updated 1/19/2011 11:54:24 AM ET 2011-01-19T16:54:24

Guest Host: Sam Seder

Guests: Howard Fineman, Adam Serwer, Mark DeMoss, Dave Weigel, Ralph Martire

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SAM SEDER, GUEST HOST (voice-over):  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

The president‘s clarion call for unity:

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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us.

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SEDER:  And the need to honor those who lost their lives, including the youngest, buried today, Christina Taylor Green.

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OBAMA:  I want to live up to her expectations.  I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it.

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SEDER:  The right‘s response?

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GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS:  This is probably the best speech he has ever given.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE ®, NEW JERSEY:  I thought it was excellent.

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SEDER:  Yet as the call rings out, the Civility Project designed to calm the rhetoric shuts down.  The reason?  Incivility.  Founder Mark DeMoss is our guest.

The flip side: the contrast between two very different speeches.  The diminishing return of Sarah Palin.

And horror of horrors in Illinois: the state raised taxes.  Wait for it—nope, the world‘s still turning.

All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.

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SEDER:  Good evening from New York.  I‘m Sam Seder, in for Keith Olbermann.  This is Thursday, January 13th.

And if last night‘s reaction hinted this was coming, today‘s reaction sealed the deal.

Our fifth story: After more than two years of telling America to fear the Muslim socialist who came from Kenya to take over the United States, the right wing is now not only praising Barack Obama‘s speech last night, they‘re accepting him as president of the United States.

There was, of course, some partisan motivation for the right to applaud Mr. Obama‘s speech.  They saw it as repudiation of the accusation that Sarah Palin was responsible for Saturday‘s attempted assassination of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, an accusation that virtually no mainstream politician or commentator has made.

And some enjoyed the speech, if only to compare it to the angry outcry from the left over the violent rhetoric that was leveled at Giffords and other Democrats.

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BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS:  To the extent that the president could have benefited or been harmed in political terms by it, he benefits from this.  He benefits because he behaved as some of his partisans have not, with considerable dignity and grace.

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SEDER:  Others tried, the not without some basis, to tamp down hopes that Mr. Obama‘s speech might actually change the tone of our national discourse.

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CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS:  The president, it‘s not a summital event for the country.  It was a lovely speech and a lovely service.  Although as I think we all agree, a little bit more of a pep rally than any of us expected.

But life is going to go on.  And whether it‘s this, next week or the week after, we‘re going to get back to tough debates on Capitol Hill.  And there will be finger-pointing and there will be point-scoring.  And to a certain degree, that‘s OK.  That‘s what our democracy is about.  You hope maybe there will be a little civility.  But after what we saw in 9/11 and Oklahoma City, I don‘t have much doubt that any permanent lessons ever get learned in this country.

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SEDER:  But overall, the conservative right wing Republican reaction to this speech was something close of an embrace, suggesting that Mr. Obama has found a way of speaking in ways that transcend politics, by elevating aspirations shared by Americans of all politics.

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CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST:  I think that the way he seized the moment with what he referred to Gabby opening her eyes and he brought the audience into that and he became so inspirational.  And I think the seizing on—I wouldn‘t say seizing, it sounds derogatory, but emphasizing the innocence and the idealism of the child who died and saying that is the reason we ought to act in a new and civil way was quite remarkable, extremely effective.  And I think you can only conclude that he did exactly what he had to do.

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SEDER:  Maybe most remarkable was this today, from the man who called the president a racist and has foreseen America‘s downfall.

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BECK:  This is probably the best speech he has ever given.  And with all sincerity, thank you, Mr. President, for becoming the president of the United States of America last night.  It was needed.  And you accomplished the job.  And you did it expertly.  Thank you, Mr. President.

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SEDER:  And from the right wing print media, “The New York Post,” quote, “Gravity was present in the president‘s speech from first to last.”

“Washington Post” conservative Jennifer Rubin, “One of his better moments.”

Philip Klein at “The American Spectator,” “For the first time in office, Barack Obama sounded like the president of all Americans.”

“The Weekly Standard” writer, Steven Hayes, “An exceptional speech, empathetic, moving, strong, optimistic, important.”

From four different people at “The National Review,” “Never been more presidential.  A fine speech.  Magnificent.  Maybe the best speech he‘s ever given.”

Republican politicians applauded, too.  New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, quote, “Excellent.  He did exactly what a leader should do in a moment like this.”

Former McCain adviser John Weaver, quote, “Exactly the right tone, pitch perfect.”

Republican pollster Steve Lombardo: “There may be a time we look back and say that he remade himself tonight into the president we thought he could be.”

From former McCain speechwriter, Mark Salter, “Excellent in tone, message and delivery.”

Bush speechwriter Mark Thiessen: “Genuine, brilliant, courageous.”

Bush speechwriter David Frum: “He succeeded tonight.  Crucial in bringing together the collective community acknowledgement of grief.”

Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson, “It succeeded.  Powerful.”

Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan: “It was moving.  But it was more than moving.”

Nixon speechwriter Pat Buchanan: “It was splendid.”

Let‘s bring in Adam Serwer, staff writer for “The American Prospect” and a blogger for “The Washington Post.”

Adam, good evening.

ADAM SERWER, THE AMERICAN PROSPECT:  Good evening to you.

SEDER:  Now, listen, I want to talk about how the right wing media reacted to this speech.  How close would you say their reaction was what you expected?

SERWER:  I actually—I don‘t know that I was expecting the reaction to be that universally positive.  But I think it‘s—you know, it‘s interesting the president never seemed so presidential to the right is when he‘s agreeing with them.  And, of course, last night, he offered a gentle rebuke to folks on the left who he might have felt tried to politicize the issue after what happened on Saturday.

SEDER:  So, Chris Wallace predicts that nothing will change in the tone of Washington.  Do you agree?

SERWER:  I agree.  I mean, the underlying incentives for someone like Beck or Limbaugh to just trash the president haven‘t really changed.  I mean, that‘s what their audiences want to hear from them.  I think if anything changes, it‘s going to change because the Republican Party wants to cooperate with the president and isn‘t going to talk about him in those terms anymore because—I mean, you can‘t excuse cooperating with a tyrant.

So, if that happens, I think you might see a change in tone if they decide to cooperate with him.  But overall, nothing is really going to change because of this.

SEDER:  Let me ask you this.  You mentioned that about cooperating with a tyrant, though.  I mean, is it a little bit tougher to talk about Obama in terms of him being a tyrant, as him being some type of alien, some type of other once you have come out and sort of formally accepted him as your president?  Or does that go out the window once we‘re talking about more sort of mundane matters?

SERWER:  I think it‘s going to be back to business as usual pretty soon.  Look, the conservative caricature of the president never seems so ridiculous as when he actually opens his mouth and talks.  And that‘s happened before.  And we always go back—we always go back to the same place where Obama is being accused of wanting to destroy the country.  He‘s a tyrant.

I mean, that‘s just how—you know, that‘s just how that part of the media works.  Their audience wants to hear him trash the president.  And because the president was gracious to conservatives last night, they‘re going to give him a respite.  But, ultimately, it‘s going to be back to business as usual very soon.

SEDER:  Now, you had the conservatives a little bit split on reaction.  Michelle Malkin, she complained about the t-shirts that the school handed out for the event.  Andrew Breitbart, the disreputable journalist, live hated the speech on his Tweeter feed.  Limbaugh asked, “Why should we inspire to a 9-year-old girl‘s vision of America?” and claimed that civility is just another way of saying censorship.

I mean, is there a fault line visible here in the right wing media, or am I making too much of this?

SERWER:  I don‘t think there‘s a fault line.  I mean, again, no one

listens to—no one reads Andrew Breitbart or listens to Rush Limbaugh

because they want to hear a fair criticism of the president.  They listen -

or they listen to these people or they go to those Web sites because they want to hear them trash the president.  I mean, that‘s just—that‘s just the way it works.

           

So, I don‘t think there‘s really a fault line.  There‘s a moment of graciousness as sort of momentary truce.  But pretty soon, everybody‘s going to be back at each other‘s throats.

SEDER:  Now, are we going to see a parade of Republican legislators who praised Obama‘s speech go on to Limbaugh‘s program and apologize for disagreeing with him?

SERWER:  I don‘t think so.  What‘s going to happen is those Republican legislators are going to want to reach that audience and so they‘re going to go back on that show.  I don‘t think—and I think Limbaugh probably won‘t challenge them on it unless they really go far of the reservation in terms of trying to cooperate with the president.  But if they just say, “You know, he did a good job,” I don‘t think they‘re going to be punished very harshly.

SEDER:  Adam Serwer of “The American Prospect” and “Washington Post” -

thanks for your time tonight.

           

SERWER:  Thank you very much.

SEDER:  Now, for the politics, let‘s go to MSNBC political analysis, Howard Fineman, also senior political editor of “The Huffington Post”—

Howard, good evening.

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hi there.

SEDER:  Now, politically, how does the favorable response from the right change our politics going forward?  Does it?

FINEMAN:  Well, I agree with Adam.  It‘s not going to be any wholesale change.  But I do think—and you can tell that from what some of the other people on the right have been saying.  Not just Rush Limbaugh and others.  You know, they grant that the president gave a nice speech but then they say it‘s going to be business as usual come tomorrow.

Darrell Issa, who‘s going to be the lead House investigative congressman, from California, I was just speaking to him.  He said, hey, nice speech, you know, but essentially, he said, we got a long roster of things to look at in the Obama administration.  So, none of that‘s going to change.

But I do think the president reminded his supporters of some of the qualities that they liked most about him and demonstrated to his foes some reasons why they should respect him—if not as a person, then as somebody with a lot of skill politically and as a leader.  So, I think it does—the president‘s personal approval ratings have always been high, even when his job approval has been down.

I think this is the kind of event that re-enforces the personal approval of the president as a guy, as a family man, as a leader, somebody who can be empathetic and try to unify the country.  In the presidency, that‘s not to be dismissed because the presidency is different from any other political job.  The president has a personal, direct relationship with all voters or should try to.  And I think—so, that will help him in the long run.

SEDER:  So, is it your sense that for D.C. Republicans, that they

don‘t need that ability to demonize him to be effective politically?  I

mean, because it seems to me that a lot of times when they‘re going after -

regardless of what the policy is, they have to start with the premise that this guy is a socialist and, you know, the country‘s on fire.

           

FINEMAN:  Well, they‘re not going to give up that theme.  But I agree with you that it makes it marginally more difficult, at least for now.  You know, the attention span of American politics is a nanosecond or two, but there‘s an after image and afterglow that might last for a while.  I agree with that.

I mean, I—my take on the speech was what made it so powerful was that he was like the dad next door.  He was—he was a guy who was talking about this 9-year-old girl.  Everybody could identify with him as a family man.  It made him more familiar and more intimately on a level with all the American people.  And I think that‘s something that does make him marginally more difficult to demonize it.

But they‘re going to go—they‘re going to go do it.  Believe me.

SEDER:  Right.

FINEMAN:  They‘ll try to do it on the issues and not on the personality the president.

SEDER:  Let‘s talk about 2012.  We‘re going to talk about the other speech yesterday a little bit later.  But what did Mr. Obama do, and the reaction do to the 2012 race?  Does it change it at all?

FINEMAN:  Well, I presume by the other speech, you‘re talking about Sarah Palin?

SEDER:  Yes, very good guess.

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN:  That‘s—I think that it‘s too easy to say that he was a president unifying the country and she was somebody up in Alaska complaining that she was a martyr.  But I think there‘s something to that.

Now, Sarah Palin was just playing to her base constituency.  She wasn‘t playing to the whole country—whereas the president was in a role that the president is supposed to take as a leader.

I think a lot of Republicans are defending Sarah Palin now.  But I think you‘ve heard some people being pretty silent about Sarah Palin.  My sense of it is that the 2012 race, which is beginning now on the Republican side, and in a way kind of began in Tucson, starts with all the other Republicans sort of either half-heartily or wholeheartedly defending Sarah Palin.

But I think they‘ve privately concluded, if they haven‘t done so before, that she‘s not going to be the nominee, let alone the president.  And at some point, someone, if not a lot of them, will come out and take her on.  They‘re not ready to do that, but they will eventually.

SEDER:  Yes.  We‘re going to discuss that later on the program.

But I want to ask you one more question just to get a sense with your understanding of the history of politics in this country.  What does it mean that Republican presidents have seemed to have had their moments of national unity in response to some type of external event?  The shuttle, 9/11 -- while it seems like Democrats, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, have both had theirs in response to domestic political violence.

FINEMAN:  Well, I‘m not sure I would make that much of that because going back in history—I mean, Gerald Ford was a Republican who became president after a huge domestic calamity, which is Watergate, after Richard Nixon.  So, I‘m not sure that holds up.

But what interests me now is the sort of a difference between Oklahoma City and Tucson.  I started out last weekend thinking that they were very much related.

But I think, in the end, it‘s different, because in Oklahoma City, that was an attack on a federal office building, lots of federal office—federal workers were killed.  It was clear that the bomber had sort of—political in the broad sense motivation for what he was doing.  It was—it was sort of anti-governmentalism taken to a violent extreme.  And I think in the way had a lot to do with politics with Bill Clinton and the politics of the ‘90s.

I think this is different.  Because I think there‘s no evidence so far that Jared Loughner had anything political on his mind whatsoever.  So, it‘s harder to make that kind of connection.  I think what this means politically is that Barack Obama rose to an occasion here that I do think people will remember as a leader and as a—as a person that will make it harder for him to be demonized in the future.

SEDER:  Howard Fineman of “The Huffington Post” and MSNBC—thanks for your time tonight.

FINEMAN:  Thank you.

SEDER:  It was the right idea but the right wasn‘t interested.  What destroyed the Civility Project?  Incivility from the right—next.

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SEDER:  The Republican response to her response—probably not what she was going for.

And you‘ve cut spending in your state but it‘s not enough.  The only thing left: raise taxes.  The state brave enough to do it—coming up next.

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SEDER:  What began on the eve of President Obama‘s inauguration should have gotten renewed interest and support after the events in Tucson, a 32-word pledge honoring civility.

Yet, in our fourth story: The founder of the Civility Project, Mark DeMoss, decides to dismantle it due you in part to incivility.  He joins us in a moment.

DeMoss, an evangelical Christian conservative, launched the project alongside Lanny Davis, a Democrat of Jewish faith.  The two called on ordinary Americans to sign a civility pledge, later sending it to every sitting governor and member of Congress, 585 in all.

“I will be civil in my public discourse and behavior.  I will be respectful of others whether or not I agree with them.  I will stand against incivility when I you see it.”

Guess how many lawmakers went out on a limb to sign it?  This many.  Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, an independent; Congress Sue Myrick of North Carolina, a Republican; Congress Frank Wolf of Virginia, a Republican.  The end.

Last week, Mr. DeMoss writing to those brave few: “I must admit to scratching my head as to why only three members of Congress, and no governors, would agree what I believe is a rather low bar.”

While a chorus of crickets came from our elected leaders, Mr. DeMoss did receive lots of feedback on the Civility Project from everyday Americans.

He‘s an example: an e-mail from March 2010.  “The gutless Republicans do not need more gutless wonders like you in the rhino party.  You remind me of someone that would bring a rock or a knife to a gun fight.  The thugs, communists, racists, bigots, liars, Nazis, and American-hating sons of bitches in the Democrat Party are scum of the earth and will do anything to win.  I believe you‘ve been watching to many old movies where the good guy always win.  Vince Lombardi put it best: Winning is not everything.  It‘s the only thing.”

Here‘s another from July 2010: “Grow up—this is real life and when the socialists want to take over a free country, people like me are not civil.  And if the Obama socialists aren‘t stopped soon by elections, the next step is violent revolution.  It‘s how our free country was born.  You people are morons.”

Joining me now, as promised, is Mark DeMoss, founder of the Civility Project.  He also served as an unpaid adviser to Mitt Romney‘s 2008 presidential campaign and he‘s the author of “The Little Red Book of Wisdom.”

Thanks for some of your time tonight.

MARK DEMOSS, CIVILITY PROJECT FOUNDER:  Thank you, Sam.

SEDER:  Now, tell me—when you say your letter announcing the end of the project, you cited with some regret that you found more incivility coming from conservatives.  Why?  I mean, why was it important to recognize that—at least in your experience—that the incivility came from one particular perspective?

DEMOSS:  Well, it wouldn‘t be fair to say it was—it was all from conservatives.  But a lot more of it was than I would have hoped.  So, in a way I‘m embarrassed as a conservative.  I‘m embarrassed by that.

Unfortunately, I think this is one thing in America that really is bipartisan, incivility.  Almost an equal number, about three-quarters, according to a recent study, of Democrats think Republicans are uncivil, and Republicans think Democrats are uncivil.  It‘s almost equal, 71 percent and 74 percent.

So, this really is a bipartisan problem.  I got hit from both sides. 

I‘m sure Lanny Davis got hit from both sides.

But perhaps the solution would be for each of us to clean up our—you know, for each house to clean its own house as opposed to lecturing across the aisle.

SEDER:  Yes.  I know, I think—I mean, I think there‘s some merit to that.  But you in your letter, you did—you did mention that it was a majority of conservatives.

And I guess my question to you is: do you think it‘s important to point that out?  In other words, do you think we do a disservice to the debate to not indicate in a situation like that?  Because you didn‘t have to say that, you could have simply said, I got it from both sides.  But you did make a point to point that out.

DEMOSS:  Well, I‘m trying to be honest.  One of the reasons I teamed up with Lanny Davis early on in this project as a liberal is I did not want this to be perceived as me, a conservative, lecturing the left on incivility.  We have enough problems in our own house.

And so, that‘s why I pointed it out.  I‘m trying to be honest.  I try to point out to my—I think I can have more influence in my own camp than I can in the other camp.  So, I was—I was just being frank about it.  And I‘m disappointed by it.

But that doesn‘t really explain why only three sitting members of Congress or governors could agree to something that really is a low bar.  I mean, the president—you showed the president earlier talking about unity, I think I set a bar much lower than that.

SEDER:  Right.

DEMOSS:  Civility is not unity.  I‘m not promoting even unity.  I‘m just promoting civility.

SEDER:  Yes.  The pledge is pretty basic.  Why do you think it prompted such vitriol in response?

DEMOSS:  I don‘t—the only thing I can think of is this: I think, somehow, to many people, there‘s a perception that civility is the equivalent of unilateral disarmament.  If I behave civilly and I‘m running against somebody for office and they attack me, then I can‘t attack back.  And that—“A,” that‘s incorrect.  We‘ve never—I‘ve never advocated that.

I think, you know, civility has nothing to do with my beliefs.  It has everything to do with my behavior.

And I—you know, the president—the election of this president was one of the things that really prompted me to start this because while I would agree with him on little, if anything, in terms of policy, I like him.  I think he‘s a—I think he loves his country.  I think he loves family.  I think he‘s doing what he thinks is best for the country.

And I don‘t think he‘s the antichrist or a lot of other things he‘s been called.  And so, that was part of the reason I started this.  I met a year ago with Valerie—

SEDER:  I got to tell you, I think -- 

DEMOSS:  Go ahead.

SEDER:  -- I think you showed a certain amount of courage in attempting it and basically responding and shutting it down because of what you experienced.  But I appreciate you joining us.

Mark DeMoss, founder of the Civility Project—again, thank you for joining us.

DEMOSS:  Thank you.

SEDER:  Something the left and right generally agree upon today: Sarah Palin‘s response, the timing, the setting, the language—next.

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SEDER:  How Sarah Palin botched her response to the Arizona disaster next.  But first, it‘s time for the sanity break.  A few notable passings occurred on this day.  Gun-slinging lawman Wyatt Earp died on this day, as did Hubert Humphrey.  But I prefer to focus on the positives of the day.  So a very happy birthday to the first really big star to come from “American Idol,” William Hung, “She Bangs, she bangs.”

Let‘s play Oddball.

We begin in Texas, with a couple of lassoed cowboys.  One man riding a horse and another on a donkey, clearly the sidekick.  They were stopped by police in Austin.  But not because they were riding in the middle of what appears to be a very busy street, which is perfectly legal, but because they appeared to be drunk. 

Police gave the two chaps in chaps a field sobriety test which they promptly failed.  They were booked for DWI, but the charges were later changed to public intoxication when it was pointed out that they were not driving but riding.  They‘ll have plenty of time to mosey on toward sobriety in the big house. 

To the Internets, where this fellow has decided to do a little late night streaking.  He‘s going through the quad to the gymnasium, right after a stop at the tennis court.  And boom goes the dynamite.  Yes, apparently the owners of the tennis court foresaw this kind of event and put an invisible force field.  Or the moron is not familiar with the concept of glass doors. 

This Will Ferrell wannabe appears to be OK, just bruised a bit of his pride.  But I think Windex just found a new person for its streak-free shine. 

Finally, we check on the roads.  And with all this snow this past week, people are figuring out new ways to get around.  As always, leading the way in invasion are the Amish.  Taking a break from making those fancy Amish heaters, this buggy-riding madman relaxes by shredding on some skis.  Of course, with no technology, he can‘t use a ski lift, so he works with what he has, and actually seems to be having a pretty good ride. 

He‘s even skilled enough to deftly avoid a road sign.  I can not wait until the summer to see the Amish take on jet skiing. 

She posted her response to the shootings on Facebook.  Today, very few conservatives and Republicans are clicking like.  Sarah Palin‘s mistake and right‘s response next.

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SEDER:  In reporting on yesterday‘s speeches by President Obama and Sarah Palin, “Politico” used the headline, “Obama Takes Opportunity Palin Missed.”  If the Republican establishment wrote the headline, they might have gone with “President Does What Presidents Do; Lady on the Internet, Not Fit For His Office.” 

In our fourth story tonight, are Republicans taking the opportunity to knock Sarah Palin off the path to the 2012 presidential nomination?  GOP strategists and CNN contributor Ed Rollins telling “Politico,” quote, “she should have offered prayers and compassion for the victims and let it go at that.  This is not about her.”

John Weaver, former adviser to Senator John McCain, posting on his Facebook page, “the president had exactly the right tone and was pitch perfect for the nation last night.  When juxtaposed against, well, you know who—ahem.”

Former speech writer David Frum appearing last night on MSNBC‘s “THE LAST WORD” with Lawrence O‘Donnell. 

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DAVID FRUM, FRUMFORUM.COM:  What that speech reminded me of is you know the rule that when you apply for a job, you should dress for the job you want?  When you—as a presidential candidate, when you make a speech to the country, you should speak to the job you want.  If you would like to be president, you should be presidential. 

I think Republican leaders throughout the country, they look at this and they say this is—it‘s hard to imagine the person who said that coping as president with a tragedy like this. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SEDER:  And it‘s not just strategists and pundits doling out the criticism.  New Jersey Governor Chris Christie appearing today on “Good Morning America” with George Stephanopoulos, offering his own rebuke. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, “GOOD MORNING AMERICA”:  Sarah Palin coming in for some criticism today after using that term blood liable.  You think she knew what she was getting into with that? 

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE ®, NEW JERSEY:  I don‘t know.  I have no idea.  But I would say is that I think—I don‘t think anybody really believes that Governor Palin was trying to make someone get hurt or bring violence on.  I think she just should have said that and left it at that. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SEDER:  Governor Christie left the best off the air.  At a lunch yesterday with “New York Times” journalists and its publisher, the governor offered these words about Sarah Palin: “I think people need to be judged by the way they conduct themselves in the public arena in a way that is minimally staged as possible.  You have to look at it and see, what are at a like when they‘re tested?  What are they like when they‘re not scripted?  What are they like when they‘re pushed? 

“I would contend to you that if Governor Palin never does any of those things, she‘ll never be president.  People in America won‘t countenance that.  They just won‘t.” 

Several of these Republican critics have more in common than party affiliation.  Ed Rollins was a consultant for Mike Huckabee‘s 2008 presidential campaign, still a close Huckabee adviser.  John Weaver developed a presidential campaign strategy for former Utah Governor John Huntsman, the Republican who now serves as U.S. ambassador to China. 

And while Governor Christie denies presidential aspirations next year, he continues to make political appearances in Bellwether states like Pennsylvania. 

With a recent ABC News/”Washington Post” poll finding that almost six in ten Americans won‘t consider voting for Sarah Palin in 2012, it‘s clear that many would be leaders of the GOP and their advisers see the post-Tucson atmosphere as the right time to sideline her. 

To weigh in on those implications for Sarah Palin and the Republican party, we turn to Dave Weigel, political reporter for Slate.com, and an MSNBC contributor. 

Good evening, Dave. 

DAVE WEIGEL, SLATE.COM:  Good to see you, Sam. 

SEDER:  So, Dave, tell me, is it your sense that the GOP has been waiting for a chance to sideline her and that this very well may be it? 

WEIGEL:  I think it is my sense.  I think that is happening.  I try not to read the minds of people.  But I‘ve been reading lips and reading e-mails from people over the last two days.  It‘s not quite glee, but—and it‘s not relief.  It‘s just a recognition that this is not something that can be countenanced. 

I was actually spending part of the evening before at a meeting of college Republicans who were listening to Tim Pawlenty speak.  These were all fiery college Republicans, very partisan.  They just kind of winced when Palin‘s name was brought up.  It‘s acknowledged that she can‘t quite rise to moments like this. 

What Governor Christie just said about her being tested, she can‘t really be tested because she‘s not a governor, except in media moments.  If she can‘t do a media moment, what can she do correctly? 

SEDER:  Let‘s make a distinction here.  You don‘t have—you didn‘t necessarily have a sense that the GOP establishment was waiting for a moment like this.  But your sense is more that the GOP rank and file has basically said, it‘s just not going to happen with her, is that it? 

WEIGEL:  That‘s actually been happening for a while.  A lot of straw polls and things like that, everyone says they loves her, but they don‘t think she can handle the job. 

What you‘re saying about leaders is important, though.  If you notice, there is kind of a different tier for what people say on TV when they can‘t run away from the camera, and what they say when they are quoted on paper, and what they say in the background. 

I think the general pattern you‘re seeing—maybe we‘ve agreed not to

make metaphors like this for a while now.  But if you‘ve seen “Gladiator”

at the end when Emperor Commodus loses his sword and asks everyone for

another sword and no one gives it to him—his guards won‘t give it to him

that‘s kind of what I‘ve seen go on. 

           

There‘s ample opportunity to come out here and defend the way Palin has talked about this.  No one‘s taking it.  No one wants to go and take it.  It would be a gentlemanly—courtly thing to do.  But they‘re very—they‘re not taking it.  And the result of them not defending her is just a massive conflagration around her, pointing out that she handled this poorly and was insensitive in the way she talked about it. 

SEDER:  Now you pointed out today in a piece that four years ago, there were already seven official Republican candidates that were gearing up for an election that was almost I guess at that point two years ago.  Is Palin the real reason why there are zero official candidates for 2012 today? 

WEIGEL:  I don‘t think that‘s the only reason.  I mean, there is uncertainty.  In Alaska, there is total certainty that she‘s going to run.  It‘s almost fear as well as certainty.  The rest of the country, they‘ve been making plans at that.  People are snapping up staffers.  She has not made moves to hire staff. 

Remember, we‘ll jump on any rumor of her talking to somebody in Iowa who knows a guy, who owns a restaurant that might have a fund-raiser.  But everyone else is actually working to lock up guys for their PACs. 

I think it‘s more that they just—they really did not want to get in front of the Republican wave in the fall.  The Tea Party wasn‘t interested in it.  Now they‘re moving.  I think they‘ll actually move pretty fast. 

Herman Kane became the first to jump in.  So whatever else happens, he‘s got his own trivia question now.  Although I wouldn‘t under rate him.  I think Pawlenty will jump in later. 

They‘re going to go in and they‘re going to—definitely she is a force if she comes in still, because of the way the Iowa caucus works.  But they‘re making plans without her.  They would love—everyone‘s strategy becomes a lot easier, maybe not Mitt Romney‘s because he can unify everyone who doesn‘t like Palin—everyone‘s strategy becomes easier if they just don‘t have to deal with her every day. 

It‘s very obvious when Republicans have to talk about her that it‘s just like being reminded—it‘s being reminded of something unpleasant that they can‘t deal with.  It‘s like running up to a celebrity outside a nightclub with a TMZ camera.  They really would love to not deal with this and talk about serious things. 

SEDER:  Dave Weigel of Slate.com, things for your time tonight. 

WEIGEL:  Thank you.

SEDER:  Coming up, 2012 calling; Texas needs a new senator.  Kay Bailey Hutchison will not run again. 

Speaking of Texas, bet you didn‘t know it‘s home to the most liberal county in America, the one that handed him a prison sentence.  At least that‘s the story he‘s spinning. 

When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, the proposed ban on high capacity gun magazines.  It‘s tougher than the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban.  The bill‘s sponsor, Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, is Rachel‘s guest.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SEDER:  This just in from Tom Delay: Austin, Texas is full of liberals.  That‘s why I‘m headed to jail, in our number two story tonight.  The Hammer, who was sentenced Monday to three years in prison for money laundering, is now blaming the jury‘s liberal bias. 

In November, 12 jurors in Austin, Texas found Delay guilty of funneling nearly 200,000 dollars in illegal corporate donations to Republican candidates for the Texas State House in 2002.  Six of those candidates won, helping Republicans take over the Texas legislature.  This, in turn, helped Delay pass a redistricting plan that helped elect more GOP representatives to national Congress, consolidating his power as House majority leader. 

This morning, Delay and his lawyers went on “The Today Show” to argue that the trial was politically motivated. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM DELAY, FORMER MAJORITY LEADER:  I was tried in the most liberal

county in the state of Texas, indeed in the United States.  Getting a jury

the foreman of the jury was a Greenpeace activist. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Tom delay was prosecuted because he when was so successful in bringing about redistricting in Texas. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SEDER:  Travis County, where Austin is located, is bluer than most of the state; 64 percent of the resident voted for Obama in 2008.  But calling it the most liberal county in the country might be just a stretch. 

However, a day before the jury announced their unanimous virtue, Delay told reporters he thought the jury‘s political makeup would work in his favor, because he believed were more empathetic, saying, quote, unquote, “I know them like they‘re my brothers and sisters.” 

And although the facts of the case were never in despite, Delay still denies his guilt, saying “I can‘t be remorseful for something I don‘t think I did.” 

He is currently out on bail, pending his appeal.  In other news from the Lonestar State, Texas Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison announced today that she will not seek re-election in 2012.  Last year, Hutchison ran for Texas governor, but was defeated in the primary by incumbent Rick Perry.  Hutchison has served in the U.S. Senate since 1993. 

Finally, we return to Washington.  After taking a hiatus due to the shootings in Arizona, Congress will pick up where it left off next week.  One of the first items on the House agenda, the push to repeal health care. 

A spokesman for Majority Leader Eric Cantor announced, “we will resume thoughtful consideration of the health care bill next week.  Americans have legitimate concerns about the cost of the new health care law and its effect on the ability to grow jobs in our country.  It is our expectation that the debate will continue to focus on those substantive policy differences surrounding the new law.” 

The one thing you‘re not supposed to do is raise taxes.  The one thing Illinois did, raise taxes, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SEDER:  And low it came to pass in the final days; winged creatures fell from the sky struck dead.  Fish swam backwards.  A sheep with two heads emerged from its mother‘s womb.  And as the final apocalyptic prophecy foretold, Democrats did dare to raise taxes!

Of course, raising taxes is so scary, especially to politicians, because raising taxes not only destroys the economy, it destroys political careers.  That‘s why only one president in the last 30 years dared to raise taxes, George H. W. Bush.  It, of course, ended his hopes for a second term.

The popular Democrat Bill Clinton and perhaps the most popular president ever among Republicans, Ronald Reagan, both also raised taxes and then watched their economies and political fortunes sky-rocket.  But they don‘t count. 

But now, in our number one story tonight, a hearty band of rag-tag Democrats has dared to try to do it again.  Today, Illinois‘s governor, Pat Quinn, signed into law a tax increase that will help close his state‘s 15 billion dollar budget hole, thereby avoiding fiscal insolvency.  The Illinois tax increase means the—the personal income tax rates in Illinois rise from three percent to five percent.  The corporate rate goes up from about five percent to seven percent.  Also, there‘s a new two percent limit on spending growth. 

We had no sound effect for it, but we found one.  The net effect, seven billion dollars more in annual revenue.  Here‘s what that pays for. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. PAT QUINN (D), ILLINOIS:  We are going to continue to invest in our schools.  We‘re going to continue to make sure we have decent health care.  And we‘re going to continue to make sure that our public safety is there to protect the public. 

So these are the important things, the core things of government. 

We‘ll be able to pay for them. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SEDER:  The Republican governors of Illinois border states today are expecting a “Grapes of Wrath” style exodus out of the Land of Lincoln.  And they hope to cash in. 

Scott Walker of Wisconsin urging Illinois businesses to escape to Wisconsin, where the corporate tax rate is lower, but where the top personal tax rate, presumably affecting people who work for these corporations, is almost three points higher than Illinois. 

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels took a shot at Illinois, telling a Chicago radio station, quote, “it‘s like living next door to ‘The Simpsons.‘  You know, the dysfunctional family down the block.”  Which I believe would make you Governor Flanders. 

Today, the leader of the Hoosier State unveiled a proposal to close his own state‘s budget gap.  According to that AP, Indiana Governor Daniels proposes to cut higher education spending by three percent and eliminate optional Medicaid services for adults, such as hearing aids and dental and podiatry care.” 

Let‘s head to Chicago to talk to Ralph Martire, executive director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability. 

Good evening, Ralph. 

RALPH MARTIRE, CENTER FOR TAX AND BUDGET ACCOUNTABILITY:  Hi, Sam. 

How are you?

SEDER:  I‘m doing well.  Now, states facing huge deficits have two options here, right?  They raise taxes or they make Draconian cuts to things like education and medicine.  Is raising taxes going to work for Illinois? 

MARTIRE:  If they didn‘t do it, the state would be a complete disaster.  Put it into context.  We just raised seven billion in new tax revenue.  That is going to purchase exactly zero new spending.  It‘s laterally back fill for a budget deficit that approaches 50 percent of our General Fund‘s operating budget, nine out of 10 dollars of which go to education, health care, public safety and human services.  Human services, things like caring for people with mental health and developmental disability problems, single working moms getting their child care.  You know, that government stuff. 

SEDER:  So if it would work in Illinois, presumably it would work in other states where they would never even consider it, right? 

MARTIRE:  Well, you would think so.  In Illinois, we clearly had to raise taxes.  Even after this tax increase, we‘re going to remain a relatively low taxing state.  Overall, state and local tax burden will remain in the bottom 15 or so states, despite the fact we have the fifth largest population and the fifth largest economy.

So we‘re not becoming Illin-oink on tax policy.  In fact, it‘s kind of entertaining that Wisconsin and Indiana are who-who‘ing over this.  I mean, Illinois would love to have their state tax structures.  If we had Indiana‘s tax structure, we‘d have 11 billion dollars more in our general fund today than what we have. 

Heck, if we had Wisconsin‘s, we‘d add 13 billion more.  They‘re much higher tax states than us.  What they‘re not telling you—and it is true that despite being much higher taxed than Illinois, they‘ve done a better job growing their economies. 

So I think that puts the whole taxation thing in the proper context.  Look, if you‘re taxing and spending on those core services voters have every right to demand and expect—education, health care, human services, public safety—you‘re doing what government ought to do.  If you don‘t raise adequate tax revenue to fund services, you do what Illinois has done for decades.  You lie to the public.  You tell them you could have those services, but, guess what, you are never, ever, ever going to have to pay for them. 

That‘s snake oil salesmanship, frankly.  We‘ve done it for decades.  And because we‘ve done that, we‘ve run up huge debts.  The only way we‘ve been able to keep our state government running is to under fund our public employee pensions, diverting money from those investments to funding current services.  That‘s all caught up with us.  We needed the tax revenue. 

SEDER:  Party‘s over.  Well, Ralph, Martire, executive director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, thanks for your time tonight. 

MARTIRE:  Thanks for having me on.

SEDER:  That‘s January 13th.  I‘m Sam Seder, in for Keith Olbermann.  You can hear me daily, Monday through Friday, on “The Majority Report” at Majority.fm. 

And now to discuss why the common wisdom that gun control is unattainable is wrong, ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow.  Good evening, Rachel.

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