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The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, Transcript 08/05/15

Guests: Anne Gearan, Tim Pawlenty, Clarence Page, Beth Fouhy, BruceBartlett, Trita Parsi, Phyllis Bennis

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: That does it for us tonight, we`ll see you again tomorrow, now it`s time for THE LAST WORD with Lawrence O`Donnell, good evening Lawrence. LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST, THE LAST WORD: And Rachel, one more resume point on Patrick Murphy and it`s a -- and it`s in a -- a difficult one, but the night of that Amtrak crash, he was on -- MADDOW: That`s right -- O`DONNELL: That train, and he stayed with me on his telephone for the whole hour of our live coverage of that, and I`ve never worked with a better on-scene reporter of what was going on in a situation like that. He was really amazing, and he was heroic on the train, helping -- MADDOW: That`s right -- O`DONNELL: People after the crash. MADDOW: That`s right -- O`DONNELL: Really amazing -- MADDOW: Being able to do that on-air coverage after personally helping injured people in that crash that he himself was part of, it was an amazing night -- O`DONNELL: And I kept asking him if he was OK, if he was injured and he kept shaking off that question, you know in the way that someone who was probably feeling a little pain shakes it off. MADDOW: That`s right -- O`DONNELL: I mean, he was that kind of -- he`s that kind of guy. MADDOW: That`s right, he`s a great guy, it couldn`t happen to a nicer guy. O`DONNELL: Yes, thanks, Rachel -- MADDOW: Thanks Lawrence -- O`DONNELL: Thank you. Well, the question Republicans are asking themselves tonight is why did Bill Clinton encourage Donald Trump to pursue his political dreams just weeks before Trump formerly announced his candidacy for president? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today, "The Washington Post" is reporting on a phone call between former President Bill Clinton and Donald Trump. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love this story, it`s got everything. BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It`s classic. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Clinton encouraged Trump`s efforts to play a larger role in the Republican Party, and even told Trump that he was striking a chord with frustrated conservatives. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the timing of this could not be more delicious. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The debate stage is literally set for tomorrow night`s GOP debate in Ohio. REINCE PRIEBUS, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: I think it`s going to be a great night, and that`s really what we did anticipate of our party. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But some Republicans left out of that main event are already calling the entire selection process preposterous. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ohio Govern John Kasich -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Kasich is in, Rick Perry is out. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How can you not have Rick Perry at your debate? Put him in the middle! (LAUGHTER) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATEES: You are going to hear a lot of arguments against this deal. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Obama ups the stakes on the Iran nuclear deal. OBAMA: Many of the same people who argued for the war in Iraq are now making the case against the Iran nuclear deal. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And he compared them to Iranian hardliners. OBAMA: It`s those hardliners chanting death to America who`ve been most opposed to the deal. They`re making common cause with the Republican caucus. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: "Nbc News" now confirms that former President Bill Clinton had a private telephone conversation with Donald Trump in May when Donald Trump was publicly considering running for president. President Clinton`s staff tells "Nbc News" that Donald Trump reached out to Bill Clinton several times and the former president returned Donald Trump`s call in late May. While the Clinton staff insist that the presidential race was not discussed. "The Washington Post" reports that Bill Clinton encouraged Donald Trump to play a larger role within the Republican Party. Joining us now by phone is Anne Gearan who first reported this news of the conversation between Bill Clinton and Donald Trump for "The Washington Post". Also with us, former Minnesota governor and Republican presidential candidate last time around Tim Pawlenty. Joining us also, Clarence Page, a columnist for "The Chicago Tribune" and Beth Fouhy, a senior editor at Msnbc who is in Cleveland tonight ahead of tomorrow night`s first Republican primary debate there. Anne Gearan, there is a very interesting distinction going on I`m reading in your report of this, where -- ANNE GEARAN, NATIONAL POLITICS CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes -- O`DONNELL: Team Trump wants to say that Bill Clinton called Donald Trump. Team Clinton wants to say that Donald Trump called Bill Clinton. Why are they fighting about that particular point? GEARAN: Oh, it`s -- good evening, Lawrence. It`s sort of silly, isn`t it? I mean, you know, it`s kind of like, you know, who`s the bigger guy I suppose, but you know, who has to call whom? That they both called one another at some point and it wasn`t the first time. They have had a fairly long and sometimes pretty cozy collegial association. They`ve played golf together, Bill Clinton went to Donald Trump`s third wedding in 2005 in Florida, they`ve known one another a long time. And this wasn`t their first conversation about politics either. But clearly, each of them wanted to talk to the other at a very important time. I mean, the time of this phone call, it was a little more than a month since Hillary Clinton had announced her candidacy, and she was at that point outdoing kind of the slow roll-up to full campaigning. And Donald Trump was very publicly considering whether or not he was going to run. There were people who were urging him to run and there were people who were urging him not to. And whose ever idea it was to have a conversation at the very beginning, the mere fact that each of them wanted to do so at that rather critical point is pretty interesting to us. O`DONNELL: Tim Pawlenty, how does this play with Republicans who -- some of whom -- some Republican analysts have publicly wondered over the last month, is Donald Trump a Democratic plant in this campaign since he`s been wreaking so much havoc and attacking every one of the Republican candidates? How does it play, Tim Pawlenty, to Republicans that they discover that there is Bill Clinton encouraging Donald Trump right before he announces for the presidency. TIM PAWLENTY, FORMER MINNESOTA GOVERNOR: Well, if you`re running for the Republican nomination and trying to convince conservatives you`re one of them, reaching out to Bill Clinton for advice in any manner or degree is not helpful. But the facts might matter here, Larry, they seemed to be in dispute, it`s not clear not only who reached out to who, but it`s also unclear from what you`ve said and what the news reports are describing whether the campaign was actually described or not -- discussed or not. But regardless to all of that, it`s going to be viewed as some reach out to the Clintons which is a demerit in the eyes of Republicans. But given that the Donald doesn`t have to play by normal political rules, it`s probably not going to hurt him that much anyhow. O`DONNELL: And Clarence Page, here is Bill Clinton on the phone, his wife is already a declared candidate for president. He`s talking to someone who`s publicly talking about maybe I`ll run for president. And he`s encouraging that person to, "play a larger role" in the Republican Party. What would that larger role be? And why does Bill Clinton want to be encouraging to Donald Trump to get into the Republican field of presidential candidates? CLARENCE PAGE, COLUMNIST, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Well, it feels they have an interesting relationship. We think of them as politician versus businessman. At the same time though, they think of -- well, of Clinton looks upon Trump as a donor, after all, he gave quite a bit of money to the Clinton Foundation. They have a collegial relationship, very similar to that between donors and politicians or office holders. And Bill Clinton, political animal that he is, loves to give advice. And we can -- it doesn`t take long to guess why Bill Clinton would be delighted to have Donald Trump in the race over on the Republican side. But I think beyond that, all we can do is just speculate about what they actually said to each other. O`DONNELL: Yes, Beth Fouhy, Bill Clinton is as calculating a politician as ever been among us, and there he is encouraging someone, who he knows is going to go out there and campaign against his wife every day, campaign against Hillary Clinton every day. But he -- BETH FOUHY, SENIOR EDITOR, MSNBC: Yes -- O`DONNELL: Also probably had the feeling if he gets into this race, he will probably spray his attacks all around this Republican field, including at Jeb Bush which was -- which was Trump`s primary, original target of all of his venom when he got into this campaign. FOUHY: Yes, but here`s the other thing, Lawrence, Trump has gone through the motions of wanting to run for president and always at the last minute deciding against it. And that`s what we all expected to happen this time too. Perhaps that`s what Bill Clinton was thinking too, maybe he didn`t really think that Trump was going to do it this time. Trump did really surprise pretty much everyone. But I`m going to agree with Clarence Page, Bill Clinton is the ultimate political animal, he loves giving advice to whomever comes his way, and Trump was smart to go to him. I mean, Bill Clinton is widely acknowledged to be probably the savviest political operator in this country, whether he`s a Democrat or a Republican, he knows what he`s talking about. And Donald Trump probably made a good choice to reach out and to sort of just chat with him strategically about what was to come. My guess is that Bill Clinton didn`t know that Donald Trump was actually going to get in the race and start sliming Hillary Clinton the way he has been. O`DONNELL: Anne Gearan, when was the last time Bill Clinton gave political advice to someone who was going to run against Hillary Clinton? I`m trying to think of when the last time that might have happened? I`m trying to think of this political advice addict Bill Clinton and all the help that he gave to Barack Obama and all that kind of senior advice that he gave to him as Barack Obama was considering running against Hillary Clinton. GEARAN: Yes, I mean, and there was a little bad blood there that lingered for a while because Barack Obama didn`t entirely feel that he needed a great deal of that kind of outside advice. I -- and to be fair, I doubt that Donald Trump also feels like he needs a great deal of outside advice or counsel. He seems to have plenty of his own opinions and go by his -- you know, he`s guided by his own star. But I mean, Bill Clinton is in -- your possible political strategist and political animal. And they sort of run in the same circles. They know a lot of the same people. They kind of -- as different as they are, politically, you know, had probably -- have a great deal to talk about in addition to sort of down and dirty political strategy. This was not -- this call was not described to us as, you know, a serious strategy session nor a -- you know, dear Bill, should I do this or should I not do this kind of discussion at all. It was more that, Donald Trump is sort of exploring where his place is, not only in the potential coming election, at that time he hadn`t decided whether or not he was going to do it. But also within sort of the Republican Party at large. And it is a difference without a lot of distinction as to whether their discretion about his place in the party equals discussion about whether or not he should run to be that party`s standard bearer. But I mean, functionally, they end up in the same place. O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to a question George Stephanopoulos asked Donald Trump this morning that Trump might get on the debate stage tomorrow night. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, TELEVISION JOURNALIST: On healthcare, pro choice and abortion, pro gun control, you used to describe yourself as socially quite liberal. If that charge comes up tomorrow night that you`re a flip-flopper, how do you respond? DONALD TRUMP, CHAIRMAN & PRESIDENT, THE TRUMP ORGANIZATIONS & FOUNDER, TRUMP ENTERTAINMENT RESORTS: Well, you know, I have -- I have no problem with it. I`ve evolved like a lot of other people; Ronald Reagan evolved, Ronald Reagan was a Democrat and he became a Republican. He was sort of a liberal guy actually as a younger man and he became a Republican and he did very well. I have great respect for him, I helped him, I knew him. He liked me and I liked him. So, you know, we evolve, I think everybody on that stage has changed positions on different things. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Tim Pawlenty, that sounds like a pretty good answer for a Republican audience. PAWLENTY: Well, in fact, if you look at his positions now on gun control, on taxes, on healthcare, on abortion, they are conservative. That isn`t necessarily what they were before, so he`s going to have to explain that "evolution" politically, but many have done that before and frankly, most of the people in the race have done the same thing on one or more key issues. So, I think the answer he gave to Stephanopoulos was probably going to fly, and again, he`s immune from most of the normal political rules here, Lawrence, and so he`s going to continue to, I think fly pretty well until something more major happens. O`DONNELL: And Clarence Page, he`s following the -- I mean, the last Republican campaign where the nominee Mitt Romney had flipped on so many issues over the years. We saw -- this is a similar version of that. PAGE: Yes, but at the same time, Mitt Romney was not beloved by the right. But funny thing about Donald Trump is, he has survived or risen above that because he represents at this moment the kind of grassroots anger out there that`s not particularly organized, not particularly grouped around certain demographics. It seems to be really individualistic in many ways. Just across the country, people expressing to pollsters their support for Trump. But why? Because Trump does expresses the kind of anger and frustration that they feel right now, and they think he`s the kind of guy who can get things done. Even though he doesn`t go into details on any of his remedies -- O`DONNELL: Yes -- PAGE: For any of the problems that we have right now. It doesn`t seem to matter. I think he`s kind of a walking-rally, he does have a ceiling of support, he just hasn`t reached it yet. But I got a feeling he`s going close to it. In the meantime, he can have a lot of fun up there on stage just throwing out what I call his Trump-speak. You know, where he just attacks whoever he feels deserves it, then listens to the cheers from the crowd. O`DONNELL: We`re going to have to take a break here, Anne Gearan, thank you very much for joining us tonight with the big phone call scoop. Coming up, another episode of forgotten Reagan. The Ronald Reagan that so many Republicans don`t remember. And why one Republican wants Donald Trump to win the Republican nomination so that Trump can then lose the presidency to a Democrat. And later, President Obama echoes a famous speech by President Kennedy on nuclear disarmament. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HERMAN CAIN, AUTHOR & BUSINESS EXECUTIVE: Ronald Reagan once said that we are a shining city on a hill, we`ve slid down the side of that hill. Americans want somebody who`s going to lead them back up to the top of that hill, that`s how we turn this country around. (APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: No Republican president is more misunderstood by Republicans and Democrats than Ronald Reagan. You will surely hear praise of Ronald Reagan on the Republican debate stage tomorrow night. But you might not hear the truth about Ronald Reagan. That`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) O`DONNELL: Time for tonight`s episode of forgotten Reagan. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RONALD REAGAN, LATE FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When we first built our highways, we paid for them with a gas tax. A highway user fee that charged those of us who benefitted most and from the system. It was a fair concept then, and it is today. That`s why I am pleased today to sign House Resolution 6211; the Surface Transportation Assistance Act for 1982. It will help America enter a brighter and a more prosperous decade ahead. And so saying, before the bridges fall down, I`ll get this bill signed. (LAUGHTER) (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: That is the forgotten Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan who raised taxes 11 times as president, and when he signed that gas tax increase to pay for highways, it was the first gas tax increase in 23 years. Ten years later, Bill Clinton signed a gas tax increase that was actually smaller than Ronald Reagan`s gas tax increase, and has now been 22 years since the gas tax has been increased. Which led the "New York Times" columnist Thomas Friedman today to offer this question which he hopes someone will ask tomorrow at the Republican presidential debate. "As part of a 1982 Transportation bill, President Ronald Reagan agreed to boost the then 4 cent a gallon gasoline tax to nine cents. Do you believe Reagan was right then and would you agree to raise the gasoline tax by 5 cents a gallon today so we can pay for our highway bill which is now stalled in Congress over funding?" Former Reagan administration official Bruce Bartlett said in an essay in "POLITICO" that the best thing that can happen to the Republican Party is for Donald Trump to win the Republican presidential nomination and then lose the election in a landslide. Bruce Bartlett wrote, "the Trump phenomenon perfectly represents the culmination of populism and anti-intellectualism that became dominant in the Republican Party with the rise of the Tea Party. A Trump rout is Republican moderate`s best chance to take back the GOP." Joining us now, Bruce Bartlett, former domestic policy adviser to Ronald Reagan and a former deputy assistant secretary for economic policy under George W. Bush. Bruce Bartlett, you have the floor, make your case to moderate Republicans that they should all vote for the least moderate candidate voice in the field. BRUCE BARTLETT, FORMER DOMESTIC POLICY ADVISER TO RONALD REAGAN & FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR ECONOMIC POLICY FOR GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Well, basically, I`m thinking about 1964. A year in which the moderates were defeated, the Tea Party of the day, the John Birch society and people of that sort, took control of the Republican convention and nominated a hardcore libertarian Barry Goldwater. Who was at that time, was probably best known for having voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the result of that was that he lost in a landslide. The -- one of the great landslides in history. And the result of that was that the moderates were then able to pick up the pieces of the smashed Republican Party and say to the conservatives, the Tea Party, the little old ladies in tennis shoes, you -- we gave you your candidate, the perfect candidate, the guy you wanted. And we gave you your chance, and we supported him, and he lost. Therefore, your ideas cannot win as much as we might even support those ideas, it`s stupid to support ideas that cannot win. And the result of that was that Richard Nixon, by the standards of that time, quite a moderate, certainly governed virtually as a liberal was able to pick up the pieces and win in 1968 and again in 1972 when Gerald Ford governed in the same moderate philosophy. So, I view that as the possible outcome of this election, if Donald Trump were to get the nomination. I don`t think there`s any chance he would win. I think he`d lose in a landslide. O`DONNELL: Tim Pawlenty, your reaction to all that. PAWLENTY: Well, with all due respect to Mr. Bartlett, the notion that Goldwater`s failure led to a better future in the form of Richard Nixon is preposterous. He was a disaster philosophically, he was a disaster from a policy standpoint, economically in many other respects and he was a disaster personally. Gerald Ford tried to pick up the pieces that obviously he wasn`t a very impactful president. It didn`t actually get turned around until the modern conservative standard bearer Ronald Reagan got elected and changed the party. And by the way, Lawrence, to put this in context, I`m old enough to remember when Ronald Reagan was first running, he was dismissed as an extremist. He was dismissed as somebody who was too out there to be elected. Each generation has its own version of an insurgency, and this insurgency is the form of populism in the form of Donald Trump on the right, say what you will about him, agree or disagree what you will. And by the way, your Trump dial -- your Trump radar has not been calibrated well, and so let`s look at the Democratic Party. Bernie Sanders and a vowed socialist -- let me repeat that, and a vowed socialist is in many states got over 30 percent or 20 percent of the vote and is narrowing the gap on Hillary Clinton. What does that say about the Democratic Party when you have somebody rising to the level of credibility who is a self-proclaimed, proud, a vowed socialist. So, let`s talk about which party is out of whack. O`DONNELL: Well, Governor Pawlenty, I`m going to have to say, you`re a socialist too, as long -- unless you`re here to declare you`re ready to repeal Social Security tonight and Medicare tonight. You saw that "Newsweek" cover a decade ago, saying we`re all socialists now because our government, as you know is -- PAWLENTY: No, we`re not all socialists now -- (CROSSTALK) O`DONNELL: It is a -- PAWLENTY: Lawrence -- O`DONNELL: Well, totally -- PAWLENTY: We`re not all socialists -- O`DONNELL: Tell me -- PAWLENTY: Now -- O`DONNELL: Tell me which socialists programs you would repeal right now in the -- in the government? PAWLENTY: We`re not going to repeal -- O`DONNELL: Start with Social Security -- PAWLENTY: Social Security, we`re not going to repeal -- O`DONNELL: So you support -- PAWLENTY: Social Security, but it has to be -- O`DONNELL: So, you support -- PAWLENTY: Fixed, it has to be fixed -- O`DONNELL: OK -- PAWLENTY: It`s a math -- O`DONNELL: We`re going to skip over -- PAWLENTY: It`s basic math -- O`DONNELL: Let`s skip over that argument for the moment. Clarence Page, the notion that Donald Trump would ruin the Republican Party, in effect, reduce it to shambles so that would then have to rebuild and rethink. Is Donald Trump the right test case for that if he were to actually get the nomination? Wouldn`t there be other explanations that Republicans can come up with, like, oh he was too brash and he was too negative and he`s not the real test case for, you know, the hardcore conservatives? PAGE: Well, you make a very good point there, Lawrence. I think -- and also, Bruce Bartlett wrote an excellent piece on this topic in "POLITICO", and I for years have respected his knowledge of party history, et cetera. I think though I would -- throw out a couple of caveats, that this is not 1964, we must remember. And if -- we talked the hardcore conservatives, none of whom are on this panel. But people like George Will and others have said that -- well, they knew Goldwater wasn`t going to win. I mean, this was a year after JFK`s assassination, the momentum behind the Democrats was so strong anyway. And Goldwater was not a seasoned politician looking at winning the election. He wanted to make a point, and he helped to spark, put new life into the conservative movement, which today, is a very powerful, very large, well- funded movement that I don`t belong to, but needs to be respected. Because it is out there, it constantly puts up strong candidates that lose the nomination, but have an impact on the election. And we`ve seen the Republican Party establishment was able to pull the party back to middle of the road conservatives like Mitt Romney, John McCain, Bob Dole, et cetera. But this year may be different, but I don`t think it`s that different. I think that we`re eventually going to get back, probably to Jeb Bush, believe it or not. You heard it from me first here tonight, folks. O`DONNELL: Yes, well, Beth Fouhy -- PAWLENTY: Yes, well, Bob Dole, Bob Dole, Mitt Romney and John McCain, with all due respect to them, lost. O`DONNELL: But -- BARTLETT: Because they lost the general election, right -- O`DONNELL: I want to -- but the point about that, Beth Fouhy, Tim Pawlenty is right about who won and who lost. But from my observation, though what the Republicans did each one of those times is after they got over, especially the last time, after they got over some very strange infatuations like Herman Cain and so forth. They -- and when Tim Pawlenty was no longer able to fund his campaign, what the -- what the Republicans ended up doing was going with the best candidate they had. And anybody who wants to say Bob Dole was a loser has to tell me who was the better candidate that the Republicans had in 1996? And it seems to me that no matter how wild they respond in polls at this point or maybe in early voting, they tend to end up with a carefully- chosen, careful candidate. FOUHY: They do. Which is why Jeb Bush has gone into this race with that kind of head of steam behind him. But look, Lawrence, it`s perfectly natural that Republicans are going to criticize the standard bearers who lost. Of course they are. But let`s also look at the fact that the country has changed a lot, and maybe the country right now is not in a place where it is going to elect a Republican president. The demographics have changed so much in favor of the Democratic Party, at least at the national level. There are now 19 states, 240 electoral votes that have gone democratic for 20 years. That`s a very big start the Democrats get, no matter who is nominated on the Republican side. And in terms of your looking at Reagan and the sort of the myth of Reagan, let`s remember that he gave amnesty in 1986 to 2.7 million illegal immigrants. This is -- this is a topic that is just tearing the Republican Party apart right now, so many really conservative base Republicans, they consider immigration reform a top issue, they will not tolerate it. And yet, here is Ronald Reagan, the hero of this party who granted amnesty in 1986 to 2.7 million immigrants. O`DONNELL: The -- FOUHY: The party has changed a lot. O`DONNELL: The amnesty point and several other important lost elements of Reagan history are all in Bruce Bartlett`s great article in "POLITICO" that everyone should read. I wish we had more time for this, Bruce Bartlett, Tim Pawlenty, Clarence Page, Beth Fouhy, thank you all for joining us tonight, I appreciate it. Coming up, the Prime Minister of Malaysia says the plane part found in the ocean on that island is from Malaysia flight 370, but Boeing is not so sure. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NAJIB RAZAK, MALAYSIAN PRIME MINISTER: Today, 515 days since the plane disappeared. It is with a heavy heart that I must tell you that an international team of experts have conclusively confirmed that the aircraft debris found on Reunion Island is indeed from MH370. (END VIDEO CLIP) LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST OF "LAST WORD" PROGRAM: Just after the Malaysian Prime Minister made that announcement, a French prosecutor overseeing the investigation of the plane debris recovered on French Island in the Indian Ocean said this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SERGE MACKOWIAK, DEPUTY PARIS PROSECUTOR (translated to English): We can tell you today that we can very strongly presume that the wing flap found on one of the beaches in Reunion belonged to a 777 Boeing from Malaysia Airlines that disappeared in March 2014. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Australian officials just released this animation showing a drift analysis of how crash debris might have spread across the Indian Ocean over the course of the last 17 months. This evening the New York Times reports a person involved in the investigation said that experts from Boeing and the National Transportation Safety Board who have seen the object were not yet fully satisfied and called for further analysis because the part has no serial number on it. Coming up, President Kennedy went to American University in Washington, D.C. to deliver a historic speech about war and peace. And, today, President Obama went to the same place to talk about the same thing. (MUSIC PLAYING) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (MUSIC PLAYING) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I do not want to just end this war. I want to end the mindset that got us into war. You know, early in this campaign, I got in an argument with Senator Clinton, because I said, "I would meet not just with our friends, but with our enemies. I would meet not just with leaders we liked, but leaders we detested and despised." (AUDIENCE APPLAUDING AND CHEERING) And, I was told, "Oh, no you cannot do that. That would be na‹ve. That would be irresponsible." I said, "Watch me." Because -- because -- because I remembered what John F. Kennedy said, he said, "We should never negotiate out of fear, but we should never fear to negotiate." (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: That was Senator Barack Obama when he was still competing with Senator Hillary Clinton for the democratic presidential nomination in 2008. Today, President Obama invoked President Kennedy once again. And, this time he referred to a speech President Kennedy gave 52 years ago at American University about dealing with potentially the most deadly enemy the United States had ever faced, the Soviet Union. Then the only nuclear power in the world capable of launching a nuclear attack on the United States. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I realized the pursuit of peace is not as dramatic as the pursuit of war and frequently the words of the pursuant fall on deaf ears, but we have no more urgent task. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: President Obama went to the same university today, American University to give a speach urging congressional approval of his deal with Iran, a much less threatening country than the Soviet Union, and a country that does not yet have a single nuclear weapon. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PRES. OBAMA: 52 years ago, President Kennedy, at the height of the cold war addressed this same university on the subject of peace. The Berlin Wall had just been built. The Soviet Union had tested the most powerful weapons ever developed. China was on the verge of acquiring a nuclear bomb. Less than 20 years after the end of World War II, the prospect of nuclear war was all too real. With all of the threats that we face today, it is hard to appreciate how much more dangerous the world was at that time. In light of these mounting threats, the number of strategists here in the United States argued that we had to take military action against the soviets, to hasten what they saw as inevitable confrontation. But the young president offered a different vision. Strength in his view, included powerful armed forces, and a willingness to stand up for our values around the world. But, he rejected the prevailing attitude among some foreign policy circles that equated security with a perpetual war footing. Instead, he promised strong principled American leadership on behalf of what he called a practical and attainable peace. (END VIDEO CLIP) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KENNEDY: Let us focus instead on a more practical, more attainable peace, based not on a sudden revolution in human nature, but on a gradual evolution in human institutions. On a series of concrete actions, and effective agreements, which are in the interests of all concerned. There is no single simple key to this peace. No grand or magic formula to be adapted by one or two powers. Genuine peace must be the product of many nations. The sum of many acts. It must be dynamic, not static. Changing to meet the challenge of each new generation. For peace is a process. A way of solving problems. (END VIDEO CLIP) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PRES. OBAMA: The agreement now reached between the international community and the Islamic Republic of Iran builds on this tradition of strong principled diplomacy. After two years of negotiations, we have achieved a detailed arrangement that permanently prohibits Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. It cuts off all of Iran`s pathways to Obama. It contains the most comprehensive inspection and verification regime ever negotiated to monitor a nuclear program. The prohibition on Iran having a nuclear weapon is permanent. The ban on weapons related research is permanent. Inspections are permanent. It is true that some of the limitations regarding Iran`s peaceful program, last only 15 years. But, that is how arms control agreements work. But, first SALT Treaty with the Soviet Union lasted five years. The first START Treaty lasted 15 years. Those who say we can just walk away from this deal and maintain sanctions are selling a fantasy. Instead of strengthening our position as some have suggested, congress`s rejection would almost certainly result in multilateral sanctions unraveling. So let us not mince words. The choice we face is ultimately between diplomacy or some form of war. Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not three months from now, but soon. And, here is the irony, as I said before, military action would be far less effective than this deal in preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. That is not just my supposition, every estimate including those from Israeli analysts suggest military action would only set back Iran`s program by a few years at best, which is a fraction of the limitations imposed by this deal. If we have learned anything from the last decade, it is that wars in general and wars in the Middle East in particular, are anything but simple. (AUDIENCE APPLAUDING) (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: We will be back with analysis of President Obama`s speech. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PRES. OBAMA: If congress kills this deal, we will lose more than just constraints on Iran`s nuclear program or the sanctions we have painstakingly built. We will have lost something more precious, America`s credibility as the leader of diplomacy. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Phyllis Bennis with the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington. She is the author of the new book, "Understanding ISIS and The New Global War On Terror." Also joining us, Trita Parsi, professor at the school of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and President of the National Iranian-American Council. Professor Parsi, your family -- you know Iran well, your father has the distinction of having been arrested by the Shah of Iran and then by the Ayatollah. And, so, I am assuming you can look at the Iranian society with no illusions. One of the things that we notice in all of the opponents of this deal is that they assume that the regime in Iran is just full of irrational actors with irrational expectations of what is possible, and that they have a mission to obtain a nuclear weapon. And, if you listen to Bibi Netanyahu, they have an ambition to use that nuclear weapon against Israel, which is already armed with nuclear weapons, more than Iran would be able to make. And, so that there is this assumption that they are willing to invite their own nuclear holocaust in Iran from Israel and the United States as soon as they can get their hands on a nuclear weapon. TRITA PARSI, PRESIDENT OF THE NATIONAL IRANIAN-AMERICAN COUNCIL: This is just one out of many assumptions that have been so erroneous in the analysis about Iran. That is unfortunately not just limited to that specific group of people in Washington, but it is quite pervasive. And, if any of the assumptions were true that they are not rational, that they cannot do these things, that they will never negotiate with the United States, that they will never uphold an agreement with the United States, if those were true, we would not be here today in which the United States together with allies after 20 months of negotiations have managed to reach a really astounding deal, in which both sides are giving compromises and getting things. Both sides have given up some things in order to get other things. It is really a pretty interestingly fair deal between the two sides. None of this would have been possible if any of these assumptions about the Iranian government were correct. O`DONNELL: And Phyllis Bennis, it is fascinating to juxtapose this with what President Kennedy was talking about 52 years ago, which was a so much, so much more grave of a threat to the United States. Soviet Union at the time with missiles aimed every day, posed and ready to go at all major east coast U.S. cities to compare the so-called threat from Iran to the United States to what we are facing with the Soviet Union. It is just incomparable. PHYLLIS BENNIS, INSTITUTE FOR POLICY STUDIES: It is extraordinary and it is very important that President Obama made that point. That it was so much more dangerous at that time. But, the other thing that I think is important to keep in mind, looking at the reality of this deal, this extraordinary deal as Trita just said, that is a huge victory for diplomacy over the threat of war. At the time of negotiations with the Soviet Union, disarmament was on the agenda. It did not move forward the way it should have. But the notion that the existing nuclear powers, meaning the U.S. and the Soviet Union, would have to begin the process of limiting their own nuclear capacity. That was on the agenda. In the talks with Iran, none of the P5, which is the permanent five member of the security council, which happened to be the five official nuclear weapon states led by the United States, there was no talk of disarmament. This was about nonproliferation, which is a very different concept. So, in the context of what this agreement was all about, Iran gave up far more of its future nuclear capacity. It certainly does not have any of that capacity now, but gave up far more of that future than the U.S. gave up of anything. So, it was on that sense something that the U.S. gained much more than Iran gained. It is certainly true, Iran wanted and got the, at least potential for lifting most of the economic sanctions, assuming that they are certified to be abiding by the terms of the treaty. But, the U.S. gave up none of that. So, I think that, you know, it is a very interesting comparison to the 50 years ago of JFK. O`DONNELL: We have to squeeze in a quick break here. We will be back with more with our guests in a moment. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLI)P PRES. OBAMA: I recognized that Netanyahu disagrees, disagrees strongly. I do not doubt his sincerity, but I believe he is wrong. I believe the facts support this deal. I believe they are in America`s interest and Israel`s interest. And, as President of the United States, it would be an obligation of my constitutional duty to act against my best judgment, simply because it causes temporary friction with a dear friend and ally. I do not believe that would be the right thing to do for the United States. I do not believe it would be the right thing to do for Israel. (AUDIENCE APPLAUDING) (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Just one more quick break and we are back with more discussion of the President`s speech. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) PRES. OBAMA: The same mindset, in many cases offered by the same people, who seemed to have no compunction with being repeatedly wrong, led to a war that did more to strengthen Iran, more to isolate the United States than anything we have done in the decades before us. (END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: We are back with Phyllis Bennis and Professor Trita Parsi. Professor Parsi, what is this single biggest misconception about Iran that you are hearing in the debate in Washington over this Iran deal. PROFESSOR PARSI: Oh, there are so many, I do not know where to begin. But let me say this, as the most important one right now, there is a perception in certain circles that this is a deal that essentially has made with Iranian government with the Iranian regime. I think it is much bigger than that. I think this deal, by lifting sanctions that will unleash the Iranian middle class is actually an investment in the Iranian people that happen to be the most pro-American population in the Muslim Middle East. It is also the most moderate society in the Muslim Middle East that has the greatest promise of moving that country towards a much more democratic political system. They are the only ones who actually can move Iran in a democratic direction. And, just like the president and his speech about lifting the embargo on Cuba and reestablishing relations, made it very clear that sanctions had been hitting the Cuban population very hard and created a lot of problems for them, even though they were not responsible for the policies of their government, the same thing could be said about Iran. If we can lift these sanctions and we can give the Iranian population some breathing space, they are going to move that country in the right direction. And, that is going to be good for the United States as well. O`DONNELL: And, Phyllis Bennis, the people who want to bomb all Iran nuclear sites tonight have never suggested how that advances Iranian society in a direction sympathetic to the United States. BENNIS: Quite the contrary, it would certainly strengthen Iran`s hardliners, and it would not do anything to hold back Iran`s nuclear capacity, if they ever chose to move in a nuclear weapons` direction. Something that crucially is important for us to remember, they have not decided to do that, according to all 16 U.S. Intelligence Agencies. That, I think, is one of the most important misconceptions, one of the most important myths floating around. People really believe Iran is building a bomb or maybe even has a bomb. It does not. It is not building a bomb. It has not made a decision to build a bomb. The only nuclear weapons in the Middle East today belong to Israel. 300 to 400 of them in the Israel Dimona Plant . There are no bombs in Iran. And, I am afraid that a lot of people believe that that is not the case. And it is one of the big problems we face in showing why this deal is so important and why it should be supported. O`DONNELL: Professor Parsi, we are running out of time here, but in the debate upcoming in the congress, what would be the one talking point you might suggest that you have not heard from anyone? PROFESSOR PARSI: I would say that the most important thing to keep in mind is that this deal avoids two disasters. The disaster of Iran getting a nuclear bomb and the disaster of having a war with Iran. O`DONNELL: Yes. PROFESSOR PARSI: And, it does so by only giving up what the U.S. is sensibly put in place to trade away, which is the sanctions. As a result of that, I agree with the president. I am really not sure what is here to debate. It is in no brainer. O`DONNELL: Phyllis Bennis and Trita Parsi, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it. Steve Kornacki is up next. END