Guest Host: Al Sharpton
Guests: Sherrod Brown, Ed Rendell, Michael Steele, Alex Wagner, Matt Dean,
Jamal Simmons, Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, Josh Trevino, Charles Ogletree
AL SHARPTON, HOST: President Obama just told Republicans, I‘m ready to compromise. Are you?
Folks, it‘s game on in Washington. Tonight, Republican leaders under fire for being the party of no.
“USA Today” says they‘re acting—are you ready for this? -- like the Taliban.
Plus, Mitt Romney is at it again. Another day, another flip-flop.
With all his contortions, this guy‘s going to need Obamacare.
And President Clinton says to President Obama, don‘t blink in his standoff with Republicans. I‘ll give you my thoughts on that.
Welcome to the show. I‘m Al Sharpton.
Tonight‘s lead, President Obama ramps up pressure on Republicans to do their job in the debt fight. This afternoon, the president pressed Congress to make a long-term deal on the debt ceiling.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don‘t think the American people sent us here to avoid tough problems. That‘s in fact what drives them nuts about Washington, when both parties simply take the path of least resistance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: The president says he‘s willing to compromise, but are the Republicans?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: It‘s my hope that everybody‘s going to leave their ultimatums at the door, that we‘ll all leave our political rhetoric at the door, and that we‘re going to do what‘s best for our economy and do what‘s best for our people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: The president spoke as it‘s becoming clear that the Republican leaders are feeling the heat, facing tough new criticism for not being willing to compromise.
Today, in “The New York Times,” conservative columnist David Brooks wrote, “If responsible Republicans don‘t take control, Independents will conclude Republican fanaticism caused this default. They will conclude that Republicans are not fit to govern, and they will be right.”
And a “USA Today” editorial says, “Negotiating with Republicans over taxes has become as futile as trying to bargain with the Taliban over whether girls should be allowed to attend school.”
Joining me now, Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat from Ohio. He serves on the Banking and Appropriations Committees.
Senator, how are you today?
SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: Good, Reverend Sharpton. I liked your line about Obamacare and Romney. Pretty good.
SHARPTON: Well, let me ask you, what did you think of the president‘s statement today?
BROWN: Well, I was actually on an airplane during part of that, but I‘ve listened to your comments and read about it and talked about it with people. He‘s right.
I mean, the Democrats have compromised already. We have made major cuts, proposals of major cuts in many things that we don‘t really want to cut. They have not been willing to take away tax breaks from oil companies, they have not been willing, the Republicans, to deal with issues like hedge fund tax breaks, or raising taxes on upper-income people who have had their way for most of the last 10 years, just back to the Clinton levels, when we had great economic growth.
So they don‘t want—they are so imprisoned by their far right wing that governs by the way David Brooks, that conservative columnist you quoted from The Times, that really governs from this ideology that‘s way out of touch with the American people.
SHARPTON: But, you know, “The New York Times” says that the White House is offering tens of billions of dollars worth of cuts in Medicare and Medicaid. Why offer those cuts before the Republicans have agreed to anything of new revenue?
BROWN: Well, I wouldn‘t. I wouldn‘t negotiate that way.
To me, we shouldn‘t be cutting Medicare. And we shouldn‘t—Medicaid
I‘m very fearful of what could happen to Medicaid, because that takes care of people, the elderly, the poorest people in society, a lot of poor kids, and we have no business going after them when—look who sacrificed the most in the last five years anyway. It‘s been the middle class and the poor, and the wealthy have done well.
So we‘re going to extract more from the middle class and the poor and let the wealthy of again, as happened in—and some token loopholes to close, as important as they are, aren‘t enough that we should go to the table and cut Medicaid for poor kids.
SHARPTON: Now, you know, Senator, some Republicans are hinting that they could support tax increases as long as they‘re called revenue savers. I mean, people kind of play to their base as language, revenue savings, tax expenditures.
Take a look at this, Senator Cornyn and McCain. I mean, are Republicans just playing words to satisfy the Tea Party base? Are they really being chased by the Tea Party? Let me show you this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN CORNYN ®, TEXAS: We can bring down rates, eliminate a lot of tax expenditures or loopholes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA: There were certain revenue raisers in other areas that perhaps we could work on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CORNYN: Republicans are opposed to any tax hikes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: The American people didn‘t want their taxes raised.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: I mean, there seems to be mixed signals here. Are we playing the language game here? If you call it this, I‘ll do it. But if you call it that, I can‘t go home with the Tea Party.
What are we looking at here?
BROWN: Well, I don‘t care what they call it. But what I‘ve noticed -
I‘ve been around the House and Senate for 17, 18 years, something like that now, and I‘ve never seen a political party so govern itself by fear, that they are so afraid that the Tea Party and some of their far-right base be will be unhappy with them.
Their presidential candidates change their position on climate change. They‘re all afraid to talk about a fairer tax system. They don‘t mind going after everything from Pell grants to Medicare to Planned Parenthood to Head Start in order to placate their far-right mostly corporate base, the far right kind of FreedomWorks, Dick Armey, Koch brothers coalition. And they‘re getting played for fools. And it‘s unfortunate, because it has a huge impact on the country, this whole fear factor that seems to be motivating the far right, and has such washing across the whole Republican Caucus in the House and Senate.
Well, thank you, Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat from Ohio.
BROWN: Glad to be with you. Thanks very much, Reverend.
SHARPTON: Thank you so much for joining us tonight.
BROWN: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Now it‘s time to “Meet the Chairmen”: former DNC chair and Pennsylvania governor, Ed Rendell, and former RNC chair Michael Steele.
Good evening to both chairmen.
MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIRMAN: Good evening, Rev.
SHARPTON: Today, President Obama outlined a balanced approach. Take a look at this, Mr. Chairmen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I believe we need a balanced approach. We need to take on spending in programs, in defense programs, in entitlement programs. And we need to take on spending in the tax code, spending on certain tax breaks, and deductions for the wealthiest of Americans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: But, Chairman Steele, is this really balanced if it‘s trillions of dollars in cuts and just billions in revenue? Is that balanced?
STEELE: Well, I think so. I mean, the goal is you don‘t want to cut the economy off from any growth potential that it may have when you know the real driver here is spending.
And we didn‘t get here because the government wasn‘t collecting enough revenue. The government was clearly collecting enough revenue. At some point along the way, we got out of line with that and started taking more out of economy through expenses.
So, I think the president is right in terms of what he‘s saying that he would like to do. The question for Republicans is, OK, so let‘s get specific in the details of what exactly you mean by the tax cut that you want to propose.
SHARPTON: Well, that‘s always the problems, the details, Governor Rendell.
STEELE: Well, Reverend, you know that. That‘s a big part of the dance right now is, what are the details here?
SHARPTON: Well, Governor Rendell, in a balance there‘s some giving on each side. It seems that there‘s an inflexibility on the Republican side.
ED RENDELL, FMR. DNC CHAIRMAN: Well, first, if I might, Reverend Sharpton, let me correct Chairman Steele, who I dearly love. But he said we didn‘t get here because of not having enough revenue, we got here because of spending.
Well, the last time I looked, when Bill Clinton left office, and he had increased revenue by raising taxes on the top two percent, we had a whopping surplus. We got here—let‘s be clear about this, Michael. We got here because the Republican Party gave tax cuts and never paid for them.
STEELE: No. No, I can‘t take the silliness anymore.
RENDELL: No, stop. Stop. Let me finish.
STEELE: I cannot take the silliness.
RENDELL: But it‘s not silliness.
STEELE: You are absolutely incorrect on the history of it.
RENDELL: No. Wait a minute. No. Let me finish.
SHARPTON: Hold it, Chairman Steele. Let the governor finish.
RENDELL: Bill Clinton left office with a surplus.
RENDELL: Because he had Republicans who didn‘t spend.
RENDELL: Michael, don‘t interrupt. This is not Fox. You‘ve got to learn, you‘re on something other than Fox.
SHARPTON: Michael, I waited all my life. I‘m in charge tonight.
Governor Rendell, you go.
STEELE: Yes, Reverend.
RENDELL: Then President Bush had massive tax cuts and he didn‘t pay for them. That created this massive deficit that we have.
Spending contributed to it, I agree, but we have to address both. We have to cut spending, continue to cut spending, and we have for increase revenue.
Right now the Democrats are offering 17 percent in revenue increases and 83 percent in spending cuts. As David Brooks, a respected Republican columnist said, take the deal. For the good of the country, take the deal.
SHARPTON: Now, let me ask you this, Michael—“The New York Times” says more than half a dozen House Republican freshmen are already facing primary fights from Tea Party challengers. Aren‘t Republican lawmakers afraid they‘ll lose their jobs if they don‘t hold the party line on the deficit? I mean, when you have—
STEELE: I don‘t think so, Reverend.
SHARPTON: -- when you have a guy like David Brooks saying take the deal, aren‘t these guys really just scared of the extremists in the Tea Party?
STEELE: No, I don‘t think so, because certainly I had a hand at getting a lot of them elected. And I know first hand that these individuals are very principled in their arguments and their beliefs.
And they don‘t care if they‘re going to be primary challenged or they‘re going to lose their seat. They‘re here to fight the battle over spending. They‘re here to cut the growth and size of government intrusion through regulation and tax policy as much as they possibly can.
SHARPTON: But they also want to get reelected—Chairman Steele, they want to get reelected outside of Washington. Republican governors pushing this agenda are tanking in the polls.
STEELE: Well, yes, I mean, they‘re tanking in year one. They‘ve got a four-year term. Let‘s see where they are at year three and a half, Reverend.
I mean, you look at Mitch Daniels, when Mitch Daniels started as governor of his state, he did exactly, exactly what you saw in Wisconsin and what you‘ve seen in Ohio. And, you know, his numbers went, like, through the bottom of the floor. The man got reelected with 78 percent of the vote three years later because of policies when they got into effect worked.
SHARPTON: Let me show you where they look on the polls, and I hope they‘re watching. Let‘s look at where they‘re at.
Rick Snyder, down 25 percent; Rick Scott in Florida, down 20 percent;
Kasich, down 11 percent, Scott Walker in Wisconsin, down nine percent; Jan Brewer, down eight percent.
You‘re telling me this doesn‘t matter to people that have to run?
STEELE: No, it doesn‘t, Reverend, because it matters no more than finding a poll today that says Barack Obama is behind Mitt Romney a year out from the presidential election. Are you going to put value and stock in that?
Are you going to say, oh my God, it‘s all over for President Obama because he‘s trailing Mitt Romney by four points? No. It‘s 2011.
SHARPTON: Governor Rendell, I mean, how do you respond to this?
STEELE: Gentlemen, let‘s wait and see what their policies do, just like we saw in Indiana, and let‘s have this conversation in three-and-a-half years.
SHARPTON: Governor Rendell?
RENDELL: I agree with Michael about polls far out, three years or even a year out. They don‘t mean much. But what polls should concern Republicans is what the American people are saying on the issues.
They don‘t want this budget to be balanced by cutting only entitlements. They don‘t want it to be balanced by cutting spending, programs that are helpful to vulnerable Americans.
They want a mix. They want a balance of revenue increases by closing off loopholes against rich people who have taken advantage of the system and corporations who have gamed the system. Thirty-eight percent of American corporations pay no corporate income tax.
The American people want that ended, Michael. That‘s what your party should be afraid of.
STEELE: And Governor, you‘re absolutely right. And 47 percent of the American people don‘t pay income taxes either. Are we going to tax them?
RENDELL: Sure. We should.
STEELE: OK. Well, I‘m glad to see that. Then you‘re absolutely aware where we need to be, putting everything and everyone in the mix when it comes to balancing the budget for future generations.
SHARPTON: So when you say, Michael Steele, putting in everything, that means that we can say a news flash, that the former RNC chair, Michael Steele, agrees to closing corporate loopholes and dealing with taxing millionaires, that we have a news flash, you have converted? Rendell and Sharpton have brought you over. This is wonderful.
RENDELL: And remember, Al, the important thing here is—remember, the important thing is here nobody on the Democrat side, including President Obama, is at this time asking them to raise tax rates. We‘re asking to close loopholes, cut of these tax expenditures. And if they can‘t do that, shame on them.
SHARPTON: That‘s right.
Let me ask you both a prediction. Are we going to have a deal?
RENDELL: I don‘t think so.
STEELE: I agree with the governor. I don‘t think we will. I think if we have anything—Governor, I‘d like your thoughts on this—it will be a little baby thing that really won‘t amount to much and will not begin to solve the problem.
RENDELL: Yes, I think Michael is right about that, Reverend Sharpton, just like what happened when the budget deadline was there for last year‘s budget. It was a deal that really didn‘t do a thing. It was just a face-saving device. We‘ll fight this out, but again—
SHARPTON: Well, we‘ll see what happens. I think both of you are right. We may not have a deal, because it‘s harder to move an elephant than to slap a donkey.
STEELE: Oh, my goodness.
RENDELL: Everyone watching this—
SHARPTON: Coming up, showdown in Minnesota, and Republicans still refuse to make millionaires pay their fair share.
Thousands rally in Atlanta, protesting Georgia‘s anti-immigration law, and now there‘s proof the fight is working.
And later, President Clinton‘s advice to President Obama should make Republicans afraid. Very afraid.
Stay with us.
SHARPTON: The shutdown on the Minnesota state government is in its fifth day. Now Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton is sitting down with Republicans, but he‘s warning them, they‘re going to have to give a little.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
GOV. MARK DAYTON (D), MINNESOTA: I‘ve said for weeks now, you know, I‘m willing to compromise, meet halfway. And so, you know, hanging tough at a place of intransigence is not leadership.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
SHARPTON: The issue that Republicans are “hanging tough” on is tax cuts for people making over a million a year. In other words, they‘re shutting down the government for the sake of 7,700 people, just .03 percent of the state.
And while Republicans are protecting the rich, Dayton is going to bat for the rest of the state. He‘s fighting for those who don‘t fall into the .03 percent, because across the country the average American is suffering. Just take a look at this.
Due in part to a delay in state funding, Texas public schools will start the year without textbooks. Los Angeles is cutting over 300,000 hours of public bus service. Camden, New Jersey, was forced to lay off half of its police staff. And in smaller cities like Wilmington, North Carolina, fire departments are being forced to work with faulty equipment.
So what—that‘s what makes Dayton‘s stance so important. He‘s fighting, and his fight is a microcosm of what‘s happening around the country. And he doesn‘t want to see it happen in his state.
Joining me now is Huffington Post‘s Alex Wagner. She‘s also an MSNBC analyst.
Thank you, Alex, for joining me.
ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC ANALYST: Thanks, Rev.
SHARPTON: What are you seeing with this stand in Minnesota?
WAGNER: Well, I think a couple things.
The first is, to some extent, I think the Republicans, in large part, have seen this as sort of an interesting political exercise. Can we play high-stakes chicken and can we win? But as you said, there are real consequences to this.
There are 22,000 people in Minnesota who don‘t have jobs right now. And the first people that get cut and the first people to feel these shutdowns in services are the elderly, the blind, the poor, the people who are struggling to hang on, and the people who are facing foreclosures. I mean, the idea that they can just sort of go about this as a theoretical practice in debt and deficit cutting I think really ignores the fact that there‘s a human elements to all this.
SHARPTON: Let me show you this, Alex. A poll says 63 percent favor a mix of tax hikes and spending reductions.
Why aren‘t the Republicans just listening to their constituents?
WAGNER: Well, look, I think that there‘s always a dismissal of the Democrats, you know, and their platform. And I think, to your point, there is a widespread feeling in this country that it‘s going to hurt.
Everybody knows we‘re going to have to do some belt-tightening. And to me and to a lot of people, I think, it‘s illogical that the Republicans are being so hard-line on this idea of raising taxes. And to your earlier point, I mean, we‘re talking about .1 percent of the population here—corporate jet owners, millionaires and billionaires. And the idea that these are the people they‘re playing defense for, I think to a lot of Americans is inexcusable.
SHARPTON: I showed what‘s going on in other parts around the country.
Is Minnesota just a microcosm?
WAGNER: Absolutely. And I think we‘re going to see this again on the national stage with the debt ceiling debate.
Look, it‘s the same argument—can we raise taxes? Will we raise taxes? And the idea that both parties are going to have to come to the table. Now, I do think Democrats have been much more open to working with Republicans across the aisle on cuts that are going to hurt heir party, and they‘re expecting the same from the Republicans.
SHARPTON: Have the Democrats given too much, though?
WAGNER: Well, look, you could say the Republicans are winning the war of messaging. You know?
They‘ve had a united party line saying we are not going to do this, and they are playing until the very end. You know, Minnesota is a great example of that.
But in the long run, I do think the American public, the people that are hurting, the people without services, they‘ve really—there‘s been a backlash. I mean, you look at what‘s happened with popularity in states where governors have made Draconian cuts, Pennsylvania, Florida, Wisconsin, and there‘s a real public anger at what these governors are doing.
SHARPTON: But look at Dayton. He‘s standing up. He seems to be standing firm.
SHARPTON: I mean, is he an example of where the Democrats ought to be, saying this is the line, and I‘m not going to go beyond a certain point because the majority of my state is with me and does not want to see .3 percent get everything while we get nothing for those that need it?
WAGNER: Look, I think a lot of Democrats are happy to see someone playing hardball out there. Right? But at the end of the day, they have got to come to an agreement, which is why you have sort of a third-party group, including former vice presidential candidate Walter Mondale—or Vice President Mondale going in there and sort of trying to broker an agreement. And it‘s almost like mom and dad are coming to the table to make sure the kids stop fighting.
And to that degree, look, five days is one thing, 15 days is another.
This budget shutdown is sharper than the one in 2005 that hit the state.
SHARPTON: Oh yes.
WAGNER: And I think that there‘s a real sense that it can only last for so long.
WAGNER: Thank you, Alex.
Huffington Post‘s Alex Wagner.
Thanks again for joining me.
WAGNER: Thanks, Rev.
SHARPTON: Talking on that note, let‘s talk to someone in the center of the shutdown debate, Minnesota Republican House Majority Leader Matt Dean.
Good evening, Mr. Dean.
MATT DEAN ®, MINNESOTA HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Good to be with you, Reverend.
SHARPTON: Good to be with you.
Governor Dayton wants to increase taxes on people who make $1 million a year or more. That‘s a group that totals 7,700 people in a state of 5.3 million. That‘s .03 percent of the population.
Is it worth cutting programs for the vast majority of people in your state for the benefit of less than 8,000 people?
DEAN: Well, Reverend, actually, our budget increase is about six percent, so unlike 29 other states, Minnesota is fortunate in that we have a six percent increase. And we want to fund our priorities within those means.
Governor Dayton wants to raise taxes on all of Minnesotans, not just the richest one percent. And it‘s going to kill jobs.
And basically, Reverend, Minnesotans are really like a lot of other folks across the country. We‘re fed up and we‘re tapped out, and we can‘t afford 25 percent government growth. And folks are just saying you have to live within your means, six percent should be enough.
SHARPTON: OK. So while you want to maintain the .03 percent, your budget proposal included a long-term 15 percent cut in the number of state employees, a requirement that voters show photo I.D., and abortion restrictions.
So why are you bringing all of this in if it‘s just about the fiscal concerns you have?
DEAN: Well, Reverend, as Mencken said, “When they say it‘s not about the money, it‘s about the money.” And in this case, it‘s about more money for more spending. And that‘s really what the argument is about. The governor just wants to spend a lot more money.
And if we want to talk about the last night of negotiations, when we believed that we have an unnecessary shutdown in Minnesota, we asked the governor to bring us back on a temporary lights-on bill that would keep government functioning. He said no, and now we find ourselves in this shutdown mess.
SHARPTON: Oh, so now—let me get this right. It‘s about the money, and because you wanted the governor to bring you back, you‘ll throw in photo I.D. for voting and abortion? That‘s your idea of trying to really just get back to the money?
DEAN: Actually, Reverend, the offer that was on the table last night was just fiscal in nature, and the governor said no and walked away, and now we‘re in a shutdown. And we want to bring our workers back. We have got good, hard-working folks working for the state of Minnesota, and a lot of people that rely on those services.
We want to get them back working, so we‘re saying, Governor, call us back. He can do it any time he wants.
SHARPTON: You know, Senator, I‘ve been an activist. I‘ve paid for what I believe in. I‘ve been arrested for causes, gone to jail. I‘ve done what I believe in.
Eighty-seven, though of 134 House members, and 52 of 66 Senate members have collected their July paychecks while the state workers are not. And they‘re scheduled to keep doing that.
Let me ask you a question. You‘re the leader. Have you kept your check?
DEAN: Well, in fact, in 2005 we had another government shutdown.
SHARPTON: No, no, no. I‘m talking about this check right now. Have you kept your July check?
DEAN: Here‘s why.
SHARPTON: Why means yes, I assume. You‘re saying yes, you kept the check, and you‘re telling me why you kept the check. Go ahead.
DEAN: Yes, sir. And I was the author of that legislation that said if the legislature doesn‘t get its job done, doesn‘t come to an agreement, they don‘t get paid. In this case, we had a balanced budget with a six percent increase, and the governor vetoed it.
And now we find ourselves in a shutdown situation. And we want the governor to call us back and get the state moving again.
SHARPTON: All right. Thank you very much.
Minnesota House Majority Leader Matt “Kept His Check” Dean.
Thanks for your time this evening.
DEAN: Thank you, Reverend.
SHARPTON: Ahead, it‘s getting almost funny watching Mitt Romney—or sad. Another day, another flip-flop. It‘s our “Con Job of the Day.”
And get this—Speaker John Boehner is leading one of the least productive Congresses ever.
Great job, Republicans, not getting the job done. I guess President Obama was right.
We‘ll explain. Stay with us.
SHARPTON: Flip flopping maestro, will Mitt Romney has had a change of heart? I should say, a news change of heart after his o change of heart. Romney‘s reversal of a reversal is our con job of the day. One of Romney‘s favorite campaign talking points is to trash President Obama‘s handling of the economy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY, FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR: He didn‘t create the recession, but he made it worse. The economy was in recession, and he made it worse and he made it last longer.
He did not cause this recession, but he made it worse.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Of course, the facts disprove Romney‘s claim that President Obama made the recession worse. The GDP has grown under President Obama. The recession ended more than two years ago, and the country is now adding jobs instead of losing them. Last week Romney tried to pretend he never made the claim in the first place.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: I didn‘t say that things were worse. What I said was that the economy hasn‘t turned around.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: But it didn‘t take long for Romney to flip-flop on that comment. Here‘s what he said today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: The president came in, and he didn‘t cause the recession, as you know, that was heading into a recession at the time he took over, but he didn‘t make it better, he made things worse.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Be of good cheer, though, Romney supporters. Romney‘s consistent in one way. He‘s always changing his mind, but his latest flip-flop of a flip-flop is not only ridiculous. It‘s our con job of the day.
Coming up, fighting the extreme Georgia‘s anti-immigration law met with massive protests. Folks, the fight is working. And President Obama was criticized for telling Congress to do its job. Well, guess what? He was right. I‘ll explain. Stay with us.
SHARPTON: Welcome back to the show. Now to discuss some of today‘s biggest political stories, we bring our Power Panel.
Joining me is Democratic Communications consultant, Jamal Simmons. He has served as communications advisers to the DNC during the 2008 campaign. Also with us, Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, she‘s an assistant professor of Political Science at Northwestern University. And finally Josh Trevino, vice president of Communications at the Texas Public Policy Foundation Think Tank.
Welcome to all of you. Let me post the first question, is this Congress the do-nothing Congress? Republicans came charging into the House this year. But they‘ve done little more, than whine and stall since January. The House has passed a pathetic 50 bills this their first five months, that‘s the lowest in 15 years.
What do any of you have to say about this? Jamal.
JOSH TREVINO, TEXAS PUBLIC POLICY FOUNDATION: I say, it‘s great, it‘s great. If you are the philosophy that America is safer when Congress was doing very little, it‘s fantastic. This Congress was elected by the American people to block the Obama agenda. They‘re doing it. Congratulations to them. Do less, do more, that‘s our motto.
SHARPTON: But then, why did they get all upset when the president said they weren‘t doing their job unless you think Jamal, their job is right, their job is just to block the president?
JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC COMMUNICATIONS CONSULTANT: Well, you know, the Republicans in Congress may think that‘s their job, to go there and block the Congress. But I think the American people voted for them because they wanted jobs, the American people voted for them because they saw the economy needed some work. Even some of the people support them voted for them, because they wanted to solve something on this debt and that‘s the crisis. And instead of trying to reach a deal like David Brooks talks about in the “New York Times,” instead of trying to reach a deal, they‘re holding out on kind of a far right wing nautical agenda. And so they‘re standing in the way of getting the debt handle, standing in the way of getting a jobs bill passed, and the American people are sitting on the sidelines just waiting for somebody to do something to make their lives better.
SHARPTON: Victoria, I don‘t know if you watch football, but usually you win games by scoring, not just blocking the other side from scoring. I mean, how is this going to work? The Republicans feel according to Josh and Josh knows what he‘s talking about, that just blocking President Obama is enough. And the fact that they‘re not doing anything, no big thing.
VICTORIA DEFRANCESCO SOTO, PROFESSOR, NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY: Well, this play of defense, which essentially is a paralysis of Congress, is a God send for Obama. This is precisely what he wants, but where does this paralysis comes from? Let‘s think about that. Take a step back. And it‘s interesting, because I think it‘s both institutional and political. Institutionally speaking we‘ve seeing with both Republicans and Democrats, anytime you have more than a slim majority in Congress or in an institution, you tend to get infighting. There‘s not that pressure to keep that internal cohesion. And second of all, with the rise of the Tea Party, I mean, yes, there‘s always been internal strife in both parties, but we have never seen anything like the Tea Party, so you have your moderate Republicans, your John Boehner‘s, not knowing what to do with this new movement of the Tea Parties. So, I think this has made for an exceptional paralysis, not just a normal paralysis.
SHARPTON: Josh, isn‘t it true what she‘s saying that really a lot of the moderate Republicans that would make some levels of compromise for the good of the American people are really afraid of the Tea Party and the extremist in their own party, and that the party has gone so far to the right, that it‘s starting to end as one writer said, not looked like a normal party, but just an advocacy group of extreme ideologues?
TREVINO: Yes, correct me if I‘m wrong, but you‘re quoting David Brooks there. And I can‘t think of anyone more poorly placed to accurately describe modern conservativism.
(TALKING OVER EACH OTHER)
The party has become so extreme, so extreme and so far to the right that they won a majority in the House of Representatives. You know, that speaks for itself.
SHARPTON: But the question is, can they maintain the majority?
SHARPTON: According to a lot of polls.
TREVINO: I believe they can.
SHARPTON: A lot them are in trouble, and a lot of the governors are in trouble. So, the fact that they won may end up being their worst nightmare if the polls are right and we‘re going to the next election cycle this way.
TREVINO: Well, I think I and every other person on the right will take the nightmare of being an incumbent majority. We‘ll figure out a way to handle that.
SHARPTON: Well, Jamal, you were communications DNC, can‘t the Democrats use the fact that they‘ve been so extreme and we‘re not compromise, and all polling has shown Americans want to see certain things maintain, want to see certain things protected, wanted to see some of the wealthy Americans pay their share, won‘t this backfire on them in the long right?
SIMMONS: It will absolutely backfire. And I will give you one more word, Reverend, Medicare, of all the Republicans in the House voted for Paul Ryan‘s Medicare budget—Medicare bill that cut Medicare turns into a voucher program. They just hand money to insurance companies. And I tell you, that is not something that most people in America want. Conservative or liberal or independent, senior citizens, people on the verge of being seniors, and about to get that Medicare do not want it cut. These Republicans are going to all have to answer for that.
SHARPTON: Victoria, how do you sell to the American people that those that have made the more can get away with doing less, and that seniors, those that are disabled, those that are students, education, they‘ve got to make the sacrifices. How do you sell that to the majority of American people?
SOTO: Well, Reverend your term “selling” is absolutely the correct term. Because Obama has the opportunity here to frame this, and to rally the troops and get the Democrats to mobilize, but if he lets this go by, the right thing of the conservative party will be able to come back in 2012. So, what Obama needs to do is go out and hammer home this message of, you know, we need to keep our education moving forward, we need to keep us from Medicaid cuts. But he needs to get the message out. If we remember, a lot of the problem with the town hall meetings a couple summers ago was that the Obama administration didn‘t play offenses. They just sat back, they didn‘t sell their message and looks what happens, so he needs to go out there and play offense.
SHARPTON: Our next question, are anti-immigration laws, bad laws, and bad business? Thousands of protesters marched in Atlanta this weekend against Georgia‘s radical anti-immigrant law, which may be even worse than Arizona‘s “papers please” law. It‘s not just a bad law, it‘s also prompted immigrant workers to flee the state, leaving 11,000 farm jobs unfulfilled and crops literally rotting in the fields. It may cost farmers more than $250 million in loss this year alone. What do you, Victoria, let‘s start with you.
SOTO: Yes. It‘s just an unwise fiscal policy here. That if you look to Arizona, not only did they lose money in terms of tourism, but also if the law were actually to be implemented as it was written, the cost for the law enforcement to come out and you would further drain public coffers. And what is so interesting here is it‘s not specific to Latinos, this anti-immigrant rhetoric. You know, 100 years ago, it was the same rhetoric but different faces. So, Italian immigrants, Polish immigrants, Jewish immigrants. Anytime we have an economic recession, we scapegoat the minority. And here, Latinos are bearing the brunt of this, and the interesting thing is that people at the forefront against immigrants in the south and in other places in the southwest, are not those people whose jobs are threatened by low-skilled workers. It‘s not the fellow Latinos or African-American socio-economic status. But middle class, non-minority is who are within the Tea Party, it‘s so interesting, why are they so opposed to immigrants?
TREVINO: Yes, that‘s something—I‘m sorry to talk over you.
SHARPTON: Go ahead.
TREVINO: But one point that I want to make, it‘s not just and Dr. DeFrancesco Soto and I have actually talked about this, and it‘s something she speaks of great authority on. But I think there‘s an expansion of her remarks that needs to be made, is that first of, it‘s not just folks within the Tea Party. You‘ve got a lot of people who are very concerned about illegal immigration, including Hispanics here in Texas where the both of us are right now. One thing that I point out in the Georgia Law is that, in many ways, we‘ve seen this play before. Dr. DeFrancesco Soto notes rightly that we‘ve seen it in Arizona previously, and we have seen a lot of, kind of self-selecting loss of business and people in the state as a result of the passage of the SB-1070 there. But the one thing that we haven‘t seen and the one thing, I don‘t think we will see, even if the law is fully implemented, if the courts allow that to happen, is significant civil rights violations which are massively predicted and certainly significantly touted as injustices that would be visited upon Hispanics in particular, if not the immigrations laws has passed.
(TALKING OVER EACH OTHER)
SHARPTON: Well, we‘ve got to go. I mean, I—Jamal could but thanks, everyone on today‘s panel. It was a great conversation.
TREVINO: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Coming up, affirmative action is until fire across the country, but the fact is that may be putting Republicans in a tough spot. That‘s next.
SHARPTON: President Clinton tells President Obama don‘t blink. I‘ll tell you what I have to say about that.
SHARPTON: We‘re back with a big win for those of us who care about fairness, equality and real civil rights. Late Friday, a federal court overturned a Michigan law that banned affirmative action in college and other public institutions. The sixth circuit court of appeals ruled the law was unconstitutional.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: All of us believed then, as we still do now that diversity is what has made America great. Equal opportunity is what continues to make America strong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: But the fight is not over yet. Michigan‘s republican attorney general says, he‘ll appeal the ruling and may send this debate straight to the Supreme Court. Over the last decade, conservatives have tried to end affirmative action all across the country, doing so, under the guise of, quote, “civil rights.”
Joining me now is Charles Ogletree, law professor in Harvard Law School, how do you do Dr. Ogletree?
CHARLES OGLETREE, HARVARD LAW PROFESSOR: Doing great, Reverend Sharpton. Hope you‘re doing well.
SHARPTON: Great. Let‘s take a look at a map for a minute. We just had a map, showing these states, all have had introduced to them anti-affirmative action initiative since 1998, and some of them called civil rights laws when they in fact were the opposite in my opinion. Is this a trend we‘ve seeing all over the country?
OGLETREE: It is. If you think about it. Remember, Jennifer Grass was one of the plaintiffs in the Michigan case, the Supreme Court did not uphold that case in 2003 with opinion with Justice O‘Connor. She now works for the American Civil Liberties group in Sacramento, America‘s rights group. That‘s a conservative group. A poll to affirmative action for women and for people of color. So, this litigation has been going on around the country, and almost every state, for there‘s a blue state or red state, it doesn‘t matter, and challenging it. And this initiatives, and this was a very strong opinion by Judge Cole, guy Cole from the Sixth Circuit, which covers Michigan and other states in the Sixth Circuit, in a two to one decision. And they reversed a lower district court opinion, and reaffirmed the fact that as a Supreme Court said in 2003, race matters, race is a factor.
SHARPTON: But some people, Dr. Ogletree say that we don‘t need affirmative action anymore, yet when we look at Michigan, look at the graphic since it was banned in Michigan, since affirmative action was banned, enrollment at the University of Michigan has gone down 11.4 percent. They‘ve been losing minority students since the law went into effect in 2008. What do you say to people think it‘s an obsolete policy or worse, that is reverse discrimination?
OGLETREE: I think the numbers you cite makes that point very well that it is an important policy because without the idea of diversity as a principle, you see disappearing numbers have soon to color in women. And it‘s from California to Michigan to Massachusetts. It doesn‘t matter who you are. It‘s going to happen around the country. And so, we are a country of immigrants. We represent the country that protects diversity and promotes diversity. And some people have this naive sense that we have elected a black president, so we don‘t have any more racial problems. We do. We have them all over the country in several and criminal, and every aspect of the law. And I‘m glad that people are standing up now, protesting in places like Michigan, saying that we have to open up the doors for people who are qualified, it‘s not—qualified, who qualified and diverse to make sure that we have a court, a list of lawyers, women and men who look like America and who have the ability to.
SHARPTON: Let me ask quickly, because we‘re running out of time. One of the things that really strikes me about this movement is not that they‘re just getting these initiatives passed, is how they‘re doing it. They‘re actually adopting the language of civil rights, for instance, the names of their organizations, the Americans civil rights institute, the California civil rights initiative, the Americans civil rights coalition, the Michigan civil rights initiatives, and now the Michigan‘s attorney general saying, quote, “the Michigan civil rights initiative embodies the fundamental premise of what America is all about, equal opportunity under the law will continue the fight for equality, fairness and the rule of law.” How would this movement‘s adoption of civil rights language influencing the voters?
OGLETREE: In the wrong way, because many people who voted for the Michigan, Proposition 2 thought they were voting for something to protect diversity, not end it. And they didn‘t know that. As very cleverly worded, and these statues are very cleverly worded across the country. And that means people have to be very vigilant when it comes to voting. Make sure you know what you‘re voting for. Because you could be voting against your own interest...
SHARPTON: That‘s right.
OGLETREE: I‘ve got to stop you, professor. Thank you very much for joining us, Professor Charles Ogletree. Thanks. We‘ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: I believe we need a balanced approach. This will require both parties to get out of our comfort zones and both parties to agree on real compromise. I‘m ready to do that.
SHARPTON: President Clinton has some good advice he says, quote, “the White House could blink.” I hope they won‘t, I don‘t think they should blink. Well, I don‘t eat though. We‘ve learned now that Eric Cantor is going to rejoin the meetings as of Thursday. I hope that the president, I hope the Democrats make it clear that just like, there are those that are extreme in this country that believe things that many people believe the extreme, there are those that are in the middle that are willing to compromise, but they‘re not willing to blink.
I learned when I was young, that people would chase you as long as you run. I think the Democrats and the White House should not run. We need to stand still. More people chase rabbits than hunt bears. Because rabbits run from you. Bears, you only get one shot. They have taken this shot at us. Let‘s now come and show them that we stand for something. I‘ve rarely have agreed in the internal democratic debates with Bill Clinton, but when he said don‘t blink, all I could say is, amen. Bill Clinton is right this time. And I think that many Americans are hoping that the Republicans understand that it‘s time for a compromise to be shared sacrifice.
Thanks for watching. I‘m Al Sharpton. “HARDBALL” starts right now.
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