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Msnbc Live at 6 p.m. ET, Thursday June 9, 2011

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

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Guests: Dana Milbank, Alex Burns, Josh Green, Heidi Harris, Bill Press,

Christina Bellantoni, Nia-Malika Henderson

CENK UYGUR, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Good evening.  I‘m Cenk Uygur.  Today, a political bombshell.  Newt Gingrich campaign team just quit.  All of them.  So, is this the end for Newt?  That‘s our lead story tonight.  Gingrich‘s now former spokesman, Rick Tyler, announced today he‘s leaving the campaign after working alongside Gingrich for more than a decade.  Also quitting, campaign manager, Rob Johnson.

In fact, nearly every senior aide is resigning, including top operatives in New Hampshire and Iowa.  This is a disaster of epic proportions for Newt.  The mass defection comes just days after Gingrich returned from a two-week cruise of the Greek islands.  It must have been nice while it lasted.  It also comes just a few weeks after he had to apologize for telling the truth about Paul Ryan‘s Medicare plan when he called it radical.

Today, Gingrich tried to pretend he isn‘t fazed by his staff exodus.  He posted this message to Facebook, quote, “I am committed to running the substantive, solution-oriented campaign I set out to run earlier this spring.  The campaign begins anew Sunday in Los Angeles.”  No, it doesn‘t.  This is a total disaster.  I mean, if he isn‘t already done, he‘s totally on the ropes.  The whole thing about, oh, I‘m beginning anew.  Oh, come on, come on, come on.  Who are you kidding, Newt?

Pack your bags, head off (INAUDIBLE), and call it a day.  It looks like you‘re done.  All right.  Let‘s talk about it, though.  Joining me now is Dana Milbank, national political correspondent from “The Washington Post” and Alex Burns, national political reporter for “Politico.  All right.  Dana, I already declared it, but is this the end for Newt?

DANA MILBANK, THE WASHINGTON POST:  Well, he‘s coming out to Los Angeles.  Do you think he wants to sit down with you and sort through this?

UYGUR:  You know, I mean, you never know.  And you know, we have an open seat for him here and welcome any time.

MILBANK:  Who knows what‘s going to happen next.  In fact, now, since the spokesman‘s actually out, I don‘t even know how you‘d reach him.  I guess, you‘ve got to call Tiffany‘s and see if they can track him down.  So, clearly, he‘s finished whether he knows he is or not.  But probably the reason all these guys are done with what we‘re hearing is that Newt really wasn‘t making this a serious campaign.

When you don‘t campaign very vigorously, when you go off on a luxury cruise of the Greek Isles, you are not laying the ground work for a serious campaign.  And it seems to me the staff concluded that this guy just wanted to be a public intellectual, wanted the time to be up there to debate, wanted to boost his speaking fees, was not interested in actually running for president, and they want to be with somebody who is actually interested in running for president.

UYGUR:  Right.  So, there are a couple of different reasons why they might have left.  I want to talk about that.  Let me give you Rick Tyler‘s quote.  He said, “There is a path to victory, but there was a dispute on what the path to victory was.  It‘s been an unbelievable 12 years.  I have no regrets.  I admire him deeply, and I hope he does become president.”  Well, he‘s got a funny way of showing that since he just left this campaign.

So, Alex, what do we got going on here?  Is it that they disagreed on strategy?  Is it that they don‘t like him, you know, taking the trip to the Greek islands or some of them going to work for Rick Perry?  What‘s going on here?

ALEX BURNS, POLITICO:  Well, I think Dana really nailed it that there was a sense among Gingrich staffers that this was not a guy who is really going to do the heavy lifting of actually running a campaign.  We are hearing that he was not raising money in any significant quantities.  One of his former staffers told the “Des Moines Register” that sort of every time Gingrich would get invited to things in Iowa, sort of the most essential political state on Gingrich‘s map, he wouldn‘t even respond to the group to say whether he was going or not.

The Perry angle, I think, is important here, that a lot of these staffers do have this option of working for the governor of Texas if he does run for president.  Look, Gingrich kind of made his own bed before Rick Perry started making more noise.

UYGUR:  Dana, tell me more about that Perry angle.

MILBANK:  Well, the Texas governor is giving every indication that he is very serious about a run.  Two of the now former Gingrich people are also former Perry people, so that feeds into the notion and the speculation that Perry is actually getting serious about a run.

UYGUR:  Right.  You‘ve got Dave Carney, I believe, in New Hampshire who might be headed over to Perry.  We‘ll see how that turns out, obviously.  Look, did this have to do with the implosion of the campaign that was already ongoing?  Of course, there was the famous Ryan blow-up, there was a Tiffany‘s blow-up.  Alex, how much of a role did that play in this?

BURNS:  Oh, I think that played a very, very big role in this.  Gingrich, as you noted earlier, has basically gone silent to a very significant degree since the week after that whole Paul Ryan blow-up.  You know, he said then, I‘m going to run an unconventional campaign.  I‘m going to sort of set my own terms for this.  That is sort of what he‘s still saying when he says the campaign begins anew.

I‘m going to be running an ideas-driven race here, but, you know, the bottom line here is there are things that you have to do if you‘re going to be a candidate for president no matter what other special skills you bring to the table, and Gingrich hasn‘t been doing them.

UYGUR:  Dana, what‘s this path to victory talk?  You know, we told you about that quote in just a second ago.  Was there a real dispute as to, you know, because I‘ve heard that Newt Gingrich wanted to run—that was a campaign that was more tech-heavy, and they wanted to run a more traditional campaign.  Is that part of this or is that just simply a cover?

MILBANK:  No.  I mean, I think the staff thought the path to victory is in New Hampshire and Iowa, and Newt thought the path to victory was in the Santorini and Mykonos.

(LAUGHTER)

MILBANK:  I mean, I think it‘s as simple as that, but let‘s face it.  They got, you know, -- Vacations aside, he had become sort of the national punch-line, whether it was the Tiffany stuff that Alex‘s publication had such great success with or whether it‘s the Paul Ryan stuff.  I mean, look, the guy goes out on a book tour, and he gets doused in glitter.  You know, maybe that was, in fact, the moment that cursed him.  That was some magical glitter that caused Newt to disappear.

UYGUR:  Yes.  You know, I was feel bad about the—I feel bad about the glitter thing because there‘s nothing you can do about it, and people shouldn‘t do that, right?  I mean, the Tiffany‘s thing, he got himself in trouble.  You know what, I have so much fun with it.  I actually want to show you that video one more time.  Alex, we‘ll come back and talk about it.  Let‘s watch that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That someone would run up a half million dollars bill at a jewelry store.

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  Go talk to tiffany‘s.  All I‘m telling you is we are very frugal.  We, in fact, live within our budget.  We owe nothing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UYGUR:  Living within the budget, going to the Greek islands, getting a half million dollars at Tiffany‘s, et cetera, but Alex, look, if that causes one or two people to leave, OK.  You know, you get it, right, but it seems a whole team leaving at once.  Has that even ever happened before?

BURNS:  Well, the immediate parallel is sort of John McCain in the summer of 2007 when his campaign blew up, but he, at least, had a sort of loyal core of supporters.  When Newt Gingrich is losing Rick Tyler, you know, he has a very, very big problem on your hands.  I do think that that Tiffany‘s clip that you just played does go to sort of the underlying attitude problem that Gingrich has had.

That he, you know, will answer the Tiffany‘s question up to a point, but sort of wants to set the terms of what‘s important and what‘s not important for him to talk about rather than just sort of cooperating with political reality.

UYGUR:  All right.  So, Dana, you know, when you mentioned the McCain campaign as Alex just did, you know, it‘s an interesting parallel.  Any chance that he can mount a comeback?  And if he does, how in the world would he do it?

MILBANK:  Cenk, I really don‘t see how he does.  I mean, today aside, his campaign was clearly going nowhere, and he had become the sort of national joke.  So, I think he was finished either way.  He just didn‘t know it or not.  I think that Tiffany answer actually points to the reason why he didn‘t have the fire in the belly.

The truth is, Newt is living a very excellent lifestyle right now by being this public intellectual, by being affiliated with these nonprofits by, writing books, by giving speeches for exorbitant fees.  That‘s why he wanted to be in this presidential race, to boost his own visibility, not because he actually expected at the end of the day he‘d be sitting there at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

UYGUR:  All right.  Now, Alex, Newt had so many different problems, but one of them, of course, the central problem is the voters.  You remember this exchange that he had with a voter in Iowa?  Let‘s show you that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Newt Gingrich, what you just did to Paul Ryan is unforgivable.

GINGRICH:  I didn‘t do anything to Paul Ryan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, you did.  You undercut him in the allies and the house.  You‘re an embarrassment to our party.  Why don‘t you get out before you make a bigger fool of yourself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UYGUR:  Now, Alex, how big a part was that?  I don‘t mean that particular exchange, but the fact that he screwed up on this Ryan thing, and then, does that send a message to the other Republicans, hey, listen, you better fall in line.  You run into that kind of trouble, next thing you know, your whole team leaves.

BURNS:  You know, I think in some ways, you have to feel a little bit bad for Gingrich on all the Ryan back and forth.  His substantive position is actually not that different from the position of folks like Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty basically saying, you know, I admire the goals of the Ryan plan, a lot of what‘s in it, but, you know, I‘m not willing to go all the way there myself.

But, of course, that‘s not how he expressed himself, and that‘s because he is used to being this public intellectual, this commentator, this employee of another television network and doesn‘t necessarily—didn‘t necessarily bring the discipline that you need to have as a presidential candidate.

UYGUR:  Dana, one more thing, so, you know, Gingrich was slashing number two in some of the polls, right?  And he was certainly in the top three.  I know a lot of that was name recognition, et cetera, but as he leaves here—well, I‘ve already decided he‘s leaving.  Well, as things look bad for him, right?  Does anyone gain from that?  Anyone in particular that remains that sees this as a victory for them?

MILBANK:  It‘s hard to see it exactly in the same way, you know, like when Mitch Daniel stepped out, you could see, maybe, you know, Tim Pawlenty might benefit there.  It‘s not clear that Gingrich had sort of a loyal core of followers other than people just because that they recognized his name.

So, I don‘t expect that it will go in that direction.  It may be something of a cautionary tale to those still in the race because one of the reasons Newt has been drummed out, not necessarily leading to today‘s debacle, but his problems were in large part because people perceived that he was too moderate or not actually sticking close enough to the party line.

UYGUR:  Alex, if Gingrich had any advantage at all, it was fund-raising.  And of course, the guy who does the best fund-raising at this point is Mitt Romney.  Does this help him pick up an extra couple of bucks?

BURNS:  I‘m not sure.  I think we‘ll have to see.  Gingrich also did have this sort of very sizable, small donor list, this very conservative list that he‘s accumulated over the years.  So, you know, there could be some more open space there for someone like Michele Bachmann who does a lot of small dollar fund-raising.

One of the challenges that Gingrich had is that for the last 12 years, he‘s been running organizations that can take unlimited contributions and raising for a presidential campaign is a very, very different kind of job.

UYGUR:  Right.  That‘s certainly true.  All right.  Dana Milbank from “The Washington Post” and Alex Burns from “Politico,” thank you for your time tonight, guys, really appreciate it.

MILBANK:  Thank you.

BURNS:  Thank you.

UYGUR:  All right.  Now, when we come back, Anthony Weiner speaks out today saying he has no plans to resign, but more Democrats are calling for him to go.  Well, I‘m calling for him to say.  I think Democrats should fight back on this one, and I‘ll show them how.

And in Detroit‘s darkest hour, Mitt Romney turned his back.  Today, he went back there to ask for their votes anyway, but they didn‘t forget.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UYGUR:  Calls grow for Anthony Weiner to resign.  He says today that he has no plans to back down.  Now, why is he alone?  Where is his backup?  Where are the Democrats?  Well, I‘m going to challenge them to fight for Weiner when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UYGUR:  Anthony Weiner is insisting today that he will not resign despite growing pressure from his so-called friends in the Democratic Party.  Congressman Weiner told a New York reporter, quote, “I betrayed a lot of people and I know it, and I‘m trying to get back to work now and try to make amends to my constituents, and of course,  to my family.”

He also said flat-out that he will not resign, but at least nine Democrats in congress are calling on him, of course, to step down.  In fact, it seems some Democrats are going out of their way to denounce him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ALLYSON SCHWARTZ, (D) PENNSYLVANIA:  It‘s only just a huge disappointment.  I really, you know, it‘s hard.  It‘s hard on all of us to see this happen to Anthony, something he brought on himself.  And, again, I find it appalling and inappropriate behavior.  It‘s inexcusable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UYGUR:  Look, I know what some say.  Weiner‘s actions are difficult to defend, and that we should just force him out and move on.  It‘s a distraction.  This is not the right fight.  But for Democrats, doesn‘t it always seem like it‘s never the right time to fight?  Couldn‘t we fight once at some point?  For me, I‘d like to fight right now.  So, without further ado, Cenk‘s rules on fight club.  Here‘s how you deal with the tough situation like Weiner.

First of all, revolutionary idea.  You defend your own, OK?  That‘s what the Republicans do all the time.  If Democrats, and tack on any given issue on any given candidate, we know what the Republicans do, they circle the wagons and they fight back.  The Democrats, what do they do?  They circle the wagons and kick the guy out.  Well, that‘s not going to help you keep that guy in power or have a situation where, you know what, there‘s some degree of unity and there‘s some belief that you‘ll stick together.

The second thing you can do is you can attack.  So, for example, when Vitter and Ensign, et cetera, had their troubles, especially Vitter, how long did the Democrats talk about it?  For about a week, and then they let it go.  I mean, you‘ve got Tim Kaine who used to run the DNC attacking Weiner right now.  Where were you when you were the head of the DNC?  Why didn‘t you go ballistic attacking Republicans?

Marshmallow Tim Kaine doesn‘t know how to do it.  Finally, here‘s another idea.  Counterattack.  So, when they say, oh, Weiner‘s bad.  Here‘s what you do, you say how about Vitter, OK?  Now, Vitter was worse.  He broke laws.  He was with a hooker.  And, you know, you guys gave him a standing ovation.  He is worse.  So, let‘s practice.  They say Weiner, you say Vitter.  Say it with me.  They say Weiner, you say Vitter.  OK?

You‘ve got to teach these guys.  They never fight back.  It isn‘t about Weiner.  OK.  You know, what he did is wrong.  Everybody gets it on a personal level, et cetera, but at some point, you‘ve got to fight back.  All right.  I am clear on it.  Let‘s have a conversation now.

Josh green, senior political editor for “The Atlantic.”  He wrote today, Anthony Weiner should resign.  OK.  Now, Josh, of course, is not with the Democratic Party, so what I said does not apply to him.  He‘s writing his opinion as an analyst.  So, Josh, let‘s have a conversation about that.

JOSH GREEN, THE ATLANTIC:  All right.

UYGUR:  First about the Democrats, OK?  Doesn‘t it set—send a message that whenever the Republicans have a problem, the Democrats attack a little bit and then they say, OK, just let it go, and Whenever the Democrats have a problem, the Democrats throw themselves under a bus?

GREEN:  I think the problem here is that if Democrats want to fight, they ought to fight about policy.  They ought to fight about Medicare.  They ought to fight about deficit spending.  They ought to fight for some stimulus, for one thing, but it doesn‘t make sense to fight over a guy like this who destroyed his own career, who‘s embarrassed his party, and who is sticking around despite everyone‘s desire that he leave, including the people in his own party.

UYGUR:  Well, look, there are a couple of things there.  First of all, they always tell me about how they are going to keep their powder dry.  I mean, for eight years with Bush, I heard about, oh, no, no, we‘ve got to keep the powder dry.  Wait till you see the fight later.  And I never saw it.  I never saw it.

Whether it‘s on issues, I agree with you.  I wish they‘d fight ten times harder on issues.  OK.  And that‘s much more important, but on the substance of Weiner here, you know, I also just flat-out disagree.  So, you tell me, Josh, what‘s the big crime?  I mean, I get it‘s embarrassing.  Oh, my God—

GREEN:  First of all, I don‘t even need to look at it as a partisan issue.  The guy has embarrassed himself.  He‘s embarrassed the U.S.  Congress.  You know, people, especially congressmen but also Democratic and Republican parties tend to think of a seat in Congress as an entitlement.  It‘s not an entitlement.  It‘s an honor.  You‘re a public servant.  You know, you‘re there to do work, to pass laws.

You know, Weiner isn‘t a guy who‘s going to be capable of doing that any more.  I mean, he‘s looked at—he‘s a punch line.  He dominated the news for two weeks.  Step down and get somebody else in that seat.  And for partisans, they don‘t have to worry the Republicans are going to win that seat.  It‘s a heavily Democratic district.

UYGUR:  All right.  Josh, just couple of things.  All right.  First of all, you talk about honor.  Which of these guys have honor?  I mean, come on, really.  I mean, I‘ve been covering politics a long time.  You think the rest of them are honorable?

GREEN:  Yes, I actually do.

UYGUR:  Come on!

GREEN:  I think a lot of congressmen, the majority of congressmen come to work, and you, as a liberal, of all people, should not be laughing at government.  And you know, people like Anthony Weiner undermine Americans‘ faith in government.  If liberals were smart, they would get him out of there.  They would get somebody in there who‘s going to do what liberals want which is protect Medicare, get some stimulus passed, and keep the focus on Republicans, not on Twitter.

UYGUR:  Here‘s what I‘m embarrassed by, that a great majority of our congressmen and our senators are bought by corporations, OK?  They take money in campaign contributions, and then, they do whatever the hell the corporations tell them to do.  You know, I‘m eternally embarrassed by Evan Bayh.  When he was office, he‘s on the centrist with (ph) corporations.  What do you need me to do, what do you need me to sell out on?

And then, immediately, he steps out of office and become as a lobbyist for chamber of commerce and works for Fox News Channel.  I couldn‘t be more embarrassed over Evan Bayh and all the so-called centrist Democrats, OK?  I‘m not embarrassed that Anthony Weiner was horny.  I don‘t care.  You know who else is like that?  Everybody else in Congress.  They didn‘t get caught.  Who care?

GREEN:  Yes, but the rest of them—most of the rest of them can control themselves, and they can pass laws, and they can talk about serious issues of public policy, and they‘re not out there, you know, dominating the headlines and stepping on the political debate with their own indiscretions and silly behavior.  So, I don‘t see any reason why Weiner should stick around.  I also don‘t see any way that they will get him out of there, but I think he ought to step down for Congress.

UYGUR:  Josh, one last thing.  Again, on the substance of this, you know, you keep saying like he can‘t continue to legislate, et cetera.  Why not?  I mean, how does this affect his views on the 9/11 responder bill, which he was heroic in fighting for their health care.  So, now that you know he was sending dirty pictures while he was doing that, do you think, oh, it doesn‘t count?  That was no good.  The victory there just doesn‘t count—

GREEN:  I think he‘s ultimately been harmful for the Democrats, because he‘s undermined—further undermined people‘s faith in government and people‘s faith in the Democratic Party.  And Democrats would be better off replacing him with someone a little more honorable who would go in and fight for—

UYGUR:  Honorable.  I wish you could find an honorable politician for me.  I‘d love to get behind that guy.

GREEN:  I can introduce you to plenty of them.

UYGUR:  Really?

GREEN:  And liberals shouldn‘t be a cynical as you are about government.  Really, yes.

UYGUR:  You know, Josh, name three for me.

GREEN:  Henry Waxman.  You know, it‘s the 30th anniversary of AIDS.  You know, Waxman was one of the first people who, you know, pushed Congressional, federal research funding through it.  You know, Ed Markey, if you want to take another northeasterner.  You know, all sorts of people, I think, in a New York delegation.  I think, Chuck Schumer.  Here‘s a guy who—

UYGUR:  Chuck Schumer?  Chuck Schumer?

GREEN:  He is like Anthony Weiner—

UYGUR:  Chuck Schumer?

GREEN:  He can push for these things.  He‘s an effective public advocate.  And at least, so far as we know, he‘s not making a fool of himself on Twitter.

UYGUR:  OK.  Chuck Schumer takes an enormous amount of money from Wall Street.  Now, he—look, he‘s the senator from New York, I get it—

(CROSSTALK)

UYGUR:  OK.  And does he represent Wall Street well?  Oh, you bet he does, OK?  I‘ll take Anthony Weiner over Chuck Schumer any day.  I don‘t care what pictures they‘re sending out.  All right.  But we are clear.  Josh, I really appreciate you coming on talking about this.  It was definitely an interesting conversation.  Everybody, Josh Green, senior political editor for “The Atlantic.”  Thank you, Josh.

GREEN:  Good to be with you.

UYGUR:  All right.  When we come back, remember, before Anthony Weiner, the spotlight was shining bright on Paul Ryan.  Will Democrats manage to screw up their Medicare win?  More signs Americans are worried.

And is Rudy coming back for more punishment?  Serious signs that he will run again.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UYGUR:  Republicans love to hate government spending except when they reap its benefits, of course.  And that‘s our “Con Job of the Day.”  Politico reports at least 15,000 GOP house freshmen are shelling out thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to boost their exposure back home even as they call for fiscal responsibility.

Take Illinois congressman, Adam Kinzinger.  He spent more than $78,000 on mass mailings to his constituents since taking office.  This is, of course, in the name of informing his constituents, but really, it just winds up being an ad for himself paid for by the taxpayers.  Kinzinger, of course, just attacked Democrats for being fiscally irresponsible.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We have a serious financial crisis in this country.  We‘re staring a crisis in the face.  We have to do something.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UYGUR:  Meanwhile, Texas congressman, Francisco Canseco, shelled out $75,000 on a one-year contract with a company that specializes in online advertising for politicians.  Of course, Canseco is double-talking, too, in April.  He attacked a foreclosure prevention program by saying, quote, “We need to stop funding programs that don‘t work with money we don‘t have.”  Apparently, it‘s totally OK to spend money we don‘t have on online ads for Congressman Canseco, though.

If Canseco can‘t take his own advice, at least, he should try and tell it to Minnesota congressman, Chip Cravaack.  He‘s spending roughly $1,000 a month of taxpayer money on a car lease.  I don‘t know.  Is it me?  A $1,000 car lease, that sounds like a lot.  I don‘t know.  My wife and I agonize over $200 a month car lease, but then, we‘re not fiscally conservative Republicans, I guess.

The Republican congressmen developing amnesia about fiscal discipline as they spend taxpayer money on themselves is our “Con Job of the Day.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UYGUR:  Welcome back to the show, everybody.  Now, to talk about some of today‘s biggest political stories, we bring in our Power Panel.  With me is Bill Press, host of “The Bill Press Show” on Sirius XM radio.  Christina Bellantoni, associate politics editor of CQ Roll Call.  And Heidi Harris, host of the “Heidi Harris Show” on KDWN in Las Vegas.  Welcome, everybody. 

All right.  Our first question, does Rudy have amnesia.  Bill Press reports, Rudy Giuliani is planning to get into the 2012 race.  He‘s the guy who spent $66 million in 2008 and only managed to get one delegate.  At that rate, he‘ll need more than $75 billion to win the nomination this time.  That‘s a lot of money.  Bill, you laughed.  Any chance he wins and do you believe he is actually getting in?

BILL PRESS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  I think he might get in.  You know, what, Cenk, do we have amnesia?  Does he have amnesia?  I mean, we haven‘t forgotten how badly he did the last time around.  I think it‘s the case of two things.  One, where the ego gets so big that it really affects somebody‘s vision.  And secondly, I think it shows how desperate the Republicans are.  They keep looking for somebody else because this whole gang of 29 candidates or whatever they‘ve got, there is not one serious candidate. 

HEIDI HARRIS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Oh, come on, Bill Press.  I‘m going to agree with the first thing Bill Press said.  There is a phrase that the military uses, it‘s called SA, situational awareness.  Politicians do not have it.  Rudy Giuliani had about the worst-run campaign since, oh that‘s right, Newt Gingrich, right?  So, I agree with Bill on that.  But, you know, there are a lot of good people in the race.  Let‘s give them some time Bill Press, the answer is there somewhere, I‘m sure it is. 

UYGUR:  Well, Christina, look, last time he had about the worse strategy I‘ve ever seen in a presidential primary contest.  He decided he would wait for what, the 38 states?  You know, he waited for Florida and then he came in third. 

CHRISTINA BELLANTONI, CQ ROLL CALL:  He was waiting for Florida.  Banking it all on that.  I would love to know if he has a different strategy if he does in this time around.  But don‘t forget.  That wasn‘t $66 million of his own money.  Those are people who wanted him to run.  If he can raise any money this time, people do look at those national polls.  Even though, if you cover politics, you know that‘s pretty meaningless when it comes to the republican nomination.  The bigger question is whether somebody like Rudy Giuliani who is a social moderate, if there is really any room for him within this primary, you know, he had his whole national security 9/11 thing in 2008.  I think it‘s a really different situation now with the economy being the major, major focus.  And our voters really will going to look to a social moderate when they have a pretty big field out there. 

HARRIS:  Mitt Romney is talking about global warming man-made.  So, there you go.  We‘ve already got that covered. 

PRESS:  Right.  Let me press on—here.  We are all being too nice, right?  Rudy Giuliani has so much personal baggage he makes Donald Trump look like an altar boy.  Now, none of that came out the last time.  But come on, the New York reporters can‘t wait.

HARRIS:  They didn‘t have time to. 

UYGUR:  If Trump got into the race, then we would have three different republican candidates with three wives apiece. 

HARRIS:  What‘s the limit?  Maybe we can get that guy on the polygamy show to run on, I don‘t know. 

(CROSSTALK)

UYGUR:  Heidi, are you buying this?  I mean, Heidi, as a conservative here, is anybody interested in Giuliani?  Is anybody excited about this?

HARRIS:  Who?  No.  Nobody cares about Giuliani.  And it was interesting what Christina said about the $66 million.  She‘s right.  Donors gave that money.  They‘re going to give it again.  They are not that stupid, are you kidding?

UYGUR:  But Christina, real quick.  Bill Kristol is the one publishing this.  Is he pushing it?  Are the neocons interested?  

BELLANTONI:  I think everybody in the media needs to have something to write about for the next year and a half.  So, people are going to continue to write about—the polls do show, there is dissatisfaction with the GOP field.  But that is in part because the race hasn‘t really gotten off.  Voters are not really paying attention yet.  Once we get to the Iowa straw poll, that‘s going to be a whole different story.  That‘s only a couple months away. 

UYGUR:  All right.

PRESS:  Bill Kristol brought us Sarah Palin the last time, right? 

Remember that. 

UYGUR:  Yes.  Well, that worked out great for us.  But you know, what?  She is still running strong.  One or two in the polls.  So, maybe that is part of the problem with the Republican Party.  But let‘s go to the next question.  What‘s the debt got to do with it?  Republicans manage to turn everything, including talk on creating jobs into a lecture on the country‘s debt.  What House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said today after meeting with Vice President Biden?  Listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ERIC CANTOR ®, VIRGINIA:  We believe that much of the problem surrounding the lack of job creation and growth in this country has to do with the fact that there isn‘t a credible plan to manage down the debt deficit in this country. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UYGUR:  All right.  OK.  Heidi, do people really believe this?  I mean, do Republicans really believe this?  That if we cut spending, it will somehow magically jobs will grow?

HARRIS:  Well, we have to cut spending because people won‘t hire anyone if they‘re not—know what the future is going to be for the country.  That‘s the problem.  The biggest problem is confidence.  It‘s not that all these companies in America don‘t have any money.  They are just scared to death to spend it just like a lot of average American citizens like me are not spending money that we‘re not sure we need to spend.  Because we don‘t know what‘s coming around the corner.  So, I think he‘s right about that. 

PRESS:  All of us recognize, we have a serious debt problem, we‘ve got a serious deficit problem.  But there is a serious plan out there which is the president‘s budget plan.  And there is a crazy plan which is the Paul Ryan plan.  I think the—here is where they are failing.  They are making the big mistake, number one, thinking Americans think this is the number one issue.  It‘s not.  Jobs and the economy are the number one issue.  And two, they talk fiscal responsibility but they don‘t want to get rid of subsidies, for the oil companies, the tax cuts for the wealthy, they don‘t want to cut the Pentagon, they don‘t want to do anything about the war in Afghanistan.  They are hypocrites on this issue. 

HARRIS:  Oh, come on.

(CROSSTALK)

UYGUR:  Hold on.  I want Christina in here.  Christina, is it credible

is it credible Christina to say, hey, if we cut spending somehow that will create jobs?  Especially between now and the election, which is, you know, next year and a half.  Is that even feasible?  How would that work?

BELLANTONI:  I am not an economist.  I will point out that we have cut spending.  And that is a question that I think the Obama White House is tossing back at the majority leader of looking at, you know, we have made a lot of significant changes and we are working on the economy.  But I think it‘s also important to throw this question back to Cantor of, look at some of the people in your caucus are saying that it would be OK to default on the nation‘s debt if they don‘t increase the debt ceiling.  I mean, that is a bigger question and that certainly would not create much certainty for businesses who are going to be hiring.  So, there is a lot of rhetoric that‘s going around.  I mean, it‘s all politics.  And everyone is worried about keeping their own job in the next election. 

UYGUR:  Now, one more thing about this.  You know, when you look at the polls, about half the country trusts President Obama on Medicare.  Only 35 percent for the Republicans, but now we are looking at the White House putting Medicare apparently on the table.  Bill, is that a terrible idea?  Why go down that road with the Republicans?

PRESS:  You know, look, it came up today at the briefing, Cenk.  And let‘s be careful, the president is not putting Medicare on the table to kill it the way Paul Ryan is, the way the Republicans who adopted the Paul Ryan plan are.  What the president is saying is there is significant savings and how you deliver Medicare over the next ten years that can save money.  And that is reform it, don‘t kill it.  There is a big difference there.  And the American people understand it. 

HARRIS:  Here‘s the problem though.

(CROSSTALK)

PRESS:  Heidi, let me finish.  I think the Republicans committed political suicide by adopting the Ryan plan.  They voted for it.  It‘s their baby. 

HARRIS:  Yes.  But the problem is your version of saving Medicare, reforming Medicare is to pay doctors less money.  I‘ve got news for you buddy, a lot of doctors are not going to take Medicare patients.  Do you know that doctors don‘t have to—doctors don‘t have to take Medicare patients? 

PRESS:  Heidi, that is not part of the plan.  You‘re behind the curve there, Heidi.  You don‘t know your facts.  That‘s behind the curve.

(CROSSTALK)

UYGUR:  Heidi, let me ask you a different question.  If the White House comes in and says, look, we cut Medicare but are not calling it “Cutting it” we‘re calling it “reforming it,” does that let you guys off the hook?  Do you feel like, hey, oh thank God, man, we were getting killed on this issue?  Now, here comes the Democrats and the rest.

HARRIS:  I don‘t think we are getting killed on the issue on the right. 

UYGUR:  Really?

HARRIS:  People on the right don‘t want to kill grandma.  We want grandma to have Medicare.  Here is the difference.  The Democrats who say that Medicare is not in trouble are lying to you.  And if you want to believe their lies, you can.  I want grandma to have that.  I don‘t want grandma to die. 

PRESS:  Heidi, I got two words for you.

HARRIS:  Yes.

PRESS:  New York 26.  You tried that argument in the most conservative district in New York State and you lost your shirt on it. 

BELLANTONI:  That is one special election. 

UYGUR:  Christina, put aside whether you agree or disagree on the Medicare cuts, et cetera.  It does seem objectively that Republicans are not in good shape on it.  Poll numbers, 26th district, et cetera.  Am I seeing that wrong?

BELLANTONI:  That was one special election I think it‘s not a predictor of what will happen in 2012.  And there‘s going to a million factors that go into that election including the presidential race.  But it is also important to really look at the fact that Republicans are campaigning on this, as well.  So, they are looking at certain polling.  They are looking at the American people.  And they think that this is a winning issue for them.  So, it‘s not a real clear-cut one person wins and one person loses. 

PRESS:  All right.  I think it is.  I really disagree. 

UYGUR:  Go ahead.

PRESS:  I think on this issue, I think this issue Republicans have put the House of Representatives in play on this one issue. 

UYGUR:  Well, then Bill, OK, if they have, I mean, no matter how you spin it and you say, it‘s reform or not reform, if the White House says, yes, we‘ll going to help them cut it a little bit, don‘t you lose at least the  rhetorical advantage much less the policy which I don‘t necessarily agree with?

PRESS:  No, I think if you look at the president‘s plan.  You see what the reality is, Cenk.  I mean, the president is not going to go out and say, we are just not going to touch Medicare because it‘s peachy keen, it‘s rosy.  There are some problems with Medicare and with Social Security and with the whole... 

UYGUR:  They would not have acknowledged if the Republicans didn‘t force them to, Bill.  You know that‘s true. 

PRESS:  But again, the answer is not to kill them.  And that‘s what the Republicans. 

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS:  Oh, yes, the answer is to kick it down the road six more years.  I know.  It always is.  Four more years to kick it down the road. 

UYGUR:  All right.  So, Christian, one last thing.  Christina, look, you know, there is a conflicting things here.  In Washington, they say you‘ve got to show people you‘re serious.  On the other hand, the Democrats seem to be winning on the Medicare issue.  So, politically, how does that split?  How does that work?  Is the White House convinced, well, even though we are winning on Medicare, and I think they are, convinced that they are doing that, we‘ve still got to bite the bullet because the deficit issue is what?  More important to the country?  More important to Washington?  How does the play out?

BELLANTONI:  I mean, I think they recognize the deficit is important.  That‘s why the president has said that that‘s what he wants to focus on this year.  But consider what Obama has done in many cases.  He‘s compromised on tax breaks for the wealthy, which he said, he campaigns about taking those away.  And he signed a plan that continued extending them.  That‘s because he is working with the Republicans.  And I think that he is under a little bit of pressure.  If they come to him with some legitimate plan that can cut this, he‘s going to have to take a serious look at that, in part because of his re-election hopes.  But in part because people do want to actually get something done in Washington.  He‘ll have to face that question if it‘s just politics or if he wants to get something done. 

HARRIS:  That‘s absolutely right.  He only has to deal with the right because he is forced to now.  Remember, he didn‘t talk to the right, until he lost the House.  

UYGUR:  Right.

PRESS:  Obama is not that dumb. 

UYGUR:  I will get things done in a different way.  But I hear you guys.  All right.  We‘ll going to leave it right there.  Bill Press, Heidi Harris, Christina Bellantoni, thank you so much, all of you. 

PRESS:  Thanks, Cenk.

UYGUR:  Now, when we come back.  Mitt Romney wanted to let Detroit go bankrupt a few years ago.  But now he is in town asking for their vote.  Well, good luck with that. 

And then Rush Limbaugh attacks him, as well.  We‘ll tell you why.  And as Republicans demand Weiner‘s resignation, a republican congressman is investigated for something far, far worse than sexting.  We‘ll explain.  Stay with us.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UYGUR:  Forget Anthony Weiner, a republican member of the House could be in real trouble.  But unfortunately, this scandal does not involve sexting.  So, will anyone in Washington pay attention?  Well, we‘ll certainly will.  We‘ll bring that here in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UYGUR:  Mitt Romney faced a rough reception today as he campaigned in the state he basically left for dead over the auto bailout, that‘s Michigan.  Romney was met by dozens of protestors angry that he opposed President Obama‘s plan to save the big three.  Remember Romney forcefully argued to let Detroit go bankrupt. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY RING, FORD AUTO WORKER:  Not allowing them to have the bailout money.  I don‘t understand that.  I don‘t think he realized the ramifications of how many people would have lost their jobs. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UYGUR:  Now, to mark the occasion, DNC released a new ad welcoming Romney back to the state where he was born. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN:  You were very blunt about this.  In an Op-ed you wrote in “The New York Times” on Wednesday.  Let me read how you began it.  You said, quote, “If General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that they‘re their chief executive asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry good-bye.”

MITT ROMNEY, FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR:  If you write a check, they‘re going to go out of business, let Detroit go bankrupt. 

UNIDENTIFIED MAN:  There is no question that if you just write a check, that you‘re going to see these companies go out of business ultimately.  Let Detroit go bankrupt. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UYGUR:  But Romney‘s also catching heat from the right for daring to say that he believes global warming is real.  How dare him.  Rush Limbaugh has some harsh words for Romney‘s initial statement on that.  Take a look. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY:  I think the world is getting warmer.  I can‘t prove that.  I believe based on what I read the world is getting warmer.  And number two, I believe humans contribute to that. 

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Bye-bye nomination.  Bye-bye nomination, another one down.  The last year has established that the whole premise of man-made global warming is a hoax.  And we still have presidential candidates who want to buy into it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UYGUR:  So, Romney seems to be a man caught in the mitt-le (ph).  All right.  I‘m trying.  I‘m trying.  It‘s a curious spot he‘s in where he is leading half of the GOP polls, but can‘t seem to catch a break from anybody on either side. 

So, for more on this, let‘s turn to Nia-Malika Henderson, she‘s a political reporter for “The Washington Post.”  Great to see you here. 

Good to see you. 

UYGUR:  So, first, on the issue of the auto bailouts.  Now, we‘ve got people inside the Obama administration saying that we‘ve created nearly or saved nearly a million jobs.  OK.  That‘s their position on it.  But, you know what?  It appears that industry has added 115,000 jobs since the bailout.  Seems like Romney‘s on the losing end of that one, doesn‘t it?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, “THE WASHINGTON POST:  Yes.  It‘s got to be hard for him to argue against this bailout because there is evidence, whether it‘s from the Obama administration or economists or people in Michigan who still have their jobs and are working for the big three there.  It‘s going to be hard for him to argue against this thing and against the success of it.  He of course has come out initially to say, he in some ways gave the idea for the bailouts, for not, for the bailouts for bankruptcy to the Obama administration.  So, in some ways, he seemed to be taking credit for some of these ideas.  But I think you‘ll going to see over and over again when he goes to Michigan, even though this is his hometown, even though his father was  governor there, even though this is the only state that he was able to win back in 2008.  He‘s going to be faced with these union protestors.  And these are the exact voters, at least these blue collar manufacturing guys.  These are the kind of voters that he would need to win that state. 

UYGUR:  You know, I want to go back some something you said in the middle there.  You know, he is not trying to take credit for this.  In fact, he said, quote, “I think the Obama administration finally did what I told them they had to do.”  Look, I got to say, I mean, that sounds mental.  Is there any case for that?  Didn‘t he tell them to do the exact opposite?

HENDERSON:  Yes.  I don‘t understand that statement.  And trying to tease out what exactly he means there, I don‘t know if he means it was his idea to let them go bankrupt without the stimulus or without the bailout?  But of course, they use bailout to, you know, help those companies stay afloat.  So, it‘s very odd the argument that he is making here.  I think you see Mitt Romney in some ways as a candidate who might be better for the general election than the primary.  But in this instance, when he is arguing against those government interventions, it‘s very much talking point and approach that the republican base very much wants to hear.  Of course, there is a different topic there when you‘re talking about global warming.  That of course is fastening him and positioning him more as a moderate and more as a general election candidate.  So, again, I think you‘re going to see Mitt Romney, the Democrats are really going to try to paint this as a guy who flip-flops, who isn‘t certain of his positions on a lot of his issues. 

UYGUR:  Right.

HENDERSON:  And that‘s going to be really a problematic for him. 

UYGUR:  But, you know, it‘s not just Democrats.  It‘s Republicans on the auto bailout issue.  Because Congressman Thaddeus McCotter for example from Michigan, he knows how politically damaging it is.  Listen to what he said. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. THADDEUS MCCOTTER ®, MICHIGAN:  I campaigned a lot in my lifetime.  I don‘t know telling people to go bankrupt is a real crowd pleaser. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UYGUR:  OK.  And so, is there any chance that Mitt Romney can win Michigan whether it is a primary or on the general election?

HENDERSON:  It‘s hard to see how he does that.  I mean, again, it‘s early.  He‘s got a lot of time up to campaign there again.  He has been the favorite son there.  But it does seem like he‘s getting in his own way there by really standing next to this position which was essentially “Detroit Drop Dead.”  I mean, that is essentially what he was saying, you know, a few years ago in terms of this auto-bailout.  So, it‘s hard to see how he does that.  But again, there is a lot of time.  Maybe those grassroots folks there, the Tea Party people will like him standing up to the auto bailout.  So, we‘ll just have to see. 

UYGUR:  Well, other problem is they don‘t like him to begin with.  So, that brings us, look, global warming point.  You know, you‘ve got 99.9 percent of the scientists in the world in one camp, but you have Rush Limbaugh in the other camp.  And the republican primary has probably Limbaugh wins against all Science and fact.  So, can he make it out of the primary when, you know, when apparently the conservative leaders and the voters don‘t believe in facts?

HENDERSON:  Yes.  That is the big question on Mitt Romney.  He‘s got 25 percent approval rating or favorability rating in a lot of these polls.  And I think he might be a stronger front-runner than we think.  And we‘ll see how he is able to do in terms of amassing money.  He had a really strong fund-raising period back last month, $10 million in one day.  So, that‘s really going to, really I think change people‘s minds.  If he begins to look stronger and stronger over these next months, he‘s going to—in some ways I think he‘ll lay low.  He is not going to do a lot of these retail, you know, political events.  He‘s really going to be—I think his head down really looking to, really do fund-raising and really amass a big eye-popping number.  So, he can look like a stronger front-runner.  So, we‘ll see what those numbers look like over the next couple of weeks. 

UYGUR:  Yes.  I hear you.  I‘m very curious to see how that turns out.  All right.  Nia-Malika Henderson from “The Washington Post,” thank you for joining us tonight. 

HENDERSON:  Thank you. 

UYGUR:  All right.  Now, when we come back.  Republicans are freaking out over Anthony Weiner‘s scandal, but they should look at their own members instead.  We‘ll going to tell you about one republican congressman who‘s accused of doing something much worse.  That‘s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UYGUR:  All Washington is a buzz over the Anthony Weiner‘s scandal.  But he hasn‘t been charged with doing anything illegal.  Simply a scandal that involves his personal life.  Meanwhile, there are accusations of serious corruptions against other law makers that gets virtually ignored.  For example, Florida Congressman Vern Buchanan who is considered a rising star in the GOP.  He is vice chairman of finance for the national republican congressional committee.  In other words, he is a big fund-raiser for his fellow Republicans.  And hence, probably why he is considered a rising star.  He is said to be eyeing a Senate run against Democrat Bill Nelson.  But there are troubling questions about him.  The FEC has just filed a complaint accusing the car dealership Buchanan once owned of illegally funneling tens of thousands of dollars to his campaign which then helped him to get elected of course. 

The FEC said, dealership employees and their relatives were pressured into giving Buchanan nearly $68,000 for his first two election campaigns.  The dealership then illegally reimbursed to donors for all that money according to those claims.  The scheme allowed Buchanan‘s company to give him cash well above the legal limit.  The FEC says, quote, “The lawbreaking was not a mere error or lapse in judgment.  It was an extensive and ongoing scheme that spanned two election cycles, three calendar years and dozens of secret, illegal contributions.”  Buchanan sold the dealership in 2008 after he received all those donations.  He claims he did nothing wrong and he is trying to pin the blame on his former business partner. 

But this chicanery along with similar other alleged schemes, several other dealership, he once own has made Buchanan a poster child for corruption.  In fact, the watch dog group crew has named Buchanan one of the most corrupt lawmakers in Washington.  What is that?  There he is on a cover of their latest report.  So, where is the outrage about our friend, Vern?  Where are the calls for his resignation?  We are not hearing a damn thing about that from Republicans or Democrats.  Where is my friend Tim Kaine?  I thought he loved criticizing scandals.  Why won‘t he go after a republican charged with things far more serious than anything Weiner did?  Then, those are good questions.  If Washington took these scandals seriously, this is a real scandal, not some crotch shots of a congressman. 

All right.  Thank you for watching, everybody.  “HARDBALL” starts right now. 

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