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PoliticsNation, Monday, February 6, 2012

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Guests: Ed Rendell, Michael Steele, Steve Kornacki, Erin McPike, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Kristen Day, Judith Brown-Dianis

AL SHARPTON, HOST, POLITICS NATION: Welcome to POLITICS NATION. I`m
Al Sharpton. Tonight`s lead: the president`s making his case for re-
election, and a new poll shows Americans like what they are hearing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I deserve a second
term, but we`re not done. Look, when you and I sat down, we were losing
750,000 jobs a month. In fact, we had found out just a few days before we
sat down that we had lost that month 750,000 jobs. Now we`re creating
250,000. We created 3.7 million jobs over the last 23 months.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Now this chart shows what the president is talking about.
This economy was bleeding jobs when Bush left office. Look at those red
lines. Down, down, down. But then it changed. We have now seen 23
straight months of private sector job growth, folks. This is a fact.
Employment is improving under President Obama. But on the other side,
Willard is sticking to his script.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This week
he`s been trying to take a bow for 8.3 percent unemployment. Not so fast,
Mr. President. America needs a president who can fix the economy because
he understands the economy, and I do, and I will.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: That`s it? That`s it? We need someone who can fix the
economy? Didn`t you just see, we have someone who is doing that already.
And Americans know it. A brand new poll shows President Obama beating
Romney by nine points in the latest matchup. His approval rating is at the
highest level it`s been since the death of Osama bin Laden.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: What people also want to see is that everybody is doing their
fair share, that we`re all pulling together. What we have been able to do
is move in the right direction. And what I`m just going to keep on doing
is plodding away, very persistent and, you know what? One of the things
about being president is you get better as time goes on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: But the guy challenging him for president is getting worse
as times go by. Willard admits he`s not, quote, "very concerned about the
poor here in America," even as he`s invested millions in overseas accounts.
The ultimate 1 percenter is on the wrong side of this one.

Sixty-eight percent of Americans say the U.S. tax system favors the
wealthy. Another 72 percent want to raise taxes on the wealthiest
Americans. Americans want fairness, not a man who calls any discussion of
this envy.

Joining me now, former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, now an NBC
News political analyst and Michael Steele, MSNBC analyst and former
chairman of the RNC. Thank you both for coming on the show tonight.

(CROSSTALK)

SHARPTON: Governor, let me start with you. As I just said, President
Obama leads Mitt Romney by nine points in the latest poll. Is the Obama
message of fairness responsible for this, in your opinion?

FORMER GOVERNOR ED RENDELL, (D) PENN.: I think to some degree. It`s
both the message and the president has been on his game since he delivered
the jobs speech last fall and he`s been doing very, very well, the best I
think he`s done in his presidency.

And at the same time, Governor Romney, who had a pretty good case to
make, has shown that he has a tin ear and keeps making mistake after
mistake after mistake. So as the president is sort of coming back,
Governor Romney is dropping down. And it`s a very bad prescription for the
Republican Party.

However, again, Al, you know, I`ve warned all Democrats out there and
everyone listening to us, things can change. Eight points in February
doesn`t mean a bloody thing. And there`s almost always a little bit of a
reset right after the two conventions.

So it`s good we`re headed in the right direction. It`s good the
president is on his game. It`s good that Governor Romney talks about
fixing the economy but doesn`t give us any concrete ideas. All those
things are in our favor. But we shouldn`t rest on our laurels --

(CROSSTALK)

SHARPTON: No, we shouldn`t rest, but let me ask you this, Michael
Steele. Look at this. "The Washington Post" said something that I thought
was interesting. Unemployment rate under presidents, even though
unemployment is high, President Obama has moved the needle, which bodes
well for him. But let me quote "The Washington Post."

"What matters is not how high the unemployment rate is but how fast
it`s changing." That suggests the latest numbers, just as you would think,
very good news for President Obama. I mean, can you deny this, that the
trend looks like the economy is getting better? It seems as though the
president has turned this around. How do you argue against this, Mr.
Steele?

MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC ANALYST: Well, I mean, I think, A, you`re
right. The trend line for at least the first month of this quarter says
that the economy is making a move in a direction that`s positive for the
president.

The second point, however, and I think it`s something that the
governor touched on, that`s true for both parties, I mean, these numbers
are going to move all over the map with respect to unemployment. The CBO
came out last week and said that their early projections are showing that
unemployment going into next year is going to be a lot higher than it is
today.

When does that trend line if it happens, begin? Does it happen in the
summer? Does it happen after the election?

So I think we`ve got to put a little bit of a bullet next to all of
these numbers right now, particularly in the first quarter of the year as
things begin to settle out, based on what the Congress, House and Senate
does and with the president`s budget when it gets up to the Hill next week,
how we deal with, for example, the unemployment tax, whether that`s going
to be extended or if it`s going to -- the Bush tax cuts that have to be
dealt with later this year.

So, Rev, there are a lot of variables there that I think both parties
need to be cautious about. But the trend lines, you`re absolutely right.
Right now they favor the president. I think Romney`s been distracted with
his primary, gotten off the message and the hammering that he had on the
president in the early part of his campaign. We`ll see whether he gets
back to that sooner rather than later.

SHARPTON: Governor, I think that when Michael Steele raises the CBO,
the CBO also talked about how much the Bush tax cuts cost, how much it
contributes to the deficit. So I think Chairman Steele is right that it
cuts both ways.

Both parties have to be cautious, because look at the fact that --
look at independents. Romney had a 12-point lead last month, just last
month. Now they are virtually tied.

So no matter which way the economy shifts, a lot is going to depend on
what positions you`re taking while we see these shifts go up and down,
because even though the president could get worse numbers, if they are
caused by Republicans` positions, it may not help them.

RENDELL: Right. And I think that`s right, Rev. And I also think
it`s a little unfair and Michael is usually a pretty fair guy -- a little
unfair to say this is a one-month plus in the economy. As the president
pointed out in his comments a little earlier in the show, it`s been 23
months, almost two years, and in that time, 3.7 million private sector jobs
have been created.

Not everything we wanted it to be, but, boy, certainly movement in the
right direction when you consider where the economy was when he took
office.

STEELE: My point -- if I could real quick, Reverend.

My point, Governor, was that this was the first month out of those 23
months where you`ve had such a significant number of newly created jobs
that were out there, 200,000-plus new jobs created, which is a big number.

And it`s -- and the question is whether or not that`s going to be
sustainable, number one; and number two, I want to see the president begin
to address the underemployed and those who stopped looking because that
number is a big number as well.

And Mitt Romney has been speaking, at least again, as I said, up to
this distraction point in the primary, about those individuals who are also
voters who, if they don`t get back to work, could have something to say
come November.

SHARPTON: Mitt Romney has spoken about those that have stopped
looking for work. Were those the ones he was referring to when he said he
wasn`t concerned about the very poor? Was that what you`re talking about
he was addressing? Was that who you was talking about?

STEELE: Rev, you`re missing -- you`re mixing an apple and an orange
but it`s your show and I`ll let you do that.

SHARPTON: I`m asking a question. I`m trying to --

STEELE: Well, look --

SHARPTON: -- remember when he was talking about --

STEELE: You are making an assumption that the people I`m talking
about are the very poor.

SHARPTON: I`m asking a question.

STEELE: The very poor are the ones presumably -- in most analysis
are the ones who are not the working poor but the ones who are at the very
margins of our social safety net, and that`s a very different category of
individuals as opposed to those who are working but are still within that
definition of poor.

SHARPTON: But --

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: And I think -- I think --

SHARPTON: -- all right, but Michael, help me out.

STEELE: I think the --

SHARPTON: Tell me when --

STEELE: -- reality of is, look, Reverend, the bottom line is it was
an asinine comment to make --he`s been very clear about that point. I
mean, beating that horse at this point, in this discussion, doesn`t further
the objective here, which is to talk about how do both parties, including
the -- especially the president, deal with the numbers as they change.

And, you know, both the poor, the working poor, are very much a part
of what all of us need to be concerned about, not just those who are in the
middle class or the upper classes.

SHARPTON: Well, Governor, let me go back to you. I just want to make
a note. Willard, it was your former Republican chairman that said your
statement was asinine. I just want to underscore that.

Governor, let me ask you, the middle class trust the president more to
protect the middle class than -- well, the people polled say they trust him
to deal with the middle class more than they do Mr. Romney, the people that
I assume that the chairman was referring to, 55 percent to 37 percent.

If Mr. Romney thinks he`s speaking to and for them, is it that his
message is not getting through, or is it that it`s difficult supporting
Ryan`s plan and other things for people to say that`s going to benefit me,
the working middle class, the working poor?

RENDELL: Well, I think you`ve identified it. There are two things,
Rev. Number one, the fairness issue. Governor Romney is on the wrong side
of the fairness issue and he gets beat up badly by his own Republican House
delegation. They are doing things that are absurd like voting against the
millionaires tax, 100 percent of them voting against the millionaires tax.
So that`s number one.

And number two, the president has laid out a fairly specific jobs
plan. It`s been beaten back at virtually every turn by the Republicans,
including things like infrastructure, which is so self-evident. And so far
the only thing that Governor Romney said is trust me, I`m a business man.
I know how to fix the economy.

But other than the same old recipe of keeping taxes low and reducing
regulations, which didn`t work during the Bush years -- and it hasn`t
really worked any time in the last 50 or 60 years -- there`s no specifics.
There are no details to his plan. So I think the president wins on both,
on fairness and on job creation plan.

SHARPTON: Well, Chairman Steele, let me say this. I think it`s going
to be close the way the country is polarized. But I ask for a sign and I
got a sign. I saw a guy from New England throw a ball last night that
could have made it, but they dropped the ball. I predict that`s going to
happen in November. Just a prediction from a New Yorker who just won the
Super Bowl.

STEELE: I understand, Reverend. I understand.

SHARPTON: I know you do. Governor Ed Rendell and Michael Steele,
thanks for joining me.

RENDELL: Have a good night.

STEELE: All right

SHARPTON: Coming up -- the more voters learn about Mitt, the less
they like him. Some devastating signs for the Romney campaign.

Plus -- Republicans accuse Clint Eastwood of selling out by selling a
positive message of America. The Super Bowl ad that`s become a political
football.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINT EASTWOOD, ACTOR: This country can`t be knocked out with one
punch. We get right back up again, and when we do, the world is going to
hear the roar of our engines. Yes, it`s halftime, America. And our second
half is about to begin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: And the Rush Limbaughs of the world just can`t handle the
truth when it comes to the president`s record on creating jobs. You`re
watching POLITICS NATION on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Karl Rove takes on Clint Eastwood. Really, Rove? You`re
going to make his day. The Super Bowl ad that`s driving the Republicans
crazy. That`s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Welcome back to POLITICS NATION. Willard Mitt Romney might
be winning the Republican race, but he`s not winning over the American
people.

A new "Washington Post" poll shows 52 percent of Americans say the
more they learn about Willard, the less they like him. That includes 39
percent of Republicans. Four out of every 10 Republicans like him less as
they learn more about him. That`s bad news, and it might explain why
they`re not coming out to vote for him.

In Florida, there was a 13 percent decline in voter turnout compared
to the Republican primary in 2008. And in Nevada, 26 percent fewer
Republicans came out to the vote. Willard supporters would have you
believe this says good things about his campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN SUNUNU, FORMER NEW HAMPSHIRE GOVERNOR : -- In an odd sense, when
turnout is down it means, contrary to what you`re hearing from a lot of
people, people are satisfied with the winning -- the candidate that`s
winning, and they are satisfied with Mitt Romney.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: In an odd sense? Yes, that`s very odd. Republicans aren`t
voting for Romney because they like him so much? Really? They may like
him even less after another month of attacks from Newt Gingrich.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FORMER REP. NEWT GINGRICH, R-GA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He`s not a
bad person, per se, but he`s not a person that goes in there with force and
will and fundamentally changes thing. A pro abortion, pro gun control, pro
tax increase George Soros approved candidate of the establishment probably
is not going to do very well.

I had never before seen a person who I thought of as a serious
candidate be that fundamentally dishonest. If you can`t tell the truth as
a candidate for president, how can the country possibly expect you to lead
as president?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Joining me now is Steve Kornacki, political columnist for
salon.com, and Erin McPike from Real Clear Politics. Thank you both for
being here tonight.

STEVE KORNACKI, SALON.COM: Sure.

SHARPTON: Erin, when you have that many people in your own party
don`t like you, it`s bad news, isn`t it, or is something wrong with me
after hearing that odd explanation?

ERIN MCPIKE, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: You know, yes. There are lots of
Republicans who don`t like Mitt Romney, but Republicans all over the
country tell me that, once there is a nominee, they`ll fall in line and
support Mitt Romney. I do think that that clip you played of John Sununu
was troubling, and that`s very clear that that`s not the case, because we
still have a very competitive primary on our hands.

But I will point to you two memos that the Romney campaign sent out
today and how they are explaining this. Now one says he`s won all of the
swing states where they`ve had primaries so far including New Hampshire,
Florida and Nevada, which is important. Then they say he`s sort of trying
to trend toward the middle and get independent voters.

But also "The Washington Post" poll that you were also referencing
today, Romney`s pollster Neil Newhouse put out a memo and said that there
was something wrong with the poll, that new negative information was put
forth before they asked the question about President Obama versus Mitt
Romney in a general election, where President Obama is now beating Mitt
Romney where he was behind before.

And they are trying to really talk about tactics and it`s really on
the margins where they are finding these problems.

SHARPTON: Yes, well, they didn`t say that when they were ahead in the
same poll.

But help me out, Steve. Newt Gingrich says he`s a good guy but he`s
dishonest, a liar, flip-flopper, doesn`t stand for anything, but he`s a
good guy. Remind me to not invite Newt to speak at my banquet.

If we have a diet of Newt doing this for the next month, given that
the polls clearly indicate that the more voters know about Mr. Romney, the
less they like them, that it`s only going to feed more fire for Newt.

And you have low voter turnout. Because I don`t care how you cut it,
if people wanted to get this president out, they`d be rallying to get a
nominee to get him out. The voter turnout in the primaries are down. All
of this has got to spell bad news for the Romney people when they get out
of the spin room.

KORNACKI: Yes, I mean, I think there`s some troubling signs here.
And there could be some real serious damage that`s come out of this
primary. The one cautionary note that I`d sort of add about the low
turnout issue is this: I think what it tells us is that it confirms what
we`ve kind of known about Mitt Romney`s status in the Tea Party era of the
Republican Party.

He does not really reflect the passion that animates the base of the
Republican Party since 2009. He doesn`t reflect it in his style. He
doesn`t reflect it in sort of his story of politics. And I think that
translates. And plus an opening for a conservative candidate who does, and
that conservative candidate has simply never emerged.

So I think that explains why the turnout is very low. The X factor in
all of this, when you get to the general election, that what animates the
Republican Party base in this era? At its core it`s resentment of and
resistance to President Obama.

So at that point, will these people who are not voting right now,
these sort of Tea Party Republicans, will they -- fine, we don`t really
care for Romney but that, whatever, you know, whatever sense there, is that
overridden by how much we want to get Barack Obama out? I still think it`s
possible they will be very motivated, they will be very energized this
fall.

SHARPTON: No, I agree that they`ll be motivated by their dislike of
the president.

But Erin, isn`t that even more the reason why Newt continuing to say
there`s very little difference between the president and Romney, ObamaCare
and RomneyCare, ultimately can hurt that Tea Party conservative turnout
they are going to need in November because you got to remember the Tea
Party first raised its head around health care.

Well, if we keep hearing Newt Gingrich in his own party saying
ObamaCare and RomneyCare is the same thing, then what does that do to
turnout in November? If Romney is the nominee, of course?

MCPIKE: Right. Well, it`s not just Newt Gingrich that`s doing it.
And I -- it`s Rick Santorum as well. Rick Santorum gave a speech on that
very thing today on health care. And you saw a lot of traffic coming from
the Romney campaign about Rick Santorum -- attacking him, too. And Rick
Santorum is not much of a threat to Mitt Romney at all.

And what they are trying to do right now is to stamp out any kind of
resistance from Republicans so that Rick Santorum can`t draw from this and
get any of his own traction by going after RomneyCare.

You know, again, I mean, I think in the fall, turnout will be fine for
Romney because of what Steve said, that the Republican base is motivated
against Obama. But the Romney campaign wants to shut this down now, which
is why they are continuing to attack Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.

SHARPTON: But you also have some criticisms, Steve, coming from some
different places. Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York. He and I never
agreed on anything, including the day of the week, but look at what he said
about Willard.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: He has changed his
position on virtually everything. He was a traditional moderate
Republican, strong on fiscal matters, conservative. Strong on foreign
policy, but basically socially moderate. And he changed all of that. All
those changes in positions give me -- give me pause.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Rudy Giuliani calling Willard a flip-flopper. And like I
said, he and I never agree on anything, but even a broke clock could be
right twice a day.

KORNACKI: Well, you know, right or wrong, I think there`s also -- we
can`t overlook the personal animus that sort of exists there because no
candidate -- we think back to 2008, the Republican presidential race that
year.

No Republican candidate was less popular among his fellow Republican
candidates than Mitt Romney. What -- and as Fred Thompson didn`t really
care for Romney, John McCain made no secret of the fact he didn`t care for
Mitt Romney during that campaign.

SHARPTON: (Inaudible) --

KORNACKI: Or Huckabee --

SHARPTON: But McCain has endorsed him --

KORNACKI: He is now, because the other -- the other X factor in this
is, you know, a lot of them have to swallow hard because, yes, they -- you
know, Romney really bothers them, but, A, if they nominate Gingrich, who
they`re worried, will he take me down with him in the fall; and, B, a lot
of them have history with Newt Gingrich, too.

So a lot of Republicans have sort of faced a choice here. You know,
we don`t like either one of these.

SHARPTON: Well, all right. But I can assure you, they need not
worry. He will definitely take them down with him. Steve Kornacki and
Erin McPike, thank you both for your time tonight.

KORNACKI: Sure.

SHARPTON: Ahead -- the latest right wing conspiracy on those great
jobs numbers. It`s so crazy, it`s actually funny.

And this is a fight I never saw coming. Karl Rove unleashes an
unbelievable attack on Clint Eastwood. And go ahead, Karl, make his day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EASTWOOD: This country can`t be knocked out with one punch. We get
right back up again. And when we do, the world is going to hear the roar
of our engines. Yes. It`s halftime, America. And our second half is
about to begin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: The right wing in this country has a new conspiracy theory
to try to explain away the latest impressive jobs numbers. We reported
Friday on how the unemployment rate dropped to 8.3 percent, the lowest
level since February 2009. So how do they react to the great news for the
country? They pretend it`s not true.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are they playing around with the numbers? Look.
It`s the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It`s supposed to be nonpartisan but
that`s the Department of Labor and Hilda Solis heads the Department of
Labor. Hilda Solis works directly for Obama. I`m, you know --

STEVE DOOCY, ANCHOR, "FOX & FRIENDS:" Are you saying they are cooking
the books?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I`m saying there`s room for error.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, TALK RADIO PERSONALITY: Now what`s happening is the
labor force is shrinking. There are fewer jobs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So it`s interpretation, I think is the way in
which we would describe.

LIMBAUGH: Are you hearing me on this? It is corrupt as it can be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. There`s a million less people than we thought
working which some have said, man, that`s kind of fishy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: So because the numbers look good, you think they`re fishy.
And they are cooking the books. And the conservative blogs are running
with the same theory. Saying there was actually bad news on the job front.
I guess we have two choices. We can trust Limbaugh and the gang at "FOX
and Friends" or we can get a second opinion. First off, the Bureau of
Labor Statistics is using updated census numbers. Nobel Prize winner Paul
Krugman says, the right`s trotting out the same old bogosity. "The Wall
Street Journal," yes, that "Wall Street Journal" said, quote, "The
improvement in the labor market is real. People actually found jobs," end
of quote. Even the conservative American Spectator dismissed reports that
the numbers were off. They wrote, quote, "Those things are simply not true
no matter how loudly people scream conspiracy and propaganda." I guess
they are so busy bashing the President, they forgot to read the papers.
Nice try, guys. But we got you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: We`re back with a very simple question. Should some people
be denied the same health care rights that everyone else in the country
gets simply because of who they work for? President Obama says, no.
That`s why his administration is requiring employers to cover preventative
services for women, including contraceptive services for free. Religious
institutions, like churches, are exempt. But universities and hospitals
affiliated with those religious groups aren`t. Some Catholics are upset
saying, the decision encroaches on their beliefs against contraception.
But I think we should balance that with health care rights of the many
employees who aren`t Catholic. I talked about it earlier today on "Morning
Joe."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: If I am a person that works in one of these institutions, I
have the right to say the government that I disagree with my employees and
want to exercise that.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: If you are giving a Catholic hospital money you
should be aware of how it`s going to be used.

SHARPTON: Stomping on their right. What about the right of people
that don`t agree with the theology of whoever.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Well, if you don`t -- if you were offended by the
theology of the Catholic Church, then do not work for a Catholic
institution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: With all due respect to my friend, Joe, a lot of people
don`t have the option of getting another job. They are lucky to have one
at all. But they shouldn`t be discriminated against because of who they
work for.

Joining me now is Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, former lieutenant
governor of Maryland and author of "Failing America`s Faithful: How Today`s
Churches Are Mixing God With Politics And Losing Their Way." Also joining
me is Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for life of America.
Thank you both for joining me tonight.

KRISTEN DAY, DEMOCRATS FOR LIFE OF AMERICA: It`s great to be with
you.

KATHLEEN KENNEDY TOWNSEND (D-MD), FMR. LT. GOV.: Thank you. Thank
you so much.

SHARPTON: Let me start with you Lieutenant Governor Townsend. This
is a difficult issue. You support the President`s decision. Tell us why.

TOWNSEND: I support the President`s decision because he recognizes
the right of conscience. He has given exemptions for, you know, churches,
parishioners, parishes. But the large employers, the universities, the
colleges, the hospitals that serve many, many people of different faiths,
he`s saying to them, we`ve got to protect all women. What we know with
contraception it helps women in many, many ways. It makes sure that they
can prevent pregnancies, obviously, but also prevents ovarian cancer,
reduces it vastly and prevents cysts, helps people with pain that they have
with their periods. So the question is, do we want, as a country, to say
we are going to treat all the women that we can and give them the
opportunity to get the best health care that they can? And that`s what
President Obama is devoted to. He understands the right of conscience. No
Catholic doctor is going to have to actually give prescription for
contraceptions, they don`t want to. But many Catholic women, and women of
other faiths will get the health care they need.

SHARPTON: Now what is wrong with that in your opinion, Miss Day? Why
can`t you support that?

DAY: Well, we don`t support that because the -- our nation has a
longstanding tradition of respecting the religious rights of people. And
with this decision, we`re saying that Catholic institutions or religious
institutions will now be forced to go against their religious beliefs to
provide and pay for this coverage, which is wrong. And the courts
traditionally rule in favor of religious rights. And I think what we`re
losing sight of here is that we worked very hard to pass the health care
bill. So more people could get coverage. And with this narrow rule here,
we might face people losing their employee-sponsored health care which
would be -- really go against everything what we fought to pass when we --
with the health care bill.

SHARPTON: So, could that, Miss Townsend, be interpreted that some
people feel that they supported the President and this is unfair to
Catholics that supported it?

TOWNSEND: Well, I mean, I think Kristen raises a great question
about, you know, conscience. And I think what we have to do in America is
trust people`s conscience. Women can make a decision. Do they want to
follow their conscience and get contraception or do they want to follow
their conscience and not get it? But you`ve got to give them the choice.
And you know, it costs about $600 a year to get contraception. So, by
allowing people freely to get it, you`re going to get them to be healthier
than they would otherwise. And what is terrific and what I love about my
church, our church, is that it believes in taking care of the least among
us. It believes in health care. It believes that that`s part of our
responsibility. And so you don`t want it to be in a situation in which you
discriminate against those who work at a university or at a hospital. You
want to say you get health care, too. You could follow your conscience.
As you know, Kristen and Reverend Sharpton, I`m sure you know as well.
Twenty eight states already do this.

SHARPTON: Right.

TOWNSEND: This is not a new idea. Eight states give no exceptions
that even the Obama administration gives. The Obama administration gives
exceptions for, you know, parishes. So they are actually, you know, it`s
just interesting that it`s come at this time because, in fact, the Obama
administration carefully looked at what was the tradition in other
practices in other states and said, what we need to do is help women get
the best health care they can.

SHARPTON: But what about that, Kristen. Twenty eight states already
does it. Some of them don`t have even exemption, so why now this kind of
reaction, is this political?

DAY: Right. The biggest difference is that now everyone is going to
be -- have health care insurance and nobody can opt out. So, everybody
will be forced to participate in some sort of health care plan. And I
think another thing we`re missing here is that currently these institutions
provide health insurance for their employees. And it`s not -- they`re not
going to lose anything if this rule is widened. And, you know, the only
thing they could lose is their employee sponsored health insurance. So, I
think by, you know, continuing to allow people to not have to make a
decision between their religious convictions and their belief that everyone
should have health care, I think, is, you know, it`s a dangerous road to go
down to trample on the religious rights because it won`t win in the
courts, most likely, and you know, you`ll talk about politics, and this is
dangerous politically as well for the Obama administration because it calls
to question those of us who really went to bath and worked really hard to
get the health care bill passed.

You know, it call to question the bill and, you know, all along those
on the -- the naysayers were saying, well, that when they pass this,
they`ll go and fund abortion and we stood up and said, no, this isn`t going
to happen. In fact, one of our board members, Congressman Kathy Dahlkemper
who lost re-election, largely due to groups using the, you know, the health
care bill against her and saying it was going to fund abortion. She said
if she knew that it was going to go down this direction she wouldn`t have
vote for the bill.

SHARPTON: Well, let me ask you this Miss Townsend --

TOWNSEND: But I think there`s a big difference.

SHARPTON: Go ahead.

TOWNSEND: I believe, between contraception and abortion. I think
that there is a number of people who think that`s a big difference. And
this is for women who want contraception. This is for women to exercise
their conscience. You are in favor of conscience. Our America has a great
belief in freedom of conscience and this allows people to follow their
conscience. It doesn`t penalize them for where they work. It says you are
wise. You are smart. You can make up your decision about what is right
and moral in your life. And that is what we -- that is what Catholics
believe. We believe in freedom of conscience.

SHARPTON: Kristen, isn`t that the point here Kirsten? Because let me
ask the question. Because, really if we`re dealing with the fact that some
employees -- we`re talking about hospitals that are not of direct church
activity, don`t they have the right to say that I don`t agree with church
dogma? I mean, what stops the church from saying, divorcees shouldn`t have
coverage because we don`t preach second marriages. I mean, can we have
religious institutions, mine, anybody else decides what is allowable by
government?

DAY: Well, you know, nothing is stopping women who work for these
institutions now from exercising their rights to use contraception.

TOWNSEND: Well, can we just look at that? The studies have shown
that when you make it free, it`s much more us. When it`s not free, fewer
people use it. It might be easy for you and me, Kristen, to afford $600 a
year, but a lot of women don`t use it because it`s just too expensive.
And, you know, that`s very, very tough. So what we`re trying to do is say
this is a basic part of being a healthy human being. If you want it, if
it`s consistent with your moral beliefs, you can use contraception. That
should be covered.

SHARPTON: I`m going to have to hold it right there, ladies. Thank
you both. This will be an ongoing discussion, I`m sure. Kathleen Townsend
and Kristen Day, thank you for joining me this evening.

DAY: Thank you very much.

TOWNSEND: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Ahead, a republican trusted to protect voter integrity in
Indiana was just convicted on three counts of voter fraud. We`ll tell you
why the only voter fraud in America is coming from the right.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: We`re back with a news flash. Voter fraud is happening
right now in America. Only it`s Republicans who are committing it. Meet
Charlie White, Indiana`s former republican secretary of state. This man`s
job was to protect the integrity of voting, to keep fraud out of elections.
But on Saturday, he lost his job after being convicted of voter fraud. A
total of six felony counts, including lying on voter registration card,
voting in another precinct and submitting a false ballot. But
conservatives are getting pretty good at this voter fraud thing.

Last month, conservative smear artists went undercover at the New
Hampshire primary using names of voters who recently died. And today in
Maryland, a second trial began in republican Robo calling plot to suppress
black voter turnout during the 2010 gubernatorial election. One GOP
operative has already been convicted. No wonder Republicans are so worried
about fraud. It`s happening in their own party.

Joining me now, Judith Brown-Dianis, co-director of the Advancement
Project of Civil Rights Group focused on the issues of democracy and race.
Judith, thank you for joining me again and being here tonight.

JUDITH BROWN-DIANIS, CO-DIRECTOR, ADVANCEMENT PROJECT: Thank you
Reverend Sharpton.

SHARPTON: Judith, Republicans have proposed all kinds of voting laws.
But how ironic is it that they are the ones being caught committing it.

DIANIS: That`s right. This is just true hypocrisy. The people who
go around saying, there`s rampant voter fraud in the system, that there are
people voting who shouldn`t be voting are the same people who are getting
caught with their hand in the cookie jar. To have the person who is
responsible for running elections in the state of Indiana, which was the
pioneer around voter I.D. restrictions caught red handed committing voter
fraud shows that the real voter fraud is being conducted by the right.

SHARPTON: Now, when you and I and others have come out against this,
it`s because when we look at the facts, out of 2002 to 2007, 86
prosecutions out of 300 million votes, so there`s no real widespread voter
fraud. 0.00003 percent. This is from the Bush administration.

DIANIS: That`s right.

SHARPTON: This is not data from you or I. This is Bush
administration. So, it makes many of us feel there`s another motive here
about changing these laws. And then talking about hypocrisy as you said,
Judith, why didn`t they have voter I.D. in the Iowa caucuses of their own
republican primaries and caucuses leading to nomination. They just had an
Iowa caucus.

DIANIS: That`s right.

SHARPTON: No voter I.D. So they must not believe that there`s
widespread problem other than a few of their own practitioners.

DIANIS: That`s right. They would want to have voter I.D. for some,
not for themselves. So in Iowa, they didn`t use voter I.D. for their own
republican primary, but when it comes to the general election, these same
folks who are committing voter fraud, who are engaged in trickery to make
sure that people are deceived and given misinformation about Election Day,
telling people to vote on one day when the Election Day is on Tuesday. Go
vote on Thursday or don`t vote because, in fact, your guy won already.
These are the same people who are passing laws that are intended to
disenfranchise millions of voters, most of whom would be people of color,
young people, elderly, and the disabled. And it`s all for partisan gain.

SHARPTON: Now, we saw in Iowa that ballots were lost and results were
reversed giving Santorum the win over Romney. The GOP state chair had to
resign but yet this voter I.D. laws are being considered in 34 states. One
of the other things that was interesting, Judith there is when Mr. White
was convicted Saturday, yesterday he was on FOX News Sunday lashing out on
everyone, including republican Governor Mitch Daniels, a fellow republican.
Watch what he was saying.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLIE WHITE (R), INDIANA SECRETARY OF STATE: Mitch Daniels has
voted incorrectly, according to the standard put on by me, the last ten
straight elections he votes down at the governor`s mansion where everyone
knows he does not live.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: I mean, it`s incredible, Judith. But let me say this, one
of our concerns is to maintain and preserve voting rights. Let me show
you, 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King and others marched from Selma to
Montgomery and really awakening the country to the fight for voting rights
and on Edmund Pettus Bridge, John Lewis and who`s now Congressman Jose
Williams (ph) and others was beaten. They took five days and marched to
Montgomery. Many of us feel that what`s going on with these voter I.D.
laws are undermining now the voting rights and last year, last -- end of
last year, we marched in Washington around voter rights, voter ID.
Thousands came out and marched with us in Washington and on the
anniversary, March 4th of the Montgomery march. Selma to Montgomery march.
We`re going to take five days in march again from Selma to Montgomery
against these voter I.D. laws. We`re going to do something about it, and
we`re going to take a lot of our POLITICS NATION audience with us as we
march the footsteps of Dr. King. Judith, thank you for your time tonight.

DIANIS: Thank you Reverend Sharpton.

SHARPTON: We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: We`re back with the Super Bowl commercial that`s become a
political football. The Clint Eastwood ad promoting Chrysler and America`s
future.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: This country can`t be knocked out with one punch.
We get right back up again. And when we do, the world is going to hear the
roar of our engines. Yes, it`s halftime, America. And our second half is
about to begin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: The ad is positive. Unifying. Upbeat. And Republicans
hate it. They are scared of anything that reminds Americans that President
Obama saved the auto industry. They know the message is popular, so they
are going after the messenger.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KARL ROVE, FORMER SENIOR ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT BUSH: This is a sign of
what happens when you have the government getting in bed with big business
like the bailout of the auto companies. They begin to -- the leadership of
the auto companies feel they need to do something to repay their political
patrons. I was frankly offended but I`m a huge fan of Clint Eastwood.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: This is Dirty Harry he`s talking about. The fact that Karl
Rove is criticizing the ad shows how worried he and the Republicans are
about the good news coming out of Detroit. Thanks to President Obama.
General Motors is back on top as the global leader in auto sales. They
sold nine million cars last year. 1.1 million auto jobs were saved in
2009 alone. We all know Willard Mitt Romney was ready to let the auto
industry die. He wrote a "New York Times" column headlined, quote, "Let
Detroit go bankrupt." Conservatives like Rush Limbaugh are now claiming
the job numbers in Detroit are wrong.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIMBAUGH: I`m not going to believe any set of such numbers this
regime puts out this year. I`m not going to believe the unemployment
number. I don`t believe the General Motors number.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Halftime in America. I think we need to finish the half
one more term. Clint Eastwood, I might not buy a Chrysler, but I`m going
to go buy some old DVDs of your movies.

Thanks for watching. I`m Al Sharpton. "HARDBALL" starts right now.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED.
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