The Last Word | March 06, 2013
O'DONNELL: Republicans are at war with themselves over who is in and who is out of next week's Conservative Political Action Conference . The list of featured speakers includes Mitt Romney , Jeb Bush , Bobby Jindal , Marco Rubio , Ron Paul , Newt Gingrich , Sarah Palin , Alan West , and the NRA 's blood drenched lobbyist for mass murderers, Wayne LaPierre , and America 's biggest loser, Donald Trump . CPAC actually tried to add my name to that list, graciously inviting me to appear, but my schedule is not as flexible as the unemployed Mitt Romney , Sarah Palin , Donald Trump . So I had to send my regrets. I'm not kidding. This is absolutely serious. CPAC invited me to a big moment in their conference where they wanted me to do a one-on-one debate with Ann Coulter , something I have done before and something I will absolutely do again for a good cause. The last time I debated with Ann Coulter at George Washington University , I raised $18,000 for the KIND Fund , Kids in Need of Desks . But this time we tried, we really did, but we couldn't adjust my schedule to join the fun at CPAC . So, as I've told them, maybe next year. If it will work out in the schedule, I will happily go and do that. CPAC 's invitation to Donald Trump led Michelle Malkin to tweet, " CPAC is dead." And the conservative editors of " Washington Examiner " who are actually co-sponsoring the event, write, " CPAC flouts conservatism's rich intellectual tradition by inviting such a transparent crackpot, a celebrity huckster with no history as a conservative and no knowledge of conservatism." Not invited to CPAC are gay conservative group GOProud , the Republican champion of transvaginal ultrasound, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell , as well as the most popular governor in the country, Governor Chris Christie . That provoked one of the CPAC 's scheduled speakers to say this.
NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER : I don't know what the purpose of CPAC is anymore. I don't know how they define who gets to come in and who doesn't get to come in. My sense is that the board is not very open and not very clear about, you know, whether it's personality decisions or what they're thinking. You can say, well, first, you know, Chris Christie isn't invited for X, but you can also look at his record on controlling spending and reforming New Jersey government and say, you know, he has a story to tell that's pretty interesting, and for a Northeastern governor in a heavily unionized state is pretty courageous.
O'DONNELL: Joining me now is MSNBC 's Karen Finney and Jonathan Capehart . Karen , I got to tell you, it broke my heart not to be able to go to the CPAC . It was -- I've never been to this thing and I know I was going to hear kind of loud boos and all of that, but the chance to let them hear something that's actually true. In fact, it might be the only opportunity, with me going there, that might be the only chance for them to hear something true this year.
KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: And that is what breaks my heart, because I think you would have introduced two key concepts: science and math. That would have just blown them all away and I'm so sorry that we won't have the opportunity to see that happen this time.
O'DONNELL: Well, I don't know if I would have been heard over the booing, I don't know. I was assured, actually, a certain level of politeness, and I actually think, Jonathan , they do have -- I mean, included in everything they're doing, and this may be part of the misstep they've done in Trump 's direction, there is always a certain kind of spirit of fun at this thing. There are certain things they're doing at CPAC that really are just for the fun. And I had the sense that that was kind of my role if I had shown up.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, WASHINGTON POST: Uh-huh ?
O'DONNELL: But Trump might be just at this time something that, as Michelle Malkin says, makes them seem absolutely completely out of step.
CAPEHART: So they're having fun by inviting Donald Trump and also inviting Mitt Romney , the guy that no one liked last time they had CPAC .
O'DONNELL: That's amazing.
CAPEHART: Inviting back Sarah Palin , inviting Allen West , the sort of rogues gallery of conservatism, when, as you point out, the two Republicans who should be invited, Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell , Governor McDonnell of Virginia , aren't there. It sort of cements in my mind the difference between, say, the Conservative Political Action Conference , CPAC , and the Republican Party . CPAC is a wing of the Republican Party . They want purists, they want people who adhere strictly to conservative values, and it's tearing apart the Republican Party which, as a major national party , is supposed to be about governing. And as we have seen since the 2010 election, the Republican Party has gotten a long way away from its responsibilities to help govern this country.
O'DONNELL: And, Karen , as conservative critics of CPAC are now pointing out this week, Jennifer Rubin on " The Washington Post " said, look, this is a time when the Republican Party has to expand, conservatism has to expand. You do not expand by first excluding people.
FINNEY: Well, that's exactly right, but part of the problem for the Republican Party to Jonathan 's point that we're going to see on display at CPAC , we're going to hear, I think, a lot of what they're against. A lot of that is going to be about President Obama and the policies of this administration. But we're not going to hear new ideas being put forward in terms of what they're for. And that is a big part of the problem the Republican Party has right now. They're very good at saying no, they're very good at obstructing the president, they're very good at criticizing the president. Maybe tonight's dinner is a turning point -- we'll see. But at some point if you're going to be a governing party, if you're going to be a national party , if you're going to learn how to be a big tent party, you have to invite people with different ideas but from the same ideology into the conversation, but you also have to put forward some new ideas. And at this point they really have not been able to do that other than to say no.
O'DONNELL: Jonathan , so far on the list of speakers, it seems to me like the person to watch is Newt Gingrich . I mean, here he is publicly saying, I don't know what CPAC stands for anymore. He knows they're going to hear him say that. So he seems to be the only one who might get up there on that stage and say some things that make the room uncomfortable which a room full of losers should be after a presidential election.
CAPEHART: Well, remember, Newt Gingrich doesn't have a whole lot to do right around now, either.
CAPEHART: I wonder if he has the courage to say to those people in that room the very things that clip you just played. Is he willing to stand there and say, you know, I don't know what you guys stand for? I don't know why we're here? I think he will tell them things that he believes they want to hear.
FINNEY: Hold on, hold on, you're giving him way too much credit. Newt Gingrich will say whatever it is he thinks will get him more headlines and more air time . Let's be very clear. It has nothing to do with having courage.
CAPEHART: But he's going to earn those headlines not attacking CPAC but by attacking the president and liberals and progressives and whoever else is not in that room.
O'DONNELL: So, Karen , do you see anyone on the list who might say anything worth being said in that room?
FINNEY: Well, let's see, there's got to be, what, like an announcer who opens the program and somebody who closes the program. I would say those will be true words and probably, you know, those who say thank you and goodbye. That will be probably the most valuable. No, I mean, look, I think we're going to hear -- again, I think we're going to hear a lot of right wing rhetoric. I think one of the best things, frankly, for Chris Christie was that he wasn't invited. I think this is playing very well for him in his 2016 prospects, and I think we're going to hear more of that far right wing rhetoric that is part of the reasons nothing is getting done in this town.
O'DONNEL: All right. Well, maybe next year, maybe a year from now, we will be discussing how I did at CPAC if I can get myself invited again and work it into the schedule. Karen Finney and Jonathan Capehart , thank you both for joining me tonight.
CAPEHART: Thanks, Lawrence.
FINNEY: Take care.