PoliticsNation, Monday, December 3rd, 2012

December 3, 2012

Guests: Bernie Sanders, Kristen Soltis, Erin McPike, Eric Boehlert, Joe Madison

REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Thanks, Chris, and thanks to you
for tuning in.

Tonight`s lead, holiday spirit GOP style. Later tonight, GOP leaders
are expected at the White House for a Christmas party. It should be a
festive event. Maybe they will share some eggnog with the president.
Maybe sing some Christmas carols. Maybe some good cheer will be in the
air, or maybe not. It might be a bit tough after the Republican`s new debt
offer that is definitely not in the holiday spirit.

For weeks, they have called the White House plan a nonstarter. The
GOP Republican in the Senate reportedly laughed out loud, the leader of the
GOP and the Senate laughed out loud when he heard about the president`s
plan and today speaker Boehner said the White House plan was a, quote, "a
la-la land" offer.

Well, earlier today the GOP finally revealed its own proposal. It
says that it offers $2.2 trillion in debt reduction and calls for the
increasing the eligibility age for Medicare and also Social Security on the
table. Gutting entitlements, check. But what about getting rid of the
Bush tax cuts for the upper income? You know the key point from the

In a letter to the president, GOP leaders said they will continue to
oppose and will not agree to them. In fact, they propose not to raise tax
rates for the wealthy but to lower them. That`s from speaker Boehner who
said this about the president`s plan.


I looked at him and said, you can`t be serious. I`ve just never seen
anything like it.


SHARPTON: Never seen anything like it? The president won the
election on that premise. But speaker Boehner he seems has forgotten that.


BOEHNER: They must have forgotten that Republicans continue to hold
the majority in the house. But, you know, the president`s idea of a
negotiation is, roll over and do what I ask. We need to find common ground
and we need to find it quickly.


SHARPTON: Speaker Boehner claims he`s looking for common ground. But
right now he`s not even in the right ballpark. His problem is that the
political ground has shifted for him and his tea partiers.

Joining me now is Michelle Cottle, Washington correspondent for
"Newsweek "and "the Daily Beast" and Ezra Klein who is a "Washington Post"
columnist and an MSNBC policy analyst.

Thank you both for coming on the show tonight.


Thanks, Rev.

SHARPTON: Michelle, let me start with you. The president ran on
raising taxes on the rich and he won on that premise. Why didn`t the GOP
get the message?

COTTLE: Oh, they got the message but this is high posturing season.
They have to get in there and be as intransigent or make as much noise
about how they are not going to compromise as they possibly can. But, you
know, the president has very much said, he wants tax rates for the wealthy
on the table. So they are just going to push this as far as they can. And
in my guess is that we are going in to next year with this. They are going
to kick this can down the road again.

SHARPTON: Now, Ezra, you wrote today that speaker Boehner`s trying to
call a mulligan. What do you mean by that?

KLEIN: I`m drawing on my very shallow knowledge of golf. He wants a
do-over here. So what speaker Boehner`s proposal is today, I give him some
credit here, this is the most moderate proposal he`s made in public by a
long shot. He`s taken the proposal that Erskine-Bowles, the coacher of the
deficit commission and president Clinton`s former chief of staff, presented
to the super committee if you remember them, as a compromise.


KLEIN: Now, that compromise is not going to work today because that
was a compromise from 2011 when Republicans were in the driver seat. And
main people say that you need to take this proposal. This was what David
Burke said in the "New York Times" and many of the Republicans, they said
if you don`t take it and you don`t win in the next election, you`re going
to end up with something much worse. So, they are going to end up with
something much worse. But, I think, it frankly, is a bit of progress that
Boehner is beginning essentially his opening bid is something that was
considered a compromise bid back in 2011.

SHARPTON: Now, Michelle, the politics of this seems to be potentially
disastrous for the Republicans. When you look at the fact that 82 percent
of people polled oppose reducing Social Security benefits, 67 percent
oppose raising Medicare eligibility age, meanwhile, 60 percent support
raising taxes on the wealthy.

COTTLE: It`s very important that people think about the fact that in
theory Americans like small government. But in practice when you start
talking about popular programs, they get very, very snippy about you
threatening to cut anything. So what we have here is a situation where
they`ve taken -- the Republicans have taken away the presidential talking
point of, well, Republicans don`t have a plan. But they have not taken
away the talking point of, well, Republicans want to cut all this so that
they can keep tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. And until they
address that issue, I think from a PR standpoint this could remain
politically disastrous for them.

SHARPTON: Now, Ezra, they keep talking, they being the Republicans,
like this was a status quo election. But you wrote today that they are in
a weaker position this time around and know it. You wrote, Boehner opens
his latest letter by reminding the president that 2012 was a status quo
election in which both you and the Republican in the minority in the house
were re-elected. That`s technically true and in every other way incorrect.
The fact is that 2012 was a democratic rally in which Democrats got more
votes than the Republicans at the presidential Senate and house levels.
That means Republicans are in as far weaker position than they were in 2011
and Boehner knows it, his newest offer is proof. What do you mean his
newer offer is proof?

KLEIN: In 2011, President Obama, who felt and President Obama and the
Democrats have felt they were kind back on their heels, they were chasing
after Boehner with compromised proposal. So. I want to avoid, it should
like a law like the one we are talking about today. Deep in the Obama
Boehner negotiations, they were talking about a proposal with 800 billion
in revenue that would come through a somewhat tax reformed process.

Right now we`re seeing the exact opposite. President Obama is
sticking firm with what he offered in his budget release sticking firm in
his opening bid. And Boehner is kind of chasing after Obama with more or
less compromised proposals saying, why won`t you work with me, why won`t
you come out? Why won`t you give more? Why won`t you sacrifice more?

Look, we`re early here and most of this kind saying to your people I
talk with in Washington are saying we`re not going to get deep into this
until mid-December, couple of weeks from now, at least. But, if we begin,
just doing a process of kind of incrementally getting from in between the
two proposals, you could very easily imagine between Obama and Boehner on
tacks is $1.2 trillion. That`s about where a lot of people thing we are
going to end up between them on mandatory spending is about $700 billion or
750. That wouldn`t be a shocker either.

Boehner`s opening bid here is not the bid of the side in the stronger
position. It`s a bid of the side desperately trying to get some credit in
the press for being willing to compromise.

SHARPTON: Now, Michelle what we don`t see in the counteroffer is
extension of payroll tax cut, extension of unemployment, raising the debt
ceiling. None of this is in their counteroffer. And Bill Kristol pointed
out that ignoring the payroll tax cut, the GOP is going to look like it
doesn`t care about the middle class. Listen to Bill Kristol on this.


BILL KRISTOL, FOX NEWS: They are at a real risk, in my view, of
looking like they are defending - keeping the current tax rates for the
wealthy, the much tax rates I think, and they right now the official
Republican position is let the payroll tax cut go back up by two points.
The Republicans look like, I am worried, in a position of looking at this
if they don`t care about the middle class and only want to keep tax rates
low for wealthy Americans.


SHARPTON: I mean, I`m not one that usually agrees with Kristol, but
clearly that gives them, Michelle, the image that they were not fighting or
not caring about the middle class. Why would they leave this out?

COTTLE: Well, because they have to work these numbers somehow. And
you have to look at what they are talking about. They don`t want to touch
tax rates at all. And so they are left kind of jiggling around the edges
with tax reform and closing loopholes and things like that. They can`t
afford to extend these rates. And Kristol is not the only Republican
worried about this are sort of thing. There is a persistent PR problem
with the party. You know, it just lost the last election because it
couldn`t kind of come to terms with its insistence on championing tax cuts
for the wealthy. And it`s about to go down that same pr rabbit hole again
with this proposal.

SHARPTON: Well Ezra, wouldn`t they know that this is a PR hold that
is about to go down again? I mean, why would they even risk this, in your

KLEIN: (INAUDIBLE), there are so far down the PR hold that they may
not see which way is up at the moment after the last election. But, think
about it more broadly from a bargaining standpoint, right? In particular,
things like the payroll tax cut and any kind of stimulus that the
Republicans feel that they can eventually stomach, that`s a great thing for
them to trade away at the end. It is something that maybe they don`t hate
that much but know that President Obama really wants. And so, when you`re
late in the negotiations; that is when they are going to begin to give
things like that up. It is kind of Band-Aids to make the whole deal at the
end of the day stick together.

The other truth that is always worth remembering about Boehner is that
he tends to be, maybe not at this very second, we`re not sure, but as
afraid or more afraid of his right flank than the center. So, when you
talk about a PR nightmare, there is a PR nightmare and then there`s losing
your speakership at the beginning of the next congress, because Republicans
feel like you gave away the farm during these negotiation. So Boehner is
always looking over his shoulder with an eye to the conservative base
looking happy with him.

SHARPTON: Well, all I can say is I hope they are having fun at the
Christmas party tonight. Michelle Cottle and Ezra Klein, thanks for your
time tonight.

KLEIN: Thank you.

COTTLE: Thanks, Rev.

SHARPTON: Coming up, who is leading the Republican Party? We`re
learning more about what Mitt Romney is doing with his free time. I can
tell you, it`s not him.

Plus, more conflicts of interest over on FOX News. Wait until you
hear the connection between a FOX News pollster and Paul Ryan.

And the stars were out in Washington for the Kennedy center honors and
a few zingers. We`ll show you the tape.

You`re watching "Politics Nation" on MSNBC.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want to win the World Series, you quit, you
got one game to nothing,. No, you keep going. You keep going. Do you
quit when you`re down 1-0 in debates? No. No.


SHARPTON: Have you joined the "Politics Nation" conversation can on
facebook yet? We hope you will.

Today, our facebook family loved this photo of President Obama on his
laptop tweeting during the twitter question and answer session about the
fiscal cliff.

Hugh says, no one makes better use of technology than our president.

And Mimi says, she loves the presidential seal on the cover of the

I agree, Mimi.

We`ve got more of speaker Boehner`s offer coming up next with Vermont
senator, Bernie Sanders.

But first, we want to hear what you think. Please head over to
facebook and search "Politics Nation" and "like" us to join the
conversation that keeps going long after the show ends.


SHARPTON: We`re back on "Politics Nation" with more on speaker
Boehner`s counteroffer to President Obama. The Republican house leader
wants $2.2 trillion in spending cuts. And how would he do it? Republicans
refuse to raise taxes on the rich. Unbelievable. Instead, they want to
slash billions from health care, raise the Medicare eligibility age and
hack away billions from entitlement programs. These are their great
compromises? Doesn`t seem like they`ve learned much from the election,
which they lost.

Joining me now is senator Bernie Sanders, independent from Vermont.

Senator, thank you for being here tonight.


SHARPTON: What`s your reaction to the Republican counteroffer?

SANDERS: Not only is what they are proposing absurd, I think they are
a little bit crazy politically. Because I think when the American people
fully understand that these guys want to maintain tax breaks for
millionaires and billionaires, who are doing phenomenally well, whose
effective tax rate, as Warren Buffett often reminds us, is very, very low.
And at the same time, they want to balance the budget by cutting Social
Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, I think people all over this country are
going to say, you guys are nuts. You`re really out of touch with what
ordinary Americans are thinking and believing.

SHARPTON: Now, they are saying in their counteroffer, $800 billion
through tax reform, $600 billion in health savings, $300 billion mandatory
savings, $200 billion in entitlement scale revision, $300 billion in
further discretionary savings totaling $2.2 trillion in cuts. Social
security on the table. I mean, how do you respond to people that say,
well, it could be worse? It`s not so bad?

SANDERS: It`s ridiculous. The way you respond, first of all, from a
moral perspective, if you`re having middle income people and working people
seeing a decline in their standard of living, which was what`s happen in
recent years, while the rich are getting richer, who should pick up the
burden of deficit reduction? Second of all, in terms of Social Security,
as you well know, Social Security hasn`t contributed one nickel to the


SANDERS: By the payroll tax. So why don`t you want to drag Social
Security in? Thirdly, these guys are talking about, if people can believe
it, lowering, lowering tax rates for large corporations. What sense is

The truth is, what the American people want and they have said in the
election, you know, Obama did win a major victory and the issue being
debated was whether the wealthy are going to start paying their fair share
of tacks what poll after poll says do not cut can Social Security and
Medicare and Medicaid. Ask the wealthy and large corporations to start
paying their taxes. Republicans are way, way out of touch. Further, let`s
not forget, as a result of these rather bad agreements in 2010 and 2011,
well I voted against, we`ve already cut over a trillion dollars in programs
for working families.

SHARPTON: No, and you`re right. The American people have said in the
election as well as in the polling, 82 percent oppose reducing Social
Security benefits, 67 percent oppose raising Medicare eligibility age and
60 percent support raising taxes on the wealthy. So it doesn`t even make
political sense.

SANDERS: That`s what I don`t get. And the other point, Al, when they
talk about changing the formula, so-called chain CPI for Social Security,
let me tell you what it means. I want everybody to hear this. It means
that if you`re 65 today -- and this is going to go into effect immediately
if they win this debate.


SANDERS: If you`re 65, by the time you`re 65 to 75, it will mean $560
a year less for somebody getting 14 or 15,000. By the time you`re 85, it`s
1,000 bucks, 1,000 bucks a year. And on top of that, Al, people don`t know
this, we`re talking about major cuts for disabled veterans. So we`re going
to maintain low tax rates for billionaires and we`re going to cut benefits
for disabled vets. Who in America thinks that makes any sense at all?

SHARPTON: And throughout the campaign, senator, they said that they
would protect seniors. Listen to this.


ones who are offering a plan to protect Medicare, to strengthen Medicare.

My mom is on Medicare. We owe her and all of our seniors a better
program, one that they can actually count on.

BOEHNER: I like all of you know that our budget will protect seniors.


SHARPTON: Now, this is what they said during the campaign. How can
they come back now, put Ryan back in the driver seat saying Medicare is on
the table, we`re going to cut it.

SANDERS: This is how they do it. Their argument is that if you cut
benefits, you will strengthen the lifetime existence of Social Security.
That`s their theory. You can cut now, strengthen. Trust me, right now,
Social Security can pay off benefits for the next 21 years to some simples
modest changes by lifting the cap, for example, you can have Social
Security storm for 75 years. And by the way, Obama supported that four
year ago, we want to avoid that program as well.

SHARPTON: Senator Bernie Sanders, thank you for being a fighter,
first of all, for the middle class and then thank you for being here

SANDERS: My pleasure.

SHARPTON: All right.

Coming up, failed presidential Rick Santorum has a new job and that
new job says a lot about why Republicans should get used to losing
elections for a long time to come.

And Mitt Romney in forced retirement. What his aides are saying he`s
up to.


SHARPTON: It is the season to be jolly, which means that over at FOX News,
it`s the season for the war on Christmas. It`s their annual holiday
tradition. Right up there with candy canes and Jingle bells.


BILLY O`REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: You want to know what I really
think, anybody who opposes the word "Christmas" this time of year because
it`s a federal holiday is a loon.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are so nuts because they think there`s this
made-up war on Christmas. We`re not nuts, are we?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`ll have Christ back in Christmas and
hopefully it won`t offend you.


SHARPTON: I`m not offended. Amused, yes, but not offended. So this
weekend FOX tried to add some theological heft to the argument by bringing
out a priest but it didn`t exactly work out the way they planned.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If our Christmas is going to be all about getting
upset at people who are trying to take away our Christmas, isn`t that
silly, too?


SHARPTON: Stop the show. Did he say silly? I thought this was a war
on Christmas. Apparently the good father wasn`t buying it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m really happy to --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You guys seem really angry about this war on


SHARPTON: From silly to angry. I can`t believe it. Where is he
getting these ideas? Perhaps from another FOX host who lost his cool last
week while talking about a holiday treat.


O`REILLY: The polls show 90 percent of Americans celebrates Christmas
and they want to call it a Christmas tree. You`re in the minority. You`re
imposing your will and making people unhappy in a season of joy. That`s
not right. You`re not doing the right thing, governor come on. You know
I`m right. In your heart, you know I`m right.

GOV. LINCOLN CHAFEE (I), RHODE ISLAND: No, your show, FOX News, you
guys are too angry.

O`REILLY: I`m not angry, governor.


SHARPTON: Sounds pretty angry to me.

Did the folks at FOX News think that we let them get away with their
phony outrage? Nice try. But we got you. Ho, ho, ho.


SHARPTON: The Republicans lost the election and now they may be
totally losing their way. The latest sign of that comes from former
presidential candidate Rick Santorum. He was the runner up in the GOP
primary this year. He won 11 states. Eleven states. Total of 3.9 million
Republicans voted for him. They wanted him to be their guy. Santorum has
the inside track for 2016.

Since the GOP has a long history of picking the runner up to be the
nominee next time around. But now he`s cast his lot with the crazies.
Santorum is signing on to be a columnist for the birther conspiracy website
World Net Daily. These are the folks who think that the President may be a
Muslim or a Kenyan or gay or even a Muslim gay Kenyan. In fact, here`s
what the site`s founder has said about the President.


Obama have in common and his answer is neither one of them has a birth

They didn`t bother to verify it. They didn`t bother to examine it in
any way but everyone who has come to the same conclusion, that`s it`s a
phony, fraudulent document.


SHARPTON: I mean, this is crazy stuff. It`s the fringe of the fringe
of the right wing. Yet, Rick Santorum thinks this is his path to the White
House. Right now, the GOP desperately needs some real leadership. So
where is Mitt Romney? He`s out of sight at his house in California,
totally cutting himself from the public and his party. "The Washington
Post" says, quote, "Romney hangs around the house, sometimes alone, pecking
away at his iPad, his rapid retreat into seclusion has been marked by
repressed emotions, second guessing, and sustained boredom."

The post also says, quote, "Romney has told friends he has no interest
in helping the Republican Party rebuild and rebrand itself."

So Romney`s gone, Santorum has gone birther, and until something
changes, the GOP may be gone for good.

Joining me now is republican pollster Kristen Soltis, vice president
of The Winston Group. And Erin McPike, politics reporter with Real Clear
Politics. Thank you both for joining me.



SHARPTON: Kristen, let me start with you. Is the GOP in trouble
these days as they figure things out?

SOLTIS: I think there`s a lot of work to be done. So this 2012
election was proof that it`s not 2004 again. I mean, we really got the
best campaign in 2004 had to offer. And that`s not the reality we live in
anymore. I think that after sort of getting shellacked in 2008 election,
there was some introspection but I don`t think enough and I think now that
Republicans have been beaten at the national level pretty handily twice,
you`ve got a lot of establishments folks that are beginning to wake up and
say hey, this is not the same electorate that we had eight years ago. This
new reality is here to stay. So, I think the Republicans are beginning to
wake up and see that they do need to make some changes to remain, you know,
irrelevant viable party and to win elections in the future.

Now, Erin, during this election, you covered Governor Romney a lot
and now Washington Post tells us that he`s in seclusion. According to "The
Washington Post," I`m quoting them, he devours news from 2600 miles away in
Washington, shaking his head and wondering what if. Yet friends insist
Romney is not bitter. Erin, I`m just getting your reaction as somebody
that covered him a lot. How do you read his new self-imposed seclusion?

MCPIKE: Not surprising at all. I mean, this is a man who has just
spent the last six years of his life running for president and towards the
end of this campaign. He expected to win. I don`t think that surprising
at all for anyone who`s lost a major presidential election. John Kerry was
very upset after he lost in 2004. And of course Al Gore was upset after he
lost in 2008. And they both have gone on to do big things. I`m sure Mitt
Romney is just taking a breather but he`ll do something in the future and
whether that`s inside or out of politics, it doesn`t really matter. But
he`ll figure out something to do. He is just rejoined the merry out board.
But no, he may not have a big voice within the Republican Party but he may
have a big voice on certain issues in the years to come.

SHARPTON: Well, just as a point of information, I think Al Gore had a
different view of the 2000 election but, anyway, let me go back to you,
Kristen. The GOP`s response to the election was all over the place but 25
percent of Republicans want their state to succeed because of President
Obama`s reelection. I mean, that`s another kind of extreme reaction,
wouldn`t you think?

SOLTIS: I think folks are frustrated. But I don`t think that we`re
going to have a mass movement for actual succession of states. There is --
although I will agree with you, there are a lot of different and competing
voices right now within the Republican Party about where we go from here.
We have a lot of conservatives who are saying, and I think not unfairly
that you had John McCain and Mitt Romney who maybe didn`t represent what
the conservative movement would have want it on the top of the ticket. And
they`re saying, hey, it`s our turn to have our guy.

On the other hand, you have a lot of moderates who are saying, we`re
becoming extinct in the Republican Party. It`s time for the party to
welcome us back. I don`t know that either of those camps necessarily has
it right. I think the problems with the Republicans is there are just
aren`t enough of them anymore. They need to talk more about how their
ideas are going to make people`s lives a little bit better. You know, I
don`t think that ultimately you`re going to see a lot of states seceding,
though, or that the Republican Party will shift dramatically to the right
in that sense.

SHARPTON: So what do you think they need to do, Kristen? I mean,
what would you tell them would be the right cause?

SOLTIS: So, I think it`s a lot about taking the principles that you
believe in and explaining why they make life better for people. So, one of
the things that, you know, Republicans like to do is we like to talk about
let`s cut spending and let`s cut taxes. But let`s say you`re a single mom
living in, you know, Jacksonville Florida and you hear Republicans saying
that in a debate. How is that making your life better? Why does it matter
to cut taxes for someone that`s not you or why does limited government
spending make your life better? Republicans don`t really tell the second
half of that story and I think getting that message across is going to be
absolutely critical to the future success of the party.

SHARPTON: Now, Erin, we are getting a lot of views, in fact, Reince
Priebus, the chair of the RNC is in New York today for post-election
listening to donors and politico says, quote, "Two donors described it as a
vent session, suggesting bundlers would not only ask what they went, what
went wrong but tell Priebus what they think the problems were." As they
talk to bundlers and financial supporters and donors, they are getting an

MCPIKE: Well, certainly. Because people spent money and they
expected the Republican Party to be successful. This happens for every
party that loses an election but just trying to fix some of the apparatus
problems in running a campaign won`t necessarily fix the Republican Party`s
problems. But I think when we`re looking for leadership of the Republican
Party right now, that`s in the hands of John Boehner and the policies that
he`s negotiating with President Obama over the next two years before
there`s another presidential election that begins. The Republican Party is
going to be looking to John Boehner to carry its flag.

SHARPTON: Well, if Boehner is carrying the flag, Kristen, today his
counter proposal said we`re going to protect the rich, not give a tax cut,
and he put Social Security and cutbacks and entitlements and seniors on the
table. How is that going to help them when all polls show that Americans
overwhelmingly won`t support that.

SOLTIS: I disagree with you about all polls showing that. I think
you`ve got a lot of folks that are concerned about the solvency of a lot of
these entitlement programs. So, let`s take a look. Let`s not leave
anything off the table in terms of looking at both Medicare and Medicaid
and Social Security and ways we can make these programs last into the
future. You also have the question of, you know, is there a way for you to
increase revenue, even if it`s revenue that is primarily coming from the
wealthiest Americans without changing the rates themselves. I think that`s
what Republicans are trying to do with this most recent offer.

SHARPTON: But to increase revenues where everyone puts in but the
wealthy is what helps lose the last election. We`re not talking about put
everything on the table and see where it goes. He specifically says, let`s
cut here and let`s protect this.

SOLTIS: Yes, I mean, you need to cut spending. I mean, that`s a huge
part of the problem that we`re in right now.

SHARPTON: But don`t cut rich`s people taxes.

SOLTIS: Well, don`t cut anyone`s taxes.

SHARPTON: I mean, don`t cut their tax cut I should say.

SOLTIS: Well, it`s keeping all of the rates as they currently are.
And dealing with the real complex -- tax code. I mean, it`s no question
that the wealthy sort of have an advantage when it comes to the tax code
because they have the resources to go hire a bunch of accounts to navigate
that`s incredibly complex and broken tax system that we have whereas sort
of, you know, regular folks it`s tough to be able to navigate all of these
many deductions. So as we take a look at what deductions can be on the
table, I mean, there are some that the wealthy take advantage of more than
other folks. Maybe, those are the deductions where we can begin looking at
to get some revenue without changing the rates themselves.

SHARPTON: All right. I`m going to have to leave it there. I would
argue the tax rate but we`ll leave it there. Kristen, thank you for coming

SOLTIS: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Erin, always good to have you and we will have both of you

Coming up, why is Paul Ryan giving money to a FOX News employee?
We`ll report and you decide on this one.

And the stars were out in Washington last night. We`ve got the best
lines from the Kennedy Center Honors. You`ll want to see this.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Was he a brilliant subtle passive aggressive
parody of a talk show host or just some Midwestern goon who was a little
bit off?


Well, here we are 32 years later and time has proven that there`s
really just no way of knowing.



SHARPTON: Today, in voter suppression, we go to Minnesota where our
voter ID amendment lost by eight points on election night. But now the
group behind the amendment is blaming its loss on, get this, voter fraud.
Did they say that with a straight face?

Meantime, over in Wisconsin, a voter ID law was rejected by the courts
but today the incoming republican assembly speaker was asked if it would be
worth changing the constitution to pass it. He replied, quote, "Yes, I
would favor that." Over in North Carolina, similar story, the President of
a conservative group is predicting today that one of the first bills the
North Carolina general assembly will enact next year. And that Governor
Pat McCrory will sign, will establish a photo ID requirement to vote in
North Carolina. Democratic Governor Bev Perdue had vetoed the law last
year. Like I said on election night, the fight goes on. They will keep
coming but we`ll be ready. We`ve come too far to stop fighting for our
voting rights now.


SHARPTON: You may not know Frank Luntz`s name but you definitely know
his work. He was the pollster behind Newt Gingrich`s contract with
America. PolitiFact says, lie of the year in 2010 and as a FOX
contributor, he`s a FOX News regular.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Pollster Frank Luntz, Frank, always great to see

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: And he joins me now. Good morning to you, Frank.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Pollster Frank Luntz was with a focus
group of undecided voters.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Frank, I look forward to seeing you and your brand
new show. Whenever it gets its time slots.


SHARPTON: He`s such a regular that they joke he`s getting a show.
But the joke is on anyone who thinks he`s someone who can give you a view
you can trust. Media Matters reports Luntz, who is also a CBS political
analyst, was a paid consultant for Paul Ryan. His firm got $40,000 from
Ryan`s Congressional campaign this fall. But FOX didn`t see it as a
conflict. They let Luntz run a focus group on Ryan`s debate.


FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER: Let`s do this. I want to do a phrase first to
describe Paul Ryan`s performance tonight. Let`s start in the back. Shawn
began this by talking about Biden`s interrupting and occasional laughing.
Did you guys see that? Was it obvious to you?


SHARPTON: I will tell you what is obvious, Luntz`s agenda. He also
received more than $46,000 from call on the air meltdown Rove`s super pack
this year. Wonder why he`s praising Rove`s ad.


LUNTZ: There`s an ad that we tested about a week ago. It`s one of
the best ads of the campaign and it does focus on these generational
concern and anxiety.


SHARPTON: It`s no surprise FOX guest pushing agenda but now we have a
contributor getting paid from a candidate and the conflicts of interests
are all over the place. This is a political outfit that affects what
happens inside the party.

Joining me now is Eric Boehlert, senior fellow at Media Matters which
broke this story. And Joe Madison, nationally syndicated radio host for
Sirius XM`s The Power. Thank you both for joining me tonight.


SHARPTON: Eric, secretly receiving money from a candidate while
giving commentary about that candidate, you reported the story. What is
your reaction?

Matters for America Eric Hananoki and I broke this story and it`s painful
to look at the facts. I mean, here`s what is supposed to be a news analyst
and he`s getting paid to say how great even Paul Ryan is doing. And --

SHARPTON: And being paid by Ryan`s --

BOEHLERT: And being paid $20,000 a month. You showed the focus
groups that he was running. You know, the people who thought Mitt Romney
was going to win in landslide were the people who asked Frank Luntz`s focus
groups. Everyone raised their hand. Paul Ryan did great. Mitt Romney won
all the debates. So, you know, you can`t -- when it comes to conflict of
interest, the simple rule is to disclose everything. You know, your
transparency. If you`re in the journalism business, and even if you`re
political analyst and you want to sort of being in the journalism business
during the campaign, you explain what your conflicts of interests are.
Being paid $20,000 a month, ranks pretty high as a conflict of interest and
FOX had him running these focus groups.

SHARPTON: Now, Joe, and we`re dealing here now with not somebody`s
opinion, that`s fine, but somebody dealing with candidates that are telling
people that they are objective about the data that they`re reporting or
dealing with around the actual raise the candidate he`s in.

MADISON: This is and that`s because Reverend Sharpton, they`re not
journalist. It`s their propagandas. And I think you can look up the
definition and he would fit the definition perfectly. FOX News and most
people know this is nothing more than a mouthpiece for the Republican Party
and I`m not the first to say that. And I think the other thing that we
should point out is because they do not have an honest policy. Look, most
news organizations have a policy that if there is a conflict or a potential
conflict or you are a paid consultant or whatever, you announce that so
people know who is delivering the message.

FOX doesn`t care about who is delivering the message. What they are
trying to do, they were trying to impact the outcome of the election and
you know what, they deserve what they have gotten. The fact is, they had
these consultants, they had misinformation, they mislead the public, they
made it think that Romney was even Steven with Barack Obama and the reality
is today when I interviewed the first lady, she said they had volunteers
not only people standing in line to vote but, get this, they had volunteers
standing in line to get into the campaign offices to volunteer.

SHARPTON: Now, Media Matters also reported that several FOX
contributors and analyst criticizes President Obama without disclosing that
they advised the Romney campaign.

BOEHLERT: This was an ongoing problem. A lot of conflict of interest
problems. People appearing on FOX News who were advising the campaign and
not disclosing it. I guess -- I don`t know if you watch FOX News, you
assume that everyone who is on TV is part of the Romney campaign, is that
the premise that used. It would be nice if they had some transparency.
Wall Street journal also own by Rupert Murdoch like FOX News, column after
column from contributors attacking the Obama administration never
explaining during the campaign they were advising the Romney campaign.
This is journalism 101. There has to be transparency and there`s a
conflict of interest. If you`re getting paid cash by a candidate or
advising a campaign, you have to disclose that.

SHARPTON: Now, Jon Huntsman criticized big players in the GOP saying
that just concerned were getting on FOX. He told Huffington Post quote, "I
looked down the debate stage and half of them were probably on FOX
contracts at one point in their career. You do that, you write some books,
you go out and sell some more, you get a radio gig or TV gig out of it or
something, you say to yourself, the barriers of entry to this game are
pretty damn low."

MADISON: You not only write some books but in some cases they buy the
books. These organizations and Think Tank. And they do this. They will
buy books and actually give them away, therefore, driving up the sales of
the books. They get on a list and people think that they have honestly
sold books to individuals all over the country. Look, they are not a
journalistic be organization. And I know what people will now e-mail me
and say. Well, they are number one. They are number one.

Number one doesn`t necessarily mean you are the best and particularly
the best at being an honest, transparent, journalistic organization. Now,
they may say MSNBC leans this way and leans that way. But at least you
have a policy that announces who works for who, who does what for who, and
that way people know what they are getting.

SHARPTON: And is not around candidates. But Erin Boehlert, and Joe
Madison, thank you so much for your time.

MADISON: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Up next, a big night in Washington and a big tradition to
honor some great American legends. That`s next.


SHARPTON: We close tonight celebrating some living legends. Last
night, the Kennedy Center bestowed annual honors given for lifetime of
contributions for American culture. This year`s honorees include Natalia
Markova, the ballerina who escaped Soviet Russia, Dustin Hoffman, the actor
who brought us The Graduate, and Rain Man. David Letterman, the late night
comedian you`ve watched for over 30 years. Buddy guy, Grammy award winning
blues man and Led Zeppelin, the legendary rock and roll band. Prior to the
show, President Obama hosted the honorees and offered some humor.


PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: We`ve got buddy guy sitting
next to Dustin Hoffman. We`ve got Dave Letterman alongside one of the
greatest ballerinas of all time. I don`t think Dave dances. I worked with
speechwriters. There`s no smooth transition from ballet to Led Zeppelin.
Of course, these guys also redefine the rock `n roll lifestyle. We do not
have video of this.


But there was some hotel rooms trashed. And mayhem all around. So,
it`s fitting that we`re doing this in a room with windows that are about
three inches thick.



SHARPTON: The night was filled with performances and heartfelt
congratulations from the star colleagues and fans. It was a star-studded
night. Hillary Clinton even snapping this picture next to Meryl Streep.

Ray Romano on a David Letterman and brought a zinger.


RAY ROMANO, STAND-UP COMEDIAN: You want to win the World Series. Do
you quit, you`re down one game to nothing? No. You keep going. You keep
going. Do you quit when you`re done one-nothing in debates? No. No.



SHARPTON: The celebration has a real meaning. The President talked
about the artist`s journey and how they embodied the true spirit of this
country. This is what we`re on in America. It`s about courage. It`s
about taking risk, it`s about inspiring others no matter the odds. That is
what America is at its best.

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


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