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Monday, April 4th
Read the transcript to the Monday show
updated 2:52 p.m. ET April 5, 2011

Guests: Rep. Anthony Weiner, Rep. Phil Roe, Robert Greenstein, Melissa

Harris-Perry, Howard Fineman

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, HOST:  As long as we‘re focusing on nickel and diming poor people, we are not having the debate that is worthy of our country.  So says Nancy Pelosi.  But that is the debate we have had, and the Tea Party has won that debate, but they don‘t know they won.  So, we‘re still headed for a government shutdown this week.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  A shutdown looms that could be measured in hours.

LUKE RUSSERT, NBC NEWS:  President Obama did call speaker of the House John Boehner and Harry Reid on Saturday.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS:  President Obama is inviting key congressional players to the White House.

O‘DONNELL (voice-over):  The Senate Democratic leader and Republican speaker of the House are talking, but time is not on their side.

RUSSERT:  But now, the clock is the problem.

MITCHELL:  Under House rules, the plan needs to be posted by tomorrow night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That was part of their Pledge to America.

O‘DONNELL:  Tomorrow, they‘ll meet with the president but if they make a deal, will the Tea Party revolt?

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER:  The Tea Party is dictating a lot that goes on in the Republican leadership.

EZRA KLEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  Boehner takes it back to his members and will they vote for it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, we got to deal with it right now.

REID:  Stomp their feet and call compromise a dirty word.

MITCHELL:  Neither side wants blame for closing the government.

O‘DONNELL:  But this deal is just the tip of the iceberg of what Republicans really want to do.

CHRIS JANSING, NBC NEWS:  The GOP wants to cut $4 trillion from our budget by blowing up Medicare as we know it, and that‘s not all.

REP. PAUL RYAN ®, WISCONSIN:  We intend to not only cut discretionary spending and put caps on spending -- 

KLEIN:  What he wants to do to Medicare is end the Medicare public program that people currently have.

REID:  Tea Party Republicans refuse to recognize the budget is an appalling proposal.

O‘DONNELL:  And one presidential candidate finally breaks from the pack and formally announces he‘s running.

MITCHELL:  The first official candidate to launch a 2012 White House run.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Is he going to do it?  The suspense is killing us.

UNDENTIFIED MALE:  I couldn‘t vote at the time.  I knew some day I would be able to help re-elect and that‘s what I plan on doing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It is 2012 election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He talked to Mr. Obama.  You know, he consulted—

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Is he going to do it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  -- far and wide.  And I think he decided why not.

JANSING:  He may well become the first candidate to raise $1 billion.

O‘DONNELL:  With no Republicans officially in the race, only one was ready to respond to the Obama 2012 announcement.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS:  One guy is already making the most of it, Tim Pawlenty.

TIM PAWLENTY ®, FORMER MINNESOTA GOVERNOR:  In order for America to take a new direction, it‘s going to take a new president.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  When are your guys going to step into this race?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  His response to them ought be, the water is warm. 

Why don‘t you finally Jump in and let‘s get it on?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If saying you were going to do something counted, my dad would be on the cover of “Finished Basement” magazine.



O‘DONNELL:  Good evening from New York.

Thirty-three billion is not enough.  That‘s the verdict from House Speaker John Boehner after being invited this morning to a negotiating session with President Obama and congressional leaders at the White House tomorrow.  Boehner released a written statement this afternoon saying, “I‘ve made clear that their $33 billion is not enough and many of the cuts that the White House and Senate Democrats are talking about are full of smoke and mirrors.”

This is the first time Boehner has publicly rejected the $33 billion number as of Friday.  He was still not publicly taking a stand on the compromise Democrats claimed Boehner had agreed to in principle.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  There is no number.  There‘s no agreement on a number.  We‘ll fight for the largest spending cuts that we can get.


O‘DONNELL:  The $33 billion in budget cuts that Boehner is now rejecting happens to be $1 billion more than Boehner himself originally proposed two months ago before being forced by the Tea Party into doubling his proposal.  Boehner signaled that he will fight on the controversial riders such as defunding Planned Parenthood and NPR, saying, “There will be no agreement on a number until everything—including important policy provisions from H.R. 1 is resolved.”

But Senate Democrats have already said many of the ideologically-driven riders such as defunding Planned Parenthood are deal breakers for them.  The Congress has until Friday to pass a compromised budget bill and avoid a government shutdown.

And two new political and budgetary complications are looming.  Tomorrow, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan will unveil the Republican‘s 2012 budget proposal with cuts far more drastic than the ones being debated today.  And Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner warned congressional leaders today that the United States will hit its debt limit no later than May 16th.

The Congress has never failed to raise the debt ceiling whenever necessary because the economic consequences for the United States and the world economy would be devastating.  We now have six weeks to discover if this is the first Congress in history that does not understand that.

Joining me now: Congressman Anthony Weiner, Democrat of New York, and Congressman Phil Roe, Republican from Tennessee.

Congressman Weiner, the Democrats have compromised beyond the point of John Boehner‘s original proposal of $32 billion, all the way down in $33 billion in cuts.  Have the Democrats kind of been bargaining with themselves now all along, and now are you going to have to compromise even more between the $33 billion and $61 billion that some Republicans are calling for?

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK:  Well, you know, the problem is right now there is this internal conversation going on between Speaker Boehner and himself apparently.  He agreed to $33.

Now, he wants to have more.  He wants to tell NPR they can‘t be in radio.  Planned Parenthood, they can‘t be in family planning.  And I guess he wants to tell the Environmental Protection Agency they can‘t regulate the environment.

But at a certain point, you have to realize what‘s going on here.  The straw that‘s stirring this drink are Tea Party nihilists who just want the government to shutdown and, you know, one of the things about being speaker is you‘ve got to lead.  I don‘t see Speaker Boehner doing that.  So, I think we‘re going to have a government shutdown and my Republican friends are going to get what they want.

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman Roe, are you happy to have the Tea Party lead the speaker in the direction of more cuts?

REP. PHIL ROE ®, TENNESSEE:  No.  Lawrence, first of all, you made a great intro into this segment.  I thought it was terrific.  You pointed out that debt crisis we‘re in will reach May 16th I think you said.  Your description was really good.

And I think you laid out the narrative of why we have to have these cuts.  At least to let our viewing audience know that the amount of money we‘re talking about is 4 percent of a $1.6 trillion deficit.  And this is not a Democrat or Republican issue.  This is an American issue.  And this issue is imperative that we fix it for future of our children and grandchildren.

And I know Anthony Weiner and I probably don‘t agree on a lot of things.  But I think if he wants to be the mayor of New York, and I think he‘ll agree on that.  Cities have to balance their budgets.  Families do every day.  I went home and talk to families this past week and they are struggling to make their budgets meet with gas being $4 a gallon.  They expect Congress and us to do the same thing.

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman Roe, as the debt ceiling approaches, are there any conditions under which you would vote against a debt ceiling increase?

ROE:  You know, I think I guess when you put it that way—yes, any condition.  But I think no one—Lawrence, no one wants to shut the government down.

I‘ve looked at this very seriously.  It‘s not a good thing to shut the government.  I think in all honesty, the Republican Party, we were elected in November to help cut spending.  And we‘ve had some help from our Democratic allies and friends.  They understand that we‘re heading toward an impending debt crisis.

And I know you were chief of staff for the Senate Budget Committee.  You understand the budget as good as anybody on television.  We can‘t keep going the way we‘re going.  I don‘t know what‘s the end point if you keep spending trillions of dollars that you don‘t have.

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman Weiner, can you make an offer to Congressman Roe right now where you think you might be able to close this negotiation?

WEINER:  I think so.  If this was about—and Congressman Roe is a reasonable guy, but right now, we‘re focusing on 14 percent of the budget.  Look, I was the author of more amendments to cut the budget during the H.R.

1 being up than any other member of Congress.

Democrats don‘t like waste.  Democrats don‘t like programs that aren‘t working.  But if you take defense off the table, if you take other spending off the table and you say let‘s just focus on 14 percent—look, I‘m going to tell you right now, if we let H.R. 1 become law, we‘re going to cut air traffic controllers, we‘re going to cut cops, we‘re going to cut firefighters.  And just like if you‘re running a city, you wouldn‘t choose to only cut those areas.

If we have a real, honest discussion about this, this deal is very doable.  But the fact of the matter is, Speaker Boehner is being dragged around by the nose by the most extreme elements of his caucus that represent the most extreme elements in this country.

As soon as he shows some real leadership and says, you know what?  Let‘s try to operate in the best interest of the American people and not extreme ideology, you can get this deal done overnight.

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman Roe, where can you strike a deal with Anthony Weiner?

ROE:  Well, certainly, I think—you know, first of all, let me cite that cutting 4 percent of $1.6 trillion deficit is not extreme.  It‘s reasonable.  As a matter of fact, a lot of people want us to go further than that.

It‘s not to argue about the value of a cops program or NPR, it‘s just we don‘t have the money to spend.  It‘s very simple.  If you had plenty of money, that would be one thing—we do not.

Yes, I think we can—I think we have to sit down and work this out because if the government shuts down, soldiers don‘t get paid.  A lot of other things happen.  And, certainly, we‘ve had—the Democrats had an entire year last year to do a budget.  There was nothing we could do to stop it.  We didn‘t have votes to.

A budget didn‘t get done.  And we really are arguing about last year‘s budget.  We‘re going to have to start concentrating on 2012‘s budget.

O‘DONNELL:  So, Congressman Roe, when you say we have to sit down and work this out, it sounds like you‘re saying to Anthony Weiner it doesn‘t have to be H.R. 1, it doesn‘t have to be the full package of cuts that Republicans already passed in the House.  It can be something between that and the 33 billion that they are at today?

ROE:  I think you have to look at it.  And, certainly, one of the things that we did add was defense.

Here‘s the thing that was not—that hasn‘t been brought out in discussion so far: discretionary nondefense spending.  That‘s the money that we have, parks, Department of Transportation and so on.  That is up with stimulus money over 80 percent in the last two years.  That‘s—don‘t tell me we can‘t cut the money out of there when we‘ve had that huge increase in spending and without the stimulus it‘s up 20 percent.

The county I live in is having to cut their budget by 5 percent right now because they don‘t have the money to pay the bills.

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman Weiner, your response?

WEINER:  Well, all I can say is fully one-third of the debt that Mr.  Roe cares so much about came from one place: wars that weren‘t paid for in Iraq and Afghanistan.  That‘s the Department of Defense.  And yet, we‘re not having a real conversation about cutting those things.

Look, the fact is Mr. Roe will say right now we‘ll debate choice later on.  We‘ll debate EPA policy later on.  Let‘s try to get a reasonable budget right now.  He might agree to it, but Boehner refuses to.  They are too busy doing ideology rather than doing the people‘s business in the House and the Senate.

And anyone will tell you that if you want to bog down this process with things like whether you‘re going to fund click and clack, and wait, don‘t tell me, you can do it and that‘s what they are choosing to do.

I got to tell you something.  Follow me now.  Many elements of the Republican Caucus that Congressman Roe works with every single day want to shut down the government.  They have said as much and they‘re going to get their way.  But when it happens, I hope every one of your viewers look at those Republicans to say, OK, we sent you to Washington to solve problems and you‘re making things worse.  We‘re going to get rid of you.

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman Roe, you were nodding in what look like, what might have been some agreement with what Congressman Weiner has just said.

ROE:  Maybe I was, maybe you caught me off guard, Lawrence.


ROE:  What I would say is that Senate Democrats have had now weeks to work out something.  The Republicans passed a budget, C.R., sent it over.  Six C.R.s we‘ve done.  Not one or two or three, six of ‘em.

They‘ve had weeks now to work this out.  And why it‘s coming down to the last minute is beyond me because there‘s no reason whatsoever.  The American people don‘t like it.

WEINER:  I‘ll explain it to you.

ROE:  I can explain.  I guarantee you, I can explain it, too.

They spoke loud and clear on the 2nd of November.  They were tired of the spending.  They sent the people up here, the representatives up here, 87 new Republicans to stop this crazy spending that we‘re doing.

WEINER:  I‘ll explain it to you.  They agreed on a $32 billion cut.  It was a very substantial cut.  And Speaker Boehner was spanked by the Tea Party nuts and now that deal is off the table.  How long are we going to wait and be held hostage by this small group of your colleagues, Congressman Roe?  When are reasonable voices like yours going to take hold?

ROE:  I would say the Tea Party folks are very reasonable.  The ones I‘ve talked to out there if you go meet them and talk to them, as I have, are just my neighbors.  They live down the street.

I‘ve been all over the country as you have.  You talk to these folks. 

They understand they can‘t run their families like we run the government. 

They can‘t spend more than they take in.

WEINER:  Well, I have a deal then.  Maybe of your reasonable neighbors should get in the place of John Boehner because he isn‘t doing the job leading right now.  You can‘t negotiate with someone who agrees on a number and then walks out of a room, goes into your caucus and then comes back with his tail between his legs.  We need real leadership here.  And it‘s going to be tough.

And, you know, I mean, I got to tell you something.  If Nancy Pelosi were in charge of these negotiations, a deal would have been done a long time ago.

ROE:  I disagree.  I think the deal is being done.  I think Leader Boehner is doing a great job.  As a matter of fact, he is expressing the will of the American people.  They voted in November.  They gave us our marching orders.  That‘s what we‘re up here doing.

I couldn‘t disagree with you more is that he‘s absolutely listening to the people.  We have a voice in our caucus.  It‘s not an iron hand.  We get to speak.  And the speaker is doing a great job.

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman Roe, you are a sponsor of the balanced budget amendment act, this would be a constitutional amendment.

ROE:  Yes.

O‘DONNELL:  It was described by a former Reagan policy adviser, Bruce Bartlett, this way.  He says, quote, “In short, this is quite possibly the stupidest constitutional amendment I think I have ever seen.  It looks like it was drafted by a couple of interns on the back of a napkin.  Every senator co-sponsoring this POS should be ashamed of themselves.”

He‘s saying says that you should be ashamed of yourself for co-sponsoring such a simple minded constitutional amendment, Congressman.  And he worked for Ronald Reagan.

ROE:  Well, that‘s great that he did.  I‘m glad he worked for Ronald Reagan.  But let me tell you what‘s I‘m not ashamed of.  I‘m not ashamed of balancing the budget as a mayor.  I‘m not ashamed of balancing the budget in my home (INAUDIBLE) balances his budget.

And we have never shown—the Congress of the United States has not shown will power to balance the budget.  And I think we‘re going to have to put it in the Constitution so that if this Congress leaves and becomes more spent, or they want to spend more, they can‘t do it by law.  I don‘t see any other way to do it.

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman Weiner, is there any other way to do it?

WEINER:  Well, having the Constitution doesn‘t stop the Republicans from trampling all over it.  But let me just say this—look, we have to get my Republican friends to transition from their successful 2010 campaign rhetoric to idea that they are governing now.  They are in charge.  They‘ve got to show reasonableness.

Having compromise is not a vice.  But you‘ve got to decide what they want to be as a party.  Are they the reasonable conservative party or are they the party that wants to put their hands in every bedroom, wants to get involved with NPR, wants to defund EPA, and that party will never get anything done in this town.  You watch.  They‘re going to shut down the government and a good number of them are going to be cheering all the time doing it.

That‘s not what the American people want.  It would be devastating for our economy.

O‘DONNELL:  That‘s all the time we have for our budget debate tonight.

Congressman Phil Roe, Republican of Tennessee, and, Congressman Weiner, Democrat of New York—thank you both for joining me and having this civil discussion tonight.  Thank you.

WEINER:  Thank you, gentlemen.

ROE:  Thank you.

O‘DONNELL:  Next year‘s budget will be an even bigger political fight.  Republican Congressman Paul Ryan wants to cut $4 trillion, but to do that he will dismantle Medicare and Medicaid.  And the media still loves to call Paul Ryan the responsible Republican.  That‘s next.

And later, President Obama asks the same voters who helped get him

into the White House to join the cause again and start organizing for his

re-election.  But can volunteers who were inspired by the anti-war senator

now work for the commander-in-chief of three wars?


O‘DONNELL:  We‘ll pull back the curtain on Republican Paul Ryan‘s budget plan.  He says we have to lie about it to make it sound unfair.  Well, that‘s a lie.  All we have to do to make it sound unfair is to tell you exactly what his plan actually is, something Congressman Ryan will never do.

And President Obama announces he‘s running for re-election, and of the field of Republican candidates only one had a response ready to go.

And when Glenn Beck feels uncomfortable by the things Donald Trump says, that‘s got to be tonight‘s “Rewrite.”


O‘DONNELL:  While Congress argues over billions in federal budget cuts for this year, Republican House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan has been drafting a 2012 budget plan that covers the next decade and that‘s trillions.  Ryan will unveil his deficit plan tomorrow.  According to Ryan, it will cut over $4 trillion over 10 years largely through what he calls entitlement reform.

Medicare would remain the same for anyone 55 or older.  But for those under 55, the plan eliminates Medicare and replaces it with a privatized system that provides some help paying for health insurance premiums though those subsidies paying for health insurance premiums are means tested.

The Ryan plan also increases the age of Medicare eligibility from 65 to 67 by 2032.  It ends Medicaid as we know it and replaces it with simple block grants to the states.  It would cap federal discretionary spending to historic levels of around 20 percent of GDP, and it does all that without raising taxes.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS:  Do you eliminate tax breaks?  Do you bring in new revenue by eliminating tax breaks for oil companies?

REP. PAUL RYAN ®, WISCONSIN:  We don‘t have a tax problem.  The problem with our deficit is not because Americans are taxed too little.  The problem with our deficit is because Washington spends too much money.


O‘DONNELL:  The plan will actually reduce taxes for the wealthiest Americans according to “The Wall Street Journal.”  “Conservative activists who are familiar with the Ryan plan said they expect it to call for a fundamental overhaul of the tax system with a 25 percent top rate for both individuals and corporations compared to the current 35 percent top rate.”

Congressman Ryan is keenly aware of how Democrats will translate such a plan to voters in 2012.


WALLACE:  As you look ahead to the next election, aren‘t Democrats going to be able to say, look at Paul Ryan, look at the House Republicans, they want to kill Medicare.  They want to kill Medicaid.  They want to gut the program that you depend on.  Aren‘t you playing into the Democrats hand?

RYAN:  We are.  We are giving them a political weapon to go against us.  But they will to lie and demagogue to make that a political weapon.

The president has punted.  We‘re not going to follow suit.  And yes, we will be giving our political adversaries things to use against us in the next election and shame on them if they do that.


O‘DONNELL:  Joining me now, founder and president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Robert Greenstein.

Bob, thank you very much for joining me tonight.


O‘DONNELL:  You are, of course, always my guide to fairness in any budget plan.  Looking at what we know as of this time about what Congressman Ryan is proposing, how would you grade the fairness of this plan?

GREENSTEIN:  Lawrence, I‘ve been here for almost four decades now.  This is by far the most radical and extreme budget plan I‘ve ever seen.  I mean, it dramatically cuts health care funding for low and moderate income people through Medicaid and Medicare.  It effectively would lead over time to rationing of health care by income, yet at the same time that it does that, it makes permanent all of the Bush tax cuts for people at the very top of the income scale.  That‘s an average tax cut of $125,000 a year for people that make over $1 million a year.

So, over a decade, people that are millionaires get $1 million in tax cuts while low income children, seniors and people with severe disabilities lose basic health care.  It‘s extraordinary.

O‘DONNELL:  And to go after any kind of deficit reduction plan or balanced budget plan without looking at revenues, without looking at taxation, starts off as terribly unfair especially when there are many ways of looking at taxation, including all of the deductions built into the personal tax code, and the corporate tax code before you get to the issue of raising any income tax rates.  There‘s the issue of exactly how much complicated and advantageous underbrush is there in the tax code that favors the rich.

GREENSTEIN:  That‘s precisely right.  I was on deficit commission in the mid ‘90s when Alan Greenspan testified and he said to us, if you want to look at entitlements, you have to look at tax entitlements.  Or Martin Feldstein, who was Ronald Reagan‘s economics adviser said the most wasteful spending in the whole budget is a lot of these special tax breaks in the tax code that are effectively subsidies we give out through the tax code.

Does the Ryan plan get a dollar for deficit reduction from closing egregious tax breaks for oil companies, or corporations that ship jobs overseas, or Wall Street traders who manipulate the rules to pay taxes at lower rates than you are or I do?  None of that delivers a penny.  Every dollar for deficit reduction comes from basic programs like Medicare and Medicaid that while there are some reforms one needs to look at there, the Ryan proposals don‘t reform the overall health care system.  They just slash Medicare and Medicaid.

People on Medicare who are affluent, they‘d be fine.  They would be able to purchase all of the supplemental coverage they need.  People on Medicare who have modest incomes, elderly widows at $15,000 to $20,000 a year, poor children on Medicaid, they‘d be out of luck.

O‘DONNELL:  Bob, Congressman Ryan says that we will have to lie about his plan in order to scare people about it or to turn them against it.  We have an NBC poll that says 76 percent of voters are opposed to cutting Medicare.

Now, this plan cuts Medicare.  It does exactly what 76 percent of voters don‘t want to do.  I don‘t see any lie anyone has to tell to get opposition to this plan out there.

GREENSTEIN: So, what Ryan will say is that his plan provides a voucher or a fixed dollar amount and you can go and use that dollar amount and buy private insurance.

There are two problems with that.  The first is that Medicare is

actually a pretty efficient system and it pays doctors and hospitals less

than private insurance does.  So, if you go to buy private insurance, you

got to pay for the higher rates and profits and marketing, you‘re not going

to get more for less.  The second issue—and this is the most important -

is the dollar amount he gives seniors to go buy coverage in the private market, he designs it in a way so that the dollar amount you get doesn‘t keep pace with rising health care costs.


With each passing year, your voucher would buy less health care and you would become steadily more under-insured unless you had money to supplement with your own coverage.

O‘DONNELL:  Bob Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, thank you very much for joining us tonight, Bob.

GREENSTEIN:  My pleasure.

O‘DONNELL:  President Obama made it official today, announcing his re-election campaign but on the same day he was forced to reverse course on a major campaign promise from 2008.  Will he be able to strike the same grassroots magic this time?

And, later, Governor Tim Pawlenty shows he‘s the most capable Republican candidate for president.  He had a campaign ad cut and ready to going to respond to President Obama‘s announcement.


O‘DONNELL:  The Associated Press is reporting that Republicans, fearing that negotiations on the budget may not result in a compromise before this Friday‘s deadline for a government shutdown, are preparing yet another continuing resolution to keep the government funded and prevent a shutdown while negotiations continue. 

Budget talks are set to continue tomorrow morning at the White House between the president and congressional leaders of both parties. 

Ahead in this hour, President Obama in 2012.  He‘s hoping for another army of volunteers to help carry him to victory.  But what does he need to do to reenergize supporters demoralized by three wars? 

In tonight‘s Rewrite, we thought this was impossible, but Fox News has a new contributor who makes Glenn Beck sound reasonable.  That‘s right, Donald Trump.


O‘DONNELL:  President Obama did what no other 2012 presidential candidate has been willing to do.  Today, he actually officially announced his candidacy, doing so with texts and e-mails to supporters, and a web video featuring the very people he needs to connect with first: grassroots volunteers. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Kind of nervous about it.  Second coming, here it is, 2012, the election. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I think it needs to reflect the changes that we‘ve seen in the last two and a half years. 

Then we had an underdog senator.  Nobody thought that he had a chance. 

And now he‘s the president. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I just saw the energy and hope that he had for this country.  Even though I couldn‘t exactly vote at the time, I knew that some day I would be able to help re-elect him.  And that‘s what I plan on doing. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We‘re not leaving it up to chance.  We‘re not leaving it up to the incumbent.  It‘s an election that we have to win. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Unfortunately, President Obama is one person.  He can not go—plus, he got a job.  We‘re paying him to do a job.  So we can‘t say, hey, could you just take some time off and come and get us all energized.  So we better figure it out. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t agree with Obama on everything, but I respect him and I trust him. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  There are so many things that are still on the table that need to be addressed.  And we want them to be addressed by President Obama. 


O‘DONNELL:  Joining me now, MSNBC contributor Melissa Harris-Perry, also an associate professor of politics at Princeton University.  Thanks for joining us tonight, Melissa. 


O‘DONNELL:  On a day when the president had to break a 2008 pledge about closing Guantanamo Bay prison—he‘s broken it already.  But he actually extended the lease on it by saying we‘re going to have the trials there of the terrorist suspects being held there, instead of having those trials in New York and in the United States. 

It‘s an awkward day to make this announcement about re-election and it may have been not easy to find a day where there wasn‘t some kind of 2008 campaign pledge that was being risked that day. 

HARRIS-PERRY:  Well, it‘s an awkward day.  But I think there are lots of different ways to read the Guantanamo decision.  In other words, one might read it as a broken campaign promise.  But one might also read it as the inability to keep a campaign promise because of the obstructionist or unreasonable tactics of the other side. 

Remember that part of what‘s going on here for the president as he faces re-election is he‘s going to need a clear enemy, but he‘s going to want to be sure he doesn‘t have a worthy opponent.  So in other words, if you can have Republicans overreaching in the U.S. House of Representatives, if you can have them as representative of the enemy, but if you can also come out early enough and get enough enthusiasm in your base represented through their behaviors to keep a good worthy GOP opponent from actually jumping in, then you really have done sort of the job that you‘re meant to do as an incumbent. 

O‘DONNELL:  Melissa, I was struck by the person in the video who uses that line President Obama is one person.  He‘s just one person.  And whereas in the campaign in 2008, that one person was going to change everything.  I never took that seriously, because I knew the Congress was going to be there. 

And the president—all presidents in effect have to beg Congress for what they want.  And the Congress is going to never give them exactly what they want.  But it seems like Obama campaign workers have now discovered this, that he‘s just one person.  He‘s the president.  There‘s a Congress that can get in his way. 

Now, can a campaign be inspirational and realistic at the same time? 

HARRIS-PERRY:  Let me back up a little bit.  I‘m not sure I would accept your premise that what was so great about the ‘08 campaign was the notion that it was one person.  Actually, I thought what candidate Obama did so beautifully in ‘08 was to vest power in we.  Right?  It was always about, yes, we can.  Yes, the people can. 

But, of course, it was always started with the people.  In other words, he gave the “Yes, We Can Speech,”            but that speech given in defeat was not really the game changer.  The game changer was the remix of the “Yes, We Can Speech.” 

It was precisely the political entrepreneurship of ordinary Americans who saw themselves as really the collective Obama.  Now, I think the question is whether or not a collectivity necessary for an election who, of course, gets shut out of the process of governing wants to pull themselves back together again to be part of yet another election. 

O‘DONNELL:  Melissa, all talk has been that the president has a problem with liberals in the Democratic party because he has disappointed liberals.  We have polling that indicates among Democrats, liberal Democrats support the president more than any other group.  They support him 83 percent, liberal Democrats. 

Moderate Democrats lower than that at 77 percent.  This is after his compromising with Republicans that may have had more support among moderates than among liberals.  So I don‘t see in the polling where the challenge lies for the president with liberals. 

HARRIS-PERRY:  Yes.  Look, what we know about the American political system is you have two parties.  Liberals are most happy with him mostly because, relative to the alternative, right --  they are the ones furthest away from the alternative. 

I think that‘s right.  The moderates are the problem.  But it‘s always that issue for a candidate.  He‘s got to get those swing voters and keep his base mobilized. 

O‘DONNELL:  MSNBC contributor and associate professor of politics at Princeton, Melissa Harris-Perry, thank you very much for joining us tonight. 

Coming up, only hours after President Obama announced the launch of his re-election campaign, Tim Pawlenty released another flashy ad declaring in order for America to take a new direction, it is going to take a new president.  On the president‘s first official day of campaigning, Pawlenty was the only Republican candidate ready to take him on. 

That‘s coming up. 

And later, Donald Trump is making Glenn Beck uncomfortable.  And Glenn Beck is making more sense than Trump.  That‘s in tonight‘s Rewrite.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What bothers me is that he‘s getting so much attention for this fake presidential run.  I know Trump thinks any publicity is good publicity, the same way he apparently thinks any hair is good hair. 


O‘DONNELL:  Time for tonight‘s Rewrite.  What does a rich Republican, anti-Obama, anti-abortion, anti-tax presidential candidate have to do to alienate Glenn Beck?  Donald Trump has done it.  Here‘s Beck‘s analyzing on last week‘s O‘Reilly/Trump interview. 


BILL O‘REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  OK, you were watching trump interview this week? 

GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  You were dismissive. 

O‘REILLY:  I wasn‘t dismissive.

BECK:  Yes, you were.

O‘REILLY:  I was not.  Your crazy.

BECK:  Now you‘re on that bandwagon too.


O‘DONNELL:  There you have it.  Bill O‘Reilly has finally jumped on the Glenn Beck‘s crazy bandwagon.  It‘s worth hearing that one more time, isn‘t it. 


O‘REILLY:  I was not.  You‘re crazy. 

BECK:  Oh, right.  Now you‘re on that bandwagon too. 


O‘DONNELL:  But Beck went on to be, for once, possibly the first time ever—well, definitely the first time ever, the voice of sanity in an O‘Reilly interview.  Beck hit hard Trump as hard as he can, given that Trump has just become a Fox News colleague for regular segments on “Fox and Friends.” 


BECK:  He is—I don‘t know exactly what that strategy is that he‘s -

O‘REILLY:  I tell you what it is.  It‘s get attention right off the jump. 

Would you vote for him?  Could you vote for him? 

BECK:  He‘s made me a little uncomfortable here recently. 

O‘REILLY:  With what?

BECK:  The whole let‘s just go—I‘ll just pound China.  You‘re not going to go pound China.  They hold all our debt.  You‘re just going to pound China? 

He goes into I don‘t believe he has a birth certificate.  Then he releases one that‘s worse than Obama‘s.  And then he comes back and he says on your program, he might be a Muslim too. 

O‘REILLY:  Well, he might have a religious component. 

BECK:  What does that mean, Bill? 

O‘REILLY:  Listen, again, I understand why he‘s doing that.  He‘s getting a massive amount of attention quickly.  He‘s capturing a certain segment—

BECK:  I would hope that we could get serious candidates who could shake things up by not saying provocative things, just by stating the truth of what‘s going on. 


O‘DONNELL:  OK.  This is the Rewrite I never expected to have to do.  We have to rewrite our understanding of Glenn Beck as being capable of exactly the right provocation of small flashes of sanity.  Glenn Beck, in fact, is now the wisest entertainer at Fox News on the matter of Donald Trump. 

Oh, and there‘s more.  Remember when I said this about O‘Reilly? 


O‘DONNELL:  Here‘s what I see when I look at Bill O‘Reilly: a very, very rich man who has grown phenomenally rich by playing a character on TV that the most gullible audience in the history of television falls for.


O‘DONNELL:  And O‘Reilly actually proved that to be true on his Friday night show. 


BECK:  I would hope that we could get serious candidates who could shake things up by not saying provocative things, just by stating the truth of what‘s going on. 

O‘REILLY:  Then you and I would be off the air because we‘re provocateurs.  We do that every day. 


O‘DONNELL:  “We‘re provocateurs.”  He‘s admitting that it‘s all just an act? 


O‘REILLY:  You and I would be off the air, because we‘re provocateurs. 


O‘DONNELL:  It‘s all an act.  He admits it.  He‘s saying we‘re provocateurs.  He‘s admitting it isn‘t real.  He‘s just doing it for effect.  He‘s actually using French to describe his act: provocateurs.  Bien sur.


O‘REILLY:  Because we‘re provocateurs.   Because we‘re provocateurs.  Because we‘re provocateurs.  Because we‘re provocateurs.  Because we‘re provocateurs.



O‘DONNELL:  When President Obama released his online video announcement of his re-election candidacy today, only one Republican was ready with an official response.  Regular viewers of this program will not be surprised who it was. 


OBAMA:  Time to win the future. 

TIM PAWLENTY ®, FORMER GOVERNOR OF MINNESOTA:  I‘ve got a question for you.  How can America win the future when we‘re losing the present? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You have families out here in the United States that are struggling. 

PAUL KRUGMAN, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”:  Washington has given up on the job. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s staggering. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Can‘t pay their mortgage. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Home sales a record low. 

PAWLENTY:  In order for America to take a new direction, it‘s going to take a new president. 


O‘DONNELL:  My bet to win the Republican nomination, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty used his movie trailer-esque tactics once again to go after President Obama.  Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, on the hand, tried to piggyback on the president‘s Youtube traffic.

Some viewers of President Obama‘s reelection video noticed a sponsored link from Bachmann‘s campaign to the right of it.  Here‘s what they saw if they clicked on that ad. 


REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA:  Hi.  My name is Michele Bachmann.  I‘m from Minnesota‘s Sixth Congressional District.  Most people, including many in Congress, don‘t realize that the Obama care law contained 105 billion in appropriations. 


O‘DONNELL:  Nothing new there.  Rick Santorum and Herman Kaine could only come up with paper statements.  Mitt Romney took to Twitter, saying only “I look forward to hearing details on your jobs plan as are 14 million unemployed Americans.” 

Newt Gingrich left it to his spokesman to say, “with their announced goal of raising a billion dollars in order to drown out their opposition, one thing is certain.  It begins and ends with political extortion.” 

Joining me now, editorial director of “the Huffington Post,” Howard Fineman.  Howard, thanks for joining me tonight.


O‘DONNELL:  My boy, Tim Pawlenty, my pick for the Republican nomination.  My pick is he will win it by a process of elimination because there‘s something disastrously wrong with all the rest of them.  He showed us today he‘s the only one ready to go. 

FINEMAN:  I‘ll tell you what, he‘s got this young guy named Lucas Biano (ph)

O‘DONNELL:  A filmmaker.

FINEMAN:  The filmmaker, who is, on his own terms, sensationally good at what he does.  If you are looking for something that‘s halfway between a video game like “Call of Duty,” you know, and a movie trailer, and you want to try to make Tim Pawlenty exciting as a strong opponent to the president, that‘s the way to do it. 

Now, I know Tim Pawlenty.  I covered him.  I went out to Minnesota and interviewed him. 

O‘DONNELL:  I don‘t know Tim Pawlenty.  I‘ve never met him.  I‘m betting on him sight unseen. 

FINEMAN:  I interviewed him in his home in St. Paul.  In person, he‘s as calm and quiet and sort of—

O‘DONNELL:  as is Barack Obama. 

FINEMAN:  As is Barack Obama, kind of cool.  But this is very, very interesting, because I think the candidates have sort of decided that they have gone as far as they can in social media.  Barack Obama capitalized on Facebook in 2008.  Sarah Palin rose on the strength of Twitter in 2010. 

It‘s coming back around to the visual.  And if Tim Pawlenty is going to have chance of fulfilling the prophecy, he‘s going to have to make himself exciting.  As our John Ward from my site, from “Huffington Post” reported, this kid is great at what he does.  Can it get Tim Pawlenty elected?  Probably not.  But can it get him a lot of comment from people like me?  Absolutely.

O‘DONNELL:  Exactly.  You always have to find the way to be taken seriously.  You can do it with money.  Oh, look, he has raised this much money.  You can do it with dynamic speaking ability, as Obama showed at the Democratic Convention in Boston in 2004.  A bunch of ways to do it. 

This is a way to do.  As you say, Pawlenty, when he takes to the stage, is not going to be the guy who everybody says I want to hear more from him. 

FINEMAN:  That video is as excitingly apocalyptic as Tim Pawlenty is ever going to get. 

O‘DONNELL:  It gives you the feel that he‘s going to hit President Obama hard.  This thing comes out dark and hard. 

FINEMAN:  That‘s right.  And by the way, Michele Bachmann, in her own low key way, does a good job too.  They are ironically both from Minnesota.  They know something about combat and smart strategy in politics.  I think if you are looking for people who are going to be on the Republican race who have a sense of how things work right now, I would put Pawlenty and Bachmann right up there. 

O‘DONNELL:  I have not expected Romney to be a bad campaigner.  I expected him to be a good organized sharp campaigner.  He wasn‘t today. 

FINEMAN:  No, he wasn‘t.  But he‘s hoping that people come around to him.  You know, it‘s amazing how quickly American politics is changing, how the grammar and language and tactics are changing as the media are changing.  I‘m in the midst of trying to figure it out via the “Huffington Post.” 

Everything is changing very quickly.  As Obama did in ‘08, the candidates who figure out how to reach people, especially unengaged swing voters in these places, are the ones who are going to have a good long range shot.  Short range, somebody like Michele Bachmann in Iowa, because of the Evangelical connection, has a chance. 

But if you are looking for independent, unattached voters, that kind of video is what gets them. 

O‘DONNELL:  Quickly, Howard, what are they hoping for, the candidates

what are they hoping for in the congressional budget negotiations?  A quick solution and get it off the table? 

FINEMAN:  Yes.  I think candidates want it off the table because they don‘t want to have to talk about Medicare and Medicaid and strong budget cuts for the next few months.  They‘d rather have Congress deal with that. 

O‘DONNELL:  Howard Fineman of MSNBC and the “Huffington Post,” thanks for joining us tonight, Howard. 

FINEMAN:  Thank you, Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  You can have THE LAST WORD online at our blog,  You can follow my Tweets @Lawrence.  “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” is up next.  Good evening, Rachel.


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