PoliticsNation, Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

January 8, 2014

Guests: Loretta Weinberg, Karen Bass, Maria Teresa Kumar, Jesse Jackson, Eleanor Holmes Norton

REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening, Ed. And thanks to you
for tuning in.

Tonight`s lead, time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee. Those eight
words are sending shockwaves towards New Jersey governor Chris Christie
tonight. They are contained in a stack of private emails and text messages
among top Christie aides that became public today. Documents that make
clear a local political story now reaches all the way into the office of
Governor Christie.

More than a month, Governor Christie has denied he or his staff had
anything to do with closing traffic lanes leading to the busiest bridge in
the world. For four days in September, the move backed up traffic for
hours. Some believed the closure was political revenge, a payback to the
Democratic mayor of Fort Lee where the lanes were closed for his refusing
to endorse Christie`s re-election.

Two of Christie`s appointees to the agency in-charge of the bridge, Bill
Baroni and David Wildstein said the lanes had been closed as part of a
traffic study. But there was no evidence of a study. Both men are close
to Christie. Wildstein is a high school friend and both men were forced to
resign after the story became public.

This morning the Bergen record published a series of e-mails, many sent
from personal accounts between Governor Christie`s deputy chief of staff
Bridgett Ann Kelly and Mr. Wildstein, the official who ordered the lanes
closed. The Governor`s spokesman and campaign manager were copied on other
e-mails after the lanes were -- was re-opened.

Back in August a month before the bridge closure, Christie`s deputy chief
of staff e-mailed Mr. Wildstein quote, "time for some traffic problems in
Fort Lee." He wrote back. "Got it."

Today, New Jersey Democrats said the case might call for criminal charges
or federal investigation. But the assemblyman investigating said the
documents do make one thing clear.


question the honesty of this governor and his staff. As a result of what
has been revealed today this governor has a lot of explaining to do. So
many questions remain unanswered.


SHARPTON: Governor Christie canceled an event scheduled for this morning
and late this afternoon put out this statement. Quote, "what I`ve seen
today for the first time is unacceptable. I am outraged and deeply
saddened to learn that not only was I misled by a member of my staff, but
this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my
knowledge. One thing is clear, this type of behavior is unacceptable and I
will not tolerate it because the people of New Jersey deserve better. This
behavior is not representative of me or my administration in any way, and
people will be held responsible for their actions."

Certainly a change from what he said about the story in the past.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I worked the cones actually on that,
unbeknownst to everybody, I was actually the guy out there. I was in
overall in the hatch so I wasn`t -- but, I actually was the guy working the
cones out there.

When others make the mistakes, you know, it bothers me. But I think anger
would probably be a little bit too strong a word. I know you guys are
obsessed with this. I`m not. I really am not. It`s just -- it`s not that
big a deal.


SHARPTON: Today, it`s become a very big deal.

Joining me now New Jersey state Senate majority leader Loretta Weinberg,
and MSNBC contributor Jonathan Capehart.

Thank you both for being here.



SHARPTON: Majority leader, what is your reaction to these emails?

WEINBERG: Well, my reaction, first of all to the governor`s statement is
welcome to outrage, Governor. This has been going on for four months. I
made my first appearance at the port authority board of commissioners back
in late September/early October, again in November, again in December.
Then the assembly transportation committee issued subpoenas and the
governor`s first reaction was, Senator Weinberg and an assemblyman
Wisniewski are fixated.

Then, the next action was to deride all this. You saw the little clip.
Yes, I was out there putting up the cones. Let`s take a look what took
place here. The governor`s two top lieutenants at the port authority, Bill
Baroni and David Wildstein were obviously involved and forced to resign.

Bill Baroni came to the assembly transportation committee with the made up
cover story. The governor at that point didn`t seem to want to
investigate. Now, with the release of these emails where somebody in the
front office in his office said and I`m quoting, "time to create traffic in
Fort Lee." Then in an exchange of emails -- remember the week that this
happened was the first day or two of school. People were driving their
kindergartners, their first graders to their first school experience.
Being late, getting stuck in traffic, someone sent an e-mail and said
something to the effect of gee I feel sorry for the children. And the
answer came back, they are children of --

SHARPTON: Let me go specifically to that e-mail.

In a set of text messages, Jonathan, on the second day of the lane
closures, Wildstein referenced the fact that Fort Lee`s mayor was concerned
about the traffic delaying kids getting to school, which is what Senator
Weinberg just referred to. An unknown person responded to him and I`m
reading the exchange.

Quote, "is it wrong that I`m smiling? Wildstein responded no. The person
replied, I feel badly about the kids, I guess. And Wildstein answered they
are children of Buono voters, Buono being the opponent of Governor
Christie. There`s a reference here to Barbara Buono, the democratic
opponent in the race.

Jonathan, this appears very insensitive and very -- I would say very much
in line with the theory that has been put out by a lot of Democrats in
Jersey, this is retribution.

CAPEHART: It`s insensitive and it`s callous. The majority leader just
mentioned how it was the first or second day of school when this happened.
People were stuck in traffic for three or four hours. And there are
stories, in the story today, about how children were basically trapped on
school buses for all of that time trying to get to school.

You know, I think the reason why this resonates, Reverend Al, is for
several reasons. One is Governor Christie and he has national ambitions
and he is a national leader --

SHARPTON: He`s leading in some polls the Republican field right now for

CAPEHART: Right for 2016, but also as someone noted me earlier today that
this is also a big deal because it`s traffic. And if you want to really
anger people anywhere in the country, mess with traffic. Mess with their
normal traffic patterns.

That`s why one of the many reasons why this is -- this story will have
legs, but it also adds to the litany of stories of Governor Christie using
his office and himself personally going after people who have done
something or said something that he doesn`t like. And the "New York Times"
has a story I believe it was on Christmas Eve cataloging all of the stories
of these stories of retribution both big and small.

WEINBERG: You know, if the governor --

SHARPTON: Now, let me ask you something, Senator. I want to focus for a
second on Bridgett Ann Kelly, the deputy chief of staff to Governor
Christie. Now, I want to put up an e-mail. It shows Wildstein forwarded
Miss Kelly, who is, again, the governor`s deputy chief of staff. And on
that e-mail of the first day of the closings, it says the Fort Lee mayor
had called the port authority with an urgent matter of public safety.
Kelly asked, did he call him back? Wildstein responded, radio silence.

So, it appears in this exchange that Kelly right in governor Christie`s
office, his deputy chief of staff was engaged with the leading people, his
leading aides at port authority, talking about what the mayor of the city
that was victimized by this traffic back up for four days was trying to
reach out to the port authority and he informing her directly in the
governor`s office, there was radio silence as a response.

WEINBERG: You know, Reverend Al, let me just add something here. I have
said from the beginning of this that even if the governor didn`t know about
it directly although now I question even that, that he created at the port
authority with his two top appointees a culture that seemed to indicate
that it was OK to take our infrastructure, the busiest bridge in the world
and use it for petty political payback. OK. That was going on at the port

Now we find out that same culture exists right in the governor`s office
where a deputy chief of staff thinks it`s OK to say let`s create traffic in
Fort Lee. What kind of people are these? I want you -- I hope that the
people who are watching tonight really get this visual of the George
Washington Bridge being used to punish the mayor of Fort Lee. What about
the children who were caught in this. What about the people who maybe
didn`t make to it work that day or didn`t make it to a job interview and,
therefore, lost a job because they were late. What about all of those
people and suddenly after four months of asking questions the governor had
at any point he could have could in his childhood buddy David Wildstein and
asked him what`s going on here. He could have called in Bill Baroni who he
is responsible for appointing. He never tried to find out.

This to me says what kind of a government is this? And then by the way,
they refer in the emails to the mayor of Fort Lee who happens to be of
Croatian descent as the Serbian and they talk about Fort Lee, they call it

You know what? Fort Lee functions in a democratic way. We`re still living
in a democracy in Fort Lee, in Bergen County, in New Jersey and in the
United States of America. And the governor better start recognizing that.

SHARPTON: I`m going to leave it there with you New Jersey state senator
Loretta Weinberg, strong words.

WEINBERG: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Thank you for your time.

Jonathan, please stay with us.


SHARPTON: Still ahead, New Jersey`s top paper is asking a tough question.
Was the governor lying? We`ll look at that next.

Plus, mission impossible for the GOP convince voters they love the poor,
really? It might work if voters forget every single thing the Republicans
have done in the last 50 years or so.

Also, the truth about President Johnson`s war on poverty, Republicans claim
it failed. I`ll set the record straight tonight.

And we`ll talk about how it became Dr. King`s final campaign.

Big show ahead, stay with us.


SHARPTON: New Jersey`s largest paper said today that Governor Christie`s
top aides lied. And the paper asked was the governor lying? That question
and what it may mean next.


SHARPTON: The big question tonight, did Governor Chris Christie lie? Did
he know what was going on? He says he learned about all of it for the
first time today.

Here`s what an editorial in the biggest paper said. Quote, "his attempts
to laugh this off now appear to be dishonest. If it turns out he did know
what his staff did, he is obviously lying and unfit for office, let alone a
2016 presidential run."

So was he lying? On December 13th reporters asked Christie if the bridge
closure was political. And he said quote, "the answer is absolutely
unequivocally not." Today, Christie said he was misled by his staff. At
the hearing tomorrow, we may get a new explanation.

Joining me now MSNBC Karen Finney and back with us, Jonathan Capehart.

Thank you both for being here.

CAPEHART: Thanks, Rev.


SHARPTON: Karen, Christie tried to laugh this off at first. Not laughing


SHARPTON: What`s the political fallout for him today, in your opinion?

FINNEY: Well it`s very bad for him. I mean look, the thing about any kind
-- whether you`re a Democrat or Republican, when you`re looking at a
political scandal of this nature you better -- if you say absolutely on
equitably not, you better know, absolutely equitably not because people
tend to forget.

E-mail is forever, right? So, all of the evidence that is still out there
and you don`t know what you don`t know, I mean, he may have created a
culture in which his staff felt this was appropriate behavior, and he
didn`t -- maybe he didn`t know about that and he hadn`t read some of these
emails or maybe he did and the problem becomes what will end up happening
over the next several weeks it will start to drip, drop, drip, dropout and
that is going to eat away this credibility every single time we get a new
piece of information that gives us a new viewpoint of the story. That`s
going to be the real challenge for Christie here.

SHARPTON: Jonathan, another quote from (INAUDIBLE) says, and even if
Christie did not lie, his officials are liars. If Christie can`t control
them, how can we trust him as a potential future leader of our country?

CAPEHART: Well, Rev., I mean, the thing about this is Chris Christie has
built a reputation on two things. One, being somebody who goes right after
his critics, face to face, he`ll brawl with them. I`ve had a brawl with
them. He`s also built his national reputation as a leader, someone who is
in charge, who makes decisions and who seems to be everywhere on

And so, now you mean to tell me that you had no idea that this was
happening, that you were misled, that this behavior is unacceptable when we
have stories in the "New York Times" and elsewhere cataloging the litany of
examples of retribution both petty, both big and small from this governor
against political opponents, and even some Democrats and even some
Republicans. So, you know, Governor Christie is in a tight spot here.

And one more thing, Rev. Again, Chris Christie has built his reputation on
being a fighter and he usually does it face to face. He loves sparring
with the press, he loves sparring with regular voters asking him questions.
How did he release his statement about what happened -- via the internet --
a statement -- faceless. At some point, he`s going to have to step forward
and it`s not going to be pretty.


But Karen, we still really don`t know that he knew. There`s no direct
evidence saying he knew.

FINNEY: Right.

SHARPTON: He knew anything. And even with his non-appearance today.

FINNEY: OK. But, you know, I mean, think how many times President Obama
has had to say hey, look, the buck stops with me. I`m the guy in charge.
I mean, there is something about leadership to the point that Jonathan was
making that says even if you didn`t know there will be questions -- I mean,
it is going to be what did you know and when did you know it. And if you
didn`t know why didn`t you know particularly given the way his reputation
has been built.

But don`t forget, Reverend, there`s a couple of other very serious
potential charges here. I mean, there`s stories emerging suggest that, you
know, EMTs, their response times were delayed. I was reading in one case
where a woman actually died. I mean, I don`t know if that would have been
a different outcome had they been able to get there.

But there are some very serious consequences of that day and of that
traffic jam that I think means this story will not go away in terms of
investigating it. It will not go away. And so, again, the political
ramifications for the governor is, this story is not going away. He is
going to have to deal with it and he is not going to be able to just put
out internet statements and slough it off and make jokes about, you know,
moving the cones on the bridge. At some point, he has to be real clear
what his story is and what he knew and when he knew it. And if that
happens, there better not be anything else out there that contradicts that.

SHARPTON: Well, no. He is clearly should know what is at stake here,
Jonathan. He was the federal prosecutor for that part of New Jersey before
he was governor.

Today, the New Jersey assemblyman leading the investigation was asked
whether the governor lied to the public.

Listen to his response, Jonathan.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: The governor said that his senior staff, he
asked his senior staff and they knew nothing about this. Do we now know
that`s untrue and, therefore, he either lied to the public or his people
lied to him?

WISNIEWSKI: Well, there are two possibilities. I mean, either he doesn`t
know what`s going on in his front office, or that there`s lying going on.


SHARPTON: So, Jonathan, from his statement we now know that Christie is
already saying that his people lied to him, his senior staff person. He`s
calling them saying, calling them out and saying they lied to him from that

CAPEHART: Right. He`s saying they lied to him and that there will be
consequences. The question is when will those consequences come? Now
tomorrow, there`s supposed to be a hearing, I believe it`s Mr. Wildstein
who is supposed to be -- is subpoenaed to testify in a hearing tomorrow and
he`s tried to get that called off or delayed. After that testimony is
done, will we see Bridgett Ann Kelly resign? Will we see other people
within the governor`s inner circle resign?

I have to agree with the state assemblyman who you just showed. Either the
governor didn`t know what was going on and maybe that`s possible, or
there`s lying going on and that`s possible. But the only way we`re going -
- the questions at least some of them will go away is when the governor,
when Governor Christie comes forward, faces the press and answers their
questions for as long as they ask the questions.

SHARPTON: Karen, you`ve been around government and around politics for a
while. Is it feasible that the deputy chief of staff would have been
engaged in this kind of back and forth and having knowledge of what was
going on and not at some point tell the governor anything?

FINNEY: It bends credibility quite a bit, Reverend, to suspect that
someone who was that important of an aide and that close of an aide could
engaging and that kind of behavior and for him to absolutely have no idea,
although you know how in politics sometimes you may not know exactly what`s
happening but you have a sense of what`s happening. And I think this is
why we go back to this question of what did he know and when did he know

Because once -- I mean, on that very day, there were, you know, texts and
phone calls coming in to the governor`s office, people complaining about
the problem. What action did he take to rectify that and what did he do?
He may have made the joke about cones, but then did he try to find out what
actually did go on and what actually had happened. And if he found out
something before that he was willing to tell us about today or the next day
or the day after, that`s when, again that`s when you really start to get
yourself in trouble.

SHARPTON: Karen Finney and Jonathan Capehart, thank you both for your time
this evening.

CAPEHART: Thanks, Rev.

FINNEY: Thanks, Rev.

SHARPTON: And be sure to watch "Disrupt" with Karen Finney weekends at
4:00 p.m. right here on MSNBC.

Coming up, how is this one, GOP champions of the poor? You don`t buy it?
Me either. That`s coming up.

But first Rush Limbaugh still thinks the polar vortex is a left wing
conspiracy. We have a special gotcha tonight. A member of the NBC family
gets him, next.


SHARPTON: Hey, America, did you hear? It`s been kind of cold this week.
A polar vortex has been gripping much of the country and Al Rocker at the
"Today" show has been all over the story.


AL ROCKER, WEATHER FORECASTER: There`s an area up to the north, literally
the North Pole. It is called the polar vortex. Normally, it stays to
north. Think of this as a polar hurricane basically. It`s broken loose
and now we get that counterclockwise flow around it and so the polar vortex
is sending in this brutally cold air that we normally don`t see.


SHARPTON: Wow. That explains a lot. But for Rush Limbaugh, this polar
vortex is just another left wing conspiracy.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: It`s called the polar vortex, the
dreaded polar vortex. Do you know what the polar vortex is? Have you ever
heard of it? Well, they just created it for this week.


SHARPTON: They created it? They made it up?

Rush Limbaugh, you do not want to get in to a snowball fight with Al
Rocker, not when it comes to the weather. Check it out.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of folks have been saying there is no such thing
as polar vortex.


ROKER: And that it some left wing media conspiracy -- This is from my
textbook from college the Glossary of Meteorology for the American
Meteorological Society, copyright 1959, OK? And here we go. Take a look.
Right here. OK. Polar vortex. There it is. OK. So for all the doubters
out there, stop it.


SHARPTON: Ouch! Rush, did you think we wouldn`t notice you`re full of hot
air? Nice try. But here`s a cold hard fact. Al Roker gotcha.


SHARPTON: For years the GOP has attacked the poor as takers. As welfare
queens. As the 47 percent. But now suddenly Republicans love the poor.
The biggest names in the party are rolling out their big anti-poverty
agendas. Let`s see what they have to offer. Take it away Congressman


REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MAJORITY LEADER: Safe and effective schools for
all children isn`t and should not be a political issue. It especially
matters to those living in poverty who are desperate for a lifeline.


SHARPTON: Hear that, America? Congressman Cantor wants to help educate
poor children. Forget that he backed cuts to head start. Or that he`s
voted against Pell Grants for students. Or that he wants to cut billions
from the food stamp programs. After all, who needs food when you`re trying
to learn? But Congressman Cantor isn`t the only one with big ideas.
There`s always Senator Rubio.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: So why are so many poor Americans trapped
at the bottom? Why are so many working harder than ever only to find their
dreams slipping further away?


SHARPTON: Great question, Senator Rubio. I wonder if it has anything to
do with you. After all, just yesterday you voted against extending
unemployment benefits. And you said point blank I don`t think a minimum
wage law works. Maybe that`s why poor people are trapped. But I don`t
know. What do you think?


RUBIO: The truth is that the greatest tool to lift people, to lift
children and families from poverty is one that decreases the probability of
child poverty by 82 percent. But it isn`t a government program. It`s
called marriage.


SHARPTON: Marriage? Stops poverty? So, what he`s saying is that single
moms are to blame. That in a nutshell is what`s wrong with the GOP`s anti-
poverty agenda. It`s full of poor thinking.

Joining me now are Congresswoman Karen Bass, Democrat from California and
MSNBC contributor Maria Teresa Kumar. Thank you both for coming on the
show tonight.


REP. KAREN BASS (D), CALIFORNIA: Thanks for having us.

SHARPTON: Congresswoman, so Republicans now are back to blaming single
moms for poverty in America.

BASS: You know, it`s really important because you almost want to laugh at
what they are saying, but what they are attempting to do -- we`re on the
50th anniversary of President Johnson`s speech on the war on poverty and
launching the war on poverty and we cannot for one minute to allow them to
act as though they want to address poverty because you`re talking about the
Republican Party that essentially wants to dismantle the safety net. What
they believe is that poor folks need a pep talk and a kick in the butt and
that`s the way you reduce poverty without looking at some of the structural

So, it`s wonderful Eric Cantor says that schools are needed. That`s
absolutely the case. But then he doesn`t want to provide funding for
schools. People need jobs, we need to raise the minimum wage, we need to
extend unemployment, there are very specific things that we need to do to
lift people out of poverty. It`s not rocket science.

SHARPTON: You know, Maria, "The Washington Post" obtained a memo that
House Republican leaders sent to rank-and-file members. It tells lawmakers
to be emphatic towards the unemployed. It says the empathetic as they are
emphatic about their policies to quote, "be empathetic towards the
unemployed." and to remember that for every American out of work it`s a
personal crisis. This was -- you know kind of like the gentle but firm.
But just today Senator Marco Rubio mocked the president`s plan to raise the
minimum wage. Listen to this.


RUBIO: Really? This is their solution to what the president has called
the defining issue of our time. Raising the minimum wage may poll well but
having a job that pays $10 an hour is not the American dream.


SHARPTON: I mean, so at one level, you know, stand by your God be
emphatic, but be empathetic, make sure you know it`s a personal crisis, but
now you have Rubio mocking the president`s plan.

KUMAR: Well, and just because you change your talking points doesn`t mean
that you have policies to back them up and right now they don`t have
policies to back them up. If the GOP was really interested in alleviating
poverty they would invest heavily on macro policies such as doing heavy
investment in infrastructure projects. That would get a lot of the middle
class back to work and we`ll get a lot of the folks that has stopped
seeking jobs interested back in getting engaged. And that`s just one
policy. When Eric Cantor says that he`s interested in funding education,
well, kids can`t learn if they have empty bellies.


KUMAR: Let`s make sure you`re passing the SNAP program. When you say that
you believe that we have to stop paying unemployment benefits but at the
same time the GOP party is recognizing people have stopped looking for
employment so we actually have a bigger unemployment problem, they are
basically turning away from the masses, trying to come up with fun quipy
talking points but not really addressing our overall issues. And that`s
the fundamental problem. And that`s -- when you`re talking about the GOP
whether they are anti-poverty stance or when you`re talking about war on
women or immigration or what have you, they speak a good game but their
policies don`t back it up.

SHARPTON: Congresswoman, even though the GOP doesn`t have any real anti-
poverty agenda, the president does. He talks and he`s fighting to expand
health care access, raising the minimum wage, extending unemployment
benefits, and universal pre-K education.

BASS: Well, and also, Reverend, remember there was the American jobs act
that the president proposed a couple of years ago. That was very specific
policy. And just look at the affordable care act for a minute. If you
were going to expand health care to 30 million people, who do you think is
going to do that? We need health care workers. So, if you want to talk
about education and training, you want to talk about a job that can`t be
outsourced. Look at the health care industry. So health care reform in
and of itself is a jobs program. We need to put resource there`s. If they
were serious that`s what they would focus on. They are not. They are
focus on cleaning up their message in the same way they tried to clean it
up around women.

SHARPTON: You know, meanwhile, Maria, they keep just denigrating the poor.
Listen to this.

KUMAR: Right.

SHARPTON: Listen to this.


LIMBAUGH: What is unemployment insurance? It is paying people not to

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: It`s like a paid vacation for people.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yes. But the minimum wage makes no sense whatsoever to
me. I mean, honestly, it`s just the black teenage unemployment act.


SHARPTON: The black teenage unemployment act, Maria.

KUMAR: Not only is it despicable but it`s also unfair for folks that have
been trying to find ways to put food on table for their families. And this
is a very sensitive time. When we have the highest inequality since 1923
in our country where you have Americans who want to work and can`t find it
and to be disrespectful of the needs of families in this current stage is
unacceptable. The fact that, you know, Marco Rubio is flippant and says
$10 an hour isn`t going to make a difference in people`s lives. Neither is
the current minimum wage which is $7.25 cents. So, I think that it`s a
matter of where is this passionate conservatism that you`re starting to see
bubble up again in messaging. It`s not delivering the truth thing. And
unfortunately what they are doing is that they are basically race baiting
by using different language and that`s not OK.

SHARPTON: Congresswoman, 50 years after the President Johnson speech, this
president and members of Congress still have to fight a war on poverty for
right now.

BASS: Well, we do. And we also have to fight against the war on poor
people because that`s what we`ve experienced over the last few years. I
mean, if you just think about it, $10 an hour he denigrates that and say
people should make $50 an hour. Well, that`s just great. But then you`re
going to oppose all of the policies that could lead people to higher wage
jobs. So I really think that it`s important that we look at underneath
what they are saying and what their premise is which is basically that
people are poor because they`ve made poor choice and not looking at
structural barriers within our economy, within our education system and
within our communities.

SHARPTON: Congresswoman Karen Bass and Maria Teresa Kumar, thank you both
for your time this evening.

KUMAR: Thank you, Reverend.

BASS: Thanks for having us on.

SHARPTON: Still ahead, Dr. King`s final campaign. The push to realize the
war on poverty. The fight continues today. Also a big move from the
attorney general. Taking steps to make sure kids in our schools get an
education not a fast track to prison. Stay with us.


SHARPTON: Tonight marks the 50th anniversary of President Johnson`s war on
poverty. It launched vital programs like Medicare, Medicaid, head start
and food stamps. But now Republicans want to rewrite history.


RUBIO: For millions of Americans living in poverty the American dream
doesn`t seem reachable. And that`s unacceptable. After 50 years isn`t it
time to declare big government`s war on poverty a failure?


SHARPTON: A failure? Tell that to the millions of people whose programs
were lifted and whose lives were blessed out of poverty. But it was never
an easy battle. The Vietnam War derailed key parts of the campaign to
reduce poverty and Republicans attacked the rest of it every chance they
got. By the late `60s, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was culling out
politicians for supporting the war in Vietnam but not the war on poverty
here at home.


seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor, both black and
white, through the poverty program. Then came the buildup in Vietnam and I
watched the program broken as if it was some idle political play thing of a
society gone mad on war.


SHARPTON: Dr. King called for a poor people`s campaign to highlight the
problem. But was assassinated before he could see it through. Still the
march went on. The fight continued. And it continues to this day. We
made gains but the war on poverty is far from over and this is one war that
we can`t afford to lose.

Joining me now is the Reverend Jesse Jackson who helped lead the poor
people`s campaign and District of Columbia Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes
Norton. She also of course a veteran of the civil rights movement Student
Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Thank you both for being here tonight.


SHARPTON: Congresswoman, the war on poverty was discussed by the president
tonight but student leaders and others at that time began to see it
derailed and Dr. King and others began to see that the war on poverty two
or three years later, some of that was gone in terms of those resources
diverted to the war in Vietnam.

NORTON: That is so true, Reverend. Ah, because of the president,
President Johnson envisioned, ah, what he called unconditional war on
poverty. And you know, that rhetoric showed his high ideals but
unconditional didn`t mean there wouldn`t be some people who would be poor.
What it has meant thought, if you look at the census bureau poverty
methodology which is considered the most reliable it has taken 50 percent -
- it has reduced poverty by 50 percent and I think that`s pretty good when
you consider that the rest was supposed to be done by the economy.

If anything, the poverty programs have been -- are now doing duty that
President Johnson never intended them to do. It`s the economy. It was
supposed -- these programs were supposed to be there until the economy did
its work. But frankly, Reverend, we had Republican presidents most of the
time since President Johnson and war on poverty or doing something about
poverty was simply not on their agenda.

SHARPTON: Reverend Jackson, when you hear Senator Rubio say after 50
years, he says it as if there was a 50 year fight but as the congresswoman
said we had more Republican presidents in those 50 years than Democrats.
Many that were against this program. I show you this picture of the tent
city Resurrection City that Dr. King dreamed of. I remember when I was a
youth in operation bread basket at 13, we went down there. This was the
city that was built the year Dr. King was killed. You were the mayor of
that city appointed by Ralph Abernathy. That was to try and get the
attention then of the country just for years after this speech back on the
poor and out of Vietnam.

have a dream speech August 28th, `63. Johnson`s response was January 8th,
`64. The speech to fulfill the dream the war on poverty, illiteracy,
disease, prenatal care, head start, daycare on the front start, welfare on
the back start, head start, and the Appalachian regional council. So
Johnson response about the King dream laws legislation and a budget. And
the budget that was designed to lift people out of poverty shifted the war
in Vietnam. Even the recent history Al when we have a budget surplus, the
$2 trillion expenditure in Iraq, we lost money and lives. We have other
contempt for poor people and we bail out the banks and giving the insurance
companies more customers and bail out all the auto industry but what poorer
are getting poorer and the middle class is sinking. We must address a
meaningful way, a plan for urban and rural reconstruction.

SHARPTON: You know, Congresswoman, what I really want is as people go
through tonight remembering President Johnson`s speech 50 years ago, there
ought not be given the misperception to Americans that this has been a 50
year fight by big government. In fact, they barely before President
Johnson got out of office we saw the war against poverty diverted and
there`s been a battle ever since just to try to salvage some of the war and
the programs in the war on poverty.

NORTON: Oh, that is the point, Reverend. That we are now struggling to
save what President Johnson did. What he did was to build on the new deal,
a safety net program to make it more into a safety net. We still don`t
have the kind of safety net that they have in Europe for those same 50
years and when we can`t even get unemployment insurance for people who have
been unemployed for seven months or more, most of whom have skills, they
are not even among the very poor, when we`re still struggling to get food
stamps out. You, you have seen us trying to keep the safety net from being
shredded. And we`ve got -- the Republicans are talking about poverty
issues right now only because programs like yours, Reverend, are
celebrating the 50th anniversary of presidents initiation of the war on
poverty and they don`t want to be caught out here without anything to say.
So, I hope you keep it up.

SHARPTON: Well, Reverend Jackson, you know five years after this speech by
President Johnson, Ronald Reagan claimed anti-poverty programs had failed.
Just five years after. Let me play this to you and get your response. Let
me read it to you. He said in 1964, this is Ronald Reagan in four years
after. The famous war on poverty was declared and a funny thing happened.
Poverty won the war. Sounds very, very similar to what Mr. Rubio said
today, Reverend Jackson.

JACKSON: Well, it`s just like the language Lyndon Johnson was smart enough
over the war on poverty in Appalachian. Most poor people are white female
and young. But whether they are white black or brown hunger hurts. He
deracialized the debate and said it was based upon need. And today, with
banks disseminating millions of people`s homes -- we`re bailing out the
banks. Not link the -- reinvestment, so they have triggers but they don`t
even know how this spin. Even the Affordable Health Care through the main
-- for insurance companies, but guess what? We need affordable health, we
also need affordable food and water and a place to stay, education and a
job. We need a comprehensive revival of a war on poverty with a war that
we cannot afford to lose.

SHARPTON: The struggle continues even right now. Reverend Jesse Jackson,
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton. Thank you for your time tonight.

NORTON: Of course.

JACKSON: Thank you, sir.

SHARPTON: We`ll be right back.


SHARPTON: Too many kids in America are being sent to court instead of
being sent to class. Today Attorney General Holder made a strong move to
end that. That`s next.


SHARPTON: Today Attorney General Eric Holder and Education Secretary Arne
Duncan issued new guidelines for discipline in public schools. They
intended to make sure officials use law enforcement only as a last resort.
And to stop the school to prison pipeline.


ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Effective discipline is and always
will be a necessity. But a routine school discipline infraction should
land a student in the principal`s office not in a police precinct.


SHARPTON: Harsh punishment in our public schools has become a national
problem. The "New York Times" says quote, "Children who are removed from
school are at heightened risk for low achievement, being held back,
dropping out or becoming permanently entangled in the juvenile justice
system." And the "Times" says that black students are three-and-a-half
times more likely to be expelled or suspended than white students. Today`s
new guidelines by the Obama administration are a big step towards
correcting these injustices. We must have fair and equal opportunity and
we must have our children educated on an even playing field.

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


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