updated 8/30/2012 11:40:52 AM ET 2012-08-30T15:40:52

POLITICS NATION
August 29, 2012

Guests: Nia-Malika Henderson, Joan Walsh, Richard Wolffe, Ana Marie Cox>

REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Thanks, Chris. And thanks to you
for tuning in.

Tonight`s lead, it`s Paul Ryan`s party and yes, moderate Republicans
can cry if they want to. The vice presidential nominee will give the
biggest speech of his life tonight on the biggest stage in Republican
politics, the GOP convention. It`s perhaps the most critical moment of the
event so far.

Also speaking tonight, Mike Huckabee. He broke with much of the rest
of his party to support Todd Akin after his comment about women and rape.
Will he double down tonight on live TV?

We will also hear from Bush secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and
the budget director of the Bush administration, Rob Portman. The
convention theme today is quote, "we can change it."

Judging from tonight`s lineup, sure we can change it. Right back to
the way it was under Bush 43. We will talk about that later on and show
you some truly amazing Bush tribute video being shown to delegates tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m so proud of George.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They`ll
remember him for being a good, honest president who got a lot of things
done.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATE: Dad and I both
know what it takes to be president. And there`s no doubt in our mind that
Mitt Romney will be a great president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: But tonight is congressman Paul Ryan`s night. In fact,
it`s basically Paul Ryan`s convention on the delegate floor. The buzz is
all about Ryan, not governor Romney.

Some headlines. Romney is the big draw. He`s the standard bearer.
Romney`s just a place holder. Paul Ryan was attracting those big crowds
after joining the ticket, not Mitt Romney. It was Paul Ryan who got those
crowds juiced up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have got to cut
this deficit. We`ve got to balance this budget and we have to leave our
children a debt-free nation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: In fact, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker says quote, "win
or lose Paul Ryan`s ideas will lead the party." Right now Paul Ryan, not
Mr. Romney, looks like the future of the Republican Party.

So what are these ideas of his? Ryan wants to ban most abortions even
in cases of rape and incest. He wants to turn Medicare into a private
voucher program. And he wants to cut taxes for millionaires. Starve the
government and shrink the safety net. All that is profoundly out of step
with how the majority of Americans feel on those issues which is why
tonight you won`t hear Ryan talk much about them.

The Associated Press says tonight`s speech will be quote, "heavy on
personality and lighter on policy."

Romney`s advisers have made him shift focus from Ryan`s policies
positions specifically his controversial budget proposals have caused some
headaches for Romney. Ryan is on the ticket because of ideas. But his
ideas are broadly unpopular and Republicans are afraid for him to talk
about them at this convention. But today President Obama was talking about
those ideas, campaigning in Virginia and drawing a sharp contrast between
the two parties.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In November your voice
will matter more than ever. And, listen, if you doubt that, then pay a
little attention to what`s happening in Tampa this week. Don`t boo. Vote.
Vote.

You know, my opponents are down there. They`re offering their agenda.
You know, it`s a pretty entertaining show. They have got wonderful things
to say about me. But, you know what`s interesting is you can listen very
carefully, very hard and you won`t hear them offer a clear, serious path
forward.

Our economic strength does not come from the top down. It comes from
students and workers and small business owners and a growing, thriving
middle class. That`s who we`re fighting for.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Tonight, Americans should watch what these Republicans say.
And remember well what they are afraid to talk about.

Joining me now is Ezra Klein, "Washington Post" columnist and MSNBC
policy analyst, and Krystal Ball, co-host of "the Cycle" right here on
MSNBC.

Thank you both for joining me.

KRYSTAL BALL, MSNBC HOST, THE CYCLE: Thanks, Reverend.

EZRA KLEIN, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Krystal, do you agree in some ways this is Paul Ryan`s
convention?

BALL: I do think that`s true. And I`m reminded of something that
Grover Norquist said which is, pick a Republican with enough working digits
to handle a pen. That`s all they see Mitt Romney as. They never thought
of him as the intellectual leaders, the ideas guy, the one that who is
going to push the party forward and lead them in terms of policy. They
always thought he would be the one to sign the Ryan budget and the other
ideas into law.

Clearly also, Paul Ryan is the one who generates the most enthusiasm
amongst the base. He is the one they are really psyched to see and hear
what he has to say. So in that way, I definitely think it is Paul Ryan`s
convention.

SHARPTON: Now, we`re told if Associated Press is correct, we`re told
by them, Ezra, that he`s going to be short on policy, long on personality.
But his policy that made Paul Ryan the nominee, and his policy that is
firing up the base that Krystal`s talking about. Well, help fact check me
on this. You`re the policy man. Let`s look at his budget cuts, for
example. $3.3 trillion in cuts to low income programs.

KLEIN: Yes.

SHARPTON: Sixty two percent of total cuts is where he wants to go.
$3.3 trillion in programs for low income people. Then let`s go to
Medicare. He wants to turn Medicare into a voucher program.

KLEIN: Yes. Although one thing that should be said. There are two
versions of the Ryan Medicare plan. One from a year ago and one from this
year. The one a year ago would have eliminated traditional Medicare
entirely.

SHARPTON: Right.

KLEIN: No more Medicare. Your get private plan and your voucher
would essentially in 20 years be worth nothing. You`d pay the 6,000 bucks
out of pocket.

This year is a substantially more moderate plan. They got beaten
pretty badly on that Medicare plan and then they moved a bunch of cuts into
programs for the poor. So now, Medicaid takes a bigger whack.

SHARPTON: So, Medicaid takes a bigger whack.

KLEIN: Yes. If you look at what this budget does the next ten years
who`s really getting cut, it`s health care for poor people.

SHARPTON: How much is that cut?

KLEIN: It is to Medicaid alone $1.4 trillion. That would throw --
which is a third of the program.

SHARPTON: Medicaid alone.

KLEIN: Medicaid alone. That would throw about 14 to 19 - I`m sorry,
about 30 million people because that includes the affordable care act
Medicaid expansion. So, it throw about 30 million people off of health
care insurance it would have. It also, of course, takes out the affordable
care act private insurance subsidies. So, if you pass that budget, about
45 million fewer people out of health care insurance than if you don`t.

SHARPTON: So I want to get this really, really because we can have
different opinions and different candidates, but these are facts.

According to the present Ryan plan, the present plan of the man who
will stand there tonight and accept the vice presidential nomination,
you`re saying he would take this amount of money out of Medicaid.

KLEIN: Yes, out of Medicaid. And just for -- one thing that
frustrates me about the Ryan budget conversation is the Republicans like to
go around saying they`re making the tough choices and doing the hard work
of cutting the budget. They`re cutting over $5 trillion from the budget in
the Ryan plan. But they don`t like to face up to the consequences of it.

SHARPTON: Right.

KLEIN: When you cut $1.5 trillion from a program like Medicaid, it
does less. And Medicaid, what it does, it covers children. It covers the
elderly disabled or poor. And it covers the poor.

SHARPTON: So, we`re not talking about people just sitting around
abusing the system.

KLEIN: No.

SHARPTON: We`re talking about seniors and we are talking about
children.

KLEIN: Yes. The bulk of Medicaid spending, people don`t know this.
The bulk of Medicaid spending, the most costly group on Medicaid are the
poor elderly disabled. And then the largest number of people on Medicaid
are children. When you`re talking about cutting Medicaid, you`re talking
about cutting for the sickest and poorest seniors and also for children.
That`s really who Medicaid serves.

SHARPTON: And I think people need to understand that when they have
these little ugly commercials.

But Krystal, 71 days to the election. How do they avoid talking about
it? He may get around it tonight and do his bio and his story which is
good if that`s what he does.

BALL: Right.

SHARPTON: But you`ve got to deal with these are the policies he`s
running on. How do they avoid talking about this where people understand
they`re talking about doing this to children and to seniors. He`s even
talking about raising the age to 67 to qualify for Medicare.

BALL: And massive cuts7 to Pell grants. I mean, there is a reason
that they don`t want to talk about the Ryan budget. It`s because the
propositions as they are laying out are hugely unpopular.

And to your point, I don`t think they can avoid a conversation about
it particularly when Mitt Romney has not laid out his own plans. So Paul
Ryan keeps trying to defer by saying well, I`m on the Romney/Ryan ticket.
So, let`s talk about those policies. But, we don`t know what those
policies are.

So we can only assume that Mitt Romney since he said he would sign the
Ryan budget into law that Mitt Romney is supporting Paul Ryan`s budget and
the ideas that are contained therein.

SHARPTON: And I think also we`ve got to emphasize this, Ezra, and you
can say what you`re going to say but I want you to answer this.

We`re talking about doing all of this with continuing the tax cuts to
the rich. We`re not talking about shared here. We`re talking about
Medicaid being cut for children, seniors, working class people. Medicare
change for seniors while the rich absolutely give up nothing.

KLEIN: More so than that, actually. So you keep the Bush tax cuts,
make them permanent. Then you add Ryan as $4.5 trillion more in tax cuts.
Now, he hasn`t said how he`ll pay for them. He just told the budget office
assume that I`ll pay for this. It is assumed that somehow, I will clean
the tax code, kill the home mortgage interest deduction or something and I
will pay for all of this.

If he doesn`t do that, by the way, his budget is a huge deficit
buster. One point to Krystal make - who is correct, Romney`s plan is much
vaguer. What he has offered, but we do know for Romney though, is his
overall targets.

Romney`s plan is much more aggressive even than Ryan`s plan. Ryan is
cutting $3.5 trillion from the deficit from the budget over ten years.
Romney wants to cut $7 trillion. He`s not keeping any of the Medicare
savings.

SHARPTON: Right.

KLEIN: Now, he needs to cut something compared to Ryan like $8
trillion and he is increasing the defense spending by more. The kind of
cuts would be to make that work within the decade is 57 percent to every
single program in the federal budget that is not Medicare, defense, or
Social Security. It is a complete fantasy. And when it`s not a fantasy,
it is drastic and destructive.

BALL: Yes. I mean, it`s -- if you actually implemented that plan, it
would not be small government. It would be anarchy. I mean, it`s a
ludicrous proposal.

And I think also to Ezra`s point, you know Paul Ryan likes to talk
about his brand as the truth teller and as the policy guy and the details
guy. But there are, in fact, a lot of details that are left out of his
budget including as Ezra said which loopholes they`re going to close.
Since he won`t spell that out, he actually isn`t willing to tell the hard
truths about closing the deductions which benefit large middle class and
working class people.

SHARPTON: And that`s the hard truth. Christie was saying they`re not
telling hard truths about their own policy plans.

BALL: That`s right.

SHARPTON: And I thank you very much for being here to both of you,
Krystal as well as Ezra.

I notice you quoting Ezra. Isn`t he the kind of guy you wish you had
sitting next to you in school? Let me say this, though, before I go.

BALL: At least I can follow him on twitter now.

SHARPTON: Let me say this before we move on.

Aside from the politics, you know, I`m watching Ryan tonight because
I`ve been there where you had to walk on that big stage. And all your
handlers, all your advisers, all your friends don`t matter. You`ve got to
walk out there alone. And he`s tonight going to go somewhere he`s never
been.

And I know one thing. He`s sitting somewhere with his stomach in
knots. Because I don`t care how long you`ve been in public, when you walk
on that stage, it happened to me in 2004, everyone will see you as champ or
chump when you get finished. So, that`s what Mister Ryan is doing right
now.

Coming up, will Paul Ryan talk about his plan to end Medicare as we
know it tonight? Is it a political death wish or an opportunity? Steve
Schmidt who ran the McCain campaign takes us inside the Ryan`s speech.

And the theme for tonight, "we can change it." Oh, yes, they will
change it right back to the failed Bush policies. If you love soaring
deficit and war, you`ll love this team.

And what will governor Huckabee say tonight? A week ago he blasted
Mister Romney and the party for leaving Todd Akin quote, "wounded and
bleeding." Tonight he speaks in Tampa.

Get out the popcorn. You`re watching "Politics Nation" as we get
ready for the Republican convention right here on the place for politics,
MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Going after Medicare? It used to be the third rail in
American politics. Has something changed? If it did, I didn`t get the
memo. The fight to end Medicare with GOP strategist Steve Schmidt. That`s
next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: We`re back on "Politics Nation" with a live look at the
floor of the Republican National Convention in Tampa. And the headliner
tonight is Paul Ryan, Governor Romney`s pick for vice president.

Earlier today Ryan did a walk through on stage along with his wife and
three children. It`s a huge night for him and his party.

Joining me now is Steve Schmidt a Republican political strategist,
senior strategist for the McCain/Palin campaign in 2008.

Steve, it is great to have you with us tonight, really. Thanks for
being here.

STEVE SCHMIDT, FORMER SENIOR STRATEGIST FROM MCCAIN/PALIN 2008
CAMPAIGN: Good to be with you.

SHARPTON: Let`s start with Paul Ryan. All eyes on him tonight. Now,
if you`re backstage with him, what do you tell him?

SCHMIDT: You are telling him to breathe out there, to get his
equilibrium. He is going to walk out on that stage, it is going to be a
deafen roar.

SHARPTON: Right.

SCHMIDT: The lights are going to be up. It is going to be hard for
him to see people in the audience. So, it is going to be disorienting as
he goes out there. And you want him to bask in the applause, get focused,
get centered, get ready to give the speech. And you know, he has no doubt
rehearsed this many, many times. But you know, to get out there, to get
your equilibrium, to stay calm and start hitting it.

SHARPTON: Now, I was saying earlier, 2004 I spoke at the Democratic
Convention during the primaries. And I wasn`t the nominee. You can`t
explain to people around you how that feels. You walk out there, you can`t
see a face, you can`t see the cameras, it`s all lights. But your whole
career could be made or broke tonight. And Ryan has got to be going
through that right now.

SCHMIDT: Yes. Absolutely. I`m sure he`s focused on it, nervous
about it. A lot of people down on Chris Christie today. I remember in
1988 Bill Clinton gave the keynote speech. He got to the end of it, he
said in conclusion, the whole audience goes crazy. Of course, four years
later the speech he gave was one of the great acceptance speeches for his
party`s nomination. But these are the biggest moments. It`s absolute
biggest moment in Paul Ryan`s political career.

SHARPTON: All right. Well, that on the personal side. Let`s get to
some policy. You`re advising and you, the strategist for McCain/Palin.
Say you brought in Medicare. Is it still a third real issue? Do they
really have to be worried about this?

SCHMIDT: Well, most Republicans genetically and certainly Republicans
in Congress over the last decade have gotten into a fetal position when
Democrats have gone after them on the issue of Medicare. Trained to avoid
it, trained to look at it as a third rail issue.

Paul Ryan`s an entirely different cat. He`s out there talking about
this issue. He`s talking about an offensive issue. Talking about it in
the context of the country`s debt challenges. The difficult decisions that
are going to have to be made in terms of an out of control $16 trillion
national debt.

And so, I think that this is one of the great unanswered questions of
the campaign because you are going to see a very different type of
Republican reaction to these issues. You`re going to see Paul Ryan going
out there talking to me American people about this and talking about it as
an issue through a moral prism that we have to get the fiscal house of the
country in order.

SHARPTON: But how do you do that when polling shows that the
overwhelming majority of people including a polarity of Republicans still
want to see Medicare as it is?

SCHMIDT: Well, Medicare`s not going to be as it is over the long-
term. I mean, part of what Paul Ryan`s talking about is the trillions of
dollars of promises that have been made to the American people that
everybody in Washington, Republicans and Democrats understand that there`s
not the money to pay for them.

So, the Paul Ryan plan keeps Medicare as it is for everybody who`s 55
and older. But there`s going to be changes for Medicare if that program is
going to survive. It`s important that it survives for people that are 55
and younger.

And so, you know, Paul Ryan`s going to have to make a case. He`s
going to have to convince people and obviously the Democrats are going to
say to 65, 70-year-olds in Florida and other places that he`s going to take
away Medicare. It`s not true. But he`s going to have to deal with that.
It`s a political challenge.

SHARPTON: How do you do that and still maintain tax cuts for the
wealthy and call it shared?

SCHMIDT: Well, look. I think that the reality of the country`s
fiscal condition, and you`re not going to hear Republicans say this in the
campaign, but the reality is that programs are going to get cut. And taxes
are going to go up. And it`s necessary to do in order to get the country
back on track.

SHARPTON: So taxes will have to go up, but they can`t say it through
the campaign?

SCHMIDT: You can`t say it during the campaign because the base would
be in revolt. But you came I think very, very close to what was, you know,
described as the grand bargain agreement between Boehner, between the
president that would have done exactly that.

SHARPTON: Well, you`re an honest man. Because I don`t see how you do
it without dealing with the rich and the taxes. This weekend, "the New
York Times" report that Romney was changing his campaign strategy to win
over voters. And the quote was "the moves reflects a campaign infused with
a sharper edge and overtones of class and race. Mr. Romney`s chances hinge
to a large degree on running up his advantage among white voters in swing
states who show deep strains of opposition to Mister Obama, but do not
trust Mister Romney to look out for their interests. Do you think that`s
true?

SCHMIDT: Well, we have the ability to be polling, to dissect the
electorate down to, you know, left handed people with eyes living in a
certain precinct in North Carolina. So when you look at the electorate
right now and you look at the white vote at its total, Mitt Romney is
roughly where John McCain was four years ago when we lost that race by, you
know, six, seven points.

The white vote does not amount to lefty vote. Working white male
voter in southern Ohio, very different than a suburban white mom outside of
Philadelphia. So, you know, Mitt Romney`s going to have to make an
economic argument that is able to tie all of it together. Also going to
have to get his Hispanic numbers up. George Bush 40 percent of the
Hispanic vote in 2004. After that election, Republicans were talking about
how you grow that number to 50 percent. Now, were back down to talking
about how we get it up to 30 percent.

SHARPTON: Well, one way you know is with self-deportation. But we
will talk about that later. You and I will be hanging out all night.

Steve Schmidt, thanks so much for joining us. And see you later for
the special coverage.

SCHMIDT: You got it.

SHARPTON: Coming up, governor Huckabee hammered his party for feeding
Todd "legitimate rape" Akin to the quote, "liberal wolves." Tonight
governor Huckabee speaks at the convention. Will the GOP problem with
women get worse?

And they`re not in Tampa tonight, but don`t be fooled. The
Republicans just can`t quit George W. Bush. I`ll explain ahead.

You`re watching "Politics Nation" as we get ready for the Republican
convention right here on the place for politics, MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Have you checked us out on facebook yet? The "Politics
Nation" conversation is going strong all day long. Today the anti-choice
Republican Party had everyone talking.

Shirley says Republicans must not be in their right minds if they
think women will fall for this.

And Benda says this is 2012. We`re going forward, not backward. Not
just women, but all of us.

Coming up next, we`ve got more on how this policy could be the
Republican Party`s Achilles heel.

But first, we want to hear what you think. Head over to facebook and
search "Politics Nation" and like us to join the conversation that keeps
going long after the show ends.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Welcome back to POLITICS NATION. They won`t talk much
about it, but the Republicans` problem with women voters will be very much
in evidence tonight. Todd forced rape Akin has close ties to the GOP
ticket. He and Paul Ryan teamed up on nine anti-choice bills just this
year. Including one they cosponsored that tried to redefine rape. See
their names right there?

Ryan`s distanced himself from Akin. But tonight, here comes former
Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. Six days ago, he unleashed an e-mail to
supporters defending Akin and blasting GOP leaders for quote, "feeding his
body to the liberal wolves." That GOP gender gap is just not going away.
Tonight it will be right on stage.

Joining me now from Tampa is Joan Walsh, editor at large with
Salon.com and an MSNBC political analyst and Nia-Malika Henderson, national
political reporter for "The Washington Post." Thank you both for being
here.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Great to be here.

JOAN WALSH, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Thanks, Reverend Al.

SHARPTON: Joan, let`s start with you, Joan. Can the GOP dodge these
issues all the way to November?

WALSH: No. This is going to be the big culture war night here in
Tampa, Reverend Al. I mean, I think that Mike Huckabee, I just ran into
one of his advisers, and he said it`s going to be a very positive honest
speech. And I said, is he talking about Todd Akin, and he just smiled and
shrugged. I`m sure that he`ll try to be diplomatic but this is going to be
a night where the Christian right, the cultural right makes its stand.

Todd Akin feels betrayed, Mike Huckabee feels betrayed. And on some
level, I understand how they feel. The point is that Todd Akin is in the
mainstream of this party and this party`s platform and the idea that these
people are making is such a big deal about his stupid language about rape
doesn`t hide the fact the what he said, that he basically doesn`t think
that there should be any funding or any availability of abortion even in
cases of rape, incest, or the life of the mother.

So, they feel like they`d want all these battles from the party. But
when it comes to the big, you know, time of the convention and when it
comes to the nominee, they don`t get the real recognition they deserve.
So, I think that Mike Huckabee is looking for a lot of love and a lot of
validation tonight. It`s going to be very interesting.

SHARPTON: Now, Nia-Malika, the polling is already showing that the
republican ticket has a problem with women. Romney trails President Obama
by 22 points with women voters in a recent poll. This is a real problem
for them.

HENDERSON: It is. And you saw last night that in some ways it was
ladies night. They had Ann Romney out there. They had Nikki Haley, the
governor of South Carolina. Nia love who`s of course running in Utah. So,
they are trying to address it this way. Interestingly enough, tonight,
they`ll have Condi Rice on stage who of course is pro-choice. But I think
this tableau of speakers, Mike Huckabee included who I think will get a
very rousing, you know, ovation tonight as will Condi Rice.

I think his position on the stage as well as Condi Rice and somewhat
does speak to the split in the party. That Mitt Romney has tried to sort
of, to mend these fences between the social evangelicals and the fiscal
conservatives in this party. And we`ll see if he`s able to do that Paul
Ryan I think won`t touch tonight much on conservative issues, much on
social issues. Will try to speak to the budget.

But I think they have tried to really try to etch-a-sketch his sort of
stance on some of these issues, abortion and some of these social
conservatives issues and really have try to put him forward as more of a
budget guy, as a fiscal conservative. But I think tonight, we`ll see in
some ways two different parties on stage.

SHARPTON: But Joan, Jane Romney which is Governor Romney`s sister,
she says that he won`t ban abortion. When questioned she says he`s not
going to be touching any of that. It`s not his focus. Mitt is much more
in the middle when it comes to abortion. So, if his sister is saying that,
that is a very different position than the Ryan co-author of forcible rape
kind of bills and what Huckabee and Akin and others want to hear from their
nominee.

WALSH: Well, again, you know, it`s another shake of the etch-a-
sketch, Reverend Al. And, you know, I think the Romney family has had a
very interesting condition on abortion. Back when Mitt Romney was pro-
choice, he said it was because they had a young relative who died of a
botched illegal abortion. His mother was pro-choice for the same reason.
There was a real heartfelt reason for that and he`s never adequately
explained why after that tragedy he decided that he was anti-choice. So,
I`m sure there are people in his family who remain somewhat pro-choice and
believe that he is not a culture warrior. But he`s spent a lot of time
this year convincing the base that he is that kind of culture warrior, so -
-

SHARPTON: Yes. He did.

WALSH: -- he cannot both ways.

SHARPTON: But then Nia-Malika, he started softening that a little
lately when he was asked about his position on abortion. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My position has been clear
throughout this campaign. I`m in favor of abortion being legal in the case
of rape and incest. And the health and life of the mother.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: And the health and life of the mother. Now, we haven`t
heard that one before in the primaries, but now he adds that which in the
past some of the hard liners have said, that`s too nebulous, that`s too
wide open.

HENDERSON: That`s right. And it is pretty wide open. The health and
life of a mother. And you imagine people could interpret that in all sorts
of ways. But I think obviously you`re going to see from Mitt Romney a real
attempt pivotal away from what have been a very up and down flip-flop
record in terms of abortion. It was brought out for instance that his wife
Ann Romney donated to Planned Parenthood.

They of course, want to strip the funding, at least the federal
funding from Planned Parenthood. But they seem to also acknowledge that
Planned Parenthood should be around. It should get at least some private
funding. So it is a bit of -- you know, it`s very fuzzy. And I think it
goes back to this whole etch-a-sketch moment that they`re really undergoing
in this general election.

SHARPTON: Now, Joan, it was interesting when he was questioned I
believe yesterday, Governor Romney said, oh, well, I`ll just be president,
that would be up to the Supreme Court. And obviously whoever`s the
president after January may appoint one or two more justices.

WALSH: One or two or three.

SHARPTON: The Supreme Court will be a very important factor in the
minds of voters this November.

WALSH: Well, yes. And, you know, I don`t trust him as a pro-choice
person, I don`t trust him, Reverend Al. But if I were anti-choice, I would
be grilling him right now. I would be very interested in Tampa in getting
him to explain exactly what he meant by that and whether he intends to
appoint pro-choice or anti-choice justices. He`s leaving that wide open
and acting like he doesn`t -- he`s leading from behind again.

And acting like he doesn`t have any power when in fact given the age
of some of our justices, he`s likely to have a lot of power. Is he saying
he`s going to leave Roe V. Wade alone and not appoint justices with
opportunity? That is terrific news to me, I don`t believe it. But if I
were an anti-choice activist, I would be all over Mitt Romney this week
trying to get some clarity on that answer.

SHARPTON: Well, I`ve got to leave it there. Nia-Malika Henderson and
Joan Walsh. Thanks. And Joan has a new book out. "What`s the Matter with
White People?" Thank you both for being here tonight.

WALSH: Thank you, Reverend Al.

HENDERSON: Thank you, Reverend Al.

SHARPTON: Coming up, George W. Bush might not be in Tampa, but he`s
at the convention. Why the party can`t quit him.

Plus, some disturbing numbers show the voter suppression effort in
Florida may be working. We won`t let them get away with it. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: He left with a 22 percent approval rating, but the
Republican Party and Governor Romney can`t quit George W. Bush. Next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Welcome back to POLITICS NATION. You`re looking live at
the floor of the Republican National Convention in Tampa where they`re
gearing up for a big night. Paul Ryan is set -- wait a second. Did you
see that? Is that an elephant in the room? He`s right there. See him? I
mean, there`s a massive elephant standing in the room. That`s him right
there. OK, fine.

President Bush isn`t an actual elephant, and we all know he`s not
actually in any room in Tampa, but he is the thing that the Romney campaign
doesn`t want to talk about. After all, two wars and the crippling debt he
left us aren`t exactly popular. But here`s the thing. The Romney campaign
just can`t quit him. And tonight the Bush presidency will take center
stage. Did you like Bush`s foreign policy?

Then you`ll love hearing former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Are you a fan of the massive debt clock they keep showing? Then stay tuned
for Rob Portman, Bush`s former budget director. He`s responsible for a
whole lot of that debt. Even Paul Ryan is in on the act. He`s getting
speech pointers from former Bush adviser Dan Senor. Wow! Bush is really
there in spirit. And get this. He`ll be there on the big screen too. In
this video.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Integrity, honesty. There was never a tainted
scandal around his presidency. And I think we forget the importance of
that. You know, they`ll remember him for being a good, honest president
who maybe got a lot of things done. But I think the thing I take pride in
is the integrity.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: History will remember him as a
great president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Just two great presidents talking about their legacy. And
here`s what they think about Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH: Dad and I both know what it takes to be president.
And there`s no doubt in our mind that Mitt Romney will be a great
president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Governor Romney, a president that left with 22 percent
approval rating says, you`ll be great. You got to get them. Joining me
now is MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe. He is also the author of
"Revival: The Struggle for Survival Inside the Obama White House." And Ana
Marie Cox, Washington correspondent for the Guardian. Thank you both for
your time this evening.

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Thanks, Reverend.

ANA MARIE COX, CORRESPONDENT, THE GUARDIAN: Good to be here.

SHARPTON: Richard, let me start with you. Is it smart for the Romney
campaign to be bringing out so many reminders of the Bush presidency
tonight?

WOLFFE: I don`t know that they`re doing a whole lot. You know, this
is far as they`re prepared to go. But you know, if they want to cut off
from the Bush past, there is a path for them to say, look, we`re going to
be the honest party. Republicans will part of the problem. We`re now
going to fix all those problems especially when it comes down to debt.
Remember, this is not a party that they want to talk about, foreign policy,
the way it did in previous elections saying we are the party of National
Security.

So, they really ought to be breaking. Because this is minimal stuff,
right? This is the bare bones of acknowledging that President Bush was one
of them. But otherwise, you don`t hear his name. Think back to how
Clinton played a role in 2000, 2004, 2008. And now that`s not the role
they`re giving President Bush at all, is it?

SHARPTON: No. But they`re bringing him up. And is it too early to
bring him up? I mean, we`re still dealing with some of the aftermath of
the war. We`re dealing with the anniversary of Katrina with another
hurricane in the gulf. Is it too early to do this?

COX: Well, I think it`s -- you know, this is a party that doesn`t
even want to remember who its actual nominee is. So, I`m not surprised
that they don`t want to bring up Bush. But yes, we have all these
reminders. It`s impossible not to acknowledge that he`s here if only
because of the debt clock. But you now, it is unusual. I mean, the degree
to which he is not talked about, the degree to which he is not president of
this convention. I`ve only seen one picture of George Bush and it`s
outside one of the news organization, headquarters just reminding us that
they covered him too.

SHARPTON: Wow.

COX: Yes. And other than that, I haven`t really seen anything else.
And also we`re not being reminded of his legacy either. You`re right. No
one last night mentioned the Afghanistan war. No one last night mentioned
the war on terror. These huge things that are a big part of the problem
that they say they want to solve just aren`t being brought up. They would
have to be really honest, they have to a real shift for them to say that
OK, we realize these things happened and now we, we`re going to fix them.
They just don`t want to acknowledge it. They just want to talk about
Obama. And that`s actually all they want to do is talk about Obama.

SHARPTON: Well, Ana Marie is right, Richard. Because just a few
weeks ago when a local reporter had confronted Governor Romney about Bush,
watch how he responded. Kind of seemed like he was running away from it.

WOLFFE: Uh-huh.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Give me one specific example about how your
administration would be different than a George W. Bush administration.

ROMNEY: Well, there`s a very different time than the time that
President Bush was president of the United States. My plan for economic
recovery and creating jobs for the middle class and more take home pay is
quite different than anything that`s ever been seen in this country before.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: So not exactly a resounding, even though two of his
economic advisers served under Bush.

WOLFFE: Right.

SHARPTON: Let`s keep in mind that our RNC officials said this Spring
that his economic policies are just Bush plans just updated. In addition,
17 of his 24 foreign policy advisers are former members of the Bush
administration. So, even though he`s distancing himself and not doing the
embrace Clinton has, he`s got Bush people around him. He`s using Bush
policy.

WOLFFE: Yes.

SHARPTON: Bush video tonight.

WOLFFE: Bush ideas, right? One of the big things they want to go to
the mat on against Democrats is the Bush tax cuts. They`re not just called
the Bush tax cuts because they were under Bush. This was a fundamental
piece of the economic puzzle and actually Mitt Romney wants to double down
on that. Go beyond those Bush tax cuts. But just a pick of what he said
on that clip. It wasn`t that long ago that President Bush was presiding
evidence for years.

SHARPTON: Right.

WOLFFE: Now, I understand that Republicans think that Democrats
cannot only talk about Bush. And that`s true. But four years to deal with
two wars and an economy which collapsed under in the last months and
arguably the last years of the Bush presidency. That is what Bush left
this president. And that is -- that wasn`t that long ago. So, the Bush
ideas and the Bush problems are still there and frankly if President Romney
was sworn in in January, he`d be dealing with it too.

SHARPTON: Well, and when you brought up that Ana Marie. That debt
clock.

COX: Yes.

SHARPTON: And it went up substantially under Bush. I mean, come on.
You can`t give that debt clock up there and then show a video of George
bush and people don`t turn around and remember that that clock was run up
in large measure by George Bush.

COX: Yes. It`s true. I mean, he`s sort of the ghost of presidencies
past here. I mean, he`s this invisible man but who`s part of everything.
Who touches everything. That`s for sure. And I think it`s also really
interesting. The only time you hear his name invoked that you`re talking
about, that you just mentioned that is Bush tax cuts. Which I guess they
sort of treat like one word. Bush tax cuts.

SHARPTON: Right.

COX: So, you can forget that there was an actual person and actual
president that was behind that. And that reminds me that clip where Romney
said that basically the world has never seen economic policies like I`m
going to have.

SHARPTON: Right.

COX: Actually, we just saw them. You know?

SHARPTON: Well, it just show that there`s an actual person, and
actual things that occurred. You know, we looked into the whole Bush
policy. The debt exploded by $5 trillion, Richard.

WOLFFE: Right.

SHARPTON: Stock index collapsed 40 percent. 4.4 million jobs were
lost during the Bush last year. Just the last year, 4.4 million jobs.

WOLFFE: Right. Yes.

SHARPTON: I mean, we felt ambushed, pun intended.

WOLFFE: Right. You know, Republicans hate it when I point this out,
but Bush`s jobs record over eight years was a net gain of one million jobs.
Jimmy Carter created more jobs than that, ten times more jobs than that in
four years. So the jobs record of this kind of economic policy isn`t
great. But look, he left them a legacy. The policy on Afghanistan, for
instance, Mitt Romney says no date certain for withdrawal. That`s George
Bush`s.

Tax cuts is a way to drive the economy and drive the debt beyond that
is also George Bush`s approach. It`s not just him, it`s the whole team.
They need to embrace that or reject it. But this kind of middle ground is
not exactly what Chris Christie would say is courageous.

SHARPTON: Ana Marie, you`re on the floor. What`s the feeling like on
the floor? You`ve got big names and Paul Ryan certainly -- Condoleezza
Rice -- is there an excitement or is it like a wait and see attitude?
What`s the feeling?

COX: Well, you know what? I guess it`s a surprise. We`re hearing
that Paul Ryan speech is basically to be a retread of his stump speech
which just shows you how few new ideas they have here really.

SHARPTON: Wow. So we shouldn`t be looking for anything new.

COX: I`m sorry, I can`t hear you. There`s also a lot of music.

SHARPTON: Well, I`ll leave it be. We`ll watch and see what happens.

COX: Yes.

SHARPTON: Richard Wolffe and Ana Marie Cox, thank you for your time
tonight.

WOLFFE: Thank you.

SHARPTON: We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Tonight`s theme at the RNC is, "We Can Change It." And
there`s no doubt about it. Right here in Florida there`s been a big
change. And a disturbing one in voter registration. Look at this chart.
In the run-up to the 2004 and 2008 elections, Democrats signed up thousands
of new voters. But this year, democratic voter registration has fallen off
a cliff. Why? It`s because of the new limits on voter registration
groups.

Meantime, republican registration has remained basically the same.
These numbers are stunning. And it`s the clearest picture yet on what`s
really going on in this election. A massive GOP effort to suppress the
vote. There was some good news today in Florida. A federal judge said,
enough is enough. He removed all the new republican restrictions on voter
registration. This is a big victory.

But did it come too late? October 9th is the voter registration
deadline for Florida. That`s just six weeks away. Democrats a very short
window to make up lost ground. Remember, these voter limits in Florida
were just part of a national plan to suppress the vote. Here`s what
Florida`s former Republican Party chairman told me on the show earlier this
month.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM GREER, FMR. CHAIR, FLORIDA GOP: I sat in on many meetings where
it was discussed of how to make sure that what happened in 2008 when
President Obama brought out the college age voters, the minority voters
never happened again. Make sure that the Republican Party has an advantage
in this upcoming election by reducing early voting, putting road blocks up
for potential voters, Latinos, African-Americans to register and then to
exercise their right to vote.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: This is the GOP political strategy in 2012. An attack on
voter rights. That`s national in scope. But nowhere worse than right in
Florida. Which just means we`re all going to have to work that much
harder. The time that`s left to protect the vote. We all must do what is
right. Whether we`re republican or democrat to protect every right for
every voter in this country.

Thank you for watching tonight. And before we go, I want to say thank
you for the entire POLITICS NATION family for a great year. One year ago
tonight, we started this show and it`s all thanks to you at home.

MSNBC`s special coverage of the Republican National Convention starts
now.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED.
END

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