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PoliticsNation, Thursday, October 18th, 2012

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October 18, 2012

Guests: Dana Milbank; Margie Omero; Terry O`Neill, Richard Wolffe, Alicia Menendez, Melissa Harris-Perry

REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Thanks, Chris, and thanks to you
for tuning in. I`m coming to you live tonight from Philadelphia.

Tonight`s lead, undercover boss. We know Mitt Romney is the candidate
for the one percent. His tax plan is a handout to CEOs, to the people in
the quiet rooms. His policies are geared towards those who are most well
off. We know that.

But now, we are learning something else and it raises the question of
whether he and some prominent CEOs are trying to scare workers in this
election. In a newly surfaced conference call to a business group, Mr.
Romney spent many minutes criticizing President Obama. Then, he is heard
urging employers to tell their workers how to vote.


clear to your employees what you believe is in the best interest of your
enterprise and therefore their job and their future in the upcoming


SHARPTON: What is in the best interest of their job? And after
everything I just told you, you know what that means. Romney went on to
say this.


ROMNEY: Whether you agree with me or President Obama or whatever your
political view, I hope -- I hope you pass those along to your employees.
Nothing illegal about you talking to your employees about what you believe
is best for the business. Because I think that will figure in to their
election decision. Their voting decision.


SHARPTON: Nothing illegal, but was it proper? Governor Romney knew
the audience he was speaking to. The conference call was organized by the
national federation of independent business. Ninety-eight percent of their
political donations have been to Republicans. Only two percent to
Democrats. Which way did he think the CEOs would tell their employees to

This call took place in June but it has no urgency given what we`ve
seen lately. The billionaire Koch brothers sent out a mailer to 45,000
employees saying they, quote, "may suffer the consequences if the Koch
brothers preferred candidates don`t win. Then there were the workers out
of mining in Ohio who were forced to attend a Romney rally. They actually
lost money because of the event.

One worker there said, the boss creates a quote, "constant pressure
that, if you don`t contribute to Republican candidates, your job`s at

Constant pressure. Wow. I wonder what Mr. Romney think.


ROMNEY: I`ll tell you, you`ve got a great boss. He runs a great
operation here and he --


ROMNEY: Where are you, Bob? There he is.


SHARPTON: A round of applause for the man pressuring his employees.
He`s almost as good as the CEO of the Florida time share company who just
builds himself America`s largest house but he argues, quote, "I will have
no choice but to reduce the size of this company if Obama wins. Oh, poor
Mr. Billionaire.

And what about the software CEO who says I don`t want to hear any
complaints regarding the fallout if we don`t elect a new president.

What fallout would that be? This is just more of the blatant
intimidation that we`ve seen again and again in this election. An
anonymous billboards posted in minority communities, in billions poured
into the race by secret donors.

Why is this happening? Well, just look at this picture. The wealthy
have taken nearly all of the income gains in the last 30 years while the
bottom has just hobbled along. Of course, the one percent wants to
perpetuate this. They are circling the wagons to protect this lopsided
status quo. But threatening employees? Pretty ugly stuff that has no
place in this election.

Joining me now, Dana Milbank, columnist for "the Washington Post" and
Jared Bernstein, MSNBC contributor and former chief economist for vice
president Joe Biden.

Thank you both for your time tonight.



SHARPTON: Dana, let me go to you first. Governor Romney wanted
bosses to tell their employees which way to vote and it sounds like they
are doing it.

MILBANK: Well, it does, Reverend. And you can see how he was wording
it very carefully because he knew what the letter of the law is in terms of
what they can do. And, once again, we have a case of where the scandal is
not that something illegal has been done, but the scandal is what is
perfectly legal to do, just as it is legal to have your money in the Cayman
Islands or in Swiss bank accounts or in Bermuda.

This is another case where people will take away the perception that
this whole game is a bit rigged, in favor of those who are in power and
they can have sort of a nod and a wink and that`s how things are done. And
so, it presents one more bit of evidence that that sort of thing can occur
during a Romney presidency. So, it could be of some political damage to
him at this point.

SHARPTON: Jared, it`s not illegal but is it proper and it sounds
almost like coded language.

BERNSTEIN: I think it very much sounds like that. And I think the
legality gets you into some gray areas pretty quickly. Now, you picked up
the very same two words in that statement that I actually felt a chill when
I heard it read when Mitt Romney said their job, their job could be at

There`s nothing illegal about that. But, of course, it is illegal to
tell an employee, you either vote for candidate x or you`re fired. That
does cross the line. But when you go up to the line and I`ve talked to
lawyers this afternoon about this, when they say, it will be best for your
job, our industry, our firm if x wins instead of y. Unfortunately that`s
legal. And the coercion dynamics within the workplace are such that, you
know, to say it`s improper is actually way too polite.

The power dynamics at play here are, I think, really quite dark and
I`ll say one further thing. As that slide you showed earlier suggested,
that you know, workers have actually suffered a lot from the fact that the
benefits of growth have alluded them for decades. So, to vote for a
politics that makes that worse is not a good a thing.

SHARPTON: And I would think that there is a big difference between
someone campaigning, a candidate or surrogate saying this will help your
jobs and your employers saying that to you. How do you get around the
inference, Dana, when an employer is talking to his employees, you are
reading into what he is talking about as directly affecting you, not a
broad social or political kind of commentary.

MILBANK: Right. This isn`t that unfamiliar because typically it`s
done not in terms of who you are voting for but who you are contributing
money to. So there`s often incorporations, a subtle or not so subtle
pressure to make these contributions to the company pact. You obviously
can`t be required to do so.

This is something that`s not often remarked upon. Of course, the
Republican side will say that this is the sort of thing that goes on within
unions, pressuring the workers for financial contributions or for a vote.
The amount of money and power the unions have relative to the corporate
power to amass financial or mobilize people is, it really can`t be

BERNSTEIN: And you know, Reverend, --

SHARPTON: Now Jared, let me bring in some of the -- something else
knew around this question that I really want to make sure that we have time
for to you address.


SHARPTON: The nonpartisan tax policy senders out with a study on
governor Romney`s latest tax proposal, saying it still doesn`t add up. It
says, Romney`s plan to cap deductions at 25,000 would yield $1.3 trillion.
Now, that`s nowhere near the $5 trillion Romney needs for his plan.


SHARPTON: Now, despite this, the Romney team calls the study
misleading and deceitful. But the numbers are the numbers. There`s
nothing misleading or deceitful about the numbers. If his plan only comes
to 1.5 trillion. Then clearly he`s way off 3.5 trillion to be exact from
$5 trillion, Jared.

BERNSTEIN: Well unfortunately, your math will never get you a job
with the Romney campaign but you`re absolutely right. 1.3 is less than
five, so that`s correct. And you know, the thing that is bothering me so
much about all of this, besides that the assembly around the numbers, is
that they are lurching so much from they -- clearly these folks never sat
down and thought about whether their plan added up. So they throw out a

And by the way, last week, it was 17,000 in terms of capping
deductions and then it went to 25 and all of that`s, you know, -- again,
it`s a symbol of a group that has no clue how to make this math add up and
you can`t make it add up. There are not enough offsets to pay for the $5
trillion cut full stop.

SHARPTON: But Dana, what`s the politics of this? You throw out a
plan, you back it up with 1.3 trillion, which has you 3.5, 3.8 really
trillion off. What are the politics of that? Are they trying to throw out
something to make it look like they have a plan? What`s the politics of

MILBANK: I mean, I think the assumption is you outline the broad
contours and then sort of make it up as it is required. I mean, this isn`t
the first campaign that`s ever done this sort of thing. The same thing was
done with jobs. They said, well, we are going to create 12 million jobs.
How did they get that figure? Well, they looked at where the economy was
going and where the forecast were and it is worth 12 million jobs. They
said, why don`t we pick out that number and then Romney has tried to go
back in and sort of backfill it and find other ways to come up with that 12
million, by somehow attacking it to his policies. He has got a lot of
difficulty doing that. Same thing with the taxes, they said, look, we are
going to cut rates and then well, we will fill in the details as we go
along here and maybe nobody will ask and then we can sort it out if and
when we get elected.

SHARPTON: Yes, but, is that means the way off, 3.7 trillion, whatever
it is. It`s way off.

But anyway, Dana Milbank, Jared Bernstein, I`m out of time. Thank you
for your time this evening.

BERNSTEIN: Thank you, Rev.

MILBANK: Thanks, Rev.

SHARPTON: Coming up, did you hear what governor Romney`s son said he
wanted to do to the president of the United States during the debate? It
was deeply disrespectful. Tonight, the over the line attacks on this
president. Stick around for that.

And stop the freak out. Bill Clinton campaigns for the president as
new poll numbers in key states bring good news. Team Obama and look who`s
stumping today.

Plus, Mitt Romney is running away from views on women`s issues that he
held way, way back earlier this year. Today he canceled his appearance on
"the View" and sent his wife instead. Just wait until you hear how she
defended his record on women`s rights to choose. They actually think this
is going to work? OK.

You`re watching "Politics Nation" on MSNBC.



SHARPTON: Have you checked us out on facebook yet? The "Politics
Nation" conversation is going all day long. Today everyone loved seeing
Bruce Springsteen and President Clinton campaigning together in Ohio.

Steven simply calls the duo epic.

Kathleen says, they are two great compassionate bosses.

And Michael says, Springsteen beats Clinton Eastwood any day.

I agree with that. 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.

And if you want to post a note for President Clinton or Bruce
Springsteen, you can do that, too.


SHARPTON: Three weeks to go and Mitt Romney is dancing as fast as he
can, desperately trying to convince voters that he`s moderate Mitt, who
cares about the extremist stuff I`ve said day after day during the
Republican primaries.

Today, he cancelled his appearance with the sharp-tongue ladies on
"the View." He sends his wife, Ann instead. And she kept up with the
family traditions of muddying the waters on his position on abortion.


ANN ROMNEY, MITT ROMNEY`S WIFE: Mitt has always been a pro-life
person. He governed when he ran as a pro-choice.


SHARPTON: A pro-life person, but a pro-choice person when he
governed? OK. So, he was a pro-life person when he said this?


MITT ROMNEY: Will I preserve and protect a woman`s right to choose
and a devoted and dedicated to honoring my word in that regard.


SHARPTON: Doesn`t sound pro-life to me. There`s a reason Ann Romney
is on "the View" today. Her husband needs more women voters in binders or
otherwise. So he`s hiding from the extreme position he`s taken this year
on contraception, on abortion, on equal pay. He`s just saying whatever it
takes. Today, vice president Biden reminded voters what`s at stake.


who they will likely appoint to the Supreme Court of the United States, how
much chance do you think Roe V. Wade will survive after four years of a
Romney Supreme Court?


SHARPTON: Nineteen days until Election Day when it comes to women`s
issues, can moderate Mitt get away with it?

Joining me now is Terry O`Neil, president of the National Organization
of Women and Democratic strategist Margie Omero.

Thank you both, for coming on the show.



SHARPTON: Terry, what is your organization doing about Governor
Romney trying to do with cleaning up all of his extreme views?

O`NEILL: We are actually getting the word out all across the country
that Mitt Romney is not pro-choice. He is not only very anti-choice, he is
anti-women. He has a history of personally bullying a woman whose
pregnancy was actually threatening her life.

As a Mormon, a lay woman bishop, he went to her personally to try to
force her not to go through a life-saving abortion. Her parents were
frantic. Her father remembers that to this very day. But, Mitt Romney is
so honestly, Reverend, disrespectful of women that he says now he doesn`t
even remember the incident. That`s how little we matter to him.

SHARPTON: Now, Margie, I want to show you something that kind of
struck me. When Ann Romney was on "the View" today depending the
reproductive rights of women from the Romney point of view. Look at this
clip and notice how many times she uses the word "choice" in her answer.
Listen to this.


ANN ROMNEY: Women are going to have a choice. I mean, it`s clear.
If you`re really -- you really want to make a choice and your choices are
about reproductive rights, that`s your choice. If they are about economic
issues and making a better future for your children and making sure that we
have this and that`s the beauty of what we have in this country, is being
able to have those choices.


SHARPTON: Now, am I reading too much in that, Margie, or does it seem
like she`s trying to purposefully keep saying choice, choice, choice so it
almost says the women`s subliminally they are pro-choice.

OMERO: Yes. I mean, how many times you say the word choice, it
doesn`t hide the fact that Mitt Romney is pro-life. And not only he is
pro-life, it do - where Ann Romney said doesn`t sound like anything that
Paul Ryan was saying during the presidential debate.

And look, Mitt Romney has been all over the place on abortion
throughout his whole career. That the fact is now, he`s inconsistent and
he is on the wrong side of public opinion. Women over, you know, polls
show, lots of national polls have shown that women favor the president over
Mitt Romney on the issue of abortion and even if abortion is not the
biggest vote driver for most women -- and I don`t think it is -- on all the
other issues, Mitt Romney is also on the wrong side of opinion for women.
You saw that in his answer on equal pay, still uncertainty how he feels
about Lilly Ledbetter. And also, in the question about gun crime where he
blames single women for gun crime and Paul Ryan did the same thing in an
interview a couple of weeks ago. So, regardless of the women`s issue that
we are - that is under debate. Mitt Romney`s on the wrong side of public

SHARPTON: Now, Terry, the apportion issues certainly is a hot one and
the Romney campaign is out with a new ad, trying to pivot to the middle.
Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Turns out Romney doesn`t oppose contraception at
all. In fact, he thinks abortion should be an option in cases of rape,
incest, or to save a mother`s life. This issue is important to me. But,
I`m more concerned about the debt that our children will be left with.


SHARPTON: Now, but the Obama campaign is not going to let them get
away with it. They came back with this ad.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Seeing this from Mitt Romney? Then take a look
at this.

overturned and Congress passed a federal ban on all abortions and it came
to your desk, would you sign? Yes or no?

MITT ROMNEY: Let me say it. I would be delighted to sign that bill.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trying to mislead us, that is wrong. But, ban
all abortions only if you vote for him.


SHARPTON: Terry, quite an interesting couple of ads, wouldn`t you

O`NEILL: Rev., it`s absolutely important for women to understand.
I`m glad that the Obama administration came out with that ad. It`s also
true that Mitt Romney is on video talking to Mike Huckabee saying quote
unquote "absolutely," says Mitt Romney. Absolutely, he would support a
personhood amendment which is such an extreme legislation that it was
defeated by the Mississippi voters last year by a margin of 2-1. And yet
Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney`s running mate, has co-sponsored legislation that
would criminalize all abortion.

Paul Ryan doesn`t believe that women should even have exceptions in
the cases of incest or rape and neither of them believe that women should
be able to protect their own health in deciding whether to carry or to
terminate a pregnancy.

You know, I think it`s a good thing that women are paying attention.
I think it is a good thing that both sides are now addressing this issue.
And I think that women are not going to be fooled. The reality is, Mitt
Romney will work to overturn Roe Versus Wade, will turn over women`s access
to the full range of reproduction health care.

SHARPTON: Well, I think you`re right.

Terry O`Neill and Margie Omero, thank you both for your time.

OMERO: Thank you.

O`NEILL: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Coming up, we are still waiting for an apology from
Governor Romney`s son. Where is Governor Romney on this? My commentary is
coming up. Stay with us.

And Bill Clinton and Bruce Springsteen were out stumping for the
president today. But it gets better. We have got new numbers just out.



SHARPTON: As Republican Senator Scott Brown slides in the polls in
Massachusetts, he`s clinging to the one thing he thinks he`s got going for
him. His authenticity.

Look. He drives a pickup truck. He`s a regular Joe, just an average
guy. But mainly Senator Brown`s not so authentic after all. The "Boston
Herald" reports the state`s Republican Party is paying homeless people to
wear pro-Brown t-shirts in Boston. The goal is apparently to win over
black voters who support President Obama. Organizers say that people
wearing the shirt get around $8 an hour and at least four of the 20 or so
volunteers are homeless.

So, let me get this straight. The GOP`s big plan for Brown`s re-
election is to pay homeless people to wear t-shirts for him, not very
authentic, Senator. And the strategy isn`t even paying off. The latest
poll shows Democrat Elizabeth Warren ahead of Brown by nine points. Her
biggest lead so far in the race. This whole thing reminds me of something
Brown said on the campaign trail.


SEN. SCOTT BROWN (R), MASSACHUSETTS: Going to point out who she is,
who she really is, and I think it`s important for the voters to know.

SHARPTON: Did Senator Brown think we wouldn`t point out who he really
is? And his latest inauthentic effort to score votes? Nice try, Senator,
but we got you.


SHARPTON: Welcome back to POLITICS NATION. Live tonight from the
great city of Philadelphia. Any Democrats out there who are freaking out?
Hear my voice. Ready? Stop the freak-out. We have brand-new NBC polls
released just moments ago. They showed a president with a big lead in two
critical swing states. In Iowa, President Obama leads Mitt Romney by eight

Fifty one percent to 43 percent. An eight-point lead. That margin is
exactly the same as it was last month before the debates. And a new poll
shows that in Wisconsin, President Obama leads Romney by six points. Fifty
one percent to 45 percent. That margin is also virtually unchanged from
last month. These polls show the fundamentals of this race are the same as
they were a month ago.

At its core, this race is really about fairness in this country.
What`s the most fair way to continue to fix the economy? Today, Democrats
hammered that point home with some of their biggest stars, the president
and vice president, Bruce Springsteen and former President Clinton, all
were on the trail today making the case for more fair and more just


PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: In 19 days, you can choose to
turn back the clock 50 years for immigrants or gays or women or you can
stand up and say, we are going to move forward.

VICE PRES. JOE BIDEN (D), UNITED STATES: That`s all the people in
your neighborhood -- they are not asking for anything. They just want a
fair shot. A level playing field.


FMR. PRES. BILL CLINTON (D), UNITED STATES: Shared prosperity and a
middle class economy where poor people have a better chance to put working
away into it is just better economics than trickle down and win or take

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, SINGER/SONGWRITER: The nation is -- only can be
measured by its passion for its weaknesses.



SHARPTON: That was Springsteen singing one of his newest songs, we
take care of our own. It`s a good message for the country and for this

Joining me now is Richard Wolffe, vice president and executive editor
of and an MSNBC political analyst. Also joining me, Alicia
Menendez, host and producer for HuffPost Live. Thank you both for joining



SHARPTON: Alicia, let`s get back to these new polls for a moment.
Big leads in key swing states. Will this help stop the democratic freak-

MENENDEZ: I think that compounded with President Obama`s performance
that the debate should, remember back when the campaign laid out those five
paths to victory. One of those paths, went through Ohio and Iowa. So,
those numbers really critical coming out of Iowa. We also know that the
Romney campaign is pulling their operation out of North Carolina. Another
path to victory was North Carolina. We know that now that they are leaving
North Carolina. And Virginia, the race is razor tight. So there are
varieties of paths that the President`s campaign can take three elections.
Great news for Democrats.

SHARPTON: Richard, it seems that not only are we dealing with a lot
of celebrities out there, but they are giving real content and substance.
President Clinton was in Ohio today telling voters that President Obama
saved the auto industry and the economy. Listen.


CLINTON: When you were down, you were out and your whole economy was
threatened, the President had your back. You`ve got to have his back now.
This is not complicated for me. If somebody saved my economy, I`d be for


SHARPTON: Now, I might add, Richard that the former President Clinton
made these comments in Parma, Ohio, where the number one employer of that
city is General Motors.

WOLFFE: Right.

SHARPTON: So, to have celebrity and substance, quite a combination.

WOLFE: Right. And we`ve talked about this before, Ohio`s economy has
been doing better than the national economy as a whole. And where the
point here, both in economic terms and political terms where you`ve got big
regional differences that just happen to be in some of these big
battleground states. So when people talk about the overarching economic
numbers or the overarching national poll numbers, they are not seeing the
important picture here and in some ways it`s a good thing, right? If
people think it`s a close race, you get people out, they feel the heat of
the decision but the national numbers are being driven.

You know, if Mitt Romney does really great in Utah, it doesn`t make
the blind bit of difference to the actual place that this election is going
to be decided and the same goes for those economic number. Nationally
you`ve got all sorts of variations. But if it`s better than average in
Ohio, the president is in a better state.

SHARPTON: Now, Alicia, let`s go to Ohio for a moment. When you look
at the effect of the auto bailout in Ohio because you mentioned how
important Ohio was, one in eight jobs tied to the auto industry in Ohio.
The auto bailout was 155,000 jobs saved in Ohio alone. It seems that as we
push the numbers and we do deal with substance, the President has a real
case there and people just look into the substance of the auto bailout
alone in Ohio.

MENENDEZ: Right. Because there`s a very sharp contrast between the
President who saved the auto industry and Mitt Romney who criticized the
President for the bailout at the time. So, you`re absolutely right. It`s
a sharp contrast point before these two campaigns. And Mitt Romney can try
to demagogue on China and frighten workers by going back to that over and
over again. In the debate, I`m sure we`ll see that again coming up in the
foreign policy debate but it doesn`t change the reality that he was on the
wrong side of this issue.

SHARPTON: Now, Richard, you also have to deal with the larger picture
in Ohio, unemployment dropping from 10.6 percent in 2009 to 7.2 percent
today, which is lower than even the national unemployment number. And Vice
President Biden was out talking about how Governor Romney`s economic plan
would shift jobs overseas. Listen to this.


BIDEN: Whatever country you want to pick, go build your factory
there, higher cheap labor the Bain way. That would create 800,000 jobs all
of them abroad. All of them. Remember when Romney said in the convention
speech, the first thing I`m going to do is take a jobs tour. Well, for him
it`s going to have to be a foreign trip.



SHARPTON: Quite a contrast. President arguing jobs he created in
Ohio in the country, Vice President saying Romney would shift jobs

WOLFFE: Well, that is the problem of Mitt Romney saying, trust me,
I`ve got the experience. I know how to do this. What he has experienced
in is how to make the best of his money. And that`s what capital -- a
venture capital does. They are not interested in creating jobs in this
country. They are interested in getting the maximum return of the money
and you can`t fault him. That`s what capitalism is.

And it`s just a very hard pivot for him to say, I`ve done this myself
and I can do it for the American people because he was never trying to do
it for the American people. Just -- on the higher number by the way. A
lot of conservatives say, oh, this isn`t the Reagan model, right? Reagan
took unemployment data from 10 percent down to seven percent. And it was
the pace of decline that people notice. Yes. But in Ohio, that`s what we
are seeing with this President. It`s taken a bit longer, it`s taken three
instead of maybe one year or 18 months. But that decline is precisely why
the President in such a stronger position in Ohio than we see in other
battleground states.

SHARPTON: Alicia, I need to also bring this up before we run out of
time. The youth vote. President Obama is ahead significantly. President
Obama, 55 percent, Mitt Romney only 36 percent. These are voters 18 to 29
years old, I had a birthday cover weeks ago, so I`ve just missed.

MENENDEZ: This is my election where I get to be counted in that demo.
So, I`ll take it. You know, I think we see that there`s tremendous support
for President Obama. The real question that comes about actually getting
those voters to the polling place and in places like Ohio, the alarming
part is that some of the new voter ID laws that are in place are going to
make it more challenging for students to vote. I think the Obama campaign
has a good operation on the ground. They are being sure to register,
people making sure that they`re going to have proper -- but at the end of
the day, that vote is going to come down to the resources that are put into
it and how well the campaign mobilizes those voters.

SHARPTON: Richard Wolffe, Alicia Menendez, thank you both for your
time tonight.

MENENDEZ: Thank you.

WOLFFE: Thanks, Reverend.

SHARPTON: Still ahead, the story I know a lot of you are talking
about. Mitt Romney`s son saying he wanted to, quote, "take a swing at the
president." Where is the outrage on that?

Plus, Ohio Republicans are still trying to scare back early voting.
They just don`t get it. I`ll tell you what we all can do about it to stop


SHARPTON: Mitt Romney`s son wants to take a swing at the President.
Now he says it was a joke. But it`s part of a long ugly pattern from his
father`s campaign. That`s next.


SHARPTON: We`re back with more disrespect for the president of the
United States from the Romney campaign. Tagg Romney, Mitt`s son was asked
about Tuesday`s debate. Here`s what he answered.


BILL LUMAYE, HOST, "BILL LUMAYE SHOW": What is it like for you to
hear the president of the United States call your dad a liar?


LUMAYE: How do you react to that?

TAGG ROMNEY: Jump out of your seat and you want to rush down to the
stage and take a swing at him.


SHARPTON: Take a swing at him? Punch the president of the United
States? The campaign said he was joking about how frustrating this process
can be for family. But where`s the apology? It doesn`t matter if it was a
joke. This is what happens when you have a campaign that`s talked loose
and ugly about the president for so long. We`ve seen it from Governor
Romney and a top surrogate.


asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this was the place that
we were born and raised.


the American system functions and we shouldn`t be surprised about that.
Because he spent his early years in Hawaii smoking something, spent the
next seven years in Indonesia.

ROMNEY: I just don`t think the President by his comments suggest an
understanding of what it is that makes America such a unique nation.

you really mean to call Barack Obama, the president of the United States,

SUNUNU: Yes, he`s lazy and disengaged.


SHARPTON: Lazy? Un-American? Smoking something? This is a pattern.
It`s a strategy to attract support of the Tea Party. After the Bush and
Cheney administration, the Tea Party has had the energy of the Republican
Party. And team Romney wanted to catch lightning in a bottle. They needed
a way to appeal to the far right so they went ugly and now we have a
candidate`s son joking about taking a swing at the president. This is the
president of the United States that we`re talking about. We must respect
the office no matter what your politics.

Joining me now, Melissa Harris-Perry, host of MSNBC`s "MELISSA HARRIS-
PERRY SHOW." Thanks for coming on the show tonight.


SHARPTON: Now, this isn`t just a son protecting his father.

PERRY: Right.

SHARPTON: Tagg is a team member of the Romney campaign team. How
does he think it`s OK to make a joke like this, Melissa?

PERRY: Right. So, I mean, I just want to say two really important
things here. Because what`s going to happen is that Reverend, you and I
were get blamed for being whiners on this. So, I want to be really clear.
One, that I get that it`s tough to be the family member of someone running
for office. With a husband who is in politics and I know your family
undoubtedly knows, you know, having someone who in the public sphere, that
it`s tough. It`s frustrating. You know, if you have someone who you love,
you feel like bad things are being said about them.

But you have a responsibility as an adult person. It`s one thing if
you are a little kid, six, seven, eight years old and you have bad impulse
control. But if you`re an adult person and you also have a role within a
campaign, then you have a responsibility to conduct yourself in very
particular ways in the public`s sphere, and one part of that is that you
recognize that the sitting president of the United States has work to do,
work with our international allies abroad as well with our international
foes abroad.

And that means that you have to protect that office even as you go
after the ideas. Even as you campaign against someone, you still have a
responsibility relative to the office of the American presidency because
that person is still the president of all of us.

SHARPTON: Well, Melissa, I agree that people can be very frustrating
on your family, certainly I`ve dealt with that with my daughters. But if
you cannot understand that you are not being in that position, let me tell
you why I don`t buy the people that will say that we are whining. If the
president`s daughters had said that about Mitt Romney, there would be all
that we would hear tonight. If anyone connected with the Obama family or
the campaign, now, mind you, this person has been called a liar by them.

PERRY: Right.

SHARPTON: Leading up to the debate. He`s been called un-American,
smoking -- every insult you can think of. And you and I could not name
anyone in the senior staff or family of President Obama that jokingly or
any other way said they would do something physical to Governor Romney or
wanted to. And if they did, the reaction would be not whining. It would
be outrage.

PERRY: Well, and I think if the Obama daughters say, remember, they
are children. They are girls. Tagg Romney is an adult and a parent,
right? He`s a member of the campaign who is actively campaigning. And so,
it`s just to say that like you know, yes, he has frustrations as a son but
that does not -- that`s not an indication of what is going on here. And
also I want to point out that when you say you have to treat the President
with respect, that doesn`t mean that you don`t offer a good, strong,
vigorous critique.

I mean, this is a campaign, right? And so, we fully expect that, you
know, the other side is going to come with a critique, that they are going
to critique the ideas that they`re going to put forth alternate policies
and that is -- I actually think is a sign of respect. President Obama, of
course, was taught at the University of Chicago. I was on the faculty
there for nearly ten years and at the University of Chicago, the only way
that you show respect to someone is by having a good, strong vigorous
critique of their ideas but a critique of ideas is fundamentally different
than calling someone lazy, suggesting that someone who is the president of
the United States is not even a U.S. citizen.


PERRY: And then finally in this latest disrespect suggesting that you
want to have basically either a bar room or a playground brawl with the
president of the United States.

SHARPTON: And I guess what I`m saying, you looked at the debate. The
question was about the debate, it wasn`t as if his father wasn`t calling
the president a liar. He even accused him of not saying something that he
actually said. So, I mean, where does this come from and where the
Republicans that want to see the office respected?

PERRY: Well, you know, the Republicans who want to see the office
respected seem to be very quiet and they have been very quiet during the
presidency -- nearly his entire presidency. You know, we saw and have
mourned the death of Allen Specter this week and, you know, it was a
reminder, as we thought about his passing, sort of not only that Specter is
gone but a whole version of republicanism that had some possibility of
having sort of not just across the aisle, it`s not just sort of one off.

But respect for the thing that is American governance and the problem
is that when you disrespect it, when you take it apart for President Obama
because you`re so unwilling to give him and confer to him the most basic
respect, is you undue our whole system, you put all of us as a country in
danger, in threat and in peril, both for who we are as a country
domestically as well as for the ability of our president to do the work he
needs to do with our international allies and foes.

SHARPTON: Why do you think this is happening?

PERRY: Well, I think there`s a lot of reasons but at the most basic
level, you know, when your ideas are not better than someone else`s is.
And when you are worried that you can`t actually use your ideas to win
voters, then you start trying to win in this kind of, you know, playground
brawl situations. So, what we`re seeing is voter suppression for example
in the key swing states. If we can`t win this election, then we`ll steal
this election.

And similarly, I think part of what we saw in this last debate, where
President Obama really showed up as President Obama at his best, you know,
in part because he had an opportunity there to engage with ordinary
Americans who were asking him about the things that matter in their lives
and we need to not forget, this is a president who was a community
organizer, who was a teacher in a university and who was a state senator.

So, he really has the kind of -- he enjoys being with ordinary people
and with sort of Americans on the ground and so when they were there to ask
those questions, the very best came out in President Obama. And I think
what you saw was panic. And, you know, look, Mitt Romney had had the
debate of his political career in the first debate. He was feeling good
and he clearly went in with a great deal of confidence.

SHARPTON: He was on steroids. Don`t give him too much credit.
Melissa, thank you for your time tonight. And thank you for talking about
the swing state. That`s why where I am tonight. I`ve been swinging
through the swing states protecting the vote. Catch Melissa`s show,
weekends at 10:00 a.m. Eastern right here on MSNBC.

The confusion on voting. It`s the latest right wing strategy. We
won`t let them. Next.


SHARPTON: Where he campaigned today for the President, Bruce
Springsteen stressed the importance of voting.

SPRINGSTEEN: Voting matters. Elections matter. Think of the events
of the last 12 years and try to convince yourself they don`t.


SHARPTON: The boss is right and that`s why I`m here in Pennsylvania`s
part of my National Action Network`s voter engagement tour. We are working
across the state to clear the confusion. They are only 19 days to go.
They will keep trying to confuse but we won`t let them. Billboards here
telling Latinos you need your ID. Other folks have confusion.

In Pennsylvania and in other states, we must confront confusion
distortions and voter suppression methods wherever we find it, not just to
protect our candidates, whoever they may be. But to protect everyone`s
right to vote, whether they vote your way, my way, every vote must be
protected, every vote is the American way and we must, in these 19 days,
make sure we do that above and beyond all questions.

Thanks for watching. I`m Al Sharpton. "HARDBALL" starts right now.


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