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PoliticsNation, Wednesday, April 4, 2012

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Guests: Ed Rendell; Jared Bernstein, Terry O`Neill; Laura Bassett, Dana Milbank, Erin McPike, Ken
Padowitz, Eugene O`Donnell


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

Tonight`s lead, its game on in the election of 2012, and it`s not just
a contest between two men. Though it is now seems clear that Willard
Romney will be the Republican choice, but this is really a battle of ideas.
A fight about the fundamental relationship between ourselves and our
government. And it all comes down to fairness. That`s the conversation we
need to have in this election. President Obama is drawing a bright line
attacking the Republicans flagship plan, the Ryan budget, which guts the
safety net.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Republicans running
Congress right now have doubled down. And proposed a budget so far to the
right, it makes the contract with America look like the new deal. It is a
Trojan horse disguised as deficit reduction plans. It`s really an attempt
to impose a radical vision on our country. It is thinly veiled social
Darwinism.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: But Willard channeled Paul Ryan in his speech today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will gradually raise the
retirement age for Social Security. I will cut marginal tax rates across
the board for individuals and corporations. I will repeal burdensome
regulations.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Attacking Social Security, lowers taxes for the rich,
lowers taxes for corporations. That`s Willard`s agenda and it`s deeply
unpopular. Seventy six percent of Americans don`t want Social Security
cut. Sixty four percent say millionaires should pay more in taxes. Fifty
nine percent say corporations should pay their fair share in taxes. And 80
percent say that programs like Medicare and they should not be slashed.

President Obama wants to keep those programs intact.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Any one of us, at any moment, might face hard times, might
face bad luck, might face a crippling illness or a layoff. And so we
contribute to programs like Medicare and Social Security. We provide
unemployment insurance which protects us against unexpected job lost.
These investments are not part of some scheme to redistribute wealth from
one group to another. They are expressions of the fact that we are one
nation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: But Mr. one percent, he is ready to slash the safety net.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Cast over 800 vetoes and cut entire programs. If there was a
program, agency, or department that needed cutting, we cut it. Instead of
drawing the federal government, I will shrink it. I will repeal Obama
care, and cut programs that we simply cannot afford.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Willard wants to rob the poor to help the rich. But the
president`s fight for fairness is paying off. A key swing states, the
president is leading Willard by nine points. A fight about fairness that
is the conversation we need to have in this election.

Joining me now, former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, now an NBC
news political analyst, and, Jared Bernstein, MSNBC contributor and former
chief economist for vice president Joe Biden.

Thank you both for being here tonight.

ED RENDELL, NBC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: Our pleasure.

JARED BERNSTEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Governor, let me start with you. Governor Romney loves the
Ryan plan and things cooperation of people, is that what the American
people want to hear right now?

RENDELL: No, absolutely not. And it`s almost as if the GOP is
suicidal. This lavish fealty that the Ryan plan, which it destroys
Medicare as we know it, virtually every senior citizen including tea party,
I still don`t want to change. This idea that we will cut taxes on the rich
and it will trickle down. That`s a theory that`s never work before. There
is no evidence that it will work this time.

The fairness argument is a big winner for the president, and if he
says on the fairness argument, that`s again, it`s a solid path to
reelection. If I`m the Romney campaign, I duck the fairness argument and I
say, look, right now the most important thing for Americans is to get a
job.

So, we have to get the economy moving again and here is our plan. And
again, it`s not a well defined plan up until now, and it is plan that has a
lot of old mumbo jumbo that doesn`t work. But that`s where they want to
fight. They want a fight on the economy not recovering fast enough.
Here`s our plan. We can get people back to work more quickly. If they`re
forced to defend the fairness issue, they`re cooked.

SHARPTON: Now, Jared. This is serious. Beyond the partisan
politics, when you look at what they`re proposing in the Ryan plan, 63
percent of the plan is budget cuts targeting programs for the poor. $3.3
trillion from low income programs, $2 trillion from other programs. This
is really, really devastating to a lot of people depending on this.

BERNSTEIN: Well, that`s exactly right, Reverend. And in fact, if you
look at those cuts, Medicaid, food stamps, head start, college grants
things like Pell grants that help lower income kids to access higher
education. They`re precisely the kinds of programs that provide people
with the kind of economic mobility that`s been so lacking in this economy.

And again, you want to talk about fairness, those are the kinds of
mobility ladders that provide the fairness to this economy has lacked under
the supply side trickledown theory, as you said, that doesn`t work.

And by the way, the other side of that 60 percent, just to really
carry this through to its natural conclusion, they take the Ryan budget,
endorsed by governor Romney, takes those savings and gives them out as tax
cut that`s disproportionately benefit the wealthy. Forty percent of the
tax cuts in the Ryan budget accrue to millionaires and billionaires.

SHARPTON: That`s the other part of it, governor. We`re not only
talking about literally slashing trillions. On the other hand, his tax
proposals, the tax code of the Ryan plan, supported by Governor Romney,
will get millionaires would get an average of $265,000 in tax cuts, middle
class people would get just $751. So, not only are you cutting into the
safety net of working class, middle class and poor people, you`re rewarding
the rich at the same time. I mean, what could be the thinking behind this
politically?

RENDELL: Well, politically, it`s just feeding the base, the special
interest, and hope that they`ll dump enough money in to this super PACs to
win today because it`s bad economics. It`s never work. I mean, all you
have to do is go back to President Clinton who raised taxes on the top two
percent of Americans and despite all of the predictions that this was going
to throw us into recession. We added 23.5 million jobs in the next seven
years.

And President Bush cut taxes mostly on wealthy Americans and we had
the slowest period of job growth in last 50 years. So, you don`t have to
look far to understand that this stuff doesn`t work. It`s just a plain
give-a-way.

And by the way, Rev, one of the things in your discussion with Jared,
when you talk about all of the cuts, they`re coming on top of cuts that
state governments are making.

Here in Pennsylvania, we have taken 90,000 children off of the
Medicaid program, 90,000 children without any federal cuts at all, that`s
just in the state budget.

SHARPTON: Just state cuts, 90,000 children in Pennsylvania alone.

RENDELL: Ninety thousands kids.

SHARPTON: Now Jared, with all of this, and with the blessings and
endorsement of Willard Mitt Romney, he said about President Obama last
night -- we`ll let me show you and then I want to show you how outrageous
it is to me.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: President Obama thinks he is doing a good job. It makes you
think that flying around for four years in air force one, and staffers
telling you you`re great and you`re doing a great job, it`s enough to make
you think that you might become a little out of touch with that, and that`s
what happened.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: President Obama is out of touch, Mitt Romney says. Well,
let me show you how in-touch Mitt Romney has been.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I drive a mustang, and a pickup truck, Ann drives a couple
Cadillacs, actually.

Rick, I`ll tell you what, a $10,000 bet.

I like firing people that provide services to me.

Corporations are my friend.

I`m not concern about the very poor --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: So - I mean, Jared, we`re not going to have a close one on
who is out of touch, but will the president`s stuff really matter with this
election, when all of the great problems people are facing, will this be
about policy or would it be about personalities and personal attacks?

BERNSTEIN: Look, personalities will always going to play a roll, but
there is nothing any politician can say in terms of how in touch or out of
touch that will convince people. People actually have to feel you out
there on the stump talking to them.

You know, I used to work for Joe Biden. I mean, this is the guy who
understands the middle class very well. And it`s also going to be about
policy. And one of the things you have to appreciate, if you want to
understand the middle class squeeze, is that over the last few decades, the
incomes of the average incomes of the top one percent have grown about 275
percent. While the incomes of folks in the bottom half have grown like 20
to 30 percent over 30 years.

If you just look as the governor was talking about it, you just look
at the Bush years, the middle class actually ended up worst off. Poverty
rates, actually, went up over those years even as the economy improved.

So it`s, you can say how in touch or out of touch you are, but if your
policies exacerbate the underlying qualities and that trickle down stuff
does exactly that, it`s pretty obvious to people where you`re coming from.

Now Governor Rendell, you have been a very successful politician.
When you hear what Jared just said, and you look at a recent "New York
times" poll asking Americans who understands their needs and problems, it
was, to me, astounding. President Obama 55 percent said president Obama,
31 percent said Mitt Romney. How does Romney turn that around?

RENDELL: I don`t, as a practical matter, think he can. I think
Governor Romney in seeking a win this nomination has locked himself into so
many positions that are conservative like hid whole argument and
endorsement of the Ryan budget.

And in one sense, the campaign guy is right. There is a reset and you
start anew. But, Reverend the great David Axelrod will not let Romney
forget what he said in this campaign. So, I think it would take a really
significant, almost characters make event for the president to lose.

Having said that, that doesn`t mean that Democrats can be complacent.
We will have to be on our toes, we want to win back the congress, and there
is plenty of fight ahead. But, I think they`re locked in to these
positions and I think it was a huge mistake.

SHARPTON: I agree and the in your opinions say that, but I don`t take
granted for granted.

RENDELL: Absolutely.

SHARPTON: Governor Ed Rendell, and Jared Bernstein. Thank you for
your time tonight.

Ahead, Willard is trying to erase his policies on women. Sorry, that
won`t happen.

Plus, what a long, strange trip it`s been. We`ll show you why the
Republican race tarnished the GOP brand like we have never seen before.

And inside the George Zimmerman investigation there is a laser focus
on the crime scene and many questions remain.

You`re watching "Politics Nation" on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: New poll numbers show Willard`s war on women is hurting his
campaign, so here comes to save Willard plan, simple effect. Sorry
Willard, it doesn`t work that way. We have the tape, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Welcome back to "Politics Nation."

Willard Mitt Romney is reaching for his etch-a-sketch because he has a
serious problem with women. Over the last few months, the GOP war on women
has exploded, and Willard has been right smack on the far side of extreme.
He is in favor of radical prisoner laws that ban abortion under any
circumstances. He is for the extreme blunt amendment that gives employers
the right to refuse any health care service if they morally object.

And he talked about getting rid of and de-funding Planned Parenthood.
We have seen how unpopular this war on women has been. And now, Willard is
feeling the heat.

A new poll shows President Obama crushing Romney by 18 points with
women voter in 12 critical swing states, 18 points. So here comes the
great tepid. Listen to Bob Ehrlich, Romney`s Maryland campaign chair on
his trouble with women.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB EHRLICH, ROMNEY`S MARYLAND CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: I think when the
general election, again, when you have one on one general election, and
they see again are reminded of governor Romney`s real views, that gender
gap will dissipate quickly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Real views? Is he kidding? So all of this was a big fake
out?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I`m in favor of the blunt amendment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Would you have support of the
constitution amendment that would establish the definition of life at
conception.

ROMNEY: Absolutely.

ROMNEY: My presidency will be a pro-life presidency.

ROMNEY: Planned Parenthood, we are going to get rid of that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: His views might be stuck in the `60s, but we have this new
technology called videotape. Good luck, Willard.

Joining me now is Terri O`Neil, president of the National organization
for Women and Laura Basset, a politics reporter for the "Huffington Post."
She has been covering the GOP war on women for months.

Thanks to both of you for joining me.

LAURA BASSETT, POLITICS REPORTER, HUFFINGTON POST: Thanks for having
us.

TERRY O`NEILL, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR WOMEN: Nice to
see you.

SHARPTON: Terry, let me start with you. How will you react it Romney
tries to pivot back from his stance on women`s issue?

O`NEILL: You know, the things is it`s going too little too late. We
know what Romney`s position is on personhood. He supports them. We know
that Romney supports restricting birth control for having sex and he
supports the blunt amendment. Maybe he can try to etch-a-sketch that and
erase it in somehow coming with something different.

But he is not, as a Republican candidate, frankly, I don`t think he
will be able to come out and say to women, I understand your everyday
struggles. I know that you need birth control. Its basic pro-benefit
healthcare and I will do everything I can and take a leadership role in
making sure that every woman in this country has access to birth control.
He is not going to say that. And that`s what women really want to hear him
say.

The other thing that is really going to be, unfortunately for him a
real failure, is his support of the Ryan budget. This is a budget that
very disproportionately hurts women because it slashes the social programs
they rely on.

SHARPTON: But Willard has said, I must say stated, he can bring his
wife out. His wife can appeal to women voters. Let me show you what he
said recently about that.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I had the thought of being out with my wife the last several
days on the campaign trail, and she points out as she talks to women, they
tell her the number one concern is the economy. Women are really
struggling in this economy. And I believe the way we`ll get women voters
in our side of the column is by talking about how to get the economy going
again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: So Terry, he brings his wife out, they talk about the
economy. They talk about women suffering disproportionately in the
economy. Does that in your opinion persuade some women to forget his other
positions?

O`NEILL: No, she may be a very admirable woman, and I`m sure she is,
but that doesn`t change the fact that, in fact, the economic policies that
Mitt Romney supports are bad for women. And the thing is that women know
this. And just the fact that his wife is out there making nice doesn`t
change the hard reality that his policies do hurt women and women know it.
That`s why you are seeing this huge gap between him and President Obama.

SHARPTON: Let me ask you Laura. You have been covering these issues
for months on the GOP race. Do you think there is any way, now that it`s
pretty clear that Romney is the nominee that Romney can walk back a lot of
these very extreme positions and appeal to women voters from you`re
covering this and seeing he is the master, the flip-flop, can he flip-flop
this back?

BASSETT: I don`t think he can. I think it`s too late for Mitt Romney
to win back women voters especially the way he`s going about it, sending
out his wife as if - sort of ambassador to women. It`s little bit
patronizing and it treats women as if their special interest group, when in
fact, they are more than half of the population, 51 percent of the
population are women. And it sends the message of well, I don`t understand
you, but let me send someone that does understand you. Is Ann Romney
running for president? Now, she is not. And you don`t see Barack Obama
sending Michelle our to court women voters. He speaks directly to women,
and he specifically outlines the policies that he has that benefit them.
And if Mitt Romney is unable to do that, then women are going to see
through his attempts to court them.

SHARPTON: Now, it appears that he knows he has a problem because he
is sending out Nikki Haley, Kelly Ayotte, talking about what women are
focused on. Let me show you what some of his women surrogates are saying.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. NIKKI HALEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I think that women voters very
much care about the state of the economy.

SEN. KELLY AYOTTE (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: Women don`t care about
contraception. They care about jobs, the economy, and raising families and
all those things.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: What do you say to that? Do you think the surrogates,
leading women who have positions of prominence; can they talk women into
saying all of that doesn`t matter? These are the things that matter?
Terry.

O`NEILL: You know. I have to say. I found it really insulting to
hear that women don`t care about birth control, about contraception. Women
care very much when government officials start cow tailing to the catholic
bishops and other religious extremist and start taking birth control away
at the behest of religious extremist.

Women care desperately about that. Of course we want jobs. Of
course, we don`t want people like Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum going after
birth control.

But as long as they are, women will see to it that those candidates
are defeated. When it comes to jobs, let`s be clear. Mitt Romney is not
supporting any policies that actually help women get back to work. Women
have lost, on net, over 200,000 jobs since the recovery began, largely
because of state and local communities that have been laying-off public
workers.

And you don`t hear Romney saying I understand this and I know that we
have to get the teachers, and the nurses, and the child care workers, and
the social workers and case managers back on the job. You don`t hear him
saying that, and unless you do his claim that he is for women`s economic
security really rings hollow.

SHARPTON: Now, it is clear that you`re correct when you look at the
polls and the polls say that when you ask women about their strong support
of required contraception coverage, 66 percent of women support. A poll on
more than three quarters of the country agrees birth control should not be
part of the political debate.

So Laura, it seems that women do have some very views about these
matters that the Romney camp seem to say, they don`t care about it.

BASSETT: They certainly do, Reverend. And I would also add that
birth control is not an entirely separate issue from the economy especially
for women. You know, in addition to many low income women struggling to
pay for date of birth control. The ability to afford birth control and
access to birth control have helps women delay child bearing to a point
where they can afford to have children and helps them to grow in their
career. There`s been report that show that women who have earlier access
to birth control in their lives earn much more, you know, 10 to 20 years
down the road. So, this is an economic issue for women. It`s not just
relegated to sum, you know, sexual freedom issue. This is all intertwined.

SHARPTON: Now Terry, let`s look at this broader than Romney. Has
this become Republican orthodoxy that we`re going to be to the extreme
right on women`s issues when it comes to all of these things that we`ve
heard throughout the primary season? Because we have not seen anyone get
on the stage at those debates or major contender and take a different
position? It`s almost like they have competed for who can be more extreme.
Are we seeing a real swing in the body of politics as far as the Republican
Party is concerned no matter who the candidate is going into the future?

O`NEILL: Yes, it`s just astonishing. This year you`re seeing all of
the Republican candidates, including Mitt Romney who used to be a moderate,
going out on really to the extreme right wing in their policies. And may I
say that`s a terrible thing for the women`s movement.

Frankly, we -- it`s not good for us to be able to rely on only one
party. We need Republicans to be for women`s rights. But what we don`t
need is for anti-women`s right Republicans telling us, we know we have a
problem, so therefore you should support us. We need serious policies. We
need Democrats and Republicans guaranteeing access to birth control for
women. Democrats and Republicans, absolutely promising no cuts to birth
control, to Social Security, no increase in the retirement age, no messing
around with cola formula for Social Security which is in the Ryan budget.

You know, we need Democrats and Republicans doing the right thing for
women, and it`s not so good for our movement to be able to rely on only one
party. We need both.

SHARPTON: Terry O`Neill, Laura Bassett. Thank you both for your time
tonight.

BASSETT: Thanks for having me.

O`NEILL: Thank you, rev.

SHARPTON: Ahead, the right wing`s freak out over President Obama`s
comments about the Supreme Court. But hypocrisy alert, we have seen this
move from their side before.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: The folks on the right have ginned up some new outrage over
a phony controversy. They`re horrified, horrified about President Obama`s
comments about the Supreme Court and the health care law.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: Ultimately, I`m confident that
the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented,
extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong
majority of a democratically elected Congress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: The President`s confident the court will uphold the law.
Not exactly shocking, but the right thinks the president is being a bully.
Now a federal judge, who is nominated by Ronald Reagan, is playing politics
with this by demanding that the Justice Department write a letter
explaining the President`s views.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JERRY SMITH, JUDGE: That letter needs to be at least three pages,
single spaced, no less. And it needs to be specific. It needs to make
specific reference to the President`s statements and to again -- the
position of the Attorney General and the Department of Justice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: I`m surprised he didn`t say what color ink they should use.
First of all, most Americans think the conservative dominated court is
ruled by plucks. In fact, 75 percent think politics will influence the
Supreme Court`s decision on health care and the health care law. Second,
it`s ridiculous that conservatives would be upset about questioning a
judge`s authority. In December, Newt Gingrich said, he would haul judges
before Congress to explain decisions he didn`t like.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS NEWS CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Would you
send is the capitol police down to arrest him?

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you had to, you
instruct the Justice Department to send the U.S. marshal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Newt would send U.S. marshals after judges. It sounds like
a bully to me. But Newt is not the only republican who has been worried
about judicial activism.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Unfortunately, some
judges give in to temptation and make law instead of interpreting. Such
judicial lawlessness is a threat to our democracy and it need to stop.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Republicans are very worried about so-called activist
judges, but only when it`s their laws getting struck down. Did the right
think we would notice this blatant hypocrisy? Nice try but we got you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Wow, I had a crazy dream. I was dreaming that the
Republican Party was going nuts. They were going right off a cliff. It
was very strange. They were saying some scary bizarre things.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: It is tragic what we do in the poorest neighborhoods,
entrapping children in first of all, in child laws which are truly stupid.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The answer is self-
deportation, which is people decide, that they can do better by going home
because they can`t find work here.

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: I had that mother last night
come up to me here in Tampa, Florida after the debate, she told me that her
little daughter took that vaccine, that injection, and she suffered from
mental retardation thereafter.

RICK PERRY, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would send troops back
into Iraq.

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Obama once
said, he wants everybody in America to go to college. What a snob.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Sadly, it wasn`t a dream, it was the republican
presidential race. It was a bizarre alternative universe where child labor
laws were stupid, troops were going back to Iraq, and immigrants would
happily self-deport. And while Mitt Romney appears they`re finally wrapped
up the nomination, the damage has been done both to him and to his party.
Right now, 50 percent have an unfavorable view of Mitt Romney, half of all
Americans. That`s up 19 percent since last September when the primary
begun to heat up. Right now, 58 percent of Americans have an unfavorable
view of the GOP as a whole. That`s up 10 percent from this time last year.
And the Republican Party is becoming more extreme and less popular by the
day. No etch-a-sketch can erase that.

Joining me now is "Washington Post" columnist Dana Milbank who was at
Romney`s big speech today in Washington. And Erin McPike, reporter for
Real Clear Politics who spent a lot of months on the road this past year
covering the GOP primaries, thank you both for joining me.

ERIN MCPIKE, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Thank you.

DANA MILBANK, "WASHINGTON POST": Thank you, Reverend.

SHARPTON: Dana, can you explain this self-destructive impulse that`s
taking over the GOP right now?

MILBANK: Well, we were all living the dream there for a long time,
Reverend. And, you know, just from a journalist point of view, it was
extraordinary to see this kind of sort of self-destruction going on for
this long of a period of time. You know, it was not driven by party
interest, it was self-interest. And you have a lot of self interested
characters who didn`t much like the frontrunner Mitt Romney, and were just
really didn`t care how much earth they scorched in bringing him down. They
didn`t bring him down but Rick Santorum is still going to bowling alleys
and somehow thinks that he might be the president.

SHARPTON: Now, Erin, let me ask you this -- you have been on the
road, you`ve been through the whole primary season, just about, and the
move to the right has been so extreme, President Obama said yesterday this
about Ronald Reagan and this present party. Look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Ronald Reagan, who, as I recall, is not accused of being a tax
and spend socialist, understood repeatedly that when the deficit started to
get out of control, that for him to make a deal, he would have to propose
both spending cutting and tax increases. Did it multiple times. He could
not get through a republican primary today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: So Erin, has the party really gotten that extreme, to where
the father of republican conservatism couldn`t get through a primary season
today?

MCPIKE: Maybe not, but the fact is that Mitt Romney is the most
moderate candidate in the field, and ultimately he has gotten through the
primary, but it`s been very difficult and he does come out wounded. But he
is benefiting by Rick Santorum staying in for a little while longer and
saying that Mitt Romney is too similar to Barack Obama. Because as Mitt
Romney starts to pivot to the general election, he can say, look, I`m not
as conservative as some of these others, I will try to governor from the
center. Now, it was bad for him throughout the primaries with him being
bashed by his republican opponents, but he has the spring and the summer
now to try to curb some of that and make up that ground. Now, he is
starting from a bad position, but he`s got a long way to go until many of
the voters in this country starts tuning in and getting to know him on a
deeper level.

SHARPTON: Now, Dana, he may try to walk back some of the extreme
positions, and time will only tell whether he`s effective. But there`s
going to be some whacky stuff that`s going to be hard for them to erase.
Not only for him, but for the party when you look at who their candidates
were and some of the stuff they did. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I love this state. It seems right here the trees are the
right height.

PERRY: Commerce, education, and the -- what`s the third one there?
Let`s see -- oops.

ROMNEY: I got started right this morning with a biscuit and some
cheesy grits.

PERRY: He was before the social programs.

HERMAN CAIN (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The 999 plan, 999,
999, 999.

BACHMANN: When you take the 999 plan and you turn it upside down, I
think the devil is in the details.

PERRY: Live free or die, victory or death, bring it in.

CAIN: They ask me who is the president of ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-
stan, I`m going to say, you know, I don`t know, do you know?

PERRY: Today has been awesome, girl.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: I mean, it gives the party a kind of whacky image, don`t
you think, Dana?

MILBANK: That`s quite a highlight reel there, Reverend. And I think
you could do one for the whole hour after this primary season. Yes, I
mean, you know, the poll numbers you show indicate the damage to the party.
It`s not necessarily permanent damage. A lot will be changed. I mean, and
the Romney advisory is correct, there is an etch-a-sketch effect that`s
going to occur here, and Romney will modify his positions yet again. Some
of this will be forgotten. What won`t be forgotten is that Romney has
become this sort of a caricature of this rich guy who doesn`t quite get
people, he`s going to have a lot of time running away from that down the
campaign. He was doing it again today, giving echos of his corporations,
our people line and just, you know, on and on about the corporations. And
that`s not going to work for him as he gets into, begins to mixed it up
with President Obama.

SHARPTON: Dana Milbank, Erin McPike, thank you both for your time
tonight.

MILBANK: Thanks, Rev.

SHARPTON: Ahead, breaking news, right now two agents from the
special prosecutor`s office are canvassing the crime scene where Trayvon
Martin was killed. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Investigators are back on the scene of Trayvon Martin`s
killing, where is this investigation heading? That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: We`re back on POLITICS NATION with new signs that the
Trayvon Martin investigation is gaining momentum. NBC News can report two
agents from the special prosecutor`s office are convincing the Twin Lakes
retreat area where Trayvon was shot right now. They`re interviewing
neighbors on the street and at their homes. This comes after two days of
FBI agents on the scene. They`re going door to door questioning potential
witnesses and compiling information on Zimmerman`s background. With less
than a week to go before the grand jury, there is a laser focus on the
crime scene. But many key questions still remain, and we`re going to go
through them now.

Joining me from Florida is Ken Padowitz, a former homicide prosecutor
from Florida and here in studio is Eugene O`Donnell, professor of John Jay
College of criminal justice. He`s a former New York City police officer
and prosecutor. Thank you both for your time tonight. First, let`s go to
the investigators. Eugene, let me ask you, the special prosecutors are
agents on the scene now. What are they doing right now do you think?

EUGENE O`DONNELL, JOHN JAY COLLEGE OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE: Well, it`s
very rudimentary police work that hopefully happened the first night, but
in this case there`s no way to save a dead. This is called a canvas, and
it`s the most elementary kind of policing. It`s all the more important in
the case like this, because if you think it clearer picture is emerging
that this is an unjustified shooting, the last thing you`d want at the 11th
hour, is for someone to come forward with the story that contradicts that
story that you think is true. So, but one would really hope that they were
out there and not going to endorse the night that this happened.

SHARPTON: So you`re saying that what this special prosecutors doing
now is what the prosecutor and the police should have done the night of the
shooting?

O`DONNELL: Yes, again, this is a homicide, somebody who was killed.
This is not an auto theft. This is the case, this is the most serious
business the police have, and this is the most basic approach, and this is
an ages old approach. This is long before CSI, long before we got to the
labs. This is what policing was. Knocking on doors, talking to the
community, trying to coax and cajole people to tell you what happened.

SHARPTON: Now, let me ask you, Ken. You`ve been a prosecutor. We
had the FBI out there a couple of days. Now the state prosecutors are
coming. We know the grand jury is scheduled to start, the state grand jury
next Tuesday. Are the state prosecutors gathering information for that
grand jury, or are they gathering information that they can use and make an
arrest before that grand jury?

KEN PADOWITZ, FORMER HOMICIDE PROSECUTOR: Well, Reverend, a lot of
people watch the TV show, "Law and Order" but after the likes of this case,
they really should rename it "Law and Disorder." Now, thankfully, now the
investigation is taking the right focus and right approach. They`re
gathering evidence, they`re gathering witnesses, testimonial evidence,
physical evidence, forensic evidence, and they`re putting these all
together, so the prosecutor can then make a decision whether or not to file
charges on her own, for second-degree murder or perhaps manslaughter, or
present the case to a grand jury.

SHARPTON: So, choose not bound. Let me get this straight Ken, as a
prosecutor. So the public understands. She`s not bound to wait on that
grand jury next Tuesday?

PADOWITZ: Absolutely not. She has the ability, since it`s something
less than first-degree murder, she can make the decision on her own and
file an information, which is similar to a grand jury indictment. It has
the same force and effect. So, she doesn`t have to wait around for a grand
jury. She can make the decision on her own or she can elect to present
witnesses and evidence to a grand jury. And have them make a determination
whether or not Florida law is violated and they can indict or not indict
based on the evidence that they have presented before them.

SHARPTON: OK. Now, let`s talk about the evidence. Of what we have
seen, what evidence is going to play a big role here, Eugene?

O`DONNELL: I just think the tapes, the audio tapes are crucial.
Because I think they depict a man on a mission. And it`s unusual situation
to have those kind of tapes. This is somebody who was held bent that night
on precipitating these events and it could not be stopped.

SHARPTON: All right. Stay right there with me. Let me play the
tapes so the audience again can understand why you think this is important.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE ZIMMERMAN, MARTIN TRAYVON`S SHOOTER: These (bleep) always get
away.

911 OPERATOR: Are you following him?

ZIMMERMAN: Yes.

911 OPERATOR: OK, we don`t need you to do that.

ZIMMERMAN: OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Now why is that important, Eugene?

O`DONNELL: Because in many cases where people claim self defense,
there`s not much there besides their allegation and maybe you had some
witnesses that are spotty in terms of their recollections. But in this
case, right before this event, you know what this man is thinking, and you
know, what`s driving him, and you know, he could not be stopped. Now, I
think that, I`m sure, somebody who is a prosecutor, Ken knows these tapes
would be vital if this case were to proceed to trial. He would really
emphasize this because it really gives you a window into what he is
thinking. And all I did about this -- that they get away, is an avenging
angel, somebody who is not the police, who is dismissing the ability of the
police to catch perceived bad guys and he is essentially deputizing
himself. I`m sure that`s what every prosecutor would argue if this case
proceeds into court.

SHARPTON: Well, Ken, you`ve been a homicide prosecutor. How would
you build this case? How would you argue this case if you were prosecuting
Zimmerman?

PADOWITZ: I agree that the tape is an essential, fantastic piece of
evidence, and I would build my case around that tape. It is a window into
this man`s thinking. The fact that he`s saying that they always get away
with this. First of all, who is they? And it shows that he is pursuing.
He is told by the 911 operator to stop following. This is a very, very
important piece of evidence that I would build my whole case around, and if
in fact, a charges were brought, you can bet that that tape is going to be
played over and over again by myself in front of a jury to have them
understand exactly what happened on that night.

SHARPTON: Now, Eugene, right on this show, the mother of a witness
said the lead investigator told her he didn`t think it was self-defense and
the stereotyping was at play.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: The lead investigator from the Sanford Police
Department stood in my family room and told me, this was absolutely not
self-defense and they needed to prove it. He told me, and I`m paraphrasing
this quote, but "Read between the lines. There is some stereotyping going
on here."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Gene, how important would that be in a courtroom?

O`DONNELL: You know, I have tried not to jump to conclusions and
tried to analyze the evidence, but from the very first day, I heard about
this case, it was in my mind and I`m sure it was on other people`s minds,
was it possible that people could look at this young man lying on the
ground and really make an assessment that his life was less valuable than
somebody else life simply because of the color of his skin. I`m not naive
enough to think that could not have happened, but if did happen, for
anybody who is asking, why there`s such a human cry over this case, that`s
an awful, awful place to be in this country if we are in 2012 that
judgments are made on the spot on the basis of the background of the victim
in terms of their race or ethnicity.

SHARPTON: You know, Eugene, you`re right. And I think that we don`t
know that. I think what disturbed a lot of us is just like we don`t know
what was in his mind, it is even more disturbing to many, that we are
willing to dismiss that it might have been in his mind. And I think that
that is why we need a trial. This should not be a conviction, but it sure
should not be an acquittal without a trial. Thank you both. We`ll be
right back.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: I`m here in Atlanta today honored to receive one of the
drum majors for justice awards from the Southern Christian Leadership
Conference Women`s Group. It`s given to those who continue the work of Dr.
Martin Luther king, Jr. On this day, 44 years ago, Dr. King was
assassinated in Memphis. Right up until his last days, King was defending
the rights of people, for civil rights. He was in Memphis for striking
sanitation workers, and he laid to urged all of us to keep the fight going.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. 1929-1968: All we say to America is be
true to what you said on paper. Somewhere I read that the greatness of
America is the right to protest for rights.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

And so just as I say we aren`t going to let any dogs or water hoses
turn us around, we aren`t going to let any injunction turn us around.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: We have a long ways to go before reaching Dr. King`s dream
before we all see that mountain top. But that fight is still going strong.
Yes there will be criticisms, yes there is different ways. You may choose
a different way than me. But all of us, all of us, are responsible to do
our part to keep the dream alive and to achieve the America Dr. King gave
his life for 44 years ago today.

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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