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PoliticsNation, Wednesday, December 14, 2011

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Guests: Ed Rendell, Dana Milbank, Patrick Murphy, Richard Wolffe, Judson Phillips, Nia-Malika Henderson, John Payton

AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST, "POLITICSNATION": Class warfare, you`ve got
that right. Mitt Romney is on a whirl wind tour in the big apple, rubbing
elbows with this favorite people, New York`s top one percenters.

Block the vote -- the nation`s top lawyer signals he`s ready to join
the fight to stop the right-wing war on voting.

Promise kept -- Republicans still don`t get why the war in Iraq is
over. But President Obama does.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Welcome home.
Welcome home. Welcome home.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Welcome to "POLITICSNATION." I`m Al Sharpton.

Tonight`s lead, the party of the one percent keeps kissing up to the
one percent. Today, Willard Mitt Romney came to New York, and Mr. Monopoly
man managed to hit all of the big banks hot spots. His first stop, a
breakfast at an exclusive Cipriani restaurant. It was attended by none
other than John Paulson, a man who personally made $3.7 billion betting on
the mortgage crisis.

Willard`s next stop, a lunch at the Waldorf Astoria, hosted by a JP
Morgan Chase banker. And to cap off the day, a private dinner on Park
Avenue hosted by another one of the world`s biggest bankers. But, of
course, this is no surprise. Willard may flip and he may flop but he`s
always been consistent on his love for big money from back when he was
posing with money at Bain Capital to the present day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Corporations are people, my
friend. We can raise taxes -- of course they are. Everything corporations
earn ultimately goes to the people.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMNEY: Where do you think it goes? Whose pockets? Human beings, my
friend.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Corporations aren`t human beings, Willard. But he`s not
the only one with one percent dreams. Newt brags about his big money
speeches.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m going to be really
direct, OK? I was charging $60,000 a speech, and the number of speeches
was going up, not down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Here`s another thing that you are not seeing -- an
overwhelming number majority says this economy is out of balance and caters
to the rich. That`s 87 percent of Democrats, 79 percent of independents,
and even 61 percent of GOP members. Look at those numbers. Equality
matters in this country, and frankly it`s not even on your radar.

Joining me now, NBC News political analyst Ed Rendell, former DNC
chairman and Pennsylvania governor, and Dana Milbank, political columnist
for "The Washington Post." Thanks to both of you for being here tonight.
The fight for economic equality is a hot button issue in the country. Will
Newt and Willard`s disconnect on this ultimately bring them down? Let me
ask you first, governor.

ED RENDELL, NBC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I think, Al, it`s a huge
problem for both Republican front-runners and it`s a problem of their own
making, but it`s also a problem of Republican Congress. Look at what
happened on the so-called jobs bill, extending the payroll deduction tax
cut and unemployment compensation benefits. The Republicans answer for how
to pay for that was to slash benefits from 99 weeks to 59 weeks and to make
sure that there`s no additional tax cut, that they just extend the current
one, not what President Obama wants to do to give an extra $500 to middle
class families.

The Democrats solution is to surtax millionaires three percent on all
their income above $1 million. The tax rates stay the same $1 million
below. It`s a small surcharge on anything above a million, fair as fair
can be, overwhelmingly supported by the American people. Republicans in
Congress reject it. The candidates reject it. And that`s what is
eventually going to bring them down. This is a very winnable election for
the Republicans because of the recession, but they are going to be brought
down on the issue of fundamental fairness.

SHARPTON: Dana, I also think that they don`t understand the
fundamentals of the fight about economic inequality. Look at this
interview at the "Washington Post" today, Dana, Mitt Romney called him a
member of the one percent. Even if Obama does technically belong to this
group, isn`t that a shameless attack? I mean, the president has never hid
the fact that he made a lot of money. The question is where your policies
are directed, not where your personal income status may be. Look at what
the president says even if Mitt and others call the president a member of
the one percent, look at what the president says about our values and where
we ought to be going.

DANA MILBANK, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Reverend, I think --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`re asking people
like me to pay our fair share so middle class families can get a tax cut.
And I believe most Americans are doing their part, somewhere along the line
somebody gave me the chance, and I want to do the same thing for the young
people who are coming up now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Dana, that doesn`t sound like the president has hid the
fact he makes a large income. What relevance did that have to whether or
not you want to see economic equality? In fact, he should be giving more
credit since he`s really fighting against his own income bracket.

MILBANK: Right. Reverend, this is America. Nobody begrudges anybody
for making a lot of money.

There are two problems the Republicans are dealing with here. One is
where did their money come from, and are the other is are they doing
something for people in exchange for that money? So in the case of
Gingrich, you say he made a lot of that money by playing on his connections
with government. People are going to look down on that, whether it was the
money from Freddie Mac or the fact that he was playing on his government
experience to make $60,000 a pop for the speeches.

And the other piece is there some quid pro quo that people who are
filling up their campaign treasuries, the people giving them so much money
to play on their government experience, are they expecting something in
exchange for that? And then when you look at all of the goodies that are
routinely headed out to Wall Street, the answer in the aggregate has to be
yes.

Now, that`s not necessarily a problem for them in the Republican
primary. I think the Tea Party has basically been taken over, has
basically been taken over by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other
corporate interests, but it becomes a huge problem for whoever the nominee
is in the general election.

SHARPTON: Governor, they are bickering even among themselves. Let me
show you this. Now Romney even goes after Newt and says that Newt Gingrich
is a very wealthy man. And he has -- let me play you the tape.

MILBANK: Sure.

SHARPTON: Let me let Willard speak for himself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Newt Gingrich has his wealth
from having worked in government. He`s a wealth man, a very wealthy man.
If you have a half a million dollar purchase from Tiffany`s, you`re not a
middle class American.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: That`s amazing given the wealth of Mr. Willard Romney, he`s
calling somebody else wealthy. But Mr. Romney today hit back at Newt --
Romney for attacking him on Bain Capital. All of a sudden Bain Capital
became the response of Newt the other day. Today he responded.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: In my enterprise, we had the occasion to build tens and
thousands of jobs. And he doesn`t understand the economy if he doesn`t
understand that sometimes businesses succeed and sometimes fail. To
suggest that there`s something un-American, there`s something wrong about
investing in enterprise that ultimately doesn`t succeed bespeaks an
extraordinary lack of understanding of how the economy works.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Governor, this back and forward between the two leading
candidates on the Republican side is, in my opinion, going to cause both of
them. What are they doing here? Are they eating each other alive? Is
there some strategy to this?

RENDELL: The good news is they are attacking each other. And after a
little period of time it does become a problem. They ate themselves alive.

And I think both Gingrich and Romney have staying power. So I think
if you`re President Obama to somebody who want President Obama to be
reelected, you`re going to enjoy the next three or four months and it`s
going to go on and on and on.

And the point you made, reverend, is the right point. It`s not
whether you have money or not. It`s what you want to do for the country,
what are your policies? The greatest president for poor Americans ever was
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, one of the richest presidents we ever had. But
his policies helped bring people back to work, gave people a chance to be
secure in their old age and health care and a lot of different things.

So it`s not the fact that you have money or even the fact that you
raise money. President Obama raised a lot of money on Wall Street. That
didn`t stop him from pushing for a strong financial responsibility bill to
oversee Wall Street so what happened two years ago doesn`t happen again.

So it`s not whether you have money. It`s what your policies are. And
the Romney-Gingrich policies are disgraceful when it comes to fundamental
economic fairness and justice.

SHARPTON: Dana, the American people have said clearly what they want
and how they want to deal with it. And 87 percent, as I said of Democrats,
79 of independents, 61 percent said the economy is out of balance and
favors the rich. Can the Republicans run a competitive race and even think
about winning ignoring these feelings of the American public, including
their own party?

MILBANK: Hard to see how, reverend, because they`re digging
themselves in a deeper and deeper hole with the Romney-Gingrich feud. Even
a lot of conservatives now are getting anxious about the attacks that
Gingrich is making on Romney, saying that is basically a socialist argument
he`s making going after Romney and what he did at Bain and the wealth he
accumulated. So they are building up a whole lot of highlight reels right
now that make them look plutocratic and make them look out of touch. And
you can be sure that David Axelrod has got them all stored away in his desk
drawer there and is going to be ready to bring them out in a few minutes.

SHARPTON: Governor Rendell, you were chair of Democratic Party. As
you watched this fighting back and forth developing now in the second or
third day between Newt Gingrich and Willard Romney, if this intensifies it
will be difficult for them to bring the party back together, and clearly
they can talk about sharing a ticket or having a lot of credibility being
the surrogate for the other one, whoever wins a nomination.

RENDELL: Yes, it`s going to be very hard for that to happen. And,
look, this is all very good for the president and the president`s re-
election. But understand that this will end in April, and then there will
be a nominee, and there`s a little bit of a clean slate. And you can still
bring some of these feuds up, and here`s what Mitt Romney said about Newt
Gingrich if he`s the nominee or vice versa. We can still bring some of
those things up.

But Democrats should not just assume because these candidates appear
to be eating each other alive that that translates into automatic victory.
We`ve got to still press the agenda, make our case, convince the American
people that what we want to do in creating jobs is the right path to follow
and what they are doing makes no sense at all to keep protecting
millionaires at the expense of working people and middle class Americans.

SHARPTON: Dana, one of the other things that they have clearly fell
into is the messaging against each other. There`s clearly the fog now in
the American voters` minds of what they are running for, other than to
protects the rich and to protect any tax raise or the rich losing their tax
cuts. But they become muddied in this fight where beyond that no one is
hearing a clear message other than a bunch of attacking on each other while
the president is starting to get his sea legs on his message and start
talking to the American people. That`s dangerous for them.

MILBANK: It is. I mean, as Governor Rendell knows better than most,
they can overcome these problems just as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama
did. So I don`t think we should underestimate their ability to do that.
But the nature of the attacks, going after each other as sort of the
protected rich guy looking out for the interests of the powerful in
Washington, there are a lot of truth rings in the arguments leveled by both
of these men right now. So that`s why it`s going to be difficult for them
to overcome. It`s not the animosity between themselves. It`s the veracity
of the charges that they are bringing down.

SHARPTON: Ed Rendell and Dana Milbank, thanks for coming on the show
tonight.

RENDELL: Thanks, Reverend.

MILBANK: Thanks.

SHARPTON: Ahead, nine years after Bush`s mission accomplished,
President Obama defines a defining moment in his presidency, and it took
Republicans no time to go negative.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: I believe history will judge this
president`s leadership with a scorn and disdain that it deserves.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Excuse me, Senator McCain, but questioning this president`s
foreign policy leadership, it`s off limits.

And a major swing state is pushing a radical voter I.D. law. But a
top Republican there admits there`s no fraud to justify it.

One note, one note before I go. I want to say this. MSNBC apologizes
tonight for reporting earlier today on a blog attempt that compared a
phrase used by Mitt Romney to one once used by the Ku Klux Klan, something
I`m passionate about. But as someone who has been a victim of unproven
innuendo and half-truths, I agree the report was not proper if you couldn`t
nail down all of the facts, and this network did the right thing by
apologizing.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Promise made, promise kept. President Obama declares the
end to the Iraq war. And the war hogs come out to slam him. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I`m proud to finally say these two words, and I know your
families agree, welcome home. Welcome home. Welcome home.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: President Obama today at Ft. Bragg addressing troops who
just got home from Iraq. The president has ordered all U.S. troops out of
Iraq by the end of this month, fulfilling his campaign promise to end the
war.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: As president I want us to fight on the battlefield. And what
that means is getting out of Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Millions of us marched in the streets to try to stop this
war. We knew that it would be a mistake. It claimed 4,400 American lives
and left nearly 32,000 wounded. So far it cost the U.S. $800 billion,
money we could have spent on schools, health care, and jobs. By any
measure, ending the war is a good thing.

But some top Republicans disagree.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: This decision of a complete pullout of the United States
troops from Iraq is dictated by politics and not our national security
interests. I believe that history will judge this president`s leadership
with the scorn and disdain that it deserves.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: The attack is big in the Cheney family, too.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, (R) FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: It diminishes the U.S.
presence, it reduces our leverage. It in effect is going to significantly
alter our position in that part of the world, and I think that`s a mistake.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He right now as commander in chief is performing
abysmally with respect to Afghanistan and Iraq. He is about to snatch
defeat from what was a victory in Iraq by pulling everybody out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: But the Americans disagree with the Cheneys. And 90 of
Democrats, 81 percent of independents, even 58 percent of Republicans all
support the pullout from Iraq. Maybe folks like Cheney and McCain forget
this deadline was originally set by President Bush. Just before leaving
office he signed an agreement saying all troops would have to leave by the
end of 2011. He probably assumed that deadline would get extended. But
President Obama made sure it wasn`t and that our troops would come home.

Joining me tonight is Patrick Murphy, former Democratic congressman
from Pennsylvania and the first veteran of the Iraq war to serve in
Congress, and MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe. Thanks for joining
me tonight.

PATRICK MURPHY, (D-PA) FORMER CONGRESSMAN: Thanks, Reverend, for
having us on.

SHARPTON: Congressman, after nine years why would anyone want to
prolong the Iraq war?

MURPHY: Well, you know, reverend, this is hypocrisy. When President
Bush was commander in chief, we had a saying in Washington and a saying in
our country, saying politics ends at the water`s edge, except when Barack
Obama ends presidency. When Barack Obama is commander in chief all they do
is chip away and chip away and chip away.

Let me tell you something, reverend. When I was a young army captain
I was teaching at West Point constitutional law when 9/11 happened. My
best friend growing up in northeast Philadelphia lost his girlfriend and
father in the World Trade Center. I lost a guy I went to college with in
the same terrorists attack. We focused our efforts on Afghanistan. It was
Dick Cheney and George Bush and the far right wing extremists that shifted
us from Afghanistan and invested in Iraq, which had nothing to do with
9/11.

Let me tell you something, those words of "welcome home" today gave me
goose bumps, because, let me tell you, there`s 4,400 Americans, sons and
daughters who are not coming home from Iraq, who gave the ultimate
sacrifice, and about 32,000 that were wounded that didn`t come home with
their arms or legs or with some type of disability.

SHARPTON: And as you say that, and I can certainly imagine how you
felt and you got goose bumps and other people that are veterans would have
felt, I looked at it as one who never believed the engagement should have
been undertaken in the first place, in the first marches that I was part
of, speaking at the rallies, look at the climate that was set, Richard
Wolffe. Let me show you some of what the Republicans were saying about
this war. Some of us were being attacked or questioning why we were in
Iraq in the first place.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: But we don`t want the
smoking cloud to be a mushroom cloud.

GEORGE BUSH, (R) FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: The British government has
learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of
uranium from Africa.

CHENEY: My belief is we will in fact be greeted as liberators.

BUSH: In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have
prevailed.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Richard, against that backdrop, many of us that were in the
early parts of the anti-war movement were called all kinds of names. And
then as it grew it became more and more popular. And I think the fact that
then Senator Barack Obama, state senator, came out against the war, was one
of the things that really helped propel toward victory in 2008. So from a
political standpoint he kept his promise, and today was huge for those that
believe against that barrage of propaganda, that this was the wrong thing
to do.

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It`s worth remembering as
the Republicans gear up in Iowa what this president as a candidate was
premising his campaign on, which was ending the war in Iraq, a war he
called a dumb war. Today as president he didn`t revisit that. There are
at least 4,400 reasons for revisiting the reasons for going to war and how
mistaken it was. There is every reason to go back to people like Dick
Cheney who say you have no right to lecture this president or the American
people about foreign policy judgment, because you failed. In fact, you`re
responsible from the worst national security disaster since Vietnam in this
country and maybe beyond that.

But in spite of all of that, what we heard from the president was
someone who had an incredible rapport from the troops, someone who, this
was unthinkable, someone who can have it back and forth with the troops,
welcome him home in a presidential commander in chief manner for an on
behalf of this country. I think people who criticize him at this point
look like they are nibbling at his ankles, throwing rocks at someone whose
shoes they really couldn`t fill as commander in chief. So that`s a
contrast, I think. But no what criticism you level, no matter how much you
want to refight the war, this president today was presidential. He wasn`t
speaking as a politician.

SHARPTON: Congressman, there are those that are criticizing and
trying to demagogue this, I believe.

MURPHY: That`s right. And you know what? You know why those troops
at North Carolina at Ft. Bragg from the 82nd airborne division, which was
my unit when I was in Baghdad, Iraq, you know why they love their commander
in chief? Because he looked them in the eye and he said this is what I`m
going to do as commander in chief. I`m going to bring the troops home from
Iraq where they should have been in the first place and I`m going to
refocus our efforts on bringing bin Laden to justice, the man who murdered
3,000 Americans on 9/11. And our troops did that because the commander in
chief refocused their efforts on getting a job done and now we`re bringing
them home from Afghanistan as well.

SHARPTON: Congressman, I have to go on that one, but I thank you and
I thank you that you gave us the passion to end this segment and knowing
that this is a great day to see those troops home from Christmas.

MURPHY: God bless these troops.

SHARPTON: Congressman Murphy, Richard Wolffe, thanks to both of you
for your time.

WOLFFE: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Ahead, the war between Romney and Gingrich. It`s getting
ugly. Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Welcome back to POLITICS NATION. If you`re scoring at
home, Willard Mitt Romney is now a Tea Partier. That`s right. We know he
supports the radical Paul Ryan budget plan to kill Medicare. He`s gushing
over Christine O`Donnell`s endorsement. He`s participating in a big Tea
Party forum this weekend and today he`s slamming Newt`s conservative Craig.
Quote, "He has been extraordinarily unreliable leader in the conservative
world. Not 16 or 17 years ago but in the last two to three years. I think
he`s shown a level of unreliability as a conservative leader today," end
quote. That`s right. The architect of universal health care is a Tea
Partier. The guy who said this nine years ago is now a Tea Party.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think people recognize
that I`m not a partisan republican that I`m someone who is moderate, and
that my views are progressive, and that I`m going to go to work for our
senior citizens or people who have been left behind by urban schools that
are not doing the right job. And so, they are going to vote for me
regardless of the party label.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Yes, Willard the moderate, the man dodging the Tea Party is
now running to them. Why? Because now he needs the right. A new NBC poll
shows 70 percent of Republicans consider themselves conservatives. Fifty
seven percent see Newt as conservative. But only 29 percent see Willard as
conservative. But the big question is, can Romney get conservative to
believe he`s one of them.

Joining me now is Judson Phillips, founder of the Tea Party nation.
Judson, thanks for being here tonight.

JUDSON PHILLIPS, TEA PARTY NATION: Hey, Al, thank you for inviting
me.

SHARPTON: Willard Mitt Romney, Tea Partier, do you buy it?

(LAUGHING)

PHILLIPS: Oh, that`s the laugh of the day. You know, in the
conservative movement, a lot of times we refer to Mitt Romney as Mitt for
brains. But, no, he`s not a part of the Tea Party. He has turned up his
nose at us on more times than I can count and now the only time he shows
any interest in the Tea Party movement is when we needs the votes. Well,
you know, we were born in the dark, but it wasn`t last night.

SHARPTON: Well, but he`s come out for the Paul Ryan budget plan, he`s
come out and demonized poor children, he`s come out and said a lot of
things that you guys agree with. Is it too little, too late, is it that
you believe he`s disingenuous? What do you say?

PHILLIPS: Nobody believes a word that Mitt Romney says. You know, he
has taken at least two positions on everything that he`s ever stood for,
maybe more than that. You know, in 1994 he was a liberal. More liberal
than Ted Kennedy. In 2002, he`s a liberal. He`s a progressive, and now
suddenly he wants to claim that he`s a conservative and Newt Gingrich is
not. I don`t think so. Newt Gingrich has got a conservative track record.
Mitt Romney has a liberal track record. You know, just tell Mitt to be
honest, run on what it is, and we`ll let the voters decide it.

SHARPTON: But you mentioned Newt Gingrich. Now, let me show you the
polls on Newt Gingrich -- President Obama, because ultimately, if he`s a
nominee, that`s what it will come down to. According to the polls, Newt
Gingrich loses to President Obama by an 11-point spread. This is your guy.
How are you going to beat President Obama with a guy that polls this far
behind at this point and President Obama hasn`t even formally started
campaigning yet?

PHILLIPS: You know, as I recall, about this time in 1979, 1980, there
was a guy named Ronald Reagan who polled very badly against Jimmy Carter
and we all know how that turned out. We`ve got a long primary season ahead
of us and then we`re going to have the presidential debates. And I think
the debates, something Gingrich is the nominee. I think the debates
between Newt and Obama are going to be absolutely some of the best debates
in history, and I think once those debates are heard, I think the American
people will decide very clearly who they want running this country and I
think it`s going to be Newt Gingrich.

SHARPTON: Now, are you saying, that if Romney gets the nomination,
you will not support him? Would you support a third-party candidate?

PHILLIPS: No, I don`t want to go after a third-party candidate. But
I`ve always said my strategy to make sure I don`t have to make a choice
about Mitt Romney in November is to make sure Mitt Romney is not the
nominee.

SHARPTON: But if he is -- I`m going to press you on this. If he wins
the nomination, what do you do, Judson?

PHILLIPS: Oh, Al, you`re ruing my Christmas, man. Truth of the
matter is, I don`t know. We have done surveys on Tea Party nation with
some of our members and between one-third and one-half of the conservatives
we surveyed say that if Mitt Romney is the nominee, they are not voting for
it. So, the GOP has got a huge problem it needs to deal with. Because if
Mitt Romney is the nominee, there are a lot of conservatives who are going
to stay home. And that could be a huge problem for him.

SHARPTON: Let me give you this little gift. You can put this under
the tree. When I was a kid, James Brown, the entertainer was like my
father. He brought me to the White House. He had he a meeting with Ronald
Reagan. As you know, President Obama sent me and Newt Gingrich on tour
five cities about education. A little gift. Newt Romney is no Ronald
Reagan. I`m not a conservative but I`ll tell you that. Judson, thanks for
being on the show tonight.

PHILLIPS: Hey, Al, thank you for having me and Merry Christmas.

SHARPTON: Same to you and your family. Joining me now is Nia-Malika
Henderson, Washington Post national reporter who also writes for the
election 2012 blog. Nia, you just heard it. The right doesn`t like
Willard. Any chance they are going to come around, in your opinion?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, "THE WASHINGTON POST": You know, I think Judson
basically summed up that question with laughter. He basically said that
the Tea Party folks won`t really come around. For Mitt Romney, they
essentially said that they would ruin his Christmas if Mitt Romney, you
know, was trying to make this play that he`s an actual Tea Party guy. I`ve
covered Mitt Romney. I went to a couple of rallies of his for the Tea
Party. And, of course, he had quite frankly been ducking the Tea Party for
a while. He did finally make it to one of these rallies but could barely
bring himself to say the word Tea Party in his speeches. So, I think now
he`s up against Newt Gingrich, who is clearly a favorite of the Tea Party
and he`s doing two things, and that is he is pulling Mitt Romney to the
right, you see him touting, he`s endorsement from Christine who of course
cost the Republicans a seat in the Senate, but he`s also trying to play
who`s the bigger conservative. And that is just not a gain that he`s been
able to win, with Newt Gingrich.

SHARPTON: Well, he`s using Christine O`Donnell. He has Ann Coulter`s
voice on radio ad in Iowa, I mean, he`s really, really trying to reinvent
himself as this ultra conservative. And the thing that becomes interesting
about this Nia, is his defenders, his supporters say, well, yes, he did
some things that looked moderate in Massachusetts but he had to win, he was
dealing with Ted Kennedy land. But then you then could say, if he did that
then, maybe that`s what he is doing now. Once you start saying that you
will bend or break what you believe, when does anyone know what you
believe?

HENDERSON: No, that`s essentially what Christine O`Donnell said. She
admitted that he has his mind but said that he`s been consistent since he`s
changed his mind. But, again, you know, who knows why he`s changes his
mind? And I do think that his campaign hasn`t really solved the issue of
what -- an exclamation of why he`s changed his mind. So, now, I mean, he`s
obviously pointing the finger on Newt Gingrich. And in fairness, I do
think they have the same problem. They do have these records of moderation
on Cap-and-trade.

SHARPTON: Now, let me ask you this. You`ve been to South Carolina
lately. What is the -- what are you hearing there? What`s the feel there
on the ground with republican voters?

HENDERSON: Yes, I know, I was with Newt Gingrich in South Carolina
last week. Big crowds offer Newt Gingrich. You know, there is in South
Carolina I litmus test for conservatives, this very question of what is a
conservative actually came up from a questioner down in South Carolina.
So, I think Mitt Romney is going to have trouble in South Carolina
answering that question. You see in the polls that he`s down double digits
in South Carolina and I think Newt Gingrich`s real positive I think
attribute down in the south is that he`s a southerner. He`s a catholic and
he`s obviously had some problems in his personal life. But I think it will
hurt. I know people don`t necessarily like to bring this up. But I think
it will hurt him in the south, Mitt Romney because he`s a Mormon. And I
think that`s going to hurt him some. And I think the flip-flopping Mitt
will not really necessarily play well in South Carolina. People in South
Carolina.

SHARPTON: I want you to help me with this. Because we`re running out
of time and I need to ask you this. In an interview with "The New York
Times," Willard called Newt zany. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Zany is not what we need in a president. Zany is great in a
campaign. It`s great on talk radio, it`s great in the print, it makes for
fun reading. But in terms of a president, we need a leader, a leader needs
to be someone of sobriety and stability and patience and temperance to
think through issues to be careful in the choice of words, he or she might
express because the world listens.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Well, Nia, this getting a little ugly. What he described
doesn`t sounds like the Tea Party but hearing him attacking so
vociferously, I though Chris was -- until Sunday afternoon. Rick -- me
gifts now.

HENDERSON: No, I think this is Romney`s strategy trying to paint Newt
Gingrich as the nutty professor. And in some ways, I think this is
probably a better strategy for him than trying to oust conservative on Newt
Gingrich. But this is I think you`re going to hear them talked about this
vainer theories that Newt Gingrich have -- has had like harvesting I guess
minerals on the moon. So, I think you`ll hear Mitt Romney doing more of
this, going forward. But again, I think some of this resonates actually
with the base.

SHARPTON: Nia-Malika Henderson. Thanks for being here tonight.

HENDERSON: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Ahead, a passionate defense of voter`s rights. America`s
attorney general is jumping into the fight. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: We`ve been pounding the issue of voter rights for months on
this show. We must. We fought. Now, the Justice Department is speaking
out and I love it. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Indeed, those on all sides of
this debate have acknowledged that in person voting fraud is uncommon. We
must be honest about this. Politicians may not readily alter the very
systems under which they were elected. Only we, the people, can bring
about meaningful change.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: That`s Attorney General Eric Holder jumping into the
controversial issue of voting rights last night in a speech in Austin,
Texas. We`ve been hitting the issue of voter rights for months on this
show. We`ve marched and we vowed to fight suppression. Holder`s speech is
a major sign the Justice Department is ready to join the fight. This year,
25 votes restricting laws were passed in 14 states. And now Republicans in
Pennsylvania pushing voter ID law even though the state senator calling for
it told the Associated Press, he`s seen no proof of voter fraud. But now
the attorney general means business and so do we.

Joining me now is John Payton, president and director, council of the
NACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. A major force and effort to
protect the right to vote across the country. John, thank you for joining
me.

JOHN PAYTON, PRESIDENT, NACP LEGAL DEFENSE AND EDUCATIONAL FUND: Good
to be here.

SHARPTON: You were last night in Austin, Texas, where the attorney
general made the speech at Johnson Library, Lyndon Johnson who signed the
original voting rights act. You know, for a long time we have been dealing
with these issues, you have, I have this show, National Action Network.
And it had to be sort of fulfilling to you to some degree to see the
Attorney General make an unprecedented address on this issue.

PAYTON: I think it really was. It was a very important speech. You
know, this is the Attorney General giving a special speech in a very
special venue all about our democracy and the challenges it faces today in
the face of unrelenting efforts across the country to restrict and block
the vote. It`s very important speech he made, very important position,
very clear, yes, last night.

SHARPTON: Now, John, you did a study, Legal Defense Fund which is
separate from NAACP. But you did it. The NAACP Urban League National
Action Network. All of us marched with you on Saturday. The report
basically gives a breakdown of what would happen if these laws went into
effect and I think the Pew send to estimate it how many people would be
impacted. So, people understand this is a real threat to democracy. This
has nothing to do with democrat, republican, this is really
disenfranchising people from the right to vote potentially.

PAYTON: That`s exactly right. In 2008, we saw very, very high
turnout and almost no gap in participation in the election across racial
lines. Very high participation by African-Americans, by Latinos, by white
Americans. And after 2008, what we have seen since is a way of laws that
will make it much more difficult, law that will have a discriminatory
effect, that means that a law that will cause fewer African-Americans to be
able to vote as opposed to white Americans, fewer Latinos to be able to
vote as opposed to white Americans. This is a threat to our democracy. We
ought to want as many people to vote as possible to vote instead of
blocking the vote across racial.

SHARPTON: Well, let`s be clear, I mean, some of this, some people
want to win. Some of this, some people have always believed in limiting
the vote. Some of this is about race. I mean, let`s be straight up.

PAYTON: That`s true. But the legitimacy of our democracy has to rest
with making sure that every single person who`s eligible to vote is able to
vote. That`s the legitimacy of our democracy. And we undermine the
legitimacy of our democracy when in fact, we do things that blocked that
block the ability of minorities, African-American and Latinos to be able to
vote.

SHARPTON: I challenged the Representative Baxley who sponsored the
bill in Florida. Let me show you. He couldn`t even answer the challenge.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPRESENTATIVE DENNIS BAXLEY (R), FLORIDA: I think don`t think we
want to wait until voter fraud, I think since the last election, we review
the process, we`re going to have very close elections in Florida. We have
people here from all over the world, all over the country.

SHARPTON: But you always had that.

BAXLEY: And I think.

SHARPTON: Wait a minute. Wait a minute Representative, you`re not
just getting people from all over the world. Now, you always had it. What
I`m trying to say, is the reason that you have done these new laws, is
there a reason that there`s been fraud or are you saying that you`re doing
this because you may think there may be fraud?

BAXLEY: For credibility in the election, we have to have incredible
results and close elections.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: So, we gave them a chance. There`s no pat on fraud. John,
I`m on a hard break. I`ve got to go. But thank you for your work. And
let`s keep fighting. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Love him or hate him, Newt Gingrich is an ideas guy. I
worked with him on an education reform tour. And I`ve seen him in action.
He would write tons of ideas down on whiteboards. One idea getting a lot
of attention these days, is this love of space. Newt has been obsessed
with the final frontier for decades. In fact, back in Georgia, they had a
nickname for him. Newt sky walker. Willard Romney let the world in Newt`s
passion.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Speaker Gingrich and I have a lot of places where we
disagree. We`ll talked about those. We could start with his idea to have
a lunar colony that would mine minerals from the moon. I`m not in favor of
spending that kind of money to do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: But apparently he`s in to all kinds of weird science today.
The GOP frontrunner gave a speech on the future of brain science. Really,
Newt? When do you get the time to talk about these things? Aren`t you
running for president? This fits right in with his past hopes for the
future of space. Number four, building colonies on the moon. Number
three, creating space merries to light highways at night. Number two,
putting lasers in the sky to shoot down missiles. And number one, he face
dooms days around the corner. Because of an electromagnetic pulse. I
toured with Newt and I`m worried. The reason I think Obama`s better is I
would rather have a president that sent me into the inner city that one
that may send me to outer space.

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.
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