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PoliticsNation, Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Read the transcript from the Wednesday show

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Guests: David Corn, Tad Devine, Jared Bernstein, Karen Finney Jim McDermott, Dana
Milbank


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

Tonight`s lead, he might have won Michigan and Arizona last night, but
Willard Mitt Romney is a very sore winner. Here he was the big winner last
night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We didn`t win by a lot, but
we won by enough and that`s all that counts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Well, there`s a resounding winner`s speech. But take a
look at the breakdown. He won Michigan`s wealthiest counties, highlighted
there in the green. But Rick Santorum took the rest of the state, winning
big with blue collar workers. You can see it all in the purple. And
that`s the group Willard just can`t connect with.

Fresh off his win, he was in Ohio today speaking with workers at a
fence making factory. But check out the crowd waiting to cheer him on, a
half empty room of supporters. Not what you`d expect from a man who won
two states last night.

Here`s what it comes down to. This dragged out primary race is
hurting his favorability.

Let`s look at President Obama in 2008. At this point in the race, in
2008, President Obama`s favorability numbers were above 50 percent and
climbing steadily every month. But check out Willard. His favorability
can`t break 37 percent. You can see the green line sinking. And his
unfavorability rating is skyrocketing above 50 percent. But this dragged
out primary race is hurting him in another area.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I need your support. I`m asking for you to get out and vote.
And I`m asking for you by the way to go on Mitt Romney.com and pledge your
support in every way possible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Willard`s asking for a bailout. And it`s no wonder. This
year alone, he and his PAC have spent $38.5 million on primaries and
caucuses, over six times more than Rick Santorum. He`s running low on
cash. He can`t win the hearts of the Republican voters. The big winner in
all of this seems to be President Obama, to me.

Joining me now is David Corn, MSNBC political analyst and mother Jones
Washington bureau chief, and Tad Devine, Democratic strategist and senior
adviser for the Kerry and Gore campaigns.

Great to have you with us.

David, let me start with you. You saw that speech last night. Did
that sound like a confident leader to you?

DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It sound like someone trying to
talk to the board room. You know, I don`t know if you`re going to do this
tonight, but if you compare that speech, play it against the president`s
speech to the UAW workers, it literally is night and day.

You know, Romney, he just -- you showed earlier, he can`t get above 37
percent. If you are grading him as a political candidate, just on his pure
performance skills, he really can`t get above a "b," maybe 85 percent. And
he`s been doing this now for five years on the presidential campaign level.
He was governor of Massachusetts. He ran for Senate against Teddy Kennedy.

I`ve been covering politics for 30 years now from the city council
level to the presidential level. Every candidate I`ve ever covered keeps
getting better, whether they win or lose the race at the end. Almost is
immaterial. They get better because they do it. He can`t find his groove.
He can`t connect. He can`t stop putting his foot in his mouth. And, you
know, he won this race. But he is still going to be Mitt Romney the day
after and in the months ahead. And that`s just one thing he can`t run away
from.

SHARPTON: Well, that tag us on what I was going to say to David.
Maybe this is his groove. Maybe he has found it and we don`t find it too
groovy. I mean, when you look at the -- let`s look at where we had it
super Tuesday. Romney`s leading in Virginia, Vermont, Massachusetts, and
Idaho. Santorum is leading in Ohio, Tennessee and Oklahoma. And Gingrich
is leading in Georgia. That`s not exactly a definitive edge so far, Tad.

TAD DEVINE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: No, it`s not. I think Romney is
in trouble. And he may have won a narrow victory in his home state last
night, but this whole process has been very bad for him by every objective
measure, by the objective measure of turnout for example. I mean, in every
state except South Carolina, less Republicans have voted this year than
four years ago. I think that`s an indication of a lack of enthusiasm. And
yesterday in Michigan, the only economic group he won was people who make
$100,000 a year or more. Now you may be able to win a Republican primary
in Michigan with that but no way to win a general election in America with
that kind of support.

SHARPTON: Now, and you`re right but just so people understand that
we`re not embellishing this, David. One of his chief surrogates, John
McCain himself, said Romney may already be damaged goods. Look at what he
told the "Boston Globe." This is a quote from John McCain. "This is like
watching a Greek tragedy. I know he`s going to be the nominee but I also
worry about how much damage has been done."

Not too encouraging from one of your chief if not the chief,
surrogate, the guy who just had the nomination before you.

CORN: I know Republicans with and without the -- who are with or not
with the Romney campaign like to say there`s often a fierce primary battle
but then at the end a nominee and he runs against the other party. He
straightens out the other party, unites around him.

But the thing here is Romney has really moved far to the right to do
battle with all these non-Romney`s whether it was Michele Bachmann, Rick
Perry, Newt Gingrich or now Rick Santorum. And he`s created a gap between
himself and independent voters, middle of the road voters, women voters,
Hispanic voters. We talked about this at late and it`s a pretty big gap.

The question is how deep is that gap? Is he making impressions now
that are indelible with his gaffes and with his extreme positions that are
going to be hard to pivot away from and the usual classic two-step that
most candidates go through? And, you know, the longer this goes on, and
the more he sort of caters and panders to the right and keeps putting his
foot in his mouth, the deeper that impression is going to be and the harder
it is going to be to reverse that.

Now again, $6 gallon gasoline in the fall will help him a lot.

SHARPTON: Right.

CORN: So, this is far from over. But he`s really creating a bigger
hole by the week.

SHARPTON: Now, Tad, the problem is not only, in my judgment, has he
and his opponents moved to the far right. They`ve moved the right further
right and then went there. I mean, it`s the first time I`ve seen them
actually move the right boundary even further right and they are at the
edge of that. And he`s going to run into problems with his record.

Let me show you this. He was talking today while he was out talking
about how he was going to improve the economy and talking to these guys
that are workers. David Axelrod, who is running President Obama`s re-
election, tweeted the following about Romney`s record. Mitt`s vow: "more
jobs, less debt, smaller gov."

His Massachusetts record, 47th in job creation, debt up 16.5 percent,
gov jobs grew at six times rate of private. How are you going to run as a
job creator, small government debt reducing guy and the time you held
office as a head of state in the state of Massachusetts, your record in all
three areas is the exact opposite?

DEVINE: Well, he`s going to have a real hard time doing that. I
mean, the truth is, reverend, that Romney`s record in office is just a
serious liability. This is a guy who ran -- when I worked against him for
Senator Kennedy in 1994, he was running basically as a liberal, completely
repudiated all those positions. He came - he got elected as governor and
began to run to the right and run for president. And now he`s changed
fundamentally his positions. And his record in Massachusetts is one of the
worst any of governors in America.

So, I think for him to lay claim to being a job creator when his
record in business is shutting businesses down and his record in government
is expanding the scope of government and not doing the job when it comes to
job creation is going to be really hard for him to prove to the American
people that he has the skills that he says he has to create jobs.

SHARPTON: And David, if that`s not bad enough, when they have done an
analysis of his proposals and everyone that`s in the race, the only one
whose tax proposals have brought down the deficit in what they propose is
President Obama and Ron Paul. Romney`s proposals, actually increases the
deficit. Santorum`s even more so and Gingrich almost off the scales.

So, I mean, it`s not only his past but what he`s presently proposing
doesn`t reduce the debt.

CORN: I think this is the big problem for Romney. We can talk about
policy proposals, as we should. But I think what drives an election is as
much our impressions. And so we have this whole supply side theory,
crusade on the right for a couple of decades now. And it basically you cut
taxes for the rich and everyone gains. But that`s a theory, didn`t work in
the Bush years. Didn`t work in the Reagan years.

But nevertheless, we`ve had people promoting that. Like Jack Kemp,
the great Republican congressman from upstate New York who seemed to be
able to do that by making a case that would help working Americans, get
Reagan Democrats. And it worked politically. I mean, whether he worked
policy of a wiser or not is this all immaterial. But they were able to
make that case convincingly.

Now we have a guy who is a one percenter, talks like a one percenter,
has policies that seems to favor the one percenters and he wants to sell
that as being good for you auto workers when I wasn`t for the bailout?
There`s a real gap between policy and who is selling it. That`s where he`s
going to keep tripping over himself time and time again.

And I don`t see how he escapes that in this year where one percent is
really not the place to be if you are trying to get the 99 percent of
America to vote for you and to accept your policies as good for them. Not
just good for you.

SHARPTON: David Corn and Tad Devine, thank you both for your time
tonight.

DEVINE: Good to be with you.

CORN: Thanks, Al.

SHARPTON: Ahead, rolling back the clock. The birth control debate
goes front and center again. And it`s dividing the Republican Party.

Plus, more signs the economy is getting stronger, but the other side
just can`t handle it. They`re in denial.

And, Franklin Graham is apologizing for questioning President Obama`s
faith. So where are the rest of them?

You`re watching "Politics Nation" on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: The birth control debate hits a boiling point. Rush
Limbaugh goes to a new low on that today. Senator Barbara Boxer responds,
next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Welcome back. You can file this one under. I can`t
believe we`re talking about this. But we are. Roy Blunt, a Republican
senator from Missouri, is attacking women`s health under the shroud of
religious liberty. The Senate is set to vote tomorrow on the Blunt
amendment. It allows any employer to deny any health care services, birth
control and beyond, based on religious or moral conviction. Democrats are
vowing to stop it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. PATTY MURRAY (D), WASHINGTON: Once again, we are finding
ourselves having to stand up and defend women and families from another
Republican attack.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is dangerous, and it is wrong.

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: They can deny for any reason.
All they have to say are they have a moral objection. Any one of these
preventive health benefits, including contraception, cancer screening, std
screening and the rest. This is a dangerous amendment.

SEN. TOM HARKIN (D), IOWA: I remember once we had a United States
senator who said that HIV was really God`s punishment. What if an employer
said that and refused coverage for HIV treatment?

SEN. BARBARA MIKULSKI (D), MARYLAND: Make no mistake. This is
politics masquerading as morality.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHARPTON: Republicans are pressing ahead despite widespread
opposition. But today, Rush Limbaugh went too far, turning the
conversation ugly. He was talking about the Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown
law student who was denied by Republicans from speaking at Darrell Issa`s
contraception hearing. Here`s his take.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO SHOW HOST: What does it say about the college
coed Susan Fluke who goes before a congressional committee and essentially
says that she must be paid to have sex, what does that make her? It makes
her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to
have sex.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: This is appalling. It`s insulting. And it`s why we need
to keep fighting this radical way of thinking.

Joining me now is Senator Barbara Boxer, an outspoken supporter of
women health rights and morn health rights in general.

Senator Boxer, honor to have you join me tonight.

BOXER: Always great to be on your show.

SHARPTON: Now, let me ask you. Is this Blunt amendment going to
pass?

BOXER: No it will not pass. It will not pass because every day we
keep getting more and more opposition, strong opposition. We just received
a letter signed by many organizations. The cancer advocates are saying
this is terrible. It could deny mammograms. It could deny colorectal
screenings, HIV. You see, this Blunt amendment, not only would deny women
access to contraception, OK, it goes beyond that. And it would say that
any essential service, any preventive service could be denied by any
employer or insurance company. All they have to say is, I object.

SHARPTON: So if I`m an employer, so people understand this, this is
not just about women`s health care even though clearly you and I support
that vehemently. But if I`m an employer and I say, well, I don`t want to
deal with this patient, this employee of mine that has diabetes and his
coverage or her coverage because they did it to themselves.

BOXER: Right.

SHARPTON: Or I don`t want to have anything to do with someone that
has a std, sexually transmitted disease because it`s sinful. I can deny
them coverage?

BOXER: Absolutely. And if you think that prayer is the answer to a
childhood cancer you can deny the child coverage. It`s just a loophole
that`s been driven through health reform. And it started with
contraception because they want to go after women first and foremost. But
it doesn`t stop at contraception. It goes to breast screening to as you
said, diabetes prevention and treatment, anything.

I mean, supposing, you know, you are an employer and you personally
believe that no one should have ever started smoking. And, therefore, you
are not going to support smoking cessation programs to be available. And
maybe not even treat lung cancer. You could do it and say, I had a moral
objection. People should have known that.

SHARPTON: Senator Boxer, what do you make of these -- this poison
atmosphere like what do you make of these statements today by Rush
Limbaugh?

BOXER: Rush Limbaugh has insulted and hurt every woman in America.
Ninety nine percent of women have used some form of birth control in her
lifetime. So he has now said we`re all just terrible human beings. And if
I was a woman who listened to Rush Limbaugh, I would turn off that dial --
I would turn him out of my life because I think people will be disgusted by
what he said, truly.

SHARPTON: Now let me get back to the Blunt amendment because it`s
also shocking to me. There was a report that Mitt Romney had spoke to Ohio
news network. Johnny Jimmy (ph) then he tweeted after interviewing Romney
that Mitt Romney tells him he would not vote for the Senate bill which is
the Blunt amendment which would allow employers to deny coverage for birth
control. But then moments later, Romney`s spokesperson responded by
walking that back saying, regarding the Blunt amendment, the way the
question was asked was confusing. Governor Romney supports the Blunt bill
because he believes in a conscience exemption in health care for religious
institutions and people of v faith.

I mean, this is outrageous to say that you would support a bill that
employers can deny based on whatever they want to. Health care to their
employees and their children has nothing to do with religious exemption.

BOXER: Can I say you`re so right. Listen. Mitt Romney doesn`t
really know who he is anymore. The man is lost. He does -- and he wants
to lead a nation. He`s a lost man. He reacted at first what he really
felt was don`t interfere with birth control and then he got all nervous.
He didn`t really know what the Blunt amendment did which is the first rule
of politics.

If you ask me a question and I don`t know the answer, after my years
of experience I say let me check it out and get back to you.

SHARPTON: Right.

BOXER: He doesn`t even understand it. This has nothing to do with a
conscience exemption for providers. It has to do with driving a Mack truck
through health reform and saying that any employer could deny anybody, any
service by simply saying they have a moral conviction against it.

SHARPTON: And there are people in the Republican Party that disagree.
Senator Lisa Murkowski who is a Republican from Alaska says, quote, "I
don`t know where we`re going with this issue. We`ve got way too much else
to be doing." And Olympia Snowe who is retiring, a Republican. She said
today on MSNBC. Let me play for you what Senator Snowe said.

BOXER: Good.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE (R), ALASKA: It`s interesting we`re having the
whole debate on contraception and, you know, what should constitute
coverage. With respect to the blunt amendment, I think it`s much broader
than I could support.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Broader than she could support. So, I mean, there`s got to
be a point in this country where we start appealing to sanity rather than
just partisan posturing. This, to me is insane. And to attach it to a
transportation bill that`s trying to provide jobs to try to slip in this
kind of far right theocracy amendment is amazing to me.

BOXER: Yes. I mean, I happen to be the chairman of the committee
that voted out this bill. And it was a wonderful thing. I mean, my leader
Harry Reid said, Barbara if you want to get a bill done, reach out to the
other side. I did. Senator Inhofe and I, who represent very different
points of view on most things, came together because we know it`s essential
that we have a strong highway system and transit system and that our
bridges aren`t falling down. We work together. We get the bill to the
floor.

Three weeks now, reverend. Nothing has happened because the right
wing of the Republican Party that has taken over that party. I always say
this is not my grandpa`s Republican party. This is a party that`s so far
to the right. They are going to fall off the cliff there. They have
wasted three weeks while we have 2.8 million jobs hanging in the balance.
And a terribly high unemployment rate for construction workers who want to
get back to work.

SHARPTON: Senator Barbara Boxer, keep on fighting. Thank you for
your time today.

BOXER: I will. Thanks.

SHARPTON: Thank you.

Still ahead, Scott Walker`s paying the price for attacking workers
rights. A new poll shows him sinking fast in that state`s critical recall.

Plus, President Obama`s moving the economy forward, but Republicans
are stuck in reverse. You won`t believe how they are trying to spin the
recovery now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: We`re back with a news flash from Wisconsin.

Governor Scott Walker is in trouble against just about all his
potential opponents in his recall election. A new poll shows democratic
challenger Kathleen Falk leads the governor, 48 percent to 47 percent.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who hasn`t entered the race but ran against
Walker in 2010, would win 49 percent to 46 percent.

I mean, how unpopular can he get? He`s losing the people who aren`t
even in the race. In fact, Democrats are already comparing him to one of
the least popular presidents in history.

This week, Wisconsin Democrats released an ad about a corruption
investigation involving some of Walker`s former aids comparing it to
Watergate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Governor Walker`s aides were charged
criminally yesterday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Police arrested five men in the
Watergate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Misconduct in office.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Missing funds.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Felonies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: High-level campaign, political sabotage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: The investigation is getting closer to
Governor Walker.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Walker is on thin ice and is starting to crack beneath him.
Once the recall comes, he may find himself swimming for his political life.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: Over the last two years, our
businesses have added about 3.7 million new jobs. Manufacturing is coming
back for the first time since the 1990s. Companies are bringing jobs back
from overseas. The economy is getting stronger. The recovery is speeding
up. Now is the time to keep our foot on the gas.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Welcome back to POLITICS NATION. That was President Obama
yesterday talking to auto workers about the economy. But today we heard a
completely different story from Willard Mitt Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let`s talk about jobs for a
moment. The President`s failed. We`re still three years later in an
economy that`s bumping along the bottom. Hopefully you are seeing signs of
improvement. Not because of him. In spite of him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Like most other Republicans, Willard just can`t admit the
economy is getting better. But the numbers speak for themselves. Today we
learned the economy is growing even faster than we thought. The GDP was
revised upwards to a three percent growth for the end of last year. We`ve
seen 23 straight months of private sector job growth with 3.7 million net
jobs added. And just yesterday, the Dow closed at 13,000 points for the
first time since the recession began in 2008. Now we`ve still got a long
way to go. But these are positive signs. Republicans are running out of
negative talking points so they`ve turned to an old reliable. Gas prices.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Whether it`s high gas
prices or government regulations or higher debt, the American people are
tired of bearing the burden so this President can build an economy in which
Washington calls all the shots.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The President says,
he`s for an all of the above energy plan. Has anyone seen it? Listen.
The price of gasoline is driven by two factors. It`s driven by supply and
it`s driven by demand.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Supply and demand. Really? The truth is oil speculators
are responsible for up to 40 percent of the spike in oil prices. But
Republicans are trying to gut regulations that would rein them in.

Joining me now is Jared Bernstein, an MSNBC contributor and former
chief economist for Vice President Joe Biden. And Karen Finney, MSNBC
political analyst and columnist for The Hill. Thanks to both of you for
joining me tonight on the show.

JARED BERNSTEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Sure.

SHARPTON: Jared, are Republicans just ignoring the evidence about the
growing economy?

BERNSTEIN: Yes. I think so. And they are also kind of scrambling
around looking for something to get people upset about. And, of course, as
you said, they landed on gas prices. But, you know, on the supply and
demand story, if you actually wanted to grade this President on supply and
demand for domestic energy, you`d have to actually give him a very high
grade. Domestic energy production is way up under the President`s term.
And in fact, in 2011, last year, for the first time in many years in my
lifetime, we actually were net exporters of petroleum products. Things
like gasoline or heating oil.

So, as I think you did a segment on this recently Reverend, where you
showed they are more oil rigs up and running than there`s ever been. And I
think that part of this is so he can, you know, have the kind of street
cred he needs to pursue his clean energy agenda which is very important
both in terms of climate and job creation. But so they are very much wrong
on the facts. And the notion that you heard Governor Romney saying, you
know, OK. It`s good but it could be better. I really don`t think that`s
going to resonate with anyone.

SHARPTON: Now, Karen, the President addressed this last week about
the GOP solution to lower gas prices. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: They are already dusting off their three-point plan for $2
gas. And I`ll save you the suspense. Step one is to drill and step two is
to drill. And then step three is to keep drilling. The American people
aren`t stupid. They know that`s not a plan. Especially since we`re
already drilling. That`s a bumper sticker. It`s not a strategy to solve
our energy challenge.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Now Karen, they are using now oil prices but their only
recommendation is drill. As Jared just said, the President has raised the
level of exporting gas higher than it`s been. His energy policies here
have improved this country`s standing. How are they going to try to use
this as an issue?

KAREN FINNEY, COLUMNIST, "THE HILL": Well, you know, Reverend, the
President was talking about that last week, you know what flashed in my
head was another favorite GOP who said drill, baby, drill, right? That`s
all they got, right?

SHARPTON: Right.

FINNEY: You know, obviously, they are not ones to let the facts get
in the way of their rhetoric. So the President was right to, I think, to
call it out ahead of time because the truth is, again, we know that the
speculators are really playing a major role. I`ll tell you what, though.
If the Republicans were truly sincere on wanting to help bring prices down
and restore a little bit more confidence, they could step demagoguing on
Israel and Iran. How about that? That`s certainly not helpful. You know,
there`s a couple of other things that I think are important to mention
here.

Let`s also remember how many times the Republicans in Congress,
whether it`s on the House side or Senate side have actually stood in the
way of the kinds of progress that the President wanted to make on his
energy agenda, right? I mean, he`s had to, again, under the we can`t
wait, tried to go around them because they have not actually been
supportive. Today, I thought it was interesting. They put out this, you
know, their jobs agenda. It was 2012 and they`ve been in control since
2010. Finally they have some ideas for jobs. And guess what? Most of the
ideas are ideas that were either in the President`s jobs plan or have been
part of Democrats plan. So, unfortunately.

SHARPTON: Plans they voted against.

FINNEY: Which exactly, which they voted against. And by the way, if
they really cared about jobs, I mean, saying that -- trying to blame, you
know, in terms of gas and jobs, keystone, the President`s opposition on
that, if they really cared about that, then how come they didn`t support
some of the infrastructure projects that were in the jobs bill? But I
think the key is we`re just going to have to keep hammering back with the
truth.

SHARPTON: But you know, at the end of the day, Jared. I don`t know
that people, you know you deal so much in punditry and politics. People
are really hurting. This is for real. When you look at the fact that in a
recent survey, 18.6 percent of Americans are struggling to afford food. I
mean food on the table. While the average Wall Street bonus is $121,150.
This is outrageous. And then when you look at this contrast, Mitt Romney
says in his tax cut plan -- this is his plan -- the bottom 20 percent would
save $78. The top one percent would save $60,030 and the top 0.1 percent,
$264,000. I mean, it is insulting. It`s offensive and people are hurting
in the midst of all of this posturing back and forth.

BERNSTEIN: I`m glad you raised those points, Reverend, because a lot
of these comments that we`re talking about an improving economy, the idea
that there`s really nothing anyone can do about short-term prices at the
pump, you can`t cut your way out of that in terms of taxes. You can`t
drill your way out of that. People forget the U.S. is about 10 percent of
the global capacity in oil. And no President is going to come along and
wave a magic wand. What we are doing, as you heard the President say
earlier, is we`re on a steadier path of recovery. But we`re not there yet.
The unemployment rate is still way too elevated and those gas prices really
pinch people at the pump. We`re not saying they don`t.

But I think the President`s message is exactly the correct one.
Instead of really basically harking back to what you just described, which
is the supply side trickledown economics that got us into this mess, we
need to continue on the path that we`ve been that`s helping the economy
move toward a self-sustaining recovery. Not there yet but on that track.
To kind of switch gears now and go back to the trickle down, you know, big
tax cuts at the top, cross your fingers and hope that helps everybody else
could be a terrible, terrible policy blunder.

SHARPTON: And that`s my point, Karen. I think that it`s not about
posturing our argument against trickle down. They are arguing against
deficit. People are hurting. Who feels for the people is who ought to be
the one, I think, leads this country.

FINNEY: Well, that`s exactly right. But you know, Rev., here`s the
other thing that I think as Democrats and progressives we can do. We can
push back a little harder on this GOP argument. I mean, they`ve created
this sort of mythology that somehow if only we did what they wanted us to
do, things would be different. Number one, as Jared just said, we did do
it their way and that`s how we got into this mess. Number two, there is no
mythological parallel universe where we can say, oh, gee, look, let`s
compare. What we can do is say, OK, we know that the numbers are moving in
the right direction. Not as fast as we would like.

Not to the degree that we would like but it is a movement in the right
direction. So the question really to people is, we know people are
hurting. But we`re moving in the right direction. Do you want to keep
going in this direction with the ideas the President has put out. And hey,
how about the made in America agenda that Democrats put out some time ago.
Or do you want to go back to these ideas that are basically going to say,
let`s make sure Mitt Romney can open another offshore account.

SHARPTON: Jared Bernstein, Karen Finney, thanks for your time
tonight.

BERNSTEIN: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Ahead -- extreme takeover. While the republican leadership
is driving moderates away and boosting the chances for Democrats.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: We`ve been talking a lot about how extremism in the GOP is
hurting the country. Now it`s coming back to hurt Republicans and help
Democrats. Yesterday, moderate republican Olympia Snowe announced she was
leaving the Senate, crippling GOP`s hopes of winning a majority in
November. Snowe says, she`s retiring because of the hyperpolarized
atmosphere of, quote, "My way or the highway." This afternoon, she told
Andrea Mitchell the country is at risk.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE (R), MAINE: It`s very, very difficult to resolve
major issues. It`s dysfunctional and the political paralysis has overtaken
the environment to the detriment of the good of this country. The United
States Senate is predicated and based on the essence of consensus building.
That was certainly the vision of our founding fathers. And if we abandon
that approach, then we do it at the expense of the country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: But Snowe`s shocking announcement seemed to have no impact
on John Boehner or even Mitch McConnell who walked right out of the White
House meeting on compromise today and immediately slammed Democrats.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCONNELL: I hope that the majority leader is responsible, obviously,
for deciding which bills we turn to. We`ll turn to bills that can actually
pass and be signed into law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Joining me now, Congressman Jim McDermott, he`s a democrat
from Washington and a member of the House Ways and Means Committee. And
"Washington Post" political columnist Dana Milbank who is working on an
upcoming column about broken politics in Washington. Thank you both for
being here tonight.

DANA MILBANK, THE WASHINGTON POST: Hi, Reverend.

REP. JIM MCDERMOTT (D), WASHINGTON: Good to be here.

SHARPTON: Congressman, let me start with you. Is there any chance
Republicans will hear the message that Senator Snowe is trying to deliver?

MCDERMOTT: I don`t think so. We are in a period where it is -- she
is absolutely correct. The country is in danger because the political
process cannot resolve big issues. We are no longer operating on a
majority basis. The Senate is run on the basis of 40 votes. And if you`ve
got 40 votes you can stop anything. Any single senator can stop anything,
can stop any appointment. It is absolutely impossible to resolve the
problems because nobody has got in mind what is in the common good. What
is the best for all the people? And as long as people are operating simply
on what is powerful for our party, then you are not going to be able to
resolve issues. And she`s just walking away. And the same sort of thing
is happening in the house. All the moderates have gone. When I came here,
there were 25 or 30 Republicans who were right in the middle. They could
go either way. They`re all gone. There are none left.

SHARPTON: Dana, most Americans agree that it is important that
politicians compromise. If you look at the polling, Americans want
compromise. Fifty one percent say, politicians should compromise. Twenty
eight percent say, sticking to beliefs is more important. The American
people want reasonable principle compromise. Yet it seems like the
Republicans just don`t care.

MILBANK: Well, Reverend, and you wonder why the approval of Congress
is 10 percent now. And that`s because voters have been very clear about
what they`d like people to be doing and that`s behaving like grown-ups here
in Washington. And it`s just not happening. It`s not uniquely a
republican problem. The moderates have really been purged by both parties
by, you know, it`s the fault of a system that makes people play to the most
extreme elements in the primaries in their own parties the way the
campaigns are financed relies on the most liberal or the most conservative
groups to get behind them and finance them.

It`s unclear how you get things fixed. And that`s what`s so
depressing about Olympia Snowe`s announcement. She just doesn`t see any
way to get this fixed. I mean, nobody is talking about anything happening
this year. But even after the election, whoever controls the Senate,
they`ll not going to have these 60-plus votes as the congressman is talking
about. There`s not going to be any way to govern this place.

SHARPTON: And Congressman, I mean, even some Republicans look at
former Reagan aide Bruce Bartlett tells Jon Stewart that Republicans have
gone, quote, "insane." This is Bartlett saying this. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: What is the likelihood that Democrats will gain
courage and Republicans will gain compromise?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Frankly, one of our political parties is insane.
We all know which one it is.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: And this is, by the way, coming from someone as
we`ve mentioned earlier, who worked with Ronald Reagan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: This is a Reagan aide saying this about the Republicans.

MCDERMOTT: Well, I would say this, Reverend. Most important vote
that will occur in this year will be the year -- the day when the Senate
adopts their rules for the next session. If they don`t modify that
filibuster rule which Mitch McConnell has used fairly well and they don`t
take away these holds on it, the ability of single member to hold
something, everything should be brought to a vote. If the President
appoints somebody to be a judge, they ought to have their day where they
are either voted up or down. And until you change those rules that the
Senate is operating under, we are paralyzed.

We in the Senate, we in the House pass things all the time. We send
it over to the Senate, and it dies simply because somebody either puts a
hold on it or the minority leader says, I`m going to use a filibuster.
Now, if I were Harry Reid, I would jam those guys against the wall and make
them go out there and actually do a filibuster. But this is all done --
it`s sort of -- it`s make belief filibusters. They`re not real
filibusters. I think you`re going to have to have that kind of change in
the rules or we`re done.

SHARPTON: Yes. They call it bluffing, Dana. Even "New York Times"
columnist David Brooks talking about the current state of the Republican
Party says interestingly enough to me, he says, there are mainstream
Republicans lamenting how the party has grown more and more insular, more
and more rigid. The wingers have trashed the party`s reputation by
swinging from one embarrassing and unelectable option to the next. I mean,
conservative columnists are saying they are killing themselves politically.

MILBANK: Sure. I mean, David Brooks is a bit of an exception because
he`s always been that sort of reasonable republican. But, if you are
looking at what`s going on out here, I mean, look what Americans are asking
for in terms of the economy right now. So, the Senate is going to have a
vote on birth control. You know, the rise of Santorum has been very
damaging to the republican brand because a small number of very zealous
people within the republican primary electorate are very excited about him
but the rest of the country is saying this is just plain crazy. So, I
think the primary process for the Republicans this time has had the effect
of making them have a particularly difficult cycle.

SHARPTON: Congressman McDermott, Dana Milbank, thank you both for
your time.

MCDERMOTT: Thank you. It`s good to be here.

SHARPTON: Ahead, Franklin Graham is apologizing for questioning
President Obama`s faith. But I`m still waiting on the others. That`s
next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Preacher Franklin Graham has finally apologized for those
remarks he made last week here on MSNBC questioning President Obama`s
faith. Graham`s comments were straight out of the right wing playbook
refusing to say that, yes, President Obama is in fact, a Christian.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIE GEIST, HOST, "MORNING JOE": Do you believe that President
Obama is a Christian.

REV. FRANKLIN GRAHAM, EVANGELIST: Well, I think you have to ask
President Obama. He has said he`s a Christian. So, I just have to assume,
you know, that he is.

GEIST: So, therefore, by your definition, he`s not a Christian.

GRAHAM: I mean, you have to ask him. I cannot answer that question
for anybody. Under Islamic law, the Muslim world sees Barack Obama as a
Muslim. As a son of Islam.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Today, Graham admitted he was wrong. He says, quote, "I
regret any comments I`ve ever made which may have cast any doubt on the
personal faith of our President. I apologize to him and to any I have
offended. His faith has nothing to do with my consideration of him as a
candidate." Now, I appreciate that, Graham is setting the record straight.
But there are plenty of others on the right playing games on this issue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The President says he`s a Christian. I take him at
his word.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: He says he`s a Christian. Are you arguing with
that?

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The President says, he`s a
Christian, he`s a Christian.

BOEHNER: I believe the President is a Christian. I`ll take him at
his word.

DAVID GREGORY, HOST, "MEET THE PRESS": But that kind ignorance about
whether he`s a Muslim doesn`t concern you?

BOEHNER: The American people have the right to think what they want
to think. I can`t -- it`s not my job to tell them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Gentleman, it is your job to speak the truth. It`s called
leadership. When we speak wrong, I have, you apologize. We also need to
bring the country together on things that we believe in. That`s why we
should protect the vote so people can go in the booth, go to the poll and
express their opinion without ugliness. That`s why we`re going to Selma
this weekend and march every day next week. Blacks, whites, Republicans,
Democrats. All of us together. Because we need a democracy that we all
can express ourselves. We don`t need to keep beating each other down.
Let`s stand together and lift each other up.

Thank you 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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