'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Thursday, August 18, 2011
Read the transcript to the Thursday show
Guest Host: Melissa Harris-Perry
Guests: Jonathan Capehart, Ezra Klein, Matea Gold, Rep. Ed. Markey
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, GUEST HOST: Well, remember your worst day of
high school, when your friends talked about you behind your back, your
economics teacher threw in a surprise exam? At least you had summer
vacation? Yes, politics is just like high school.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is good news and bad news. Unemployment
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Transition to democracy in
HARRIS-PERRY (voice-over): Republican candidates for president should
be careful what they wish for.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That is it from CNBC on a very negative stocks
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Another down arrow.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Another dismal day comes to a close.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wish I had a new focus on what he`s talked about
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A major address after Labor Day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to hear more about the jobs.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Put Americans back to
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Obama aims to keep white voters onboard.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Only 26 percent approved of the way the president
is handling the economy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He has been traveling through mostly white,
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want to be onboard too.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t want to hear about another commission.
OBAMA: I wish that the speaker had taken me up on a grand bargain.
HOWARD DEAN, FORMER DNC CHAIRMAN: He has to fight.
GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They should be
HARRIS-PERRY: Rick Perry wants government transparency, so reporters
are looking through his windows.
PERRY: They should open their books up.
HARRIS-PERRY: But the president isn`t the only Republican punching
PERRY: The EPA wants to call the shots, no matter how many jobs their
draconian policies and zealous actions might kill.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Governor Perry has criticized and stepped back
from global warming.
PERRY: Global warming has been politicized.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are these candidates distracting themselves with
these other kinds of issues?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it`s going to change soon.
PERRY: Still a scientific theory.
HARRIS-PERRY: The president left for vacation, but the right won`t
let him rest.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He shouldn`t be out
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Romney has repeatedly slammed President Obama for
taking a vacation on Martha`s Vineyard.
ROMNEY: I wouldn`t be looking to go spend 10 days in Martha`s
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The former Massachusetts governor will be there,
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Borderline absurd.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The presidency travels with Obama.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m going to venture a guess -- there will be
golf and ice cream.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s going. Let`s move past that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Good evening from New York.
So, what was your day like?
Here`s what President Obama`s day was like. He called for President
Assad to step down in Syria as the Assad regime`s violence against the
Syrian people rages on.
The Dow dropped 419 points and closed below 11,000. New reports
showed unemployment claims spiked, home sales fell, and prices on gas and
food went up.
There`s major economic trouble in the Euro zone.
And those are just the headline news items.
There`s also the Justice Department investigation into the S&P, new
homeland security rules on deportation, fighting in Libya between Israel
And that`s still just today. This is what a Thursday is like for the
In the meantime, he`s running for re-election against 11 Republicans,
all of whom are attacking him for every move he makes, on every issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Better late
than never is no way to conduct United States foreign policy. This is yet
one more instance of President Obama leading from behind on foreign policy.
The president should have acted weeks ago to call on President Assad to
HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I applaud the president for
trying to go out and connect with the people with an economic growth plan.
But he didn`t find it. So, I decided I`m going to give him mine. I
already had an economic growth plan.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
HARRIS-PERRY: And today is a fairly light day for campaign attacks,
since heavy hitters Mitt Romney and Rick Perry were mostly quiet.
Now, look, this is the job. No one is asking you to feel bad for the
president. It is the job that this president and all presidents sign up
for. And most of them sign up twice.
But it`s worth remembering just how much that job entails, especially
when the presidential candidates are going around the country promising
anything and everything to voters.
Take Michele Bachmann giving us $2 a gallon gas. Look, they can do
this because they are not in a position, and most of them will never be in
a position, of having to actually deliver it. They won`t ever confront the
limits of executive power, or an intractable Congress. Oh, yes, Congress!
Today, there`s a story about Republican Senator Tom Coburn talking
about the president at a town hall in Oklahoma. Now, Senator Coburn and
former Senator Obama are friends.
Here`s Coburn back in April.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TOM COBURN (R), OKLAHOMA: I love the man. I think he is a neat
man. I don`t want him to be president. But I still love him.
He is our president. He`s my president. And I disagree with him,
adamantly, on 95 percent of the issues.
But that doesn`t mean I can`t have a great relationship. And that`s a
model people ought to follow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So this is his friend. And a constituent recently
asked this friend, Senator Coburn, if President Obama, quote, "wants to
destroy America." Coburn, the president`s friend, responded with this.
Quote, "Obama`s intent is not to destroy. His intent is to create
dependency because it worked so well for him. As an African-American male
-- Obama received tremendous advantages from a lot of these programs."
All right. Catching my breath.
The paper reports that Coburn went on to say that most of the
country`s problems were created by Congress, and that, quote, "I don`t
think that presidents matter that much."
Now, look, Harry Truman famously quipped, if you want a friend in
Washington, get a dog. The Oval Office is a lonely place.
But there`s this idea that the American president is some kind of
Superman with, shall we say, magical powers who can fix the economy faster
than a speeding bullet, bend the Congress to his will, dispatch foreign
dictators, and bring world peace while giving everyone tax cuts, fully
protecting entitlements, and erasing the national debt, which is basically
the idea that the presidential candidates are pushing right now.
Joining me now is Jonathan Capehart, "Washington Post" editorial
writer and MSNBC contributor.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Hey, Melissa. That was -- that
was incredible. I was watching intently. So, sorry for not being
HARRIS-PERRY: Not at all.
Now, look, it is said that a presidential campaign is basically like a
job interview, a very long one, right? And so, we hired the president in
2008, and now his contract is up for renewal.
This in 2012 might be sort of a job performance review. What kind of
review do you think he`s going to get from the American people?
CAPEHART: I think that the president is getting sort of a middling
review to almost negative review from the American people. If you look at
the latest polls, particularly the one on his handling of the economy,
where it`s now -- I think it`s a Gallup poll where he is down to 26
percent. The Gallup daily tracking poll has him bouncing between 39
percent and 41 percent, and all of the other polls have his job approval
rating down to about in the lower 40s.
And the American people are upset and they are angry and they are
frustrated, and they are anxious is the proper word.
And so, I think that they would -- if President Obama were to come in
for his review, they would say, buddy, you`ve got some work to do.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, undoubtedly.
And I was looking at those poll numbers, I was thinking to myself,
even as someone who is generally supportive of this president, it would be
hard for me if a pollster said, what do you think about the economy -- I
mean, you know, you`d have to not be paying attention to the empirical
realities of the world to give anyone at this point a good grade on that.
But that said, what do you make of Senator Coburn`s comments about
President Obama? I honestly haven`t been able to bring myself off the
ceiling enough to make a cogent response to this.
CAPEHART: You and I me both. When I saw the comment, I thought,
advantages as an African-American male? Please, Senator Coburn, point out
what those advantages are, because there are a slew of African-American men
who would love to know what they are so that they can take advantage of
them the way that President Obama took advantage of them when he was --
when he was not president.
I think what we`re seeing here there though, and, you know, Senator
Coburn is a decent man. I can`t get into his heart. But he strikes me as
a decent man, a nice man, not motivated by animus. He is just from a
different political philosophy.
And so, when you look at it like that, I think what we are seeing here
is basically the fundamental differences between progressives, liberals,
and conservatives. You look at what he said in the clip -- or in the quote
that you read, you know, conservatives think that governments should be
small, that people should pull themselves up by their boot straps, and if
they get into trouble, they should do everything possible to help
Progressives, on the other hand, think that, yes, sure, if people fall
down on their luck through no fault of their own, yes, they should pull
themselves up by the boot straps, but sometimes people need temporary help
or some help from the government. Otherwise, what`s government there for
if you`re paying all -- you`re paying taxes into these programs and things
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me push back just a bit. I think it`s easy to read
Coburn as a fully racialized critique, because I wasn`t there also when
they were passing out the black folk advantages, or to read it as, you
know, as you are there, as truly just sort of a small government critique.
But the fact is that the other part of the criticism coming today in
this kind of Obama against the world is Maxine Waters, Congresswoman Maxine
HARRIS-PERRY: -- and many members of the Congressional Black Caucus
who would identify themselves both as friends to African-American politics,
you know, so not motivated by race issues, and also as progressives.
Is Obama sort of taking for granted that those voters are going to
come to come along, and is simply focusing on independent voters, or is
there something else we should be reading into that criticism?
CAPEHART: Well, I think what we`re seeing here is fascinating. What
happened in Detroit at that town hall meeting and Congresswoman Waters`
response. For the first time, we are seeing African-American voters who,
by and large, were telling their members of Congress, don`t you dare
criticize President Obama. Don`t you dare say anything negative against
the president. Even though they probably supported what their members of
Congress thought was, you know, the president should be held accountable on
jobs and the economy and other things.
So, I think because the president`s being pushed hard now by African-
Americans, pushed hard now by independents and moderates, pushed hard now
by conservatives, what we are seeing is a president, as you said, who is
basically under siege.
But I do think that coming in the fall, especially when everyone comes
back from vacation, we`re going to see a different kind of President Obama.
And I think that the President Obama people are looking for.
HARRIS-PERRY: Sure. Well, I`ll tell you what? It certainly makes me
happy not to be the president today.
HARRIS-PERRY: Jonathan Capehart of "The Washington Post" -- thanks
for joining me.
CAPEHART: Thanks, Melissa.
Now, President Obama will also while he`s on vacation be working on an
address that he`s going to deliver shortly after Labor Day outlining his
plan for job creation and deficit reduction. Sources tell "The Washington
Post" that the president will propose, quote, tax cuts for companies that
higher workers, new spending for roads and construction and other measures
that would target the long-term unemployed.
Obama also plans to announce a major push for new deficit reduction,
urging the special congressional supercommittee in the debt ceiling deal
this month to identify even more savings in the $1.5 trillion it has been
tasked with finding.
Joining me now to talk about this part of President Obama`s task is
"Washington Post" columnist and MSNBC contributor Ezra Klein.
Thanks for joining me, Ezra.
EZRA KLEIN, WASHINGTON POST: Good evening.
HARRIS-PERRY: You have been working hard today. You may be also
working as hard as the president.
KLEIN: I don`t know about that.
HARRIS-PERRY: So a memo by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor sent to
House Republicans says we have to put an end to this policy uncertainty.
That means we have to stop talking about new stimulus, right, because we
have no money for it.
If the Republican House is saying no stimulus money, what is the
president going to be able to say that he can actually move through this
KLEIN: Well, he can`t say much. He can give a speech, but I think we
have found in the last couple of years, and political scientists like
yourself have found over time, speeches don`t do that much. They are great
on TV, they`re great in the narrative, they don`t do that much to move
members of Congress.
What I think the White House has to become more comfortable in doing,
and there have been good reasons they haven`t done it thus far, is using
leverage -- in much the way the Republicans do. When the Republicans
decided in 2010 that they were not just going to come into power and give
out their message, give some speeches, say the president was spending too
much. They were instead going to use the debt ceiling, the potential of
the government shutdown in March, the tax deal before they came into power
where all Bush tax cuts were going to expire. And they are simply going to
be every time say, we are willing to not move forward, we are willing to
let consequences happen if we don`t get our way.
And that changed the agenda. It forced the agenda onto their
Now, sometimes it`s irresponsible, like on the debt ceiling.
KLEIN: You don`t want to do that.
But things like the supercommittee, you could come to the
supercommittee and the president could say, I will not sign that deficit
reduction bill that does not include immediate action on jobs. If
Republicans would like to say, well, then we`re not going to have a deficit
reduction bill and we`re going to take $600 billion out of the Pentagon - -
HARRIS-PERRY: The way you talk about leverage, you know, it`s
interesting because it reminds me that one of the anxieties during 2008 was
that then-Senator Obama was going to be a Chicago politician.
HARRIS-PERRY: But I actually hear you saying he should be more of a
What other than the super committee or how relative to the
supercommittee can he find that leverage point? What is the fulcrum for
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, the guy at the bully pulpit is not much of a
bully. That is not really in his nature, I don`t think.
But there is the budget battle that will come later in the year when
we need to do spending bills for 2012. This is the same battle that almost
led to the shutdown in February and March. You could see it happen there.
And to some degree, they can create their own leverage. I mean, they
simply can be unwilling to move forward on other priorities until they do
The truth of the matter is, though, and it gets to your introduction
which I thought was eloquent on this point, there isn`t all that much they
can do. We -- people who want to see action on jobs would like to believe
they have more power than they actually do. They simply cannot move
Congress, unless Congress is the more powerful branch. Congress has the
capacity to write legislation, can pass it over the president`s veto, the
president can do neither thing.
And the only other question is where does outside pressure come from?
Do other forces begin to help President Obama in that effort?
Today, Morgan Stanley came out with this report and said we`re going
to have fiscal tightening and that`s going to create a policy-induced
slowdown. Republicans might want to listen to that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. So, the president has to get to us on jobs, jobs,
jobs. And we have to remember that Republican House -- they`re all up for
re-election too, right? It`s not just the president.
HARRIS-PERRY: Ezra Klein, MSNBC contributor, and also sitting in this
week for Martin Bashir. And so, you can catch Ezra this week on "MARTIN
Ezra, thanks for joining me.
KLEIN: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Coming up, why cozy relationships between Rick Perry
and his donors are something you should be aware of?
And why would the Koch brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity has an
interest in school board elections in Wake County, North Carolina? That`s
what we wanted to find out. And that`s later in the show.
HARRIS-PERRY: So earlier today, Jon Huntsman tweeted about science.
Just to clear the air. Tweet, "To be clear, I believe in evolution and
trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy." It is now the most
retweeted tweet of any GOP 2012 candidate ever.
It also means we`re going to talk about crazy. Coming up.
Namely, all the other GOP candidates who don`t believe in evolution,
who don`t trust scientists on global warming, and who think the
Environmental Protection Agency wants to kill jobs. One of those
candidates is Texas Governor Rick Perry.
Up next, why Perry is under fire for seeming to favor his big donors
when it comes to big deals.
HARRIS-PERRY: Last night, we fact checked Texas governor and
Republican presidential candidate Rick -- no relation -- Perry`s claims
about his miraculous job creation in Texas.
Today, a key member of the Obama administration challenged Perry`s
education record in the Lone Star State. It seems that from preschool to
graduate school, Texas students are suffering under the governor`s
Education Secretary Arne Duncan slammed Perry`s handling of the Texas
school system in a news interview with Bloomberg TV`s Al Hunt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ARNE DUNCAN, EDUCATION SECRETARY: Texas has really struggled, and I
feel badly for the children there. Texas may have the highest high school
dropout rate -- I`m sorry, the lowest high school graduation rate in the
country. Far too few of the high school graduates are actually prepared to
go to college. You`ve seen massive increases in class size. You`ve seen
cutbacks in funding.
And, Al, we have to educate our way to a better economy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And it`s likely to get worse. Mr. No Relation Perry is
using this year`s budget to slash $4 billion from public schools -- $46
million from the University of Texas alone. And U.T. is part of the
statewide system that`s one of the largest in the country. Perry and a
Texas think tank are pushing a plan spearheaded by a Perry donor to
overhaul the university system in a way that at least one dean warns will
drive top students and faculty away.
Now, all of the members of the system`s regents board are Perry
appointees, and among them, one of his top campaign donors, James
Dannenbaum, a vice chairman. Now, Dannenbaum`s engineering company has
also been awarded multiple state contracts.
Dannenbaum just happens to be one of Perry`s biggest contributors,
donating more than $320,000 to Perry. And he certainly is not alone.
With me now is Matea Gold, staff writer for the "Los Angeles Times"
and the "Chicago Tribune" and a co-author of a revealing new piece on Rick
Perry`s biggest campaign donors.
Matea, thank you for joining me tonight.
MATEA GOLD, L.A. TIMES: My pleasure, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, Matea, your reporting found that of the $102
million of donations Perry received while governor, more than a third of
that, about $37 million, has come from just the 150 individuals and couples
and nearly half of those donors received business contracts, tax breaks or
were appointed to boards.
Now, along with Dannenbaum, who stuck out to you as the biggest donors
who seemed to enjoy the kind of best karma after sending in these checks to
GOLD: Look, to begin with, I think we were just struck by the
enormous amount of money that Perry raised, as you pointed out, from such a
small cadre of donors. But what my colleague Melanie Mason and I
discovered was that there are really some pretty amazing benefits that
these donors accrued as well.
There`s Bob Perry, a Texas home builder, longtime generous donor to
conservative causes, whose attorney helped create an agency that was
supposed to protect homeowners against shoddy home building. It was
considered so dysfunctional by consumer groups it was disbanded.
There`s Red McCombs, a billionaire who gave $400,000 to Governor Perry
and a racetrack he has invested in is slated to get $25 million for the
next 10 years in state subsidies.
And the most fascinating example was Harold Simmons, who is the second
largest individual contributor to Governor Perry. He gave him over $1
million in the last decade. And Governor Perry signed a law that Harold
Simmons` company, Waste Control Specialists, lobbied hard to pass which
would allow a private company to operate a low level radioactive waste
disposal site in Texas.
And then Perry appointees then granted that single license to WCS.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, obviously, that is incredibly icky, and
particularly that final one, the idea that there is a potential nuclear
polluting threat that`s given sort of carte blanche to go into this
community, even after we have findings.
But is there anything actually illegal about this donation and favors
relationship? Or is this just kind of how they do business in Texas?
GOLD: Well, we found no evidence of illegality. And I would say,
unfortunately, for our system, it`s not just the way they do business in
Texas. This is a reality of the world and our political system in our
country. To varying degrees, we see examples of this across the political
To be fair, President Obama had dozens of bundlers in 2008 campaign
who got prominent positions as ambassadors or in his administration.
But what was really striking, what we found in Governor Perry`s
contributors was one that they gave so much money to him, because Texas
allows unlimited contributions. And that many of the benefits they accrued
were personally lucrative for them or their own individual businesses.
HARRIS-PERRY: So I think you make a really good point here, and
particularly given that Governor Perry has been governor for so long. It`s
probably hard to find anyone in the state in business who hasn`t at some
But that said, I know a spokesperson has said there`s nothing
particular that these donors got that other folks didn`t get. All Texans
are treated the same.
Based on your reporting, and your investigation, is that an accurate
statement? Is it really true that there is no particular karma for these
sets of donors?
GOLD: Well, it`s hard to know exactly how these donors would fare
against folks who haven`t given money without being inside the process.
But what`s clear is that in his decade, more than a decade in office,
Governor Perry has really effectively remade Texas through his appointments
to these various agencies to create an incredible pro business climate.
And so, that to a large extent is one of the greatest benefits that
some of his donors have accrued, and most of them are the biggest corporate
leaders in Texas.
HARRIS-PERRY: Matea Gold, staff writer for "The Los Angeles Times"
and "The Chicago Tribune" -- thanks for joining me to talk about the guy
who is not related to me tonight.
GOLD: My pleasure.
HARRIS: Coming up: the new favorite bogeyman of Republican candidates
for the president, the Environmental Protection Agency.
HARRIS-PERRY: A little reminder that our country is capable of great
change. Ninety-one years ago today, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution
was ratified. Now, it is one of my favorite amendments as it guarantees
women the right to vote.
The 19th Amendment is the result of generations of Americans who
fought, were defeated, and got up and fought again. This amendment had
been introduced over and over again in Congress since 1878.
The effort was led by women like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Katie
Stanton. But it took until May of 1919 for Congress to pass it, and until
August 18th, 1920, for the state of Tennessee to be the 36th state to
ratify it. And it passed by only one vote in the Tennessee Legislature,
after tying 48-48.
And that one vote came from 24-year-old Harry Burn, who said he
changed his vote because his mother asked him to. From all of the voting
women of America, thank you, Mrs. Burn.
Coming up, what do the Republican front-runners have against the
Environmental Protection Agency? An organization created by a Republican
president? Congressman Ed Markey joins me on the topic next.
HARRIS-PERRY: In the Spotlight tonight, protecting polluters? It was
a Republican president, Richard Nixon, who established the Environmental
Protection Agency in 1970. It was another Republican president, George
Herbert Walker Bush, who signed the Clean Air Act in 1990.
But this year, in yet another display of how different these
Republicans are from their predecessors, the Republican presidential
candidates are promising to dismantle their own party`s environmental
Michele Bachmann said that the EPA should be renamed the Job Killing
Organization of America and has called global warming science a hoax.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATEPERRY: And I
guarantee you the EPA will have doors locked and the lights turned off.
And they will only be allowed conservation. It will be a new day and a new
sheriff in Washington, D.C.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Now Texas Governor Rick Perry has also said that the
EPA is a job killer, and called for President Obama to put a moratorium on
all regulations for at least six months. This despite independent research
that says environmental regulations actually create new jobs.
In his book, Perry called global warming science, quote, "one
contrived phony mess that is falling apart under its own weight."
And now, even Mitt Romney, who proposed plans to reduce greenhouse gas
emissions when he was governor of Massachusetts, thinks the EPA shouldn`t
try to do anything about global warming.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATEPERRY: And do I support the
EPA? In much of its mission, yes. But in some of its mission, no. The
EPA getting into carbon footprints and --
ROMNEY: I just don`t -- I think we may have made a mistake. We have
made a mistake, is what I believe, in saying that the EPA should regulate
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Joining me to help me understand why people are now
running against clean air and clean water is Congressman Ed Markey, the
ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee. Thanks for being
REP. ED MARKEY (D), HOUSE NATURAL RESOURCES COMMITTEE: You`re
HARRIS-PERRY: Seriously, why have the Republican candidates decided
to bash the EPA? I mean, have you seen evidence that this is really jobs
based? Do environmental regulations kill jobs?
MARKEY: No. Actually, environmental regulations create more jobs
because it drives innovation. There`s more investment from venture
capitalists into trying to invent the new technologies which we use here in
the United States and then we export around the rest of the world.
What`s really going on here is there`s a contest amongst Republicans
as to who can be the most anti-environment. For Republicans, EPA stands
for Every Polluter`s Ally. And, you know, when Rick Perry says that he
wants Texas to be able to secede from the union, he also wants the union to
secede from science.
Rick Perry and these other guys, they are allergic to science. And
too many of the Tea Party people who basically don`t believe in science are
now controlling a Republican party that once had a long rich history. But
now it is controlled by the oil industry, controlled by the coal industry,
controlled by the industries that don`t care how much harm they do to our
But even more importantly, to the health of the American people, who
will suffer dramatic negative health consequences from the policies the
HARRIS-PERRY: I hear you on science. But I`m not quite sure that it
takes science to recognize, for example, that Texas is suffering through
its worst-ever drought, and that Rick Perry, as you`ve pointed out, is not
only sort of refusing to carry out greenhouse gas regulations, but his main
response to this drought seems to be the designation of official prayer
days for rain, right? Prayer for rain.
Not that I`m necessarily against praying for rain. But I just think
that if one is governor, maybe there`s some set of policies that you could
pursue. You suggest here that there`s something going on with the
Republican nominee or the potential nominees here. What has happened to
Republicans since Nixon, since George H.W., that makes it so difficult to
have this conversation about science and about our environment?
MARKEY: Well, you know, science is an answer to prayers. Praying
itself is not going to make it rain. The drought is not going to be solved
by prayer. What we need to do is just recognize that there are dramatic
changes in the climate that has occurred, not only here in the United
States, but we see the results of the ravaging of the environment in
Somalia because of climate change, and the impact it`s having on the people
What really is going on is for better or worse, the oil industry, the
coal industry, because of large undisclosed -- huge amounts of
contributions to this party, have now taken it over. They don`t want oil
companies to have to pay their fair share of taxes. They basically now
have to say, as a party, they don`t care how many times they have to vote
that will actually result in a higher increase in asthma amongst American
children, more pollution into the rivers of our country that will induce
more cancers, uranium mining around the Grand Canyon.
The list goes on and on. But all year long, that is what the votes
have been of the Republican party in Congress because of the control of the
oil and coal industry.
HARRIS-PERRY: Massachusetts Congressman Ed Markey, thank you not only
for joining me tonight, but for your leadership and continued work on these
MARKEY: Thank you so much.
HARRIS-PERRY: Coming up, North Carolina`s Wake County Board boasts
one of the most diverse and successful school districts in the country.
But now their conservative school board is changing that. That`s next.
And later, even though President Obama may be visiting a popular
vacation destination, the commander in chief is never really on vacation.
And that`s coming up.
HARRIS-PERRY: A school district in North Carolina has become the
frontline to keep and grow diversity in our nation`s public school system.
At issue, a now repealed policy in the Wake County Public School System
that achieved economic and racial diversity by ensuring that no more than
40 percent of students in any of the district`s schools were on a reduced
lunch program. That`s a marker of poverty.
That policy, which was adopted 11 years ago, was one of the first of
its kind to integrate schools on an economic basis, after courts ruled
against using race-based criteria. Students were sent to schools
throughout the system to ensure a healthy mix. And the result as reported
by "the Washington Post" earlier this year, is that over the years, both
Republican and Democratic school boards supported the system.
A study of 2007 graduation by "Ed Week Magazine" ranked Wake County
17th among the nation`s 50 largest districts with a rate of 64 percent.
"The Post" also cited benefits beyond academic achievement. Quote, "I want
these kids to be culturally diverse," said Clarence McLean (ph), who is
African-American and the guardian of a niece and nephew who are doing well
in the county schools. "If they are with kids who are all the same, you
have to be able to break out of that mold. And it`s impossible. You`ve
got to be able to step outside of your little world."
Then came the school board election of 2009. A group of conservative
candidates, campaigning on a platform of so-called neighborhood schools,
won a five-four majority on the Wake County School Board and swiftly began
dismantling the integration policy, using coded language from the Civil
Rights era. Quote, "forced bussing."
First, a little background about Wake County. It`s home to one of the
largest districts in the county, with more than 143,000 students . Just
under half are white, nearly a quarter African American. Almost 15 percent
are Hispanic. And six percent are Asian.
The county itself includes the city of Raleigh, its poor urban areas,
along with affluent suburbs and rural areas outside of the city. About 10
percent of Wake County lives in poverty. The area is home to both the
legendary Wolfpack of North Carolina State University and the historic Shaw
University, where the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was
The community did not take the attack on their schools lying down.
Wake County teaches, students, parents, community leaders and clergy are
outraged and have protested the Republican-led school board`s effort to
dismantle the district`s integration effort.
More than two dozen people were arrested at school board meetings in
the past. And now there are multiple reports, directly or indirectly
linking the Koch Brothers, those mysterious right wing billionaires behind
the Astroturf group Americans for Prosperity to the Republican school board
members who are actively pushing to resegregate the Wake County schools.
To be fair, it`s not entirely clear just how much money the Koch-
backed Americans For Prosperity put behind the candidates in 2009.
Speaking out of both sides of its mouth, in a statement just released, the
AFP says "on the one hand, Americans For Prosperity did not spend one
single dime on those elections."
But every Republican who helped repeal the Wake County integration
policy was endorsed by a local group Wake Cares, a group that, according to
its own website, is working to provide equal educational opportunities to
make Wake -- to all Wake County children.
And according to the North Carolina Chapter of Americans For
Prosperity, Americans For Prosperity is on record as supporting the parents
of Wake Cares through significant financial contributions, as well as other
The North Carolina coordinator for Americans For Prosperity also
admitted to "Newsweek" his group did perform, quote, "voter education and
volunteer work on the school board campaign."
Suffice it to say the waters are murky. But a national group that
supposedly has states rights libertarian ideals is meddling in a local
school board. And that school board`s district, that was once a national
example of how diversity and integration made every student better.
And it`s now being hauled back to a pre-Civil Rights Era status.
On a personal level, I spent nearly a decade living in North Carolina.
I still have friends and family living and working in Wake County. In
2008, I was proud to be from the state that had seen sit-ins over lunch
counter segregation go blue in support of the first African-American
But in the past few years, many Tea Party-backed North Carolina
Republicans, who came to office in 2009, have swiftly and viciously fought
against the state`s hard-won successes.
These are moments in American politics when I have feelings of shock
and wonder. Now I know that historically towns, states, businesses and
individuals have chosen to preserve racial segregation rather than reap the
economic and social benefits of fairness and equality.
But even knowing that history, I am dumbfounded that in the 21st
century we have any state, particularly one as diverse as North Carolina,
that is willing to turn back the clock. Now, as for the end game in Wake
County, that is yet to be decided. There is another Wake County school
board election on October 11.
Five seats are up for grabs. Four of them are held now by Democrats.
That`s every Democratic seat on the school board. So in order to take back
the majority, Democrats are going to have to win all five of those seats in
the next election.
That`s a hell of an uphill battle. And it`s still unclear exactly who
and, more to the point, whose money will be trying to tilt the vote in one
way or another, in an attempt to repeal the 20th century. >
Coming up, he is damned if he does and damned if he doesn`t. The
president leaves for his vacation on Martha`s Vineyard and gets criticism
from the predictable and not so predictable corners. Why I say enough.
HARRIS-PERRY: President Barack Obama arrived in Martha`s vineyard
today to begin his 10-day vacation on the Massachusetts island. And while
his trip may have just begun, criticism of the president`s choice of
destination and the fact that he chose to go on vacation at all has been
going on for at least a week.
Today, the Massachusetts Republican Party issued this letter, a
welcome letter, that reads in part, "Dear Preso, thank you for choosing
Massachusetts as your preferred getaway from those arduous speeches you
recently gave on debts, jobs and economy. Hopefully the accompanying
influx of tourists will create some jobs on the island."
And presidential candidate and former government of Massachusetts Mitt
Romney took this job at the president on a radio station in Obama`s
hometown of Chicago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If I were president today, I
wouldn`t be looking to go spend 10 days on Martha`s Vineyard. Now,
Martha`s Vineyard is in my home state of Massachusetts, so I don`t want to
say anything negative about people vacationing there.
But if you`re the president of the United States and the nation is in
crisis -- and we`re in a jobs crisis right now -- then you shouldn`t be out
vacationing. Instead, you should be focused on getting the economy going
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Coincidentally, Romney forgot to mention that he too
will be spending time on Martha`s Vineyard for an August 27th fundraiser.
Now the president is being attacked on two fronts. One is for vacationing
on an affluent island. And while it`s true Martha`s Vineyard is a summer
home to many elites, it`s also a place steeped in a rich tradition of
African-American working and middle class families who found the island to
be a bit of an integrated racial oasis.
If they weren`t being so demeaning, the president`s critics might
learn something from the Vineyard`s history. The other part to this is the
notion that the president shouldn`t be going on a vacation in a time of
economic crisis. That didn`t stop Congress from taking vacation starting
August 3rd. They won`t be back in session until after Labor Day.
Now for conservatives who claim that family values are of the utmost
importance, it strikes me as quite odd that they chose to criticize
President Obama for wanting to spend quality time with his wife and two
Yes, he is president. But he is also a father. And as a mom who just
cut short my family vacation to report to work -- hi, kids -- the envy that
I feel is that the president actually gets to spend these moments with his
girls. Now President Obama has taken 61 days of vacation after 31 months
At this point in their presidencies, George W. Bush had taken 180 day.
Ronald Reagan had taken 112. Bill Clinton had been working hard, with the
least, just 28 days. But even on vacation, it seems the president`s work
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There`s no such thing as a
presidential vacation. The presidency travels with you. He will be in
constant communication and get regular briefings from his national security
team, as well as his economic team.
And he will, of course, be fully capable, if necessary, of traveling
back, if that were required. It`s not very far.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And when the president goes on vacation, so do some of
the reporters. So joining me from Martha`s Vineyard, NBC`s Kristen Welker.
Nice to have you this evening.
KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hi there. Nice to be here.
Thank so much.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks. Kristen, how true is Jay Carney`s statement?
What is the president going to be up to on this vacation? What does the
vacation schedule look like for President Obama?
WELKER: Well, according to White House officials, all of the
amenities of the office really do travel with the president. So that means
his communication equipment, his transportation that he needs. That means
that he can be in contact with world leaders at a moment`s notice.
And as you heard Jay Carney say there, he will be in constant contact
with his national security team as well as his economic team. So this
really will be, in part, a working vacation, according to White House
And from the perspective of a reporter covering this story, we will
have briefings throughout this 10-day trip. This is certainly not your
typical vacation, Melissa. Having said that, there will be some downtime,
some fun time with his family.
Just this evening, one White House official said, look, he is a
father. He is a husband. He deserves some quality time with his family,
as you just mentioned. So we will see these moments of him having ice
cream, probably swimming, playing golf.
I spoke with a presidential historian who said it`s really important
for the president to think about the fact that people are out of work right
now. The unemployment rate is above nine percent. So the images that come
out of this vacation will be important. It`s important that America sees
that this a working vacation.
But it`s certainly new to criticize presidents for taking vacations.
This is also something that we`ve seen throughout time, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: Given that, how likely do you think it is that this
president might cut his vacation short, given these criticisms?
WELKER: That is something we have been asking White House officials
every day. Do you have any plans to change this vacation around? Our
latest report is no. That will only happen if something really big
happens, if there is a crisis, if the president feels like he does need to
return to the White House.
And as you heard Jay Carney say there, it`s a very easy trip. It`s a
short trip. So the president can go back, if necessary. We also wondered
if we would hear from the president, especially given the volatility on the
stock market that we saw today. As of right now, we don`t expect to hear
from him. But this situation is very fluid. So that could always change,
HARRIS-PERRY: NBC`s Kristen Welker, I`m hoping you`ll bring me back
maybe an inkwell or a Black Dog t-shirt. That would be fun.
WELKER: I will. Done.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks for joining me tonight.
WELKER: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: You can have THE LAST WORD online at our blog,
TheLastWord.MSNBC.com. You can follow my tweets @MHarrisPerry. Shameless
plug for my new book called "Sister Citizen," Shameless shoot out to my
niece and my mother in law who are having birthdays today. And a big hello
to Rachel Maddow, whose show is up next.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening, Melissa. Happy birthday
to -- who is it, your niece and your mother-in-law?
HARRIS-PERRY: My niece and my mother in law. That`s right.
MADDOW: Happy birthday from the "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" as well.
Thanks, Melissa. Good to see you. And thank you to you at home for
staying with us for the next hour as well.
<Copy: Content and programming copyright 2011 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Copyright 2011 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>
MORE FROM MSNBC
Add msnbc headlines to your news reader: