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PoliticsNation, Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

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Show: POLITICS NATION
Date: January 20, 2015
Guest: Clarence Page; Dana Milbank; Jess McIntosh; Emanuel Cleaver, Amelia
Boynton, Terri Sewell, Abby Huntsman, Angela Rye

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

Tonight`s lead, President Obama`s primetime challenge to the GOP. In the
next three hours, the president will leave the White House and head to the
capitol for the 2015 state of the union. He`ll face the most Republican-
controlled Congress since before the great depression. But he`s not
backing down. He`ll call for action on taxes, education, immigration,
putting his vision at the center of the national debate. And he`ll walk in
armed with some new momentum, a surging economy, fulfilling a promise from
his first speech to Congress back in 2009.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: While our economy may be
weakened, and our confidence shaken, but 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)

SHARPTON: Now, we have some brand-new numbers that back up that promise.
A new NBC poll says 45 percent of Americans are satisfied with the economy
right now. That`s the highest number since 2004, before the Bush
recession. And 49 percent say the U.S. is in a state of decline. That
seems high, but it`s actually the best number on that issue since we began
asking the question back in 1991.

The economy is surging, historic streak of job growth, and now the
president wants to make sure all Americans feel the benefit. Tonight he`ll
call on Congress to pass tax cuts for the middle class, push a plan to make
community colleges free for qualified students, and call for paid sick days
for better maternity leave for American workers. And after the speech,
he`ll take that American agenda right into Republican territory, heading to
Idaho and Kansas to sell that message.

Just three months after the GOP took control of congress, President Obama
has seized the initiative, and that`s what we`ll see when he walks to the
podium tonight.

Joining mess is Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, Democrat from Missouri, and
Dana Milbank from "the Washington Post." Thank you both for being here.

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

REP. EMANUEL CLEAVER (D), MISSOURI: Good to be here.

SHARPTON: Congressman, Republicans seized Congress in November, but now
the president is the one setting the agenda. What do you want to hear from
him tonight?

CLEAVER: Well, I want to hear him continue to talk about those things that
he has been doing. He is riding a wave of a number of successful political
initiatives. And I would like for him to talk about that a bit more. I
think there`s this belief, at least there used to be this belief that the
president was going to be in bed for the next two years after the beating
we took back in November.

But he has come to the conclusion that this is the time for him to push all
of the things that he believes that the American people need in order to
have a healthier nation. And I think it`s working. It`s working. The
numbers are going to come up in terms of the people who approve of the way
he`s handling the economy.

SHARPTON: Dana, after six years of the president`s policies, the economy
is surging, but Republicans now want him on a different path. Here`s what
Senator McConnell said today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: One option is the path he`s
been on for so many years. I sincerely hope he makes a different choice.
And if the president`s ready for a new beginning beyond canceled health
plans and partisan executive overreach, work with us to pursue an
achievement that history will actually remember.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: How will the Republicans respond to the president tonight. Are
there any basis for common ground, Dana?

MILBANK: Well, they`ll respond grudgingly in a word. And that`s basically
what Mitch McConnell has been doing. I love how he acknowledges that the
economy is now booming and says actually that`s because people knew the
Republicans were going to take over the Senate rather than what`s been
built up over the last six years.

Look, they are going to respond grudgingly, but they are going to be facing
a more powerful president. That`s not really a matter of opinion, it is a
matter of statistics. And the president`s numbers were artificially
depressed, not necessarily his fault, because the economy was doing poorly,
because there were so little job growth.

Now he`s going to get credit for it, deservedly or not. There`s a lag
effect here, so you can expect his numbers to increase as the economy
boomed, much like president Clinton`s numbers did in the late 1990s. And
this will strengthen him negotiating with Congress on a whole wide range of
issues.

SHARPTON: But Congressman, even the GOP had to admit this economy`s
recovery is historic. I mean, listen to Senator John McCain today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: This has the longest recovery in history,
and we are glad, but the reason why Americans still are very ambivalent
about it is because we not the middle income and lower income Americans
have not really benefited by this recovery.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: I mean, Congressman, isn`t that the exact point the president
has been making? And who do Americans trust to help poor and working-class
people?

CLEAVER: Well, first of all, the president has been talking about this for
several years. But I think the public trusts the president because he`s
talking about increasing the minimum wage. If low-income people are not
benefiting from the recovery, let`s raise the minimum wage. That`s seems
to be one of the things to do.

Let`s reduce the tax burden on the poor and make the kind of tax reform
that we need in line with taxing the people who have been blessed to
benefit from living in this fabulous country, and because they have been
blessed so much, they`re willing to pay more taxes.

The president is not going to say anything new on this subject, he`s been
saying it. I`m assuming now that Mr. McCain is because not going to
support a minimum wage increase, I`ll send him over my bill.

SHARPTON: Dana, the Republicans have said that would be dead on arrival,
and they`re going to fight it, but the American people are clearly
supporting it.

MILBANK: Right. And I think this is why the president`s got a spring in
his step right now. I think the loss of the Senate has, in a way liberated
him, and I think he has got a lot more fight right now. And, you know, now
it`s the Republicans who will have a very difficult time managing things.

So what`s the Republican house going to do tomorrow? Maybe something on
the economy after the state of the union? No, they want to take up an
abortion bill. So, you know, certainly a lot less popular that this the
agenda the president is floating tonight. That doesn`t mean many, if any
of these proposals are going to become law, but it sounds like President
Obama is, he has joined the fight and it looks like he`s going to enjoy
doing this.

SHARPTON: You know, Congressman, a senior White House adviser told "New
York Times" today, quote, we have proof that President Obama`s strategy is
working, and the Republicans now have a chicken little problem. All the
doom and gloom they predicted did not come to pass.

Don`t Republicans have a credibility problem with all their talk about job
killing policies about the president, Congressman?

CLEAVER: Well, my hope is that they will come out tomorrow and repent,
because they have clearly --

SHARPTON: That`s the preacher in you, Congressman.

(LAUGHTER)

CLEAVER: They can`t help themselves. They need to repent, because, you
know, think tried to label the auto industry rescue a giveaway. $80
billion, rescued the automobile industry. We were supposed to be the
world`s leaders in automobiles, and we are. And now they`re healthy again
and they paid back the money. We can go down the line, issue after issue
after issue, what the president said would happen has happened. And when
things like that happen, I have to say it again, it`s time to repent.

SHARPTON: Now, Dana, just hours before the speech, the president issued
two new veto threats against GOP bills to restrict abortion rights and help
big oil. That`s a total of seven veto threats against the new GOP
Congress. Are Republicans ready for this, Dana?

MILBANK: I don`t think any of them expect any of this legislation to get
through, so of course they`re ready for the veto threats, and they`re not
just threats, obviously. I think the president would love to veto big oil
and abortion legislation and jux to pose (ph) this with the agenda he`s got
going.

Now the question is once the Republicans get this legislative agenda out of
their system, are they going to start compromising with the president on
things like trade, which we`ll hear about tonight, and areas of tax reform
where there is some agreement.

It`s not all combat tonight. There are a lot of proposals there that
Republicans have supported before and still do. So if they can work all
the message bills out of their system, they actually have some work they
can do together.

SHARPTON: But that`s going to be the interesting thing for Republicans to
vote against what they used to vote for, how did they convince the American
people it`s not just politics while we`re trying to make sure the recovery
goes to middle class and to poor Americans. I`d like to see how they
intend to convince people they are against what they always were for.

Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, Dana Milbank, thank you both for your time
tonight.

MILBANK: Thanks, Reverend.

CLEAVER: Good to be with you.

SHARPTON: Coming up, how many Republicans does it take to respond to the
state of the union? It sounds like a but it`s not. And it says a lot
about today`s GOP.

Plus, we`ll talk live to a civil rights hero, who was beaten, bloody in
Selma, but who has a special seat for the speech tonight.

Also, what do you want to hear from the president? We`ll look at social
media, as we count down the 2015 state of the union here on "Politics
Nation."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: With our without this Congress, I will keep taking actions that
help the economy grow, but I can do a whole lot more with your help.
Because when we act together, there`s nothing the United States of America
can`t achieve.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Live picture of the White House where President Obama will lead
to deliver his state of the union address. And we want to know what you
think. What do you want to hear from the president tonight? What should
he address?

Let us know on facebook or tweet us as "politics nation", using #pnsotu.
We`ll have some of those responses later on in the show.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: We`re back with live pictures from Capitol Hill, where tonight
President Obama will lay out an aggressive agenda to address income
inequality in America. In his state of the union speech, he`s proposing an
ambitious new tax plan. It features a tax credit for working families. It
would raise the child care tax credit, and it offers a new worker
retirement plan. And it`s paid for with a tax increase on the top 1
percent.

But Republicans are already circling the wagons around the wealthy, trying
to protect the richest Americans from paying their fair share.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re not just one good tax increase away from
prosperity in this nation.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: This is a 20th century outdated model the
president is following.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This plan that we will hear about tonight appears to be
more about redistribution with added complexity and class war fare.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m wore if you redistribute income you`ll have less of
it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: The real class warfare is the GOP`s attack on the poor and
working class. And tonight, we`ll see a plan that will frame that
political debate for 2015, 2016, and beyond. Joining me now is Jess
McIntosh and Clarence Page. Thank you both for being here.

JESS MCINTOSH, EMILY`S LIST: Great to be here, Rev.

CLARENCE PAGE, COLUMNIST, CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Thank you, Rev.

SHARPTON: Jess, how will Republicans respond to the president`s argument
on inequality now that they`re in control of congress?

MCINTOSH: Yes, I mean, the reason why the state of the union is one of my
favorite times of the year is because when we get to talk about issues,
Democrats do really well. And we do really well across the board, even
with a Republican electorate.

I mean, minimum wage won on election night just as the democratic candidate
in those same red states where raising the minimum wage was on the ballot
lost. And that was with a really Republican electorate. So when the
president talks about things like making it easier for families to take
care of each other and themselves by putting a little bit more money in
those paychecks, by taking a little bit off the wealthiest one percent, I
mean, that the message there that resonates across the board with
Democrats, Independent an Republicans.

So Republicans are really put in a box trying to explain why that is not
sound economic policy, when we have seen what happens when you funnel money
to the wealthiest, and to corporations for years and years and years, we
see the kind of mess it gets our country in. And no one wants to go back
there again, no matter what party you are from.

SHARPTON: Clarence, how much of this is the president wanting to drive the
agenda even beyond today`s GOP Congress?

PAGE: Well, I think the president is pushing the agenda with remarkable
aggressiveness, considering how poorly the Democrats did in the midterm
elections. I think Jess raises very good points. The president realizes
he has issues on his side with his poll numbers being up and Republicans
are borrowing his rhetoric and his issues. Remember when Republicans were
talking about cutting spending and balances the budget? All of a sudden
now, they`re recognizing wage inequality and this lag of stagnant wages at
a time when the rest of the economy is doing remarkably well.

So President Obama sees that with both houses of Congress controlled by
Republicans, he can set the agenda tonight, then let them argue about it,
come up with something to propose to him, and he has the ability to veto it
or not. And they have strong incentives to want to get something that he
will not veto, because Mitch McConnell and John Boehner want to known as
doing something besides winning a do-nothing Congress.

SHARPTON: You know, Jess, even though they had this wave come in in the
midterm election, they`re driving the -- drive of the president on the
floor, the president. He`s setting the agenda.

MCINTOSH: Yes, it is at their peril if they think they had some kind of a
mandate on election night. Like I said, our issues won in the very states
where our candidates lost. The electorate was about a third of the
country. And that was really a Republican-tilted third of the country.
But they didn`t support Republican policies.

Corey Gardner in Colorado wins as personhood is defeated. Tom Cotton wins
as they vote to raise the minimum wage.

So the issues didn`t connect to candidates on election night. The issues
are there and they`re strong. And the more we`ve seen the president
aggressively talk about addressing income inequality in creating economic
security for American women and families, we have seen his poll numbers
rise. And of course, that`s corresponding to the improvement in the
economy generally, but he`s setting himself up for a pretty fantastic last
couple two years that I think is going to highlight the contrast between
the golden priorities of these two parties really, really clearly.

SHARPTON: Clarence, take a look at this chart. This blue line shows the
income growth of the bottom 20 percent over the last few decades. And now
here`s the income growth of the richest one percent. That gap is unfair.
Don`t we need something like the president`s tax plan to address it?

PAGE: We do need something to address that. What`s interesting is that
the public obviously is distressed by that lag, and that`s people at all
income levels. A lot of people, rich folks aren`t comfortable with this
much of an imbalance. The question is, what do you do to get there?

And President Obama is presenting the kind of a plan of tax cuts and
incentives that will -- they`re addressing issues he raised way back in the
first presidential campaign for that matter. They`re good issues, and
they`re still good. Now Republicans don`t have a lot to come back with.

Marco Rubio has proposed wage subsidies instead of raising the minimum
wage, which I think is not a bad idea, but it`s not getting anywhere among
Republicans right now, because they aren`t interested in being the idea
party. So I think right now Obama is in many ways in the driver`s seat on
that.

SHARPTON: Now Jess, a new NBC poll shows the public backed some key moves
the president has made on his own without Congress. Americans support his
efforts to normalize relations with Cuba by 60 to 30. They also support
the president`s executive action on immigration by 52 to 44. How will the
president talk about issues like that tonight?

MCINTOSH: Well, I think those are sort of the last questions left to
answer. We know some of the major policy proposals regarding the economy
that we are going to hear about tonight, but how is he going to address
some of these other issues.

But he knows that Americans are on his side about most of these things, and
the Republicans seem to be scrambling to try to figure out a way to talk
about Cuba, a way to talk about keystone even in a way that warrants their
privatization of it. So I`m interested to see what he says, but also how
they respond to it.

SHARPTON: Jess McIntosh and Clarence page, thank you both for your time
tonight.

PAGE: Thank you, Reverend.

MCINTOSH: Thanks.

SHARPTON: Coming up, what will the president say tonight and what should
he say?

Plus who will be sitting with first lady Michelle Obama tonight and what
political statement does it make?

And a 103-year-old civil rights icon, Amelia Boyington spilled the blood on
that bridge in Selma. Tonight, she will be in the chamber for the speech,
but she`s here with me first. You don`t want to miss her. Stay with us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We have finished a difficult year. We have come through a
difficult decade, but a new years has come, a new decade stretches before
us. We don`t quit. I don`t quit. Let`s seize this moment to start anew,
to carry the dream forward, and as to strengthen our union once more.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Different presidents used the biggest political speech of the
year, the state of the union, in very different ways. Some have laid out
domestic policies that create major change for our country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This administration today here and now declares
unconditional war on poverty in America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Others are famous for their defense of American ideals, like
when president Roosevelt laid out the four essential freedoms in 1941.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First is freedom of speech and expression everywhere in
the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Other years, the phrases are just as iconic, but become
controversial in U.S. history.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: States like these and their terrorist allies constitute
an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: And occasionally the president try toss use a speech to move
away from scandal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One year of Watergate is enough.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Clearly it wasn`t. But one thing we can almost always count on
in a state of the union, a tribute to the American people.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: It is you, our citizens, who make the state of our union strong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: And in just under three hours, we`ll hear the president`s ideals
this year, and how to make our union even stronger. What do you want him
to focus on? That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: The President has address the nation in times of war and peace,
in times of tranquility and unrest. Fifty years ago the State of the Union
came at a time of crackling tension in this country. As President Johnson
spoke in 1965, Dr. King was laying the groundwork for the voting rights
movement in Selma, Alabama. History was made. Two months later came a day
known now as bloody Sunday. Civil rights marchers led by a young John
Lewis, who were beaten and bloodied on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Look at
this iconic picture. It`s Miss Amelia Boynton, a civil rights pioneer in
Selma, lying unconscious. Today her fight is depicted in the Oscar
nominated film "Selma."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: I know that we are descendants of a mighty people,
who gave civilization to the world, people who survive the hulls of slave
ships and crossed vast oceans. People who innovated create and love,
despite pressures and tortures unimaginable. They are in our bloodstream
pumping our hearts every second. They have prepared you. You are already
prepared.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: One hundred and three-year-old Amelia Boynton will be in that
House Chamber tonight to watch the nation`s first African-American
president address the nation. He is a direct beneficiary of the blood she
shed on that bridge. You want to meet an American hero? Meet my next
guest.

Joining me now is that hero, civil rights icon Amelia Boynton. She`s
joined by Alabama Congresswoman Terri Sewell, who represents Selma today
and is bringing Ms. Boynton in as her guest tonight for the speech. It`s
an honor to have both of you with us tonight.

REP. TERRI SEWELL (D), ALABAMA: It`s great to be here Reverend Al, you
know, it`s amazing to have your she-ro right here in front of you. You
know, Miss Boynton ran for Congress in 1964 as a first African-American
woman from Alabama to ever run, so it was awesome to have her here, as well
as --

SHARPTON: You know, Ms. Boynton, you spilled your blood on that bridge
fighting for voting rights. How will it feel to see President Obama
deliver that speech tonight?

AMELIA BOYNTON, STATE OF THE UNION GUEST: Well, I thought so much of what
my mother said. She said, we will rise again. I wish she were living in
this day, because she said that our day will come, but each generation has
to bear its own responsibility, and (INAUDIBLE) because God has given us
all of the objectives that he wants us to have.

SHARPTON: Wow.

BOYNTON: And I am happy to know that my mother in heaven has realized that
this day has come. We don`t have everything to do. This was the
foundation that we laid in 1965. And we want everybody who feels that they
are not the -- and that God has laid the best for them to stand up and get
off of our shoulders and every generation should realize that they are not
some -- but they are Americans, and to act like it, to work like it, and to
demand that every segment of discrimination be torn away from this country
that is supposed to be the land of the free, the home of the brave.

SHARPTON: Wow. You know, Miss Boynton today the voting rights act is
under attack. And when you hear from the President tonight, I know you`ve
been involved even in the last few years, in fighting to keep the voting
rights act. I remember 2012 when we all were there and marched that we did
the walk from Selma to Montgomery. You were there in the audience
listening to our speeches, and it inspired me when I looked down there,
seeing you there. What do you hope the President will address tonight on
voting?

SEWELL: He wants to know -- what do you make of the President addressing
voting? What will you be looking for him to say about voting? The
President tonight.

BOYNTON: I think that as God has led, he doesn`t need any paper, or he
doesn`t need any script, because God is going to lead him, and whatever he
says, if we take it and understand it and tear apart and rethink and to be
(INAUDIBLE) then let us work with him.

SHARPTON: Wow! Congresswoman Sewell, why did you decide to invite Miss
Boynton to be your guest tonight?

SEWELL: I can`t imagine having anyone else as a guest, this prelude to the
50th commemoration of the Selma in Montgomery march is so important. I
think that it`s a long time overdue for these brave and courageous marchers
to have their space in history as the true heroes and heroines that they
are. And I`m just honored that she`s a constituent, honored that she had
the courage to be on that bridge, and I know that my journey was only
possible because of the journey that you were willing to take 50 years ago.

SHARPTON: You are the woman in that Congressional seat that she ran for in
the `60s, and all of us, despite whatever differences and tactics we may
have today, we are inspired when she tells us every generation must bear
their responsibility. I hope we never let you down. Miss Amelia Boynton
and Congresswoman, thank you both for your time tonight.

SEWELL: Thanks.

BOYNTON: Thank you very much for this opportunity.

SHARPTON: God bless you.

Still ahead, what do you want to hear in the State of the Union tonight?
Our twitter and Facebook pages are lighting up. We`ll have your responses
after the break.

Also, you won`t believe how many republicans` responses we`ll get to the
speech tonight. What does it say about today`s GOP? You`re watching
POLITICS NATION here on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: It`s a big night in Washington. We`re just a little over two
hours away from the President`s second to the last State of the Union
Address. And now it`s time for a special political edition of
"Conversation Nation."

Joining me tonight MSNBC`s Abby Huntsman, political strategist Angela Rye,
and MSNBC contributor Victoria DeFrancesco-Soto. We start with new
excerpts from the President`s State of the Union, showing that fairness
will be a key part of the speech tonight. He`ll say, quote, "Will we
accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we
commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances
for everyone who makes the effort?" He`ll also say, quote, "That`s what
middle-class economics is, the idea that this country does best when
everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share and everyone
plays by the same set of rules.

Angela, how is that as a political message right now?

ANGELA RYE, POLITICAL STRATEGIST: I think it`s important. I think last
year we saw the President told Congress continually the theme was send me a
bill and I`ll sign it. And I think this year he`s giving them the tactics
to be able to do that. These are the prescriptions of the bill that I
expect to see. These are the ways in which I expect for us to work
together for a common goal and that is to see the whole of America do much
better.

SHARPTON: Let me ask you this Victoria, how important is to get things
done? And how important is it to set an agenda?

VICTORIA DEFRANCESCO-SOTO, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I think it`s incredibly
important we get things done especially because we`re facing a republican
Congress. We know there are some serious roadblocks ahead, so the
President needs to be crystal clear in what he`s laying out. And he also
needs to be forceful. I think he also needs to send the message to
Congress, if you don`t want to play ball, I`m going to push my executive
action to the hilt, because we cannot sit around and just let congress say
no, no, no. We have two more years left and we need to get something done.

SHARPTON: Abby, 2016 GOP candidates are already talking fairness. They
come towards the President`s agenda. They`re having Huntsman attacks, if
you don`t mind of phrase.

ABBY HUNTSMAN, MSNBC HOST: I mean, Romney is even saying he`s going to be
the guy who talks about, you know, lower class, lower income, which is
quite shocking.

SHARPTON: Talk is one thing.

HUNTSMAN: They`ve got to find their narrative there. They have to if they
want to win at the national, they have to speak, they have to find the
right message there. And I think tonight the President is really thinking
about that message for 2016, and teeing it off for folks like Hillary
Clinton, and other democratic potential candidates. I think more than
anything tonight, though, it`s about making people feel something. You
know, there`s narrative out there that people have tuned out, no one is
going to be listening to what the President says six years in. I disagree
with that. I think that tonight is a very powerful moment. It`s the one
time of the year that all of us come together, agree with the President or
not. My boss said today, this is not happening in Yemen, this is not
happening in many parts of the world. It`s happening here. And I hope it
takes us time to remind us what we do have in common, what our shared
values are.

SHARPTON: You know, we asked our POLITICS NATION social media community
what they want to hear the President will talk about tonight. Here`s some
of the responses.

Pam says, "Tightening our lacks gun laws to help prevent the over 30,000
deaths due for gun violence each year."

Uba says, "it should be on tackling student loans."

And Donna says, "Economy, then voting issues. States are working to make
it harder to vote."

RYE: Yes.

SHARPTON: Angela?

RYE: Well, I think a couple of things. One is, the student loan piece was
in the middle. He`s been working on that I think from day one and we
certainly saw him work on student loans and college affordability all last
year, he continued to do that. We saw --

HUNTSMAN: And the two years for education --

RYE: -- say the community college initiative as well as the -- initiative.
So he`s continuing to not only make college affordable but also to ensure
that kids are able to transition from college to good-paying jobs.

SHARPTON: Now, tonight the President is also going to make a big
announcement in the fight against terror. He`ll say, quote, "I call on
this Congress to show the world that we are united in this mission by
passing a resolution to authorize the use of force against ISIL." Another
term for the terrorist group is. Abby, this is being news. Will Congress
now be part of the fight against ISIS?

HUNTSMAN: You were just reading what people want out of tonight? I think
more than anything what I want to hear is something on this from the
President. I`m sure there will be a big chunk of speech because a lot of
us are feeling anxious, we have anxiety right now about what`s in store for
our future. We just got out of this war. So, we`re trying to get out of
them. What does it mean? I have two brothers that are in the military,
and who knows what does that means for them? I would love for the
President to direct us head-on about what we`re faced with. What is this
mean for us? Everything that`s gone on in Europe in the past week. So, I
think we`re all going to be really curious to hear what he has to say about
that specifically. And Congress, as you said, they`re going to have to --
that is the one thing they have to come together on.

SHARPTON: Victoria, how will republicans vote on this resolution?

DEFRANCESCO-SOTO: I think we`re going to see what we saw in the past. I
think they`re going to push up against the President. But I come back to
what I said earlier.

SHARPTON: But how do you vote against a resolution on ISIS?

DEFRANCESCO-SOTO: They may vote for the resolution. They may vote on the
resolution. But will we see any substantive legislation to put things into
place? And that`s what I don`t see coming from this Congress. I wish I
could, but I don`t.

RYE: I honestly think, Rev, that we will see some agreement and some
bipartisan efforts on trade. The President is expected to call democrats
tonight on a trade agenda and ensuring that they understand this has --

SHARPTON: Which a lot of the democrats opposed.

RYE: That`s right. So, he`s supposed to call and say, look, this is one
area we can stand together. Republicans want to see a trade agenda moves.
I think that`s a strong area of support.

DEFRANCESCO-SOTO: I think education is going to be another area where we
potentially see bipartisan support, and not so much in the Congress, but in
states. It`s an in Knoxville, Tennessee where we`re seeing the model
program for community college tuition.

SHARPTON: Yes.

DEFRANCESCO-SOTO: Let`s go the states and work something out there.

SHARPTON: But Abby, it would be nice to see some common ground on
somebody`s issue.

HUNTSMAN: I was just going to say, if we can`t come together on foreign
policy, what can we come together on?

DEFRANCESCO-SOTO: That`s right.

HUNTSMAN: He`s in a difficult position right now because he`s speaking at
a time when the country really has never felt this divided. We have a new
NBC poll that shows 59 percent think divided government isn`t working. You
compare that to 1999 before Bill Clinton spoke in reverse, it was the
opposite of divided government was working. So, he has to speak to the
American people that our frustrated but also a Congress that can`t seem to
get anything down and like I said if we can`t figure that out on something
like terrorism, then I don`t know how we move forward.

SHARPTON: Well, the problem also is going to be that he has to talk to a
none receptive audience there in the Congress, and talked to a huge broader
audience that is going to be watching.

HUNTSMAN: Yet they wait in line for hours just to get those seats.

SHARPTON: And of course the television audience and others, so he has got
to talk to this crowd that is not going to be receptive and a broader crowd
that many are going to adopt his agenda. It`s difficult thing. But I
think the President is capable of pulling it off.

RYE: The ratings say it.

DEFRANCESCO-SOTO: And he already went, you know, in terms of the spoilers
he was giving beforehand. I think that`s how he speaking to the brother.

SHARPTON: Panel, stay with me. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Back with me is our panel, Abby, Angela and Victoria. Once the
President finishes his speech, republicans will have their chance to
respond. This year they top new Senator Joni Ernst to deliver their
message. Here`s a photo of her rehearsing today just hours before
delivering her response. But the choice of Ernst is a controversial one
given her far right stance on key issues. Abby, what do you think of the
pick, how will she do?

HUNTSMAN: I hope she doesn`t say castration.

(TALKING OVER EACH OTHER)

(LAUGHTER)

SHARPTON: We`ll get to the --

HUNTSMAN: There will be a lot of eyeballs on her, mainly because of past
incidents. Where if you look at, I mean, it could be a kiss of death for
politics, as we`ve seen time and time again. It`s always awkward, all I
say is just survive it. She`s an interesting one because, you know, a year
ago no one knew her. She was a farmer in Iowa.

SHARPTON: Right.

HUNTSMAN: She`s now the first female senator from that state. So, I think
that does say something positive about our country, that you can come from
no one knowing you until really being the face of the Republican Party, but
I would say she`s in a tough position --

SHARPTON: But with all of that, you`ve got to be able to rise to the
occasion, because you`re primetime now.

RYE: You are and you`re also still a freshman senator. And I think the
dynamics are a little bit different. I`m a little more cynical on this. I
think that the republicans want again has to pick a woman to deliver their
response because they don`t have but a handful, it`s only a binder full of
them, Rev. They don`t have a whole lot to go around. So, I think that`s
why she was picked. I don`t think --

SHARPTON: Victoria?

DEFRANCESCO-SOTO: What message are the republicans sending? I thought the
republicans wanted to moderate, wanted to share their more of a big tent
party but in picking Joni Ernst, I mean, this is a woman that Palin loves.
She says this is my type of candidate, are we going back to 2010? Are we
going back to that Tea Party Mama Grizzly era?

SHARPTON: But she has a lot of energy.

DEFRANCESCO-SOTO: A lot of energy.

HUNTSMAN: She rallies the base. And it`s interesting, because she`s one
of so many responses. I mean, the Tea Party has their own response. I
think I just read Ted Cruz might even come out --

SHARPTON: Yes. Five. Ted Cruz is coming out. Rand Paul is coming out.
Five responses --

HUNTSMAN: I mean, Romney may show up at some point.

SHARPTON: What does that say about the Republican Party that you have one
presidential State of the Union Address and five responses?

DEFRANCESCO-SOTO: They can`t get it together. They can`t get it
together.

HUNTSMAN: All of them want to be president, at least most of them do. But
I think it`s a good insight into what 2016 is going to look like. And a
reminder that we are still a very divided party, and you still have the Tea
Party, and I think this is an effort to fight for attention for the Tea
Party, so as long as we have --

SHARPTON: No!

HUNTSMAN: I know you`re shocked, as long as we have multiple responses
though, we`re going to be divided.

RYE: We`re divided but not diverse. And I think that`s an important
distinction.

SHARPTON: Well, I think the politics of it is, united you stand, divided
they fall.

(LAUGHTER)

HUNTSMAN: Thanks though, Rev.

DEFRANCESCO-SOTO: Thank you, Rev.

SHARPTON: Abby and Angela and Victoria, thank you for your time tonight.

We`ll be right back with a final preview of tonight, and a look at how far
this country and this president have come in the last six years.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: President Obama will be leaving the White House enroute to the
capitol for his big speech tonight. Earlier today the President was in the
Oval Office putting finishing touches on the speech. A White House
official described him as relaxed. After all, he has given five State of
the Union speeches. During that time, he`s been tested, and he`s always
responded. Six years ago today, President Obama was sworn in as our 44th
president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: There are some who question the
scale of our ambitions, who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too
many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what
this country has already done, what free men and women can achieve when
imagination has joined a common purpose and necessity to courage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: What a day that was. But on that very same day, top republicans
met secretly to plan a strategy to block his agenda. Resistance to the
Affordable Care Act, fighting against immigration reform, attacking his
handling of the economy, but to each assault, he`s come back strong,
resilient, and tonight a night when he`ll address the most republican
Congress since the 1920s, he has the momentum, riding an 18-month high in
approval, standing at 50 percent. Why? Because his policies are calling
for a more fair, more just America are working. And because it`s working,
the American people, despite the defeat at the polls in November, have said
they are with this president.

Thanks for watching, I`m Al Sharpton. I`ll see you back here for our
special coverage at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. "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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