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PoliticsNation, Monday, January 30, 2012

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Guests: Bob Shrum, Dana Milbank, Bob Franken, Cynthia Tucker, Richard Wolffe, David Corn, Sheila Oliver

REV. AL SHARPTON, HOST: Welcome to POLITICS NATION. I`m Al Sharpton.

Tonight`s lead: the Florida vote is tomorrow and Willard is surging.
The only problem, he`s got a "Newtiny" on his hands.

Poll after poll shows Romney leading Newt by double digits. He leads
Newt by 14 points in one. He`s up by 15 in yet another. And a third one
released just this afternoon shows him in a commanding 20-point lead over
Gingrich.

And on the trail, hundreds of people are actually turning out for
Romney events.

This looks like smooth sailing. This looks like he`s got Florida
locked up. Too bad Newton Leroy Gingrich hasn`t gotten the message -- or
should I say is ignoring the message?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We will go all the way to
the convention. I believe the Republican Party will not nominate a pro-
abortion, pro-gun control, pro-tax increase moderate from Massachusetts.
This is going to be a straight out contest for the next four or five
months.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Four or five more months? Wow!

Well, get ready, folks. It looks like we`re going to be seeing a lot
more of this --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know the Speaker is not
real happy -- Speaker Gingrich. He`s not feeling very excited these days.
I know. It`s sad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH He has a basic policy of carpet-bombing his opponent. I
give Governor Romney`s campaign due respect for the sheer volume of
negativity that they use.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Speaker Gingrich said that threw him off. He can`t debate
before a quiet audience. Then the next audience was very loud. Very loud.
And he said that threw him off, he can`t debate before a real loud
audience.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: Governor Romney is just plain not telling the truth. You
cannot get to be president if you don`t have the courage to tell the truth
to the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Yes, of the moon as the 51st state is not what would come to
my mind as a campaign basis for here in Florida.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Keep it up, fellows. You`re doing the Democrats` jobs for
them.

Joining me now, Bob Shrum, Democratic strategist and a professor at
NYU; and Dana Milbank, political columnist for "The Washington Post." He
joins us by phone from the Gingrich campaign bus.

Thanks to both of you for being on the show tonight.

BOB SHRUM, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Happy to be here.

DANA MILBANK, POLITICAL COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST": My
pleasure, reverend.

SHARPTON: Now tonight, Bob, let me start with you.

In your mind, what is the significance of all this Republican
infighting?

SHRUM: Oh, I think it`s damaged Romney a lot. If you look at what`s
happened in your NBC poll, he`s now behind the president. He`s losing
ground with Independents in terms of favorability. In the NBC/Marist poll,
he`s losing Florida to the president.

Part of that is that the economy is getting better, but part of that
is that this process has put Romney on the wrong side of the great dividing
line in American politics. He now looks not only like the face of the GOP
establishment, he looks like the face of unfairness in America.

He`s become a proof point for the president`s message. So I think
he`s taken on a lot of water. And if this thing drags out for another
couple of months, he`ll take on even more.

SHARPTON: Now, as he continues to sustain these attacks from
Gingrich, he continues to be hit with things that are coming out about him.
Despite the fact that he is clearly leading in just about every poll in
Florida, you still have to deal with the fact and that he cannot get away
with that his negatives are higher than his positives, which really raises
the question of electability.

Bob, I`m talking to you.

SHRUM: Oh, well, you`re absolutely right.

Look, what`s happened here in Florida -- and it happened in Iowa as
well -- is that the Romney campaign saw a big threat, so they dropped an
atom bomb on Gingrich, all of these negative ads. It`s worked.

I think that Romney`s probably going to win this big. We`d be very
surprised if he didn`t.

But it`s also illustrated that the establishment of the Republican
Party, when it really wants to and gets behind somebody, can do great
damage to the other guy, and it`s indicated the relative powerlessness of
the right in the Republican Party. They may be able to dictate the
platform, they can`t pick the nominee. And in this whole process, this
scrum as it goes on, I think Romney is going to take on more and more
negatives.

SHARPTON: Now, let me ask you this. Romney has outspent Gingrich 4-1
in Florida. Can Gingrich withstand a race where this plays out in state
after state?

SHRUM: Well, look, here`s how Gingrich survives. It`s the only way
he survives.

Let`s say he has enough money to get through February and get to those
contests in early March, wins the South, almost all of it, and wins Texas.
What happens then? He has something we`ve never seen in American politics.
He has kind of a third comeback.

But he then has to go to a big state where all the resources and all
the attention are concentrated for a week or two weeks like Ohio or
Pennsylvania or California. And the Gingrich campaign once again faces a
5-1 disparity with Romney, he once again has all of these attacks directed
at him, and he once again, at least on the evidence, falls apart.

I don`t think at that point he has a fourth comeback, but you end up
with a Republican Party where there`s a lot of anger and a lot of division,
because Romney is headed toward a very begrudged nomination.

SHARPTON: Now, Dana, we`ve got you off the bus in front of a camera
at a Gingrich event. And let me ask you.

You`ve been with Newt Gingrich all day. Let me just ask you candidly.
Is this personal?

I mean, it seems like Newton Leroy Gingrich is saying no matter what,
he`s digging in. Is this personal? Is this strategic? Does he think down
the road he can pick up some southern states he`s favored in Super Tuesday?

I mean, what`s happening here?

MILBANK: Well, Reverend, I`ve always thought with Newt Gingrich it
was more about ego than anything else. But what we`re seeing here in this
final act, a day of campaigning here, is nothing short of scorched earth.

He has been basically using all these sort of anti-Mormon dog
whistles, suggesting that Romney is anti-Jewish, that Romney is anti-
Catholic. We`ve also had him just randomly making up things.

Newt announced to a crowd in Tampa -- I was just there a couple of
hours ago. He said there`s a brand new poll out that says that we`re all
even. It turns out this was a poll that was released on Friday from
polling done several days before that.

There`s a lot of flailing going on, which is of course what the Romney
camp is saying, but it`s more than just flailing, because he is leaving
lasting impressions in the minds of voters here. If he loses, as all
people expect he will tomorrow, he does have the capacity to go on and
continue to pull away delegates in the coming stops. And he can do a whole
lot of damage.

SHARPTON: So, Dana, let me stop you right there. I want to ask you
something.

Are you saying that you are hearing some blatant anti-Mormon language
now out of Newt Gingrich?

MILBANK: No, I said they are dog whistles, Reverend. When he`s
getting up there and saying -- talking about how Romney has been taking
away the kosher meals from Jewish residents of Massachusetts, when he`s
talking about anti-Catholic positions that he`s taken in health care, he`s
been doing that sort of thing.

He got up earlier today in a similar vain and said it`s time to send a
message to George Soros and Goldman Sachs and the New York establishment,
that it`s -- money, power doesn`t matter, and it`s time to bring back the
people power. Many people would hear that as a dog whistle as well.

SHARPTON: Now, let me ask you this, Dana, while we`re on Newt
Gingrich.

He`s making a case politically that 95 percent of the delegates still
won`t be selected even after Florida, that there will only be, up to and
including Florida, only 115 out of 2,288 delegates.

Is that an argument that will resonate with voters around the country
as they continue the Republican primary road trip, as one would call it?

MILBANK: Yes, let`s think of how well that worked for Hillary
Clinton. I mean, it kept her in the race for a long time after many people
thought she had no opportunity there and had to drop out. She persisted
with it.

By the same way, Newt can continue in this. He probably won`t have
the same sort of funding that she had, so he`ll become less and less
relevant.

He`s not even taking press on his airplane anymore. That`s why we`re
hauling around after him in a bus right now.

Does not have a lot of money coming in. Does not have a lot of
support out there. The crowds are small. The press corps is thin.

SHARPTON: Now, Bob, over the weekend, Mr. Gingrich somewhat received
the support of Sarah Palin and -- well, she at least came to his defense --
and he received the outright endorsement of Herman Cain.

Does these two things help him or hurt him?

SHRUM: Oh, I don`t think they hurt him, even though there is some
polling data that suggests that Cain`s endorsement is anything but a mixed
-- is clearly a mixed blessing.

Look, what`s happened here is there`s a lot of resentment in the
Republican Party on the right among the Tea Party types. There`s a lot of
resistance to Romney.

The establishment decided he is the only acceptable candidate. And
you saw everybody unite this week to trash Gingrich. It wasn`t just the
ads, it was every single commentator, it was commentators who had
previously expressed big doubts about Romney.

That`s what they think they have to do. And I`m sure Dana, when he
looks at these smaller crowds, he`s seeing the effect of that in the
advertising every time he gets off that bus.

SHARPTON: Dana, Jeb Bush, who is extremely popular, I`m told, among
Republicans in Florida, won`t make an endorsement. In a big article today,
it says that it has been -- "It has not been for a lack of effort by Mr.
Romney, who has made phone calls, traded e-mails and met privately trying
to win over Mr. Bush. The campaign was poised to make him a national co-
chairman, but several Republicans familiar with the offer say it was
declined."

He even showed up with his dad to meet with President Obama Friday
night.

What message is Jeb Bush sending?

MILBANK: I think the message here, Reverend, is that Jeb Bush is a
very smart politician who still believes that he has a political future
here. So, is he going to go out and endorse Mitt Romney who may wind up
disappointing a lot of conservatives down the road?

If Romney, as he believes, is going to win the nomination anyway,
there`s not a whole lot of upside for him in doing that. And if Romney
eventually disappoints the conservative, they can`t turn around and blame
Jeb Bush. I think he`s looking out for himself. You know, let them slug
it out in this ugly way that they are doing down here.

SHARPTON: Bob, you`ve run a lot of campaigns. Quickly as you can,
give me an answer, almost a yes or no.

Gingrich stays in, loses by double digits. Is the longer he stays in
more helpful to President Obama, or is he getting Mr. Willard Romney tough
enough for the fight that will help him with Obama?

SHRUM: Yes, Romney is not being battle tested in this. He`s being
wounded. The longer Newt stays in, the tougher it is for Romney.

SHARPTON: All right.

Bob Shrum, Dana Milbank --

SHRUM: Thank you.

SHARPTON: -- thanks to both of you for joining me this evening.

MILBANK: Thanks, Reverend.

SHARPTON: Ahead, Newt Gingrich says he wants to put poor kids to work
as janitors. But you won`t believe what he was doing as a teen. You have
to hear this one.

Plus, under fire. The head of the Republican National Committee
compares President Obama to the cruise ship captain charged with
manslaughter.

And then, there`s this one --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get the hell out of the United States of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: The disrespect to this president needs to stop. My
commentary ahead.

And Chris Christie tries to walk back his explosive civil rights
comment, but I`m not buying it.

You`re watching POLITICS NATION on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: The Republicans who want to be president all have a Reagan
problem. They just don`t realize it.

Even though the American people are rejecting what Reagan`s trickle-
down economics has done to the country, both Romney and Newt Gingrich are
trying to claim the Reagan mantle.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: I am, in fact, the legitimate heir of the Reagan movement,
not some liberal from Massachusetts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I will fight with all my energy to keep America the strong
nation it`s been and the hope of the earth and the shining city on the
hill.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Here`s the problem. Reagan`s shining city on the hill
turned out to be a gated community for the one percent.

Thirty years of Reaganomics has made the income for the top one
percent skyrocket up 275 percent, while the poor has seen their income
remain stagnant. Now Republicans are trying to defend this horrific record
the same way that Reagan did, even using his talking points.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Since when do we in
America accept this alien and discredited theory of social and class
warfare? Since when do we in America endorse the politics of envy and
division?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Sound familiar? We`ve heard this kind of nonsense from
Romney and the others for months now.

But the president is hitting back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You can call this class
warfare all you want, but asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as
his secretary in taxes, most Americans would call that common sense. When
Americans talk about folks like me paying my fair share of taxes, it`s not
because they envy the rich.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Joining me now is Bob Franken, a syndicated columnist with
"King Features" and one who has known Mr. Gingrich for a long time and
covered him for an extensive period of time. And Cynthia Tucker, Pulitzer
Prize-winning syndicated columnist and now a visiting professor of
journalism at the University of Georgia. She recently wrote a column about
class warfare and the GOP`s Reagan problem.

Let me start with you, Cynthia.

Does Romney really think these recycled Reagan talking points will
hide the fact that he`s a one percenter as a candidate?

CYNTHIA TUCKER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, I think he really does
think the strategy will work, Reverend. I think that`s the reason he keeps
using it. But he lives in a bubble.

He talks about earning $374,000 in one year in speaking fees as not
very much. You know, when he released his income taxes, he said, well,
most of what I earned was income from investments, but then I earned a
little from speaking fees, not very much.

That turned out to be more than $374,000, more than seven years`
salary for the average American. So when he talks about class warfare,
yes, Reverend, he`s trying to hide the fact that he doesn`t have anything
to offer not just the poor, but the squeezed working class, the middle
class, people who are struggling to stay afloat even though they are
working every day.

SHARPTON: Now, Bob, Congressman Paul Ryan on "FOX NEWS SUNDAY" wasn`t
backing down from Medicare changes in the budget.

Let me show you what he says.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY": Will it be the same plan or
will there be something new?

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: We`re going to be working off it.
We`re not going backwards, we`re going forwards. We`re not backing off of
any of our ideas, any of our solutions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: So, Bob, despite the fact that every poll shows a majority
of Americans and, in many cases, a majority of Republicans, don`t want to
see this continued inequality in terms of the economics of this country in
terms of how people have income inequality and opportunity gaps, he is
saying we`re not changing anything. They want to protect tax cuts for the
rich and change everything else for everyone else, and they`re not backing
down.

BOB FRANKEN, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: So, when people talk about
inequality in this country, there is always somebody who will scream class
warfare, which I think is an interesting term because it has sort of a
Marxist connotation. And they are suggesting that the people who are
advocating changes in this inequality are some sort of communist. That`s
sort of the implication. It`s a little word game that they play.

But they are sort of like the greedy fool who kills the hen that lays
the golden egg. They are undermining our society, and here is why.

We have a form of government that requires a certain sense of
teamwork. Everybody has to feel like he is benefiting from being part of
the team.

More and more Americans are realizing that the team, in fact, is not
working on their behalf. It`s only working on behalf of a few people.

They are being had. And if they start abandoning the team, then the
whole operation is going to frazzle apart. And that seems to be what we
could look forward to.

SHARPTON: Now, Cynthia, if you look at America`s views on these
policies, they started with Reagan and they continued -- that really
created and it continues now, this income inequality. Seventy-four percent
say that income inequality is a problem. Seventy-seven percent,
corporations and the rich have too much power. Sixty-six percent say class
conflict between the rich and the poor.

So, we are saying the majority of Americans are trying to engage in
class warfare? And let me read you this. "Romney and his GOP rivals have
refused to concede that the U.S. is not a nation where anyone can get
ahead, where the rewards are unlimited if you work hard enough, where the
opportunities there are for the taking."

I`m reading Cynthia to Cynthia. You said that. Explain.

TUCKER: I did, Reverend Al. And I also said that I don`t think that
that yelling class warfare is going to work this time, because people know
that if there is some kind of class warfare being waged, it`s waged against
the working class. It`s being waged against the middle class.

It`s old rhetoric, stale rhetoric. It may have worked for a while
when Reagan was in office, but I just don`t think it works anymore.

People have come to understand, and Occupy Wall Street was one of the
forces that helped people understand, that there is a war being waged on
the average American working person, and it`s benefiting the rich. It`s
benefiting people like Mitt Romney.

So, I don`t think yelling class warfare is going to work for them
nearly as well as they hoped.

SHARPTON: Now, Bob, there are some that are even threatening -- and I
am going to talk more about this later in this show -- but threatening that
the president, President Obama, better not let Bush tax cuts expire. And
they are arguing that we need those tax cuts, they create jobs.

Well, we went to Rev`s little research department, and let me show you
what we came up with.

From 2001 to 2007, during the Bush tax cuts, we had 0.6 percent job
growth, the worst since 1945. We can have different opinions, Bob. We
can`t have different facts.

The fact is the rich got the tax cuts and did not create even one
percent job growth. They put the money in their pocket, Bob.

FRANKEN: Well, you keep on talking facts, Al. And as Ronald Reagan
said, "There you go again."

The point is -- the point is that they are still relying on that old
discredited argument that a rising tide lifts all boats, which is to say
that if the wealthy get money, then everybody will be uplifted. The truth
of the matter is, as that study points out, that a rising tide really
swamps just about everybody`s votes but a few people.

SHARPTON: Especially if your boat is already under water when you
start rising.

FRANKEN: That`s right.

SHARPTON: Bob Franken, Cynthia Tucker, thanks for your time tonight.

Still ahead, Newt Gingrich, the college years. It turns out to be
young Newt didn`t follow his own voice for working his way through school.

Plus, top Republicans and how they are making ugly statements about
the president. What else is new? The GOP rhetoric has crossed the line,
though, and I`m responding tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: We`re back on POLITICS NATION with another hearty helping
of hypocrisy from Newt Gingrich.

We`ve seen Newt talk about how poor kids are lazy and should work as
janitors.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no
habits of working and have nobody around them who works.

Most of these schools ought to get rid of the unionized janitors, have
one master janitor, and pay local students to take care of the school.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: We`ve also seen Newt say today`s college students don`t
work enough either.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: And I would tell students, get through as quick as you can,
borrow as little as you can, have a part-time job, but that`s very
different than the culture that`s grown up over the last 20 years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: But those rules didn`t apply when Newt was in school. He
relied on his first wife Jackie and his parents to pay for college.

"The Washington Post" dug up a "Vanity Fair" article from 1995 that
says, "During his college years, Newt called up his father and stepmother
to ask for financial help. His stepmother can still hear his exact words:
`I do not want to go to work. I want all my time for my studies.`"

Really? Newt didn`t want to get part-time work as a janitor? And
that didn`t change once he got his first degree. Quote, "his district
administrator remembers that Jackie put him all the way through school.
All the way through the PH.D. He didn`t work."

Newt, the work ethic you want for today`s kids is way different from
the one you had for yourself. Did you think we wouldn`t notice that little
bit of professional and personal hypocrisy? Nice try, Newt, but we got
you. And we didn`t mind that the work was just a little bit to do.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Welcome back to POLITICS NATION. One prominent
conservative talker is admitting what conservatives are really thinking.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Cayman Islands --

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: You have limited resources versus Barack Obama
who I saw last night wow a huge crowd in Washington at this big dinner.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Yes, I mean, a bunch of us sitting next to each
other, very prominent conservatives, former Bush cabinet members, we`re
looking at each other going, I don`t know if Mitt Romney can beat him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: So, prominent conservatives are scared. Now they are doing
what they do best when they`re scared. Playing ugly politics. Here`s the
head of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REINCE PRIEBUS, HEAD, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: In a few months,
this is all going to be ancient history and we`re going to talk about our
own little Captain Schettino which is President Obama who is abandoning the
ship here in United States here, is more interested in campaigning than
doing his job as president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Comparing the President to a man charged with manslaughter?
A man charged with this reckless cruise ship disaster where 17 people died
and 16 are still missing. And here`s Tea Party freshman Allen West in
Florida over the weekend.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ALLEN WEST (R), FLORIDA: Take your message of equality of
achievement, take your message of economic dependency, take your message of
enslaving the entrepreneur will and spirit of the American people somewhere
else. You can take it to Europe. You can take it to the bottom of the
sea. You can take it to the north poll, but get the hell out of the United
States of America.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

WEST: Yes, I said hell.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Yes, you did say hell, Congressman West. And a standing
ovation and cheers for telling President Obama to take it to hell. Where
is the respect for the office of the President? And then there`s the no
tax man. The GOP tax-free ring leader Grover Norquist. He says, quote,
"Obama can sit there and let all the tax cuts lapse and then the
Republicans will have enough votes in the Senate 2014 to impeach."
Impeach? Impeach the President for disagreeing with your policies? They
are doing anything to disgrace this President. And I find it truly
appalling.

Joining me now is MSNBC analyst Richard Wolffe and David Corn, MSNBC
political analyst and Mother Jones, Washington Bureau Chief. Thanks to
both of you for being here tonight.

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Thanks, Reverend.

DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure thing.

SHARPTON: Richard, let me start with you. Can you believe how low
they`re going?

WOLFFE: Sadly, I can, yes, Reverend. Look, this has been going on
for a very long time. And your opener was right in the sense that you
linked together the strengths of the President with the sort of edge of
these attacks because what we saw from day one was an orchestrated campaign
of vilification of this president. He won big. He won in states that
Democrats didn`t normally win in, and the strategy, the explicit strategy
of Mitch McConnell in the Senate was to deny this president any -- any
bipartisan votes.

So, not a single republican could switch sides and vote with this
president, even when he was doing things that were actually republican
ideas. That led to all sorts of contortions. Health care had to be a
socialist thing as supposed to a republican bunch of ideas that this
president picked up. And you go through the list here. What you end up
with is a process of trying to say this president is totally different.
Channeling the anger and the extremist, ugly, racist parts of the right
wing media and the Tea Party here. And you come to a point where, frankly,
three years on comparing the President to an incompetent Italian captain is
somehow normal.

SHARPTON: Now David, let me ask a question because I know you know
these things better than me. President Obama lets the Bush tax cuts
expire. That`s an impeachable act? I mean there`s nothing unethical about
it. There`s nothing certainly criminal about it. I mean you disagree with
tax policies and now that`s an impeachable offense.

CORN: The only thing that surprises me here, Reverend is that you
are surprised. I mean, Grover Norquist is a fellow who has no stranger to
extremist rhetoric. He wants to drown the government in a bath tub and
he`s part of this right wing coalition that from -- as Richard has said for
the last two years since he used the most extreme and just insulting and
absurd rhetoric. You know, they compared the Democrats and Obama to Nazis
when they were passing the health care legislation. You`ve been all over
the food stamp racist rhetoric of Newt Gingrich. It doesn`t stop. I mean,
it`s not just that they want to deny Obama his policies as Richard
mentioned. They actually are trying to deny his legitimacy.

SHARPTON: Right.

CORN: That was behind birtherism and you see Mitt Romney learning
with us. He doesn`t say the President is not an American or is not --
wasn`t born here but he keeps saying the President doesn`t understand
American values. Of course, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum says, the
President wants to destroy American values. That`s the big divide in the
republican primary condense now. Whether you believe Obama wants to
destroy American values or just doesn`t understand them. But in any -- in
either case, the bottom-line message is that he`s not one of us. You know
what that means.

SHARPTON: And this extreme message is hurting the Republicans with
independents, Richard. Look at this full screen. Back in November,
Willard Romney was beating President Obama by 13 points with independents.
Now, the President is beating him 44 to 36. They are losing independents
with their extreme rhetoric.

WOLFFE: Which as the Romney campaign well knows, that`s where
presidential elections get decided. That`s where Romney actually had his
moment of strength there among independent voters. And, by the way, look.
You don`t have to believe what we say on MSNBC. But when you -- it helps.
But when you listen to the president, the real man speaking and you look at
what the public reaction was to the State of the Union. When you get 90
percent approval for the messages, the policies, the way he spoke in that
speech, and you compare it to this extremist crazy talk on the right about
him trying to enslave America or not being American at all, and the two
things don`t match up. And independents may not take the party line that
Republicans will and now say, this doesn`t add up. This doesn`t make any
sense so they do hurt themselves for precisely that reason. It just
doesn`t stack up with the reality.

SHARPTON: Independents, David. I want your view. They are sitting
home, they`re watching this extreme, ugly language. What are they sitting
by their TV sets saying?

CORN: Listen. I think a lot of people out there are mad about the
economy. They may even be mad at the President. But they don`t think he`s
a socialist. They don`t think he`s a secret Muslim. They don`t think he
wants to destroy America. And if Mitt Romney is going to sort to try to
put that message across, the polls show it. It`s not going to work. Now
the interesting thing is we heard Newt Gingrich earlier today say that he
will take this fight right up to the convention. Now, I doubt that`s going
to happen but if it does happen, if he does lose in Florida tomorrow night,
we`re going to have Mitt Romney with this tugging on him all the way for
the next few months to prove he`s a conservative.

He`s going to have to sort of figure out a way to keep up with Newt
Gingrich and the bash Obama category. So the longer he does that, the more
of this impression will become deeper amongst independents that he is out
of touch and that he is -- and that he`s part of this right wing extremism
which doesn`t go over well with the middle. They want to see problems
solved without much of a fight. That may not be realistic, but the longer
Romney goes on sort of flirting with this in this atmosphere, it`s going to
hurt his chances in the fall.

SHARPTON: Richard, I`ve got to go back to this whole Reince Priebus,
chair of the Republican Party, comparing the President of the United States
to this captain that caused this very tragic ocean liner to go down in
Italy. Where people died. And people are still missing. I mean, not only
does it disrespect the presidency and the President. What about the people
who died, family and about the families that are still waiting to see if
their loved ones will some way be miraculously be recovered and you are
taking their pain to use it for some cheap political points?

WOLFFE: Yes. Distasteful. Offensive. And by the way, it`s a lame
line. It`s not funny. It`s not pointed. It doesn`t mean anything. Oh,
and if the RNC chairman has a question about where this economy is going,
he really ought to talk to Mitt Romney. Because in that interview with
Lauren Graham just last week, he said the economy was getting better. Of
course it`s getting better. So, you know, if he wants to stack up to
reality in any meaningful way, if he wants to find a measure of taste in
this public discourse, maybe he should talk to Mitt Romney.

SHARPTON: Well, while they are all doing their ugly chatter, David,
including comparing this to where people are still hoping for miracles with
some of those that are lost at sea, President Obama had a town hall meeting
earlier today. He`s talking about fairness. He`s not feeding into the
ugliness.

CORN: No, I think Richard made the point earlier. The State of the
Union speech, I thought the President was stellar. One of his best
performances. He looked real. He looks like he cares. It was policy
drenched. So, you know, it`s not just talk. Here are the things. I mean,
since the debt ceiling, since the jobs speech and the last few months, he`s
been on the road. He`s been in Washington fighting for things that people
care about. So he hasn`t been abandoning his post. That doesn`t make
sense. And I think, you know, you compare that to sort of name calling on
the right. It looks good. He still has a heavy lift because the economy
is still not in a good position and a lot of people will be either for some
sort of change. But if the Republicans and Mitt Romney, if he ends up
being the nominee, he keeps, you know, engaging in name calling, it will
make Obama`s job so much easier and he`ll look so much better and, this is
the key thing, more presidential than the competition.

SHARPTON: I`m going to have to leave it there. Richard Wolffe, David
Corn. Thank you both for joining us.

WOLFFE: Thank you.

CORN: Thanks, Reverend.

SHARPTON: Ahead, Chris Christie is trying to spin his outrageous
comments about the civil rights movement. We`ll get a reality check on
that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: New Jersey`s Governor Chris Christie`s in a political
pickle over same-sex marriage and equal rights. New Jersey Democrats were
getting closer to forcing Christie into a corner on same-sex marriage. He
punted. It leads his comment about civil rights that set off a national
firestorm.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: The fact of the matter is that I
think people would have been happy to have a referendum, you know, on civil
rights rather than fighting and dying in the streets in the South.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: But today, Christie claims it was just a big
misunderstanding.

CHRISTIE: What I said was I`m sure the civil rights advocates would
have liked to have this as another option but it was not available to them.
And the reason it wasn`t, although I didn`t say this was because the
political climate was not advantageous to even consider do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: I`m not buying it and neither are New Jersey Democrats.
They held a news conference today responding to the governor. And they
were joined by civil rights hero Georgia Congressman John Lewis.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: No one in the state legislature in
Alabama or in Georgia or Mississippi or any of the 11 southern states at
all confederously from Virginia to Texas would have had the courage to say,
let`s go by referendum. If two men want to fall in love and get married,
or two women, it`s their business.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Christie`s Hail Mary on same-sex marriage is all politics.
He wants a referendum on civil rights rather than a vote in the state
legislature where it was likely to pass. By wanting the voters to decide,
he thinks he`s given political cover to himself and Republicans.

Joining me now is the Speaker of the New Jersey assembly, Sheila
Oliver. She took part in that press conference today in New Jersey.
Welcome, Speaker Oliver.

SHEILA OLIVER (D), NEW JERSEY ASSEMBLY SPEAKER: My pleasure, Reverend
Sharpton.

SHARPTON: Now, you spoke with Governor Christie today. Did he back
track on the civil rights comments? Did he apologize?

OLIVER: He did not offer an apology but he set out to describe that
he believes it`s a mischaracterization of what he implied. I explained to
the governor that he has to understand that in the historical context of
the civil rights movement, first of all, the terminology happy is
something that has a poor connotation for us because they used to say that
the slaves were happy to be on the plantation.

SHARPTON: Right.

OLIVER: So, I tried to give the governor a historical perspective
into the history of our people. And our repulsive reaction to
characterization that we would have been happy for a referendum. You know,
people could not vote. They couldn`t drink at water fountains.

SHARPTON: Right.

OLIVER: They could not work. They could not assemble. They had to
go --

SHARPTON: How does he respond to that? How do you talk about a
referendum when, by law, blacks couldn`t have even voted in the referendum.
Does he understand how totally, totally opposite of reality he was talking?

OLIVER: That is why my initial reaction when I heard his comments
last week was that the Governor needed a history lesson. You know,
Congressman Lewis this afternoon spoke about blacks would have to guess how
many jelly beans were in a jar in order to vote. They`d have to --

SHARPTON: Bubbles on a bar of soap.

OLIVER: Absolutely. Pay a poll tax when they were share croppers
with no money to pay. So, you know, this is why there has been such
repulsive reaction. And, you know, the Governor described to me, though,
that he was disheartened that there were attempts to describe marriage
equality as civil rights. And an issue of civil rights.

SHARPTON: Well, he brought it up. I mean, he equated the two. Let
me ask you this. Let`s talk the politics of it. And you and I have worked
together some issues -- everyone will understand. I`ve been out there with
you dealing with some of his issues with labor and education.

OLIVER: Yes.

SHARPTON: Where he`s laid off workers. Where he`s done things in the
budget. He never called for a referendum on those things. That`s why
isn`t this really about him putting and playing politics because when it
came to things that really were political, he didn`t say let the voters
decide, do we want to have unions to have this, a budget to have this. But
in this which is really a social issue, all of a sudden, he discovers
democracy?

OLIVER: Yes, and I think for many people, it gets down to the
constitution. The U.S. constitution provides equal protection under the
law. The U.S. constitution imbues everyone with inalienable rights, and it
doesn`t say in order to have your rights, you have to have a referendum.

SHARPTON: Right.

OLIVER: Constitution guarantees you your rights. We fought that
battle 45 years ago, 50 years ago.

SHARPTON: I think I read Lanny when they`re talking about the tyranny
of the majority. And especially when you are talking about in areas like
this. If you look at number two, the 1959 Gallup poll. Fifty three
percent of people thought the school desegregation was more trouble than it
was worth. I mean, and on and on and on. Sixty four Gallup poll, 20
percent of white voters in the south. Only 20 percent approved the civil
rights act. If any of these votes had gone down, particularly with no
black votes to offset it, we would have never made an advancement of civil
rights in this country. So for him now to equate anyone`s rights, whether
they are the same or not, with a referendum is unbelievable to me.

OLIVER: Reverend Sharpton, New Jersey was the last state in this
union to abolish slavery.

SHARPTON: Wow. I`ve got to leave it there. I`m letting it resonate.
And I`m out. New Jersey`s State Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, thank you
for your time tonight. You know how to close a segment.

OLIVER: Thanks for having me.

SHARPTON: We`ll be right back. We`ll have you back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Republicans are so desperate to justify their voter I.D.
laws that they`ll do and just about say anything. They`ll even claim
they see dead people at the polls. The South Carolina attorney general
claims more than 950 dead people voted in this month`s republican
presidential primary. Hundreds of dead people, zombies at the polls. That
has a bad case of fraud. Except it`s not true. When the state election
commission asked to review the names in question, the attorney general only
handed over six. Five were alive and the other died after casting an
absentee ballot.

The number of actual fraud cases? Zero. Folks, some right wingers
are so desperate to justify their voter suppression, they`ll even possibly
commit fraud themselves. Professional smear artist James O`Keefe sent his
cronies to collect primary ballots in New Jersey using the names of voters
who had recently died. But an election official in New Hampshire said on
this show that voter fraud wasn`t a problem before that. Do you feel there
is a problem of voter fraud in the state?

OLIVER: No, I do not. I have not seen enough instances of any voter
fraud in the state. I know that the attorney general`s office investigates
any claims of voter fraud and have not found any to be of substance.

SHARPTON: New Hampshire has had only one voter fraud conviction since
2000. Seems like the only voter fraud we are seeing is from the
Republicans trying to prove that voter fraud exists. It would be funny if
it wasn`t so serious. In South Carolina with fiscal problems, one report
says, they are going to spend a million dollars defending the Justice
Department review of voter fraud. This is incredible.

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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