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Msnbc Live at 6 p.m. ET, Monday, April 4th, 2011

Guests: Bernie Sanders, E.J. Dionne, Matthew Hoh, Ron Brownstein, Pat Buchanan, A.B. Stoddard, David Frakt

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

We have got a fun show ahead for you guys.  Some serious topics, but we‘re going to have fun anyway. 

Let me tell you about the first topic.

With just about four days to pass a budget left to avoid a government shutdown, President Obama is getting involved.  He‘s invited the leaders of both houses of Congress and the chairs of their Appropriations Committees to the White House tomorrow to try to hammer out an agreement. 

You know what that means?  That means they‘re probably pretty close.

So, of course a big problem is the Tea Party.  Right?  The Republicans can‘t get past them, they‘re not big on compromising.  So one of the ways the GOP may be trying to appease their ultra-conservative wing is by giving them a preview of the giant cuts they‘re prepared to fight for in next year‘s budget. 

Tomorrow, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, Congressman Paul Ryan, is rolling out his plan for that budget.  He wants to cut—are you ready for it? -- $4 trillion over 10 years.  Now, we‘ll talk about the specific cuts in a minute, but first I have to tell you what the whole point of this exercise is—the tax cuts. 

Of course Ryan wants to continue to extend the Bush tax cuts.  That‘s a given, no question about that, but that‘s not nearly enough. 

His plan lowers the top tax rate by 10 points from 35 percent to 25 percent.  The richest people in the country would be paying 25 percent.  That‘s a giant cut. 

You know what that is?  It‘s redistribution of wealth right to the top. 

Now, you remember in his first roadmap to oblivion, in my opinion, Ryan proposed a different idea, and it was a national sales tax.  You know what that would have done?  It would have increased taxes on the bottom 90 percent of the American people.  So he actually doesn‘t mind raising taxes, as long as it‘s on you and not the top 10 percent. 

Do you know how bad it‘s gotten?  Right now the top one percent of the country controls 40 percent of the wealth.  Twenty-five years ago, they controlled only 33 percent of the wealth.  So the share of the top one percent has gone up dramatically, one percent owning 40 percent. 

How did they do that?  They did that with the Republicans giving them tax cut after tax cut after tax cut, and subsidy after subsidy, and it goes on and on. 

And what was it supposed to do?  It was supposed to trickle down, right?  Has it trickled down to you yet?  I don‘t think so. 

So let‘s get to those spending cuts, because they love the spending cuts because it comes out of your hide.

So we‘ve got Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security.  They‘re all top targets, of course. 

So, for example, for people 55 and younger, Medicare would become—and I love this euphemism—a premium support system.  This means that instead of guaranteeing specific health benefits like it does now, Medicare would give beneficiaries a sum of money to use to purchase private insurance. 

What a wonderful coincidence.  That happens to be some of the top donors for the Republicans, private insurance companies.  So you would get less money and private insurance wouldn‘t even have to deliver a set of minimum benefits. 

How is that for premium support system?  I mean, they are downright Orwellian.

Of course, private insurers would make more money out of this.  And, oh, right, and the rich would get their tax cuts.  So everything‘s going to be OK.

How about Medicaid?  Paul Ryan wants to cut $1 trillion from Medicaid‘s budget.  He does that by giving states lump sums called block grants to fund their own programs. 

Republicans say this method provides more flexibility, but with a fixed sum from the federal government, that flexibility would mean states could and would lift enrollment.  How do you like that for flexibility? 

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi today put it pretty bluntly. 


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER:  Putting Medicaid into block grants is one way to tie it—put it in a box, tie it with a ribbon, and throw it in the deep blue sea.  This is the beginning of the end for Medicaid once you block-grant it. 


UYGUR:  That‘s true.  And that‘s exactly what the goal is.  They‘ve been coming for Medicare and Medicaid for decades now, and they‘re on the doorstep. 

On the other hand, the rich would get their tax cuts.  You didn‘t think about that, did you, right?  That makes it all better.  Right?

Well, how about Social Security?  All we know so far is Ryan‘s budget calls for significant cuts. 

It doesn‘t provide any of the details, of course.  He says, oh, we‘re going to leave that up to various committees later to figure all that out.  But one thing we know for sure is that the rich would get their tax cuts. 

Joining me now is Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a member of the Senate Budget Committee.

Senator Sanders, they‘ve been trying this for decades.  But as I just said, I think they‘re on the doorstep.  I think they‘re real close to knocking out Medicare and Medicaid. 

My top question, the most important question today, how are you going to stop them? 

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT:  Well, we‘ve got to get the American people to stand up and say it is absolutely immoral, it is insane that we give tax breaks to the very richest people in this country who, today, are doing phenomenally well, and that we sock it to the middle class and working families who are seeing a decline in their standard of living.  This is Robin Hood in reverse. 

Cenk, this year some 45,000 Americans are going to die because they don‘t get to a doctor on time.  If you block-grant Medicaid, if you voucherize Medicare, that number is going to soar.  So what you are talking about is a life-and-death issue for millions of the American people. 

What I have been disturbed about in terms of the whole budget debate, whether it‘s the continuing resolution, or fiscal year ‘12, is that we have not talked about enough is the need to bring revenue into the picture and to say we are not going to extend Bush‘s tax breaks for the very richest people.  What we need is a surtax on millionaires. 

Last week we announced that there were 10 corporations, 10 of the largest corporations in this country, who not only paid nothing in taxes, they got substantial rebates.  So the idea of cutting programs for the weakest, the most vulnerable, to give tax breaks to the richest and largest corporations is totally grotesque. 

UYGUR:  Now, Senator Sanders, I agree with you, and I know you‘re a progressive fighter.  I know that.  There‘s no question about that.  All right? 

I follow this stuff closely.  That‘s my job.  Right? 

But I also know, and I‘m going to be blunt with you, Democrats have been terrible at defending their ground.  Terrible. 


UYGUR:  So I‘ve got to be honest with you.  I have no faith, I have no trust. 

I mean, right now, if you said to me $4 trillion, I don‘t think they‘ll get $4 trillion, but if President Obama and the Senate Democrats play the usual games they play, they‘d give them—here, I‘ll go crazy.  Are you ready?  I‘ll make a prediction -- $2.1 trillion $2.5 trillion in cuts they‘ll agree to. 

SANDERS:  Well, what the Democrats, Cenk, haven‘t done is made the case to the American people that the American people already support.  There was a “Wall Street Journal” poll maybe three weeks ago.  Eighty-one percent of the American people thought the best way to address deficit reduction is a surtax on millionaires.  They want to do away with these loopholes that allow corporations not to pay any taxes. 

UYGUR:  But Senator—no, but you‘ve got to tell me.  Look, you‘re right, I know that.  OK?  But you‘re right there in the Senate.  What‘s stopping you guys?  What‘s stopping the Senate Democrats—

SANDERS:  Well, don‘t say “you guys,” Cenk.  Don‘t say “you guys.”  I am.  I have introduced legislation to do away with—

UYGUR:  No, I know, and I‘ve given you credit for that legislation. 

And I think it‘s a great piece of legislation.

SANDERS:  All right.  You‘ve got to ask the president. 

UYGUR:  There you go. 

SANDERS:  It is a good question.  You‘ve got to say, “President Obama, take the case to the American people, whether we ask billionaires to pay a little bit more in taxes, or we destroy the lives of millions of working families.”  I think we win that fight overwhelmingly. 

Unfortunately, as you well know, this place is dominated by lobbyists who represent the wealthy and the powerful.  Now, I wish President Obama would not only enter the fray, but enter the fray on the side of working families. 

I think it‘s good public policy, morally the right thing to do.  And you know what else, Cenk?  It‘s good politics. 

We win that fight.  Unfortunately—unfortunately, money speaks very loudly around here. 

UYGUR:  Senator, you‘re 100 percent right about that.  So final question for you.

What are you going to do if the president—I‘ve got to be honest—as usual, comes out and says I‘m going to split the difference, I‘m going to agree with the Republicans, I‘m not really going to make our case?  I‘m just going to say look at me, I‘m so centrist.  Washington, aren‘t you happy?  I‘ve gone three-quarters in their direction.

What are you going to do about it?  What are you—how are you going to rally progressives?  I‘m not putting it all on you.  I know you‘re a great progressive.  I‘m saying, how do you fight that?

SANDERS:  I‘m doing my best.  I‘ve introduced the legislation.  You know, time after time, trying to defend Social Security from some Democrats who actually want to cut it. 

UYGUR:  How do we get the president on our side? 

SANDERS:  Well, I think it‘s not—it‘s millions of people saying, Mr. President, we voted for you because you told us you were going to defend working Americans.  Now is the time to stand up to the big-money interests, ask for shared sacrifice, don‘t balance the budget on the backs of the elderly, the poor and the sick. 

If you do that, we‘re going to have tremendous—I would like to see a couple of hundred thousand people coming here to Washington to say hello to the president, say hello to the Republicans, say do not balance the budget on the middle class and working families in this country when the richest people are getting richer.  They have not contributed one nickel to deficit reduction.  If we can rally ordinary people into this fight, we will win it. 

UYGUR:  All right.  Now, look, before we go, I want the audience to know I‘m not saying this because Senator Bernie Sanders is on the air with us.  He‘s the guy who stood up and filibustered for all those hours when nobody else did.  He‘s the one that introduced the right legislation. 

I want everybody to be clear on that. 

Senator Sanders, Godspeed to you.  I hope you can represent the progressives as well in this upcoming, incredibly important fight. 

Thank you.

SANDERS:  Thank you, Cenk.

UYGUR:  All right.

Now let me bring in E.J. Dionne, a columnist for “The Washington Post.”  His latest column was on the future of the nation‘s budget debate.

E.J., let me start it this way—I don‘t think the country should take Republicans seriously, Washington media, et cetera.  I mean, they say they care about balancing the budget, et cetera, but when you say, hey, how about we take oil subsidies, which are giant, take out farm subsidies—this is people leaching off the government—they should agree in an instant, but they don‘t.  They don‘t because it isn‘t about balancing the budget.  It‘s about enriching their rich friends. 

How do we get Washington to say, yes, Cenk, E.J., or whoever, you guys are right, this is nonsense, they‘re not being honest? 

E.J. DIONNE, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Well, I think you have to be up front about real choices here. 

Four trillion dollars is what the Ryan budget is supposed to save over 10 years.  There‘s another $4 trillion.  It‘s the amount of money you would raise if you simply restored the tax rates that existed when Bill Clinton was present. 

Remember 22 million jobs?  Bob Rubin, treasury secretary, not a socialist the last time I looked he was.  And so I think that it really is a tradeoff here.

But here‘s why I think President Obama should have been engaged in this fight earlier.  But here‘s the reason why I think he may finally get engaged after the Ryan budget comes out, because this budget strikes at the heart of his proudest achievement as president, which is the health care reform.  A lot of the expansions that he proposes—he covers a lot more people through Medicaid. 

If you cut the heart out of Medicaid, you are cutting the heart out of the Obama health care plan.  And that‘s why I don‘t think he has any alternative but to fight on this.  I certainly hope he does, because the danger of throwing all sorts of people back on to the mercy of the private insurance market is not something I think the country wants to do. 

UYGUR:  So, E.J., how does he resolve that politically?  Because one of his main themes throughout this whole two-and-a-half years business, aren‘t I the most centrist guy in the world?  I‘ll agree to anything the Republicans say to.  Right?

So now he‘s got to turn around and fight for this?  Here, you‘re right.  I mean, it‘s crazy.

Not only that Medicaid is part of health care—that‘s a great point by you—but Medicaid, they‘ve been trying to kill this thing for how many decades now?  To agree on that would be madness.  Right?

But how does he resolve that?  I mean, he‘s Mr., like, hey, I‘m Nice guy.  Look at me agreeing with the Republicans.

How do you finally turn around and go, OK, that‘s it, I‘m not going for this?  And do you see that?  I mean, so far, I haven‘t seen that turn yet. 

DIONNE:  Well, I think—and I don‘t think they made the right choice on this, but I think they figured that this first round of budget cuts, they could get by.  They can get by with some cuts that may not go to the heart of important programs, and they were saving their fire for later. 

Now, how much later?  If it‘s later, like, three, four, five months from now, then I think he‘s in trouble and anybody who cares about progressive government is in trouble. 

If, however, they‘re saying the big fight starts now with Congressman Ryan‘s budget, he doesn‘t have to sound extreme to say, well, look, we have Medicaid and Medicare for a reason, and a lot of—you know, if you cut Medicaid that much, you‘re going to hurt a lot of seniors, you‘re going to hurt a lot of disabled people.  I think you can make a case by yelling.  You can also make a very quiet, reasonable case that says the same thing. 

Bill Clinton won his budget fight talking about Medicare, Medicaid, education, and the environment.  Those are popular causes in 2011 just like they were back in 1995. 

UYGUR:  E.J., last thing, look, my whole life now I‘ve heard about Democrats keeping their powder dry. 


UYGUR:  It‘s so dry.  It‘s incredibly dry.  It‘s like the Sahara Desert.  And I always hear, oh, no, no, no.  A couple months from now, a couple years from now, they‘re going to really start fighting. 

It never happens.  Right?

So my last question to you is, can we agree that if President Obama does not fight for Medicare, and instead agrees to some sort of so-called compromise, where he agrees with the Republicans to chop it off, or to do this kind of premium support system, or anything like that, then he is a disaster as a progressive, if he does it? 

DIONNE:  I don‘t know if I would have jumped there, but I do agree with you that Democrats do have this habit of delaying the fight until it‘s too late.  You can‘t fight in the 10th inning if the game ends in the 9th inning. 

And I think that if Obama—particularly—guess I‘m focused especially on the Medicaid cuts, because if he doesn‘t really put up a battle on those, then I don‘t see how the rest of his achievement holds together.  And so think he does have to start fighting now.  And I think we‘ll see tomorrow, when Congressman Ryan issues the budget, I think it‘s a real moment of truth for him. 

UYGUR:  All right.  E.J. Dionne, thank you so much for your time tonight. 

DIONNE:  Thank you.

UYGUR:  All right.

Now, still ahead, some fascinating new numbers that may hold the key to President Obama‘s re-election chances in 2012.  And we‘ll show them to you.  Really interesting.

And actions of one anti-Muslim pastor have led to days of protests and violence in Afghanistan.  I‘ve got a controversial take on that.  I‘m going to share that with you next. 


UYGUR:  Two NATO soldiers were shot today in Afghanistan as deadly protests in that country continued for the fourth day.  Now, what are the Afghans so upset about? 

Well, last month, in Florida, the anti-Muslim pastor Terry Jones decided to put the Koran on trial.  What an absurd idea. 

He claimed he was an impartial judge, even though he had previously threatened to burn a pile of Korans to protest the plans to build an Islamic community center near Ground Zero.  He said he would now burn the Koran only if it was found guilty.  Is he not merciful?

Look at that.  Surprise, surprise.  It turns out that they did find the Koran guilty.

Sentencing options included burning, shredding, drowning and firing squad.  Firing squad is pretty absurd for a book.  The only thing more absurd is drowning.  How do you drown a book?

Anyway, soaking the Koran in kerosene and then burning it apparently won out.  Pastor Jones is now considering putting the Islamic prophet Muhammad on trial, as if his first stunt didn‘t go disastrously enough.

Now, here are the consequences of this terrible move.

We‘ve seen four straight days of protests in Afghanistan.  Some of them have been very violent.  The protests started on Friday with attack on a U.N. compound which killed seven U.N. staff members. All told, at least 20 people have been killed during the protests, and almost 150 people have been wounded. 

So, look, Pastor Jones is a nut job.  Everybody knows it.  Was that idea stupid?  It was painfully stupid. 

Everybody tried to talk him out it, including Petraeus and our defense secretary.  And even President Obama made a comment about it. 

But no, he had to go and do it anyway.  We told him it was dumb, we told him it would have these consequences.  And it did.

But you know who‘s crazier?  People who kill others based on a book burning. 

I‘m going to say something that‘s apparently controversial.  Who cares? 

Look, for example, I believe in science, so I think biology is the answer.  If you burn a biology book, I wouldn‘t lose a minute of sleep over it.  OK.  You‘re an idiot.  So what? 

Look, my beliefs are independent of what you think about them.  My beliefs don‘t get their feelings hurt. 

How weak are your beliefs that you‘re like, oh, my God, somebody offended me, I have got to go kill somebody else?  That makes no sense whatsoever. 

So, I know Pastor Jones is a loon, but in this country you get to be a loon.  It‘s called freedom.

Now, if the Afghans don‘t like that, well, that‘s too bad for them. 

We live in a free country and they should figure that out.

But apparently we have wasted over 10 years in that country, because they can‘t even begin to understand that concept.  In their world view, hey, if you disagree with someone, you obviously kill them, or you kill some random U.N. official instead. 

Well, that‘s not how we do things around here.  And look, I don‘t know what the hell we‘ve been doing in Afghanistan for those 10 years.  And apparently we‘ve made no progress whatsoever. 

But somebody‘s going to try to explain it to me.  It‘s Matt Hoh.  He‘s a former State Department official who resigned in protest over the war in Afghanistan.  Matt is now the director of the Afghanistan Study Group. 

Matt, look, as I look at the protests, two things jump out at me. 

First, let‘s be realistic about this.  This isn‘t just because of a Koran burning.  Right?  I mean, this has to do also with our presence and our occupation there for the last 10 years, right? 

MATTHEW HOH, FMR. STATE DEPT. OFFICIAL:  Yes.  Absolutely, Cenk.  And thanks for having me on this evening. 

I don‘t know if I‘m the best person to answer your question about, what the hell are we doing there?  Because myself and many others have been arguing for the better part of last year and a half, two years, that we should be deescalating the conflict, as opposed to escalating the conflict. 

But it‘s true.  What you just said is absolutely right.  This goes farther than just a book burning.

This is the Afghan people, who have been at war for 30 years, who have seen most of those 30 years include foreign occupation, demonstrating that they‘re tired of it.  They‘re tired of the occupation.  They‘re tired of the war.  They‘re tired of a select elite of predators, basically, getting rich off of foreign aid money.  They‘re tired of foreign troops, et cetera, et cetera.

So what you saw in reaction to—and again, no better word for the guy in Florida than a jerk—was outrage over an occupation and a war that‘s gone on for 30 years. 

UYGUR:  You know, as I look at those pictures, so the guy burning the Koran, that‘s totally wrong.  Them burning the other people in effigy, that‘s totally fine.

Look, my mind doesn‘t comprehend it, but that‘s the problem we have here.  Isn‘t it?  I mean, we‘re trying to put our form of democracy on folks who apparently have no interest in it.  I mean, can you imagine if you told Afghanistan, OK, from now on anyone can burn anything like, your country‘s flag, or the bible, or whatever it‘s called, freedom of speech?

How would they take that? 

HOH:  Cenk, you‘re right.  It‘s a different country.  And we‘re involved in somebody else‘s civil war there. 

You know, we escalated this conflict two years ago.  Two years ago, in March of ‘09, President Obama sent 20,000 more troops to Afghanistan.  And in December of ‘09 he sent 30,000 more troops.  And all we‘ve seen is the war get worse. 

And we don‘t understand what we‘re doing there.  We don‘t understand its society.  We don‘t understand the root cause of the conflict.  We don‘t understand a whole host of things. 

And what happens and what you‘re seeing is that our young guys and gals over there who are getting killed still in record numbers are getting caught in the midst of a tribal conflict, or an ethnic conflict, or a civil war.  They‘re caught in between stuff that resembles Hatfield-and-McCoy-type violence, and it‘s costing us not just their lives, it‘s costing us about $120 billion a year. 

So to go back to your first question, what the hell are we doing there?  You know, I think you booked the wrong guest, because I can‘t tell you. 


UYGUR:  I know.  That‘s why you left.  And you‘re right.  It‘s pointless.  It‘s crazy. 

All right, Matt.  We‘re out of time.  But thanks so much for joining us. 

Matthew Hoh, everybody.

Thank you so much for joining us, as I said.

HOH:  Thanks, Cenk. 

UYGUR:  All right.

Look, up next, Wisconsin voters head to the polls in what appeared to be a referendum on Scott Walker‘s collective bargaining bill.  We‘ll tell you how the state Supreme Court race could shift the balance of power in that state and how important that outcome is. 


UYGUR:  Tomorrow‘s Supreme Court election in Wisconsin is shaping up to be a referendum on Governor Scott Walker.  That‘s what makes it so interesting. 

In other years, this would have been an obscure race between conservative incumbent David Prosser and his liberal challenger, Joanne Kloppenburg.  But the match-up has taken on national implications due to Scott Walker‘s collective bargaining bill, which could ultimately be decided by this court.

Now, if Prosser goes, the court would lose a solid right-winger and potentially shift the balance of the entire court depending on one swing-vote judge.  Now, that could affect how they rule on the collective bargaining bill.  Again, very important because of that.

Now, in addition, Walker would be losing a judge who, in the past, has had a likeminded voter record with him.  The Greater Wisconsin Committee notes that when Prosser and Walker both served in the state legislature in the mid-‘90s, they voted the same way 95 percent of the time. 

And if that weren‘t bad enough, Sarah Palin has already weighed in on behalf of Prosser.  So that settles the question in my mind. 

But other groups have been pumping money into the race as well.  Through Friday, outside groups spent a total of $2.4 million on television ads on this small race.  That‘s an unbelievable amount, so obviously everybody gets how important this is.

And the Tea Party Express has spent more than $200,000 on an ad that calls Kloppenburg an “activist judge who big union bosses can control.” 

Now, on the other side, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America have made over 47,000 calls urging Wisconsinites to vote for Kloppenburg.  Now, this comes as the two group expand their effort to recall Wisconsin state Republicans. 

After collecting the signatures necessary to recall state senator Dan Kapanke, the PCCC and the DFA have expanded their ad to target the Minneapolis area.  The group will be spending 30,000 a week, targeting the state Senator Sheila Harsdorf.  The selection tomorrow and this upcoming recalls are huge.  Because they send a signal to politicians throughout the country.  And tomorrow, it‘s a little bit of a drama, we‘re going to find out what that‘s signal is. 

All right.  Now, up next.  How good our President Obama‘s chance of

re-election?  Well, it turns out it‘s actually very good.  If you look at

the demographics in play in 2012, it‘s a numbers game and it appears to be on the president‘s side.  We‘ll show you why.

Plus, Tim Pawlenty has positioned himself as a front-runner among the republican contenders.  But Michele Bachmann might end up being the stronger challenger for Minnesota.  We‘ll explain that as well.


UYGUR:  Barack Obama‘s reelection campaign officially launched today, and one of the unspoken but obvious themes throughout the add that he released, is the big role that minority voters will play in the upcoming election.  Now, look, everybody knows minority voters are important, but you‘ll going to see with the new data, that they‘re even more important that they were in the last election.  The latest census data shows non-Hispanic whites now make up 63.7 percent of the population, as compared to 200 when they were 69 percent of the population, so the white percentage of the population has had a huge drop in just the last ten years, meaning voters and particularly Latinos, are much more important now in this upcoming elections. 

And when it comes to impact of minority voters on future elections, whoa, check this out.  Of those that are 18 and younger, just over 46 percent are minorities now.  In 2000, only 39 percent were minorities.  The National Journal‘s Ron Brownstein has a new in-depth analysis of the political impact of these demographic shifts.  Brownstein points out, quote, “At the current rate of growth, nonwhites will comprise a majority of children in the United States by 2015.”  That‘s only four years from now. 

Now, the driving force behind the population shift, Latinos.  There were 35 million Hispanics in the U.S. in 2000, and 50 million in 2010.  That‘s a 47 percent gain.  Now, here‘s the bottom line.  Obama won overwhelming support of minorities in 2008, about 80 percent, which is a huge number.  If he can maintain that support in 2012 or anywhere near it actually, he‘ll have a real shot of winning some states that he lost in 2008, and obviously keeping a hold of the swing states that he won, even though if you get just type of modest, I mean, in some cases, tiny you‘ll going to see support from white voters.  According to Brown CS (ph) analysis, Obama could take Georgia with just 25 percent of the white vote.  That‘s a stunning number. 

Nevada with 35 percent, Florida with just under 40 percent and Arizona with 46.7 percent of the white vote President Obama would carry.  So, the ad that he released today was kind of dull that lacked some energy, but it did most of his talking through who was on the ad rather than what they said, and it was chock-full of, you know, young voters, minorities, it had a young black activist, it had a Latino woman in Arizona.  They hit all the swing states, so they get it.  Obviously they‘ll going to make a concerted effort to go get those important demographic numbers on their side. 

With me now is Ron Brownstein, the man we mentioned earlier.  He‘s editorial director of the National Journal Group and MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan.  All right.  Both of you, great to have you here.  Ron, let me start with you, I mean, those percentage of white voters you need in those states is so tiny, I mean, Georgia, I can‘t believe that‘s all he needs.  He can‘t get 25 percent in Georgia?

RON BROWNSTEIN, NATIONAL JOURNAL GROUP:  Well, you‘re not guaranteed.  Yes, I know you‘re not guaranteed.  Look, the basic dynamic is you look forward to 2012, is that the minority share of the population is increasing even more than people expected in this census, the minority share of the vote is going to rise in 2012.  On the other hand, the Democrats and Obama has suffered an erosion of the support in the white community.  The Republicans want a higher share of the white vote, and the 2010 congressional election than they have won in any election since the advent of modern polling, so that is the basic dynamic, can they hold enough of the white support versus the gains that they‘re going to see in the minority committee on likelihood. 

Now, don‘t forget that the democratic support among minorities fell off somewhat in 2010, still won about just under three quarters of them that was down from four fists.  If they hold that, it puts a lot of pressure on Republicans to replicate what was extraordinary success among whites. 

UYGUR:  Also, and it‘s not just the people who are going out to vote, it‘s the people that are trying to decide whether they should vote or not, that‘s another critical part of it.  But Pat, I want to go to you here, I mean, as you look at those  numbers, if the Republican Party keeps demonizing Latinos with anti-immigration rhetoric, aren‘t they killing themselves?

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  No, no, the immigration issue I think in 2008 was about the fifth or sixth most important for Hispanics.  But there is no doubt that ultimately the Republican Party has got a hellish problem, but Ron is exactly right, Cenk.  Look, in 2008, 74 percent of the vote, I don‘t care the population, was white, and the Obama has had a horrible falling off, especially among the white working class.  He‘s not going to win North Carolina this time.  I don‘t think he‘s going to win Virginia.  I don‘t think he‘s going to win Indiana.  I think he‘ll be stronger out there in Colorado and Nevada, but look, I think this election is up for grabs, but let me say, on the long term, given the immigration patterns and the birth patterns, quite frankly the Republican Party as I‘ve known it, as we put it together in the Nixon and Reagan years, is ultimately doomed. 

UYGUR:  And you know, but you made a choice, right?  I mean, I want to pull off on that Pat.  I mean, it was called the southern strategy and it was to get white votes.  Now that the demographic shift has happens, it seems that you‘re on the bad end of that strategy, doesn‘t it?

BUCHANAN:  Not at look.  Well, look, I mean, I came into politics in 1966, we‘ve had a pretty good run of it, but the truth is, in every election I‘ve been in, or the Republicans have been is 90 percent of the republican vote or 89 percent is white voters, and as that diminishes as a share of the population, undoubtedly you have to get higher percentages.  Like Nixon and Reagan got about 64, 67 percent.  Sixty percent is good, but ultimately, Republicans will going to have to do even better than that, or they‘ll going to have to get Hispanic votes, and the problem there is that Hispanics believe in government.  They‘re big government people. 

UYGUR:  OK.  Well, that‘s interesting.  So, Ron, let‘s go to the idea of the power that Latino activists might have.  Because when you look at it, not only is the Latino numbers rising, but there‘s actually a big gulf between that and the voters registration.  So, they can get people to actually go out and vote, that would make an enormous difference.  Does that give them more clout in this race?

BROWNSTEIN:  It would.  First of all, that was a really good analysis by Pat of the past 45 years of American politics.  Yes, absolutely.  There‘s an enormous gulf between 16 percent of the population, 14 percent of the adult population, Latino, only nine percent of the vote.  Partially, you know, that‘s some people here illegally.  Even people are here legally, many of them have not become citizens.  Those who are citizens, many have not registered to vote.  They are under, kind of under punching their weight in the elector, but even has, even with all of those hurdles that demography, the weight of the demography is inexorable.  And you are seeing, you know, Pat noted 26 percent of the vote in 2008 was minority.  When Bill Clinton was first elected, it was only 12 percent.  I mean, this is a slow and steady change.  It was not just a sudden jump with Barack Obama. 

And it probably will be somewhere around 28 percent of the elector, and it does move states like Virginia, and North Carolina, Florida, they are state that I would disagree with Pat, I think there was a states that at least Virginia and Florida, then Obama really doesn‘t want to win, because they are diverse states.  And if he can‘t hold those, it starts getting problematic to get up to 270.  Not so much Florida, but certainly Virginia, he has going to have to trouble in those heavily white states.  He needs to hold some of those states that kind of look like him.  They are diverse and they are well educated.  

BUCHANAN:  All right.  Cenk, let me say though.  Let me give you some numbers from 2008.  Seventy four percent of the vote was white vote, only 70.4 percent was Hispanic, even though Hispanics were about 15 percent of the population and are now 16 percent.  You‘ve touched on their problem.  It is, a lot of—numbers of these folks are illegal, some of them are very young, there‘s not a great interest on a part of politics, unlike African-Americans who are very political and who are frankly voting their percentages now in national elections.  That‘s the problem for the Democratic Party, can you get these people excited and enthused when, after four years, they aren‘t as excited about Barack Obama in Libya and Barack Obama going back to Guantanamo as they were. 

BROWNSTEIN:  Pat, the challenge for Republicans, on the other hand is that under-18, Hispanic population which is so large, they are citizens, the vast majority of them in over 90 percent are citizens, they were born in the U.S., they‘re going to be eligible to vote when they‘re 18.  And the Delta, the gap between the Hispanic share of the population, the Hispanic share of the vote is probably going to narrow at an accelerating rate in the next decade.  And that does change the dynamic.  Even in places like Texas, you know, there are 18 House Republicans, for example, who are in districts that are majority, minority. 

Those are the kinds of places Democrats, Republicans are going to have to take back.  And 2012 would offer some opportunity there because we saw a big fall-off in the minority share of the vote in 2010.  That‘s one of the reasons why Republicans won districts that were heavily diverse.  In 2012, the Obama campaign as you just saw on that video, is going to put a lot of efforts on expanding the electorate, on bringing out those voters.  Look at the states they highlighted, North Carolina, Colorado, Nevada, they have an eye on this diverse electorate, and they could have a fix down the ballot as well. 

UYGUR:  All right.  Pat, last question here.  Hold on.  And I‘ve got to ask you one last question here.  Look, obviously that‘s the case, they‘re going to go ahead and put up immigration reform.  They know it‘s not going to past but they‘re going to do it to try to get Latino votes, as we get close to the election.  That‘s what President Obama is going to do.  I think that‘s fairly obvious.  If they don‘t do it, I would be really surprise.  What is going to be the republican reaction?  You said it yourself, they‘re in a world of trouble if they keep demonizing Latinos.  Are they good on that Pat, anyway?  

BUCHANAN:  I don‘t think they demonize Latinos.  They got a problem because simply because of demography.  Here‘s the situation Cenk, basically, look, if we‘re looking at seven percent unemployment and things are really getting better in Michigan and Ohio, Obama is a clear and overwhelming favorite.  If he‘s sitting up there at 8.5 percent or close to nine percent at that time, I think Obama will be perceived to have failed, and an awful lot of people like Michigan, the enormous gain. 

UYGUR:  I know, but Pat—about these election either, you‘re going to go off the cliff.  You notice you‘re going off the cliff. 

BUCHANAN:  Look, none of us lives forever, Cenk.  


UYGUR:  Well, all right, there you go.  There you admitting it. 

All right.  Pat Buchanan and Ron Brownstein, it‘s a great conversation.  Thank you so much guys.  

BROWNSTEIN:  Thank you.

BUCHANAN:  Thank you.

UYGUR:  All right.  Buckle up for what could be a Minnesota smack down, next.  Michele Bachmann versus Tim Pawlenty, presidential election 2012, all right.  Let‘s see who‘s stronger.  That‘s who we‘re going to talk about.        


UYGUR:  Republican primaries Michele Bachmann or Tim Pawlenty?  Everybody seems to be saying Pawlenty, I think that is totally wrong.  And I‘m going to show you why when we come back.  And also, did the Obama administration cave on Gitmo?  Or did they have no choice?  We‘ll discuss that as well.        


UYGUR:  While President Obama officially launches campaign for 2012 today, the top republican contenders have not formally entered the race yet.  They‘re still exploring, exploratory committees to do further explorations, all right, but today Tim Pawlenty did release his own snazzy video in response of the president‘s election analysis. 


UNIDENTIFIED MAN:  I‘ve got a question for you.  How can America win the future when we‘re losing the present?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN:  Washington has given.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN:  It‘s staggering.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN:  In order for America to take a new direction, it‘s going to take a new president. 


UYGUR:  What kind of video was that?  I guess since he‘s so dull, he‘s trying to make it exciting, but I don‘t think it‘s worthy.  All right.  Pawlenty by the way supposed to be the exciting candidate for Minnesota?  I have no idea why anybody thinks that, but there‘s actually another contender for Minnesota out there, who could be much more relevant and her name is Michele Bachmann.  She raised more money than any other republican so far this year, $2.2 million, and that‘s after raising a record $13 million last year for her congressional campaign.  Bachmann also just hired Mike Huckabee‘s Iowa political director from when he won the state back in 2008.  So, if she has the money, she has a Tea Party and she has a weak republican field.  So, does she have a real shot?  I think the answer might be yes. 

Let‘s talk to A.B. Stoddard, associate editor and columnist for “The Hill,” to see if I‘m right.  First, on Pawlenty, OK, and who‘s better, Pawlenty or Bachmann?  I don‘t know why anybody is exited by Pawlenty, I don‘t think the guy ever done anything, he is the blandest guy who has ever run for president.  I think Michele Bachmann has a ten times better chance than Pawlenty.  Tell me if I‘m wrong.  

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR AND COLUMNIST, “THE HILL”:  I think she has the early advantage with the wow factor.  He has the un-wow factor, but I think he probably has a little more staying power for the way that this primary is going to be run.  Much different from 2008, a much longer slog.  It is going to be a numbers game with proportion including not an early knockout, winner take all, primaries which really sets a momentum in the early state.  And also determines a winner early.  I don‘t think Iowa will be predictive where Michele Bachmann will run very strong of who ends up the nominee.  I think it‘s going to be a long slog and I think that‘s what Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty are.  

UYGUR:  I want to get back, and I want to say, but look, I‘m obsessed with Pawlenty, what a dull guy he is.  Can you someone for the love of God tells me what these guys looks like, what did he do?  OK, so he was the governor of Minnesota.  So what?  What did he do?  Why is he interesting?  Why do you think he has lasting power?

STODDARD:  Well, he‘s very good on television.  I don‘t know if you‘ve ever seen this.  And what Republicans tend to say is that he‘s good on television, and interviews very lovable, very smart, very articulate, knows the issues, knows his foreign policies, well, it‘s domestic policies.  Been there—you know, more than President Obama but when you get him in a speech, when he‘s trying to travel the country and wow the crowds, he doesn‘t have the energy.  And as you know, Michele Bachmann has really made a huge splash in her trips that she‘s been making any grass roots love her.  And she‘s really energizing the base, and obviously as you mentioned before, she‘s a real fund-raising powerhouse, so it is something for Tim Pawlenty to contend with.  Early, he was helping—proximity to Iowa.  He was going to do well—but she‘s jump in all of a sudden.  She was born and raised in Iowa before family moved to Minnesota, and they love her there.  

UYGUR:  And she‘s got much better jackets as you saw there.  Look, I have seen the Pawlenty speeches, we all like, Bachmann gets something—look here, I‘m going to show you a clip of Bachmann buttering up the crowd in Iowa.  I mean, she‘s a classic politician.  She knows what she‘s doing.  Let‘s watch.  


REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA:  I am an Iowan, I was born here in Waterloo, Iowa.  And I am a seventh generation Iowan.  That‘s even better, Iowans are very intelligent people, besides being extremely good looking, Iowa is the land of milk and honey.  


UYGUR:  Milk and honey.  All right.  But look, she gets the crowd revved up.  I mean, she‘s got the money, she really does, and she‘s got the numbers, so, why wouldn‘t she have a chance?  And it‘s not just Iowa.  I mean, look, think about it.  When you go to New Hampshire now, led by the Tea Party, she‘s Tea Party, you go down to South Carolina, she doesn‘t have a chance some kind, if she does, she‘s doing pretty well in the polls there, too. 

STODDARD:  There are some polling among primary voters so far that are showing the same results for Michele Bachmann that did for Sarah Palin, that they think she‘s great, and they want her to run but they don‘t know that she‘s really presidential team, but that could change.  She really is hot in Iowa.  We don‘t know how much of a bump that will give her to rule to the other states.  But remember, Mike Huckabee won Iowa, John McCain did not.  It‘s not necessary predictive, and even, it was mentioned before, with this contest changing the  way that it‘s going to, there will be other people who have stronger coalitions than Michele Bachmann has.  Tim Pawlenty is really taking care of the republican three legged sole.  Fiscal policy, domestic policy, and issues importance of social conservatives.  He‘s an evangelical Christian himself.  He‘s going to make sure that there‘s no stone uncovered.  And I think that if you look at a long, protracted race, it‘s very hard to imagine that she ends up taking over someone who‘s a two-term governor.  But it‘s early and all that can change everything.  I think if you‘re Tim Pawlenty, you‘re just glad Sarah Palin, not in the race, and Michele Bachmann is. 

UYGUR:  I hear you.  And it is exciting and it is early, we‘ll see how it goes.  But you said stole, does remind of a stole, you‘re right on that.  All right.  A.B. Stoddard, thank you.  We appreciate it. 

STODDARD:  Thank you. 

UYGUR:  Attorney General Eric Holder announced today that Khalid Sheik Mohammed and other suspects will be tried by a military commission at Guantanamo Bay.  Is that shameless capitulation of Republicans?  Or do they really not have a choice?  We‘ll discuss that when we come back.   


UYGUR:  Immediately, upon taking office back in 2009, President Obama signed an executive order to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

In the same ceremony, he told American people that Guantanamo would be close within the next year.


PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES:  In order to effect the appropriate disposition of individuals currently detained by the Department of Defense at Guantanamo, I hereby order and will then provide the process whereby Guantanamo will be closed no later than one year from now. 

UYGUR:  Those are the good old days that was back in January 2nd of 2009.  And obviously didn‘t work out that way.  Over two years later, Gitmo is still open for business as you all know.  Now, that‘s not all President Obama‘s fault.  Congress took away some of his options with a vote in the House that was very clear.  Now, today, Attorney General Eric Holder reluctantly announced that Khalid Sheik Mohammed and other suspects will be tried by a military commission at Guantanamo Bay.  Now, look, I was pleasantly surprised to see Attorney Eric Holder insist that civilian trials would have been better.  There was some chance that he was going to come out and simply adopt their republican position as if it were his own, but just happened in this administration from time to time.  But it is frustrating that the administration seems to concede at the first sign of trouble.  Look, if you believe the civilian trials are better and that Guantanamo should be closed, you know what you should do?  Fight for it.  You can‘t convince us some of your case, if you never make it. 

All right.  Joining me now is Air Force Reserved Lieutenant Colonel David Frakt, he was a formerly with the—and military commissions, they defended an Afghan teenager held at Guantanamo Bay, he is also a professor of law at Barry University. 

All right.  First, why do you think the main problem with the military commission?  Why not just try them there?

LT. COL. DAVID FRAKT, U.S. AIR FORCE RESERVED:  Well, there‘s several problems with the military commissions now.  They have improved them with the military commission‘s act of 2009, but you still have the possibility of the administration of coerced evidence.  You still have the appearance of command influence, of its military judges, military jury, it‘s more secretive, far less open and transparent than a federal trial would be. 

UYGUR:  Why does the appearance matter?

FRAKT:  Well, you know, we entered this war as part of a broad international coalition, and over time our partners have gradually melted away because of the dissatisfaction with our unwillingness to take into consideration international opinion and the prevailing standards of international law.  So I think the perception really matters.  We also have to worry about the perception in the Muslim world.  This is a time when we‘re trying to curry favors in the Middle East and show that Muslims that we‘re on their side and this will just feed the perception that we‘re hypocritical.  

UYGUR:  Well, Professor, here‘s the thing that I‘m most concerned about, right?  That we don‘t believe in our own justice system.  What is that tell to the rest of the world?  What does that tell to the American people?  Oh, don‘t trust the American justice system, it won‘t work.  It might not work, so let‘s just use a new system in a dark, you know, prison down on an island we can‘t, you know, that‘s out of sight.  I mean, aren‘t you teaching your kids, for example, now your students to believe in the American justice system?  What does that tell them?

FRAKT:  Yes.  It sends absolutely the wrong message when we say, you know, we have one standard for Americans and we have another standard for accused terrorists.  I mean, they‘re still supposed to have presumption of innocence.  They‘re supposed to get due process, you know, if we think that constitutional rights are the minimum that we should all have, then we should be affording those to everyone.  

UYGUR:  Exactly.

FRAKT:  And you‘re absolutely right. 

UYGUR:  We have to leave it right there.  Lieutenant Colonel Frakt, thank you so much for your time tonight.  We appreciate it.  And everybody, that‘s the show.  Thank you for watching.  “HARDBALL” starts right now.

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