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O'Donnell: 'Margaret Thatcher the socialist was forgotten long before she was gone'

The U.K.’s first and, to-date, only female Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher died Monday after suffering a stroke at age 87.

The U.K.’s first and, to-date, only female Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher died Monday after suffering a stroke at age 87. The “Iron Lady” of British politics led her Conservative Party to three consecutive election wins and held office for 11 years, the longest tenure of any British Prime Minister in the 20th century.

In his farewell to Thatcher, conservative columnist George Will wrote today that she “helped bury socialism as a doctrine of governance.” On Monday’s The Last Word, however, msnbc’s Lawrence O’Donnell challenged Thatcher’s image as a champion of conservative ideals and policies. “To believe that the Soviet Union would be thriving today were it not for Reagan and Thatcher is to believe that communism is a good idea,” said O’Donnell, who argued that the USSR in fact collapsed on its own.

“The other false credit Margaret Thatcher gets,” O’Donnell continued, “is for killing socialism and burying it.” He cited example after example of policies that were indicative of “her unyielding support for socialism.”

Thatcher said of Britain’s health care sector: “The principle that adequate health care should be provided for all, regardless of ability to pay, must be the foundation of any arrangements for financing the Health Service.”

“She did not think health care should be left to the vicissitudes of capitalism,” O’Donnell said, describing her support for Britain’s government-funded pension and social security systems, which he called “socialist programs.”

Though Republicans today call Obama a socialist while simultaneously praising Thatcher, O’Donnell doesn’t buy it. What would Sarah Palin say if she heard Thatcher voice her belief in evolution? Thatcher once said, “I began with Charles Darwin and his work on the theory of evolution and the Origin of Specials. Darwin's voyages were among the high-points of scientific discovery...the beliefs of Darwin's era should help to see us through--the belief in reason and the scientific method.”

Or what would the GOP say if, for instance, Thatcher advocated for action to combat climate change? Her words: “The problem of global climate change is one that affects us all and action will only be effective if it is taken at the international level. Each country must contribute and those countries who are industrialized must contribute more to help those who are not.”

These policies, O’Donnell argued, reveal a very different Iron Lady than the one Republicans remember today. “Each of these things is beyond the pale for our Republicans who loved Margaret Thatcher so much,” he said.