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updated 7/12/2012 10:55:19 AM ET 2012-07-12T14:55:19

Guests: Steve Scalise, Jim Warren, Jonathan Allen, Steve Israel, Willie
Brown, Ben Jealous, Lenny Curry

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, GUEST HOST: Mitt Romney dreams the impossible
dream.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Michael Smerconish, in for Chris Matthews.

Leading off tonight: Mission impossible. If someone had played the
"Mission Impossible" theme as Mitt Romney took the stage today at the
NAACP, it would not have been inappropriate. Trying to persuade a black
audience to vote out the first African-American president, no easy task.

But say this for Romney, he didn`t pander. He proved that by telling
an unsympathetic audience that he would repeal health care reform.

Check out the reaction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I`m going
to work to reform and save...

(BOOS)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: So why did he do it? We`ll get into that at the top of
the program.

Among the issues of great importance to the NAACP audience are the new
state laws restricting access to voting. And we now know what effect new
laws in Florida and Iowa are having in making it harder for likely
Democrats to vote.

Also, speaking of health care, for the 33rd time, the House voted to
repeal President Obama`s health care law. Are Republicans willing to admit
that would mean taking away all of the popular provisions, too?

And what`s the story with Jesse Jackson, Jr.? He took a hiatus citing
physical and emotional ailments. Rumors are spreading, and even Democrats
are saying it`s time to come clean.

And finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with why President Obama is a big
tax cutter but you don`t even know it.

We begin with Mitt Romney and the NAACP. Ben Jealous is the president
and CEO of the organization and Willie Brown was the mayor of San
Francisco.

Gentlemen, Mitt Romney was received with polite but tepid applause
this morning until he vowed to get rid of "Obama care," at which point the
crowd shouted him down with boos.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I`m going to eliminate every non-essential expensive program
I can find! That includes "Obama care." And I`m going to work to reform
and save...

(BOOS)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Mr. Jealous, does he deserve some credit? He came in.
Here`s a guy constantly under attack for being a flip-flopper, but the
speech that he delivered was pure Mitt Romney today. Does he win points
for that?

BEN JEALOUS, NAACP PRES. AND CEO: You know, he had a choice. He
could come there and really seek to talk to the people in the room and the
communities that they represent, or he could come there and try to send a
signal somewhere else. And when -- and it seemed like for the first part
of the speech that he was actually trying to speak to the people in the
room.

But then when he used the phrase "repeal `Obama care,` " not repeal
the ACA, or you know, repeal the health care bill...

SMERCONISH: Right.

JEALOUS: ... but repeal "Obama care"...

SMERCONISH: Very deliberate.

JEALOUS: ... it became clear that he was sending a signal somewhere
else. And that`s disappointing. He missed a real opportunity to build a
bridge here. He could have taken that 5 percent of his speech, which is
all that it was, and replaced it with a bridge.

He could, for instance, have talked about how Newt Gingrich and Grover
Norquist did with the NAACP this time last year and announced their support
for our Smart on Crime push to actually reform criminal justice systems
across the country, that this Smart on Crime push has been embraced one way
or the other by Republican governors from Rick Perry to Mr. Deal down in
Georgia, various aspects of it...

SMERCONISH: Mr. Jealous...

JEALOUS: ... talked about how there`s common ground, but he didn`t do
that.

SMERCONISH: If he hadn`t referenced...

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH: If he hadn`t referenced health care -- and I get the
semantic issue that you raised and I think it`s legitimate -- wouldn`t we
be sitting here right now saying, Aha, didn`t go anywhere near "Obama care"
or the Affordable Care Act?

JEALOUS: Look, you know, folks know that you`ve got 20 minutes and
you`re only going talk about so many issues. The question is, are you
going to come there, show some courage, show that you`ve thought really
critically, not just talk about problems we can agree on but actually talk
about policy solutions we can, you know, come together on.

And -- and he really didn`t do that. I mean, even when he got into
talking about the issue of schools, he didn`t say anything really that he
would do specifically for our traditional public schools. And that`s where
most of our kids go.

SMERCONISH: Mayor Brown, let me ask you a question because I think
Mr. Jealous raises an interesting point. Who or what was the real audience
today?

WILLIE BROWN (D), FMR. SAN FRANCISCO MAYOR: I think Mr. Romney, just
by showing up, obviously deserves some acknowledgement and some respect.

But as Ben Jealous appropriately says, he did not speak to the working
class people who were in that room. He spoke beyond them. Had spoke to
the normal Republican base he`s attempting to motivate. And he needed the
business of the boos to re-ensure that he is, in fact, the guy that they
can trust not to do anything that anybody in that room would want him to
do.

SMERCONISH: OK, now...

BROWN: And he successfully conveyed that.

SMERCONISH: Now you`re playing some real hardball. So what you`re
really saying is that by drawing the boos, this went according to plan,
this fit the script and Romney campaign got out of the event exactly what
they were looking for.

BROWN: There is no question in my mind that they got out exactly what
they were looking for. After all, as Mr. Jealous says, he could have very
easily taken the high road. He could have proceeded to have said things
that the Obama administration will not say about issues affecting the lives
of black people.

He could have shown clearly how he intends to extend the opportunity,
and he could have commenced by saying, I`m sorry the president isn`t here.

SMERCONISH: All right, well, he did say...

BROWN: I`m here telling you...

SMERCONISH: He did say this...

BROWN: ... that I will always come and respect your organization by
appearing before you.

SMERCONISH: Governor Romney did promise a jobs agenda. He vowed to
be the best president for African-Americans, which was met with a mixed
response.

BROWN: Well, but that`s not a...

SMERCONISH: Let`s just watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: If I`m president, job one for me will be creating jobs. Let
me say that again. My agenda is not to put in place a series of policies
that get me a lot of attention and applause. My policy will be, number
one, create jobs for the American people. I do not have a hidden agenda.

(APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: And I submit to you this. If you want a president who will
make things better in the African-American community, you are looking at
him. You take a look.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: So Mayor, what is it he didn`t say? He`s addressing the
point, as we all know, of 14 percent unemployment in the African-American
community. You think he should have gone further in that regard.

BROWN: He absolutely showed no evidence, from what I saw -- I was not
there. But from what I have observed, he showed absolutely no evidence of
the appropriate approach to the people who were in attendance.

If he had simply said factually, America, currently the policies of
this country causes 22 percent to be unemployed in African-American and
disadvantaged communities, I will reduce that number, and it will be no
worse than the general unemployment, and here are three, four, five or six
steps I intend to do -- somewhat similar to what was done under George
Schultz in the Nixon administration when they did the set-aside...

SMERCONISH: Allow me...

BROWN: ... when they did all of the things that they did to make it
possible for African-Americans to go into business. He obviously didn`t
have the perspective of that, had not been told that, and didn`t do it.

SMERCONISH: Ben Jealous, why is the president not coming to attend
and speak to this group?

JEALOUS: Yes, he said that his schedule -- he just couldn`t make it
work. And look, we understand that a man who`s running for president, who
isn`t president, has one job, and that`s to become president. And the one
who is president has two, and that`s running for president and running the
country.

And we understand, many of us, what it`s like to have two jobs. I
think he gets a bye on that, especially because he`s sending his vice
president, he`s sending his AG, and it`s -- and he -- and he sent his
apologies. And we worked with him right up until last week trying to
figure out how to make this -- this -- this work.

SMERCONISH: It`ll be interesting what kind of a speech the vice
president delivers tomorrow. You know the role of a vice president in a
campaign like this. It`s often to bring the lumber. And it`ll be
interesting to see what kind of a speech he delivers at the NAACP tomorrow.

JEALOUS: No, that`s right. And again, you know, I wish that Mr.
Romney had really sat down with the numbers, looked at Republican campaigns
of the past 40 years and said to himself, How do we get these numbers up?

What we`ve seen is that they have progressively gone down, with the
exception of 2004, when George Bush got just above 10 percent. The last
time around was a real low watermark for them. And so he had an
opportunity here to start pushing those numbers back up.

And you know, quite frankly, it, you know, has been in the best
interests of Civil Rights in generations past for there to be bipartisan
involvement of black people in the party system.

SMERCONISH: But Mr. Jealous, is the vote really up for grabs? Is it
in play? I mean, here`s the data, and we all know this. In 2008...

JEALOUS: Four, five, six percentage points, certainly.

SMERCONISH: All right, African-Americans...

JEALOUS: Certainly.

SMERCONISH: ... in `08 -- let`s just remind folks -- went for Obama
over McCain by a factor of more than 20. He won 95 percent of their vote
to McCain`s 4 percent. A new Quinnipiac poll shows things haven`t changed.
African-American voters currently favor the president over Mitt Romney by
92 percent to just 2 percent.

Is that vote up for grabs? Is it available to Mitt Romney, regardless
of what he says?

JEALOUS: Look, he could have gone back one cycle before that to 2004
when George Bush got more than 10 percent of the black vote, and said,
That`s what I want to do, and tried to pick up those numbers.

And we would be having a very different conversation. Sure, 9 out of
10 people aren`t going to vote for you, but the difference between 9 out of
10 and 19 out of 20 is actually significant when you`re trying to become
president.

Instead, by -- by using this very antagonistic phrase and speaking to
people outside the room as his primary target, he just lost a real
opportunity.

SMERCONISH: Gentlemen, thank you. Ben Jealous, Willie Brown, we
appreciate your being here.

BROWN: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: Coming up, new laws in the key swing states of Florida
and Iowa may make it harder for likely Democratic voters to vote this
November. And that`s the whole idea.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: The Obama campaign is trying to define Mitt Romney before
he can define himself, and new polling from key swing states shows it might
be working. New polls conducted for the pro-Obama super-PAC Priorities USA
finds the president leading in some key battleground states.

Let`s check the HARDBALL "Scoreboard," starting in Colorado, where the
president has a 7-point lead over Romney, 49-42. In Florida, the president
leads Governor Romney by 4, 48-44. Next to Ohio, where the president`s
lead is 7, 48-41. In Pennsylvania, Obama`s lead is 9, 49 to 40. And in
Virginia, a closer race, but the president is still up 3, 46 to 43.

Lastly, here`s a new PPP poll out of Wisconsin. Obama`s lead over
Romney has grown to 6, 50 to 44. All good news for Obama, but remember,
these are pollsters that tend to favor Democrats.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Republican governors in Iowa
and Florida are making it harder for felons who have served their sentences
to get back a fundamental right of citizenship, the right to vote. Critics
argue it`s just another way to tamp down voter turnout ahead of November`s
election, especially among typically Democratic voters.

The Bureau of Justice reports that 60 percent of prison inmates across
the nation are black or Hispanic. Florida and Iowa are two of a handful of
states that don`t automatically reinstate an ex-felon`s right to vote, but
they happen to be swing states.

Joining me now are Lenny Curry, chairman of the Florida Republican
Party, and Eugene Robinson, an MSNBC political analyst and "Washington
Post" columnist.

Mr. Curry, what accounts for the change from Charlie Crist`s watch to
Governor Scott`s watch? Why?

LENNY CURRY, REPUBLICAN PARTY OF FLORIDA: Well, Charlie Crist showed
(ph) the chameleon that he was and that he doesn`t stand for anything, when
he automatically restored felons` rights without any process, without any
process before any board or any hearing.

The question is, when you think about a felony -- so someone, for
example, a drug trafficker, someone that has literally destroyed the lives
of children, what would you say to their families? That person serves
their time and their voting rights to automatically be restored?

SMERCONISH: Well, I would say the same thing that I said about
Michael Vick playing quarterback for the Eagles. I don`t like it, but he`s
paid his debt to society. Man`s got to eat. And if we really believe in
the process of fulfilling one`s debt to society, then you`ve got to allow
them all the rights of personage, which includes voting, no?

CURRY: Well, it`s reasonable to have a waiting period, and after that
waiting period, a process whereby you go before a board and you make your
case as to why your voting rights should be restored. As a felon, you have
violated the rights of other citizens.

And by the way, criminals not being able to vote goes back to the
Romans and the Greeks.

SMERCONISH: I get it. But in most states, as you well know, in the
United States, that`s not the way it`s handled. Now there are just handful
of states that do not allow you to come back and immediately re-enter --
look, I`m not for felons, but if you paid your debt to society, then we`ve
got to let you walk out and re-establish your ties to the community.

Eugene Robinson, where am I wrong in all this?

EUGENE ROBINSON, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh,
you`re right, Michael actually. I mean, look, why -- why do we have
prisons? We have -- we have prisons and prison sentences to punish people
for the crimes they committed. And so if you committed a felony, you
should go to jail. And you should -- you should pay your debt to society.

Once you`ve paid that debt, it`s paid. And -- and I do not believe
and will never believe that you should give up your citizenship and your
rights as a citizen because of a crime that you`ve already paid your debt
to society for. I think that`s...

SMERCONISH: Eugene, I have said that...

ROBINSON: ... just wrong.

SMERCONISH: ... I don`t believe in coincidence. Where you have
almost three dozen states, quote, unquote, "tightening" their voter ID
standards at a time when the nation is looking at the potential reelection
of the first African-American president, you know, you start to think,
What`s going on out there? Is this all connected, is what I want to ask
you?

ROBINSON: Oh, I absolutely believe it`s all connected. I mean, you -
- you certainly heard what the...

SMERCONISH: Mr. Curry...

ROBINSON: ... house majority leader in Pennsylvania...

SMERCONISH: Oh, I`m sorry.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON: ... Turzai, right, about, you know, Gee, voter ID will
allow Mitt Romney to win Pennsylvania. And you know, it is about reducing
the number of voters who are deemed likely to vote for Democrats.

SMERCONISH: Mr. Curry, would you respond to that? Because, you know,
I want to be fair to you, but that`s also how I see it, sir.

CURRY: We don`t believe that felons should never have the right to
vote again. There should be a process after they serve their time whereby
they can apply to have the right to vote.

The other side of this is the Democrats are making this argument not
because they believe felons should vote. They want this to be a political
issue. They want to pit one group against another because they don`t have
a record to run on.

SMERCONISH: The Associated Press, gentlemen, has reported that since
Governor Terry Branstad took office in January of 2011, 8,000 felons in
Iowa have finished their prison sentences or been released from community
supervision, but less than a dozen have successfully navigated the process
of applying to get their citizenship rights back. Branstad`s offices
denied handful of others because of incomplete paperwork or unpaid court
costs.

Eugene, it`s an instance like that, coupled with Florida, coupled with
Kentucky, and I think Virginia is the fourth, that causes me to say it
would appear that there`s something going on.

ROBINSON: Yes. And you know, appearances in this case, you know, add
up to a big picture, and we all know what that picture is. It is an
attempt at disenfranchisement. That`s the big picture.

Specifically on felons` voting rights, I think there`s a fundamental
question here. Have you paid your debt to society or not? And if you
have, then there should be no process. There should be no lengthy form
that you have to fill out. You should not have to go in front of a board
because, again, that`s what we have punishments for. And once the
punishment is done, you`ve -- it`s done. You`ve paid your debt and you
ought to be able to have the full rights of citizenship.

SMERCONISH: Mr. Curry, your response to that is what?

CURRY: Part of paying the debt is proving that you can assimilate
back into society and that you, in fact, should -- that you -- that you
should have the right to vote based on your performance and that you`re not
going to participate in criminal activity anymore.

Think about drunk driving. So you get pulled over for a DUI. You go
to jail. You pay a fine. And you lose your license. So should it just be
one of those for the penalty or are all three of those part of the penalty?

SMERCONISH: Right. But ,respectfully, there is a causal connection
there. There`s a nexus, a tie, between operating a vehicle while you are
drunk and surrendering your license.

In this case, what`s it got to do with voting I guess would be the
question.

CURRY: OK.

So a felon committed a crime and violated the rights of another
citizen and individual. They serve their time in jail. And now without
proving that they have turned their life around, they are going to go and
cast votes for the people that are going to set the laws that they broke?
There is a relationship there as well.

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH: Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. Whoa.

Wouldn`t the bigger issue be, why are we even letting you out of jail?
If that`s the level of concern, like, hey, we have got some worries here
that this person might not be ready to reacclimate, then it seems to be we
shouldn`t be letting you out to begin with. That`s a much bigger issue
than whether you vote.

CURRY: We`re simply saying there ought to be a waiting period, a time
where they can then appeal and they get their voting rights back. This is
common sense. Talk to the families that have had a felony committed
against them.

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH: Attorney General Eric Holder, men, spoke at the NAACP
Convention yesterday and took aim at Texas` new voter I.D. law. He called
the burdens imposed on the law poll taxes, that of course a reference to
the Jim Crow era fees that used to disenfranchise black people. Take a
look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Many of those without I.D.s would
have to travel great distances to get them. And some would struggle to pay
for the documents they might need to obtain them. We call those poll
taxes.

(APPLAUSE)

HOLDER: We will be vigilant and we will be strong. But let me be
clear. Let me be very clear. We will not allow political pretext to
disenfranchise American citizens of their most precious right.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Eugene, this is also playing itself out in my home state,
Chris` native Pennsylvania, where we have all seen the report -- 9.2
percent lack the principal form of identification supplied by the
department -- Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

I am hearing that the NAACP -- that -- pardon me -- the ACLU is going
to document it`s even higher than 9.2 percent and that the ACLU also
believes that the state of Pennsylvania in defending its voter I.D. law
cannot produce one case of impersonation fraud like this is intended to
prevent.

ROBINSON: The state has not yet produced one case of impersonation.

And, in fact, between 2002 and 2007, the Justice Department under
President Bush conducted a nationwide, a huge effort against voter fraud.
They were prodded by Republican political activists to do this. And they
did it and they ended up convicting a grand total -- in a country of 300
million people, they convicted 86 people.

Most of them, incidentally, a lot of them were felons who had voted
who weren`t aware that they didn`t yet have the right to vote. They had
thought, quite rightly, that they had served their sentence and they could
vote. That was the most they netted in this campaign against voter fraud,
and not -- as far as I can tell, not a single case of impersonation of the
kind that would be solved by voter I.D.

SMERCONISH: Thank you, Eugene Robinson. Thank you, as well, Lenny
Curry. We appreciate you being here.

CURRY: Always a pleasure.

SMERCONISH: Up next, we will find out what "Saturday Night Live"`s
Fred Armisen does to get into character when he plays President Obama.

And remember, you can follow me on Twitter if you can spell
Smerconish.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: Back to HARDBALL and now for the "Sideshow," showbiz
edition.

The presidential race will be down to the wire when "Saturday Night
Live" returns this fall. Cast member Fred Armisen took center stage quite
a bit this past season in the role of President Obama. And that certainly
won`t change when the season kicks off.

Armisen sat down with David Letterman last night and revealed how he
gets into the Obama mode.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN")

FRED ARMISEN, ACTOR: Basically, you know, when I -- when I do him, I
just kind of like make sure to kind of start off by saying, hello.

(LAUGHTER)

ARMISEN: And he does this thing sometimes where he shakes his head
like this. He`s almost saying, it is going to be OK.

(LAUGHTER)

ARMISEN: And then he has been doing this other thing where he shows
off his profile. He has got such a great profile. So it is kind of like -
- it`s almost like someone drew a caricature way on the side. And he`s
like...

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: We will have to keep an eye out for that new one.

Now to "The Newsroom," the Aaron Sorkin HBO version. Tea Party
Senator Mike Lee of Utah is disturbed by an art imitates life scene where a
cable TV anchor who is played by Jeff Daniels talks to the news division
chief about the rise of the far right in 2010.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE NEWSROOM")

JEFF DANIELS, ACTOR: Bob Bennett, the most conservative member of the
Senate, is going to lose his primary race to a guy named Mike Lee because
Lee found room to the right of Bennett.

SAM WATERSTON, ACTOR: You wouldn`t think that was possible.

How is there room to the right of Bob Bennett?

DANIELS: For starters, a centerpiece of Mike Lee`s speech is
repealing the 14th Amendment. It`s an applause line. And he`s going to
win his primary by double digits.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: According to "The Salt Lake Tribune," Lee placed a call
into HBO. And, furthermore, Lee`s office argues the senator never said he
wanted to repeal the 14th Amendment, though he has supported clarifying the
interpretation of its language that grants U.S. citizenship to anyone born
within its borders.

So, what exactly do they mean by clarifying the 14th Amendment? Flash
back to Lee`s Senate campaign in 2010.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MIKE LEE (R), UTAH: The 14th Amendment provides that any person
born in the United States who is subject to the jurisdiction thereof shall
be a citizen of the United States.

The way I read that amendment is that you are not necessarily subject
to the jurisdiction of the United States just because you are born here.
And if you are born to parents of illegal aliens who have come here in open
violation of our laws, you are not born in the United States and subject to
the jurisdiction thereof.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: OK. True, he doesn`t say repeal. But there is no
disputing that he campaigned on denying citizenship to children of illegal
immigrants, even if the children are born in the United States.

HBO has not commented publicly on the complaint from Lee.

Up next, for the 33rd time, Republicans in the House voted down all or
part of President Obama`s health care law. They keep talking about
repealing it, but what`s their plan?

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TYLER MATHISEN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Tyler Mathisen with your CNBC
"Market Wrap."

The Dow industrials were down 48 points. The S&P ended about as flat
as you can get, down two-one-hundredths of a point. And the Nasdaq was off
14. Stocks lost ground again following the release of minutes from the
Fed`s June meeting. And they show that central bankers were concerned
about the state of the U.S. economy and the European debt crisis, among
other things.

As expected, the trade deficit narrowed in May. That`s because of a
rise in exports from the U.S. And mortgage demand slipped in the latest
week. That`s because of a drop in refinancing. Maybe interest rates have
just brought in everybody they can.

That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide -- now back to
HARDBALL.e

SMERCONISH: Welcome back HARDBALL.

It was a day of political theater on Capitol Hill, as House
Republicans pushed a vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Not
surprisingly, it passed 244-185. Well, what does that mean exactly? Not
that much. The bill is certain to die in the Senate.

So you might be curious what was the purpose of calling the vote in
the first place? It is a good question. It wasn`t the first time
Republicans pushed a symbolic vote against health care. In fact, this was
the 33rd time the House has voted on repealing ought or part of the
president`s health care law.

What exactly was the point of today`s political stunt?

Congressman Steve Israel is the chairman of the Democratic
Congressional Campaign Committee.

Congressman, 33 times, how come?

REP. STEVE ISRAEL (D), NEW YORK: Because they will do everything they
can, as many times as they can, for as long as they have the majority to
protect insurance company profits, instead of strengthening the middle
class.

They began their majority in January of 2011 by voting for a Ryan
budget that took Medicare away from senior citizens. They will end their
majority by voting endlessly to repeal patient protections for the middle
class. That`s what they do here. That`s what they care about.

SMERCONISH: All the Republicans lined up. You had five break ranks.

Why five?

ISRAEL: Well, look, you know, we have a diverse caucus. And we have
members of Congress in our caucus who represent conservative districts and
progressive districts.

I don`t think we should be held accountable for five Democrats who
voted differently. I think the Republican majority should be held
accountable for the fact that every single one of them voted in lockstep
with the big insurance companies to protect those insurance company profits
and instead tell middle class constituents that all of the protections that
they have now have been taken away.

If you are a woman with breast cancer, today, the Republicans voted to
take away the protection from an insurance company saying it is a
preexisting condition.

SMERCONISH: Congressman...

ISRAEL: If you`re a child...

SMERCONISH: I`m sorry.

ISRAEL: Go ahead.

SMERCONISH: Would you allow me to show you something that Eleanor
Clift wrote in a column for The Daily Beast today?

ISRAEL: Sure.

SMERCONISH: Quote: "A do-over is rare in politics. And the Supreme
Court handed one to President Obama by upholding his much-maligned health
care law. Backers of the president and the health-care reform that he
pushed through -- and which cost Democrats the House -- would like the
administration and its campaign allies to move more aggressively and take
advantage of the judicial thumbs-up. Why has the Obama team shied away
from bringing the law into sharper focus now that it`s been ruled
constitutional?"

You know the issue. There is a perception that no D`s are out there
selling it. I hear from my friends at Kantar Media that all across the
country, Republican congressional candidates are beating the hell out of
the health care bill, and there is not a response from their Democratic
opponents.

ISRAEL: Well, I respectfully disagree.

In fact, I was at the White House today for a meeting with the
president and the House Democratic leadership and we talked specifically
about the fact that the American people and the middle class support this
bill.

In fact, I can just give you some recent polling. "The Washington
Post" did a poll today. Only one-third of the American people support a
full repeal of the bill. And as the chairman of Democratic Congressional
Campaign Committee, I have been very outspoken in advising our candidates
not to run away from the patient protections, but instead to talk about how
important they are to growing and strengthening and protecting the middle
class. So, we have been pretty aggressive.

SMERCONISH: But, respectfully, I would say you are the -- you are the
exception. I think you are the exception to the rule, because I just don`t
hear -- and I -- for a living, I take phone calls from all across the
country.

And I hear from people who say that the Democratic candidate is
running from it, even if they voted for it. And I think the price you pay
is all of the misinformation.

ISRAEL: Yes.

SMERCONISH: You know, PolitiFact lie of the year, that this is all a
takeover of health care. But that permeates if it is not responded to.

ISRAEL: Here is what we learned from 2010, that the more people know
about this, these patient protections, the more popular the patient
protections are. We learned that from 2010.

And we are articulating it in 2012. And I have said to all of our
candidates, if you think the strategy to winning an election is to defend
or to run away from this, that strategy in 2010 didn`t work. The strategy
is, we should be running on it, because, as people know more about it, it
becomes more popular.

And today`s "Washington Post" poll is proof of that.

SMERCONISH: Thank you, Congressman Steve Israel.

ISRAEL: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: Republicans and Democrats spent hours today debating the
merits of the president`s health care law.

Here was speaker of the House John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy
Pelosi.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: There is a better
way. And that`s why we are here today. Americans want a step-by-step
approach that protects the access to care that they need from the doctor
they choose at a lower cost.

They certainly didn`t ask for this government takeover of their health
care system that`s put us in this mess that we are in today.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: The American people
want us to create jobs. That is what we should be using this time on the
floor for, not on this useless bill to nowhere, bill to nowhere that does
serious damage to the health and economic well-being of America`s families.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: So, that`s what went on today on the floor of the House,
where this overwhelming vote was taken without a surprise ending. It will
now go to the Senate perhaps, and there it will die a slow death.

We are joined now by Congressman Steve Scalise, a Louisiana
Republican.

Congressman, I believe in accountability, but 33 times? How come?

Congressman, can you hear me now? We are having some trouble,
obviously, with Congressman Steve Scalise.

The question that I want to ask of the congressman is -- is why this
would necessitate 33 different votes? As we showed earlier, Mitt Romney
was booed today at the NAACP conference when he talked about getting rid of
Obamacare.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m going to eliminate every
nonessential expensive program I can find. That includes Obamacare. And
I`m going to work to reform and save...

(BOOING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Congressman Scalise, I think we have got you now.

Why, sir, does this necessitate 33 votes? Don`t you think folks
already got the message as to how the House feels?

REP. STEVE SCALISE (R), LOUISIANA: Well, look, first of all, this is
the first time since the Supreme Court made their decision that confirmed
that it is a massive tax increase that we have had a chance to go back and
say, let`s have another opportunity to repeal Obamacare.

Look, it`s been over 30 months since the Senate has passed a budget.
That doesn`t matter we stop doing our job in the House and passing a
budget.

By the same token, you know, if you look at this bill -- you know,
Nancy Pelosi famously said you`ve got to pass it to find out what`s in it.
Well, the American people don`t like Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama`s vision
of a government-run health care system.

You know, we want to give people the chance to repeal this, start
over and actually fix the problems in health care and instead of the
massive tax increases on middle class families and in this bill, as well as
the increased health care costs and in the government coming between
doctors and patient.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, GUEST HOST: What alternative is the Republican
Party now putting forth having achieved this 33rd vote on rejecting
Obamacare?

SCALISE: We`ve got a series of things that we put forward to reform
health care and actually lower the cost. One thing we passed just a few
weeks ago was a major medical liability reform bill that will save $100
billion in Medicare and in health care overall and actually lower the cost
of health care. And in addition to that, of course, Obamacare takes $500
billion out of Medicare and which is expedited the about bankruptcy of
Medicare.

So, we`ve taken steps to shore up Medicare and make sure it doesn`t
go bankrupt. We passed a number of bills and we`re ready to go with even
more once we get repeal.

SMERCONISH: Is there anything that will be introduced and voted on
between now and November that would take care of the 30 million who are
uninsured and will be insured according to the Affordable Care Act in the
event there is a replacement scenario?

SCALISE: Right. Well, outside groups have already confirmed that
millions of Americans will lose the health care they have that they like
under Obama care. So, what we`ve done is passed measures and we`re going
to continue to bring this up, pass measures that will actually increase
access and lower costs for not only the millions of Americans that are
uninsured but the millions of Americans that have health care today that
they like, that that health care is jeopardized by Obamacare.

And that`s just not -- that`s not just from outside groups. We are
already seeing small businesses saying they can`t comply with this law.
Seventy-five percent of businesses that have looked at the law said we
don`t know how we can keep providing health care for our employees that
they like. So, Obama --

SMERCONISH: I know that -- I know, sir, that if Chris were here,
he`d be saying something like there were eight years on President Bush`s
watch and 12 years before Clinton where the party -- Republican Party
didn`t put forth a health plan.

Is anything going to change if you get your wish?

SCALISE: I`m not sure what Chris would have said but I know -- I
wasn`t there when that happened. I know what we are trying to do right
now. We brought bills forward and I co-sponsored many that would lower the
cost of health care, fix the real problems like making sure that people
with pre-existing condition aren`t discriminated against.

But you also have to make sure you`re not gutting Medicare with $500
billion in cuts that the president has in his bill and the hundreds of
billions of dollars in new taxes on middle class families that broke the
president`s own pledge where he said he wouldn`t raise tax owes middle
class families -- he did it under Obamacare.

We are trying to set the record straight, repeal this and start over
and fix the real problems.

SMERCONISH: Thank you, Congressman Steve Scalise.

SCALISE: Thank you, Michael.

SMERCONISH: Up next, what`s going on with Congressman Jesse Jackson
Jr.? Rumors are spreading after he went on hiatus, citing physical and
emotional ailments. We`ll try to get some answers, next.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: If you want to know where the presidential campaign is
being fought this week, check out the cities, the campaigns and their
allies are spending the most money on in TV ads. The top five markets are
in two states: Florida and Colorado. Coming in at number five, Orlando,
Florida. Number four, Denver, Colorado. Number three is Tampa, where the
Republicans will hold their convention next month. At number two, it`s
Grand Junction, Colorado, where Governor Romney spoke yesterday.

And the top ad market this week in the presidential race: Colorado
Springs -- the same as last week.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: We are back.

Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., the son of the civil rights
leader, hasn`t been showing up for work for a month now, suffering from an
illness shrouded in mystery. On June 25th, his office released a statement
saying he was suffering from exhaustion and had been on leave since June
10. Then on July 5th, there was another statement.

Here is a portion, quote, "Congressman Jackson`s medical condition is
more serious than we thought and initially believed. Recently, we have
been made aware that he`s grappled with certain physical and emotional
ailments privately for a long period of time. At present, he`s undergoing
further evaluation and treatment at an in-patient medical facility.
According to the preliminary diagnosis from his doctors, Congressman
Jackson will need to receive extended in-patient treatment and as well as
continuing medical treatment thereafter."

So where is he? NBC`s Andrea Mitchell reported this afternoon that
the congressman is in rehab at a facility in Arizona suffering from
alcoholism and addiction.

Jim Warren is a former managing editor for "The Chicago Tribune."
Jonathan Allen is a congressional reporter for "Politico".

Jim, what do you know?

JIM WARREN, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Well, not beyond -- nothing beyond
that. That`s why this whole matter is absolutely inept and galling. Just
think about what you just said. On June 25th, his constituents found out
he hadn`t been voting since June 10th for them.

And the fact is that he relinquishes the luxury of privacy even if
one obviously has -- you know, absolutely humane, you know, reaction to
this and sympathizes with this plight. But he relinquishes the right to
privacy.

So, nobody here yet knows what he is doing. His constituents aren`t
being represented in Congress, don`t know if he was going to still be
running for re-election. He`s got two opponents.

It is a symbol of what really has been an unfortunate, almost
melancholy kid born into the American political elite, son of Reverend
Jesse Jackson, had everything going for him, got elected in his late 20s to
Congress, has been there 17 years, and now is a wash in controversy,
infidelity that became public. And what looked like to be the fact that he
my have skirted actual criminal indictment in the same manner than related
in our most recent governor serving time in a Colorado federal prison now.

SMERCONISH: You mean Blagojevich.

Regarding rumors on an Illinois radio station that Jackson Jr. had
attempted suicide, his father, Reverend Jesse Jackson, told "Politico,"
quote, "No, that`s not true. He is with his doctor and getting treatment,
regaining his strength. That`s all I really want to say at this point."

Jonathan, pick up on that point that Jim was making a moment ago that
there were ethical questions surrounding the former Senate held by now
President Blagojevich and what role Jackson Jr. may have played in all of
that.

JONATHAN ALLEN, POLITICO: Well, Congressman Jackson is a smart man
who has been wrestling with some serious demons both in his personal and
professional life for a couple of years now. You mentioned the Blagojevich
scandal where he was at the fringes of that, the attempt to sell a Senate
seat, accusations that Jesse Jackson Jr.`s political fund-raiser attempted
to put together money for Blagojevich`s campaign.

You`ve also got a situation here where he is under investigation by
the ethics committee in Washington, D.C. A lot raining down on him these
days, a lot of it self-made, self-inflicted. And he is starting to get
friendly fire from Democrats who want to hear more. Although I`m not sure
how much more specific we can get than Andrea Mitchell saying that he is in
rehabilitation facility.

I think the statement from the congressman`s office that talked about
in-patient treatment for emotional issues as well as physical issues was a
pretty big indication that`s what was going on.

SMERCONISH: And, Jim, I would just echo what Jonathan just said, that
the calls are now coming from both sides of the aisle for him to be more
forthcoming.

WARREN: Yes. You know, one interesting local -- decidedly local
frame of reference, guys, is the fact that just a few months ago, as you
remember, the junior senator from the state of Illinois, Republican Mark
Kirk, had a stroke. And after sort of initial similar questions about what
was going on, has been by and large rather forthcoming about fairly
difficult situation as in rehab from a stroke, even putting out videos
where some of the impairment is quite clear. So, I think that`s the frame
reference.

But again, the way this has been handled so far is absolutely
galling. And folks need to know. He is in a re-election campaign. Is he
going to be able to run?

SMERCONISH: Jonathan Allen, we have a short period of time. You
would think that they will have to be more forthcoming, they will have to
respond given now how front and center this has all become.

ALLEN: The ultimate decision, as Jim points out, is going to be made
by Jesse Jackson Jr.`s constituents. If they want more information, then
he`s going to have to provide it or he will pay for that at the ballot box.
If not this time around, the next time around, in a primary campaign. He
had a tough primary this time around. There are a lot of Illinois
politicians who that wanted him to see lose to Debbie Halvorson in the
primary. That didn`t happen.

But again, that`s something he`s going to have to square with his
constituents.

SMERCONISH: OK. And needless to say, we all wish him good health
and hope that he`s -- he is able to continue on and to function.

Thank you, Jim Warren, and Jonathan Allen. We appreciate it.

When we return, "Let Me Finish" with something President Obama needs
to improve on -- his messaging.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: Let me finish with a comment on semantics and messaging.

Right here on Monday night, in a conversation about the president`s
proposal to extend certain of the Bush tax cuts, I said he or she who is
making $261,000 is going to enjoy the Bush tax cuts on the first 250 of
that. In other words, everybody would be a beneficiary in this scenario.
I was trying to be precise about my language because it occurred to me that
there`s something misleading in our conversation about the tax cuts.

Here`s a good example of what I was talking about. The lead of the
Monday New York Times story read, quote, "With a torpid job market and a
fragile economy threatening his re-election chances, President Obama is
changing the subject to tax fairness calling for a one-year extension of
the Bush era tax cuts for people making less than $250,000."

Accurate? Yes. But the extension of Bush era tax cuts the president
proposes is not just for people making less than 250K. It would also apply
to the first $250,000 earned by people who make more than that.

Dan Amira at "New York" magazine spilled out what I`m talking about.
He noted some of the media outlets that have gotten this wrong. And then
he wrote, "Obama is not proposing that families making up to $250,000 a
year keep their tax cuts while families making more than that don`t. He`s
proposing that every family keep their tax cuts on their first $250,000 of
taxable income which is not the same as income or earnings, by the way.
That includes families with taxable income of $260,000, $1 million, $5
billion, $3 trillion or whatever Jay-Z and Beyonce make in a year."

Amira then correctly stated that Obama himself has failed to
communicate this clearly. Here`s what the president had to say on Monday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That`s why I`m calling
on congress to extend the tax cuts for the 98 percent of Americans who make
less than $250,000 for another year.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: This is part of a bigger issue. Barack Obama was the
best of communicators in the 2008 election, but attempting to sell his
policies as president has been a different story. On the subject of tax
cuts, many Americans did not recognize a tax cut he gave them.

Ezra Klein`s "Wonkblog" noted that of the stimulus bill, 36 percent
was devoted to tax cuts of which the biggest by far was the Making Work Pay
tax credit which was a refundable tax credit of $400 for individuals and
$800 for married couples filing jointly implemented by reducing tax
withholding. That structure meant that a fair number of people didn`t even
notice their taxes were being cut even though the credit cost a total of
$116.2 billion.

Just today, "The Washington Post" reported that Americans paid the
lowest tax rates in 30 years to the federal government in 2009 in part
because of tax cuts President Obama sought to combat the great recession
according to the congressional budget analysts.

President Obama needs to do a much better job selling his
accomplishments and not letting his opponents define them. His re-election
hopes may depend on it.

That`s HARDBALL for now. Thank you for being with us.

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED.
END

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