PoliticsNation, Thursday, August 30, 2012
Read the transcript from the Thursday show
August 30, 2012
Guests: David Bernstein; Ana Marie Cox; Zac Schultz, Ed Rendell, Jonathan Capehart, Michelle Cottle, Erin McPike
REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Thanks, Chris. And thanks to you
for tuning in.
Tonight`s lead, Mitt`s moments. In just a few hours, Mitt Romney will
accept his party`s nomination for president of the United States. Much of
tonight`s proceedings are dedicated to reintroducing Mister Romney to the
American people. To change minds and erase his sky-high negatives among
We`ll hear fellow Mormons talk about Romney`s faith. Something he
himself rarely addresses. And then a big part of the evening is devoted to
his time at Bain capital. It`s the company that made Romney even more
wealthy than he was. He`s now worth up to $250 million. But it`s been a
political liability for nearly 20 years.
Also tonight speakers will try to defend Mister Romney`s time as
governor of Massachusetts. He rarely talks about those four years in
Boston even though they`re his only experience as an elected public
official. Maybe it`s because Romney care became the model for Obama care.
And its mere mention causes the Republican base to freak out. Or maybe
it`s because Massachusetts ranked 47th out of 50th in job creation under
Finally tonight, we`ll also see several athletes from the 2002 Salt
Lake Olympics. Highlighting Mister Romney`s role in turning around the
games which happened thanks to more than a billion dollars in taxpayers`
funds. Yes, he built it with all of our help.
Mitt Romney enters tonight with a big opportunity and a big challenge.
He has very high negatives for a major presidential candidate. Can he ease
America`s doubts about his personality, his wealth, his compassion? We`ll
learn a lot more tonight.
Joining me now live from Tampa is a man who`s covered Mister Romney
for a long time. David Bernstein, political reporter with the "Boston
Phoenix" he recently wrote about Romney`s efforts to get voters to like
him, and Ana Marie Cox, Washington correspondent for "the Guardian."
Thank you both for joining me.
DAVID BERNSTEIN, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE BOSTON PHOENIX: Thank you.
ANA MARIE COX, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE GUARDIAN: Thanks.
SHARPTON: David, is it too late for Romney to try to fill in the
blanks on his biography?
BERNSTEIN: Well, I don`t think it`s too late to fill in the blanks.
He needs to talk to a lot of people who don`t know a lot of the details
because as you mentioned, he doesn`t talk about a lot of the details on the
campaign trail and there are a lot of people just tuning in now.
What I think is it`s a tough call for him to try to make himself
likable out of those details. That`s always been a problem for him going
back years and years. It`s something he and his pollsters and focus groups
and advisers all know. It sounds like they`re going to try to do that
tonight rather than really just strictly try to make him Mister Confident,
Mister Power point which is usually what he`s more successful at portraying
SHARPTON: So this likability question, this problem he has of
connecting with people has been a lifelong problem of his throughout his
BERNSTEIN: Well, certainly was it `94 when he ran against Ted
Kennedy. Kennedy was able to knock that likability down by portraying him
as the businessman who had gotten people laid off from their factories.
And in 2002, in fact, as I reported the campaign essentially acknowledged
amongst themselves that they couldn`t make him likable and scrapped some
plans for some into bio ads that were going to try to do that and went
negative early that year in that campaign.
SHARPTON: Now, Ana Marie, you covered John McCain and pro or con,
everyone knew John McCain`s clear message. We knew who he was. We knew
his consistent record. How do we deal with this convoluted kind of
picture, this kind of different picture, different time in his career that
we have of Mitt Romney? How do they tie this all together?
COX: You know, obviously they`re trying to tie it all together with
basically just an attack on Obama. I mean, I said this before, I`ve been
writing this all week. The only consistent theme here in Tampa is going
negative on Obama. I mean, that`s really the only thing that makes all of
this cohere. It is like the glue that holds them all together. And that`s
giving Mitt Romney some leeway, I think with his narrative.
But I`ve got to agree with David. I think, you know, Mitt Romney is
running to be our boss, you know. I mean, he`s running to be the guy who
can turn this around, to be CEO of America. We don`t always like our
bosses, you know. That can be OK. He`s a technocrat. I think he should
just be a technocrat. That is the actually ironically the genuine thing
for him to do.
SHARPTON: Now David, you mentioned Bain as well as Ana Marie just
did. We have some excerpts from Mitt Romney`s acceptance speech tonight.
And he is going to say among other things and we give you direct quote from
the excerpt, quote "when I was 37 I helped start a small company. That
business we started with ten people has now grown into a great American
So it seems that he`s going to try to now paint Bain as a great
American success story that started his little business that grew into a
success story. So the fact that people talk about-- he was called by one
of his Republican opponents about capitalism and all. You`re just anti-
American success is the narrative.
BERNSTEIN: Well, it`s interesting for him to portray it that way,
because obviously, having ten people is little different when you have one
of the biggest business consulting firms in the country backing you. And
there are some other things that just don`t fly with that. It`s also, by
the way, true that one of the reasons he has acknowledged in times when he
is not actively running for anything, he`s acknowledged that one of the
reasons that they were so successful and he got so rich and others got to
rich through Bain capital is because the stock markets soared during the
Bill Clinton years and they happened to ride on that when they were doing
their transactions in the market.
SHARPTON: So, are you suggesting that they think that Bain may not be
a negative for them in the fall?
BERNSTEIN: Well, I think they know they have to deal with it. They
know the Obama campaign is going to be coming after him portraying him as
this great, you know, evil wall street overlord who destroys jobs. So,
they have to deal with it somehow.
SHARPTON: Well Ana Marie, when you look at Bain ways, 1700 jobs lost.
The Bain profit of $242 million. That`s just out of Dade international.
GS industries, 750 jobs lost yet Bain made $12 u1million. AMPAD, 385 jobs
lost. Bain making $102 million.
When you look at this record him making money, others losing jobs, and
you combine that with his still refusing to release his tax records. So we
know what percentage he`s paying. We know where he banked and why he
banked and whether he used tax havens. Doesn`t this give a different
picture to the public about Mister Romney and the Bain story and the story
of his wealth and how he managed it?
COX: Well, when you look at the numbers, what numbers we have. I
mean, you`re right there`s a lot of numbers we don`t have those are the
numbers in those tax returns. But what you look at the numbers, what they
do have, there is difference between like the scrappy ten people that
started Bain and the thousands that have been laid off, I mean, that`s a
I don`t think that you can argue that he created jobs in a way that`s
going to go to a translate to anyway for a president can create jobs. I
mean, he has really has only governed, as you pointed out, once in
Massachusetts. And that is not even what he`s running on. He can`t run on
that because as you said before, Republicans kind of panic when you talk
about Romney care. It would be interesting to see what the floor reaction
was if someone did mention it from the dice. I can`t imagine it would be
SHARPTON: Now, you talked about the floor. Have you been talking to
any of the delegates, any of the people down there at Tampa at the
convention? Is there excitement for Romney? Is there excitement building
up about him tonight? What is the feel there, Ana Marie.
COX: Well, you know, I would be careful to say I`ve talked to a few
people. But you know, there`s not a scientific polling. I can`t say that
they are typical. But the people I`ve talked to are very much eager to get
Obama out of the White House. That really is where the energy is. They
tend to -- they`re supportive of Romney. I haven`t heard a lot of
criticism of him. I don`t hear people volunteering to me that they don`t
like the fact that he invented Romney care.
I hear people talking about him as a businessman. I hear people
saying that`s the only thing that matters to them right now is to turn the
economy around. So I wouldn`t say they`re resigned. That makes it sound
too negative, but they`re definitely sort of ling up, just lining up.
They`re being good soldiers. Good soldiers just have good soldiers just
enough. They just have to get to the front lines. They don`t have to be
eager to do it.
SHARPTON: Interesting. Thank you, David Bernstein, Ana Marie Cox.
Thanks to both of you so much for your time tonight.
COX: Thank you.
BERNSTEIN: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Coming up, thanks, Paul Ryan. The fact checkers were
working overtime last night. My colleague Lawrence O`Donnell joins me on
Paul Ryan`s fibs.
And we`ve seen a big push for diversity at the convention this year.
I think it`s great. But someone forgot to tell them about their own
All that, plus Republicans have found a man of true grit to give a big
speech tonight. A man with a message. That`s right. It`s Clint Eastwood.
He`s the big mystery speaker. More on that ahead.
You`re watching "Politics Nation" as we get ready for a big night at
the Republican convention right here on the place for politics, MSNBC.
SHARPTON: Hey, folks. Did you hear? Paul Ryan broke the fact
checkers` fact checking machine last night. The question is does it
matter? Paul Ryan`s pulp fiction with Lawrence O`Donnell, that`s next.
SHARPTON: We`re back on "Politics Nation" with a live look at the
floor of the RNC in Tampa.
It was the scene of Paul Ryan`s big speech last night. A speech that
I said would either leave him a champ or a chump. Well, he delivered. He
fired up the GOP. He brought the delegates to their feet. The only
problem, well, as pretty much everyone has pointed out, he played fast and
loose with the facts. He falsely attacked President Obama for raiding
Medicare. How many times has that been debunked? He blamed the credit
downgrade on the Obama administration. When it was his party that brought
us to the brink. He even slammed the president on debt, when Ryan himself
voted for the Republican policies that got us into this mess. But it was
this whopper about a GM plant in his hometown that really took the cake.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Right there at that
plant, candidate Obama said I believe that if our government is there to
support you, this plant will be here for another hundred years. That`s
what he said in 2008. Well, as it turned out, that plant didn`t last
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Yes. About that plant, it closed before President Obama
was even president.
Joining me now is Zac Schultz, reporter for NBC affiliate WMTV in
Zac, thanks for coming on the show tonight.
ZAC SCHULTZ, REPORTER WMTV-MADISON, WISCONSIN: My pleasure.
SHARPTON: Now, I want to show you a picture. It shows workers during
the last day of SUV production at Janesville GM plant. The banner they`re
holding says December 23rd, 2008. This picture says it all. Right?
Production was ended one month before President Obama took office. Am I
SCHULTZ: Well, I was there that day. And media wasn`t allowed on the
floor of the plant when the last car came off. That was the last day for
the major production at that factory. And the way the media covered it was
that was the end of the plant. That`s when the UAW workers walked off the
line. That`s when all the tearful goodbyes took place.
Now, the plant was idled after that and there were still some contract
work that went into the following year. But from the local perspective,
that was the end of the plant.
SHARPTON: Now, there`s a little confusion because the plant was
idling until April of 2009. Explain that.
SCHULTZ: There was still a contract to make some other vehicles that
weren`t GM products. And a limited number of workers had to fill out that
contract. And I believe that went to April of 2009. And those workers
were still there. But the rest of the workers had already left the plant.
It was already closed down and the union considered it closed.
SHARPTON: Zac Schultz, thanks for clarifying that tonight. So, it
closed in 2008 just idling beyond that. Thank you very much for that
SCHULTZ: My pleasure.
SHARPTON: Joining me now is Lawrence O`Donnell, host of MSNBC`s "the
Lawrence, thanks for coming on the show tonight.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST, THE LAST WORD: Great to be here with
you, Al. Al, I have to tell you, there`s a lot of people down in this
auditorium who wish you were here. Everybody I walk by says where`s the
Reverend Al? Why didn`t he come down?
SHARPTON: Oh, it must be a lot of protesters down there.
O`DONNELL: OK, mostly Al, it is the people who work in the building,
but there are a lot of friendly Republicans here who like you and would
love to have met you.
SHARPTON: Well, all right. Well, thank them for me.
But let me ask you something. Clearly Ryan had a little trouble
telling the truth last night. But at the end of the day, does it matter in
this election in your opinion?
O`DONNELL: Al, I think we`re in the home stretch here. Most people
have decided who they`re going to vote for. Most people are impervious to
what`s spoken in these conventions. We`re down to a flexible available
maybe seven percent of the vote. Everything these people say is targeted
at them. And those people are low information voters. They don`t consume
this kind of stuff very much. And so they are only going to hear the short
sentence version of something.
If the Republicans make a charge against the Democrats and the
democratic answer is a paragraph and it maybe has some numbers in it,
that`s going to be hard to get through. They have said -- they`ve accused
the president of raiding Medicare. The president has to come back with
another word. He`s going to come back and say that Paul Ryan wants to
abolish Medicare, make it raiding versus - they want to say raiding, you
have to say abolish. You cannot fight what they have with charts and
SHARPTON: Now, the fact that you`re saying that people have already
made up their mind means that there`s this small group in the middle. How
do we pull them? And are you saying that the facts are not the way you`re
going to pull them, it`s going to be based on other things?
O`DONNELL: It is going to be a lot of gut voting in that small group
that will end up deciding the election. And the final deciders, they`re
going to make up their minds in the final week. And we know this from exit
polling. And that, by the way, just to remind everybody is why these
campaigns are so expensive. They`re so expensive because the best way to
reach those voters and not this conventions, but 30 second television ads
that are stuck into the most popular TV shows on TV.
That`s where you find this kind of voter. You don`t find them
watching news TV. You don`t find them watching what we`re doing. And so,
it`s very important after these speeches that everyone does as much of a
fact check as we can do in every one of these speeches as fast as we can.
But I don`t want people thinking that that fact checked argument is
somehow going to be able to carry the day when you get into the place where
we are now in this election. This is way too close an election. And the
Democrats are going to have to be able to come back with very quick punches
that land more effectively than the Republican punches.
SHARPTON: Let`s try one Ryan last night talked about President
Obama`s attack on Medicare. Also how the Romney/Ryan ticket would save the
entitlement. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN: We had help from Medicare. And it was there. Just like it`s
there for my mom today. Medicare is a promise, and we will honor it. A
Romney/Ryan administration will protect and strengthen Medicare for my
mom`s generation, for my generation, and for my kids and yours.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Now, he dramatically referred to his mother who was there
in the audience. A nice lady, I`m sure. And he raised this point of
Romney/Ryan would save and preserve Medicare. But once you look at the
plan, is that so, Lawrence?
O`DONNELL: Well, Paul Ryan has a plan to abolish Medicare. It was a
disastrous political plan. He`s abandoned the complete abolish Medicare
plan and morphed it into something that partially abolishes Medicare and
sends it on the road to being an inadequate program. And by making it an
inadequate program. What Ryan hopes to do is diminish Medicare`s
The reason there`s a cheer in this building of Republicans and any
building you talk about Medicare it gets a cheer is because it`s a very
popular, very effective, and well run program. And people are staying
alive on that program. And they can afford to stay alive because of that
If Ryan gets his way, he`ll make it an unpopular program over time.
The more unpopular he makes it, the easier it will be for them to abolish
it. That is the final place they expect to go.
But first of all, they have to weaken it substantially as they would
under Paul Ryan`s design so it can then become unpopular and no longer get
cheers when you mention it in a convention hall. The important thing last
night, Reverend Al, Medicare got -- preserving, strengthening Medicare
which is their promise which we know is not what they would do. But
preserving strength on the Medicare got a huge cheer in a Republican
SHARPTON: Lawrence O`Donnell, I`m so happy you stopped to talk with
us tonight. And thanks for your time tonight.
O`DONNELL: Great to be with you.
SHARPTON: And don`t forget to tune into "the Last Word" week days at
10:00 p.m. Eastern time.
Coming up, Senator Marco Rubio is the last of many diverse speakers to
take the stage. But now it`s time to get serious about the policies.
And the biggest buzz heading into tonight is all about Clint Eastwood.
That`s right. He`s the big mystery speaker. Good luck following that act,
You`re watching "Politics Nation" as we get ready for Mister Romney`s
big night right here on the place for politics, MSNBC.
SHARPTON: Have you checked us out on facebook yet? The "Politics
Nation" conversation is going strong all day long.
Today, our "Politics Nation" family was buzzing about the RNC`s
mystery speaker Clint Eastwood. But we asked them who they wished had
gotten a speaking spot.
P Jay said Pinocchio, because then at least we could gauge his lies in
But Marie had out of the box pick. She wants to see the Romney tax
returns on that stage.
And our facebook community is still talking about Paul Ryan`s speech
from last night.
Brenda says quote, "Mitt Romney has a pre-existing illness, foot in
mouth disease. Who would have thought it was contagious?"
We want to hear what you think too. Head over to facebook and search
"Politics Nation" and like us to join the conversation that keeps going
long after the show ends.
SHARPTON: That`s a live look at the Republican National Convention
where Governor Romney will take the stage in just a few hours. Introducing
him will be Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a rising star and a leading voice
in his party on immigration. He also is just one of the many diverse
speakers taking the stage this week in Tampa.
Governor Nikki Haley, Condoleezza Rice, Mayor Mia Love, Governor
Susana Martinez and several others were featured. The Republican Party
should be commended for welcoming more minorities to their party. Give
credit where credit is due. But the party`s policies don`t match the
picture. And that`s the problem. Take a look at their official platform
approved this week. They oppose any form of amnesty for immigrants and
encourage illegal aliens to return home voluntarily.
And it is now party policy to require photo identification for voting
which disenfranchises millions of minority voters. And have you -- and you
would have to look at Governor Romney`s, have you looked at his attack on
President Obama`s welfare policies? Well, it`s a false attack. A false
attack with some ugly undertones. So, this diversity push is just an
Joining me now is former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell. He`s the
former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and now an NBC News
political analyst. And in Tampa is Jonathan Capehart, an opinion writer
for The Washington Post and an MSNBC contributor. Thank you both for being
JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Rev.
ED RENDELL, FORMER PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNOR: Our pleasure.
SHARPTON: Governor, as I said, I want to give credit to the GOP for
diversity on display. But what about the policies? How do the two come
RENDELL: Well, Rev, they don`t. And let me also say there was
diversity on the stage but not a whole lot of diversity in the audience.
The delegates had a distinctly common touch. They were older and they were
white. There were very few Latinos, very few African-Americans in the
crowd itself. So the diversity is somewhat phony and somewhat
Just like Paul Ryan was hypocritical in his speech. The policies done
in any way shape or form coordinate with that diversity. The things are
important to minority voters. African-American-Hispanics or getting them
back to work. And this Republican Party turned its back on a jobs bill
that the CBO says, would have produced at least a million new jobs by now.
In October, they had a chance to vote for that jobs bill. And those
are the types of jobs, construction jobs, manufacturing jobs that could
have been jobs filled by well paying jobs filled by minorities. They voted
against it purely because they didn`t want to give the President a victory.
And that`s how they`ve been on every issue whether it`s immigration,
whether it`s voting.
The voter ID thinks they should be ashamed simply ashamed of what
they`ve done. So the policies are so out of whack with this show of
diversity that I would hope that some of the GOP, some of them would do
like Charlie Crist does and say I`m ashamed where the party has taken me.
SHARPTON: You know, Jonathan, you`re down there in Tampa and you have
seen the display, I call it an optical illusion on the stage.
SHARPTON: But the people in the audience and Governor Rendell is
saying, it`s not diversity. I mean, how do they deal with the policies
while they`re telling people, we ought to be proud of seeing the diversity
on the stage but the policies don`t in any way seem to appeal to people
that are in those communities.
CAPEHART: Right. Well, keep in mind while the overall signs of
people here in the hall are overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly older,
there are African-Americans and Latinos here. There are people of color
delegates here at the Republican Party. And not just the folks we saw on
stage. I think the problem that`s going to come in for the Republican
Party isn`t so much what`s happening now in terms of the disconnect between
the candidates and the position of the Republican Party.
It`s going to be what happens in 2016. A lot of the people we saw on
the stages, Mia Love from Utah, Susana Martinez from New Mexico, Marco
Rubio from Florida. These are people of color who are going to -- if any
of these people run, I know Mia love hasn`t even gotten to Congress yet.
But if those people run and take a leadership position within the
Republican Party, the party itself is going to have to come to terms with
that very disconnect that you`re talking about. If the GOP is going to
survive and stop being a regional and reactionary party, it`s going to have
to take on these issues of immigration, gay rights, women`s issues, choice
issues head on.
SHARPTON: That`s assuming that any of those that run that you just
named bring up those issues.
SHARPTON: When you look at -- because some of them may just go
quietly and just say I`m not going to challenge anything. But when you
look at, for example Governor, you mentioned the welfare stuff that has
been said. The national journal had a story Ron Forney wrote a piece, real
disturbing piece about the Romney campaign playing the race card especially
in pushing the welfare issue. Let me just read you this quote from it.
"The welfare issue generally speaking triggers anger in white blue
collar workers that is easily directed towards Democrats. This information
comes from senior GOP strategists who have worked both for President Bush
and Romney. A senior GOP pollster said, he has shared with the Romney camp
surveys showing that white working class voters who backed Obama in 2008
have moved to Romney in recent weeks almost certainly because of the
Now, this is disturbing. Playing knowingly to some biases. You`ve
run and won as a democrat for governor in Pennsylvania. You`ve campaigned
successfully amongst white working class people. You do not have to
campaign this way to get their support.
RENDELL: No, you don`t. And there are certain things in the Romney
platform and what Romney`s been talking about that appeal to those voters
on a substantive level. You don`t have to do stuff like this. But the
problem for Romney is not white working class Democrats. He`s going to get
his share of them.
John McCain in Pennsylvania, Rev, four years ago carried 11 of the 12
southwestern democratic counties, carried 11 out of 12. Lost the state by
11 points because he got clobbered in the Philadelphia suburbs and the
Harrisburg suburbs and the Lehigh Valley suburbs. He got clobbered because
he has nothing to say and nothing to appeal to those independent voters,
moderate Republicans, moderate democrat who lives in the suburbs.
You cannot win a state like Pennsylvania or a state like Ohio in my
judgment just appealing to white working class blue-collar voters.
SHARPTON: Jonathan, it has been widely said by political operatives
that Mr. Romney must get a certain amount of the Latino vote. He`s been
polled at 0 percent of the African-American vote. He cannot run without
some support in minority communities. But just putting up people on the
stage doesn`t get that. I remember when I was born, my parents were
republican. My pastor was republican. And Jackie Robinson, the most
popular black at that time was a republican.
SHARPTON: First black to play baseball. But as the Democrats seem
more pro-civil rights, people in the black community shifted to where their
SHARPTON: Don`t the Republicans understand the way to get Latino
votes and other votes is not putting people on the stage but dealing with
their interests in their policies?
CAPEHART: Well, the GOP used to have chairman who understood that
very well. Ken Mehlman who was a Republican Party chairman understood that
and wanted to reach out. Michael Steele, another former Republican Party
chairman who wanted to reach out to African-Americans and Latinos to
broaden the tent of the party because the party can`t survive unless it
expands and unless -- particularly expands to include Latino voters. And
right now, you know, this tent, the Republican Party tent is extremely
SHARPTON: Governor, let me end this with you. Romney`s struggling to
win over several groups of voters. According to recent NBC poll. Should
he be courting them? Not pushing them further away in your opinion? Forty
one percent of women say they support him. Zero percent of blacks. Twenty
six percent of Latinos. If you were talking to him tonight before the big
speech, should he be courting in him or should he be trying to play off of
them, use them as a back board to score with other voters?
RENDELL: Yes. Because those voters are going to come out and vote
against President Obama no matter what. He`s got to appeal to the voters
you just talked about. He`s got to appeal to women voters. If I were him
tonight, I would make it clear even at the risk of getting booed by some of
the people in the hall, I would make it clear that a Romney administration
is going to be pro-life, but it is going to carve out exceptions for rape
and incest. I want to be abundantly clear about that women of America have
nothing to fear. You know, boom. Stuff like that. He`s got a carve out
on identity to make people think he`s got the guts to lead and the guts to
confront his own base.
SHARPTON: You say if you were him you`d say -- come on that stage and
say you`re pro-life.
RENDELL: No. I`d say I was pro-life but offer exceptions --
SHARPTON: All right. Governor, exhale, exhale. I don`t want you to
hold your breath for that one.
Governor Ed Rendell and Jonathan Capehart, thanks for joining us.
Have a good night.
CAPEHART: Thanks, Rev. Thanks.
RENDELL: Thanks, Rev.
SHARPTON: Coming up, it`s been a tale of two Romneys. One who flips
and one who flops. Which one will show up tonight?
And 45 years ago, Thurgood Marshall was confirmed as the first
African-American Supreme Court justice. It`s a reminder of how serious and
important this election is. You`re watching POLITICS NATION as we get
closer to the final night of this convention here on the place for
SHARPTON: The theme of last night`s Republican National Convention
was, "We Can Change It." Hey, I thought of something. The GOP has the
perfect slogan for a nominee who has changed on every position out there.
SHARPTON: The kickoff of Romney`s big night is just a few moments
away. Today, we learn the identity of tonight`s mystery guest is Oscar
winning actor Clint Eastwood. Isn`t it amazing? The guy who starred as
the hero with the unshakable moral core is stepping up for a candidate who
never met a position he didn`t like. Mr. Romney`s list of flop flops is
long and varying. On abortion, he was for woman`s choice before he was
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe that abortion
should be safe and legal in this country. I have since the time that my
mom took that position when she ran in 1970 as a U.S. Senate candidate. I
believe that since Roe V. Wade has been the law for 20 years that we should
sustain and support it.
I was pro choice. I am pro-life. 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: He favored a path for citizenship for undocumented
immigrants, before he opposed it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: My own view is consistent with what you saw in the Lowell Sun
that those people who had come here illegally and are in this country, the
12 millions or so that are illegally should be able to sign up for
permanent residency or citizenship.
If people don`t get work here, they`re going to self-deport.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Romney even flip-flopped on a republican icon. Ronald
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: I was an independent during the time of Reagan/Bush. I`m not
trying to return the Reagan/Bush.
The principles that Ronald Reagan espoused are as true today as they
were when he spoke them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Yesterday`s theme at this convention was, "We Can Change
It." Mr. Romney has always applied that to his own beliefs.
Joining me now is Michelle Cottle. She`s the Washington reporter for
The Daily Beast and Newsweek. And Erin McPike, reporter for Real Clear
Politics. Erin, thank you for being here to both of you, you and Michelle.
Erin, I want to start with you. Am I old fashioned or does flip-flopping
not matter anymore?
ERIN MCPIKE, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Al, it mattered a lot in Mitt
Romney`s first run for the presidency. It was a big mark against him from
his republican opponents when he was running in 2007 and 2008. It has not
been nearly as big of a theme in this particular campaign. The Obama
campaign tried to simply paint Mitt Romney as an extreme conservative.
But we`re not hearing as much about the flip-flops throughout this
general election. And we got some of it in this past primary, but it was a
much bigger issue for Mitt Romney in that first election. And I think the
Romney campaign has tried really hard to show that Mitt Romney is a
convicted politician. Even if he has had these flip-flops in the past.
SHARPTON: Well, he is convicted. It`s just that he doesn`t stay
convicted long. Michelle, let`s look at a few of his flip-flops that I
didn`t mention. Gun ownership in 2007, he said he owned a gun. Days
later, he said it was his son`s gun. On same-sex marriage in 2002, he
opposed same-sex marriage. But as the Massachusetts governor, he signed a
same-sex marriage law.
And in May, he told students at a conservative liberty university that
marriage is between one man and one woman. On Grover Norquist no tax
pledge, he refused to sign it when he was running for governor in 2002.
But Romney signed the pledge earlier this year. I mean, over and over
again flip-flop after flip-flop. How can you think this man has any real
MICHELLE COTTLE, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, that has been their challenge
all along. And you saw it come up a lot during the primaries when a lot of
his conservative opponents were pointing out that he had not exactly been
steadfast on these things. And you saw Romney just run far to their right
as they could. So, you saw him trying to get to Rick Perry`s right on the
immigration issues and kind of convinced the base that they could trust
him. But this has been an enduring issue. And he`s going to have to kind
of work on that still going forward.
SHARPTON: Now, let me go back to you a minute. Erin, you said that
it hasn`t been a big issue in this campaign. But today, the Obama campaign
released an etch-a-sketch video saying that Romney can`t shake his
Massachusetts record. Look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: What he did do was add $750 million in fees which
is just another way that the government collects money like taxes.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: If Mitt Romney`s an economic heavy weight, we`re in
trouble. Because he was 47th out of 50 in job creation in the State of
Massachusetts when he was governor.
ROMNEY: I was a severely conservative republican governor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: So, if this is a video released today, if the Obama
campaign is going to use his flip-flopping in the fall, wouldn`t that be a
MCPIKE: I suspect that they will use it more -- I think the point is
that the Obama campaign is trying to run a choice race between the
different visions that we`re seeing from President Obama and from Mitt
Romney. Tonight`s speech, I`ve seen the excerpts. He doesn`t get into
some of the nuances of policy. He`s going to be laying out of broader
vision in talking about his personal background. The flip-flopping charge
is something that may get addressed in greater detail later this fall, but
again the Obama campaign is trying to say that Mitt Romney is going to take
the nation in a very different direction than the President has.
SHARPTON: Now, he`s going to get into specifics later. But isn`t
that a problem, Michelle, that a lot of independent voters, not those that
are with Romney, not those that are with the President, but Independent
voters are wanting to hear what specifically are the policies. The
President has governed in one way. What specifically are you saying, Mr.
Romney, about Medicare, about health care in general and about a lot of the
issues that a lot of independents are very concerned about? Isn`t that
something he`s going to have to present to the people, Michelle?
COTTLE: He is going to have to present it to the people. But I
don`t know that he`s going to need to do that tonight. I mean, this
convention speech is his last best chance to address what is still his
biggest problem. Kind of the issue of whether or not he is a relatable
human guy with a core, and, you know, he`s going to have to get up there
and try to do what everybody had said Ann was going to do and what we`ve
been waiting for him to do all along which is kind of just give people a
general sense of who he is. And when you`re trying to do that, policy
details often get in the way. Which I`m sure is the position he`s going to
take and tried to kick those detail discussions down the road even farther.
SHARPTON: Now, you wrote a piece saying that Ann Romney connected
pretty well, but it`s not going to help him. How does he connect if he
doesn`t have that kind of personality, or do you think he does have it and
he just hasn`t revealed it yet?
COTTLE: Oh, I don`t think he has it. I mean, I think he suffers from
the Al Gore problem a little bit which is no matter how charming he may be
in private, in public he is very awkward and doesn`t connect well. And
what Ann did was she came across very well. And she told some lovely
stories about her. But even when she was trying to tell us how great he
was, she didn`t have any specific anecdotes. She didn`t come across with,
you know, those kinds of political stock and trade.
You know, one time he was there with this sick person, or one time he
was -- you know, kind of things that are really basic showing you how
somebody really is at heart. And so, I don`t even know that he`ll be able
to go much farther than that. Although one of the issues people are
buzzing about is how far into kind of his faith he`ll get. That`s one of
the big question marks out there. And I think it would be important for
him if he could do that just little bit.
SHARPTON: Erin, you`ve traveled with the Romney campaign throughout
the year. Are they concerned? Are they worried about the connect factor?
Are they pretty much set that he can pull this off tonight?
MCPIKE: The connection factor, I mean, I think this speech is written
to show a lot about his personal life. I think he`ll talk a lot about his
father. He`s not going to get into the tenants of Mormonism at all, but he
will say how his faith has shaped his life and how it`s driving him with
this sense of obligation to run for president. I think we`ll see that and
a little bit more about the passion that he has for doing this.
SHARPTON: Well, passion and Romney is not often in the same
sentence. Thank you Erin, thank you Michelle. Thank you both for your
MCPIKE: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Coming up, why Thurgood Marshall reminds us today just how
serious this election is. That`s next.
SHARPTON: Welcome back. There`s big news today out of Texas on
voting rights. A federal court has struck down the state`s new voter ID
law because it would undermine minority voting. Saying the law imposes
quote, strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor. This is an important
victory for democracy and fairness. But the fight is far from over. Texas
says, it will appeal to the Supreme Court. And a similar voter ID law in
South Carolina might end up there as well. That`s why the makeup of the
Supreme Court is critical to protecting the right to vote. Tonight at the
RNC, we`ll hear Mitt Romney`s vision for this country. But we already know
his favorite justices.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: With just a name, favorite Supreme Court justice.
ROMNEY: Roberts, Thomas, Alito and Scalia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: What would happen to voting rights, to workers rights, to a
woman`s right to choose if there are even more conservative justices on the
bench? They would literally change history. On this date 45 years ago,
Thurgood Marshall made history. He was confirmed as the first African-
American Supreme Court justice. It was the beginning of a distinguished
career defending justice and civil rights on the nation`s highest court.
He helped change America for the good.
Let`s keep that in mind as we think about what kind of justice would
be nominated in the years to come. It`s just one more reason why this
election is so important. This election is more than about personalities.
More than about some got you statement. Whoever`s president may choose two
to three new justices, and they will make laws our children, grandchildren,
and great grandchildren will have to live under.
Thanks for watching. I`m Al Sharpton. MSNBC`s special coverage of
the Republican National Convention starts now.
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