updated 5/8/2012 5:57:42 PM ET 2012-05-08T21:57:42

Guests: David Corn; Dana Walsh, Jack Jacobs; Evan Kohlmann, Steve Kornacki, Michael Steele, Meghan
McCain

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

Tonight`s lead, the one-year anniversary of Osama bin Laden`s death.
President Obama makes a surprise visit to Afghanistan, landing under the
cover of darkness. He arrived this afternoon to sign an agreement for U.S.
ties to Afghanistan after our troops come home. And he spoke to the troops
there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We did not choose this
war. This war came us to on 9/11. And there are a whole bunch of folks
here I`ll bet who signed up after 9/11.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: In less than an hour and a half, he would deliver an
address to the American people. We will have much more about this visit
and its implications later in the show.

But already, the president is being slammed by critics on the right
for this trip. Was it political? Sure it was. He`s the president.
Everything is political.

But what`s astounding is the complete hypocrisy from the right.
Everyone from Mitt Romney to senator McCain to Donald Rumsfeld has hit him.
It`s as if they never mentioned 9/11. If you need proof, all you have to
do is look back to 2004 Bush campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After September 11th, our world changed. Either
we fight terrorists abroad or face them here.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`ve learned
firsthand that ordering Americans into battle is the hardest decision, even
when it is right.

It is the great test of our generation and he has led with great moral
clarity and firm resolve.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our president took Ashley in his arms and just
embraced her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is the most powerful man in the world, and
all he wants it do is make sure I`m safe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Make no mistake about it, politicizing 9/11 was the worst
play book.

In 2002 Karl Rove signaled to the iron sea that the White House
planned to politicize terrorism in the upcoming election. In June of that
year, Rove prepared a power point slide show for GOP donors, not policy
people but financial donors. And what was the strategy Rove prepared for
the mid-term elections? Quote, "focus on war."

Yet today you have Bush officials like Donald Rumsfeld, of all people,
criticizing this administration. Rumsfeld tweeted, "the special operators
who have every right to spike the football are too professional to do so.
The White House might follow their lead."

And he wasn`t the only one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: To now take credit for something that
any president would do is indicative of the kind of campaign we`re under,
we`re seeing. And I`ve had the great honor of serving in the company of
heroes. And you know, the thing about heroes, they don`t brag.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t think you should use it as a source of
negative campaigning. And I do believe that negative part of it is totally
inaccurate. Mitt Romney, anyone else would have made the same decision.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let`s not make the capture
or killing ever Osama bin Laden a politically divisive event.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Let`s not make this a politically divisive event. That was
Willard Mitt Romney at 7:41 a.m. this morning. But by 2:26 this afternoon,
he was standing with former New York city mayor Rudy Giuliani at a
firehouse that lost 11 first responders on 9/11. And he was talking about
the politics of bin Laden.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: He had an important role in taking out Osama bin Laden. I
think politicizing it was, and trying to draw a distinction between himself
and myself was an inappropriate use of the event that brought America
together, which is the elimination of Osama bin Laden.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: At a firehouse where 9/11 heroes were lost. Even for
Willard Mitt Romney and his campaign, that`s low.

Joining me now is Joan Walsh editor-at-large of salon.com, also an
MSNBC political analyst. And David Corn, Washington bureau chief for
"Mother Jones" and also MSNBC political analyst. His new book is called
"showdown."

Thank you both for joining me.

Joan, how can they criticize President Obama when their play book is
politicizing national security?

JOAN WALSH, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, SALON.COM: They are so brazen. I mean,
that trip to the firehouse, Reverend Al, I shouldn`t be laughing, it is
kind of tragic. But, you know, they never fail to shock me.

You know, I think I want to say something just to set up this whole
segment. And you know more about politics than I do. But we have to
understand that one rule of politician is, there are different standards
for Democrats and for Republicans. So, if a democrat says something a
little bit off key like Hilary Rosen. Well, Democrats are expected to
stampede, to put her down and you know, completely toss her under the bus.

If Rush Limbaugh calls a woman a slut or prostitute, Republicans don`t
have to deal with that very much at all. And on national security, I`m so
glad you went back and got that Karl Rove power point.

They did it at every turn. They made the war, 9/11, their center
piece of the reelection campaign and of the 2002 mid-term campaign. So,
you know, Dick Cheney came out and said, if you vote for John Kerry you`re
making the country less safe.

So they are brazen. They do it every time. It feels like right now
the main stream media is paying more attention and calling them on it.
That`s the only good news I have.

SHARPTON: David, you wrote a book called "Hubertus." In Brooklyn,
where I`m from, we call it something else. I mean, this is amazing.
Standing in front of a firehouse where responders were killed on 9/11,
running a whole litany of lines criticizing the president while you are
playing on national security. And then, Romney has the nerve to say that
he would not rule out going to Pakistan to take out bin Laden in 2007.

DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: You know, let me
pick up on another threat that came out in the opening package there. And
that`s when John McCain says, any president would have done this. You
heard Mitt Romney say that yesterday. Rudy Giuliani has said the same.

These guys really need to read chapter 10 of my latest book,
"showdown." Because I think it is a great test case -- or case study, of
presidential decision making. It wasn`t as if this was a slam dunk no-
brainer of a decision. You have people in the room two days -- actually a
day before Obama gave the final green light. You had Joe Biden, Bob Gates,
secretary of defense, saying don`t do it. The intelligence is not strong
enough. You had several people who wanted to do a missile strike. Obama
had ruled that out because of too much possibility of collateral damage.
And only a minority of his advisers favored the helicopters strike. And
they all knew that if he went ahead with that and he failed, well, that his
presidency would be in ruins.

So, again and again they say, oh, my God, he is playing politics. And
you know what, anybody would have done this. They are wrong on both
counts. And I remember what Dick Cheney said at the beginning of this
administration. He said, you know what, Barack Obama cares more about the
defending the rights of terrorists than defending Americans. That was as
big an insult as can you lever -- levy against somebody.

And indeed Barack Obama showed him that that`s wrong and they have
been looking for a way out, ever since the Republicans because they are
interesting trouble with the same old Karl Rove lay book that Joan was
talking about.

SHARPTON: Now Joan, when you look at the fact in 2002, let me show
you this. George Bush actually said, out of his own mouth, he was not
really concerned about bin Laden. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: I don`t know where he is. I repeat what I said. I truly am
not that concerned about him. I know he is on the run. I was concerned
about him when he had taken over a country. I was concerned about the fact
that he was basically running Afghanistan. And calling the shots for the
Taliban. So I don`t know where he is. Nor, you know, I just don`t spend
that much time on him to be honest with you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Joan, can you imagine if a Democrat -- can you imagine if
President Obama had said a year after 9/11, I`m not worried about bin
Laden. I`m just not worried about him. I don`t know where he is. Can you
imagine the outrage that we would have heard?

WALSH: No, the indifference to bin Laden, whether feigned or whether
it is actual, is really awful, Reverend Al. And also, you know, we know.
We talked about it a year ago at this time, there were CIA officials and
military officials who complained that because of the run-up to the
unnecessary war in Iraq, they tried to get resources to get bin Laden that
they could not get because the eye had been taken off the ball.

So, to mock this man, this president, and to say either he did
something anybody would do or he is spiking the ball, you know, it is
really, again, should be beneath anybody. But it is not beneath them.

SHARPTON: Let me show you an example, in the race before the
president had won. Candidate Obama had to deal with criticism from
candidates McCain about taking out bin Laden. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: If we have Osama bin Laden in our sights and the Pakistani
government is unable or unwilling to take them out, then I think that we
have to act. And we will take them out. We will kill bin Laden. We will
crush al Qaeda. That has to be our biggest national security priority.

MCCAIN: Teddy Roosevelt used to say, walk softly, talk softly, but
carry a big stick. Senator Obama likes to talk loudly. In fact web said
he want to announce that he`s going to attack Pakistan. Remarkable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Well, it is remarkable. He did take out bin Laden and you
all are still complaining. I mean, David, you would think that someone
that had the play book they did, 2002, I can show you where it was in 2002,
the Republican administration was already selling Iraqi and even waited
until after labor day it market it. Let me show you this.

Andy Card says, from a marketing point of view the White House chief
of staff, Andy Card, said you don`t introduce a new product in August. It
goes on to say, a center piece of the strategy is to use Mr. Bush`s speech
on September 11th to move Americans toward the support of action against
Iraq.

This was their plan. This was their reelection campaign. Now on a
year anniversary where bin Laden has been killed as the president makes a
surprise trip to the troops and signs this agreement, they`re yelling
politics.

CORN: You know, I don`t know. I can just repeat what Joan said.
Because you can say the same thing over and over again. This play book 101
for them. In fact, Mike Isikoff and I wrote about it in that book
"Hubertus" you were kind enough to mention that came out couple of years
ago. They have set up the vote on the Iraq war, on the invasion giving the
president authority prior to the 2002 election. They made it an election
campaign issue.

And you know, again and again, look what Mitt Romney`s been saying
about Barack Obama. That he`s weak. He`s feckless on farm policy. He
goes around the world apologizing which is really not true. Politi-fact
just called it a lie.

But yet - so, when he gets out there and makes the case for his
leadership and they say you can`t do that. In fact, I would argue that if
you look at the president`s analytical abilities and his performance in the
case study of presidential decision making in the Osama bin Laden raid, you
will get a really good feel for the guy and whether you want him making
hard decisions on other fronts. I think this is a great insight into how
Barack Obama works. And he should be taking about it.

SHARPTON: Joan Walsh and David Corn, an important discussion. Thank
you for joining me tonight.

WALSH: Thank you.

CORN: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Ahead, we all remember where we were one year ago tonight.
Perhaps President Obama`s crowning achievement. So, where is the today and
how much credit does the administration deserve?

Plus, the president goes on the offense. He is getting tough on
everything from the economy to terror to dogs. And speaking of dogs, why
President Obama`s dog, Bo, might just be his secret weapon.

You`re watching "Politics Nation" on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: The president`s surprise trip to Afghanistan on the one-
year anniversary of the killing of bin Laden. What do we know today about
the killing of the one terror? That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: We all remember where we were one ago, May 1st, 2011.
President Obama made an announcement to the world that we waited nearly a
decade to hear.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Tonight, I request report to the American people and to the
world, that United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin
Laden, the leader of al Qaeda.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: There was celebrations around the world. The terrorist
responsible for the worst attack ever on United States soil, and nearly
3,000 deaths, was killed. Justice had finally been served. It was a
unifying moment for the country and the following days more details came
out about that night. The photos from "the situation room," showed the
tense faces of the president and his staff.

We saw images of the compound where we learned bin Laden had been
hiding and we heard more counts of the courageous Navy SEALS who carried
out the mission. And whose names we may never learn.

So today, where are we on the war on terror?

Joining me now is retired army colonel and MSNBC military analyst Jack
Jacobs and NBC terrorism analyst Evan Kohlmann.

Thank you both for joining me.

Let me start with you, Colonel. One year after al Qaeda`s leader is
dead, where do we stand in Afghanistan today?

COLONEL JACK JACOBS, RETIRED U.S. ARMY: Well, we`re leaving. I mean,
the president has already decided we`re leaving. We have plans already to
redeploy, almost all, if not all, of the conventional troops from
Afghanistan.

President says they are going to be out starting in 2014. I believe
that redeployment will begin sooner than that. What are we leaving behind?
Special Forces, special operations forces, mobile training teams, some
support. But the conventional troops will be gone by and large by 2014.

SHARPTON: There was more expensive and more popular, I mean, where do
we go from here?

EVAN KOHLMANN, NBC NEWS TERRORISM ANALYST: That`s part of the problem
is that with the death of bin Laden, I think some people expect that is the
end of al Qaeda. The end of it with the war against terrorism. And what
we have seen is that al Qaeda has persisted on. It has weakened, it`s
under pressure. But when I see countries like Yemen, and even Syria now,
there are al Qaeda factions that are on the rise.

The question is how do we fight al Qaeda without generating more and
more anti-American sentiment in these countries, with drone strikes, with
other types of U.S. --

SHARPTON: But are these countries, are these places where the other
forms of al Qaeda, are they a real threat to the United States?

KOHLMANN: And that`s the problem. For years, I think that logic was,
no, they are regional al Qaeda factions. They just interested in their own
regional battles. And we learned a lesson on December 26, 2009 when a
Nigerian national attempted to detonate an explosive on board in airliner
coming from Amsterdam, and sure enough, he wasn`t sent by al Qaeda center.
He wasn`t by Osama bin Laden. He was sent by al Qaeda`s regional faction
in Yemen.

So the answer is, yes, they are interested in doing this. They are
capable of doing this, and they will be doing this in the future.

SHARPTON: Colonel, I mean, I`m one opposed of the Afghanistan policy
even under this administration. 1,834 death, 54,786 wounded. The cost has
been $444 billion. Do you think this has really been worth it?

JACOBS: Well, I think it was important that we do it. And you can
never put a price on a human life. And you can never put -- by the way, we
are going to be spending lots more money over time and we are going to be
spending more than everybody thinks because we are fighting a disbursed
adversary.

Yes, I think it`s been worth it. And I think the people who served in
the military will tell you it`s been worth it.

The question is, what do you do if you don`t do that? And I think we
saw the answer to that when we were attacked on 9/11. The answer is, you
can`t do nothing. We have to do something. The good news is that attacks
that we have conducted have fragmented al Qaeda. The bad news is, the same
thing.

SHARPTON: Well, but Evan. Thousands of documents siege during the
raid on bin Laden`s compound will be dis-classified and published on-line
on Thursday. What will the documents reveal?

KOHLMANN: Well, a little bit of good and a little bit of bad. The
good news is that the documents will show that al Qaeda is under a
tremendous amount of pressure. They are demoralized. That they have
disagreements between their various leadership figures. It is not a happy
picture for al Qaeda.

The bad news is, that they will also show that al Qaeda is still
attempting to strike at the United States. And not just regionally. Not
just by setting off bombs at embassies in foreign countries. But by
striking right here at the United States directly. And I think that`s what
is worrying, is that he spoke --.

SHARPTON: But they don`t have the central heard like with bin Laden.
How will these documents paint bin Laden?

KOHLMANN: I think we are going to learn things about bin Laden that
won`t be quite as complimentary as the image we have seen heretofore. This
there is image out there of bin Laden of this mountain of warrior, heroic,
courageous among his men.

And you know, he is much more of real person than that. He has the
same faults as everyone else. He has got same flaws as anyone else. He is
no hero figure. And I think we are going to start seeing the lesser track
or sides of bin Laden treaty`s documents. It`s the side that al Qaeda did
not want to advertise.

SHARPTON: Colonel, you think this engagement has been worth it for
those of us that disagree, notwithstanding all of that. What is the legacy
of the Afghanistan war?

JACOBS: Well, I think we have learned a great deal about how to use
the military instrument of power. We would have been out of Afghanistan a
lot sooner had we not spent seven years ignoring it after we had success
destroying the Taliban, chasing them out of the country and instead went it
Iraq. That was a big mistake. We spent a lot of money, a lot of lives and
a lot of time that we could have more productively spent chasing the
Taliban.

I think had we stayed in Afghanistan, we would be coming home now with
a great deal more success under our belt. The legacy here, is that I think
we will hear and this is the bad news, I think we will hear the same thing
from the military establishment and pr politicians exactly the same thing
we heard after Vietnam. Never again.

And yet, after Vietnam we wound up doing the same thing, trying to use
the military instrument to donation building. To solve problems that
should have been solved through economic means and political means. It has
been worth it because we have managed it fragment al Qaeda. But at the end
of the day, we should have -- where we are today, we should have been a
long time ago.

SHARPTON: Colonel Jack Jacobs and Mr. Coleman, thank you for our
time.

JACOBS: Thank you.

KOHLMANN: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Ahead. The Obama campaign on the offensive on issue after
issue, the Obama team is taking the fight right to the right. And, the
Romney`s front door.

And Senator Scott Brown hates Obamacare so much, he can`t wait to use
it to his family`s advantage. Incredible. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Welcome back, folks. The GOP is doing whatever it can to
get rid of the healthcare law. But at least one Republican is happy it
take advantage of its benefits. Massachusetts governor Scott Brown has a
big section on his Web site, titled "repeal Obamacare." And bashing the
law was a major part of his first Senate campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SCOTT BROWN (R), MASSACHUSETTS: I`m Scott Brown running for the
United States Senate. I`m concerned that healthcare bill in Congress will
have a negative effect on you and your family.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Yes, the law will have a negative effect on your family.
But it`s great for Scott Brown`s family. Yesterday a Boston globe reporter
asked Brown if used the healthcare law to put his 23-year-old daughter on
his insurance plan.

And get this, he said, quote, "of course, I do."

Of course he does, Senator Brown wants the best for his kids. That`s
why his daughter is one of 2.5 million young adults now covered under their
parent` insurance. And young people aren`t the only ones benefiting from
this law. It also saves seniors $3.4 billion on prescription drugs. It`s
protective more than 17.6 million children with preexisting conditions from
being denied coverage. And helped more than 50,000 uninsured Americans
with preexisting conditions get insurance.

So, it really surprise me to see Senator Brown wanting to repeal the
law, when it helps millions of Americans. Even his own family.

Did you think we wouldn`t notice? Nice try, senator. But we got you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Welcome back to POLITICS NATION. Every four years,
Republicans pull out all the stops to attack the democratic presidential
candidate. Remember this 2004 Bush/Cheney ad?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: John Kerry and liberals in Congress voted to slash
America`s intelligence operations. Cuts so deep they would have weakened
America`s defenses. And weakness attracts those who are waiting to do
America harm.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: And who could forget how Bush`s father crushed Michael
Dukakis in 1988 where two of the most famous ads in presidential campaign
history.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Dukakis opposed the Stealth Bomber and a ground
emergency warning system against nuclear attack. Even criticized our
rescue mission to Grenada and our strike on Libya. And how he wants to be
our Commander-in-chief. America can`t afford that risk.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Bush supports the death penalty for first degree
murderers. Dukakis not only opposes the death penalty, he allowed first
degree murderers to have weekend passes from prison. One was Willie Horton
who murdered a boy and a robbery stabbing him 19 times.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: But this year, the Democrats seem ready for the tax and
ready to fight back. The Obama team is going right after Romney on
everything from National Security to the economy to Romney`s dog problem.
Business week reports quote, "Given the grim economic reality, Obama will
have to render Romney unacceptable in the eyes of most voters, and that
indeed appears to be his plan." And as Politico reported last August,
Barack Obama`s aides and advisers are preparing to center the President`s
reelection campaign on a ferocious personal assault on Mitt Romney`s
character and business background. So, a feisty team Obama has a tough
retort to the Republican`s every move, like this one today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Over the top, erroneous, out of context. Big oils new
attack ad. President Obama`s clean energy initiatives have helped create
jobs for projects across America, not overseas. What about Mitt Romney?
As corporate CEO, he shipped American jobs to places like Mexico and China.
As governor, the outsourced state jobs to a call center in India. He is
still pushing tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas. It`s just
what you would expect from a guy who had a Swiss Bank account.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: We are so used to seeing Republicans go after Democrats, it
is almost a cliche. Now, that Obama campaign is flipping the script, can
team Romney take the heat?

Joining me now, Steve Kornacki, political writer for salon.com. And
an MSNBC contributor. And Michael Steele, an MSNBC analyst and former RNC
Chairman. Thank you both for being here tonight.

MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN: Sure, how are you Rev.?

SHARPTON: Well, Michael. Republicans are used to beating up on
Democrats in presidential elections, don`t you agree?

STEELE: Yes. The Democrats have never in ads of television run a
political ad against Republicans until Barack Obama. I mean, I think
that`s what you`re saying here.

SHARPTON: What I`m saying is that the Republicans are clearly the
ones that have usually played more on the offense and I think that we`re
seeing a kind of different push back from the Obama team.

STEELE: Well, I don`t think so. I think Obama`s big a bit more
aggressive earlier in this process than Democrats typically have been in
the past for whatever reason. But I think that this is going to be one of
those campaigns and everyone said this from the beginning, where it`s going
to becoming right and left, up and down and you`ve got you know, those 800
pound Super PACs out there, they`re going to be doing their own level of
carpet bombing. So, I think both sides are prepared to fully engage here.
And I think that the Politico piece and the others that you reference are
right. That the Obama team wants to get the narrated started early on
their terms, so that we are talking about something other than the way the
President`s handle the economy, where the economy is going, and how people
really feel about the economy.

SHARPTON: Now, Steve, Politico reports the Obama campaign has taken
some cues from Bush/Cheney 2004. They quote, I`m quoting them. In a move
that will make some democrat shutter, Obama`s high command has even studied
former President George Bush`s 2004 take down of Senator John Kerry. A
senior campaign adviser told Politico, for clues on how a President with
middling approval ratings can defeat a challenge.

STEVE KORNACKI, SALON.COM: Yes. I think there`s a lot do that. I
think there`s a lot to the basic model that Bush used in `04 and what Obama
is using this year. I think one of the big differences now, we`re talking
last two days about Bin Laden and foreign policy but as this campaign
unfolds, I think the big difference is a lot of the negative attacks will
be focused on the economy, about Romney and about the top one percent and
things like that. I think that it is vitally important in terms of Obama`s
reelection prospect that he do that. Because Romney is basically running a
negative message. He is running on a lazy negative message but a very
effective one potentially that basically says, look at statistics X. It`s
gotten worse since Obama came into office. Therefore, throw him out.
There`s a very powerful impulse I think on the parts of swing voters to do
that. So, it is essential from Obama`s standpoint to remind people what he
inherited, who he inherited it from and to the degree to which Romney`s
policies will be a return that preceded Obama.

SHARPTON: Now, Michael, does the Romney campaign know it was coming
since there`s clearly an aggressive strategy on the side of the President
and can they handle the heat? Can they handle being on the defensive?

STEELE: I believe they can. To your first question, yes, I think
they do know what`s coming. I think they have been warming up to this for
some time, Reverend. If you look, even going back into the middle of the
GOP primary, the Obama people would indiscriminately and without warning,
this kind of lob a bomb at Romney during that primary process. So, I
think they`ve gotten the sense that yes, there is going to be a lot more
coming. I like to, you know, look at it as a can of whoop ass, you know,
coming from the Obama team on Romney. And that`s exactly what`s going to
happen. Can they handle it? I believe they can. Look at the, you know,
the assault if you will inside the primary process, how Romney had to deal
with you know, very wily and nervous republican base that was not accepting
of his message and how he had to claw his way and carve his way through
that. So, I think they are more than prepared for the attacks, whether
it`s on healthcare, whether it`s on --

SHARPTON: Yes, but I don`t know, Steve. Because they`ve been hitting
him on this Swiss account, Swiss Bank account. Let me show you Romney`s
response, in my opinion, it`s been kind of weak to the Swiss Bank area.

Let me read it. It says, "President Obama`s trying to distract
Americans from the real issues with a series of side shows." Not exactly
hitting back hard and not answering a lot, Steve.

KORNACKI: Well, that`s basically generic, you know, come back. A
generic counter right there. And I think this illustrates the one area.
Yes, you can look at all the Republicans around in the primary and I think
it is fair it say Mitt Romney is the best bet the Republicans have from
that law. But this illustrates the one area where I think he is sort of
uniquely vulnerable. And that is that, in his lifestyle, in his life
story, in his personnel wealth and all these markers of wealth, like the
Swiss Bank accounts, and the offshore stuff, he really kind of exudes top
one percent. And that is sort of the term to describe it. And the message
that the Obama campaign was going to be using against any republican
running this year was that they are protecting this pampered privileged,
you know, super -- elite.

SHARPTON: Yes.

KORNACKI: And Mitt Romney, it just so happens, kind of embodies that
elite. And so, it is not only, you know, the policy argument but it`s sort
of driven home by, you know, Swiss Bank accounts and things like that. So,
I think that is a potentially very, very effective attack again.

SHARPTON: Now, the one thing that we have to fact in Michael that
does given advantage to Romney is the game changer could be the Super PACs,
you know. So far, Mitt Romney`s outraged the President, I think, President
Obama has done 9,042,425,000. Romney, 52,360,830, this Super PACs spending
money, some of them has already spent, but this could be a game changer in
this election unlike what we have seen in the past.

STEELE: It will be a game changer. And, you know, for my friends on
the left, don`t fret. Trust me, Barack Obama will be more than capable of
making up that grab between the Super PACs. There simply because you got
to keep in mind, the Obama Super PAC really didn`t come on-line until a
couple of months ago where as the other Super PACs, whether it`s Karl Rove
or Mitt Romney, says already been engaged for well over a year. So, you`ve
got that disparity. That gap will close. And I think Steve`s point about,
you know, that Romney messaging, he is absolutely right. There is a
vulnerability there. But remember, Romney also has a pivot opportunity to
make this conversation not about my wealth and my Swiss accounts which
nothing illegal. You know, try -- that. But the reality of it is, the
conversation boils down to what is in your bank account. What are you able
to bring home and take home pay? Oh, wait a minute, you don`t have take
home pay because you don`t have a job after three years.

SHARPTON: Yes. Well, let me ask you, Michael, we were the chair of
the party, you still talk to a lot of Republicans all over the country.
Are they nervous? I mean, are they confident? I mean, what is the feeling
of a lot of the Republican leadership?

STEELE: There`s -- I would say Reverend, a growing confidence about
the fall campaign. I think the whole push from the primaries kind of
settled folks down. Now, we are getting geared up for the convention. So,
I see the slow steady burn for the Romney campaign. It is picking up. And
so now he has an opportunity, and I think have you seen this more
aggressive style from Romney coming out. In some of -- not just in his
asking but in conversations. It`s really kind of a reflection of this slow
steady build towards the convention. I think folks are going to be anxious
to get this thing on between him and the President. Because he still got
Newt kind of hanging out there. You got Ron Paul, so I think they are
really looking for this mano-a-mano kind of battle between these two
gentlemen come the fall. And both bases, I think, will be there and
engaged, Reverend.

SHARPTON: Well, we`ll see. I mean, I`m always very cautious during
elections. But if you call what Romney is doing now, his aggressive side,
then I can relax. Steve Kornacki, Michael Steele, thanks for your time.
What was that? Oh, Michael wants to congratulate the President a year
later and say he is proud of him? Maybe next time we will bring you back,
Michael. Sorry, we run out of time. I`m really, really.

STEELE: Congratulations Mr. President on a job well done.

SHARPTON: Oh, that`s so wonderful.

Coming up, Meghan McCain tweeted this picture taken with Sandra Fluke
at a party. And of course some on the right and attacking her. Meghan is
here to respond to the critics.

And is the story dogging in Romney? That family trip where he took
his dog strapped to roof of his car. The President is going there in a big
way and why his dog, Bo, might be his secret weapon. That`s next.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: She`s the daughter of a senator with the following all of
her own. Meghan McCain joins me next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: We`re back on POLITICS NATION with the GOP controversial
policies on women. Two hundred thirty five anti-abortion bills are being
pushed this year. In 13 states, they are pushing personhood laws. That
ban all abortions even from rape or incest. In some forms of birth
control. This young Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke emerged
as the face of the war on women after being attacked by Rush Limbaugh for
standing up for the rights of women and fighting for birth control access.
And over the weekend, Meghan McCain tweeted this picture taken with Sandra
Fluke at a party. Now, some on the right are attacking her.

Joining me now is Meghan McCain, daughter of U.S. Senator John McCain
and MSNBC contributor. It is great having you with us tonight. Thanks for
being here. Meghan, what happened with this picture you tweeted?

MEGHAN MCCAIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I met Sandra Fluke at the MSNBC
party in D.C. over the week. And I just told her what avid fan I was on
her, simply from woman to woman, we both have been through experiences
where we have been lightning rods in the media, and I`ve been called a
slut. I`ve been called, you know, disgusting and fat and all the things
that she was called by Rush Limbaugh. And there aren`t that many woman on
the planet that can relate to having your name and your body be caused as a
media firestorms. We had a really nice conversation. I told her any time
she wants to call me to vent about what it feels like, I am here for her.
And literally, no sooner after I tweeted, I gotten in the car and it was
tweet after tweet after tweet. Michelle Malkin, the conservative
commentator went on absolute manic rampage attacking both of us. She is a
woman who is in the media that claims to support other women, unless of
course when it is me and Sandra Fluke.

SHARPTON: Why can`t women disagree without becoming all of these
disparaging names? I mean, you are pro-life republican and yet have you`ve
taken some stands on other issues. We can disagree and still respect each
other without calling each other these kinds of names.

MCCAIN: You know, Sandra Fluke and I are on the same age. So, I have
a larger hope for women on my generation than I do women like Michelle
Malkin. She will only support women like Ann Coulter. Women like me who
is pro-gay marriage and you know, pro-birth control and against abstinence
only education apparently doesn`t fit it. The -- being allowed to have --
of Sandra Fluke.

SHARPTON: What do you make out of these -- all of these laws going on
throughout the country with some of these new laws? You are pro-life but
some of the new laws that affect women`s health issues.

MCCAIN: Well, I think especially when it comes to banning birth
control, it is a very dangerous issue to have highlighted right now. And
the thing I don`t -- think many Republicans understand is, this quote
unquote war on women. We`re not just having a discussion about pro-life,
pro-abortion. We`re having a discussion about whether or not women should
have access to birth control. Which is a debate that really hasn`t gone on
since the 70s. And after effect of this kind of argument and this kind of
rhetoric will be absolutely detrimental in the election to Republicans
unless we start thinking more open minded.

SHARPTON: Now, you`re right. Because the majority of Americans
support required contraceptive coverage. Sixty three percent of American
support it. And I mean, there seems to be republican, democrat, there are
some issues that fall with women`s health and overall, things that I think
just go above even whether you are pro-life, pro-choice and people have the
right to disagree even inside their part party. All Democrats don`t agree
on these issues.

MCCAIN: I completely agree, and I think when you`re talking about
things that is vaginal probing and, you know, these egregious tactics that
people are trying to pass to sort of humiliate women who are getting
abortions. I think there`s a woman out there that is pro-abortion. I
think it is a very difficult decision for any woman to make whether you are
pro-life or pro-choice but to sort of humiliate women in the process is
really where this war on women is becoming, getting all of the news that it
is getting and becoming, you know, the lightning rod that it is. You know,
I`m a pro-life woman but that type of things scares me and, you know, I
think it is disgraceful.

SHARPTON: Now, you`ve gotten some reaction before when you tweeted
about gay marriage.

MCCAIN: Oh, yes.

SHARPTON: You tweeted quote, "Republicans who privately support
marriage equality but refuse to acknowledge so publicly are the worst kind
of spineless cowards." I mean.

(CROSSTALK)

MCCAIN: You know, I just keep meeting Republicans in private a lot of
places. Who I like -- I support gay marriage but I could never do so
publicly. I could never do so publicly. Right now, we`re having Rich
Grenell who was the spokesperson for Romney stepping down because he is an
openly gay man. Very scary times for people to be living in. And I think
we all have to come together and really take the stand, the passing
marriage equality in this country is a civil rights issue, it`s not a
political one. And I just, I cannot handle meeting any Republicans anymore
that behind closed doors will tell me they are for gay marriage, and then
go on television and rail completely against it.

SHARPTON: And you said you are a fan of Fluke because you just admire
a woman who stood by which she believed in, could withstand the
controversy.

MCCAIN: Exactly. And there just really aren`t enough strong women
out there. There aren`t enough strong women on television. And Sandra
Fluke is, you know, out there really doing, speaking and taking the hits
worse than maybe I have ever even experienced. And you just have to give
it up for her for, you know, continuing to be outspoken and take all the
controversy.

SHARPTON: Well, people can disagree and still take pictures.

MCCAIN: I`m a republican on this network. We can agree to disagree.

SHARPTON: Well, any comfort to you. My oldest daughter Dominique
took a picture with George Bush and Condoleezza Rice. She gets some more
controversy, she even gave me the camera and made me take it.

MCCAIN: Really? Am I.

SHARPTON: Meghan McCain, thanks so much for your time tonight. It
was great having you on the show. Please come back.

MCCAIN: Thank you, Reverend.

SHARPTON: And good luck with your book coming out June 5th by the
way.

MCCAIN: Thank you very much.

SHARPTON: Coming up, dogging it. Willard should be worried, Bo is
hopping into the campaign. Not on to the car`s roof though. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: We are still six months away from Election Day. When
Willard Romney has been dogged by one story through this campaign. In the
1980s, the Romney`s strapped their dog, Seamus, on to the roof of their
family car and took off for 12-hour road trip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Seamus is his name, has
climbed up there all by himself, enjoyed his ride. And whether in the back
of a pickup truck or on rooftop carrier, it was a good ride.

ANN ROMNEY, WIFE OF MITT ROMNEY: The dog loved it.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: He 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Yes, sounds like a blast. Romney can`t seem to get away
from the story and the President knows voters do care about this issue. So
he is calling in the big dog. That`s right, Bo. The Obama`s beloved
Portuguese water dog is now the star of an internet ad that asks pet lovers
to support his pal, the President. And the Obama campaign has launched
pets or Obama pages on-line. Where furry friends of the President can show
their support. Like Cleo the cat who says, she loves her new Obama 2012
collar. And her cardboard box. Or butter the poodle, who backs and box
for Barack.

David Axelrod ripped Romney a few months ago tweeting this picture
with the message, how loving owners transport their dogs. So the Romney
team`s been trying to counter this dog on the roof issue. They are barking
back. And it is hilarious. Right wing Web site went after the President
for eating dog as a challenge in Indonesia. Romney`s top aides tweeted
this photo of the President and Bo, quote, "in hindsight." A chilling
photo but he at the President responded at the White House Correspondents
Dinner.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: I know everyone is predicting
a nasty election. And thankfully we agreed that we`ve agreed that families
are off limits. Dogs however, are apparently fair game. My stepfather
always told me, it is a boy eat dog world out there. Even Sarah Palin`s
getting back into the game. Guest hosting on the "Today" show. Which
reminds me, of an old saying. What`s the difference between a hockey mom
and a pit-bull? A pit-bull is delicious.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: He even made this ad for Willard to help him win over other
pet lovers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(music playing) In the eyes of an angel --

ANNOUNCER: America`s dogs can`t afford four more years of Obama. For
them, that`s 28 years. Our dogs need leadership now.

ROMNEY: Who let the dogs out?

ANNOUNCER: This guy. And that`s why we need to join Mitt Romney in
sending a message this November, I`m an American, and doggone it, I ride
outside. Paid for by the woofpac.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: That was a lot of fun but seriously, you tell a lot about a
man from the way he treats his pet. And Willard, we all will be watching
to see where Seamus rides in the future.

Thanks for watching, I`m Al Sharpton. A special live edition of
"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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