Msnbc Live at 6 p.m. ET, Wednesday June 8th, 2011
Read the transcript from the Wednesday 6 p.m. hour
Guests: Brad Blakeman, David Corn, Michael Steele, E.J. Dionne, Maggie Haberman, Bob Franken, Joshua Trevino, Jared Bernstein
CENK UYGUR, HOST: Good evening. I‘m Cenk Uygur.
Tonight, Anthony Weiner is on his apology tour. His wife is on a trip to Africa. Republicans, of course, are in full hypocrisy mode. We‘re going to get into that in a second. And Democrats are throwing him under the bus.
That‘s our lead story tonight.
Today, former DNC chairman Tim Kaine became the most prominent Democrat so far to call on Weiner to resign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIM KAINE, FMR. DNC CHAIRMAN: Lying is unforgivable. Lying publicly about something like this is unforgivable, and he should resign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Oh, please. All these politicians lie all the time. It‘s as if they‘re shocked—oh, my God, a politician lied. I didn‘t see that coming.
By the way, way to stand by your man there. You know, that‘s typical Democratic strength.
Remember that guy, Tim Kaine, was the guy who was running the DNC, head of the Democrats, until a little while ago. Very strong.
And, of course, Republicans are attacking the rest of the Democratic leadership for failing to demand Weiner‘s resignation.
Here‘s RNC‘s chairman, Reince Priebus.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: Nancy Pelosi needs to do her job and be a leader of her caucus and tell Anthony Weiner to really hit the bricks and go home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: But what about Republicans like David Vitter, John Ensign, Mark Sanford and Larry Craig, who clung to power long after their own scandals erupted?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRIEBUS: I don‘t think two wrongs make a right, and I‘m not defending those folks. I‘m chairman of the Republican National Committee now, not years ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Yes, of course. The smell of rank hypocrisy has been all over the GOP these last few days. Majority Leader Eric Cantor is calling for Weiner to step down, but he was singing a very different tune a couple of years ago when it came to Ensign and Sanford.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, “FOX NEWS SUNDAY”: If you‘re going to talk, why not walk the walk and say, you know what, they should step down?
REP. ERIC CANTOR ®, MAJORITY LEADER: Well, listen, I mean, again, I‘ll say in the instance of the people in South Carolina and in Nevada, if is up to them. And those are the elected individuals by those states.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Of the sex scandal Republicans I just named, only David Vitter is still in office. And his case is perhaps the worst of them all. In 2007, the Louisiana senator apologized publicly after his name was found on a prostitution client list for a famous D.C. madam.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DAVID VITTER ®, LOUISIANA: I want to again offer my deep, sincere apologies to all those I have let down and disappointed, and I‘m so very, very sorry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Vitter never faced a Senate ethics investigation, he never faced criminal charges in D.C., or Louisiana, where he was implicated in a separate prostitution scandal. Instead, he got a standing ovation from his Republican colleagues when he returned to the Senate and apologized in person. They embraced him. He‘s back in the fold.
So why does Congressman Weiner have to go and Vitter gets to stay? No one has been able to explain that.
That‘s because they can‘t. It‘s just a different standard.
The Republicans stood together and didn‘t give a damn that their guy admitted to doing something obviously illegal. They even applauded him, and the media, after a while they just let it go, whereas now the media and the Democrats are insistently trying to hound Weiner out of town.
It makes no sense, but it‘s Washington. It doesn‘t have to.
By the way, of all things tonight, David Vitter is collecting cash in D.C. If you‘re in Washington right now, you can run to the Vitter fundraiser being hosted tonight at a posh townhouse belonging to a Republican lobbyist. It starts at 6:30, but if you hurry, you can still make it, just as long as you have $2,500 bucks to give Mr. Vitter.
Now, is anyone rushing to give Congressman Weiner anything other than a one-way ticket out of town?
Well, let‘s talk about this hypocrisy. Joining me now is GOP strategist Brad Blakeman.
Brad, we appreciate you coming on tonight.
BRAD BLAKEMAN, GOP STRATEGIST: Sure.
UYGUR: All right. First of all, what do you think? Does Weiner have to go?
BLAKEMAN: I do. I think Weiner has to go.
He violated the ethics, certainly of his office. He used his office and the power of his office to deceive and lie by his own admission. And I think, yes, he has to go.
And with regard to your lead-up to this story, certainly there have been Republicans with morality problems, there are Democrats with morality problems. But it makes no sense to talk about what others have done when we‘re talking about one case and one case only, and that‘s the four corners of the facts of the Weiner case. And based on that, based on his own admissions, yes, he should go.
UYGUR: All right. You‘re talking about one case and one case only.
I‘m not. I‘m talking about David Vitter. Why does he get to stay?
BLAKEMAN: And you have the right to do that. You have the right to do that.
UYGUR: OK. So answer that question for me, because I think that‘s really interesting. I think the audience is wondering. Wait a minute, that guy actually did something illegal. Weiner‘s not even charged with anything illegal at all.
BLAKEMAN: Well, we don‘t know if Weiner did anything illegal yet, do we?
UYGUR: OK. All right. But, so, tell me why Vitter should stay then.
I mean, here was a guy—
BLAKEMAN: Vitter was re-elected.
UYGUR: -- who broke the trust of his people, who broke the trust of his wife. He was with hookers.
BLAKEMAN: Vitter was re-elected by his state. And, also, Vitter did not admit to the allegations that were swirling around which still remain to be allegations. We know the facts of what Weiner did.
UYGUR: No, no, no. Wait a minute. He said that he apologized for being with the D.C. madam. Are you trying to claim now that he wasn‘t with the D.C. madam after that enormous apology?
BLAKEMAN: No, I don‘t, but if you look at what he said and what was alleged, certainly what he admitted to isn‘t what was alleged. Was he found on the list? Yes, he was found on the list, and he made an apology. He was also re-elected by his state, far different from the case with Congressman Weiner.
UYGUR: So you think that Weiner should be able to be re-elected by his own district? Just let him go to re-election?
BLAKEMAN: I think at this point, this is exactly why the American people have such low esteem of Congress, because as you said on the outset of this story, what‘s a lie?
We don‘t and we shouldn‘t condone our elected officials, whether they be Republican or Democrats, lying. That‘s exactly what he did, and he used the power of his office—the power of his office in holding press conferences within the Capitol grounds to deceive and lie. And the reason why he did it is because he wanted to stay in power. That‘s not the facts of the Vitter case.
UYGUR: All right.
BLAKEMAN: He didn‘t use the power of his office to violate the law.
Weiner obviously violated the ethics.
UYGUR: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Wait.
Now, there‘s a couple things you threw in there that I don‘t agree with at all. OK?
UYGUR: First of all, we don‘t have any facts that Weiner violated his
office to—you know, to break any laws at all. We know, based on the
admissions of Senator Vitter, that he appears to have broken the law. So -
and as far as Vitter, he denied it all the way until they got his telephone number on the madam‘s list, and all of a sudden he found his way to admitting it, so he was lying all along.
Look, I have a consistent standard on it. And to me, the sex lives of these guys, even in a case like Vitter, where he broke the law, I actually say that‘s his own life, and I don‘t want to get into it. Right?
And I didn‘t say at the time Vitter has to go. I‘m consistent on it.
I didn‘t see Lee had to go. I‘m consistent on it.
But I‘m asking if you and the Republicans are consistent. Why in the world should Vitter stay and Weiner go? That seems to make no sense to the average person.
BLAKEMAN: Well, this is water over the bridge because the people of Louisiana re-elected him—
UYGUR: Oh, it‘s water over the bridge.
BLAKEMAN: -- in spite of what he admitted to and what the allegations were.
UYGUR: So when Republicans do it, it‘s water over the bridge. When the Democrats do it, they‘ve got to go immediately.
BLAKEMAN: Wait a second. Is there any doubt that Congressman Weiner used the power and prestige of his office to not only disgrace his institution, but also to muscle his way—
UYGUR: Yes, there‘s a lot of doubt.
BLAKEMAN: Really? Where did he have his press conference? He had it up on the Hill, didn‘t he, with the grounds of the Capitol?
UYGUR: Where did you want him to have the press conference? If he didn‘t have it at the Hill, you would have said, he didn‘t have a press conference at the Hill!
UYGUR: But wait a minute. That has nothing to do with anything.
BLAKEMAN: But where did he make his admission? He made his admission at the Sheraton hotel in New York because his lawyers probably told him you can‘t do it on government property.
UYGUR: Are you really saying that the difference is that Weiner held a press conference on Capitol Hill because he‘s a congressman?
BLAKEMAN: No. He used the power and prestige of his office to lie.
UYGUR: Do you even know where Vitter held his press conference?
BLAKEMAN: I am telling you in the facts in this case, Weiner used his staff to lie on his behalf. They‘re the ones who set up this interview. He used the grounds of the Capitol in order to pull this charade.
That‘s a fact. I‘m not making up facts. This is what happened.
UYGUR: So Vitter, all the time that he was covering up all the hookers he was with, never used his staff to say, I‘m at a meeting?
BLAKEMAN: How do you know all the hookers that he was with? He never said that. He never admitted to that. You‘re making up facts.
UYGUR: He admitted to—wait a minute.
BLAKEMAN: You are making up facts that he never admitted to.
UYGUR: Did he or did he not admit to being with a hooker in Washington, D.C., a D.C. madam? Didn‘t he say, I went to that hooker?
BLAKEMAN: You are alleging many, many acts as fact that he has never admitted to.
UYGUR: Oh, so you think that maybe he only went to the D.C. madam once?
BLAKEMAN: I don‘t know how many times he went there.
UYGUR: So maybe he only went to a hooker once.
BLAKEMAN: You‘re mixing apples and oranges.
UYGUR: So in all—let‘s say it‘s just one time that he went to that hooker that you‘re now defending.
BLAKEMAN: I‘m not defending it at all.
UYGUR: And so he went to that—do you think he didn‘t use his office at all to say, hey, you know what, I‘m at a different meeting? Do you think he told his Senate office, hey, guys, I‘m going to visit a hooker down the street, can you guys cover for me?
Do you think that‘s what Senator Vitter did?
BLAKEMAN: There‘s no proof.
UYGUR: Yet, no investigation. Nothing.
BLAKEMAN: There‘s no proof that he used his office, but there is proof that I saw and you saw that Weiner did.
UYGUR: You know why there‘s no proof? Because the Republicans covered for him and wouldn‘t do an investigation. There was no investigation.
Why did they ask for an ethics investigation on Weiner but let Senator Vitter just walk scot-free?
Look, do you understand why I‘m bringing this up? It‘s because people look at it and go, wait a minute, that‘s not fair, that‘s not right.
BLAKEMAN: I‘m telling you—
UYGUR: Why do Republicans and Democrats have two different standards?
BLAKEMAN: The Republicans don‘t have a monopoly on morality.
UYGUR: Well, that‘s for sure.
BLAKEMAN: There‘s certainly Republicans that are straight and Democrats that are straight. Look at Barney Frank. Isn‘t Barney Frank still up there? He housed a prostitute in his house.
How about President Clinton? He remained as president when he took advantage of an intern on the solemn grounds of the White House. He was impeached and he was disbarred.
UYGUR: Look, I‘ve got to just say it one more time—
BLAKEMAN: Come on.
UYGUR: Look, I‘ve got to say it one last time. I have been incredibly consistent on all of this, whether it was Frank, whether it was Clinton, whether it was Schwarzenegger, whether it was Lee, even Mark Sanford. I said, look, that‘s their private business. OK?
And I was the first guy to call out Sanford, saying there‘s no way he‘s on the Appalachian Trail, that‘s a lie.
BLAKEMAN: And there were a lot of Republicans who did just the same.
UYGUR: And it turned out I was right. OK? But it doesn‘t mean that it had anything to do with the budget in South Carolina, et cetera. But you guys are not consistent on it.
BLAKEMAN: We forced the congressman up in New York out, and all he did was bear his chest in a photo on Facebook—rather on Craigslist.
UYGUR: Oh, no, no. Chris Lee—
BLAKEMAN: We forced him out.
UYGUR: -- ran for the hills when we found out who else he might have been sending messages on Craigslist, too. You know that.
BLAKEMAN: And we forced him out. Republicans forced him out.
UYGUR: I don‘t know about that. That‘s not how I remember it.
But listen, Brad Blakeman --
BLAKEMAN: Well, your facts are different than mine.
UYGUR: OK. Brad Blakeman, Republican strategist, really, we do thank you for your time tonight. We appreciate the conversation.
BLAKEMAN: Thanks. Appreciate it.
UYGUR: All right.
Now let me bring in David Corn. He‘s the Washington bureau chief for “Mother Jones” and an MSNBC political analyst.
David, I‘m going to get into another aspect of this story in a second, but first, we obviously had a heated conversation there. Talk to me about that. Why does Vitter and Weiner get a different standard? And I don‘t mean just from a Republican perspective, Democratic perspective. I‘m talking about Washington.
Why does Washington treat it differently?
DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Cenk, any time sex enters the public discourse, hypocrisy is about a nanosecond behind. And you can look at Democrats on the Hill today, some members on the Hill starting to call for Weiner to resign. And these people, the Democrats, did not do that with Bill Clinton.
And so I think there are shifting standards, and people make political calculations. The reason there‘s no consistency here is because people are making political calculations, and the calculation they‘re making about Representative Weiner is that his case has become such a soap opera.
And tonight, we have the news “The New York Times” is reporting that his wife is pregnant. So this story is getting to be even more bizarre, and they worry, rightly or wrongly, that it‘s sucking up oxygen, it‘s interfering with Democratic efforts to message on Medicare.
Instead of talking about the president‘s speech today about the economy and technology and community colleges, we‘re talking about this. And so Democrats are starting to make a political calculation, this is not good for us. This is not about consistency or having moral standards.
UYGUR: Right. But think about that for a second. I agree with you, right? But it seems so often that the Republicans make the political calculation is, we circle the wagons, we protect our guys. And so often, the Democrats make the political calculation of, we throw our guys overboard in a split second.
CORN: I think there‘s some truth to that, but we did see with Congressman Foley, with Congressman Lee, the Republicans did move fast in those circumstances. When it came to Tom DeLay, and all sorts of sleazy deals that he was accused in, they didn‘t.
Listen, I was around Washington when Newt Gingrich was Speaker, and the fact that he was having an affair with Callista was known to people throughout the Hill, Democrats, as well as Republicans. And Republicans didn‘t make a move on Newt Gingrich for that.
So there are times in which people will move fast and times when they don‘t. And I think it always boils down to the political calculation of the moment. That‘s probably more of the imperative.
UYGUR: All right.
Now, another aspect of this story, David, is different kinds of lies having different weight in Washington. Apparently, sex has the greatest weight. I want to play you a clip here of some of the Bush and Cheney lies and then discuss it.
RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda.
COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: Potentially much more sinister nexus between Iraq and the al Qaeda terrorist network.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Saddam Hussein has gone to elaborate lengths, spent enormous sums, taking great risks to build and keep weapons of mass destruction.
POWELL: He remains determined to acquire nuclear weapons.
BUSH: Any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires—a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we‘re talking about chasing down terrorists, we‘re talking about getting a court order before we do so.
UYGUR: That last clip, no matter what anybody says about, oh, maybe they knew, maybe they didn‘t know about Saddam and al Qaeda and the fact that there was no connections, that last clip, President Bush knew for a fact they were doing warrantless wiretapping. That was a certifiable, 100 percent lie. Yet, we didn‘t see one percent of the outrage in Washington over a much more monumental lie.
CORN: Hey, Cenk, I wrote a book back in those days called “The Lies of George W. Bush” that covered Iraq and a lot of other matters. So getting people to tell the truth in Washington can be very hard. And with their lies about policy, then the mainstream media—and I don‘t like to use that term in a pejorative sense—often has a hard time calling it a lie.
You know, last year, Eric Cantor came out at one point and said that the stimulus bill of the president‘s had created not one new job. I mean, that was patently false.
Now, maybe he didn‘t like the bill, maybe he thought the money could have been spent better, maybe he could have created more jobs. There are lots of ways to criticize it. But saying that it created not a single new job was a farcical statement.
And in any sort of close to perfect world, someone would be laughed out of the room for that. But, yet, we see in our public discourse again and again, one side kind of tilting the debate by saying things that are just not so.
But, listen, there‘s something about sex that gets everybody else really riled up, lies about sex, whether it‘s from Bill Clinton or Anthony Weiner, on the Democratic side, or David Vitter on the Republican side, Larry Craig—
UYGUR: Absolutely. Right.
CORN: You know, always gets more attention.
UYGUR: I know. I know. That‘s the reality of it. I wish we could get them to focus on those important matters like the warrantless wiretapping and the enormous lies that were told to get us into the Iraq War.
But David Corn, as you said, you wrote a book about it. Washington bureau chief for “Mother Jones,” thank you so much for joining us. Really appreciate it.
CORN: Thanks, Cenk.
UYGUR: All right.
Now, ahead, Mitt Romney‘s climbing in the polls by pretending to be a master of job creation. We‘ll show you why he might be the last guy to trust on the economy.
Plus, the Palin/Bachmann fight is officially on. The Bachmann team slams Palin as not serious, and then Palin fires back. We have lots of drama on hand.
UYGUR: Mitt Romney now appears to be the clear front-runner to take on President Obama. A new poll has Romney up 10 points over Sarah Palin. Another poll shows him beating Obama.
Conventional wisdom says Romney‘s business experience is attracting voters for him. Well, let‘s take a look at that.
Here‘s “Mr. Economy,” Mitt Romney.
He was governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007. Before that, he co-founded Bain Capital and served as the CEO. And he‘s got an MBA from Harvard Business School. So he likes to pose as authority on economic issues like the auto bailout, which we‘ll get to in a second.
And now he‘s trying to sell that background as proof that he‘s “Mr. Fix It.” When he announced his candidacy in 2007, he used the word “economy” only once, but here‘s Mitt Romney this time around.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: -- crisis for our economy.
The economy was in recession.
The economy is in crisis.
The economy is in crisis.
of our economy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: But the truth is Mitt Romney might be the least qualified candidate when it comes to the economy.
First, Massachusetts ranked 47th in the country in job creation during Romney‘s time as governor. You know there are only 50 states. That is a terrible record of failure.
At Bain, Romney made a career of buying companies and then slashing their workforce. Reports put the number of laid-off workers in the thousands.
As for the auto bailout, Romney said it was a mistake, and he was dead wrong. The bailout seems to have saved more than a million jobs.
So Romney‘s record on jobs has been one of dismal failure time and time again.
So, is this really the guy you want in charge? It seems that you‘d be hard pressed to find someone who could do a worse job right now. Well, until you look at the rest of the Republican field.
All right. Now, to help me talk about this, we have E.J. Dionne, columnist for “The Washington Post” and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and Michael Steele, MSNBC political analyst and former RNC chairman.
Welcome, guys. Good to have you here.
MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hey, Cenk.
E.J. DIONNE, COLUMNIST, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Good to be with you.
Hello, Mr. Chairman.
STEELE: Hey. How you doing there, sir? How‘s it going?
STEELE: I‘m well, thanks.
UYGUR: All right.
Michael, let me start with up. Look, 47th out of 50, and one of the states that was below him was Louisiana because they had Hurricane Katrina.
I mean, that seems to be awful, doesn‘t it, as a matter of job creation?
STEELE: Well, I think, you know, you take the statistic out of context, and you have to look at what governors do to try to create jobs to attract businesses, particularly in a region of the country like the Northeast and the New England area, which is very, very tough to do, you know, with certain industries and economies. So I think you have to look at it on balance, you know, what the governor put in place to try to spur not just current growth in jobs, but future growth in jobs.
As you see, there are a lot of factors, whether it‘s a two-year budget cycle or a one-year budget cycle; the relationship of Democrats and Republicans in the legislature for getting certain types of legislation passed. I know as the former lieutenant governor of Maryland, the first Republican leadership team elected in 40 years, it was tough sledding in the beginning to overcome the deficit structure that we had in Maryland.
So it‘s a process. And I think what Romney is doing and has begun to do is to talk about his leadership in that context, also recognizing that today‘s economy is very different than it was when he was governor.
UYGUR: Michael, I‘ve got to give it to you, that was an excellent effort. But when you look at the context, you mentioned New York. You say, well, it was tough in the Northeast. New York actually had literally three times the job numbers than Massachusetts had in that same time frame.
STEELE: But New York is—you‘re comparing apple and oranges.
They‘re not the same thing. New York is not Massachusetts.
UYGUR: Well, you said New York. You said the Northeast. That‘s why I compared the two.
STEELE: I said the Northeast, I didn‘t say New York. There‘s a whole lot of other states that comprise the Northeast portion of our country.
UYGUR: Actually, I think you said New York, but OK, that‘s all right. Look, I want to give you a little bit more numbers, and then I want to let E.J. respond to this as well.
STEELE: All right.
UYGUR: Formal payroll employment in 2006 was down .5 percent from 2002, when Mitt Romney took office in Massachusetts. That was the third worst in the nation.
And then when you look at manufacturing payroll employment, that declined by more than 14 percent. That was also the third worst in the nation.
I‘m trying to give context here because Michael brought up context.
E.J., that appears to be pretty bad context, doesn‘t it?
DIONNE: Yes, I think there is a problem with the record. But let‘s just face it that if unemployment is still at 9 percent a year from now, if it hasn‘t come down, then Mitt Romney could propose selling the whole country to the Koch brothers as a job creation scheme and he might get a hearing.
So the first key is getting the unemployment rate down, and that‘s going to be critical for President Obama. But, yes, he‘s got two problems, I think.
One is, how does his job creation record compare to the current Massachusetts governor, Deval Patrick? And I‘ve seen numbers that suggest that under these circumstances, Patrick actually ranks better relative to other states than Governor Romney did, Deval Patrick being a Democrat. So you‘re going to hear that.
Second, anybody involved in a kind of buyout operation like Bain Capital, where they take over companies, there are going to be great stories Romney wants to tell about how he turned companies around and created jobs. There were also a lot of cases where jobs get destroyed or things get outsourced, and that was used by Ted Kennedy in his campaign when Mitt Romney ran against Ted Kennedy. So he‘s got a lot to answer for.
STEELE: E.J., again, you can‘t just take that out of the context of what happens when you merge companies, when one company buys another company. That is all part of a natural process of downsizing or upsizing the employee base, based on the needs of the newly constructed company.
So I get the talking point from the left about, oh, well, you know, he took over Bain Capital and destroyed all these jobs. The roll there is to try to create economies to scale and efficiencies in the marketplace by making sure that the jobs that are produced in the future will last longer into that future. And it‘s not just keeping everybody at status quo positions, which the left likes to argue all the time.
DIONNE: Well, Michael—
UYGUR: Hold on. Let me address that.
No, no, let me address that, because, again, you brought up context, and I‘m glad you did, because one of his co-workers at Bain, a guy who was proud of what they did, didn‘t mind what they did, had this to say about Romney: “They‘re whitewashing his career now. We had a scheme where the rich got richer. I did it and I feel good about it, but I‘m not planning to run for office.”
I mean, look, that‘s the context, Michael. He says we make money and we don‘t really care what happens to the workers.
STEELE: I understand that, Cenk, and that‘s great to make your point, but I can likewise find a former employer or a current employee who would say something in the opposite.
The point of the matter goes to really what E.J. just said. The president and the Republican nominee, whether it‘s Romney or anyone else, are going to stand on the battleground facing the people over the direction of this economy, the strength or weaknesses of this economy.
You are talking about three million jobs that still need to be created in order for us to get back to the levels we were when Obama became president. And that‘s a steep hill for this administration to climb.
STEELE: Now, whether or not Mitt Romney can articulate an economic message that empowers people and small businesses, as opposed to the institutions of government, remains to be seen. He‘s starting to do that, but I think we just need to be careful about how far we stretch this.
UYGUR: You know what the thing is? I actually agree with both of you guys.
I mean, look, I think it‘s going to be—are they going to rehire Obama or they‘re not going to rehire Obama?
STEELE: Right. Exactly.
UYGUR: But when you talk about people bragging about it, what a great business record they have, it doesn‘t appear so.
I‘ve got to give the last word here to E.J. and then we‘ll go from there.
DIONNE: Well, you know, I think the real test of the premise of this story is going to be what Republicans do with this in the primaries. It wouldn‘t surprise me at all to see an ad from Tim Pawlenty or Jon Huntsman or someone else with exactly those numbers. And even if everything Michael Steele says about the way buyout companies work, he‘s still going to have to answer for those facts, and you‘ve got to say an awful lot of words to explain them. And that‘s not good in a campaign.
UYGUR: I think that‘s exactly right as well.
Guys, it‘s been great having you on.
E.J. Dionne, columnist for “The Washington Post,” of course. And Michael Steele, MSNBC political analyst and former RNC chairman.
Thank you both.
STEELE: All right. Take care.
DIONNE: Good to be with you.
UYGUR: All right. Have a good night, guys.
Now, when we come back, Speaker Boehner hates government spending, right? So why did he double his own personal government expense account? Boehner‘s spending hypocrisy is our “Con Job of the Day.”
And a war of words erupts between Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin.
They‘re fighting about everything from intelligence to looks. Wow.
Those camps go to war. We‘ll explain.
UYGUR: We‘re back with John Boehner‘s trust me expense account. It‘s our con job of the day. In fact Roll Call reports that Boehner expense account more than doubled when he became Speaker of the House. But he‘s not telling taxpayers what he‘s doing with their money. He has more than $2,000 a month for official expenses. And unlike when Nancy Pelosi was speaker, those checks are made out directly to Boehner. He can do anything he likes with that money because it‘s not traced back to him. It‘s unaccountable. His spokesman insists the money is use in, quote, appropriate ways. Well, that is very reassuring. Congress sets this money aside for House leaders, but considering Boehner says, the country can‘t afford Medicare, it doesn‘t look so good that he‘s taking extra government money and then not revealing what he spends it on. Maybe he‘s forgotten about Washington‘s big problem.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER ®, OHIO: Washington has a spending problem, not a revenue problem.
Washington has a spending problem. Spending problem. Spending.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: I guess when it‘s Boehner‘s name on the check government spending isn‘t such a big problem after all. And that can leave a loophole in the GOP ideology is our con job of the day.
UYGUR: Welcome back to the show, everybody. Now to talk about some of today‘s biggest political stories is our Power Panel. With me is senior political writer for Politico, Maggie Haberman, King Features syndicated columnist Bob Franken, and Josh Trevino from the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation.
Welcome all of you. First question tonight, can the GOP resist the coming Palin/Bachmann smack down? The behind the scenes rivalry has now apparently gone public. It began with Bachmann‘s campaign strategist Ed Rollins going after Sarah Palin on the radio.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN CAMPAIGN CONSULTANT: Sarah has not been serious over the last couple years and she got the vice presidential thing handed to her. She didn‘t go to work in the sense of gaining more substance, she gave up her governorship.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Then today, spokesman for Sarah Pack shot back saying, quote, “Beltway political strategist Ed Rollins has a long, long track record of taking high profile jobs and promptly sticking his foot in his mouth. To no one‘s surprise, he‘s done it again while also fueling a contrived narrative about the presidential race by the mainstream media.”
Well, here we are. So, Maggie, is it only appears that they‘re fighting? And, you know, you don‘t hire Ed Rollins and unleash him by accident, it looks like Bachmann is doing this on purpose, doesn‘t it?
MAGGIE HABERMAN, POLITICO: Well, I think it might be a little both. I think that Ed Rollins certainly was freelancing a bit when he was talking. As he said to me today, it‘s been a while since he‘s had to transition from being a strategist, or excuse me, being an analyst to being a strategist. So, I think he was sort of doing what he thought was the right move. I think Bachmann was less than thrilled to have this out there this way. Her campaign issued a statement to me later in the day today saying they have nothing but respect and admiration for Sarah Palin. That said, Ben Smith and I have been hearing for weeks now about tensions behind the scenes that Sarah Palin was less than enamored of Michele Bachmann that she saw her sort of a lighter version of herself, this was a collision of course that was bound to explode but it certainly did today.
UYGUR: You know, Bob, it goes beyond this. I mean, Ed Rollins then started talking about how, you know, why would you go for Palin when you‘ve got Bachmann. She‘s smart and just as attractive. He said, you know, that‘s getting pretty personal. What do you make of this fight?
BOB FRANKEN, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, first of all, the moment that you hear one side or the other say they have nothing but respect for the other side. You know what that means in Washington, which is, may you burn in hell. That‘s number one. Number two, Michele Bachmann, to be honest with you, has to fight constantly to deflect the image that she is really nothing but Sarah Palin light. And so, if in fact she did send Rollins out to do that, she was trying to turn the tables and maybe overcome it that way.
UYGUR: And Josh, look, they‘re competitors at this point, or possible potential competitors, so doesn‘t it make some degree of sense that they would attack each other at some point?
JOSHUA TREVINO, TEXAS PUBLIC POLICY FOUNDATION: Well, they‘re not competitors quite yet. It would make sense of course if Sarah Palin were actually formally entered the race that they would go with each other. They draw from very similar bases.
UYGUR: Josh, can I just interrupt for a second?
UYGUR: You know, because maybe it‘s the way that Bachmann is team is saying, hey, don‘t come in, because look, this is the kind of stuff you‘re going to get if you come in.
TREVINO: Well, maybe it is, maybe it isn‘t and it‘s all in the realm of supposition. I tend towards the theory that this is Rollins being undisciplined, but you know, we‘ll never know the full truth. But as I was going to say, it‘s a curious strategy to lead off your national media exposure with an attack on a person who could be a major contender at this point and whose base you need to win over to win.
UYGUR: So, Josh, is it real? I mean, do you think there‘s real tension between them or, you know, as Palin would say, is it contrived by the lame stream media?
TREVINO: If there wasn‘t before, there is now.
UYGUR: OK. Well, there you go. That‘s a bit of an—and guys, I just got a poll actually from Reuters that I saw online right before the show. And Sarah Palin is actually leading in that poll. She‘s got 22 percent. Mitt Romney has 20 percent. So, you know, Maggie, let me go to Bob‘s point, look. I mean, you know, if Bachmann is seen as Sarah Palin light and she‘s not even registering and here‘s Palin leading in a poll, I mean, doesn‘t Bachmann have to attack her?
HABERMAN: Well, she certainly has to define herself. I do think that attacking this way, you know, you really are testing something there. Sarah Palin has a base of supporters and more importantly Sarah Palin made clear that regardless of whether she is running or not she is not going to let someone else define her. She still wants to be a presence today. She let us know that with that statement. She wants to be part of the discussion. Michele Bachmann has an uphill battle. However, if Sarah Palin doesn‘t run, Michele Bachmann has much more space in a very key place like Iowa.
UYGUR: And Bob, you know, finally on this stuff, they‘ve got to be real careful, right? Because on the one hand they‘ve got to stand out and they‘ve got to say, I‘m the main republican, others are not as good. On the other hand, if you attack a popular republican you‘re playing with fire within the republican primary, right?
FRANKEN: Look, let us not forget that neither of these two is going to probably be an American history teacher. Both of them have had their problems with versions of what happened in the revolutionary war period. There are probably going to be any number of people who are going to be very entertained by this fight because they‘re going to look at it as a lightweight fight.
UYGUR: Bob‘s lightened it up today. I like it. OK. Stay with us, guys, we‘re going to do one more panel topic here. Maggie, Bobby, and Josh. When we come back, we‘ll going to talk about Tim Pawlenty‘s absurd economic plan. He says five percent growth by cutting everything. It‘s like magic. But, God, I think it‘s a disaster. We‘ll talk about that when we come back.
UYGUR: Tim Pawlenty is updating an old GOP classic, voodoo economics but this time it‘s on steroids. That‘s next.
UYGUR: We‘re back again with our Power Panel, Maggie Haberman, Bob Franken and Josh Trevino. Our next question, does Tim Pawlenty have any idea that his economic plan may be the worst among many other crazy republican budget plans? Pawlenty unveiled his plan yesterday and it‘s full of some classic voodoo economics. He claims he could achieve five percent growth over—five year period by doing the following, eliminating capital gains taxes, dividends taxes, interest income taxes, and estate taxes. Completely. And then dropping the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent and then dropping the top income bracket to 25 percent. That would add an estimated $7.8 trillion to our deficit. Genius move. Josh, here‘s my question to you.
TREVINO: Ask me.
UYGUR: Come on.
TREVINO: That‘s not a question. Tim Pawlenty, here‘s what I‘ll say about Tim Pawlenty‘s plan. I would describe it, and it‘s something that‘s very familiar to us Dallas cowboys‘ fans. It‘s got sound fundamentals but the details might be a little bit squishy in some points. I do completely think that Tim Pawlenty absolutely has the right ideas and the right fundamentals of where he wants to go with his economic plan. I don‘t think five percent growth annually for however many years he projects is necessarily realistic, but look, Washington, D.C., which is where he wants to go, is the place that is re-fleet (ph) with faulty economic projections and one that comes to mind frankly is the president‘s projection with the stimulus is going to do for us.
UYGUR: Oh, switch of topic. Nicely done Josh. But OK, five percent by the way, I‘m sorry is actually over ten years, he says. Awesome. And then if we had unicorns and ponies as well. But, as I look at this, Maggie, I think, come on. I mean, if you—I think that if you proposed this ten years ago that it would have been laughed out of town. I mean, this is, it‘s like almost no taxes at all. Are we to take this seriously?
HABERMAN: Well, look, I mean, he‘s trying to get traction by getting out in front as the person who is focusing on the economy in a primary race and in a general election that they‘re expected to be almost entirely about the economy. And, you know, the new jobs numbers obviously were not where the White House wants them to be. So, he is appealing to a certain segment of the GOP primary electorate. He would not be the first presidential contender or any higher office contender to put out a plan that was not necessarily based on the soundest of details. This was also had a few—this one had a gimmicks, such as this Google test of his. I think there were a few items in there that did not get treated particularly seriously, but ultimately he‘s getting headlines he wanted, which was that he was out first with a plan. And I think that‘s what they‘re hoping, voters are going to remember.
UYGUR: Right. I got to tell the audience about the Google—it‘s awesome. Google, anything, the government shouldn‘t do it. First of all, you can Google anything. First of all, like road construction, you can do private securities, does that mean we can eliminate cops? We can eliminate building new roads? I mean, Bob, is this guy serious?
FRANKEN: Well, he‘s serious in that he‘s pandering to this segment of the Republican Party, the very wealthy, by basically letting them off the hook for any responsibility. They‘re interested in buying back a government. And so, he is out there trying to see to it that he is the one where they shower all their wealth on so he can turn around then and lead the government and be the person who heads their oligarchy. The simple fact of the matter is that this is nothing new, there‘s an old discredited theory, you call it voodoo economics, it was called the laugher curve, laughter curve, it was a laugher from the beginning, rising tides lifts all boats, you know, there‘s a trickledown theory. Of course, they don‘t say what trickles down on people. The point is that this is something that Republicans love to talk about and they drive us deeper and deeper into debt when they do.
UYGUR: Josh, I‘ve got to give you have the last word.
TREVINO: OK. Fine. It‘s interesting he mentioned the laugher curve, of course Dr. Art Laffer, part of the Reagan administration, how were the 80s, economically? Can anyone remind me of that?
UYGUR: How was the last decade? How‘s that work out for us, Josh?
TREVINO: Yes. You know, the last decade—are we talking about—so change of topic, as you say, how are the ‘80s?
UYGUR: First of all, the ‘80s created giant deficits. Giant deficits.
TREVINO: If you want the last word, all I say is, I love the idea that Tim Pawlenty is going to be the avatar of the plutocrats who will reclaim Washington, D.C., that‘s fantastic.
UYGUR: OK. All right. That‘s a great last word. I like it. All right. Maggie Haberman, Bob Franken and Josh Trevino, you guys are great. Thank you so much for joining us tonight.
HABERMAN: Thank you.
UYGUR: All right. Now when we come back, progressives are ratcheting up the pressure on the White House. That‘s very interesting. And the message is clear, shift the debate back to jobs and forget about agreeing to spending cut. Jared Bernstein, the former chief economist for Vice President Joe Biden is going to join us next to talk about that.
UYGUR: Unemployment is above nine percent. America needs jobs. We all know it. And the Republicans know it too. So, they made it their rallying cry during the 2010 campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: We are determined to fight for the future of the American people. To create jobs.
BOEHNER: Where are the jobs? Where are the jobs? Americans are still asking the question, where are the jobs?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: But then they got elected and they changed their tune. They didn‘t propose a single jobs bill. Instead they started talking about something entirely different.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: We will continue to fight for the deepest spending cuts that we can get.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: We voted to cut spending.
REP. ERIC CANTOR ®, VIRGINIA: We‘re about accomplishing major spending cuts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: So, just spending cuts is all they care about any more. Yesterday, Senator Jon Kyl called for $2.5 trillion in cuts in exchange for raising the debt ceiling. But while spending cuts may be dominating the national conversation about our economy, they simply don‘t create jobs. In fact, they usually cost us jobs. But don‘t worry, President Obama says, job creation is his top concern.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: There are too many people out there who are still out of work. That‘s unacceptable to me, it‘s unacceptable to all of you. So, we‘ve got to do everything we can, everything in our power to strengthen and rebuild the middle class.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: But just last night, the White House rejected the Senate Democrats‘ new jobs bill, complaining that it was too expensive. It was $200 million more than the White House wanted. Not billion, million. That‘s nothing compared to the cuts that they‘re making, but even that was too much for the White House. I honestly don‘t know what they‘re thinking there. But some progressives in the country do get it. The folks at moveon.org are trying to bring the conversation back to jobs. They just announced their rebuild a dream rally to push the message that we don‘t need cuts as much as we need jobs for the middle class. Now, here‘s a crazy political idea in the middle of a horrible economy. Ignore what the Republicans want you to do and propose a massive jobs bill instead. I know. People in Washington will lose their minds. Here‘s my question. So what? Remember, you want to appeal to the American people. Who cares what Washington thinks?
All right. Joining me now is Jared Bernstein, he‘s a former chief economist for Vice President Biden, he‘s now senior fellow with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Now Jared, I read your pieces, I know that you think jobs is the right way to go, we‘re going to talk about that in a second. But you were inside the White House. I‘ve got to ask you, why isn‘t this as clear to them, seemingly, as it is to us from the outside?
JARED BERNSTEIN, FORMER CHIEF ECONOMIST FOR VP BIDEN: I think it is as clear to them. I think that they are stuck in a box where one side is saying, cut spending this much, and the other side is saying, oh, that‘s too much. Let‘s cut spending less than that. I think that the kind of pivot to deficit reduction has really taken hold in this town, and there are lots of folks who believe that the message of the 2010 loss for Democrats in the midterms was a message to cut spending. But in fact, as you heard the president say, there is a very strong belief within the White House still that we‘ve got to still do everything we can on the jobs front while we‘re kind of walking and chewing gum at the same time. While we‘re planning about the budget deficit.
UYGUR: You know, the thing is, Jared, I mean, look, should we concentrate on jobs, the fact that they kind of understand that? Of course. Of course. You‘ve got nine percent unemployment. I mean, my God, of course you should concentrate on that. But it seems like from your description and from their description so often, it‘s as if they‘re powerless. Oh, they‘re caught in this Washington bubble. What are we going to do? We can‘t get out, right? But he‘s the president of the United States of America. They control the White House. Can‘t you do something?
BERNSTEIN: You have a great point. And, look, these things are dynamic. And what may have been a reasonable position a month ago strikes me as morphing into a much less reasonable position now. So, I‘m with you and I‘m with MoveOn this point. But I‘d like to take it a little further. You know, there‘s 20 million people out there who are un or under employed and I guarantee you, they‘re not all liberal Democrats. Why isn‘t just a MoveOn.org rally that creates jobs? Why not instead of a Tea Party, a jobs party, a movement across political interests that really has jobs at the heart of what they‘re about right now? Because I guarantee you, a deficit spending cut kind of agenda in the short run, aggressive cuts to spending, getting rid of Medicare, the whole republican agenda right now can‘t be resonating with the American people who really believe that jobs are the biggest problem out there. So, I‘d like to see this go way beyond MoveOn.org.
UYGUR: Of course. I mean, the Republicans won the 2010 elections by pretending that they‘re going to create jobs.
UYGUR: So, obviously, conservative voters, independent voters, we all care about jobs. Now, you got a proposal of your own. Let me just summarize it for the folks at home real quick. You‘ve got fiscal relief for the states, you‘ve got infrastructure investments, protecting entitlements and balancing between revenues and spending cuts and budget negotiations, right?
UYGUR: So, now, that seems like a very reasonable proposal. Again, why doesn‘t it get a hearing at the White House? I mean, you were just at the White House.
BERNSTEIN: OK. I think that—it‘s very possible that that kind of an agenda starts to get more of a hearing now. Now, you just had this one month of a very tough jobs report, but you know, the way I look at it, average for the past few months, and maybe it isn‘t as bad as it looked in May, but we‘re still growing much too slowly. So, I think we really have to press for this agenda, for the White House to—and the Congress, because it‘s got to happen together, to really pivot towards this focus and target on the budget deficit to the jobs deficit now. That doesn‘t mean that you abandon your path to budget sustainability, it means that you look at the kind of issues that you just listed off. I think those are all on the list of coulds, things we actually if we put our political shoulder to the wheel on it.
UYGUR: All right. Jared Bernstein, thank you for your time tonight and we hope that your former employers are listening. OK. Thank you for watching everybody. That‘s our show tonight. “HARDBALL” starts right now.
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