MSNBC Live at 6p.m. ET for Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011
Read the transcript from Wednesday's 6p.m. hour
Guests: Ed Rendell, Lester Holt, Patrick Leahy, Michelle Dunne, Michael Beschloss, Diana DeGette
CENK UYGUR, HOST: We‘ve got a standoff in Egypt, street battles between organized gangs of thugs and protestors. Three dead and more than 600 injured. Is this how Egypt‘s president responds to his protestors and to the White House? And how should our president respond back?
And back at home, it‘s Groundhog Day. So of course, Republicans yet again try to repeal health care. This time in the Senate. Democratic senators fought back. Who won?
The president wants to stop giving oil companies $36 billion a year.
If the Republicans were serious about cutting the budget, they would agree. But of course, they won‘t. We‘ll show you why they‘re sticking up for big oil.
On jobs, Republicans talk about getting the economy moving, but their bills are only on social issues. Tonight, the assault on a woman‘s right to choose and their stunning effort to reclassify rape.
Now, we‘ve had seven days of peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations in Egypt. Then on the eighth day, a horde of pro-regime counter protestors suddenly showed up. And they came armed. Some of them were on horseback and some were on camels. How old school.
Is it possible that a large silent majority of regular people in Egypt just got tired of the peaceniks in the streets, saddled up their camels and came to represent? I don‘t think so.
It‘s pretty clear that the thugs, masquerading as counter protestors, are bringing the violence, including sticks, stones and Molotov cocktails. And there are reports that the interior ministry told their workers that they could not get paid until they went into the streets to represent Mubarak. And this is the violence they have unleashed on their own people.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no doubt that light (ph) fire was being (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is some—a certain amount of smoke again. There‘s (INAUDIBLE). There were petro (ph) bombs being thrown.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The army called for the streets to be cleared and then this happened. Chaos.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There have been people with knives, with crowbars.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There‘s been an ebb and flow of these demonstrators attacking each other.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There‘s been blood spilled.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Clearly, a lot of teargas has been used. We‘re starting to feel—I‘m starting to feel the sting of it now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unmistakable sound of gun fire below me. Men on horses and camels charged into the crowds wielding whips and sticks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There have been running battles with Molotov cocktails. We have heard several bursts of gun fire.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Now Egypt‘s newly-appointed vice president Omar Suleiman, Mubarak‘s right-hand man, is saying that everyone needs to clear the streets.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the interest of peace.
UYGUR: Well, isn‘t that convenient? Cause violence and then say the streets have to be cleared because of the violence. That‘s also an old school trick.
And on the upside though, now dictators from across the Middle East are in a panic. Today, the president of Yemen, who had been in power for 32 years, came out and said he will step down at the end of his term in 2013. He doesn‘t want to get Mubarak. Score one for the protestors all across the Middle East.
Now joining me from Cairo is NBC‘s Lester holt. Lester, I want to get something straight first. There‘s no question that the pro-Mubarak forces started the violence, right?
LESTER HOLT, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, let me put it this way. Yesterday, I was in that square when they had this million person march plan. You would have to go line after line of people patting you down, volunteers. They went out of their way to make sure no one brought any weapon, and anything that would be provocative that would incite violence. That was yesterday.
So, you look at what happened today and you look at—they came right by this location, by the way, this group that clearly had a plan to infiltrate and try to take back that square. I think it‘s pretty clear that it was organized and that the violence came from the side that went in today, which was the pro-Mubarak supporters. Now certainly coming in on horseback and camelback, animals that probably a week ago were carrying tourists on in Giza on tours of the pyramids, being used to carry people, ready to wage war in the square today.
UYGUR: You know, I take the camels as a good sign, though, because I have a sense that the Mubarak forces had to resort to camels because the military wouldn‘t use the Abrams tanks that they have. Is that a fair assessment?
HOLT: You know, I‘ve got to tell you, the whole use of the military here is perplexing. Up until yesterday, I was saying they‘re more like photo opportunities. I mean, there were families standing and proudly posing and people were getting their pictures taken in front of the men in camouflage sitting in the open-topped tanks and armored personnel carriers.
And then today, this is all taking place and, for the most part, they‘re still sitting there. That said, into the evening up until just about a half hour ago, we were hearing sporadic heavy gunfire coming from those 50 caliber machine guns mounted on top of the APCs. There were tracer rounds in the air. They were firing above the crowd, trying to keep the crowd back.
I peeked out another window in our location here and they have now spilled out of the square. We can see Molotov cocktails flying through the air. And here this constant—this drone of voices, people screaming and banging on makeshift drums. It‘s unbelievable. It still goes on tonight. And the army, for the most part, is standing by watching it.
UYGUR: All right. That is a very interesting report, actually. Especially about the gunfire. So Lester, one more thing. Now are the protestors fighting back? And if so, how?
HOLT: The way we understand it from those who are close to the situation right now is the—this assault, of course, was to drive the pro-democracy folks out. And they were driving them back. Then apparently the pro-democracy people, who have occupied the square for going on nine days now, they started making makeshift shields. And they set up a line and last report is they were beginning to push the pro-Mubarak people out.
All this is symbol for greater Egypt. That square, for the most part, greater Egypt and the future of its political control. But it‘s being fought right there. It is truly a turf war, a physical turf war here in the streets of downtown Cairo.
It‘s extraordinary. This is an amazing city. I‘ve been here before, both as a tourist and as a journalist and it‘s just painfully sad to watch all this. And to certainly watch the Egyptian museum, probably one of the most fabulous museums I‘ve ever seen, be threatened like this tonight.
UYGUR: All right. You know, actually, Lester, I lied. I want to ask you one last follow up. Is it just in the square or is it throughout the streets of Cairo and other places now that you see this kind of violence?
HOLT: I‘m glad you asked that because I was actually out in the rest
on the other side of the river here in Cairo shooting a story today unaware of what was about to take place here. And we began to see in the streets these roving groups of pro-Mubarak supports. They have a different air about them, a different feel from the pro-democracy demonstrators that we had seen marching in the streets.
These folks were actually going in the streets and stopping traffic, a small group here. Then we traveled a bit farther, another group. And finally, another group that blocked our way, started banging on our vehicles. It was unsettling and you could feel this change in the temperature in Cairo from yesterday where everybody wanted to talk to the TV camera and tell their story. There was a sense of jubilation and a new beginning. To today, where showing your camera could get you locked up.
There were journalists here that were detained by security forces, had hoods over their heads, their arms tied behind their back and questioned. And no doubt, you‘ve heard the stories of other journalists who were pummeled and beaten in the square today.
What a dramatic stunning turnaround. We‘ve all seen these sorts of things before, but it still gets you every time to watch how quickly a crowd situation can turn in the opposite direction.
UYGUR: All right. NBC‘s Lester Holt, live in Cairo. Thank you so much for your time tonight.
HOLT: You bet.
UYGUR: Joining me now is Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy. He‘s the chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Department of State for Operations and Related Programs which oversees American aid to Egypt which is being credibly relevant right now.
Senator Leahy, thank you for joining us. We really appreciate it.
SENATOR PATRICK LEAHY (D), APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE: Thank you. It‘s good to be with you.
UYGUR: All right. Now, you called on Hosni Mubarak to step down immediately whereas the president has called on him to begin the process of stepping down basically. Do you think the president needs to be clearer on that issue?
LEAHY: No, I think President Obama has been pretty clear. He‘s had long conversations with President Mubarak. Whether you call it immediate or begin the process, either way we know if he‘s going to step down, it‘s going to be a very, very short time. Time has run out. The options that might have been available to President Mubarak three or four years ago are not there now. It‘s unrealistic to think he can wait until elections in September.
It also does not help his position to have people, actually thugs, in the street who appear to be government-sponsored throwing Molotov cocktails and things like that. That does not help his position. It actually makes his position worse.
UYGUR: Well, President Obama last night did say that Mubarak does
need to begin to step down, however you interpret that. Apparently,
President Mubarak doesn‘t agree. And so, is him sending out here people to
the pro-Mubarak forces on camels and horses, et cetera, to beat down the protestors, is that his answer to President Obama saying, basically, no, I‘m not listening?
LEAHY: Oh, I don‘t think it‘s his answer to President Obama. I think it‘s him saying, I don‘t want to leave. And I think it‘s an act of desperation.
I know President Mubarak. I think he has a real sense of Egypt as a wonderful, great country. But nobody should be president for 30 years, and I think he thinks if he tries some of the things that might have worked in the past, he can stay there.
It‘s not going to work this time. It‘s just not going to work. The momentum has grown up too much. And I think the more things like the people on the horseback, the Molotov cocktails and all, the harder it is for him to be able to leave with any semblance of dignity and authority. The time has come. Now, whether that time is today, next week, or the week after, it‘s inevitable.
UYGUR: So, Senator, you called for him to step down. So has Senator John Kerry. And now, Senator John McCain has also joined that call, though he calls it regrettable. Well, where do we go from here? If Mubarak does not step down, then do you begin to withdraw aid from Egypt?
LEAHY: We have a lot of aid in the pipeline now. That pipeline would be turned off. There is nobody, Republican or Democratic in the Senate or and I suspect in the House, that‘s going to vote for an aid package for Egypt under these circumstances.
We have a long tradition after the Camp David accords of maintaining aid to Egypt and to Israel. That‘s not going to continue under these circumstances. We have enough financial problems in our own country. Aid will not go to Egypt. Aid will continue to Egypt if you have somebody who‘s come in with credibility, who is trying to help the people, trying to help those who are unemployed, those who are not being fed and somebody who wants to try to bring a semblance of order so one of their largest cash projects in Egypt—tourism—can come back.
UYGUR: So, Senator Leahy, I want to get a little bit more specific.
When would that pipeline of aid be cut off?
LEAHY: The money that‘s in the pipeline right now is controlled by the administration. Congress will be facing in a matter of weeks or months a new foreign aid bill. But there is no way, unless credibility has been restored in Egypt, and it will not be credibility with President Mubarak. There‘s no way further aid will go. So you‘re really talking about a relatively short time.
UYGUR: All right, thank you, Senator Pat Leahy of Vermont. We appreciate, of course, his time.
Now joining me is Michelle Dunne, former National Security Council and State Department official who is the co-chair of the Working Group on Egypt. She met in the White House with Obama policymakers this week.
Michelle, what did you tell the administration? What do you think is the right course of action here for the United States government?
MICHELLE DUNNE, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE: Well, things have been evolving during the week even since we had this meeting. But even during that meeting, I think those of us from outside of the government who were there were counseling the administration to do what it could to bring about a resolution in Egypt quickly. And we warned there would be violence in Egypt eventually if this were to on. And that we saw it as necessary for—definitely necessary for President Mubarak to step down and to allow a credible transition to democracy to begin.
UYGUR: Now, Senator Leahy just told us that there is a pipeline of aid that might get cut off. In fact, the president could cut it off on any day. Do you think he should go to that step. Should the aid to Egypt be cut off today?
DUNNE: Well, I think that—today was really a turning point. We saw this violence by regime-sponsored thugs. This is a well-known tactic in Egypt. It was—it was no surprise to anyone in Egypt that this would happen, but the scale of it was quite frightening.
But, you know, unfortunately, we didn‘t see the Egyptian military take any steps to stop it. In fact, there seemed to be the military facilitating this, moving barriers and letting these thugs into Tahrir Square, for example.
I think the United States should issue a very stern warning at this point to the military, that we expect them to play a role in stabilizing the country, in easing the way to a peaceful transition and that aid will be cut off if they don‘t do so. And that they will be responsible for what these regime thugs do, even if they are technically sent out by internal security services, rather than the army itself.
UYGUR: Michelle, there‘s got to be massive politics being played behind the scenes here. I‘m sure the Mubarak government is offering leaders of the army certain goodies if they step aside at least, let alone join the fight. And I‘m sure—or at least I hope the United States is saying, hey, we might cut off your funding, which is very important to the Egyptian army.
If that is the case, who wins that argument? What‘s more important? The things that Mubarak can offer those army leaders or the funding from the United States?
DUNNE: I think what‘s more important than either one of those things to the army is the stability of Egypt. They want to restore stability. This is a nightmarish situation for them. And I think they‘re going to have to be looking at what is really necessary.
My own assessment of what‘s going on is that this thuggish effort was sort of a last ditch effort, you know. And, as Senator Leahy said, a very desperate effort for Mubarak to hold on to control. I don‘t know. Perhaps the military said OK, fine, give it a try. Let‘s see if we can make it work. You know, if the demonstrators will leave the streets and then we can be done with this thing for now.
But I think if it becomes clear that the demonstrators are not giving up, then the military is going to have to make a decision and perhaps very soon, within the next couple of days, between restoring stability to Egypt and maintaining loyalty to President Mubarak. And I think in that situation, they‘re going to choose stability.
UYGUR: And there‘s no question, that is the critical question, which way the army will go. Michelle Dunne, thank you so much for your time tonight.
DUNNE: You‘re welcome.
UYGUR: All right. Now coming up, when President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, he said it was a call to action. Now the president has his chance. Will he be able to stand up for democracy in Egypt?
UYGUR: Welcome back. When President Obama accepted a Nobel Peace Prize in December 2009, he said it was premature since he was at the beginning of his work as a leader. Well, now is his chance. Mr. President, this crisis in Egypt is your opportunity to earn your Nobel Peace Prize.
Barack Obama already had a sense of history when he was running for office. During his campaign, candidate Obama spoke looking towards the Brandenburg Gate where JFK told Nikita Khrushchev, we are all Berliners and where Ronald Reagan famously challenged the Soviets.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Will President Obama have his, “Mr. Mubarak, tear down this regime,” moment? Last night he said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, it is not the role of any other country to determine Egypt‘s leaders. Only the Egyptian people can do that. What is clear and what I indicated tonight to President Mubarak, it is my belief that an orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful and it must begin now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Now, he‘s definitely pressuring Mubarak to leave. But does talk of orderly transitions reverberate throughout history? I‘m not sure.
So joining me now is Michael Beschloss. He is NBC News Presidential Historian. Now when I asked him about that, is this the kind of historical moment, Michael, where a president can really leave his mark?
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENIAL HISTORIAN: Sure it is. And, you know, there are some historical echoes. You were talking about history. You know, sometimes a president can look in history and find a little bit of guidance at a moment like this.
Let me mention, too, 1953, Iran—the shah was driven off his throne. There was a leader named Mosaddegh, who was a reformer. The United States feared that he was too pro-communist and that he might not—he might do some anti-American things. They staged a countercoup, brought the shah back to power and the result was that we had a reliable government for about three decades. But needless to say, no reform. And finally, that led to the government we now have in Iran.
The opposite case would be Ronald Reagan in 1986. Ferdinand Marcos had been essentially the dictator of the Philippines since the mid-1960s. There was a wave of support for Corazon Aquino, reform candidate. The generals were wavering.
Ronald Reagan, you know, if you observe the caricature, you might think that he might have supported Marco. The Cold War was still on. Philippines were very important to our defense. Instead, he said his closest friend in the Senate, Paul Laxalt, to call on Marcos to talk to him. And he said cut clean, essentially Americans are not going to support you anymore. Sixteen hours later, Marcos was out. Reagan did the right thing.
UYGUR: That‘s interesting. So do we learn from history that perhaps going for our short-term gains, you know, Mubarak is an ally, he‘s kept the peace with Israel, et cetera, might be outweighed by our long-term American ideals? I mean, Iran seems to be an excellent case of that. Is that right? Has that throughout history been the same lesson?
BESCHLOSS: I think more often than not, and particularly with this president. You know, as you know, Barack Obama, during the campaign of 2008, spoke very specifically about the fact that he wanted to go to an Arab capital and make a speech about democracy. That was a campaign promise kept, June of 2009. You know, of all things, he went to Cairo and spoke of the need for democracy in the Middle East.
So, you know, if you want that from a president, you‘ve got the right guy in the White House at the moment.
UYGUR: Look, he made the great speech when it was theoretical. Now it‘s real. Now it‘s practical. And to be fair to President Obama, he has definitely been edging away from Mubarak. He said that an orderly transition must begin now. I‘m not sure that that statement is going to echo through time. But, on the other hand, did other great leaders like Lincoln hedge many times before they delivered the Gettysburg Address, in Lincoln‘s case?
BESCHLOSS: Often times they do. I mean, John Kennedy, for instance, his first two years of office, would have liked to make peace with the Russians. Only after the Cuban Missile Crisis did he have the strength and stature to get a test ban treaty. That usually happens.
But what I would be fascinated to know, Cenk, is what Frank Wisner, President Obama‘s envoy, actually told Mubarak the other day. My guess is that it went a lit bit beyond what we‘ve heard from the president in public.
UYGUR: All right. One last question for you. Because, you‘re right, there must be behind-the-scenes efforts here pressuring President Mubarak. But is it also important to come out and tell the public, whether it‘s the Egyptian protestors, our people, et cetera, hey listen, I‘m going to be very clear on this. I‘m on the side of democracy, freedom and American ideals. Do you think that‘s very important for a president as the leader of the free world to do?
BESCHLOSS: Absolutely vital. And, you know, it goes all the way back to Jefferson, the contagion of democracy, the times when we have really gotten into troubles as Americans have been when we strayed from those ideals. So I think Barack Obama has very much got that message.
UYGUR: All Right. Michael Beschloss, NBC News Presidential Historian. Thank you very much for your time tonight.
UYGUR: All right, to celebrate Groundhog Day, the Republicans just voted again on repealing health care reform. Guess how that went for them?
And speaking of doing the same thing over and over again, President Obama wants to give everyone a $30 billion -- $36 billion tax break. But Republicans aren‘t interested. That seems weird. We‘ll explain.
UYGUR: Remember that movie where the guy was forced to live the same day over and over again. It‘s named after a purely symbolic event that everyone breathlessly reports but which everyone knows has zero impact on actual events. I know you‘re thinking it‘s Groundhog‘s Day because we set it up that way. But it‘s actually the health care votes.
Two weeks ago, the House Republicans held a purely symbolic vote to repeal health care reform. It passed. It was reported. It had absolutely zero impact.
Just moments ago, the Senate Republicans force a vote to repeal health care reform. It failed. The vote total: 47 yays, 51 nays. It has been reported. I look forward to it having absolutely no impact. And for the record, I mean no offense to groundhogs by comparing them to Congressional Republicans.
By the way, today, Punxsutawney Phil came down on the side of change over more of the same. It turns out he‘s a lib. He did not see his shadow which means a new season is on its way. Of course, it comes as the country is getting hammered by a winter storm. But hey, I like his optimism.
Here‘s news on health care that might make a difference. Today, the Reagan Solicitor General Charles Fried completely shot down the claim that the health care mandate is unconstitutional. He testified to the senate judiciary committee. Here‘s the money part:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLES FRIED, FORMER SOLICITOR GENERAL: I am quite sure that the health care mandate is constitutional. The Congress and the courts obviously think insurance is commerce. And health care surely—health care insurance surely is commerce, ensuring, as it does, something like 18 percent of the gross national product. Now, if that‘s so—if health care insurance is commerce, then does Congress have the right to regulate health care insurance? Of course it does.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Of course it does. That is Reagan‘s Solicitor General. So I don‘t think republicans are allowed to disagree. I have played the Reagan card. Game, set, and match.
Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann recently announced she‘s against the TSA‘s full body scanners. According to MinnPost.com, Bachmann told patrons at an Iowa coffee shop that she planned on opting out of the body scanners to avoid naked pictures of her ending up on the internet. Yowza.
The TSA says they do not plan on keeping any naked pictures of Ms. Bachmann or anyone else for that matter. But she‘s not buying it. Now, are you ready for this? I agree with her. I‘m not sure it would be her pictures, but at some point, some celebrity‘s full body scan is going to leak. I guarantee it.
There‘s already been pictures that have been stored when they shouldn‘t have been. There‘s already been fights because people got teased about their body parts after going through the scanner. She‘s right, there‘s going to be trouble.
Now the picture you see here are the results of me agreeing with Michele Bachmann. Hell has officially frozen over.
Coming up, how would you like a tax break? That would be great, right? Too bad, you don‘t have the lobbyists of Big Oil. They get $36 billion in tax breaks. We‘ll give you the details and those details will enrage you. And guess which Bush administration official is going to get a “Defender of the Constitution” award. How about the one who said, “freedom is untidy” and ordered torture? Plus, republicans are on a cultural war rampage. You won‘t believe what they‘re trying to do, now with women‘s rights. One Congresswoman called it “a violent act against women”.
UYGUR: $36 billion. That‘s how much money the U.S. oil companies stand to get from taxpayers over the next 10 years. That‘s about $4 billion a year of your money. The good news? President Obama wants to fight to end those tax breaks. He says he wants to strike them from his next budget and hand the money back to you, me, and everyone else who pays taxes. That would be phenomenal.
And yet, the republicans will probably still say no. Over $36 billion for Big Oil and the republicans love it. What happened? I thought they were so worried about this deficit? This is a perfect opportunity to cut.
President Obama has been trying to end these subsidies for three straight years, now and it‘s gotten voted down in every time of Congress. Well, maybe that‘s because these poor oil companies need the tax breaks, right? Well, let‘s take a look at the bottom line and find out.
In 2009, Exxon-Mobil pulled in almost $20 billion in profits. Chevron, over $10 billion. Conoco-Phillips nearly $5 billion. Why on God‘s green earth are we giving the most profitable companies in the world our taxpayer money? Again, conservatives and liberals should hate this. We should all unite on this.
Now, you want to know why they get the money anyway? For years, the industry has been one of the biggest lobbying forces in Washington, shelling out more than $110 million in 2010. Much of that money came straight from those three companies I just mentioned. Exxon-Mobil, Chevron, and Conoco-Phillips.
Lobbying also explains what might be the biggest travesty of all. In 2009, when Exxon-Mobil posted $20 billion in profits, it got back $156 million in federal taxes from the United States government. And Chevron got $19 million back.
This is exactly what‘s wrong with our system. Money goes into politician‘s pockets, votes come out. The taxpayers loose, the lobbyists win. The politicians don‘t represent us. They represent the people who pay them. And in this case, it‘s the oil companies.
And now I want to bring in former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell.
He‘s now an NBC News political analyst.
Governor Rendell, I‘ll ask you if I‘m being too cynical, but what other reason is there to not pull back these subsidies from literally the world‘s richest companies?
ED RENDELL, FORMER PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNOR: There is no reason whatsoever. In fact, the truth is, Cenk, we should take away all subsidies to any energy company that‘s mature. To renewable energy companies, that are growing and have a short lifespan, they need subsidies, they need tax credits, they need loan guarantees until they reach maturity—until they can compete economically, because we want them to grow.
But it is a disgrace. You cited Exxon figures, but Exxon-Mobil, I think, their last quarter was the most successful quarter in the history of the world by any corporation. And that‘s obscene. When you talk about $36 billion, taking that away—the average citizen my say, “well $36 billion, that‘s a lot of money”. Well, it‘s less than 1% than what the oil companies will gain in revenue in that decade, 1%.
UYGUR: And, accordingly, it might not matter much to them, but it matters to us. That‘s a lot of money for us. And I know the republicans claim that they want to cut the deficit, you know, the deficit, and, well, you know, it sometimes is bipartisan here. Why can‘t we get this through Congress?
RENDELL: Well, you hit the nail on the head. By the way, we didn‘t get it through Congress the first two years that President Obama was president because some democrats voted to continue the subsidy. What we‘ve got to be clear—I think what the people have to be clear on, is who‘s voting against our interest for these big companies that are making enormous profits.
I mean, it should be a campaign issue in the democratic primary, it should be a campaign issue in a general election. It should be a campaign issue and it‘s a legitimate issue. These companies do not deserve tax subsidies. The idea that somehow removing the subsidies will hurt their growth—that‘s baloney. One of the gas companies—a gas company filed a report with the SEC where they said they expected 64 percent return on investment this year.
Well, that‘s simply, you know, obviously something that‘s off the charts. And we want them to make money. We want exploration. We want more drilling because we want American independence. We want our gas companies to be able to drill so we can produce our own form of energy. But they shouldn‘t get a subsidy.
UYGUR: Yeah, no question about that. Now, you mentioned using as a campaign issue. So now, the President has already put it up twice and it‘s gotten defeated twice. He‘s putting it up a third time. Is the idea behind making it a campaign issue so it creates pressure on the politicians to actually change their vote? Is that how you would actually get it done?
RENDELL: Sure. The one thing that politicians fear more than losing money—losing campaign contributions—is losing votes. But basically, they‘ve been able to continue these subsidies with a sort of veil of anonymity around them.
It never gets framed as a particular issue. And if it was, what do
you think, if we polled right now, let‘s say we went into any state in the
union, red state, blue state and polled—should Exxon-Mobil, that made
the highest corporate profit the history of the world in the last quarter -
should it get taxpayer subsidies? What do you think it would poll? It would probably poll 90 percent “no”, seven or eight percent “yes”.
UYGUR: Yes. I think seven or eight percent would be high. Why would any average American want to pay money out of their own pocket to the most profitable company in the world? It doesn‘t make any sense.
And so, you‘re saying pressure—that‘s the only thing that works in this case. If you point that out. Look, here‘s republican x, or democrat y who‘s voting for this, that‘s going to make them change their vote.
RENDELL: Sure. We could have gotten rid of these subsidies when we, democrats, controlled both houses of Congress and president Obama proposed it. So there are democrats who voted to continue these subsidies as well. And, you know, the subsidies are not necessary. They are not necessary.
The only energy companies we should be subsidizing, let me repeat again, are the new ones. The new renewable alternative energy companies that need a little bit of time to grow, that need a little help for them to be in position to produce a significant amount of production. Those companies we should be subsidizing. With everything -- loan guarantees, subsidies, making tax credits permanent—credits permanent so that Wall Street will have confidence in investing in them.
But other than them, we shouldn‘t be subsidizing. You know, the corner grocer doesn‘t get subsidized. The guy who sells sweatshirts doesn‘t get subsidized by the government. And neither should the mature energy companies.
UYGUR: Right. And by the way, the subsidies in the budget that the President announced last year was about half a billion dollars for renewable energy companies, as opposed to $36.5 billion for the oil companies. So, there‘s something wrong there.
But Governor Rendell, thank you for your time tonight. You got it exactly right as to what the core problem is. Thank you.
RENDELL: Thanks, Cenk.
UYGUR: All right. Now, up next, the republicans want to redefine rape. They want only forcible sexual assault to count for the purpose of their new bill. We‘ll explain the horrible details. And we‘ll have to respect any Muslim law in this country? Well, if a local republican has his way. We‘ll tell you why the twisted reason he claims he cares so much about Muslim culture.
The Conservative Political Action Conference is giving out the “Defender of the Constitution” award at their conference this month. And they‘ve already announced who‘s going to get it. Is it Jack Goldsmith, the deeply conservative head of the office of legal council and the Bush Justice Department who stood up to demands to violate the Fourth Amendment through warrantless wiretapping or withdrew legally dubious torture memos?
No, of course not. That would make sense. Instead, it is Donald Rumsfeld. Come on, the guy who pretty much defined cruel and unusual punishment with the torture that he ordered of our detainees. Did I miss the part of the Constitution where it celebrates torture? Let alone senseless invasions of countries that didn‘t threaten us?
Of course, all this makes more sense when you hear who the earlier recipients of the “Defender of the Constitution” award were. John Ashcroft and Rush Limbaugh. Come on, man. At least make an effort to find someone on your side who‘s read the Constitution.
UYGUR: Republicans spent all of last year attacking President Obama and democrats on jobs. It was the corner stone of their campaign to take back congress. They called the health care repeal bill, “repealing the job-killing health care law act”. Very clever. But you know what? It worked for them. They won control of the house.
But now, instead of turning all that rhetoric into action on job creation, they‘re catering to, of course, social conservatives instead. The latest example is their effort to limit abortion as much as possible.
And in the process, they are redefining rape.
New Jersey Congressman, Christopher Smith has introduced a bill called the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act”. And 173 other members, 163 of them republicans, have signed on as co-sponsors.
First of all, there already is no taxpayer funding for abortion. President Obama signed an executive order last year making that perfectly clear. But this bill is another way, than just wasting more time. They‘ve got a lot more up their sleeve than that.
Current law banning funding for abortion has a couple of exceptions, including one for women who are raped. But you can only get covered for, “forcible rape”. So, according to the author of the bill, just saying “no” is no longer enough. Statutory rape is no longer covered, and people who have suffered date rape or who were sexually assaulted while they were drugged might the have to prove it was “forcible”. 163 republican co-sponsors. I wonder what the Republican Party actually stands for?
For more, let me bring in Colorado Congresswoman Diana DeGette . Congresswoman, is there any chance that this bill is actually going to make it through Congress and become law?
DIANA DEGETTE, COLORADO CONGRESSWOMAN: Well, Cenk, we‘re quite worried about this bill because, as you pointed out, we think the top priorities should be job creation. And, instead, this new majority—bill number one and bill number three—both restrict people‘s ability to get legal health care procedures. This bill—this Chris Smith bill you‘re talking about is an extreme bill, which not only redefines the term “forcible rape”, but it basically says that anybody who is employed by somebody who gets a tax credit for buying an insurance policy—which is thousands and thousands of employers right now—cannot buy an insurance policy that gives them coverage for full reproductive services.
So, this would, frankly, be the greatest restriction on a woman‘s right to choose in our lifetimes. And it seems to me, rather than spending all their time trying to stop people from getting health care services, the republicans should really be spending their time trying to help people get jobs.
UYGUR: So it isn‘t just about government funding. It also affects your private health insurance, which, of course expands it to almost all Americans.
DEGETTE: Right, right.
UYGUR: What I don‘t understand is what does it even mean? Is there even any legal definition of forcible rape? How do you go and prove that it was or wasn‘t?
DEGETTE: We‘re concerned about that provision because, of course, the Hyde Amendment, which is current law—it says no federal funding for abortion . That‘s the current law. Except in the instance of incest, rape, or the life of the mother. So, this Smith bill amends that to say “forcible rape”. And that is an archaic term that used to be used where women would have to come in and prove somehow, there was force used in the rape.
And we don‘t understand why you would want to change that exception to the Hyde Amendment. The only thing we can think of is that they would be trying to make it harder for rape victims to get medical services to get an abortion that they needed. So we are concerned about that, but we‘re also very deeply concerned that they‘re extending the prohibitions against funding to people who are spending their own money for insurance policies.
I really want to stress that to your viewers. Because, this is not just banning federal funding for abortions. We‘ve already done that. I disagree with it, but it‘s the law. But, what it‘s saying now is someone who gets a tax subsidy can‘t buy private insurance that covers full reproductive services. And this is a terrible expansion—it‘s very, very extreme. And frankly, as you said, there are a number of co-sponsors. We‘re afraid that it will pass the House. And, while we have good supporters in the Senate and, of course, the White House, we need to let people know just how extreme this agenda is and how it‘s getting in the way of what we really need to be doing in this country, which is creating jobs.
UYGUR: Well, obviously, that clause in the bill is beyond extreme. At a time when people are most traumatized to go in and try to prove, you know, one way or the other so you can get the funding you desperately need etc., it‘s unbelievable. But congresswoman, do you think they might have put the clause in there to try to move the political spectrum and then at the end they go, “all right, we‘ll take this one objectionable clause out, but let‘s pass the bill otherwise”?
DEGETTE: Well, you know, last year when we debated the health care bill, and there were similar attempts—although not even as extreme as this attempt—but the Stupak Amendment and other attempts last year—this definition was in the original bill, and they did take it out at the last minute.
So, I think in some ways, maybe it will serve to deflect the debate to say, “oh look, we‘re so unreasonable”. But in fact, they are restricting people‘s ability to get health care coverage with their own money. And so, whatever they do with that outrageous clause, this bill is extreme no matter how you look at it.
UYGUR: All right, Congresswoman Diana DeGette, thank you so much for your time. Really, appreciate it.
DEGETTE: Good to be with you.
UYGUR: All right. And when we come back, conservatives see an opportunity in Egypt to use—of course, what are they going to use it for? Use it to scare the bejesus out of people. We‘ll tell you what their latest absurd talking point is.
UYGUR: Some look at Egypt and see it as a wonderful opportunity for freedom and democracy. Conservatives look at Egypt and think of it as a wonderful opportunity for fear mongering.
Former Assistant Secretary of Defense, Frank Gaffney, wasted no time using the crisis in Egypt to push his conspiracy theories about Sharia law. He thinks our new enemy, the Muslim Brotherhood, will do whatever it takes to spread Sharia law around the world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANK GAFFNEY, AMERICAN CENTER FOR SECURITY POLICY: By far, the best organized, the most disciplined, and I think the most ruthless of the factions within Egypt at the moment is the Muslim Brotherhood. It is our enemy. Make no mistake about it. It seeks to bring Sharia about, not just in places like Egypt but worldwide. It wants a caliphate and it is willing to use whatever tools are necessary, though violence or though a “civilization jihad”, as they call it, to bring that about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Be afraid, be very afraid. Sharia law is coming.
But it doesn‘t stop there. It turns out there are people in our federal government who are sympathetic to the “stealth jihadists”.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are unquestionably people who are sympathetic to the program of the stealth jihadists who have influence with the United States government.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you name a few names?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, John Brenan, the Homeland Security adviser to the President of the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: He‘s complicit in—
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- on what the nature of the threat is. Jim Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, is incessantly meeting with Muslim Brotherhood front organizations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Janet Napolitano is working closely stealth jihadists? This might make more sense, though, if you knew her full name: Janet Abdullah Napolitano.
Meanwhile, we did find one person in the country who is sympathetic to Muslim culture. Republican Virginia State Delegate Bob Marshall. He‘s proposed a bill that would reinstate “Don‘t Ask Don‘t Tell” for Virginia National Guardsmen. Part of his reasoning for discriminating against gays is because some Muslim countries do it and we wouldn‘t want to offend them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB MARSHALL, VIRGINIA STATE DELEGATE: We‘re pushing the envelope here and we‘re going to jeopardize, I think, our alliances when we fight beside Muslim troops, who have a real hard time dealing with kind of behavior.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: So, maybe conservatives are so convinced that Sharia law is coming because they‘re bringing it. All right. Thanks for watching. “Hardball” starts right now.
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