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Msnbc Live at 6 p.m. ET, Monday, April 11th, 2011

Guests: Peter DeFazio, Ezra Klein, Robert Reich, David Weigel, Paul

Waldman, Karen Finney

CENK UYGUR, HOST:  Good evening.  I‘m Cenk Uygur.

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the main event.

The budget battle that almost shut down the government Friday night was just the undercard.  This week we begin the real fight over the debt ceiling and cuts that are not in the billions, but in the trillions.

This is about the core governing philosophy.  What do Democrats and Republicans think the government should and should not do?  At stake in this battle, a government default, another financial crisis, and the fate of the safety net that‘s been helping Americans since the Great Depression. 

On Wednesday, President Obama will unveil his plan to reduce a deficit, presenting an alternative to the Republican 2012 budget from Congressman Paul Ryan.  The president‘s plan would repeal the Bush tax cuts for the rich and cut defense spending.  It would also cut Medicare, Medicaid, and reform Social Security. 

We don‘t know yet exactly how the president plans to do this.  What does he mean by Social Security reform, for example?  And we don‘t know yet how big those spending cuts will be.  So we‘ll find out soon enough, on Wednesday, of course.

But we do know what the Republicans want. 


REP. ERIC CANTOR ®, MAJORITY LEADER:  This budget deal that was cut, or the spending deal that was cut this week, is only the beginning.  This is the first bite at the apple. 


UYGUR:  Republicans, of course, want to take another huge chunk out of that apple by attaching a new round of devastating cuts to any vote raising the nation‘s debt ceiling.  Now, without that vote, the government will hit its credit limit on May 16th, with potential disastrous effects to our economy. 


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  The consequences of failing to raise the debt ceiling would be Armageddon-like in terms of the economy.  And we do not need to play chicken with our economy. 


UYGUR:  Essentially, the Republicans are willing to hold the recovery hostage in exchange for more spending cuts.  And much more importantly for them, more tax cuts for the top bracket. 

Now, the GOP seems to be willing to shred Medicare and Medicaid to make sure that that top two percent get bigger tax breaks.  The big question is, will the president let them?  So far, presidential adviser David Plouffe seems to be focused on taking credit for spending cuts rather than fighting those cuts.


DAVID PLOUFFE, OBAMA ADVISER:  We cut spending, the biggest annual spending cut in the history of the country.  These were some tough cuts.  The president came together with Republicans and Democrats on behalf of the country in December, led an effort to cut taxes, and now we‘ve come together to cut spending.


UYGUR:  Cutting taxes and cutting spending.  Just curious to see a Democratic administration boasting about that when that‘s what Republicans usually run on.

But the fight that Plouffe is referring to is just a warm-up for the title match.  That‘s coming right now.  How will the president position himself for that fight?  Whatever he decides will likely define his presidency. 

Joining me is now Congressman Peter DeFazio, Democrat from Oregon, and a member of the Progressive Caucus. 

Congressman, first, are you encouraged or discouraged by how that undercard went, that first round? 

REP. PETER DEFAZIO (D), OREGON:  Pretty discouraged.  Remember, we wouldn‘t have a record deficit this year if in one vote in December, we hadn‘t reduced the government‘s income by $400 billion when the president went along with extending all the Bush tax cuts.  Then, suddenly, we have to—oh, my God, we have a record deficit.  Yes, you reduce your income, you have a record deficit. 

Now, Ryan proposes that we should reduce our income more and,

therefore, we‘ll get to a more fiscally responsible condition.  How?  And

even if the Ryan budget added up, he says, well, it wouldn‘t be balanced

until 2040.  He carefully leaves a lot of the Republican pet things aside -

agriculture subsidies, paying people not to grow things—he‘s from an agriculture state. 

Instead, we‘ll hit at kids, the WIC program, food stamps, things like that.  You know, all tax cuts are sacrosanct.  There‘ll be a whole new raft of tax cuts here.

No, I‘m pretty discouraged at where we‘re going.  And I guess what I would say is, remember, this Republican class was substantially elected with a lot of help from folks on Wall Street, a lot of big money people through secretive giving, and through the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  And the people on the frontline, if they threaten the debt of the United States, are the people on Wall Street and are some of those big guys.  And I would suggest they‘d be picking up their phone and call their friends here in Congress, the ones they just elected, to change things and tell them, don‘t mess with default for the United States of America. 

UYGUR:  Congressman, I appreciated your math in the beginning, because that really puts it into perspective for the American people.  You know, they are bragging about this $38.5 billion in spending cuts that did hurt.  That hurt a lot of people, right?  But they added $400 billion. 

So that means they added about 10 times as much to the deficit as they helped with the spending cuts.  Now, it‘s amazing to me that Washington seems to think that that‘s perfectly normal. 

So, how do you turn that conversation around, Congressman?  Because like we said, the next fight is much, much larger, and it‘s critical that the conversation be different the next time around.  How do you in Congress turn it around? 

DEFAZIO:  Well, I advocated in January to my colleagues, the Democratic Caucus.  I said we‘ll have one point of leverage this year.  That‘s going to be the debate over extending the debt of the U.S.

And we should say they don‘t get a single Democratic vote until they stop pretending that you can somehow achieve fiscal responsibility without revenues.  You just can‘t do it. 

I mean, today, if we eliminated the entire government, all of the Defense Department, everything else the government does day to day, we would still have a deficit.  So you can‘t pretend you‘re getting there with cuts, and you can‘t keep cutting income, which is also called cutting taxes.  And somehow, in their bizarre world, that‘s going to rectify the deficit. 

UYGUR:  Well, so, it seems to me again here, obviously, the White House is critical, because what you‘re saying obviously makes sense.  There‘s two sides to this equation.  There‘s revenue, and then there‘s spending.  And it looks like we have got a massive problem with the revenue side of this equation, although Congressman Boehner keeps saying you don‘t. 

So, are you sure the White House is going to be on your side?  It looks like on Wednesday they are.  It sounds like they‘re going to go back to the Bush—or take away the Bush tax cuts, I should say, for the tax bracket. 

Are you encouraged by that?  And are you sure that they‘re going to stay strong with that? 

DEFAZIO:  Well, that‘s a small step.  Remember, the president did run on that, and he did cave on it in December.  Now, whether he was blackmailed over the treaty over Russia, we‘ll never know.  But he did cave just in December.

This would be a kick turnaround.  And it‘s got to be actually more, honestly, than just the top bracket tax cuts. 

You know, if we allowed all the Bush tax cuts to expire, own 190 years we would have cut the deficit in half.  Now, that would have been a small increase on working families, a large increase on more wealthy folks, would have taken us back to Clinton-era tax rates when the economy boomed and we balanced the budget and had a surplus.  We could cut the deficit in half if we just let them all expire.  But we‘re headed the wrong way, I fear. 

UYGUR:  And look, as you see from that poll that we just put up, the American people are on your side.  Eighty-one percent say raise taxes on millionaires.  It‘s hard to imagine a better number in terms of politics, but you said something very interesting a little earlier on.

You said that that‘s a moment of leverage for you, whether we raise the debt ceiling or not.  That‘s interesting, because that‘s what the Republicans say, too.  Eric Cantor said the same thing. 

So is there going to be a lot of pressure on the president in this case from both sides? 

DEFAZIO:  Yes, but it‘s time for him to call their bluff and to speak out more forcefully as we go into this debate.  I mean, remember, they have a certain number of new members, Tea Party folks, who have signed pledges not to vote to increase the debt in the United States, despite the fact that the 14th Amendment says basically thou shalt not question the debt of the United States in any place or time. 

They‘re going to do that, they‘re just saying they won‘t vote for it. 

So they‘re creating an impossible scenario. 

How many of those there are, I‘m not sure, but I think they‘re going to need some Democratic votes to get past this.  And I think we could have a point of leverage here, and they could maybe get real.  You can‘t get to fiscal responsibility with numbers this big without revenues. 

UYGUR:  One last thing, Congressman.  Is it realistic to expect Democrats in Congress to actually pressure a Democratic president?  Because a lot of times we‘ve seen some hints of that, and then when push comes to shove, the Democrats pull back and say, well, it‘s a Democratic president and we‘ve got to do what he says. 

What‘s your sense of this time around?  Is that going to be the same old thing, or is there going to be real pressure, saying no, no, we absolutely will not give votes if you go in the wrong direction.

DEFAZIO:  Well, in my opinion, that‘s what the House did wrong in the last Congress, and in part why we lost, is we never pushed back.  No matter how wrong he was or off base he was, we never pushed back. 

There are a number of us in the caucus now whoa re pushing back very hard on our leadership.  And I‘m just going to continue to do that.  Who knows where they‘ll end up, but maybe we can take enough Ds with us to make them uncomfortable and to make them stick with making the president act like a Democrat. 

UYGUR:  Well, since he is a Democratic president, you would hope that he would do that, but we‘ll see how that turns out. 

All right.  Congressman DeFazio, thank you for your time.  Really appreciate it.

DEFAZIO:  Thank you. 

UYGUR:  All right.

Now let‘s bring in Ezra Klein.  He‘s a staff reporter for “The Washington Post” and an MSNBC contributor. 

Ezra, good to have you here. 


UYGUR:  All right.  Now, just real quick, let‘s score the last round so we can get on to the bigger round here.  And tell me what you think it portends for the bigger round.

This budget battle, how did you see it coming out, and what do you think it means for the bigger match? 

KLEIN:  I think the central thing to know about this budget battle is that when it began, John Boehner had an opening bid that we should cut $32 billion from last year‘s budget.  At the end, we cut $38.5 billion.  So John Boehner ended up being in the center-left of the eventual compromise.  I think that tells you pretty much what you need to know about how far right this ended up being. 

UYGUR:  So, Ezra, I think what everybody in the country is asking right now is, where is the president going to be in the next one?  Right?  Because he said to Chuck Todd, you know, who obviously works here, at some point that he was itching for a fight at some point, when Chuck pressed him on that a little while back, after they did the big tax cuts back in December.  Right? 

Obviously, based on what you‘re saying and based on what a lot of people are saying, this was not the big fight.  The president gave more than Boehner originally asked for. 

So, do we have any indication that the next time around is the time that when President Obama will fight, or do we not have an indication of that? 

KLEIN:  You can argue it both ways.  We don‘t really have a strong indication.

The White House will tell you a couple things.  They‘ll tell you they got good cuts mainly in this deal, that they did a better job than many people expected, getting a lot of those cuts out of what are called mandatory spending.  It didn‘t all come from that non-defense discretionary bucket.  The next time is the debt ceiling. 

If you don‘t raise ceiling, the economy essentially goes into a tailspin.  So, there are, on the one hand, much, much higher consequences for the Republicans to try and hold this hostage.  On the other, the president may like the occasional fight.  If he says so, I trust him on that.  But he doesn‘t like to allow consequences to come to fruition. 

He didn‘t want the Bush tax cuts to increase, even if that was the showdown he needed to get his preferred Bush tax cut compromise in there.  He didn‘t want the government to shut down, and he‘s really not going to want the debt ceiling to expire. 

So, one question for both him and for the Republicans is, if no one is willing to let this happen, then what is the nature of the negotiation that keeps it from happening?  If no one, in the end, really has that leverage, if no one is willing to admit they have the leverage they want to say they have, then why should anybody listen to the other side when they say they‘re going to let the debt ceiling actually expire? 

UYGUR:  See, but I think that gets to a critical question, because who is going to blink? 

Now, in reality, the Republicans are actually, in my opinion, controlled by the Chamber of Commerce.  The Chamber of Commerce did not want to shut down, so they weren‘t really going to go for a shutdown, they were just playing poker.  And the Chamber of Commerce certainly does not want us to not raise the debt ceiling, because that would have tremendous problems for the economy.

So I think you‘re right, the Republicans ultimately do want a deal, right?  Because that‘s their main donors.  The president wants a deal.  But when we‘ve seen these showdowns in the past, am I wrong in thinking that the Democrats are usually the ones that blink?  And again, any indication from the president that this time around he will not blink, he will force the Republicans to the table? 

KLEIN:  You know sometimes people say that in negotiations, so-and-so is an ace card.  Boehner has a joker.  Boehner has the Tea Party, Republicans, the freshmen, however he is referring to them this week.  And he says listen, you know I don‘t want this shutdown, you know my donors don‘t want the shutdown, the people I care about don‘t want the shutdown, and I don‘t think the shutdown is a good idea.  I‘ve been clear about that over and over and over again.  But you also know I can‘t control these freshmen, these Tea Party conservatives, whatever it might be, so trust me when I say I would like to cut a deal with you, but unless you give my something I can give to them, I can‘t do it. 

At the end of the day, the Republicans have the capacity to make a more credible threat that their people will let the government default on its debt.  The Democrats, Obama, do not have that threat.  So, the question then becomes whether or not the threat of what the Republicans would suffer if they allowed the Republicans to default on its debt, whether or not that outweighs their desire to try to negotiate a very large deal. 

So far, Michele Bachmann and others have said this is going to be the big battle.  Kay Bailey Hutchison called it Armageddon.  So, I think it‘s going to be very difficult for Boehner to come to the table and not walk away with something very significant.

UYGUR:  But Ezra—

KLEIN:  At the same time, what they got in the shutdown deal was not that significant.  And for Obama—and it‘s very unlikely, I think, that Obama is going to give up a whole lot more than that. 

UYGUR:  Right.  Now, Ezra, final thing, real quick here, based on what you‘re saying, what Congressman DeFazio said just a little while ago is all the more important.  If there‘s a real credible progressive caucus that says no to the president, which they haven‘t really effectively done yet, if they can do that, doesn‘t that give the Democrats something to go back to Boehner and go, well, I can‘t get my guys to vote yes, either, so sad day for you, we‘re really going to actually have to come to the middle here? 

KLEIN:  Arguably.  I think these things are always difficult when they play out.  And we saw some of this during health care reform.

And you have to balance out all sorts of different things about what would happen if, God forbid, we actually did default on the deficit and the economy went into a tailspin.  At the end of the day, the problem for the House progressives is that they‘re actually too responsible to let that happen.  So I don‘t know if that threat ends up being as credible as it sort of sounds at the beginning of a negotiation like this one, but what --  


UYGUR:  So, Ezra, though, but the bottom line is you‘re saying you‘re playing a game of chicken and the other side is crazier.  So you‘re never going to win. 

KLEIN:  Well, that sometimes is a game you‘re playing.  When you control most of the government and the other side is more willing to let things go bad than you are, you end up sometimes having to eat more than they do. 

UYGUR:  All right.  Well, let‘s see how it turns out.  It certainly is interesting.

Ezra, thank you.

KLEIN:  Thank you.

UYGUR:  We appreciate your insight into this. 

UYGUR:  All right.

Now, next, the fight over taxes is about to heat up again.  President Obama will reportedly call for hikes on the rich this week.  And this time I hope he means business. 

Robert Reich joins us on real shared sacrifice and how it has worked before for America.  That‘s a very interesting conversation. 

And Mitt Romney releases this riveting video announcing his exploratory committee.  Can you feel the excitement coming through your TV screen? 

And Sarah Palin is back on the birther bandwagon.   No wonder we‘re learning Republicans are freaking out about their potential 2012 field. 


UYGUR:  President Obama‘s plan for reducing the deficit will introduce a topic that‘s sure to make last week‘s wrangling seem like a love-fest.  That‘s because Obama‘s expected to call for tax increases for the wealthiest Americans, and they‘re not going to like that. 

And that‘s a problem for Republicans, because they think our lopsided tax system is fair.  In fact, they think it should be more lopsided.  They‘re proposing massive tax cuts.  Again.  That‘s on top of the Bush tax cuts.

Just listen to Speaker Boehner. 


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE SPEAKER:  Washington has a spending problem.  It doesn‘t have a revenue problem. 


UYGUR:  They always say that, and it‘s just an assumption.  But it‘s nowhere near reality.  The reality is that we have a massive revenue problem.

But undeterred by reality, Paul Ryan‘s plan would lower the top tax rates for individuals and corporations from 35 percent to 25 percent.  The plan would bring the tax rate on high earners down to its lowest level since 1931.  And the Tax Policy Center puts the revenue lost from a Ryan‘s plan to $2.9 trillion over the next decade.  That doesn‘t help the deficit.  It hurts the deficit by 2.9 trillion.  You know what?  That money has got to come from somewhere.  How do you think they make up for it?  By taking it from the poor and the middle class, of course.  Look at this graphic from Robert Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.  He shows that two thirds of the spending cuts come from programs that help lower-income Americans, programs like Medicaid, food stamps and low-income housing.  Now, that doesn‘t sound like shared sacrifice to me, so how does the GOP spin this one?


UNIDENTIFIED MAN:  We‘re in a situation where we‘ve got a safety net in place in this country for people who frankly don‘t need one.  We have to focus on making sure we have a safety net for those who actually need it.  


UYGUR:  That‘s amazing, now I might be wrong, but by cutting Medicare and Medicaid, the GOP is actually taking away the safety net away from people who do need it to create a safety net for the people who don‘t need it, but this is GOP 101.  They are constantly trying to rig the system for the rich.  Remember, just this December, the Bush tax cuts were extended for two more years.  It cost the government $900 billion.  And a quarter of those savings went to the top one percent of Americans.  Let me just repeat that.  Top one percent of the country. 

Quarter of $900 billion, and now they say they got to have spending cuts from you.  But by increasing the tax rate on the rich, of course, it could ease the pressure to make the sort of cuts that Paul Ryan is suggesting, and it‘s not unprecedented.  Look at his graph, it shows that the top marginal tax rate was 50 percent in the mid 1980s, when Ronald Reagan was president, and much, much higher in the 1950s, the golden age of America.  And remember when President Clinton had the higher rates?  We created 22 million jobs. 

Joining me now is former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich, he‘s now professor at UC Berkeley.  His latest book is “Aftershock,” and is now available on paper back.  Look at that. 

All right.  Secretary Reich, first of all, is the team in Obama administration misreading the Clinton legacy?  Is there something that you know, because they are saying, OK, we have to be centrist like you guys were, is there something wrong with that?  Or do they have it right?

ROBERT REICH, FORMER LABOR SECRETARY:  Well, the big thing wrong with it Cenk, is that this is not like the mid 1990s.  A lot of people are hurting, we are still in the gravitational pull of the great recession, it‘s very difficult to get out.  We‘ve got, you know, 13 and a half million people unemployed.  We‘ve got six million people who have been unemployed for six months or more.  You know, the economy is not buoyant.  I mean, you don‘t have to be a rocket scientist or have a Ph D to understand that this economy is really in trouble.  And if we actually make major cuts in programs that are important to the middle class and to the poor, make major cuts overall, we‘re going to be actually slowing economic growth down and slowing the creation of new jobs.  

UYGUR:  And I love the point you made in one of your articles, where you said, look, the reason Clinton got reelected was because we were creating 400,000 jobs a month.  Not be because Washington thought he was more centrist.  And I think that‘s a really available lesson.  But to the point on taxes, we can also talk about the Clinton experience there.  Now, there was a higher tax rate for everybody, for the rich, but also for the rest of us.  It did create 22 million jobs.  Is that the right way to go here?  Should President Obama go further and say, hey, we just got to go back to those rates, period?

REICH:  Look it, I don‘t think there‘s any choice, Cenk.  I mean, most Americans in polls show that they are in favor of a millionaire‘s tax.  They know, they‘re not stupid, they understand that the alternative, the only   alternative of cutting Social Security and Medicare and education and roads and bridges, and everything we need is to raise taxes, and most people can‘t afford to pay more in taxes, as so who can‘t afford to pay more in taxes?  The rich who have been getting a steadily larger percent of total income in this country.  Look back over the past 30 years, you know, the people around the top one percent, they doubled their share of national income.  Doubled.  If you‘re in the top one-tenth of one percent by income, you‘ve tripled your share of national income.  And yet through that whole period, your tax rates, and I‘m talking about income taxes, estate taxes, capital gains taxes, those tax rates keep on going down.  

UYGUR:  You know on Friday‘s show, we showed people a piece from Bloomberg business week that showed for the top 400 earners in the country, their effective tax rate has gone down to 17 percent, which is a lot less than what we pay, which is unbelievable, right?  And now. 

REICH:  That‘s main by. 

UYGUR:  And let me just also add to that, they‘re doing better and better.  The top CEOs, their pay went up this year by 12 percent.  And now the average, you know, CEO for the top 200 major companies makes $9.6 million.  It‘s absurd to say that they can‘t pay the tax.  


REICH:  Of course it‘s absurd.  Look, I think it‘s a matter of patriotism here as well.  Cenk, if you were taking home a bigger and bigger slice of the economy and you‘re paying less and less in terms of your tax rates, and you‘re imposing the costs on everybody else.  Well, are you really being patriotic?  Are you really fulfilling your responsibility to this country?  I would say possibly no.  I mean, Wall Street is doing better than ever.  As you said, CEOs are doing better than they were doing before the recession, but most Americans are doing worse than they were doing before, and they are certainly in trouble—we are in a financial crisis right now, we‘re in an economic crisis, and the rich have to pay their fair share.  

UYGUR:  Secretary Reich, one last quick thing, maybe if we just ask them in the form of a trick question.  If we asked the Republicans, would you be willing to agree to the tax rate, that the last republican president who balances the budget had, maybe they would go for that, and of course the answer to that is Dwight Eisenhower, and what was his tax rate?  Was it 90 percent, 91 percent?

REICH:  Well, it‘s 90, the marginal tax rates on top comes under the Dwight Eisenhower administration, and nobody would have accused Dwight Eisenhower, a republican, former general, of being a socialist, the top  marginal income tax rate under Dwight Eisenhower was 91 percent.  And the economy did well.  In fact it was doing better in the three decades after the Second World War than it‘s been doing over the past decade.  

UYGUR:  You know, Rachel Maddow once said that she is a liberal, which means that she pretty much agrees with the Eisenhower administration, right?

REICH:  Who would have known?  Who would have known?

UYGUR:  That‘s how much the spectrum has shifted in this country.  But Secretary Reich, we always enjoy the conversation.  Thank you for joining us tonight.  

REICH:  Thanks, Cenk.  Bye-bye.  

UYGUR:  All right.  Now, a new report shows Republicans getting frustrated about their weak 2012 candidates.  Now they want more options.  Now, why do they think their current crop of leaders are so bad? We‘ll discuss that next.  Plus, our con job of the day.   


UYGUR:  It‘s time for the con job of the day, one of my favorite segments.  Now, it‘s a flip-flop from Republican Congressman Mike Pence.  Last week, Republicans were howling about defunding Planned Parenthood as part of the budget fight.  Indiana Republican Mike Pence even saying on “Morning Joe,” it was a deal breaker. 


WILLIE GEIST, CO-HOST, “MORNING JOE”:  Are you willing to hold up this entire budget over defunding Planned Parenthood?

REP. MIKE PENCE ®, INDIANA:  Well, of course I am.  


UYGUR:  Of course, he is, but after the budget deal came through without the Planned Parenthood rider, Pence had a very different take on the whole thing.  


PENCE:  It‘s nonsense to say that Republicans were willing to shut down the government over this. 


UYGUR:  The same nonsense he had said just a couple days ago.  So, on Tuesday defunding Planned Parenthood was important enough to shut down the government, but on Sunday it was nonsense to say that.  Look, I know it by fast.  Let‘s just be sure that we heard it right.  Let‘s watch again. 


GEIST:  Are you willing to hold up this entire budget over defunding Planned Parenthood?

PENCE:  Well, of course I am.  

It‘s nonsense to say that Republicans were willing to shut down the government over this. 


UYGUR:  That was so much fun.  I want to do it one more time. 


PENCE:  Of course I am.  It‘s nonsense.  Of course I am.  It‘s nonsense.  Of course I am.  It‘s nonsense.  


UYGUR:  I‘m trying to figure out if the con job was his original statement or second statement, or the whole thing where they pretended to care about those riders and get more money out of the administration.  Either way, it‘s definitely the con job of that day. 

All right.  Now, Mitt Romney takes a big step closer to running, but Republicans are less than excited about it, I‘ll tell you why they‘re freaking out about their potential 2012 candidates.  And Michele Bachmann is in Iowa today and she sees a bad company.  What was she doing speaking to a group whose leader has bashed gays?     


UYGUR:  It‘s a tough year for Mitt Romney to run for president.  The majority of the GOP is pushing to repeal a health care law that is almost identical to the one Romney signed five years ago tomorrow actually, as  governor of Massachusetts.  Nevertheless, today Romney officially announced his presidential exploratory committee. 

GOV. MITT ROMNEY ®, MASSACHUSETTS:  President Obama‘s policies have failed.  He and virtually all the people around him had never worked in the real economy.  They just don‘t know how jobs are created in the private sector.  That‘s where I spent my entire career, with able leadership, America‘s best days are still ahead.  That‘s why today, I am announcing my exploratory committee for the presidency of the United States.  It‘s time that we put America back on a course of greatness.

UYGUR:  Yes, OK.  All right.  Well, as scintillating as that was, and it was really riveting, Politico is reporting that Republicans are in Congress were actually increasingly unhappy about those parties 2012 prospects.  California Congressman David Dreier told Politico, “Everybody is looking for a Ronald Reagan and they don‘t see one,” always looking for Reagan.  I‘ve got news for them, but anyway, West Virginia Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito said, there‘s no clear for honor, and there‘s some frustration out there.  And Congressman Charlie Dent from Pennsylvania but even more blog, saying, “People back home want to see more options.”  But there‘s enthusiasm among republican voters for some of the candidates, but that enthusiasm is tilted toward the extreme right.  Donald Trump has breathed new life into the absurd birther movement and has been rising in the polls, which may have inspired Sarah Palin to rethink her position on the president‘s birth certificate.  Now, remember, at an event back in February, she dismissed the issue. 


SARAH PALIN, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR:  The birth certificate, you know, others can engage in that kind of conversation.  It‘s distracting, it gets annoying, and let‘s just sticks with what really matters.  


UYGUR:  But now that it‘s worked for Trump, he was leading a recent poll among Tea Partiers if you remember, and second among all Republicans, all of a sudden, Palin is reconsidering the birther strategy.  Here she is on FOX News this weekend backing up Trump‘s investigation.  


PALIN:  I appreciate that the Donald wants to spend his resources in getting to the bottom of something that‘s so interests him and many Americans.  I think that he was born in Hawaii, because there was a birth announcement put in the newspaper, but obviously if there‘s something there that the president doesn‘t want people to see on that birth certificate that, you know, he seems going to great lengths to make sure that it isn‘t shown.  And that‘s kind of perplexing for a lot of people.  


UYGUR:  What was perplexing is that it‘s been online for three years and you still haven‘t looked at it.  But all right.  So, while Palin‘s hopping on the birther bandwagon, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is in Iowa working the homophobic crowd.  Today, she spoke to the Iowa family leader, that‘s an extreme antigay group, the head of this group recently told Think Progress, he thinks homosexuality is a public health risk comparable to smoking.  


UNIDENTIFIED MAN:  We‘re teaching the kids as an adult don‘t smoke, because that‘s a risky health lifestyle, the same can be true, too, with the homosexual... 


UYGUR:  The group says that homosexuality is worse than second hand smoke.  Can you also catch it that way?  You never know with these crazy people what they think.  

All right.  By the way, Bachmann is not the only 2012 hopeful cozying up to that same group.  Ron Paul appeared their yesterday, I‘m sorry, today, I should say.  Tim Pawlenty has spoken to them.  Rick Santorum, Herman King and Newt Gingrich are all scheduled to address the group soon.  Do ain‘t this guy have a winning strategy, or congressional Republicans right to be concerned. 

Joining me now is Slate political reporter and MSNBC contributor David Weigel, I think Ron Paul spoke to them earlier by the way, I should be clear on that, but Dave, nice to have you here. 


UYGUR:  Now, first, let‘s start on Bachmann.  



WEIGEL:  You don‘t seem too disappointed after a start with Bachmann, but let‘s go.  

UYGUR:  All right.  Let‘s do it.  I can‘t wait.  All right.  So, she‘s going to appeal to this antigay group.  You know, do you remember the story of how she hit in the bushes once and jumped out at a gay rally?  She was spying in on them, I mean, this sounds like crazy stuff.  But is it possible that it will work, and social conservatives in Iowa, et cetera, will love this?  And have her, you know, win Iowa, possibly?

WEIGEL:  Well, a lot of times that‘s what Iowa republican caucus-goers want.  This might be a little different, because there‘s not a contest the democratic race this time, and, you know, maybe some more independents will show up with their caucuses, but if you look at who‘s won in the past, you know, Mike Huckabee won 2008, you know, Pat Robertson did very well in 1988.  Alan Keyes did very well in 2000 and he didn‘t win.  There‘s a big contingent of social conservatives who can‘t win elsewhere, but they‘ll make their stand in Iowa. 

And that, I think it‘s complicating the strategies of the couple of candidates who polled better than her.  Let‘s forget whether we should take them seriously, but, you know, Mitt Romney actually polls very well compared to Barack Obama.  Tim Pawlenty, as generic republican, as you get, if we talk about generic Republicans, generic republican does pretty well against Barack Obama.  So, there road becomes, you know, torn here because of this, that‘s the problem. 

UYGUR:  Right.  They don‘t do as well though when they take these extreme positions, and they might have to take extreme positions to win an Iowa or perhaps South Carolina, so that‘s a structural problem for the Republicans.  Now, speaking of Mitt Romney, let‘s go to him, not only released that ad, but he also has a new slogan I guess or logo.  And I think, as you guys pointed out in “Slate,” it looks amazingly like aqua fresh.  Is that a mistake on his part?  Or he just saying, you know, what?  I am so missed corporate America, but I‘ll just take a corporate logo and put it on as my logo.  

WEIGEL:  Well, I guess, if a campaign comes out, and all that we can say about them is that their logo looks like something that you would whiten your teeth with, then they‘re doing OK.  I mean, his video I thought was, you know, two-and-a-half minutes of man to camera monologue.  It was kind of the anti-Pawlenty video.  That was, his videos are kind of Michael base style, this is sort of more Indie movie Louis Malle (ph) style.  I thought this is, everyone knows what they‘re getting with Mitt Romney.  He‘s the guy who came in basically second in 2008.  He was a good soldier who dropped out early. 

So, for whatever reason, kind of like Reagan in 1980 or even Bush in 2000, he feels like he can come in kind of slow, kind of safe, make fun of him, sure, but he‘s going to blow it for run-away in fund-raising, next time.  I don‘t know though, I mean, we were just talking about these candidates who don‘t have national t.o. but it feel—debates.  I don‘t know how he beats them on a couple of issues that they‘re passionate about like health care.  

UYGUR:  Yes.  And that‘s going to be a major problem for him.  If he can get beyond that, he‘s in better shape.  

Just real quick, David Plouffe was making fun of Donald Trump and the whole birther movement saying, I hope he has momentum on the polls, what is Sarah Palin doing here?  Is she just trying to get media attention?  You know, to sell her next reality show?  Or does she think this is a winning strategy?

WEIGEL:  You know, polling on this keeps going back and forth.  I mean, kind of surprisingly to me, because I was reporting on some of these birth rumors three years ago and thought they might fade after a couple of years of the guy being president.  It‘s still 20-some percent of the country who believe there‘s reading doubt, Cenk, the Republican Party.  So, this is kind of what we‘re getting at before.  As long as these candidates are going for part of the republican base, there‘s things they might indulge in that are not going to play well at he rest of the country.  This one, I mean, Palin has actually been falling precipitously in polls since November 2010, and really since January, when she kind of, you know, mangled and was a little bit too self-serving in her handling of the Tucson shooting response.  It was complicated to get into it.  She‘s fallen very low, I mean, beyond unelectable low.  She loses to Barack Obama in states where I don‘t think he could land without being protested.  

UYGUR:  So, she‘s desperate basically because she‘s fall as the old commercial in the ‘80s used to say, she‘s falling and she can‘t get up. 

WEIGEL:  Yes.  And if she can‘t run and beat him.  She can at least mock him and kind of bring down the tone of conversation, which is something she‘s proven to be pretty good at.  

UYGUR:  OK.  Well, congratulations to her.  All right.  David Weigel, thank you for your time tonight.  

WEIGEL:  Thank you.

UYGUR:  We appreciate it.

Next, the shutdown showdown is over for now, but Boehner and the Republicans think they scored a big win, but who won this fight in a long run.  That‘s the debate we‘re going to have next.                


UYGUR:  Some are saying that President Obama got rooked by the Republicans in the last budget battle, but some are saying no, he actually played it really well.  Well, we‘ll going to have both sides of that conversation when we return. 


UYGUR:  Now, let‘s take a look at the big picture coming out of budget battle.  Who won and who lost?  And what does it mean for the next showdown?  Now, think about this, Republicans ended up getting $78.5 billion in cuts, but back in February they were pushing for just $72 billion in cuts.  And at the time, Harry Reid called that extreme. 


SEN. HARRY REID (D), NEVADA:  The chairman of the Budget Committee today, today, send us something even more draconian than we had originally anticipated.  


UYGUR:  So, Harry Reid and the Democrats ended up giving away $6.5 billion more than the initial draconian republican plan even called for.  And that sounds like a pretty big loss, right?  But Senator Reid declared victory yesterday, saying that they were proud to have gotten this deal, and that the cuts were historical.  And once again, this weekend, President Obama Senior Advisor David Plouffe conceded that, yes, the cuts that the Republicans forced Democrats to swallow were brutal.  


DAVID PLOUFFE, PRESIDENT OBAMA SENIOR ADVISOR:  Well, some of the cuts were draconian.  Because it‘s not just the number.  It‘s what composes the number. 


UYGUR:  But the Obama administration argues the cuts could have been even worse.  They say Democrats were able to save some programs that Republicans tried to put on the chopping block.  Meantime, there are also big questions on the republican side.  True, they got even more than the $72 billion that they originally wanted, but some other riders especially Tea Partier say, it‘s still not good enough. 


UNIDENTIFIED MAN:  From what I know, it sounds like John Boehner got a good deal, probably not good enough for me to support it. 


UYGUR:  And Michele Bachmann wrote on Friday, quote, “the deal that was reached tonight is a disappointment for me and for millions of Americans who expected $100 billion in cuts.”  And sure enough, republican leaders are already bending to that pressure from the far right, and positioning themselves for a much bigger fight ahead. 


REP. JOHN BOEHNER ®, HOUSE SPEAKER:  This is just the first step, the first step is what has to be a lot of steps.  And if the president won‘t lead, we will. 


UYGUR:  In other words, Republicans are getting ready to seriously target what they call entitlements, just as Paul Ryan called for.  But that‘s a move that could backfire on them. 

I want to bring in two people to talk about that, Paul Waldman, he‘s a senior correspondent from “The American Prospect.”  In his new article, he warns Democrats should brace for pain in the upcoming spending fights, also, with me is MSNBC political analyst, Karen Finney, former spokesperson for the democratic national committee.  All right.  First, let me start with you, Paul.  I get the sense that you didn‘t think that what Obama and the Democrats accomplished in this fight was really a victory.  

PAUL WALDMAN, “THE AMERICAN PROSPECT”:  Well, we still don‘t know all the details of exactly what is being cut.  But the thing that was disconcerting to a lot of people was when, afterwards on Friday night, President Obama came out and hailed the cuts as historic, the largest budget cuts in history.  The problem with that is, that it then sets the context for the next battles, the battle over the debt ceiling and the battle over the 2012 budget, and what it‘s saying is essentially that cutting government spending is what we ought to be doing even in a shaky recovery. 

And the problem with that is that most liberals, including most economists believe it, that‘s not what we ought to be doing, we ought to be actually be spending more when we‘re in the economic situation we‘re in now.  But, it‘s a case where the president has kind of accepted the presumption that the Republicans are working from, and the problem could then be when we get to the next battle once again, we‘re not going to be arguing over whether we should cut, but just how much we should cut.  

UYGUR:  Karen, is that a problem in framing, or are we missing something about the Obama strategy?

KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Now, well, I don‘t yet know if we‘re missing about the Obama strategy, now I was trying to sort of take that back and think about the bigger picture and see if there‘s some angle that the rest of us are quite seeing here.  Certainly, with regard of framing, the battle should have been, look, we all agree that cuts need to be made, but where and how is really what we‘re fighting over.  They tried to make that argument but they didn‘t stand up for that argument.  I think it‘s strongly as they could have, and then at the end, they kind of came in and really made it a tough argument. 

That being said, if you take a step back, I suppose there‘s one school of thought that says, there will be implications of these cuts that we can then point to and say, this is what the Republicans will do.  If you give them the White House, if they get full control back of the House and Senate, this is the kind of thing they will do versus what we want to do, which is, yes, we need to rein in the debt, but we don‘t want to do it on the backs of poor people in the middle class.  Hey, but that‘s the best I can come up with.  

UYGUR:  OK.  I appreciate you trying, but isn‘t it tough to make that argument when you agree with them on the cuts, you know, whether it‘s a spending cuts they disagreed to or the cuts that they agreed to earlier? 

FINNEY:  Well, sure, I mean, look, I think what‘s important though is that coming up to the next set of battles, Democrats need to very clearly, let‘s take a lesson from Wisconsin, let‘s take a lesson from even last week where people in America were enraged that the idea of cutting women‘s health care and clean water, make it simple, make it straightforward and really delineate what it is that we stand for and that Democrats are opposed to, versus the Republicans and stop letting the Republicans get ahead of the game on it. 

UYGUR:  You know, Paul, no matter what you think of the democratic strategy, the Republican Strategy may have some significant problems.  I want to give you a quote from Charlie Cook, he wrote for the National Journal, quote, “Most voters want to see the federal budget balanced and spending cut.  However, they don‘t want Social Security or Medicare or Medicaid touched.  House Republicans are not just pushing the envelope, they‘re soaking it with lighter fluid and waving a match at it.  So, he thinks the Republicans might be in a lot of trouble with their strategy.”  So, did the president set them up to be in this kind of trouble by overreaching?

WALDMAN:  Well, possibly.  It‘s important for Democrats when they talk about this to make it concrete, to talk about what‘s really going to happen.  And I think that the outcome of the debt ceiling argument is one that is really, really important.  Today, this afternoon, the White House came out and made what was essentially their opening bid, saying, they wanted a clean bill on the debt ceiling, one not loaded down with more cuts and policy riders, which is what Republicans want to do.  It‘s really important for them to hold to that position.  Because, you know, we‘re going to have to raise the debt ceiling, everybody understands it, the budget deficit is not going to go to zero this year, and what Republicans are engaged in when they‘re saying that we‘re going to allow the United States government to default on its loans unless we get the things we want.

I mean, you know, this may sound extreme, but that‘s almost economic terrorism.  And so, it‘s really important for the White House to say, you know, we‘re not going to negotiate about that, we‘re not going to, you know, potentially send the entire global economy into a tailspin.  If you want to have an argument about the budget, we can do it in the fall over the 2012 budget, but it will be really telling as to whether or not the White House stands firm on this idea that the debt ceiling should be a vote in and of itself up or down without anything that passed to it. 

UYGUR:  Yes.  All right.  Paul Waldman and Karen Finney, great conversation.  Thank you so much both. 

WALDMAN:  Thanks.  

UYGUR:  All right.  We‘re going to come right back, and tell you what it means to be a liberal.


UYGUR:  We‘ve been talking a lot about the budget battle today, and I know what the president‘s strategy was.  He wanted to stay above the fray.  And look, that makes some sense in certain contexts.  You have a president that says, all right, Democrats want this, Republicans want that, and I‘m going to bring them together, I‘m going to bring the country together.  But sometimes we need a leader who is in the middle of the fray, who is a strong leader that says, this is what I stand for.  And I want to tell you a quick story of someone who was on my show, “The Young Turks,” sometime back, he‘s an actor and comedian named Rick Overton.  And he told him an amazing story about his dad.  He said, his dad fought the Nazis, and was a really proud and strong liberal and told them what a real liberal does. 

And he said, you know, his dad—he said, you put the women and children behind you, and if you‘re in a war, you put the weak and the wounded behind you, and you say, you grab a gun, and you stand a post and you say, I will protect you.  That‘s what it means to be a liberal.  And I was blown away by that.  I love that definition.  Now, that was in the context of war, in the context of this political battle, we still need someone to stand a post and be a strong leader and say, these are cuts I am not willing to make for the most disadvantaged or for the middle class.  And it‘s refreshing to have that kind of strong leader from time to time. 

And that is what we believe we elected in President Obama.  So, I think of Rick Overton and his dad every once in a while and what it means to be a liberal and what it means to be a strong leader.  And I hope the president knows that, because what we‘ve got next is a really important battle, that‘s the battle we‘ve been telling you about all day today.  It‘s about trillions of dollars, it‘s about our values.  And I really hope the president hears that story and thinks, I‘m ready to stand that post. 

All right.  Thank you for watching this show today everybody.  And you can always of course, follow me online at, also,  Facebook, TYT Nation,  You can find us anywhere.  “HARDBALL” starts right now.

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