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PoliticsNation, Friday, December 16, 2011

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Guests: Donna Edwards, Chris Hayes, E.J. Dionne, Steve Kornacki, Bob Franken, Nia-Malika Henderson, Buzz Bissinger

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: There he is, Christopher Hitchens unplugged.
Christopher Hitchens was 62-years-old.

That`s "HARDBALL" for now. Thanks for being with us.
"POLITICSNATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.

AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST, "POLITICSNATION": Republican priorities,
pro-family priorities? Heartbreaking stories from homeless children, but
Republicans in Congress continue to play games. Where is their urgency?

Pander bears -- Willard tries to brew tea as he and the other
candidates try to run from their past. But we won`t let them run far.

Can he take a punch? The Newt front-runner now taking punches from
all sides.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELE BACHMANN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Speaker Gingrich took
$1.6 million --

RICK SANTORUM, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The Speaker had a
conservative revolution against him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Welcome to POLITICSNATION. I`m Al Sharpton. Tonight`s
lead, at a time when this country is struggling more than ever, Republicans
are turning a deaf ear to people like this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRANDON DUNLAP, GREW UP HOMELESS: The summer before my junior year I
received a phone call just before work from my sister stating that the
sheriff was there to put our things on the street. My mother was nowhere
to be found. I went to work with tears in my eyes, not knowing where I was
going to go for the night. The tears wouldn`t stop, so my manager offered
me to go home. The tears came even stronger than possible because I had no
home to go to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: "I had no home to go to." That was testimony from a 25-
year-old who grew up many times not knowing where he would sleep that very
night. Folks, this is not rare. More that`s 146 Americans are poor or low
income. That`s nearly one in every two Americans. We talked about it last
night, but I wanted to talk about it again. Why? Because not enough
people are talking about this. This is a crisis in our country.

It`s the holiday season. Are we supposed to just forget about these
homeless kids? Too often these days, it seems, the Republicans think they
don`t represent that half of the country because they continue to demonize
the poor and the unemployed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JIM DEMINT, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: They`re getting unemployment and
they`re getting food stamps, and they say call me when unemployment runs
out. We also have to realize there are a lot of people gaming the system
right now.

BACHMANN: Our nation needs to stop doing for people what they can and
should do for themselves. Self-reliance means if anyone will not work
neither should he eat.

NEWT GINGRICH, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don`t want to pay people
99 weeks to do nothing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: You don`t want to pay people to do nothing? That doesn`t
even make sense. In fact, since Congress enacted unemployment benefits,
time spent looking for jobs has tripled among long-term unemployed.
Unemployment insurance helps, not hurts. Giving payroll tax cuts to
American workers helps, not hurts. And that`s why it`s so frustrating when
Republicans play games, when their hold benefits like this are held hostage
because of things like oil pipelines.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITCH MCCONNELL, (R-KY) SENATE MINORITY LEADER: I`ll be able to
support a package that doesn`t include the pipeline.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R) HOUSE SPEAKER: Let me say this. If that Bill
comes over to us, we will make changes to it, and I will guarantee you that
the Keystone pipeline will be in there when it goes back to the United
States Senate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Joining mess is Congresswoman Donna Edwards, Democrat from
Maryland, and Chris Hayes, host of MSNBC`s "UP WITH CHRIS HAYES." Thank
you both for joining me.

Congresswoman, let me start with you. How can the GOP continue to
play these games when so many people are hurting? Now, on one hand, we can
take public money and bail out companies that, with their own greed, ran
them into the ground, but we look at children and say lift yourselves by
your bootstraps. I mean, it is not only immoral, it is against the
principles of the country.

REP. DONNA EDWARDS, (D) MARYLAND: Well, you`re right. I mean, first
of all, we have a lot of people in this country as you`ve described half of
Americans now living with low income or almost no income. I mean, it
really is a tragedy. We`ve taken over the last 20 to 30 years, have taken
a growing middle class and turned it into low income earners and people who
are unemployed.

And yet Republicans, you know, stand in the way of providing
unemployment insurance, a tax credit for working families so that they can
sustain themselves through this bad economy. And it really is a tragedy
over a pipeline that`s going to produce jobs that aren`t even in the United
States.

SHARPTON: That`s what I want to ask you. I`m coming into Chris.
That`s what angers me. They are saying that we want this pipeline in order
to give payroll tax cut extension. We`ve got to pay for it. They never,
ever laid out how they were going to pay for the tax cuts to the rich.
They never laid out how they were going to pay for bailing out all these
companies that really plundered the economy and their own stockholders.
Now all of a sudden we`ve got to pay with a pipeline that we`re not even
sure is safe. Environmentalists tell us it`s not. We`ve got to have some
cosigner to help the middle class. Chris?

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, "UP WITH CHRIS HAYES": Yes. Well, the
detail about it that I find fascinating is there`s already a process to
approve the pipeline, and it`s been working its way through the State
Department. The State Department has issued a declaration saying if you
mandate that we expedite the process, it will kill the pipeline. So even
their stated aim of getting the pipeline built will be destroyed by passing
some piece of legislation which requires the pipeline to be accelerated.

What we have to look at is what are the politics of this. Here is
what it is. The politics are the Republicans got elected because of a bad
economy in 2010, and they have spent an entire year with no actual jobs
program of their own. They are scrounging around as time runs out to
propose something that looks like a jobs program. And they happened upon a
pipeline that oil interests are in favor of and that environmentalists hate
and that they can hope to make some political hay out of. They`re
literally looking around for something they can say they`re doing for jobs.

SHARPTON: Congresswoman, I get the politics of it. I understand it`s
an election year, that the president is running and all of Congress is
running, I get that. But how do you sacrifice unemployed people, most of
whom are looking for job at a higher rate than ever? How do you sacrifice
homeless children? Are there no boundaries to where we`re going to go with
politics 2012?

EDWARDS: Al, I actually don`t get it, because I don`t think it`s
fair, and I think most Americans sitting at home understand when you`re
unemployed, most people are not, in fact, gaming the system. Even in what
we`ve done in the House, the Republicans actually tried to say, states,
what you can do is ask unemployed people to get drug tests. Unemployed
people don`t need drug tests. They need an unemployment test, and in the
absence of that, they need a job. And yet the Republicans haven`t done
anything to create jobs.

And they`re going to hold with blackmail unemployment checks and tax
credits so that they can protect the wealthiest and protect an industry
that`s gotten hand over fist out of this economy and out of the American
taxpayer.

SHARPTON: Chris, let me show you this. This is a testimony
yesterday. I opened the show last night, I knew there was a debate, but
I`m trying to force this country to look at what`s going on. Look at this
young lady testifying before Congress yesterday that almost no one wants to
talk about.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STARNICA RODGERS, COLLEGE STUDENT, CHICAGO: I have been homeless on
and off my whole life. My mom was a single mother with four kids and has
worked minimum-wage jobs her whole life. I want my life to be better.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Now, this young lady is a college student. In the midst of
all of this, let me show this graph. The government spending bill would
cut Pell Grants for 100,000 kids. How does a young woman we just heard
from better herself? These are the people that say, lift yourselves up.
This girl says I want to lift myself up. They say, fine, we`ll snatch a
Pell grant from under you.

HAYES: And what is so frustrating about this theory that you see
advanced by Jim DeMint and other Republicans is it doesn`t pass even the
most basic sniff test. Could it possibly be the case we have this
ballooning unemployment, this jobs crisis and poverty crisis in this
country is between 2008 and 2011 Americans got more lazy? They wanted to
work less? They lost their drive and their ability to do work? No.
Clearly what has happened is there was a financial crisis that`s
precipitated this economic cataclysm.

So to turn around and lay the blame at people`s initiative, as if
anyone is sort of laying around, it doesn`t pass the most basic test of
logic or sense. If you look at the causal mechanism is, it`s clearly the
fact that the banks ran up this -- created this huge crisis.

SHARPTON: Absolutely.

Congresswoman, when you look at the government spending bill, it also
cuts assistance for heat.

EDWARDS: Yes.

SHARPTON: For the heating bill, for low-income people, while it
raises more funding for the Pentagon. I mean, where are the Democrats in
screaming about stuff like this? This is blatant. You`re going to cut
heat to the low-income people while you give more money to the Pentagon?
Are Democrats having laryngitis? Other than you and a few, I`m not even
hearing anybody scream about this.

EDWARDS: Well, we need to scream and join the American people in
screaming. We`re getting ready to go into a winter. We can never predict
what kind of winter it will be, but for certain there will be people all
across this country who will not be able to heat their homes. And that`s
for people who have homes.

And then there will be those folks sleeping on our streets and our
corners, and in shelters because they`ve been run out of their homes and
because we haven`t been ability to find a way to get people in to work.

The untold story here is that most people who have low incomes in
fact are working. They are working. They`re just working jobs that don`t
pay them enough to meet the needs of their families. And here we are in
Congress, we have, you know, we`ve just gotten out of a war, thank to
President Obama, that was not paid for under the Bush administration.
We`re in another war that wasn`t paid for. We have prescription drugs that
weren`t paid for. We bailed out financial interests and haven`t paid for
that, and yet low-income people are being asked to bear the entire burden
of this economic turndown. And it`s really not fair. I think people
recognize that. When I hear a young woman who`s struggling to get herself
through college say I need a Pell Grant and I`ve been homeless most of my
life, Americans should be ashamed of that.

SHARPTON: That`s right.

EDWARDS: That fact right there. And the Congress has an obligation
to act. And we sure better do it before any members of Congress go home to
enjoy Christmas with their families.

SHARPTON: That`s why we`re going to keep showing it. Congresswoman
Edwards, Chris Hayes, thank you for joining me.

EDWARDS: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Catch "UP WITH CHRIS HAYES" 7:00 a.m. Saturdays, 8:00 a.m.
Sundays right here on MSNBC.

Let me say this. Next Sunday is Christmas. Some of us celebrate
Christmas as a religious holiday. I`m a minister. I believe in
Christianity. I believe the scriptures said that the day of the original
Christmas was a day that Joseph and Mary couldn`t get room in the inn to
have their child.

How do you sit, Christian right, in the Congress and not hear about
homeless children and then go home and celebrate Christ on the day they
didn`t have room in the inn for him? Think about it. Do you have room in
your inn for homeless children? Or are you just posing like you believe in
a story and celebrating your insensitivity? It`s time for the Christian
right to meet the right Christians.

Ahead, the panda bears were out in force last night saying anything to
pander to the right.

Plus, we reported the great news about the Scott Walker recall, but
not here comes the big money to prop up Walker.

And why is Rush Limbaugh blasting the Republican party? We`ll
explain.

You`re watching POLITICSNATION on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: The pander bears came out in Iowa. Forget about being
yourself. Forget about values or convictions. It`s pander time. Both
Willard and Newt spent last night running from their pasts, trying to win
over the extreme right who control the primary process. They played a game
of who can get away from their past fastest.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m firmly in support of
people not being discriminated against based on their sexual orientation.
At the same times I oppose same-sex marriage.

With regards to abortion, I changed my mind. Effectively I was pro-
choice. Every decision I took as governor was taken on the side of life.
I am firmly pro-life.

I`ve always supported the Second Amendment. We had a piece of
legislation that came on our desk that provided an assault weapon ban. We
decided to sign the bill. So you can say well, I`ve changed my position on
that, but I`ve been pro-gun and continue to be pro-gun.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: And then there was Newt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: I do change things when conditions change. I think my
position on life has been very clear and very consistent. I had a 98.5
percent right to life voting record in 20 years.

My policy is to break up both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Barney
Frank was in office with direct power over Freddie Mac. He exploited that
power just as Chris Dodd was in public office when he got special bargains
from Countrywide, a firm which went broke. They were using power. I was a
private citizen, engaged in a business like any other business. I only
chose to work with people whose values I shared.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: One candidate refused to play to the crowd.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON HUNTSMAN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m not going to pander.
I`m not going to contort myself into a pretzel to please any audience I`m
in front of, and I`m not going to sign those silly pledges. And you know
what else, I`m not going to show up at a Donald Trump debate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Jon Huntsman gets gasped when he says he`s not going to
pander, but look where it gets him. He`s at the bottom of the pack. Newt
is up 27 points on him. It goes to show you, in this race, if you don`t
dress up as a pander bear for the right, then you might as well hibernate.

Joining me now, "Washington Post" columnist E.J. Dionne, also a senior
fellow at Brookings Institute and MSNBC contributor, and Steve Kornacki,
political columnist for Salon.com. Thank you both for joining me tonight.

E.J. DIONNE, "WASHINGTON POST": Good to be here.

SHARPTON: E.J., should they just change their picture from an
elephant to a panda bear?

DIONNE: That would be kind of cuddly, wouldn`t it?

(LAUGHTER)

DIONNE: I think what you`ve got this year is a variation on an old
theme. The old theme is Republicans always ran to the right in the primary
and then tried to run toward the middle in the general election. But the
right now is way to the right of where it used to be inside the Republican
party, in part because of the Tea Party movement. So you can`t just be
against President Obama, you have to be really mad at President Obama. You
can`t say nice things about government. You`ve got to be 100 percent with
the NRA, and so on.

And I think that what they risk in this is something a Republican
consultant told me some years ago. He said we win more races when our
candidates don`t have primaries because if they have primaries these days,
they`ve got to move to the right.

SHARPTON: And that`s what`s happening here.

DIONNE: That`s a problem that this primary campaign especially is
going to pose to whoever wins it.

SHARPTON: Steve, when you look at -- let`s talk about Ron Paul. When
you look at Ron Paul, now he`s another one last night that didn`t pander.
And let me show what he said about how the United States should not bomb
Iran.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RON PAUL, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For you to say there`s
scientific evidence and some people arguing that maybe in a year they might
have a weapon, there`s a lot more saying they don`t have it.

To me the greatest danger is we`ll have a president that will
overreact and we will soon bomb Iran.

How do we treat people when they have a nuclear weapon? With a lot
more respect. What did we do with Libya? We talked to them, we talked
them out of their nuclear weapon, and then we killed them. We need to
approach this a little differently. We have 12,000 diplomats in our
services. We ought to use a little bit of diplomacy once in a while.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Now, before last night, Mr. Paul was surging. People were
saying that Newt Gingrich had actually gone down 12 points in Iowa. The
guy that might stun everybody was Ron Paul. But after he said that, let me
show you this. Today people are saying Paul`s vehement refusal to bomb
Iran may cause him to race. One "Huffington Post" reporter talked to a big
Republican in Iowa and they write, quote, "After Thursday night`s GOP
primary debate, an influential Iowa Republican leaned over to a reporter
and said "Ron Paul lost the Iowa caucuses tonight."

STEVE KORNACKI, SALON.COM: I don`t necessarily buy that, basically
because I think the winning number in the Iowa caucuses this year will be
somewhere in the low to mid 20 percent range.

SHARPTON: All right.

KORNACKI: I think there is enough of a chunk of the electorate that
sort of shares his views that`s skeptical of U.S. power abroad, that`s
skeptical of U.S. intervention abroad and that that resonates with.
There`s a bigger chunk that likes him so much on the economic stuff that
they`ll overlook this.

But I think the bigger question if he wins in Iowa and gets the
momentum the candidate usually gets coming out of Iowa, views like this
expressed like he expressed them last night will turning the entire sort of
opinion-shaping class of the conservative movement, Republican Party
against him. You`re already starting to see like FOX News hosts in
primetime now are really turning their guns on Ron Paul. If he wins Iowa
it`s going to a lot worse, and this is the stuff they`re going to be using.

SHARPTON: E.J., what is the dynamic right now? I think Steve raises
one point, but it could flip and he doesn`t do well. What is the dynamic
with the strength obviously of the Tea Party and the far right? How do we
look at the dynamics of the primaries starting with the caucus January 3rd
in Iowa and then how that plays out into the general?

DIONNE: Well, first, Steve had a good piece on how establishment
Republicans, FOX News, are already going after Ron Paul because he is less
inclined to intervene abroad. And I think he`s right that there is a
significant chunk of anti-interventionist sentiment among conservatives.
It doesn`t usually get a voice. So I`m not convinced that Paul killed
himself as a candidate -- you know, lost a chance to win in Iowa.

I think you`re now in a situation where Newt Gingrich has to win
Iowa. We wouldn`t have said anything like that two or three weeks ago, but
I think now the expectations of him are so high, and he`s had a lead there
that he`s got to come out of Iowa with a victory. And that really then
puts Mitt Romney in a real test in New Hampshire. And I think what you`re
going to see all the non-Romney candidates do is say, well, Mitt Romney had
an enormous lead in New Hampshire, so he`s going to have to win that one by
a really big margin. And so I think that`s kind of the dynamic.

SHARPTON: Do you agree with that, Steve, Gingrich has to win Iowa and
Romney has to win New Hampshire?

KORNACKI: Definitely Romney has to win New Hampshire. I would hedge
the Iowa a bit. Generally I would agree with that. But I could see a
scenario where Ron Paul wins Iowa, Romney turns around and wins New
Hampshire. And there`s an interesting dynamic in the Republican race this
year. In South Carolina and throughout the south, Mitt Romney`s poll
numbers are particularly bad. I think there`s a lot of skepticism in South
Carolina toward a Mormon candidate. He`s only got about 13 percent there.

SHARPTON: He got the governor of South Carolina --

KORNACKI: He got the governor. He got only 15 percent there in 2008.
He really can`t crack that in the polls right now. So I think there`s
still an opening even at the he comes out New Hampshire with a win. Until
he proves to me he can win down south, I`m still open to the possibility of
somebody else pulling out victories down there.

SHARPTON: E.J., I have a news flash for you if you`re looking for
something to write in your next column. Despite the fact that Newt
Gingrich was the speaker, despite the fact he was in Congress all those
years, despite the fact that he worked K Street like no one we know, $100
million in 10 years, he`s an outsider. I can prove it. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: I`m not trying to portray myself as an outsider. Look at
the reaction of the establishment on both parties. They think I`m an
outsider, because I am. If you look at all the patterns I have had and the
things I`ve worked on and the way I`ve done things, I`ve consistently been
in the country much more than I`ve been in Washington in terms of the
psychology of how you measure things.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: E.J., doesn`t he have to try to play against his
establishment credentials to try to appeal to that far right and make
himself an outsider?

DIONNE: Well, you know, before he became speaker, he was seen as an
outsider in politics. And he`s still playing off that. A lot of
conservatives still see him that way. But what`s really helping him is
what he pointed to, that when you see all of the conservative columnists,
all the people in Washington, including people who worked with him,
condemning him, they are doing that in order to help him, to prevent him
from winning the nomination. He can turn all that around in a kind of
jujitsu way and say, see, this whole Republican establishment doesn`t want
me. That must mean I`m on your side, members of the Tea Party, or all you
Republicans who are alienated from Washington. So I think in a way they
are all playing into Newt Gingrich`s hands on this question.

SHARPTON: Interesting. E.J. Dionne, Steve Kornacki, thank you both
for your time. Have a good weekend, the both of you.

KORNACKI: You too, reverend.

SHARPTON: Ahead, we`ll go inside the GOP race to ask, can Newt take
all the punches that are being thrown at him and still survive?

And the recall effort against Scott Walker is on fire, but now is the
time to step up the fight. The big money`s pouring in. But it can`t stop
us. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: I told you last night about the saying if you fight, you
might lose, but if you don`t fight, you`re guaranteed to lose.

Well, the time is now to keep fighting in Wisconsin. Last night, I
shared the great news with you after marching and protesting and rallying,
the fights for rights against Wisconsin`s union busting governor Scott
Walker is working.

In just a month, more than 507,000 people have signed recall petition.
That`s 94 percent of the total need it by January 17. But, Walker`s big
money supporters are fighting back. Since the recall effort began, their
money is pouring in. Since July, he`s raised about $5 million. That`s
more than three times than the recall supporters have raised.

Wisconsin law, lets recall candidates accept unlimited amount of
money. And under those rules, Walker`s got huge donations. More than half
of the money has come from out of state, and his biggest donor is Bob
Perry, the Texas billionaire behind the John Kerry swift boat ads. You
remember him. He`s given Walker $250,000. And there`s definitely going to
be more big money to come. Don`t forget Governor Walker got $43,000 from
the billionaire Koch Brothers Pac last year.

The people that set off the progressive revolution are one step closer
to victory, but we know the big money will keep coming. We`ve got to
fight, and we will.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Welcome back. A funny thing happened to Willard Mitt
Romney in the final countdown before the Iowa caucuses. The target fell
off his back. Until now, Willard`s been the focus of attack in almost all
of the dozen GOP debates, but in Sioux City, Iowa last night, Romney`s
Republican rivals went after the front-runner, Newt Gingrich.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELE BACHMANN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That speaker Gingrich
took $1.6 million. And the bidding was to keep this grandiose scam of
Freddie Mac going.

RIC SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Speaker had a conservative
revolution against him when he was the speaker of the house.

RON PAUL (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It`s very, very dangerous.
Some people say if it goes to extreme, it becomes fascism, because big
business and big government get together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Willard couldn`t land a punch on Newt last night. But his
super Pac is doing all kinds of dirty work for him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Newt has a ton of baggage. He was fined
$300,000 for ethics violation and took $1.6 million from Freddie Mac before
it helped cause the economic meltdown. Newt supports amnesty for illegal
immigrants, and teamed with Nancy Pelosi and Al Gore on global warming.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: And Newt continues to remain positive, but how many punches
can he take before cracking?

Joining me is Nia-Malika Henderson, a national reporter for "the
Washington Post," who also follows the presidential race in the post-2012
election blog, and Bob Franken on "Syndicated" columnist with king features
who`s covered Gingrich for years.

Bob, you`ve seen Newt Gingrich operate for a long time. How do you
think he`ll respond to this full-on political attack he`s getting now?

BOB FRANKEN, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, I suspect that he has
figured out that the best offense is a good defense for the most part
during the debates. He could stand off to the side grinning lice a chest
hire cat, while the candidates don`t done each other an imploded in one way
or the other. But now, he`s the dumpee. He is the one who is getting all
this. And you saw, he really sort of rolled with the punches.

And I suspect that he`s going to be able to do that. I don`t think
his problem is what somebody else e might say about him. It`s what he
might say. This is a guy who sort of takes the 50 monkeys at a typewriter
way attitude toward ideas. He just throws them out. And some of them,
they are pretty demonstrably goofy. And that`s how I think that he might
be harmed.

SHARPTON: Yes. But he`s a man who also got angry at the president,
because he didn`t have the seat he wanted in air force one. Are you
telling me at some point he`s not going to revert back to being Newt? That
he can really continue to play this? You are buying this conversion story
that he`s putting out, Bob?

FRANKEN: Well, let`s not forget that in politics, positive means
negative, but sometimes the way that you can accomplish this is by just
pretending that you`re aloof, let the other people sort of flame out.
Don`t forget that this time he`s really trying hard to get a better seat on
air force one.

SHARPTON: Yes. Well, I guess that might be true. And I`m talking
about conversion. I`m not talking about conversion religious, but
political conversion.

FRANKEN: Let me make one other point.

SHARPTON: Go ahead, Bob.

FRANKEN: In fairness, I think if you`re going to be refer to Mitt
Romney as Willard, I think that we should point out that Newt Gingrich has
a real first name, it`s Leroy.

SHARPTON: Leroy?

FRANKEN: That`s right.

SHARPTON: Leroy. I wish you told me that when we were on the
education tour. Hey, Leroy, that would have been great.

(LAUGHTER)

SHARPTON: Nia let me ask you, as we watch Leroy Newt deal with these
things. Last night I`ve got to give Bob credit, Newt did kind of take a
couple of zings, and even tried to turn one attack around. Look at how he
dealt with being called zany.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I sometimes get accused of
using language that`s too strong. So I`ve been standing here editing.

(LAUGHTER)

GINGRICH: I`m very concerned about not appearing to be zany.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Kind of turned that one around, when Leroy was talking last
night.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, NATIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, he
did. And it was the subtle way, I think, of jabbing at Mitt Romney, almost
trying to draw him into maybe trying to swing at Newt Gingrich. He of
course did not, that whole night.

I think in some ways Mitt Romney owes Michele Bachmann like a box of
chocolates or some flowers, because she did his dirty work last night in
going after Newt Gingrich. I think she landed a couple of blows, not only
on him, but also on Ron Paul. She did with Gingrich over this whole idea
of Fannie and Freddie. A had a really great argument there, this whole
idea that she was trying to run of these companies into bankruptcy, while
he was taking $1.6 million.

Ron Paul, very much exposed I think as someone who the GOP
establishment, or even this is grass-roots tea party folks might not like
because of his isolationist views, not only in Israel but also on Iran.

I think the real question for Newt Gingrich going forward, these next
two weeks is does he have the money to mount a consistent argument, not
only on FOX News, but also on the air waves in Iowa, and does he have those
troops? Does he have the precinct captains in those 99 counties who are
going to get those people out in the dead of winter in Iowa when it`s going
to be snowing, which everybody is bundled up? Is he going to be able to
get folks out there?

You look at his schedule, he`s couple of days. He is going to be
doing a book signing. I think the next couple of days he`s going to his
wife`s concert here in D.C., not looking a lot like the schedule of other
folks who are in Iowa, now on bus tours.

SHARPTON: I don`t like it when people to be touch and felt, Bob.

FRANKEN: Well, there`s another characteristic about Iowa that has to
be remembered, that is that the Republican Party in Iowa is dominated by
the religious conservatives. And Newt Gingrich potentially has some
problems given some of the factors in his past.

I think that we have to make sure that we keep our eyes on Rick Perry.
Rick Perry is well financed. Rick Perry has been running a very clever
commercial that appeals to these religious conservatives, so we can`t
discount him yet.

SHARPTON: Now Nia, when you talked about the money and the
organization, you also have to talk about the money that`s going against
him. Look at what Romney`s Pac. Willard has a super Pac that has $3.2
million they are spending in Iowa, and compared to Newt, Leroy, on plays
spending $233,000.

And we just had embedded from NBC to show us that we have this coming
out of Ron Paul`s campaign. They just sent a mailer to Iowa voters saying
among other things Gingrich is the latest flavor of the month, this
particular flavor, however, will leave a bitter taste.

So Nia, not only is it a question does he have the money to fight, the
question is that the guys against him are spending money to paint a bad
picture of him.

HENDERSON: Exactly. I mean, there`s just been this wholesale dumping
on Newt Gingrich, not only from his immediate rivals in this race, but from
the Washington establishment, folks like Kathleen Parker, George Will,
Peggy Noonan at the Wall Street Journal, the National Review. They`re big
non-endorsement titled against Gingrich.

So, this is what he`s battling. He of course is taking this tactic
that he`s pretty much not going to fight dirty at this point. I think
we`ll have to see if he`s able to do that, if he`s able to mount some sort
of message. Because so far, he hasn`t really been able to give a narrative
or give a real argument for why he should be president. You have all these
people who are saying this guy is zany. This guy is sort of the nutty
professor. He`s the guy who is waving around a hand grenade with a finger
on the pin.

And so, he hasn`t been able to say, no, this is what I would do as
president, this is the way I would govern. And I think that will be a real
challenge. Well, he`s got a couple, you know, two weeks or so to mount his
case while Mitt Romney has enough of a campaign not only in Iowa, also in
New Hampshire. He got this big endorsement. On Mitt Romney did today,
from the governor down there in South Carolina. I do think he`ll have a
problem down there, Mitt Romney, with those evangelicals. But again, who
after -- after Iowa, who after New Hampshire will look like a president?
And I think that is going to be a question.

SHARPTON: Well it`s time to go. But Bob, I have to tell you this,
the politics nation research department reports that Newt`s real name is
Newton Leroy. We won`t forget it.

And if you want to deny it, Newt, bring me your birth certificate.
I`ll even meet you at Donald Trump`s office so you can turn it over. Bob
and Nia, thanks for your time. Have a good weekend.

HENDERSON: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Ahead, for the first time since the Penn State scandal
exploded, we`re hearing from the man who says he witnessed sexual abuse.
But what did he do after? And what did Penn State do? That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Welcome back to "Politics Nation." A major day in the Penn
State sexual abuse scandal. Today, for the first time, we`re hearing from
the man who says he witnessed sexual abuse in the Penn State locker room
nine years ago. Assistant Coach Mike McQueary took the stand describing in
graphic detail seeing Sandusky standing behind a young boy with his hand
around his waist.

McQueary then walked away in shock, returning less than a minute
later. Prosecutors asked him how close were you? "On the third look, I
would say the showers -- I was maybe two to three yards, maybe six feet."
Did you go into the shower? "No." Did you say anything? "No, I did not."
I know they saw me. They looked directly in my eye, both of them.

Did either of them say anything to you? "No." What did you do at
that point? "Seeing that they are separated, I thought it was best to
leave the locker room and I left the locker room."

So, he walks away? And in later testimony, he makes it very clear he
told senior Penn State officials exactly what he saw as we know they did
not go to the police.

Joining me now is "Daily Beast" contributor Buzz Bissinger. He, of
course also, is the author of "Friday Night Lights."

Buzz, was today`s testimony a dagger to the defense?

BUZZ BISSINGER, CONTRIBUTOR, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, I think it was a real
dagger to the defense, because the thing I take away from it, reverend, is
the fact that his testimony today under oath was very, very consistent with
his grand jury testimony, almost perfectly consistent.

He said what he thought. He was convinced was sexual intercourse. He
said he was not 1,000 percent correct, but as you just read, what he
describes, let the jury describe for yourself when you see a 60-year-old
man with his arm around the waist and the kid has his arms against the
wall. I didn`t see, you know what defense attorneys do? They are looking
for holes. I didn`t see many holes to shoot through. It was clear he
should have called the police, but he didn`t. He definitely told Paterno.
It was of a sexual nature. Paterno didn`t even call anyone that day,
because he didn`t want to bother anyone on the weekend? I mean, what is
that about?

SHARPTON: About talking to Paterno, Buzz. Let me go back to the
original part. McQueary says he told Schultz and Curly exactly what he
saw. Let`s put that of quote.

"I told them that I Jerry in the showers with a young boy and that I
had seen was extremely sexual and over the lines and it was wrong."

Did Gary Schultz deny he got the full story from McQueary? He says,
quote, "Did McQueary relate what he saw in the locker room? Answer, no, it
was a very general way, no details."

So, Buzz, you have them -- their -- him clearly saying he told the
superiors it was sexual, they`re denying it. Then you go to what you say
with Paterno, he told him. And then here what he says is interesting.

Quote, "Paterno was shocked and sad, sat back in his chair. He said
I`m sorry you had to see that. It`s terrible. I need to tell some people
what you saw, and I`ll tell you what we`ll do next."

Obviously he told Paterno a lot. You don`t fall back in your chair
shocked if you`re not telling you something.

BISSINGER: Yes. I mean, you`re exactly right. He slumps back in his
chair. He`s shocked, as you say he says I`m sorry you had to see that, so
he must have told him something. And what did he do? He does nothing.

But he tells Curley? Curley does nothing. And reverend, there are a
lot of villains here. The worst villain is Gary Schultz. Because Schultz
is brag Jerry`s testimony, does admit McQueary saying, he grabbed the boy`s
genitals, Sandusky. That`s normal behavior, grabbing a kid`s genitals?
Not only that, Schultz admits that he knew about the original incident in
1998, and now he knows about an incident in 2002.

Come on, two incidents against the same person in four years? You
don`t put it together? You don`t ask yourself if there is something
disturbing.

SHARPTON: Shultz. Tell the viewers who Schultz is again.

BISSINGER: Gary Schultz is the executive vice president at Penn
State, who was in charge of the police. That`s why he would have been in
on the meetings, and McQueary says, I thought I was going to the police in
going to Schultz and in fact he`s a D.A. because he`s in charge of the
police.

And as I say, he knows about two incidents, not just one. He knows
1998, where no charges were filed and then he hears about this in 2002.

SHARPTON: So, Schultz knew about the `98 case, and when he hears this
about the guy grabbing the genitals, he not only hears something that I
don`t know how he considers it normal, but he also knows there`s a history
with the same person.

BISSINGER: Exactly right. He knows his history. I mean, come on.
Any right-thinking -- a 14-year-old kid would say, wait a second. Two
alleged incidents? Something is really off here. We must do something.
This must be investigated. At the very least, Schultz could tell his
police department to investigate it. He does nothing. In his grand jury
testimony he was extremely evasive. What do you think sexual misconduct
is? Well, I don`t know. You know, is it normal to grab --

SHARPTON: I`ve got to go, Buzz. Not only do you seem to think its
probable cause, so does the judge. Buzz, great to have you on the show.
Thank you for your time.

BISSINGER: Hey, thank you.

SHARPTON: We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Christopher Hitchens, the writer, journalist and atheist
died yesterday from pneumonia, after a long battle with cancer. He was 62
years old. I knew Christopher, and can tell you, he was a man with strong
convictions, never shied away from criticizing those in power, whether in
politics or in religion. And while we certainly did not see eye to eye on
a lot of issues, I always respected for what he fought passionately for
what he believed in. In fact, we ducked it out here on this very network a
few years ago, sparring over religion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS, JOURNALIST: Are you asking me or telling me?

SHARPTON: Well, I`m the peace maker here. You are not God.

HITCHENS: Get off your knees and stop groveling.

SHARPTON: People should not confuse God with those that represent him
or misrepresent him. That`s my only - my main disagreement with Mr.
Hitchens.

HITCHENS: Morally serious person should welcome excommunication from
the Roman Catholic church.

SHARPTON: Make sure you note he mentioned the catholic church, I
didn`t.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: That was on a special edition of "Hardball" about religion.
But his passion extended beyond political arguments. In the latest
published piece in the current vanity fare, Christopher Hitchens said he
wanted to tackle death head-on.

Quote "I have decided to take whatever my disease can throw at me, and
to stay combative, even while taking the measure of my inevitable decline.
This is no more than what a healthy person has to do in slower motion. It
is our common fate."

That sounds like Christopher, fighting with passion. Well,
Christopher, I`m glad I knew you. I like and respect people that mean what
they say and say what they mean. Having a good adversary will bring the
best out of you. Though you didn`t believe in faith, you made me get
stronger in mine.

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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