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Msnbc Live at 6 p.m. ET, Friday May 27th, 2011

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

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Guests: Dana Milbank, Jonathan Capehart, Melanie Sloan, Sam Seder, Matt

Lewis, Richard Eskow, George Takei

CENK UYGUR, HOST:  Good evening, everybody.  I‘m Cenk Uygur.

It‘s 6:00.  Are you ready for some fun? 

Look, just when you thought the GOP presidential field was getting smaller and less exciting, all of a sudden it just got so much more interesting.  Last week it seemed like everyone was scrambling to get out of the race.  Suddenly, two Tea Party Titans, Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann, appeared destined for a head-on collision. 

Palin is set to kick off her One Nation tour up the East Coast.  She‘ll be making stops at Gettysburg, the Liberty Bell, and visiting New Hampshire for the first time since the 2008 campaign.  Palin starts her tour this weekend at the annual Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Rally in Washington in support of the nation‘s veterans, which is great.  She‘ll be there—well, even though the group doesn‘t exactly seem thrilled about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TED SHPAK, ROLLING THUNDER:  We didn‘t invite her.  It is a big distraction.  We‘re not political.  This is not a political event.  We don‘t want—you know, maybe she‘s coming because she knows we have a half a million people in town.

We‘re not endorsing anybody.  And she‘s not speaking on our stage. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UYGUR:  Something tells me Palin is going to ignore that comment anyway and pretend that the event was put together in her honor. 

Meantime, Bachmann now says she‘ll announce her decision in June, but it seems her mind may already be up.  Here‘s her quote: “We have our plans put in place.  We have our team.”

Uh-oh.  He comes Bachmann! 

And here‘s another thing Bachmann has in place—here talking points when it comes to Sarah Palin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA:  My decision will be independent of whichever candidate gets in.  I have great respect for Governor Palin.  I consider her a friend.  And if she gets in, she gets in. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UYGUR:  Bachmann also appears to be trying to separate herself from Palin, saying, no two candidates are “interchangeable.” 

Bachmann versus Palin.  Who doesn‘t want to see that? 

But it was just last year when they were BFFs.  Now, for those of you above the age of 18, that means best friends forever.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS:  How many of you would like to see a Palin/Bachmann ticket? 

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)  

UYGUR:  But that was before “Rolling Thunder” and “Incoherent Lightning” were set to crash against one another. 

Just when you think that‘s fun snuff, here comes Rick Perry off the top rope.  The Texas governor says he‘s thinking about making a bid.  Perry had long claimed he wasn‘t interested.  Now it looks like he might have changed his mind. 

A conservative governor from Texas interested in the White House. 

Hmm.  Where have I seen that movie before? 

Do you guys remember how that turned out? 

All right.  Let‘s talk about all this now. 

With me is Jonathan Capehart, an MSNBC contributor and an editorial writer for “The Washington Post.”  In an article today, he says that in a showdown between Palin and Bachmann, he‘s taking Bachmann. 

Oh.  We‘re going to ask you about that in a second.

Also with me, Dana Milbank, national political reporter for “The Washington Post.”

All right.  Welcome, guys.  Great to have you here on Friday. 

JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  Thanks, Cenk. 

UYGUR:  On a very fun day. 

So, Jonathan, let‘s start with you.  Why are you taking Bachmann over Palin? 

CAPEHART:  Well, Bachmann has and does all the things that Palin can‘t and won‘t.  Bachmann is still a sitting member of Congress, she is relentlessly on message.  She is very well prepared with facts and information, even though we already know that some of her facts are actually false.  

But she does something that I think is vitally important.  She holds herself accountable. 

She‘s not a prisoner of Twitter and Facebook and Fox News.  She goes on “Meet the Press” and “Good Morning America.”  And lots of people who are clearly skeptical of her and what she represents, but she‘s willing to take their questions and answer them. 

Sarah Palin wants everyone to think that she‘s running for president, but really what she‘s trying to do, in my opinion, is that she is trying to protect the Sarah Palin brand. 

UYGUR:  I hear you, and you‘re right, Bachmann does have a much brighter jacket.  God, that yellow jacket hurts my eyes. 

But anyway, when you get to the polls, Dana, it‘s a different story—for the moment being.  Look at the Gallup poll.  Sarah Palin is in second place.  She‘s got 15 percent.  Bachmann‘s all the way—she‘s below Pawlenty.  That‘s embarrassing.  She‘s at 5 percent.

DANA MILBANK, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: 

She‘s below Herman Cain, the Hermanator, too. 

But, you know, I think what‘s happened here is Michele Bachmann basically road Sarah Palin‘s coattails.  She was the understudy.  And I think what everybody assumed—I‘m still making the assumption that Sarah Palin, as Jonathan said, is merely doing this to keep up the speaking fees and keep the national attention.

But Michele Bachmann basically rose to prominence as Sarah Palin faded after her vice presidential run.  And I think that right now we‘re seeing Michele Bachmann‘s launch has been completely messed up by this. 

She had to cancel an event in Des Moines last night.  She had a supposed money bomb earlier this week.  She was supposed to raise $240,000 in 24 hours.  Well, that bombed.  She wound up with $160,00 and they had to extend it to 36 hours.

So very bad news for Michele Bachmann, but I really hope we don‘t have to choose and that we can have that Palin/Bachmann ticket. 

UYGUR:  Right.  And look, you know, the thing is, of course she would have liked to have raised $240,000, and Mitt Romney raised $10 million in one day.  I get that.

But at the same time, $160,000 isn‘t bad.  She‘s number two in the House in raising money behind the Speaker of the House.  So she‘s certainly got some potential. 

I want to actually show you guys a little speech from Jimmy Kimmel‘s show, of all places, because I think it leads to a relevant point here.  Let‘s watch it first. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE!”)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Sarah Palin, a new kind of leader—folksy, straight-talking, and ready for fight for America.  Now is her time.  Let‘s make Sarah Palin the Republican candidate for president. 

Paid for by Barack Obama. 

(END VIDEO CLIP, “JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE!”)

UYGUR:  All right.  So, Jonathan, does this help Obama more, or is Mitt Romney loving this, thinking that he‘s going to be the alternative to these guys? 

CAPEHART:  Well, I think Mitt Romney, if Sarah Palin gets in, he gets to look like the reasonable guy, the smart guy, the electable one in the Republican field.  But if she runs for president, and if, by some stroke of lightning or genius, she actually becomes the nominee, then you‘re going to see a lot of Democrats, and particularly folks in the White House, dancing from August right through November. 

UYGUR:  All right.  And before we move on to Rick Perry, Dana, one more thing about Bachmann versus Palin. 

Look, on the social conservatives, that‘s what relevant here. 

Obviously, they‘re looking for a candidate.

For those guys, who do you think is the more appealing candidate?  Obviously, Palin, being VP, was huge, but Michele Bachmann has an enormous track record with social conservatives. 

Who do you think is more credible there? 

MILBANK:  The problem, Cenk, is there‘s not an obvious favorite here.  And that‘s why this is such excellent news for Mitt Romney, because they want to have a candidate as sort of the anti-Romney, somebody to rally there. 

But, now, do they have—they have Sarah Palin, they have Michele Bachmann, they have my good friend Herman Cain, they may have Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, a whole cast of characters.  And if they are splitting up that religious conservative vote, particularly in Iowa, that makes things look a whole lot better for Mitt Romney.  So I suspect he‘s the one who is going to finance Sarah Palin‘s campaign. 

UYGUR:  That‘s interesting. 

CAPEHART:  Hey, Cenk—

UYGUR:  Yes?

CAPEHART:  -- one person that Dana didn‘t mention is Tim Pawlenty.  And when you take a look back at Tim Pawlenty‘s record, he‘s actually an Evangelical Christian.  He is someone who—we don‘t know this, but I think as we get closer to Iowa, where this voting bloc will become much more important, we‘re going to learn about Tim Pawlenty‘s evangelical roots, and he could eventually be the one who is the alternative to Romney, alternative to Bachmann. 

UYGUR:  Look, I‘ve got to disagree with you, man.  I think he‘s an alternative to absolutely nothing. 

CAPEHART:  Hey, look, we‘re often right.

UYGUR:  And listen, I‘ll tell you, if Bachmann and Palin both actually get in—and I know that‘s “if,” especially in regard to Palin—oh, Pawlenty is done.  Romney has got him on one side, those two have him on another side.

He‘s boxed in.  He was already the least interesting man in the world. 

I mean, I think there‘s no way he recovers from that. 

Dana, am I seeing this wrong? 

MILBANK:  Well, I know that you are not the head of the Tim Pawlenty for President political action committee here, but I‘ve always thought he looks terrific on paper.  This guy should really be the candidate for these guys, but he‘s completely flat.  He‘s got this Howdy Doody smile, he‘s trying to sound like he‘s a southern preacher, rather than what was really a moderate from Minnesota when he‘s out there.  It‘s just not working for him. 

UYGUR:  All right.  Now, let‘s go to Rick Perry, because I think he‘s actually the most relevant of all these guys.  I don‘t know why the conservatives weren‘t buzzing about him before.  I mean, he‘s deeply conservative, he‘s the Longest serving governor of Texas, et cetera.

Jonathan, I mean, shouldn‘t he obviously get into the race? 

CAPEHART:  You know, I‘m just confused, because this is the guy who said that maybe Texas should secede.  So I don‘t know why he wants to take this on.  He says he‘s thinking about running for president again.  If he gets in, great.  If he doesn‘t, fine, whatever.

UYGUR:  You know, actually, we have that video of him saying that, so let‘s have a little fun.  Let‘s show you that. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And if you make a little mistake with one of your

--

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UYGUR:  OK.  Oh, well.  We had the wrong video.  It was fun, anyway. 

Yes, he mentioned how he was considering seceding from the union.  And so that‘s why Jonathan‘s point is a good one.  It‘s a curious thing that he‘d want to lead the union.

But Dana, you know, on a serious note here, he seems like an attractive candidate for the social conservatives, for they would claim the fiscal conservatives—I think some might argue with that.  But doesn‘t he seem like a logical candidate for them? 

MILBANK:  I think so.  I was a little surprised that he didn‘t jump in, in the first place. 

I think what you are see happening here is now that Huckabee is gone, now that Trump—never was in—but now that he‘s gone, now that Mitch Daniels is gone, these candidates are looking at this race and saying, come on, the old CEO of Godfather‘s Pizza is in, what, fourth place in this race?  I could be president.

So everybody and their uncle is jumping in.  You had Mike Pence, who I guess is regretting his decision not to run for president, saying he expects this field to get a lot bigger just because all these people are saying, hey, I can do this, too. 

I think you should jump in, Cenk. 

UYGUR:  I‘m not sure I would do well in that field, although I would like to take on Pawlenty. 

CAPEHART:  That would be great to see.

MILBANK:  You‘d tie with Pawlenty. 

UYGUR:  That‘s right.  I couldn‘t do any worse.  Anyway—no, seriously, I think Perry‘s got a real shot. 

But one last thing, Jonathan, back to Palin.  You think—and you‘re a strong advocate of her not running—Fox News is basically saying they‘re not going to take her off air.  Does that lead you to think that it‘s almost definitive that she must not be running, if Fox says we are not changing Sarah Palin‘s status? 

CAPEHART:  Yes.  Look, on March 2nd, Fox announced that they were suspending the contracts of Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, but didn‘t say anything about Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin. 

Now, at that time, all those names were in the mix.  It stands to reason that if Sarah Palin were running—and remember, Mike Huckabee announced a couple weeks ago he‘s not running, which we all knew.

Now you have Sarah Palin making all these noises.  But if she were really running for president, don‘t you think she would have talked to Roger Ailes?  And don‘t you think Roger Ailes, the head of Fox, would say to her, you‘ve got to go, you can‘t be on our air?  He‘s done it to two of his other contributors. 

I don‘t see how he would allow her to stay on, knowing that she was going to run for president. 

UYGUR:  All right.  I hear you on that, but Ailes has said that she doesn‘t listen to him, anyway.  Rove says she doesn‘t listen to anybody.  So I think it‘s definitely still possible.

But I‘m telling you guys, Rick Perry, that‘s the guy to watch out for. 

All right.  Jonathan Capehart, Dana Milbank, both from “The Washington Post.”

Thanks a lot for joining us.  I really appreciate it, guys.

CAPEHART:  Thanks, Cenk. 

MILBANK:  Thanks, Cenk.

CAPEHART:  All right.  Have a great weekend. 

All right.  Now, when we come back, Senator Tom Coburn speaks out on his alleged role in protecting his philandering friend John Ensign.  He says the Senate Ethics report is inaccurate.  You‘ll want to hear what Melanie Sloan has to say about that.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie claimed he cared about the environment during the campaign, but what he just did might prove that his claims were nothing but a big con job after all. 

And Newt Gingrich is now raising money for his campaign by selling the Ryan plan, that same plan that he called radical.  He‘s now trying to raise money by pretending to be the big protector. 

This guy is unbelievable.  We‘ll show you the actual e-mail. 

Stay with us. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UYGUR:  John Ensign‘s crazy ethics scandal has already killed his career, but things might be getting worse for him.

Reuters reports that the Justice Department plans to take up Ensign‘s corruption case again based on the new evidence the Senate Ethics Committee uncovered at the end of its investigation.  And that might mean more bad news for someone else, Senator Tom Coburn. 

Senator Coburn still has a job, but his wholesome image has taken a beating thanks to this scandal.  The Senate Ethics report alleges that Coburn personally negotiated the amount of settlement to pay out for the family of Senator Ensign‘s mistress, and that‘s the Hamptons. 

The report reads in part, “Hampton‘s lawyer proposed $8 million. 

Senator Coburn said that the figure was ‘absolutely ridiculous.‘  Mr.

Hampton then came back with some figures, an estimated $1.2 million for the

home and another $1.6 million to get started somewhere new.  Senator Coburn

responded by stating that, ‘OK.  That‘s what I had in mind and I think

that‘s fair.‘”

I like that.  It‘s kind of a way of saying your blackmail request is ridiculous, it‘s far too high.  We can pay a much smaller blackmail though if you‘re interested. 

Now, whether it‘s actually blackmail, of course lawyers will decide. 

But now Coburn says the report is wrong entirely.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TOM COBURN ®, OKLAHOMA:  That‘s a totally inaccurate characterization of what happened.  I got a phone call one day from Hampton saying, “Would you communicate a message to John?” 

I said, “I don‘t know.  I‘ll call John and ask me if he wants me to.” 

I called John Ensign and I said, “Do you want me to?”  And he said, “Yes.” 

And so the story you hear is not an accurate reflection of what happened. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UYGUR:  But I don‘t get it.  That seems to be confirming the story that was out right before that he was an intermediary for them.  And asked if he would do it again?  His answer seemed to be, damn straight, I would. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COBURN:  I‘ve testified before the committee, I have no worries.  What I did I would do exactly the same way again. 

We put two families back together with multiple children, and both marriages are stable right now.  And what I did, I‘m proud of what I did and the way I did it.  And there is nothing unethical in what we did. 

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

UYGUR:  By the way, Cindy Hampton has filed for divorce, so those families aren‘t as great of shape as he would have you believe. 

But the overall question is, was Coburn doing something seriously unethical or was he just helping out a good friend, being a good bro, as it were? 

My next guest can help us sort that out.  Joining us now is Melanie Sloan, executive director for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which has got to be a tough job.  How do you find those?

All right.  And her group‘s complaint to the Ethics Committee, by the way, led to the report about Senator Ensign, who also has filed a separate complaint to the Senate Ethics Committee about Senator Coburn‘s involvement in the scandal. 

First, Melanie, good luck in trying to find that ethics in Washington. 

I applaud you for your efforts. 

MELANIE SLOAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND

ETHICS IN WASHINGTON:  We keep trying. 

UYGUR:  You keep trying.  I like that. 

But on Coburn, look, let‘s keep this real.  He is friends with Ensign, he‘s trying to work something out between them.  Doesn‘t that kind of make sense? 

SLOAN:  You know, in some respects it makes sense.  And I also think that Mr. Coburn felt bad for Doug Hampton. 

I think he recognized that Doug Hampton had been treated shabbily here.  But it‘s one thing to feel bad for somebody, and it‘s another to take steps that move you toward the illegal conduct kind of lane.  And there were several things that Dr. Coburn did that are troubling. 

For example, he met with Doug Hampton when Doug Hampton was a lobbyist, and he told “The New York Times” that he knew that it was wrong when he was allowing Doug Hampton to lobby him.  Doug Hampton was violating the lobbying laws at the time.  In fact, he‘s been indicted for that now. 

So, by helping Doug Hampton violate the lobbying laws, in fact Dr.

Coburn could be said to have be aiding and abetting those violations.  Then, in addition, when Senator Coburn talks to the Senate Ethics Committee, he denies having had any kind of conversation with John Ensign‘s father, Michael Ensign, although, Tim Coe, a religious leader for the family, said that Dr. Coburn called Michael Ensign.  Senator John Ensign is furious that his father has been called, and Michael Ensign just doesn‘t call whether Senator Coburn called him. 

So it‘s clear that Senator Coburn called. 

UYGUR:  No, no, I think he called.  I don‘t think that‘s—at least in my mind it‘s not a dispute.  It seems like a lot of people, including their main spiritual leader, is saying, yes, he called, right? 

But my question, Melanie is, why does that matter?

SLOAN:  But wait.  When you lie to the Senate Ethics Committee, that‘s a—because when you lie to the Senate Ethics Committee, that‘s making a false statement.  That‘s a crime. 

UYGUR:  All right.  That‘s a crime.  Look, remember the crime that they so-called got Bill Clinton on was lying, right? 

SLOAN:  Right.  And now Dr. Coburn is lying, and I don‘t even know why he‘s lying about all this?  Because, you know, a lot of what he did, that wasn‘t a crime.

Helping—even serving as the intermediary between Doug Hampton and Doug Hampton‘s lawyer and John Ensign, that wouldn‘t have been illegal.  I certainly think it was shady, the fact that he kept helping John Ensign.  And in part, he wanted to help get Doug Hampton out of town and move him to Colorado so John Ensign could continue his career.

And considering the family values folks that these guys claim to be, and the high moral character they say they have, it‘s really questionable why Senator Coburn would keep helping John Ensign, even though he knows he‘s continuing on the affair and he hasn‘t ended the affair.  Why is he helping him like that? 

UYGUR:  Well, look, again, helping him with sorting out the affair, I actually have no problem with.  Again, they‘re friends, they‘re co-workers, et cetera.  He‘s trying to do the right thing.

But you‘re saying that his real problem was, A, he shouldn‘t have lied about it, because that breaks the law, if he lied about it, and then, B, he shouldn‘t have had Doug Hampton lobbying him, which he apparently concedes to some degree. 

Is that the two main problems with Coburn at this point? 

SLOAN:  Those are the two main problems that could cause him legal jeopardy.  I would say his conduct in helping Ensign cover this up also, again, doesn‘t look good.  It certainly doesn‘t reflect credibly on the Senate, which is a standard that they use over in the Ethics Committee. 

(CROSSTALK)

UYGUR:  I‘m going to be honest with you, Melanie.  I‘m not buying that.  I mean, I hear you, and I think you have a very good point, but if it was my friend, I‘d try to help him too. 

SLOAN:  Well, you know, but if it was your friend—do you think Senator Coburn would have done the same thing for, say, a Democratic senator?  I really doubt that.

UYGUR:  No, of course not.

SLOAN:  And this is the guy who has put himself up on a pedestal as a moral authority, and here he is helping another senator violate the sanctity of marriage, which he claims to care about a lot.  You know, Dr.  Coburn, every summer, teaches interns about abstinence.  Who‘s going to come and listen to Dr. Coburn now talk about as a moral authority? 

UYGUR:  All right.  That‘s your fair—but remember, everybody remember, he‘s not the one that slept with a staffer.  It was the other family values guy, Ensign, who slept with a staffer. 

SLOAN:  Oh, no.  And Ensign should be prosecuted.  Ensign deserves to go to jail.

UYGUR:  Right.  That we‘re clear on.

SLOAN:  But Dr. Coburn—right.  But Dr. Coburn should, still, I think, be held accountable for his conduct, and the Senate Ethics Committee should release some report. 

UYGUR:  All right.  I hear you. 

Melanie Sloan, of course, who keeps track of ethics in Washington.

Thank you for joining us tonight.  Really appreciate it. 

SLOAN:  Thanks. 

UYGUR:  All right.  When we come back, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie bails on a 10-state cap and trade program, saying it didn‘t work.  But is it really a con job to please conservative donors who want to pollute more?  We‘ll show you the facts. 

And Eric Cantor is playing politics with disaster relief.  He‘s holding it hostage for more spending cuts.  Is there any low the GOP won‘t stoop to? 

Our power panel responds tonight. 

And legendary “Star Trek” star George Takei is fighting for gay rights like you‘ve never seen before.  His amazing videos are striking back at gay bashers. 

Phasers on stun.  I had to do it.  Sorry.

We‘ll be back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UYGUR:  Now for our “Con Job of the Day,” we have New Jersey Governor Chris Christie pretending to care about the environment as he guts a successful environmental program that Republican donors don‘t like. 

Christie has decided that New Jersey will leave the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative—that‘s a 10-state cap and trade program—that he said amounts to a tax. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE ®, NEW JERSEY:  The whole system is not working as it was intended to work.  It‘s a failure. 

We have an obligation to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.  And we‘re going to do it in the concrete ways that I have laid out here today.  We‘re not going to do it by participating in gimmicky programs that haven‘t worked.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UYGUR:  First of all, this program wasn‘t a failure.  NorthJersey.com reports the program earned New Jersey $102 million.  The state then funded 12 large-scale solar projects which were expected to produce enough electricity to power nearly 20,000 households.

And according to the Sierra Club, New Jersey‘s greenhouse gas emissions from electric power plants has gone down 10 percent since 2009.  Now, that‘s exactly what the program was supposed to do. 

But Christie doesn‘t seem to care about that.  He cares about pleasing his conservative followers, and maybe even more importantly the conservative donors. 

The Koch-backed group Americans for Prosperity actively campaigned against the Greenhouse Gas Initiative and hails Christie‘s decision as a victory.  Of course they do. 

Democratic New Jersey assemblyman John McKeon sums it up nicely.  He told “The New York Times,” “Quite simply, this decision reeks of a governor desperate to boost his radical conservative credentials to distract from his failing policies.”  But wait a minute, it‘s not like Christie ever pretended to care about green energy, did he?  Well, let‘s take a look at one of his campaign promises.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE ®, NEW JERSEY:  I‘m going to make renewable energy a key part of the Christie administration.  As governor, I‘m going to make the manufacture of wind and solar energy a key industry here in New Jersey.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UYGUR:  Oops.  Christie leaving a successful environmental program, GOP donors don‘t like, while pretending to care about the environment is our con job of the day.              

(COMMERCIALBREAK)

UYGUR:  Welcome back to the show, everybody.  Joining me now is our Power Panel.  Very powerful.  They are here to discuss of course some of the day‘s biggest stories. 

With me is political commentator Sam Seder, he‘s host “The Majority Report” which I rather enjoy.  Also joining in the conversation is Richard Eskow, senior fellow with the Campaign for America‘s Future.  And once again, a conservative has somehow snuck onto the panel, actually he‘s an old friend of mine, Matt Lewis, senior contributor for The Daily Caller, and a friend of mine from the Ratigan Show. 

Now, first question for the panel.  Does Herman Cain stand a chance of actually winning the GOP nomination?  It‘s actually a harder question than you think.  A new Gallup poll shows that he‘s just one point behind Newt Gingrich and the head of, of course, Pawlenty and then Bachmann and Huntsman.  Of course, he has low name recognition compared to the others, but what‘s most interesting is that among those who have heard of him, 24 percent pick him as their first choice candidates, that‘s more than any of the other GOP candidates.  So, could he take the nomination?  Once more people know about him.  Sam, go. 

SAM SEDER, HOST, “THE MAJORITY REPORT”:  I guess so.  I mean, with this field, it seems completely wide open.  I mean, as far as I can tell, most emerges are running anyways to raise money for a book tour or some type of reality show, so yes, I guess it‘s possible, you certainly has the ability to pull all the other candidates, I mean, to the extent that they can go any further right.  He has the ability to pull them all into a complete la-la land as far as I‘m concerned. 

UYGUR:  Matt, you‘re the conservative here, what do you think?  I mean, is this guy for real?  He did great in that first debate, according to a FOX, study group, et cetera.  Is he for real?

MATT LEWIS, THE DAILY CALLER:  He really is, look, Herman Cain, aside from being a great communicator and very charismatic, you know, he was a mathematician for the Navy Department, he has master of degree and computer science from Purdue, he run the National Restaurant Association.  He was chairman of the Federal Reserve board of Kansas City.  The guy has a great business background.  He is the real deal.  And I think, look, I wrote a piece today at The Daily Caller arguing if he doesn‘t win the nomination, I could see Mitt Romney picking him, for example, as vice president.  

UYGUR:  Wow, that‘s amazing.  But look, it‘s partly amazing because of some of his answers though, he was on FOX News Channel the other day, talking about the right of return or not talking about it very well.  Let‘s look at that before I get more reaction from you guys. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, FOX NEWS SUNDAY:  Where do you stand on the right of return?

HERMAN CAIN, BUSINESSMAN:  The right of return?  The right of return?

WALLACE:  The Palestinian right of return.  

CAIN:  That‘s something that should be negotiated.  That‘s something to be negotiated.  

SEAN HANNITY, HOST, “HANNITY:  A lot of people think you didn‘t understand the right of return. 

CAIN:  They are exactly right, Sean.  Chris caught me off-guard.  I didn‘t understand the right of return. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UYGUR:  Richard, I mean, you‘ve got to give him the credit for honesty, but on the other hand, running for president and you don‘t know what the right of return is?

RICHARD ESKOW, CAMPAIGN FOR AMERICA‘S FUTURE:  Look, he has a very impressive career, as Matt was saying, but in a completely different field.  You know, Ted Nugent made a lot of hit records.  And I‘m sure if he were in here, he would have the name recognition that Mr. Cain doesn‘t, and he‘s be polling well too.  The flippant answer about his chances is he does well among more informed republican voters, but the more informed voters aren‘t the ones that pick candidates lately.  So, you know, I don‘t know how real his chances are.  I do know his run a very mean-spirited and hard right campaign, and you know, the fact that, and let‘s face it, I think that there‘s a certain element of race in this factor, in this whole issue.  I don‘t know how well he‘s going to do in the long run. 

UYGUR:  Right.

ESKOW:  I think it‘s way too early to call him a serious candidate.  I think we have to wait and see what happens. 

SEDER:  Well, I will tell you.  I will tell you, Cenk, I appreciate that he‘s talking about there should be some negotiation in terms of the right of return.  I just have a feeling that he‘s just about everybody else in the Republican Party, and frankly the Democratic Party would think that‘s a completely radical idea, I mean...  

UYGUR:  I know, I know, but of course he‘s already flip flopped on that, by the way.  Don‘t worry.  He went back on FOX News and said, I didn‘t mean it, I didn‘t mean it, whatever Israel says.  

SEDER:  And he‘s got plenty of radical ideas already about Social Security.

UYGUR:  Right.

SEDER: .cutting that back.

UYGUR:  No question about that. 

SEDER: ..and about flat taxes for billionaires.  He‘s already there.  

UYGUR:  All right.  I think we‘ll going to get a chance to talk about McCain more as time goes on.  So, we‘ll go on to the next question.  Will Democrats compromise on Medicare?  This is really important.

Republicans are now absolutely demanding that cutting the program be part of any long-term deficit reduction deal.  Listen to what Senator Mitch McConnell had to say about it.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL ®, KENTUCKY:  All this silly talk about how Medicare is not going to be a part of the solution is nonsense.  Medicare will be a part of any agreement to begin to reduce our long-term debt.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UYGUR:  Richard, this is unbelievable.  They‘re absolutely demanding that the Democrats cut the Medicare.  If I was Democrats, I would tell them to pound sand.  Why do I have to listen to Mitch McConnell?

ESKOW:  Well, you know, I think there‘s a strong will here to rewrite the social contract and basically tell people they can‘t expect the kind of services and support from the government that they paid for, and that sustain the middle class.  Look, Medicare is a terrible cost problem in the long term.  McConnell said he also wants cuts in the short term, but he‘s not willing to do, you know, you don‘t solve the Medicare problem by cutting benefits.  You solve it by doing the things that Mitch McConnell is refusing to do in terms of for-profit health care and for profits hospitals and the way our system is structured. 

UYGUR:  Right.

ESKOW:  So, he‘s not having a serious discussion about Medicare.  

UYGUR:  Right.  But Matt, here‘s the things, why should the Democrats let the Republicans off the hook?  Mitch McConnell is saying, I demand that President Obama bail me out by helping me cut Medicare, because we‘re in trouble over it.  Why would the president help him do that?

LEWIS:  Well, look, maybe we heard it differently.  I think what McConnell saying is, you can‘t fix the budget without tackling entitlement reform.  And if you look at the budget, two thirds of it comes from really three areas, Medicare and Medicaid, National Defense, and Social Security.  We know we‘re not going to touch Social Security, that I think National Defense, we could cut a little bit out off, but that‘s actually the one area we‘re constitutionally supposed to spend government money on.  Medicare simply has to be, so I think McConnell is really stating the obvious there.  

SEDER:  The fact of the matter is we know there‘s one budget out there right now that actually deals with the deficit and the debt if we want to make that our number one problem.  As opposed to jobs and taking care of people who can‘t pay for their health care, and that‘s the progressive caucus, the people‘s budget.  But we‘re not talking about that, OK.  So, you‘ve got McConnell out there, he is pushing this idea that Medicare has to be on the table.  He is banking on the one thing that Democrats are not like you, Cenk, that they‘re not going to take full advantage of this incredible political gift that Paul Ryan gave the Democrats and that they may actually cave on that.  And if they do, it‘s reprehensible.  There‘s an attitude of the Republican Party that somehow Medicare is like eating the fat of a steak, let‘s say, or eating a piece of cake.  Well, in fact it keeps two thirds of our elderly out of poverty and keeps them essentially from dying.  

LEWIS:  Let me make a good point here, because part of what the Ryan plan does is means testing.  A lot of the cuts mean that rich people shouldn‘t be getting as much Medicare money back.  That‘s where a lot of the cuts come from Democrats.  

(TALKING OVER EACH OTHER)

UYGUR:  Guys, guys, I‘ve got to go to the next thing.  But look, Matt, I hear you.  And that‘s true, but it also cuts the middle class and it also cuts the poor.  It cuts a lot out of Medicare.  That‘s what the problem is.  So, let‘s move on to our last question.  Are Republicans completely out of touch?  Matt, you‘ll enjoy this question as well.  Earlier in the week, Representative Eric Cantor said that any disaster aid would need to be offset by spending cuts to other programs.  Well, with an interview with the Huffington Post, he doubled down on that state saying, quote, “there‘s not a question that there are going to be offsets if there‘s a request for a supplemental, we can find things we don‘t need to spend on to pay for it.  I also think there‘s trillions of dollars of spending in Washington, so it‘s about priorities.”  Matt, are these the right priorities to say we‘re not going to give the relief aid until you give us more spending cuts?

LEWIS:  Well, I think he‘s saying, let‘s do the relief aid and let‘s pay for it, but the fundamental issue here Cenk that no one really wants to address is that aid for natural disasters should not be funded via emergency appropriations.  It should be budgeted for.  Now, look there are unique.

ESKOW:  Hang on, what we‘re really not talking about whether it‘s McConnell or frankly Matt or Cantor is revenue.  It‘s always about cutting spending, keeping.

LEWIS:  No, I‘m talking about budgeting for natural disasters that happen every year. 

ESKOW:  We have homeless in the streets. 

(CROSSTALK)

SEDER:  Matt, why should we provide any disaster relief?  I mean, let‘s be consistent about this.  The constitution doesn‘t say that we should provide disaster relief.  I mean, if he‘s willing to hold this hostage...  

(CROSSTALK)

Why he shouldn‘t come out and say, we shouldn‘t provide any disaster relief?  Those people are on their own, just like the elderly without Medicare...  

LEWIS:  Because the conservatives and the Republicans don‘t believe that.  We‘re a compassionate.  

ESKOW:  The operative principle is that Herman Cain and Pete Peterson should not pay more in taxes, and whatever it takes to cut spending to do that, that‘s going to be pushed for by Mitch McConnell, by Eric Cantor, and every incident like this, every issue like Medicare is going to be used to push the agenda.  Americans do not expect your government, ever help you again because we have tax cuts to defend. 

UGYUR:  All right.  We‘re going to leave it right there, Guys.  I‘ve enjoyed this Power Panel.  And I‘m going to get the last word by the way.  Richard is mainly right.  Look, we have to look at the revenue side of this thing, and I think the Republicans are doing damage to themselves.  This is too much to say.  We‘re going to hold the relief hostage, that seems crazy to me.  All right.  But guys, I really appreciate you joining us.  Sam Seder, Richard Eskow, and Matt Lewis, thanks for the great discussion.  Have a great weekend, guys.  

SEDER:  You too.

ESKOW:  Thank you.  

UYGUR:  All right.  Now, when we come back.  How is Newt Gingrich using Paul Ryan to make money?  The e-mail he sent to supporters is stunning.  And legendary actor George Takei is fighting the “Don‘t Say Gay” bill in a way I promise will make you laugh.  And how does Spock react to him coming out?  I asked him earlier believe it or not, and you‘ll want to hear what he said.                    

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UYGUR:  Now at this point, we all knew Newt Gingrich was a bit of an embarrassment to say the least, but his shamelessness apparently knows no bounds.  The same guy that called the Ryan plan right wing social engineering is now trying to make money off of it.  He sends supporters and e-mall asking for donations, get this, to promote the Ryan plan.  The e-mail obtained by Talking Points memo, reads, quote, “The only way our country can win the future is by engaging our fellow citizens in serious discussions about major reform, not by avoiding hard choices.  Congressman Ryan has made a key contribution to entitlement reform, courageously starting the conversation, about how to save and improve Medicare, and that‘s exactly the kind of national conversation I want our campaign to be about.”  Now, that would be—that would seem to be incredibly hypocritical, given what he said about the Ryan plan earlier, but on the other hand to be fair, Newt might need the money to be off his Tiffany‘s stuff. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UYGUR:  Sometimes the best way to fight hate and discrimination is to make people laugh.  That‘s what one gay rights activist is doing, to show the absurdity of a Tennessee bill that would ban teachers from discussing the fact that some people are gay.  The bill‘s been dubbed the, “Don‘t Say Gay” bill, it would bar teachers from using materials that discussed homosexuality, and would punish teachers who violent the ban with up to 30 days in jail, which is absurd.  Opponents of the bills say it would actually increase discrimination and bullying.  Enter actor and gay rights activist George Takei known to many of course as Mr. Sulu some Star Trek, including myself.  He‘s come along with a hilarious and devastatingly, effective response to the “Don‘s Say Gay” bill, just take a look here. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE TAKEI, ACTOR:  Anytime you need to say the word “Gay” you can simply say “Takei.”  For example, you could safely proclaim, you are supporter of Takei marriage, if you‘re in a more festive mood, you can march in a Takei pride parade.  Even homophobic slurs don‘t seem as hurtful if someone says, that is so Takei.  And around the holidays, you can sing, done we now our Takei apparel.  Thank you.  And as they say on the Flint Stones, have the Takei old time. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UYGUR:  Well, George Takei joins us now live.  It‘s great to have you.  

TAKEI:  Good to be here with you.  

UYGUR:  All right.  So, tell me about the bill, what‘s the status of it?  I know, that video was amazing, with 900,000 viewers but what‘s been the reaction and where are we now?

TAKEI:  The reaction has been tremendous.  The bill passed only the Senate.  It still has to go through the Tennessee House of Representatives, and then it goes to the governor for his signature, so it isn‘t law yet, and we want to stop it before it goes any further. 

UYGUR:  Right. 

TAKEI:  You know, it‘s deja vu all over again, because it was in 1925 that Tennessee had that scopes monkey trial, Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan, battling over the teaching of evolution, and here it is again, some 80 years later.  

UYGUR:  I know you must have struggled with coming out.  Of course, you hear the stories all the time.  And at the same time, look at what an effect you‘ve had since you‘ve come out.  Are you really pleased with your decision to come out and to fight on issues like this?

TAKEI:  Well, you know, what the press calls my coming out is when I spoke to the press, but I actually had been out for quite some time. 

UYGUR:  Were you out during the “Star Trek” years?

TAKEI:  Yes, my colleagues knew.  You know, because we have wrap parties on Friday nights at the end of the week, and I would bring a guy along, and then the next week I would. 

UYGUR:  And Spock was cool with that?

TAKEI:  You know, they‘re sophisticated people.  And Spock is particularly logical.  He would say, oh, George has boyfriends here.  I get it.  OK.  And it was all taken in stride.  

UGYUR:  Right.  And Gene Roddenberry, the greatest Star Trek was incredibly progressive.  But you know, George, it looks like this issue is winning, the gay rights community is winning.  In a recent poll, 53 percent support gay marriage now, and that‘s not several years, that‘s gay marriage. 

TAKEI:  That‘s right.

UYGUR:  Only 45 percent oppose.  And then let me read you a quote.  This is really interesting.  The head of a right-wing group focus on a family, said, quote, “we‘re losing on that one,” referring to gay rights, “especially among 20 and 30 somethings, 65 to 70 percent of them favor same sex marriage, I don‘t want to be extremist here, but I think we need to start calculating where we are in the culture.”  So do you think you guys are winning?

TAKEI:  Well, you know, what we are talking about is equality, a basic American pillar of rights.  These people talk about defense of marriage.  Well, we want marriage for everybody, and if that insecure about their marriage, I tell them, you know, pay attention to your marriage, but mind your own marriage, don‘t mind ours.  We have just as much right to marriage as you have.  What counts is love, and some of these people that say marriage is between a man and a woman have the worst kind of marriage, the man cheating, or a wife beating, or bickering back and forth. 

UYGUR:  Well, I can give you a list that‘s very long of Republicans who are family values like Senator Ensign, Chris Lee, Newt Gingrich and the list goes on.  

TAKEI:  And his $500,000 Tiffany bill.  

UYGUR:  Right.  And one of the thing I—like I‘m married, right?  So, if Steve and Bob get married in Nebraska, how does it affect my marriage?

TAKEI:  Exactly.  They‘re insecure about their own marriage.  So pay attention to your own marriage, and don‘t mind our business. 

UYGUR:  All right.  George Takei, very clear on this, and very important message and it‘s getting out to everybody.  Thank you so much for joining us.  

TAKEI:  Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about it.  We can say “Gay” on your show.  

(LAUGHTER)

UYGUR:  All right.  Now, when we come back, we‘re going to introduce you to this freshman congressman.  His name is Joel Walsh, and he managed to offend Jewish-Americans and African-Americans all in one week.  The question is, which statement was more offensive?  Trust me, that‘s a tough one.  We‘ll show you when we come back.                  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UYGUR:  We have a new contender for the craziest republican.  And that‘s a tough fight, man.  The male Michele Bachmann is GOP freshman Congressman Joe Walsh from Illinois.  He of course thinks we should cut Medicare like Ryan wants to, obviously.  In fact, he wants the Republicans to fight harder for that Medicare cutting plan.  In fact, he thinks a social safety net including Social Security and Medicare might not be constitutional.  He thinks the Republicans aren‘t cutting nearly enough.  OK.  Now, those are policy differences I have with him.  And if you want to abolish Social Security and Medicare, I guess you‘ll going to love Joe Walsh. 

But then things get wacky, in an interview with Slate‘s David Weigel, Walsh said, quote, “why was he elected,” referring to President Obama.  “Again, it comes back to who he was.  He was black, he was historic.  If he had been a dynamic white state senator elected to Congress, he wouldn‘t have gotten into the game this fast.  They were in loved with him because he pushed that magical button, a black man who is articulate, liberal, the whole white guilt, all of that.”  Now, he adamantly says, that comment was not racist.  And on the first part, I agree with him.  It‘s not racist to say that Barack Obama won the presidency because he‘s black.  It‘s just crazy. 

Really, black men in this country have it so easy, we just go around and giving them everything like the presidency?  That shows a stunning detachment from reality.  I love how Republicans often say, oh, it‘s so easy for blacks to win the presidency.  Then, how come he was the first?  How come every other guy was white? It‘s unbelievable.  Anyway, on the second part where he says, liberals like President Obama because he is a black man who is actually articulate, we‘re getting a little closer to that line there.  I know Biden said similar things, but it‘s not the right way to go.  But look, I don‘t care about the labels.  I care about how crazy this guy is. 

Another case in point, in a Daily Caller Op-Ed, Congressman Walsh wrote, quote, “Most American Jews are liberal, and most American liberal sign with the Palestinians.  And vague notions of peace instead of with Israel‘s well-being and security.  Like the president, the U.N. and most of Europe, too many American Jews aren‘t as pro-Israel as they should be.”  Remember, he‘s catholic.  He‘s not Jewish, so he‘s blaming American Jews for being too pro-Palestinian and not sufficiently pro-Israel.  Wow.  All right.  Now, obviously many of the top Jewish groups in the country did not take kindly to those crazy assertions.  By the way, what‘s his point, anyway?  That‘s the thing that drives me crazy.  It might be actually that he doesn‘t care that much about Israel himself, he might be one of those nut jobs who thinks, Armageddon has to start there and that Israel holding Judea and Samaria is the only way that happens.  

In which case, if an American Jew wants peace for Israel, well, that wouldn‘t suit Walsh‘s purposes.  The ultimate goal for Christian Zionists, and I don‘t know that he is one, but someone should ask him because he‘s certainly talking like one.  It‘s not the well-being of Israel, it is destruction of Israel through Armageddon.  I know that sounds incredibly crazy.  But that‘s what some of these people believed.  And you just heard some of these quotes, so you be the judge on whether Walsh is in fact that crazy.  Thank you for watching today.  “HARDBALL” starts right now.

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