Msnbc Live at 6 p.m. ET, Wednesday June 1, 2011
Read the transcript from the Wednesday 6 p.m. hour
Guests: Luke Russert, Dana Milbank, Jonathan Capehart, Matt Lewis, A.B. Stoddard, Robert Borosage, Brian Bilbray
CENK UYGUR, HOST: Good evening, everybody. I‘m Cenk Uygur.
We‘ve got a fun show ahead for you guys. Later on the program, I‘m going to interview a Republican congressman. You don‘t want to miss that.
But we start with our lead story tonight, the disaster that is the GOP 2012 field.
You‘ve got Sarah Palin‘s bizarro PR tour and the reaction that it‘s causing for the rest of the Republican Party. And that‘s what‘s really interesting.
Palin is now on her way to Boston after making a quick visit to her bosses at Fox News headquarters in New York City. And remember, they are literally her bosses. She‘s still on the Fox payroll, which would be weird and at some point illegal if she was actually running for president.
Today, Fox issued a statement saying, “Right now there is no change in her status with Fox News.” Meanwhile, Palin is trying hard to dodge that same issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH PALIN ®, FMR. VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, I don‘t know if I‘m going to be running yet. And I‘m sorry that I give you guys the same old boring answer on that one, but nothing‘s changed. You know, I‘ll decide when the time is right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Of course, all this follows her meeting of the minds, or lack thereof, last night with Donald Trump. The two reality stars, presumably laughing about how none of the other GOP candidates can get any press attention at all as long as they keep chowing down on that pizza together.
And a new poll out, by the way, shows that 37 percent of Republicans have negative views of their candidates and only 22 percent have positive views. That‘s obviously bad news.
But it gets worse. The top three words used by Republicans to describe their candidates, “unimpressed,” “disappointed,” and “weak.” That is obviously very bad news for the Republicans.
Remember, those are other Republicans characterizing their candidates that way. And it‘s also why people like Tea Party darling Jim DeMint are now thinking about getting into the race.
The South Carolina senator says the possibility is “humbling, and out of respect my wife and I have talked about it.” Out of respect for who, I don‘t know.
It‘s why Texas Governor Rick Perry has also agreed to replace Donald Trump as a keynote speaker at a big gig at a Republican dinner next month. So he‘s obviously interested.
And it‘s why some rich Iowa Republicans went to New Jersey last night to beg Governor Chris Christie to enter the race. He said no, but he did promise to visit Iowa this summer.
Drama all for a very fun Republican field action.
So let‘s talk about it.
Joining me now are two of my favorite friends from “The Washington Post,” columnist Dana Milbank and editorial writer Jonathan Capehart.”
JONATHAN CAPEHART, EDITORIAL WRITER, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Hi, Cenk.
DANA MILBANK, COLUMNIST, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Hello, Cenk.
UYGUR: All right.
First, obviously, we start with Palin. Now, here‘s the thing.
Dana, let me start with you.
Look, I‘m not taking her seriously, because when I see her go and talk to Trump, that‘s basically a big sign that says all I want is the media attention. You know, if you were a serious candidate, would you go and hang out with a clown like Trump? I don‘t think so. Right?
But am I being an elitist here, as she would charge?
MILBANK: Well, I‘m sure she could charge it. The question is, it‘s not just you having doubts about this. It‘s a wide cross section of America.
You know, it‘s become sort of a farcical tour. The idea was to see the things that made America great, and start on the National Mall and go to the Liberty Bell, and then go to Fox News headquarters, and pizza in Times Square. So it has become a little bit of a self-parody there.
But that poll does show, you know, why people will desperately glom on to it, Trump or Palin there. And we have another poll out of Iowa today saying Mitt Romney‘s got 21 percent, but tied for second, I think it‘s 15 percent or 16 percent, are Palin and my good friend Herman Cain. So it shows you the fact that Herman Cain could actually be the viable contender there in Iowa, just the wide level of dissatisfaction Republicans have with their field.
Now, and Jonathan, how about Fox News? I mean, aren‘t they basically saying to the country, we don‘t think Sarah Palin is a serious candidate? Because if they did, then it wouldn‘t be legal for them to have Sarah Palin continue on their payroll.
CAPEHART: Right. I wouldn‘t even say that they think that she‘s a serious candidate. They either don‘t think or absolutely know that she‘s not running for president. And I don‘t think she would undertake this tour and string people along if, ultimately, she decided, well, yes, I am going to run for president.
Look, ultimately, if she runs, Fox News has to let her go, and they have to let her go sooner rather than later. Fox News is the one place where Sarah Palin—it‘s her employer. I think you said it at the top of the show.
Between that, speaking fees, her best-selling books, this is how Sarah Palin makes her money. And if you listen to her very carefully answering questions about whether she‘s actually running and when she‘s going to make a decision, she‘s never definitive and she‘s never clear. She‘s being very careful not to—well, I should be careful here. Try to be careful not to gin up speculation even though she‘s got a bus wrapped in the Constitution.
She‘s got everybody chasing her around. But basically, Cenk, what I watch her doing, I‘m not looking at her as a presidential candidate. I‘m looking at her as a publicity seeker and someone who is trying to up her rating, her money-making potential for whatever project might come down the road when she ultimately makes the decision that we know she‘s not running.
Guys, I‘d be done with her. You know, I‘d pull a Sammi from “Jersey Shore” and say, “I‘m done with you, I‘m done with you,” as she says to Ronny. Right? But as Dana pointed out, she‘s at number two, she‘s at 15 percent in Iowa.
So, I mean, I guess we‘re forced to take her seriously. But let‘s move on to some of the other candidates who I think actually could be serious contenders.
I‘m—I was surprised all along why Jim DeMint didn‘t enter. You know, he is the real conservative Republican that almost is indisputable.
Can he be a serious contender here, Dana? What do you think?
MILBANK: He could be. It really sounds like he‘s almost as categorical in ruling it out, as Chris Christie. He told our colleague at The Post, Chris Cillizza—or an aide to him told Cillizza today—that that just is not going to happen. And he‘d been pretty serious about that before.
Look, anybody at this point looking at this field and seeing—you know, for example, Herman Cain has to say, I could be a viable candidate. And that would probably be true. But it does not—Rick Perry, maybe, but it does not sound like Jim DeMint is going to get in there to say duke it out with --
UYGUR: You know, I almost think it was a mistake by DeMint not to get in earlier. But let‘s talk about Perry, because Perry also could be a good who takes up that social conservative space, he could make an argument for fiscal austerity, although I don‘t believe that argument.
Jonathan, what do you think? With him going to Iowa, does that make him much more of a serious possibility? And could he do some damage there?
CAPEHART: Well, I mean, he‘s been—we‘ve been hearing about him thinking about running for president for a few days now. Then he goes up to Iowa and he gives this speech for Donald Trump.
That‘s great. He looks around and he gauges what the support might be or could be. But he‘s got his own problems.
I mean, this is a guy who said last year that he—yes, he was thinking about maybe Texas should secede from the nation. How do you go from talking about secession to talking about running to be the leader of the country you wanted to secede from?
UYGUR: I hear you, but I think the Republicans are going to brush that off without any problems. They‘re going to be like, oh, that‘s a tough guy. Yes, Texas. Yes.
CAPEHART: Well, he‘s not going to get into it. And with Jim DeMint, he has more power as the leader of the Tea Party Caucus in the Senate with his own PAC and those members that he helped elect. Separate and apart from Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, I think he‘d be crazy if he jumped in the race.
UYGUR: That‘s really interesting. Look, maybe he loses and then he gets embarrassed, and he loses some degree of power. So I hear you on that.
The last guy is Chris Christie. Dana, let‘s talk about him real quick.
You know, again, now he‘s all of a sudden a little vague, saying he‘s going to visit Iowa later in the summer. Any chance he gets in? And if he did, I mean, the guy‘s at 40 percent popularity in his own state anyway. Is that really that interesting a candidate?
MILBANK: Well, and a lot of conservatives are suspicious about him. And it‘s one of those cases where he‘s attractive in part because nobody is giving him serious scrutiny, nobody‘s looking at, well, he‘s only be in office a short period of time.
I don‘t think that the idea of saying, well, I‘ll have to commit suicide to convince you I‘m not running, I don‘t buy that, because what is the penalty for saying, oh, I changed my mind, I‘m in the race now? The story‘s over once he‘s a candidate. So I don‘t think he‘s ruled himself out, but I don‘t think he‘s as attractive as he would be in actual practice.
UYGUR: All right. Dana Milbank and Jonathan Capehart, you guys rock.
Thank you so much for joining us.
MILBANK: Thanks, Cenk.
CAPEHART: Thanks, Cenk.
UYGUR: All right.
Now, when we come back, Anthony Weiner speaks out on the Twitter scandal rocking his world. What did he say about the photo, and was it a hit job?
NBC‘s Luke Russert talked to him today. He joins us live. And I‘ve got my thoughts on that, and they are going to be very clear.
And Chris Christie, the guy we were just talking about, has some serious explaining to do. He preaches fiscal responsibility, he takes away millions in education money from kids. So why is he getting a free ride on this state helicopter?
UYGUR: It‘s now day four of the Anthony Weiner Twitpic controversy, and tonight there are still a lot of questions out there, but it‘s mainly because of what Congressman Weiner has said in response to this story, honestly. But don‘t worry. I have some of the answers for you tonight.
And today, the congressman spoke to NBC‘s Luke Russert. Let‘s take a look at that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LUKE RUSSERT, NBC CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT: The picture than went over Twitter to Gennette Cordova from your account, is that you?
REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: Well, let‘s keep in mind what happened here. I was pranked, I was hacked, I was punk‘d, whatever it is.
Someone sent out a picture. I‘m an easy name to make fun of, and I think that that‘s what happened again.
It‘s a terrible thing that this poor woman got dragged into it. She says she knows nothing about it, and I obviously don‘t know anything about it. I didn‘t send that picture out.
RUSSERT: But that‘s not a picture of you?
WEINER: You know, I can‘t say with certitude. My system was hacked.
Pictures can be manipulated, pictures can be dropped in and inserted.
One of the reasons that I‘ve asked a firm that includes an Internet security arm is to take a look at what the heck happened here was to make sure it doesn‘t happen again. But let‘s kind of keep in mind why this is so silly.
Someone committed a prank on me, somehow got access to my Twitter account. And, by the way, you know, put up a picture that made fun of the name “Weiner.” And that‘s what happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Now, Weiner says the photo was sent from a hacker, and the 21-year-old who it was sent to, Gennette Cordova, backs up his story, actually. She said, “I have never met Congressman Weiner, though I am a fan. I‘ve never been to New York or to D.C. There have never been any inappropriate exchanges between Anthony Weiner and myself, including the tweet picture in question, which had apparently been deleted before it reached me.”
And a Reuters employee compared the lewd photos metadata to previous photos uploaded to Weiner‘s account and they found that it did not match, meaning a different camera might have been used.
Look, when you put all that together, to me it‘s exceedingly clear—he didn‘t send the picture, he doesn‘t know who the girl is, she doesn‘t know who he is in person. She knows him as a congressman, but she‘s never met him. So all of this is nonsense.
But, yesterday, Andrew Breitbart, who, of course, is a notorious liar and who‘s been the main guy pushing this story, complained that the mainstream media aren‘t covering the story enough. “If this were a Republican, it becomes the single most important story in the history of media for three weeks, four weeks.”
Now, come on! Are you claiming that Democratic sex scandals aren‘t covered enough in this country?
Have you ever heard of a guy called Bill Clinton? Did you ever hear of Monica Lewinsky? Have you heard of John Edwards? Have you heard of Eliot Spitzer?
You didn‘t think the media didn‘t cover those stories enough? On which planet?
But listen, why are we even having a conversation with Andrew Breitbart? He is a proven liar. That‘s what he does. It‘s almost his profession.
He did it with Shirley Sherrod and he‘s done it over and over again.
He doctors tapes and he puts out nonsense stories just like this one.
But, still, the whole town is talking about it. And as we told you, Luke Russert did sit down with Anthony Weiner. So he‘s got some insight into this and he‘s joining us now. Of course, he‘s NBC‘s Capitol Hill correspondent.
Luke, talk to me. First, what was the general sense you got from Anthony Weiner? Did he seem evasive or was he frustrated with the story, or maybe both?
RUSSERT: Well, I think he seemed humbled more than anything, Cenk. As you know, Anthony Weiner is a very outspoken member of Congress. He takes great pride in attacking the Republican Party.
One of his favorite Twitter hashtags is “Dems who fight.” So he‘s very loud and outspoken.
That being said, today he was much more of a calmer member of Congress, if you will. And really, the takeaway from the interview I did with him is that he was not able to say—“I can‘t say with certitude whether or not that photo was me or not me.”
That struck a lot of folks around Capitol Hill as being somewhat odd, simply because if it‘s a photo of the male area below the belt, and it‘s your own, there‘s usually a propensity to know what exactly that is and know if it‘s yours. So that was odd, from a media standpoint, why he would not just answer that question in a straight yes-or-no way because it‘s now continuing to create the media wave, which is seeming to engulf him right now.
I mean, this is a day that Democrats wanted to take to hammer away at Republicans about Medicare, about Paul Ryan‘s voucher program. And a lot of folks up here on Capitol Hill, myself included, and every other network, are chasing around Congressman Weiner and asking him questions about whether or not he sent a lewd photograph to a 21-year-old college student. And that‘s really been hitting the news cycle.
I‘ve spoken to some Democratic leadership aides that are quite upset about this. They wish that this would go away. They think that it‘s way too much of an issue now, that it‘s now time for it to die down.
But as Weiner keeps on talking, the issue will still pervade the halls of Congress and will still be around—Cenk.
UYGUR: Now, look, you make a lot of good points there. Right? Ad he originally had the combative press conference that we‘re showing right there. And so that created a lot of questions because it seemed like he didn‘t want to answer some of the questions.
And then the line of “I can‘t say with certitude” seems to raise some questions as well. No question about that.
Now, having said that, is it possible—and in my opinion probable—that he‘s saying that because he says, look, the guy hacked into my system, whether he has access to my pictures, I don‘t know. So I can‘t go out there and say that‘s definitely not my picture. I can say I definitely didn‘t send it. See, that would be an enormous distinction.
Does that make sense?
RUSSERT: There is a distinction about—he has been—in terms of did he actually send the photo, he has said no. And he‘s reiterated that point, and that was four days ago.
However, when you look at the photograph like that, if one were to take that of themselves as the angle looks like it had to be someone taking it of themselves, or else they got very close, one would think they would remember that. So to be in a gray area there is inexplicable to a lot of people up on Capitol Hill.
UYGUR: Well, look, I have no idea if it‘s his photo or not. But here‘s one possible explanation.
Let‘s say you have that it on your private computer. Should a congressman have it? I don‘t know. That‘s his private business. Right?
UYGUR: But a guy comes in, grabs that picture. Now, what are you going to do? Are you going to tell the nation, oh, yes, that‘s me? That‘s incredibly embarrassing, right?
But at the same time, you don‘t want to lie. So there‘s a hundred different explanations here.
But one other thing that is interesting is now some people like Bill O‘Reilly are saying, well, why doesn‘t he get the FBI involved here? Because if somebody hacked into a congressman‘s computer, that that‘s serious business.
How did he explain that to you, Luke?
RUSSERT: Well, that was a question that was posed to him yesterday, saying you could actually request the Capitol Hill police to investigate the matter, you can request the FBI to investigate the matter because you are a public figure. You do have a Twitter account that is actually used for a lot of constituent services, not just lambasting Michele Bachmann, which Mr. Weiner seems to be quite good at.
But he said today in an interview with me that he doesn‘t want to make a federal taxpayer issue of it, out of this incident. He doesn‘t want money going towards it. He thinks that would create the hoopla and continue it going on and on and on.
That being said, he is actually enlisting the services of a private security firm to look at the technological aspects of this hacking, allegedly, that occurred, as well as he retained the services of a lawyer to advise him. And that‘s really what got the ball rolling on this yesterday, Cenk, is that Anthony Weiner is someone who has always been armed with the facts on Capitol Hill.
In terms of members of Congress, of the 435, you‘d be hard pressed to find one who knows the rules of parliamentary procedure better than Anthony Weiner. He is a thorn in the side of Republicans, he was a thorn in the side even when Democrats ran it. If he wanted to speak up, he would get his way on the House floor because he knows the rules so well.
So, when someone like that was so quiet yesterday, and so introverted, and seemed not to want anything to do with any of the questions, it set off a lot of alarm bells up here on Capitol Hill. And that is why this has taken on such a large life of its own.
UYGUR: Right. But that‘s the problem with so-called controversies like this.
When he first responded, and he was very vocal, they said, oh, that sounds fishy. Then he doesn‘t respond for a day and people say, oh, he didn‘t respond, that sounds fishy. Then he talks to you and they say, well, that sounds fishy.
Like, it‘s almost like you can‘t win, right? And to me, lawyering up makes all the sense in the world. If someone hacked into my account, before I make a federal case out of it I would investigate it.
So, but, look, that‘s my take. I think your interview was incredibly interesting.
Of course, Luke‘s an NBC Capitol Hill correspondent.
And we want to thank you for joining us tonight, Luke.
RUSSERT: Always a pleasure, Cenk. Keep up the good work. Be well.
UYGUR: All right. Thank you so much.
All right. Now, when we come back, Chris Christie, “Mr. Fiscal Responsibility,” bullies the people of New Jersey on cost-cutting. He‘s chopped more than $1 billion in school aid. So why are taxpayers paying for helicopters rides to his son‘s baseball game?
It‘s the usual Republican con job on fiscal discipline as they ride around in helicopters.
And just when you thought it couldn‘t get any worse for Paul Ryan, well, it does. The devastating new numbers are in, and there‘s a twist to this one. So stay with us.
UYGUR: Now for our “Con Job of the Day.”
The king of the budget acts, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, travels in style on the state‘s dime. Christie likes to style himself as a champion of fiscal responsibility.
Since taking office last year, he‘s cut more than $1 billion just in school aid alone. That‘s why it‘s mighty rich that Christie had a state helicopter fly him to and from his son‘s high school baseball game yesterday.
Now, the state police are trying to protect the boss by saying Christie only comes on flights that would have been in the air anyway. Really? The state police were going to fly the helicopter between Chris Christie‘s son‘s baseball games anyway? Does anyone believe that?
Now, do you know how much Christie‘s ride cost? Twenty-five hundred dollars an hour. But we don‘t have enough money for teachers in New Jersey.
Christie‘s spokesman defends the flight, saying, “It is a means of transportation that is occasionally used as the schedule demands. This has historically been the case in prior administrations as well, and we continue to be judicious in limiting its use.”
But was the chopper flight really in the interest of state taxpayers? Well, “The Star-Ledger” reports that about an hour after Christie left the game in Montvale, New Jersey, he had dinner in Princeton with a group of Iowa businessmen trying to convince him to leave Jersey and run for president.
First of all, Google puts that about an hour and a half drive, which is a pretty reasonable car ride. Second, meeting with Iowa businessmen sure doesn‘t seem like official state business that you need to fly to, especially when they‘re trying to convince you to stop being governor of New Jersey. That makes no sense.
Maybe Christie should remember these words of wisdom on government spending --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE ®, NEW JERSEY: Every program, every department, and every employee should be held accountable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Oops. Some Jersey Democrats want Christie to be held accountable, of course, and they want him to reimburse the state for the flight.
Whether or not that happens, Governor Christie‘s use of a pricey state helicopter while he preaches austerity is our “Con Job of the Day.”
UYGUR: Welcome back to the show everybody. Joining me now is our Power Panel. They‘re here to discuss of course some of the biggest stories of the day. With me is A.B. Stoddard, associate editor and columnist for “The Hill.” Also joining the conversation is Robert Borosage, co-director of Campaign for America‘s Future. And Matt Lewis, a senior contributor for “The Daily Caller.” Welcome, everybody.
A.B. STODDARD, “THE HILL”: Thanks.
UYGUR: Now, we‘ll go to our first question. And the question for the panel is, what‘s the real story when it comes to the Anthony Weiner twitter controversy? Now, we just talked about this and you got my opinion. But I want to get everybody else‘s. And Matt, I‘m going to start with you on this one. You know, you might have heard in the last segment, I think it‘s total nonsense. But you might have a different take. What do you think?
MATT LEWIS, “THE DAILY CALLER”: Well, I think he‘s brought a lot of it on himself, you know, Luke Russert asks him, is that a picture of you? He says, I can‘t say that with certitude. Come on, I think I could tell if there were a picture of me and my—first of all, I wouldn‘t wear those particular boxers briefs, but just assuming I did, I think I would know if that were me or not. Wolf Blitzer asks him the same thing, was that you? He says, we‘re doing everything, humanely possible to figure out if it was me. I think he‘s brought a lot of this on himself. Here‘s what I think happened. I don‘t know what happened, my guess is that I know on my iPhone I have a twitter app. And I can have different accounts. He very well may have accidentally sent it out from the wrong account. That‘s one theory.
UYGUR: Yes, look. The thing is, if your account gets hacked, and remember, the thing that really gets me is, Reuters that looks into it. And it looks like that picture came from someplace else from where he normally sends his pictures. And the woman involved says, I don‘t know who -- like I know who he is. I know he‘s a congressman. I‘ve never met him, I‘ve never come close to meeting him. This is nonsense, right? So, A.B., what is he supposed to do? Let‘s say they hacked into his account and took a picture of him. Is he supposed to say that‘s me? That‘s crazy. Is he supposed to say, no? I mean, why is he even answering these charges in a sense? Is it just because it‘s sex, so we‘ve got to talk about it?
STODDARD: Well, the interesting thing is, first he didn‘t want to answer, then he wanted to answer, then he‘s answering too much. I think what he‘s revealed at this point is that he quite possibly has a picture of himself in his underwear floating around the internet and he thinks that it might, you know have gone to this woman. He also admitted that Ms. Cordova or whatever her name is, the 21-year-old student is someone that he follows randomly on twitter. So he has now revealed that he follows random people on twitter and there might be a picture of him in his underwear that someone took from close up maybe even himself.
So, doesn‘t really matter what happens, I like the fact that he doesn‘t want to waste taxpayer dollars on a big investigation. But it is true what Luke said. He‘s a very savvy guy and knows exactly what‘s going on. And the fact that he is sort of hemmed and hawed and raised questions in the way that he‘s answered all these questions is a little embarrassing. And I think the fact that it did might be a photo of him, in the end, you know, it‘s an embarrassing episode no matter what, and results of it is.
UYGUR: Look, I followed thousands of people on twitter. Check me out, I‘ll follow you, OK. That‘s the point of twitter.
STODDARD: I‘m not on twitter, Cenk.
UYGUR: All right. I mean, that‘s the whole point of twitter, you follow one another.
LEWIS: I actually agree with you on that, Cenk. You‘re right. I mean, I follow thousands of people. And I‘m sure that some of them are attractive young ladies. So, you know.
STODDARD: Well, he just revealed this then. That‘s all I‘ll say.
UYGUR: No, but Robert—Robert, let‘s talk about—what in God‘s green earth is the relevance here? I mean, did he misuse taxpayer money? Did he abuse his power? None of it, right? I mean, what it is, ha ha ha, there might be a picture of a congressman‘s jock, wow!
ROBERT BOROSAGE, CAMPAIGN FOR AMERICA‘S FUTURE: Right. This is the worst kind of gotcha. We‘re talking about a tweet that the woman never saw. I mean, this is a totally preposterous story we‘re spending time on. This is the worst form of gotcha politics. Oh, we can embarrass this guy and twitter about him all day. I think the story is ridiculous, and the incident is ridiculous, and we‘re spending a lot too much air time on it.
UYGUR: I hear you on that. And I‘ll tell you, before we move on to the next questions. From my take, the reason I bring it up is because somebody‘s got to defend the guy. Everybody‘s in a feeding frenzy here. He spoke too much, he spoke too little. He‘s this, he‘s that. Oh my God, he must be guilty. And somebody‘s got to stand up and say, it‘s nonsense.
BOROSAGE: I think that‘s worth saying. There is this right wing gotcha hit squad stuff that‘s going on with a lot of different groups. With doctored tapes that we‘ve seen in the past. And Congressman Weiner is an enormously effective spokesman, so it wouldn‘t be surprised if he would be a target for that kind of thing.
LEWIS: Come on.
UYGUR: You know, what? One last thing on that, Matt. Hold on, hold on, Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt, I got to ask you this.
LEWIS: He would be calling for an investigation.
UYGUR: No, no, Matt, I‘ve got to ask you this. Look, Breitbart is a proven liar. OK. He‘s doctored the Shirley Sherrod tape, he‘s done this over and over again. Why would anybody take this fool seriously?
LEWIS: I don‘t think Breitbart is a proven liar. I actually like Andrew Breitbart. I don‘t think he doctored the Shirley Sherrod tape.
UYGUR: You don‘t?
LEWIS: But that‘s not a.
I also don‘t know why he‘s involved in this story. The story‘s about Anthony Weiner as far as I‘m concerned, not about Republicans who might have had some conspiracy against him. Because the guy.
UYGUR: He‘s the guy who started this hatch of plans.
LEWIS: He‘s gotten himself in trouble because Anthony Weiner can‘t answer simple questions. He‘s brought this on himself. That‘s what the story is.
STODDARD: Yes. Cenk, you know what? I do remember the Senator Larry Craig bathroom bust, and I have to tell you, it was not a liberal conspiracy. We spent hours and hours on this on television for days at a time. It was just a funny story, it was really embarrassing, and I don‘t think we have any proof that anyone really set up the congressman yet. And until we do, we can only talk about what we know, is just that there might be a naked picture of him on the internet that he‘s...
UYGUR: Guys, it‘s not even naked. And by the way, Larry Craig.
STODDARD: A photo of his underwear.
UYGUR: .was an enormous family values hypocrite. That‘s what Larry Craig problem was. But we‘ve got to move on to the next topic. And it is the important question of will Democrats buckle on Medicare? Now, cuts are said to be on the table in the Biden budget talks. And a top democratic pollster says, quote, “Agreeing to benefits cuts takes the foot of the gas in terms of going on the offensive against Republicans. You have to draw a bright line somewhere and Medicare benefits are the best place to do that. Agreeing to cuts would be politically problematic for Democrats right now.”
Robert, let me start with you. Why on God‘s green earth would the Democrats help the Republicans by agreeing to Medicare cuts?
BOROSAGE: Well, I hope they won‘t. I can‘t imagine that‘s a serious proposal. Look, we‘ve got to get health care costs under control. That requires taking on the insurance companies, the drug companies, the hospitals, the entrenched interest that drive up our cost beyond any of those in the world. It doesn‘t require doing what Republicans voted to do, which is ending Medicare as we know it and shoving those costs without controlling them on to those least able to pay like seniors. And so, Democrats should not snatch the victory or defeat from the jaws of victory by negotiating on Medicare on deep Medicare cuts in these negotiations. We should simply let Republicans walk off the plank that they‘ve created for themselves.
UYGUR: A.B., I know you have a different take. What do you think?
STODDARD: Well, for starters, the republican plan that was passed by the House, that Paul Ryan plan is not going to become law, and everybody knows it. And if there‘s negotiations on Medicare reform right now, it‘s going to be something different than a voucher system that would send Medicare recipients on to the—you know, out—throw them out into the private market to have them buy their own plan that makes people very nervous. The poll shows that, everybody knows that‘s not what‘s going to happen. The Republicans are sticking by that plan, but it‘s not what‘s going to happen.
In my column tomorrow, I‘m urging President Obama to work with Republicans to reform Medicare. It is going to be bankrupt in 13 years, the taxpayers have had enough of the demagoguing of this issue. It is a major driver of our federal debt. And I think that President Obama will get himself reelected handily. If he is the grown-up and has the courage to step up and fix Medicare. It‘s a disaster and everybody knows that both parties admit it. And it is time to stop making this electoral dirty bomb. It‘s just ridiculous.
UYGUR: All right, A.B., I‘ve got to challenge you on that a little bit here. Look, if you take Medicare on its own and you say, that‘s the problem, that‘s the problem. You have a point. Hold on, but when you look at it within the context of the whole plan. You go, wait a minute, now you‘re going to cut everybody‘s Medicare, right? And they‘re going to have to pay 68 percent of their bills, what are you doing that for? And then the Ryan plan, you‘re doing it, so you give another giant tax break to the rich. I would want to do that. If I was the president, I would say, hell no.
STODDARD: I‘m not—the president‘s not going to pass the Ryan plan. The president should propose his own real plan. And I‘m not talking about, you know, waste, fraud, and abuse. I‘m talking about real Medicare Reform that the Republicans would be willing to sign. They know that the Ryan plan is never going to become law. But there‘s got to be something.
UYGUR: Our taxes aren‘t on the table, I‘m not even having this conversation.
BOROSAGE: There‘s a huge difference here between getting health care costs under control, which are out of control across the system on Medicare, in private insurance, and the insurance companies offer their workers. It will bankrupt everything unless we get health care costs under control. That‘s very different than saying, oh, we‘re going to just find a way to cut Medicare without getting health care costs under control.
BOROSAGE: Now, that‘s a bright line. The president drew that line in this.
UYGUR: Matt, I‘ve got to give you the last word here.
BOROSAGE: And he took on the prescription drugs.
LEWIS: My last word is I think that the poll is right that planned politics is good politics. I mean, I have no doubt that the poll is right that if Democrats care about getting elected, if that‘s what they focus on, the best thing they could do is demagogue this. And that‘s why we don‘t.
BOROSAGE: It‘s not demagoguing.
LEWIS: .solve fundamental problems because of playing politics. So, I think the poll‘s right. What we need to do is actually transcend polling and actually have fundamental change.
UYGUR: All right. We‘ve got to leave it right there. You know, I don‘t think it‘s demagoguing, I think it‘s true. And I wish a progressive president would stand up for progressive values. But that‘s my take, you guys were great. A.B. Stoddard, Robert Borosage, and Matt Lewis. Great panel. Thank you so much, guys.
LEWIS: Thank you.
UYGUR: All right. Now, House Republicans meet with President Obama behind closed doors today. But as usual, they came out and insulted him right afterwards. I‘m going to tell you about that, and then the Congressman Brian Bilbray was in that meeting with the president today. And I‘ve got some hard questions ahead for him.
UYGUR: The Republicans and President Obama met in the White House today, except one of the Republicans didn‘t show up. He basically told the president he has no interest in listening to him. We‘re going to talk about that great insult and we‘re going to have a republican congressman on the show who was at the meeting. And that is going to be a very interesting conversation. So, we‘ll come right back for that.
UYGUR: Now, we‘ve told you that today there was a meeting at the White House between Republicans and President Obama. And they were going to talk about raising the debt ceiling. But one republican Congressman Jeff Landry decided that he would not attend. And he said, quote, “I don‘t intend to spend my morning being lectured to by a president whose failed policies have put our children and grandchildren in a huge burden of debt.” Now, that is incredibly disrespectful. So, I don‘t know what he was talking about saying respectfully. Doesn‘t even show up. But it keeps getting worse from there on out. Paul Ryan said this after the meeting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN ®, WISCONSIN: It‘s been mis-described by the president and many others, and so we simply described to him precisely what it is we‘ve been proposing, so that he hears from us how our proposal works so that in the future, he won‘t mischaracterize it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: How incredibly patronizing. They come right out and they say oh, he‘s mischaracterizing, we had to carefully explain it to him. And then Eric Cantor said after the meeting, quote, “We pressed him repeatedly to stop the demagoguery.” What a joke, Republicans complaining about demagoguery? Oh, please. But the problem is, this kind of stuff works. They just keep whining to the rest and they‘re saying, oh, no, the president‘s got to work with us. He‘s got to come in our direction and it looks like maybe he will. Here‘s Kevin McCarthy talking about that issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY ®, CALIFORNIA: What I heard from this president that he wanted to sit down and find real cuts now. He said, there needed to be entitlement reform, and we will work with him towards those ends.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Now, why in the world after all these insults would the president come and work with these guys on Medicare when the polls are on his side, the American people are on his side? I think that doesn‘t make any sense.
Joining me now is one of the people who met with the president today. Republican representative from California, Congressman Brian Bilbray. You brought up a lot there that I want to address. Let‘s go point by point. First of all, on raising the debt ceiling. During the Bush years, you‘ve got to acknowledge that there were a great number of times that you guys raised the debt ceiling. And it was all clean both, it was never attached to spending cuts.
REP. BRIAN BILBRAY ®, CALIFORNIA: Absolutely.
UYGUR: So, why the difference now? Why shouldn‘t we do it like we did before?
BILBRAY: Well, because that is exactly why the Republicans were thrown out by the voters. And that‘s exactly what the voters have said no more. We‘re not—we don‘t want you to be basically cranking up, you know, and accepting more debt until you—until we straighten it out, until we prove it. They‘re basically saying, we don‘t trust you guys anymore to do the right thing until you put it down, a plan that is not a bunch of smoke and mirrors. And this is Republicans and Democrats. Cenk, this is not a partisan deal with the voters.
UYGUR: Congressman, here‘s the thing, look, I appreciate you saying, and I appreciate you saying that, you know, during the Bush years, you guys did it wrong, et cetera. But at the same time, doesn‘t it seem like a little convenient that when you have a republican president, nobody questions his budgets. And then you have a democratic president and all of a sudden, oh, no, no, we‘ve got to have spending cuts before we touch the debt ceiling.
BILBRAY: And you‘re absolutely right. The fact is, that‘s why the Republicans were thrown out because they didn‘t do the fiscal oversight that the house was supposed to do. So, you‘ve got to just accept that the voters have the final say here. They threw the Republicans out because they did exactly what you said and they will throw us out again if we don‘t stand up and say, look, fiscal responsibility is something we have to do.
So, now, Congressman, here‘s the thing, right? So, you say we‘ve got to balance the budget. I agree with you. I‘m actually a fiscal conservative, right? And I have been all along and I appreciated Bill Clinton did well for reform, I appreciated that he balanced the budget along with the republican Congress, right? Now, having said that, the question is how, how do you do it, right? Now, you guys say that, hey, we‘ve got to do Medicare reform. But at the same time, you talk about lowering taxes from 35 percent to 25 percent for the top brackets in that Ryan plan. Why if we‘re trying to balance the budget, why on God‘s green earth would we cut taxes? That doesn‘t seem to make any sense. And it means that you have to do more Medicare cuts. To me, I would never sign on to that.
BILBRAY: Look, I think even you would admit that we want a revenue-neutral across the board. There are ways if we lower the rates and even the president says, take out some of the absurd parts of the tax. There‘s issues we can do that looks like a tax cut. And let me give you an example. Repatriation of $2 trillion of American money that could come back in the United States if we say, OK, bring it back for R&D, for manufacturing, for stimulating the economy, and we won‘t give up 35 percent hit. We‘ll give you a five percent.
UYGUR: No way.
BILBRAY: On paper.
UYGUR: No way!
BILBRAY: What do you mean no way?
UYGUR: No, because, look, it‘s a 35 percent tax, why are we going to lower it to five percent, give corporations this enormous tax cut.
BILBRAY: Because you will.
UYGUR: That will say to the American people, I‘m going to cut your Medicare because I just gave.
BILBRAY: Cenk, that is exactly—it‘s not a cut for us because we‘re never going to be able to tax that money. That‘s what I‘m saying. This is money that‘s.
UYGUR: You passed a bill saying you need to repatriate that money right now.
BILBRAY: You can‘t do that constitutionally.
UYGUR: No, no, absolutely you can.
BILBRAY: Excuse me. We are the only country that does this, that taxes money coming back into their country.
UYGUR: No, that is not true, Congressman.
BILBRAY: No, I‘m sorry.
UYGUR: Easily have a law that says, hey, listen, when you make the money abroad, you pay American taxes on it—and whatever‘s extra you pay taxes in America. There‘s no reason why you need to have this delay.
BILBRAY: No, this is the point, that‘s $2 trillion will never be taxed because the fact is they‘ll never bring it back in.
UYGUR: Because you guys don‘t want it to be taxed.
BILBRAY: No, no, it can‘t be taxed right now. It can‘t be taxed constitutionally until it‘s brought into our territorial. We got to bring into our territorial. Not another nation does it. England doesn‘t do that, France doesn‘t do that, Germany doesn‘t do it. So, what I‘m just saying, let‘s move away—if you don‘t believe in bringing back American money for American jobs and you think they may get something on that, fine. Let‘s just talk about this. We can do things that will—let‘s go across the board and say, take these—the subsidies out for farm subsidies, we can do that. Ethanol subsidy, I‘ve been fighting ethanol subsidy since 1995, Cenk, I‘ve been saying it was a sham. A lot of people who said they were on the left thought it was a good idea. People realized it was a mistake. Let‘s go correct those. I think we can get agreement on a lot of stuff.
UYGUR: But, Congressman, this goes to the heart of the issue. Look, when you say, hey, let‘s take away subsidies, if you‘re talking about ethanol, you‘re talking about oil, I would love to take away those subsidies. I think they‘re nonsense, I think they are redistribution of wealth to the richest companies and the richest agriculture concerns in the whole country, right? But the problem is, you‘re saying, hey, I need to cut Medicare so you pay 68 percent of the costs, you have no guaranteed benefits, you have none of the stuff that you‘re used to with Medicare because I got to make sure that corporations only pay five percent on the taxes that they bring back in here, I‘ve got to make sure the top income bracket is lowered to 25 percent. And if the White House goes along with that, they are crazy. Nobody in America wants that.
BILBRAY: If you think—look, first of all, let‘s be up front about it. Nobody is talking about changing Medicare and Social Security for one senior. Not one. Not one person living today who is a senior is affected by any proposal that‘s on the table. The question is, what are we going to do about long-term commitments to people that are in their early 50s and younger? And how do we work out that arrangement? I‘ll tell you something.
UYGUR: So you cut their Medicare?
BILBRAY: No, no, what we do is say—what‘s being proposed is why don‘t we look at the health care plan that Congress has and work out an arrangement like that for the younger kids who are coming up. That way, we can guarantee to seniors that they‘re not affected, they get—guys my age got to keep the system the way they want. But the younger guys are guaranteed they‘re going to have a program that‘s affordable passed 2025.
And, you know, it was the president‘s commission that say, that program is
in. If you can‘t talk about working out something that‘s affordable for
the younger generation, people who are in their 50s and 40s, if you‘re not
while you‘re still guaranteeing seniors are totally untouched by this situation, if we can‘t touch that, then that just shows you and that‘s what the president‘s saying, we need to discuss this.
The president‘s willing to discuss it, willing to work with us, and especially on a program that guarantees seniors, their Social Security and Medicare they have now. And talks to a younger generation that we‘re going to have a system that is sustainable for them. And the president and Congress is going to work this out. And we have to work it out before we move over because the vote shows overwhelmingly, there is no stomach for raising the debt limit without having this kind of reform part of it.
UYGUR: Congressman, we are totally out of time. So you get the last word. Thank you so much for joining us. Representative Brian Bilbray from California.
BILBRAY: God bless you. Thanks a lot.
UYGUR: Now, that was fun. But when we come back, we‘ve got more fun for you. Senator Rand Paul wants to deport people who go to speeches that he disagrees with. That‘s crazy but it‘s not even the worst of it.
Where are the civil liberties abuses of our government headed? Some outrageous stories on that when we come back.
UYGUR: It seems recently that more and more of our civil liberties are being whittled away by the government. Last week, President Obama renewed the patriot act and now more instances of civil liberty abuses are becoming more evident. For example, some reports reveal the Department of Homeland Security is testing a new type of screening technology in airports to find terrorists before they can attack. Fast or future attribute screening technology as it is called works kind of like a lie detector by measuring a number of physiological indicators was censors when a person passes through security. It measures heart rate, respiration, voice pitch, body temperature, and facial expressions.
The hope is by evaluating all those things together, they might be able to find someone who is a threat before they commit the crime. Now pause and think about that. We are going to find people before they commit the crime. Now, look, if you‘re just looking to find an efficient way to ask a couple more questions, no problem. But if you‘re saying we‘re going to go out and apprehend people before they commit crimes, well, that‘s minority report, and that‘s crazy. OK. That‘s not what we‘re supposed to be doing in this country. And even self-style libertarians are backing away from civil liberties. On Friday, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul said this on Sean Hannity‘s radio show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL ®, KENTUCKY: If someone is attending speeches from someone who is promoting the violent overthrow of our government, that‘s really an offense that we should be going after. They should be deported or put in prison.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: What? So, if you go to the wrong speech, you‘re going to be put in prison? And that‘s a so-called libertarian making that point? That‘s crazy. What if I went to the speech and I hated it. And I went to go observe it? It‘s absolutely outrageous. And then last Saturday, a group of people were arrested at the Jefferson Memorial for dancing. That‘s right, five people arrested at the memorial for dancing. They were protesting an appeals court ruling handed down last week that the national monuments are places for reflection and contemplation and that dancing distracted from such an experience. The part police ended the dance party with quote, with quite the show of force. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: You‘re not allowed to have.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Resisting.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: This is America. This is America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: So now, in some places dancing is illegal at the Jefferson Memorial? This is beyond outrageous. Come on, now. There‘s got to be a bounds of reason to this. But I‘m much more concerned about trying to find out pre-crimes and what your intent is. The government‘s got to stop somewhere.
All right. Thank you for watching, everybody. “HARDBALL” starts right now.
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