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Msnbc Live at 6 p.m. ET, Wednesday May 18th, 2011

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

Guests: Ed Rendell, Michael Steele, Bernie Sanders, Jeremy Ben-Ami, Ari Rabin-Hayt

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


All week long, the story has been Paul Ryan versus Newt Gingrich, the fight of the ghost of GOP past and the ghost of GOP future, maybe.

Who‘s going to be more radical?  Who‘s going to win?

Well, tonight we have a clear winner by submission.  Remember, Gingrich had attacked Ryan‘s Medicare plan as radical and social engineering.  Ryan fought back with the help of buddies like Rush Limbaugh, “The Wall Street Journal,” and Charles Krauthammer at FOX News.  And now, Ryan has complete and utter victory.

How do we know?  Newt just threw in the towel.


NEWT GINGRICH ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I made a mistake and called Paul Ryan, who is a very close personal friend, and I said that.  The fact is that I have supported what Ryan has tried to do on the budget.


UYGUR:  That is so sad.  It doesn‘t look very presidential.  I‘m sorry, Mr. Ryan.

Well, Paul Ryan has accepted the apology, and he‘s not merciful.  Newt went on to say, anyone who actually takes his word seriously is making a big mistake.  You shouldn‘t quote him, because he‘s so obviously wrong.


GINGRICH:  So, let me say on the record, any ad which quotes what I said on Sunday is a falsehood, because I have said publicly those words were inaccurate and unfortunate.


UYGUR:  I love that!  So, you‘re lying if you quote Newt accurately.  How does that make any sense?  Does that mean we also shouldn‘t quote Newt‘s apology?  Because quoting him by definition means we‘re lying?

Newt, you‘re in a lot of trouble, my friend.  That back-pedals ain‘t going to help you much.

Now, of course, the other thing that we‘ve learned from this whole episode was that Ryan‘s plan to privatize Medicare is now “holy scripture” for the Republican Party.  Heretics will not be tolerated.  You will be ridden out of town.

And Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer made that point in a conference call with reporters today.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK:  He is the Republican canary in a coal mine.  When that canary speaks truth, he is snuffed out.  The new litmus test within the Republican Party will be how you come down on Paul Ryan‘s Medicare plan.


UYGUR:  That is so true.  So, if you oppose the Ryan plan, the rest of the GOP will rip you apart.

Look at what happened to Newt.  He‘s still trying to recover.  Trying to get up.  Man, did I apologize enough?  Am I OK, everybody?

God, that was so sad.  Did you see that earlier?  That was so sad.  I loved it.

All right.  But if you support the Ryan plan, well, then you‘re in a world of trouble because you lost the rest of the country, which by huge margins hates the plan.  They don‘t want to cut Medicare.

So, the GOP has set up a wonderful tram for themselves.  Now, Republican candidates that are running for president are damned if they do and damned if they don‘t.  Republicans, I don‘t know what you‘re doing.

Well, let‘s try to find out.  All right, folks, it‘s time to meet the chairmen.  I love this segment.

Joining me now is Ed Rendell, the former head of the Democratic National Committee.  He‘s now an NBC News political analyst.  I‘m also pleased to welcome Michael Steele, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee.


UYGUR:  Guys, great to have you here.

STEELE:  It‘s good to be here.  Good to see you, Governor.

ED RENDELL, NBC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST:  Nice to see you, Cenk, Michael.

You know, all I want someone to explain to me is how a chairman leads his party to unprecedented victories and gets the boot, you know?  It makes no sense to me.

STEELE:  I‘m still working that through myself.


UYGUR:  All right.  We might get to that in a little bit.

But, all right—Chairman Steele, let me start with you.


UYGUR:  Look, obviously, you just heard what I said.  It looks, you know, this seems to be a trap for the Republicans that they have set up for themselves.  How do you get out of this when the program seems to be incredibly unpopular throughout the country?

STEELE:  Well, it could be I guess if you don‘t really stand firm in the conviction about how you want to deal with entitlements and the defense spending and the like.  I think the reality of it is such that, you know, a lot of folks who are squawking about what Newt Gingrich said missed the point that Newt was nothing, if not consistent, in his view with respect to Medicare and Medicaid.  He believes that there were programs, he said, 16 years ago, that should not be voluntarily opted out by the individual, not mandated one or the other.

So, in that sense, he was being consistent.

You‘re right that there become a bit of a “holy grail” type of litmus test with respect to, you know, the Ryan plan or aspects of the plan, but this is also interesting, because you remember the establishment and the town pooh-poohed the plan a year ago.  Speaker Boehner was the first to say this is not my plan or our plan, this is his plan.

So, there has been coming a sort of this education on this issue.  The more important point I think you made is: how do you take this plan and engage the conversation with the American people about what you want to do with these entitlement programs?  How they will—how individuals will be impacted by that?  And what difference it will make in their lives.

And I think that‘s going to really be the rub of the economic debate in 2012.

RENDELL:  Well, Michael, you‘re a smart guy, and you know, I know you have to stand up for your side, but this is a disaster for Republicans.  Look, we agree, I certainly agree, and I think there are Democrats who agree, that we have to reduce our entitlement programs, and there are ways to save money and cut the cost of Medicare without turning it into a voucher program and gives an 80-year-old who no private insurance company would insure for $50,000, given her a $15,000 voucher.

The plan is basically a nonstarter, it makes no sense.  It‘s a disaster.

Congressman Ryan was almost hooted out of his own district when he tried it.  And let me tell you, the Republicans made a huge mistake by making the Congress vote on it.  Those suburban Republicans in Philadelphia who voted on the Ryan plan may have just designed their own death warrants.  It was political idiocy.  And the plan doesn‘t make any sense and people don‘t like it, because it can‘t possibly work.

Michael‘s point, though—Michael‘s point is a good one.  We do have to cut entitlement programs.  And there are ways to reduce the cost of Medicare without doing what Congressman Ryan suggests, which would be such a disaster.


UYGUR:  -- strong words in there, so I let you respond.  Go ahead.

STEEL:  No, I was going to say I think the rub, though, Governor, is the fact that how do we do what you just said?  I mean, I heard a lot of Democrats, you know, mouth the words, you know, we do have to reduce entitlement spending, but the president himself didn‘t do that in the 2011 budget.  The president himself has not put forward a plan to do that very thing.

Yes, he wants to rich taxes on the rich, but

UYGUR:  But, Chairman Steele, you‘re not really addressing the point, though.

STEELE:  -- you can tax the rich 100 percent, and you‘re not going to pay off the national debt of $14 trillion.

UYGUR:  Right.  But you‘re not addressing the point, though.  So, let me just ask you directly.  Are you in favor of the Ryan plan?  Do you think it‘s smart?

STEELE:  Yes. I love it.  I‘ve been in favor of the Ryan plan for a long time before it was a Ryan plan.  I think, as I look at upcoming generations of individuals who are going to go into a system that now, the number has been revised downward in terms of when it will go bankrupt, they‘re going to move into the system that doesn‘t work for them.

Why not begin to develop a system in which they can have choices and options?  You know, you can still make the Medicare program or the Medicaid program part of, you know, the standard or the default.  But let‘s not all take the options off the table.


UYGUR:  That‘s not Ryan‘s plan.

RENDELL:  Michael, look, I know you to be a compassionate guy.  If you want to do a default plan, I‘ll listen, because whether a default plan means, folks, if you‘re listening to us and watching us, it means that the Medicare option are staying in Medicare are still available to seniors if they choose it.  But if they want this voucher, they can go ahead and get it or some form of that.

STEELE:  Right.

RENDELL:  And that‘s something that is worth discussing—worth discussing.  But that‘s not the Ryan plan.  The Ryan plan says everybody is out of Medicare.  There is no more Medicare.  You get a $15,000 voucher.

And let me tell you, there isn‘t a health insurance company out there that‘s going to insure an 80-year-old for $15,000.

STEELE:  But that 80-year-old is grandfathered into the system.  We‘re talking about the 80-year-old 40 years from now.

RENDELL:  Right.  And they‘re not going to be able to get health care for $15,000 by then.

STEELE:  It will be a different system then.  I mean, if you look at the health care plan that the president got passed through the Congress, if that stands, you‘re talking about an entirely different health care system to begin with before you even get to Medicare, which Democrats cut $500 billion.


UYGUR:  Chairman Steele, you‘re basically admitting what Governor Rendell said, for people under 55, yes, their Medicare would be significantly cut.  Yes, they would not have the choice.  They would have not guaranteed benefits.

STEELE:  That‘s the Ryan plan.


UYGUR:  That‘s right.  That‘s the Ryan plan you‘re supporting.  That‘s right.  So, we‘re clear on that.

RENDELL:  But, Michael, you‘re not really supporting the Ryan plan.  You‘re supporting some option that may change Medicare, but leave the basic safety net if that‘s what seniors want, correct?

UYGUR:  Yes, that‘s actually—to be honest and to be fair, that‘s the Gingrich plan.  That‘s why they have the debate in the first place.

STEELE:  Exactly.

RENDELL:  Ad that‘s what you‘re supporting.

STEELE:  Exactly.

UYGUR:  You know what?  Let‘s get clarity on that.  Chairman Steele—


UYGUR:  Which one is it?  Which one do you prefer?

STEELE:  I like the plan that gives the individual the greatest option.  What Gingrich talked about 15 years ago is still a viable discussion point today.

UYGUR:  The Gingrich plan, not the Ryan plan?

STEELE:  No, no, I‘m not saying one or the other.  What I‘m saying is what Paul has put on the table -- 

UYGUR:  You can‘t have both.

STEELE:  Yes, you can because that‘s the -- 

RENDELL:  Ryan doesn‘t give the option.


STEELE:  Fellows, let me finish.  That‘s the basis of the discussion.  You guys are already taking extreme positions, one or the other.  What is going to happen here, what has to happen, for this to work for individuals, is that you‘re going to have to pull together various pieces of plans to create a system that is viable and operational for everyone.

And that‘s—what Paul Ryan has done is put on the table the beginning of that discussion and knowing full well that, you know, you got to get to the Senate.  It‘s got to get to the White House.  Paul Ryan is ready to begin the discussion by saying this is where we‘re willing to start from, let‘s move to where we can put in place a system that ultimately benefits people.

RENDELL:  Michael, I‘ll give you an assignment, if I could, and Cenk and I, I think, will agree on this.  I want to go to Congressman Ryan and tell him that we would like him and you together—because you‘ve just enunciated it, to say that whatever plan he‘s pushing, there will be a full Medicare option if seniors choose down the road—the 54-year-olds choose to stay in Medicare, that they can stay in Medicare.

If Paul Ryan says that, then I think he deserves a seat at the table and we should begin discussions.  But he has to say that that option exist, so that 80-year-olds don‘t have to thrive to find health insurance for $15,000.  There‘s no 80-year-old in this country right now who can get health insurance for $15,000.

STEEL:  But that 80-year-old right now wouldn‘t have that problem.


UYGUR:  Chairman Steele -- 

STEELE:  Yes, sir -- 

UYGUR:  Now, here‘s the situation.  I agree with Governor Rendell, as he suspected.  I don‘t think you‘re going to get Congressman Ryan to sign on to that.  But I wanted to ask you about the political aspect, too, because you brought that up.  You said this appears to be a litmus test.

So, is that a good idea to make this a litmus test?  Or the Rush Limbaughs or “Wall Street Journals,” et cetera, making a bit of a mistake here?

STEELE:  Well, as I said, you know, when I was chairman, when members of the party tried to do litmus tests on who is and who is not a Republican, who is and who‘s not conservative, that‘s not what our party has been about.  Our party has always been about elevating and giving the individual the opportunity to realize those opportunities out there.

The same is true in politics.  You have right now a group of men—and I suspect probably a woman or two, who will join the ranks of the candidates for the Republican nomination.  Give them the flexibility and the opportunity to push the envelope, to expand the—you know, the basis of the discussion, so that the American people can get a breadth—a sense of the breadth of what they know and they‘re willing to do, what risks they‘re willing to take.

I admire Newt for doing that, for at least saying this is how I see

this.  We don‘t want the extremes of right or left to mandate or push or

define this discussion.  It wasn‘t, you know, just a broad size swipe it at

the Ryan plan.  As Newt said, he supported the plan, but when you get down

to really making this thing work, give these guys the opportunity to do

that instead of sitting back and making judgments based on one conversation

and one interview and

UYGUR:  Right.

STEELE:  -- drawing some what I think are pretty doggone, silly conclusions.


RENDELL:  Cenk, can I make a career to Michael?  Michael, I think you should get in the primary because the person who has the guts to say that the Ryan plan without an option, a default option for Medicare as it is, -- the person who says that will appeal to the public, including Republican voters wildly and you‘ll win.

STEELE:  Look, Governor, I have no trouble -- 

RENDELL:  No one else has the guts to do it.

STEELE:  I have enough trouble as chairman.  I think that works.


UYGUR:  All right.  Ed Rendell and Michael Steele, actually, we want you guys to stay with us.  It‘s a great conversation.  We‘re going to talk a little bit more politics right after the break.  And we‘ll find out if Chairman Steele is running.

STEELE:  Yes, right.

UYGUR:  And when we come back, also, desperate times call for desperate measures, Michele Bachmann sounds like she‘s close to getting in, and Sarah Palin might be also joining her.  And the polls actually have some rare good news for Palin.

The chairmen, Ed Rendell and Michael Steele, are back to discuss that.

And the grand oil party votes to expand offshore oil drilling a day after voting to give billions in breaks to the richest oil companies.  Senator Bernie Sanders on how to find the party fighting for the top 1 percent.

And, finally, Glenn Beck brings his apocalyptic fearmongering to a new level.  He says he‘s going to go to Israel to restore courage.  What‘s his real motivation?  That might be even more dangerous.

Stay with us.


UYGUR:  President Obama‘s team has found a clever way to get back at the birthers.  Three weeks ago, of course, he shut the conspiracy theorists up by releasing his long-form birth certificate.  That was so embarrassing for the people that backed that ridiculous theory, that Trump may have partly dropped out of the race because of it.

But now, the president has found a way to turn that famous birth certificate into an even bigger positive.  Check this out.  If an Obama supporter contributes $25 or more to the Obama campaign, the supporter gets this Obama t-shirt.  The front reads “Made in the USA.”  But here‘s the best part, the back of the shirt is a picture of Obama‘s famous long-form birth certificate.

I wonder if the Donald‘s got one.

Now, one Republican knows how to raise money and knows a thing or two about birthers and that‘s Michele Bachmann.  And she‘s sounding a lot like a candidate these days.  Her and Sarah Palin might be back in the news.  We‘re going to talk about that and how much of a chance they have to win with Ed Rendell and Michael Steele when we come back.


UYGUR:  We‘re back with the quest to find Mr. or Mrs. Right in the GOP.  Party leaders are desperate for someone, anyone better to come along.  And a new Gallup poll out today shows what the field looks like with Mike Huckabee and Donald Trump out of the race.

Look at that.  The big beneficiary looks like it‘s Sarah Palin.  She‘s up to 18 percent, almost caught Romney.  Whoa!  There goes my grandmother again.

All right.  So, is Palin the answer?  And how about Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels?  Is he going to get into that race?  It looks pretty inviting at this point.

Let‘s bring back or chairmen to discuss.  I love that.

STEELE:  I like it pretty much.

UYGUR:  NBC News political analyst Ed Rendell, of course, and Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Governor Rendell, let me start with you.  Sarah Palin, looks like she‘s doing pretty well in that poll, and I know she just sent out a newsletter to her 400,000 followers.  What do you think?  Any chance she comes back in here and is that a good idea for her?

RENDELL:  Yes, there‘s always a chance, but I don‘t believe in the end that Sarah Palin will give up the terrific gig that she‘s got going for herself right now.  She‘s still in front of the public almost constantly.  She‘s making a lot of money.  And I‘m not sure she wants to get in this race in reality.

I think the biggest beneficiary of Governor Huckabee not coming in and Newt Gingrich sort of falling down at the starting gate is probably Mitch Daniels.  There is an opening for a conservative—significant conservative candidate.  I know there are some people in there who want to claim the mantle, but no one has caught fire.

And I think Mitch Daniels is thoughtful guy.  He‘s a bright guy.  I think he‘s got an opening.  But, of course, he has a fatal flaw in the Republican primaries, just like Governor Romney does with Romneycare.  He‘s got the problem that he was the OMB director at a time when we increased federal spending dramatically with Medicare Part D, and at a time when the federal deficit went out of control.

How that squares with the current Republican philosophy is beyond me.

UYGUR:  Well, Chairman Steele, I want to ask you about that.  What do they think the party leaders think about Mitch Daniels?  Are they eager to have him come in?

STEELE:  Yes, they are, very much, without hesitation or doubt they are.  I think—I think you saw the ceremonial dumping of Mitt Romney by “The Wall Street Journal,” which is, you know, kind of the way of making sure the establishment gets his voice in that respect out there.  I think Mitt Romney has got a lot of fight and he‘s going to be a very formidable candidate -- 

RENDELL:  I do, too.

STEELE:  -- in this race.  And I think people are selling him short.  I would not do it if I were art of the establishment of this party, and certainly the activists have it.  And as he just proved by raising a nice boatload of cash this past weekend.

So, the reality is that, yes, you know, the establishment types, the Haley Barbours, the Karl Roves, those guys have their eyes set on Mitch Daniels.  That‘s their horse.  They‘ve got to get him to the gate.

And then when he starts, he‘s got to make sure that he does more standing than falling, and that he‘s able to move a question about the ability of the Republican nominee to beat Barack Obama further that it‘s already advanced.

RENDELL:  And I agree with Michael.

UGYUR:  Chairman Steele, I just—I just want to actually push that point a little farther because I want clarity and I think a lot of us don‘t know how that works.  When you say that “Wall Street Journal” wrote that editorial against Mitt Romney, what does that mean?  Who is this establishment?  How do they affect the “Wall Street Journal”?  How do we know this establishment is in favor of Mitch Daniels?

STEELE:  Well, I‘m not saying that there‘s this symbiosis between the “Wall Street Journal.”  I‘m just saying it kind of reflected sort of the conventional wisdom out there with respect to Mitch Daniels—I mean, excuse me—Mitt Romney and the health care question.  And so, I think the reality of it is, the establishment types, those who, kind of, you know, hunker down the party and move the elephant in one direction versus letting the elephant do what the elephant does best on its own are the ones who are much more interested in making sure that they get the candidate that they want.

The Democrats have the same—you saw the same fight played out between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in 2008, where the establishment turned on Hillary, because everyone thought that she was that establishment‘s choice.  And, in fact, she turned out not to be.

So, I think you‘re seeing the same thing kind of played out here on the Republican side.  My only point is: be careful here because Mitt Romney has been through this dance, he knows it well, he is formidable, and he will in his own course and time—as he‘s begun to do—address the health care issue, very much as Newt has had to deal with his comments.  You know, others will deal with it as well.  And I think people will sit back and go, hey, this is what it is.


UYGUR:  Governor Rendell, I have a question for you.  On the Democratic side, who do you think they‘re most afraid of?  Who‘s the one guy that President Obama‘s team probably doesn‘t want to face?

RENDELL:  I think the toughest ticket for us to run against would be Romney for president and Tim Pawlenty for vice president.  I think that moderate in many ways.  They are conservative obviously, on some issues, but they come off as moderate.  Governor Romney, certainly, has a business background and did a good job as governor of Massachusetts.  He‘d be formidable talking about the economy.

The question is: can he pass another litmus test that the Republican Party seems to put up and that‘s health care.  Is that a burden for him that‘s just too great for him to overcome?  But again, don‘t make the mistake to think that Mitch Daniels—and I like Mitch—but he‘s going to go in there free of any burden.  He has a tremendous burden.  The federal deficit actually went out of control under his watch and we passed one of the biggest federal government spending initiatives, Medicare Part D under his watch.

STEELE:  But, Governor, you also have to look at what Mitch Daniels did as a two-term governor from Indiana.

RENDELL:  Sure.  But how would he explain—

STEELE:  How he turned that state around.  I mean, OMB director answers to the president of the United States.


STEELE:  The governor answers to no one but the people.

RENDELL:  But if the OMB director didn‘t like it, he should have told the president of the United States.

STEELE:  Well, we don‘t know.


UYGUR:  We‘re going to have that debate if Mitch Daniels gets into the race, OK?

RENDELL:  I agree.

UYGUR:  But one quick thing before we go.  I want to ask Chairman Steele about Michele Bachmann because—let me show a quick video of her talking about possibly jumping in.  Let‘s watch that.


REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA:  Our phones have been ringing off the hook, our Facebook has been lit up, our donations are pouring in, and people are saying, “Michele, jump in, we want you to run.”


UYGUR:  Is that real?  I mean, is there any chance in the world that Michele Bachmann is the eventual nominee?

STEELE:  I don‘t know.  I don‘t know if she‘s the eventual nominee.  But I think there‘s a real chance she runs, and I think she will have, if she does, a real impact on the race.  I think—I‘ve said for a long time, I like Michelle, she‘s very credible.

I know a lot of people like to, you know, pick at this or that with her, but she‘s very solid, not just in terms of her conservative credentials but as a member of the leadership in the House.  She‘s, you know, family lady.  She‘s raised her kids.  She‘s been a small business owner.  She‘s got a diverse background that I think appeals to a lot of people.

UYGUR:  Governor Rendell, how ecstatic would the Obama team be if it was Michele Bachmann?

RENDELL:  Well, let me say, I think if she jumps in, she inherits a significant portion of the Tea Party vote.  And I don‘t know about the Obama team, but at 6:28 on May 18th, I want to say that I‘m for Michele Bachmann as the Republican candidate for president.


UYGUR:  Michele Bachmann and Michael Steele.

RENDELL:  If I could give a check, if NBC didn‘t violate—didn‘t say I couldn‘t give money, I would give Michele a check.

STEELE:  Well, Governor, all I can say is be careful what you wish for, baby.

RENDELL:  All right.  We‘ll see, Michael.  We‘ll see.  Bring her on.

UYGUR:  All right.  The chairmen, Ed Rendell and Michael Steele—thank you for your time tonight.

STEELE:  Thanks, guys.

RENDELL:  Good night.

UYGUR:  All right.  Now, when we come back, Florida Governor Rick Scott talked about doing whatever he can to bring jobs back to his state, but all he‘s done since taking off is cut jobs.  The one he‘s created is our con job of the day.


UYGUR:  And now for our con job of the day.  We‘ve got four to go in the Rick Scott doing the exact opposite of what he promised during the voters, during the campaign I should say, two of the voters, Rick Scott‘s catchphrase last fall was, let‘s get to work.  And here‘s the kind of thing that he said on the campaign trail.  


GOV. RICK SCOTT ®, FLORIDA:  We‘re going to do everything we can to get the state back to work as quickly as we can.  


UYGUR:  But the Huffington Post reports Florida‘s legislature hasn‘t passed a single jobs bill since Scott took office.  What happened to, let‘s get to word?  Instead, the sunshine state passed a budget that cuts nearly 4,500 public sector jobs.  Brilliant.  So, they cut jobs instead of adding them.  While Scott and the legislature ignored the unemployed, they were hard at work advancing a right wing agenda.  They passed bills forcing women to have ultra-sounds before they can get abortions, and a bill requiring welfare recipients to get screened for drugs.  By the way, Governor Scott just happens to own a drug screening company.  What a wonderful coincidence?  And a bill scaling back voting hours was also passed, that‘s of course to make sure as little people as possible vote.  Clearly, those bills were a higher priority than getting people back to work.  Even some of Scott‘s fellow Republicans are fed up with this absurdity. 

During debate on the ultrasound bill, Republican State Senator Evelyn Lynn said, quote, “I came up here to help put food on the table.  I came up here to get people jobs.  I will vote no on every abortion bill.  It is the wrong thing for us to be discussing.”  Hey, look at that.  There‘s a surprise there.  At least, there‘s one sane republican in Tallahassee.  Thank God.  But he‘s certainly isn‘t Rick Scott.  Meanwhile, Florida‘s unemployment rate is still at 11.1 percent, that‘s two points higher than the national average.  But since Scott‘s gotten to the government office, he seems to have forgotten all about the jobs.  So, Mr. let‘s get to work, is our con job of the day. 

Now, ahead Republicans are constructing an even bigger apparatus to corrupt our politics.  We might not be able to recover from their new plan to buy our politicians.  It is gigantic.  Senator Bernie Sanders on fighting GOP incorporated, next.    


UYGUR:  I got to be honest with you.  I believe the Republican Party is deeply corrupt.  And today, we‘ve got the latest example of that.  GOP members of the Senate voted overwhelmingly in support of a bill that would speed up and expand offshore oil drilling.  Even though experts say that such a move has almost nothing to do with lowering gas prices.  But what it does do is make those oil companies much richer.  Speaking of which, this comes one day after Senate Republicans blocked an attempt to repeal $21 billion in subsidies for the big five oil companies.  This is part and parcel of what the GOP is these days.  They‘re corporate robots.  To further prove that point, they‘re furiously trying to repeal all regulations on the banks right now, so they can make even more money by taking a risk, endangering the whole economy.  

Now, why would they do that?  Well, in 2010 alone.  GOP congress members received more than $58 million in contributions from the financial industry.  They are not your representatives, they are the representatives of the multi-national corporations who buy them.  But as corrupt as the GOP is, it‘s about to get worst.  Now, Republicans are trying to solicit unlimited contributions from a so-called super-pac.  Now, here‘s how it works.  Senate candidate approaches a wealthy donor to contribute to that reelection campaign.  Under federal law, that person can only get $2,500 to the candidate.  In the past, that‘s the end of the conversation.  But under the new plan, the candidate could ask that same donor to pony up an unlimited amount of money to the republican super-pac. 

Now, the donor could specify that all that money spent supporting the particular candidate who are attacking their opponent.  Then the super-pac could buy adds, send out mailings and all of the things that a political campaign does.  So, if it wasn‘t clear enough that our politicians were apart before, this will make it super clear.  They were literally be working for the highest bidder.  It‘s a disaster in the making, let‘s see if anyone can stop it. 

We‘re going to talk to independent senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, who I know is not in favor of the super-pac.  So, first, Senator Sanders, how do you stop it?  You know, it looks like they‘re on a steamroller, and they‘re heading in that direction, the more money they have, the more misleading as they can run, how do you get in front of it?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT:  Well, in this particular case, Cenk.  I think the lawyers are going to have to take a hard look at it, because it certainly violates the spirit of existing campaign finance law, as weak as that law currently is.  Because what you‘re having is the RNC setting up another organization with the same members that exist in the RNC to violate the limits on campaign contributions and to be able to bring in huge amounts of money, without any transparency to do it in secret.  That is a violation of the law.  I think the lawyers are going to take a hard look at that.  But the deeper issue is, as you‘ve just articulated is that big money owns and controls much of what takes place here in the United States Congress. 

We had a bad situation before, since Citizens United, the situation is much, much worse, and the variety of ways, we‘ve got to have to take apart, Citizens United.  We need to pass legislation to minimize what it is doing.  At the end of the day, we probably will have to pass a constitutional amendment, which makes the radical opinion, brings forth the radical opinion that guess what, a corporation is not a person and that a handful of doing it cannot pollute and take over the political system by spending unlimited sums of money in secret in order to elect candidates who support their agenda.  

UYGUR:  I couldn‘t possibly agree more with on you that front.  I do want to discuss the legal issue a little bit more.  The guy who is leading this for the Republicans, the guy named James Bob Junior (ph), and he‘s the one that created the 5/27s in the first place.  Those are the non-profit groups that do their attack ads.  He‘s the one that brought the Citizens United case in the first place.  And he‘s the one that‘s pushing the super pac and to your point about how it might be illegal, here‘s what he said, who cares the Supreme Court doesn‘t care and I don‘t care.  The FEC which is a Federal Election Commission doesn‘t care.  No one that matters cares.  Wow, what a quote, but you know what?  Is he right about that, Senator Sanders?  I mean, he‘s got five conservatives on the Supreme Court, if it goes there.  We‘re going to win anyway, it doesn‘t matter what‘s right or wrong. 

SANDERS:  Well, the answer is, we have to give him credit for his incredible arrogance and for his contempt for the political process.  And for his belief that in fact, the Supreme Court with the five to four vote is there to protect big-money interests.  I‘m not so sure that he is right.  Even the Supreme Court, I think may take a hard look at this and rule that it is absolutely in violation of existing campaign finance law.  I think in this case, they may have gone too far.  But at the end of the day, the point that he is making, he‘s saying, money runs everything, and we can‘t be stopped.  And you‘re asking me how ultimately we fight back against that. 

Well, the way you fight back effectively is through grass-roots organizing.  These guys may have billions of dollars, they may have a Supreme Court, they may be able to attract the money from the Koch Brothers and other billionaires.  But if we can build a strong grass-roots movement of politically conscious people who understand that the function of government is to represent working people and the middle class and not billionaires, you know what, we can beat them.  And I think one of the important points that we now have is to make it very, very clear how corrupt the system is, to what degree the billionaires and large corporations are manipulating the campaign finance system in order to give tax breaks to the rich, in order to continue unregulated free trade, in order to deregulate Wall Street and the oil companies and environmental protection laws.  So, I think their arrogance, their arrogance may be something that we can effectively use against them.  

UYGUR:  Senator Sanders, I think that the system is corrupt, as I explaining, as you agree.  But I want to get into a little bit more specifics.  I believe the Republican Party is a wholly owned subsidiary of these corporations.  I don‘t think they are honest actors.  I don‘t think, they think, oh well, how about this drilling law, how are they going to affect the America people?  How about these oil subsidies?  How are they going to affect the American people?  I think they only care about how it affects their bottom line.  Do you think that‘s accurate?

SANDERS:  Well, let me say you this, and I speak as an independent, and that is the longest standing independent in the history of the United States Congress.  I think that at this particular point, not all, but many Republicans are doing what they are doing, not for this great philosophical reasons, but for the fact that what they do can attract huge sums of money.  You can get money from Wall Street when you talk about deregulating Wall Street, and not bringing back Glass-Steagall, for example.  You get money from the oil companies when you talk about continuing to give them these tax breaks, despite the fact, they make billions in profit.  You get money for the military industrial complex. 

If you continue to support large military budgets, as it was in Iraq and Afghanistan.  So, if you‘re asking me, are there feelings just philosophical and not related to the money that‘s coming in and they‘re dependence on big money and corporate trust.  I would think you‘re right, but as an independent, to say that it is only the Republicans and not any Democrats I think would be inaccurate.  I think there are a number of Democrats where you can make that charge against as well. 

UYGUR:  Well, I‘m really glad you said that.  Because I couldn‘t agree more.  I think it affects the Democratic Party significantly as well.  I think the only difference is, in my opinion, the Republicans are wholly bought by the corporations, the Democrats are partly bought by the corporations.  And look, just a quick example to the audience, Blue Dog Democrats, a lot of them lost in the last election, a third of them are already lobbyists, working for the same corporations that they supported while they‘re in the House, and those are Democrats.  

SANDERS:  I think the better example is the middle class today is collapsing, poverty is increasing and the rich are getting richer.  And what you‘re seeing for the Republicans for example, tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires.  Oil company profits are souring, they‘re protecting the tax loopholes for the oil companies, they are working day by day by day for the interests of the wealthiest, the most powerful people.  The needs of the middle class and working families are not being heard at all.  In fact, as you well know, the budget that passed the house is going to decimate Medicaid, voucherize Medicare, huge cuts to education, environmental protection and the needs of our kids.  So, this is a party that is there to protect the interests of the wealthy and powerful.  We need to educate, we need to organize, we need to defeat them, we need to put pressure on those Democrats who are also indebted to corporate interests.  

UYGUR:  Absolutely.  We‘re going to fight back and one guy leading the fight is Independent Senator Bernie Sanders.  Really appreciate your time tonight.  

SANDERS:  Good to be with you.  

UYGUR:  All right.  When we come back, Glenn Beck ramps up the apocalyptic fear mongering with his journey to restore courage in Israel, what a joke.  He says it‘s personal, I say it‘s one of the worst ideas I have ever heard.    


UYGUR:  Beck is taking his traveling rodeo to Jerusalem, but why there?  Because he thinks that‘s where the apocalypse is going to start.  What a lunatic.  When we come back, we‘ll talk about why this isn‘t just ridiculous, it might actually be a dangerous idea.


UYGUR:  Glenn Beck is going to Jerusalem and he is talking apocalyptic.  Do you know what happens in that crazy theory about Armageddon and apocalypse and how it starts in Israel, and how many people die? And how happy people who are looking forward to that are?  It‘s crazy.  We‘re going to explain to you how crazy it is when we come back.


UYGUR:  Glenn Beck has announced a follow up to last summer‘s restoring honorary.  This time it‘s even more ambitious.  Beck is taking his national lampoon show to the Holy Land.  He‘s hosting his latest rally, “Restoring Courage” in Jerusalem.  It‘s a little ironic given some of the things that back has said in the past about Jews. 


GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  George Soros used to go around with this, you know, anti-Semite and deliver papers to the Jews and confiscate their property, and then ship them off.  It‘s frightening.  Here‘s a Jewish boy helping send the Jews to their death, death camps, reformed rabbis are generally political in nature.  It‘s almost like Islam, radicalized Islam in a way.  


UYGUR:  Of course, a comments about source were hideous lies.  He did no such thing.  Honestly, it‘s the single worst lie I have ever heard from a right wing talk show host.  And that is a high bar to cross, but he crossed it.  And he had to retract the comments about reform which was said on a different program.  Because as usual, he had no idea what he was talking about.  So, why is he going to Jerusalem of all places?  Well, it seems Beck decided that his post-FOX News career is all about saving the world.  And that means he‘s got to get as followers worried about the impending apocalypse.  


BECK:  Things in Israel are going to get bad.  They‘re going to spread across the Middle East.  The things that I‘ve told you are coming will come.  It‘s only a matter of time, and there are forces in this land, and forces all over the globe that are trying to destroy us, I want you to know, the very gates of hell are going to open up against us. 


UYGUR:  Who does this guy think he is, John the Baptist?  What kind of lunatic talks like that?  After initially talking about how much people might be charged for this trip, he now says that this has nothing to do with personal gain.  


BECK:  This journey to Israel for me is personal, it‘s not about celebrity or teaching anybody a lesson or sending a message to any earthly power.  It is about sending a message to our maker and letting him hear our message as individuals, that this time I will stand and I will be counted.


UYGUR:  Yes.  God can‘t wait for Beck‘s message.  If you want to hear your blather, couldn‘t you just turn on the FOX News Channel?  Oh no, that‘s right.  I guess, that show got cancelled.  Well, I guess I listened to you on the radio in New York.  All right.  That got cancelled to.  Well, how about Philadelphia?  Oh, that got cancelled to.  All right.  Well, maybe he does have to go to Jerusalem to find anyone who will listen to him.  Now, let‘s talk about this a little bit more.

Joining me now is Jeremy Ben-Ami, he‘s president of the J Street, it‘s a pro-Israel group whose mission is to ensure a broad debate on Israel on the Middle East in national politics, Jeremy was also the deputy domestic policy advisor for President Bill Clinton.  Also, joining us is Ari Rabin-Hayt, he is the executive vice president of Media Matters and non-profit that follows Beck closely, which is not an enviable job. 

All right.  Jeremy, let me start with you.  Given all the questionable things he said about Jewish folks in the past, what is he doing here?  Is this to make amends for that, or is he oblivious to that?  What‘s going on here?

JEREMY BEN-AMI, PRESIDENT, J STREET:  Well, it‘s kind of a strange way to make amends.  Because if he‘s trying to be pro-Israel or he‘s trying to help in some way to make the world a better place, probably the worst thing he could do is go to Jerusalem with hundreds or thousands of people and argue against making peace.  He‘s called the two-state solution the end of his faith and a doorway to destruction of Jerusalem.  And actually, the two-estate solution is the only way that there is ever going to be peace in that region of the world.  So, he‘s certainly got a very strange idea of what his mission might be and what it means to be a pro-Israel or a friend of the Jewish people. 

UYGUR:  All right.  You guys have been tracking Glenn Beck for a long time.  Does he really believe this, I mean, there‘s this crazy theories that, you know, if Israel goes to war, there is attack by the Russians or some crazy nonsense like that, then everybody dies, two thirds of the Jews die.  Can he really believe that?  I mean, I guess so, you tell me.  Does he talk about that?  What does he mean by the apocalypse? 

ARI RABIN-HAYT, EXECUTIVE PRESIDENT, MEDIA MATTERS:  I certainly hope he doesn‘t believe what he says.  I mean, first he had the 9/12 project, then he had Restoring Honor.  Now, he‘s doing Restoring Courage, you know, the year after, it was Restoring My Bank Account.  You know, it‘s just, this is self promotion machine.  He‘s a guy who he hosts a guy like David Barton on his show who‘s condemned by the anti-defamation league for hanging out with anti-Semites.  He cites Elizabeth Filling (ph) who is an anti-Semite, he cites (inaudible) who‘s an anti-Semite and, you know, now he‘s going to Israel to rebuild his brand after 400 rabbis condemn him in the “Wall Street Journal.”  I mean, this is a branding exercise, he‘s a guy who depends on it to sell books, to get ratings for his radio shows, to go on tour, he‘s building his brand here, so he can continue doing that after his FOX show goes away. 

UYGUR:  You know, the 400 rabbis, that was a little tough.  Jeremy, as you look at this though, the right wingers who pretend to be in favor of Israel, so that, you know, because, they don‘t want to choose a solution as you talk about.  So that their fairy tales about Armageddon can come true, and you know, we know that, but you know, the thing that I mentioned there, part of this whole mythology is that two thirds of the Jews die.  What kind of friend to Israel thinks that hey, it would be great if two thirds of the Jews die?  

BEN-AMI:  That‘s where the most outstanding things about this whole alliance actually between me, right wing of the Jews community and right wing of the Evangelical Christian Community.  And you have a trail of people from Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, now Glenn Beck and many others.  John Hagee of course being the most notable example.  And for some reason, the right wing of the Jewish community has forged an alliance that they think is in the best interests of Israel and the best interest of the Jewish people when the end result for the Jews is not good.  You know, the end result here is that we all in fact do perish in a battle of apocalypse at Armageddon.  And the notion that this is somehow in the best interest of the Jewish people, when in fact, people who are in charged with the defense of the country, and Israel, the defense ministers, the head of the intelligence, the head of the secret service, all of that, say the last thing we need to do is to try to fight against a two-state solution.  We need a two state solution and we need it now. 

UYGUR:  Right.

BEN-AMI:  And we need it before this place blows up.

UYGUR:  Jeremy, don‘t get too discourage, apparently 144, 000 male virgin Jews do get to survive but they have to convert to Christianity, so you have that to look forward to. 

BEN-AMI:  We‘ve got options. 

UYGUR:  Right, exactly.  Unfortunately, we‘re out of time.  Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, and Ari from Media Matters, thank you both so much for joining us. 

BEN-AMI:  Thanks, Cenk.

RABIN-HAYT:  Thanks, Cenk.

UYGUR:  And I want to thank all of you for watching.  “HARDBALL” starts right now. 

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