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PoliticsNation, Monday, May 7, 2012

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Guests: Ed Rendell; Michael Steele, Sherrod Brown, Roger Cressey, Peter Bergen, Erin McPike, David
Drucker


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

Tonight`s lead, a failure to lead. We are 183 days from Election Day
and today on the campaign trail, something important happened that we need
to talk about. It wasn`t about the economy. It wasn`t about health care.
It was something that gets to the heart of what kind of leader Mitt Romney
wants to be. And what kind of campaign he plans to run.

While Mitt Romney was stumping in Ohio, an audience member said the
president should be tried for treason for working outside the constitution.
The response from Willard spoke volumes. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have a president right now that is operating
outside the structure of our constitution. I want to know -- yes, I do
agree he should be tried for treason, but I want to know what you are going
to be able to do to help restore balance between the three branches of
government and what you are going to be able to do to restore our
constitution in this country.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m sure you do, I happen to
believe that the constitution was not just brilliant but probably inspired.
I would respect the different branches of government if I`m fortunate
enough to become president, and --

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Try the president for treason. Folks, this is stunning.
Governor Romney wants to lead the party and yet he refuses to denounce this
type of talk. Only when pressed later on if he agreed with the questioner
or not, did he say, quote, "no, no, of course not." When asked why he
didn`t denounce her comments outright, this was all he could muster.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Governor Romney, do you think President
Obama should be tried for treason like the person who asked you?

ROMNEY: Of course not.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: No? Is there a reason you didn`t
correct her or say you wouldn`t?

ROMNEY: I answered the question.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: You don`t agree with --

ROMNEY: I don`t correct all the questions that get asked of me. I
obviously don`t agree he should be tried.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: I don`t correct all the questions that get asked of me. Mr.
Romney, you want to lead this party? You want to lead this country? And
yet you think this is leadership? It`s the same lack of leadership you
showed during the primaries when your fellow candidates accused the
president of, quote, "being a food stamp president." There was silence
from you on that one. But make no mistake, folks, this party has been
going right off the cliff for some time now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The reforms I`m
proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.

REP. JOE WILSON (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: You lie!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: This is about more than what happened today. It`s about a
party and now a candidate that refused to denounce talk like this.
Willard, winning the election like this is not winning at all.

Joining me now is former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, now an NBC
news political analyst. And Michael Steele, an MSNBC analyst and former
RNC chairman.

Thank you both for being here tonight.

Let me start with you, Michael. Why won`t Romney denounce treason
talk like this?

MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN: Well, I think he said afterwards
that he, you know, he did, I think, they put out a statement or something
addressing something along those lines of, you know, obviously, he didn`t
think the president should be tried for treason.

I think in the moment of hearing that he probably discounted that as
hyperbole and didn`t give any credence. So, he addressed the specific
question and left that hanging out there.

And, you know, Reverend, as you know, when you were a candidate, you
don`t answer everything that`s put in front of you, nor do you address it.
You just kind a let the stuff that stands out there that`s, obviously, you
know, not relevant to the debate alone and you move to the core question
which he said he did.

SHARPTON: Well, I don`t know that because I`ve learned by being
around certain rooms and allowing things to go unchallenged that I should
have challenged them and I learned --

STEELE: Yes, but you learned that after doing that, Al.

SHARPTON: I`m going to disagree with you. So I`ve learned that you
do -- silence is consent. The audience applauded. This was emphasized by
the reaction of the audience. So for him to ignore it is it silence by
consent, or was he just not wanting to stand up to that audience and show
the kind of leadership that even John McCain showed?

STEELE: I think you`ve made, you know, created a choice there, two
false alternative choices for the man. He addressed the question in front
of him. He did not feel that it was important to give any credence to the
comment about treason. He did subsequently, after being peppered by the
press to address that, he addressed it and said, no, I don`t believe the
president should be tried for treason.

So, I think in the moment he didn`t see it reached a level that he
should dignify it with some level of response because the press then
followed up. He did. I mean, that happens all the time on campaign
photocopies will happen again. President Obama himself will find himself
in that situation at some point as well.

SHARPTON: Governor Rendell, we have seen a lot of ugly attacks on
this president, both in 2008 and this year. In 2008, John McCain finally
denounced -- wanted to call the president a Muslim. Let me show this to
you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can`t trust Obama. I have read about him and
he`s not -- he`s a -- he`s an Arab. He has not --

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: No, ma`am. No, ma`am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No?

MCCAIN: No, ma`am. He`s a decent family man, citizen that I just
happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues. And that`s what
this campaign is all about. He`s not. Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Governor Rendell, isn`t that leadership? I mean,
obviously, you or I didn`t support McCain but you`d have to respect the
fact he respected his opponent and respected the public.

ED RENDELL (D), FORMER PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNOR: Sure. And what Michael
did the best job he could putting a decent face on this. But, really,
people when they vote for president or governor or mayor, executive
leaders, they are looking for leaders. They are looking for people who
will set a tone.

There 24 things wrong with what the governor Romney didn`t do. Number
one, he had a chance to tone down the rhetoric of polarization and even
hate that`s out there for many people. He could have said, look, ma`am, I
agree with your point that the president sometimes uses the executive power
when he shouldn`t but make no mistake. He`s a good American. He`s not
guilty of treason.

That would have toned down the rhetoric, number one, but number two it
would have shown he was a leader and willing to take a stand in front of an
audience who had just applauded and he should have done it when someone
criticized the gay soldier for his question in the Republican debate. He
should have said then, hey, folks, I don`t care what his sexual orientation
is. He doesn`t deserve to be booed. He`s out there putting his life on
the line for the American people.

And should have done it, when Rush Limbaugh attacked and brutally
attacked that young woman in Georgetown and called her a slut, but he was
afraid.

The problem with Mitt Romney is he`s afraid to take on the Republican
base even when they are dead, dead wrong.

SHARPTON: And, Michael, you even have the birther issue. Even
members of the president`s own party still questioning the president`s
birth certificate. Sitting members of congress. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All I can tell you is that the general consensus
is that he has produced a birth certificate. The question is, is it
legitimate?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have a lot of doubts about all that. But I
don`t know. I haven`t seen it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Wouldn`t Michael, Mr. Romney, do himself well politically
if not in terms of his own true courage and beliefs if he just stood up and
started dealing with, look, these are going to be the boundaries of this
campaign, and all of this ugly rhetoric I`m not party to, as John McCain
did with that lady that he actually took the mike from her and interrupted
the question.

STEELE: Reverend, I agree with that last point. I think both sides
need to do that. I think it will be important to the discourse that`s
going to be important for this election.

But, you know, at the same time, I get the, you know, dismay that you
seem to have about Romney not stepping up and showing leadership. But, you
know, where was the president`s leadership in office during all of the name
calling about the tea party people, the calling them un-American? Calling
them, you know, part of, you know, terrorists. I mean, I didn`t see the
president come out and put a damp on that and say that`s not the kind of
speech that we need to have in public --

RENDELL: I guarantee you, though, Michael -- I guarantee you --

STEELE: But let me just finish my point and then you can come at it.

RENDELL: Sure.

STEELE: But the reality is both of these gentlemen will find
themselves in a situation in a moment where they are going to have to weigh
whether their engagement at that level elevates something that they can
otherwise dismiss or not.

SHARPTON: Michael, Michael, are you trying to say that someone in the
presence of the president standing in an audience like this lady did today
made a mischaracterization --

STEELE: I`m not saying, but Reverend --

SHARPTON: And the president stood there silent? I mean that`s the
example you use.

STEELE: Biden, the speaker of the house -- Biden, the speaker of the
house and other democratic leaders are on record having used very, very
harsh language with respect to American citizens and their involvement in
the political discourse.

Now it didn`t happen in front of the president, but the president was
eerily silent about it as well until such time as the pressure built up
around and then --

(CROSSTALK)
STEELE: I mean. I get the point you want to jump on Romney and make him
seem like he`s a leader. He didn`t have to respond to that because it was
a ludicrous statement.

SHARPTON: He could have said it was ludicrous.

(CROSSTALK)

SHARPTON: Excuse me a minute. Vice president Biden, a leading
Democrats, want to say how they disagree with the tea party and think some
of what they are saying it wrong, that`s one thing. To say the president -
-

STEELE: That`s one thing? OK. So that --

SHARPTON: That`s not a characterization. That`s a very serious
statement that you are talking to a man who wants to be president.

STEELE: We disagree. I get the point you are trying to make but I
think you`re way off base with it. I think you are trying to score points
that don`t exist.

RENDELL: Let me ask Michael a question, Reverend, if I can.

SHARPTON: Yes.

RENDELL: Michael if you were on the stage in that first debate when
that questioner from the audience said that or that call-in attacked the
gay soldier --

SHARPTON: Right.

RENDELL: Would you have spoken out?

STEELE: Yes, I said at the time I would have, but that`s me.

RENDELL: Of course you would have, but Mitt Romney didn`t. That`s
the point.

STEELE: I get your point.

RENDELL: He`s a coward.

STEELE: I get your point. What I would, do what you would do, Ed,
and what Reverend would do is different. And everybody responds to these
things differently. You make that judgment in the moment as to whether or
not it rises to the level that you need to give it credence.

He thought in that moment -- again, I don`t know. I wasn`t there. I
can`t read his mind but just looking at it and listening to it he decided
in that moment not to give that point credence, to just deal with the more
substantive question.

RENDELL: Look. I have high regard for Governor Romney. I worked
with him when he was governor and I`ve said on Reverend`s show and other
shows I thought he was a good governor. I`ve seen him do strong things.
But you`ve got show moral leadership. He`s not a coward but he`s afraid of
the base. He`s afraid of offending the base.

SHARPTON: I`m going to have to wrap it up there, but, Michael, I`m
going to end it as a started it. I`ve been in a room where some wrong and
ugly things were said. I was judged by being silent and they were right to
tell me you can`t be silent.

STEELE: OK. Well, Reverend --

SHARPTON: That if Mr. Romney wants to be respected as a leader you
cannot co-sign people making outrageous statements with your silence.

Former Governor Ed Rendell and Michael Steele, thanks for joining us.

STEELE: Lesson learned.

SHARPTON: Ahead -- breaking news tonight. The CIA has stopped an al
Qaeda plot to destroy an airplane bound for the United States. Detail and
a live report coming up.

Plus, Karl Rove`s money machine is hard at work against the president.
Now he`s doing everything he can to keep his big money donors a secret.

And the gloves come off. President Obama kicks off his campaign going
right at Willard. It`s going to be a long six months for him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I don`t care how many ways you try to explain it.
Corporations aren`t people. People are people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: You`re watching "politics nation" live on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: For nearly a year, Willard Romney has hammered President
Obama. Now the president is returning the favor. Inside the Obama
campaign, that`s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Welcome back to "Politics Nation."

This weekend, President Obama officially kicked off his re-election
campaign with rallies in Ohio and Virginia. And some scathing words for
his opponent, Willard Mitt Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: He`s run a large financial firm and he`s run a state. But I
think he has drawn the wrong lessons from those experiences. He sincerely
believes that if CEOs and wealthy investors like him make money, the rest
of us will automatically prosper as well. Bigger profits haven`t led to
better jobs.

Governor Romney doesn`t seem to get that. He doesn`t seem to
understand that maximizing profits by whatever means necessary, whether
through layoffs or outsourcing or tax avoidance or union busting might not
always be good for the average American or for the American economy. I
don`t care how many ways you try to explain it. Corporations aren`t
people. People are people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: The president also tied Romney to Republicans in Congress
pushing an unpopular agenda that protects the one percent.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: This time they want even bigger tax cuts for the wealthiest
Americans. This time they want even deeper cuts to things like education
and Medicare and research and technology.

Republicans in Congress have found a nominee for president who`s
promised to rubber stamp this agenda if he gets the chance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Willard supported the original Ryan budget to end Medicare
as we know it, even calling it, quote, "marvelous." And right now, house
Republicans are pushing a new budget bill that guts the safety net even
more. The bill includes $261 billion in cuts to social programs like
health care, food stamps and unemployment benefits.

Tomorrow, the Senate will vote on a measure to keep student loan
interest rates from rising, a decision that would affect 7.4 million
students.

Joining us now is Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio. He was
with President Obama in Ohio on Saturday.

Senator Brown. Thank you for coming on the show tonight.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: Good to be with you. It was great
seeing the president in front of 14,000, pretty enthusiastic Ohioans.
Thanks.

SHARPTON: Now the president went right after Mitt Romney. Was that a
surprise to you, and will it play well into Ohio?

BROWN: Yes, I mean to Governor Romney`s got a bunch of things he`s
got to answer to. He`s got everything from his offshore accounts to his
support of the budget that really goes after Medicare and goes after meals
on wheels and food stamps and all kinds of middle class and working class
and programs, too, for the poor.

But he`s also in Ohio. Governor Romney`s got to answer his opposition
to the auto rescue. He`s got to answer his support for rolling back
collective bargaining rights which is a shot directly to middle class.
He`s got a lot of explaining to do in Ohio. And I think you are going to
see the president making the contrast between what governor Romney believes
and what the president believes. And I`m there with him because I have an
opponent the same that I`ll make the same contrast with.

SHARPTON: Now, the Obama campaign has a new ad that`s come out called
"go," highlighting the fight for economic recovery. Let me show you some
of it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: America`s economy spiraling down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The biggest point drop that`s ever been seen in a
day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All before this president took the oath.

OBAMA: So help me God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some said our best days were behind us, but not
him.

OBAMA: Don`t bet against the American worker.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He believed in us, fought for us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: So clearly they are beginning to gear up their campaign
around fairness and fighting for the average worker and fighting for the
average American.

BROWN: Yes, and I -- I`ll give you one really good example. From
basically from 1999 to 2010, until President Obama`s economic plan began to
take effect, for that 11 years, we saw the bottom drop out of American
manufacturing. We lost millions of jobs during that period every single
year.

But from 2010 until now, in my state, in Ohio and in states around the
country, we`ve seen manufacturing job growth almost every month led by the
auto rescue, but so much more than that in Ohio and so much more than that
around the country.

It`s not what we need yet. It`s not strong enough growth but
considering we had dropped for ten straight years to see almost every month
manufacturing jobs go up is obviously a real turnaround that -- and Mitt
Romney is saying, let`s go back to what we used to do. I just don`t think
that works. I don`t think people want to do that.

SHARPTON: One of the things I thought was effective is how the
president and his campaign is showing he understands the struggles and
challenges of the average American.

Let me show you where Mrs. Obama, the first lady, Michelle Obama, at
the Ohio rally Saturday saying how President Obama understands the
struggles of American families. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: We all know what our
president stands for, right? He is the son of a single mother who
struggled to put herself through school and pay the bills. That`s who he
is. He`s the grandson of a woman who woke up before dawn every day to
catch a bus to her job at the bank. So believe me, Barack knows what it
means when a family struggles.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Now senator, when you contrast that with Governor Romney`s
background of wealth, is that going to resonate with the Ohio voters that
one really understands the average person and average family struggles in
your state?

BROWN: Yes, I think so. I think that Ohioans are pretty smart about
this and Ohioans want a president that`s going to aggressively, every day,
wake up every single day in every single way and fight for every single
job. And that`s what I do in the Senate. I think that`s what the
president does. You know, we`ve got to keep at it because this economic
growth not nearly what we want, but I think when you see what governor
Romney and others are kind of looking back to do what we used to do and
going back like that makes no sense. That`s why we`ve lost this many
manufacturing jobs because of a bad tax policy, a bad trade policy and it`s
not where we need to go. And I think that`s why we`re looking forward to
the next five years and making sure this country grows.

SHARPTON: Now let me bring up an issue that`s very important to many
of us. And that is HB 194, voting rights under attack in Ohio. HB 194
restricts early voting, limits distribution of absentee ballots. Poll
workers not required to direct voters to proper precincts.

I mean, this, to me, is a dangerous way of rolling back again a lot of
the voting rights that we`re seeing around the country and this is a bill
in Ohio.

BROWN: Yes, Senator Durbin and I were in Cleveland today with
congresswoman Fudge to discuss this bill. We had a Senate judiciary
subcommittee hearing on this legislation. It really is a solution looking
for a problem. There`s not massive voter fraud. People don`t wake up at
8:00 in the morning and vote in Cleveland and then drive to Medina and vote
again and drive to Norwalk and vote again. That`s not where fraud is. And
to pass all this -- these laws - and, you know, what`s discouraging, what`s
disappointing, Reverend Sharpton, about this is all of these laws in Ohio,
all these laws about early voting were written by Republican legislature
with democratic support, signed by a Republican governor. There was no
argument on this. This was good government to have an open voting system.
And now this crowd, because they are one bird flies off a telephone wire,
they all do. It`s state after state after state. They are going right
after -- like they went after collective bargaining rights in Ohio. They
are going after voter rights and women`s rights. It`s outrageous.

We`ve got enough problems without worrying about this. We`ve got to
work on creating jobs, not fight back on people trying to take away
people`s right to vote.

SHARPTON: I couldn`t agree with you more.

Senator Sherrod Brown, thank you for your time tonight.

BROWN: Thank you. Of course.

SHARPTON: Still ahead, how Joe Biden`s comment about gay marriage
could be his first step towards running for president in 2016. So what
will Hillary Clinton do?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Breaking news tonight. The CIA has disrupted an al Qaeda
bomb plot designed to blow up a plane heading for the United States. We`ll
talk about it with a terror expert who actually once let bin Laden in the
flesh.

That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Breaking news tonight -- the CIA has stopped an al-Qaeda
plot to destroy an airplane bound for the United States. Officials say the
plot involved a high-tech version of the underwear bomb that failed to blow
up a plane on Christmas Day 2009. This new bomb may have been the work of
al-Qaeda`s master bomb-maker. The bomb was nonmetallic, designed to help
get it through airline security systems. The plot was based in Yemen. But
officials say, the would-be bomber had not yet picked up a target or bought
a plane ticket when the CIA stepped in and seized the bomb.

This new plot comes a year after Bin Laden was finally killed in a
raid on his compound in Pakistan, and it points up the enduring strength of
al-Qaeda however much it`s been weakened since Bin Laden`s death.

Joining me now is NBC News terrorism analyst Roger Cressey. Roger,
what can you tell me about this plot, and how serious was it? And what
does it -- what does its failure mean to the anti-terrorism efforts?

ROGER CRESSEY, FOX NEWS TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, Reverend Al. It`s
another good news story because it means that the United States working
with international partners, and what that probably means is intelligence
services in the region were able to identify this plot well in advance of
execution and get control of this device before it ever became a threat to
an airplane. The administration is pretty clear, though, that this plot
was not tied to the anniversary of Bin Laden`s death, though they have said
they believe that they -- the individual wanted to conduct the attack in
this month in the May time frame. You raise an interesting question,
though. What does it mean for al-Qaeda`s strength?

SHARPTON: Right.

CRESSEY: And this is another example of why this affiliate in Yemen,
al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is still such a concern for the U.S.
because even though al-Qaeda central has suffered tremendous losses, AQAP
as it`s known continues to do try and these type of attacks. You mentioned
the 2009 attempt by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

SHARPTON: Right. The underwear bomber.

CRESSEY: The underwear bomber. Then you had the cargo plane attempt
in the fall of 2010 and this is another example. So that`s three now in
the past four years. So, this remains an ongoing concern for us.

SHARPTON: Now Secretary Panetta has told everyone to relax. Let me
show you his reaction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: What this incident makes clear is
that this country has to continue to remain vigilant against those that
would seek to attack this country. And we will do everything necessary to
keep America safe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: So, even while he is saying relax, he`s saying the country
must remain vigilant but there is concern about this group in Yemen.

CRESSEY: Yes. Absolutely. And vigilance is another way of saying we
have to stay on the offense. So, if you look at all the instability in
Yemen right now with the change in presidential leadership and this ongoing
civil war, a lot of administration concern is focused on Yemen as the place
we need to worry about the al-Qaeda threat the most. Al-Qaeda on the
Arabian Peninsula has demonstrated capability now. You put up a picture of
Ibrahim al-Asiri. Probably the single most successful and deadly bomb-
maker right now in the al-Qaeda network. And what he is doing is, he`s
training other bomb-makers. He`s trying to impart his knowledge on a whole
other cadre of people to continue his type of efforts. So the lesson here
we need to draw Reverend Al, is that although we`re doing really well
against al0Qaeda in the big picture, this affiliate in particular in
Yemen, continues to try and target the United States, aviation being a
priority, and so we need to maintain an offensive strategy against it.

SHARPTON: Roger Cressey, thanks for coming on the show tonight.

CRESSEY: You bet.

SHARPTON: Joining me now is Peter Bergen, one of the true experts on
Bin Laden and al-Qaeda. Mr. Bergen met Bin Laden in 1997 for an interview
in Eastern Afghanistan. When Bin Laden made his first threat to the United
States on camera.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OSAMA BIN LADEN, LEADER OF AL QAEDA (through a translator): We
declared a Jihad, a holy war against the United States government because
it is unjust, criminal and tyrannical.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Since then he`s written many books. His newest is called
"Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search For Bin Laden From 9/11 to Abbottabad."
Peter, thanks for being here tonight. First, let me talk to you about this
new bomb plot. Clearly al-Qaeda is still a threat but this thwarted plot
is a failure. What do you make of it?

PETER BERGEN, AUTHOR, "MANHUNT": Well, the plot originates from the
al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula which many viewers were recall the
attempt to bring down Northwest flight 253 over Detroit on Christmas Day,
2009, that failed. There were also an attempt to bring down two cargo
planes bound for the United States. Those bombs were detected in October
of 2010. We now have this plot. The details still pretty fuzzy, but
whatever it was has been averted. They tried to kill the senior
counterterrorism official in Saudi Arabia at the beginning of this kind of
cycle with this kind of very hard to detect bombs. That also failed. So
it`s really a record of failure, Al.

SHARPTON: What does it say about al-Qaeda`s capabilities and desire
to strike the United States?

BERGEN: Well, the desire is high. The capabilities are weak. I
think that`s what it says.

SHARPTON: Now, you`ve actually met Bin Laden. Did you think back in
your meeting with him when you first heard the news that he had been
killed, what did you think back about?

BERGEN: Well, you know, I mean, I thought -- I mean, A, I thought
the trail had gone pretty cold. By 2010, I was not confident at all that
Bin Laden would be found and of course unbeknownst to me and the 99.9
percent of the rest of the world, a very small group of people at the CIA,
the White House, the Department of Defense started thinking, sort of
getting information that, you know, led them to think they might have Bin
Laden, although that intelligence was never -- was never anything other
than circumstantial. So, you know, I was surprised as anybody else when
Bin Laden was killed.

SHARPTON: You say in the book that the Bush administration really
missed their chance to get Bin Laden after Tora Bora. And you write that,
quote, "It was the CIA`s assessment that Bin Laden had fought at the battle
of Tora Bora and survived. Bush was incensed at this and became hostile.
It is clear when -- that when presented with an opportunity to kill or
capture al-Qaeda`s top leadership, just three months after September 11th,
the United States was instead outmaneuvered by Bin Laden who slipped away,
disappeared from the American radar and slowly began rebuilding his
organization." Now, how did Bin Laden manage to slip away?

BERGEN: Well, you know, there was a very relatively small number of
American soldiers on the ground. By my count, there were more western
journalists at Tora Bora than American soldiers. There were requests to
send in a battalion of rangers coming from the CIA operatives and their
leaders. And those requests were turned down. And part of it was the Bush
administration and the U.S. military that time was sort of victims of their
own success. Very small group of U.S. Special Forces supported by the CIA
or helping the CIA manage to overthrow the Taliban in the course of --
three weeks. But that was not enough to, you know, to basically kind of
find and finish the core of al-Qaeda in the battle of Tora Bora. They
dispersed someone to Pakistan. In my book, I sort of -- I think it`s
fairly clear that Bin Laden, instead of doing the obvious thing of going
back across the border into Pakistan kind of doubled back into Afghanistan.
Was there for a very remote part of Afghanistan for a while. Then finally
went into Pakistan where he spent the final nine years of his life.

SHARPTON: What is the legacy of Bin Laden and how we went after him,
which is really what your book "Manhunt" is about?

BERGEN: Well, I think the legacy of Bin Laden is a legacy of
failure. He didn`t get the United States out of the Middle East which was
his intention. He basically, with the attacks on 9/11, it was sort of al-
Qaeda`s Pearl Harbor. It was a great tactical victory but it lead to the
strategic defeat of the organization. And, you know, what does the
"Manhunt" say about the United States? It says that, you know, enough
resources and sort of intelligent folks at the CIA and other places focus
on a problem, eventually they`re going to, you know, they`re going to find
a solution. It did take ten years to find Bin Laden. He wasn`t making the
kinds of mistakes that people -- he wasn`t talking on cell phones. He
wasn`t, you know, communicating very regularly with people in his
organization. He was trying to keep a low profile. And, you know, he was
a pretty hard target to find. I mean, and the book basically outlines a
story that`s more, I guess, a Christie rather than James Bond. It was
really a very long process that involved all sorts of technical
intelligence, liaisons with foreign intelligence services, you know, spies
on the ground to get him.

SHARPTON: Peter Bergen, thanks for joining us. Peter`s new book is
called "Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden From 9/11 to
Abbottabad."

Still ahead. Why everybody is already talking about Joe Biden,
Hillary Clinton and the 2016 election. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Vice President Biden makes a comment on same-sex marriage
that has everyone talking. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Welcome back to POLITICS NATION. Vice President Joe
Biden`s comments on "Meet The Press" about gay marriage ignited a bit of a
controversy. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VICE PRES. JOE BIDEN (D), UNITED STATES: I am absolutely comfortable
with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women and heterosexual,
men and women marrying, are entitled to the same exact rights. All the
civil rights, all the civil liberties, in quite frankly, I don`t see much
of a distinction.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: That comment has sparked a debate on marriage equality.
It`s also sparking interest in -- about a possible Biden for president run
in 2016. The Vice President joked about that in the very same interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID GREGORY, NBC HOST, "MEET THE PRESS": Who is more likely to run
for president in 2016, you or Secretary Clinton?

BIDEN: I think we may run as a team. I`m only joking, obviously. I
don`t know whether I`m going to run and Hillary doesn`t know whether she`s
going to run.

GREGORY: There`s a lot of truth in humor, Mr. Vice President.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: They are having a laugh. But it could be reality. With 67
percent approval rating, Hillary Clinton is popular. She`s riding a way of
a positive coverage in the press, but she`s not saying much, yet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARKHA DUTT, JOURNALIST: Do you think the United States is ready for
a woman president, or is it still a long, long way to go?

HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Oh, I hope it`s not a long,
long way to go. I really want to see that in my lifetime.

DUTT: You`re going to be that woman who is going to break that final
glass ceiling.

CLINTON: I really, I mean, no, I -- I am very flattered, but I feel
like it`s time for me to kind of step off the high wire. I`ve been
involved at the highest levels of American politics for 20 years now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Not exactly a campaign kickoff, but months before the 2012
election, the 2016 race is already promising to be an amazing race.

Joining me now is Erin McPike, reporter for Real Clear Politics and
David Drucker, associate from the politics editor for Roll Call. Thank you
both for being here tonight.

ERIN MCPIKE, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Thank you.

DAVID DRUCKER, ROLL CALL: Good to be here.

SHARPTON: What do you make of these Biden comments? Was this real or
was this Joe being Joe, Erin?

MCPIKE: Well, let`s not forget, Joe Biden has run for president a
couple of times already before. And this is a man who wants to be
president. He also said on "Meet the Press" awhile back that he would
never rule it out. So is he thinking about it? Sure, he`s thinking about
it. People are talking about it, and he`s vice president. So he does have
that kind of air and he could run. But, look. Hillary Clinton, we don`t
know about her either. I mean, Joe Biden just said that he doesn`t know if
he`ll run or if she will run. Bill Clinton said, she has to make that
decision for herself. Everything she has telegraphed so far suggests she`s
too tired to do it, but you never know. She might change her mind in a few
years.

SHARPTON: Well, David, I mean, we have heard her say she`s tired.
She wants to get off the high wire of American politics. But Bill Clinton,
let me show you this. Her husband seems a little perfectly willing to let
his wife run, although he thinks she`s sincere. Let me show you what he
said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FMR. PRES. BILL CLINTON (D), UNITED STATES: And I believe that she`s
being absolutely honest with you when she says, she doesn`t think she`ll go
back into politics. Whether she does or not, who knows what will happen.
If she comes home and we do this foundation stuff the rest of our lives,
I`ll be happy. If he changes her mind and decides to run, I`ll be happy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: So she is sincere. I think that she means it. Come home
and rest and we`ll talk about it, Hillary. That`s how I read that one.
What do you think, David?

DRUCKER: Well, I think four years is a long time. Hillary Clinton
is not likely to serve in a second Obama administration. So either way,
whether Romney is elected or Obama is re-elected, she`s going to have a
good four years off to miss politics. Her stature has only increased
during these past few years. She`s much more popular across the board now
than when she first ran for president. So for her, I think it`s a real
possibility. For Joe Biden, I think what would have to happen is Obama
would have to be re-elected and leave office very popular so he could run
as the heir apparent to the Obama administration much like George Herbert
Walker Bush did for Reagan. Beyond that, he wasn`t successful running on
his own before, and I don`t see it happening in the future.

SHARPTON: Now, but Erin, Vice President Biden has been a pretty tough
campaigner for President Obama. Look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: The Romney rule says, let`s double down on the tax cuts for
the wealthy. That`s another trillion dollars in tax cuts over the next ten
years going to the top one percent of American taxpayers. I don`t blame
her for crying. She`s going to -- she is going to inherit it. America has
known that we can`t go back to the future, back to a foreign policy that
would have America go it alone. Shout to the world you`re either with us
or against us. I said before, thanks to President Obama, Bin Laden is dead
and General Motors is alive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: I mean, good lines, good reaction to the baby, showing he`s
quick on his feet. Pretty good campaign, Erin.

MCPIKE: Sure. But it`s often the job of the Vice President or the
running mate to be the attack dog. Can Joe Biden carry a message on his
own when he is in his 70s? It`s hard to tell. I mean, we`re starting to
see generational shifts in American politics. President Obama is on the
cusp of the baby boom generation in Generation X. So, if Mitt Romney does
not win and President Obama wins a second term, the republican field that
we`re looking at in 2016, if that`s the case, is star-studded. But it has
a lot of younger politicians. So, we`re starting to move away from some of
these older politicians and going a little bit younger. So, that might
make it even harder for Joe Biden.

SHARPTON: Well, David, let me push you on her point about that
because even on a democratic side, we hear names like Martin O`Malley, Tim
Kaine, Andrew Cuomo, all of whom are younger. And the fact is that Joe
Biden would be 74-years-old. Hillary Clinton would be 69. So, even in the
primary or facing a younger group of Republicans, how much would age be a
factor, David?

DRUCKER: Well, it would be a huge factor. I think especially for
Joe Biden being 74-years-old. It was one of the reasons why I don`t really
think he would run in four years unless he was the heir apparent and it was
just sort of a done deal and the party had decided it. We remember all the
press surrounding John McCain four years ago when he would have been I
think the oldest president elected had he won and age would be a huge
issue. And finally, I`d say to Joe Biden`s record on his own is not always
that great. You know, David Gregory gave the Vice President a real tough
time, I believe in that interview yesterday in saying, look. You said you
were against the raid that got Bin Laden. So what about that? And I think
Joe Biden would have a lot to answer for if he was speaking for himself and
not the president.

SHARPTON: When he comes out on this marriage equality issue, when you
look at the fact that Biden yesterday took this position, absolutely
comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women and
heterosexual men and women marrying another are entitled to the same exact
rights. Contrast that with Mrs. Clinton`s position. Human rights are gay
rights, and gay rights are human rights once and for all. They both have
taken pretty progressive positions and positions that would appeal to a lot
of the progressive and younger voters in their party and across the board.
Wouldn`t you think, Erin?

MCPIKE: Oh, I do. But, you know, we`ve been talking about this for
more than a year now that President Obama himself is evolving as he says on
this issue. And I think what the comments that Joe Biden and Hillary
Clinton have made are just really showing that. It`s not necessarily them
trying to position themselves so much as it is the administration as a
whole is starting to evolve on it.

SHARPTON: Erin McPike and David Drucker, thanks to both of you for
coming on the show.

MCPIKE: Thank you.

DRUCKER: Any time, thank you.

SHARPTON: Ahead. Signs the GOP effort to suppress the vote might be
working. How we fight back, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: We talk a lot on this show about the GOP assault on voting
right laws in states around the country. Republicans say, it`s all about
fighting fraud. But even in their own investigation of every conviction or
prosecution of voter fraud since 1997, Republicans found just 311 cases of
fraud. That`s 311 cases out of 593 million votes cast. When you crunch
the numbers, you get a fraud rate of 0.00005 percent. Is there another
reason for the surge in new laws in the republican-controlled states since
President Obama`s election? Viviette Applewhite is a 93-year-old woman who
has been denied the right to vote. She was a guest on this show last week
and show up with her opinion as to why they have so many new laws.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VIVIETTE APPLEWHITE, CAN`T VOTE FOR FIRST TIME IN 50 YEARS: I think
that the reason that they want this ID and everything is because there`s so
many of the black people that doesn`t have ID, and I think it is because
they don`t want Obama in there, so I think they are trying to do something
to keep the black people from having the right to vote.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: There`s also this new report from "The Washington Post."
Registration is down for black and Hispanic voters, possibly due to
economic factors. The post says, there`s been between 2008 and 2010,
quote, "The number of registered Hispanics has dropped significantly. That
figure fell five percent across the country." For blacks, registration
numbers are down seven percent nationwide. The White House is pushing back
on those numbers saying they are outdated. But the report does underscore
the challenges facing black and Hispanic voters at a time when Republicans
are ramping up efforts to make it harder to vote. We are seeing voter
registration groups pull out. We need to fight any attempt to suppress the
vote. Not only to see what`s going on in the White House but what`s going
to happen in your house and my house.

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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