Guests: Emanuel Cleaver; Jackie Speier; Ana Marie Cox; Ryan Grim, Bob Shrum, David Corn, Peter Edelman
REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Welcome to "Politics Nation." I`m
Tonight`s lead, new extremism from tea party congress.
Just a short time ago, a Republican-controlled committee voted for
resolution that could soon lead to U.S. attorney general Eric Holder being
held in contempt of congress. All the Republicans voted for this. All the
Democrats voted against it. This vote was unnecessary and it was purely
Earlier the president asserted executive privilege arguing that
private communications between officials in the executive branch cannot be
divulged to congress. What is this Republican-generated scandal all about?
For 14 months, attorney general Holder and the justice department have
responded as congressman Darrell Issa led a partisan series of hearings
into fast and furious, a so-called gun-walking operation. The program
allowed guns to be sold to low level criminals in hope they would then lead
law enforcement to bigger criminals. It was dreamed up during the Bush
administration and ended by attorney general Holder.
Republicans have sold this to the public as a fight over documents.
But it`s really just politics. And along the way, Republicans have been
conjuring up all sorts of arguments. Like today, when they were outraged,
just outraged over gun-walking programs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. SCOTT DESJARLAIS (R), TENNESSEE: This is a legitimate
investigation into an operation, the fast and the furious, that was so
flawed that it flew right into the face of common sense.
REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: Our concern here is about gun-walking.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Their concern isn`t about gun-walking. If it were, they`d
be investigating the three gun-walking programs under George W. Bush.
No. This is about tearing down a man who has turned over thousands of
pages of documents who has testified repeatedly before Congress and who has
bent over backwards while the GOP conducted its witch hunt. And despite
all of this, Republicans have the nerve to say they are being
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL GOSAR (R), ARIZONA: I continue to believe that attorney
general Eric Holder brought this upon himself by refusing to cooperate with
CHAFFETZ: We`ve been exceptionally patient. I think Chairman Issa
has bent over backwards to be accommodating.
REP TIM WALBERG (R), MICHIGAN: People in my district have wondered
why we have been so gracious in the time life that we have pursued this
fast and furious issue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: It`s outrageous. And Democrats called them out again and
again and again for their outlandish tactics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), RANKING MEMBER, OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: For
the past year you`ve been holding the attorney general to an impossible
REP. CAROLYN MALONEY (D), NEW YORK: I am horrified that you are going
forward with this contempt charge.
REP. EDOLPHUS TOWNS (D), NEW YORK: The way that he was treated when
he was here testifying before this committee, I must admit, I`ve never seen
anybody treated in that fashion.
REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D), VIRGINIA: We`re going to demean him. We`re
going to tarnish his reputation. Because that`s how we get to the
president of the United States.
CUMMINGS: The decision and prestige of this committee has been
diminished and the result should concern us all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Joining me now is Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, Democrat of
from Missouri and chairman of the Congressional black caucus. He wrote a
letter condemning chairman Issa`s vote today. And Congresswoman Jackie
Speier, Democrat from California. She`s on the oversight committee and
voted no on the contempt resolution today.
Thank you both for joining me this evening.
REP. EMANUEL CLEAVER (D), MISSOURI: Good to be with you.
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: Happy to be here.
SHARPTON: Chairman Cleaver, let me start with you. How can you
explain to our viewers what the Republicans did today?
CLEAVER: Well, this is a very sad day. I hope the people around the
country realize how sad it is. You know, the deer would first graze on the
good fruit and likewise the best of the elected officials are chewed up
first. And that`s what`s happening to Eric Holder.
He is being chewed up for something that is just so nonexistent that
the people around the country ought to be outraged. And this is
partisanship at its most base level. It is an insult, I think, to the body
of politics and this nation.
SHARPTON: Now, congresswoman Speier, you were in the committee. You
voted against this contempt citation being sent to the house. Let me show
you what you said earlier today so you can expound upon it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPEIER: I want to apologize to the American people for yet another
show of gotcha politics in this body. We have received 7,000 documents.
We have the A.G. more than willing to negotiate with us for the documents,
frankly, that have nothing to do with the actual activities of ATF.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: You were saying what? What were you -- expound upon that.
I mean, it was clear what you were saying, but tell us why such passion and
why you were directly going after chairman Issa.
SPEIER: The problem is that on the one hand, Republicans in the
committee want to use fast and furious as the reason for this contempt
proceeding. But it has nothing to do with fast and furious. Fast and
furious should be investigated. We should find out why ATF never informed
the higher ups in the department of justice either under President Bush and
President Obama, neither of the A.G.s were informed.
ATF has authority that, frankly, is unchecked and that`s what we
should be looking at. What is being -- what the A.G. is being held in
contempt for by the action taken by the committee, a resolution now going
before the full house, is they want to get to access the interoffice memos
among those at the department of justice after a letter was sent to Senator
Grassley and before the A.G. decided to rescind that letter when he
realized the letter was inaccurate.
SHARPTON: But when you mention about the ATF under the Bush
administration and Obama administration never telling the higher ups in the
justice department, they`re not even asking about that. They`re not
bringing those people in front of the committee. This is not even the
inquiry that you go through in committee, is that not right?
SPEIER: That`s correct. In fact, the head of the ATF, Mr. Melson,
who had been interviewed privately said he never informed any of the higher
ups. Was he brought before the committee to testify? No. Because it did
not follow the story line that the Republicans wanted to move forward.
SHARPTON: So he admitted that he never told the higher ups, but he
was never brought in front of the committee. But you bring in the attorney
general not under Bush but under President Obama who stopped the fast and
furious program and you go through all of these moves and now you`ve voted
to send up a contempt citation.
Chairman, let me ask you. Let me go back to you a minute. GOP
leadership just last month, just last month was saying that a contempt vote
would be overreaching. Politico reported speaker John Boehner of Ohio,
will jive the leader, Eric Cantor of Virginia, and will jive with Kevin
McCarthy of Carolina had decided to slow representative Darrell Issa`s
drive to hold the attorney general in contempt. Some within House GOP
leadership circles would like Issa to abandon his plan for committee and a
floor vote. What changed, Mr. Chairman?
CLEAVER: Well, politics. It`s important for the listeners, Reverend,
to understand that no attorney general in the history of this republic have
been held in contempt of congress. Not even John Mitchell of Watergate
It`s quaint to say, but the ability of Congress to function
productively depends on its -- its ability to suppress its most base
partisan adventures. And this is one. Whenever I think that we look at
the president look at some kind of attempt to slander him and in this case
it`s through a good and decent man who is being just tarnished because he
is doing what any attorney general would do in terms of investigating this.
You can throw mud against the wall. Even though it will fall to the
ground, a stain is there. That`s what`s going to happen.
SHARPTON: Now again, no attorney general, Congresswoman Speier, has
been held in contempt of congress. But look at some of the politics here.
The NRA even got into this. The NRA got in saying that, and I`m going
to read, the NRA has long standing issues with Holder. Something he had
said was no secret in a letter the group wrote to leaders of the House
oversight and government reform committee announcing its decision. They
announced they were going to score the panel`s vote to hold attorney
general Holder in contempt and they have long been a critic of his. And
they actually sent out letters saying we`re going to be monitoring this.
We`re going to score the vote, the NRA.
SPEIER: It`s a classic example. Gun-walking as the term is referred
to is going on right now in Arizona. It`s going on right now and we should
be putting a stop to it. The only way to put a stop to it is prevent
people from buying AK-47s without even a background check. You can go to a
fair and purchase a gun at one of these fu gun shows and they don`t do a
background check to see if you`ve got a felony record or if you have a
SPEIER: So there are huge issues we should be addressing but we`re
not addressing them. The only people who have been held in contempt of
Congress have been people who refuse to come before Congress and testify.
SHARPTON: And that`s only about four times in history. And it`s been
people that refuse, not people that have given over about 8,000 documents
and all of this evidence. And isn`t it strange that as you and Chairman
Cleaver said, that here you have no one in the ATF being brought before
this committee. We`re not talking about stopping the AK-47s. Clearly not
with the NRA monitoring. But the one man who stopped the program is the
one you`re voting to hold in contempt. Isn`t that strange?
Well, Senator Cornyn came out with a statement today that I thought
was very interesting. He says, I`m reading his statement. "The attorney
general and now the president have refused to turn over documents to
investigators and failed to hold anyone accountable for his department`s
mishandling of fast and furious. Today`s vote could have been avoided, but
the attorney general and President Obama`s insistence on stone walling us
left us no option."
Stone walling thousands of documents turned over is stone walling?
But this is the same Senator Cornyn, I remind you congressman, chairman
Cleaver that said. Let me show you what he said out of his mouth so I dare
not be accuse of misquoting him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: You won`t cooperate with legitimate
congressional investigation and you won`t hold anyone including yourself
accountable. Your department blocked states from implementing attempts to
combat voter fraud. You leave me no alternative but to join those who call
upon you to resign your office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: You`re stopping us from looking at voter fraud. How did
voter fraud get into fast and furious, Chairman Cleaver? Is this a lot of
trying to stop other things going on in the justice department under this
CLEAVER: That is the most amazing thing I have heard. That is just
amazing. And that is transparent as well. It`s transparently political.
Look, Reverend, it is my hope and my prayer that I would never use
partisanship as a means to defame someone. And that`s what`s going on
here. Look, people can see through it. And this is the reason we can`t
get anything done here in Washington. Because the number one goal is to
defame the other side. And this is a perfect example of it.
SHARPTON: Chairman Cleaver, Congresswoman Speier, thanks for your
CLEAVER: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Coming up, what Republicans should have been doing instead
of wasting time and money on this political witch hunt. Don`t you remember
way back when Republicans were promising to focus on jobs?
Plus, Mitt Romney. The company he keeps. The boys from Bain are
still around, and their shared experience is defining Willard`s policy for
the one percent.
You`re watching "Politics Nation" on MSNBC.
SHARPTON: Once upon a time, Republicans said they were going to focus
on jobs. Obviously that was just a fairy tale. Now they`re wasting your
money in a political witch hunt against the top law enforcement official in
America. That`s next.
SHARPTON: We`re back with the GOP`s continuing effort to smear
attorney general Eric Holder.
Republican congressman Darrell Issa wanted nothing more than to turn
fast and furious into a scandal. But all he`s done is reveal his own
partisanship. Democrats on this panel made that point today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MALONEY: It shouldn`t be a political witch hunt against the attorney
general of our country and our president in an election year.
REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D), ILLINOIS: Agent terry`s tragic death demands
justice and accountability, but this vote has nothing to do with that
TOWNS: I just don`t get the point. It just does not make sense to
me, and it`s the most ridiculous thing I think I`ve seen in my years of
being on this committee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: So with the Republicans` waste of time and their vote today
have any lasting effect?
Joining me now is Ryan Grim, Washington bureau chief for the
"Huffington Post" and Ana Marie Cox, correspondent for "the Guardian."
Thank you both for being here this evening.
ANA MARIE COX, CORRESPONDENT, THE GUARDIAN: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Ryan, why do Republicans see this vote as a positive move?
RYAN GRIM, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Well, I
think they were pushed into this by their base. They teased it for awhile.
And then, you know, they might have wanted to move on. Leadership -- many
elements of leadership wanted to move on, but they got their base so fired
up that their hand was almost forced on this. And to me, there ought to be
a rule in politics and we can decide what the time limit is.
But let`s say you have one year where you can flog a scandal. You
know, you can use all of your partisan media outlets. You can use FOX
News, you can use "the Daily Caller," you can go to "the American
Spectator." And you can flog fast and furious all day long. But if after
a year still nobody cares, the rule ought to be you kind to have to move
on. I mean, this has been several years now that they`ve been trying to
push this story.
SHARPTON: But you think it`s their tea party, extreme right wing base
that has pushed them and wouldn`t let it go and forced it to this move
GRIM: Right. I don`t see how this helps them in the general
election. Because people who are tuning in think Congress is doing
something interesting. OK. What is Congress doing? They`re holding the
attorney general in contempt over some gun scandal from several years ago
down by the border? It`s so far from what people might expect Congress to
be doing, that it`s just jarring. I mean --
SHARPTON: About a program that has no longer been continued that he
stopped. And they`re not dealing with all of the programs, just the part
And Ana, let me say that at the same time, these are the things
they`re not dealing with. Thirty bills up for to dismantle health care
law, 29 bills restricting reproductive rights. Four votes on light bulbs.
These are the things that they dealing within their rules of distraction.
COX: It`s true. This, I think actually, I think Ryan is right. That
this is not going to help them in the general election. You know, the only
people`s jobs that have been affected here is people in the illegal drug
industry, the illegal drug industry I should say. And for them, it is good
Every minute that they spend grilling Holder is another minute they
are not going to spend actually to try to stop the violence on the border
that this program was intended to do something about.
That problem still exists. And it`s infuriating to those of us who
care about the drug war. And personally think maybe should have been
handled another way. That that`s what they`re focusing on.
They`re focusing on Holder. They want to get him out of there and not
focusing on the tragedy that got this agent killed.
SHARPTON: And what people don`t understand and clearly everybody that
has any kind of feelings at all certainly want to deal with this agent
being killed and the loss of his life. But these proceedings are not
dealing with that at all, they`re going after the attorney general and to
show how extreme this is, not only has no attorney general in history ever
been held in contempt, Ryan.
In fact, after passing all of this evidence in and giving all of these
documents in, we don`t understand why anyone whether he`s the attorney
general or not could be held in contempt. There`s only been four officials
held in contempt of Congress in modern history. One an EPA administrator,
the other Harriet Miers and Bolton. These are people that wouldn`t
cooperate and wouldn`t do what Congress wanted.
GRIM: Right. They`re using the word contempt in the everyday sense.
I mean, this is what happens when a party has genuine contempt for its
GRIM: It doesn`t think its opposition is legitimate, and so this is
what it leads to. And it`s ironic that Congress -- which has what, an
eight or nine percent approval would be trying to have contempt for
anybody. I mean, who do they think they are?
SHARPTON: And maybe there are ulterior motives when you really look
at behind what the base, as Ryan calls them, doesn`t like attorney general
Holder. Maybe the fact that Holder`s involved in dealing with blocking
voter suppression laws or challenging anti-immigrant laws or refusing to
defend the defense of marriage act.
I mean, maybe there are some real political reasons the base is so
fired up against the attorney general because they clearly can`t think he
has handed over documents or hasn`t cooperated. And even as late as
yesterday said he would even give unprecedented information over to Issa.
Yet that`s contemptible and held in contempt?
COX: Well, I have to disagree with you. Whatever this hearing is
about, whatever this contempt vote is about, it`s not about the justice for
agent Terry. And it`s not about what the ATF is actually up to. It is
about Eric Holder. It is about Darrell Issa who is one of the most media
savvy congressmen out there. I think you know that. He knows exactly what
he`s doing with this.
Except, I think what he`s doing is a little short sided because if
sort in alluding to, I don`t think this is going to help the Republicans in
the general election at all. I don`t think it puts forward the cause of
justice at all.
Instead it`s just grand standing and doesn`t have anything to do with
the daily lives of people who are going to be making decisions about the
people who run this country.
SHARPTON: Ana Marie Cox and Ryan Grim, thank you for your time
GRIM: Thank you.
SHARPTON: And let me say this. Only four people in modern American
history has been held in contempt of congress. Compare that
noncooperation, their refusal to go in front of Congress with the attorney
general of the United States who went over and over again to hearings,
handed over all kinds of documents, even agreed to give unprecedented
evidence to this committee that he clearly was not required to do.
Why is he being held in contempt? Why is the NRA involved? Why are
we hearing all kinds of references by Senator Cornyn about voter fraud?
Why are we doing this in an election year?
I think you and I know why. And I think you and I need to be real
clear to everybody that we understand what is really going on in
Still ahead, how Mitt Romney learned the wrong lessons from his years
at Bain. His buddies there helped make him the man he is today.
And Governor Rick Scott`s all sunshine and smiles over Florida`s voter
purge. But he`s hiding a dark truth that voters need to know. That`s
SHARPTON: Folks, Florida Governor Rick Scott`s voter purge is so
misguided, the federal government is suing the state to stop it. But he
still thinks it`s a good idea. And personal experience won`t change his
In 2006 Florida voter rolls listed Scott as dead. No, really. He was
listed as deceased. But he says that it all worked out just fine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RICK SCOTT, FLORIDA: But it was fine. They just said that I
just got to vote on a provisional ballot. So, I mean, the nice thing about
our state when something like that happens, we have a good process. So my
vote still counts. If we have a good process, I mean, the process works.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: The governor says it`s fine to cast a provisional ballot
because you can work everything out later. But provisional ballots aren`t
In the 2008 presidential election, 51 percent of provisional ballots
cast in Florida weren`t counted. There are more than 18,000 people did get
counted. And if Governor Scott had his way with the voter purge, a lot of
people could be casting provisional ballots. Of the 1600 voters targeted
in the purge at Miami-Dade County alone, more than 500 have proven their
citizenship. Only 14 have been proven as non-citizens. Anyone voting
illegally should be punished. But voter fraud is not a widespread problem
in Florida. But since 2000 there have been only 178 voter fraud
allegations in Florida. That`s a rate of .0005 percent. This purge is a
solution to a problem that doesn`t exist. And telling voters to cast
provisional ballots isn`t the answer. Did you think we`d let you get away
with this false argument? Nice try. But we got you.
SHARPTON: Welcome back to POLITICS NATION. The old saying goes, you
can tell a lot about a man from the company he keeps. And that`s certainly
true for Willard Mitt Romney. Who could forget this picture of Willard and
his posse, the old Bain gang, back in 1984? But they were his buddies back
then, and they`re still standing by his side. This man has given Romney
almost $780,000 for all his political campaigns. This fellow served as
Governor Romney`s union-busting secretary of administration and finance.
And this guy is still one of Romney`s best pals. And one of his most
trusted political advisers. And who could forget about another Bain buddy
who told The New York Times, we should have more inequality in America. He
said quote, "the wealth concentrated at the top should be twice as large."
And having a small elite with vast wealth is good for the poor and the
middle class. These are Willard`s people. The one percent. They help
make him what he is today. They help form his world view. And what a bad
view that would be for the country. Romney supports the Paul Ryan plan
which could devastate the middle class. A new report shows that Americans
making between 50 and $100,000 a year would have to pay almost $4500 more a
year in taxes under this Ryan plan. Willard`s one percent buddies, they`d
get $331,000 tax breaks. Make no mistake, these are the people Willard
really cares about. He tries to tell us he cares about the middle class,
but every so often the inconvenient truth pops out of his mouth. And
there`s no question who he`s really looking out for.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He wants another stimulus.
He wants to hire more government workers. He says we need more firemen,
more policemen, more teachers. It`s time for us to cut back on government
and help the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Joining me now is Bob Shrum, a democratic strategist who
ran Ted Kennedy`s race against Mitt Romney in 1994. And David Corn,
Washington Bureau chief for Mother Jones and also an MSNBC political
analyst. He also is the author of "Showdown" about the Obama
administration. Thanks to both of you for being here tonight.
BOB SHRUM, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Glad to be here, Reverend.
SHARPTON: Bob, let`s start with you. A new Bloomberg poll raised the
question who was more out of touch with average Americans. Overwhelmingly
55 percent said Willard Romney was that candidate. What does that say
about his past experience in business and his future in this race?
SHRUM: Well, first it says the American voters are pretty smart.
That they`ve seen this guy and the more they see him, the more they got the
sense that he`s out of touch. Secondly, this is a guy and the Obama
campaign, I think, is doing a very good job of creating this narrative.
Who conducted himself in a certain way in business at Bain. Who then went
on as governor in Massachusetts where his record on job creation was
terrible, where he outsourced jobs just as he had done at Bain. And I
think they`re going to put this all together into a story which is going to
culminate. And the other thing you referred to, which is his support of
this Ryan budget plans. Look, this is the second poison chalice that Paul
Ryan has given to Mitt Romney. The first was the plan to end Medicare as
we know it. I hope Romney goes out and campaigns on this. He won`t of
course. He`ll try to say he`s saving Medicare, he`ll try to say he`s
cutting taxes for everyone. The facts say otherwise.
SHARPTON: So, I guess he`s not the flip-flop I thought he was. He`s
consistent about this stuff. Let me ask you, David. What was also
interesting in this Bloomberg poll is, 45 percent say that they`re better
off now than they were in 2009. Thirty six percent said, they`re worse
off. That speaks a little differently than I thought and favors the
DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Those are very good numbers for
the Obama campaign and for the White House. Those are the numbers come
Election Day, the President will have a very good chance of winning. But
the poll is interesting. Because the poll also says that people still
disapprove of the President when it comes to his handling of the economy.
They like him. They say they`re better off now. They all like the
direction of the country is going in. They`re still worried that things
will be worse off a year from now than they are now. There`s a lot of
economic insecurity that people are feeling.
They feel the President hasn`t done as much as they hoped he would do
to make the economy better, though they recognize it has gotten a little
bit better. And they do blame George W. Bush more than the President for
the current troubles. So a lot of conflicting sentiments in popular
opinion now. And the whole Romney campaign, the strategy is to just focus
on the anger. Get voters venting in November. Get them upset, angry, if
they`re going to be venting, they`re going to be mad, they`re going to take
it out on the president. The President wants them to make a rational
decision between two sets of policies represented by two different types of
candidates. So, I think Romney still has a good fight to be made here and
the President still has a long way to go before he has another term.
SHARPTON: Yes. And I think you`re right. When you look at even the
-- when they talk about the vision, 49 percent prefer President Obama`s
economic vision. Only 33 percent, Mitt Romney`s. But Bob, let me go back
to Massachusetts. You ran the campaign Ted Kennedy ran against Mitt
Romney. Romney has said over and over again that he won`t raise taxes
following the orthodoxy of the far right wing. But in a "Meet the Press"
interview in 2007, he admitted that he had posed what he call fees as the
governor of Massachusetts. Now, some of the fees Romney proposed and a few
he managed to pass as governor was Romney wanted a fee on the blind to
charge them for a certificate of blindness photo ID. But the legislature
scrapped his proposal.
He also proposed a $100 fee for the mentally handicapped to pay for a
state medical assessment of their disabilities. This, too, was scrap by
the legislature. But here`s what he succeeded in passing, a fee on
volunteer EMT`s and firefighters certification fees doubled in that area.
Fee on nurses, increase fee on nursing applications. Fee on hairdressers.
Increase hairdresser and barbershop licenses fees. Fee on auto repair
shops. Quadruple the fee for a car repair shop license. Fee to change
your name. More than double the fee to change your name to $150. So,
while he`s talking about I won`t increase taxes, things that people need to
operate and conduct business, many things that would be for small business
people and the middle class, he raised them. In some cases quadrupling or
SHRUM: Yes. Well, everything you just mentioned, Reverend, hits the
middle class and hits working class people very hard. At the same time, he
was creating tax breaks for people at the top. It`s exactly what he would
do as president. And that`s why I think the narrative of the choice that
the Obama campaign is laying out is so important. David is right, Romney
would like this to be a pure referendum. But when you look at that
Bloomberg poll and you ask people whose vision do you prefer on the
economy. When you give them a binary choice, he wins that. Obama wins
that. So what you can`t let Romney do is just run away from all the
issues, run away from all the substantive differences, and run away from
Bain as he always does. And just say, if you`re mad, you know, if the
economy is it where you wanted to be, well, give me a try. Could things
really get worse? The answer is yes, they could get a lot worse. And what
he wants to do to the middle class, what he wants to do with ordinary folks
in this country while comforting the comfortable at the very top of the
income scale is an outrage. And I think the more the Obama campaign pushes
this -- and they`ve taken some criticism the last couple of weeks for this
-- the better off they`re going to be.
Well, David, talking about comforting the comfortable, if you look at
Romney`s tax plan, the bottom 20 percent would see an increase of $149 that
top one percent would see a decrease in taxes of $725,716. How`s that for
CORN: Well, I mean, this is just the republican playbook. It`s the
end of the George W. Bush taxes were disproportionately waited in a similar
fashion. The Ryan plan is as well. The Romney`s plan. And at some point,
Americans have to sort of, you know, break the deadlock here in Washington
over this fight between two ways of looking at the government. The
republican plan has been basically to say the economy stinks and the reason
is that government is bad. And so we have to cut taxes, cut services, and
everything`s going to go just well. And, you know, Obama`s vision of
course is no tax breaks for those at the top. Preserve tax cuts to the
middle class and invest in education, infrastructure, you know the whole
list, innovation and...
CORN: And it`s a fundamental -- I mean, this is what the president --
this is a choice he`s tried to set up for a year and a half now. It`s a
SHARPTON: Bob and David, I have to leave it there. Bob Shrum and
David Corn, we`re out of time. Thanks for your time tonight.
SHRUM: Thank you.
CORN: Sure thing.
SHARPTON: Coming up, some disturbing new signs of how the right wing
extremism is creeping into the mainstream.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: Put yourselves for just a
moment in their shoes. Imagine being a parent who cannot feed your
children the food they need to grow. It`s beneath this body to cut food
systems for those who are struggling the most among us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: That was Senator Kirsten Gillibrand passionately defending
the food stamps program which is facing major cuts. And what I`m sorry to
say, was a bipartisan vote against the interests of the poor. She failed
in her fight to save food stamps for more than $4 billion in cuts over the
next ten years. Folks, this isn`t anything new. This is just another
example in a long list of attacks on the poor. Over in the republican-
controlled house, the Paul Ryan budget calls for $134 billion in cuts to
food stamps over ten years. But that`s not even the worst of it. Paul
Ryan would devastate programs that would assist millions of working class
Americans, children, students, and the elderly.
Sixty two percent of his cuts, $3.3 trillion, come from programs from
low income Americans. Including Medicaid, Medicare, food stamps, welfare,
and student aid. And the icing on the cake? It gives $4.3 trillion in tax
cuts to the wealthiest in this country. Last year, Newt Gingrich called
this sort of thing right wing social engineering. And for once, he was
Joining me now is Peter Edelman, professor at Georgetown University
law school. He`s the author of the new book, "So Rich, So Poor: Why It`s
So Hard to End Poverty in America." He also served as the assistant
secretary of health and human services under President Bill Clinton but
resigned to protest the welfare reform law which limited benefits for those
who needed most. Thank you for joining me tonight, Peter.
PETER EDELMAN, AUTHOR, "SO RICH, SO POOR": I`m so glad to be with
SHARPTON: Let me ask you this. How do these right wing attacks on
the poor affect real people out there in this country?
EDELMAN: They -- totally. We have 46 million people in poverty. We
have 103 million people who are in low wage jobs struggling to make ends
meet every day every week. Because there`s so many low wage jobs in this
country. And we now have 20 million people who have incomes below half the
poverty line. Food stamps is something that is one of the few things that
stands in the way of utter destitution.
SHARPTON: Do you said that we have 20 million people whose income is
less than half the poverty line. I just want to make sure we get that
EDELMAN: I did. And let me add that`s below $9,000 for a family of
three. And we have six million people whose only income was from food
stamps. That`s astonishing.
SHARPTON: Now, the average household food stamp or SNAP assistance is
SHARPTON: Seventy five percent of those households include a child, a
disabled person, or someone older than 60. So, we`re talking about people
who are either elderly, disabled, or children in large part that would be
affected by these cuts.
EDELMAN: That`s absolutely right. And so just thinking on an annual
basis, a family of three that has no other income, $6,000, a third of the
poverty line. This is the basic safety net that we have in this country.
Particularly after we`ve essentially destroyed in more than half the
country, cash assistance what we called welfare for mothers with children.
So mothers and children are hit doubly hard, triply hard by somebody
wanting to cut food stamps and take them away.
SHARPTON: Now, I was touched this morning reading in the "Huffington
Post," a post where families are falling through the safety net. Brianna
Butler, a 19-year-old single mother with no one to look at her 10-month-old
daughter, when Butler runs out of money for baby food, she gives her
daughter nothing but water or juice for a day or two. She says just to
tide her over. I`ve reached a point -- listen to this -- where I wanted to
give my baby away because I just can`t do it.
I don`t know how anyone can hear this and their heart not go out.
This young single mother says, just to tide my child over, I give her water
and I give her juice just to tide her over and think of giving her away.
Is this the kind of country we want tax cuts to the rich while we`ve got
people that are thinking about giving away their children because they just
can`t make ends meet?
EDELMAN: Our democracy is really at stake here. The gaps between the
top and the bottom are widening to the point where with so many people who
are not really fully included -- not included at all in our society, you
have to wonder what kind of a country we`re becoming.
And the other thing, Peter, that gets me is at the end of the day,
food stamps reduce poverty. The food stamp benefits drop the poverty rate
by an annual average of 4.4 percent. So, it`s not even about saving money,
it reduces poverty and people that get food stamps participate back in the
economy. It stimulates the economy.
EDELMAN: Henry Ford said, he wanted to pay his workers more money
because they would buy his cars. Franklin Roosevelt said, if we help
people in the depression, it would help business. It`s absolutely true
that it`s the right thing to do in our self-interest and of course it`s
morally the right thing to do. The fact is that the programs that we have
starting with Social Security keep 40 million people out of poverty every
year. So when we hear from people -- politicians that none of these things
work, the fact is they work quite well. Except that now Paul Ryan and all
of the others want to slash them.
Peter Edelman, author of "So Rich, So Poor," thanks so much for your
EDELMAN: My pleasure.
SHARPTON: We`ll be right back with a disturbing new trend on the
right. What used to be extreme is now moving to the mainstream. That`s
SHARPTON: I want to close tonight by talking about how the extreme
right is trying to go mainstream. Fringe groups are creeping more and more
to the center to push their agendas. They`re even trying to lobby
Congress. One of the newest lobbying groups on Capitol Hill is the self-
described white nationalism organization called Crusaders for Yahweh Aryan
Nations. The group says, on a lobby quote, "Any activities that adversely
affect the white race." Unfortunately, this group is not alone. The
southern poverty law center reports a massive rise in the number of
extremist groups this election cycle. And in some places, the
mainstreaming of the extreme is in full effect. California birther Gary
Kreep was officially elected to the San Diego superior court yesterday.
Kreep worked on lawsuit challenging the President`s birth certificate.
And now he`ll judge others in a court of law. Even once mainstream
Republicans institutions aren`t safe from the far right. The conservative
magazine National Review just hired a contributor with a long history of
extremist views. Think Progress reports. He`s called Islam an evil
religion. He once wrote quote, "There`s a reason the founding fathers
didn`t give women or black slaves the right to vote." And he wrote that
illegal immigrants were quote, "deserving of no rights." This is what`s
happening on the right. Extreme rhetoric is taking over. And the more
it`s out there, the more it`s accepted. Bottom line, extremism like this
has no place in our public discourse. I make no excuses for extremes on
the right or the left. Both extremists, all extremism needs to be
denounced for the good of the country and we must stand up and do that no
matter who it is and which side of the spectrum you may be on.
Thanks for watching. I`m Al Sharpton. "HARDBALL" starts right now.
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Guests: Emanuel Cleaver; Jackie Speier; Ana Marie Cox; Ryan Grim, Bob Shrum, David Corn, Peter Edelman