Guests: Michael Isikoff, Richard Wolffe, Ezra Klein, Ed Markey, Bob Cavnar
CENK UYGUR, HOST: Good evening, everybody. I‘m Cenk Uygur.
Tonight, we‘re going to show you parts of a blockbuster interview with Donald Trump that have not been broadcast before, and it‘s good.
NBC‘s national investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff sat down with Trump and questioned him about his business dealings. We‘ll talk to Isikoff in just a few moments about his great interview that finally forced Trump to address the truth about his real record in business.
The questions went to the heart of the very thing that Trump claims makes him a credible candidate—his business success.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, NBC NEWS INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: You have clearly had some big successes in the business world, but you‘ve also had some big failures. And let‘s go straight—
DONALD TRUMP, ENTREPRENEUR: No, I don‘t think I have had big failures. Donald Trump has always been very, very successful. And so when you say failures, I don‘t think I have had failures. But let‘s go ahead. Ask me about a couple.
ISIKOFF: OK. Trump Hotels and Casinos filed for bankruptcy protection three times in six years.
TRUMP: OK. Let me explain that to you. Very simple.
ISIKOFF: Isn‘t that a failure?
TRUMP: Not really. I mean, look, it worked out very well for me, it was successful. I then levered (ph) the company, I took it public. So I had a relatively small piece of the company. And what happened is—
ISIKOFF: Wait a second. You were chairman of the board. You were chairman of the board.
TRUMP: Excuse me. I was chairman, but I didn‘t run the company. I had nothing to do with running the company. Management ran the company.
ISIKOFF: You were paid $2 million a year.
TRUMP: Excuse me. I didn‘t run the company. I‘m just telling you.
ISIKOFF: So what were you paid $2 million a year for?
TRUMP: Excuse of my genius. OK?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: “Excuse me.” Excuse me.”
Genius. He had three bankruptcy filings in six years for Trump Hotel and Casinos. Genius?
But that‘s just the beginning. Trump‘s habit of slapping his name on other people‘s products has also landed him in court.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ISIKOFF: There are also some ongoing lawsuits in which investors in Trump projects are suing you, claiming they were deceived. They thought they were buying into a Trump project and discovered it was only a licensing deal.
Trump Tower, Tampa, you were down there for the ground breaking. You said this was going to be a spectacular project that was going to redefine Tampa‘s skyline. In fact, you weren‘t an investor in the project at all, and it‘s never been built.
TRUMP: It was just a licensing deal. I was not the developer of those sites. I licensed the name “Trump” to those buildings.
In case you haven‘t heard, there was a market collapse. And these people did better than most other people in Florida because they got some of their money back and they may get more of it back.
ISIKOFF: They‘re still suing you.
TRUMP: Well, yes, I think it‘s working out very nicely. I think it‘s working out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: I‘m not sure the investors would agree. That‘s why they‘re in court. But it does look like these deals do work out for one guy at the end—Donald Trump.
Now, he has a theory as to why that is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ISIKOFF: Do you think it‘s fair to say that sometimes you exaggerate?
TRUMP: I don‘t think I exaggerate any more than anybody else. I think that I have a great grasp of numbers. I have a great grasp of values.
I‘m worth many, many billions of dollars. You may very well be impressed, even you, with all your negative questions about very small things.
ISIKOFF: Even one of your friends said that your real genius is for self-promotion. You are a modern day P.T. Barnum.
TRUMP: Well, I think my real genius is not actually in promotion. I think I build a great product, great locations, and everybody says, oh, gee, what a great salesman he is. It‘s this. It‘s not my salesmanship.
ISIKOFF: It‘s what?
TRUMP: This. Do you know what that is? Brain power.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: What do you think is stronger, Trump‘s brain power or Charlie Sheen‘s tiger blood? I wish Isikoff would have asked him that.
All right. Well, actually, let‘s bring in NBC‘s national investigative correspondent, Michael Isikoff.
Michael, you asked him plenty of other things. It seemed a bit contentious.
ISIKOFF: Sorry I hadn‘t thought of that one, but I will next time.
So, now, he said at the end there, you, with your negative questions about small things. How contentious was this?
ISIKOFF: He got pretty prickly, as you can see from that interview. And I don‘t think he appreciated being challenged on some of his spin on some of what have clearly been business failures.
But, you know, bizarrely, the thing he got most exercised about is what his net worth is. I cited “Forbes” magazine estimate of $2.4 billion to him, and he corrected me. He said no, no, “Forbes:” has more recently, in its international edition, upped it to $2.7 billion.
ISIKOFF: And, of course, he claims it‘s about $7 billion. We won‘t really know for sure unless he, A, declares for president and then fills out that financial disclosure form.
UYGUR: Michael, we have that piece of the video. I love it, so I want to make sure that everybody sees it. Let‘s run that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ISIKOFF: How much are you worth?
TRUMP: A lot of money, and you may very well see that number in about 70 days or 80 days.
“Forbes” said $2.7 billion. And $2.7 billion is very low. It‘s much lower than the actual number that I may be showing to people and to the rest of the world in a couple of months.
If I run shortly thereafter, I will send a statement of financials and cash, and how much debt and all that. And I think people are going to be very impressed. It‘s actually much bigger than any numbers I have seen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Other than being generally unbearable, bragging about his wealth, you know, it‘s a little hard to believe him. And I think that he‘s actually not going to run for that specific reason. I don‘t think he wants the world to know what he is actually worth.
ISIKOFF: That is certainly one theory out there. You know, there was a “New York Times” reporter, Tim O‘Brien, who wrote a book a few years ago, who talked to some sources who suggested Trump was really only worth a couple of hundred million dollars.
Trump sued Tim O‘Brien, the reporter, for defamation, claiming to be called a multimillionaire rather than a multibillionaire had somehow defamed his reputation. The lawsuit got tossed out of court and Trump then appealed.
And, in fact, the appellate argument was heard only a couple weeks ago in a Jersey City courtroom. Trump showed up and was slipping notes to his lawyers.
He clearly is very exercised about this issue. But will we ultimately see that document that lays out his wealth? We‘re going to know very shortly, but that‘s something he‘s going to have to do if he goes through with this presidential run.
UYGUR: Yes. I don‘t believe he‘s going to do it at all. I would be shocked. But we‘ll see if Donald can shock us.
But, you know, you had another great part of this interview about Trump University, which was great. I just want to run that for anybody and then come back and ask you about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ISIKOFF: Why did you call it a university?
TRUMP: Because we didn‘t know there was any rules or regulations about using the name “university.”
ISIKOFF: You didn‘t check that out?
TRUMP: I think probably they felt that we would have qualified. If we didn‘t qualify, that‘s fine. We changed the name.
ISIKOFF: And people would pay money to hear you?
TRUMP: Sure, they‘d pay money. Why, am I supposed to do it for free?
ISIKOFF: People have to pay, as I understand it, up to $35,000 for the gold seminars.
TRUMP: And they did. There‘s very little problem with Trump University. There‘s very little—I think we had one or two little lawsuits out of thousands of people that went through it.
We have one or two little lawsuits. There‘s one in California, a little lawsuit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Just a little lawsuit. He seems to be involved in a lot of little lawsuits, but what was this? Was this a real university, did it have classes, professors, or --
ISIKOFF: It‘s not a real university in the sense you and I would understand it. It was basically a series of seminars.
The first thing they ask you to do, according to some of the students who went through it, is up the limit on your credit card to $35,000 so you can then afford the gold seminar in which you really learn the secrets of Donald Trump‘s‘ success and learn how to become a millionaire.
State regulators all over the country have gotten complaints about this. There is a class action lawsuit being filed by former students in California. And as we reported in the piece last night, the Texas Attorney General‘s Office had opened up an investigation into possible deceptive trade practices against Trump University, and only dropped it after Trump University told the state Attorney General‘s Office they would stop doing business in Texas. In effect, they dropped out of Texas entirely.
UYGUR: All right. Michael, stay with us, actually.
I want to bring in MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe to talk about this, too.
Richard, great having you here.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Thanks, Cenk.
UYGUR: All right. Two of the guys that I have talked to the longest probably in my career.
All right. So, Richard, talk to us about the political implications here. I mean, the main selling point of Trump seems to be, I‘m a great businessman. If there‘s some problems with that, is there big problems in his credibility as a politician?
WOLFFE: Well, to any reasonable person, if you piece together Mike‘s interview with Savannah‘s interview the other day, you have someone who isn‘t prepared on policy and doesn‘t have much of a business record. But that‘s actually not what his main platform is here.
His main platform is to be outrageous and to speak to that part of the Republican Party that wants something more and more extreme. In short, they want more change and not less change.
And so the more outrageous he is, the more he gets attacked by respectable media organizations and great reporters like Mike Isikoff, the better it is for him, because this isn‘t about credibility. It‘s who can say the most impressive things that speak to this sense of hurt and rage that they have.
And Republicans have to ask themselves, do they want to be as the Democrats were in 2004? Do they want to date someone like Dean and marry someone like Kerry, or do they want to stick with someone like Dean? If they stick with someone like Dean, they‘re going to have Donald Trump being a front-runner not just a year out from the nomination, but maybe a few months out from the nomination.
UYGUR: But, you know, I know that the Republican voters sometimes aren‘t really deeply attached to facts. But here, the facts seem to be something that they would be bothered by.
For example, when you go to Trump‘s record, yesterday we did a whole segment on how incredibly liberal positions he had back in 1999 -- nationalized health care, an enormous tax on the wealthy, et cetera. Now, on the bailouts, apparently he thought that TARP was worth a shot, that Henry Paulson should get an A, and that Ben Bernanke should get a B plus. And he thought the auto bailouts were swell. The government should stand behind them 100 percent, he said.
Now, Richard, the Tea Party can‘t be happy about that.
WOLFFE: Well, they are not. And of course we found in the last few weeks that Trump is willing to say anything, because, actually, the original position he had was the reasonable one.
It was President Bush‘s position. Paulson was obviously Bush‘s treasury secretary. And the policy worked.
But that‘s, of course, not what gets you the nomination now, not what gets you attention. And really, he has been propelled at this point, apart from the media interest, by going after the birth certificate, by being as outrageous as possible, questioning the authorship of “Dreams of My Father.”
You know, it doesn‘t really matter what the policy position is, whether he‘s consistent. It‘s does he speak to that rage out there that 15 percent, 20 percent of the Republican Party is into?
It‘s not the majority of the Republican Party, but in a multi-candidate field. That‘s what puts you as the front-runner.
UYGUR: And Michael, you know, we‘ve had a lot of polls on this now.
And Trump is doing rather well in most of them.
The latest one is a McClatchy one, and he‘s at third, at 13 percent, which isn‘t bad. He‘s been at the top of some of the polls.
What was your sense? I think the question everybody is asking, is this guy for real? Is this all a show to get more attention for the Trump name, or do you think there‘s a real chance he‘s going to run here?
ISIKOFF: You know, it‘s funny, because after this, as you can see, often contentious interview, Trump actually invited me up to his office, upstairs, one floor up, and wanted to talk politics. And started asking me about people like Ralph Reed, who he‘s interviewing to be a campaign manager, what did I think of him.
And I pointed out that he had previously worked for Pat Robertson in the Christian coalition. And he said, “Yes, but that would be good in Iowa.” You know, “That would be good in Iowa.” Tony Fabrizio, a pollster who he‘s been talking to.
So, I‘ve got to say, even though I know there‘s a lot of skepticism out there, and I think for good reason, I think he‘s taking this pretty far. And I think that‘s one reason you are seeing increasing nervousness on the part of Republican professionals like Karl Rove, which is why he came out with that comment that a Trump candidacy would be a joke. He doesn‘t want—the Karl Roves of the Republican Party don‘t want Donald Trump sucking up all the oxygen.
UYGUR: Michael, that‘s a really interesting insight, because it goes to show you, after the interview, he still wants to talk to you.
UYGUR: He‘s an amazing guy. And he seems to be pretty serious, as you said. I mean, getting down to Tony Fabrizio means he‘s getting pretty serious.
ISIKOFF: Yes, he‘s getting into the weeds.
UYGUR: Richard, the final question for you, real quick, how thrilled is the White House about this development?
WOLFFE: Oh, this is second only to Sarah Palin.
By the way, Mike, make sure that he didn‘t ask you to raise a credit card limit as well when you go up to his office next time.
WOLFFE: But, you know, the White House would love to see this happen.
This is not how you win the middle ground in America.
It just polarizes the Republican Party as a whole, as a brand. Karl Rove knows that if he‘s going to raise the millions he needs for his outside spending groups, he needs more respectable candidates in there, more realistic prospects to win.
You know, he tried to do the same when it came down to Christine O‘Donnell, and that didn‘t work, either. Karl Rove is not going chase this out of the party. It looks to me that, again, given that choice the Democrats faced in 2004, they are going to go for the more extreme, less electable candidate, because it speaks to how they are feeling, at least, again, that 15 percent, 20 percent, which could be enough in this race.
UYGUR: All right.
NBC‘s national investigative corespondent, Michael Isikoff, with a great interview there, and MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe.
Thank you both.
WOLFFE: You bet.
ISIKOFF: Thank you.
UYGUR: All right.
Presidential hopefuls like Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee have a big problem when it comes to taxes. We‘re going to show you their hypocrisy on that issue, and that‘s good.
Plus, Paul Ryan gets booed and hollered at by his own constituents.
The Republicans have a popularity problem. I‘ll play you that tape.
And more on Donald Trump. He has an unlikely ally in birtherism (ph).
But I‘m not sure eve he wants this guy‘s help.
UYGUR: The GOP has a problem. Their party is pushing legislation that‘s just not popular. That would be a big, big problem in politics.
Their plan to effectively kill Medicare, well, it‘s a disaster. A newly released “Washington Post”/ABC News poll shows that 78 percent oppose cutting spending on Medicare in order to fix the debt. That is on top of many other polls that show the same exact thing. When are they going to realize that is unpopular?
As for the relentless push to keep tax cuts going for the wealthiest Americans, also not popular.
Just listen to Paul Ryan‘s constituents booing his plan at a town hall.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: During this time of prosperity, the top one percent was talking about 10 percent of the total annual income, but yet today we are righting to not let the tax breaks for the wealthy expire?
REP. PAUL RYAN ®, WISCONSIN: We do tax the top.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Look, the guy who asked that question described himself as a lifelong conservative, but he‘s had it. He‘s unequal.
When he said, “We do tax the top,” that‘s a lie. He brings down the taxes from the top from 35 percent to 25 percent. That‘s why they booed him, because they know it‘s not true.
And just look at this poll. Nationwide, 72 percent support raising taxes on those making over $250,000 a year. That proposal has the majority support of Democrats, Independents and Republicans. Look at the number—
54 percent of Republicans saying enough is enough, raise taxes on people making over $250,000.
But despite all this, the 2012 GOP contenders are still denouncing Democrats as depraved tax-hikers. Now, let alone how unpopular that position is, they‘re also not telling the truth about their own record on the issue.
So let‘s take a look at the tax history of the top two Republicans that are likely to enter the presidential race.
First, Mitt Romney.
In this 2007 GOP presidential debate, Romney said that while Democrats wanted to raise taxes while he was Massachusetts governor, he put his foot down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY ®, FMR. MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR: The Democrats—you probably know that Massachusetts is a bit of a Democratic state. The Democrats wanted to raise taxes. I said no way. And, in fact, we did not raise taxes on our citizens, and we lowered them across our state time and again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: No way. Really? Well, then how do you explain this?
Andrew Romano of “The Daily Beast” reports that Romney raised a grand total of $432 million in fee hikes on things like marriage licenses, drivers license renewals, gun permits—oh my God—community college tuition, and even bottle deposits. And he raised more than $309 million annually by closing corporate tax loopholes.
Now, look, I like that policy, and it might have been necessary. But it was definitely tax increases.
Now, how about Mike Huckabee? During the former Arkansas governor‘s last presidential bid, he insisted that he cut taxes more than he raised them.
Just check out a portion of one of his campaign ads.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE HUCKABEE ®, FMR. ARKANSAS GOVERNOR (voice-over): A nation is confused when it forgets who it is. And I don‘t think your value as a human being is found in your checking account.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Yes, that‘s an interesting way to spin it, cut taxes over 90 times. Sure, he did. But did you know while governor, his tax increases outweighed the tax cuts by nearly $500 million.
In fact, he had a number of targeted tax increases including a three percent income tax surcharge on individuals and corporations, three separate hikes on the state‘s sales tax, and taxes on cigarettes, tobacco and related permits. In fact, he was so pro-tax, that once while he was governor he actually begged the legislature to pass tax measures so that he could help make up the state‘s budget shortfall.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUCKABEE: There‘s a lot of support for a tax at the wholesale level for tobacco. And that‘s fine with me.
Now, some have suggested the retail level of tobacco. If that ends up being your preference, I will accept that.
Others have suggested a surcharge on the income tax. That‘s acceptable.
Yet others have suggested a hybrid that would collect some moneys from any one or a combination of those various ideas. And if that‘s the plan that the House and Senate agree on, then you will have nothing but my profound thanks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Interesting how much he liked all those different taxes. But funny that now he‘s not exactly offering up his profound thanks to President Obama for proposing to raise taxes on the rich. Funny how that works.
Joining me now is reporter for “The Washington Post” and MSNBC contributor Ezra Klein.
Ezra, two different things here. We‘ve got the Medicare issue and we‘ve got the tax issue.
First, on the Medicare issue, I think they might be done. This is what I mean by that—are they really going up against this buzz saw again?
Unless the Democrats hand them a huge gift and somehow miraculously agree with them, there‘s no way they are going to be able to pass this. And at some point they have to got to give up, don‘t they? The American people just do not want it.
EZRA KLEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: That was not a good poll for Paul Ryan. So, deeper into the poll, they did a very specific question on Paul Ryan‘s budget.
They said, you know, would you approve of Medicare being turned into a voucher program where the government gives you a voucher or a check—so they were pretty careful with their language there—to purchase private insurance? Sixty-five percent said no, that would be a terrible idea.
Then they said to the people who said yes, and what if you know, as the CBO projected, that that plan would mean the private Medicare costs would grow more quickly than traditional Medicare costs? Now 84 percent said no, don‘t do it.
So they are in a bit of trouble. And what compounds the trouble for them is that the Republican Party is more dependent on the senior vote than they ever have been before. The seniors went for them 59 percent in 2010. They were the only age group that voted Republican in 2008.
So they‘re at a bit of cross-purposes here with their core constituency. They want to make very unpopular changes to Medicare, but they rely on the very voters who rely on Medicare most.
UYGUR: And Ezra, I remember during the health care debate, they kept pointing to the polls and saying you have got to do what the American people want. I want Barack Obama. Do want the American people want.
When we look at that poll you quoted, when asked about that specific plan that Ryan has, 84 percent are against it.
Why won‘t the Republicans listen to the American people?
KLEIN: Right. This poll is much, much worse than the Affordable Care Act is. And look, you live by the sword, you die by the sword.
We have a representative democracy, and Paul and legislators should be able to propose things and try to persuade the American people that they are correct. That said, though we will need, I think, Medicare controls and cuts and reforms going forward. There are a lot of those in the Affordable Care Act and there are more yet in the president‘s budget.
The problem with Ryan‘s plan is the violence (ph) of them. They end up making Medicare more expensive because private insurance is more pricey than Medicare for the same insurance. And then they shift all these costs on to seniors.
So, it‘s fine to say we need to control costs in Medicare. That‘s really not what they are doing.
To go to people and say we need to privatize and shift costs in Medicare, that‘s not balancing the budget. That‘s pursuing an ideological agenda about the entitlement state under the cover of deficit reduction.
UYGUR: I love to make predictions. So here‘s one. They are going to throw this Ryan guy under a bus.
At some point they‘re going to say, what, us? No. Medicare? No that was Paul Ryan. No, that guy‘s crazy.
OK? That‘s my sense of it. Those numbers are too damaging to ignore.
But let‘s go to the tax issue, right? Huckabee, raising taxes tremendously. Romney, doing likewise.
Here. I‘ll give you another one, Tim Pawlenty. I mean, the number of taxes that he‘s raised is through the roof -- $200 million when it comes to cigarette tax increase; $109 million in corporate tax increase when he was governor of Minnesota, of course; $2.7 billion in property tax increase. I‘m getting tired of all these tax increases—marriage license, college tuition, parking tickets, et cetera, et cetera.
How did these guys with a straight face say, oh, we are against raising taxes?
KLEIN: Let‘s name a couple more. Ronald Reagan, a number of tax increases after his 1981 tax cuts. George H. W. Bush, a very large spending cut and tax increase bill to balance the budget.
This is what you do when you‘re in charge. And to their credit, a lot of these state Republican governors who are now thinking about running for president knew that.
The problem is the Republican Party has developed as a sort of rhetorical litmus test a completely unrealistic vision of how you do fiscal policy in this country or in any other. And anybody who has actually had to balance the budget before, all these guys are having to come out and say, well, scratch, scratch, maybe we didn‘t do so good.
And the other point on this is that when you can‘t ever say you raised taxes, what you do is you raise things that are unnoticed taxes. So, you brought up user fees earlier, and a lot of those are really regressive.
Cigarette taxes, liquor taxes, hospital bed taxes, park fees, all the DMV fees, all these things that the rich don‘t notice, so they don‘t become as big a problem in the political system, end up being very, very regressive. But they end up being a way to hide their tax increases and call them a user fee. It‘s not better for the economy and it‘s not better for anyone else, but it‘s become a rhetorical go-to for them.
UYGUR: And I don‘t think it‘s a coincidence. It hits the poor and the middle class more. I mean, that‘s a Republican‘s dream. They love that.
So, I don‘t think it‘s an accident that happened, but what I‘m amazed by is how brazen they are. They know they raised taxes and they come out in political ads and say, “I never raised taxes.”
It‘s unbelievable to me. but I guess I should get used to Washington a little bit more.
All right. Ezra, it‘s been a great conversation, as always.
Ezra Klein from “The Washington Post.”
Thanks for joining me tonight. I really appreciate it.
KLEIN: Thank you.
UYGUR: All right.
Now, coming up, Texas Governor Rick Perry once threatened to secede over federal money. So why is he asking billions of dollars in federal handouts now? Well, Rick Perry is our “Con Job of the Day,” and that‘s next.
UYGUR: And now for our con job of the day. We turn to Texas Governor Rick Perry‘s hypocrisy over federal spending. Wildfires are raging in Texas and on Sunday, Governor Perry asked President Obama to declare a federal disaster so the state could get federal money to help fight the fires. He wrote, quote, “I urge President Obama to approve our request quickly so Texans can continue receiving the resources and support they need as wildfires remain an ongoing threat.” Now, these fires have burned hundreds of homes and more than a million acres of land. Texans certainly deserve that federal help. But it‘s interesting that Perry is asking for it. Two years ago, he was so adamant that the federal government was messing with Texas, he suggested that the state has the right to secede.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RICK PERRY ®, TEXAS: It‘s time to draw the line in the saying and tell Washington that no longer are we going to accept their oppressive hand in the state of Texas. There is a point and time where you stand-up and say enough is enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: What happened? I thought the federal government was oppressive. Why are you asking for their help now? Perry‘s big beef at the time with Uncles Sam was that he thought stimulus funds would come with big strings attached. He initially tried to drown down some of the money calling the stimulus irresponsible.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: I‘m so concerned about the believe that is gained a foothold in our national consciousness, that the best and only way to solve our nation‘s problem is to drown them with this huge supply of taxpayer dollars.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Yes, Perry was so concerned about the awful influence of the stimulus money, that he ended up using $6.4 billion in stimulus aid to plug 97 percent of Texas‘ budget hole last year. Ninety seven percent. In fact, Texas relied more on stimulus money than any other state to balance the budget in 2010. Then of course, he bragged about how he balanced the budget. Look, I want to be clear. I think Perry should have taken the stimulus money and asked for help for the fires. But next time we bail you out, we would like a thank you rather than your smug hypocrisy. Rick Perry biting the hand that feeds and protects them is our con job of the day.
Now, a year ago today, this explosion on the Deep Water Horizon rig happened. So, what would happen if that exact accident happened today? Well, we‘ll tell you if they have improved anything on that front. Congressman Ed Markey led the charge investigating this disaster and he still fighting that fight in Congress, that‘s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: We will absolutely continue to hold BP and any other responsible parties accountable. We have an obligation to investigate what went wrong and to determine what reforms are needed so that we never have to experience a crisis like this again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: That was President Obama last June, promising to hold accountable anyone responsible for the worst oil spill in U.S. history. It was a year ago today that the explosion ripped through the Deep Water Horizon rigged killing 11 workers. Almost five million barrels of oil spewed into the gulf causing an environmental and economic crisis whose impact is still big felt. The scary thing is that it‘s hard to argue which much safer today, cannot report—explosion. Lawmakers have proposed more than 100 different bills to improve government oversight. But they haven‘t passed a single major piece of oil spill legislation. As of today, oil companies still are not required to update their spill response plans ahead of receiving new permits to drill.
And unbelievably, rigs still depend as a last line of defense to stop blow out on the well, on exactly the same faulty machine called the blow up preventer that failed in the BP disaster. Last month, a government commission report found that the blow up preventer didn‘t failed because it was broken, it failed because of a fundamental design flaw. A flaw that still haunts blow up preventers today. This week, the Obama administration said, he‘s going to introduce new rules to improve the safety of those devices. But that‘s down the road. For now, it‘s business as usual.
Still, in recent months, officials have approved 46 new shallow water wells and ten permits for deep water drilling projects in the Gulf of Mexico. Projects just like the one in the gulf water disaster. That despite, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar statement this year, the systems that contain oil spills are still quote, “a work in progress.” In other words, they are not ready. Maybe this shouldn‘t be a surprise since the drill baby drill crowd was pushing for new permits even when oil was still gushing from the well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH PALIN, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: We need to drill baby drill.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: We must continue to drill.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: If we lift the regulatory burdens and let people go and drill, we will end up with plentiful and cheap energy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
In the middle of the spill.
All right. With me now is Democratic Congressman from Massachusetts Ed Markey, he‘s the ranking democrat on the House Natural on Resources Committee. And a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee. He warned this week that because of the lack of safety improvements, a disasters oil spill could happen again. Congressman, talk to me about how did this happen? How did we go a year and we don‘t have any piece of legislation on this at all?
REP. ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Well, we passed the comprehensive safety bill in the House of Representatives when the Democrats controlled Congress last year, but the Republicans in the Senate killed it. Now, in 2011, as the Republicans control both the House and the Senate, no safety legislation has any chance of passing, even though the Blue Ribbon Independent Commission came back with a whole long list of things that should be put on the books to make drilling safer. Instead, they have revised history instead of revising the safety rules so that they can just say drill baby drill. And they have passed legislation now to open up drilling off of the California Coast, off of the East Coast of the United States, right up to Martha‘s vineyard and just kind of pretending that everything is safe and it‘s OK to go back on the water again and nothing really bad enough that would require a comprehensive review and change in safety regulations ever happened in the first place.
UYGUR: Congressman Markey, I have a theory as to why this might be happening. Let me show you some facts here. First, I want to show you the donations that BP has made to different Republicans and republican committees. They‘ve given to Speaker Boehner, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, Ways and Means Chair Dave Camp, Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton, National Republican Congressional Committee, National Republican Senatorial Committee. Gee, I wonder if that had an effect. And I want to give you a sense of the overall problem here. The oil and gas industry, they have done $146 million in lobbying of the federal government and they spent $28 million to directly give to federal campaigns. Any chance that that‘s part of the problem?
MARKEY: Look, not just this year but every year, GOP does not stand for the Grand Old Party, it stands for the gas and oil party. They, in their budget, did not cut any of the tax breaks for the oil companies even though at $108 a barrel, they are poised to record some of the highest profits of all time. And they don‘t need those tax breaks anymore than a fish to swim or a bird to fly would need a subsidy. At the same time, in their budget, they slash the wind and solar and renewable energy budgets by 70 percent. And so, it‘s all part of a pattern where this rear-view mirrored you of how we should be generating energy in our country, not only wants to preserve itself from any new safety regulations that they have to comply with. But they aggressively go out to kill the alternatives that should be our future in the 21st century. So, the Republican Party adopts that agenda and legislatively, that is what they are trying to implement this year.
UYGUR: Well, Congressman Markey, it‘s funny you bring that up. Because BP was actually getting a subsidy on the Deep Water Horizon. It was a subsidy that gave them over $200,000 a day. Why in the world—they are not even an American company. Why are we giving them a subsidy for something that was so enormously profitable? And then when you turn to what can you do about protecting the American people, protecting the gulf, protecting the workers, well, apparently, the Republicans have three different bills out now. One is called putting the gulf back to work act, the other one is called restarting American offshore leasing now act. And the other once is reversing President Obama‘s offshore moratorium act. It appears that all three of these do not add actual protections, they take away protections. So, it look like we are going in the wrong direction.
MARKEY: Well, you know, this whole issue of what lessons we learned from the BP spill is something that is right at the heart of the energy agenda of the Republican Party. You know, right now, believe it or not, BP is arguing that instead of having to pay a $20 billion fine that they should only have to pay a $2.8 million fine. And they‘re saying they weren‘t negligent at all. And in fact, that‘s, we all know, why they hid the fact that it was not 1,000 barrels per day that were going on into the gulf, not 5,000 barrels per day, not 20,000 but 60,000 barrels a day. They were negligent right along the whole line. And what has happening here is that rather than making BP accountable, we are looking at ways of ultimately rewarding them.
And instead of trying to find alternative ways of generating electricity specially after Fukushima as well, the Republicans are out there, and believe it or not, in their budget that came out this year, they zeroed out the loan guarantees for the wind and solar industry even as they left them in for the nuclear industry and cut no tax breaks out that will going to the oil industry including BP.
MARKEY: So, that‘s the agenda. It‘s very clear what is going on. And that‘s why I think, once again, like Medicare, like Medicaid, they are stepping in it and the American public is going to fully understand what the real agenda of their party is.
UYGUR: Right. Well, of course. As Joe Biden literally apologized to BP when they‘re the once that caused the mess. So, we have seen this over and over again. Congressman Ed Markey, thank you for joining us tonight. We appreciate it.
MARKEY: Thank you for having me on.
UYGUR: All right. Now, I want to bring in Bob Cavnar. He‘s a 30 year veteran of the oil and gas industry. He‘s currently the CEO of Luca Technologies, which is in the natural gas industry. He‘s also the author of the book, “Disaster on the Horizon: High Stakes, High Risks, and the Story Behind the Deepwater Well Blowout.”
All right. Bob, of course the question everybody is asking is, given the year that‘s gone by, can it still happen just like it did before?
BOB CAVNAR, FORMER OIL INDUSTRY EXECUTIVE: You know, what‘s so sad, Cenk is that with this being the first anniversary of the blow-out, no one is remembering the 11 men who were killed on the rig that day. And no one is talking about the damage that‘s ongoing in the gulf now. That everyone on the republican side are pushing to go back to drilling. And really, no improvements have been made. The only changes to regulation and to safety that‘s happened so far are those that have related to training and third party certification of the same equipment that failed on the Deep Water Horizon. So, we are issuing drilling permits to drilling companies that have the same equipment that failed so badly a year ago today.
UYGUR: Well, you know, when Ken Salazar said, you know, it‘s a work in progress, I knew we were in a world of trouble. That‘s why I keep going back to that quote. That means they‘re not ready. So, are we still using the same blow-out preventers? And I‘m just amazed that the government says, yes, yes, yes, OK, just keep using the same thing that didn‘t work before.
UYGUR: How about is that?
CAVNAR: It‘s the same blow up preventer, Cenk. Same control system, same blow up preventer. Clearly, the—is going to be better because of the attention that‘s been put on these devices. But you can‘t deny the fact that there was a failure in this blow-out preventer. Now, the forensics report that was given to the Department of Interior had a lot of questions about it. It raised almost more questions than it answered. But we still don‘t know why that device failed, why it didn‘t close. There‘s a lot of speculation. But we are going back to work with that very same device, with the very same blanch—and the same set up as what failed before.
UYGUR: All right. And, you know, they did an oil spill commission and then they didn‘t do any of the things that they recommended. Even one of a former Republicans that were on the commission, former E.P.A. administrator for George H. W. Bush couldn‘t believe it. But now, they do have these three pieces of legislation that we just ask Congressman Markey about, that—has put together. Does that help or hurt the situation here?
CAVNAR: Well, it‘s just incredibly damaging. Instead of spending time working on increasing the budget for the BOEMRA (ph) which is the new agency that oversees offshore drilling and increasing safety regulation and raising standards for drilling, we are wasting time talking about going back to drilling, expanding into Virginia off the coast of California. And all of these areas that won‘t help gasoline prices at all in any form or fashion for ten or 15 years. And we‘re distracting ourselves from protecting the people who work out there and protecting the environment that we so damaged last year.
UYGUR: All right. Bob Cavnar. Thank you for your time tonight.
CAVNAR: Great to be with you, Cenk.
UYGUR: All right. Now, ahead. Republicans are attacking Donald Trump but he‘s found a new birther ally. Charlie Sheen. Disaster. Wait until you hear what Charlie says.
Charlie Sheen, Donald Trump and birtherism. But he also attacks Sarah Palin. And why Republicans are socialists? When we come back.
UYGUR: It‘s April 20th, 4/20, what some are calling weed day. And support for legalizing marijuana has never been higher. A recent pew polls shows 45 percent of people think buy it should be illegal. Fifty percent are still against it. But take a look at how much public opinion has changed over the last 20 years. There‘s been more than a 30-point swing to the pro-legalization side. We are gaining on them. Now, raise your hand if you think that we are going to win the war on drugs. None of you, right?
We have wasted billions of dollars imprisoned millions of people on a useless counterproductive so-called war. And by the way, if it is a war, the war on drugs makes Vietnam look winnable, legalize it already. Now, unfortunately, one guy who—me is Charlie Sheen. To be fair, he is high on the drug. Charlie Sheen, which I think should be illegal. Last night, during his road show in D.C., he said if he were president, he would make pot legal. Could you imagine if Charlie Sheen was president?
Well, to make matters how much worse, she has now joined Donald Trump on the birther bandwagon. He was talking about chances of beating President Obama in the 2012 election. He said, quote, “for starters, I was F-ing born here. How about that? And I got proof. Nothing photoshopped about my birth certificate.” Which would make him the same as Barack Obama. But maybe when Trump has said, enough for pretending to run for president, he and Sheen can go on the road together. That would be fun. Last night, Sheen also talked about leading Sarah Palin in a presidential poll, bragging the poll, quote, “had me annihilating that lunatic from Alaska.”
OK. Not high as Sarah Palin. There actually was a poll about that a month ago, and it showed Sheen beating Palin among Democrats and Independents. But Republicans supports still put her ahead by just a little bit. That‘s damning with faint praise. Believe it or not, Republicans love socialism. I‘ll explain that, next.
UYGUR: Republicans will often claim that they hate socialism. But in fact, Republicans love socialism. They just like a peculiar brand of it. They love to privatize the gains but socialize the losses. Now, there are two great examples of that in the news today. Earlier in the show, we talked about how oil drilling companies haven‘t really figured out how to get the blow-out preventers to work with consistency. And don‘t have a good plan if another spill like the Deep Water Horizon happens. Now, did you know that half of the companies who are working in the gulf don‘t have enough money to pay for the damages if they cause a spill like BP did?
So, if it happens to them the next time, they would likely declare bankruptcy and dump the cost on to you, the American taxpayer. So, they keep the gains as long as everything is going well, but immediately go to the socialist model if there are significant losses. So, you never see any of the upside but you bear most of the downside. This is socialism turned on its head. And it‘s for the benefit of the richest and most powerful people and companies in this country and throughout the world. The second grade example of that on the news today is what‘s happening in the banking industry.
The Standard and Poor just came out with a report that says, we are not at all prepared for the next financial collapse. That next time around, it will cost the U.S., 34 percent of our GDP. That‘s gigantic. That would mean losses of $5 trillion. The report states, quote, “We believe the risk from the U.S. financial sector are higher than we considered them to be before 2008. Oh, come on, that‘s a disaster. Now, let me ask you a question, are you sharing in any of the profits of the banks right now? Oh, you‘re not? Surprising. Well, because that‘s privatized. But the minute they cause another financial calamity, guess who they are going to turn to to bear the cost? Yes, you.
The Republican Party is the biggest enabler and supporter of this model. Sure, there are plenty of guilty Democrats as well. But the Republican Party is the one clearly pushing to deregulate the oil drilling and banking industries, so that there‘s no check on how much risk they can take, how much money they can make and how much of that risk they can dump on your lap. Don‘t let them get away with it. Thanks for watching the show. “HARDBALL” is up next.
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