updated 9/24/2013 11:08:18 AM ET 2013-09-24T15:08:18

POLITICS NATION
Date: September 23, 2013
Guests: Jim McDermott; Wendell Potter, Krystal Ball, Cynthia Tucker,
Michelle Alexander, Eugene Jarecki

REV. AL SHARPTON, POLITICS NATION HOST: Thank you Ed and thanks to
you for tuning in. Tonight`s Lead, the shutdown party. Seven days to go
until a possible government shutdown and far right Republicans are showing
every indication is serious about making this extreme move. Today Tea
Party Senator Ted Cruz escalated his obsession with defunding the
President`s Healthcare Law. On the Senate floor, the Texas senator called
on Republicans to join him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: I would submit to every Republican in this
body it is our obligation to our constituents to do everything we can to
prevent the majority leader from funding Obamacare.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: And then in almost the same breath, Cruz had had the gall
to accuse Democrats of pushing the country to the brink.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRUZ: There is a tendency in this town towards brinksmanship. I
wished the majority leader had not said he intends to continues to use the
threat of a default to engage in brinksmanship.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: It`s a blatant attempt to stop Democrats from funding the
government and funding Obamacare at the same time. It won`t work, and even
some other Republicans admit it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I can`t imagine
filibustering the bill I like from the house.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is not a tactic that we can actually carry out
and be successful. The answer now in the Senate by those who propose this
strategy is to filibuster the very bill they said they wanted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: And it`s not just other Republicans attacking the tea
party`s radical agenda, 59 percent of Americans say they oppose a plan to
shut down the government and stop paying the nation`s bills in order to
defund the new health care law. Just 19 percent support the idea.
President Obama knows it, and he is ready to fight for it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is an interesting
thing to ponder. That your top agenda is making sure 20 million people
don`t have health insurance. And you would be willing to shut down the
government and potentially default for the first time in United States
history because it bothers you so much that we are actually going to make
sure that everybody has affordable health care.

Well, let me say as clearly as I can, it is not going to happen. We
have come too far. We have overcome far darker threats than those. We
will not negotiate over whether or not America should keep its word and
meet its obligations. We are not going to allow anyone to inflict economic
pain on millions of our own people just to make an ideological point. And
those folks are going to get some health care in this country. We have
been waiting 50 years for it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: The clock is ticking. The government shuts down in seven
days. The Senate will take a crucial vote to avoid that on Wednesday. But
tea party lawmakers are playing games in Washington. In order to attack
this president and take away health care from millions of people, they will
not stop.

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

Thank you both for coming on the show.

JOAN WALSH, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, SALON.COM: Thanks.

REP. JIM MCDERMOTT (D), WASHINGTON: Good to be here.

SHARPTON: Congressman, let me go to you first. The house has passed
a bill defunding Obamacare. What will the Senate do now?

MCDERMOTT: Throw it in the waste basket. They are not going to
respond to that kind of thing. They are going to pass a budget resolution
to continue the funding of the government, send it back to us without that
on it. And it is going to be voted on in the House. The House will have
to make their decision sometime later this week as to whether they want to
shut down the government or not. I`m afraid they are going to do it.

SHARPTON: Now, Joan, that is my fear. And I was struck by the
president`s statement that we played. That you really -- to make an
ideological point and a partisan point, you are willing to, for the first
time in the history of this country, default the country to stop people, 20
million Americans from getting health care. I mean, are we really at that
point where we are so political and so ideological in this country and hate
this president so in some of the tea party member, that they will default
the country just started?

WALSH: I believe we are at that point. I don`t know if they will be
able to get away with it, reverend Al, but we are at that point.

You know, there was a really interesting GQ profile of Senator Ted
Cruz today. And one of the things that he talked about is something you
and I have discussed over the month, that some of us sit around, we are
reasonable people and say what is their agenda? What do they want to
accomplish? What do they want to get done?

And Ted Cruz is quite clear. This is what he wants to get done.
Obstruction is not an accident or a by-product. Obstruction is the point.
Repealing is the point. They want to repeal Obamacare. They want to
repeal the 21st century. They want to go back and repeal the 20th century.
They`re gunning for Social Security and Medicare and new deal protections
of workers. They really want to send us back to a day when women were in
the kitchen, where people, where workers didn`t have protection, where
there were no wage protections, and of course, there was no guaranteed
health insurance.

SHARPTON: No, they want to eradicate the great society, the new deal,
all of that. And they`re digging in and they don`t care if they ruin the
country to do it.

You know, Congressman McDermott, former Republican senator Judd Greg
is slamming his own party for his extremism in this shutdown fight. Let me
show you this.

He says most Americans these days are simply ignoring Republicans and
they should. The self-promotional babble of a few has become the
mainstream of the Republican political thought. It has marginalized the
influence of the party to an appalling degree.

This is a former Republican senator stating that about his own party.
But the real threat is that that group may be able to be enough to shut the
government down if we can pressure them or convince them whatever way
becomes available in the Congress to really stop this that would inflict so
much pain on so many Americans.

MCDERMOTT: Reverend, I think what we have got here is a situation
where they are going to run the string out. They already started it by
trying to reduce food stamps. $20 billion in cuts on food stamps wasn`t
enough. They went to $40 billion.

SHARPTON: Right.

MCDERMOTT: Now they`re going to try and take away the health care for
people who are already beginning to get it from the president`s plan, and
they are going to push it to the point where they`re going to have to have
the public come back three or four days later and say are you people crazy?
You go back there and get this country back on its feet.

They simply believe that they can convince the people if they keep
pushing hard enough. And the people are not dumb. The people see through
this as Judd Gregg has already said. The people have already rejected this
bunch.

SHARPTON: I think, Joan, as much as one wants to see them politically
hurt themselves, the pain that it will cause veterans and others that would
suffer with a government shutdown as well as the denial of life insurance,
none of us even those of us that want to see their political demise since
they`re so narrow minded, want to see that at the expense of American
people.

WALSH: We don`t. Although it may be where we are headed. I mean, I
feel like it`s bizarre-o day, Reverend Al, where you know, Ted Cruz is
depicting this as it`s Harry Reid`s fault or it is Barack Obama`s fault if
we default or, you know, shut the government down because they won`t give
up Obamacare.

He also does this neat rhetorical thing where he calls it a bill as
though it is not the law of the land passed by Congress, upheld by the
Supreme Court.

SHARPTON: Right.

WALSH: And then ratified again in a way in the 2012 election where
the guy who wanted to end it was defeated soundly.

And so, to think the American people are stupid enough that they`re
going to think, oh, yes, it is Barack Obama`s fault he won`t give up
funding Obamacare, that`s why the government is shutting down. The public
sees through that. It`s already clear who they`re going to blame.

SHARPTON: No. I think, Congressman, that`s the most insulting to me
to the intellect of the American public for them to really hold this
country hostage, in effect, to say -- in political hostage to say you
either do what I want despite the fact I lost in the House, lost in the see
on the bill, lost in the Supreme Court, and lost in general election, I`m
still going to hold this. And by the way, it`s not me, it`s him doing it.
I mean, like we are stupid on top of everything else.

MCDERMOTT: You know, they voted on this 42 times in the last three
years. And you would think somewhere in there they would have got a
glimmer of understanding. But I really do believe it, Rev, they can`t read
polls. The polls say the president has been supported, both in the
election and one done yesterday by one of the big newspapers.

There is no question that the people are behind the president of the
United States. And yet they keep running their head into the wall. It
really is a crazy situation.

SHARPTON: Congressman Jim McDermott and Joan Walsh, thank you for
your time tonight.

WALSH: Thanks for having me.

MCDERMOTT: Good to see you again.

SHARPTON: Coming up, the epic Republican misstatements about
Obamacare. We will investigate the toxic group of right wing extremism and
big money coming together to distort the truth.

Plus, here comes Sarah Palin. She is hammering John McCain and
talking about cannibal elephants. Huh? We`ll have to explain that one.

And an American crisis President Obama is fighting to fix. The
justice system targeting minorities. Our special series, criminal
injustice, begins tonight.

Also friend or foe, I want to know. E-mail me. "Reply Al" is ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Have you joined the "Politics Nation" conversation on
facebook yet? Today we gave our facebook fans a sneak preview of our
criminal injustice series that kicks off tonight. And everyone was talking
about the fact that there are more African-Americans living under
correctional control today than were slaves in 1850.

Dominique says that`s outrageous. Now, why is that?

We will talk about it later in this show in our new series, "criminal
injustice." You can find more information about the issue on our facebook
page. Just 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)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Over the last four years, billions of dollars have been spent
misinforming people about what this law`s about. All the horror stories
that were talked about have not come true.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: No, the horror stories have not come true. After four
years of fear mongering, four years of Republican scare tactics like this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: We were Obamacare
will be a big job killer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This will be the big job killer ever.

CRUZ: It is killing jobs. It is causing more and more people not to
be hired.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This could destroy the 40-hour work week.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: New evidence to suggest this so-called
Obamacare death panels are in fact alive and well.

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Of course there
are death panels in there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your health care decision should be decided in
your doctor`s office, not a Washington office.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No one has the right to step between you and your
doctor.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Puts bureaucrats,
instead of doctors and patients in charge of medical decisions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don`t want to put the government and
bureaucrats between a doctor and a patient.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: That`s a job killer. They are pulling the plug on grandma.
They are getting between you and your doctor. None of it is true. None of
it. But with only eight days to go before open enrollment begins, the GOP
big money is flooding in to try and scare Americans.

Joining me now is Wendell Potter, a former health insurance executive
who knows the industry from the inside. He is the author of "Deadly Spin."

Wendell, thank you for joining me.

WENDELL POTTER, AUTHOR, DEADLY SPIN: Thank you, Reverend Al.

SHARPTON: Now, you recently wrote, Wendell, about scare tactics in an
effort to stop Obamacare and I`m quoting you. You said quote, "having
played a role in similar campaigns designed to mislead the government by
spreading fears in hopes of defeating profit threatening legislation. I
know how frantic the anti-Obamacare folks must be right about now.`

Now, a lot of people are confused about the law. How are the
opponents trying to mislead the public, Wendell?

POTTER: Well, they are trying to mislead the public because they
still have a very short window of time to mislead us until the law becomes
more of a reality than it already is. Already about 100 million Americans
have benefited from the affordable care act.

SHARPTON: About how many?

POTTER: About 100 million.

SHARPTON: Have already benefited? How have they benefited?

POTTER: Absolutely. Well, for one thing, people who are on Medicare
are getting help with their prescription drugs and they are getting
coverage for preventive care for the first time in many cases. Young
people are able to stay on their parents` policies until they are 26-years-
old. That happens to be a benefit to my household. My daughter was able
to go back on our policies. So, when you look at the population, people
who are young and people who are elderly, many of us have already been able
to benefit. And many more of us will in just a few days.

SHARPTON: Now, Wendell, let`s look at some of these myths. Because
we are eight days away from open enrollment starting and people really need
to know and they`re not all policy wonks.

So when they say it`s a job killer, that`s wrong. Many experts have
pointed out there will be little or no impact on jobs. They claim
government will come between you and your doctor. They are wrong again.
The affordable care act doesn`t set up a government-run system. In fact,
the law comes between you and your insurance company charging you more
money.

And their favorite claim, the death panels that will decide when you
die. That couldn`t be farther from the truth. The so-called death panel
is a committee subject to congressional oversight and approval meant to
reign in soaring of Medicare. It has nothing to do with death panels over
your life. But these are the kinds of things they are using all kinds of
money, as the president said billions , to try to pro propagandize and put
in the American mind.

POTTER: That`s exactly right. And these scared tactics. These are
the same kind of tactics that regrettably used to develop and implement
during my years in the insurance industry. And they are intended to try to
change people`s opinion, to make people afraid of the affordable care act
so that they will agree with the insurance companies and their benefactors
who those who are wanting to have fewer regulations. They want us to think
this is overreach by the government. It`s all about politics, Reverend Al.
It is not about --

SHARPTON: And it`s protecting their profits. You said that.

But let me show you something that really bothered me. And I have
been very passionate about this issue. And I did an interview on the show
last week with the tea party congressman. And I think this says it all.
Watch this, Wendell.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: What people don`t understand, Congressman, is how we pass
laws the Supreme Court upholds and you guys come in and say we are not
going to fund it and even worse, if money goes there we`ll shut the whole
government down. We thought we lived in a democracy. Come on,
congressman, that`s not what this country`s supposed to be about.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Al, just a reminder. This isn`t a democracy.
It`s a republic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Now, anyone knows this is a democratically elected
republic, a democracy. That`s how we choose who represents us. For him to
say that and just totally put aside the principle of democracy is about as
blatant as you can get on live television.

POTTER: You are exactly right. And it also kind of gives you a hint
at what some of these people are really wanting. They are wanting to
really establish an Olagar Keith (ph) (INAUDIBLE) in this country. We are
getting close to that where big money special interests, they are able to
call the shots. And they have in many cases. That`s why it taken us a
hundred years to get this reform we are about to get. It is all about
that, Reverend Al.

SHARPTON: Wendell Potter, thanks for joining us.

POTTER: Thank you, Reverend Al. Appreciate it.

SHARPTON: Coming up, she`s back! Sarah Palin calls the GOP gutless
and attacks FOX News. And she thinks this is good for her party.

Meantime, President Obama continues hammering the GOP and refusing to
give into their bully tactics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Sarah Palin unloads on her own party sticking up for Ted
Cruz, going after FOX News, slamming the maverick, and something about
cannibal elephants and moose season. Oh, yes. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: We are back with some developing news. The Senate has just
scheduled a vote for this Wednesday on the Republican plan to defund
Obamacare. Democrats are expected to smack it down. A major defeat
against Ted Cruz`s crusade against the law.

Cruz`s obsession has led the Republican Party to the brink of its own
civil war. Can the problem get any bigger for this party?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You bet yes. We
will.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Oh, yes. Sarah Palin is back. She`s defending Senator
Cruz and demolishing Republican leaders with a blistering editorial calling
the permanent political class in D.C. quote, "nothing but -- nothing if not
gutless and rudderless. Welcome to our world, Ted. The same people have
been denouncing conservatives like me for years."

But team Palin/Cruz is facing a backlash from Republicans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: This has been one of the strangest
weeks I have ever had in Washington. And I say that because as soon as we
listed Ted Cruz as our featured guest this week, I got unsolicited research
and questions, not from Democrats, but from top Republicans who -- to
hammer Cruz.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Republicans trying to hammer Cruz. That has Governor Palin
seeing red. She fired off a tweet to her FOX colleagues. Keep it truly
fair and balanced. Release the GOP names encouraging you to trash senator
Cruz. No more anonymous sources.

Calling out her FOX News colleagues? And later in the day, she took
to the air.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: My dad who was a science teacher
and natural history teacher -- dad, if you`re watching this morning, if
you`re out of moose camp already in your home, you are a teacher and you
never told me that elephants were cannibalistic. I wish I would have known
and then we would have a different tactic in a way that we do campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Moose camp? Cannibalistic elephants? Just what the GOP
needed. Sarah Palin back in the headlines. Time to grab the popcorn.
This is a reality show like no other.

Joining me now are Krystal Ball and Cynthia Tucker. Thank you both
for being here.

CYNTHIA TUCKER, PULITZER PRIZE WINNING COLUMNIST: Thanks for having
us.

KRYSTAL BALL, MSNBC CO-HOST, "THE CYCLE": Good to be here, Reverend.

SHARPTON: Cynthia, Palin says elephants are acting like cannibals.
But she`s one of the elephants attacking with Palin now involved, how messy
could this civil war get in the Republican Party?

TUCKER: Oh, it is getting worse and worse by the hour, Reverend. You
know, this civil war which has been getting worse and worse by the hour
anyway, is now much worse with Sarah Palin involved in it. Out there
leading the charge from one`s side. This is a war between those
Republicans who are merely conservative and the crazy Republicans. And I
don`t think I have to say which camp Sarah Palin is in.

You know, for those Republicans who were hoping that they could pull
back the party from the brink, that they wouldn`t go over the edge like
lemmings and take the whole republican brand with them, this has to be a
nightmare. Because Sarah Palin loves publicity now that she`s been
acknowledged again, she is not going to go away.

SHARPTON: Now, and to show you that she`s right, Krystal, Palin was
asked how she`d respond to Republicans like her former running mate John
McCain who are against Cruz`s plan. Listen to how she responded.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Senator McCain, your former running mate says to
think we can defund Obama care in this way is quote, "not rational." How
do you respond to those who say this is a fool`s errand?

PALIN: We ask as an American people collectively that they not wave a
white flag and just capitulate and give into the liberals and to those who
want this socialized program of health care coverage in our nation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: I mean, John McCain shouldn`t wave a white flag and give
into liberals? I mean is this going to antagonize mainstream Republicans
even more?

BALL: Well, what I love about what she said, too, is you know, she`s
got the American people behind her. We just had an election on this issue,
and I don`t think that her side won. But what`s incredible here, too, is
she and Ted Cruz are in match made in heaven. Because they both are
motivated by their own selfish interests in publicity and in fame. Neither
one of them is any more conservative than the people that are denouncing
them, but they both are more selfish and less interested in governance.
All they want is for all the media attention to go to them. And sadly for
Ted Cruz, this has worked. It has made him this quote, unquote "rising
star" and contender for 2016. And that`s what he really is after here.

SHARPTON: Are we looking at megalomania and narcissism or true
ideology here, Cynthia?

TUCKER: I don`t see any ideology in this, Reverend. There was
certainly no ideology that I could detect in Sarah Palin. If you look
throughout out her political career, she has only been interested in
advancing the interest of Sarah Palin. And I think absolutely the same is
true of Ted Cruz. Do their instincts tend to run more to the right? That
is absolutely true. They are certainly on the right side of the
ideological spectrum. But I think it is absolutely true that they`re most
interested in advancing themselves. If they were more interested in
advancing the conservative cause, they wouldn`t be destroying the
Republican Party.

SHARPTON: Now, you`re right. Because when we saw Sarah Palin
wouldn`t even rule out running for the Senate. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: Ted Cruz and more of those good guys need some re-enforcements
in these midterm`s re-elections. They need help to undo so much of what
the Democrats are doing. I don`t know if it will necessarily be me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: I don`t know if it will necessarily be me. But let me
bring this to you, Krystal. In her Breitbart op-ed, she warns Republicans
who are against the shutdown, it got a little weird. Let me read it.
Quote, "Oh and a little reminder to republican senators up for re-election
in 2014, moose season ends soon. Allowing more time on one`s hands. So
we`ll be watching your votes very carefully this week."

Moose season aside, she does have a good record with endorsements.
Ted Cruz, Kelly Ayotte, Nikki Haley. I mean, will Republicans be afraid to
get on her bad side, Krystal?

BALL: Well, she has those. But I believe she has a few like
Christine O`Donnell and Sharon Angle also that she`s backed. And let`s
face it. Sarah Palin`s star has waned very far. Now it`s not just people
like us who call her out, but her own side who are willing to denounce her
when she makes crazy statements like she is now. She doesn`t have the fun
raising pool that she once had. She is not going to be a force to be
reckoned with and to be reckoned with in 2014 despite her illusions of
grandeur here.

SHARPTON: Yes. But, you know, Cynthia, on the other side while all
this is going on, President Obama while they`re squabbling, he`s been
staying very tough. Look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: The idea of reversing that
progress because of an unwillingness to compromise or because of some
ideological agenda is the height of irresponsibility. You have never seen
in the history of the United States the debt ceiling or the threat of not
raising the debt ceiling being used to extort a president or a governing
party.

This is the United States of America. We`re not some banana republic.
This is a not a dead beat nation. We don`t run out on our tab. Let me say
as clearly as I can, it is not going to happen. We have come too far.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: I mean, he`s really hitting them hard. I mean, how does
this make the Republicans look, Cynthia?

TUCKER: Well, it makes them look like what they are. A bunch of
terrorists who will have taken the country hostage or at least who have
threatened to take the country hostage if they don`t get their way. And
there is a reason that the U.S. government says we don`t negotiate with
hostages. You`ll remember Reverend Al that the president negotiated with
them the last time. He was trying to do the reasonable thing because he
thought he had reasonable people on the other side.

SHARPTON: Right.

TUCKER: All he ended up with was them coming back, being even more
ridiculous.

SHARPTON: That`s right.

TUCKER: We are not going to pay the nation`s bills unless you will
give up Obamacare. So the President has finally figured out he has to
stand up to these extremists. And by the way, the President rallies
Democrats behind him when he does this. You know, Democrats have been
feeling a little forsaken as if the President has been giving up too much
in negotiating with Republicans.

SHARPTON: Well, he`s rallying them now. Because, Krystal, at the
Congressional Black Caucus Saturday night, I was there. And the President,
let me show you, he is dealing with real issues. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We can`t rest until every American knows the security of
quality affordable health care.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

We can`t rest until all of our children can go to school or walk down
the street free from the fear that they will be struck down by a stray
bullet. We`ve got to raise the minimum wage. Nobody who works full-time
in the wealthiest nation on earth should have to raise their children in
poverty.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

We have to make this a country where anybody who works hard can earn
their way into the middle class.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: I mean, with him fighting like this with this fervor, will
republican division help him with his agenda?

BALL: I think it will at least in the short-term with these fights.
I think we`ll get through the shutdown hopefully with Democrats united and
the debt ceiling debate as well. Because Democrats are united and the
American people are united behind the priorities that the president laid
out there. On the other hand you have Republicans who unconscionably are
trying to deny Americans health insurance.

SHARPTON: Yes.

BALL: I don`t know why they don`t just give the law a shot and see if
it actually could help people in this country. What a novel idea.

SHARPTON: But, I mean, 20 million Americans. They`re willing to
sacrifice young people up to age 26, people with pre-existing conditions
just to make an ideological or egotistical point. It is frightening. But
I don`t know, I think they may be that crazy. We`ll going to watch.
Krystal Ball and Cynthia Tucker, thank you both for your time tonight.

TUCKER: Thanks, Reverend.

BALL: Thank you, Reverend.

SHARPTON: Don`t forget to catch Krystal on "THE CYCLE," weekdays at 3
p.m. Eastern right here on MSNBC.

Coming up, Republicans cut food stamps by $39 billion. Tonight I`m
serving up some of their own hypocrisy.

But first, the stunning investigation of our criminal justice system.
More African-Americans under the prison system now than were slaves in
1850. Our special series criminal injustice starts, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Ensuring that the scales of justice work equally for all in
the criminal justice system is not simply a pipeline from underfunded
schools to overcrowded jails. It requires vigilance.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: The vigilance the president is talking about is desperately
needed. Because there is a crisis in our justice system, a crisis that we
all must address. In 1971 President Nixon launched a war against drugs.
At the time there were 300,000 Americans in prison. Three hundred
thousand. That number then exploded to more than two million. That`s a
700 percent increase. And that increase comes primarily from the minority
population. It`s been 150 years since the emancipation proclamation, yet
today there are more African-Americans living under correctional control in
prison, in jail, on probation or parole than were slaves in 1850.

Just think about that for a moment. In some states blacks comprise 80
to 90 percent of all drug offenders sent to prison. One in every 106 white
men go to prison. But for black men, that number is one in every 15. This
disparity flies in any face of all the facts about drug use. A study by
the national institution of drug abuse found that white students use
cocaine at seven times the rate of black students. They used crack at
eight times the rate of black students. And heroin at seven times the rate
of black students.

Joining me now, civil rights lawyer and advocate Michelle Alexander.
She`s author of the book "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age
of Colorblindness." And film maker Eugene Jarecki. His documentary, "The
House I Live In" explore the country`s war on drugs. Thank you both for
coming on the show.

MICHELLE ALEXANDER, AUTHOR, "THE NEW JIM CROW": Thank you.

EUGENE JARECKI, DIRECTOR, "THE HOUSE I LIVE IN": Thanks.

SHARPTON: Michelle, let me start with you. You were a civil rights
attorney, and when you found out this data, I read it changed you. And
that`s what led to you crystallizing it in the book "The New Jim Crow."

ALEXANDER: After years of representing victims of racial profiling
and police brutality and investigating patterns of drug law enforcement,
and trying to help people who are released from prison, you know, face one
barrier, one legal road block after another to getting a job, getting
access to housing, getting even food stamps. You know, I had an awakening
that our criminal justice system now functions much more like a system of
racial and social control than a system of crime prevention or control.

SHARPTON: Eugene, in your film you really had a part where you talked
about once people finish serving time, they still face huge barriers.
Listen to this clip and explain it to us.

JARECKI: Sure.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: When he gets out of the prison, he can`t get a job
in most places because of his record.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: If you have a felony charge, you need to be
working. You need to be trying to move yourself forward.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: If he wants to go back to school to go to college,
he is ineligible by law for certain grants.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Medical issues, if you have --

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: You can`t get certain healthcare benefits, you
can`t live in certain neighborhoods. His family that was the center piece
of his life, if they`re living in public housing, they can`t take him in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JARECKI: One of the things we learned when we went to prisons all
over this country was that corrections people, people who were wardens,
jailers, prison guards, they all told us very often the same thing. And it
was a complaint about the system. I thought they were all going to be
tough on crime, lock them up and throw away the key. But what so many
people who run the prison cell is they said, look, we try to do the best we
can by these people. But the laws are so tough out there and Congress
people are profiting politically by sounding tough on crime so much that
all they do is flood us with human beings by having tougher laws that make
more and more time for people.

We lived for a very long time with the idea crack is a black drug and
powder is a white drug. Well, the actual facts that I discovered when I
made the film is crack was never a black drug. The majority of crack users
in the United States of America are and always have been white. Once you
know that fact, it reminds you how much propaganda has hood winked does for
40 years about these drugs. And so, my message is, we need a proper,
educated, scientific, smart public health approach to addiction to replace
the now-failed drug war.

ALEXANDER: One of the reasons that our drug policy has been so insane
in practice is because the motivation for the drug war was never at bottom
about ending drug abuse and drug addiction. If that had been the
motivation, then we would have poured billions of dollars into drug
treatment. But we didn`t do that. Instead, we slashed funding for drug
treatment and billions of dollars into building prisons and jails and
filling them with the black and brown youth. And this is because of the
racial politics that animated the war on drugs. We were experiencing the
economic collapse of inner city communities at precisely the same time.
There was a backlash brewing against the civil rights movement. So, you
know, in the `70s and early `80s, former segregationists were saying law
and order.

SHARPTON: Yes.

ALEXANDER: And get tough.

SHARPTON: Yes.

ALEXANDER: Instead of segregation forever.

SHARPTON: You say, Eugene, in the film that this nation has a history
of we`ve criminalized drugs to target certain ethnic groups.

JARECKI: Yes.

SHARPTON: Look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yes. Of course, you can`t throw people in jail
simply because they`re Chinese. But you can throw them in jail because
they smoke opium. The same way we saw things going on with cocaine.
Again, it was middle aged successful people in this country, business
executives, physicians, housewives. All perfectly legal. But then around
the turn of the century, cocaine began being associated with blacks. They
can work hard all day, all night long and all day long again threatening
the jobs of white workers and so laws began to be passed against cocaine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Cocaine, evil among Negroes I saw in that last headline.

JARECKI: And that wasn`t recent headline, but it might as well be
because we have never really left some of those old stereotypes. I think I
do want to say one thing because I think it`s important to make the
progress we need to make socially on this issue. The President and the
Attorney General have actually done something in Washington where nothing
gets done. They have made a very serious move against the drug war for the
first time in its history.

SHARPTON: But the problem, Michelle with the new Jim Crow, is that
unless we have this message out and translate that into legislators, it
will expire with the term of the president. And I think that`s what`s
frightening.

ALEXANDER: Much more can be done, and it`s going to take an awakening
within our communities and a real movement must be built.

SHARPTON: And we must make sure there`s not a regression after this
administration. Michelle Alexander and Eugene Jarecki, such an important
issue. Thank you so much for both of your time.

JARECKI: Thank you.

ALEXANDER: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Ahead, Republicans voted to slash food stamps by nearly $40
billion. But I`m about to spoon feed them some of their own hypocrisy.
Next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: It`s a corner stone in the republican playbook. Attack
people who receive government assistance. Last week, House Republicans
voted to slash nearly $40 billion from the food stamp program. In Kansas,
Tea Party Congressman Tim Huelskamp was practically gushing about how it
will punish free loaders.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. TIM HUELSKAMP (R), KANSAS: Go pick up trash in a road ditch.
I`m not saying that`s part of that bill, but what we said in the House is
you have got to do something. You know, what? There`s three-and-a-half
and there`s four million American adult who are able-bodied, have no
dependent, and what do we require them to do to get a free check for food?
Nothing."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Nothing. What an outrage. Just giving people checks to
feed their families. Let`s remember, 76 percent of the households that get
food stamps include children, seniors, or disabled people. In households
where an adult is able to work, 58 percent do. And 82 percent worked the
year before or the year after they received food stamps. But it`s
interesting that Governor Huelskamp is so against people getting government
money. Because his family is raking it in.

"The Huffington Post" found Congressman Huelskamp`s parents have
received over $1 million in farm subsidies since 1995. His brother`s farm
got $1.6 million. But he`s not alone. This is becoming a new tradition on
the right. Tennessee Congressman Stephen Fincher also voted for the food
stamps cut. Here`s what he says about the program.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. STEPHEN FINCHER (R), TENNESSEE: The role of citizens, of
Christians, of humanity is to take care of each other. But not for
Washington to steal money from those in the country and give it to others
in the country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Yes. Washington shouldn`t steal money from some to pay for
food stamps. It should only do that for farm subsidies. Congressman
Fincher`s farm has received $3.5 million in federal funding since 1999.
And Buzz Feed found three other house Republicans who voted for food stamps
cuts but got hundreds of thousands in farm subsidies. If these guys are so
worried about government handouts, maybe they shouldn`t be feasting on
them. Did they think we wouldn`t point out their stuffing their faces with
hypocrisy? Nice try, but we got you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: It`s time for "Reply Al." Remember friend or foe, I want
to know. Kelvin wants to know if the government is to shutdown, Congress
gets a paycheck and the military gets an IOU. Let`s swap that around. The
military is more deserving because they`re doing their job. Kelvin, I
couldn`t agree with you more. If the congressmen that are voting for this
shutdown really believe in what they`re doing, they ought to put their
check up for an IOU and pay the military. If you believe in something, you
stand behind it.

You don`t try to have it both ways. I never called the demonstration
I didn`t lead. Don`t call for a shutdown but keep your stuff going. If
you believe in the shutdown Miss Congressman or woman, then you ought to
shut down your check and show you mean what you believe, you say what you
mean and you mean what you say. And to do that, you can`t get your pay.

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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