IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, Transcript 07/02/15

Guests: Chuck Todd, Howard Dean, Caitlin Huey-Burns, Jeff Weaver , MeganRyerson, Rick Seaney

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: It`s done -- of today have now ruled that Louisiana and Kentucky and Alabama and Hinds County, Mississippi, it`s done. It`s history. It`s bright, serious, very personal history, it`s done. It`s been a big week. That does it for us tonight, now it`s time for THE LAST WORD with Lawrence O`Donnell. LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST, THE LAST WORD: Today, President Obama showed he is still the campaigner-in-chief for the Democratic Party. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hello, Wisconsin! (CHEERS) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s tough to see where -- how it gets better for him than the last week. OBAMA: There is nothing America cannot do. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unemployment rate dipped to 5.3 percent, the lowest it`s been in seven years. OBAMA: This is a special time of year to be an American. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s been great for President Obama for a couple of weeks there. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we have more record-breaking going on for Bernie Sanders. SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), VERMONT: In case, you haven`t noticed, there`re a lot of people here. (CHEERS) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hillary Clinton is reporting record-breaking fundraising numbers -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Forty five million dollars, Bernie has not come close to that. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bernie is channeling Elizabeth Warren. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s not a threat. He doesn`t scare anybody. He makes people happy, he tells jokes. OBAMA: I`ve lost count how many Republicans are running this year -- (LAUGHTER) RICK PERRY, FORMER TEXAS GOVERNOR: I am a unique candidate. OBAMA: They`ll have enough for an actual "Hunger Games". (LAUGHTER) GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Type in my name and say something nice. You won`t get a lot of response. JON STEWART, COMEDIAN & TELEVISION HOST: You`ve already finished second in the loud Northeastern egomaniac primary -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think they are going to Donald Trump. DONALD TRUMP, CHAIRMAN & PRESIDENT, TRUMP ORGANIZATIONS & FOUNDER, TRUMP ENTERTAINMENT RESORTS: I`m really rich. CHRISTIE: Give them your shirt, they want your pants, that`s the way it works. STEWART: How far must Christie have fallen to be a two-term sitting governor unfavorably compared to a perfume-selling escalator -- (LAUGHTER) Like Donald Trump. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: It looks like President Obama has a habit he can`t break, campaigning for president. He went to Wisconsin today where he was greeted at the airport by Republican Governor and soon-to-be presidential candidate Scott Walker. Governor Walker passed up the opportunity to do the Republican governor finger wave at the president or the Republican governor hug. And then President Obama went to the state-funded University of Wisconsin and attacked Governor Walker`s policies without mentioning the governor`s name. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: We`ve seen what happens when top-down economics meets the real world. We got proof right here in Wisconsin. Yet a statewide fair pay law that was repealed. Your right to organize and bargain collectively was attacked. Per student education funding was cut. Your minimum wage has been stuck in place. Meanwhile, corporations and the most fortunate few have been on the receiving end of hundreds of millions of dollars and new tax cuts over the past four years. All right, so that`s what`s been going on here. What happens when we try middle class economics, just across the river. (CHEERS) (APPLAUSE) I mean that`s a pretty -- it`s a pretty interesting experiment. Across the river in Minnesota, they asked the top 2 percent to pay a little bit more, they invested in things that help everybody succeed, like all-day kindergarten and financial aid for college students. (APPLAUSE) They took action to raise their minimum wage, they passed an equal pay law. They protected workers rights, they expanded Medicaid to cover more people. Now, according to the Republican theory, all those steps would have been bad for the economy. But Minnesota`s unemployment rate is lower than Wisconsin`s, Minnesota`s median income is around $9,000 higher, but across Tribune Road, Minnesota is winning this border battle. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: President Obama did not just take on Scott Walker today, he took on all of the Republican presidential candidates first by making fun of them. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: You know, we`ve got some healthy competition in the Democratic Party, but I`ve lost count how many Republicans are running for this job. (LAUGHTER) They`ll have enough for an actual "Hunger Games". (LAUGHTER) So, that`s a -- (APPLAUSE) That is -- that is -- that is interesting bunch. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: And then the President went after the Republican presidential candidates on policy. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: The one thing that the bus full of people who are fighting to lead the Republican ticket all share, is they keep on coming up with the same old trickle down, you`re-on-your-own economics that helped bring about the crisis back in 2007-2008 in the first place. Eliminating taxes that the wealthiest Americans pay on their investments while making you pay taxes on every dime on your paycheck, that`s a bad idea. Keeping the minimum wage less than it was when Ronald Reagan took office before most of you were born, that`s a bad idea. Every single one of them is still obsessed with repealing the Affordable Care Act, despite the fact that by every measure, it`s working, and you got nothing to replace it with. That`s a bad idea. Every single one of these candidates serving in Congress has supported cutting taxes for folks at the top, while slashing investments in education -- I know that sounds familiar. (LAUGHTER) (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Joining us now from Washington, Chuck Todd, moderator of "Meet the Press" and "Nbc News" Political Director, from Vermont, Howard Dean, former Vermont Governor and former Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. And here with us in New York, Caitlin Huey-Burns, political reporter for RealClearPolitics. Chuck, President Obama out there today clearly can`t break that running for president habit. He was in winning presidential campaign mode. CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, MEET THE PRESS & POLITICAL DIRECTOR, NBC NEWS: Well, obviously, he`s feeling his oats, too good unemployment numbers today. Obviously, these past couple of weeks have been -- aides have told me, it`s the best week -- they had -- best period that they have ever felt and had inside this White House. Where you -- they feel like they`re getting both policy wins and political wins at the same time. But it`s something very interesting with Scott Walker. And I`ve noticed this and if you`re very -- when the President engages in 2016, and we`ve seen him do this over the last couple of years, he`s always wanted to single out Scott Walker, almost elevate Scott Walker. I`ve noticed and I`ve heard this from other Democrats, if you look at the so-called top tier, if you believe, you know, the four most nominatable guys that most likely will get the nomination is some form of Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker and some people think John Kasich. The four guys most likely actually end up nominee. But Walker is the guy that Democrats want to run against. And you saw it there, Obama, the president wants to make Walker the foil, the representative of all things having to do with sort of the conservative point of view. And in many ways, a lot of conservatives would like to put Walker up as sort of the counterbalance to President Obama and his world view. And so, I think the President enjoys elevating Scott Walker because I think Democrats want Walker as the -- as the Republican nominee in `16. O`DONNELL: And Governor Dean, Scott Walker has done all those things. He`s kind of created the perfect checklist for President Obama to go down and attack point-by-point for Democratic audiences. HOWARD DEAN, FORMER VERMONT GOVERNOR: Well, the problem that he is really facing is that Wisconsin is now 46th in the country in terms of job creation. It`s gone backwards since Scott Walker has been governor and he`s about to decimate one of the best public universities in the United States by cutting $300 million out of the University of Wisconsin budget. So, the problem is, he may do well in the Republican primary, I think he will. His record is a complete disaster to run in a general election in the United States of America. O`DONNELL: And Catlin, he -- Scott Walker has a number almost as bad as Chris Christie`s in his home state about this running for president question. Should Scott Walker run? Thirty four percent in his state, say yes, 62 percent say no. Looks like Scott Walker with these numbers couldn`t win his own state. CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS, POLITICAL REPORTER, REALCLEARPOLITICS: Right, and you know, going back to Chuck`s point about -- this is -- Democrats are very animated by Scott Walker and Republicans will be animated by seeing the President go after Scott Walker. They both kind of welcome this. But in his home state, he is -- he is still a polarizing figure, and I think the Democrats can look at a state like Wisconsin where, you know, shortly after the recall, they elected a Democratic senator. So, it is not clear that he can win his home state. And I think having him on the ballot will certainly animate lots and lots of Democrats who are already pretty animated right now. O`DONNELL: Chuck Todd, only Chris Christie is jealous of Scott Walker`s approval numbers -- TODD: Yes -- O`DONNELL: Scott Walker again in his state, 41 percent approve, 56 percent disapprove of his performance as governor. TODD: Look, you know, he`s been -- look, he`s been sitting -- he normally will sit in that 45 to 48 range for quite some time to Caitlin`s point, very much a polarizing guy in the state. Look, I think the dip is fully explained on the university, the battle he picked with the University of Wisconsin. It was -- when he picked it, it felt as if he was having -- thinking about his national politics and it may be good national politics. But I think picking that fight in the State of Wisconsin is why his -- basically his approval numbers have basically dropped a good five or six points from that polarizing. I`m not one -- a lot of -- and Lawrence, you know this, remember, our candidates didn`t think Bill Clinton was presidential material in 1992. It is not uncommon for home states not to think their governor is a presidential material right away. But I do think the explanation for his drop in approval rating all is about the University of Wisconsin fight. O`DONNELL: Yes, I remember my friends in Georgia telling me this guy Jimmy Carter doesn`t have a -- TODD: Right -- O`DONNELL: Chance, it`s not surprising. Howard Dean, when you see the President out there in that kind of performance today, he clearly now looks -- like his definition of legacy is another Democratic president following him. DEAN: Well, he`s -- yes, that`s probably true. The week he had last week was unbelievable. I mean I try to think back when any president is at that kind of a week. Maybe Ronald Reagan when the Berlin wall fell, it`s just unbelievable. And so, he`s on his game and people like it, his approval ratings have gone up as a result. And the best thing that could happen to the Democratic nominee would be to have a strong Barack Obama finishing his last few months while they`re running in the general election. O`DONNELL: And Caitlin, when you think of a possible Clinton nomination and a Clinton general election campaign and, you know, who are the surrogates? Bill Clinton was very helpful to President Obama in his reelection campaign. Who plays that role in Hillary`s campaign and is it better played by President Obama than by her husband? HUEY-BURNS: It is very interesting over the past year and a half, I mean, remember, in the 2014 elections, Democrats didn`t want to go anywhere near President Obama. And here we have Hillary Clinton, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination fully embracing him. I mean, when the Supreme Court ruling came out on healthcare, she tweeted a picture of her, you know, literally hugging the President. So, I think it`s been a remarkable turn of events and to the governor`s point, as long as the president`s approval numbers are up, as long as he is doing well, as long as he`s welcomed by the party and outside, I think she`d be wise to embrace him still. TODD: Hey, Lawrence, very quickly -- O`DONNELL: Go ahead, Chuck -- TODD: There`s an easy way to look at this, Bill McIntire(ph), one half of our "Nbc" "Wall Street Journal" polling team will say this, presidential job approval might be the single most important number, even in `16. And Hillary -- and I can tell you this, if it`s 48 or above for Obama, advantage Democrats. If it`s in that 45 to 48 range, it`s a coin-flip election, and if it`s under 45, advantage Republicans. That`s the bottom line and I think that as long as it goes right to that number, if the President is sitting where he`s at right now, 47 to 52, that range, you`re going to see him as a big -- as a big important surrogate for the Democrats in `16. O`DONNELL: All right, we`re going to have to take a break right here, coming up, America has exactly one Latino governor and she is a Republican and she thinks Donald Trump has been saying horrible things. And Alex Wagner gets a one-on-one interview with Republican presidential candidate Lindsey Graham in a spot where he could not escape. And later, if you`re flying this weekend, are you paying higher airfares because of an illegal conspiracy among the major airlines? The federal government is investigating that question. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) O`DONNELL: Tonight, there`s a new candidate for the Democratic nomination for president without much funfair, in fact, with no funfair. Former Senator Jim Webb released a written statement on his campaign website saying, "I understand the odds particularly in today`s political climate where a fair debate is so often drowned out by huge sums of money. But our country needs a fresh approach to solving the problems that confront us and too often unnecessarily divide us. We need to shake the hold of these shadow elites on our political process." Who could he be talking about? Up next, tough-talking Chris Christie has a big problem, tougher-talking Donald Trump. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to Chris Christie explaining a poll of New Jersey voters in which 65 percent of them said, he would be a bad president. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS: The polls in New Jersey right now say, by a 65 to 29 percent margin, the New Jersey voters say you would not make a good president. Now, they know you the best, why shouldn`t we trust them? CHRISTIE: They want me to stay. A lot of those people in that 65 percent want me to stay. And I`ve heard that from lots of people at town hall meetings, don`t leave to run for president because we want you to stay -- KELLY: But they say, you would not make a good president. CHRISTIE: I don`t know, I can guess that people hear the question they want to hear. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Since the governor seems to have trouble understanding what New Jersey voters are actually saying in that poll, a new Monmouth University poll asked New Jersey voters, do you think Chris Christie would be a bad president because you want him to stay or because you really think he would be a bad president? Five percent of them said they want him to stay, 89 percent said they just think he would be a bad president. And the total percentage of New Jersey voters who think he would be a bad president has now increased to 68 percent. And while they were at it, 54 percent of New Jersey voters said, they think Chris Christie should resign as governor. When he announced his candidacy, Christie pretended that tough talk would be his unique contribution to the campaign. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHRISTIE: All the signs say, telling it like it is, but there`s a reason for that. We are going to tell it like it is today, so that we can create greater opportunity for every American tomorrow. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: But who is going to hear Chris Christie when this guy is on the stage? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: I won`t be the nicest -- I`m just going to be honest, I`m not going to slash him, I`m going to be honest. I`m not a politician, I tell it like it is and people have to hear it. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: The problem for Christie is summarized in "New Republic" by Elspeth Reeve this way. "Trump is actually a wonderful addition to the presidential race because his every word is genius parody of what passes for serious political debate. Christie`s candidacy only makes that more obvious. Stephen Colbert is to Bill O`Reilly as Trump is to Christie." Chuck Todd, this is a problem that Chris Christie was not planning for when he started dreaming of the presidency a few years ago. TODD: Boy, that is a vicious comparison, no, not at all. And I think, it`s -- look, I get why -- I think he is trying to run -- there`re different reason motive -- reasons why people run for president. Some run because they actually think they can be president. Some run because they have an issue they care about, some run for their own financial benefit, vanity play. I think Christie is running to redeem himself. His -- I think he is trying to -- he wants the political -- he wants his political biography ending to change a little bit. He doesn`t want it to end with bridgegate and with sort of unpopular New Jersey governor gets kicked to the curb. And so, he`s hoping that a surprising showing in the presidential race will improve that. But I`ll tell you, it`s -- look, and I think this is -- and such is Christie`s problem. Trump, you know, standing up for him. You know, Lindsey Graham wants to be the straight talker. Ted Cruz is the guy who wants to be the blunt talker about Washington, and there is a chance that Trump trumps them all to use a terrible pun here, because he has no shame. He will say anything at any moment and time where all of those other guys I just described, they all have shame. There are things they won`t -- DEAN: Also -- TODD: Say. Trump has none. DEAN: I also think it`s -- I also think it`s another issue here and Trump is guilty of it, but Trump is not a serious candidate. Christie could have been a serious candidate. But this business of shut up and sit down, that does not play in most of America. Great in New Jersey and New York, and maybe the East Coast, some of the East Coast. It does not play in the Midwest, it does not play in the south, and that`s a big problem. You can`t -- nobody takes Donald Trump seriously except a few people in the Republican Party who probably aren`t to be taken seriously. People did take Chris Christie seriously and I think that`s gone and I don`t think he can get it back. HUEY-BURNS: But I do think it`s interesting. I was at Christie`s launch in New Jersey earlier this week, and he was kind of presenting himself as a new man. I mean, he is trying to really compete in New Hampshire which is a much more toned-down kind of primary and it was interesting. You know, I think he is trying to tone himself down but I am interested to see whether, you know, on this debate stage, whether someone like Trump or some of these other candidates, you know, bring that, you know, feisty, aggressive Christie back into the -- into the fold. Or if you have someone in one of these town halls who brings that out of him as well. So -- TODD: Yes -- HUEY-BURNS: I think he has to be kind of, you know, watching it a little bit there -- O`DONNELL: Yes, more likely for Christie it will be a town hall since he may not make it unto the debate stage depending on what the polling says -- TODD: Right -- O`DONNELL: About this. HUEY-BURNS: Yes -- O`DONNELL: And Chuck, to your point about Trump has no shame, that is absolutely true. And -- but what I am beginning to wonder is, can his candidacy in effect be shamed by other Republicans -- office holders in particular and politicians in the eyes of Republican voters. For example, Governor Susana Martinez over in New Mexico -- TODD: Right -- O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what she said. She is the only Latino governor in the nation. Let`s listen to what she said about Donald Trump. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. SUSANA MARTINEZ (R), NEW MEXICO: I think those are horrible things to say about anyone or any culture, any one of any ethnicity, I mean, that is uncalled-for. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: And Chuck, the Serta mattress company stopped doing -- TODD: Right -- O`DONNELL: Business with Trump today, announced they`re going to discontinue their relationship with him on home products. And so it`s starting to look like -- I mean, it`s a question. Can that stuff build to the point where Trump, no matter what he thinks of himself actually does become an embarrassment out there? TODD: I don`t know. You know, three -- I remember four years ago when he went down the birther world and that looked like -- and he was basically on the verge of having all this happen to him, then, I remember there was a report that his family stepped in. And so, like, what are you doing here? You`re hurting the bottom line here. Your last name is still a -- is still a valuable commodity, don`t do it. You wonder here, he could be past the point of no return. But does somebody intervene and financially convince him, what are you doing to yourself? You know, the one thing you had going for you is this idea that your last name was worth money. If it`s no longer a valuable marketing tool, what are you going to do? What do you fall back on when this presidential flirtation ends. And by the way, you brought up Susana Martinez, I do think you`re getting a turning point in the Republican Party. Jeb Bush had tough things to say about Trump today, Rick Perry had tough things to say about Trump. And by the way, what do all three have in common, Lawrence? All three of them were governors in states with large Hispanic populations who when they`ve won, won with good chunks of the Hispanic vote as Republicans -- DEAN: Well -- TODD: They know the value in this. DEAN: And these guys have to say that, because the reason -- or the -- one of the big reasons that Mitt Romney didn`t come close to beating Barack Obama was, I will veto the Dream Act if it gets to my desk. Well, what Donald Trump said was far worse than that. If the Republicans can`t get to 35 percent, the Republican nominee among Hispanic voters they cannot win. And Donald Trump set back the entire Republican Party. And I -- it`s not a surprise to me that some of the leading candidates would go after Trump as a result to try to reclaim all that hard work they`ve done and try to make up to the Hispanic population for the damage that`s been done on the immigration issue. HUEY-BURNS: And I -- TODD: And very quickly, Lawrence, I don`t understand what took him so long. Because I`m -- I`ve got a -- this has been a huge effort by the Republican National Committee. I think this was a mixed opportunity by Chairman Priebus, that`s his job, I think he should have taken the bullet first and gone after Trump early and then let the candidates follow. HUEY-BURNS: And I -- and I think -- O`DONNELL: Well, you know, Caitlin, one thing I was struck by was -- HUEY-BURNS: Yes -- O`DONNELL: One of the first to jump out there against Trump was the utterly hopeless George Pataki. And what that showed is -- HUEY-BURNS: Exactly -- O`DONNELL: Going after Trump is one way to get attention in this giant field. HUEY-BURNS: Right, all of a sudden we remember that Pataki was running for president or at least, you know -- (LAUGHTER) O`DONNELL: Yes -- HUEY-BURNS: At least I did. What`s interesting too is that Democrats are very excited about this. You are seeing them call Donald Trump, not by his name, but by a Republican candidate running for president. So this -- TODD: Right -- HUEY-BURNS: This is something that only animates them even further and it`s not good for the party. And again, you know, why did it take this long? O`DONNELL: And Chuck, to the issue of what kind of a gift is Donald Trump to the Democratic Party? I mean, they are just -- they just want to sit there and watch this. TODD: Well, the -- and if you recall, much of Obama`s TV advertising in 2012, they used to use some stock footage of Mitt Romney. And they used it a lot, and I remember asking Axelrod about it. It was Mitt Romney getting off a plane and in the backdrop was Trump`s plane. And you could see it very easily. And it was -- anyway, it happened to be droll(ph), they got Romney apologies for the TV jargon there. But sort of -- footage that they got of Mitt Romney when he did that awkward endorsement, press conference with Donald Trump back in 20 -- back and during the 2012 campaign. But Axelrod said that, when they would focus-group their ads, everybody in the focus group immediately picked up on Trump. They never said the words Trump. Trump was just simply, his name was on a plane in the background of Romney coming down and they all picked up on it and so they used it and they believed that it was an important sort of semi subliminal message to send that Trump is with them. And if he is with them, you don`t want to be with them. Let`s listen to what Donald Trump said about Chris Christie last night. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: Well, he`s a friend of mine, I like him very much, and I was pushing him four years ago. I said, you know, Chris, this is your time, go do it, go do it and for whatever reason he didn`t. I think if he did it, he would have beaten Romney and Romney did a poor job of running the last time, because I think that`s a race that should have been won. But I think Chris Christie who -- you know, he`s a good man. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Howard Dean, I noticed from the start that Donald Trump always says that about Chris Christie, I like him, he`s a friend of mine. And I -- and I was thinking up until the last, you know, day or so, that OK, Chris Christie got lucky there, Trump is not going to attack him, he`s going to be busy attacking everybody else. Now, it just maybe -- that turns out to be a curse. DEAN: Yes, that`s a very complicated relationship because Trump has a lot of business dealings, some of which hasn`t gone very well in Atlantic City. TODD: Bingo -- DEAN: And Christie is very much -- very much on the ballpark of -- in the ballpark of trying to fix Atlantic City. So, this is a really complex relationship which I don`t fully understand. I bet you, there are a lot of other people who don`t fully understand it either. O`DONNELL: All right, we want to take -- TODD: Yes, but governor, I think you are absolutely right by the way, that`s almost everything to do with Atlantic City, they have to -- they`re trying to -- the Trump folks are trying to redo their casino. They`ll redo their lease and redo the way they are zoned apparently to avoid some tax hits that Christie is doing. So, I think you`re -- I think that`s all about money. O`DONNELL: Yes, real estate guys don`t fool around with governors when they have properties in their states. We`ll take a quick break, coming up, Senator Lindsey Graham as you have never seen him or heard him before. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) O`DONNELL: Today Senator Bernie Sanders campaigned in Iowa where a new poll shows him gaining on Hillary Clinton among likely democratic caucus goers. According to a new Quinnipiac University Poll released today, Hillary Clinton is at 52 percent in Iowa and Bernie Sanders is at 33 percent. That is a drop for Secretary Clinton and an increase for Senator Sanders since the last Quinnipiac survey, which had Hillary at 60 and Bernie Sanders at 15. Today the Sanders campaign beat expectations in fund-raising by announcing the campaign has raised $15 million from 250,000 donors. Last night, Bernie Sanders attracted, by far, the biggest crowd of the campaign season. Speaking to 10,000 people in Madison, Wisconsin. (BEGTIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Politics in a democratic society should not be complicated. What politics should simply be about is people coming together, taking a hard look at the problems that we face, listen to different ideas, and then go about solving those problems. This campaign is not about Bernie Sanders. It is not about Hillary Clinton. It is not about anybody else. It is about you! (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Jeff Weaver, the campaign manager for the Bernie Sanders campaign. Jeff, I have heard a lot of theories about why the polls on Bernie Sanders should be discounted. New Hampshire polls should be discounted because he lives next door in Vermont. And, now the theory on Iowa polls, national polls is -- some people are saying, "All of these people are saying, they are voting for Bernie, to send a message to Hillary." I have not met poll respondents who answered poll questions strategically in order to send messages to candidates they are going to vote for by saying they are going to vote for others. What is your reaction to what is happening for Bernie Sanders in the polls and the crowds he is attracting and how you turn that into votes? JEFF WEAVER, CAMPAIGN MGR. BERNIE SANDERS CAMPAIGN: Well, I mean what is incredible is eight weeks ago he was not a candidate for president. You know, before eight weeks, we have had 5,000 people in Burlington -- OK, fine. You said, that is his home city. We had 5,000 people in Minneapolis, and 5,000 people in Denver, and now we have 10,000 in Wisconsin. I mean the truth of the matter is that there is a deep disgust out there in the world for conventional establishment politic s and establishment economics. And, people are responding. I mean you see it in the poll numbers. You see it in the crowds and you see it in the fund-raising, where you have over 250,000 people giving almost 400,000 contributions under $35 apiece. So, this is a campaign about people, as Bernie said in the last clip. It is not about him. It is about the American people and they are responding. O`DONNELL: And, Chuck Todd, Bernie Sanders is polling in these poll numbers without, as he promised, without going after Hillary Clinton in any way. TODD: That is right. I think -- Look, there are couple of things. Number one is he has been relentlessly on message when it comes to the economy. And, I think that, that is what is resonated, particularly with the progressive wing of the democratic party. Number two, I think the progressive wing of the Democratic Party is bigger today than say when Governor Dean was running. And, I will be curious of it. I feel like we have seen this before. I was listening to Bernie Sanders. I was, "Wait a minute. I have heard this before" -- (LAUGHING) O`DONNELL: Yes. TODD: -- from -- it was not that long ago from another guy from Vermont. Who would that be that sort of lit the internet on fire and showed the progressive grassroots wing of the Democratic Party. It powered Barack Obama. It powered Howard Dean. It has powered -- you know, before there was an internet, it powered Gary Hart back in `84. We have seen these. Obama won. I mean, you know, I think we -- too many times in Washington. Washington democrats and Washington established discount the progressive wing of the party and the power of it. And, I think we are seeing a reminder of it that it is still a powerful force in the democratic party. DEAN: But -- O`DONNELL: Howard Dean -- go ahead, Howard. DEAN: I would say there is one difference between -- well, there are many differences between 2004 and 2016. But the most interesting thing -- look Bernie is a good candidate, and he is going to do well. These numbers do not surprise me. He has done well. The big difference, though, is that there is no real resistance to voting for Hillary Clinton. People whose first choice is Bernie Sanders do not have a problem by and large voting for Hillary Clinton. So, the party is pretty united. And, I think that is a very good thing at the end of the day. Bernie has, basically, done economic justice for 40 years. This year, it happens to be the biggest issue in my view on both sides. O`DONNELL: Right. DEAN: When you have Rick Perry, who is talking about economic justice -- O`DONNELL: Right. DEAN: -- who never met a corporation he did not like, you know, the republican pollsters are saying the same thing. We have a long way to go. Hillary Clinton is still up by 20 points in Iowa. If she ends up, up by 20 points in Iowa next January, that is going to be pretty good. Look, I actually think it is great that Bernie is in the race. This is a message that needs to be heard. Hillary is hitting on the message, too and her supporters know. HUEY-BURNS: But, the governor brings up a great point. This is a very animated democratic base and this is what they need. I mean they are facing historic odds, really, after having two terms of a democratic president. This is going to be a challenge. Having a base as animated as it is now, if they can sustain that over the next, you know, year and a half that is a good thing for the party. But, also, the other question that comes with that is to a point how does this translate in to votes for the Sanders campaign? They have a lot of grassroots momentum? How do you harness that and actually get the votes in the caucuses, get the votes in the primary. O`DONNELL: Jeff Weaver, what is your answer to democratic voters who say, "I like everything he is saying. I do not think he can win the presidency." WEAVER: Well, I think Governor Dean can speak a little bit to this. I mean Bernie Sanders, uniquely in American politics, in some ways, has been able to unite not just democratic base voters but also speak to rural voters. He has a very good relationship with veterans. He is very good with white, working class voters. So, I think Bernie Sanders has an opportunity to expand the base of the Democratic Party, to bring people in who have become disenfranchized with the Democratic Party and to create the kind of coalition that we need to take back the White House. You know, he is really going to sort of try to recreate the FDR Democratic Party. O`DONNELL: Chuck Todd -- DEAN: I would agree with a lot of that. I agree with that. I think Bernie -- When I got -- had a very close election after I did the Civil Unions Bill, 15 years or 12 years ago. Bernie Sanders got every vote that my conservative or republican opponent got up in the conservative areas. And, he is absolutely -- I think what Jeff said is very, very true. O`DONNELL: Chuck, what is Bernie Sanders -- DEAN: And, I think that does expand the base of the Democratic Party. O`DONNELL: Chueck, what is Bernie Sanders is going to have to do to convince democratic voters in a general election he could actually come out the winner? TODD: Well, look, I think -- first he has another hurdle to clear first. And, that is, it is the hurdle that Bill Bradley never cleared. It is the hurdle Gary Hart never cleared. It was the hurdle that -- I think Governor Dean had, which is you tap in to the progressive white liberal wing of the party. And, that is worth a good chunk that can get you from zero to off the ground to competitive in places like Iowa and New Hampshire. But, the base of the Democratic Party is Hispanic. It is also African-American. And, that is usually been how a Bradley did not get there. A Gary Hart did not get there. What made Barack Obama unique? He actually fused that, that coalition together. So, I do not know if the FDR coalition exists anymore in the democratic party, Lawrence. O`DONNELL: All right. We are going to leave it there. Thanks Chuck Todd, Jeff Weaver , Caitlin Huey-Burns -- WEAVER: Thank you. O`DONNELL: -- and Howard Dean. Thank you all for joining us tonight. DEAN: Thank you. O`DONNELL: Coming up, Alex Wagner asks Lindsey Graham a question he cannot answer. Hint -- it is about Ted Cruz. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) O`DONNELL: At the Aspen Institute`s Annual Ideas Festival, Alex Wagner and Lindsey Graham managed to ignore all the beautiful scenery and talk politics. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST AND LIBERAL POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: OK, so, I am in a gondola going up the hill with Senator Lindsey Graham. SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R-SC) PRESIDENTIAL NOMENEE: I hate heights. WAGNER: So, I want to play a little word association game. SEN. GRAHAM: OK. WAGNER: Ready? SEN. GRAHAM: Right. WAGNER: Ben Carson. SEN. GRAHAM: Good man. WAGNER: That is more than one wor d. It is OK. You can do that. You can give me "Good." SEN. GRAHAM: Smart. WAGNER: All right. OK. Very complimentary. Donald Trump. SEN. GRAHAM: Big. WAGNER: Jeb Bush. SEN. GRAHAM: Solid. WAGNER: Marco Rubio? SEN. GRAHAM: Promising. WAGNER: Hillary Clinton. SEN. GRAHAM: Tough. WAGNER: Bernie Sanders. SEN. GRAHAM: Tenacious. WAGNER: Ted Cruz. SEN. GRAHAM: Ted. (LAUGHING) WAGNER: That is speaks well. Rand Paul. SEN. GRAHAM: Frustrated. WAGNER: Chris Christie. SEN. GRAHAM: Interesting. WAGNER: Scott Walker. SEN. GEAHAM: Loving. WAGNER: Mike Huckabee. SEN. GRAHAM: Decent. WAGNER: Lincoln Chaffey. SEN.GRAHAM: Metric. (LAUGHING) WAGNER: I mean honestly that is what he is known for at this point. Martin O`Malley. SEN. GRAHAM: Good Luck. WAGNER: Carly Fiorina. SEN. GRAHAM: Rising. WAGNER: Rick Perry. SEN. GRAHAM: Texas. WAGNER: John Kasich. SEN. GRAHAM: Growth. WAGNER: Bobby Jindal. SEN. GRAHAM: Not sure. Cannot think of one word. WAGNER: We will just do -- SEN. GRAHAM: All right -- WAGNER: Lindsey Graham. SEN. GRAHAM: Hopeful. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Up next, the federal government investigates a possible pricing conspiracy among major airlines. Why are airfares going up when their costs are going down? (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE SPEAKER (1): Sir, she can have my seat. OK? Everyone should have first class at least once in her life. Annie should not miss out because she cannot afford it. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE FLIGHT ATTENDANT: No, ma`am. I am afraid that is not allowed. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE SPEAKER (2): Help me, I am poor. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Fuel prices are down. Airlines are reporting record profits. So, why are airfares still so high? The federal government thinks it could be because of price fixing. The department of justice announced last night, that it is investigating whether some major airlines have been colluding illegally and coordinating with one another to limit seat capacity to drive up ticket prices. Justice Department officials decline to specify, which airlines are being investigated but the country`s four largest airlines, American, Delta, United and Southwest, all confirmed that they are part of the investigation and that they are cooperating. Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal called for the federal investigation. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, (D) CONNECTICUT, REPRESENTATIVE: The term "Maintaining Capacity Discipline" is kind of a code word that the airlines use to tell each, basically, other they are going to constrain the number of flights. And, it is really pretty simple economics 101. Reduce supply, and have increasing demand. You are going to have price increases. That is what consumers have been suffering. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Joining us now is Dr. Megan Ryerson is an Assistant Professor of Transportation Engineering and Planning at the University of Pennsylvania. She is an expert in air transportation system economics and environmental effects. Also joining us Rick Seaney, an airfare expert and CEO of Rick, I can remember, you know, years and years ago you get on a plane frequently, plenty of empty seats. If you are lucky you could stretch out, you know, get three coach seats together. Every plane I get on is full, just full. Every seat taken. What changed? RICK SEANNEY, CEO, FARECOMPARE.COM: Well, there has been a huge seat change. So, before -- you know, prior to the great recession, and sort of the precursor of the fuel crisis that occurred right before the great recession, you had a group of executives for two decades that basically had a grow or die strategy. Part of that was steal market share, add more routes. And, basically, you had aircraft that had a third empty seats on them until this time. Now, hits the fuel crisis, the recession hits, you have a whole crop of new executives that come in. They are, basically, survive, contract, consolidate, you know, do not add. Cut unprofitable routes. And, we have to keep our aircraft 90 percent full, which is effectively completely full. And, that is a huge seat change. Now, that the economy is better and fuel prices are low, they do not want to go and actually go back to that old era of adding a bunch of seats or stealing their -- They do not have to anymore. There is plenty of demand out there right now and there is no sense for them to add capacity to their system if they do not need to. Right now, they are having record profits. O`DONNELL: Professor Ryerson, where is the line here? Here are the airlines doing what as a business they should be doing trying to figure out how to fill as many seats as possible, which is to say how to figure out how to fly as few empty seats as possible. That is many managing the supply on their aircraft. The government saying somewhere in that process, they are doing something that is in effect a violation of antitrust, possibly secondary violation that then creates an opportunity for them to keep prices artificially high. PROF. MEGAN RYERSON, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: Right. Well, I think the airlines have been watching each other for years. They are a private companies. In order to make a profit, they are studying one another, seeing what the other ones are doing to maintain their competitive advantage. And, I think, you know, building off of what rick said, I think what they found is that not over supplying the number of flights, not oversupplying seats has actually led them to turn a very substantial profit. O`DONNELL: All right. We are going to take a quick break. When we come back, I want to ask the question, what is wrong with higher airfares? Might there actually be a good side of higher airfares? It is coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) O`DONNELL: There are new details about tonight about that TransAsia airways flight that crashed in Taiwan on February, killing 43 people. According to Taiwan`s Aviation Safety Council, the pilot mistakenly switched off the plane`s only working engine seconds before it crashed. The report says the pilot is heard on the cockpit recording saying, "Wow, pulled back the wrong side throttle." The report also shows that the pilot had failed simulator training in May 2014. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE SPEAKER (1): I think it stinks. I mean the Airline prices have gone way up. (END VIDEO CLIP) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE SPEAKER (1): I mean charging from every little thing from a bag to come on to seat space. (END VIDEO CLIP) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE SPEAKER (2): I think the extras they add on make it very difficult to travel. (END VIDEO CLIP) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE SPEAKER (3): If you do not call six months in advance you do not get a seat at a reasonable price. That is how I see it. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Professor Ryerson, when gas prices go up, environmentalists quietly celebrate. They do not want to gloat for political reasons, but they believe that the higher gas prices are, the less we will drive, the less pollution we have. What about this airline situation? Is that something where environmentalists would be very happy to see airfares go higher, so that we fly less, use less airplanes? PROF. RYERSON: I think it is both higher airfares and this new era of capacity discipline that have brought the U.S. Aviation System in to an era of using less fuel. Fewer flights, and more expensive flights have just led to serious fuel savings. O`DONNELL: So, this is all part of the package in terms of the environmental impact. The narrow window of vacancy on airplanes, meaning they have it down to just about every seat covered. That is a much more environmentally efficient approach to air travel than we had before? PROF. RYERSON: Certainly. It is certainly much more environmentally efficient. And, fuel, even if the fuel prices have dropped, fuel is still a significant portion of an airline`s operating expense, about 30 percent of their direct operating costs. So, even if fuel prices have dropped, it is still a large chunk of their operating costs that airlines are frankly looking to minimize. O`DONNELL: So, Rick Seaney, the higher airfares are not bad news for everyone. SEANEY: Well, here is what is basically what is happening. The airlines are trying to get rid of a lot of these 50, 70, 100-seat aircraft, which are less efficient. We see a bunch of new aircraft coming in that are more fuel efficient. They are certainly more climate friendly. So, it is sort of a win-win for passengers. They are getting new aircraft. Some aircraft were 15, 20 years old. It is more fuel efficient. They can glide to different places around the world. So, this is actually -- O`DONNELL: So, Rick, it is -- SEANEY: -- It is sort of a win-win situation. O`DONNELL: Rick, economically, it is a little too simplistic to say jet fuel prices are down, why are not airfares down? SEANEY: Yes, because, actually, what would with happen is, if actually fuel prices went up, that probably would accompany an economic shock and then actually airfare prices would go down because there would be less demand. So, there could be an inverse relationship to seeing fuel prices go, actually, up. PROF. RYERSON: I would like to say, though, I would not say it is completely win-win. A lot of draw backs -- and draw downs in flights have let some airports with very few connections, whereas, you know, some of the major hub airports have grown. SEANEY: Sure. PROF. RYERSON: Airports like Atlanta and Dallas. We have seen plenty of airports that have lost service, airports reinvesting their revenues just to try to lure some new flights to go there ports. O`DONNELL: And, Rick Seaney - SEANEY: There is no doubt that the loser in this situation is smaller and mid-sized cities, because they do not have the competition -- PROF. RYERSON: Absolutely. SEANEY: After all this consolidation that has occurred and all these virtual mergers with international airlines, they are the ones that who are the big losers. The big cities are fine. They have plenty of competition.. O`DONNELL: That would have to be the "Last Word" on tonight. Professor Megan Ryerson and Rick Seaney, thank you both for joining us tonight. PROF. RYERSON: Thank you. O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes is up next. END