PoliticsNation, Wednesday, December 21st, 2011
Read the transcript from the Wednesday show
Guests: Emanuel Cleaver, Dana Milbank, Ryan Grim, Bill Press, Bob Shrum,
Maria Teresa Kumar, Jesse Jackson, Virg Bernero, Deanna Brown-Thomas
REV. AL SHARPTON, HOST: Welcome to POLITICS NATION. I`m Al Sharpton.
Tonight`s lead: House Republicans, take notice. When you do unpopular
things, you become unpopular.
House Republicans are now calling their payroll tax cut rejection
their "Braveheart" moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There may have been one person that thought it was
OK that we would put a fight off until two months from now. Everybody else
said, look, this is a "Braveheart" moment. You, Mr. Speaker, are our
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Now, I haven`t watched "Braveheart" in a while, but I know
one thing. William Wallace and the gang get slaughtered in this movie.
And that`s already begun for House Republicans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It is harming the Republican Party.
It is harming the view, if it`s possible any more, of the American people
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: And it`s not just McCain. Remember Senator Mitch
McConnell, the man who was high-fiving this weekend about the payroll tax
cut deal? Well, his silence is deafening.
He`s left Speaker Boehner and the House out on a limb. But what`s
worse than losing McConnell? Well, how about the editorial page of Rupert
Murdoch`s "Wall Street Journal"? It`s calling the House`s handling of this
a "fiasco," saying, "Republicans have thoroughly botched the politics on
You botched it all right. Too bad your bad politics are also hurting
160 million Americans and three million unemployed.
Joining me now is Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, Democrat from Missouri,
and chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. Also with me, Dana
Milbank, columnist for "The Washington Post." He`s writing about the GOP
in damage control mode today.
Thank you both for coming on the show.
REP. EMANUEL CLEAVER (D), MISSOURI: Good to be with you.
DANA MILBANK, COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Hi Reverend.
SHARPTON: Mr. Chairman, let me start with you. How much will the
House GOP suffer because of their refusal to extend the payroll tax cut?
CLEAVER: I think they will suffer enormously because, as you
mentioned in the opening, Republicans are now lashing out at them. When
you have 89 senators voting one way in the U.S. Senate, that`s
extraordinary. That hardly ever happens.
That means 89 percent of the U.S. Senate voted one way. And one of
the things I think that we cannot allow the public to ignore is that the
Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, voted for it.
CLEAVER: Tea Party members voted for it. This is one of those times
when the Senate did its job. And frankly, I like Mr. Boehner. Republicans
who I appreciate say he`s a good guy. I don`t think this is him. I think
what happened -- and I think the whole country knows this now -- is that he
was rolled over, and it`s unfortunate that the people in this country are
now being rolled over.
SHARPTON: Well, Dana, explain to me if Chairman Cleaver is correct,
how this could happen. Look at this graph. Thirty-nine Republicans in the
Senate voted in favor of it, including Tea Party favorites Marco Rubio and
Pat Toomey. Thirty-nine, including Tea Party favorites. In the House, 229
Republicans vote against it.
I mean, what`s happening here?
MILBANK: Well, Reverend, I think the congressman`s take is basically
correct. And, of course, what -- I was in that session earlier today with
John Boehner and the other conferees that he`s appointed. They would like
to make this a dispute, just another bit of partisan bickering with the
Democrats. But this is a whole other ball of wax.
Their fight isn`t really with the Democrats. It`s with Republicans in
their own party and conservatives across the country, which is a very
different play to be in here. And John Boehner is a relatively weak
You`ve got to understand, you mentioned the whole "Braveheart" thing.
Ten people got up in this private meeting of the Republican caucus the
other night and started talking about their favorite moments from the
"Braveheart" movie. They see themselves as the Scots fighting the English
nobles. Well, guess what happened at the end of "Braveheart," if you`ll
SHARPTON: So they`re in the meeting talking about the "Braveheart"
movie, which, by the way, the guys got slaughtered.
SHARPTON: But, I mean, we`re talking about 160 million people, and
they`re talking about movies. And they don`t even understand what the end
of the movie is.
MILBANK: Exactly. So it gets larger than this particular payroll tax
issue. And Americans are looking at this and saying, wait a second, are
these guys nuts or what?
SHARPTON: Now, Chairman Cleaver, when you look at what these guys
come back with, that they want to in fact add to the burden of middle class
people, things like we want to cut unemployment insurance benefits by 40
weeks, drug-test people, I mean, all kinds of incredible things that have
nothing to do with paying for the payroll tax cut extension, if that`s
their point, so one can only believe this is pure, extreme politics.
CLEAVER: It is extreme, and it`s so extreme that I think it is
causing President Obama`s poll numbers to rise. I think the public -- the
Independents, for sure -- are looking at this saying, I don`t want to have
anything to do with it. These people are doing harm to millions of
And many of them are like me. They`re walking around looking at all
the homeless people, and people who are being thrown out of their homes,
and they come to the conclusion that poverty is catching. You can get it
And so I think that that`s going to damage even their presidential
candidates. Some of them, some of the presidential candidates, if they`re
smart, they`ll come out and begin to condemn the House with all the other
SHARPTON: Now, Dana, as you talked about, there seems to be
infighting among the Republicans. Even Senator Brown, Heller, Snowe,
Lugar, Collins, Republicans that are up for reelection, have come out to
criticize the House.
Do they understand that they have set up a situation here that is not
only, in my opinion, morally reprehensible, it`s not even politically good
for their party and may cost them some seats that are going to be close --
campaign -- close election results?
MILBANK: It may cost them that, and they may be getting an earful of
that right now because, although technically the House is still in session,
all but a few of them have gone home to celebrate the holidays, just like
everybody else. But I think that the people who are really driving this,
the sort of -- the conservative Tea Party element, if you will, they`re
more interested in making a point here than they are in the politics of it.
And I think they genuinely -- they say they`re acting on a principle.
It`s not entirely clear in this case what principle they`re defending, but
they clearly would rather make a point than actually be in the position of
governing right now. That`s going to hurt a lot of people like Scott
Well, it makes you wonder -- Chairman Cleaver is a minister like I am.
They`re going home to celebrate what holiday? They couldn`t be celebrating
the birth of Christ after doing things that I feel would clearly hurt the
poor and those that are downtrodden.
But let me also show you this, Chairman Cleaver. They are losing
Clearly, the messaging war has cost them. With the GOP Congress
approval rating down now 14 percent since April, the trust to protect the
middle class is down six points, handling of taxes down five points, the
public is not buying whatever it is they think they`re selling.
CLEAVER: No, the public has caught on, and it`s take a while though,
but I`m pleased that the public has caught on, and they realize that this
nation has been able to survive these many years because people in
Congress come together with different ideas and ideals, and they
compromise. But we have now people in the House of Representatives who
believe that compromise is capitulation.
And I do think that ideology trumps logic and everything else. And so
the public is beginning to see this. And the more they see it, I think the
greater the smile on Nancy Pelosi`s face, because she`s going to be able to
see 25 seats being won in the House, and then she`ll become the Speaker
SHARPTON: Yes. Well, all of us on a certainly side of the political
equation would love to see her and certainly the president reelected, but
not at the expense of 160 million Americans, and not at the expense of
three million unemployed.
Let me ask you this, Dana. We have to go. Is Boehner too weak to be
able to pull his caucus back from the brink of disaster, or is this over
MILBANK: You know, Reverend, one way or the other, they`re going to
have to cave in, because everything is weighing against them at this point.
It`s just not clear how they do that and how they get to that. As "The
Wall Street Journal" suggested, they probably just need to do it quickly
CLEAVER: And get over it.
SHARPTON: Congressman, Chairman, Reverend Emanuel Cleaver and Dana
Milbank, thanks for joining me this evening. Happy holidays to both of
MILBANK: You too.
CLEAVER: Happy holidays to you, Reverend.
SHARPTON: Ahead, President Obama`s tax cut fight could send political
shock waves across the country, and it could mean big wins for Democrats.
Plus, Willard rips Newt, saying he can`t take the heat. Then get out
of kitchen. Wait until you hear how Newt responded. It`s getting ugly.
And why Governor Snyder in Michigan is threatening our democracy and
attacking civil rights for African-Americans.
You`re watching POLITICS NATION on MSNBC.
SHARPTON: We`ve been talking about the payroll tax cut fight in
Washington, but its effects will send shock waves across the country. "The
Wall Street Journal" says it could help him President Obama win reelection
before his campaign really begins. And it will make sure Democrats keep
control of the Senate.
Remember, that`s coming from Rupert Murdoch`s "Wall Street Journal."
Now, I don`t usually agree with those guys.
Plus, a new poll shows President Obama`s approval rating is up five
points this month. Forty-nine percent approve of the job he`s doing.
And watch House Republicans ignore Democrats who have asked to bring
the bill to the floor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The House stands adjourned until 10:00 a.m. on
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD), MINORITY WHIP: I regret that the Republicans
who say they`re here to work -- we were on the floor to do our work and
they walked out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: The country`s paying attention to this fight, and
Republicans could be in big trouble.
Joining me now is Bill Press, host of "The Bill Press Show" on Sirius
XM Radio, and Ryan Grim, Washington bureau chief for "The Huffington Post."
Thank you for joining me tonight.
Ryan, let me start with you. How much of an impact will this fight
have on 2012?
RYAN GRIM, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "THE HUFFINGTON POST": You know,
I think that people are underestimating how much impact this will have,
because there are millions of people who, for a variety of reasons, are
watching this extremely closely, much more closely than people think.
First of all, anybody who is collecting unemployment benefits at this
point is watching this relentlessly. They`re refreshing the news, they`re
Googling unemployment benefits. They are following the ins and outs of
this. By now, they actually understand all of the legislative minutia.
And at the same time doctors. We don`t talk about this much, but
doctors are going to take a huge pay cut for Medicare beneficiaries
starting in January, which will just mean chaos for all sorts of people.
And then when people notice that their paychecks are smaller come January,
then you`ll have these hundred-million-plus people paying attention.
So I think that a lot of the Republicans think at this point they can
get away with it -- not the leadership, but the Tea Party element of it,
but I don`t think that`s going to bear itself out in reality.
SHARPTON: Now, Bill, another thing that I think could be affected by
this is that the Tea Party and the right wing`s big theme was tax cuts,
covering the deficit, tax cuts. Now they have lost the argument because
they`re behind the tax hike on 160 million American people.
BILL PRESS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: No, absolutely, Reverend Al.
And I want to go back to -- where you started at the top of the show
is absolutely right. The biggest impact of this is not political. It`s
that 160 million Americans whose families are really hurting right now are
going to hurt even more come January 1. But when you look at the politics,
this is a disaster for the Republican Party.
Look, they have ceded their number one issue, as "The Wall Street
Journal" pointed out. They used to be the party that said we`re all about
tax cuts. Well, President Obama gave 95 percent of Americans a tax cut in
the stimulus. He gave 100 percent of Americans a tax cut with this payroll
tax cut the first time around this year. And now the Republican Party is
letting the Democrats be the party of tax cuts in 2012.
Again, they have given away their number one issue. This is a seismic
shift, I believe, Reverend Al. And if you add that to looking at Osama bin
Laden and Moammar Gadhafi, the Republicans have also let the Democratic
Party become the party of national security.
They`ve got nothing to run on.
SHARPTON: Now, Ryan, when you look at the fact that now the Democrats
can run on national security and tax cuts, and when we look at the fact
that, if you look at this poll, the American people have more confidence in
President Obama than the GOP to protect the middle class, 50 percent to 35
percent for the GOP, a 15-point lead, I mean, they have really, in many
ways, lost their ability to see the political damage they`re self-
GRIM: Right. It almost feels like they`re trying to lose this
election. But their hope is still that it will be a referendum on the
economy, and that the economy, if it`s still sour, people will just vote
against Obama and vote for the other party, no matter what their problem is
I think a lot of what`s going on here is that Congress -- you know,
the leadership in Congress has really driven its membership the last three
or four years -- you know, both Democrats and Republicans -- by deadlines
and by fear. You know, if you don`t bail out these banks, everything is
going to collapse. If you don`t raise the debt ceiling, the global economy
is going to blow up. If you don`t fund the government, then this shutdown
is going to create a double dip.
And they`re really, really sick of the brinkmanship. There are tons
of these Tea Party members who think that they should have just busted some
of those deadlines in the past, but they never were able to do it.
So this deadline is one that I think they feel like they can break
without blowing up the global economy. It will hurt a lot of people, but
it will hurt the unemployed, it will hurt the middle class, rather than
hurting Wall Street and the financial system.
SHARPTON: But, Bill, how do they get away with that -- besides the
fact that it`s immoral and unethical, how do they get away with that
PRESS: They don`t get away with it politically. I see this just a
little bit differently.
Look, ,what John Boehner is saying to the American people is, your
taxes are going to go up January 1, $40 more out of every single paycheck,
$1,000 a year. That is a losing proposition. I think these are kamikaze
Republicans. We can start calling them that.
And I don`t think it`s that the leadership is the problem. I think
there is no leadership. That`s the problem.
John Boehner is the most inept Speaker we have seen in our lifetime.
He`s letting the lowest common denominator, the Tea Partiers, run the House
He makes a deal with Obama, and then he changes it. Makes a deal with
Mitch McConnell, and then he reneges on that deal.
So, the inmates are running the asylum, and I think they`re -- look,
Al, this is going to mean -- Reverend Al, this is going to be, I think,
Democrats retake the House in 2012, and President Obama, up against the
elitist Mitt Romney, sails into reelection.
SHARPTON: Well, I think that`s a great result. The problem is 160
million people suffering and three million unemployed suffering in the
middle. We can`t afford that.
SHARPTON: Bill Press, Ryan Grim, thank you for joining me tonight.
GRIM: Thank you, Reverend.
SHARPTON: Ahead, boiling point. Romney and Gingrich ripping each
other today. We`ll tell you why Newt`s calling for a debate in the
And President Obama did his part to help out the economy today. We`ll
show you why he`s just like us.
SHARPTON: Folks, first lady Michelle Obama and the kids are
vacationing in Hawaii, and the president is home alone back in Washington.
So, today, he got away from the payroll tax mess to boost the economy with
a little Christmas shopping.
Just like us, he likes electronics, spending $194 at Best Buy, picking
up iTunes gift cards and a "Just Dance" video game for Sasha and Malia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The girls beat me every
time on these various dance games.
You guys will never get a picture of me doing it, because I get graded
F every time.
I do have a credit card and I`ve got cash, too. Let me try to -- you
know, let`s see if my credit card still works.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: He and first dog Bo also made a stop at PetSmart, spending
$21 on a dog bone and a chew toy.
And his last stop was at a local pizza place. He shared a slice with
Congressman Moran and took out three pies before heading back to the White
Good thing first lady Michelle is away. She might not approve of
three pizzas, but I hope he enjoyed them.
SHARPTON: Welcome back to POLITICS NATION.
Ronald Reagan called it the 11th Commandment: thou shalt not speak ill
of any fellow Republican. But there it goes, right out the window.
The fight between Newton Leroy Gingrich and Willard Mitt Romney is
hotter than ever and hitting a boiling point.
This morning, Willard was on this network slamming Newt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I know that the Speaker
would like to say, look, we shouldn`t have any negativity, but look, if you
can`t handle the heat in this little kitchen, the heat that`s going to come
from Obama`s hell`s kitchen is going to be a heck of a lot hotter. We have
to show that we, as a Republican Party, and as a candidate, that we can
stand up to the barrage that`s going to come from the Obama world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Whew, can`t handle the heat? Wow. But Newt is finally
ready for a fight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He wants to take it out of
kitchen. I`ll be glad to debate him in anywhere. We`ll bring his ads, and
he can defend them, and we`ll bring "The Washington Post" indication that
his ad is filled with lies and he can defend them. Go back and ask Gov.
Romney, would he like to come and play in the kitchen? I don`t think so.
I don`t think he wants to do anything except hide over here and pretend
that it`s not his fault that he`s flooding the people of Iowa with
falsehoods. That`s his money and his staff. And it`s his responsibility.
I can take the heat plenty well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: It looked like the Republicans going to need a 12th
commandment -- don`t leave a bruise when you slam the competition.
Joining me now is Bob Shrum, democratic strategist and professor at
NYU, and Maria Teresa Kumar, executive director of Voto Latino, an MSNBC
contributor. Thanks to both of you for being here tonight.
BOB SHRUM, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Glad to be here.
MARIA TERESA KUMAR, VOTO LATINO: Bob, let me start with you. Is Newt
finally ready to get mean?
SHRUM: Well, there`s an overwhelming reality here, which is that
Gingrich is slipping, Romney has actually come up some in Iowa, or at least
his positioned where it`s conceivable that he could win, and the second
choice of more of the Gingrich voters than anyone else is Romney. So,
Gingrich is trying to keep those voters from going to Romney. Because if
Romney wins Iowa, this thing could move very fast. And at the same time,
Romney is trying to get those votes. Romney has the advantage that he`s
doing this through a super pack. His name isn`t attached to it. No one
know, he doesn`t have to go on those ads and say, I`m Mitt Romney and I
approved this message. So, Gingrich is trying to send the message that he
is the one who is out there violating Ronald Reagan`s 11th commandment,
he`s the one who`s attacking Gingrich. They`re both fighting over the
share of votes that could either win it for Romney or keep Gingrich in the
SHARPTON: Maria, when you look at the polls, a new poll from the
University of Iowa shows Gingrich sinking. He`s number two. Ron Paul is
on top. Another poll has Romney on top, Paul second, Gingrich third. Will
these negative ads stick because clearly a week ago Gingrich way ahead.
And he was saying, he was the apparent nominee. These negative ads have
had to affect -- will Willard stick?
KUMAR: I don`t know. Not only do I think they stick, but I think
what Romney is forgetting who Newt Gingrich is, and what he likes to do
best is actually play down and dirty. I would actually put my bets on Newt
when it comes toe to toe for the negative ads. And the only person that
benefits of these negative ads at the end of the day is the Obama campaign.
Because they`re going to use these attack ads right against Romney or Newt
or even Santorum or whoever the frontrunner is it at the end of the day.
And go back against them.
SHARPTON: Now, let me ask you, Bob, in the middle of all of this, you
start seeing more and more extreme behavior. Rick Santorum really got a
little ugly -- let me show you what he said in terms of his supporting --
supporting now income inequality. He says, they talk about income
inequality. I`m for income inequality. I think some people should make
more than other people, because some people work harder and have better
ideas and take more risks. And they should be rewarded for it. I have no
problem with income inequality. That`s not a lot there. But it goes
further. He says until his presidency -- let me show you this -- there
would be -- well, let me let him speak for himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would block grant the
Medicaid programs to the state, food stamp programs, SSI, education
training programs, housing programs. There`s a long list. The problem is
that in many of the communities that these children live in, marriage is an
impossibility. It`s a cultural impossibility. Joe, you`ve been in those
neighborhoods. There are no dads. Not only -- there are no male role
models of any kind, except, you know, bad ones.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: No dads, no male images of any kind except bad ones, he
wouldn`t pay for Medicaid, food stamps, I was going to read it, but I
wanted people to hear it say for themselves that they wouldn`t think I was
making this up. This kind of extreme position, this kind of offensive beat
up on the poor, beat up on those that are in working-class neighborhoods,
this is how they`re going to run for the White House?
SHRUM: Yes, listen, this guy, if he was a sports announcer would be
fired for those kind of prejudiced comments, but Rick Santorum is the
little drummer boy of the far right and subtlety is not his strong suit.
He thinks the way he`s going to get somewhere is by being the most extreme
candidate in the race. That picture showed an inequality. He actually
accused the President of being a socialist, saying the President believed
in income equality. That`s not what the President said. What the
President said is the inequality is too great. It was one thing when CEOs
made 30 times what the average worker makes, it`s another thing when they
make 300 times as much and want big tax break. The President`s campaigning
for fairness, Rick Santorum is standing up for the Tea Party`s version of
the most laissez-faire, Social Darwinist go it alone, politics you could
have in this country.
SHARPTON: Maria, you work in many other areas with voting that I
worked all my life. Not only is this an unfair and untrue catcher, it`s
downright bigoted. And it is not about they are saying that we want people
to work the hardest and take the risk. They didn`t say that to the
bankers, they didn`t say that to the insurance companies when these guys
went around and got government bailouts. So, I mean, what are we talking
KUMAR: Well, we`re talking about corporate warfare is OK but giving
assistance so that someone could come up to the economic ladder and serve
themselves as not. And what he`s saying is not only outrageous, but it
also doesn`t speak to where we are right now in America, with one in two
Americans living in poverty, he`s completely out of touch. With 100,000
Iowans unemployed, he`s out of touch with the people that he`s talking to.
And these are all, you and I we understand when people start talking in
code. He`s clearly talking in code and clearly being not only bigoted, but
he`s also talking about poor Latinos, poor blacks and unfortunately single
mothers. That`s unfair.
SHARPTON: Will this energize voters in those areas, though?
KUMAR: Not only -- I think that will energize, I think that this kind
of language speaks to individual saying I`m already struggling. How dare
you say that I`m not trying to work, when I`ve been trying to work I`ve
lost my home, in some places I`ve lost my job and in some place, I`ve also
lost my vote. And I think those are the messages that we have to start and
bring out in the work that we do.
SHARPTON: Bob, what are the Obama people saying? What are the DNC
people saying when they seen this, how does this help or hurt of make a
difference at all for the general election?
SHRUM: Well, I think it helps in terms of the general election.
First of all, it is going to motivate Latino communities. Maria is
absolutely right. It`s going to motivate minority communities to get out
there. Secondly, it helps with the larger argument. The President has
been out there over the last couple of months, articulating an argument,
who stands up and fights for the middle class, who`s on your side. When
you listen to this stuff, you know that Obama is out there doing the right
thing. These guys are trying to do the wrong thing. When you hear Mitt
Romney defending Wall Street and bankers, attacking regulation, that`s
sending a clear message too, and the message is he`s on the wrong side,
he`s not there for the middle class. I think this is an ideal setup for
the president for the general election.
SHARPTON: Maria, this kind of rhetoric, though, only for the
polarizes the country and protects those that are really the ones that
sunk the economy, because this whole idea like they`re just beggars and
welfare queens in poor areas is deceptive, when we spent all this money
bailing out people who are just greedy, not needy, greedy.
KUMAR: That`s absolutely right.
SHARPTON: And no reason to do what they did, yet that`s acceptable.
Does this translate politically, not only to the president, but to Congress
and the Senate in the elections next year?
KUMAR: I think what Santorum is talking about, and Bob mentioned it,
was really how he`s trying to activate the extreme right, the Tea Party.
What they are not counting on is that this is not the 2010 midterm
elections where the very few voters participate come 2012 elections. This
is when voters are going to get activated and they`re going to take it
personal. There`s not one American that doesn`t know someone who`s lost
their job, there`s not one American who does not know someone who`s lost
their home. And for someone to say that someone is lazy because of the
circumstances that Wall Street was able to benefit from is not acceptable,
I believe, for the American people.
SHRUM: Well, look, what`s going to happen here is the Republicans are
going to run as far to the right as they possibly can to try to get this
nomination. Mitt Romney has twisted himself into a pretzel that`s totally
unrecognizable. What these Republicans have become are the real rhinos,
reaganites in name only. You know, Ronald Reagan made deals with Tip
O`Neill, he made deals with Ted Kennedy, he made a deal with Gorbachev on
the cold war. John Boehner and the house can`t even make a deal with Mitch
McConnell. He`s not the Speaker of the House, he`s a mouthpiece for the
Tea Party. And all these republican presidential candidates have become a
far right echo chamber and echo chamber for the wealthy, and it`s going to
really hurt them in the election.
SHARPTON: Bob Shrum, Maria Teresa Kumar, thank you both for being on
the show tonight.
Ahead, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is threatening democracy as we
know it right now.
And almost five years since his passing, we will remember my father
figure and mentor, the godfather of soul, who is also the godfather of
SHARPTON: Christmas is not about what you get, it`s what you give.
It`s a season of giving, not receiving. I learned that being a surrogate
son to the godfather of soul, James Brown. His daughter and I will talk
about it on the fifth anniversary of his death, coming up.
SHARPTON: A lot of Republicans have attacked President Obama as a
socialist, but it`s the republican governor who`s actually threatening our
democracy right now. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed what is known as
the emergency manager law back in March. It allows the state to appoint a
so-called emergency manager that run any city or school district that`s
under federal stress. The emergency manager essentially becomes the city`s
dictator. That`s right. One person has the power to throw out elected
officials, cancel contracts, he can even dissolve the local government
entirely. I know it sounds crazy and it is. But four cities have already
been taken over. The emergency manager has complete control and two are
under review including Detroit. This is a threat to our democracy and an
attack on civil rights. And it needs to be stopped.
Joining me now is Virg Bernero, the mayor of Lansing. He ran against
Governor Snyder and is a major critic of the emergency manager law. And
Reverend Jesse Jackson, founder and president of Rainbow PUSH Coalition,
who will be marching with others on Governor Snyder`s town on Martin Luther
King Day next year. Thanks to both of you for joining me tonight. Virg,
let me start with you. How big of a threat is this law to democracy,
period, in your state?
MAYOR VIRG BERNERO (D), LANSING: Well, you hit the nail right on the
head, Al. You know, even in Russia in what I think is kind of still Soviet
Russia under Putin, they`re now talking about allowing some elections again
for local mayors, and we`re moving in the opposite direction in Michigan.
Instead of empowering our cities and building them up and allowing our
cities to become the hub of the wheel, too many of our cities have become
the hole in the doughnut, and now we`re going to punish the guy in charge.
And what really is disturbing is that in some of these cases, the mayor is
newly elected, and is almost immediately swept of his powers. In Pontiac
and flint, you have new mayors, in Detroit you have a relatively new mayor.
So, if you`re going to give somebody sweeping powers, autocratic power, why
not use the existing mayor, you know, come in and give those powers to the
mayor who was elected by the people, instead of bringing somebody in from
the outside. We haven`t even given democracy a chance to work in some of
these cities that are struggling. And make no mistake, as you know, Al,
our cities are struggling.
SHARPTON: Now, these people were elected, Reverend Jackson, Detroit
is on the verge of a takeover. We are told, look at this screen,
progressive block of Chris savage crunched the numbers, and found that in -
- and Detroit Michigan get emergency managers, the majority of African-
Americans in Michigan will be impacted. Their democratic rights will have
been taking from them, Reverend Jackson.
REV. JESSE JACKSON, RAINBOW PUSH COALITION: This isn`t old
Mississippi, this is new Michigan. The governor has the authority on the
states` rights to displace an elected mayor and elected city council,
therefore taking away their vote. He then has the power, all the -- or the
governor or the secretary of state I might add. Then to dismantle labor
contracts and then selloff city assets at the price of his own choosing.
He is a czar, no longer a democrat. So, while we have seen voter
suppression as a scheme in 38 states, the idea in Michigan goes to another
extreme now that they`ve displacing Democrats (INAUDIBLE) this is
nullifying the democracy.
SHARPTON: Now, Virg, when you look at the fact that there`s a
movement in Michigan called Michigan forward, well on its way to repealing
the emergency manager law, they need 161,305 signatures. They have more
than 160,000. The goal is 250,000. Can they get the signatures and turn
this act around?
BERNERO: I think they can, and I`m hopeful that they can. However,
the threat could persist, because you have a republican control of both
houses of the legislature and the governor`s office. And they could
quickly pass another bill that would disenfranchise people. And I think
also, the Reverend raised a very good point, Reverend Jackson that when you
talk about disenfranchising voters and you talk about voter suppression,
what does it say to voters when voters in major cities, when their voice is
really snuffed out? I think it could have an effect perhaps on the
upcoming election when he says, your vote doesn`t matter. We`re going to
give you a mayor.
SHARPTON: They call it nullification, Reverend Jackson, let me ask
you this. Let me ask you this. You just celebrated 40 years of your
organization, your 70th birthday. I started at 12 years old, you and
Reverend Bill Jones appointed me as youth director many years ago. In all
your years, have you seen such a blatant attempt to undermine the voting
rights act that you and Dr. King and others established in the `60s with
voter ID laws, early voting and now with Michigan, where your vote means
nothing elected officials can be swept out?
JACKSON: Well, this is a tenth amendment for you, this is a classic
example of states` rights violating basic civil rights. Those who once
denied the right to vote, never stop trying to -- using gerrymandering and
Nixoation (ph) at large, but now they use all the power of the state to
displace elected officials, nullify those voters` choice of an official,
cancel labor contracts, and then selloff city assets, is the most extreme,
and the Department of Justice must act and they must act now. This disease
must not be allowed to spread. It`s so undemocratic.
SHARPTON: Now, let me show you this from the emergency manager who
took over Pontiac, and get your feeling on this Mayor Bernero. He was
doing a radio show. Let me show you what he said. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE HARRIS, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: The fact of the matter is, the city
manager is now gone, I am the city manager. I replaced the financial
director, so I`m the finance director, and the city manager, I am the
mayor, you are the commissioner. You are running the city, you are the
mayor, you are the commissioner.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: He`s the tyrant. I mean, what is -- how do we explain, as
you said, Mr. Mayor, why people`s vote in Michigan means nothing, and you
have people just flippantly, I`m the tyrant, and now I`m the dictator,
because they are in charge. Everything is nullified, and they interpose
people appointed by this new republican governor.
BERNERO: Wow. And that`s why this is so insidious and so dangerous
and such a threat to democracy. There is no attempt to work with the
council. It`s not as though you`re appointing a liaison from the governor
to work with the mayor or somebody from the Treasury Department, to work
with them, to try to get them on the path. It is a takeover, and I`m
hopeful that the initiative by the citizens will pass. I wanted to say, I
am hopeful that it will pass. I`m just worried that what the legislative
response will be. And again, I asked the question to both my friends and
to the audience. You know, where are these cities headed? Even if the
emergency manager comes in, what about the quality of life in the city?
That should be the issue that we all focused on. How do we build up our
cities in our metropolitan regions to make them better places to live? And
places where people want to move to because our cities have lost population
and they need services. You know, there are transportation issues, and
many urban issues, housing issues that need to be addressed. And the
emergency manager is not going to solve that.
SHARPTON: Let me ask you Reverend Jackson, you`ve been working with
Congressman John Conyers, Reverend Charles, Williams and others there. If
this recall doesn`t work, what is the next step?
JACKSON: Well, it must be more dramatic, direct action. This is
Christmas time, this is classical -- a kind of political genocide taking
away people`s basic democratic rights. And in fact, deny the rights to
vote in some Alabama walls at a -- and illegal in 1965. This is in 2011.
We need the fellow government to interpose its power to deny states rights
to take away the right of vote. This is undermining 50 years of civil
rights and human rights struggle. And I would hope that in Detroit
(INAUDIBLE) outside the city, we should be focused on reconstruction. A
big lawsuit was won today in Washington by Attorney General Lisa Madigan
where countrywide was fined $300 million because of taking people`s homes.
We should be focused on home reconstruction and the fines should correspond
to the level of devastation. We need urban reconstruction, not democratic
SHARPTON: But we must protect the right to vote. And if the recall
doesn`t work, we need to do what we have to do. Reverend Jackson, Mayor
Bernero, thank both of you for your time. Happy holidays.
Ahead, remembering the Godfather of soul, the legend himself, James
Brown, and why he invited the holiday spirit and what it meant to give
SHARPTON: James Brown was the Godfather of soul. We lost his
extraordinary man five years ago this Christmas Day. His legendary
performances changed music forever and inspired generations of artists.
But more than a musician, he invited the Christmas spirit and the spirit of
giving. Spent his life helping people in need. James Brown was also like
a father figure to me. I worked with him and he was my mentor. We went
back, way back, since I was a teenager. This is a clip from "Soul Train."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES BROWN, AMERICAN SINGER: We`d like to welcome him warmly. His
name is Al Sharpton.
SHARPTON: We know in the recording industry that they give a gold
record to those that achieve a million sellers, but we view your million
seller payback as a black record, because it is relevant and says many of
the things that young blacks have tried to say and could not musically
express in our own little way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: What I really learned from James Brown was how much he gave
back. I saw firsthand how much he gave. Not just to musicians, but to the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: He sung his song, and he danced his dance, but he wasn`t
just singing for himself. He sung for us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Joining me now is Deanna Brown-Thomas, James Brown`s
daughter and president of the Brown Family Children Foundation. Deanna,
great to have you here in studio with me.
DEANNA BROWN-THOMAS, BROWN FAMILY CHILDREN FOUNDATION: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Five years ago, we lost your father, my father figure, but
he taught us about giving. Every thanksgiving and Christmas, he would go
to Augusta, where he grew up poor, and give kids gifts and food that he
never had when he was growing up.
THOMAS: Over 20 years ago, he started that, and by the grace of God,
we`ve been able to continue to build on that foundation that he started.
We gave away over 500 turkeys this year, over 600 children were given toys
at the James Brown arena in Augusta Monday, and today here in Harlem.
SHARPTON: Let me show you this. Monday is some of the video of what
you and family is continuing to do, giving away 600 gifts to kids, and this
is something that Mr. Brown started 20 years ago. That`s a video there of
this past Monday, you did it in Harlem today in the name of James Brown.
James Brown wanted to be remembered as a giver, even in, he wanted his
estate left to help educate children and give to the needy, and make sure
his grandchildren went to school and that his kids were taken care of. I
don`t know any artist that left a major portion of their estate to giving.
Has any of that transpired?
THOMAS: No, unfortunately, because of former greedy trustees and we
are in litigation and is delaying those type of things to happen. So, that
we give out scholarships to young kids to go to school in South Carolina or
Georgia. Right now we have a situation at the South Carolina Supreme
Court, we`re waiting on a ruling. And we hope that the justices there
realize that we don`t want to start from day one. We want to continue, the
family came together, brothers and sisters and Tomi Rae, to make a
settlement so that we could move forward.
SHARPTON: But that was the wishes of your father, even in death, to
make sure that he kept giving and kept helping, and kept inspiring. I
remembered him when I was 16, I was the youth director under Bill Jones and
Jessie Jackson. He took me in. I had nothing. And that was the kind of
person he is. If Christmas means anything, James Brown understood, it was
THOMAS: It really was. And it was something that he died on
Christmas day so that we can remember that we`ve got to give. And that`s
what we want to continue doing, exactly what he wanted. He wanted his home
to be a museum, we want to try to do that as well. But we want to get
these former greedy trustees out of the way. So that we can take care of
business. We`re taking care of the biggest debt of the estate right now
with the new trustee, and we`re happy about that, but we don`t need
trustees going down to Honduras building homes on James Brown`s money, we
need to give out scholarships to children.
SHARPTON: That`s what he wanted. Deanna, thanks so much for coming
tonight. Let me say, James Brown died on Christmas Day, so for the last
five years, Christmas Day has been a mixed bag for me. Remember, I lost a
man who gave so much. But I thank God that I had him in the first place.
Thank you for watching. I`m Al Sharpton. "HARDBALL" starts right
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