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The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, Transcript 9/4/17 Congress returns to shutdown threat

Guests: Indira Lakshmanan, David Jolly, Jonathan Allen, Bill Moyers, Prudence Gourguechon, George F. Will, Ben Trachtenberg


Guest: Indira Lakshmanan, David Jolly, Jonathan Allen, Bill Moyers, Prudence Gourguechon, George F. Will, Ben Trachtenberg

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: Lawyers are up next. LAST WORD with Lawrence O`Donnell, starts right now.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don`t believe that any president has accomplished as much as this president in the first six or seven months. I really don`t believe it.

GEORGE WILL, COLUMNIST, WASHINGTON POST: It`s a completely sterile presidency.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER, SENATE: Our new president of course has not been in this line of work before.

TRUMP: I`m very disappointed in Mitch.

MCCONNELL: And I think had excessive expectations about how quickly things happen.

TRUMP: Now I want tax reform, and I want a very big infrastructure bill. We have to close down our government, we`re building that wall.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I don`t think a government shutdown is necessary.

MCCONNELL: There is zero chance, no chance we won`t raise the debt ceiling.

TRUMP: Mitch, get to work and let`s get it done.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We are not the president`s subordinates. We are his equal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re at a point where there needs to be radical changes take place at the White House itself.

BILL MOYERS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Everything antagonizes him. He`s constantly at war with everybody.

WILL: He`s a bull who carries his China shop around with him.


MOYERS: This man does not seem to me to have what we would normally think of as a soul. He has an open sore.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST, THE LAST WORD: It has been a rough year so far for the Trump presidency, and Congress returns to work tomorrow to a series of crushing deadlines.

Congress must raise the federal debt ceiling by September 29th. The next day, funding for the government runs out unless Congress passes a budget before that.

The congressional budget office says that if the debt ceiling is not raised, the United States will default on its debt.

And now Congress needs to pass a hurricane relief bill that no one saw coming, possibly the largest hurricane relief bill they`ve ever passed.

Here`s what the president said about an aid bill for Hurricane Harvey victims.


TRUMP: I think that you`re going to see very rapid action from Congress, certainly from the president.

And you`re going to get your funding. We expect to have requests on our desk fairly soon, and we think that Congress will feel very much the way I feel in a very bipartisan way, that will be nice.

But we think you`re going to have what you need, and it`s going to go fast.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does this situation make you reconsider the possibility of a government shutdown next --

TRUMP: I think it has nothing to do with it really, I think this is separate.


O`DONNELL: Before Hurricane Harvey, the president threatened to shut down the government over funding for his border wall with Mexico.


TRUMP: Believe me, if we have to close down our government, we`re building that wall.


O`DONNELL: This is what Trump said three days after Hurricane Harvey hit.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On Tuesday, you said if we have to close down our government, we are building that wall.

TRUMP: Well, I hope that`s not necessary --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mexico is paying for the wall, why would we close down our government --

TRUMP: Let me just tell you -- yes, I hope that`s not necessary. If it`s necessary, we`ll have to see.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Indira Lakshmanan; Washington columnist for the "Boston Globe", she`s the chair in journalism ethics at the Pointer Institute for Media Studies.

Also with us, Jonathan Allen; author of "Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton`s Doomed Campaign".

And joining us David Jolly; former Republican congressman from Florida. Indira, the president can`t possibly go into September threatening a government shutdown.

INDIRA LAKSHMANAN, WASHINGTON COLUMNIST, BOSTON GLOBE: I think he`s doing that to put pressure on Congress to get money for his wall because he knows that the optics of not raising the debt ceiling at a time when Texas desperately needs money for Hurricane Harvey relief is impossible.

But at the same time, I think he hasn`t calculated that many people, even strong supporters of Donald Trump within Congress.

Like Representative Mark Meadows, who`s the chair of the House Freedom Caucus have said, oh, absolutely we`re going to pass money for Hurricane Harvey relief, but that doesn`t mean we have to tie it to Donald Trump`s border wall funding.

So I don`t think the president is necessarily going to be able to ride on the coattails of Harvey relief in the way that he seems to have calculated that he can.

O`DONNELL: David Jolly, it looks like a legislative hurricane coming for the House Republicans, Senate Republicans in September.

What are they going to do?

DAVID JOLLY, FORMER CONGRESSMAN: Yes, Lawrence, and this is personal for me. I served on the Appropriations Committee before I was in Congress.

I was on staff. I`ve lived through Katrina and I`ve been on all of these relief packages. In September, we have three issues.

We have the debt limit increase, which is separate from the end of year funding, September 30th, which is separate from flood insurance reauthorization at the end of September.

And so all those have to be resolved, and what we are wrestling with, and while this is not a time to really talk politics even in the aftermath of Houston, September will involve politics, and we are wrestling with a president who in his first six months has failed to establish leadership and credibility going into this debate.

The truth is, this president`s budget has underfunded so many of the accounts that are responsible for taking care of the victims of Harvey, and we can`t separate those two.

I think this gives Republicans a bit of breathing room on the Hill, they will be a little hypocritical in coming up with a solution to keep the government open and fund Harvey.

But at the end of the day, conservatives will lose on their convictions in this debate.

O`DONNELL: Jonathan Allen, it seems strategically that House and Senate leadership will want to package all of this as just one moving legislative vehicle, debt ceiling, budget, Hurricane Harvey all together so that if you want to vote for Hurricane Harvey relief, you have to vote for the other things that the leadership needs to get done.

JONATHAN ALLEN, AUTHOR: Yes, that`s what I`ve been hearing. And I -- you know, it`s just a simple math exercise, Lawrence.

The number of Republicans in the Texas delegation in the House, plus the number of Democrats, all of whom will be supportive of Harvey funding is more than a majority of the House members.

So the freedom caucus is not going to have a lot of leverage on a Harvey spending bill. I mean, you have a majority just out of those two sets.

One thing, though, that I think is interesting is before Harvey hit, there was an assumption that what Donald Trump was doing was threatening an either/or situation with the wall or a government shutdown in which there was some trade off there.

I think there are a lot of people in President Trump`s base who saw wall funding and the government shutdown as good options.

Remember Ted Cruz in 2013 basically forced a government shutdown against the wishes of Republicans in Washington, and that launched his political career within the conservative movement, made him a viable presidential contender in 2016.

I think that Harvey changes that calculus. I think the most likely scenario here is that you get some sort of government funding extension, maybe not for the full year in terms of the basic functions of government.

Hard to shut them down in the middle of a hurricane. The optics of that are bad even if you`re funding the pieces that go to Hurricane relief.

You`ll get Harvey funding and also see some sort of debt limit increase.

O`DONNELL: And Indira, there`s now a new argument in what will be the budget debate. Democrats want to increase spending on X will be accused of trying to take money away from Harvey victims.

Republicans who want to cut spending or raise spending on something else will be accused of taking money away from Harvey victims.

LAKSHMANAN: Look, there`s always a lot of accusations that fly in both directions. Let`s not forget that many of the prominent Texas Republicans who now want relief for their own state are the same men who voted against relief for Hurricane Sandy.

That hasn`t been forgotten. But some of the Republicans in New York and New Jersey like Representative Peter King have said, well, we`re not going to -- you know, we`re not going to hold a grudge, we`re still going to support the people of Texas despite the fact that all those Texas Republicans voted against our relief bill.

I`d just like to point out this is a critical issue. We`re talking about $3.3 billion that FEMA has in its federal disaster relief funding.

We`re talking about how Hurricane Sandy needed $50 billion, and Katrina got over $100 billion in relief.

I mean, Sheila Jackson Lee; the Democrat from Houston has asked for $150 billion, I don`t think that`s really realistic in the near future.

But I do think they`re going to have to talk about significant money. We`re hearing from Wall Street estimates of tens of billions of dollars in destruction from this 500-year flooding.

So I think it`s not realistic for the president to think as I said earlier, that he`s going to be able to just tack on whatever else he wants.

Hurricane funding is going to go through, Senator Mitch McConnell said there`s no way that we`re not going to raise the debt ceiling.

But let`s not forget, Lawrence, the latest polling shows that fewer than 4 in 10 Americans support the president`s proposal for a Mexican border wall.

And that means that only -- you know, that means almost six in ten oppose it. So the president is sticking by his guns here, but let`s not forget he promised Mexico was going to pay for it.

So I think it`s kind of hard for him to go back on that and insist that the American people should support something that only a minority of Americans actually want.

O`DONNELL: David Jolly, I think the action in the Senate is going to be relatively simple compared to the House.

Mitch McConnell and --

JOLLY: It will be --

O`DONNELL: Chuck Schumer know how to get together on a package --

JOLLY: Sure --

O`DONNELL: Like this that would include debt ceiling, budget, hurricane relief. The House is a whole different ball game.

You have members there who will not want to vote. They`ll want to vote on hurricane relief as a separate item.

They will want to vote on the budget as a separate item so that they can have their separate arguments about it, and they will very much want a vote on the debt ceiling as a separate item.

How does Paul Ryan pull it off?

JOLLY: Sure, so Lawrence, this is where reasonable Republicans get very angry tonight, and this is -- and all commentators are right.

To Jonathan`s point, the Texas delegation is larger than the freedom caucus delegation. But listen, I fought those fights and it was the conservatives in the House who fought against mitigation efforts, who fought against flood insurance reform.

Who fought against funding for climate change. It`s those very conservatives from Texas who are now going to be asking for help.

And why we are careful in our politics coming out of Houston and we should be. The reality going into September in a budget fight is there`s going to be a lot of political hypocrisy.

At the end of the day I think what happens is all of these disaster accounts create an opportunity for conservatives to say, we`re going to keep the government open because we need disaster funding because of Houston and because of Harvey.

And maybe they punt the harder debate to the debt limit increase and find some way to declare victory on a spending reform that really means nothing.

But they can isolate the two. They can say, we`ve got to keep the government open. For the first time, conservatives in years are going to fight to keep the conservative -- the government actually open, and they`ll punt the real political debate that you`ll hear on talk radio to the debt limit increase.

They`ll find a way hypocritically to declare success, but it`s not actually going to be a success because at the end of the day they`re going to raise the debt ceiling, it`s going to be a clean lift.

O`DONNELL: And Jonathan Allen, it`s not like it`s a simple scenario for Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats. They`ve got some interesting choices to make.

ALLEN: They will have interesting choices to make. I think that they are generally pretty strong on the idea of spending money on disaster relief.

In fact, if you ask House Democrats right now, they would like to see the government forward fund disaster relief, essentially to have a much larger standing account for this kind of stuff.

They are going to want to see spending for next year, but they`re not going to want to see wall funding.

And she`s got a lot of leverage there on things that Republicans will want to put in a year-long appropriations bill along with the Harvey funding.

So, it will be interesting to see how she handles this. You know, the one thing that you`ve always got to keep in mind is that Nancy Pelosi more than any other leader in my time covering the House of Representatives has command of her caucus at times like this.

They will do what she ask them to do.

O`DONNELL: Jonathan Allen, David Jolly, Indira Lakshmanan, thank you very much for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.

ALLEN: Take care, Lawrence --

JOLLY: Good to be with you.

O`DONNELL: Up next, an exclusive cable news interview with Bill Moyers. He grew up in Texas, became Lyndon Johnson`s White House press secretary and is now a journalist with unique insights on this tumultuous first year of the Trump presidency.


MOYERS: During the campaign last year, I kept thinking that Donald Trump has given a big bull horn to some of the most malevolent furies in American life. I`ve now decided he is the malevolent fury.


MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC: I`m Milissa Rehberger, here are your top stories. DACA supporters filled downtown Los Angeles streets today.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions will hold a briefing tomorrow on the program that gives temporary legal status to nearly 800,000 immigrant children.

Senior officials tell Nbc News that the president is leaning toward ending the Obama era policy with a six-month implementation delay.

Speaker Paul Ryan says DACA should be fixed by Congress. That six-month postponement could give the House and Senate time to revamp that program.

THE LAST WORD continues after this.



TRUMP: Was George Washington a slave owner? So Will George Washington now lose his status? Are we going to take down -- excuse me.

Are we going to take down -- are we going to take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? You like him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do love Thomas Jefferson --

TRUMP: OK, good. Are we going to take down the statue because he was a major slave owner. Now are we going to take down his statue?

So you know what? It`s fine. You`re changing history, you`re changing culture.


O`DONNELL: President Trump tweeted, "sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments.

You can`t change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson. Who is next? Washington, Jefferson, so foolish.

Also the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced."

Of course, every confederate statue could be replaced by a statue to a soldier or a distinguished general who actually fought in battle for the United States of America instead of against the United States of America.

There are hundreds of war heroes on the union side of the civil war or World War II who have never been recognized with statues in the United States.

Veteran journalist Bill Moyers is a son of the south. He was born in Oklahoma, he grew up in Marshall, Texas, he later worked in politics and government, serving both in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.

He was a special assistant to President Lyndon Johnson. When the president signed the Civil Rights Act in July of 1964.

On the day Donald Trump was inaugurated, Bill Moyers said this about Donald Trump`s original political lie, the lie about President Obama`s birth.


MOYERS: He rode to power on the wings of a dark lie. One of the most malignant and ugly lies in American history. We must never forget it.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Bill Moyers; Peabody award-winning journalist. He served as President Johnson`s press secretary from 1965 to 1967.

Bill, there are so many things I want to cover with you. But I want to just start with, you are someone who had that job, press secretary.

You stood at that podium in that briefing room. What is it like for you when you watch what happens in that room now, that room that was a sacred place for you?

MOYERS: Well, it was a sacred place, but we committed a lot of sins.


MOYERS: In that sacred place. We were not perfect. Now, I was not a perfect press secretary, Lyndon Johnson was not a perfect president when he came to disposing to the press.

But he never asked me to lie. Sometimes I lied, I`m sure in contradicting something that he had said or I had said.

But when I became press secretary against my will, my father sent me a telegram. He`s an everyday working man in east Texas (INAUDIBLE).

He sent me a telegram saying, "Bill, tell the truth if you can, but if you can`t tell the truth, don`t tell a lie."


MOYERS: That`s what I tried --


MOYERS: To do. But as I`ve often joked, our credibility was so bad, we couldn`t believe our own leaks. Today, I must say we were better than they were by any means, but we made an effort not to deliberately deceive the public.

And now, it`s just one lie coming out after another. I don`t believe they have the capacity or the freedom under this president to speak the truth.

O`DONNELL: You struggled with the first presidency in the modern age that was embattled in an unpopular war, which is what made all of your struggles in that briefing room were pretty much all about that.

This is -- this is a different struggle that we`re seeing. This is a president who is the struggle. The White House staff`s struggle is with the president himself.

MOYERS: You know, Lawrence, when -- during the campaign last year, I kept thinking that Donald Trump has given a big bullhorn to some of the most malevolent furies in American life.

I`ve now decided he is the malevolent fury. Somebody said today he has to get away from himself. He can`t get away from himself.

This man does not seem to me to have what we would normally think of as a soul, he has an open sore. Everything antagonizes him.

He`s constantly at war with everybody, and he degrades everything around him. He is the malevolent fury that is attempting to provide a return to many of the practices and behaviors that we have spent 250 years overcoming.

O`DONNELL: You worked for a southern president who signed the Civil Rights Act and knew politically when he was doing it, and said --

MOYERS: He said --


O`DONNELL: What this would cost him.

MOYERS: He said that evening, I think we`ve just delivered the south to the Republican Party for my lifetime and yours.

What he meant by that is for 100 years the Democrats had been the protector of slavery, the defender of slavery and of white power.

Now with the boat coming, the Democrats would move away from that, and the Republicans would fill the gap.

There would be a white flight to the Democrat -- to the Republican Party, and there was. The Republican Party became the party that promotes racism and white power in American politics today.

O`DONNELL: The president went from a couple of days ago, saying confederate monuments are a local decision, local communities should decide whether they want them or not want them.

Now, today, he`s decided they are absolute national treasures, we must never touch them, and we can never possibly build any statues as beautiful as those again to replace them.

MOYERS: The paradox is -- I mean, we`ve done that at -- the University of Texas. The confederate statues have been moved to a museum as in fact they should have been.

But the paradox in what the president is saying is that most of the statues we`re talking about were built after constructed, erected after 1900, around the time that Jim Crow laws, the laws of enforcing segregation were established.

And the terrorism that became Jim Crow was beginning to be enacted against blacks. It was not to honor the soldiers of the civil war.

It was to remind blacks and whites that this force of the state would still be used to subjugate them to a different form of slavery.

All of those could come down without affecting history at all, and you could put them in the museums for teachers and (INAUDIBLE) could explain why they were put up in the early part of the 1900s.

O`DONNELL: The -- but just that eroticism on his part from a couple of days ago, it`s a local matter, which is kind of a safe -- relatively safe political thing to say, to now coming out today and saying, oh, no, they must all be saved.

I mean, this is -- how is the country supposed to follow a president like that?

MOYERS: By looking at the consistency of his inconsistency. This is a man who is unable to finish a sentence in the way he obviously intended it when he started it --


MOYERS: Lyndon Johnson was a man of contradictions, Lyndon Johnson could be as perplexing as Donald Trump was.

But Lyndon Johnson knew what he was doing. He knew government, he loved government, he knew how to make it work.

And he also knew that if you continually contradicted yourself the way Trump is doing, as Johnson would do later in Vietnam, you`re destroying yourself.

And I think that`s what`s happening with Donald Trump, is he`s destroying himself except with that one-third of the electorate that thinks he can do no harm.

O`DONNELL: I want to take a look at some stunning magazine covers that came out from around the world.

We have "The Economist" which shows Donald Trump basically blowing into a bull horn that is a -- looks like a Ku Klux Klan hood.

"Time Magazine" came out with one that puts him in the position of giving sort of a Hitler salute with the American flag.

We have a couple of others. But these are things -- this is the kind of coverage we have never seen in this country.

MOYERS: Right. You know, the saddest part to me of (INAUDIBLE) bill other than the death and the injury that occurred was the fact that there`s -- in fact, I saw this on Nbc News last night, the nightly news.

There`s a synagogue there, the Beth Israel synagogue, about 40 or 50 people come regularly to worship. And during the troubles down there last weekend, three men armed with AK -- with 40 -- with automatic rifles stood across from the synagogue eyeing it suspiciously.

Parades of young men came by with swastikas. They`d say, there is the synagogue. Sieg Heil, Sieg Heil.

This comes from the rabbi --


MOYERS: Zimmerman, who told the story on the Nbc last night. And they were carrying the swastika, the Nazi flag, and I cannot understand how anyone today can march or salute -- march under or salute the Nazi flag without recognizing what the Nazi regime did to Europe, to the world, and particularly to six-plus million Jews who were rounded up, murdered, sent to concentration camps, starved to death, buried alive.

That`s what that swastika flag means to those Jewish congregants in that synagogue who watched them come by saluting Adolf Hitler.

O`DONNELL: Before we go to this break, I just want to get a word in you, as a southerner to southerners about these confederate monuments, I mean they watch people like me, northerners from Boston who couldn`t care less about these monuments talk about them and want to see them removed.

You supported them being removed from your alma mater`s campus. What would you say as a southerner to southerners about these monuments and what they mean now?

MOYERS: That is not your heritage. Your heritage is different from what happened under slavery. Your heritage -- now all of you are free, white and black are free.

And these monuments are -- you said it very well when you began this discussion. You know, George Washington risked his life to lead an army whose mission was to create the United States of America.

Thomas Jefferson risked his life by writing the declaration. Both were slave owners. George Washington freed his slaves, Jefferson didn`t.

But they -- the statues are commemorating men who fought in and led armies designed to destroy the United States of America.

And I would say to everybody that the civil war failed. it did not destroy this union. But the losers kept fighting until they`re still fighting today.

Let them go, you lost the war, let`s move on.

O`DONNELL: Bill Moyers, thank you for joining us. Up next, is President Trump mentally fit to be the commander-in-chief?

One psychiatrist says she has figured out what the test should be. That`s next.


SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: The president has not yet -- has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful. And we need for him to be successful. Our nation needs for him to be successful.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: I started talking about the 25th Amendment two weeks into the Trump presidency when it had become painfully clear that by any previous behavioral standard applied to the presidency, Donald Trump was unfit to serve. The 25th amendment allows for the removal of a president who is, quote, unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.

The 25th Amendment leaves it to the vice president to decide when the president is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. It can be for health reasons. It can be for mental health reasons. It could be for reasons of corruption or any reason the vice president chooses. The vice president cannot do this alone. He needs the written agreement of a majority of the cabinet, and with that the vice president becomes the acting president as long as the president remains unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.

In the weeks and months that have passed since then, no one`s confidence in President Trump`s ability to discharge the powers and duties of his office has increased. A month into the Trump presidency, Senator Al Franken wondered aloud about the president`s sanity, something that no senator had ever done with a new president.

Psychiatrists and psychologists started going public with their concerns about the president`s mental stability. Some of them appeared as guests on this program, and people who knew the president well and had been very friendly with him for years began to publicly question his mental health.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If he had a condition or an issue during the campaign, people close to him say it is now getting very, very troubling and very worrisome.

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC ANCHOR: This is a president isolated and out of control and in decline.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI, MSNBC ANCHOR: I think he`s such a narcissist. It is possible that he`s mentally ill in a way. He`s not well. At the very least he`s not well.


O`DONNELL: When the president attacks Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, many more people began to question the president`s health because of the viciousness of the attack. But there was nothing new stylistically in the Trump attack. He had been at least that vicious with Rosie O`Donnell years ago and was equally vicious with Megyn Kelly during the campaign. But the negative reaction was more intense this time because of all of the accumulated bursts of Trumpian madness that preceded the attack on Joe and Mika.

And then came this, a wordless tweet that presumably captured the president`s frame of mind, his state of mind, about "CNN".


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my god, what`s going to happen? Oh, my god.


O`DONNELL: The tweet seen round the world. So that created a new burst of interest in the 25th Amendment and the mental stability of the president of the United States. It was like a straw breaking a camel`s back. The world`s strangest Twitter given his position in our government and his position in the world tweeted one of his strangest tweets after a week in which his mental health was already being questioned.

What everyone knew the second they saw that tweet about him fighting with CNN was that the president -- that presidents do not do this. That`s everyone`s first reaction. Presidents do not do this. In a recent piece in "The Los Angeles Times," Psychiatrist Prudence Gourguechon considered President Trump`s fitness to serve using what she calls, the one source where the capacities necessary for strategic leadership are clearly and comprehensively laid out. The U.S. Army`s field manual on leadership.

Joining us now, Dr. Prudence Gourguechon, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst and past president of the American Psychoanalytic Association. Doctor, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Run us through why the army field manual and what it tells us about the president.

DR. PRUDENCE GOURGUECHON, PSYCHIATRIST & PSYCHOANALYST: Thanks for having me tonight. I was fascinated by the language of the 25th Amendment, and the idea of how would we determine that a president was unable to carry out the duties of his office?

And I was -- I had the idea a couple months ago that continuing to diagnose him was not going to go very far because first of all, you can never get three psychiatrists to agree on a diagnosis. And as "Fox News" just pointed out the other day, 49 percent of presidents have served with a mental health diagnosis. So I wanted to develop -- I kind of had a -- I imagined Mike Pence in the cabinet, well, how would we decide that this president can`t carry out his duties?

So I started building a checklist and ended up discovering the army field manual, which is a fantastic document based on really sound psychiatric and psychological knowledge going back a century. And it comes up with a set of criteria, a set of capacities and abilities that a leader with strategic responsibility has to have. And so I put them into a pocket-size checklist of five core capacities straight out of the army field manual.

And anybody -- you don`t have to be a psychiatrist or a doctor. Any observant person can take a look at these and say, does Donald Trump meet these -- does he have these capabilities?

O`DONNELL: And you laid out in this op-ed piece those capabilities are trust, discipline and self-control, judgment and critical thinking, self- awareness, empathy. And on the discipline and self-control, it`s really quite striking because one of the things the army field manual identifies is, for example, viscerally or angrily when receiving bad news or conflicting information, reacting viscerally --


O`DONNELL: And we recognize Donald Trump in that and pretty much everything else that the army field manual does not want in leadership.

GOURGUECHON: Exactly. The phrases come out at you and just they`re kind of stunning when compared to the tweets that you talked about in the introduction. Also the capacity to anticipate consequences of your actions, and the army field manual talks about not only does a leader have to anticipate immediate consequences but secondary and third-degree consequences. And that one struck me in addition to the lack of discipline.

And they also tie together. If you don`t have discipline, you can`t think. You can`t strategize. You can`t plan. And they just -- I looked at the tweet with -- about Mika Brzezinski. And it seemed to me that every one of the criteria was fell short with that one tweet.

O`DONNELL: Yes. Every one of the criteria that would get you knocked out of a leadership position in the army was met by the president in a single tweet.

GOURGUECHON: In a single tweet, all five.

O`DONNELL: And here he is commander in chief of that army. The army field manual is -- has been developed, as you say, over the course of about a century. And as a psychiatrist, how would you evaluate its usefulness because you make the point that there`s been a lot of studies about various forms, various kinds of human characteristics, but leadership is not one of them. Entrepreneurial stuff, business leadership has been written about. But this kind of leadership has not been written about.

GOURGUECHON: Well, even in business, in the business literature, the basic capacities of what does it take to be a human being with vast responsibility for life and fortune of others? Even that in the business literature is not clearly pulled together in one place. The army field manual was the only place where I could find where anybody did that. I do want to correct one thing. I didn`t mean the field manual had been in existence for 100 years. It does have a long history.

But the background, the psychological and psychoanalytic knowledge that it`s based on goes back 100 years. But the question is what -- how do we define not mental health, mental illness, but capacity to shoulder enormous responsibility and the fate of nations? And this document is the only place I`ve found that really puts that down.

And I think that we`re better off looking at positive attributes of capacity rather than, oh, does he have this diagnosis or that diagnosis because not only will there be disagreement, but it`s not -- a diagnosis of -- a mental diagnosis does not necessarily disqualify you to be president as Abraham Lincoln famously was severely depressed at different times in his life.

O`DONNELL: Dr. Prudence Gourguechon, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

GOURGUECHON: Thanks so much for having me.

O`DONNELL: Up next, after President Trump`s reaction to the nazi white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, more Republicans have been talking about a primary challenge to the president in 2020. The new question seems to be how many Republicans will run against President Trump. George Will joins us.


O`DONNELL: There has been no reaction from the divider in chief today to Republican Senator Lindsey Graham`s statement about him this morning. Mr. President, your words are dividing Americans, not healing them.

Last night on this program, former Republican Congressman David Jolly predicted that Donald Trump has now divided the Republican Party to the point that he will have a Republican challenger or challengers in the next presidential campaign.


FMR. REP. DAVID JOLLY (R), FLORIDA: There`s a lot of Republicans thinking tonight, if I can`t find somebody to run against Donald Trump, I`ll run against him myself.


O`DONNELL: Ohio Governor John Kasich was the last man standing against Donald trump in the last Republican presidential primaries, and on the "Today" this morning, as soon as the governor was introduced, before he was asked a single question, John Kasich said this.


GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: Pathetic, isn`t it? Just pathetic. To not condemn these people who went there to carry out violence and to somehow draw some kind of equivalency to somebody else reduces the ability to totally condemn these hate groups. A president has to totally condemn this. There is no moral equivalency between the KKK, the neo-nazis, and anybody else.


O`DONNELL: Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a statement saying we can have no tolerance for an ideology of racial hatred. There are no good neo-nazis, and those who espouse their views are not supporters of American ideals and freedoms.

Mitch McConnell`s wife, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao was standing beside Donald Trump yesterday during the press conference with John Kasich and Mitch McConnell and other Republicans have been criticizing.

Today, Senator Ted Cruz had no problem saying the kind of thing that Donald Trump should have said if he had the decency to actually think these things.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The President said that both sides were to blame and seemed to equate the white nationalists with the counter protesters. Do you agree with that?

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: You know, the President speaks for himself. The Klan is evil. They are racist bigots. Nazis are the very face of evil. Their hatred, their anti-semitism is completely unacceptable. And I think we should speak unequivocally, condemning their hatred, condemning their racism.


O`DONNELL: Our next guest is a former Republican who quit the Republican Party when Donald Trump secured the Republican presidential nomination, Pulitzer Prize Winning Columnist, George F. Will joins us next.



GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: This is terrible. The President of the United States needs to condemn these kind of hate groups. Think about what you have seen. You know, as one of the reporters said, reminiscent of what we saw in Germany in the 1930s. The President has to totally condemn this.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now, George F. Will, Pulitzer Prize Winning journalist for the Washington Post and MSNBC Political Analyst.

George, we had Willie Geist, our own Willie Geist reporting via tweet tonight saying, sources close to John Kasich tell me after Charlottesville, there is growing sense of "Moral imperative to primary Trump in 2020." Is John Kasich likely to be the man to take on an incumbent president within his own party?

GEORGE F. WILL, THE WASHINGTON POST: Not the man. He`ll be among the men I assume. Ben Sasse in Iowa, Tom Cotton has been in Iowa. And our Tom Cotton is much sympathetic to Mr. Trump in either Kasich or Sasse. But the idea that he would be close reelection assuming he is still there and hasn`t quit in a huff over a rigged system. He was implausible.

O`DONNELL: I was struck by David Jolly on this program last night basically saying if I have to run against him myself, I will. Those are almost the exact words that Gene McCarthy said after a -- during actually, privately during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in 1967 when the undersecretary of state was testifying about Vietnam an outrage in Gene McCarthy and Bill Fulbright on that committee.

Gene McCarthy came away from that hearing saying privately to his Chief of Staff, if I have to run for president myself to stop this, I will. And he did. And the incumbent president he ran against, as of course you remember, dropped out of the race when he was challenged that way.

WILL: Well, you see the Republicans are in this awful position that they put themselves in when they made the Faustian bargain that they would have protracted, routine interactions with Mr. Trump, knowing that these would be diminishing and soiling to them, but they would get things done.

Well, let`s go to Washington`s premiere power couple. You mentioned a moment ago that Elaine Chao, the Secretary of Transportation, vastly experienced, hugely respected in Washington, stood there, mute, next to Mr. Trump during his rant.

She did so because she was there because they were supposed with long last to talk about the trillion dollar infrastructure program. Tax reform is not going anywhere. Replace and repeal hasn`t happened. But infrastructure is going to happen.

The problem is, at Winston Churchill once head of his Secretary Of State Dallas that he was a bull who carries his China shop around with him. That`s what Mr. Trump does. So there`s no such thing as being on message. There is no message but chaos. So on the one hand, Elaine Chao is there as a mere ornament, watching another opportunity slip away at the end of the seventh month of this barren presidency.

She, of course, is married to the Senate Majority Leader. This week, he has been deeply involved in the Alabama Senate primary to fill the seat vacated by Mr. Sessions who is now attorney general. He is supporting the appointed Senator Luther Strange, against a man who has been removed twice from the Supreme Court of Alabama for defying the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the Alabama race, I was down there looking at it in Birmingham. Trump is hugely popular and McConnell is detested by all three candidates and the three who entered this in the first round of the voting, saying we`re loyal to Trump and we can`t stand McConnell.

And if you look at the polls among the Republican Party, the Republican base is still loyal to Mr. Trump and by about four to one. They prefer Trump over Mr. McConnell. So he`s also in a position of having made this awful bargain on this substance that we get something done and it`s completely sterile presidency seven months in.

O`DONNELL: There is a report tonight, in U.S. Today saying that there was a delay in Mitch McConnell issuing his statement about those comments because he was "livid" and his being livid, if he was no doubt is related to his wife being effect forced to stand there beside the President as he`s making those remarks.

WILL: So that old saying in politics that you know when Lawrence when you`re explaining you`re losing, what`s worse is when you`re saying there really are no good neo-nazis, you`re really losing. When you had messing of the day just think of them.

I mean, Mr. McConnell was a Senate staffer because he became an institutional lifer in the Senate. And the agony he`s going through to be tethered to this man.

O`DONNELL: George F. Will, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

WILL: Glad to be with you.

O`DONNELL: Tonight`s last word is next.


O`DONNELL: It`s intern night here on THE LAST WORD the departure of Ben Trachtenberg, our last summer intern. Ben, how are we going to do this without you?


O`DONNELL: So you`re at northwestern. You guys start late, like in September.


O`DONNELL: Right. And that`s pretty late for college these days, so we got to keep you later.

TRACHTENBERG: That`s pretty great.

O`DONNELL: Yes, it is. What are you majoring in?

TRACHTENBERG: I`m majoring in journalism and political science.

O`DONNELL: And you have one more year.

TRACHTENBERG: I have two more years.

O`DONNELL: Two more years, OK. And then what?

TRACHTENBERG: I wish I knew.

O`DONNELL: OK, you don`t have to know. You know what I knew? When I was a senior in college, you know what I knew I was going to do?


O`DONNELL: Nothing. And I did nothing. I proved it for the next couple of years. Just, you know, I did continue to be a parking attendant in my local parking lot.

So if you are a local parking attendant, you`ll be doing just as well as I did.

TRACHTENBERG: I`ll take that as consideration, sir.

O`DONNELL: Yes, think about it. Ben, thank you very much for all of your help all summer, really appreciate it. Ben Trachtenberg gets tonight`s last word, finally.

Up next, a special presentation of the Watergate documentary "All the President`s Men Revisited".



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