updated 1/7/2014 5:32:21 PM ET 2014-01-07T22:32:21

POLITICS NATION
January 6, 2014

Guests: Emanuel Cleaver, Lisa Graves, Krystal Ball, Ryan Grim, Elizabeth Plank, Victoria Soto

REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening, Ed. And thanks to you
for tuning in.

Breaking news. We are expecting in this hour a key vote in the Senate.
It`s the Senate`s first major test of 2014. A key vote to extend
unemployment benefits for over a million people. Families have been cut
off for more than a week after Republicans left for the holidays instead of
fixing this. Tonight the Senate is back, and Democrats aren`t wasting
time.

This bill restores benefits to 1.3 million long-term unemployed Americans.
It includes retroactive benefits dating to December 28th when they were
first cut off. It provides benefits for three months buying Congress time
to create a longer fix. It all adds up to an economic lifeline for
families feeling the pain across this country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m in a panic. I don`t know what I`m going to do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have bills to pay, and now I have no way to pay
them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`ve worked since I`ve been 13. I`m 72. I`ve always
had a job. It`s not a matter of being unfair. I just think the system
doesn`t accommodate people that are going through transitions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`ve been struggling for the last almost year and a
half, trying to just make every day bills.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You go from daddy I want to daddy knows you need.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: This bill is sorely needed. But the GOP doesn`t get it.
Senator Rand Paul`s been out there saying it weakens the country. And it`s
a disservice to workers. Here is the Democratic response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most of the people I meet who are on unemployment are
people who have had jobs for 25 years, lost them, and they`ve been knocking
on doors every week. I think it`s a little insulting, a bit insulting to
American workers when Rand Paul says that unemployment insurance is a
disservice. They want to work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: It is insulting. And you know what else is insulting? Now
they`re saying this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I am opposed to having it without paying for
it. I think it`s wrong to borrow money from China.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Demanding spending cuts to help Americans in need? Wrong again.
President Bush extended jobless aid five times. And not once, not once did
Republicans demand offsetting cuts in return. This isn`t about offsets.
It`s about right wing agenda that would rather play politics than help
American families.

An ideology that says that if you`re out of work, you`re out of luck. Five
Republican votes are needed to move this bill forward tonight. It`s not
clear if the votes are there. But no matter what happens tonight, the
president is vowing to hold Republicans` feet to the fire, starting with a
big event tomorrow. His argument is simple. We`re a better country than
that. And tonight the Senate has a chance to prove it.

Joining me now are Democratic Congressman Emanuel Cleaver from Missouri and
salon.com`s Joan Walsh.

Thank you both for copping on the show.

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

REP. EMANUEL CLEAVER (D), MISSOURI: Good to be with you, Reverend.

SHARPTON: Congressman Cleaver, as we get ready for this vote, some on the
right are saying unemployment insurance is a disservice. It`s a
disincentive. What is your response?

CLEAVER: It`s disingenuous for them to even say that. And it is, I think
a little mean-spirited. Look, that old liberal George Bush, as you
mentioned earlier, did it five times, in 2008 at the beginning of the
recession, George Bush, the old liberal believed that it was necessary to
help Americans who were going to experience long-term unemployment and he
did the right thing. Unfortunately, we have a lot of people elected, in
elective office who are not willing to help those who are in trouble. And
the recovery has been good for Wall Street.

One percent of the American public has benefitted or had 95 percent of the
recovery -- 95 percent of the public has had no recovery at all. This is
absolutely necessary. And the failure to do so I think is vulgar.

SHARPTON: Yes.

Now Joan, this vote today, tonight, maybe within the next hour is just so
that we can get to an up-and-down vote.

WALSH: Right.

SHARPTON: But what happens with the change in the Senate? I mean, I
thought we had gotten past being able to have them roadblock things like
this?

WALSH: Well, not when it comes to legislation, Reverend Al. And so, they
still have that power in place. And Harry Reid might want to consider
doing something about that too.

SHARPTON: So, you still need 60 votes on policy questions like this?

WALSH: Yes. It was for appointments that they changed the rules.

SHARPTON: Right.

WALSH: So what is going on now, though, is such a picture of the
radicalization of the Republican party. Because as both of you have said,
this was done as a matter of course under George W. Bush. It was a
bipartisan fix when the economy was tough.

And as Congressman Cleaver says, this is a very, very uneven recovery.
Great for Wall Street. Great for the top one percent, but really we still
have persistent long-term unemployment. And really, the only time that we
tend to cut these benefits back is when the number of long-term unemployed
begins to fall. The economy is really starts to absorb more long-term
workers. The economy is that good. We never do this. And we also are in
a time when the deficit is falling faster than at any time since World War
II. So it`s completely disingenuous to say this is a budgetary necessity.

SHARPTON: You know, Congressman, you said liberal George Bush, and I know
you were being facetious. But tea party members, some of them probably do
consider him liberal. In fact, a few weeks ago, tea party senator, Rand
Paul, notoriously said extending jobless aid does a disservice to workers.
Now he is saying it`s a disincentive. You listen to him, though.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: I`m not against having unemployment insurance. I do think, though,
that the longer you have it, that it does provide some disincentive to
work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Now you have constituents. You have been in Congress. You have
been the mayor there in Kansas City, and you pastor the church. In your
experience with people that have been long-term unemployed, that giving
them aid is a disincentive?

CLEAVER: It is frustrating for many of them to receive aid because they
are people who have been working on jobs and many of them are struggling.
They`ll come to church, for example, and pray. When they receive
unemployment benefits, they`re receiving only about 47 percent of what they
were earning. And that`s only for a limited period of time when they
receive the state payments. And most of those people are embarrassed and
are wanting to do something.

Now, Senator Paul knows better than that. He is from Kentucky, a very poor
state. In 1966, your former boss, Rev, wrote a song called "say it loud,
I`m black and I`m proud." I`m writing on a song now that I hope Senator
Paul and others will sing. It`s called say it loud, I`m stingy and I`m
stuck, because I think that that`s exactly what is going on here.

SHARPTON: I would love to see who makes the melody on that one.

WALSH: Let`s work on that.

SHARPTON: But you know, I wasn`t into music, but I was (INAUDIBLE).

But let me get back to policy with you, Joan. Extending unemployment
benefits, you talked about how we have the deficit dropping. But the other
part of this is that it actually would help the economy.

WALSH: Yes.

SHARPTON: It would create 200,000 jobs this year by boosting consumer
demand. And not extending benefits really weakens the economy and costs
300,000 jobs.

WALSH: Right. It actually does in the end more than pay for itself with
its stimulative effects on the economy, Reverend Al. And that`s why
traditionally this is a measure that has been accepted by both parties.
But it`s really odd.

I mean, my colleague Brian Boitler, this is not my idea. But he suggested
today they`re happy to hurt the economy. They`re happy to hurt the economy
under Barack Obama. They`re not rooting for a strong recovery. They
refuse to see what is necessary. And they are going to, just like their
phony shutdown cost $24 billion, it took $24 billion out of the economy,
this is going to take several billion out of the economy and shave points
off the GDP. So it`s really so stupid in so many different ways.

I also want to add the economist, there is an economist that Rand Paul
sites who has sued the effect of long-term unemployment insurance. And
this guy has come out and said please stop using my work, because that`s
not what I found. It`s not a disincentive as Congressman Cleaver says,
people are looking for work nonetheless. They just can`t find it.

SHARPTON: Congressman Cleaver, you know, even if we get by the vote within
the hour, and we get up-and-down vote and we`re able to find five
Republican votes and get out of the Senate, it heads to the House. And it
already looks like house GOP members are getting ready to block this
extension of unemployment benefits. Like for example, Republican
Congressman Tom Cole said I think it`s going to be a pretty tough sell.

What is your response to that and what is your prediction if it gets to the
house, what`s going to happen?

CLEAVER: Well, I can tell you that Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer will be
pushing Speaker Boehner to bring this to a vote.

Now, there is an opportunity here for the Republicans to demonstrate their
willingness to help those who are hurting, those who are struggling. My
fear is that it will never be brought to a vote.

I am convinced, however, that if it is brought to a vote because of the
November elections, only a few months away, I think many of the Republicans
will vote for it. Because many of them are representing poor districts,
poor people are struggling and need jobs, and we have a chance to help
them.

SHARPTON: So the challenge is to get a vote?

CLEAVER: We got to get a vote because the people out in the country are
hurting. And the only way they`re going to get help is to put pressure on
Congress. If Congress was serious about trying to create jobs, they would
pass a transportation bill.

SHARPTON: All right, Congressman Emanuel Cleaver and Joan Walsh. Thank
you both for your time. And we`ll be -- we`ll continue to watch the vote
in the Senate. And if we get that vote to the House, Congressman, you
might want to go on the floor given November election as you mentioned
playing another James Brown tune called "the big payback."

(LAUGHTER)

SHARPTON: Coming up, the year of action on fighting inequality on the
minimum wage, on unemployment, on fairness. New details today on the
effort coming from the left.

And a big report out today on the Koch brothers` massive donor network.
We`ll tell you what it means for President Obama`s agenda.

Plus, the Republican national committee is delaying its annual meeting, and
you will not believe why.

And remembering the doctor who saved Martin Luther King Jr.`s life and
saved history.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: There are new details about the vast conservative network backed
by the billionaire Koch brothers that is committed to opposing President
Obama`s agenda. "The Washington Post" reports today on the huge political
network Charles and David Koch have built, and the complicated ways that
supporters are hidden from public view.

The network of 17 conservative groups the Koch`s support raised $407
million in 2012. It`s not clear how much money came from the Kochs
themselves and how much came from other donors. To be sure, groups on the
left, particularly unions, raise a lot of money too.

But "the Post" says the Koch network uses a system of, quote, "unrivaled
complexity to move money around." And the groups that get this funding go
after democratic candidates and policies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tell Senator Shaheen it`s time to be honest.
Obamacare doesn`t work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It took the federal government more time to build a Web
site than it took from the time when pearl harbor was attacked to the day
Germany surrendered in World War II. Why aren`t we surprised? Government-
run health care doesn`t work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: And the creepy Uncle Sam ads are just the beginning in this
election year. The conservative network will be very active. Will
Democrats be ready to respond?

Joining me now is Lisa Graves, the executive director of the center for
media and democracy and Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons. Thank you
both for being here.

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Happy new year.

LISA GRAVES, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR MEDIA AND DEMOCRACY: Thanks
for having us on.

SHARPTON: First, let me say we reached out to the Koch brothers for
comment today, and invited them to appear on the show. But we have not
gotten a response back yet.

Lisa, what is important about this Post report?

GRAVES: I think this is one of the most important stories I`ve seen in a
long time. This is about a group that Americans never heard of during the
2012 elections. And yet freedom partners and its allied groups basically
spent $400 million during that election year primarily. And a lot of that
is on the top of ads, the type of smear ads that you showed at the
beginning of this segment.

And I think when you see this, you see how the Koch brothers and their
cronies at these events where they`re urging people to spend money on these
sorts of operations are having a huge impact on our elections, are trying
to influence the outcome of our elections through these ads. And yet the
American people have no idea who the people are besides the Kochs who are
behind tease campaigns.

I think it shows how our campaign finance is broken and I think it warrants
a congressional investigation into how we can better protect the integrity
of our elections from these type of shell corporations and shell games.

SHARPTON: Now, when we say, that let me read, Lisa and Jamal, the Koch
brothers gave a statement to "the Washington Post" about this story. Their
spokesman said, and I`m quoting, "Koch`s involvement in political and
policy activities is at the core of fundamental liberties protected by the
first amendment to the United States constitution. This type of activity
is undertaken by individual donors and organizations on all ends of the
political spectrum. Koch has been targeted repeatedly in the past by the
administration, and its allies because of a real or in some cases perceived
beliefs and activities concerning public policies and political issues."

So Lisa, they`re saying, expressing themselves. They have a first
amendment right to do so. You`re not saying that they`re doing anything
illegal here, and you`re not saying they`re violating anything here, are
you?

GRAVES: What I`m saying is that this is an issue where the American people
have a right to know more about who is trying to influence their elections.
We have 40 years of law that was basically destroyed in part by an activist
Supreme Court in the citizens united decision that has created a sort of
wild west in the world of the so-called issue ads influencing our
elections.

I think the American people have a right to know who is behind ads like
this that are clearly designed and timed to impact our election. And while
they want to talk about their first amendment rights, I think the American
people have the right to having integrity in our elections. And so,
Congress has a right to investigate regardless of whether there is any
civil or criminal violations. And I`m not suggesting that there are.

Congress has a right to investigate. And in fact in California where they
investigated one of these groups, they did issue one of the biggest fines
in the history of the country, a million fine to settle a case against the
CPPR group and one of its cohorts.

SHARPTON: Jamal, we know since the citizens united decision, it opened the
door for lots of money on all sides to be in the political process. As a
strategist, how does that change things, and what does that do in terms of
voters? How does it change the whole voting and political process as we
know it with all of this money now at play?

SIMMONS: You know, Rev., the old system was bad enough when we had soft
money and you could put all the corporate or individual big dollars. And
who were transferred and power away from politicians and giving it to these
people, these big bundlers and people who were able to raise it.

This is even worse, because not even if is there a greater amount of money
in the system, but now we don`t even know who the people are who are
raising it and who are giving it. So, we are even removing any kind of
accountability from these folks. So, it`s going to be tougher from voters
to know who they`re combating and for politicians to know who they`re
combating until years later when all this stuff sifts out.

So, what happens for Democrats is the one note of strength here is that
because the groups can`t talk to the candidates, you have messages that are
diffuse. We don`t know who is saying what and they don`t know what week to
put on which message. When you raise all the money inside of a campaign or
inside of coordinated committees. You can go out and campaign in a much
more structured way. And that`s how President Obama was able to beat these
kinds of groups in the last election.

SHARPTON: Now, you know, when you look at it, Lisa, money or big money
attracts big money, because "the Washington Post" spoke to one man who says
he gave $100,000 a year to the Koch efforts. He said, quote, "they are
pretty soft-spoken, not screamers or screeches. They provide the
leadership, the staff without the framework. I wouldn`t do it on my own."

So even though all this money isn`t coming from the Koch brothers directly,
how central are they to this, Lisa?

GRAVES: Well, I think it`s quite clear that they play a crucial role in
this. Though as you point out they`re not the only funder of this network
of groups. In fact, one of the right hadn`t man of Charles Koch, Mr.
Richard Fink is on the board of Freedom Partners. Mark Short, who has been
designated in the press as one of the guys who helps the money that is
gathered at these Koch events get spent and distributed is one of the
leaders of freedom partners.

When we took a look at the number of known staffers or freedom partners, we
found a number of people who were connected to the Kochs, worked for Koch
operations or for Koch foundations, and were part of the Koch effort to
change our law and change our country. That`s their vision is how to
change our democracy in ways that fit their mold. And they have a bunch of
donors like the donor from Chicago quoted in the story.

SHARPTON: Right.

GRAVES: Who are along with them. I would call them cronies.

SHARPTON: All right, we`ll have to leave it there. And we are going to
keep watching the story. But I`m out of time for this segment.

Thank you both, Lisa Graves and Jamal Simmons. Thank you both for your
time tonight.

SIMMONS: Thank you.

GRAVES: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Breaking news from the Senate. Just moments ago, majority
leader Harry Reid delayed that critical test vote on extending jobless
benefits. That vote is now set for 10:00 a.m. tomorrow morning. At stake
is unemployment benefits for 3.1 million Americans. Many senators were
absent tonight due to travel problems connected with the weather.

Ahead, Senator Marco Rubio`s plans to address what he calls a failed war on
poverty. This should be interesting.

But President Obama and the Democrats have a real plan of attack on income
inequality. And the fight is about to be on.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: President Obama and Democrats are focused on making this a
country that works for everyone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The idea that a child may
never be able to escape that poverty because she lacks a decent education
or health care that should offend all of us. And it should compel us to
action and it should compel us to action. We are a better country than
this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: The year of action starts tonight. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: We`re just six days into the New Year, but already the Obama
administration is getting down to business. Just minutes ago, the Senate
confirmed the first woman Fed chair in its 100-year history. Janet Yellin
is a pick who is deeply concerned about fixing this country`s unemployment.
That makes her perfect for this White House. We have learned that
President Obama will make income inequality front and center during his
State of the Union Address later this month. And his democratic allies are
on board.

They`re pushing legislation to raise the minimum wage above $10. They`re
all focused on making this a country that works for everyone. Not just the
one percent. Now more than ever, the battle is worth fighting. This week,
we`ll celebrate 50 years since the war on poverty began. There is still
much to be done, but because of government policies, millions have been
kept afloat. That`s important. But to the GOP, it`s a waste.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: After 50 years, isn`t it time to declare
big government`s war on poverty a failure? Instead of continuing to borrow
and spend trillions of dollars on government programs that don`t work, what
our nation needs is a real agenda.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: A real agenda? Here is the GOP`s real agenda. It`s called do
nothing. "The New York Times" reports the do nothing Congress is preparing
to do even less, and plans to be in session just 97 days before Election
Day that is unacceptable. And the president knows it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: 2014 needs to be a year of action.
We`ve got to build on the progress we have painstakingly made over these
last five years with respect to our economy and offer the middle class and
all those who are looking to join the middle class a better opportunity.
And that`s going to be where I focus all of my efforts in the year ahead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

A year of action. And Democrats are ready for the fight.

Joining me now are Krystal Ball and Ryan Grim. Thank you both for coming
on the show tonight.

KRYSTAL BALL, CO-HOST, "THE CYCLE": Thanks for having me, Rev.

RYAN GRIM, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Thanks for having me.

SHARPTON: Krystal, let me start with you. How does the president battle
this do nothing Congress in order to settle his agenda? I mean, 97 days
between now and November`s election? How do you battle this do-nothing
Congress?

BALL: Well, I think that they`re making moves in the right direction,
because I do think that people are looking around as the economy starts to
recover, and we have better signs that consumer confidence is up. GDP
growth is up. Unemployment rate is coming down. They`re sort of picking
their heads up and looking around and saying what kind of a country do we
want to live in. Because even though the economy is recovering, and it`s
doing great for some, we also see that a majority of the jobs created out
of this recovery have been low-wage jobs.

So, I think the president`s message is right on the pulse of what Americans
are thinking about right now. Pushing not just a minimum wage increase,
but pushing the sort of policies that are going to create an America where
everyone can succeed, where everyone has the chance to succeed, which is
really what the American dream is all about.

SHARPTON: Now, Ryan, you know the Democrats as I said, are talking about
fighting for minimum wage above $10 an hour. The last time Democrats ran
on raising the minimum wage, it was in 2006. That year they gained 30
House seats. So if they run on minimum wage this year, does that standard
to say that it`s very possible this could give them what they need in terms
of trying to get it some traction to gain some seats, they only need 17 to
take the majority of the House.

GRIM: I mean, it certainly plays to Democrats strength and it plays
against Republican weakness, which is that, you know, they don`t care about
the less fortunate. And so, you know, making Republicans come out
publicly and oppose raising the minimum wage makes them look callous, and
that plays into the narrative the people already have about the
particularly House Republicans. But Senate Republicans too. So, you know,
that certainly could work. And you`re seeing a resonance around the
minimum wage that you haven`t seen in a very long time.

SHARPTON: Yes.

GRIM: You know, four or five years, you know, Huff Post has been covering
these, you know, economic issues, dedicating a couple of reporters solely
to those. And we`ve never seen readers react to stories the way they are
to the minimum wage stories that we`re running now. You know, it`s orders
of magnitude in terms of the reaction to them. You know, something is
going on out there where people are focused on this issue in a way that
they haven`t been. And I think Marco Rubio even having to address the
issue of inequality, which he called immobility, but whatever, welcome to
the conversation. Just the fact that he had to address it, you know, shows
that this is something that the GOP cannot avoid.

BALL: That`s right.

SHARPTON: But you know, Krystal, they never cease to amaze me, because
there is a new right wing argument is that all this talk about inequality
and the economy is a distraction. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: He does not want to talk about ObamaCare. The
president does not want to talk about it. The Democrats do not want to
talk about it. Therefore income equality, minimum wage, et cetera, et
cetera.

KARL ROVE, FORMER DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF TO PRESIDENT BUSH: This is first
and foremost an attempt to pivot away from something that is incredibly
damaging to the administration, the so-called Affordable Care Act in
talking about raising the minimum wage and which doesn`t affect a lot of
American workers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: So the fact that workers are only getting $7.25 now, the fact
that 1.3 million have lost their benefits for unemployment. Despite the
fact you have this huge gap, that`s just a distraction.

BALL: Right.

SHARPTON: It`s health care that they really ought to be talking about so
we can keep trying to demonize and denigrate that. I mean, is this
something they don`t get here? They`re not listening to their own
constituents?

BALL: Well, and it`s funny, because I seem to recall the president giving
quite a few speeches on health care and urging people to sign up and
explaining to people the benefits of the law and what they need to do to
get involved. So I don`t see any Democrats really trying to shift the
conversation away from ObamaCare. They want people to sign up. They want
the law to work well. On the other hand, we can`t ignore the fact that we
have the worst inequality in this country that we have had since the `20s,
since right before the crash and the great depression that is central to
the conversation now. It`s central to the future of this country. And I
think that it`s ultimately the thing that the president in my reading of
him is really most passionate about dealing with actually health care as a
piece of that conversation in alleviating inequality.

SHARPTON: You know, Ryan, I want to go back to something that I mentioned
in the introduction. The war on poverty. Michael Tomasky in The Daily
Beast writes and I`m quoting from his article, it`s high time to say the
war on poverty was a success, a wild success. Indeed, by nearly every
meaningful measure. But no one thinks so. And a big part of the reason is
that most Democrats are afraid to say so. They damn well better stop.
What do you say to that, Ryan? I agree with them, I want you to know that
it was success. I grew up around a lot of that. And I can tell you it was
a success.

GRIM: You know, and the legislative boost for the war on poverty kind of
started when, you know, RFK went, you know, the rich guy from the northeast
went and toured parts of the south and was just stunned by -- exactly, was
stunned by what he saw. Now LBJ wasn`t as stunned because he kind of grew
up in that in West Texas. But, you know, we still have problems in this
country, and there is still a lot we need to do. But that type of deep and
widespread abject poverty has been to a decent extent eradicated by this
war on poverty for the last few years. You know, there`s plenty more to do
it, a lot of people are suffering. But the things that RFK, JFK saw, we
don`t really have that anymore.

SHARPTON: Krystal Ball, Ryan Grim, thank you both for your time.

BALL: Thanks, Rev.

GRIM: Thank you.

SHARPTON: And be sure to catch Krystal on THE CYCLE weekdays at 3:00 p.m.
Eastern right here on MSNBC.

Ahead, Republicans begin the New Year by going back to their old playbook,
the culture wars from abortion to gay marriage, they`re back.

And remembering a man who saved the Dr. King`s life and history.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Right wingers have kicked off the New Year by going back to
their old playbook, using the culture wars to fire up the base on issues
like abortion, birth control, and gay rights. In Washington, the
Republican National Committee is delaying its annual meeting, just so
members can participate in the anti-abortion movement`s so-called "March
for Life." Out in Utah where gay marriage is being argued in the courts,
conservatives are warning against the scary homosexual agenda.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The people of Utah have rights too, not just the
homosexuals. The homosexuals are shoving their agenda down our throats.
The way you take back freedom in America is one county at a time. The
sheriffs need to defend the county clerks in saying no, we`re not going to
issue marriage licenses to homosexuals.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: And over on FOX News, they`re trying to claim that ObamaCare`s
birth control coverage is somehow an attack on religious freedom.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The battle over the ObamaCare contraception mandate
hitting religious groups. There are crippling finds, which really are
taxes that would be levied against your church.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The Obama administration decided to hassle nuns a little
more. They have gone after the Sisters of the Poor.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Is this part of a larger trend for the administration
having contempt for people`s religious faith?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: So now affordable health care is a war on religion? Give me a
break. This is the same old stuff right wingers have been trotting out for
years. Attacking women, gays, and basically anyone else who doesn`t agree
with them.

Joining me now is Elizabeth Plank, executive social editor at PolicyMic,
and MSNBC contributor Victoria Soto. Thank you both for joining me.

VICTORIA DEFRANCESCO SOTO, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you.

ELIZABETH PLANK, POLICYMIC: Thanks, Rev.

SHARPTON: So Elizabeth, now Reince Priebus is delaying the RNC`s big
meeting so folks can establish their anti-abortion credentials. Are you
surprised?

PLANK: I am surprised. I mean, I actually attended the "March for Life"
three years ago in 2010. Not as a proponent, but as a protester. And what
I saw there was very aggressive protesting, I actually a little bit feared
for my life which was quite ironic.

SHARPTON: Fear for your life, why?

PLANK: Because people were so aggressive. Protesters were so radical.
So, it`s interesting to see these same radical people being able to
convince really prominent Republicans to basically side with them on an
issue that is extremely anti-women.

SHARPTON: You know, Victoria, they have wrapped up the attacks on abortion
rights of the Republicans have on a state level. Between 2011 and 2013,
they passed 205 laws from 2001 to 2010, 189 laws were passed. Republicans
have passed more anti-choice laws in the last three years than in the prior
decade. They`ve really ramped this up, Victoria.

SOTO: They have. And what is worrisome here, Reverend, is not just that
choice is being chipped away at, but all the collateral damage that results
from going after abortion providers. Let`s take Texas, my home state, for
example, where Texas, in an effort to curb the access to abortion clinics,
took away state money from Planned Parenthood. Yes, Planned Parenthood
would provide abortion access, but it also provided a litany of other
services.

And who does this impact disproportionately? Poor women. And we`re seeing
a very serious impact with Latinos in the south of the state where a number
of clinics have had to close. So it`s not just the issue of abortion.
It`s health care in general.

SHARPTON: Now, Elizabeth, Republicans have passed anti-choice legislation,
and right wingers claimed there is no war on women. In fact, they claim
there is a war on men. Check out FOX News.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Well, our next guest warns against a crisis of manhood
in America.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: You have you to stand up for yourself. Are you worried
at all, because "Duck Dynasty" guys, they endorsed your book. They wrote
the forward. Are you worried about the feminizing of men in our society?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yes, I think that`s an issue.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Your response, is there a war on men?

PLANK: You cannot be a victim of equality. You can be a victim of
inequality. And I think men in this country are not oppressed, and when
you liberate a woman, you actually liberate a man too. Everyone benefits
from equality. So it`s really sad to see that kind of spin on FOX News
being taken when quality is really good for everyone.

SHARPTON: This is going to continue to ramp up, Victoria. Political
reports that social conservatives want to intensify their efforts in 2014.
Plans include aggressive spending in primaries against Republicans deemed
squishy on social issues, and elevating social issues like abortion and gay
marriage in conservative politics. It`s going to get a little ugly this
year, Victoria.

SOTO: It absolutely, Reverend. And what we`re seeing is the GOP doubling
down on the strategy of the culture war, the war on women. And this isn`t
a good strategy in order to appeal to a broad electoral base. We saw that
it failed in 2012 in trying to get the White House. We saw that it failed
in 2012 with the Senate bids. Even in 2013 with gubernatorial races that
being said, we know that it can work for some Republicans in terms of
mobilizing the base, because in 2014, all of the House of Representatives
is up for election.

And because of all the gerrymandering that takes place, especially in 2010
with the Tea Party revolution, we know that there is very deeply red
districts. And the culture war, regrettably is something that can really
mobilize the base. So, they`ve put their chips down on this.

SHARPTON: Now, does this mean, Elizabeth, that the Democrats need to ramp
up and are you hearing -- would you want to hear from the democratic side
or the liberal side in answering a lot of this -- that is clearly out there
particularly in trying to get states to change their laws?

PLANK: Well, they get very clear that most Americans actually are not in
line with this very radical marginalized perspective that the Republicans
have taken. So, if you look at birth control, 99 percent of women at some
point in their lives who are sexually active have used birth control from
all faith. And it`s the same thing with abortion. Actually three-quarter
of Americans believe in abortion, at least in certain instances. So, the
viewpoint that the Republicans are taking is really not in line with what
most Americans actually believe.

SHARPTON: Do you feel, Victoria, that the political outcomes in various
states could hinge on these culture issues?

SOTO: I do. And because of that mobilization issue. Ironically enough,
with the issue of abortion, we see here in Texas that men are more anti-
choice than women are. So it`s very much an issue that is being driven by
a broader political agenda, not necessarily looking out what is best for
women, but what is the politically most strategic way to get at the 2014
election.

SHARPTON: Well, I`m going to have to leave it there. I keep saying
they`re going to change. We`re still waiting. Elizabeth Plank and
Victoria Soto, thank you both for your time tonight.

PLANK: Thank you, Reverend.

SOTO: Thanks, Reverend.

SHARPTON: Coming up, why is Congressman Steve Stockman scrubbing his web
page? He gets the gotcha endorsement, next.

And years before the dream speech, Martin Luther King, Jr. was nearly
stabbed to death. Tonight we remember the last surviving surgeon who saved
his life and saved history.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: We have an update on Steve Stockman`s Senate campaign. He is
the far right Texas congressman challenging Senator John Cornyn in the GOP
primary. He is also the guy who invited the infamous rodeo clown in a
President Obama mask to Texas. And the guy who handed out an impeach
President Obama book to every member of Congress. So why is he scrubbing
his website? It was touting some strong endorsements like the National
Rifle Association and conservative activist Howard Phillips, along with 12
other groups. But there is just one little problem. Many didn`t actually
endorse him in this race.

Stockman`s website listed as, quote, "Past and Present Endorsement." But
in this race, it turns out the NRA endorsed his opponent and "The
Washington Post" reports conservative activist Phillips passed away months
before Stockman even entered the race. And at least seven of the 12 groups
also didn`t endorse him. So this is what his endorsement page looks like
now. Maybe they should add this guy to the site. How is that for ringing
endorsement? Or maybe he`ll surprise us all, scrub himself from his own
website. Congressman Stockman, did you think we wouldn`t notice your
Texas-sized scrubbing? Nice try, but put this one on your site. We got
you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Finally tonight, remembering the man who saved the life of
Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. John Cordes (ph) was the last
surviving surgeon that was part of the team that saved Dr. King from a
nearly fatal stab wound in 1958. Cordes was off duty in Brooklyn when he
was told to rush to a Harlem hospital to treat an important person
suffering from a life-threatening injury. That person was Dr. King,
stabbed with a letter opener from a mentally disturbed woman while he was
at a book signing. The blade missed his aorta by millimeters, and doctors
said even a sneeze would have killed him. Years later, Dr. King talked
about that in his last public speech before his assassination.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

If I had sneezed, I wouldn`t have been here in 1963. The black people of
Birmingham, Alabama, aroused the conscience of this nation and brought in
to being the civil rights field. If I had sneezed, I wouldn`t have had a
chance later that year in August to try to tell America about a dream that
I have had, if I had sneezed.

A moment that changed the course of history. If Dr. Cordes hadn`t saved
Dr. King`s life that day, we might never have seen that march from Selma to
Montgomery. We might never have read that letter from Birmingham jail. We
might never have heard Dr. King`s dream. Dr. Cordes saved a life, and he
helped save the soul of America. He passed away last week. He was 94-
years-old. Two doctors, one doctor answered the call from Brooklyn to go
to Harlem hospital to save a patient. Another to answer the call in
Birmingham, in Selma, in Memphis. Neither one of them no answering the
call, they would change history, they just were doing their job. Sometimes
when you just do your job, you do great things. That`s our challenge for
2014. It was our job. And can our job produce great things.

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

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, GUEST HOST, "HARDBALL": Ready, reset, go. Let`s play
HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Michael Smerconish in for Chris Matthews. Chris returns
tomorrow. But leading off tonight, the president to reset. President
Obama has returned from a two-week vacation in Hawaii, kicking off a
critical month for his presidency. If you need a refresher, here is where
things left off. At the last press conference before he left, he was
repeatedly asked to reflect on what some people described as his worst or
toughest year in office.


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BE UPDATED.
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