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updated 1/30/2013 10:17:15 AM ET 2013-01-30T15:17:15

LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
January 29, 2013

Guests: Celso Mireles, Jon Ralston

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: The president went to the Southwest today
to deliver a major speech, and we are bringing you THE LAST WORD tonight
from even further South and West, way down here in old Mexico -- Los
Angeles, California, which, of course, used to be part of Mexico until we
took it by force, and then started building fences to keep Mexicans out of
old Mexico.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m here today because
the time has come.

CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC ANCHOR: Right now the president is in the air.

OBAMA: For common sense.

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: The president is expected to lay out
his own vision.

OBAMA: Comprehensive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To outline his immigration priorities.

OBAMA: Immigration reform. The time has changed.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Immigration.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Immigration.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: Immigration.

OBAMA: Immigration reform.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our immigration system is broken.

OBAMA: We need Congress to act.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: The issue of immigration is not a
simple one.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look, Senator Rubio is for it.

RUBIO: I think we have the opportunity to do it right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is now the emissary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The face of the national Tea Party.

RUBIO: I think we`ll do a tremendous service to our country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a first step.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Washington is kind of giddy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They may get a deal on immigration.

OBAMA: It won`t be a quick process, but will be a fair process.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The so-called embrace of immigration reform.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO HOST: Why are we doing this now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But not so fast.

LIMBAUGH: Why are we doing this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rush Limbaugh still has juice.

LIMBAUGH: The president is in Las Vegas today.

OBAMA: Back in Las Vegas.

LIMBAUGH: He imposes enforcement.

OBAMA: I believe we need to stay focused on enforcement.

LIMBAUGH: Democrats aren`t interested in border security.

OBAMA: That means continuing to strengthen the security at our
borders.

LIMBAUGH: Where`s the common ground? I don`t see it.

OBAMA: Members of the parties are actively working on a solution.

LIMBAUGH: Where is the common ground? I don`t see it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The path to citizenship is a long and arduous one.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: You have to work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s not amnesty.

SCHUMER: But it`s not amnesty in any sense of the word.

LIMBAUGH: I don`t see it.

MCCAIN: We have to enact a comprehensive immigration reform.

DURBIN: We are committed to a comprehensive approach.

LIMBAUGH: I think we`re all out there alone folks.

OBAMA: The question now is simple. Do we have the resolve? I
believe that we do. I believe that we do.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: President Obama went to a high school today in what used
to be Mexico, Las Vegas, Nevada, to urge Congress to overhaul the
immigration system.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Today, I`m laying out my ideas for immigration reform. And my
hope is that this provides some key markers to members of Congress as they
craft a bill, because the ideas I`m proposing have traditionally been
supported by both Democrats like Ted Kennedy and Republicans like President
George W. Bush. You don`t get that matchup very often.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The president`s plan is similar to the plan eight
bipartisan senators put forward yesterday, but it has an even clearer path
to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States
now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: For comprehensive immigration reform to work, it must be clear
from the outset that there is a pathway to citizenship.

(APPLAUSE)

We have got to lay out a path, a process that includes passing a
background check, paying taxes, paying a penalty, learning English, and
then going to the back of the line behind all the folks who are trying to
come here legally. That`s only fair. All right?

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Under the president`s proposal, undocumented workers would
be required to register, submit to background checks, pay fees and
penalties, learn English and have their paperwork start at the back of the
immigration processing line.

Senator John McCain released a statement saying, "While there are some
differences in our approaches to this issue, we share the belief that any
reform must recognize America as a nation of laws and a nation of
immigrants. We should all agree that border security and enforcement is
particularly important."

House Speaker John Boehner released a statement saying, "We hope the
president is careful not to drag the debate to the left and ultimately
disrupt the difficult work that is ahead in the House and Senate."

The president made it clear he is going to keep the pressure on
Congress.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: If Congress is unable to move forward in a timely fashion, I
will send up a bill based on my proposal and insist that they vote on it
right away.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now is MSNBC`s Joy Reid and Richard Wolffe,
and, Celso Mireles, organizer at United We Dream, and an undocumented
immigrant.

Joy Reid, what is the main distinction between the president`s plan
and the bipartisan plan the senators introduced yesterday?

JOY REID, THE GRIO: So, basically, Lawrence, the main difference is
triggers, which seems to be a favorite thing in Washington that you can do
whatever you want as long as there`s some sort of trigger.

And for the Republicans, what they essentially are saying is you have
to do significant border enforcement first, and when -- whoever decides
they have deemed enforcement to be sufficient, then you can allow people to
get a path to citizenship.

So it`s basically probation. The 11 million undocumented people in
the country would be on probation, but wouldn`t get the pathway to
citizenship until this decision is made that enforcement is sufficient.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to a little more of what the president had to
say about this being a nation of immigrants.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Unless you`re one of the first Americans, a Native American,
you came from someplace else. Irish, who left behind a land of famine, the
Germans, who fled persecution, the Scandinavians, who arrived eager to
pioneer out west, the Polish, the Russians, the Italians, the Chinese, the
Japanese, the West Indians, the huddled masses who came through Ellis
island on one coast and Angel Island on the other.

(APPLAUSE)

All of those folks, before there were us, there were them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Richard Wolffe, he certainly is talking to all of us when
he makes that part of his speech. And you are, of course, a recent
resident among us.

(CROSSTALK)

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: That`s true.

O`DONNELL: You found your path to citizenship.

WOLFFE: That is true.

O`DONNELL: Is the president going to have to continue to go out and
try to sell this plan outside of Washington? What do -- what do you see as
the game plan between selling it inside Washington and outside Washington?

WOLFFE: Well, let me just start by picking that up, OK? Because a
personal note here, as someone who has gone through immigration process,
I`ve got to say that this country is unique, and uniquely proud of
immigrants and immigration.

And one of the striking things for me in the naturalization ceremony
was how the judge, the presiding judge who swore us all in as American
citizens said, "You, new immigrants, are the essence of this country." I
think that is an incredibly important thing for a president to say at this
time.

And that is what he was saying. That the spirit of this country is
renewed, is captured by the immigrants that built this country.

So, you know, that`s what presidents have to do. They have to capture
the narrative. It`s been a running theme for this president to place
himself inside an American story of immigrants coming to make their fortune
and succeeding against the odds. That`s the American spirit.

So that is the back drop for this debate that these people are not
aliens. They are not illegals. They are part and parcel of the fabric of
this country.

So I think that is a very important presidential moment. And it does
help to shift the debate in what is almost certain to be a nativist
backlash from the very forces that undermined President Bush`s immigration
reform proposals.

O`DONNELL: Celso Mireles, what does the president`s plan mean for
you?

MIRELES: Well, first of all, thank you, Lawrence, for having me on
your show. And I`m glad to hear the president casts a new vision on
immigration reform. But I think we need to see real action.

For example, three weeks ago, other DREAM organizers and myself didn`t
sleep because we were mobilizing to stop the deportation of our friends,
Eric Canolas (ph) mother and brother. Now, it took hundreds of calls,
thousands of petitions and signatures just to stop a bus full of people to
prevent one person from getting deported. And that bus continues to deport
the rest of the families and separate the rest of the families that were
included on that bus.

So to hear President Obama say we need more of this enforcement is a
little bit outrageous. I think that we have been enforced enough on as a
community. And the time has come to really address the situation of, you
know, what to do with our Americans that are here, living, contributing to
the society. The time has come to keep families together now.

O`DONNELL: Joy Reid, what Celso is mentioning, the enforcement, is
one the bipartisan pillars of this. Yesterday, Chuck Schumer and Democrats
keep saying tough but fair, tough but fair. They want to emphasize the
tough, they want to emphasize enforcing it. And President Obama has been
as tough on our Southern border especially as any president has ever been.

REID: Yes, absolutely. The president established the bona fides in
the first term of being very tough on border enforcement, more so than
George W. Bush. And the constant talk about tough enforcement is the way
to try to get Republicans on the Senate to sign on to the bill, because
that`s what they need to go back to their constituents with.

But, you know, I think that Celso makes a really good point. The
enforcement part of it is already built in. This administration is already
doing it. What`s needed now is a sane path to legalization, which the
president -- essentially the difference between him now and Republicans and
people like Marco Rubio are complaining, the Republicans are making, that
the president wants to accelerate the pathway to citizenship too much,
whereas Republicans want to it be more like probation.

It really doesn`t make a whole lot of sense. These are people who are
already here. They are already working paying taxes, sales taxes, et
cetera, whose children are in school. And if it`s all about keeping
families together, at the end of the day, Republicans understand they`re
going to have to do this. It`s just a matter of what you have to put in
there language-wise to make it palatable to enough Senate Republicans that
it can pass.

O`DONNELL: Well, let`s listen to what Marco Rubio said about this
enforcement piece on FOX News today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUBIO: He doesn`t want enforcement before we have the green card
path. And I think that would be a terrible mistake. We have a bipartisan
group of senators that have agreed to that. For the president to try to
move the goal post on that specific requirement as an example does not bode
well in terms of what his role is going to be in this or the outcome.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Richard Wolffe, I think we have to get used to that kind
of talk in this debate.

WOLFFE: Yes.

O`DONNELL: Because what Marco Rubio can`t do every day is say I agree
with President Obama. I agree with President Obama.

WOLFFE: Right.

O`DONNELL: He`s got to find the spots where he can claim he is to the
right of President Obama like on this -- what I don`t think is a very big
distinction on the whole enforcement side.

WOLFFE: It`s not, unless you`re prepared to militarize and fence the
entire Southern border of the United States, no. We`re not talking about a
big difference at all, but yes, he`s got to use the president as a foil.
He`s got to criticize him.

Actually, the real enforcement doesn`t come at the border. It comes
on employer verification. And there`s agreement on that, too.

So, if they want to have a fight, it`s like one of those wrestling
matches, OK? Yes, go ahead and pretend you`re hitting each other on the
head. But in the end, we know who the winner is going to be and be
declared.

O`DONNELL: Celso, what is your hope on where this ends up?

MIRELES: Well, I want to put it in perspective a little bit, in an
interesting way of looking at Obama`s speech. Based on the latest
deportation numbers, 400,000 families get separated every year. So, in the
course of Obama`s speech, 19 families were separated while he spoke.

So, this needs to add real urgency to the fact that families are being
separated as we speak right now. So, we really need to make sure the
president and Congress is serious about creating a solution for the
community that is here right now, suffering under the current enforcement-
only policies that are currently in existence.

O`DONNELL: Joy Reid, Richard Wolffe and Celso Mireles, thank you all
for joining me tonight.

WOLFFE: Thank you.

REID: Thank you.

MIRELES: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up: first, Rush Limbaugh opposes the bipartisan
Senate immigration plan. Then, one of the leaders of the bipartisan group,
Marco Rubio, calls into Rush Limbaugh`s radio show. And now I don`t have
any idea what Rush Limbaugh thinks about this anymore. Republicans versus
Republicans is coming up.

And in the "Rewrite", a father of one of the children killed in the
Newtown massacre testifies about the murder of his son. And he is heckled
by gun worshippers. And then, of course, the right wing bloggers defend
the hecklers.

And later, a preview of what the NRA`s blood-drenched lobbyist, Wayne
LaPierre, will tell a Senate committee tomorrow.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: So, Marco Rubio called into Rush Limbaugh`s radio show
today, and I`m not sure who kissed whose ring, or if they kissed at all.
I`ll let you decide. You can listen to it. That`s coming up.

And later, how to fix the broken Republican Party. One Republican
suggests let`s just really break -- break it wide open, and have two
Republican parties. We`ll see if that might work. That`s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIMBAUGH: I don`t see where there is any -- commonality in what the
president wants and what you want.

RUBIO: You know, Rush, that is an important point, the president has
an interesting decision to make when he gives a speech. He can either
decide that he wants to be a part of the solution or he can decide he wants
to part of a political issue and try to trigger a bidding war. I`m not
going to be a part of a bidding war to see who can come up with the most
lenient path forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That was Senator Marco Rubio on "The Rush Limbaugh Show"
today, making what he called the conservative case for immigration reform.

Joining me now, MSNBC`s Ari Melber and Jon Ralston, host of "Ralston
Reports", a political talk show broadcast state-wide in Nevada.

Jon Ralston, Rubio said at some point in that show, he didn`t
understand why President Obama went out to Las Vegas today to make the
speech. Why didn`t he do it at the White House? And I just want to put up
for the audience a map as we`re speaking here, a map of Mexico, of what was
once Mexico.

I`m sitting in Los Angeles doing this show. You`re in Las Vegas, we
are both sitting in old Mexico.

And so, do you want to help out Marco Rubio with some idea as to why
President Obama would have come out to old Mexico to make that speech
today?

JON RALSTON, HOST, "RALSTON REPORTS": Well, you know, what`s funny
about that, Lawrence, is Marco Rubio used to live in Las Vegas.

O`DONNELL: Yes.

RALSTON: He still has relatives here. In fact, his cousin is the
first Hispanic leader of the state Senate here. So he is very familiar of
why the president came out here.

So, that was just a very foolish thing for him to say, considering his
familiarity with Las Vegas.

O`DONNELL: And, Ari Melber, Rush Limbaugh, you know, it seemed like
he was so thrilled to get Marco Rubio on and actually start talking about
this, that the tough-talking Rush of yesterday kind of slid over and just
kind of let Rubio do his thing.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: That`s what I heard. I mean, the tone
was very conciliatory and warm. Rush put up some questions. But they
weren`t designed to trap or ensnare.

And I think we are witnessing today a really important breakthrough.
I think it`s a good thing for America. Probably if it continues and turns
into any kind of real immigration compromise, it`s probably on balance, bad
for the Democratic Party, which has benefited so heartily, 40 points, in
the edge in the last election, from so much of the demagoguery on the
right.

But this is what good breakthroughs look like, I think, where we move
past the partisan or electoral issues and get real compromise.

And one more thing Marco Rubio said that was so important, you know,
40 percent of the undocumented workers in this country did come here
legally. They came here and their green card or otherwise, other
documentation, expired. So, we`re talking about people who didn`t come
here illegally and we have to try to way to accommodate some of them.

O`DONNELL: I just want to show you how confused Rush Limbaugh is at
this point. I want you to listen to something he said yesterday where he
was saying that the plan is an amnesty plan. This is yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIMBAUGH: I don`t know that there`s any stopping this, if it`s to me
and FOX News. And I don`t think FOX News is that invested in this. But
there`s -- I don`t think there is any Republican opposition to this, of any
majority consequence or size. We`ll have to wait and see and find out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And here is Rush Limbaugh today saying you didn`t hear
what he said yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIMBAUGH: I didn`t say that. Did I -- did you hear me say that? I
want to call on FOX News and others to join me in defeating this plan. I
don`t recall saying that. That doesn`t matter -- I`m quoted as saying
things I never said constantly. But you see it`s out there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: John Ralston, that`s how much Rush folded up his tent
today on this whole issue. And I think Ari has got a very serious point
here, if that`s all it takes, is Marco Rubio calling into Rush Limbaugh`s
show, if that is all it takes to mute Rush Limbaugh on this subject, it
seems like real progress is possible here.

RALSTON: Well, Lawrence -- I mean, the whole point of that was for
Marco Rubio to go on Rush`s show and try to walk this fine line that he is
trying to walk. And they -- Rush said to him. You can read the whole
transcript but you can distill down to this, Lawrence, can we find a way to
demonize the president in this, Marco. Well, I think we can, Rush. I
didn`t do that.

And that`s what that entire interview was about.

They`re dealt a losing hand here, Lawrence. I mean, he can talk about
a bidding war, but the president and Democrats hold all the cards here.
And Marco Rubio, at some level, after going and kissing Rush Limbaugh`s
ring, has to realize that.

O`DONNELL: And, Ari, as we said in the previous segment, we`re going
to hear more of this. Rubio cannot every day say, look, I`m in basic
agreement with the president, at least 90 percent agreement. He can`t do
that. He`s going to have to do what Jon was just saying. He`s going to
find some way to say demonizing things about the President Obama while on
the policy he`s actually working toward an agreement on with him.

MELBER: Yes, I mean, Jon is right. If you look at the details,
particularly near the end of the interview, there was an attempt to sort of
loop in the Affordable Care Act and other issues, you know, to hit those
conservative contrasts.

But look, what I heard from the White House today and officials
speaking on background was that they don`t want to focus on what they
consider small contrasts between the White House proposal, what the gang of
eight and Rubio have put out there. What they see, I think they`re right
on this, tremendous movement in rhetoric and now in, at least broad
strokes, policy.

And so, this is a real chance to move forward on that and to get
something done. And one other quick point, I`m so glad that in the
previous segment you had on a DREAMer, a DREAM Act organizer, because there
is something amazing going on here. We`ve got folks who don`t even have
political rights, who don`t have voting rights in this country who still
stood up and found other ways to use their voice and exercise First
Amendment rights, which were available, thank goodness, to noncitizens, and
engage in this conversation.

And it`s hard to think of -- I mean, the last time we saw it in depth
was in the civil rights era, where again, you had an attack on people`s
status. And yet they still found ways to be heard, to get heard, and to
affect Washington, which is so hard to do.

So I`m pretty excited about what we`re seeing today.

O`DONNELL: Ari Melber and Jon Ralston, thank you both for joining me
tonight.

MELBER: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, a child is murdered and that child`s father is
heckled because he dares to say that these weapons of mass murder and
massacre are not needed by anyone. That`s going to be in tonight`s
"Rewrite".

And we are now just 11 hours away from learning who will replace John
Kerry in the United States Senate. Governor Patrick has indicated he will
make that announcement tomorrow morning. That`s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ayes are 94, the nays are three, and one
respondent present. And the nomination of John Forbes Kerry of
Massachusetts to be our new secretary of state is confirmed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The senator voting present was John Kerry, who chose to
gracefully side step voting for himself for secretary of state.

The no votes were from the two embarrassment Texas voters have sent to
the United States Senate, and from an Oklahoma senator who could easily
lose a spelling bee if asked to spell secretary or state.

John Kerry`s resignation letter to Governor Deval Patrick read, "This
letter is to inform you that the -- with great gratitude to the people of
Massachusetts for the privilege of serving them 28 years, and with great
pride and what I have been able to contribute to Massachusetts and our
country, I hereby resign my seat in the United States Senate effective
Friday, February 1st, at 4:00 p.m., in order to assume the responsibility
of secretary of state."

John Kerry will make his final speech on the Senate floor tomorrow.
And Governor Patrick has indicated he will announce his choice for interim
senator tomorrow.

As the governor well knows, I have been insisting on this program for
weeks now, there is only one person who the governor could choose who would
be ready to take over John Kerry`s Senate seat on Friday at 4:01 p.m., at
full speed and full effectiveness, only one person who already knows
everything there is to know about how Congress works, and how to get things
done, the only one person who has the experience to do that and properly
represent the people of Massachusetts in Congress, in the process, and that
is, of course, Barney Frank.

The political media in Boston seems convinced the governor will not
choose Barney Frank, but the governor has committed to join me on this
program for his first national interview after he makes his announcement.

So, if the governor doesn`t choose Barney, that`s going to be like a
wicked weird segment.

Coming up, they have admitted they`re the stupid party, but how do
they fix that problem? One Republican says let the stupid ones have their
own party.

And in the Rewrite, what happens when a father testifies about his
murdered child? He is heckled by people who love guns just a little too
much for their own sanity and decency.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: We have got to stop being the
stupid party.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: In the Spotlight tonight, advice to the stupid party.
"Weekly Standard" editor Bill Kristol had this advice on how Republicans
can stop being the stupid party.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL KRISTOL, "WEEKLY STANDARD": You have to have some answer to what
would you replace Dodd/Frank with? Mitt Romney similarly didn`t commit to
a replacement for Obamacare in the health care fight. I mean, I -- a lot
of conservatives blame the American public for what happened in 2012. But
if you`re just a member of the American public and this party is saying,
Obama is terrible, so what is your replacement for his signature pieces of
legislation, Obamacare and Dodd/Frank -- well, we don`t want to get into
that right now. That is not a serious governing party.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Conservative "New York Times" columnist Ross Douthat
answer on how Republicans can stop being the stupid party was to urge them
to be impure.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROSS DOUTHAT, CONSERVATIVE COLUMNIST: The Republican party will never
get back from the wilderness if it just says we have to keep our brand
purer and make sure that Americans know we`re the party of small
government. Americans are pretty confident right now, I would say, in the
post-Paul Ryan era, that the Republican party is the party of small
government. And they didn`t vote for the Republican party in the last
election cycle, even with Paul Ryan on the ticket.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: But when faced with how the Republicans can stop being the
stupid party, David Brooks of "the New York Times" responded with this, "it
is probably futile to try to change current Republicans. It is smarter to
build a new wing of the Republican party."

The new Republican party David Brooks envisions is "one that can
compete in the Northeast, the mid-Atlantic states, and the upper Midwest
and along the west coast. That would be filled with people who recoiled at
President Obama`s Second Inaugural Address, because of its excessive faith
in centralized power, but who don`t share the absolute anti-government
story of the current GOP. This is really the only chance Republicans
have."

Joining me now is Howard Fineman, the editorial director of "the
Huffington Post" and an MSNBC political analyst.

Howard, it sounds like David Brooks is talking about the Republican
party of -- oh, I don`t know -- about 20 years ago, when they indeed did
have New England Republican senators, Oregon Republican senators, exactly
that geographic description of where he would like to see Republicans
succeeding.

HOWARD FINEMAN, "THE HUFFINGTON POST": Well, it is my sad duty to
inform David that Theodore Roosevelt is dead; Nelson Rockefeller is dead;
and yes, even Richard Nixon is dead. This Republican party -- and he can
attach whatever wings he wants to it.

I read David`s article very carefully. By the way, David is brilliant
sociologist and writer about brain behavior. Partisan politics, I`m not so
sure. This Republican party is what it is. Although interestingly, the
Republican party, as it is right now, based in the south, based in the
Midwest, being what it is in the sort of Ronald Reagan-Bush family image,
is moving very rapidly.

Don`t forget, Lawrence, within the last week or so -- or last couple
of weeks, they caved on the fiscal cliff, at least temporarily. They just
voted in John Kerry by 94 to three. And leaving aside the guys from Texas
and Oklahoma, all the other Republicans voted for John Kerry. And they`re
moving very quickly on immigration.

So I think, on the one hand, the party, in its guts, in its roots, is
not about to change any time soon. And they can forget about the old
northeastern Republicans. On the other hand, they have looked into the
abyss, I think. And they have seen that they have to change.

I was at an event over the weekend with Jim Baker, you know, who had
been Ronald Reagan`s chief of staff, who won the Gore v. Bush thing down in
Florida in 2000. And he said to me -- he said, you`re a political analyst.
You tell me, what does the Republican party need to do to recoup?

And I get -- my one word answer was hope. They need to get back to a
message of hope, instead of a message of rejection. And that`s what has
cost them recent elections.

O`DONNELL: And Howard, the stupidest thing that -- things that
Republicans have said in the last year generally surrounded the issue of
abortion. You had Todd Akin saying, well, you know, if women get raped,
they actually have biological defenses against pregnancy, kind of automatic
chemical defenses built in. Just really stupid, crazy stuff.

That is where their stupidest stuff got said. And what is interesting
about it is the policies that Todd Akin actually favors as a result of that
thinking are mainstream Republican, anti-abortion policies, with no
exceptions.

FINEMAN: Well, here is the problem that the Republicans have:
whatever energy they have got -- and there is some -- is at the crazy end
of the grass roots right now, whether it is the Todd Akin part or the sort
of Tea Party rejection of all government part, or some version of foreign
policy. I don`t know what, maybe it`s the extreme neo-con thing.

They have gone kind of extreme. And they don`t have either the
structure or the family clout, as the Bushes had, or the personality of
Ronald Reagan, to take the energy of the crazies and bring it back to the
middle, kind of use the motive power of that extreme grass roots, drag it
back to the center and make it a national movement under the banner of hope
and opportunity and individuality and freedom.

They don`t have somebody who can do that right now. That`s really
what they need. They don`t need to resuscitate Nelson Rockefeller. That
is never going to happen. But they have to do the other stuff in order to
be back in the conversation. And they have got to somehow say that the
problem with government is not government, per se. But the government is
poorly run. The government is wasteful. The government doesn`t use
business principles, that government is not in the 20th century.

And whichever party can bring government, the welfare state for want
of a better term, into the administrative reality of the 21th century is
going to rule the day. The Democrats haven`t done it. They have unions to
deal with. They`ve got old technology to deal with. You would think the
Republicans who care about business, care about technology, are supposedly
entrepreneurial, could figure out a way to do it. They haven`t done it
yet.

And until somebody can articulate that, they`re going to get nowhere.

O`DONNELL: Howard Fineman, thank you very much for joining me
tonight.

FINEMAN: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, when the father of a first grader killed in
Newtown, Connecticut, wants to know why people need high-capacity
magazines, he gets heckled by gun nuts.

And a preview of what the NRA`s Wayne LaPierre will actually tell a
Senate committee tomorrow. That`s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: And so on this, the 46th day since the massacre of 20
first graders and six educators in Newtown, Connecticut, it has come to
this. "Father of Newtown Victim Heckled at Hearing."

Neil Heslin, whose six-year-old son, Jesse, was shot to death at Sandy
Hook Elementary, testified to the Connecticut General Assembly`s Bipartisan
Task Force on Gun Violence Prevention and Children`s Safety. The hearing
was attended by other parents of Sandy Hook victims.

And also in attendance in the audience, NRA members and opponents of
any form of gun or ammunition control. Here is what led to a grieving
father being heckled by the gun-worshipping fanatics in the audience, who
wrongly believe what no Supreme Court justice believes, that the Second
Amendment grants them the right to have any kind of weapon available on
Earth.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEIL HESLIN, SON KILLED IN NEWTOWN SHOOTING: I was raised in a
household with guns and weapons. In fact, I started skeet shooting when I
was eight years old. I was educated on the safety of guns. My father was
an avid hunter. I was hunting ever since I was eight or 10 or 12 years old
with them.

I still -- still can`t see why any civilian, anybody in this room, in
fact, needs weapons of that sort. You`re not going to use them for
hunting. Even for home protection, semiautomatic or an automatic weapon is
one of the most inaccurate weapons out there.

The sole purpose of semiautomatic -- those AR-15s or the AK-47s is put
a lot of lead out in the battlefield quickly. And that is what they do.
And that is what they did at Sandy Hook Elementary School on the 14th.

That wasn`t just a killing. That was a massacre. Those children and
those victims were shot apart. And my son was one of them.

I just can`t fathom why any of us need that, in our society or in our
home. Why do we need 30-round magazines or cartridges? There is no one in
this room here that has the capability mentally or physically to take on 20
people or 15 people, where you would need 30 rounds of ammunition.

There is no reason for it.

That school was a beautiful place. It was like Mayberry, going to
that school in the morning. I never saw anybody that wasn`t happy there.
And I -- we dropped him off that morning at 9:04. I saw the clock. I
walked him into that class -- into the school. He gave me a hug and a
kiss. And he said -- he said -- and I gave him a hug and kiss back. And
he said good-bye.

He said I love you. And he said I love mom, too. We were supposed to
go back and make gingerbread houses that day. We never made it.

Twenty minutes after that, my son was dead. And there is no reason
for it. There is no reason that Adam Lanza`s mother should have had those
weapons in that home, locked up or not locked up, with a child that
apparently had mental issues.

A place to start is banning these weapons. There is no reason for
these. There`s no place on the street for them. We don`t need these
weapons on the street or in our homes. We don`t.

And I ask everybody to think about it. And everybody in this room,
whether you`re in favor of guns or -- or in favor of banning them, to try
to work together and come up with reasonable changes that work. And I
think one place to start is with the regulations on background checks,
thorough background checks for everybody who purchases a weapon.

Resales have to have thorough background checks. I think a ban on
high-capacity magazines and assault-type weapons needs to be in place.

I -- I just can`t believe what happened at Newtown. I dropped -- we
dropped Jesse off at 9:04. And an hour and a half later, I was back at
that school. And it was like a military installation. SWAT Team members,
families in hysterics -- hysterical, state police from all over the state,
FBI -- it was unbelievable.

Students there looking to be reunited with their parents, parents
looking for their -- their children. I was looking for my son. I was
looking for his classroom. They were never to be found.

What -- some of the surviving students` parents told me, my son Jesse
yelled, "run. Run, now." He was in Ms. Soto`s class. Ten of the students
survived. My son wasn`t one of them. I hope that those words helped those
children survive.

We`re not living in the wild west. We`re not a third world nation.
We have the strongest military in the world. We don`t need to defend our
homes with weapons like that.

You know, I wish -- I ask if there is anybody in this room that can
give me one reason or challenge this question, why anybody in this room
needs to have one of these assault-style weapons or military weapons, or
high-capacity clips. And not one person can answer that question or give
me --

(CROSS TALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Second Amendment shall not be infringed.

HESLIN: All right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not infringed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please, please, no comments while Mr. Heslin is
speaking.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Some right-wing websites sprung to the defense of the
hecklers, insisting that they were simply answering Mr. Heslin`s question.
But of course they weren`t.

The question he asked was, and I quote, "why anybody in this room
needs to have one of these assault-style weapons or military weapons or
high-capacity clips." And no one in the room answered that question. It
was a why question.

The best the hecklers could come up with was some quoting, phrasing of
the Second Amendment. You hear one or two of them saying "shall not be
infringed," as in "a well-regulated militia, being necessary to the
security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms
shall not be infringed."

That is of course not an answer to the why question, the question of
why do you need a 30-round magazine or an assault weapon. And the Supreme
Court has always held that the government can indeed ban certain specified
firearms as long as the government does not ban all firearms.

The Supreme Court, including the most conservative member, Antonin
Scalia, believes that the Second Amendment rights are not infringed when
the government bans certain specified weapons, as it has done in the past.

Heckling is when you say something stupid from the audience. And when
a speaker rhetorically or directly asks an audience why you need 30-round
magazines and assault weapons, and you yell a response which is basically,
I think the Second Amendment says I can have them, you have not answered
the question about why you need them.

There are plenty of legal things for sale in America that we don`t
need. None of us need cigarettes. If you ask me why I need cigarettes,
and I say to you because they`re for sale, I have not answered your
question. I have just said something stupid, almost as stupid as smoking
cigarettes.

Neil Heslin made a solid and emotional case about why no one in this
country and no one in that audience needs massacre weapons. And then he
openly asked that audience if anyone there could give him a reason why they
did need massacre weapons. And not one word -- not one word that the
hecklers spoke was a reason why. Not one word.

That grieving father`s question remains unanswered by the gun fanatics
in that audience, who did indeed heckle him.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID (D), MAJORITY LEADER: I`m going to do everything
within my power to bring legislation dealing with gun and violence
generally to the floor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Eleven hours from now, the National Rifle Association`s
Wayne LaPierre will testify to the Senate Judiciary Committee in a hearing
entitled "What Should America Do About Gun Violence." According to his
prepared testimony, LaPierre will tell the committee, quote, "law abiding
gun owners will not accept blame for the acts of violent or deranged
criminals. Nor do we believe the government should dictate what we can
lawfully own and use to protect our families."

Also scheduled to testify is former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords`
husband, Mark Kelly. Joining me now is Mark Smyth, the investigative
journalist who has gone inside the NRA and is now a contributor to
MSNBC.com. Frank, I want to go to one line that I just quoted, the first
part of it, where Wayne LaPierre says it -- everyone -- this sounds
reasonable to a lot of people until you think about it a little bit more.

"Law abiding gun owners will not accept blame for the acts of violent
or deranged criminals." A law abiding gun owner deserves the blame for
what happened in Newtown, Connecticut. The mother of that murderer bought
those guns. She was a law abiding gun owner, by all accounts. And that
law abiding gun owner could not control her weapons. And those weapons
were eventually used to kill her and to kill all of those children and
those women educators in that school.

So that is what one law abiding gun owner got us.

FRANK SMYTH, MSNBC.COM CONTRIBUTOR: That is a good point, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: And that is what Neil Heslin was saying in his testimony,
was that that woman should never have had those weapons in that home with -
- you know, knowing the condition of her kid. And so the -- the ways in
which Wayne LaPierre tries to shut off the debate have more holes in them
than even he realizes when he is trying to advance this kind of testimony.

SMYTH: You know what I hope happens tomorrow when Wayne LaPierre
testifies in the Senate Judiciary Committee is that senators press him on
the NRA`s view of the Second Amendment. Does the NRA really believe that
that means citizens should be able to amass an arsenal of fire power in
order to fight a future tyrannical government.

Because if they do, that puts them well outside the mainstream of
American society, to the right, as you noted, of the Supreme Court. If
they do not, that means it`s just rhetoric and they would lose credibility
with their own base.

But I think there is a real dangerous current out there that`s being
fed on the Internet, in Youtube and on Twitter, of people who are talking
very threatening violent language about what would happen if Congress were
to impose an assault-weapons ban and other gun control measures, like that
father outlined, which I think was quite -- was quite well said.

And I think Mr. LaPierre needs to address that, including even the
conspiracy theories that are circulating among gun rights activists that
are claiming that the Newtown shooting and the Gabrielle Giffords shootings
were both somehow staged.

He needs to be challenged on these points.

O`DONNELL: Well, we`ll see if the Senate Judiciary Committee is up to
that challenge tomorrow. Frank Smyth, we`ll be watching that tomorrow and
we`ll be covering it. Thank you very much for joining me tonight, Frank.

SMYTH: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: "THE ED SHOW" is up next.

END

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