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PoliticsNation, Monday, August 29, 2011

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Guests: Melissa Harris-Perry, E.J. Dionne, Joe Barton, Nia-Malika Henderson, Kasie Hunt, Gerald Malloy, Judith Browne-Dianis

REV. AL SHARPTON, HOST: The real showdown in American politics. Do
you believe in a national American government?

Tonight, Rick Perry`s defense of states` rights, why it`s working and
why progressives have to challenge it.

Eric Cantor says yes, maybe to hurricane relief money. What`s that
about? Did Christmas come early for Grinch Cantor and his household?

Plus, new voter I.D. laws, why this effort is more organized than we
thought.

And Michele Bachmann says Hurricane Irene was God telling Washington
to cut spending. Wow, I`ve been a preacher all my life. I didn`t know
that God was a fiscal conservative.

Thanks, Michele. You learn something new every day.

Welcome to POLITICS NATION. I`m Al Sharpton.

Tonight`s lead, the real showdown in American politics. It`s easy to
get lost in the day-to-day fights in Washington, but the truth is, there`s
a showdown coming in this country, a showdown over the role of government.

Should the federal government have the main role in America, or should
states have sovereignty? It`s a debate that goes back to the founding of
our nation, and it`s been the dominant theme since the Civil War.

Texas Governor Rick Perry has shot to the top of the GOP pack by
attacking critical federal programs like Medicaid and Medicare and Social
Security.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is a Ponzi scheme
for these young people. It is -- I mean, the idea that they`re working and
paying into Social Security today, and that they are -- that the current
program, that it`s going to be there for them, it is a lie. It is a
monstrous lie on this generation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Perry dislikes the federal government so much, he once
floated the idea of secession.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PERRY: We`ve got a great union. There is absolutely no reason to
dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the
American people, who knows what may come out of that?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Yes, who knows what might come out of it?

Along the way, Perry has embraced the language of states` rights.
That means limiting the federal government`s role in ensuring all of our
rights -- civil rights, women`s rights, gay rights, immigrant rights, and
basic human rights for all of us.

Right now, every top Republican 2012 candidate is reading from the
states` rights playbook.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PERRY: I`m a big believer in the 10th Amendment.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I love the 10th Amendment.

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I do believe
in the 10th Amendment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: It`s now new conservatives use states` right to oppose
FDR`s New Deal during the Great Depression. Ronald Reagan used states`
rights to justify his anti-government crusade.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Demand recognition of
the distinction between the powers granted to the federal government and
those reserved to the states or to the people. Government is not the
solution to our problem. Government is the problem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: And southern leaders used states` rights to defend
segregation during the Civil Rights era and to justify slavery before the
Civil War. In his great "I have a dream" speech 48 years ago yesterday,
Martin Luther King talked about Alabama`s governor`s lips dripping with the
words of nullification, a code ward for states` rights.

Well, as I stood Friday with members of his family, looking at the
Martin Luther King Monument, I thought about the real battle, the real
challenge, the real political question in this country is really coming
down to how they are going to try and divide us to win this battle of
bringing down strong national government and embellishing emboldening state
sovereignty.

That`s the question of 2012. Oh, they`ll play it where they`ll say to
some, it`s about immigration rights, and that should be decided by states
like Arizona law. No, it`s about same-sex marriage rights. No, it`s about
civil rights.

It`s about all of us being protected by national government, federal
government. If they are allowed to do states` rights to any of us, it will
be states` rights that threatens all of us.

That`s what this show will be about, POLITICS NATION with a big "P."
Not the petty politics, the big "P," those that want it bring this country
back to the pre-1960s, where people did not have the protection of a
national government that would make sure they could not be ruined or ruled
by those that had regional biases.

Joining me now is Melissa Harris-Perry, an MSNBC contributor,
columnist for "The Nation," and professor at Tulane University. And E.J.
Dionne, "Washington Post" columnist and a Brookings senior fellow.

Let me start with you, Mr. Dionne.

You have done a lot of writing on this whole states` rights situation.
And I know you say some of them are disingenuous. But fact of the matter
is, whether they are playing out of a hypocritical handbook or not, they
are playing to a handbook that is dangerous for those of us that believe in
civil rights and civil liberties in this country.

E.J. DIONNE, COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes. Well, when you -
- thank you, Reverend.

When you look at the history of when states` rights gets invoked, it`s
almost always invoked when the federal government is going to step in and
protect some group in a state from a powerful local elite. And so,
obviously, states` rights was very important before the Civil War to
advocates of slavery. States` rights were very important to advocates of
segregation who didn`t want federal civil rights laws.

But when you look at the history on a whole -- and recent history --
on a whole lot of questions, when local progressives who were trying to
enact tougher environmental rules, many conservatives wanted to preempt
that with federal power. When state attorneys general wanted to go after
Wall Street, many conservatives said no, no, that`s a federal question.

SHARPTON: Yes. Well, that`s being hypocritical, but I think that
problem that I have, and I think you`re right Mr. Dionne, that they play it
both ways.

But the language, Melissa, is clearly that they`re trying to bring the
country back to a state-by-state kind of governance, and that is a threat.
I don`t care if it`s Eric Cantor -- I call him, you call him Cantor, but
he`s pandering to me -- or whether it`s now Rick Perry, who uses it both
ways.

When you look at the fact that -- look at this statement. The code
words of the rights, "states` rights," "state sovereignty,"
"nullification," which Dr. King used in his speech, "10th Amendment," when
they use this, we are really hearing some dangerous language that I think
that they feel with this president that they`ve tried to make unpopular and
demonize from the beginning, with the deficit being as high as it`s been,
that this is an opportune time for them to really bring us to a states`
rights model.

That`s my fear, Melissa. What do you think?

MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. I mean, I think that
both you and E.J. are right on this, which is to say there are code words
being employed here and there is the reality of the way they actually make
use of the federal government.

So those code words about states` rights I do think is their way of
saying we won`t allow the, as you might understand, special interest to be
protected. Now, obviously, they are not actually special interests, they
are human rights. But there`s a way that this states` rights language
becomes a kind of code word for segregation, a code word for making sure
that there is no extension of kind of the full benefits of American
citizenship.

Two groups of people that -- you know, the fact is, quite honestly,
the former confederacy, where I live, and in other parts of the country,
this notion that black people, brown people, new immigrants don`t deserve
these rights. But the fact is --

(CROSSTALK)

SHARPTON: But E.J., even when you come out of the South -- let me
raise this, though, Melissa, because I think the danger is -- and I`m
frankly afraid that --

HARRIS-PERRY: It`s not just about that.

SHARPTON: That`s right. I`m afraid that a lot of the progressives
are missing it in the small "p," because, E.J., look the at states that
have a proposals that are before it now some very northern, very liberal,
very northwestern states, are also facing proposals.

So I think if we really don`t start really identifying what this
means, and bring in different constituency groups together who would be
threatened by this, we`re going to end up with a backward motion that will
have traction that we won`t be able to stop.

DIONNE: Sure. If you look historically at the use of the words
"states` rights," Strom Thurmond, when he ran for president, broke away
from the Democratic Party when Harry Truman was pushing for civil rights.

SHARPTON: And what was name of his party?

DIONNE: And that`s what I was going to say. His party was States`
Rights Democrats.

SHARPTON: Uh-huh.

DIONNE: So clearly it was used in that way. And obviously, Rick
Perry has talked about programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security,
suggesting at various points -- I`m not sure he`s going to stick with those
positions, but suggestion that, well, actually, these things are better
handled by the state.

So, on the whole, through history, progressives have said that federal
power is important in trying it make our country fairer. But I do think
that this hypocrisy is very important to expose, because there are many
progressive states in the country that have tried to go beyond the federal
government in some of these spheres, and that`s when you get conservatives
often pushing back, trying to use the federal government against
progressive initiatives.

SHARPTON: Well, no, I think you`re right, hypocrisy is important.

But Melissa, from my study of civil rights, even before I was old
enough to be involved, there were some that were liberal, that -- and the
hypocrisy became the biggest segregation. George Wallace being one.

So where I agree with E.J., hypocrisy is a concern, what is even more
of a concern is if they get this language and this policy going. Look at
the fact that Rick Perry, who is the leading candidate now for the GOP, he
wrote a book, "Fed Up," in which called these things unconstitutional --
Medicare and Medicaid, civil rights laws, national labor laws, national
minimum wage laws, bank regulation, consumer. All of these he wrote
unconstitutional in "Fed Up."

I don`t know if he meant federal government up, or fed up that he`s
tired. Either one I am afraid of.

HARRIS-PERRY: Right. But look, here is the thing that we want to be
clearest about what there is to fear here, and that is secession.

And when I say secession, I don`t necessarily mean that we need to be
afraid that Texas is actually going to leave. But we have actually seen
the GOP at this point secede from the responsibilities of governing.

What we saw occur in the debt ceiling debate, the willingness to hold
the entire country hostage, behind a kind of ideological line in the sand,
is a kind of secession. It`s a refusal to in fact use the power of the
federal government to meet the responsibilities of the federal government.

And so that has a true domino effect, a kind of cascading effect for
all of Americans. It is easy to buy into this language if you think that
the power of the federal government only protects a few special interests.
But when you recognize that the real danger here is a danger that the
government will cease to exist -- this is Lincoln`s concern, that we must
preserve the union -- and so this kind of states` rights language is
literally about the danger of secession, of one of our political parties.

And we need both. One of them refusing to do the work of governing.
And I think that, for me, is where the single greatest danger lies.

SHARPTON: Well, I think that I agree with you. I also agree with
E.J. about the hypocrisy. But I also fear that we are seeing a lot of MIA,
missing in action, from progressives understanding this is a bigger fight,
it goes way back.

I don`t only talk the talk, I walk the walk. I`m not going to let
them turn back the clock without a real fight.

Melissa Harris-Perry, E.J. Dionne, thanks so much.

DIONNE: Thank you.

HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks, Reverend Al.

SHARPTON: Ahead, we knew the right wing was going after minority
voters, but news today shows it might be more organized than we thought.

Plus, Eric Pandor -- I mean, Cantor -- wants relief from hurricane
damage to be offset with spending cuts.

Way to go, Eric. That`s government working for the people.

And Michele Bachmann thinks God is a conservative.

You`re watching POLITICS NATION, only on MSNBC. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Just how different are these Republicans? The budget is
now getting in the way of disaster relief. Yes, they`re playing politics
with Hurricane Irene.

Millions of people across the East Coast are picking up after Irene
ripped up the coast. Houses are under water. Some were completely lost.
Bridges are floating and trees are uprooted. Initial estimates project
damage assessments in the tens of billions of dollars.

This is the time to put aside politics, right? Not if you`re Eric
Cantor. That`s why I call him "Pandor."

Here he is, this morning, talking about relief money.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MINORITY LEADER: Yes, there`s a federal
role. Yes, we are going to find the money. We are just going to need to
make sure that there are savings elsewhere.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: You have to have savings elsewhere? Really?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CANTOR: Just like any family would operate when it`s struck with
disaster, it finds the money it needs to, to take care of a sick loved one,
or what have you, and then goes without trying to buy a new car or put an
addition on to the house. I mean, that`s the kind of situation we`re
finding ourselves in at the federal level, for sure.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: So, instead of doing the morally right thing, Eric Cantor
is talking about the budget. Let me just make sure we`re clear.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CANTOR: The House has already acted and has already funded over $1
billion for additional disaster relief money. That money has been offset
by savings elsewhere.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: One billion dollars, with damages estimated in the range of
tens of billions of dollars. Will it ever be about the people? How can
Democrats get to first base with these people when they are so unwilling to
compromise on anything?

Well, joining me right now is Republican Congressman Joe Barton of
Texas, a member of the Tea Party Caucus.

Congressman, first of all, thank you for your time tonight.

REP. JOE BARTON (R), TEXAS: Well, thank you, Reverend. And think you
for inviting me on your first official show. I think I`m pleased that I`ve
been invited. I certainly look forward to a spirited exchange with you.

SHARPTON: Well, we`ll see if you`re pleased when you get finished.

Now, let me ask you a question.

BARTON: Yes, sir.

SHARPTON: Do you agree that there must be a dollar-for-dollar
spending cut in order to provide aid for Hurricane Irene victims?

BARTON: I don`t think that is what Eric Cantor was saying. I do
think he was saying that this is something that we should in the future
kind of pre-plan for, some sort of a special rainy-day fund. And while we
are going to help the people of the East Coast -- and again, his district,
Richmond, was at the epicenter of the earthquake last week, and has been
impacted by the hurricane this week. But we don`t have a limitless supply
of dollars in Washington, and so it`s something that we ought to be help
people over time budgeting for these kind of natural disasters.

SHARPTON: Well, but the billion dollars that we referred to,
Congressman, let`s be honest, we had to offset that with a billion dollars
from renewable energy programs. So already we are seeing this match.

And so when he says this, it concerns me. Are we saying now that we
can only respond to emergencies if we are going to balance that off with
spending cuts while people are sitting in the middle of crisis? Are we
going to play this kind of political game?

BARTON: Well, I listened to the tape that you showed your audience
and I didn`t hear Eric say some sort of a dollar for dollar. What I did
hear him say is this ought to be done in the context of getting these huge
trillion-dollar deficits under control so that we have money not only for
disaster relief, but for all kinds of other worthwhile programs. And if we
don`t have some accountability on deficits over time, we can get it down,
at some point in the near future we won`t have money for anything.

SHARPTON: Well, I think that we`ve definitely got to deal with the
deficits, and you know that there`s a lot of ways to deal with it. We can
start by letting the Bush tax cuts expire. But we`ll get to that.

Let me ask you this. Congressman Lance, who is a fellow Republican of
yours from Connecticut, says he disagrees. "We must spend the money,
whatever is necessary for the emergency."

So, do you, as a Republican in good standing, my first Republican
guest, do you agree with Lance or do you agree with Mr. Cantor?

BARTON: Well, I know that you`re a reverend, and my assumption is at
some point in time you headed a congregation, and you passed a collection
plate around. And then you, as a reverend for your congregation, spent
that money in what was best for the congregation.

But if there is no money in the plate, the collection plate, you have
to make decisions on what needs to be paid and what doesn`t. And nobody on
the Republican side is saying we shouldn`t help the East Coast recover from
the hurricane, recover from the earthquake. But we need to begin to come
up with a process that we get the budget balanced so that there is a
special fund or funds, and enough money that, as these things occur, not
just now, but in the future, we can handle them without having just
borrowing more money.

And that`s a good thing for everybody, regardless of your political
affiliation, regardless of where you live in America. That`s just basic
common sense.

SHARPTON: Well, I`ve been a minister most of my life like Billy
Graham, though I never took one congregation, I preach at many. And what I
do notice is that you never give a break to the wealthiest in the
congregation and make sure that the poorest in the congregation bears the
weight. So, since you wanted to use that analogy, I would never do what
your party did, let the wealthiest in the congregation go with a break in
their donations in the name of, they will trickle it down to the guys in
the other pews.

But let`s go to your jobs program. Today, Congressman Barton, we,
after 236 days in office, House Republicans finally released their GOP jobs
agenda today. And it`s heavy on deregulation and cuts -- blocking National
Labor Relations Board rules, restricting the EPA, cutting taxes by 20
percent for small businesses.

Now, you`ve got a divided Congress right now, and your party is
pushing the balanced budget approach. Tell me how deregulating EPA will
lead to jobs.

You all ran Tea Party on, where are the jobs? Tell me, after 236
days, you finally come out with a package and you say let`s deregulate
National Labor Relations Board, deregulate EPA. Where does one plus one
equal jobs to you?

BARTON: Well, we didn`t say deregulate NLRB. We didn`t say
deregulate the EPA.

We do say, in the case of the NLRB, when the Boeing company moved some
production program from Washington State to South Carolina, and didn`t lay
anybody off in Washington State, that the NLRB shouldn`t initiate some sort
of punitive job action against Washington State. We do say on the EPA,
let`s keep the Clean Air Act. Let`s keep the Safe Water Drinking Act.
Let`s enforce it, but let`s don`t keep adding on, you know, interpretive
regulations to those laws that have the consequences in my home state of
Texas, for example, potentially shutting down 20 percent of the power
plants, taking off 15,000 to 18,000 megawatts of power, and creating
blackouts and brownouts.

SHARPTON: But so what you`re saying is you didn`t say deregulate, you
just cited two things that would set a precedent to deregulate, which is
really getting around to the same thing.

BARTON: Not deregulate. We want commonsense regulation. We want
strict enforcement of the existing law. We`re not trying to change the
basic law, but --

(CROSSTALK)

SHARPTON: OK. But let me ask you this, Congressman. Let`s cut to
the chase here, like you all do in Texas.

BARTON: Yes, sir. All right.

SHARPTON: Whether you call it commonsense regulation, or I call it
deregulation, where are the jobs in that?

BARTON: Well, a lot of them are in Texas. We have created over half
the jobs of the whole country --

SHARPTON: How do you create jobs with that plan though?

BARTON: We have a balanced budget amendment to our Constitution. We
have no state income tax. We work with industry to enforce the laws that
we have. And we work with our partners in Mexico and South America and
overseas on exports and imports.

SHARPTON: And we have a 9.1 percent unemployment rate, and none of
that seems to address that directly. But, like I said --

BARTON: Well, in Texas, it`s about 7 percent.

SHARPTON: -- just like I never pastored at one congregation, I`ve
never been in Congress, but I feel like I know what filibustering is now.

Thank you, Congressman Joe Barton.

BARTON: Well, why don`t you come on down to Texas and do your show
down here and let us educate you?

SHARPTON: I`d love to. I`ll come down to Texas and you come on back
to my show. In fact, bring all your Tea Party folks and we`ll keep
talking, because we have a lot to discuss.

BARTON: Look forward to it. Yes, sir.

SHARPTON: Thank you, Congressman, for your time this evening.

BARTON: Thank you, Reverend.

SHARPTON: Ahead, is the Tea Party helping Democrats? Yes, I did say
"helping." The news might surprise you.

And I`ve got a new title for Dick Cheney`s book -- "Rewriting History
With Dick Cheney." My book report is up next.

You`re watching POLITICS NATION, only on MSNBC. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: The way Dick Cheney is promoting his new memoir, I wonder
if we should just call it historical fiction. In an exclusive interview
with NBC Jamie Gangel, the former vice president talks about his biggest
rewrite, the killing of Osama Bin Laden.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: I really thought it was a
culmination of ten years of effort by a lot of very talented and capable
and dedicated people and I gave President Obama credit for having sent the
SEAL Team Six into capture and kill Bin Laden.

JAMIE GANGEL, NBC ANCHOR: Were you bitter at all -- was it bitter
sweet or were you disappointed that it hadn`t happened on your watch?

CHENEY: Well we would like to have succeeded. But I think we laid
the ground work. For what ultimately happened.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Vice President Cheney, when exactly did you lay the ground
work, for getting Bin Laden? Was it when you let him get away at Tora Bora?
Or maybe it was when you invaded Iraq instead of going after Al-Qaeda. Or
was it when your boss, George W. Bush, said this?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: I don`t know where he
is. You know, I just don`t spend that much time on it, I`ll be honest with
you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: But on another point, Cheney sticks to the same old story
he`s been telling for years.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GANGEL: Should we still be water boarding terror suspects?

CHENEY: I would strongly support using it again if circumstances
arose where we had a high value detainee, that was the only way we could
get him to talk.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Using immoral torture techniques and forcing false
confessions, while you`re add it, it is definitely the way to go. Dick
Cheney is rewriting history and refusing to apologize for his sins. Nice
try, Mr. Cheney, but we got you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: The Tea Party might just be the secret weapon for
Democrats. Check out the latest poll. The Tea Party savior Rick Perry
holds a commanding 13-point lead over Mitt Romney. It started with
Bachmann and now with Rick Perry in the race, they`re all trying to one-up
each other.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK PERRY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will work every day to make
Washington, D.C. as inconsequential in your life as I can.

(APPLAUSE)

MICHELE BACHMANN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: People say to me, you
know, Michele, people really don`t understand the Tea Party. And I say,
are you kidding me? People totally understand the Tea Party, that`s why
the left is so afraid of them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But I don`t know that you sign membership, but
what I consider myself is somebody who is in sync with the view of the Tea
Party, the government is too big. The Tea Party`s view is government`s too
big and it`s spending too much. More than it takes in. And I agree.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Mitt Romney`s in sync with the Tea Party? That`s the party
moving far to the right. But as Republicans go right, Americans are headed
the other direction. Nearly half of Americans disapprove of the Tea Party,
that`s up 16 percent from a year ago. As republican candidates go hard for
their far right base, could being this far to the right, mean big trouble
for that party?

Well, joining me, to help answer that now, is Nia-Malika Henderson, a
political reporter at The Washington Post. And Kasie Hunt, a political
reporter for Associated Press.

Nia-Malika, is the Tea Party going to -- well, let me just ask you my
way. Is the Tea Party going to destroy the Republican Party?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, I think the walk
that these candidates have to make for the campaign for the presidency is
on the one hand, they have to embrace their base. And that`s the Tea
Party, that`s evangelical, our Republicans as well. But they also have to
be careful that the Tea Party doesn`t smother them for the general. So,
that`s the walk that they`re having to walk now. You see folks like Rick
Perry and Michele Bachmann obviously trying to appeal to that base. And
Romney being a little bit more careful in dealing with the Tea Party.

I think one of the things that we`ll eventually see from all of these
candidates is a sort of sister soldier moment when they really have to come
to terms with the Tea Party and maybe even put some distance between
themselves and the Tea Party and the way that we saw John McCain do that
with the religious right. And even Obama do that when he was running with
his Pastor Jeremiah Wright. They will have to, you know, dance with the
Tea Party but again, I think at some point, they really going to have to
figure out what role the Tea Party plays in the general.

SHARPTON: But Casey, when do they have to do that and does Romney
have the political courage to do that or someone else? Huntsman has tried
to do it. But he hasn`t been able to get any traction. He went from one
percent to one percent in the polls. I mean, the person that would have
to do it would be someone like Romney but does he risk becoming the total
failure here or does he gamble and really benefit if he does take the
money, i.e. McCain did and others that Nia had mentioned.

KASIE HUNT, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Well, Romney is facing his first huge
challenge in this raise, right? And he is facing it from somebody who
draws support from the Tea Party, Rick Perry but who also has over a long
career demonstrated appeal with the business community and with other folks
in Texas. So, suddenly instead of just having to deal with Michele
Bachmann on his right flank, he is now dealing with somebody who can both
appeal to that Tea Party segment that she has been so loving but who also
has much, much broader appeal.

So, I think the question going forward is going to be watching Romney
to see does he change his campaign strategy. I mean, he has been running
this very front-runner campaign, stay above the fray, ignore his rivals,
all of a sudden he`s got somebody who is out there ahead of him in the
polls and who can run with his constituency in a way that he can`t. So,
it`s going to be really interesting to see as we go forward whether or not
Romney is willing to step out and go on the attack. And you`re going to
see it actually next week. The first time that Rick Perry.

SHARPTON: Yes, the debate.

HUNT: .takes the debate stage in California.

SHARPTON: Well, Nia, when you look at the polls, Romney has very
little support among Tea Party followers. He is like at 14 percent where
as Perry is at 35. This is among Tea Party supporters. So, the question
that I would raise to you, Nia, if you were advising them, would you tell
him to try to compete for that vote where he is so far down, or that he has
little to lose or less to lose if he just took them on and maybe pick up
among moderates.

HENDERSON: Yes. Well, I mean, it looks like he is pretty much
ignoring the Tea Party. If you think about, you know, a lot of these
candidates have been on stage at Tea Party events. There will be one next
week down in South Carolina sponsored by Jim DeMint. Mitt Romney has said,
he will not be there. And he hasn`t taken many of these invites up from
the Tea Party and Tea Party folks pretty much think that he is not dancing
with them and really speaking to their issues. But I think we really will
have to see going forward what he`s going to do with Perry. Whether or not
he will try to distance himself from the Tea Party. I mean the race that
he`s run so far is really one that is aimed at Obama. And I think the void
that Perry feels some way is that he actually gins up the liberal base.

SHARPTON: Yes.

HENDERSON: He is really in a position where he really embodies what
Democrats really say is the Republican Party. They`re going to run a race
that basically says, the Republicans and the Tea Party are one in the same.
So, you`ve got Rick Perry I think offered Democrats really being able to
embody that argument.

SHARPTON: Well, let me ask you, Kasie, the politics nation question
of the night. Does Romney take down Perry or does he wait and have Perry
take himself down?

HUNT: I think you got to wait and see. I mean, Perry is not known
for being a good debater. He didn`t debate his opponents last time around.
He is known for staying as far from them as he can. And his aides will
pretty readily tell you, there is a list of things that are great about
Rick Perry. You wouldn`t necessary put Rick Perry`s debate performances on
that list. So, with this thing coming up next week, you know, it is a
great opportunity for Romney to watch Perry potentially implode. You know,
I don`t see him potentially taking a step out, you know, ahead of that.
Now if Perry delivers a great performance, then maybe Mitt Romney step back
and say, OK, I might actually need to go after him in a certain way. But
for now, he has certainly has a little bit of time to wait and see.

SHARPTON: Well, Mitt don`t go for it, because sometimes being
underestimated is a strategy. I`ve used it all my life. Nia-Malika
Henderson and Kasie Hunt, thanks for your time this evening.

HENDERSON: Thank you.

HUNT: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Coming up, voter suppression is going on in America. And
now we`re learning it might just be more coordinated than we thought.

And Michele Bachmann says, Hurricane Irene was God`s way of saying cut
spending. Since when was God a republican? You`re watching politics
nation only on MSNBC. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Voter suppression, turning back the impact of the voting
rights acts is happening. You don`t believe it? Next, I will have guests
to tell you how it is happening and where? Coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Across the country, Republicans are leading an assault on
voting rights. The legislative session and at least 34 states have
introduced voter ID laws and it doesn`t stop there. This year, at least
six states have introduced legislation that restricts voter registration
drives. At least nine states have cut down on early voting. And both Iowa
and Florida have moved to disenfranchise people with past felony
conviction. That means one million Florida taxpayers have all but
permanently lost their right to vote. But the GOP won`t be able to do this
without a fight in South Carolina. Senate Democrats have found a protest
with the Justice Department against their state`s new voter ID law.
They claim the new law would disenfranchise the 178,000 South Carolina
voters who don`t have driver license but are registered to vote.

Joining me now, South Carolina State Senator Gerald Malloy, he`s one
of the leading voices against this legislation. And Judith Browne-
Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project of civil rights
organization, focus on the issues of democracy and race.

Senator Malloy, let me start with you, Senator, has there in your
judgment been a concerted effort to block the votes since the 2008
presidential election?

(no audio)

I think that you can`t hear me. So let me go to Judith. Judith, do
you think, and your group has studied this, do you think, let me ask you,
do you think there`s been a concerted effort. When I look -- the reason
I`m asking that is that when I look at the 178,000 voters in South
Carolina that would be disenfranchised because they voted, registered to
vote, but they don`t have a driver`s license, and when I look at that, John
McCain one in South Carolina with 168,000 votes, that 178,000 votes would
have made the difference last time around.

JUDITH BROWNE-DIANIS, CO-DIRECTOR, ADVANCEMENT PROJECT: Right. This
is clearly a concerted effort to disenfranchise the people who turned out
in record numbers in the past election in 2008. You know, when we look
at this, this is the most widespread egregious roll back of voting rights
that this country has seen in a century. And it is because in the first
two months of this year, more than 30 states took up this photo ID
restrictions.

SHARPTON: Right.

DIANIS: For voters.

SHARPTON: Now, I think Judith, and see, that`s why -- because I
started to show tonight by talking about this move to the states` rights.
It`s funny, they ran national Tea Party, national concerns, but they went
right into a states` rights mode including this voter ID mode. And I think
that we are missing this. Because I can`t believe it is just a coincidence
that 34 states just all of a sudden at the same time starts going after
voting stuff.

DIANIS: Yes. I mean, it`s no coincidence. I mean, the republican
takeover a state legislatures and the 2010 election and immediately, the
beginning of 2011, you have the state legislatures taking up these bills.
Bills that would all really target African-American voters, Latino voters,
young voters and elderly voters. All of the groups that saw record numbers
of turnout in the 2008 election. And so, this happened right before we are
getting ready to go into 2012.

SHARPTON: Now, Senator Malloy, have you by phone due to weather, you
couldn`t hear us through satellite, thank you for picking up the phone
and doing this. Do you think this has been targeted particularly since
2012, since 2008 elections, and going into 2012?

STATE SEN. GERALD MALLOY (D), SOUTH CAROLINA: Reverend Sharpton.
Thank you for having us. It seems to be more than coincidence we had
African-Americans vote at a much greater percentage than they ever had in
history. About 81 percent of registered voters voted, as opposed to 75
percent whites, and then all of a sudden when the legislative session
started, then we had voter ID, seems more than coincidence.

SHARPTON: Now, Senator, we are not only talking about African-
Americans, this is not just a black issue, though it is clearly
disproportionate there. But this will impact a lot of people and
disenfranchise a lot of voters. Is that not correct?

MALLOY: Yes, sir. And disproportionately, those over 65 and those
young people, so there`s a whole big issue as it relates to a lot of
individuals in South Carolina that had an opportunity to vote in the last
election.

SHARPTON: Well, as you said, seniors, students and I think that we
are looking at the fact that this is a threat, Judith, to what we just
celebrated. One hand we celebrate Dr. King and the voting rights act. On
another hand, we are slowly -- well, maybe not so slowly, chipping away at
the impact of that voting rights act.

DIANIS: That`s right. What these bills will do is that they will
limit the participation of particular groups of people. I mean, these
bills undermine democracy in a way that we haven`t seen in a long time.
The people who are not going to be able to participate, there are 21
million Americans, it`s estimated in this country who do not have state
issued photo identification. We are not just talking about any ID. So,
for young voters for example, in places like Wisconsin, South Carolina and
Texas, they won`t be able to use their student IDs. So, this, I mean, and
it is targeted.

SHARPTON: Some people -- Judith, let`s be honest, some people really
don`t care. I mean, when we look at the fact that this group ALEC is
behind a lot of this, they`re founders. I have -- let me play this.
Their founder, said -- and I`m going to let him speak for himself, Paul
Weyrich on tape, said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL WEYRICH, FOUNDER OF ALEC: I don`t want everybody to vote.
Elections are not won by a majority of people, they never have been from
the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact,
our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as a voting populous
goes down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: That is Paul Weyrich, the founder of the group that`s
behind a lot of this in 1980. He says, what he says. You heard it.
Senator Gerald Malloy, thank you. Judith Browne-Dianis, thank you both for
joining me.

DIANIS: Thank you, Reverend Sharpton.

SHARPTON: Michele Bachmann thinks the massive hurricane is God`s way
of saying, cut the spending. Wow. I think he had some other ideas. Stay
with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: While millions of Americans were seeking shelter from
Hurricane Irene this weekend, Michele Bachmann was in Sunny Florida
talking about the storm as a divine comment on spending. Check it out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELE BACHMANN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: -- to get the attention
of politicians, we`ve had an earthquake. We`ve had a hurricane. He said,
are you going to start listening to me here? Listen to the American people
because the American people are roaring right now. Because they know what
needs to be done. They know, the government is, on a morbid obesity
diet, it`s got to rein in the spending.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Let me get this straight. She thinks this massive
hurricane is God`s way of saying cut spending. Of course today she claims
she was just joking. Well I don`t.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BACHMANN: If you take everything a person says as straightforward,
you misunderstand the sense.

(APPLAUSE)

So, of course I was being humorous when I said that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Well, I don`t think the people that were flooded out think
this is much of a joke, nor do I think we ought to use God to score some
cheap political points. I`m glad tonight that we started a show that we
can begin to talk about politics with a big, big P and where we are going
in this country. Let me tell you from the outset, though, I`m not going to
be a robotic host reading the teleprompter, like a robot. Nor am I going
to come in here and do the James Brown and do the electric slide to prove
to you that I`m not stiff. I`m going to do what I did all my life, I`m
going to say what I mean and mean what I say, and I`m going to get my guest
to do the same thing.

And to borrow a phrase from a disk jockey friend of mine, when I was a
little boy, watch the show, because you will soon learn at this hour, if
"Politics Nation" is not on your television, your television really isn`t
on. Thanks for watching, I`m Al Sharpton. "HARDBALL" starts right now.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED.
END

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