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Msnbc Live at 6 p.m. ET, Thursday, Febuary 3rd, 2011

Read the transcript from the Thursday 6 p.m. hour

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Guests: Lester Holt, Hisham Melhem, Daniel Gross, Will Bunch, David Sirota

CENK UYGHUR, HOST:  More violence in Egypt—journalists attacked, aid workers attacked—as the country awaits what are expected to be huge protests tomorrow.  Tomorrow is the big, big day.  It‘s more important than ever that Mubarak leave now.  And the U.S. government has got to do everything possible to make that happen.

Earlier today, it was a scene of pitch battles between supporters and opponents of the government.  We‘ll have a live report from Cairo in just a second.

Also tonight, the Republicans end their massive hypocrisy on the budget.  I‘m going to break it down for you and show you how their budget makes no sense.

And the conservatives have the nerve to attack President Obama on Egypt, given what they‘ve done in foreign policy?  I‘m going to rip them apart.

All right.  But, first, based on the events today, I think Mubarak is finally done.  The army threw out the pro-Mubarak supporters from the Tahrir Square late last night.  They stopped the violence that was coming from the pro-Mubarak guys.

And if Mubarak has lost the army, and that‘s a big “if” for a long time, but last night was very indicative if you ask me, he has lost, period.  So, I think we might be on the cusp of actually getting Mubarak out.

Now, late today, he gave an almost laughable last-ditch excuse to stay in power.  Holed up inside his heavily guarded palace, Mubarak told ABC News, quote, “I am fed up.  After 62 years in public service, I have had enough.  I want to go.  If I resign today, there will be chaos.  Right now, I care about my country.”

What an absolute joke this is.  Public service?  You ran the country like a dictator for 29 years.  That isn‘t public service.  That‘s service for yourself.

And creating chaos?  You‘re the one creating chaos.  They‘re protesting you.  Please spare me with the—oh, I‘m so selfless.  I must protect my country.

Here‘s how you protect the country.  You leave.

           

Meanwhile, Mubarak‘s right hand man, Omar Suleiman is trying to

protect the power vacuum.  In an interviews, Suleiman told the protesters,

time to move along now.  “Reuters” reports, quote, “Addressing the

protestors, Suleiman said, ‘We thank you for what you did.  You are the

spark which ignited reform, but the protestors‘ demands have been met and

now it‘s time to go home.‘”

Again, another joke.  None of their demands have been met.  Mubarak is still in office.  His cronies like Suleiman are still in office, still in power.  And from my point of view, I hope the protestors stay and that they stay long enough to throw Mubarak out and Suleiman with him.

Right now, doctors are setting up makeshift hospitals in the street.  They report 10 people dead, and 800 more have been wounded.  Those people in there are unbelievably brave.

And the journalists are being roughed up and forced underground.  It‘s a clear attempt to scare them away from covering the thugs beating up the demonstrators.

Now, despite this violence, a massive rally is planned for tomorrow. 

A showdown in Cairo is coming.

All right.  Joining me now is Senator Robert Casey of Pennsylvania. 

He‘s a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator Casey

SEN. ROBERT CASEY (D), PENNSYLVANIA:  It‘s good to be with you.

UYGHUR:  It‘s great to have you here.

First, I got to ask about what Senator Leahy said on this program yesterday.  He said the pipeline of aid will be cut off in Congress in a matter of weeks or months.  Is that true?  Is that what‘s going to happen?

CASEY:  Well, I can‘t predict the future, but I‘ll say this, that very few Americans are not able to view what‘s happening in the streets of Cairo and Alexandria and other places.  And when we make determinations about funding, all of this—all of this evidence will be part of that decision.

So, I‘m not going to predict what will happen, but I think it‘s a question that the United States Congress now has to face and we will.

UYGHUR:  Senator Leahy also mentioned that President Obama can cut that pipeline of aid at anytime on any given day.  Do you have any idea whether he is considering that or already has done that?

CASEY:  I really don‘t know, but the Congress, as an independent, separate branch of government, is going to have to make this decision this year.

And look, one of the most important things we‘ve got to focus on right now is making every effort that we can, directly or indirectly, to bring about stability.  And that stability will lead to the kind of change that I know the Egyptian people not just hope for but are putting their lives at risk in some instances to bring about, political reform.  Reform so that have the rights that we take for granted here in the United States can be part of the fabric of Egypt, which is a great country and is suffering mightily right now.  And we‘ve got to do everything possible to make sure that that transition takes place orderly and that—

UYGHUR:  Right.

CASEY:  -- in a way that can bring about those kinds of reforms.

UYGHUR:  So, Senator Casey, let‘s talk about that transition and that stability you‘re mentioning.  What‘s our ideal?  Who would be the caretaker if Mubarak were to step down?  As we transition to democracy, we have the elections in seven months—who rules in that seven months between now and then if Mubarak steps aside?

CASEY:  I don‘t think we know the name of a person, necessarily.  I don‘t think anyone has emerged yet.  But what should happen, what makes the most sense is some kind of administrative body that can—that can make this transition.  Representation by civil authorities, representation by civil society, the people that—some of the people I met with when we were in Cairo going back into July, where they were telling us about the problems they have in everyday life.  They should be represented.  And, of course, that includes many of the leaders who have brought about this movement that we‘re seeing played out on the television.

And if you have—if you have an administrative body that can comes together that can bridge from here to there, so to speak, from where we are now, which is a very difficult time for this country, to a time when there‘s going to be elections and to move up that calendar so you‘re not waiting six months or nine months, you can get it done in a few month, then I think someone will emerge from that process.  And I‘m sure that the Egyptian people will find someone who can not only govern the country but keep out extremism and make sure that at all cost that the international agreements are abided by and that Israel is not put at risk because of the change in government.

UYGHUR:  Senator Casey, see, that‘s a tough balance.  And I get that the president is in a tough situation, the United States government is in to tough situation—not just because of the stability we need in Egypt and the allies we have in the region, but also because look, honestly, we‘re allies with a lot of other dictators in the Middle East.  And they don‘t want to see that we‘re going to pull away from them the minute there‘s a protest.

How do you thread that needle where you support democracy but at the same time not alienate some of your allies in the region who are similar to Mubarak?

CASEY:  Well, I think you analyzed it well.  It‘s very difficult.

And anyone who thinks that there‘s a guide book and they can do it better should try it.  It‘s very difficult, especially for the United States, but really for our country and the Congress as well.  We‘ve got to do everything possible—as I think we have already—to speak with one voice, Democrats and Republicans, to make sure that we‘re being constructive.

We can‘t tell the Egyptian people what to do.  We can‘t tell the government what to do.  But we‘ve got to do everything possible, both publicly and in what I‘m sure a lot of back-channel conversations about how best to move this forward, to create some stability and then also to put in place a structure to get from here to elections.  And then you can have a new era that comes about in Egypt in a way that‘s consistent with what has to be stability and security within the region.  And I think a lot of that starts with making sure that these international agreements, especially as it relates to Israel are adhered to.

UYGHUR:  All right.  Final question for you, Senator Casey, on Omar Suleiman, who‘s the vice president, who‘s Mubarak‘s right hand man—if they transition to Suleiman, is that basically the same thing as Mubarak?  Is that not good enough?

CASEY:  Well, he—Suleiman, someone I met with in July in our trip, he‘s a very smart, capable, experienced person—comes from an intelligence and military background.

But, in my judgment, this is my opinion—I don‘t think he would as a

figure be the right transitional figure to lead that.  He might play a role

and today he gave a speech and I guess is trying to play a role, but this -

this would have to be a group of people that has a broad consensus or there‘s a consensus underneath of a broad coalition of leaders.  And part of that is military, part of that is civilian leadership, and part of that are folks who are leading the reform effort to get from a period of violence and discord—and last night, a lot of anarchy on the streets—to a position where they can elect their leaders and move forward into a bright and positive future for Egypt.

           

UYGHUR:  I totally agree with that.  And from my perspective, it‘s a relief to hear you say that.  Senator Casey, thank you so much for joining us tonight.  I really appreciate it.

CASEY:  Thank you.

UYGHUR:  All right.  Joining me now on the phone from Cairo is NBC‘s Lester Holt.

Lester, I know they‘ been attacking journalists all day today.  Can you tell us who the attacks have come from?  Do you guys know?  And what has been the result?

LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS (via telephone):  Well, you know, we‘ve heard many anecdotal reports, and you can‘t confirm them all.  But there‘s been a pattern certainly of some of the same people who perpetrated the violence in the square primarily yesterday hassling and attacking journalists.

We‘ve also had reports of journalists who have been detained, arrested by security forces.  I haven‘t witnessed anything myself, all of our folks are good and accounted for.  But it‘s very disturbing and very difficult.  There‘s a reason that I‘m on the phone instead of in front of the camera right now because there is a crackdown on the ability to get out the message.

Tomorrow is a big day and some would argue that this is all a build-up because tomorrow after Friday prayers, there‘s a call for anti-government forces to come to the square.  And so, there‘s a fear in the government that it‘s going to be a major demonstration.  And the thought perhaps is to shut off the messengers who would bring that story.

But, nonetheless, there was—we were witness to some pretty intense fighting today, that spilled out of the square, into the streets, under one of the major bridges that crosses the Nile to the island here.  The military pulled back from the square at one point.  We heard the gunfire and then one group raced up after another across an overpass and then they fought back and there was sticks and stones going back and forth.

Tonight actually kind of—it‘s pretty calm.  It‘s noisy.  We can hear what we think the anti-government protestors from the square itself, and they‘re chanting and singing and hearing speeches.  And it appears the pro-Mubarak forces have pulled back.  We see them in the overpass.  But there‘s not been much intense fighting.  And it‘s been a while since we heard gunfire out here.

So, let‘s hope—we‘ve seen the worst of it, even though many think tomorrow could be a very, very difficult day (INAUDIBLE).

UYGHUR:  All right. Lester, it always comes back to the military for me, and I think for the people analyzing this, because if the military pulls back, and lets the Mubarak forces commit violence, then obviously, they‘re on the side of Mubarak to some degree and that spells a lot of trouble.

Now, the fact that they‘re letting you guys—letting the journalists be intimidated and run out, that‘s a very bad sign.  But on the other hand, last night, they removed the pro-Mubarak protestors from the square.  I took that to be an excellent sign.

So, any sense to where the military stands on this?

HOLT:  You know, it‘s hard to say.  I‘m sitting today watching an altercation with mob was dragging a guy away.  I think these were anti-government protestors who were dragging a man on the other side away, and they were beating him, but they were essentially dragging him to a military checkpoint.

And the military guys reached out and grabbed him, almost in a rescue kind of a role.  That‘s what it appeared to me when I saw that and then they brought him around.  And then it happened again, we saw that.

So, we‘ve seen them act in that kind of role, but not being very proactive.  And the only thing we‘ve seen in a (INAUDIBLE) extent, is they will fire their weapons occasionally over the tops of the crowd if they feel like they‘re being overrun, but certainly nothing to harm anyone.

You know, they pulled back at one point at the height of this battle, then they came back in.  And then a few hours later, a tank racing across the bridge at high speed firing his weapon.  You know, we saw the tracer around, you know, firing over down town.  So, it‘s really, really hard to get a sense of what their marching orders are.

During the height of the battle, we saw one big Abrams tank kind of pull up under an overpass to take shelter.  And it was like, you know, excuse me?  You‘ve got people fighting on either side of stones and the tank is taking shelter.  So, it‘s just very odd images here.

UYGHUR:  Yes, there‘s an absolute bizarre twist to this where you‘re basically in the middle of a civil war with the army in the middle not doing anything.  It‘s amazing.  It‘s fascinating.

But NBC‘s Lester Holt, great reporting.  Thank you so much for joining us.  Really appreciate it.

HOLT:  You‘re more than welcome.

UYGHUR:  All right.  Now, for more, let me bring Hisham Melhem, Al Arabiya‘s Washington bureau chief.

Let me start with this.  You know, everybody is talking about the military rightfully so.  I was very encouraged last night when the military basically cleared the pro-Mubarak protestors, did not allow them to continue the violence.  I took that as a sign of Mubarak is on his last days.

First, was I over-optimistic in that analysis last night?

HISHAM MELHEM, AL ARABIYA:  You may have been.

(LAUGHTER)

MELHEM:  Look, I think there‘s a huge debate within the military, too.  There‘s a concern—I heard this today from well-placed sources if the military doesn‘t move, maybe the Mubarak‘s party, people in the interior ministry, the thugs we‘ve seen yesterday and today may move, too, on their own.  And military doesn‘t want to risk a confrontation with elements who are still loyal to President Mubarak, particularly the presidential guard.  You‘ve heard the infamous phrase, presidential guard in connection with the old Iraq.

So, there is some concern that some military officers would like to avoid shedding bloodshed while the whole world is watching.  Now, what we saw today is extremely disturbing.  And I can tell you from watching what‘s taking place there, that our people, Al Arabiya‘s bureau were ransacked, along with other bureaus belonging to international and regional media outlets.  They were chasing the reporters.  They chased them when they found out that they sought refuge in a nearby hotel.

So, there‘s a mood of intimidation.  They‘re confiscating equipment, which could be a prelude to a huge crackdown on Friday, tomorrow.  Friday is dubbed now (INAUDIBLE), which is in Arabic, the “Departures Friday.”  That is the departure of Hosni Mubarak.  And this could mean that the regime is planning to do something awful and they want to do it in the dark.

UYGHUR:  Right.  I got to—I got to jump in there and ask you one quick question there because, yes, you know, we‘re all worried about what‘s going to happen tomorrow and they don‘t want any eyes on it.  I got that.

Now, as far as the military, though, you know, everybody is talking about them as if the only thing they care about is the country.  Let‘s keep it real, OK?  They also care about their money.  Mubarak has given them contracts before, but yet a lot of their money comes from the U.S.

Talk to me about how that plays out as quickly as you can which side does that fall on.  And is that the most important consideration?

MELHEM:  Let me tell you something in general—as someone who watches the region and cares for it, I have a jaundiced view of Arab militaries in general.  They are fat, they are lazy and they are good at internal oppression.  And maybe this army is a little better than the one in Syria which is very willing to shot at people, or the old army of Saddam Hussein which killed people en masse.

I agree with you.  They have a vested interest in the system.  They are fat cats.  They live in villas, and they have all sorts of perks.

And it‘s your tax dollar money and my tax dollar money—which is, by the way, not awful in the sense that this country, the United States, should have some influence with the officer of corps, the senior officer corps of the Egyptian army.

UYGHUR:  Right.

MELHEM:  Those guys—

(CROSSTALK)

UYGHUR:  Unfortunately, we‘ve got to leave it right there.  But let me tell you something, I think you hit the nail on the head.  And I hope we can use that influence to get the Mubarak government out.

Hisham Melhem of Al Arabiya—thank you so much for joining us. 

Really appreciate it.

MELHEM:  Thank you.

UYGHUR:  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UYGHUR:  As soon as they got in office, Republicans asked the corporations, what can we do for you?  Well, the corporations sent them letters of demand.  We have those.  We‘ll show them to you when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MAJORITY LEADER:  We will also get right to work to reduce the deficit which next year alone will save the taxpayers $100 billion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Cut government spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels, saving immediately $100 billion.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

UYGHUR:  Now, that was during the elections.  Then the Republicans kept saying, oh, we‘re going to cut $100 billion.  You saw it for yourself.  You just got to trust me, trust me.

Well, I didn‘t.  I didn‘t trust them.  I didn‘t believe it for a second.

And the GOP then went on to make that promise a centerpiece of their Pledge to America, saying they would make the cuts to f they win control of the House in midterms.  Well, today, they did win control of the House and today they announced their actual plan.  And it was immediately full of fail.

It turns out, they could only find $32 billion in cuts.  Look at that. 

What a shame.

They said, no, no, no.  We‘re actually going to cut $58 billion, but there‘s only eight months left in the year.  So, if you do the math, it‘s actually just $32 billion, but we should get credit for more, and it‘s kind of almost close to $100 billion.

No, it‘s not.  It‘s not close to $100 billion at all.

Now, look at this number -- $400 billion.  According to the Congressional Budget Office, that‘s how much Republicans added to the deficit this year alone, by insisting on the Bush tax cuts.

So, let me do some math for you, OK?  Four hundred billion minus $32 billion, that equals $100 billion in cuts?  I got news for you, it doesn‘t.

I know Republicans think math is a well-known liberal bias, to borrow a phrase.  But the reality is, House Budge Committee Chairman Paul Ryan should do the real math.  And here‘s the real math: $400 billion minus $32 billion means there are $368 billion to make up to get to square one.  And then the Republicans would still have to find another $100 billion to make good on their real promise, the promise you just saw.

But let‘s just leave all that aside and just look at the $400 billion that they added to the deficit.  In the end, by getting to $32 billion, they took out a whopping 8 percent from that $400 million.  Wow!

When Republicans say they care about balancing the budget, it is simply not true.  It isn‘t within miles of true.  They just put another $368 billion hole in the budget and that was mainly to help the rich.  They are the ones who believe in redistributing wealth, giving tax breaks to the rich and then cutting programs to the middle class.  That‘s GOP 101.

By the way, Paul Ryan hasn‘t even said exactly where the $32 billion in cuts is going to come from.  He says that will be up to the different committees to figure out.  Bold, bold, very, bold.  But they have indicated they‘re coming after the EPA first, tax breaks for the rich, pollution f or you.

Welcome to the Republicans in charge.

All right.  Now with me is Daniel Gross, economic editor for Yahoo!

Finance.

All right, Dan, you see I‘m worked up about it.  But tell me where I‘m wrong.  They said $100 billion.  This isn‘t $100 billion, is it?

DANIEL GROSS, YAHOO! FINANCE:  What we‘re witnessing is what I call—and I‘m trying to trademark this—the fiscal clown show.  It‘s like one of those deals where, you know, the little car comes up and then one clown comes out and another.  And they‘re every stripe.  They‘re conservative Republicans.  They are moderate Republicans.

And actually, President Obama himself has played a big role on this, because the first thing that happened after the election was—remember, he was saying, well, we‘re not going to let taxes—the tax cuts extend for those above $250,000 because, hey, our deficit is above $1 trillion.  And then, of course, he signed off on that.

So, this is a bipartisan fiscal clown show affair.  And I think what people need to know about the deficit hawks is that 98.5 percent of them are not serious or to be believed.  It‘s something you wield at as a cudgel, to hit your opponent over the head with.  And then when time comes to govern, for making difficult choices, you have to punt (ph) -- you know, it‘s never a good time to cut taxes.  It‘s never a good time to cut spending.  St. Augustine had that famous line—give me chastity but not quite yet.

UYGHUR:  Right.  Exactly.

GROSS:  Give me austerity, but not until after the next election.

UYGHUR:  Dan, there‘s three real deficit hawks in the country and I‘m actually one of them, OK?  I don‘t believe in any of the tax cuts.  I didn‘t want tax cuts for the rich.  I didn‘t even want them for the middle class, OK?  Because you know why?  Because it puts a $400 billion hole in the budget and we just can‘t afford it.

So—and you‘re right, President Obama went along with that.  He cut the deal, et cetera, et cetera.  He says, oh, my God, you know, you can get reasonable tax rates but two years from now.  Exactly to your St. Augustine line.

But having said that, the Republican Party, this is their big thing.  This is what they run on.  They said, all right, look, look, I‘m the guy who balanced the budget.  But they‘ve never balanced the budget.

Reagan didn‘t balance the budget.  George W. Bush didn‘t balance the budget.  They never do it.

And here‘s—I mean, this is—I mean, do they think—are they stupid or do they think their followers are stupid?  Who can‘t do math?

GROSS:  That‘s a difficult choice.  It could be both.  You know, the difference is that governing, which they haven‘t had to do the last couple of years and which they did a poor job of when they actually had the levers of power is much harder than campaigning.  And you see this, first of all, with health care.  Remember when they said, and saying it for a year, we‘re going to repeal and replace.  Well, they vote to repeal—the replacement is something they haven‘t had time to work something out.

UYGHUR:  Oh, yes.

GROSS:  They run on the balanced budget, rolling it back to 2008.  There is a difference between simply saying, we shall not spend an X amount of money, which Paul Ryan is doing.  He‘s at the committee where he can just sort of say that without actually having to implement it.  And then the appropriators having to say, OK, this line is going down 80 percent, this line is going down 50 percent.

Nobody seems to have gone through that exercise.  That was always put off until after the election.  And I think actually, we‘re now in a situation where they‘re going to say, well, look, the Senate is not going to take it up because that‘s control by Democrats and Obama is not going to sign whatever we‘re going to do anyway, so, really, what‘s the point?

(CROSSTALK)

GROSS:  Do something symbolic without saying, by the way, we want to cut education spending 90 percent.

UYGHUR:  Right.  That‘s the classic cop out.  Oh, we‘d be really tough at all these Democrats.  And the Democrats are obviously intrigued (ph), they go, oh, I mean, we‘d balance the budget, but these Republicans!  Either way, we had to give the tax cuts to the rich.

And that goes to my last point, Dan.  I mean, this is redistribution of the wealth.  You know, you give this massive tax cut that goes mainly to the top 1 percent and when it‘s time to cut, you go, I got to cut entitlements, I got to cut Social Security, I got to cut the things for the middle class, I‘ve got to give you more pollution that hurts everybody.

Isn‘t that redistribution of wealth to the top?

GROSS:  Well, the misdirection is even beyond that because we frequently hear people say, you know, we have this entitlements problem.  That‘s going to sink us in the long term.

Social Security, aside from not being in trouble has helped keep us solvent for all these years.  Because over the last 20 year, these surpluses have built up, they don‘t put them in the lock box that Al Gore used to talk about.  They spend it every year.

So, if we hadn‘t been spending in ‘90s and especially in this past decade, that Social Security surplus, the deficits and the national debt would be even larger.  So, there is a lot of misdirection about who needs to pay and whose hide that should come out of to deal with the long-term structural imbalances that we have.

UYGHUR:  Right.  Absolutely right.  And they‘re going to come to raid Social Security and say, oh, sorry, the money is gone.  When that happens, I‘m going to explode.  So, you think I‘m angry now, wait until you get a load of me then.

But, Dan Gross, great reporting.  Thank you so much for joining us on this.  Really appreciate it.

GROSS:  Good to be here.

UYGHUR:  Now ahead, which one of these two men have a stronger record on illegal immigration?  Here‘s a hint to all my friends on the right.  It‘s not the guy you think.  Facts when we return on this issue.

Plus, the latest problem Republicans have with Al Gore‘s position on global warming.  Apparently, it‘s his personal life.  This GOP excuse for not acting on climate change takes the cake.  I literally couldn‘t believe it when I heard it.  I‘ll tell you what it is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UYGUR:  First, we have a good news update for you guys.  After a few of public discuss and outrage has made the Republicans re-consider their push to redefine rate.  We allow you this story yesterday.  And today, Politico broke the news that quote, “the modifier forcible will be dropped so that the exemption covers all forms of rape, as well as in cases of incest and the endangerment to the life of the  mother.”  Aren‘t they not merciful?  They will now consider all rape to be legitimate.  Wow, thank you so much.  And even went back in covering incest.  Very generous.  The bill now returns the original Hyde amendment language, which then allow government money to be spend on abortions anyway. 

All right.  Now, let‘s play a fun game.  Which republican told the biggest most ridiculous lie this week? Congratulations Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois, come on down!  The newly elected senator voted for Cap and Trade bill back in 2009 when he was in the House.  But now he‘s totally flip flopped on carbon emissions, and he says, Al Gore made him do it.  Really?  Kirk explained quote, “the consensus behind the climate change bill collapsed and in further deteriorated with the personal and political collapse of Vice President Gore.” 

Kirk voted for Cap and Trade in ‘09.  Al Gore got separated from his wife in 2010.  And so Senator Kirk doesn‘t care about climate change anymore.  I mean, seriously, is that a joke?  If that‘s how Mark Kirk makes his decisions, then he should be recalled right now.  Well, I agree with that bill, but Al Gore likes to get massages, so all of a sudden I don‘t like the bill anymore.  What do you care about what Al Gore does?  Whether he‘s married or divorce, why would that affect how you vote on a bill at all?

How incredibly shallow are you?  Look, the good people of Illinois, now you know how your senator makes decisions.  I don‘t know why you would ever put up with that.  Now, who‘s tougher on illegal immigration?  President Bush or President Obama?  If you guess the president currently in the White House, ding, ding, ding, we have a winner.  And new data study by Syracuse University chooses Obama administration has significantly ramped up immigration enforcement.  President Obama allocated unprecedented amount of troops and funding to the border.  The result, in 2010, the U.S.  supported roughly 393,000 people, nearly 100,000 more than in 2007 when Bush was in charge.  Felony immigration prosecutions along the border are up 77 percent from 2007.  Non-felony immigration prosecutions are up a whopping 259 percent.  The reports points out that increased prosecutions are due to an increase in manpower, which Obama put there, not based on an increase in crime. 

So I‘m sure a republican apology on this issue is forthcoming.  You are wrong about who suffer on immigration, right?  Right?  I‘m still waiting.  We‘ll see how that turns out.  All right.  Now when we come back, from Reagan to Rumsfeld, the republican record in the Middle East has been a complete and utter failure.  And conservatives have the nerve to criticize President Obama on Egypt?  I‘m going to make them regret that next.    

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UYGUR:  While the republican leadership has remained quietly supportive of President Obama during the Egyptian crisis, conservative commentators have been on the attack.  First, there‘s the Obama isn‘t doing enough line of attack. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN:  How is President Obama doing on Egypt?

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  I don‘t think they have a clue.  I think it‘s very frightening to watch this administration. 

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN:  Would anybody?

GINGRICH:  Well, Reagan would have had.  Because, Reagan, I mean, Reagan would have thought about and studied radical Islam.  And Reagan would have had a strategy and would have pursued it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UYGUR:  Is that right?  Reagan would have pursued the terrorists.  You mean like the ones who bombed our marine barracks in Lebanon, killing 241 service members?  Oh, no, that‘s right.  Reagan cut and run from Lebanon after that attack.  Or maybe Gingrich meant Reagan would have pursued the radical Islamists to make a deal with them.  As he did when he negotiates with terrorists and sold them arms for hostages in the Iran contra affair.  No one was more accommodating to terrorist demands than Ronald Reagan.  Now, the second line of attack on President Obama is that he‘s done too much, that he shouldn‘t be on the side of the protestors.  In fact, former deputy of assistant secretary of defense and current lunatic Frank Gaffney theorizes that the president is in cahoots with the Muslim brotherhood. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRANK GAFFNEY, FOUNDER, AMERICAN CENTER FOR SECURITY POLICY:  The Obama administration‘s policies are being viewed through and actually articulated and now implemented through influence operations that the Muslim brotherhood itself is running in our own country.  You cannot possibly get your strategy right, you cannot execute it effectively if you don‘t know that the enemy is actually giving you advice on how to proceed. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UYGUR:  Cuckoo for cocoa-puffs.  He thinks the Muslim brotherhood is taking over the country, and his conspiring with the president and giving him advice.  They‘re about to takeover.  Look, the republican strategy in the Middle East has been an absolute disaster for the last 30 years.  First, it was Reagan running from or making sweetheart deals with terrorists.  Then it was George W. Bush launching senseless wars for so-called democracy.  Today, details of Donald Rumsfeld‘s new book has come out.  Rummy says, Bush insisted on new military plans for Iraq just 15 days after September 11.  Meaning that they decided that they were going to Iraq no matter who actually did 9/11. 

If you think that‘s bad, according to the Pentagon notes, four hours after the attacks, four hours, Rumsfeld said, quote, “my interest is to hit Saddam Hussein at the same time, not to only look at UBL.”  UBL being Osama Bin Laden.  So, the brilliant Republicans strategy in the Middle East was, do not focus on the guy who actually order 9/11, but they instead attack a random Middle Eastern country that had nothing to do with 9/11 and they always wanted to attack anyway.  Look, in the final analysis, Republicans can‘t decide whether we should make deals with terrorists or invade random Muslim countries.  And now they can‘t decide whether they should blame Obama for being for pro-Mubarak or against Mubarak.  All they have is vitriol, blind criticism and they‘re proven failures in the past.  You‘ll excuse President Obama if he doesn‘t take their foreign policy advice too seriously.

Joining me now is Will Bunch, senior fellow for Media Matters for America.  He‘s also the author of the book, “Tear Down this Myth: The Right Wing Distortion of the Reagan legacy.”  That‘s pretty relevant that you would be here then for me to ask you this question.

WILL BUNCH, MEDIA MATTERS FOR AMERICA:  Yes, it‘s a good timing. 

Hey, Cenk, how‘s it going?

UYGUR:  Great.  Great.  You know, they‘re celebrating Reagan, oh, 100 years, et cetera.  So, let me ask you this very simple question, was Reagan the worst president we‘ve ever had on terrorism?

BUNCH:  Well, I think if President Obama did some of the things that President Reagan did when it came to terrorism, I think he would be crucified if that‘s the right word.  And I think you nailed some of it in your intro.  I mean, you know, that comment from Newt Gingrich about how Reagan would have thought about and studied Islamic fundamentalism.  I hope so because he came into office right after the Iranian revolution of 1979.  So, if he hadn‘t studied Islamic fundamentalism, he wasn‘t prepared to be president.  I think he knew what was going on in the region but his policy was a mess. 

Look at what he did in Lebanon, like he said, he sent American marines over there with no clear-cut mission.  It was a muddled mess.  And then there was a bombing which over 240 Americans died, and as you rightly said, I mean, he made a decision which I think was probably the right decision, which was to take those marines out of Lebanon.  But any president who did that today would be accused of cutting and running.  At the time, though, I think it was common sense to try and get out of a terrible policy in the first place.  You know, right after that, then Americans started getting taken hostage in Lebanon and Reagan‘s response to that was to try and get them out by trading arms with the Iranians, our supposed enemies. 

UYGUR:  He made a deal. 

BUNCH:  Right.

UYGUR:  He made a deal with terrorists.  There is no answers of buts about it. 

BUNCH:  You know the thing about that is, it didn‘t work.  Because they ended up taking more hostages at the end than when he started. 

UYGUR:  Reagan is a recipe for what the Republicans claim they don‘t want happening now.  Negotiating with terrorists, cutting and running, et cetera.  Now, let‘s go from the clowns of yesteryear to the clowns of today.  Glenn Beck apparently has this theory about how the Islamic caliphate is going to take over and Obama doesn‘t understand it.  Let‘s show you that clip first. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  I want to show you the coming insurrection.  Here‘s Egypt, Libya, Tunisia.  What‘s next to Tunisia?  Algeria, also on fire now.  The riots are starting here.  Morocco is on fire.  What‘s across from Morocco?  Spain.  Connected to franc and Germany and Italy.  Also on fire.  And Greece, also on fire.  It also spreads up here.  You have the U.K. and Ireland, already with riots in the street. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UYGUR:  U.K. and Ireland.  When do you think Dublin falls to the Islamic caliphate? 

BUNCH:  You know, if somebody had given that speech on the street corner in New York City, they probably would be, you know, involuntarily committed, I mean, that‘s just crazy and I just absorbed myself in Beck rolled for the last year doing another book called, “The Backlash.”  And I think this just typifies how conservatives are all over the map.  They don‘t know what they want in the Middle East.  Because they‘re so committed rhetorically to pushing for democracy, except democracy, when they realize it might get them somebody they don‘t like, then all of a sudden they don‘t like democracy.  They‘re all over the place.  

UYGUR:  That‘s it, Will.  I mean, that‘s what I ask you.  I can‘t figure it out, you know, because every day they come out with something new.  They‘re like, oh, you know, Mubarak is bad and Obama is with Mubarak.  Oh, Obama is with the protestors and they‘re Muslims.  I don‘t get it. 

They‘re both Muslim, who do I criticize?

BUNCH:  No, they don‘t know.  And, you know, the bottom line is, our policy over in the Middle East has been not so good for decades.  I mean, we‘ve supported dictators who committed all kinds of civil rights violations.  And cause the masses of everyday people.  Stood up anti-Americanism by supporting these dictators and by supporting this distance that are not democratic.  And so now it‘s a bind, you know, if you open up democracy it‘s like, oh, my God, they might vote for people who are anti-American.  I mean, one piece of good news I think that‘s not getting a lot of attention is that impressions of the United States have improved  dramatically since President Obama came into office and since he gave that speech in Cairo in 2009.  And maybe that‘s something to grasp on to if... 

UYGUR:  No, no, no way, what I‘ll say with that is, you see that?  The Islamic caliphate likes Obama.  And if his approval numbers are low in those countries, oh, Obama screwed it up. 

All right.  I get a sense of where they are.  They just criticize, they don‘t care if it‘s logical or not. 

BUNCH:  Right.

UYGUR:  But Will Bunch, thank you so much for your time.  We appreciate it. 

BUNCH:  Thanks a lot, Cenk, anytime. 

UYGUR:  All right.  Now, the top republican has asked private corporations how he can help them destroy regulations they don‘t like.  Now he‘s gotten their wish list and starting to do their bidding.  Also, Karl Rove says something that might be even dumber than Mark Kirk.  He got a love like he thinks Egypt is more prone to democracy than other Arab nations.  It‘s great.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UYGUR:  Being in Congress pays, especially if you‘re a freshman or a republican.  The Wall Street journal reports that big corporations have given roughly $2 million combined to the political action committee of the 80 new Republicans in the House.  The journal explained, quote, “it‘s all part of a biannual cycle where newly elected lawmakers tries to raise money and interest groups seek to curry favor with new faces.”  In other words, it‘s organized bribery.  You get elected, they pay you, you do their bidding.  Very simple.  Hey, Tea Party, how‘s those Republicans working out for you?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UYGUR:  Remember a few weeks back when House Oversight Committee Chairman Darryl Issa asked 150 corporations and trade associations for help on what to target to deregulate.  Basically asking them, what can I do for you?  Well, they responded.  Big time.  So far Issa has refused to release their responses, but 33 of the companies responded to a request from citizens for responsibility and ethics in Washington.  So we have a sample of their wish list.  The American chemistry council wants Issa to crackdown on a recent proposal to increase the EPA standards on boilers and incinerators.  Those regulations would cut down on pollutants that are harmful to children.  Who doesn‘t want more pollutants that are particularly harmful to children?  Then there is the national multi-housing council. 

And who doesn‘t like the EPA safety regulations that prevent contractors from releasing lead-based paint into the air during home renovations?  So they say the regulations pose a quote, “major obstacle for housing market recovery.”  Great, more lead for everybody.  And, when I can‘t live up the international sleep products association, they‘re mad about the flammability test for children‘s mattresses.  So, if these companies have their way, your kids could be pumped up full of pollutants, and poisoned by lead paint but it really wouldn‘t matter because they could be sleeping on mattresses that can burst into flames. 

Look, of course those are extreme examples.  But let‘s hope any of that doesn‘t happen.  But you do need a careful balance of safety for the public and efficiency for business.  But in this case, the Republicans are only listening to the companies whose soul interest is in making more money.  The less regulations there are, the more money they make.  That‘s why they buy republican politicians in the first place.  Now, let‘s show you the business round table, they came out with a larger list of 22 regulations, divide that up into three categories, they don‘t like any of this, health care retirement benefits, financial reform, and environmental regulation. 

These guys are against CEOs having to disclose their earnings, they don‘t want protections for whistleblowers, and they really don‘t like the regulation of greenhouse gases.  And the GOP is already working hard to appease these guys.  Yesterday, House Republicans introduce a bill to eliminate EPA regulations of carbon emissions.  Lovely.  Congressmen Fred Upton and Ed Whitfield who are spearheading the effort release the following statement, quote, “we firmly believe federal bureaucrats should not be unilaterally setting the national climate change policy.”  Oh, no, no, no, of course not.  The national climate change should be left up to big business. 

Joining me now is David Sirota, nationally syndicated columnist, and host on AM 760 in Colorado.  He‘s also the author of “The Uprising.”  David, I‘m going to give a nickname, I‘m going to start calling you, “The Uprising,” from now.  I like that.  I think it sounds cool. 

DAVID SIROTA, AUTHOR, “THE UPRISING”:  I love it.  I love it.

UYGUR:  All right.  So, the Republican Party, how bought are they? 

Eighty percent, 90 percent or 100 percent?

SIROTA:  That‘s an impossible question.  But one thing, Cenk, give Darryl Issa credit here, right?  He came out and he was honest about how the system works.  So, I don‘t want to—I mean, I‘m saying that a little tongue and cheek, but here‘s the thing.  He came out and he said, listen, hey, big money interests, you want to buy policy?  Here‘s how you buy it.  You tell me exactly what you want and we‘re going to try to deliver.  And the problem with this is really in a process way is usually what‘s happened in the past is that industries had to come to the government and testify and tell us what they wanted.  Now he‘s doing it through this letter-writing situation where the public won‘t necessarily know who‘s asking for the policy when it ultimately fits into the bill that the Republicans offer. 

UYGUR:  So, how do they do it?  And I guess they do it with the money, right?  They get the money from the industry guys, they run for office and they pretend to be for the people, then they turn around and go OK, how do I pay you back?  And they do this.  How do we let people know other than this obviously that these guys aren‘t you on your side?  They don‘t care if you get, you know, you have to suffer pollution in your local area or whatever.  It‘s for the guys who pay their bills. 

SIROTA:  Well, I think the public knows that in a general sense.  I think the public is rightly suspicious of Congress, rightly suspicious—every poll shows suspicious of money and politics.  But I think every time a story like this comes out, it reiterates just how granular the corruption really is, just how in the micro it really is in terms of legislating different lines, different regulations of bills.  So, it‘s important to continue highlighting this to reiterate that money, as you suggest, money buys things in politics, just like it buys things in the rest of the economy. 

UYGUR:  Right.  Real quick, David.  Do you think they‘re going to be successful?  They‘re going after the EPA hard.  That‘s their top target.  How successful do you think they might be?

SIROTA:  I think they‘re going to be pretty successful if the Democrats roll over, and that‘s a huge if right now.  The president is focusing on being, quote, unquote, “pro business.”  And that may mean that the president tries to appease the Republicans, who of course are shilling for their big money interests, and we may see that come to fruition when it comes to EPA policy making. 

UYGUR:  All right.  Let‘s hope it doesn‘t happen, but I‘m a little worried. 

David Sirota, thanks for your time tonight.  And by the way, I have to say, I‘m sorry, “The Uprising,” thank you for your time.  All right.  We‘ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UYGUR:  Despite the fact that Karl Rove has been fear mongering about the situation in Egypt, he still has a certain amount of optimism about the country.  OK.  Now, why?  He tells his old buddy Sean Hannity, Egypt has tends to be more western in their orientation. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KARL ROVE, FORMER DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF:  Egypt is not the run of the mill Middle Eastern country that views itself exclusively or even primarily through an Islamic lens.  This is a country that has a long and proud tradition where people view themselves not as simply, you know, followers of Muhammad, but these are the people who are descended from Ramses and Cleopatra.  And as a result, they tended to be more western in their orientation. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UYGUR:  How are Ramses and Cleopatra western?  They‘re from Egypt.  My guess is this is why, Rove thinks Cleopatra‘s western.  Look, this Cleopatra has blue eyes, she looks so western.  No wonder she‘s so civilized.  And as for Ramses, well, Charlton Heston played his brother in the Ten Commandments, and if he‘s Heston brother, then he must be one of us.  After all, who could possibly be more western than Charlton Heston. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLTON HESTON, FORMER AMERICAN ACTOR:  From my cold, dead hands. 

Hell yes. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UYGUR:  Oh yes, by the way, other than Rove‘s statement being asinine, how laced with it is racism? Laced with racism, is it?  I can‘t believe—

Muslims can‘t believe in democracy?  I wish these guys were still in charge in a situation like this. 

All right.  Thanks for watching.  “HARDBALL” starts right now. 

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