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PoliticsNation, Thursday, March 1, 2012

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Guests: Ed Rendell, Laura Bassett; Julianne Malveaux; Chip Saltsman; Maria Cantwell,
Sherrod Brown, John Lewis


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

Today, Republicans hid behind religion to attack the health care
rights of millions of women and men across the country. But Democrats
stopped them cold. Senate Democrats blocked the so-called blunt amendment
in a 51-48 vote. The GOP plan lets any employer deny any health care
services to any person based on what they claim as a religious or moral
conviction.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: And the Republicans are
kicking off women`s history month by bringing the Blunt amendment to the
floor in the United States Senate. A Blunt sweeping overreach into women`s
health. Part of the Republican agenda of disrespecting women`s health
issues.

SEN. MARIA CANTWELL (D0, WASHINGTON: Stop making women`s health care
a scapegoat for what you think is wrong with America. It`s actually what`s
right with America and let`s focus on jobs.

SEN. CHICK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: I don`t envy the rank and file
Republicans who walk the plank on this vote.

SEN. PATTY MURRAY (D), WASHINGTON: This was an important step today.
And an important message to the women and men in this country that we in
the democratic caucus will stand up to fight for their rights as we always
have.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHARPTON: Despite today`s votes, Republicans aren`t backing down yet.
Speaker John Boehner says he may soon hold a vote on a similar bill in the
house. Supposedly to protect religious freedom.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The government`s
moving in a direction that would force some Americans to violate their
religious beliefs. This is wrong. And we want to stop it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Sorry, Speaker Boehner, but you`re wrong. The president
added a compromise rule to his healthcare law that specifically takes
religiously affiliated employers out of the equation. It let women and
their health insurance company`s work out the details directly. The
employer isn`t involved anymore. That`s why there are all sorts of
catholic groups, including a group that runs catholic hospitals around the
country gave the compromise a thumbs up.

The Blunt amendment isn`t about religious liberty. It`s about playing
politics. And Republicans are on the wrong side.

Joining me now, senator Maria Cantwell, a democrat from Washington who
voted against the Blunt amendment today -- earlier today. Senator, thanks
for being here.

CANTWELL: Good evening, Reverend Sharpton.

SHARPTON: Now, did your colleagues who voted for this bill make a big
mistake, in your judgment, today?

CANTWELL: Well, I think the issue is that we keep going back to every
progress that we`re trying to make her to talk about jobs or the budget or
reconciliation or appropriations. And every time it`s a battle over trying
to defund access to women`s health care.

I don`t understand why the other side thinks that that`s so important
in balancing the budget or jobs and the economy or what it has to do with
the transportation bill. And these issues have been settled law and giving
women access to their employers instead of having their boss decide whether
they should be given access to these things it should be between a woman
and her physician. And these have been upheld in court. So we`re just
going over it again and again when there`s important work to be done for
the nation on jobs.

SHARPTON: Now senator, you said two things that I want to bring you
back to. One, this was a transportation bill that Senator Blunt, for
whatever reason, adds this amendment that has really nothing to do with the
jobs that that bill would create.

Secondly, where we rose earlier, the president had already come with a
compromise embraced by many catholic organizations that took the religious
organizations or the religious employers out of the equation so that the
employee and the insurer would deal directly. So this really had nothing
to do with religious freedom as Speaker Boehner is talking about.

CANTWELL: Well, last spring, we almost came to a standstill over a
budget agreement. And, obviously, there are differences between each side
about how to reduce our deficit. But we couldn`t even get an agreement at
the 11th hour, the one thing that everybody wanted was to have a vote on
the Republican side to defund planned parenthood. As if that was going to
somehow get to a budget agreement.

And so there`s been three other attempts to try to just attack the
access. And these are prevention programs for breast cancer screening, for
diabetes, for all sorts of things that are very important for prevention.
In my state, Washington, we have a very high rate of breast cancer among
women. Its 130 women incidents per 100,000 populations.

So, if you start talking about taking away that screening mechanism,
you are talking about impacting the health of many women. So I don`t know
why they keep bringing it up in this forum. And, obviously, this amendment
was way too broad, way too encompassing that really was opening a Pandora`s
box and putting employers in the decision-making mode of deciding what to
cover of women`s health care.

SHARPTON: Well, and I might say seven Republicans did vote against
it. Voted along with the Democrats. But three of them are in potentially
tough races. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Dean Heller of Nevada, Richard
Lugar of Indiana and probably safe Steve Corker, Hatch, Barrasso and
Wicker, are all up for re-election.

CANTWELL: Well, all I know is that we keep having this debate over
and over again. And the Komen debate. And I think what people are
realizing is that there is a very strong support across America to keep the
access to women`s health care on prevention because it`s helping save
women`s lives and controlling health care costs by making sure we catch
things early. And so why do people want to upset that at such a critical
time?

SHARPTON: And I don`t understand that - that`s why I don`t understand
why these senators could vote for it, even those with tough races because
it doesn`t make sense.

But I thank you for being with us tonight. I`m glad to put it bluntly
that so far you stopped the Blunt amendment, pun intended.

CANTWELL: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Senator Cantwell, thank you for your time tonight.

This blunt amendment today was also a big problem for Mitt Romney who
wants conservatives to know he really, truly supports the plan, even though
he initially said he opposed it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m in favor of the Blunt
amendment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Can you elaborate?

ROMNEY: Elaborate. Yes, absolutely.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Romney`s campaign claimed he was confused by the reporter`s
question when he was first asked about it yesterday. Well, let`s go back
to the tape and see how confusing it really was.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Marco Rubio is being debated, I
believe, later this week that deals with banning or allowing employers to
ban providing female contraception. Have you taken a position on it?

ROMNEY: I`m not for the bill.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Sounds pretty clear to me. Willard was against the bill
before he was for it. Or something like that.

Joining me now, former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, now an NBC
news political analyst. And Chip Saltsman, a Republican strategist who was
Mike Huckabee`s campaign manager in 2008.

Thanks to both of you for joining me tonight.

Governor, it looks like every time you just start shaking your head
like you just can`t believe -- I mean, this is not the Romney you served in
the governor`s association. I mean, can you believe this apparent blatant
flip-flop?

ED RENDELL, NBC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: It`s incomprehensible for me.
Governor Romney, I believe was a good governor. We served together. Did a
great job with the Olympics. Obviously a successful businessman. He`s the
worst campaigner I`ve ever seen. That question, rev, couldn`t have been
any clearer. And that was the real Mitt Romney. He`s against it because
it`s stupid and as he said in a later clip that you didn`t run, we
shouldn`t be debating stuff like that now. We should be talking about the
economy and jobs and Iran and things like that.

And then to go back on it because you`re afraid of what? The people
who care about the Blunt amendment, they aren`t voting for Mitt Romney
anyway. They`re voting for Santorum. You got to show some cojones. You
got to stand up and be for what`s right occasionally. And to contradict
yourself in less than a half a day, is absolutely stunning. I literally
can`t believe it. I mean, Barack Obama must live under a lucky star
somewhere.

SHARPTON: Well, let me ask you this, Chip.

RENDELL: I love when chip should answer. He has no answer.

SHARPTON: I`m not going to ask you whether he lives under a lucky
star but I`m going to say, Governor Rendell mentions Mr. Santorum. Well,
Santorum attacked Romney for the flip-flop on the Blunt amendment, too.
He`s getting hit by the left and the right. Listen to Santorum.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Governor Romney was asked
that question. His knee-jerk reaction was, no, I can`t be for that. Now,
I will tell you, if I was asked a question like that, my gut reaction would
be always my gut reaction would be you stand for the first amendment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: You know when you walk down the middle of the street you
get hit by traffic coming both ways, Chip. I mean, I -- this is a classic
case of that.

CHIP SALTSMAN, FORMER HUCKABEE CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Which is what I feel
like right now in between you guys. I`m getting hit from both sides.
Look. I talked to a couple of folks in the Romney campaign today. He
didn`t know what the blunt amendment was when he was first talking about
it. He came back and answered, said he was for it. I think this is a
little bit of gotcha politics. I think -- and I`m not for any one of these
guys. I think Senator Santorum jumping on was just a little more of, we`re
five days until super Tuesday and he`s throwing the kitchen sink, anything
he can get a hold of.

But, look. The majority of, I think, Americans and Republicans
support the blunt amendment because it is about religious freedom. And
Reverend, I respect you and I was listening to your last segment. This is
about the overreach of Barack Obama mandating to the catholic church what
they can and cannot do. And I think that`s an issue that most people
disagree with. The federal government does not --

SHARPTON: But there`s a compromise on the table that takes the church
out of it. How do you --

SALTSMAN: That the church doesn`t support. The leadership of the
church, the bishops don`t the --

SHARPTON: But the church will not be involved.

SALTSMAN: I fundamentally disagree with a federal government
mandating what a church can and can`t do. I don`t think you`d appreciate
if the federal government came down and said, Reverend Sharpton, at your
church you have to watch FOX News Sunday for 30 minutes.

SHARPTON: No. But if they told me at my organization or church that
had an external university or school that I could not block FOX News, I
would say, if I want to operate with federal funds or subsidies or Medicare
as they do in hospitals that I either would say I`m not going to operate
with federal rules and get federal money or I`m going to have to do what is
right and have FOX News on.

SALTSMAN: Well, first of all, the catholic church gets federal
dollars. Why? Because they are one of the best organizations in the
country at charitable activities. And they do that just about as well as
other people --

SHARPTON: And they have to follow federal law.

(CROSSTALK)

SHARPTON: But this is -- how does -- Governor Rendell, how if you
have a compromise on the table, does this have anything to do with
religious -- and all religious freedom when they`re not asking the church
to do anything. They`re dealing directly from the insurer to the employee.
What`s the problem? Now you are going to enforce upon an employee your
will when you`re not even in it?

RENDELL: And, Chip, actually, before this brouhaha started, most
catholic law schools, many catholic universities, de Paul University, the
largest catholic school in the country, already voluntarily gave their
employees contraceptive coverage. So this is a lot of -- to do about
nothing.

But the bottom line is the Blunt amendment does much more than what you
said, Chip. It says that any employer can deny an employee virtually
anything for reasons that he doesn`t even have to spell out. It`s a
ludicrous amendment. It violates every principle this country was built
on. Should have been voted against. And let me tell you, if there are
women out there thinking of voting for Republicans in the fall, they ought
to get their head examined.

SALTSMAN: I think this is about religious freedoms. This is about
what our --

RENDELL: Read the amendment. This is not about religious freedom.

SALTSMAN: The federal government mandating to a church to do
something they don`t believe in is not American.

RENDELL: First of all, they don`t mandate to churches. So be correct
in your facts. They mandate it to catholic organizations that take federal
money. The organizations don`t have to take federal money. If they don`t
like the rules, then just say, we decline federal money. Then you can do
anything you want.

SALTSMAN: I think that`s where the catholic churches may be going on
this.

RENDELL: I don`t think de Paul University is. I don`t think
Georgetown law school is.

SHARPTON: Chip, and if they do that, then you can say if you have a
very fundamental conscientious objection to something then you say, I can`t
take your money. But you can`t turn around, just like you don`t want the
state to tell the church what to do. You can`t tell the church, you are
going to tell the state what to do. I`m going to take your money but I`m
going to do it my way. You can`t have the church dictating to the state.

And let me also say this to you, Chip. You are telling me that Mr.
Romney`s running for president and he didn`t know the Blunt amendment and
you think that helps him? Next time get ready to help me, Chip. Save it.

Governor Rendell, Chip Saltsman. Thanks for your time tonight.

RENDELL: Sorry, Chip. Sorry.

SALTSMAN: Thanks.

SHARPTON: Ahead, they are blaming high gas prices on the president.
But he`s calling on them to -- he`s calling them all, really, on the carpet
today in a big way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let`s put every single
member of Congress on record. You can stand with oil companies or stand up
for the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: And rush Limbaugh doubles down on those offensive and
sexist comments. I`m addressing them ahead.

And President Obama makes a big revelation. It`s the interview
everyone is talking about.

You`re watching "Politics Nation" on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Rush Limbaugh is once again going over the line on this
birth control debate. I`m addressing his anti-woman tirade and the silence
from GOP leadership. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
SHARPTON: We`re back with the impact the GOP war on women`s health in the
last five weeks, they`ve tried to defund planned parenthood, limit access
to abortions and contraceptives and force women to have ultrasounds.
President Obama vowed to continue to defend the rights of women.

And today, we are learning more of the American public is with him.
Sixty six percent of women support the president`s policy on contraception,
66 percent. And since December, his approval is up 10 points with women.
Republicans might want to rethink their anti-woman policies.

Check out this graph. Since 1980, women have outnumbered men at the
polls in millions. You can clearly see the line on top in red represents
women. They can make or break this election and the GOP is losing them by
trying to pass unpopular bills like the blunt amendment limiting women`s
rights.

Joining me now is economist, author and president of Bennett College
for women, Julia -- Dr. Julianne Malveaux and Laura Bassett of politics
reporter for "the Huffington Post."

Thank you both for joining me tonight.

Let me start with you, Julianne. How devastating can this be
politically for the Republicans?

JULIANNE MALVEAUX, BENNETT COLLEGE FOR WOMEN: It can be extremely
devastating. This makes no sense at all, rev. No sense for them to limit
contraception. As president of a women`s college, I can`t tell you how
critical it is that young women have options. Contraception is simply a
form of health care. There`s nothing controversial about contraception
unless you want to make it so.

Most Republican women support the availability of contraception. So
this just seem to get them headlines as opposed to being any kind of
practical measure.

SHARPTON: Now, when you look at what rush Limbaugh continuing his
attack on Sandra Fluke today, testified at the hearing on contraception.
Let me show you what he said, Laura, today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO SHOW HOST: If we`re going to have to pay for
this, then we want something in return, Ms. Fluke. And that would be the
videos of all this sex posted online so we can see what we are getting for
our money.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: I mean, can you believe he is saying this and we`ve not
heard the Republican leadership and those that are Rush Limbaugh`s fellow
travelers, so to speak, politically anyway, come out and say this is way
over the line? This is disgusting?

LAURA BASSETT, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE HUFFINGTON POST: I cannot
believe he said it, and I cannot believe Republican leadership hasn`t come
out against it. It`s just absolutely disgusting and wildly offensive on
every level what he said.

And I think that it`s really going to hurt Republicans, you know.
Every time, you know, a Foster Friess or a Rush Limbaugh comes out and says
something like that about women, that it even goes beyond religious liberty
debate. It goes beyond the contraception debate.

I mean, this is just about a disdain for women and women`s sexuality.
I think it`s a coin in the Democrats` piggy bank, you know. The House
Democrats have raised more than a million dollars in the past week on their
war on women campaign. And I think that`s only going to get better for
them.

SHARPTON: Julianne, the democratic congressional campaign committee
is out with a petition to tell Republican leaders to denounce Limbaugh`s
anti-women tirade. You are the president of a women`s college. Young
women. Younger than my daughters` age.

How the -- what message are we sending when a young woman can go
before the congress, talking about her right as a woman with contraception
and she be disparaged in this way. What are we saying to young women?

MALVEAUX: We are telling young women they are disposable. That
anything can be said about them. For Rush Limbaugh to use the terms slut
that he used against that young woman who is a young woman of courage. She
didn`t have to do that. She stood up for college students all over the
country.

So for him to do that, he really ought to be off the air. But you
know, Rev, when lefties make a mistake, they are off the air. When
Limbaugh -- it`s just a market for disrespect. And it`s disrespect for
women. More than half of the population as your chart shows, you know, a
sizable part of the vote. Need that not only calling that young woman a
slut but every young woman. And I`m sick of this, the aspirin between your
legs. I think I`ve heard this, five or six times, by various idiotic
Republicans.

SHARPTON: It`s amazing.

MALVEAUX: I don`t want students getting pregnant while they are in
school. I want them to be able to finish school. And it`s not my business
whether they have sex or not nor is it any Republicans` business. So, what
-- and not only should Mitt Romney, Santorum, all of them repudiate
Limbaugh, but their wives should as well.

SHARPTON: Well, let me say, Laura, that Ms. Fluke said in response
today, "this language is an attack on all women and has been used
throughout history to silence our voices. The millions of American women
who have and will continue to speak out in support of women`s health care
and access to contraception prove that we will not be silenced."

And I think that it goes to your point and Julianne`s. This will
galvanize a lot of women. But I mean, can you believe in 2012 we are even
having this discussion?

BASSETT: No. No, the debate over whether women should be able to use
birth control is over. It`s been over for decades. And the fact that it`s
resurfacing in this way is just shocking to me which I think is why -- I
think the GOP realizes that and it`s why they are reframing the debate as
one about religious liberty because they`re going to lose if they frame it
as about contraception.

SHARPTON: Now, the president, Julianne, is leading Santorum by 16
points with women. Women are a key voting bloc in 2008. He had 56
percent, a 13-point margin with women over McCain. Kerry only had a three-
point over Bush.

So, clearly, women make the difference when they vote in big numbers.
So the politics of this could be very devastating for the Republicans.

MALVEAUX: It`s kryptonite for them. They shouldn`t touch this with a
ten-foot pole. It`s one of the most dangerous and silly things. Not only
dangerous but also silly things that I`ve seen women do. I`ve seen a lot
of silly things Republicans have done.

But to attack a whole gender to attempt to erode women`s health care,
at a time when as Maria Cantwell said earlier, some of the issues with
breast cancer and some of the other issues, uterine cancer, things that
visit women. We ought to be encouraging women`s health care not basically
attempting to take away from it.

And, you know, again, the use of language. The attempt to basically
villainies sexual activity which is a human activity. There is nothing
dangerous. So to -- you limit contraception for married women as well.
Don`t they and their husbands have a choice of whether or not they want,
when they want to time their families? I mean, it`s just really laughable.

But the bottom line is it will backfire on Republicans. I don`t think
this will be the only issue that pulls people to the polls. I think the
economy is still going to be the overriding issue. But I think that you
are turning a lot of women off and that may be turning off women they don`t
have to turn off.

Republican women who support birth control, support contraception but
may have problems with President Obama may look at President Obama more
carefully because who wants to have their reproductive rights compromised?

SHARPTON: Dr. Julianne Malveaux and Laura Bassett, thank you for
your time.

BASSETT: Thank you.

SHARPTON: And Sandra Fluke will join Ed on "the Ed Show" in an
exclusive interview tonight, 8:00 p.m. right here on MSNBC.

Still ahead, Bill Clinton has tough words for Romney on the auto
bailout. Wait until you hear what he said about Willard and his father.

But first, the sheriff accused of some of the worst civil rights
abuses in America is diving back into the birther pool. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Arizona`s notorious anti-immigrant Sheriff Joe Arpaio held
a press conference today about his latest ridiculous obsession. President
Obama`s birth certificate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE ARPAIO, ARIZONA`S SHERIFF: Based on all of the evidence presented
and investigated, I cannot in good faith report to you that these documents
are authentic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: After that, Arpaio`s volunteer investigators went through a
laundry list of wild conspiracy theories about the document. I can`t
imagine why anyone would dredge up such a nonexistent issue unless they
were trying to deflect attention from something else. Like the Justice
Department investigation that found Arpaio`s office unfairly targeted
Latinos for arrest and detention. An expert on racial profiling said, the
bias was the worst he`d ever seen. Sheriff, did you think this bogus
investigation into the President`s birth certificate would distract
everybody from your real problems? Nice try, but we got you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Welcome back to POLITICS NATION. Republicans have been
trying to downplay the progress in the economy by trotting out their old
talking points about gas, prices and drilling. Well, today, the President
hit them with the facts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: America is producing more oil
today than at any time in the last eight years. That is a fact. Since I
took office, America`s dependence on foreign oil has gone down every single
year. Every single year.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Since President Obama took office, there`s been a seven
percent decrease in foreign oil imports and a 14 percent increase in
domestic oil production. Things are looking up. But Mitt Romney just
can`t admit it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He`s responsible for it not
being as much of an increase as it could have been. He should be hanging
his head. And taking a little bit of the blame for what`s going on today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Interesting, Willard. That`s exactly how you explain the
improvement in the economy. You admit it`s getting better but claim it`s
not getting better fast enough. We know the President can`t lower gas
prices overnight. But he can ask Congress to take away corporate welfare
for oil companies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Right now, $4 billion of your tax dollars -- $4 billion --
subsidized the oil industry every year. Every time you go to the gas tank,
or fill up your gas tank, they are making money. Every time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: As a matter of fact, for every extra penny you pay at the
pump, the big oil companies make an extra $200 million in quarterly
profits. Republicans just don`t have a good response to the President`s
fairness message. They are too busy trying to protect big oil and big
bankers on Wall Street.

Joining me now is Senator Sherrod Brown, democrat from Ohio. Thanks
for being here tonight, Senator.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: Of course. Thank you Reverend
Sharpton. Good to be back.

SHARPTON: Now do you think the GOP`s drill, baby, drill plan is
really an answer for high gas prices?

BROWN: Of course it`s not. I mean, you know, you start with, as you
point out on your show you start with there protecting the oil industry.
They know they can`t justify to anybody except to some Texas oil men that
the oil industry should get subsidies and tax breaks. Those subsidies and
tax breaks were based on when oil was, you know, $10 or $20 a barrel and
now it`s $10 and 20 times that. And so our -- or ten times that. So it`s
clear that that`s where they start with and they just want to attack the
president with Governor Romney, it`s always, I mean he just keeps shifting
his positions on this stuff. And no matter what the President does, he
would do better. Normally he wouldn`t and I think the President is exactly
right on this, talking about take something -- considering taking oil out
of the strategic petroleum reserve, closing these tax breaks. Standing up
using -- stopping the speculators on Wall Street. That should be part of
this. Across the board, we know how to do this. And the President is
doing the right thing.

SHARPTON: Now when you look at the fact that when you were discussing
these subsidies as the President did, the oil industry, the oil profits had
a huge year, setting an all-time record $137 billion. So, I mean, when you
say that they are using old figures, the figures they are dealing with now
only underscores your point, Senator Brown.

BROWN: Yes, how you can continue to defend, as Mitt Romney has his
whole career, and as far too many of my colleagues in the Senate have done,
so many of the Republicans that depend on oil money for their campaigns,
how they can continue to defend this industry when they are making that
much money and we`re not willing to do anything. They`re not willing to do
anything to try to fight for real energy policy and real help for American
consumers because we know that it hurts individuals that have to fill their
gas tank up at these high prices. And we know it potentially can hurt this
economic recovery. We`ve seen coming out of the auto rescue in my state,
which has put tens of thousands of people to work that wouldn`t be
otherwise, we`ve seen manufacturing job growth in this country and in this
state for 20 straight months after 12 years of decline. And how anybody
can criticize that kind of policy when we`re going in the right direction.
We want to do more of it. We want to grow faster. But clearly that`s the
right direction.

SHARPTON: Now the -- on Super Tuesday in the republican primaries
next week, they go to your state of Ohio, the Republicans in your state are
among others that will be voting during the process of choosing a nominee.
The impact of the auto industry, let`s go there for a minute, also affects
your state. But let me show you something that former President Bill
Clinton said about Mitt Romney`s position on the auto industry bailout when
Romney had written that infamous let Detroit go bankrupt op-ed piece in
"The New York Times." Bill Clinton addressed that today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: I happen to think this
auto industry package is the most important thing that was initiated by
President Obama in the administration. Every time I hear Mr. Romney talk
about this, I think his daddy must be turning over in his grave.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: That`s pretty strong language, but when you get to Ohio,
792,000 Ohio jobs depends on the auto industry. How do you think the
average Ohioan is going to look at a man who said, let Detroit go bankrupt?

BROWN: Yes, God, I mean, I don`t know how Governor Romney defends
that position. He paid a price in Michigan. I mean, as a native,
quote/unquote. He should have gotten 60 or 70 percent of the vote there.
But so many people turned against him because he turned against them in the
auto industry. But I`d ask Governor Romney to make up for his opposition
to the auto rescue. Maybe he can do something for us. The Senate passed
the biggest bipartisan jobs bill that we`ve passed last year. It was my
legislation to fix the currency, the gaming of the currency system that the
Chinese have used that have cost us thousands of manufacturing jobs.

We passed this legislation. It stuck in the house. I`d ask Governor
Romney to pick up the phone, call Speaker Boehner and say pass Brown`s,
pass the Senate`s bill to fix the currency system. And I`d encourage your
viewers to go along with that and to come on my Web site, Sherrod
Brown.com. Send a note to sign our petition to say to Speaker Boehner,
schedule this job gaining -- this jobs bill that will help us with currency
with China and put a level playing field, so China can`t cheat anymore.
And we can make a difference for job creation. That plus the auto rescue
is going to really matter for jobs. Not just in the Midwest but throughout
the country.

SHARPTON: Well, I can say to our viewers, go to SherrodBrown.com.
You`ll have to get Willard to make that call yourself, Senator Brown. I
don`t have much influence.

BROWN: All right. Thanks for that.

SHARPTON: Senator Sherrod Brown, thanks for your time tonight.
Always good to have you.

BROWN: Of course.

SHARPTON: Up next, new signs that Republicans are plotting to steal
the election by suppressing the vote. We`ll talk about it with a
congressman who risked his life for the cause. Civil rights legend John
Lewis.

And President Obama is praising something George W. Bush did. It`s
not what you`d expect. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Now to the right wing effort to block the vote. They are
doing everything possible to fix a problem that doesn`t exist. Thirty one
states are pushing new laws requiring voters to show I.D. at the polls.
They are doing it despite the fact that voter fraud is practically
nonexistent. Just this week, Michigan primary voters were required for the
first time to show proof of citizenship at the polls. They say it`s for a
secure and fair election. But it`s really another way to turn people away.
Here`s the bottom line. These laws strip poor people, minorities, elderly
and even young people of their right to vote. People like 96-year-old
Dorothy Cooper who voted in every election since the Jim Crow era until
Tennessee`s voter I.D. law made it impossible for her to register. And 42-
year-old Rita Platt of Wisconsin, who struggled to get the proper I.D. to
vote. And Lee and Phyllis Campbell, a Tennessee couple who told a
Congressional panel about how they couldn`t get a free voter I.D. And
that`s why we`re marching in Alabama next week, retracing the historic
voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery that led to the 1965 voting
rights act.

Joining me now, Georgia Congressman John Lewis. Almost 47 years ago,
Congressman Lewis helped lead 600 people in a voting rights march in Selma,
Alabama, that ended when police in riot gear launched a vicious attack on
the group. That confrontation now known as bloody Sunday helped galvanize
support for the civil rights movement. Today, the House unanimously passed
the resolution making the office of the historian compiled testimonies from
Lewis and others in Congress who participated in the civil rights movement
in Alabama.

Congressman Lewis, thank you for being here tonight. And thank you
for joining us and, of course, we`ll be with you Sunday. And as you know,
some of us are marching on following your footsteps all next week to
Montgomery.

REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: Thank you, Reverend Al for having me
here. Today was a wonderful day on the floor of the House of
Representatives to pass this resolution without a dissenting vote, offered
by two young women. Two members of the Congress. One black, one white,
from the state of Alabama. It was very moving. And at the end, the two
young women came up to me and gave me a hug. It`s really almost
unbelievable to see the distance we`ve come and the progress that we`ve
made. And at the same time, there are some people trying to take us back
to another period.

SHARPTON: Now, I was moved by the -- your quote on the resolution
where you said this is a gracious act on the part of the majority leader
and the house leadership to help preserve the history about democracy.
Without the brave and courageous souls who shed blood, sweat and tears in
Alabama and throughout the south. This would be a different nation today.
You are one of them that shed that blood. And in the spirit of the
movement where most people have to understand, you commended Eric Cantor
and others that with all of the acrimony that we see in Washington, this
was a rare coming together of showing that we can come together for a good
cause.

LEWIS: Well, that`s what the movement was all about, to bring people
together. To create that sense of one community, one family, one house.
We were struggling not against people, but against bad laws. Customs and
tradition to make it possible for every American, every Alabaman. You
know, every person in the American soil to participate in the democratic
process. Back in my native state of Alabama during that period, 47 years
ago, it was almost impossible for a person of color to register to vote.
Yes, we were beaten. We were trampled by horses. Teargas. But we never
gave up. We never gave in. We kept the faith, and that`s what we must
continue to do as we go back to Birmingham, Montgomery and Selma on Sunday
to walk across that bridge one more time.

SHARPTON: Now as you have said that you have also dealt with this
voter I.D. law. A law we`ll be marching against all next week. And you on
Sunday will lead us across that bridge. And then later that night, we`ll
begin walking the miles to Montgomery every day. The voter I.D. laws are
11 percent of eligible voters. Twenty five percent of African-Americans.
Sixteen percent of Hispanics. They really threaten what you and others
achieved 47 years ago. And thank God you are here 47 years later showing
leadership and giving voice to us saying let`s not go backwards. Not even
a step.

LEWIS: Well, we must not go back. Not even one step. The voter I.D.
laws, and it`s not just in the American soil, but throughout our country,
it`s a form of a poor tax. We got rid of the poor tax with the voting
rights act of 1965. We got rid of the literacy tests and we should make it
very simple for people to be able to participate in the democratic process.
It should be as simple as getting a glass of water. It`s not any room in
our country or in any state for a voter I.D. law.

SHARPTON: Now, were there also in certain states challenging section
five on the voting rights act claiming that it`s no longer needed. They
are challenging it in Alabama, Arizona, North Carolina, South Carolina and
Texas. So we have voter I.D. laws, 34 states. They are attacking section
five of the voting rights act. It`s time to march again.

LEWIS: Well it is time to march again. It is time to dramatize the
fight that there are forces in America today, 47 years later, after people
died for the right to participate in the process. After people were
beaten. You know, I gave a little blood on the bridge. Other people gave
their very lives, Balaluzo (ph), the three civil rights workers, Jimmy Lee
Jackson in Marion, Alabama, and many, many others. So, we must continue to
march. And I appreciate that you and others going to lead an effort, not
only across the bridge on Sunday, but you`re going to walk on to Montgomery
as we did 47 years ago.

SHARPTON: Well, Congressman Lewis, I appreciate you. And we were
planning that walk. I brought some of the young leaders to your office.
You showed them the pictures of Viola, Luis and others as you marched as a
student leader. So we know when you say how whites and blacks embrace each
other in Congress today, whites also died on that bridge. This is not a
black against white. It`s right against wrong. And we do that spirit when
we march behind you Sunday and march on in your name and in your footsteps
all next week. Congressman Lewis, thank you for your time tonight.

LEWIS: Thank you very much for having me, Al.

SHARPTON: And again, we`ll kick off our Alabama march on Sunday over
the next five days. We`ll cover up to ten miles a day retracing the route
of the historic 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery facing what`s going on
today. We`ll be reporting back to you every step of the way.

Ahead -- the President makes a big prediction today, but I bet it`s
not what you`re thinking. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Finally tonight, I want to talk about presidents and their
passion for sports. Richard Nixon famously drew up plays for the
Washington redskins. He even invited their coach to the White House.
President Clinton`s love of golf sparked a friendship with golfing legend
Greg Norman. But President Obama brings that love to a whole new level
today with an interview with ESPN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL SIMMONS, HOST, ESPN: I always pictured you in bed pretending you
were working but watching league pass on your iPad.

OBAMA: I do have league pass on my iPad.

SIMMONS: You do?

OBAMA: Of course.

SIMMONS: Did you pay for it yourself or do you charge to the White
House?

OBAMA: No, I`ve got to pay for it myself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: That`s something I bet you didn`t know. And it`s not just
the pros he follows. The college games.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I knew about Jeremy before you did. Or everybody else did
because Arne Duncan, my Secretary of Education was captain of the Harvard
team. I`ve been on the Jeremy Lin bandwagon.

SIMMONS: Are you taking credit for Linsanity?

OBAMA: I can`t take credit for it but I`m just saying I was there
early.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Who knew the President had scouting skills? But it wasn`t
all basketball talk. He`s got a tough job. But who really knew what
really stresses him out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SIMMONS: You`ve thrown the first pitch in front of like 60,000
people. You are obviously wearing a big bulletproof vest under your suit.
All these people staring at you.

OBAMA: Yes. I give credit. I mean, when I think about George Bush
and the pitch he threw --

SIMMONS: After 9/11. Yes.

OBAMA: Unbelievable pitch.

SIMMONS: Right down the middle.

OBAMA: Right down the middle. And huge credit for that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: All right. I agree. It was a great pitch. But the
biggest news of all was a special prediction about his hometown Chicago
Bulls.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SIMMONS: How many times have you envisioned welcoming the world
champion Chicago Bulls to the White House?

OBAMA: Every year. And it hasn`t happened yet. But it will happen.

SIMMONS: It will happen.

OBAMA: I`ve got another five years here and --

SIMMONS: You are guaranteeing that, too?

OBAMA: Somewhere along the line my bulls are going to come through
here. Absolutely.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

Did you catch that? Another five years. Hey, Willard, I don`t know
about the bulls, but I think he`ll be there five years. That`s President
Obama. I bet you $10,000. 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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