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PoliticsNation, Monday, January 7th, 2013

Read the transcript from the Monday show

January 7, 2013

Guests: Krystal Ball, Dana Milbank, Jonathan Capehart, Wesley Clark, Michelle Cottle, Nia-Malika Henderson

REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC ANCHOR: Thanks, Chris. And thanks to you for
tuning in.

Tonight`s lead, show down over defense. Today, the president officially
nominated his choice for defense secretary. Vietnam veteran and former GOP
senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska. But already, Republicans are signaling a
major fight over his nomination. They apparently think the president
should have the right to pick his own team, even though Hagel has all the
qualifications for the job.


leader that our troops deserve. He is an American patriot. He enlisted in
the army and volunteered for Vietnam. To this day, Chuck bears the scars
and the shrapnel from battles he fought in our name.

Chuck Hagel`s leadership of our military would be historic. He would be
the first person of enlisted rank to serve as secretary of defense. One of
the few secretaries who is have been wounded in war and the first Vietnam
veteran to lead the department.

In chuck Hagel, our troops see a decorated combat veteran of character and
strength. They see one of their own.


SHARPTON: Hagel was twice awarded the Purple Heart, a two-term senator who
served on the Foreign Relations Committee and co-chair of President Obama`s
intelligence advisory award.


CHUCK HAGEL, FORMER NEBRASKA SENATOR: Mr. President, I`m grateful for this
opportunity to serve our country again. And especially its men and women
in uniform and their families. These are people who give so much to this
nation every day with such dignity and selflessness.


SHARPTON: Already, Hagel is getting support from both sides of the aisle.
Former secretary of state Colin Powell says I wholeheartedly endorse
President Obama`s nomination for former senator Chuck Hagel to be the next
secretary of defense and chair of the committee that would lead Hagel`s
confirmation hearings.

Senator Carl Levin said, Senator Hagel is well qualified to serve as
secretary of defense with his broad experience in national security

He`s the president`s choice. He`s clearly a qualified candidate. But,
yet, again, Republicans are attacking one of the president`s pick. And
this time, they`re turning their backs on one of their own.

Senator Lindsey Graham says Hagel is quote "out of the mainstream on
foreign policy."

John McCain says he has serious concerns about Hagel`s views on national

And Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell promises Hagel quote "a lot of
tough questions."

Many of these same Republicans once praised and supported Chuck Hagel.
That was until the resident decided he liked him. Now, they`re promising a
big fight to oppose his nomination. But, in the end, will the president
get his man?

Joining me now is retired general Wesley Clark, former NATO commander now
chairman and CEO of Wesley Clark and associates. And former Pennsylvania
governor, Ed Rendell now an NBC news analyst.

Let me first, thank you both for being here tonight.


General, let me start with you. The right wing is now gearing up to block
Hagel. Doesn`t the president get to pick his own team or has something

pick his own chief. And you know, despite the fact the right wing is ling
up to fight him and there may be some votes against him. I think when
Chuck Hagel gets on the hill and he talks to senators one-on-one and gets
in groups and they have to face one of their own former colleagues, a man
who`s got experience, sound judgment, compassion, everything needed to be a
great secretary of defense and member of the president`s candidate, they
will never hard time voting.

SHARPTON: But, general, I mean, why are we seeing this lack of acceptance
of the president`s team? You had Susan Rice, you`ve had all of this way
out attacks on the attorney general Eric Holder. Are they trying to Susan
Rice Hagel here? I mean, what is this pattern we are seeing that no matter
what this president nominates, what he says, they find a reason to fight it
even if its people that they praised in the past.

CLARK: I think this is the next front, you know. They didn`t do so well
on the fiscal cliff. And now, they`ve got to find another partisan
opening. I think it`s a partisan attack. I think it`s designed to help
them raise money to strengthen their party`s position, try to establish an
opposing position and foreign affairs from the mainstream position of the

SHARPTON: Governor, when you look at John McCain, for example, John McCain
says he has concerns about Hagel`s positions on national security issues
today. But in 2006, when he was plotting a run for the presidency, McCain
said I`d be honored to have Chuck with me in any capacity. He`d make a
great secretary of state. Same John McCain. Mitch McConnell who says
there will be tough questions for Hagel, called him one of the premiere
foreign policy voices in 2007 and a leading voice in foreign affairs in

Let me put you on the spot, governor, is John McCain just a bitter man
because President Obama beat him and he`s just bitter and keeps attacking
whatever the president does and Mitch McConnell is still trying to live up
to his saying that will make him a one-term president and in the second
term, he`s still trying to ruin the Obama presidency?

RENDELL: Yes. I think this is all a question of sour grapes. I mean, you
said it first. Leaving aside Chuck Hagel`s tremendous qualifications, and
by the way, I got to know most of the U.S. senate and he`s as fine a man
that ever served in the Senate, number one.

Number two, not all of the good thing that is you delineated and the
president delineated that he did, but he`s probably who been in the senator
who has done the most for veterans of any senator, maybe in the history of
the Senate. He`s been enormously effective.

And enlisted man, a secretary of defense, I think guys like me who entered
the army as privates, that warms our heart all over. He`s a great pick.

But you said correctly, Reverend Sharpton, when you said the president has
the right to pick his own team. It`s always been the tradition in America.
Unless there`s something grievously wrong with an individual, or unless
that individual is corrupt or unless that individual is clearly
unqualified, the president gets to pick his own team. That`s whether it`s
a Republican president or a Democratic president.

And I disagree with my good friend, General Clark, who`s usually as bright
as anybody in the business when he says that they`re building their own
ramp. Maybe that`s what they`re trying to do, but it`s going to backfire
terribly. The American people are going to turn on them if they try to
derail Chuck Hagel. Chuck Hagel is a Nebraskan. He is a great American,
as you said, Purple Heart twice. Just an enlisted man, the first that have
enlisted man ever. Great credentials. I think this will backfire
enormously. You can`t be bitter. You`ve got to be gracious winners, but
you also got to be gracious losers.

SHARPTON: You know, governor u former senator Max Cleveland, a captain in
the Vietnam War, talked to talking points and he said about the appointment
of Chuck Hagel to defense and John Kerry to state. He said it could change
American foreign policy in our stance on war. And let me read to you what
he said, General Clark.

Look at John Kerry and Chuck Hagel, two wounded combat veterans of the
Vietnam War. They got five Purple Hearts between them. That`s the kind of
people we want withdrawing from Afghanistan and ending this insane war and
occupation and focusing the country on using the American military to state
out of war. But, we get in war to win war and it quickly. Pretty go
statement from.

CLARK: It`s a great statement. And I think it`s a really important
insight that needs to be brought front and center for the American people.
Both John Kerry and Chuck Hagel have been in Vietnam. They saw the price
that people say. They saw the price the country paid for this. They are
not going to be people who are going to rush to commit America to conflict
without knowing how to finish the job that we`ve started. They`re going to
carefully look at when our troops are committed. They`re going to look at
the objectives, the constraints and the best decisions.

SHARPTON: Now, governor, they have tried to raise some controversy about
statements he made many years ago and all of us in the public who are going
through that. But his - they draw a lot of attention to his positions on
Israel saying using quote "a quote for him the political reality is that
the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here. But in the same
interview, he said this, listen.


HAGEL: I`m a United States senator. I`m not an Israeli senator. I`m a
United States senator. I support Israel. But my first interest is I take
an oath of office to the constitution f the United States.


SHARPTON: And went onto say he supported the state of Israel and supported
that whatever this country did, we must remember our allies, something to
that effect. Will they be able to use these statements, despite the fact
that they praised them since they were made to try and undermine this

RENDELL: Well, the prior, Rev., but again the facts will be something they
can`t overcome. Chuck Hagel voted for $38 billion in foreign aid and
defense aid to go to the state of Israel. $38 billion over his Senate
career and his career on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. So,
that`s a fact.

And I know there`s some people in our party who are upset about something
he may have said about an ambassador who was openly gay. Well, the human
rights committee which is the foremost gay political action group in the
country. The human rights committee has issued a statement saying they
accept his apology. They forgive him and they understand how far he`s come
in his evolution on gay right and they forgive him. That`s good enough for
the human rights committee. It`s good enough for everyone in the United
States Senate, as well.

SHARPTON: We`re going to leave it there.

General Wesley Clark and Governor Ed Rendell, thank you both for your time

RENDELL: Good night, Rev.

CLARK: Thank you, Al. Good to be with you.

SHARPTON: Good to be with you.

Coming up, speaker Boehner says he needs his job like a quote "hole in the
head." That`s a funny way to celebrate re-election. Just what is the
speaker up to. We`ll have that story.

And the tea party gets even more unpopular. So GOP has an answer. Tea
party favorite Ted Cruz, the new extremism of the Republicans newest star.

Plus, Hillary Clinton gets a big surprise on her first day back to work
since being hospitalized. Here`s a hint. It wasn`t an apology from the
fix losers.

You`re watching "Politics Nation" only on the place for politics, MSNBC.


SHARPTON: Have you joined the politics nation conversation on facebook
yet? We hope you will.

Today, everyone was welcoming secretary of state Hillary Clinton back to

Charvette says glad she`s back and looking well.

Wilma says continue the good work and stay healthy. Americans need you.

Coming up, we`ll show you the gifts she got from her staff. You`ll want to
see this.

But, first, we want to hear what you think about Hillary Clinton or any
other topic that interests you. 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: There`s a new fever sweeping the country. Have you heard about
it? It`s called shutdown fever. And Mitch McConnell just caught it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Would you rule out a government shutdown to
achieve your goals?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: What I think we ought to do
is encourage the president to actually be president. Address the single
biggest --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: I understand you. But my question is would
you rule a government shutdown?

MCCONNELL: I know what your q question is. What I`m telling you is I
haven`t given up on the president stepping up to plate.


SHARPTON: Not ruling out a government shutdown. But it`s not just him.
Congressman Matt Salmon has it, too.


REP. MATT SALMON (R), ARIZONA: I was here during the government shutdown
in 1995. It was a divided government. We had Democrat president of the
United States. We had a Republican congress. And I believe that that
government shutdown actually gave us the impetus as we went forward to push
toward some real serious compromise.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Do you think that`s a good idea?

SALMON: Yes, I do. I think it`s about time.


SHARPTON: Oh, yes, it`s about time. No time like the present to
completely destroy the economy. But this fever is spreading. Paul Ryan
caught the book. Senator Ted Cruz has it. So does John Cornyn and Senator
Pat Tummy. Holding the economy hostage to demand budget cuts?

A shutdown would mean Americans would lose jobs, lose Social Security
checks, veterans would lose benefits, Medicare patients would be left
waiting. This shutdown fever needs to break.

Joining me now is Nia-Malika Henderson, national political reporter for
"the Washington Post" and Michelle Cottle, Washington correspondent for
`the Daily Beast."

Thank you both for being here tonight.


to be here.

SHARPTON: Nia, Republicans are threatening to destroy the economy. Is
there any way out of this?

HENDERSON: Well, you know, I think what is interesting about those clips
that you played, Mitch McConnell doesn`t seem to be completely on board
with this idea of government shutdown. It was sort of not answer to a very
specific question.

SHARPTON: But he wouldn`t say no, either. He left it hanging.

HENDERSON: You`re right. He wouldn`t rule it out completely nor would he
go as far as other people and say this is a real, real viable option and
something that Republican should actually move toward doing.

You know, I think what we see is a Republican Party that doesn`t quite know
what it`s going to do in terms of bargaining around of the continuing
revolution, bargaining around the debt ceiling limit. They`ve got a
situation where they - you are obviously talking about cuts. But one of
the problems when you get in to talking about cuts, people don`t really
wants cuts. When you get in to the meaty gritty of cutting Medicare, of
cutting Social Security, that is going to be a very a hard to fill.

And, also, I think the other reality is if you look at what`s happened so
far, we have already cut quite a bit out of the budget. I think it is
something like $1.5 trillion. The revenue that`s come in so far haven`t
matched that. I think it`s been about a third or fourth of that. So, they
have got a real challenge, I think, going forward in terms of what are we
going to speak with. Is it going to be Mitch McConnell? Is it going to
Boehner? Is it going to some of those back benchers? But we will have to
see this going forward. Got a lot of fight to see.

SHARPTON: Michelle, as long as it`s out there where you have some just
overtly saying shutdown is good, I`ll do shutdown. Don`t we need the
leadership like McConnell to say unequivocally, we`re not talking about a
shutdown. That is not a good thing. Even nut Gingrich, the architect of
the shutdown in the `90s has said, this is not good. It shouldn`t be done.

The fact that there is some ambiguity at best among the senate leadership
and leaving that door open than some of the others, makes one wonder are
the others speaking in a set or tone that they can use as an option and
that that would be disastrous for this country and the economy.

COTTLE: I think if the cliff negotiations taught us anything, you can`t
listen to the hard line bluster this early in the game. I know it doesn`t
feel like it is early. But, if you`ll look at how close to the deadline,
we came with the last stand off, everybody takes their hard lined
positions. I`m not going to do this. I`m not going to do that. I`m not
going to.

McConnell is not going to go out there on the lamb and shut down these hard
liners at this point. He`s going to want to go in there with a strong of
position as he can, making as biggest threats with his conferences he can
and kind of push back against Obama.

So, as it gets closer for the deadline, they are going to have to sit down
and hammer this out. But, at this stage of the game, he`s not going to
make a strong stand.

CLARK: Now, Nia-Malika, speaker - former speaker and minority leader Nancy
Pelosi was on "Face the Nation." And she said she would use the 14th
amendment to avoid a shut down with the Republicans. Listen to this.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: This is a conversation where
there should be no doubt. In fact, if I were president, I would use the
14th amendment which says that the United States were always --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: You would just go ahead and do it.

PELOSI: I would just do it. Right.


SHARPTON: What do you think the American public has been supportive of the
president so far. What do you think they would do is the president just
said I`m going to use the 14th amendment. Let`s forget all these
negotiations. I`m moving forward. And 57 percent say the president got
more than what he wanted. They viewed him and declared, won in the fiscal
cliffs. Does he come out of that and just go straight forward and not
negotiate? What o you think Nia-Malika?

HENDERSON: You know, I`m not sure how the public will react. You have
President Obama who has said that he`s not going to negotiate over this at
all. I think he has taken out a real hard line as well that he`s probably
going to have to move. You know, as things go forward, oh, the White House
has said that he doesn`t think that he`s going to use this 14th amendment.
I think he will have lots of Democrats and progressive and liberals names
that they should invoke that 14 amendment laws. It says the government has
to pay its debt essentially.

But, I think they`re worried about the optics of that. Would that look too
much like one branch of the government sort of stepping over other branches
of the government. So, I think, you know, again, a lot of blustering and
brink ship going on already. But, as we saw with this in the clip, in the
end, something is going to have to get done or else, you know, I mean, I
think one of the things that at stake, not only government shutdown, but
the entire world economy. And I don`t think Republicans, if they`re
looking back at what happened in `95, `96, it was good for Clinton that
they shut the government down. It wasn`t good for Republicans at all. It
very much set up a situation where Bob Dole was hurt in his campaign. And
Clinton`s approval rating shut up. So, if they want to help President
Obama in terms of approval ratings of them, go ahead and shut the
government down.

SHARPTON: Michelle, the Republicans are now saying their taxes are off the
table. Let me show you Senator McConnell on "Meet the Press" yesterday.


MCCONNELL: We`ve resolved the tax issue now. It`s over. It`s behind us.
We were able to get permanent tax relief for 99 percent of American
taxpayers and for 500,000 small businesses so that is behind us.


SHARPTON: Your reaction to that? Is it off the table?

COTTLE: Of course it`s not off the table. What McConnell is betting on is
that Americans are going to forget all of those cuts in spending that were
agreed upon last time we did this and think well, OK, the Republicans gave
on taxes this time. It is now the Democrats` turn to give on spending.
But, the math is such that you got to have all of these things on the table
if they have any hope of making this thing work out. So, everything will
have to be on the table. But here again, we are early in the negotiations
and everybody is taking their toughest, most intransigent stance on all
these things.

SHARPTON: It is interesting. They seem to have a problem with that
mathematical issue all of the time.

Nia-Malika and Michelle, thank you both for your time tonight.

HENDERSON: Thank you, Rev.

COTTLE: Thanks, Rev.

SHARPTON: Still ahead, Paul Ryan votes to let Sandy victims suffer without
relief money. But he wasn`t always so cold. We have a hypocrisy alert

Plus, secretary of state Hillary Clinton back to work together today. Good
to see, but we`re still waiting for the apology from the clowns at FOX News
who questioned her illness even for them, it`s really lame.

You`re watching "Politics Nation" right here on MSNBC.


SHARPTON: Last week, 67 house Republicans voted against relief for victims
of hurricane Sandy. But, surprise, surprise. Most sing a different tune
if those are in need are from their home. Think progress reports that 37
Republicans who opposed the bill had earlier supported disaster relief for
their own states.

Leading the pact? Congressman Paul Ryan. He said no to sandy last week.
But he said yes to federal funding in 2008 after flooding in his home state
of Wisconsin. And then there`s Congressman Steven Palazzo from
Mississippi. He voted against the Sandy bill, too. But just four months
ago, Palazzo was thrilled to receive federal aid after hurricane Isaac. He
said quote "we cannot thank the governor`s office and FEMA enough for their
continued support." He even held a press conference to talk about the
importance of federal aid.


REP. STEVEN PALAZZO (R), MISSISSIPPI: I was able to sit in on a financial
services hearing and we were talking about the importance of a national
flood insurance program. You know, 20,000 communities across America live
on or near water and that program were so important to provide certainty
stability to families.


SHARPTON: That hypocrisy is great. But, wait, there`s more. After
Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when Palazzo worked for his hometown housing
authority, he was lining up to ask for federal help. He even put his name
right on the paper work with this quote, "Send us money so we can put
families back together."

Send us money? Oh, I see. You need those funds right away when it`s going
to help you and yours. But when the victims are up in blue states who
voted for President Obama, well, then they`re on their own. Did you
congressman think we give you any relief from your own hypocrisy? Nice
try, but we got you.



JON STEWART, COMEDIAN: Greetings from Mitt Romney, he has one tonight.
We`re going to announce this right now. Most of the confederacy. That`s a
lot of electoral votes.



SHARPTON: That was one of Jon Stewart`s best lines on election night.
Pointing up a big truth for the day`s GOP. The heart of their party is in
the old south. They`re shrinking, basically, everywhere else and is
dragging the party even further to the right. The Los Angeles Times
reports last week, 59 percent of the votes on the fiscal cliff that voted
no came from Republicans in the south. A majority of Republicans from
outside the south supported the deal. And on Sandy disaster aid, 56
percent of the no votes came from southern Republicans. That`s despite
passionate support for the bill, from Republicans in the Norbest (ph). The
etiological base of the GOP is now in the old south. Just listen to one of
their newest stars, the Tea Party senator from Texas, Ted Cruz.


The reason I am a conservative is because conservative policies work. I
don`t think what Washington needs as more compromise. I think what
Washington needs is more common sense and more principle.


SHARPTON: Washington doesn`t need more compromise. Really? This is from
the guy who`s supposed to be their bright new star? No wonder John Boehner
can`t handle the right wing of his party. They`re disconnected from what
the rest of the country wants. No wonder Boehner says quote, "I need this
job like I need a hole in the head." John Boehner has the job nobody
wants. Head of the incredible shrinking GOP.

Joining me now is Krystal Ball, co-host of "THE CYCLE" here on MSNBC. And
Dana Milbank, political columnist for "The Washington Post," and an MSNBC
analyst. Thank you both for being here tonight.

KRYSTAL BALL, MSNBC CO-HOST, "THE CYCLE": Thanks for having us, Rev.


SHARPTON: Krystal, isn`t the GOP`s big base in the south hurting them and
hurting the rest of the country?

BALL: It absolutely is. And the more that the party sort of shrinks down
to that southern -- it becomes a self fulfilling prophesy because the
Republicans all across the country get associated with the very far right,
conservative politics that are very popular in the south. And so, it makes
it harder for northeastern Republicans across the country outside of the
south to get elected. So, then it just shrink down and it continues to
become more and more extreme.

And what we see is in many of these districts, you know, they`re not
worried about a challenge from the left. They`re not worried about their
general election. They`re worried about primary battles and increasingly,
too. They`re concerned with having a national Tea Party activist base
where they can fundraise from. So, for example, we see people like
Representative Huelskamp fund raising off the fact that Boehner and the
establishment Republicans are against him and that he`s a thorn in their
side in going against --


SHARPTON: -- establishment in his own part.

BALL: That`s exactly right and raises money off of it, too.

SHARPTON: Dana, when you look at the Tea Party`s record unpopularity, it`s
broke records now. Forty nine percent have unfavorable view. Fifty six
percent have become less influential over the last year. As they sink in
popularity, what happens to the GOP? Do you start seeing defections in the
northeastern republican? Will there be some awakening in the southern
stronghold of the Republicans right? I mean, how is this going to work
itself out?

MILBANK: Well, it looks, Reverend, as if it`s going to get worse before
it`s going to get any better. This was the source of the revival of the
Republican Party as in, you know, making the south solidly republican. But
now we`re seeing the consequences to this. And that is that the northeast
and the coast are becoming justice solidly democratic. Now, the paramount
problem for the Republicans right now is this one of demographics. And
that they`re becoming this party of conservative, southern white males.

And that is certainly not the direction the country is moving in, in terms
of demographics. So, they need to figure out a set of policies to get
around that. The problem is, just as the country is moving in another
direction, this sort of mind set has been cemented in the Congress and
particularly in the republican house majority because of gerrymandered
seats. They have a disproportionate number of seats, far more than they
actually earned from the popular vote from the electorate.

SHARPTON: Yes. And Krystal, he talks about the cementing in the minds in
the Congress, but when you see this litany of far right, outrageous
comments coming from some of the Republicans on the far right, it`s
cementing that in the minds of the American public. Just watch some of
these statements that have been made by this.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The last vote we took today was to eliminate the word
lunatic from our federal law. And I don`t have a problem with lunatic.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I`ve come to understand that all of this stuff I was
talking about evolution, embryology, big bang theory. All of that lies
straight from the pit of held.


SHARPTON: I mean, these are the extreme, extreme statements.

BALL: Extreme statements, and, again, you know, it`s a political calculus
here where you cannot possibly be too far to the right for most of these
members of Congress running in these districts. And I think it`s very
interesting to note that in the Senate, there were very few Republicans who
defected from the fiscal cliff bill vote. Because they have to run for the
whole state. So they have to represent a broader constituency in the
house, totally different situation, 85 Republicans vote for it.

SHARPTON: Because it`s a narrower --

BALL: Because these districts where they gerrymandered district where
they, you know, only have to worry about how far to the right can they get.
And there`s another interesting thing at play here. I went back and took a
look during the last debt ceiling fight in the summer of 2011. Pew
Research did a poll asking people, do they want to see a compromise to
avert the fiscal cliff. Eighty one percent of Democrats said yes, we want
a compromise. Sixty nine percent of independents said yes, we want a
compromise. Only 53 percent of Republicans, so you also just have a more
ideological group in the Republican Party that is less amenable to
compromise. They want to see this, you know, quote, unquote, "principled
leadership that doesn`t look to work with the other side."

SHARPTON: But Dana, let`s pick up on that point where Krystal is talking
about the difference between the Senate and the House. Because you have
this roll call headline that Boehner coup was attempt larger than first
thought. And you have a quote for Eric Erickson from saying,
push to Boehner isn`t over yet.

Quote, "The GOP establishment intends 2014 as an election season to seek
revenge on conservatives. Conservatives are going to have to hang
together. Remember, it took two years to really orchestrate the removal of
Newt Gingrich. The conservatives must keep pushing."

So why do you have the Senate, who runs statewide, as Krystal say, being a
lot more moderate and few defections, you`ve got these congressman not only
defecting, but, still, planning and plotting a coup on John Boehner.

MILBANK: Right. You know, what`s interesting, Reverend, is you played
that clip earlier about them getting rid of the word lunatic from federal
law. But of course, does appear to be a great deal of lunacy in the house.
But if you -- so at least that part of the federal government maintains it.
But if look more closely at what`s going on there, the problem with this is
they`re behaving in a perfectly rational way. You have the vast majority
of members of the republican majority and a significant number of the
democratic minority as well, are only, as Krystal was saying, fearing
threats from within the party, from primary challengers.

The rational thing for them to do in the republican majority is to move
further and further to the right. Not to compromise. Not to do anything
that has anything to do with this president in particular. It`s not, in
that case, a matter of lunacy. But they`re just being cool and rationale
about it. Because of the way demography is -- because of the way
particular, the way the republican governors have redistricted since the
last census. I don`t see how they can -- how we can get around that. You
can`t ask for them to behave themselves because they are behaving in a
rational way.

SHARPTON: Giving the gerrymander districts that they`re running in. I`m
going to have to leave it there. Krystal Ball, Dana Milbank, thanks for
your time tonight.

MILBANK: Thanks, Reverend.

BALL: Thanks, Reverend.

SHARPTON: Be sure to catch Krystal on "THE CYCLE," weekdays at 3 p.m.
Eastern right here on MSNBC.

Still ahead, Hillary Clinton is back at work after her health care, and
gets a big surprise from her staff. But we`re still waiting for an apology
from all of those pundits who thought she was faking her illness. And,
President Obama and Joe Biden are working on something big. We have an
inside account of what`s going on behind the scenes. And it may surprise
you. You`re watching POLITICS NATION right here on MSNBC.


SHARPTON: President Obama and Joe Biden are on the verge of something big,
bigger than anyone might have expected. That`s next.



PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: Anybody who was up in Newtown who
talked to the parents, who talked to the families, understands that
something fundamental in America has to change. Something has to work.
And it is not enough for us to say this is too hard so we`re not going to


SHARPTON: President Obama vowing to take action on gun control to prevent
another Newtown-like tragedy. He appointed Vice President Biden to take a
lead, take the lead, in a task force on gun control. And today, we`re
getting our first account on what`s going on inside the group. And it`s
big. Washington Post reports they are considering changes to go far beyond
their ban on assault weapons. Their agenda includes universal background
checks for gun buyers. A national weapons tracking data base. Stronger
mental health checks.

Tougher penalties for people who bring guns close to schools. And tougher
penalties for giving them to minors. This is potentially important news.
There is no longer the same old, same old. It feels different. The vice
president is expected to present recommendations this month. And for some
measures, President Obama might not have to wait for Congress. Some
proposals could be quote, "implemented by executive action." Now is not
the time for division. It`s the time to turn the tragedies into a movement
for change.

Joining me now, Jonathan Capehart, opinion writer for The Washington Post,
and an MSNBC contributor. He recently wrote about the Newtown shooting in
a story titled from Trayvon to Newtown. Jonathan, thanks for joining us.


SHARPTON: I`d like to go back to your piece for a minute. You wrote in
the piece and I`m quoting the piece, "After every mass killing, the nation
has suffered. We said this time would be different. This time would be
change to the nation`s gun laws. This time, we would find the political
will to bring commonsense to our gun laws and stop the endless flow of
tears of families torn asunder by an armed madman. Maybe next year."

Jonathan, this seems like a real movement from the White House. What do
you make of what`s going on inside of Biden`s commission?

CAPEHART: Well, I mean, clearly, they`ve taken a lesson from Newtown,
being that we have to draw the line somewhere. We`ve been through many
mass killings through the President`s term. But what happened in Newtown,
what happened in Sandy Hook Elementary school was something we had never
seen before. A gunman from outside the school going inside and killing
children as young as six and seven years old. We`d never seen anything
like that. School is supposed to be a safe space.

And particularly, in elementary school, if something like that cannot see
your consciousness and make you want to move and change things, then I`m
not sure what will. And so, what you saw from the President when he spoke
in the briefing room when he choked up in the briefing room, and then
almost immediately appointing Vice President Biden to chair this task
force, what we`re hearing about, what the task force is considering, and
knowing also that the deadline is before the end of this month and that the
president is getting a State of the Union Address probably early next
month, that we are seeing swift action at least in terms of making
recommendations for Congress to consider and maybe even recommendations for
the president to take action on his own.

SHARPTON: Now, the White House plans to outreach broad range of groups on
gun control, not just the expected. We`re hearing they`re reaching out to
gun retailers including Wal-Mart, religious leaders, mental health
professionals. Wouldn`t if they have such a broad coalition of different
interests, different groups. Wouldn`t that help to better lead to some
real change here?

CAPEHART: Sure. I think what`s -- what`s happen in the past is that the
National Rifle Association has been very good at mobilizing its members,
mobilizing the money that it has, but also depending on, again, such
measures. But also depending on sort of the, you know, our fleeting
attention span to work in their favor. If we forget about what happened in
Aurora, what happened in Tucson, what happened in Newtown, then that
unearths to the NRA`s benefit. What the president appears in the vice
president`s commission appears to be doing is looking at ways to mobilize
the anger and frustration about what happened in Newtown. They get it
beyond Washington and beyond --


SHARPTON: Right. Let me ask you this quickly because we`re going to run
out of time.


SHARPTON: I mentioned earlier that, you know, Washington Post, your
paper`s report, says that President Obama wouldn`t have to get
Congressional approval for some of the measures. Quote, "possibilities
include changes in federal mental health programs and modernization of gun
trafficking efforts by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and

CAPEHART: Right. And so, you know, again, you know, these are
recommendations that we`re hearing about from a commission that isn`t
exactly holding public hearings. I think what we need to do is to wait and
see what they propose. And then, also, how they propose the president is
able to do these things. There`s one thing to say, the president can use
his authority but I think the question will be how? What`s the legal basis
for the president to do the things that they say he can do on his own?

SHARPTON: Well, we`ll be watching. Jonathan Capehart, thank you so much
for your time tonight.

CAPEHART: Thanks, Rev.

SHARPTON: Coming up, Hillary Clinton goes back to work and she was given a
gift by her staff. You`ll want to hear this. We`re coming right back.
Stay with us.


SHARPTON: Finally tonight, good news to report. Take a look at this
picture released today. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton back at work
for the first time in 29 days. She`s leading a weekly staff meeting. A
concussion and blood clot that sent her to the hospital for three days and
check this out. The Clinton team has a great sense of humor.

As a gift, the staff gave her a football helmet complete with the
Department of State logo on it. They also gave her a jersey with the
number 112 for the number of countries she`s visited. So Secretary Clinton
and her staff had a good laugh today. But here`s something that`s not
funny. In the moments right after her concussion, this was the response
from some on FOX News.


JOHN BOLTON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: When you don`t want to go
to a meeting or a conference or an event, you have a diplomatic illness.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Why don`t we apply the safe standards we apply to school
kids? I want to see a doctor`s note. A doctor`s note would be nice.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Charles, you had a good line, Hillary has
severe Benghazi allergy.

work on that. She is the first reported the case and it`s a very, very
severe one.

HANNITY: Very, very severe. Let`s see the medical report on that?


SHARPTON: Classy, right? Questioning if she was really sick. Getting
mocked after a serious head injury. But, on the same day she gets back to
work, we have a new challenge for the right. We`re embarking on Chuck
Hagel`s nomination for secretary of defense, a former senator praised by
Republicans. So what will the knee jerk reaction be to this? I`m going to
say optimistic and hope they`ll do the right thing.

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


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