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PoliticsNation, Thursday, February 16, 2012

Read the transcript from the Thursday show

Guests: Jonathan Capehart; Michael Steele, Dana Milbank; Gary Peters, Carolyn Maloney, Terry O`Neill, Melissa

REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Welcome to "Politics Nation. I`m
Al Sharpton.

Tonight`s lead. New polls show President Obama is surging and Willard
Romney is stuck with the same old talking points.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If we have a president and
leaders who will tell the truth and who will live with integrity and who
understand the economy having lived in the economy, that America will
overcome the challenges we have.


SHARPTON: He is saying if we had a good leader America would overcome
challenges. He`s right. And we`re starting to overcome one of the biggest
ones. The economy. Isn`t that right, Mr. President?


from one of the worst economic crises in three generations. And I`m not
going to lie to you guys. You know it. We`ve still got a long way to go
before everyone who wants a job can find it. That doesn`t mean there`s
nothing we can do to create new jobs and restore middle class security here
in America. There is always something we can do.



SHARPTON: We learned today that the number of people piling for
unemployment is at the lowest point in four years. This chart shows you
unemployment claims since 2007. You can see where the stimulus started in
2009 and there`s where we are as of today. Right back down.

And in housing, construction of 10,000 new homes started last month.
That`s up 1.5 percent since December. The economy is getting better. No
doubt. It`s a slow process. But people are taking notice.

In a moment, we`ll show you a bunch of new polls from FOX. FOX.
Showing the president is winning ten key states. One big reason for the
change. Take a look at this.

Those red lines from October through January show independents fully behind
Romney. But the blue lines from this week show a major shift with
independents flocking to the president. It`s a measure of how things have
changed. Romney`s message of fixing the economy has hit a road block.

Reality. How can Willard run as Mr. Fix-it if the economy is already
getting fixed?

Joining me now, Dana Milbank, political columnist for "the Washington
Post" and coming to us from CNBC, Michael Steele, MSNBC analyst and former
RNC chairman.

Thank you both for being here tonight.

MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN: Good to be with you, rev.

SHARPTON: Let me start with you, Dana. Dana, I`ll ask the question
again. How can Mitt Romney run as Mr. Fix-it if the economy is already
getting fixed?

problem, reverend Al, is it`s starting to look like a morning in America
election at least from this vantage point. And the Republican candidates
find themselves waking up on the bathroom floor with a terrible headache
because they were celebrating the prospect of running against a president
presiding over a very weak economy. That seems with very little time to
spare, seems to have turned the corner here.

And if that -- if it keeps up with these numbers that we`re seeing
basically on a daily basis now, the entire playbook for the Republicans has
to be thrown out the window and they have to find a different way to run.

SHARPTON: Now Michael, before you respond, let`s look at some FOX
News polling numbers. FOX News now.

If you look at the rust belt tier, this is major states, key states
around the country, you -- and the Rust Belt Tier, Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania
and Wisconsin, where 54 electoral votes are up for grabs. President Obama
is at 42 percent, Mitt Romney 41. In the rocky mountain tier, Colorado,
Nevada, New Mexico, 29 electoral votes up for grabs, President Obama, 47,
Mitt Romney 40.

The Dixie Tier, the Dixie belt tier, again now, FOX News, all three of
these are FOX News, Michael. Florida, North Carolina, Virginia. Fifty
five electoral votes up. President Obama, 51 percent. Mitt Romney, 37.

So, it appears that even by FOX News polling, of three tiers of their
choosing, key ten states President Obama is beating Willard Mitt Romney.

STEELE: Right. And I am just amused and amazed that I`m sure you
were citing those same FOX polls a few months ago that showed the reverse
fortune for the president at that time.

SHARPTON: Now the point is not saying that the polls are accurate or
not. The point --

STEELE: No, no, no, I`m not talking about accuracy. I`m just talking
just about what --

SHARPTON: Even they`re not arguing that Willard Romney is the --

STEELE: Because there`s no argument to make, reverend. It`s a number
in the month of February when the Republicans don`t even have a nominee
selected yet. So, pop the champagne corks and start celebrating. But
there`s a whole lot of time left. I mean, I think Dana is right that the
Romney campaign in particular, but the GOP on a larger scale, has to look
at this narrative a little bit differently than they did six weeks ago or
six months ago.

But there are still components and elements of this economy that still
need to be addressed. You still have a significant underemployed
population here that needs to be addressed in some fashion. People who
just gave up working that if they get back into that job search that will
have an impact on the numbers. We don`t know which way yet.

So, there`s a whole lot of game here. But I agree the president is in
a very good position right now and this should be more than a clarion call
for the GOP to get off its duff, focus on a solid economic message to take
it through the spring, summer and fall to get ready to do battle with this
president over this economy.

SHARPTON: You know, Dana, when you look at the fact that the economy
is beginning to look like it`s moving in the right direction, have a long
way to go. And I show these numbers because I want to show that even they
are admitting that they`re going to have to come up with some kind of
message. And I wanted to show that whether one agrees with the accuracy of
polls or not, it gives you some kind of challenge when people that lean
their way say this. And it also annoys Michael, and I like to annoy
Michael. But aside from that --

MILBANK: Don`t make me separate you two.

SHARPTON: The economy -- look at the facts. Unemployment news from
January was fantastic for the president. January unemployment rate, 8.3
percent. The lowest it`s been in three years. There`s no way you can spin
that`s not good news. And the economy added 243,000 jobs.

America`s optimistic about the economy per a new pew poll. Fifty four
percent say the economy is already recovering. Now, that does not mean we
don`t have a long way to go to the election. That does not mean that
things could not turn around. But meaning that if they were going to run
on a bad economy as of right now, that won`t work.

And, also Dana, they will have to come with alternative economic plans
that show they have a better plan. So a lot of the underserved that
Michael raised and that I`m very concerned about, what is their plan? What
is their message? They`ve not come up with that. They are too busy doing
negative ads against each other, Dana.

MILBANK: Right. I mean, they haven`t actually coming up with what
that plan is yet. I mean, Rick Santorum is seems to think that Americans
really want to hear about efforts to limit birth control right now. And,
you know, Mitt Romney may not be very concerned about the very poor.

They`re going to have to figure out something here. Look. If the
economy is going gangbusters by November it doesn`t really matter what the
Republicans do because the incumbent will be re-elected, regardless of what
party the incumbent is in when you get into that kind of position.

So, a lot of this is out of their hands anyway. But what they need to
do, the Republicans is pivot to something else. Well, look. I mean, there
are many long-term structural problems with entitlements, with the federal
debt. The question is do they want to, you know, they want to engage this
battle of we need to cut Medicare, yet we also want to cut taxes in the
long term, cut government spending. It`s a battle the president would like
to have. It`s not clear that that`s a winning message. But the options
are fairly limited if these economic trends continue.

SHARPTON: Now Michael, in all fairness, how do they run? If you were
laying out the strategy, if you were still chairman and a lot of people
felt you should be, but we will talk about that another time.

MILBANK: We all agree.

SHARPTON: What would be your strategy? That`s probably why he`s not
chairman because we all agree.

STEELE: Thanks, fellows.

SHARPTON: What would be your strategy for how do you run against an
economy that is recovering?

STEELE: And you know what? I know this is going to seem like an
extra nail in the coffin that Romney was talking about with the poor, but I
have always said, I think one of the strongest arguments, and it`s a Jack
Kemp argument. That the party should be taking in this type of economy,
even with this upswing that see reverend, is the poor.

Talk about how we create wealth from the bottom up. How we empower
people who are caught between the crosshairs. And you know this, reverend.
You`ve been out here over the last few years especially talking about the
educational component. How that has a drag on your ability to get jobs and
how there`s a drag on your ability to move up in a job when you don`t have
that educational opportunity.

That is the twin pillar, I think, that the party, given its historic
position on these issues, can go out into communities across this country
and neighborhoods that don`t look like typical Republicans and have a
conversation, a difficult one, about how we transform the economy from the
bottom up, including the poor. Where we show direct concern for them
because they are the future of this country.

You just can`t say, well, there`s a safety net. There`s got to be
more than a safety net for people in poverty. It`s got to be opportunity.
And I think that`s a very powerful message that we just have not taken to
the streets yet.

SHARPTON: You know Dana. I think that that last statement should be
a clip for the Obama re-election campaign because he`s right. You`ve got
see more than a safety net for the poor. You have to talk about how you`re
going to lift the poor.

And I think he`s right and you can`t be not only perceived as not
having a plan for the poor, Dana. You can`t be perceived as having disdain
or at least insensitivity to the plight of the poor.

MILBANK: Sure. I mean, they used to call this compassionate
conservatism. It`s not clear that that`s enough to get Republican
presidential candidate across the finish line. It almost certainly is not,
but what we`ve been hearing over and over again, and I was at the
conservative political action conference gathering last week.

Over and over again they are saying you can`t just say you don`t want
to be Obama. You`ve got to come up with a positive, affirmative message
and a plan here right now. That`s what this party needs to do as soon as
they get a standard bearer. They can start to do that but they`ve got to
do it quickly.

SHARPTON: Well, we`ve gone from compassionate conservatism to severe

Dana Milbank and Michael Steele. Thanks for your time.

STEELE: Reverend, always good to be with you.

MILBANK: Pleasure.

SHARPTON: Coming up, outrage over a GOP hearing on birth control and
women`s health dominated by men. Democratic lawmakers are asking, where
are the women?

Plus, Mitt Romney thinks he can win Michigan by attacking unions and
the auto bailout. Good luck with that one, Willard.

And give it up for the underdog. If Jeremy Lin can make it, so can
you. Lessons from basketball`s newest star.

You`re watching "Politics Nation" on MSNBC.


SHARPTON: A raucous hearing today on contraception that left some
democratic women asking, where are the women? That`s coming, next.


SHARPTON: Big news today for the fight for marriage equality. The
New Jersey assembly voted in favor of gay marriage and a gay marriage bill,
42-33. They got one more vote than they need to pass the measure. Now it
heads to Governor Chris Christie who promised to veto it.


stalemate and deadlock on this issue, which is inevitably where it will
lead if they pass the legislations and send it to me because I will not
sign it. It will be vetoed.

Let`s let the people of New Jersey decide what`s right for the state.
Let`s put the question of same-sex marriage on the ballot this fall in the
hands of the people.


SHARPTON: Christie would prefer to pass the buck on a civil rights
issue by putting it to referendum. Now, the majority of New Jersey
residents do support gay marriage. And the numbers are on the rise. But
it would still be a close and unnecessary fight. Even with Christie`s game
playing, the momentum on this issue is heading in the right direction.

Maryland`s House of Delegates may vote for the issue tomorrow.
Supporters say two Republicans will vote for it.

And just on Monday, Washington`s governor signed the gay marriage law
making Washington the seventh state to let same-sex couples get married.
This fight isn`t over, but it`s going in the right way. Governor Christie,
are you listening?

Still ahead -- Mitt Romney`s bizarre plan to win Michigan. He`s
bashing unions and bashing the bailout. Wait until you hear this one.
Stay with us.


SHARPTON: We`re back talking about Mitt Romney who seems to be stuck
in reverse in Michigan. The newest poll shows Romney trailing Rick
Santorum there by four percent, 34 to 30. But Romney has apparently come
up with a unique strategy for winning this blue collar rust belt state.
Attack unions and attack President Obama`s decision to save Detroit.


ROMNEY: I call it crony capitalism. And that`s the path that he`s
taking. He`s paying them back in every way he knows how. One way, of
course, was giving General Motors and Chrysler to the UAW. I`ve taken on
union bosses before. I`m happy to take them on again.


SHARPTON: Not smart, Willard. Even Santorum can hit you on that one.


the bailout of Wall Street and decided not to support the bailout of


SHARPTON: You know things just aren`t going Willard`s way. He gets
behind the will for an ad that is supposed to show how much he loves the
American car. But it turns out that car wasn`t made in America at all. It
was made in Canada. And in the same ad, Romney talks about going to the
Detroit auto show.


ROMNEY: I grew up in Michigan. It was exciting to be here. I
remember going to the Detroit auto show with my dad. It was a big deal.


SHARPTON: The problem is the photo he shows in that ad wasn`t the
Detroit auto show. Think progress says it was actually the world`s fair in
New York City. This week, Romney writes an op-ed saying, quote, "things
would be better without the bailout."

And just two days later, General Motors announces record profits of
$7.6 billion. And finally, Romney gets a big endorsement from Michigan`s
Republican governor who just happens to disagree with him on the bailout.


DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Did the bailout save the Detroit auto

RICK SNYDER (R), GOVERNOR, MICHIGAN: Well, the bailout actually was
something that really worked. If you look at the results of the companies.


SHARPTON: Romney`s mess in Michigan highlights how out of step he is
on the issues. He either thinks government can help save jobs, provide
health care and regulate the banks or you don`t.


ROMNEY: My view is, repeal Dodd-Frank.

We`re going to get rid of Obama care.

My view with regards to the bailout, whether it was by President Bush
or by President Obama. It was the wrong way to go.


SHARPTON: Joining me now is Congressman Gary Peters, Democrat from
Michigan. And with me once again, Jonathan Capehart, opinion writer for
"the Washington Post" and an MSNBC contributor.

Thanks to both of you for joining me.


REP. GARY PETERS (D), MICHIGAN: Great to be with you.

SHARPTON: Congressman, Romney thinks of himself as a son of Detroit.
How do Michigan voters think of him?

PETERS: Well, I tell you, he talks about his Michigan roots and
growing up in Michigan. But when Michigan needed leadership, when we were
on the rocks as a result of what happened on Wall Street and the debacle
there with greed run wild there wasn`t any credit, the auto industry was in
serious trouble, Mitt Romney wasn`t there. In fact, he said that Detroit
should go bankrupt. So in our time of need, he wasn`t there.

And it`s very clear that if Mitt Romney was governor at that time, we
would not have a manufacturing sector in this country. The auto industry
would have been in big trouble. GM and Chrysler wouldn`t be around today.
And as you know, and as you mentioned in your opening, it`s been an
incredible success story. President Obama took great risk.

SHARPTON: Yes, let me ask you about that. The GM numbers that just
were posted, I mean, huge numbers they`ve never reported before. How does
the fact that GM now has record profits, $7.6 billion, the largest number
in the highest number in the history of the company.

How does this play against the guy saying that the bailout shouldn`t
have been done. He wouldn`t have done the bailout. He would have done it
another way, managed bankruptcy or something.

PETERS: It doesn`t play well. Particularly when you have got profit
sharing bonuses going to workers all over Michigan as a result of that turn
around. You know, workers of Michigan made a sacrifice. They all stepped
up to the plate. The men and women of the UAW made significant sacrifices
because they believe in American companies and they believed in the auto
industry. And it`s been a great success. And now Michigan is reaping the
rewards. And they are back hiring. And in fact, the auto companies are
now posted strong increases in sales. They are building some of the best
products anywhere in the world. The best automobiles in the world. And at
the same time increasing market share.

By any measure, this has been a great success and we owe President
Obama for making a very difficult decision, but making the right decision
for American workers.

SHARPTON: Jonathan Capehart, there`s also the attack, as you heard,
by Willard Romney on unions, 16.5 percent workers in the state of Michigan
belong to unions. Thirty four percent voters say union members are in
their household. I mean, is it wise politically?

Clearly, I don`t agree with them in terms of policy.

CAPEHART: But is it even wise politically to come in with this anti-
union I`ve stood up and I fought unions before kind of rhetoric if you are
trying to appeal to Michigan voters?

CAPEHART: Sure, well, remember, he`s trying to appeal to Republican
primary Michigan voters. And this might be in the short term a good thing
for Mitt Romney because it might get them to vote for him.

The problem comes in when if you buy this notion, which is fading by
the day, that he is the inevitable Republican nominee and who will go up
against President Obama in the fall and be on the ballot in November, it
plays against him just because those numbers you just read. The number of
people who have a union member in their household, the number of union
households in Michigan. It may not play well on the general election stage
because as the congressman mentioned, there`s profit sharing in the $7.6
billion profit that GM is reporting. Checks of $7,000 per hourly worker.
That`s a lot of money for a lot of people who have suffered and endured a
lot of hardship for more than ten years.

SHARPTON: Now when we look at the polling on working class whites in
Michigan, congressman, Santorum over Romney, 36 percent to 23 among working
class whites. So he`s having a problem, Willard is, connecting to white
working class in this state. A state that he is going to be crucial if he
loses this state. It`s going to be perceived he`s in real trouble.

PETERS: Absolutely. I don`t know much about Republican primary
politics, but I think it would be disastrous for him to lose, particularly
when he talks about Michigan being his home state. For the reason he`s
losing workers is the fact that he has been on the wrong side of the
issues. It`s very clear. He did not stand up for the American auto
industry. The auto industry is absolutely critical to us in Michigan.
Those are good paying manufacturing jobs. And now that he has turned anti-
union, he is not going to get support with an awful lot of independent
voters in the state of Michigan as well.

Unions and the UAW and other unions in our state really help to make
the middle class in America and what Mitt Romney is doing is declaring war
on the middle class by some of the statements he`s making in Michigan right

SHARPTON: Congressman Gary Peters, Jonathan Capehart, thanks for your
time tonight.

CAPEHART: Thanks, rev.

PETERS: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Ahead. Republicans hold a hearing on birth control and
women`s health. Totally dominated by men. It`s an outrageous new
development in the fight over contraception. That`s next.


SHARPTON: Today we saw fireworks on the hill as republican lawmakers
tried to hammer the President over his birth control mandate. Republican
Congressman Daryl Issa led a contentious hearing on the President`s
contraceptive compromise and religious freedom. The hearing`s title was a
good tip-off that it wouldn`t be a fair conversation. Quote, "Lines
crossed. Separation of church and state. Has the Obama administration
trampled on the freedom of religion and freedom of conscience?"
Republicans stacked a totally one-sided deck of witnesses, calling
conservatives opposed to the compromise and Democrats pitched a fit.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The chairman is promoting a conspiracy theory that
the federal government is conducting a war against religion. He has
stacked the hearing with witnesses who agree with his position.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Today`s hearing is a sham.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: We were denied on this side of the aisle any
witness who might have a differing point of view.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Would the gentleman yield?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: No, sir, I will not.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Where are the women?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Imagine they are having a panel on women`s health
and they don`t have any women on the panel.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: It`s a massive injustice by trying to pretend that
the views of millions of women across this country are meaningless.


SHARPTON: In fact, there were some women there but only two out of
the 11 witnesses. They kicked the hearing off with five clergymen all
conservative and all in lockstep in their opposition to the President`s
compromise. The second panel, more of the same, although at least they
threw in a couple of women into that one. Planned Parenthood noticed the
gender imbalance and made a striking comparison in a re-tweet during the
hearing. Quote, inspired by Darryl Issa, I`m holding a panel of rights of
mice inviting nine cats to speak. Nine cats and two mice who agree with
them? Apparently that`s fair and balanced in Darryl Issa`s world.

Joining me now is Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, one of the democratic
lawmakers who was at today`s hearing and Terry O`Neill, president of the
National Organization of Women. Thanks to both of you for being here.

REP. CAROLYN MALONEY (D), NEW YORK: Thank you, Reverend Sharpton.


SHARPTON: Congresswoman, let me start with you. Republicans seem to
be unwilling to talk about this issue from a woman`s perceptive. Isn`t
that really dangerous?

MALONEY: I think it`s very dangerous. Women are 52 percent of the
population. Yet the tens of millions of women whose health care, their
access to insurance for their health care was not represented on the first
panel. And their point of view was not put out there. And I feel that it
was terribly wrong. And what we were talking about is women`s access to
reproductive health care, to preventive health care and family planning,
which is important for their health and for the spacing of their children.
It`s also their right. It was a hearing about women`s rights and yet they
were putting forward only their point of view which was opposed to the very
balanced proposal that President Obama and his administration put forward
that women would have access to insurance and the religious people who
objected would not have to pay for it or have direct contact with the
insurance companies. That`s a very, very fair statement. And it`s
balanced and it`s fair. But that hearing was not fair.

SHARPTON: Terry, it seems that they have a problem when they are
talking or dealing with women`s issues having women there. Look when
President George Bush -- George W. Bush signed the partial birth abortion
ban in 2003. He was flanked by six men, including then Speaker Hastert and
Senator Hatch and Senator Santorum. So it seems like they just have this
problem with having women discuss or even be around some very important
decision that have to do with women.

MALONEY: They denied our witness who was a young female law student.
She was there listening to the hearing. They would not allow her on the
panel to speak for the young women of America.


O`NEILL: No. That`s exactly right. And nothing could be in my mind
more offensive than a panel of men and Darryl Issa announcing that this
young woman did not have the qualifications or the, I think he said the
credentials to talk about the importance of birth control. You know,
frankly, the men on that panel didn`t have the anatomy to be able to talk
to women about birth control. But more importantly than that, I think, and
you know, my organization has consistently taken the position that no
employer, and we include churches, as well as religiously affiliated
organizations like hospitals and universities, we think no employer should
be exempt from the rule that birth control is fundamental to a woman`s

If a religious woman decides she doesn`t want to take birth control
because it`s against her religious conscience, she doesn`t have to take the
birth control. And to see witness after witness after witness proclaiming
that they have some kind of fundamental first amendment right to impose
their religious views on their employees is offensive. It is a violation
of the woman`s own first amendment right to religious freedom. It`s a
violation of woman`s privacy right under, first of all, versus Connecticut,
it`s a violation of the woman`s right not to be discriminated against in
the workplace. So no one is saying that institutions, religious
institutions, don`t have first amendment rights. They do. They don`t have
the right to enlist the government`s help in forcing their religious
beliefs on unwilling women in their -- whether it`s their employees or
students or what have you.

SHARPTON: No religion should have that right. But Terry, if you
think you were offended there. Let me show the Congresswoman something
that happened earlier today on this station on Andrea Mitchell`s show. A
supporter of Ron -- of Rick Santorum had a very -- well, let me show it to


preoccupied with sex. I think it says something about our culture. We
maybe need a massive therapy session so we can concentrate on what the real
issues are. This contraceptive thing, my gosh, it`s such inexpensive.
Back in my days they used bare aspirin for contraception. The gals put it
between their knees and it wasn`t that costly.


SHARPTON: Now, This is not just a backer. This is a big money
backer. The name is Friess of Rick Santorum talking about back in his days
they put Bayer aspirin between women`s knees. I`m sure Congresswoman that
you may want to respond in language that`s not suitable to the public
airways, but I mean, can you imagine the arrogance of saying that? Even in

MALONEY: I tell you, it`s insensitive. It`s wrong. It shows how
they disrespect women. They disrespect our rights. And that their real
agenda is to turn us back to 1967 before the Griswold decision where the
long reach of government goes into the bedroom and denies women the right
to contraceptives. This is outrageous. It`s wrong. It`s against the
rights of a woman`s decision to make decisions about her own body. And I
respect every religion. I respect their right to have their values and
their beliefs. But I do not respect their belief that they can impose
their religious beliefs on others who work for publicly financed
institutions, hospitals and universities.

And this is just plain wrong. In the President`s balanced approach,
the insurance companies are totally separate. And in the hearing, I
pointed this out, and they responded that they still opposed -- were
opposed to it because of their tax dollars. But, Reverend, you know in a
pluralistic society, when many of us are opposed to the war in Afghanistan,
our tax dollars are supporting it. I`m opposed to capital punishment, but
our tax dollars in some cases are supporting it. So when you live in a
pluralistic society you make room for everybody`s religion, everybody`s

SHARPTON: Well, I think it`s important to note that people agree with
you. Look at these polls. Independents support the compromise the
President has raised on contraception. Sixty four percent to 26.
Catholics support it, 67 to 25. Republicans support it. Fifty to 44. The
American people support what you are saying, Congresswoman. They support
what you are saying. Terry, I`m a minister, but I want to live in a
democracy, not a theocracy because it may be someone with a different
theology in charge. A threat to anybody is a threat to everybody if you
force people to go by your beliefs. Congresswoman Maloney, Terry O`Neill,
thank you both for your time this evening.

MALONEY: Thank you Reverend Sharpton.

O`NEILL: Thank you, Reverend.

MALONEY: Thank you for your strong voice. Thank you so much. Women
appreciate it.

SHARPTON: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Up next -- we`ll talk about a nasty new element creeping
into the debate over social issues. It`s an important story you won`t want
to miss.

Plus -- the underdog becomes the superstar. Jeremy Lin is teaching us
both on and off the court.


SHARPTON: Today the battle against voter suppression gained several
powerful allies. Georgia Congressman John Lewis and 11 other members of
Congress announced today they will support and join the march against the
new anti-voting laws next month. From March 4th through the 9th, we`ll
retrace the route of the historic 1965 voting rights march from Selma to
Montgomery, Alabama. Congressman Lewis led that first march almost 47
years ago. He nearly died when people in riot gear attacked the marchers
with billy clubs and tear gas on what was called bloody Sunday. Today he
still is standing up for equal rights.


REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: We must continue to stand and stand
together. We are one people. We are one family. We are one house. We
all live in American house.


SHARPTON: The 1965 march brought international attention to the
struggle for civil rights and led to the 1965 voting rights act that some
states are now fighting against. We are marching now to make sure that our
voting rights are protected for now and the next generation.


SHARPTON: We talked a few minutes ago about the fight in Congress
over contraception. But from Capitol Hill to the campaign trail to the
right wing media, the war is raging against women`s rights and it`s getting
ugly. Check out what they are saying on FOX.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The left is making this about availability to the
poor. It`s more about getting rid of the poor.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: It`s more about getting rid of the poor.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Did you really just say that?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: It`s not a bad point.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I`ve said it before.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Population control?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The difference between the left and the right. The
right want the poor to get rich. The left want the poor not to exist.


SHARPTON: The left is trying to get rid of the poor. Seriously? But
what`s even more jarring is how the right has injected race into all of
this. Take this exchange I had with a former Gingrich aide just last


of African-Americans vote democrat. OK? And what have they gotten for it?
They`ve gotten poor schools, poor neighborhoods, crime-ridden
neighborhoods, a destruction of the family and the Democrats want to abort
their babies. So, you know, I -- that`s their position. I`m not going to
defend that.


SHARPTON: Democrats want to abort black babies? That`s shocking.
But not surprising given what we`ve seen over the years. In Chicago, pro-
life activists put up billboards that showed the face of President Obama
and read, quote, "every 21 minutes, our next possible leader is aborted."
Bill boards in other cities said, black children are an endangered species.
And in Congress, Republicans are working on a bill that supposedly wants to
ban abortions based on gender or race. But it`s spearheaded by a
republican Trent Franks of Arizona. And his views on race seem
questionable to say the least.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Far more of the African-American community is being
devastated by the policies of today than were being devastated by the
policies of slavery. And I think, what does it take to get us to wake up?


SHARPTON: I think rhetoric like this is a wake-up call for all of us.
Joining me now is Melissa Harris-Perry, soon to be host of MSNBC "Melissa
Harris-Perry." She`s also professor of political sciences at Tulane.
Melissa, thanks for joining me. What is rhetoric like this really all

know, I`ve been trying to figure this out a little bit. I try to take very
seriously the pro-life position and not just write it off as politics and
say, OK, for some people there`s a real ethical, moral question here and
take that seriously. So, when I first saw these billboards starting to pop
up in the U.S. south, in communities that were predominantly black I said,
OK. Maybe this really is the attempt, a problematic one, on the part of
people to reduce abortions. But here`s when I started to figure out it
wasn`t. When it shows up, for example in SoHo. If you have a billboard on

SHARPTON: SoHo downtown New York, right? I was part of those that
protested that. Chicago, as I said. This is not the Deep South now. It`s
black communities all over the country.

PERRY: That`s right. And SoHo is a lot of things but it`s not really
where you would go find a bunch of African-American women if you wanted to
have a conversation with them, right? So, it says to me that that -- those
billboards appear because they are politicized. So, what they are trying
to do here is a political angle where you see this kind of political
questions around contraception, political questions around abortion and now
you inject race into it to make it hyper hot and turn it on so that they
feel like they can kind of get this space for claiming the Democrats are
against the groups that they are actually for.

SHARPTON: And I might add for people around the country, SoHo is not
a predominantly black community. May be five percent black. So, you`re
right. It`s playing more politics. And let me put a graphic up so we can
straighten out one other misnomer. They try and say that many of these
abortion clinics or places you can get abortion are in the black community
predominantly. That is not true. Herman Cain was wrong when he said that
the abortion providers are somehow instantly located in a black community.
Well, we checked it out and research says, only nine percent are located in
predominantly African-American communities. So that`s not even true.

PERRY: Well, look, and remember, part of what happened on this
question of abortion is that women who have private health care providers,
who have good insurance right, from well-paying jobs, wealthier women and
often white women who have these relationships can go and have a D&C. It
never gets called an abortion. They can have them without anybody knowing
anything about it. And so the only group that gets sort of the data gets
collected or the only group where we can penalize them or shame them are
poor women and women of color. Look. This -- these billboards and this
discourse suggests that women of color do not make their own decisions
about their fertility.

SHARPTON: And let me say this. It`s not just the billboards and
that. What is really bothering me is how they are playing this race card.

PERRY: Right.

SHARPTON: On a broader level. Whether you are pro-life or pro-
choice, why are we playing with race and all of that? Rick Santorum, let
me show you why this bothers me. Rick Santorum who is right now the
candidate in the Republican Party with some momentum. He said last year in
an interview, let me show you what he said.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The question is, and this is what Barack Obama
didn`t want to answer is that human life, a person under the constitution?
And Barack Obama says, no. Well, if that person`s human life is not a
person, then, I find it almost remarkable for a black man to say, now we
are going to decide who are people and who are not people.


SHARPTON: I find it remarkable for a black man, race, Herman Cain
came back. Let me show you what he said.


BOB SCHIEFFER, HOST, "FACE THE NATION": You said that it was not
Planned Parenthood. It was really planned genocide because you said
Planned Parenthood was trying to put all these centers into the black
communities because they wanted to kill black babies before they were born.
You still stand by that?

Seventy five percent of those facilities were built in the black community
and Margaret Sanger`s own words. She didn`t use the word genocide but
talked about preventing the increasing number of poor blacks in this
country by preventing black babies from being born.


SHARPTON: So my concern, Melissa is here you have Santorum that acts
like the President`s blackness gives him some obligation to agree with
their position. Herman Cain saying inaccurately that most of these centers
of Planned Parenthood or other providers in the black community, not only
is that not true, but only three percent of what Planned Parenthood does is
abortions. What is this playing the race card with the pro-life movement?

PERRY: Well, he`s twisting the history there. Look, there is a
eugenics movement in this country that did attempt to keep black women from
procreating. That is certainly true. But what he`s done in twisting this
history is let`s be really clear. What black women want and need is what
all women want and need. And that is access to safe and affordable
reproductive choices. And that means the choice to have children. The
choice not to. And more important than anything else, to prevent
unintended pregnancies.

SHARPTON: Yes. Melissa Harris-Perry, thanks for joining me this
evening. And we wish you the best on the debut of your new show. It
premieres this Saturday at 10:00 a.m. right here on MSNBC.

Up next, Jeremy Lin`s inspiring rise to the top. And why it should
make all Americans feel great, not just basketball fans.


SHARPTON: Linsanity is alive and well and the legend continues to
grow from NBA basketball to the whole country. Jeremy Lin had a career
high of 13 assists last night and led the New York Knicks to their seventh
straight win. Now everyone wants a connection to Lin. Nike is making a
sneaker for him. He`s reportedly been invited to the NBA slam dunk
contest. And there`s a claim into the U.S. trade mark office for the
patent Linsanity. "Forbes" magazine calls him the one-man global economic
stimulus package. Estimating he`ll make the Knicks $20 million this
season. And you know you`ve made it when David Letterman weighs in. Lin
was asked on a radio show today if he ever dreamed this big.


JEREMY LIN, NEW YORK KNICKS: I didn`t think it was going to happen
like this. Not the way it happened and how fast it happened. But still
enjoying it and thankful for it.

at all, like when you`re lying in bed at night pinch yourself and realize
this is real? This is really happening?

LIN: I`ve had a couple of those moments but the games come pretty
fast so at the same time, it`s like, you just got to get ready for the next


SHARPTON: Everyone loves a story of an underdog. I wrote about
Jeremy Lin at the Huffington Post today. About never discounting the
underdog. Some people believe life is a lottery, that if you are born into
the correct circumstances, you will excel. I view life as an opportunity.
You are not responsible of where and how you enter life. You are
responsible what you do with it. Don`t let others count you out. Be in
charge of your own count. It may not be in basketball, but you can slam
dunk success if you hang in there and defy those that count you out.

Thanks for watching. I`m Al Sharpton. "HARDBALL" starts right now.


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