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updated 2/6/2013 10:23:06 AM ET 2013-02-06T15:23:06

POLITICS NATION
February 5, 2013

Guests: Debbie Wasserman Schultz, James Peterson, Molly Ball, Diahann Carroll


AL SHARPTON, MSNBC ANCHOR: Thanks, Chris. And thanks to you for
tuning in. I`m live in Los Angeles.

Tonight`s lead. Fighting for fairness. President Obama threw down
the gauntlet to Republicans today demanding they move quickly to stop
devastating budget cuts that could damage the economy and throw hundreds of
thousands of people out of work. These are automatic cuts the Congress
agreed to. And they`re going to go into effect in three weeks unless
lawmakers act now. The president is fighting the Republicans cut, cut, cut
obsession.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can`t just cut our
way to prosperity. Deep indiscriminant cuts to things like education and
training, energy and national security will cost us jobs. And it will slow
down our recovery. It`s not the right thing to do for the economy. It`s
not the right thing for folks out there still looking for work.

Our economy right now is headed in the right direction. And it will
stay that way as long as there aren`t any more self-inflicted wounds coming
out of Washington.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: This self-inflicted wound would include massive cuts to
virtually every government program from Medicare and housing to head start
and food aid for children. The president wants Republicans to delay those
cuts through a balanced approach that would force corporations and the
wealthy to give up some of their special tax break and pay their fair
share.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: These modest reforms in our social insurance programs have to
go hand in hand with tax reform, so that the wealthiest individuals and
corporations can`t take advantage of loopholes and deductions that aren`t
available to most Americans.

There is no reason that the jobs of thousands of Americans who work in
National Security or education or clean energy, not to mention the growth
of the economy should be put in jeopardy just because folks in Congress
couldn`t come together to eliminate a few special interest tax loopholes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: These special interests loopholes include subsidies for the
oil and gas companies who are raking in record profits, deductions for
corporate jets and yachts, and absurd tax breaks for hedge fund managers
and Wall Street heavy hitters.

Fairness. It`s what this election was all about. I mean, do we
really want to be a country that lets millionaires write off their
corporate jets but tells a single mom she can`t get help buying a formula
for her baby? That`s not the America we all voted for on Election Day.

Joining me now is Florida congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz,
chair of the Democratic National Committee and Jared Bernstein, former
chief economist to vice president Biden.

Let me go to you congresswoman first. Didn`t the American people vote
for the president`s vision of a balanced approach to government,
congresswoman?

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL), CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL
COMMITTEE: There`s no question that they did, Reverend Al. The president
laid out two paths and two visions. And Mitt Romney clearly laid out his
own vision which was very divergent from the president`s. And we had a
debate over whether we should take a balanced approach to deficit reduction
as you described, one that asks the wealthiest Americans to pay a bit more
while also making sure that we reduce spending and make responsible
spending cuts without cutting the legs out from under the economy.

And I`m sure Mr. Bernstein would agree that as the economist I heard
when I was a member of the budget committee repeatedly say that you can`t
cut so much so fast because in a recovery that is already more fragile than
we`d like to see, you want to make sure you don`t slow or stall that
recovery. And that`s what the Republicans are risking.

It`s really -- you know, I wish and I know that Americans across the
country wish that there would just be a massive outbreak of responsibility
in the Republican conference, so that we could bring them to the table, sit
down, and work together to avoid massive spending cuts which they seem
willing to allow to happen.

SHARPTON: A massive outbreak of responsibility. Wouldn`t that be a
great occurrence?

But, let me ask you, Jared. You may agree, but senator Mitch
McConnell clearly doesn`t seem to agree. Let me show you what he said
today.

He says every day spent talking about corporate jets is a day wasted.
Now, when you balance out, we`re talking about talking about corporate jet
write off so we don`t have to tell single moms not to have food aid for
children. I mean, that`s a very insensitive and little out there, wouldn`t
you say so, Jared?

JARED BERNSTEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. And let`s just make this
very concrete. I mean, on the one hand, you are talking about a corporate
jet loophole. The other one you mentioned earlier is the carried interest
loophole.

SHARPTON: Right.

BERNSTEIN: I did a little calculation I want to share with you and
the congresswoman just this afternoon. If you take two people who earn the
same amount of money and make it a decent amount of money, $250,000, so
we`re not comparing a rich person with a middle income person. These are
two well-off people. And one of them manages a software company and the
other manages a hedge fund. Because the hedge fund manager gets to take
this performance fee bonus, it`s called, basically gets to have her
earnings taxed at a rate of about 20 percent right now. Her tax --
effective tax rate at the end of the day is about 13 percent while the tax
rate of the software developer is 31 percent. Now, that`s simply not fair.

SHARPTON: Wow.

BERNSTEIN: These are both people -- I mean, actually -- I was going
to say these are both people contributing a lot to the economy. We can
have an argument how much the hedge funds are contributing. But, that`s a
different argument.

SHARPTON: So basically, let me get this right. A hedge fund guy
basically is doing less than half in percentage of a guy, middle class who
may be doing his own business, own his own business and employing people.
Only because we give a loophole to the hedge fund guy in the name of
performance tax because he`s a hedge fund person.

BERNSTEIN: Because we favor incomes from hedge funds and private
equity firms and capital gains over paychecks, over earnings. We have one
person who is paying a 33 percent statutory rate, the other one is paying
a20 percent statutory. When you take out all the deductions, the effective
tax rate, the share of their income that they are paying in taxes, 13
percent for the hedgy and 31 percent for the software developer.

SHARPTON: Now, Congresswoman. That is where the president and
members of your party are raising the question. They are saying let`s
close some of the loopholes and make this equal. We`re not trying to put
it all one way. But there`s something that is just unfair about that kind
of arrangement.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Really. I mean, I think that`s absolutely right,
Reverend Al. And what members of Congress have to ask themselves,
regardless of party is who were you elected to protect? Were you elected
to protect the hedge fund manager? Were you elected to protect the CEO of
a major corporation or the wealthiest people in your district? Or were you
elected to do what was best for the overwhelming majority of your
constituents who are middle class hardworking folks, small business owners
who are dramatically affected by the uncertainty that the Republicans are
inflicting on this economy by continuing to leave the sequester dangling
out there, the threat of government shutdown dangling out there.

The bottom line is we have deficit reduction. $4 trillion worth that
President Obama`s proposed within our grasp. All that it takes a
reasonable people to sit down at the table together and everybody to say
it`s not going to be my way or the highway. We`re ready to do that.

SHARPTON: Jared.

BERNSTEIN: I think -- look. What I`ve seen, unfortunately, is that
too many Republicans do seem like they have two goals, protect wealthy
people from any increase in their taxes or closure of their loopholes --

SHARPTON: No matter what.

BERNSTEIN: And at the same time to cut the heck out of government
spending.

Now, typically they want -- now, typically they want to protect Social
Security and Medicare, so they start going after the poor. And that`s
where you have head start, that`s where you have women`s infants and
children, that`s the nutritional program, housing subsidy. So, you`re
talking about protecting folks at the very top at the expense of those at
the very bottom. That is completely upside down when you think about what
this economy, what the people in it really need.

SHARPTON: Well Congresswoman, it brings me to a "Wall Street Journal"
article I wanted to ask you about along those lines. It says how
Republicans view the sequester cuts, the cuts I talked about at the opening
as leverage, as leverage to attack Social Security and Medicare. And I`m
quoting from the article.

Republican willingness to support the sequester, Mr. Boehner says, is
as much leverage as we`re going to get. Boehner then says the whole
discussion on the budget over the next several months is going to be about
these entitlements.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: First they argue the debt ceiling was their
leverage. Then they realize politically that was problematic for them.
Now, that we resolved that at least for now although we still have to deal
with it down the road, you`ve got deficit reduction that they perceived to
be their leverage through shutting the government down or allowing what
both Republicans and Democrats agree is an unacceptably large dramatic set
of spending cuts in the sequester which were designed to incentivize us to
sit down and make more reasonable agreement which is what president says
supposed today. We`re not going to be able to deal with this by March 2nd.
Let`s make sure we avoid those dramatic cuts and deal with the issue later.

SHARPTON: Absolutely.

BERNSTEIN: So here`s what I think we have to look out for, Congress.
I was up on the hill testifying this morning, and I`m picking up the
following. I think what Republicans would like to do is actually cancel
the defense part of the sequestration, the defense part of the automatic
cuts and shift those cuts on to the non-defense side. That must be
avoided.

Look, first of all, in my view all these cuts ought to be avoided the
way the president was talking about today. But what I just described
absolutely must be avoided because it puts all the pressure on the non-
defense discretionary side which is where you have head start, where you
have the woman`s infant and children food program, the housing subsidies.
All the kinds of things we`ve been talking about throughout the segment
here.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: It`s also important to note, Reverend Al, that
what President Obama and Democrats are not talking about is we`re not
saying that we don`t need reform or savings in our entitlement programs.
In Medicare and Medicaid, we do.

President Obama has proposed $360 billion in savings in addition to
the more than $700 billion in savings that added eight years of solvency to
Medicare and the affordable care act.

SHARPTON: Right.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: So, we have those proposals on the table. We just
don`t want to do it the way the Republicans do which is cut to benefits to
seniors, but particularly middle class seniors who can ill afford to endure
those kinds of cuts and who don`t have to.

SHARPTON: No, we don`t. We`re going to be watching this. We are
three weeks away and this is extremely important to all Americans. We`re
going to stay on this.

Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz, Jared Bernstein, thanks for your time
tonight.

BERNSTEIN: Thank you.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Thank you.

SHARPTON: America, this is what losing looks like. President Obama
has Eric Cantor re-branding the GOP again. But, he, kind of sounds like
someone else I know.

And one week from the state of the union we go inside the Obama
strategy to sell his agenda.

Plus, there are lots of ways to make change. Actress and activist
Diane Carroll is one of them. The first black woman to star in her own
primetime TV series joins me live. Big show coming from Los Angeles. Stay
with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Today, many shared their thoughts on Trayvon Martin. Today would have
been his 18th birthday.

Cynthia says happy birthday, Trayvon. A life taken too early.

Bonnie says my heart goes out to his family on this day.

Tony says may he and this nation`s many victims of gun violence rest
in peace. May the rest of us fight for return to neighborliness and sanity
in the USA.

I agree, Tony.

We`d like to have you share your thoughts with us too. Please head
over to facebook and search "Politics Nation" and like us to join the
conversation that keeps going long after the show ends.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Eric Cantor has a big idea and he wants to share it with
you. The far right Republican has been cooking up his big idea. And today
he announced it to the whole wide world. Are you ready?

Eric Cantor wants to re-brand the Republican Party. That`s right, re-
brand. And in a speech today he pitched a kinder, gentler GOP.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC CANTOR (R), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Our goal is to ensure that
every American has a fair shot to earn success.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: A fair shot to success. I have to admit I like the sound
of that. Come to think of it, that sounds familiar. Where have I heard
that before?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Well, it starts by making sure that everyone in America gets a
fair shot at success.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: A fair shot of success. Of course. That`s from the
president`s famous speech on economic fairness given in Kansas back in
2011. It was a speech that defined his campaign for re-election and his
fight for the middle class. Mr. Cantor must have taped that speech because
today hit the same points using the same language again and again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: That`s why immigrants from around the world historically have
flocked to our shores.

CANTOR: That hope led generations of immigrants to risk everything to
endure tough journey to come to our shores.

OBAMA: The world is shifting to an innovation economy, and nobody
does innovation better than America. No one has better colleges. Nobody
has better universities.

CANTOR: A good education leads to more innovation. And throughout
our history, American colleges and universities have served as a corner
stone for the world`s innovation.

OBAMA: We should be giving people the chance to get new skills and
training.

CANTOR: As job markets are changing, more skills, training, and
education are need.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery. But
here`s the catch. The rhetoric might have changed, but the philosophy, not
so much. On key policies that effect real people, the GOP is stuck and
allergic to change.

As "the National Journal" reports, Cantor is talking about a change on
tone, not ideology. Cantor says quote "it`s having a conversation on
different terms." Well, if that`s all it is, then I`m afraid we`re still
not speaking the same language.

Joining me now is Krystal Ball and Abby Huntsman. Thank you both for
coming on the show tonight.

KRYSTAL BALL, MSNBC HOST, THE CYCLE: Thanks, Reverend.

ABBY HUNTSMAN, PRODUCER, HOST, HUFF POST LIVE: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Krystal, congressman cantor endorsed a path to citizenship
today. But he`s still against compromising on taxes and he still wants to
gut entitlements. So is this change you can believe in?

BALL: Well, and we should point out, too, that he talked about
pathway to citizenship just for the children of immigrants who came here
who are undocumented, something that he voted against, by the way, in the
dream act.

But no, you`re absolutely right. Basically what Eric Cantor did, is
he hit on all the least controversial aspects of the Republican party
platform. Things like education, things like flexible working hours,
closing loopholes, things there`s broad agreement on that Democrats would
agree with. That as you pointed out the president would support and has
talked about before. They want to sort of talk about those things and just
sweep the rest of it under the rug. Let`s not talk about where we stand on
entitlements. Let`s not talk about our social policies. Let`s just focus
on these small pieces that everyone can agree on.

SHARPTON: Now, Abby, he also -- Congressman Cantor made a direct
appeal to working class families and working moms, particularly working
moms. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CANTOR: Try explaining that rising health care costs are depressing
take-home pay and saying that it`s justified. That`s little consolation to
the working mom. Because her grocery bills are still higher. Her kids
still need -- have needs that are getting more expensive. The rent is up.
And now she`s just trying to get by. I think b all of us know getting by
is not the American dream.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Abby, help me out. Why their sudden appeal to working
moms?

HUNTSMAN: He`s smart. He knows that the way to the woman`s heart is
to speak to moms just like he`s doing.

But I mean, let`s be honest here. This speech was more about Eric
Cantor than it was about the Republican party than it was about the
American people. I think Eric Cantor, if you take a step back, is wanting
to be seen as someone as pragmatic especially after a few weeks ago,
Reverend, he voted against the bill that would have averted us to the
fiscal cliff.

And so, I think in his mind if you take a step back and look at the
inner politics of the house GOP right now, he is wanting to gain more power
in the house and will likely run for the speaker in a couple of years and
sees that, you know what, I cannot actually win and be speaker as someone
that is not pragmatic, as someone that is more rigid.

And I think you see someone a Paul Ryan who is wanting to do the same
thing. And so, this speech was a lot more about him. It was a lot more
political. And I think that`s unfortunate. He was very vague in a lot of
the things that he talked about.

But as it relates to the speech, look, I commend him as a Republican.
He`s talking about things that need to be talked about. He`s talking a lot
of common sense, but there are no specifics. I mean, where`s the boldness?
Where - you know?

SHARPTON: How do we get there?

HUNTSMAN: How do we get there?

SHARPTON: And at the same time what was interesting to me is you have
pretty radical Republicans pushing to run for the Senate while this is all
going on. You have Paul Brown looking to run for a Senate seat in Georgia.
He calls evolution a big bang theory, less straight from the pit of hell.
He questioned President Obama`s citizenship, suggested the president abides
by the soviet constitution. Democrats are hoping he runs. They`re
thinking they could really take Georgia.

I mean, you got all of this going on at the same time you have Cantor
trying to at least give the rhetoric of being more reasonable when he
really -- the devil`s in the details. We`re not hearing the details,
Krystal.

BALL: Well, and we`re seeing this group sponsored by Karl Rove coming
out to try to support more mainstream candidates against people like Paul
Brown. But you can`t spend four years where your only ideology is opposing
the president, calling him a socialist, trying to convince the American
people that he wants to take down the country with his socialist rhetoric
and kill babies and take our guns.

And then, the country didn`t believe it, but their base bought into a
lot of that. You can`t spend four years doing that then turn around and
say we don`t want these candidates who`s reflecting the ideology we,
ourselves, have been promoting.

They were happy to ride that wave when it was good for them in 2010
when there was a tea party wave and it brought them to power in the house.
Now we`re seeing the backlash and those choices are creating a problem for
them in the Senate. They could have potentially taken the Senate if they
hadn`t had candidates like Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock, Christine
O`Donnell. And that`s going to be the real fight for this year. Are they
going to continue nominating completely unelectable out there candidates or
are they going to come back to more mainstream party?

HUNTSMAN: There are not going to be --

SHARPTON: Well, when you have guys, I mean, like Paul Brown who
thinks evolution and embryology and big bang from the (INAUDIBLE)., how do
you get around that and avoid a replay of the thing that has put them in
the pit pun intended in the first place political pit here.

HUNTSMAN: I mean, Reverend, this is just crazy talk. I don`t think
that as a brand that`s going to be successful. I don`t think it`s a brand
that will win. I mean, we have seen polling and we have seen where the
mood of the country is.

And I think the Republican Party, a lot of the party, recognizes this,
the fact that we need to move in a different direction. That wasn`t
successful this last go around. And we talked earlier about the lack of
details, lack of specifics. And this bringing a good debate for the
American people is going to require some ideas from both sides of the
aisle. And right now the Republican party is not bringing a lot of the
ideas to the table. And that`s the problem.

You know, Eric Cantor has the microphone, you know, and so does
speaker Boehner there. We have few leadership -- very few leaders right
now in the party. And they have, I think, an ability to really talk about
things in more detail and I hope that we see more of that.

SHARPTON: Now, the problem that we`re having in terms of not seeing
details, Krystal, may be that if they give details, the Republicans will
start fighting among themselves. We saw Karl Rove come out. He`s talking
about raising money to bring more moderate Republicans out. The problem is
it will intensify a civil war at least in terms of policy as we hear more
and more details.

BALL: That`s exactly right. And we`re already sort of seeing that
play out with the immigration debate. You know, it all sounds good to say
OK we have to solve the problem and to spell out broad principles. But
when you actually get down to what are we going to do about the people that
are here? How are we going to come up with a path to citizenship that
makes sense and is fair and respects the fact that we are a nation of
immigrants and a nation of laws when you get down to the specifics there`s
a huge split in the party?

SHARPTON: Where we find the common ground?

Abby, you quoted your father as saying compromise is critical to
fixing the GOP. The quote was in my party compromise cannot be seen as
analogous to treason and which it has been seen recently. Your daddy was
right. I love quoting your daddy to you. I want somebody to do that to my
daughters develop ahead.

HUNTSMAN: Its compromise but it`s also taking some sort of elite on
these issues. I think the Republicans could actually lead on things such
as immigration. I`d like to see that. Like let`s bring something to the
table. We don`t need to wait for President Obama which he will probably
speak about next week in the state of the union.

But you know what, Republicans, surprise us. Do something that`s
unexpected. You know? Take a lead on something like immigration. Why
not? I think that`s what they need.

SHARPTON: I think that is what they need. And compromise is not
analogous to treason.

Krystal Ball and Abby Huntsman, thanks for your time this evening.

And don`t forget to catch Krystal on "the Cycle" week days at 3:00
p.m. right here on MSNBC.

Coming up, President Obama`s massive agenda. He`s charging ahead.
And tonight signs they`re cracking in congress.

Plus, Chris Christie pays a visit to David Letterman. Why all
Republicans should watch it.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Republicans claim they want their party to change, but when
it comes to voting rights, they`re going back to their old playbook. Today
"The New York Times" reports that long lines at the polls especially in red
states cost hundreds of thousands of votes in November.

On average, Blacks and Hispanics had to wait twice as long as whites
to cast their ballots. And in the state of Florida, the longest voting
lines in the country were just too much to bear for some voters. Two
hundred thousand voters in Florida say, they gave up in frustration and
didn`t cast their ballots. But Republicans are still at it.

Today in Virginia, the republican-controlled House of Representatives
passed a bill limiting voter IDs allowed at the polls. This is outrageous.
But Democrats are fighting back. Already democratic lawmakers have
introduced bills to protect the ability of individuals to exercise the
right to vote in elections. The fight is on.

Republicans lost in 2012, and they`ll lose again this year. Did they
think we wouldn`t notice they`re back to their old tricks? Nice try, but
we got you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: We`re exactly one week away from President Obama`s state of
the union speech. He`ll use the bully pulpit to push his vision for the
country and continuing selling his second term agenda. Already he met with
labor and business leaders on the economy in Washington. He spoke about
gun safety in Minnesota. He delivered a major immigration speech in Las
Vegas. And the fight for fairness is headed straight to Main Street.

The Obama administration today announcing they`re going after some of
the people allegedly involved in the 2007 financial meltdown. Sounds like
a lot to do all at once, right? Yes. And it`s part of the strategy. It`s
what NBC`s first read calls flooding the zone. Pushing many issues so the
GOP can`t come together and oppose any single one. And there are already
hopeful signs that this president is going to get some important progress
on key issues.

Joining me now is James Peterson and Molly Ball. Thanks to both of
you for your time.

MOLLY BALL, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Good to be here.

JAMES PETERSON, LEHIGH UNIVERSITY: Thanks, Rev.

SHARPTON: Molly, you recently wrote about the Washington gridlock.
The headline reads "Is Washington Getting Less Dysfunctional?" And I`m
quoting from the article. From immigration reform to the debt ceiling,
there are rampant signs the capitol isn`t the gridlocked mess to which
we`ve become accustomed. Is there really a light at the end of the tunnel?
I mean, how is this shifting?

BALL: Well, the jury`s still out. When I wrote that piece I had a
lot of people responded by saying, you`re going to jinx it. Don`t tell
anyone. Things are actually working around here. I think we`ve gotten so
used to this state of affair where nothing works and everything is a crisis
that it`s actually news when, you know, we don`t go over the fiscal cliff,
we don`t hit the debt ceiling, you know, there`s progress, there`s
bipartisan progress on immigration reform that looks very promising.

On a whole lot of different fronts, the potential confrontation over
the filibuster was defused. I know not everyone was happy with it, but the
fact is, that could have been a very politically toxic fight.

SHARPTON: Right.

BALL: And it was avoided. So, you know, as you say, there`s a lot of
issue still on the President`s agenda. A lot of battles still to be had,
but for now there`s actually some promising signs for Washington to be able
to get things done.

SHARPTON: Well, James, we have the sequester still there. Yet as I
read Molly`s article, I mean, what do you think? Is there light at the end
of the tunnel? Is that sunshine or is that the train coming?

PETERSON: Let`s pray for sunshine, Rev. I mean, when you take a
look at the strategy. I like the front end of it which is to sort of flood
the zone with all of these important things including things like debt
reduction with more tax revenue, clean energy where, you know, we`re going
to see some progressive challenge in the President on his policy there, new
gun control all the way down to addressing the needs of the poor.

It`s an interesting strategy, but it requires an outside in sort of
processing of policy and politics. So, he`s going to use in deploying,
organizing for America. And hopefully, the progressive voices of Americans
to apply pressure on to Washington. Because that`s how things get done.
If you look at gun control and you look at comprehensive immigration
reform, those two policy issues are really being pressured by outside folks
saying, hey, we`ve got to have change.

Hey, we`ve got to have sort of representative government in terms of
demographics and immigration reform as a part of that. We`ve got to be
able to address common sense, gun safety, Newtown, and the murders in
Chicago and other inner cities across this nation are helping to galvanize
people to apply the outside pressure that I think is weakening the kind of
gridlock that we see in Washington, D.C.

SHARPTON: Molly, the fact that the President`s approval ratings are
so high. Sixty percent favorable opinion that people have -- 60 percent of
people say they have a favorable opinion of the president. And that
includes 60 percent of independents and 68 percent of self-identified
moderates. So, when you`re facing a President with those kinds of
favorable numbers, that does kind of change how you might want to operate.
Wouldn`t you say?

BALL: Well, I think it depends who we`re talking about. You know,
most members of the House, Republicans and Democrats alike, but certainly
those Republicans in the majority are in safe districts. They are not in
districts where the President has a high approval rating. So, I think it`s
a really open question. Whether the President can successfully deploy this
outside in strategy, whether he can mobilize supporters to put political
pressure even on those members of Congress who don`t feel like they owe him
anything or are in any political danger.

And then there`s the question of whether he can spread his political
capital too thin. I think you`re right to point out that he`s trying to
sort of present a moving target, so he can`t get too attacked for any one
thing, but that also means that there`s a danger that he`s not putting all
of his political capital into one thing and it gets sort of diffused.

SHARPTON: The President, James, has said that after the state of the
union he`s going on the road. How will that impact and effect things and
keep things moving? Especially with this flood zone strategy.

PETERSON: Well, his political opponents will refer to him as being in
campaign mode. But in actuality we need the President`s charisma and his
sort of vocalization of these issues out there to help galvanize those
folks outside of Washington to come to the cause. Again, when you look at
the list of things the President is trying to do, through this flooding the
zone strategy, you can see that there`s a litany of progressive issues.
People who have been critical of this president and to the left of this
president should see some light at the end of the tunnel in some of these
issues.

It actually requires folk to come out and requires folks to have their
voices heard. So, what they`re going to refer to as him campaigning is
actually him getting out trying to galvanize progressives so that we can
show the sort of political will of the American people to get some of these
things done. And again, when you look at the list, gun control, education
reform, clean energy, immigration reform, these are the issues that I think
people in the Democratic Party and people to the left of this President are
interested in getting done in this second term.

SHARPTON: You know, President Obama had re-nominated Richard Cordray
to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. And now, 43 Senate
Republicans led by Mitch McConnell are voting to block him. Now, this is
the bureau to protect average Americans and give them an advocate in
Washington. Republicans are trying to weaken that protection, Molly. Is
that a sign that we still have some gridlock, some dysfunction that they`re
going to fight on some things that should be a given?

BALL: Oh, absolutely. I mean, this is Washington. It`s not all
flowers and sunshine. And people aren`t suddenly, you know, kissing and
making up. There`s still going to be partisan fights. There`s still going
to be a lot of bickering. The question is just can that be productive?
Can all of those fights lead to things getting worked out into the end?
Compromise doesn`t have to be pretty in order to be functional.

And so, you know, and I think if you talk about something like a
nomination fight. That`s a pretty inside Washington sort of thing. That`s
something that the President would probably have a hard time galvanizing
people on the outside to, you know, call their representatives about. So
whether he can make progress on those kinds of things by deploying this
more campaign-type strategy, I think is more doubtful.

SHARPTON: James Peterson and Molly Ball, thanks for your time.

BALL: Thanks, Rev.

SHARPTON: Ahead, first it was working with President Obama. Now it`s
a visit to Letterman. What could the GOP learn from Chris Christie?

And a groundbreaker on TV and in the real world. The great actress
and activist Diahann Carroll joins me live. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: In 1968, singer/actress Diahann Carroll made history when
she became the first black woman to star in her own TV series "Julia" on
NBC. The show made a historic mark on American television. Ms. Carroll
played a nurse, the first African-American woman to star as a white collar
professional. Audiences were hooked. "Julia" shot into the top ten soon
after its debut ahead of shows like "Mission Impossible" and the "Carol
Burnett Show."

Already a top stage in film, the show gave Carroll nationwide
exposure. She became a role model for many young blacks. The glamorous
star some hadn`t seen before. She`d already been a star for civil rights
appearing with other celebrities at the march on Washington and rubbing
elbows with prominent politicians of the time like President John Kennedy
and Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress.

Her career has spanned more than six decades, and she`s not done yet.
Today, Diahann Carroll stars in the USA Network drama "White Collar"
playing, of course, another glamorous role. The widow June Ellington.

Joining me now actress/entertainer/activist, the great Diahann
Carroll. Ms. Carroll, it`s an honor to have you on the show tonight.

DIAHANN CARROLL, ENTERTAINER: Thank you, so much. I`m delighted to
be with you. I`ve seen you many times on the air and well, everyone may
not know, that you and I have known each other for a very, very, very long
time.

SHARPTON: Yes, we have. Yes, we have.

CARROLL: Yes. It`s always been good. So I`m happy to be with you.

SHARPTON: Glad to be with you. Let me -- before I get to what you`re
doing now, let me go back to 1968 with "Julia" which was ground breaking.
At the time, did you realize how important that was when you stepped into
that role as the first African-American woman primetime show like that, top
ten?

CARROLL: I really didn`t, to be honest with you. When I heard all of
the accolades that came along with the part, I was thrilled about that.
And also thrilled to have the chance to do it because it was written by a
very talented man. But, no, I didn`t think of it. I think perhaps the
creator did. But later, I became aware of the fact that it had made quite
a statement. And it made me very proud too.

SHARPTON: What does that mean to you now?

CARROLL: It means that when you and I look back and all those events
I cannot attend anymore and I see the film clips, it gives my heart a
smile. I`m very pleased that I did it. You know this, when you look back
on something and feel you did it very well or just better than you had
hoped, it makes you feel good.

SHARPTON: Now, you and I spoke at the memorial dedication for Martin
Luther King`s memorial in Washington. And you actually knew Dr. King. Let
me show you some of your comments that you made that day in 2011 at the
dedication. And I want you to elaborate for me on Dr. King and how you
knew him and what impression he made upon you.

CARROLL: OK. It`s a deal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARROLL: I was really struck by what a quiet man he was. He always
seemed quiet, but the first time I heard him speak, suddenly it was as if
he was breathing a fire of hope all over all of us. And in all of us who
needed desperately a man like Dr. King to turn our hopes and dreams into
action.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Turned our hopes and dreams into action. What were your
personal impressions of Dr. King, Miss Carroll?

CARROLL: Oh, about a hundred years ago, I was doing a radio show in
Brooklyn by a very interesting activist who`s no longer with us. And I
realized that I was sitting across the aisle from Dr. King. And I had to
say hello and tell him that I -- it`s the first time I`d ever been in the
presence of a man or a woman who knew that they might be putting their life
on the line. They might leave their families.

They might lose their whole concept of what they have now. And it
might be over. And how did he feel about that? How did he make that
decision? He was very quiet. And he said that he made that decision with
his family. That when he decided to do something that he knew was outside
of the circle, he talked to all of them about it. They talked together
about it. And that as much as they are prepared as much as they could be.
It was amazing to hear someone say that about their life.

SHARPTON: Wow. That`s startling. Tell me about the -- your project
you`re in now, "White Collar."

CARROLL: Well, it`s a fun thing. I`m very happy to have been called.
So many feel that I`m actually retired, and I`m out here tonight, Reverend,
trying to kill that rumor.

(LAUGHTER)

But I love doing it. Once again, I was attracted to the writing. And
then such a beautiful young cast. And I definitely have -- I like to be
part of things that have to do with new people, I mean young people. They
are new. But it helps me. It helps me to understand what I`m living
through, what we`re all living through. So I`m happy to be there.

SHARPTON: Are we going to see a lot more of you on "White Collar"?

CARROLL: I want you to write a letter to Jeff Easton tonight.

SHARPTON: All right.

CARROLL: And tell him that you asked me that question.

SHARPTON: Well, that`s a deal. Diahann Carroll, an honor to have you
here.

CARROLL: Thank you.

SHARPTON: And I want you to know that I grew up watching "Julia."
All of us used to want to get sick and go to the hospital if Julia was
going to be our nurse. I had this crush for a long time.

CARROLL: Bless you. Thank you for being here.

SHARPTON: "White Collar" airs tonight at 10:00 Eastern time on --
Network, USA.

Coming up, Chris Christie, David Letterman, doughnuts, and a lesson to
be learned. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: I have some advice for all those Republicans trying to
rebrand their party. Watch Chris Christie. Last night the New Jersey
governor paid a visit to Letterman, and he was ready for some fun.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID LETTERMAN, TALK SHOW HOST: I`ve made jokes about you not just
one or two, not just ongoing here and there intermittent, but --

(LAUGHTER)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I -- I didn`t know this was
going to be this long.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Now, that`s a guy having some fun. And Christie wasn`t
done. He delivered a few of his favorite Letterman jokes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: Here`s two of them that we particularly liked. First was
celebrity birthday today. Chris Christie turned 50. He blew out the
candles on his cake and he wished for another cake.

(LAUGHTER)

A billion dollars would be spent on potato chips for Super Bowl
Sunday, and that`s just at Governor Christie`s house.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: This is fun to watch. Now, I don`t agree with much of
Christie`s politics, but he`s real. He can make fun of himself, and he`s
not afraid to do the right thing. Like when he worked directly with
President Obama in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

He even praised the President days before the election. Again, now, I
disagree with Governor Christie on the issues. And governor, if you`re
ever serious about dieting, I know a guy that you can get some advice from.
Call me.

Thanks for watching. I`m Al Sharpton, "HARDBALL" 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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