updated 3/4/2013 11:47:51 AM ET 2013-03-04T16:47:51

POLITICS NATION
March 1, 2013

Guests: Dana Milbank, Angela Rye, Jim McDermott, Jonathan Capehart, Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, Ira Glass, Alex Kotlowitz


REV. AL SHARPTON, MSNBC ANCHOR: Folks, no need to adjust your
television set. The budget fight in Washington has gotten so surreal, it`s
like something out of "Star Wars" or some other science fiction movie.

Today, still trying to get Republicans to compromise, the president
reached way out into space for a metaphor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Most people agree that
I`m being reasonable. That most people agree I`m presenting a fair deal.
The fact that they don`t take it means that I should somehow, you know, do
a Jedi mind-meld with those folks and convince them to do what`s right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Jedi mind-meld. The president combined "Star Wars" with
"Star Trek" right there, but who cares? By midnight tonight, huge spending
cuts will start to kick in. Cuts that may eventually mean hundreds of
thousands of people lose their jobs. He knows the Republicans` cut, cut,
cut approach makes no sense. In this galaxy or any other.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Just have them
down here and refuse to let them leave the room. And so you have --

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: You know, the -- I mean, Jessica, I am not a dictator. I`m
the president. So ultimately, if Mitch McConnell or John Boehner say we
need to go to catch a plane, I can`t have Secret Service block the doorway.

This idea that somehow there`s a secret formula or secret sauce to get
Speaker Boehner or Mitch McConnell to say, you know what, Mr. President,
you`re right. We should close some tax loopholes for the well off and well
connected in exchange for some serious entitlement reform and spending cuts
of programs we don`t need. You know, I think if there was secret way to do
that, I would have tried it. I would have done it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: There are no secret solutions. Nor is there any mystery
about what the American people want. Seventy-six percent said they want to
replace this cut, cut, cut mess with the mix of tax hikes and spending
cuts.

No wonder Speaker Boehner didn`t want to take a single question today
after making a brief statement. What could he possibly have said?
Hundreds of thousands of people could lose their jobs. The economy would
take a serious hit.

Speaker Boehner, take it from me, these aren`t the cuts you`re looking
for.

Joining me now, Dana Milbank and Angela Rye. Thanks for being on the
show.

Hello, Reverend.

ANGELA RYE, PRINCIPAL IMPACT STRATEGIES: Thank you, Rev.

SHARPTON: Dana, we`re joking about "Stat Wars," but this is serious.
How can Republicans intentionally do something they know will cost hundreds
of thousands of jobs.

DANA MILBANK, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, the president was slightly
wrong there. There is a secret special sauce to get John Boehner to agree
and it`s called merlot. And if he was pouring that in the room he might
have gotten a little bit closer there.

But the fact of the matter is, Reverend, that the Republicans are
pretty happy where they are right now. They`ve got $85 billion in annual
cuts to the -- to the federal spending. And they`ve done nothing in
exchange for it. It sounds like they`re just going to let it sit there for
a few weeks. They`re not going to offer anything then when we get to the
end of this spending bill when the government is in jeopardy of shutting
down again, that`s when a whole new round of negotiations will start.
Maybe then they`ll start talking a little bit about taxes even then --

SHARPTON: But that --

MILBANK: -- I would hold you back.

SHARPTON: That`s what is bothering me, Dana. Maybe then they`ll
start talking. We`re handling this so casually. We`re talking about
people not having a job. We`re talking about families not being able to
pay their mortgage or their rent. We`re talking about food on the table.
And I think that they have just totally dismissed the livelihood of people
while they play this brinksmanship in the beltway. And it`s an outrage to
me.

MILBANK: There`s an extraordinary disconnect right now. This is why
America hates Washington. We`re all sitting around here arguing about who
was responsible for the sequester. Whose idea was it two years ago?
Nobody is actually talking about the effects, the consequences of what is -
-

SHARPTON: Right.

MILBANK: Of what is about to occur. The danger of course is these
things snowball over time. And people are going to say, aha, tomorrow
morning, the world is still here. We can cut even more. So I have a
feeling this may even embolden the Republicans further. They were a long
way from -- be having a rational approach to this.

SHARPTON: Now, Angela, and I think that`s the point that the world
won`t collapse tomorrow, but if you`re getting a furlough notice, if you`re
losing your job, it certainly collapses for you. And the president reached
out and said today he would do whatever he could to try to bring this
together. Listen to this statement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: It`s not as if Democrats aren`t being asked to do anything
either, to compromise. I mean, there are members of my party who violently
disagree with the notion that we should do anything on Medicare. And I`m
willing to say to them, I disagree with you because I want to preserve
Medicare for long haul. And, you know, we`re going to have some tough
politics within my party to get this done. Both sides need to be willing
to compromise.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Now he used the word compromise. He used the word Medicare
and I`m one of those that don`t want to see Medicare dealt with.

RYE: Sure.

SHARPTON: But how do you compromise with someone who says things like
this. Watch how Speaker Boehner couldn`t even bring himself to deal with
the word compromise.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But governing means compromising.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: It means working together. It
means find --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It also means compromising.

BOEHNER: It means finding common ground. When you say the word
compromise, a lot of Americans look up and go, oh, oh, they`re going to
sell me out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you did compromise?

BOEHNER: We found common ground.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why won`t you say -- you`re afraid of the word.

BOEHNER: I reject the word.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: And, Angela, I don`t know if he`s afraid of the word,
afraid of those on the extreme right of his party that use the word as
being synonymous with sellout. And when you think of the people that are
being impacted and affected by this, do we really have time to care about
extremists when we have people that are on the brink of economic ruin?

Clearly, and I`m not exaggerating this, if you are furloughed or fired
in the interim period, your whole world collapses and it will take a whole
lot to put it back together again.

RYE: Right. And then guess who sold out? You sold out the entire
country. You sold out people and their families and their neighbors. So
this isn`t about selling out. This is about doing the job that you were
elected to do. You are absolutely elected to compromise. You are
absolutely elected to work with or find common ground with the president.
And at the end of the day, when you have 76 percent of the American people
saying not only do we want you to compromise, but we want you to compromise
by finding common ground in this particular policy, by implementing revenue
raisers as well as cuts to, you know, frivolous programs or wasteful
programs.

The president has gone above and beyond by saying yes, I`ve stretched
my party, but I`m also going to stretch you. I know for -- from firsthand
experience with the Congressional Black Caucus for example, members who
were adamant about not seeing the sequester happen.

SHARPTON: Right.

RYE: They, unlike the president, you know, knew what we were dealing
with with this particular party. With the GOP leadership in the House,
Rev. They knew that this GOP was going to boycott their jobs. This GOP
was going to obstruct justice by not being present and by dealing with
these real issues.

So the president, you know, relying on hope and change and, you know,
that these folks would come together for what`s best for this country
regardless of blue or red or any other type of party affiliation stepped
out, took a leap of faith and is getting burned by it now because they are
going to go forward with these cuts. And God only knows what`s going to
happen March 30th with the continuing resolution.

SHARPTON: There you go to where I want to go to you, Dana, because
you mentioned government shutdown. And Angela just talked about the
continuing resolution. Do you think we really could be looking at going
from bad to worse? Bad now because some people we already know are getting
furlough notices already. And the worse by March 27th facing a government
shutdown?

MILBANK: Well, the Republicans are saying they`re going to keep
government open. They learned their lesson from the Newt Gingrich-Bill
Clinton wars of all of those years ago. So they say they`re not going to
do it. That said, there is going to be, at some point, there has to be
some sort of a showdown here in order for them to reach this sort of a
grand bargain. And everybody talks about that nobody seems to get to.

It has to happen at some point. The numbers just at some point won`t
add up. The president is going to have to give more at some point. But
he`s quite correct to point out that at this particular moment, there`s
nothing for him to give up since they`re not coming to the table with
anything at all.

SHARPTON: And what amazes me, Angela, is we`re talking about cuts as
opposed to closing loopholes.

RYE: That`s right.

SHARPTON: On private jets, yachts, people who make over a million
dollars a year in terms of their homes. I mean, we`re not talking about
things that don`t show people that have access. We`re talking about
hurting people jobs, cutting programs that help seniors, with Head Start,
as opposed to a guy having a loophole on a yacht? On a private plane? I
mean, things that are, in many cases, toys? Are we really going to do this
to American people?

RYE: No, Rev, we aren`t. But they are desperately trying. And I
think, again, when you are talking about debt by a million cuts, you`re
saying hundreds of thousand jobs but some estimates are saying up to a
million jobs could be furloughed. And so at some point, you`ve got to say
what really matters? Is it just the 1 percent? Or am I going to start
looking out for the 99 percent?

SHARPTON: Yes.

RYE: For all of America. For what`s best for government employees,
government contractors. Children in schools. Folks that are traveling. I
mean we really have to look at the totality of the circumstances and say
it`s time to find common ground or compromise. Don`t tell him I said it.

(LAUGHTER)

SHARPTON: It`s amazing.

Dana Milbank and Angela Rye, thanks for your time tonight.

RYE: Thanks, Rev.

MILBANK: Live long and prosper, Reverend.

(LAUGHTER)

RYE: Yes.

SHARPTON: Coming up. These cuts will mean real pain for real
Americans. And that`s why President Obama just unloaded on Republicans
today.

Plus, Ira Glass from the American Light is here to talk gun violence.
What is happening in Chicago? A tragic story we all need to know about.

And First Lady Michelle Obama responds to the cookie right-wing
attacks. And she`s also having a lot of fun.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: Let`s have some fun. Are you ready? All
right, let`s move.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Big Friday show coming your way. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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Today, the first lady dominated our site. Everyone was cheering her
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We`ve got more on the first lady`s response to her critics coming up.
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long after the show ends.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: In just a few hours, $85 billion in cuts will begin to kick
in. Cuts that will hit some of the most vulnerable and vital parts of our
economy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We shouldn`t be making a series of dumb, arbitrary cuts to
things that businesses depend on and workers depend on like education and
research and infrastructure and defense. It`s unnecessary. And at a time
when too many Americans are still looking for work, it`s inexcusable.

It`s not fair. It`s not right. The American people don`t think it`s
fair. Or -- and don`t think it`s right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: It`s not fair and it`s not right. The cuts are becoming a
reality. And they`re going to affect real people, women, children,
seniors, police officers, teachers, border agents, air traffic controllers.
They`re all going to feel the squeeze. Even the people on Capitol Hill
will take a hit, though not the ones you might expect.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: All the folks who are cleaning the floors at the Capitol. Now
that Congress has left, somebody is going to be vacuuming and cleaning
those floors and throwing out the garbage. They`re going to have less pay.
The janitors, the security guards. They just got a pay cut and they`ve got
to figure out how to manage that. That`s real.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Republicans lawmakers get to keep their pay. It`s just
everybody else that`s being made to suffer.

Joining me now is Congressman Jim McDermott, Democrat from Washington.

Congressman, how do you explain it?

REP. JIM MCDERMOTT (D), WASHINGTON: Well, it`s pretty simple, Al.
Yesterday, we passed the Violence against Women`s Act.

SHARPTON: Right.

MCDERMOTT: It was passed out of the Senate. And it came over to the
House. John Boehner put it on the floor and all the Democrats and a few
Republicans voted for it and it passed. The same thing could happen today
if Mitch McConnell would let a bill come out of the Senate, let the
majority rule in the Senate if they passed it over to the House and Boehner
put it on the floor, you`d have 200 Democrats and a handful of Republicans
and we would not have to have this sequester happen.

It doesn`t have to happen. It`s only because Mitch McConnell will not
let the majority rule in the Senate. It isn`t the president. It isn`t
John Boehner. It`s the filibuster rule in the Senate that`s keeping any
kind of compromise from coming out of the Senate.

(CROSSTALK)

SHARPTON: Let me hold you right there, Congressman.

MCDERMOTT: Three times.

SHARPTON: Because I want people to understand that. When you say
Mitch McConnell is using the filibuster rule and blocking this from going
before the Senate and then coming to the House to stop this, explain the
process for those around the country that may not understand how McConnell
can do that.

MCDERMOTT: Well, he invokes the filibuster rule which says you have
to have 60 votes to move a bill. So the majority in the Senate, the
Democrats, the -- 59, whatever it is, can decide on something but they
cannot bring it to the floor for a vote because McConnell says you`ve got
to have 60 votes to even have a vote. Now that`s not majority rule. If he
let the Democrats put something on the floor that had been agreed with by
the president, they can send it over to the House. And at that point, the
House speaker can put it on the calendar and it can be voted on.

He would have only a few Republicans vote for it. All the Democrats
would vote for it. And it would pass and his sequester would disappear.
It is absolutely Mitch McConnell.

See, what`s going on, is Mitch McConnell is running for election. And
he`s afraid of a tea bagger running against him on the right-hand side.
And he`s got Ashley Judd coming at him on the other side.

SHARPTON: Yes.

MCDERMOTT: And he`s going to be defeated. That`s all this is about.
It`s Mitch McConnell`s reelection.

SHARPTON: But, Congressman, when you look at what`s at stake here, I
mean, you had the "New York Times," for example, reporting that there are
Republicans happy with the sequester. Congressman Scalise called it,
quote, "a big victory." And Congressman Mulvaney said the sequester was a
welcomed development.

Who is this a big victory for, exactly?

MCDERMOTT: It`s a big victory for Mitch McConnell. Those new
freshmen over in the House they don`t understand what`s going to happen.
When you start laying off air traffic controllers and there`s a 90-minute
delay on every flight going into Chicago and you have the whole airline
system slowed down in the entire country, then America is going to see
what`s happened.

Oh, when they come and there`s nobody to open up the National Space
Museum in Washington, D.C. for tourists to come in, there`s going to be
100,000 effects that will happen because of all of this that will happen
little by little by little. People on the other side don`t understand
government, don`t care about it.

The tea bag party, basically, is people who don`t want government, who
want to kill government, and want to make President Obama look bad. That`s
all they`re about. They have nothing positive.

SHARPTON: And when you look at the fact we`re talking about women and
children and seniors and, as you say, government workers, 600,000 women and
children lose nutrition aid, 125,000 families lose housing aid, 70,000 kids
lose Head Start, 25,000 fewer cancer screenings and all of that to protect
people having their tax loopholes on their private yachts and private jets
remain in place. I mean, this is absolutely the height of insensitivity by
those in government.

MCDERMOTT: There`s no question about it. You`re really protecting
the people at the top. Boehner says there will be no more tax increases.
Well, he himself put $800 billion in tax loopholes on the table some months
ago.

SHARPTON: Right.

MCDERMOTT: And now he`s pulled it back. He`s said oh, no, no, no,
we`re not going to talk about that anymore. Well, he wants it both ways.
He wants to have it one way, have us to believe they gave tax increases and
now they`re not give any tax increases. It is simply a game that`s being
played that`s going to hurt ordinary citizens.

SHARPTON: Yes.

MCDERMOTT: That`s what`s really tragic about.

SHARPTON: Unfortunately, though, for American families, putting food
on the table is not a game.

Thank you, Congressman Jim McDermott.

MCDERMOTT: You`re welcome.

SHARPTON: Thank you for your time.

MCDERMOTT: Ahead, think all those party leaders from the Tea Party
faded away? Think again. Why the GOP is the Tea Party.

Plus, the president made a comment today about Republicans who
demonized him. It made us all stop for a moment. And, for the first time,
Michelle Obama responds to the right-wing attacks. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: The right-wing ripped the first lady for appearing at the
Academy Awards. Now she`s responding to their lame attacks. Somehow, I
don`t think she cares one bit. That`s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: How out there is the GOP caucus these days? This out
there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Sometimes I reflect, you know, is there something else I could
do to make these guys -- I`m not talking about the leaders now, but maybe
some of the House Republican caucus members not to paint horns on my head.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: The in-your-face. He`s responding to the in-your-face
attitude and style we`ve seen from the far right that has only gotten worse
since the Tea Party got into the act. Now the Tea Party is pretty much
running the Republican Party. And that is no good for getting anything
constructive done.

Joining me now is Jonathan Capehart and Victoria DeFrancesco Soto.

Thanks for being here tonight.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, THE WASHINGTON POST: Thanks, Rev.

VICTORIA DEFRANCESCO SOTO, NBCLATINO.COM: Thanks.

SHARPTON: Jonathan, this really showdown over destructive budget cuts
really show how far to the right the party is.

CAPEHART: Well, it shows how far to the right the party is. But it
also shows just how entrenched the Tea Party caucus is and how powerful
they are in, I was going to say getting things done, but, in this case, in
keeping things from happening.

In the old days, Speaker Boehner would have been a really successful
speaker. He would have gotten the grand bargain done. He would have
gotten a lot of -- and we probably wouldn`t have had the fiscal cliff and
all these other showdowns, manufactured crises that we`ve had over the last
couple of years.

But because the Republican Party through -- put all of its chips on
the Tea Party in 2010 and brought these folks to Washington, now you have
lots of people in Capitol Hill, and I`m talking about Republicans who are
constantly looking over their right shoulder worried about whether there`s
going to be a primary challenge to them if they do something that smacks up
governing.

SHARPTON: You know, it goes to your point when I look at the fact
that Tea Parties who pushed hard for a sequester have won their first big
fight in Congress with the automatic budget cuts. The Associated Press
writes this today. Quote, "In many ways, the sequester marks the Tea Party
movement`s maturation into a virtually mainstream role in the Republican
Party. Cutting the Pentagon`s budget once was unthinkable for most
Republican lawmakers but now it is trumped by the drive to keep taxes down
while reducing costs wherever possible."

Now, Victoria, when you see this, you actually understand how much in
charge of the party the Tea Party has become -- have found themselves
positioned.

SOTO: My dad`s favorite saying is don`t cut your nose to spite your
face. But that is what Tea Partiers have done. And that has become almost
the M.O. of our government these days. And Tea Partiers can definitely
claim a win today. They got to March 1st and they held their ground. They
didn`t budge.

But, for me, the real question is what`s going to happen in the coming
weeks.

SHARPTON: Right.

SOTO: These cuts are supposed to be rolling cuts. So, in theory,
Congress can come back to the table and put an end to this craziness and
actually do something. But are the Tea Partiers going to look at the
trophy on the wall, and say well, OK, maybe we can do some work to keep the
cuts from hurting Americans, or are they going to keep standing their
ground. And that`s the question -- and that`s going to be a really good
indicator of what the midterm election is going to be.

Are the Tea Partiers going to keep pulling farther and farther to the
right or are they just looking for these trophy wins, such as today with
the sequester.

SHARPTON: Well, that`s an open question.

You know, Jonathan, Robert Reich, the former labor secretary, wrote
today that the Tea Party is determined to bring down the government. And
insisting on automatic cuts is their first step in making that happen. He
writes, "What they set out to do was not simply change Washington but
eviscerate the U.S. government. Drown it in the bathtub. The Tea Party is
now running the GOP a serious only about dismembering the government.
That`s a frightening statement, but it appears to be where they`re headed.

CAPEHART: Right. It`s a frightening statement but it also happens to
be true. You know, there -- remember, this sequester was put in place
because it was supposed to be something so onerous, so bad that Congress
would get its act together and get a deal in place so that those cuts
wouldn`t be necessary. And now here we are. It`s happening.

SHARPTON: Right.

CAPEHART: And it`s happening because there are people on Capitol
Hill, Republicans on Capitol Hill, who were actively saying, if the
sequester goes through, that`s not a bad thing. Actually, that`s a good
thing. And that`s why we`re here at this very moment today.

SHARPTON: And you know, Victoria, Tea Party representatives push the
leadership into the budget cuts and made it clear this week that it would
be a good for the speaker -- it would not be good for the Speaker Boehner
to oppose them or to back off from this sequester.

Example, Ron Johnson, congressman from Wisconsin, told FOX News, "I
don`t quite honestly believe Speaker Boehner would be speaker if that
happens. I think he would lose his speakership."

Representative Tim Huelskamp of Kansas said, "For them to go back on
their word certainly threatens their ability to lead."

I mean, they are absolutely saying yes, we want to force the
sequester. Yes, we want to topple government and yes, if Boehner gets in
the way, he would lose his leadership.

SOTO: Yes. The Tea Party of the GOP has really morphed because of
the responsiveness from Boehner. But at the same time, let`s not forget
that the Tea Party is alive and well at the state level. Here, in Texas,
my home state, it is a very powerful voice. And also throughout southern
states and western states. So that`s the other source of the power for the
Tea Party.

And going forward, what we`re going to see is Speaker Boehner going to
try to find a middle ground. I doubt it`s going to happen. And in that
case, President Obama is just going to have to quite literally give up on
negotiations. There is not going to be a resolution to this through a
bipartisan mechanism.

SHARPTON: Now, Jonathan, there are some on the Republican side that
are fighting this. Rich Lowry, let me use this quote from Lowry, the
editor of the conservative "National Review." He writes in "Politico"
today, "It is not just the winter of Republican discontent, it will be in
all likelihood be the spring, summer and fall, as well, and more seasons
yet after that The national party is leaderless and nearly issueless."

That`s some kind of statement there.

CAPEHART: Yes, I mean, the -- the bad place that the Republican find
itself in, it`s not just bad for the party, it`s bad for the country. You
know, Victoria just said, you know, that we should expect to see Speaker
Boehner search for a middle ground. And not -- that would be wonderful if
only he had some folks within his party who are willing to follow behind
him on that middle ground.

It`s one thing to run for Congress and run on a strict platform of
cutting government and bringing down -- you know, reducing waste and all of
that. But once you get to Washington, I believe that there is a duty of
all of those folks, all 535 of them, to put the interest of the nation, at
least on par with the interest of your districts. And right now, what
we`re seeing is that the Tea Party folks here aren`t thinking about the
national interest.

SHARPTON: No. Unless they all represent people with private jets and
yachts.

Jonathan Capehart and Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, thanks for your time
tonight. Have --

CAPEHART: Thanks, Rev.

SHARPTON: I should say I hope you have a healthy weekend. I don`t
know how great a weekend we could have with this sequester.

Ahead, the first lady takes on the right wing, hitting back against
her cookie critics. You`ll want to hear it.

Plus, a powerful story about life and death in our schools. Ira Glass
from this American Life is here live in the studio. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Today, the Supreme Court released audio of Wednesday`s
arguments on the Voting Rights Act. Including Justice Scalia`s offensive
comments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUSTICE ROBERT SCALIA, U.S. SUPREME COURT: That is called
perpetuation of racial entitlement. Whenever a society adopts racial
entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal,
political processes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Voting as a racial entitlement instead of a civil right?
That`s just offensive. The good news on these tapes is Justice Sonya
Sotomayor who took direct aim at Scalia`s comments as she grilled the
Alabama lawyer who`s trying to end the Voting Rights Act.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUSTICE SONYA SOTOMAYOR, U.S. SUPREME COURT: I think that the right
to vote is racially entitlement in Section 5.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, section -- the 15th Amendment protects the
right of all to vote.

SOTOMAYOR: I asked you a different question. Do you think Section 5
was voted for because it is a racial entitlement?

(CROSSTALK)

Do you think that racial discrimination in voting has ended? That
there is none anywhere?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that the world is not perfect.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Justice Sotomayor repeatedly stood up for our right to vote
as American. It`s great to have that voice and that vision on the court.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the
issue of gun violence has again become an issue that the country is talking
about. Gun violence is an epidemic. The shooting of 15-year-old Hadiya
Pendleton in a Chicago park touched all of us, I including President Obama.

A little more than six miles from where Hadiya was shot is Harper High
School. A school that deals every day with the issue of gun violence. In
the last school year, eight current or former students were shot and
killed. Another 21 were wounded. Reporters for the radio show "This
American Life" spent five months inside the school watching and documenting
how the community copes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s hard not to think that if you grafted these
facts onto another high school in a wealthier place, maybe a suburb, dozens
of students shot, three of them killed. In other places, that would be
national news, right? We would all know the name of that school.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Many of us knew what Harper High School faces now. The
entire country is learning their story.

Joining me now is Ira Glass, the host of "This American Life", and
Alex Kotlowitz, author of "There are No Children Here." He and two other
reporters went inside Harper High to report for "This American Life."

Let me start with you, Ira, why was it important to you to present the
story of Harper High School?

IRA GLASS, HOST, "THIS AMERICAN LIFE": I think for all that we all
hear about gun violence in this country, most of the shootings are
concentrated in certain parts of the cities. And we just don`t hear what
it`s like to be living with that kind of violence every day. And we felt
like people in this community, people at this school where they saw 29
shootings in a year, they knew something about it that most of us and the
rest of the country didn`t.

And, you know, you hear these shootings and you hear that it`s like a
gang kid. And I think -- I think that there`s a tendency around the
country well, he must have had it coming.

SHARPTON: Right.

GLASS: And some like assume they`re gangs, but as we document, the
gangs are different now than they used to be. In this school, every kid is
in the gang. The police tell you you cannot be in a gang. You`re assigned
a gang based on the geography. It`s not like -- and these gangs, they
aren`t about selling drugs and it`s not about territory. It`s totally
different. And so every kid is in a gang. So when you hear it`s a gang
kid, you`re really not understanding what`s really happening from the
outside.

SHARPTON: It`s not the image we used to have. You know, I was
fascinated, Alex, when you talked about how everyone in America should know
Harper High. Eight people killed in one year, 21 wounded. Yet we didn`t
know. And you said if it was in another community, another type of people,
the whole country would be outraged. Tell me why you feel that way.

You know why I feel that way, but tell me why you feel that way.

ALEX KOTLOWITZ, "THIS AMERICAN LIFE": Well, look, I mean, the
violence in a place like Chicago is nothing new. I mean, you know that as
well as anyone. And I think that there`s a kind of resignation that, you
know, there`s really not much we can do about it. And I think one of the
things that was remarkable that`s is great here. You know that as well as
anyone. I think one of the things that was remarkable, you found this
incredible collection of adults who, you know, provided this sense of
safety for the kids there.

And I think it was clear to us after spending just a little time there
that these adults made an enormous difference in the lives of these kids.
But you`re right, we don`t really pay much attention to what`s going on in
these communities. They`re physically and spiritually isolated from the
rest of us.

GLASS: And I think the fact that there`s so many shootings, I think
reporters -- I just think that there`s so many shootings, there`s so much
violence that reporters, you know, it`s -- you know, and I have sympathy
for daily beat reporters that just to get the facts of what happened out
there with the speed that they have to is a job. And then to be able to go
in and actually spend enough time to figure out what are these murders
about? Why is this happening? What is this like?

You know, because there are so many shootings, I think a lot of
newsrooms just -- they don`t --

SHARPTON: Yes, but you did it. And I question why more haven`t done
it. And that`s why I wanted you on and I wanted Alex on to talk about it.
The other thing is I don`t think people understand the environment. I
heard kids talk about the rules they have to live by on one of your tapes
since you were there, Alex, and was actually embedded in the school.

Let me play this sound byte to you talking to one of the students
about what it is to live -- things, rules they have to go by.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, and I always walk with people home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What`s the advantage?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s not trying to get jumped on and shot.
Because there`s be fighting and shooting up there. Almost every day.
Because won`t nobody mess with somebody in a group. Walking in a group.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: So they have to walk in a group because no one will mess
with you if you`re walking in a group. So literally afraid to go to
school, walking alone or with one other friend. I mean, imagine that kind
of environment.

(CROSSTALK)

KOTLOWITZ: Right. Well, that was my colleague, Linda Lutton, who was
speaking to one of the boys there about the gangs and I think what`s one of
the things that was clear to us is, you know, there are rules and, in some
ways, there aren`t really rules. I mean there`s this -- this boy talks
about how it`s necessary to walk with a group and then yet other kids will
tell you they want to be by themselves because if you`re walking with a
group you`re likely to be associated with others and likely to be
pinpointed as a gang member.

GLASS: They`ll think you`re a gang member if you`re in a group.

KOTLOWITZ: Right.

GLASS: You`re like, oh, you`re really associated with them. You`re
really with them and then you can become a target by being in a group.

SHARPTON: You know, one of the things, Ira, that is great about the
story you`ve done on Harper High is the staff`s commitment to the students.
The principal, Leonetta Sanders.

GLASS: Leonetta Sanders. Yes.

SHARPTON: Who we wanted to get on and we`ll have on. Let`s listen to
you and her conversation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLASS: Principal Sanders sets the tone for the building. And just
listen here to how she informs a girl who showed up on the first day of
school out of uniform that the girl can never do that again.

LEONETTA SANDERS, PRINCIPAL: Oh, my god. You look so cute. Too bad
you can`t wear a white shirt, but you all look so cute.

GLASS: That`s classic Harper. You`re reprimanded, but with love.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Reprimanded, but with love. How effective is that?

GLASS: Well, I mean I think it`s good for your kids to know that
people are looking out for them and -- I think it`s good that people are
keeping them to the rules. I mean, we were impressed with the competence
of the staff at the school. And, you know, if you think about the impact
of the shootings, I think that one of the things that people don`t see is
just in a human way what it does to individual kids to know that their
friends have been shot at. To be there when their friends have been shot
at. To witness it themselves.

And at the school, you know, there`s 1.5 social workers. You know.

SHARPTON: Yes.

GLASS: You know, 1.5 social workers and they`re going to lose next
year -- you know, that`s going to be cut down to 3/4 of a time social
workers. And one of the interesting things at Harper is that the city of
Chicago sent in a lot of money. They basically designated the school.
They said look, there`s a problem here. Arne Duncan who used to run the
Chicago schools.

(CROSSTALK)

SHARPTON: Yes. Who`s now secretary of education.

GLASS: He basically said --

SHARPTON: I remember when they opened the pool there. There was no
activity going in the school there. And they put money. And I remember.

GLASS: Yes, yes, yes. So he basically said what would happen if you
were just throwing enough money at a school like this so that money isn`t a
factor. And that`s what they did in the school for years, for the last few
years. They cut a turnaround in school and they had millions of dollars
extra to basically have adults who could help these kids deal with the
violence and help protect them from the violence. And now that money is
going away next year.

SHARPTON: Yes. Well, Alex, I was fascinated by what you did because
I knew there was a lot of violence going on that Americans just wasn`t
seeing. And we must put that out there. We have a society problem. From
Harper High in Chicago all the way to Newtown, and I think people have no
sense of how people are living under fear and siege. And I think you
captured it in your work.

And, Ira, for you putting it on, that`s why I wanted to put it on the
show tonight. And we`ll have the principal on at some point.

Ira and Alex, thank you both so much for joining us tonight.

(CROSSTALK)

SHARPTON: And have a healthy weekend.

KOTLOWITZ: Thanks for having us.

SHARPTON: Ahead the first lady gets moving and brushes off her lame
critics on the right. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: First Lady Michelle Obama gets moving with kids in Chicago.
She`s been touring the country, getting moving with kids to mark the third
anniversary of her "Let`s Move" campaign.

There`s progress to report on kids` health. Studies show childhood obesity
rates are leveling off in some states, including a 13 percent drop in
Mississippi. The nation`s most obese state. She brought an inspiring
message to Chicago yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

M. OBAMA: I grew up in the same neighborhoods, went to the same
schools, faced the same struggles, shared the same struggles, shared the
same hopes and dreams that all of you shared.

I am you. And the only reason I am standing up here today is that
back when I was your age, I made a set of choices with my life. Do you
hear me? Choices. I chose not to listen to the doubters and the haters.
I chose to listen to shut those voices out of my head and listen to my own
voice.

I chose to ignore any negative things that were happening around me
and, instead, focus on all the wonderful things I had going on inside of
me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Listen to your own voice. Shut out the doubters. It`s
been her message even while some on the right criticized her efforts to
tackle childhood obesity. And it was a message in a new interview where
she answered those who didn`t care for her surprise appearance at the
Oscars.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

M. OBAMA: That`s just the nature of life, you know:? I mean, you
know, we live in a time when there are bloggers and tweeters and 24 hour-
news and everyone has a voice in this -- you know, this town square. And
it`s a big one. And it`s good. Overall it`s good. But that means that at
any point and given time, somebody is not going to like what you do.
That`s just the nature of things.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: That`s just the nature of things. And it`s just one of the
reasons the first lady is so admired by so many. And she says she shuts
out the doubters. She just keeps on moving, instead. That`s what you must
do. Shut out the doubters. Live for the big things. Keep your eye on
your prize.

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

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

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