updated 1/29/2014 11:25:10 AM ET 2014-01-29T16:25:10

POLITICS NATION
January 28, 2014

Guests: Valerie Jarrett, Richard Wolffe, Brian Wice, Michelle Cottle, Ryan
Grim

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

Tonight`s lead, the year of action. In just three hours, President
Obama will lay out his agenda for 2014 in his state of the union address.
The president will focus tonight on his promise to fight inequality, the
major theme of his presidency.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A dangerous and growing
inequality and lack of upward mobility that has jeopardized middle class
America`s basic bargain, that if you work hard, you have a chance to get
ahead. I believe this is the defining challenge of our time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: The defining challenge of our time. And the American
people agree. In a new NBC poll, only 22 percent of Americans say the
economy works well for the middle class. And most Americans want the
government to do something about it. Fifty-one percent believe the
government should be involved in reducing inequality. And they support one
of the president`s biggest economic proposals, 51 percent say raising the
minimum wage should be a priority this year. The American people know it`s
time for a change.

Since 1960, the richest Americans have seen their income rise 271
percent while the rest of the country has hardly seen an increase at all.
President Obama making sure the country confront the worst inequality we
have seen since the 1920s. And tonight he`ll take steps, even if Congress
won`t.

In his address he`ll announce a plan for his executive order to raise
the minimum wage for federal contractors to $10.10 an hour. Where this
dysfunctional Congress fails to act, the president will. We`ve seen it on
gun safety, on immigration, on climate change. And the president says
we`ll see a lot more of it in 2014.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We are not just going to be waiting for legislation in order
to make sure that we`re providing Americans the kind of help that they
need. I`ve got a pen, and I`ve got a phone. And I can use that pen to
sign executive orders and take executive actions, administrative actions
that move the ball forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: The president isn`t waiting around for congress and tonight
he is pushing forward.

Joining me now from the White House briefing room is Valerie Jarrett,
White House senior adviser and assistant to the president of the United
States, Barack Obama.

Valerie, welcome back to the show.

VALERIE JARRETT, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER: Good evening, Reverend
Al. It`s a pleasure for me to be here. It`s a very important day. The
president is really looking forward to this evening. And I welcome the
opportunity to chat with you in advance of his speech.

SHARPTON: Now the president is talking tonight about executive
actions. Can he not rely on Congress to do its job?

JARRETT: Well, I think what you`re going to hear from the president
this evening is twofold. Number one, we`re going to continue to work with
Congress, and as just as we always have to try to find common ground and
move our agenda forward. There are important pieces of legislation such as
immigration reform and trade agreements that protect our workers that will
create jobs here in America, patent reform, tax reform, all of which would
require acts of Congress.

But what the president is saying, you sounded it really well in the
introduction, Reverend Sharpton, is that he is not going to stand by and
wait. He wants a year of action. So, yes, he will sign an executive order
that increases the minimum wage for all of federal contracts for new
workers, new contracts. Because he believes if you are working in service
of the federal government through a contractor, that you should not be
raising your children in poverty.

And so, he called on Congress last year to raise the minimum wage. He
supports the Harkin-Miller bill that would raise it to $10.10 and provide
cost of living increases on a regular basis as well. But in absence of
that action, he intends to act.

SHARPTON: Now, a lot of the Republicans, John Boehner and others have
said today all kinds of things like this is some confrontation. The
president is going to run into a brick wall.

JARRETT: No.

SHARPTON: But last year I remember when the president spoke, he
talked about how he needed to do something about gun control. He talked
about Gabby Gifford deserved a vote. The people in Newtown deserved a
vote. The whole Congress stood up, huge standing ovation. They did
nothing.

How long can the American people sit around watching the Congress
applaud and do nothing? The president has no choice but to move forward
with some action.

JARRETT: Well, and last year in the wake of their not moving forward
with sensible gun legislation, the president signed 23 executive orders
that would strengthen the ability of the federal government to try to
reduce gun violence and there was no objection to that. A couple of weeks
ago the president invited college presidents and university presidents here
to Washington to strategize with us in how we could help disadvantaged
young people aspire to go to college and succeed once they get there.
There was no objection to that.

This Friday we`re inviting business leaders to Washington to talk
about how we can get the long-term unemployed their fair share to get back
into the workforce there should be no objection to that.

So I think that once the Republicans actually hear the speech, they`ll
understand that the kinds of actions he intend to take are good for the
economy. They are going to grow the economy. They are going to create
jobs. They are going to provide the ability for our folks to have the
skills that they need to compete in this global marketplace. And that
should complement the actions that Congress takes. So it`s not intended to
be controversial at all. It`s the president doing his job, and his job
demands that he take action.

SHARPTON: Now, you know, Senator McConnell talking about the year of
action today. This is what he said. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: He can ask members of
both parties to help him make 2014 a year of real action rather than just a
talking point. If he does, he is going to find he has a lot of support
from Republicans, because we want to work with him to get things done and
we always have.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: So, Senator McConnell says he wants to work with the
president to get things done. You know, I`m confused because I thought he
was the one that was going to do anything he could to make sure the
president wasn`t reelected. But you know I get over things badly, Ms.
Jarrett. Tell me how you respond to what Mr. McConnell had to say.

JARRETT: I think that`s terrific news. And I think as I said when he
hears the president`s remarks today, he will hear the president say the
same. He looks forward to good ideas coming from members of Congress on
both sides of the aisle. He has always said that he is open to new and
fresh ideas, figuring how to grow our economy, protect and expand the
middle class, provide those opportunities into the middle class. He is
very optimistic about our future. And he believes that if we can work on
both sides of the aisle in Congress, as he has done with state and local
elected officials across our country, mayors and governors and state
legislators have come together and they have acted.

And so, his challenge to Congress is let`s find that common ground.
So, I think if leader McConnell fulfills his pledge that he just made that
he we will be able to move our country forward together working with
congress.

SHARPTON: And it would make sense because the American people are
there. When you look at the fact, recent polls show 91 percent consider
job creation a priority, 63 percent say universal pre-k is a priority, 59
percent want to close corporate tax loopholes, and 54 percent say we should
fix and keep the health care law. They are where the president are. The
American people are ready to move forward.

JARRETT: They absolutely are. And I would say to you, Reverend
Sharpton, for this state of the union we did an extensive amount of
outreach around the country, talking to Americans from all over, talking to
the business community, small entrepreneurs who are just starting companies
to major players. And we said what can we do to grow the economy? What is
the message you would like to hear from the president? And I think the
message that he will deliver this evening will reverberate and will be well
received by Americans all over the country. It is an optimistic message.
It is a message about action. It`s a message about opportunity.

You know, if you work hard and you play by the rules in this country,
you should succeed. You should think that your children are going to have
a better chance than you have had. And all it`s going to really take is
for us all work together towards that end. And if we do, then we will have
a very bright future ahead.

We are the envy of the world over. If you talk to businesses, global
businesses that could invest anywhere, Reverend Sharpton, they say I want
to invest in the United States. Well, that creates jobs right here at
home. And so there is so much we can do working together. And we`re
feeling very positive about it. And I`m encouraged to hear leader
McConnell signal the same desire to work in a bipartisan way.

SHARPTON: All right. Well, we`ll be watching. I`ll be right here
with my colleagues, watching the president tonight prime time.

Valerie Jarrett, thank you so much for coming on such an important
night.

JARRETT: My pleasure. Thank you for informing your viewing audience
about what is coming up next. Thank you so much, Reverend Sharpton.

SHARPTON: All right. It`s about action.

JARRETT: It`s about action.

SHARPTON: Ahead, the far right fringe calls president Obama king for
doing his job. The old GOP smear is back.

Plus, while the president was busy prepping his speech, Republicans
were busy attacking women`s rights. We`ll tell you what they did in the
exact same chamber where he`ll address the nation later tonight.

And some bad news for Chris Christie. He may not have been born to
run after all. Has the bridge scandal ended his 2016 hopes?

Big show tonight. We`re gearing up for the state of the union. Stay
with us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: While our economy maybe weaken and our confidence shaken, that
we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight, I want every
American to know this. We will rebuild. We will recover. And the United
States of America will emerge stronger than before.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Just a few hours before the state of the union and the
Republican right wing is trying to expose President Obama as a dictator.
What really exposing is their owned hypocrisy. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Less than three hours until President Obama`s fifth state
of the union address and the right wing smear machine is on full throttle.
The president has promised to take executive action if Congress can`t get
the job done. And now the right is trying to paint him as a dictator.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is truly the imperial presidency. The
president wants to just be king for a day. The president has given up on
persuading people that his course for the country is the right course. I
mean, I think for a while now, for probably since he was inaugurated the
first time, the president has been annoyed with the checks on his power.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has decided rather than to lead to play small
ball and to do things that he said himself you can`t do in a system of
separation of powers and under our constitutional system.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it`s a constitutional violation, this
threat that the president is going to run the government with an ink pen
and executive orders. We`ve never had that president with that level of
audacity and that level of contempt for his own oath of office.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: He is an imperialist. He is a king. He is
unconstitutional. Of course the right doesn`t have their facts straight.
The last three Republican presidents signed plenty of executive orders
while they were in office. GOP hero, Ronald Reagan, even issued 213 of
them. And President Obama has signed fewer executive orders over his first
term than any of them. So do these Republicans think Reagan was a
dictator? Do they think Bush was a king? If not, then the only thing
they`re exposing is their own hypocrisy.

Joining me now are Dana Milbank and Karen Finney. Thank you both for
being here tonight.

KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC HOST, DISRUPT: Hey, Rev.

DANA MILBANK, POLITICAL COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: HI, Reverend.

SHARPTON: Karen, isn`t all this GOP talk about dictators and kings
another way for them to try to delegitimize this president?

FINNEY: Well, sure it is. But, I mean, Reverend Sharpton, let`s not
forget, I mean, if you look at the approval rating of Congress right now,
it is so low. Why? Because people feel like things aren`t getting done.
So if the worst things Republicans can say about President Obama that oh,
my God, he is going to work hard to get things done for the American
people, I mean, that`s what they`re afraid of. They`re afraid of being
shamed into actually having to take some action rather than obstructing
this president time and again.

SHARPTON: Now, you know, Dana, the right wing talkers are stoking the
hysteria on the president`s promise to take action. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Tonight the state of the coup
and you`ll see how things don`t change. And you know what the theme of the
state of the coup is, inequality.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the mind-set and the language that
dictators have. You are witnessing a gradual yet quiet coup.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Quiet coup. I mean, you`re up there on Capitol Hill near
the coup. What do you think, Dana?

MILBANK: And the coup is well under way, I hear, Reverend Al. Look,
this has been something that has been used against him from the very
beginning. It makes absolutely no sense in this case, because the whole
idea of what the president is doing here is he is basically reduced his
strategy. He said, look, you guys aren`t going to pass anything. So I`m
going to do what I can in a limited way with executive`s orders. They`re
by definition limited, and by definition, the next president can get rid of
these executive orders. So they`re temporary. Rather than accepting this
as a gift, the Republicans are saying new evidence that he is some sort of
a dictator.

You know, the president keeps talking about, you know, having his pen
and having his phone. But I think to deal with these guys is they`re
better off having a cattle prod and a baseball bat.

SHARPTON: You know, they have actually gone, Karen, into talking
about suing the president over the executive actions. A resolution
introduced last month calls on the house to bring a civic action over
President Obama`s continuing failure to faithfully execute the laws, saying
he has overstepped the limits on the executive branch.

FINNEY: Right.

SHARPTON: His resolution now has 61 co-sponsors, Karen. The
Republicans aren`t doing their job so they want to sue the president for
doing his?

FINNEY: Well, that`s what it sounds like. I mean, it`s my
understanding that the president is on very solid legal ground with the
announcement that we heard earlier today about increasing the minimum wage
for federal contractors.

SHARPTON: Right.

FINNEY: That is something that he is within his purview to do, and it
is because in part it is a good thing for the economy. The Republicans
don`t want to admit that, but that is a fact and that is the truth. Now
for Republicans who want to spend taxpayer dollars trying to sue the
president for doing his job, I think that is going to be a fool`s errand.
And I think it`s going to backfire on them horribly, because they`re
basically suing him for trying to get something done when they won`t take
any action themselves. This is not a good message to sell.

SHARPTON: But Dana, the fact of the matter is every poll shows the
people of this country want action. They`re concerned about inequality.
They`re concerned about the economy. I mean, are these guys in some kind
of echo chamber, they can`t hear the will of their own constituents?

MILBANK: Well, it sort of shows a certain level of irrationality
here, Reverend, because these conservatives have talked for a long time
about trying to do away with frivolous lawsuits. And so, now the main
activity here seems to be launch a lawsuit that they know is not going to
go anywhere. So we`ve alternated between going through the courts to try
to stop the president and to perhaps impeach this president, as we have
discussed before, which are both basically to replace the fact that he won
an election just over a year ago.

SHARPTON: Now, Karen, let me show you something very interesting. A
new Pew poll shows that people think the Democrats are more willing to work
with the other party.

Let me show you the results of the poll. Fifty-two percent say
Democrats are more willing to work with their colleagues across the aisle,
just 27 percent said Republicans were. When asked which party is more
extreme in its positions, 54 percent said the GOP, only 35 percent said the
Democrats.

Now, this is a poll that has asked the American people what they
think. Is this why the president has to use executive action, because the
Republicans are so extreme in their views and don`t want to work with
others, and even the American people feel that way about them?

FINNEY: Well, look, I think this president is also recognizing he`s
got what, three-plus years to go. And you know, he`s got things that he
wants to accomplish. I don`t think any American would be satisfied if we
just saw the president kind of sit back and give up and say well, Congress
isn`t going to do anything. So I guess there is nothing I can do.

And again, I think, that`s part of what they`re trying to convey here
is all right. We`ll work with Congress where we can. And where it`s not
possible, we`re going look at what things we can do, I can do on my own.
And don`t forget the third piece of this, the phone and the pen is like you
brought in college presidents, right? So it`s also business leaders and
others who he can try to work with to try to say let`s get something done.
And then it puts the Republicans in the position they`re the ones who don`t
want to get anything done.

SHARPTON: Dana Milbank, Karen Finney, I`m going to have to leave it
there. Thank you both for your time tonight.

MILBANK: Thanks, Reverend.

FINNEY: Thank you.

SHARPTON: And be sure to catch Karen on "Disrupt with Karen Finney"
at 4:00 p.m. eastern weekends right here on MSNBC.

Coming up, big news about Chris Christie tonight and it`s not pretty.
You`ll want to hear this.

And, not one, not two, not three, but four Republican responses
tonight. It`s been a curse recently. So I have some tips ahead. We`re
back on our big state of the union night here on MSNBC. Stay with us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The era of big
government is over. But we cannot go back to the time when our citizens
were left to fend for themselves.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Here is the riddle of the night. How many people does it
take to respond to the state of the union? The answer, four. Four
different Republicans will attempt to rebut the president`s address
tonight. But this is a tough gig. Remember Marco Rubio and his sudden
attack of dry mouth? So coming up, I`ll give my own tips to these GOP
lawmakers on how to avoid a meltdown on live TV.

All that, plus, some bad news for Chris Christie. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: We`re back with plummeting poll numbers for Governor
Christie. The eyes of the world are on the state of New Jersey, host of
the Super Bowl. For Governor Christie, it was supposed to be a time of
celebration. Last night Christie, along with New York Mayor Bill de Blasio
and others kicked off the party in Jersey City. But listen to what
happened when the New Jersey governor first got on stage.

(Audience booing)

It was a dramatic contrast to what we saw three months ago. Governor
Christie winning re-election by the largest margin in almost 25 years. The
bipartisan support set the stage for a possible 2016 run. Today the
controversy swirling the governor is in a different place. A brand-new NBC
poll has his approval at just 22 percent nationally. To put this into
context, in June of 2011 through next year, his favorability ratings were
below 30 percent.

After Hurricane Sandy, his numbers shot up. Over 40 percent at one
point. But today, as I said, his approval is back down to just 22 percent.
And he is losing support from voters of all stripes. Since October, he is
down among Democrats, 15 points. Down 11 points with independents, and
down six points among Republicans. The investigations are ongoing. In
less than a week, over 20 subpoenas will roll in. Clearly the legal
questions are taking a toll politically.

Joining me now is Richard Wolffe, executive editor of MSNBC.com and
criminal defense attorney Brian Wice, who has experience with political
corruption cases. Thank you both for being here.

BRIAN WICE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Thank you, Reverend.

SHARPTON: Richard, let me go to you first. How alarming are
Christie`s numbers for supporters banking on him as the 2016 front-runner?

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC.COM EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Well, Reverend, the
numbers themselves are deeply troubling for anyone looking at a national
run. But even worse than the overall numbers is the fact that here is a
candidate who doesn`t enter an election cycle with a whole bunch of hope.
He is well-known at this point. He has had this cycle of being relatively
unknown and then popular on a national stage, and now known for all the
wrong reasons. And that`s what is very hard when you`re looking at
national campaign. You have to reeducate, reintroduce yourself to all
these voters who are looking for a new option in 2016. So it`s not just
that it`s bad, it`s that how widely this story has spread and how negative
it is combined.

SHARPTON: His calling card was that he was a Republican that could
get democratic votes. That he potentially could be the bipartisan
Republican candidate. Is that gone?

WOLFFE: That is gone. I mean, the Democrat numbers as they`ve come
down, the independent voters as they`ve come down, the number -- his
bleeding of support entirely among African-Americans. These are disastrous
numbers for someone who as you say it`s not just a calling card, the
essence of his brand was that he could reach out across the aisle. And the
problem with this story isn`t just about the traffic problems on a bridge,
it`s that he was trying to bully people into believing that he was a
bipartisan figure. He was bullying Democrats. The brand is fatally
undermined around this story. And that`s the problem of these
investigations because more and more you`re seeing Democrats say he is not
the person to bridge any kind of divide at all.

SHARPTON: Brian, let`s look here into this investigation a little.
We have no idea what is going on. But I want to ask you about David
Samson, the Port Authority chairman. The long-time Christie ally. There
are some real questions developing. We know he got a subpoena after his
name appeared on an e-mail sent by David Wildstein with the quote "Samson
helping us to retaliate." Separately, Samson`s law firm represents the
developer behind the Hoboken project that the city`s mayor alleges Christie
officials tried to push.

Now I should note the developer has been accused of no wrongdoing.
And today a new report in the Bergen record questions a vote David Samson
made as Port Authority chairman, a vote that may have had a bearing on
Samson`s business interest. So Brian, there are some questions centering
on Samson`s relationship with Christie as a lawyer. What would you be
asking?

WICE: Well, you know, first of all, the good news for David Samson is
that he`s represented by one of the best white color criminal lawyers in
the free world, Mike Chertoff, former Third Circuit judge, former U.S.
attorney. He is in great hands. But the problem is as we`ve seen all of
these cases is the specter of money in some of these A-Rod like numbers
that we`re seeing. And I`m reminded of what Holbrooke told Charlie Sheen
in Wall Street.

You know, the main thing about money is that it makes you do things
you don`t want to do. And if there is this belief out there that there is
a nexus, a connection between all of the money that David Samson`s firm
made and ultimately what is happening with all of these ongoing
investigations, it`s going to be a very messy series of months ahead for
David Samson.

SHARPTON: Now, you know, Richard, when you look at the fact that the
new super committee formed yesterday, you know, right away four Republicans
on the committee started saying they were concerned about the fairness of
the investigation. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Reiterating the concerns that our party has
expressed about the bipartisan nature of this commission.

STATE REP. AMY HANDLIN (R), NEW JERSEY: There is what I see as a
glaring omission here. It seems to me under these circumstances, anybody
could investigate anything.

STATE SEN. KEVIN O`TOOLE (R), NEW JERSEY: There is a concern that
most of us would have when you take on a lawyer whether there is ever a
conflict. If there are any documents which are not disclosed to the
minority party, will receive a privileged log or a list of those documents
that are not provided to us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Richard, are the Republicans trying to turn the
investigation into some kind of political battle?

WOLFFE: Well, they`ve already tried to say that this is a partisan
witch-hunt. That`s been their talking point. They`re obviously going to
stick with it. The danger is that in defending Governor Christie and
saying this is overreach by the Democrats, you`re still undermining the
notion, this brand, this core Christie brand that he can bridge the
partisan divide. If it does in fact become this sort of trench warfare
between Republicans and Democrats in the state, then how is Chris Christie
the guy to unite these two parties, especially when we`re talking about
questions involving also possible allegations of corruption. Remember,
before he was the bipartisan figure, he was the guy cleaning up New Jersey
politics.

SHARPTON: Yes.

WOLFFE: So, you have management questions. You have corruption
allegations. And then you have this partisan pitched battle. And none of
that represents what Chris Christie --

SHARPTON: For the man that was supposed to --

WOLFFE: The man who was going to change New Jersey politics. Right.

SHARPTON: Right. Brian, you know, there are subpoenas out from the
state legislators super committee due back Monday. I mean, what do you
expect to happen after that? I mean, how long do you think this will run?

WICE: That`s a great question, Al. I think that listeners need to
understand that investigations of this type are marathons. They`re not
sprints. Which of course as Richard pointed out is bad news for Governor
Christie. And really, the starting gun has only sounded. I think what we
need to really look for is not this alleged bipartisan investigation the
legislature is obviously going to advance, but Paul Fishman is the U.S.
attorney in New Jersey.

He is the shot caller. He is the alpha male. I think that any
criminal defense attorney who lets any client appear before this bipartisan
committee that the legislature has created and lets them talk about
anything without a blanket grant of immunity that covers everything from
the Lindbergh kidnapping to office attention in the fifth grade, is going
to be working at Dave & Buster`s this time next year.

SHARPTON: Well, right now it`s documents they have asked for. None
of them have been asked to appear. But we`ll be watching to see what
happens. Richard Wolffe and Brian Wice, thank you both for your time
tonight.

WICE: Thanks, Reverend.

SHARPTON: Still ahead, counting down to the State of the Union.
President Obama wants equal rights. Republicans want to roll back women`s
rights. We`ll tell you about that and about the all male panel that FOX
used to talk about the war on women.

Plus, saying goodbye to legendary folk singer and civil rights
activist Pete Seeger. I`ll share some memories ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: In just over two hours from now, President Obama will stand
in the House chamber and deliver his State of the Union Address. It will
be a speech about fairness for the middle class, for immigrants, for gays
and lesbians and for women. And despite all their talk about Uncle Sugar
and libidos. The GOP wants America to know that they care about women too.
For the first time in history, the GOP has tapped two women to give the
official rebuttal to the president.

One in English, one in Spanish. Do they think that will make up for
their anti-women policies? Because just today in the very same chamber in
which the president will deliver the State of the Union response,
Republicans passed an anti-choice bill. And get this. It was sponsored by
154 Republican men. How is that for respect for women`s rights? At this
point, the party seems to be taking pointers from the folks over at FOX
News. Yesterday, they convened an all-male panel to tackle the war on
women.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: You can talk about women`s issues in terms of late-
term abortion and other stuff.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Not the best booking of this panel with four guys
on this panel.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Now, given that half the planet is made up of women, yes, I
would say that`s not the best booking. The right`s inability to appeal to
women would be funny if it weren`t so disgraceful.

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

MICHELLE COTTLE, "THE DAILY BEAST": Thanks, Reverend.

RYAN GRIM, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Thank you, Reverend.

SHARPTON: Michelle, just hours before the State of the Union, the
House voted to restrict federal funding for abortion. A law is on the
books that already restricts this. So what was this, just for show?

COTTLE: Well, on some level it is a message to the base that we
haven`t been cowed by all of the war on women rhetoric. And I think we`ve
seen in some of the Republican meetings in the past week or so that they`ve
decided that this is a winning issue for them and they`re not going to back
down. This is why we have Mike Huckabee out there talking about women`s
libidos so glibly.

SHARPTON: You know, Ryan, Senator Rand Paul doubled down on his
statements about Republican war on women. He told Politico, quote,
"Republicans are as pro-women`s rights as any other group out there. If
Democrats are going to say otherwise, they need to explain why they
defended a guy, President Clinton he is referring to, who really had his
own personal war on women going on."

So, I mean, it seems as though Rand Paul is really going to try to do
the Monica Lewinsky on the Democrats as a way of countering the war on
women that they`re doing with legislation and all kinds of things. I mean,
doesn`t that seem a little light to try and cover the `98, year 1998 case
that has already been dealt with to try to deal with legislation that is
pending today in states all over the country that the Republicans are
sponsoring and trying to pass?

GRIM: Yes, I mean, you know, a lot of young voters barely remember,
you know, the Monica Lewinsky situation. Yes, they`ve heard of it. Just
vaguely. And I don`t really think that it benefits Rand Paul for the
Republican Party to remind people of it. Anybody that goes and looks at it
will say wait a minute, the House of Representatives actually impeached a
president over this?

SHARPTON: Right.

GRIM: It seems like a private matter. How did this become, you know,
one of two impeachments in the entire history of the United States? You
know, Rand Paul is obviously free to argue that Republicans are great
defenders of women. But, you know, women are the ones who are going to
make that decision. And when they go to the polls, they generally tend to
disagree with him and cast it with Democrats. You know? And this is not
an accident. Over the last 20 or 30 years, the Republican Party by design
went after kind of like white working class, middle class voters mostly
men, hoping that the husbands would persuade their wives to also vote
Republican. This was the strategy. That hasn`t worked. So now they need
to figure out a different approach.

SHARPTON: Well, I think that`s right, Michelle. I mean, talking
about different approaches in the past seven days the right wing has
repeatedly said absurd things about women. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: Why don`t women like yourself, then, you
know, maybe have a woman adopt a birth control program?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a
prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their
libido.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: This whole sort of war on women thing, I`m
scratching my head because if there was a war on women, I think they won.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I`m going to be very blunt. The left tries to win
the women`s vote by talking from the waist down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: I mean, those are some wild statements, all within the last
seven days.

COTTLE: Exactly. And this is a recurring problem for the party. No
matter who they put up there tonight to give the response to the
president`s speech, no matter what kind of pretty window dressing, they
attempt, they still come back to the same policies that a lot of women find
to be objectionable for obvious reasons. And so there is a kind of ongoing
conflict between the message and the messengers and the policies. And Rand
Paul, with his Bill Clinton reference clearly doesn`t understand the
difference between, you know, Bill Clinton`s personal vice or virtue isn`t
what people were interested in. It was his policies promoting equality and
opportunities for women. It doesn`t seem like they get it.

SHARPTON: We`re not even talking about Bill Clinton. We`re talking
about Hillary Clinton, who absolutely had nothing to do with any of that.
Unless we`re trying to now say that we are going to hold women responsible
for their husband`s behavior. I mean, I don`t even understand where Bill
Clinton gets into the discussion. But let me ask you a question now, Ryan.
Take me into Congress. Because clearly politically this does not make a
lot of sense, these positions on women nationally.

So is this just about congressmen not worrying about the national,
just worrying about their district, playing to their home base? I mean,
what are we looking at here? Take me inside the heads of these congressmen
in a midterm election that is clearly doing something that nationally makes
no political sense.

GRIM: No. You said it exactly right. You know, these are people who
represent largely white rural very conservative districts. The only threat
to their reelection is from the right. They have a huge base of supporters
who vote only on the issue of abortion. You know, it`s one of these things
where, you know, it might be a minority in the entire district, but the
people who care passionately on the pro-life side are the ones who are
going to vote on that issue above all others. Jobs doesn`t matter, war
doesn`t matter, nothing matters, that is the one thing they`re going to
vote on. And so these Republicans want these people in their camp. These
are the foot soldiers that go door to door and get them past their primary.
Because of gerrymandering, they cruise to re-election.

SHARPTON: Will that, though, generate Michelle a turnout among women
voters? Is that going to generate some kind of backlash?

COTTLE: Well, if you wind up with another Todd Akin moment, with a
Republican going out there and saying something about legitimate rape, that
does tend to motivate on the other side. So it`s a risky balancing act
they pull here.

SHARPTON: Well, a couple more Uncle Sugars, you might get there.
Michelle Cottle and Ryan Grim, thank you both for your time this evening.

COTTLE: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Coming up, the Republican response to the State of the
Union has been more of a curse recently. But don`t worry. I`ve got your
response. Tips ahead.

But first, remembering legendary folk singer and activist Pete Seeger.
Why he is a hero for the civil rights movement and for me. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Tonight, saying goodbye to a true hero. The folk singer
and civil rights activist Pete Seeger. He was a legendary musician and
progressive, ahead of his time in crossing barriers to the fight for
justice. In 1957, Seeger attended civil rights workshops with Martin
Luther King and Rosa Parks. It was there that he first played for Dr. King
an old spiritual that he had updated with new verses and a new title, a
song that became the anthem for the movement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I sang a song called "we shall overcome."
Afterwards, a friend of mine drove Dr. King up to a speaking engagement in
Kentucky, and she remembers him sitting in the back seat saying "we shall
overcome, that song really sticks with you, doesn`t it?"

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: In 1963, Seeger helped register voters deep in the heart of
Mississippi. And he helped teach students during the freedom summer of
1964.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Pete, you know, played a constant role in the
movement long before I was involved in anything having to do with civil
rights, Pete Seeger was doing that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Seeger never gave up his fight for justice. Later, he
marched against the Vietnam War. And I had the honor of marching with him
during a protest in the late `80s. Pete got arrested along with the rest
of us, even though by then he was 68-years-old. Years later, Seeger
performed on the steps of the Lincoln memorial at the inaugural concert for
Barack Obama.

Seeger was 94 years old when he passed away yesterday. But he was
young at heart, using twitter to get his message out. Last month he
tweeted the civil rights movement would not have succeeded if it hadn`t
been for all those songs. People hum them when they were most beaten. I
remember talking with him when I was out there. He would spend time with
the younger guys, and he would talk to us at coffee shops, where we would
meet and get rallies together. He and Reverend Frederick Kirkpatrick told
me about the song "We Shall Overcome." They always said, young Al, don`t
ever forget, you`ve got to have freedom songs to have a freedom movement.
Because of Pete Seeger, some of us will never stop humming our way to
freedom.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: It`s time now for Rev Al`s Republican response tips.

SHARPTON: We are just about two hours away from President Obama`s
State of the Union Address. He`ll lay out his plans for what he has called
a year of action. And that means tonight we`ll also be getting the
Republican response, or should I say responses. We`ll get four tonight.
But this honor has been more of a curse recently. So I`m here to give my
friends on the other side some help. Tip one, do not awkwardly walk up to
the camera. There is no need for random stroll up. Governor Bobby Jindal
perfected this totally random saunter. And what followed was a rambling
performance. So when that camera goes on, just be in place. Let`s get tip
number two. It`s basic. Look straight at the camera.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: Good evening. My name is
Congresswoman Michele Bachmann from Minnesota`s sixth district. We believe
in lower taxes. We believe in a limited view of government and
exceptionalism in America. And I believe that America is the indispensable
nation of the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Over here, Congresswoman, over here, Michele Bachmann.
Missed the mark three years ago. So remember, know your camera. Let`s get
to the next tip. Tip three. Deliver a speech, not a pizza. If you want
to be taken seriously, don`t have the pizza man deliver any response, even
if it`s 30 minutes or less. And the final tip is the big one. Hydrate,
because you`re definitely don`t want a repeat of this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Nothing has frustrated me more than
false choices like the one the president has laid out tonight. The choice
isn`t just between big government or big business.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Who can forget Marco Rubio`s Watergate? And here is a
bonus tip. If you feel the need to reach for that H20, it`s OK to lose eye
contact with the camera. Once you have committed to the sip, you`re all
in. Look away. If you listen to these tips, you should be OK. Now all
you have to do is change all those lousy policies. Remember to respond is
also to deal with content. Of what the American people may really want.

Thanks for watching. I`m Al Sharpton. I`ll see you back here tonight
at 9:00 p.m. for our special State of the Union coverage. "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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