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The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, Transcript 12/14/2015

Guests: Bob Saget, Hillary Mann Leverett, Steven Simon, Jerry Flynn; Lauren Fox

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: December 14, 2015 Guest: Bob Saget, Hillary Mann Leverett, Steven Simon, Jerry Flynn; Lauren Fox

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: But not exactly the way anyone -- so, yes, technically, this is your taxpayer dollars at work story, but not exactly the way anyone expected.

Handy to have that little honey around when you need a hand, right? That does it for us tonight, we will see you again tomorrow, now it`s time for THE LAST WORD with Lawrence O`Donnell, good evening Lawrence.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Hey Rachel, do you get out to the theater much? Have you seen the big hit "Hand to God"?

MADDOW: No, I have not.

O`DONNELL: You know, it stars Bob Saget.


O`DONNELL: Guess who is here tonight on this TV show?

MADDOW: It`s either God or Bob Saget.

O`DONNELL: It`s a full house, we`ve got Bob Saget --

MADDOW: And God --

O`DONNELL: Thank you, thank you for letting me do that minor joke.


Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: All right, the winner of the last Republican Iowa caucus is now polling at 1 percent in Iowa, and in that same poll Donald Trump is running far behind his best and only friend in politics -- oh, and did I mention that Bob Saget is here?

I think I did.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Iowa is so important to me. I am an evangelical.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump`s got some trouble in Iowa right now.

TRUMP: I do like Ted Cruz, but not a lot of evangelicals come out of Cuba.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Cruz surge, up 12 points nationally.

TRUMP: Oil pays him a lot of money, he`s got to be for oil, right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Monmouth University poll shows Senator Ted Cruz surging into first place.

TRUMP: What the hell is wrong with you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Presidential candidate Ted Cruz has a target on his back.

TRUMP: I don`t think he`s qualified to be president.


TRUMP: Because I don`t think he has the right temperament.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A lot of our friends here have encouraged me to criticize and attack Donald Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ted Cruz playing it cool at least in public.

CRUZ: But I`m not interested in doing so.

TRUMP: The "Des Moines Register" is the worst.


They are the worst. It`s the worst! No, they`re very dishonest -- an amazing statistic. The press is going to have to check it because what do I know?


O`DONNELL: For Republican presidential candidates winning the Iowa caucus, it`s often the emptiest victory of their careers.

Eight years ago, Mike Huckabee won the Iowa caucus and is now polling at 3 percent in the "Des Moines Register" poll.

Which has considered the gold standard of Iowa polling. Rick Santorum won the Iowa caucus four years ago and it`s polling at 1 percent now.

Tonight, the new frontrunner in Iowa is polling at 31 percent in the "Des Moines Register" poll, a full ten points ahead of Donald Trump with Ben Carson at 13 percent, Marco Rubio, 10 percent, Jeb Bush at 6 percent.

And a new "Fox News" poll of Iowa tonight shows a smaller lead for Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio flipping positions with Ben Carson, reaching third place with Jeb Bush still running in 5th place.

Donald Trump still holds the lead in national polls but Ted Cruz is surging there, too. The "Nbc News"-"Wall Street Journal" poll shows Donald Trump at 27 percent and Ted Cruz now in second place at 22 percent, with Marco Rubio in third place at 15 percent.

Ben Carson sinking to 4th at 11 percent and Jeb Bush holding 5th place at 7 percent. And here`s one of Donald Trump`s favorite lies.


TRUMP: If somebody hits me, I`m going to hit them back so hard --


Oh, you have no idea. We`re going to hit them back ten times harder than they ever --


O`DONNELL: He always pretends that he will only hit people after they have hit him. Well, Ted Cruz still hasn`t attacked Donald Trump, but Donald Trump is now in full attack mode against Ted Cruz.


TRUMP: I don`t think he has the right temperament. I don`t think he`s got the right judgment.

WALLACE: What`s wrong with his temperament?

TRUMP: Well, you look at the way he`s dealt with the Senate where he goes in there like a -- you know, frankly, like a little bit of a maniac. You`re never going to get things done that way.


O`DONNELL: We are awaiting Donald Trump`s latest stream of consciousness standup comedian routine in Las Vegas at a rally. We will bring it to you if it seems that he`s saying anything newsworthy.

Joining us now from Las Vegas, Hallie Jackson, NBC News correspondent. With us here in New York, Jonathan Alter, MSNBC political analyst and columnist for "The Daily Beast".

And joining us Professor Robert Saget of the Kennedy School of Government - - oh, no way --

BOB SAGET, ACTOR & COMEDIAN: Mail order school, yes --

O`DONNELL: Oh, wait, it`s Bob Saget.

SAGET: It is --

O`DONNELL: Bob Saget, the actor and comedian, and the star of "Hand to God" --

SAGET: One of the stars --

O`DONNELL: On Broadway --

SAGET: That you came and saw, thank you.

O`DONNELL: I loved it. And it might have something to do with why you`re here tonight.

SAGET: It did. I --

O`DONNELL: You are here actually hoping to sell some tickets.

SAGET: I want to sell tickets --

O`DONNELL: All right --

SAGET: Three more weeks it closes, but enough about me.

O`DONNELL: Begin -- no, I want you to begin with a comedian`s analysis --

SAGET: Right --

O`DONNELL: Of Donald Trump because there`s a lot of people out there saying, oh, you know, he`s just doing Don Rickles act.

SAGET: Well, Don Rickles is a friend of mine and he insults people and it`s sarcastic a lot of times. I go, oh, yes, you`re a genius. Mr. Trump is obviously just saying you`re dumb and you`re stupid.

Which is --

O`DONNELL: And he means it, that`s it, that`s it --

SAGET: And it is his hooks.


SAGET: It is his -- and you`re expecting it and it`s his branding and it`s getting people`s attention because people do sit at home and yell at some people, sit at home and yell at their television set and say that`s an idiot, that`s a moron.

That`s an idiot. So, he is -- he is speaking for a certain group of people. Don Rickles who I revere is a -- is a comedian and would not roast people in that way.

O`DONNELL: Right, and --

SAGET: And Donald Trump was roasted on --

O`DONNELL: You always --

SAGET: "Comedy Central" --

O`DONNELL: Knew like when he was making jokes about Sinatra and these guys, you always knew he loved these guys.

SAGET: A lot --

O`DONNELL: That he was making jokes about -- yes --

SAGET: He grabbed me once by the head, Don Rickles, not Donald Trump and then we were leveled with each other, wasn`t anything -- was assiduous.

And he just whispered in my ear, I don`t miss you at all.


So, that`s --


SAGET: Comedy --


SAGET: And that`s an --


SAGET: Insult and yet it`s not a hurtful thing.


SAGET: But it`s not politics, either where --

O`DONNELL: So, Jonathan, in the -- in the insult territory here, here is Donald Trump thinking there is headway to be made by calling another candidate a maniac.

SAGET: Yes --

O`DONNELL: That maniac being Ted Cruz and the reason he`s a maniac is he doesn`t get along with people and he`s not nice to people --

SAGET: Yes --

O`DONNELL: In the Senate.


JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, the thing with Trump is it doesn`t matter what he says. His people are going to love him for it anyway.

So the more outrageous, the better. They like the political incorrectness as he calls it. So, his problem is he`s in an arms race with himself.

He has to keep ratcheting it up otherwise people think he is low energy like he called Bush, you know.

So, I think this Muslim thing, no Muslim immigrant was partly that he had to do something for his own audience.

You know, to show his own people that he would keep saying the outrageous things that make him popular.

So, he is -- it`s almost like shooting the moon in hearts, you know, where you do the opposite of what the game has been until now.

So until for the last 50 years we`ve lived in a gaffe environment where you`re hurt in politics if you make a gaffe. For a while, I thought that Trump was just gaffe proof.

Now I really realize that gaffes are the fuel of his campaign.



ALTER: This is how he`s --


ALTER: Built this lead, is by saying things that are just, you know, completely unacceptable in standard American politics.

SAGET: It`s possible that he`d seen "flash dance" that afternoon and heard the song "you`re a maniac" --

O`DONNELL: Well, that`s --

SAGET: And then Ted was on the news --


SAGET: And he just got --

O`DONNELL: And that`s what Cruz used in his reply.

ALTER: Exactly --

O`DONNELL: Hallie --

SAGET: Thanks for playing along --

O`DONNELL: What --


Hallie, by the way, you can completely ignore Bob Saget because he`s not there on your set. We`re going to have Trump --


O`DONNELL: We`re going to have trouble doing --

JACKSON: Come on, guys --


ALTER: Hi, Hallie --

O`DONNELL: OK, Hallie, any other campaign watching the Ted Cruz surge, any other leading campaign watching the Ted Cruz surge would consider spending a dollar or two on advertising in Iowa and possibly elsewhere.

Possibly negative advertising against Ted Cruz. Is there any hint out of the Trump campaign that they might for the first time behave like a real presidential campaign and buy some advertising time?

JACKSON: Listen, Ted Cruz is already under fire in places like Iowa for his position on the renewable fuel standard for example.

But Trump so far, you guys know, he hasn`t spent money -- really he`s riding high on earned media because he is covered constantly.

He has spent very little, especially compared to the more establishment candidates like Jeb Bush and Chris Christie.

I`m just not sure that, you know, Trump has said that if there comes to a point where he feels like he needs to spend money, then he will.

I don`t know that taking out attack ads against Ted Cruz would necessarily be the right strategy for him.

You talk to other campaigns and they point out that Trump versus Cruz is actually a benefit to folks that are in the establishment like Marco Rubio for example.

And while, we`re all sort of talking about this potential cage match between Trump and Cruz and that means we`re not talking about other candidates, long term, it may ultimately be beneficial to the establishment.

You know, you talked about that "flash dance", so just to give you a sense of where Ted Cruz`s head is at right now, sort of where he is mentally.

I`m told this is not part of an elaborate social media strategy, this wasn`t some painstakingly constructed tweet that was crafted perfectly for like the ultimate viral impact.

Cruz typed it up and sent it from home and kind of his staff saw it and said, oh, OK. Ted`s tweeting now, and that`s the tweet they were all sort of talking about.

But that`s the tone that I think you might see Ted Cruz take, particularly if Donald Trump continues to be taking the tone that he does. Cruz might just laugh it off.

O`DONNELL: So, Bob, you`ve worked Iowa.

SAGET: Yes --

O`DONNELL: OK, he`s --

SAGET: I want to build a wall around it.

O`DONNELL: He`s -- OK, he`s -- there`s a -- there are two bets -- there are two bets in Iowa right now.

SAGET: Right.

O`DONNELL: Donald Trump is betting that, you know, the angry and the insult thing will work in Iowa.

And Ted Cruz is clearly betting that the nice guy, the nice guy approach will work in Iowa. Which one would you bet on?

SAGET: It`s interesting. I do not know. I would bet on --

O`DONNELL: You know what? You know what? I didn`t think you did. I just thought --

SAGET: No, I didn`t know --

O`DONNELL: I give you a shot at the question --

SAGET: Well, you know me --

O`DONNELL: I didn`t think you know --

SAGET: I am the boy --

O`DONNELL: You know what?

SAGET: With the most information.

O`DONNELL: I don`t know. Let`s see if Jonathan Alter knows --


ALTER: Iowa is famously the nice state and then the Republican primary --

SAGET: Knows --

ALTER: It`s a religious state --

O`DONNELL: He knows everything --

ALTER: Super religious --

O`DONNELL: Listen, take note --


ALTER: I`d be amazed if Trump won Iowa.


ALTER: First of all, he doesn`t have much of a ground game there, Cruz is very well organized, he`s much more in tuned with the Republican electorate in Iowa.

But it doesn`t matter that much for Trump if he loses Iowa. Because remember, Santorum and Huckabee are the last two winners of the Iowa caucuses, it didn`t really do them very much good.

So, the big battle is New Hampshire and Trump`s problem there is he`s got very high expectations. So, if he wins narrowly, it`s almost like a loss, you know.

He has to win big now, and I think Cruz has to win Iowa pretty substantially or he`s hurt. You know this, Lawrence, the expectations are kicking in now.

And we judge these guys by how they measure up --


ALTER: To media established --


ALTER: Expectations.

SAGET: Cruz feels more like every man than Trump for Iowa. I mean, he looks -- I`m --


SAGET: I`m told I look like Cruz a little bit.

O`DONNELL: On your bad days.

SAGET: Yes, and better --


ALTER: There`s no one, because he looks like Joe McCarthy.

SAGET: I know, I know, I trust neither of us.

O`DONNELL: Let`s go to what might be the biggest development in the campaign today and that`s what Rush Limbaugh in his big break today with Donald Trump. This is big. Let`s listen to this.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO HOST: That`s so unlike Trump. I mean, that`s a -- that`s a huge mistake. But on paper, it`s a huge mistake. Trump gets away with his mistakes.

Such is the bond of loyalty that his support base has for him. Any of you who are holding out hope that Trump -- he is a genuine conservative -- genuine conservative even in the Republican field -- would not go after Cruz this way.


O`DONNELL: Hallie, when do we find out if Donald Trump has the courage to attack Rush Limbaugh?

JACKSON: Oh, I thought you were going to ask me about Ted Cruz and I was going to say tomorrow night. You know, that is a risky move for Donald Trump.

O`DONNELL: And it is.

JACKSON: You know, it`s interesting listening to that though from Rush Limbaugh because that is an area where potentially you may see Trump have sort of an open flank for these other candidates.

Who -- these candidates all say they don`t want to talk about personality, right? Trump will talk about personality all day.

He`ll call Jeb Bush low energy, he`ll call Ben Carson low energy, he`ll come after people based on their personality trait.

The other candidates so far have shied away from that. But this is a place where they talk about their conservative credentials that they can potentially start to nudge Donald Trump on his -- what they would probably call lack of conservative credentials, at least over the long term, right?

These are many of these candidates have come up sort of in that very conservative base. They`ve been conservative consistently -- oh, with the exception of Ben Carson who openly acknowledges it.

That`s the potential line of attack I think that you could see Trump being vulnerable to if the other candidates decide to step up and take a swing.

O`DONNELL: OK, Donald Trump has gone along with the old campaign tradition of having his doctor release a report on him. This is a pretty short one.

It`s like a half pager. Bob Saget, could you read us the -- literally, the last line of Dr. Harold Bornstein`s report on Donald Trump`s health. This is the bottom line of the letter. What does that say? --

SAGET: Yes sir, it says "if elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency."

And it is signed Harold N. Bornstein, gynecologist.



SAGET: Yes --

O`DONNELL: Yes, it does not say --

ALTER: How about the (INAUDIBLE) --

O`DONNELL: It says --

ALTER: Very quickly -- the first line, to whom might concern.

O`DONNELL: Well, yes --

SAGET: Yes --


SAGET: I got --

ALTER: He is an illiterate doctor --


SAGET: Yes, it`s spell-check.

ALTER: So, he didn`t -- I don`t think he examined John Adams --

JACKSON: Right --

ALTER: Who lived to be 90 and was like nine years younger than Trump when he was elected. We can go on and on about this, but --

SAGET: May I give Dr. Bornstein`s phone number? It`s right on this --

O`DONNELL: You know what? Trump tweeted out this letter, and so the whole thing is out on Twitter. Anyone --

SAGET: So that --

O`DONNELL: Who wants to get a doctor who will write a letter like this can now go to Dr. Bornstein --

SAGET: I`m calling him tonight.

O`DONNELL: It really -- is it the fun. Hallie Jackson, thank you for joining us from Vegas and putting up with --

JACKSON: Thank you --

O`DONNELL: Bob Saget. Bob --

SAGET: Thank you for putting up with me --

O`DONNELL: Thank you --

JACKSON: Loved it --

O`DONNELL: And the name of the play is "Hand to God" --

SAGET: "Hand to God", it`s on January 3rd --

O`DONNELL: And tickets are free --

SAGET: Tickets cost money.

O`DONNELL: No, they cost money, OK --

SAGET: We got to pay all those --

O`DONNELL: Yes, OK, right --

SAGET: But so January 3rd. Where will you be?

ALTER: I`ll be in this theater. I`ll be in the --

O`DONNELL: Right, he`s --


SAGET: You`re going to come on stage --

O`DONNELL: That`s right, he is --

ALTER: Right --

O`DONNELL: All right --


You guys keep talking --

SAGET: And Hallie, you`re invited, also.

O`DONNELL: I got to tell the audience what`s going to happen here --

JACKSON: I`ll be there.


O`DONNELL: OK, Hallie, when you`re in New York, Bob Saget, "Hand to God". Coming up, I got some prompter work to do here, we`re waiting for Donald Trump`s campaign rally to begin in Las Vegas.

We will go to it if it gets interesting. Later, we`re going to have a little Trump talk where I try to explain to Trump supporters something that their hero is wrong about.


O`DONNELL: Donald Trump will be speaking to an audience in Las Vegas soon. We will bring you some of that if he seems to be on the verge of saying something newsworthy.

But first, my favorite tweets of the weekend. "I`m on the other side of almost every kind of issue that smug socialist Lawrence takes. He`s right on this one."

And that same person tweeted, "`tis the season to buy a desk. The best thing that smug socialist Lawrence does." Smug socialist. Well, he`s at least half right about that.

Those tweets of course are talking about the K.I.N.D fund, our partnership with UNICEF, kids in need of desks.

And the fact that I`ve been using this program for five years to raise money to provide desks in African schools that would otherwise never have desks.

And since the last time I updated you on your contributions to the K.I.N.D fund, you have contributed another $85,267, bringing our total since we began the fund to $9,320,368.

The desks are made in Malawi by factory workers who would probably be unemployed without the K.I.N.D fund.

And although we delivered hundreds of thousands of desks, we had a long way to go before all of the kids in Malawi will be sitting at desks.

I just love that someone who has me pegged as a smug socialist supports the K.I.N.D fund. What we`re doing in Malawi schools including funding to help girls stay in school transcends politics.

You can go to the and contribute in the name of anyone on your Christmas list and UNICEF will send them an acknowledgement of your gift.

Thank you very much.


O`DONNELL: President Obama went to the Pentagon today for an in-depth strategy discussion about the fight against ISIS. After that meeting, the President said this.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are hitting ISIL harder than ever. Coalition aircraft, our fighters, bombers and drones have been increasing the pace of the airstrikes, nearly 9,000 as of today.

Last month in November, we dropped more bombs on ISIL targets than any other month since this campaign started. We`re also taking out ISIL leaders, commanders and killers one by one.

The point is, ISIL leaders cannot hide and our next message to them is simple, you are next.


O`DONNELL: Here`s the scorecard -- thus, here is the scorecard that the President presented today.


OBAMA: In fact, since this Summer, ISIL has not had a single successful major offensive operation on the ground in either Syria or Iraq.

So far ISIL has lost about 40 percent of the populated areas it once controlled in Iraq, and it will lose more. Iraqi forces are now fighting their way deeper into Ramadi.

They`re working to encircle Fallujah and cut off ISIL`s supply routes into Mosul. Again, these are urban areas where ISIL is entrenched.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Hillary Mann Leverett; former State Department Middle East specialist under Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

Also joining us is Steven Simon, he`s a former Middle East adviser to President Obama and currently a visiting professor at Dartmouth College.

Hillary Mann Leverett, what was your reaction to what the President said today?

HILLARY MANN LEVERETT, FMR. STATE DEPT. MIDDLE EAST SPECIALIST: I think that he is doubling down on what I see as a failed strategy. A strategy that embraces militarism and all of its aspects.

Its symbolic aspects by going to the Pentagon, surrounding himself with the top brass, dispensing our defense secretary yet again to our so-called allies in the Persian gulf like Saudi Arabia, countries that are really part of the problem.

And saying, essentially telling the American public that this embracing militarism is working and will continue to work. When, in fact, the data just proves the opposite.

The number of attacks that ISIS has been able to perpetrate, their complexities, their geographic scope around the world, the number of recruits, the number of foreign fighters that have surged to the battlefield to join ISIS has just increased with this further embrace of militarism.

It didn`t work under Bush, it was a dramatic failure under the Bush administration and unfortunately President Obama, I think, under domestic criticism here has instead of focusing on the diplomatic strategy, has really focused most -- first and foremost on this embrace of militarism.

O`DONNELL: Steven Simon, in your article that you entitled "Why Washington`s Middle East Pullback Makes Sense".

You wrote, "the administration`s unwillingness to use ground forces in Iraq or Syria constitutes not so much a withdrawal as a correction, an attempt to restore the stability that had endured for several decades.

Thanks to American restraint, not American aggressiveness." You mean the several decades prior to 2001?

STEVEN SIMON, FMR. MIDDLE EAST ADVISER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: Correct, yes. Generally, the pattern of U.S. involvement in the Middle East has not involved the use of military force.

There was one exception prior to this Gulf war and that was the previous Gulf War. But that was conducted very quickly, there was no invasion of Iraq, occupation of the country, no attempt to change the government.

The war aim for the United States in 1991 were quite limited, namely to eject the Iraqis from Kuwait.

But apart from that, the United States has achieved its objectives largely in the Middle East without the use of military force.

Certainly, the massive use of military force. I think we`ve come to see the last decade, nearly decade and a half as the new normal.

And I think that`s a dangerous way to conceive of it. It`s actually an aberration looking at the long history of U.S. involvement in the Middle East, certainly since the end of World War II.

And I think what President Obama is doing is actually getting back to what the old normal was, where force was used to the -- to the smallest extent possible consistent with the objectives that the U.S. has set.

And in this case, the U.S. wants to weaken ISIS and that`s what it`s doing. And it`s doing it in a way that -- that I think is commensurate with the actual threat that ISIS poses to U.S. interests.

Thus, the involvement militarily in the United States is mostly in the air. There`s a very small involvement on the ground, it`s likely to stay small, I would think.

I don`t -- I don`t see the doubling down that Hillary sees here.

O`DONNELL: Hillary, your response to that.

MANN LEVERETT: Well, you know, it`s -- unfortunately, I think those who would like to see the Obama administration as something more rosy than it is find it hard to read the record as soberly as it should be read.

The Obama administration took a page right out of the Bush playbook and intervened militarily in Libya to overthrow and help destroy that state creating yet another battleground for ISIS.

We have -- we have armed, trained, and funded not just Syrian fighters in Syria, but we have -- we have sold $75 billion to our so-called allies in the -- in the Gulf like the Saudis.

And now we have 3,000 Saudis fighting on the ground in Syria. It may not be the 100,000 plus troops that President Bush, you know, sent into Iraq in a strategic catastrophe for the United States.

But it`s no less catastrophic what Obama has done. He has taken that and instead of having the 100,000 conventional soldiers, he`s done it by the air, he`s done it by drone as if Middle Easterners somehow or Muslims around the world are not going to get it.

That the United States continues to militarily intervene in their countries. Just because the United States does it in some kind of backseat way, it doesn`t make it any less problematic.

And this goes -- this even goes far back. We like to tell ourselves that we really didn`t get involved in Middle East conflicts before, but you know, the United States intervention in Iran for example, in 1953 to help overthrow the democratically elected government.

Then came back to bite us pretty hard in the 1979 revolution that brought us the Islamic Republic of Iran.

So, this is something where it`s not just President Obama, it`s not just President Bush, this really goes back to, I think a determined structural problem in American foreign policy that is really focused on militarism and gaining Gemini(ph) in the Middle East.

Something that had been very counterproductive to us and it`s now come home to roost.

O`DONNELL: Steve Simon, you get the last word on this.

SIMON: Well, ISIS is a nefarious force in the region. Most people don`t like it and polls of Muslims globally show a serious disgust, I would say, with ISIS and what it`s doing in the region.

So, ISIS has made itself a lot of enemies, one of those enemies is the United States. And we and a whole range of other countries, 60 countries, if you count, you know, all the cats and dogs, are pretty committed to reducing ISIS` presence in the region and weakening it.

And as it`s weakened its ability to inspire attacks overseas will likely diminish. In the meantime, I just really want to emphasize that this effort is being carried out in a pretty smart way.

One that entails very targeted use of violence which nobody wants to apply to begin with, but, you know, where there`s no choice, one does. But one does -- one does it as smartly as possible.

O`DONNELL: All right, we`re going to leave it there for tonight. Steven Simon and Hillary Mann Leverett, thank you both for joining us tonight.

Coming up, good news and bad news in the new poll for Hillary Clinton and why do pollsters continue to refuse to do one-on-one match-ups of Bernie Sanders against Republican candidates?



HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You see I disagree with those who say make America great. We are great and we are going to stay great and we are going to get greater.


O`DONNELL: Hillary Clinton is now using Donald Trump`s words against him in what could be a warm-up to the general election campaign. The new NBC News poll shows that Donald Trump would be the worst possible candidate Republicans could nominate against Hillary Clinton. She beats him by ten points in that poll. But the same poll shows Hillary Clinton behind Marco Rubio by three points and behind Ben Carson by one point. Both of those results are within the margin of error, of course. Donald Trump believes he can campaign against Hillary Clinton simply by lying about her.


TRUMP: She talks about me being dangerous. She has killed hundreds of thousands of people with her stupidity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: What do you mean, she`s killed hundreds of thousands.

TRUMP: She was secretary of state. Obama was president. The team. Two real geniuses, of course.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Lauren Fox, a reporter for Talking Points and now back with us Jonathan Alter. And we are awaiting the beginning of one of those Trump performances in Las Vegas. We will see if he says anything worth cutting to or bringing to you on a quick video turn around.

Lauren, there`s Donald Trump going against Hillary Clinton, but the polls clearly indicate everything that the Clinton people have always believed, which is the gift to them would be to run against Donald Trump.

LAUREN FOX, TALKING POINTS MEMO: Certainly. And I think that what we`re seeing is that Hillary Clinton up against one of the more conservative candidates in the Republican primary tends to do much better than when she`s sort of pitted against someone like Marco Rubio who is considered more of a moderate candidate. You know, he came in on that tea party wave in 2010 but is now considered more of a moderate candidate than Donald Trump or than someone like Ted Cruz who is also falling behind Hillary Clinton in a match-up poll there.

O`DONNELL: And Jonathan, the NBC poll like most polls refuses to acknowledge the possibility of Bernie Sanders ever getting the nomination so they don`t match him up to Republicans. But Quinnipiac did earlier this month, and Bernie Sanders scored against the Republicans basically the same as Hillary Clinton. In that particular poll the Quinnipiac poll, both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton was ahead of every Republican.

ALTER: Yes. I mean, it`s amazing when you think about it. It`s part of what makes this such a fascinating year. You`ve got a socialist who in these polls is a plausible, you know, future president were he to get nominated. And you know, on the other side you have got somebody like a Ted Cruz who, OK, he is not leading Hillary Clinton but he is within striking distance. He is a dark and dangerous figure in our politics, where they will focused on this because of the attention on Donald Trump. But, you know, if you look at Ted Cruz as relatively brief career in American politics, it resembles nothing so much as Joseph McCarthy`s career and what he says is often untrue like Trumps.

So if we have a Trump-Cruz race it`s going to be two scorpions in a bottle all the way to the summer conventions. And, you know, and then, you know, if neither of them or Rubio or others can get enough delegates for first ballot victory then we really could have a broker convention. And, you know, then I think the assumption then changes because that would be so exciting, that were the Republicans to nominate a Paul Ryan or somebody who is not running right now because none of the delegates are pledged on a second ballot or third or fourth ballot to vote for the person who is running, if we have that and you have, you know, you then have the world`s greatest television show.


ALTER: And this is, of course, where you and I have been dreaming about for all of these years of covering politics. For somebody like Karl Rove actually believes it`s going to happen this time. It`s really a possibility because it`s getting pretty far along in the process. And usually at this time you can tell that Romney would eventually be the nominee the last time. We knew, you know, McCain would eventually be the nominee. This time we don`t know that. And if you got that, I think then Hillary really could be in trouble. If they -- if they produce a new candidate in a new way.

O`DONNELL: And a big surge of excitement.

ALTER: Huge surge of excitement.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Hillary Clinton said about Marco Rubio.


CLINTON: Now, you know, senator Rubio actually helped write the 2013 immigration bill. Now he renounces it. They`re all moving toward the extreme and away from the rest of America.


O`DONNELL: Lawrence Fox, the polls show Rubio is the one the Clinton campaign should be hoping does not get that nomination. He`s actually the toughest one for her to beat in these polls as they stand today.

FOX: Certainly. And I think that what we are seeing is that, you know, the Clinton campaign is very conscious of the fact that Marco Rubio is a competitor. And what you see there in that clip is her talking about immigration. And we have to remember that some of the key states that she is going to need to secure are states like Nevada, states like Florida, states where, you know, the Latino population is going to be very important and she`s going to continue to hammer Marco Rubio all the way to the Senate if he is eventually the nominee, that you know, he supported this 2013 immigration bill, then he didn`t. He started to back away from it. And as he is sort of moving into the primary, he has to kind of consider that he has to be a little bit more to the right on immigration then maybe he would really want to be in a general election when matched up with Hillary Clinton.

O`DONNELL: Go ahead, Jon.

ALTER: I was just going to say, you know, something that doesn`t get talked about enough is that both Cruz and Rubio are Cuban-Americans and the Mexican-Americans in a state like Nevada, they don`t really care very much, you know, about solidarity within the Latino community. They`re not going to vote for one of these guys just because he`s also a Latino and there`s not very much in common between Mexican-Americans and Cuban-Americans much of the time.

The other thing that, you know, that Rubio really has to watch for is that he sounds very fluid in his answers on foreign policy but a lot of what he says is kind of dumb, like saying this was a clash of civilizations. Chuck Todd just, you know, questioned him on this over the weekend. We don`t want to be at war with 1.5 billion Muslims. And he has got a way to go on foreign policy to match Hillary.

O`DONNELL: Lauren Fox and Jonathan Alter, thank you both for joining us. Really appreciate it.

ALTER: Thanks, Lawrence.

FOX: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Up next, tonight`s Trump talk, where I will try to explain to Donald Trump supporters something Donald Trump is very wrong about. I actually tried this on twitter yesterday with what I would call mixed success. Let`s see how it goes tonight.


O`DONNELL: Time for tonight`s Trump talk. This is where we explain to Trump supporters why their hero is wrong about something in a calm, reasoned tone. I can do that, I think, you know, calm and reasonable.

Now, we are not trying to reach this guy sitting behind Donald Trump because I just have the feeling that nothing can change his mind about anything ever. But yesterday I did have a calm and reasonable twitter chat with Ben Techpro (ph) about why the Trump ban on all Muslims entering the United States is unconstitutional. Ben began by asking, how could it be unconstitutional to stop immigrants who aren`t U.S. citizens from entering temporarily? The temporarily part was actually the easiest to answer. I told ben unconstitutional ideas don`t become constitutional just by making them temporary.

What makes Trump`s idea unconstitutional is that he wants to regulate visas on the basis of religion. Now, I know many of you Trump supporters like Ben think we have done this sort of thing in the past, but we never have. We have never regulated visas on the basis of religion. We have regulated visas on the basis of country of origin, of the applicant, for the visa. We have used quotas for countries in geographic regions. That`s constitutional. But we have never had quotas for a religion. We have never had any kind of limitation on visas based on religion.

The other point that Ben makes in his tweet is that immigrants applying for visas are not U.S. citizens and the constitution applies only to U.S. citizens. Well, there are constitutional rights that apply to all people in the United States even someone here on a tourist visa. For example, if a person on a tourist visa is arrested for drunk driving. That person has all the same constitutional rights to due process that you do. But, Ben is right to think that citizens of other countries outside of the United States who are in those countries applying to enter the United States do not have all the same constitutional rights that American citizens do. That is correct.

But the Trump Muslim ban would be ruled unconstitutional because it does violate the rights of American citizens. Here`s just one example. All Americans all have the right to marry anyone they want anywhere in the world and bring that spouse home to the United States. And so Trump would allow anyone to bring a catholic bride from Ireland into the United States or a Jewish husband from Israel into the United States or any spouse anywhere in the world into the United States, except a Muslim spouse from anywhere. And the American citizen who is denied the right to bring a Muslim spouse into the United States would then easily get that Muslim ban ruled unconstitutional in court. And I mean easily. And that`s just one example of how quickly it would be ruled unconstitutional. But in reality it would never be ruled unconstitutional because Congress would never ever pass a Muslim ban law. And Donald Trump and many of his followers don`t realize this, but banning Muslims from the United States is not a presidential power.

Only Congress can regulate who is allowed to enter the United States and who is not allowed to enter the United States. Trump`s Muslim ban would never be tested in court even if he was miraculously elected president because the person who controls all legislation in Congress has already said that Congress would never pass such a law.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Freedom of religion is a fundamental constitutional principle. It`s a founding principle of this country. Normally I do not comment on what`s going on in the presidential election. I will take an exception today. What was proposed yesterday is not what this party stands for and, more importantly, it`s not what this country stands for.


O`DONNELL: So without ever getting into whether it`s a good idea to ban Malala Yousafzai who won her noble prize by defying Muslim extremism in Pakistan to the point where she got shot in the head? All you Trump supporters have to know is that the Trump Muslim ban is unconstitutional and Congress will never ever pass a law like that.

So, if you`re still voting for president Trump, the Muslim ban shouldn`t be the reason he gets your vote because the Trump Muslim ban is just another politician telling you he`s going to do something that will never happen.


O`DONNELL: The Trump rally has begun in Las Vegas. He has handed over the microphone to some of the people there who have joined him at that rally. We will go to it if anything newsworthy develops there. So far, it`s really, they`re not doing anything that we haven`t really seen before. And we will be back.


O`DONNELL: Donald Trump picked up an endorsement from a union last week, a police union. A member of that union will join me next.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We stand here united today to introduce our candidate for the next president of the United States, Donald J. Trump.



O`DONNELL: The New England Police Benevolent Association endorsed Trump last Thursday and in return for their support Donald Trump said this.


TRUMP: One of the first things I do in terms of executive order if I win will be to sign a strong, strong statement that will go out to the country, out to the world that anybody killing a policeman, place policewoman, police officer, anybody killing police officer, death penalty. It`s going to happen. OK? We can`t let this go.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now Jerry Flynn, executive director of the New England Police Benevolent Association.

Thanks for being here tonight, Mr. Flynn. When you hear Donald Trump say he is going to issue an executive order for the death penalty, what is it you think he just said? I mean, you know that a president cannot enact a death penalty through an executive order, right? You know that has to be done through legislation.

JERRY FLYNN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NEW ENGLAND POLICE BENEVOLENT ASSOCIATION: Lawrence, first of all, thank you for having me this evening. And it`s a pleasure to be here.

I think what the candidate Trump and our executive board met with him stated that he would sign an executive order that would make the killing of a police officer a federal capital offense. And I think that that`s similar to what they have with postmen and people who are federal employees.

So I think that in this climate, in this day and age where police officers are, you know, open season, the tragedies that have happened across the country, we have people who are marching "kill police officers" when, now. I mean, those are reprehensible things that have been to be addressed in this country. And with respect to our candidate, he`s the one, the only one that came forward saying he would support that measure.

O`DONNELL: But, Jerry, here`s what strikes me about Trump. And is that it is impossible for the president by executive order to do what you just told me he told you he would do. It is impossible. That can only be done through legislation, through the Congress. And so -- and what I`m interested in is when you hear him say things, when you hear him, is it more of a spirit of the thing you`re responding to rather than the technical specifics and whether that`s a presidential power or a congressional power?

FLYNN: I think what we have seen over the last eight years or seven years anyways is we had a president who has not had the backs of law enforcement, has not certainly not had the pack backs of police officers. We had a period of time only a few months ago where we had eight police officers killed in a nine-day period. And president was very quiet about that.

And here we have -- also, Lawrence, we invited all the major candidates and we heard from two, Donald Trump and Jeb Bush. And Jeb Bush to his credit couldn`t make it. But I will say this, that none of the other people, none of their handlers, nobody from their campaigns in the state of New Hampshire where we the are the largest police union in the granite state, not one of them called us to say, yes, can we come, can we talk. So I think his actions speak louder than his words.

O`DONNELL: Wow. Jerry, that is campaign incompetence, to not meet with a police union, Republican candidates not meeting with a police union about a possible endorsement. Have you experienced that before with candidates up there?

FLYNN: We had Rudy Giuliani there when we endorsed back in 2008 and there were a number of candidates who showed up looking for an endorsement. But these are different trying times. You have people who quite frankly, I think some of these politicians are afraid to come out and say that they are supporting law enforcement. And that`s tragic. That`s really anarchy at its best.

O`DONNELL: Jerry, what do you think Donald Trump or any Republican candidate, how do you think any Republican candidate would be good for unions?

FLYNN: Listen, we`re not looking for who -- the New England Police Benevolent Association doesn`t stand for pro-bowlers association. We`re police officers, law enforcement officers, correctional officers, you know, personnel, we are looking for someone who is going to be a voice of reason to help those of us in a very difficult time in this country where we are having police officers shot and killed, not because of the color of their skin, not because of anything other than wearing a blue uniform with a badge.

The two police officers assassinated with that car in New York City, one was Hispanic, one was Asian. Both of those police officers were gunned down in broad daylight. And here we have nobody, nobody looking and saying -- the New York City police had to turn their back on the democratic mayor because he wouldn`t -- he wouldn`t do anything to support those people who were working and protecting the city of New York City. That`s not a problem, then I beg to differ.

O`DONNELL: Jerry, you guys didn`t endorse anybody last time around because you said Mitt Romney would not be good for unions. So I just come back to it. Is there anything you heard from Donald Trump that you think would be good for unions?

FLYNN: You know, again, I work -- I was -- I work at the governor was in Massachusetts for eight years. And I tell you. I have dealt with every governor since Mike Dukakis down to Deval Patrick in Massachusetts and he is the only governor who hasn`t -- who never came to the table to speak to union.