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Msnbc Live at 6 p.m. ET, Monday May 16th, 2011

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

Guests: Jonathan Alter, Jonathan Dienst, Steve Kornacki, Tony Blankley, Jim McDermott, Holland Cooke


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


Wow, it‘s been an incredible couple of days.  We had a huge Republican field.  All of a sudden, it‘s a lot smaller.  Over the last three days, a couple guys getting knocked out.

Now, last week on the show, we were focusing on six potential GOP hopefuls, you see them there: Daniels, Gingrich, Huckabee, Pawlenty, Romney and Trump.

This weekend, Mike Huckabee announced he‘s not running.  Down goes Huckabee.  Down goes Huckabee.  So, he is out.

And then even more dramatic news today, this time from Donald Trump.


DONALD TRUMP, CEO, TRUMP ORGANIZATION:  I‘ve decided that we are going to continue onward with “Celebrity Apprentice.”  We‘re going to continue making lots and lots of money for charity.  I will not be running for president as much as I‘d like to.


UYGUR:  Down goes Trump.  Down goes Trump.

Who announces that they are not running for president anymore by saying I will continue with “Celebrity Apprentice,” my reality show.  What a goofball.

But, you know what, Donald, you gave us some memories, man.  It was quite a ride.  And we want to thank you for those memories.



TRUMP:  Three weeks ago when I started, I thought he was probably born in this country.  And now, I really have a much bigger doubt than did I before.

Everybody says, oh, gee what a great salesman he is.  It‘s this.  It‘s not my salesmanship.


TRUMP:  This.  You know what that is?  The brain power.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You were paid $2 million a year.

TRUMP:  Excuse me.  I didn‘t run the company.  I‘m just telling you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So, what were you paid $2 million a year for?

TRUMP:  Excuse me, because of my genius, OK?


TRUMP:  Why doesn‘t he show his birth certificate?

I heard he was a terrible student, terrible.  He went to Occidental.  I heard he was terrible student.  Not like OK.  I heard he was a bad student.

How does a bad student then go to Columbia and then go Harvard?

When it comes to racism and racist, I am the least racist person there is.  In fact, Randall Pinkett won on, as you know, on “The Apprentice” a little while ago, a couple years ago, and Randall has been outstanding in every way.  So, I mean, I am the least racist person.



UYGUR:  Oh, Donald, we‘re going to miss you, big guy.  Who‘s going to bring the clown antics now?  Well, it is the Republicans, so, you‘ll never know.  Somebody will step up to the plate.

Well, look, these are two big contenders that just got knocked out or knocked themselves out.  So why?

Well, here‘s my theory.  Ironically, it turns out Huckabee was too rich to run and Donald Trump wasn‘t rich enough.  Why?

Let me explain.  Look, Huckabee apparently like the good life.  He was collecting FOX paycheck.  He was making lucrative speeches. He had books and he was building big homes in Florida.

He didn‘t want to give that all up to go and run and you‘d take a risk and then he‘d have to give up a lot of that salary.  He literally got apparently fat and lazy.

I mean, look, that‘s not just me saying it.  We had his former campaign manager saying that he had put on some weight and didn‘t want to go through losing 30 or 40 pounds.  We showed you that on Friday.

Now, Trump on the other hand had no intention of running in the first place because, look, in the end he would have had to reveal his finances, and the guy is full of it.  He doesn‘t have all the money he claims he has.  We‘ve shown you over and over, when he was actually on the record during a deposition, he says—well, you know, maybe I have $3 billion or $5 billion less than I claim -- $3 billion or $5 billion less?  He was never going to tell us how much money he was because he doesn‘t have that much.

So, he couldn‘t stand the heat and he got the hell out of the kitchen.

But Obama did eventually, of course, show his birth certificate to make Trump look even more foolish and he became a bigger national joke and had a huge part on it as well.  Look at how much of a national laughing stock he became, Trump did, at the White House Correspondents‘ dinner.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Just recently, in an episode of “Celebrity Apprentice,” at the steakhouse, the men‘s cooking team did not impress the judges from Omaha steaks.  You, Mr. Trump, recognize that the real problem was a lack of leadership.  And so, ultimately, you didn‘t blame little John or Meatloaf.  You fired Gary Busey.  And these are the kind of decisions that would keep me up at night.

SETH MEYERS, COMEDIAN:  Donald Trump has been saying he will run for president as a Republican—which is surprising since I just assumed he was running as a joke.


MEYERS:  Donald Trump off appears on FOX, which is ironic, because a fox often appears on Donald Trump‘s head.


UYGUR:  Oh, that hurt the big guy.  Such humiliation.

And he couldn‘t take that much longer.  And on top of all that, Obama then made a decision that showcased the decision between what Trump does and what a commander-in-chief does.  He went forward with the operation to get Osama bin Baden and that literally interrupted Trump‘s TV show with the announcement.  Watch this.


TRUMP:  This question, who going forward do you want on your team? 

Because you‘re facing a very tough men‘s team plus Latoya.


ANNOUNCER:  This is an NBC News special report.


DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS:  Good evening from Washington.  I‘m David Gregory.

We‘ll hear from the president of the United States.  He will aggression the country in mere moments now to announce a major development, we are told, by senior government officials concerning the most wanted terrorist in the world, Osama bin Laden.


UYGUR:  I love that clip.  I love it every time.  Where Trump is trying to figure out if he should fire Latoya Jackson or not, Obama was making decisions on how to get bin Laden.  And that, in fact, did he get him.  Oh, that‘s just embarrassing.

And, look, at the end of all this, Trump realized he was hurting his brand.  It was no longer associated with being rich.  It was now associated with being a dupe (ph).  So, he tucked his tail between his legs and ran for the hills.  Exactly as we told you he would.

All right.  Now, with me is MSNBC political analyst Jonathan Alter.  Steve Kornacki is from, he also joins us.  And syndicated columnist Tony Blankley is here for an important perspective as well.

Welcome to all of you.

I want to start with you, Jonathan.  But, first, I want to show you a set of clips from Donald Trump telling us how serious he was about running.  Let‘s watch that first.


TRUMP:  I‘ve been asked for years to do it and I had no interest.  This is the first time I am being—at least I‘m considering it.  That doesn‘t say I‘m going to do it, Gretchen, but I am seriously considering it.

I am seriously considering running.

I am seriously considering it.

Well, this is very serious.  I mean, I always take things seriously, but I‘ve never taking it seriously like this.

But I will tell you, I am giving it serious, serious thought.


UYGUR:  Was he serious ever?  Or was this all a big put-on?  What do you think, Jonathan?

JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, I‘m not going to pretend to be an expert on what happens beneath that fox on the top of his head, you know?  I really can‘t tell you whether in his own mind he was serious.  All I can do is go to history and in both 1988 and in 2000, he finked out, he did the same thing.

So, I think on some level, he was never—never that serious.  I don‘t think, given the size of his ego that he anticipated that he would be attacked with the vigor that he was.  He was so used to dishing it out that when he really started to take it, I think it—you know, it sort of threw him for a loss.  You could see the expression on his face at the White House Correspondents‘ dinner.  He had just never been subjected to that before, especially at the hands of the president of the United States.

So, he got more than he bargained for.  He knew that if he did get in, it would get even worse, that there would be intense pressure for him to reveal his tax returns, which would show that he doesn‘t own any of the buildings that have his name on them.

UYGUR:  Right.

ALTER:  And in some ways, he‘s a fraud.  So, you know, I think that it all added up to his not running and I wasn‘t surprised when he made the decision.

UYGUR:  Right.

Tony, it‘s an embarrassment for Trump, obviously.  But is it also an embarrassment for the Republican Party?  Because let me just show you polls, two polls from last month, at the Quinnipiac poll, he came fairly strong, at 12 percent, there he was fourth.  In the NBC poll, he came in second at 17 percent.

And you know, you saw many different polls where he was in the top two.  So, was it also a bit of an embarrassment for the Republican Party that this clown was near the top?

TONY BLANKLEY, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST:  Well, when he was at the top of the polls, I said he was a spring boomlet and would not be the candidate and would not be running.  And I think it was pretty obvious.

Look, I think this election, both at the primary and the general election, is going to be decided by which candidates and which parties effectively are able to deal with the economy and deficits and debt.  Neither party, seems to me, and none of the candidates have yet given a persuasive case as to why the country should rely on them to deal with those issues.  And the reason those issues are going to be defining is that what the public cares about.

So, we‘ve got a lot of churning going on right now.  But things are going to start getting serious as the candidates, including the incumbent, begin to try to deal with those issues either effectively or ineffectively.

UYGUR:  All right.  Steve, look, we had Huckabee dropping out.  And I thought Huckabee had a real shot, not just because he polled in the top two in almost every single poll, but he had a populist message.  He could have won Iowa.  He could have won South Carolina.  That was a bit shocking that he dropped out.

But with him dropping out and Trump dropping out—doesn‘t that basically leave Mitt Romney?  Isn‘t he in heaven at this point?

STEVE KORNACKI, SALON.COM:  Well, I mean, with Huckabee dropping out, like you said with Trump, there was really no chance this guy was ever going to run, whether he was a put-on job in the first place or who is just going to be the Republicans kind of him driving him out of the race, which is what we really started to see in the last few weeks.

But when you look at where the race stands right now—you know, I think, realistically, there are three Republicans in the mix who have a chance of winning the nomination: Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty and if he runs, Mitch Daniels.  I might also include Jon Huntsman in that mix if he could somehow gain traction.  And you look at this field now and you say, maybe there is a scenario where some of the sort of elites in the Republican Party, the opinion shapers, the commentators, the activists, maybe they start to look at Jon Huntsman just because they have so few other options right now.

But this is why I‘ve been saying for the last few weeks, where there‘s sort of a pile-on Mitt Romney in the media, and even on the conservative side, saying he can‘t win because of health care, this is why I‘d still put my money on Mitt Romney to be the nominee next year, because I think when you get to October, November, December, you know, the Republicans take a look around.  They don‘t have the many choices.  They know Romney‘s, you know, sort of generic enough that he can win if the economy, you know, works on the Republican‘s favor in 2012, and think that‘s when you start hearing the excuses and that‘s when you start hearing the rationalizations for his health care problem.

And you‘ll hear it from the Republicans—the same Republicans who are willing to overlook John McCain on immigration four years and all of his other, sort of, sins against the conservative movement.  I think they‘ll be with Romney in the end.  That‘s what I would bet right now.

UYGUR:  Tony, you know, he didn‘t mention Gingrich on that list.  I know you work with Gingrich, obviously.

Do you think Gingrich has a real shot?  I mean, he‘s flip-flopped almost as much as Romney.  He‘s, you know, getting a little embarrassing now in all the different ways that he‘s contradicted himself.

BLANKLEY:  Well, Senator Obama when he was running for president was against the individual mandate and Hillary was for it.  So, you know, if you‘re trying to find perfect consistency, Newt‘s probably closer because in 1993, he was for—by the way, I believe, a state.  He compared it to car insurance.

There‘s a constitutional point here.  I was working for Newt in ‘93.  The constitutional point is that states have power, through their police power to require insurance, as they do in car.  But the question being litigated is whether the federal government, through, say, the Commerce Clause, can impose that on the states.

So, I think that issue is for Republicans, at least, and conservatives, a big constitutional issue.  But the question ultimately is going to be: whether—how do we deal with providing basic health care for Americans in a constitutional manner and one that fits the economy—the deficit and debt we have?

UYGUR:  Tony, I honestly—Tony, I honestly don‘t know what Newt‘s position is.  He‘s changed it so many times, I literally can‘t keep up.


UYGUR:  Do you know what it is?  Is he for the mandate or against the mandate?  Probably depends on the hour but right now, do you have any idea what it is?

BLANKLEY:  Yes, I know because he said it in 1993 and he said it again last weekend, that he‘s in favor of something like a state insurance policy which is a state imposed, not a federally imposed.  That‘s why if you remember this morning, when he went out to do the interview, he said he was against—for constitutional reasons a federally imposed.  This is—


BLANKLEY:  I understand a lot of liberals don‘t care about that.  But conservatives care about that distinction.

UYGUR:  Let me ask Jonathan about it.  Because Romney and Gingrich are both using this excuse—oh, I love it at the individual level.  It‘s the world‘s greatest thing.  But if you applied it broader, then it would be disastrous.  Is anybody buying that?

ALTER:  I don‘t think so.  And I think the advantage goes to Huntsman.  Huntsman has a health care record in Utah that will look very good when people start to learn about it.  It‘s basically a privatized system.

And Huntsman also benefits from Huckabee‘s departure because Huckabee was the most likable candidate in the race.  Likability is critical.  Likable Newt Gingrich is not.

BLANKLEY:  Like Richard Nixon.

ALTER:  Huntsman is pretty likable.  Now, he‘s just getting his toe in the water.  He‘s just off the plane from China.  And we don‘t know how he‘s going to fare.  But I would not count him out.

And I know people say, well, he worked for Obama.  He was ambassador to China under Obama.  But he was also an ambassador under Republican administrations.

BLANKLEY:  Likability is one element.  But people got elected president like Nixon without being overly likable.

ALTER:  That‘s true.

BLANKLEY:  The question is going to be, I think which candidate in either party convinces the public it can deal with the problems that we‘re facing.  We‘ve got huge problems and likability is not going to be the only element.

UYGUR:  All right.  I got have to ask Steve one last question.  Tony, you‘re not doing Newt Gingrich any favors by comparing him to Richard Nixon.  That‘s my take on it.

Steve, I‘ve got to ask you—

BLANKLEY:  I‘m trying to—wait a second.  I‘m trying to analyze the components that go into a winning candidate.


UYGUR:  All right.  I‘ve got to ask Steve one last quick question here.  Who‘s the bigger winner, is it Romney or is it the president?  Given that we just saw a poll where the president is beating Romney fairly significantly, 51-38.  Who‘s the biggest winner here, Steve?

KORNACKI:  No, I—to be fair, I‘d say it‘s Romney.  Totally disregard the polls right now, the head-to-head Obama versus, you know, likely Republican nominee polls.  You know, you would have had the same thing, you know, 20 years ago with George H.W. Bush beating every Democrat this time.  Nobody would have Bill Clinton winning.

The point is, it‘s going to be where the economy, where the economy stands in the fall of 2012.  If it‘s bad and the Republicans put up a credible candidate, by that I mean Daniels, Pawlenty, Romney, maybe Huntsman—Republicans win.  If it‘s bad and Republicans put up Newt Gingrich, Obama might still when.

BLANKLEY:  Why do you think Huntsman is a credible candidate?  He‘s zero or 1 percent of the polls.


KORNACKI:  He has the potential unlike Newt Gingrich to swing voters.

BLANKLEY:  Basically in the eyes of liberal Democrats.

UYGUR:  You‘ve been lovely.  But we got to go, OK?  Look, I love the conversation.  I could have that conversation for an hour straight.

But I want to thank all of you guys on the panel, Steve Kornacki, Jonathan Alter and Tony Blankley—Tony, thanks for the fight.  We appreciate it.

BLANKLEY:  My pleasure.

ALTER:  Thanks, Cenk.

UYGUR:  All right.  Now, when we come back, it‘s the story everyone is talking about.  One of the most powerful men in the world charged with attempted rape after an alleged altercation with a hotel room maid in New York City.  But now his defense team is saying that he had an alibi.  The reporter who has been all over this story from the start joins me ahead.

And as mentioned, Newt Gingrich blasts the Ryan Medicare plan, calling it right wing social engineering and radical.  Then he starts to backpedal anyway.  I‘ll show you why this might have greatly damaged both Ryan and Newt.

And John Boehner preaches religious values and gets choked up at a commencement speech.  Was it all a big con job?  We‘ll explain.

Stay with us.


UYGUR:  The head of the IMF is charged with attempted rape, but he‘s saying it was a setup.  It‘s a really fascinating story and one that has worldwide ramifications.  We‘ll talk about that, next.


UYGUR:  One of the world‘s most powerful men is being held without bail over allegations that he sexually assaulted a maid at a Manhattan hotel.  Today, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the head of the IMF, and a presumed front-runner in France‘s upcoming presidential election, was charged of seven counts, including attempted rape.  Authorities alleged that he coerced (ph) the woman and forced himself upon her.

Prosecutors also say that hotel video shows him leaving in a hurry following the alleged attack.  He was arrested on board an Air France flight shortly before takeoff.

But his defense argues that he wasn‘t attempting to flee the country.  And that he was already booked on that flight days ago.  His lawyers also claimed that he was at lunch with his daughter at the time of the attack.  His wife says she doesn‘t believe the charges for a second.

And some are calling this foul play.  Respected economists Nouriel Roubini says, quote, “He‘s innocent until proven guilty.  One cannot rule out a smear campaign, as a smear campaign against him started in the French press close to Sarko.”  Of course, he was referring to French President Sarkozy there.

It‘s nearly impossible, obviously, to tell who‘s right in situations like this without knowing all the evidence.

But this story has worldwide ramifications, so let‘s take a closer look at that evidence to see what we can discern.

So, joining me now is WNBC chief investigative reporter, Jonathan Dienst.  He‘s been following the story from the beginning.  He joins us live from outside the Sofitel Hotel.

Great to have you here.  First, let me start with DNA evidence.  Do you think we‘re going to have any here?

JONATHAN DIENST, WNBC CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT:  Well, we‘re told they did recover some evidence from that hotel room and that it is now being tested.  We‘re also told that did he consent to a body search and that they did take some materials from that search, also for testing, unclear—as we know, DNA testing takes some time.

But the key here is the testimony of this maid.  According to the detectives and investigators who questioned her—they say they find her very credible, that her account is detailed.  And some of those details were outlined in court today about how he allegedly tried to rip off her panty hose and some of the alleged forcible touching that went on was extremely graphic.

This does not appear to be a case of any sort of consensual sex and then misunderstanding.  According to the story told by the maid that she was literally grabbed and dragged down a hallway and assaulted not once but twice while she was locked inside that $3,000 a night suite.

UYGUR:  Now, of course, the defense says that he has an alibi and a lot of people are saying there are many different people with motive to set him up.  What do you make of that?

And one other thing about that, Jonathan, actually as we talk about that—they say he was rushing to the airport.  But if he bought the ticket days ahead, that doesn‘t match up, does it?

DIENST:  No, that‘s what the defense is trying to put out there.  The defense is saying, look, there are a couple of circumstances that the press and the police have wrong.  And the defense threw out there, one, the flight was booked in advance.  That he was scheduled to fly back overseas to meet with German officials there about the ongoing debt crisis and they have electronic records to prove it.  They say that he had a prearranged lunch date.  And that‘s what he was rushing out to go—run out to and that he was not running away and that there was a couple of hours between the flight.

And the defense also says that he was the one who called back to the hotel and offered up his location, saying that did I leave anything behind?

So, their claim, the defense claim, at least, is that he was not trying to flee.

Now, police are giving a much different version of events, that the attack was a physical one, was a brutal one, on this unsuspecting woman.  And that they have the forensic evidence and they feel that they have a very strong case, and that more evidence they believe will come in once the DNA testing is complete, given some of the explicit detail that this woman was able to offer in her story, and that they apparently were able to find some materials in that hotel room.  But, of course, we won‘t know until the evidence comes back in.

UYGUR:  Jonathan, it‘s a fascinating story, with so many twists and turns, because apparently, he gave an interview, Strauss-Kahn did, a couple weeks ago to a French paper where he said, a hypothetical, quote, “A woman who I supposedly rape in a car park and who had been promised 500,000 or a million euros to invent such a story.”  Meaning, you know, somebody could make up a story like this against me and then what are you going to do about it?  Because people are looking to set me up.

I don‘t know.  Do you find that in some way exculpatory or not?  Maybe it goes the other direction, I don‘t know.

DIENST:  The problem with the whole setup theory is, I have yet to find anyone to make that case for me.  And, in part, because of who the victim is.  You have a 32-year-old housekeeper who‘s married with one child, who lives in the south Bronx, who‘s working for a living, immediately reported the assault to fellow co-workers and 911 was called immediately.  She immediately told her story to police, provided whatever evidence and explanation there was, and police are taking her very seriously.

So, no one has come to me and has alleged the setup yet, not from the defense side.  I‘ve heard it from some of Mr. Strauss-Kahn‘s supporters overseas.  But no one has made that allegation.

And according to the detectives and investigators that we‘ve been able to speak with, they find her very credible.

But again, there are two sides to every story.  The defense is just getting started on their discovery and in their investigation to try to prove his innocence.  The defense left open a door during this court hearing, if you listened carefully to Ben Brafman, he said they will show there‘s no evidence of any physical assault.  That was his language.  That was the gist of what he was telling the court as he was trying to make this $1 million bail application.

So, the defense still has its work cut out for them, and we‘ll see where it goes in the days ahead.

UYGUR:  All right.  And look, the charges are incredibly serious, no question about that.  And this is, of course, why we have trials.  We see who—if they did do it or not.

The fact that the charges are serious doesn‘t mean that the person charged is guilty, but you have to take, you know, the precautions that you do.  You have to arrest the person, obviously.  He‘s at Rikers now.  Very, very serious charges and there are ramifications throughout the world on this.

WNBC‘s Jonathan Dienst, obviously, in our newsroom actually.  And thank you for reporting on it right now.

DIENST:  Thanks for having me.


Now, Speaker Boehner sheds tears as the commencement speaker at a Catholic University.  Come on.  Here we go again.  But was it all a con job?  I‘ll explain that ahead.

And also ahead, is right wing radio dying?  There‘s new evidence showing that their time has come.  You‘re going to want to see this.


UYGUR:  And now for our con job of the day.  House Speaker John Boehner portrays himself as the champion of religious values.  But his actions speak a little louder than his voice.  Boehner gave a teary commencement address Saturday at Catholic university and told graduates to live according to the Catholic Church‘s teachings. 


JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  For the right reasons, good things will happen.  So there you have it.  Humility, patience and faith. 


UYGUR:  Oh, come on.  Again with the crying.  OK.  Please stop crying.  And by the way, a lot of Catholic leaders are not buying it.  They don‘t think Boehner is doing such a great job upholding those values.  As we first told you last week, more than 75 professors at Catholic colleges criticize Boehner‘s supports for cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and the nutrition program for women, infants and children.  They wrote a letter to Boehner saying, quote, “your record in support of legislation to address the desperate needs of the poor is among the worst in Congress.” 

Now, this hypocrisy spreads across much of the Republican Party.  GOP politicians are only too happy talking about their faith when they‘re talking abortion rights and gay rights.  But for many social conservatives, their religious obligation to help the poor always seems to take a backseat to tax cuts in helping out big business.  Remember, Jesus never mentioned gay people or abortion.  Let me repeat that.  Never.  But he did talk about helping the poor endlessly.  He said it was harder for a rich man to get into heaven than for a camel to pass through an eye of a needle.  Now, when‘s the last time you heard that from a republican?  That would really make them cry.  Now, the GOP loves to talk about how religious they are.  But do they ever backing up with action or they just like to use the bible as a political tool?  Either way, their clear pattern of cherry picking religious values is our con job of the day.                       


UYGUR:  We‘ve got a republican cat fight on our hands.  It‘s Newt Gingrich versus Paul Ryan.  Well, what it is over?  It‘s of course over as Medicare plan, Newt says, it‘s not such a good idea.  And Ryan was planning to reboot it as we speak.  Well, look at this Newt Gingrich attack from over the weekend against Ryan‘s plan. 


NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  I don‘t think right wing social engineering is any more desirable than left wing social engineering.  There are things you can do to improve Medicare.

DAVID GREGORY, HOST, “MEET THE PRESS”:  But now, what Paul Ryan is suggesting.

GINGRICH:  I think that there is too big a jump.  


UYGUR:  Wow!  Calling it radical, that‘s a serious punch to Ryan.  But another hint, it‘s a total flip-flop for Gingrich.  Last month, “Time” magazine asked Newt if he would have voted for Ryan‘s plan.  And he said sure.  Back in 1995, Gingrich proposed a voucher program for Medicare that‘s incredibly similar to Ryan‘s plan.  So, what in world‘s going on here?  Why did he change his mind and why do we have this fight all of a sudden?  Well, polls show that the public overwhelmingly opposes Medicare cuts to reduce the deficit.  This month, a Quinnipiac poll puts that opposition at 70 percent.  So, obviously Newt Gingrich saw that, he‘s trying to run for president.  He saw the town halls and he got scared.  He said I‘m not with Paul Ryan.  Well, Paul Ryan doesn‘t like that.  So, of course he‘s hitting back against Gingrich.  And when we he called into the Laura Ingraham Show.  


REP. PAUL RYAN ®, WISCONSIN:  With allies like that, who needs the left?  

HOST:  Yes.  

RYAN:  Hardly is that social engineering radical.  What‘s radical is kicking the can down the road.  


UYGUR:  Now, Paul Ryan seems to be a denial about just unpopular his Medicare plan is.  He‘s even claiming that town halls where GOP lawmakers were grilled on the subject went swimmingly.  Look at what he said on Sunday.  


RYAN:  First of all, I would simply say that our town hall meetings went phenomenally well, mine in particular. 


UYGUR:  Phenomenally well?  Really?  Is he looking at the same town halls that we saw? 


UYGUR:  I love the republican ability to deny reality.  We‘ve got it on tape.  All right.  Well, you‘ll probably be seeing a lot more of that this week because the house is out of session and lawmakers are back in their districts once again.  And today, Democrats launched a new Web site, it‘s called don‘  Very simple.  And it has got a handy dandy list of town halls across the country where you can have your voice heard.  The democratic slogan is simple.  If you want to end Medicare, all you have to do is vote republican. 

Joining me now is Congressman Jim McDermott, democrat from Washington.  He‘s serves in the Ways and Means Committee and he‘s a member of the progressive caucus.  Congressman, great to have you here. 


UYGUR:  All right.  Now, first of all, they‘re trying to reboot because it‘s not working.  The polls are against them, the town halls are against them.  Otherwise you wouldn‘t need to reboot.  Will the Democrats change their strategy at all?  Or will they just keep applying that boot on their neck? 

MCDERMOTT:  Absolutely we‘re going to push straight ahead.  We are not going to let Medicare be turned into a voucher system.  You have to remember, Cenk that Newt Gingrich said in 1900, ‘93 that he wanted to watch Medicare wither on the vine.  This guy has never changed his tune until now he‘s running for president and he throws Paul Ryan under the bus.  It‘s like all his history is gone in a minute.  He only wants to be president.  He doesn‘t have anything he believes in.  But the Democrats are not going to back down. 

UYGUR:  Well, let‘s stay with Gingrich for a second because he amuses me.  I want to show you a clip from “Meet the Press” and then I want to show you something that he recorded today.  Let‘s watch “Meet the Press” first.  


GINGRICH:  I said, consistently we ought to have some requirement, we ought to have health insurance or you post a bond or in some way you indicate you‘ll going to be held accountable.  

GREGORY:  But that is the individual mandate, isn‘t it?  

GINGRICH:  It‘s a variation on it.  


UYGUR:  So, he seems like he‘s totally in favor of the individual mandate there.  But listen, after he gets the panic button, and he tells these conservatives start to tag him, this morning he records this outside of a hotel.  Let‘s watch. 


GINGRICH:  I am for the repeal of Obama care.  And I am against any effort to impose a federal mandate on anyone because it is fundamentally wrong and I believe unconstitutional. 


UYGUR:  Congressman, is the main problem here that President Obama agreed to the mandate which was originally, you know, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Heritage Foundation, et cetera, idea.  And now they have to oppose it but they don‘t know how to do it because they have such an enormous record of being in favor of it?

MCDERMOTT:  He absolutely nailed their feet to the floor by saying, all right, if you don‘t want to have a government program then let‘s have an individual mandate that everybody has to buy.  And they didn‘t have any place to run because all of them had been standing on an individual mandate.  The president was brilliant in that particular decision in developing his plan.  And they—now they have nowhere to go. 

UYGUR:  You know, speaking of nowhere to go, it‘s not just Gingrich.  Tim Pawlenty and some of the other candidates, they don‘t know where to go either.  They don‘t know what to come out on this.  Because if they go against Ryan, well, then their base is going to be really mad.  But if they‘re for Ryan, then they made at least 70 percent of the country really mad.  Look at Pawlenty trying to avoid the topic in this video.  


UNIDENTIFIED MAN:  As a general matter of direction, I think Paul Ryan‘s plan moves in the right direction.  

UNIDENTIFIED MAN:  He‘s put the Medicare cuts in his plan that he keeps from Obama care? 

UNIDENTIFIED MAN:  Anybody else have a question?


UYGUR:  So, they‘re desperately trying to avoid it obviously.  So, if they wind up in a fullback pedal though Congressman, and they say all right, we‘re not doing it at all, you saw in the Senate they basically dropped their Medicare proposal, how do the Democrats stay on top of them anyway?

MCDERMOTT:  Well, I think we then have to propose the changes in the Medicare program that makes sense to preserve the program and control the costs.  I think that everybody understands you need to have cost control.  But the fact is, that you don‘t do it by taking away people‘s benefits and throwing them into the loving arms of the insurance companies with a voucher in their hand.  And we can come up and we have come up with another proposal and it‘s in place, and we‘re implementing it and the president is going to be re-elected and by 2014, it will be all in place for this country to have health security. 

UYGUR:  Well, you are quite optimistic on that.  So, that‘s good.  But let me throw one charge that Paul Ryan levels against you guys and get your reaction to that.  He says, you guys are doing class warfare.  Let‘s watch.  


RYAN:  Class warfare may be clever politics but it‘s terrible economics.  Redistributing wealth never creates more of it. 


UYGUR:  How do you respond to that, congressman? 

MCDERMOTT:  Well, they started the class warfare by tax cuts for the rich.  We‘ve got people making more than a million dollars a year and we‘re giving them tax breaks at a time when we‘re cutting off child care, we‘re cutting off day care.  We‘re cutting off people from Medicare, they‘re reducing unemployment benefits in the states.  We‘re doing all kinds of things to people at the bottom but we‘re still giving money to people at the top.  That‘s class warfare.  

UYGUR:  Yes.  And Ryan‘s plan by the way cuts the top rate from 35 percent to 25 percent,  redistributes the wealth from the middle class which he cuts dramatically, whether it‘s Medicare, Medicaid, all those things and the poor, and redistributes it to the top.  So, apparently if you‘re redistributing it to the top, it‘s totally OK.  It‘s only if you‘re trying to help the middle class or the poor that you run into a problem.  

MCDERMOTT:  Moving it toward the top is not class warfare.  That‘s just giving them what they deserve or need or something.  But anytime you come out and stand for the people at the bottom, that‘s called class warfare.  That is not going to work in the election of 2012.  They‘re already finding it out and that‘s why they‘re throwing Paul under the bus.  The speaker has said, you know, I‘m not for one plan.  He took this bill out on the floor and passed it.  And now he‘s saying, well, that was just, you know, I don‘t stand by it.  You can‘t have it both ways.  

UYGUR:  Well, they‘re definitely trying to have it both ways, there‘s no question about that.  Congressman Jim McDermott, thank you for joining us tonight.  We really appreciate it.  

MCDERMOTT:  See you again. 

UYGUR:  All right.  Now, when we come back, there are some big signs America has had enough of the hot air that Beck and Rush are putting out on to the air.  We‘ll show you why, that‘s next.       


UYGUR:  That‘s President Obama today surprising the kids at Booker T.  Washington High School in Memphis, Tennessee.  The president was there to deliver the commencement address, and he was praising the school for winning its annual raise to the top competition and for boosting its graduation rate by 31 percent in just five years.  Some of the kids were completely overcome with emotion as he dropped by for a visit. 


PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES:  Still have big, big expectations for you.  So, don‘t think it just because you graduated from high school that that‘s it.  You have a lot more work to do.  Because I expect all of you to be leaders in this community and communities all across the country.  And this is just the beginning.  This is not the end.  All right?  So God bless you guys.  I‘m so excited to be here. 



UYGUR:  Now, everybody knows that Glenn Beck has been run off TV.  He‘s leaving FOX News.  But he claims it‘s totally OK because he‘s going to go back to his radio empire.  Well, here‘s the problem with that, his radio clear is also crumbling.  Glenn has been kicked off the air in nine cities since January.  And in New York, they didn‘t beat around the Bush when asked why.  They said, quote, “the reason is ratings, somewhat to our surprise the show wasn‘t getting what we wanted.”  And look, getting kicked off air in New York, Philadelphia and some of those other cities is devastating in radio, especially New York.  But Beck is not the only right winger on the decline either.  Boston‘s WTKK canceled crazy conservative Jay Severin just last month.  He‘s been suspended in 2009 over some truly disgusting racial slurs including calling Mexicans primitives, leeches and exporters of women with mustaches and venereal diseases. 

But it was his comments about sleeping with interns that got him the boot for good.  When he said, quote, I slept with virtually every young college girl I hired to be an intern or an employee.  All I was was a young man who was the boss and I did it because I could.”  But look, it wasn‘t just as by comments that did this.  It was his declining ratings because they didn‘t fire him when he said the thing about Mexicans and all the terrible other things he said.  But now that the ratings are going down, all of a sudden he‘s fired.  And even the king of right wing radio hasn‘t been immune to this ratings decline.  Rush Limbaugh‘s numbers are down in the coveted 25 to 54 age group.  Since 2005, he‘s falling from sixth to 12 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  From eight, I‘m sorry, from fourth to eighth in Portland, Oregon and he‘s seen a similar decline in San Francisco as well. 

And Seattle‘s KBI, the pioneering station that went from an all-talk and all-conservative format back in ‘94 went back to music programming late last year.  They were the first ones out there doing the conservative talk.  Now the whole station is gone.  They‘re doing music instead.  And it‘s not looking good for any of these right wing airwaves.  Guys, here‘s what former head of programming for clear channel had to say about it all.  He said, quote, some people don‘t want to be engaged with that loud, angry level.  That hard right or left ideological approach where it‘s my way or the highway.  Look, nobody was talking about how great liberals are doing on radio before anyway but everybody was talking about it, including Gabe Hobbs who made that comment and others about how great conservative talk was. 

But it turns out they get the ratings and it‘s not that great.  And they‘re in a lot of trouble.  You want to know why?  It‘s not just because people are turned off by their harsh rhetoric, it‘s a new ratings system in radio.  There used to be diaries where you would wrote down who you liked and pretended you listen to them.  It was a terrible system of getting ratings.  And people say, I like Rush Limbaugh, and they write Rush Limbaugh even though they didn‘t listen to them.  Now, they‘ve got people meet as they‘re explaining in a second.  It‘s a much more accurate way of judging it and it turns out, it‘s been a lie all along.  They were never that popular in the first place.  And then when you find the real ratings, they‘re in a world of trouble. 

All right.  Now, let me bring in an expert here, he‘s a pioneer in the radio industry, he‘s in his talk radio consultant, Holland Cooke.  Holland, great to have you here. 

HOLLAND COOKE, TALK RADIO CONSULTANT:  Hey, Cenk, thanks for having me.  

UYGUR:  No problem.  I‘m known you a long time, you know, in and out of the radio business myself.  I always thought that the ratings in radio were a fraud to be honest with you.  Being in the business, whether my ratings were up, down, in the middle.  I thought, really?  They are going to write down people‘s name and that‘s how you‘re going to figure it out.  Is this—tell bus the people meters.  Is that making a big difference here, you think? 

COOKE:  I‘m going to try and do the nerd-to-English dictionary.  So, stop me if I go all tacky, nerdy on you.  But I think you‘ve summed it up well just a moment ago.  Previously it was like a ballot, it was like a  survey, a popularity contest where what we now know from the metered data happens is that people were over reporting their favorite stations and their favorite shows and they were underreporting or not remembering the stations they listened to less.  It was a memory test after the fact.  This new people meter is a little iPod-looking device that you wear and it listens to what you‘re listening to.  So, we‘re getting our first glimpse of actual listening data and what we‘re learning, for instance, you mentioned Rush Limbaugh.  One of the dirty little secrets that have fallen out of some of this research, is that it‘s really a two-hour show.  His third hour has never kept pace with the first two.  But they‘ve got three hours worth of commercials to sell. 

UYGUR:  So, Holland, are they less popular now, you think, or were they full of it all along and once we got accurate ratings, we‘re like, whoa, it turns out nobody‘s listening to them.  And I would say nobody.  That‘s not fair.  But a lot less than we suspected.  

COOKE:  Yes, it‘s a little of both.  And let‘s make an important distinction.  Radio is in good shape.  In the last several years, notwithstanding iPhone and Pandora and all the other things we can listen to, actual A.M./F.M. listening is up.  Ninety three and a half percent of all Americans age 12 and older, listen to radio every week, some 242 million people.  So, A.M./F.M. radio is still good.  What seems to be flat lining is this I‘m right, you‘re wrong, Democrats bad, Republicans good, I talk you listen radio.  And I think it will always be a reliable five share act to use the industry lingo.  But what that means is that 95 percent of listeners are interested in something else.  Look what we‘ve seen in recent years with the surging popularity of the public radio.  Whose listeners, many of them baby boomers, disenchanted with a schlock on commercial radio have fled there because they figure they‘re getting it straight. 

UYGUR:  Right.  Holland, we really appreciate your expertise tonight.  And by the way, one other thing that audience should know is that for the conservative talk radio, above 65 is where most of their audience is.  And that‘s not a good sign for them either.  We‘ll be right back.  

COOKE:  Yes.  And Rush Limbaugh—frankly, Rush is turning 60.  So, there you go.                                                                


UYGUR:  I‘ve been warning about private soldiers for a long time now.  Now, remember, the U.S. started this trend recently by hiring out private companies like Blackwater to provide security in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Well, unfortunately, the day has come when those warnings are coming to fruition.  Last year, ex-Navy SEAL Blackwater founder Erik Prince‘s moved to the United Arab Emirates after a security company faced growing legal problems here in the United States.  And as “The New York Times” reports, soon after his relocation, he was hired by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed to put together and train an 800 member battalion of foreign mercenaries for the UAE. 

The first group of paid soldiers arrived last November.  The United Arab Emirates viewed their own military‘s inadequate, so they provided the prince—they provided prince I should say, the prince provided Erik Prince with $516 million and a training camp with concrete walls and barbed wire fences, located on a sprawling military base called Zayed Military City.  The 800-member force is made up of Colombians, South Africans and other foreign troops.  It was intended to conduct special operations for the U.A.E. inside and outside the country. 

They are also supposed to defend oil pipelines and skyscrapers from terroristic attacks.  But most disturbingly, they also put, there to put down pro-democracy uprisings like we‘ve seen in the Arab world in recent months.  And just today, Illinois Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky told The Nation, she‘s launching an investigation into the prince‘s in the UAE to find out if he‘s broken any U.S. laws.  Look, this is what we warned you about, if you hire private armies to do your fighting, at some point someone else can hire them at a higher bid.  And what happens if they kill pro-democracy protesters or they killed foreign workers or God forbid they run into our troops one day.  We should have never created these mercenary armies in the first place.  And right now, we have to put an end to it.  You know what should be our army?  Our army.  All right.  That‘s our show. 

And thank you for watching.  “HARDBALL” is next.   

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.                                                                            


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