Tax bill advances in party-line vote Transcript 11/28/17 The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell
Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
Date: November 28, 2017
Guest: David Leonhardt, Catherine Rampell, Norm Ornstein, Gene Sperling, Wendy Sherman, David Rothkopf
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel. And an
extraordinary interview with the mayor. Really glad to see that follow-up.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, TRMS: Thank you, my dear. Thanks.
O`DONNELL: Good evening from Philadelphia, by the way.
Did I lose Rachel? I guess I lost her. And I just wanted to tell Rachel
she has a lot of friends here in Philadelphia where I`ve been spending the
Today, Donald Trump gave Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi more power than any
Republican president has ever given to a minority Democratic Party in
Congress. Needless to say, President Trump had no idea that he was
actually doing that. And he has no idea that that`s what he was admitting
to later when he scheduled a photo op without Chuck and Nancy.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Chuck Schumer and Nancy
Pelosi did not show up for our meeting today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was his itchy Twitter finger that appears to have
led to a Democratic walkout.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: The president said I don`t see
a deal, three hours before our meeting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Basically daring them to go along with being props.
TRUMP: So they`re not showing up for the meeting.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sort of staged like an eighth grade play with empty
chairs and the leader saying what Donald Trump tells them to say before the
TRUMP: Right now, things have changed.
Two hours ago, a missile was launched. I think that will have a huge
effect on Schumer and Pelosi.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t quite understand why a discussion about
budgeting and taxes would lead to a quick retreat from Chuck and Nancy
after a rocket goes off.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A potential government shutdown just 11 days away.
TRUMP: If that happens, I would absolutely blame the Democrats.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What the president did this morning frankly was
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was not helpful, and not a good way to start a
TRUMP: If you can`t make a good deal with a politician, then there is
something wrong with you. You`re certainly not very good.
O`DONNELL: The president of the United States held a photo-op today with
the speaker of the House and the majority leader of the United States
Senate to declare that they, the three of them are incapable of governing.
Mitch McConnell is the leader of 52 Republican senators, the majority
leader of the United States Senate. Paul Ryan is the leader of 240
Republican members of the House of Representatives, the majority of the
House of Representatives.
And they held a meeting today to publicly declare that among the three of
them, the president, the Senate majority leader, the speaker of the House,
they are incapable of convincing all of the members of their party in the
Senate and the House to vote for anything. And for that, they did not have
one word of blame for the Republican senators who refuse to vote for their
proposals, and they did not have one word of blame for the dozens of
Republican members of the House of Representatives who ignore Donald Trump
and Paul Ryan when they cast their votes in the House.
They sat in a room with two empty chairs saying we cannot possibly govern
without the guidance of Nancy Pelosi, who they wished was sitting in one of
those empty chairs, and they were saying they could not govern without the
guidance of Chuck Schumer, who they wished was sitting in the other empty
And it makes sense. Nancy Pelosi has more years of experience in the
leadership of Congress than Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell combined. She
knows more about what they are trying to do than they do.
No one looks more lost in a room in the halls of government than Donald
Trump. But Paul Ryan came in a very close second today, when it was his
turn to talk, because he is in a difficult reelection campaign back home in
Wisconsin where he is facing at least one, and possibly more than one
serious Democratic challenger. Paul Ryan did not want to admit that he is
the most powerless figurehead in the history of the speakership, and that
his members pay much more attention to Sean Hannity than they do to him.
Instead of saying he is the single worst speaker in history for rounding up
votes within his own party in order to govern, Paul Ryan said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I`ll just briefly say I think
it`s regrettable that our Democratic colleagues and the leadership chose
not the join us today. For a bill to become a law, Congress has to pass a
bill. And the president signs the bill.
That means Congress and the White House always negotiate legislation. We
have important work to do. We have big deadlines to meet. We have a
military in need of our support. And that work needs to happen now.
And I just think it`s very regrettable that our Democratic colleagues in
leadership chose to not participate because we have to negotiate these
bills to get this work done for the people we represent and especially to
help our military with these difficult situations we have. And I just hope
that our friends in leadership on the other side of the aisle will choose
to participate so we can get the people`s work done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Boy, was he angry that Nancy Pelosi wasn`t there to help him
with his homework.
Paul Ryan said something much more petulant than what Mitch McConnell had
to say. Mitch McConnell doesn`t have that kind of youthful anger that Paul
Ryan was demonstrating today. Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell know exactly
why Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer were not there today. And they would
have done exactly the same thing if it could have happened to them, which,
of course, it never could because no Democratic president in history would
ever insult the leadership of the other party publicly when he was
expecting to see them at a meeting in the White House in a few hours.
And so, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan knew the instant they saw the latest
lie-filled Trump tweet this morning what was probably going to happen.
Meeting with Chuck and Nancy today about keeping government open and
working. Problem is they want illegal immigrants flooding into our country
unchecked, are weak on crime and want to substantially raise taxes. I
don`t see a deal, exclamation point.
And so for once, the idiot presidency that has been firing off live filled
insulting tweets at members of Congress, in both parties all year, paid a
very serious price today for the idiocy and for the lying. And we can only
hope for the sake of the country, for the sake of sanity in government,
that as a condition for reentering the White House or any room to
participate in any form of conversation with Donald Trump, Nancy Pelosi and
Chuck Schumer will make it an absolute requirement that the president
apologize for lying about them and their Democratic colleagues by saying
that they want illegal immigrants flooding into our country unchecked and
for saying that they are weak on crime and for saying they want to
substantially raise taxes.
Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer now have the most powerful leverage anyone
has ever had over Donald Trump to force him to retract lies, important
lies. The president of the United States is lying to the American people
about what is at stake in his discussions with the Democrats. The
president of the United States is lying that the Democrats want to
substantially raise taxes.
And so, if the Democrats reach any kind of legislative deal about anything
that does not raise taxes, then Donald Trump will play them as suckers and
claim that he won in that deal, whatever that deal might be, because it
does not raise taxes.
Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi did not get played today by Donald Trump.
If they and their advisers understand the importance of the moment that
Trump has now given them, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer make Donald Trump
pay for his lies in a way that is not some petty settling of a personal
score, but an important lesson about the real governing questions involved
in funding the government. America has reason to fear tonight that the
Trump insult machine has become so normalized in Washington that Nancy
Pelosi and Chuck Schumer will not demand a retraction from Donald Trump as
a condition for dealing with him.
And if they don`t, the truth will suffer once again and the future of
governance in this country will take yet another turn for the worse. It is
against most professional politicians` nature to be confrontational in
these situations. They are compromisers by nature, especially in the
congressional leadership, and especially when the rationale for compromise
is for the good of the country, as it always is when trying to avoid a
government shutdown, which is now 11 days away, if Congress doesn`t pass
some kind of spending bill.
But sometimes, what is more important to the good of the country is not
what happens if the government doesn`t function properly tomorrow, but what
happens to the fundamental integrity of the governing process and that has
been irredeemably corrupted by the lies of Donald Trump. The daily
incessant lies of the president of the United States about large and small
things, and this time, fighting against those lies is more important than
fighting to keep the government open and running because Republicans don`t
know how to do that themselves.
Joining us now, David Leonhardt, op-ed columnist for “The New York Times”.
Also with us, Catherine Rampell, opinion columnist for “The Washington
Post”, and Norm Ornstein, congressional scholar with the American
Enterprise Institute. He is the co-author of the new book, “One Nation
And, Norm, whenever I introduce you, I fear you might be the last
congressional scholar because who would find scholarship in the pursuits of
Congress these days. But what we saw today with that tweet, when I saw it,
I was hoping for at least this first round outcome that we got, which was
Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi saying, OK, this person is impossible. We
can`t deal with him and we are not going to go up there.
I hope they set a condition of retraction of those statements in order to
deal with him in the future. But that`s going to be up to them, and the
11-day window will close quickly on funding this government.
What do you see happening, Norm?
NORM ORNSTEIN, CONGRESSIONAL EXPERT: You know, Lawrence, last time I was
on, we talked about Trump and how he hadn`t even read “The Art of the
Deal”, much less written it. And this just proves it again.
I think Pelosi and Reid have the upper hand here. Republicans control the
House, the Senate and the White House. Keeping the government open is
Democrats have no requirement to vote for anything unless they`re satisfied
with the outcome. And the outcome has to start with continuation of DACA
that allows these children who came to the United States at a young age to
be able to stay that Trump has basically blown up. And it should include
To me, that means some spending in vital areas like food stamps to keep
them from being cut and to make sure that this isn`t a lopsided spending
deal. Otherwise, it`s up to the Republicans, and it`s up to Paul Ryan
especially to find the votes on his own side. And if he can`t do that, he
is going to have to come to Nancy Pelosi to cut a deal, and they have no
reason to cut a deal in advance.
O`DONNELL: And, Catherine, we know Paul Ryan doesn`t have the votes on his
side for anything. There will never be anything that the Republicans can
put in front of that House that gets all of the Republican votes.
But let`s listen to who Donald Trump is ready to blame if the Republicans
cannot round up Republican votes for a Republican funding bill. Let`s
listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Do you believe there will be a government shutdown, Mr.
President, and would you blame the Democrats if that happens?
TRUMP: If that happens, I would absolutely blame the Democrats. If it
happens, it`s going to be over illegals pouring into the country, crime
pouring into the country, no border wall, which everybody wants. I got
elected partially because of a border wall.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: So, Catherine, he`s got his blame speech ready to go.
CATHERINE RAMPELL, OPINION COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. He`s got
a whole bunch of non sequiturs and scapegoats ready, of course.
Look, Republicans control every branch of government right now. There is
no plausible way that they can deny responsibility if there is a shutdown.
And we heard Paul Ryan say earlier that there are important things on the
agenda, and that that`s why the Democrats should show up for this meeting
at which they will be summarily humiliated.
I 100 percent agree with Paul Ryan that there are important things on the
agenda. Norm mentioned DACA, the Dreamers. I would add CHIP, the
Children`s Health Insurance Program, to that list. I would add funding for
natural disaster hit areas as well. There are a lot of priorities that
Republicans in both the Senate and the House should be focusing on.
And instead, for some bizarre reason, they are obsessed with getting tax
cuts through for which there is no possible reason why it requires that
much urgency. And yet that`s what they`re focused on. They`re focused on
these unimportant priorities when there are actual major problems facing
the country in addition to this coming potential government shutdown.
O`DONNELL: And, David, as Catherine mentions, they`ve got something of a
traffic jam going legislatively here, trying to move a giant tax cut bill
at the same time. They`ve got try to figure out some way to keep the
government funded. There are Republicans who are for the tax bill who
would not be for a funding bill. Maybe the president should talk to some
of those Republicans.
DAVID LEONHARDT, OP-ED COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES : Well, I mean, the
way this is going to play out is going to be really interesting. It`s
going to make the Republicans` job hard on keeping the government open,
because at this point, the Republicans had a good day today in terms of
moving the tax bill forward.
I agree with everything Catherine said. On the substance, this is a bad
bill. But a lot of the senators who have leverage over it on the
Republican side are basically folding and saying they`ll take anything.
And so, if you think about the fact that the Republican Party may pass this
tax bill, it`s going to really make the Democrats very unhappy. It`s a big
handout to the wealthy. It has a lot of problems for the deficit.
And then the Republicans are going to turn around and they may need to ask
the Democrats` help in keeping the government open. And the Democrats
aren`t going to be in the mood to give them that help. And so, as Norm
said that, they should ask for a very high price. And then they should ask
for a higher price.
O`DONNELL: And, Norm, it`s unusual to see the traffic jam like this,
because usually a tax bill, no matter whether it`s a tax increase or tax
cuts is given a wide birth to just kind of sail through, especially the tax
cuts, which normally sail through very easily, and normally pick up
bipartisan vote. To see the tax bill bumping into this government funding
bill is an unusual one.
ORNSTEIN: It sure is. But, you know, as a general matter, Lawrence, I
haven`t seen a day more embarrassing in Congress in a very, very long time.
The farce with the president is one thing.
The caving of Republicans on the Senate side to agree to things that they
previously had said were simply non-starters, the unwillingness even to
wait for more judgment about what the implications of this bill will be for
the economy and for the distribution of income and wealth in the country,
the brushing aside of the concerns of teachers, of graduate students, of so
many others in this society for provisions that are going to be damaging to
them. And then understanding, as you said, that the normal process of a
tax bill, which involves give and take across a wide range of individuals,
that this is so dramatically different from what we`ve seen in the past
with tax reform, it just makes you want to throw up your hands and say, can
anybody here play this game the right way?
O`DONNELL: And, Catherine, we have the president saying today that he`s –
I mean almost legislatively expressing gratitude to North Korea for firing
off another test missile today, saying that that should definitely bring
Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi to the negotiating table on the budget.
What are the odds of that changing Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi`s
calculations on the budget?
RAMPELL: Oh, our deal maker in chief surely knows how to drive a hard
bargain by bringing up North Korea which has nothing to do with anything
else. I mean, the problem with taxes in particular is that they won`t work
with Democrats, right? So every marginal vote in the Republican Party is
empowered. And many of those marginal votes are completely at odds with
the other marginal votes.
You know, some of them want the tax cuts to be bigger. Some of them think
that the tax cuts are too expensive already. So, there is this sort of,
like, stupid Mexican standoff happening here where they can`t actually move
forward. It seems like they want to move forward, but they actually won`t
be able to blame Democrats for any of their problems because they`ve
already decided, you know, to begin with, that they`re not going to work
So, it`s hard to imagine why Democrats will be brought to the table on
taxes, what they possibly have to gain from playing ball on these budget
issues, or really any of the other critical issues facing our country
unless Republicans and the White House start treating them with more
respect and start respecting in particular their policy priorities.
O`DONNELL: Nancy Pelosi did a tweet today about this photo op saying:
Donald Trump now knows that his verbal abuse will no longer be tolerated.
His empty chair photo op showed he is more interested in stunts than
addressing the needs of the American people. Poor Ryan and McConnell,
relegated to props. Sad.
And, David, she is trying to do a little Trump tweeting imitation there at
the end. But his verbal abuse will no longer be tolerated. We can hope
that`s true. It`s just a question now of what demands will Nancy Pelosi
and Chuck Schumer have about getting into a negotiation with him in terms
of his own personal conduct. Because I think they are owed demands about
his own personal conduct beyond just the policy questions.
LEONHARDT: I agree. I think in the end, look, will not be tolerated is
one of the great passive constructions. In the end, I think the only
people who can truly stop tolerating Donald Trump`s behavior are the
American voters. And I think the only way to really see people pushing
back against this are the kinds of results that we saw this past November
in Virginia and New Jersey.
But really even stronger results than that. So I think Democrats should
take their anger and they should channel it first toward trying to stop the
tax bill. And if that doesn`t work, and it may not, they should channel it
toward 2018, because the only thing that is really going to get Donald
Trump to change his behavior is a different Congress than the one we have
right now, because it`s become very clear that this Congress will tolerate
his behavior and will exact very few consequences for Trump`s behavior.
O`DONNELL: David Leonhardt, Catherine Rampell and Norm Ornstein, thank you
all for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
ORNSTEIN: Thanks, Lawrence.
LEONHARDT: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, tax cut legislation, as I said, is supposed to be
the easiest thing you can pass through the Congress. But Republicans are
making it look difficult, which might have a little something to do with
what is actually in that bill. President Obama`s director of the National
Economic Council Gene Sperling will join us next.
And later, what Donald Trump doesn`t know about Pocahontas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PROTESTERS: Kill the bill! Kill the bill!
CLERK: Mr. Chairman, the ayes are 12 and the nays are 11.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The bill is reported out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The Republican tax cut bill passed a procedural vote in the
Senate Budget Committee today as protesters inside the room shouted “kill
Two Republican senators who have publicly threatened to oppose the bill,
Ron Johnson and Bob Corker, voted yes in the committee today. The vote
came after President Trump visited Capitol Hill and begged Republican
senators to support the tax cut bill.
Joining us now, Gene Sperling, former director of the National Economic
Council for Presidents Obama and Clinton.
Gene, this is something we never see. The one thing Republicans can just
glide through the Congress are the tax cut bills that they do. They always
pick up Democratic votes, Democratic senators, Democratic House members who
want to get on board with the tax cut, thinking that will be popular in
their reelection campaigns.
Stunning to see no Democratic votes on this thing so far. But also
stunning to see how difficult a lift it is for Republicans to get it
through. What`s inside the bill that`s making it so difficult to pass?
GENE SPERLING, ECONOMIC ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT CLINTON AND OBAMA: I mean,
really, Lawrence, this is really about as desperate and disgraceful an
effort as I think we`ve ever seen. I mean, if you told me or anyone that a
Republican Party or Democratic Party would give themselves permission to
raise the deficit by $1.5 trillion, basically add $1.5 trillion of play
money and still have a tax cut plan that by the time it`s implemented
raises taxes on 83 million Americans in 2027. By 2019, it`s raising taxes
on anybody who is working full-time making 14 bucks an hour. I mean, how
do you do that?
You have to have – you have to be so beholden to the top 1 percent, so
beholden to special interests, large company priorities to arrange, to
somehow figure out how to do that. And that`s what`s basically happened.
They started this entire tax cut built on a basic lie. And the basic lie
was if they gave a huge tax cut to the largest companies, that was somehow
going to mean the people`s wages were going to go up.
Except, Lawrence, we know in the last 16 years, corporate profits have
nearly doubled as a percentage of our economy. And we`ve had years where
the share going to employees has been the lowest in six or seven decades.
So, what they really I have is they`re out there with their big tax cut
plan, and every moment you know more about it, you realize the tens of
millions of middle class Americans are going to see their taxes increase.
And I think they`re trying to rush this, Lawrence, so that nobody knows
what is really in the bill by the time it passes. But I`ll tell you, what
these Republican members of Congress need to remember is it`s possible to
rush it so the public doesn`t understand it, by the time you vote. But
people will understand it by the time they vote in 2018. And I think a lot
of members of Congress, Republicans in Congress are going to have a lot to
O`DONNELL: And, Gene, you`ve worked on tax legislation in the Clinton
administration, the Obama administration. And I know for the Democratic
side that one of the documents that people most eagerly try to get their
hands on is what they call the distribution chart, when that comes out in
the CBO scoring. And it shows you how this – how a tax bill will affect
the various income classes.
And when I think of all the distribution charts I think that you and have I
seen, it`s always been try to make sure that the impact is being – the
benefits are chiefly on the bottom half of that distribution chart. And
you`re looking to minimize the benefits as you go up in income.
It seems like they simply reversed all of those distribution charts that
you`ve used in the Democratic administrations.
SPERLING: Yes. I mean, it`s shocking. When you look when the Senate bill
is fully implemented, people in the top 1/10 of 1 percent, those making
over $5 million have a $200,000 tax cut. And yet, 82 million Americans
under $200,000, middle class, upper middle class, working poor Americans
are actually given a tax increase.
And I think people at home would be wondering, how is that possible when
you have a $1.5 trillion that they have given themselves permission to
increase the deficit. And the answer is, is that it really does go to your
priorities. Progressives start by putting people first, putting working
They started with a huge tax cut for the largest companies. That`s
probably $600 billion, $700 billion. Then they decide they had to match
that by giving the most well-off people who have partnerships or S-corps a
huge tax cut.
At the end of the day, they really did not have very much left over for
middle class families. And so, many are getting an actual tax increase,
which is truly stunning.
O`DONNELL: And, Bob Corker, who has been pretending, you might even say to
be a holdout on this thing. He voted for it procedurally today. His big
worry has been the deficit. Today, he said: After agreeing in principle
with Senate leadership, members of the Finance Committee and the
administration, on a trigger mechanism to ensure greater fiscal
responsibility should economic growth estimates not be realized, I voted to
advance this important piece of legislation.
Gene, he is saying he wants a trigger mechanism to go into effect if the
deficit starts to go up more than the Republicans are projecting it will go
up. But they are projecting it will go up $1.5 trillion.
SPERLING: Yes, I mean, look, you know, I like Bob Corker. We work
together well. I respect him.
But with all due respect, you don`t deal with gimmicks by creating a brand-
new gimmick. This $1.5 trillion deficit increase is probably going to be
larger when you actually take the gimmicks out. It could easily be closer
to $2 trillion.
So, Corker says well let`s put in a provision. It`s kind of like the
whipping boy provision. If the corporate tax cuts don`t bring in enough
revenue, we`ll raise taxes on middle class Americans.
Well, either that`s not going to happen, and it`s just a gimmick to give
them cover for this huge deficit increase, or it actually would raise taxes
perhaps – actually when the economy was weak and make no sense at all.
And I think what really is the concern for so many people is that when
they`re raising $1.5 trillion of deficit, you know, Lawrence, we know what
they`re going to do.
The moment they do this, the moment they have made the deficit that much
worse than the out years, they`re going to come back and tell people they
have no choice but to cut Medicare, Medicaid, maybe even Social Security.
In fact, in their own budget, they have $473 billion in Medicare cuts and
$1.3 trillion in Medicaid. So when you look at why this is going to be a
bad deal for middle class, it`s not just that it raises their taxes, it`s
what they`re going to do to make up for the debt increase they create
giving tax cuts for the top 1 percent and the largest companies in our
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Gene Sperling, we need your experience
and expertise on this. Thank you very much for joining us tonight, really
SPERLING: Thanks, Lawrence. Thanks for having me.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, the Navajo nation responds to Donald Trump
O`DONNELL: Today John McCain said our nation owes a debt of gratitude to
the Navajo Code Talkers whose bravery, skill and tenacity helped secure our
decisive victory over tyranny and oppression during World War II.
Politicizing these genuine American heroes is an insult to their sacrifice.
And as we saw last night, President Trump politicized the Navajo Code
Talkers Whitehouse moment this way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: You were here long before any of
us were here, although we have a representative in Congress who they say
was here a long time ago. They call her Pocahontas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: They don`t call her Pocahontas, as we pointed out last night.
There was no indication that the Navajo men in that room knew who Donald
Trump was talking about at that moment. In Washington, only Donald Trump
uses that name for the Senior Senator from Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren,
who is from Oklahoma and says she has a small fraction of her ancestry that
is Native American.
Yesterday, Elizabeth Warren told Rachel Maddow that Donald Trump was using
it as a racial slur. Apparently this baffles everyone named Trump. The
easily baffled Eric Trump took particular note of anyone from ABC News
suggesting yesterday that what Donald Trump said was offensive. The irony
of an ABC Reporter whose parent company Disney has profited nearly half a
billion dollars on the movie Pocahontas inferring that the name is
offensive is truly staggering to me. Here is the President of the Navajo
Nation Russell Begaye responding to that today on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSSELL BEGAYE, PRESIDENT, NAVAJO NATION: To throw in the word Pocahontas
that was used on the campaign trail and doesn`t belong there – this is
where we`re honoring and respecting our veterans, especially our Code
Talkers. And to put in a slur that has become racial, Pocahontas didn`t
belong there. It kind of ruined the whole ceremony in that respect.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The alliance of colonial era Tribes issued a written statement
saying degrading an American Indian name or historic tribal reference by
using it as an insult is making a racial slur whether knowingly or
unknowingly. The right to determine if it is a slur belongs to those who
have been insulted, not the one who made the insult. The appropriate and
mature response when one is made aware of such an insult to an entire race
of people is to apologize and to not do it again.
An even better response after the apology is to try to understand and learn
more of the proud heritage of the people that were insulted and why the
manner which you used the reference may be viewed as an insult. This is a
teachable moment that could be transformed into something positive. Last
night on this program, we transformed the latest Trump teachable moment
into a segment honoring the three Navajo code talkers who were in the Oval
Office yesterday simply by showing you what their leader Peter McDonald had
to say yesterday, a statement that was drowned out in most of the media
yesterday by the Trump controversy.
Tonight`s teachable moment is about Pocahontas. There is no indication that
anyone named Trump is aware of anything other than the Disney version of
Pocahontas. Here is what the Trumps don`t know about Pocahontas. She was a
real person, and she is one of the great heroes of American colonial
history as told by the colonists.
And so using her name as an insult is first and foremost like most Trump
choices based in rank, ignorance and unrelenting stupidity to put it in
terms that even a Trump can understand. It`s like trying to insult a
basketball player by calling him Michael Jordan, to which the reasonable
reply from the basketball player would be thank you. It was Captain John
Smith, one of the early leaders of the colony of Virginia who made
John Smith wrote a glowing letter to Queen Anne claiming that Pocahontas
saved his life when her father was about to have Smith executed. And John
Smith`s version, Pocahontas laid her head on his chest so that Smith could
not be beheaded without Pocahontas suffering the same fate. In his letter
to the Queen, John Smith said, she hazarded the beating out of her own
brains to save mine and not only that but so prevailed with her father that
I was safely conducted to Jamestown.
That is the version of Pocahontas that has passed through the centuries and
is now the stuff of Disney animation. But William Stith`s 1865 book tells
us more about Pocahontas. He wrote a book about the history of the Virginia
colony. and he said she was the first Christian Indian in these parts. Now,
will Donald Trump`s devoted followers most whom call themselves Christian
demand that Donald Trump stop using the word Pocahontas as an insult?
And then there is the most important detail of all in William Stith`s 1865
book which tells us 400 years ago Pocahontas and her tribe anticipated the
likes of Donald Trump. Pocahontas knew they could never fully trust the new
settlers of their land. And so as Stith reports in his book, her real name,
it seems, was originally Matoax, which the Indians carefully concealed from
the English and changed to it Pocahontas out of a superstitious fear less
they by the knowledge of her true name should be enabled to do her some
And so 400 years later, the president of the United States tries to do
Pocahontas some hurt by reducing her name to an insult that he repeatedly
hurls at a woman. But he can`t hurt Pocahontas. Her tribe made sure of
that. He can`t hurt Pocahontas because he doesn`t even know her real name.
And every time Donald Trump tries to insult Elizabeth Warren with that
word, with that fictional name of that real person, it is as if Matoax is
there somewhere, always making sure that the shame of those moments lands
entirely and justly on Donald Trump.
O`DONNELL: Today North Korea launched another intercontinental ballistic
missile in its first missile launch strike since September. According to
the Pentagon and Defense Secretary Mattis this missile flew higher than any
previous attempt at reaching an altitude of nearly 3,000 miles and traveled
600 miles before it crashed into the Sea of Japan. Here was the President`s
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I will only tell you that we will take care of it. We have General
Mattis in the room with us. And we`ve had a long discussion on it. It is a
situation that we will handle.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Ambassador Wendy Sherman and David Rothkopf will join us next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These missiles launches today, does it change anything
about your basic approach to dealing with –
TRUMP: Nothing changed. Nothing changed. We have a very serious approach
and nothing changed. We take it very seriously.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, are the North Koreans thumbing their
nose at you -
TRUMP: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Ambassador Wendy Sherman, former under
Secretary of State and a former Special Adviser to President Clinton on
North Korea. She is also an MSNBC Global Affairs contributor and with us
David Rothkopf a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for
International Peace and host of the Deep State Radio Podcast. Ambassador
Sherman, your reaction to this latest missile test by North Korea.
WENDY SHERMAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: The test is a very serious one. It`s
part of this process where North Korea is saying to us we are moving as
quickly as possible to be able to reach the continental United States. In
fact, as General Mattis said, this went very high. If that had been
stretched out, it could have been stretched out to 8,100 miles, which of
course could reach Washington, D.C. We don`t know yet whether such an
intercontinental ballistic missile can carry nuclear warhead which could
weigh a ton. But nonetheless we are in a very serious place.
And it is not clear at all that the United States administration, the Trump
administration has a strategy. Quite frankly listening to the earlier
clip, President say we`ll handle it, we`ll take care it, sounded to me like
a phrase that be sort of suspect these honey, honey, trust me, I`ll take
care of you and frankly there`s no reason do that.
O`DONNELL: And, David, your reaction to the administration`s response
DAVID ROTHKOPF, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I think as Wendy said, it was
disappointing. You know Trump`s statement we`ll take care of this was a
classic Trump statement. It was about the length of a Tweet, it was
founded in ignorance.
It was inflammatory and it was a lie because we`re not going to take care
of it, we don`t have a way to take care of it. We don`t have a way to stop
them from their nuclear weapons program that doesn`t produce a huge
conflagration on the North Korean Peninsula. Of course there is one way
that we might be able to address this. And that is if we an effective
But at the same time that the administration was talking big, it`s been
gutting the State Department. We don`t have people like Wendy Sherman, who
is extremely competent on issues like this, to go in and to work for that
diplomatic explosion. And in the end I think that`s going to cost us.
O`DONNELL: Ambassador Sherman, what would have happened in a previous
Whitehouse in a situation like this?
SHERMAN: I think what David`s pointing out is really critical here, which
is you have to have an all of government, all of the world strategy. I`m
glad the President called – the President of South Korea called the Prime
Minister of Japan. I hope he been in touch with President Xi as well. The
Chinese are probably a little bit embarrassed because they just sent a
party representative to North Korea and this was the result, another test.
So this does put more pressure on China. But what we aren`t seeing is an
all of government effort which has diplomacy at the core. I sure hope that
when Joe Yun, the special envoy, a very capable diplomat, one of the few
senior diplomats as David pointed out, that are left because so many have
been pushed out of the State Department said that if there were 60 days of
no test, it might be a signal for dialogue. Well it`s been 74 till this
test today and I hope that someday I find out there`s been a secret
channel. We`ve begun to make progress. But quite frankly, I`m rather
O`DONNELL: David, what would progress look like?
ROTHKOPF: Progress would not look like a military solution because there
isn`t a good one. It would look like a freeze. I think we would have to
negotiate something which holds them in place. We`re going to have to learn
to live with the fact that they`ve got these weapons and we`re going to
have to convey to them the message that if they are ever used in any way,
it will mean the complete obliteration of North Korea and then at the same
time work with China, work with Russia, work with every available country
in the world as Wendy points out, to squeeze them and to work on trying to
produce the kind of change we want to see in North Korea.
It`s going to take a long time. It takes patience. Bluster doesn`t do the
trick. You know Today Vice President Pence said don`t test our resolve. But
you have to ask the question
how many successful ICBM launches actually amounts to a test of this
administrations resolve because every time it happens you get Trump with
blustering statement and no change. The situation is gets worse. And
frankly it`s getting worse faster under Trump than under any other
O`DONNELL: Ambassador Sherman, does the North Korean regime actually
think about the possible obliteration of North Korea in a situation like
SHERMAN: I believe they do. And to be perfectly frank and honest about it
I don`t think that intentionally President Trump or Kim Jong Un want to
start a nuclear war. But the risk of mi miscalculation here is getting
higher every day. If is of great concern because we`ve got two leaders in
different ways who really don`t know exactly what they`re doing, what the
consequences would be and may indeed miscalculate. There might be an
accident in the air, as there was with the Chinese and an American military
jet at the beginning of the George Bush Administration. It was handled by
deftly quite frankly after about 10 days. And our crewman got home. But
if something happened like that today, I`m not sure that we`d be in such a
O`DONNELL: Ambassador Wendy Sherman and David Rothkopf, thank you both for
joining us tonight, really appreciate it.
ROTHKOPF: Thank you.
SHERMAN: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Tonight`s Last Word is next
O`DONNELL: We just have time for a few last words about Giving Tuesday.
After I mentioned Giving Tuesday last night and the KIND funds, we started
to get some tweets from you about that. Katie tweeted, Lawrence, my yearly
donation to the KIND fund is in the books, Giving Tuesday. Thank you
Katie. As most of you know the KIND Fund is setup to provide desks for
kids in need of desks in African schools. You go to the
Ben Rosenberg said Lawrence four desk and two girl scholarships, done and
done as I do each year. Glad to help but of course as Ben knows we also
provide scholarships for girls to go to high school in Malawi where public
high school is not free. We will have more of your tweets and your
generosity about the KIND fund later this week. That is tonight`s Last
Word. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams is next.
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