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Msnbc Live at 6 p.m. ET, Thursday May 5th, 2011

Read the transcript from the Thursday 6 p.m. hour

Guests: Jerrold Nadler, Edward Kilduff, Charles Wolf, Peter Beinart, Ezra

Klein, Bill Press, Tim Bishop

CENK UYGUR, HOST:  Good evening, everybody.  I‘m Cenk Uygur, live from Los Angeles.

It was a momentous day today as President Obama honored the victims of the September 11th attacks while marking the deaths of the terrorists who perpetrated that incredible loss of life.  Obama gave no speech at Ground Zero.  Instead, he marked the visit by meeting with families who lost loved ones on 9/11, and by laying a wreath at the foot of what‘s become known as the Survivor Tree. 

Earlier in the day, he spent time at the Pride of Midtown firehouse, which lost 15 members on 9/11.  There, the president took time to read each name on a shrine to the station‘s lost colleagues, who, between them, left behind 28 children, and then he pledged to always have their back. 


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  What happened on Sunday, because of the courage of our military and the outstanding work of our intelligence, sent a message around the world, but it also sent a message here back home that, when we say we will never forget, we mean what we say. 


UYGUR:  That‘s a nice moment.  And Obama later met with police officers from the 1st Precinct, who were among the first at the scene on the attacks. 


OBAMA:  We did what we said we were going to do, and that America, even in the midst of tragedy, will come together across the years, across politics, across parties, across administrations to make sure that justice is done. 


UYGUR:  Again, it was a nice note of solidarity.  You saw Rudy Giuliani in the background there.  Of course, former Republican mayor of New York.

Unfortunately, it didn‘t stop conservatives from attacking him for going to Ground Zero, which is amazing to me.  But we‘ll get to that in a minute. 

Joining me now is New York Representative Jerrold Nadler, who was with the president at Ground Zero today.

Congressman, the last time a president was there, it was George Bush with his horn saying, soon the people who did this will hear from us.  Was it a nice moment of some closure as we got a president basically saying there symbolically they did hear from us? 

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK:  Well, it was a nice moment.  I don‘t know that it was of closure, but it marked a major step, obviously.  There are not too many times in the history of a country when you get unabashed, unadulterated, complete good news, and of course it‘s not closure. 

The people are still gone.  The people who were injured are still having a hard time breathing. 

We did finally, after nine-and-a-half years, pass the bill last year, the 9/11 health bill, to make sure that the first responders and survivors, residents, get proper health care treatment, then compensation, which was a major step forward.  It was a struggle.  But getting Osama bin Laden and coming to mark the occasion almost 10 years later was a step.  It‘s not a closure, but it was a step. 

UYGUR:  Congressman, you‘re from there—


UYGUR:  -- so was there a feeling of, like, hey, at least we got a little bit of justice today? 

NADLER:  I think there was that feeling, we got justice today.  And frankly, there was that feeling when we finally passed the 9/11 health bill, because until then, a lot of people felt abandoned by the rest of the country.  But when we passed the 9/11 health bill, at the very last day of Congress, just before Christmas last year, and President—not before Christmas, I think—yes, just before—or after Christmas, and President Obama signed it, there was that feeling, and this just iced the cake. 

UYGUR:  Now, Congressman Nadler, as I alluded to a little while ago, I‘m amazed by them every day.  I thought, come on, he‘s going to Ground Zero, we got bin Laden, you can‘t criticize, but of course conservatives have, you know, attacked a president for daring to go to Ground Zero. 

Let me show you a video here and get your reaction. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The backdrop could not be any more symbolic after the death of Osama bin Laden.  But the question is, will it also boost the president‘s approval ratings?  Is it a bit of a political victory lap? 



GLENN BECK, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  What is the occasion other than UBL?  Is there another reason, or is it just to soff (ph) up some more glory and take a victory lap?  It‘s disgusting. 



SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS:  They don‘t want to spike the football in the end zone, but yet the president will take a victory lap at Ground Zero. 


UYGUR:  Beck just called it disgusting, that the president went down there. 

What‘s your reaction? 

NADLER:  Well, I think it‘s absurd.  I mean, especially after the way the Republicans campaigned on national security and exploited 9/11 for—in the elections of 2002 and 2004, and just diminished the patriotism of a war hero like John Kerry, and a triple amputee like Max Cleland.

They used 9/11 as a campaign issue.  This president did not do that. 

I think he‘s perfectly entitled to come—and, in fact, it‘s fitting to come to 9/11 and to give a little measure of closure.  As I said, not total closure, but to say to the survivors, to the people who lived through it, to the relatives of those who died, to say we took this—we fulfilled our faith with you. 

We said we would get the person who did it, we did.  Unfortunately, everything is not over, but we did.  And it‘s perfectly fitting and appropriate, and would be highly inappropriate had he not done something like this. 

UYGUR:  Absolutely.  I mean, if I was one of the people in that situation, I‘d want the president to come and say, hey, listen, we did this, of course, for the whole country, but also for you guys, because we didn‘t forget you. 

No matter how long it took, we came to get the job done.  I think that‘s a great moment, but some of your colleagues disagree. 

Trent Franks says that it‘s still not good enough in terms of national security.  Let me play that clip for you. 


REP. TRENT FRANKS ®, ARIZONA:  I‘m afraid that this administration somehow now will declare the peace dividend and really just exploit the issue for political reasons and not really have the insight to do what‘s necessary to protect this country in the future. 


UYGUR:  What do you have to do, Congressman? 

NADLER:  Well, that‘s the—you know, listen, the president made a very gutsy decision for which, had this failed, he would have been harshly criticized.  He made a very gutsy decision. 

He got Osama bin Laden after eight years, in which the Bush administration, frankly, didn‘t, and didn‘t put much energy into trying to, and said—President Bush, back in 2002, said, I don‘t care, basically.  You‘ve played those clips. 

Now Trent Franks is saying, well, maybe they‘ll exploit this politically to say that we can start withdrawing our troops from Afghanistan and so forth.  Frankly, I think we should.

I think we should withdraw our troops from Afghanistan and Iraq.  I mean, the fact of the matter is, after 9/11, we attacked al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan from which mayhem was plotted against this country, and properly so.  And we took them out.  We took out the Taliban government which helped those camps within a week. 

But then somehow we lost our way and we started saying that that isn‘t enough, we have to change the government, we have to make sure there‘s a government that‘s satisfactory to us, we have to make sure there‘s a government that can control the whole country, which has never been true since Genghis Khan. 

UYGUR:  Right.

NADLER:  And frankly, what this shows is that we have the right and the ability to protect ourselves by going after base camps whether in Afghanistan or Pakistan or anywhere elsewhere where they‘re plotting mayhem against us.  We don‘t have to and we don‘t have the ability to try to control a whole country. 

So I hope we do learn from this.  And I know there are Democrats and Republicans who are saying now is the time to reconsider and to say, what is our purpose? 

Our purpose in Afghanistan is fulfilled.  The CIA says there are less than 50 to 100 al Qaeda people there.  We don‘t have to occupy the country. 

UYGUR:  Right.

NADLER:  Now, someone like Trent Franks is going to join the other lesson in saying, well, we‘ve got to double down, but that‘s I think just wrong. 

UYGUR:  All right.  Representative Jerrold Nadler, thank you so much for joining us this evening.  We really appreciate it. 

NADLER:  Thank you. 

UYGUR:  Now I want to put the politics aside and I want to talk to some people from New York. 

Edward Kilduff, he‘s the FDNY‘s chief of department.  He met with President Obama earlier today.  And also joining us, Charles Wolf.  He lost his wife Katherine on September 11th.  He met with the president at Ground Zero this afternoon. 

Charles, let me start with you. 

What do you think?  Was it right—again, having nothing to do with the politics—to have your president come down at a moment like this?  Did it make a difference to you? 

CHARLES WOLF, LOST WIFE ON 9/11:  Absolutely, yes.  And let me start off by saying that I‘m a Republican, a centrist Republican.  And Jerry Nadler will chuckle, because he and I know each other.  But it was absolutely the correct thing to do. 

President Obama deserves the credit for this.  And I don‘t know there was one person in that room of 60 people, 60 family members, that would disagree with me. 

He deserves this credit.  This does not have anything to do with political parties.  This has to do with our nation. 

And you just take a look at those celebrations outside the White House, and down at Ground Zero, and at Times Square, and that will tell you, in this instance, those pundits are wrong in criticizing the president. 

UYGUR:  Chief Kilduff, you know, I know we‘re not supposed to celebrate the death of anyone, but at the same time, having lost all those guys at 9/11, was it a little gratifying to get to this day where at least we saw some justice done? 

EDWARD KILDUFF, FDNY CHIEF OF DEPT.:  I can tell you that, talking to a few dozen of our families who lost members on September 11th, I think the overwhelming feeling among the families was that they did feel some justice was served, they did feel gratitude for what President Obama did and what the military did for them.  And I think overall, in the first responder community, we did feel justice was served, and we were quite elated over the events of Sunday night. 

UYGUR:  Charles, you lost your wife.  When you heard the news of bin Laden being killed, what was your first reaction? 

WOLF:  I just said, “Wonderful.  Absolutely wonderful.”  And the longer the time went on, the happier I got, and my whole body started tingling after a while.  I thought it was just absolutely fantastic. 

UYGUR:  And Chief Kilduff, the president gave a little impromptu talk there at the firehouse, and he said that we didn‘t forget you, and, you know, it took a while, but we got there. 

How did that feel?  Did you get a sense of the guys at the department there? 

KILDUFF:  I think if you take the setting into consideration, that firehouse lost 15 members that responded down to the Trade Center on the morning of September 11th.  It was the perfect setting for the president to come in and give a message of support and a message that he‘s behind the first responders, as well as recognizing the sacrifices that were made by the firefighters and police officers and their families that day. 

UYGUR:  Yes.  You know, for my part, you know, I grew up in the Tri-State area.  And I had a lot of friends that were in New York that day.  And look, I like when we go there and say, hey, you know, it took a while, but 10 long years afterwards, when America says we‘re going to do something, we do it.  And whether it was the fire department that got affected, the police department that he visited, and of course the families.

Charles, last question to you, did you have any feelings or emotions as you were at Ground Zero with the president today, in that moment? 

WOLF:  Well, we were actually just off of Ground Zero at the preview center for the memorial and the museum.  And so the president came in and he talked for a minute, just a minute.  Just said some really nice words, but nothing like what you heard at the other speeches. 

And then he went around and met every individual person.  And every single person there got a chance to talk with him. 

And I think that was important for the president.  I think—I know that I wanted to thank the man that put the works in action to make this happen. 

And apparently, he started this early on in his presidency, to start redirecting things to really make a push to find him.  I wanted to thank him, but I also wanted him to know how I appreciated that. 

It‘s a tough job at the top.  I don‘t care what party you‘re in.  

It‘s a tough job.  And when you get criticized all the time, it‘s tough. 

And when you do something really good, doggone it, your poll numbers ought to go up.  I don‘t care what party you are.  And this is really good, and he deserved to hear the thanks from us, and we appreciated the opportunity to say thank you to him. 

UYGUR:  All right. 

Charles Wolf and Chief Edward Kilduff, really great to talk to you guys today.  We really appreciate your time. 

Now, when we come back, the Republican myth that Democrats are weak on national security is forever busted.  We‘ll show you why the bin Laden killing only adds to what is actually an excellent Democratic record on national security issues. 

And Republicans are trying to do some extreme things under the radar, but as usual we won‘t let them. 

Stay with us. 


UYGUR:  President Obama‘s visit to Ground Zero today was a symbolic turning point in our nation‘s history.  It‘s a small step toward closure on the attacks of 9/11. 

It should have also helped to drive a stake through one of the biggest myths in American politics, that Republicans are somehow stronger than Democrats on terrorism and national security.  It‘s a line the GOP has been foisting on Americans for years. 

Just take look at this chart. 

Since 9/11, Republicans have always had an edge on this issue in the polls, usually by double digits.  And before the killing of bin Laden, Republicans tried to exploit this polling advantage on their attacks on President Obama. 

Among other things, they accused him of dismantling necessary Bush-era anti-terror policies. 


RICHARD CHENEY, FMR. VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  President Obama campaigned against it all across the country, and now he‘s making some choices that, in my mind, will in fact raise the risk to the American people of another attack. 

HANNITY:  And what do you conclude?  Do you conclude it‘s they‘re naive, that maybe they don‘t understand the nature of the war on terror? 

CHENEY:  Yes, basically. 


SARAH PALIN ®, FMR. ALASKA GOVERNOR:  What do they think?  Do they think that the terrorists have all of a sudden become the good guys and changed their minds? 


UYGUR:  That‘s not how it worked out, was it?  The terrorists wound up getting a bullet in their head.  In fact, the GOP has been pushing this propaganda for years. 

In 2004, John Kerry said he wanted to reduce terrorism to a nuisance and the Bush/Cheney tag team jumped all over him. 


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Our goal is not to reduce terror to some acceptable level of nuisance.  Our goal is to defeat terror by staying on the offensive. 



CHENEY:  This is naive and dangerous. 


UYGUR:  Well, it‘s all hype.  All they ever do is beat their chests and make accusations.  So it‘s time to put this enormous lie to rest once and for all. 

Number one, the biggest terror strike in U.S. history happened on George W. Bush‘s watch.  And think about this—in the months before 9/11, the CIA warned Bush about a possible attack, but they couldn‘t get through to him.  According to “The Washington Post,” Bush saw bin Laden as small potatoes and didn‘t want to “swat at flies.” 

What a terrible mistake that turned out to be. 

And here‘s Bush‘s reaction to the August, 2001 memo titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.”  According to reporter Ron Suskind, Bush told the operative who presented that memo to him, “All right, you‘ve covered your ass now.” 

And these are the guys that are tough on terror and strong on national security, the guys who ignore warnings and say, oh, you covered your ass, go home, I‘m going to stay on vacation?  Those are the tough guys? 

Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, we‘ve seen a steady stream of success. 

Bill Clinton led the U.S. into Bosnia and Kosovo and took care of both jobs.  And just like Obama, Clinton got his man.   In that case, the war criminal Slobodan Milosevic. 

And today, we saw the legacy of Obama‘s achievement.  Does it get any better than giving some degree of closure to the victims of 9/11 by delivering justice on bin Laden‘s head? 

So, the next time the Republicans talk about how Democrats are soft on national security, understand that it‘s the sad boast of a kid who puffs up his chest because he knows he doesn‘t measure up. 

With me now is The Daily Beast‘s Peter Beinart.  His latest article is called “Bin Laden Killing Erases Democrats‘ Wimp Factor.”  His work also appears in “Newsweek” magazine.  And he wrote the 2006 book “The Good Fight: Why Liberals and Only Liberals Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again.”

Well, Peter, you turned out to be totally right when you wrote that book in 2006. 

Yes, take the floor.


Well, you know, part of it, I think, is actually that Obama always made this question of the fight against al Qaeda the centerpiece of his foreign policy, as opposed to Bush, who really was much more focused on Iraq.  What Obama said during the 2008 campaign was the central threat comes from the Afghan/Pakistan theater, and that‘s where we‘re going to focus our efforts.  And I think here you see the virtue of that strategy. 

UYGUR:  You know, as he was saying that, I was saying, of course.  Of course it is.  Why wouldn‘t we go after the guys who did 9/11. 

And I remember when Bush said this—here, let‘s show a video of what a tough guy Bush was. 


BUSH:  I want justice, and there‘s an old poster out West, as I recall, that said, “Wanted: Dead or Alive.” 


UYGUR:  Yes, except then he took 36 troops to Tora Bora.  Thirty-six.  There were thousands of American troops there requesting to go in, and he wouldn‘t put them in, and then he distracted us. 

I remember I got so mad at the Iraq War, mainly because I was saying he‘s in Afghanistan, at the time.  Then he later went to Pakistan. 

So why is it taking the country so long to recognize that the Republicans didn‘t care to fight al Qaeda in Afghanistan?  Instead, they distracted us to this massive other war that had nothing to do with it, and hence they‘re terrible at national security. 

BEINART:  Well, you know, there‘s this long history which really goes back to Vietnam.  And you have to remember that national security is really an extension of the cultural war.

And the biggest single problem I think that afflicts the Democrats on national security is the Democratic Party has, since Vietnam, had often a difficult relationship with the U.S. military.  And once the military, after Vietnam, started moving into the Republican Party en masse, that created a kind of structural problem. 

You‘re right, on policy, the truth of the matter is the Democratic Party is anything but pacifists.  I mean, the Democrats are the ones who led us into Vietnam.  As you said, Clinton also had military operations in Bosnia and Kosovo and Haiti.  So, in fact, the Democrats are not anything like a pacifist party, but it‘s a legacy of the culture war that really dates back to Vietnam. 

UYGUR:  You know, it‘s funny, because if you go even further back, Truman, a Democrat, dropped two nukes. 

BEINART:  And started the war in Korea. 

UYGUR:  Yes.  And so the idea that the Democrats are soft on national security is so preposterous, but it works.  Let me show you the polls. 

So, when it was McCain versus Obama, back in the ‘08 election, of course, McCain had a 55-39 advantage at better with dealing with terrorism.  And then in 2004, Bush had a 61-36 advantage over John Kerry. 

Look, Peter, the way I see it, they do this—they‘re amazing at marketing.  So it‘s not like they have got any results, but they just market the hell out of it. 

Is there something to be learned there?  I mean, is—and again, it‘s not purely about politics.  It‘s so that we get the right policy, so the Democrats can say, hey, wait a minute, starting these giant wars is not effective.  They‘ve got to fight back against this marketing, otherwise we‘re headed in the wrong direction.

BEINART:  Well, I really think this is—just in pure political terms, this is the most important thing that‘s happened for the Democratic Party on national security since Vietnam, because it really is a validation of the central points that Obama was making in his foreign policy views.  And, in fact, I mean, it goes directly against some of the stereotypes of the Democrats. 

This was not a multilateral operation.  We didn‘t go to the U.N.  In fact, under international law, there are a lot of questions about going and assassinating someone on foreign soil.

But Obama said he would do exactly this during the campaign.  He said he would violate Pakistani sovereignty.  Not exactly the kind of thing of a guy who‘s reading every—who‘s consulting lawyers before he makes military operations. 

And he did it.   It was a bold move and it succeeded.  So I think it really puts the lie to a lot of the stereotypes that are out there about the way Democrats conduct foreign policy. 

UYGUR:  All right.  Peter Beinart of “The Daily Beast.”

Thank you so much for joining us.  We appreciate it. 

BEINART:  My pleasure. 

UYGUR:  Now, Paul Ryan, it turns out, to be completely under the bus.  Republicans are running for the hills and now signaling surrender on Ryan‘s plan to cut Medicare. 

Can you believe that?  Well, we‘ll tell you what caused their panic. 

And America‘s richest companies were revealed today.  Guess how many were oil companies?  And guess how much of your money the GOP gave them again today? 


UYGUR:  For our “Con Job of the Day,” we‘ll take a look at the bait-and-switch move that the House Republicans have pulled to work on their real priorities instead of jobs.  House Republicans couldn‘t talk enough about jobs when they were in the minority. 


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER:  The American people are still asking the question, where are the jobs? 



ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MINORITY WHIP:  This election is about work.  

It‘s about getting people back to work. 



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We are determined to fight for the future of the American people, to create jobs. 


UYGUR:  So you would think they would be gung ho to pass some job bills, right?  Of course not.

The number of jobs bills proposed so far?  You guessed it, zero.  Or as they would say on Cinco de Mayo, nada. 

Instead, they‘re pushing social issues and helping big banks.  Of course!  That‘s what they always do.

Just yesterday, the House passed a bill to permanent ban federal funding for abortion; ban tax credits for businesses that cover abortions under their health insurance plans; and bar women from counting the cost of an abortion as a deductible medical expense.

Great.  So, instead of attacking the jobs issues, they immediately started attacking women‘s rights. 

Now, if you‘re a woman who voted for them thinking that they were going to help you find a job, how do you feel now? 

And, of course, two House committees also voted to advance bills to weaken the new financial regulations.  One would delay implementing new rules governing to—while the other would limit the power of the new consumer financial protection bureau.  Out of control derivatives are what sunk the economy in the first place.  And now the Republicans want to let the banks do the same exact thing again?  And these guys pretend to be against the bailouts?  Please.  But Boehner says by doing things like limiting the abortions, the house is keeping good on its promises. 


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  Today we‘re taking another step toward media commitment in keeping our word.  


UYGUR:  How about your word on creating jobs?  House Republicans campaign on jobs but deliver on their social agenda in giving the Wall Street donors another huge break.  And that‘s our con job of the day. 

Now, Eric Cantor and the Republicans are throwing Paul Ryan under the bus.  Fun for everybody, especially us.  The white flags are up.  We‘ll tell you all about it.  And the Republicans did show unity today on one thing.  It was with their buddies in big oil.  The grand oil party just gave away more of your money to the richest companies in the world.  We‘ll tell you all of that. 


UYGUR:  With Americans‘ attention fixed on the death of Bin Laden this week, Republicans and Congress are hoping no one will notice that they‘re surrendering on Paul Ryan‘s plan to privatize Medicare.  Well, I noticed how Speaker John Boehner started the retreat last week.  


BOEHNER:  Paul Ryan has an idea, they‘re certainly worthy of consideration. 


I voted for it.  I‘m for it.  It‘s our idea, all right?  It‘s Paul‘s idea.  Other people have other ideas.  I‘m not wedded to one single idea, but I think—we have a plan. 


UYGUR:  Damn, I‘m kind of into it.  It was Paul‘s idea.  I‘m not saying anything, right?  Then yesterday, a “Washington Post” story suggested that Majority Eric Cantor was dropping the Medicare proposal from budget negotiations.  Cantor denied saying that, but he wouldn‘t say Medicare was still in play.  Instead, he told reporters quote, “I have not taken Medicare off the table, but the president has.  The reality is this president has excoriated our budget plan, and the Medicare proposal in the plan.”  So, all of a sudden he‘s like I‘m not backing away, the president has just been too tough on it.  Fascinating.  Well, that convince yet that their back and down.  This morning, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Dave Camp indicated he‘s not even going to bring the plan up in committee. 


REP. DAVE CAMP ®, MICHIGAN:  I‘m not really interested in just laying down more markers.  I would rather have the committee working with the Senate and with the president focus on savings and reforms that can be signed into law.  


UYGUR:  That‘s great.  And now, even Paul Ryan himself is backing up with this statement, quote, “Our starting point is the budget passed by the House.  We are under no illusion that we‘re going to get everything we‘ve always wanted in this one bill.”  Oh, really?  Well, Ryan sounded pretty sure of himself exactly one month ago today when he unveiled his budget proposal. 


UNIDENTIFIED MAN:  You‘re a liar!  (bleep).  

REP. PAUL RYAN ®, WISCONSIN:  Everyone under 55 is. 


UNIDENTIFIED MAN:  Why in the world did you ever vote for the Paul Ryan Medicare plan? 

RYAN:  This is the path to prosperity.  This is the budget that we are putting forward today.  This represents our choice for our country‘s future, and it‘s our commitment to the American people.  We don‘t need clever politicians.  We need leaders and we need leadership.  And so we believe we have a moral imperative.  It is time to stand up and do what is necessary to fix this country. 


UYGUR:  So those town hall events might have had something to do with him going from it is a moral imperative to, did we say we were going to end Medicare, I didn‘t mean we‘re going to end Medicare.  Where did you get that idea?  Back pedal, back pedal, back pedal, back pedal.  And look, beyond the town hall outrages, poll after poll shows that American people are against on the Republicans on this one.  A brand-new Quinnipiac poll found 70 percent of people oppose cutting Medicare to balance the budget.  That‘s like the 20 millionth poll in a row saying the exact same thing.  So what part of 70 percent did they not understand?  Well, if they missed it the first time around, they seem to be getting the message now. 

All right.  Joining me now is Ezra Klein, MSNBC contributor, a reporter from “The Washington Post,” and Bill Press, host of “The Bill Press Show” on Sirius Radio.  Ezra, let me start with you.  We‘ve got a republican aid telling the press, quote, “it is a big problem about the Medicare plan.”  Things are unraveling.  So, is that true?  Have we analyzed this right?  Are they really running away from this issue?

EZRA KLEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  It is a big problem.  So, on the one hand they are simply bowing to the laws of political gravity here.  They don‘t control the Senate, they don‘t control the White House.  What is fascinating, however is that knowing that they could have never gotten a plan that is this extreme signed by the president, they still made all their people vote on it.  Usually, when you control only one chamber of Congress, you try to keep your people from taking very, very dangerous votes, because you don‘t really have the promise you actually pass the plan you want.  And so, why get them on record for something the other party can run against you in the next election.  They got them on record on privatizing Medicare, they‘re not going to pass a privatization of Medicare.  And yet, it‘s still going to be example A in the democratic campaign against them.  So, I wonder if there are no couple of very annoyed house members this week. 

UYGUR:  Well, you know, the thing though is that Bill, you know, Representative Camp won‘t bring it up for a second voting committee, because he‘s afraid of exactly what Ezra just said.  And Boehner is trying to spin this like it‘s not a retreat, but let me give you Boehner‘s clip here and then we‘ll come and talk about it.  



BOEHNER:  My interpretation of what Mr. Camp was, was a recognition of the political realities that we face.  While Republicans control the House, the Democrats control the Senate and they control the White House.  We‘ve put our plan on the table.  It‘s out there—and it‘s time for the Democrats to put their plan on the table. 


UYGUR:  Bill, when‘s the last time you saw Republicans retreating like this, talking about, oh it‘s political reality, we have to run for the hills?

PRESS:  I don‘t think I‘ve ever seen them retreat like this.  As relate to that, absolutely perfectly and Boehner just confirmed that.  You know, what, I think this is the republican Jonestown, Cenk.  I mean, Paul Ryan mix the Kool-Aid, they all drank it, and now they realize it‘s a poison brew, but they can‘t deny it.  I mean, they wrote this thing.  They introduced it.  They embraced it and they voted on it.  It‘s like it‘s stand freight on their part.  And even Eric Cantor‘s aide this morning said, quote, “Our position is the Ryan budget.”  So, they‘re trying to have it in a sense both ways.  They don‘t want to alienate the Tea Party, but they know this is poison.  I mean, this is—I honestly believe on this issue alone that they could lose the House of Representatives.  It‘s stunningly politically stupid for them to do this. 

UYGUR:  Well, now, to Bill‘s point, Ezra, it seems like they‘re stuck in the middle.  Because you got a freshman congressman like Joe Walsh who‘ve said this today, “I would be very disappointed if we didn‘t follow through.  We have spent, gosh, a month or two now trying to educate the American people to a pretty good reception, I appreciate the chairman‘s notion but I would continue to respectfully challenge him to get this thing through committee.”  Meaning, he thinks they‘re definitely not going to push it forward and he‘s mad about it, so now you‘ve got the Tea Party guys mad, and you‘ve made the seniors and the rest of the voters mad.  Well, this looks like a disaster, doesn‘t it?

KLEIN:  Right.  There‘s two big things to watch here.  And number one is by bringing out the Ryan plan, by conflating deficit reduction with vast ideological, reshaping of the American state, the Republicans committed a lot of people in their base and in their party to something much bigger than just cutting the debt.  That‘s going to make it much harder for them to cut eventual deal on the debt ceiling, on the budget, because there are people that now see this as an opportunity, not something to bring down the budget deficit, but to get things like the privatization of Medicare, they wanted all along.  But the other thing to watch is that they could drop something like the Medicare privatization plan, so people begin saying, well, they‘ve lost. 

They‘re backing down and get things like big cuts in the Medicaid.  But obviously go to the poor and the disabled.  And so, don‘t have very powerful political constituency.  If the Republicans end up seeming like they suffer big political defeat here, but actually getting a big policy win, because it looks like they compromised from something immeasurably extreme to something that‘s only quite extreme, that won‘t at the end of the day be big policy.  So, I‘m really urging people to keep an eye on Medicaid that doesn‘t have quite the same protection as Medicare does.  

UYGUR:  Right.  And never, you know, underestimate the Democrats‘ ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. 

PRESS:  Well, on that point.

UYGUR:  So, Bill, how do they press forward on this one now?  Because it‘s time to put it away. 

PRESS:  Well, I just going to say, on the point, I think Democrats really have—the ground has certainly shifted, and I think Democrats have gained the advantage in maybe three ways.  One, I think they‘ve had an advantage now in getting an independent vote on the debt ceiling and stop playing political game with it.  Two, I think they have gained an advantage in these budget negotiations.  Call it excoriating the Republicans or whatever, but now the Democrats can push for cuts where they ought to come in the oil subsidies, in the Ag-subsidies, in raising the taxes on the wealthy and those things that President Obama has talked about.  And then again, thirdly, I think that they have already made those spots, every one of those Republicans that voted for this is going to have that spot running in their district.  It was a vote to save Medicare or kill Medicare, and they voted to kill it, and they can‘t run away from them.  

UYGUR:  Bill, I think you‘re exactly right.  You know how I feel, you have them on the run, you press forward, you move forward.

PRESS:  Absolutely.

UYGUR:  Go forward.  Go after them on a lot of this stuff.  We‘re talking about oil subsidies next, but there is one issue that they still have a tremendous backing on which I‘m not sure they are going to tackle.  Let me ask you about that, in that latest Quinnipiac poll, when asked about taxes, here we go again, increased taxes on people making over $250,000, the American people are totally on board.  Sixty nine percent say yes, only 28 percent oppose.  Is this the time to strike on that as well?

KLEIN:  Not only is this the time, but it‘s been the time for years now.  The Democrats have been running on taxes for a very long time.  And the key failure they make when they run on taxes, if you‘re not willing to forthrightly advocate for some taxes, and that means on people who make less than $250,000 occasionally, the Clinton era tax cuts rates weren‘t horrible for people making 150, 000, 100,000 either.  If you never allow people to really raise taxes, you eventually going to have to have something like the Ryan plan.  You cannot have a state with any sort of real level of responsibility and things like Medicare, and Medicaid and Social Security, if you don‘t also have revenues.  The Obama administration has always been quite terribly on the tax issue.  And even as they begin to push on 250k and up, at some point Democrats are going to have to come out and say, you know, what, if you want a government, you have to be willing to fund it and it seems people want it, so we got to be adults here. 

UYGUR:  Hey, listen, if we went back to the Clinton rates, I would do that in a second.  I know it‘s little tougher on all of us, but hey, we got 22 million jobs at that time.  I mean, it was a comprehensive plan that worked. 

PRESS:  It worked.

UYGUR:  Absolutely.  All right.  Ezra Klein and Bill Press, as always guys, great having you here tonight.  

KLEIN:  Thank you.  

UYGUR:  All right.  Now, well, President Obama was in New York on a healing mission, the Republicans were back in D.C. on a mission to protect big oil.  Again, we‘re not going to let them get away with that.  The facts are ahead.             


UYGUR:  After all that‘s happened and it feels like forever ago, but it was in fact just over a week ago, eight days to be exact, when President Obama called a surprise press briefing to release his long-form birth  certificate for the world to see. 


PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES:  We do not have time for this kind of silliness, we‘ve got better stuff to do.  I‘ve got better stuff to do.  We have big problems to solve, and I‘m confident we can solve them, but we‘re going to have to focus on them.  Not on this. 


UYGUR:  He said there was no time for silliness, and we had no idea how right he was.  After all, he was busy planning one of the most important military missions in U.S. history, but the goal of releasing the birth certificate was to put Donald Trump‘s birther circus to rest and show all the conspiracy theories that he was of course, born in the U.S.  Well, did it work?  That‘s an interesting question.  Washington Post ABC poll taken after the release of the long firm birth certificate shows.  Only three percent of Americas now believe he was born in a foreign country, that‘s down from 14 percent last year.  Huge drop. 

Even the doubters are crumbling.  One percent of the doubters say that there is solid evidence he was born in other country.  A year ago, that number was nine percent.  But don‘t get too excited.  The Zogby poll still has numbers that are quite depressing.  Sixteen percent of all voters and 30 percent of all Republicans continue to believe President Obama was not born in the U.S.  So, despite all available evidence, nearly a third of all Republicans still hold on to that wacky conspiracy theory.  It‘s because of crazy people like this who egg them on. 


UNIDENTIFIED MAN:  For some reason, there‘s a—there‘s a green border around it that had to be photo shopped in.  

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN:  Yes, well, this whole border is suspect.  I mean, if you‘re taking a scan of something, it would to your point, it would be white.  

UNIDENTIFIED MAN:  Hey, listen, it may or may not be, but certainly opens the can of worlds that there are at least questions. 


UYGUR:  They‘re still at it.  Unbelievable.  All right.  We‘ll be right back.   


UYGUR:  Democrats today said that the GOP should be renamed the grand oil party.  A little clever but it‘s also very apt considering the Republicans voted down a democrat lead measure that would end a tax break for the five largest oil companies.  Thereby, protecting their bosses once again.  These are the same oil companies that last quarter, that‘s just a quarter of a year made $32 billion in profits, not revenue, profits.  So instead of ending the most unjust subsidies in United States history, House Republicans passed a measure that would speed up proposed offshore oil and gas lease sales to make the oil companies even more money. 

This comes one day after Republicans announced a task force to expand oil drilling.  The task force is called House Energy Action Team.  HEAT for short.  It‘s not named after the Robert de Niro, Al Pacino, Bank Heist movie, but there‘s definitely a heist going on.  The task force is made up of 26 House Republicans who have received over $4 million in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry over the course of their careers.  It includes Mike Conaway from Texas, who‘s gotten over $678, 000 from oil.  West Virginia Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito who has received more than 340,000, Fred Upton, who has raked in $262,000.  Now, let me ask you something—who do you work for?  The guy who pays you, right?  The same is true for the Republican Party.  They work for the people who pay them.  The oil companies, that‘s why they keep giving away $40 billion in oil subsidies, as our next guest is about to tell us. 

Joining me now is New York Representative Tim Bishop.  He unveiled the legislation aimed at ending billions in taxpayer subsidies.  Congressman, great to have you here. 

REP. TIM BISHOP (D), NEW YORK:  Thanks for having me on.  

UYGUR:  And how did that bill work out for you?

BISHOP:  Well, it went down today.  We offered one piece of it today.  We offered a bill that on what‘s called a previous question vote, that would have taken away one of the tax subsidies that the oil companies realized.  It is taxing something called the domestic manufacturing tax credit.  It cost the taxpayer about $1.3 billion a year, and it is completely unjustified, and completely impossible to reconcile with the prices that the oil companies are charging right now to the American people.  

UYGUR:  You know, I‘m curious to what their argument is.  Because first of all, they have lost the American people.  You have a poll on eliminating tax credits, 74 percent find that acceptable, we should eliminate them.  Only 22 percent find it unacceptable.  Three out of the top five most profitable companies in the world are oil companies.  Exxon Mobil just announced over $30 billion in profits last year.  It goes on and on and on.  So, what‘s in the God‘s green earth can they say when you guys say, listen, how about just stop giving them subsidies, what‘s their big grand argument against that?

BISHOP:  Well, their argument is if we take away the subsidies, that people will pay that price at the pump.  And it is a nonsensical argument.  These subsidies have had absolutely no impact on holding down price.  These subsidies were in existence.  When oil was $70 a barrel, when oil was $80 a barrel, when oil was $90 a barrel, when it was as high as $147 a barrel, and it‘s had no impact on driving down price.  So, we have no reason to think that taking away the subsidies will have any impact on price.  And also, we all know that oil is priced globally, and the factors that go into the pricing of oil are many that include, in some cases supply and demand, in many cases speculation, in many cases geopolitical factors, in some cases fear, in many cases the value of the dollar, none of the pricing has to do with subsidies.  

UYGUR:  Yes, it is absolutely outrageous.  Even President Bush said, hey, if it goes over $50 a barrel, we shouldn‘t give subsidies and we‘re over 100 now, and they‘re still holding on to them.  Because that‘s where they work for it.  Representative Tim Bishop, you got the right legislation, I wish you luck with it.  Thank you for calling us tonight.  

BISHOP:  I hope we can get it passed.  Thank you.  

UYGUR:  All right.  We‘ll be right back.                        


UYGUR:  Well, we end the show with good news today, everybody.  Corporate profits are way up.  In fact the fortune 500 companies made a combined $10.8 trillion last year and their profits soared 81 percent.  So obviously you‘ve all been rehired, right?  I thought this was supposed to trickle down to all of us, but yet we still have about nine percent unemployment.  Now, corporations are asking for bigger tax breaks, because I guess they didn‘t make enough money by not hiring you.  They say if we just give them more breaks, then out of the infinite mercy of their hearts, they will consider hiring some of us.  Maybe. 

In fact, this is the one thing Democrats and Republicans agree on unfortunately, that we should lower corporate tax rates.  Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is proposing taking out some of the loopholes in the system and lowering corporate taxes from 35 percent all the way down to 26 percent.  And of course, his fellow Republicans, yes, he is a republican, he just happens to work on a democratic administration, of course love the idea, they‘ve all enthusiastically agree to start planning on this. 

The reality, of course is that these profits get concentrated at the very top to give you a sense of that.  There‘s a startling new analysis done by Dean Baker that compares an average executive salary to the salary of a Navy SEAL, you know, the guys who just risked their lives to take out Bin Laden.  A Navy SEAL makes $54,000 on average.  The CEO‘s of Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan make about 20 million a year.  But let‘s be fair and take the average pay of a CEO at an S&P 500 company.  That number is $11,358,445.  That means they earn 200 times the salary of our bravest troops.  But we do have to retain their talent, right? 

Now, who thinks these are the right priorities?  And where have these priorities left us?  With worst economic inequality than Pakistan, where our SEALs insisted that rate.  Yes, Pakistan is more equitable than us.  So, are the Ivory Coast, Utopia, and Kazakhstan.  To be fair, we are nip and tuck with Uganda.  I‘m afraid we‘re slipping into a banana republic where the rich are super-rich and everyone else grovels.  Let‘s get back to that American middle class, stop it with the corporate tax cuts, whether you‘re a democrat or a republican. 

That‘s the show.  I‘m Cenk Uygur, thanks for watching.  “HARDBALL” is next. 

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