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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 12/6/21

Transcripts: Lauren Groh-Wargo, Chris Murphy, Gene Sperling, Sheila Burke


Georgia GOP primary brawl may be good for Democrats. Interview with Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT). America is experiencing one of the lowest unemployment rates in modern history right now, during the Biden administration and no one predicted that including the Biden administration. Former senator and Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole died yesterday at the age of 98. Almost every Democratic senator liked and respected Bob Dole.



I wonder if you can remember who was the first person whose name you knew but who you didn`t know, you know, when you were tiny and maybe it was --


O`DONNELL: Mr. Rogers, you know, someone --

MADDOW: Captain Kangaroo.

O`DONNELL: Captain Kangaroo, wow.

MADDOW: For sure.

O`DONNELL: How old were you when you could first say Captain Kangaroo? Because that`s a lot. That`s a mouthful.

MADDOW: Like zero. My first word was donut. My aunt came over. She used to come over every Sunday after church and she would always stop and bring us donuts.

She walked in the door one day when I was like zero. I mean, I was like a lump of cells. She walked in the door and I pointed at her and went donut. That was my first word.

And I think fairly soon after that it was Captain Kangaroo. My parents were very disappointed in my early language.

O`DONNELL: So my daughter was born in 1994, and Bob Dole decided to run for president starting in 1995, and that campaign book came out, you know, the Dole campaign book entitled "Bob Dole" with his picture on the cover.

And so that means that for one little girl in America, the very first name that she knew of a person she didn`t know was Bob Dole. And she remembers that.


O`DONNELL: Because we have the video. Take a look at these first words of the name of someone she didn`t know.


L. O`DONNELL: Bob Dole?


L. O`DONNELL: Say Bob Dole.

E. O`DONNELL: Bob Dole.

L. O`DONNELL: Go get Bob Dole, Elizabeth. Bring Bob Dole to daddy.

E. O`DONNELL: Bob Dole.

L. O`DONNELL: Who? Bob Dole? Who is it, Elizabeth?

E. O`DONNELL: Bob Dole.


O`DONNELL: Bob Dole. It`s the perfect baby name. It`s just, I mean, it couldn`t be easier.

MADDOW: That is so much better than donut. Did you at one point say to her bring Bob Dole to daddy?

O`DONNELL: That is correct. That is tonight`s most important line in the show. Bring Bob Dole to daddy, which she did.

MADDOW: Wow. I don`t care what else you do on the show you just have to keep playing that in a loop for an hour and it`ll be your highest rated show in a very long time. I could watch that 4,000 more times.

O`DONNELL: I think I have watched it about a thousand times since yesterday. It will be tweeted.

MADDOW: Fantastic.

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Well done.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Well, last week, the Democratic Party was thrilled with the news that Stacey Abrams has decided to run for governor of Georgia again. When she ran in 2018, Stacey Abrams lost to Republican Brian Kemp by about 1.5 percent of the vote, but that was before Stacey Abrams led the massive voter registration drive in Georgia that helped deliver Democratic victories in two statewide United States Senate campaigns in Georgia this year.

Stacey Abrams helped Georgia`s freshman senators John Ossoff and Raphael Warnock give control of the Senate to the Democratic Party. Stacey Abrams campaign advertisement so far has stressed her leadership skills as -- she would bring to the governorship -- and does not attack Georgia`s Republican Governor Brian Kemp.

So far, Brian Kemp, though, does have a very loud political opponent who today said Brian Kemp has failed Georgia. Kemp has been a very weak governor.


Most importantly, he can`t win.

That attack on Brian Kemp came from Republican in name only, Donald Trump.

"The New York Times" reports Mr. Trump has vowed to orchestrate Mr. Kemp`s defeat as payback for the governor`s refusal to help overturn the former president`s November election loss in the state. Donald Trump has found someone else who lost in Georgia to run against Brian Kemp in the Republican primary for governor.

Former Republican Senator David Perdue, who lost his Senate seat to Jon Ossoff, announced today that he is running for governor next year in a state that already has a Republican governor. That means David Perdue and Brian Kemp will be draining massive amounts of Republican money that could go to Republican campaigns elsewhere in the country that are trying to knock Democrats out of office.

Everything about this expensive Republican challenge to a Republican governor seems helpful to the Democrats. It seems to guarantee that the Republican nominee for governor presumably running against Stacey Abrams as the Democratic nominee will have been savaged on his way to that nomination. David Perdue`s first ad released today was a negative attack that mentioned Republican Governor Kemp by name repeatedly and he threw in the name of Georgia`s Republican secretary of state while he was at it as if he is running against both of them.

Donald Trump issued a statement immediately endorsing David Perdue and attacking Brian Kemp. The statement said next to nothing about David Perdue and was entirely devoted to attacking Brian Kemp.

While the Republicans spend the next several months attacking each other in Georgia, Stacey Abrams will be trying to register more voters and assure them of their voting rights in Georgia.

"The New York Times" reports her candidacy ensures voting rights will remain at the center of the political conversation in Democratic circles and in Georgia where Republicans enacted a sweeping law of voting restrictions this year.

Ms. Abrams` campaign also carries historic significance if she is successful she would become the first black governor of Georgia and the first black woman to serve as governor of any state.

Here is some of what Stacey Abrams told Rachel Maddow last week.


STACEY ABRAMS (D), CANDIDATE FOR GEORGIA GOVERNOR: My mission is service. And to serve people you have to care about them. You have to care about all of them.

I`ve spent my time doing what I can to serve Georgia whether that was expanding access to vaccines, paying off 68,000 Georgians` medical debt, getting thousands of pounds of food sent to food banks, helping families keep their incomes high by helping small businesses. I`ve tried to in every way possible serve the people of Georgia. The best way to serve Georgia in my estimation is to run for governor.


O`DONNELL: Leading off our discussion tonight is Lauren Groh-Wargo. She is the manager of Stacey Abrams` campaign for governor of Georgia.

Thank you very much for joining us tonight.

So I`m reading this as good news for your campaign and Democrats generally in Georgia, that Republicans are now really attacking each other over this Republican gubernatorial nomination.

LAUREN GROH-WARGO, CAMPAIGN MANAGER, STACEY ABRAMS FOR GOV., 2022: Look, it is quite a development that our incumbent Republican governor has a challenge by Trump and a failed U.S. senator, a loser, who is a, quote, debate dodger and coastal elite who padded his pockets in the pandemic, his stock portfolio.

That actually are all the lines from Brian Kemp`s spokesperson Cody Hall. I did not write those words. That`s from his spokesperson. We agree.

I interestingly agree with Sean Hannity that, quote, Kemp has been an ineffective governor.

Look, at the end of the day, Georgians are suffering and struggling in this pandemic. We`re going into a winter, Lawrence, where the Omicron variant is no doubt going to wreak so much havoc on our state that has low vaccination rates, confusing, muddled, completely bungled COVID response.

So, we are about serving Georgians. If we are fighting for Georgians while they are fighting each other and the contrast just could not be more clear.

O`DONNELL: W does it mean to the Republican Party more generally if Donald Trump is going to come in and create Republican primaries where there otherwise would not be any?

GROH-WARGO: It is such a clear message to normal voters that their concerns and struggles and pain and needs are not important to this party. What matters to this party is those who appeal to Donald Trump himself and to his MAGA faction over all. And that`s not what Georgians are about.

Look, Lawrence, since Stacey`s last campaign in 2018, about 1.3 million new voters have registered in Georgia.


And they skew heavily Democratic. About 49 percent, people of color, the whites that registered are more liberal. We have very young voters, overall skewing young in our state.

We will build a multiracial, multi-ethnical coalition to win because we`re about the people. We are about actually serving them and real plans and that is what Stacey has been doing the last four years. I`ve been on your show talking about voting rights. We`ve also been forgiving Georgians` medical debts, out there advocating for vaccines, getting vaccines in arms.

We`ve been about the work and the people. Meanwhile, these guys are in some, you know, brawl about who is more cozying up to Donald Trump and we get to be about the work.

So, now, look, I`m not happy about this. I`m very concerned about what is happening in our public schools, that continue to be under funded, with the completely illogical and non-streamlined COVID response. Every day it is a very difficult thing to live in this state in a pandemic because we`ve had no leadership. Brian Kemp is a failure. And that`s` why he is seeing strong challenges on both his right and left flanks.

And so they can fight and do their thing and distract Kemp even further from his duties as governor and taking care of the state and we`re going to be out here making our case that to have 2022 be a good year for Georgia families coming out of these holidays. It is time for new leadership. It`s time for Stacey Abrams. We`re unified, Lawrence. That`s the other thing.

We are unified. So proud of our Senator Warnock who went to Washington and is bringing real money to our state to our Savannah Port, to our farmers, to our infrastructure. He and Jon Ossoff have been delivering, they have been present, and they`re doing the work.

And so, we feel there is a great federal record to run on and we have a very strong case against this consolidated Republican government that has not been serving Georgians, that`s been focused on conspiracy theories and so-called election issues that don`t exist. We`ve been focused on mitigating voter suppression, fighting for the people, and serving Georgians.

So, we want everybody to join us to go to and help us get the job done.

O`DONNELL: So how many votes, how many more votes than the Republican will the Democrat have to get in order to win? I say that based on Rachel`s last hour which was an examination of all the ways in which Republican legislatures around the country have changed laws and vote counting processes so that they`ll be able to control them.

That happened in Georgia. There`s been a change in the law in the election processes in Georgia. Does that mean that you`re going to need a cushion on top of a cushion, some number that is too big for them to cheat?

GROH-WARGO: Look, I get this question all of the time. And here on this Monday, it is literally five weeks until the Georgia legislature, the Arizona legislature, and so many other state legislators come back into session and they have plans to do more voter fraud conspiracy legislation around fraud and kind of bad MAGA faction ideas.

Congress needs to act. This is not a partisan issue. This is about our democracy. We need the Freedom to Vote Act. We need the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act passed by this Congress as soon as possible.

In six weeks from today, more state go -- seven weeks, we are about a month out from these legislatures reconvening and still have not had congressional action. Voters demand their democracy function.

So, we have not seen the end of them trying to rig the game, Lawrence. Yes, you are correct. All of these bad bills passed and they`ll come back and pass more. So we`ll keep fighting those bills.

But this is a clarion call. Congress must act. We must have a functioning democracy.

And to your question on campaign strategy, look, we -- from a campaign perspective, I have to assume no help is coming so we`ll continue to advocate and that will have to assume we`ll have the tools we have and no new tools for voters will be here. If that is the case we`ll go out and make our case. We`ll put together this coalition.

We are going to win as strongly as we can and try and win up and down the ballot because just like David Perdue is out here talking about the secretary of state, they`re so mad didn`t overturn the election, Brad Raffensperger has got a challenge to his right by a Stop the Steal person who would never certify the election.

So, it is critical we get involved not just in Georgia but in your state races around the country to elect good governors and to elect secretaries of state and other folks down ballot to really help shore up our democracy in this midterm and for the next decade.

Georgia becomes the majority of people of color this decade, Lawrence. They`re going to try to continue to rig the game here and across the country to steal power.

O`DONNELL: Lauren Groh-Wargo, thank you very much for joining us. Please come back during the campaign.

GROH-WARGO: Thank you, Lawrence.


O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Coming up, last week --


SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): Mr. President, I understand my Republican colleagues have very strong views --


O`DONNELL: Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy went to the Senate floor --


MURPHY: But I listened to my Republican colleagues come down here --


O`DONNELL: -- Republican senators showed to lobbyists for the National Rifle Association. Senator Murphy joins us next.


O`DONNELL: On Saturday, police captured the parents of the student at Oxford High School in Michigan who is now accused of murder and terrorism after shooting and killing four students and injuring seven other people. James Crumbley and Jennifer Crumbley were captured hiding in a warehouse in Detroit. They pleaded not guilty to four counts each of involuntary manslaughter and their bond was set at $500,000 each.


Oxford County Prosecutor Karen McDonald laid out on Friday how James Crumbley and Jennifer Crumbley brought the gun -- bought the gun for their son Ethan who used it as a Christmas gift for him and that they ignored clear warnings that he was dangerous.

James Crumbley and Jennifer Crumbley are now being held under suicide watch in the same jail as their son. Hours after Ethan Crumbley shot and killed four of his classmates, Senate Republicans were speaking on the Senate floor about abortion.

So, our next, Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, took to the Senate floor and said this.


MURPHY: Mr. President I understand that my Republican colleagues have very strong views on issues related to abortion. But he listened to my Republican colleagues come down here one after another today and talk about the sanctity of life. At the very moment that moms and dads in Michigan were being told that their kids weren`t coming home because they were shot at school due to a country that has accepted gun violence due to Republicans` fealty to the gun lobby.

Do not lecture us about the sanctity, the importance of life, when 100 people every single day are losing their lives to guns. When kids go to school fearful they won`t return home because a classmate will turn a gun on them, when it is in our control whether this happens.

You care about life? Then get these dangerous, military style weapons off the streets out of our schools. You care about life? Make sure that criminals don`t get guns by making sure that everybody goes through a background check in this country.

We`re not unlucky. This is purposeful. This is a choice made by the United States Senate to sit on our hands and do nothing while kids die.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now is Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut.

Senator, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

I know you spoke for millions of Americans not just in Connecticut but all over the country. When you made that point on the Senate floor that what`s happening in our schools is a choice. It is a choice being made by Republicans in Congress.

MURPHY: Of course, it is. Of course, it is.

And, listen, that anger last week from me is the anger of a parent, right? I have a seventh grader and a fourth grader. And it`s terrifying to me that this generation of kids goes to school expecting that a shooting will happen at the place where they learn.

And it is of course a choice that we`re making because there is no other country in the high income world that experiences this rate of gun violence. It`s not that the United States has any more mental illness than other countries. It`s not that the United States spends any less money on law enforcement than those other countries.

The difference is that the ease of access here in the United States to these high-powered weapons is just absolutely differentiating from every other nation that we do business with. These broken brains in other countries may end up in a fist fight -- maybe the worst case someone getting stabbed. But here in the United States, it ends up with dozens of people getting killed in places like Sandy Hook and others across the country.

So we make a choice to populate this country with wildly powerful guns that are designed to kill as many people as quickly as possible. And we get the policy that we have chosen to live with. That is 100 people every single day dying from guns.

O`DONNELL: How do you deal with your own personal anger about this? You know, Sandy Hook obviously was in your state. And that was -- that was a time if there was ever a moment where something was going to be done, it was going to be when we saw kids in kindergarten and first grade assassinated in their school, just mowed down. And that ended up moving, changing nothing.

You -- you have gotten to know the families of those kids, those victims, worked with them closely. How do you -- how do you -- how do you deal with your own personal anger about the body you work in, the Senate, doing absolutely nothing?

MURPHY: So, I mean, let me maybe contest the premise a little bit because this is a popular idea that if Sandy Hook didn`t change this country`s decisions about guns, if Sandy Hook didn`t force Congress to action, then nothing will. I`m convinced that this is, as you know, just about good old- fashioned political movement building.

That in 2012, December of 2012 when Sandy Hook happened, the antigun violence movement essentially didn`t exist. The Brady group had been sort of carrying the torch for years.

But, you know, there were hundreds of activists not the tens of thousands we have today. And the NRA and gun lobby was that their zenith, was at their peak in 2012.

But we`ve spent the last nine years building a movement. We are getting to the point where we are stronger than the NRA and the gun lobby. We may not be there yet.

But remember, it took 10 years from when Jim Brady was shot to the passage of the Brady hand gun bill. It took over a decade from the time in which the country saw Emmitt Till`s open casket to the passage of the civil rights bill.

Sometimes these movements take a decade or more to build and I just have confidence that we`re part of one of those great social movement changes.

So, that`s what I tell these families is that if you believe in honoring your children`s` death with action, then we all have to stick with this and we just have to be so confident in the righteousness of our cause that we don`t let any of these obstacles get in our way.

O`DONNELL: Is it time to start taking the language that Republicans use in their own arguments about other subjects like sanctity of life and applying that to this subject?

MURPHY: I -- at least think we have to call it out on their B.S. I mean, it`s really stunning how cavalier Republicans are with life after birth.

It`s not just the way they accept the carnage that exists in this country due to gun violence. It`s also the way in which they just wave a hand at 700,000 people who died from COVID, how they`re fighting measures designed to save people`s lives in this pandemic.

They care a whole lot about the unborn but once you`re born, there doesn`t seem to be a lot of concern for the livelihood of individuals who are on this planet with us.

And so, whether we adopt their phraseology or not I don`t know, but I think more people need to do what I did last week, which was call them out on this pretty incredible hypocrisy.

O`DONNELL: Senator Chris Murphy, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it. Thank you.

MURPHY: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: And, coming up, America is experiencing one of the lowest unemployment rates in modern history right now during the Biden administration and no one predicted that including the Biden administration. Gene Sperling who is in charge of delivering the benefits of the Biden legislation will join us next.



O`DONNELL: After the latest strong jobs report, the White House coordinator for the American Rescue Plan Gene Sperling tweeted, "4.2 percent unemployment. Before American Rescue Plan was passed, CBO projected unemployment wouldn`t reach 4.2 percent until October -- until first quarter of 2025. With passage of rescue plan, it falls to 4.2 percent before 2021 is over.

Don`t even try to tell me the American Rescue Plan has not been big -- not been big for slashing unemployment."

Next week the IRS will send a sixth round of child tax credit payments to approximately 36 million families. Those child tax credit payments which were a key part of the American Rescue Plan are set to expire at the end of the year.

President Biden`s Build Back Better Plan includes an extension of the child tax credit that could keep an estimated 9 million children from slipping into poverty. The Build Back Better Plan would also lower the cost of insulin which is used by about 7.4 million Americans to treat diabetes.

Today President Joe Biden said this.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m committed to using every tool I have to lower prescription drug costs for Americans consistent with the drug companies getting a fair return on their investment.

To really solve this problem, we need the Senate to follow the House of Representatives` lead and pass my Build Back Better bill. In addition to the specific progress that the Build Back Better bill is going to make for families facing diabetes, it`ll also take the additional step of lowering drug costs for people on Medicare.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now is Gene Sperling. He`s the senior advisor to President Biden and the White House coordinator for the American Rescue Plan. Gene, thank you very much for joining us tonight. And I have to say, why did you guys not predict that the unemployment rate was going to go as low as it has as a result of the American Rescue Plan?

GENE SPERLING, WHITE HOUSE COORDINATOR, AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN: Well Lawrence, it is so important for people to remember what the world looked like before Joe Biden passed and signed the American Rescue Plan.

Let`s think about it. We were creating, our economy was creating in the three months before President Biden came in about 60,000 jobs a month. We were losing over 100,000 leisure and hospitality jobs. And yes, unemployment was not projected to get to 4.2 percent until 2025.

Then the American Rescue Plan passes. Let`s see what`s happened since then. Jobs are up about 588,000 a month.

Let`s just think about that for a second. That means every day in the United States there are about 10 more jobs created for every one job that was created before Joe Biden came into office.


SPERLING: Unemployment hits 4.2 percent in 2021 as opposed to the 2025 that was projected right before the American Rescue Plan passed.

And I can`t say this enough. The United States is the only major country in the world that returned to our growth level, our output level by the end of June. All of our other major partners are still behind even when you add the third quarter.

So you cannot tell me that these -- that these things would have happened without the American Rescue Plan. There is just no evidence we would be the only country in the world to have returned to our growth output level by the end of June without the American Rescue Plan. Or that we`d be creating ten times the number of jobs. Or that those hospitality jobs that were losing 100,000 are now up 2 million. Or that unemployment would fall this fast to this level.

Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat whose vote you need on future legislation, says that because this has -- he has said in the past in effect -- that because this has worked so well, maybe you don`t need everything you`re asking for in the Build Back Better Plan.

SPERLING: Well, look. We have great respect for Senator Manchin. I`ve known him for a long time. But I think we so need to keep this going. I look and see things like, that he believes in, like universal child care and preschool. Those things won`t happen if the Build Back Better Plan doesn`t pass.

The child tax credit, the dramatic impact that is having on reducing child poverty. It goes 97, 98 percent of those who get it are people who are working hard. The others are people who are suffering with disabilities or other issues or deep care issues.

That monthly payment will not happen after December 15th if this doesn`t happen. And besides the impact it is having morally, economically for -- to move kids out of poverty, Lawrence, people find the overwhelming amount of middle class families need it to deal with basic necessities to help pay down debts which has led to the lowest credit card delinquency levels we`ve had since they started counting after the American Rescue Plan.

So whether you`re a middle class family or a low income family, the child tax credit has been absolutely essential.

And let me just make one final point on this. You know, we totally understand, President Biden deeply understands that people feel frustrated with COVID, frustrated with seeing higher prices in the stores or in the gas, you know, at the gas lines.

But remember this. Because Americans get the child tax credit and the earned income -- child tax credit and the economic impact payments they got at the beginning of the year due to the American Rescue Plan, because of that, those families, even those families facing higher prices at the gas pump, in the stores, still have a hundred dollars more in their pocket than they did last year each and every month and $350 more than they had before the pandemic because in large part due to the child tax credit and the monthly payment.

So it has maybe never been more essential and I think it`s helping families meet their pay checks and it`s helping our lowest income children have a chance and a life line out of poverty.

O`DONNELL: Gene Sperling, thank you very much for joining our discussion tonight.

SPERLING: Thank you, Lawrence. Thanks for having us.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Coming up former senator and Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole died yesterday at the age of 98. Almost every Democratic senator liked and respected Bob Dole.

Throughout his time in the Senate -- Senate leadership, Bob Dole relied on the daily advice and counsel of Sheila Burke his chief of staff who came to be known in the Senate as the 101st senator. The Honorable Sheila Burke will join us next.



O`DONNELL: Here is what former Democratic leader of the Senate Tom Daschle said today about his dear friend Bob Dole, who Tom Daschle usually opposed on the Senate floor when Bob Dole was the Republican leader of the Senate.


TOM DASCHLE, (D-SD) FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Bob Dole was a partisan but it was he and Pat Moynihan that saved the Social Security System. Bob Dole was a partisan but he was and Tom Harkin who created The Disabilities Act that`s historic. Bob Dole was a partisan but he and George McGovern created one of the best nutrition programs in the world today.

That`s the kind of institutional, political leader that we need so badly today. Bob Dole understood the importance of compromise. Compromise is the oxygen of democracy. And Bob Dole provided a lot of oxygen over those years he was in Senate leadership.


O`DONNELL: On my very first day in politics, I watched New York`s liberal Democratic senator, Daniel Patrick Moynihan take ten minutes to write himself a TV commercial for his 1988 re-election campaign in which Senator Moynihan included a quote from Bob Dole saying, "Pat Moynihan and I saved social security."

The campaign professionals in the room told Senator Moynihan that the Republican leader of the Senate was never going to appear in a Democrat`s commercial saying that to which Senator Moynihan said that he had seen Bob Dole say that in a speech in Kansas that was carried on C-SPAN. They just needed to grab that video.

The campaign professionals explained that Bob Dole would publicly object to the Moynihan campaign using that video of Bob Dole for a Democratic candidate for Senate and demand that the ad be taken off TV. Pat Moynihan said, "No he won`t."


O`DONNELL: And Pat Moynihan was right. Bob Dole did not object to the use of that video in that campaign commercial and Senator Moynihan went on to win with 67 percent of the vote.

That is a lost world of politics in which not just Republican senators but Democratic senators loved and I mean loved the Republican leader of the Senate.

Bob Dole was irresistible in private. He was warm, funny, wise, and careful. It was Bob Dole who announced to a closed door meeting of the Senate Finance Committee when I was the committee`s chief of staff that my daughter was born over the previous weekend. That produced a big burst of applause from everyone in the room. Bob Dole announced her name, saying he really liked her first name, which was the same name as Bob Dole`s wife.

And it was our next guest who told Bob Dole about the birth of my daughter. Sheila Burke graduated from the University of San Francisco with a degree in nursing and after working as a nurse for a few years in California, the twists and turns of life landed her in a health policy job on the staff of Senator Bob Dole, who wanted someone with experience in actually providing health care.

Sheila Burke worked her way up the staff chain of command to deputy staff director of the Senate Finance Committee when Bob Dole was chairman and eventually chief of staff to the Republican Senate leader Bob Dole.

Sheila Burke was so good at her job, she was so powerful and so important to the workings of the Senate that she became known as the 101st senator. Sheila Burke did this all-consuming work while raising three children.

Every Senate staff member was in awe of Sheila Burke including the staff members who disagreed with her.

In 1995 when Bob Dole began his last campaign, the campaign for president that he would lose to Bill Clinton in 1996, Sheila Burke was in her 18th year on Senator Dole`s staff.

And the new brand of conservative Republican in Washington who didn`t believe compromise with Democrats was ever necessary, decided that the problem with Bob Dole was Sheila Burke. A press release from a right wing group at the time said if the American people like Hillary Clinton they will love Sheila Burke.

One bitter Republican told "The National Review" in 1995, quote, "The one consistent theme over every major battle that conservatives lost was a knife in the back from Bob Dole frequently at the behest of Sheila."

Those Republicans feared what it would mean to have Sheila Burke as White House chief of staff if Bob Dole won the presidency. But he lost to Bill Clinton and one of President Clinton`s first acts after his second inauguration was to present Bob Dole with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.


BOB DOLE (R-KS), FORMER SENATOR: I Robert J. Dole -- do solemnly swear -- oops. Sorry, wrong speech.

But I had a dream that I would be here this historic week receiving something from the president, but I thought it would be the front door key.


O`DONNELL: Bob Dole died yesterday at the age of 98.

And joining us now is Sheila Burke, adjunct lecturer in public policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Sheila, thank you very much for joining us tonight. It is great to see you.

Let me begin by saying I`m sorry for your loss.

SHEILA BURKE, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO SENATOR BOB DOLE: Thank you, Lawrence. It is a wonderful treat to see you again after all these years. And it has been a bittersweet day, suffice it to say, to watch all the clips of Dole and hear people speak so well of him.

Your commentary was certainly kind and thoughtful set of remarks about him and about his time in the Senate. So thank you for that.

O`DONNELL: I was one of the lucky Democratic staffers who had a lot of intersection with you and with Senator Dole since he was a member of the Finance Committee as well as the Republican leader of the Senate. And all legislating had to include Bob Dole and Sheila Burke at some point in the discussion.


O`DONNELL: And so I felt very lucky about that. I also have to say I felt way over my head every single time I was talking to you about anything and you were very gracious about not letting anyone know just how many more cards you had in the deck than I did.

But Sheila, when you look at the way Senator Dole operated and you look at the way you kind of grew up in the Senate as a staffer and climbing up through that kind of experience, it doesn`t seem like anything in that experience is available there now.

You were involved in real governing, Senator Dole was involved in real governing, and it seems to not work the same way at all.

BURKE: I think you`re right. We were there, you and I, at a very remarkable time with remarkable people. Pat Moynihan being among those with whom we worked very closely.

It was a different time. There was a desire to reach an agreement, not to suggest that they weren`t partisan when they needed to be.

Certainly Dole could be, certainly Moynihan could be, as could George Mitchell, Tom Daschle and others. Here we see a wonderful photograph of Pat and Pete Domenici.

But in fact, there was a desire to find middle ground and a willingness to do so, which they did in saving Social Security and creating the Disability Rights Legislation, and really a remarkable set of things. The work with McGovern on the food stamp program and the children`s nutrition program -- all examples of members reaching across the aisle.

And sadly, I think the staff then did the same and I find that there is somewhat less of that today.

O`DONNELL: Sheila, you had three kids while you were doing this work, which was absolutely inconceivable to most of the rest of us who did not have children when we were trying to do this work.

And I remember, we could wander by your office and one of them would be invariably around the office waiting for you to take them to do something which I think they might have been disappointed in the few times you not being able to leave.

But tell us what it was like to be working with Senator Dole. Here`s the Republican leader of the Senate, and he knows you have all these other things on your plate as a mother and everything else you have going on in your life, but he`s still choosing to rely on you every day in that position.

BURKE: You know, Dole was someone who was remarkably supportive of his staff in their entirety. A number of us had children while we worked for him. I was the first and had all three of my children.

Interestingly enough, I had them oddly enough during Senate recesses, and Dole at one point when I, in fact, was about to deliver a child and had to leave the Senate called looking for me, and was stunned to find that, in fact, it was not a recess but, in fact, I was delivering one of my children.

But he was very supportive, never criticized us for taking the time that we needed. It was my son Daniel who was very disappointed. He did not go to a Yankees game one evening because I had to stay in session with Dole.

But Dole was supportive of families and supportive really, of each of us in all the things that we did. And I was lucky in that respect to be working for someone who was, in fact, willing to let us lead our lives privately as well as our lives.

When we needed to be there, we were there, and we had a terrific staff of folks, again, many of whom were parents, many of whom had responsibilities. And Dole let us do that, which was remarkable.

O`DONNELL: I think there are a lot of senators who choose staff members, who resemble them in their values and in their approach to life. And I always had that feeling with you and Bob Dole that he didn`t have to teach you decency and fairness in dealing with people in the way that Bob Dole dealt with everyone in the Senate.

BURKE: Well, you know, it`s interesting. There were things about which we agreed and things about which we disagreed. He was the boss, and he was the one who made the decisions.

But as an individual, he was so remarkable and in looking at staff, he wanted people who would give him information that was balanced, allowing him to make a decision based on the best information available.

He certainly assumed that we would be fair in our analysis, and fair in presenting that information. But gave us, I think, the support we needed, never essentially stepped away from us in terms of positions we had taken or in describing what it is that he wanted.

We always knew he had our back, and from a staff member, that is an enormously important expectation that your boss will be there for you, and you in turn for your boss, and that was how Dole treated all of us.


O`DONNELL: It became especially important for you when you became a target for certain kinds of newly-arrived conservative Republicans in Washington.

BURKE: Yes. There was a period of time, as you noted in your description, where I became the target of a lot of attention, and the concern that I, in fact, was moving Senator Dole in the wrong direction, not the case. Dole was the guy.

O`DONNELL: Sheila Burke, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really an honor to have you. And again, I`m sorry for your loss.

BURKE: Great. Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Tonight`s LAST WORD is next.


O`DONNELL: Programming note on Friday, MSNBC Films presents "PAPER AND GLUE" from Oscar winning producers, Brian Grazer and Ron Howard.


O`DONNELL: The award winning documentary follows visionary French artist J.R. as his work transcends rules and borders.

Watch the world television premiere of "PAPER AND GLUE" Friday at 10:00 p.m. Eastern right here on MSNBC.

That is tonight`s LAST WORD.

"THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" starts right now.