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PoliticsNation, Thursday, December 15, 2011

Read the transcript from the Thursday show

Guests: Emanuel Cleaver, Melissa Harris-Perry, Jon Erpenbach, Jonathan Capehart, Kasie Hunt, Bill Press

injustice, children go to Capitol Hill to tell their stories about being
homeless. President Obama wants to help them, but Republicans just keep
playing political games.

A major development in the fight to kick right-wing Governor Scott
Walker out of office. We have the news.

And GOP insiders go after Gingrich. Is tonight`s Willard`s last
chance to take Newt down?


MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He has been unreliable in
the support of the most important conservative principles.

hit back. Well, my campaign is entirely based on the idea that I`m not
going to hit back.


SHARPTON: Welcome to POLITICSNATION. I`m Al Sharpton. Tonight`s
lead, the shocking numbers that show just how much this country is hurting.
Look at these numbers. Nearly one in two Americans are living in poverty
or just getting by, one out of every two. That`s about 146 million
Americans. How staggering is that? The number of people struggling in
this country is greater than the populations of France, the United Kingdom,
Greece, Switzerland combined. Look at that. The combination -- the
combined populations of these countries equal the poor in this country

And what`s worse, children are bearing the brunt of this. Just listen
to this heartbreaking testimony of homeless kids on Capitol Hill today.


everything. It affected my attitude because I lost all my friends over and
over again. I was afraid to get close to people because I knew we had to
move again.

loved someplace to live that was safe, warm, and consistent, a healthy
place to do homework, go to school, work, eat, and live my life.

in the last month more than I have in my entire life. When I see my father
cry, it hurts me a lot because I know he is trying his best and it just
still isn`t good enough.


SHARPTON: His best just isn`t good enough. That`s the headline of
this economy, folks. Millions of unemployed are doing their best. But the
jobs just aren`t there. For every four people looking for work, there`s
just one available job.

This is why extending unemployment insurance is so important. This is
why extending the payroll tax cut matters. And this is why it`s so
infuriating when Republicans hold these benefits hostage for bills full of
oil pipelines, cuts to environmental legislation, and pay freezes for
federal workers. This is why it`s infuriating when they refuse to even
consider taxes on millionaires. And it`s why the president won`t stand for


and cannot go on vacation before they have made sure that working families
don`t see their taxes go up by $1,000 and those who are out there looking
for work don`t see their unemployment insurance expire.


SHARPTON: Joining me is a Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, a Democrat
from Missouri and chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, and MSNBC
contributor Melissa Harris-Perry, a professor of political science at
Tulane and columnist for "The Nation." Thank you for joining me tonight.

REP. EMANUEL CLEAVER, (D) MISSOURI: Good to be with you.

SHARPTON: Congressman, how can Republicans play these political games
when so many people are hurting? I mean, children, not Republican
children, not Democrat children, children sitting there and they still play
these games.

CLEAVER: Reverend, I was the ranking member on that subcommittee
today, and having served as the mayor of Kansas City, Missouri twice, and
served on the city council and now here in Congress, I have never, ever
been more moved and in some ways angry -- angered by the testimony that I
received in the situation like I was today. It was unbelievable to hear
these kids, through no fault of their own, talk about how difficult it is
for them to just make it from day to day.

Now, these are not people who are just trifling and don`t want to do
anything for themselves. Some of them worked and did anything that you
would expect any kid to do just to try to make it. And right now 97.3
million Americans are considered low-income. These are people who are
working every day trying to make it. This is a tough time and this is a
not a time to be mean. And there is a lot of meanness right now, not only
in Congress but around the country.

SHARPTON: But Dr. Perry, I mean, when you listen to children, I mean,
I don`t care who you are, if you listen -- let me show you another one of
these children testify before Congress today.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`ve lived in over 16 places in my life, six
shelters. I would like people to know that it is different going through
this than just hearing about it. You never experienced being homeless. It
is worse than hearing about it or watching a movie about it. You are in


SHARPTON: Professor Perry, I know there`s a debate tonight and I know
everybody`s all supped up on that. But the children need to be front. We
wanted to lead with this. People need to understand what we`re really
debating in this country. You`re a mother. When you look at that, forget
you`re a professor, forget you`re a columnist, what does this say if we can
overlook homeless children?

what I want to pause and point out here as a mom, as a professor, all of
that, is I heard you start to say, it doesn`t really matter who you are,
kind of what ideology you have, what background, this is going to touch
you. But the fact is that just a couple of days ago Forbes produced an
online blog that said, you know, if I were a poor black kid, here`s what I

SHARPTON: I wanted to talk about that tonight, because I was a poor
black kid.

CLEAVER: As was I.

HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And the whole idea here, in fact, for plenty of
people, they can know these stats, the can hear these testimonies, they can
see this suffering, and the response to it is, well, kid, do better, rather
than a response being as Americans it is our fundamental responsibility to
make sure that these children don`t have these circumstances.

SHARPTON: Now, Congressman Cleaver, to show you how callous, in my
opinion, some of your Republican colleagues are, in the face of this, in
the face of one out of two Americans, poor or barely making it, in the face
of these children, they are listing as their priorities on the spending
bill no HIV-AIDS funding for needle exchange programs and $5 million for
abstinence, cut funding for race to the top by more than 20 percent, cut
funding to the EPA, prohibit federal funding for abortions in D.C. I mean,
what planet are these people living on?

CLEAVER: Well, I think, unfortunately and tragically, there are some
who are trying to play to the base, and the base is demanding red meat.
And there are people here willing to give it to them.

You know, the thing is, there are a lot of people up here who are
upset with what`s going on and who don`t believe that we`re doing anything
to build up this institution. In fact, with this functionality of Congress
right now is at such a level because the litany of things that you just
read off that are included in the bill that people don`t believe that
anything can happen here good.

SHARPTON: Professor Perry, in light of this, let me show you this.
New contrast this, we just saw children, black, white, Latino, all kind
homeless talking before Congress, at the same time that I`m showing that
and I show this graph, look at this. The pay for American CEOs has gone up
as much as 40 percent last year. Top 10 CEOs took home a combined $770
million in compensation.

So, I mean, it sounds like a cliche, but the data shows that the rich
are getting richer, poor are getting poorer, and no one seems to get it on
Washington on the Republican side of the aisle.

HARRIS-PERRY: Reverend Al, you`re making a fundamental error here.
You are approaching politics from your perspective, which is to say that
you think that elected officials should be primary responsible for the good
of their constituents and of the country generally.

But if you are someone who is, instead of worried about kind of
general well-being, you`re worried primarily about reelection, then I`m
here to tell you the easiest group of people to write off are a bunch of
homeless young people and their poor parents, because do you know how hard
it is to obtain a birth certificate so you can get your state-issued I.D.
so that you can go vote so you can even figure out where you are supposed
to vote if you don`t have an address? Do you know how easy it is to
disenfranchise politically those who are already economically at the

So if you`re worried about who your voters are, then I promise you the
people at the top of that rating in terms of money that you`ve just seen,
they`ve all got their driver`s license and have stable homes and know
exactly where they can vote.

SHARPTON: I made an error because I grew up in school, I put my hand
on my heart every day talking about this was the land of the free and the
home of the brave with liberty and justice for all. I guess I believed it,
and I still do. And let me say this, Professor Perry, with one out of two
Americans poor, you`re not just talking about the normal poor. You`re
talking about the base that the congressman is talking about need to know
their party, Congressman Cleaver, and we need to register to get those
people out to vote to change this because this is the problem in America.
They`re being ignored, and they`re being in many ways misled.

CLEAVER: Reverend, let me just share with you -- there is a lot going
up here about religion. You hear a lot of religion being discussed here.
Deuteronomy, I think it`s 15-11, says that the poor will always be with us.
That`s also in the New Testament. And I think that what people are saying
here in Congress is the poor will always be with us, and we`re going to
make sure that there`s a population explosion.

SHARPTON: I think we need to read other parts of the Bible. We`re
getting ready to celebrate Jesus birthday. We know what he did to the
money changers. Maybe we need to talk about that on Christmas.


Thank you both for being on the show tonight.

HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you.

CLEAVER: Good to be with you.

SHARPTON: Coming up, Newt claims he`s going to turn the other cheek
when Willard attacks him tonight at the debate. But we`ll see how long
that lasts.

Plus, is it time for the right wing Governor Scott Walker to start
looking for his next line of work? Huge news on the recall effort.

And the Justice Department is calling it the worst racial profiling
they have ever seen. Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio is right in the middle of

You`re watching POLITICSNATION on MSNBC.


SHARPTON: Welcome back to POLITICSNATION. I always heard if you
fight you might lose, but if you don`t fight, you`re guaranteed to lose.
Earlier this year the people of Wisconsin vowed to fight back against
Governor Walker`s radical union busting agenda. They marched, they
protested, they rallied, and they forced the world to watch. They occupied
the state house before it was cool. When they got kicked out, they stuck
it out, braving the cold to make their voices heard.


CROWD: Scott Walker has got to go, hey, hey, ho, ho!


SHARPTON: Yes, Scott Walker has got to go. Well, today the people
that set off the progressive revolution are one step closer to victory.
The Democratic Party of Wisconsin announced today they`ve collected an
incredible 507,000 recall signatures. That`s 94 percent of what they need
to recall Walker. And after only 30 days, they`ve still got another month
to collect more signatures. Folks, there`s a long way to go on this
journey, but I have a feeling this is what winning looks like.

Joining me now is State Senator Jon Erpenbach, a Democrat from Madison
who has been one of Walker`s biggest supporters. Jon, thanks for joining
me. You fled the state in protest. Did you think you`d be this close so

surprised. There`s no doubt in my mind that we`d get enough signatures to
recall the governor, but it just 28 days they have 507,000 signatures. But
then again, Al, it doesn`t matter what part of the state you go to. I was
about 80 miles west of Madison last night in a town which is about 80 miles
west, and you drive down a certain highway out west and you see handmade
"Recall Walker" signs and "Recall Walker" stations set up along the way
with people standing out there holding clipboards. So I`m surprised, but I
guess I`m not that surprised. There`s no doubt we`re going to get more
than enough signatures that will be needed.

SHARPTON: Now, Walker, who is the king of the Republican overreach,
let me show you these graphics. His disapproval rating is about 50
percent. Now, if you look at him, 51 percent, Kasich in Ohio, 52 percent,
Florida, Rick Scott, 58 percent. These are their disapproval numbers,

Now, these guys were elected, went straight at breaking unions,
straight at collective bargaining, and the people rebelled. In Ohio, we
were able to, and I was involved -- that`s why I say "we" -- to deal with
SB-5, turning that around. Now you have a recall. Is this sending a
message, Jon, to these right-wing zealots that you can win an election, but
we`re not going to let you turn the policies used against the American

ERPENBACH: I think it`s sending a loud and clear message to the
Republican right wing and especially to the corporations that are behind
this agenda. Obviously what happened in Ohio was a huge victory for unions
there. And what will happen here in Wisconsin, hopefully defeating
Governor Walker, will send a shockwave throughout the nation when it comes
to the radical reforms that they`re taking a look at doing.

And you pointed out something really important, Al. They are
overreaching. In every state that you talked about, they are overreaching
way too much, and people are pushing back and people are fighting back.

SHARPTON: Now, let`s play so people can hear how the pro-Walker
people are trying to come back. This is an ad that they are trying to tout
his pro-business credentials. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor Walker`s a friend of small business. He
recognizes that 70 percent of the jobs created in this country and in the
state are by small businesses. He wants all of the people in the state to
be successful. We can see that if Wisconsin continues on a pro-business
strategy. We`re going to grow our staff here.


SHARPTON: How do you respond to that, Jon?

ERPENBACH: Well, the numbers job numbers for Wisconsin just came out
this afternoon, Al. Wisconsin lost 14,700 jobs in November alone. So what
Governor Walker is doing right now for businesses obviously isn`t working.
It`s not working for the Democrats, it`s not working for the Republican
businesses. It`s not working for anybody here in the state of Wisconsin.

SHARPTON: Now, the 14,000 jobs he tried to really end collective
bargaining. He was outright callous, disrespectful, caught on the phone
thinking he was talking to the Koch brothers. Then he goes on NPR and says
I don`t understand why these guys don`t like me. Listen to this.


WALKER: Most viewers across America are probably scratching their
head on the recall to begin with, because most states have recalls for
misconduct in office, some sort of thing like that that triggers, not just
I disagree or agree with a piece of legislation.


SHARPTON: Now, is it that he doesn`t get it or is he running scared,
Jon? What do you think?

ERPENBACH: I think it`s a little bit of both. And you have to throw
some denial in there as well.

It`s not so much on particular issue here, Al. It`s all sort of
issues, and it`s the way he has chosen to govern. He deliberately divided
Wisconsin. He pitted public employees against the private sector on
purpose. That`s a very irresponsible thing to do. Since then it hasn`t
gotten any better. Yes, he`s running scared. And I just don`t think he
quite understands the sincerity of 507,000 signatures that are staring him
in the face today.

SHARPTON: Now, Jon, do you think he will ultimately be recalled?
We`re getting the signatures. Do you think he will be recalled, and are
you thinking about running against it?

ERPENBACH: I have no doubt in my mind, Al, that he will be recalled.
I wouldn`t be surprised if they approached 700,000 to 800,000 ballot
signatures to recall the governor. Now, the question as to whether or not
I will or won`t, I`m obviously thinking about it. I`m listening to people
across the state of Wisconsin.

But my biggest concern is who is the best person to defeat Scott
Walker when that happens, when that election finally happens. Who is the
best person to do it? If it`s not me, I`m willing to help out who it`s
going to be.

But one thing is for sure, it`s got to be a well-rounded campaign
talking about what the governor has done to our environment, what he`s done
with voter I.D. here in the state of Wisconsin, cutting school funding and
obviously collective bargaining being the biggest issue of them all.

SHARPTON: Jon, you and your colleagues stood up and made a great
sacrifice, and it has spread into a progressive movement all over the
country. State Senator Jon Erpenbach, thank you for your time tonight, and
keep up the fight.

ERPENBACH: Thanks, Al.

SHARPTON: Still ahead, a human hand grenade with character flaws and
half-baked ideas. This is what conservatives are saying about Newt. Wow.

But first, I marched against Sheriff Joe Arpaio`s racial profiling in
Arizona, and now the feds are getting involved. That`s next.


SHARPTON: Arizona`s Sheriff Joe Arpaio is the who that calls himself
America`s toughest sheriff. He faced claims of racial profiling for years.
He made inmates stay in their tents during Arizona summers and wear pink
underwear and handcuffs. And he`s one of the biggest supporters of
Arizona`s discriminatory anti-immigration law.

But today the Justice Department came out with a shocking and
disturbing report saying Arpaio violated civil rights. The Justice
Department expert on racial profiling said the profiling he saw committed
by Arpaio`s office was the worst he had ever seen. He found Latino drivers
were four to nine times more likely to be stopped than non-Latino drivers.
Spanish speaking inmates were sometimes denied basic services like clean
sheets. And Arpaio`s office made immigration sweeps based on unverified


isolated incidents. We found discriminatory policing that was deeply
rooted in the culture of the department, a culture that breeds a systemic
disregard for basic constitutional protections.


SHARPTON: Arpaio has to agree to make changes by January 4th or the
government will sue him. This is a step in the right direction. This man
must be stopped.

I`ve been following Arpaio for a long time. In 2009 I met with him.
We marched and spoke out against his profiling in Arizona. I also called
him out right on this show.


SHARPTON: Can`t we understand that everybody --


SHARPTON: -- cannot be judged in different standards? You cannot
just say because somebody looks a certain way they are a criminal suspect?
That`s a threat to Americans.


SHARPTON: A threat to Americans, but apparently not a threat to
Republicans. A number of presidential candidates met with him hoping for
an endorsement. He ended up endorsing and campaigning with Rick Perry. So
the sheriff who feds say violated civil rights is who they are courting.
That says a lot about their party.


SHARPTON: The GOP race has been all about the flavor of the month.
They rise, they fall. Anyone waiting for the Newt implosion is still
waiting. And it has been the republican establishment that`s in full
freak-out mode. Today, the National Review, a leading conservative journal
blasted Newt. Saying, quote, "His character flaws, his impulsiveness, his
grandiosity, his weakness for half baked and not especially conservative
ideas made him a poor Speaker of the House. Again and again, he put his
interests above those of the causes he championed in public. Then comes
the other barrage of hit pieces from conservative columnists. Peggy Noonan
says, Gingrich is a human hand grenade who walks around with his hand on
the pin saying, watch this. George will says, he`s the least conservative
candidate. David Brooks simply says, stay away. And Speaker Boehner isn`t
exactly giving him a ringing endorsement.


conservative as some people think he is. But Newt is a conservative.


SHARPTON: How will it play out? Joining me now, Jonathan Capehart,
editorial writer for The Washington Post and an MSNBC contributor, Kasie
Hunt, national political reporter for The Associated Press, she`s in Sioux
City, Iowa, and Bill Press, host of "The Bill Press Show" on Sirius XM
radio. Thanks to all of you for being here tonight. Jonathan, let me
start with you. Why are all of the conservatives freaking out now?

Gingrich. He wasn`t a factor a while ago. Remember, his campaign
completely imploded. Folks left his campaign because of the vacation of
the Greek Island, the Tiffany`s bills, the half million dollar Tiffany
bill. I don`t think anyone expected him to come roaring back the way he
has. They know him, they worked with him, they know what it was like when
he was Speaker of the House and they didn`t like it.

SHARPTON: Now, let me ask you, Casey, you are in Sioux City, this is
the last debate tonight before the Iowa caucus. Newt is obviously the
frontrunner according to our polls. What is the mood out there and what is
expected on the candidates? I`ve been in those debates and everybody is in
their little room getting ready. What do you hear is the strategy or the
plan or what do you think is going to happen tonight?

KASIE HUNT, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: Well, we`ve watched, you know,
this is now the 13th debate so far and we`ve watched as each one has made
an impact on some kind on this race. I mean, the whole thing has really
been driven by debates. That`s why you`ve seen Newt rise the way he has,
because of his debate performances because republican voters think that he
or they would like to see him debate President Barack Obama. So, he came
out of the last one, he went into it as a front-runner, he came out of it
again as a front runner and I think that`s the question again tonight. Is
he going to be able to continue to stand across from Mitt Romney, keep
himself together, avoid all of these things that as those conservative
columnists were saying that he`s, you know, can`t govern as a Speaker of
the House, cares more about himself than he does about the party. He`s
going to need to make sure that he keeps his focus on that, you know, or
risk potential more columns like that.

SHARPTON: All right. Little later, we`ll talk more about the
debate. But let me go to you, Bill Press. Why is the establishment going
like they are going against Newt Gingrich? He was the speaker, he was the
face of the Republicans really flipping the script of President Bill
Clinton, yet you have almost a unanimous establishment -- republican
establishment full court press against Newt. What`s the problem?

BILL PRESS, HOST, "THE BILL PRESS SHOW": I think the problem is they
want to win and they don`t think Newt can win. I think it`s as simple as
that. Look, you know, in politics, you can forgive somebody who endorses a
candidate and then finds out later who they got some flaws they didn`t know
about. But it is pure follow and the smart Republicans know this, to know
somebody`s faults, to know how much baggage they have and to endorse them
any way as The National Review laid out. You know, I agree with what
Jonathan said. But you`ve got to realize The National Review, it`s the
grand daddy of all conservative publications, right? Formed by William F.
Buckley, Jr. I mean, what they speak, conservative listens. And what they
are saying is, we know Newt. He was a disaster as speaker. His fellow
Republicans threw him out as speaker. He`s a serial adulterer and he`s a
flip-flopper on the issues and what they are saying is, if we want to win,
we cannot take a chance with a Newt Gingrich.

SHARPTON: Now, Jonathan, when you look at the fact that Newt Gingrich
has been able to rise this close.


SHARPTON: The fact is, when all of the Republican establishment going
after him, they can`t seem to deliver their base to Willard Romney. All
the kings horses and all the kings men seem not to be able to put him
together again. So the problem is that they`re either going to have to let
one of the other ones come up, just try to blitz Newt out, and who opens
the door to who? Huntsman?

CAPEHART: I bet camp Huntsman hopes that`s the case. It`s not that
the establishment can`t deliver the base to Romney, is that Romney can`t
seal the deal with the base. They have serious concerns about whether he
is conservative enough to give him the nomination or at least to vote for
him to get the nomination. There`s that video that was out, put up earlier
this week by which where they have him on tape, Mitt Romney saying
that he`s not a partisan republican.


CAPEHART: That he views himself as progressive. Those are the kinds
of comments that he`s made in the past that make it really difficult for
him to seal the deal with conservatives, which explains why he ran headlong
into the embrace of Christine O`Donnell when she endorsed him.

SHARPTON: Now, let me ask this, because I think, Kasie, that it seems
as though Willard changed strategies. He was above the fray, he was
focused on attacking President Obama but now it seems that he`s starting to
take on Newt. He has a whole new posture. Watch this.


unreliable leader in the conservative movement. This is a person who has a
very questionable record when it comes to leading conservative principles.
I think Speaker Gingrich has lived in Washington for the last 30 years. He
went to Washington to do good and he stayed to do well. He`s been
unreliable in his support of conservative principles.


SHARPTON: Sounds personal to me, Kasie. He went to Washington to do
good and did well. Wow.

HUNT: Yes. Well, he also used the word zany in describing Newt
Gingrich in an interview with the "New York Times" the other day. So, I
mean, we have seen over the course of the past few days and I`ve been
travelling with Governor Romney, a very distinct shift from his previous,
you know, it`s all about the economy. He still includes that message in
his speech of course but he`s very aggressive, he`s going after Newt which
I think is a demonstration that they recognize that, you know, that they
really needed to do something about Gingrich rise. I think the timing of
it, in particular, made it really dangerous. You know, we`re less than
three weeks from the start of voting in Iowa. If Newt Gingrich does come
up on top of the Iowa caucus, it`s going to potentially create serious
problems for Romney heading into New Hampshire and on to South Carolina.

SHARPTON: Now, Bill, the unpredictable guy in the whole race is Ron
Paul. And Ron Paul didn`t take his gloves off because he never had them
on. Watch what he`s saying about Newt.

RON PAUL (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He`s probably as aggressive
with the military as anybody. He supports all of the wars in the Middle
East. A thousand times more than I would. But you know, in the 1960s,
when I was drafted, you know, in the military, he got several deferments.
He chose not to go. Now, he`ll send our kids to war but at that time he
said that one person wouldn`t make a difference. He didn`t know how he can
make a difference. So, I see that as important information. People should
know that.


SHARPTON: Newt got several deferments while I went to war. I mean,
that does not resonate well with a lot of republican right-wing voters.

PRESS: No. And also -- first of all, let me tell you, Ron Paul has
been so consistent from the very beginning. Ron Paul was Tea Party before
Tea Party was cool. And I think of Newt Gingrich hears somebody`s
footsteps on his back behind him, it is Ron Paul. Ron Paul has also been
devastating with his comments about Newt being a big time lobbyist. He
called himself a historian. He was no historian. He was solving his
influence, peddling his influence. He was a lobbyist here in Washington,
D.C. And Ron Paul is the first one to challenge Newt Gingrich and give all
that money back. I think he has really hurt Newt Gingrich and I think
we`re going to see that on January 3rd in Iowa.

SHARPTON: I want you all to stay with me. We`ll talk about the
fireworks we`re expecting tonight from Willard.

Ahead, a big debate tonight. The last time the Republicans will meet
before the Iowa vote. We`re going to know it`s going to get ugly. But how
ugly will it be? And take a look at this article titled "If I Were a Poor
Black Kid." Except the writer is not poor, not black, and not a kid. But
it is just the latest attack on the poor from the right wing. These
attacks must stop. And I`ll talk about that a little later. Stay tuned.


SHARPTON: Welcome back. It`s the final fight night before the Iowa
caucuses and with this cast of characters, anything can happen. But the
big headlines will likely come as Willard and Newt and Ron Paul duke it out
for the hearts and minds of Iowa voters. This could be the night to
remember. I`m back with my panel, Jonathan Capehart, Kasie Hunt, and Bill

Kasie, you`re standing in Sioux City outside the building where the
big debate will take place tonight. I`m been in Sioux City, can be cold
there, but it may be hot inside tonight. Will Newt hit back or will he
turn the other cheek tonight?

HUNT: Well, you`re right. It is chilly here outside here outside the
Sioux City Convention Center. I think what we`re going to be looking for
tonight is probably for Mitt Romney to take it to Newt Gingrich. I mean,
just last week, we`re watching for Romney to land some punches on Newt, he
didn`t really do it. But in the day since on the campaign trail, he really
has. Newt, on the other hand, has promised over and over again that he`s
going to refrain from running a negative campaign. He fired a staffer who
made disparaging remarks about Mormons earlier this week.


HUNT: And then even today, he acknowledged that he probably shouldn`t
have, he jabbed Mitt Romney last time, said that he would be a career
politician if he hadn`t lost to Teddy Kennedy in 1994. I sort to step back
from that today and said, maybe he shouldn`t have done it. So, I think you
may see a changed dynamic up on this stage tonight.

SHARPTON: Yes, but Bill, the fact is that since November, look at
this poll. Newt has dropped 12 points in Iowa.

PRESS: Uh-huh.

SHARPTON: Now, usually Newt can afford to be graceful when he`s way
ahead. But if somebody showed him a drop at 12 points, will we see the
real Newt come on stage tonight and start firing with both barrels?

PRESS: Look, I don`t think Newt may say, he`s going to say above the
fray, he`s not going to go negative. I don`t think he can help it. I
think there`s going to be a great show tonight, Al. And you got to
realize, this is a last chance saloon, OK? I really believe that Mitt
Romney can almost afford to ride it high and talk about the economy but for
Michele Bachmann, for Rick Santorum, for Rick Perry, for Ron Paul, this is
their last chance on stage, maybe forever, and their last chance to bring
Newt down. Newt`s numbers are already slipping. I think you could see Ron
Paul, as I said earlier, take over for him in Iowa and Michele Bachmann,
don`t count her out either. And they`ve got to do it tonight.

SHARPTON: Now, Jonathan, Newt has had a very interesting strategy in
the other debates. He has not gone after the other opponents. He`s gone
after the media. He has been able to use the media as his straw guy to get
the audience behind him. Watch this.


CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, FOX NEWS SUNDAY: How do you respond to people
who say that your campaign has been a mess so far?

injunction to put aside the talking points. And I wish you would put aside
the got you questions. I just want to point out my colleagues have done a
terrific job of answering an absurd question. To say in 30 seconds...

MARIA BARTIROMO, MODERATOR: You have said that you want to repeal
Obamacare, correct?

JOHN HARRIS, POLITICO: Speaker Gingrich, it sounds like we`ve got a
genuine philosophical disagreement. Who`s got the better end of this

GINGRICH: Well, I`m frankly not interested in your effort to get
Republicans fighting against each other.


SHARPTON: The strategy seems to be quite intentional because
Jonathan, when he went to talk to people at your paper, he was questioned
about this media bashing. And let me show you what he says. He says,
"Those two things galvanize people across the country and we began to move
back into being seen as people paying attention." So, the media becomes a
good target for him in these debates and might be the target tonight since
he says, he`s not going to fight any of his opponents.

CAPEHART: Right. Well, that`s what he said in those previous debates
again when he was not -- when he was not the flavor of the month. When he
was nowhere near the top three poll getters. What we`re going to see
tonight, though, I don`t think he can stand to do that above it all tactic.
You`re going to have Mitt Romney going after him hard, I think, as he`s
been going at him in television interviews and print interviews and you`re
going to have as Bill was saying, Ron Paul coming at him on the other side
going after him talking about Newt Gingrich and all of his foibles and they
are going to come at him - I would be very surprised if they didn`t do
this, hit him really hard with all the negative messages, zany and
unreliable and being a lobbyist and all of that, and then letting their
campaign commercials which are flooding the airways there to pound in to
compound the message, to bring the message home that Mitt Romney, that Newt
Gingrich is not someone who should be the nominee.

SHARPTON: Now, if they do that and he plays, I`m not the enemy, the
president is, and tries to act as though they are being divisive and they
ought to be, Kasie, going after the President, could that backfire on
Willard and the others?

HUNT: Well, I mean, I think you`ve seen Newt be very successful with
that message but I think your other panelists have made a good point in
that, you know, his role is much different up on that stage now. I mean,
all through the last debate, the rest of this I go, he`s been the
professor, the historian, the guy who`s been able to stand there and say,
you know, what we need to be talking about are conservative ideas. I think
he`s going to be in the spotlight again tonight like he was in the most
recent debate. And I think you`re going to see him be forced to respond to
the other folks up on stage even if he resists it.

SHARPTON: Let me go across the board. A quick answer. Jonathan,
does Romney need a knockout punch tonight?

CAPEHART: I don`t know if he needs a knockout punch but he needs to
keep doing what he`s been doing and that is giving great debate

SHARPTON: Kasie, does Willard need a knockout punch?

HUNT: He needs to not make a major mistake.

SHARPTON: Bill, does Willard need a knockout punch?

PRESS: I think as long as he doesn`t bet Rick Perry a million
dollars, Al, I think Willard would do OK tonight. This got a whole to his
own, keep his cool, don`t get rattled, let the others fight out and move on
to New Hampshire. He`s not going to win Iowa.

SHARPTON: Kasie, you see the writers don`t know TV. They talked
longer than a second. You`re the only one following the rules.


It`s going to be quite interesting tonight. I`ll tape it because
frankly, I`ll be watching Rachel. Jonathan Capehart, Kasie Hunt, and Bill
Press, thank you so much for your time.

CAPEHART: Thanks, Rev.

PRESS: Thank you, man.

HUNT: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Ahead, a Forbes magazine article titled, "If I Were a Poor
Black Kid" is sparking controversy and outrage. My commentary, next.


SHARPTON: We began the show tonight talking about economic injustice
in this country. But there`s a new article about this in Forbes magazine
that`s sparking a lot of outrage, and rightly so. The article is called,
"If I Were a Poor Black Kid." The Forbes writer who says, he`s a middle
class white guy claims that poor children still have many opportunities to
succeed despite the obstacles they face. He says, quote, "Technology can
help these kids but only if the kids want to be helped. Yes, there is much
inequality but the opportunity is still there in this country for those
that are smart enough to go for it." So let me get this straight. If kids
don`t succeed, it`s because they don`t want to be helped. It`s because
they are not smart enough. It`s ridiculous but it`s become a republican
talking point. The poor don`t deserve our help. It`s their fault they are


HERMAN CAIN, ENTREPRENEUR: If you don`t have a job and you are not
rich, blame yourself.

GINGRICH: Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no
habits of working and have nobody around them who works.

of Americans pay any federal income tax. People who pay nothing can easily
forget the idea that there is no such thing as a free lunch.


SHARPTON: Republicans are wrong. They and this writer target poor
kids and say they can solve their problems by using Skype and Project
Gutenberg. Are they serious? I mean, is this for real? I would put it
earlier that one in every two Americans are poor or low income, including
57 percent of children. All they need is Skype? We also told you about
the House hearing today on homeless kids with heartbreaking testimony.


in a motel is being on the bus and watching all of the other kids getting
off knowing that they are going to their own home and I am going back to a
one-room motel. It makes me feel really upset.

for my two-year-old brother because he does not understand why mom is
always crying. He cries too. He asked her not to cry. He wants mom`s


SHARPTON: Sure these kids need to have self-motivation. Sure they
need to have the will and the desire. But government must do its part and
telling them to just go learn technology and have desire is not dealing
with the systemic inequality. You like to give that advice next time?
Tell them to go to the library. Tell the CEOs of the failed banks to go
get themselves some Skype. You bail out the rich and when the poor say,
let`s even out society, you give them advice to lift themselves up by their
bootstraps when you`ve already taken their boots.

Next time you get ready to write an article, wipe the blueberry off
your face before you pick up the pen. Thanks for watching. I`m Al
Sharpton. "HARDBALL" starts right now.


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