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PoliticsNation, Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

Read the transcript from the Wednesday show

February 13, 2013

Guests: Michelle Cottle; Bob Shrum; Barbara Boxer, Abby Huntsman, Joe Madison, Russell Simmons

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

Tonight`s lead, a more perfect union. President Obama tells Republicans to
get on board or get out of the way. Today, the president hit the road to
promote the new second term agenda that he unveiled in the state of the
union. He went outside the belt way to create change outside of Washington
visiting a factory in North Carolina to pound his essential message from
last night, the message of fairness.


restore that basic bargain that says if you work hard, if you`re willing to
meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead. You can go ahead. It
doesn`t matter what you look like, it doesn`t matter where you come from.


SHARPTON: Fairness, justice, equality. That was the president`s focus
last night on every single nation creating a plan for the country that
would lead to a more perfect union.


OBAMA: Raise the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour.


OBAMA: Make high-quality pre-school available to every single child in


OBAMA: Pursue a bipartisan market base to climate change. A nonpartisan
commission to improve the voting experience in America.

We will ensure equal treatment for all benefits service members and equal
benefits for their families, gay and straight.


OBAMA: Send me a comprehensive reform bill in the next few months and I
will sign it right away and America will be better for it.


SHARPTON: America will be better. That`s the promise from this president.
And he won`t let anyone stand in the way. He`ll fight for what`s right.
Just like he did on gun control. Last night, he brought us to tears and he
brought us to our feet when he began to talk about Hadiya Pendleton, the
teenager shot and killed just weeks after attending the inauguration.


OBAMA: Hadiya`s parents, Nate and Cleo, are in this chamber tonight along
with more than two dozen Americans whose lives have been torn apart by gun
violence. They deserve a vote.


OBAMA: Gabby Giffords deserve a vote. The families of Newton deserve a
vote. The families of Aurora deserve a vote. And the families of Oak
Creek and Tucson and Blacksburg and the countless other communities with
gun violence, they deserve a simple vote.


SHARPTON: They deserve a vote. We never seen a moment like that in the
state of the union. Never. Today, Republicans are talking like nothing`s
changed. Like it`s just the same old, same old in Washington. But they`re
wrong. This president is different and so is this country.

Joining me now is Bob Shrum and Michelle Cottle.

Bob, this was a grand vision for the country, but how does he turn it now
into reality.

BOB SHRUM, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, it is the most progressive vision
that we`ve had in 40 or 50 years. It`s going to be tough on some of this
to get this done in this Congress. I mean, I think he may get immigration
reform. He may get a universal background check on guns. But when you get
to things like assault weapons, you may have to take this into a 2014
election. Everybody assumes Democrats are going to do badly. That`s what
history would suggest.

Well, this president has a way of defining history. He`s done it before.
And I think he has got the country with hi. The poll show on every single
one of these major issues. So, he is going to use that popular support to
try to prod the Congress. And I believe if he doesn`t poud the Congress on
some of these things, he`s going to run all out next year. Obama for
America has become organizing for action. I think they`ll have a super
PAC. I think that super PAC will be making every bit as an effort as the
president made in 2012. That`s what he has to do if the second term agenda
is going to get fully realized.

SHARPTON: Now, you know, Michelle, Lindsey Graham, and I supposed I
shouldn`t be surprised, but he was out today slamming the president for
cheer leading, his word, not mine, on gun safety. Let me show you senator


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Last night, the president made a
very emotional plea for us to vote on new gun legislation that I think,
quite frankly, will have a marginal effect. Some of it a dubious effect.
We don`t need a cheer leader right now for new gun laws. We need somebody
to enforce the laws we have.


SHARPTON: Now, the question I want to pose you, Michelle is will public
pressure put enough pressure on the house and the Senate to vote on the gun
bill`s proposal? To make them vote on it?

they`re going to be voting on them. I think you have a really good shot at
background checks. I do think that most people think the weapons, the
assault weapons ban is just out of reach. And with this Congress at this
point in time, even a lot of Democrats get very, very touchy about this
issue. So, I think he can get a lot of things through, but I think it is
going to be a tough hall. And I just don`t think the assault weapons ban
just isn`t going to be an issue.

SHARPTON: But, if you have public pressure, if you have public groups
organizing and you have people like Mayor Bloomberg that are putting money
up, we`ve never seen this kind of effort before on the other side in terms
of gun legislation. So are we really gauging what we`re used to? And the
results, rather than an effort that may be something we`re not used to and
we don`t know what the results maybe?

COTTLE: Oh, sure. I mean, you can never predict this sort of thing. But,
you know, you still have to target even Democrats for whom gun, you know,
gun culture is a big part of their state. So, they`re going to have to do
a lot of focused effort. And you`re - it is still, you know, looking at a
house Republican conference, this pretty determined to dig its heels on
anything like this.

SHARPTON: Now, Bob, let`s look at the whole key points of the whole agenda
that the president has been raising in his fight for fairness. He`s
talking about raising minimum wage, universal preschool, a commission on
voting, gun safety and immigration reform. Now, will the president`s
outside gain help him force the Republicans to budge at least on some of
these issues?

SHRUM: Well, I think immigration reform has a real chance not because of
what Republicans believe in, a lot of them don`t believe on it at all.
But, because of what happened in 2012 and because of the change in
demographics of the country, they will still be hurt during that debate
because some of their folks who oppose this are going to engaged in the
kind of rhetoric that was just going to alienating his ban next further.

It had a lot in it like states of the union messages do but it was really
coherent and it had a theme and that theme was a government that works for
the many and not the few.


SHRUM: It was an explicitly democratic thing. Now, the minimum wage, I
think the Senate is going to vote on it. And then, I think, the house can
be blamed if they won`t move. And I think you want the public pressure
ought them to move. I can tell you from all of the polling that I`ve seen
over very many years, support for increasing the minimum wage is massive.
And the Republican argument it is against it or a complete fraud.

But, all you have to do is look at that clip from Lindsey Graham. I mean,
he`s so terrified afraid of a tea party challenge in South Carolina, that
this guy who is really John McCain`s mini me is willing to say something,
like, the president`s cheer leading for gun control. You know what I think
the president was doing? He was channeling and speaking for the people who
have lost loved ones all over this country because this country is becoming
a free fire zone.

SHARPTON: And many of them sitting in that chamber last night.

But Michelle, let he go back to Bob`s point on the minimum wage. One of
the things that is stunning, absolutely stunning, working full time at
minimum wage, they only earn $14,500. The poverty line is $15,130. I
mean, how do you deal with the fact that a single parent with a job working
at a minimum wage is working below the poverty line? I mean, do
Republicans really want America to be a country where you can work 40 hours
a week and still live under the poverty line with a child?

COTTLE: I think the problem that Republicans is that they`ve painted
themselves into a corner on the issue of being deficit hogs. I mean,
anything that is going to raise revenue - you know, require them to spin
for money on anything, they have to worry about their right on all of these
issues. I mean, you still have the ongoing civil war in the party. And a
lot of it is over, fiscal era -- you know, what the tea party arm things
has with this fiscal irresponsibility.

So, any time you`re talking with something that is smacks of bigger
government or government paying out more money, the Republicans have pretty
much kind of got themselves into a bind on that, no matter how rational it

COTTLE: It`s also striking to me, Bob, when the president really called
the GOP out for their obsession with spending and cuts and budget
showdowns. Let me show you his comments.


OBAMA: The greatest country cannot keep drifting by one manufacturing to
the next. Let`s agree right here, right now to keep the people`s
government open and pay our bills on time. And always uphold the full
faith and credit of the United States of America. Deficit reduction alone
is not an economic plan.


SHARPTON: Bob, how does he keep the momentum from that speech last night
and turn it into action?

SHRUM: He`s got to go out there. He has got to speak over and over and
over again. He has got to explainer and chief to the American people. He
knows, for example, that the austerity economics that have been adopted in
places like Britain that Republicans want to adopt here would send this
country back into another session which is what they have done overseas to
other countries.

He also knows that the Republicans are going to oppose him every step of
the way on things like minimum wage. So, he`s got to go out there. And
this is not just about prodding the Congress and trying to move stuff now.
This is about changing the political landscape of America permanently. And
I think he can do that. I think it can be a transformational president as
Ronald Reagan was.

SHARPTON: Bob Shrum and Michelle Cottle, thanks for your time this

Ahead, 41 standing ovations for President Obama, but the GOP refused to get
up. Senator Barbara Boxer joins me on the fights brewing in Congress.

And they talk about change. They talk about rebranding. So, why does the
GOP savior sound gist like that other guy.

And the great music and media mogul and activist Russell Simmons is here
live to talk about voting rights fairness and more.

It`s a big show coming tonight. Stay with us.


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

Today, everyone was talking about Desiline Victor, the 102-year-old Florida
resident that President Obama highlighted during last night`s speech. She
made two trips and waited for hours to cast her vote.

Jason says such tenacity, honor and courage. We should all aspire to be
like her.

I agree, Jason.

Bev says this part of the speech made me cry. Obama stressing the
importance of each vote.

And Maya says she was an inspiration. But we have to fix it.

Yes, we do, Maya. And we`ll be talking about the president`s plan to fix
it coming up.

But, first, we want you to share your thoughts. Please head over to
Facebook and search "Politics Nation" and like us to join the conversation
that goes long after this show ends.



OBAMA: We know our economy is stronger when our wives, our mothers, our
daughters can live their lives free from discrimination in the workplace
and free from the fear of domestic violence.

I asked this Congress to declare that women should earn a living equal to
their efforts and finally pass the paycheck fairness act this year.


SHARPTON: Fairness, equality. It was the key theme of last night`s state
of the union. A popular message that the president will sell all across
the country. Last night, the president got applause 101 times and 41 of
those were standing ovations,41. But what struck me more than who was
standing is who stayed seated. Take a look at how some Republicans
responded to some key moments.


SHARPTON: That`s the Republican party. They won`t stand up for women.
They won`t stand up for the poor. They won`t even stand up for pre-
schoolers. They won`t even stand up for voting rights of 102-year-old
woman. Americans know who will stand by their side and who won`t.

Joining me now senator Barbara Boxer from California.

Senator, thank you for being here tonight.

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: It`s pleasure to be here.

SHARPTON: Let me ask you, senator. Were you surprised to see so many
Republicans not standing up for what should be bipartisan ideas?

BOXER: Well, Reverend Al, to be honest, I`m not surprised at anything.
And I think that they just can`t get over that this president was elected.
They`re still in their campaign mode, even though they should be in their
governing mode.

If you listen to Marco Rubio who supposed to be their great hope, my
colleague did his best, but honestly, it was a flash back to the `80s.
Government can`t help you and the rest. We had heard that song before.
The people have rejected it. They wanted a government that works for them.
I have been so honored to be here for a while and I`ve served with five
presidents and I know when they`re in touch with the people and when
they`re not.

This president is in touch with the people. He`s in sync with the people.
Whether it`s the women, the middle class, grandmas and grandpas, fighting
for our children to protect them from gun violence, fighting for their
jobs, you go through it. He reflects the American people and the
Republicans are still in that campaign mode and they can`t get over it.
And it`s sad. It`s sad for the country.

SHARPTON: Let me hold you right to that point. Because, I mean, we have
seen presidents and we know the partisan differences. But when you have
Boehner not standing up for the military, someone on Republican side
couldn`t stand up when the president praised our diplomats, intelligence
officers and the men and women of the military who are serving in harm`s
way. Watch this.


OBAMA: As long as I`m commander in chief, we will do whatever we must to
those who serve their country abroad and we will maintain the best military
the world has ever known.



SHARPTON: I mean, not standing up for our men and women who are serving
overseas. I`ve got to go back to your point. How much of this is about
policy? And how much is this about the president personally?

BOXER: Well, I have to believe, again, that they just cannot get over the
fact that they lost this election. We picked up seats in the Senate. They
lost seats in the house. The president won in a fantastic race. He`s got
the support of the people. He`s got the ear of the people. And they can`t
get over it. And it`s to their detriment.

I mean, you point this out. Imagine not standing up for men and women in
uniform who have their lives on the line for us every single minute of
every single day. They`re still at war in Afghanistan, thank God, coming
home, not quick enough for this senator, but they are coming home. And
it`s shocking. They have made politics personal and it`s hurting the
American people. This sequestering that`s coming up, Reverend, this is
dangerous. This is a million jobs over a ten-year period. And we could
fix it so easily by closing tax loopholes. They won`t even talk about it
right now.

And they are hurting the American people. And my message to them is my
colleagues, you`re hurting yourselves. Because you are going to lose your
credibility. People don`t vote for people who are not fighting for this
country and they are just not doing it.

SHARPTON: Now, we heard the president`s address last night, the violence
against women`s act. The Senate passed it, but 22 Republicans, 22
Republican senators, all men, voted against it including GOP leaders, Mitch
McConnell and the GOP quote "savior" unquote, Marco Rubio. Can the public
pressure now force Republicans to vote on this bill over in the House, is
my question to you.

BOXER: Absolutely. This is ridiculous. This is a bill that was crafted
by Joe Biden many, many years ago. We have never had a problem authorizing
it. What was the terrible thing that we Democrats did with Republican
support? Some. We protected people that have never been protected before.
The gay community is protected. We protected the immigrant women and men.
We protected native Americans and now their excuse is -- before it was the
immigrant piece. And they said there was a technical problem, Reverend, we
fixed it. Now they say oh u it`s not fair.

On Indian land, what we said is if a non-Indian person, a non-made of
person attacks Native American women on Native American land, right now,
they`ll get away with it because the tribal court has no jurisdiction. We
fixed the problem.

And let me tell you, the rate of violence against women are tribal lands
would just shock you. They have a three-times more chance of being beaten
up. It`s a nightmare. And the perpetrator goes unpunished. And that is
the big sin. We took care of these powerless women and they have walked
away from it.

Now, we can only hope to come back. Eric Cantor gave a big speech. I
don`t know if you heard it. He said I care about women. I care about
children. I care and I care and I care. Well, you know, it`s easy to say.
Now do. And what you have to do is take up this bill and pass it.

SHARPTON: Well, I also want to congratulate you. You your live bill act.
Senator Bill Nelson from Florida announced that he will sign as a co-
sponsor. The first lady had a Desiline Victor, 102-year-old woman who was
a voter in Florida. She sat in the box last night at the state of the
union. She had to make two trips to wait several hours to vote for the

And your work in this voting reform is very important because February
27th, the Supreme Court will be hearing the voting rights act, section
five. And many of us in the civil rights community will be there. Because
if section five is ruled out as unconstitutional about the Supreme Court,
this could really open the door to a lot of states bringing about some acts
that a voter right`s measure would not protect. We are about to undo what
Dr. King and others really put on the books for us. And that`s
frightening, Senator.

BOXER: Reverend Al, this is America. Where we say everybody has a right
to vote who`s a citizen. Where we say we are all created equal. Where we
have struggled and fought and fought and struggled. You know the history.
And to go backwards on this would be devastating.

So let me assure you that there are many of us right here that would stand
right with you. And when I saw that 102-year-old woman and I saw her
feistiness, I tell you, I wish I could have just run up there and give in
her a hug. She brought tears to our eyes. And it was a statement. And
what was the statement? It was I am not giving up my right to vote. And
shame on certain areas in Florida and for making people stand on line for
seven hours. Some people were online until 1:30 the next morning. I`m
glad bill nelson was standing with me.

SHARPTON: No, I really am glad about it. I was down there the week and
I`m voting (INAUDIBLE) operation lemonade. I saw the lines. And this
lady, last night, that`s what real American democracy is about.

BOXER: Yes. It has.

SHARPTON: Senator Barbara Boxer, I`m going to have to leave it there.

BOXER: She`s the face of hope and democracy.

SHARPTON: Thank you so much. It`s always great having you on. Thank you
for your time.

BOXER: Thanks.

SHARPTON: Ahead, they talk about change. So why isn`t any Republican
denouncing Ted Nugent in the chamber?

This is a guy who compared gun owners to Rosa Parks. Where is the

But, first, the water cooler story of the day. Marco Rubio`s Watergate
fallout from that infamous seat. Keep it here.

More "Politics Nation" ahead.


SHARPTON: We`re back on POLITICS NATION with the republican savior Mark
Rubio`s big night. And what a night it was. OK, OK, where was I? Senator
Rubio laid out the right wing vision for America. And oh, what was I
saying? Rubio bit the truth last night. I`m hydrating just like the

Yet, we`re having some fun, like the rest of America with Marco Rubio`s
water fail. Look at that lunge. Never breaking eye contact with the
camera. It`s being called Rubio`s Watergate. Even zero dark thirsty. It
lit up twitter. Ninety two hundred tweets per minute. Watergate. And
Poland Spring were trending in at least 15 parody twitter counts sprang up.

And names like Rubio water, started springing of everywhere. Senator
Rubio, he`s in on the fun himself tweeting out a picture of his famous
water bottle. But what Rubio was saying before and after his water cooler
moment wasn`t so funny. That`s coming upright after I finish my drink.


SHARPTON: They talk about change, about branding, about not being the
stupid party. The GOP finally had their chance to prove it. Here comes
Senator Marco Rubio with the republican response. He`s been called the GOP
savior. The new Reagan and the anti-Mitt Romney. The anti-Romney?



SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Raising taxes won`t create private sector

ROMNEY: Risking your life savings to start a business.

RUBIO: People can risk their own money to open a business.

ROMNEY: The President invested taxpayer money, your money, in green
companies, billions of taxpayer dollars and investments like Solyndra.

RUBIO: Wasting more taxpayer money on so-called clean energy companies
like Solyndra.

ROMNEY: The President thinks more government is the answer it is not.

RUBIO: More government isn`t going to help you get ahead. It`s going to
hold you back.

ROMNEY: Good Democrats love America just like good Republicans love

RUBIO: I know that both Republicans and Democrats love America.


SHARPTON: I`ll give you that last part. But the rest, is that the idea of

Let`s bring in Abby Huntsman and Joe Madison. Thank you both for coming

Abby, let`s start with Rubio`s speech. How was it for new and improved?

ABBY HUNTSMAN, HUFFPOST LIVE: You know, the fairy tale of Marco Rubio did
not end so happily ever after. Right? I mean, at the same time though,
you have to feel for the guy who scrutinized that if he`s a presidential
candidate four years before the election. And he felt that pressure. The
stakes were so high. And he was clear in his delivery that he was nervous,
as he should have been.

But, you know, it`s frustrating and he had such a beautiful story to tell.
You know, his parents came from Cuba. He took on college loans. But he
doesn`t have a policy to defend that beautiful story, you know? In that
same sense, he`ll say I also hate government and it`s hard to --

SHARPTON: The reason he`s being scrutinized as a presidential candidate,
one, he`s being floated as that. Two, you`re on the cover of "Time"
magazine as the savior, the GOP and you`re doing a response to the
President of the United States, duh, they may want to start scrutinizing.

HUNTSMAN: Right. But what is the savior of the Republican Party, it means
you`re going to save the party. It means you`re going to bring something
different to the table?


HUNTSMAN: I`m pretty sure Paul Ryan wrote at least half of the speech. It
was the same speech that we heard on the 2012 campaign trail, with Paul and
Romney. So, this was nothing new. It`s refreshing for Republicans because
it was almost like an empty suit.

SHARPTON: You know, Joe, Abby is right. You expect something to be
brought, new to the table, not you`re just getting a bottle of water off
the table.

JOE MADISON, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Yes, right? Well, you have to also
understand -- and I`m not feeling sorry for a guy who would pull up the
ladder particularly after he climb the ladder of government support as she
pointed out. He took about and passionately how he used student loans.
But yet, he also represents a party that wants to do what. Cut student
loans, he also talked passionately about how Medicare was extremely
important to his family. What does he do?

He supports a party that, in fact, wants to cut Medicare. He supports a
party that, in fact, would even stand up to support gun control. I mean,
so I`m not feeling any pity for him. And I know he said, for example, that
God has a way of reminding us how he`s human. God also has a way of saying
I don`t like ugly. And it`s ugly when you use the very thing that helped
you to get where you are today. And then you pull up the ladder for folks
underneath. Can you imagine being opposed to what, $1.25, $1.75 cent

SHARPTON: Well, no, it`s true Joe, my mother used to say God don`t like
ugly, and he ain`t too crazy about pretty, either. But when you look at
that, when you look at the fact, that last night, he talked about middle
class ties. Watch this.


RUBIO: Mr. President, I still live in the same working class neighborhood
I grew up in. My neighbors aren`t millionaires. When I finished school, I
owed over $100,000 in student loans and then I paid off just a few months
ago. One of these programs is Medicare, it`s especially important to me.
It provided my father the care he needed. It`s a battle cancer. It pays
for the care of my mother receives right now. I would never support any
changes to Medicare that would hurt seniors like my mother.

SHARPTON: As a moving part of his speech, but then look at his record.
Not just the record of his party, his record Abby, he`s signed the Norquist
pledge never to raise taxes. He, Marco Rubio. He blocked an effort to
freeze student loan rates. He did, Marco Rubio. And he said in 2011, he
said, Rubio, Medicare has quote, "weakened us as a people." So with all of
that passion last night, his record personally, not just his party, is
exactly the opposite of that.

HUNTSMAN: No, I think the word you`re looking for is hypocritical here.
Hypocritical is the perfect word here. And as I said before, it is this
beautiful story that is so relatable to so many Americans. People hear a
story and that`s why I think Republican Party calls him the savior of the
party because they want him to be. He represents someone that represents
so many Americans. So, the problem is he doesn`t have policies to defend
that. So, it`s very difficult, it`s hypocritical, it`s hard to watch.

SHARPTON: Joe, I have to ask you about this one.


SHARPTON: A lot of people talking about Ted Nugent to the speech. A Rhode
Island Congressman who was paralyzed in a firearms accident. Paralyzed
now. He criticized Nugent`s invitation to the State of the Union. Nugent
was asked by an NBC reporter about it. Listen to what Nugent said.


TED NUGENT, MUSICIAN: He lied claiming that somehow, I didn`t feel sorry
for the victims of violent crime. That would take genuine fecal material
instead of brain matter to actually continue such a vicious hateful lie.


MADISON: Now, this is Nugent. Fine, he is who he is. What was so amazing
to me is none of the republican leadership, none of the GOP leadership had
the courage to stand up and denounce his presence there. Fine, you get one
obscure Congressman who wants to get in the papers who invited him. But
where is the leadership? How many times have we seen Democrats have to
criticize and question people that are bizarre doing things on the other
side. Not one of the GOP leadership stood up and said, Nugent shouldn`t be
in the chamber tonight.

MADISON: Yes, I talk to Congressman Cleaver and he pointed that out that
the Congressional Black Caucus was going to point it out. But let me say
this in closing. If there`s anybody that knows about fecal matter, it`s
somebody who poops in his pants and walks around with it to keep it from
being drafted. So, you know, you consider the source. And for a man to
sit up and say he knows Rosa Parks, excuse me, Reverend, you know Rosa
Parks? I know Rosa Parks and I`ll say it straight to Ted Nugent`s face.
He is no Rosa Parks.

SHARPTON: Well, I don`t think you can argue with --

HUNTSMAN: Well, I don`t think anyone could argue that -- have been
absolutely disgusting. But we also have to remember that we see this on
both sides. We see extremes on Republicans, the democratic side, this is
what makes the democracy --

MADISON: Yes. But they don`t get invited to the State of the Union by a

HUNTSMAN: No, I completely agree. But I love the word -- I love courage,
you know, and I think that`s exactly what was missing in Marco Rubio`s
speech last night, the courage to bring something different to the table.
The courage to be lead, the courage to actually be that quote, unquote,
"savior" of the party. That wasn`t there last night.

SHARPTON: I`m going to have to leave it there. Abby Huntsman and Joe
Madison, thank you for your time.

MADISON: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Still, ahead, the emotional moment that could redefine the gun
debate and make America safer place. But, first, music and media mogul
entrepreneur activist, my main man, the Godfather hip-hop, my main ma,
Russel Simmons is here. We`re going to talk about fairness, voting guns
and more. Stay with us.


SHARPTON: Up next, music mogul, the only man that can bring occupy Kanye
West and Al Sharpton together, Russell Simmons. He`s here.



PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: It is our generation`s task, then,
to reignite the true engine of America`s economic growth, a rising,
thriving, middle class.


Tonight, let`s declare that in the wealthiest nation on earth, no one who
works full time should have to live in poverty and raise the federal
minimum wage to $9 an hour.



SHARPTON: It was a call to action on poverty last night. A call to level
the playing field for all Americans. Fairness is the backbone of the Obama
presidency. But nothing in this world is easy. In order to make it
happen, the people have to act.


OBAMA: My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment and we will seize
it so long as we seize it together.


SHARPTON: As long as we seize it together, and now is the time to work for
it, for voting rights, for gay rights. For immigration, for gun control,
the time is now.

Joining me now is a man who`s worked hard for change for a long time. Long
even before the President was in office, media mogul music entrepreneur and
activist Russell Simmons.

Russell, it`s great to have you here.


SHARPTON: You know, you`ve been very active working for fairness for a
very long time. Occupy movement, your own different groups and supporting
National Action Network and others. I thought about you as we`re finally
seeing people addressing poverty because you have been very successful but
you out there occupying anybody saying, wait a minute, success is based on
what you do to lift the bottom, not trying to just sit on the top.

SIMMONS: Well, that`s my mantra. But I don`t think, we`re not going to be
able to address poverty in a meaningful way until we, the people who pull
the purse strings and as government, in other words, democracy is something
it has to be addressed. We didn`t talk about Citizen`s United or just the
legal bribery that controls our government last night.

And that`s really important thing. If we can address that, then a lot of
the issues that have to do with poverty or things that perpetuate poverty
or for example, the industrial complex and how they work to destroy the
fabric of the black community, they create prison culture in our community.
That`s because they pay $10 million. Little bits of money to our
Congressman and our senators. And that little money, they spread around
brings them many billions back about taxpayer dollars. That`s an important
issue that we haven`t addressed. It`s a root cause --

SHARPTON: Legal bribery?

SIMMONS: Is it not?


SIMMONS: If you can move in somebody`s office and promise them, you know,
support systems that make them successful, we had a constitutional
amendment. Dennis Kucinich and I wrote it. Be put it in. He`s the war
machine, what do you call it? The war complex. What do you call it? The
investors in military. That these people that, 10 to one, and he was out
of office, after 25 years as a Congressman.


SIMMONS: So we never got to them.

SHARPTON: The gerrymandering. One of the things you were very involved
with all of us last year. The gerrymandering, the voting rights. That`s
how they manipulated people out of office. That`s how he stops people from

SIMMONS: That`s right. But all the money that supports these systems that
promote unfair and unequal access to all the corporations and special
interests that have a lot to do with controlling our government. In other
words, the politician has worked for those special interests and not for
the people who elect them. And I think that has to be fixed and it`s in
the core, but everything, when we talk about poverty, we have to address

SHARPTON: When you hear the voting commission, they`re starting, the
President announced a bipartisan voting commission last night. What do you
hope will come out of that?

SIMMONS: Well, we hope that we`ll try to draw fair lines and then we have
some kind of discussion that`s not only about politics, what about allowing
people to vote. We want the country to be -- it`s another democracy issue.
We want a fair vote and we want people to have access to the polls. And I
think we had examples in the last election and the last few elections
before that. That should have proven to us that we need a dramatic reform.
And we didn`t do much. And we still haven`t. So, it`s something that the
President spoke about and I hope we can address.

SHARPTON: Now, taxes have been a defining battle for this president. The
rich overwhelmingly getting the -- tax breaks in this country. Look at
this, the bottom 20 percent of Americans only get three percent of all tax
breaks. The top 20 percent get 66 percent of tax breaks. I remember like
it was yesterday, you standing and occupy what everyone, I was there that
day, saying that you don`t mind paying more. People at the top will pay
more. Why are we giving the burden to the people that can least pay it?

SIMMONS: Well, there was some at the top who would pay more. But others
are spending lots of money to make sure it doesn`t happen. So it went back
to the issue that I talked about. You know, if you have a big support
system and people don`t want to pay more, it`s difficult for you to move or
to vote to make those changes. And I think that`s what happened in this
country. It`s the same as moving jobs overseas. It`s the same as the
corporate welfare that goes to the oil companies and the corporate welfare
that goes --

So, there`s so much that we give back because we`re paid to give it back.
And sometimes even Democrats, you know, disguise bills and they put him in,
and they say it`s to help the poor. But, instead, it`s to help their rich
friends. And that`s something that I keep going back to it, because I
wanted to make that point tonight, Reverend, that that is something that
the president did miss.

I love all the things he said about his progressive agenda. And, today,
the dentist told me something that was inspiring. And he said -- and I had
realized this always. He said, I don`t like the President`s agenda or the
way that he wanted to go about it. We all like the agenda. We want to
make a better America. He said, but, you know, he looked like, he sounded
like he could execute. He could get it done. And what`s important is,
this could be a conservative way to make America better and there could be
a progressive way to make America better.

It depends on the execution and what kind of work, you know, and the
thought process and the way that they go about it. The middle class could
make the economy better, just as the rich can provide more jobs if they`re
given breaks. So the president has a route. He`s in office and he`s got
to be able to get the people to support that rut. It would seem the middle
class would like the idea of allowing -- and they should -- because they
like the idea, they have to get behind the President and watch closely
those people who don`t support an agenda that helps them.

SHARPTON: It`s got to be about mobilizing the people and a lot of that is
also how we`re going to define our culture. Something that you`ve had a
great influence on it.

SIMMONS: I`m always surprised to know how celebrities can move to meet.
And, you know, I always try to use my celebrity, to help, to better other
people. I think that`s what celebrities for. And a lot of actors and a
lot of actresses, they see that potential. And they`re using their voice.
And so, they`ve been good over this last election. You saw that the
president had a great turn out. And a lot of people who are successful,
but artistic successful people, they are progressive. And they do want to
help everyone grow. They know they can`t grow without helping others.

SHARPTON: Russell Simmons, thanks for your time tonight. Always great to
have you.

SIMMONS: My pleasure.

SHARPTON: We`ll be right back.


SHARPTON: Last night, the President made an emotional plea on behalf of
the Newtown families and the others whose lives had been shattered by gun
violence, including the family of Chicago honor student, Hadiya Pendleton,
killed just a week after attending the President`s inauguration.


OBAMA: Hadiya`s parents, Nate and Cleo are in this chamber tonight along
with more than two dozen Americans whose lives have been torn apart by gun
violence. They deserve a vote.


They deserve a vote.


They deserved a vote.


Gabby Giffords deserves a vote.


The families of Newtown deserved a vote.


The families of Aurora deserved a vote.


The families of Oak Creek, and Tucson and Black Bird and the countless
other communities left opened by gun violence, they deserved a simple vote.


SHARPTON: Hadiya, Newtown, on and on and on. We cannot just keep listing
tragedies. We must stop and do something about them. We must have change
in guns in this country. The list is already too long.

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


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