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updated 12/29/2011 2:38:09 PM ET 2011-12-29T19:38:09

Guests: Karen Finney, Richard Wolffe, Maggie Haberman, E.J. Dionne


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: Breaking news: I spoke to former Nebraska
Senator Bob Kerrey today on this little thing. And he`s not ruling out a
run.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: Gallup`s daily tracker today has President
Obama`s approval ratings up.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Well, the upward trend is good news for
the president.

CHRIS JANSING, NBC NEWS: For the first time since July.

In the meantime, of course, the Republicans are doings battle largely
with each other.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: None of them look very strong compared to
President Obama.

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There`s really three
primaries going on here. Three primaries going on here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the final push.

SANTORUM: This libertarian primary which Paul is going to win.

MATTHEWS: Ron Paul may win this whole thing.

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If the weather is
bad and it`s real tough to get out, Ron Paul will win.

SANTORUM: And you got the moderate primary, which Gingrich and Romney
are scrumming for.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Newt`s new tact now that he`s backed away from
relentlessly positive, as he put it, he`s now attacking Mitt Romney as a
Massachusetts moderate.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He`s a Massachusetts
moderate trying to come down and pretend to be a conservative.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe that abortion
should be safe and legal in this country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Speaker Gingrich is a desperate candidate.

NARRATOR: He has more baggage than the airlines.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Newt Gingrich did not make the ballot in Virginia.

SANTORUM: You`ve got three folks who are running as strong
conservatives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like gun-toting is Santorum.

SANTORUM: You got shotguns for Christmas.

NARRATOR: We need a solution.

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That`s the reason I
call for a part-time Congress.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No Republican has won the hearts and minds of the
Republican base.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is Tim Pawlenty right now? Because Tim
Pawlenty, he would be the guy you turn to.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: Today was a good day for the Obama re-election campaign.
But it was a tough day for the Democratic Party.

The good news for the Obama campaign is that the Republicans running
for president continue to savage each other. Newt Gingrich is saying the
worst things he can think of about Mitt Romney comparing him to Ted
Kennedy. Romney is comparing Gingrich to Lucille Ball.

An influential conservative columnist Bill Kristol is now officially
begging someone, anyone, to run for the Republican nomination for
president.

As the Republicans continue to attack each other, they continue to
drive up the negatives of every Republican running for president --
something Newt Gingrich had always insisted Republicans should not do,
right up until he started doing it himself.

As President Obama`s re-election continues to look more likely with
the help of the Republicans, his ability to govern in a second term was
hurt today when it became a bit more likely that those same Republicans
will take control of the United States Senate next year.

Senator Ben Nelson, the Democrat from Nebraska, where Democrats are an
endangered species made this announcement today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BEN NELSON (D), NEBRASKA: It`s time for me to step away from
elective office, spend more time with my family and look for new ways to
serve our state and nation. Therefore, I`m announcing today that I will
not seek re-election. Simply put, it`s time to move on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Nelson, who won re-election in 2006 with a miraculous 64
percent of the Nebraska vote, will be virtually impossible for the
Democrats to replace in Nebraska. In fact, the situation is so hopeless in
Nebraska that the Democrats are looking to New York for a solution. That
is where Bob Kerrey, former Democratic governor of Nebraska and former
senator from Nebraska who held Nelson`s seat before him now lives.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Former Nebraska Democratic Senator Bob Kerrey is
considering a run. You know, you mentioned the word difficult. It was
going to be very difficult for Democrats to hold on to this seat had Nelson
stayed and run for re-election. It`s going to be difficult for them to
still be able to win it, probably even harder. But if they can get someone
like Bob Kerrey, at least it makes it competitive for them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: I called Bob Kerrey as soon as the Ben Nelson news broke
today. It took him a few seconds to understand what I was calling about
since it turned out I had awakened him at 2:00 a.m. in India.

He said he would love to move back to Nebraska, that he`s often
thought about moving back to Nebraska. He`s thought about it lately. But
he has not thought about planning a race for the Senate there, which we
were at the last -- so which means that THE LAST WORD here, we officially
interpret as at least at 2:00 in the morning in India, while half awake,
Bob Kerrey is leaving the door open.

Bob Kerrey also said he thought Ben Nelson`s retirement was a big loss
for Nebraska.

That was not exactly the sentiment of a Senate Democratic leadership
aide who told NBC News, quote, "Nelson will be the least missed member of
the Democratic caucus next year."

That certainly echoes the feelings of many liberals who have been
frustrated with his unreliability as a supporter of the Democratic
leadership`s agenda in the Senate. But there would be non-Democratic
leadership agenda in the Senate if the Democrats were not the majority
party.

The last Democratic president, Bill Clinton, had two Democrats in the
Senate from the Nebraska when he began his term. The President Obama was
lucky to have even one. Ben Nelson cast the most important vote that a
senator can cast when he voted for this man for majority leader.

Ben Nelson has voted with the Democrats 82 percent of the time this
year. The Republican senator from Nebraska has voted with the Democrats 8
percent of the time this year. That is what`s at stake in Democrats
holding on in any way they can to that Nebraska Senate seat. A Nebraska
Democrat cannot possibly vote like a New York Democrat in the Senate and
expect to hold on to that seat.

If Bob Kerrey doesn`t run for that seat, Nebraska is virtually certain
to elect another Republican to the Senate who will vote for Mitch McConnell
for majority leader and vote against the Democratic agenda, if there is one
-- at least 90 percent of the time.

As frustrated as liberals have a right to be with Ben Nelson, they
also have much to thank Ben Nelson for. Such is the complexity of the
politics of governing. Ben Nelson managed to hold on to a Democratic
Senate seat in a state where George W. Bush beat John Kerry by 33 points,
in a state where John McCain beat Barack Obama by the 15 points.

Republicans were always desperate to get Ben Nelson out of the
Democratic majority in the Senate. In 2004, before the Democrats got the
majority, Karl Rove saw it coming, and he offered Ben Nelson the job of
agriculture secretary. That would have allowed Nebraska`s Republican
governor to pick Nelson`s replacement, giving the Republicans a Senate
seat. Ben Nelson turned it down.

If Ben Nelson had accepted that job, in 2006, Democrats would have
fallen exactly one seat short of winning control of the Senate, Ben
Nelson`s seat.

In 2012, the Republicans need to pick up just four Senate seats to win
back control of the Senate if they can hold on to all 10 of their incumbent
Republican Senate seats. The Democrats now have eight difficult seats to
defend, including Nebraska.

The Republicans only need to win half of those seats. Mitch
McConnell`s road to majority leader just got a little bit easier today, and
the prospects of President Obama being able to govern in a second term got
a little bit harder today.

Joining me now are: MSNBC analyst Richard Wolffe, author of "Revival:
The Struggle for Survival Inside the Obama White House" and MSNBC analyst
Karen Finney, former DNC communications director.

Karen, speak to this question of the complexity of the politics of
governing versus the politics of campaigning. In campaigning, you can just
leave the opponent, you know, dead by the side of the road. But the
complexity in the politics of governing is the person who is in your way
today may be your ally tomorrow, which is something that Harry Reid always
knew about Ben Nelson. Yes, he`s not with me on this vote today but he`s
with me most of the time.

That`s something that it seems to me the retail consumer of our
politics out there viewers of this show and others have trouble grasping.

KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC ANALYST: You know, people understand it, they
just don`t like it.

O`DONNELL: Yes, there`s that. Yes.

FINNEY: But just don`t get that like in the building behind me, as we
well know, that`s how it is. If we want to change that, then there are
some other things that we could be doing.

But absolutely. I mean, think about the number of times, I mean, it`s
true, when you think about Joe Lieberman, right? It`s sort of like we hate
the fact that we need him, but the truth is, we need him to caucus with the
Democrats to get us to the numbers we need to get to be in the majority.

I think, though, with regard to Ben Nelson specifically, while
obviously him voting for the health care legislation and certain other
things, you know, you mentioned 82 percent is helpful -- I don`t think the
math actually changes all that much either for the Democrats or the
Republicans in the DSCC or the NRSC. In that, I think the Republicans were
expecting this was going to be a pickup for them. I think it was always
going to be a hard seat for Democrats.

The one thing in the math that I think is potentially helpful is that
we`ve got Ben Nelson sitting on $3 million that could be used towards
whoever the Democrat might be. I think it may be an ugly Republican
primary. I still think, though, it`s going to be a very tough seat for
Democrats to hold on to. And it means, you know what, we`ve got to start
looking other places and not just worrying and thinking about what can we
hold on to, but how do we actually change the nature of the map a little
bit.

O`DONNELL: Absolutely. The map really has to be studied now.

Richard, I would think that I see a difference between the Ben Nelsons
of the Democratic Party and the Joe Liebermans. Let`s remember, Joe
Lieberman, to hold on to his seat, needed to get re-elected in that right
wing state of Connecticut, where getting re-elected for a Democrat is a
whole different ball game than getting re-elected in Nebraska.

And so, the passes I`d be willing to give to a Ben Nelson or a
Nebraska or a Montana senator, say, in order for them to hold on to their
seat are different from the way I`d feel about a Connecticut senator.

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Then there`s another
factory you`ve got to put in there as well, which is the personal politics.
Joe Lieberman has had what you can only describe as a personal problem with
Barack Obama. And that`s played out in his votes and how difficult he`s
been for his president.

Ben Nelson, and this may seem strange, but Ben Nelson back in 2006
would only invite one Democrat to the campaign with him. Not many people
know this, but that one Democrat was actually Barack Obama. And the time
when he was seen as a centrist moderate in the party, Nelson was very happy
to be seen even though -- let`s face it -- there`s not a lot of diversity
in the Nebraska but he was very happy to campaign with him, got a big
event, a big response.

And obviously, people`s attitudes in Nebraska to President Obama have
shifted over the years. And Nelson was going to face re-election fight
with some of the nice things he had said about the president thrown back in
his face. But that personal politics meant that he also had some leeway I
think with this White House because he had been good to Obama and Lieberman
hadn`t. That`s another big contrast between the two of them.

O`DONNELL: Karen, am I wrong to be feeling more confident about the
president`s re-election as the Republicans continue to attack each other
and less confident about Harry Reid`s ability to hold on to a Democratic
Senate?

FINNEY: I think we don`t yet know what the story of the Senate is
going to be. I`m actually a little bit more optimistic. I agree with you
that I think that the president`s re-election prospects continue to look
better every day that the Republicans put their faces on television and
open their mouths to talk. So, certainly that has been helpful.

But I think with regard to the Senate -- I mean, you know, again, I
think that we have to kind of pay attention to what`s going on with voters.
I feel like one of the lessons I learned last time after 20 years in
politics, during the 2008 cycle, is that voters are very unpredictable. I
think they will again this cycle be unpredictable. They`re angry. They`re
frustrated.

When people are angry and frustrated, they do things that are not
predicted all the time by polls. And so, I think we`re going to have to
pay closer attention.

One thing I will say when it comes to the Senate race and just in
general, the idea that we`re talking about Bob Kerrey, I have great respect
for him, but I think it shows the wholly shameful inadequacy that my party
has done in actually developing talent further down the bench. We should
not be talking about somebody who hasn`t lived in the state for 10 years as
a way to try to hold onto the leadership in the Senate.

O`DONNELL: Absolutely. It seems it`s always that way for the
Democrats, when one of these vacancies opens, there`s a sense of panic.
And because they haven`t done that homework you`re talking about.

Richard, and the stakes for President Obama are high. A Republican
Senate loses Pat Leahy as the guy who`s running your Senate confirmation
hearings for Supreme Court justices and replaces him with Jeff Sessions who
I don`t think he -- I don`t even know if he would give the president`s
nominees a hearing.

WOLFFE: Well, you`ve got to assume that the honeymoon lasts for a
couple days at least.

But, hey, this president had a hard time getting many nominees through
a Democratically controlled Senate for all sorts of extraneous tax issues.
Some of them serious and some of them are really not serious at all.

So, it is unpredictable. But, you know, let`s also not underestimate
the Republicans` abilities to shoot themselves in the foot here. Harry
Reid was looking at a terrible set of prospects in the last election. The
Republicans chose a Tea Party candidate, a Jim DeMint-backed candidate in
Nebraska. That could also come back and hurt them.

So, very hard at this point to say, OK, we know where this is going
because Nevada looked horrible for Democrats two years ago.

FINNEY: You know --

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Richard Wolffe, for that sign of hope. I
forgot about the Tea Party`s ability to throw the away Republican wins in
the Senate.

Karen Finney, Richard Wolffe, thank you both very much for joining me
tonight.

WOLFFE: Thanks, Lawrence.

FINNEY: Thanks.

O`DONNELL: Remember Newt Gingrich`s promise to run a positive
presidential campaign? Big surprise, it`s all over for him. And that`s
coming up next.

And the blacklist that tried to rewrite the story of Hollywood, the
truth has won out. For the writers of one Oscar winning classic. That`s
going to be in tonight`s "Rewrite."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANTORUM: There`s only one thing better than knocking a bird down.
It`s watching your son knock a bird down. So, that was -- this was his
first hunt. So, it was pretty exciting to be out here.

REPORTER: Strong tradition?

SANTORUM: It was great. It was great. Yes. We enjoyed it and he
got shotguns for Christmas and so, this was a little good practice for him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: With the Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and Ron Paul campaigns
and super PAC spending millions to flood Iowa televisions with attack ads
against Newt Gingrich, Newt has decided the time has come to violate his
pledge to run a positive campaign. Today in Iowa, Newt responded to an
attack ad from the Romney campaign that called Newt, of all people, an
unreliable conservative.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: To have somebody who was a Massachusetts moderate, who said
he did not want to go back to the Reagan, Bush years, who voted as a
Democrat for Paul Tsongas in `92, who campaigned to the left of Teddy
Kennedy, who as recently as running for governor said, "I`m really sort of
a moderate pragmatic guy" -- to have him run a commercial that questions my
conservativism?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Newt`s counterattack follows a report from "The Wall
Street Journal" today revealing that in April 2006 newsletter from the
Newt`s health care consulting company praised Romney`s Massachusetts health
care law. A feature entitled "Newt`s Notes" read in part, "We agree
entirely with Governor Romney and Massachusetts legislators that our goal
should be 100 percent insurance coverage for all Americans. The individual
mandate requires those earn enough to afford insurance to purchase coverage
and subsidies will be made available to those individuals who cannot afford
it on their own. We agree strongly with this principle."

A Gingrich spokesman told "The Wall Street Journal" that the "Newt`s
Notes" essay was not written by Newt himself.

Newsletter authorship didn`t seem to concern Newt when he criticized
Ron Paul earlier tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: As people get to know more about Ron Paul who disowns 10
years of his onus letter, says he didn`t realize what was in it, had no
idea what he was making money on, had no idea that it was racist, anti-
Semitic called for the destruction of Israel, talked about a race war --
all this is a sudden shock to Ron Paul? There will come a morning people
won`t take him as a serious person.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Newt also responded to "The Wall Street Journal" report.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: The difference between Romney and me is I have now concluded
-- I`m prepared to say publicly, I concluded, just as the Heritage
Foundation did, that idea didn`t work. Romney is still defending the
mandate that he passed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Today, the Gingrich campaign also dealt with the fallout
from failing to submit enough valid signatures to qualify for Virginia`s
presidential primary.

Newt`s national campaign director wrote on Facebook on Saturday, "Newt
and I agreed that the analogy is December 1941. We have experienced an
unexpected setback but in the end, we will stand victorious."

Mitt Romney responded today in New Hampshire.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I think he compared that to was to Pearl Harbor? I think
it`s more like Lucille Ball at the chocolate factory. So, I mean, you
know, you`ve got to get it organized.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: After New Hampshire, Romney headed to Iowa where he gave a
speech attacking President Obama just after Romney received the endorsement
of the "Boston Herald."

"We have referred in the past to the clown car nature of the
Republican field as ego-driven candidates like Donald Trump flirted with
the process only to be followed by the often engaging but deeply flawed
candidacies of Herman Cain, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul and
finally, Newt Gingrich. There is no longer a parlor game -- this is no
longer a parlor game. There is only one candidate in the Republican field
with the integrity, the experience, the organizational strength and the
intelligence to beat Barack Obama and that man is Mitt Romney."

Joining me now, "Politico`s" senior political writer, Maggie Haberman.
Thanks very much for joining me tonight.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, POLITICO: Thanks for having me.

O`DONNELL: Maggie, first of all, I just want to stipulate I did not
write any of what I just read on this teleprompter from the beginning of
this segment to right now was written by R.J. Fried on this staff. I`m
disowning every word of it however true it may or may not be.

HABERMAN: You were just reading along, that`s good.

O`DONNELL: This thing -- this Newt thing of they think his newsletter
says in "Newt`s Notes" that we love the individual mandate for 100 percent
of Americans and their line today is: hey, Newt didn`t write that.

HABERMAN: Right, just called "Newt`s Notes" but he didn`t write it.
It was an interesting litany as you were presenting it, especially over the
last few days. They have had a very tough time.

The newsletter story was very damaging. That goes to the heart of
what his whole case has been against Mitt Romney, which is that he`s a
flip-flopper. He changes positions.

He is now taking what is essentially a weasely position of saying, you
know, he didn`t write this. This appears, as you said, as "Newt`s Notes"
and more importantly, very strongly endorses Romneycare. He then goes on
in the interview to say, well, you know, the difference is I`ve said that
was a bad thing and he has not said that`s a bad thing. So, essentially
he`s saying Romney ought to take another position change.

A lot of Republicans incidentally do agree. They would like to see
Mitt Romney disown Romneycare. The one thing Mitt Romney has been very
adamant about is that he won`t do that because that would be another flip-
flop.

Most importantly, Newt Gingrich has now spent an entire day completely
off message. This is another wasted day heading into the Iowa caucuses
where his negatives are rising because of this onslaught of negative ads
that he is not responding to. He`s finally responding today going and
breaking his pledge as you said of relentlessly positive.

This is the problem with making pledges like that. You have to stick
to them and then you resign yourself to not fighting back. That`s what he
has done.

O`DONNELL: Maggie, are the other candidates who are -- the non-Romney
candidates who are attacking Gingrich, are they making a mistake by
destroying Gingrich so that they just open up the road for Mitt Romney.

HABERMAN: No, I mean, I think you can make the argument either way.
I do think that there is one case to be made. They need to knock votes
away from Newt Gingrich because they`re more likely to get his votes than
they are to get Mitt Romney`s.

But it is true that, you know, Mitt Romney is the man to beat at the
moment. The other man to beat is Ron Paul, who has been, you know, coming
under fire, as you know. He`s coming under fire from Newt Gingrich pretty
strongly. That tells you where Paul is in this race right now.

The newsletter`s crisis for Ron Paul`s campaign is coming at a very
bad time. It`s coming in the final week up to the caucuses.

This is not something they seem prepared to deal with, which is
surprising because it came up in his 2007 run. They have known about it.
They have not come up with a good answer for it.

There`s no way of saying I disavow it is going to satisfy people.
Even if he didn`t write it, it is -- as Gingrich said -- a year`s worth of
writings under the name the Ron Paul newsletter. It is hard to say that
has nothing to do with me.

O`DONNELL: But how much of a problem is that stuff in a Republican
presidential primary?

HABERMAN: I think it`s a problem because Ron Paul is not really that
known a commodity in Iowa, even I think among hard-core Republicans and
very conservative Republicans. I think a lot of that stuff goes beyond the
pale.

And I think when you pair it with some of the things that Ron Paul has
said in the more recent debates, where he was getting a lot of attention,
one of the final debates was where he had a seven-minute soliloquy
essentially, talking about Iran and how he didn`t believe in any kind of
intervention there to prohibit Iran from getting nuclear weapons, that that
would be a very good idea because he doesn`t agree with that foreign policy
-- this is not the kind of thing that most Iowa caucusgoers know about Ron
Paul. They know about his, you know, minimalist government positions.
They know about the populist stands that he has taken. They know about him
and the Federal Reserve.

These are all layers to Paul that they are not familiar with and it`s
a problem.

O`DONNELL: And, Maggie, quickly before you go, I just want to be fair
to you. Is there anything that has appeared in "Politico" with your name
on it that you did not write and would like to disavow at this time?

HABERMAN: I`m all in, thank you. I stand by what I wrote.

O`DONNELL: Maggie Haberman of "Politico," the honest one among us --
thank you very much for joining us tonight.

HABERMAN: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, finally a credit where credit is due. But way
too late for the man who deserved it. The Hollywood blacklist gets a
"Rewrite."

And, everything Ron Paul wants you to forget about his ideas on
domestic governing, foreign policy and raw milk. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: This school had no desks in it before we started the KIND
Fund. Now each classroom has desks. And each one of these kids is now
sitting at a desk for the first time. We just can`t thank you enough. And
the kids thank you, too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: According to my calendar, this was the night where we were
supposed to be discussing what would have just been the Donald Trump
moderated debate that turned out wasn`t going to happen, because the
Republican candidates, as crazy as they are, were not crazy enough to join
a Donald Trump moderated debate.

In order to divert attention from the colossal collapse of the idiotic
idea of a Donald Trump debate, Donald Trump switched his party
registration. His spokesperson says Trump registered in order to preserve
his right to run as an independent after the finale of "The Apprentice" in
May, if he is not satisfied with whom the candidate is. That`s a quote
from Donald Trump`s spokesman.

The Trump lies will, of course, continue. That was his attempt to
divert attention from the ridiculousness that did not happen tonight. One
of the candidates who did shun Donald Trump, was one of the first to shun
Trump, is Ron Paul, who now even Newt Gingrich says is too zany to be
president. But is Ron Paul too zany for Iowa Republicans? That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As people get to know more
about Ron Paul, who disowns ten years of his own news letter, says he
didn`t really realize what was in it, had no idea what he was making money
on, had no idea that it was racist, anti-semitic, called for the
destruction of Israel, talked about a race war -- all this is a sudden
shock to Ron Paul? There will come a morning people won`t take him as a
serious person.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Now if he were to get the Republican
nomination --

GINGRICH: He won`t.

BLITZER: Let`s say he were, could you vote for him?

GINGRICH: No.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: When you`re too weird for Newt Gingrich, you are wicked
weird. Joining me now is E.J. Dionne, "Washington Post" columnist and
Brookings senior fellow.

E.J., the heat is on Ron Paul. I think the Republican candidates
never thought they would actually have to take serious questions about if
Ron Paul is the nominee.

E.J. DIONNE, "THE WASHINGTON POST": No, you know, and it`s true. I
am up here in New Hampshire and I used to be -- last week, I was in Iowa.
And in both states, Republicans are talking about Ron Paul along with
Romney as having the biggest organizations and certainly a real shot at
winning Iowa, and if not a shot at winning New Hampshire, a real shot at
coming in second.

So they are petrified of Ron Paul. Newt Gingrich has especially good
reason to be worried, because, you know, strong showings liking that from
Ron Paul could knock him right out of the race.

O`DONNELL: E.J., if you`re in New Hampshire, I`m sure there is
interest there about Ron Paul`s views of raw milk. I think we have some
tape of him talking about that. Let`s listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. RON PAUL (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Isn`t it sort of strange
that we live in a country today where if you choose to buy raw milk, you`re
inhibited by the federal government to buy and drink raw milk. I mean, I`m
all for raw milk. I think you should make your own choice on whether you
drink raw milk or not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: E.J, I`ve never had the pleasure of raw milk. I do know
people who grew up on farms and milked the cows and got the first taste of
raw milk. And they say it`s pretty great. But the let`s say that was one
of the choices in the average grocery store in America, there would be a
few problems here and there with the quality of that over time.

DIONNE: You know, I think that Ron Paul may be useful even to people
who fundamentally disagree with him, because everyone says boy, I can`t
stand government. Let`s get government out of everything. Let`s just get
rid of the Food and Drug Administration, right? Let`s sell anything that
anybody claims does something good for you, even if it`s got poison in it.
Let`s sell food even if it causes outbreaks of all kinds of troubles.

I mean, even with regulation, you get that. But with regulation, you
get a lot less of that. And so I think if Ron Paul got the Republican
nomination, we would finally have the fundamental debate about the role of
government that we need to have as a country. And I don`t think a majority
would end up on Ron Paul`s side.

O`DONNELL: He told Brian Williams in the debate that Brian moderated
that yeah, he doesn`t think we need any auto safety regulations, that the
consumer, you and I, would just know which cars are safe, and we would buy
the safest cars, and the market would solve that, showing he has no
understanding of the history of how the automobile industry did nothing for
safety until Ralph Nader forced them to. And Ralph Nader forced the
government, in effect, to force the auto industry to do that.

DIONNE: Right. You know, this is the old libertarian position, that
the market will take care of it. Well, maybe so, but only after a lot of
people get killed in a lot of auto accidents. And then people would stop
buying a particular car. The other thing about this libertarian paradise
is they say oh, well let people sue each other. Do they honestly think
that the courts handling tens of thousands of cases about auto safety or
getting poisoned by bad food -- do they think that`s more efficient than
regulation?

I think that is what Ron Paul is arguing.

O`DONNELL: MSNBC contributor E.J. Dionne, thank you very much for
joining me tonight from New Hampshire. You might want to the try the raw
milk.

DIONNE: I`ll look around for it. I bet I can find it somewhere.

O`DONNELL: Thanks, E.J.

DIONNE: Take care.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, your gifts to the children of Malawi as this
Christmas weekend slows down, the donations did not slow down. You gave
even more. That`s coming up.

And the film that launched Audrey Hepburn`s career finally gets
another credit, an official credit, A credit it richly deserves. "Roman
Holiday" gets a new written by credit. That`s in the Rewrite.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CROSS TALK)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Oscar winners Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in the 1953
film classic "Roman Holiday". Miss Hepburn took home the Oscar for best
actress in that role. And now, 58 years later, the screen writers` union,
the Writers Guild of America, has Rewritten the official writing credits on
that movie, finally officially recognizing the contribution of Dalton
Trumbo to the writing team that wrote "Roman Holiday".

In 1947, Dalton Trumbo was blacklisted as part of the Hollywood Ten, a
group of writers and directors who were accused of being communist
sympathizers. The men were brought before the House of Representatives`
Committee on Un-American Activities.

Dalton Trumbo, like the other nine, refused to cooperate with the
committee. Here the ten men stand with their attorneys in January of 1948,
just before they were arraigned for contempt of Congress. Dalton Trumbo
was convicted and served 11 months in prison.

After that, it became impossible for Dalton Trumbo to work for the
studios as a credited screen writer. Trumbo wrote the story for "Roman
Holiday" while in exile in Mexico. His friends and writing partner, Ian
McClellan Hunter (ph), acted as the front man for the team, taking the
official writing credit and secretly sharing the payment with Trumbo. Ian
McClellan Hunter himself was later blacklisted.

In 1992, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voted to add
Trumbo`s name to the writing credits of "Roman Holiday". The Academy then
recognized that the film was really written by Dalton Trumbo and his
partner, Ian McClellan Hunter, along with John Diten (ph). Better late
than never, but it was too late for Dalton Trumbo to enjoy. He died 16
years earlier, in 1976.

The sons of the writing partners Trumbo and McClellan eventually
became members of the Writers Guild themselves, and eventually pursued a
correction in the Writers Guild`s official writing credits of "Roman
Holiday". It is the Writer`s Guild credits that the industry considers the
official history of screen writing.

Chris Kaiser, president of the Writers Guild of America West -- the
president, said "it`s not in our power to erase the mistakes or the
suffering of the past, but we can make amends. We can pledge not to the
fall prey again to the dangerous power of fear or to the impulse to censor,
even if that pledge is only a hope. And in the end, we can give credit
where credit is due. In acknowledging the contributions of Dalton Trumbo,
Ian McClellan Hunter and John Diten to the writing of "Roman Holiday," the
WGA has not undone the hurt. But it has, at last and at least, told the
truth."

That fact is a tribute to the friendship of two fathers and then two
sons, and to a thing we can hold on to, which is that friendship was
stronger than and outlived the hate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AUDREY HEPBURN, ACTRESS: I have to say good-bye. I can`t think of
any words.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don`t try.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: On last Thursday`s show, Melissa Harris-Perry introduced
you to this guy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EVAN PUSCHAK, MADE VIDEO FOR KIND FUND: I use the word aggressively
generous. It is -- the comments just on the video have been like donated.
They just say donate or they say, you know, I just took a kid off the floor
in Malawi. To know that you could possibly kind of do -- make that effect
in the world by making a video is truly incredible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That`s Evan Puschak, who created a Project for Awesome
Video about the KIND Fund, Kids in Need of Desks. Evan`s video was seen by
over 200,000 viewers on Youtube, and helped push us over the million dollar
mark in how much we`ve raised since we began reminding you almost two weeks
ago of our partnership between MSNBC and UNICEF to deliver desks to African
schools.

I met Evan this afternoon here in Los Angeles and was able to thank
him for his work. His brilliant video was entered in the Project For
Awesome, which has now raised 14,269 dollars for the KIND Fund. And that
14,000 is in addition to the 142,116 dollars that we have raised since
Friday afternoon, when I last discussed the KIND Fund on MSNBC, on Alex
Wagner`s show.

I promised Alex then that I would credit her with whatever we raised
between then and now. So the Alex Wagner effect is now officially 142,116
dollars. Thanks, Alex.

That brought us to a KIND Fund total since we started the KIND Fund
last year of 3,494,992 dollars. Kathleen Kraus (ph) posted this had on her
Facebook wall: "this is my second year donating. I bought two desks, which
would seat my family. We were so happy to see your success with this
project. And thanks for including your daughter in the video. I have two
daughters myself."

And Kim Trebiche posted this: "I gave a gift of a desk in my mother`s
name, who is a retired school teacher. Lawrence, you need to promote this
all year long."

Kim, you`re absolutely right. We do tend to promote it much more
heavily around the Christmas season because the spirit of giving is in the
air. And because these gifts do make perfect Christmas and Hanukah gifts,
especially for people on your list that already seem to have everything or
just are really tough to pick something out for. But they also make great
Valentines. They make great birthday presents anytime of year.

And throughout the year, UNICEF will send an e card when you go to
TheLastWordDesks.MSNBC.com or call 1-800-4-KIDS to donate a desk. They
will send an e-card to the recipient of your choice acknowledging that gift
in their name.

Teresa Bucherati Isaacs (ph) wrote this: "every year in December, I
have extra money that would have gone to buying my mother her birthday
gift. It`s been ten years that she`s passed. And this year, I bought a
desk in her honor. After raising five kids, one with special needs, she
taught herself computer skills and went to work in a school helping kids.
It`s a great wait to honor her."

And we`re very glad that Danny Glover has taken notice of the KIND
Fund. He Tweeted this: "great job to UNICEF and Lawrence O`Donnell of
MSNBC for their work with the KIND Fund providing decks to kids in Malawi
and adding work for the community."

Everyone at THE LAST WORD is thrilled that Danny Glover is watching
the show. And he`s right about desks providing work in Malawi. The desks
are made at factories in Malawi using African materials. And so before
providing a proper place for kids to sit in classrooms, these desks are
providing jobs to workers in Malawi who can then reliably feed their
families.

Sheila Felwel (ph) sent this e-mail to THE LAST WORD: "I grew up in
Zambia, and know the courageous spirit of the people that you are trying to
help. I appreciate the fact that this is not just a handout, but an
opportunity for the people who work together to help each other. Giving
the resources to create the jobs allows the workers to become productive
and contributing members of the community. It also allows the people
involved to experience a genuine feeling of self-worth. For the children,
it is an opportunity that they will all seize. My husband and I have
donated four desks again this year and will continue to keep this program
as our charitable contribution."

And finally, there was this from David Sappyer (ph), "watched your
video today with my son Joe. I always try to instill in my two boys just
how well we have it and how important it is to keep our own disappointments
in perspective, that we have a responsibility to help others who are far
less fortunate than we are. Thank you for helping me reach my son. He
said we should give whatever we could afford. We gave five desks."

David, as parents, we`re always looking for those teachable moments
for our children. And you just sent five desks into a Malawi classroom
where they will be used for years by two or three students at a time.
Dozens and dozens and dozens of students will be given a better chance to
connect to the teachable moments that occur in those classrooms.

Thanks to you and thanks to everyone else who has contributed to the
KIND Fund.

Tax tip, there are four days left to make a tax deductible
contribution for this year, if you have anything left to give or if you`re
looking for an extra deduction. To Evan Puschak and Danny Glover and
everyone else who has Tweeted about the KIND Fund or spread the word in any
way, and especially -- especially to those of you who have told me you
simply can`t afford to make a donation now, but you`ve done everything you
can do to spread the word, I can never thank you enough.

END

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