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The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, Transcript 02/09/15

Guests: Michael Weiss, Josh Dubois, Michael Wear, Asra Nomani, DeborahLipstadt

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel. The veto season has begun. RACHEL MADDOW, TRMS HOST: It`s very exciting to have a new noun to talk about. O`DONNELL: And many more to come probably. MADDOW: Yes, I guess. O`DONNELL: Thanks, Rachel. MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence. O`DONNELL: Well, President Obama is trying to stop Vladimir Putin and Ukraine, Boston is praying for the snow to stop, and no one can stop Kanye. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: By the time a decision reaches my desk, by definition, it`s a hard problem with no easy answers, otherwise somebody else would have solved it, and I would never even hear about it. If Russia continues on its current course, Russia`s isolation will only worsen both politically and economically. With regard to ISIL, Germany and the United States remain united. JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: This is a long-term operation, not a short-term one. SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: I don`t believe right now we need American boots on the ground. OBAMA: With respect to Prime Minister Netanyahu. REPORTER: Are you thinking of not going? Do you think you`ve decided yet? SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: Oh, yes, I`m not thinking about not going, I am not going. OBAMA: As much as I love Angela, if she was two weeks away from an election, she probably would not have received an invitation to the White House. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`ve never seen this type of snow here in the city of Boston and any other time in the history of our city. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My plan is to shovel over here next to my husband`s car. CROWD: Whoo-hoo! UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The state of Alabama started issuing marriage licenses to same-section couples. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roughly two-thirds of counties refused to issue marriage licenses, after Roy Moore urged local officials to ignore the federal court ruling. KANYE WEST, MUSICIAN: Beck needs to respect artistry and he should have given his award to Beyonce. He needs to stop playing with us. (END VIDEOTAPE) O`DONNELL: The president under bipartisan pressure from Congress to supply weapons to Ukraine to push back Russian invaders. The president met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House today. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: I think both Angela and I have emphasized that the prospect for a military solution to this problem has always been -- well, it is true that if, in fact, diplomacy fails, what I`ve asked my team to do is to look at all options. What other means can we put in place to change Mr. Putin`s calculus? And the possibility of lethal defensive weapons is one of those options that`s being examined, but I have not made a decision about that yet. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Howard Dean, the president has some difficult calculations to make. It`s political and strategic, and this decision about arming Ukraine. HOWARD DEAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: He does. And there`s a way three hasn`t -- an option that he hasn`t looked at. First of all, if he does send defensive weapons, he`s going to have to think about the next step. What happens if that means Putin puts more military effort on the ground. Then are we going to send troops? So, he`s got to think that question through before he goes to defensive weapons. But there are a set of sanctions we haven`t applied yet. And those are the sanctions that we applied to Iran to bring them into the negotiating table. These are really, really tough sanctions. We have the power to cut the Russians entirely out of the international banking system, which we did in Iran. And I think that we probably ought to do that before defensive weapons, because it`s a possibility that defensive weapons will lead to the necessity of American troops on the ground, and I think that`s a big step. O`DONNELL: Joy Reid, we have such a mixed record, to put it politely, about whom we choose to arm and what conflict. And when we arm rebels, we`ve got a horrible record. It virtually never works the way we want to. This, though, is arming a government. This is a different thing. But it`s not exactly the same thick as supplying arms to Israel and up and running operation that knows how to really defend itself. JOY REID, THE REID REPORT: It`s complicated by the fact that when you talk with Ukrainian side, they`re say they`re not fighting separatists who are loyal to Russia, or interested in joining with Russia, they`re fighting Russians. So, the possibility that we`re actually supplying arms that will then be aimed at Russian nationals is a very real possibility and the notion of a proxy war between the United States and Russia is very real. I think that`s why you see a lot of caution on the part of countries like Germany. And, of course, Angela Merkel has a relationship with Vladimir Putin, much more than perhaps we do. So there is a possibility of this spiraling out of control. And for Americans, we are rightly very concerned about being sucked into yet another conflict in this part of the world. That feels very cold-war vintage, but it is actually very dangerous right now. O`DONNELL: And, Josh Barro, it`s been difficult for Angela Merkel to be onboard with this. The sanctions in particular with Russia. And so, she gets to say to President Obama, look, we have given you a lot. We`ve come your way a lot on this. It`s been hard for us. So, we don`t want these weapons. JOSH BARRO, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, it makes sense. Europe`s economy is much more closely tied in with Russia than the U.S. economy is. This is in some sense a cheap thing for us. Now, it`s cheap to end up in a proxy war, but whatever happens in the Ukraine either economically or military is going to reverberate much more within Europe than it is in the United States. So, it makes sense that the Europeans are more cautious. When I look at this, I see -- you know, Russia is an unsustainable situation in part because of the sanctions we`ve imposed and in part just because of the falling price of oil. Russia`s basically a petro state, and they`re not going to be able to maintain their economy as they have with oil prices here. So, it feels like with the application of more sanctions as the governor discussed is Russia ought not to be able to keep doing this forever. The question is, how long does it take for the economic pressures to make it impossible for Russia to intervene the way it has in the Ukraine. It might be longer than we considerable to be acceptable. O`DONNELL: Michael Weiss, let`s go to that step and let`s say the president decides to arm Ukraine. What does Vladimir Putin do? MICHAEL WEISS, COLUMNIST, FOREIGN POLICY MAGAZINE: It`s a good question. Look, I actually think there`s a false dichotomy here. One of the things Ukraine needs most is not so-called lethal weaponry. It is non- lethal military equipment such as surveillance drones so they can monitor Russian and separatist positions, radio communications. I mean, I`ve interviewed loads of Ukrainian soldiers and volunteer battalion fighters who say they are using walkie-talkies you`ll find on paintball tournaments. So, they`re using World War II era, in some cases, materiel. It`s not about just sending -- really, the one weapon that they need most are javelin anti-tank missiles. The rest of the stuff is, you could argue not amplifying or escalating the conflict, just allowing the Ukrainians to do what they`re already doing, but to do it much better and to defend themselves and protect their soldiers. O`DONNELL: Howard Dean, laid out by Michael, that sounds perfectly reasonable. Vladimir Putin is probably not going to interpret this as just defensive weapons that just kind of even the playing field a little bit. DEAN: Well, I think we have to look at what Putin`s goals are. Putin`s goal is to return as much as possible to the glory days of the Soviet Union`s domination of Eastern Europe. And this isn`t just Ukraine. He`s doing this in Georgia. He occupies 20 percent of the territory in Georgia. They`ve kidnapped a border guard in Estonia and brought them and they`re now languishing in a Russian jail. So, this is an aggressive posture that Russia has taken. The only reason I hesitated at the javelin anti-tank missiles is I think you have to be willing to go the whole way if you`re going to do it. The worst thing we could do is some partial arming, even if it`s javelin anti-tank missiles. We`ve got to anticipate that he`s going to get more aggressive. And we have to know exactly what we`re going to do about it before we take the first step. Hence my argument for cutting them entirely out of the international banking system and hoping that sends the message. He is going to have a lot of resistance in the Kremlin if his people start losing tons and tons of money. They`ve lost a lot already and it could get much, much worse. O`DONNELL: And, Joy Reid, the president is under bipartisan pressure on this. John McCain out there today is saying that Chancellor Merkel, President Obama are completely wrong about this, they should be rushing arms in there right now. But there are some Democrats who support that idea. . REID: Yes, there are Democrats who support the idea, although again, I think that if you just stack it up, it is much more important to Russia. They`ve seen it more important to them to take and retain Ukraine than it is for Americans, who for the most part don`t understand necessarily what this war or what this sort of proxy war is about. And I think that Howard Dean makes a very good point. Russia`s very vulnerable. Their economy is not doing well. They`re not bearing up well under these sanctions. Yes, they are Europe`s gas station, but the oil prices are cratering, they are low. They`re in a very vulnerable. And I think that that the U.S. is in a position to do significant damage with sanctions without then triggering this sort of reflex of Vladimir Putin to go to more military force. O`DONNELL: And the complexity of the chessboard in all matters includes questions of the Islamic State, Chancellor Merkel being helpful about that. Let`s listen to what the president said today about the Islamic State. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: We have a practice of not meeting with leaders right before their elections, two weeks before their elections. As much as I love Angela, if she was two weeks away from an election, she probably would not have received add invitation to the White House, and I suspect she wouldn`t have asked for one. So, you know -- (LAUGHTER) So, you know, this is just, you know, some of this just has to do with how we do business. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: I promise you, he did say something about the Islamic State. But, Josh Barro, there`s been some talk that Benjamin Netanyahu has been reconsidering this mess that has been created. Abe Foxman, distinguished American Jewish leader saying this thing is a mistake, the Netanyahu coming to address Congress. BARRO: Yes. Well, I mean, if it`s a political ploy, it`s not one that has worked. And so, it makes -- it`s not just about how it affects U.S. politics, it`s about how it affects Israeli politics. His upcoming election, part of the point of taking what I think he thought was going to be a power play in the U.S. was to demonstrate he was able to bend American officials to his will on this, which he is not going to be able to do from this speech. So, it makes sense to me from Benjamin Netanyahu`s own political interest to be thinking about backing away from the speech. But I can`t predict what he`s going to do. O`DONNELL: And, Michael Weiss, there`s poll numbers indicating that Netanyahu has gone down in domestic polls in Israel, crucial to his reelection as a result of this problem with Washington. WEISS: Sure. I think it was a sort of measure of tone-deafness here, thinking that he can appeal directly to the American electorate, go over the president`s head, go over a lot of Congress people`s heads as well. I mean, look, the Israelis are calculating, Netanyahu in particular, that there is a fundamental vulnerability to the president`s strategy with Iran and this is something that is seen by both Republicans and Democrats. There are a lot of Democrats out there who think we`re empowering Iran not by negotiations necessarily but by kind of turning a blind eye to things such as the Houthi takeover in Yemen, what Shia militia groups in Iraq are doing in the ground with indirect U.S. air support, including ethnic cleansing of Sunni populations in Iraq and Syria. I mean, that`s an ungodly mess that has no sign of being reconstructed or put back together again. The problem is, of course, there are certain things that you just don`t do. One of them is, in the midst of an election, say, "Screw you, Mr. President, I`m coming to Congress." O`DONNELL: Howard Dean, there are members of Congress who are finding convenient reasons not to be there. Vice president is saying he`s going to be traveling, he won`t be there. But your senator, Bernie Sanders, no excuses, he`s just saying I`m not going. I`m absolutely not going to Benjamin Netanyahu`s address. DEAN: I think the prime minister has done an enormous amount of harm to Israel over his tenure. You know, if you look at polls of Jews, American Jews under 30, Israel is not on their radar screen. That -- this is very, very bad what`s happened to the relationship between Israel and the United States. My own personal view is that the prime minister has overplayed his hand on multiple occasions. How about the vice president going over there a few years ago, and Avigdor Lieberman I think it was announced that there would be 2,000 more settlement dwellings put in while Joe Biden was in Israel. I mean, it`s -- you know, it`s also as if they deliberately decide to poke us on eye as many times as possible. So, I think that the prime minister`s getting what he deserves. I think the vice president to boycott this talk as the president of the Senate is pretty extraordinary. And I think his own poll numbers are starting to see that in Israel. This is a really stupid thing to do, and the Israelis know it. And Netanyahu has put his own personal interests above the interests of the nation of Israel. And that`s never a good thing for a leader to do anywhere. O`DONNELL: We`re going to continue more of this discussion, including what the president really did say about Islamic State. That`s coming up. And later, the controversy that began when President Obama said this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: Lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the crusades and inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. (END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) O`DONNELL: A jury of ten women and two men has been chosen for the trial of the man accused of murdering former Navy Seal Chris Kyle, the man who was portrayed by Bradley cooper in the movie "American Sniper." The judge denied the defense request for a change of venue. The defense argued that defendant Eddie Ray Routh would not be able to get a fair trial in Stephenville, Texas, where every showing of "American Sniper" sold out in its first two weeks in the only movie theater there. Seeing the movie was not only disqualifying for jurors, but they had to be able to convince the court that they could completely disregard the movie and consider nothing other than the evidence that will be introduced in the trial. Opening statements in the case are scheduled for Wednesday. We`ll bring you complete coverage of that trial here on THE LAST WORD. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: With regard to ISIL, Germany and the United States remain united in our determination to destroy this barbaric organization. I thanked Angela for her strong support as a member of the international coalition that is working in Iraq. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Joy, so there`s another dimension to the discussion they had earlier about Ukraine. REID: Right. O`DONNELL: Remember, this is not the only help the president is looking for in the world. He`s also got the Islamic State problem. REID: Yes, absolutely. And when he ended that statement with Iraq, therein lies I think the difficulty, because, of course, we do have this coalition. There are Western countries involved in it. You obviously have Jordan. But in terms of ground forces, which most military experts believe, you`re going to need at some point if you`re going to really defeat ISIS, who is going to supply those ground forces, and if it is going to be primarily Iraq, which is what U.S. officials are indicating, you`re talking about the same Iraqi army that turned tail and ran from ISIS, leaving behind the equipment that ISIS now owns. So -- O`DONNELL: And that supplies a rationale for what Lindsey Graham says about this, the fact that the Iraqi military is so weak. Let`s listen to what Lindsey Graham said about boots on the ground. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: You`re going to need boots on the ground not only in Iraq but Syria, and there`s got to be some regional force formed with an American component, somewhere around 10,000, I think, American soldiers. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Howard Dean, 10,000 American soldiers in Syria and Iraq. DEAN: He`s smoking the same stuff when he voted for Bush`s war in 2003. If we hadn`t gone in in 2003, we wouldn`t be in this position now. Look, we need boots on the ground, but not ours. We cannot keep fighting for people who won`t fight for themselves. Now, Lindsey Graham is correct. The Iraqi army is a mess and I think it`s a pipe dream to think it`s ever going to be any better, and they are also, with Shia militia committing atrocities on the Sunnis, which is one of the things that`s supporting ISIS. This can be solved with most likely the Kurds being the essence of the fighting force and plenty of American and coalition support. It`s conceivable you could even get the Jordanians involved after what happened to their pilot. I, by the way, think that when they burned the Jordanian pilot to death, that is the turning point. I have now seen on the television, Middle Eastern imams finally coming out and condemning the ISIS people as un-Islamic. That is what I`ve been waiting for. That is critical, and I think ultimately we are now winning the propaganda war, and that`s very, very important. O`DONNELL: And, Josh Barro, so immediately on the heels of that, there comes the word that Kayla Mueller was killed during a bombing raid. They don`t have the normal proofs that they offer for this, like a beheading video or burning someone to death on video. But, and the family`s still desperately hoping that she`s still with us, but it shows once again that the Islamic State has a move, after whatever move you make. BARRO: Right. No, I think that`s right. But I think, with, you know, us talking about this with the Germany and the meeting this week, this isn`t just the U.S. going to Germany and sort of asking for a series of favors and support for things we care about. I think there`s actually a symmetry with the Ukraine issue. In Ukraine, we are more interested in engagement than the Germans are because there`s all this downside for Europe. I think with ISIS, it`s the opposite. The risks to Europe are much higher than the United States. You have a lot more fighters who have gone from Germany and France and the U.K. to fight over there. There`s a lot more risk of terrorism coming back into Europe. As we saw in Paris with something just inspired by this, but in any case, the risk from what`s metastasizing out of ISIS is much greater from the European continent than it is here. So, I think that`s the reason to expect good cooperation from our European allies going into this, more enthusiastically than in Ukraine. O`DONNELL: Howard Dean, in your neighboring state, we have a new president poll, and we have a front runner, we have in New Hampshire, I take New Hampshire polls much more seriously than Iowa. I think they`re more predictive of where the country`s going. We have Jeb Bush at 16, we have Rand Paul at 13, Scott Walker at 12, Chris Christie at 10, Mike Huckabee at 6, Ben Carson 6, Marco Rubio 5. How do you read that poll, Howard Dean? DEAN: I don`t, Lawrence. I mean, I think polls at this stage of the game are nothing more than stuff for people like us to talk about. I mean, to say that Jeb Bush is leading the polls with 16 percent, I don`t think so. This is all exercise in people who, I don`t know who did the poll, but I just, you know, it`s hardly worth talking about. O`DONNELL: Spoken by a man who was once leading in early presidential polls. DEAN: I know for a fact. They did not show up right at the right time. O`DONNELL: And I mean a big lead, not 16. DEAN: That`s right. O`DONNELL: Joy Reid, it does seem that first poll of the serious Republican voter, and if you start to look at -- I mean, Christie`s going to collapse, and I know that. REID: Yes. O`DONNELL: America might not. But when I look at that, I say, OK, where`s Christie`s ten going to go? And it seems like that would float right up to Jeb. I mean, I -- based on where things stand right now, that looks like a pretty good poll for Jeb. REID: Well, on the one hand, if the Bushes of Kennebunkport, Maine, can`t do better for one of their sons at 16 percentage point in New Hampshire, it`s not a good sign. At the same time, I agree with you that Chris Christie is Rudy Giuliani. That is who he is, that`s how he`s going to wind up. And where did that flow? I think you got Scott Walker and you got Jeb Bush. Those are the two places for establishment interest in money to go. And, of course, Walker has sort of a similar thing in Iowa, right, where he`s in a neighboring state, so he`s got the same media market. I think they`re all playing about where they should be at this point. Jeb`s upside is, to me, so overwhelmed by the downside of the Bush brand that it`s hard for me to imagine all the establishment support going to him. But for whatever reason, there is a bank of establishment money that wants Jeb Bush to be the guy. O`DONNELL: Josh Barro, I suspect when the big money looks at this poll, they look at it and say, hmm, give me another poll. I`d like to see another poll next week. BARRO: I`m with the governor. I think this tells us nothing. The other thing is, I mean, it sort of seems like support should flow from Christie to Jeb, because they`re both sort of more moderate candidates. But your average voter thinking about Chris Christie is not necessarily saying, well, I want a moderate candidate, I`m for Christie. Maybe they`re likely, I want someone who`ll take to the union, I want Christie, those people are likely to end up with Walker. But I think Jeb`s biggest weakness is not the Bush name. I think his biggest weakness is he doesn`t seem to have Mitt Romney`s willingness to debase himself on any issue where the Republican case -- REID: On immigration. O`DONNELL: Oh, give him time. BARRO: But Common Core is something he`s emotional about. I don`t think he respects people who think that Common Core is evil. REID: That I agree with. BARRO: And he`s going to have to appeal to those people for votes. And I don`t think he`s going to be able to. O`DONNELL: We`re going to break it there. Howard Dean, thank you very much tonight. DEAN: Thanks very much. O`DONNELL: I really appreciate it. Coming up, we will go live to Boston, where I was yesterday. The snow, if the snow hadn`t already buried the reporter we have standing outside there in the snow. Where else would a reporter be? You wouldn`t believe it was snowing, right, if we didn`t show you someone standing out in the snow. That`s coming up. We`re also going to have more of the reaction over the weekend to what President Obama said about the Crusades. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. CHARLIE BAKER (R), MASSACHUSETTS: If I`ve learned one thing over the course of the past two weeks, it`s -- Mother Nature makes the rules. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: That`s Massachusetts` brand new governor, Charlie Baker, who has just signed his second state of emergency declaration as another snowstorm overwhelms the Boston area. Tonight, Massachusetts has seen over 5 1/2 feet of snow over the last 17 days. The snow has collapsed some buildings. It has buried thousands of cars. It`s made commuting to work or school a daily ordeal. Boston has gotten more snow over the past 30 days than any other 30-day period in its history. I was in Boston yesterday. And the good news is that the parking meters are buried in snow, so you don`t have to pay the meters. But the snow is so big there -- the snow banks at the parking meters are so big that there is no room to park your car at a meter, Joy Reid, anywhere -- (LAUGHTER) -- in Boston. You can`t. It`s impossible. Joining me now from South Boston is MSNBC`s Adam Reiss. (END VIDEO CLIP) Adam, where are you exactly, and what is that behind you. ADAM REISS, MSNBC REPORTER: Good evening, Lawrence. From South Boston, a frigid South Boston now, four storms in less than two weeks, dumping 73 inches of snow. Take a look behind me. They`re wondering, "Where do we put it all." That`s the big challenge for officials here. This mound behind me, some 50, 60 feet high. Trucks have been coming in here, one ride after another all day long. Then the front loaders take the snow from over there to over, where the melter is. They`re bringing melters in from out of state. They`re also taking the snow to down to the south shore, dumping it on beaches down there, 73 inches of snow. The governor said they don`t know what to do with it. You could take all this snow and put it in Gillette Stadium, where the Patriots play, 90 times. Now, the governor said in jest, "Maybe, the city should have bid for the Winter Olympics instead of the Summer Olympics. And more snow coming later this week with more frigid temperatures. Lawrence? O`DONNELL: Adam Reiss, thank you very much for joining us. Coming up, the controversy that started when President Obama spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast about the crusades. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) Over the weekend, a White House advisor explained what President Obama meant to say when he said this -- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Lest we get on our high horses and think this is unique to some other place. MARK LEVIN, SYNDICATED RADIO SHOW HOST: Talk about high horse. OBAMA: Remember that during the crusades, the inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. LEVIN: Would he ever say the terrible deeds committed in the name of Muhammad. BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS HOST: It is simply inexplicable that Barack Obama would compare historical injustices by Christians a thousand years ago to the current atrocities being committed by Muslim jihadists today. BILL MAHER, HBO HOST: I`ve made this point myself a billion (bleep) times, -- (LAUGHTER) -- that if I was living in the 16th Century, it would be Christianity I`d be going after because they`re the ones who are the most violent and the most intolerant. JON MEACHAM, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "RANDOM HOUSE": The crusades ended and the Renaissance began. MAHER: We did it then, they`re doing it now. AMY HOLMES, THEBLAZE ANCHOR: He is not willing to talk about radical Islamic jihad, -- MAHER: Right. : Boko Haram and al-Qaeda and ISIS, that all say that their behavior is coming from their interpretation of Islamic text. DAVID BROOKS, WRITER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I`m pro-Obama. I`m totally pro-Obama on this. I think he said the right thing. MEACHAM: Christianity managed to reform itself. OBAMA: In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow, all too often was justified in the name of Christ. BROOKS: You`re saying, you know, We`re prone to zealotry. MEACHAM: Why question is, why he felt compelled to bring this up at all. BROOKS: I have my own theory. You`re not a big fan of the Prayer Breakfast, I think. And I think he almost enjoys creating a rhetorical debate. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Joining me now, in Washington, Asra Nomani, a journalist and the author of "Standing Alone -- an American Woman`s Struggle for the Soul of Islam." Also, Joshua Dubois, President of Values Partnerships and the Former Director of the White House Faith-Based Initiative. Michael Wear, who served in President Obama`s office in Faith-Based Initiatives and directed the Faith Outreach in the Obama 2012 campaign. Deborah Lipstadt, a professor of Modern Jewish History at Emory University, joins us from Atlanta. And, Joy Reid, Host of "The Reid Report," who`s still with us here in New York. Josh Dubois, in "The New York Times" on Saturday, in an article, the administration cooperated with an effort to clear up the reaction to this, Eric Schultz, Deputy White House Press Secretary said, quote," What I think the President was trying to say is, over the course of human history, there are times where extremists pervert their own religion to justify violence. And, Josh, I think if the President had said that, there wouldn`t be any controversy. JOSH DUBOIS, PRESIDENT, VALUES PARTNERSHIPS: Well, Lawrence, with due respect, I mean, there`s a controversy because the right set the trap and a lot of folks, including progressives, took the bait. The President was making a very clear point. I think he made it pretty clearly. He said, in a continuum of historical events, people had misused religion to do evil things. And we can`t blame the religion itself when people did that. He pointed to the crusades, and then he pointed to slavery and to Jim Crow as well. And, now, he`s saying, we can`t lay the evil deeds of ISIS at the foot of Islam. I think that`s a perfectly legitimate thing to say. What happened though was that the right jumped on that and sort set the trap. And then, unfortunately, a lot folks responded to that. But, now, today, we see people taking the President`s side, from the center left with E.J. Dionne, to the center right with David Brooks. And a lot of other folks are saying, "You know what, I think the President had a point there. And it was an important point that he made." O`DONNELL: Michael Ware, you and Josh worked in the office Faith- Based Initiatives together. And when they do the Prayer Breakfast speech, is that one of the speeches that they run by your shop before it goes out. MICHAEL WEAR, DIRECTOR, OBAMA 2012 FAITH OUTREACH: Yes, we`re certainly involved in the speech but, always, of course, the President has -- O`DONNELL: Yes. WEAR: -- the final word. And the pen is in the hands of the speech- writing office but, yes, typically, these speeches -- O`DONNELL: I mean, if we`re looking at it as speech-writing staffers, are there any changes that you would have suggested in that draft that ultimately went public. WEAR: Yes -- you know, honestly, I think -- I think the speech -- that specific segment in the speech was inartful and had in it some assumptions that maybe weren`t necessary. I think, if he wouldn`t have talked about getting on high horse, maybe it wouldn`t have been taken by some the way that it was. I think there`s a much more hopeful, positive way, he could have gone about it instead of talking about how Christianity was used to justify all kinds of things. What he could have said, and which actually fits in with the President`s strategy when talking about these issues, going back to Cairo and even previous to the Cairo speeches, you know, we have a reason to be hopeful even in the midst of this religious violence. Because we have a history of Christians perverting their religion to justify slavery. But then, we also have Christians who stood up to take back the mantle of their religion, to speak out for a God who, who crushes oppressors and frees the slaves. And so, I do think it was inartful, but I agree with -- Josh went with David Brooks and others who have said that the key point was a good one. I`ll just add though that the point is not sort of a novel one for those who are in the audience, or for Christians themselves, sort of -- even the Southern Baptist convention that was created in large part to support slavery, has since, you know, in Baptist terms, repented from that and recognized it for the stain on their denomination, on Christianity that that was. So, the idea there was sort of that he was teaching folks in the audience something new isn`t right, but the reminder was a good one. O`DONNELL: In that "New York Times" article, where the administration was working on correcting the impressions about this medieval historian on the center of study of Islam in London, Thomas Asbridge, said, "It is the most," referring to crusades, he said, "it`s a word you have to use with great caution because it is the most highly-charged word can you use in the context of the Middle East." Asra, you didn`t approve at all of the President using that word, "crusades." ASRA NOMANI, AUTHOR, "STANDING ALONE": Well, my problem is that what we have inherited, coming into the National Prayer Breakfast, was many months of denial on the part of the President and the administration on this very fundamental issue that the Islamic State is very much about Islam. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) Last fall, the President said that the Islamic State is not Islamic. Earlier this week, last week, he said that whatever ideology it was that caused the Islamic State guerrillas and the fighters that exist within them to burn a soldier to death, that was all that he could state. But, you know, I have before me the Koran. And I have post notes here on every citation that the Islamic State has used to justify their violence. Christianity has had to deal with verses like Deuteronomy, right, the war verses. But one of the verses that Islamic State people use is one that says, "Fight against them, so that Allah will punish them -- (END VIDEO CLIP) -- by your hands and disgrace them and give your victory over them, and heal the breaths of a believing people." That was the title on the video of the emulation of the Air Force pilot from Jordan -- "Healing the Chests of the Believers." And what I would like to argue is that we`re at a point in Islamic history where we`re at a crossroads, just like Christians have been, just like the Jews have been. And we have to take passages from inside of our Koran, those war verses that are used by the militant, and we have to take them on. And we need liberals on our side. We need them. DUBOIS: Yes. And that`s precisely the point. I agree with you but that`s precisely the point that President Obama was making -- is that we have to draw distinctions between how ISIS is interpreting these verses and how the vast majority of Muslims interpret these same verses, just like the -- NOMANI: I would argue -- I would argue -- DUBOIS: -- have to do the same thing. NOMANI: Sure. But I would argue that nobody is putting Islam on trial. And, ultimately -- ultimately, if we try to avoid a conversation about Islam, it`s only the militants and the guerrillas that win. The moderates and the liberals are not going to win. And as long as the liberals decide that they`re going to sit on the fence and they`re going to be politically correct about this, -- DUBOIS: Yes. NOMANI: -- we`re not going to have honest conversations. And I really appreciate, Lawrence, that you dare to do this, because so many liberals have sadly sat on the fence. And I count myself as liberal and I have felt so disheartened that that spirit of political correctness has made it that we can`t have an honest conversation about some very real issues in our world today. O`DONNELL: OK, let`s -- DUBOIS: Unfortunately, a lot of people are putting Islam on trial. O`DONNELL: Josh, excuse me, can we hold it right there, Josh. We`re going to come right back. DUBOIS: Sure. O`DONNELL: I just need to get through a commercial break. We`re just going to continue this discussion. Just hold it right there. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) We`re back with more on the President`s comments at the Prayer Breakfast. Professor Lipstadt, what was your reaction to the President`s use of the crusades in that speech. PROF. DEBORAH LIPSTADT, EMORY UNIVERSITY: Well, I think, first of all, regarding the crusades, he got it precisely right. O`DONNELL: Uh-hmm. LIPSTADT: The crusades were horrible. They were terrifying. And they were Christian in origin or they came out of Christian sources. But, I think, someone earlier in the program used the word, "inartful." And that was a very kind way of putting it. I think Asra Nomani just made a very important point -- that there`s been a reluctance in the White House, amongst many people -- I see it on campuses as well -- that`s where I make my -- where I live my life -- a reluctance to name this as an expression of violence extremist Islam. Not all Islam, not all Muslims, not at all. But there is a strong strain of violent, extremist Islam. And unless you name something, you can`t solve it. We saw that this summer in our country, and in the fall, with all sorts of problems, with shootings and Ferguson and Staten Island. And unless you name something -- call it racism, maybe not only racism, but unless you name it, you can`t solve it. And I think there`s been a reluctance to name this as a strain of violent extremist Islam. And the problem is, we`re pulling the grounds out from under moderate Muslims who would want to address it. But if we don`t say it`s there, then it sort of leaves them -- leaves them hanging. O`DONNELL: Joy -- Joy -- LIPSTADT: So, while I think -- I think he was making an important point in saying, "Look, this is not only Islam`s problem." But it`s Islam that`s having the problem right now and that`s what we`re facing right now. And the term, "high horse," was not -- not the most desirable one. I think that that also skewed matters. O`DONNELL: Joy Reid, the oddity of mentioning the crusades is that was a Catholic enterprise run by the Pope. And so, if Barack Obama is going to get up there and say -- you know, as Asra points out, that you`re trying to extricate Islam from the Islamic State. And then, you figure out, if the crusades is your example, that was, without question, a religious exercise. Yes, it included other geopolitical objectives, but it was, without question, religious. JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Well, I mean, the thing is is that -- and this is where one of those rare times that you and I disagree -- but I think that the relationship between the crusades and the Islamic State is an inverted relationship. In the case of the crusades, it was the church proper mounting a holy war, going into the Middle East, -- O`DONNELL: Uh-hmm, yes. REID: It became an incredible destruction in the name of the official church. Whereas, in point of the Islamic State, they are antithetical to the religion. I watched that 20-minute video of what they did to that pilot. That is not the practice of religion. They are more on the order of what the clan has done to Christianity, not a thousand years ago during the crusades, not in 1099. But, 50 years ago, 20 years ago, there are African-Americans alive right now, who remember crosses -- actually, the cross, the crucifix, burned on their lawn by people who were considered good Christians -- the Sheriff, the good Christian folk of the community, who are perverting and twisting the Christian religion into violent hatred of African-American. The people who blow up abortion clinics and shoot doctors, not a thousand years ago, in the current contemporary world, are doing so in the name of Jesus. They`re doing so, claiming to be Christians. And, I think, the President did very explicitly say, ISIS is taking a religion and twisting it to sick, sadistic ends. He said that explicitly but he also said, humility requires us to admit that extremists can exist in any religion. There are Buddhist monks who engage in violence. There are Christians who engage in violence. And then, it is not only Islam capable of it. I really don`t understand why that`s controversial. O`DONNELL: Well, because -- because, just clearly -- we`re going to go to break. But the point is -- we can come back to this point after the break -- the reason is that the scale involved in the Islamic State does not exist in any other violent perversion of any other religion on earth at this time. It certainly did in the crusades. But not at this time. We`re going to have more with this discussion right after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) So, Joy, if the President is going to mention the crusades in relation to the Islamic State, what prevents Vladimir Putin when President Obama wants to talk to him about incursions in Ukraine. What prevents Vladimir Putin from saying, "Hey, you guys shot and murdered your way all the way across continental North America, exterminating Native Americans on the way, and violating every single treaty with them in order to establish your 50 states, so -- (LAUGHTER) -- answer to that -- REID: OK. O`DONNELL: -- answer that when we come back -- REID: OK. O`DONNELL: -- after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) OK, so, Joy, -- (LAUGHTER) -- so, Putin says after -- "Now that you`ve mentioned the crusades, Mr. President, and you want me to, you know, be careful with Ukraine, what about you, you know, murdering your way all the way across continental North America, -- REID: Uh-hmm. O`DONNELL: -- extinguishing Native American tribes as you go to create your 50 states." REID: Yes. And I think the answer is, nothing stops Vladimir Putin from saying that. But I think that wisdom and leadership requires that the President to answer back to Vladimir Putin. There was a moral cost. There was a great cost to causing great suffering. We`re still suffering that moral cost in our country. And you might want to do better by your country. O`DONNELL: And Vladimir Putin says, "Oh, so that`s why you say America is the greatest country in the world every time you talk about" -- REID: Well, that reflex of us needing to paddle and coddle ourselves and make ourselves feel like we`re the greatest thing ever and we have no faults, -- O`DONNELL: Right. Talk about a high horse. REID: I don`t get that either. (LAUGHTER) O`DONNELL: That`s the highest horse there is. Asra, you wrote something after the President`s speech, in which you mentioned and you taught us actually that, in that video, where they burned the pilot, they talk about the crusades and crusaders very specifically. It`s very specific language used there. The refer to that pilot, who they are burning to death, as a crusader detainee. That was your translation of what they say. NOMANI: It`s actually their translation also. O`DONNELL: OK. NOMANI: They literally put onto the page that the pilot was a crusader detainee, that Jordan, Oman and every other nation involved with the U.S. is part of a crusader coalition. And look at this conversation. We`re having a conversation about the crusades from hundreds of years ago. There`s a girl in Pakistan who got shot in the face because of an interpretation of Islam that said girls can`t go to school. There are girls in Nigeria that are being kidnapped because of the same interpretation of Islam. I`ve been given death threats just because I`ve wanted to walk through the front door of my mosque. We have a serious problem in our world today, right now. And if we cannot have the debate on Islam hijacked, just through the nature of political correctness, we should not see this culture of wounds collectors. We should actually try to find solutions. We all know that victim cultures cannot get out of that on their own, and that nothing we can do will get them to stop. So, we have to stop feeding the wounds collecting. O`DONNELL: Josh, go ahead. DUBOIS: Yes, Lawrence, you mentioned the issue of scale, and that we haven`t seen anything of this scale in the present day or recent past. And, with due respect, I just have to disagree with that. As Joy was saying, up until the middle of the last century, we saw both the Klan and other vestiges of white supremacy ravaging the American South. And, you know, those things that they were burning in lawns, they weren`t lower-case Ts, they were crosses. They were directly using religion to subjugate and to murder people. But they were not doing -- that was not Christian. And just like that was not Christian, what ISIS is doing, I don`t believe, is Islam. And I think that`s the point the President was making. O`DONNELL: Michael, our last word. Go ahead. WEAR: Yes. I think Asra makes a great point about the fact that we need to have a debate about Islam. And I think Muslims should be leading that conversation. What I disagree is, I think it`s clear for the President and his administration, this is about more than political correctness. Right or wrong, this is about a foreign policy judgment that there is -- that there is a strategic gains to be made by refusing to associate Islam, the religion, with the terror that we see in the Middle East. And, you know, I think it`s important to be a part of that conversation. O`DONNELL: And Professor Lipstadt, I, for one, can`t wait for all of Islam to be able to get up on a high horse and look down and say, "We don`t do things like that." LIPSTADT: I think that would be great. You went back -- to go back to your original question about Putin, you know, Putin said to Angela Merkel, "Who are you to tell me about this. Just 70 years ago, your people were murdering people and putting them in gas chambers and shooting them." I think she would have apoplexy, you know. Just because something happened -- of course, I`m talking to you from Atlanta, where there were crosses burned not far probably from where I am, and there was certainly terrible, terrible discrimination and terrible racism in this region. But that doesn`t justify what`s going on now. And I think the one other point is, we keep talking just about ISIS. This is not just about ISIS. If you listened to speeches from various imams. If you read literature, you see this is - (inaudible), she said this is much more widespread. O`DONNELL: Professor Lipstadt, I`m sorry, we are out of time. Josh Dubois, Michael Ware, Asra Nomani, and Joy Reid. I thought I left enough time for this discussion, I didn`t. I wish we had more time. Thank you all for joining me tonight. Thank you. Chris Hayes is up next. END