PoliticsNation, Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Read the transcript from the Tuesday show
Guests: Michael Isikoff, Bob Shrum; Cynthia Tucker; Jack Rice, Joe Madison, David Corn,
REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Welcome to "Politics Nation," I`m
Explosive new details emerging in the secret service scandal. We are
learning as many as 21 foreign women were brought to the hotel in Colombia
last Wednesday night. They were reportedly with 11 secret service agents,
and ten military officers who were staying in the hotel in the days leading
up to President Obama`s visit.
An NBC News reports that the 11 agents had copies of the president`s
day by day, minute by minute schedule, potentially a major security breech.
And more breaking news today, Congressman Peter King, chairman of the
house, homeland security committee, told NBC News the secret service sent
agents to Colombia to interview all of the women involved.
He says the secret service now has all of the women`s IDs and they are
conducting an extensive background check to make sure they aren`t
affiliated with any drug trafficking or terrorist group.
There are many unanswered questions here. How serious a breech was is
this? Was security compromised? And how far does this problem go? These
are serious questions. Try to answer them.
I want to bring in Michael Isikoff, national correspondent for NBC
News who has been working the story since the beginning and Jack Rice, a
former CIA officer.
Let me start with you, Michael. There are new details of what
happened that night. What can you tell us?
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, NBC NEWS INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT:
Well, this entire scandal that has rocked the secret service actually arose
over a painted dispute of less than $60. What we are told from sources
familiar with the investigation is that these 11 secret service agents,
they went, gone to this nightclub, strip club, La Play club in Cartagena
and that`s where they found these women, brought them back to the hotel.
Registered them as guests, which is something you have to do every --
anybody who brings back a guest to the hotel, has a room there, has to
register a guest, pay a fee of $25, provide some identification. And then
what happened is two of the agents were with one of the women. The woman
wanted to be paid for both of the agents. They wanted to split the price.
That`s what the dispute arose out of it.
SHARPTON: So Michael, let me get this right.
SHARPTON: You`re telling me that these men risked their careers, more
importantly to the country, may have put the president`s security in
jeopardy and may have breached security and the oath of office over 40 to
ISIKOFF: I`m sure if you put it to them before all this happened,
they might have, that way, they might have thought twice. But in any case,
that`s what we`re told the dispute was over. The woman went to local
police who were stationed at the hotel. There were lots of Colombian
police at the hotel that night. Four of them at the front door to the
hotel. One police was on every floor. And complained that she was being
stiffed by these agents. The police went to the room, banged on the door.
At first they weren`t allowed in.
It`s unclear how the dispute was resolved. But we do know that the
police contacted the U.S. embassy. The U.S. embassy dispatched
representatives to the hotel. They looked over the guest list and saw that
all 11 had brought back female foreign national guests.
SHARPTON: Secret service agents checked these women in. These
alleged prostitutes, in as guests themselves?
ISIKOFF: Yes. It`s not clear if all of them were prostitutes or at
least that they understood that all of them were prostitutes. But they all
had foreign national female guests in their rooms, yes.
SHARPTON: Jack, let me ask you this, assuming the allegations are
true, how serious a breech is this? You`re a former CIA officer. Let me
deal with the impact of assuming its true, how serious a breech is this?
JACK RICE, FORMER CIA OFFICER: It`s potential disaster. I mean, my
biggest concern when I think about this, is first of all, we have no idea
what who these women are. And what you do is open yourself up to
Let`s he imagine, I`m on the other side of this. And what I do is, I
run prostitutes into these rooms. You know what I do next? I film all of
it. Then find out who all of the secret service officers are and say, well
you know what, I`m sure your wives and children would love it find what
these pictures are and what the videos look like.
Now, you and I can sit down and talk about what this really means. By
way, where is the president really going to be tomorrow at 3:30? You know,
all of the sudden, that is what this is exposes is to. This is much bigger
than a prostitution question.
SHARPTON: And then, let me show you this, because this is what would
add some concern to what you raised, Jack. When we look at who was
involved in this incident, as many as 20 secret service and military
personnel, two secret service supervisors, supervisors, three members of
elite counter assault teams, three members of the counter sniper team.
And NBC`s confirmed some of them if not all, had minute to minute, day
by day schedules of the president. So, this is no just mere embarrassment.
This could be, could be, a very serious problems.
RICE: Without question. I mean, if this were two guys who went up by
themselves, yes, that in itself, would be very troubling.
But if you start talking about two guys who were senior management SES
guys, what we are talking now, is a systemic question in what is going on
with the secret service and what is acceptable.
And the idiocy that you would actually expose yourself, expose your
country, expose your president over $60 is mind boggling to me.
But you know, there`s one other issue here. If they are willing to do
this, I think it is necessary, systemically, to look back and say, what
else are they willing to do? What else have they cut corners? Where were
they willing to do things like this in the past? And that is incredibly
troubling and should be to all-Americans.
SHARPTON: That`s what I want to go back to you. Is there a concern,
because there certainly should be in my judgment, that this has happened
before and that other countries could be -- could have knowledge of things.
I mean, this raises all kinds of possibilities of the past and even present
potential compromises, doesn`t it?
ISIKOFF: Absolutely. It does. But to be fair, everybody I`ve talked
to says they cannot recall anything remotely resembling this in recent
past. There have been isolated incidents of misconduct by secret service
agents that have been confirmed. One was arrested down while protecting
President Bush in Waco, Texas a number of years back after a dispute with a
local police. But nothing on the magnitude of this. And that`s why it is
SHARPTON: But I think Michael, what is so disturbing is that it is so
many of them. You`re not talking about one agent or two agents. You are
talking about 20 people, some in very elite positions, very serious
positions would makes one wonder whether this is part of what goes on when
so many would agree to be involved to some degree or to a very serious
degree with this.
ISIKOFF: Absolutely. All of these agents are law enforcement
officers. They are all going to be questioned, under oath. Not just about
what happened here, but they`re going to be asked, did they ever do this
They all know the risks of lying as part after federal investigation.
That becomes a federal crime.
So you know, I suspect that the sorts of questions we`re talking about
here are going to be asked very aggressively as part of the investigation,
and we may be learning some more.
But as of this moment, we do not know of prior instances like this.
SHARPTON: Jack, do you think that because of this and where it can
potentially go, we are going to see a new level of discipline and scrutiny
on secret service and others that are around the president? I mean, this
is startling. I can`t imagine how they can put the country and the
president in a position for this to ever happen again.
RICE: You`re absolutely right. One thing I`m really concerned about,
and every time we see anything like this on national security level, I`m
always concerned it is seen as left or right or conservative or liberal or
Republican or democratic problem. It`s not.
If this is a systemic issue, it needs to be addressed by all sides
equally, to make sure that secret service is doing exactly what it is
supposed to do. Nothing more, nothing less. And that absolutely needs to
be looked at.
SHARPTON: Now - and Michael, I think that the fact that we have seen,
we have obtained, NBC obtained a memo from the secret service director,
Mark Sullivan to the entire agency, which he says, I`m reading it here, "it
is imperative as part of our sworn duties to always act both personally and
professionally in manner that recognizes the seriously and consequence of
our mission as we move forward in the wake of this embarrassing incident,
it is my hope that each of us will be steadfast in our efforts to ensure
that our performance and behavior mirror the oath we have sworn to."
I think that`s the lightest thing you can do is send a memo. I think
they are going to have to set new policy and I think they are going to have
to dig deep on where, how deep this goes in the culture there. And how
this may have happened before.
I just -- what baffles me is you are talking about 20 people. This is
a collective where not one or two of them say, what are we doing? What are
you all talking about? That is what is so alarming to a lot of people.
RICE: Right. And director Sullivan has been spending a lot of time
on Capitol Hill, calling senior members at Congress, trying to explain
everything he knows about what happened, and of course, inevitably trying
to defend the secret service and defend his job at this point.
It is interesting that nobody in senior leadership on Capitol Hill is
calling for Director Sullivan`s resignation. So, that may be a testament
to how good he is at mending fences up there or not. We`re just going to
have to wait and see as the investigation unfolds.
SHARPTON: Michael Isikoff, and Jack Rice. Thank you both for your
ISIKOFF: Thank you.
RICE: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Coming up, new polls show Willard`s got a basic problem in
this election. People just don`t seem it like him that much.
Plus, Paris Hilton is poised to get a massive tax break from her
buddies in the Republican Party. Is their idea of fairness?
And my response to some ugly comments from Republican rocker, Ted
You`re watching "Politics Nation" on MSNBC.
SHARPTON: Mitt Romney`s biggest problem in this race may be a guy
named Mitt Romney. He just can`t get out of his own way. That`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Senator McConnell, are you ready to
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY: I`m sorry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Are you ready to endorse Romney?
MCCONNELL: Yes. I support Governor Romney for president of the
United States and he is going to be the nominee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Wow. What arousing show of support from the top Republican
in the Senate. Are you ready to endorse Romney? Yes, I guess so, if I
Folks, even Republicans are finding it hard to embrace Willard. So
it`s no wonder the rest of the country is saying that they don`t really
like the guy either.
A new CNN poll shows Americans are rejecting Romney on some key
questions of character. Voters find President Obama more likeable, 56
percent to 27 percent. They say the president is more likely to stand up
for his beliefs. They say the president is more likely to inspire
confidence and they think he is simply more honest than Romney.
Poor Willard just can`t shake his image problems. He gets a big
national TV interview and finds himself dodging questions about the new
mansion he is building in California.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DIANE SAWYER, ABC WORLD NEWS ANCHOR: The story out now that there is
an elevator for your cars in the house you are building in La Jolla? Are
you too rich to relate?
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You Know, we don`t divide
America based upon success and wealth and other dimensions of that nature.
We are one nation under God.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Willard, even has to defend his infamous decision to strap
his dog, shamus, to the roof of his car.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAWYER: We got two questions, most often, first about shamus which as
you know, is out there forever. Would do you it again?
MITT ROMNEY: Certainly not with the intention of --
SAWYER: You said it is the most wounding thing of campaign so far.
ANN ROMNEY, MITT ROMNEY`S WIFE: The dog loved it.
SAWYER: The dog got sick, right?
ANN ROMNEY: Once. We travel all the time. And he ate the turkey on
the counter. I mean, he had the runs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Shamus had the runs. Some words to ponder this election.
Joining me now is Bob Strum, a Democratic strategist and professor at
NYU and Cynthia Tucker, Pulitzer Prize winning syndicated columnist and now
visiting professor of journalism at University of Georgia.
Thanks to both of you for being here.
BOB SHRUM, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Good to be here.
SHARPTON: Bob, let me start with you, Bob. Can Willard be viewed as
much out of touch as he is being viewed and still win this election?
SHRUM: No, he can`t. And in fact, he has emerged in the worst
position of anyone in the last eight presidential primary seasons who
secured the nomination. It is not just that people don`t like him. His
favorable are in terrible shape. He is upside down in terms of his
I think he has is a character problem. People think he doesn`t stand
up for what he believes. They think he is profoundly out of touch. I
mean, watching that interview that he just saw, he could have said yes,
there`s an elevator in the house for the cars.
But the real question is, what are you going to stand up for and what
are you going to fight for? Instead he resorted to cliche. As I said
before, there`s nothing wrong with being rich. John F. Kennedy was rich.
Franklin Dolan Roosevelt was rich. But people though they got the American
people, thought they care. They think this guy doesn`t get it and doesn`t
SHARPTON: Cynthia, when you look at favorable over unfavorable, 47
percent unfavorable, 35 percent favorable. First time for presumptive
nominee since 1984 have we seen unfavorable ratings this high over
favorable rating. How can he turn this around?
CYNTHIA TUCKER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, let`s remember why this
is important, Reverend. People voters don`t just choose who is going to be
president of the United States based on policies alone. Policy certainly
But we are a lot more emotional in our decision making than we`d like
to believe. People choose based on personalities as well whether or not we
like the guy, matters when we go into the voting booth it make a choice.
Can Mitt Romney turn this around? Not without a personality
TUCKER: The problem for him is this is who he really is. He is
robotic. He is out of touch. A man who understood better what average
people are facing would never have started this project to expand this huge
mansion as he is running for president. He doesn`t get it.
And you know, I have to tell you, one of the things that I thought was
most telling about that interview with Diane Sawyer was when Mrs. Romney,
who is the more likeable of the two, said, it`s our turn.
TUCKER: My goodness. He thinks he is entitle to this office?
Now, Bob, let me say this. Some people don`t think it just partisans,
Democrats or liberals or whatever.
Peter King, Republican, congressman from Long Island, New York, was on
"Morning Joe" this morning saying his constituents aren`t excited about
Romney. Let me show you what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC HOST, MORNING JOE: The working guys out on
Long Island, in New York`s third, how excited are they about Willard Mitt
REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: So far, they`re not. The reason the
excitement level is not what you have seen with Bill Clinton or George Bush
for that matter, who, have been able to identify with people, so far
Governor Romney hasn`t shown that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Now, if you have a major senior Republican member of
Congress saying no to the working guy is not excited. We`ve not seen that
from Governor Romney so far. Some major figure Republican Party in the
House of Representatives didn`t try to spin it, didn`t try to explain it,
didn`t try to finesse it. That`s not good, Bob.
SHRUM: No, it`s not. But it is a recognition of reality. Look, one
of the ways they tried to give Romney freshness or authenticity is to let
him be spontaneous. But whenever he is spontaneous, it`s a disaster. He
tells a joke about how his father closed auto plant in Michigan and kept
one open in Wisconsin and that`s supposed to make workers like him more?
He tries to reach out to women by saying that he sends his wife out to
talk to them. Why doesn`t he talk to them himself? Then she reports back
to him. And you almost, going to say, she absolutes.
He is tin-ear and tin-tongue. And Cynthia is absolutely right. I
mean, he almost needs a personality transplant to be a more authentic
candidate, to be a candidate who can fix this problem.
Right now, he is relying on one thing and one thing only, and that is
that the economic recovery is going to stall or go into reverse. If it
doesn`t, this guy needs a new narrative and its pretty t hard for me to
figure out what his narrative would be.
SHARPTON: Now. Cynthia, one of your fellow columnists, Richard
Cohen, in the "Washington Post" says Romney lies. Let me quote Richard
Cohen. He says, "I admire a smooth liar, and Romney is among the best.
He`s not on honest about himself."
Do you think this is part of what comes off where w the public, why he
is doing bad in favorability ratings?
TUCKER: Well. Of course it comes off. And let me just say that he
has told so many huge untruths in this campaign that I`m glad some members
of the major media establishment are starting to pay attention to this.
But you know it takes a special kind of personality to be a shameless
as Mitt Romney is. You know, as governor of Massachusetts he was pro-gay
rights. He was, at least when he ran for office for governor, he was pro
choice on abortion. He was pro-gun rights.
And now, he has completely reversed that. He was at an NRA convention
the other day, talking as if, you know, he`s been an NRA member since
childhood. He is now adamantly anti-choice. He has reversed everything he
-- and let`s not forget, his very own healthcare plan which was the
template for the affordable care act. He is trying to dis-a-vow and
distance himself from that and he does it without batting an eye, rev, and
it takes a special kind of personality to do that.
SHARPTON: Bob Shrum. Cynthia Tucker. Thanks for your time tonight.
SHRUM: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Ahead. Rocker, Ted Nugent, goes way over the line talking
about President Obama. My response is coming.
SHARPTON: We`ve gotten used to heated rhetoric in politics. But over
the weekend, we heard some words that were offensive, even for these times.
Here`s rock and roller Ted Nugent at national rifle association event.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TED NUGENT, ROCK AND ROLL STAR: If you want more of those kinds of
evil anti-American people in the Supreme Court, then don`t get involved and
let Obama take office again. Because I tell you this right now, if Barack
Obama becomes the president in November, again, I will either be dead or in
jail by this time next year.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: He will be in jail if President Obama is re-elected. I
mean, what does that mean? What is he saying?
Nugent likes to say provocative things but that provocative language
goes beyond the pale and the secret service seems to agree.
A spokesman told the New York magazine, quote, "we are aware of it and
we will conduct an appropriate follow-up."
Last month, Nugent endorsed Romney for president. But today,
Willard`s compare rightly criticized the comments calling it divisive
language. I`m glad the Romney camp came out against this.
But this isn`t the first time Nugent crossed the line. Here he is in
2007 going after President Obama, then senator Obama and Hillary Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NUGENT: Hey Obama, you might want it suck on one of these, you punk!
Obama, he`s a piece of (bleep). I told him to suck on my machine gun.
Let`s hear it for him! And then I was in New York, I said, hey Hilary!
You might want to ride one of these into the sunset you worthless (bleep).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: There`s no place for that kind of talk. I hope this is not
a forecast of things to come in this campaign. We all have to watch
closely what we all say.
SHARPTON: Welcome back to POLITICS NATION. The problem with
republican tax policy can be summed up in two little words. Paris Hilton.
That`s right. Paris Hilton. This week, Congressman Eric Cantor will
introduce what he calls a small business tax cut. Small business tax cut
bill. Only one problem. The people who could benefit from it include
small business owners like, Paris Hilton. Yes, small businesses like
Donald Trump`s Trump Towers sales and leasings. Small businesses like the
Los Angeles Dodgers. The same Dodgers that just sold for $2 billion.
These are the so-called small business owners the Republicans are out to
help. No wonder new polls show that 68 percent of all voters think the tax
system favors the rich and is unfair to ordinary workers. No wonder 68
percent of moderates agree as to 67 percent of independents. Americans
want this to change. Yet, in an interview to air with CNBC`s Larry Kudlow
tonight, Willard Mitt Romney slammed this talk of fairness.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: People recognize that these
gimmicks are not going to get America strong again.
If people in America want a president that will look around for
scapegoats to punish, while you`ve got that president now. But that`s not
who I am.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: What a surprise. The $250 million man doesn`t want the
rich to pay more in taxes.
Joining me now is Joe Madison, Sirius XM radio host and David Corn,
Washington Bureau chief from Mother Jones and an MSNBC political analyst.
Thank you both for joining me tonight.
JOE MADISON, SIRIUS XM RADIO HOST: Thank you.
DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES: Sure thing.
SHARPTON: David, let me start with you. How can Republicans claim
that Paris Hilton is a small business owner that deserves the tax break?
CORN: Well, she`s not a large business owner. I guess that`s how
they can start. I mean, listen, I mean, the whole tax policy is basically
give more money back to the rich over and over again. Look at the Ryan
budget that we`ve been talking about. Not only does it include $4.6
trillion in Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. It gives the super rich another
$5.4 trillion over the next ten years. Again and again and again. I mean,
what this is, this bill I guess you can call it the anti-Buffett rule. If
you make more than a million, we`re on your side. So, it`s ridiculous.
SHARPTON: In fact, 49 percent of the bill benefits would go to
millionaires, 49 percent of this bill, David.
CORN: You`re right. And the thing is about tax policy, if you really
want to have a tax bill that, you know, that helps small businesses, can
you define it in such a way that it will go to real businesses. Not to
Donald Trump and Paris Hilton. If that`s what you want to do. So if you
want it help small businesses, you can do it. But what Republicans are
doing is using this as camouflage for the same old same old.
SHARPTON: Now, Joe, what bothers me at the same time, Ryan and his
supporters in the Congress are pushing through this bill, Politico is
reporting Republicans are looking to cut food stamps. Let me read you the
quote. An average family of four would face an 11 percent cut in monthly
benefits after September 1st, and even more important tighter enforcement
of rules would require that households exhaust most of their liquid assets
before qualifying for help. I mean, really? Fighting for tax breaks for
the rich while cutting food stamps. And let`s not forget we just saw a
report on new government report where it says food stamps reduce the
poverty rate by eight percent in 2009. So not only do they want to help
the rich, they want to cancel food stamps on people that need it while this
it is proven to have reduced poverty, Joe.
MADISON: And you`re absolutely right. Because what it does, in
essence drives people further into poverty to the point where that they are
so deep that they probably can`t get out. And that`s exactly what that
study showed that we both saw. So there`s the philosophy David called it
the anti-Buffett law. You know, there`s another way of putting it. The
rich don`t have enough money and the poor have too much. That`s exactly
what the Ryan budget in essence says. Because it not only deals with food
stamps, but they are talking about changing the whole Medicare, Medicaid
which is for the poor. You are looking at even Mitt Romney suggesting, as
you pointed out I think yesterday on the show, getting rid of HUD and the
reason HUD came about was because there was this poor distribution of
affordable housing for people. So this is exactly what they`re up to. The
rich don`t have enough money and the poor have too much.
SHARPTON: And the American public, though, it seems like, David, are
very clear on where they are. If you look at the support for the Buffett
rule, 72 percent of all Americans support it. Fifty three percent of
Republicans support it. Two percent of the GOP senators voted in support
of it. One senator, Republicans from -- Maine. I mean, this whole
detachment from the will of the people in this country is alarming, to say
the least, wouldn`t you think, David?
CORN: That`s why we have elections. This is the precise argument
that Barack Obama has been trying to set up for the last year. We saw it,
remember, when with the debt ceiling fight. When he talked about how we
need a shared sacrifice and how in order to close the deficits that, you
know, that loom before us, we`re going to have to raise some revenues from
wealthy corporations and wealthy individuals. And most of the public, you
know, supports that by the margins that you just talked about, 60, 70, 80
percent. Republicans are just sort of digging their heels and saying no,
no, no. And Mitt Romney has joined that pack by signing on to the Ryan
budget which now we can call the Romney/Ryan budget, if you like. And
that`s really, I think, one of the center rings so to speak, of the general
election campaign that we`re going to have between now and next November.
SHARPTON: Now, Joe, they are even trying to stop the President
calling for more oversight, over the oil companies. The President said, we
are in the greater oversight of oil markets. Speaker Boehner called this a
quote gimmick oversight over oil markets a gimmick. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: I call on Congress to pass a
package of measures to crack down on illegal activity and hold accountable
those who manipulate the market for private gain at the expense millions of
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Instead of just
another political gimmick, why doesn`t he put his administration at work to
get to the bottom of it?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Now, Joe, how can the Republicans keep hammering him about
oil prices and then call it a gimmick when he offers a solution?
MADISON: You know, Al, I`m sitting here thinking of a great panel. I
hope the Republicans stick to this. And here is what I would challenge
Boehner to do. And the others. Why don`t you call a committee hearing and
have the oil executive sitting next to Paris Hilton with her puppy, and
anybody -- and Donald Trump, and let them testify as to why they need these
tax breaks. And then let the Democrats have a hearing, or form, because
they can`t have a hearing because they are in the minority and bring in a
mom and pop who owns a restaurant or corner store or a doctor who is just
trying to get their business started. Or an accountant since this is tax
day, who has a small business person. Can you imagine that imagery and
since they are so darn stuck on helping these people, bring Paris Hilton to
Washington and sit her down in front of the committee and let her justify
why she is small business. I would like the American people to see that.
SHARPTON: Well, Joe Madison, thank you.
CORN: That would be great. That would be great reality TV.
CORN: Wouldn`t it?
SHARPTON: But I don`t think it`s reality. That is not going to
happen before this election anyway.
MADISON: Because they don`t have the courage. They can`t do it.
SHARPTON: Thank you Joe Madison. Thanks David Corn. Stay with me
David Corn. We will going to talk about your new great book on the Tea
SHARPTON: And also here, live from New York, is Willard Romney. He
might be headed to SNL.
And a story that sounds made up. It involves Newt Gingrich and a
penguin. You won`t believe it. Stay with us.
SHARPTON: Newt Gingrich is a big fan of animals in zoos. In fact, as
a young man the former speaker actually thought he would make a career out
of working with animals.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I have a life-long
love for zoos. I`ve been to about a hundred in my life. And early on I
thought I would either be a paleontologist studying dinosaurs or would be a
zoo director. And I still love to go visit zoos and I love animals.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Unfortunately, this may be a case of un-requited love. At
least in the case of a St. Louis penguin. He recently visited. As
Gingrich was taking a behind-the-scenes tour of the zoo, a penguin actually
bit Newt`s finger. The former speaker was not seriously injured. As far
as we could tell, the penguin was not part of the media elite and Newt can
rest easy knowing penguin bites are in fact covered under the President`s
health care law. No worry on whether the penguin was rushed to the
hospital for testing.
SHARPTON: Welcome back to POLITICS NATION. Mitt Romney may have won
the GOP nomination but he still knows he has a problem with the base.
That`s why he`s still reaching out to the Tea Party. Staging a rally last
night with Tea Party types in Philadelphia. But the problem for Willard is
the party may be over. By nearly a two to one margin, the more Americans
hear about the Tea Party, the less they like it. This is a big fall from
grace for the strong political force we saw rallying across the U.S. in
2010. That year, Tea Party voters propelled Republicans to a new majority
in the House picking up 63 seats. But by the end of last year, approval
for the new Tea Party Congress had tanked to an all-time low of just 11
percent. This didn`t just happen by itself. It happened in part because
of a smart tough political strategy from President Obama. Back with me to
talk about that is David Corn. He is the author of showdown. The inside
story. Of how Obama fought against Boehner, Cantor and the Tea Party.
David, thanks for being here.
CORN: Great. Thanks for having me.
SHARPTON: Now, what is the President`s strategy for the Tea Party?
CORN: The interesting thing, I mean, this book, you know, shows what
was going on in the White House after that disastrous November 2010 loss in
the Congressional elections. Up until the beginning of this campaign. It
is all sort of inside the White House fly on the wall narrative stories.
And in the book, I sort of show how the President, after that disastrous
loss sort of came up with the strategy with his aides as well, on how to
sort of come back. How to, you know, rejuvenate. How do get his groove
back, in a way.
CORN: And a lot of it was predicated on the Tea Party Republicans in
the House lead by John Boehner over reaching and doing too much. You
remember back in the beginning of 2011 a year ago when we had the fight
over the budget that led to the fight of the debt ceiling. The President
at the very beginning kind of laid low. He let Ryan come out with his
budget first and then, you know, and he didn`t really engage a lot on the
back and forth details of the budget fight that the Democrats and
Republicans were having on Capitol Hill. What he really wanted to do was
to give the Tea Party Republicans all of the room they needed to be
themselves. He believed that they would go too far.
SHARPTON: So, you know, in essence, he played a strategy of give them
enough rope and they will hang themselves?
CORN: Exactly. When he saw that Paul Ryan and his own planning
before releasing the official republican budget had, I talked about ending
the Medicare guarantee. He knew that there would be a lot of tax cuts for
the rich and a lot of, as we have been talking about, cuts to programs from
middle and low income Americans like pell-grants and head start. And it
was his belief that the key to victory in 2012 would be to set up a very
clear contrast between him and Republicans first in the House and then the
republican nominee, now Mitt Romney, on values and visions for the future.
And you know, again and again in the book, I describe meetings and strategy
sessions and all of the fights that were had as fitting into this grand
view. And remember, back in those days, Reverend, you know, the
progressive critics of the President, progressive fans of the President
often were asking, what is he doing? Why is he not fighting back harder?
Why is he conceding and seeking compromise?
A lot of this was all part of the plan to sort of set up this
difference, get through the budget fights so the government wouldn`t shut
down, make sure there want wasn`t a financial crisis in the debt ceiling,
and then you had this great pivot with the jobs bill when he started barn
storming when he felt the hostage situation was over. So, I mean, I think
if you look at the last year, and this is so the way I describe it in the
book, the President showed a lot of strategic patience. It doesn`t mean
that every decision was right or that they were in lot of bumps in the
road, but over the long period, I think he had a view, wasn`t always
evident to those of us to debate these things nano second by nano second.
SHARPTON: It seems to me that it showed, as you describe it in the
book, a lot of discipline, almost like to have a steel kind of nerve to
take all of this flak, and just wait and let them go first. And even some
of your supporters are attacking because they want you to jump in and him
just sort of waiting them out and let them shoot their whole load and then
striking as you say.
CORN: There was. And if you remember, you know, before all that, the
tax compromise of the lame duck session, which he took a lot of criticism
from, you know, main stream media and from his own progressive and liberal
supporters on the hill and off, that was an issue where he basically said
in order to get a second stimulus of $240 billion, that would help working
Americans and give extra unemployment benefits that we`re about to run out
due to republican obstructionism on the hill, he had a yield on the Bush
tax cuts for the wealthy and let them continue for two years. And that
was, I think, another long-term issue in which, you know, was framed in a
short term debate. Was he winning or losing the fight on the Bush tax
SHARPTON: I will have to hold you there. I`m out of time. Thank
you, David Corn.
SHARPTON: "Showdown" is the book. Thank you for being here tonight.
CORN: Thanks for having me.
SHARPTON: Ahead, live from New York, it`s Willard Romney. It could
happen. That`s next.
SHARPTON: Finally tonight, live from New York, it`s Willard Mitt
Romney? Yes, it might happen. Willard was asked to appear on "Saturday
Night Live." And he`s definitely considering the offer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: I haven`t heard that we were asked until I read about it over
the weekend. So I`ll take a look that. That sounds like a lot of fun.
Why not? And of course it would depend on the nature of the skit. I want
it to be funny.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Funny? When you think of funny, you don`t exactly think of
Willard. But SNL has become a must for presidential candidates. The road
to the White House goes through studio 8H.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Barack Obama purchased air time on three major
networks. We, however, can only afford QVC.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Hey, great Obama man.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Yes, well. Who is that under there?
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Why couldn`t we have done the 30 rock sketch that
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Honestly, not enough people know that show.
HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Do I really laugh like
that? Oh, well, exactly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: I love seeing those clips. But they weren`t the only
candidates to hit the stage.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: You`re an old man. Not too old to do this. Hit it!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Tracy looked good in that suit. So what should Willard do?
Joining me now is comedian and TV personality Chuck Nice. You know
him from shows like "Best Week Ever." Chuck, it`s great to have you with
CHUCK NICE, COMEDIAN: It`s good to be here.
SHARPTON: Do you think Romney will say yes?
NICE: You know, what? I don`t think he will say, yes. But after
seeing that performance, he better not say yes. Because he can`t hold a
candle. That was great. You know what`s funny is that.
SHARPTON: You know what`s funny thing is James Brown who was like a
father to me, he did not want me to do it. He told me, don`t do it, don`t
do "Saturday Night Live." And I did it and of course I imitated him and he
NICE: Of course and it looked good. I think, you know what kills me
is that Romney is hedging whether or not he should do it. He is like, oh,
I`ll do it if it`s funny. How would you know, is what I`m saying?
SHARPTON: You think he should do it?
NICE: I think he should do it because everybody who has done it has
benefitted from it. But if you`re going to do it, you have to be real
about it. And I think that`s what his problem. Well if I don`t do it,
people already think I`m not funny and they will think, I will think I`m
not funny but if I do do it, they will know I`m not funny.
SHARPTON: So that`s the down side as he may come off not funny and
re-enforce his inability to connect?
NICE: Yes, being the robot that he is, unfortunately, so.
SHARPTON: Now as a comedian, of the politicians that you can remember
seeing that did it, what worked and what didn`t?
NICE: Well, I have to say, believe it or not, I thought that Sarah
Palin did a great job when she was on it. Except that she backed out of
one sketch and that sketch went viral and that became like the biggest out
of the old appearance is the one thing she wasn`t a part of. So, she kind
of made a mistake by doing that. But pretty much, everyone who was going
through there has benefited because their like, look, I`m going to go and
do it. I`m not a comedian, so what do I care.
SHARPTON: Do you have to be funny for it to work.
NICE: No. No. All you have to do is let it go, you know. And the
problem with Mitt Romney is he says, I`m funny. Here is one thing I know
as a comedian, people who tell you that they are funny, are not funny. So,
that`s just the way that works.
SHARPTON: Who is your best political impersonation?
NICE: The one I like the most, I`m going to say Tina Fey, Darrell
Hammond and Will Ferrell. But I`m going to go Darrell Hammond as the best
because Tina Fey and Will Ferrell have writers in George W. Bush and Sarah
SHARPTON: Well, this is going to be interesting to see what he does.
We will be watching.
NICE: Yes. He`s not going to do it. Just take my prediction right
now, America. You will not see live from New York, it is Saturday night,
from a wooden Indian named Mitt Romney.
SHARPTON: Oh, that`s anti-Indian statement.
NICE: Oh, that`s true.
SHARPTON: Chuck nice. Glad to have you back. Thank you for joining
NICE: You know, that was funny. That is called a joke, people when
he just did. He said I insulted the wooden Indian. That was funny.
SHARPTON: And I think that I wouldn`t call Willard wooden. Thanks
I`m Al Sharpton, "HARDBALL" starts right now.
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