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PoliticsNation, Thursday, February 9, 2012

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Guests: Melissa Harris-Perry, Michael Keegan; Joe Madison; Steve Kornacki, Erin McPike, Bob Franken, Elijah Cummings

REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Welcome to "Politics Nation. I`m Al
Sharpton.

Tonight`s lead. The Republicans have no idea who they are as a party.
But they do agree on one thing, they`ll say anything and do anything to
bring down the president. This was on full display today at the
conservative political action conference.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR JIM DEMINT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I can guarantee you that
coach Tom Coughlin last week did not tell his giants to go out on the field
and to work with those other guys. Compromise works well in this world
when you have shared goals. But we don`t have shared goals with the
Democrats, folks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: No shared goals, senator DeMint? Senator DeMint has no
shared goals with the president who said this about helping troubled
homeowners today?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are Americans, and
we look out for one another. We get each other`s backs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Looking out for Americans. That`s not a goal that`s shared
by the Republican Party because they have a different goal. Their goal is
denying the president credit for anything.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: He`ll be pointing to bin Laden.
He`ll be pointing to the overthrow of Gadhafi. He`ll be pointing to the
Arab spring as his foreign policy success story. And while without a
shadow of a doubt, the world is better off without bin Laden and without
Gadhafi, these are tactical successes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Pardon me? Getting rid of bin Laden was just a tactical
success? He just tactically died? And that`s somehow different from a
real success? Folks, this is the same old story on the economy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Everything got worse. The
unemployment went up, the debt went up, the economy slowed down.
Everything got worse.

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: So if I were
President Obama, I`d keep the champagne on ice. This is not an economy to
be proud of.

DEMINT: There is nothing this president has done that makes this
economy better.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Nothing? Nothing? 23 straight months of private sector
job growth is nothing? 3.7 million new jobs are nothing? They are so bent
on denying him credit that they are making up stories about what President
Obama has or has not said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUBIO: I think all we need to look at is the state of the union. If
you noticed the president talked about a lot of things. One thing he
didn`t talk about was his record. He didn`t talk a lot about his record.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Senator Rubio, you were in the audience at the state of the
union. I guess you missed this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Businesses have created more than three million jobs. Last
year, they created the most jobs since 2005. American manufacturers are
hiring again. Creating jobs for the first time since the late 1990s.

Together, we have agreed to cut the deficit by more than $2 trillion.
And we put in place new rules to hold Wall Street accountable. We bet on
American workers. We bet on American ingenuity. And tonight, the American
auto industry is back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Joining me now is Melissa Harris-Perry, soon to be host of
MSNBC`s "Melissa Harris-Perry" and she`s also a professor at - of political
science at Tulane. And Steve Kornacki, political columnist for the
salon.com.

Thank you both for joining me tonight.

MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST, MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY: Sure.

STEVE KORNACKI, POLITICAL COLUMNIST, SALON.COM: Sure.

SHARPTON: Melissa, can Republicans win with the message built solely
on attacking President Obama?

HARRIS-PERRY: Maybe. You know, and that`s part of why they are
tactically making this choice. Look. One of my dear colleagues, John
Aldridge, his theory about why political parties exist is a pretty
straightforward theory. And it goes like this.

Political parties exist in order to elect candidates to office. Full
stop. And so, the Republican Party at this point when it says our number
one goal is to get this president out and to elect a Republican is not
doing something inherently bad. In other words, it`s doing what a party
does.

I think the problem is exactly as you pointed to in the introduction.
If they are willing in the work of, you know, saying we have better ideas.
We think we have better candidates, what you can`t do is, one, actually
work against economic recovery which we`ve seen this Republican party do by
cutting public sector jobs just as private sector jobs are being added.

And, two, you can`t actually work against sort of what`s -- what is
working both in terms of foreign policy and domestic policy. And I think
that`s the ugliness here. Not trying to --

SHARPTON: The other thing you might need is to have better
candidates, but we will have a technicality.

Steve, let me say this to you. One person -- a CPAC veteran, really,
at this conference said this. "The one thing that unites everybody is the
hatred of Barack Obama. But hatred of the president is not a governing
philosophy." That`s Craig Shirley saying that who was not only a CPAC
veteran but one of the biographers of Ronald Reagan.

KORNACKI: Yes. Well, the broader backdrop for this conference is
kind of interesting to me because it`s coming at a moment when there`s
really been the best economic news of Barack Obama`s presidency.

Now, it may turn out five, six months from now that we look back and
say it was a mirage and the economy was actually going to stall again.

SHARPTON: Right.

KORNACKI: But there`s actually reason to believe right now the
economy really is improving. People are really starting to feel it. And
Barack Obama is really going to bounce back because of it. And you look at
the rhetoric that`s taking place at a conference like this. There`s really
nothing new here. Nothing that anybody at this conference is saying they
didn`t say in 2011 or 2010 or 2009. The sort of contempt for Obama. The
resentment of Obama has always been there.

But I think the trap that the Republicans may have fallen into is
believing those attitudes that those sentiments were shared by the broader,
you know, the country at large because of the election results n 2010.

SHARPTON: Right.

KORNACKI: But there could be a split here. If the economy really is
coming back, you know, most Americans really do kind like President Obama.
They really do hope that he succeeds. They`ve been hoping he succeeds.
They vote for him if the economy is in a bad place, but --

SHARPTON: Even when the economy was worse he was getting favorable in
terms of liking him.

KORNACKI: Exactly.

SHARPTON: Melissa, let me ask you this then. The tone has been so
personal. The attacks on him are not policy driven but personal. Look at
some of these comments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCONNELL: The president seems to have forgotten he was elected to
lead all Americans. He was elected to be president of the United States,
not the occupy Wall Street fan club.

RUBIO: The president of the United States looks like he`s a really
good father. Looks like he`s a really good husband. But he is a terrible
president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: I mean, that`s kind of a real personal tone. All of this
happened today. He looks like he`s a good father. I mean, we have a
little doubt there and suggesting maybe I`m overly sensitive to Rubio. But
I mean, Melissa, don`t you pick up a very personal tone in all of this?

HARRIS-PERRY: Well, I do. And certainly it`s been the personal tone
they`ve had really since January 20th, 2009. This idea of attacking
President Obama as a person. You know, often just sort of leveling these
critiques that don`t make sense. Socialist or radical, frightening Muslim.
All of these things that are really just name calling.

And typically, when people fall into name calling, it`s because they
simply don`t have ideas that can stack up with the ideas they are trying to
challenge. And I think, by the way, that`s really bad for our democracy.

My sense of the Democratic Party does not have all the right answers
to absolutely everything. And the part of what we need to have a robust
democratic process is to have a smart party full of Republicans with
alternative ideas so that we can actually work together, find some kind of
middle ground.

And, by the way, that`s actually been President Obama`s tone from the
beginning. There`s actually nothing wrong with an exchange of ideas, but
name calling and that kind of personal attack almost always means they are
devoid of ideas.

SHARPTON: I want to talk about something else that`s getting a lot of
attention at CPAC today. It`s the president`s ruling on contraceptives.
Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCONNELL: The Obama administration has crossed a dangerous line.
And we will fight this attack on the fundamental right to religious freedom
until the courts overturn it or until we have a president who will reverse
it.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: One thing is for
certain, this attack on religious freedom cannot and will not stand.

RUBIO: Now I don`t know what the South African constitution says
about these things, but I know what the U.S. constitution says about it.
And what it says is that the federal government does not have the power to
force religious organizations to pay for things that that organization
thinks is wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: What bothers me about these speakers today is that they are
either unaware of what is being proposed or totally misleading the people
listening to them at CPAC. This has nothing to do with directing religious
institutions to do anything. It has everything to say. If religious
institutions have other service agencies that they are going to have as a
part of whatever they give their respective communities, hospitals or
schools, they have to follow the law.

This has nothing to do with their church. Nobody is coming in saying
the catholic church or any other church has to change its theology, has to
change its dogma. But if you step outside of the church and you want to
run a hospital, if you want to sponsor a school, you`ve got to operate it
under the same employee`s laws as anybody else in America. And if your
religion forbids that, then you just don`t apply to run the hospital or the
school. I mean, it`s really not that complicated.

And how does this end up on a war on religion and the first amendment?
What are you talking about? You want to open up something, you follow the
law of anybody else in that business. Melissa?

HARRIS-PERRY: But, also particularly obscene because they feel fine
taking religious beliefs and pushing them into secular areas. For example,
marriage. The idea that the argument against marriage equality is because
certain religions believe that marriage is between one man and one woman
and, therefore, that should be imposed. Or, for example, termination of a
pregnancy that because one religion or some set of religions hold that to
be a sin, that should, therefore, be illegal.

I am fine with a set of religious beliefs but there is law and we
exist in a secular government. And then there`s a set religious beliefs
that should be able to operate freely and with no government feather.

SHARPTON: No. But, I agree with you there.

But, Steve. This is not about those things. This is not about same-
sex marriage. This is not about women`s right to choose.

Let me give you an example. Mother Jones writes "in December of 2000,
the equal employment opportunity commission ruled that companies that
provided prescription drugs to their employees but didn`t provide birth
control were in violation of title VII of the 1964 civil rights act."

That opinion which the George W. Bush administration did nothing to
alter, or withdraw when it took office the next month, is still in effect
today. So this is already law. Bush did nothing about it. These
Republicans that were up there saying what they said today did not propose
anything about it. All of a sudden, when the HHS under President Obama has
to rule, it becomes a war on religion. Why wasn`t it a war on religion
under George Bush? This law was there then?

KORNACKI: Well, I think in an odd way, this tells you something. If
you are the Obama White House you have to almost be encouraged by this.
And I will tell you why.

It`s because the Republicans, if they had their way, would be talking
about the economy right now. The entire Republican bet from January 2009
on was that they could express reflexive opposition to anything Obama did,
anything he proposed and if they`d get away with and be rewarded for it
because the economy would be so bad that people would just side with them.

Now, as I said, there`s this broader backdrop against which all this
is playing out where the economy actually seems to be improving now. So,
when the Republicans start moving away from that economic message and start
talking about things like this, which really is a raw, almost naked play to
their face and worst assumptions about who Obama is, and what he
represents. When they do that that show they are losing on the economy.

SHARPTON: Steve and Melissa, thanks for coming on the show tonight.

And Melissa, we`re looking forward to your new show, "Melissa Harris-
Perry." It debuts here on MSNBC in nine days. How do I know? Because I`m
counting. Nine days, February 18th.

HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks.

SHARPTON: Ahead. Willard under fire. Conservatives have never been
more concerned about him, and he`s going smack into the conservative lion`s
den tomorrow. This is going to get interesting.

Plus, speaking of Mitt. He`s trying to retool his message as
President Obama is trying to retool the economy. Major announcement
protecting homeowners today.

And you know by the company you keep. If that phrase is true,
Republicans have a major problem. We`re tearing back the curtain on a
white nationalist leader sharing the CPAC spotlight.

You`re watching "Politics Nation" on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: The big conservative festival known as CPAC kicked off
today with all the big GOP leaders. But a man identified as a white
nationalist leader was sharing the big stage with them. It`s troubling.
That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: This year, the conservative CPAC summit is more extreme and
exclusionary than ever. Organizers have banned the gay Republican group go
proud because of their, quote, "behavior and attitude." But they are
perfectly happy to welcome a man who promotes racist views.

At 12:30 today, an activist named Peter Brimelow was among the
speakers at a panel called the failure of multiculturalism. Brimelow is an
anti-immigrant writer who founded a Web site called vdarenot.com identified
as a white nationalist hate group by the southern poverty law center.
Articles posted on his Web site say that America is, quote, "a white nation
for white people." These articles say Jews are, quote, "weakening
America`s historic white majority and immigrants are displacing native-born
Americans." This is the kind of guy who is rubbing elbows today with the
Republican elite. These are the views being welcomed on one of the GOP`s
biggest events of the year.

Joining me now is Michael Keegan, president of the progressive group
people for the American way. He`s calling on GOP presidential candidates
to denounce the presence of this white journalist and Joe Madison of
"Mornings with Madison" on Sirius XM radio.

Thank you both for being here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks for having me.

SHARPTON: Mr. Keegan, let me ask you. How can a guy like this be
allowed to speak at the conference and not be denounced by the leaders
there?

MICHAEL KEEGAN, PRESIDENT, PEOPLE FOR THE AMERICAN WAY: It`s a good
question. I mean, if you - if this is how you start your conference, then
what does it mean about this entire thing with CPAC?

I think the key thing and what we have called for is that Newt
Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney Should really speak out against it
because there really should be no place for this type of dialogue in
politics today.

I mean, it is pure and simple hatred. And the subtitle of the panel
should be mentioned as well because they talk about how the pursuit of
diversity is weakening American identity. I mean, this is on the program.
So you can imagine --

SHARPTON: So this is on the formal program?

KEEGAN: Right.

SHARPTON: And the subtitle of the formal program was how diversity is
weakening America?

KEEGAN: Weakening the American identity.

SHARPTON: Now, in case people think maybe that like someone else was
saying, he didn`t know what was on this site. Let me play, Joe, what he,
Peter Brimelow, said after the election in November of 2008 on how
Republicans can win the next election. Let me show you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETER BRIMELOW, ACTIVIST: Mobilize the white base. Get them to turn
out. If it did that, even without actually cutting off immigration, they
could continue to win national elections for quite a long time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Mobilize the white vote. Mobilize the white base. So
here`s an open call for this. And when you look at some of the climate
that you and I have been talking about, Joe, maybe some of those that are
in these primaries and caucuses are quietly taking that advice.

JOE MADISON, HOST, MORNINGS WITH MADISON: Well, they very well may
be. This -- there is no place on the planet where there is not
multiculturalism. I mean, there`s multiculturalism in Iceland. Maybe what
he ought to do is take Newt Gingrich`s advice and go to a moon colony
because that`s the only place you might not find diversity.

The bottom line is, here`s a man who not only is anti-black, anti-
immigrant. Now, remember, he`s an immigrant himself. But this is a man
who had the conspiracy theory going that Jewish people, in fact, are
orchestrating a movement to diversify America. This is a man who by the
way believed in the bell curve. He supported the bell curve. The bell
curve was the book that said that whites are argued that whites are
intellectually superior to blacks.

So it`s not only that I think the candidates ought to denounce it, but
quite candidly, I think they shouldn`t have shown up in protest. You do
not give someone the spotlight who has a fault like this.

Finally, reverend Sharpton. I am, in a way, pleased that they are
doing this because what`s going to happen is that there`s going to be a
backlash, particularly among young African-Americans, young Hispanics and
young white people who now live in the 21st century and do not want to have
anything to do with this Neanderthal thinking.

SHARPTON: Now let me ask you, Mr. Keegan. Many of us have found
ourselves with extremists we`re around and had to denounce the ideas anyway
and say we were not party to that. We don`t agree with those ideas. Have
any of the Republican leaders responded to your call? Have any of the
candidates responded to your call to denounce what this guy is saying?

KEEGAN: Not yet, but we feel there`s one more day. And we hope they
do respond to it.

But, I think the important thing to point out is that there`s always
going to be racism the world. But to start off a forum like this, with
this tone and with this title and with white supremacists that he really
is, as Joe mentioned, it really is something that all Americans should
speak out against no matter who they are because it really has no place in
main stream discourse.

SHARPTON: And Governor Romney is speaking tomorrow?

KEEGAN: He is speaking tomorrow.

SHARPTON: He has not responded to this call by you to say something
about this?

KEEGAN: He has not. I think it`s important to note in the 2008
election, that John McCain refused the endorsement of several people that
he thought had extremist views.

SHARPTON: Yes. And I give him credit for that. In fact, Joe.

KEEGAN: Absolutely.

SHARPTON: Someone I don`t agree with much on, Bernard Goldberg of FOX
News contributor, very conservative. Let me show you what he said on
O`Reilly`s show Monday night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BERNIE GOLDBERG, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: There is a strain of bigotry,
and that`s the word I want to use, running through conservative America.
There is a strain of bigotry. And it goes against gay people, for
instance.

In the middle of the last century in the 1950s and 1960s, there was
another strain of bigotry on the right and it was against black people.
That has to leave the conservative movement. I am immensely uncomfortable
with the bigotry on the right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: And again, I mean, he and I don`t agree on much, but he is
saying he`s uncomfortable, Joe. I think that clearly this is not something
that is a far left point of view. This is something all of us that believe
in what is right need to stand up and say, wait a minute. We can`t have it
on any side. Extremism on any side of this -- of the American discussion
at this point.

MADISON: In America, we have to prevent being culturally conditioned
to believe that one race is superior to another and, therefore, you
undervalue, underestimate and marginalize black people, brown people or
people of color.

What has made America great, what has made parties great, what has
made politics great. What did the world recognize two thousand -- November
2008? That we dreamed something that we didn`t think was possible and the
world stood up and applauded the United States of America when Barack Obama
was elected. And we all felt that we had accomplished something that was
historic in nature. There is no room, except maybe on the moon colony for
this Mr. Brimelow.

SHARPTON: Well, I wouldn`t even do that on the moon. There`s no room
for extremist on either side and all of us have to be straight up about it
if we find ourselves in that situation.

MADISON: All of us. Every last one of us. That`s right.

SHARPTON: Michael Keegan. Joe Madison. Thank you for your time
tonight.

MADISON: Thank you.

KEEGAN: Thanks for having me.

SHARPTON: Still ahead. The effort to save Willard Romney`s campaign.
It`s no secret anymore. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: We`re back with what`s becoming a theme on this show.
Willard`s woes. Folks, he`s in all kinds of trouble. Still reeling from
three devastating losses this week. And now the conservative worries about
him are hitting its peak. They have a clear message to Willard. Step it
up. Today, "The Wall Street Journal" editorial board attacked him for his,
quote, "Inability or unwillingness to defend conservative principles." In
this brand new headline reads suddenly Romney country seems like no sure
thing. Ouch. And it couldn`t come at a worse time. Tomorrow, he`ll be
right smack in the middle of the conservative lion`s den when he speaks at
the CPAC Conference.

The same place he ended his presidential campaign four years ago.
It`s there he`s expected to retool his message. But will anyone buy it? A
poll out this week shows 52 percent of Americans like Willard less as they
learn more about him. And the guy who wants to face President Obama is
surging on with his message of fairness. The President`s leading Romney by
six-point margin. Today`s speech could make or break the moment for him.

Joining me now, Bob Franken, a Kings feature syndicated columnist and
Erin McPike of Real Clear Politics. Thank you both for being here tonight.
Tonight Bob, how much trouble is Mitt really in?

BOB FRANKEN, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, you used the word Willard
woes to describe it. I`ve been calling it Mitt`s malaise. It`s all the
same thing. The problem, he`s getting the advice he`s getting from just
about everybody is that he needs to better define himself and his
conservative beliefs. So all his crew of inventors are trying to come up
with something that he can go before a CPAC tomorrow and describe the
passionate feelings that he has. But how do you market passionate
expedience which has really been the hallmark of his career. He goes the
way the wind blows and I`m sure that tomorrow he`ll be trying replace as
usual problem with red meat for the people who are gathered there.

SHARPTON: But Erin, it looks like with all of the GOP horses and all
of the GOP men, they can`t put Willard back together again. Look at how
some of the conservative senators are starting to come down on Mitt Romney.
There is not exactly Romney mania right now says, Senator Jon Kyl of
Arizona. Playing it safe is not going to get it for him, says Senator
DeMint. He`s going to have to work really hard to pull things together,
Senator Boozman. These are all republican senators that are saying this
about who is supposed to be the inevitable nominee at a time President
Obama is on the other side of the political spectrum. Today announcing the
need to help Americans who have been foreclosed on. Now contrast that with
what Romney thinks what we should do about the mortgage crisis. Watch the
President here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: You work and you save your
entire life to buy a home. That`s where you raise your family. That`s
where your kids` memories are formed. That`s your stake, your claim on the
American dream. There`s no excuse for doing nothing to help more families
avoid foreclosure. That`s not who we are. We are Americans and we look
out for one another.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Don`t try and stop the
foreclosure process. Let it run its course and hit the bottom.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: You couldn`t have Erin a more striking contrast.

ERIN MCPIKE, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Right. Well, here`s the thing.
Mitt Romney would love to be talking about the economy right now and other
economic issues. But he`s been forced into talking about social issues
because he`s now in this contest with Rick Santorum who is this diehard
social conservative who, as we`ve talked about, had these three big
victories on Tuesday night. Now, as far as the housing piece is concerned,
these clips that you were just playing, Mitt Romney has not yet put out his
own housing plan and I think he wants to do that later once he becomes the
nominee as many of us still expect that he will be in the general election.
And is sort of saving that for then. But you know, I think you`re right.
He hasn`t really had a chance to talk about that as this republican primary
rages on.

SHARPTON: Well, now let me ask you this, Bob. He goes before CPAC
tomorrow. And if he`s going to get a good reception, he`s going to have to
even move further to the right. While all of this time that he`s having to
fight off his right flank, the President is just one right after the other
coming right down the middle, good unemployment numbers. The best we`ve
seen in awhile. Jobs, foreclosure stuff, he`s talking to the American
people while Willard is often those sides somewhere fighting with Newton
and now Santorum.

FRANKEN: Well, you know, you bring up an interesting point here which
is that the explanation for Rick Santorum`s re-re-emergence. I`ve lost
track of how many times he`s been down and up. But, you know, we`ve had
consistently through this whole primary, Republican Party with a large ABM
contingent, which is anybody but Mitt. Now, there is an ABN also which is
anybody but Newt. And the reason for that is, is while they think Mitt is
somebody who is undefined, they`ve defined Newt Gingrich as too flaky and
too nasty to really appeal. So, now we have Rick Santorum who is riding up
from the right even further from the right and capturing the imagination,
at least momentarily, of the Republicans. Now, we have this thing tomorrow
where Mitt Romney is going to try and escape with his life. By the way,
you aren`t speaking there tomorrow, are you?

SHARPTON: It`s not on my schedule.

FRANKEN: Yes, I didn`t think so. But I wanted to make sure. But you
will be -- will have Mitt Romney trying his best to look like he`s one of
them as he`s always trying to do. And then you will have the others
pointing out why he is not.

SHARPTON: Now Erin, when you look at the polls, "Washington Post"
poll shows President Obama has more support from independents than Romney.
And that`s up because Romney was leading with independents. And Romney`s
favorability ratings with Americans have tanked. He`s unfavorable by 49
percent. Only favorable by 31 percent. How do you flip this around? All
that money he`s spending, he`s been running for five years, and his
unfavorable numbers are much higher than his favorable?

MCPIKE: You know, we haven`t gotten to see a ton of Mitt Romney`s
personality. You know, that`s been sort of hidden from us for a long time
as they tried to continue to hit this economic message. But in the last
few weeks, the Romney campaign has made a concerted effort to try to
humanize Mitt Romney more, which is why just yesterday he opened up a
little bit more about his Mormon faith and you are seeing his children, his
five sons, out on the campaign trail more. And talking about their
experiences with him and Mitt Romney`s own experiences over the last 30 or
so years. So an effort to get into more of the man that`s Mitt Romney
while they continue to attack their republican opponents.

SHARPTON: Yes. His son even sent out a tweet about -- something
about 15 years old where the time that Mitt Romney rescued a 14-year-old
kidnap victim which I commend if he did. But when you contrast the fact
that they are just beginning to roll that out, Americans have seen
President Obama, seen his family, seen the kind of person he is. How does
he catch up after all of this back and forth, the posters, or the pictures
of him with the money at Bain Capital, his saying what he said about poor
people, corporations are people, the dog strapped to the top of the car.
I mean, they have a large hill to climb here, Bob.

FRANKEN: Well, look. Mitt Romney has always had the problem that he
comes across to many at least as an avatar. And so now we`re getting these
stories about his humanity and a lot of people are going to be suspicious
that this is just some sort of contrived story to try and overcome the
automaton image that he has. If you ever saw "Camelot," there`s a song
where Guinevere and King Arthur ask the musical question, what do the
simple folk do? And you always get the impression from Mitt Romney that
he`s puzzling over that one, too.

SHARPTON: Well, I don`t know about Camelot but I`ve seen in politics
a few chameleons. Bob Franken and Erin McPike. Thank you both for joining
me tonight.

Up next -- the GOP attack machine in overdrive. We`re getting the
facts on Fast and Furious and those calls for Attorney General Holder to
resign.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Republicans have been in full attack mode over what they
call the Fast and Furious gun walking scandal. Fast and Furious was a
program where the government allowed guns to fall into the hands of
smugglers in the hopes of tracing those guns to Mexican drug cartels.
Republicans charged the program is a major scandal and they have
relentlessly attacked the Attorney General Eric Holder.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: They made a crisis, and they are
using this crisis to somehow take away or limit people`s second amendment
right.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST, "HANNITY": You are treating him as a hostile
witness. You caught him in lies.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: You want him out, why?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: He needed approval all the way to the top of the
food chain which leads directly to the Attorney General.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: It`s been a mess. We still didn`t find out what
was behind it, but it does get worse.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: This was a cover-up from day one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: But let`s stop all the hyperventilating and get at the
facts. We know the gun walking programs began under President Bush. To
track the flow of weapons to Mexican cartels. In December of 2010, two
guns under the program turned up at the murder scene of border patrol agent
Brian Terry sparking the GOP probe. Since then, republican Congressman
Darrell Issa has challenged Holder, but Democrats say the Republicans have
gone too far.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: You now appear intent on
escalating controversy and promoting unsubstantiated allegations in
campaign that looks more like an election year witch hunt than even-handed
investigation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Joining me now is Congressman Elijah Cummings, democrat
from Maryland and ranking member of the Committee on Oversight and
government reform which has been investigating the Fast and Furious
program. Thank you for joining me, Congressman.

CUMMINGS: It`s good to be with you, Reverend.

SHARPTON: Now let me ask you, are the Republicans interested in a
fair and balanced investigation here?

CUMMINGS: Absolutely not. Chairman Issa over the past ten months,
actually before that was accusing Eric Holder of approving gun walking and
nothing could be further from the truth. And he has constantly made
allegations, and they were allegations, Reverend, where he was searching
for facts to go with them, but he could not find the facts to go with them.
And I think that he`s treated Eric Holder, our attorney general, very
unfairly.

SHARPTON: Now, the thing that really got my attention is even the
tone of the hearings have become somewhat disrespectful.

CUMMINGS: No doubt about it.

SHARPTON: And hostile. Let me show you one encounter with the
attorney general.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: How many more border patrol agents would have had
to die as a part of "Operation Fast and Furious" for you to take
responsibility?

ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: As a member of Congress, you
know, I mean, really, I mean is that the way in which you want to be seen?
You want to be known?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: I mean, Congressman Cummings, if the program started under
Bush, clearly this situation in 2010 when the two guns were found at the
body of this person, this patrol -- border patrolman who had given his life
for this country, to act as though the attorney general is not taking --
how many people would have to die? I mean, isn`t this the height of using
some kind of demagogic kind of politician politics when we ought to
seriously be trying to find out what went wrong and how we correct it?

CUMMINGS: No doubt about it. And Reverend, I don`t think that in
many instances there was an effort to truly address what did happen. Now
keep in mind as you said at the beginning of your broadcast, this stuff
started -- this actual gun walking started back in 2006. The gun went on
in 2007. And then it continued for -- actually three operations under
President Bush. When the Justice Department higher ups found out about gun
walking, the first thing they did, they said, look, we`ve got to stop this.
Basically it was run from the Phoenix office of the ATF. And it was a
bottom-up operation. Again, Eric Holder never -- did not know about these
tactics. When he found out, he immediately requested an IG investigation
and immediately said we are simply not going to have this. As a matter of
fact, the Democrats produced this report, it`s 95 pages.

SHARPTON: Right.

CUMMINGS: Entitled "Fatally Flawed." In where we show every single
allegation that they`ve made is refuted. And by the way, the report comes
from the evidence that they presented. That is the Republicans presented.

SHARPTON: So, this is the democratic report, and you have issued this
report and everything that was charged, this was a cover-up. Your report
says, false. It goes to the very top. Your report says false. Under --
using crisis to limit second amendment rights, your report says, false.

CUMMINGS: That`s right. And keep in mind, as far as they talk about
second amendment rights, Reverend. But what happened was when the -- when
the whistleblowers came in to testify, these are witnesses called by
Chairman Issa, you know what they told us?

SHARPTON: No.

CUMMINGS: They said, look, the problem is that we need stronger gun
laws. That`s what has led to all of this. And you know what he did? He
basically shut them down, so I don`t want to talk about that. These were
law enforcement officers who go out there and give their blood, sweat and
tears saying, please give us stronger gun laws, gun laws. And we cannot
get strong enough penalty for strong purchases. We want a gun law which
says that when you are taking guns out of the legal traffic of guns and
putting them into illegal, we want something to stop that. Basically
chairman Issa just shut them down.

SHARPTON: Now, Congressman, let me ask you this. As you said, these
operations have been going on for quite some time, 2006 it was "Operation
Wide Receiver," 2007 it was "Hernandez Case," 2008, the "Mendrano Case."
All of these are the same kinds of operations.

CUMMINGS: That`s right.

SHARPTON: Let me ask you something.

CUMMINGS: Yes, sir.

SHARPTON: I see the raking of the coals or at least the attempt on
Attorney General Holder. Has the former attorney generals that started
these programs, Mr. Mukasey, who was the attorney general at the end of the
Bush years, who started these programs, has he gone before this committee
to explain, why he did it and what he did?

CUMMINGS: The -- he has not been called for an interview. And he has
not appeared at a hearing.

SHARPTON: So wait a minute. Let me get this straight. So, they are
investigating a program, but the ones that started it and set it up have
not --

CUMMINGS: And knew about it. And knew about it. And knew about it,
by the way. They did not call them. They did not call Mukasey. And as I
-- and has not said he will call him. And by the way, the head of ATF who
said, he didn`t know about it, that is the ATF head under -- while the
president -- President Obama was in office said, he didn`t know about it
and there`s not one -- and he said he did not inform the attorney general,
nor did anybody else above him inform the attorney general. But we could
have easily have solved this hearing by bringing in that attorney general -
- the head of the ATF. But he refused to bring him, too. That would have
cleared it all up.

SHARPTON: So, didn`t bring the head of the ATF, didn`t bring the
attorney general. Looks like there`s more Fast and Furious stuff going on
than the name of the program. Congressman Elijah Cummings, thank you for
your time tonight.

CUMMINGS: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Up next, how Republicans don`t let the facts get in the way
of their attacks on the President. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Welcome back. Sometimes in their effort to never give
President Obama credit, Republicans are actually funny. Unintentionally
funny. After last week`s strong jobs numbers they said, quote, "We can do
better." That`s pretty funny since they used to say the sky is falling.
But their spin is even funnier when it comes to the President`s stimulus
money.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: President Obama`s economic policies have failed
working Americans.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The policies such as the failed stimulus --

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We`ve seen all of
this before, and it has failed.

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R), VIRGINIA: We don`t believe the stimulus worked
last time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: That`s right. They hate it so much they actually take
credit for it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CANTOR: We can create a lot of jobs. Again, the estimates of job
creations are 85,000 to 160,000-some jobs for the commonwealth. Most of
that in this area.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Eric Cantor is not the only one. A whole group of
Republicans has nothing good to say about the stimulus, unless there`s a
giant check or ground-breaking in their home district. There is a serious
point in all of this. Facts matter. The right wing core said the stimulus
didn`t work. But check out this chart. From Steve Benign (ph) and Madal
(ph) blog. It shows the weekly number of people filing for jobless claims
is at its lowest level in four years. Today. It also highlights the fall
from that peak. See right where the claims started falling off? It
happens to be happening right after the stimulus passed. What a
coincidence.

And here`s another one of our favorites. Showing private sector job
growth under President Obama and George W. Bush. What do you know? That
uptick in job creation came again right after the stimulus passed. In
November, the Congressional Budget Office said the stimulus added up to 3.3
million jobs. We`ll say it again. Republicans can have their own
opinions, but they can`t have their own facts. And here`s the fact on the
stimulus, it worked. I`m all for funny, but this whole GOP mess is just
sad. People need jobs, not spin.

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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