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PoliticsNation, Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

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POLITICS NATION
March 26, 2013

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

Guests: Jeffrey Rosen, Keith Ellison, Angela Rye, Caroline Heldman


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

Tonight`s lead, a more perfect union. A historical day at the Supreme
Court tackling one of the great civil rights issues of our time, marriage
equality. Huge crowds gathered outside as the court heard arguments on
whether gay couples should have the same right to marry as anyone else.
It`s an issue that President Obama helped bring to the forefront of our
national debate, helping the country to evolve just like he evolved.

This issue boils down to one simple thing, civil rights. Equal
rights. We can`t have equal rights for some, but not for others. Justice
Scalia, the man who just a few weeks ago called voting a racial entitlement
was exposed on this very point.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUSTICE ANTON IN SCALIA, SUPREME COURT: When did it become
unconstitutional to exclude homosexual couples from marriage?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE LAWYER: May I answer this in the form of a
rhetorical question? When did it become unconstitutional to prohibit
interracial marriages?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: These are easy questions to answer. It`s never OK to
discriminate. It`s never OK to deny someone their civil rights. We, as a
nation, are committed to forming a more perfect union and the Supreme Court
must honor that commitment.

Joining me now is Jeffrey Rosen, law professor at George Washington
University and legal affairs editor at "the New Republic." And Jonathan
Capehart, opinion writer for "the Washington Post."

First of all, thank you both for being here.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Thanks,
Reverend.

JEFFREY ROSEN, LAW PROFESSOR, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Thank
you.

SHARPTON: Jeffrey, let me start with you. In court today the lawyer
supporting a ban on gay marriage claimed it`s needed because the government
wants straight couples to have kids. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE LAWYER: The state`s interest and society`s interest
in what we have framed as responsible procreation is -- is vital.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Responsible procreation? I mean, that`s pretty bizarre.
And even Justice Kagan demolishes that argument by asking if we should ban
marriage for older couples, too. Here`s what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUSTICE ELENA KAGAN, SUPREME COURT: If you`re over the age of 55, you
don`t help us, sir, if the government`s interest in regulating procreation
through marriage. So why is that different?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE LAWYER: Your honor, even with respect to couples
over the age of 55, it is very rare that both couple, both parties to the
couple are infertile. And the traditional --

KAGAN: No, really. Because if a couple -- I can just assure you if
both the woman and the man are over the age of 55, there are not a lot of
children coming out of that marriage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: I mean, Jeffrey, it is laughable. No question about it. I
mean, responsible procreation? Really? That`s the best case they can make
for banning gay marriage?

ROSEN: You know, it may seem laughable, but it`s the central argument
on behalf of the state. The lawyer, Charles Cooper, said not only does the
state have an interest in ensuring that couples have kids with each other
responsibly, but they avoid having out of wedlock kids irresponsibly and
don`t act on animal passions. And basically was saying because gay couples
who have kids have to do so deliberatively, they have got to adopt or think
about the consequences of their actions in advance. They don`t need the
institution of marriage to get them back responsibly. It`s only straight
people who are really irresponsible.

And then, as justice Kagan said, it doesn`t make any sense. Why on
earth would you think that banning marriage for gay people would have any
effect on the behavior of straight people responsibly or not? It really
was a remarkable series of exchanges.

SHARPTON: I would have thought, Jonathan, they would have come up
with a better argument than that. And are you suggesting, then, that
straight couples that get married and don`t have children haven`t lived up
to their obligations to the country? I mean, what are we saying here?
This is bizarre? What does this have to do with people`s right to marry.

CAPEHART: Right. And think about this. Chief justice Roberts,
married, has two adopted children. Imagine the chief justice sitting there
listening to that conversation. Is his marriage any less valid than any of
the other -- say, Justice Scalia who has a ton of children? He and his
wife have a ton of children. Is his marriage less than Justice Scalia`s?
I wouldn`t say so.

Reverend Sharpton, they`re making this point. They are arguing this
point because that`s the only point, that`s the only argument they have.
And it is as thin as a hair.

SHARPTON: Well, I mean, you mentioned chief justice Roberts. He says
gay couples just want the marriage label. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS, SUPREME COURT: So it`s just about -- it`s
just about the label in this case.

TED OLSON, ATTORNEY: The label is --

ROBERTS: Same-sex couples have every other right, it`s just about the
label.

OLSON: The label marriage means something. It is like you were to
say you can vote, you can travel, but you may not be a citizen. There are
certain labels in this country that are very, very critical.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Now, Jeffrey, if it`s just a label, then why are they
saying that it violates the -- all of what marriage is supposed to be? You
can`t have it both ways. You can`t say marriage is sacred but then -- and
questioning it as the chief justice did it`s just a label, they just want
the label. Which is it?

ROSEN: Well, you are right to say you can`t have it both ways. And
if it is just a label, why do straight people need it to behave
responsibly? And if it`s more than that, why shouldn`t gay people get it,
too?

But, of course, it`s not just a label. Because tomorrow in an equally
historic case, the Supreme Court`s going to decide the constitutionality of
the federal defense of marriage act. And there marriage is not a label.
If you`re not validly married, which gay people are not allowed to be for
federal purposes, then your spouse cannot get benefits, tax benefits, can`t
live on a military base if your spouse is gay. So it may be a label in
California, but it`s not at all a label for federal purposes. That`s why
the analogy is not convincing.

CAPEHART: And Rev., on that point listening to chief justice Roberts`
questioning on that, that`s something a lot of conservatives think. People
who are, say, against marriage equality want to know. Well, if you got --
if you have all the rights and benefits, because under California law same-
sex couples do have that under domestic partnership, they just don`t have
the label marriage, pushing Ted Olson on that question, to me, sounded like
the chief justice was pushing him hard to see how strong is his argument?
Is Olson`s argument that the label is important. That it is so important
that the court should jump in.

SHARPTON: Now, you have a lot of support for it to be legal as
opposed to before, 53 percent support, 39 percent oppose. You have Justice
Scalia and Kennedy offering different views about how gay marriage affects
children. That was very interesting. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCALIA: Do you know the answer to that, whether it -- whether it
harms or helps the child?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE LAWYER: No, your honor. There`s --

SCALIA: But that`s a possible deleterious effect, isn`t it?

JUSTICE ANTHONY KENNEDY, SUPREME COURT: There`s some 40,000 children
in California, according to the red brief, that live with same-sex parents.
And they want their parents to have full recognition and full status. The
voice of those children is important.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Now, that -- the last one, the voice of those children is
important, of course, is Justice Kennedy, who Jeffrey here in his 2007
article about Justice Kennedy, potentially the swing vote on gay marriage,
Jeffrey says Kennedy is the court`s most activist judge. He thinks the
court plays a more important role in American life than congress.

So in Jeffrey`s view, Kennedy`s statement is important, how do you
read it?

CAPEHART: Well, I found it as a very encouraging. Justice Scalia,
the Justice Scalia clip you just showed had the judge up here in theory.
Where are the studies that show that this is deleterious? Whereas you have
Justice Kennedy in the real world practical effects. He knows how many
children there are in California with same-sex parents. And he is
definitely concerned about what happens to those children because they`re
with same-sex parents and the same-sex parents aren`t recognized as married
under the law. What happens to those children if something happens to
those parents? He`s thinking real world as opposed to theoretical.

SHARPTON: Jeffrey, how do you view Kennedy`s questioning today? I
quoted your article, which was not that favorable to the justice. But
notwithstanding that, how do you view his questioning and his position
today?

ROSEN: Well, that article was just meant to suggest it`s rare that
Kennedy finds a problem in national life that he`s not willing to consider
on constitutional terms. And in that sense, I think the gay marriage side
should be encouraged by Kennedy`s questions because he got the central
point in their brief. They said it doesn`t make sense to deny marriage to
gay couples because of children, because in California as in many states,
gay couples can already adopt whether or not they`re married. So these
children exist. These are real parents with real children. And Kennedy
understood, you are demeaning them. You are denying them social acceptance
in ways that could be harmful to them.

In other cases involving a woman`s right to choose abortion, Kennedy`s
been very concerned about the real world effect of these laws on women`s
dignity. The fact he`s concerned about the dignity of children is very
significant.

SHARPTON: Help me out here, Jonathan. Justice Alito comparing gay
marriage to cell phones and the internet. Let me let you listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUSTICE SAMUEL ALITO, SUPREME COURT: You want us to step in and
render a decision based on an assessment of the effects of this institution
which is newer than cell phones or the internet? We are not -- we do not
have the ability to see the future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Now, I mean, newer than cell phones or internet, I got that
part. But if we are asking the court to step in in a relatively new kind
of social challenge with same-sex marriage to those that are challenged by
it, aren`t people asking people to step in and stop it? So how do you
judge not to do it, but it`s too early to say it`s all right to do it?

CAPEHART: Yes. I`m still trying to wrap my head around the analogy
that the justice used. I don`t quite get what he`s saying. Look, the
American people, 58 percent in the "Washington Post" poll, 58 percent of
the American people are there. You have more than 130 Republicans who
signed an amicus brief in the Prop 8 saying same-sex marriage should be
legal. You have 51 percent of Republicans, 18 to 45, who say that same-sex
marriage should be legal. The American people are already where the court
should be.

SHARPTON: Well, Jeffrey Rosen and Jonathan Capehart, thank you for
your time.

This is going to be a very important issue. I think the issue here is
not whether you agree with same-sex marriage or not. The issue is, do we
have the right to impose our views on others.

It was just 1967 before interracial marriage was found to be
constitutional by this court. And now we have a justice sitting on the
court engaged in one. It`s not about what you`re going to do with your
life. It`s can you impose it on others` lives.

Ahead, Mr. Racial entitlement has an offensive and vile history on gay
rights. So how in the world can Justice Scalia be impartial?

Plus, President Obama`s progressive fight is working. And the
campaign is just getting started.

And you will not believe what a staffer is saying about Michele
Bachmann. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Have you joined the "Politics Nation" conversation on
facebook yet? We hope you will.

Today, everyone was talking about the Republican senators Paul and
Cruz and their threat to block gun restriction bills in the Senate.

Larry says, they are not following the will of the people.

Sandi says, you do not have a right to block laws that the majority of
our nation want.

Joan says, America has spoken and these guys are on the wrong side.

She`s right. And coming up, we will explain why.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: These are critical days at the Supreme Court. In a term
that will take on the most controversial issues of our time, rulings on gay
marriage, on affirmative action and on voting rights. And at the center of
all of it is this man, Justice Antonin Scalia. There`s little doubt about
how he will vote on marriage equality.

In a 1996 ruling, he equated homosexuality to murder, polygamy and
cruelty to animals. During a 2003 case he compared it to prostitution,
heroin use, adult incest and child pornography. And as late as last year,
he argued, quote "if we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality,
can we have it against murder?" His comments are offensive. And not just
on gay marriage. Here`s what he had to say about the voting rights act.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCALIA: A phenomenon 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: That was in the court last month. Voting rights as a
racial entitlement? Gay marriage compared to murder and bestiality?
Justices are supposed to be like umpires. Calling balls and strikes. But
Scalia, he`s not even in the right ballpark.

Joining me now, Jimmy Williams and David Corn.

JIMMY WILLIAMS, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you both for being on the
show.

DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure thing.

JIMMY WILLIAMS: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Jimmy, let me go to you first. It doesn`t seem like Scalia
is an impartial umpire, now, does it?

WILLIAMS: No, Reverend Al. He`s not very impartial. Out of the all
the things that you just listed that he has compared homosexuality to as a
certified, organic homosexual on national TV, I have not done any of those
things. I have a dog, but I`ve never had sex with my dog because I`m
normal, just like everybody else. And for that man to go around saying
things like racial entitlement, bestiality, et cetera, et cetera, it`s
farcical.

I wrote a column back in November -- back a couple weeks ago when he
did this thing on racial entitlement. And I said in the column I thought I
was hearing a justice of the Supreme Court from the 1960s or from the 19th
century. This is a man that is out of touch with reality by choice, by the
way. He has no desire to make the constitution a living, breathing
document that applies to today`s America. And he`s never going to. From
the day that he steps off the court or dies on the court. That`s just a
reality.

SHARPTON: Now, David, when you look at the fact that the justice --
well, let me quote from FOX last year. He was interviewed. And he argued
that, I don`t think the court is political at all. This is Scalia in a FOX
interview. But despite that, he certainly had no problem parroting the
right`s talking points. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCALIA: You define the market as food, therefore everybody`s in the
market. Therefore, you can make people buy broccoli.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: If they can force us to buy
health insurance, they can force us to buy broccoli.

SCALIA: If we struck down nothing in this legislation but the --
what`s it called? The cornhusker kickback.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Talk radio has been all over this.
The cornhusker kick back.

SCALIA: A phenomenon that is called perpetuation of racial
entitlement.

BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: The USA is becoming an entitlement
society.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Now, what I wanted to show there in each of these cases,
David, the talkers. Whether it was Limbaugh or Hannity, O`Reilly, used
those phrases before Scalia said them. But, of course, he`s not political.
He just coincidentally seems to parrot the same words and the same
analogies around the same issues.

CORN: Well, let me start off by actually saluting Justice Scalia.
Because as far as I saw today, he did not compare homosexuality to flag
pole sitting, pedophilia, bestiality, murder, raping or anything else. So,
I think he was kind of restrained which is a very unusual moment for
Justice Scalia, given the high profile nature of this case. Maybe some of
the criticism he`s gotten in the last few months is starting to get to him.
But, you know, when you talk about --

SHARPTON: Well, also, maybe he`s waiting till tomorrow. It is
another case.

CORN: Maybe he`s saving the good ones for tomorrow. Today was just
the warm-up session. But, if you talk about him being political, you know,
the second half of what he said on that racial entitlement quote during the
voting rights act case was one of the most political statements a justice
has ever said. He says, you know, when you have a racial entitlement it
becomes very hard to get rid of it. He wanted to say that -- the voting
rights act was reauthorized 98-0 in the Senate. And he suggested that it
was up to the Supreme Court to rush in and do what the senators did not
have the political guts to do.

SHARPTON: That`s exactly what he said. Yes.

CORN: To take away this entitlement. And that, to me, was one of the
most explicit statements of judicial activism we have ever heard on the
court. I don`t think there was enough attention paid to that because
people were blown away by his characterization of it as a racial
entitlement.

SHARPTON: Now, talking about politics, Jimmy, this could have big
effect on politics. "The National Journal" points out the decisions in
this term of the court could have a big impact on the 2014 election. They
say, quote "religious conservatives and African-American voters are ready
to mobilize if same-sex marriage bans or racial equality laws are
overturned. Potentially reshaping the mid-term electorate."

And I think that`s right. If affirmative action and/or voting rights
overturned African-Americans will clearly have a real motivation to come
out in big numbers in the mid-term. Or on the other side of the aisle, the
Christian conservatives will come out if they overturn Prop 8 or if they
give constitutional right to gay marriage. This could really tip where we
see turnout next year in the mid-term elections, Jimmy.

WILLIAMS: I think you`re exactly right. But here`s the thing about
the Republicans and conservatives specifically, is their base is aging
white men and women. Specifically, more specifically, aging white men.
When it comes to the 2014 elections, we saw what happened last year when
voter id laws across the nation were put out. And what happened? African-
Americans turned out in droves despite the fact that the press was
reporting that they weren`t going to show up as much the second time
around. But they did. Young people. Exactly the same thing. I would
much, much rather be going into the 2014 elections with young people,
people 30 and under, even conservatives 30 and under, who see if the court
rules against us on the issue of marriage equality, against us on the
voting rights act, against us on affirmative action, I would much rather
see a motivated 30 and under crowd show up to vote than a bunch of people,
you know, octogenarians and Walkers like Scalia who show up at the polls
and they get tired of waiting. Young people will wait. I promise you
that. If the court goes along with this, that is going to happen.

SHARPTON: And they showed last year, David, they will stand there and
wait and they did. And that determined the outcome of the election.

WILLIAMS: That`s right.

CORN: Well, yes. And the interesting thing here, too, is if you
listen, I know you both have, to the right wing attack on gay marriage,
and, you know, that coming from Republican quarters, it just doesn`t seem
to have the same pizzazz it used to. It`s like they know they`re fighting
against the tide. They know they`re losing this battle. You know,
demographics alone suggest they`re going to lose it. And I just don`t feel
the same energy as you still get when you talk about the abortion issue.

So I think, you know, while indeed there may be some people trying to
gin this up for the 2014 elections, a lot of people in the Republican
party, you know, will not want to do that. And I think, you know, those
people who turned out to vote back in 1994, you`re right. They`re with
Walkers, Jimmy. They`re not going to make it to the polls. And I think
now they are just going to go, who cares. It`s not going to lead to a
surge.

SHARPTON: I think you`re right. I think also when people don`t
realize the importance of a vote, let`s not forget the Scalia, those that
sit on the Supreme Court are selected by who we elect as president. Your
vote matters for a long time.

Jimmy Williams and David Corn, thank you for your time tonight.

WILLIAMS: Thank you.

CORN: Sure thing.

SHARPTON: Ahead, the new right wing conspiracy theory on guns. Wait
till you hear who`s calling their bluff.

Plus, why President Obama`s winning the progressive fight by going on
the offensive.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Thank you, thank you.

That`s right. Tonight, we`re bringing you exclusive footage from
inside the right wing`s latest mission. These are pictures of right
wingers searching for their latest conspiracy theory.

Yes. They`re looking for a new scary way to show gun laws will take
away people`s guns. It`s a massive hunt. And despite the truth, if you
look closely, you can see they have been deep found one. Yes, they now say
that the Department of Homeland Security is buying up bullets so regular
citizens won`t be able to get them. Amazing, right? The fact is Homeland
Security has explained, they`re buying ammunition in bulk so they can get
cheaper prices. But the crack pot cause is getting some hard hitting press
attention.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Some of the conspiracy theorists online say this
is our government buying up bullets to use against us. Are you one of
those who believes that?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Well, you know, that might be reaching a little far
at this point. We`ve asked the questions of DHS.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Oh, sure. Just asking the questions. But I`m sure the
reporter pushed him on his fact free paranoia, right?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: There are people, you know, making fun of it a
little bit. You`re using these words paranoia. I think these -- these are
very appropriate for what we need to do.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Understood, sir. Well, I appreciate you coming
on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Understood, sir. But there`s more to this big and scary
mystery.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Congress demanding answers as to why they need all
those bullets. Can someone answer, please? Hello?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Won`t someone please give them some answers? Well,
actually, someone did.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: DHS figures show that ammo purchases are actually
lower than in years past.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: They haven`t bought more ammunition than what they
have in a long period of time. I think if you go through it without fear
and actually make a judgment, I think they`re probably doing exactly what
they need to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: That`s right. That`s republican Senator Tom Coburn saying,
there was nothing to it. But he wasn`t alone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Sure. I mean, everything on that pans out. And I
hate to disappoint the conspiracy theorists. They`re going to have to come
up with something new.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: I guess even the conspiracy theorists always have a home
over at FOX. Did they think we wouldn`t notice their peddling a story they
already debunked? Nice try. But we got you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: I have always believed that
hope is that stubborn thing inside us that insists, despite all the
evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us. So long as we
have the courage to keep reaching, to keep working, to keep fighting.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: The courage to keep fighting. That`s what the president is
doing, and it`s working. Today, hundreds let their voices be heard out in
front of the Supreme Court. Support for gay marriage is at an all-time
high. Fifty eight percent of Americans think it should be legal for same-
sex couples to marry. And it`s not just same-sex marriage. Support for
immigration reform and gun reform is moving in the right direction as well.

Seventy two percent of the country supports a pathway to citizenship.
Eighty eight percent support an expansion of background checks. President
Obama is hitting the trail again to sell his progressive vision to the
country. He will traveling the country in the coming weeks to rally
support for new gun control proposals. He hasn`t lost sight of the vision
he promised Americans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and
daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts.

Send me a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the next few months
and I will sign it right away and America will be better for it.

Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are
treated like anyone else under the law.

Gabby Giffords deserves a vote. The families of Newtown deserve a
vote.

My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment. And we will seize
it so long as we seize it together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: It`s time to do something. And the country is ready.

Joining me now is Congressman Keith Ellison, democrat from Minnesota.
He co-chairs the progressive caucus. Thanks for being here, Congressman.

REP. KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNESOTA: Thank you, Rev.

SHARPTON: You know, we`ve been seeing real evidence the country is
progressive. Why do you think we`re seeing such a big shift?

ELLISON: Well, because the country really is progressive. Americans
are fair minded people who believe that people ought to live their lives as
they choose to. As long as they don`t hurt anybody else. We believe that
the economy ought to work for everybody. We believe that people ought to
be able to pursue their dreams. You know, every time we stand up on the
house floor in Congress, we say the pledge of allegiance. And the way we
end it up, Reverend, is liberty and justice for all. Everybody.

SHARPTON: Right.

ELLISON: And that is imbedded in who we are.

SHARPTON: Now, you know, Politico calls the shift in politics culture
wars. With a twist. The quote is from Politico, three issues. Gay
rights, guns and immigration climbed to national attention after surviving
battle tests in states and enjoying a shift in public opinion. Now
Washington is just playing catch up. Very interesting, Congressman.

ELLISON: Yes. It is interesting. And I think it`s accurate. I
mean, the fact is, you know, the American people are way ahead of Congress
on a lot of things. I mean, there was a recent poll by Gallup which said
that 72 percent of all Americans believe we should have public
infrastructure spending. Meaning our roads and our bridges and our transit
lines, even a majority of Republicans think so. And yet we`re in full-on
austerity mode in Washington.

SHARPTON: Yes.

ELLISON: The public thinks we ought to raise the minimum wage. Well,
you know, in Washington we`re arguing, you know, whether minimum wage
actually causes unemployment. Which is ridiculous and untrue. But, I
mean, the people are way ahead of Washington. And the people really do
deserve to have their will be reflected in their government.

SHARPTON: Now, you know, one thing I observed in light of what you
just said is the president keeps fighting, keeps going forward despite the
opposition. And it`s resonating with the American people. I suppose that
the opposition for whatever reasons are not connected and understanding
that what they`re saying is just not working among the public when they`re
opposing the president on some of these progressive ideas.

ELLISON: Well, my opinion is that folks like, you know, the Koch
Brothers and Sheldon Allison (ph) and Karl Rove and people who believe like
that, they have a different vision of America. They believe that the rich
don`t have enough money and the poor have too much. They believe that
we`re not our brother`s keeper. They believe that the environment is a
thing you can use and use and use and never have to worry about.

They think that, you know, not everybody`s equal and not everybody has
a fair shake at American life. They just see it differently. But the
American people, the majority, the overwhelming majority, you know, believe
that people should have a shot. The economy should work. And people
should be able to marry who they`re in love with.

SHARPTON: Now, let me bring this note to you that is not harmonious
with all of this. Senator Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Mike Lee hand delivered
a letter to Senator Harry Reid`s office today. And it read, quote, "We the
undersigned intend to oppose any legislation that would infringe on
American people`s constitutional right to bear arms. We will oppose the
motion to proceed to any legislation that will serve as a vehicle for any
additional gun restrictions."

I mean, it means they want to filibuster gun control. That`s what
they`re saying. They`re going to filibuster gun control.

ELLISON: Yes.

SHARPTON: I mean, what are they thinking?

ELLISON: Well, if you look at the Heller decision with the Supreme
Court, the Supreme Court said you cannot ban guns, privately owned guns in
a private home. But other than that you can have reasonable restrictions.
That means those three particular senators, they`re the ones out of step
with the constitution. The constitution does not prohibit reasonable gun
safety. And it`s what most Americans want.

And they -- you know, these folks in the NRA like Mr. Lapierre keep on
telling folks things that are not true, such as we want to take their guns
away. Nobody is going to take your guns away unless you have some sort of
weapon of war. If you have a regular gun and you`re, you know, don`t have
a criminal background or are not mentally infirmed, you ought to be able to
own one. Those guys, they`re the ones out of step, not the constitution.
Not Harry Reid.

SHARPTON: Congressman Keith Ellison, thank you for your time. It`s
good to see the country moving forward. Change does not come sometime
quickly or in giant leaps. Sometime it`s step by step, in baby steps.

ELLISON: Right.

SHARPTON: As long as we`re going in the right direction.

Ahead, the fight for civil rights at the Supreme Court. We`ll look at
a long road to justice and equality.

And one of Michele Bachmann`s long-time staffers is comparing her
political fall to a belly flop. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: The Republican National Committee say, they want to reach
out to minority voters. Pledging to spend $10 million on the effort. But
maybe Republicans should just start by ending voter ID laws that suppress
millions of Americans. Today Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell signed a new
strict voter ID bill into law. It`s the second major change to Virginia
voter requirements McDonnell signed in just the last year.

His fellow Republicans insist the law is needed to strengthen the
integrity of elections in the state. But since 2000, there`s been only one
case of voter fraud that might have been stopped by an ID requirement.
Just one. In Arkansas the democratic governor vetoed a voter ID law passed
by the GOP-controlled state legislature. But Republicans are already
looking forward to overriding the veto.

Republicans can say that they want to bring more minorities into their
tent, but actions speak louder than words.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Remember when Michele Bachmann was the toast of the GOP?
She founded the House Tea Party caucus in 2010. Leading the Tea Party
charge against Obamacare. In June of 2011, within hours, within weeks of
announcing her candidacy for president, she was surging to a primary lead
in the polls. And by August, she had pulled off a win in the Iowa straw
poll. Her campaign was running hot.

But today Bachmann`s running from something else. Reporters. Her big
speech at the conservative conference two weeks ago was riddled with errors
and flat out made up. And now we learn that she might be in the hot water
with the office of Congressional ethics. Wow. Look out. I see a fading
star.

Joining me now, Angela Rye, Caroline Heldman. Thank you both for
being here tonight.

ANGELA RYE, FORMER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS:
Thank you, Rev.

CAROLINE HELDMAN, PROFESSOR, OCCIDENTAL COLLEGE: Thank you, Rev.

SHARPTON: Angela, one member of Congresswoman Bachmann`s staff told
The Daily Beast, quote, "Politics is like jumping off a diving board. You
rise, you plateau. But at the end of the day, everyone comes down. Some
people make a splash. And some people belly flopped. She belly flopped.
And you don`t get a second chance at the diving board." Did it all catch
up with the congresswoman?

RYE: You know, Rev, there`s a whole lot going on here. With the
office of Congressional ethics, you know, she`s not only in potential
violations of the ethics rules of the house but also of Federal Election
Commission standards. If she has done any of what they`ve alleged, she`s
in a lot of trouble. And the irony of this, Rev, is that one of her
spokesman has said that she is the subject of, you know, a democratic
attack. By the DCCC and by democratic packs. And that`s not the case. As
you`ve just said, the whistle blower here is one of her former staffers.

SHARPTON: But aside from that, the politics of this, she flumped real
bad at CPAC. Let me put it this way. The Daily Beast reports, Carolyn,
that it`s been time for Bachmann since she quit her presidential campaign.
They list the Tea Party caucus she`s helped found is now dormant. She`s
seen a 46 percent annual staff turnover rate. And PolitiFact has called
her more, on her statements, quote, "Outright lies and pants on fire than
any other politicians." I mean, it seems like despite whatever these
allegations are, whether they be true or not, politically it`s like turned
upside-down for her.

HELDMAN: I would very much agree with you. I think, you know, an FEC
investigation, a Congressional ethics investigation and lawsuit from a
former staffer are really hurting her. But she`s been inflicting wounds on
herself well before this. Even last week, we had Bill O`Reilly, right,
defending President Obama against Michele Bachmann`s claim of lavish
spending in the White House.

And she also said that the Affordable Care Act was going to kill
babies, elderly people and children. So I think it`s a shame that I
finally learned how to spell her name. One L, two Ns. And I think she
might be out of Congress in her next race because she barely eked a win
this past election.

SHARPTON: She barely eked a win. And what goes up must come down.
Let me show you, Angela, some of Ms. Bachmann`s greatest hits if she was a
performer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: I may not always get my words
right.

Obamacare as we know is the crown jewel of socialism.

If you`re involved in the gay and lesbian lifestyle, it`s bondage. It
is personal bondage.

Not all cultures are equal. Not all values are equal.

We have gangster government.

I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the
people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America or anti-America?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The Pulitzer Prize winning website PolitiFact has
found you have the worst record of making false statements.

BACHMANN: We are extremely careful and we were almost mistake free.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: So, Angela, I mean, it seems as though way before these
latest allegations, she had said some of the most outrageous things that
even some of those on the right are saying this is too far and too bizarre
for us to rally around.

RYE: Well, there`s no question about it. PolitiFact regularly
questioned the veracity of Michele Bachmann`s statements. So, there`s
definitely no question about it there. I also think that when you consider
the fact that she goes for ratings and hoorah over facts at any moment it`s
caused a major problem for her. And then when you look at the fact that
she just tried to run a race. She couldn`t handle the microscope. When
they really dug down and looked into what Michele Bachmann was really
about, there were all kinds of problems.

Now, again, whether or not these new allegations are true or not, it`s
clear that she had a very tough time managing that campaign. From all of
the stories, from the staffing reports, she had major problems. And even
the potential questioning of, you know, asking staffers to sign what would
be an illegal or just not -- an unenforceable nondisclosure agreement based
on some of the things that they saw on the campaign trail.

She`s got her work it out for her. And I would just advise her as a
lawyer that she should probably lay low as Doug (ph) once put it, lay low
Michele.

SHARPTON: Now, Caroline, you`re outside of Washington. Is there
something with her politics and her rhetoric that people like Senator Cruz
should learn from in terms of things they should be saying and not saying?

HELDMAN: Well, absolutely. I think that she represents the most
extreme wing of the Republican Party. The Tea Party. And the Tea Party
has lost favor with the American public. You know, two years ago a
majority of Americans had a favorable opinion. It`s now three in 10. So
they have lot, you know, the bloom is off the rose with the Tea Party. She
represents the most extreme wing of it. And 53 percent of Americans in a
recent national poll think the Republican Party is too extreme.
Homophobia. Racism directed at the White House. And I think Michelle
Obama epitomizes that.

SHARPTON: The Ted Cruz I think really has come on with some of the
outrageous statements. I don`t know if anyone that I`ve seen in the last
month or so has been more outrageous. You better take notice that you can
make a lot of noise and you make a bigger noise when you splash, belly
first. Angela Rye and Caroline Heldman, thank you both for your time
tonight.

RYE: Thanks, Rev.

HELDMAN: Thank you.

SHARPTON: The issue of civil rights. Civil rights issue of our time
is a fight, and change is hard. But the journey is inspiring. That`s
next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: At his second inauguration, President Obama reaffirmed our
nation`s commitment to equal rights for all.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We the people declare today that the most evident of truths
that all of us are created equal is the star that guides us still. Just as
it guided our forbearers through Seneca Falls and Selma and stonewall.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: From Seneca Falls, to Selma, to stonewall is why today
matters so much. The Supreme Court arguments on same-sex marriage are an
argument about civil rights. The rights of every man and woman. The
rights we fought to gain and protect. We can`t support equal rights for
some, but deny those rights to others. The journey for equal rights
extends far and wide. Its path carves through the New York and the
stonewall riots of 1969 which gave birth to the gay rights movement. That
same passion drove hundreds to wait in long lines for a chance to be in the
courtroom today, waiting in the cold, waiting in the rain, waiting in the
snow.

Waiting because of what today represents. Our nation is built for
everyone. No matter who you are or who you love. Fifty years ago,
interracial marriage was banned in large parts of the country. But one
courageous couple, Richard and Mildred loving, believed we could do better.
They fought for their marriage all the way to the Supreme Court. And they
won. In 1967, the justice has said, bans on interracial marriage were
unconstitutional. The Lovings were inspired by the civil rights movement
of the 1960s, a movement based on equality.

Today, the desire for equal rights is as strong as ever. The desire
to form a more perfect union. I`ve been challenged by friends. I`ve been
challenged by members of the clergy. We must preach our doctrine. That`s
exactly what we cannot do is govern by our doctrines. We must preach and
live by our doctrines, but we must respect others. Otherwise they can
impose their will and their doctrines on us. We must have freedom for
everyone. Or we have freedom for no one.

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

END

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