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The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, Transcript 01/22/15

Guests: Mike Tomasky, Phyllis Bennis, Ilyse Hogue, Dana Milbank, StephanieMiller

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Yes, it`s football night in America, even here on THE LAST WORD. Of course we`re going to talk about men who make their living playing with balls. And men who want to be president. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney are meeting face to face. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two when who have their eyes on the presidency. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are going to be competing for the same donors. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are they working out between runs? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Each team has the same opportunity to prepare the balls. JON STEWART, COMEDIAN: Quit being a nomination hog, Mitt. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Either guy actually probably think that they have the inside track. STEWART: There`s a lot of people who deserve the chance to lose a presidential election. GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Sit down and shut up. STEWART: Like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A live man stumbling. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is going to be a nightmare. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Benjamin Netanyahu has accepted House Speaker John Boehner`s invitation. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Come and address a joint meeting of Congress. REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I don`t believe I`m poking anyone in the eye. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s part of our whole ball security philosophy. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The White House reportedly is furious about this. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At odds over Iran`s nuclear program. President Obama specifically warned lawmakers to stay out of it. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It really is unusual. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Officials approve or disapprove of the balls. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like them at the way that I like them. JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I like a softer ball, that`s all I can tell you. RACHEL MADDOW, TRMS HOST: It`s football, stop saying balls, balls, balls. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`ve been cooperative with the NFL investigation. JIMMY KIMMEL, COMEDIAN: When the NFL investigates, they always get it right. (LAUGHTER) (END VIDEOTAPE) O`DONNELL: Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney, who have both announced that they are considering a run for the Republican presidential nomination, met today for a private little chat that has apparently been scheduled for weeks. "The New York Times" reports the original idea was for Mr. Bush, who announced his presidential ambitions in December, to show his respect for Mr. Romney, the Republican Party`s 2012 nominee. The meeting stayed on both men`s calendars, even as Mr. Romney took steps to test the presidential waters, move that could make the meeting awkward. Here`s what Jeb Bush had to say to a local CBS affiliate before today`s meeting. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: Is there any contention now that he`s -- JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: Not at all. REPORTER: -- thrown his hat into the ring? BUSH: I respect him a lot. I admire him a lot. He`s a great American. I look forward to seeing him. REPORTER: Is there any reticence after he started talking? BUSH: At least not on my part, and I don`t think on his either. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Both almost candidates are competing for the same donors, and in some cases, Mr. Bush and Mr. Romney are calling the same people just hours apart. Earlier today, Rand Paul tweeted, "Governor Bush apparently gave Mitt Romney a third time`s a charm bracelet." A new NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll finds Mitt Romney has more support among Republicans, 52 percent of Republicans had a positive view of Mitt Romney, 37 percent for Jeb Bush. And among Republicans who identify as tea partiers, 61 percent had a positive view of Mitt Romney, only 37 percent say the same thing for Jeb Bush. A new "Washington Post"/ABC News poll finds both candidates fall short when paired against the likely Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton. She has a 13-point lead over Jeb Bush and a 15-point lead over Mitt Romney. Joining me now, "Washington Post" columnist and MSNBC political analyst, Eugene Robinson, and MSNBC`s Steve Kornacki. OK. Eugene, let`s just get the important question of the day out of the way. Did you believe a word Tom Brady had to say today? (LAUGHTER) EUGENE ROBINSON, THE WASHINGTON POST: Not a whole lot. I mean, look, you know, he`s a Michigan guy, I`m a Michigan guy. So I have a certain sympathy for Tom Brady. You know, Belichick threw him under the bus. He apparently threw the equipment manager under the bus. We`ll see what the equipment manager has to say. O`DONNELL: Steve, when I was in high school, every time I had to throw or catch a football, the inflation mattered. You could tell exactly how hard that thing was. It really matters. There`s Brady today trying to say, jeez, I couldn`t tell the difference. STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC: Listen, I`m a Patriots apologist. So, let me just point out, the referee couldn`t tell the difference, either. He touched the ball between every play in the games, and he never noticed. O`DONNELL: OK. All right. On to the next matter, the next president of the United States. Eugene, as the chuckling continues about Mitt Romney possibly running for a third time, he continues to poll better than any other Republican candidate. So, I understand exactly why he`s looking at this. ROBINSON: Yes, sure. I mean, he`s got to hook at the field and nobody is setting this thing on fire. If he`s doing better than anybody else, you could see why he would be tempted. You know, it is, of course, fool`s gold. I mean, it`s not like he hasn`t tried this before. It`s not like he doesn`t know what`s out there waiting for him, and indeed, our "Washington Post" poll shows that there`s a buzz saw waiting for him, assuming it`s Hillary Clinton that is the nominee. He`s probably not going to win. But, you know, it would have been an interesting conversation between two men today, that`s for sure. Got any travel plans for the coming year? I am thinking about dropping by Iowa, what about you, that sort of thing. O`DONNELL: Steve, was this maybe the first meeting between the Republican ticket, the Bush-Romney ticket? Do you think Jeb was trying to talk to him about the pleasures of the vice president? KORNACKI: Yes, something tells me that`s not going to be the one-two combination for the Republicans in 2016. The interesting thing here, though, obviously, is you put some of those poll numbers up on the screen - - I mean, all we could talk about in 2012 was the conservative base`s resistance to Mitt Romney, the Tea Party`s resistance to Mitt Romney. He had to go through one indignity after another, with Herman Cain, with Newt Gingrich, with Rick Santorum. And yet now, the key to getting into this race, if he does get in to this race, is the idea he could be the one who rallies the Tea Party and who rallies the right against Jeb Bush. Mitt Romney much more popular with that faction of the party than Jeb Bush is. And I think what that gets to is sort of -- remember the origin story of the Tea Party movement. The Tea Party movement was definitely in part a backlash against Barack Obama. But it was also a reaction to what conservatives decided were all the excesses of the George W. Bush years, this idea that George W. Bush style Republicanism basically was a betrayal of conservative values, and because he betrayed conservative values, he gave it a bad name, which paved the road for Barack Obama to become president. So, I think that name Bush to that side of the party is still electoral poison. I think that`s what you`re seeing there. O`DONNELL: So, Gene, Romney, as liberal as we know he has been in the past in Massachusetts as a politician, kept getting -- becoming harder and harder right and more and more right wing as he was a presidential candidate. And so, now, he is to the right of Jeb Bush, and those Republicans are always looking for who is the most conservative person who we can nominate? Who can also win? There`s always a more conservative person in the field who they don`t think can win. But is that the spot Romney thinks he can find? ROBINSON: Well, he seems to think he can get there. There`s always a question, though, with Romney, you know, changeable though his positions might be. How far to the right can he get? I mean, he did invent what became Obamacare. He does believe, and he said it again recently, I think today -- he believes in climate change. He believes that humankind is contributing to climate change. There are certain things that he believes that the far right just doesn`t. And so, if he can get to the right of George Bush, can he get far right enough for say Iowa Republicans? I think that`s still a big question. In the last two elections, he hasn`t been able to. O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Mike Huckabee had to say on "The View" today, because he did get far right enough for Iowa Republicans when he ran for president and he will be out there most likely in this presidential field. So far he`s been running against President Obama and Beyonce. Let`s listen to what he said today. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Beyonce. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She`s amazing. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, Beyonce. MIKE HUCKABEE (R), FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: She is amazing. And interestingly, I`ve had so much uproar over half a page -- UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, from all of us, we were united. HUCKABEE: Well, but half a page in my book. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know. HUCKABEE: And I say she`s the most amazing singer, great set of pipes, unbelievable dancer, and she doesn`t need to do songs like "Partition" and "Drunk in Love" in order to be an effective and amazing talent. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Steve, there`s Mike Huckabee reminding the conservative base of his preacher credentials, of his moralistic credentials on the right side of that party. KORNACKI: Yes. So, that`s the other complicating factor for Mitt Romney. If he sees the opening to the right of Jeb Bush, then he`s got to compete with Mike Huckabee, and Mike Huckabee is with evangelical conservatives. As we always say, Mike Huckabee with the right of the party, it`s really specifically, it was always striking in the polling with him. It`s evangelical conservatives. He is a rock star with them. For the rest of the right, he`s never done that well. But then you got Rand Paul. He can take a chunk on the right. Ted Cruz, he can take a chunk of the right. Ben Carson, He can take a chunk on the right. So, I guess to the point where it`s tough for me to see Mitt Romney getting all those people coalesce around him as the alternative to Jeb. But at the same time, I don`t know if these poll numbers are really going to reverse, I think, you know, what Jeb Bush was counting on here was at a certain point, he would become the clear, obvious front runner in all these polls and it would scare off Mitt Romney, it would scare off Chris Christie, it would scare off the rest of the establishment. I think there may be so much resistance to the Bush name in the Republican Party, first, some of it is ideological, some of it is pragmatic. Do we really want to nominate another Bush for a national election, and I think that might keep him from establishing that early dominant position he thought and he`s banking on getting that will scare everybody else off. O`DONNELL: Steve, does the Bush-Romney problem at the top of these polls scare off Chris Christie? KORNACKI: No. I think it probably encourages him to get in, because they both look very beatable at this point. And the other one to keep on eye who I think is angling to try to make it into that mix, more on the establishment side, is Scott Walker in Wisconsin. And you hear Scott Walker over and over now with his refrain he`s talking about, stressing that he`s outside Washington and that he`s used the fresh -- he`s fresh, he`s new, he`s different. He wants you to look at Bush, he wants you to look at Romney and say we`ve had enough of that, try this guy. O`DONNELL: And, Gene, there`s always that phenomena of what happens to those polls when potential candidacies, theoretical candidacies become real candidacies. It always the voters` attitude towards those candidates always changes after they actually declare that they`re candidates. ROBINSON: It will change when we get actual candidacies. It will change again when voters get a chance to see the candidates in action. So, you know, to say the cliche for the first time, we`ve got a long way to go in this. I tend to agree with Steve that Jeb Bush has a special problem here, two problems actually. Number one is just the name and its associations. Number two, he`s got to be rusty, he`s got to be really rusty. He hasn`t done this in a long time. Mitt Romney at least has run for president rather more often and more recently than Jeb Bush, and he knows how to do it in the modern era. O`DONNELL: And, Steve, the polling we have indicates that the name Bush is a net negative, meaning some people are more in favor of him because he`s a Bush, but more people are opposed to his candidacy because he`s a Bush. On the Clinton side, more people are in favor of her name, the Clinton name as a net positive on her side. So that kind of information coming into the Bush campaign as to -- how do you strategize what to do with the guy`s last name? KORNACKI: Yes, I don`t know what they can do. I think it`s one of these ironies in history because the story is always that it was Jeb Bush that George Bush Sr. saw as the natural successor in politics, not George W. They both run for governor, way back 20 years ago, 1994, in the same year. Jeb was supposed to win, George W. was supposed to lose. Instead, George W. won, Jeb lose, that put George W. on the track he`s on. And it may end up being the case when Jeb finally got around to having his chance to run for president, George W. had done so much damage to the family name, Jeb couldn`t play that role his father always wanted him to play. O`DONNELL: Steve, tomorrow, this weekend on your show, are you going to be discussing the whole Brady lie about -- (CROSSTALK) KORNACKI: We might get to it once or twice. O`DONNELL: Are Patriots apologists just hiding the whole story? Are you just going to suppress the news? KORNACKI: Lawrence, come on, you`re from Boston. (CROSSTALK) O`DONNELL: You know, I can`t buy that story today. Eugene Robinson, Steve Kornacki, thank you both very much for joining me tonight. Coming up, President Obama will not be meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu when Netanyahu comes to Washington to lobby against the president at the invitation of John Boehner. And House Republicans should have known that their first big vote was going to be a failure. The women in their own party warned them. And later, quarterbacks and their balls. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) O`DONNELL: The speaker of the New York state assembly surrendered to the FBI today on federal corruption charges. Prosecutors allege 70-year- old Sheldon Silver used his position to take more than $4 million in bribes and kickbacks, which he masked as legitimate income earned as a lawyer over 15 years. Sheldon Silver was first elected to the New York state assembly in 1976. He`s served as speaker since 1994. Up next, Benjamin Netanyahu apparently has decided to run for re- election from a podium in the House of Representatives. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) O`DONNELL: The White House announced today that President Obama will not meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when the prime minister comes to Washington to address a joint session of Congress in March. A spokesperson for the National Security Council said, "As a matter of longstanding practice and principle, we do not see heads of stats or candidates in close proximity to their elections, so as to avoid the appearance of influencing a democratic election in a foreign country." For the same reason Secretary of State John Kerry will also refrain from meeting with Netanyahu. Today, the Israeli prime minister officially accepted House Speaker John Boehner`s invitation to address Congress on March 3rd -- that`s just two weeks before the re-election in Israel on March 17th. Speaker Boehner invited Netanyahu without first consulting President Obama or any of the Democratic congressional leadership. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said again today the manner in which Netanyahu was invited was a departure from protocol. Today, NBC News senior White House correspondent Chris Jansing spoke to the national security adviser Ben Rhodes about the Netanyahu invitation. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BEN RHODES, DEPUTY NAT. SECURITY ADVISOR: We were surprised to learn about it from Speaker Boehner. It`s not unusual for a foreign leader to speak to the Congress, particularly a close ally like Israel, and usually we don`t find out when it`s announced by the speaker. CHRIS JANSING, NBC NEWS: So just a political poke from John Boehner? RHODES: Well, you`ll have to ask John Boehner. It`s certainly the first time that`s happened in the six years that I`ve been working here where you had, again, a high profile foreign visit like that announced not out of the White House here but by the speaker. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Joining me now is "Daily Beast" columnist Mike Tomasky, also Phyllis Bennis, the director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies. Mike, I have never seen an invitation issued like this to a head of state to address a joint session of Congress. And it turns out the original invitation from Boehner was for February and Netanyahu pushed it up to March, even closer, much closer to the election night in Israel. MIKE TOMASKY, DAILY BEAST: Two weeks from the election he pushed it to, coinciding with the big AIPAC Conference here in Washington, which will also happen in early March. But, Lawrence, I think you`re quite right. I don`t think I`ve never seen anything quite like this. It`s hard to read this as anything other than an attempt to subvert or at least thwart Obama`s foreign policy goal. Obama being the president, this is to say the United States` foreign policy goal of striking some kind of a nuclear deal with Iran, because this is the ostensible subject of Netanyahu`s talk to Congress and he`s obviously going to go there and he`s going to say, this is a terrible idea, and the Republicans are going to give him rapturous applause, probably a few, small smattering of Democrats, too, but mostly Republicans, are going to give him absolutely rapturous applause. And it`s an in your face gesture at the president of the United States, siding with the head of another state against the president, basically. O`DONNELL: Yes, I said last night this looks like the Republicans are simply having this be their response to the State of the Union Address. Literally delivering a foreign head of state to the same spot where the president stood during his State of the Union Address. And, Mike, you said some Democrat also be applauding a Netanyahu position on Iran. One of those is Senator Bob Menendez, Democratic senator from New Jersey. Let`s listen to what he said about the president`s comments about Iran in the State of the Union address. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: I have to be honest with you, the more I hear from the administration and its quotes, the more it sounds like talking points that come straight out of Tehran. And it feeds to the Iranian narrative of victimization when they are the ones with original sin -- an elicit nuclear weapons program going back over the course of 20 years, that they are unwilling to come clean on. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Phyllis, there`s Senator Menendez accusing the White House, his phrase, using talking points coming out of Tehran. That sounds like something beneath the dignity of Ted Cruz. PHYLLIS BENNIS, INSTITUTE FOR POLICY STUDIES: There`s no dignity here. You know, Lawrence, there`s nothing dignified about these kinds of attacks. What they`re trying to do is make a partisan gesture out of an incredibly dangerous foreign policy move. What we`re talking about here, we`re going to be seeing Netanyahu in the Congress two days after the next deadline in these talks with Iran. The next deadline is March 1st. There`s supposed to be a frame work agreement by that time, which would then go on until July 1st to have all the implementation arranged. That`s a very tight deadline. And the notion that Netanyahu is going to come deliberately to undermine the possibility that an agreement could go through before the U.S. and its allies, the P5 plus 1 as they call it, which means the five permanent members of the United Nations, the U.S., Britain, France, China, Russia, plus Germany, are the negotiating sides. On the other side is Iran. Israel is not part of those negotiations. And the idea that Netanyahu believes he has the right to interfere not just with the United States Congress, but the notion that he has the right globally to try and scuttle this global negotiation is absolutely an outrage. What we`re looking at is the possibility that there could be a real undermining of the chance for an agreement. And we should be clear here, Lawrence, if there is no agreement with Iran and new sanctions by the Congress will scuttle any new agreement. That will definitely be true. If that happens, the alternative is war as a very likely possibility. So, what we`re seeing is that members of Congress, who want Netanyahu to come, knowing that he represents not only his own political position, whatever that might be, but a country whose official position, despite what Secretary Kerry claimed that we and Israel see things the same way, we just disagree on how to get there. Israel has a completely different strategic goal, vis-a-vis Iran. Israel`s goal officially is to prevent Iran from ever having the capacity to build a nuclear weapon any time in the future, whether it`s ten years, one year or 100 years from now. That`s not the U.S. position. The U.S. position is to make sure Iran does not get a nuclear weapon. There`s a vast cavern between these two positions. And the notion that the Congress and this will be bipartisan I`m afraid, as we just heard from Senator Menendez, that the Congress may see it in its interest and right to undermine U.S. foreign policy when there is the chance of a real negotiated solution to this longstanding crisis is of thoroughly unbelievable thing to be seeing. O`DONNELL: Mike Tomasky, the president said he would veto any additional sanctions Congress might pass. TOMASKY: He has, and presumably he will. You know, Lawrence, this is a really interesting throw-down, interesting is one word for it, by Netanyahu at Obama. I talked to a journalist friend of mine in Israel today who thinks it`s not so much directed at Obama on Netanyahu`s behalf. He thinks it`s all about getting reelected and he just wants to get reelected and get his coalition, his governing coalition in the Knesset. I`ll take his word for it, he knows -- but sitting here in Washington, it`s pretty hard for me not to read this in some respects, to some degree as Netanyahu just almost taunting Obama and daring him. You know, there is talk in some liberal circles, in some pro-peace circles, the U.S. some day, getting to the point where maybe it has to reconsider some of the aspects of its relationship with Israel, the $3 billion a year, the automatic support at the United Nations. Right now, that`s just talk around the edges. But if Netanyahu tests this relationship, it will be interesting to see where this might go. O`DONNELL: Phyllis, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia died today at age 90. Apparently he will be replaced by his brother, aged 79. It seems as though this will make no difference in the affairs of Saudi Arabia. BENNIS: I don`t know if we can assume that, Lawrence. I think that what we`ve seen in the recent months has been that Prince Salman, the heir apparent, who will take over for Abdullah, has been running the show for a while. And as we just heard, he`s almost 80. The king was 90. This is a sclerotic monarchy. The young people are so far down in the hierarchy that they`re not likely to take the throne for many years. By that time, they`ll be very old. So, this is a very problematic monarchy in a host of ways. I mean, this is a monarchy responsible for beheading people. That`s how they carry out their punishments. They are whipping people as part of their punishments. So, this is a backward, reactionary, misogynistic administration. That`s not going to change. What could change is some shift in the relationship with Iran. We might see a bit of pullback into an internal mode, at least temporarily, which could mean that the tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran that shapes a great deal of what`s happening in Syria right now, what`s happening in Iraq right now, certainly what`s happening in this issue around the Iran nuclear negotiation -- all of that, we could see some shift as Saudi Arabia comes to terms with a new stage in its absolute monarchy. O`DONNELL: Mike Tomasky and Phyllis Bennis, thank you both very much for joining me tonight. Coming up, House Republicans tried their first big vote about women`s reproductive rights. They were warned that it was not going to go well. And in the "Rewrite" tonight, Republicans who support abortion only in cases of rape, incest and when a woman`s life is at risk, they do not realize it, but they`re in support of the fundamental principles of Roe versus Wade. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) O`DONNELL: Today, House Republicans voted on an anti-abortion bill that was not the bill they planned to vote on. When the Republicans lost the support of some of Republican women in the House of Representatives for a bill that would restrict abortions to the first 20 weeks of pregnancy instead of 24 weeks under Roe versus Wade, Republican leadership surrendered to those Republican women and had to come up with some other symbolic vote on abortion today, which is the 42nd anniversary of the Roe versus Wade decision. Abortion opponent and former presidential candidate, Rick Santorum, was disappointed. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RICK SANTORUM, FORMER REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m sure the leadership is looking at the situation. And the most important thing you want to do is you want to have a bill that can pass. We`re disappointed that it sounds like several members were concerned about this bill. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Republicans did manage to pass a bill today that, they say, would prevent federal dollars from funding abortions. But, of course, federal funding of abortion has been illegal since the Hyde Amendment passed in 1976. There is virtually no possibility of this new bill passing the Senate but, if by some legislative miracle, it does make it to the President`s desk, President Obama has said that he would veto it. Joining me now is Dana Milbank, a columnist for "The Washington Post," and Ilyse Hogue, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America. Ilyse, were you surprised at this revolt of basically women Republicans in the House of Representatives? Were you aware that they were not going to be willing to go along with supporting this 20-week restriction on abortion? ILYSE HOGUE, PRESIDENT, NARAL PRO-CHOICE AMERICA: Well, we see it as an indication of a changed political reality. I mean, it`s important to remember that Renee Ellmers, who sort of led the defection of the G.O.P. women, voted for this exact same bill in the last session. I think what this -- what some in the party are coming to recognize is their obsession with outlying -- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) -- abortion at the expense of real Americans` priorities. It`s not good policy and it`s not good politics. It hurts women and families, and it hurts their chances of moving forward into a brave new world. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: And Dana Milbank, they couldn`t get the vote they wanted, so they went for another vote and, somehow, pretending in that vote that there is federal funding for abortion. DANA MILBANK, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, they did that. And it seems that they didn`t quite get the overall point here, and that is -- you know, they just won an election by talking about, you know, the economy, healthcare, immigration, -- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) -- anything but abortion, which was not on voter`s minds at all as registering an important issue with less than half of one percent. And so, they really had to make this one of their top priorities in their first two weeks here. So, the fact that they basically switched to another bill sort of lay bare the whole notion that they were doing this just to cater to the people who come for this annual trade show known as the "March for Life." So, it was a case of sort of bait-and-switch saying, "Elect us and we`re going to do things for jobs." And, instead, these new majorities got elected and they`re going back to the same old culture wars. O`DONNELL: And Ilyse, there is a very clear and strong majority support in this country for basically the structure of Roe versus Wade, a woman`s right to choose. Republicans know that they are -- they they, in political terms, they`re playing against that majority. And so, they kind of like get -- I`ve always believed they like to get these votes done in as quiet a way as possible, so that it pleases the people who are there to lobbying them literally, you know, in the building that day, but doesn`t get quite this much notice out there in the general population where this position is opposed. HOGUE: Absolutely. I mean, we`ve seen support for the values in Roe v. Wade. And seven in 10 Americans, this crosses partisan lines and, in fact, we released a poll yesterday that showed that in four Republican House districts, the majority were opposed to this bill, opposed to their elected officials voting on this bill. You know, I think, Dana`s point is really, really important. We watched Republican candidate after Republican candidate run away from their extreme anti-choice values in order to get elected in 2014. But it didn`t last very long, right. It took two weeks for them to come back and focus on this obsession of restricting personal freedoms for women, rather than expanding economic opportunity. And one of the things that was lost in that conversation in the bill they voted for today is it actually raises taxes on small businesses, who provide comprehensive healthcare insurance, because 87 percent of private insurance plans actually cover abortion. And this bill would actually raise taxes on small businesses, again, not in line with voters` priorities. O`DONNELL: And, Dana, the official position of the Republican Party in their presidential platform is opposition to abortion with absolutely no exceptions -- not for rape, not for incest, not for life of the mother. And that`s a position supported, at most, by 12 percent of Americans. And so, these are the days where they`d like to be able to please that very tiny constituency, but move away from it as quickly as possible. MILBANK: Well, and that`s really what tripped them up here. It wasn`t the 20-week thing per se. It was that it technically had a rape exemption in there but it was only if the woman reported it to the police, which generally doesn`t occur. So, that`s the thing that led to the rebellion there. I mean, the type of procedure involved here is something like one percent of all abortions. And they`re sort of, you know, going against the general -- forget about public opinion here, dramatic reductions in the number of abortions. So, the whole thing sounded awfully discordant. And, yes, maybe they wanted to throw this bone to the marchers here in town and they wanted it not to be noticed, but it completely blew up in their faces last night. O`DONNELL: Ilyse Hogue and Dana Milbank, thank you both very much for joining me tonight. Coming up, you will hear Patriots quarterback, Tom Brady, talking about his balls in his own words. And in the "Rewrite" tonight, how many Republicans and many Democrats are actually closer than they think to each other on the issue of abortion. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) And, now, for the good news. After more than 150 years, conservationists have finally reported -- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) -- finding baby saddleback tortoises on the Galapagos Island of Pinzon. According to a -- (END VIDEO CLIP) report published the journal, "Nature," conservationists said they have found 10 newly-hatched tortoises, although they actually -- they think the actual number might be much larger. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) The tortoise population has long been under a threat of extinction because invasive rats preying on their eggs. In 2012, a helicopter flew over the island of Pinzon in an attempt to cover the area with poisoned rat bait. And, now, there seems to be no rats left on the island at all. (END VIDEO CLIP) Sorry, rats. The "Rewrite" is next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) Today, Republican senator and steadfast abortion opponent, Lindsey Graham, spoke to an audience of abortion opponents much more steadfast than he is, and he told them something that they did not want to hear. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I`ve always had exceptions for the life of the mother, rape and incest. Some disagree, including the pope. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: And including most Republican presidential and vice- presidential candidates who say they are opposed to all abortions with no exceptions. That no exceptions position is supported by only 12 percent of Americans. Once Lindsey Graham says he supports a woman`s right to choose abortion in cases of rape, incest or life of the mother, the difference between him and Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton is not as great as the difference between him and the people who believe all abortion is murder with no exceptions. Hillary Clinton, like most Democrats, supports a woman`s right to choose abortion under the Roe versus Wade framework, which means she opposes many abortions. It means she opposes a woman`s right to choose an abortion in, say, the eighth month of a pregnancy, unless there is a threat to the mother`s life. Very few Democrats, if any, support abortion on demand at any moment of a pregnancy for any reason, including in the last month of a pregnancy. So, the difference among most people on the issue of abortion is simply how many women, they think, should have the right to choose. Republicans got tangled up on that issue, the issue of the rape exception this week, with the real problem being, how would one qualify for the rape exception? Should a woman have to report the rape to the police in order to legally obtain an abortion? Ignored by all Republicans is the exception for incest, which no Republican has ever defined. There is no federal definition of incest. Incest is defined by state law, which means it`s defined 50 different ways in the United States. So, when Lindsey Graham says he is in favor of an exception to his steadfast opposition to abortion in cases of incest, he literally does not know what he means. Does he mean his state`s definition of incest? South Carolina defines incest as a man -- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) -- having carnal intercourse with his mother, grandmother, daughter, granddaughter, stepmother, sister, grandfather`s wife, son`s wife, grandson`s wife, wife`s mother, wife`s grandmother, wife`s daughter, wife`s granddaughter, brother`s daughter, sister`s daughter, father`s sister or mother`s sister. (END VIDEO CLIP) So, in South Carolina, it is not incest if a man has sex with his adopted daughter or his adopted son`s wife. But if you do that in Arkansas, that is incest. Arkansas defines incest as sex with an adopted child. And it defines incest as sex with a half-brother or half-sister, something the South Carolina incest statute doesn`t mention. In Alaska, if persons have, quote, "sexual penetration with their adopted children," that is not incest. So, does Lindsey Graham mean that a 20-year-old Alaskan woman is impregnated by a man who adopted her as his child should have no right to abortion? And does Lindsey Graham mean that if the same thing happened in Alabama, she should have a right to abortion? Because Alabama defines incest as sexual intercourse between people who are related by adoption? I can assure you that Lindsey Graham has given this absolutely no thought because he has never been asked this question. What Lindsey Graham recognizes is that some abortion is acceptable and even necessary. He thinks he has found the abortions that are acceptable when he simply rattles off those words -- rape, incest and life of the mother. He thinks he has found a better definition of acceptable abortion than the Supreme Court has. And to give Lindsey Graham credit on this subject, the reason he is in favor of the exceptions that he doesn`t actually understand is that he clearly believes there is a humane case to be made for abortion in those situations. And he`s right to point out that the pope does not believe that. The pope is an absolutist on abortion. It is all murder, according to the pope. And the Republican Party, which Lindsey Graham actually disagrees with. Lindsey Graham believes it is not humane, it is not practical to force certain women to deliver babies against their will. Hillary Clinton thinks the same thing. The difference between them is simply, how do you define that group of women who should be allowed to terminate pregnancies? The Supreme Court`s definition and Hillary Clinton`s definition are very clear. It is the same in all 50 states -- the law applies to all American women as the law should. Lindsey Graham`s definition is a mess, with at least 50 different definitions depending on where you live. According to his definition, what`s fair in one state is unfair in another. But, at least -- at least, he recognizes the fundamental principle that 88 percent of Americans recognize that there is a practical and humane case for abortion. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) You can turn up the music the Kamala Harris for Senate victory party. Billionaire environmentalist, Tom Steyer, announced today that he will not run for Senator Barbara Boxer`s seat in the United States Senate, saying, - - (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) -- "Given the imperative of electing a Democratic president, along with my passion for our state, I believe my work right now should not be in our nation`s capital, but here at home in California and in the states around the country, where we can make a difference." With Tom Steyer out, California Attorney General Kamala Harris remains the only announced Democratic candidate for Senate. She was declared the winner of her Senate campaign, right here on THE LAST WORD, the day she announced two weeks ago. (END VIDEO CLIP) Up next, Tom Brady answers reporters` questions about his balls. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TOM BRADY, FOOTBALL QUARTERBACK, NFL`S NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: : Everybody has a reference. Some guys like them round, and some guys like them thin. Some guys like them tacky. Some like them brand new. Some like old balls. I mean, they`re all different. When I felt them, they were perfect. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: You know, Stephanie, when they told me I was going to have to talk about guys and their balls, I said, "Get me Stephanie Miller. Get me a couple of balls." STEPHANIE MILLER, SYNDICATED TALK SHOW HOST, DIAL GLOBAL: Yes. O`DONNELL: And, Stephanie Miller, -- MILLER: Yes. O`DONNELL: -- syndicated radio talk show host, you watch more football than I do which, by the way, -- MILLER: Yes, I`ve -- O`DONNELL: -- is true of anyone who watches football. (LAUGHTER) O`DONNELL: So, -- MILLER: Yes and, yet, I had no idea that men were so picky about their balls. O`DONNELL: Oh, no. The ball -- it`s everything. This thing -- you know, look, I used to throw these things a lot, catch them a lot. The inflation does make a real difference and -- MILLER: Right. We normally, on here, we talk about politics. And, ironic, we`re on the heels of the Republicans accusing the President of having overinflated balls in the State of the Union, and being too, you know, confrontational. It`s odd that men can be as picky and, yet, careless about their balls at the same time. O`DONNELL: Now, Tom Brady said, when he felt them, they were perfect. And, you know, who can argue with that. MILLER: Almost every man. O`DONNELL: But I watched this news conference today. I have not watched anybody with a goofy hat on, talking about football, or anyone talking about football, in as many -- as long as I can remember. MILLER: Right. O`DONNELL: I did not believe a word of his -- MILLER: No. O`DONNELL: -- denial. MILLER: No. O`DONNELL: He gets into fetishistic detail, which all quarterbacks would, about exactly why he selects these balls, and every little sensation he can feel about the difference in them. And then he says, "When they change the inflation, I don`t even notice that." MILLER: Right, right. Yes, I think -- well, there is significant shrinkage in the cold. I think there is. But it seems hard to believe that 11 of 12 balls just suddenly got to that state. O`DONNELL: Yes, it`s a -- MILLER: I mean, every man says that his are perfect. I mean, we know that. O`DONNELL: Well, every quarterback certainly wants them perfect. MILLER: Right. O`DONNELL: This is the "Straight-face Challenge," by the way, -- MILLER: Yes. O`DONNELL: -- this particular segment of the show. MILLER: I think we`re doing really well. O`DONNELL: Let`s listen. There`s an actual quarterback. Why take it from me. Let`s listen to what Joe Theismann said about this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOE THEISMANN, FORMER NFL QUARTERBACK: If you press your thumbs on the seams, you can feel the difference. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Everybody knows that. And Tom Brady is up there today in that news conference with the goofy -- why did he have the goofy hat on. He was indoors, and he has a hat on that is designed for men shoveling snow in blizzards. MILLER: Right, or -- O`DONNELL: What is with that. MILLER: -- or Dr. Seuss` cartoon. O`DONNELL: Yes. It`s just -- and he wants to be taken seriously. MILLER: And, by the way, it helps if you tell the ball it`s pretty before you push your fingers into the seam. O`DONNELL: Show us. (LAUGHTER) MILLER: Well, you know, it`s hard for me to finger this ball exactly -- O`DONNELL: Stephanie Miller, how many balls do you want -- MILLER: Oh, thank you. Thank you. O`DONNELL: -- to feel at the same time. MILLER: Thank you. I`ll take two. O`DONNELL: Yes, two, OK. MILLER: Thank you. (LAUGHTER) O`DONNELL: So, is this a big controversy on your show. You`re getting a lot of calls about this? MILLER: Well, -- O`DONNELL: Or they -- or your call is more concerned about things that matter? (LAUGHTER) MILLER: Well, I think the question is, is it cheating? O`DONNELL: Yes. MILLER: That`s really more the controversy right before the Superbowl, you know, because, normally -- O`DONNELL: The integrity of the game came up a lot today. MILLER: Right, right. Well, I mean, normally, we need to focus on someone`s boobie as being like the biggest threat to the Superbowl. Remember Janet Jackson? So, it is ironic that, now, it is all about balls. O`DONNELL: So, I`m invited to your Superbowl party, -- MILLER: Oh, yes. O`DONNELL: -- I assume? This is how I have to get invited. I have to ask you on live television. You can`t say no. MILLER: No, I`m doing it right now. O`DONNELL: OK, great. MILLER: I have the balls. O`DONNELL: You do. You can keep them. Would you like two balls to kind of take home. MILLER: Yes, I would. Now that Barbara Boxer is leaving the Senate, I think we need some woman that has a set. O`DONNELL: Stephanie Miller and her two balls. Thank you very much - - MILLER: Thank you, Lawrence. O`DONNELL: -- for joining us tonight, Stephanie. Chris Hayes is up next. END