Show: POLITICS NATION
Date: December 18, 2014
Guest: Anthony Roman; Susan Milligan, Paul Butler, Seema Iyer, Mark
Hannah, Julia Cunningham
ED SCHULTZ, MSNBC ANCHOR, THE ED SHOW: Great to have you with us tonight.
Thanks so much.
That`s "the Ed Show." I`m Ed Schultz. "Politics Nation" with Reverend Al
Sharpton starts right now.
Good evening, Rev.
REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening, Ed. And thanks to you
for tuning in.
We start with breaking news right now. Federal agents are investigating
who hacked Sony pictures` private emails. The U.S. is vowing to respond,
considering a range of options. Law enforcement and intelligence officials
say the U.S. strongly suspects North Korea directed the hacking. But many
cybersecurity experts say they doubt an isolated country could do it alone.
What we still don`t know tonight is how the hackers did it. The White
House today is saying that it`s being treated as a serious national
Here is homeland security secretary, Jeh Johnson, on MSNBC today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEH JOHNSON, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: We do regard the attack on
Sony as very serious and it involves an attack not only on that company and
its personnel, but also on freedoms that we enjoy in this country. The
U.S. government is actively considering a range of options that we`ll take
in response to this attack.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: The hacking game as retaliation for Sony`s movie "the
Interview," with a plot to kill North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The CIA would love it if you two could take him out.
Take him out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take him out?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like, for drinks?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, no, no, take him out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like takeout, dinner.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take him out, on the town?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, take him out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want us to assassinate the leader of North Korea?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: That movie is now pulled from theaters. After the hacking group
threatened 9/11-style attacks on theaters running it. Tonight, the
intelligence officials say the U.S. strongly suspects North Korea was
behind the hacking and many Americans are wondering, could it happen to
them? And just how serious is this cyber threat?
Joining me now is MSNBC`s military analyst, Colonel Jack Jacobs and Anthony
Roman. He`s a cybersecurity expert who runs a global investigations firm.
Thank you both for being here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re welcome.
SHARPTON: Colonel, what are investigators doing right now to track down
COL. JACK JACOBS, MSNBC MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I think they know where
the hackers are. It`s not that difficult, because there are cyber
signatures all over the place. And the people who are hacking have a long
history and tradition of doing it. So I think they have a very good idea
of exactly who they are. The real problem is, what do you do about it?
That`s the real problem.
SHARPTON: How can the U.S. retaliate, Colonel?
JACOBS: Well, it`s question that you have to make the decision that you`re
going to retaliate. I`m not sure that the United States wants to
retaliate. We`re in the middle of what a lot of people would say is a
cyber war. Certainly, at the beginning of a cyber war, retaliation is
probably going to cause a lot more problems than it will solve. The real
issue is, how do you stop people from getting your data in the first place?
SHARPTON: Anthony, how did they figure this out? I mean, how do they
break down exactly what happened?
ANTHONY ROMAN, CYBERSECURITY EXPERT: Well, the cybersecurity experts
reverse the hack, basically. They start tracking through cyber methods
exactly how many countries and how many other networks were hijacked to
lead to Sony. It`s not a direct attack from North Korea.
North Korea could have hijacked networks in China or Thailand and France.
That could have hijacked other networks in other parts of the world,
eventually leading to Sony burrowing in worms or other malware. And then
it could have stayed silent for a while, collecting information, and been
activated in terms of allowing Sony to realize it, at a time that they
SHARPTON: But, Colonel, an isolated country, like North Korea do this or
reach out to someone to do it? Because I heard someone say today, all you
need is a keyboard. I mean, that`s frightening.
JACOBS: It is frightening and it points out the fact that in this
environment, in which everybody`s data is at risk, just about anybody can
attack you. So is this terrorism? Are we in the middle of a war? I think
that lots and lots of things are a danger. We`ve seen lots of instances in
which financial institutions have been hacked, personal information has
been stolen. So just about anybody can do it. And you don`t have to be a
nation state. And that`s one of the reasons why this is so difficult to
SHARPTON: You know, Bloomberg has a story out tonight, Anthony, on how the
U.S. could retaliate against North Korea. Quote, "one thing the Obama
administration is unlikely to do is unleash a tit for tat cyber attack,"
analyst said. Any eventual U.S. response will likely be unannounced in
order to avoid feeding the North Koreans` desire for a public showdown with
the world`s sole superpower. What do you make of that?
ROMAN: Well, I think it`s absolutely right. I think to give more credence
to North Korea, by sanctioning them at this juncture, they`re already the
most isolated country in the world. So, I don`t think that that`s going to
be particularly effective. Their people don`t even have enough food during
the wintertime, unless it was supplied by some nations. So, they`re not
going to react to that at all.
I think North Korea`s biggest fear is if this movie is publicized and made
free around the world, and then somehow, is either hacked or leaked into
SHARPTON: How vulnerable are other American companies? It`s not just
Sony. How vulnerable are we?
ROMAN: Well, approximately 40 to 50 percent of all American companies have
been effectively hacked. Similar number for the general public. So all
sorts of proprietary information, financial information, corporate data,
personal information has been stolen. By two major class and categories of
hackers. One, the criminal hacker does it for profit. Two, the nation
hacker does it for intelligence and power and advantage.
SHARPTON: Now, Colonel, Pew research asked hundreds of Internet experts
whether a major cyber attack causing widespread harm in our country could
occur by 2025. Sixty-one percent of them said yes, 61 percent. That`s in
the next ten years. Should we be doing more to prepare for a major attack?
JACOBS: Yes, I think so. During the retaliation, but, particularly with
respect to North Korea, is not going to work. China, for example, is not
interested in supporting that. They don`t want two million North Koreans
streaming across the river as refugees. So the only thing we`re going to
be able to do is what you suggest. We`re going to have to prepare for
attack. We`re going to have to do a much better job of protecting our
data. And one of the things we have to do is assume that they`re going to
All these things about erecting higher firewalls, cascading passwords and
all -- that stuff doesn`t work. At the end of the day, anybody with a
fairly sophisticated computer is going to be able to break in. What we
have to do is not try harder to keep them from getting in. They`ve already
proved that they can get in. We have to do a better job of protecting the
data once they are in, and that they are going to get the data, to do
something like corrupt it, so it`s useless to them. That`s where the
investigation, where the science ought to lead.
SHARPTON: And, Anthony, you`re an expert at this. What are we not
thinking about? What is in your mind as an expert that`s not being
discussed today? Because this is critical.
ROMAN: I think that it`s coming to the forefront now. We have not been
discussing just how serious a threat this is, both to our country, its
infrastructure, the water supply, the energy supply, oil industries, the
commercial industries, we have not been discussing that at all in the
general public as a very serious threat. Now we see it affecting our
democracy. Where corporations are making decisions, adverse decisions to
the general public, and to the democracy, after a cyber attack. So that`s
first and foremost.
But I think colonel Jacobs couldn`t be more right. An encryption system, a
decryption system that would recognize an attack and render the information
useless would be spectacular.
SHARPTON: Colonel Jack Jacobs and Anthony Roman, thank you both for your
JACOBS: You`re welcome.
SHARPTON: This major hack exposed some ugly emails involving Sony
pictures. Some of them came from Sony pictures` co-chair, Amy Pascal and
included racially insensitive jokes about President Obama. To address
those offensive emails, I met with Miss Pascal today here in New York. And
we sat along with Marc Morial of the National Urban League and others,
saying how offended we were by it, but the offense was based on the context
that Hollywood has historically and now should our blacks from high
positions of influence and power, there`s not one black that can green
light a movie in Hollywood and green light distribution in their business
She was very, very open about where her emails were insensitive and wrong
and pledged to work towards approaching a concrete way of using Sony as a
model to turn Hollywood around from these practices of exclusion. The
jury`s out on what would happen. She seems sincere, but the proof is in
the pudding, and even then, we`ll wait to see when we eat it.
I`m willing to work halfway with her and Mr. Morial to see, but we`ve got
to turn this around and race is not a joking matter. But we must have
serious, concrete change in Hollywood. We`ll be right back.
SHARPTON: More breaking news ahead. A new report on the secret service
failure to protect the president. How does the agency plan to keep him
Plus, witness number 40 speaks out. What this controversial witness
reveals about the problems of the Ferguson grand jury.
Also, how President Obama`s breaking the mold of a lame-duck president.
And the end of an era on comedy central.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, THE COLBERT REPORT: GOP senators voted for raising
the debt ceiling on the stipulation. They can vote against, having voted
for it. Proving that Republicans may not be partnership, but they may be
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: What to expect from tonight`s final episode of "the Colbert
Report?" It`s ahead in conversation nation.
SHARPTON: Breaking news tonight. A new report on how to fix the secret
service. After a year of embarrassing blunders and dangerous failures. In
September, a man jumped over the White House fence and made his way inside.
That led to a special panel appointed by the department of homeland
security, which today released his recommendations for improving the secret
Among them, get a new director hired from outside the agency. Provide more
training for White House teams, increase the secret service`s uniform
decision, replace the fence outside the White House with a taller fence,
and use the most up-to-date protective technology on White House grounds.
The question now, are these recommendations enough to secure the
president`s safety in the future?
Joining me now, from the White House briefing room is MSNBC political
correspondent, Kasie Hunt, and Susan Milligan, contributing editor at "U.S.
news & world report."
Thanks for being here.
SUSAN MILLIGAN, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT: Thank you.
KASIE HUNT, MSNBC POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Nice to see you, Reverend.
SHARPTON: First, I want to ask you, first, Kasie, what`s the fallout from
HUNT: Well, Reverend, the White House is staying out of this a little bit.
They are deferring to the department of homeland security. White House
press secretary Josh Ernest did say today that the president has confidence
in the secret service to protect him at this point.
Department of homeland security secretary Jeh Johnson called the report
astute, thorough, and far. But he also said that the secret service can`t
implement these recommendations alone, that it`s going to take oversight
and pushing from the department of homeland security to really get these
SHARPTON: Now, Susan, the report takes direct aim at how the secret
service has been run. It says, and I`m quoting, "the panel found an
organization starved for leadership. The agency exists to protect the
president and its other very high-level protectees. Yet the secret service
has sometimes acted in ways that sends mixed signals on a number of fronts.
Does this indicate that there has to be a complete overhaul of the agency,
MILLIGAN: Well, that`s a really tricky question. I mean, first of all,
obviously, we see that there are some problems and holes in security, but
we need to remember that on any given day, the secret service diffuses so
many threats to the president and to others, that we don`t even know about,
and we`ll never know about. They probably don`t even tell the president or
he`d never leave the house, although it seems like he`s not necessarily
safe there either. But they clearly have some problems and they need to
SHARPTON: Problems? There`s a guy that got inside, deep inside the White
MILLIGAN: Yes. Exactly.
And that`s unacceptable. No question about it. Bringing someone in from
the outside can be kind of a tricky thing, you know. Ask any teacher what
it`s like when they bring in a principal who`s never been in a classroom.
I mean, it might need somebody who`s not too steeped in the culture.
On the other hand, I think you have to be careful about having somebody
leave the agency who doesn`t fully understand the culture, and won`t have
the respect and the loyalty of the secret service. But clearly, there
needs to be some kind of overhaul about what`s happening in the secret
SHARPTON: But this is really frightening, Kasie, because, I mean, a guy
gets inside the White House, there`s several incidents. And the report
itself indicates that secret service acknowledges it has to make changes,
in fact. Quote, "the service itself has often made recommendations and
proposed solutions, as it identified problems, but has frequently failed to
implement its own recommendations."
Kasie, is the White House certain they`ll make these changes now?
HUNT: Look, I think that there`s a commitment across the board from the
secret service, from the White House, from the department of homeland
security, to implement these changes. And you know, some of them are
pretty simple, when you think about it. I mean, just building a taller
fence, making the fence curve at the top, I mean, these are some basic
recommendations and they want to do that, not just in front of Pennsylvania
avenue, where this man jumped the fence, but also all the way around the
And we should also point out, most of this report is still classified. A
lot of the recommendations that were made have to do specifically with the
security protocols and procedures of the secret service, and also the
layout of the grounds of the White House right here. So, we don`t know
exactly the extent of what the report recommends, but we can assume that it
goes pretty far in recommending those changes.
And you know, Susan was talking a little bit about the culture of the
agency. I mean, the department of homeland security was very aggressive in
pointing out that the culture of the agency is insular and sort of aimed at
protecting itself. And it really lays out some dramatic ways in which this
is supposed to change, from the budget process to training on up. I mean,
uniformed secret service agents were getting 25 minutes of training every
SHARPTON: Now, Omar Gonzalez, let`s talk about this man, Susan, that
jumped the fence, that you and I referred to. And -- I mean, the man
scaled the White House fence in September.
SHARPTON: He had previous run-ins with the secret service, the same man.
On July 19th, he was interviewed by the secret service, after he was found
driving with sawed-off shotgun and assault weapons in Virginia. And on
August 25th, he was stopped by agents who noticed he was carrying a hatchet
in a waistband, near the south fence of the White House.
I mean, the report doesn`t raise previous encounters with Gonzalez. Does
something more need to be done to stop people known to be threatening the
MILLIGAN: I think that there definitely does. And I think Kasie`s right,
that there is a culture of sort of protecting each other over there, and I
think that`s true in a lot of police departments, a lot of law enforcement
as well, very high-stress, very dangerous jobs. They are doing these
things need to be done, but does only -- how would you do that without
closing off the White House to the American public and to visitors? One of
the things that`s so beautiful about going to the White House, is you can
just walk right in front there and look at it and it`s a symbol of
democracy. And there are a lot of countries where you can`t do that.
Now, raising the fence and simple things like that could probably prevent a
lot of people from getting in. But what are you going to do? Are you
going to have a metal detector two blocks outside of the White House or an
I.D. check? I`m not sure that that`s feasible. So it`s a balance.
SHARPTON: No, I think you raise good questions. But you`ve got to also
deal with the fact that what are we going to do? We`re not the experts.
We would assume the people that run the secret service would know what we
need to do, and can protect the president. And you`re right, it`s a great
symbol of American democracy, but it should not be a symbol of dangerous to
the chief executive of the United States, Kasie.
HUNT: I think that`s right, Reverend. But I think, you know, I think you
have to think about how, you know, they`re going to approach this going
forward. You have acting director, Joseph Clancy, who came in and is
already starting to make some of these changes. I think while there has
been this culture of insularity and this history of problems, everybody
that I talk to at the White House today is really committed to making sure
that these changes get made.
SHARPTON: Well, I`m glad they`re taking it seriously, but we`ve got to
make sure that they follow through. And I guess a lot of it is messaging.
They`re going to have to rebuild the confidence in a lot of Americans, like
me, that they really are on top of this.
Kasie Hunt and sue Susan Milligan, thank you for your time tonight.
MILLIGAN: Thank you.
HUNT: Nice to see you, Reverend.
SHARPTON: Still ahead, the most controversial witness from the Ferguson
grand jury is speaking out. What she admits about her racist comments in
And how President Obama`s revolutionizing ideas about what a lame-duck
president can achieve. That`s ahead in "conversation nation."
SHARPTON: Tonight, we`re hearing from the most controversial witness of
the Ferguson grand jury. In an interview with a local paper, witness
number 40 says, quote, "have I ever used the n-word? Yes, I have." And
that`s just the beginning. Turns out the feds had big problems with a
version of events, but the local prosecutor called her to testify anyway.
SHARPTON: Was the Ferguson grand jury fair? That`s what many are asking
today as we get new details about witness number 40. Today a woman named
Sandra McElroy went public in an interview with the "St. Louis post-
dispatch," admitting she`s witness 40. The one who claimed Michael Brown
charged at officer Darren Wilson like a football player, head down. It was
a claim seized on by some on the right.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then quote, "he looked like a football player with
his head down, charging at officer Wilson."
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Charge at him quote and I`m reading, "like
a football player with his head down charging." That Michael Brown, you
know, charging like a football player full force on Officer Wilson.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: But was McElroy credible? Should she have even been called to
testify? A day before her grand jury testimony, federal investigators
interviewed her and were openly skeptical about her version of events.
Saying, quote, "but you cannot get there from these two streets. It is
impossible." And they even suggested, she made it all up, saying, quote,
"I just need to ask, what you told us sounds a lot like what we had read in
the newspaper." Investigators also grilled her on the fund-raising she`d
done for Officer Wilson, and racist comments she admitted to posting
online. None of it stopped prosecutor Robert McCulloch from having her
testify before the grand jury, the very next day. The feds didn`t seem to
believe her story at all. But the local prosecutor apparently thought it
was important for the grand jury to hear her.
Joining me now is former federal prosecutor Paul Butler. Thank you for
being here tonight.
PAUL BUTLER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: It`s great to be here, Reverend.
SHARPTON: Paul, why would prosecutors call a witness, number 40, to be
exact, to testify, given what we heard from our FBI interview?
BUTLER: Reverend, the bible says, beware false witnesses. And that`s a
scripture that good prosecutors follow. It`s not surprising that in high-
profile cases, witnesses come out of the woodwork and lie and say they saw
things that they didn`t see. Every prosecutor knows this, so before you
put a witness in the grand jury, you carefully vet him or her, to make sure
that their testimony is credible. Why this prosecutor didn`t follow that
regular process? Again, that`s just yet another thing that`s different
about this grand jury investigation than just about any other one I`ve ever
SHARPTON: Now, here`s more of what federal investigators said to McElroy.
The day before her grand jury testimony, this is what they said. Quote,
you`ve actually had to fill in the blanks, because of your memory problems,
by looking at the internet. Quote, "you`re trying to help Darren Wilson by
talking to us here today, and you posted things online that are racist, and
you come in here and tell us an account that supports Darren Wilson."
Paul, doesn`t it seem investigators have grave worries about her
credibility. Why would she still get called to testify before the grand
BUTLER: Again, they have no reason to believe that she`s telling the
truth. It`s not just the traumatic brain injury that affects her short-
term memory, it`s not just the fact that she posted online a picture of
Michael Brown`s dead body, with a caption, justice has been done, it`s not
just the fact that in another high-profile case, she came out and said
she`d seen something that the police said was a complete fabrication.
SHARPTON: But here`s my problem. She was cited in another case where she
came forward as saying something was a complete fabrication. She says,
justice was done over Michael Brown`s body.
SHARPTON: She raised money for Darren Wilson, who she was in the grand
jury testifying, and the FBI had doubts she could have been there. I`ve
been saying, a lot of people have been raising questions about this grand
jury, calling on federal intervention. This is why. Not with this lady
who clearly has problems and who has a history of problems, but why would a
prosecutor put her in front of the grand jury?
BUTLER: So, Al, here`s my theory. He was trying to either, A, overwhelm
the grand jurors by dumping on them with all this conflicting information,
so they`d just kind of throw up their hands and have no choice but not to
indict. Or he was trying to feed them any information that corroborated
Officer Wilson`s story, no matter how ludicrous the witness is. Either
way, it`s not consistent with an investigation that`s conducted in good
faith and with integrity.
SHARPTON: So you gave me two choices here. Either he was trying to
overwhelm them to come with a no bill or either he was putting up witnesses
to help Darren Wilson, the policeman. So either charge, you`re saying, as
a former prosecutor, that you feel he was trying not to get an indictment.
BUTLER: Al, I would have gotten an indictment if I would have been in
front of that grand jury. Every prosecutor I know who`s worth her salt
says the same thing. Again, it`s not just because we`re so great, it`s
because you control the grand jury. The defense attorney is not in the
room. You don`t have to present evidence of innocence. All you have to do
is put on this minimal case. So, again, if this prosecutor had wanted an
indictment, just like the prosecutor in the Garner case, they both would
have gotten indictments.
SHARPTON: Now, you`re a former prosecutor. You`re not an agitator, race
baiter, head of the civil rights group, all the other adjectives they give
us. You`re saying as a former prosecutor, if this prosecutor wanted to get
an indictment and have an open jury trial where we could have seen guilt or
innocence, because we don`t know where it would have gone, but at least it
would have proceeded, you`re saying if he wanted that process to go, he
could have done it.
BUTLER: Oh, absolutely. The standard is so low, probable cause, the
jurors don`t have to worry about whether there`s a good defense or what it
means that he was a police officer, using deadly force. All they have to
ask is whether there`s enough evidence for this case to go to the jury.
And in 99.9 percent of cases, that`s what they say. The only difference is
with police officers. And this prosecutor in Ferguson, he`s 0 for five,
Al. Five times, he`s asked grand jurors or presented cases, quote/unquote,
to grand jurors, where police officers have killed unarmed African-American
or white men, and each time that grand jury has failed to return an
SHARPTON: Let me play you something. The prosecutor, Robert McCulloch,
cited problems with testimony from witnesses who said Michael Brown had his
hands up. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT MCCULLOCH, PROSECUTOR: Some said Mr. Brown did not move toward
Officer Wilson at all, but was shot multiple times as he stood near the
corner with his hands raised. In subsequent interviews with law
enforcement or their testimony before the grand jury, many of the same
witnesses acknowledged that they didn`t actually see the shooting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Your reaction?
BUTLER: Again, in that press conference, he sounded more like a defense
attorney for Officer Wilson than he did a prosecutor who`s supposed to be
presenting an objective case to the grand jury. So the other question is,
you know, why didn`t -- from that, you get the impression that all the
grand jurors who were conflicted were conflicted about what Michael Brown
did. He didn`t indicate that this witness was supporting Officer Wilson,
but she was -- her story was full of holes. So, again, it just suggests
someone who was biased. We know he had all of these personal conflicts of
interest. We know he has this terrible record with bringing charges
against the police officer, who he uses as witnesses every day. You know,
I`m thinking Eric Holder. I`m hoping Eric Holder is looking at this new
information about witness number 40, and thinking, this is yet another
reason why the Feds need to step in to make sure that justice is done.
SHARPTON: Can the Feds consider putting this witness up as part of the
reason they may need to come in, that this local grand jury was tainted?
Could this be part of what they consider on why they need to hear people to
come in with an open and fair investigation?
BUTLER: Reverend, I think it`s got to be on the table at the Justice
Department. I think the question that Eric Holder is asking himself is did
Eric Holder, did Mr. Brown receive equal protection of law. Is this a
decision that the community has confidence in. Is there the appearance of
justice in this case, and if the answer to those questions is no, the
community has no confidence in the integrity of this process, that`s
classically when the Feds step in. When there`s been under-enforcement of
law, the failure to protect African-American victims of crime. That`s when
the government, the federal government has to come in and make sure that
justice is done.
SHARPTON: Now, I thank you, Paul Butler, for being on. And all we are
saying, you know, we`ve been saying from the beginning is not that one has
to be innocent or guilty, but the process has to be fair. And when you put
witnesses in like this that you know are compromised and biased, you have
corrupted the process and that is what we`re protesting. There must be
fairness, especially when it`s led to a loss of life that needs to be
fairly examined. Paul Butler, thank you for your time again tonight.
BUTLER: It`s great to be here.
SHARPTON: Coming up, somebody better tell this guy he`s a lame duck.
We`ll look at how President Obama`s breaking out and rewriting the history
books in his final two years in office.
Also, Oprah Winfrey`s comments on the new fight for civil rights in
And saying good-bye to truthiness. The final episode of "The Colbert
Report." That`s all in "Conversation Nation," next.
SHARPTON: Time now for "Conversation Nation." Joining us tonight are
trial attorney Seema Iyer, democratic strategist Mark Hannah, and Sirius XM
radio host, Julia Cunningham. Thank you all for being here tonight.
SEEMA IYER, TRIAL ATTORNEY: Thanks, Reverend.
MARK HANNAH, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Thank you, Rev.
JULIA CUNNINGHAM, SIRIUS XM RADIO HOST: Thank you for having us.
SHARPTON: We start with President Obama, driving the national agenda. The
latest example resetting our foreign policy with Cuba, for the first time
in 50 years. It comes just weeks after he enacted a major change in our
immigration policy and reached a historic agreement with China to fight
climate change. From health care to immigration to foreign policy, this
president is moving ahead where others have failed. Mark, doesn`t
President Obama realize he`s supposed to be an irrelevant lame-duck? I
mean, what happened?
HANNAH: I don`t think he got the memo, Rev. Look, the President has
described this period in his presidency as going into the fourth quarter,
as though it was some sort of basketball game. And I think he`s leaving
everything on the court. He`s going on, he`s doubling down when it comes
to immigration reform, he`s trying to -- and let`s not forget, though, this
was a campaign promise that the President made to normalize relations with
Cuba. This has been a nonsensical part of our foreign policy for way too
long. And you know what he`s doing, he`s setting up 2016, where Marco
Rubio has to come out and oppose this. But the fact is, Florida voters
don`t oppose normalizing relations with Cuba. I was just down in Florida,
I was down --
IYER: Life is like the presidency. The first half of our lives, all we
care about is the second. What are we going to do for our jobs, family,
husband, wife? First term, all he cared about, from the minute he was
elected, was getting to that second term. In the second term, all you care
about is your legacy. Obama is a young man. He has a long life, perhaps
many careers, ahead of him. So he has his legacy bucket list. That`s what
I like to call it. I don`t think he`s irrelevant. I think he`s very
relevant to his future and what that`s going to mean. But I also think
that he`s trying to ensure that a democrat takes the White House.
SHARPTON: Wait a minute. Before you go, because I want you to respond,
but on Seema`s point, "New York Times" spoke with President Obama`s former
adviser, David Axelrod, and he said today, here`s how he described the
President`s attitude. Quote, "he`s going down a checklist of thorny, long-
standing problems and he`s doing whatever he can to tackle them. These are
things that have been tearing at us for decades and generations." Is the
President free in a sense to do these things now?
CUNNINGHAM: Yes, I mean, like as if sanctions were working anyways. He
might as well strut or walk out of his presidency anyways, because he`s
already knocked it out of the park the last couple of months trying to
look, really make this happen. And this is sort of like, yes, republicans,
we`re not scared of you in Florida. We`re going to do this. Going to drop
the mic and keep walking.
SHARPTON: And the generational divide, and the young people now of Cuban-
American decent that have never been to Cuba, their kids have never been.
They have a different attitudes. And young Americans that don`t remember
the cold war. I mean, `61, I was what, seven-years old or six or seven.
When Castro came out of the mountains that led the revolution.
HANNAH: Yes. Republicans are going to have to try to criticize the
President and they are just going to show off a cold war mentality that is
so outdated. I was in Havana this time last year and I met with the Cuban
government official just over coffee, unofficially --
CUNNINGHAM: Yes. I bet it was unofficial.
HANNAH: He knew the reason that so many Cubans were suffering from
American sanctions and the reason we don`t have a diplomatic voice in
Havana is because of 29 electoral votes in Florida. That electoral map is
SHARPTON: But that is changing.
HANNAH: That is changing.
IYER: Rev, you brought up an interesting issue, of this whole Cuban
American never being to your country. And that`s something that my parents
-- I was born in this country, we went to India all the time, and being
around Indians who don`t have that connection, you lose your heritage, you
lose who you are, and you don`t learn who you are until you find out and
have been where you come from.
CUNNINGHAM: Little Havana is not enough.
IYER: That is a very important point. I like that. Right?
SHARPTON: And as the President says --
CUNNINGHAM: -- not enough.
SHARPTON: The President said that he`s not ruling out a trip to Cuba.
I`ve been to Cuba, and it`s a beautiful country.
HANNAH: He should bring you back some Cuban cigars, Rev.
SHARPTON: Well, I can go get them myself.
IYER: There you go.
SHARPTON: Talking about, you said you were the unofficial, let`s talk
about something official since we were here last. You got married.
HANNAH: I did!
SHARPTON: I didn`t come to the bachelor party.
CUNNINGHAM: Have that noted.
SHARPTON: I`ve had enough controversy, I don`t need that.
Next. Let`s go on, now to Oprah Winfrey, speaking on what present-day
protesters can learn from her upcoming film, "Selma."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OPRAH WINFREY, HOST, `THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW": I think it`s wonderful what
we`re seeing in terms of peaceful demonstrations. I think what those
peaceful demonstrations need is leadership and intention. Just like in
"Selma," once it was just about voting rights, it was a black problem. And
then after bloody Sunday, it became America`s problem. The same thing
happened in our country with Eric Garner. And everyone saw on film what
happened to Mr. Garner. There were people of all races, who said, this is
wrong. We have to do something about this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Seema, your reaction to Oprah`s really strong comments there?
IYER: I think she makes a great connection between the present time and
the history. And I think for us, it`s very hard to learn about history
without that story being told. And she takes it even further by saying,
look at what`s happening in front of you and see what happened then.
HANNAH: Yes. I think this is a strong part of America`s national
heritage. These ratio tensions that exist now are being put in context by
the film. So I think it`s a great time for this film to come out. It
helps Americans learn something about their history.
SHARPTON: And about the movement.
HANNAH: And the movement.
HANNAH: And Rev, you`ve been there since August. You`ve been there with
the Garner family, going to Staten Island, and leading these protests. I
SHARPTON: And Ferguson.
HANNAH: It`s not enough to have vision, you have to have a political
strategy and be active.
SHARPTON: You`ve got to take it somewhere. And the interaction and the
fighting and the movement. I mean, no one is all monolithic. Everybody --
and Dr. King would do that, which comes out in his movie. He was not
universally loved in the movement. People had their little shots.
CUNNINGHAM: Right. There were certainly issues but there`s also something
really important in the idea of just entertainment and how important it is
to young people. Because a lot of people don`t watch the news. They get
their things through twitter and it`s important to see something as
important as the Selma movement, shown in the way that it was done and
properly done, for getting out on the street and being active.
SHARPTON: Yes, well, everyone stay with me. When we come back, Mark
Hanna`s wedding. Just kidding. What will America do without "The Colbert
Report"? That`s next.
SHARPTON: We`re back with the panel. Seema, Mark, and Julia. Now to
Stephen`s sendoff. I`ll call it the sendoff. After nine years of many
laughs, Stephen Colbert signs off as host of "The Colbert Report." His
hilarious parody of a conservative talk show host has become part of
American pop culture. And there`s no denying his impact on politics, from
forming his own Super Pac to running for president in South Carolina, to
testifying on Capitol Hill, in character. But in the end, it`s about the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": How can the House be expected
to get anything done when many of the bills they vote on don`t even repeal
GOP senators voted for raising the debt ceiling on the stipulation they
could vote against having voted for it. Proving that republicans may not
be bipartisan, but they may be bipolar. Democratic self-loathing has
gotten so bad, they`ve changed their symbol from the silhouette of a donkey
to eeyore eating a whole chocolate cheesecake.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Mark, how big of an influence did he have on politics?
HANNAH: Look, I think Stephen Colbert really hit it out of the park. He
was a satirist of the first degree. He knew that -- and this was a quote
he gave to David Gregory in an interview. Satire is basically parody with
a point. And what Stephen Colbert did was, by imitating the kind of
blowhard, right-wing commentators he -- they say imitation is the sort of
the most sincere form of flattery. In this case, imitation was the
sincerest form of ridicule. Seema, he had big yes. The President, let me
show you, the President went on his show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: Nation, as you know, I, Stephen
Colbert, have never cared for our president. Remember the original
Healthcare.Gov website? I think that`s where Disney got the idea for
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
They`re young. They don`t realize that everyone eventually grows older at
sometimes a faster rate than others.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: That was just last week`s --
IYER: I would love our president when he`s like this. He`s so good! I
know we`re talking about Stephen Colbert. Okay. Here`s my problem. I`m
freaking out that he`s going to change his name to like Steve Colbert.
Because he`s created this character. It is his brand, it`s his legacy.
SHARPTON: But he can build a new brand.
(TALKING OVER EACH OTHER)
CUNNINGHAM: There`s no way that --
SHARPTON: But Julia, he knew how to deal with all kinds, like, the
President, you hear that O`Reilly, he even had some of the most handsome
people in America. Let me show you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLBERT: You don`t have higher education.
COLBERT: You have education on the streets, my friend. Education in your
church. Why can`t we just give that to children and forget about the
books? Isn`t there sort of a tyranny? Isn`t there a tyranny in this
country that everything`s got to be out of a book and you`ve got to do what
the teacher says? Why can`t you just let these kids fly, be free?
SHARPTON: See, this is exhibit "a" why we need education reform in this
COLBERT: Thank you very much. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: I loved doing his show.
CUNNINGHAM: A stunning, stunning appearance.
HANNAH: Good to see you in the hot seat there.
CUNNINGHAM: That was amazing. Yes. Stunning.
SHARPTON: That was about 70 pounds ago, though.
CUNNINGHAM: No, stunning appearance. The thing is that I think you`re
forgetting the fact that CBS would never just give a franchise like the
"Late Show with David Letterman" to somebody without having fully prepared,
fully backed this person. They must have done test runs, they must have
done pretend shows. They are ready to hand this over. I think we`re going
to be blown away with what he does. And he gets two important seats,
campus people and career people and he`s going to get all those people to
follow him and it`s going to be a great show.
SHARPTON: Seema, Mark, and Julia, thank you for your time tonight.
CUNNINGHAM: Thank you.
HANNAH: Thanks, Rev.
SHARPTON: Check out Seema`s new online show, "The Docket," Tuesday at 11
a.m. Eastern at Shift.MSNBC.com. We`ll be right back.
SHARPTON: America has come a long way. But we still have a long way to
go. In an interview with "People" magazine, the President and First Lady
opened up their own encounters with stereotypes. The President said,
quote, "There`s no black male my age who`s a professional, who hasn`t come
out of a restaurant and is waiting for their car and somebody didn`t hand
them their car keys." And the First Lady remembered an incident when,
quote, "he was wearing a tuxedo at a black tie dinner and somebody asked
him to get coffee." Mrs. Obama also revealed what happened to her on that
secret shopping trip to Target back in 2011. She said, the only person who
came up to me in the store was a woman who asked me to help her take
something off a shelf, because she didn`t see me as the First Lady, she saw
me as someone who could help her.
That was just three years ago. She was the First Lady of the United
States. But attitudes are changing. The protests we`ve seen in recent
weeks showed that people want to move forward, people of all races want to
address the injustices we face in this society. And we must welcome them
all. Young, old, black, white, Latino, Asian. Everybody. And we must
make sure that we don`t have a climate, on oratory, the rhetoric that would
eliminate anybody. Our anger and our outrage must not drive away the
purpose that this is about making the country work for everybody. Those of
us that have been abused must raise that abuse to where everyone can say,
this is an American problem, that we all have a stake in, and that we all
must deal with it. That is where we move the ball forward towards scoring
for the American people.
Thanks for watching. I`m Al Sharpton. "HARDBALL" starts right now.
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PoliticsNation, Thursday, December 18th, 2014
Show: POLITICS NATION