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PoliticsNation, Monday, April 8th, 2013

Read the transcript from the Monday show

April 8, 2013


Guests: E.J. Dionne, Ryan Grim, Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, Ben LaBolt, Nia-Malika Henderson


If our democracy is working the way it`s supposed to and 90 percent of the
American people agree on something, in the wake of a tragedy, you would
think this would not be a heavy lift. And yet some folks back in
Washington are already floating the idea that they may use political stunts
to prevent stunts on any of these reforms.

Think about that. They are not just saying they will vote no on ideas that
almost all Americans support, they are saying they will do anything they
can do to prevent any votes on these provisions. They are saying your
opinion doesn`t matter. And that`s not right. That is not right. We need
a vote.

CROWD: We want a vote! We want a vote! We want a vote! We want a vote!

OBAMA: We need a vote.

Now, I`ve also heard some in the Washington press suggest what happens to
gun violence legislation in Congress this week will either be a political
victory or defeat for me.

Connecticut, this is not about me. This is not about politics. This is
about doing the right thing for all the families who are here that have
been torn apart by gun violence. It`s about them and all the families
going forward so we can prevent this from happening again. That`s what
it`s about. It`s about the law enforcement officials putting their lives
at risk. That`s what this is about. This is not about politics.


OBAMA: This is not about politics. This is about these families. And
families all across the country who are saying, let`s make it a little
harder for our kids to get gunned down. When I said in my state of the
union address that these proposal deserve a vote, that families of Newtown,
and Aurora and Tucson and a former member of Congress, Gabby Giffords, that
they all deserve a vote, virtually every member of that chamber stood up
and applauded and now they are going to start denying your families? A
vote when the cameras are off and lobbyists have worked what they do? You
deserve better than that. You deserve a vote.

Now, look, we knew from the beginning of this debate that change would not
be easy. We knew that there would be powerful interests that are very good
at confusing the subject, that are good at amplifying conflict and
extremes, that are good at drowning at rational debate, good at ginning of
irrational fears, all which stand in the way of progress.

But if our history teaches us anything, then it`s up to us, the people, to
stand up to those who say we can`t or we won`t. Stand up for the change
that we need. And I believe that that`s what the American people are
looking for.

You know, when I first ran for this office I said that I did not believe
the country was as divided as our politics would suggest and I still
believe that. I know sometimes when you watch -- sometimes when you watch
cable news or talk radio or you browse the internet, you would think, man,
everybody just hates each other. Everybody is at each other`s throats.
But that`s not -- that`s not how most persons think of these issues.

There are good people on both sides of every issue. So if we`re going to
move forward, we can`t just talk past one another. We`ve got to listen to
one another. That`s what Governor Malloy and all of these legislature
leaders did. That`s why they were able to pass bipartisan legislation.


OBAMA: I`ve got stacks of letters from gun owners who want me to know that
they care passionately about their rights to bear arms, and I appreciate
every one of those letters. I`ve learned from them. A lot of those
letters what they have also said is they are not just gun owners, they are
also parents or police officers or veterans. And they agree that we can`t
stand by and keep letting these tragedies happen, that with our rights
comes responsibilities and obligations to our communities and towards
ourselves and most of all to our children. We can`t just think about us.
We`ve got to think about we, the people.

You know, I was in Colorado. I told a story about Michelle. She came back
from a trip to rural Iowa. We were out there campaigning. Sometimes it
would be miles between farms, went along towns. And she said, you know,
coming back, I don`t understand why somebody would want a gun for
protection. You know, if somebody drove up into the driveway and, Barack,
you weren`t home, sheriff lived miles away, I might want that security.

So, she can understand what it might be like in terms of somebody wanting
that security. On the other hand, I also talked to a hunter last week who
said all of my experiences with guns have been positive, but I also realize
that for others all of their experience with guns has been negative.

And when he said that, I thought about the mom I met from suburban Chicago
whose son was killed in a random shooting and this mom told me, I hate it
when people tell me that my son was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
He was on his way to school. He was exactly where he was supposed to be.
He was in the right place at the right time and he still got shot.

But kids at Sandy Hook were where they were supposed to be. So were the
moviegoers in Aurora, so were the worshippers in Oak Creek. So was Gabby
Giffords. She was at a supermarket listening to the concerns of her


OBAMA: They were exactly where they were supposed to be. They were also
exercising their rights, so assemble peacefully, to worship freely and
safely. They were exercising the rights of life and liberty and pursuit of

So, surely we can reconcile those two things. Surely America doesn`t have
to be divided between rural and Democrat, Republican when it comes to
something like this. If you are an American and want to do something to
prevent more families from knowing the immeasurable anguish, that these
families here have known, then we have to act.

Now, is the time to get engage. Now is the time to get involve. Now is
the time to push back on fear, on frustration and misinformation. Now is
the time for everybody to make their voices heard, from every statehouse to
the corridors of Congress.

And I`m asking everyone listening today. Find out where your member of
Congress stands on this. If they are not part of the 90 percent of
American who is agree on background check, then, ask them, why not? Why
wouldn`t you want to make it easier for law enforcement to do their job?
Why wouldn`t you want to make it harder for a dangerous person to get his
or her hands on a gun? What`s more important to you, our children or an
aid raid from the gun lobby?


OBAMA: You know, I`ve heard -- I`ve heard talk about what her life has
been like since Dylan was taken from her in December. And one thing she
said struck me. She said, every night I begged for him to come to me in my
dreams so I could see him again. And during the day I just focus on what I
need to do to honor him and make a change.

Now, if Nicole can summon the courage to do that, how can the rest of us do
any less?


OBAMA: How can we do any less? If there`s even one thing we can do to
protect our kids, don`t we have an obligation to try? And if there`s even
one step we can take to keep someone from murdering dozens of innocence in
a matter of minutes, shouldn`t we be taking that step?


OBAMA: If there`s just one thing we can do to keep one father from burying
his child, isn`t that worth fighting for?

I`ve got to tell you, I`ve had tough days in the presidency, I have said
this before. The day Newtown happened was the toughest day of my
presidency. But I`ve got to tell you, if we don`t respond to this; that
will be a tough day for me, too because we`ve got to expect more from
ourselves. And we have got to expect more from Congress. We have got to
believe that, you know, every once in a while we set politics aside. We
just do what`s right.


OBAMA: We have got to believe that.

And if you believe that, I`m asking you to stand up. If you believe in the
right to bear arms like I do but think we should prevent an irresponsible
few from inflicting harm, stand up.


OBAMA: Stand up.

If you believe that the families of Newtown and Aurora and Tucson and
Virginia Tech and a thousand of Americans that have been gunned down and
what for must deserve a vote, we all have to stand up.


OBAMA: You want the people you send to Washington to have just an iota of
the courage that the educator of Sandy Hook showed when danger arrived on
their doorstep, then, we are all going to have to stand up.

And if we do, if we come together and raised our voices together and demand
this change together, I`m convinced cooperation and commonsense will
prevail. We will find sensible, intelligent ways to make this country
stronger and safer for our children. So let`s do the right thing. Let`s
do right by our kids. Let`s do right by these families. Let`s get this
thing done, Connecticut.

Thank you. God bless you. God bless the United States of America.


Obama in Hartford, Connecticut, giving a powerful speech on gun control to
an audience that included families of the Sandy Hook victims. The
president demanded a vote on gun safety proposals and he`s urged the crowd
to get involved saying now is the time to make your voices heard.

Welcome to "Politics Nation." I`m Al Sharpton. President making a rousing
speech even a rallying cry at some point, the crowd yelling, we want a
vote, we want a vote as the president stood there leading what was nothing
short of a rally as Washington now begins to wrestle with this issue.

Joining me now is my colleague Chris Matthews, host of "HARDBALL" on MSNBC.

Chris, thank you for staying here tonight.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR, HARDBALL: Yes. Well, it was worth it. And
you know, this is the first time, you and I know how control this president
is and he can be cool. He wasn`t cool tonight. And I thought we saw - it
was almost like Jimmy Stewart of Mister Smith goes to Washington. This guy
was standing up there. He was ripping. He was coming out with his hard
and he was really talking to people there. And the only question is, does
Mitch McConnell care what the hell he says? He went enjoying those 14
people now. He makes it 14 and say no vote. There will be no vote on
background checks, nothing, nothing. Nothing will come out of what
happened up there last December in Newtown. Nothing.


MATTHEWS: No vote in either house. And this stonewalling by against a 90
percent belief makes you wonder how the constitution holds sometimes. How
can you hold a system together that`s based on straight arming, 90 percent
of the court and saying you`re not even going to get a vote?

SHARPTON: While the president said in his speech that 90 percent of the
country rarely agrees on anything. Here you have 90 percent of the country
saying that they believe that background checks are necessary. Now they
are talking about filibuster. And I think the president used another term
of tricks they were going to use.

MATTHEWS: Political stunts.

SHARPTON: Stunts, he called it, political stunts.

And then when you look at the fact, Chris, that the negotiations on
background checks are being led by senator Joe Manchin, who is a Democrat
from West Virginia and Pat Toomey who is a Republican from Pennsylvania,
both of them raided A by the NRA, both of them with A-rating. What are
they afraid in terms of the NRA and these gun supporters when you have two
people with A-rating that are the ones doing and negotiating on this?

MATTHEWS: Well, you know, Toomey faces reelection in a real election the
kind we have when presidents are running. That`s when everybody votes as
you know, Reverend.


MATTHEWS: Not a little special even in midterm, a real one. So, he has
got to face the Suburnites (ph) around Philadelphia who are moderate
politically, some of the moderate Republicans, some f the more concerned
Democrats. These communities are concern about guns. They are not gun-
toned rural people. And yet, Toomey is thinking about those gun-toned
rural people out there once to Pennsylvania and the central part of the
state. So, he`s trying to decide this thing. He is trying to calculate

I`m telling you, I`m not hopeful at this point. I think the president has
to go Allen town next and then maybe go to Tolls (ph), Oklahoma next
because it is him. It`s Toomey. It is also, you know, it is the guy down
in Oklahoma as well. And so, you know, he has going to get a lot of
senators behind him right now. Look, 14 say no votes at all. And I look
at the list of guys running for president, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, they are
big shots are coming against Republican Party is now standing against the

SHARPTON: Ted Cruz is on that list.

And then you look at the president`s standing there and in the middle of
the speech, the crowd took over as started chanting while the president
stood there. If he rallies the American public like this and they
stonewall a vote because again he`s clearly staying in the speech, they are
not only saying they are going to vote no. They are denying you a vote.
This is an insult to the electorate, Chris.

MATTHEWS: By the way, I`m going to defend our world here on what he calls
cable TV. I know the president says he doesn`t watch us or says he does
it. Some of his people do. I think MSNBC, you and I and a bunch of other
people to step around but been keeping up the fight for gun safety. For
the two or three months of this fight since Newtown, not just a few times
but consistently every night, absolutely consistent fighting spirit here on
this network to really push for this kind of action. So, I don`t think
there is any problem with taking sides here. He is taking sides.

He calls it not being political. Look who his enemies are on this fight.
They are all Republicans. You got to stop. Keen yourself here. It`s a
partisan opposition to gun safety. It`s partisan and that`s the problem.
When you have a whole political party ran by Mitch McConnell saying no
vote, that is serious and it is partisan as he ll. Let`s not kid

SHARPTON: No. We are engaging in Americans hating each other. We are
talking about people loving each other. And if you love children, you want
to see gun safety.

MATTHEWS: Right. Well said.

SHARPTON: So, we are not talking about cable. They are not talking about
able cable. That`s what you and I do.

MATTHEWS: I would think that would be a good way to look at it. Sure.

SHARPTON: Chris, stand by, one moment. I want to bring in E.J. Dionne.

E.J., your new column is about how Republican minorities are - the
Republican minority is blocking the will of majorities on gun. E.J., what
do you think about the passion we saw tonight from the president?

E.J. DIONNE, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, I thought he put it all
on the table today. And I was really glad he went very hard at this effort
to block a vote. I mean, I think we have become way too complacent in
Washington and even in the media over the idea that all of a sudden without
any change in the constitution, it suddenly takes 60 votes to pass
anything. That`s not what the constitution envisioned in the Senate. It
envisioned majority rule.

But, when we talk about filibusters and stuff like that, I think people
sort of yawn. I think the president put his finger on it when they said
they may use political stunts to prevent votes on any of these measures.

And so, I think, I am hoping that this is not only the beginning of a push
on guns and particularly on background checks, but also the beginning of a
push to say we can`t govern ourselves like this anymore. Because that`s
why you have democracy so deadlocked. If you`ve got to get 50 percent of
the votes on the senators on everything, is it any wonder we`re having so
much trouble passing things?

MATTHEWS: Now E.J., Chris doesn`t seem that optimistic. Are you
optimistic and is this the make or break week?

DIONNE: I am hopeful because two of things. One is that Joe Manchin of
West Virginia has really been gutsy. He has taken a position that is not
easy for him to take given that the NRA is said to have, we will see how
much influence they have but lot of influence in a state like West

And I think Pat Toomey, as Chris suggested, is looking forward to the
election, know there are a lot of those moderates swing voters in the
Philly suburb. But, I also think that there were a lot of more moderate
Republican Congress people in the house from those suburbs who are telling
Toomey, we don`t want to be sitting here doing nothing on this when our
constituents are overwhelmingly for it. I mean, the president was right to
point out this is a 90 percent issue. It`s probably 95 percent in those
Philadelphia suburbs.

And so, I think there is movement here and I think if somehow Toomey
decides that it is in his interest or maybe decides it on principle grounds
to go along with something, I think that might break the dam. And there
are a lot of other Republicans. John McCain has always been willing to
support reasonable gun measures. I think he would like to vote for this.

SHARPTON: Yes, and he is the most who is the filibustered.

Chris, let me go back to you quickly. The -- some of the parents from
Sandy Hook are actually going back with the president on air force one to
Washington. They are going to meet with legislatures and hopefully touch
something in some of these guys to make this thing go forward. Is this the
make or break week, Chris Matthews?

MATTHEWS: Yes, it is, because of this thing with the president that causes
political stunts. Here`s the stunt for people not interested in process.
Listen closely.

Why would a Republican senator and quiet Republican congressperson, why
would they not want to vote? Well, here`s why. Because they could vote
against all kinds of these things, but the one thing they can`t vote
against, if it comes to a vote, is a background check.

There`s no way a sane person, once it comes to that question, do you want
to make sure nuts and criminals and people under restraining orders don`t
get a gun? How can you defend saying, yes, they should get a gun. And
let`s make sure there is no way to stop them from getting a gun.

You can`t make that case. So, you filibuster and make sure that question
never goes to the floor. By the way, if McConnell is able to do that and
keep this from coming to a vote, as E.J. says, he protects all of the
Republicans from suburban areas and Philadelphia and around this country
because they don`t ever have to vote on this issue of background checks.

The game here, it`s a political stunt. It`s not just a filibuster. It`s a
stunt. It keeps the Congress from having to vote on background checks
using the filibuster to do it. That`s the smoke screen. That`s the game.
I`m glad the president hit it. He only didn`t do one thing tonight. He
should have listened to the guys doing it. He should have read a list of
senators who say no vote. Call them out.

SHARPTON: Well, we are going to do it because Chris, I`m telling you,
thank you and thank you, E.J., for being here tonight.

But I`m telling you that they cannot play the American public for fools.
They do not want to record for history that they voted against background
checks. That`s why they want to void this vote. That`s why the
president`s right is calling it a stunt. We have got to stop the stunt and
make the vote go down. This is absolutely inexcusable.

If you have a position, have enough nerve. Have enough courage. Have
enough respect for the American people to take a vote yes or no, so history
can record where you are. Don`t duck the vote. Take the vote. The
president just called it out as a political stunt. Will Republicans use
him to block gun reform? That`s next.


OBAMA: It`s time to restore the ban on military-assault weapons and a ten
limit round on magazines to make it harder for a gun man to fire 154
bullets into his victims in less than five minutes. Let`s put that to a



SHARPTON: Will the Republicans try to block a vote on gun safety? It`s
the hottest topic in politics. That`s next.



OBAMA: Some folks back in Washington are already floating the ideas that
they may use political stunts to prevent votes on any of these reforms.
Think about that. They are just not saying that they will vote no on ideas
that almost all Americans support. They are saying they will do anything
they can to prevent any votes on these provisions. They are saying your
opinion doesn`t matter. And that`s not right.


SHARPTON: That was President Obama moments ago in a passionate speech
blasting Republicans for threaten to block a vote on gun safety
legislation. President Obama said the threat is real.

In the past few minutes, minority leader Mitch McConnell announced that he
would join 13 other GOP senators in denying a vote on the gun`s bill. They
have apparently decided the victims of Newtown don`t deserve a vote, that
Gabby Giffords doesn`t deserve a vote. That those killed in Aurora,
Colorado don`t deserve a vote, that Hadiya Pendleton in Chicago doesn`t
deserve a vote, it`s appalling and even Republicans are calling them out on


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Senator McCain, what your thought on a filibuster on
this. Would you be against that?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I don`t understand it. The purpose of the
United States Senate is to debate and to vote and to let the people know
where we stand.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: So you would encourage Republicans not to filibuster.

MCCAIN: I would not only encourage it, I don`t understand it.


SHARPTON: What are they afraid of? Ninety one percent of Americans back
universe background checks. That`s 287 million people. Are those 13
senators more important than the 287 million people? Do their 13 voices
matter more than the mother who lost her child to gun violence? Have we
become a country with $3 million in NRA lobbying matters more than the
opinion of 287 million people? I hope not. Senator McCain is asking the
right question. What exactly are Republicans all afraid of?

Joining me now is Ryan Grim and Victoria DeFrancesco Soto. Thank you both
for coming on the show tonight.


SHARPTON: Ryan, let me start with you. Will the GOP go against the
Willard, 287 million Americans?

GRIM: Well, Mitch McConnell coming out and saying that he would filibuster
this deal. It`s a huge deal. Because he is a shrewd and in many ways,
tactically brilliant politician. You know, you can disagree with him on
every single level, but tactically he`s a very smart operator. So he has
done the calculation that it`s better for him in his re-election in 2014 in
Kentucky and it`s better for his ability to take over a Senate majority
leader if this bill does not get the floor. That`s apparently the
calculation that he`s done.

And he has, his republican minority in lockstep, if he wants to weep them
together to keep this bill off the floor, he has the power to do it. Now,
maybe as an individual Senator, he`ll filibuster this and allow a few
moderate to -- for re-election to take it to the floor, that`s the only
path that this bill has the floor at this point, that McConnell himself --

SHARPTON: But Victoria, I mean, I want people to understand, this is huge
because when we`re actually saying is after Newtown, after Aurora, after
all that we`ve seen we may actually not even get a vote. We`re not talking
about losing a vote. We`re talking about what McConnell`s move and these
13 others, they are going to deny the American public a vote even in
response to what has happened in tragedies like Newtown. This is

we`ve seen over the last couple of years is governing, rather lack of
governing by filibuster. In the last decade, we have seen a number of
filibusters in the Senate chamber increase precipitously. So, we`re not
seeing any movement, any deliberation in the Senate chamber. One thing
that did make me slightly hopeful was the rhetoric that President Obama
used. He really used some very core simple rhetoric that I think was able
to bring the bully pulpit closer to folks. He said, look, I`m just asking
for a vote. He said he`s making a simple demand, he`s not being
unreasonable. He also talked about making it, about commonsense.


SOTO: And about being love and just. So I do think that in taking it to
the public and using some very simple language, some very persuasive
language, he can help push the debate forward but that being said I think
another avenue that we have to look at is the local avenue. He brought up
Colorado. He brought of Connecticut, New York. Because these senators,
they may not be swayed by the commonsense rhetoric, we may have to go to
the state legislatures to push this legislation forward.

SHARPTON: Well, I think it`s terrible that we`re going to have to do that.
Go ahead, Ryan.

GRIM: I said that the only path might be, you know, going around the --
through some of the Republicans but in fact there is another path and
that`s what Victoria hinted at. That`s filibuster reform. You know, Harry
Reid said this week, he said look, everybody needs to be unnoticed.


GRIM: The rules can be changed at any point by a vote of the majority and
I am still willing to do that. He put that out in a radio interview.

SHARPTON: Well, I`ve always felt we needed filibuster reform and I`m just
outraged that they would even talk about filibuster. It seems that they
are going to engage in it with the minority leader of the Senate on
something as vital and as something as critical as this that 91 percent of
Americans agree with at least in terms of background check. You know, just
a short time, the President slammed Republicans for praising the idea of a
vote. Back during his State of the Union, take a listen to this.


OBAMA: When I said in my State of the Union Address that these proposals
deserve a vote, that families of Newtown, Aurora, and Tucson, and a former
member of Congress, Gabby Giffords, that they all deserve a vote, virtually
every member of that chamber stood up applauded and now they are going to
start denying you`re families` a vote when the cameras are off and when the
lobbyists have worked what they do? You deserve better than that. You
deserve a vote.


SHARPTON: Victoria, the night of the State of the Union with members of
the families from Newtown there and Gabby Gifford there and the cameras
there and the parents of Hadiya Pendleton there. The whole chamber stood
up clapping. Now those same at least 14 of them are saying, we`re going to
block even getting to the vote, we`re not going to say yes or nay, we`re
going to stop a vote altogether.

SOTO: Well, it seems like we`ve forgotten about these victims but in
addition to these victims, we also have the millions and millions of people
who are not gun owners or maybe gun owners but have rights and have rights
to liberty and life and not to be subject to gun violence. So, this isn`t
just an issue about people who have been subjected to gun violence. It`s
an issue about all Americans.

SHARPTON: Well, Ryan Grim and Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, thanks for your
time this evening. And you`re right. Those people have rights. And the
American public has a right for their senators to go on record on whether
they have a background checks or not. We have a right to a roll call, we
have a right to a vote. We`ll be right back.


SHARPTON: We keep hearing Republicans say they want to reach out to
minorities, be more inclusive, expand the tent. But guess who`s leading
the charge? I had to read the headline a few times today to make sure it
was really there. Senator Rand Paul will speak Wednesday at Howard
University. He`ll focus on outreach to younger voters as well as minority
groups and we`ll discuss the history of African-American communities, roots
in the Republican Party. I wonder if he`ll also discuss his infamous
comments in an interview with my colleague Rachel Maddow on the civil
rights act.


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: If there was a private business say on
Louisville, say somewhere in your home state that wanted to not serve black
patrons or wanted to not serve gay patrons or somebody else. On the basis
of their characteristic that they decided they didn`t like as a private
business owner. Do you think that they have a legal right to do so to put
up a blacks not served to your son?

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Well, the interesting thing is, when you
look at the 1950s, the 1960s that the problems we faced, they were
incredible problems. You know, the problems they had to do in most of the
voting, they had to do schools, they had to do public housing, and so this
is what the civil rights largely addressed and all things that I largely
agree with.


SHARPTON: Actually, the interesting thing is, you know he didn`t answer
the question. He wouldn`t say if he thought businesses should be able to
discriminate based on race.

PAUL: These are important philosophical debates but not a very practical

MADDOW: Well, it`s pretty practical to people who were -- had their life
nearly beaten out of them trying to desegregate Walgreen`s lunch counters
despite these esoteric debates about gun ownership. This is not a
hypothetical, Dr. Paul.


SHARPTON: It is a hypothetical. The day after that interview, Paul said
he wanted to be clear, saying he would have voted for the civil rights act
and wouldn`t support efforts to repeal it but the night before on live TV,
he was anything but clear.


MADDOW: And should Woolworth lunch counters should have been allowed to
stay segregated? Sir, just yes or no?

PAUL: What I think would happen -- what I`m saying is that I don`t believe
in any discrimination. I don`t believe any private property should
discriminate either. And I wouldn`t intend, wouldn`t support, wouldn`t go
to. But what you have to answer when you answer this point of view, which
is an abstract of a secure conversation from 1964 that you want to bring
up, but if you want an answer, you have to say, then, that you decide the
rules for all restaurants.


SHARPTON: That was a simple yes or no question. We`ll watch Senator
Paul`s speech at Howard and we`ll expect him to be a lot clearer. But did
Republicans think we wouldn`t notice one of the guys leading the efforts at
a minority outreach is the one who had to think about his support for the
civil rights act? Nice try, but we got you.


SHARPTON: A major week for the Obama legacy. How was the President
working to advance his agenda with toughness? We`re going inside the White
House, next.



OBAMA: This is not about politics. This is about doing the right thing
for all the families who are here that have been torn apart by gun
violence. It`s about them and all the families going forward so we can
prevent this from happening again. That`s what it`s about. About the law
enforcement officials putting their lives at risk, that is what this is
about. This is not about politics.



SHARPTON: President Obama tonight making a powerful call to action on a
key part of his agenda, gun control. This could be a pivotal week for his
second term priorities. And we have new details about how he`s personally
taking charge of the process. That`s next.


SHARPTON: It`s a big week of how history remember the Obama presidency.
As we just heard within the hour, a powerful and emotional speech in
Hartford calling on Americans to stand up, it was a leader determined to
make change. A man personally connected to an issue, he was going back
outside of Washington. Using his bully pulpit, fighting for gun control
and for months we`ve seen him go outside the beltway to sell his vision to
the people.

Fighting for real Americans on gun control, immigration reform, same-sex
marriage equality, voting reform, climate change, and today we`re learning
what he really like inside the White House. A new buzz fed report details
on how President is taking control in the second term, he highlights how he
has mastered presidential power, reveals his growing confidence, and how he
calls Capitol Hill himself and dictate strategy more forcefully, the quote
today, "The President is in complete control of the White House." It`s the
same toughness we`ve seen outside the White House.


SHARPTON: I will not negotiate around the debt ceiling. But they will not
collect the ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy.
Ordinary folks, they do their jobs. The notion that our elected leadership
can`t do the same thing is mind boggling to them. It needs to stop. It`s
not fair. It`s not right. The American people don`t think it`s fair.
Everybody here understands this. I mean, this is not a complicated

SHARPTON: Joining me now is Ben LaBolt, former national press secretary
for the Obama campaign and Nia-Malika Henderson from "The Washington Post."
Thank you both for being here.


SHARPTON: Ben, as I mentioned, this is a big week for Obama`s agenda and
his vision. What do you think he`s doing behind closed doors to get over
the finish line?

LABOLT: Well, you`ve seen him out there at the -- on the bully pulpit
keeping pressure up on members of Congress. I think anybody who saw the
interviews last night with the Newtown families is calling for the passage
of this legislation. Members across the country have to see that pressure
in their Congressional districts because the NRA and other groups are
working them.

I think one surprise for anybody who has worked in the White House worked
in the administration is when you first enter office, there are these
officials from the previous administration who burrow in and try to scuttle
your agenda or others who are pursuing their own agenda, I think there`s
no doubt that the President is in control.

He`s making sure that the Health and Human Services Department is doing
everything it can to implement health care reform, that the Energy
Department is doing everything it can to create clean energy jobs and fight
climate change just like he`s doing out there in states across the country
to keep up pressure on members of Congress to pass the agenda that the
American people voted for on election day.

SHARPTON: Now, Nia-Malika, let`s talk about the president`s second-term
strategy. To tell buzz fed quote, "He is quote in backing in a way that
maybe he didn`t or maybe he deferred to others in the first term, his
personal favorite issues have really come out. These are the things that
are important to him."

And he seems to be -- I don`t know that anyone was ever in charge of the
White House other than him in the first term but he seems even the more
confident and more hands-on in the second term, I`ve seen that in my
meetings with the White House with the civil rights leadership.

first term, definitely more of a team of rivals and with this term you have
more of a band of brothers. And you see that the President, very much a
student in history looking certainly at all their second-term presidents,
primarily Ronald Reagan in many ways who had a very successful second term
and you`ve seen this President doing what Reagan did and that is picking
his issues.

Where does he want to be four years from now when he is in Chicago or in
Hawaii thinking about his eight years as president? Why does he want to
look back and say that he has accomplished? And we know now that he is
very high on immigration reform, gun control, same-sex marriage rights as
well a much more progressive agenda. The agenda that he laid out in that
second term inauguration.

So, I think we have seen a President much more engaged, much more out there
on the stump, much more pushing for those issues that I think progressives
wanted him to push in that first term but he was in some ways hindered by a
re-elect and now he isn`t. He`s free to govern and push the issues he
wants to push.

SHARPTON: Ben, you know, when you talk about -- when you hear Nia-Malika
talk about how he`s going to be remembered when he goes back to Chicago,
the eight years, Buzz Fed rights, the President realizes he`s on a deadline
now. He`s on a deadline to get his agenda pushed forward. Quote, "the
second term is freeing for any president, liberating the Oval Office from
the pressure of re-election polls. But the second term is also a race
against time.

The White House is taking up big, politically risky issues, an indication
Obama is seeing the sand running out of the hourglass. Is it the fact that
the time is now upon him that he has to in three-and-a-half years, seal his
legacy, doesn`t have point a new sense of urgency in the president?

LABOLT: Well, I think there`s absolutely a sense of urgency. But I don`t
think this is about him or a legacy building. I mean, ultimately this was
a president who didn`t take a lucrative job after college. He moved to the
south side of Chicago in the shadow of close deal plant to help workers get
back on their feet. I think his north star is how do we restore economic
security for the middle class? That`s what has guided the big
accomplishments of this administration, starting with health care reform.

He knows what the political pressure points are. Look, a republican
presidential candidate in 2016 is not going to be able to beat the democrat
if the democrat wins seven-tenths of the Hispanic vote again. So
comprehensive immigration reform. There are some political pressure points
behind that that I think create a big incentive for the Republicans to be
with the President and I think that`s going to buy him more time than some
pundits might be saying.

SHARPTON: And I think that it shows more of him -- Nia-Malika that he
really believes in some things. I can`t help but keep going back to, as he
stood there tonight in Hartford just about leading a chant from the crowd
of "We want a vote." Here was a guy that knows what he believes and that
is having the American people stand up with him. I mean, watch this scene


OBAMA: They are saying that your opinion doesn`t matter and that`s not
right. That is not right.


We want a vote.

OBAMA: We need a vote.


We want a vote! We want a vote! We want a vote! We want a vote! We want
to vote!

OBAMA: We need a vote.


SHARPTON: And he let the people chant. He wasn`t discouraging it. He let
him check, he raised the voice of the American people. It`s a man who
knows what he believes in.

HENDERSON: That`s right. You know, the President is a very scripted, sort
of orchestrated thing often. But you see the President in many of these
republican events seeming to go off script engaging there with the public
and I think that rallying cry, that Newtown deserves a vote, that these
parents deserve a vote, that is what the President is hoping is going to
move folks on Congress will see if that actually happens. But certainly
those voices of Americans, those voices of parents are I think critical to
this debate.

SHARPTON: I think you`re right. And I think it is going to be part of his
legacy that he`s already done some things in the first term but I think
it`s the authenticity and bringing the voice of the American people back
into the middle of the debate is something that is important for the
process and I think that he is beginning to do that unlike any president in
memory. Ben LaBolt and Nia-Malika Henderson, thanks for being here

LABOLT: Thanks, Rev.

HENDERSON: Thank you.

SHARPTON: And I want to say to everyone, yes, the people of this country
deserve a vote. Thanks for watching. I`m Al Sharpton. "HARDBALL" starts
right now.


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