updated 9/8/2011 12:52:24 PM ET 2011-09-08T16:52:24

Guests: Alex Wagner, Richard Wolffe, Chris Matthews, Emanuel Cleaver, Tim Huelskamp, Dick Durbin

AL SHARPTON, HOST: President Obama gears up for the super bowl of
speeches. Tonight, President Obama calls the GOP on the carpet on jobs.
And Eric Cantor is complaining about tone. Nice try, Eric.

And the cowboy rides into the spotlight. Rick Perry takes the big
stage tonight. Get ready for some punches.

Plus, a rash of voter ID laws in the states could suppress Democrats
across the country. Senator Dick Durbin is taking action. He will join us
live.

And once upon a time, yours truly here was on stage in presidential
debates. My tips for the candidates, coming up.

Welcome to POLITICS NATION. I`m Al Sharpton. We will be talking a
lot about tonight`s Republican presidential debate in this hour, but we`ll
begin the show with jobs. There`s nothing more important.

We are getting new details about President Obama`s jobs speech
tomorrow night. Critical moment for his presidency and for the nation`s
economy.

For the first time we have numbers. The plan is expected to include
at least $30 billion in tax cuts -- $300 billion, I`m sorry -- in tax cuts
and government spending. It`s about a third of the size of the stimulus
that was passed in February of 2009. That package was worth $862 billion.
The unemployment rate then was 8.2 percent. Now it`s 9.1 percent. A
bigger problem, a smaller solution.

But even this jobs plan is probably too much for Republicans to
stomach. Today Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called out the GOP for
putting politics before the recovery.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: This effort can defeat
President Obama, has also held up in the economic recovery. The Congress
in this country can`t afford to waste any more time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Joining me now is Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, Democrat
from Missouri and chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. Congressman,
the Caucus sent its own recommendations on job growth to the White House.
Have you heard back yet?

REP. EMANUEL CLEAVER (D), MISSOURI: I was in the White House earlier
today. I am optimistic about the president`s speech. I think he is moving
in a direction that many of us have wanted, in the sense that I think he
wants to target the heavily unemployed areas of the country. And I think
most of us understand that the economy in a recession is like a wheel
barrow. Unless it is pushed, it is not going to go very far. In fact, it
won`t move.

And so, Reverend, what we are saying now is that the president is
going to lay out his plan. We think that it merits maximum consideration
by both sides, particularly the Republicans, who are not under normal
circumstances interested in supporting this. And we know that some of them
are going to say this is stimulus two and so forth.

But look, this is far more important than a person in the White House
or a party wanting to be in the White House. This is about everyday
Americans who are in desperate need of employment. We have got to act, and
I think the president is going to present a plan that if people will look
at and listen to, is something that I think many people across the country
and hopefully those of us in Congress can embrace.

SHARPTON: Well, I`m glad you said that, that if we would look at it
and listen to it and get beyond just the personality and the partisan.
Let`s look at what we are being told by Associated Press is in the plan.
Because I think the plan ought to be dealt with on its merits.

Extend payroll tax cuts. Extend unemployment benefits. Hiring tax
credit. Public works projects. I mean, these things would lead to direct
job creation and immediate job creation and should be moderate enough in
terms of expenditures for the Republicans to buy into. But already, we are
hearing from some of your Republican colleagues that they are backing up on
this.

CLEAVER: Well, what I understand the president is going to present
tomorrow is nothing radical. When you are thinking about we`re building
roads and bridges and schools and government buildings in Iraq. I don`t
know how we can then object to doing same thing in the United States, while
not only just dealing with our deteriorating infrastructure but creating
jobs for Americans.

There is nothing radical or liberal or anything else about that. It
is a proposal that I hope Americans of all economic and political
backgrounds can embrace. We are in a crisis. Look, recessions come and
recessions go, but there is absolutely no reasons why Congress should
support a recession. And by doing nothing except finding ways that we can
fight what is going to be presented, we are in fact going to support the
recession.

SHARPTON: Well, we have an unemployment number higher than we had
during the first stimulus plan. The president, if these reports are
correct, is asking for a lot less, $300 billion here. But a lot of these
Republicans, I think, are just so bent on trying to defeat the president, I
don`t think they understand that this is not about the president, this is
about the American people. How do we get that through their head? How do
you, in the Democratic side of the aisle, get through their heads that this
is not about the partisan fight, this is about the fight for Americans to
be able to feed their families?

CLEAVER: Well, first of all, we are in a situation in this country
right now where we actually cannot tolerate this, you know, kind of
opposition just based on party.

What I will say to any of the Republicans with whom I dialogue, vote
against the president. Vote against him when you go to the polls in 2012.
Just vote against him. Go vote against him, but right now it`s not about
the president. It`s about the American public. So I would like for you to
vote for them.

SHARPTON: I hope we can get that message. I know the Congressional
Black Caucus weekend (ph) is coming in a couple of weeks. You and I have
talked. We are going to have a jobs rally that Saturday, the 24th. We
will be talking a lot about that here. You have called the deficit deal a
Satan sandwich. I`m going to try to bring you some angel mayonnaise to put
on that sandwich so we can get some jobs for the people that they can
digest. Congressman Cleaver, Mr. Chairman, thank you so much for joining
us.

CLEAVER: Good to be with you, Reverend Al.

SHARPTON: Today we also learned some Republicans apparently got some
of their feelings hurt when the president called them out for dragging
their feet on the economy. Here is what the president said over the
weekend.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`re going to see if
congressional Republicans will put country before party.

Prove you`ll fight just as hard for tax cuts for middle class families
as you do for oil companies and the most affluent Americans. Show us what
you got.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Well, today, Majority Leader Eric Cantor said, quote, "I
don`t question the president`s motives or his commitment to the country.
Good people can disagree, and that doesn`t mean anybody`s putting politics
above country."

Of course, if Mr. Cantor really cared about civility, he would make
sure all of his Republican colleagues gave President Obama the courtesy of
attending his speech. At least three Republican lawmakers are skipping the
president`s address entirely. Maybe they just can`t handle hearing a plan
that would actually create jobs.

A new report from the Democratic National Committee says the big
Republican idea on the economy, a balanced budget amendment, would actually
destroy 9.5 million jobs nationwide. Joining me now is Republican
Congressman Tim Huelskamp, freshman from Kansas. He is a member of the Tea
Party Caucus and serves on the Budget Committee.

Congressman, thank you for being here tonight.

REP. TIM HUELSKAMP (R), KANSAS: Pleasure to join you.

SHARPTON: Let me ask you, are you planning on attending the
president`s speech tomorrow night?

HUELSKAMP: Yes, I am planning on being there.

SHARPTON: So you don`t agree with your three colleagues that is
insulting the presidency by not attending?

HUELSKAMP: Well, I don`t think they are meaning to insult the
presidency. You would have to visit with them. I`m just happy that my
favorite NFL team is not playing tomorrow night.

SHARPTON: Wait a minute. You don`t think it`s an insult for them not
to go?

HUELSKAMP: You know what, we can all watch it on TV. I`m looking for
the details. And what needs to happen -- we will hear a speech. But we
need the details later on and we need to allow the Congressional Budget
Office to score that and get a chance to look at it. So speeches are one
thing, action through Congress as you know is a very difficult thing to
happen, and that`s what I`m looking for.

SHARPTON: Well, I think congressmen not going to hear the president
of the United States is an action. But let`s go on.

HUELSKAMP: Yes, sir.

SHARPTON: Because clearly I think that it is an insult. And I think
that that is already an action. But let`s look at what the president is
talking about. If he says, as we are told, that he wants to extend the
unemployment insurance, would you support that, Congressman?

HUELSKAMP: It depends on what is all in the package. I don`t think
borrowing more money is going to create any more jobs, Al. And we have
tried that already and we got a trillion more dollars in debt, and it
didn`t work. Thirty-one straight months of high unemployment, the worst
length of unemployment since the Great Depression is unacceptable.

What I`m hearing back home is not more spending. They want Washington
to do less. They want less regulation, less control out of Washington.
Create some optimism in the economy. You do that by rolling back
regulation. That`s what I hear.

SHARPTON: All right. Let`s get specific. If he went and extended
payroll tax, which if it is not extended, would cost the average American
$2,136. Is that specific enough for you to save American taxpayers?

HUELSKAMP: I will have to see what`s in the package. We need
something to put 25 million Americans to work.

SHARPTON: Congressman, it`s not the package. It`s either we are
going to extend the insurance or we are not. It has nothing to do with the
package. You have a payroll insurance and you want to extend the tax cut -
- I mean, it`s clear, you either extend it or you don`t.

HUELSKAMP: Extending unemployment doesn`t create jobs. That doesn`t
create jobs. We have already tried that. We need to roll back Obamacare.
We need to roll back Dodd-Frank. We need to roll back all the
environmental regulation this White House is pushing.

SHARPTON: What about saving people that need an extension of the
insurance, Congressman? I just gave you the figure, the $2,136 -- let me
get even more specific. 1.6 million workers in Kansas would suffer if you
block payroll tax cut`s extension. It would lose your state $1 billion.

HUELSKAMP: We are going to have to borrow the money to pay Social
Security recipients. That`s what I`m hearing from as well. That`s taking
out of current benefits to help the economy, and that`s not creating jobs.
If it would work, we could try that. I`m sure the president is going to
propose that. I don`t know what else he is going to propose.

But lowering regulations, moratorium on new regulations is what the
economy needs to hear, not more spending and more borrowing. That is what
is going to happen if you pay less in taxes in the Social Security trust
fund. That means we borrow more money, generally from the Chinese, to pay
Social Security recipients.

SHARPTON: So you are not prepared to say that you, looking in that
camera, would tell the people in your district and home state, that you
would vote to extend the unemployment insurance that they now have in terms
of even just the payroll tax cut?

HUELSKAMP: That`s two different things. The unemployment and
payroll--

SHARPTON: Fine. You don`t want to deal with unemployment insurance,
let`s deal with the payroll tax cut. You`re not even prepared to do that?

HUELSKAMP: I`m prepared to do something that would help the economy
grow. I have just done 68 town halls this year--

SHARPTON: I`m asking you about the payroll tax cut. You already told
me about the unemployment insurance, you want to wait and see the whole
package. You`re not prepared to deal with the payroll tax cut?

HUELSKAMP: That will not create new jobs. It`s not working. Why
would we keep doing the same old thing?

SHARPTON: Why? Because it will cost people $2,136, that`s why.

HUELSKAMP: Because it will require us to borrow more money and go
deeper in debt in order to do that. We need to target --

(CROSSTALK)

SHARPTON: So you have to have the people in your district go deeper
in debt in this economy.

(CROSSTALK)

SHARPTON: All you have to do is extend what is already there?

HUELSKAMP: No. We`re talking about people that don`t have a job. 25
million Americans either have no job or need more work. And giving that
targeted pay cut or tax cut didn`t create any more jobs. We might need to
do that, but I want to see what the president is going to offer that will
help put Americans back to work.

SHARPTON: I see. You won`t commit on the uninsured. You won`t
commit on the payroll tax cut.

Let me ask you something, what is the specific proposals that the
Republicans have to create jobs then? I mean, tax cuts even for the middle
class, which is stunning to me, when I asked you about payroll tax cuts
because I thought you all were the tax cuts party. So only tax cuts for
rich people, I guess? Because middle class and poor people tax cuts, you
have got to see the whole package.

HUELSKAMP: Well, Reverend Al, here`s what is going on.

SHARPTON: Yes, please tell me.

HUELSKAMP: The job creators need more confidence, they need less
regulations. And I can`t -- in the House of Representatives, we passed ten
bills. The president doesn`t -- needs to barely to lift a finger and sign
them if Harry Reid would have a vote. We passed ten jobs bill that would
literally create hundreds of thousands of jobs. We don`t need to borrow
and spend more money. We need regulatory certainty. Pass our jobs bill we
already sent through.

There is thousands of Americans that would go to work in the energy
sector to produce more oil for us, more gasoline and diesel fuel for our
country. More people working, that`s what we need to do. We don`t need to
borrow and spend more money. We don`t need a big speech. I know that is
going to happen. That`s what the president wants to do. But we have
already passed the bills. We`re going to pass even more to make sure it
happens.

SHARPTON: All right. I just want to make sure that you and I are on
the same page as we wind this down, Congressman. You will not commit on
the unemployment insurance extension. You will not commit on the payroll
extension in terms of the payroll tax cut extension. You think that if we
deregulate more business, that will magically create jobs.

Let me ask you one question--

HUELSKAMP: Let me tell you, though, and I`ve been trying to answer
the questions. Let me tell you what I`m hearing from people who actually
run businesses, not in Washington, D.C., this is what they are saying.
They don`t want any more help from Washington. They want less regulation.
They want more freedom to create jobs. They don`t need another speech.
They are not going to be listening to the speech tomorrow night, begging
and waiting to see what president is going to say.

SHARPTON: But what about the people? I keep telling you the people,
with the payroll tax cut, you are talking about $2,136 from people. Not
just people owning businesses. When we are talking about extending
insurance for the unemployed, you are talking about people being able to
survive while we are trying to create jobs. What about the people? Why
aren`t you talking to the people?

HUELSKAMP: That doesn`t create a job. That is the difference, that`s
the big difference between myself and the president.

SHARPTON: Only deregulating and letting big business do what they
want to do and giving tax cuts to the rich creates jobs? Let me ask you
one question.

HUELSKAMP: That`s not what I said, Reverend Al, that`s not what I
said.

SHARPTON: If the president asks tomorrow night, if he asks tomorrow
night for you to vote for national holiday for Ronald Reagan, you probably
wouldn`t know if you would vote for that either, would you, Congressman?

HUELSKAMP: Well, we`ll see what happens. That`s why I am going to
the speech--

SHARPTON: I thought so. Thank you, Congressman.

(CROSSTALK)

HUELSKAMP: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Well, at least you`re going. And you should encourage your
colleagues to at least go.

HUELSKAMP: We`ll see what it is, but I hope it is just not more of
the same from this president. We look forward to his comments.

SHARPTON: I hope it`s not more tax cuts for the rich, and you have to
see the whole package before working people get a tax cut. I`m really
surprised at you. Or maybe I`m not. Thank you for your time.

HUELSKAMP: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Ahead, Texas Tea Party Rick Perry, rides into the debate as
the front-runner.

But the GOP establishment is doing everything it can to knock him
down.

Plus, supporters of new voter ID laws say it`s to rid the system of
fraud. But the real fraud is the effort itself. Senator Durbin speaks out
tonight.

Chris Matthews joins us live from the Reagan library, tonight`s big
Republican debate. You`re watching POLITICS NATION on MSNBC. Stick with
us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: The most important Republican debate of the season is just
under way, two hours from now. Right here on MSNBC. Chris Matthews will
be here in a few minutes for a full preview, but we start with the field
itself, and what`s at stake. Riding a wave of Tea Party support, Rick
Perry is taking a commanding lead in every poll. But the GOP establishment
isn`t sold on his extreme views. Here is Mr. Establishment, Karl Rove,
ripping Perry`s stance on Social Security this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KARL ROVE, GOP STRATEGIST: They are going to have to find a way to
deal with these things, because as you say, they are toxic in a general
election environment and they are also toxic in a Republican primary. If
you say Social Security is a failure and ought to be replaced by a state-
level program, then people are going to say, what do you mean by that, and
make a judgment based on your answer to it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: But it is not just Perry. The former front-runner has his
own problems. Mr. Economy, Willard Mitt Romney. He is facing blow-back on
his jobs plan. He used this chart to blame job loss on President Obama.
You can see it says, Obama recovery. But look carefully. Below that,
dates 2007-2009. That would be under President Bush, Willard. And Romney
says President Obama has run up more debt than any president before him
combined, which is mathematically impossible, as the Huffington Post
reported today.

So are the Republicans satisfied? The answer is no. 47 percent of
Republican voters are unsatisfied with the current GOP candidates. We`ll
see some new faces in the new debate. Maybe, maybe not. Joining me now,
Alex Wagner, a reporter for the Huffington Post and MSNBC analyst. And
Richard Wolffe, an MSNBC political analyst.

Richard, you`ve been saying all along that Sarah Palin is going to get
in. Are you standing by that?

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC ANALYST: I am standing by that. If you look
like a presidential candidate, you travel like a presidential candidate,
you talk like one, you probably are one. I haven`t heard a good reason on
why she wouldn`t be running. Everyone presumes to be inside her head. I`m
not there, nor is anyone else. But she is making all the moves of a
presidential candidate. And this is the time for that Palin brand as
Perry, Bachmann and before them, Donald Trump, have all shown, this is the
time for that kind of candidate to take the Republican nomination.

SHARPTON: Trump and Palin. Well, you said, if you look like a
candidate. Well, you won`t win a New York state vote eating pizza with a
fork.

But Alex, anyway, this battle between the establishment with Rick
Perry, when you hear the first debate tonight was on POLITICS NATION,
others debaters just followed us, because I can`t believe this congressman
-- but it is coming out of this pressure the Tea Party is putting on them,
which, in my opinion is personified now by the candidacy of Rick Perry.
They can`t even commit to a payroll tax extension or unemployment insurance
extension. I mean, how are they going to sell this in a general election?

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC ANALYST: Well, that`s, I think, the problem. On
one hand, Rick Perry has to defend his conservative bona fides, and you are
going to probably see Rick Santorum going at him tonight and Michele
Bachmann going at him tonight. On the other hand, people like Karl Rove,
people who are seasoned campaign vets, know that he has got to win a
general. And to a certain degree, Rick Perry has, in certain areas like on
immigration and on gay rights, he has a record that`s not conservative
enough even for the Tea Party.

At the same time, here he said things in his book, "Fed Up," including
the fact that he thinks Social Security is a Ponzi scheme. He has
questioned the direct election of senators. I mean, he`s said some really,
really--

SHARPTON: He questioned the constitutionality of civil rights and
other things.

WAGNER: And it`s in print. I mean, I think if someone said today,
one of the opposition researchers said, look, usually you have to scroll
through tape from the beginning of someone`s career. Here is a book that
was printed less than a year ago that outlines some incredibly extremist
opinions. Now, he is probably going to have to defend those tonight. And
where that takes him in the long run and what that does to the rest of the
field I think is pretty much anyone`s guess.

SHARPTON: But, Rich, you have Bachmann, then Perry had to come in and
out-Tea Party Bachmann. You have Romney over the weekend going to the Tea
Party and even saying that the Tea Party and the Republicans really
represent the same thing. Is Karl Rove and some of their staffers
Republicans fearing that they are pushing themselves so far to the right
that they will defeat themselves before they get of the primary season?

WOLFFE: You pull on an interesting string there, Reverend Sharpton,
because there is a flaw in what Karl Rove was saying. He is right that
Rick Perry`s positions make him pretty much unelectable in a general
election. He also said, however, Karl Rove, said that it would cause him
problems in the Republican nomination. That`s not true. In this
environment, the more extremist you are, the more you are likely to whip up
a crowd. We will see that tonight, I`m sure. But that`s where the
competition lies. That`s why they are trampling over each other to get to
the Tea Party events and pander to what they think is collectively the Tea
Party sentiment.

So I don`t think calling Social Security a Ponzi scheme is going to be
a problem for Rick Perry in terms of winning the nomination. It will,
however, be a massive barrier to getting independents, to getting older
voters. And that`s why people like Rove are deeply troubled. They are not
raising tens of millions of dollars to waste them on a Tea Party candidate
that will make the extreme right feel good about themselves but won`t get
them closer to power.

SHARPTON: Well, I don`t think calling Social Security a Ponzi scheme
is going to matter until you get the senior voters in Florida and Ohio, and
I think that is going to be the problem.

WAGNER: You cannot discount the importance of swing states here.
This is an electoral college issue as much as it is anything else. You
know, the Republican Party has been suffering from an identity crisis for a
while now. And I think this presidential field is exemplary of that.
Today in the Wall Street Journal, they are excoriating Mitt Romney for his
jobs plan, which other people have said is incredibly extreme. It is kind
of you are darned if you do, you`re darned if you don`t.

SHARPTON: I think the question one has to ask is will anyone stand up
among this crowd, and not the debate tonight alone, but period, and try to
become the moderate and sane voice. And when you see someone like Huntsman
stand up and say something, he is given, what, 1 percent of vote and has to
run around from place to place and in the Labor Day parade? I mean, it
seems like the base of the Republican Party has gone so far right, Richard,
that they are playing to the crowd that has hijacked the party, which is
the extreme far right.

WOLFFE: Well, I just want to point this out. Right now, Republicans
think this election is theirs to lose. They are feeling great and lots of
hubris. They think President Obama is down for the count. That means they
are less likely to take Rove`s arguments about electabilty seriously. They
will go with their heart and passion even more than they would have done
say a month or three months ago.

And just remember, back in 2007, 2008, Barack Obama, for all of the
anti-war people that he brought with him, was actually a pretty moderate
figure within the Democratic field. He wasn`t going for a public health
option. He wasn`t saying withdraw all troops immediately from Iraq. He
was taking a tough position in terms of adding troops to Afghanistan. This
guy was a centrist figure in the Democratic field, and he still --

SHARPTON: Well, you don`t have that centrist figure here.

WOLFFE: There isn`t one.

SHARPTON: I thank you, Richard Wolffe, Alex. And you know, Alex, I
think what Richard said, I agree. That is going to be potentially their
Achilles heel when they go with these extreme positions. I have spoken at
a machinist convention last weekend and told them, when you deal with
Social Security, that`s where the politics is going to go aside. It is not
about Obama, it is about your mama when you mess with Social Security.

WAGNER: Indeed it is, Reverend.

SHARPTON: Thank you for being with me tonight.

WOLFFE: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Coming up, new voter ID laws make it harder for minority
voters to have their voice. And the effort is more organized than we
thought. Also, Chris Matthews joins us live from the Reagan Library,
tonight`s big republican debate. You`re watching "Politics Nation" on
MSNBC. Stick with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Republican politicians throw around budget numbers like
it`s all some abstract game. But they seem to forget their policies have a
devastating impact on real people across the country. In Michigan,
Governor Rick Snyder has signed the law that puts a four-year lifetime
limit on welfare benefits. That means next month, nearly 41,000 Michigan
residents will stop getting welfare aid including nearly 30,000 children.
Thousands of innocent impoverished kids, abandoned by the state. In
Arizona, a new republican law punishes the families of prison inmates. To
help deal with the state`s deficit, the state has begun charging $25 to
visit someone in prison. It`s called a quote, "background check fee." But
actually goes for maintenance and repairs.

And in Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker`s budget cuts means, some kids
are going without. One school district is so worried about losing state
funding, that has stopped giving milk to elementary school kids during
snack time. These are the real government of GOP priorities. And the
people paying for them are the ones who can least afford them. We`re going
to keep calling Republicans out for this injustice and we would like your
help in doing it. Come to our Facebook page. Facebook.com/PoliticsNation.
And like us to join the community. We will post the stories we find. We
are also putting out poured word to all of you to share stories about what
is going on in your community. We look forward to hearing from you.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Less than 90 minutes to go until the NBC News political
republican debate kicks off. That`s Mitt Romney walking into the debate
area where he gets a feel of the room. I know from 2004, they let you
come. You are supposed to get familiar with the environment. And
comfortable with where you`re going be standing. And where the others are
going to be standing. So, when you come out on stage, it`s not new to you.
This is Mitt Romney getting his tour before the debate that will start in a
little less than 90 minutes. Tonight`s debate is the fault of the 2012
race. But it`s the first to feature Rick Perry. And it`s Mitt Romney, who
is there now, so the first time he`s on as a runner up. Instead of the
front-runner.

Joining me now, is "HARDBALL" host, Chris Matthews. Live from the
Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California. Chris, what are you looking up
tonight in this debate? Nobody has a better knows in here for this things
than you do.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST, "HARDBALL": Well, I think it`s about --
suppose we didn`t have televisions, suppose it was all that person talking
to you on the radio in the old days, and you made a judgment about that
person. The American people heard the voice of Franklin Roosevelt back in
the `30s. And they felt confident they heard that voice. Somebody once
wrote that even in the beginning of World War II after we were bombed and
the Japanese looks like we were just coming for us and the Germans were
beating everybody. And they heard the voice of Franklin Roosevelt and they
said, we`ll going to win this war. That voice is everything. Left, right
and center, some voices come across as strong, and sure and convincing and
some don`t.

Jimmy Carter, although I loved his values, when he came across, he
seemed weak in his voice. Reagan, whatever you think about him, he has a
cowboy accent. You`ve got a strong voice, Reverend Al. And I think
tonight, it is a simple thing. It cost -- it`s audio. Will this guy, Rick
Perry, seem like a common sense guy? We know he is a conservative. We
know he is an aggie. We know he is on the right. But will he seem like
man, apart from all that, of common sense. And, you know, I think we made
a mistake with George W. Bush thinking he had common sense. I think that
was a big mistake we made. A lot of us made. He didn`t. In the end be,
he made a big mistake going into Iraq under false pretenses of bad advice
and it was a bad decision.

The American people I think rallied back against him now. The
Republicans are now saying, no more foreign adventures. So, I think common
sense, he`s got the cowboy boots, he`s got a little bit of that Texas
swagger. Does Rick Perry come across as a grown up? And also, will Romney
take a couple punches at him? Or will he be this kind of hesitant
gentleman from St. Paul`s prep school that talks about career politicians
when everybody would watching those is talking about Perry.

SHARPTON: No, I think that what you`re raising Chris, is exactly what
I`m going to be looking for as well as in a lot of these debates. We don`t
know if Perry can come off as someone that you can trust that has some kind
of gravitas in his personality. We know he came in today with the cowboy
boots. Looking around. He`s got a little of this Texas swagger. But you
want something solid for a president and I don`t know if he can pull that
off. I don`t know if that`s him. And the question is, as you raised, will
Mitt Romney deflate in stature next to Perry? Because he`s played this
like, I`m the presidential guy on the adult on the stage, the last debates.
Does he come off deflated tonight, is going to be a question that we won`t
know until they walk on that stage.

MATTHEWS: And he could be Pawlenty tonight. He could be the wuss.
The guy that really, you know has it take on the front-runner and he
doesn`t do it. And people go, wait a minute, what is this about? You`re
behind. Why aren`t you trying to catch up? And I think that`s a question,
it`s a competition. You know, we were watching these progressives watching
this, independents watching this. It is a conservative fight. But can you
still watch it as a contest and sort of understand it. Maybe even enjoy
the contest itself and say, who is going to come out here tonight and
convince me, as a viewer who is skeptical as held maybe, politically and
say, at least I disagree with the guy but at least I think he`s got a head
and shoulders.

I mean, at least he is a person of a brain, you know. In all of the
time in our history growing up, Reverend Al, it comes down to who is in the
White House and has to make those big decisions. Kennedy got us through
the Cuban missile crisis. And you got to have a guy who listens to all the
advisors and said, you full of bull. Sometimes you just have to push your
back and say, you guys don`t know what you`re talking about. And that`s
the person we have to find when we go looking for a president.

SHARPTON: Well, I think that you`re right. I think the other thing
is that, if I were a republican, I would also be looking tonight and
saying, can I put this lady or this gentleman up against Barack Obama?

MATTHEWS: Yes.

SHARPTON: How is this person going to look standing on the stage
months from now next to President Barack Obama?

MATTHEWS: And that`s a great question, because you and I know the
president`s talents. And they are immense in a certain category, they are
immense. Intellectually for example, in terms of analysis and kind of an
almost detached view of things, he can outthink anybody. And I`ve been in
rooms with him where I keep saying to myself, for an hour and a half at
these briefings, I`m going to one tomorrow. You sit there saying, this guy
ought to be president of United States, just intellectually. But then
there`s the question, like you know, coming where you come from, can you
connect?

SHARPTON: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: Can you feel? Can you be a person who is one of the people
that you are leading out there? Not just somebody above them but somebody
who is also one of them.

SHARPTON: But also, at the same time, give them confidence. Because
I don`t know, as you mentioned, the Cuban missile crisis, I don`t know if I
want a president that if he gets that call in the middle of the night,
jumps up and puts his boots on and says, I got both hands on the gun.
Chris Matthews.

MATTHEWS: I don`t want that guy holding that button.

SHARPTON: We`ll be watching you, thank you.

MATTHEWS: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Still ahead, the massive republican effort to take away
voting rights from millions of Americans. Senator Durbin is doing
something about it. He is up next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: The GOP is leading an all-out effort to block the vote.
This year, 34 states have pushed voter ID laws. The laws target young
voters, minorities, the poor. Groups that were key to President Obama`s
2008 victory. And make no mistake, folks, Republicans are calculating
their legislation is aimed at shifting the tide in the next election.
Here`s just one example. In 2008, President Obama, won North Carolina by
just over 13,000 votes. This year, that state`s republican legislature
passed a law aimed at disenfranchising more than 500,000 voters.

Joining me now is Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, democrat from
Illinois. He will be holding a hearing on these new voter laws tomorrow.
Senator, thank you for joining me and thank you for doing these hearings.
Some of us have been talking about this and finally you`ve giving right do
to something about it. Let me show you this because one of the reasons
that Wade Henderson, NAACP, National Action Network, all of us have been
outraged is they`re talking about fraud. But the Bush Justice Department
and a probe from 2002 to 2007 out of 300 million votes cast, prosecutors
convicted only 86 people. So, Senator, how are we talking about we need
these new laws to protect people from fraud? Eighty six people? Five-year
probe? Hundreds of millions of voters? What are we talking about Senator?

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: Al, I think you know the answer and I
think you already said it. One of the groups that did the analysis of
voter fraud. There`s more likely that you will be struck and killed by
lightning than you have a voter fraud instance in the United States.
That`s the odds. And yet we have groups like the Koch Brothers, who have
been the major financiers of conservative republican efforts, putting
together an effort in 34 different states, I believe you said in trying to
restrict the voting of people across the United States. Exactly the
opposite of what you should do in a democracy. We only want those legal
voters to vote, period, no exceptions. But they have gone too far. What
they suggesting now, an ID card, let me just give you one example, State of
Wisconsin.

In the state of Wisconsin, the legislative fiscal bureau, a state
agency in Wisconsin did an analysis after they pass their new voter ID law.
And they found that one out of every five people in Wisconsin don`t have
the necessary ID to vote. They found that over a third of the young people
in Wisconsin do not have the appropriate ID to vote. A 177,000 elderly do
not. Over 200 thousand college students who have University of Wisconsin
IDs cannot use them to vote in Wisconsin. So clearly, it is drawn up in a
way to restrict access to the polls, to the groups that have historically
voted on democratic side.

SHARPTON: Now, we are not only seeing voter ID. When you look in
Ohio and Florida, they have outlawed where you can vote on the Sunday
before election and a lot of that aimed at churches that can mobilize their
congregates to vote to the polls direct from church that they arrange, so
they can vote. Legal voters with ID, but next year, early voting will be
cut from 14 to 18 days in Florida. From 35 to 11 days in Ohio with limited
hours on weekend. In addition, both states ban voting on the Sunday before
the election. A day when especially black churches historically mobilize
their constituents.

DURBIN: It`s very transparent. In the last election, in the states
that had early voting, 30 percent of the voters took advantage of early
voting. You know, you build it around your work schedule, the day care
schedule. You know, the fact that you can get to the polls without some
inconvenience. And they are making it more difficult. Making it more
difficult to vote in America is something that has a rich tradition in
history that is not -- something that we`re very proud of. You take it
back to the days of poll taxes and how many bubbles in a bar of soap before
you can vote. You know, there were folks who were restricted from voting
in those days. The question is, why are we returning to that today? If
the right to vote is the most important right in America, why are we
restricting the right to vote?

Let me give you another example out of Wisconsin. They say,
incidentally, don`t worry about the ID. We will going to give a free ID to
people who want them. Do you know how many DMV offices in Wisconsin are
open over the weekends? One for the entire state.

SHARPTON: For the entire state?

DURBIN: For the entire state.

SHARPTON: Wow!

DURBIN: There are five counties that don`t even have DMV offices.
And many counties with restricted hours. So, if you`re working an ordinary
work day, you can`t get in to get an ID. Now, that just doesn`t make
sense.

SHARPTON: Well, Senator, I have to go. But a lot of our people will
be there at your hearing tomorrow and subsequent hearing. We`re going to
stay on this issue right on the show. Thank God for you and your efforts
for Americans, right to vote.

DURBIN: Thanks, Al.

SHARPTON: This is not for partisan, this is for democracy. Senator
Durbin, thank you for your time, and thank you for your work and thanks for
joining me.

DURBIN: We`ll be right back with my thoughts on how to win a
presidential debate.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: There`s only an hour to go before the republican
presidential debate right here on MSNBC. I`ve been there before. I know
what it`s like. So, here are some friendly advice to the Republicans.
Reverend Al`s debating tips. First, be gracious to your fellow debaters.
They may have had a bad day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Well, first of all, let me say this. I wanted to say to
Governor Dean, don`t be hard on yourself about hooting and hollering. If I
had spent the money you did and got 18 percent, I`d still be in Iowa
hooting and hollering.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

SHARPTON: So, don`t worry about it, Howard.

(LAUGHTER)

GOV. HOWARD DEAN (D), VERMONT: Thanks, Reverend.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Hooting and hollering is also fine. It releases stress.
Next tip, be ready to fight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: How you can explain not one black or brown working for your
administration as governor.

DEAN: Actually, I beg to differ with your statistics.

SHARPTON: This is according to your paper in Vermont, Associated
Press and the Center for Women and Government.

DEAN: Well, perhaps you ought not to believe everything you read in
the press.

SHARPTON: So, you`re saying, they aren`t correct?

DEAN: We do have African-American and Latino workers in state
government.

SHARPTON: No, no, I said in your administration, you have a senior
member of your cabinet that was black or brown.

DEAN: We have a senior member of my staff.

SHARPTON: No, your cabinet.

DEAN: No, we did not. But the cabinet has only six members.

SHARPTON: Then, you need to let me talk to you about race in this
country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: But don`t let anyone intimidate you. Be confident. If you
don`t believe you`ll be president, who will?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: All of you are pledged to support the winner of
this for.

SHARPTON: And work for.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: You will work.

SHARPTON: I will travel all over this country to make Al Sharpton
president.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: And finally, remember, if you ever feel like you had a lost
for words, music is the universal language all can understand.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: My favorite song is James Brown`s song on the Republican
Party, "Talking Loud, Saying Nothing."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Funny how James Brown`s words ring eternal. Thanks for
watching. I`m Al Sharpton. A live edition of "HARDBALL" from Reagan
Library 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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