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Msnbc Live at 6 p.m. ET, Monday, March 28th, 2011

Guests: William Cohen, Richard Wolffe, Carl Gibson, David Milbank, Steve Kornacki

CENK UYGUR, HOST:  Welcome to the show, everybody.  I‘m Cenk Uygur.

Tonight, President Obama will be making the case for military action in Libya.  In about an hour and a half, the president will address the nation and lay out his American logic for intervening in Libya, the first major military operation begun during his presidency. 

The president says the mission will be limited in time and scope. 

Tonight, we‘re going to find out, of course, how limited and what exactly that means. 

Meanwhile, in Libya, a clear effort by the U.S. to step back from the lead as NATO begins taking over control of the operations.  Defense officials say that at least one of the five Navy ships used to fire Tomahawk missiles from the Mediterranean has now left the area. 

However will we defeat Gadhafi with only four warships? 

And just under half of today‘s 107 coalition air strikes were by the U.S.  Hey, look at that.  NATO is stepping up. 

Also today, a dramatic surge by rebel forces paved by days of allied air strikes.  The rebels are now closing in on what had been a strategic and symbolic stronghold of Libyan troops, the city of Sirte. 

That is Moammar Gadhafi‘s hometown.  It is located halfway between Tripoli and Benghazi, as you see on that interesting map.  And it is one of the biggest obstacles on the road to the Libyan capital. 

Rebels pushed about 150 miles westward over the weekend.  That‘s significant progress, and that was amid reports that allied forces continue to hammer Gadhafi. 

French officials said today that fighter jets struck a military command about six miles outside of the capital.  And military officials say that U.S. forces are now using precision strike aircraft against Libyan forces, including A-10 Warthogs.  The aircraft are used in tight targeting situations such as cities to hit the enemy while avoiding civilian casualties.  That‘s beginning to sound a little dicier. 

But now in just over two days, rebels have taken the key oil towns of Brega, Ras Lanuf and Bin Jawad, regaining all the territory they had lost the previous week, and now control so much of Libya‘s oil fields, that they have assured the world‘s oil markets that they will start selling the oils themselves.  So that‘s a big development.

Let‘s recap.

So far, the president has gotten the multilateralism that he said was an important part of his foreign policy.  The United Nations, European allies and the Arab League are still on board.  Check. 

We have avoided what appeared to be imminent massacres in rebel-held towns.  Check. 

And now the rebels seem to be advancing on Gadhafi.  Well, we‘re getting closer to a check there.

So the president is partly doing this speech tonight because he‘s been so heavily criticized for his actions in Libya.  Now, there have been a chorus of calls from the right and the left for further clarity in our mission, which is fair, but also calls for making stark decision of either a full invasion or no action at all, which, as the facts on the ground that you just saw indicate are kind of unfair criticism.

The president, for the moment being, appears to be on the right path, in my opinion.  Now let‘s see if he can explain what that path is and where it takes us. 

Now, to help us answer those questions, former defense secretary William Cohen is joining us.  He‘s the founder of the consulting firm The Cohen Group.  And MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe. 

Secretary Cohen, let‘s start with you.

What kind of clarity do we need from the president tonight?  Does he have to say, for example, we‘re going to go get Gadhafi, or does he not need to say that? 

WILLIAM COHEN, FMR. DEFENSE SECRETARY:  Well, that is the ultimate end game.  If this is going to be resolved successfully, then Gadhafi cannot stay. 

I don‘t think he‘s going to say that because he‘s declared this to be a humanitarian mission.  This is consistent with the U.N. Security Council resolution and the NATO objective.  So he‘ll lose the support of the Arab League and others if he were to declare a regime change as the ultimate goal that we‘re seeking here through military means. 

I think he might say that through diplomatic means, economic means, squeezing Gadhafi so that he really has nowhere to go and has no re-supply of lines coming in, and, therefore, tries to negotiate an exit out.  That may be one solution to it, but I think obviously the end game is Gadhafi has to go. 

And I think militarily, that NATO countries, which means the United States, by the way—we‘re still in charge with the top two generals who are leading NATO—we‘re still going to be very much involved.  And this should start to switch back in favor of Gadhafi, I think we‘ll have to take much more military action. 

UYGUR:  Well, Secretary Cohen, I want to follow up on that.  Is it possible for the president to come out and say look, I am giving the rebels a fighting chance, we have stopped the massacres, we‘ve got a good alliance here, and I‘m not saying one way or another that Gadhafi is going to stay or go, I just want to give them a fighting chance? 

First of all, is that politically even remotely possible?  And second of all, even if he can‘t say it, is that a feasible policy to have behind the scenes? 

COHEN:  I don‘t think so.  I don‘t think he can say we just have equaled the playing field. 

As a matter of fact, right now, I still think it‘s more like a schoolyard pickup group going against a semi-pro team.  The semi-pro team has been cut down to size somewhat by taking out their big men; namely, their air defenses and also their heavy armor.  But the fact is, going up against Gadhafi in Tripoli and elsewhere, it‘s still going to be a major effort by people who are lightly armed and not really organized.  So, to say that it‘s a level playing field, I don‘t think it‘s credible. 

Secondly, saying we just want a stalemate and let them all work it out, and if Gadhafi stays, so be it, I don‘t think that‘s credible either. 

UYGUR:  All right.

Richard, I want to go to what he is going to say.  Any word from the White House as to which direction this speech is going to go? 

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, all the signs are that there‘s going to be kind of two audiences here, one for the general population that maybe hasn‘t been paying attention like we have—and for them it‘s going to be pulling together what the president has already said in terms of the rationale, especially the humanitarian piece of it, what the White House says has been a humanitarian catastrophe that‘s been averted.  So mission sort of half accomplished in that point.

But the other audience here is, what does the end game look like?  And here, the language of the White House is very much kicking the can towards this London conference that begins tomorrow where Secretary of State Clinton will be and a number of international players, not just the coalition, but Arab countries, too, and this transitional council, because the language from the White House has always been, not just in Libya, but this has to be a situation where the local populations decide their own future. 

And in that case, you could end up with a divided country.  The U.N.  mandate does not provide for American forces or coalition forces to make attacks for any other reason than protecting civilian populations.  So, if they are going to take this all the way to Tripoli, then they‘ve got some explaining to do, not just for the international community, but also for, of course, people in Congress who don‘t want this to be open-ended. 

UYGUR:  Politically, Richard, is he stuck?  Can he not say, as Secretary Cohen alluded to, hey, listen, I just want to give them a fighting chance, I‘m not committing one way or another?  That seems like it‘s a hard thing to do politically, although I happen to think it‘s the right policy. 

WOLFFE:  The language they are using—and this is their policy—is that Gadhafi should go, but that is not the military objective, which, as Secretary Cohen says, can maybe be achieved by some other means, but that could take a very long time.  Saying that you‘re going to give a rebel group a fighting chance is just not within the terms of anything that could hold the coalition together. 

So you‘re talking about a very different operation with a very different time frame.  It may be desirable, it‘s just not what the president has spelled out or what the U.N. has spelled out. 

UYGUR:  So he‘s stuck.  I mean, he can‘t say, I‘ve got to get rid of Gadhafi, because then we‘re committed, we‘re all the way in, right?  And he can‘t say, well, I‘m not going to get rid of Gadhafi.  So that‘s why he‘s stuck in this unclear situation. 

Secretary Cohen, let‘s go to how they might get rid of Gadhafi.

Now, you were in charge, of course, when there was a no-fly zone  in Kosovo and during the Clinton administration.  Can no-fly zones work in getting rid of someone?  Obviously, Milosevic stepped down at one point, but you tell us whether it was directly related to the no-fly zone or not.  Or can they not work?

COHEN:  Well, we had something much greater than a no-fly zone.  We systematically were taking down Milosevic‘s military capability.  And here you run into the question of collateral damage. 

Gadhafi may start putting much of his military necks (ph) to civilian areas, put his tanks up against a hospital, or a schoolhouse, and then say, I dare you to take my tanks out because you‘re going to kill a lot of people.  So then you get into urban types of combat, people—boots on the ground.  And then that‘s going to be a very dicey issue for the president, because he said under no circumstances are we putting American troops on the ground. 

We‘ve got two wars going with Muslim countries.  We‘re not going to have a third.

So then the question becomes, well, who is going to go on the ground

if you‘re going to really take out Gadhafi?  You can squeeze him

economically.  You can cut down and put an embargo around so he can‘t get

re-supplied for his military.

And by the way, by saying it‘s a humanitarian mission, when we start targeting his personal compound, that‘s a little bit more than just a humanitarian mission.  That‘s taking out his command and control center.  And if he happened to be there, so be it.

So I think we‘re a little bit more—we‘re not quite as candid as we need to be.  On the other hand, the president is, I think, in a situation saying watch what we do and not what we say, because I think what we‘re doing is going to be much more aggressive than what we‘re saying.   

UYGUR:  Right.  Because of the U.N. resolution, he can‘t say I‘m going to take out Gadhafi.  Because of the Arab League, he can‘t say I‘m going to take out Gadhafi.  On the other hand, if he doesn‘t take out Gadhafi, there‘s no end game. 

So that‘s the situation he‘s stuck in, as Secretary Cohen and Richard Wolffe have laid out here.

Thank you both for joining us.  Really appreciate it.

COHEN:  Great to be with you.

WOLFFE:  You got it.

COHEN:  All right.

Now, hundreds of thousands take to the streets in London to protest spending cuts.  Can this movement provide a roadmap for progressives here at home?  Can the left turn out crowds like this in the U.S.? 

Plus, Haley Barbour says he would reinstate “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” because a “amorous mindset is dangerous on the battlefield.”  That‘s fascinating.

We‘ll hear from him, Michele Bachmann, and other Republicans now shamelessly appealing to the extremists in their party.


UYGUR:  Hundreds of thousands in London on Saturday protested massive cuts by David Cameron‘s government in the U.K.  It was an amazing protest.  And you know what?  They also had some fun chants. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Banks got bailed out! 

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP:  We got sold out!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Banks got bailed out!

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP:  We got sold out!


UYGUR:  All right.  I was enjoying that chant.  And also very accurate. 

About 250,000 people showed up, apparently, according to police estimates.  Some estimates were as large as 400,000 people. 

Given the size of the crowd, there was just very little trouble, mainly a sit-in where a lot of people were arrested, according to “The Guardian,” for not much purpose.  And you wonder, of course, with such a huge turnout—you‘ve got teachers, you‘ve got government workers, and you‘ve got all these supporters—what were they protesting?  Well, let me tell you. 

Apparently, we‘ve got 80 billion pounds—that‘s $130 billion—in public spending cuts that are going to be implemented next month.  The sales tax is also going to be raised, so they raised taxes.  But again, that goes mainly to the middle class. 

Five hundred thousand public sector jobs will be lost, which is a gigantic number and obviously one of the reasons why they‘re doing this protest.  And 18 billion pounds, or $28.5 billion, are going to be axed from welfare payments. 

And then the pension age, which is, of course, the retirement age, is going to be raised up to 66 by the year 2020 from 65.  So they‘re getting hit from all sides like we have been here in a lot of the states, including Wisconsin. 

Now, in the Netherlands, they have done some social media and Twitter campaign against ING.  And you know what they said?  Look, we‘re going to withdraw our money en masse because we‘re so angry that the CEO and executives of that bank are getting million-dollar bonuses and more in some cases.  And they said look, we‘re going to walk with our money and we‘re not going to do it. 

And you know what happened?  The CEO of ING agreed to wave his bonus and told the other directors that they‘ve got to do the same thing.  Hey, now we‘re getting somewhere—protests that actually work. 

And politicians are now in the Netherlands supporting a 100 percent retrospective tax on all bonuses paid to executives at banks that receive state aid.  How awesome would that be here at home?

Now, we‘ve also been doing protests here, of course.  Now, we did US Uncut protests over the weekend.  And in D.C., they again went after Bank of America, because apparently they have a huge amount of profits and they don‘t pay much taxes.  In fact, they didn‘t pay any taxes in 2009.  We‘re going to talk about that in a second. 

There were 100-some-odd protesters.  Now, it‘s not London, but they‘re getting there.  They‘re getting there.

And then, as you see here, of course, we had huge protests in Wisconsin as well for many weeks on end.  And they had, you know, some success in galvanizing people. 

And as you‘re about to see, they also cost the Republicans some serious poll numbers.  And that has an effect as well.  But one thing it didn‘t have an effect is with Governor Walker. 

Today, in defiance of a court order, he came out and said I‘m going to publish my law of taking away collective bargaining rights anyway.  The court had told him, you‘re not allowed to publish it, and if you do, the regular way of doing it is to publish it in the Wisconsin State Journal, and it has to be done by the secretary of state.

And he said, I don‘t give a damn.  Instead, he had published on a Web site of the legislature and just skipping all the laws and skipping the courts, because, courts, what are they for?  I mean, this guy really thinks he‘s a tough guy, and I guess he thinks he‘s modeling himself under—you know, over Ronald Reagan, which doesn‘t make any sense. 

But he‘s ignored all the public opinion.  And guess what it‘s done to him?  Well, it‘s cost him a lot of popularity. 

According to a WPRI poll, Walker‘s unfavorables went from 35 percent in November of 2010 to 53 percent.  So he got hit by 18 percent. 

Now, the same thing is happening to other budget-cutting GOP governors all across the Midwest, and in other parts of the country as well, actually. 

Here‘s Kasich.  His approval rating is down to 30 percent.  That‘s disastrous.  That‘s of course, in Ohio. 

And Chris Christie is also feeling the effects in New Jersey.  Rutgers-Eagleton poll has his favorability dropping by eight percent after he gave his budget address in February where he said he was going to cut money for state workers. 

Now, you see our own protests here in the U.S. are working to some degree.  Now, one reason is because it draws attention to what they‘re doing. 

Now, you know what else that led to?  It turns out today we find out victory in Indiana.  What is that victory? 

Do you remember the House Democrats had been holding out for almost a month in Illinois, and they finally returned today.  Why?  Because they won concessions from the GOP, really important concessions, including shelving the right to work law, going to apply to private unions. 

So, they were going to say, hey, private unions, you can‘t have right to work laws.  Now that is being walked back.  Concession by the Republicans.  But it gets better. 

They also abandoned a bill making a permanent ban on collective bargaining for state workers.  You‘ll remember Governor Daniels had done that early on, but it‘s not permanent.  He was trying to make it permanent, or the Republicans in Indiana were trying to make it permanent.  Now it will not be permanent. 

They‘ve also weakened Governor Daniels‘ education bill.  Now, that‘s a good thing, because it caps the number of private school vouchers and it abandons a plan to let private companies take over failing public schools. 

Now, we did all of that with protests in Wisconsin, some US Uncut protests, et cetera, et cetera, some protests at banks, and the poll numbers went down.  And now you see Republicans panicking and saying, all right, all right, we give, which I haven‘t seen in years.

Now, imagine if we had protests the size of those in U.K. over the weekend.  Well, that might get you a lot of results. 

Joining me now is Carl Gibson.  He‘s the co-founder of US Uncut.

Carl, I want to ask you first about the protests in London.  How do we do that over here? 

CARL GIBSON, CO-FOUNDER, US UNCUT:  Well, Cenk, first of all, thanks for having me on your show. 

But, really, with London, you look at UK Uncut has been together for about seven months.  And (INAUDIBLE) had I think between 250,000 and 400,000 protesters, just through social media and word of mouth. 

I mean, this is the new face of organizing.  It is decentralized, leaderless movements.  And that‘s exactly what US Uncut is about.  We‘ve been organizing for about a month.  We‘re not at UK Uncut‘s numbers yet, but we‘re getting there. 

UYGUR:  All right.  And what do you think drove those numbers?  I

mean, is it the spending cuts or is it more inequity, where they see, hey -

you know, you saw the chant there.  The banks got bailed out, and it doesn‘t look like they‘re contributing at all, but we‘re getting all the hit. 

Is it the unfairness that you think are driving so many people to the streets, or is it just simply that we‘re getting cut too much and we can‘t take it? 

GIBSON:  I think it‘s just the magnetism of their message.  Their message is so simple. 

It‘s, you know, before you cut us, before you make teachers and police officers and firefighters pay for these budget cuts, how about you make sure corporations are paying their fair share in taxes, too?  And that‘s what drove me to get US Uncut started.  I got some help from UK Uncut.

And as long as you keep the message simple, a lot of people can access it—Democrats, Republicans.  Of course, we were talked about recently on Fox News.  Bill O‘Reilly and Lou Dobbs talked about corporate tax cheats.  The message was on “60 Minutes” last night.

I think we‘re starting to permeate the national narrative and say maybe there are alternatives to deal with this budget crisis that don‘t involve Draconian budget cuts that hurt working people. 

UYGUR:  Well, I know you guys go to Bank of America and protest there all the time.  Now, tell me why you‘re doing that.  And what is it that you want?  Like, what could Bank of America do that you would say all right, OK, mission accomplished? 

GIBSON:  Well, like you mentioned on your program last month, after our last day of action, Bank of America had I think $4.4 billion in profits after 2009, and instead got $1 billion back from the federal government instead of paying federal taxes.  So what we would like to see companies like Bank of America and FedEx and Verizon do is simply to pay the effective 35 percent rate, take the earnings that you have off shore in bank accounts like the Cayman Islands and Ireland and other places, bring those profits back to the United States, and pay the effective rate. 

We would get $100 billion extra in revenue every year if corporations just paid a 35 percent effective rate and paid taxes like the rest of us. 

UYGUR:  My guess is they‘re not going to volunteer that.  There has to be some sort of movement that then moves politicians, et cetera.  But that‘s of course exactly what you guys are trying. 

One last quick question for you, Carl.  Do you think we‘re going to get protests of that size here?  Is it going to build to that at some point? 

GIBSON:  You know, I think after one month of organizing, when you see US Uncut protests in 40 different U.S. cities, West Coast, East Coast, South, Midwest, I think there‘s a good chance.  I think by this time next year, you‘ll see a lot more numbers in the streets. 

UYGUR:  And look, conservatives have got to join in, because if they care about fairness and they care about people not getting away with not paying their fair share, they‘ve got to be on your side.  So it‘s an interesting point. 

Carl Gibson, thank you for joining us tonight.  We appreciate it. 

GIBSON:  Thank you. 

UYGUR:  All right.

Now, there were a lot of dumb moves around the whole Wisconsin budget debate, but there‘s one bone-headed move that we want to tell you about tonight that really takes the cake. 

Last month, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker‘s office received a—shall we say an interesting e-mail from a deputy prosecutor in Indiana.  The deputy prosecutor was offering some advice.  Thought it was kind of strange advice since it came from a state prosecutor. 

The e-mail suggested that Walker fake an attack on himself in order to

create sympathy for his cause and discredit the Democrats and union

opponents.  Now, the Indiana—I keep repeating this because it‘s amazing

deputy prosecutor, Carlos Lam, wrote, “If you could employ an associate who pretends to be sympathetic to the unions‘ cause to physically attack you (or even use a firearm against you), you could discredit the public unions.” 

I‘m blown away by that.  How unbelievably dumb is that idea?  Thank God Walker didn‘t do it.  I mean, it would have caused him harm, let alone everybody else.

This was, of course, while conservative commentators at the same time were railing against union thugs.  I wonder which side is more enamored with violence. 

Lam, by the way, of course, initially denied that he sent the e-mail.  Me?  Me?  E-mail?  They must have hacked into my account.  I can‘t believe that! 

And when the reporter showed him the e-mail, he literally said, “Jeez,” like he was so surprised by it.  And guess what happened?  He admitted it was a lie and, in fact, of course nobody hacked his account.  He sent the e-mail and he has now, luckily, resigned. 

All right.  Now, up next, a word of warning for all you singles looking to move to Alaska, in case there were any of you.  Someone is actually floating the idea of making premarital sex illegal in that state.  Fascinating. 

And you want to know which group Fox‘s John Stossel thinks got the most help from the U.S. government?  American Indians. 

Oh, come on, man!  American Indians? 

All right.  We‘ll explain his crazy theory when we come back. 


UYGUR:  Welcome back.  Now for some other stories getting our attention tonight that are fun.

Sarah Palin may be out of the governor‘s mansion, but there‘s still plenty of crazy left in Alaska politics. 

Republican Governor Sean Parnell recently nominated Don Haase to the Alaska Judicial Council, the group which vets judges for state courts.  So this guy obviously needs to be stable and have a good handle on the law.

Well, during his confirmation hearing, Hasse was asked whether he thought extramarital sex should be made illegal.  He answered without hesitation, yes.  So that would be criminalizing people‘s personal affairs. 

But if you think that‘s bad, he was also asked if premarital sex should be outlawed.  He said, “I can see where it would be a matter for the state to be involved with because of spread of disease and the likelihood that it would cause violence.  I can see a legitimate reason to push that as a crime.” 

I don‘t know what experiences he‘s got, but violence after sex?  Not usually how it works, but all right. 

Now, despite his views, Haase has assured lawmakers that he won‘t let his personal beliefs influence which candidate he would approve for judgeships.  Given the history of the Palin family, they have to be breathing a sigh of relief on that. 

Is that too much?  Mama Grizzly, don‘t come for me.  Don‘t come for me, Mama Grizzly. 

All right.  I can‘t wait for her tweet.

All right.  A RadioShack in Montana is drumming up new business by tossing in a free gun with purchases.  Yahoo!

Since October, anyone who buys a Dish Network through the RadioShack in Hamilton, Montana, also gets a voucher to a local gun supply store.  The branch‘s owner told a local paper his business has tripled since he started the deal. 

Hey, look, that‘s good capitalism.  Although on the on the other, you‘re making it easier to get guns in a state that already doesn‘t require people to register their firearm or have a gun license.  But the radio shack is making people get a background check before cashing in their preview, that‘s a great thing.  And if they don‘t pass, their consolation prize is a $50 gift card to Pizza Hut. 

A 20 gauge shotgun or five large pizzas.  That about sums up the whole country.  And given my politics and my physique as you see, you tell which way I would go.  Bring on the deep dish.  And John Stossel paid a visit to “Fox and Friends” recently.  And show Stossel fashion his comments were somewhere south of ridiculous and slightly north of insane.  The gang was discussing some high-paying government jobs when Stossel decided to bash the bureau of Indian affairs.  He actually thinks the U.S. government has helped the Native Americans more than any other group of people. 


JOHN STOSSEL, FOX BUSINESS ANCHOR:  Why is there a bureau of Indian affairs?  There‘s no bureau of Puerto Rican, black affairs or Irish affairs.  And no group in America has been more helped by the government than the American Indians. 


UYGUR:  Well, I‘m sure that‘s going to be news for the Native Americans.  We‘ve been helped, really? Yes, hey, when we gave you those diseased blankets and drove you off your lands and killed hundreds of thousands of you at least, and did the little thing called the trail of tears, we‘re just trying to look out for you man, that was our way of helping out a brother.  Why, you didn‘t see it that way? 

By the way, John, the reason there‘s no bureau of Irish affairs is because the colonialists didn‘t land on a continent full of Irish people which they then decided to massacre and drive in a small reservations.  If they had, Stossel would not be talking about how much we helped the Irish.  Up next, are Republicans hurting their chance in 2012 by just appealing to social conservatives?  Well, it doesn‘t matter because they can‘t help themselves.  Some of their outrageous comments next.  Plus, not at single mortgage lender has been sent to prison for their role in the financial crisis, but at least one borrower has.  Of course, the government cracks down on the wrong guy.  We have the outrageous story for you.    


UYGUR:  The 2012 GOP hopefuls are playing to social conservatives.  Of course, of course, they do it every time.  They‘re going to Iowa and they‘re trying to, you know, please them in 18 different ways.  But let‘s start with Haley Barbour.  He went on a social conservative Bryan Fischer‘s radio show on Friday and he wanted to explain why we should reinstate the policy of “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell.” 


GOV. HALEY BARBOUR ®, MISSISSIPPI:  When you‘re under fire and people are living and dying on split-second decisions, you don‘t need any kind of amorous mindset that can affect saving people lives and killing bad guys. 


UYGUR:  Amorous mindset?  I like where Haley Barbour mind is going.  I wonder what they‘re thinking in that FOX hole.  By the way, like 19-year-old straight troops don‘t have amorous mindsets?  I think that‘s pretty much all guys.  And how about republican presidential candidates, they don‘t have amorous mindsets?  If you‘re worried about guys with amorous mindsets, this might be the guy you really have to worry about.  Well, did I say something?  Of course, Gingrich joined his social conservative friends in Iowa on Saturday.  Steve King was hosting conservative principles conference in Des Moines, Iowa.  Five hundred people attended including Gingrich and some of the other candidates.  Of course, all those candidates tried to establish their social conservative street cred including Newt. 


NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER U.S. HOUSE SPEAKER:  Some people may tell you that we should stay away from values and stay away from social issues.  I‘m here to tell you if you don‘t start with values and you don‘t start establishing who we are as Americans, the rest of it doesn‘t matter. 


UYGUR:  Come on, are you serious?  Gingrich talking about values.  We‘re talking about values?  He had three wives!  Two mistresses.  I don‘t even want to tell you how he left some of his wives.  All right.  But look, he wasn‘t the favorite in the conference.  The favorite turned out to be Herman Cain.  Herman, the guy who started the Godfather‘s well, partly owned Godfather‘s pizza.  And he‘s a real social conservative.  And he doubled down on his anti-Muslim views in an interview with think progress. 


UNIDENTIFIED MAN:  Would you be comfortable appointing a Muslim either in your cabinet or as a federal judge? 

HERMAN CAIN, RADIO TALK-SHOW HOST:  No, I will not.  And here‘s why.  There‘s this creeping attempt, there‘s this attempt to gradually ease Sharia law and the Muslim faith into our government.  It does not belong in our government. 


UYGUR:  Who‘s doing that?  That‘s cuckoo for cocoa puffs.  There are no Muslims invading the country trying to take over the country with their laws and Sharia.  Where?  What are you talking about?  You know the people who are doing that?  I‘ve got to be honest with you.  Christian conservatives.  They keep telling us, including at that conference, you‘ve got—no, no, no it‘s all about values.  My values.  I want to impose my values on you.  So, hey look, Herman Cain, if you say religions should not influence our laws, whoa, deal.  Let‘s shake on it. 

Look, honestly, I thought that was the whole point of the conservative principles meet-up, but apparently not.  Herman Cain ended up of course winning the straw poll.  Now, I say of course, but that‘s a little surprising.  But don‘t get too excited only 127 people voted.  What were the others doing?  This massively political event, year on these guys and out of the 500 only 127 voted.  The rest were like go, thanks for the barbecue, I‘ll see you later.  I don‘t know if they had a barbecue.  OK.  So in the end, it‘s up to Bachmann to bring home the social issues that were important because the founding fathers said so point. 


REP. MICHELLE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA:  The truth is, social conservatism is fiscal conservatism.  John Adams wrote, it is only for moral and religious nation, this constitution that we write.  It is wholly unsuited for any other.  You cannot build a nation unless it is built upon a rock solid foundation. 


UYGUR:  Like Sharia law.  I‘m sorry, that‘s the wrong religion.  No, no, we don‘t want that—we want the Christian religion enforced on everybody else.  By the way, the founding fathers, here‘s something else they say, don‘t mix church and state.  Don‘t do it.  In fact, we‘re going to—in the constitution.  Don‘t do it, it‘s a bad idea.  Funny how she didn‘t quote that part.  Now, for the first of 2012 though, the important question is, will this focus on social issues help or hurt these Republicans?  Let‘s find out. 

Joining me now is David Milbank, national political correspondent, columnist for “The Washington Post,” and Steve Kornacki, political columnist for  All right.  The anonymous start with you.  Going over there and running on these issues, is it a good idea or bad idea politically?

DAVID MILBANK, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT:  Well, it‘s not as if it‘s a choice.  It‘s the only way you can survive.  I mean, that‘s why a guy like Tim Pawlenty wasn‘t participating in this one.  But at the last cattle called here in Iowa, they guy sounded like a southern preacher.  He even adopted a phony southern accent as best I could tell.  And you know, of course, Haley Barbour is—you know, his definition of conservatism is, you know, getting the baked potatoes instead of the onion rings at his steak house.  But all of these guys know that particularly in Iowa but a large extent across the country.  The social conservatives are the gate keeper.  So, whether or not it‘s good politics in the campaign against Obama is irrelevant.  They‘re not going to get the nomination unless they satisfy the religious conservatives. 

UYGUR:  I want to come back to Pawlenty later because he‘s one of my favorites.  But Steve, let me ask you this.  Mitt Romney didn‘t go, Pawlenty didn‘t go as Dana pointed out.  Why didn‘t they go if these guys are the gatekeepers? 

STEVE KORNACKI, POLITICAL COLUMNIST:  Well, you know, you don‘t think Romney wanted to show up and promise to engage in discriminatory hiring as his first act as president.  Maybe he could have be Herman Cain in this straw poll.  It makes perfect sense in Romney, what you think, this strategy at this point for Romney to a lesser extent, you know, Pawlenty is to be sort of the last, you know, say this within the realm of the Republican Party, the last seen guy standing.  So, you let Iowa go, you let one of the early states go and maybe in a worst case scenario for the Republican Party, someone like Michele Bachmann comes out and wins Iowa.  And then if you‘re Mitt Romney, you‘re sitting there and you‘re hoping that, you know, still 50, 60, 70 percent of the Republican Party is sane enough to look at that and say, absolutely not.  No way.  We‘ve got a problem with Mitt Romney, let‘s go make the nominee now. 

UYGUR:  Now, those are two really interesting points.  First off, let me go to you on this.  Can Romney win without winning Iowa?  I mean, Iowa is pretty damn important as we saw with Barack Obama‘s candidacy.  Last time around, and second of all, does Michele Bachmann have a real shot at Iowa?

MILBANK:  Well, certainly those of us in the journalistic party hope so.  Because she‘s been an endless source of amusement to us.  But, you know, look, it has always been calculated.  And John McCain was the real test, can you ignore Iowa and get away with it.  He ignored it in 2000 and didn‘t quite get away with it.  So in theory, you can do that.  In practice, it will be a very difficult to pull that off for him.  

UYGUR:  So, if Bachmann—Bachmann gets—wins Iowa, OK, if that‘s a big if, but I think it‘s possible.  Because she energizes the crowd like no other. 

KORNACKI:  From your lips to God‘s ears. 

UYGUR:  If she does that, is she a real contender?

KORNACKI:  No, I don‘t think so.  I mean, I still think, I think the Republican Party has obviously clearly for decades now been moving farther and farther in the right in the way information flows now.  You know, it really is tougher than ever to get away from a Bachmann message and succeed in the Republican Party.  But I think history still shows a little bit, you know, 22 years ago, Pat Robertson went out to Iowa, got 25 percent of the vote in the caucuses.  He‘ll be the sitting vice president.  Alan Keyes got third place there in 2000.  So, they‘ve been coming closer and closer to this moment.  You know, there used to be somebody like George W. Bush who, you know, could sort of tower over them and he could be acceptable to enough social conservatives and then you can have the establishment.  I think, now you reach them but there‘s not that great acceptable guy who can run and can sort of, you know, nip these guys in the bud there.   

UYGUR:  I know, but look, if she wins in Iowa, are you sure she‘s not going to win in South Carolina?

KORNACKI:  Yes.  Here‘s what it is.  It‘s what happened when Pat Buchanan beat Bob Dole in the New Hampshire primary in 1996.  The Republicans did not like Bob Dole.  He—with 73-years-old, put everybody to sleep.  But they said, you know, what?  We‘ll put the sleepy old man up because there‘s no way we‘ll put Pat Buchanan up. 

UYGUR:  All right.  Well, look, I don‘t know if that‘s the same Republican Party, I mean this Republican Party is a lot crazier.  And they love Bachmann.  That‘s what the crowd seems to indicate.  But Dana, look, I liked the two people from Minnesota on the republican side.  That‘s me coming back to Pawlenty who I think is the dullest candidate we‘ve had in a long, long time.  And I want to play a game with the audience before I ask you, OK?  We all know he was governor of Minnesota, you watch the news you know that, right?  What else has Pawlenty done?  Give him time, give him time.  I don‘t know.  I don‘t even know.  Dana, what has he done?  I think Bachmann has a ten times better chance than Pawlenty.  What do you think?

MILBANK:  Well, I mean, Tim Pawlenty was a champion for cap and trade.  Oh, wait.  He‘s taken that back now.  So, never mind.  Now, look, he‘s a guy—look, governors are—should be competitive in a general election.  He‘s got a decent record of running in what is primarily a blue state.  But the primary electorate doesn‘t necessarily want to hear about that right now.  And I think Cenk your point about yes, you know, the South Carolina electorate is going to look a lot like Iowa.  And it is correct overall, things are different in New Hampshire, but in general, the religious conservatives have come to dominate the republican electorate throughout the country now, just because it‘s gotten to be a narrower and narrower slice that‘s making that decision.  So, I don‘t think it‘s all impossible that a Michele Bachmann getting the voters that would otherwise have gone to Sarah Palin can become not necessarily the winner but a very strong contender. 

UYGUR:  Yes, it‘s fun man.  It‘s a fascinating conversation.  It‘s going to go on for a while of course.  Dana Milbank, Steve Kornacki, thank you both for your time tonight.  We appreciate it. 

All right.  Now, someone has finally gone to jail for all that mortgage fraud in this country.  But of course, it‘s definitely not anyone you would expect.  The story how the government has gone after all the wrong people over and over again.  And one guy in particular with a terrible story.  And a big breakthrough for marijuana.  One part of the federal government has finally given in and admitted pot can help you.  We‘ll tell you which department said that and why it could have a huge effect on the way pot is sold throughout the country.    


UYGUR:  Senator Richard Shelby from Alabama is going in the spotlight.  Have to watch himself.  Now, Shelby is a self-professed fiscal conservative who‘s been known to rail against the budget policies of his progressive counterparts.  But despite this, the man does like his pork.  The “Chicago Tribune” reports that Shelby asserted a provision in the 2010 budget that has survived both stop gap spending bills, and is costing taxpayers more than $1 million a day.  But it gets worse.  The Shelby provision as it is known, forces NASA to spend $1.4 million daily on the consolation moon program, a program which Congress and the White House agreed to cancel last year.  Do you understand that?  It‘s going to get cancelled.  But we‘re spending over $1 million bucks a day on it anyway.  Come on, come on, come on, that‘s ridiculous! 

And let me tell you the overall cost now.  It‘s provision is expected to cost NASA $29 million during the three-week budget extension through April 8 alone.  And on top of that, and it‘s already cost the agency $250 million since October 1st.  Now of course, this is all while the Republicans are pretending to fight earmarks and cut spending.  Do I have to say anything more?  Their hypocrisy is so obvious.  So over the top.  Apparently, I had to say one more thing.  All right.  Come right back.           


UYGUR:  We‘ve got new stomach turning details about exactly who is being made to pay for the biggest housing bubble in U.S. history and who isn‘t?  First, here‘s who is laughing all the way to the bank.  Angelo Mozilo, former chief executive of Countrywide Financial which made billions as the housing market inflated.  From 2000 to 2008, Mozilo personally received $528.8 million in total compensation.  As he say regulators, say he sold $140 million in country wide stock between ‘06 and ‘07, at the same time, regulators say that Mozilo‘s—he called Countrywide‘s loans, quote, “toxic” and, quote, “poison.”  Even though countrywide was still selling the loans.  Now, do you think he got punished?  Do you think he went to jail?  Of course not!

In 2010, Mozilo settled with the SEC and was assessed a $67.5 million fine.  Now, that sounds bad, right?  Except, of course, he didn‘t really pay it.  Countrywide and Bank of America paid $45 million of it, meaning that he paid less than five percent of the money that he had made from Countrywide.  Got away with it with nearly $500 million in the bank.  And on February 18th of this year, the Los Angeles Times reported that the Feds shelved their criminal investigation into Mozilo, they‘re apparently determined his actions didn‘t amount to criminal wrongdoing.  So there‘s no indictments for Mozilo or any other top Countrywide executives.  Now, that‘s outrageous, right?  Mozilo is walking away incredibly rich even though he knew the stuff was toxic and poison, right?  So, that means they went and got nobody, right?  No, not true. 

Turns out they did get somebody.  Now, look at who‘s behind bars.  The “New York Times,” this weekend told the story of Charlie Engle, he is an ultra marathoner.  And it turns an IRS agent Robert Norlander saw one of Engle‘s documentaries, Sahara where he goes to marathons through the whole Sahara that was produced by Matt Damon among others.  And IRS and I just wonders, how could anybody have that much time to train?  So, he gets obsessed by this, and he starts an investigation into that guy Engle for fraud, tax fraud.  Guess what he found, nothing, nada.  But he won‘t let it go.  So, you keep haunting Engle and he even did dumpster diving, which means that he dumped, diving to dumpster and looked through Engle‘s garbage. 

OK.  Now, that all sounds crazy, right?  But I guess crazy, he sent a female undercover agent to ask Engle about his investments.  And she was pretending to seduce him.  She‘s like, oh really, tell me more about your real states investments.  Who knew the IRS does that?  I mean, if you‘re going to do that, sent him after Mozilo, not after this random Engle guy, and Engle admits to the lady, oh, you know, I was trying to flip real estate at some point which, by the way, many people have done and many people have lost money as Engle did, that‘s not illegal.  Engle also mentioned that he had a liar loan that his broker had written down, right?  They‘re like aha, we got him, finally after all the dumpster diving. 

So, there were two mortgages in particular, right?  One claimed that he had made 15 grand a month.  And he made $180,000 for the whole year.  So, he did make 15 grand a month, he didn‘t even lie on that at all.  The other said that he made over $32,000 a month, which he didn‘t.  Now, Engle said he didn‘t know about that $32,000 claim.  Now jurors kind of believed him, kind of didn‘t believe him and got confused.  They found him not guilty of providing false information to the bank, which means he shouldn‘t be guilty of mortgage fraud, but they found him guilty of mortgage fraud anyway.  Now, are you ready for this?  He‘s serving 21 months in prison.  So Mozilo, none of those guys get a prison sentence but this guy is in prison for 21 months.  And by the way, you know who owns the loan?  Countrywide which is now owned by Bank of America.  When he gets out, he‘s got to pay them back.  Oh, come on, man.  That‘s our system, unfortunately. 

Up next, there‘s growing support for pot, but get this.  This time it‘s from the federal government.  That‘s interesting.  We‘re coming right back.        


UYGUR:  California was the first state to make medical marijuana legal back in 1996.  Now, for the first time ever, a federal agency has recognized that marijuana does have medical benefits.  Last week, the National Cancer Institute added a summary of marijuana‘s possible benefits to its treatment database.  It reads, quote, “The potential benefits of medical,” medicinal I should say, “cannabis for people living with cancer include anti-emetic,” I hope I got that right, “effects, appetite stimulation, pain relief and improved sleep.”  And a practice of interactive oncology, the health care provider may recommend medicinal cannabis, not only for symptom management but also for its possible direct antitumor effect.”

So, that‘s a lot of medical benefits.  This new assessment from the National Cancer Institute could have an impact on the classification of marijuana as a schedule one drug.  That‘s the harshest possible drug degree classification.  One of the main criteria for a schedule one drug is that quote, “the drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.”  Now, if a federal agency is recognizing the medicinal benefits of marijuana, technically it should be moved down to a schedule three drug.  But it changes scheduling for pot could also mean an end to the federal government using a tax law loophole to put medical marijuana shops out of business. 

For years, the IRS had been citing section 280-E of the tax code that blocks medical shops from getting business tax reductions.  It reads, quote, “no deduction or credit shall be allowed for any amount paid if such trade or business consists of trafficking in controlled substances within the meaning of schedule one and two of controlled substances act.  So if pot ends up becoming a schedule three drug, this loophole that the Feds are using would have no standing.  They understand the importance of this, then they could bust all those shops that are selling marijuana.  Finally the government has admitted, you know, what, medical marijuana does have benefits.  Now can we stop this madness?  It‘s been nearly 75 years on this war on drugs.  It‘s not working.  Thank you for watching.  That‘s our show.  “HARDBALL” starts right now. 

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