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Msnbc Live at 6 p.m. ET, Friday April 22nd, 2011

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

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Guests: Jim McDermott, Richard Wolffe, Steve Sebelius, Joe Madison, David

Sirota, Richard Socarides

CENK UYGUR, HOST:  Good evening.  I‘m Cenk Uygur.  And we‘ve got a lovely Friday show for you guys today. 

In fact, tonight, the left has started fighting back.  From local town hall events to the president, it‘s on. 

President Obama did his part by continuing to pound Republicans who want to give tax breaks to the rich and make the poor and the middle class pay the bill. 


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I don‘t want my tax cut paid for by cutting children from Head Start, or doing away with health insurance for millions of people on Medicaid, for seniors in nursing homes or poor children, or families that have a disabled child.  I don‘t want to make that tradeoff. 


UYGUR:  Those are good fighting words.  All right.  Here we go. 

And now the simmering outrage is also beginning to boil over at local events.  Every day we‘re getting new reports of Republican lawmakers getting grilled by voters in their home districts over plans to privatize Medicare and, of course, on their plans to reduce taxes for the risk. 

Now, check out what happened to Congressman Sean Duffy. 


REP. SEAN DUFFY ®, WISCONSIN:  I don‘t want to penalize businesses.  I want to encourage them to come here and set up shop and put our people to work.  That‘s what I want to do.  And if you penalize them by way of mandates and manipulations—

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Making them pay their fair share?  The Ryan budget proposes to turn Medicare into a voucher program. 

DUFFY:  No, it doesn‘t. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, it does. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, that‘s what my understanding is—that‘s what it is. 


UYGUR:  And for the record, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office agrees with the informed constituent there, not the congressman.  That is what the Ryan plan does.

Now, here‘s another Republican on his heels over Ryan‘s plan, Congressman Patrick Meehan. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  If you voted to abolish Medicare, how do you explain that to people who are in their 50s, who are out of work, that they will have not the Medicare that I have? 

REP. PATRICK MEEHAN ®, PENNSYLVANIA:  You said in your comment that I voted to abolish Medicare.  And that‘s factually wrong. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Well, how is that wrong? 

MEEHAN:  Ma‘am, let me answer the question and then I‘ll talk to you. 

Thank you. 


MEEHAN:  I voted for the Ryan plan. 


UYGUR:  By the way, guess who said he didn‘t vote—wouldn‘t vote for the Ryan plan just a few months ago during the campaign season?  Of course, Patrick Meehan. 


MEEHAN:  That‘s the agenda I‘m not voting for.  That‘s the first and most important thing.


UYGUR:  Oops, except when he did vote for it.  I love that his constituents are now holding him accountable. 

Now, back to the action, a town hall held by Republican Lou Barletta this week also got out of hand. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Take the tax cuts that were given to the wealthy two percent --  


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  -- and put it in Medicare. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I agree with her.  And you know what?  Why don‘t you tell me to sit down? 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She‘s an American citizen. 



UYGUR:  There‘s a lot of shut up and sit downs in there.  It‘s getting heated. 

And if all that wasn‘t enough, this week, Paul Ryan, the actual architect, was booed by his own constituents for resisting raising taxes on the rich. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We have to lower spending, but it‘s a matter of, there‘s not wrong with taxing the top because it does not trickle down.

REP. Paul RYAN ®, WISCONSIN:  We do tax the top. 



UYGUR:  I never tire of that. 

And finally, how is this for a direct message?  At a town hall meeting for New Hampshire Republican Charlie Bass, a voter said, point blank, “I like Medicare the way it is.  Don‘t screw it up.” 

You know what?  That about sums it up. 

So, joining me now is Congressman Jim McDermott, Democrat from Washington, and a member of the Progressive Caucus. 

Congressman, it looks like the Republicans have a little role reversal here.  They loved it when you guys were getting attacks at the town halls.  All of a sudden, when they‘re on their heels, they‘re like, “What?”  Did you notice some of the annoyed looks on the faces there?  They‘re like, what are you doing questioning me? 

REP. JIM MCDERMOTT (D), WASHINGTON:  Well, I think they never guessed, Cenk, that they couldn‘t keep selling this program and that the people would wake up and figure out what was behind it, that there was really a voucher plan behind it all, and that they were going to wind up out there with a program that didn‘t cover what they needed when they were sick.  The people have figured it out, and they are not going to sit still for it, and the Republican plan is doomed.  Even though all of them drank the Kool-Aid and went out and voted for it, they are doomed on that issue. 

UYGUR:  I love one of the women at one of those events when the other people started yelling at her.  The congressman told her, hey, listen don‘t worry about it.  For people above 55, this isn‘t going to apply anyway.  She‘s like, well, how about my kids and my grandkids?  So why are you going to take their Medicare away?

It seems like that‘s their big strategy, is to say, don‘t worry, senior citizens, we‘re only harming other people that you know, not you.

MCDERMOTT:  That‘s exactly what it is.  If you‘re over 55, you‘re on a free ride to the end of your life, but anybody behind you, well, they‘re going to get this voucher system that is not going to pay for what they need. 

And they think that somehow seniors are so selfish and so into their own thing, that they don‘t care about their own children or their own grandchildren.  They couldn‘t be more mistaken. 

It was the most—it was the biggest mistake I have ever seen any political party make, thinking that they could divide seniors from their family and say, hey, don‘t worry about your grandchildren or your son and daughter.  It just was stupid. 

UYGUR:  All right.  Now, Congressman, I‘m worried about the substance, though, because right now, as we‘re having these town hall events and the president is speaking very forcefully on the road, there‘s movement afoot in Congress over a CAP Act.  Now, the CAP Act would cap the amount of spending we could have, and it wouldn‘t touch taxes at all, which gives the Republicans a huge advantage. 

Is that a bad idea to be negotiating on their terms? 

MCDERMOTT:  Well, what we should be deciding in this country is what we need to take care of the needs of is the people of this country, and then find out where the revenue is to do that.  Now, the president has suggested that we should start taxing billionaires and millionaires to help pay for what this country needs.  And to put a cap on it and say, well, we can‘t touch any taxes is simply not realistic. 

The president is telling the truth, and the American people know it.  They know that billionaires who got big tax breaks did not need it, did not deserve it, and are not paying their way. 

UYGUR:  Now, the president has a different plan, but do we have a sense in Congress of which way it‘s going to do?  Because of course, the Republicans are immediately claiming the CAP Act is bipartisan and we shouldn‘t touch taxes. 

Is it likely to go in that direction, or is it likely to go in the president‘s planned direction instead? 

MCDERMOTT:  I think we‘re going to have to go in the president‘s direction.  There has to be a combination of judicious cuts, things that make sense.  There are places in the Defense Department and other places where we can make cuts, but there must be some additional revenue. 

And it‘s got to come from the people at the top of the pile.  Millionaires do not need to have every dime they‘re having.  They should be sharing it with some of the people at the bottom, making sure that ordinary people can make a living and can take care of their children. 

UYGUR:  All right, Congressman.  Last quick question for you.  If the CAP Act is the final solution here as we get closer to the debt ceiling, is that a failure for Democrats? 

MCDERMOTT:  Well, I‘m not going to make a judgment that that‘s what‘s going to be the resolution.  I think we‘re going to find a way to get a clean raising of the debt limit and deal with the budget down the road. 

I think that the president just has to be firm and say, I only want a clean raising of the debt limit, don‘t tie all these other issues on it, because that‘s not—we don‘t need to threaten the world market, we don‘t need to disturb our own currency. 

UYGUR:  All right.  I hear you.  You know, I hope he stays strong on that.  I hope the crowds are encouraging him in the right direction. 

Congressman Jim McDermott, thank you for joining us tonight. 

MCDERMOTT:  You‘re welcome. 

UYGUR:  All right.

Now I want to bring in MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe. 

Richard, let‘s go back to the town hall events for a second.  I know back in 2009, et cetera, that there were a lot of these town hall events where the right was very angry.  I want to show you a little clip of that first, and then we‘ll come back and talk about it. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Wait a minute.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And I am leaving.  I have every right to leave.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Wait a minute. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think that the Obama administration has already started to restore trust in health care—


SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI:  Beg your pardon?  You don‘t trust me? 


UYGUR:  All right.  Now, how organized was that stuff compared to what‘s happening today? 

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, it was a combination of things, but there was serious organization behind it.  We know for a fact that Freedom Works, Dick Armey‘s group, which has extensive ties to corporate America, and especially the health care industry as well—one of its board members has long-standing ties to the health care industry—

Freedom Works was talking about Astroturfing this idea that you pretend to have a grassroots operation and involved in organization, too.  But it was very fertile ground for Republicans, because they had so many fears of, ironically, corporate America, and also of these big government plans that they thought the president was behind. 

Of course, you know, this is very different.  There has been organization behind some of these protests just as there was behind Social Security protests, when President Bush tried to reform that.  But you‘re looking at a very different operation here.

You‘re looking at a situation where over 70 percent of the population does not agree with the Republican position either on taxes or on Medicare.  So if the Republican organization was dealing with something that their supporters wanted, here you‘re in a situation where it‘s not just Democrats who agree with the president‘s position, the Democratic position.  Independents and a substantial number of Republicans do, too.

So you don‘t need to organize them in the same way. 

UYGUR:  Right.  But it wouldn‘t hurt.  I mean, that‘s the thing.

I‘m seeing all these events, and it‘s one or two people—it looks like in New Hampshire, God, there were people who voted for McCain, people who voted for Obama.  They come together and they‘re mad that their Medicare might get taken away.  But on the other hand, if progressives organize them a little bit, that might help. 

WOLFFE:  Yes, it would help.  And I think that‘s going to develop as well. 

You are already seeing the traction both from elected officials and from some of these interest groups.  There are people organizing right now. 

This isn‘t going to end right now.  I mean, remember, it‘s easy to look back on the health care protests and think they suddenly emerged out of nothing.  They group over time as Republicans, as the Republican media found that they could fuel these things, people could appear on TV and get coverage for it.  They picked up their own steam, and I think we‘re going to see the same through the next several months, if not the next year or so, as we debate this whole Republican package. 

UYGUR:  All right.  Now, speaking of the package, I do want to ask you again about the CAP Act.  We talked to Congressman McDermott about that.  That seems to be what the Republicans are pushing, which would be a hard cap on spending. 

So, if they reach that cap, they‘ve got to cut everything.  They‘ve got to cut regular spending, Medicare, entitlements, Social Security, et cetera.  And they don‘t touch taxes at all.

That seems like a huge Republican win.  Right now there‘s reporting from Washington that the Democrats are considering that. 

Is that crazy talk, to consider that? 

WOLFFE:  Well, I think you have got to look—ironically, you showed a clip there of Claire McCaskill from Missouri.  She‘s been talking about spending caps as well. 

The question is, what kind caps, how far do they extend?  And do they really have to throw this out right now?

If you listen to the president, the reason he‘s taking on Republicans on the debt ceiling so hard here is because they know Republicans are going to blink.  They know that corporate backers—they know that John Boehner has said the debt ceiling will be raised.  And even if they adopt Ryan‘s plan today, they‘re going to have to raise the debt ceiling anyway. 

It‘s going to be raised, so why give up so much now?  But could spending caps be out there in some form now or in the next year or two?  Yes, probably, if there are enough senators in the middle like McCaskill who want this to happen.  There isn‘t that big a Democratic majority to hold it back. 

UYGUR:  You‘re right, McCaskill is one of the sponsors, but it‘s a terrible idea.  You‘re right, they‘ve got them on the ropes, and the corporate guys—

WOLFFE:  Don‘t have to give it up now. 

UYGUR:  -- are never going to let the Republicans not raise the debt ceiling.  So don‘t do it.  Don‘t—I always want to ask them, don‘t do it, please don‘t do it, it doesn‘t make sense. 

All right.  Richard Wolffe, great analysis.  Thank you for joining us. 

WOLFFE:  You bet, Cenk. 


Ahead, President Obama turns back the clock.  His message to a disappointed base: keep the faith, remember 2008, remember when we had hope.  We have got two progressives with different opinions who argue whether the president has kept his promises or not. 

And how much is Donald Trump really worth, and what does he base that estimate on?  You might literally not believe what he says, it‘s so crazy.  We‘ll show you his very revealing deposition. 


UYGUR:  Disgraced Republican Senator John Ensign is resigning his Nevada Senate seat effective 11 days from today.  Why May 3rd?  That‘s a random Tuesday in May. 

Well, by resigning on May 3rd, Ensign avoids testifying before the Senate Ethics Committee on May 4th.  Funny coincidence. 

But why is Ensign‘s fall from grace so interesting?  Well, one of the reasons is his connection to C Street, a townhouse on Capitol Hill owned by a secretive Christian group known as The Family.  Already sounds nefarious.

Conservative lawmakers have gone to C Street for cheap rent and spirituality lessons, but it is also known for something else.  Its Republican members have churned out their fair share of sex scandals while professing to be good Christians, of course.  Family values congressmen like John Ensign who, in 1998, demanded that President Clinton resign because of the Monica Lewinsky affair, calling it “an embarrassing moment for the country.  (Clinton) has no credibility left.”

This was also the same man who, in 2004, said the U.S. should amend the Constitution to keep same-sex couples from being allowed to get married, because he knows so much about marriage and he‘s so good at it.  Right? 

Well, yes, that same man was then caught cheating on his wife with a staffer who was married to another one of his top staffers, and also one of Ensign‘s best friends.  But Ensign is just one of the C Street Don Juans. 

South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford also lived at C Street for a while and was receiving good old-fashioned spiritual guidance when he had his own affair.  He talked about the group by name in his public statement about his Argentine lover.


MARK SANFORD ®, FMR. GOVERNOR, SOUTH CAROLINA:  As part of what we call C Street when I was in Washington, there was, believe it or not, Christian bible study folks who asked members of Congress hard questions that I think were very, very important, and I had been working with them. 


UYGUR:  I love how he said, “believe it or not.”  Come on, we‘re all having affairs, but it‘s supposed to be a Christian group, believe it or not. 

And yes, he worked through his problems at C Street, all the way through the Appalachian Trail, all the way to Argentina, where he ran into the arms of his lover, who he called his soul mate, by the way, while still married to his wife.  All very classy guys. 

By the way, these C Street guys, I mean, they‘re all players.  I don‘t know if it‘s all of them, but it‘s a lot of them.  They‘re having so much forbidden sex, Hugh Hefner is getting jealous of their mansion. 

Look, it doesn‘t even end there.

In 2009, Mississippi Congressman Chip Pickering was also involved in an affair while living at C Street.  Maybe “C” stands for come on in, ladies. 

Joining me now is Steve Sebelius, political columnist for the “Las Vegas Review-Journal,” a man well-acquainted with the wicked ways of John Ensign and the C Street lotharios.

All right.  So let‘s start there.  Which of these guys had the best affair?  Was it Pickering?  Was it Sanford?  Was it Ensign?

Who was the dirtiest? 

STEVE SEBELIUS, “LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL”:  Well, I guess that‘s a sliding scale, Cenk.  If you want to talk about best in terms of most grotesque, I still think Ensign probably has them all beat, given that his choice of affair was with his best friend‘s wife, who was also his wife‘s best friend.  So, really, I think he still has the gold in that Olympics. 

UYGUR:  All right.  But, you know, he didn‘t quit over that, because he said, look, if it was over the affair, I would have quit, which is comical.  Of course he was not going to run for reelection based on the affair and the investigation.  But all of a sudden, yesterday he announces that he‘s quitting.

So what changed that made him realize, oh, I‘ve got get out of here?

SEBELIUS:  You know, it‘s interesting.  He said back in March, when he announced he wasn‘t going to run for reelection, that he didn‘t want to resign, because to resign would be to admit guilt. 

And then, yesterday, he announced he was going to resign.  Now, he still is not admitting guilt, but I think the fact that the Senate Ethics Committee was planning public hearings on his case, and the information that was going to come out in those public hearings, I think that finally prompted him to say, enough, I‘m out of here. 

UYGUR:  Well, in the case of those investigations, the sex isn‘t the problem.  I mean, they don‘t care if he ran on family values and is a hypocrite. 

So what was the legal problem? 

SEBELIUS:  Well, there were a couple legal problems. 

First, after his affair and he—as you mentioned, both people worked for him—he terminated their employment, and his parents paid them a total of $96,000 out of their bank account.  That money could be considered an unlawful contribution to Ensign‘s campaign.  That was number one. 

Number two, and probably much more serious, he helped Doug Hampton, his best friend with whom he had had the affair with his wife.   He helped set him up in a lobbying business. 

Doug Hampton began lobbying, lobbied Hansen personally, and members of his staff, in violation a law that says you can‘t lobby within one year after leaving federal service.  Doug Hampton is currently under criminal indictment for that violation, and that was something that John Ensign had a lot of problems to face as well. 

UYGUR:  You know, I would have loved to have seen that conversation with his parents.  Mom and dad, I‘ve got a story to tell you.  I‘m going to need $96,000.  So that‘s a little embarrassing as well.

But look, let‘s talk real quickly about what‘s going to happen in Nevada next, because Sharron Angle is somehow in this mix.  Tell us about that. 

SEBELIUS:  Yes.  Well, Sharron Angle may be John Ensign‘s final parting gift to the state of Nevada. 

After his Senate seat is vacant, the governor has to appoint somebody.  Well, the governor is a Republican, and so is Representative Dean Heller, who had already declared his intention to run for that seat.  It looks like Dean Heller is going to get it.

That means Dean Heller‘s congressional seat is open.  And that needs to be filled by a special election. 

In pops Sharron Angle.  She already announced that she was running, and that‘s something she does a lot here in Nevada.  And her name, among a crowded field—it looks like at least four people are getting into that race now—could be more.  Could have third-party candidates in there.  Her name is probably going to stand out on that ballot. 

UYGUR:  All right.  That‘s great expertise from Nevada.

Steve Sebelius, thank you so much for joining us tonight. 

SEBELIUS:  Thanks a lot.  Great to be with you. 

UYGUR:  All right.

Now, next, Senator Jim Inhofe says there‘s no danger in natural gas drilling, no water contamination that‘s ever poisoned anyone.  Of course, that‘s our “Con Job of the Day.”  But we‘ll also show you how he gets paid to make crazy statements like that. 


UYGUR:  And now for our “Con Job of the Day.”  We take a look at Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe and his misinformation campaign about the dangers of natural gas drilling. 

After a natural gas blowout in Pennsylvania this week, Inhofe defended hydraulic fracturing, affectionately know as fracking, which is a process of blasting water under ground to extract natural gas deposits. 


SEN. JIM INHOFE ®, OKLAHOMA:  There‘s never been one case, documented case, of groundwater contamination in the history of the thousand and thousand of hydraulic fracturing. 

BRIAN KILMEADE, FOX NEWS RADIO:  Senator, has it ever poisoned anybody? 

INHOFE:  It‘s never poisoned anyone. 


UYGUR:  But just last week, a congressional report found that oil and gas companies injected hundreds of millions of gallons of material containing hazardous or carcinogenic chemicals into wells in more than 13 states from 2005 to 2009.  The industry uses more than 650 products that are either known or possible carcinogens, including fun little chemicals like benzene, toluene and lead. 

The Inhofes of the world point out that we don‘t know how much of this stuff is left in the groundwater, but that‘s of course because they managed to exempt fracking from the Safe Water Drinking Act, thanks to the Republicans.  Nobody from the federal government even tests what‘s left inside those wells.  Don‘t you feel safe? 

Then Inhofe turns around and says, ah-ha, you can‘t prove it because I‘m hiding the evidence.  But there are plenty of complaints from real people in all those states who are feeling sick, seeing fire come out of their faucets, and some people‘s homes have literally blown up. 

And, of course, Inhofe says, oh, don‘t worry, it‘s fine.  Your home blew up, but it‘s going to be OK.  There‘s nothing in there.  Don‘t worry. 

Now, of course if you look at Inhofe‘s donor list, you shouldn‘t be surprised by why he‘s such an ardent defender of fracking.  He‘s received more than $1.2 million from the oil and gas industry since 1989. 

In fact, they‘re his number one industry in terms of donors.  And his biggest single campaign owner is, Koch Industries, of course.  Just shocked to find that out. 

Senator Inhofe accused Democrats of “selectively choosing words” to scare people about fracking.  His method of selectively choosing facts apparently is a much better way to go.  Inhofe, stepping up to the plate for his donors and helping to release dangerous chemicals into our environment, is our “Con Job of the Day.”

Now, President Obama‘s on the road and is sounding very progressive.  But with the most important fights ahead, can we really believe it?  Our panel is going to debate that.  Is the president really a progressive or not?



OBAMA:  I want you to be excited about the next 18 months and then the next four years after that, and I want you to remind everybody else those simple words that summed up our campaign in 2008 and still sum up our spirit—yes, we can.  Thank you, everybody, God bless you. 


UYGUR:  That was of course President Obama late last night at a fund-raiser in Los Angeles.  He was trying to evoke the spirit of 2008 as he revs up for his 2012 campaign.  Now, much of that speech was a direct message to his critics on the left who have been feeling disappointed in this solution by the first two years of his presidency. 


OBAMA:  I know the conversations you‘ve been having.  Oh, I don‘t know, you know, I don‘t like that compromise with the Republicans.  Look, there are times when I‘ve been frustrated, just like you have been, but we knew this wasn‘t going to be easy. 


UYGUR:  I don‘t think anybody thought that change was going to be easy.  We just didn‘t want it to be so easy for the Republicans to win on their priorities like the Bush tax cuts.  But that‘s just one of many issues that progressives have with the president.  In fact, just hours earlier in San Francisco, he was interrupted by singing protesters asking for more change. 


(SINGING) “We paid our dues, where‘s our change, we paid our dues, where‘s our change.” 


UYGUR:  That was them singing, we paid our dues, where‘s our change.  A little catchy.  And that‘s exactly why the president was trying to address progressive critics in that speech we showed you.  He knows that a sentiment among some of these voters, so again he appealed to them to remember 2008.  


OBAMA:  All of us can still remember that night in Grant Park.  The excitement on the streets, the sense of possibility, I want to make sure we are putting the campaign in your hands.  The hands of the same organizers, the same volunteers, the same neighborhood folks.  


UYGUR:  Now, the president‘s issues with the left is reflected in his polling among self-described liberals.  In April 2009, three months after the inauguration, 90 percent of liberals approved of the job that he was doing.  In April of 2010, just after the health care law pass, it had dropped all the way down to 81 percent.  Not bad.  And now, it‘s at 70 percent.  Look, 70 percent is still a pretty good number, but you clearly see it sliding away from him.  He needs every one of those votes if he‘s going to win again.  The problem for the president when it comes to the left is his record, honestly.  Just check out the last two years. 

Gitmo stays open, financial reform is incredibly weak, the president helps to deep six the public option, there‘s more tax cuts for the rich and there‘s a huge spending cuts that he just agreed to, and the least goes on.  But the opportunity for the president is in the next 18 months.  You know, he‘s still president.  There‘s still a long way to go.  So, will he stand his ground on taxes, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security?  The most important fights are still ahead of us.  Will he keep listening to Washington Insiders who counsel that he must agree with the Republicans to seem centrist?  Or will he regain his progressive footing?  You know, one way to convince people that you are progressive is by being a progressive.  Now, let‘s bring in two different voices to get their perspectives on this. 

Joining me now is David Sirota, radio host and syndicated columnist. 

Also with us is Joe Madison, host with Sirius XM radio.  Both old friends.  In fact, I used to fill in for Joe back in Washington a long, long, time ago on his radio show.  All right.  Joe, let me start with you.  You know, I laid out a little bit of a list there.  You have a spirited defense of the president‘s progressive credentials?

JOE MADISON, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Yes, I have a spirited defense.  Because as you saw in the GW, the George Washington speech, he drew the line on some of the major points you just talked about, Medicaid, Medicare, education, and then he turned around and he said, OK, who is behind me?  I think earlier in the program, you made a very good point.  One of the things that the right is very good at doing is organizing.  Organizing outside of the beltway.  And that‘s what we have to do.  We have to organize, much the way the people in Madison, Wisconsin, organize.  And it has to be a groundswell from the grassroots. 

One of the things that bugs me to death about progressives, we are terrible organizers when it comes to trying to provide a counterbalance.  Now, finally, let me say this—I‘m old enough to remember, when Martin Luther King Jr., after the ‘64 civil rights act was passed, he went to Johnson and said, we need a voting rights act, Johnson said make me do it.  And that‘s how we got Selma to Montgomery.  And that‘s how we got a voting rights act.  And what progressives have to do, and I think what I heard the president just say, make me do what you want me to do. 

UYGUR:  But, David, if they‘re going to do that, doesn‘t that mean that they have to pressure the president and put some real, you know, be tough with him.  I mean, how do you make someone do something unless you‘re tough with them.  

DAVID SIROTA, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST:  That‘s the question, right?  I mean, the problem I think for the left right now is that so many people on the left in our red versus blue country, are organized not necessarily around an agenda, but around an individual.  And at the same goes to the right under George Bush, we I think on the progressive left, in the progressive movement, too many people are organized around whatever President Obama does and says is great.  Just like the right was organize around, whatever George Bush does and says is great. 

Your point is exactly the right point, that if we want a different list, that list that you just showed up there of a new war, of spending cuts aimed at Medicare, of new Bush tax cuts, of extending the Bush record on civil liberties in many cases.  If we want a different list than that, then we cannot be organized around the idea that whatever President Obama says is good and whatever Republicans do is bad.  We need to be organized around an agenda.  Because if there is no pressure on President Obama, if we are organized only around the individual, then there would be no real change.  

UYGUR:  So, Joe, let‘s talk about that.  Because, you know, if we want to stop that concept that you know, that you guys are talking about, that we just, you know, agree with whatever the president says, well then we have to disagree with him, don‘t we?  I mean, when he does the compromise we don‘t like with the Republicans.  Because we don‘t think—not because we‘re against compromise, but because we thought it was a bad compromise, don‘t we have to call him out on it?

MADISON:  Well, of course you have to call him out.  Look, here in Washington, D.C., didn‘t Eleanor Holmes Norton call the president out?  The former mayor of Washington, D.C., Sharon Pratt Kelly.  And the first lady of the first elected mayor, they tried to deliver a letter saying, Mr.  President, at least put no tax ace on your limousine couldn‘t get the letter delivered.  They called him out, but at the same time, we have to understand something, candidates run on transformational leadership.  When they get elected, it becomes transactional, and it‘s how you transact business in Washington that makes you successful.  And keep in mind, you‘ve got to get him elected into the next term, and everybody used to say when he first got elected, don‘t expect him to do everything in four years.  Remember, there‘s a second term her here, and I‘m certain that‘s what in the back of his mind.  

UYGUR:  Well, David.  I saw you shaking your head.  Go for it.  

SIROTA:  I mean, my answer to that is that, it‘s just a justification for the status quo, that simply saying, that we‘re only playing for the next election, we‘re playing for the next election, and we‘re playing for the next election.  It‘s a justification for the status quo.  I think as citizens, we have an obligation, not a right, but an obligation to look at the record that was accumulated in the first four years of the Obama presidency.  And say, not what was tried to be done and what didn‘t happen, but what did this administration actually not even try to do arguably did the exact opposite of what it said it was going to do.  And I think progressives have every right to say, we‘re not going to be organized around an individual, we‘re going to be organized around a set of issues.  And if this president deviates from that, then we‘re not going to be with him when he asks for our vote again.  I mean, this is not a president who tried to get the public option.  This is a president who went out of his way subvert the public option.  This is not a president who tried to stop the Bush tax cuts.  This is the president who went out of his way to extend the Bush cuts.  I could go on, but you get my point.  

MADISON:  Sometimes progressives really tick me off, and if he hadn‘t tried to transact the way, they would have kicked a lot of poor people that progressive claim that they are interested in absolutely under the bus.  


SIROTA:  Hundreds of billions of dollars to the drug and insurance companies.  Hundreds of billions of dollars of your tax payer dollars.  And my tax payer dollars because they didn‘t put up a fight.  The problem—my thing is, the problem with progressives is, progressives want to say, whatever the president says, because this is a lot of fiery speeches.  That‘s great.  We don‘t want to look under the hood and say, hey, what did he actually do?  Because the problem is, when you actually look at what he actually did, it‘s not such a nice picture.  I‘m sick and tired of progressives being organized around speeches.  I want a progressive move and it‘s organized around. 

MADISON:  Progressives for the most part are the lousiest organizers there are.  They don‘t—you know, all they do is a lot of talk.  If you want to end the war, then do what folks did to end the Vietnam War.  Get the hell out of there and march.  

SIROTA:  Amen!  Get out there and protest the war in Libya.  


UYGUR:  All right.  Guys.

MADISON:  And of course, what‘s going to happen, you‘re going to end up with a president worse than you think you have now. 

UYGUR:  But Joe, Joe, I got to ask you the last question here. 


UYGUR:  Look, if you say I‘m going out there and organize, go out there and make him do it, isn‘t that what David is saying?  I mean, don‘t wait on him to do it.  Make him do it.  We‘ve got the most important fights coming, I don‘t want him to buckle on Medicare or Social Security.  Shouldn‘t we aggressively challenge him to make sure that he does the right thing?

MADISON:  Yes.  But you don‘t kill him in the process.  

UYGUR:  So how do you do it then?

MADISON:  Well, intelligently.  


UYGUR:  I hope so.  I hope so.  I think we‘re arguing over what would be the intelligent way to do it.  But guy, it‘s been a good conversation.  It really has.  

MADISON:  I think we‘re all on the same side.  It‘s just that—look, I just don‘t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater and this end up with something far worse. 

UYGUR:  Of course, Joe, Joe, but everybody agrees with that.  Look, nobody is saying, oh yes, and hence go vote for a republican.  How would that make any sense?  That wouldn‘t make any sense at all.  The question is, how do you help the Democrats, how do you help the president by effectively challenging them to be more progressive? 

MADISON:  You do challenge, but if you think that people will go vote for republican, the problem is they won‘t go vote at all. 

SIROTA:  Can I make one very quick point?  Just very, very quick point.

UYGUR:  Got to be the last one, David.  

SIROTA:  A very, very quick point.  Progressives back in the 1960s, didn‘t say we‘re worried about Lyndon Baines Johnson‘s reelection.  They said we‘re worried about ending the Vietnam war, and they ended that war, because they were willing as you suggest to go up against a president, no matter what his party was, and that... 


MADISON:  And excuse me.

UYGUR:  But we‘ve got to leave it there.  


MADISON:  You weren‘t born.  They got Richard Nixon.  

UYGUR:  OK.  Don‘t worry, you guys will be back.  It‘s a great conversation. 

MADISON:  Thank you.

UYGUR:  David Sirota, Joe Madison, thank you both, guys. 

And look, their hearts both in the right place.  That‘s what you want, you want a good conversation.  That coming up, next.  John Boehner, Republicans are doing everything they can to protect the defense of marriage act, but the gay rights movement has found a way to attack back.  Now, why is the gay rights movement so successful when other progressive groups struggle?  We‘ll have that answer for you. 


UYGUR:  Why are gay groups so much better at getting action and wins in the rest of the progressive community it seems at times?  Well, we‘re going to find out.  And speaking of their trade secrets, we‘ve also got a secret for you in terms of Donald Trump and his legal deposition and the things that we found in it.  We‘ve got all that coming up.


UYGUR:  When it comes to a winning strategy for progressive caucuses, gay rights activists have it down.  They have shown they know how to keep the pressure on politicians as long as it takes to win.  For example, Lieutenant Dan Choi chained himself to the White House as part of an ultimately successful campaign to force Congress to act on “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell,” the repeal of it, obviously.  The activists of all succeeded in changing public opinion on same sex marriage.  This year for the first time, polls showed a majority of Americans supported legalizing it.  In March, a “Washington Post” poll found 53 percent of people said same-sex marriage should be legal.  Just five years ago, that number was only 36 percent.  Furthermore, five states in Washington, D.C. have legalized same sex marriage, 12 others have legalized same sex civil unions or domestic partnerships.   

But there‘s a major obstacle in the fight for gay rights.  It‘s called the defense of marriage act.  It‘s a federal ban on same-sex marriage that was passed in 1996.  The Obama administration said earlier this year, it will no longer defend it in court.  That‘s good news, but Speaker Boehner is on the case.  He has hired former Bush-era Solicitor General Paul Clement to defend DOMA.  Clement has getting paid $525 an hour of taxpayer money to defend something that most people don‘t agree with in the first place.  So now, activists are turning their sides on Clement and his law firm King & Spalding ramping up the pressure.  Will they win again?  And how do they keep winning all these fights when the rest of the progressive movement is still struggling on almost every other front. 

Well, joining me now is Richard Socarides, sorry—president of Equality Matters, and former senator, I‘m sorry, senior adviser to President Bill Clinton.  OK. 


UYGUR:  Socarides, is that a Greek name?

SOCARIDES:  Socarides is Greek.  Yes, the Greeks and the Turks are on tonight.  

UYGUR:  All right.  There you go.  God Bless America.  All right.  So, talk to me.  What are the different methods that gay activists use to achieve a political goal that maybe we can learn from? 

SOCARIDES:  Well, listen, I think that we have met with some very recent success.  The repeal of “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell,” and the Justice Department‘s decision, not to continue to defend its horrible law, the so-called defensive marriage act.  But you know, we‘ve done two things.  First of all, we worked at this for a very long time.  You know, this is the combination of two decades of work, and also, you know, what?  My group especially Equality Matters is trying to do is we‘re trying to hold both friends and foe accountable.  Both hold everybody accountable for what they said and be willing to speak the truth and be willing, you know, to say both to friends and to people who don‘t usually support us that they have to do what they say they‘re going to do.  

UYGUR:  Richard, that‘s really interesting.  Because we were just having a conversation about that in the last segment.  How do you hold them accountable if they‘re normally your allies?

SOCARIDES:  Well, I think you have to speak the truth, and you have to call them out when they‘re not moving fast enough or when they‘re not delivering.  I think you have to do that.  And for instance, you know, President Obama moved very slowly on, “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell.”  And it looked like we were not going to get, “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell,” repealed through in the last Congress.  And it was only when pressure on members of Congress directly was turned up, and the heat was turned up, that we got that through, and had we waited for the military like some people wanted too.  We would be probably now without “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” repeal.  So, I think the answer is, you know, just be honest, and be direct and hold people accountable.  

UYGUR:  But let‘s keep it even more real.  When you say pressure, what kind of pressure?

SOCARIDES:  Well, I think you know that one of the things you cited, in the intro.  That we have people like Lieutenant Dan Choi, who is a very compelling figure, who was willing to take whatever action was required like chain himself to the White House fans.  I mean, this was a person who, all he wanted to do was serve his country, all he wanted to do was do what he‘s been trained to do, and he wasn‘t being allowed to do it.  It didn‘t make any sense.  And he wasn‘t willing to take it, so I think that, you know, there are other people like Dan Choi, who are no longer willing to take this kind of discrimination.  

UYGUR:  Right.  But I want to keep it even more real.  Is there money pressure where somebody goes, hey, you know what?  I‘m going to lose my donors, I don‘t like that.  Now, all of a sudden we have a problem?

SOCARIDES:  Well, you know, I think money certainly is an element to it.  I mean, you know, you said in the introduction how King and Spalding, this very prominent national law firm has taken on the defense of this horrific law, and we think it‘s deplorable.  I mean, they obviously have a choice to do it, but other people have a choice whether or not to use them.  I mean, Speaker Boehner here is using taxpayer dollars to do this, he‘s got his own lawyers, and why can‘t he use the House of Representatives lawyers to do this?  Why with these deficits is he spending an additional half a million dollars at a minimum to defend this law?  I mean.

UYGUR:  So, King & Spalding is worried about losing some clients, perhaps they‘re not interested in this case as much.  Is that the strategy?

SOCARIDES:  Well, I mean, you would think that they would have thought about this before they took the case.  I mean, they have a pretty good record when it comes to hiring openly gay people and when it comes to, you know, their participation in the community, but we can‘t quite understand why they took this case.  I mean, this certainly wasn‘t for the money.  I mean, you know, they‘re very lucrative law firm.  They make a lot of money, even though half a million is a lot of money.  For some reason they decided to take this case.  And we think it‘s deplorable.  And we think it‘s deplorable, most importantly that Speaker Boehner would got and spend an additional half a million of taxpayer money to defend a law that he has all these lawyers at the House of Representatives to defend.  

UYGUR:  You‘re right.  All right.  Very interesting conversation again.  Richard Socarides, president of Equality Matters, thank you so much for your time tonight.  

SOCARIDES:  Thanks, Cenk.  

UYGUR:  All right.  Now, up next.  Donald Trump exaggerated as well. 

Are you surprised?  But we have really interesting details.                                     


UYGUR:  I want to tell you a story about Donald Trump, but it also involves my dad.  They kind of remind me of each other in some ways.  Sorry, dad.  They‘re both in real estate.  My dad is on a much lower level in terms of real state, he‘s in New Jersey, but they both have a penchant for shall we say, exaggeration.  That‘s what the reminder comes in.  Look, if my dad wants to do something, he skews the facts in his direction.  For example, if he wants me to write a book, he says, you have to write it, no big deal, it just take five minutes, my dad really five minutes to write a book.  OK, maybe a couple of hours.  But it‘s easy.  You just do it right away.  All right.  Look, that‘s crazy.  And look, if he wants you to do something that he‘s against or he doesn‘t want you to do something he‘s against, he does the same exact thing.  Like opening up our poll in the summer.  He says, you know how much that costs, you have to pay the pool cleaner guy.  You have to run the pump, there‘s chlorine, the whole thing costs $80,000.  Come on, dad, it doesn‘t cost $80,000 to open a pool.  He says, OK, $8,000.  

Dad?  OK, but $4,000.  But that‘s still a lot.  Now, Trump does it on a much bigger.  When he was actually on the record in a legal deposition in 2007, it was a slightly different story as to what it‘s real worth was.  Now, he has sued Timothy O‘Brien, who is a former “New York Times” writer and editor who has claimed in a book that Trump was only a multimillionaire and not a multibillionaire.  According to the deposition obtained by Huffington Post.  When Trump was asked when he was, really worth $8 billion that he was claiming, he said quote, “I don‘t know, I don‘t think so.  But maybe I‘m adding four or five billion worth, $3 billion for the value of the brand, but I don‘t know.”  Who thinks adding four of five billion dollars to the net worth is no big deal.  Well, I say $8 billion or $5 billion less.  Well, anything than $8 billion.  Nothing I even believe its three billion.  




UYGUR:  All right.  OK.  Donald, I got you, but let me finish. 

There‘s a reason why I don‘t believe him.  


TRUMP:  Excuse me.  


UYGUR:  Donald, let me finish.  He‘s a serial exaggerator.  And basically admits it over and over in that deposition.  In fact, he says he sometimes bases his net worth on his feelings.  Quote, “my net worth fluctuates and it goes up and down with the markets and with attitudes and with feelings, even my own feelings, but I try.” 

OK, I feel like a million bucks, but that doesn‘t make it so.  His cavalier attitude toward reality is actually kind of funny.  And other funny example of that is when he asked about whether he really owns 50 percent of the Riverside South project on Manhattan‘s Upper West Side as he had claimed.  He replied, quote, “I owned 30 percent but because of the fact that put no money up, that is 30 percent is equated to 50 percent.  What?  I know that math has a well-known liberal bias, but that‘s still a bit much.  


TRUMP:  Excuse me.  


UYGUR:  All right.  It‘s his brainpower, I know.  Stop it.  The pool doesn‘t cost $80,000 to open up, and you‘re not worth anywhere near $8 billion.  All right.  Thanks for much watching, everybody.  “HARDBALL” starts right now.

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