Guests: Howard Fineman, David Frum, Melissa Harris-Perry, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Michael Musto
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, HOST: Rachel, I have to watch your first half of your show of tonight‘s show on iTunes because I was busy, I have to confess, watching Sarah Palin on another network.
MADDOW: How did that go?
O‘DONNELL: You‘re going to find out if you stick around and watch this show.
MADDOW: Very good.
O‘DONNELL: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.
O‘DONNELL: Martin Luther King Day is a national holiday commemorating the life of a man who wanted to bring unity to a divided nation, a man who wanted to bring change to this country through peaceful means but who was struck down by a gun shot.
So, why today? Why would Sarah Palin choose the 25th Martin Luther King Day to again defend her record of divisive comments, many of them invoking gunshots?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sarah Palin condemned the media‘s coverage of the Arizona shooting by using the phrase “blood libel.”
ED SCHULTZ, MSNBC HOST: She has also invoked a highly charged and offensive term to describe her own alleged victimhood.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I would be super offended if I thought she knew that.
O‘DONNELL (voice-over): Criticism over Sarah Palin‘s ill-timed, self-defense video continues.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Mayor, what was your reaction to the way Sarah Palin reacted to all of this?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Which refers to a harsh, anti-Semitic slur.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For killing Christians.
RUDY GIULIANI ®, FORMER NYC MAYOR: So, yes. She used a wrong word in responding to it.
O‘DONNELL: Sarah Palin runs to the people who pay her salary to defend Sarah Palin.
SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: My defense wasn‘t self-defense. It was defending those who were falsely accused. Why—before facts were even gathered—why would the mainstream media start accusing and using such a tragedy for political gain? Those on the left hate my message and they‘ll do all that they can to destroy the message and the messenger.
O‘DONNELL: Palin chooses a friendly face to avoid any real criticism of the words that brought her criticism in the first place.
PALIN: Don‘t retreat. Reload. Reload. Reload.
BILL MAHER, TV HOST: She says it like a pull toy that‘s broken.
REP. GABRIELLE GIFFORDS (D), ARIZONA: We‘re on Sarah Palin‘s targeted list. There are consequences to that action.
O‘DONNELL: And Palin defends her own crassly worded video explanation.
PALIN: When we take up our arms, we‘re talking about our vote.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: What?
MAHER: The president of the United States and Sarah Palin both made speeches on the same day. Obama came out against lunatics with guns.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, remind ourselves of all of the ways that our hopes and dreams are bound together.
MAHER: She gave the rebuttal.
PALIN: I listened at first puzzled, then with concern to the irresponsible statements from people attempting to apportion blame for this terrible event.
MAHER: Because you know the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull. At some point, a pit bull does stop whining.
O‘DONNELL: Sarah Palin woke up with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on her mind. In honor of Martin Luther King Day, she posted a tribute to the late civil rights leader on her Facebook page just before 9:00 this morning.
She starts off with a Dr. King quote. “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” She goes on to say in part, “With Dr. King‘s faith in God and his unwavering hope in a better, stronger future, let us recommit today to continuing his work for a more peaceful and just nation.” That‘s how her day started.
This is how her day ended just moments ago on FOX News Channel‘s “Hannity” as she reflected on her use of the crosshairs map that targeted Gabby Giffords‘ district and why she took it down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PALIN: I believe that someone in the PAC, in fact, the contract graphic artist, did take it down. And I don‘t think that that was inappropriate, if it was going to cause much heartburn and even more controversy, I didn‘t have a problem with it being taken down. But the screen shots of course have been taken of that and I don‘t know if the Democrats have taken down theirs in these ensuing days. But, again, knowing that had absolutely nothing to do with an apolitical or perhaps even left-leaning criminal who killed these innocents and injured so many, I didn‘t have a problem with it being taken down if, in fact, it actually has been taken down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Joining me now senior political editor of “The Huffington Post” and MSNBC analyst, Howard Fineman; and former Bush speechwriter and founder of FrumForum.com, David Frum.
Howard, a very simple point about the crosshairs map. Was it taken down? Why was it taken down?
I‘m not sure what we just learned about it. She seemed to say that some technician may have taken it down and she‘s OK with that if that did happen. She couldn‘t even take a position on whether it should have come down and did she have it? Did she want it to come down?
And this is the way a lot of the rest of the interview went. What do you make—what do you make of that answer? Why can‘t she take a very clear position on that map and what happened to it on her Web site?
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it seems at first glance almost like a small point, Lawrence, but it‘s all too emblematic of the whole problem with this entire appearance that we just witnessed. Sarah Palin has only one gear and that‘s forward and she has only one mode, which is attack. She‘s never going to admit that she has done anything wrong tactically, strategically, you name it.
So, she blamed it on an aide. She didn‘t even attempt to use the explanation that one of her aides had used a few days ago about how this wasn‘t a target map at all. It was a—something that surveyors would use. These were surveyors‘ symbols and so forth.
It was jumbled. It was confused. It was grudging. She said it wasn‘t inappropriate to take down. The whole appearance was grudging.
She doesn‘t get the fact that President Obama in the latest ABC poll got 70 percent approval for his address about this matter and about Arizona from the Republicans -- 70 percent approval from Republicans.
Sarah Palin is speaking only to her own constituency and not very well and FOX News did her no favors tonight especially when I‘m sure we‘ll get to this when they said, is your career over? When somebody is asking is your career over, it‘s never a good thing even if it‘s on FOX and you‘re a Republican.
O‘DONNELL: David Frum, to Howard‘s point about the polling, that ABC poll showed that 30 percent, 30 percent approve of the way Sarah Palin has handled the aftermath of the shooting tragedy, 46 percent disapprove—a daunting number for anybody who‘d be contemplating a national campaign.
David, let‘s listen to what Sarah Palin had to say about the timing of the video she released last week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PALIN: When, finally, information was gathered, Sean, and then after those days, I spoke, I was being accused then by these same networks and network reporters of interjecting myself into the story. And if you read back my statement of defense, it wasn‘t self-defense. It was defending those who are innocent, talk show hosts, talk show listeners, those who have nothing to do with a crazed, evil gunman who killed innocent people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: David, this is where I think she was disserved by the over-friendly approach of Sean Hannity, because I think there‘s an interesting discussion to be had about the timing of that video. You know, should she have waited another day and released it not on the day of the memorial service? Well, then you might have the problem of it actually appearing to be a rebuttal of Barack Obama‘s speech the night before. Should she have done it sooner?
I mean, I can see an interesting discussion from her perspective about it was hard to pick the right time to do this. But with Hannity and the way the interview went, they just glossed right over that and she never got into a real explanation of how—of why she chose the timing that she did.
Does she still owe an explanation on that?
DAVID FRUM, FRUMFORUM.COM: She should stop talking now, really.
O‘DONNELL: OK. Well, there‘s that. Yes.
FRUM: I will disagree with one thing Howard said. I don‘t think it‘s true that this is a person who‘s unaware of the reaction. She‘s all too aware. This was the interview of a very shaken person.
But what should have happened is that one video release statement should have been the end of the story, that a well-done, appropriately delivered statement by somebody who had been falsely and unfairly accused, maybe not by a specific person but certainly in the court of public opinion that was in the air, she had something she wanted to say and I completely do not blame her for wanting to say that. It must have been very difficult for her that terrible weekend. And, of course, she grieves for others. But she‘s entitled to feel bad for herself.
But it was a disaster. It was a failure. And so, now, she‘s on to explain that failure with this interview that was a very different kind of tone and it will probably lead at some point to another interview where she explains this last interview. She needs—she needs to stop doing it.
Having not done it right the first time, you have to live with the consequences and just cease. This is not—I think—I don‘t think there‘s a person left in America who would say she is in any way to blame. She should accept that and quit arguing about it.
O‘DONNELL: All right. Let‘s listen to what she had to say about the use of the term “blood libel.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PALIN: I don‘t know how the heck they would know whether I did or didn‘t know the term “blood libel.” Nobody has ever asked me. And blood libel obviously means being falsely accused of having blood on your hands. In this case, that‘s exactly what was going on.
And, yes, the historical knowledge that people have of the term “blood libel,” it goes back to the Jews who were falsely accused back in the medieval European times of using the blood of children and—you know, the criticism of even the timing of this statement is being used as another diversion because I believe that there are many on the left, many critics, who don‘t want, for instance, Congress to buckle down, get back to work. There‘s this trifecta thing going on in our country right now that‘s going to bring America to her knees if Congress doesn‘t start addressing the issues at hand.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Howard, do you think anyone who was uncomfortable with her use of the term “blood libel” is now cool with that?
FINEMAN: No, I don‘t think anything proves David‘s point better than that clip that you just showed. We somehow went from blood libel and medieval Jews to the budget deficit or something there by the end of it.
It made no sense and I agree with David, also, that, you know, she seemed rattled. I think she seemed rattled. I think she seemed uncomfortable. Her answers didn‘t add up or make sense.
You notice she didn‘t even say whether she did know anything about the history of the term or not. She‘s kind of glossed over that herself.
And I‘ll repeat once again that I know that the tone was friendly of this interview, but she didn‘t do herself any good by doing it and FOX didn‘t help her if they were intending to help her, because they went over the same issues again—the “blood libel,” the map, you know, the reaction, the questions about whether you should quit politics. All that stuff they went over and she was only, if at all, talking to her own core supporters. And I don‘t think even they were particularly reassured by what she had to say.
You know, yes, it was a tough time for her and others. Talk show hosts, however, are not defenseless. And to say that, you know, she was—she was a crusading defender of the talk show hosts isn‘t going to impress pretty much anybody except maybe a few talk show hosts.
MADDOW: David, when she was talking about the blood libel, she did acknowledge that it had appeared in a piece in “The Wall Street Journal” a couple days before, which strikes me as probably the obvious source for her writers who got that into her speech. Don‘t you think?
FRUM: Very likely. We need to be precise—what‘s objectionable and what is not about her use of the phrase. If there‘s any insinuation that she was careless or hostile to Jewish aspirations and Jewish history, speaking as somebody who is fairly serious about his Judaism, I don‘t think that‘s fair.
The problem with it is, it‘s disproportionate, self-aggrandizing. I mean, it‘s so much—to equate what you are going through with what other people suffered, yes, it was a long time ago in history, but I don‘t think if there‘s any imputations of anything anti-Jewish about it. I think that‘s really not right.
The problem is again she hit that wrong tone in that Wednesday video and the contrast to the president hitting the right tone, I think this interview gives a lot of people pause. When you do one of these interviews, you really have to put it away. Like the famous confrontation between George H.W. Bush and Dan Rather and others, the person who is in the firing line has to meet the host.
And Howard is probably right. A tougher host probably gets your adrenaline up and you have to settle the issue once and for all and emerge with the case closed, even victorious. I don‘t think that happens here.
It makes you wonder if you‘re a Republican primary voter. Well, what happens in the campaign if she‘s the nominee if it gets hot, if there‘s something she has to answer, if there‘s some embarrassing story, can she cope? And after tonight, you have to say, even if you were very sympathetic to her, it may just be too rigorous a process for her.
O‘DONNELL: Gentlemen, please stand by. We‘re going to come back with more of this after the break.
Coming up: more on the Palin/Hannity summit.
And later, the amazing progress and surprises from Congresswoman Gabby Giffords continues.
Any chance that Congress will surprise us and return tomorrow with a new tone of civility? Today, Giffords‘ husband urged us all to remember the lessons of Martin Luther King, Jr.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., CIVIL RIGHTS ICON: Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
KING: We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plain of dignity and discipline.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Sarah Palin finally takes questions, easy questions from Sean Hannity minutes ago on FOX News after she has been at the center of controversy surrounding the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Up next, what her comments tonight say about her presidential aspirations.
Also, on this Martin Luther King federal holiday, will the House of Representatives have a more civil tone after the shootings in Tucson? Giffords‘ friend, Congresswoman Debbie Wassermann Schultz joins me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PALIN: I‘m not ready to make an announcement as to what my political future is going to be, but I‘ll tell you, Sean, I‘m not going to sit down. I‘m not going to shut up.
I‘m going to hopefully be able to help empower others who believe that one of the things that makes America so exceptional is our right to free speech, is our right to vigorously yet respectfully debate ideas and intentions in this country. I‘m going to continue down that path. And if that leads to being a candidate for a high office, then I will announce that at the appropriate time.
But for now, you know, I want to join others who are saying, no, peaceful dissent and discussion about ideas, that is what makes America exceptional and we won‘t allow that to be stifled by a tragic event that happened in Arizona—one that we should all—we should all gather around, if you will, in order to condemn violence—
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: Yes.
PALIN: -- but not to allow it to stifle debate in America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: We‘re back with more on the FOX News interview with the most recent losing vice presidential candidate who will never be president.
Rejoining me, Howard Fineman from “The Huffington Post” and David Frum, former speechwriter for President Bush.
David Frum, as you may know, it is the official position of this show that Sarah Palin is not running for president, will not run for president, that that was decided when she quit her governorship. She‘s running for a billionaire. She is in it for the money. This controversy keeps her profile up where it needs to be to make money but does nothing to help her as a candidate.
Is there anything—is there any crack in my theory that you can see?
FRUM: Well, the crack in your theory is that she remains the person in the Republican Party who can do best to fill a room, to get people motivated, get people excited. And we‘re talking about her, which is a testament to some kind of charisma or appeal that is lacking from some of the other candidates who might have better paper resumes.
But I think—I think the events of this—I think this terrible killing is going to have some real resonance in American society. I think we all feel it. I have a 9-year-old daughter myself and I think that is—it‘s just going to linger in our minds.
And I think there are a lot of Republicans, especially in places like Iowa, who say, no, I‘m pro life, I have traditional values, I‘m pro-Second Amendment and there‘s Mike Huckabee. And he can—he served 11 years as governor, he paved the roads, ran the schools, he did a pretty good job, repeatedly re-elected. He can talk on television. He‘s gracious in moments of emergencies. He‘s able to—he doesn‘t put this kind of obvious foot wrong. Maybe I should be looking at him.
And other Republicans with other kinds of priorities, they have a range of candidates too and the room for her I think just got a little more straitened.
O‘DONNELL: Howard, let‘s listen to one of her answers, Sean Hannity asked her about, it maybe it‘s a good idea to take down, or is it a good idea to take down these images that use guns? Should we take gun imagery out of our politics? And her answer, she turned her answer into a statement about censorship. Let‘s listen to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HANNITY: Do you think targeting maps, bull‘s eyes, et cetera, that they should no longer be used in these campaigns, Governor?
PALIN: You know, I think it‘s going to be very tough and I think even futile really to start censoring everyone‘s speech and everyone‘s icons, that perhaps they have used traditionally for decades in political races and political talk, and as I say, I believe that some of that will be futile. We hear now of this desire, this demand for civility in discussion when it comes to political debate and certainly, I agree with the idea of being civil. By definition “civil” means being well-mannered.
Yes, we should be respectful. We should be civil. But we should not use an event like that in Arizona to stifle debate and that time honored and cherished tradition that we have in America of being able to respectfully petition our government and protest peacefully and respectfully in order to effect the change we would like to see in our government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Howard, what just happened there? Is that a politician who refuses to accept the frame of the question which had nothing to do with censorship and turn it into a statement about censorship? As Sean was just saying, maybe we shouldn‘t use this stuff anymore. It‘s an editorial choice whether to use it or not, and she couldn‘t even follow the question that he asked.
FINEMAN: Well, in an odd way, you have to admire I guess how stubborn she is. She just refuses to see what‘s happened here.
As David says, the tone of discourse has changed. The concern in the country is deep, which is why President Obama‘s speech got such a positive response, why he‘s got such astronomical numbers for his behavior during this time.
There is concern with this that has nothing to do with censorship, that has nothing to do with accusations of what happened in Arizona, it just triggered the sense of concern about the nature of our society and our discourse. The president as president is responding to that.
Now, maybe it‘s unfair to ask Sarah Palin to have the kind of grasp of the American psyche that at least this week the president seemed to have had, but she doesn‘t have it here. She just does not get it. In a more narrow sense, politically, sure the left is trying to back her into a corner. Duh! That‘s what they‘re trying to do.
But she‘s run into the corner herself and turned her face to the wall, because she refuses to accept the possibility that anything that she‘s done or said is worthy of second-guessing because somehow, that would be to enable and sanctify her critics and she‘s not built that way. It‘s what makes her attractive to 20 percent, 25 percent of the country. It‘s what gives her still support in places—in key places like Iowa, South Carolina, even New Hampshire.
Talking to some campaign manager types in other proto campaigns on the Republican side, they still respect that much about Sarah Palin‘s political strength, which is there are people in those states who swear by her for this very reason of defiance. But there aren‘t nearly enough of them I don‘t think, now—certainly now, for her to get the Republican nomination, let alone get elected president.
If she‘s trying to speak to the whole country, she certainly didn‘t do it through this appearance. And as David said, she kind of worked her way back into the facts that she never has accurately—never fully explained and that she didn‘t explain tonight.
O‘DONNELL: Thank you, gentlemen, both for joining me tonight.
FRUM: Thank you.
O‘DONNELL: Howard Fineman of “The Huffington Post” and MSNBC, and David Frum of FrumForum.com, whose wise Republican advice Sarah Palin continues to ignore.
Thank you both for joining me.
FRUM: Thank you.
FINEMAN: Thank you.
O‘DONNELL: Did producers of the Golden Globes punish Ricky Gervais last night and keep him off the air for an hour because he was so offensive? Michael Musto investigates.
And, the House of Representatives returns to work tomorrow. On the radar is new gun control legislation and the Republican plan to repeal health care reform. Will there be a new tone in D.C. after the shooting of Gabby Giffords? Congressman John Lewis drew parallels today at events honoring Martin Luther King, Jr.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: Martin Luther King, Jr., our friend, our leader, our hero, our brother, could speak to us today. He would say there‘s something wrong in America. There is a sickness. It‘s from a disease that we as a nation and a people must confront.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: In our spotlight tonight, the House of Representatives reconvenes tomorrow, doing so with what some hope will be a new tone of civility and mutual respect, after one of their colleagues was nearly assassinated ten days ago. Every bit of news about wounded Congresswoman Gabby Giffords points to her continuing recovery. This weekend, her condition was upgraded from critical to serious.
Her husband, Astronaut Mark Kelly, tells ABC that his wife has smiled, even given him a ten-minute long neck massage. Kelly said, quote, “it‘s so typical of her that no matter how bad the situation might be for her, you know, she‘s looking out for other people.”
Today, doctors said they operated on Giffords once again, removing bone fragments that were putting pressure on her right eye socket. They performed a tracheotomy to remove a breathing tube from her mouth to her throat.
In the middle of all of this, today‘s national holiday honoring the birth and life of someone who constantly worked for peace and equality, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Former President Clinton and House Speaker John Boehner drew links between Dr. King‘s crusade and the need to stop political differences from escalating into something far more ominous.
President Clinton said “Dr. Martin Luther King once wrote that nonviolence means not only avoiding external physical violence, but also internal violence of the spirit. Today, as we honor what would have been Dr. King‘s 92nd birthday, a little more than a week after a shooter took the lives of six people and wounded 13 others in Arizona, including a member of Congress, we‘d all do well to heed his message.”
Speaker Boehner adds, “Reverend King stressed faith and grace in his quest to achieve freedom and equality for all, preaching that the time is always right to do what is right. Recent events have reminded us that whatever our differences may be, we can disagree without being disagreeable to each other, and we can seek to be right without being self-righteous.”
Joining me now, Florida Democratic Congresswoman Debby Wassermann Schultz and Princeton professor Melissa Harris-Perry, an MSNBC contributor and columnist for “The Nation.”
Congresswoman Schultz, you saw Gabby Giffords again this weekend.
Could you give us a quick update on her condition?
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIAD: Sure. Gabby came out of surgery on Saturday afternoon. And I was able to see her, spend the afternoon there with her and Mark and family. And she continues to make progress. She bounced back to the same place that she was at neurologically at the end of the week.
You know, her eyes still tracking things in the room. As you said, she gave Mark a pretty good massage on his neck on Friday and over the weekend. So they continue to be really excited about the progress she‘s made. It‘s little by little, but she‘s been demonstrating the fighter that we all know she is.
O‘DONNELL: Congresswoman, you are among those planning to sit with the Republican at the State of the Union next week. Senators Schumer and Coburn have decided to sit together. How is this working? Is this like you‘re calling each other up and saying hey, can I sit with you? Are you picking your best Republican friends to pair off with?
SCHULTZ: That is actually—yeah, that‘s actually exactly what I did. I called my good friend John Culberson from Texas, who I served on the Appropriations Committee with. And I guess asked him out on a date. And he said yes. So I am going to go sit on the—what is normally the Republican side of the aisle during the State of the Union, and watch the State of the Union, listen to the State of the Union with John.
I told him that we probably would be up and down at different parts of the president‘s remarks, but that I was looking forward to leading by example with him. He enthusiastically accepted my invitation.
O‘DONNELL: Melissa, you know, at one State of the Union Address in the early ‘90s I ended up sitting on the Republican side for a bunch of complicated reasons, and I found myself only willing to do what Republicans would do. I didn‘t want to stand up when they were sitting down because I didn‘t want to look out of place, being from the Democratic side.
But is it an appropriate week, Martin Luther King Week, for members of Congress suddenly to be trying to find these bipartisan dates for the State of the Union Address?
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I think it is, but I think we also have to be careful here. I love that, in a certain way, this is a revision of that 1963 speech, where now instead of little black boys and little black girls holding hands with little white boys and little white girls, in King‘s words, we have little Democratic senators holding hands with little Republican senators.
So it is a nice kind of revision. But I think exactly because of that revision, we want to be careful. We want to remember that, on the one hand, King absolutely called us to the higher purpose of nonviolence. But he did not promise that being civil, that being nonviolent, that choosing democracy, with a little D, would mean that others would not attack. In fact, he knew that it would. He knew that that kind of self-control would often lead the opposition into attack.
So he called us to be courageous in the face of those attacks. And he also never said that civility was an end in itself. It was simply a means. But the end was justice. So I don‘t think King will be happy if we all hold hands and repeal health care. Right? The point is not to be civil just to be civil, but to be civil as we work towards a more equal and just country.
O‘DONNELL: Melissa, to continue on what the King legacy is, it‘s a complex—if we‘re looking at it just behaviorally, it is complex. Yes, he was a civil man. But he was a leader of civil protests, of walking right up to the edge and getting arrested, and in effect, certainly offending communities in the south where he would march into and get arrested, and not fearing that offense.
So is there a way to describe the totality of what the King legacy would be in terms of acceptable behavior?
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, that‘s right. King called us to civil disobedience. It was not just—in other words, as a minister, which is his other role, his goal was not just to comfort the afflicted, but to afflict the comfortable. Right?
In other words, to make uncomfortable those who are in power. You can get a peaceful nation, he would say, if everyone will just stay in their place. But that kind of peace does not translate into justice. So he encouraged, you know, people to go to jail. He encouraged children to stand in front of fire hoses.
He encouraged parents to allow their children to desegregate schools, despite knowing that the violence would meet them there. So I think that‘s part of the courage we need to have in this moment, is to understand that we don‘t choose civility because we expect the other side to choose it. We choose civility because it is the appropriate behavior of an American citizen interested in producing a good, democratic outcome in the long term.
You can‘t necessarily expect the other side to play by the same rules.
O‘DONNELL: Congresswoman, after your date with John Culberson, who is one hardcore right wing Republican member, what plan are the Democrats trying to form to push Carolyn McCarthy‘s attempt to limit the kind of ammunition that shooters, as we saw in Tucson, are allowed to use?
SCHULTZ: Well, I think we do need to have a discussion about what the most effective means of those limitations can be. I mean, for example, I think we need—we need to recognize, Lawrence, that we are not—we are in a pro-gun Congress. You know, moving most types of gun control legislation is going to be extremely difficult.
But can we get most people to agree that the mentally ill should not be entitled to possess hand guns? Can we get people to agree that drug abusers should not be able to get hand guns? I mean, those seem like reasonable approaches to gun control that, in this case, had the deranged gunman been prohibited from getting a gun, for either one, we might not have had this happen.
O‘DONNELL: Professor, every year you watch as Martin Luther King is commemorated in the media and otherwise. Is there something that we habitually miss in the way we frame this every year when we come back to examining his legacy and what he means to us today?
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah. The short answer is we miss everything after 1965. In other words, the King that turned to issues of economic justice, of housing, of a push against the war. We have to remember that King. It was not just segregation. It was a full notion of justice.
O‘DONNELL: Congresswoman Debbie Wassermann Schultz, Democrat of Florida, and Melissa Harris-Perry of Princeton University, thank you very much, both of you, for your time tonight.
SCHULTZ: Thank you.
O‘DONNELL: Civility was missing from last night‘s Golden Globe Awards. Did producers get what they expected when they invited Ricky Gervais back to host the show?
And in the Rewrite, an over-the-line comment from the governor of Maine about Martin Luther King Day remembrances triggered a lot of outrage. How Governor LePage tried to steer out of that skid.
O‘DONNELL: Time for tonight‘s Rewrite. On Friday, Maine‘s newly sworn in governor, Tea Party backed Republican Paul LePage, was talking to a reporter in Sanford, Maine, and he was asked about criticism he was facing from the NAACP for skipping events over the weekend to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Governor LePage, who has an adopted son who was born in Jamaica, responded with a rather unappealing proposal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. PAUL LEPAGE ®, MAINE: They‘re special interests, end of story. I‘m not going to be held hostage by any special interests. If they want, they can look at my family picture. My son happens to be black, so they can do whatever they‘d like about it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what‘s your response to them saying this is more than just one instance but rather a pattern?
LEPAGE: Tell them to kiss my butt. If they want to make—play their race card, come to my dinner and my son will talk to them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: The reaction from the NAACP was quick. The state‘s director, Rachel Talbot Ross, said “I don‘t care who he‘s got in his family and he‘s saying we‘re playing the race card? The makeup of his family isn‘t the issue and it never was the issue. For him to say we‘re playing the race card shows a real lack of awareness of the very important issues we‘re working to address. Our kids deserve better. Maine deserves better. His son deserves better.”
Benjamin Jealous, the national head of the NAACP, called the governor‘s words out of touch with our nation‘s deep yearning for increased civility and racial healing. But Charles Webster, the chairman of Maine‘s Republican Party, quickly tried to rewrite the governor‘s words, saying, “I‘m sure the governor wishes he‘d used different words, but he‘s a blunt, outspoken person. And that‘s one thing people like about him.”
And now we can all be sure the governor wishes he used different words, because over the weekend Governor LePage rewrote himself, quickly adding a breakfast in Waterville, Maine honoring Martin Luther King Jr. to his schedule today.
Governor LePage didn‘t speak to the crowd of about 150 people, but did join some of the participants in an African dance. He told a reporter at the event that the holiday “represents an awful lot, particularly to black America. I mean, Martin Luther King was a peaceful activist and, unfortunately, he gave his life for it.”
In a statement released later, the governor said, “Dr. King is someone who spent and ultimately gave his life making sure that people got a fair shake regardless of race. We have come far through the years, but the journey continues to make Dr. King‘s dreams a reality. I urge all Mainers to work as one for a better life for all.”
That‘s not good enough for some. One critic calling it a political act that has nothing to do with his convictions. Maybe. But today is the day we should try using Dr. King‘s perspective instead of our own narrower focus.
What would Dr. King say about this? Sadly, we‘ll never know. But we do know that no political figure in 20th century America was more Christ-like than Martin Luther King Jr., who said, “we must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”
O‘DONNELL: The Golden Globes aired last night and the 17 million viewers who watched aren‘t talking about who won or who wore what or any of that. They‘re talking about the jokes made by the host, the incomparable Ricky Gervais.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICKY GERVAIS, COMEDIAN: It seems like everything this year was three dimensional, except the characters in “The Tourist.” I feel bad about that joke. No, I tell you why. I‘m jumping on the band wagon, because I haven‘t seen “The Tourist.” Who has?
Also not nominated “I Love You, Philip Morris.” Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor, two heterosexual actors pretending to be gay. So the complete opposite of some famous Scientologist then.
He has done all those films, but many of you in this room probably know him best from such facilities as the Betty Ford Clinic and Los Angeles County Jail. Please welcome, Robert Downey Jr.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Not content to offend just the stars in the room, Ricky closed the show with a line that might have disturbed a sizable chunk of the TV audience.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GERVAIS: Thank you for watching at home and thank you to God for making me an atheist.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: The performance has split Hollywood in two. Robert Downey Jr. told “USA Today” “I‘m kind of beyond being offended. I prefer humor that doesn‘t have to make people feel bad.”
Then there‘s Jason Bateman who Tweeted that Gervais‘ performance was “genius and just what nights of self-congratulation need.”
“New York Times” television critic Alexander Stanley said today it was Gervais‘ second chance to host the Golden Globes. He may not get a third.
Here to help us decide who is right is THE LAST WORD‘s senior correspondent on awards show decorum, Mr. Michael Musto of “The Village Voice” and DailyMusto.com.
Michael, I was—I had the pleasure of being able to tell Ricky Gervais at the HBO after party last night that I‘m very much in the camp that thought he was brilliant. What a better way to deal with these audiences than to make fun of them. Haven‘t any of these people seen any of those roasts on “Comedy Central?” Don‘t they know this is all good fun?
MICHAEL MUSTO, “THE VILLAGE VOICE”: I agree. First of all there is no God or there wouldn‘t be a Golden Globes. But yes, so many award shows only make the four losers feel bad. He made everybody feel bad. I thought it was fantastic. He evened the score.
There is no dignity at these Golden Globes anyway. “The Tourist,” as he mentioned, was up for best picture. It got three nominations. That‘s even better than it did at the Golden Razzies.
For God‘s sake—not that there is a God—dame Judy Dench was nominated opposite Jennifer Love Hewitt.
O‘DONNELL: Let‘s listen to how some of the presenters shot back at Ricky.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT DOWNEY JR., ACTOR: Aside from the fact that it has been hugely mean spirited, with mildly sinister undertones, I‘d say the vibe of the show is pretty good so far, wouldn‘t you?
TOM HANKS, ACTOR: Like many of you, we recall back when Ricky Gervais was a slightly chubby but very kind comedian.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Neither of which is he now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Michael, those guys have some great lines. Robert Downey Jr.‘s line was great. It makes it a better show. Doesn‘t it?
MUSTO: They have great lines on their face. Where is the Botox, people? Tim Allen was mad that Ricky left out that he was a drug peddler, apparently. He was the voice of Buzz Lightyear. Robert Downey Jr., yes, he had a point. This is tasteless. It‘s mean spirited. And then he followed that literally with a ten-minute monologue about how he wanted to bang the five best actress nominees. He really raised the bar.
O‘DONNELL: Isn‘t this exactly what the Golden Globes needs. I mean, one reason Ricky Gervais is hosting is he has pushed the ratings up. Isn‘t that all they‘re going to look at when they decide who they want next year?
MUSTO: Yes. He has announced the tastelessness and the barbarianism of the whole event. He has held a mirror up to everyone‘s foibles. They are all pretending to be angry. Meanwhile, the producer of the Golden Globes, the guy with no teeth that Ricky had to rip off the toilet bowl, he had a scripted response on the show against Ricky. So it was obviously all in fun. It‘s all good natured wit.
And he‘ll be back next year, I assure you.
O‘DONNELL: And what does your investigation reveal about Ricky was absent from the stage for almost an hour? That wasn‘t the penalty box. That was the way the show was written. Wasn‘t it or—
MUSTO: The scientology people actually had strapped him down and they were forcing him to watch scenes from Tom Cruise‘s last movie, “Night and Day.” And Cher was like, while you‘re down there, let me sing the horrible song from “Burlesque” that just won.
O‘DONNELL: I got to tell you, Michael, at the after parties, I didn‘t hear a single person criticizing him in any way. Maybe I was talking to the thick skinned section of the crowd.
MUSTO: You didn‘t talk to Julie Andrews. She was pissed.
O‘DONNELL: No, I didn‘t talk to Julie Andrews.
MUSTO: Pissed that he didn‘t say anything about her at all.
O‘DONNELL: Michael Musto of the “Village Voice,” you talk to Julie Andrews for me. Michael, thank you very much for joining us.
MUSTO: Thank you.
O‘DONNELL: You can have THE LAST WORD online at our blog, TheLastWord.MSNBC.com. While you are there, you can learn more about KIND, our fund for Kids in Need of Desks in Africa. That‘s tonight‘s LAST WORD. “COUNTDOWN” is up next.
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