Msnbc Live at 6 p.m. ET, Friday, June 17th
Read the transcript from the Friday 6 p.m. hour
Guests: Earl Blumenauer, Ezra Klein, Sam Seder, A.B. Stoddard, Jennifer Donahue, Josh Gerstein, Amanda Terkel, Tina Dupuy, Ric Reitz
CENK UYGUR, HOST: All right, Democrats. No more distractions. Now‘s the time for Medicare, Social Security, and all of our principles. Are you ready to fight for them? We‘re going to find out tonight.
Also tonight, Tim Pawlenty tries to show he‘s not too weak to be president, but it‘s another epic fail.
Russ Feingold tells Netroots Nation that Democrats are in danger of drowning themselves in corporate cash. Is he right?
And is there a Fox in Chris Christie‘s office? His secret bromance with Roger Ailes. That secret no more.
All right. Good evening, everybody. I‘m Cenk Uygur.
No more excuses. Anthony Weiner is gone and it‘s time for Democrats to stand and fight on the issues that really matter. That‘s our lead story tonight.
While Democrats were wringing their hands over Weinergate, Republicans were charging ahead with their radical agenda to devastate the middle class and working poor. The House GOP just passed a spending bill that cuts food aid for women and kids, cuts funding for safety, cripples efforts to stop oil spectators, and blocks efforts to create healthier school lunches.
Come on. That is an unbelievable list.
The GOP is actually pushing an agenda that is pro-hunger, pro-obesity, pro-oil and pro-E. coli. Now, I want to ask the Democrats one important question. Are you going to let them get way with it?
The Republicans are fighting to dismantle the very essence of our social contract. Paul Ryan wants to end Medicare as we know it. “The Wall Street Journal” says both parties expect Medicaid to be the biggest source of cuts in the Biden budget talks.
And now it looks like Republicans may even be making headway in their war against Social Security. Today, a crushing report from The Journal. The AARP is “—dropping its longstanding opposition to cutting Social Security benefits.”
That is disastrous and totally unnecessary. In my opinion, it is a great betrayal of the members of the AARP.
Now, the leaders of that group have been furiously pushing back on that all day. But, you know what? In the end, the group admitted that it‘s open to raising the retirement age and cutting benefits for future retirees. So that means the story is right and they‘re going to join the rest of Washington in trying to rob you blind of the benefits that you paid into your whole life.
Now, this would be a pretty good time for leadership from perhaps the White House. Well, White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer was at the Netroots Nation conference in Minneapolis today, when he was grilled on this very topic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAN PFEIFFER, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: On Social Security, the president will do nothing that will slash benefits, privatize the program, or change the nature of the program. And on Medicaid, and the same thing is true with Medicare.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So that means no raising the age limits?
PFEIFFER: What it means is we are going to make sure that what however we strengthen it is done in way that does not change the fundamental nature of the program.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So no raising age limits?
PFEIFFER: Well, I‘m not going to have a negotiation with the Republicans here on the stage with you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: That‘s a disaster. That was a great question. And you saw that he did not want to answer it. That is not a good sign.
Now, let me ask you one more question. If the Democrats and the White House don‘t fight for Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security, and more importantly, for all of us, the people who voted for them, the people in this country, the middle class, who need to be fought for, when will they ever fight?
Look, in just a minute we‘re going to talk with Sam Seder, who‘s at Netroots Nation, along with Ezra Klein, who‘s an expert, of course, on all things budget-related.
But first, let me bring in Congressman Earl Blumenauer. He‘s a Democrat from Oregon. He serves on the Budget Committee and is a member of the Progressive Caucus.
Congressman Blumenauer, I have to be honest with you, what I‘m hearing from the White House there, and what I‘m hearing from the AARP, and what I‘m hearing about the Biden talks and how they are cutting Medicaid, that sounds terrible to me.
Is that acceptable to the Democrats in Congress?
REP. EARL BLUMENAUER (D), OREGON: Well, it all depends on context, Cenk. I mean, I find it outrageous that there is a proposal here to pass the burden on, for example, in Medicaid to the poorest, most fragile elderly. What we are seeing in Medicare, as we have discussed before, is an effort that deals with the program that they don‘t think government can afford, reduce it in terms of its responsibility, and pass those on to seniors in the future.
I think we ought not to jump the gun in terms of what‘s happening with AARP. You know, they have been put in the crosshairs by the Republicans because they had the temerity to support some health care reform.
I think it is—the notion that we are not ever going to make any changes, for example, in the age—I mean, I‘m one of the baby boom generation that has known for 20 years that there‘s going to be a slight increase that‘s—I think that that‘s not something that everybody ought to reflexively just say no, never. But we want to look at the package that comes forward.
UYGUR: Well, Congressman—
BLUMENAUER: I mean, let‘s be realistic about that.
UYGUR: Congressman, I have be honest with you, I‘m going to respectfully, massively disagree. And I will show you a statistic showing why. OK?
According to the Economic Policy Institute, if you raise the retirement age, for example, from 65 to 70 years old, that is a drop in benefits of 19 percent. The average American loses benefits of $63,573.
Here is what I say to that proposal. Hell no! I‘m not considering it. I‘m not coming within a mile of considering it.
BLUMENAUER: Well, Cenk, first of all, it‘s already been raised. It‘s no longer a retirement age of 65 starting with us baby boom generation and going forward. It has been raised to 67.
UYGUR: I know. So do you want to raise it to 69 and take away another $10,000, $20,000, $30,000 from people?
BLUMENAUER: Well, over the course of the next 40 years, when life expectancy may well increase another 10 or 20 years, being part of something that includes being able to make adjustments in terms of the tax rate, the tax base, for—in some cases, maybe having a slightly different inflationary rate for the wealthier seniors. I‘m not talking about all and having the progressive indexing, but for the top 10 or 20 percent. You can put together a package that deals with the 25 percent shortfall that we‘re going to be facing.
UYGUR: No. No. No.
BLUMENAUER: So we‘re going to adjust that. And I‘m just saying if you‘re looking at something that‘s going to be phased in over the next 20 or 30 years, I‘m not reflexively going to rule out increasing it, for example, another year. We did it two years. The sky didn‘t fall.
UYGUR: Now, Congressman, this is a disaster. This is a disaster, what I‘m hearing from you.
Look, I‘m not reflexively against reform. And if you say hey, for example, we‘ve got to increase the amount of people paying the payroll tax, so you go above $160,000, OK. That makes perfect sense to me, and there are reforms you can do.
But it‘s perfectly stable until 2037. It pays every single cent.
BLUMENAUER: Right. Absolutely.
UYGUR: And then above that, it pays 75 percent.
UYGUR: So why would you raise the retirement age? No. On the retirement age, what I‘m hearing from you is, even a member of the Progressive Caucus is not going to fight for it. And these people are going to lose $10,000, $20,000 in benefits.
BLUMENAUER: No, that‘s not what I said, Cenk. Get a grip.
UYGUR: Then I want you to tell me right now, no, no, no on raising the retirement age.
BLUMENAUER: No. What I just said is that we are not going to have to do anything Draconian for Social Security over the course of the next 25 years. But if the life expectancy goes up another 20 years, or 10 years, raising the retirement age another year in 20 or 25 years from now, gradually, as part of a larger package that includes other progressive reforms, I don‘t think that‘s crazy. And the majority of the American public doesn‘t either.
UYGUR: No, that‘s not true at all. I mean, I‘m sorry.
You k now, look 84 percent of the American people, 84 percent, no question about it, say, do not cut the benefits. Don‘t cut them.
So what do you mean? Sixteen percent say cut them? Eighty-four percent say don‘t cut them.
BLUMENAUER: Now, if you—as I have done, if you work with people and give them variables to put together a package over the course of the next 25 years as a comprehensive package, having a slight increase in the retirement age is not something that freaks people out. We‘ve done it before.
UYGUR: Yes. It freaks me out. It freaks me out.
BLUMENAUER: Well, that‘s fine.
UYGUR: You know, Congressman, here‘s another solution. Here‘s another solution. OK? Right now our effective tax rate is at a near record low. It‘s at 14.4 percent of GDP.
BLUMENAUER: We don‘t disagree on that.
UYGUR: I know we don‘t.
BLUMENAUER: We don‘t disagree on that.
UYGUR: So why don‘t you insist on it? Why don‘t you say, hey, listen, I‘m not going to cut a penny of Social Security until you get this to a reasonable level where the wealthy in this country stop robbing us blind, where they take all of the advantages, they take all the breaks, they take all the subsidies? And then they say, oh, no, but I‘ve got to cut your Social Security.
BLUMENAUER: We‘re obviously pushing in terms of trying to—I‘m not in favor of extending tax cuts for the wealthy. I‘m working in terms of dealing with some of the unnecessary oil subsidies. But to sort of come unsprung and suggest you can‘t have a comprehensive package over the next 25 years, you‘re going to rule everything out that you disagree with—
UYGUR: Congressman, here is the guarantee I have for you. Whatever deal that you guys are going to make, Joe Biden, the White House, apparently congressional Democrats, you‘re not going to raise taxes on the rich. You‘re not going to do it.
And then you‘re going to tell me it‘s comprehensive when you cut Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security. That ain‘t comprehensive.
You come back with Bush tax cuts. Take them away. OK? We go back to the Clinton rates, OK, I‘ll say, all right, now we‘re having a conversation.
That‘s comprehensive. Are you going to do that? You‘re not going to do that, are you?
BLUMENAUER: Well, what do you mean am I going to do that? I mean, you know that I don‘t have all the power here. I am arguing for a position that does exactly what you‘re saying in terms of the—in many of those tax adjustments. But the notion that that just because there are things that may be approached by Biden, I mean, those are—you‘ve got copies of correspondence, letters, arguments we‘re making to the White House for things that we want to be on the table like making sure that we‘re not surrendering on the tax cuts, making sure that we‘re pushing in terms of the oil subsidies.
BLUMENAUER: But the notion that somehow we‘re not pushing back I think is wrong. But there are certain limitations in terms of what we can actually do.
And I just disagree in terms of the notion that over the next 20 years, that we have to fight to never, ever again make an adjustment to the age, ruling it out before we get into dealing with a package. I don‘t know that that‘s the most appropriate way to go. We‘ll just agree to disagree.
UYGUR: Yes. We have a very healthy disagreement on that.
Congressman Earl Blumenauer, we really do appreciate the conversation.
BLUMENAUER: That‘s why it‘s always fun to talk with you. I always enjoy it.
UYGUR: And I agree with you on oil subsidies, by the way. And I agree with you on taxes. I wish we would fight really hard for those. And I know that you‘re in the Progressive Caucus and you‘re trying to push them in the right direction.
Thank you for joining us.
BLUMENAUER: My pleasure.
UYGUR: All right.
Now, when we come back, we‘re going to bring in Sam Seder and Ezra Klein, and we‘re going to talk about these topics and more.
The White House also challenged on jobs.
We‘ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PFEIFFER: And I know that there‘s levels of frustration with some of the decisions that have happened in this White House. There is frustration in the times that the pace of change has exceeded everyone‘s patience, including our own.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Well, you got that right. There‘s a lot of frustration in the air.
Now let‘s bring in Sam Seder, the host of “The Majority Report,” and Ezra Klein, “Washington Post” columnist and MSNBC political analyst, to talk about it.
Sam, you know, I don‘t know if you saw the last segment, but I got a little worked up there, because it looks like everybody in Washington now agrees that they‘re going to raise the retirement age on Social Security and Medicare.
Am I the only one here that thinks that‘s a disaster, or do you think that‘s going to make a lot of progressives angry?
SAM SEDER, HOST, “THE MAJORITY REPORT”: Well, I think it‘s going to make a lot of progressives angry, and I think it‘s going to make a lot of Americans angry.
I mean, look, with all due respect to the congressman, the idea that the life expectancy is going to jump 10 or 20 years over the next 30 years, I mean, look, the bottom line is the life expectancy needs to be measured after the age of 65. And that has barely budged in the past hundred years, and particularly even less so for those people in the bottom half of the income distribution.
So the idea that somehow—I mean, look, if you are going to raise the retirement age, you are cutting Social Security. And the idea that you are going to pretend that somehow we‘re going to be living to 140 years old and everyone is going to be doing this, and we‘re going to be able to work into our 70s, that‘s simply not the case. And if you have to use those type of facts to justify it, then you‘ve got a real problem with the argument.
Ezra, what‘s going on here? Right? The country wants to know, people watching this show, they want to know, how come 84 percent of the country says don‘t cut Social Security benefits and everybody in Washington, and even the AARP, that is supposed to represent these people, now says, yes, we‘re going to raise the retirement age and cut benefits?
What the hell is the matter with Washington?
EZRA KLEIN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It‘s a popular argument here.
I always think that what happens in Washington—if you look at a place like the Senate, or you look at the think tanks, or other elements of the establishment, people like to work until about 75, 80, 85. You have got to take folks out of the Senate on a stretcher. So it sounds very reasonable to them that you would raise the retirement age above 65, and now it‘s gone up to 67, so maybe up to 68 or 69.
I‘m not as opposed I think in all circumstances to benefit cuts as you are. But it is important to say that raising the retirement age is a particularly regressive way to do it.
You can means test benefits so people who don‘t need it as much get less from Social Security. You can even do a straightforward benefit cut so at least you see more clearly the effect of the policy. But simply raising the retirement age essentially means that people who have the worst jobs, the most menial jobs, the most physical labor, they‘re the ones who get hit hardest. And that‘s exactly who I think we should be worrying about as they get near retirement age.
UYGUR: Well, Sam, I mean, look, that‘s a great point by Ezra, and it goes to the heart of the problem. Right?
It seems like they don‘t look out for us. Right?
And you made the point that, actually, people that are poorer, live not as long as the people who are richer. So they get their benefits cut the most and they‘ve got to work the longest.
And so, it just—as you look at it—and I know you‘re at Netroots. Tell me, is this feeling of frustration with people who are supposed to be on our side, the Democrats, and the White House, is that palpable over there?
SEDER: You know, I think my sense is, is that it‘s been a little bit over-reported that there is this type of frustration. I mean, obviously, it‘s there. And I don‘t know that it‘s—I think people are starting to wonder, you know, what is it that we can do to fight this? And I think the idea is that we can‘t look to our politicians.
I think Ezra is absolutely right. Our establishment lives in a bubble. You can see it over the past 30 years. I think there was a professor from Princeton who has shown that regardless of who is in office, that the policy preferences of the wealthy in this country have been more or less followed. And so we have a real problem, and this is a just another aspect, frankly, of a class war that‘s being waged on the middle class.
And really, you know, we are talking, 60, 70 percent of the country. Sixty percent of seniors rely on Social Security for over 50 percent of their income in retirement age. And so when you are talking about cutting Social Security, or when you‘re talking about Medicaid—because Ezra knows this—that, you know, what happens to many elderly is they go into homes, they are on Medicare, and then they become too poor, and so they are on Medicaid for their homes.
And so this is a direct assault on nearly half, if not more, of the country.
UYGUR: You know, these are all great points.
Ezra, when you go to taxes, you see where the problem is. We‘ve got a massive redistribution of wealth. We are at record low tax rates.
And now the Republicans come along with the Tim Pawlenty joke of a plan to reduce taxes to almost nothing for the rich. It takes—it costs us $11 trillion, the Pawlenty plan.
Bachmann says she is pretty much in favor of it. Herman Cain—they all say they are in favor of it.
So isn‘t this a class war? Isn‘t it the rich have declared war on the middle class and we just don‘t know it?
KLEIN: Tim Pawlenty‘s plan is sort of remarkable. I never thought anybody would make George W. Bush look like Robin Hood, but he‘s pretty much managed it.
Is there a class war? There are competing preferences, and it is true
UYGUR: That‘s a good way of putting it.
KLEIN: -- as it generally is, that the rich have more sway in Washington. You know, that said, I think that we do have an issue where the Democrats have in general been terrified of the tax issue. And they‘ve not been terrified just because the rich spend against them, they‘ve been terrified because they feel like they‘ve lost on it.
And Barack Obama came right in and made this terrible promise never to raise taxes on anybody making less than $250,000. And if you‘re never going to do that, you‘re not going to retire much of the debt through taxes. That really is not going to be a serious part of the solution.
And so you can‘t just say that it‘s all sort of the rich interests, it‘s all us versus them. There is sort of a bipartisan consensus in Washington right now that the vast majority of tax rates should not rise.
And when you‘re not going to taxes, you‘re not going to—you‘re going to have to hit things like Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid very hard. There are reforms that need to happen in those programs anyway, by the way, but you have to hit them a lot harder if you‘re not willing to make revenues part of the n solution.
UYGUR: Yes, but one quick think that I‘ll disagree with here is that there is a bipartisan consensus, but it is among the rich, Democrats and the rich Republicans, who agree that the middle class shouldn‘t have the money, the rich should.
Sam, last word.
SEDER: Well, I mean, that‘s exactly right. I mean, if there‘s a bipartisan consensus that we can‘t raise taxes on the rich, and that we should take it out of the hides of the middle class, then you‘re right, there is a class war.
UYGUR: Yes. All right.
Sam Seder and Ezra Klein.
You guys are great. Thank you for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.
KLEIN: Thank you.
UYGUR: All right.
We when come back, after wussing out during the debate, Tim Pawlenty goes after Mitt Romney for a second time, but again, he did it from the safety of a Fox News studio. Of course.
And targeted attempts to go union-busting with a film that features union actors. That‘s a great story. We‘ll talk to one of the actors later in the show.
UYGUR: The first real week of presidential campaigning is in the books, and we may have ourselves an anti-Romney, a candidate who has everything an extreme right-ringer could ever hope for.
Today, at a Republican conference, Michele Bachmann once again showed she can inspire the faithful like no one else with her special brand of totally illogical anti-Obama rhetoric.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Mr. President, the bailouts didn‘t work. The stimulus didn‘t work.
We know what works. It‘s cutting spending. It‘s doing what free markets do and what economic superpowers do.
And Mr. President, you‘re no economic superpower.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Obama is not an economic superpower? What does that mean?
Only Bachmann would know that that line would actually work in that crowd.
She seems to have some sort of telepathic irrationality with the GOP audience. She is kind of like their anti-Spock. Whatever she says makes no sense to the rest of the world, but to them it‘s like manna from the Andromeda galaxy.
By contrast, the man who flubbed this week‘s debate, Tim Pawlenty, is skipping the conference. Pawlenty is under fire for declining to take on Romney over health care during the debate. Days later, Pawlenty is scrambling.
On Fox News last night, he tried to go back on the offense. Oy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIM PAWLENTY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I should have been much more clear during the debate, Sean. I don‘t think we can have a nominee that was involved in the development and construction of Obamacare and then continues to defend it. I don‘t think you can prosecute the political case against President Obama if you are a coconspirator and one of the main charges against the president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Oh, Pawlenty, please. Now you‘re calling Mitt Romney a coconspirator? Oh, come on. That‘s way too little, way too late.
Very typical of Pawlenty‘s campaign.
All right. Let‘s talk about it now.
Joining me, A.B. Stoddard, associate editor and columnist for “The Hill”; and Jennifer Donahue, contributor to “The Huffington Post.”
All right, ladies. Let me start with Michele Bachmann.
Look, I think she‘s crazy, but she‘s doing pretty well. She is now surging in the polls, she‘s caught up and is basically number two right now in the polls.
But when you look at those numbers, Romney is at 43 percent. That‘s crushing the field. But Bachmann is coming from behind.
All right, A.B., what do you think? A real contender?
A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR & COLUMNIST, “THE HILL”: Oh, she is absolutely a real contender.
Cenk, on Monday night, she showed at that debate that she is very serious about running for this nomination. And she really catapulted herself, I think, from the sideshow of vanity candidates into the top tier.
She is major threat to Tim Pawlenty in Iowa. I think she is making Mitt Romney nervous.
She is a ferocious fund-raiser. She‘s hired good people. She really is encamping in Iowa, where she was born.
And I think that she has a real shot at taking that first contest in the caucuses there, and it doesn‘t mean—like Mike Huckabee didn‘t end up being the nominee either. It doesn‘t mean that she is the nominee, but she wants it bad, and I think the men in the field are very nervous.
UYGUR: You know, I think she is for real, too. I think she‘s going to be a contender.
I don‘t think she‘ll ultimately win it, and I have a theory as to why.
It‘s because she is crazy.
And I want to run that theory by you, Jennifer. Here‘s some of the things that Bachmann has claimed.
She says that “Lion King” is gay propaganda. You know, the movie, et cetera.
JENNIFER DONAHUE, “THE HUFFINGTON POST”: Right.
UYGUR: Abolishing minimum wage would create jobs. That scientists support intelligent design. Nonsense. Carbon dioxide is harmless. And that Glenn Beck can solve the debt crisis.
Does the fact that she‘s crazy help or hurt her in the primaries?
DONAHUE: It helps her. I think what‘s happened in the past couple of years is that the Republican base has moved to the right, partly because of the Tea Party, and she is House chairman of the Tea Party Caucus, is bread and butter to these people. They love her. She can do no wrong.
She carries the conservative mantel. And the more conservative she is, and the more she speaks in code, the more they like her. It‘s like throwing red meat to lions. But if you look at what happened over the past few cycles, in 2008 McCain was the nominee but he wasn‘t embraced by movement conservatives and he lost the election. He failed to generate the kind of support that people would have needed to turn out and actually keep Obama from shellacking him. In 1996, you had Bob Dole beaten by Pat Buchanan who conservatives really like. And Bob Dole lost the election because conservatives didn‘t turn out for him. So, someone like Michele Bachmann has a chance to really light conservatives up and may actually have a better chance than Romney at winning the White House.
UYGUR: All right. Well, A.B., I got to ask you, is there no bounce to how crazy someone can be? Because, I just listed you all that stuff, there is also the stories of how, when she was a state senator, she was hiding the Bushes in a gay rally. Hiding the Bushes. And then another time, she was in a bathroom with two lesbian women who were talking about issues and she started screaming and running out of the bathroom, oh my God, I‘ve been taken hostage by lesbians. I mean, that sounds like a lunatic. Doesn‘t that have to hurt her at some point?
A.B. STODDARD, “THE HILL”: You know, Cenk. I don‘t have these news accounts in front of me right now as we speak, but I will tell you that Jennifer makes a good point. If she can really light up rally and she can raise a lot money and she can speed past these other people, like Tim Pawlenty specifically in polls, really threaten Mitt Romney and become the nominee, that would be a huge accomplishment. I don‘t know that she can be the nominee. And I don‘t know that she can win a general election. I think there are, you know, there are things that she said that will come back to haunt her. There are things that other people have said that, including President Obama, that come back to haunt him.
And they can somehow, you know, sometimes they can overcome those things. For now, for her path to the nomination, she is doing great. She has been a candidate for just a few days, she is creating an incredible amount of buzz. And she was very serious on that debate. She articulated the issues well. She really managed to smile a lot. She was positive. She managed to really stand out on the stage among those men. Not, as I said, as a goof ball and entertaining candidate but really as someone that could go toe to toe with them in a debate.
STODDARD: You know, until someone else enters that debate line-up, she was really impressive.
UYGUR: No, no. I hear you on that. Don‘t get me wrong. She sounded, you know, like a republican that was, at least within the Republican Party in the debate, she did well and her numbers have doubled. That‘s why we are talking about her. She is very serious. Now, let‘s talk about real quickly, someone who‘s not very serious, Tim Pawlenty. This whole thing like when you‘re in a debate, you run from Mitt Romney but as soon as he‘s out of the room, then you have the courage to, you know, call him a co-conspirator, and you know, Obamney-care and all that stuff. Jennifer, come on, this is looking sad, isn‘t it?
DONAHUE: It is looking sad. It also demonstrates that Pawlenty really has no idea what is going on in the world of media. If he doesn‘t think that social media and bloggers are going to cover everything he says on FOX and then contrast that with what he won‘t say during the debate, it makes him look very weak and it makes him look like he has no conviction. Which I think is really a problem that he has. Conservatives don‘t like Pawlenty very much because he has exceptions on the choice issue. Which may make him sound more moderate, more reasonable. But he is not the alternatives to Romney. The conservative vote is totally split. And he doesn‘t know what he is running for. Is he running as conservative or is he running as a moderate? He can‘t decide in a similar way. He can‘t decide whether he wants to be the one to slay the dragon and Romney.
UYGUR: Right. I think he‘s done. But I felt that from the beginning. So, and turns out I might be right.
DONAHUE: Yes. I have too. I have too. I think he and Santorum are not going to get traction.
UYGUR: Yes. No way, and nor Gingrich. All right. A.B. Stoddard, associate editor and columnist for “The Hill.” And Jennifer Donahue, contributor for “The Huffington Post.” Thank you both. Great conversation.
All right. Now, when we come back, Paul Ryan out does himself once again. He is trying to single handedly kill Medicare and make money for himself in the process. It‘s actually an outrageous story.
And did Chris Christie just admit that he takes advice from Roger Ailes, the head of FOX News? Sure, sounds like it. Is that legal?
UYGUR: Welcome back to the show, everybody. Now to discuss some of today‘s biggest political stories, we bring in our Power Panel. Joining me now, Josh Gerstein, White House reporter for Politico. Also with me, syndicated Op-ed columnist Tina Dupuy, she‘s also a host on The Young Turks Network. Finally, Amanda Terkel, senior political reporter for “The Huffington Post.”
All right. First question everybody. Is big business bad business? Former Senator Russ Feingold lashed out at democratic super packs yesterday, he‘s said that the party is in danger if it accepts corporate donations. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSS FEINGOLD (D), FORMER WISCONSIN SENATOR: I empathize with the desire to fight fire with fire. But Democrats should just never be in the business of taking unlimited corporate contributions. It‘s dancing with the devil. And it‘s a game that we will never win.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Amanda, is he right?
AMANDA TERKEL, “THE HUFFINGTON POST”: Well, corporate contributions do go much more heavily toward Republicans than Democrats. And Feingold argument is that look, not taking this sort of corporate cash, not being behold into these interests, that‘s part of the Democratic Party identity. We can take small contributions. That‘s what Obama did. We can win for others, they‘re saying look, we can‘t go up against that big money. Unions don‘t have it any more. We need to fight fire with fire.
UYGUR: All right. Josh, what about that? I mean, it looks like the Democrats are in a bit of a tough spot to be fair to them, right? Because if they don‘t take the corporate money, then the Republicans have a huge advantage. If they do take it, then they‘re behold into this same guys and can‘t really serve the middle class that they say that they represent.
JOSH GERSTEIN, POLITICO: Yes, that‘s right. I mean, and the other thing to consider here is that, I think that you see these kinds of efforts going on, on both sides anyway. I mean, it is sort of what Feingold is saying, I think presumes that if Obama gives the signal this time, this won‘t happen. And it seems to me even though the White House is taking a somewhat different position this time than it did four years ago, that these efforts are going to happen anyway. That big donors are going to band together on both sides to take full advantage of the loop holes that the Supreme Court and others have found in recent years. So I think it is an interesting argument but I feel like this money spigots are going to go on full blast, anyway.
UYGUR: Well, there is no question about that. I mean, I like that there is somebody fighting back. And I like that it‘s Feingold. But Tina, let me ask you this question, it seems like the White House are going to appease any of these big donors, anyway. Look at what they‘re complaining about. Wall Street lobbying to undo no regulations, that‘s still going on. Manufacturing saying, environmental policies hinders growth, companies like Boeing with labor regulators. And all of that is going on and they say, well, all of the stuff that Obama gave us is still not going to—even Wall Street is saying that. So, is there any importance in trying to appease these people?
TINA DUPUY, SYNDICATED OP-ED COLUMNIST: Yes. That‘s the thing, I mean, I love that Feingold came out and he said all these things and he talks about the problem. But his solutions, like not taking this money or later in his speech, he said that we could hopefully rely on the Supreme Court to overturn Citizens United, that‘s just not a realistic solution to the problems that he brought up.
UYGUR: Yes. I hear you on that. Look. I think we need to have an enormous fight on Campaign Finance Reform. I think Josh was right. President Obama talked a good game in 2008. What happened? I mean, nothing has happened since. Nothing. Right? But on the other hand, Amanda, if you get a republican and he puts more pro-corporate justice on the Supreme Court, then it is full blown disaster, isn‘t it?
TERKEL: Well, that‘s what White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer was out here in Minneapolis speaking at Netroots Nation today, too. And he was saying, look, you may not like that Obama hasn‘t fulfilled all these promises but if the Republicans beat Obama in 2012, none of that is going to happen. Everything you want and everything we worked for will go out the window. So, that‘s the argument the White House is trying to make too. I mean, part of what Feingold was saying was that, you know, Obama should be making campaign finance reform more of an issue at every campaign stop he does. And it should be front and center and it should be highlighted more. Even if yes, some of this money, exchange will be going on regardless of what he says.
UYGUR: Well, you know, Josh, that gets to the final point here. Because it is tough, hey, campaign finance campaign reform. I don‘t want to meet with the lobbyists and the Wall Street people as you‘re meeting with the lobbyists and the Wall Street people. Jay Carney had to come out today and say, yes, we had a meeting in March. We brought in a whole bunch of Wall Street people into the White House. How is a democrat going to win when he is bringing, you know, all these Wall Street fat cats in the White House and trying to appease them? That doesn‘t seem like a winning electoral strategy, does it?
GERSTEIN: Well, I mean, there has been a concerted strategy of the White House for I would say, at least six months to a year or so. They really felt they were losing traction with the business community. And you know, the business community was really not hostile to Obama when he came in. He got tremendous support on Wall Street. More people thought he got more support on Wall Street than Bush did. Maybe for a variety of reasons. But you‘re right, now he is having meetings in the blue room of the White House. Meetings that to me that sound a lot like the coffees and things that President Clinton got in a bunch of trouble for in 1996. They are pulling out all the stops to try to please the business community and do everything they can to. I don‘t know if they‘re going to get themselves on the democratic side, but maybe at least stop them from you know, diligently opposing the president in 2012.
UYGUR: Yes. I hear you. Look, it is all about the money unfortunately. All right. We got to go to the next question for the panel. Is there a FOX in the governor‘s mansion? That‘s the question. A New York magazine article last month reported that FOX Chairman Roger Ailes called Governor Chris Christie, encouraged him to run for president. Following that peace, the Web site Gawker filed a request under New Jersey‘s open records act for any correspondents between the two men. Now, here is the response the Web site got. Christie‘s office said, they would quote be exempt from disclosure based upon the executive privilege and well settled case law. Now, in other words Christie‘s staff refused to search for any records on the basis that Ailes is a confidential advisor whose comments should be shielded from public scrutiny.
Tina, do we have a problem when a republican governor or any governor says, yes, I‘m taking political advice from the guy who runs that major news channel, and so I don‘t want to tell you about it?
DUPUY: Right. I mean, if this story was told to you by someone who sat down next to you in an airport, you would think the guy was ready for a tin hat. I mean, it really sounds like a conspiracy theory. But this is actually happened. Yes, no, this is not good. And Chris Christie should kind of come out and be honest with everyone just like he did with the helicopter. And you know, fess up to talking to Ailes.
UYGUR: And look, Josh, shouldn‘t Ailes fess up? Look, I secretly run the Republican Party and they all have to kiss my ring and that‘s the way this thing works.
DUPUY: That‘s bragging, that‘s not fessing up.
GERSTEIN: -- Republican Party candidates actually work for Ailes or have within the last 30 days, haven‘t they? I mean, it is a very unusual situation over there. I actually think—I think you may be alluding to, it is more of an issue for Ailes than it is for Christie. It is just an unusual news operation where the head of it is regularly dispensing advice to political candidates. I wouldn‘t say it is illegal. I wouldn‘t say it‘s unethical. But it‘s just not the way in the last 20 or 30 years large news organizations in this country have behaved. And I think even some advocacy media groups would be cautious about advising individual candidates about how to position themselves politically.
UYGUR: Amanda, you know, sometimes people say, Rush Limbaugh is titular head of the Republican Party. Some of those people are Rush Limbaugh. But I think the real titular head of the party is Roger Ailes, I mean whether it was all the way back in Nixon. Whether it was George H. W. Bush. Whether it was Reagan. Whether it was Ailes‘ network crowning George W. Bush, the winner in 2000. And now, advising these candidates, isn‘t he the real head of the Republican Party?
TERKEL: Roger Ailes had the ear of many powerful republican politicians and they go on his network. Their profile is boosted, as we have seen with Sarah Palin, with Newt Gingrich, with Mike Huckabee. They all benefit from this relationship as he does as well. I mean, this will make the public question every time Chris Christie makes a decision that has to somehow do with Roger Ailes‘ business interest. When Chris Christie goes on the media, what is he doing? And when he does a political run, is he taking the advice of Roger Ailes? So, you know, this race has a lot of problems for both men.
UYGUR: Tina, last thing here. Look, as the FOX News gives a million dollars to Republican Governments Association, as Josh pointed out they have all these candidates on there, et cetera, et cetera. Can they make a credible case? I mean, I know it is almost a joke. But of fair and balance?
DUPUY: We thought that was sarcastic anyway. Are we taking that seriously now? I always thought it was kind of like tongue in cheek. Something that she say when you are being insincere, right? Isn‘t that how that works?
UYGUR: No. Maybe you got it. Maybe it was ironic all along.
DUPUY: I just assumed. Am I the only one? I thought that‘s what we agreed on. Yes.
All right. Josh Gerstein, Tina Dupuy, and Amanda Terkel. Thanks for a great panel, we appreciate it.
GERSTEIN: Thank you.
UYGUR: And have a great weekend, everybody.
TERKEL: Thank you.
UYGUR: All right. We‘ll be right back with this story. Target goes union busting in an employee training video. The only problem, they hired union workers to make the video. That‘s a great story. And one of those actors is going to join us in a few minute and you‘ve got to hear his hilarious quote on this. We‘ll be right back.
UYGUR: Just when you thought the Paul Ryan plan was outrageous, my God, there is a new twist. It turns out his family might be making a lot of money on his own plan. That is unbelievable. We‘re going to tell you that in a little bit.
UYGUR: Tonight, 260 target workers in Long Island, New York will vote on whether or not to unionize. Now, it is the closest any group of target employees has come to unionizing in two decades. Now, if they vote yes, it would become the first unionize target store out of more than 1700 across the country. Target, like Wal-Mart has successfully dissuaded their employees from unionizing for years. They even made an internal video back in 2003 about the dangers of signing a union card.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RIC REITZ, ACTOR: Welcome to Target, where we know you will have a terrific experience. I‘m Doug.
MARIA: And I‘m Maria. And even if you already started working here, you‘re already part of an important team in a great target store.
DOUG: That‘s right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Doug and Maria spent most of the 13-minute video talking about how bad unions are and how to deflect union organizers. But Doug and marina aren‘t Target employees, they are actors. Even better, they‘re union actors. They belong to AFTRA, they both do. That‘s the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. And the radio was produced under AFTRA‘s jurisdiction. Ric Reitz, the actor who played Doug, was asked about his role in the anti-union video. His response, quote, “if someone hires me to play a rapist, does that make me a rapist? You take the job and you‘re an actor. Am I pro union? Absolutely.” That is simply an awesome quote.
So we brought in the man who said it. Ric is one of the two actors in video you just saw. And he is a member of both the Screen Actors Guild and AFTRA, and he even plays the president of the United States in a movie out this weekend. The “Green Lantern.” All right. Rick, great to have you here.
REITZ: Thank you very much. It is great to be here, Cenk.
UYGUR: All right. Now, look, when you made the video, were you at all uncomfortable with it? Or did you look at the script and go, oh, boy, all right.
REITZ: Oh, yes. Well, obviously, you take a look at the script. I hadn‘t seen the script before I got on the set. And then you sort of realize what‘s going on. You go awkward and there were some moments there. But you‘re looking at a coterie of attorneys everyone and producers and people and you sort of caught in a catch 22. I‘ve been flown to location. I hadn‘t known what to expect, but there I was.
UYGUR: Well, that‘s interesting. So when you got there, they gave you the script. They had to know you were union. Apparently they didn‘t care about that?
REITZ: Well, I have to presume that they knew I was union. Certainly, the people that were producing the video knew. I had to assume that Target personnel knew. There were several there. I don‘t know that those are the same people that in place today. I couldn‘t say.
UYGUR: Right. And they had to pay union wages, which is a nice little irony as well.
REITZ: It is.
UYGUR: Right. So talk to me about that. I mean, in your own experience, has your union been helpful to you and you‘re in too as we know?
REITZ: Well, my union has been terrific for me. Obviously, if you are going to stay in the business for a long time, I‘m a freelance actor. I‘ve been doing it now for nearly 35 years, 30 of those years as a union actor, as many as five different performing unions. But we worked on a freelance basis, job to job, it‘s never continuous employment. And so, you are sort of in the situation. Everyone‘s been fair. Obviously, the working conditions for me, fantastic. But it was an odd situation, no doubt.
UYGUR: Hey, Rick, do actors have to do a lot of these kinds of videos? I mean, before you get a role in “Green Lantern” and a lot of other huge movies that you‘ve been in, is this kind of how you pay the bills?
REITZ: It really is. You are never really given a lot of choices as you‘re emerging as an actor and evolving. And certainly now, I‘ve been lucky enough to do a lot of good things, so I don‘t have to make those similar choices. But yes, actors have to survive and I‘m certainly not the first apparently who‘s ever done that. There are apparently many cases, in the hundreds, maybe even thousands, I can‘t say. But it is not unique.
UYGUR: Yes. Huge promotion for you from going to Target employee to president in “Green Lantern.” That‘s not bad.
REITZ: I‘m not sure that‘s a promotion given the state of America right now. I‘m not sure.
UYGUR: All right. Ric, you‘ve been great. We really appreciate you joining us today.
REITZ: Thank you so much.
UYGUR: Actor and union member, Ric Reitz.
All right. Thank you. Now, when we come back, Paul Ryan‘s epic con job. We‘ll talk about that.
UYGUR: All right. It‘s a fun Friday, so we‘re going to squeeze in Of Course segment and con job in the last segment. Let‘s start with our Of Course segment. We‘ve got another republican who trash the stimulus, plus was front and center for a photo-op celebrating a stimulus project, New York Congressman Richard Hanna didn‘t like the stimulus when he was on the campaign trail.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. RICHARD HANNA ®, NEW YORK: Seems that every day, Michael Arcuri in Congress find new ways to spend and tax. A failed stimulus plan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Failed stimulus, right? But Think Progress found Hanna was more than happy to show up for the ribbon cutting of a building that was renovated with, stimulus money? And he joins a last group of Republicans who have nothing good to say about the stimulus unless there‘s a giant check and a huge pair of scissors involved back in their home districts. More Republicans talking out of both sides of their mouth when it comes to the stimulus or say it with me, Of Course.
All right. Now our con job. Paul Ryan claims his budget plan would help American people but what it really helps is his bank account. And that‘s our con job of the day. The Daily Beast is reporting that Ryan stands to make a pretty penny if his proposal ever becomes law. He and his wife own states and four family businesses that lease land to energy companies. As it turns out, Ryan‘s budget plan includes $45 billion in energy tax breaks and subsidies. What a wonderful coincidence? It turns out this government welfare could be used by the very companies leasing Ryan‘s land. Ryan‘s office says, he wasn‘t thinking about his business when he crafted those tax breaks. Of course not. No, no, no. But financial records show Ryan made up to $177,000 from these leasing properties last year. The year before, he made up to $60,000. Of course we know it is not about profit for Ryan. It is about serious decisions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN ®, WISCONSIN: We need to make responsible choices today, so our children don‘t have to make really painful choices tomorrow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: What he really means is we need to make responsible choices, so he and his friends can go about his business as usual. So, he just has to take away Medicare from you. He has to slash spending on the poor and middle class so his family can make a ton more money. He just had to do it. It was the only responsible thing to do. Ryan possibly padding his own pockets while devastating families across the country with these cuts is our con job of the day.
All right. Thank you for watching everybody. “HARDBALL” starts right now.
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