA gave me a D
minus. So, that lets people know that he`s not necessarily pro guns, pro
gun as some people would like for them to believe.
O`DONNELL: Steve, I tweeted a few hours before the debate that the big
question was, who was going to be the first one to mention the word
“socialist”? And I think most of my Twitter followers got it right.
They said it would be the moderators.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK –
O`DONNELL: It was almost the first word out of Anderson Cooper`s mouth.
It was the first question aimed at Bernie Sanders.
His political history going back decades to his youth was very much on the
table tonight. And Anderson Cooper actually composed under Republican
attack ad against Bernie Sanders, if he is the nominee, accusing him of
being a socialist and all this stuff.
He did not compose any Republican attack ad against Hillary Clinton or any
of the other candidates any other point there. But how did – how did
Bernie Sanders handle that first inning that was all about socialism?
KORNACKI: I thought he handled the question well, but what really I found
interesting about the exchange was, Hillary Clinton, as soon as Bernie
Sanders finished, she was ready to get into that discussion.
And she had a – she was taking a shot at –
O`DONNELL: An easy one for her to duck, by the way.
KORNACKI: Yes, but she –
O`DONNELL: She wanted this, yes –
KORNACKI: She wanted this and she basically said, when she thinks of
capitalism, she thinks of small businesses. She thinks of the greatest
period of prosperity in this country`s history.
Thinks of the post-war decades, and she says that basically, the goal of
government and her goal in politics, sometimes needs to be to save
capitalism from itself; the excesses of capitalism.
But basically, a defense of the capitalist system. And it seemed like what
she was trying to do there was draw a clear contrast with Bernie Sanders
and basically say, look, if you put him up in the fall, he`s going to have
to answer the kind of question that Anderson Cooper just asked him.
In any debate, he is – in any interview he`s in, if you put me up, don`t
worry, I`m going to defend capitalism.
O`DONNELL: Jon –
ALTER: But the fact that they`re having a conversation about capitalism, I
mean, this hasn`t happened in this country in a very long time.
And that Hillary Clinton is essentially taking what she called a new-new
deal approach. It`s going way back to a bunch –
O`DONNELL: The new deal by the way was declared to be socialism by all of
ALTER: Right –
O`DONNELL: Opponents –
ALTER: Exactly –
O`DONNELL: Yes –
ALTER: But she is –
O`DONNELL: And it was mostly socialism.
ALTER: She is willing – under pressure from Bernie Sanders to go back to
these very old debates that new Democrats, like her husband Bill Clinton
tried to get away from.
You know, you didn`t see Bill Clinton in 1992 debating capitalism. Saying,
we have to save capitalism from itself.
She`s – even though her positions on, you know, middle class tax cut and
higher taxes on the wealthy are pretty much the same as her husbands were
in the 1990s.
The rhetoric, the conversation, the fact that socialism and capitalism and
the very nature of our system is on the table is really very interesting
It`s not politically that significant, but very interesting for those
scoring at home.
O`DONNELL: All right, quick break here –
ALTER: All right –
O`DONNELL: Steve Kornacki, thank you very much for joining us. Coming up,
one of the Democratic candidates for president was not invited onto that
debate stage tonight, but he will be invited onto this stage; Professor
Lawrence Lessig will be joining us, coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: And some people think Mr.
Trump is entertaining, but I don`t think it`s entertaining when somebody
insults immigrants –
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right, that`s right –
CLINTON: Insults women –
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s right –
CLINTON: That is just unacceptable behavior.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was Hillary Clinton at a labor protest outside of Trump
hotel in Nevada last night. Up next, Donald Trump has been tweeting the
He tweeted praise for one candidate on the stage tonight – guess which
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, CHAIRMAN & PRESIDENT, THE TRUMP ORGANIZATIONS & FOUNDER,
TRUMP ENTERTAINMENT RESORTS: What happens is, a lot of the people have
been tweeting, would you please, tweet?
And I said, well, it`s going to be a pretty boring debate, I think, I mean,
we`ll see. But I think it`s going to be pretty boring. But – so, I`ve
agreed that from 8:00 on, we`re going to live tweet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Here is a sample of Donald Trump`s boring tweets for tonight.
“Putin is not feeling too nervous or scared, the trade deal is a disaster,
she was always for it.
And can anyone imagine Chafee as president? No way.” Jonathan Alter, he`s
also been retweeting – mostly retweeting fans of his, saying, it`s
terrible without you up there, Donald.
But he praised one of these candidates on the stage. Do you know which one
ALTER: Bernie Sanders.
O`DONNELL: Oh, you got it right. So, he praised Bernie Sanders, he said
good move to Bernie Sanders after Bernie Sanders said: “let`s remember
where we were when Bush left office, we were losing 800,000 jobs a month,
and I know my Republican friends seem to have some amnesia on this issue.
But the world`s financial system was on the verge of collapse.” He went on
from there, we cannot show you clips because “Cnn” owns these clips, since
they own the debate right now, won`t be able to show it to you after the
So, big surprise, Bernie Sanders gets the one praise from Donald –
ALTER: I don`t think it`s pressed on, I mean, it`s two reasons for doing
this. Remember Trump is obsessed with Twitter, so when the rest of us are,
you know, wildly –
O`DONNELL: To put it mildly –
ALTER: Watching movies or baseball or living our lives, he`s tweeting.
And – but he has two reasons to tweet favorably about Bernie Sanders.
He believes he`s going to be the Republican nominee, and he knows that
Bernie Sanders would be the easiest Democratic nominee to beat.
And so, of course, he wants Bernie Sanders to win the nomination, and he`s
going to try to pump him any way he can. And he also is fighting Jeb Bush
for the Republican nomination.
And so anybody who takes a shot at George W. Bush, he`s going to tweet
favorably about that person. Because he wants to remind Republican Party
voters that Jeb Bush is connected to this disastrous war.
And I do think that it`s a – Trump on that issue – not to talk about the
Republicans too much tonight, Lawrence, but is a huge problem for Jeb.
The fact that he was against that war which at the beginning of this
campaign, most people didn`t know what Donald Trump`s position was on the
But he will bring that up over and over again between now and the – and
the final Republican debate, and it is a huge problem for Jeb Bush.
O`DONNELL: We`re joined now by Steve Schmidt, Republican strategist and
Msnbc political analyst. Steve, your scorecard so far on this debate?
STEVE SCHMIDT, CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST & PUBLIC RELATIONS WORKER FOR THE UNITED
STATES REPUBLICAN PARTY: Strong performances I think across the board from
the Democratic candidates on the stage. I think they are communicating
effectively to a Democratic audience out there.
You know, certainly, it is the case I think when you watch this debate
tonight that Bernie Sanders is for real. He`s going to have a big impact
in this Democratic campaign.
He`s going to win an early state or two and we`ll see how many he wins,
he`s going to accumulate some delegates.
But one of the things I think that was most important about this debate
from a political impact was the degree to which it was going to drive
demand for a Joe Biden candidacy –
O`DONNELL: Yes –
SCHMIDT: I still think it`s too early to tell, to be able to analyze that.
But will Joe Biden be on the next debate stage? And will there be a demand
that he get in after the performances of these candidates?
I certainly don`t think it`s the case that you look at them and say that
there`s something missing, that it`s a terrible field, that there`re not
very effective communicators. But a high energy debate.
O`DONNELL: And Jonathan, if you`re looking, if you`re a voter who is
looking for an alternative to Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, because
that`s what the Biden candidacy has to be.
It has to be an alternative to vote for those. If you look at Martin
O`Malley tonight, does he start to step into that role?
ALTER: I don`t think he really does. I mean, he`s a very presentable
candidate, and you could see him, you know, being a good candidate in
But Hillary scored on him by saying, look, you endorsed me strongly, you
know, we`re friends – and she sort of asked him like, why are you running?
Like, what are you bringing to the party?
And I don`t think he really had a very good answer.
O`DONNELL: And Steve, what would be the Biden calculation in – when
you`re staring at these polls, are there so many things in it that are kind
of too far off in the future?
One of the things that`s the farthest from the future are these head-to-
head matchups a year from now –
ALTER: Right –
O`DONNELL: Against the Republican. That happens to be the most
encouraging element of all the polls for Joe Biden. He does better against
every Republican in these polls than any of the other Democrats.
Is that the kind of thing the professionals stare at now and take to have
some real meaning?
SCHMIDT: Sure, it does have meaning, but it`s hypothetical because a lot
of things have to happen in order to get to that – to get to that point
down the road.
What is true though, I think in Joe Biden`s calculation, in that people
understand Washington D.C., particularly people who`ve been around the
national security establishment of the country.
Though Republicans made a big mistake rhetorically about this investigation
that Trey Gowdy is leading, at the end of the day, the FBI is
Multiple federal agencies, it is a serious inquiry and there`s a lot of
unknowns attached to that. And one of the things that Biden, I think
understands is the degree to which Hillary Clinton`s credibility, her
numbers, her trust numbers, have been decimated over these last months.
So, she`s always going to perform well on a partisan Democratic debate
audience, but in the real world, there are vulnerabilities that Joe Biden
certainly looking at I think has every reason to believe, hey, can I get in
there? Shoot the gap and take this nomination?
And it`s certainly difficult to argue that that`s not a possibility.
O`DONNELL: Jonathan Alter, in Republican news today, the – to put mildly,
Republicans have been focused on – what happens after Trump?
Hoping that after Trump is sooner rather than later. It seems – there`s a
report indicating that Sheldon Adelson might be betting on Marco Rubio
This is a massive amount of financing that instantly becomes available to
Marco Rubio if true. And what does that do to the standings after Trump?
ALTER: Well, you know, Steve in a lot of ways is better equipped to answer
this question, but you know, if there is a sense that the game is moving to
Rubio, that could be a very significant deal, especially since he`s been
having a lot of trouble, Lawrence, in raising money.
That`s been the big mark against him so far in this race. As he hasn`t
done very well in that department.
So, if Adelson, single-handedly going to, you know, erase at least some of
the gap between him and Jeb Bush.
He gets even more serious than he already is. And it`s already a lot of
chatter that this nomination is going to end up being with Rubio if he can
continue to –
RYAN: Hello –
ALTER: Perform as well as he has been.
RYAN: April Ryan, Bernie Sanders has pulled Donald Trump into the debate
tonight on Bernie`s tax proposals, saying that Donald Trump – this is –
this is a quote, “Donald Trump and his billionaire friends under my
policies are going to pay a hell of a lot more in taxes today, taxes in the
future than they`re paying today.”
Donald Trump would be it seems, the perfect poster boy for higher taxes in
that debate room tonight.
RYAN: How about that? Oh, yes, he came up with that tax plan that
basically would allow Donald Trump, speaking of – that will basically
allow his friends, his very wealthy friends in this country to benefit.
Bernie Sanders, and I guess you would call him a socialist, he is – he is
making no bones about the fact that he believes in the middle class and the
average every day person.
So, there is a definite demarcation between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders
when it comes to taxes. But I find it interesting, and going back to the
point that you made earlier, talking about socialists and capitalists.
I think that, that whole conversation has been driven by the Republican
Party seeing the fact that many of the Republicans don`t want to have
taxes, heavy taxes or any kind of what they consider an imbalance of taxes
on the rich or the wealthy.
So, therefore, the Republicans are saying that, and the Democrats are
saying, wait a minute, let`s take a step back and let`s look at this and
see who really is hurting in America and who really needs.
So, I think that`s where all of that came from. And there`s a big
demarcation line and that`s the man that Donald Trump likes, Bernie
O`DONNELL: Steve Schmidt, what`s the best Republican candidate strategy in
reaction to this debate tonight? Ignore it and pick something out of it to
throw at Hillary Clinton?
SCHMIDT: One of the things we don`t talk enough about is the thread that
connects Bernie Sanders voters to Donald Trump voters.
And it`s a belief by both sets of voters that they have different issues
that they project onto, that the system is not on the level.
It`s a rigged game. So when Donald Trump made that comment about Bernie
Sanders talking about the financial collapse –
O`DONNELL: Yes –
SCHMIDT: One thing that Republicans in Washington do not understand
emotionally is the degree to which this was the psychic event of a
generation for working class Americans, including many Republican voters,
millions of whom lost their homes.
In the Trump base, it`s blue collar. It`s economically down scale.
Formerly middle class.
These are people whose middle class jobs have been off-shored, outsourced,
sent overseas as the industrial base in the country has been dismantled.
This is why Washington Republicans talk about free trade, free trade, free
trade and fair trade resonates. And the Trump position exactly the same as
the Hillary Clinton position.
And you see increasingly these left-right coalitions united on issues like
trade because both sides have a similar voter cohort that they`re speaking
to on that.
And so when Donald Trump is communicating to his voters, this is why he`s
against the carried interest loophole. This is why he`s attacked John
Kasich and Jeb Bush for their post-government Wall Street ties.
And he`s very much synced-up with Bernie Sanders with this populist anger
that he`s directing at the political class in Washington D.C.. It`s a
potent and powerful message.
ALTER: And the thing is, even if Trump fades, Bernie Sanders fades, the
result of this could be that the trade deal fails. That`s a huge historic
– this is the biggest trade deal ever.
There`s you know – so, sometimes when a trade deal happens to get mixed up
in American domestic politics, it can have big, historic implications, much
bigger than a debate.
O`DONNELL: Right –
SCHMIDT: Conservatives pundits have been waiting for this magical hour of
Trump`s demise. And I think, one thing is important to recognize –
O`DONNELL: They`re not the only ones –
SCHMIDT: He has now been ahead for longer than there are days left to the
first voting from today to Iowa. And there`s no softening, no slowing down
in sight at this moment in time.
ALTER: What are the odds he gets the nomination?
SCHMIDT: I think that right now – look, this isn`t a very difficult
business. The person who gets the most votes and the most delegates wins.
And right now, if election were tomorrow, as it would have been the case
over these last months, if the election were tomorrow, Donald Trump would
be the Republican nominee. Now –
RYAN: But the problem is the popularity contest –
SCHMIDT: He`s in better position by – he`s in better – he`s in better
position certainly than any other candidate at this hour to be the nominee.
It doesn`t mean he will be. But he`s certainly better positioned than
someone who is at 6 percent, 7 percent of the polls.
O`DONNELL: April Ryan, go ahead, take the last word here.
RYAN: But the problem is, it`s more of a popularity contest instead of
issue. And where tonight, we must say that we`re seeing more issues out
there on the table in this first Democratic debate than we have in the past
O`DONNELL: Yes, this has –
RYAN: I mean –
O`DONNELL: Been all issues from start to finish –
RYAN: It has been all issues, people want to hear the issues and you`re
hearing people talk about, they don`t want to have troops on the ground
right now in Syria and things of that nature.
You`re hearing real issues and real substance versus –
SCHMIDT: Wow –
RYAN: The personality –
SCHMIDT: Look –
RYAN: And back and forth.
O`DONNELL: Steve Schmidt, April Ryan, Jonathan Alter, thank you all for
joining me tonight. Coming up next, Professor Lawrence Lessig is running
for the Democratic presidential nomination.
He did not make it to the debate stage tonight, but he will join me next.
O`DONNELL: The only announced democratic candidate for president not on
the debate stage tonight is Harvard Law School Professor Lawrence Lessig,
who has raised more than $1 million from over 10,000 donors but has not
raised his poll numbers enough to be included in the debate. Professor
Lawrence Lessig joins us now.
Professor Lessig, there was a moment tonight in the debate where Bernie
Sanders talked about your campaign issue, which is campaign finance reform.
You have said you want to get it – you want to get in there and fix
campaign finance reform, and then the most controversial part of your
candidacy is you will then resign the presidency and hand it over to your
vice president to take over from there.
You are literally a single-issue candidate. I want to come to that later.
But, listen to what Bernie Sanders said in the debate tonight. He said,
“As a result of this disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, our
campaign finance system is corrupt and is underming American democracy.
Millionaires and billionaires are pouring unbelievable sums of money into
the political process in order to fund Super Pacs and to elect candidates
that represent their interests, not the interests of working people.” Why
is not Bernie Sanders your candidate?
LAWRENCE LESSIG, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I completely agree with
that recognition, but what we do not have is any candidate explaining to
the American people how we are going to fix this first. Because all of the
issues they are talking about – and I was incredibly excited to listen to
them talk about the issues that they were going to solve.
All of them are talking about fantasies unless we get a democracy that
works again. Campaign finance is one incredibly important part of it, and
I put forward a proposal for exactly how we could, without the Supreme
Court`s cooperation, get a change in the way campaigns are funded and
O`DONNELL: But, why cannot Bernie Sanders do what you say you can do?
LESSIG: I am not sure whether he could or could not. What I am sure of is
he is not explaining to the American people, how we do this first.
O`DONNELL: OK. How do you do it?
LESSIG: Well, what we do is we create a campaign that explains in every
single context why these issues, these ideas, these proposals to deal with
immigration, to deal with tax reform, require us first to get a congress
that is not dependent on these funders.
O`DONNELL: So, your success – for this to work, you have to win not just
the presidential election, you have to win the congressional election and
win a bunch of house seats that – where they disagree with this position
now, and a bunch of senate seats where they disagree with that position
LESSIG: Yes. Lawrence, what we have to win is our democracy back. What
we have to win is a mandate strong enough to tell congress that their
corrupted system has to change.
Because we will not be able to take on wall street as Bernie so eloquently
talked about tonight, unless we have a system where congressmen do not
raise most of their – the biggest contributors from wall street.
We are not going to get a social security system that raises the taxes on
the very rich when we have a system where the very rich are the most
important funders of campaigns.
All I am trying to get these candidates to acknowledge, and literally not
one of them made this point on that stage tonight, is that we will not get
what they are fighting for until we the people get our democracy back.
And, that is the critical question that is not –
O`DONNELL: If you were on the debate stage tonight, when this came up, you
would have said, “Yes, I agree with all that, but you must also elect
members of the representatives who agreed with all that, and you must also
elect senators who agreed with all that or we, presidential candidates, if
we become president are powerless.”
LESSIG: That is exactly right. I mean look. They talked about all these
amazing things they were going to do and forgot the man in the middle. The
man in the middle is congress. The most dysfunctional institution in our
federal government right now.
And, that institution is going to block all of these changes because it is
not free to lead. That institution bends over backwards to make sure its
funders are happy. And, they do not want to talk about it because they
realize this is an impossibly difficult problem.
And, it is not just the funding. Look, the other part of my proposal for
reform would change the political gerrymandering system that makes it so
the politicians pick the voters rather than the voters pick the
politicians. That is produced the house of representatives.
That system, which is polarized and dysfunctional, it cannot begin to
address the issu issues America needs to be addressed. The issue not on
that debate stage tonight is the issue I would put on every single
question, which is we need a congress that can function and we will not get
it unless we change the basic way this democracy functions.
O`DONNELL: Jonathan Capehart wrote about your candidacy today in the
“Washington Post” and said this, “Candidates who promise to vacate the oval
office after the completion of one legislative task or after one term
should not be entrusted with it. They are the lamest of ducks before even
taking flight. Congress would frustrate them in the former and simply wait
them out in the latter.”
LESSIG: Yes. It is a great point. It is the most difficult part of what
I have been putting forward. And, I frankly believe we have to think a lot
about whether this is a plausible part of the plan.
And, look, everybody focuses on the resignation, but they are ignoring the
fact that the resignation comes after we have achieved the most important
democracy legislation in 50 years.
The legislation that would make it possible, credible, to achieve what
those amazing democratic candidates are talking about. So, I want to focus
on the problem that was not mentioned on the stage tonight.
That we do not have a congress that functions and begin to get people to
talk about how we build the political mandate to change that fact. Because
if we do not, we are just playing fantasy politics.
O`DONNELL: At this stage, is the biggest difference between you and Bernie
Sanders on this, the fact that Bernie Sanders rarely mentions the need to
change congress and literally, who they are in those jobs in order to
achieve this change in citizens united?
LESSIG: look, Bernie Sanders and I are very close on substance –
O`DONNELL: That is what I am finding.
LESSIG: Here is the real difference, Bernie Sanders is not explaing to the
American people why – everything he is talking about depends on us fixing
congress first. And, explaining how he is a day one reformer. And, in
that reform, changing the way campaigns are funded on day one.
Look, he gave a total of 18 speeches in the United States congress talking
about campaign finance reform. Seven of them mentioned public financing.
Four of those, the total discussion of public financing, was in the long
run, we should get the public financing.
What I want him to do is to explain how the long run has got to be
tomorrow. We got to get to a system where congress is not dependent on
this tiny group of funders and, instead, is dependent on all of us, so they
can begin to address the problems all of us care about.
O`DONNELL: Lawrence Lessig, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
LESSIG: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, one of the nation`s biggest sellers of guns linked
to a crime is found liable in an unprecedented civil suit. That is coming
O`DONNELL: Tonight, Russia`s foreign ministry is claiming that the Dutch
investigative report that blames the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight-17
on a Russian missile is flawed and biased.
The Dutch safety board report released today says a Russian missile
exploded about a meter from the front of the aircraft over territory in
Ukraine that is occupied by rebels armed with Russian missiles.
Dutch investigators say they found fragments of the Russian rocket in the
bodies of the pilot and co-pilot, and that the explosion tore off the
cockpit, killing the cockpit crew instantly.
All 298 people on board died, but some passengers may have survived for as
long as 90 seconds as the plane fell to the ground. A former United
Nations War Crimes Judge said that their relatives will have to wait to
take action until a criminal report identifies who fired that missile.
Coming up, a jury rules against a gun store for its role in selling a gun
that was used in a crime. That is coming up.
O`DONNELL: Today, a jury in Milwaukee sided with two police officers, who
were shot in the face during a routine stop in 2009 and later sued the gun
shop that sold the gun. Jurors found badgered guns, negligent and liable
for the shooting, and awarded Officer Bryan Norberg and former Officer
Graham Kunish, $5 million.
Their lawyers argued the shop`s negligence allowed the shooter to obtain a
gun. Surveillance video shows Jacob Collins buying a gun for the shooter,
18-year-old Julius Burton in what is called a “Straw Purchase.”
That is when someone buys a gun, hands it off to the person who originally
wanted to buy the gun so that, that person could avoid a background check.
In this case, because Burton was underage. He would not have passed the
background check. Today`s verdict is expected to be appealed and could go
all the way to the Supreme Court.
Joining us now, Timothy Lytton, a Law Professor at Georgia State University
College of Law and the editor of “Suing the Gun Industry, A Battle at the
Crossroads of Gun Control and Mass Torts.”
Timothy Lytton, this is an extraordinary case. And, just to distinguish
it, a lot of people think that the federal law barred suing gun shops, gun
manufacturers. Describe what the federal law restricted and why it did not
apply to this case.
TIMOTHY LYTTON, LAW PROFESSOR AT GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF LAW:
In 2005, congress passed and President Bush signed the protection of lawful
commerce in arms act, and that granted immunity to gun sellers, both
manufacturers and gun stores, for any liability that arises out of a
shooting committed by a person, who was a criminal who misuses the gun.
There are a number of exceptions to that immunity. And, two of the
exceptions are in place in this case. The first exception is where the gun
seller knowingly violates a federal law. And, here, the knowing sale of a
gun in a straw purchase would be a violation.
And, the jury seemed to be convinced in this case that the gun store clerk
had reason to know that this was an illegal straw purchase that was
happening. And, the second is what is called negligent entrustment. That
is the second type of exception to the immunity bill.
And, that is also something that the jury seemed to find in this case. So,
those are two exceptions that were invoked by the plaintiffs. And, they
seem to be accepted by the jury. And, for that reason, the immunity bill
does not shield the gun store from liability in this case.
O`DONNELL: This was a big issue in the presidential debate tonight.
Bernie Sanders voted to provide that immunity when he was in the senate.
Hillary Clinton voted against gun shops, gun manufacturers, having that
immunity. But, what are the prospects for this case going forward?
Surely, there will be an appeal.
LYTTON: There is certainly going to be an appeal. There will be a number
of legal issues that come up about the interpretations that might be made
of the exceptions. But, I think aside from the appeal and whether or not
the verdict stands, there is an important question here, which is that this
verdict in favor of the plaintiffs may in fact encourage other plaintiffs
to come forward in similar cases.
Since the immunity bill was passed in 2005, there has really been only a
trickle of these types of lawsuits against the gun industry pursuant to gun
violence injuries. And, we may begin to see a kind of resurrection of this
litigation phenomenon, where gun violence victims go after the sellers of
the weapons, either in stores or the manufacturers themselves.
O`DONNELL: Timothy Lytton, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
Coming up, what should President Obama do about the crisis in Syria?
Vladimir Putin spoke about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE KROFT, CBS NEWS HOST: You said a year ago that the United States of
America leads, we are the indispensable nation.
PRES. BARACK OBAMA, CURRENT U.S. PRESIDENT: Yes.
KROFT: Mr. Putin seems to be challenging that leadership.
PRES. OBAMA: In what way?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was President Obama speaking to Steve Kroft on “60
Minutes” about Russia`s involvement in Syria. When pressed on that point,
President Obama said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. OBAMA: When I came into office, Ukraine was governed by a corrupt
ruler who was a stooge of Mr. Putin. Syria was Russia`s only ally in the
region. And, today, rather than being able to count on their support and
maintain the base they had in Syria, which they have had for a long time,
Mr. Putin now is devoting his own troops, his own military, just to barely
hold together, by a thread, his sole ally.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Today, in Moscow, Vladimir Putin complained about the United
States refusing to coordinate with Russian air strikes in Syria.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRIME MINISTER (Translated to English): At the
military level, we asked them to give us the information regarding the
targets. They believe are 100 percent belongings to terrorists. And, what
we received as an answer was that they will not do that. Then the second
question was asked, please tell us which targets should not be attacked by
us? No answer received.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The “60 Minutes” question of leadership, Vladimir Putin said,
“Let me be clear. We are not going to get into leadership (debates about
Syria). There is only one leader in Syria, which is the Syrian people.”
Joining us now is Michael Kay, foreign affairs correspondent. Also with
us, Steve Clemons of “The Atlantic”. Steve, what do you make of Vladimir
Putin`s responses today?
STEVE CLEMONS, WASHINGTON EDITOR-AT-LARGE, “THE ATLANTIC”: Well, I think
Vladimir Putin has a plan. He has had it for a long time, to demonstrate a
muscularity around the world, and he is doing that for domestic consumption
inside Russia. He has done this in Ukraine. He has done it now in Syria.
He has done it in other parts of the world.
And, at least in the short term, you know, he is getting some progress, at
least in the perception of others. He may be drawn into a quagmire down
the road, but at least right now, you know, he is getting credit for many
in the world taking the action that many people think United States will
O`DONNELL: Let us listen to what Josh Earnest said about this today at the
White House today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think the president was
really definitive in the news conference that he did 10 or 12 days ago, in
which he made clear that the conflict in Syria would not turn into a proxy
war between the United States and Russia.
There certainly is ample rhetoric that we see from republican critics,
essentially goading the president to try to engage in a proxy war with
Russia. They say that because they think maybe that it makes them look
tough. But, I think they would have a very difficult time articulating why
that would be in the clear national security interest of the United States
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Michael Kay, your reaction to what Josh Earnest had to say?
MICHAEL KAY, FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think – I think that
it is exactly a proxy war. I think the Islamic State has been the primary
threat for both the U.S. being in Syria and Russia being in Syria, then our
And, I think we need to get transparency here.
It is pretty obvious that Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the U.S. have been
supporting rebels that are anti-Assad. And, it is pretty obvious that
Putin is now in Syria to prop up Assad. So, I think we need to come to a
The U.S. needs to be clear and transparent of what the objectives are in
Syria, as do the Russians. And, I do not think that will happen. And,
until that happens, there is going to be miscommunication. You know,
whether it be from the air power perspective or whether it would be from
the ground forces perspective.
O`DONNELL: Let us listen to more about what the president said on “60
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. OBAMA: One of the challenges that I have had throughout this
heartbreaking situation inside of Syria is, is that you will have people
insist that, you know, all you have to do is send in a few truckloads full
of arms and people are ready to fight.
Then when you start a train and equip program and it does not work, then
people say, “Well, why did not it work?” Or, “If it had started three
months earlier, it would have worked.” In a situation that is has
volatile, with as many players as there are inside of Syria, there are not
any silver bullets.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Steve Clemons, no silver bullets, no good choices.
CLEMONS: Well, I think the president describes it absolutely right. It is
a civil war within a country with a proxy conflict on top of it. The
mistake Barack Obama made is saying that Bashar Al Assad had to go, and
creating a conflict over those words and creating a sense of vacuum of
American leadership and decision on this that other nations have taken
So, everything Obama said was absolutely correct, but this notion that we
were engaged in some sort of wishful regime change without doing much to
accomplish that has left open an opportunity for many other players.
O`DONNELL: In the presidential debate tonight, Bernie Sanders called it a
quagmire in a quagmire and basically supported the president`s approach.
KAY: It is a quagmire within a quagmire. Air strikes alone will not do
the job. If the Islamic state is the true threat, is the true target, you
do need a ground force. There is a logical ground force on the ground that
does not have the aspiration to topple Assad that wants to take ISIS head
on. That is the Syrian Kurds.
I find it illogical why an ally like the Syrian Kurds has not been seized
upon earlier by the United States and other things have. So, for me,
again, it goes back to this transparency and what the true objectives are
And, that really does need to be thrashed out between Putin and the
administration. Until that happens, then we are going to have these
deconfliction issues until the macro sort of perspectives are aligned.
O`DONNELL: Steve Clemons, does the administration see the Syrian Kurds as
a match for the Islamic State there?
CLEMONS: Well, I think they have said now that the suspension of the train
and equip program is that one of the allies will be a number of, you know,
Sunni groups, but then the backbone would be the Syrian Kurdish troops that
have been there.
Before the refugee crisis, there were about 3 million Kurds inside Syria.
That is a far lesser number now. I do not think they alone are enough to
take on ISIS, but it could be, you know, a key part of it.
The problem is, the more successful they become, the more problematic other
Sunni fears that the Kurds will take territory and essentially push Sunnis
out happens. So it is almost as if – when you ally with any dimension of
a group there, you alienate another part of it.
And, Until we get something that brings these groups together, as opposed
to allowing them to just fight for their own interests, things will remain
in a knot.
KAY: Sorry, Lawrence. Just quickly, just to add on what Steve said.
There is a dichotomy here, as well. You have Turkey and by supporting the
Syrian Kurds, that goes against what the Turks are actually – their ground
strategic plans as well. So there is pulling and pushing –
O`DONNELL: We are going to have to leave it there for tonight. Michael
Kay and Steve Clemons, thanks for joining us. Special live addition of
Hardball is next with Chris Matthews.
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