updated 9/12/2012 11:04:42 AM ET 2012-09-12T15:04:42

POLITICS NATION
September 11, 2012

Guests: Jim McDermott; Michelle Cottle, Steve Kornacki, Alicia Menendez, Dana Milbank


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

Tonight`s lead, war and politics. Americans across the country pause
today to remember those who lost their lives on September 11th. President
Obama addressed the families of 9/11 victims in a solemn ceremony at the
Pentagon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No matter how many
years pass, no matter how many times we come together on this hallowed
ground, know this, that you will never be alone. Your loved ones will
never be forgotten. We know that somewhere, a son is growing up with his
father`s eyes and a daughter has her mother`s laugh. Living reminders that
those who died are with us still.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: And today out of respect, Mitt Romney said he`d put aside
his differences with the president. But not all Republicans did.

On this day, Senator John McCain, the Republican`s most trusted voice
on national security, made an appalling claim.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: As far as the Middle East is
concerned, this present`s national security policy has been an abysmal
failure. I have not seen a more reckless foreign policy since President
Carter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Feckless foreign policy? Does the al-Qaeda think the
president is a feckless failure?

But McCain was not alone. This morning, Rudy Giuliani, the man who
once called America`s mayor, went down to ground zero and criticized the
president on Iran.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: There has to be a sense of
urgency about stopping them instead of this almost irrational desire to
negotiate with them. They have to be afraid of us if we`re going to stop
them. And I`m not certain that`s the case right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Look, criticizing the president`s foreign policy is fine.
But doing it on September 11th and from ground zero? That`s really too
much.

And yesterday former vice president Dick Cheney claimed Americans
were, quote, "offended at what he called President Obama`s effort to take
sole credit for the killing of Osama bin Laden."

That`s not true either. President Obama praises the SEALs who killed
bin Laden every chance he gets. The truth is, Republicans are desperate
because for the first time in decades, they can`t pretend like they are
trusted on the issue of national security. For years they`ve campaigned as
if they were the only ones who could be tough on America`s enemies, the
only party that could keep America safe. Republicans have used the image
of war and tragedy to make political arguments.

In 2004 President Bush even used a photo of ground zero in a political
ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m George W.
Bush and a prove this message.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The last few years have tested America in many
ways. Some challenges we`ve seen before. And some were like no others.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: 9/11 families accused the Bush campaign of exploiting the
tragedy. But he refused to stop running the ads. That was 2004. But 2012
is different. Bin laden is dead and the Bush wars are ending. Americans
trust President Obama on national security because Mitt Romney is literally
not talking about the issues that matter to them.

In his speech at the Republican convention, Romney didn`t say the
words al-Qaeda or September 11th. He also failed to mention Iraq and
Afghanistan. More than 55,000 Americans have been killed or injured in
those wars but Mr. Romney didn`t think the wars were worth mentioning, in
his own speech at his own convention.

Here`s how he tried to explain the oversight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I find it interesting that
people are curious about mentioning words in a speech as opposed to policy.
I have some differences on policy with the president. I happen to think
those are more important than what word I mention in each speech.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Do you regret opening up this line of
attack, now a recurring attack, by leaving out that issue in the speech?

ROMNEY: I only regret you repeating it day in and day out. When you
give a speech you don`t go through a laundry list. You talk about the
things you think are important.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: You talk about the things that are important. Doesn`t that
include wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Today one of Romney`s foreign policy
advisers criticized the Obama campaign for pointing this out saying, quote,
"it doesn`t surprise me that they`re raising foreign policy because it`s
another distraction from the administration`s terrible economic record.
They`re going from one shiny object to the next."

A distraction? A shiny object? Our national security is much more
than that. And every democrat knows it.

Joining me now is Congressman Jim McDermott, Democrat from Washington
and a veteran of the U.S. Navy and MSNBC political analyst, Richard Wolffe.
He is the author of "revival, the struggle for survival inside the Obama
White House."

Thanks to both of you for being here tonight.

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Thanks, Reverend.

SHARPTON: Congressman, how would you assess the politics of September
11th?

REP. JIM MCDERMOTT (D), WASHINGTON: Can`t hear him.

SHARPTON: I said, how would you assess the Republicans` history of
playing politics with September 11th?

I don`t think you hear me. Let me go to Richard. Richard, how would
you --

WOLFFE: Well, look. They have not been shy about doing this before.
It`s interesting that they`ve raised all sorts of worries and criticisms of
the president for making his references to the mission that killed bin
Laden. So, they`re playing by a different set of rules. But in any way,
it doesn`t matter what they have done in the past. It doesn`t matter what
they say about the president`s policy.

Voters know, this president made the gutsy call to order that mission
that killed America`s number one enemy. And it didn`t stop there. Its
core leadership of al-Qaeda has been decimated by this president`s
approach. We can decide and argue about whether that`s appropriate and
whether civil liberties have been protected. But his position has been
strong. You could see it between the two conventions.

I never thought I would live to see the day post 9/11 when Republicans
would give up, surrender, the territory they had spend decades building up
on national security. Mitt Romney should know he doesn`t have a policy
other than the words he says. There is no difference for him between words
and policy. The words count.

SHARPTON: Now, congressman McDermott, I understand you can hear me
now, when you look at the poll who says, who do you trust more, on
terrorism President Obama heads his opposition Mr. Romney 51 percent/40
percent. On international affairs he heads him 51 to 38. This is quite a
turn-around in terms of the Democratic Party candidate out polling in areas
of terrorism and national security.

And given the history of how the Republicans have used 9/11, how do
you respond to both the history of using today politically and how today
they find themselves in an unusual position where they`re actually polling
less than the incumbent democratic president on an issue of national
security?

MCDERMOTT: It has never been true, Al, that Democrats didn`t care
about national security. You look through our history, Democrats have led
the way. Democrats have done things over and over again. The Republicans,
however, have put on a tremendous PR campaign that somehow we don`t care
because we would like to have peace and we talk about arms reduction and
things like that.

But the fact is, Democrats have been strong. The president is
thoughtful. The president thinks through very carefully. And then is
decisive. The fact he`s thoughtful doesn`t mean he can`t make decisions or
won`t make the tough decisions. It was a tough call to send those SEALs in
on that trip into Pakistan to get Osama bin Laden. That was not an easy
call. He knew what had happened to Jimmy Carter when he tried something
similar before, and yet he made the decision and went after it. And that
is -- that is absolutely correct that the people have figured it out. That
the Democrats are the ones who stand up.

I listen to that speech and didn`t hear him mention Afghanistan and I
thought, he must have lost a page out of his speech or something. How
could you do that?

SHARPTON: That`s my point, Richard. How is it even politically
feasible, particularly if you`ve been the party of national security and
fighting terrorism, to not mention Afghanistan, not mention Iraq, not
mention any of that at all? Are they thinking the public is just going to
naturally support them when they`re not even presenting a policy to
support?

WOLFFE: Look, you`re running for not just president but you`re
running for the position of commander in chief. One of the basic bars have
you to cross is to show you can handle the responsibility of commander in
chief. That`s what traditionally candidates have try to do and that`s what
Mitt Romney will have to try to do in debate.

Republican strategist, of any whether affiliated with the Romney
campaign will tell you, this was a self-inflicted wound. There`s no need
for them to do this. That`s fascinating, that quote that you put up
earlier, from the unnamed Romney foreign policy adviser, who describes
foreign policy as a shiny object. What are they thinking? The troops are
not a shiny object. We have 100,000 troops or more in Afghanistan. We
don`t really know what Mitt Romney`s policy is if there is an alternative,
let him go out and debate it, But don`t avoid the subjects.

SHARPTON: Congressman McDermott, isn`t that the point? We don`t know
the policy. In fact, President Obama this weekend criticized Romney on
foreign policy saying just that. Let me play it to you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: He said it was tragic for me to end the war in Iraq as I did.
He won`t tell us how he`ll end the war in Afghanistan. In fact, didn`t
even mention it in his speech at his convention.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: He won`t tell us how he will end the war. So if you`re
concerned about foreign policy, you`re concerned about even today we see
things around the world that is anti-American. How do you not address that
if you`re running for the president of the United States and commander in
chief, as Mr. Romney is?

MCDERMOTT: It`s inconceivable to me, Al, that the American people
would take Romney seriously after what he did at the convention. Because
the American people, the first job of the president, is to make the
American people safe, to defend the country, to protect the country. And
for him to come up there and not even talk about what`s going on in a whole
bunch of places, whether you want to talk about Syria or Libya or all the
places that the president has had to stand up, make decisions and stand
behind those decisions and come out beautifully on most of them, I -- I
think that Romney is afraid that he can`t do it. That`s why he doesn`t say
anything about it. There`s no other explanation except that he`s afraid.
He knows he ought to be talking about it.

SHARPTON: Now, Richard. Romney`s team, 17 of his 24 advisers served
under the Bush administration. And the reason that becomes relevant today
is Kurt Eichenwald in "The New York Times" came out with intelligence
briefings in 2001. May 1st group presently in the U.S. Mr. Bush was
informed. June 22nd, attack could be imminent. This is June of 2001.
June 29th, dramatic consequences from attack. July 1st, attack will occur
soon. August 6th, bin Laden determined to strike in U.S. These are way
before September 11th in that year. So, there was a lot more warning to
Bush and his team than what we previously thought these MOs in the report -
- the memos and reports are correct, yet some of the people from that team
we don`t know if these are the ones that saw this, but we don`t know
whether or not, they`re part of the Bush strategy in terms of being
advisers to him on foreign policy.

WOLFFE: Right. I find it hard at this point to be shocked by many
things around 9/11. But this actually, this reporting by Kurt Eichenwald,
it is great. People should go check it out because it is shocking. It`s
still shocking after all these years to hear that there were advisers
around the president at that time who disregarded the intelligence that was
filtering up through the system and was so determined about to go after
Saddam Hussein, pre-9/11, never mind post-9/11, that they were willing to
disregard the intelligence.

Given where they ended up campaigning, you would think -- and given
where we ended up with Iraq, you would think they learned those lessons.
But yet again, you heard mayor Giuliani talking about Iran above all, and
senator McCain saying everything has been a mess, they should learned that
misdirected priorities is no way to balance out this country`s national
security.

SHARPTON: We have to leave it there.

Congressman Jim McDermott and Richard Wolffe. Thank you both for your
time on this 9/11 day.

And certainly, we give our -- all of us together certainly give our
prayers for the families of 9/11 and we`re determined to make sure 9/11
doesn`t happen again.

Coming up, Mitt Romney was supposed to be Mr. Economy. But the
American people have a different idea. Good news for the president today.

Also, signs of panic in the GOP. More and more Republicans are
criticizing their nominee. All that.

Plus, here comes the big dog, Bill Clinton is stumping for the
president in Florida today. And it`s about to get a whole lot worse for
the Romney team. Big news from Bill Clinton today.

You are watching "politics Nation" only in MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Do you folks hear that? It`s a special request from the
Republican Party. Panic time in the GOP. It`s coming up. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Welcome back, folks. We have a big winner. East he`s
billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, the guy who pledged $100 million
to Governor Romney`s campaign. And here`s how his investment would pay off
under President Romney.

According to a report, Adelson would get $6 million in tax cuts for
being a casino CEO. A $476 million break on corporate dividends. A $300
million permanent tax exemption for profits on overseas investments. And a
$600 million special tax holiday for foreign profits. In total, he gets a
$2.3 billion tax cut. Jackpot for the billionaire.

And under the Ryan plan Mr. Romney himself would pay less than one
percent in taxes. Another jackpot for the multimillionaire.

So the middle class gets squeezed and the rich get richer? How`s that
fair? How is this supposed to help the economy?

But the American people are onto this re-gain. A new poll shows more
Americans trust the president to handle the economy than Mr. Romney, 47
percent to 45 percent. This comes of another poll that has the president
leading the economy. This election is about choice, is about fairness, and
the president is getting the message out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Here in America, hard work will pay off. And here in America,
responsibility will be rewarded. That everybody gets a fair shot.

I`m asking you to rally around some goals, concrete, achievable goals
in manufacturing and energy and education. In reducing our deficit, that
will lead to new jobs and more opportunity. And it will rebuild our
economy on a stronger foundation. That`s what the next four years are
about. That`s why I`m running for president. That`s why I need your
support. That`s why I need your support.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Do you want an America that`s fair or one that`s rigged?

Joining me now is Michelle Cottle, Washington reporter for "the Daily
Beast" and "Newsweek" and Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, a fellow at University
of Texas and an MSNBC contributor.

Thanks to both of you for being here tonight.

VICTORIA Good evening, Reverend.

SHARPTON: Michelle, let me start with up. More Americans now trust
the president on the economy. What happened?

MICHELLE COTTLE, WASHINGTON REPORTER, THE DAILY BEAST, NEWSWEEK:
Well, one of the things is what didn`t happen. Mitt Romney didn`t get into
his plan how he would make it better to a degree most people were
comfortable with. I mean, also in this poll, was the number the vast
majority of people don`t feel like they have a good grasp of what he would
do to make things better.

So while the majority of people still don`t approve of how Obama is
doing on the economy, they don`t think they would be better off under a
Romney presidency. And a lot of them don`t think there`s anybody who could
have done better than this. It`s what Bill Clinton told us during his
speech on some level.

SHARPTON: Now, Victoria, a new "Washington Post"/ABC news poll raised
the question to Americans who they trusted to advance the interest of the
middle class, and the president had a 15-point edge, 53 to 38. That`s a
big edge when you`re asking this question about who would advance the
middle class`s interest more.

Why do you think there`s such a gap there between who they feel would
do that in terms of the president and his opponent?

VICTORIA DEFRANCESCO SOTO, FELLOW, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS: Well,
Reverend, I think the campaign was last week, the convention was very
successful in delivering the message that you don`t swap horses` midstream.

The president`s speakers, especially Bill Clinton, acknowledged the
economic pain but they reminded the electorate that this was an external
shock. And that while things aren`t ideal, you need to stay the course.
Now, I found it very interesting that this message of staying the course
and that slow and steady improvement is a lot of what we saw in 2004 coming
out of the Republican national convention with Bush. Dealing with terror
not the economy, but in saying, we had this external shock. We need to
move forward. And I just can`t help but see the other similarities in
terms of the challenger to incumbent`s president. Where in 2004 we saw
John Kerry, a (INAUDIBLE), somebody that was just out of touch with the
electorate and same thing with Romney.

SHARPTON: Now Michelle, when you look also at the Romney/Ryan ticket
and deal with the fact that it appears that many Americans are - did not
trustful of Romney handling the economy, maybe they`re looking at Ryan`s
budget plan, which really clearly makes these points. It cuts $1.5
trillion from affordable care act, cuts $200 billion from Medicare, $770
billion from Medicaid, cuts the top tax rate from 35 percent to 25. I
mean, these are clearly not things you would say are fighting in the
interest of the middle class.

COTTLE: A lot of people inside Washington, particularly Republican
Party leaders, were really excited about Ryan`s plan and kind of what an
intellectual he is within the party. But they forgot that in the midterms
Ryan`s plan was taken out by a lot of politicians and they got clobbered
with it. It`s got a lot of controversial parts. And nobody`s going to
want to go down into Florida and talk about cutting Medicare or Medicaid
and, you know, have to answer to those voters for this. And the kind of
finer details of, well, would Ryan cut it for this generation of Medicare
recipients or change for the next one? Those are going to get lost in the
campaign shuffle.

SHARPTON: But Michelle, wasn`t Romney the Mr. Economy, the Mr. Fix it
guy? So I mean, the fact that he ran as that and he`s been rejected in
that area, which is normally a Republican stronghold, that`s a big deal,
isn`t it?

COTTLE: This is hard for him, but is also as partly that he didn`t
come up with his own plan. He has always kind of latched onto the Ryan
plan. And this is where I think Democrats are going to say, well, you
know, there`s a big difference between the kind of business maneuvers that
Romney does, where, you know, you shift jobs overseas and you kind a pare
down businesses and try to actually build up a society and run a
government. They`re going to make that contrast.

SHARPTON: Now, Victoria, when you look at a report from the economic
policy institute, it shows how out of control the wealth gap has grown.
And in that gap, it`s harder to argue tax cuts when the median income for
household in terms of their wealth, rather, the median wealth of household
in America, $57,000. But for the top one percent, their net worth was over
$16 million. That`s a 288 times as large as the median household wealth.

How do you and that kind much gap say the rich ought to continue to
get more cuts and not the middle class and the poor?

SOTO: Well, I think what Michelle said is the fact that Romney is not
showing any leadership. He`s not giving folks an alternative plan. So,
there`s nothing there to hang your head on. And then, folks just don`t
connect with Romney. They see him. And he`s a super wealthy man. They
don`t share his lifestyle. And the likability factor creeps in. And we
saw this is in the polling coming off the convention that folks just don`t
relate to him. There was a great question in there about who would you
want to have at your house for dinner? Only a third of them said Romney
and well over half said President Obama because he`s just so out of touch.
He`s that one percent compared to the rest of the 99 percent.

SHARPTON: Michelle Cottle and Victoria DeFrancesco Soto. Thanks for
your time tonight.

SOTO: Thanks.

SHARPTON: From Rush Limbaugh to Rupert Murdoch, more and more on the
right are freaking out about chaos of the Romney campaign.

Plus the secretary of explaining stuff, Bill Clinton is making a key
argument for President Obama in a critical swing state. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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Ron says, "Today we are all Americans, period.

And Richard hopes, "One day we`ll all put aside our differences and
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Patricia is hopeful. "America always comes back stronger than ever."

She`s right about that. We want to hear your thoughts, too. Head
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there.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Welcome back to POLITICS NATION. Did anyone happen to
catch Governor Romney`s rally yesterday? I was really struck by the music
they played when he walked out. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Please welcome the next president of the United States,
Mitt Romney!

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: No, no, they weren`t actually playing "freak out" but they
might as well have because his party is in panic mode. Rupert Murdoch is
back to giving advice on twitter, telling Romney to stop fearing the far
right which has nowhere else to go, otherwise no hope. That`s mild
compared to Murdoch`s paper. "The Wall Street Journal" headline today, the
GOP candidate might try explaining his policies. Just a thought.

At this point, conservative columnist Byron York writes, "Republican
nervousness threatens to turn into a stampede." And even the far right
blog Newsmax seems to have thrown in the towel. The poll on their front
page asks, can Romney make a comeback? Other than that, everything is
great with the Romney team. No, I`m kidding. Just listen to the right
wing talkers. Sounds like desperation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: If Obama wins, let me tell you what it`s the end
of, the Republican Party.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: If you can`t beat Barack Obama with this record,
then shut down the party.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: If the Republican Party cannot win in this
environment, it has to get out of politics and find another --

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: No, I think --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Can`t you feel the optimism?

Joining me now is Steve Kornacki, co-host of "The Cycle" here on
MSNBC, he`s writing about this Mitt Romney specificity problem. Even
Republicans are calling on Romney to provide policy details. And Alicia
Menendez, host and producer for "HuffPost Live." Thank you both for being
here.

STEVE KORNACKI, CO-HOST, "THE CYCLE": Sure.

ALICIA MENENDEZ, PRODUCER, "HUFFPOST LIVE": Thank you, Rev.

SHARPTON: Steve, 56 days to go and panic in the GOP. Have you ever
seen a party this unsure about their candidate?

KORNACKI: Yes, I have, I would say, Bob Dole in 1996, the republican
who ran against the last democratic incumbent to seek re-election and there
was a point in that campaign where Republicans basically concluded, Dole
wasn`t going to be the winner. But what`s different this time is, I think
when you looked that in 1996, you could say, you know, there was no way
under that climate, improving economy that Dole was ever going to unseat
Clinton. So, Republicans weren`t that, you know, upset about it.

What you`re seeing in this comments you just played, is there is an
absolute convictions among Republicans that this election is theirs. That
this is election they should be winning, because the unemployment rate is
so high, because there might economic anxiety so rampant. That there is no
excuse for their party to be losing this. And on top of that, they already
came into this campaign without much trust, without much faith in Mitt
Romney.

So, all it takes, really is Romney -- it`s still a winnable race for
Romney, but if Romney falls behind, three, four, five points, like we`re
seeing this week, that`s when the panic sets in at a level we haven`t seen
before because they`re waiting to pounce with, you know, second guessing
and Monday-morning quarterbacking and that sort of thing.

SHARPTON: Now, Alicia, even former republican Senate majority leader
Trent Lott has slammed Romney`s lack of specifics today in The New York
Times saying, Mr. Romney needs to say clearly, you elect me, this is what
you`re going to get. But not only Alicia is Romney refusing to offer
specifics, he`s even flip-flopping on things like health care. Just listen
to his change in logic within one day. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I`m not getting rid of all of health care reform. Of course.
There are a number of things that I like in health care reform that I`m
going to put in place. One is to make sure that those with preexisting
conditions can get coverage.

Well, of course, I`m going to repeal Obamacare. I`ve said that on the
campaign trail, I think, every single day. Obama care must be repealed.
In its entirety.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: In its entirety. So, how does this indecisiveness play
into the GOP panic they we`re seeing, Alicia?

MENENDEZ: It should be panicked about much more than Mitt Romney.
They should be panicked about their entire processes. This is something we
saw happened four years ago. Where in order to win the GOP primary, you
have to attack so far to the right on every issue, whether it is on
immigration, whether it is on health care, whether it is on taxes and the
economy. But then you are virtually unelectable when you come into the
general election. And that`s what we`re seeing happen with Mitt Romney.

Yes, he talked every day about repealing Obamacare because he needed
to do that in order to win the republican primary. It`s not necessarily a
popular position in a general electorate that that has pieces of Obamacare
that they very much like and that they`re very much attached to. So, this
is a problem that, yes, is specific in some ways to Mitt Romney but it`s
much larger. It`s about the identity of the GOP. And win or lose in
November, that`s something they`re going to have to grapple with two years
down the line and four years down the line.

SHARPTON: Now, I think that, Steve, Rush Limbaugh yesterday summed
up what most conservatives think. And that is, it doesn`t matter who
Romney is. The base is voting against Obama. Listen to Mr. Limbaugh.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I know that Romney is not ideal.
And I know that Romney ticks you off. Romney, the best thing he can do is
remember this election isn`t about him. He may as well be Elmer Fudd as
far as we`re concerned. We`re voting against Obama.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Is being against Obama enough to win an election though?

KORNACKI: That is what Republicans, I think, and we`re all sort of
finding out right now. I mean, again, we had two months to go, let`s see
what happens but at this point, we can say Obama is ahead in this race
right now and Obama has basically been ahead in this race all the way. Not
by a huge margin but by, you know, two, three, four points consistently.
And that`s about where it is right now. Maybe climbing little higher with
the convention bus.

And that saying to me is, what Romney has tried to be in this
campaign, more than anything else, is the generic protest vehicle to take
swing voters, who are economically anxious and to be as inoffensive and as
bland to them as possible so if they`re ready to throw out Obama, they will
say, good enough, when they look at Romney and they won`t second-guess
themselves.

And what you`re finding is, for all their effort to be that bland,
generic candidate it`s only getting them about 46, 47 percent. He has not
led, since he became the republican nominee, in the spring, he has not
polled ahead in any of these polling averages against Obama. I think
that`s significant.

SHARPTON: Now, Alicia, Steve Kornacki says that he has time to win
but national journalist Charlie Cook points out that it may be too late for
Romney to sell himself personally. He writes, the Romney campaign made the
extraordinary decision to not try seriously to connect their candidate with
voters on a personal level until their convention, but the biographical
film and the testimonies of people whose lives had been touched by Romney
were powerful, necessary, and largely unseen. He goes on to say, debates
can and have been critical but they`re tougher venues for demonstrating
empathy. What do you think, Alicia?

MENENDEZ: I mean, there`s a question about if there is a Mitt Romney
that they can sell to voters, whether or not it`s too late. We`ve seen
various versions of Mitt Romney, whether it`s his policy positions or his
bio, the points that they chose to reference. And I think all of that is
just a backdrop to his policies. You know, when you have a tax plan that
raises taxes on 95 percent of Americans. You have middle class families,
their taxes are going up by about $2,000 a year.

And then you put that against the backdrop of someone who`s perceived
to be out of touch, who doesn`t necessarily understand the challenges and
concerns of everyday middle class Americans, that compounds into an unhappy
situation for team Romney. So, I don`t know if it`s too late. I don`t
know that they ever had much of a narrative to share.

SHARPTON: Steve, just on that last point which she just said, Reuters
points out that Romney is even having problems with southern whites.
Sheryl Harris voted twice for George Bush, she`s raised a Baptist. She`s
convinced despite all the evidence to the contrary, President Obama is a
practicing Christian, is a Muslim. So, in this year`s presidential
election, will she support Mitt Romney? Not a chance. She says, she`ll
vote for Obama at least he wasn`t brought up filthy rich. Interesting.

KORNACKI: That`s very interesting. I did not think we`d find too
many people who believe he`s a Muslim, we`re still voting for him. But
that`s -- what she`s talking about there, that sort of, you know, the
economic connection, the cultural connection through his upbringing.

SHARPTON: Right.

KORNACKI: That was a problem for him in the republican primaries. He
was losing when it was still competitive with him and Santorum and him and
Newt Gingrich. He was losing the blue collar in middle class Republicans,
he was winning, he was doing extremely well among sort of country club
Republicans, those of the $100,000 and above income. But when he got
blown-out by Gingrich in South Carolina, that was a working class, middle
class republican uprising against him.

SHARPTON: Well, he`s still doing well in those quiet rooms. Sshhh.
Steve Kornacki and Alicia Menendez, thanks for coming on the show tonight.

And catch Steve on "The Cycle," weekdays at 3 p.m. Eastern right here
on MSNBC.

Still ahead, the message from Bill Clinton that Republicans don`t
want to hear. But first, we found the perfect zoo for Newt Gingrich. Your
POLITICS NATION break is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: We`re back with the break from the political battles of the
day. A time to rest, relax and recharge. We kick things off at a zoo in
Thailand. And this is not a circus act. It`s just another day at the park
with your closest tigers. Yes, those people are playing in a pool with
tigers. Not my idea of fun. Check out this tiger`s elevation as he leaps
up. I think I know someone who might enjoy this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I love the natural
world. I love animals, whether they`re in, you know, out in the wild. I
love animals in zoos.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: From Newt`s zoos to the UK. And I hope you`re not afraid
of heights for this one. It`s the cliff diving championships. They`re
jumping and twisting from 90 feet. Look at them tumble into the Celtic
Sea. That looks scarier than the diving Governor Romney is doing in the
polls. And that`s your POLITICS NATION break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Bill Clinton is back, just six days after his big speech at
the Democratic Convention. Clinton is back on the road campaigning for
President Obama. He`s hitting the trail in Florida today and tomorrow.
The "New York Times" reports it`s the first of five battleground states
he`ll visit, promoting his message for President Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FMR. PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON (R), UNITED STATES: This is a pivotal
election. No country making progress on creating a society where people
share the future. Not a single one got there with a militant, bitter,
anti-government strategy. What works in the modern world is partnership.
It`s not business versus government. The way it`s set up by our opponents
in this election. It`s business and government working together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Clinton is all in for the president`s re-election campaign.
"The Times" is also reporting he`s agreed to do fund raising in October.
And he`ll appear in more political ads like this one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: This is a clear choice. The republican plan is to
cut more taxes on --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: A few weeks ago, Republicans were talking about Bill
Clinton, like he was their favorite democrat. I don`t think we`ll hear
much of that any time soon.

Joining me now, Dana Milbank, columnist for "The Washington Post."
Thank you for being here tonight.

DANA MILBANK, COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Good evening,
Reverend.

SHARPTON: Bill Clinton is all in for the President. How worried Dana
should the Romney team be?

MILBANK: Well, they should be worried but they would also kicking
themselves because they`re the ones who basically invited Bill Clinton into
this campaign by constantly saying, look, there`s by big difference between
Obama and Clinton. Clinton was a moderate, Clinton balance budgets, you
know, Clinton reformed welfare and Obama is this other kind of liberal that
you can`t recognize.

And so, they invited Bill Clinton to come into this is campaign. And
I think Obama took a little gamble in having this outside personality in
the campaign. But you know what? I think he`s learned the mistake that Al
Gore made back in 2000. Al Gore unleashed Bill Clinton, things may have
turned out very differently in that election. And it looks to be coming
out to Obama`s advantage right now.

SHARPTON: Now, just moments ago in his appearance in Miami, he
attacked the misinformation by the GOP on Obama-care. Listen to what he
said a few moments ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: They got away with running this old dog through the chute in
2010. And countless thousands of seniors voted because they were given
misinformation against people who supported a plan that strengthened
Medicare and strengthened Medicare advantage. So, I`m talking about it
everywhere because the first time they did that it was their fault. If we
let it happen again, it is our fault and we should not do it.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: So, him going out like this, clarifying, accusing the
Republicans of misinformation, has to be very effective.

MILBANK: Well, sure. And how often do you hear, running this old dog
through the chute? Not enough in campaign rhetoric. It works because Bill
Clinton -- look, he`s hugely popular now. Sixty nine percent of the public
view him favorably. But he`s particularly popular among seniors. I mean,
he`s the guy who made, you know, saved Social Security first, the sort of
the catch word of the 1990s.

He is very well trusted by seniors, and particularly in a place like
Florida where he is, but he`ll be valuable around the country for that. He
has a lot of strengths among groups that Obama isn`t necessarily strong
among. And seniors in Florida, that`s really Bill Clinton`s sweet spot.

SHARPTON: Now, but Peter Baker said in "The Times" that Clinton is
not always effective. Some of the people he supported in 2010 lost, but
Dana Milbank says, the gamble will probably prove to be a good one, them
taking a chance on Bill Clinton. Why do you say that, Dana?

MILBANK: Well, it`s always a gamble because you never know exactly
what`s going to come out of Bill Clinton`s mouth and he`s already hurt
earlier -- he hurt Obama on the question of taxes for, you know, whether to
extend -- which ones of the Bush tax cuts. He can be off message. He`ll
say what`s on his mind. But right now with fewer than 60 days before the
election, his interests are very much in line with Obama`s interests.

They both want Obama to win, for Clinton`s legacy, for Hillary Clinton
and for Obama. He has a real incentive to stay on message here. He did
it, I mean, he went off script during the convention but he stayed on
message. And it appears that, you know, for the next 55 or so days, he`s
going to be able to put aside his own ambition for the greater good.

SHARPTON: Now, Dana, I thank you for your time tonight.

MILBANK: Thanks, Reverend.

SHARPTON: Let me say this. I`ve not always agreed with Bill Clinton.
I`ve not always disagreed. I felt that the move to the right of center of
the party was not good when I ran in `04, which Mr. Clinton helped to do.
But Bill Clinton, unquestionably was one that brought this country to a
good and stable place when he was president and he made one of the greatest
political speeches of all time last week. I think he`s an asset. And I
think the Republicans knew that. That`s why they were trying to praise him
before he decided to join this campaign.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Finally tonight, day two of the teachers strike in Chicago.
Negotiations continue between union and city officials. One sticky point.
A new evaluation system. They`re also fighting over job security and
benefits.

Meantime, 350,000 students are out of school. This fight began in
Chicago but is being played out across the country. Governor Romney says,
the teachers are turning their backs on the students. And Paul Ryan went
even further saying he, quote, "Stands with Mayor Rahm Emanuel."

Now, what on earth could make these two stands with Rahm Emanuel?
He`s President Obama`s former chief of staff and a former democratic
congressman. We know something is fishy about this. There`s only one
reason Romney and Ryan are getting involved. Money and its role in
politics. Take a look at this. It`s the top ten outside political donors
in 2010. Only three of them give primarily to Democrats. All three just
happen to be unions. Look at that. What a coincidence. Republicans know
if they crush the union in Chicago, they`ll be crushing one of the
strongest supporters of democratic causes in the country. That`s why this
fight is so important.

What happens in Chicago won`t stay in Chicago. But the real important
people in this matter is the children in the schools. I believe teachers
out to be held accountable and evaluated, but so should the school system
and you should be accountable for not providing books and resources and
overcrowded classrooms. We cannot say the teachers must be effective and
then put them in a school district or school system that has not
effectively given students the environment that they can learn and teachers
can perform. Let us put the children first and all sides be accountable
and not scapegoat just those that are easy targets.

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.
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