The Reverend Al Sharpton has been called many names throughout his 30 plus years in the public eye. His critics use the terms “demagogue,” “opportunist,” and even the taboo political name of “spoiler.” But these same critics now have to call him what he is — presidential contender. He joined Chris Matthews in ‘Hardball: Battle for the White House,’ Oct. 27, Monday, 7 p.m. ET
So how did the “wonder boy” preacher from the Bethany Baptist Church in Brooklyn end up in the national arena of presidential politics?
BORN TO PREACH
He started very young. At the age of 10, when his fellow Democratic candidates were probably playing little league, Sharpton became an ordained minister. Armed with only a bible and the desire to get crowds believing, he toured internationally as the Reverend Alfred Sharpton Junior “wonder boy preacher.”
But the road for Reverend Sharpton has been long, glamorous and tainted.
After his days as the “wonder boy preacher” Sharpton started working on the Reverend Jesse Jackson’s Operation Breadbasket. He would later go on the road with the Godfather of Soul James Brown. Sharpton cites Jackson and Brown as two of the biggest influences on his life.
HELPING THE HELPLESS
By the mid 1980’s Sharpton established himself in New York as a civil rights activist to be reckoned with. It would be in New York where Sharpton started to develop a national reputation. His supporters cited his civil rights achievements, his diligence in fighting for the disposed, and his ability to bring acts of injustice to the spotlight. His critics said in doing so he used racial slurs, incited ethnic tensions, and turned the spotlight on himself.
Though he has not formally announced that he is running for president, Reverend Sharpton is definitely in the race.
His platform is based around three proposed constitutional amendments: the right to vote, the right to health care, and the right to an education. But his message on the road is focused more around the relationship between the Democratic Party and African-Americans.
Late appearances, weak fundraising, and a recent staff shakeup have characterized his campaign so far. He continues to rank in the lower tier of candidates in both national and state polls. But at national debates he clearly comes out a winner with his insightful and witty comments. He has even become a referee of sorts when his fellow candidates start to bicker with one another during debates.
But Sharpton is already taking steps to improve his campaign. He has hired a new campaign manager, Charles Halloran to focus on fundraising and revamping the structure of the campaign. Halloran’s first project brought in hip-hop stars Russell Simmons, Jay-Z and P Diddy together for a major fundraiser. Sharpton is also concentrating on a voter registration project to bring new voters into the political process.
Reverend Sharpton has made one thing clear throughout this campaign and his life—loved or hated he will not be ignored.
The Institute of Politics at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government hosts the
‘Battle for the White House’ series. The audience, which will be comprised mostly of local college students, will also ask questions of the candidates. Admittance to these forums will require a ticket. While most tickets will be distributed to Harvard and other local college students, some tickets will be reserved for the general public. Instructions for obtaining tickets will be available on the IOP website.
READ THE COMPLETE TRANSCRIPT BELOW
ANNOUNCER: Live, from the John F. Kennedy Institute of Politics at Harvard University, HARDBALL, “Battle for the White House.” Tonight, our series of interviews with the Democratic candidates for president continues. Here’s Chris Matthews.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: For the next hour, he’s running for president despite the odds. The Reverend Al Sharpton. Let’s play HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Thank you. Reverend Sharpton, thanks.
REV. AL SHARPTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: You’ve been on our show a number of times, but this is the big one. How are you going to win the presidency?
SHARPTON: I’m going to win it unlike the present occupant, I’m going to get the most votes.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: I think that sets a tone for the night. Let me ask you, is George Bush a legitimate president of the United States? Is he legitimately our president?
SHARPTON: I think that the election clearly lacked legitimacy. I think the fact that we went ahead and allowed things to proceed is something that has scarred the image of this country. And I think that is why we need to have voting in unprecedented numbers next year, so that we can show that we will not have the vote of American people in any way undermined and in any way disregarded and disrespected.
In many ways, Chris, my feeling is that we’ve gone through a non-military civil war. It began with the recount in Florida. It moved to the redistricting in Texas. Now with the recall in California. These are all schemes to reject our right to one vote, counting and being final. And I think we need to stop that in 2004 with the defeat of George Bush and that crowd.
MATTHEWS: Do you think that George Bush is right now-right now the real president of the United States? You haven’t answered my question. Is he legitimately the president of the United States?
SHARPTON: I think I said the election was not legitimate. He was...
MATTHEWS: Is he a legitimate president of the United States right now?
SHARPTON: Well, the election was not legitimate. The fact is that he can call troops out. He is sitting in office.
MATTHEWS: Should he have an asterisk next to his name in the history books, not really president? Is that what you mean? I’m serious.
SHARPTON: He should have an asterisk that the election that he had was questionable at best. And that is why he only served one term, in fact.
MATTHEWS: You said that the California recall was somehow illegitimate, or I shouldn’t-it was part of a political cabal. Why did the guy who won, Schwarzenegger, get more votes than the “no” vote on the recall, the people voting to keep the governor, and got more votes than the governor did in his last election. If so many people voted for Schwarzenegger, did they all do it as part of a cabal, or was it a democratic vote?
SHARPTON: First of all, I don’t think that the people that voted for Schwarzenegger were the ones that hatched this whole scheme.
MATTHEWS: Why did they vote for him?
SHARPTON: Well, I think that in many ways, we saw a very shrewd media-driven campaign, with stars and lights and pizzazz. And it became a political production based on people’s anger, it was manipulated. Just like most Americans supported the war in Iraq, because their fears were manipulated. I think that the right wing in this country has learned how to manipulate emotions, fear.
MATTHEWS: Are we herded sheep?
SHARPTON: No. We’re not herded sheep. We are people that are susceptible to those that play on our emotions, which is why I think you need people that are firm and surefooted to stand up to this crowd. Because when you try to have it both ways, when you try to run with them and run against them at the same time, they win, because they have a definite strategy and they’re after definite results. The results are, you have a guy that is the governor of California now who has been on-what is the first thing he does? He declares war on the American Indians. He is now going after immigrants with licenses. I mean, this is amazing.
MATTHEWS: How did he declare war on American Indians?
SHARPTON: Well, he says we have got to first go and tax all of the Indian compounds and...
MATTHEWS: You mean stop them from moving their reservations from downtown L.A., where they can have an opportunity to set up slot machines in South Central?
SHARPTON: With all of the big business problems, with all the environmental hazardous businesses in California, all you can do is come in and jump first on the Native American casinos?
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this, do you think we should have casinos in downtown L.A.?
SHARPTON: No, I think that my priority, if I was governor of California, when I’m dealing with a record deficit, and when I’m dealing with people that don’t mind hurting the air and the water and misusing the lumber, then I certainly wouldn’t be up at a casino trying to collect taxes when I could protect the environment for the people of the state.
MATTHEWS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) casinos. You think casinos are a good way to raise money?
SHARPTON: No, I am for the proper priorities.
MATTHEWS: Yeah, but you’re defending the Indian casinos here.
SHARPTON: No. I’m attacking Schwarzenegger.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: You have raised two ethnically charged issues here. You’re saying he’s out against the North Americans, the Native North Americans, he’s against Indians. You accused him of being against Hispanic immigrants. The fact is that that law out there did not just give licenses to people, it said you can have an I.D. card if you’re here illegally. Now, do you think that’s something we should give to people, given the security threats in this country now? I.D. cards. Not just because you have an option in that law that the governor signed, I.D. cards if you’re here illegally. Do you think that’s a good idea?
SHARPTON: I think first of all, that it lends toward profiling and it lends-absolutely. I think that it is...
MATTHEWS: Giving I.D. cards to people here illegally lends to profiling?
SHARPTON: No. I think that when in the nature and the tone in which they have come out with this, it is certainly in a spirit of anti-immigrants.
MATTHEWS: But who came out with this a year ago? I don’t want to get into California politics, but I spent five weeks out there, Reverend. The governor vetoed this bill twice, and then right before the election, he signed it without even a criminal background check, because he wanted Hispanic votes. That was the game he was playing. He introduced ethnic politics, not the other guy.
SHARPTON: And I disagreed when it was done. But I am an equal party critic.
SHARPTON: I think that it is wrong. And I think that we’ve got to call it wrong. But what I said is, even if I agreed with it, what I compared is what his priorities were when he went into office. I don’t think that you can argue that his priorities certainly was not to try to deal with those that could do the most, to deal with the environmental concerns that bring the right tax revenues into California.
MATTHEWS: Let’s get a question. Go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Reverend Sharpton, hello. I’m Vevek (ph), and I want to ask you, last week on the show we had Senator Kerry, and this week — and the week before we had Senator Edwards. And my question for you is, of all the Democratic candidates out there, why should I vote for the one with the least political experience?
SHARPTON: Well, you shouldn’t, because I have the most political experience. I got involved in the political movement when I was 12 years old. And I’ve been involved in social policy for the last 30 years. So don’t confuse people that have a job with political experience. Whoever the head of some local bureaucracy has a job in Cambridge. That doesn’t mean that they have political experience, and it doesn’t mean they have experience to run the United States government.
So I think that we confuse title holders with political experience. As we have seen with the present occupant in the White House. George Bush was a governor, and clearly has shown he doesn’t have political experience.
MATTHEWS: Next one.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Reverend, you vowed to fight the war on drugs and crack down on the drug dealers. You also vowed to lower incarceration rates. Hardball, Reverend, how are you going to do both?
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
SHARPTON: I want to be president, and you want to grow up to be Chris Matthews.
SHARPTON: But anyway, we all have ambition. Nothing wrong with that.
First of all, I think that one does not contradict the other. I think that what I have opposed in incarceration rates, the increase of incarceration, the rate of incarceration, based on unfair federal drug mandatory laws. Now, some of those laws started because some of us responded to Lynn Byers (ph) and others that were so tragically killed with crack. We wanted something done. But the results were that we made laws that became so unfair that you have mandatory sentencing for people at the end of the drug trail.
They’re wrong. They break the law. They ought to pay. But it is wrong to have five-year mandatory for someone found with a loose bag of crack, of sweet and low size of crack, and then you have loose cocaine, no mandatory time.
You ought to put the big guy in jail, mandatory, and try and reform and redirect a nonviolent drug offender.
So I worked with Dr. Charles Overture (ph) of this university and former Mayor Ed Koch. We never agreed on anything until this, saying that we need to have it where people could have a second chance.
Now, at the same time, I think we need to get crack out of our neighborhoods. I marched and exposed crack houses because they were openly and in some cities still are selling drugs across the counter.
So because I don’t want to see an uneven, unequal mandatory sentencing in the courts, does not mean I’m not against the sale of drugs, particularly over the counter, like if it were legal in open trade in our communities. I don’t think one has any contradiction at all with the other.
MATTHEWS: Let’s talk about-let me talk about the-bring up-we got more questions in just a second.
Let me ask you about Iraq, because it’s going to be a big part of this election. What’s your exit strategy, starting right now, to get us out of Iraq?
SHARPTON: Well, first of all, my entrance strategy would have been not to go in. I think that-I think that-and the reason I raise that, Chris...
SHARPTON: I think that people are disingenuous that voted to let us go in.
MATTHEWS: Who are those people?
SHARPTON: Well, some of those...
MATTHEWS: Name them.
SHARPTON: Some of them you play HARDBALL with sometimes.
MATTHEWS: What do you mean? Do you mean, like, Gephardt, Kerry, Lieberman and Edwards? Anybody else?
SHARPTON: I didn’t stop you. Go ahead.
SHARPTON: So I think it’s a little disingenuous.
MATTHEWS: Why are you using such a polite Latinate (ph) word like disingenuous? Why don’t you say dishonest?
SHARPTON: Because I’m talking and you’re not going to put words in my mouth.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
SHARPTON: See-I don’t want, when I win this nomination, them be able to use clips as reasons why these guys wouldn’t endorse and help me finish the trail to the White House. So I know how to make my point in a way that we don’t lose our eye on the prize, which is bringing Bush out.
But I think that when you voted to give entrance to Iraq, is when you should have raised the question, then to the president, what is the exit strategy? You know when he knew in, he had to come out. So you should not now say, Oh, my God, where’s the exit strategy? You should have asked that when you gave him entry. That’s one.
MATTHEWS: Why didn’t they do that?
SHARPTON: That’s a good question.
MATTHEWS: You think they’re more hawkish than they’re pretending? You think guys like Kerry really were for the war, but now they’re stepping back, seeing they got to vote-would get Democrats to vote for them in these primaries. They’re all of a sudden being doves.
SHARPTON: Well, I don’t know. I don’t want to psychoanalyze any of the opposition. I can only say that I was the first candidate in this race to come out against the war. I came out on your show early. Mr. Kucinich wasn’t in the race yet, in all due respect to him. And I said then, I didn’t believe there were weapons of mass destruction. I didn’t believe we were in imminent danger.
MATTHEWS: How did you know?
SHARPTON: I didn’t believe-first of all...
MATTHEWS: How did you not believe? What was your basis?
SHARPTON: I didn’t believe-I didn’t believe given the technology of the day-if Rumsfeld knew where the weapons was, he couldn’t show us some evidence, some photo, something. We’re not in the Kojak generation anymore. There could have been-there could have been some evidence showing them where the weapon were.
MATTHEWS: OK. We’re back. When we come back, more about the war against terror when we come back with the Reverend Al Sharpton at Harvard University. (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Can’t find bin Laden. Can’t find Hussein. You can’t find the leaks in the White House. I intend to help them find Crawford, Texas and stay there for a long time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We’re back with the Reverend Al Sharpton.
Reverend Sharpton, I want to get back to the question-because a lot of people in this room opposed the war, a lot of people watching have different views. There are a lot of people who just don’t know whether we should have gone to war. But they do want to get our troops home. They don’t want these guys getting killed every couple days, as they are.
How would you get us home?
SHARPTON: I think that the first thing we need to do is admit we were wrong to go with the unilateral strategy.
MATTHEWS: To who? Who do we admit that to?
SHARPTON: I think the U.N. I think that when President Bush went in front of the United Nations and, in effect, said that, I was right. Now you can get behind me. We’re in charge. Then we lost the ability to really appeal for a multinational redevelopment plan that we could step back, withdraw troops other than being part of a multilateral strategy, have Kofi Annan and the U.N. supervising. That’s how you get out.
I think-if I were to be president, I would immediately say, My predecessor was wrong. I will defer to the world body and I will participate as a participant. I would not protect Halliburton. I would not protect my business interests. I would say, We shouldn’t have gone in.
First of all, George Bush and Tony Blair had a meeting-acted like it was a world conference. Two guys in a phone booth acted like the whole world made a decision. We need to go back and have the world help to establish an infrastructural (ph) plan, have a multilateral plan. And we should bring the boys home.
If you love our troops, you do not continue to have them sit in harm’s way playing Bush roulette, saying, Maybe you’ll make it, maybe you won’t. I think it’s the most shameful act I’ve seen in foreign policy in my lifetime.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about...
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: Let me run-let me ask you so people get a framework of your view towards foreign policy, not just this one incident.
Did you support the war in Iraq the first time, in 1991?
MATTHEWS: Why not?
SHARPTON: I did not.
MATTHEWS: Why not?
SHARPTON: Because I didn’t. I did not-I thought-I thought Bush Sr., now he was a preamble to Bush Jr. But I-again, I think that we must only use military might as a last resort to preserve our lives.
MATTHEWS: Should we have gone after Noriega down in Panama?
SHARPTON: In the sense of going after him...
MATTHEWS: No, I mean, take the army in there and take over the country.
SHARPTON: No, I think that...
MATTHEWS: Should we have gone to Grenada?
SHARPTON: No, absolutely.
MATTHEWS: Should we have gone to Afghanistan?
MATTHEWS: Absolutely not or yes to...
SHARPTON: No, we should have gone into Afghanistan
MATTHEWS: Well, why do you pick that one country.
SHARPTON: Because if we should have gone after the al Qaeda and we should have gotten bin Laden, who we say is responsible for 3,000 people’s lives.
SHARPTON: Every bit of evidence I’ve seen had.
We need to ask George Bush right now, where is bin Laden? How did we get over at Hussein?
MATTHEWS: Well we don’t know, obviously.
SHARPTON: I intend to have the first debate between Sharpton and Bush a T-shirt saying, “Where’s bin Laden?”
(CHEERS, APPLAUSE, LAUGHTER)
MATTHEWS: What would you-the president of the United States-it’s a year from now, a year-and-a-half from now, you’re president of the United States and we find bin Laden. What would you do? Would you try him in this country or try him in some world court?
SHARPTON: He should be tried in a world court.
MATTHEWS: What would you do if we catch Saddam Hussein?
SHARPTON: I think he should be tried in a world court.
MATTHEWS: Would you order your troops to take him alive?
SHARPTON: Because I think you take any...
MATTHEWS: ..risk for them.
SHARPTON: Well, first, you’re assuming that where we find him, we’re not capable of taking him alive.
MATTHEWS: No, but the rules of engagement-you got to say-as commander in chief, you got to say to your troops, Take some risks to take him alive.
MATTHEWS: ... Uday and Qusay, they just blew the hell out of that building. They didn’t even take a risk in a (UNINTELLIGIBLE). They said, We’re taking down these guys and we’re not going to risk one of our troops. You say risk troops to take them alive.
SHARPTON: I say to try and take them alive. I do not say to go in a suicide mission.
SHARPTON: But would I say that....
MATTHEWS: What is the advantage of taking him alive?
SHARPTON: The advantage is that he ought to stand trial.
SHARPTON: Is that an anti-Alabama statement you’re making?
MATTHEWS: It is an attempt to be picturesque. I am just trying to find some color here.
SHARPTON: I’m just trying to keep you politically correct now.
We’ll be right back with Reverend Al Sharpton, speaking up for Alabama.
MATTHEWS: We’re fighting the third round with the Reverend Al Sharpton who is leading on point.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Reverend Sharpton, can you tell American people why you believe Puerto Rico should be free?
SHARPTON: I think that Puerto Rico should be free because I think that this country should represent freedom and self-determination for everybody. I think we can not have that contradiction when it comes to our own in Puerto Rico. It is also why I spent time along with Robert Kennedy, who is part of the Kennedy family, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Kennedy Center, and others fighting for the human rights in Puerto Rico. We fought against Navy bombing (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I went to jail three months for protesting that, because the hazards that it causes to the environment and the health, I think this country must have a human rights policy and a policy of self-determination that it respects all over the world.
MATTHEWS: Do you think the American people would stop Puerto Rico from asserting independence if it wanted independence?
I’ve never seen any indication that it wants independence. Have you?
SHARPTON: First of all, I think that that should be a decision that the Puerto Rican...
MATTHEWS: But the regular referendums in that country. They have never chosen the route of independence. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is a Common wealth status again and again.
SHARPTON: You asked two different questions Chris. You asked if we’d do it. We kept a navy exercise in there. And there were many votes.
MATTHEWS: Do you really think the United States would fight to keep Puerto Rico?
SHARPTON: Absolutely. If we wanted-why would we keep a navy base there.
MATTHEWS: The fact is the people of Puerto Rico want to be part of America. They choose the commonwealth status every time, Reverend. Your facts are wrong. Every time they choose it.
SHARPTON: You asked me if we would do it. If they wanted it, yes.
MATTHEWS: You are saying we would keep them prisoner.
SHARPTON: They kept a navy base there.
MATTHEWS: No, no. What you are saying that we would keep Puerto Rico prisoner...
MATTHEWS: That’s absurd on its face. Let’s go to the next question.
SHARPTON: Let’s start there again. The United States would disregard a referendum in Puerto Rico.
MATTHEWS: That’s probably-let me ask you the real question.
Do the Puerto Rican people want to be independent of the United States?
SHARPTON: That’s a different question.
MATTHEWS: What’s the answer?
SHARPTON: The answer is there is a divided view.
MATTHEWS: You act like you’re championing the independence of the Puerto Ricans. Who have again and again and again asserted their rights and desire for commonwealth status.
SHARPTON: ... you question on what we would do.
Are you playing HARDBALL or soft ball?
MATTHEWS: No, I think you’re playing to the Puerto Rican vote.
Lets go. Lets go. Your first, go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In 1994, in forum very similar to this one, you were recorded as saying white folks were in cave when we were building empires. We talk astrology and mathematics before Socrates and Greek homos.
What should the American voter make of that comment in all seriousness?
SHARPTON: First what I said at a speech was I talked about-you know, this was a forum. I’m glad you raised it because-get the whole context. This was a forum after we were dealing with this book that had come out saying we were inferior and that we could not compete. And that there was something wrong with blacks. And I said, first of all, I went through this whole thing about how we’re not inferior and compared us to different stages in history. And many of the whites in the audience were standing up clapping because they were insulted, that this guy was part of a, at one point, the Reagan administration with that theory that we were inferior.
MATTHEWS: Reverend Sharpton, we will be back right back with another half hour, stay with us.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL: battle of the White House. This half-hour the Reverend Al Sharpton on the Democratic Party and where it’s headed, and George Bush and where he’s headed. But first the latest headlines right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: But anybody running is four times better on their worst day than George Bush on his best day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We’re back with Reverend Al Sharpton. Dan Glickman was the secretary of agriculture, long time U.S. congressman from Kansas, and now he’s director of the John F. Kennedy Institute of Politics here at Harvard, and he has the floor.
DAN GLICKMAN, KENNEDY SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT: Thank you. Thank you, Chris. Thank you, Reverend Sharpton. This question concerns your view of the political maturity of the United States. When Vice President Gore selected Senator Lieberman to be his vice president, some people thought that was a mistake, that the time wasn’t ready for a Jewish vice president or president. And yet the public seemed to not care about that at all. And I’m wondering, from your perspective, do you think the public is, in this country, is politically mature enough to accept an African-American president or vice president in this country?
SHARPTON: Well, I think that we are more mature than we were. I still think that there is clearly racism in this country and anti-Semitism. But I think that there is a larger percentage of American that can deal with it now better than a percentage maybe of 20 years ago, when Reverend Jackson ran.
But to say that I think that all racism is finished in America, no. Or even in the Democratic Party. No. But I think we made a lot of progress.
But I would also hasten to add that progress has never been made when America was ready. Progress was made when those that were ready to fight were ready. America wasn’t ready for us to go to the front of the bus. We were ready. And we got America ready. And I think that part of the mission of my campaign is to say that those of us that are ready, not to be bound because of race or because of our sexual orientation or gender, and those of us that believe in progressive politics, we are no longer going to be marginalized, we’re no longer going to to have to take a side step in this party. We’re coming front and center, because we’re ready to lead the party, and by our being ready, we can get the rest of the nation ready with us.
MATTHEWS: Let’s go to the next question.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Reverend Sharpton, I’m Janice (ph) and I care about the arts. What are you going to do as president for funding for American culture?
SHARPTON: I think that one of the critical things that we need to do is have more of an emphasis on the cultural excellence and a diverse way in America. You know, one of my original heroes in politics was Adam Craig Powell (ph), who fought for funding of the arts when I was a kid in the ’60s. I think that a lot of the programs that would give us a greater support of the arts and young people in appreciation of the arts, which we can do through continued and intense funding in the schools, I think this is something that only gives more breath and richness to American life. So I would absolutely not only put a lot of funds behind that, I would integrate that into my educational programs, because I think that we have a country that has a rare level of cultural excellence across the board. But we don’t tend to appreciate it.
MATTHEWS: Yes, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Reverend Sharpton, health care costs continue to escalate for most Americans, especially those with insurance these days. What do you propose the government should do to help with this?
SHARPTON: I think that we should have a national single payer’s health plan. We should guarantee every American health care. I think that when you first start with that goal, you knock out the 15 percent that we’re spending on advertising, you knock out the administrative overruns of chasing people.
The other thing is I think we need to come in and really deal with putting regulations and a ceiling on these pharmaceutical companies and these other drug companies that in my opinion, because of deregulation and because we have had an administration that looks the other way, have been able to fleece the American public, and where we literally have seniors that have to choose one month paying their rent and the next month buying prescription drugs. It amazes me how the free traders believe in free trade, but then they outrage that some of our seniors are forced to try to go to Canada to buy prescription drugs. This is unheard of at this point in American history.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Reverend, everybody is for health care.
Where does the money come from?
SHARPTON: First of all, I think that if you set the goal, you then try and cover the money. How would I get money?
SHARPTON: I would repeal the tax cut of George Bush. I would start the regulation of big business again. He had Enron alone with 3,000 offshore companies...
MATTHEWS: What’s it cost to give everybody in the country free health care?
SHARPTON: I think that to give people a single payer plan...
MATTHEWS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) health care.
SHARPTON: A single payer plan. I’m not just...
MATTHEWS: Oh, you mean, you’re saying people should contribute through a pay roll tax here? What? Where is the money coming from ultimately?
SHARPTON: No. I think the government should guarantee.
MATTHEWS: But where does the government get its money from?
SHARPTON: The government gets its money from taxpayers.
MATTHEWS: Right, then the taxpayers should pay for this plan.
SHARPTON: I was giving you step by step.
MATTHEWS: I know.
SHARPTON: First of all, the people who are not paying taxes. You tax your corporations, that are, in some of them by the thousands of offshore companies, you would bring billions of dollars home then. Billions, trillions of dollars home on George Bush’s tax cut. I think that the way you first begin is by leveling a fair tax and have government invest in the health care of its citizens. It’s absolutely doable.
MATTHEWS: So general funds, taxpayer funds should go to pay for health care for everybody.
MATTHEWS: And how much would that cost?
SHARPTON: I think the cost out on that-I’ve seen various figures that...
MATTHEWS: How much would it increase the taxes of everybody?
SHARPTON: It would not increase the taxes.
MATTHEWS: But where would the money come from?
SHARPTON: I just told you where the money would come from.
MATTHEWS: Where? I don’t hear it.
SHARPTON: If you bring in the tax revenues...
MATTHEWS: Which come from people.
SHARPTON: No. And corporations.
MATTHEWS: But corporations are owned by stockholders, so the money comes from people.
SHARPTON: And you bring back...
MATTHEWS: You act like there’s a government somewhere that sits off in some little neverland and...
SHARPTON: You act like the billions of dollars, Chris, that George Bush has just given in tax cuts is not real dollars. You act like the offshore companies that do not pay any taxes are not real dollars.
MATTHEWS: But you act like it will come in simply by correcting some of these corruptions.
SHARPTON: No. I think that you’re losing trillions of dollars in some of that, trillions of dollars that could be guided toward health care. That’s what I’m saying. Trillions of dollars. You’re not talking about 20 cents here. You’re talking about trillions of dollars.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask you about this thing. One more question.
Yes, sir. Go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Reverend Sharpton, you’ve been talking a lot about human rights tonight. This past week, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross, over 700 homes were bulldozed in the Gaza Strip and over 2,000 people made homeless, with American taxpayer dollars. What do you think the United States should do to show that it stands behind human rights and such blatant violations of human rights by our allies?
SHARPTON: I think that what we must do-I went to the Middle East in 2001. I went as a guest of the foreign office of Sharon Peres. I also went and met with the Palestinian Authority. In fact, Mr. Peres provided the transportation for me to go over and meet with Arafat and others.
I think that one of the things that was surprising to me is all of them agreed that we ought to go, as the United States, back to the enforcement of the Mitchell accord and say that we will be move one step to the left or the right, we will only deal with those that will enforce to live up to the Mitchell accord.
I think that the problem is that the present president equivocates according to who he’s meeting with. I think that we have to have one foreign policy and whoever violates it, we should use our might, both monetary and military, to say that we’re going to stand behind this (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
MATTHEWS: Should we be even-handed in the Middle East?
SHARPTON: Absolutely. We should be even-handed everywhere. That’s not a very hard question, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Why did Howard Dean get attacked by Lieberman for saying he was for an even-handed policy toward the Middle East?
SHARPTON: Why did Howard Dean get attacked by Lieberman?
MATTHEWS: I want to you speak for your colleague. I want to you defend them or attack them. Do something.
SHARPTON: I think first of all, if we don’t have an even-handed policy all over the world, that it tends to rob us of our moral authority, and it tends to make people feel that we have a vested interest in it and we’re not standing for human rights. I asked Senator Lieberman last night in the debate, would he meet with the Palestinian Authority. I think...
MATTHEWS: What did he say?
SHARPTON: You’d have to ask him. I’m still not sure.
(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)
SHARPTON: But I think we need to have the courage to stand up and say that we must have an even policy. Sure, we must protect Israel’s rights to exist. but we must respect a Palestinian state and we agree to it. The first person that told me that we need to go back to the Mitchell Accord was someone that I don’t agree with much at all. That was Henry Kissinger. I went and met with Kissinger before I went to the Middle East.
Everyone has this agreement. And I think that we need to stop becoming, in my judgment, people that try to just go with the win and take a poll. You have to take a firm stand if we’re going to stop...
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you. More with Reverend Sharpton when we come back.
ANNOUNCER: The Reverend Al Sharpton began preaching at the age of 4 and by the age of 9, he was an ordained minister. We’re coming back with more from Reverend Sharpton on HARDBALL’s “Battle for the White House.”
MATTHEWS: Coming up, the Reverend Sharpton’s favorite book, favorite movie, favorite philosopher. Plus, more questions from the audience here at Harvard.
We’re coming back with Harvard’s “Battle for the White House.”
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good evening, Reverend. As a representative of Harvard Blackman’s Forum and African Students’ Association, I wanted to inquire about your foreign policy regarding Africa.
SHARPTON: I think that one of the things that really concerns me is that we are not dealing, when we talk these foreign policy issues, about most of the world.
I’ve been to Africa, clearly more than the present occupant of the White House-but probably as much or more than anybody running in the primaries. I’ve dealt with the issue of slavery in the Sudan. I was on the-I was an election observer to the first elections in South Africa. I dealt with the Rwanda crisis of Genocide, where two million people were killed. I recently, this year, went to Ghana trying to help with the question of Liberia.
I think that what we need to do in Africa is not only aid, but trade. I think that we need to open Africa up to real trade. I think that we need to support democratic governments there with real trade. And we need to stop holding up, with our businesses, a lot of the archaic and the, in my judgment, murderous regimes that have dominated parts of Africa.
When I went to the Sudan during the slavery sojourn, the fact-finding mission I went-when I went to Rwanda and Zaire, I saw people with weapons that were certainly not made there. I’m talking about kids that didn’t have food that had M-16 rifles. As the president of the United States, I would support those that would try and bring democracy and balance there with real trade. And I would go after those American businesses that are exploiting the African natural resources for personal greed by playing one tribe or one religion against another.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are still, in America today, savage, serious and sustained inequalities in our education system. What can a real American president do to resolve this tragedy?
SHARPTON: I think that one of the things a real commitment from an American president must be is to real-a real commitment to public education. We cannot have Title I funds cut. We cannot have a less than 1,000 percent federal commitment to public education.
Any other scheme is really trying to select some students, no matter how well intended. You’re still not trying to deal with the overall commitment of government, should be to all young Americans. Not just some. And I would strengthen Title I. I would strengthen federal allocations. I would strengthen the ability to pay teachers. I would strengthen-and pay them salaries that are decent-and I would strengthen the ability to entice young people to become teachers by giving them things that would make them feel that this country was behind them engaging in that kind of life.
MATTHEWS: Next question.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What (UNINTELLIGIBLE) could be done at the federal level to encourage states to overall their child welfare and foster care systems?
SHARPTON: I think that we should set federal standards.
One of the things I argued with a lot of our fellow Democrats about is any time we leave things in the hands of states, we become victimized in the many ways by those that can manipulate conservative movements. That’s how segregation stayed in.
If we set federal standards on child welfare, we set federal standards on daycare and other things for children, states would have to reach those federal bars or we could come in with an attorney general that could protect those children based on federal law.
One of the thing that amazes me about the conservatives is they claim a love for the children until they’re born. They love the fetus and they cut the funds from the baby. I don’t understand. I don’t understand-I don’t understand this jaded love for children where you cut daycare, cut childcare, cut anything-HeadStart-but yet you want to protect the fetus come into the world. That to me is a real kind of perverted sense of love. And I think that we need to challenge that.
MATTHEWS: You know, that strikes me as cute, you know. You know, Reverend, a lot of people who are pro-life-and I’m not-but a lot of people who are pro-life do give a damn about kids.
MATTHEWS: I think it’s a cheap shot at people that are pro-life to say they don’t care about kids. How do you know that?
SHARPTON: I think that a lot of the conservative movement that has led the fight to cut HeadStart, to cut daycare are the same ones that challenge us on the morality...
MATTHEWS: But are you saying they’re bad - are you saying they’re bad people because they oppose abortion?
SHARPTON: No. I think-no, I don’t think they’re bad people because they oppose abortion. I think they’re inconsistent if they claim to love children and cut funds to children when children are struggling now. Some of them suffering from childhood obesity, some are growing up illiterate, some not having the proper nutrition. I think there’s nothing more immoral than cutting childcare.
MATTHEWS: Those are all good things.
SHARPTON: Those are good things if you have the funds to do them.
But to try to condemn people for the right to choose and then...
MATTHEWS: But there are less funds throughout because you say abortion is bad. Those are apples and oranges.
SHARPTON: I said that I do not understand...
MATTHEWS: I don’t know why you brought them together.
SHARPTON: I brought them together because some of the leaders of the same movement are saying cut here while they claim such love on here.
MATTHEWS: Well, there’s inconsistency on both sides. We’ll be right back, with Reverend Sharpton.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Reverend Sharpton, with an exception of yourself, black political leaders at a national level in America are on the Republican party. Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Clarence Thomas, why is that?
Is the Democratic party hostile to black leadership?
SHARPTON: First of all, do not confuse black leaders with leading blacks. Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, and Clarence Thomas don’t lead anybody. They are people in big positions. I respect them in their work. But they’re not leaders of mass movements or organizations. They hold high positions. Any more than Don Rumsfeld or any of those in the administration are leaders in the white community. They serve an administration. Unfortunately, their leader is George Bush. Needy say more?
MATTHEWS: Next question, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Reverend Sharpton, given that voter turnout among 18 to 24-year-olds has been in constant free fall since 18-year-olds given the right to vote in 1971, would you support a student moderated debate next fall, and if given the opportunity would you participate in it?
SHARPTON: Absolutely. I would not only encourage and it participate in it, I think that there must be a real effort. That’s why I’ve spent a lot of time on college campuses trying to register people to vote. I’m working with the hip hop artists around. I think we must go to young people, and they are the swing vote. They will decide who there be next president of the United States.
MATTHEWS: I have to ask the tough questions. I am sorry, we have to move quickly.
Your favorite movie, sir?
SHARPTON: “Mr. Deeds.”
MATTHEWS: The original? The one with Gary Cooper or the one with other guy, Adam Sandler?
SHARPTON: The one with Adam Sandler and Al Sharpton.
No, my favorite movie was Gandhi. I loved the epic film on Gandhi.
MATTHEWS: You identify with him, calm, soft-spoken, spends his time in (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
SHARPTON: Committed and usually ostracize asked castigated by talk show hosts.
MATTHEWS: First they ignore you, then they last at you, then they attack you, then you win, Gandhi.
SHARPTON: But you also have to be willing to go through all that. I respect Gandhi. I think no one that I’ve read has reached that spiritual level but I think that it is a level that anybody should seek in all seriousness, to try get to...
MATTHEWS: Is he your favorite philosopher, Gahndi?
SHARPTON: No. He is certainly one of my favorites. I love Paul Tillich who was a theologian. Taught-developed Tillichian theology. And the sense of god as a personal god.
SHARPTON: I read a lot of Paul Tillich.
MATTHEWS: Favorite book?
SHARPTON: Probably “Moral Man in a Moral Society.”
MATTHEWS: Favorite musician besides James Brown.
SHARPTON: I didn’t know there was a musician besides James Brown.
MATTHEWS: Do you wish you went to Harvard?
SHARPTON: I’ve been here a few times.
MATTHEWS: No. When you were a student.
SHARPTON: I think that I would have loved to have gone to Harvard. I think it would have been certainly beneficial to me. One of the thing I said in my book, I wish I had pursued higher education than Harry Truman (UNINTELLIGIBLE), but I would have loved to go to Harvard. Harvard would have made me different and I’m sure I would have made Harvard a little different.
MATTHEWS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) question.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We’ve just completed a survey here of nation wide undergraduate at the Institute of Politics and we found that they lean slightly more Republican than you would expect. Mainly because they’re looking for people who are strong leaders and have experience on foreign and domestic policy. This is a swing demographic nine million strong.
Why has the Democratic Party fail in letting people my age realize that they are the party of leadership.
MATTHEWS: How old are you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 20.
SHARPTON: I think that a lot of...
MATTHEWS: Not bad.
SHARPTON: I think that a lot of it is that the Democratic Party has, in my judgment, not really focused on developing the next generation of leadership. We almost have become those that eat our children. I think that is a mistake. And I think that why I want to concentrate on a lot of young people and bringing a lot of delegates, Sharpton delegates to convention.
MATTHEWS: It’s been great have you, Reverend. Next week, we have Richard Gephardt, the former majority leader of the House of Representatives. We got him on. He is going to be here at the Harvard John F. Kennedy School of Government. The battle of the White House continues next week. We’re going to get them all here to Harvard. Stay with us. Watch us every Monday-Al.
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