PoliticsNation, Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Read the transcript from the Tuesday show
Guests: Tom Reed, Melissa Harris-Perry, Tad Devine, Michael Steele, Joan Walsh, Richard Wolffe, Rita Platt, Jon Sherman
REV. AL SHARPTON, HOST: Hey, Republicans. Are you sure you want to
mess with this president?
President Obama makes a surprise appearance in the briefing room with
a stern warning for Speaker Boehner: This is not a game.
And Scott Walker is fighting for his political life and suppressing
voters. Now he`s fighting a lawsuit.
And get this. Remember that crazy idea Newt had about poor kids and
janitors? At least two right-wing governors are already rolling back child
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is tragic what we do in
the poorest neighborhoods, entrapping children in, first of all, in child
laws, which are truly stupid.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Welcome to POLITICS NATION. I`m Al Sharpton.
Tonight`s lead, the president is tired of House Republicans playing
games, especially when the lives of 160 million Americans are at stake.
Today, at a surprise appearance in the briefing room, he called out
Speaker Boehner by name to do the right thing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Democrats and
Republicans in the Senate said we`re going to put our fights on other
issues aside and go ahead and do what`s right. I need the Speaker and
House Republicans to do the same. Put politics aside, put aside issues
where there are fundamental disagreements, and come together on something
we agree on, and let`s not play brinksmanship.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Let`s not play brinksmanship. That`s the one thing the
president is asking from Speaker Boehner, but he and the members of the
House aren`t listening.
Today, 229 Republicans rejected legislation that would extend the
payroll tax cut. Once again, Speaker Boehner and the Tea Party are holding
this country hostage just like they did during the debt ceiling debate,
just like they did in April when they forced -- they nearly forced a
government shutdown, and just like they did when they rejected the
president`s grand bargain.
Yet, somehow Speaker Boehner has the nerve to pass the buck on to the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE SPEAKER: Now it`s up to the president
to show real leadership. We`ve done our work for the American people. Now
it`s up to the president and Democrats in the Senate to do their job as
well. I need the president to help out. All right?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: You`re right. You do need help. Stop playing politics.
And listen to what`s really important.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I saw today that one of the House Republicans referred to what
they are doing as "high-stakes poker." He`s right about the stakes, but
this is not poker. This is not a game. This shouldn`t be politics as
usual. This is not a game for the millions of Americans who will take a
hit when the entire economy grows more slowly because these proposals
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Joining me now is Congressman Tom Reed, freshman Republican
from New York.
Congressman, first, thank you for coming on the show tonight.
REP. TOM REED (R), NEW YORK: Well, thanks for having us, Reverend. I
SHARPTON: Now, let me ask you, will you and the Republicans be able
to reach an agreement with Democrats before the holidays?
REED: Well, that`s my intention. You know, I`ve been named to the
conference to be a conferee to stay down here in Washington and work
through the holidays. We have 11 days to get this done, and what we`re
talking about is getting a one-year solution on the table rather than the
Band-Aid approach that the Senate put over here of 60 days.
SHARPTON: Why is it not a Band-Aid if you propose a year from the
Republicans, but it was a Band-Aid when the president proposed a year? How
does your year become different in his year?
REED: I would say the president`s proposal is where we`ll end up, the
hope that I put on the table today, and what I say is that, you know, we
want long-term solutions, but 60 days out of the Senate, the Senate has
exhibited a complete failure of leadership on the issue and the Senate
should be held accountable for it.
SHARPTON: I`ll mark that as a no answer, because I asked you about
the difference between your plan and the president, you went to the Senate.
The fact of the matter is people are suffering. In your district --
let me show you this, Congressman -- 45.8 percent of your district makes
under $50,000 a year. That`s the district you represent in upstate New
Certainly $1,000 in their pocket or tax hike means something to them.
Those that are unemployed, if unemployment benefits run out, it means
something in your district.
So I`m not even asking you to be noble about all of America. Aren`t
you concerned about the economic condition of the people that sent to you
REED: Al, that`s my first and foremost priority. You say $1,000
payroll tax credit with people. Let`s be honest with the American people.
What the Senate has done in 60 days is try to offer $166 to those same
people. I`m talking about bringing certainty to my constituents back at
home, and I`m willing to do the work.
We`ve got 11 days, and the Senate has left us here hanging dry, and
the bottom line is the Senate needs to come back to work. We`ll find a
long-term solution to it, one year as a minimum and I think we can get it
done but it will take the Senate to do its work and I call upon the
president to ask the Senate to do that. We do have to set politics aside
and I`m willing to do that and that`s what it`s going to take, the
president and the Senate showing leadership and joining us in the House as
we finish up the here and spend these 11 days doing the work for the
American people because that`s what the American people deserve.
SHARPTON: Congressman Reed, I`m glad you said let`s put politics
aside. So when the president had proposed this year extension, and
Republicans came back talking about the oil pipeline had to be in, that we
had to drug test people with unemployment insurance, that we had to cut
unemployment insurance by 40 weeks, you didn`t agree with your party on
REED: No. What we`re talking about is taking the president and
offering our ideas of reforms when it comes to unemployment.
SHARPTON: What does those things I just outlined have to do with
reforming the payroll tax extension? I`m asking you yes or no. Did you
agree with those things that your party said when the president had
proposed a year extension?
REED: Simply put, Al, what we were talking about is paying for the
payroll tax rate because we`re concerned about the security of Social
Security going forward and what the president was proposing didn`t do that,
in my opinion, and what we`re trying to do is --
SHARPTON: How does an oil pipeline, how does drug testing people with
unemployment insurance pay for payroll tax cut?
REED: Oh, very simple, Al. When you talk about the pipeline, you`re
talking 160,000 jobs, 20,000 direct jobs being put in place with the stroke
of a pen by the president, and he`s put politics into the mix to play to
his environmentalist base to reject it when it`s all been environmentally
reviewed for three years and ready to go.
SHARPTON: That doesn`t sound nonpartisan. Wouldn`t a millionaire`s
tax, wouldn`t that have paid for it and wouldn`t the fact that you guys
wouldn`t even threat go up for a vote, an up-and-down vote, doesn`t that
really make the American people wonder what`s going on here, Congressman
REED: See, Al, that`s very misleading to the American people.
SHARPTON: Well, straighten me out.
REED: We had a vote today that clearly rejected the Senate`s
proposal. The record is clear.
We rejected the Senate proposal and said we`ve got work to do. Going
to conference --and I`m one of the conferees -- and we`ll have the debate
in an open and honest fashion. We`re still here in Washington working
while the Senate has gone MIA, missing in action.
SHARPTON: Your solution, let me get it right, is despite that there
are environmental concerns, we want an oil pipeline, we want to drug test
people that get unemployment insurance, we want to do all of these things
before we will give the people in your district a tax -- a tax break
extension. This is already there. This is not creating something new,
just to extend it. That`s your position.
REED: Al, you`re misleading the American people.
SHARPTON: I`m asking.
REED: The pipeline has been reviewed for three years, and all
environmental reviews have said there`s no significant impact to the
environment, and why is it being delayed? For politics coming out of the
White House, and that`s all it`s about, and we`re sick and tired of it.
SHARPTON: Well, Congressman, I hope we can continue to talk. And one
thing I do -- you`ve been on the show before, and you state what you feel
and I state what I feel. We don`t agree, but we talk.
Thank you, Congressman.
REED: And I always respect that. Merry Christmas, Reverend.
SHARPTON: Well, it could have been, if we hadn`t had a tax increase.
But joining me now is MSNBC contributor Melissa Harris-Perry, a
professor of political scientist at Tulane and a communist for "The
Melissa, thanks for coming tonight. And let me check your pulse,
because I think you fainted about five minutes ago.
But will the Republicans ultimately have to pay for this brinksmanship
that we`re looking at here?
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: We really were having a
moment, because you`re trying to conduct the interview, and I`m over here,
and my jaw is hitting the table because I cannot believe what is being
Look, I mean, as you know, I live in Louisiana, and the idea that this
pipeline is environmentally sound, no big deal --
SHARPTON: He said every study found no significant --
HARRIS-PERRY: No significant impact.
SHARPTON: I guess the measuring stick is who determines what`s
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, and the thing is, there never is a significant
impact until it`s BP, right? Until it`s that oil in your seafood and the
impacting in communities that we are still feeling.
But I think the big question was the one you asked, which is, how does
that pay -- even the creation of jobs, even if we agree with the creation
of jobs and it`s all safe, how does that pay for the payroll tax cut
extension? And the answer is that it doesn`t.
It doesn`t keep Social Security safe. It doesn`t pay for the payroll
tax cut extension. It is absolutely politics, and it is absolutely the
ugliest kind of tax increase, because it`s a tax increase on those who can
least afford it.
SHARPTON: Now, the whole anti-poor -- I mean, the criminalizing of
poor people, drug testing, I mean, we didn`t drug test bankers before we
bailed them out, or the auto industry. This whole class warfare that they
keep projecting is really disturbing.
I mean, fine. They want to try to beat the president. But they have
to try and destroy half of America? Because the recent polls show, the
recent studies show one out of every two Americans is living at a poverty
level or close to it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, let me explain why they`d like to keep it that
way, because you started asking, are they going to have to pay for the
HARRIS-PERRY: And the general belief is that when a president is
running for re-election, the question that voters ask themselves is, are we
better off today than we were four years ago?
HARRIS-PERRY: So if this Congress can make sure that people cannot
answer that question yes, if this Congress can stand in the way and say,
no, wait a minute, I`m definitely not better today because I have $1,000
that`s gone out of my household income, I`m definitely not better today
because there aren`t jobs, I`m definitely not better today because Social
Security is less secure, then they are hoping that the only person who will
have to pay is the president.
SHARPTON: Now, ironically, when we look at this graph, the thing that
surprises us in the whole debate is how Americans now say, according to
polls, they trust the president more than the GOP on taxes. And I think
that when you look at that, they are losing. In fact, there`s a downturn
in terms of trust for the GOP.
SHARPTON: And an upturn for the president, because I think every
chance they got -- I`m talking about the GOP -- to prove they were not just
taking care of the wealthy, they failed every test.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s hard to claim that you have an ideological
position against raising taxes, right? And the GOP tells us, look, this is
our belief about how markets work. We believe that you cannot raise taxes
because to do so is bad for the American marketplace.
You can`t say that you have a principled position while raising -- I
mean, this is, in every way, in every conceivable way, an increase in
taxes. And an increase in taxes, exactly the thing that drives our
economy, which is to say consumption.
When ordinary people get an extra $150, they spend it. When rich
people get $150 extra, they just save it. They sock it away, they put it
somewhere, but that is real money really in the economy.
SHARPTON: Now, even Scott Brown, a Republican, Massachusetts, even he
has taken a different position and has kind of chastised the Republicans in
the House. This is no radical or even progressive idea we`re talking about
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. The opposite of a radical or progressive or a
socialist or a lefty or any of those things. In fact, in many ways, I
think progressives might say, look, we do actually need to raise taxes,
particularly payroll taxes, because the payroll taxes are the things that,
because the Republicans are standing in the way of increasing payroll taxes
on the back end, they actually do make Social Security less secure, but
only because -- only because they are unwilling to talk about raising
payroll taxes on the very wealthy.
The issue shouldn`t be about ordinary workers. It should be about
those who are making up over $150,000, up over $200,000 a year. Their
payroll taxes should be extended to that greater amount of their income.
SHARPTON: Professor Melissa Harris-Perry, thanks as always for
joining us tonight.
Ahead, President Obama`s fight for fairness is working. We`ll show
you why the president is surging.
Plus, Newt`s plan to make poor kids janitors might be closer to
reality than anyone thought. We`ll tell you how the right-wing war on the
poor is happening right now.
And all of a sudden, Willard is everywhere. The real reason behind
the media blitz might surprise you.
You`re watching POLITICS NATION on MSNBC.
SHARPTON: Welcome back to POLITICS NATION.
Newton Leroy Gingrich is getting pounded with harsh attacks from his
competitors. They`re attacking him from all sides and all ways, on the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s a character problem.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He doesn`t have the discipline that you want in a
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: He is out, and basically he is
out in the left wing of the Republican Party.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Newt has more baggage than the airlines. As
Speaker, Gingrich even supported taxpayer funding of some abortions. Newt
has a ton of baggage. He was fined $300,000 for ethics violations.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Newt Gingrich renewed his support for an
individual mandate, a key tenet of President Obama`s health care law.
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Support for an individual
mandate? Folks, don`t ask me to explain this.
GINGRICH: And the real question of seriousness. A serious question
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything that Gingrich railed against when he
was in the House, he went the other way when he got paid to go the other
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re an embarrassment to our party.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This guy hasn`t got skeletons in his closet, he
has got a whole graveyard in there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s about serial hypocrisy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: And direct mailers to voters. Mitt Romney`s PAC slams Newt
as a flip-flopper who has taken both sides on abortion, illegal
immigration, and global warming.
And Ron Paul punches at Gingrich, calling him a "counterfeit
conservative with a long record of liberal appeasement."
As "The New York Times" reports today, the attacks are paying off.
According to one Republican strategist, "He`s getting killed."
Newt says he wants to stay positive, but with these harsh attacks
working on him, how long can he stay true to that?
Joining me now is Democratic strategist Tad Devine, a former senior
strategist to the Gore campaign and former senior adviser to John Kerry`s
2004 campaign; and Michael Steele, former RNC chairman and now an MSNBC
Thanks to both of you for being here tonight.
MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC ANALYST: Yes.
SHARPTON: Tad, let me start with you. Can Newt Gingrich survive all
TAD DEVINE, FMR. GORE CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: Well, I think it`s hurting
him very badly. I think it`s taken its toll.
I think he can survive in the sense that he can still be a major force
and still be one of the top two candidates, but I think the barrage that`s
going on right now is probably going to take him down. And if he doesn`t
think of a way to get out of this barrage, I think Romney is going to bury
SHARPTON: Now, Chairman Steele, "The New York Times," in their story
today -- and I`m sure you saw it -- talks about how Romney spent thousands
of dollars every day in the past two weeks on anti-Gingrich ads. December
9th, over $20,000; then it goes up on the 11th, $40,000; the 13th, nearly
$60,000; December 14th, nearly $70,000. This is in a day.
SHARPTON: I mean, to spend this kind of money on negative attacks,
his PAC, anyway, I mean, this is unprecedented.
STEELE: Well, and that`s the point. A very distinguishing point is
whether this is coming directly out of his campaign, or is this part of the
super fund money that`s been generated out there to the tune of about $2.6
SHARPTON: Right, which is allowable now with the Supreme Court
STEELE: Which is allowable with the Supreme Court decision. And I
think on that point, as a sidebar, I think Congress is going to, after this
election cycle, look at that and go, OK, we need to fix this, and they
But having said that, I think Tad is right. I think Newt is in a
position right now where he`s got to stop the bleeding, not just around the
edges, but internally in terms of how these attacks are really hitting him.
There are two points I think that he has working for him. One is the
11th commandment of the GOP, which is Reagan`s commandment about attacking
While it does have an initial impact, and it brings your numbers down,
there is a point of diminishing returns where the impact is less effective
and it begins to turn back on the person doing the attacking. With the
super PAC money out there doing that, he`s got to be very careful, Mitt`s
team, that this doesn`t backfire on them when people go into the polls and
say, you know what? This just leaves a sour taste in my mouth.
And, two, Newt has been making a very strong effort, more personal
effort, going to voters across Iowa on a bus, knocking on doors, telling
his story directly to them in groups. And we`ll see how that impacts him,
because he doesn`t have the money otherwise to respond, and it`s really
tough for him right now.
SHARPTON: But how does he stop the hemorrhaging, you said, without
going negative himself?
STEELE: Well, that`s a good question. I mean, Newt has been very
clear that he does not want to go negative, that he wants to stay very
positive, and I think even when one slipup, as noted last week where he
came back at Romney, he then apologized and said, look, this is not where I
want my campaign to go. That does have some resonance with voters in this
environment. We just don`t know whether or not it`s going to be an
SHARPTON: Tad, when does -- and you`ve handled some campaigns. When
do you determine that to not respond is to stay above the fray and try to
remain positive, but after so much people start believing it because you
didn`t answer it and maybe your lack of answering it is a concession that
it`s true? When do you make that call?
DEVINE: Well, it`s a tough call. I mean, I think you have to look to
the resources you have available and whether or not you can use television
advertising to deliver a message.
Apparently, Gingrich has upped his media buy.
I think Gingrich is in a situation similar to the one that Bill
Clinton was in a couple of weeks in 1992 before the New Hampshire primary.
There was an utter barrage against him. It was coming on all fronts.
And Bill Clinton, to his credit, stood up, went out, and campaigned in
an unbelievable fashion, and connected with people, and related to them and
related to their struggles at that time. And I think that`s Gingrich`s
He can -- he`s only got one hope in this thing. He`s got to stand
with people and say listen, this whole system is rigged against you, and
they are using it against me. And unless he can make the kind of
connection that Clinton did with New Hampshire voters in `92, he`s going to
be mowed over by this barrage of negative ads.
SHARPTON: But Michael, there`s a big difference in going out and
saying, "I feel your pain," and going out and saying your child should be a
janitor and forget the child labor laws, don`t you think?
STEELE: I was waiting for that, Al. I knew it would come.
No, there is a big difference, and that`s not necessarily what Newt
was saying. But I think the broader point is what Tad said, and that is
that Newt has to make that connection, a direct connection with the voters.
That`s why he`s on the bus tours across the state. That`s why he`s doing
the town hall meetings, the tele-town hall meetings, that personal
conversation with them, because the resources are lacking. And what
resources he has he wants to put on the ground for game day on the 3rd of
January so he can get his vote out to support him.
The other advantage I think he has is these attacks have come late in
this process. In other words, you`re two weeks out before the actual
So the long-term impact is going to be minimized because people are
going to go into the polls, and hopefully a lot of this -- with the
holidays and everything coming, that stuff will get set aside. I know
that`s part of the thinking as well.
SHARPTON: Now, Tad, let me say this. Michael Steele had a slight
headache when he heard Newt was number one, as the former RNC chair, but he
woke up screaming and hollering when he heard this -- when he saw these
polls, that Ron Paul is now leading the pack in Iowa.
Let me show you these figures. Paul at 23; Romney at 20; Gingrich at
I mean, we`re just -- when you thought, Mr. Chairman, it couldn`t get
any worse, it got worser.
STEELE: It hasn`t gotten worser. It`s actually --
SHARPTON: Look into that camera and say you would love to go over
this country and campaign for Ron Paul.
STEELE: I will go across the country and campaign for the Republican
nominee regardless, period.
SHARPTON: I said Ron Paul.
STEELE: Ron Paul, if he`s the Republican nominee, regardless, because
SHARPTON: Are you good at concession speeches, drafting them?
STEELE: He`s just not going to give me a break here.
But the bottom line is, the one thing I can appreciate as the former
RNC chairman is that what we intended, it may actually work out -- have a
very fluid process that allows the voters the opportunity to really size
these individuals up and come to their own conclusions, not the
establishment`s conclusion nor the super PACs, but the individual
conclusion that voters have about who should be the nominee of our party.
SHARPTON: Tad, today, the conservative organization the Family Leader
announced they would not endorse anyone, but then the main president and
CEO, Bob Vander, came and said he was going with Rick Santorum.
Do we still have enough time for one more flavor of the month? I
mean, what are we looking at here?
DEVINE: I think it`s too late for Santorum. He`s been stuck in low
single digits. And Santorum`s problem is simple. Voters in places like
Iowa and New Hampshire simply will not support a candidate unless they
believe that candidate has a real chance of either winning or at least
affecting the outcome of the race.
And I think Santorum has never crossed that threshold of credibility.
So, no, I don`t think he`s going to make it into the top tier.
But Ron Paul is a real factor, and Ron Paul I think could win the Iowa
caucuses. And if he does that, this thing could go on for a long time, and
he and Gingrich, together, might be able to get enough delegates to stop
Romney. And if that happens, I think that`s a great day for the Democrats.
SHARPTON: Tad Devine and Michael Steele, a pleasure having both of
you on tonight.
DEVINE: Good to be with you.
SHARPTON: And a quick program note. Chuck Todd has a special live
interview with Mitt Romney on "THE DAILY RUNDOWN" tomorrow. He`ll be
spending the day with Romney on the campaign trail in New Hampshire.
That`s 9:00 a.m. tomorrow, right here on MSNBC.
Ahead, why the president`s fight for fairness is working and the GOP
war on the middle class might backfire.
SHARPTON: If you really hated a job, you wouldn`t want to do it,
right? But for some reason the Republican candidates running for president
hate politicians so much they can`t wait to be the biggest one in the
world. Right, Willard?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The only way we`re going to
get President Obama out of the White House, because it`s hard to replace an
incumbent, is if we have someone run against him who is different than a
lifelong politician. I don`t think someone who has spent their life in
Washington is going to be able to be sufficiently distinctive for President
Obama to actually beat him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: First of all, as Newt said, the only reason you`re not a
lifelong politician is because you lost, and what about those four years as
Massachusetts governor? Did you erase those with the e-mails you
obliterated? Then there`s Rick Perry.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICKY PERRY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m unique in this
republican field. I`ve never been an establishment figure. I`ve never
been a part of an administration. I`ve never been a paid lobbyist. My
career has been that of a Washington outsider.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Really, Rick? You`ve been in Texas politics since the
early `90s, but I guess that doesn`t count. And then we have Michele
Bachmann, she`s been in Congress for four years and Minnesota politics for
six years but she just said, quote, "I`m not a politician." I`m a real
person. I don`t even know how to be a politician. Well, at least you got
the last part right, Michele. So Republicans are bashing politicians as
they run for the highest political office in the land. Sorry, guys, but we
SHARPTON: Folks, we`ve been talking about all night, for that matter,
Republicans waging war on the middle class. Let me tell you they are going
to lose this fight. A new poll shows President Obama`s approval rating up
five points in the last month. It`s now at 49 percent. And when it comes
to those who trust -- who Americans trust the most to protect the middle
class. Fifteen percent more trust President Obama over Republicans in
Congress this. This didn`t happen overnight. This happened because of a
relentless fight for fairness.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: This country succeeds when
everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share. We`re
asking people like me to pay our fair share so middle class families can
get a tax cut. Their philosophy is simple. We are better off when
everybody is left to fend for themselves and play by their own rules. I am
here to say they are wrong.
It`s time to put country ahead of party. It`s time to put the next
generation ahead of the next election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Joining me now is Joan Walsh, editor-at-large for Salon.com
and MSNBC analyst Richard Wolffe, he`s author of "Revival: The Struggle for
Survival in the Obama White House." Joan, let me start with you. Is the
president`s message breaking through?
JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM: Oh, it`s absolutely breaking through, Reverend
Al. I mean, things are rarely simple in politics, but this kind of is, you
know. The President had a very tough summer. He fought very hard for a
compromise on the debt ceiling deal. He didn`t get it, and his poll
numbers suffered for that. He turned around. He began fighting back. He
launched his job bill. He took a jobs tour. He gave a great jobs speech.
He came out. He broke that bill up into pieces so that we had a part that
would have gone for first responders to keep cops and firefighters and
teachers on the job. He became -- he broke it down very well. He -- he
gave speeches and sound bites like you just played, and he really cast
himself as a defender of the middle and working classes, even though he`s
not getting any cooperation from Republicans. That has seemed to work.
And I think there are a couple of numbers that are really significant. His
standing with seniors has climbed.
WALSH: Which is important, and his standing with the white men
without a college degree has climbed.
SHARPTON: Yes. That`s very significant.
WALSH: To over 40 percent which is very significant and very
different so, you know, he`s getting a lot of pieces of the old democratic
base back with this fighting, fighting message, and I think, you know,
people like us are very glad to hear it.
SHARPTON: I think part of the way the president is being helped is he
is fighting, as Joan said.
SHARPTON: Let`s look at some of what he did today, kind of taking it
to the Republicans in a strident way. Look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We have more important things to worry about than politics
right now. We have more important things to worry about than saving face
or figuring out internal caucus politics. The American people are weary of
it. They are tired of it, they expect better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Now this is appealing not only as Joan has outlined to
seniors and white working males but even independents.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC ANALYST: Right.
SHARPTON: This is interesting. Independents say they trust President
Obama on taxes 49 percent to 32 percent for the GOP in Congress. Yet they
can`t pop the champagne bottles yet because he`s just starting to trend up.
This is not across the board.
WOLFFE: Right. And that`s why you have so many republican senators
out there yesterday saying this whole idea of nixing the payroll tax cut is
a major mistake for them. They are undermining their own position on
taxes. This is a democratic president with a big advantage on taxes, not
who do you care about more or who is looking after health care? This
should be a republican issue, and this is where the President`s out ahead.
Yes, Joan is right. Because they have message consistency and discipline.
They are breaking through on some of these bigger arguments on jobs and
middle class stuff. But it`s also because he`s projecting strength here
and the other side is projecting complete disarray. So, he`s got a very
weak opponent here or a bunch of different opponents.
SHARPTON: Now, Joan, when you look at the polls and the matchups with
his potential republican opponents, you have President Obama at 49, Willard
at 46, President Obama at 51, Newt Leroy at 42. President Obama at 50
percent, Ron Paul at 43, so in any of these heads up, according to this
poll, the President wins. Now, talking about Newt, Newt wanted to -- had
said that we need to go into the poorest neighborhoods and have children
working as janitors. It sounded ludicrous. I attacked it. A lot of
people attacked it, but this year Maine and Wisconsin has already lessened
child labor laws. I mean, look at this graph of what`s going on in these
two states and what it seems outrageous is becoming something that we`re
slowly looking at. In Wisconsin, employers are allowed to treat teens as
adults in pay and hours and -- and in Maine employers are allowed to hire
teens for longer hours and pay below minimum wage. What`s going on in this
WOLFFE: Well, look, yes, you know, the last problem in the labor
market is people -- there are not enough people looking for work. I
mean, this is -- this is a retrograde step for people to be projecting the
idea that there aren`t enough children out there working. We need them to
be investing in their education for themselves and for the country. I --
there is a -- there`s an idea on the republican side that you just need to
let businesses do whatever they want to do, and America is going to get
right. We cannot compete as businesses or as a country on labor costs.
We`re always going to get undercut. There`s got to be another path for it
and education`s got to be the best way.
SHARPTON: How does the President deal with an issue like this, Joan?
You`ve got the Republicans for the first time now supporting a tax hike
or threatening to on the middle class, and there seems to be -- let`s relax
some of the boundaries in child labor laws in at least two states. How
does the president deal with this as an issue?
WALSH: You know, I think he`s been making a very, very coherent
appeal that we all do better when we stick together, that we`re all in it
together and that we`re not going to be pitted against one another the way
the Republicans like to do, and that includes our children, you know. I
think Scott Walker is in a hell of a lot of trouble in Wisconsin, that this
real doubling down and making -- making my old state a laboratory for the
most heartless republican experiments is really backfiring on him
politically. And the people of Wisconsin are standing up, as the state
also continues to lose jobs. So, I think -- I think the President has
found a really winning message. I think it`s resonating with Americans,
and as they see what the Scott Walkers and the John Kasichs and the other
Republicans want to do to their states, people -- even people who voted for
those guys are kind of recoiling in horror, we weren`t voting for that.
WALSH: So, I think you`ll continue to see these trends.
SHARPTON: Well, we`ll be on it, Joan Walsh and Richard Wolffe, I hate
to interrupt but I`ve got to go. Thanks for joining us tonight.
Ahead, Scott Walker, as you mentioned him, is fighting for his
political life. So, he`s trying to suppress voters, and now he`s getting
sued. It`s about to get interesting.
SHARPTON: We are back. We`ve been talking on this show about
fighting the coordinated right wing efforts to suppress the vote. This
year, the number of states requiring a government-issued photo ID to vote
quadrupled, jumping from two states to eight, and one state we`re really
watching is Scott Walker`s Wisconsin where an estimated 475,000 voters
don`t have proper ID to vote. They tested the law in Wisconsin during the
recall election for nine Wisconsin state senators, and it was a disaster.
Voters found long lines, confusion and massive glitches, but the fight is
on. The ACLU of Wisconsin just filed a lawsuit against Governor Scott
Walker calling the law unconstitutional.
Joining me now is Jon Sherman, the attorney leading the ACLU lawsuit
against Governor Walker and Rita Platt, a Wisconsin teacher struggling to
get the proper ID she needs to vote. Thank you both for joining me
JON SHERMAN, ACLU VOTING RIGHTS PROJECT: Thank you for having me on.
RITA PLATT, WISCONSIN TEACHER WITHOUT VOTER ID: Thank you for having
SHARPTON: Rita, let me start with you. What happened when you tried
to get your ID?
PLATT: Well, let me tell you, first, I live in a rural part of the
state, and the nearest DMV that`s open with any regular hours is about a
45-minute drive south, so I knew that I needed to get an updated Wisconsin
ID. I`ve voted in every election since I was 18, including three in
Wisconsin in the last year and a half. So, the first day I had off work
which was the day before Thanksgiving I went down to the DMV. I had
contacted them and asked them what documents I would need to update my
license from Iowa to Wisconsin, and I was told I would need proof of
identity, citizenship and residence. I brought with me my Iowa driver`s
license, my Social Security card and a pay stub. And when I got to the
DMV, I was told that that was not adequate identification but that I would
need a certified birth certificate or a current passport, neither of which
I had with me, neither which I had at home.
SHARPTON: So, you drove 45 minutes. You had these valid pieces of
identification. They told you that was not enough. Then I have a
statement here where John Wolf, who I believe was your boyfriend.
SHARPTON: He also ran into problems, he`s saying when he went for
photo ID, let me show you what he said happened to him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I walked in there with a current state of Iowa
driver`s license with my name and my date of birth, you know, all that was
on it as well as a Social Security card, as well as proof of residence
here, a bank statement, a paycheck stub, you know, and so, you know, I
figured I was good, and -- and they just explained no. They said that
doesn`t count as proof of your identity because an Iowa driver`s license is
not adequate proof of who I am.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Jon, you`re listening to both Rita here, and you`re
listening to her boyfriend. Driver`s license, bank stubs, Social Security
card, not ID? I mean, this almost sounds bizarre.
SHERMAN: This -- this is the most systematic attack we`ve seen on
voting rights in America in generations, and I think the fact that they
are forcing voters through this obstacle course proves it. Take, for
instance, one of our plaintiffs in the ACLU lawsuit, Barbara Oden. In
order to get a state ID card, she needs to prove her identity and so needs
to get a Social Security card. She shows up at the Social Security office,
and they tell her she needs a photo ID to get her Social Security card. So
she`s not a trained lawyer, and she`s stuck in a catch-22 and goes home and
thinks I can`t vote. Well, you know, that`s simply not fair, and anyone
who would disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters like Barbara in
the name of legitimacy and integrity, well, they should probably look up
the definition of those two words.
SHARPTON: Well, Rita, let me show you why I agree with Jon, and we`ve
been fighting this on the show, and my work with the National Action
Network. Look at the data. The Republican National Lawyers Association
says, and this is -- they are saying, they are defending this, since 2004
out of 11 million votes cast, there`s only 23 cases of fraud. So they are
not solving a problem. There`s no problem. They are creating the problem
in undermining people`s right to vote. This is 0.0002 percent of the
people that cast the vote since 2004. You`re a teacher and you`re being
treated like you`re doing something wrong just to exercise your right to
PLATT: Oh, you`re absolutely right. And, you know, not only that,
for me, I will get my voter ID on time. I`ve already got my certified
birth certificate. I have the means to get down to the DMV. I will vote
in the next election, but when you consider the other folks who are being
disenfranchised here, the students, the elderly, African-American voters,
Latino-American voters and folks who are in poverty, it`s not going to be
as easy for many people to go through the rigmarole that they are asking us
to exercise our right.
SHARPTON: And that`s why you`re lawsuit Jon, you`re trying to make
this lawsuit so that you can alleviate the pain for so many elderly,
African-American, Hispanics, you`re trying to deal with this. Quickly,
what do you think the forecast is on the success of this lawsuit?
SHERMAN: I think we are going to be successful. I think we have very
strong claims that this law imposes unconstitutional burdens on voters,
unconstitutional poll taxes, and that it arbitrarily excludes certain photo
IDs from the list of accepted photo ID such as veteran identification cards
and technical college ID cards. What I would say is, we -- you know, we
have almost six million people in this country who have been out of work
for six months or more. Who is going to pay for their certified copies of
birth certificates? Who is going to pay for the gas it takes to drive in
rural Wisconsin to get it?
SHARPTON: Well, maybe they don`t want them to vote because they have
certainly not trying to get them jobs to go to work. John Sherman and Rita
Platt, thank you for joining me tonight. We`ll be right back.
SHARPTON: Finally tonight, I want to remember what happened 25 years
ago today. A 23-year-old African-American man named Michael Griffith was
killed in a racist attack in Howard beach queens. He was attacked by a
group of white teenagers outside a pizzeria and chased him to a highway
where he was hit by a car and killed. After this horrific and unprovoked
attack, we marched for justice for Michael. We marched to show the world
the ugliness of the attack, and the world took notice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Hate on earth, that`s how "The New York Daily News"
described a savaged racial attack on New York City last weekend.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The Reverend Al Sharpton saw the incident, this as
part of a pattern.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: All over the northeast (INAUDIBLE) it`s gone to a
nationwide white backlash.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Before we marched, some people believed that racism was
just a problem in the south. We learned that it existed in all parts of
America. In remembering Michael today, I looked at how much has changed in
25 years. We have an African-American president, and an African-American
attorney general. That change gives me reason to believe we can change
America because we did change America, but we face new challenges, we`re
challenged to fight class warfare and income inequality and continued
institutional racism. Where the most vulnerable citizens in our country
are pitted against the richest, rich against poor, 25 years we`ve come a
long way, and that gives us hope, but we still have a long way to go and
that gives us purpose. So even in the dark days, even when unfair and
untrue things are thrown our way, I still have faith because I`ve seen in
my lifetime the ugliness of mobs, and I`ve seen the brightness of a
breakthrough. We can overcome. Dr. King is right. I`ve seen it, and in
the name of Michael Griffith I will never stop fighting.
Thanks for watching. I`m Al Sharpton. "HARDBALL" starts right now.
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