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The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, Transcript 02/23/15

Guests: Stephanie Miller, Michael Tomasky, Rebecca Keegan, Justin Chang, JDHeyman

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Rachel, I`ve never seen you so excited about a four-letter word. Are you going to have a veto party? RACHEL MADDOW, "TRMS" HOST: You know, it`s not that bad an idea. It`s very exciting. We haven`t had any. O`DONNELL: And it`s a real constitutional power. Let`s see it work. MADDOW: Yay, civics. Thanks, Lawrence. O`DONNELL: First up tonight, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell. They are Washington`s current masters of painting themselves into a corner and they have done it once again. And later in the rewrite, the four-letter word that has more possible means than any other. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JEH JOHNSON, SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: We need a fully-funded Department of Homeland Security. BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Unless Congress acts, Border Patrol, port inspectors, TSA agents -- UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Coast Guard, FEMA workers, and secret service agents. OBAMA: -- will show up to work without getting paid. JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Funding for homeland security shouldn`t be controversial. JOHNSON: It`s bizarre and absurd that we`re even having this discussion in these challenging times. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Inside the Mall of America this afternoon, heightened security. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shopping centers on alert after a terror propaganda video targeting Minnesota`s giant Mall of America. EARNEST: Congress should do their job. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: With the clock ticking, late today, another Senate debate. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The motion is not agreed to. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But no resolution. SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: It just doesn`t make any sense. OBAMA: Let`s try to focus on some of the things we have in common. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Still no word on the British schoolgirls believed to be on their way to Syria. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Turkish police are trying to find them and their families are begging them to come home before it`s too late. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At least 11 students at Wesleyan University in Connecticut were hospitalized Sunday after apparently overdosing on a drug known as Molly. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It feels like that can never happen to anyone. But when it does, on that grand of a scale, it`s scarier. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 2015 will be the year when social issues were arguably the star of the evening. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What I spoke about regarding incarceration is real. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think we need federal laws that are comprehensive. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was my 45 seconds in my life to get on television and say something. So I thought I might as well use it to say something meaningful. (END VIDEOTAPE) O`DONNELL: With terrorist threats being reported against the Mall of America in Minnesota, the Senate today failed once again to pass a funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security, just four days before the department could shut down because of a lack of funding. No Democrats voted in favor of moving forward on the House version of the bill. And they were joined by Nevada Republican Dean Heller. Immediately after the vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell offered a stand-alone bill that would block any funding for President Obama`s executive action on immigration. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MCCONNELL: The new bill I described offers another option we can turn to. It`s another way to get the Senate unstuck from a Democratic filibuster and move the debate forward. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Today, Senator Lindsey Graham warned about the damage a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security could do to Republicans who are now of course in the majority in both chambers. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: For God`s sakes, don`t shut down the premier homeland security defense line called the Department of Homeland Security. If we do, as Republicans, we`ll get blamed. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: And John McCain argued that Republicans would be better going through the courts. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We now have an exit sign. And that is a federal court decision saying that the president`s actions unilaterally are unconstitutional. And I think we`ve got a great argument to the United States Supreme Court where it will go. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Joining me now is David Axelrod, MSNBC senior political analyst, former Obama senior adviser, and the author of the new book, "Believer". Also joining us is Michael Tomasky, a columnist for "The Daily Beast". We`re joined also by Ezra Klein, editor-in-chief of And here with me in Los Angeles, Stephanie Miller, a syndicated radio talk show host. David Axelrod, we`re seeing something that feels familiar, but this is a new take on shutdown, because it`s only headed towards a shutdown of one department, homeland security, because the Republicans are trying to pass a bill that, in effect, removes the president`s -- neuters the president`s executive orders on immigration in order to fund all of the department. And the Democrats aren`t going to let that happen. How is this going to play out? DAVID AXELROD, MSNBC SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, these are the dogs that caught the car, Boehner and McConnell. They wanted to run the joint. And they`re having to face the reality of what running it means. And they have the same problem they had been having right along, which is they made this bargain with the right wing of their own party, but they can`t control them. And I think the way it`s probably going to work out is they may try and pass some sort of short-term extension and kick the can down the field on the theory that maybe the courts will help. I don`t think the courts will. They did a little forum shopping and found a right wing judge to temporarily throw a wrench in the works, but I don`t think that`s going to last. But I think that may be their way out for now. But I don`t think it`s necessarily going to go away. And this is the first of many problems they`re going to have with this group, the tail that`s wagging the dog here. O`DONNELL: Ezra Klein, if the Republicans don`t figure this out, and they do end up, in effect, putting the Department of Homeland Security in a situation of running out of money, what happens in that department? EZRA KLEIN, VOX.COM: So, DHS is weird in this way. They`re basically -- unlike a normal federal agency. Actually 85 percent of its workers, roughly, would be able to stay on the job for two reasons. One is that a lot of the Department of Homeland Security is funded not by congressional appropriations but by fees. And what`s particularly ironic about it is particularly the part that is funded by fees is the part that does immigration enforcement. So, the particular part of the Department of Homeland Security that the Republicans are angry at would probably be just fine in the event of a shutdown. But the other side is that the way shutdown is usually done as an exemption for workers who are set to protect public safety. And a lot of the Department of Homeland Security workers are classified as essential under that rubric. So, for those reasons, most workers would be able to stay on the job. Now, you would have slow downs in some areas, including some liberties, training and enforcement, bunch of others, but it wouldn`t be like the Coast Guard has to stop working overnight. You`d have a fair amount of people coming to work. And what, again, is particular ironic is the immigration functions would primarily keep going on as normal. O`DONNELL: You know, there`s a phrase that always comes to mind when I watch these situations, it`s something that a very powerful legislator in the House once said to me who you would know, David Axelrod, in a situation. He said, I`m just trying to get this dead cat off my doorstep. (LAUGHTER) O`DONNELL: Mike Tomasky, is there anyone in the Republican leadership who knows how to get a dead cat off the doorstep? MICHAEL TOMASKY, THE DAILY BEAST: Mitch McConnell does. You know, he knows a lot of things legislatively and in parliamentary terms. The question is whether he wants to and whether he can. His problem is the House Republicans and the more right wing faction within the caucus because they don`t really care, because they`re probably -- to be perfectly honest -- not going to pay any electoral price if this happens, if there is a shutdown. The Republican Party as a whole, will take a hit, will take the blame. Polls will show, if there is a shutdown of DHS, next week, polls will show that the Republican Party is much more to blame than the Democratic Party. But there`s no repercussion for any of these guys at the polls, because they are all in safe districts. So, so much of what we see going on here, Lawrence, in this case and many others, many others, is a function of the way the districts have been drawn and the fact that these people, almost all represent safe districts and they don`t have to worry about a general election challenge. They only have to worry about a primary election challenge. So, they have to do the most right wing thing they can do. O`DONNELL: And, Stephanie, we have all of this going on when we have the most public threat to the homeland, this reported threat to the Mall of America in Minnesota. STEPHANIE MILLER, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Yes. O`DONNELL: And Republicans have been telling us for a long time, you know, Islamic State is on the march, and they`re a threat to the homeland, and we don`t want to fund Homeland Security. MILLER: Yes, and I`m going to Minneapolis Friday, so this is very key for me, Lawrence. O`DONNELL: We`ve got to get this fixed by then. MILLER: It`s all about me. We`ve got to get this fixed. No, but it is ridiculous. And, you know, as your other guests allude to, Lawrence, the public once again is overwhelmingly on the president`s side. They are for this immigration action. They are not for shutting down the Department of Homeland Security. You know, once again, this is going to blow up in the Republicans` face. And we are at a time of unprecedented threats, obviously, and it just, it`s hilarious. As David said, they are the dog catching the car. O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what the house Republican chairman of the homeland security, who`s the chair of homeland security, what he had to say about this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX), CHAIRMAN, HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: To the Senate, to what they determine, what they send back to the House, and we will probably see something come back from the Senate this weekend. And we have to make some tough choices. But, Kate, I fully believe that we shouldn`t be playing politics with national security agency like Homeland Security, particularly given the high threat environment that we`re in right now. And it would be irresponsible for lawmakers and policymakers to shut down this national security agency at this very grave time. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: David Axelrod, it sounds to me like he is expecting eventually, Mitch McConnell to get a bill through the Senate that the president actually will be able to sign that doesn`t do any kind of attack on the executive orders. AXELROD: I think that that`s right. And, again, it may just be a short-term extension, but one point on what Michael Tomasky was saying -- it`s not just that they have to run in districts where they have to worry about is a primary. The rewards are misaligned. They actually, in their districts and with their base, that right wing base, there`s actual benefit to doing what the rest of the country doesn`t want them to do, what is clearly irresponsible. And that`s what`s dangerous here. And it, ultimately, the leaders are going to have to figure out where they`re going to draw the line and say, you know what, guys -- because they can stand up to their base members if they`re willing to work with the other side. And that`s what they`ve not been willing to do. O`DONNELL: Mike Tomasky, who`s listening to John McCain and Lindsey Graham in the Senate on this? TOMASKY: I don`t know. That`s a really good question. You know, Lawrence, one interesting thing that has happened to the Senate since last fall`s election is the Republican caucus in the Senate has gotten much more conservative. Now, we haven`t really seen that in action yet, but the Republicans who won, the nine Republicans who won, many of them, six, seven, even maybe eight of them, depending on how you count and how you categorize these things are basically Tea Party Republicans. So, the Republican caucus in the United States Senate has moved well to the right. So, I`ve been wondering ever since the last election night how that is going to play out, and this may be a really good test case to see just how much farther to the right this new Senate is. O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to a bit more of what John McCain had to say about it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MCCAIN: I remember the last time we shut down the whole government, this would obviously be Homeland Security. The last time we shut down the whole government, we turned away 600,000 visitors to our national parks here in Arizona. I don`t want to see that movie again. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Stephanie, he`s going to have to see some kind of movie again on this one. The rest of the Republicans don`t seem to remember all that. MILLER: It always seems like weekend at John`s to me. Slap a pair of sunglasses on him. I mean, you know, he was echoing Rudy Giuliani`s comments this weekend, wasn`t he, I`m ashamed of my country, I`m ashamed of my president. You know how low does the bar go where we just don`t care, David, about shutting down the Department of Homeland Security when we`re in the middle of these kind of threats? O`DONNELL: All right. We`re going to take a quick break here. Coming up in the rewrite, the four-letter word that has more meanings than any other -- love, Giuliani style. And next, Karl Rove uses Elizabeth Warren`s words to attack Hillary Clinton. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Powerful interests have tried to capture Washington and rig the system in their favor. (END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (NETANYAHU POLITICAL AD) O`DONNELL: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is now using his upcoming speech to the U.S. Congress in political ads in Israel. The ad compares Netanyahu to Israel`s prime minister, David Ben Gurion, who had his own tensions with the U.S. government. Today, two Democratic senators invited Benjamin Netanyahu to a close-door meeting with Democratic senators during his visit to Washington. Senators Richard Durbin and Dianne Feinstein said they issued the invitation, quote, "to maintain Israel`s dialogue with both political parties in Congress". Up next, Karl Rove is actually attacking Hillary Clinton and he is using Elizabeth Warren to do it. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) O`DONNELL: Karl Rove has found a new way to do a Clinton attack ad. His super PAC, American Crossroads, released this online today. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WARREN: Powerful interests have tried to capture Washington and rig the system in their favor. The power of well-funded special interests tilts our democracy away from the people and toward the powerful. Action is required to defend our great democracy against those who would see it perverted into one more rigged game where the rich and the powerful always win. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Joining me once again, David Axelrod, Mike Tomasky, Ezra Klein, and Stephanie Miller. Stephanie, there`s that very familiar voice, Elizabeth Warren. And this looks like it`s a tough situation for Hillary Clinton. MILLER: Girl fight! Girl fight! Karl Rove has tried this before. First of all, Elizabeth Warren is not running. She`s one of the many Senate women who have signed a letter urging Hillary Clinton to run. They have just met, as you know, last week in Washington. I`m sure she will wholeheartedly endorse Hillary Clinton. It`s just another Karl Rove chick fight. O`DONNELL: David Axelrod, we asked Senator Warren for a comment on this today, and we got no comment. We kind of expected something along the lines of outrage about having used her voice in this ad. But she hasn`t said anything so far. AXELROD: Yes, that`s surprising to me. I would think she would speak out. The last place I`d think she`d want to be is narrating a Karl Rove Crossroads ad. But I don`t think -- I think this is more mischief making on Rove`s part. I can`t imagine that they`re actually going to run this spot and I think he wants to get some chatter going, you know, probably get some chatter going. But she should certainly want to separate herself out from this ad, which is, in fact, malicious mischief making on the part of folks she doesn`t want to be associated with. O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to Robert Gibbs` reaction yesterday on "Meet the Press". (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROBERT GIBBS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think there`s no doubt that the appearances are awkward at best. And they`re going to have to do something in the very short term to deal with this in a way that puts it off the table. Look, Chuck, I think there are a lot of people who have watched the slow roll of the Hillary Clinton campaign, really dating back to last year with a book tour that some wondered why she was doing, speeches that some wondered why she was doing. And, you know, I think, I think from a Democratic perspective, things will get better when there is a formal campaign, but there is a -- you know, there has been a slow roll of concerning headlines for a long time. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Ezra Klein, there`s one political operative who thinks there`s something to be concerned about here. KLEIN: I think he`s right. First, I think this ad is very funny. I think it`s just an online ad. I think Karl Rove is being very cheeky and I think that his PAC has not had an incredible record and he would like to remind possible donors that it`s still around and he`s doing the fairly good job by releasing this ad, it`s way too early for it to actually matter or do any damage to Hillary Clinton. It`s just really about publicizing his PAC. But that said, the attack that is in it, not the part where Warren is voicing it, but the actual attack about the Clinton Global Foundation`s finances I think is a real one. I think that the finances of the Clintons are complicated, have been complicated for a long time. There`s both the money Bill Clinton has raised from all kinds of donors, ranging from folks in foreign government to large corporate donors, and then both his and Hillary Clinton`s speaking fees. And I think when you look at what is likely to be dredged up, when you look at the things that are likely to provide new scandals or tough headlines for them, their policy positions are so well-known and personas so well-known, I think it`s the changes in their finances over the last eight or so or more years that are going to provide a lot of grist for their opponents in the coming election. O`DONNELL: Mike Tomasky, do the Clintons have to take action with the fund for example and announce a new set of contribution guidelines that will feel more appropriate for a potential president? TOMASKY: It depends on how this plays out. They may. I take Ezra`s points. You know, I think that it`s going to be a running story, the finances of the Clinton Foundation. On the other hand, to me, right now, it`s a second tier issue. And I think if there`s a huge scandal somehow, then it become as first tier issue, and then it`s something that they really have to deal with. But, yes, campaigns are about the economy. Campaigns are about the future of the country. They`re not really about things like the Clinton Foundation at the end of the day. And besides that, Bill Clinton can come out and say, in response to Karl Rove, yes, OK, I take this money, but look at what I do with this money. Look at the number of lives saves, look at the water projects financed and look all the good work that`s been done. Would you rather the Saudis spend this money funding Salafism around the Middle East, you know? At least they`re doing this, the portion to it they give to me. MILLER: Yes, it`s not a hedge fund. They help poor people. They get AIDS medicine for people. I mean, the Clinton Initiative is not some sort of shady operation. I just think that`s a mainstream media -- O`DONNELL: I don`t think anybody`s found anything questionable in how they use the money. That side of the story is the good side of the story. Let`s look at something that the Bush campaign, we can call it that now on this show anyway, a video that the Bush campaign released today. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Radical Islam has increased four-folds in five years. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The doubling of the enemy. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ISIS is much more organized than al Qaeda. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ISIS fighters are advancing. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Brand new threats from Iran aimed squarely at the United States. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The White House appears to be turning its back on Israel. LEON PANETTA, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: The Russia, the danger we`re facing now is the renewal of the Cold War. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There`s no real strategy. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re facing a growing, expanding threat. The strategy that we`ve had is not working. How do we move forward? JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: Everywhere you look, you sight world slipping out of control. Under this administration, we are inconsistent and indecisive. We have lost the trust and confidence of our friends. We definitely no longer inspire fear in our enemies. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: David Axelrod, your reaction to that one? AXELROD: Well, that speech kind of got panned last week. But it looks better when you edit it down to an advertisement, I guess. (LAUGHTER) AXELROD: I think that the question is, what exactly are you proposing? Everyone knows the world`s complex and we have challenges, but what are you proposing? The speech last week was primarily to say "I`m not my brother". So, OK, what is your answer to these challenges? And I think that`s where it`s going to get very dicey for Bush or all these Republicans who are quick to say we should be doing something but not quick to be saying what it is we should be doing. MILLER: We should restore a place in the world under George W. Bush? Really? And he`s his own man with 19 of 21 Bush administration advisers? What`s America rising? Some sort of Cialis for Republicans kind of PAC? What does that mean? O`DONNELL: David, go ahead. AXELROD: No, I quite agree with that. The fact that Paul Wolfowitz is on his board of advisers can`t make any American feel really comfortable about where this is going, because that is a group basically that sees all of these problems as a nail and the American military as a hammer, and we`ve seen where that story leads us. O`DONNELL: We`re going to have to take a break -- KLEIN: I think, when you look at that -- O`DONNELL: Go ahead. KLEIN: I think when you look at that ad you see Bush`s problem. It is one after the other clip of things that George W. Bush is partially responsible for. O`DONNELL: Exactly. KLEIN: There`s not going to be an ISIS if there was no invasion of Iraq. You make a big deal of Putin. And you remember George W. Bush saying, I looked into his soul and saw a man of peace. So, Jeb Bush can say, I`m not my brother, but he`s about as closely linked to his brother and as David says, has a lot of the same advisers. It`s hard to see how it resolves into a good ad for him when people begin digging into it. O`DONNELL: All great points. Ezra Klein, Michael Tomasky and Stephanie Miller, thank you for joining me tonight. David Axelrod is going to hang around for a bit. Coming up, you heard Graham Moore last night, talking about staying weird at the Oscars. But he had a lot more to say after that. And that`s coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) O`DONNELL: The Justice Department is asking a Texas judge to grant the emergency stay that would block his own ruling from last week that put a hold on President Obama`s immigration executive actions. The Department of Justice says it plans to appeal the decision. They government says, the President`s Executive action is an integral part of the department`s comprehensive effort to set and effectuate immigration enforcement priorities. The government asked the judge to decide this by Wednesday. And, on Wednesday, February 25th, -- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) -- President Obama will participate in a town hall on MSNBC from Florida, with MSNBC`s Jose Diaz-Balart. The discussion will be mostly about immigration and will air at 8:00 p.m. You can ask questions on Facebook and Twitter using hashtags, Obamarepondez and Obamatownhall. Coming up, -- (END VIDEO CLIP) -- a little Oscar talk. And in the "Rewrite," I will tell you the meaning of love, and I`ll do it without music. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH, ACTOR: I like solving problems, Commander. And Enigma is the most difficult problem in the world. CHARLES DANCE, ACTOR: No, Enigma isn`t difficult. It`s impossible. The Americans, the Russians, the French, the Germans, everyone thinks Enigma is unbreakable. CUMBERBATCH: Good. Let me try, and we`ll know for sure, won`t we. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Last night, the writer of that scene, Graham Moore, won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for "The Imitation Game," a film about famed British Computer Scientist Alan Turing. After Moore gave his thank yous to the cast and crew, he ended his speech with this -- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GRAHAM MOORE, "THE IMITATION GAME" WRITER: When I was 16 years old, I tried to kill myself, because I felt weird and I felt different. And I felt like I did belong. And, now, I`m standing here and so, I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she`s weird or she`s different or she doesn`t fit in anywhere. Yes, you do. I promise, you do. You do. Stay weird. Stay different. And then, when it`s your turn and you are standing on this stage, please pass the same message -- (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) -- to the next person who comes along. Thank you so much. I love you, guys. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Backstage, after that, Graham Moore was asked how difficult it was to speak about something so personal in front of a worldwide television audience. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MOORE: It was really hard, but it felt -- I don`t know, I`m a writer. When am I ever going to be on television. This was like my 45 seconds in my life to get on television and say something. So, I thought like I might as well use it to say something meaningful. UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: What helped you turn it around when you got that low. MOORE: Depression is something that I have dealt with every single day of my life since. But I`m very blessed to have a family that was so supportive then and has been so supportive ever since. My mother, who`s -- I think she`s over there somewhere -- will be sitting next to me tonight. I know, for her, who has seen me at all the stages of this, it was really meaningful. And I feel very blessed to have had friends and family around who are so supportive. And not everyone gets to have that. I am very aware of how lucky I am. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Joining us now here in Los Angeles is Rebecca Keegan, Film Writer for the "Los Angeles Times," Justin Chang, Chief Film Critic for "Variety," and JD Heyman, Deputy Editor for "People" magazine. That was quite a moment last night. But, I`ve got to say, if it was the Writers Guild Awards, the depression is just assumed. (LAUGHTER) You do not -- you don`t have to mention that at that award, you know. But he really had the most, I think, maybe touching personal moment up there last night. REBECCA KEEGAN, FILM WRITER, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": Yes, there were a lot of personal moments and political moments, and a lot of really heavy topics that people talked about. In addition to the depression, Julianne Moore talked Alzheimer`s, Eddie Redmayne talked about A.L.S. There were political speeches. It was really interesting. O`DONNELL: You know, I made exactly one prediction, and it`s the only prediction I`ve ever made about awards because I could never figure it out. It`s the beginning of the season. I said, you know, "Selma," "Glory" is going to win Best Song. I managed to tweet that right before the "Golden Globes." It`s the most obvious thing in the world. It deserved it. Let`s hear it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOHN LEGEND, SINGER AND SONGWRITER: When the war is won. Glory. When it`s all said and done. Glory. We`ll cry glory. Glory. Oh, glory. Glory. Oh. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Justin, that was "Selma`s" way of really grabbing the emotion of the night. JUSTIN CHANG, CHIEF FILM CRITIC, "VARIETY": Absolutely. I got chills just watching it just now again. I think it was the best moment of the night for me. And I felt, in some ways, that it was -- the Academy, almost atoning that -- atoning for shutting out, with only two nominations, one of the best -- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) -- and most -- and, you know, just least-rewarded films this season. And the way they left their feet and Chris Pine crying, it was just -- O`DONNELL: But, you know, it really is the power of that song. You know, I cried when I heard it in the theater in New York. (END VIDEO CLIP) I had a chance to hear them do that live at an event in New York. CHANG: Right. O`DONNELL: I don`t know, it must be over a month ago. And the same thing happened. And in the room, when they do that live, it`s absolutely stunning. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JD HEYMAN, DEPUTY EDITOR, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: It was riveting in the room. It was amazing. And it`s unfortunate that -- (END VIDEO CLIP) -- more people hadn`t seen that and been moved by that in terms of the whole campaign for "Selma." "Selma" just didn`t get the momentum that some of the other -- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) -- pictures had. I think it`s a complicated reason as to why. I don`t think it`s as simple as simply saying it was a racial reason. But there were a lot of problems marketing that film inside Hollywood -- (END VIDEO CLIP) -- and getting people in front of it. And anyone who saw that movie in Hollywood loved it. Yet, unfortunately, it didn`t gel. O`DONNELL: And there were mechanics involved that people out there don`t get, which is, they distribute D.V.D.s to all the voters. "Selma" was unable to distribute the D.V.D.s as early as the rest of them because the final cut was late and all that stuff. But, let`s go to John Legend`s speech after winning the Oscar for Best Song. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LEGEND: We wrote this song for a film that was based on events that were 50 years ago. But we say that "Selma" is now because the struggle -- (APPLAUSE) -- for justice is right now. We know that the voting rights, that act that they fought for 50 years ago is being compromised right now in this country today. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) We know that, right now, -- (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) -- the struggle for freedom and justice is real. We live in the most incarcerated country in the world. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) There are more black men under correctional control today than were under slavery in 1850. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Rebecca, sometimes, it`s a reach that, in this kind of moment where you reach out to grab a political issue and pull it into the room, I don`t see how he could have accepted that award without going there. KEEGAN: No, I think you`re right. One thing I think that`s interesting in the context of the "Oscars is so white," sort of controversy that came out around the nominations is, if you looked at last night`s show, there were a lot of minority presenters. Probably, the signature moment is the clip you just played. So, clearly, both the Academy and the producers were showcasing this issue of diversity in a way the nominations overlooked. CHANG: And, sometimes, -- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) -- I think, not to the most, best-advised effect. Because, you know, I kind of cringed -- (END VIDEO CLIP) -- at the bit with Octavia Spencer. You know, a lot of people were saying, "What is this, `The Help.` Are you treating her like," you know, she`s -- you know, kind of making her perform in a way. And even with David Oyelowo, I thought it was -- there was sort of a strange attempt on Neil Patrick Harris and the writers to -- O`DONNELL: Well, you know, by the way, Neil Patrick Harris mispronounced his name twice. He said Yellow -- HEYMAN: It`s a hard name -- Oyelowo. O`DONNELL: But you know you`re going to have to say it in the show. It`s in the prompter. I mean, it`s not hard to learn. HEYMAN: Practice. O`DONNELL: And then at a show that makes fun at Travolta having mispronounced a name last year. I mean -- HEYMAN: These are the things that we love the Academy Awards for. O`DONNELL: Yes, because we love -- HEYMAN: We do not want to see a smooth Academy Awards. (LAUGHTER) Anybody who tells you that they`re not disappointed in the Academy Awards is not, you know, being a true American. (LAUGHTER) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) You`re supposed to be disappointed in the Academy Awards. That`s part of it. And what`s nice about the Academy Awards is that they resolutely, traditionally, every year, do disappoint us in one way or the other. And it`s a very hard show to execute. There is no -- they don`t capitulate to our modern needs -- (LAUGHTER) -- to be entertained. O`DONNELL: Yes. HEYMAN: And I love that about them. So, without these things, we wouldn`t have, you know, something to talk about, so -- (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: And what happens now to "Birdman" with these Oscars. I mean, it`s pretty much run its course, its business cycle, already, hasn`t it. HEYMAN: Yes. CHANG: It will soon may get a boost as the Best Picture winner typically does, you know. And I would say though that, you know, keeping with the disappointment of the show, -- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) -- one of the most disappointing things for me is the fact that "Birdman" won Best Picture and Director and Screenplay. And this is a movie that`s funny because you have these speeches which are very personal, people reaching out into the world, talking about important issues that are, -- (END VIDEO CLIP) -- you know, important to them. And you have the Academy giving an award to a film that, I think, is very inward-looking and very navel-gazing and self-gratifying in my opinion. O`DONNELL: But, you know, I think -- HEYMAN: I think it`s lively, lovely Oscars. O`DONNELL: I think "Birdman" is a brilliant work of art. But I also, you know -- the most important thing was said by Julianne Moore last night when she said the arts are not a competition. I mean, I think "Birdman" deserved to be called the Best Picture. I think, seven or eight other movies deserve that, too, at the same time, you know. I just -- HEYMAN: Correct. It was this -- where else are you going to see a movie like "Ida" celebrated or -- you know, this blend of, you know, cheesiness and incredibly high art is nowhere else in our culture. (LAUGHTER) So, I think it`s good. And I`m proud that "Birdman" that won and I`m proud that all these other movies were recognized. It`s a rare moment in our culture. O`DONNELL: Rebecca Keegan, Justin Chang and JD Heyman, that`s all the Oscar talk we can take for tonight. It`s over for the year. It`s over, that`s it. That`s the last word on the Oscars, said right here tonight. Thank you all very much. KEEGAN: Thank you. HEYMAN: Thank you. CHANG: Thank you. O`DONNELL: Coming up next in the "Rewrite," -- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) -- the meaning of love, Giuliani style. (END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) Tonight`s "Rewrite" needs music. It cries out for music, because it`s all about love. But for complicated legal reasons, including the fact that some of these segments live online forever, we can no longer secure the right to use any of the great music of our time on this program. In fact, the only way we were able to just play for you "Glory", the Oscar-winning song last night, is because it is in the news today. But we won`t be able to play you that song, say, a week from now. So, instead of cuing Barry Right -- Barry White right now to sing us into a discussion of love, I`m going to have to go straight to what instantly became the most quoted line any politician has ever said about love. I have to read it to you because there`s no audio recording of it. And here it is -- "I know this is a horrible thing to say. But I do not believe that the President loves America." That was, of course, Rudy Giuliani who said that now famous sentence last week at a Republican event for Scott Walker in New York City. Now, when a politician talks about loving America, you should always ask him or her what he or she actually means. What does it mean to love America. What does it mean to love a country. When I say I love my mother, you know what I mean. If I say I love ice cream, you know what I mean. And you know I mean completely different from loving my mother, or loving my dog, or loving Gershwin, or loving the view of the Manhattan Skyline. Each one of those loves is a completely different kind of love. And yet, we are stuck with the same four-letter word to express them all. If I say I love -- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) -- the Rocky Mountains, you have no idea what I mean. At first, you might think you do, just as you might think you know what someone means when he says he loves a country. But you don`t. When I say I love the Rocky Mountains, does it mean I love climbing them. Does it mean I love climbing them in the winter or just in summer. Does it mean I love skiing the Rocky Mountains, or does it mean I just love staring down at them from 35,000 feet. Well, the answer is I just love staring down at them from airplane windows. But you had no way of knowing that when I said I love the Rocky Mountains. That`s what I hear when I hear politicians say, -- (END VIDEO CLIP) -- "I love America." I hear a sentence that has no meaning. No meaning, without further elaboration. Elaboration that never comes from politicians. They just say, "I love America." And that`s enough. But what does it mean. What does a Republican politician, Rudy Giuliani -- what does a Republican politician mean when he says, "I love America." Does it mean he loves everywhere, inside the borders of the United States of America. Does it mean he loves Alabama even if he`s never been there. Does it mean he loves Harlem, Greenwich Village, Alaska, Texas. Does it mean he loves Texas even in the summer. Because the most famous Texas Republicans in history flee Texas every summer, to get about as far away as they can. In Maine. Because they apparently don`t love Texas in the summer. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) They love Maine in the summer. They cheat on Texas every summer. Poor Texas sits there in the sweltering heat of summer, waiting and waiting for the Presidents Bush to give up their summer mistress and start loving Texas again. If they love Texas at all. (END VIDEO CLIP) When a Republican politician says he loves America, does it mean he loves the American people, all of them, including the ones who don`t vote for him, or the ones who don`t vote at all. Does it mean he loves the people who hate him. Because every American politician is hated by someone. And many of them are hated by millions of people. Unlike politicians, the American people understand that love is complicated. And that love of country isn`t easily defined and might not even be necessary. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) Last year, a Pew poll showed that only 28 percent of Americans think that the United States, quote, "stands above all other countries in the world." A big majority of Americans, 58 percent, think that America is, quote, "one of the greatest countries in the world, along with some others." When Rudy Giuliani says he loves America, does that mean he loves all Americans, including the people who think that America is just one of the greatest countries in the world, along with some others. Or does Rudy Giuliani think those people are crazy and unlovable and a disgrace to their citizenship. (END VIDEO CLIP) A country is a patch of dirt, a bunch of people, and a government. I don`t think Rudy Giuliani is talking about the land mass of the United States when he says, "I love America." I don`t think Rudy Giuliani is talking about all of the people of America when he says, "I love America." And I`m sure Rudy Giuliani is not talking about the government because I know he hates a lot of what the government does, including subjecting to the top income tax rate. So, I have no idea what Rudy Giuliani means when he says, "I love America." Today, in "The Wall Street Journal," Rudy Giuliani tried to clarify what he meant by saying the President doesn`t love America. In an op-ed piece he wrote, -- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) -- "I didn`t intend to question President Obama`s motives or the content of his heart. (END VIDEO CLIP) But, of course, that is exactly what Rudy Giuliani did. He questioned the contents of the President`s heart, questioned what the President loves. Right after Rudy Giuliani said he does not believe that the President loves America, he actually said, and I`m going to quote here. He said, "And he doesn`t love me." What could that possibly mean. It could mean something romantic but I don`t think it does. But I think it does prove something. I think it proves that when Rudy Giuliani talks about love, he has, and we have, no idea what he`s talking about. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) There are a lot of gems in David Axelrod`s new book, including the story about when the White House actually considered dropping Joe Biden as the Vice Presidential nominee for the reelection campaign and replacing him with -- well, they did a poll to find out who that should be. That`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) David Axelrod is back with us. His new book is called "Believer." David, I wanted to go to this passage about Joe Biden, one of the gems that I find so fascinating in the book. I`m going to read it for our audience. It says, -- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) -- "One day, Biden called me into his stately office down the hall from Oval. `Do you remember that conversation we had at my sister`s house in Delaware,` he asked, recalling the interview, in which he told Plouffe and me that he felt he would be the better president.`" "`Well, you know what, I was wrong. The right person won. He`s an incredible guy and I am proud to work with and for him.`" (END VIDEO CLIP) This was when he knew, David, that there was some rumblings in the White House about the possibility of swapping him for Hillary Clinton on the reelection campaign. And I just want to read what follows that in the book. You say, -- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) "Swapping Clinton for Biden would have been seen as weak and disloyal. I argued when some on the campaign suggested we had an obligation to test it in polling. When we did, it made no difference. The subject never came up again." (END VIDEO CLIP) What would have happened, David, if Hillary Clinton polled well ahead of Joe Biden for you in that poll. DAVID AXELROD, AUTHOR, "BELIEVER": Well, I could use the old political cop out and say -- (LAUGHTER) -- I don`t want to talk about a hypothetical -- but I think that would have posed a really difficult problem because, well, the bond between the President and Biden is very, very genuine. They`re very close. And, I believe, Biden has been an incredible vice president, as loyal as could be. He`s taken on some really hard assignments -- the Recovery Act, Iraq, and other things. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) And I said in the book what I believed, which is, there is no justification, under any circumstance, which is why I didn`t want to poll. But I never really thought that it was going to amount to much. As you know, Lawrence, people don`t vote for vice presidents. (END VIDEO CLIP) They vote for presidents. And I don`t think any change on the ticket was going to particularly strengthen us. So, you know, the whole thing was, in my view, kind of empty exercise. But I`m happy that it worked out the way it did. O`DONNELL: There`s much talk about the passage in the book where you described the President`s real backstage position on marriage equality. But, politically, you didn`t want him to go there because you thought it was better to play a longer game. Now, you know, I find nothing kind of surprising or shocking about that. I guess it`s because I`ve worked inside these kinds of decisions. But, do you understand why people look at that and they think of it as lying, that the candidate`s going out there and lying to the public. And I guess it`s true. But is it -- is it your argument that it`s lying for a higher purpose down the road. AXELROD: First of all, he was always very clear that he thought gay and lesbian Americans should have equal rights, but he acknowledged that there were these concerns in the religious community and he tried to thread the needle with civil unions. But, look, history -- you`re a student of History. History is replete. You know, there were plenty of folks who were angry at Lincoln because they didn`t think he moved fast enough on emancipation. Roosevelt accepted a Social Security bill that essentially -- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) -- excluded most of African-Americans by the way it designated work categories that qualified. And, as you know, he ran as a kind of an isolationist in 1940, even as he was trying to maneuver America into -- (END VIDEO CLIP) -- World War II, or what would become World War II. So, yes, I think this is -- that`s how leaders -- they take circuitous routes to get the country where they think the country needs to go. And this President did do that on these issues. O`DONNELL: David Axelrod, I wish we could go on and on. I mostly don`t like this kind of book. This is one of the really, really good ones. If you read one inside the Obama administration book, this is the one to read. Believe it, my 40 years in politics. David Axelrod, thank you. Chris Hayes is up next. END