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Msnbc Live at 6 p.m. ET, Monday June 27, 2011

Guests: Ezra Klein, Jared Bernstein, Michelle Goldberg, Dana Milbank, Rick Lazio,

Jonathan Alter, Jamal Simmons, Jeff Donn


CENK UYGUR, HOST:  Tonight, the budget battle.  Is Obama ready to stick it to the Republicans finally?  Or are we going to have another cave-in?  Well, we got new information on that.

Plus, Michele Bachmann is ready for a Tea Party movement.  But is America?  Her stunning new poll numbers - the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Plus, how the feds wipe a smirk off of Rod Blagojevich‘s face.


Positive and red alert.  An investigation into the scary truth about nuclear power in America.  Wait until you hear what our government is doing to protect the nuclear industry instead of us.

Welcome to the show, everybody.  As you can tell, I‘m Cenk Uygur.

Tonight‘s lead, here comes the final fight.

President Obama met with Harry Reid this morning on the budget, then he met with Mitch McConnell later in the afternoon.  We are in the final rounds of the budget talks.

And remember, everybody, this is the last serious piece of business that they‘re going to do before the 2012 election.  After that, it‘s all politics.  They might introduce bills, but they ain‘t worth a damn because this is the only thing that‘s going to pass, OK?

So, which way are they going to go?  Well, we got a couple of clues today.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney talked about shared sacrifice and a balanced approach.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  Now is the time to make these tough choices.  And that‘s why we have to have a balanced approach so that no sector of society, no—not the middle class, not seniors, not any, you know, one segment of the business community has to bear any disproportion of burden.


UYGUR:  You know, where‘s the shared sacrifice from the rich?

Now, think about how crazy backwards this is, right?  First, they started with $2 trillion in spending cuts.  So, the poor, seniors, et cetera, et cetera, they get cut first and then they go after the rich, pretty, please, pretty please, can we just get a little revenue increase from you guys?

That‘s not how it‘s supposed to work.  But under our current perverse system, that‘s exactly how it is.  And who are the biggest protectors of that system?  Well, of course, the Republicans.  And they are refusing to budge own taxes.


SEN. JON KYL (R-AZ), MINORITY WHIP:  Don‘t force us to raise taxes.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER:  Including a massive job-killing tax hike would be a poison pill.  Let‘s move past the tax hikes.


UYGUR:  Do you get that?  These guys are the worst.  They are saying all of the sacrifice should come from the middle class and poor.  When it gets to the corporations of the rich, hell no, no tax increases, nothing—not even from big oil.

In fact, Republicans are in a tough spot now because they are squeezed between big oil and big banks.  Why?  Because if they do any kind of compromise with the Democrats, oil subsidies are the first things to go.  So, the oil companies don‘t want that.

They say, no, no, no.  No compromise, don‘t worry about the debt ceiling where Wall Street says we‘ve got to raise our debt ceiling, OK?  We don‘t want our interest rates going up, that could jeopardize our business.

So, what are the Republicans going to do?  Well, they‘re going to try to get everything.  They‘re going to say, all right, no tax increase whatsoever for any of our rich buddies and we stick to the middle class.

Now, the question is, are the Democrats going to let them get it, get away with it?

And, look, we‘ve got another clue here and it‘s a good one.  It‘s Vice President Joe Biden.  He‘s saying all the right things about phasing—he is phrasing it as a moral issue.  Let‘s check it out.


JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We‘re never going to solve our debt problem if we ask only those who are struggling in this economy to bear the burden and let the most fortunate among us off the hook.  Not because we want to douse this.  This is not populism.  It‘s just fairness.  Not only does is it unfair to do what they‘re calling for, but I think it borders on being immoral.


UYGUR:  To which I say, of course!  Of course, we shouldn‘t just do this on the back of the middle class.  We should have a conversation about the rich and oil companies and banks on the first day, not after we gave away $2 trillion.

Look, if they actually follow what Joe Biden is saying there, I love it.  I‘m one of the first guy to come out here and give them all of the credit in the world, say, hey, they got something real and it was real shared sacrifice.  But if they came into the Republicans again, under the last thing that they are really going to discuss in Obama‘s term—oh, it will be unbearable.

God, that—look, it‘s a good drama, I don‘t know which way they‘re going to go.  If history is any judge, we‘re in a little bit of trouble.

Let‘s talk about it.

Joining me now, Jared Bernstein, former chief economist for Vice President Joe Biden—that we just showed, of course—and now, a senior fellow with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.  Also with us, Ezra Klein, “Washington Post” columnist and MSNBC policy analyst.

All right. Jared, let‘s start with the White House.  You‘ve been on this show before.  You can see where I‘m going here.

OK.  But, look, let me start with the obvious question—at least obvious in my mind.  Why didn‘t we start with the conversation about, hey, let‘s look at revenue at the same time as we are doing spending cuts?  Why did we give spending cuts on middle class and the poor first, and then, go, oh, pretty please, won‘t you give us some tax increases?

JARED BERNSTEIN, CENTER ON BUDGET AND POLICY PRIORITIES:  Cenk, I think we‘re going to be all right here.  And, in fact, we did start with that.

UYGUR:  Really?

BERNSTEIN:  The Democrats—for the Democrats, from the beginning, the negotiators from the beginning, talked about a plan that had balance.  Now, it‘s absolutely true that the progress that was made in the Biden side of the talks focused on spending cuts.  But not once in any public statement I heard or you heard or Ezra heard—you guys can correct me if I‘m wrong—did Democrats waiver on this balance, including what you just played from Jay Carney.  And the reason—we can‘t forget the rationale for this, because it‘s exactly as you said in the piece up.

If you try to do everything on the spending side, you will have to cut so deeply into the most vulnerable and already economically insecure folks in this economy that you‘re going to do far more harm than good.  And that‘s why the balance is so important and at least in my years, I have not heard any wavering on that point.

UYGUR:  All right.  Not to my ears.

I mean, look, Ezra -- 

BERNSTEIN:  Have you heard waiver?

UYGUR:  No, I have.  And I‘ll tell you why.  First of all, I heard they agreed to $2 trillion in cuts.  We haven‘t gotten a dime in revenue increases at all yet.  So, that‘s a big problem.

BERNSTEIN:  One other point, Cenk, we‘re going in.  Before this even started, President Obama gave a speech in April at George Washington University where he outlaid a balanced plan with $1 trillion of revenue, $2 trillion of cuts and $1 trillion of lower interest payments, $4 trillion going into the cuts.  So, I thought he set the table on that.

UYGUR:  But, look, but, Jared, that‘s the problem.  Rhetorically, he set the table.  And I came out and said, hey, look, I love that speech except for one line in it, right?  But then when we started negotiations, what happened?  We gave him $2 trillion before we got to the $1 trillion in revenue.  Isn‘t that what happened, Jared?

EZRA KLEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  But, wait, isn‘t it important, though, to say that the ideal in these negotiations are the principles always—nothing is agreed to until everything is.  We don‘t have a deal.  There‘s no deal on the table.  There‘s nothing that the White House and Republicans have shook hands on.  There‘s $2 trillion in spending because they began there.  And we don‘t know what‘s in that spending.  A lot of it from what we know currently appears to be war and defense related, which I don‘t think make you too unhappy.

But until they actually cut a deal, we can‘t keep saying they cut the deal without revenues.  As, so far as we know right now, this blew up because the White House said, if you don‘t give you revenue, there is no deal.

UYGUR:  So, how does this resolve itself?  That‘s what I want to ask you guys, right?  The Republicans say and we just showed you clips, under no circumstance that we‘ll ever going to raise a dime in taxes, we have to protect our buddies and the oil companies, we have to protect the banks, we have to protect the rich and the powerful.  We‘re the “Richie Rich” party and we will look out for them no matter what, right?  So what happens?

BERNSTEIN:  So, it depends on how you interpret what‘s going on now.  If the Republicans are truly crazy and want to take this economy over a cliff, you know, protect us all, if this is about political leverage trying to position yourself to get the best deal you can, which in their mind means the smallest amount of revenues as part of the puzzle, that‘s where I think—if you want to worry, Cenk, that‘s what you should worry about.  Not that there won‘t be revenues as part of the deal, but the revenue is fractional relative to spending cuts and that‘s something we have to fight very hard to prevent.

UYGUR:  Look, Ezra, here are some other clues that I have that concern me, right?  The one line that I did not like in that speech Jared was referring to from President Obama was, he said, hey, if we have some loopholes, et cetera, we might actually lower taxes.  And I was like, whoa, why are we talking about lowering taxes?  That‘s the craziest thing we‘ve ever heard.

Is it possible that they‘re going to take away these things, you know, corporate jets, oil subsidies, hedge fund manager, rates.  I mean, look, that would be a great start.  But then, lower corporate taxes and maybe even the top income bracket.

KLEIN:  First, I like calling this clueless because it makes me feel like Sherlock Holmes.  It‘s very exciting.

But going beyond that, I think we should lower rates.  I don‘t think that‘s a bad thing.


KLEIN:  We want to bring some of that plan to deficit but we have a real bad tax code, Cenk.  Why do you think—why do you possibly think it‘s good for people in the middle of the tax code to pay high rates so we have aggressive mortgage interest rates and aggressive rates of all times.

UYGUR:  No, no, no, no.  Wait a minute, wait a minute, Ezra.  Hold on, you are framing it all wrong.  Wait a minute.  If you are talking about people‘s home mortgage deductions, right, well, that hurts the middle class a lot.


KLEIN:  Go look at who benefits from the home mortgage interest deduction.  That‘s incorrect what you are saying.

UYGUR:  But wait a minute, you‘re telling me that no middle class person has a house and they have no deductions.

KLEIN:  No middle class, but it‘s an regressive deduction.

BERNSTEIN:  I can help you guys.  I can help you guys.

UYGUR:  No, wait a minute.  I can‘t have you take away all of these deductions from the middle class.


UYGUR:  I can have it if it was fair.  Hold on, I could have it if it was fair.

KLEIN:  That‘s what you would do.

UYGUR:  But I can‘t have you take away all these deduction and then say, but as a reward, I will lower the top bracket for the rich.  That‘s crazy talk.


KLEIN:  But nobody is talking about that is a trade-off.

BERNSTEIN:  OK.  I can I clear this up for you.  First of all, Ezra has got a point in the following sense -- 67 percent of benefits of home interest mortgage deduction go to the top 20 percent.  So, it‘s not exactly middle class.

But don‘t worry about it, Cenk, because nobody is talking about that.  When they are talking about broadening the base and lowering rates, they are talking about on the corporate side.

Here, I‘m not sure I agree with my friend Ezra in the following sense.  When Republicans talk about broadening the base and lowering the rates, at best they are talking about revenue neutral.  That means giving up any deficit reduction you are giving from the base broadening on lowering the rates.

UYGUR:  Why oh, why oh, why would it be revenue neutral, guys?  The whole point is to raise a trillion dollars from revenue.

BERNSTEIN:  So, don‘t—

UYGUR:  Don‘t talk about revenue neutral.

And guys, you got to answer this question for me.  You have to answer this question.  Why are we playing on Republican ground, talking about lowering—I thought we were supposed to balance the budget.

Don‘t you get it?  The Republicans don‘t ever want to balance the budget.  They don‘t give a damn about the budget.  All they want to do is lower taxes for the rich and corporations.

Why are we helping them?

When they say lower corporate taxes, President Obama should say under no circumstances.  We are going to take away the deductions, take away oil subsidies because we need shared sacrifice.

I‘m not going to do this on the back of the middle class.  I‘m not going to do this on the back of the poor.  We are going to do shared sacrifice.

No talk of lowering corporate taxes.  Instead, I hear nothing but lower taxes from Washington.  It makes me sick.

KLEIN:  I think part of the answer though is that the whole point of this isn‘t deficit reduction.  It can‘t be.

If you want to talk about the Republican frame, the Republican frame is the only thing the government that matters is deficit reduction.  It isn‘t.  Growth matters.  Policy matters.

We should have more stimulus.  We should have a better tax code.

The idea that—the idea that whatever they‘re for, progressive should be against, that‘s not how you get to good policy, I don‘t think.  Now, you‘re right when you say, we can‘t balance a budget on the backs of the poor or the middle class or the working class or seniors.  That isn‘t how you do it either.  That‘s bad policy.

But in all things, I think, the lone star here should be good policy.  It can‘t just be—well, this is how we reduce the deficit progressively or this is what Republicans are for and as such progressives are against it.

UYGUR:  But, Ezra, nobody is saying that.  You think I take my queue from what the Republicans do?  I couldn‘t give a damn what the Republicans do.

I say, how about the middle class?


UYGUR:  If you‘re going to screw the middle class by saying, oh, no, you got to protect the oil companies, you got to protect the rich, and you got to lower corporate taxes, we should say hell no!  So, what is our leadership do?

BERNSTEIN:  Cenk, here‘s my view on this.  Look, Ezra is—both of you are barking up the right tree in the following sense.  If there is going to be some revenues in the near term in this, you are going to start hearing a lot about the very kinds of loop holes we‘re talking about now.

But, Cenk, I‘m with you on the following point, don‘t start letting these folks talk about a trade-off for lower tax rates for a broader base because they will give away the store.  They will lower rates far enough to offset any benefits of that base broadening.

And, Ezra, I hope you agree with that point because I think we can‘t allow any bit of revenue we collect from base broadening to disappear on a rate cut at this point in time.

UYGUR:  And look, guys -- 

KLEIN:  If you are talking about base broadening on the corporate side, I mainly agree with you.  But I think there‘s no chance that‘s happening any time soon.  They don‘t have anywhere near the political capital to do the corporate tax reform and the corporations hey can‘t agree on it anyway and they are the ones who have to be there.

BERNSTEIN:  Thirty-four Republicans voted to end ethanol subsidies just a week or so ago.


UYGUR:  Guys, we got to leave it there.  We‘ve got to leave it right there.

If we got real revenue increases, I would be ecstatic.  I don‘t think we‘re going to get it.  And then it‘s going to be—it‘s going to be not only bad policy.  God, if you‘re going to run on that in 2012 -- uh.  But let‘s see what happens (AUDIO BREAK) an interesting business at interesting times.

Jared Bernstein, Ezra Klein, thank you both for your time tonight.  We do appreciate it.

KLEIN:  Tank you.

UYGUR:  All right.  Now, ahead, Michele Bachmann strikes again.  We all know she‘s had some ridiculous gaffes.  But the day she makes today on the days that she is announcing a run for the president for the 18th time involves a serial killer.  And it‘s why some people don‘t take her seriously.

Plus, back it reality, Blago found guilty of corruption.  How long might he go away for?  We‘ll tell you.


UYGUR:  This is not reality TV, it is real life.  And disgraced Illinois Governor Rob Blagojevich has been found guilty in his corruption retrial.  The jury found him guilty on 17 of 20 counts.  The big one, a guilty charge for trying to sell or trade President Obama‘s old Senate seat.

Before the verdict, Blago and his wife, Patti, looked flush for good reason.  He blew his wife a kiss across the courtroom then stood expressionless with his hands clasped tightly.

“The Associated Press” reports once the verdict came down, Blagojevich turned to defense attorney Sheldon Sorosky and asked, what happened.

Not anything good, I can tell you that.

His wife Patti slumped against her brother, then rushed in her husband‘s arms.

Are you ready for this?  He faces up to 300 years in federal prison.  That is a place he can‘t say, “I‘m a celebrity.  Get me out of here.”  That was always his old reality show, of course.

The judge wants sentencing as soon as possible.


UYGUR:  Michele Bachmann is in and it turns out she‘s for real.  A new “Des Moines Register” poll out this weekend has the congresswoman in a virtual tie with frontrunner Mitt Romney, and 12 points ahead of the nearest other Republican.

Look at that poll.  That is an amazing number.  She‘s got to feel on top of the world with a number like that.  Wow!  Almost sided with Romney.

And with that wind at her back, she‘s pushing hard on two issues that might make the difference: her connection to Iowa and her credentials as a social conservative.


MICHELE BACHMANN ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  This is where my Iowa roots were firmly planted.  And it‘s these Iowa roots and my faith in God that guide me today.


UYGUR:  See, she hit both things right away.  She‘s good at that.

But she still has one big problem.  Is she a real, credible candidate given some of the cookie things that she‘s done and said in the past?

Well, Chris Wallace tried to ask her that on FOX News this weekend. 

And she didn‘t take kindly to the question.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS:  Are you a flake?

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Well, I think that would be insulting to say something like that because I‘m a serious person.

WALLACE:  But you understand when I say that, that that‘s what the rap on you is?

BACHMANN:  Well, what I would say is that I am 55 years old.  I‘ve been married 33 years.  I‘m not only a lawyer.  I have a post-doctorate degree in federal tax law from William and Mary.  I‘ve worked in serious scholarship and worked in the United States federal tax court.

My husband and I raised five kids.  We‘ve raised 23 foster children.


UYGUR:  Overall, that‘s a pretty good answer, actually.

Chris Wallace later apologized for asking her that question.  So, she deflected that question pretty well first time around, and she‘s got money, as we‘ve told you in the past.  She‘s got the numbers now as you can see.

But she still has the history of saying things like this.


BACHMANN:  Obamacare, 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.

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

I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America or anti-America.


UYGUR:  Now, can someone like that really win the presidency?

Remember, this is also the same woman who hid in the bushes at a gay pride event to spy on the proceedings.  That‘s why she gets the flaky question.  That‘s a little coo-coo for cocoa puffs.  Plus, she makes terrible mistakes like this.


BACHMANN:  What I want them to know is just like John Wayne was from Waterloo, Iowa.  That‘s the kind of stair that I have, too.


UYGUR:  Now, the problem with that statement is that the actor John Wayne grew up in Winterset, Iowa, a three-hour drive from Waterloo.  OK, no big deal, you say.

But there was a really John Wayne that was from Waterloo.  She got it mixed pup.  That was other than John Wayne Gacy, a killer clown.  That was a serial killer that killed 33 boys.  Not something you brag about.

All right.  Let‘s talk about her chances now.

Joining me is columnist for “The Washington Post,” Dana Milbank.

Also with me, Michelle Goldberg, she‘s a senior contributing writer for “The Daily Beast” and “Newsweek.”  One of Michelle‘s recent articles, by the way, is entitled, “Bachmann‘s Unrivalled Extremism.”

All right.  Well, good to have you both here.

Michelle, let me start with you then.  Unrivalled extremist, right?  Talk to me.  You saw the clips we showed.  There is the crazy story of hiding in the bushes.

What else you got?

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, NEWSWEEK:  Well, I think that the clips you showed, although they might seem crazy to us, to a lot of the country and certainly to the vast majority of her base, those are not only noncontroversial, those statements are truisms.

She really—

UYGUR:  Really, you want to be in a room with carbon dioxide and see how that turns out?

GOLDBERG:  Of course not.  But the idea that there is harming—that there is nothing harmful at all about manmade climate change, that emissions have no kind of negative impact on the environment, you know, that to a great majority of conservatives certainly to the kind of Tea Party types, that‘s not going to sound like a crazy gaffe, that sounds like reaffirmation of their fundamental world view.

And more than any other candidate in the race, she is of that movement.  She‘s a product of the religious fundamentalist right since the 70s.

UYGUR:  Right.  I want to get back to that in a second.

But, Dana, look, wow, look at those poll numbers.  I mean, that was—you got to admit, that‘s amazing, right?  So, is she for real?

Are we looking at—and, by the way, look at those favorabilities.  She‘s got the half favorability.  This is a different part of the poll, 65 percent.  And the least amount of unfavorable numbers, 12 percent.  Those are gorgeous numbers if you‘re a politician, right?

DANA MILBANK, WASHINGTON POST:  It doesn‘t get a whole better than that, Cenk.  I mean, she could have said Napoleon is from Waterloo and I think people would have forgiven her for that particular gaffe.

But it‘s even better.  I mean, look, they asked, first choice and second choice in that poll, she is the first or second choice of 40 percent of the would-be Iowa Republican caucus-goers, compared to only 33 percent for Romney.  So, in many ways, she is out front there.  And she is definitely setting herself up as the main Romney alternative, at least in the first caucuses in the nation.  And she‘s burying people like your good friend, Tim Pawlenty.  So—

UYGUR:  Thank you for noticing.  I appreciate that.

Now, Dana knows how amused I am by Tim Pawlenty‘s campaign.  The poor guy came in at like 6 percent.  What a disaster.  He says, oh, no, but Huckabee was doing worse at this time in 2008.  Oh, please, please spare me.  Please spare me.

But, Michelle, as we turned to that, combining Dana‘s point and your point, what do we got here?  Look, because we are looking for—not we, but conservative voters, are looking for the un-Romney to set up, you know, social conservatives, Tea Party, et cetera, is she it?  Can she really be it?

GOLDBERG:  I think it depends on the extent of what the Republican Party or Republican base believes its own propaganda.  There‘s a certain part of the Republican base that believes Obama is fantastically unpopular.

I saw a quote from somebody today who said a potted plant could beat Obama.  That‘s not true.  But inasmuch as they believe that, they might be willing to take a chance on somebody who really and truly reflects their values.

UYGUR:  I thought you would say they would take a chance on a potted plant.  And they might be.

GOLDBERG:  Right.  And the other piece of this, too, is that, you know, they are under the impression that Tea Party represents the vast majority of Americans.  As Glenn Beck likes to say sometimes, we surround you.

Again, it‘s not true.  But to the extent that they believe that, they might believe that Michele Bachmann is, you know, far more of a mainstream figure than she could conceivably be.

UYGUR:  Now, Dana, Palin is going to Ohio with her new movie, “The Undefeated,” which is incredibly ironic because she‘s been defeated several times.  But you know, it‘s also ironic because maybe Michele Bachmann is going to chase her out of the race, I don‘t see her bus tour anywhere.

Is, you know, Bachmann basically, that showing, is that scaring off Palin at all you think?

MILBANK:  I don‘t this it‘s scaring her off.  But it‘s definitely, you‘re getting the sense when Palin first announced that she‘s doing this screening, everybody interpreted that as a way to sort of bump Bachmann out of the media lime light.  Clearly, it‘s not working.  She‘s getting an immense amount of attention.  And I think that—sort of the Palin act of doing the Statue of Liberty tour, extending it to here, to South Carolina, I think that‘s wearing thin and I think even all of us in the Palin obsessed media are beginning to fade on that as we spend more attention with Bachmann and my favorite, Herman Cain.

UYGUR:  Yes.  Well, Herman Cain did come in third if you look to that poll.  So, don‘t count him out.

All right. So, Michelle, we come back to the issue of the crazy things she said, right, because that‘s going to keep popping up because she kept popping out of the bushes back in the day, right?

So, there is a story about lesbians that she thought were holding her hostage in a bathroom.  And then she freaked out and ran screaming out of bathroom.


UYGUR:  That‘s not what rational human beings do.  I mean, is not—

OK and let me give you one other quote here, I want the audience to know this, too.

Look what she said about Melissa Etheridge, OK?  She said, “Unfortunately, she‘s now suffering from breast cancer.”  This is back in 2004.  “So keep her in your prayers.”  That‘s good.

And she said, “This maybe an opportunity for her now to be open to some spiritual things now that she‘s suffering with that physical diseases.  She‘s a lesbian.”

GOLDBERG:  That wasn‘t the context of the speech in which she was talking about the homosexual agenda and how one of the ways it‘s trying to recruit our children is through entertainment.  So, she kind of brought her up in the context of all of these gays and lesbians who have kind of insinuated themselves into our culture.  And yes, suggested that somehow this breast cancer might be a fortuitous time for her to give up homosexuality.

You know, her husband is involved with the ex-gay movement.  They both clearly believe homosexuality is a choice.  And the entire time that she was in the Senate, anti-gay politics was the absolutely lone star of her career.  It is, you know, it is what she made her name on.

UYGUR:  Yes.  But it‘s like, OK, I get it.  She‘s anti-gay, I got it, right?  But running out of the bathroom, it‘s crazy, like thinking you are being—

GOLDBERG:  It‘s not just that -- 

UYGUR:  -- held hostage by aliens or lesbians.  It‘s crazy.

GOLDBERG:  So, it‘s not that she is anti-gay, is that she very much believed—you know, a lot of gay people talk—I mean, a lot of Republicans talk about a sinister homosexual agenda.  She really believes it.  She believes that there is one.

That‘s why when two of her constituents, one of them was a lesbian, and tried to talk to her in a bathroom after a meeting, she believed they were some kind of dangerous figures that came to take her hostage.

UYGUR:  Right.  Oh, boy.

OK.  Look, Michelle Goldberg is from “Daily Beast” and “Newsweek.”  Dana Milbank is from “The Washington Post.”  Obviously, we‘re going to continue this story.  And, obviously, it‘s interesting, a fascinating one.  Thank you, both.

GOLDBERG:  Thanks a lot.

MILBANK:  Thanks.

UYGUR:  All right.  Now, ahead, big business wants to keep new the dark on CEO pay.  And, surprise, surprise, Republicans are helping them, of course.  That‘s actually our con job and that‘s going to get revealed in a second.

And how safe are we?  The shocking new report says agencies that are supposed to be protecting us actually protecting the nuclear industry.  And millions of Americans could be in danger.


UYGUR:  Corporate America wants to hide how little it pays its workers compared to its CEOs and Republicans are more than happy to help.  That‘s our con job of the day. 

The Washington Post reports, a house committee has voted to repeal the part of the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul that requires companies to disclose the median salary of their workers and compare that to how much a CEO makes.  Should be really simple but the bill‘s sponsor New York Republican Nan Hayworth said, disclosing pay comparisons can quote, “mislead or confuse investors.  It creates heat but sheds no light.” That is complete and utter nonsense.  Why would it confuse investors to know how much the CEO‘s making compared to the average worker?  If anything it would enlighten them, wouldn‘t it?

Now of course the reality is that those corporate executives want to keep their investors, their workers and the public in the dark about how much money they‘re making because it‘s a lot.  They don‘t want more evidence to the fact that the CEO pay is 263 times the average worker‘s salary.  And they don‘t want to show off what the AFL-CIO found last year, which is that 299 CEOs earned enough to pay more than 102,000 workers. 

Big businesses don‘t want this information public, because it makes their executives look callous.  And makes it harder to justify more cuts to their workers as they stuff their pockets with the millions and billions.  What is shameful is that Republicans voted in lock step to make sure these numbers salary numbers never see the light of day.  And they did that because that‘s who they work for.  Their whole job is to protect these executives who funnel corporate money to their campaign coffers.  And they are willing to be absolutely shameless in doing so. 

Their efforts to hide CEOs obscenely large salaries while claiming that they‘re protecting the public for more information.  God forbid, is our con job of the day.           


UYGUR:  Welcome back to the show everybody.  Of course, we will going to discuss some of today‘s biggest political stories now with our power, power, Power Panel.  I like it. 

Joining me now is former New York Republican Congressman Rick Lazio.  Also with me, MSNBC political analyst Jonathan Alter, he‘s also the author of “The Promise.”  And finally, democratic communications consultant Jamal Simmons.  He‘s served as a communications adviser to the DNC during the 2008 campaign. 

All right.  Great to have you all here.  Let‘s get started.  First question for the panel.  Has this reality show finally been cancelled?  Rod Blagojevich left court today and for once he was almost speechless. 


FMR. GOV. ROD BLAGOJEVICH (D), ILLINOIS:  Well, among the many lessons that I have learned from this whole experience is to try to speak a little bit less.  So, I‘m going to keep my remarks kind of short.  Patti and I are obviously are very disappointed in the outcome.  I frankly am stunned.  


UYGUR:  Stunned?  Nobody else was stunned.  What is stunning is how stupid he was when there were so many different ways for a politician to make money in a legal way.  And Jonathan, let me start in on that.  Look, this guy, look at Evan Bayh, look at Chris Dodd, they retire and they get millions of dollars as being lobbyists, et cetera.  Why not do it the legal way?

JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, there are about 25 really stupid things he did.  You know, he qualifies in what they call a Darwin award.  Remember, he knew there was a federal investigation of him at the time he is basically extorting people on the other end of the phone.  And so, Rahm Emanuel, when he was on the call, knew that there were likely to be federal wiretaps.  I don‘t know why the governor didn‘t.  And he also just never learned the lesson, Cenk, that you‘re not explicit about it.  In other words, in Washington, when corporations are buying votes, with campaign contributions, they don‘t say to the congressman, if I give you a thousand dollars, will be you vote my way.  They know that that‘s illegal.  So it is all done implicitly.  This is kind of the first rule of politics.  And for him not to get this, just shows that he was, you know, dumber than a tree stump. 

UYGUR:  Well, Rick, isn‘t that issue that he lacks subtlety?

FMR. REP. RICK LAZIO ®, NEW YORK:  No.  The issue is that he was a crook.  I mean, I don‘t care how clever somebody is.  If your moral compass points you in the direction of shaking people down, abusing your office.  

ALTER:  Yes.  I agree.  

LAZIO:  You know, I mean, that‘s at the core of what this guy was all about. 

UYGUR:  But here Rick, let me jump in there.  Because look, we have Bill Thompson (ph), right, who is in Congress, you know, and working on a deal on drugs, right?  And pharmaceutical companies, et cetera.  He gives them beautiful sweetheart deal, he leaves Congress, gets $2 million year from them.  Isn‘t that how you suppose to do corruption?

LAZIO:  You know, I don‘t know but there is no right way of doing corruption, OK?  There is a wrong way and there‘s a right way of being the public servant.  If you go into public service and if you want more good people go into public service, then you hold yourself up to a higher standard.  And, you know, one of the tragedies with all of these knucklehead is that I think you‘ll going to have a lot of good people, young people, who are idealistic on both sides of the aisle, who look at this and say, do I want to be part of this club as Henny Youngman used to say, you know?

ALTER:  I don‘t really worry about that so much Congressman.  I think there are some very talented people who want to go into politics.  They realize that this guy, as you said, was a crook.  It was clear pretty early in Illinois that it was no good.  A lot of people in that state, my home state, were pretty slow to get, you know, hip to the fact that he was probably crooked.  You can smell the.   

LAZIO:  They reelected him.  He is the second governor from Illinois in a row.  That is going to be behind bars.   

UYGUR:  I want to introduce something else.  Jamal, is this at all a

political issue or have we    forgotten whether these guys are democrat or

a republican, or you know, do people look at him just as a    crook?  

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC COMMUNICATIONS CONSULTANT:  Rod Blagojevich is such an out liar.  He is really almost more of a reality TV star than he is even a politician any more.  Obviously, his fame is based in politics but now he‘s kind of grown behind that.  I think most people care more about the fact, this is day 107 of the NFL lock out than they care about Rod Blagojevich.  So, I think we‘ve got to really, you know, keep this all in really bit perspective.  The thing about, you know, when you‘re working in public service, and I‘ve worked in Congress, and, you know, the campaigns and in the White House, you‘ve got to kind of have a certain feeling about the entire office where everybody knows these things aren‘t going to be tolerated.    And that starts from the top.  The person you work for sets the tone for everyone else.  And you know certain things aren‘t going to be tolerated, so you don‘t even try it.    

ALTER:  You know, when this story first broke Cenk, President Obama, then President-elect Obama made a very good point.  He said, people go into politics for two reasons.  Either for public service or to make money.  And sometimes, it‘s a little hard to tell, what the motivation is but if you pay close attention, you can get a pretty good sense of who‘s in it for the money.  And who‘s in it for the right reason.

UYGUR:  Jonathan, you just talked to me a long time.  You know how cynical I am.  I think 95 percent of them are in there for the money.   


ALTER:  Oh, not even close.  Not even close.  Way, way, way fewer than that.   

UYGUR:  They went in, you know, with good ideas and then they see where the money is and they know...   

ALTER:  No, no, no.  There are lots of other ways for them to be lawyers for these people and make more money.    

SIMMONS:  You‘re right, you can make a lot more money outside of politics than you will ever make   in it.    

LAZIO:  Can I just say one other thing?

UYGUR:  Well, I‘m not sure Blago can.  Look, guys we have to move on to the next one.    

LAZIO:  Because they put him on two reality TV shows, so who‘s the blame for that too, for promoting a knucklehead like this?    

UYGUR:  No, no.  And I hear you—and by the way, you know, what I said?  People forget that he‘s democrat.  People also forget Larry Craig is a republican.  All they remember is his wide stance.   

So, all right.  So, now next question.  Wedlock or deadlock.  Will New York start a national trend in same-sex marriage?  There was celebration across New York this weekend as they begin the 6th state along with the District of Columbia to allow gay marriage.  But the fact remains that 41 states still have either constitutional bans or laws against same-sex marriage.   

Jamal, let me start with you on this one.  Is this a tipping point?  Because New York is a huge state obviously, a huge percentage of the population of the country, et cetera.  A big state.  Does it make a difference, or no?  Still, you know, largely the liberal states that are going to do this.

SIMMONS:  Yes.  I‘m not sure it‘s at its tipping point.  If you look at the states that have done this, and mostly now, the northeast, states where there had a vote on this, the population has voted against it.  So, it might be the right ethical thing to do or moral thing to do, I‘m not sure it is necessarily a political plus for a lot of these candidates.  The problem is, the people who are for gay marriage, many of them, sort of they don‘t really care about the voting issue.  They‘re generally for it.  The people who are against it are devotedly against it.  And so, if you are a politician in a state like that, it is really big test of courage in your moral feelings about this issue to step out there and vote for something like that.   

UYGUR:  But John, that‘s being a switch of course.  I mean, look, if you look at 2010, it was 44-53   against gay marriage across the country.  Now, it‘s 53 to 45 in favor, the Gallup poll.  That‘s a big, big switch in just one year.  Seems like there is a lot of momentum on that side.    

ALTER:  Yes, these issues totally influx, attitudes are changing quickly.  A lot of people recognizing that.  It really is a civil rights issue.  And I think there was a lot of really genuine feeling in New York the other night that something historic and important had happened.  But I would caution, as Jamal did, that this is going to go very quickly in some other states.  A lot of people kind of write off New York as a more gay friendly place.  And they always have.  They remind me of this old story about Senator George Smathers who was running against Claude Pepper, back 40, 50 years ago.  And as one of his arguments.    

SIMMONS:  In Florida.    

ALTER: .in Florida.  He said, you know, Senator Pepper‘s sister is a notorious thespian up in New York City, you know.   

UYGUR:  God forbid.    

ALTER:  And it worked.  It worked for him.  So, there is still a lot of bias out there.    

UYGUR:  All right.  Congressman Lazio, you‘re from New York.  And a couple Republicans switched over here to vote in favor in gay marriage.   

LAZIO:  Right.

UYGUR:  But as you look at the Republican Party across the country, doesn‘t it seem like they are on   the wrong side of history?  

LAZIO:  Well, you know, look at these public opinion polls where I could say, they are roughly split.    You‘ve got 29 states right now that have constitutional bans against same-sex marriage.  You know, people feel strongly I think on both sides of these issues.  You know, I for one, going back 15 years, always support civil unions in a suburban district, swing district in New York.  I never felt lucky, either help me or hurt me politically.  But I just thought that was the right place to be.  So, I think, you know, anybody who‘s principled and makes the argument on our other side is probably not going to be a decisive political vote for them.  I agree with the other commentators that, you know, New York, will be seen by many other states and many other people as a more liberal state and this is not totally unexpected for people from other parts of the country.   

UYGUR:  Right.

ALTER:  President Obama has got a problem.   

UYGUR:  OK.  We‘ve got to leave it right there, guys.  We‘ve got to leave it there.  And the guy who definitely helps Governor Cuomo has got a great approval rating since that 61 percent. 

All right.  Rick Lazio, Jonathan Alter and Jamal Simmons, thank you so much.  Great panel, guys.   

Now, when we come back, just four months after Japan‘s Fukushima nuclear disaster, shockingly report reveals what federal regulators were doing to the crumbling plants here in America.  I‘ll tell you, the report is actually enraging.                      


UYGUR:  Supreme Court had yet another devastating decision today to help corporations and hurt the American people.  What are they doing to our elections?  I‘ll explain that in a little bit. 


UYGUR:  Just four months after Japan‘s nuclear disaster, there is a shocking new report by the Associative Press, it reveals the crumbling state of our nuclear power plants and how federal regulators are weakening safety standards to keep them in business.  Wow, that‘s reassuring.  The U.S. has 104 nuclear power    plants, 82 of those reactors are over 25 years old.  The APs year-long investigation found plants with failed cables, busted seals, broken nozzles, clogged screens, cracked concrete and numerous other safety problems.  It also found that the radioactive thorium have leaked from three quarters of U.S. commercial nuclear power sites.    And that is not a good thing.   

But with billions of dollars on the line and 19 percent of Americans energy coming from nuclear    power, the industry has developed a very friendly relationship with its regulator, the nuclear regulatory commission.  And this is the really bad part.  AP found a disturbing pattern.  Reactors fall out of compliance, studies are then conducted by the industry and government.  They agree that standards are quote, “unnecessarily    conservative.”  Then the regulations are loosened.  And the plants are back in compliance though not a bit safer.   

Now look, the government is supposed to look out for us, not the

industries that they are regulating.    But the problem is far too often

that the cops who are supposed to protect us, wind up protecting the people

who are going to hire them as soon as those regulators step down from their

government jobs.  This system seems to be hopelessly corrupt and we have

that kind of system in charge of nuclear plants.  It is a disaster in the

waiting.    For more on this. 


            Let‘s turn to Jeff Donn, he‘s the Associated Press reporter, who

brought this issue to light.  Jeff, great to have you here.  Let me ask you a simple question.  Now, like that, sounds really bad.  How bad is it and how much are these regulators not doing their job?  

JEFF DONN, ASSOCIATED PRESS:  Well, there is certainly a pattern of peeling back safety standards to help keep nuclear plants, their parts and their systems in compliance.  We have seen that over a decades and we‘ve seen that continue into the present.  And we see that pattern a lot.  And the nuclear regulatory commission says, well, sometimes we make the standards stricter.  But there‘s this pattern that we have seen so much where they start doing research.  They see that systems and parts are actually violating standards or coming close to it.  They do research, industry and government kind of team up and do the research.  And the next thing you know, the research shows that they were stricter than they needed to be.  So, it‘s just—it is just a    very common pattern that makes a lot of independence nuclear engineers unsettled.   

UYGUR:  So, look, I‘m really worried about that.  Because, OK, I mean, we see what happens when the FDA loosens up because they want to help business.  And then, next thing we know, we got mad cow disease or we got e.Coli running around, et cetera, right?  Now, when you mess around with nuclear power plants, that‘s not a good thing.  Let‘s look at an interesting number, which is, the number of people that are living within 10 miles of a nuclear power plant.  That has apparently according to your report, gone up 350 percent.  So, that‘s a big increase of the number of people that are by power plants.  How many people are buying these and is 10 miles anywhere near enough of an evacuation zone?  

DONN:  Well, in some places, the number of people over 30 years has increased up to 4 ½ times.  So, that would be the St. Lucie plant for instance, in Florida.  There‘s been tremendous population growth.  A lot of those, ten-mile evacuation zones around nuclear plants have doubled, have tripled.  And the—and the industry and government haven‘t really kept up with the evacuation plans.   

UYGUR:  Yes, of course.    

DONN:  There was an interesting contradiction of sorts in Japan when the Japanese government    evacuated its citizens ten miles out from that plant on the eastern coast of Japan that had its accident.  The U.S.  government said that‘s not good enough for us.  We recommend that our citizens stay 50 miles away from that    plant.  So of course it raised the question, here in the United States, of why communities and government do not plan for evacuation beyond the ten mile zones.   

UYGUR:  Right, you know, can I answer?  It is because they can‘t, the 40 percent of the country lives within 50 miles of nuclear power plants.  That is a very bad news, but great reporting by you Jeff Donn, Associated Press, national writer.  Thank you, we really appreciate you coming on tonight.    

And when we come back, the Supreme Court sells out the American people, again.  Their horrible decision, next.                            


UYGUR:  Today, the Supreme Court went one step further in letting private money and corporate money run our political campaigns and our politicians, joy.  The justices voted five to four to strike down an Arizona law that give public financing to political candidates to match what rival candidates were raising over the spending limit.  So now, let me explain that.  So, for example, if there is a spending limit of say, a million dollars for a candidate, if one of the candidates‘ raises private money above a million, Arizona law would provide matching funds to the other candidates to balance the plain field.  It makes sense.  Apparently, not to these conservative court.  And his majority opinions, Chief Justice John Roberts said, the law was unconstitutional because quote, “It imposes a substantial burden on the speech of privately financed candidates and independent expenditure groups.”   

Now, do you see what kind of a line that is?  The private candidate can raise as much money as he wants from private donors.  The state isn‘t stopping that at all.  They‘re not inhibiting those candidates for some amendments rights.  One bit, they are simply providing the other candidate with an equal voice so that the voters can be making an informed decision.  So they can be informed and make those right decisions.  But our Supreme Court does not want that.  They not only want the rich and powerful to be able to buy our elections, they want to stop people of any state to be able to provide an alternate voice.  Remember, the same majority that decided the Citizen‘s United case last year.  Allowing corporations and unions to spend unlimited amount on campaign ads.  So, these five people want to give corporations and the reach an unmatchable advantage.    These five people are the ones who are the ones who are ruing our democracy.   

And these five people, by the way, are enormous hypocrites.  These are the same guys who claim to be as active as judges but they just struck down a perfectly reasonable law passed by the people‘s representatives.    They also claim to be for state‘s rights but they just struck down the state law because they want to give their corporate overlords, if I can say that, another advantage in pulverizing our democracy and buying of all our politicians.  That‘s our show.  You could always catch me on  And “HARDBALL” starts right now.   

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