Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: November 28, 2017 Guest: David Leonhardt, Catherine Rampell, Norm Ornstein, Gene Sperling, Wendy Sherman, David Rothkopf
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel. And an extraordinary interview with the mayor. Really glad to see that follow-up.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, TRMS: Thank you, my dear. Thanks.
O`DONNELL: Good evening from Philadelphia, by the way.
Did I lose Rachel? I guess I lost her. And I just wanted to tell Rachel she has a lot of friends here in Philadelphia where I`ve been spending the day.
Today, Donald Trump gave Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi more power than any Republican president has ever given to a minority Democratic Party in Congress. Needless to say, President Trump had no idea that he was actually doing that. And he has no idea that that`s what he was admitting to later when he scheduled a photo op without Chuck and Nancy.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi did not show up for our meeting today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was his itchy Twitter finger that appears to have led to a Democratic walkout.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: The president said I don`t see a deal, three hours before our meeting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Basically daring them to go along with being props.
TRUMP: So they`re not showing up for the meeting.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sort of staged like an eighth grade play with empty chairs and the leader saying what Donald Trump tells them to say before the press pool.
TRUMP: Right now, things have changed.
Two hours ago, a missile was launched. I think that will have a huge effect on Schumer and Pelosi.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t quite understand why a discussion about budgeting and taxes would lead to a quick retreat from Chuck and Nancy after a rocket goes off.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A potential government shutdown just 11 days away.
TRUMP: If that happens, I would absolutely blame the Democrats.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What the president did this morning frankly was childish.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was not helpful, and not a good way to start a negotiation.
TRUMP: If you can`t make a good deal with a politician, then there is something wrong with you. You`re certainly not very good.
O`DONNELL: The president of the United States held a photo-op today with the speaker of the House and the majority leader of the United States Senate to declare that they, the three of them are incapable of governing.
Mitch McConnell is the leader of 52 Republican senators, the majority leader of the United States Senate. Paul Ryan is the leader of 240 Republican members of the House of Representatives, the majority of the House of Representatives.
And they held a meeting today to publicly declare that among the three of them, the president, the Senate majority leader, the speaker of the House, they are incapable of convincing all of the members of their party in the Senate and the House to vote for anything. And for that, they did not have one word of blame for the Republican senators who refuse to vote for their proposals, and they did not have one word of blame for the dozens of Republican members of the House of Representatives who ignore Donald Trump and Paul Ryan when they cast their votes in the House.
They sat in a room with two empty chairs saying we cannot possibly govern without the guidance of Nancy Pelosi, who they wished was sitting in one of those empty chairs, and they were saying they could not govern without the guidance of Chuck Schumer, who they wished was sitting in the other empty chair.
And it makes sense. Nancy Pelosi has more years of experience in the leadership of Congress than Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell combined. She knows more about what they are trying to do than they do.
No one looks more lost in a room in the halls of government than Donald Trump. But Paul Ryan came in a very close second today, when it was his turn to talk, because he is in a difficult reelection campaign back home in Wisconsin where he is facing at least one, and possibly more than one serious Democratic challenger. Paul Ryan did not want to admit that he is the most powerless figurehead in the history of the speakership, and that his members pay much more attention to Sean Hannity than they do to him.
Instead of saying he is the single worst speaker in history for rounding up votes within his own party in order to govern, Paul Ryan said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I`ll just briefly say I think it`s regrettable that our Democratic colleagues and the leadership chose not the join us today. For a bill to become a law, Congress has to pass a bill. And the president signs the bill.
That means Congress and the White House always negotiate legislation. We have important work to do. We have big deadlines to meet. We have a military in need of our support. And that work needs to happen now.
And I just think it`s very regrettable that our Democratic colleagues in leadership chose to not participate because we have to negotiate these bills to get this work done for the people we represent and especially to help our military with these difficult situations we have. And I just hope that our friends in leadership on the other side of the aisle will choose to participate so we can get the people`s work done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Boy, was he angry that Nancy Pelosi wasn`t there to help him with his homework.
Paul Ryan said something much more petulant than what Mitch McConnell had to say. Mitch McConnell doesn`t have that kind of youthful anger that Paul Ryan was demonstrating today. Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell know exactly why Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer were not there today. And they would have done exactly the same thing if it could have happened to them, which, of course, it never could because no Democratic president in history would ever insult the leadership of the other party publicly when he was expecting to see them at a meeting in the White House in a few hours.
And so, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan knew the instant they saw the latest lie-filled Trump tweet this morning what was probably going to happen.
Meeting with Chuck and Nancy today about keeping government open and working. Problem is they want illegal immigrants flooding into our country unchecked, are weak on crime and want to substantially raise taxes. I don`t see a deal, exclamation point.
And so for once, the idiot presidency that has been firing off live filled insulting tweets at members of Congress, in both parties all year, paid a very serious price today for the idiocy and for the lying. And we can only hope for the sake of the country, for the sake of sanity in government, that as a condition for reentering the White House or any room to participate in any form of conversation with Donald Trump, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer will make it an absolute requirement that the president apologize for lying about them and their Democratic colleagues by saying that they want illegal immigrants flooding into our country unchecked and for saying that they are weak on crime and for saying they want to substantially raise taxes.
Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer now have the most powerful leverage anyone has ever had over Donald Trump to force him to retract lies, important lies. The president of the United States is lying to the American people about what is at stake in his discussions with the Democrats. The president of the United States is lying that the Democrats want to substantially raise taxes.
And so, if the Democrats reach any kind of legislative deal about anything that does not raise taxes, then Donald Trump will play them as suckers and claim that he won in that deal, whatever that deal might be, because it does not raise taxes.
Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi did not get played today by Donald Trump. If they and their advisers understand the importance of the moment that Trump has now given them, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer make Donald Trump pay for his lies in a way that is not some petty settling of a personal score, but an important lesson about the real governing questions involved in funding the government. America has reason to fear tonight that the Trump insult machine has become so normalized in Washington that Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer will not demand a retraction from Donald Trump as a condition for dealing with him.
And if they don`t, the truth will suffer once again and the future of governance in this country will take yet another turn for the worse. It is against most professional politicians` nature to be confrontational in these situations. They are compromisers by nature, especially in the congressional leadership, and especially when the rationale for compromise is for the good of the country, as it always is when trying to avoid a government shutdown, which is now 11 days away, if Congress doesn`t pass some kind of spending bill.
But sometimes, what is more important to the good of the country is not what happens if the government doesn`t function properly tomorrow, but what happens to the fundamental integrity of the governing process and that has been irredeemably corrupted by the lies of Donald Trump. The daily incessant lies of the president of the United States about large and small things, and this time, fighting against those lies is more important than fighting to keep the government open and running because Republicans don`t know how to do that themselves.
Joining us now, David Leonhardt, op-ed columnist for "The New York Times". Also with us, Catherine Rampell, opinion columnist for "The Washington Post", and Norm Ornstein, congressional scholar with the American Enterprise Institute. He is the co-author of the new book, "One Nation After Trump."
And, Norm, whenever I introduce you, I fear you might be the last congressional scholar because who would find scholarship in the pursuits of Congress these days. But what we saw today with that tweet, when I saw it, I was hoping for at least this first round outcome that we got, which was Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi saying, OK, this person is impossible. We can`t deal with him and we are not going to go up there.
I hope they set a condition of retraction of those statements in order to deal with him in the future. But that`s going to be up to them, and the 11-day window will close quickly on funding this government.
What do you see happening, Norm?
NORM ORNSTEIN, CONGRESSIONAL EXPERT: You know, Lawrence, last time I was on, we talked about Trump and how he hadn`t even read "The Art of the Deal", much less written it. And this just proves it again.
I think Pelosi and Reid have the upper hand here. Republicans control the House, the Senate and the White House. Keeping the government open is their responsibility.
Democrats have no requirement to vote for anything unless they`re satisfied with the outcome. And the outcome has to start with continuation of DACA that allows these children who came to the United States at a young age to be able to stay that Trump has basically blown up. And it should include other conditions.
To me, that means some spending in vital areas like food stamps to keep them from being cut and to make sure that this isn`t a lopsided spending deal. Otherwise, it`s up to the Republicans, and it`s up to Paul Ryan especially to find the votes on his own side. And if he can`t do that, he is going to have to come to Nancy Pelosi to cut a deal, and they have no reason to cut a deal in advance.
O`DONNELL: And, Catherine, we know Paul Ryan doesn`t have the votes on his side for anything. There will never be anything that the Republicans can put in front of that House that gets all of the Republican votes.
But let`s listen to who Donald Trump is ready to blame if the Republicans cannot round up Republican votes for a Republican funding bill. Let`s listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Do you believe there will be a government shutdown, Mr. President, and would you blame the Democrats if that happens?
TRUMP: If that happens, I would absolutely blame the Democrats. If it happens, it`s going to be over illegals pouring into the country, crime pouring into the country, no border wall, which everybody wants. I got elected partially because of a border wall.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: So, Catherine, he`s got his blame speech ready to go.
CATHERINE RAMPELL, OPINION COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. He`s got a whole bunch of non sequiturs and scapegoats ready, of course.
Look, Republicans control every branch of government right now. There is no plausible way that they can deny responsibility if there is a shutdown. And we heard Paul Ryan say earlier that there are important things on the agenda, and that that`s why the Democrats should show up for this meeting at which they will be summarily humiliated.
I 100 percent agree with Paul Ryan that there are important things on the agenda. Norm mentioned DACA, the Dreamers. I would add CHIP, the Children`s Health Insurance Program, to that list. I would add funding for natural disaster hit areas as well. There are a lot of priorities that Republicans in both the Senate and the House should be focusing on.
And instead, for some bizarre reason, they are obsessed with getting tax cuts through for which there is no possible reason why it requires that much urgency. And yet that`s what they`re focused on. They`re focused on these unimportant priorities when there are actual major problems facing the country in addition to this coming potential government shutdown.
O`DONNELL: And, David, as Catherine mentions, they`ve got something of a traffic jam going legislatively here, trying to move a giant tax cut bill at the same time. They`ve got try to figure out some way to keep the government funded. There are Republicans who are for the tax bill who would not be for a funding bill. Maybe the president should talk to some of those Republicans.
DAVID LEONHARDT, OP-ED COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES : Well, I mean, the way this is going to play out is going to be really interesting. It`s going to make the Republicans` job hard on keeping the government open, because at this point, the Republicans had a good day today in terms of moving the tax bill forward.
I agree with everything Catherine said. On the substance, this is a bad bill. But a lot of the senators who have leverage over it on the Republican side are basically folding and saying they`ll take anything.
And so, if you think about the fact that the Republican Party may pass this tax bill, it`s going to really make the Democrats very unhappy. It`s a big handout to the wealthy. It has a lot of problems for the deficit.
And then the Republicans are going to turn around and they may need to ask the Democrats` help in keeping the government open. And the Democrats aren`t going to be in the mood to give them that help. And so, as Norm said that, they should ask for a very high price. And then they should ask for a higher price.
O`DONNELL: And, Norm, it`s unusual to see the traffic jam like this, because usually a tax bill, no matter whether it`s a tax increase or tax cuts is given a wide birth to just kind of sail through, especially the tax cuts, which normally sail through very easily, and normally pick up bipartisan vote. To see the tax bill bumping into this government funding bill is an unusual one.
ORNSTEIN: It sure is. But, you know, as a general matter, Lawrence, I haven`t seen a day more embarrassing in Congress in a very, very long time. The farce with the president is one thing.
The caving of Republicans on the Senate side to agree to things that they previously had said were simply non-starters, the unwillingness even to wait for more judgment about what the implications of this bill will be for the economy and for the distribution of income and wealth in the country, the brushing aside of the concerns of teachers, of graduate students, of so many others in this society for provisions that are going to be damaging to them. And then understanding, as you said, that the normal process of a tax bill, which involves give and take across a wide range of individuals, that this is so dramatically different from what we`ve seen in the past with tax reform, it just makes you want to throw up your hands and say, can anybody here play this game the right way?
O`DONNELL: And, Catherine, we have the president saying today that he`s -- I mean almost legislatively expressing gratitude to North Korea for firing off another test missile today, saying that that should definitely bring Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi to the negotiating table on the budget. What are the odds of that changing Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi`s calculations on the budget?
RAMPELL: Oh, our deal maker in chief surely knows how to drive a hard bargain by bringing up North Korea which has nothing to do with anything else. I mean, the problem with taxes in particular is that they won`t work with Democrats, right? So every marginal vote in the Republican Party is empowered. And many of those marginal votes are completely at odds with the other marginal votes.
You know, some of them want the tax cuts to be bigger. Some of them think that the tax cuts are too expensive already. So, there is this sort of, like, stupid Mexican standoff happening here where they can`t actually move forward. It seems like they want to move forward, but they actually won`t be able to blame Democrats for any of their problems because they`ve already decided, you know, to begin with, that they`re not going to work with Democrats.
So, it`s hard to imagine why Democrats will be brought to the table on taxes, what they possibly have to gain from playing ball on these budget issues, or really any of the other critical issues facing our country unless Republicans and the White House start treating them with more respect and start respecting in particular their policy priorities.
O`DONNELL: Nancy Pelosi did a tweet today about this photo op saying: Donald Trump now knows that his verbal abuse will no longer be tolerated. His empty chair photo op showed he is more interested in stunts than addressing the needs of the American people. Poor Ryan and McConnell, relegated to props. Sad.
And, David, she is trying to do a little Trump tweeting imitation there at the end. But his verbal abuse will no longer be tolerated. We can hope that`s true. It`s just a question now of what demands will Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have about getting into a negotiation with him in terms of his own personal conduct. Because I think they are owed demands about his own personal conduct beyond just the policy questions.
LEONHARDT: I agree. I think in the end, look, will not be tolerated is one of the great passive constructions. In the end, I think the only people who can truly stop tolerating Donald Trump`s behavior are the American voters. And I think the only way to really see people pushing back against this are the kinds of results that we saw this past November in Virginia and New Jersey.
But really even stronger results than that. So I think Democrats should take their anger and they should channel it first toward trying to stop the tax bill. And if that doesn`t work, and it may not, they should channel it toward 2018, because the only thing that is really going to get Donald Trump to change his behavior is a different Congress than the one we have right now, because it`s become very clear that this Congress will tolerate his behavior and will exact very few consequences for Trump`s behavior.
O`DONNELL: David Leonhardt, Catherine Rampell and Norm Ornstein, thank you all for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
ORNSTEIN: Thanks, Lawrence.
LEONHARDT: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, tax cut legislation, as I said, is supposed to be the easiest thing you can pass through the Congress. But Republicans are making it look difficult, which might have a little something to do with what is actually in that bill. President Obama`s director of the National Economic Council Gene Sperling will join us next.
And later, what Donald Trump doesn`t know about Pocahontas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PROTESTERS: Kill the bill! Kill the bill!
CLERK: Mr. Chairman, the ayes are 12 and the nays are 11.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The bill is reported out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The Republican tax cut bill passed a procedural vote in the Senate Budget Committee today as protesters inside the room shouted "kill the bill".
Two Republican senators who have publicly threatened to oppose the bill, Ron Johnson and Bob Corker, voted yes in the committee today. The vote came after President Trump visited Capitol Hill and begged Republican senators to support the tax cut bill.
Joining us now, Gene Sperling, former director of the National Economic Council for Presidents Obama and Clinton.
Gene, this is something we never see. The one thing Republicans can just glide through the Congress are the tax cut bills that they do. They always pick up Democratic votes, Democratic senators, Democratic House members who want to get on board with the tax cut, thinking that will be popular in their reelection campaigns.
Stunning to see no Democratic votes on this thing so far. But also stunning to see how difficult a lift it is for Republicans to get it through. What`s inside the bill that`s making it so difficult to pass?
GENE SPERLING, ECONOMIC ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT CLINTON AND OBAMA: I mean, really, Lawrence, this is really about as desperate and disgraceful an effort as I think we`ve ever seen. I mean, if you told me or anyone that a Republican Party or Democratic Party would give themselves permission to raise the deficit by $1.5 trillion, basically add $1.5 trillion of play money and still have a tax cut plan that by the time it`s implemented raises taxes on 83 million Americans in 2027. By 2019, it`s raising taxes on anybody who is working full-time making 14 bucks an hour. I mean, how do you do that?
You have to have -- you have to be so beholden to the top 1 percent, so beholden to special interests, large company priorities to arrange, to somehow figure out how to do that. And that`s what`s basically happened. They started this entire tax cut built on a basic lie. And the basic lie was if they gave a huge tax cut to the largest companies, that was somehow going to mean the people`s wages were going to go up.
Except, Lawrence, we know in the last 16 years, corporate profits have nearly doubled as a percentage of our economy. And we`ve had years where the share going to employees has been the lowest in six or seven decades. So, what they really I have is they`re out there with their big tax cut plan, and every moment you know more about it, you realize the tens of millions of middle class Americans are going to see their taxes increase.
And I think they`re trying to rush this, Lawrence, so that nobody knows what is really in the bill by the time it passes. But I`ll tell you, what these Republican members of Congress need to remember is it`s possible to rush it so the public doesn`t understand it, by the time you vote. But people will understand it by the time they vote in 2018. And I think a lot of members of Congress, Republicans in Congress are going to have a lot to answer for.
O`DONNELL: And, Gene, you`ve worked on tax legislation in the Clinton administration, the Obama administration. And I know for the Democratic side that one of the documents that people most eagerly try to get their hands on is what they call the distribution chart, when that comes out in the CBO scoring. And it shows you how this -- how a tax bill will affect the various income classes.
And when I think of all the distribution charts I think that you and have I seen, it`s always been try to make sure that the impact is being -- the benefits are chiefly on the bottom half of that distribution chart. And you`re looking to minimize the benefits as you go up in income.
It seems like they simply reversed all of those distribution charts that you`ve used in the Democratic administrations.
SPERLING: Yes. I mean, it`s shocking. When you look when the Senate bill is fully implemented, people in the top 1/10 of 1 percent, those making over $5 million have a $200,000 tax cut. And yet, 82 million Americans under $200,000, middle class, upper middle class, working poor Americans are actually given a tax increase.
And I think people at home would be wondering, how is that possible when you have a $1.5 trillion that they have given themselves permission to increase the deficit. And the answer is, is that it really does go to your priorities. Progressives start by putting people first, putting working families first.
They started with a huge tax cut for the largest companies. That`s probably $600 billion, $700 billion. Then they decide they had to match that by giving the most well-off people who have partnerships or S-corps a huge tax cut.
At the end of the day, they really did not have very much left over for middle class families. And so, many are getting an actual tax increase, which is truly stunning.
O`DONNELL: And, Bob Corker, who has been pretending, you might even say to be a holdout on this thing. He voted for it procedurally today. His big worry has been the deficit. Today, he said: After agreeing in principle with Senate leadership, members of the Finance Committee and the administration, on a trigger mechanism to ensure greater fiscal responsibility should economic growth estimates not be realized, I voted to advance this important piece of legislation.
Gene, he is saying he wants a trigger mechanism to go into effect if the deficit starts to go up more than the Republicans are projecting it will go up. But they are projecting it will go up $1.5 trillion.
SPERLING: Yes, I mean, look, you know, I like Bob Corker. We work together well. I respect him.
But with all due respect, you don`t deal with gimmicks by creating a brand- new gimmick. This $1.5 trillion deficit increase is probably going to be larger when you actually take the gimmicks out. It could easily be closer to $2 trillion.
So, Corker says well let`s put in a provision. It`s kind of like the whipping boy provision. If the corporate tax cuts don`t bring in enough revenue, we`ll raise taxes on middle class Americans.
Well, either that`s not going to happen, and it`s just a gimmick to give them cover for this huge deficit increase, or it actually would raise taxes perhaps -- actually when the economy was weak and make no sense at all. And I think what really is the concern for so many people is that when they`re raising $1.5 trillion of deficit, you know, Lawrence, we know what they`re going to do.
The moment they do this, the moment they have made the deficit that much worse than the out years, they`re going to come back and tell people they have no choice but to cut Medicare, Medicaid, maybe even Social Security. In fact, in their own budget, they have $473 billion in Medicare cuts and $1.3 trillion in Medicaid. So when you look at why this is going to be a bad deal for middle class, it`s not just that it raises their taxes, it`s what they`re going to do to make up for the debt increase they create giving tax cuts for the top 1 percent and the largest companies in our country.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Gene Sperling, we need your experience and expertise on this. Thank you very much for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.
SPERLING: Thanks, Lawrence. Thanks for having me.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, the Navajo nation responds to Donald Trump
O`DONNELL: Today John McCain said our nation owes a debt of gratitude to the Navajo Code Talkers whose bravery, skill and tenacity helped secure our decisive victory over tyranny and oppression during World War II. Politicizing these genuine American heroes is an insult to their sacrifice. And as we saw last night, President Trump politicized the Navajo Code Talkers Whitehouse moment this way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: You were here long before any of us were here, although we have a representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago. They call her Pocahontas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: They don`t call her Pocahontas, as we pointed out last night. There was no indication that the Navajo men in that room knew who Donald Trump was talking about at that moment. In Washington, only Donald Trump uses that name for the Senior Senator from Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren, who is from Oklahoma and says she has a small fraction of her ancestry that is Native American.
Yesterday, Elizabeth Warren told Rachel Maddow that Donald Trump was using it as a racial slur. Apparently this baffles everyone named Trump. The easily baffled Eric Trump took particular note of anyone from ABC News suggesting yesterday that what Donald Trump said was offensive. The irony of an ABC Reporter whose parent company Disney has profited nearly half a billion dollars on the movie Pocahontas inferring that the name is offensive is truly staggering to me. Here is the President of the Navajo Nation Russell Begaye responding to that today on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSSELL BEGAYE, PRESIDENT, NAVAJO NATION: To throw in the word Pocahontas that was used on the campaign trail and doesn`t belong there -- this is where we`re honoring and respecting our veterans, especially our Code Talkers. And to put in a slur that has become racial, Pocahontas didn`t belong there. It kind of ruined the whole ceremony in that respect.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The alliance of colonial era Tribes issued a written statement saying degrading an American Indian name or historic tribal reference by using it as an insult is making a racial slur whether knowingly or unknowingly. The right to determine if it is a slur belongs to those who have been insulted, not the one who made the insult. The appropriate and mature response when one is made aware of such an insult to an entire race of people is to apologize and to not do it again.
An even better response after the apology is to try to understand and learn more of the proud heritage of the people that were insulted and why the manner which you used the reference may be viewed as an insult. This is a teachable moment that could be transformed into something positive. Last night on this program, we transformed the latest Trump teachable moment into a segment honoring the three Navajo code talkers who were in the Oval Office yesterday simply by showing you what their leader Peter McDonald had to say yesterday, a statement that was drowned out in most of the media yesterday by the Trump controversy.
Tonight`s teachable moment is about Pocahontas. There is no indication that anyone named Trump is aware of anything other than the Disney version of Pocahontas. Here is what the Trumps don`t know about Pocahontas. She was a real person, and she is one of the great heroes of American colonial history as told by the colonists.
And so using her name as an insult is first and foremost like most Trump choices based in rank, ignorance and unrelenting stupidity to put it in terms that even a Trump can understand. It`s like trying to insult a basketball player by calling him Michael Jordan, to which the reasonable reply from the basketball player would be thank you. It was Captain John Smith, one of the early leaders of the colony of Virginia who made Pocahontas famous.
John Smith wrote a glowing letter to Queen Anne claiming that Pocahontas saved his life when her father was about to have Smith executed. And John Smith`s version, Pocahontas laid her head on his chest so that Smith could not be beheaded without Pocahontas suffering the same fate. In his letter to the Queen, John Smith said, she hazarded the beating out of her own brains to save mine and not only that but so prevailed with her father that I was safely conducted to Jamestown.
That is the version of Pocahontas that has passed through the centuries and is now the stuff of Disney animation. But William Stith`s 1865 book tells us more about Pocahontas. He wrote a book about the history of the Virginia colony. and he said she was the first Christian Indian in these parts. Now, will Donald Trump`s devoted followers most whom call themselves Christian demand that Donald Trump stop using the word Pocahontas as an insult?
And then there is the most important detail of all in William Stith`s 1865 book which tells us 400 years ago Pocahontas and her tribe anticipated the likes of Donald Trump. Pocahontas knew they could never fully trust the new settlers of their land. And so as Stith reports in his book, her real name, it seems, was originally Matoax, which the Indians carefully concealed from the English and changed to it Pocahontas out of a superstitious fear less they by the knowledge of her true name should be enabled to do her some harm.
And so 400 years later, the president of the United States tries to do Pocahontas some hurt by reducing her name to an insult that he repeatedly hurls at a woman. But he can`t hurt Pocahontas. Her tribe made sure of that. He can`t hurt Pocahontas because he doesn`t even know her real name.
And every time Donald Trump tries to insult Elizabeth Warren with that word, with that fictional name of that real person, it is as if Matoax is there somewhere, always making sure that the shame of those moments lands entirely and justly on Donald Trump.
O`DONNELL: Today North Korea launched another intercontinental ballistic missile in its first missile launch strike since September. According to the Pentagon and Defense Secretary Mattis this missile flew higher than any previous attempt at reaching an altitude of nearly 3,000 miles and traveled 600 miles before it crashed into the Sea of Japan. Here was the President`s reaction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I will only tell you that we will take care of it. We have General Mattis in the room with us. And we`ve had a long discussion on it. It is a situation that we will handle.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Ambassador Wendy Sherman and David Rothkopf will join us next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These missiles launches today, does it change anything about your basic approach to dealing with --
TRUMP: Nothing changed. Nothing changed. We have a very serious approach and nothing changed. We take it very seriously.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, are the North Koreans thumbing their nose at you -
TRUMP: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Ambassador Wendy Sherman, former under Secretary of State and a former Special Adviser to President Clinton on North Korea. She is also an MSNBC Global Affairs contributor and with us David Rothkopf a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and host of the Deep State Radio Podcast. Ambassador Sherman, your reaction to this latest missile test by North Korea.
WENDY SHERMAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: The test is a very serious one. It`s part of this process where North Korea is saying to us we are moving as quickly as possible to be able to reach the continental United States. In fact, as General Mattis said, this went very high. If that had been stretched out, it could have been stretched out to 8,100 miles, which of course could reach Washington, D.C. We don`t know yet whether such an intercontinental ballistic missile can carry nuclear warhead which could weigh a ton. But nonetheless we are in a very serious place.
And it is not clear at all that the United States administration, the Trump administration has a strategy. Quite frankly listening to the earlier clip, President say we`ll handle it, we`ll take care it, sounded to me like a phrase that be sort of suspect these honey, honey, trust me, I`ll take care of you and frankly there`s no reason do that.
O`DONNELL: And, David, your reaction to the administration`s response today.
DAVID ROTHKOPF, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I think as Wendy said, it was disappointing. You know Trump`s statement we`ll take care of this was a classic Trump statement. It was about the length of a Tweet, it was founded in ignorance.
It was inflammatory and it was a lie because we`re not going to take care of it, we don`t have a way to take care of it. We don`t have a way to stop them from their nuclear weapons program that doesn`t produce a huge conflagration on the North Korean Peninsula. Of course there is one way that we might be able to address this. And that is if we an effective diplomatic effort.
But at the same time that the administration was talking big, it`s been gutting the State Department. We don`t have people like Wendy Sherman, who is extremely competent on issues like this, to go in and to work for that diplomatic explosion. And in the end I think that`s going to cost us.
O`DONNELL: Ambassador Sherman, what would have happened in a previous Whitehouse in a situation like this?
SHERMAN: I think what David`s pointing out is really critical here, which is you have to have an all of government, all of the world strategy. I`m glad the President called -- the President of South Korea called the Prime Minister of Japan. I hope he been in touch with President Xi as well. The Chinese are probably a little bit embarrassed because they just sent a party representative to North Korea and this was the result, another test.
So this does put more pressure on China. But what we aren`t seeing is an all of government effort which has diplomacy at the core. I sure hope that when Joe Yun, the special envoy, a very capable diplomat, one of the few senior diplomats as David pointed out, that are left because so many have been pushed out of the State Department said that if there were 60 days of no test, it might be a signal for dialogue. Well it`s been 74 till this test today and I hope that someday I find out there`s been a secret channel. We`ve begun to make progress. But quite frankly, I`m rather skeptical.
O`DONNELL: David, what would progress look like?
ROTHKOPF: Progress would not look like a military solution because there isn`t a good one. It would look like a freeze. I think we would have to negotiate something which holds them in place. We`re going to have to learn to live with the fact that they`ve got these weapons and we`re going to have to convey to them the message that if they are ever used in any way, it will mean the complete obliteration of North Korea and then at the same time work with China, work with Russia, work with every available country in the world as Wendy points out, to squeeze them and to work on trying to produce the kind of change we want to see in North Korea.
It`s going to take a long time. It takes patience. Bluster doesn`t do the trick. You know Today Vice President Pence said don`t test our resolve. But you have to ask the question how many successful ICBM launches actually amounts to a test of this administrations resolve because every time it happens you get Trump with blustering statement and no change. The situation is gets worse. And frankly it`s getting worse faster under Trump than under any other president.
O`DONNELL: Ambassador Sherman, does the North Korean regime actually think about the possible obliteration of North Korea in a situation like this?
SHERMAN: I believe they do. And to be perfectly frank and honest about it I don`t think that intentionally President Trump or Kim Jong Un want to start a nuclear war. But the risk of mi miscalculation here is getting higher every day. If is of great concern because we`ve got two leaders in different ways who really don`t know exactly what they`re doing, what the consequences would be and may indeed miscalculate. There might be an accident in the air, as there was with the Chinese and an American military jet at the beginning of the George Bush Administration. It was handled by deftly quite frankly after about 10 days. And our crewman got home. But if something happened like that today, I`m not sure that we`d be in such a good situation.
O`DONNELL: Ambassador Wendy Sherman and David Rothkopf, thank you both for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.
ROTHKOPF: Thank you.
SHERMAN: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Tonight`s Last Word is next
O`DONNELL: We just have time for a few last words about Giving Tuesday. After I mentioned Giving Tuesday last night and the KIND funds, we started to get some tweets from you about that. Katie tweeted, Lawrence, my yearly donation to the KIND fund is in the books, Giving Tuesday. Thank you Katie. As most of you know the KIND Fund is setup to provide desks for kids in need of desks in African schools. You go to the lastworddesks.msnbc.com.
Ben Rosenberg said Lawrence four desk and two girl scholarships, done and done as I do each year. Glad to help but of course as Ben knows we also provide scholarships for girls to go to high school in Malawi where public high school is not free. We will have more of your tweets and your generosity about the KIND fund later this week. That is tonight`s Last Word. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams is next.
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2017 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2017 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.