Msnbc Live at 6 p.m. ET, Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

Guests: Bob Shrum, Jonathan Alter, Sherrod Brown, Debbie Wasserman Schultz,

Ana Marie Cox

CENK UYGUR, HOST:  Welcome to the show, everybody.  We‘ve got a great show ahead for you guys tonight. 

We‘re going to tell you tonight about how the Republicans are going to run against President Obama.  And it can be summed up pretty easily.  They‘re going dirty. 

Exhibit A is former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who has apparently sunk to new lows.  It all started when Huckabee had this to say about President Obama in a radio interview --  


STEVE MALZBERG, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Don‘t you think we deserve to know more about this man? 

MIKE HUCKABEE ®, FMR. ARKANSAS GOVERNOR:  I would love to know more, but what I know is troubling enough.  And one thing that I do know is his having grown up in Kenya, his view of the Brits, for example, very different than the average American. 


UYGUR:  All right.  How many times do we have to go through this?  He did not grow up in Kenya. 

Now, when he said that, I actually was a little skeptical that he meant it on purpose.  Richard Wolffe was on the program yesterday, and he said of course he did.  It‘s politics, he‘s appealing to his base. 

It turns out Richard Wolffe was totally right and my skepticism was not warranted.  Yes, it‘s definitely about that, because if you just look at that, you might say, look, it could be an honest mistake.  He said Kenya and he meant something else.  And then he‘s going to come on and try to clarify it.  And when he does, you‘re going to see his real intention.

Look, last night, he went on “The O‘Reilly Factor.”  Now, this is supposed to explain away his comments.  But instead, look at how he doubled down. 


HUCKABEE:  My point really even about talking about him being raised in a different country, actually Indonesia, not Kenya, as I do understand, the point that I do want to make is that that creates a different world view.  This is not a kid who grew up going to Boy Scouts meeting and playing little league baseball. 


UYGUR:  What does that mean?  He didn‘t grow up playing baseball and going to Boy Scout meetings? 

First of all, how do you know he didn‘t play baseball?  You don‘t know anything about who he was—maybe he played kickball.  How do you know? 

And What Huckabee is saying he‘s another, he‘s not one of us.  He‘s foreign. 

Whether it‘s Kenya or Indonesia, or whatever it is, don‘t trust him, he‘s not one of us real Americans.  It‘s coming through so clearly. 

But in case he wasn‘t clear enough on it, he also went on right-wing talker Bryan Fischer‘s radio show, and it was the same exact theme. 


BRYAN FISCHER, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  You seem to think there‘s some validity to the fact that there may be some fundamental anti-Americanism in this president. 

HUCKABEE:  Well, and that‘s exactly the point that I make in the book. 


UYGUR:  That‘s exactly the point you make in your book, that our president is anti-American? 

How many times are they going to go to this well?  And how ugly are they going to get, and how dirty are they going to get? 

Now, look, all this is bad.  His intentions are clear.  But the last part makes it 100 percent clear.  Listen for the end here as he talks about what turns out to be his true intention. 


HUCKABEE:  I have said many times, publicly, that I do think he has a different world view.  And I think it‘s, in part, molded out of a very different experience.  Most of us grew up going to Boy Scout meetings and, you know, our communities were filled with Rotary Clubs, not madrassas.”


UYGUR:  First of all, Indonesia and Kenya have had Rotary Clubs since about 1930.    OK?  But the relevant part is the madrassa.

You‘re going to bring back the madrassa?  How many times do we have to debunk this? 

And you think Huckabee doesn‘t know?  Of course he knows Obama didn‘t go to a madrassa.  He didn‘t grow up around a madrassa.  He knows it 100 percent for a fact. 

So why is he doing it?  Because he wants to play the race card.  He wants to play the other card. 

He wants to bring the ethnicity into it.  He wants to bring the religion into it.  He wants to trick his base into thinking this guy is a Muslim, he went to a madrassa. 

And look, honestly, it‘s not just the Muslim part.  He‘s also dealing the race card, and he‘s dealing from the bottom of the deck.  But look, he‘s not alone.  They‘re all doing it.  This is a theme that many of the people thinking of running against President Obama are all working on.

Newt Gingrich, shameless about playing the Kenya card in a “National Review” interview last week.  He said, “What if Obama is so outside of our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior can you begin to piece together his actions?  That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior.”

Really?  The Kenyan, anti-colonial model is the most accurate for predicting how a president is going to act when he grew up in Hawaii? 

It‘s so transparent. 

And who got this ball rolling?  Of course it was Sarah Palin back in 2008.  She got it all rolling with this “Obama isn‘t like one of us.” 



GOV. SARAH PALIN ®, ALASKA:  This is not a man who sees America as you and I see America.  We see America as a force for good in this world.  Our opponent is someone who sees America as imperfect enough to pal around with terrorists who targeted their own country. 


UYGUR:  How clear do they have to make it?  Pal around with terrorists, grew up around madrassas.  His father is Kenyan.  You know where Kenya is?  It‘s in Africa.

Come on, man.

And more recently, Michele Bachmann made the ultimate goal clear as well. 


REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA:  This is not symbolic.  This is why we were sent here.  And we will not stop until we repeal a president—


UYGUR:  Repeal a president.  Defeat a president.  Newt mentioned recently, impeach the president. 

So the overall objective is clear—tear this president down by any means necessary. 

All right.  Joining me now is Bob Shrum, Democratic strategist and NYU professor who worked on both the Gore and Kerry presidential campaign.  So he knows a thing or two about dirty campaigns that were run against his guys. 

And Jonathan Alter, MSNBC political analyst and Newsweek‘s national affairs columnist. 

All right, Bob.  Let me start with you.

Look, you were on Kerry‘s campaign.  They ran the Swift Boat Veterans against you guys. 

Is this part and parcel of Republican strategy?  The first thing you do, we‘ve got a campaign going on.  Go dirty, go ugly, go as low as you can. 

BOB SHRUM, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Yes.  Listen, I‘ve written extensively about the Swift Boats and why I believe that we should have responded immediately.  I think this is actually a different case. 

I think they‘re appealing here and Huckabee is appealing here to the base of the Republican Party.  They‘re competing for the nomination.  They want to get the Birthers, they want to get the extreme Tea Party people who believe that Obama is the other. 

So that‘s the kind of politics that‘s being played here, and it‘s being played all across the board.  It‘s even being played in a somewhat milder form by Mitt Romney.  So that‘s the game that‘s going on. 

But I‘ll tell you, when I hear Huckabee, it strikes me as disgusting and hypocritical.  He talks about growing up in an America of Boy Scouts and Rotary Clubs.  You know, the part of America he grew up in tolerated and defended intolerance and racial segregation. 

To me, that‘s not the real American.  And he doesn‘t have any right to accuse this president of anti-Americanism. 

UYGUR:  You know, now that we‘re talking about the Rotary Club, I‘ve just got to step in and say one thing here.  My dad was in a Rotary Club.  He was in a Rotary Club in Istanbul before we moved here.  And then, part of the reason that he moved here was because the Rotary Club was so welcoming and accepting, and he thought, what a wonderful country. 

And then he joined the Rotary Club here.  That‘s how it‘s supposed to work.

Now, Jonathan, look, before there was a question.  Now there‘s no question, it seems.  He‘s doing this on purpose.

But he‘s got that folksy thing, Huckabee does.  You know, like, oh, I‘m with the people, et cetera. 

Is he hurting that brand by doing this, or is that part and parcel of it? 

JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Actually, I think he is hurting that brand.

You know, Huckabee got a reputation for being a decent guy in the 2008 campaign.  Reporters tended to like him.  He made some smart speeches, said some interesting things.  And he is putting that all at risk. 

It reminds me of a line from the O.J. trial when one of his friends was on the stand.  And at a certain point, he said, “This is sad, O.J.”  There‘s just something that‘s kind of pathetic about this.

First of all, it‘s not even clear that Huckabee is running for president.  I mean, my sources tell me that he‘s not running because in order to meet his mortgage payments on his new house in Florida, he needs that Fox contract. 

UYGUR:  That‘s funny. 

ALTER:  And that if he was running, that Roger Ailes would have made him do the same thing that Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum did, go off the payroll.  So that‘s what‘s confusing about this to me. 

He knows this is all untrue.  It comes from the Dinesh D‘Souza‘s book, this whole anti-colonial rap which Newt Gingrich thinks is brilliant, and I guess Huckabee now thinks is brilliant, but is actually just the most kind of fallacious nonsense that you can imagine. 

So he knows it‘s not true.  He‘s probably not running for president. 

So why is he doing this? 

UYGUR:  That‘s a good question.

But Bob, you know, if he is running for president, he does have to appeal to his base.  And his base, according to the polls, believes this nonsense.  Right?

So is he stuck between a rock and a hard place?  Do all the Republicans have to go dirty like this in order to appeal to the primary voters? 

SHRUM:  Well, I think you‘re seeing a wholesale movement in the Republican Party as far to the right to appeal to these Tea Party types as possible. 

Look, this is a party that nominated last year in Delaware a Senate candidate who had to deny she was a witch before she went down in flames.  This party is pushed to the right.  I think it‘s having a very difficult time.  A lot of these folks who vote in the primaries, dealing with the fact that an African-American is president of the United States. 

What do they mean when they say they want to take our country back? 

Back from whom? 

Michele Bachmann was pretty clear.  Back from Obama. 

I don‘t know whether Huckabee is running for president.  And I think he‘s a little quixotic.  So he may have to make those mortgage payments, but a few months from now, he may decide to run.  But he‘s certainly going to keep the option open. 

UYGUR:  You know, Jon, let me go to that.

Look, part of how they pay the mortgage—and it‘s certainly true of Gingrich, but it‘s also true of Huckabee now—is, look, they‘re rock stars.  Right?  So they make huge amounts of money for speeches, books, et cetera. 

How do they do that?  By keep running for president.  Put yourself in a high profile.

Look, Huckabee is at the top of the poll.  A recent poll put him at 25 percent.  He‘s leading.  And if you‘re leading, you‘re almost crazy not to run. 

ALTER:  So he and Palin are keeping their options open to a certain extent.  And instead of doing the early exploratory committee where they go out and raise money early on, they think they‘re going to kind of surf in on the Fox wave or something. 

But there is a small part of the Republican Party that is not going in this direction.  I agree with everything you said earlier, Cenk, except that this applies to all of them.  So you do have people like Mitch Daniels.

UYGUR:  Mitch Daniels?

ALTER:  You know, Mitch Daniels he isn‘t going down this road.  So I think that one of the things that—

UYGUR:  Does he have a chance? 

ALTER:  Oh, yes.  There‘s a wing of the Republican Party that have really wants him to get into this race. 

So one of the things that reasonable people can do is do what we‘re doing here and denounce this as just completely out of bounds.  And, you know, say to Independents and others who do respond to pollsters, look at some of the others.  If you‘re going to vote Republican, at least look at the people who aren‘t engaging in this kind of trash. 

UYGUR:  You know, look, and Mitch Daniels, he also took away collective bargaining rights.  Now, that‘s more policy, and I got that.  He did it back in 2005. 

But, you know, the guy who won in 2008 in the primary was John McCain, the so-called moderate, but, you know, he was not as far right.  So I‘m not sure the strategy that they‘re employing makes sense. 

But, Bob, when you go into the general election—and you‘ve dealt with this several times—they‘re going to do these bag of tricks.  They did it against your candidates. 

So, now, how do you fight back now that Democrats aren‘t willing to do the same thing?  I mean, it‘s not like Obama is going to come out and say Huckabee is un-American or whoever else.  Right?  So how do you effectively fight back? 

SHRUM:  Well, first, let me say, by the way, that I think the Mitch Daniels wing of the Republican Party is broken and isn‘t going to get anywhere.  He committed the cardinal sin, for example, of saying we ought to have an adult conversation about taxes. 

Secondly, I think that this is going to hurt Republican candidates in the general election.  I think right now you have a whole sense that these folks are unserious. 

That‘s why Bill Kristol, Laura Ingraham, a number of Republican commentators are all saying we have to look outside this field.  Why doesn‘t Jeb Bush run?  Why doesn‘t Chris Christie run?  Why don‘t we have somebody else who can get out there and fight for this nomination? 

They‘re not running because they think Obama is going to win in 2012.  And frankly, if one of them got in the present mood, they would have to pull a Mitt Romney and start flip-flopping to the right. 

ALTER:  Just on Bob‘s point, Karl Rove said recently that this was all an Obama plot by not releasing his birth records, by letting all this go.

UYGUR:  Right.  I know.

ALTER:  Because he knows that it discredits the Republican Party.  So the smart people in the Republican Party like Karl Rove know that, as you say, this is a total loser in a general election. 

UYGUR:  Jonathan and Bob, thank you for joining us.  We really appreciate it. 

ALTER:  Thank you.

UYGUR:  A lot of great points in there.

And just let me say also, look, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, not mucked in this mire, right?  But the problem is when they get into the primary, they‘re going to have to go into the same situation.  They‘re going to have to appeal to that same crazy base.  My guess is they‘re going to do the same exact strategy. 

So it‘s easy when they‘re outside of the race.  I don‘t think it‘s as easy when they get inside of that crazy primary race. 

All right.  Now, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker threatens Democrats with arrests.  This is somehow carrying out the will of the people?

And in Ohio, they‘re going after the working class even harder.  And Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown joins me next. 

Plus, Speaker Boehner is sinking.  It‘s time for Democrats to press their advantage.  But how?  Don‘t worry.  As usual, I‘ve got the plan for you. 

And Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz will tell us about the Democratic strategy in that battle. 

And do you feel the intensity building?  Newt Gingrich was planning a big announcement today.  Wait until you see how ridiculously lame it was. 

And Ana Marie Cox, Washington correspondent for “GQ” magazine, on what Gingrich is really up to. 


UYGUR:  Republicans in Wisconsin are taking the fight to a whole new level, unfortunately.  They are now literally threatening to put Democrats in handcuffs. 

The state Senate passed a resolution today calling for police to take 14 Democrats into custody with or without force, and possibly in handcuffs, for contempt after they fled to Illinois to avoid voting on a union rights bill.  Now, the Senate minority leader accused Republicans of resorting to “schoolyard bully tactics.”  The Democrats would only be subject to police action upon setting foot back in Wisconsin.

Now, Governor Scott Walker is also threatening to start issuing layoff notices to state workers as soon as tomorrow.  He says he‘ll take that step if his bill to take collective bargaining rights still hasn‘t been passed.  And it doesn‘t look like it will be, so he‘s saying ha-ha, I‘m going to fire you next.  How do you like them apples? 

Well, according to the polls, they don‘t like it very much.  And it‘s a sad day for you, Governor. 

And now in Ohio, the fight over a similar plan is also escalating.  The state Senate has now passed a bill that would dramatically cut collective bargaining rights for state workers.  Now, unlike in Wisconsin, this bill hits firefighters and cops in addition to teachers and all other public employees.  So it‘s broader. 

And it also allows some negotiation over wages, but forbids bargaining over health care, sick time and pension benefits.  And it completely eliminates the right to strike for all public workers. 

So, in many ways, this is even more drastic than the Wisconsin bill.  The measure cleared yesterday by a single vote, prompting protesters to chant, “Shame on you!  Shame on you!”

It must still be passed by the Republican-led House and signed by the state‘s governor, John Kasich.  And he is threatening to do that right away. 

Now, all this is happening despite the fact that it‘s now crystal clear where the Americans stand on this issue and all these different issues.  Look at these polls. 

In the latest NBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll, 77 percent of Americans said unionized public workers should be allowed to collectively bargain.  Nineteen percent said they shouldn‘t be. 

Seventy-seven percent!  These guys are going against 77 percent of the American people. 

So why are Republicans insisting in the face of overwhelming and obvious facts?  Well, it‘s because they‘re Republicans.  That‘s what they do. 

And remember, the voters aren‘t really their constituency.  The donors who got them elected with all those ads with are the real bosses.  And the wealthy donors couldn‘t be happier with the results.  When the middle class gets the pain and they get the tax cuts, they have two words for that—

“mission accomplished.” 

Joining me now is Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat from Ohio.  Senator Brown, serving the Ohio House of Representatives for eight years, and now is of course a United States senator. 

Senator, it looks like it‘s going to be hard to stop this in Ohio.  Is there any hope that it can be stopped before Kasich signs it? 

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO:  Yes, absolutely.  I mean, put this in some context.

Last November, Republicans did very well in Ohio.  Their entire focus of their campaign was jobs. 

What they‘ve done this week in Columbus is they‘ve gone after workers‘ rights, collective bargaining, a 75-year American tradition that‘s created the middle class, pure and simple.  And they‘re pushing through extreme anti-abortion legislation.  That‘s what they‘ve done, not jobs. 

Put it in a second context, and that is to get this collective bargaining, taking away these workers‘ rights bill out of committee.  They had to take a Republican senator who was voting no off the Labor Committee, instead replace him with a Republican senator that was voting yes.  Then when the bill went to a Rules Committee to schedule it for a floor vote, they had to take a Republican senator who was against it off and put one that was for it on the committee. 

With all that, they passed it—close in coming out of committee, passed the Senate floor 17-16.  The Republicans control the state Senate in Ohio 24-9.  Seven Republicans, almost one-third of Republicans in the Senate, voted no. 

That‘s why I‘m so proud of my state, because 8,500 people protested this week against this bill.  I was in Columbus, at an Episcopal church, talking to firefighters and police officers and teachers.  And one of the things they said that I think is really important. 

A police officer told me, “When police negotiate at the negotiating table, one of the things we bargain is to make sure we get bulletproof vests.”  A teacher told me when she‘s at the negotiating table, one of the things they fight for is smaller class size. 

So, tell me this isn‘t going after public employees.  That‘s what they‘re doing.  And it‘s against not just those workers‘ interests, it‘s against the public interest. 

When you want police officers to be able to do their jobs as safely as they can, you want teachers to be able to teach in the best circumstances for the students—and these guys have this political mission to put labor out of business.  And it‘s morally reprehensible, and it‘s just wrong for our state. 

UYGUR:  Now, Senator Brown, look, I love the demonstrations, I love the people standing up for their rights.  It‘s great to see it in Ohio, it‘s great to see it in Wisconsin.  But now that it has passed the Ohio Senate, the House is completely Republican, and obviously Kasich says he‘s going to sign it, a Republican governor. 

BROWN:  Well, maybe. 

UYGUR:  So, in the short term, how do you actually stop it?   

BROWN:  Well, maybe.  I mean, I don‘t know that for a fact. 

Again, the Senate is 2.5-1 Republican.  And one-third of those Republicans, almost one-third, voted against it.  The House is 3-2 Republican, 59-40. 

In terms of ratio, percentages, we don‘t need as many Republicans in the House in terms of ratio to switch over.  And the fact that those 8,500 people were there—and there were a lot of workers, a lot of union members, public and private sector, a lot of people from churches, a lot of people from advocacy groups, community groups, just good citizens in central Ohio and from all over the state.  I think they helped to convince those seven Republicans to flip and vote no on it against their party orders. 

I‘m hopeful the same thing happens in the House.  I don‘t know.  We‘ll see. 

UYGUR:  Do you support the recall efforts, for example, in Wisconsin? 

Would you do that in Ohio if need be? 

BROWN:  Well, my understanding is there‘s no recall provision of legislators or governors or state officials in Ohio.  There is, though, a referendum process. 

So if this becomes law, there‘s a large group of citizens I think that will likely go to the ballot.  They need to circulate petitions, go to the ballot to repeal this bill. 

They have—I forget the amount.  I don‘t remember the number of weeks they have to do it.  My guess is they‘ll succeed. 

It goes to the ballot, I‘m there.  I mean, I‘m going to work with people to try to repeal this.

It‘s a direct assault on workers.  This has nothing to do with the budget.  It‘s got nothing to do with what they were elected to do—work for jobs, create jobs. 

It‘s got everything to do with the political mission that Scott Walker and governors in other states talked about over the phone to try to do.  And that‘s why it‘s just—it‘s just—the Republicans are governing by ideology. 

The voters want practical government to create jobs, not to bust unions, not to make abortions even more restrictive, not to do any of those things.  They want to focus on jobs, and these governors aren‘t doing it.  These governors want to see their names in the paper, I think. 

UYGUR:  All right.

Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown.

Thank you for joining us tonight. 

BROWN:  My pleasure.  Thank you.

UYGUR:  All right.

Now, up next, the Obama administration approved the first deepwater drilling permit since the Deepwater Horizon disaster.  Surely, everything was fixed, right?  Well, not really. 

Oh, boy.  We‘ll tell you all about it. 


UYGUR:  The Obama administration has approved the first deepwater oil drilling permit since last April‘s Deepwater Horizon disaster.  Now, the new permit has been issued to Houston-based Noble Energy to drill a well about 70 miles southeast of Venice, Louisiana, in 6,500 feet of water. 

Now, does that area sound familiar to you?  Well, it‘s because that‘s about 30 miles further off shore than where the Deepwater Horizon disaster occurred, and that was only in 5,000 feet of water. 

So, the new well is going to be 1,500 feet deeper than that.  So, at least they must now have planned to stop a leak if it happens again, right?  They‘ve got to.  Well, it turns out, not exactly.  Yesterday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told a group of reporters that containment systems for gushing well still needed some work.  He said, quote, “These containment systems are work in progress.”  Oh, no.  He continued both systems currently have limitations on water depth and barrel per day containment capability.  Now, let me decipher that for you.  Do you know what still a work in progress means?  It means if it blows now, we still have no way to contain it.  But hey, we got a lot of pressure from the oil companies to get that oil flowing again.  Drill, baby, drill and let‘s hope it doesn‘t blow.  Bad idea. 

Now, it turns out the fight over Wisconsin budget isn‘t just about unions.  Governor Scott Walker is also making it about—are you ready for this?  Birth control.  The budget proposal that Walker released this week seeks to repeal a 2009 state law requiring insurance companies to cover prescription birth control.  Walker‘s budget summary are used at the laws, quote, “an unacceptable mandate on employers with more objections to these services, and increases the cost of health insurance for everyone.” 

Yehey, that‘s what you‘re liking him for, right?  Increase your health insurance.  Hey, you know what this means?  In other words, it means, they don‘t want your insurance covering your birth control anymore.  So women that voted for Walker in Wisconsin, is that what you voted for?  So that your birth control won‘t be covered by your insurance and you‘ll have to pay significantly more.  And by the way, why are they doing that?  It‘s not even abortion, it‘s birth control!  They don‘t want you getting birth control.  That‘s what you voted for?  You thought you voted for jobs.  Now, they‘re saying, no you have to pay hundreds of dollars more for your birth control.  Hey, vote republican, that‘s what you get, they‘re making it very clear, immediate objectives, nothing on jobs, things on birth control. 

All right.  Now, Private Bradley Manning is in military custody for allegedly turning over classified documents to Wikileaks.  Yesterday, the army announced 22 additional charges against him, that includes account alleging him provided intelligence to that enemy which is a capital offense.  Now, I‘ve been calling some of his treatment where he is being held by himself, cell torture on air.  Apparently, some object to that, Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary and deputy assistance secretary of defense for public affairs weighed in on how they justify it today. 


GEOFF MORRELL, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY:  I don‘t know about many people, but certainly some on the far left, a couple of Web sites in particular, I guess one of the shows on this network has also made an issue of it saying that he‘s being held in solitary  confinement.  He‘s being harshly treated, treated differently that the other detainees down there.  I wanted to see for myself.  I went down with the department‘s general council.  I came away impressed about how professionally the brig is run down in Quantico.  There are only 30 cells.  And the brig down there has relatively small facility, every one of those cells is identical. 

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN:  Is it solitary confinement? 

It‘s not solitary.  In the sense, there‘s 30 people on a u-shaped, you know, corridor.  So, he‘s not in a hole, he‘s not away from others.  He‘s allowed to have conversations with others. 


UYGUR:  He later, though, went on to clarify, no, no, no when he goes to exercise in that one hour that he has, he‘s not allowed to talk to anybody else.  When he goes to eat, he‘s not allowed to talk to anyone else.  While he‘s in his cell, he claims that he might be able to shout to that other people in their cells.  Hey, look, there are other people in the hole.  There are other people that are cells around him.  He‘s not in a hole.  He‘s not in a hole.  Do you know that this man, first of all, did not convicted and for most of the time that he was being held, he was held in maximum security by himself where he could not interact with those people and he hadn‘t  even been charged yet.  So, I‘m sorry, but Mr.  Morrell, I am not buying it.  Even according to your own statements on our air. 

OK, now, coming up, the budget battle has, of course, erupted and it‘s funny enough, it‘s also within the Republican Party.  The Tea Party calls John Boehner a fool.  They want to chase him out of town.  Can President Obama split the Republican Party in half now?  We‘ll tell you how he could do that.  And Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz joins us to give the democratic take on the budget battle.  That‘s next.                            


UYGUR:  The Republicans are in big trouble with their Tea Party base, so the Democrats have actually been handed a golden opportunity.  House Speaker John Boehner wants to cut $61 billion from President Obama‘s budget.  Congressional Democrats have offered $41 billion in cuts, so they sat down together at the capital today with Vice President Biden leading the negotiations.  Here‘s the problem for John Boehner.  The Tea Party wing of the GOP wanted $100 billion in cuts, so even before he walked into the room with Democrats, the Tea Party was after him.  Justin Phillips, the founder of Tea Party Nation slammed the republican speaker on the group‘s Web site saying, quote, “You look like a fool.  Charlie Sheen is now making more sense that John Boehner.” 

Damn, that‘s cold.  And he issued a call to arms for Tea Partiers, quote, “The honeymoon is over.  The Tea Party should find a candidate to run against John Boehner in 2012 and should set as a goal to defeat in a primary the sitting speaker of the House of Representatives.”  Now, remember, this is before Boehner even walked into the negotiating room.  If the Tea Party wants to primary him when he‘s at $61 billion in cut, it‘s pretty clear that Boehner has absolutely no room to compromise.  Yet a government shutdown would also be devastating for Republicans.  Now, this is a republican pollster, Bill McInturff, he suggested that a government shutdown would be like jumping off a cliff saying, quote, “it may be hard to understand why a person might jump off a cliff, unless you understand that they‘re being chased by a tiger.  And that tiger is the Tea Party.” 

Now do you get it?  Here‘s the problem for Republicans.  Most Americans want to reduce the deficit, but most Americans absolutely disagree with the way that the Republicans are doing it.  Let me show you the polls.  Fifty six percent say, cutting head start is unacceptable.  Sixty five percent say cutting heating assistance to low-income families is unacceptable.  Sixty seven percent say cutting Medicaid is unacceptable.  Unacceptable is a very, very clear word.  Now, what is an acceptable option to the American people to lower deficit? 

Well, it turns out there is one.  Raising taxes on the rich.  Huh, I think I‘ve heard that somewhere before.  Eight one percent of America support a surtax on people making over $1 million a year.  Eighty one percent, 81percent, 81 percent.  That is a huge number.  Seventy four percent support ending tax rates for oil companies. I think I‘ve heard that somewhere before as well.  Sixty eight percent want to end the Bush tax cut for families making over $250,000 a year.  

That‘s exactly what we‘ve been telling you on this program.  We didn‘t make it up.  We just listened to you.  We actually read the polls.  We actually care what the American people think.  So, that means the Republicans are in trouble, the Tea Party is driving them crazy, they‘re driving them further and further to the right.  They‘ve got these extreme priorities that the American people are clearly not in favor of.  So, they‘re stuck between the rock and a hard place.  Now, their critical question is, how can President Obama finish them off politically?  Well, first, whatever you do, don‘t bail them out.  If you give them the cuts that they want, then you‘re on the hook for those unpopular policies. 

That would be crazy, don‘t do that.  But if you fight them and you make them pick between their base and the overwhelming majority of the American people, then you‘re on excellent footing.  Now, provide people with start choices, if you think about it, it‘s actually really, really simple.  Whatever you do, do not give into their demands.  It‘s almost the only wrong move you can make.  I hope he doesn‘t do it. 

All right.  Now, joining me is Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, she‘s a member of the House Budget Committee.  Congresswoman, you know, looking at those numbers and how overwhelming the American people seem to be behind the democratic priorities, I don‘t even know why the Democrats are offering $41 billion in cuts, honestly. 

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D) BUDGET COMMITTEE:  Well, I mean, Cenk, the situations that the Republicans find themselves in are that they need to be obsessed with satisfying the voracious appetite of their extreme right wing friends in the Tea Party.  And so, they almost can‘t help themselves.  If they get off the path that they‘re on, then as “The Wall Street Journal” piece said, that they are literally going to be consumed by the tiger that is after them.  It is absolutely critical, though, that we focus on making sure that we can create jobs and turning the economy around. 

I mean, even Ben Bernanke yesterday testified in the House Financial Services Committee that the Republicans‘ cuts in the continuing resolution, in HR-1 would actually shrink the economy and we would lose a couple hundred thousand jobs, which he deemed not insignificant.  Now, for the Fed chairman to actually go out on a limb like that, when that‘s not a person that really is used to making strong statements for risk of being, you know, being taken the wrong way, that was a significant statement.  So we‘ve got to make sure we focus on job creation. 

UYGUR:  Congresswoman, you‘re right.  So, Bernanke says, at least a couple hundred thousand.  Another republican economist says 700,000.  That‘s a republican economist, OK?  Goldman Sachs says maybe a lot more than that, jobs are lost if you cut.  So I‘ve got to come back and ask you, though, why are you guys even playing this game?  Shouldn‘t you go back to the Republicans and go no, I mean, of course, we can have some spending cuts, but we‘ll only do it if you agree with the American people that we‘re going to take away the oil subsidies and we‘re going to raise taxes on the rich.  I‘m going to put it back on the table.   Why not?

SCHULTZ:  Yes.  But we have been—the House Democrats have been offering specifically the amendment that would get rid of the oil and gas subsidies and the Republicans have been unanimously voted against them.  So, we have been pursuing that agenda as well.  But we do have to recognize that we have to be responsible and we do need reasonable cuts, like President Obama proposed in the State of the Union Address.  We need to make sure that. 

UYGUR:  Only if we share the pain.  Only if we share the pain. 

SCHULTZ:  Oh, absolutely. 


UYGUR:  They‘re not sharing the pain.  They just took the top two percent to go over $150 billion in tax cuts. 


UYGUR:  Where‘s their pain?

SCHULTZ:  Beyond just sharing the pain, we also need to make sure that we do what he suggested which is to make sound investments in education, so that we can out educate and out innovate and out build our competitors in this global economy.  It‘s striking the right balance and not just drawing a line in the sand saying no, we‘re not going to make any cut, that‘s not responsible. 

UYGUR:  Yes.  We know, we‘re near the right balance. 

SCHULTZ:  No, we aren‘t, you‘re right.

UYGUR:  You know what wasn‘t responsible?  Giving away $800 billion of tax cuts overall, that blew up our whole budget.  That‘s why we got this mess in the first place. 

SCHULTZ:  I totally agree with you. 

UYGUR:  I know you voted against that, yes, I mean, in the sense that the Democrats, were not the pushing that.  The Republicans were. 

SCHULTZ:  Right.

UYGUR:  I got that.  Now please, please, please, please tell me that President Obama isn‘t going to give them the gift of saying OK, what do you need?  You want $61 billion in cuts, I‘ll give you something close to that and walk away.  Because he‘s a serial compromiser.  He‘s got them on the robe.  If he compromises and gives them mostly what they want, he‘s going to let them off the hook. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, I don‘t think that the president is likely, nor or House and Senate Democrats likely to just give away the store and give the republican what is they want.  I mean, I think what we want to focus on is striking that appropriate balance.  Speaker Pelosi talked about today in her news conference the importance of meeting the Republicans halfway, but meeting them halfway on the right kinds of cuts, not slashing education.  I was at a child care center in my district on Monday, Cenk and literally stood with moms who when they lose their childcare, the result to be, the cuts in HR-1, they‘re going to have to stop working.  They‘re not going to be able to send their kids to school and they won‘t get an early childhood education.  And we know that cuts like that will directly lead to kids becoming criminals later on.  We know there‘s that direct proportional relationship.  So we‘ve got to make sure that the cuts are the right cuts as well. 

UYGUR:  All right.  Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, thank you for your time. 

SCHULTZ:  Thank you.

UYGUR:  And I would just add, you know, what?  So let‘s not make those cuts, let‘s go back and put taxes back on the table.  That‘s what I would suggest. 

All right.  But that would be strong.  Anyway, Newt Gingrich holds a press conference about his presidential run, announces absolutely nothing.  And then FOX News throws him under the bus.  We‘ll tell you why.  And Ana Marie Cox Washington correspondent for GQ Magazine helps us illuminate that matter, and Rush Limbaugh, well, he took me on in his radio show, which was interesting.  I will respond, and I promise you it will going to be fun.         


UYGUR:  Newt Gingrich was supposed to announce that he‘s running for president!  Instead he announced a new Web site!  Whopdee-doo! (ph).  We will explain that clownish move when we come back. 


UYGUR:  Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum have been suspended from FOX News.  Fun.  FOX says, it‘s because they‘re considering a run for president.  But so are Huckabee and Palin and they‘re still on the payroll, so what‘s the difference?  Well, Rick Santorum asked the same question last night. 


RICK SANTORUM ®, FORMER U.S. SENATOR:  I don‘t know why FOX differentiated whether there‘s conversations—there have been conversations.  They didn‘t talk to me and ask me whether I‘m running or not.  It was not something we had a conversation about.  I don‘t know whether other people have had conversations.  And so all I can say is I think they made their call and I respect it. 


UYGUR:  So FOX suspend Santorum without even talking to him.  Damn, that‘s cold.  Now, here‘s the real reason FOX let these guys go.  They threw them under the bus because they‘re irrelevant.  They‘re not going to fire Palin because she has star power.  And they‘re not going to fire Huckabee because he might actually win.  But my firing a couple of Republicans, they get to pretend that they‘re real loser, organization with ethics.  It‘s really ironic.  It‘s actually shows the opposite.  Not only are they slanted in favor of the Republican Party, but they even pick favorites within the GOP. 

Eventually, Roger Ailes will just come out and go, I am announcing the new republican presidential candidate.  Just skip the nonsense and get right to it, right?  But it‘s not just FOX.  Even other prominent Republicans don‘t think Newt has a shot at winning.  In fact, Coburn talked about that on C-span and he said, ah, that‘s not the right guy.  And Newt isn‘t helping his case either, he‘s just flailing around.  Am I going to run? Am I not going to run?  I don‘t know.  So, he hyped this big meeting with the governor of Georgia today.  It started a lot of buzz about a possible presidential announcement.  But here‘s what it ended up being instead.  The launch of a new website to see if he can get enough people interested in him, so that he can consider a presidential run.  Oh, please. 

By the way, that stock photo that‘s behind him, it‘s got four Asians, three back people.  Has nothing to do with a Newt event.  Did you see that?  It‘s that third or fourth wife?  I forget.  Anyway, so all this waffling about whether you‘re in or you‘re out and in the end you launch a Web site.  Come on, like, this guy is doing a press conference from underneath a bus that FOX News put him under in front of a waffle house as he keeps waffling back and forth.  The race is beginning and he might already be out of it. 

Now, joining me is Washington correspondent for GQ Magazine, Ana Marie Cox.  All right.  Now, look, I‘m clear on it.  But are you with me or against me?  I mean, are these guys, is FOX News throwing these guys under the bus?

ANA MARIE COX, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT:  Well, rather than really being thrown to the wolves, I think they‘re being allowed to walk over to the Wolf‘s den.  Then, go in and say, he wants to.  I mean, this does allow them to do interviews with people such as CNN.  And I think that they‘re going to find a very, a not as friendly audience for what they have to say they might at FOX.  I also think that these are two people that might actually run.  I‘d really have a hard time believing that either Palin or Huckabee will really do it.  We all know that Huckabee has some boards of payments he‘s like to make. 

UYGUR:  Ana, we talked about that earlier on the show and I hear you on that, right?  But that‘s how they make their mortgage payments.  I mean, the reason Sarah Palin.

COX:  Oh, they‘re flirting.

UYGUR:  Yes, reason that she is relevant, is she might run for president.  If she doesn‘t, then what‘s the point of talking to Palin?  And the same thing with Huckabee, and Huckabee is winning right now.  He‘s at the top of the poll, he would be crazy not to run. 

COX:  Well, it would be crazy not to run except that he is crazy and people will find that out. I mean, he‘s saying more and more crazy things.  People will talk to you on the democratic strategy side, say that Huckabee does scare them, by the way.  Because he is like George Bush, he can say kind of insane right wing things.  But he looks like such a nice guy, he acts like such a nice guy, he is the one that scares them.  But I really do think that they have a lot aim by flirting with the idea of running, Palin and Huckabee I mean.  But ultimately not running.  And I think that—as far as Newt goes, this is now by my count the fifth time he‘s threatened to run.  If he doesn‘t do it this time, he‘s never going to do it.  In four years, he‘ll be 71 years old, he‘ll be in John McCain rage.  I can‘t see the GOP doing that again. 

UYGUR:  Right.  So, look, Santorum, I‘m not even going to discuss. 

Mr. Irrelevant, the most irrelevant presidential candidate in my lifetime. 

COX:  Makes Mitch Daniels look charismatic.

UYGUR:  Yes.  Total loser.  OK.  Now, Gingrich though, does he have a chance if he ran, I mean, he‘s a former speaker of the house, and he has a lot of money.  Does he have a chance?

COX:  I don‘t think he has a chance really.  He was one of the most unpopular political figures of the ‘90s.  He‘s still pretty unpopular.  I think it won‘t take a lot for people to remind, for people to be reminded.  He‘s really unpopular.  And of course, the Republican Party, the values of voters, the real core of that primary audience, and he has a real problem with them.  And I think that‘s why you see people such as Tom Coburn sort of discounting him.  Tom Coburn is a very strong advocate for what he considers traditional marriage.  Gingrich, he‘s not so much strong advocate for traditional marriage.  So, I think he‘s a very.

UYGUR:  He‘s a very politely—yes.

COX:  I think that Newt has a really rough road ahead of them.  That doesn‘t mean, he‘s not going to do it.  He‘s a very entertaining guy.  He‘s a Science fiction author, some of his ideas kind of resemble Science fiction.  So, I‘m excited to see him run. 

UYGUR:  All right.  Ana Marie Cox, at least somebody is excited.  Newt is going to be excited about that.  Thank you for joining me.  I appreciate it.

COX:  All right.  Now, next, I will respond to Rush Limbaugh so that will be fun.        


UYGUR:  On Tuesday, we had Robert Reich on this program and we suggested raising taxes and we knew that was going to make conservatives angry and we also knew that it was completely supported by the American people and the polls today bear that out.  But it made one guy angry.  Rush Limbaugh, this is what he had to say about Secretary Reich. 


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  He‘s talking in terms of an actual war, he‘s telling the rich, you better give up the money before the people would pitch forks come to your house and get it from you.  Isn‘t that what‘s happening in Wisconsin?  Can we be honest, isn‘t this sort of what all this is about?  All these people occupying the capitol building and demanding all these public sector union people demanding—but it‘s not the rich they‘re demanding it from, is it?  It‘s average Americans.  Average Americans, many of them who are underemployed, unemployed or what have you, isn‘t that who these teachers in public employees are saying, give us more.  It‘s what the king of Saudi Arabia is doing, it‘s what Gadhafi is doing.


UYGUR:  Rush Limbaugh cares about the unemployed and underemployed?  When did that happen? And did you notice a little tricky they did in the middle?  First, he‘s like, why, they‘re going after the rich.  Oh my God, they might come off my mansion in Palm Beach?  Did I say that?  No, OK, yes, no, I‘m for the unemployed and the underemployed.  No, no, no Robert Reich shouldn‘t go after the unemployed.  He was to help unemployed and underemployed.  He went after the rich.  People like you.  Do you know that Rush has a staff that lights lavender scented candles before he comes into his home.  How very nice.  So, that‘s why he‘s scared.  And then he got even more clever and he made fun of our names. 


LIMBAUGH:  Robert B. Reich-shhh was on “NBC Live” last night with the anchor Sink Weeger (ph). 


UYGUR:  He said my name wrong!  That‘s so funny!  That‘s really funny!  To be fair to Rush, though, he has a hearing problem because of all the OxyContin he took.  So, that‘s maybe why he mispronounced the name.  It is a hard name. 

All right.  Thanks for watching.  “HARDBALL” starts right now. 

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