Guests: Howard Dean, Wesley Clark, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Kathy Hochul, Bob
Shrum, Dana Milbank
CENK UYGUR, HOST: Good evening, everybody. I‘m Cenk Uygur, live from Los Angles.
We learned a lot this weekend about how Osama bin Laden ran al Qaeda and ran away from the United States. And we also learned a lot about how conservatives are still stuck in the past, fighting the wrong war with the wrong tools.
First, the bin Laden tapes.
New videos found at the compound show an involved bin Laden recording new orders for his followers. They even show bin Laden monitoring TV coverage of himself. He looks kind of sad there, just missing the Cheetos to go along with that picture.
U.S. officials say the amount of material recovered from the compound could fill a small college library. They also say intelligence gathered during the raid shows bin Laden ran a “active command and control” center for al Qaeda.
As President Obama said on “60 Minutes,” this was a huge victory.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We got the opportunity, I think, to really finally defeat at least al Qaeda in that border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The one thing I didn‘t lose sleep over was the possibility of taking bin Laden out. justice was done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Of course, the bin Laden we found is a far cry from the isolated, irrelevant man hiding in a cave that was described by the Bush administration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don‘t know where he is, nor—you know, I just don‘t spend much time on him, to be honest with you. And again, I don‘t know where he is. I‘ll repeat what I said, I truly am not that concerned about him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: The smirk always drives me crazy in that clip. It‘s bin Laden you‘re talking about.
The Bush administration had been claiming that bin Laden was barely irrelevant since al Qaeda wasn‘t taking direct orders from him anymore. Of course, as usual, it turns out they were totally wrong about that. They might have wanted to downplay bin Laden‘s relevance since they never caught him.
But now that President Obama has, they want the credit anyway. Just pretty amusing to watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, FMR. SECRETARY OF STATE: President Bush had to make some very, very hard calls that, frankly, helped to set this up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI ®, FMR. NEW YORK MAYOR: All of the work he did and the changes he made in intelligence brought this about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: The sour grapes are everywhere. Former Bush chief of staff Andy Card said, “I think Obama has pounded his chest a little too much. He can take pride in it, but he does not need to show it so much.”
Are you kidding me? Pounding his chest? That‘s from the guy who was part of the team that brought us the infamous “Mission Accomplished” banner? You wouldn‘t call that pounding your chest?
And by the way, they bragged way before they got the job done. They spiked the ball at their own 20 yard line. Did I score? Did I score? No, you‘re 80 yards away.
This debate isn‘t just about politics. Look, it matters because it‘s a fight about, how do you use American power? President Obama has just made a convincing case for smarter wars and more targeted military action, and I think he‘s proven his case.
Joining us now is Howard Dean, former DNC chairman and former governor of Vermont.
Governor Dean, great to have you here.
HOWARD DEAN (D), FMR. VERMONT GOVERNOR: Cenk, thanks for having me.
UYGUR: All right.
First, look, there was a lot of things that the Bush administration now wants to take credit for. They said that he was irrelevant. That turns out not to be true. They said President Obama‘s bragging too much. They‘re talking about how torture was the right way to go. None of that turns out to be true.
But what do you think was the largest failure of the Bush administration in terms of strategy that did not work in getting bin Laden or accomplishing the war on terror?
DEAN: Well, look, I mean, I think we can spend time on the Bush administration. They did make an enormous number of mistakes, and unfortunately humility is not their strong suit. But I think most Americans want to look forward.
This is a huge win for the president. It‘s actually a huge win for the country, which makes the Bush people look bad.
I know Andy Card well, and I like him, and I‘m very disappointed to hear him say that. This is about the country. This isn‘t about President Obama. This is about some incredibly brave troops, some really smart planning.
Of course, President Obama, as the president, he gets the credit he deserves for making this very call. The toughest thing about this call for the president, who was not going to risk his life in Abbottabad, was the political ramifications.
He screws this up, and he‘s in big trouble. And it was a gutsy call because a lot of things could have gone wrong with this operation.
He did something that I think was really important. He waited patiently until he knew it was Osama. There was a good chance of it being Osama. And then he could document the fact—and there was a good chance that he could document that Osama was in fact dead. And, of course, then they got this treasure trove of documents.
So, look, I think the president did this very, very well. I think the Bush people really are exhibiting sour grapes. And it‘s unbecoming.
And knowing what I know about President Bush, he himself would not approve of the kind of behavior of some of the people around him. The president, I think, is a classy guy, President Bush, and I think he understands what‘s good for the country, and this is not about politics.
UYGUR: Governor Dean, I want to reiterate that, to me, it‘s not about the politics. It‘s about, what did we get right, what did we get wrong, and what can we learn from that for the future, as you said?
So, now, obviously, we got some things right here. So, what‘s your sense of what we learned from this mission and what we‘ve done over the last 10 years?
Well, first of all, the wrong thing to do was to have massive interventions in places like Iraq. That had nothing to do with the war on terror. It was a huge mistake. What we see now is the Iraqis are becoming a vassal state of the Iranians, carrying out their bidding, shooting innocent civilians. This is not going to have a happy ending.
And we need to come home. We will come home at the end of the year. And we‘re not going to leave something that‘s going to look much like a democracy as we know it. That was a huge mistake that the Bush people made.
The right way to do this is to have targeted intervention with terrorist groups. We‘ve been doing that. In fairness, the Bush people did some of that, too. We were not the first to use drones, but the drones have been very, very successful.
We are going to need to get out of Afghanistan. We‘re going to get out of Afghanistan sooner rather than later.
Unfortunately, our allies in Afghanistan are corrupt and inept. And you can‘t work with people—this is very much like Vietnam—when you have a corrupt government that you‘re trying to work with, you can‘t succeed if the government itself doesn‘t want to success. But when we get out, we know now, because of the bravery of our troops and the expertise in our armed forces and in our intelligence, that we probably will continue to be able to control the threat from al Qaeda using drones and Special Ops, even though Afghanistan will not be friendly territory.
UYGUR: So, Governor Dean, I understand you switched positions on Afghanistan recently. Tell me about that, why you think the facts on the ground necessitated a switch.
DEAN: Well, the reason I supported President Obama‘s expansion of troops in Afghanistan is I thought there was only a small chance that we could prevail there. But I‘m deeply concerned about the plight of women in Afghanistan.
They women of Afghanistan are going to be back in the status of 12th century slaves when we leave. You know, the Afghan culture is barbaric towards women—stoning them, raping them as punishment, banning them from schools. A disgrace.
What turned me finally against sending more troops, and in favor of getting our troops home as soon as possible, was not so much the corruption of President Karzai, but a statement he made basically saying that women did not deserve equal rights, and in fact they should be very limited in what they‘re allowed to do. And I began to think, you know, what is the true difference here between Hamid Karzai and the Taliban?
Yes, the Taliban have been hostile to the United States. I think they have learned their lesson. I think they understand that if they harbor people who are dangerous to us, we will come back and take them out if necessary. So why are we propping up this corrupt government that won‘t even stand up for its own women?
If that‘s the case, why are we there? So I began to realize that it wasn‘t that our troops couldn‘t succeed in Afghanistan. It was, without a government of Afghanistan that was a reasonable partner, it was unfair to expect American troops to try to turn the country around.
UYGUR: You know, now there‘s bipartisan opposition to stay in Afghanistan longer. We have got four Republicans, four Democrats that just came out on it today led by Peter Welch, who‘s a Democrat of Vermont, your home state, and Jason Chaffetz, a Republican of Utah.
Was it mistake to think that we could rebuild a nation, or even perhaps change their culture, especially by military means?
DEAN: Well, look, Cenk, here‘s how it works. We needed to go into Afghanistan. I supported President Bush when he went into Afghanistan. I did not support him going into Iraq, but I did into Afghanistan.
They had killed 3,000 of our people. They had harbored people who murdered 3,000 American civilians. So we had both a right and a necessity to go in and defend American security interests.
Once we get there, we find this very unstable, essentially 12th century society, and it is an opportunity for nation-building. There will be those who argue the Bush administration dropped the ball, they were in two places at once, we shouldn‘t have been in Iraq, we should have done better in Afghanistan. I think probably a lot of that is true.
The fact is that we weren‘t able to nation-build because we weren‘t able to find a partner that was honest, straightforward, and had the best interests of his nation at heart. Karzai probably stole the last election. The first election, he was elected reasonably and thoughtfully, and was a good partner for a while.
But I think his family has embezzled billions of dollars out of the Afghan National Bank and sent it to Dubai. There‘s a lot of discussion about one of his brothers being a drug dealer. These are not people that you eventually build nations with. America can never build another nation unless we have partners in that nation who want to build it, and I think we lack those partners.
UYGUR: All right. Howard Dean, as always, thanks for your time tonight. We really appreciate it.
DEAN: Thanks very much.
UYGUR: And joining me now is retired General Wesley Clark, former NATO commander and now chairman of Wes Clark & Associates.
General Clark, great to have you here as well.
GEN. WESLEY Clark (RET.), CHAIRMAN, WES CLARK & ASSOCIATES: Thank you, Cenk. Good to be with you.
UYGUR: Now, I was just talking to Governor Dean about his position switch in Afghanistan. I actually went through the same thing.
It‘s because it‘s been nearly 10 years. It‘s not the same war that we started with. We started with a war that was to get al Qaeda. Well, there‘s about 50 to 100 al Qaeda in Afghanistan, if our intelligence is correct, we just killed bin Laden.
Is this an entirely different war and should we get out of it?
CLARK: Well, first of all, we couldn‘t get out of until we got Osama bin Laden. So that‘s the precondition for the exit strategy.
I think we have got three tasks right now. Number one is we‘ve got to finish the job against al Qaeda.
We‘ve got a whole lot of information that‘s got to be exploited. It‘s not only worldwide, it‘s also localized in Pakistan and maybe in Afghanistan. So, don‘t pull any punches on al Qaeda at this point.
Number two, I think we need to do as much as we can to push ourselves into a posture that we‘ve got a reasonable chance to get some kind of diplomatic agreement that will provide minimum rights for the people of Afghanistan and some assurance to us, diplomatically and legally, that we don‘t have to stay there to enforce our counterterrorism strategy. And maybe it will authorize us to come back in if necessary. So that‘s the second piece.
The third piece is I think we need to get our mission transitioned from forces into something more entrepreneurial. I don‘t know why American business can‘t go in there. The Chinese are in there. They‘re mining coppers.
There‘s oil, there‘s copper, there‘s all kinds of minerals.
Afghanistan someday is going to be a very wealthy place.
Our soldiers have lost their lives there, we put our blood and treasure on the line there. And I think we should get something out of that. But we‘ve got to structure that and get in there and get it done.
UYGUR: Well, that‘s interesting. I‘m much more worried about getting our troops out, honestly, than I am about that, the business interests there.
CLARK: But I think you have to take a big picture on this thing. Pakistan is going to align with China against India. India is going to continue to maintain its effort inside Afghanistan to use that as a block between China and Pakistan.
So this geostrategic rivalry is not going to go away. So, we may not be playing militarily, but we have a vital interest in engaging both India and China. We don‘t want to see war there between any of the parties, but we also don‘t want to see innocent people killed or intimidated.
The United States has global interests, and we can‘t simply say we got Osama bin Laden, OK, lights out, we‘re leaving, and let it go back the way it was. That‘s the mistake we made in 1989. We‘re not going to make it against, I hope.
UYGUR: General Clark, when you look at how we got bin Laden and what we did in Afghanistan for 10 years, let alone Iraq, et cetera, can‘t we learn the lesson though that these giant wars are not the way to go? I mean, can you imagine if instead of sending in 24 Navy SEALs into Pakistan, we realized bin Laden is in Pakistan so we invaded the country?
I mean, these war zones don‘t seem to make any sense. Aren‘t these surgical strikes the much better way to go?
CLARK: Well, they are if you can get the intelligence. We do have technologies that we didn‘t have, let‘s say, in Vietnam, and so we are able to make these so-called “surgical strikes.”
By the way, they‘re not too surgical, probably, if you‘re on the ground and feeling the impact of it. But this is a really tough mission.
Our SEALs did a great job, and it‘s absolutely the way to go. And it‘s the way we should about going if we have to come back into Afghanistan. It‘s the way we should have gone against Osama bin Laden long ago, had we had the intelligence. Not with major invasions, but by going after the people who are taking shelter in hapless states like Afghanistan was in 2001.
UYGUR: General, one more question about Pakistan, because that‘s a tough nut to crack.
You know, right now they‘re saying, oh, you violated our sovereignty, how dare you, there is going to be consequences. One of their papers just outed one of our CIA officials, apparently. They tried to get the top guy, they got the wrong name, et cetera. But obviously, they‘re very mad about what went down.
What do you do with a problem like Pakistan?
CLARK: Well, I think you try to continue to work the problem. I don‘t think it does us any good to leave Pakistan and say you‘re on your own again and we don‘t like you. I mean, it‘s a nation of 175 million people, it‘s got nuclear weapons.
It‘s on a geostrategic fault line. It‘s going to cause mischief in the region. It does harbor international terrorists.
I think what we showed the Pakistanis is basically the United States is powerful enough and has the resolve to take action in self-defense to protect ourselves if Pakistan won‘t or can‘t. And I think it should be a wakeup call to Pakistan.
But, having said that, I think they‘ve got to accept it as that, and we‘ve got to continue to work with Pakistan. We have every reason in the world to continue to work with them, but this is a wakeup call for Pakistan. No more fooling around. When we say we mean it, now they understand we mean it.
UYGUR: Yes. In the past we only had carrots. Now it appears we have carrots and sticks. So that‘s the way the world works.
CLARK: Yes. It does work that way.
UYGUR: General Wesley Clark, thank you so much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.
CLARK: Thank you, Cenk. Thank you.
UYGUR: All right.
Now, coming up, Dick Cheney and his daughter say the U.S. should be waterboarding detainees. Of course they do. Here we go again. A reality check on that again.
And Newt Gingrich is making a political comeback, and it‘s making the Republican Party very worried, actually, so they‘re begging someone else to get into the race.
Plus, the Republican assault on Medicare has the GOP in trouble all across the country. We‘ll tell you about the one Republican who might actually lose soon because of it.
UYGUR: Just when you thought it was over, here come the Republicans again with their defense of torture. I‘m sorry, enhanced interrogation techniques.
It was a family affair this weekend with both Dick and Liz Cheney insisting that waterboarding was the key to capturing bin Laden.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD CHENEY, FMR. VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The enhanced interrogation program played a role. That is to say that some of the early leads came out of that program.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LIZ CHENEY, DICK CHENEY‘S DAUGHTER: These are techniques that we know work. That debate is over. It worked, it got the intelligence. It wasn‘t torture. It was legal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Of course, an abundance of reporting over the last week shows that they are totally wrong. Waterboarding did not produce the critical information that led to bin Laden. But being wrong has never stopped the Cheneys before.
A former counterterrorism official told NBC‘s Michael Isikoff, “They waterboarded KSM”—that‘s Khalid Sheikh Mohammed—“183 times, and he still didn‘t give the guy up.”
Come on! And you want to tell me that enhanced interrogation techniques worked? That‘s a counterterrorism official saying that.
“The New York Times” said, “The harsh techniques played a small role at most in identifying bin Laden‘s trusted courier and exposing his hideout.”
And The Associated Press said, “Mohammed did not discuss bin Laden‘s courier while being subjected to the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding. He acknowledged knowing him many months later under standard interrogation.”
And then there‘s the inconvenient fact that the master of torture, Dick Cheney, couldn‘t catch bin Laden even with all of the torture that he authorized. If it worked so well, why didn‘t you get him for over seven years while you did all that torture?
You would think that record of abysmal failure would have sobered Cheney up a little bit, but apparently he‘s impervious to facts. That‘s probably part of the reason why he was such a miserable failure on national security in the first place.
Joining me now is Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of “The Nation.”
Katrina, my views are clear on this, but we‘re still having the debate. We‘re still talking about whether these guys tortured for seven years, and being a failure actually somehow was a success.
So, I don‘t know, is it part of the problem of encouraging them by putting them on TV and letting them spout their nonsense, instead of saying, hey, listen, you losers, you screwed this up?
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, EDITOR, “THE NATION”: Well, I mean, these are torture apologists. I mean, I think we have to call it plain and straight. Dick Cheney is the torturer in chief, and he is out there reveling in the use of torture, which is a violation of international and domestic law.
Cenk, more important, those who have followed this field understand that torture is not only immoral, it is unreliable. It opens our troops to reprisals, it gives license to other countries to do acts in the name of fighting terror.
President Obama, on his press conference on his 100th day in office, forthrightly rejected torture. Remember? He released these torture memos and said this country is not a torturing country.
He understood, and he said at this press conference that perhaps one would get information. But there are other ways of getting information in this fight against terrorism that are consistent with our values and with what kind of country we are.
The people, the Cheneys and those around them, who gave legal advice to condone torture took this country into the dark side, into sites this country doesn‘t want to go into. That we are having this debate suggests how far we‘ve gone over.
And I think it‘s time for people to understand that we have to hold Cheney and his crowd accountable. And I fear that President Obama, for political reasons, didn‘t want to do that. And then not holding Cheney, Bush, others accountable, whether through a special council or an independent commission, we see them strutting their wares on national television and being part of a debate that subverts the very values this country proclaims to stand for.
UYGUR: And Katrina, we‘re still talking about this because the Republicans keep bringing it back. I guess because they‘re desperate, because they didn‘t get bin Laden, so they‘re going to grasp at straws to figure out how they can take credit.
But you know now Greg Sargent is reporting on The Washington Post‘s “Plum Line” blog that the Republicans, when Petraeus comes up to become the CIA chief for his confirmation, and Panetta goes to become the secretary of defense for his confirmation, are going to bring this up again and ask them, hey, didn‘t enhanced interrogation techniques rock? But they might be making a mistake. Let me just actually show you a quick video of General Petraeus talking about torture before.
I‘m sorry, it‘s a quote. Let me read it to you.
He says, “When we have taken steps that have violated the Geneva Conventions, we rightly have been criticized. So as we move forward, it is important to again live or values, to live the agreements we have made in the international justice arena, and to practice those.”
So, are the Republicans making a mistake here by constantly bringing this up?
VANDEN HEUVEL: Yes, they are. But, Cenk, here‘s what obscene. The issue of torture should not be a partisan issue.
General Taguba, other Republicans, military adjunct generals, those in the military understand that torture subverts the very values of this country. And I think that we need to look also at the national security apparatus and what‘s going on with targeted assassinations, what‘s going on with indefinite detention and military tribunals.
We need to look at that entire apparatus. But let us never forget that we were run—this country was run by those who are war criminals.
It‘s a fact. It‘s a fact they violated numerous laws. And good for General Petraeus. Let‘s get out of Afghanistan, and let‘s look very hard at these unmanned drone attacks, which I think are going to be recruiting tools for a new generation of terrorists, because they‘re—but Cheney and his ilk are war criminals.
UYGUR: Well, they admitted it in their books. They all wrote in our books, we did the waterboarding. Waterboarding is a crime—
VANDEN HEUVEL: But how do we hold them accountable? How do we hold them accountable?
UYGUR: Well, I hear you on that.
VANDEN HEUVEL: If we don‘t look forward with—
UYGUR: I know.
VANDEN HEUVEL: -- integrity, you know, if we don‘t handle that, you understand why kids will grow up with civic textbooks that don‘t account for what this country did. And how do we right the wrongs if we don‘t learn our history in a real way?
UYGUR: Well, believe me, Katrina, I‘m on your side for that, but that‘s for whole other day‘s discussion. And many discussions I‘ve had in the past about this administration not holding that administration accountable.
VANDEN HEUVEL: It‘s not a partisan—
UYGUR: It‘s not just about looking backward or looking forward, it‘s about—hey, listen, if there aren‘t consequences, then you‘re justifying it and you‘re rationalizing it, and it‘s not the right way to go.
But for now, we‘ve got to leave it right there.
VANDEN HEUVEL: Thank you.
UYGUR: Katrina vanden Heuvel, thank you again for joining us.
Now, when we come back, Republican Senator Jim DeMint says Mitt Romney fooled him into supporting Romneycare. Well, that‘s awesome, and that‘s our “Con Job of the Day.”
And Paul Ryan‘s epic overreach on Medicare is hurting the GOP. John Boehner did something today that shows why they‘re in a panic.
UYGUR: And now for our con job of the day, we look at South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint‘s efforts to whitewash the past support of Mitt Romney, and the health care law Romney passed in Massachusetts. DeMint endorsed Romney for president in 2008 and attributed a big part of his support to what he saw as a success of Romney‘s health care law.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JIM DEMINT ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: There‘s no one in the race like Mitt Romney who‘s proved in business and he‘s volunteer work and as governor of Massachusetts that he can solve a problem not by creating more government, but by making freedom work for everyone. He‘s done it with health care.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Oops. But now that it‘s clear there are overwhelming similarities between Romney‘s law and the federal health care law passed by President Obama, DeMint can‘t run fast away from Romney. A video endorsement DeMint made of Romney has been taken off as YouTube Channel. And when DeMint was asked last week if he was concerned about health care mandates during the last campaign, he said, quote, “I got involved with him before that, and the concept that was presented to me was the idea of moving people from government plans to private plans. I cannot accept all the mandates, all the government exchanges and it hasn‘t work, except for the fact that we just showed you a tape of DeMint praising Romney‘s health care program. You know the one with the mandates?
DeMint thought Mitt Romney‘s health care plan was great and thought it was almost the same one as Democratic president‘s law. In which case, it now sucks. You wonder why people say, they don‘t trust politicians, that‘s why. DeMint‘s blatant hypocrisy on the health care law is our con job of the day.
UYGUR: For weeks, we‘ve been watching the backlash against the republican budget plan. A lot of people inside the Washington beltway had applauded Paul Ryan for his budget, calling it grownup and serious. Of course that‘s what they call it when people propose hacking away at programs that help you. And of course, protect programs that help the rich, people inside Washington love stuff like that. That‘s what so called grownup. But then regular people at town hall meetings, deliver their verdict, they hated the proposal to destroy Medicare and Medicaid. And now, that outrage is reaching a whole new level.
For the first time, Paul Ryan‘s budget will face voters‘ outrage at the polls. Up next, a special election for the seat of former Republican Congressman Chris Lee. You remember Lee? He resigned earlier this year after this shirt with photo appeared on the Web site Craigslist. He had been soliciting women and others on Craigslist, so of course there will be an election to replace him. That election for his former seat will be held on May 24th. It‘s a race that should be sure for the GOP, New York‘s state 26th congressional district has been a republican stronghold since the civil war. Seven, the last, eight congressman in that district had been Republicans going back all the way to 1953. The district has 30, 000 more registered Republicans than Democrats.
But all of a sudden, the seat is now up for grabs. The latest poll shows Republican Jane Corwin at 36 percent ahead by Democrat Kathy Hochul by just five points. Tea Partier Jack Davis is at 23 percent. In other poll, which was sponsored by progressive Web site Daily Kos, actually puts Hochul in the lead by four points. So, why is this happening? Jane Corwin is still standing behind Paul Ryan‘s plan to destroy Medicare as we know it. And Kathy Hochul is still on the attack.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Jane Corwin said, she would vote for the 2012 republican budget that will essentially end Medicare. Seniors would have to pay 6400 more for the same coverage.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Now, this is just the single House election in Upstate, New York. But the message is sending could be felt by Republicans across the country. If the Republicans loss that seat, boy, that would send shockwaves. They‘re already so worried that House Speaker John Boehner went rushing to Corwin‘s aid, appearing at a fund-raiser with her today. The speaker at that district, that heavily republican—look I‘m sure the money will help. But whether republican speaker is standing next to you is a help for the voters—even in that kind of a district is a matter off for debate. So, now let‘s bring in the candidate herself, Kathy Hochul. Kathy, great to have you here.
KATHY HOCHUL (D-NY), CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
UYGUR: All right. First, let‘s start with this Medicare issue obviously. You ran an ad about it, you think that‘s a big part of why you‘re closing in on the republican here?
HOCHUL: Absolutely. When you look at the enrollment edge that the republican has, the fact that we‘ve been outspent at least two to one, I‘m running against two multimillionaires including a Tea Party candidate, we really shouldn‘t be in the game at this level, but we are. And I think the Ryan budget has given us the impetus sends the issues that resonate with voters throughout—regardless of whether you‘re a democrat or republican. So, that issue is out there, and we‘re going to nail all the way home until the election on May 24th.
UYGUR: Kathy, you know, I saw a poll in your district, which I found to be really interesting. Now, we now throughout the country the Medicare polls have been overwhelming saying, do not cut it under any circumstance even if it‘s to balance the budget, but a poll in your district says, 59 percent of voters oppose cutting Medicare and Social Security to close the deficit. Now, that‘s in a heavy Republican district normally. But look at the second number two, 62 percent support raising taxes on the wealthy. Again, in a heavily Republican district. Those are pretty solid numbers that lead you to think that perhaps, it‘s not as Republican or what the current Republican Party stands for as they think it is, that district.
HOCHUL: I think it shows that the Republicans in Washington are actually out of touch with the Republicans in this district. They‘re taking an extreme agenda, when you go to the Tom‘s Diner in Lackfort (ph) or the Family Restaurant in Geneseo or Batavia, all the places I‘ve been. Either Republicans and Democrats were talking about two things—jobs and protecting Medicare. And the Republicans in Washington appear to be tone-deaf to that. I‘m hearing it firsthand. And I‘m very proud that our race is really the battleground for this. I‘m happy to be part of this because it‘s so important that we send a message that a plan that—to balance the budget that tries to do it on the backs of seniors, at the same time being willing to give huge tax breaks to multimillionaires, even Republicans aren‘t buying adopt in our district.
UYGUR: Kathy, you know, your race to me looks like a microcosm to the country, because not only they have this Medicare issue, not only they are out of step with what their voters are even thinking throughout the country, but you‘ve also got the Tea Party guy siphoning away a lot of votes from the republican and that‘s also happening throughout the country, how big a factor do you think that is in your race?
HOCHUL: Sure it is, I mean, Jack Davis is the endorsed Tea Party candidate, he‘s on the Tea Party line on the ballot than he‘s resonating with those voters for sure. And I‘m sure, it‘s not making the Republican Party very happy but that‘s what the deal with. I‘m just going straight for Democrats, Independents and moderate Republicans who want to make sure that we protect Medicare, fight for jobs for the middle class and our working families. And I‘m the candidate they want. So, I think it‘s very interesting to show that how far we‘ve come from behind, in light of again the enrollment edge, being outspent and also, I‘m glad the rest of the country is paying attention. Because this is where all the action is.
UYGUR: You know, Kathy, I think if you win, they might just flat out drop that Medicare proposal all throughout the country, because this is going to scare the bejesus out of them to lose a seat. You know, they hardly ever losses the civil war. So that race is incredibly important. Kathy Hochul, thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate it.
HOCHUL: My pleasure.
UYGUR: All right. Now, when we come back, SNL had some fun with the GOP debate over the weekend, but new details emerging show the joke is not so far from reality, actually. We‘ll tell you why the GOP is panicking.
UYGUR: Breaking news, that Democrats might be happy about. Newt Gingrich will announce this week that he‘s running for president. Be afraid. Republicans, be very afraid.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Congresswoman Michele Bachmann
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Sarah Palin.
SARAH PALIN, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: Thank you. It‘s so great to be back on FOX News Network that both pays me and shows me the questions ahead of time.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.
NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I love the ‘90s.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Well, that SNL skit may have been a little too close to reality for some Republicans. One of those candidates, Newt Gingrich is set to launch his presidential bid this Wednesday. Very exciting, right? Oh, I can feel the excitement there. Well, actually he thought that exciting to establishment Republicans, to quote, one GOP strategist, quote, “At a time when people are hungry for something different, new and refreshing, Newt just feels stale.” That‘s because he peaked in the 1990s. And since then, he‘s been planning his comeback. His networks of advocacy and for profit groups have amassed more than 1.7 million voter and donor contacts. Now, you‘ve got to give him that, that is impressive. He‘s also raise $32 million between 2009 and 2010, as more than his potential 2012 rivals combined. Yes, the ‘90s straw back candidate is trouncing his counter parts in fund-raising but that‘s less about him and more about who is running against.
GOP donors just aren‘t excited about their options. According to a former party chairman, quote, “there are the donors who don‘t yet have a candidate. They‘re being more cautious to say, “you know what, I‘m waiting it out to see what the whole feel looks like.” And that same luck of excitement has the GOP scrambling to get Chris Christie to run. Some of the Iowa‘s top republican campaign contributors are meeting with the New Jersey governor later this month. According to on, quote, “There isn‘t anyone like Chris Christie on the national scene for Republicans. And, so we believe that he or someone like him running for president is very important at this critical time in our country.” And what if he doesn‘t run? As Jeb Bush‘s top campaign fund-raisers said, our problem is we have a number of candidates who would make great presidents, but very few who would make a great candidates. And with that a good candidate, my understanding is, you can‘t win in an election.
Joining me now to talk about all this, democratic strategist Bob Shrum, also with us columnist for “the Washington Post,” Dana Milbank. Bob, let me start with you. Now, of course I don‘t believe Jeb Bush‘s strategist, I think they would make terrible presidents, but I don‘t understand why they think they make such bad candidates. I mean, if you‘re a republican, why don‘t you love these guys? Yes, they‘ll lower taxes, they‘ll cut Medicare, they‘ll do all the things that you want him to do. So, why are they bad candidates?
BOB SHRUM, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, for the most part, if you talk to republican strategists privately, unless they‘re working for one of these guys, they think this is a very weak field. You have Romney who is inauthentic, you have Pawlenty who is marginal at best, you have a field that is on the hole pretty much unelectable. And that‘s why for example, I would take someone like Jon Huntsman, they former governor of Utah very seriously. The donors are on the sidelines, that‘s why he‘s on the field. Now, I‘m not sure the republican primary voters will take him seriously. He‘s McCain 2000, he‘s been for civil unions, he‘s been against global warning. He might actually be competitive against Obama, I‘m not sure he‘s competitive in this right wing dominated Republican field.
UYGUR: Yes, look, everybody turns about General Huntsman, you know, in what we do, right? I think Jon Huntsman might be a great, you know, candidate in a general election, but one, nobody knows Jon Huntsman, and two, the reason why we all think he might be decent in the general election is because he‘s so much more moderate than the rest of the Republicans. That‘s what I‘m getting at Dana, isn‘t the real problem that the Republicans say, well, our guys are so republican?
DANA MILBANK, COLUMNIST, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Well, I mean, think about it. Now, Newt Gingrich is sort of this moderate throwback in this field. You know, I mean, he just wanted to have Medicare wither on the vine, as opposed to just clipping the thing right off. So, he has this retro feel, but I mean, it has come to the point where even Newt Gingrich‘s revolution of ‘94 republican is actually a bit more sort of a kinder and gentler, so I think that‘s what they‘re up against. You know, we‘ve seen from—with Romney that he had to reinvent his persona to keep up with the party. Huntsman may well have to do the same if he‘s to break out of this field in any way. And just because of the way it‘s set up with the religious conservatives controlling something like two thirds of the republican caucus electorate in Iowa, I don‘t see how anybody who‘s not right on these issues gets through.
UYGUR: Right, but you know, on the other hand, for the Democrats they‘ve got their own problems. A new poll from NBC News for the president is bad news. We‘ve got 37 percent approving of how he‘s handling the economy, and 58 percent disapproving. So, when you look at that, Bob, I mean, wow for a candidate going into the elections, if that number remains the same, you know, they‘ve got—the Republicans have to be excited about almost any candidate they have to run against an incumbent with those numbers.
SHRUM: Well, I agree that the economy is critical here. I think we probably have to make our adjustment about this sometime around the ides of November. That‘s in 1983 would have became clear that Reagan was going to be very strong. Clinton got very strong in the fall of 1995, so I would make that judgment about the economy and where we‘re at in a few months, but I‘ll tell you, a lot of the Republicans in this field in my view, even in a tough economy for Obama, would have a very different time beating him. Look, I guess what we could say here about Gingrich is old is, you know, old is Newt or Newt is the new thing, but Newt Gingrich has a two to one disapproval rating in this country.
There is no way he‘s going to get elected as president of the United States. Mitt Romney is going to spend the whole campaign explaining why he‘s changed his mind on almost every single issue. So, I think that this is a kind of weak field of candidates, very few of them have economic credibility. I think Romney has some. I think Huntsman will have some. Huntsman has some experience, but you‘re right about something else or Dana is right about something else. Huntsman may have to entirely reinvent himself to be at all acceptable trough republican primary voters. Hey may have to instead of being the McCain of 2000, become the McCain of 2008.
UYGUR: All right. Look, if you ask me my opinion on Huntsman, he‘s not really running in this election, he‘s just trying to get name recognition. So, he could run as a moderate republican 2016. At which point the Republican Party in my opinion may have imploded, and they‘re going to need someone moderate. But when we get to the candidates who we think might have an impact, believe it or not we‘re still talking about Trump. I want to play this clip for you, one, because it‘s funny, and then two, because I got an important question about it Dana when we come back from it. But listen to his answering of charges of racism against him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, ENTREPRENEUR: I am the least race is. I‘ve had great relationships. In fact Randall Pinkett won on the, as you know, on “The Apprentice” a little while ago, couple of years ago, and Randall has been outstanding in every way. So, I am the least racist person.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: How does he make that claim that he‘s not racist because somebody on “The Apprentice” won—by the way, another African-American candidate on “The Apprentice” came out today and said, no, I actually thought he treated me in a somewhat racist way. So, these guys are disaster, but when you look at that Dana, that‘s still appealing to the, you know, to the electoral, and isn‘t that the problem? I mean, as you pointed out earlier, how do you get past that primary without being a cloud?
MILBANK: Well, I‘ll give Donald Trump the benefit of the doubt here. He has driven I think 100 percent by vanity. And the fact that he‘s dabbled in what is perceived as a racist mode of attack on this president is secondary to the furthering of his vanity. So, I think that‘s where he‘s coming from in terms of this public relations campaign that he is on. You know, I guess he‘s fading now, we‘re still talking about him, because we don‘t really know who any of these other guys are. And based on the way the debate went last week, we‘re not going to know for some time to come.
UYGUR: So, now Bob, look, people are excited about Chris Christie, somebody went talking about Jeb Bush, but I think they‘re excited about them because they‘re just not in the race. And the minute they step into the race, they‘re going to have to be right wingers to win the primary as Dana is pointing out. And then people are going to say, oh damn it, he‘s a real right-winger, too. We just wanted a guy who was neutral, so we can beat Obama with the bad economic numbers. But isn‘t that a problem, the minute they step into the race, they have to go way right, and when they do that, that gives Obama an opening to say, look, my economic numbers are bad, but then on the other hand, you could have this guy who is massively right wing which the American people don‘t want?
SHRUM: Yes, look, Jeb Bush is pretty decisively right. Chris Christie, I don‘t think is a solution for the Republican Party. He would have trouble in a presidential election carrying New Jersey, but both of them and John Thune, who is a very promising conservative republican have decided to wait until 2016, because they think there‘s a better chance. By the way, I think Trump is gone, I think Dana is absolutely right about this, the fact that we had the juxtaposition of the White House correspondents dinner where he took that drubbing, followed the next day, with the raid that captured or killed Osama Bin Laden and indicated the seriousness of the presidency I think ended his ambitions. What I heard him just say in his own defense now, by the way, was one of his best apprentices was black. I don‘t think this guy is serious, I don‘t think we ought to take him seriously. And except for the entertainment value, we probably ought to stop talking about him.
UYGUR: All right. Democratic strategist Bob Shrum and Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank, thank you both for joining me. And by the way, the guy to watch out for is actually Huckabee. We‘ll be back.
UYGUR: Well, there is good news and bad news for the president today. The good news of course is the numbers went up a little bit because of the Bin Laden rate and Gallup has some rising a few points, to 51 percent overall. That‘s a modest rise, but it‘s good, he went up about five points. Now, most pundits think that it will dissipate. I largely agree with them. It‘s usually how that goes. It‘s happens to almost all the other president when it comes to National Security matters. But does it matter? Well, that‘s where I disagree with the pundits a little bit. I think it‘s big. I think it does make a huge difference. When the Republicans go to attack him on National Security from now on, it‘s just not going to work. Everybody is going to think, you know, what? That‘s the guy who got Bin Laden. So, I think it is very good news for them over all. But there‘s also bad news.
I think unfortunately, he‘s badly misjudged how to solve our economic problems. He went with the trickle-down theory. That if we gave breaks to the corporations and the banks, that will trickle down to us. Well, the corporations are doing great, we‘ve shown you that over and over, the stock market is back up, bonuses are through the roof for CEOs, but unemployment is still at nine percent. And data provider Zillow says, home values fell again. In the first quarter, they went down three percent this time. They‘re down 8.2 percent from last year, they‘re down 29-and-a-half percent since the peak in 2006. A stunning 28.4 percent of all single-family homes are under water, which means that people owe more on them than they‘re worth.
Now, that‘s not all his fault. Of course, the problems started back in 2006 went all the way through 2008, but as far as how do you address that? Look, all that takes money out of consumers‘ pockets. Those are the things that affect real average Americans and are dragging down the economy. Unfortunately, we did not fix that underlying problem. We went with the theory that if you give money to the businesses and tax cuts to the businesses and bailouts to the businesses, that it will come down to us, but it didn‘t. And I think that‘s what is unfortunately pretty bad news for President Obama. He‘s got to address that as quickly as possible. That‘s our show for tonight. Thank you for watching. “HARDBALL” is next.
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