updated 6/28/2011 1:03:13 PM ET 2011-06-28T17:03:13

Guests: Michael Steele, Ezra Klein, Pat Brown, Al Sharpton, Lena Taylor, John Nichols, Arne Carlson, Sen. Bernie Sanders

THOMAS ROBERTS, GUEST HOST:  Good evening, everyone.  And welcome to THE ED SHOW.  I‘m Thomas Roberts, in for Ed tonight.

Michele Bachmann officially announcing her intention to become the 45th president of the U.S. today, and it was going so well.  She would like everyone to drop the discussion about the murdering clown.

THE ED SHOW starts now.

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MICHELE BACHMANN ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  It‘s like John Wayne was from Waterloo, Iowa, that‘s the spirit I have, too.

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ROBERTS (voice-over):  The Bachmann campaign is explaining she meant the movie star, not the serial killer.  How‘s that for day one?

Tonight, former Republican Governor Arne Carlson and former RNC chairman, Michael Steele, on Michele Bachmann‘s official entry into the GOP field.

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SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT:  We will not be blackmailed again. 

Enough is enough.

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ROBERTS:  Senator Sanders today begging the president not to back down to Republican demands on the deficit.

Tonight, Senator Bernie Sanders is my guest.

And in Wisconsin, Scott Walker has signed his budget, and tonight, major developments regarding charges the Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser choked a fellow judge.

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ROBERTS:  So, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, never a stranger to creating a stir, often with boldly inaccurate statements, today, made it official.  She wants to be the next president of the United States.

And during a two-day interview blitz, she was happily to be in overdrive.  First, the announcement from her birthplace of Waterloo, Iowa.

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BACHMANN:  We cannot afford four more years of Barack Obama.  As a constitutional conservative, I believe in the Founding Fathers‘ vision of a limited government, that trusts in and perceives the unlimited potential of you, the American people.

I don‘t believe that the solutions to our problems are Washington-centric.  I believe they‘re with every American-centric.   And I believe the most basic, the most powerful unit of all is the family, and the family must be preserved and protected.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS:  Bachmann‘s professed love of limited government now comes under closer scrutiny.  And we‘ll get to that in a moment.

But the main question about Bachmann is how to square some of her past statements with her brand new presidential candidate persona.  It was broached by none other than FOX News‘ Chris Wallace.

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CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS:  The rap on you here in Washington is you have a history of questionable statements, some would say gaffes, ranging from—talking about anti-America members of Congress to—on this show a couple of months ago—when you suggested that NATO airstrikes had killed up to 30,000 civilians.

Are you a flake?

BACHMANN:  Well, I think that would be insulting to say something like that, because I‘m a serious person.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS:  Wallace later apologized to FOX News viewers for that question, saying that he messed up, and once he called her directly to apologize, she said she has accepted that apology.

But Wallace was simply asking a question that‘s been raised since Bachmann hit the national radar with MSNBC‘s Chris Matthews.  The exchange came during Barack Obama‘s presidential campaign back in 2008.

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CHRIS MATTHEWS, “HARDBALL” HOST:  How many people in the Congress of the United States are anti-American?  You‘ve already suspected Barack Obama.  Is he alone, or are there others?  How many do you suspect of your colleagues being anti-American.

BACHMANN:  What I would say—I would say the news media should do a penetrating expose and take a look.  I wish they would.  I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out are they pro-America or anti-America.  I think people would love an expose like that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS:  But the expose for the past two days seems to be directed more towards the Bachmann and the accuracy of past and present statement.  For example, a figure she threw out during the recent Republican presidential debate and repeated again yesterday with CBS‘ Bob Schieffer.

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BACHMANN: The Congressional Budget Office estimated Obamacare will cost the economy 800,000 jobs.

BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS:  Again, is data that other people would question.

BACHMANN:  Well, that‘s the Congressional Budget Office.  That‘s not Michele Bachmann.  That‘s Congressional Budget Office figures saying that we have the potential of losing 800,000 jobs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS:  The Congressional Budget Office said that some people, like seniors, might voluntarily leave the workforce because of the Affordable Care Act.  Now, the reason they would not need to hold on to a job for the simple purpose of getting health care, a good thing for those seniors.

As for Bachmann anti-government mantra, it was a big topic during her interview circuit.

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BACHMANN:  We also started a clinic.  We have our own business.  We own two clinics that are mental health clinics.  And so, we—from scratch, put capital together and have now run a successful company.

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ROBERTS:  Bachmann did fail to mention a government program that helped her company, but Chris Wallace asked her about it and he asked her about farm subsidies that have benefitted her family, as well as government pork that she doesn‘t object to when it goes directly to her district.

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BACHMANN:  First of all, the money that went to the clinic was actually training money for employees.  The clinic did not get the money.  My husband and I did not get the money either.  That‘s mental health training money that went to the employees.

Number two regarding the farm, the farm is my father-in-law‘s farm.  It‘s not my husband and my farm.  It‘s my father-in-law‘s farm, and my husband and I never got a penny of money from the farm.

Regarding the earmarks, I believe that the right place to build projects is in the state, and the states have to build roads and bridges.  And I don‘t apologize for building roads and bridges.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS:  In Bachmann‘s financial disclosure form, she reported receiving between $32,000 and $105,000 in income from the farm.  This is according to “The Los Angeles Times.”

The counseling clinic received $30,000 from Minnesota and the federal government.

But the fledgling campaign may have suffered its weirdest gaffe in an interview connected to the official announcement in Waterloo, Iowa.  Bachmann promised to mimic the spirit of Waterloo‘s John Wayne.

The problem is that Waterloo is not the home of John Wayne, the great late actor and American icon.  Waterloo is, however, the home of John Wayne Gacy, the late crazed serial killer John Wayne Gacy.

The Bachmann campaign clarified that John Wayne the actor was indeed from Iowa.  And though he was not from Waterloo, his parents lived there.  So, the case is now closed.

Let‘s bring in MSNBC political analyst, former RNC chairman, Michael Steele, and the former governor of Minnesota, Arne Carlson.

Guys, it‘s good to have you on with me this evening.

Governor, I want to start with you.  Your first thoughts about what it is that we‘ve seen today, this demonstration of Michele Bachmann for president, the official announcement.  Is she off to a good start?

FMR. GOV. ARNE CARLSON ®, MINNESOTA:  Well, I think she is.  I think she‘s always been an underestimated candidate.  And by that, I mean when you look back over her history, every opponent she‘s had always underestimated her skills.

Now, she and I are not on the same philosophical page.  I want to make that clear.

But in terms of the ability to communicate, to sell a message, to inspire an audience, she is as good a candidate as there is in the Republican field, and she‘s not to be taken lightly.  I would argue she‘s now number two in the Republican race behind Romney.

ROBERTS:  Chairman Steele, do you agree with that assessment about how Congresswoman Bachmann is doing?  How is she sis going to be a contender in this race?

MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN:  I would, I would.  I think the governor has got it dead on.

Governor, it‘s good to be with you, by the way.

CARLSON:  My pleasure.  Thank you.

STEELE:  And I think your assessment is exactly dead-on.

And I think a lot of folks, as the governor well-knows, has looked at someone like Michele Bachmann—and the leadership has even done this in the past year—looked at her efforts, rhetoric and style and have dismissed it.

And what they fail to recognize is that she connects.  She connects.  I like to refer to her sometimes as the working man‘s Sarah Palin, and that she has this sort of blue collar feel about her that‘s very genuine, that resonates with people, and, you know, she‘s not afraid to own up to the gaffs and the mistakes like everybody makes.  She‘s not trying to be cute by half like most Washington types, and people appreciate that.

And I think what you saw yesterday, her poise through what I though an unfortunate questioning, or phrasing of a question by Chris Wallace, she showed the poise.  She didn‘t get, you know, hyperplexic, she didn‘t get excited.  She stayed focused on what she wanted to see in the people, because this was her chance to talk to them and not to Chris Wallace.

And I think you‘re going to see more of that over the next few months.

ROBERTS:  Michael, I think you make a good point about the mistakes because it‘s not about the mistakes.  It is about the recovery, because we‘ve all been there, we‘ve all made them before.

There is some analysis, though, today that Republicans, especially Tea Party Republicans will happily nominate Michele Bachmann because of her supposedly pure position on the core issues.

So, even if she is unappealing to independents, also the general electorate, Governor, I‘d like you to begin.  Do you think she can bridge that gap and do so with time on her side?

CARLSON:  Well, the truth is she doesn‘t have to bridge a lot of gaps.  She automatically brings in certain things.  One is the populist strain in America, particularly in the Midwest.  Combine that with the anti-Wall Street Washington crowd that she does not represent and opposes and realize that she only has to take roughly one-third of the vote in Iowa to prevail.

Then she goes to New Hampshire, where I think she‘ll lose, and Romney wins.  So, we could have a showdown in South Carolina.

ROBERTS:  Michael, do you agree with that?  How important is it for her street cred as she moves on to take Iowa?

STEELE:  Oh, it‘s very important.  I think it legitimizes the effort up until now.  I think it positions her well to go into South Carolina knowing that New Hampshire is tough sledding.

I mean, look, if Michele Bachmann places third in New Hampshire, that‘s still good.  I mean, considering all the dynamics there.  I think the governor‘s right, South Carolina becomes a very big part of the equation for her.

I think along with that, she will consistently bring into the fold others who may be looking at her wondering—they want to find out more, and that will work to her advantage, barring some major gaffe, some major misstep by the campaign that sets it back.  But I think she‘s well-positioned right now.

And I‘ve been saying for over a year the establishment better get of their high horse, get back out there in the grassroots and listen to what the base is saying.  Someone like Michele Bachmann can bite, and she will bite hard, and they will pay a dear price if they think they will ride it out with Mitt Romney or Governor Huntsman.

ROBERTS:  Gentlemen, over on “Hannity” tonight, Bachmann said this about her candidacy.  I want to play it for you and get your reactions on the other side.

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BACHMANN:  The president of the United States is threatened by my candidacy.  He fears me.  He sees me as a serious, substantive competitor.  I think he sees that I have a very clear path to victory for the nomination, and I think that he wants to do whatever he can to diminish me because he thinks he will have to see me in the debates.

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ROBERTS:  Do you think that‘s the real assessment, that President Obama is sweating Michele Bachmann right now, Governor?

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON:  No.  I think that‘s political wishful thinking.  And all candidates kind of engage in that.

But let me bring up one very serious point that could be an obstacle to her candidacy, and that‘s the impending vote on the debt ceiling.  If she decides to play with the House speaker and try to affect some kind of passage of a package, I think she will then be seen as a credible national leader.

If, on the other hand, she remains a nuisance, if you will, to Boehner, then I think she runs the risk of being a side kind of candidate and not as central to the Republican Party as she has to be.  That‘s going to be a huge test for all the candidates.

To the best of my knowledge, only Romney supports lifting the debt ceiling level.  And for those who are opposed, they better be part of the solution.  If they‘re not, I think they run the risk of being left out.

ROBERTS:  Chairman Steele, do you think Michele Bachmann, though, represents what the Republican Party has the best foot forward in all of this, she represents once she should be going up against President Obama?

STEELE:  Well, I think she represents part of it.  I think the rest of it remains to be seen.  For each of these candidates, they‘ve got to show us more than they have so far, to be quite honest about it.  I mean, I get all the wonderful posturing position, you know, how conservative you are and how right wing you can be.

At the end of the day, you got to govern.  At the end of the day, you got to look America in the eye and tell them what you believe and why you‘re going to take them down this new path, this new road to create a new America.

And if you‘re not prepared to do that, honestly, I think the governor‘s right again.  You‘ll get burned by it, and I think Michele has some early tests ahead of her, just like Mr. Pawlenty did.  He didn‘t quite pass the first test when he had a chance to take on Obama and Romney on health care.

Let‘s see what she‘s able to do on the debt ceiling.  I think if she‘s seen as constructively trying to bring down spending while recognizing that the county has to honor its debt owed to its debtors, she could well-positioned her despite all the crazy noise about her gaffes and hot rhetoric that we hear from some of our friends on the left sometimes.

ROBERTS:  Chairman Steele, real quickly, do you think there‘s a pairing we could see coming out of the Republican frontrunners right now?

STEELE:  Yes.  I think right now you‘ve got three strong contenders that are beginning to position themselves, certainly Mitt Romney, obviously, Michele Bachmann, and I think, you know, Mr. Huntsman has a real chance to sort of define himself.  Pawlenty has a chance to kind of bring closure to the whole set, but we‘ll see what he does over the next few weeks there—doesn‘t say anything about the chances with respect to everyone else, but I think right now going into the dog days of summer, July and August, those four individuals have a chance to shape what the dynamics are going to be for the nomination between September and January.

ROBERTS:  Well, we know one is going to represent the presidential nomination, but do you think one is the V.P. candidate?

STEELE:  Oh, possibly, yes.  I think Michele Bachmann is very well-positioned to be either the nominee for president or the nominee for vice president, to be quite honest with you because again, she has a core base of support out there that she can bring to the table.  That‘s her deliverable, as long as she stays true to herself and true to the message that she‘s put in place.

ROBERTS:  Gentlemen, thank you so much.  MSNBC analyst Michael Steele and former Minnesota Governor Arnie Carlson, I really appreciate your time.  Thank you.

Coming up, the debt ceiling deadline is drawing a lot closer, drawing near.  Now, President Obama and party leaders in the Senate are coming to the negotiation table.  We‘re going to ask Senator Bernie Sanders and “Washington Post” columnist Ezra Klein who they think is going to blink first.

And a Wisconsin Supreme Court justice accused of choking one of his female colleagues.  Wisconsin State Senator Lena Taylor and “The Nation‘s” John Nichols, they weigh in on that one.

Stay with us.

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ROBERTS:  MSNBC and THE ED SHOW are teaming up with the National Association of Free Clinics to hold a health can clinic on August 29th at the Ernest Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, Louisiana.  Now, through your very generous donation, the organization has held seven free clinics that helped over 13,000 patients receive care.

To make a donation or to learn more about volunteer opportunities for the New Orleans clinic, visit their website at freeclinics.us.  You can also text the word health to 50555 to make a $10 donation by phone.

Coming up later in the show, reaction to the right to marriage passed in New York on Friday night.  Newt Gingrich now on marriage number three doesn‘t want the institution muddled.

But, next, Bernie Sanders and Ezra Klein on the debt ceiling negotiations and the president‘s meetings today with congressional leaders.  Don‘t go away.

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ROBERTS:  President Obama is now at the head of the table in the troubled negotiations to raise the federal debt ceiling.  The president first met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid this morning and then with Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell in the evening.

McConnell tried to set the tone earlier in the day when he said tax increases on the rich and corporations are off the table.

But another senator offered a lengthy rebuke to McConnell‘s way of thinking—independent Senator Bernie Sanders took to the floor for nearly 90 minutes urging the president to strike a deal protecting the middle class and the poor.

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SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT:  Mr. President, this is a pivotal moment in the history of our country.  You‘re looking at a real unemployment rate in this country of about 16 percent -- 16 percent.  Are those really the people that we should go to for deficit reduction?  Are they not suffering enough right now?

Rich get richer, they get tax breaks.  Poor get poorer, they lose the ability to send their kids to college or nutrition programs or health care.

You got large, extremely profitable corporations who either pay nothing in taxes or get a rebate from the IRS.  Maybe, just maybe, when we talk about deficit reduction, we might want to ask those people to help us out rather than go after the elderly, the sick, the children, and the poor.

But the president has got to hear from the American people.  He has got to hear that they will not accept decimating Medicare, Medicaid, Pell grants, education and the environment in order to give more tax breaks to the wealthy.

Mr. President, stand tall.  Do not yield to Republican blackmail.  Stand with the vast majority of American people who believe that deficit reduction requires shared sacrifice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS:  Joining me now is Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Sir, it‘s good to have you on with us.

SANDERS:  Good to be with you.

ROBERTS:  So, explain to all of us—what did you hope to accomplish with this near 90-minute statement you took to the Senate floor today to have?  Do you think the president heard you?  I mean, we know that Senator Sanders is a talker.  But do you think that the president heard you?

SANDERS:  Well, it‘s not hearing me.  It‘s hearing the American people.

Look, poll after poll says that the American people think that it is insane and wrong that at a time when the wealthiest people are becoming wealthier, corporations are making huge profits and in some cases paying nothing in taxes that you exclude those people from deficit reduction, and that the only thing you do is make massive cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, education, environmental protection, nutrition, et cetera.

Poll after poll shows that is not what the American people want.  Second of all, it is simply immoral to move in that direction.  And thirdly, the point I made, it‘s not complicated or hard to come up with a deficit reduction program, which is fair and which does not devastate the needs of low and moderate income Americans.  It‘s all sitting there.

You do you away with Bush—extending Bush‘s tax break force the wealthy, $700 billion.  Take a hard look at military spending.  Accelerate the departure of our troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, hundreds of billions of dollars.

Do away with the absurdity of corporations and wealthy people able to pack their money in tax havens in the Cayman Islands and in Bermuda, $100 billion a year.  End programs, tax policies which encourage and give tax breaks to corporations who shut down in this country and move abroad.

Do away with the differential in tax rates between low rates on dividends and capital gains which are lower than what working people have to pay.

It is not hard to come up with a deficit reduction program which is fair.  The American people want that.  They‘ve got to tell the president of the United States to stand up to Republican blackmail and do something which is right and fair for ordinary people.

ROBERTS:  Sir, here‘s what White House spokesman Jay Carney said today about the negotiations and the choice that needs to be made.

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JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  Do we perpetuate a system that allows for subsidies and revenues for oil and gas, for example, or owners of corporate private jets, and then call for cuts in things like food safety or weather services, things that the federal government really does need to do on behalf of American citizens?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS:  Sir, you said before that you feel like what‘s going on right now with these talks and what‘s being set aside is immoral.  Vice President Biden used that same word this weekend after the Biden talks fell down after Eric Cantor walked out.

Hearing that statement—does that indicate to you that the president will protect social services for the middle class and the poor?

SANDERS:  Well, the track record is not great.  Two other negotiating sessions, two other negotiating processes that took place in December regarding tax reform and the question of whether or not the government would be shut down by the Republicans—in both of those instances the president made major, major concessions.  So, the track record is not great.

I hope that the president—the reason for my speech today is to say, Mr. President, this is not an act of political courage.  The vast majority of people believe in shared sacrifice.  If you stand up to the Republicans and say, excuse me, your rich friends and your large corporations that pay nothing in taxes, in fact, get rebates from the IRS, guess what?  They are going to have to pay their fair share so we move toward deficit reduction in a way that is responsible and not simply on the backs of the most vulnerable.

That is a popular position.  That is a right position.  The president has to be a leader in bringing the American people together behind that position.  They‘re already there.  We need his leadership.

If we do that, we can end up with a package of deficit reduction that I think we‘ll feel good about.

ROBERTS:  And, Senator, real quickly before we go, have you heard anything about the president‘s meeting with Senator McConnell tonight?

SANDERS:  No, I have not.

ROBERTS:  All right.  Senator Bernie Sanders, great to have you on as always.  We appreciate your time.

SANDERS:  I want to turn now to Ezra Klein.  He‘s a “Washington Post” columnist and MSNBC policy analyst.

Ezra, first, it was first Eric Cantor saying the tax cuts—they are off the table, and then Speak Boehner now.  Senator McConnell has said it.  Are the Republicans going to hold the line on this one on raising taxes on the rich?

EZRA KLEIN, WASHINGTON POST:  There‘s a lot of message discipline there.  The problem for the Republicans has to do with internal party dynamics.  So, Eric Cantor doesn‘t want to sign a deal to raise taxes because then he loses his base in the Tea Party.  John Boehner can‘t be the guy to do it because Eric Cantor can challenge him for the leadership.  Mitch McConnell can‘t do it because Jim DeMint can then take him out.

So, you have two problems.  One, is they‘re internal party problems, and the other is the larger problem you face, in which I don‘t know if they have end game yet, which is that how when you‘re less popular than the president, when your party is less popular than the Democratic and your position is a less popular position on the table do you hold to a hard line that then creates an economic catastrophe?  What is the end game when that is your strategy?

ROBERTS:  And, Ezra, McConnell today pushed cuts to entitlements. 

So, are the Democrats going to budge on that one?

KLEIN:  No.  I shouldn‘t say that.  They‘ll budge on that one but they‘ll budge in it in ways that they think are legitimate, and presumably only if they get some concessions.  What they have in the meetings at the end is a trillion dollars of cuts.  They were willing to go up to $2 trillion of cuts, and they wanted $400 billion of tax increases on top of that.  So, they want tax increases at a fifth the size of the total package, or a little bit less than that.

That is not very much, and at some point and you hear this out of administration who‘s really finally begun to public with their take on how these negotiations should go, at some point, they have to stick to something, because the administration, like the Republicans, does have its own internal party politics and can‘t continually be seen giving away the store to the Republicans.

ROBERTS:  So, we heard and I‘m sure you listened to what the Senator Sanders had to say, Ezra.  We heard his speech on the floor.  We played that sound bite of what White House spokesman Jay Carney had to say about protecting the middle class.

In your opinion, do you think the Democrats can win and do so by being openly embracing this populist type of message?

KLEIN:  I don‘t think—and it gets hard to say this sort of thing, but I don‘t think this is a populist type of message.  Senator Sanders and the White House, I think, are right in what they‘re saying.  But is it truly such a populist message to see if we need to do deficit reduction that some amount of that sacrifice should be shared across the board?

I don‘t think you could go too far into sort of Soviet Russia to say that, you know, perhaps if we‘re going to cut $2.5 trillion from the federal government over the next 10 years, some of it should come from Medicare, and some of it should come from Medicaid and some of it should come from discretionary spending.  But also, as has happened in 1990 under George H.W. Bush and in the ‘80s under Ronald Reagan and in the ‘90s under Bill Clinton and a Republican Congress, some of that should come from taxes, some should come from expenditures that help upper income folks.

It isn‘t class warfare to say things should be shared.  It‘s—to use a line that gets you in trouble, it‘s a little bit of solidarity.  And if we have a problem as a country, it isn‘t crazy to say perhaps we should face it altogether rather than lay it on the backs of one group or another.

ROBERTS:  “Washington Post‘s” Ezra Klein—Ezra, great to have you on tonight.  Thank you.

KLEIN:  Thank you.

ROBERTS:  Coming up: New York makes history and becomes the largest state to adopt marriage equality.  We‘re going to have reaction from the right.

And the twice married Newt Gingrich weighs in.  He says same-sex marriage muddles straight marriage—like he‘s been clear on the issue up until now.

That‘s next.

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ROBERTS:  All right, so no one loves marriage more than Newt Gingrich.  After all, he‘s made it to the altar three times, right?  Yet despite his seemingly limitless admiration for it, Gingrich firmly believes the government should impose limits on others. 

Speaking to reporters in Iowa, the Republican presidential hopeful blamed New York‘s adoption of marriage equality on the Obama administration‘s decision to no longer enforce the Defense of Marriage Act, a law he sponsored 15 years ago. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I think the president should be, frankly, enforcing that act.  And I think we are drifting towards a terrible muddle, which I think is going to be very, very difficult and painful to work our way out of. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS:  Gingrich went into further detail, asserting that marriage should be between a man and woman.  And, of course, if that doesn‘t work out, another woman. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH:  I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.  I think that‘s what marriage out to be.  And I would like to find ways to defend that view as legitimately—as effectively as possible. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS:  The best way to defend that view for yourself, Newt, is not to divorce your latest wife.  Third time is the charm, you know? 

All right, so Newt isn‘t the only one speaking out against marriage equality.  Pat Robertson claims it will lead to the ruin of America.

And Governor Walker finally signed his anti-union, education-slashing budget.  But his big day was overshadowed by allegations—get this—that State Supreme Court Justice David Prosser grabbed one of his fellow justice by the throat.  Stay with us.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Ayes 33, nays 29.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS:  It was late Friday night, New York becoming the sixth and largest state to legalize same-sex marriage.  It passed the state Senate with bipartisan support.  Celebrations were had all over the Empire State and the world this weekend. 

Yet, this landmark victory for marriage equality will be tough to duplicate across the country; 29 states have constitutional bans on same-sex marriage, 12 others have laws against it.  Vocal opponents aren‘t helping matters either. 

New York‘s archbishop, Timothy Dolan, calls marriage equality detrimental to the common good. 

Republican Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey says he‘s, quote, “no fan of marriage equality and will oppose it in his state.” 

Puzzling, though, considering New Jersey‘s current financial woes.  New York‘s law is expected to boost tourism, increase sales tax revenue and bring in millions of dollars, nearly 400 million over the next three years to be exact.  This according to New York Senate Independent Democratic Conference.

Governor Christie might want to reconsider. 

And in a class all by himself, there is then Pat Robertson.  The Evangelical leader claiming the equality of all will lead to the ruin of America. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAT ROBERTS, “THE 700 CLUB”:  There‘s never been a civilization ever in history that has embraced homosexuality and turned away from traditional fidelity, traditional marriage, traditional child rearing, and has survived.  There isn‘t one single civilization that has survived that openly embraced homosexuality. 

So you see, what‘s going to happen to America?  Well, if history is any guide, the same thing is going to happen to us. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS:  Joining us now is another opponent of marriage equality, Brian Brown, the president of the National Organization for Marriage, and a supporter of marriage equality, president of the National Action Network, the Reverend Al Sharpton. 

Gentlemen, welcome to you both. 

Mr. Brown, I want to start with you.  Do you agree with what we‘re hearing from Pat Robertson, how he is saying that this is going to be the ruin of society? 

BRIAN BROWN, NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR MARRIAGE:  I think when you redefine marriage, you redefine it for everyone.  And there are profound consequences.  We have seen those consequences in Massachusetts and other states. 

Children being taught in the schools, in second grade that it‘s the same to grow up and marry a boy as it is to marry a girl, and that parents who teach otherwise are somehow bigots.  This is a monumental change.  It will have serious consequences. 

But I think that if you look at the New York vote, the way that the vote was handled, the fact that the Religious Liberty Amendment was only—was not even made public until three hours before the vote—they did it under the cover of darkness.

It was a total sham.  It wasn‘t a representation of democracy.  Whenever the people have voted on this issue, in even liberal states like California and Maine—when the people vote directly, they know that there‘s something unique and special about marriage.  And they vote to protect it. 

And we‘re going to fight to make sure the people of New York get the same chance. 

ROBERTS:  Reverend Sharpton, do you agree with this? 

REV. AL SHARPTON, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK:  I think the issue is whether or not we have the right to legislate how people conduct their lives, whether we agree with it or not.  Many of us are religious and have our personal feelings.  But do we have the right to impose those feelings or do we have the right instruct people that they have to look at life and look at morality the way we do? 

That, I think, is the issue at hand here.  It is interesting to me that a lot of the people that are, quote, conservative on this, including Mr. Gingrich, that wants, all of a sudden now, federal law to tell states what to do, but they don‘t want federal law to tell states what to do in other areas. 

So they are very selective on where they want government to interfere with people‘s lives. 

ROBERTS:  Mr. Brown, as the reverend brought up, we did talk about Newt Gingrich earlier.  He says that this law muddles the institution of marriage.  But isn‘t it a fact that divorce is the challenge in existence to marriage.  And wasn‘t divorce invented by married people to get out of said marriage? 

BROWN:  Well, divorce is not the only challenge to marriage.  We have a lot of challenges to marriage.  One is same-sex marriage. 

ROBERTS:  How is same-sex marriage a challenge to your marriage?  I don‘t understand how same-sex marriage is a challenge to your marriage?  If you stand for the National Organization of Marriage, wouldn‘t your nemesis be divorce, the opposite of what marriage is? 

BROWN:  Obviously, we oppose and want reform on divorce law.  We work to make sure that people can stay together in their marriages. 

ROBERTS:  So you would never allow for people to divorce? 

BROWN:  Of course not.  I didn‘t say that. 

ROBERTS:  You want to reform divorce law.  I don‘t understand what you want to reform. 

BROWN:  Divorce reform is different than saying no one can ever divorce. 

SHARPTON:  It is, because he‘s allowing divorce.  You‘re not talking about eradicating about divorce, Mr. Brown.  You‘re talking about reforming it.  Here you‘re talking about eradicating it. 

BROWN:  This has nothing to do with the issue at hand.  The issue at hand is whether—if you redefine what marriage is—marriage is something.  It‘s a unique and special union of a man and woman.  If you redefine this, you don‘t have marriage anymore. 

You have to call a square a square and a circle a circle.  Same-sex marriage is not marriage, no matter if the state says that it is. 

SHARPTON:  You want to limit it to where you want to limit it. 

(CROSS TALK)

SHARPTON:  The issue is whether adults have the right to make their own moral decisions. 

BROWN:  Would you limit marriage to only two people?  I have a simple question.  Would you limit marriage to only two people?  Aren‘t you imposing your morality by saying that only two people should be married? 

SHARPTON:  The issue at hand is whether or not—if you believe in what you believe in, do people have the right to disagree and conduct their lives in way a that does not interfere with your life?  And then do you have the right to impose your beliefs or my beliefs?

I may have the same beliefs as you, but I don‘t have the right, nor do I have the insensitivity to say people have to believe what I believe.  We‘re not a society built on one religion, on one set of moralities. 

BROWN:  I‘m not talking about—

SHARPTON:  We‘re in a democratic society. 

BROWN:  I‘m not talking about one religion or one sense morality.  I‘m talking about the overwhelming consensus of all of human history.  Different civilizations, different dates, different backgrounds, throughout human history, human beings have understood that there‘s something unique and special about men and women coming together in marriage. 

It isn‘t bigotry or it isn‘t discrimination to stand up for this core truth.  And I don‘t think that the overwhelming majority of Americans, in states across the country who have stood up and voted for a marriage as the union of a man and woman, do this out of animus.  Gays and lesbians have the right to live as they choose.  They do not have the right to redefine marriage for everyone. 

SHARPTON:  There are people of different religions and different parties that say people should have the right to make their own choices.  Republicans voted for the marriage equality law in New York the other night. 

So the uniqueness that you say now has expanded where other people are saying, if I want to preach what I believe to be marriage, I have the right to preach that.  I should convert people to that.  I should not mandate people to deal with my definition of morality or definition of life. 

BROWN:  This is a fundamental misunderstanding of what same-sex marriage does.  Same-sex marriage doesn‘t just expand the notion of marriage.  There are two ideas on the table.  There are two different ways that the state can go. 

The state can enforce the idea that marriage is whatever we want it to be, two men, two women, and that people like me and our organizations are somehow bigoted and discriminatory because we stand for this core truth.  When you change the definition of marriage, reverend, you change the way churches are treated.  You change the way—

SHARPTON:  Mr. Brown, you have people that have open marriages.  You have people that have divorces.  You have all kinds of definitions. 

BROWN:  Of course.  We have to work on this. 

SHARPTON:  You have just limited it and tried to say that we‘re going to just limit the conversation to what you‘ve decided the limitations are.  And that‘s exactly what people are saying.  We should not have the right to do that. 

ROBERTS:  Mr. Brown, is your organization focusing on anything other than same-sex marriage when you say that you‘re trying to reform marriage? 

BROWN:  Of course.  I mean, Maggie Gallagher, who is our founding president and chairman of our board, has been working relentlessly on analyzing what the breakdown in our marriage culture has done. 

ROBERTS:  But if same-sex marriage hasn‘t existed alongside divorce, how is it even comparable? 

BROWN:  Well, we can only conceive of same-sex marriage at the point at which we have a broken marriage culture.  I mean, for eons, human beings have understand that there‘s this uniqueness about marriage.  Only this type of union can connect parents with children and allow children to be known by their parents. 

ROBERTS:  That‘s off the topic.  This should be the National Organization for Good Parents then, not the National Organization for Marriage. 

BROWN:  Again, you‘re asking me if I‘m deeply concerned and troubled by the breakdown in our marriage culture.  Of course I am.  But same-sex marriage is the final step.  What it does is fundamentally redraw the lines.  It redefines marriage.

And the consequences are clear.  We do not want our children taught in the schools that somehow it‘s discrimination. 

ROBERTS:  You don‘t want them to be taught tolerance? 

BROWN:  It‘s not tolerance.  It‘s saying that Archbishop Dolan or all of these other faith leaders are somehow the equivalent to racists or bigots because they understand marriage is unique and special. 

SHARPTON:  Does your organization support civil unions? 

BROWN:  No, we don‘t.  If you mean by civil unions same-sex marriage by another name, in jurisdiction after jurisdiction, when you pass civil unions—

SHARPTON:  If two people of the same sex live their life together, build an estate together, and one passes before the other, you don‘t have any concern that the fact that they‘ve developed something together, that they have united, that one would not have the privileges of continuing and having the ownership of what they built together?  That‘s no concern of yours? 

BROWN:  No.  Of course. 

SHARPTON:  How would you remedy that if we have the law according to the way you are advocating? 

BROWN:  There are states like Hawaii that have reciprocal beneficiary arrangements, in which any two people can get into reciprocal benefits arrangement, and therefore share these rights and benefits.  But civil unions and marriage are wrong—same-sex marriage are wrong. 

SHARPTON:  So they can only share them if they do it in a language

that you agree with.  And that‘s what I disagree with.  We should not have

the right to impose it on people, even if we disagree with it.  People have

the right to disagree with us

ROBERTS:  We have to leave it there.  Gentlemen, thanks so much.  Brian Brown, I appreciate your time.  Brian Brown with the National Organization for Marriage.  Also the Reverend Al Sharpton. 

I‘d also like to point out to our viewers tonight that the reverend is going to be here for the rest of the week hosting.  He was slated to host tonight, but due to some travel from the West Coast, he got in a little late. 

SHARPTON:  I‘m fired up for the rest of the week. 

ROBERTS:  Are your arms tired from flying in? 

SHARPTON:  I was trying to get here.  My arms let me down, but I‘m here now. 

ROBERTS:  That‘s all right.

We ask you stay tuned.  You‘re watching THE ED SHOW, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.  More fireworks out of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.  Two investigations are underway into allegations that conservative Justice David Prosser grabbed a liberal colleague by the throat during a heated discussion about Governor Scott Walker‘s controversial budget bill. 

Prosser is the judge who recently won a high profile re-election race, giving the state supreme court a conservative majority, which then ruled in favor of Walker‘s anti-union bill.  Now the State Judicial Commission and the Dane County Sheriff‘s Office are investigating whether Prosser attacked fellow Justice Ann Walsh Bradley. 

Bradley described the incident, saying “the facts are that I was demanding that Prosser get out of my office.  And he put his hands around my neck in anger, in a choke hold.” 

Prosser denies choking his colleague, releasing the following statement: “once there‘s a proper review of the matter and the facts surrounding it are made clear, it will be proven false.  Until then, I will refrain from further public comment.” 

This isn‘t the first time that Prosser has come under fire for his conduct towards his liberal female colleagues.  Back in March, he did admit to calling Chief Justice Shirley Abramson a “total bitch” and threatening to, quote, “destroy her.” 

In that case, Prosser accused Abramson of deliberately goading him into attacking her. 

For more, I want to bring in now Wisconsin State Senator Lena Taylor and also John Nichols, Washington correspondent for “the Nation Magazine.”

Senator Taylor, I want to start with you.  The reaction that you have to these allegations against the justice tonight?

LENA TAYLOR (D), WISCONSIN STATE SENATOR:  The first thing I have to say is clearly it‘s always someone else‘s fault, other than the justice‘s fault.  I think that this is a concern. 

The law in Wisconsin is that if you put your hands on a judge, it is a felony.  So I believe that the justice is going to need to consider resigning.  And if not, the assembly may have to consider whether or not they should consider articles of impeachment. 

ROBERTS:  John, we are hearing what the senator thinks.  What is the latest on the investigation itself?  And what is the likely outcome? 

JOHN NICHOLS, “THE NATION”:  Well, this is a very serious matter.  As you pointed out, this is the second time that Justice Prosser has been accused of really a serious assault—and I use the legal term assault—on a colleague. 

His verbal abuse and threats towards the chief justice of the Supreme Court didn‘t actually involve physical contact.  This did.  And the Dane County Sheriff‘s Department investigation is going to be a very serious matter. 

The Judicial Commission‘s investigation is a bit more complex, because ultimately whatever they rule goes to the full court for consideration.  But if the sheriff‘s department comes to a conclusion that what Ann Walsh Bradley is saying is, in fact, true, then I don‘t think there‘s any question that Justice Prosser will have to leave the court. 

ROBERTS:  All of this, John, is based on the issues that are taking place with the budget issue that the governor did sign yesterday.  So explain to all of us where that stands now.  How does this move forward? 

NICHOLS:  Well, this is—the court ruled that the legislature did not have to follow Open Meetings Law rules, and then that legitimized, in the court‘s eyes, the passage of this anti-labor legislation, taking away collective bargaining rights. 

But if that decision was made in a climate of intimidation, where judges were being threatened and perhaps one judge even physically assaulted, that does call into question the legitimacy of that ruling on behalf of the governor‘s agenda. 

ROBERTS:  Lena, do you think that Prosser should go, should be removed? 

TAYLOR:  I think that, based on what is decided, that there may be a large chance that he needs to.  I actually think he should consider resigning under the circumstances, even if it‘s under the story that has been told in a light most favorable to the justice.  I think that that‘s going to be a concern. 

ROBERTS:  State Senator Lena Taylor and John Nichols, thanks to both of you for coming on tonight.  I appreciate it. 

That will do it for THE ED SHOW.  I‘m Thomas Roberts, filling in for Ed tonight.  You can catch me at my regular hour on MSNBC tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. Eastern.  “THE LAST WORD” with Lawrence O‘Donnell starts now.

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