The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, Transcript 12/23/2015
Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
Date: December 23, 2015
Guest: Christina Bellantoni, Howard Dean, Jonathan Allen, Alexis Okeowo,
Stacie Blake, Howard Dean
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: That does it for us tonight, happy Christmas eve, the
eve, we will see you again very soon. Now, it`s time for THE LAST WORD
with Lawrence O`Donnell, good evening Lawrence.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST, THE LAST WORD: So Rachel, it sounds like your
bookers might be fighting with my bookers to try to get Rand Paul here on
the night of the next Republican debate when he`s boycotting the debate.
MADDOW: If that does happen, your bookers will win. I have it on good
O`DONNELL: I`m later at night, it`s hard for them to stay up this late.
MADDOW: Well –
O`DONNELL: It really is.
MADDOW: It`s hard for me to get Rand Paul in particular, but that`s a
different story –
O`DONNELL: Rachel, thank you very much.
MADDOW: Thanks a lot, Lawrence, have a great –
O`DONNELL: Have a great break –
MADDOW: Thanks –
O`DONNELL: Thank you. The rise of Donald Trump is explained not so much
by the hatred of Muslims, but rather the hatred of just one Muslim. The one
who is not a Muslim.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A new “Cnn”-ORC poll shows Trump with a double-digit
lead over the rest of the field.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twenty one points ahead of his nearest competitor Ted
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you look at the rhetoric that Donald Trump uses,
if you look at the rhetoric that Ted Cruz uses and the people who love
them, these are people who are anti-everybody.
DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: The Republican base is
not reflective of the whole country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Clinton reacting to comments made by Donald Trump at a
rally Monday night.
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE, UNITED STATES: I really
deplore the tone of his campaign.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This last Yiddish-gate language deal.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where`s the conversation going?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To the bathroom.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sometimes you shake your head and say, these are the
things that we`re talking about.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is Donald Trump being just too low brow at this
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of times Mr. Trump is up there on the stage and
he`s actually responding to people who are yelling things out to him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am sick of hearing people defend this stuff.
CLINTON: His bigotry, his bluster, his bullying, have become his campaign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: A new “Cnn”-ORC national poll of Republican voters gives Donald
Trump his biggest lead yet in that poll.
He`s at 39 percent of the vote, a full 21 points ahead of second place Ted
Cruz who is at 18, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio at 10, Chris Christie at 5
percent, Rand Paul is actually ahead of Jeb Bush now with 4 percent, and
Jeb Bush all the way down to 3 percent.
Now here is something you need to know about those voters who were polled
in that poll. Fifty four percent of Republican voters believe President
Obama is Muslim.
And 66 percent of Trump voters believe President Obama is Muslim. If you
hear anyone trying to explain the rise of Donald Trump without including
that fact, then you`re hearing someone who doesn`t know what they`re
Forty four percent of Republican voters believe President Obama was not
born in the United States. They believe he is not a legal citizen of the
They believe his presidency is unconstitutional. It`s illegitimate. Sixty
one percent of Donald Trump`s supporters believe that President Obama was
not born in the United States.
They believe Donald Trump`s lie about where President Obama was born, the
lie he started telling four years ago and has since replaced with other
hate-driven lies like the thousands of Muslims Donald Trump lies about
having seen celebrating in New Jersey on 9/11.
Donald Trump has been getting favorable comments from white supremacists,
from American Nazis. And any explanation of Donald Trump`s rise that does
not include those facts is a false analysis.
The polling indicates that probably about 35 percent of Donald Trump`s
supporters do not believe that President Obama is Muslim or that he was not
born in the United States.
Those Trump supporters are not white supremacists. But if Trump did not
have the support of Obama haters who believe that the President is a
Muslim, who believe that he was not born in the United States, Donald Trump
would lose two-thirds of his support.
He would be polling in the “Cnn” poll at about 13 percent behind Ted Cruz
who would probably be then way ahead of Donald Trump.
And other candidates like Marco Rubio would probably have vaulted ahead of
Donald Trump if he didn`t have that support.
If all Trump had was the support of people who listened to his very few and
very shallow policy proposals, and liked his insulting and vulgar style.
As the world knows by now, Donald Trump used the Yiddish term for penis
when referring to Hillary Clinton the other night.
For anyone who needed proof of what the word meant, last night we cited
Harvard Yiddish scholar Dr. Ruth Wisse who told us, “the word is a Yiddish
vulgarism – vulgar Yiddish term for a penis.”
Tonight, Donald Trump did his usual softball interview on “Fox News” where
the interviewer agreed with Trump that using that Yiddish vulgarity is
going to be OK for him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, CHAIRMAN & PRESIDENT, TRUMP ORGANIZATIONS & FOUNDER, TRUMP
ENTERTAINMENT RESORTS: And when I said it, nobody in the audience thought
anything about it.
They clapped, they didn`t view that as being a horrible thing. And then
all of a sudden, I get back in and people are calling about it.
And, you know, when they checked it out, some pretty quality people have
been using that term over the years. So, I think I probably skirted by
that one Greta, what do you think?
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS: Well, I think so, but –
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: I think so. Well, one of the “Fox News” players, perhaps to
his peril, just can`t take it anymore when he hears people Trump-
That`s Greg Gutfeld`s term for people who try to explain away the things
that Donald Trump says, especially Donald Trump`s use of the Yiddish term
for penis and Donald Trump`s crazed comments about the bathroom break
during the Democratic presidential debate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GREG GUTFELD, AUTHOR & TELEVISION PERSONALITY: I need somebody to Trump-
xplain(ph) this, because I don`t understand it.
I`ve heard people defend him about making fun of a disability, making fun
of John McCain, making fun of women – a woman`s face.
I just wanted to hear somebody defend this as well, because it just never
ends. No one will ever stop defending the crass stuff he says.
By the way, I haven`t used that word since I was 7 years old. I don`t
understand this. And also, I don`t understand the comment about the
And I am sick of hearing people defend this stuff.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont and
former Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, he`s also an “Msnbc”
Jonathan Allen, a political reporter and co-author of “HRC: State Secrets
and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton”.
Also with us, Christina Bellantoni, Assistant Managing Editor for Politics
at the “Los Angeles Times”. Christina joining me here in the L.A. studio.
You know, it`s so shocking, these numbers about Republicans believing that
President Obama is a Muslim, believing he`s not a citizen.
And they`re so huge that they somehow – it seems to me most political
analysts don`t have room for that concept in discussing what`s going on
CHRISTINA BELLANTONI, ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR FOR POLITICS, LOS ANGELES
TIMES: And they should have room for that concept.
Because a part of the entire Trump experience or whatever this last six
months has been sort of feels like we`ve been living in a dream, but this
is all actually happening.
I mean, it`s great to be a political journalist in this time. It`s about
the rhetoric. You hear his supporters on the campaign trail say we`re glad
he`s not politically correct.
We`re glad he`s telling it like it is. And I think that that`s at the core
of this. And so, whether those voters would have said, yes, they think
President Barack Obama was not born in America or is Muslim, if Trump was
not in the race, I`m not sure.
In some ways, he allows them the freedom to say what they might already be
thinking, or he encourages people, and they say, oh, he is the frontrunner.
He believes that, we`re going to believe that, too. It has been a very
strange phenomenon to observe.
O`DONNELL: Howard Dean, we played some video here last night, where Bernie
Sanders would say something and then Donald Trump would say a pretty messy
version of the same thing.
And we showed a poll in which you can see a migration to Bernie Sanders
from Donald Trump if Bernie Sanders is the nominee instead of Hillary
So, there`s a very clear overlap, and it`s a – and you can clearly see a
And that is definitely – includes people who are kind of economically
disaffected from recent government policies, opposed to trade deals,
opposed to what they think Wall Street is up to.
Donald Trump doesn`t talk fondly about Wall Street when he`s out there
speaking. And so that section of Trump support is a minority piece of his
But it`s the one that`s talked about the most, it seems to me by political
analysts describing the Trump phenomenon.
It`s all about, you know, kind of a policy-driven thing. And there`s a –
there`s a – I think statistically, there`s a fundamental lie in that kind
of analysis that completely ignores the hate-driven component of the Trump
candidacy, which is the majority of the support that he has.
HOWARD DEAN, FORMER VERMONT GOVERNOR: Well, I talked for a long time about
that, what I call the hate wing of the Republican Party.
And often been criticized for saying it. But there is such a thing, and it
started in 1968 with the southern strategy developed by Richard Nixon to
bring southern racists out of the Democratic Party and into the Republican
Party, which they succeeded in doing.
So, it is true that there`s an economic argument and an economic feeling
that something different needs to happen and politicians talking out of
both sides of their mouth and all that kind of stuff.
But there`re also – is this so-called hate wing that is so angry at all
the things that have – all the changes that have happened in America, this
is what they respond to.
And I think it`s dangerous for the country, I also think it`s going to be
incredibly unsuccessful in the general election.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to how Hillary Clinton responded to Donald Trump`s
vulgarity, speaking with the “Des Moines Register”.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: I really deplore the tone of his campaign and the inflammatory
rhetoric that he is using to divide people. I don`t know that he has any
boundaries at all.
And his bigotry, his bluster, his bullying have become his campaign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And Jonathan Allen, Donald Trump has brought the campaign
directly to Hillary Clinton giving her now this opportunity to be running a
kind of general election argument against Donald Trump.
JONATHAN ALLEN, POLITICAL REPORTER, VOX.COM: I think one of the key things
that Hillary Clinton and her campaign have been trying to do is make the
campaign about something other than her.
Which is why I think Hillary Clinton did not respond directly to Trump`s
comments, certainly didn`t do it immediately.
Her campaign asked other people basically to respond to women in particular
who felt aggrieved by what Donald Trump had said about Hillary Clinton.
So, I think they`re seeing them trying to walk a careful line here where
she`s sort of marshalling people to respond, but not doing it as much
And at the same time, obviously she couldn`t get away with saying
I think she`s trying to make it bigger and say it`s not just about – not
just about her in terms of her having been the object of those comments or
the subject of those comments.
But also those comments going towards women more broadly, and also that
being part of a larger pattern of Trump going after particular groups.
O`DONNELL: And Christina, you know, when I watch Hillary Clinton in that
video, it`s really striking to me because there`s a very – it`s a very
private version of her that`s on display there that you don`t normally get
Years ago, I used to see the private version of her rather frequently, and
I don`t think she in any way is sitting there and thinking, I wonder if
there`s a political benefit to me if I can play this the right way and use
this against Trump.
That seems to be a woman who is genuinely depressed that this is the
political dialogue she`s been thrown into in the 21st century in running
for president of the United States.
BELLANTONI: I think a lot of people are feeling that right now. Like this
is a conversation that we`re having in America about who wants to lead the
That`s all true. I would agree with you on that. One thing I would say is
that, it doesn`t matter in a sense if she`s thinking about the political
calculation because the Democrats are thinking about it for her.
They know that President Barack Obama won women in 2012, 55 percent to 44
percent for Mitt Romney.
And that is an area that they can continue to exploit, to use that term,
and to say look, you know, Hillary Clinton is a candidate that not only is
a woman but stands up for women and look at your Republican Party.
Even if Donald Trump does not become that nominee, they are going to
attempt to pick every single Republican like him to say why didn`t you
denounce him when he said things like this.
And the other thing is, I reported this on Saturday night at the debate.
“Abc”, they didn`t negotiate terms of who could be at the podium or not.
The fact that they started that debate without her was something that they
really brushed off. You know, she knew it was five minutes and you know,
that was the issue.
They knew the time was tight and it was live TV. That created this –
O`DONNELL: Let me tell you –
BELLANTONI: Entire situation –
O`DONNELL: That`s a complete nonsensical thing. We control live TV. When
– if we have a situation here where there`s a little bit of a problem in
the studio, we can plug in another 30 seconds on a commercial –
BELLANTONI: Ban –
O`DONNELL: Real easily –
BELLANTONI: Get back –
O`DONNELL: Can do it two seconds before you need to do it. They know how
to do it. They didn`t.
But you know, I don`t think if – Howard Dean, I don`t think to any sane
person that mattered even slightly that Hillary Clinton was delayed getting
back to the podium through absolutely no fault of her own.
DEAN: I don`t think anybody pays attention to that kind of stuff. Trump
has made it the issue. You know, I think the people who are most
distraught about this are actually not women.
I think that they`re mainstream Republicans who are seeing their party fall
apart in front of their face and in front of the entire nation.
You have two people who I would classify as extremists. Donald Trump
because of his behavior and Ted Cruz because of his views, leading the
It is highly likely that one of the two of them is going to be the nominee.
This is a – look here, what is this – what this is really is a
prescription for remaking the Republican Party.
This is the train wreck that`s going to have to happen, and then out of
those ashes there`s going to come something different.
But I think most Republicans would rather win this election than have that
O`DONNELL: Jonathan Allen, quickly before we go. If Hillary Clinton is
the nominee against a Donald Trump nominee, is she going to have to figure
out a way of campaigning that she hasn`t used before?
ALLEN: Yes, probably. I mean, every candidate presents their own
I think what we`ve seen here from Donald Trump, though, is that, his big
challenge is going to be how to figure out – how to campaign against
Hillary Clinton in a way that doesn`t turn off independent voters, moderate
This is – if this is the launch of his attacks against her, there may need
to be a redefinition for him for how he wants to take on that strategy.
O`DONNELL: We`re going to have to break it there, Jonathan Allen, thank
you very much for joining us tonight. Coming up –
ALLEN: Merry Christmas.
O`DONNELL: Thanks, Jonathan. Coming up, a multiple choice question.
Donald Trump`s tax plan will, A, reduce the national debt, B, increase the
national debt or C, make America great again.
And later, women are joining the fight against Boko Haram in Nigeria. A
woman who has been there will join us.
And my answer to today`s Twitter question, who is your favorite baseball
writer? That`s coming up, and my answer will involve a lot more than
O`DONNELL: Stephen Colbert got asked about Donald Trump for “Cbs`” Sunday
morning show and he had this to say. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN & TELEVISION HOST: What I do respect is that he
knows that it is an emotional appeal and it might be emotional appeals that
I don`t – can`t expect.
But he knows that you have to appeal to the voter, and that`s why I may be
wrong. I made a big deal about there`s no way he`s going to win.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Oh – up next, Donald Trump`s tax plan, you`ll never guess how
great it`s going to make America again.
O`DONNELL: And now let`s listen to Donald Trump on the national debt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We have $19 trillion in debt, we have $19 trillion in debt. It was
18 a short while ago, now it`s 19.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: You got that? Nineteen trillion in debt. I hope it doesn`t
shock you to know that Donald Trump is only exaggerating the national debt
by about a (AUDIO GAP 00:00:56-58) accurate as he`s ever been about any
Trump`s plan for the national debt is to, of course, increase it.
According to a new analysis by the Tax Policy Center, Donald Trump`s tax
plan is going to increase the national debt by more than 50 percent over
The Trump plan would increase the national debt a little over a $1 trillion
a year, the Trump plan would reduce taxes at all income levels with, of
course, the biggest tax cuts going to the richest taxpayers as they always
Christina Bellantoni, Howard Dean back with us. Christina, this is one of
those things where the only economic plan he has is his tax plan, and the
big thing that it does is explode the deficit and the debt.
BELLANTONI: It`s huge!
O`DONNELL: Yes, it is huge, yes.
BELLANTONI: And this is in some ways, it is important for campaigns to put
out policy statements like this and to put, you know, things behind big
statements that they make.
But Congress deals with tax policy. And if Donald Trump somehow became
president and the Congress that exists today is the Congress that would be
there in 2017, they`re not going to pass a tax plan like this.
And so, you know, it is good to look at an analysis of this I think, that
it is important information to say, you know, that debt would be there
until 2036 –
O`DONNELL: Yes –
BELLANTONI: You know, according to this –
O`DONNELL: Yes –
BELLANTONI: Estimate. But it actually won`t become reality –
O`DONNELL: Right –
BELLANTONI And he probably also is not becoming president in that fact.
But you know, it`s important to point out that Democrats and Republicans
have fundamental differences when it comes to how you tax and how you
And look at right here in California, Governor Jerry Brown has been very
clear, we`re going to tax people a lot. And we`re going to do a lot for
the state and we`re going to try to plug some of our holes.
You know, whether or not that`s working, that`s another debate for another
day. But Republicans and Democrats are clearly different on this issue.
O`DONNELL: And Howard Dean, there wouldn`t be a – Donald Trump would not
lose a single voter over any report indicating that his tax plan might not
DEAN: That`s true. Although I do say, I have to disagree with Christina.
Actually, Congress just did pass a tax plan like Donald Trump`s.
They passed a tax plan which some Democrats voted for, significant number
of Democrats which gave huge tax breaks to wealthy people and corporations.
And some tax breaks like the extension of the earned income tax credit and
the extension of solar and wind credit tax. And so the Democrats –
Democrats on board, so you`re right, the Congress said tax policy.
But their tax policy was pretty bad, that added $800 billion to the deficit
in the next ten years. So –
BELLANTONI: And President Obama signed an extension of the Bush tax cuts -
DEAN: Yes –
BELLANTONI: As well, I mean, that is definitely true.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what the Democrats are saying about this.
Bernie Sanders, first of all, and there`s a real debate going on between
Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders about taxes. Let`s listen to t this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), VERMONT: Do away with the corporate loopholes
that allow major profitable corporations to stash their money in the Cayman
Islands and not pay a nickel in some –
CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, MEET THE PRESS: OK –
SANDERS: Cases in federal income taxes. That`s a $100 billion a year,
we`re going to impose a tax on Wall Street speculation to pay for – to
make sure that public colleges and universities in America are tuition
We`re going to raise the estate tax for wealthy, very wealthy people, but
top two-tenths –
TODD: OK –
SANDERS: Of 1 percent. But in terms of this issue that you raised, I do
disagree with the secretary.
I believe the United States should join the rest of the world through paid
family and medical leave. It would cost us a $1.61 a week in an increase
in payroll tax.
I think that`s a great investment.
TODD: Is that the only thing you plan on raising taxes on the middle class
SANDERS: Yes, that`s right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And Christina, as you say, Congress has this power. And there
isn`t going to be a Congress that`s going to do that plan either.
BELLANTONI: That`s very true, and neither single payer healthcare, right?
There are – there are things that – progressives, like to lay out and
Bernie Sanders is going right along those lines.
And that`s resonating with the youngest voters. You know, you`re also
hearing both campaigns talk about a real student loan reform in a way that
wasn`t necessarily the conversation for eight years ago.
Because that`s one of the things Sanders is doing in this race. Even if he
does not defeat Hillary Clinton, he is pushing the entire conversation in
the Democratic Party to a more progressive wing.
Will that affect Congress? You know, the Democrats are trying real hard to
win back that senate, you know, then we can start to see these things turn.
You know, do you have mixed control in the two chambers? Do you have a
Republican in the White House?
You know, there`s a lot to be determined if the economy continues at this
pace, there could be major changes ahead.
O`DONNELL: We`re going to have to take a break there. Christina
Bellantoni, thanks for joining us tonight. Coming up, the politics of
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: It is lunacy to be bringing refugees into this
country who may be terrorists trying to murder Americans.
BEN CARSON, AUTHOR & RETIRED NEUROSURGEON: To bring them here under these
circumstances is a suspension of intellect.
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I said, we should allow no Syrian
refugees into the country, not even women or children.
TRUMP: Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of
Muslims entering the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: A new Quinnipiac national poll shows 51 percent of Americans
oppose accepting Syrian refugees while 43 percent support the idea.
The poll also asked about other ideas floated by the 2016 candidates.
Americans oppose Donald Trump`s idea of banning all Muslims from entering
the United States, 66 percent to 27 percent.
And Americans support sending U.S. ground troops to fight ISIS 52 percent
to 40 percent. Of those who support sending troops, 52 percent think the
United States should send a significant number of its troops.
According to the international organization for migration, more than 1
million migrants have arrived in Europe this year, the most since World War
II. Half of them were Syrian. Earlier this week, President Obama`s U.N.
ambassador, Samantha Power, said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAMANTHA POWER: This year has shown with painful clarity that our existing
systems, approaches, and funding, are inadequate to the task at hand, and
to the amount of human suffering that is ongoing. For this reason, I
announced during today`s (Syria) humanitarian session that President Obama
plans to host a high level summit at next year`s general assembly during
high level week, focused on the global refugee crisis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL: Joining the discussion now is Stacie Blake, the
director of government and community relations for the U.S. Committee for
Refugees and Immigrants. Stacie Blake, what is your reaction to what
you`ve been hearing from the presidential candidates?
STACIE BLAKE: Well we sure have been hearing a lot about refugees from all
corners. And it`s so interesting because the U.S. has welcomed refugees
since our inception, and to - you know, to hear all the rhetoric today,
it`s a little alarming, and in fact it runs counter to the history. Under
Republican presidents, more refugees have been resettled in the last 40
years, so to suddenly have this turn, it`s really a surprise, Lawrence.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Hillary Clinton said about
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON: Well I agree that we have to have the toughest screening
and vetting that we can have, but I don`t think a halt is necessary. What
we have to do is put all of our resources through the Department of
Homeland Security, through the State Department, through our intelligence
agencies, and we have to have an increased vetting and screening .
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL: Howard Dean, it seems like maybe 51 percent in that
poll don`t believe that the screening would work.
HOWARD DEAN: Yes, I think this is mostly a matter of more discussion, and
some education. The screening in the United States is the toughest
screening of any country in the world in terms of refugees, that accepts
refugees. And of course there are those that don`t accept any, or ever
have, no matter what kind they are.
The truth is that people - many people are concerned about this, but this
is not the first time in America this has happened. There were a
significant number of people who didn`t want Jewish refugees before World
War II, or even during World War II.
So these are not the most proud moments that we`ve had as a country, and I
think we can do better than this. Safety concerns are reasonable. Banning
refugees is certainly not.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL: Stacie Blake, what about the screening process? That
is the big concern here.
STACIE BLAKE: Well I agree with the governor, we know that this is the
most thorough screening process of any country. It`s the most thorough
screening that anyone undergoes to enter our country. So you know, we`ve
refined this program and this process over many years, this is continuous
And it`s also true that, you know, the process takes 18 to 24 months. At
any point during that time, if something comes up to give any officer or
any participant any reason to pause, the person`s out, it`s very simple.
So we have confidence in the process.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL: And Stacie, what do we know about the experience of
Syrian refugees who are here now? We have taken a few, probably fewer than
any other country that`s been taking refugees, but what do we know about
their experience in the United States?
STACIE BLAKE: You know, I`m glad you asked that, Lawrence, because I spoke
to one of our program directors earlier this evening, and he told me that
it`s true, that new arrivals are hearing some of this talk that`s anti-
Syrian, and anti-Muslim.
And while it is concerning, what they`re experiencing in communities is a
wrap-around of welcome. You know, volunteers are coming forward to help
with donations, to help find new apartments, to help people get that first
job, so that they can get started and live their life, have a moment of
These are folks who have been living in war, and fleeing terrible
atrocities. So on the ground, Syrians are being fully welcomed into the
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL: All right, we`re going to take a break here. Stacie
Blake, thank you very much for joining us, we really appreciate it. Coming
STACIE BLAKE: Thank you.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL: . women joining the fight against Boko Haram.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL: We just got a reaction from Donald Trump to something
Hillary Clinton said earlier in the program. Let`s take a look at what
Secretary Clinton said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON: I really deplore the tone of his campaign, and the
inflammatory rhetoric that he is using to divide people. I don`t know that
he has any boundaries at all, and his bigotry, his bluster, his bullying
have become his campaign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL: Looks like Donald may be watching the show tonight.
Minutes after she said that on this program, Donald Trump tweeted Hillary
said “I really deplore the tone and inflammatory rhetoric of his campaign.
I deplore the death and destruction she caused-stupidity.” Howard Dean,
your reaction to Donald Trump`s tweeting tonight?
HOWARD DEAN: I think he sounds incoherent, inarticulate. I don`t, you
know - I mean there are a number of people who thought Donald Trump was
driving over the edge for the last six or eight months. I have always
thought that he was an incredibly clever politician, but he`s - at some
point he`s going to become unwound and maybe this is it.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL: Yes, unwound is about the most charitable, Christmas-
like comment you could make about him. Howard Dean, thanks for joining us
tonight, thanks for wearing the Christmas sweater, getting us all in the
HOWARD DEAN: Yes, I was hoping you would notice.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL: No, beautifully done. Thank you very much, Howard.
Coming up next, women joining the fight against Boko Haram.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL: Since the terror group Boko Haram began terrorizing
communities in Nigeria over six years ago, over 2 million people have been
forced from their homes. In the last seven months, over 1,000 people in
Nigeria have been killed in Boko Haram attacks.
The kidnappings of hundreds of schoolgirls last year provoked international
outrage and a social media movement. A report in The New Yorker brought to
light the story of dozens of women who`ve joined a government-backed
vigilante group fighting back in Nigeria.
One of them, Fatima Muhammed, said this about Boko Haram, they will kill
you, they will kill everyone you know. That`s what motivated me. I`m not
afraid at all. Joining me now, New Yorker staff writer Alexis Okeowo, who
wrote that article about the women fighting Boko Haram. Alexis, what
exactly are women like Fatima Muhammed doing in this fight?
ALEXIS OKEOWO: They`re doing a variety of tasks. They`re checking women
for weapons at public events, at public prayer in mosques or in other
arenas. They`re helping the vigilantes to apprehend female suspects when
they go into private homes and male vigilantes can`t enter, the women go in
and then apprehend the suspects. And they also help with providing tips
and information to security forces on people that residents suspect may be
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL: And you make the point in the piece that under Islamic
precepts, men cannot enter the home of a woman who they don`t know, and so
they need the women in this effort to enter homes where they`re - where
they`re looking for possible women terrorists, women accomplices of Boko
Haram, and trying to either disarm them or get them out of that movement.
So that`s a - this couldn`t be done without women.
ALEXIS OKEOWO: Exactly. You know, before I actually reported this, I
didn`t realize that women, you know, were members, were accomplices to Boko
Haram, to the extent that they are. And so yes, these dozens of women are
integral to apprehending these female suspects, to checking, giving women
body checks, to making sure that Boko Haram doesn`t use women to carry out
attacks, and do - and do clandestine activities without the vigilantes
being able to go after them.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL: It`s so moving to read about what these women are
doing, because they are unarmed, the women you`re writing about are unarmed
themselves, and they`re searching other women for possible arms, they`re
approaching women who they think might be armed without any arms
ALEXIS OKEOWO: Yes, it`s incredibly dangerous, but you know, whenever
these women are doing this work, their counterparts, the male vigilantes,
are not far behind, and they`re often armed with machetes and locally made
guns. So it`s not as if they`re just operating by themselves, but yes, a
lot of them are operating unarmed, and sort of just relying on the fact
that they can do their work without being attacked.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL: How dangerous was it for you, Alexis, to go into this,
reporting on this story?
ALEXIS OKEOWO: Yes, I mean it was - it - there was an element of danger.
It`s always hard to know, going into this - into the northeast of Nigeria
whether it will be a quiet period, or whether it will be a period of
attacks. The moment I went, there had been some recent attacks, but there
weren`t any during the week that I was there. But the problem with that
region, is that people never know when there will be a suicide bombing, or
when there will be some kind of raid by Boko Haram. It`s - there`s a high
element of unpredictability.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL: And you know, when you read Fatima Muhammed`s
explanation of why she`s not afraid to do what she`s doing, it`s really I
have nothing to lose, it`s really they`re going to kill me if I don`t.
ALEXIS OKEOWO: Yes, I mean what struck me about her is that she had lost
family members and friends to Boko Haram, and she had felt this feeling of
hopelessness, you know, after these deaths, after these murders, and so
yes, she felt like if I don`t do anything, I might as well sign my own
death. So she decided to do something about it. And .
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL: How - Alexis, how long did it take you to do the
reporting on this piece?
ALEXIS OKEOWO: I was there for about a week, but I`ve been reporting on
vigilantes in northeast Nigeria for about a year now, and so I periodically
go up to the northeast and spend time with them, and see what they`re doing
and what they`re up to, because they`ve been very integral in keeping Boko
Haram out of several towns and cities, and keeping them at bay.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL: Alexis Okeowo, thank you very much for joining us
tonight. Thank you for doing the work you`re doing. I know most reporters
are not going up there, they`re not going into that region, they`re not
trying to get this story, and a lot of the media doesn`t have the bandwidth
to keep with this story, so thank you very much for the work that you`ve
done. Thank you.
ALEXIS OKEOWO: Thanks for having me.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL: Coming up, the most thrilling thing I have ever read
from a sports writer. OK, that`s a little bit of an exaggeration, but it
was an important thing that I read today, coming up.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL: Two weeks after admitting to killing three people at a
Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic, Robert Dear now says he wants to fire
his court-appointed attorneys. The 57-year-old told the judge at his court
appearance today, “I do not want them as my lawyers, I reserve my
constitutional right to defend myself.”
At his first court appearance earlier this month, Robert Dear had several
outbursts and called himself “a warrior for the babies”. This time,
cameras were not allowed in the courtroom, and Robert Dear made no random
When he asked to represent himself, the judge ordered the public, including
reporters, out of the courtroom to discuss the request. Later the judge
told Robert Dear he would have to submit to an exam that will determine
whether he is mentally competent to defend himself. (Inaudible) is due
back in court for an update in February. Tonight`s last word is next.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL: And now, for tonight`s last word, which will be my
last words before Christmas, and this is where I will answer the question I
asked on Twitter today, who is your favorite baseball writer? My baseball
career ended in college.
I played on the freshman team, but was becoming more drawn to
intellectualism than athleticism, and so I gave up baseball, and it was
perfect timing because baseball was going to give up me very soon. There
was very little chance that I would have made the varsity team next year,
so it was an amicable parting of the ways.
Most of what I learned about baseball came from great coaches, beginning
with my father, then Bob (Buchelle), when I`d made it into the seated row
of Little League in (Dorchester), then Dan Burke, (John Balfe), the great
The rest of what I learned about baseball came from Peter Gammons, the
Boston Globe`s best baseball writer when I was in high school. Peter
Gammons went on to Sports Illustrated and ESPN, and was on everyone`s
shortlist of best baseball writers ever.
Most of you on Twitter today and tonight said that Peter Gammons is your
favorite baseball writer, and today he wrote something that thrilled me,
using fewer words than he ever has before. Peter Gammons, who I have never
met, tweeted “Giving the gift of a desk through K.I.N.D. offers a
That went out to his more than half a million Twitter followers, and I
retweeted it as soon as I could, and Peter Gammons` tweet includes a link
to the K.I.N.D. fund, where you can contribute at lastworddesks.msnbc.com.
You can do your last minute Christmas shopping there, and give a school
desk for kids in African schools that don`t have desks, or you could
contribute a girl`s scholarship to help a girl stay in high school in
Malawi, where public high school is not free.
And the few families who can afford tuition to send - when they send a
child to high school, they usually send one of their boys instead of one of
their girls, and so the girls` high school graduation rate there is half of
You can make a contribution in the name of anyone on your gift list, and
Unicef will send them an acknowledgment of your gift. Peter Gammons` tweet
today, the day before Christmas Eve, just might raise more money for kids
in need of desks, than any tweet about K.I.N.D. ever has. Peter Gammons
has almost doubled the number of Twitter followers, followers that I do,
and he`s a lot more likeable and he has fans that have been devoted to him
for over 40 years.
My friend, Holland Taylor, has fans who have been following her work for
that long on stage, screen, and television. I lat visited her backstage
when she was doing a one-woman show about Texas governor Ann Richards at
She recently tweeted “Be KIND” & be happy! Lawrence`s wonderful charity,
through Unicef gives schoolkids, used to mud floors, DESKS!” Holland Taylor
has been an enthusiastic supporter of the K.I.N.D. fund from the start.
You know, I always feel a bit awkward when it`s time to talk about the
K.I.N.D. fund on this program. I don`t want to be one of those guys on a
telephone begging you to contribute, but this is the only way that we raise
money for kids in need of desks. It`s the only way that we raise money to
send girls to high school in Malawi, the only way.
Just before I began doing this show five years ago, a dear friend of mine,
Karen Russell, asked me what I was going to do with the show. And she
didn`t mean what was going to be in the show, or who were the guests going
to be. She meant how was I going to use this platform to do something
important, something that I wouldn`t be able to do without an hour of real
estate in cable news prime time.
Karen Russell learned to think in those terms from her father, someone
Peter Gammons knows well, Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell, who used his
prominence to support Martin Luther King Jr., to support the civil rights
movement, and other important work, including work in Africa throughout his
career. And Bill Russell is still at it.
The K.I.N.D. fund is my answer to Karen Russell`s question, what are you
going to do with this show? Providing jobs at three flat factories in
Malawi to make school desks for kids who have never seen desks, and
providing scholarships for girls to go to high school who would never
otherwise be able to go to high school, is by far the most important work I
And it`s easy for me to do it because I have this platform, and it is a joy
to do it, pure joy. And I`m not sure if I`d be doing it if Karen Russell
hadn`t asked me what I was going to do with this show. Sometimes, we just
have to be asked.
And so I`m asking you to make at least some of your Christmas giving
important. I do the same kind of Christmas shopping that everyone else
does, getting the same kinds of gifts that everyone else does, and I`ll be
doing some of that last minute stuff tomorrow, but I also give the gift of
desks and girls` scholarships to some of the people on my gift list.
And this is the kind of last minute gift that you don`t even have to leave
your house to get. You just go to lastworddesks.msnbc.com. In the last 24
hours, you have done that, and you have contributed another $90,149 to the
K.I.N.D. fund, bringing our totals since we began the fund five years ago,
to $8,092,548 for desks, $1,606,505 for girls` scholarships, which is a
total now of $9,699,053.
With that, we have doubled the number of kids in Malawi who now have desks
in their schools, but still, most kids in Malawi schools don`t have desks,
and most girls there cannot afford to go to high school, and don`t go to
We`ve come a long way, and we have a long way to go. I can never find the
words to thank you enough for what you`ve done. And as we head into
Christmas Eve, let`s all just listen to the voices of those children at
their new desks, the most beautiful thanks we could ever hear.
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