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Msnbc Live at 6 p.m. ET, Tuesday June 14, 2011

Guests: Bob Shrum, Mark McKinnon, Raul Grijalva, Alex Wagner, Kiki McLean,

Rick Lazio

CENK UYGUR, HOST:  Seven little Republicans.  So this is the crew that‘s going to  take down President Obama? 

Mitt Romney‘s hair stayed perfect, but that‘s because no one laid a glove on him. 

Tonight, Bob Shrum and Mark McKinnon, our campaign crew, on the big Republican pillow fight.  That‘s all it was. 

Michele Bachmann won the night and gave the Obama White House and Mitt Romney lots of reasons to smile.  And Republicans want to cut the budget, Democrats want to create jobs.  How Democrats can press their big advantage.  Let‘s hope they do so.

Plus, get this—Republicans wants $17 billion more for the defense budget.  I ask you, America, is there a weapon or defense contractor that these guys don‘t love? 

All right.  Good evening.  I‘m Cenk Uygur. 

Tonight, after the first big Republican debate, we have clear winners and losers, and the GOP might have found its anti-Romney.  That‘s our lead story tonight. 

First clear winner, Mitt Romney.  He came out of the debate unscathed and cemented his status as the front-runner.  We have video of how the other candidates went after Romney last night. 

That was it. 


UYGUR:  OK.  They didn‘t go after him at all, which was a curious choice since they‘re getting their asses kicked by him right now. 

Now, down at the debate, Romney was in essence telling the rest of the GOP field—


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Come on!  Stop trying to hit me, and hit me. 


UYGUR:  And it turns out they never did.  Tim Pawlenty, it turns out, is no neo.  Speaking of which, he comes out as the clear loser in this debate. 

He looked weak and indecisive, as he repeatedly refused to stand by his “Obamneycare” attack on Mitt Romney‘s health care plan.  The moderator called him out and said, look, you did it in the comfort of a studio.  Why don‘t you do it right here?  And he‘s like, I don‘t know, I‘d rather go after President Obama.

Look, we have an official term for that in politics.  It‘s called weak sauce. 

Pawlenty already had trouble standing out from the crowd, and you‘re not going to do it by hiding in the bushes.

Speaking of which, Michele Bachmann emerged as the real star of the debate, announcing her candidacy on the stage and tossing red meat to the party faithful. 


REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  And I was the very first member of Congress to introduce the first full-scale repeal of Obamacare.  And I fought behind closed doors against my own party on TARP. 

President Obama is a one-term president. 



UYGUR:  Obvious applause line, but it worked. 

Today, even House Speaker John Boehner had to praise the field‘s new star. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Do you take her any more seriously now that you‘ve seen her performance last night? 

REP. JOHN BOEHNER ®, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  I think she did a really good job last night.  I think she‘s a bright member of our caucus.  It‘s one of the reasons why I appointed her to the Intelligence Committee. 


UYGUR:  I don‘t know about the whole intelligence thing, but here comes Bachmann!  She certainly had a good showing.  And, by the way, there goes Pawlenty.  And if everyone else is a dud and Bachmann is his main competitor, Romney has to be feeling great about his chances. 

Now let‘s bring in a couple of guys who know all about primary debates and presidential politics, Democratic strategist Bob Shrum, senior adviser to John Kerry in 2004, and Mark McKinnon, “Daily Beast” contributor, cofounder of No Labels, and former adviser to George W. Bush.

Mark, let me start with you.  Mitt Romney has got to be in seventh heaven.  I mean, they didn‘t even go after him at all.  And Bachmann‘s his main competitor?  I mean, could he have dreamed up a scenario better than this? 


You know, Bob and I met for the first time during the Bush/Gore debates, and so we know that this is all about expectations.  Mitt Romney had enormously high expectations, and he met them and exceeded them.  And if you‘re the front-runner, somebody has got to take you out. 

And Pawlenty had a big, slow, soft pitch thrown right over the plate, and he didn‘t even swing.  And also, Mitt Romney answered very decisively the question on his health care bill for Massachusetts, so that at least psychologically, the Republican Party and Mitt Romney are going to feel pretty good about that now.  It was wrapping around his axle every time he turned around, and now he can go forward with a full head of steam. 

The big winner last night was Mitt Romney, and Michele Bachmann, as you pointed out. 

UYGUR:  All right.

Bob, let‘s talk about Pawlenty for a second, then I‘m going to put this guy away for a while, because it‘s all a to-do about nothing.  It‘s always been about nothing.  He never polled well, he never got good applause lines.  He never got anything, right?

But I‘m curious, on a strategy level, why go after Romney on Sunday, and then they toss you a softball in the debate and you don‘t hit it?  Was that a screw-up by his campaign?  What went wrong there? 

BOB SHRUM, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Well, I don‘t know if it was a screw-up by his campaign or a screw-up by him.  I mean, Mike Huckabee said he was over-prepared.  I thought he was un-coached, un-tutored and underwhelming. 

If you‘re going to go out there and you‘re going to launch this attack on Sunday, you might decide not to launch it on your own on Monday, but you know you‘re going to get asked about it.  And when you‘re asked about it, there‘s a respectful way to do it, which is to say, look, Governor Romney and I just have a being disagreement here about the individual mandate.  If you‘re going to start down that road, you have to continue down that road. 

I think Mark is absolutely right about the expectations game here. 

One of the things that hurt Gore in 2000 was his expectations were so high.  What happened here was Romney had high expectations, and it‘s not so much he met them, it‘s that everybody else except Michele Bachmann met some very low expectations. 

UYGUR:  So let‘s talk about Bachmann then, Mark, because look at this. 

I mean, let me give you polls first.

Sixty-two percent of GOP voters recognize her.  That‘s a pretty good number for now.  And then when you look at favorable versus unfavorable, it‘s through the roof, 68 percent favorable opinion, 15 percent unfavorable. 

Obviously, that‘s among GOP voters, but that‘s what the primary is, GOP voters.  So that looks pretty good for her. 

And then when you look at the money, she raised $13.5 million in 2010.  That was more than any other House member, including John Boehner, who then became Speaker of the House.  In fact, it was $3.7 million more than Speaker Boehner. 

I mean, when you look at all that, you‘ve got to say she‘s legit, right? 

MCKINNON:  Oh, yes.  And that‘s what she proved last night. 

Prior to last night there had been a sort of one-dimensional cartoon character figure painted by the media and a lot of Democrats, but people inside the Republican Caucus know that she is very focused, very articulate, very credible.  And she proved all of that last night.

And there‘s a huge opening in the Republican primary on the social conservative side, on the Tea Party side, and she‘s going to drive through that like a Mack truck now after that debate last night.  The only person she has to think about now is Rick Perry, who may get in, because he also sees that same opening.  But it was just proof that she can step up to the plate and play in the big leagues. 

UYGUR:  Look, I have been talking about Rick Perry for a long time, because I think that it makes perfect sense for him to come in on the Republican side.  But as I looked at the debate last night, Bob, I began to think that he might be waiting a little too long.

I thought, you know what?  Bachmann is really stepping up here.  Maybe she grabs those voters before Perry has a chance to get in.  What do you think? 

SHRUM:  Well, I kind of defer to Mark on this in the sense that he understands that whole Texas thing.  He worked down there for a long time. 

I think that he has something she doesn‘t have.  He‘s probably broadly acceptable to the Republican establishment, while at the same time, being very acceptable to social conservatives. 

And I think Michele Bachmann may not wear well.  I think she could win the nomination. 

She has a tendency to play fast and loose with the facts.  Last night she said there was a federal report that said Obamacare would destroy 800,000 jobs.  What it actually says is 800,000 people will have to work when they‘re 63 and 64 to keep their health care will finally be able to retire. 

So, she may not wear well.  And people may say they want someone more solid than she is.  As a Democrat, I think I would be for her nomination.  As an American, I‘m not sure that I want either major party running someone quite like that even if she isn‘t comical and one-dimensional.  I‘m not sure she is more than two-dimensional. 

UYGUR:  Well, Mark, I want to go back to the Perry point for a second here.  How long can he wait before he loses the mantle of “I‘m going to represent the social conservatives” before Bachmann just solidifies it and says you‘re too late? 

MCKINNON:  I think we can throw conventional wisdom out the window.  I think waiting has actually served him well, because now he‘s being drafted in as opposed to jumping in on his own ambitiously.  It looks like people are hungry for his leadership. 

And he‘s finished a very successful legislative session, particularly if you look at it from a Republican point of view.  Thirty-seven percent of all the jobs in the last few years have gone to Texas, so he has got a great story to tell. 

And I think Bob was right, he has got a broader appeal, potentially, than Bachmann does.  He can tell a broader sort of story about jobs and executive experience, but it will be an interesting contest, to see those two go at it, because I think it could get pretty ferocious. 

But timing is—at this point, I think people can get in late in this game.  I think you can have Giuliani get in late.  You can—the conventional wisdom just doesn‘t work anymore, so we can throw all that out the window and just start with a new playbook.

UYGUR:  And I‘ll tell you what, everybody thinks Huckabee is out, but I wouldn‘t count him out.  There‘s some chance he does a late entry as well.

MCKINNON:  Well, the thing that‘s happening is that people are beginning to realize that President Obama really is vulnerable.  Only one Democratic president running for reelection has ever lost, but despite that advantage, people are seeing these bad economic numbers, and so suddenly you see people like Huckabee kind of pulling out his card again and saying, well, maybe I ought to rethink this. 

UYGUR:  And Bob, look, at the end of the night, did the other candidates make a mistake here by not attacking Romney?  Because Romney is sitting on a big, fat lead, and here they are, they‘re trying to make a name for themselves.  And nobody hits Romney?

Was that smart or not so smart strategy? 

SHRUM:  Well, it was really smart on Michele Bachmann‘s part.  She just wanted to introduce herself to voters and to the country.  It was not so smart on Pawlenty‘s part after he had teed up this argument on Sunday on television.  And what does it look like when a guy says something about someone and then refuses to say it to his face when he‘s invited to?

I would say one note of caution here which goes along with this idea that we ought to throw out all the conventional wisdom.  The winner of the first Democratic debate in 2004 pretty clearly was Howard Dean.  And the clear, clear winner of the first Democratic debate in 2008 was Hillary Clinton.  So I‘m not ready to say on the basis of this debate that we really know who the Republican nominee for president is going to be. 

UYGUR:  And Mark, do candidates like Gingrich, who are sitting there waffling, going back and trying to explain what he really thought about the Ryan plan, et cetera, even Herman Cain, et cetera, do they get swept out here?  Because we‘re looking for the anti-Romney, it appears.  It‘s not we, it‘s the voters that are looking for it.

If Bachmann really is stepping up like that, does that do major damage to those other guys?  And does it kind of wipe them off the board? 

MCKINNON:  Yes, it really does.  It was a huge opportunity.  You know, as Bob knows, debates are—particularly first ones, where there‘s a big audience, in the presidential debates—it‘s an opportunity to make your play and move the numbers.

So, Bachmann took advantage of it.  Romney took advantage of it.  But the others missed a big opportunity here.  And so, yes, they become just second-rate players now.  And now it‘s all about Bachmann. 

And by the way, I think that Pawlenty‘s mistake was a hall of fame mistake.  And I think it literally could end his candidacy over time.  Not immediately, but I think it‘s just going to suck the wind out of this campaign.

UYGUR:  And you know, finally, on that, Bob, I mean, was the candidacy ever real or was it just a figment of Washington‘s imagination that they thought Pawlenty is kind of smart, he‘s from kind of a blue/purplish state, and they liked him, when in fact no voter has ever expressed any interest Tim Pawlenty?

SHRUM:  Well, the voters in general didn‘t know him.  He got mentioned by the great mentioner and looked at by John McCain for vice president in 2008.  A lot of people said he has got a blue collar Sam‘s club appeal, so maybe he‘s the kind of conservative who can get Democratic votes. 

I just didn‘t see much there last night.  And I think unless he shows a lot more, and shows it very fast, you‘re going to begin to see his money dry up, you‘re going to begin to see a lot of people trying to move to get Rick Perry to come in. 

And I think Mark is absolutely right, his waiting has served him well, because it looks like the Republican Party is going to go to him.  And I don‘t think there‘s any room to get to the left of Romney in this. 

So I think Jon Huntsman, who would be a real threat in the general election, has a big problem, because he is going to come across as more moderate than Romney.  So I think Perry may have a very real chance if he comes into this thing, and the Republican Party will finally do something it hasn‘t done for a long time.  It won‘t nominate the next guy in line. 

If you just take last night‘s debate, it‘s Romney.  I‘m not sure that‘s the case.

UYGUR:  Well, I don‘t know how it‘s going to come out at the end, but I do know Pawlenty is done.  I don‘t think he ever had a real chance to begin with. 

I think Perry is dangerous.  But it will be great to see how it comes out. 

All right.  Democratic strategist Bob Shrum and Republican strategist Mark McKinnon.

You guys are both great.  Thank you so much for your time tonight. 

SHRUM:  Thanks, Cenk.

UYGUR:  All right.

Now, ahead, the destroyer, Michele Bachmann, she goes primetime and the Tea Party has their candidate.  But is this actually the GOP‘s worst nightmare?  The GOP establishment and the Tea Party are on a collision course.  And we have a ringside seat and some popcorn. 

Plus, Republicans won‘t stop talking about cuts, the deficit and debt.  And all of Washington was going along until, all of a sudden, here comes the progressives!  The Progressive Caucus is fighting back for jobs in a major way today.  Can they take on all of Washington? 

And Senate Democrats show some major spine.  Could that be true?  The message they sent to Paul Ryan and his crew—no chance. 


Stay with us. 


UYGUR:  Since the day that they took over the House, Republicans have laid a bear trap for President Obama.  They kept insisting that the deficit was the only issue and challenged the president to do more and more spending cuts.  Eventually, the president took the bait, listened, and started playing their game. 


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I am absolutely confident that we can move forward on a plan that gets our debt until control, gets our deficit under control. 


UYGUR:  But now that the Republicans have the president on their ground and, more importantly, got him to stop focusing in public on creating jobs for the American people, which is in reality, of course, the number one issue in the country, they turn around and hammer him on jobs. 


BOEHNER:  The American people are still asking the question, well, where are the jobs?  Republicans have been focused on jobs creation since the beginning of this Congress. 


UYGUR:  That, of course, is a joke since they have not put forward one proposal or one bill to create jobs.  But they are the masters of spin.  They get the president to focus on spending cuts and ignore jobs creation, and then blame him for ignoring job creation. 

Now, how many times is the president going to fall for this? 

But out of the dark clouds of this misinformation campaign comes riding a posse of progressives, a veritable caucus—the Progressive Caucus.  They‘re here to set the record straight. 


REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY (D-IL), PROGRESSIVE CAUCUS:  And the new Republican majority has not offered one bill, one proposal, one concrete idea that would put Americans back to work. 


UYGUR:  Now, will you look at that?  Someone who actually cares about Americans who are out of work. 

The Progressive Caucus announced today they‘re going on a listening tour this summer dubbed “Speak Out for Good Jobs Now.”  The 12-city tour will give the unemployed and underemployed a chance to have their stories heard. 

It started today in Washington with regular folks who desperately want jobs, folks who just happen to have some pretty astute observations. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The economy‘s just never going to recover if we get rid of the middle class.  And that‘s essentially what‘s going on right now in the country. 


UYGUR:  She sounds like Robert Reich.  And she‘s right.  How do you get a healthy economy for anybody without a middle class that can buy all those products?  You can‘t. 

Now, luckily, some Democrats are ready to listen.  But can they stop the White House from falling into that GOP trap and focusing only on spending cuts? 

Let‘s find out.  Joining me now, Congressman Raul Grijalva, a member of the Progressive Caucus.

Congressman, great to have you here tonight with us. 

REP. RAUL GRIJALVA (D), ARIZONA:  Thank you very much.  I appreciate the invitation.

UYGUR:  No, no problem.  Thank you.

So, when you talk about refocusing the conversation on to jobs, is the White House frankly an obstacle there?  Because they seem like they‘re playing that Republican game of only focusing on spending cuts.

GRIJALVA:  I think the whole discussion about jobs become so esoteric, so hypocritical, so full of spin, that nobody is listening to what the American people are saying, what working families are saying, what the middle class is saying.  So, this 12-city, plus more in August, tour is about letting the American people talk about jobs, talk about their families, talk about their aspirations. 

I think we‘re missing the boat as Democrats.  If we don‘t embrace the idea that jobs are part of the cure for this recession, that good jobs are part of the cure for our economy, we‘re going to miss the boat. 

The American people care about jobs.  The Republicans have been hypocritical to talk about jobs and then cut anything that would stimulate job creation.  And so, this tour is about listening to real people, on real time, with real ideas.

UYGUR:  OK.  You know, I want the audience to understand this. 

Look, if you create more jobs, the government pays out less in unemployment, and they get more in revenue for the taxes of those people who have jobs.  So it actually helps both things.  It helps jobs and it helps the deficit. 

And it seems like we have lost focus on that.  Even David Brooks thinks the Republicans‘ strategy is a terrible idea. 

Let me read you a quote from him.  He wrote in “The New York Times” today, “The Republican growth agenda, tax cuts and nothing else, is stupefyingly boring, fiscally irresponsible, and politically impossible.” 

So why are we having conversation on their ground?  How do we fight on our ground?  What would you propose?  How do we create jobs as a member of the Progressive Caucus?  What do you think is the right way to go? 

GRIJALVA:  I think the administration and Congress, and particularly the administration, has to get behind the public jobs bill that creates three to four million jobs for the American people, puts people to work on the things that need to be done for this country from our streets to our nursing homes, and puts these good people to work so they can take care of the family, circulate money in our economy, and begin to pull us out of the hole that we‘re in. 

Franklin Roosevelt knew that.  All his jobs bills were about circulating money and putting people to work, and giving the American people back the confidence that they need.  That‘s what we need to do. 

UYGUR:  All right.  You mentioned something really interesting there.  I think most people watching go, hey, three to four million jobs, that would be great.  Right?

How do you do that?  What would you high them to do? 

GRIJALVA:  I would hire them to take care of America‘s needs—our roads, our buildings, our infrastructure, our nursing homes, to take care of the people that need to be taken care of, as my generation gets older and older.  Also to take care of our schools, to make sure that we have all the infrastructure needs that the American economy is going to need to the future.  Plan ahead. 

We are not doing that.  And as a consequence, we continue to fall behind in the global market because America is not prepared to compete in that global market, because we don‘t have the infrastructure to do that.  Put American people, their ingenuity, their hard work, their dedication, put them to work to build us up again. 

UYGUR:  All right.  Congressman Raul Grijalva, co-chairman of the Progressive Caucus, with a plan for actual jobs. 

Thank you for your time tonight.  We appreciate it. 

GRIJALVA:  Thank you. 

UYGUR:  All right.

Now, when we come back, Republicans are taking food away from poor kids—literally.  They say we can‘t afford it.  But wait until you see what they‘re spending it on instead.  That sick Republican spending con  job is revealed next.


UYGUR:  Republicans can always find cash for millionaires in the military contractors, but they say we can‘t afford to defend poor women and kids.  The GOP‘s whole twisted set of priorities is our “Con Job of the Day.” 

The House began debating a spending bill today that cuts $833 million from the WIC nutrition program which provides healthy food to low-income women and their children. 

Appropriations Chair Hal Rogers says, “This legislation reflects hard decisions to cut lower priority programs, reduce spending in programs that can be scaled back, and target funds where they are needed most.” 

So programs for the hungry aren‘t a high priority.  Well, at least they‘re honest about their Republican priorities. 

Now, what was it that Jesus said?  Give me your poor and needy, and I‘ll go tell them to pound sand.  That‘s at least the Republican vision of Jesus. 

The other GOP rationale for cutting WIC is that there‘s more than enough aid already. 


REP. VIRGINIA FOXX ®, NORTH CAROLINA:  We do not lack for programs to help take care of the hungry people in this country, Mr. Speaker.  What we lack is efficiency in our programs. 


UYGUR:  This isn‘t about efficiency.  This is about need, helping the hungry in the middle of a tough economy. 

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates the GOP cuts will mean up to 350,000 eligible women and children and babies won‘t get those WIC benefits.  What‘s efficient about that unless your aim is to hurt the poor? 

But the worst part is the government is literally giving away money to offset these cuts.  Bush-era tax cuts provide millionaires with $860 million every week.  That‘s more than the total amount being cut from the WIC for a year.  Those priorities make me sick. 

And if Republicans were serious about efficiency, they would take a look at military spending.  Instead, the House GOP is pushing for a $17 billion budget increase from the Pentagon. 

So we always have money for weapons and wars, but not for the most needy in this country.  They are a low priority. 

Republicans say we have plenty of money for defense contractors and millionaires, but not enough to help poor women and kids get the food they need.  And that heartless, ridiculous reasoning is our “Con Job of the Day.”

Now, ahead, Bachmann is in.  But is it only a matter of time before the establishment begins to tear her down?  Details on that fun war within the GOP ahead. 

And big news out of the Washington today.  Senate Democrats actually showed some big-time spine on Paul Ryan‘s radical plan to kill Medicare. 

White House, we need you to hold that line.  The “Power Panel” on those stories, next.


UYGUR:  Welcome back to the show, everybody.  Now to discuss some of the biggest political stories, we bring in our Power Panel.  Alex Wagner, MSNBC‘s political analyst, reporter for the Huffington Post.  Kiki McLean, a founding leader of the No Labels Group and former senior adviser to Hillary Clinton during her 2008 presidential run.  And finally, former New York republican Congressman Rick Lazio.  Great to have all of you here with us tonight.




UYGUR:  First question for the panel.  Democrats refuse to cave on Medicare, let‘s hope but with the Obama White House, Senate Democrats stood firm on the issue again today. 


SEN. HARRY REID (D), NEVADA:  We‘re calling on Republicans to take away any cuts to Medicare benefits.  Take them off the table, now.  

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK:  The Ryan plan to end Medicare as we know it must be taken off the table.  

SEN. PATTY MURRAY (D), WASHINGTON:  Today, we are here to say to the Republicans, we will not allow them to balance the budget on the backs of our seniors.  


UYGUR:  Alex, first question is, it for real, you know?  It‘s nice rhetoric, ecstatically here it.  But do we think they‘ll really going to hold the line?

WAGNER:  Look, it is heartening I think to see the Democrats A united and B playing hardball.  I mean, a lot of times.  The Obama White House is probably most guilty of this.  They negotiate with themselves ahead of this.  And, you know, strategically speaking, the Paul Ryan Medicare plan is the best tactic the Democrats have had since Obama ran for office.  I mean, this is manna from heaven for the 2012 presidential campaign.  This is something they can all unite behind and fundamentally, it in genders of rhetoric conversation about the American social compact.  And what the Republicans are offering and what the Democrats are offering.  I think for now we have to hope for the best.  

UYGUR:  Kiki, help me understand this.  Apparently they‘re saying that Medicare cuts can be on the table, but not Medicare benefit cuts.  What‘s the distinction?

MCLEAN:  Well, first of all, step back and understand that from my point of view, as a democrat but as a leader of No Labels, I believe to get to a solution, we‘ll going to have a bipartisan solution, and so everything‘s got to be on the table for that conversation.  What I hear Senate Democrats saying, some in different ways than others, which is you‘re not going to go to the Paul Ryan extreme.  There are people who believe that the Ryan plan is the most extreme and therefore not really moving toward a conversation about what can really happen.  That‘s the difference I think when you look for it.  Everything has got beyond the table, but the point is if you start off from a point of hyper partisanship, that‘s not going to move the debate forward. 

UYGUR:  All right.  That scares me.  Because.  

MCLEAN:  Why does that scare you?

UYGUR:  I‘ll tell you it scares me.  I‘ll tell you exactly why it scares me, Kiki.  Because look, when you say, well, we‘re not going to do the Ryan plan which is massively radical, but we‘ll do other things.  That tells me.  Yes, we‘re on the cut Medicare.  And I don‘t want to cut Medicare, especially when the Republicans tell me that they‘ll be no tax increases under no circumstances. 

MCLEAN:  Exactly.


UYGUR:  I‘m going to take Medicare off the table in a second.  

MCLEAN:  Cenk, that‘s just the point.  You see, you want to do it as a tit for tat.  What I‘m suggesting is that a bipartisan solution means everybody is at the table and we figure out what we‘re for.  The goal is to fix our economy, to create more jobs, get this debt ceiling raised, and make sure that we can preserve Medicare, that it can work.  I personally happen to believe that the Ryan plan is extreme, and wasn‘t really meant as a legitimate offering.  I believe that it was actually put out there as a political tactic, so the point is you‘ve got to start with everything on the table, including what you‘re concerned won‘t be on the table.  It‘s two parts, everything has to be there.  

UYGUR:  All right.  Look, over the last ten years, every time in Washington said, bipartisan.  The middle class got screwed and the rich got richer.  That‘s part of my concern, but Rick, are you willing to put taxes on the table as a republican and say, yes, sure, maybe we should raise taxes?

LAZIO:  Well, first of all, somebody is going to have to address Medicare.  Whether Republicans and Democrats can do it before the debt ceiling vote, I don‘t know.  But when a program like Medicare which is a huge program is growing at twice the rate of the economy, it is unsustainable and those reductions are going to come from somewhere.  And let‘s face it.  You know, Democrats already accepted a reduction in the rate of growth of over $400 billion in order to help finance the health care bill.  So, they‘re already on record for having reduced the base.

UYGUR:  That‘s true.  Is that good enough?


UYGUR:  Is that good enough, Rick?

LAZIO:  Pardon me?

UYGUR:  Is that good enough, $400 billion?

LAZIO:  Not when the program is growing at twice the rate of the economy.  We‘re borrowing $4 billion a day, Cenk. 


UYGUR:  So, Rick, I want to stay with you then.  Rick, I want to stay with you.  You say, OK, Medicare is growing too fast, we can‘t afford it.  On the other hand, you‘ve got Republicans saying they want to do massive gigantic tax cuts for the rich?  What happened?  I thought we couldn‘t anything. 

LAZIO:  So, let me say this.  First of all, you‘ve got to understand that the only way long term to address this huge fiscal dilemma that we have right now is through growth.  The worst time to raise taxes is when you have a soft fragile recovery like we have right now. 

UYGUR:  That‘s what they say every time, every time.  Oh, it‘s a terrible time to raise taxes.  Let‘s give more to the rich.  Alex?  Alex?

WAGNER:  I just think what we have to look at this strategically.  This is playing politics.  I mean, I think Democrats are not in the dark that, you know, entitling programs, there needs to be some reform.  Does that mean we need to turn Medicare into a voucher program, I‘m not sure.  The Republicans have gone far to the right.  Look at the budget to pass the House.  I mean, I think it‘s high time that the Democrats—at least have some ground to stand on and circle the wagons a little bit. 


MCLEAN:  I want to take a moment.  

LAZIO: -- Because people like to say all the time that this is some type of voucher program.  The Ryan plan has the subsidies flowing through Medicare, and it only is going to be paid to license regulated insurers.  It also means test the monies, so that people who are the most needy and who are the sickest are going to get a disproportionate amount of money.  So, I know that‘s a great talking point, and sound bite, to call a voucher program, but it‘s not accurate base on the way the architecture of that plan. 

UYGUR:  No, no.  Rick, Rick.  The last part right—hold on.  Let me just say, Rick, you‘re right about the last part.  But about the first part, you described exactly a voucher program.  That‘s what it is.  So that‘s why we call it that.  But Kiki, go ahead.  

MCLEAN:  Well, here‘s the issue.  And I‘m going to praise two people.  I‘m going to praise Eric Cantor by saying that he stepped out yesterday and praised Vice President Biden for the work the bipartisan team is doing trying to get us to agreement.  Because this can‘t be about any one issue in isolation.  This is about the whole, and we have to be able to look at it as a whole.  Rick doesn‘t want to admit that we have to address taxes.  We have to address taxes.  I also think that when you look at Newt Gingrich and what he  said, even in the republican debate last night, was that Medicare can‘t be an either/or on the far extremes.  That we have to be willing to look at what the options are but the...  

UYGUR:  Let me tell you my problem with that is.  Let me tell you what

the problem is

MCLEAN:  Let me tell you what—let me say this.  

UYGUR:  Hold on.  Let me address it.  OK.  

MCLEAN:  The greatest moment, Cenk.

UYGUR:  Look, the political spectrum has moved massively to the right over the last 30 years.  And certainly over the last ten years.  Now you‘re saying split the difference.  I‘m not interested in splitting that difference. 

MCLEAN:  No, no, no.  I didn‘t say split the difference.  

UYGUR:  Our tax rates are at historic lows.  

MCLEAN:  Cenk, I didn‘t say. 

UYGUR:  Hey, you can raise a tiny bit if we cut Medicare.  I say no, let‘s bring the spectrum back to the center.  

MCLEAN:  I didn‘t say split it down the middle.  What I suggested to you is this, that these things are connected.  And so they‘ve got to be looked at in the whole.  And by the way, when you talk about bipartisan solutions that it always work against middle class, I just don‘t believe that‘s true.  Because the greatest moments in America‘s history have been where there have been bipartisan solutions.  You‘re talking to a Texan who would be proud to have Lyndon Johnson carry all the water and all the gratitude for civil rights, but there was a republican from Illinois name Everett Dirksen who went to work with him on it.  

UYGUR:  Ancient history?

MCLEAN:  I don‘t think a lot of people who live under civil rights reform. 

UYGUR:  Right.  That was before the corporations took over it.  The corporate America is taking over everything, including the military contractors, which is our next question for the panel. 

MCLEAN:  Cenk, then you don‘t believe that there‘s any possibility at all, and you might as well give up.  I do. 

UYGUR:  No, no, I believe the real thing to do is to throw all the bums out and fix the system, because our money—the money has corrupted our system entirely.  I mean, look at Evan Bayh, that‘s a democrat?  That‘s progressive?  That‘s a corporate robot.  And what did he do?  He came out of the Senate and he immediately grabbed the money.  He grabbed the corporate money, now he works for the Chamber of Commerce and FOX News.  That‘s what partisanship?  That‘s ripping the middle class off, and that‘s what‘s been happening for the last 30 years.  You go beyond 30 years, then, I agree with you.  Then, we have lovely bipartisanship.  

MCLEAN:  But you know what?  Your yelling and screaming doesn‘t solve the problems though, Cenk.  

UYGUR:  I think it begins to solve it.

MCLEAN:  I don‘t think it solved anything right now.  To be honest with you, I don‘t think it did anything to further the conversation in America.  I don‘t think as a democrat, you did anything to help my point of view as a progressive get us to a solution.  Because here‘s the reality, in order to address the issues I care about, we‘ve got to make sure our country is economically secure, that people have a chance to feed their kids, that they‘re able to take care of their parents when they‘re old and sick.  And that they have opportunity.  That‘s not going to come from one side alone.

UYGUR:  All right.  We‘ve got to move on, on the next question, and that‘s about defense budget.  Look, we spent 43 percent of all the defense spending in the world.  What is it every going to be enough?  Rick, can we touch the defense budget?  Or is it simply, again, the Republicans, no way, we have to give all our money to defense contract. 

LAZIO:  I think it needs to come down more.  The program of a size of our defense budget right now.  It means, it‘s partly a reflection of engaging in two wars the same time.  I mean, we‘re going to have to make hard choices and defense and accept as Secretary Gates have said that there‘s going to be some traders here.  That you cannot have a two-theater war effectively, and at the same time reduce spending.  But in my mind, having a strong economy, creating jobs, and not relying on foreign governments to finance our debt is as much a national security issue as buying another ballistic missile system.  I think we can do both.  I think that number has got to come down.  And frankly, if you look at President Obama‘s budget in February, not the second one, the first one, Republicans are pretty competitive with the amount of financing.  So, it‘s not just a republican allocation here, it‘s one that the administration is also signed off on.  

UYGUR:  Agreed.  We have agreement on the panel.  I‘m feeling good.  

MCLEAN:  Yes, yes, it‘s partisan. 

UYGUR:  Alex, hold on one quick second.  Look, another story that came out, somewhat related to this, $6.6 billion lost in Iraq.  Lost.

WAGNER:  Sure.

UYGUR:  I mean, how much pork is in the defense budget that we can lose $6.6 billion and they don‘t even notice.  

WAGNER:  Look, even if we took all of our troops out of Afghanistan, arming and equipping the Afghan army will be $12.8 billion.  We have serious expenditures as far as defense, five percent of our wealth that we spend on the defense budget.  But, look, Leon Panetta was Clinton‘s chair of the Office of Management Budget, he‘s a notorious number cruncher.  And looks like he‘s going to get some firm.  I think there is some bipartisan support for trimming the defense budget.  So, he may be the man to do it.  

UYGUR:  Kiki, real quick?  Agreement again?  We can cut defense?

MCLEAN:  Yes, I think there‘s some agreement.  Here‘s the amazing thing.  I‘m not sure how those numbers went out because I think what you see on this panel is probably what you really find on Capitol Hill when it comes to that issue.  

UYGUR:  Well, I hope it‘s true on Capitol Hill.  I know it‘s true across the country.  People get there‘s pork in the defense budget and it goes to the military contractors.  I wish our congressmen would get that. 

All right.  Now, everybody.  Stay with us, because our Power Panel discussion is coming right back.  We‘ve got one more topic for you guys.  And that is, how long will it take Karl Rove to attack Michele Bachmann.  The establishment‘s worst nightmare coming through.  That Power Panel takes that on next.  Coming right back. 


UYGUR:  All right.  When we come back, Michele Bachmann, huge winner in the debate last night, but that means the real fun starts now.  GOP establishment versus the Tea Party.  Come on, we‘re already having fun.  Come right back.   


UYGUR:  We‘re back with our Power Panel which has been very powerful tonight.  Alex Wagner, Kiki McLean who‘s been very patient with me.  And Rick Lazio. 

MCLEAN:  I like you, Cenk.

UYGUR:  Thank you.  Much love right back at you.  All right.  Last question for the panel.  Bachmann, the queen of tea.  And he‘s troubled brewing for the GOP.  Get a tea brewing.  Oh my, oh my.  OK.  Her questionable statements have long been red meat to the far right.  Let‘s watch.  


REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA:  Obama care as we know is the crown jewel of socialism.  

There isn‘t even one study that can be produced that shows that carbon dioxide is a harmful gas. 

Do you know that Planned Parenthood is a billion dollar a year entity?  The executive director of Planned Parenthood in Illinois said they want to become the lens crafter of big abortion.  

Not all cultures are equal.  Not all values are equal. 


UYGUR:  Now, some of that sounds crazy, and some of it just wildly wrong.  But the basic is, why throw it anyway?  So, is she the ticket for the Tea Party?  And if she is, will that give the GOP establishment huge headaches?  Rick, you‘re the republican.  Let me start with you.  Michele Bachmann, good or bad for the GOP?   

LAZIO:  You know, she had a great night last night.  I think she did well for herself but the big winner was Romney.  And the idea that she will (INAUDIBLE) of that right side of the equation, I think will be good news for Romney.  He‘ll be able to appeal these win voters, he looks presidential, he looks like he walks out of central casting.  And if the big issue is the economy, there‘s a guy who‘s got 25 years of experience in the private sector and helped to turn around Massachusetts.  

UYGUR:  I hear you, but I‘m not going to get you on the Reagan and Bachmann, anyway.  So, talk to me, come on, carbon dioxide is not harmful?  The lens crafters line is.

LAZIO:  I disagree, I disagree.  But you know, what?  She‘s speaking but we have to understand and she‘s speaking to a part of the electorate that is involved and it matters and that will be voting, and she will be a player in this, in my opinion.  But I think what she‘s doing is, she has marginalized some other candidates that were sort of second and third-tier candidates, and she‘s beginning to have more standing. 

MCLEAN:  Rick, Rick, you can talk your way around this all you want.  She scared the living daylights out of those other candidates on the stage last night.  Because here‘s the deal.  She‘s going to have to own her statements, however much I disagree with them, all right?  But the reality is last night, she also presented a side of herself and will begin to flesh out that narrative because she has Ed Rollins working with here, and he‘s a master of this.  The rest of her story.  Her background is tax accountant, a mother of five, a foster mother to 23.  These are not the images of somebody who‘s sort of off the deep end.  That moves her in fact from the far right to a little more to the mainstream of the far right.  And that becomes dangerous for Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty and all the rest of them.  

LAZIO:  That‘s not showing up in the polling though.  That‘s not just what people are looking for.  They want somebody—they want somebody, Republicans are saying, they want somebody who can win, who can appeal to the swing voters to the independence.  And so, that guy I think is most likely Romney, so.    

MCLEAN:  This is the challenge.  She‘s going to begin to build that narrative because she‘s got a base.  And now, she‘s actually within the republican primary going to start moving toward the middle. 


UYGUR:  Let‘s let Alex get in here.  

WAGNER:  There‘s also the consideration, though, that she moves the magnetic poles of the debate farther right.  I mean, if you looked at that debate last night.  There was I mean, 80 percent of it was spent talking about social issues.  And on social issues, no one can touch Michele Bachmann.  So, your point, Kiki, you know, she‘s the mother of 28.  She‘s very far right on abortion, on gay rights.  This is someone that voted against hate crimes legislation in Congress.  You know, on the environment and what she does, I think, is pull the base and pull the republican party as far right, making trouble for candidates like Mitt Romney, who are much more, you know, who appeal to independent voters.  And she forces them to then toe that line on a lot of divisive social issues.  

UYGUR:  I think, I‘ve got to give her credit for one thing, man.  Twenty eight kids, that is amazing.  I‘ve never heard of something like that.  That‘s stunning. 

LAZIO:  Cenk, in your next life. 

UYGUR:  Yes.  Look, me, I hope not.  You know, I‘m too selfish for it.  I‘ll be honest with you.  So, I‘ll give you all the credit in the world for it.  

MCLEAN:  But that‘s a really big deal. 

WAGNER:  I mean.

UYGUR:  But let‘s talk about whether she can win, right?  Because, is this a fun distraction?  You know, where the Tea Party is going to do some damage to the GOP?  Maybe it helps the GOP, right?  And 88 percent of GOP voters are saying, Republicans are saying, that hey, you know, what?  We want to hear from the Tea Party and their ideas should be really considered.  But does consider mean winning, right?  Or is this just, you know, a fun fight and at the end of the day obviously Bachmann is going to lose?  I want all your thoughts on.  

MCLEAN:  Cenk, I think that the clips that you just showed of the things that she said are not where the majority of Americans are.  They are extreme, they are hyper partisan.  I don‘t think that that‘s going to where America is not sure for general election.  So I think, if the general election point, no, I don‘t think she crosses the line.  

UYGUR:  All right.  Rick, can she win? 

LAZIO:  Hard to tell right now.  You know, I would say, right now, the way things look, the guy who‘s got the best positioning and who‘s going to be talking about the issue that will determine the election in my view which is jobs and the economy has got to be Romney.  

UYGUR:  How did I know you were going to say Romney?  Alex, can the Tea Party vanquish the establishment or no?

WAGNER:  No, there‘s no way Michele Bachmann is going to win the presidency of the United States? She can make a lot of trouble for the Republican Party.  As I said, I think she shifts the magnetic poles due right, and I think she makes it very uncomfortable for middle of the road candidates.  I still don‘t see the Tea Party vanquishing the establishment and so far as she trumps everyone else.  But you look at legislative, you know, record so far and how the Republicans have built a very big House for the Tea Party in Congress and I think that‘s cause for concern.  

UYGUR:  All right.  We have to leave it right there.  You guys have been great.  Alex Wagner, Kiki McLean, Rick Lazio.  Thank you so much. 

MCLEAN:  Thanks, Cenk.

WAGNER:  Thanks, Cenk.

UYGUR:  All right.  Now, up next, how the people of a small town get affected in their real lives because of the bankers robbing them blind.  How low did Wall Street go this time?  We‘ll tell you. 


UYGUR:  We‘ve all heard the stories of Wall Street greed, but wait until you hear how it affected one community in Alabama.  We‘re talking about Jefferson County, Alabama.  Back in 1995, the local government planned to put a new sewer system in, the price tag was supposed to be $250 million.  But then the bankers came in.  They paid off local politicians and businessman to let them sell the—swaps, and other financial weapons of mass destruction.  The eventual absurd price tag of the project became $3 billion.  J.P. Morgan eventually charged 1.28 billion in just interests and fees.  As the Rolling Stone‘s Matt Taibbi has reported, it was all a sham.  Twenty local officials is so-called consultants were convicted of corruption in federal court. 

Now, how many bankers got convicted?  You guessed it, none.  They paid a comically low fine of $25 million and restitution of $50 million, a fraction of what they made off the deal and they were free to go.  And what happened to Jefferson, County in a meanwhile?  Well, they‘re still saddled with the debt.  So, today 1,000 workers are being forced to take leave without pay.  County Sheriff Mike Hale said his deputies will not be responding to traffic accidents because of budget problems.  And what about J.P. Morgan chase?  Well, they‘re living the highlight, pulling in record profits, 17.4 billion last year, 5.6 billion in the first quarter alone of this year. 

That‘s the biggest quarterly profit in its history.  And just to put things in the perspective, the $12 million saved by putting workers on leave is only 0.2 percent of JP Morgan‘s first quarter profits.  Do you get it?  This isn‘t theoretical.  They took this county for a ride.  They got rich in the meanwhile.  And now, all the residents have to pay the bill on their modest incomes.  And where the hell is our Justice Department?  I thought they were supposed to be on top of things like this.  The one thing Republicans and Democrats seem to agree on is that the banks must be protected at all costs.  No matter what they do.  If Democrats were actually progressives, they would go down to Alabama, and get those votes and actually help those people.  Can we get a party to finally represent us?  Please. 

All right.  That‘s our show.  Thank you for watching.  “HARDBALL” is next.

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