Guests: Frank Lautenberg, Bill Burton, Ezra Klein, Tina Dupuy, Matt Lewis,
Robert Borosage, Al Sharpton
CENK UYGUR, HOST: The Republican reverse: Robin Hood strikes again.
Tonight, Chris Christie whacks the workers in New Jersey. This is about one thing, raw political power. We‘ll show you just how it works.
And forget the golf. It‘s time to rumble—Obama versus Boehner on the budget. Who will land out the knockout punch?
Plus, Mitch McConnell once said his number one goal was to make President Obama a one-termer. Now we have got word on his exact strategy on how to make that happen. But will it work?
And of all people, Newt Gingrich says he can take black voters away from Obama. Really? Reverend Al Sharpton responds live tonight.
All right. Welcome to the show, everybody. I‘m Cenk Uygur.
Tonight‘s lead, Republicans continue their war on middle class. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie took a victory lap today after his state approved a rollback of benefits for 750,000 government workers and retirees. They must be so proud.
The bill increases what workers contribute for their health insurance and pensions, suspends cost of living increases to retirees‘ pensions, and curbs the contract bargaining rights. But wait a minute. It curbs union bargaining rights? That‘s funny.
Just three months ago, Christie was all for union rights. Remember?
This is what he said—
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE ®, NEW JERSEY: I love collective bargaining. We‘re ready to collectively bargain. And let‘s have it be real collective bargaining where someone is in there representing the people who pay the bills.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Now he seems to have conveniently forgotten about that as he took away their bargaining rights anyway.
And this morning, he defended his plan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: A bipartisan plan where we compromised to put the people first, Matt. The taxpayers is going to save over $130 billion over the next 30 years. We needed to bring equity and shared sacrifice into this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Shared sacrifice? I see where the workers are sacrificing.
Where is the sacrifice for the rich?
Remember, Christie just vetoed a bill that would have increased taxes on millionaires. He saved them hundreds of millions of dollars for the rich. Where is their shared sacrifice?
In New Jersey, equity and shared sacrifice has actually meant outing state aid—cutting, I should say, state aid for needy cities. And the results honestly have been disastrous.
Newark alone was forced to cut 167 police officers. The result, murders are up 65 percent from a year ago. Jesus, 65 percent.
You know why that happens? That happens when you take cops off the street, because you just had to give more money to the millionaires of New Jersey. And then you‘re surprised, right?
Shared sacrifice? What‘s he talking about? When is the last time his rich buddies shared any of the sacrifice? It turns out the people of Newark are the ones getting all the sacrifice.
Now, let me show you how the GOP‘s reverse Robin Hood works in general. The rich give campaign contributions to the GOP Party, who in turn cut programs for the working class to fund tax breaks for, you guessed it, the rich. Funny how that works.
Today, the great example of that comes from the other favorite union-buster, Scott Walker. This Sunday, he will sign a budget that includes $2.3 billion in tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. Up until a few hours ago, he was going to sign that bill at, you guessed it, the business of a man convicted on charges of tax evasion.
The irony here is that the man didn‘t need to evade those taxes at all. All he had to do was wait for Scott Walker to get into power. Then he could have qualified for legalized tax evasion through the Republican Party. And that about sums up the state of the Republican Party right now, legalized tax evasion for the rich and pain and sacrifice for the rest of us.
Joining me now, Democrat from New Jersey, Senator Frank Lautenberg.
SEN. FRANK LAUTENBERG (D), NEW JERSEY: Hi.
UYGUR: Senator Lautenberg, great to have you here.
Chris Christie is unpopular right now in New Jersey. He‘s got an overall unfavorability rating, but yet he is still getting this done.
Why do we have this deal in New Jersey today?
LAUTENBERG: Well, because a lot of people capitulated their beliefs and threw their hat in the ring to be friendly with this bullying governor of ours. And remember what this governor is doing. Not only is he cutting people‘s incomes, increasing their costs, but also, he is has taken the liberty of giving away New Jersey money.
We had a $6 billion transit commitment from the federal government and the New York Port Authority and he gave it away. We took $400 million worth of education money that was going to the benefit of people living in New Jersey, and he lost that.
And he‘s given away further assets, and we just don‘t understand it.
Why is New Jersey the giveaway state when we need so much help?
UYGUR: Well, Senator Lautenberg, I understand what you are saying. You mentioned the word “capitulation,” though, and I think that‘s an interesting word to use there, because, look, we have seen this over and over. Republicans come in like tough guys, and Christie—and I‘m calling Christie “Governor Paulie Walnuts” now, yelling at his own constituents in harsh ways, et cetera, et cetera. I understand that.
But Democrats had to sign off on this in New Jersey. My God, why in the world would you do that?
LAUTENBERG: Why? Because I‘m sure that it‘s not without getting something for their own need in return. And it‘s the wrong way to do it. We have to stand tough, because we‘re being slashed at all across this country.
And I say we, the Democrats, but I‘m concerned more about the people who work for a living that permit those of us who have been successful to be successful. And it‘s not happening.
So they‘re just quitting and going along with the governor, with whom they violently disagree but don‘t have the guts to stand up to.
UYGUR: Senator, I want to talk about how we fight back. Right? Because I want to show you two sets of numbers here which I think are so his stark and could help in fighting back.
We told you about Newark. And you know about Camden, of course.
You‘re the senator from New Jersey.
What they did was they initially had to cut half of their police budget and half of their police department because they didn‘t have enough money from the state government. Violent crimes spiked 18 percent just in the first quarter alone, and then they had to panic and hired back those 50 police officers, because you can‘t have cities without police officers. This is crazy.
And why do they do all this? Well, again, Chris Christie vetoed a bill that would have raised $637 million because he wanted to protect millionaires.
I mean, isn‘t this an amazing case to make to the voters of New Jersey? Shouldn‘t Democrats be on fire in New Jersey making this case?
LAUTENBERG: Yes, you‘re darned right. And the fact is that in Camden, police weren‘t available enough to go to burglary scenes, but had to record it on a disk and check up on it later. It‘s outrageous.
And we‘re being swept away by a bullying governor who promises retribution if you don‘t go his way. Well, the retribution, in my view, is going to come from the next election, and we‘re going to see it directly as his numbers fall now, and I believe will continue to fall heavier, in the very near future.
UYGUR: Last question for you, Senator. Do you think Chris Christie is really playing more to a national audience, a national Tea Party Republican audience, rather than your own state, in order to—I don‘t know if he is trying to be president, vice president. I don‘t know what he‘s running for. But do you think that‘s the real game here?
LAUTENBERG: You put the words in my mouth. He is looking at the national picture, because what he is doing to the people in of New Jersey is going to hurt so much, that he could very well be swept away there. But he is willing to trade it for a shot at the big job. That‘s my belief.
UYGUR: All right. New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg, thank you so much for joining us this evening. We really appreciate it.
UYGUR: All right. Now, let‘s be clear, one of the reasons that the GOP governors are attacking unions is because they fight for Democrats. Outside groups spent nearly $500 million during the 2010 election cycle to run ads, make phone calls, distribute literature to sway the electorate. That‘s how it works.
Now, during the midterms, six of the top nine groups that gave that funding were conservative. Only three were liberal, and all three of those were unions.
Now do you see why they attack the unions?
But Democrats are now trying to fight back against that disparity with outside fund-raising groups of their own. They are fighting fire with fire, or you could say money with money.
Joining me now, former deputy White House press secretary and senior strategist to the political group Priorities USA, Bill Burton.
Bill, good to have you here.
BILL BURTON, FMR. DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Thanks for having me on.
Look, there‘s two sides of this, right? Fire fight with fire, and then there is the side of, well, then we‘re in the business of taking corporate money. So, first, let‘s address the first point.
You know what? Actually, let me let you respond to Senator Feingold, because he directly challenged you guys on this issue at Netroots. Let me play a clip for you guys.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSS FEINGOLD (D), FMR. U.S. SENATOR: I emphasize the ability to fight fire with fire. But Democrats should just never be in the business of taking unlimited corporate contributions. It‘s dancing with the devil, and it‘s a game that we will never win.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Well, what do you think about that, Bill?
BURTON: Here is the question. Do you want Karl Rove as the Koch brothers to have unlimited influence on this election with no response whatsoever from the Democratic side? Our view is that, we might not like the rules, but they‘re the rules that we‘ve got in this election cycle, and we‘re not going to give Karl Rove and the Koch brothers any more advantage than they‘ve already got.
They‘ve got deep pockets from the oil companies, deep pockets from their rich friends in Texas, who all can spend unlimited sums of money. We‘re not in the business of saying, OK, we‘re all right with your hundreds of millions of dollars washing over the candidates that we care about, the values that are important to us, just because we want to make—just because we want to make a political point.
We don‘t want to make a political point. What we want to do is make sure that the right wing doesn‘t have undue influence in this election cycle.
UYGUR: I‘m really, really split on this, because I totally here what you are saying. And look, anybody who watches this show knows I‘m a big fan of fighting back. And you guys are fighting back.
UYGUR: No question about that. Right? So I get that and I love fighting fire with fire.
Having said that, I‘m a little concerned that, you know, look, when you take corporate money, there‘s certain understandings that come along with it. Are you guys beholden to those understandings?
BURTON: We are not beholden to any understandings. Anybody who wants to participate through our group knows exactly what we‘re doing and why we‘re doing it.
And the best example of why our group exists became clear today. Karl Rove‘s group, today, said that they are starting a $20 million advertising campaign over the course of the next two months, $5 million over the course of the next two weeks.
Now, are we to sit by as Democrats, as progressives, and say it‘s OK for Karl Rove and his agenda to have all that influence, to have all that impact on the election and do nothing? Our view is that this is why we exist.
If you‘re a Democrat, if you‘re a progressive, if you care about the things that Democrats care about, get involved, participate. Because we cannot stand by again and see what happened in 2010 happen once again in this election where Democrats got run out of town as a result of the hundreds of millions of dollars that right wing groups were putting into this election.
UYGUR: So, again, Senator Feingold would say, yes, I get it. All right? And you don‘t want to do as some people have said—I think Debbie Wasserman Schultz said you don‘t want to do unilateral disarmament. I‘m the last guy in the world who wants to do unilateral disarmament.
So I understand that concept. But at the same time, Senator Feingold says if you play this game, you eventually wind up losing because corporations are going to back Republicans more than they‘re going to back you guys, so it‘s better to just change the game rather than just to play within it.
And I get that you‘ve got to do both. You‘ve got do both. I get that. Right? But how do you plan, if you do it all, on changing the game?
BURTON: Well, a couple of things. We actually have no—we have no doubt that Republicans will be able to raise more corporate money. They‘ve got oil companies who are making record profits right now who can cut checks for $20 million, $30 million, $40 million and not even think twice about it. It‘s what they sneeze on any given Tuesday.
But what we are trying to do is make sure that Democrats and progressives and people who actually care about changing the rules get in control. We want to change the rules, but you can‘t change the direction of the bus if you don‘t have control of the steering wheel. And our view is, we‘ve got to get control of the steering wheel.
These Republicans, Karl Rove, the Koch brothers, none of these folks who are trying to get involved and sway this election have any interest to change the rules. We do. The people we support do. And that‘s going to be something that only has a chance if Karl Rove and the Koch brothers lose.
UYGUR: Bill, final thing on this, look, I get that side of the equation, again, for the eighth time. Right?
UYGUR: If you have a Republican in there, they‘re going to let Wall Street run wild, they‘re going to give any kind of break to the oil companies. There‘s no question about that. It‘s a historical fact. That‘s what they do every single time.
UYGUR: So the alternative is hideous. I know that. Right?
Now, having said that, look, right now, we‘ve got President Obama having dinner with Wall Street guys in New York this month because he‘s got to raise money. Right? And we had the Dodd-Frank bill that a lot of progressives thought was incredibly weak because we didn‘t want to offend the Wall Street guys. And that‘s partly because the Democrats take their money, too.
You‘ve got acknowledge that‘s a problem.
BURTON: I can assure you that there‘s a lot of folks on Wall Street who didn‘t like Dodd-Frank either. It‘s the sort of thing where you had critics on the right, you had critics on the left, and he tried to do what he thought was best for the country.
That‘s the thing, is that what we believe are, you know, true core progressive values, that‘s what we are trying to advance here. And sitting by and lit letting one side participate with unlimited donations just isn‘t going to help advance our values.
What it‘s going to do is going to slow us down. It‘s going to make us lose elections. It‘s going to make sure that the things that we care about are not advanced in Washington. We have seen enough of that. But if these guys win, we know what the outcome is going to be.
UYGUR: Right. Look, Bill, I appreciate you coming on here, Bill Burton, and talking this through. And it is interesting.
My final thing from my perspective is, I wish we could do both things.
UYGUR: But, yes, you‘ve got do what you‘ve got to do to win the next election. I get that. But at the same time, man, we have to spend all of our time and energy changing the game, because eventually I think Senator Feingold is right. We lose this game of corporate cash.
And most importantly, and the reason I care about it, is that the American people lose that. The corporations wind up shifting all the taxes on to all of us. And we‘ve got to change that game entirely.
I we wish we could take some of the money you‘re raising, everybody else is raising, and direct it towards campaign reform, because we‘d all be 10 times better served.
BURTON: And let me just say as a final point, I respect Senator Feingold‘s opinion, I respect what you are saying right there. And our view is that, if you want to change the game, you‘ve got to be in control of it. And if the other guys are in control of it, we know exactly what‘s going to happen.
UYGUR: All right. Bill Burton, you‘re very clear. Thank you for joining us tonight. Appreciate it.
BURTON: Thanks for having me.
UYGUR: All right.
When we come back, why did Eric Cantor run for the hills during those budget talks? Well, Ezra Klein has details. And I‘ve got a battle plan to fight back against those Republicans and those talks.
All right. We‘ll get to that in a second.
Texas Governor Rick Perry brags about his $6 billion rainy day fund.
And as usual, it isn‘t all true. We‘ll give you the facts.
And Newt tells a crowd he can turn black voters against Obama. Then he said this --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have to have the courage it walk into that neighborhood.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Uh-oh. What did he mean by that? Reverend Sharpton will respond tonight.
UYGUR: Once budget talk turned to taxes the Republicans ran for the hills. They didn‘t want to be anywhere around there. So now it‘s time for President Obama to step in to close the deal.
Today, we got word Obama will meet with Democratic and Republican leaders, one on one, starting Monday. The goal is to get the top leaders together so that they can finish those talks that got derailed when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl pulled out on Thursday and ran away.
Profiles in courage, those Republicans are. Very, very bold.
But it might be tough to get a deal no matter who is in the room for one simple reason. Republicans are now brazenly admitting they‘re entirely unwilling to negotiate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL ®, MINORITY LEADER: Over the past several days, some have suggested in various news stories that the real goal of these talks is to devise a plan that satisfies one side by reducing the debt, and satisfies the other side by raising taxes. The suggestion here is that all—this is all just some quid pro quo exercise between the two parties. This is a dangerous trend, and it is wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Yes, that‘s how negotiations work. You give something, they give something. What do you want? I want everything, and I want the Democrats to give everything to me, and I give nothing in return.
Come on, man. I get frustrated. How many times have we seen this?
The problem is that the Democrats encourage it. After reportedly giving away $2 trillion in spending cuts, they‘re now suggesting that negotiations over tax cuts are just beginning.
The Democrats are now offering new concessions. Yesterday, Democratic Senator Max Baucus called for a deal that would include new taxes and “additional cuts to Medicare.” That is absolutely unbelievable.
You know, there‘s another way to do this. When the Republicans say that the trillions in spending cuts don‘t count, and they will offer nothing in return, you walk out. In fact, you kick them out of your office and you tell them, you know what? These talks are now over.
We will now take our case to the American people and tell them that you are protecting tax breaks for corporations, millionaires and billionaires who fund your campaigns. You are dirty, corrupt politicians who want to unload all of the country‘s problems on the middle class.
In other words, here is the other alternative—you give them hell.
When is the last time the Democrats did that? What, 30 years ago? Never?
You want to fight for our side? Anybody want to fight?
More concessions. Unbelievable.
All right, let‘s bring in Ezra Klein, MSNBC contributor and a reporter for “The Washington Post.” He‘s got a lot to say about how—why Cantor fled the budget talks and the gamble on America‘s debt that both sides are making.
All right. Ezra, come on. Come on. Come on. Come on.
You give away $2 trillion and then you say, all right, now let‘s talk about taxes? Can anybody be that stupid?
EZRA KLEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I think if you look at their political side, they probably think they did a good job here.
KLEIN: Look at where the three sides are, right? On the one hand, you have the Republicans stomping out in a tantrum from the room. You have Mitch McConnell denying that what happens in politics is under any circumstance a negotiation. That is suddenly not allowed.
You have Eric Cantor saying the Democrats gave us everything we asked for and we decided to stop negotiating with them.
And you have Barack Obama—and this is important today—refusing to fire. Jay Carney and Barack Obama continued to sound conciliatory.
UYGUR: Of course!
KLEIN: So what they think will happen here, I mean, if you look at what their strategy is, they think that they‘re going to look like the bipartisan guys. And when this debt ceiling thing actually begins to implode on itself because Republicans won‘t come to an agreement on it, Republicans are going to be left holding the bag. That‘s their plan.
UYGUR: No, no. Look, that‘s always their plan. Their plan is, never fight back, and then give the Republicans almost everything they want, and sometimes even more, and then go, aren‘t I so bipartisan? Well, I‘m not interested in that plan, because in that plan, the middle class gets screwed again, and the rich pay none of the share again.
Look, here‘s the thing. Ezra, if they said, like you said, hey, you know what, the Republicans are walking out, we seem like the reasonable guys, and the American people will side with us, but that presupposes that they play chicken, that they go to the end here.
But they‘re not going to. You know it, right? The Democrats—who loses in a game of chicken between Democrats and Republicans? One million percent of the time, the Democrats. Right?
So they‘re going to give in at the last moment and give the Republicans almost everything they want, aren‘t they? That‘s what happens every time. I would be shocked if anything else happened.
KLEIN: I think we‘ll have to see.
So there are two bets here, right? The Republicans have bet that, as you say, Democrats will not go to the edge on this, they will not play chicken all the way to the end. And Democrats are betting, or at least hoping, that when they get to the end, that Republicans will have looked so bad for what they are doing, that the pressure on them will become unbearable.
What happened in ‘95, when Clinton and the Republicans went to a shutdown over the debt ceiling, was they almost got to the point where they stopped sending out Social Security checks. And as the Republicans realized seniors were going to blame them and they were going to take the heat in the next election, they broke on it.
And that is—if you look at the people the White House hired, it‘s all those same people from the ‘90s. So that is certainly the playbook they are trying to run.
UYGUR: How has that playbook worked out for them so far?
KLEIN: I think opinions vary on that one.
UYGUR: Yes, they vary. No, every single time they are like, oh, boy, we have got the Republicans under pressure now because we have been so reasonable in giving them everything. And they‘re going to have to buckle, right?
They have not buckled once. That is the world‘s worst playbook.
1995? They might as well be going to an 1895 playbook. That is so outdated.
That‘s not the same Republicans. They never give in. And these people don‘t seem to understand negotiations.
But look, speaking of Republicans, there is an interesting twist here within the Republican Party. Eric Cantor walked out. That wasn‘t just a negotiation tactic, right? There was also some internal strife.
What‘s that about?
UYGUR: It really looks like that. Eric Cantor‘s statement was fascinating.
He didn‘t say, as Mitch McConnell did, as Jon Kyl did, these negotiations are going terribly, we don‘t want to do taxes, we‘re out. He said, at this point, I can‘t cut the deal for you. You‘re going to have to have Speaker Boehner do it.
And what he was doing there was he was passing the bag that Boehner put Cantor in these negotiations because Cantor is a conservative emissary in the Republican House leadership. He‘s the guy who the Tea Party trusts.
And so, for Boehner to cut a deal and not have the Tea Party rebel against him, he needed Cantor to be there with him there to cut it. And Cantor got it right up to the point where conservatives would stop being happy, right up to the point you needed taxes. And he didn‘t stay in that room and say we‘re not being able to make a deal.
And he and Boehner didn‘t come out together and make a statement.
Cantor walked and said it‘s up to Boehner now.
And so, if Boehner ends up cutting the deal, the Tea Party is going to turn on him, and it‘s going to help clear the way for Cantor to be Speaker or minority leader in a couple of years. But either way, it‘s not a real profile in courage on Eric Cantor‘s part.
UYGUR: So, Ezra, that leads us to the last thing here, because when you get to Boehner—and I know Obama was supposed to soften him up by playing golf. Softening up Republicans. Anyway—OK.
So they get to Boehner, right? But look what Boehner has said about taxes before. Let‘s roll it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: Tax hikes are off the table. The American people don‘t want us to raise taxes and they know that we‘ve got a spending problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: So, what is Boehner going to do? Is he going to say, OK, yes, I was kidding, now we‘re going to raise taxes, or is he just going to stick to his line and think that the White House will buckle because they have every other time?
KLEIN: I think he‘s going to stick to his line.
Look, Boehner is—because of what Cantor did, and because of internal dynamics, Boehner is weak. And so Boehner came out immediately and said of course I won‘t raise taxes.
What Boehner eventually needs to do, and what the Republicans eventually will probably have to do, is raise taxes in way that their people don‘t agree is a tax increase, something like closing budget expenditures, loopholes and tax breaks. So far, in this negotiation, they‘re not willing to do it. But at some point we‘re going to have to cut some sort of a deal here.
And right now—and this is true on their political team—the White House thinks they have got a winning argument. As you know, tax hikes on the rich are a heck of a lot more popular than Medicare cuts. So they‘re not particularly afraid, at least in theory, of bring this to the American people. The question ends up being how afraid they are of letting the debt ceiling collapse and do damage to the economy.
UYGUR: Right, which, of course, the will, at the end, say we can‘t do it. We had to give in. They held the American people hostage. You know, we had the winning argument, we just didn‘t use it.
How many times have I seen that movie? You look forward to it. I could be wrong. I won‘t be, but let‘s see what happens.
All right. Ezra Klein, MSNBC contributor and reporter for “The Washington Post.”
Very good reporting on this. Thank you.
KLEIN: Thank you.
UYGUR: All right. When we come back, Rick Perry brags about his $6 billion rainy day fund in Texas, but his accounting reveals a big con job.
And we know conservatives love fighting for spending cuts, but Glenn Beck is taking his love of cuts to a new and slightly horrifying level.
We‘ll be right back.
UYGUR: Texas Governor Rick Perry‘s effort to painting himself as fiscally responsible is our con job of the day. One of Rick Perry‘s favorite lines is that Texas has a lot of cash tucked away for a rainy day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RICK PERRY ®, TEXAS: The Texas legislature didn‘t raise taxes this last legislative session while balancing their budget and maintaining a central services and I might add that new budget leaves $6 billion in a rainy day fund.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Except that it doesn‘t. We have been doing these con jobs every single day. I don‘t think we will ever run out. Turns out the rainy day fund is all wet. Or is it all dried up? I don‘t know. It could go either way. Texas Tribune reports the rainy day fund started out with $9.25 billion this year. That‘s pretty good. Lawmakers used $3 billion to cover their deficit. And then the state will need around $5 billion more to cover Medicaid shortfalls in 2012. That leaves the rainy day fund with about a billion dollars and nowhere near the $6 billion that Perry claims. And some people think they would be incredibly lucky to have that much.
Bill Hammond, president of the Texas Association of Business and a former republican state senator said quote, “effectively they‘ve used it, they just aren‘t going to fess up until January of 2013.” Very convenient. So, another accounting gimmick. Now, remember Perry‘s other accounting trick where he covered a $6 billion shortfall in his last budget with $6 billion in federal stimulus money, he said he wouldn‘t take? Then he was like, what, what? I balanced the budget by using federal government money. Did I say I wasn‘t going to do that? I have a rainy day fund. It‘s awesome. Rick Perry‘s financial shenanigans is our con job of the day.
UYGUR: Welcome back to the show, everybody. Now, to discuss some of today‘s biggest political stories, we bring in the Power Panel. That‘s always fun. Joining me now, syndicated Op-ed columnist Tina Dupuy, she‘s also a host on The Young Turks Network. Also, joining the conversation is Robert Borosage, co-director for Campaign for America‘s Future. And Matt Lewis, senior contributor for The Daily Caller.
First question tonight, should Congress defund the war in Libya. Today, the House voted down a measure to give President Obama authority to continue military action in Libya. So, that seems to send a strong signal that we should pull back from Libya. Then an hour later, they voted to continue funding the war. So, basically the House has decided, it won‘t not endorse American intervention in Libya but it will pay for it anyway. Robert, that seems to be mixed signals. And a lot of bluster and no action.
ROBERT BOROSAGE, CO-DIRECTOR, CAMPAIGN FOR AMERICA‘S FUTURE: That‘s a congressional tradition once the war starts that they don‘t like. They try to find ways to express their distaste for it. But they always fund it. And that‘s been true through Vietnam, through Iraq and now true again.
UYGUR: All right, Matt.
BOROSAGE: Should we be there? You know, no one has yet to find a mission there that makes any sense. So it is pretty hard to argue that case.
BOROSAGE: You know, Matt, I want to ask about the republican side here. Because John Boehner has an interesting quote. Let me read it to you. He says, “I support the removal of the Libyan regime. I support the president‘s authorities as commander-in-chief. But when the president chooses to challenge the powers of Congress, I, a speaker of this House, will defend the constitutional authority of the legislature.” I didn‘t remember the Republicans worrying about the congressional authority et cetera when Bush was in charge.
MATT LEWIS, THE DAILY CALLER: That‘s why it is tough for democratic presidents, Cenk, because they lose the anti-war left and then they also lose the political opportunistic right, politically opportunistic right. But let me say, I think it is entirely possible to support what Barack Obama is doing but to think he flubbed it. He did not clearly articulate a compelling argument for going in there. He did not clearly define the objective in the mission. And then he failed to go before Congress and gain the authority to be there and so, look, I‘m actually quite sympathetic to what he is doing in Libya. But I think the pr and the messaging is entirely mishandled.
UYGUR: I think that‘s a fair point there. Tina, should he have gone and asked for war powers?
TINA DUPUY, SYNDICATED OP-ED COLUMNIST: Look, you just had all the—
Obama was able to get all of the Republicans in the House to vote against going to war, and an oil rich country. I mean, talk about change. This is amazing what this guy has been able to do. You know, should we be there, you know, we definitely should be supporting in Libya, but should the Congress be voting, be against it and then for it? You know, I mean, really? Come on, guys. Isn‘t there anything any non-symbolic votes you guys can have.
UYGUR: Right. I know. Celebrating Flag Day or something.
All right. Last thing on this Robert, you know, Hillary Clinton came out on this statement. She said whose side are you on in referring to the congressman? Are you on Gadhafi side or are you on the side of the aspirations of the Libyan people and the international coalition that has been created to support them? For the Obama administration, the answer to that question is very easy. That sounds like the best of demagoguing that I have heard from the Bush administration.
BOROSAGE: Well, there is a problem now. You know, the Italians are calling for a halt in the bombing for a moment to forestall the humanitarian crisis that we started bombing in order to stop. That is the bombing of the Gadhafi forces has now created a humanitarian crisis among the people around Tripoli. We need to go in there and save them now, I guess.
UYGUR: Yes. All right. Correct answer, by the way, I agree with Libya. By the way, that‘s not the correct answer. A lot of people disagree with me, right? But I think you should have asked for the correct war powers. We‘ve got do things the right way. So, next question, will Senator McConnell‘s blame game work? Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell said his goal is to make President Obama one-termer. Now, he‘s outlining the GOP 2012 strategy on how to do that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITCH MCCONNELL, SENATE MINORITY LEADER: The president is correct when he says he inherited a very difficult situation. But I think after two-and-a-half years, it‘s clear, they made it worse. And so, the first step in the direction of having to vibrant economy is to quit doing what we‘ve been doing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: He says, their mantra is going to be he made it worse. Tina, that sounds like it might work.
DUPUY: Look, his only goal is to make Obama a one-term president. It is not exactly like he has credibility on rating what Obama has done well in office. I mean, these guys really need to be focus on jobs other than the ones in the White House.
UYGUR: Matt, it seems pretty, you know, craven to say, that‘s your goal, and you know, we‘ve got this thing. On the other hand, it seems like it might be smart politics, what‘s your take?
LEWIS: Absolutely. James Carville says, is the economy stupid? And if you look at the numbers, Cenk, if you look at the unemployment rate with 6.7 percent when Obama came in, it‘s 9.1 percent now. The average cost of a gallon of gasoline was a $3.83, it‘s at 3.87 now. And the debt when Obama came in was 10.6 trillion and it is 14.3 trillion now. Facts are stubborn things. It‘s going to be very difficult for Barack Obama to go into an election and to argue anything other than the fact that things have in fact gotten worse.
UYGUR: Look, Robert, I don‘t necessarily agree with the spin that Matt is putting on it. But as far as politics is concerned, when they say, hey, look, I know, Obama didn‘t do it, we‘ll be fair, but he made it worse, it could be a pretty good political strategy, don‘t you think?
BOROSAGE: Well, there is no question the economy will be the major issue in the election and with high employment, any income is going to be in trouble. You know, the reality is of course, the president inherited an economy that was in free-fall, that was losing hundreds of thousands of jobs a month. And he turned it around. The recovery, however has been, you know, much too slow and he‘s going to get blame for that. That is one of the reasons why he ought to be much bolder and putting forth programs to create jobs and let Republicans oppose them because they oppose everything he proposes and take that into the election.
UYGUR: Bingo. We end on the best point. No question. The way to avoid that trap is to say, hey, you know, what? I‘m trying to create jobs and these guys are stopping me. But let‘s see the president goes in that direction the next year. Tina, Robert, Matt, you guys are all great. Thank you so much.
DUPUY: Thanks for having me.
UYGUR: All right. Now, when we come back. Newt Gingrich of all people thinks he can pull the black vote away from Obama. He seriously said that. We‘ll ask Reverend Al Sharpton what he thinks about that.
UYGUR: Glenn Beck and Rick Santorum have a bromance going. Oh boy, while talking about the budget negotiation, Santorum told Beck about a plenty sign that says, no raising the debt limit without massive spending cuts. Let‘s just say that Beck was pretty excited about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLENN BECK, FOX BUSINESS NETWORK: The cut cap balance and pledge.
RICK SANTORUM, FORMER PENNSYLVANIA SENATOR: Yes.
BECK: Is that right?
BECK: You know it?
SANTORUM: I liked it, signed it.
BECK: You signed it?
SANTORUM: Yes. How about that?
BECK: I could kiss you in the mouth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: That‘s only the most uncomfortable thing I‘ve ever heard.
Kiss you in the mouth? I didn‘t think Santorum was into that.
UYGUR: Newt Gingrich reminds us last night just how just clueless he can be. He take—speech on republican crowd with the one of his favorite attacks on Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Barack Obama is the best food stamp president in American history.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Now, after that jerking up that line that drew the iron of the black community, the last time he said it, he offered up this gem.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GINGRICH: No administration in modern times has failed younger blacks more than the Obama administration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Next, he argues Republicans can win the black vote away from Obama. All it takes is the courage to talk to black people.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GINGRICH: We have to have the courage. To walk into that neighborhood. To talk to that preacher. To visit that small business. To talk to that mother. And we have to have a convincing case that we actually know how to create jobs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Just the courage to talk to black people then they will vote republican. Look, good like trying to whip them over with your economic plan of tax cuts for the rich and cuts to welfare.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GINGRICH: And the morning they believe that, you‘ll going to see margins increasing you‘ve never dreamed of, decide that there‘s a better future. It takes courage, it takes hard work, it takes discipline and it is doable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: So while there is huge unemployment in the black community to correct ideas, to shred the social safety net and then you win black votes. But hey, don‘t worry, the millionaires get more tax cuts. Brilliant. That‘s how you come out with that? That‘s one of those ideas that are too large that Newt Gingrich talks about.
All right. Let‘s bring in somebody that knows a lot about this. Joining me now to talk about it, Reverend Al Sharpton, founder and president of the National Action Network. What do you think Reverend Sharpton? Who is more, who‘s better to serve African-Americans as president, Newt Gingrich or Barack Obama?
REV. AL SHARPTON, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: Well, I‘m sure that you‘re ending tonight‘s show with comedy. I mean, that‘s not even a close call. But I think that when you look at what Mr. Gingrich is saying, look at it on a day that you have two Republicans walking out of the negotiations on the debt saying that under no circumstances can we talk about rich people paying more taxes, on a day that New Jersey led by republican governor changes collective bargaining and increases pensions of disproportionate amount of those public workers black.
Look at what republican governors have done from Indiana to Wisconsin to Ohio, all across the country. He wants to walk into a black community and give that argument where we have had the disproportionate injury from the Republicans that have just won in the midterm election. We don‘t have to go back far, just look at last 30 to 60 days. And I think that he either assumes that we are stupid or he assumes that he is just trying to throw some of the idea to the media to cover the fact that his campaign is falling apart.
UYGUR: You know, that‘s the thing I can‘t understand. Does he really believe that? Does he think that he can go into, you know, as he says, into black neighborhoods and say, all right, guys, look, if we give more money to the rich, they will create jobs and then, you will have jobs. Like, can he actually believe that people are going to be that gullible after 30 years of this so-called trickledown economics where we now have 60 percent unemployment in the African-American community?
SHARPTON: Well, clearly, as you said, we are dealing with over 30 years of the Reagan trickle down economic theory that we never got the trickle, we did get the down. And I think that the other thing that we‘ve got to look at here though, let‘s remember just yesterday in the Wall Street Journal, Karl Rove wrote about, if we get a percentage of the black vote in North Carolina to go down, we can win North Carolina. So, I think what Gingrich and Karl Rove and others are very suddenly putting out there is they are hoping to suppress the black vote, hope to suppress later the Latino vote and other voters by blaming things on President Obama and acting like they are appealing to us, and offering us absolutely nothing.
In fact, the things, the policies that they are raising does great injury to us. And I think that they underestimate us. I spoke in Chicago at two national black gatherings today, the Alpha Saff (ph) and the National Black Publishers, Newspaper Publishers. I saw the enthusiasm half of President Obama because people are clear as to why we are in the shape that we are in and we need to go in the direction opposite of those that put us in this bad shape.
UYGUR: Two things about that. One, I want to show people Newt Gingrich‘s policies that you are referring to. For example, he wants to try to end affirmative action. He‘s advocated increasing drug sentences. That‘s got to be lovely. Then favored to cut to social spending to fund prison construction. More prisons, less social spending. Again, he‘s got to be on a different planet to think that that‘s going to appeal to the African-American community. But when you mention the word, subtle, right? And I wonder what subtle messages he‘s trying to send. He keeps talking about how Obama‘s a food stamp president. He said, he would have, Texas like policy, and Obama would have a Detroit like policy.
And then, one other thing that the Kenyan line always gets me. He said, what if Obama is so outside our comprehension that only if you understand Kenyan anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together his actions. That is the most accurate predictive model for his behavior. When you put all this stuff together, Reverend Sharpton, what do you think, is this a dog whistle to some of these other voters saying, hey, I‘m on your side and you know what side that guy is on?
SHARPTON: Well, clearly it is a dog whistle. I mean, can you imagine Mr. Gingrich going in any American-American community, or really any community, with a pro colonial campaign? Going in and talking about, we don‘t need to help people that are poor and may need help from government. I mean, is this what he is going campaign on? He can be my guest. Again, I think that they are hoping, not to get black votes but to suppress black votes and suppress others in this blame Obama and to try and use all kinds of games to do it in every community. I think the reality is, it will not work because I think people are very clear on where the injury is coming from. But I think the audacity of even saying that is something that is insults us. And I hope they keep saying it because I think it will insight people to come out and vote to maintain their own self respect and to say, wait a minute, I‘m not going to, on top of being injured, be insulted as well.
UYGUR: All right. Reverend Al Sharpton. Clear as always. Thank you for your time tonight. I really appreciate it.
SHARPTON: Thank you.
UYGUR: All right. We‘ll be right back, about a devastating story about private prisons that are getting more and more people in jail. It‘s disgusting. We will tell you all about it.
UYGUR: A truly disturbing new report from the Justice Policy Institutes exposes just how depraved some privately-owned prisons have become. They‘re apparently using campaign contributions, lobbying and political relationships to actually increase prison populations. The report says, quote, “Over the years, these political strategies have allowed private prison companies to promote policies that lead to higher rates of incarceration and thus greater profit margins for their company.” You better believe that‘s true since the year 2000, the number of people held in private federal facilities has increased about 120 percent.
Now you got to remember at that same time period of total number of people in prison increased only 16 percent. So, it is a much bigger margin for those private prisons. Gee, I wonder how that happened. And it is all leading to big time profits. In 2010, the two largest private prison companies, the corrections corporation of America which sounds scary and GEO group brought an over $2.9 billion in combined revenue. That‘s why they want more and more prisoners. Of course, the more money these corporations make, the more powerful they get.
Since 2000, the three largest private prison companies have contributed over $6 million to local state politicians. And get this, so far this year, two of them have spent over a million dollars lobbying in Florida alone. Now guess who is the second biggest private prison population in the country? You‘re doing a good job for following along. Yes, it‘s Florida, coming in right behind Texas with 9,800 inmates. And private prison companies have been involved in lobbying efforts that would privatize all prisons in South Florida. So you get how this works? They make some money. They give a little bit to the politicians, six million is a lot to the politicians but not a lot to companies making $3 billion.
And they say, hey, get us more prisoners. But the way, they also helped to lobby for the Arizona immigration law which then created so many more prisoners which they profit off of. We cannot have private corporations doing this kind of government work. What are we going to do? Turn the whole country into prisoners? This is outrageous. We‘ve got to stop it. We‘ve got to put an end to it.
All right. Thank you for watching, everybody. Have a great weekend. You‘ll always see me at TheYoungTurks.com. And “HARDBALL” starts right now.
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