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Msnbc Live at 6 p.m. ET, Thursday July 14, 2011

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

Guest Host: Al Sharpton
Guests: Richard Wolffe, Pat Buchanan, Donna Edwards, Kayla Tausche, Eric
Boehlert, Kiki McLean, Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, Ron Christie, Randi
Weingarten, Amy Wilkins

AL SHARPTON, HOST: Debt crisis, Republican crisis. One senator calls the GOP a “hot, sloppy mess.”
Tonight, Cantor and his Tea Party gang are dragging the GOP down. Who is winning the politics?
And the FBI says it will investigate whether Rupert Murdoch‘s company broke the law. But Murdoch still doesn‘t get it. He admits to minor mistakes that were made.
Plus, paging Willard Mitt Romney. The front-runner who says he can fix the economy is nowhere to be found. Is he in a witness protection program?
And the Atlanta school cheating scandal. Is No Child Left Behind really leaving too many behind?
Welcome to the show. I‘m Al Sharpton.

Tonight‘s lead, Republicans pushing our economy to the brink. Just minutes ago, the president‘s meeting with congressional members ended after an hour and 19 minutes. We don‘t know if we are closer to a deal, but what we do know is that GOP is offering up nothing, and certainly no solutions.
Case in point, Republican Leader Eric Cantor, he continues to push a short-term extension of debt ceiling. Here was President Obama‘s response. “Enough is enough, Eric. Don‘t call my bluff. I‘m going to the American people on this. I will not yield.”
Today, Cantor took more heat from the left.
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor showing that he shouldn‘t even be at the table. It was childish.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: He is basically standing in the way, and it‘s a shame. It‘s a shame. If Eric Cantor decides everything, I fear we will be in default.
SHARPTON: And President Obama urged Republicans to stop playing games.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What‘s required here in Washington is that politicians understand now is not the time to play games. Now is not the time to posture. Now is the time to do what‘s right by the country.
SHARPTON: Joining me now are two MSNBC political analysts, Pat Buchanan and Richard Wolffe.
Pat, let me start with you.
SHARPTON: Is your party playing games?
BUCHANAN: Our party‘s involved in these negotiations, Al. And there‘s no doubt I think the president has been winning it politically on the national level. But I do think that the Republican position, if Cantor‘s position is this, we can‘t—we‘re not going to give you any tax increases, we are going to give you an increase in the debt ceiling, and we are going to put cuts on there, say a trillion dollars, and we are going to send it over for nine months, I think that can be a winning hand for the Republicans. So let‘s say it‘s—
SHARPTON: But Pat, what Republicans hand? You‘re saying the Republican hand like it‘s one hand.
You have the Boehner hand. You have the Cantor hand. You have the Tea Party freshmen.
You are acting like it‘s a united party. Whether you have been watching or not, it seems like you all have at least three hands that you‘re playing at the same time. Which hand are you referring to?
BUCHANAN: Well, the one hand that everybody has agreed upon, Al, is that Republicans are not going to give “new revenue” or “new taxes,” period. If they do, I think the Republican Party is finished. So they are agreed on that.
I hope they are agreed that they are going to pass a debt ceiling by the 2nd of August. I hope so. I‘m not sure on that.
SHARPTON: OK. Go ahead. I‘m sorry, Pat. Go ahead.
BUCHANAN: Third, I think they are agreed on budget cuts, but not which cuts. And I think they are agreed now that big deal is dead, and so they will try to go for some small deal. I guess they‘re there, but it‘s clear Mitch McConnell is concerned that the Republicans in the House can‘t get anything through.
SHARPTON: Well, then I don‘t think that they‘re dead. Your hopes of them all agreeing on the three things you named, as you said, you don‘t even know if it can get through the House. A House divided cannot stand for America, Pat.
Richard, what is your reading? Are the Republicans in such free-fall, they can‘t get it together, and the people that may pay for this is the American public?
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Before we get there, Reverend Al, I just want to pick up on something Pat said. Pat said if there were any kind of tax increase at all, Republicans would be finished. Now, let‘s just look at the polls here.
The most recent Gallup polls suggests that only one in five American voters think that this deficit crisis needs to be dealt with, with spending cuts alone. In other words, the vast majority of voters want to see a mix. Now, you can debate where the mix should be between spending and revenues, between cuts and more money coming in, but it‘s clear that this Republican position is a tiny minority.
SHARPTON: Let me show you a poll since you said it. There‘s a poll that says 67 percent say spending cuts and tax hikes must be made in order to reach a deal. This is the Quinnipiac poll. Spending cults only, only 25 percent.
So Pat says that they are finished if they go for anything other than
if they go for a tax decrease or extending the tax cuts—because I don‘t want to sound like Pat and give misinformation. We‘re not talking about a tax hike, we‘re talking about an extension of the tax cuts. I think they are finished if they do go for it.

BUCHANAN: Well, let me say, I think Richard may have a point with regard to the polls. I‘m not going to challenge that. But I do know the Republican Party and the Republican base.
They won 63 seats in the House, largest since 1938, I believe, on the grounds that this time they will cut spending and they will not raise taxes. Two hundred and thirty-five of them have signed a no tax pledge.
Now, if they go home, Richard may be right. They may have 70 or 60 percent of their support still remains with them. But the Tea Party, and the enthusiasm, and the fire and the energy of people will walk away from them.
I think they will lose the House if they raise taxes. And that—as an analyst, that‘s my belief of what will happen to the Republicans.
SHARPTON: In all due respect, they won saying they were going to provide jobs. Jobs, jobs, jobs. And they have not—
BUCHANAN: How can they do that when Obama is running the show?
SHARPTON: -- come with one job bill since they took the House in November. Not one. Show me one job that they have proposed will come out of any of this to give us more of the same.
SHARPTON: That is not going to produce jobs. We have had these tax cuts since 2001. Where are the jobs?
BUCHANAN: Well, listen, they did create five or six million of them and they disappeared. But Obama has had two-and-a-half years. He hasn‘t created one job with all the—three of the biggest deficits in world history.
SHARPTON: Obama has created—there‘s been two million jobs since Obama took office. It‘s not enough to dig us out of what we have. But if you have an ailment, Pat, you go to the pharmacist. And if he keeps giving you the same prescription and you don‘t get well, you don‘t go back and get the same prescription.
Tax cuts don‘t produce jobs!
BUCHANAN: And you‘re telling me tax increases produce jobs? Where did you get that idea, Al?
SHARPTON: Well, I can show you any number of graphs where even when Reagan and Clinton and others have gone for a tax hike, we have not seen unemployment rise. We have seen unemployment continue in this whole Bush tax cut—
BUCHANAN: Al, I was with Ronald Reagan, Al, in the White House. He cut taxes 25 percent across the board.
SHARPTON: He raised taxes 11 times. Did you show up for work that day, Pat? He raised taxes 11 times. Were you at work that day?
BUCHANAN: I told you, Al, the other day, I came into the White House, and he came up and he explained to me the terrible mistake he had made. And he said, “They gave me $3 in spending increases for every dollar in tax cuts. I was robbed.”
And that‘s not going to happen again. And that‘s why Republicans are holding their ground.
SHARPTON: Pat, he did it 11 times. Eleven times. I mean, what are we talking about here?
BUCHANAN: Is Reagan in history a tax cutter or a tax hiker?
SHARPTON: It‘s according to who is writing the history. If we‘re going it write the facts—
BUCHANAN: He‘s on Mount Rushmore, Al, for cutting taxes.
SHARPTON: OK. Richard, I want to let you in here, but Pat and I have to go at it.
WOLFFE: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Pat, are you denying that Reagan raised taxes 11 times?
BUCHANAN: Let Richard in here.
WOLFFE: I just want to ask Pat something, because this president actually cut taxes in the Recovery Act. He cut taxes in the budget deal in a lame-duck Congress. So what happened—those tax cuts didn‘t create jobs, but Republican tax cuts raise jobs? Explain that one to me.
BUCHANAN: I think, Richard, sure, the tax cuts created the two million jobs and the spending increases didn‘t.
WOLFFE: Ah, I got you.
WOLFFE: Oh, nice. That‘s very cute.
WOLFFE: Very cute.
SHARPTON: Now, Pat, let me ask you another question.
BUCHANAN: Sure. Sure.
SHARPTON: Where do you think we are when you see the Republicans and Democrats meeting with the president, not coming together, and you see your party split? I had a member of the Tea Party, a freshman congressman, on this show last night telling me that the president ought to be meeting with them, the freshmen, just openly suggesting or implying that the leadership of Boehner is not effective. Today, Boehner goes and hugs Cantor and says we are in the fox hole together.
SHARPTON: I don‘t know if I‘d want to be in the fox hole with somebody that is trying to act like I‘m the chicken in the fox hole.
BUCHANAN: I don‘t disagree with you entirely here. It doesn‘t look to me—I saw this as real opportunity for the Republicans, and it doesn‘t look to me that they thought through the game and the strategy, if you will.
I think the president does want to deal. I think he‘s probably honest about it. I think he wants a big deal. I think he is ready for revenues.
But he‘s got to have revenues to get that deal. And so I don‘t fault him there. But I do believe that the Republicans are standing on grounds of principle, conviction, belief, and what they told the people they would do. And that‘s very important to me.
And so I think what they ought to do is stop these meetings, let the Republicans go back to the House, pass the debt ceiling with the spending cuts they want, send it to the Senate and the president. And if the president says, don‘t try to call my bluff, I‘ll veto it, let him veto it, Al.
Let‘s go back to the way the government used to run. If we disagree, let‘s have it out.
Well, Richard, let me say this—Richard, I think that I was almost -
I was almost fine when Pat, unlike others, said that the president was honest and did want a deal, because other members of his party is calling him all kinds of names that I will get to later in the show. But then he says that they are sticking by what they said.

But, Richard, didn‘t they say they want to deal with the structural problems that keep causing the deficit?
WOLFFE: Right.
SHARPTON: Then they said they wanted to deal with the president showing leadership. Then, when he started calling meetings and he said, fine, let‘s deal with the structural problem, let‘s have a big bargain, they said, no, we don‘t want a big bargain. Don‘t deal with the structural things, let‘s just deal with the $2 trillion small package.
And then they said, and you do it. Don‘t even deal with Congress.
So there hasn‘t been a consistent message as Pat tries to recast and put a spin on the Republican inconsistencies.
WOLFFE: Well, first of all, Republicans, you‘re right, they ran and won the House by saying they will go after jobs. Jobs, jobs, jobs. You are right about that. They are off topic, seriously off topic.
Secondly, everyone knows. Anyone who has looked at the numbers, anyone inside Washington or outside, knows that this is a medium-and-long-term problem that has now become a short-term crisis.
This long-term budget crisis that we have is not right on our doorstep, but it is because of this whole posturing and politicization of what should be a regular form of government, which is raising the national debt limit. So, they‘ve turned this into a giant immediate crisis here, and people are scratching their heads saying, how come we are running out of money?
How come Pat is talking about sending up a bill to veto now? That‘s just gesture politics and we don‘t have the time for.
Look at what the bond market is saying. Look at what the rating agencies are saying. That is playing with fire. And the fire is right on our doorstep.
SHARPTON: I‘ve got to stop it there. Thank you so much, Richard Wolffe.
BUCHANAN: Why doesn‘t the president just sign it?
SHARPTON: Thank you, Pat Buchanan.
And we are—thank the both of you for your time this evening.
Joining me now is Congresswoman Donna Edwards, Democrat from Maryland.
How are you, Congresswoman?
REP. DONNA EDWARDS (D), MARYLAND: I‘m great, Reverend Al. Enjoying that conversation.
SHARPTON: Well, let me ask you, from your perspective—I mean, you are in the Congress, you‘re there up close. This whole back and forward, the Republicans changing positions, where do you see this ending in terms of the people in your district and districts around the country, people on the ground that could really suffer if we can‘t get a resolve to this?
EDWARDS: Well, first of all, I think it‘s really clear. President Obama does not have a negotiating partner on the other side of the table. I mean, from childish to irresponsible, to intransigent, you take your word and name them.
But the Republicans on the other side of the aisle are really playing with fire. And for people in my congressional district, and really across the country, what we‘re saying is, you know, Republicans, come on, get your act together.
It‘s time to raise this debt ceiling. That‘s the responsible thing to do. It‘s the thing that was done I think 17 times during the Reagan presidency, without any controversy, really.
And here we are with the Republicans trying to hold both our economy and the United States and the world economy at bay. And I think it‘s unfair, and I think the president has done the best that he can really to pull the parties together. I don‘t know why Republicans are so insistent on protecting the millionaires and billionaires to sit in a small amphitheater.
SHARPTON: Well, Congresswoman, and when you see the world reaction, we are starting to hear nervousness around a lost those that judge our standing in terms of the nation‘s credit and the nation‘s standing with financial markets. But look at the American people. This is not just you and I saying that.
Look at these polls. The American people polled on who to blame for the debt limit, who will they blame if it isn‘t raised. Republicans, they are saying they would blame -- 48 percent of them would blame them. Only 34 percent would blame the president. This is Quinnipiac.
A poll of who Americans blame for the economy, the Republicans are saying all of this about the president. The polls say Bush. Fifty-four percent blame Bush, only 27 percent blame President Obama.
Are your colleagues on the other side of the aisle tone deaf? I mean, can‘t they say that what they are selling, nobody is buying in this country?
EDWARDS: Well, I wish they could hear that. I mean, they are so busy protecting the two percenters who control 40 percent of the wealth, who don‘t want to give one penny back to this country to help us get out of our long-term debt. I mean, it seems unreasonable to the public, and I think they‘re right.
The president has said he‘s going to take it to the people. Well, all he has to do is take it to where people already are.
And they are saying surely can you give up your tax cuts for the millionaires and billionaires. Surely you can give up on corporate tax loopholes. But the Republicans don‘t want to give anything in this fight and in this struggle.
And I think the American public really understands that. So, you know, I think the president is right here to stand his ground. It would be nice if he had a real negotiating partner on the other side of the table. And it‘s pretty clear that he doesn‘t.
SHARPTON: All right. Thank you so much, Congresswoman Donna Edwards.
Thank you for your time tonight.
EDWARDS: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Coming up, more heat on Rupert Murdoch. An FBI investigation into whether his company broke laws by hacking into the phone of 9/11 victims. Incredible. We‘ll have a live report.
And where in the world is Mitt Romney? With all that business experience, you‘ve got to be wondering, why he is hiding now?
Plus, Sarah Palin brings back the don‘t retreat, reload rhetoric. She is staying classy.
Don‘t go away. We‘ll be right back.
SHARPTON: Rupert Murdoch in the witness chair? It could happen.
The fox hunt is in full force in England. Today, we saw the ninth arrest in the phone-hacking scandal. And Murdoch and his son have bowed to political pressure and announced they will testify in parliament next week.
But what about here in this country? Today, we saw the first major sign that Murdoch‘s empire may be in serious trouble over here.
The FBI has opened an investigation into allegations that News Corp hacked phones of 9/11 victims. So what will it mean for the mogul‘s media empire?
Joining me to help answer that question, CNBC reporter Kayla Tausche, who‘s been covering the scandal from parliament in London, and Eric Boehlert, senior fellow at Media Matters, a nonprofit that tracks Murdoch and his News Corp empire.
Kayla, let‘s start with you. You‘ve been at parliament all day, and it‘s been pretty hot there. What‘s happening there all day?
KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, Reverend, you said it yourself. The Murdochs have bowed to political pressure. It‘s been a back and forth, a tug of war of sorts, for the last few days.
The prime minister‘s office, the deputy prime minister, former prime minister Gordon Brown, all saying informally that the Murdochs should be present at parliament for that hearing next Tuesday because News International chief Rebekah Brooks will be there. But only once a formal summons came from parliament and it was communicated through Prime Minister Cameron‘s office today did Rupert and James actually bow to that pressure? And it‘s interesting because—
SHARPTON: Now, Kayla, at first they said they were not going to go.
Is that right?
TAUSCHE: That‘s correct.
SHARPTON: And then, all of a sudden, after the formal request came, that‘s when they turned around and said they would. But at first they said they weren‘t going next Tuesday.
TAUSCHE: They would. Well, it‘s interesting to look at the timeline of what‘s been happening on the U.S. regulatory side, alongside what‘s been going on here in Britain.
So, we had Senator Lautenberg and others coming out and saying that the Department of Justice and the SEC should be launching an inquiry. We had Representative Peter King saying that the FBI should launch an inquiry, which is, of course, as we know now, happening.
That—a lot of that came out last night. Some of that is coming to fruition today.
And because Rupert Murdoch and James Murdoch are both U.S. citizens, if they were subpoenaed to appear before the U.S. government, they would not be able to resist that. So there was some criticism of the fact that Rupert would not show his face in front of the British parliament, where this is the country where he runs a lot of those media assets in question, but yet he would be required to show his face in the U.S.
And so, the cognitive dissidence of those two actions was something that a lot of people, Reverend, actually just had a hard time coming to grips with.
SHARPTON: Very interesting timing.
Eric Boehlert, the FBI investigation that was put out today, how serious do you think it is?
ERIC BOEHLERT, SR. FELLOW, MEDIA MATTERS: Oh, it‘s very serious. Any time you have the FBI investigating a company, that‘s a corporate executive‘s worst nightmare. But that‘s not enough. That‘s just the beginning.
We have this allegation, did Rupert Murdoch‘s investigators try to hack the phones of 9/11 victims to get their last phone messages, a really sort of gruesome scenario, but that is what was reported in the British press. So the FBI is absolutely right and they should be investigating this.
But the Department of Justice and Congress need to get involved. Congressman (INAUDIBLE) on the Hill has been pushing this. There has to be hearings. And we have to find out if anything like this has been happening with Murdoch‘s American properties.
His media outlets in the United States are not known for their high ethical standards. So we have to get this on the record.
And the Department of Justice really needs to get involved. News Corp is an American company. They are answerable to American laws, and there are specific laws about bribery.
There have been detailed reports about Murdoch journalists in the U.K. bribing police officers for sort of this gossip information. It might have happened in Britain, but again, News Corp is an American company, and it has to be held accountable to these laws.
SHARPTON: Senator Lautenberg was here last night and raised his concerns. But I think that what got a lot of us taken aback a little was, today, Murdoch did his first interview since of all this, and he said it was maybe some minor mistakes.
I mean, his statement was, “Extremely well in every way possible, only minor mistakes. Nothing that will not be recovered.”
I mean, is he in denial? Is he spinning? What does this say to you, Kayla?
TAUSCHE: You know, Reverend, I think it‘s just as pure as the principal and agent problem. Maybe it was a minor mistake from the chair, Rupert—or James. You know? They are the principals. But they cannot, when they are running a company this huge, let go of the fact that people like Rebekah Brooks and Coulson and Neil Wallis, who was arrested today, that those are the agents. And the right hand needs to know what the left hand is doing.
And if they are overseeing an organization that‘s engaging in practices like this, that the powers that be, they are responsible. So, while they can say we made minor mistakes, it‘s nothing from which we can‘t recover, the right hand needs to know what the left hand is doing.
SHARPTON: Kayla and Eric, thank you for your time this evening to both of you.
Ahead, a newly found political ad from 17 years ago is coming back to haunt Mitt Romney today.
And this Tea Party freshman, Joe Walsh, called the president a liar.
You better believe I‘m going to respond to that ahead.
Stay with us.
SHARPTON: A republican investigating the financial crisis care more about a right-wing agenda than finding the truth. That‘s our con job of the day. The financial crisis commission began its work in 2007. This January the commissions Democrats said the melt down was avoidable and largely caused by bad policies. Republicans disagree. Saying a variety of factors led to the crisis. But one ever those Republicans on the commission was far from impartial. A new house report finds that Peter Wallison used his position to try to helped House Republicans wrecked. The financial reforms in the Dodd-Frank law.
Wallison wrote in one e-mail to a colleague, quote, “It‘s very important I think that what we say in our separate statements not undermine the ability of the new House GOP to modify or repeal Dodd-Frank. Rather than objectively look for what caused the crisis, Wallison simply wanted to undo the new law. The report also found Wallison quote, “violated the commission‘s ethics provisions by leaking confidential information.”
The financial crisis commission was supposed to find the cause of the melt down. Instead, former Reagan aide Peter Wallison was working from the inside to help roll back the law aimed at making sure it didn‘t happen again. And that‘s our con job of the day.
Ahead, the focus on Washington is on cuts and jobs. But someone needs to pay attention to what is going in our schools. Is the no child left behind program causing a cheating epidemic? A debate on that. Coming up.
And just six months after the Tucson tragedy, Palin reloads the ugly gun rhetoric. It‘s shameless.
SHARPTON: Welcome back to the show. Now to discuss some of the day‘s biggest political stories, we bring on our Power Panel.
Joining me now, assistant professor at Northwestern University, Victoria DeFrancesco Soto. Kiki McLean, democratic analyst and former senior advisor to Hillary Clinton. And republican strategist and former special assistant to President George W. Bush, Ron Christie. Our first question, would you want to share a FOX hole with Eric Cantor? Today‘s Speaker Boehner, Boehner made a big show of being a comrade with the man who‘s recently has been stealing his spotlight.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Listen, we‘re in the FOX hole. And I‘m going to tell you what, this is not easy. I‘m glad Eric‘s there.
SHARPTON: Kiki, do you believe that there is unity and brotherly love there between Cantor and Boehner, are they trying to do some theatrics to patch up what has become very divisive and politically damaging for party?
KIKI MCLEAN, DEMOCRATIC ANALYST: Well, it doesn‘t matter either way. Because right now whether they are in a FOX hole or out of a FOX hole together, their fortunes are tied together. You know, the error that Speaker Boehner may have made politically was when he gave away his authority and power in this. He gave Mr. Cantor all his power and it is really hard to get your authority back in the same position on the same issue. That‘s gone. And so his future is now tied to Eric Cantor and he doesn‘t have a choice.
SHARPTON: Victoria, they seem to be seriously fractured. But at the same time, they are going to have to do something rather quickly. Do they have any options that—I‘m talking about they, being the Republicans, that can salvage where they have represented to the public and reconciled that with where the country clearly is being polled saying, they want to see some resolve here and they don‘t want to see the rich spared here.
VICTORIA DEFRANCESCO SOTO, NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY: Yes, well, you know, the metaphor of the FOX hole, a good general needs his ground troops, and if that means making amends with the young brash lieutenant, in this case Cantor, then so be it. Because right now, with the Republican Party needs to do is to unify, they have been so disjointed the past couple of weeks with their message. And in this case, they need unity. They need strengthen numbers if they want to come up against the administration. So, what Boehner has put aside, the personal issues that maybe there and said, what we need is somebody to take us forward and stock stuff. And that‘s me.
SHARPTON: Well, most general run meet in the officer‘s office or somewhere that is pretty enclosed, maybe Boehner used the term FOX hole because he was getting all of this fire overhead. But it was friendly fire. It was coming from his own side. How are you going to deal with the fact that Tea Party freshmen and Cantor and others, they‘ve been shooting at he and McConnell and others, as hard as anybody else in the Capitol Hill center?
RON CHRISTIE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, good evening, Reverend Al.
SHARPTON: Good evening.
CHRISTIE: This almost feels to me like the episode of the Twilight zone. You know, I hear the Republicans are fractious. The Republicans have all these problems. The Republicans are fine. The Republicans have the majority in the House of Representatives. The American people sent a very clear message. They said that they did not want to increase taxes. They wanted the government to stop spending as much money as they had. And they wanted a balance budget amendment. John Boehner, the Speaker of the House.
Eric Cantor, the house majority leader have been very firm, very lockstep, very united in this front. You‘ll going to have friction every now and then when you have leaders. You have Nancy Pelosi when she was the Speaker of the House, and Steny Hoyer was the majority leader. They didn‘t always see eye to eye. So, I don‘t see if this is anything more than the media‘s trying to find something that‘s not there. The Republicans are united and they‘re going to hold the president‘s feet to the fire. Stop spending. Stop spending.
SHARPTON: Wait a minute. Let me ask you a question. I mean, we saw Republicans holding press conferences saying they did not go along with Boehner. We saw right wingers saying, he should step aside. I mean, Ron is saying that this looks like an episode of the Twilight...
Ron, come on, this is not something someone is making up here.
CHRISTIE: For being the lone republican on this panel and actually being in close contact with the House republican majority and actually having serving the republican caucus for years, I think I might know something of what I‘m talking about here. They‘re always going to be opportunities.
SHARPTON: They need to quit holding press conferences against each other and we might not know that they are divided and split and taking.
CHRISTIE: Well, there will always be opportunities.
SHARPTON: Kiki, go ahead.
MCLEAN: Reverend, let me—I‘m going to disagree politely with both of my colleagues here. Because what is really missing here is not sort of, oh the Republicans know what they want or they need to get in lock step, what is being missed here is the chance to make a big difference, to go big. To go big, solve the questions at hand. What Ron lays out, they‘re not even going to do. They are walking away from the table on that. This is the thing, you know, I work with a group called no labels. So, this is a group that also works for bipartisan solutions. So, this win for America ain‘t going to come from one side or the other. And what Ron is ignoring the reality that they might have that list of to-dos but they aren‘t doing it. And the good professor is talking about what they can do for a better message discipline but they‘re not doing that. Because they want the solution. This is a moment for a big opportunity for America. And this is one of those moments, go big or go home.
SHARPTON: Let me before we run out of time, let me go to another question. I will start with you, Ron. Mitt Romney, why is he so quiet? The White House? And even fellow Republicans have criticized the front-runner of the Republicans right now, Willard Mitt Romney for staying on the side lines during the debt fight. Today, he again dodged the question of whether he supported raising the debt ceiling.
CHRISTIE: No, he didn‘t, Reverend.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The answer for the country is for the president to agree to cut federal spending, to cap federal spending and to put in place a balanced budget amendment. And that is the answer for the debt limit. It‘s the answer for nation.
CHRISTIE: Well, I don‘t know, Reverend Al. I don‘t think he could have been any more clear than that. Governor Romney has been very consistent.
SHARPTON: Wait a minute, wait a minute. Wait. You sure, you said, you‘re watching Twilight zone or you were watching “I Dream of Jeannie.”
CHRISTIE: No, actually I think we‘ve been in the Twilight zone, Al.
SHARPTON: He answered with a filibuster. I mean, what do you mean.
CHRISTIE: What do you want him to say? He‘s been very clear.
SHARPTON: I wanted to say whether or not he would go for the big bargain to deal with the debt limit, putting everything on the table or he would not. I want a definitive answer. I don‘t want a theory here.
CHRISTIE: Oh, OK. You know who I want a definitive answer from on this who is lacking leadership, is President Obama and the Senate democrat. They haven‘t prefect a resolution for 900 days.
SHARPTON: I think what President Obama said, if you missed it Ron is that.
CHRISTIE: He put a deal on the table.
SHARPTON: A, I want to put a big bargain on the table. B, I will not yield. I don‘t know how more clear can you get than that.
CHRISTIE: Let me ask a straight question if you can give me a straight answer. Where‘s the president‘s plan? The House Republicans have put their plan on writing. Governor Romney has been very clear on where he stands. President Obama‘s budget was vetoed. It was voted down 97 to zero. The Republicans have put their budget on the table and the president has refused to do so.
SHARPTON: Let me give you a straight answer. The president said, let‘s put all of it, including the Bush tax cuts, that are going to expire, including Social Security, Medicaid, let‘s put it all on the table. The Republicans say, no, we‘re not going to go for a big.
CHRISTIE: We need a plan, Al. We need to see something real. Let me say one last thing. The Congressional Budget Office, Al, the Congressional Budget Office said that we can‘t score a speech. President Obama refuses to put his proposal in writing. Refuses to put his proposal on writing.
SHARPTON: Ron, they are avoiding the fact that they don‘t want to go and deal with what they claim they want to deal with. Structural and equality. And structural problems in this deficit.
MCLEAN: Ron, the reality is they have gotten what they asked for.
The president said, I‘m for spending cuts.
SHARPTON: Exactly.
MCLEAN: They said they wanted to negotiate with the president. The president showed up and he said, here is what I‘m for. And they say, actually, we don‘t want that much. So everything that they have asked for, and even against his own political interests, by the way, with the base of my party and my fellow Democrats, he‘s challenged his own party to meet him at the table. He has taken that leadership moment and when he did, you know what, it called their bluff. And these guys, both sides, have a chance to do right. But they got to be willing to make the tough calls. And right now, you can write every budget you want.
SHARPTON: We‘ve got to go.
MCLEAN: But if you—it didn‘t work.
SHARPTON: We got to go, Victoria—Victoria, Kiki, Ron, do me favor, look at the camera and blink. It‘s a good republican. That‘s what you all did. Thanks for a great panel.
CHRISTIE: Take care, guys.
SHARPTON: Ahead, the focus in Washington is on cuts and jobs. But someone needs to pay attention to what is going on in our schools. Is the no child left behind program causing a cheating epidemic? A debate on that coming up.
SHARPTON: Test scores, no child left behind. Let‘s see where we are making progress. And that sounded like a good idea. But it did create a culture that‘s led to cheating. We will be back with that.
SHARPTON: The headlines coming out of Atlanta‘s school system are shocking. One hundred and seventy-eight teachers at 44 schools allegedly cheated to meet testing standards. Sometimes, they literally told kids the correct answers during the exams. And it happened in other school districts. Lost in all the outrage is the root cause of the problem. Our impossible goals set by President Bush‘s no child left behind policy putting teachers and kids in a no-win situation.
Joining me now, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. She had an article in U.S. news and world report titled, “No Child Left Behind” was doomed by its flaws. Also with me, Amy Wilkins, vice president of Government Affairs and Communication with the Education Trust, a group that supports no child left behind.
Let me start with you, Randi. You and I have worked together and also debated on the fact that I think teachers should be judged. But I also think the anti-teacher kind of rhetoric we are hearing is going too far. But now we see what has got to be a nightmare for teachers all over the country. And you teachers actually caught cheating. What are we seeing here and why?
RANDI WEINGARTEN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS: Well, let me say first and foremost, cheating is not acceptable. Cheating cheats kids. And it sets a terrible moral standards. So, there is not an excuse for it. What we‘re seeing though is that, and frankly, my local union in 2005 blew the whistle on this scandal, was ignored and in fact people who actually tried to come forward were reprimanded. So, what you see here as the governor in Georgia said, is a culture of intimidation and fear and I think Amy and I would agree of, you know, high stake—high stakes testing being the BL and the Endle (ph) as opposed to teaching and learning being the BL and the Endle (ph).
SHARPTON: What I understand it is so hard to reach Randi. I‘m going to Amy but explain to people that are not in the education arena, why are the standards so high to reach?
WEINGARTEN: Well, it is actually not that the standards are so high but what no child left behind did was said that by 2014, 100 percent of kids who would be proficient and they set the target in that kind of way and then allowed states to do testing any which way it wanted to. But so what is happening is, as you are getting to 2014, and a hundred percent proficiency, which was something that the Bush administration knew was not going to happen in this kind of way. It becomes meeting the targets become more important than actually teaching and learning. And let me just say one more thing, which is that the targets, these days, don‘t really reflect what we need to help kids do, which is critically think and problem solve and also be, you know, be ready for life and not learn about how to take short cuts.
SHARPTON: Amy, what about that? You and I may agree that suddenly teachers should not have jobs that they cannot be held accountable. But does testing alone judge how effective they are? Shouldn‘t we know what young people are learning beyond just a test score?
AMY WILKINS, EDUCATION TRUST: Thanks Reverend Sharpton. Certainly, we should know more about what kids know and can do beyond the test score. But the test score give us really important information about the schools. What we know from the test are, how well our kids reading and doing Math which are fundamental to their ability to do other things. I absolutely agree with Randi that cheating is wrong. And that we can‘t blame and feel the entirely for the cheating. The tests don‘t cheat, people cheat. And the problem, the real problem I think that Randi and I would agree on, is that we haven‘t given teachers the support they need to teach well. I mean, when we talk about the cheating scandal or the cheating epidemic, we are talking about a minority of teachers. I think we would use our time better to talk about what the majority of teachers need and want which is better support from the...
SHARPTON: I think that we have the opportunity to do that. Randi and Amy and I‘m glad to see that raised because at the end of the day, the students are what should be the priority. Secretary Duncan and others are meeting on all sides of this. And I have worked in this area as both of you know. The question is, with no child left behind running out, expiring, what do we need to do as the new way to operate that would not have unrealistic goals but that would effectively educate the students? The students in this country are way behind.
WEINGARTEN: So, let me just say this. The way in which we are framing this is wrong, we should have a goal of every child, achieving his or her potential. That has to be our goal. The issue here is that there were these kind of artificial cut scores that are out there and the scores and those targets become more important than teaching and learning. I think Amy is quite right. We have to have a way of seeing our kids learning. Are they confident in Mathematics? Do they know how to read? Can they read to learn? And so, but we also should be taking a page out of the book from our counter parts.
SHARPTON: Randi, we‘re going to have to cut it there. Randi Weingarten and Amy Wilkins, there is a lot to talk about in this issue. We will have you back another night. We really need to talk. We‘ll be right back. Let me take a break. We‘ll be right back.
SHARPTON: Late last night when I landed by plane, I kept thinking over and over again in my mind, about Congressman Joe Walsh attacking the president of the United States, calling him a liar. Look at what Joe Walsh said.
REP. JOE WALSH ®, ILLINOIS: President Obama quit lying and being hell-bent on turning us into some European big government wasteland. You spent money lining a drunken sailor for three years. Quit lying.
SHARPTON: Now, I had Congressman Walsh on the show before I invited him tonight, he couldn‘t come. And I hope he will. But I couldn‘t figure out why it bothered me soon until I remembered another congressman using the language of lie to the same president. Look at this.
PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITES STATES: The reforms, the reforms I‘m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.
SHARPTON: This is where when in the middle of State of Union Address, a president disrupted the State of the Union Address to call the president a liar. So maybe I was overreacting. Maybe because I‘ve supported the president, I was just furious. So then I said, come down Reverend Al, be responsible, look at what the president said and see if it was on good ground. So, I went back and I looked at what the president said in his interview with CBS that Congressman Walsh said he was lying about.
SCOTT PELLEY, CBS ANCHOR: Can you tell the folks at home that no matter what happens, the Social Security checks are going to go out on August the 3rd.
OBAMA: I cannot guarantee that those checks go out on August 3rd if we haven‘t resolved this issue. Because there may simply not be the money in the coffers to do it.
SHARPTON: So the president said, I cannot guarantee, there may not be money in the coffers. How is that a lot? And when Congressman Wilson disrupted him in the middle of the State of the Union, lie. Why are these people disrespecting the president and distorting him? I disagreed with presidents. But you don‘t have the right to distorts them. When I look at the fact that this Congressman Walsh said, the only reason President Obama was elected, is because he was an articulate black who knew how to hit the magic button and play on white guilt, that‘s what he said. Maybe Congressman Walsh, you come to the table with a prejudgment. They call that prejudice.
Thanks for watching. I‘m Al Sharpton. “HARDBALL” starts right now.
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