'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Read the transcript to the Wednesday show
Guest Host: Chris Hayes
Guests: Howard Fineman, John Heilemann, Michelle Goldberg, Rep. Keith Ellison, Melissa
CHRIS HAYES, GUEST HOST: I‘m Chris Hayes, in for Lawrence O‘Donnell.
Republicans are apparently afraid that none of their presidential candidates are strong enough to beat President Obama. They‘re also afraid of gangs, of Muslims, and even Muslim gangs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There‘s still, I think, big flaws in all the candidate that are out there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Relentless, a scathing—
HAYES (voice-over): Republicans have a message for their presidential candidates—not good enough.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just don‘t like Romney.
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: They‘re really jumping over Pawlenty.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He turned into a boiled noodle the other night.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: It doesn‘t look good for Newt Gingrich.
TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Forty-eight percent of voters have a negative opinion of Newt Gingrich.
MITCHELL: A stunning 48 percent.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Higher than it was when Newt Gingrich was speaker.
MITCHELL: These numbers are terrible, they are.
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: They are. They are.
THOMAS ROBERTS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Michele Bachmann is still riding high.
JOE SCARBORUGH, MSNBC ANCHOR: She‘s become such a player.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michele Bachmann is like Sarah Palin who reads her briefing books.
HAYES: Republicans are praying for another choice.
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE ®, NEW JERSEY: I‘m 100 percent certain I‘m not going to run.
TODD: Giuliani, he is thinking about running.
MITCHELL: Texas Governor Rick Perry sounding more and more like a candidate.
GOV. RICK PERRY ®, TEXAS: You need to give this a second thought.
NEIL CAVUTO, FOX NEWS: Your biggest coupe was getting Carl‘s Jr.
PERRY: Freedom. Freedom. They love the smell of freedom.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Apparently, freedom smells like Greece.
PERRY: A prophet is generally not loved in their hometown. That‘s both biblical and practical.
UNIDENTIFEID MALE: As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.
HAYES: They‘re also praying to be delivered from the Muslim menace.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The homeland security committee is discussing --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Radicalization inside U.S. prisons.
UNIDENTIFEID MALE: Radicalization.
REP. KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNESOTA: Lord knows that we have white supremacist groups who might be the subject of a hearing.
HAYES: Congressman Keith Ellison is here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Herman Cain discussed having a Muslim in his White House.
HERMAN CAIN ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Would I be comfortable to have a Muslim in my administration? And I would not.
ELLISON: I would ask Mr. Cain to review that pledge of allegiance.
HAYES: And if you think that‘s outrageous, check out this congressional campaign ad.
GANGSTERS (singing): Give me your cash (EXPLETIVE DELETED) so we can shoot up the street. Give me your cash, (EXPLETIVE DELETED) so we can buy some more heat. Give me your cash, ho, so we can get out the bin.
HAYES: That thing.
Good evening from Washington.
Willard M. Romney is already making plans for his re-election campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I‘ll probably be back in four years. This time it will be a larger group and probably have Secret Service.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Voters, at least at this point, are not convinced, however. In a new NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll, Obama beats Romney in a matchup 49 percent to 43 percent, with 5 percent undecided. And Romney fares the best of the current Republican presidential candidates. Romney remains the front-runner and establishment Republican choice, but all the excitement is around other Republicans.
To best understand the Romney Republican primary paradox, we need only look back to 2004. And the role of Mitt Romney was being played by another rich white guy from Massachusetts tagged as a flip-flopper, John Kerry. John Kerry was widely seen as the most electable after the other electable candidates like then-Senator Hillary Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore had opted not to run.
But Kerry‘s trudge toward the nomination was interrupted by the emergence of Howard Dean, who was hated by the Democratic establishment, but who fired up the Democratic base with his fierce and unabashed opposition to the Iraq war—the war that so many Democratic primary voters saw as the single greatest evil the Bush administration had visited upon the nation—the war that John Kerry had supported, the war that Kerry had voted for.
That situation must sound mighty familiar with Mitt Romney. Romney‘s health care reform in Massachusetts was the template for Obama‘s national health care reform, which to the conservative base is the epitome of all that is terrible and offensive about the Obama administration‘s ceaseless onslaught on American traditions and freedom.
If 2012 follows 2004, Romney will be challenged by an anti-establishment figure beloved of the grassroots only to ultimately claim the nomination and lose the election. That is unless someone enters the race who can pass the electability test of the establishment and excite the base.
Is there a Republican out there who can circle this square in 2012? New Jersey governor Chris Christie says it‘s not him or anyone else currently running.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: I‘m 100 percent certain I‘m not going to run.
PIERS MORGAN, CNN: Given you‘re not running this time, who do you think right now is the best option for your party to take on Barack Obama?
CHRISTIE: I don‘t think we have a best option yet. A lot of those folks impress me personally, but none of them have emerged in my mind yet as the best option. When one of them do, I‘ll say it publicly.
But I‘m not ready to do it yet because I don‘t think any of them as yet have distinguished themselves to say this is the best person not only to take out Barack Obama, but more importantly, to lead our nation the next four years after this election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: So, then, there is Texas Governor Rick Perry. Perry served more red meat than at a Texas barbecue while subbing for Donald Trump at a Republican fundraiser in New York City last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RICK PERRY ®, TEXAS: You know, looking around Texas, there‘s a few unhappy people there. Generally, we refer to them as liberals—which I happen to think is a really good indicator of our success, because we don‘t have many of them left.
But I‘m proud to call myself a conservative. Not only am, you know, I proud to be a Texan, I‘m proud to be a conservative. Not just because I‘m from Texas—because conservatives have won the war of ideas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: And then there‘s Jon Huntsman, who appears to be taking the John McCain circa 2000 iconic list route. Huntsman‘s would be campaign manager, former guru, John Weaver, offered this shot across the bow at the current primary field and the entire Republican Party, telling “Esquire” magazine, quote, “The 2012 GOP field is the weakest since 1940. There‘s a simple reason our party is nowhere near being a national governing party. No one wants to be around a bunch of cranks.”
There is at least one Republican Mitt Romney does not have to worry about and he can take a deep breath, coming in dead last of the favorability poll of the NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” is—drum roll—
Newt Gingrich. Newt Gingrich with a net negative favorability of minus 32 percent. Gingrich‘s lambasting of Paul Ryan, Tiffany‘s bill, and cruise through the Greek islands have made him even more unpopular than Sarah Palin.
Joining me now is Howard Fineman, senior political editor for “The Huffington Post” and MSNBC political analyst. And John Heilemann, national affairs editor for “New York” magazine and author of “Game Change.”
Gentlemen, thank you for joining me tonight.
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hey, Chris.
HAYES: John, what do you make of this John Weaver comment, that this is the weakest field since 1940, when FDR, of course, won a third team landslide? What is—what is the logic of saying that?
JOHN HEILEMANN, AUTHOR, “GAME CHANGE”: Well, I think John Weaver‘s got a candidate who‘s going to announce he‘s running for president next week in Jon Huntsman, and I think John Weaver actually believes that that‘s true.
I don‘t think it‘s actually a controversial statement. I don‘t know
if I‘d pick 1940 necessarily as the year, but I think for a lot of people -
I don‘t mean just liberal writers, but also a lot of Republican establishment figures—they look at this field and think the field is in fact the weakest they‘ve seen in their lifetimes. That‘s something that you hear when you‘re reporting in this race, from a lot of people, and a lot of Republicans, whether those are donors, elected officials, or other strategists in the party. They‘ve been criticizing the field in just that way, generally on background or off the record for the past six months.
So, Weaver is actually, in this respect at least, is speaking a little bit of conventional wisdom in the Republican Party. And the rest of the things he‘s trying too do with Jon Huntsman are very much out of the John Weaver playbook. He is the guy who wants a Republican nominee who is a positive, future-oriented candidate. And I think, when he looks at the rest of the field, he doesn‘t see anybody else there—which is why he thinks his guy Huntsman has a good chance.
HAYES: Well, I mean, you know, I think future-oriented, we would have to give the crown to one Newt Gingrich, coiner, of course, of “Winning the Future,” now the phrase the entire political world has recited.
I want to talk about Rick Perry because I think his entrance is sort of interesting. Here‘s Rick Perry on FOX yesterday, talking about his 2012 plans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: It was a number of conversations that were had with people I trust, including my wife, that basically said, listen, our country is in trouble, and you need to give this a second thought. We‘ll go through that and give it the appropriate thought. And we have some time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Howard, that sounds like a guy, given his New York antics last night and he‘s now sort of making the rounds like a guy who‘s about to jump in—do you think he‘s a strong candidate?
FINEMAN: Well, I don‘t know that he‘s about to jump in. I spoke a little while ago with one of his top political advisers, Dave Carney, who‘s from New Hampshire and who recently was with Newt Gingrich before the fall, and David worked with him in Texas on his gubernatorial race.
And what David said was that Rick Perry is in the position of talking about what he needs to talk about. He is talking with people, but it‘s sort of in the preliminary stage. And my sense from talking to Carney is that it‘s by no means certain that Rick Perry is going to conclude that he has the time or, more important, the access to the money and organization that you need to run a presidential campaign.
Even people like Jon Huntsman, who‘s not quite in it yet, who was in China not long ago as an ambassador, has been spending a lot of time laying the groundwork for this. He‘s been studying it carefully, has a lot of allies in all parts of country.
Rick Perry doesn‘t have that network. And he‘s just at the beginning stage. My guess would be, based on what I heard today, was it‘s at best a 50-50 proposition.
HAYES: I want to come back to Huntsman because I‘m really sort of fascinated by this approach here. I mean, first of all, you have a guy who joins the administration, he comes out of the administration, he starts planning a run, you know, essentially the day his feet touch ground in the U.S.
He now seems like he‘s trying to get in some ways to the left of the field on Afghanistan, and it seems like he‘s also attempting to sort of be the most establishment candidate possible by referring to the Republican field as, you know, whatever that quote was from Weaver, a bunch of cranks. Is there any hope for him? Is this sort of a trial run for four years down the road?
What do you think, John?
HEILEMANN: I don‘t believe, Chris, anybody ever runs for president basis of what might happen four years from now. I think Jon Huntsman is running for president because he thinks he can win, and because he thinks he would be the strongest candidate in the general election against Barack Obama. And it‘s certainly the case that a lot of people around the president think that Jon Huntsman, that assessment may be right, that he would be the strongest general election candidate.
He—I saw him and Perry yesterday in New York. And I‘ll focus just on Huntsman because that‘s the question. He was—he was a very impressive guy. I was in this room, where you‘re showing some film of him with Henry Kissinger about China. He was talking about foreign policy with the degree of sophistication and subtly and substance that no other Republican candidate can do.
He was very impressive. And the room of people who‘s turned out for that event was also very impressive. People like Lloyd Blankfein, I mean, big establishment names, financial names, and people in the political class. Very—it was an impressive turnout and impressive performance by him.
FINEMAN: Chris, can I say—can I just say that John Heilemann listed a bunch of names, Henry Kissinger, et cetera, et cetera, that probably will make Jon Huntsman cringe if those names are repeated at the grassroots of the Republican Party.
FINEMAN: Obviously, the problem Huntsman has is he‘s going to delay and delay and delay his moment of reckoning. He thinks he‘s going to somehow wait to turn things around in Florida. Huntsman‘s got to make a big showing in New Hampshire, if not beating Romney in New Hampshire, he‘s got to come second there to have a shot down the road at all, and that‘s not going to be easy.
HAYES: But do you feel—do you feel like there is—I mean, my understanding, my sense of the dynamics as they play out now is there‘s essentially two polls in this field. There‘s the kind of race among Huntsman, Romney, and Pawlenty to be kind of big money establishment, electable in the general front-runner, that position. And then there‘s a race to be the alternative, the grassroots, ideologically zealous, “fire them up” person, and that‘s Cain and Michele Bachmann, and possibly Ron Paul.
Is that how you see the dynamic of this race? Is there something that‘s sort of missing in that general sort of structure?
FINEMAN: Well, that‘s how I see it. And I don‘t think either of those positions is locked up. As you said, you know, Mitt Romney isn‘t so much a frontrunner as the front trudger, you know, or the front walker.
And same is true of Michele Bachmann. Everybody has made a big deal of Michele Bachmann over the last few days. But the bar was kind of low, Chris. I mean, you know, the fact she could stick to her brief was seen as, you know, the greatest rhetorical triumph since Churchill.
You know, let‘s get serious here. Neither one of those slots—and I think you‘ve properly identified the two basic slots—neither one of those is comprehensively and convincingly filled by anyone just yet.
HEILEMANN: I think—Chris, I think what Howard said is right there. I would only—the only thing I take exception to in your description is I think Tim Pawlenty is, in fact, trying to occupy a slot on the right. He‘s trying to figure out a way to be the electable candidate to Mitt Romney‘s right.
Huntsman, I think, is not necessarily trying to get to his left. I think the thing on Afghanistan is that he‘s trying to put his finger on is the fact that there is a strong element of the isolationist part of the grassroots Republican Party, conservatives, who are sick of the endless war and sick of spending a lot of money on the endless war.
FINEMAN: But Huntsman isn‘t going to be a convincing isolationist as the former Obama ambassador to China.
HEILEMANN: I don‘t disagree with that, Howard. But I—but he is trying to tap into something here that is a liberal position necessarily. The position of trying to get out of Afghanistan now is no longer the position of just the left.
HAYES: I agree with John and we‘ve seen in the votes in Congress and the lawsuit that was filed today against the Libya war, that there is a growing—I mean, public opinion is 60 percent, wants people to come home. Chuck Grassley is sending a letter to the president urging that. So, I think we‘re seeing a sort of—a corner turning.
Howard Fineman and John Heilemann, thanks so much. Great conversation. We appreciate it.
FIENMAN: Thank you, Chris.
HEILEMANN: Thanks, Chris.
HAYES: Still to come: Congressman Peter King starts round two of his hearings on what he calls the radicalization of Muslims in America and blames the liberal mainstream media for anyone being upset about it.
But, first a quick update: Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords has been released from the hospital five months after the shooting that nearly killed her. Giffords will move in with her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, at his home in Houston suburb. She‘ll continue to undergo daily outpatient therapy.
HAYES: There aren‘t words to describe an ad attacking a Democrat in California running in a special election. No, that‘s not right. There are words: racist, sexist, offensive and vile. That‘s coming up.
And Michele Bachmann‘s unabashed extremism in the name of evangelical politics. A closer look with Michelle Goldberg, who just profiled the congresswoman.
HAYES: Congresswoman Michele Bachmann‘s performance in the Republican debate this week has been generally portrayed as a success. It‘s helped her to establish herself as the front-runner to be the grassroots ideological alternative in the Republican primary to whatever one establishment candidate eventually seizes the actual front-runner mantel, cough, Mitt Romney, cough.
Bachmann raised more than $13 million for her 2010 House campaign—
$13 million, more than any other single House candidate. She founded the Tea Party Caucus in Congress.
When Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee decided not to run, it opened up a wide space for a credible evangelical candidate. The born again, cultural warrior, Bachmann is as well-positioned as anyone to capture the evangelical‘s grassroots energy that delivered a victory for Huckabee in Iowa in 2008.
During the debate Monday night, Bachmann spoke directly to her base.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA: I am 100 percent pro-life. I‘ve given birth to five babies, and I have taken 23 foster children into my home.
I believe the dignity of life from conception until natural death. I believe in the sanctity of human life.
And I think the most eloquent words ever written were those in our Declaration of Independence that said, it‘s the creator who endowed us with inalienable rights given to us from God, not from government. And the beauty of that is that government cannot take those rights away. Only God can give, and only God can take.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: New profile of Bachmann in “The Daily Beast” reveals the depth of her evangelical belief system, which she is able to signal in ways that often go over secular heads.
Joining me now is Michelle Goldberg, senior contributing writer for “Newsweek” and “The Daily Beast,” and author of “Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism.”
Michelle, thanks so much for joining me. It‘s a fantastic profile.
MICHELLE GOLDBERG, NEWSWEEK: Oh, hey, Chris. Thanks for having me.
HAYES: OK. So, you talk—the piece is called “Michele Bachmann‘s Unrivaled Extremism.” What is the kind of milieu of the world out of which Michele Bachmann has emerged?
GOLDBERG: Well, she‘s a perfect product of the religious right. You know, the religious—or the kind of modern evangelical movement in this country began in the 1970s, when there was a huge wave of people being born again all over the country. And she was swept up in that. She was born again in high school. She was involved in a group called Young Life.
And, initially, these evangelicals were very much drawn to the Jimmy Carter campaign, because he was one of them. He‘s the first modern presidential—he was the presidential candidate to talk about his evangelical faith.
And then in the late ‘70s, they all veered very sharply to the right,
which is exactly what happened to Michele Bachmann, who had campaigned for
Carter but then kind of—partly under the influence of someone named
Francis Schaffer (ph), who she often cites as being really pivotal to her -
pivotal to her intellectual development.
He was the one that got evangelicals really fired up about abortion, which had previously been more of a Catholic issue. And he also came up with an idea that I think is very important for people to understand, and that‘s the idea of a biblical world view, which essentially holds that all reality is determined by your kind of theological starting point.
GOLDBERG: And so, you know, basically, every single aspect of public life, of science, of history, of economics—everything is determined by your kind of religious belief, and only those with the correct religious beliefs can correctly perceive any sort of reality, and it‘s the way in which you can dismiss huge slots of history, things like evolution. You can basically say kind of anything that doesn‘t fit with your ideological is the product of mistaken theological premises.
HAYES: And there‘s a story you tell in it, aside from this sort of totalizing world view, that I found sort of striking and upsetting actually, about her being virulently anti-gay and the policies and politics she has marshaled, and that actually causing this very intense and profound rift inside her family.
GOLDBERG: Right. She wasn‘t—she didn‘t grow up evangelical. I mean, she grew up Lutheran. And although she often talks about being raised by a single mother and sometimes, she makes it seem as if she was on her own economically. In fact, you know, shortly after her father left the family, her mother remarried. And that man had several children of her own, some of whom were out of the house, some of whom she grew up with, you know, who were kind of her stepsisters, people that she was really close to, including Helen LaFave. And she‘s a lesbian.
I don‘t think any of step-siblings expected Michele Bachmann not to act on her religious convictions. But what really devastated them when Michele Bachmann was a state senator was the way she became the face of the anti-gay marriage movement. She was absolutely virulent. She was the one basically saying that, you know, unless this passes, homosexuals are going to be indoctrinating her children in the schools.
And not only that, but then when it came out that she had a lesbian stepsister—some of Michele Bachmann‘s relatives went to a hearing that she—on the anti-gay marriage issue just because they wanted her to see them there and to kind of put a human face on these policies she was pushing that were so hurtful to people in her own family. So, it got into the news, and she basically said that she had polled the siblings, there‘s nine in all, and that a majority were on her side, which really upset some of her step siblings who say that, (a), it didn‘t happen, and how vile to suggest that you would basically—you know, that kind of brothers and sisters would get together and take a vote on one of their members and vote against them.
HAYES: “Any of you who have members of your family in the lifestyle, we have a member of our family that is.” I‘m reading a quote you have in the piece. “This is not funny. It‘s a very sad life. It is part of Satan, I think, to say that this is gay.”
Michelle Goldberg‘s fantastic profile of Michele Bachmann is in “The Daily Beats” today. Michelle is also author of a fantastic book that you should go out and buy and read right now called “Kingdom Coming,” and another great book called “Means of Reproduction.”
Michelle, thanks so much for joining me. I really appreciate it.
GOLDBERG: Thanks so much for having me.
HAYES: Just ahead, Congressman Peter King didn‘t really learn anything new the last time he held hearings taking aim at an entire religion, but that didn‘t stop him from giving it another go. Congressman Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, joins me.
And up next, cable television executives are getting really, really nervous about a decision you may soon be forced to make.
HAYES: A headline from “Reuters” caught my eye today. “Cable worried about poverty, not Netflix.”
Cable executives from our bosses at Comcast and from Time Warner and NewsCorp spoke this week at an industry event, told the audience it wasn‘t the threat from online streaming movies or Apple that concerned them, it‘s the fact that people might not be able to afford the product.
You see, it turns out that, when the economy is bad, people have a hard time affording cable TV. We are right now in the midst of the second phase of a crazy macro-economic experiment.
It goes like this. Can we run an economy with wage stagnation, massive levels of household debt and high unemployment while also continuing to produce record profits and GDP growth?
Our first attempt at this ended with the financial crisis of 2008. Because it turned out that eventually the fates of CEOs and shareholders and creditors couldn‘t be completely severed from that of working class homeowners with adjustable rate mortgages.
We haven‘t seemed to learn our lesson. And now we‘re running the experiment again. I have a very hard time seeing how it could possibly end up with any better result.
Still to come, who needs Joe McCarthy when you‘ve got Republican presidential hopefuls talking loyalty oath? We‘ll talk to the first Muslim member of Congress about the reckless words of Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and others on the right.
Later, why is Pakistan arresting the very people who were key in helping the U.S. find Osama bin Laden?
HAYES: After Monday night‘s debate, it became clear, if it wasn‘t already, the Republicans are committed to making anti-Muslim demagoguery a central theme of the presidential campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HERMAN CAIN ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would not be comfortable because you have peaceful Muslims and then you have militant Muslims, those that are trying to kill us.
NEWT GINGRICH ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I just want to go out on a limb here. I am in favor of saying to people, if you‘re not prepared to be loyal to the United States, you will not serve in my administration, period.
We did this in dealing with the Nazis. And we did this in dealing with the communists. And it was controversial both times. Both times, we discovered after a while, you know, there are some genuinely bad people who would like to infiltrate our country. And we have got to have the guts to stand up and say no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Of course, Gingrich and Cain are relative late comers to this sort of thing. The OG, early adopter of Muslim baiting is, of course, none other than New York Congressman Peter King. Today, he upped the ante yet again with a second round of hearings on Muslim radicalization in the U.S., this time focusing on American prisons.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PETER KING ®, NEW YORK: Dozens of ex-cons who became radizicalized Muslims inside U.S. prisons have gone to Yemen to join an al Qaeda group.
PATRICK DUNLEAVY, RETIRED NY CORRECTIONS OFFICER: Individuals in groups that subscribe to radical Islamic ideology have made sustained efforts to target inmates for indoctrination.
REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D), MISSOURI: Of the 43 violent attacks carried out by Muslims since 9/11, there were only two clear cases of radicalized released prisoners plotting a terrorist act.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That last piece of data—it‘s likely because of actual data like that that shows the problem to be minuscule that Congressman King was a wee bit defensive about just what his motives could be for this undertaking.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING: I have repeatedly said that the overwhelming majority of Muslim Americans are outstanding Americans. Yet the first radicalization hearing, which this committee held in March of this year was met by much mindless hysteria, led by radical groups such as the Council of Islamic Relations and their allies in the liberal media, personified by “the New York Times.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: The National Jewish Democratic Council summed it up best, I think. They called today‘s hearings, quote, “utterly unnecessary.” Saying, “taken together with examples such as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich‘s and Harman Cain‘s deeply disturbing comments in Monday night‘s debate, these hearings are a manifestation of an upsetting GOP obsession with American Muslims. All Americans who treasure the freedom of religion should be concerned with the growing suspicion of Muslim Americans by the Republican party, which seems to be a requirement among its 2012 contenders.”
Mindless hysteria indeed.
Joining me now, the first Muslim elected to the United States
Congress, Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison. Congressman, thank you so
much for joining me tonight
REP. KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNESOTA: thank you, Chris.
HAYES: Congressman, you attended part of today‘s hearing. You submitted a statement for the record. And Congressman King has been in the strange position in which he‘s sort of—he wants to kind of keep talking about this issue and pursue this very intense sort of divisive rhetoric, and then defend himself from any charges that he‘s doing anything objectionable.
What do you—what is your response to that? Why do you think we‘re having these hearings about Muslim radicalization?
ELLISON: I think we‘re having these hearings because it‘s a well tried right wing tactic to try to create hysteria, fear, and division among Americans when the fortunes of an election are at stake. Don‘t forget Willie Horton. We‘ve been here before.
Don‘t forget the whole welfare queens. We‘ve been here before.
Unfortunately, Peter King wants to pick on a religious minority, wants to raise issues of loyalty, things like that, and this is incredibly divisive. I just hope Americans see through it and understand that, of course, all of us, all faiths, all colors, all cultures stand opposed to terrorism. And, of course, we all want to—all faiths and colors and cultures have stepped forward to protect America.
That‘s where the focus needs to be, but that‘s not where they want to keep it.
HAYES: Let me briefly address the substance of the hearing. There was testimony from a variety of law enforcement folks. Is there a problem with radical—with radical Jihadies infiltrating the prison system to recruit America‘s prisoners to the cause?
ELLISON: I would say this. You know, there is a problem with anyone who‘s violently radicalized and leaves prison to commit a crime, including white supremacist groups, neo-Nazis, including any number of groups. I think we ought to be protected from all of them.
But according to the statistical evidence, it‘s no more of a problem than any other group. So I say if some Muslims are getting violently radicalized, it‘s an issue. But what about white supremacists? What about neo-Nazis? What about Klan members? What about violent gang members?
I think that a lot of congress people on the panel pointed out that there‘s probably more carnage on the street from gang members who get radicalized and violent than there are any other. So this is just really an attempt to sort of select out the Muslim community.
As you pointed out, they‘ve been on this theme for quite a while.
Gingrich and Cain were on it just a few days ago.
HAYES: Let‘s talk about that. When I think back, last summer I was hosting a show while the whole Ground Zero Mosque craziness was blowing up. You see these—the comments in the GOP debate. Peter King, this is now his second hearing.
Are you surprised by how virulent and intense this has become amongst the Republican party? How mainstream it‘s become that this is now kind of a plank of the Republican agenda, is really going after Muslim Americans?
ELLISON: You know, I‘m actually not surprised. I mean, they‘ve been signaling and telegraphing that this is where they were going to go for quite a long time. You know what, with 9.1 percent unemployment, with the culpability of Wall Street and Republican deregulators right in front of the American people, I think it‘s really a distraction tactic.
I mean, what I‘m talking about is trying to bring people together to focus on economic prosperity for working people. That‘s what I think we need to focus on. And so I‘m hoping that we can focus on bringing Americans together, liberty and justice for all, not just some.
HAYES: I was hoping that the end of the King hearings would be that we need to dramatically reduce America‘s prison population as a bank shot means of reducing the possibility of radicalization within them. Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota, thank you so much for joining me tonight. I appreciate it.
ELLISON: Thank you.
HAYES: Still to come, the U.S.-Pakistan relationship takes another downward turn, as Pakistan officials arrest people they think helped the CIA find bin Laden. That‘s coming up.
And this is the least offensive part of an attack ad running in California. Prepare to have your conception of the most offensive attack in history revolutionized.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you doing?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was waiting for you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, I was waiting for you too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: The emotional scene in San Diego today as the USS Carl Vinson and its crew of more than 5,000 returned home from nearly seven months at sea. Their most notable assignment, ferrying the body of Osama bin Laden out to sea after his killing last month.
The raid that led to bin Laden has not done much to strengthen ties between Pakistan and the U.S. In fact, tonight, there is new evidence that the already frayed partnership is being tested once more, as NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell reports for us.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Chris. The U.S. relationship with Pakistan has suffered a major blow tonight, after Pakistan arrested CIA informants, five of them, who helped track down Osama bin Laden.
MITCHELL (voice-over): To the U.S., it‘s the greatest victory in the war against al Qaeda, the raid that finally got Osama bin Laden. But to Pakistan‘s powerful military, it‘s a huge embarrassment. And they are retaliating.
Arresting five CIA informants, including an Army major who monitored comings and goings at bin Laden‘s compound for months before the raid. House Intelligence Chair Mike Rogers is just back from Islamabad.
REP. MIKE ROGERS ®, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIR: I came away as pessimistic as I have ever been about where our relationship is and where it‘s going.
MITCHELL: Since the bin Laden raid, a parade of top officials, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Admiral Mike Mullen, Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry, and CIA Director Leon Panetta have all read the riot act to the Pakistanis for blocking CIA efforts against terrorists.
SEN. ROBERT CASEY (D), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: It‘s outrageous. It‘s unacceptable. Once again, I think the Pakistani government has taken steps that calls into question this relationship.
MITCHELL: Pakistan‘s failures are costing American lives, say U.S. officials. They claim IEDs used against the troops in Afghanistan are made in Pakistani factories. Panetta even showed Pakistani officials satellite photos of the bomb factories. But within days, someone tipped off the terrorists, who fled before they could be arrested.
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE: How long do we support governments that lie to us? When do we say enough is enough?
MITCHELL: Relations started going downhill in January after Raymond Davies, a CIA contractor, was arrested during a shootout in a Pakistani street, a failed mission that was never fully explained.
The U.S. is now holding up 300 million dollars in aid for Pakistan, but that is only a fraction of the 20 billion dollars that the U.S. has spent there since 9/11. Many in Congress want to slash a lot more of the aid, but Pakistan does control the supply routes to Afghanistan, has an expanding nuclear arsenal, and is still a principal hideout for al Qaeda.
HAYES: NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell.
It just might be the single most offensive political ad in history.
And given the history of political ads, that‘s really saying something.
Melissa Harris Perry will join me to unpack it next.
HAYES: The Internet has been blowing up today with a political ad targeting California Democratic Congressional candidate Janice Hahn? Hahn is running in a special election to fill the seat formerly held by Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman in Los Angeles. Her opponent, Tea Party supported Republican Craig Huey, doesn‘t even live in the district, but has already poured 500,000 dollars of his own money into the race.
Now, this new ad is definitely not from Huey‘s campaign, but from a group called Turn Right USA. The guy who made it, Ladd Ellinger Jr., has also been behind other campaign classic ads like Dale Peterson‘s ad when he ran for Alabama agricultural commissioner, and the John Dennis ad that portrayed Nancy Pelosi as the Wicked Witch of the West.
But this new ad, which we‘re only showing you part of—well, we‘ll just warn you, there‘s a lot of offensive languages and images ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In an insane effort to reduce gang violence, Janice Hahn hired hard-core gang members with taxpayer money to be gang intervention specialists. She even helped them get out of jail so they could rape and kill again.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I started working with Janet Hahn. Started working with Janet Hahn. Started working with Janet Hahn.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congress has enough gangsters. Janice Hahn, bad for L.A., bad for America. Let‘s keep her out of Congress, homies. Donate now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: I feel horrible that we just subjected to you that, you had to see it to believe it. Ellinger, who created the ad, has responded to the backlash, saying, in part, that critics can, quote, “suck it.”
But since this filth is now circulating all over the place, we wanted to actually address the claims being made, even if that‘s a bit like fact checking a port-a-potty.
So as part of its gang reduction efforts, the city of Los Angeles uses different violence prevention programs. One that it‘s affiliated with is called Homeys Unidos USA. Like many other programs in cities like Chicago, Newark and Boston, Homies Unidos recruits reformed gang members to become mentors, all in an attempt to stop at risk teens from—and young adults from joining gangs.
Programs like this one have been amazingly effective in cities across the country in reducing violence. In October of 2008, the federal government indicted 24 men in L.A. on racketeering charges. One of them -- one of them was Alex Sanchez, the head of Homeys Unidos. Sanchez was the only person tied to Homeys Unidos in the case.
After a lengthy political and legal battle, he was released on bail early last year, still never convicted of any crime.
Then there‘s the wee little fact that Mr. Sanchez and Homeys Unidos, as the name might suggest, work with predominantly Latino gangs, and the gangsters portrayed in the ad are black. To top it all off, Alex Sanchez, who we talked to today, told us that Janice Hahn never gave Homeys Unidos a dime.
The L.A. City Council she was a member of approves the mount allocated to gang prevention, but the mayor‘s office decides where the money is spent. So Janice Hahn never even had a say in whether or not Homies Unidos got the city funds that were allocated.
Of course, when you‘re making an ad like this, fealty to the basic details of the truth aren‘t really much of a priority. But you knew that anyway.
Joining me now is MSNBC contributor, columnist for my own “Nation” magazine and Tulane University professor, Melissa Harris Perry. Melissa, how are you?
MELISSA HARRIS PERRY, “THE NATION”: I am actually nostalgic for Willie Horton at this point.
HAYES: That‘s exactly what I was thinking. Those were the good old days. Or the famous Jesse Helms black hands one.
HARRIS PERRY: That‘s right. That kind of subtle racism that just kind of came underneath. We used to write whole books about how you couldn‘t be openly racist in political advertising. You had to pitch it underneath. But apparently that‘s done now.
HAYES: I was joking with my producers today that we needed to get a professor such as yourself, who‘s schooled in the art of closed reading, so that you could unpack for us the semaphores here in this ad. In all seriousness, what do you make of this ad?
Obviously, it‘s sort of obviously over the top and provocative and trying to get people talking about it, and we are doing that. The fact that they didn‘t think there would be enough backlash to make it not worth the while to me indicates something.
HARRIS PERRY: Absolutely. Look, I‘ve actually not kind of a prude on these kinds of questions. Had that been a Dave Chappelle skit, I actually probably would have forwarded it on my Twitter feed as something funny, right. I‘m also not necessarily a prude on American politics, in that sometimes you do provocative ads to get people talking.
I think the issue here is really two-fold. One, these are programs that are actually highly effective. And so the idea that a program like this should be open to this sort of characterization, I think, for me is very problematic. Particularly, look, what they‘re claiming here is that anyone who wants to help reduce gang violence, in part by employing those who are associated with gangs, is basically someone who wants to be a sex worker with black men and probably these brown men too.
Well, in this case, that means the Supreme Court of the United States is on the pole. And the reason it means that is because, look, the Supreme Court just said that the state of California is over-packed in its jails and is going to have to release many people who have been incarcerated, because the jails are over-packed.
That means somebody‘s got to find solutions to this. So unless Clarence Thomas is on that pole with her, I‘ve just got to say, it‘s a just completely wrong characterization.
HAYES: The Supreme Court is on the pole. Melissa Harris Perry. I like that quote. So here‘s the thing that also struck me about it. I wonder what you make of this. There was also something sort of retro about the politics of it, insofar as there was a period in American life when crime was very high, when crime was a very intense wedge issue, and racialized appeals to kind of white tribal sensibilities about these scary criminalized black men was a very effective political means.
And I feel like that doesn‘t have the same resonance now. I wonder if you agree with that, whether you do think this is out of date in that respect or if there is something still there that gets people in their gut.
HARRIS PERRY: There was a lot out of date even just in the hip hop itself. Look, in a certain way, no, that is almost ancient in the U.S. context. The anxieties about sort of black male brutality and violence, and particularly if you put the corruption of white womanhood with it, that goes way back.
That was an effective tool for creating lynch mobs at the turn of the century. It was an effective tool for talking about why we shouldn‘t have emancipation in the 19th century. It was an effective tool in the ‘40s and ‘50s around issues of integration and miscegenation.
I mean, it really is the number one American bring it out and wave it fear flag. You add that together with all of these scary Muslims in prison, and you‘ve got a real cocktail for fear mongering your way into office.
HAYES: Yes. The Osama bin Laden-Willie Horton love child.
HARRIS PERRY: That‘s pretty much what this is.
HAYES: It‘s the fevered imaginations of Peter King. Melissa Harris Perry is a professor at Tulane University. She‘s a colleague of mine of “the Nation.”
She‘s also the only person sufficiently brilliant to sanctify a discussion like this and not make me feel dirty after it. Melissa, thank you so much. I appreciate it.
HARRIS PERRY: Thanks, Chris.
HAYES: All right, that is not going to do it for us this Wednesday edition of THE LAST WORD. I‘m Chris Hayes, in for Lawrence O‘Donnell. You can read more of my work, as I just said, at TheNation.com, “Nation” magazine. Or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisLHayes.
“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” is up next. Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: Chris, I sort of can‘t believe you played that whole ad.
HAYES: I can‘t either. It kept going on. I was like, wow, we really cut this long, didn‘t we?
MADDOW: I‘ve seen the original thing. So I think you did maybe cut out something in the middle. But boy did you get a lot of it on the air.
HAYES: You‘re welcome, America.
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