Thanksgiving Edition Transcript 11/24/17 The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: Steve Schmidt, Ezra Klein, Lawrence Summers, Ashley Bennett

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: November 24, 2017 Guest: Steve Schmidt, Ezra Klein, Lawrence Summers, Ashley Bennett

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, I`m Lawrence O`Donnell, and this is our special Thanksgiving week edition of THE LAST WORD, featuring conversations with Rachel Maddow and Stephen Colbert, as well as the economist who I most want to hear from about the impact of the Trump tax cuts.

But first, as President Trump gets ready for his first semester final exam on tax cuts, how does the rest of his report card look?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In just 24 hours after Donald Trump`s presidential inauguration, people fill the streets of America`s cities and capitals around the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Far more people marching for women`s rights than attended his inauguration.

LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: The President, late today, is signing an order for what he calls extreme vetting.

KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Protests erupted at airports all across the country as more than a hundred people were detained.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: When somebody attacks Muslim Americans, they attack all of us.

JAMES COMEY, FORMER DIRECTOR, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: The FBI is investigating whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia`s efforts.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was going to fire Comey knowing there was no good time to do it.

HOLT: The Justice Department has just announced a special counsel to lead a new investigation.

STEVE SCHMIDT, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Bob Mueller will find out everything that happened here.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: This bill keeps our promise to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

CROWD: Save our healthcare. Save our lives.

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST AND EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE!": The Jimmy Kimmel test, I think, should be no family should be denied medical care, emergency or otherwise, because they can`t afford it.

TRUMP: With no Democrat support, we couldn`t quite get there.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER OF THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: We`ll take credit for that.

CROWD: No to Medicaid! Save our liberty!

KASIE HUNT, NBC NEWS CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT: John McCain stunned his President and his party overnight, stepping up and voting no.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER OF THE UNITED STATES SENATE: This is, you know, clearly a disappointing moment.

GOV. RALPH NORTHAM (D), VIRGINIA: We are back by popular demand!

DANICA ROEM (D), MEMBER, VIRGINIA HOUSE OF DELEGATES: This one`s for you.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: The margins of these victories, the turnout, the energy are astonishing.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER OF THE UNITED STATES SENATE: Our Republican friends better look out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: So how was your Thanksgiving dinner this year? A little better than last year?

Did your Trump-voting uncle have more to say last year than this year? How happy is he this year?

What did he want to talk about this year? The unpopular, endangered tax cut bill that raises taxes on working people and cuts them on the Trump kids` inheritance? The healthcare repeal that didn`t happen? The President`s poll numbers, the big, beautiful border wall that Donald Trump built and Mexico paid for -- or didn`t?

He probably didn`t want to talk about this year`s election results in Virginia and around the country and what they could mean for 2018. But Donald Trump claims there`s much to brag about in his first year in office.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We have done more they say than any president in history.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: No, they don`t say that. No president has mobilized so many Americans in opposition to him in his first year in office.

On the first full day of the Trump presidency, millions of women, men, and children across the country marched in the streets to protest Donald Trump`s election. The biggest inauguration protest in United States history. The biggest single day protest of any kind in the United States history.

Every day of the Trump presidency has continued to mobilize outraged citizens. A week after his inauguration, people spontaneously showed up at airports to protest the Trump travel ban.

In the spring, people packed the town halls of Republican members of Congress to protest repealing ObamaCare.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do your job!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Do your job! Do your job!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it`s time to repeal and replace you in 2020.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And all of that was before Jimmy Kimmel joined the fight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KIMMEL: A little over a week ago on Friday, April 21st, my wife, Molly, gave birth to a boy -- a baby boy. His name is William John Kimmel.

(APPLAUSE)

KIMMEL: And he appeared to be in a normal, healthy baby until about three hours after he was born. They did an echocardiogram, which is a sonogram of the heart, and found that Billy was born with a heart disease.

And I saw a lot of families there, and no parent should ever have to decide if they can afford to save their child`s life. It just shouldn`t happen. Not here. So --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That was the same week that Donald Trump invited the House Republicans over to the White House for beer and a premature celebration.

They underestimated the protesters and patients and healthcare advocates and moms and dads, like Jimmy Kimmel, who talked about healthcare on his late night show over the summer and into the fall.

Jimmy Kimmel shamed Republican senators who lied about the impact of their repeal, and he thanked the ones -- Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and John McCain -- who did the right thing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KIMMEL: To all the senators and representatives who stopped this bill, thank you for being reasonable and know that we`re paying attention now and you`ll be hearing from us again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Tonight, not only is ObamaCare still a law of the land, but more than 1.5 million people have signed up for health insurance on the exchanges so far this month.

Donald Trump`s job approval rating currently stands at 35 percent, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll.

If you think Donald Trump does not share your values and is not honest and is not fit to serve as President, you are not alone. You are the majority.

Sixty-two percent say Donald Trump does not share their values. Fifty- eight percent say Donald Trump is not honest. Fifty-seven percent say Donald Trump is not fit to serve as president.

But the only poll that matters is at the ballot box, unless, of course, it is a presidential election, in which case a woman can get 3 million more votes than Donald Trump and not win.

In Virginia, the Democrat easily defeated the Trump-endorsed candidate. And exit polls showed that 57 percent of people who came out to vote disapprove of Donald Trump.

In New Jersey, voters elected a Democrat to succeed Chris Christie, who was the first Republican governor to endorse the Trump presidential campaign.

In Maine, voters defied their Trump supporting governor and voted for a ballot initiative to expand Medicaid.

In the Virginia election, Danica Roem made history as the first transgender state representative in the United States.

And Ashley Bennett, who you will hear from later this hour, challenged her local Republican officeholder after he mocked the women`s march. She ran against him and won.

The latest poll finds that 52 percent want Democrats to control Congress next year. Democrats might have much more to be thankful about a year from now.

Joining us now, Ezra Klein, editor-at-large at "Vox," and the host of the podcast, "The Ezra Klein Show."

Also with us, Steve Schmidt, a Republican strategist and an MSNBC political analyst.

And, Steve, there`s so many items on the report card to cover, but first of all, when we sit here in November, having looked at election night this November, what does that tell us about the Trump and the Republican Party political report card?

SCHMIDT: Well, the magnitude of the failure a year on after the election is hard to overstate.

You have the most unpopular president in the history of polling this soon into his election. Just faced his first off-year election and was rebuked, all across the country, a Democratic tidal wave that well may be a harbinger of the tidal wave to come in 2018.

We see a president under investigation. An investigation moving closer all the time to the Oval Office.

We see a president of the United States who has diminished America`s standing in the world, who has degraded the office of the presidency, who has been rebuked by the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as unfit, stating that he`s worried about his capacity to fulfill his responsibilities as Commander-in-Chief and to be entrusted with the nation`s nuclear arsenal.

We have thousands and thousands and thousands of Americans suffering on the Virgin Islands and in Puerto Rico after a maleficent and incompetent response.

We`ve seen a collapse for all time of the moral authority of a president of the United States after he talked about the good people neo-Nazis marching in a hate march where an innocent young woman was killed.

And we see the lack of rectitude and probity in his cabinet, the corruption, the dishonesty, the lying.

It`s been a tough year for the country. But a year on, it seems that a coalition is forming, and it`s made up of all the Democrats, 65 to 70 percent of the independents, and about 25 percent of the Republicans that are saying enough of all of this.

And as we head into the Christmas season, the Republican Party is stained and diminished. Its moral collapse, its intellectual rot completely exposed through this tax cut, and its wavering around support for the pedophile nominee in the Alabama Senate race.

O`DONNELL: Let`s take a look at a couple of the best-known Trump campaign promises, the absolutely clearest ones, the ones he could say quickest and easiest. First of all, on ObamaCare. Let`s listen to that promise.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We will repeal the disaster known as ObamaCare and create new healthcare. All sorts of reforms that work for you and your family.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And then, of course, the primal scream of the campaign, build the wall. Let`s listen to the Trump promise on that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will have Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Ezra Klein, the report card doesn`t look good on those two tests.

EZRA KLEIN, EDITOR-AT-LARGE AND FOUNDER, VOX: No, it doesn`t look good on virtually any of his policy promises. This is, I think, something we really have learned about Trump. It`s something that people didn`t quite realize about him coming in.

Everybody knew Trump wasn`t a policy details guy. They knew he wasn`t -- he wasn`t exactly a wonk, but there was a view that what Trump had were strong policy intuitions.

He had a core philosophy. He cared about the wall. When he said that he was not going to touch Medicare or Medicaid or Social Security, he meant it. He maybe didn`t know how he would not to touch them but he meant it.

When he said that he was going to repeal and replace ObamaCare, redo with something that gave more people insurance, gave them lower deductibles, make sure everyone was covered, that he meant it.

And so what Trump would be was a manager. He would have people who would carry out his views about policy. They would figure out the details. They would write the legislation. They would write the proposals.

And then he came in and it turned out, he just didn`t care. He doesn`t really care about the wall. He didn`t care about any of his promises on ObamaCare. He wants anything that someone will tell him is a win.

If that win contradicts everything he promised his voters, if that win has nothing to do with the Republican populism he was believed to be bringing into office, it doesn`t matter.

And in part because he doesn`t care about anything but a win and he doesn`t understand any of the policy details and he doesn`t keep to any of the actual things that he promised, he doesn`t make good arguments for them.

He has not gotten any of them passed. When he goes down to the Hill to try to tell Republicans to vote for what he wants, it`s a disaster every single time because he`s not able to answer any of their questions.

The fact that at the absolute core of the American presidency is someone who doesn`t know, care, or understand any of the policy he is trying to make has been a huge problem. But for Democrats who want to see Donald Trump get nothing done, it has been an incredible boon.

O`DONNELL: And, Steve Schmidt, during the campaign, Donald Trump praised James Comey and the FBI when they were investigating Hillary Clinton`s State Department e-mail. And now, fires -- this year, fires James Comey in what appeared to be an attempt to shut down an FBI investigation.

SCHMIDT: Well, the extraordinary aspect about that is if you were advising Donald Trump, you would go into the office every morning and say, Mr. President, the one thing we can never let happen is for there to be the appointment of a Special Counsel. And like so many of Trump`s afflictions, they`re self-inflicted, and the James Comey debacle, chief among them.

And so what we have now, a year later, over and over and over again, 100 percent of the time, 100 percent of the people around Donald Trump, around the campaign, they have lied about their connections to Russians during the course of the campaign.

And we all expect that there will be more indictments, that the noose will tighten, and this will be a major drama in 2018. We`ve never seen a level of investigation and corruption amongst the cabinet officials in the modern era like we`re seeing around this president.

O`DONNELL: Steve Schmidt and Ezra Klein, thank you both very much for joining us on this special edition of THE LAST WORD. Really appreciate it.

KLEIN: Thank you.

SCHMIDT: A pleasure.

O`DONNELL: Coming up. Passing tax cuts is usually the easiest thing a Republican Congress can do but the Republicans are struggling to get it done in the Senate.

We will be joined by the last Secretary of the Treasury who left office with a budget surplus.

And later, my conversations with Rachel Maddow and Stephen Colbert.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Now that we`ve all enjoyed the Thanksgiving holiday, the Christmas shopping season is officially under way, and number one on President Trump`s gift list is a giant corporate tax cut.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We`re going to give the American people a huge tax cut for Christmas. Hopefully, that will be a great, big, beautiful Christmas present.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The Republicans don`t yet have enough votes in the Senate to pass the Trump tax cuts. All the undecided Republican senators are worried how much the tax cuts will increase the deficit and the debt.

That could be the issue that kills the Trump tax bill, and so the Trump administration is trying to create new math. They are insisting that the official estimate that the tax cuts will increase the national debt by $1.5 trillion is wrong because wages will increase so dramatically that the new tax revenue on those increased wages will save us from an increase in the debt.

And for most economists, this is a little bit like hearing your pilot announce at takeoff from New York that you`ll be in Paris in an hour.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: My Council of Economic Advisers estimates that this is change, along with a lower tax rate, would likely give the typical American household a $4,000 pay raise.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: It could be a lot more than that, too. You haven`t heard this. So about a $4,000 amount of money additional for the American family to spend. That`s very exciting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Harvard professor of economics Lawrence Summers.

And, Professor Summers, if you don`t mind, I`m going to spend a bit longer than usual on your introduction because you served as the head of the White House Economic Council in the Obama administration.

And you served as the Treasury Secretary in the Clinton administration during the longest period of sustained economic growth in the United States history. And most importantly, you were the last Treasury Secretary to leave office with a federal budget surplus.

And somewhere in the middle of all of that, you managed to serve as President of Harvard University. And so I don`t know exactly which of these titles I should be using, Mr. President, Mr. Secretary, Professor, but there`s no one whose analysis of this bill I value more than yours.

And so let`s just begin with this pay raise, this $4,000 pay raise to possibly $9,000 pay raise, that the President is promising because of a corporate tax cut. And that`s what his economic advisers seem to be telling him to say.

LAWRENCE SUMMERS, PRESIDENT EMERITUS AND CHARLES W. ELIOT PROFESSOR, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: It`s a nonsense number. It`s true that if you cut corporate taxes, you don`t think at all about the deficits, that there probably will be some increased investment and they`ll be some increase in wages. But to suggest that it`s $4,000 to $9,000 as they have is to be absurd.

To do the calculation, taking no account of the adverse consequences of the budget deficit, is professional malpractice.

To do the calculation, not recognizing the many complex features of the bill, the aspects involving the incentives that are already present for new investment, is to do it at a level that would not pass in an undergraduate course. This is not serious stuff.

You know, the University of Chicago -- the University of Chicago business school, which is traditionally thought of as a readout of conservatism, surveys a group of several dozen major professional economists in both political parties on public policy issues of the day.

They did their survey and only two percent agreed with the proposition that it would substantially raise the GDP after a decade, and no one professed to be confident that the tax cut would pay for itself. So their analysis isn`t just inconsistent with what former Democratic officials say, it`s out of the range of reasonable professional opinion.

You know, if you had to make a forecast as to what the weather was going to be next Thanksgiving, nobody knows. It could turn out that the weather in Washington is 70 degrees, but it would be a crazy forecast to make. You want to make a forecast that was based on the recent experience.

In the same way, there is nothing in the experience of the Reagan tax cut, the experience of the Bush tax cut, in the experience of the tax cuts increases that took place in 1993, to support the kind of claims that are being made here. Nothing.

O`DONNELL: And the part of the reason, it seems to me, politically, why they`re arguing that there will be this big wage increase is because the people they are talking to about the wage increase are not really getting any significant tax cuts. So they have to tell them their tax -- their benefit is going to come through an increase in their paycheck.

SUMMERS: It`s two points, Lawrence. One, many of them aren`t even going to get a tax cut next year. But, two, the bill is designed to phase out the tax cuts for the middle class while it`s fazing in the tax cuts for the very wealthy.

So if you look at middle class people, nearly half of them are getting tax increases by the time you get to the end of the 10-year window. This is a -- I don`t know if conspiracy is the right word.

This is responsive to the interests of the people who have supported many who are in the Congress and who have supported the President. This is not tax legislation that is in the interest of the vast majority of Americans.

They`re going to be saddled with debt. They`re going to be at risk of losing vital health insurance. They`re, in many cases, going to see tax increases. And for what?

So we can try to win a race to the bottom to bring corporations home from the Cayman Islands rather than having stricter, more appropriate rules that assure that you can`t move your income to the Cayman Islands? In order to give a tax break to the two-tenths of one percent of Americans who now pay the estate tax?

That`s right. Nine hundred and 98 out of a thousand Americans do not pay the estate tax. Are the two who pay it the group in our society that`s most in need of a tax cut right now? I don`t think so.

In order that they can have a comprehensive tax reform and leave largely unaltered the famous carried interest loophole that politicians of both parties have been railing against for a decade?

This is really an almost completely misguided bill. It is a prostitution of the concept of tax reform.

We did tax reform very effectively in 1986. There were three principles. The first principle was revenue neutrality. We weren`t going to bloat the budget deficit.

The second principle was preserve distribution. We`re not using it as an opportunity to soak the rich, but we`re certainly not using it as an opportunity to tilt the playing field towards those who are most fortunate.

And the third principle was close shelters. Don`t open them.

This bill raises the deficit, tilts towards the rich, and creates a massive new set of tax shelters with its provisions on so-called pass throughs.

O`DONNELL: Professor Lawrence Summers, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I could listen to you go on and on about this, and I hope we can get you back. Thank you very much.

SUMMERS: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Up next, it was a big sweep for Democrats on election night earlier this month on November 7th. And some of the dramas that night could have been written by Hollywood screenwriters. One of the winners will join us to tell her dramatic story in her own words.

And later, my conversation with Rachel Maddow.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: -- country to have our first-ever elected state legislator who is openly transgender. That is an achievement for American civil rights that will stand no matter -- despite the rest of the circumstances of that election.

But for Danica Roem to have beaten Bob Marshall --

O`DONNELL: Yes.

MADDOW: -- the guy who authored the Virginia bathroom trans ban, the guy who called himself Virginia`s homophobia-in-chief, the guy who has ridden prejudice against the LGBT community to a 25-year career in the Virginia House of Delegates.

For Danica Roem to beat him, it shows you that sometimes history is written with the caps lock key on, right? It tells you that sometimes history is not subtle about these achievements.

And she`s going to go down in history tonight for this victory, but she`s going to be a big, big, big change for Virginia, just because she`s the one who showed to Bob Marshall the door. And not by a small margin either.

O`DONNELL: Yes.

MADDOW: It looks like she beat him by double digits.

O`DONNELL: Yes. No, it feels like tonight`s history is being written by movie writers.

MADDOW: Yes.

O`DONNELL: It is so dramatic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That, of course, was Rachel Maddow on election night earlier this month, reacting to the stunning wins that we were learning about as the votes were being counted in Virginia and across the country.

Danica Roem was just one of the dramatic wins democracy brought us on November 7th. The following night, we brought you some of the other extraordinary candidates who had winning stories to tell that seemed as though they were written by Hollywood screenwriters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Virginia voters chose Chris Hurst, a former local T.V. news anchor who quit his job and became a gun safety advocate after his girlfriend, Alison Parker, was shot and killed on live television as she was doing a report.

Last night, he won a seat in the House of Delegates over an opponent who had an "A" rating from the National Rifle Association. Here is what he said today.

CHRIS HURST, MEMBER, VIRGINIA HOUSE OF DELEGATES: I wish that I was still with Alison, was still a journalist working at the television station that we worked at together. But that wasn`t the plan that God had intended for me and for her, and so I sought about trying to forge a new path and create a new plan.

O`DONNELL: In Helena, Montana, voters elected a refugee from Liberia, Democrat Wilmot Collins, as their first African-American mayor.

In New Jersey, voters replaced Republican freeholder John Carman, who got national attention in January when he posted this on Facebook -- will the woman`s protest be over in time for them to cook dinner?

John Carman then said this when asked to apologize.

JOHN CARMAN, FORMER MEMBER, ATLANTIC COUNTY BOARD OF CHOSEN FREEHOLDERS: Women who are sure of themselves, they didn`t get offended by this. If it hurts your feelings, it wasn`t intended. It wasn`t posted with any malice. It was posted as humor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Excuse me, everyone. OK. We`re leaving.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Ashley Bennett was one of the women who walked out of that meeting in protest. She decided that she was going to run against John Carman for Atlantic County Freeholder. And last night, she beat him.

Ashley Bennett drove Republican John Carman out of office because he insulted her and the millions of Americans who joined the women`s march all over the country.

And joining us now for an exclusive interview is Ashley Bennett.

Ashley, tell us about that moment when you decided to do this.

ASHLEY BENNETT, MEMBER, ATLANTIC COUNTY BOARD OF FREEHOLDERS: Hi, Lawrence. Thank you so much for having me.

Well, that moment was just a moment of pure shock. I just couldn`t believe that in 2017, we were actually seeing this.

And I went to the Freeholder meeting after writing him a letter. I didn`t get a response, and I waited to see what kind of a response he was going to give. And as you just showed in the clip, that was the response.

And I took off of work. I used vacation time to go to that meeting, and I felt like it was a waste and so I walked out. And for all the people who felt like their voice wasn`t heard, I said I`ll run and I`ll be your voice.

O`DONNELL: Did you say it that day, Ashley? Did you say it walking out of that meeting, I will run?

BENNETT: I went home and I said to my family how upset I was, and they said, why don`t you run? And I said, why -- well, I will run.

O`DONNELL: And how did you find the time to do that? To mount a campaign, not an easy thing to do. You`re -- you were holding down your own job, and you have other responsibilities. How did you change your life to do that?

BENNETT: Sure. It was not an easy balance by any stretch, but I had a lot of support. I had support from friends and family members and my co- workers and my supervisors.

Everyone was excited. And they really just pitched in to try to help me where they could, whether it was switching shifts, whether it was I`ll stay late so you can come in late, or I`ll stay later for you so that you can leave early to be somewhere.

It was just -- it`s not just me. It was a movement of people. And I`m just really thankful.

O`DONNELL: And have you spoken to John Carman since the election last night?

BENNETT: I have not. And I understand. That`s fine. I did see a post on Facebook. And at this point, the voters have spoken. And I haven`t spoken to him but I understand.

So I`m just happy to have the support of all the voters who came out in this election, and it means so much to me. I`m so humbled and so grateful to be able to run in the community where I`ve been born and raised and went to high school. It means everything to me.

O`DONNELL: Ashley Bennett, you are what American democracy is supposed to be all about. Thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

BENNETT: Thank you so much and thank you to everyone who came out.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, more of Rachel and me. That`s next.

And later, Stephen Colbert and I discuss how the "West Wing" T.V. series compares to the Trump West Wing.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Wow. This month of November has been a crazy month in the news, and it`s been a very busy month for me personally.

I`ve been meeting LAST WORD viewers from Boston to Miami, from Seattle to Los Angeles, as I talk about my new book, "Playing with Fire: The 1968 Election and the Transformation of American Politics."

My very first televised interview about my book was with my friend, Rachel Maddow. Here now is how Rachel introduced "Playing with Fire" on her show and our conversation about it at the very beginning of my book tour.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MADDOW: On the last day of March in 1968, President Lyndon Johnson gave a speech about Vietnam.

War was creeping into its 13th year. It was wildly unpopular. And while he was in the middle of waging that war, LBJ was also running for re- election as president.

His campaign was not going well. And on March 31, 1968, he gave that address to the nation about Vietnam. And he tacked something unexpected onto the very end of that speech.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LYNDON B. JOHNSON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I shall not seek and I will not accept the nomination of my party for another term as your president. Thank you for listening. Good night and God bless all of you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: That revelation in the middle of the Democratic primary and that speech about the war had "The New York Times" the next day breaking out not one but two giant semicolons.

Look -- Johnson says he won`t run; halts North Vietnam raids; bids Hanoi join peace moves. I think they ran out of steam by the end of that headline.

But right, which thing to look at first, though? The American disaster in Vietnam? The shock of a president not seeking a second term? A potential path to peace?

In any other election year, a sitting president dropping out of the race would have been the only thing in that line. No semicolons, right?

I mean, whole books would have been written about that one sentence at the end of that speech. Instead that becomes this interesting footnote, a thing that happened one day in what was an absolutely wild election in 1968.

Four days after LBJ dropped out, Martin Luther King was assassinated. Riots happened all over the country, from Kansas City to Chicago, to Baltimore, to D.C.

Two months after that, the guy who was supposed to win the Democratic primary, Bobby Kennedy, was assassinated in California.

When the Democratic convention rolled around that summer, the guy who ended up clinching the nomination had never been on the ballot during any of the state primaries.

And while Hubert Humphrey was twisting arms at the convention to lock up the nomination, Chicago police and the National Troop -- Guard were outside, using teargas and batons against the protesters in the streets.

1968 was madness, particularly on the Democratic side. And 1968 was also the year that we got this guy on the Republican side.

And thanks in part to the chaos and the implosion of the Democrats, Richard Nixon won the presidency that year. Not easily, but he won. And we all know what happened next.

We are a year out from the last presidential election as of tomorrow. An election that is still testing the stitching in our democracy right now.

At times like this, I find it helpful, I find it illuminating, even, to remember that even if we`ve never quite been through this before, we have been through a lot. We have been through way more than you might think.

And I have a really good way for you to marinate yourself in that because joining us right now is my colleague and the host of THE LAST WORD, Lawrence O`Donnell, who is very well-versed in that rich history because he just wrote the book on it.

It`s called "Playing with Fire: The 1968 Election and the Transformation of American Politics." And I have read it and it`s riveting.

Congratulations.

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel, and thank you for giving us some nice words on the back of it.

You know, I was a high school eyewitness to these things. I shall not seek and will not accept. We had the words memorized instantly, everyone in the country, when LBJ said that.

No one knew he was going to say it. Almost no one in the White House knew. The one person who definitely did know was Lady Bird and he had a hand signal with her.

He said -- he told her he wasn`t decided because whether he was -- because it was right at the end of the speech. After he gave the speech about Vietnam policy and how he was going to try to change things and to try to - - and try to depoliticize, as he put it, Vietnam policy, he`s not going to run.

And he had a hand signal that he gave to Lady Bird warning her, I`m going to do it. I`m going to drop out. And the fascinating thing that I discovered, only in working on the book is, yes, he dropped out. It was over. LBJ had been dumped in effect by the Dump Johnson movement.

But as the convention was approaching, it wasn`t over in his head. He was still thinking after the Bobby Kennedy assassination, maybe I can go into Chicago. He was actually making plans to travel to Chicago.

MADDOW: Wow.

O`DONNELL: The riots broke out. It was very clear to him there was no way to pull this out. But he actually started to think, maybe I`m the solution, and I`m the surprise nominee in Chicago.

MADDOW: The thing that I found reading your book is that it`s the only thing that I have read, in the past year, that made me feel the same way that I felt about the overwhelming nature of the news in the past year and a half.

O`DONNELL: Yes.

MADDOW: The past year and a half in our politics, it`s not like we`re not all aware that something big has happened, that a series of large things have happened.

But so many things have happened that were previously unimaginable in quick succession that we keep feeling like we`ve got to sort of the end, that we`ve got to the big point. We have got to the most scandalous thing. And then it`s just --

O`DONNELL: Yes.

MADDOW: -- immediately subsumed by something else that`s bigger and also unimaginable.

Your book about `68, particularly on the Democratic side, is the only other thing that has made me feel like, oh, right, we`ve done this before as a country. We`ve been this overwhelmed.

O`DONNELL: And we`ve been in a worse place because as difficult as this is for people who didn`t want to see a Trump presidency -- and we now have a very significant majority of the country disapproving of the Trump presidency --

MADDOW: Most ever.

O`DONNELL: -- and this movement that we call the resistance. We had a resistance this big before, and it was in 1968 and it was against both the Johnson presidency. And then following, it was against the Nixon presidency. And it was an anti-war resistance.

And the -- what was at stake was nothing other than life and death. Everyone over 18, every male, had to have his draft card in his pocket. It was a crime to even be without it, and -- a federal crime to not have it on your person.

Kids suddenly started burning these things. Publicly. In 1964, they had to pass a federal law to make destroying it a crime because they hadn`t made it a crime yet. People were getting sentenced two years, six years, for burning the draft cards.

I told you Nadya from Pussy Riot was on my show Friday night. She told us, Friday night, on the show, that 1968 in America was one of her great inspirations.

She -- and she didn`t even know I had written a book about it. But she said the things we saw here in 1968 gave them the energy and a lot of the spirit that they bring to it now.

And a lot of it was very kind of -- had elements of anarchy, you know, with the yippies and Jerry Rubin and a lot of the fun and -- that Pussy Riot throws in its very serious demonstrations and protests now.

And so, so much of what we`re going through today, we`ve been through before. And just as a reminder, 1968, 16,000 American soldiers killed in 1968 alone.

MADDOW: Alone.

O`DONNELL: Over 500 in one month of 1968. There`s something like 2,600 total right now in Afghanistan in the 16 years of that. And without a draft, very, very, very small percentage of the country actually feels that risk of life in Afghanistan and Iraq.

And so, the tensions that this country was feeling every single day in 1968 were way more powerful than what we are feeling now.

MADDOW: Lawrence O`Donnell has just written a new book. It comes out tomorrow. It`s called "Playing with Fire: The 1968 Election and the Transformation of American Politics."

Lawrence, again, congratulations. Really, it`s really good. I`m very proud of you. I`m always happy that you are my colleague, but I really enjoyed it.

And I will just say this to our viewers. I will just say this. You have heard way too many Watergate discussions in the past year because we`ve got a very scandal-ridden administration.

You`ve heard way too much discussion of Watergate. You can learn about Watergate by learning about what Richard Nixon did.

But if you really want to learn about Watergate, learn about what the country was like and what was going on in the country at the time Watergate happened, which allowed Watergate to end the way it did. And the way to start understanding that is to understand `68.

Go ahead.

O`DONNELL: Oh, and there`s a little bit of collusion --

MADDOW: Yes.

O`DONNELL: -- in the victory in the end that is worth -- it`s actually Richard Nixon used collusion with a foreign government, the South Vietnamese, in order to win in the end.

MADDOW: See? And that makes it homework.

O`DONNELL: Yes.

MADDOW: Well done, Lawrence.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: Up next, my chat with Stephen Colbert.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: One word to describe the Trump presidency, so far, is chaotic. Chaos inside the White House and chaos inside most newsrooms as they react to the twists and turns of the Trump administration.

When I stopped by "The Late Show" to talk about my new book, Stephen Colbert also wanted to know how keeping up with the headlines on THE LAST WORD every night compares to writing fictional drama on the "West Wing."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT": Even if it`s day, it was like liberal government fantasy porn. But they were extraordinary, like some of the crazy story lines in that. Was there anything that you guys wrote that was anything as crazy as the story lines we`re getting now?

O`DONNELL: Oh, no. This would -- you know, every single that`s happened, probably within the last two years of our politics, I would have been sitting in the "West Wing" writer`s room saying, no, no, that can`t happen. I would have shut down every one of them.

You know, game show -- you know, reality show guy runs for president. I`d be like, oh, no, no, it can`t happen. You know --

COLBERT: Runs? Wins!

O`DONNELL: Right. And so now --

(LAUGHTER)

O`DONNELL: Yes. So guess what that does?

COLBERT: What?

O`DONNELL: That destroys drama. Fictional television drama about a White House is now destroyed because there`s absolutely no gravity to it.

COLBERT: It`s pretty good --

O`DONNELL: You know, there`s not -

COLBERT: It`s pretty good --

O`DONNELL: There`s no --

COLBERT: Lawrence, it`s pretty good for comedy though.

O`DONNELL: It`s very good.

(APPLAUSE)

COLBERT: Sorry.

O`DONNELL: Not fair.

COLBERT: And you have a badge of honor, if that`s what it is, in that you were one of first T.V. political pundits, if you don`t mind that term, to be attacked --

O`DONNELL: I`ll take it.

COLBERT: -- to be attacked by the President before he was the President. This is in 2015.

I hear that dopey political pundit Lawrence O`Donnell, one of the dumber people on television, is about to lose his show. No ratings? Too bad.

And then this is even better -- I heard, because his show is unwatchable, that Lawrence has made many false statements last night about me. Maybe I should sue him?

O`DONNELL: That`s my space in Twitter history. I`m the first person, I think the only T.V. person, that he threatened to sue on Twitter. On Twitter.

COLBERT: Really? Did he --

O`DONNELL: Yes, he actually did sue.

(APPLAUSE)

COLBERT: Did he sue you?

O`DONNELL: He sadly -- he didn`t sue me. He saved up all that lawyer`s fees to sue Bill Maher. Remember, he sued Bill Maher very --

COLBERT: Did he actually sue Bill Maher?

O`DONNELL: Very briefly sued Bill Maher. And then, of course, the suit was thrown out by a judge who said this is silly. But I --

(LAUGHTER)

O`DONNELL: -- I didn`t get sued. I wanted to get sued. I begged him to sue me actually after he did that.

COLBERT: I`m in -- I`m next. Now --

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: I can`t even -- he won`t even tweet about me.

O`DONNELL: Yes. No, well --

COLBERT: He won`t even tweet about me.

O`DONNELL: That`s fascinating. It`s fascinating that he won`t tweet about you. What do you have to do to get him to tweet about you? You haven`t gone far enough. You just have --

COLBERT: Say something nice about him.

(LAUGHTER)

O`DONNELL: That would do it.

COLBERT: Not going happen.

O`DONNELL: That would do it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: Up next, what happened backstage after the Stephen Colbert show?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: What do John Oliver and Jon Stewart and me all have in common? We are all inductees into a very special hall of fame, thanks to Stephen Colbert.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: This really is an incredible honor to be inducted into the Trump Attacked Me on Twitter Hall of Fame. It`s my first hall of fame, and I think it`s the one that matters to me the most.

This tweet that got me in the hall of fame is 2011. And it`s really shortly after Donald Trump first started talking about President Obama`s birth certificate, every word of which, of course, was a lie.

And so that is what I said on T.V., on my show, which provoked -- I heard, because his show is unwatchable, that Lawrence has made many false statements last night about me. Maybe I should sue him?

I wasn`t expecting this. This is just a surprise and a joy and an honor. And I`ve never won anything since the last "West Wing" Emmy. And I`ve been nominated for some stuff, but it`s the only thing I have really can treasure since that last Emmy, which is now going to be blocked by this in the display case, which is fine, because it`s a little -- yes, it`s like it`s turning colors.

This is a beautiful thing and a great honor. Thank you very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: You can follow my tweets, @Lawrence. You can follow the show @thelastword. And that is tonight`s LAST WORD.

END

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