Guest Host: Al Sharpton
Guests: Martin Bashir, Rep. Mo Brooks, Robert Reich, Sarah Ellison, Ed Rendell, Bob
Herbert, Rory Cooper, A.B. Stoddard, Joe Madison
REV. AL SHARPTON, HOST: Republicans play a game of chicken. I call it cut, cap and crackup.
Tonight, the Republicans‘ waste of time in primetime—a political vote that ignores that we are a country on the verge of default.
And Rupert Murdoch used to be the most feared media boss in the world.
Today, he says he wasn‘t responsible for what happened at his own company.
Yes? And Denial is a river in Egypt.
Plus, Bill Clinton‘s smash-mouth advice for President Obama. But does the president have a better plan of his own? We‘ll have that hot story.
Welcome to the show. I‘m Al Sharpton.
Tonight‘s lead: I think we may have found the answer to what‘s happening to the Republican Party. They‘ve been drinking so much tea I think they may be dizzy.
At this hour, House Republicans are debating and are expected to vote for the most extreme budget plan in years. It‘s the Tea Party‘s “cut, cap and balance” bill.
And, earlier today, President Obama said it was a political effort, not a serious one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That is not an approach that could pass both chambers. It‘s not an approach I would sign and it‘s not balanced. We don‘t have any more time to engage in symbolic gestures. We don‘t have any more time to posture.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Republican leaders are holding this vote in a desperate attempt to stop a civil war within the GOP. The Tea Party and its corporate backers have declared open season on any GOP lawmaker who supports another budget alternative, Mitch McConnell‘s plan to raise the debt limit—sending a warning letter to every Republican in Congress saying, quote, “We will refrain from backing any member of Congress who supports the McConnell/Reid/Pelosi run-and-hide plan.”
The few remaining grownups in the GOP know they have to raise the debt limit to avoid an economic disaster. But the new kids in the party are refusing to play along.
Joining me now is Republican Congressman Mo Brooks from Alabama, a Tea Party freshman, who was an original co-sponsor of the “cut, cap and balance” bill.
Congressman, this bill is being debated on the floor now. It would roll back spending to 1966 levels, I believe. It‘s so extreme that even the Ryan budget would be unconstitutional, and it protects tax cuts for the rich and corporations.
How is that a balanced approach in your view?
REP. MO BROOKS (D), ALABAMA: Well, I respectfully disagree with your characterization of it. Quite frankly, in FY-‘12, all it cuts is roughly $11.5 billion dollars when we‘re facing $1.5 trillion deficit. That means it‘s only addressing in FY-‘12, 7 percent of the problem.
You know, we would all like to spend money on programs. But in order to do that, you have to have the money in hand.
SHARPTON: No question about it, Congressman.
BROOKS: The American people—we don‘t have it. We simply do not have the money to spend on all the things --
SHARPTON: I think you‘re doing a great job of telling us the budget, but why don‘t you answer my question? How do you protect the rich and corporations in the bill and call that shared sacrifice or balanced approach?
BROOKS: Well, I disagree with your characterization that they‘re being protected in the bill.
SHARPTON: All right. So, what is being cut from corporations and the rich?
BROOKS: First, let‘s talk about the people you call rich, I call job creators. Job creators in America—the top 1 percent of wage earners, they are paying 34 percent to 38 percent of the entire federal government income tax burden. I don‘t call that protecting them. They‘re paying far more—
SHARPTON: So, you call rich people job earners.
BROOKS: Job creators.
SHARPTON: Job creators?
SHARPTON: So, you feel that, therefore, by protecting them, you‘re protecting giving people jobs?
BROOKS: Well, I‘m not saying we‘re protecting them or not protecting them. What we have to do is look at the economics of tax increases. We have seen the effects of high taxes, and what high taxes do is reduce the ability of people with capital, people who own businesses who wants to create new businesses or expand their businesses. If they don‘t have the revenues in order to do that, then they are not going to be able to create the jobs that everybody needs in America.
SHARPTON: But, Congressman, we have seen the effects of tax cuts. Let‘s be serious. You had a tax cut in 2001, then 2003. When we had to higher taxes under Bill Clinton, we had low unemployment. When we‘ve had these years of tax cuts now, we‘ve had high unemployment.
What are you talking about? We‘re not crazy here. Where has your theory worked out when we‘ve seen these tax cuts since 2001?
BROOKS: Well, I don‘t want to get into your mental state, but let‘s talk about the Bush tax cuts. They occurred in 2003 --
SHARPTON: We‘re not talking about my mental state. We‘re talking about your math of what you said. You said—
BROOKS: You brought up whether you were crazy or not.
SHARPTON: No, I said we, Americans. You said when they‘re high, they provide jobs. The facts say that is not true. Explain to me how you can say with these tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, why unemployment has gone up.
BROOKS: I was explaining it before you interrupted me. Will you give me time to continue?
SHARPTON: Yes, sir.
BROOKS: Thank you.
In 2003, when the Bush tax cuts were implemented, we had roughly 5.8 percent, 5.9 percent unemployment rate. Within four to five years, America‘s unemployment rate had dropped to 4.5 percent. During that same period of time, you had 7 million to 8 million jobs created in the United States of America.
So, the Bush tax cuts did exactly what they were supposed to do. Unfortunately, everything went awry when Nancy Pelosi took over the House of Representatives with her philosophy of government and Senator Harry Reid took over the United States Senate with his philosophy of government.
And with the threats that those two and their philosophies posed to the job creators in America, you saw our unemployment immediately start to go the wrong direction.
But the facts are there. Look at the Department of Labor Statistics.
SHARPTON: Sir, sir, I need to get to the --
BROOKS: Look at also the impact on the deficit. The deficit declined during this same period of time.
SHARPTON: I need to get to the debt ceiling. But the fact is those tax cuts are still in place, so the fact that anyone got in office didn‘t change the tax code at all, which is not the statement you made.
BROOKS: In January of 2007, you had a radical --
SHARPTON: -- had nothing to do with the fact that tax cuts are still in place and unemployment is 9.2. So, we can have different opinions, we can‘t have different facts. The tax cuts did not change with Pelosi and Reid went in.
BROOKS: In January of 2007, a radical anti-jobs agenda was put into place by the House and by the Senate. That radical agenda was magnified after the election of Barack Obama, where business was no longer a friend, where job creators were no longer friends, where they were foes. There were places to go to tap more money to pay for programs we cannot afford.
SHARPTON: The tax cuts remain in place. My question was since you said the top 1 percent needed this protection, or needed this because they were the top job creators—that has not changed.
BROOKS: Well, if America will give us the White House and --
SHARPTON: The law is still there.
BROOKS: If America will give us the White House in November of 2012, and will give us the United States Senate in November 2012, and with conservatives, and we can reverse the damage that has been done by this --
SHARPTON: Let me go to another fact.
BROOKS: You‘ll see unemployment get better and you‘ll see jobs created.
SHARPTON: Clearly, we‘re not going to agree on that fact. The facts speak for themselves. Let‘s go to another fact.
BROOKS: They do.
SHARPTON: You‘re saying that the tax—that the debt ceiling doesn‘t matter --
BROOKS: No, I‘ve never said that the debt ceiling does not matter.
It does matter.
SHARPTON: You didn‘t say that?
BROOKS: No, sir.
SHARPTON: So this same that you were quoted as saying by “The Washington Post,” “There should be no default on August 2nd. In fact, our credit rating should be improved by not raising the debt ceiling.” You didn‘t say that?
BROOKS: Well, it does matter.
SHARPTON: So you did say it?
BROOKS: Well, no, let‘s talk about what you‘re talking about here.
SHARPTON: I‘m talking about what you were talking about.
BROOKS: That‘s right. And what I was talking about was in the context of whether an increase or a lack thereof in the debt ceiling would have an impact on the credit rating in the United States of America. That‘s one thing.
It‘s another thing to say whether it would or would not have a impact on the economy of the United States of America or some of the programs of the United States of America. It definitely will have an impact on the economy of the United States of America. It definitely --
SHARPTON: Oh, I get it! So, it will affect the credit rating, but that doesn‘t affect the country?
BROOKS: It should not affect the credit rating, because we will have plenty of money to pay every single creditor the amounts of money that are owed under our contractual obligations to those creditors.
SHARPTON: Well, how will it make it better?
BROOKS: How you will it make it better?
BROOKS: It will show the world that we are engaging in the kinds of austerity measures that are now being asked of Greece and other European nations that are in the same spots that we are in, and as long as we pay or creditors --
SHARPTON: So, if we don‘t pay, if we default and we show that we can pay even defaulting, you think that‘s progress?
BROOKS: There should le no default, because we have over $2 trillion in revenue and our credit obligations are roughly $200 billion. That‘s a 10 to 1 ratio. There should be no default with respect to our creditors, unless the president of the United States abuses the trust that we have placed in him.
SHARPTON: So, you don‘t feel we need to raise the ceiling then, because you again feel it doesn‘t matter, we should just go ahead through August 2nd?
BROOKS: No, that‘s not what I said.
SHARPTON: I‘m asking.
BROOKS: I said there would be an adverse effect on the economy when you suddenly withdraw from the economy $1.5 trillion that is now being spent. Unfortunately, there will be a greater adverse effect on the economy if we continue to incur debt loads we cannot sustained that can result in a federal government insolvency and bankruptcy. That‘s the major threat.
SHARPTON: Sir, do you believe we should avoid going into default by raising the limit August 2nd or before?
BROOKS: My position is very clear, if we have a balanced budget constitutional amendment that will correct the long-term danger of the federal government going into an insolvency and bankruptcy.
SHARPTON: Do you believe that we should raise—
BROOKS: Under those circumstances, I will vote to raise the debt ceiling, however reluctant I am to do it.
SHARPTON: -- or not? Whether you get your bill or not—you know this is not going to pass the Senate.
BROOKS: I don‘t know if it will or won‘t. We will find out.
SHARPTON: Do you believe we should raise the ceiling? Yes or no?
BROOKS: If the Senate is responsibility, then “cut, cap and balance” will pass.
SHARPTON: Sir, do you believe—let me ask you a question—do you agree with the president that we need to raise the ceiling, President Obama?
BROOKS: I will vote to raise the debt ceiling if we address the long-term issue of federal insolvency caused by --
SHARPTON: If it doesn‘t, you won‘t?
BROOKS: If we do not address the long-term issue, which is a federal government insolvency, the risk associated with piling on higher and higher debt loads on future generations, if we don‘t address that—then, no, sir, I will not vote for the debt ceiling.
SHARPTON: Let me show you something, Congressman, before you go back to the floor. Ronald Reagan, who was someone I‘m sure you admire, let me show you what he said about the dead ceiling, maybe you should tell your colleagues this when you go back to the floor.
Listen to this.
BROOKS: I‘m familiar with this quote.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RONALD REAGAN, 40TH PRSIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Congress consistently brings the government to the edge of default before facing its responsibility. This brinksmanship threatens the holders of government bonds, those who rely on Social Security and veteran benefits. The United States has a special responsibility to itself and the world to meet its obligations. It means we have a well-earned reputation for reliability and credibility—two things that set us apart from much of the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: In the name of Ronald Reagan, I hope you go back and do the right thing tonight, Congressman Brooks.
BROOKS: If we had had a Ronald Reagan-type president in the White House right now, we would not be facing these circumstances.
SHARPTON: I think a president in the White House right now sounds more like Ronald Reagan than you guys do.
BROOKS: I respectfully disagree.
SHARPTON: Thank you, Congressman Mo Brooks.
BROOKS: Thank you, Mr. Sharpton.
SHARPTON: And I respectfully submit to you, Ronald Reagan‘s quote is a lot more in line with this president than what you‘re saying tonight and would your colleagues in the Tea Party.
BROOKS: Ronald Reagan I suspect would differ.
SHARPTON: Thank you for your time.
BROOKS: Have a good evening.
SHARPTON: Joining me now is Robert Reich. He is now a professor at U.C.-Berkeley. He was labor secretary under President Clinton. He recently wrote that the Tea Party kids have trashed the stage.
Thank you for being with us, Professor.
And—I mean, the guy that I just spoke with, the congressman, doesn‘t look like a child, but what he said to me does not make a lot of adult sense. Can you help me here, Professor?
ROBERT REICH, PROFESSOR, UC BERKELEY: I was listening as well. Frankly, I was disturbed by what he said. I want to be as accommodating and certainly as understanding as I can of his position. One thing I do agree with is the long-term deficit of the United States does have to be tackled. The best way of doing that is to bring down health care costs.
REICH: That‘s what actually is pushing up Medicare and Medicaid and most of the big expenses we have. And, hopefully, we will be doing that. But, honestly, much of what he said made no sense at all. I mean, I was part of the Clinton administration. I was in Bill Clinton‘s cabinet, very proud to be so.
Bill Clinton ended his eight years in government with 22 million net new jobs, and a surplus—a budget surplus.
George W. Bush came along—what did do with that surplus? He basically turned that surplus into a gigantic deficit. He didn‘t find a spending bill that he couldn‘t resist. He created 8 million new jobs.
Well, in eight years, you know, Bill Clinton created 22 million net new jobs, George W. Bush created 8 million. I mean, 8 million new jobs is nothing to crow about. And the medians wage in the United States after the Bush tax cuts went into effect continued to drop. The first time we‘ve seen the median wage dropping in any administration at any recovery.
SHARPTON: I think you missed a historic announcement tonight. The top 1 percent of were the job creators. You missed it. He tried to tell us that these trillionaires and billionaires at the top, they were the job creators, and that‘s why we got to protect them, because I keep asking him, why are you protecting them? And he says, I‘m not saying I‘m protecting them, but here‘s why we should. I mean—
REICH: Al, I heard that. I heard it over and over again. They‘re all reading from the same script.
I mean, you know, it‘s a Republican script that they‘ve got down and honed it very well, but it doesn‘t make sense. And it is—it‘s contradicted by the facts.
I mean, the highest marginal tax rate before 1980 was never below 70 percent.
SHARPTON: That‘s right.
REICH: And yet the economy grew faster between 1950 and 1980 than it has grown since then. Bill Clinton‘s marginal tax rates on the very wealthy 39 percent, higher than George Bush‘s highest marginal tax rates, and yet, the economy did better under Bill Clinton than it did under George W. Bush.
So the whole idea that you got to cut taxes on the wealthy in order to get trickle-down benefits for everybody else—
SHARPTON: It hasn‘t happened.
REICH: -- it hasn‘t happened. You know, the average worker in this county is worse off today in terms of the median wage after the Bush tax cuts than before. And everybody knows that.
I mean, when the Republicans try to mouth this Republican script, I don‘t understand how they can do it with a straight face, knowing that Americans know that they are not telling the truth.
SHARPTON: Well, I think—but that‘s the good thing. And that‘s why I try to have one every night because I want them to look at the American people and tell them that they are fantasizing the economic condition.
REICH: But here‘s what worries me.
SHARPTON: I think the more you tell people that, the more people understand who really is having the fantasy here.
REICH: Well, Al, here‘s the thing that worries me, because it‘s called the big lie. George Orwell understood this. If you say the same thing over and over again, even though people at first know it can‘t possibly be true, but if you say it over and over and over and over again, if you use your own network, FOX News, and you use, you know, all of your other outlets, and it‘s said over and over again, eventually, you might start believing it. I think that‘s what the Republicans‘ playbook.
SHARPTON: Yes, I agree. But I also believe that one match, and you strike it in the dark, you start breaking through the darkness. And that‘s what we‘re doing.
Professor Robert Reich, thanks for your time this evening.
Amazing testimony today. Rupert Murdoch proved that denial is a river in London. Can he continue as head of News Corp?
Plus, Michelle Bachmann surges. Is the Republican Party still searches for Mr. or Mrs. Right Wing?
SHARPTON: I didn‘t know, and it wasn‘t my fault. That‘s what we heard from Rupert Murdoch today. He took no responsibility. I‘m not buying it. That‘s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUPERT MURDOCH, NEWS CORP: This is the most humble day of my life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: News Corp‘s chairman, Rupert Murdoch, humble before parliament.
Earlier today, British lawmakers grilled the media boss and his son and heir apparent James. But the politicians were downright polite, compared to the rogue activists who snuck into the hearing.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
SHARPTON: The man tried to pie Murdoch but wasn‘t successful, thanks in part to Rupert‘s wife Wendy who jumped up to defend Murdoch.
And while the hearing gave up humble and pie, we didn‘t get many answers from the Murdochs. For Rupert Murdoch, being head of the company didn‘t mean being responsible for all the illegal activity of his employees.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was there anyone else at your organization investigate this at the time?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you explain why?
MURDOCH: I didn‘t know of it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody in your U.K. company brought these facts to your attention?
MURDOCH: The Blackmail charge, no. I don‘t—I can‘t answer. I don‘t know. I don‘t know anything about that. I don‘t know.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you accept that ultimately, you are responsible for this whole fiasco?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You‘re not responsible? Who is responsible?
MURDOCH: The people that I trusted to run it, and then maybe the people they trusted.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Can a man who knows so little and blames everyone else continue to run a media empire?
Joining me now to answer that question, from London, MSNBC‘s Martin Bashir, and “Vanity Fair‘s” contributing editor Sarah Ellison. She‘s written extensively on News Corp and the phone hacking scandal.
Thanks both for being with me.
I‘ve read your piece. Let me start with you, Sarah. How—what was your impression of the temperature today? I mean, we saw a man that seemingly didn‘t know anything, that seemed his age. He‘s 80.
In fact, his son interrupted to the point where someone in parliament stopped him from helping to answer for his daddy.
Is Murdoch that much removed from what‘s going on? Or that was this little testimony coaching in how to act in front of the grilling?
SARAH ELLISON, VANITY FAIR: Well, I think that this is the big question. Either that was a brilliant performance, where no one can lay a glove on him, because he didn‘t know anything and can‘t speak to any of the details, or he really has lost it.
I think that all of my experience with him, and all of the experience of other people who have worked with him say that he is very much in the details of his company and the operations. And so, this was a big surprise in some ways that he didn‘t really know anything that had gone on.
SHARPTON: Well, Martin, you were there in the court—well, in the parliament room. I won‘t say courtroom.
What were your impressions? Do you think that he was being genuine or not? And do you think the members of parliament, more importantly, were convinced he really didn‘t know anything?
MARTIN BASHIR, MSNBC: Well, I think for once, Reverend Al, in this occasion, being 80 years old was deployed to great effect. He was a man who looked pitiful and pained, who couldn‘t remember names, places, times - - couldn‘t remember the fact that reporters under his watch in his company blackmailed, paid police officers, illegally hacked people‘s phones. He couldn‘t—he didn‘t know any of it.
And, yet interestingly, whenever it came to answering the direct question, he was absolutely adamant and robust—no, he didn‘t know, and it was all the blame of people, nameless individuals well below the company line.
I think if you reflect on that as a performance, you have to ask yourself what kind of corporate governance is there invested in a man who is not only the chairman, but the chief executive of News Corp, that he can‘t remember anything that anybody does, has no control over the behavior of his journalists.
I mean, can you imagine, Reverend Al, if you and I who now work for MSNBC, if our president, Phil Griffin, allowed us to say things on air that we couldn‘t substantiate, we‘d be on fire, we‘re in serious trouble.
And he would stand up and take responsibility for that.
SHARPTON: Well, let me ask you, you wrote the article that was in great detail. One of the things that I noticed in the article, you‘re talking about, as Martin referred to, policemen that were allegedly bribed, monies that were used to do things that were illegal.
How does someone get money, cash, to do things and no one ever have to account to higher authorities on where is all of this cash coming from? I mean, I run an organization. A lot can happen, but when people start handing in receipts for cash saying they‘re doing something illegal, somebody has to explain what are we doing with all these cash outlays?
ELLISON: Well, I think that this gets to the question of willful ignorance, which is what I think we saw in part today, which is that they don‘t want to be asked about this, they don‘t want to be told about this kind of criminal activity, and maybe they aren‘t.
But it certainly begs the question, if you are allowing people to pay $2 million worth of hush money for victims of phone hacking, then when is it that you‘re going to sit up and take notice of those kinds of payments?
SHARPTON: And settling all kinds of lawsuits here in the United States. That‘s why people here need to be concerned. This has jumped over the pond. We‘re talking about the respond right here.
What is the effectiveness on Murdoch, Martin? Here, his reputation, clearly, he can‘t walk out with the same reputation. What is the effect on Murdoch and News Corp? And what will that have as an effect going into the 2012 election cycle when they had such a huge space in a big megaphone?
BASHIR: The last 10 days can only be described as a cosmic transition. Ten days ago, every politician of this country pawned over this man. They kissed his ring.
Prime Minister David Cameron had him as his first visitor at number 10 Downing Street after he successfully built a coalition government last year. Tony Blair, his press secretary, Alastair Campbell, saying we also invited Rupert Murdoch in through the back door. He always came through the back door. That was 10 days ago.
Now, virtually, every politician in this country is treating him as if he has a form of contagious leprosy. Nobody wants anything to do with him.
And what‘s also interesting is that throughout this period of the last 10 years, at least, not only was there this very close relationship between this all-powerful media mogul who could literally swing elections in this country, but additionally, members of his staff were paying police officers, people who were supposedly charged with representing and protecting the public. Members of his staff were paying the police.
So what you have is an absolute breakdown in trust—and you know trust was absolutely the essential commodity in any civic society. If you can‘t trust your politicians and you can‘t trust the police, and you can‘t trust the media, you‘re running out of trust for any kind of institution in your country.
And that‘s why the government, the parliament in this country, has suddenly risen up and woken up to what‘s happened. That‘s why there‘s an immense amount of momentum to get to the bottom of this problem because they realized it‘s not just Rupert Murdoch and his empire that‘s in trouble. It‘s actually the nation‘s essentially trust, the things that glue the elements of society --
SHARPTON: Martin, I‘m going to leave it there. Thank you. Thank you, Sarah. Thank you both for your time.
BASHIR: Thank you, Reverend Al.
SHARPTON: Ahead, the Republican Party accuses President Obama of a crime is today‘s con job.
MARTIN BASHIR, BRITISH JOURNALIST: Because they realized, it‘s not just Rupert Murdoch and his empire that‘s in trouble. It‘s actually the nation‘s essential trust, the things that glue the elements of society together.
AL SHARPTON, HOST, MSNBC LIVE: Martin, I‘m going to have to let it lie there. Thank you. Thank you, Sarah.
SARAH ELLISON,AUTHOR AND JOURNALIST: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Thank you both for your time.
BASHIR: Thank you, Reverend Al.
SHARPTON: Ahead, the Republican Party accuses President Obama of a crime. It‘s today‘s con job. And we‘ll show you why President Obama is winning the debt fight. Now is no time to let up. Stay with us.
SHARPTON: The head of the Republican National Committee accuses President Obama of a crime. That‘s our con job of the day. Last month, President Obama made a video at the White House, a video about a campaign raffle.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: Hi, everybody. I‘ve got a pretty big announcement about that contest, the campaign is running where you can join me for dinner. We‘re setting another place at the table for Joe Biden.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Desperate Republicans smelled a scandal. Reince Priebus, head of the Republican Party said, President Obama broke the law that forbids public employees from fund-raising, and government rooms a buildings. And he wants Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate. Quote, “I never expected I would be in this regrettable position, but the president‘s conduct and White House staff‘s stonewalling leave me no choice.”
Yes, Reince, it‘s a sad, sad, job, but someone‘s got to do it. So hey, might as well be you.
The Obama administration said the president filmed that video in the residential part of the White House, so it didn‘t violate any rules. And they point out the president didn‘t even ask supporters for money. But beyond that fact, the president clearly didn‘t commit a crime, Reince. Conveniently, you Reince, forget. Someone else used the White House as a backdrop.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH ®, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: This country needs a president who clearly sees that.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: The strength, the focus, the characteristics these times demand.
BUSH: I‘m optimistic about America, because I believe in the people of America. I‘m President Bush, and I approve of this message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: The GOP logic here is, well, OK. There is none. When George Bush made a campaign video in the White House, it was a good move, great performance, you did it, Mr. President, you were simply brilliant, but when President Obama does it, it‘s against the law. Another sorry chapter in this Reince Priebus time as head of the RNC. His ridiculous double standard is our con job of the day.
SHARPTON: For all the political party—debt, one thing is now clear. President Obama is winning with the American people. The NBC News, Wall Street Journal poll released just moments ago, this is brand news, shows 58 percent of Americans back the president‘s plan for balanced approach of cuts and tax increases. Just 36 percent agree with the GOP‘s cuts only proposal. Sorry, GOP, America‘s not drinking your tea. In other words, the American public favors the president‘s vision by 22 percentage points. And it doesn‘t stop there.
If the only way to get an agreement is to raise taxes, then 62 percent say the GOP should compromise and raise taxes. And it‘s not just the deal itself. President Obama has a 47 percent approval rating. Meanwhile, just 25 percent approve of the way the Republicans are handling their jobs. So, these numbers say Democrats are winning. But are they? Let‘s see.
Joining me now, former DNC Chair and Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, he‘s also an NBC News political analyst. And Bob Herbert, he‘s currently a distinguished senior fellow at the Demos Think Tank.
Bob, let me start with you. How would you rate the White House strategy so far? Do you think it‘s wrong or right?
BOB HERBERT, DISTINGUISHED SENIOR FELLOW, DEMOS: Well, politically the strategy is very good, and I agree with you, the president is winning this battle, but I think it‘s a wholly manufactured crisis. There should be no controversy around raising the debt limit. The Republicans should have agreed to raise the debt limit, as they did several times during the Bush administration, you know, just raise the debt limit and move on. The real crisis in this country right now is an employment crisis, which is why the economy is in the tank.
HERBERT: What the two parties should be negotiating is a way to get Americans back to work, and then leave the debt issue, the long-term budget deficits and debt issues into—into the medium term. Deal with the jobs crisis first, and then deal with the debt issues, which are serious, but deal with them subsequently.
SHARPTON: Well, I want to give back to there because I had a congressman on the night telling me that as long as we protect the top one percent, that jobs will come from heaven somewhere, I guess.
HERBERT: Well, I think that we should be clear that most people in power are happy about the top one percent doing well, so they don‘t feel like we need radical changes in this economy.
SHARPTON: Governor Rendell, the politics have this. You just heard these brand-new polls, nobody has given them because they just came out moments ago. Politically you‘ve won elections, you know what polls means. What does this say to you from a political stand point?
ED RENDELL, FORMER DNC CHAIR: Well, first of all. Let me just say that, you just heard from Bob Herbert, one of the most cogent prescriptions we need to do as a country is we need to deal with investments and job creation right now. This, we should raise the debt limit in a two-sentence bill, and later on, yes, we need to do something about the deficit and I believe and you heard me say this, Al, that means restructuring entitlement programs, it means a cut in spending, but it also means increases in revenue. And it‘s absolutely imperative that we go down that track, but your question, what does the polling mean?
The polling means the president is winning on two fronts. One, the sort of this physiological battery, he‘s the adult in the rooms. The Republicans look like petulant children who say, you‘ve got to do it our way or we‘re going home. The president seems flexible. He wants go get this done. He‘s clearly the one who‘s thinking about what‘s right for the nation in the long run. He‘s winning, secondly on the substantive ground. The American people, and Bob‘s right, they‘re focused on job creation, but when they do think about this issue, they can‘t understand why 38 percent of corporations in this country pay no federal taxes because of the loopholes. They don‘t understand why we give the oil companies $40 billion in tax breaks at a time when their making record profits. All time profits. So, yes, he‘s winning on substance and he‘s winning on the perception.
SHARPTON: All right. Let me go back to you, Bob. Because you and I agree we should be talking about jobs. So, Bill Clinton, former president said, if he was the president right now, his advice to the president, if he was there. He would just go around the Congress, I mean, go around all it is. Really, and he would invoke the 14th amendment and let the court stop him though. His quote was, “I would raise it without hesitation and force the courts to stop me.” Do you think that President Obama should do that? Or do you think he‘s playing it wiser, the way he‘s engaging it and exposing the other side for their political positions?
HERBERT: Well, you never know what the ramifications are going to be if the president does do that, but the thing that I‘m very concerned about and the thing that would make me lean towards former President Clinton‘s position is that what both sides are proposing will hurt the economy and will damage the employment situation even more, because each side is talking about austerity. The Republicans are talking about a more extreme form of austerity. But the president is talking about austerity as well. And to do that when the economy is in the tank the way it is now is really self-defeating.
SHARPTON: Now, one of the things Governor Rendell we‘re seeing here is a face-off, because the poll also tells us, that 62 percent of Democrats want compromise. But 52 percent of Republicans want their party to stick to its positions. So, are the Republicans playing to their base, even though it may cost the country? Even though it may put us in a default? Are they saying my people, my voters, my constituents want me to hold the line, and that‘s what I‘m going to do?
RENDELL: There‘s no question about that. And one of Bob‘s former colleagues, David Brooks said, it bounce about ten days ago in “The New York Times.” He said the people in the House of Representatives, those Republicans, a lot of them they don‘t care about what‘s good for the country at all. They just want to win an idea logically battle. And in fact they don‘t care what‘s good for their own party. Because the path they‘re taking us down is a path that the poll shows the nation overwhelmingly rejects. And it‘s going to be bad for their party electorally as well, but most importantly it‘s bad for the country. The consequences are default, are enormous, and they‘re enormous not just for bondholders, but they‘re enormous, because it would throw the country into a second and maybe even more severe recession. We cannot risk that under no circumstances.
SHARPTON: I‘ve got to go. Governor Rendell, thank you, and Governor, I want you to know since I was a kid, and Bob Herbert was a kid, this is the first time since his daily news New York Times days, I got to ask him the questions.
RENDELL: Well, he is one of the very best we have in this country.
SHARPTON: No question about that. All of my life, he‘s been there.
Thank both of you for your time.
Ahead, a day of grilling and pies, all over Rupert Murdoch. Can he stay in power? The panel debates that ahead.
SHARPTON: Welcome back to the show. Now for the hot stories today, we bring on our Power Panel. Joining me in the conversation is Sirius/XM radio host, Joe Madison. Also with me A.B. Stoddard, associate editor and columnist for The Hill. And Rory Cooper, director of communications for The Heritage Foundation.
First question, are republican voters looking for Mr. or Ms. Far right? The new NBC News Wall Street Journal poll shows the Tea Party queen, Michele Bachmann is surging in the GOP polls. Last month, she only had a three percent approval rating. But since June, Bachmann has shot out to a whopping 13 percent and now has 16 percent of Republicans backing her in the GOP race. Rory, does her rise show continued unease with front runner Mitt Romney among republican primary voters?
RORY COOPER, DIRECTOR, THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION: I think that between now and next November, you‘ll going to hear a lot from all the candidates on job creation with over nine percent unemployment. You‘re going to hear a lot from them on the debt, but $14.3 trillion in climbing at President Obama. You‘ll going to hear a lot from them. And how economic growth has stifled the regulations of President Obama is throwing at them. So, I think you‘ll going to hear a diverse of opinions. And that‘s a good thing, because conservatives are debating the right specific facts, while all we‘re getting from the other side is more the status quo.
SHARPTON: Why is Michele Bachmann‘s surging and the others are surging and the others are not surging?
COOPER: I think that if you asked this question everyday of the week for the next two weeks, you‘ll have another poll number. The difference is, is that there is specifics on the right being debated and there are—status quo, more spending, more regulation on the left. And so, you‘re going to have a very spirited debate about how to fix this economy and how to grow jobs.
SHARPTON: Joe Madison, you laughed all the way through that.
JOE MADISON, SIRIUS XM RADIO HOST: Well, the reason that I laughed was he didn‘t answer your question. You didn‘t asked him about policy debates. You asked him about Michele Bachmann. Michele Bachmann is surging, because she is speaking to the Tea Party. She is saying, the kinds of things that they want to hear. Now, my audience, for example, thinks she‘s very shallow, and that she‘s going to blaze out at some point. Now, what I do agree with my respected colleague here today is that once the debate starts and we get serious about policy questions, I think that‘s when other candidates will emerge. Personally, I hope she‘s the candidate.
SHARPTON: Wait a minute. Just a minute. Let me go to A.B. What are you saying? Seeing and hearing in terms of the surge of Michele Bachmann. Is it bothering people on The Hill?
A.B. STODDARD, “THE HILL”: Well, Michele Bachmann actually does not have a lot of friends in the house republican conference especially in the House republican leadership. There‘s a lot of ill will there towards Michele Bachmann, but she‘s doing very well in Iowa. She‘s not the overall front-runner, Al, she is still behind Mitt Romney. If you look at all of the polls, he‘s still holding up as front-runner more strongly than people expected six or eight weeks ago when they thought he would be pummeled by his healthcare liabilities, his flip-flops and everything else. He‘s doing quite well.
But she is definitely the front-runner in Iowa, set to win the Ames Straw Poll on August 13th and continue to do well there. There is definitely just rights of a Tea Party, there‘s a Tea Party wing and there‘s an establishment wing. They‘re still an establishment support for Mitt Romney. And they‘re actually bundlers who have sat out this race so far, have not given to Romney or Bachmann or the others, and some of them are even talking to Rick Perry. If Rick Perry steps in the race governor of Texas, she‘s got a real Tea Party problem, because he starts to peel of votes away from her, from that part of the coalition. But so far so good for her in Iowa. And again, Rory is probably right that, you know, a couple months from now, we could be talking about someone else. People rise and fall pretty quickly.
SHARPTON: All right. Let me ask you to stay with me. We‘ll be right back. I want to get one more issue in front of the panel. Stick with me. We‘ll be right back with our panel.
SHARPTON: Let me pick up where we left off. Still with me Joe Madison, A.B. Stoddard and Rory Cooper. Rory, when we look at the polls, President Obama is handily defeating either the front-runner Mitt Romney, or Dr. Romney is 48, 35, 50/35 to Michele Bachmann to Mr. Romney is 48, 42. How do you deal with the fact that I understand the party line that you gave me to my first answer? But try to answer the question this time, how do you think any of them close the gap with the president?
COOPER: Well, first off, you know, obviously you‘re selectively choosing polls. If you look at the polls in Michigan, President Obama is losing. You look at the poll in Pennsylvania, President Obama is losing.
SHARPTON: Well, hold it, Rory. Rory, you‘re quoting state polls, I‘m quoting national polls. We vote for president in 50 states, not one. President Obama is not in the primary against them. He‘s in the general.
So try again. How do you close the national gap?
(TALKING OVER EACH OTHER)
COOPER: Yes. You‘re asking about general election matchups. And if you‘re looking at President Obama losing Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, because of his terrible jobs record, because of the terrible economic growth in our nation, yes, listen you‘ve got President Obama coming out there at the press conference every day. One specific, Jay Tapper asked him, hey, can you name one specific on entitlements? And President Obama can‘t name one specific reform he‘s willing to do to help fix economic shape there. How can you lose all these states?
SHARPTON: Joe, I know that it seems hopeless to get a republican on the show tonight to answer the question I asked. So, why don‘t you try for me? Would you explain how they can try to close this gap?
MADISON: The reality is that they have to keep doing what he just did.
SHARPTON: Avoid the question.
COOPER: What gap are we talking about?
MADISON: Well, look at—didn‘t you see the.
SHARPTON: Rory, you‘ve got a proposal they‘re voting for Congress right now that you can‘t even tell me one cut they want to make.
Thanks, everybody for a great panel. Thank you for watching. I‘m Al Sharpton. “HARDBALL” starts right now.
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Guest Host: Al Sharpton