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PoliticsNation, Tuesday, February 14, 2012

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Guests: Ed Rendell, Virg Bernero; Barbara Boxer, Michael Hastings, Joan Walsh, Bob Franken, Lola Ogunnaike

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

Tonight`s lead, President Obama`s decision to save Detroit will be
central to this election because it worked. Some of the president`s
critics have a hard time admitting they were wrong and some, like Willard
Mitt Romney, find it impossible to say they blew it.

In 2008, Willard famously wrote an op-ed entitled "let Detroit go
bankrupt," arguing against the government bailing out the auto industry.
Great call, Willard. Today, Romney`s out with a new op-ed saying that the
rescue of the auto industry is quite indisputable good news. But also,
claiming that without the president`s intervention, things would be better.

That`s right. Willard agrees it worked, but claims that somehow,
things would be better if we took his advice. He is just distorting what
he said at the time. Here`s an interview from 28.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: You said, "If general motors, ford and
Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday,
you can kiss the American automotive industry good-bye."

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you write a check, they
are going to go out of business.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Out of business? Chrysler has reported its first profit in
15 years. GM is now once again the top automaker in the world. President
Obama saved 1.5 million jobs. That`s not an industry going out of business
and even though Romney opposed this bailout that saved this major industry,
he has a new ad promoting himself as Michigan`s caring native son.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Now, I grew up in Michigan, it was exciting to be here. I
remember going to the Detroit auto show with my dad. That was a big deal.
People here in Detroit are distressed. I want to make Michigan stronger
and better. Michigan has been my home and this is personal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: It maybe personal, but the auto bailout was personal for
people, too, and that`s exactly why new polls show Romney trailing by 15
points in the Michigan GOP primary.

Joining me now is Governor Ed Rendell, NBC and news political analyst
and former DNC chairman, and Virg Bernero, the mayor of Lansing, Michigan.
He knows firsthand how important auto bailout was for Michigan.

Thank you both for coming on the show tonight.

ED RENDELL, FORMER DNC CHAIRMAN: My pleasure.

SHARPTON: First, let start with you. Will the bailout be the
defining issue for Michigan both in the primary and the general election?

MAYOR VIRG BERNERO (D), LANSING: Well, it will be huge, reverend.
You are right on and then you are right on with what you said. I mean, we
fought like heck here in Michigan for that auto rescue plan and the
president came through and when the SOS call came out from Detroit and from
Michigan, not only was Romney AWOL, he was in the opponents` corner. He
was arguing against it. He was there with the Wall Streeters with the one
percenters, talking about how you should lop them off and let capitalism
work.

If we had taken his advice, we would be probably, probably in a
depression in this country and the auto industry would be finished. The
big three would be done. The supply chain would be destroyed. We knew
what was it staked. Our very livelihood, our future was at stake. We
fought like heck and Romney was worse than awoke. He was on the opposing
team.

SHARPTON: Now, governor Rendell if you look at the contrasting views,
President Obama, and Willard Mitt Romney, there couldn`t be a more clear
distinction between how one would govern. Let me show you both of them on
this issue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Form every presidential candidate Mitt Romney says
the best thing is to let them go into industry.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The U.S. auto industry
is back. It is good to remember that the fact that there are some folks
who are wrong to let this industry die.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Isn`t this going to be really defining by the real open
contrast they have had on this issue, which really has come back in an
unusually successful way?

RENDELL: Yes, there is no question, reverend, that it is going to be
huge hurdle for governor Romney to get over obviously in the Michigan
primary but even in, of course, in the general election. And I think the
mayor is right. It is not just Detroit. It is not just Michigan. Because
that supply chain exists all over.

Pennsylvania, we don`t have any we don`t have any auto factories or
any auto parts factory but we make components for automobile. We make
upholstery. We make things that go on to the side panels. We make
electronic devices that are used in automobiles and every one of those
businesses would be essentially closed down if we let the auto industry go
out of existence.

So, the president did the right thing and again, this is a great case
against the Republicans who say keep the government out of thing, the
government can`t do anything, the government can`t make a difference the
government can`t create job, can`t save jobs. The answer is look at
Detroit, Michigan, look at the auto industry.

SHARPTON: See, that`s exactly where I wanted to go, Virg, because
this is not just a Michigan issue but a national issue on how we govern,
because what they are saying is they don`t want government to intervene,
use Detroit and the auto industry as an example.

Now, the fact that the president did do that and it is a success, they
are trying to have it both ways, if it wasn`t a success it would be
something else. But really talking about whether it would have been any
state in this country, any industry, whether the government should have
intervened to help save jobs.

BERNERO: There`s at least two important issues here we begin to touch
on. One is that the government -- the active, bold, aggressive leadership
by the president what it was called for. It was nothing short of
courageous leadership. It was a big risk and he took it and it has paid
off hugely for cities like Lansing, for Detroit, for all across this
country it saved the auto industry and saved the supply chain, for Ford as
well, because if that supply chain went away, Ford would have been
threatened.

But it is about leadership, rev. It is about leadership. And, you
know, sometimes leadership involves saying you`re sorry. It involves
saying I was wrong and Romney can`t admit it. I mean, it is clear he is
trying to reinvent his record but the fact is he was against it. He was
wrong, wrong, wrong. He predicted failure. He worked against it and he
was wrong. So, he ought to come out and say I was wrong. The president
was right on this and moved on to the next issue. But he wants to reinvent
history and deny the fact he was at the wrong place in history and it will
come back to bite him.

SHARPTON: Now, answer this for me, Virg. On the ground, you are on
the ground guy, you hear everybody in your party, outside of your party
what are you hearing on the ground? Romney, Santorum, President Obama?
What are the people saying?

BERNERO: Well, I tell you, rev. Romney is not connecting with the
people. I mean, if you look at this article, his ads, talking about I
drink Verters. Well, you know what, being a Detroiter, being a
Michiganders, is more than above. It is great that he understands that we
root for the tigers and pistons and drink Verters.

But the fact is this is a guy that doesn`t connect, that doesn`t
relate. He was against working people. He is with the one percent. His
article is ridiculous. He talks about that they should have got rid of the
planes in the executive dining rooms and so on.

This is a guy, Mitt, who says $400,000 is peanuts in speaking fees.
You know, that is nothing. He talks about the social safety net, it`s
completely intact. That poor people can take care of themselves. What
planet is he living on?

So, I don`t think he is connecting with average Michiganders. I think
it`s been a long time since he was here and he needs to, you know, go back
to -- and get schooled on what -- but I think it is too late because it is
a matter of how he got -- he has got that silver spoon problem.

SHARPTON: Governor Rendell, when you look at the polls, even in the
Republican primary there in Michigan, his home state this is where his
father was governor. He is behind Santorum with blue collar voters by 11
points. So, it would indicate to me as just somebody outside looking in,
he has got a problem with the 99 percent even in his own party in his home
state.

RENDELL: Yes, there`s no question. All this spell a lot of trouble
for Governor Romney. And again, that would go back to really the
fundamental divide. We believe -- we Democrats and we who classify
ourselves as progressive, that the government can make a difference. The
government doesn`t necessarily create jobs but the government can help
establish jobs and retain them. It can help create jobs by giving --
making money available to repair our infrastructure. It can help
manufacturing by taking an aggressive role in foreign trade disputes.

There`s so much that the government can do. These people who want to
say get the government out of our business, no, you don`t want the
government out of your business. You want it there when you need it.

SHARPTON: Now, governor. Is that why we are seeing this shift in
independent voters because when we first looked at the president and
Willard Mitt Romney among independent voters in November, the president was
at 41 percent, Romney was at 53.

Now, the president is up ten points above Romney, 51-42. Is this kind
of reckless behavior by Romney in terms of what he is representing and
advocating cost him independent voters?

RENDELL: It has but don`t underestimate the fact that the president
has done extraordinarily well connecting with independent voters and blue
collar workers since November, since he made his jobs speech.

And the Republicans are -- they are -- sometimes I think they are
nuts, reverend. John Boehner said when he was talking about the house
transportation bill. He was saying we are not saying this creates jobs.

Well, let me ask you, if the federal government gives money to repair
a highway in Michigan, that highway to repair it, people are going to have
to work on it and people backing the asphalt and concrete factories going
to have to produce the necessary materials. Of course it creates jobs.
Don`t deny that the government has a role in keeping this economy vibrant.

SHARPTON: We are going to have to hold it there, mayor Bernero and
governor Rendell. And mayors Bernero, next time you come on, tell me how
you really think. Get a little fresh. Thanks for coming on the show.

RENDELL: Happy Valentine`s Day.

SHARPTON: Same to you.

Coming up, President Obama on the march and the Republicans in
retreat, they have lost the battle on the payroll tax cut and may be about
to fold yet again.

Plus, we will talk with Senator Barbara Boxer about the GOP`s
outrageous new assault on women`s rights. You won`t believe what they want
to do now.

And Whitney Houston, the tragedy, her talent made her millions. Now,
there`s reports out it was all gone when she died. Is that just media?
What happened? We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Republicans are expanding their assault on women rights.
Now they are targeting contraception. We talk live with Senator Barbara
Boxer next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Welcome back.

How did birth control become such a bad thing? Republicans said they
are fighting for religious freedom but they are really making it a
political argument.

Missouri Republican senator Roy Blunt introduced the Blunt amendment.
It allows any employer to deny coverage of contraception or any other
health care service they find religiously or morally objectionable. OK.

But this extreme idea is just for shock, right? Think again. Twenty
senators are on board with it. McConnell, Rubio, McCain, the list goes on.
And this is going on in the states, too. Today, Virginia House of
delegates passed a controversial personhood bill that defines life at
conception and outlaws any abortion and many kinds of birth control. OK.
But this is just one state going extreme.

Nope. Similar personhood laws are being pushed in a dozen states this
year. And all four candidates are on board with it. The goal posts keep
moving and we need to continue fighting it.

Joining me now is Senator Barbara Boxer, democrat from California, and
a leading voice against the Blunt amendment. Senator Boxer. Thanks for
coming on the show tonight.

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: Thanks for having me on.

SHARPTON: Now, why do you think they are moving so far to the right
on these women`s issues?

BOXER: Reverend Al, I think they have always been there. They are
very comfortable with this. And as I`ve said before, let them bring it to
the floor. We are ready to vote. This is so extreme.

You know, they want to take us back to the medical dark ages. If you
take the issue of contraception, we know that well over 90 percent, well
over 95 percent of women some time in their lifetime have used
contraception, including a huge percentage, well over 90 percent of all
catholic women.

So, this is something that is main stream and we know that when we
plan our families, reverend, we have way fewer abortions in this nation.
We know that we have way fewer problems with our children when they are
born because they get the prenatal care and it goes on and on. It is a
win, win, win all around.

But they have -- they love these issues for some reason t speak toes
the far right of their base and I think they have just overreached on the
Blunt amendment. As you pointed out very eloquently, it isn`t only saying
to the people in this country, any employer can deny any kind of procedure,
any kind of procedure.

SHARPTON: That`s what I want to you elaborate on.

BOXER: Yes. Yes.

SHARPTON: Any employer can say whatever they deem as religiously or
morally offensive, they can deny insurance, which could be anything. It
doesn`t even have to be contraception. I mean, are they serious? How do
you make a law where an employer can decide his own religious beliefs
violate your right to be insured?

BOXER: Absolutely. I mean, let`s use an example. Let`s say somebody
believes that medicine doesn`t cure anybody of a disease but prayer does.

SHARPTON: Right.

BOXER: And then they decide no medicine. No medicine. And under the
Blunt amendment, they could do just that.

Jon Stewart last night, of course in his amazing way, uses humor and
says, well; guess I would have a great time because I believe that laughter
is the cure of everything. Laughter is the best medicine.

So, I said today at a press conference, if I followed Jon Stewart. If
I believe laughter is the best medicine then if my employee gets sick, I
will tell him a joke.

I mean, this thing is so over the top, reverend Al. They have lost
their way. And, you know, I -- you could -- it`s hard to believe that it
would have 22 senators on it and by the way, just an added point. I`m so
proud that I`m chairman of the environmental public works committee. We
have a bill on the floor, the high way bill.

Reverend Al, we protect 1.8 million jobs and create up to another
million jobs. That is 2.8 million jobs, construction jobs mostly. Guess
what the first amendment they want, the Blunt amendment to take away health
care from the American people.

SHARPTON: They want this as must-pass legislation, the Blunt
amendment.

BOXER: Yes. They are so excited.

SHARPTON: Now, are you worried about it coming from so many angles.

BOXER: No.

SHARPTON: Do you think this has any possibility of passing?

BOXER: To be honest, I`m ready to vote. When the American people
tune in on this, they are going to scratch their head and say what has
happened to my grandpa`s Republican party? They are gone.

You know, we are the country with all the medical breakthroughs and
you follow the Blunt amendment, we are putting people back in the dark ages
were they have absolutely no access to medicines, life-saving medicines.

You know, if a boss says, you know, I don`t believe that we should
treat sexually transmitted diseases, let say he decides that, because it`s
your fault. You shouldn`t have got one of them. People will die, they
will be -- they will have excruciating pain and illness. We can`t go back
to the dark ages. It is the 21st century. And so we are going to fight
on.

SHARPTON: Use contraception for more that birth control.

BOXER: Yes.

SHARPTON: But, let me show you how far right this is. The current
Republican with the momentum in the Republican primaries, Rick Santorum,
let me show you what he said as far back as October on this issue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Dangers of contra accepts
in this country, the whole sexual libertine idea. Many in the Christian
faith have said, well, that`s OK. Contraception is OK. It`s not OK. It`s
license to do things in the sexual realm.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: He says the dangers of contraception. It is a license to
do things in the sexual realm. I mean, he has never heard of medical
reason. He has never heard of other reasons. And this is the man with the
momentum in the primaries are going on in Republican Party, senator. This
man is saying something that is unbelievable in the name of religious
freedom. What about women`s freedom to make choices over their own lives
and body?

BOXER: Of course. What about the religious freedom of women to do
what they believe? And you know I served with then-senator Santorum. He
got whipped by -- in an election, nobody seems to talk about it by Bob
Casey, because he is so extreme.

And the fact is I give him credit for being honest. He says birth
control is bad. He has also said that, you know, he doesn`t think women
should work, they should stay home. Now that is a choice that women are
going to make and men are going to make, that families are going to make.
So, this Republican Party, they are just jumping off the cliff here. I
think.

SHARPTON: Well, Senator Boxer. Thanks for your time this evening.

BOXER: Thanks.

SHARPTON: Still ahead, new numbers for President Obama and the
economy, what a turnaround story that is.

But first, new voting problems in yet another Republican contest, they
can`t get their own house in order but they want to rewrite the voting laws
for everybody else? Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Republicans have a voting problem. They just don`t want to
talk about it. They are just too busy trying to suppress minority votes.

Mitt Romney won Maine`s Republican caucus last weekend, coming just
three points ahead of Ron Paul. But now, some Maine towns say their votes
weren`t included and they want a recount. I saw this movie before. Iowa
Republicans declared Romney the winner of their caucus. Then oops, they
said they lost votes and Santorum was the real winner.

So, the party that is so worried about voter fraud keeps messing up
their own elections. A new report shows the real problem with our voting
system. The Pew center reports 2.8 million people are registered to vote
in more than one state, and nearly two millions dead people are on voting
rolls. And one in four who is eligible to vote weren`t registered. No
doubt about it our voting systems are outdated and need help. The problem
is not voting fraud. In fact, the director of this new study said flat
out, bad records are not leading to fraud.

As we told you when the Bush justice department launched an
investigation into voter fraud, they prosecuted just 86 cases or 0.00003
percent of total voters. Our voting system could definitely be improved.
But we don`t need tips on better elections from the GOP suppressing votes
and infringing on our basic rights. That is not the answer. It`s a
solution for a problem that does not exist. And we won`t let them get away
with it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Welcome back to POLITICS NATION. The United States has
been at war in Afghanistan for over a decade. And while the President is
trying to spend less on the war and bring our troops home, many Republicans
want the opposite. Today, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta testified about
President Obama`s new proposed military budget cuts on Capitol Hill and he
defended the cuts. Republicans attacked.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: This defense budget continues the
administration`s habit of putting short-term political considerations over
our long-term national security interests. Many of the President`s most
significant decisions about our national defense have been fundamentally
disconnected from, quote, "Conditions on the ground."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Conditions on the ground? Let`s talk about those
conditions on the ground in Afghanistan. The Pentagon is set to spend
$88.5 billion on the war in 2013. That`s $242 million a day. Ninety
thousand U.S. troops are fighting in Afghanistan. Twenty two thousand are
due to come home by the fall of this year. The rest by the end of 2014.
More than 17,000 troops have been killed or wounded since the war began.
Those are startling numbers. But according to an explosive new report,
the situation in Afghanistan is even worse than we think. Lieutenant
Colonel Daniel Davis, a 17-year army veteran, has written a scathing report
called "Dereliction of Duty." He accuses U.S. military commanders of not
telling the truth to the American public about what`s really going on in
Afghanistan. It is a must-read.

Joining me now, Michael Hastings, contributing editor to Rolling Stone
Magazine. He has been writing about this story and "Rolling Stone" has
published the colonel`s full, unclassified report his Website. Michael,
thanks for being here tonight.

MICHAEL HASTINGS, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, "ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE":
Thanks for having me, appreciate it.

SHARPTON: Now, you`ve talked to Colonel Davis, why is his report so
important?

HASTINGS: It`s one of the most significant documents that have been
written about either the war in Iraq or the war in Afghanistan and reason
is Colonel Davis is Colonel Davis is an active duty military officer. He
is writing from the inside and he decided because things were just so bad
and because the message we were getting from the higher ups was just so
wrong, he risked his entire career to come out to say, in great detail,
after just returning from Afghanistan what exactly was going wrong.

SHARPTON: All right. Now, here we have this colonel two tours of
duty in Afghanistan, two tours of duty in Iraq, eight years as an army
reservist, all of this he put at risk because he was so outraged, he felt
we were not getting the right information?

HASTINGS: At serious risk, very serious risk, there has already been
sort of anonymous threats or unnamed threats about investigating him and
trying to retaliate for what he is saying. But the tragedy is everyone
knows, almost everyone who really is following this stuff, knows what he is
saying is exactly right. And to see him punished for that would be a
travesty.

SHARPTON: Now, give us the key points to his report then.

HASTINGS: The key point to his report, the most important thing, is
that whenever one of the senior military leaders said things are going
well, the data actually was completely the opposite. The violence in
Afghanistan has gone consistently up over the past five years and with
little signs of abating and while it has gone up, we have kept hearing the
same message, we are wining, victory is around the corner, it is going to
be a tough fight. And so, what Colonel Davis said, has finally said is,
look, you know, everyone knows we are sort of trying to get out of there
now and we are going to spend the next three years fighting and people are
going to be dying, American soldiers are going to be dying, when everyone
sort of know it is kind of a sham.

SHARPTON: Now, what struck me when I read your reports is that
Colonel Davis said that senior military leaders have, and I`m quoting,
knowingly deceived Congress and the American people and talking about
deterioration on the ground and all. This is intentional, he is saying?

HASTINGS: Yes, I believe it is -- I believe -- what`s saying in the
report that is intentional, from my own reporting extensively on this
subject is that there is real intent on it.

SHARPTON: And that is, in fact, and I`m continuing with Davis`
report, what he wrote, that the covering up the truth about the war is
actually hurting the American people.

HASTINGS: I think it is. I think it is. I think by giving --
sending the message that everything is fine, just keep spending 88 billion,
$120 billion on this effort just keep throwing lives into this sort of
fodder, this send of you know, wood chipper of a country, is completely
ridiculous. And it also, it ruins their own credibility. Because when
actually believe them, you know, if you have a track record of lying which,
you know, the Pentagon on this issue really does, you know, at what point
do you consider them credible?

SHARPTON: And he says, it hurts the credibility both with friends and
enemies of the United States.

HASTINGS: Yes, anyone in Europe, any of our allies who we want to get
on board for any future foreign policy endeavors or at least even to keep
the coalition alive on this, they know what`s really going on and to see
our military leaders continue to spin, spin, spin, spin, borders on the
extremely negligent.

SHARPTON: Now, the republican candidates for President have actually
opposed the President saying, we ought to be spending less money and begin
withdrawing in Afghanistan. I mean, let give you some of the opposition to
the President`s candidates.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It makes absolutely no
sense, his naivete is putting in jeopardy the mission of the United States
of America and our commitments to freedom. He is wrong.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: None of the generals
recommended the speed of the drawdown the President wants.

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Policy things that we do
is I would announce the people of Afghanistan, assuming we haven`t pulled
all our troops out, that this date of withdrawal is suspended and gone.
And I would conduct the strategy in Afghanistan for success, not for exit.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Now, now we are not getting where we want to go. Clearly,
there`s serious questions from the inside. We are spending over $200
million a day.

HASTINGS: Yes.

SHARPTON: And these are the guys that say let`s bring down the
budget, let`s stop spending money crazy, worried about the deficit, but
they want to spend more in Afghanistan.

HASTINGS: I would like to see any of them run on the policy to
escalate again in Afghanistan. They won`t. They are politicking right
now, they`re positioning. I`m sure the White House would love to have that
argument, oh, you know, Willard Mitt Romney wants to put another 100,000
troops in Afghanistan? This is a war that over 60 percent of the country
views unfavorably. And that number goes up anytime you sort of pay
attention to it.

SHARPTON: It just went up more with you on my show.

HASTINGS: Yes.

SHARPTON: Michael Hastings, thanks for being here tonight and you can
read Michael`s new book, "The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside
Story of America`s War in Afghanistan," is in the book stores now. We are
going to follow this story. And love to have the Colonel on some time.

HASTINGS: Definitely. Thank you.

SHARPTON: Thank you.

HASTINGS: Ahead, the economy is roaring back and Republicans are in
retreat, the President is fighting for jobs and may be about to rack up
another victory.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Happy Valentine`s Day to everyone, from everyone here at
POLITICS NATION. Everyone loves a day to eat chocolate and celebrate and
be with the one you love. They are not big fans of it over in Uzbekistan.
The government of Uzbekistan told the media and stores, ignore the holiday.
They are encouraging people to skip Valentine`s Day. Officials calling it
an Alien Western Import. Hmmm. Maybe someone got them mad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HERMAN CAIN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When they ask me who is
the president of u-becky-becky-becky-stan-stan, I`m going to say, you know,
I don`t know. Do you know?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: But here in the states, people are celebrating and in the
spirit of the occasion, President Obama has some advice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: Today is Valentine`s Day.

(LAUGHTER)

Do not forget. It is important that you remember this and go big.
That`s my advice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Go big. Good advice, Mr. President, on Valentine`s Day,
and in politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: President Obama is stepping up the pressure on Republicans
the day after their stunning reversal on the payroll tax cut. And he is
also looking ahead to the next fight, calling on Republicans to extend
unemployment benefits which also run out at the end of the month.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I speak from experience here. It is important that you
remember this and -- Congress needs to extend that tax cut along with vital
insurance lifelines for folks who have lost their jobs during this
recession and they need to do it now. Just pass this middle class tax cut,
pass the extension of unemployment insurance, do it before it`s too late
and I will sign it right away.

(APPLAUSE)

Now --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: The President knows the economy is recovering. And he
doesn`t want the republican Congress to mock it up. Economic confidence
has climbed backs to its highest point in a year. Retail sales last month
hit $400 billion, up .4 percent from December. And White House estimates
that two million jobs will be created this year, bringing unemployment down
to eight percent.

Joining me now is Joan Walsh, editor at large of Salon.com and Bob
Franken, syndicated columnist for King Features. Thanks to both of you for
being here.

BOB FRANKEN, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Al, thank you.

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM: Thanks, Reverend Al.

SHARPTON: Joan, there are now rumors of a deal being worked out that
would extend both the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits. The
Republicans know they can`t win on this issue?

WALSH: Oh, absolutely, on the payroll tax cut, they know this is the
losing issue, they are the party of tax cut but they won`t go for a tax cut
for the middle class that is so pathetic, Reverend Al. And I think they
have got their tails between their legs, they know they have been beaten on
this. I`m a little bit more concerned about unemployment insurance.
There`s some talk that there might be trading or compromise on that and I
think it`s very important that it be extended as is. It is also a form of
stimulus. We can`t take any more money out of this economy, this recovery
if it is a recovery, is very fragile. You know, the President`s
Valentine`s Day remarks are very important to the economy, Reverend Al. He
is trying to get people to go out and spend money today. You know, he is
thinking about this all the time. So yes, they have a losing hand, but
there is still some negotiation to go on.

SHARPTON: Bob, Joan is talking tough, Republicans have their tail
between their leg, is it that bad?

FRANKEN: Well, I don`t -- with the Republicans, you have got to
always wonder what little game they are playing, but the word is rattling
around Capitol Hill right now that some sort of encompassing deal, all
encompassing deal is in the works and the big obstacle maybe the hard line
Republicans, the Tea Parties who really don`t want a deal. But what is so
interesting about it is the deal would include a lesser extension on
unemployment than what administration wanted and of course you have to sort
of put it in context of asking why Republicans are so hostile to the
unemployed, as they obviously are, they were seeking, for instance, a drug
test, before a person could receive benefits, which is really quite
demeaning and that the bitter irony is that it is their high finance --
high-finance puppeteers who are merely responsible for causing the
unemployment.

SHARPTON: Now, Joan, Senator McConnell though is still saying all of
the things with the same kind of attack mode he has always said. Here is
what he said about the President`s budget and overall handling of the
economy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: He hasn`t done a thing
to live up to his pledge to get our nation`s fiscal house in order. In
fact, he has made it worse. The failure of leadership here is truly
breathtaking.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: But the President has launched -- I should say re-launched
his twitter hash tag, $40 to ask -- $40 and what it means to Americans.
Let me show you what he is doing. What $40 means to Americans, being able
to afford my daughter`s medications that`s half our family`s grocery bill,
keeps water in my house. So he is launching this twitter campaign about
$40 what it really means and this is the fight to keep the extension going.
Let me -- let you hear him explaining this fight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Allowing this tax cut to expire would make people`s lives
harder right now. It would make their choices more difficult and I`m
asking the American people to keep their stories coming, tell us what $40
means to you. If you tweet it, use the hash tag $40.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: So, the President`s pressing it on. Is the Republicans in
any shape to fight on the economy? Is that a good issue for them?

WALSH: No. And I think that`s why you have seen all this change of
subject of the culture wars in the last week, Reverend Al. It is not just
the Catholic bishops, it is that they are much more comfortable on that
terrain, even though they are losing on that terrain too. So, I think they
know they don`t have a winning issue, a winning hand here and they are
happy to lie about it. They are happy to say that the President made the
economy worse, he has made it better. They are happy to say he doesn`t
care about the deficit. Well, he spent a year trying to get a deal on the
deficit and he realized he didn`t have a partner in that deal. And so
correctly, he turned his attention to the economy and we will cut the
deficit later it is important to keep spending to keep people employed and
they`re just going to say, you know, they`re going to say it all year. And
the American people will make a choice in November.

SHARPTON: Bob, the politics of this is what is baffling to me. When
you look at the polling numbers, when you talk to the American people about
protecting the safety net, 76 percent say, don`t cut Social Security.
Eighty percent say, don`t cut Medicare. Sixty five say, don`t cut
Medicaid. Are the members of Congress, the Republicans not looking at the
polls and understanding where the American people are on these issues?

FRANKEN: Well, they are counting on the victory of spin, by which I
mean they are not presenting themselves as cutters of Medicaid, Social
Security, Medicare, they are presenting themselves as the rescuer, the
saviors, and they are saying that there has to be much more efficiency,
there has to be cut backs to make sure that Medicare, Medicaid and Social
Security go on in perpetuity. They are claiming that irresponsible
democratic politics -- policies, rather, are endangering all of them so
they are spinning things. In reality of course, they are talking about
cutting them. And let us not forget historically, they were antagonistic
toward all of those.

SHARPTON: Now, even though, Joan, they are spinning, that they are
trying to make it more manageable and solving the problem. Isn`t it hard
to spin cutting when you`re fighting to preserve the Bush tax cuts for
millionaires? Isn`t it hard to explain to people that we are cutting this
to make things more manageable and to make it last but we`re not going to
touch the guys who have a whole lot more money than you.

WALSH: Right. I mean, you know, this deal could have been budget
neutral if they had agreed to either closing tax loopholes or increasing
tax rates for the very wealthy. And not a single one of the President`s
proposals was able to fly. So, they`re the ones, you know, if these
proposals do increase the deficit and it seems they will, they are the ones
to blame, they cannot come up with a single idea that they are happy about
when it comes to taxing the rich. So, you know, they have put themselves
in this box, it is kind of fun to see them squirm. And the American people
seem to understand. The President`s approval rating is rising. I think
there`s -- there are new numbers out today.

SHARPTON: Yes.

WALSH: People`s confidence in the economy is going up a little.
People are still worried.

SHARPTON: We have a long way to go, you are right. I`m going to have
to hold it right there Joan, Bob, thank you both for your time tonight.

FRANKEN: Thank you, Al.

WALSH: Thank you, Reverend Al.

SHARPTON: Happy Valentine`s Day to both of you.

WALSH: You, too.

SHARPTON: Ahead, explosive reports about Whitney Houston`s money.
But what the music industry really needs to learn from this tragedy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: We learned today that the funeral for Whitney Houston will
be held Saturday at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey, the
church where she sang in the choir growing up. It is a place that put her
on the path to stardom. She would go on to sell more than 200 million
albums in 1993 alone. She earned $33 million and was ranked third on the
Forbes list of the highest earning women in Hollywood, but today there are
explosive reports about her finances. The "New York Daily News" reporting
she may have gone through most of her fortune. Just last month, the Forbes
article also raised questions about her finances. NBC has not confirmed
this report but if they are true, there are serious questions the music
industry needs to address. The fact of the matter is that we need to all
look at what goes on with our artists and how we plan and how we step
forward. We also need to stop the denigrating of artists after they are
gone rather than deal with them while they are among us and vibrant.

Today, joining me is today show contributor Lola Ogunnaike. Thank you
for your time tonight, Lola.

LOLA OGUNNAIKE, NBC NEWS "TODAY" CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Let me -- before we get into the finances, there is --
Chaka Khan has raised another issues that a lot of people are buzzing
about. That the party Saturday night which is the big pre-Grammy party
hosted by Clive Davis who mentored Whitney, a lot of people felt that the
party should have not gone on. I was in Beverly Hills, I was there doing a
TV show at the Los Angeles office of National Action Network. And I said,
well, maybe we will go over and have prayer. I had no idea that the body
was still in the same building, in the hotel. Let me show what Clive Davis
said about the party. This is actually at the party.

OGUNNAIKE: OK.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLIVE DAVIS, PRODUCER: I do have a very heavy heart and I am
personally devastated by the loss of someone who has meant so much to me
for so many years. Whitney would have wanted the music to go on. And her
family asked that we carry on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Now, many of us -- didn`t know is that she had not been
removed from the building. The party was in the same hotel, the same
building, a few floors down. Chaka Khan said this about the party.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHAKA KHAN, SINGER: I thought that was complete insanity. I don`t
know what could motivate a person to have a party in a building where the
person whose life he had influenced so -- so enormously and whose life had
been affected by her, they were like -- I don`t understand how that party -
-

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: What do you think?

OGUNNAIKE: I agree with her. I think it was complete insanity. He
was her mentor, her svengali, her father figure, to have a party in the
same building where her body is decomposing, it made absolutely no sense to
me. And even though he says that Whitney would have wanted the party to go
on, the music to go on, I don`t think she would have wanted it to go on
that very evening. I think if anything, even if he wanted to have the
party, they could have moved it. It just felt very gauche to me and a bit
eerie.

SHARPTON: What bothered me and obviously, I know Whitney, I know her
family, I know her mother, her mother is very active in the community and
all, not as close I was to James Brown or Michael but I know them. What
bothers me is the negative, negative, negative and not even dealing with
even the strength of her mother, Cissy Houston, and how these families,
even when you deal with these stories about finances, how these families
sometimes are the only thing that keeps these artists going when everyone
else have exploited their talents, exploiting it even in a positive way.

OGUNNAIKE: Mm-hmm.

SHARPTON: I think we are not hearing enough about that and how these
finances operate.

OGUNNAIKE: Well, the thing that`s interesting, people talk about you
know, she made $100 million. First of all that -- the deal was not $100
million. I know that for a fact. That number was inflated to create more
buzz around Whitney. So, that wasn`t true. Number two, you have to keep
in mind that Whitney Houston didn`t write or produce her music. Her two
biggest hits, "I will always love you" was actually a Dolly Parton song
from the `70s. So, the person who made the most money off of that song was
Dolly Parton. "The greatest love of all" was a George Benson song from the
`70s.

SHARPTON: And if you are not the producer, you don`t make that money.

OGUNNAIKE: You don`t make the money.

SHARPTON: Well, thanks for joining us tonight, Lola. And they say
the party must go on, it does, but it will never be the same without
Whitney Houston.

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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