'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Read the transcript to the Tuesday show
Guest Host: Melissa Harris-Perry
Guests: Andrea Mitchell, Richard Engel, Michael Steele, Ed Markey
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, GUEST HOST: There are now reports that just
minutes ago, Moammar Gadhafi spoke on the radio the radio in Libya, vowing
victory or martyrdom.
That`s stealing the attention back from that East Coast quake.
TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Two big breaking stories.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everything started shaking.
HALL: Libya being, obviously, the international story.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m inside Gadhafi`s compound.
HALL: Back to this earthquake.
HARRIS-PERRY (voice-over): Breaking news interrupted by breaking
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were on the air --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just felt on earthquake.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: I initially said, look, can we finish the
MARTIN BASHIR, MSNBC HOST: As far north as Toronto.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But it was (INAUDIBLE) on satellite.
BASHIR: And as far south as Atlanta.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The only nuclear power plant that`s been affected
is that North Anna Plant.
BASHIR: The National Cathedral in Washington has suffered some quite
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three of the pinnacles at the very top of it
MITCHELL: Sounded like a freight train was going through.
BASHIR: Not only a natural threat to the east coast, which is
bracing for hurricane Irene.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very dangerous storm.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m not panicking. I just want to be ready.
HARRY-PERRY: The shaking in Tripoli is Libyan rebels celebrating
inside Gadhafi`s compound.
MITCHELL: Breaking news, we continue to watch extraordinary pictures
out of Tripoli.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS: I am inside Gadhafi`s compound.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fortress-like compound in Tripoli.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Colonel Gadhafi`s whereabouts are unknown.
ENGEL: They are looting the compound.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is Moammar Gadhafi?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Smoke can be seen.
ENGEL: Smoke, thick black smoke.
MITCHELL: The golden fist statue brought down today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Republicans to criticize President Obama here.
HARRIS-PERRY: The president is being advised and attacked.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president trying to stay on top of these
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He gets rid of Osama bin Laden, potentially
Moammar Gadhafi, U.S. troops out of Iraq. It started to pull down in
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not giving a lot of praise, of course, to
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very critical on the front end of Libya.
GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want an
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Embarrass the president and push back and get the
American people on our side.
HARRIS-PERRY: Good evening from New York. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry,
in for Lawrence O`Donnell.
Colonel Moammar Gadhafi`s whereabouts are still unknown. But moments
ago, he addressed the Libyan people in a radio address. According to
"Reuters," he vowed martyrdom or victory in the fight against NATO. He
also said his withdrawal from his headquarters in Tripoli was a tactical
move after his compound was leveled to the ground by 64 NATO air strikes.
That withdrawal preceded the invasion of rebel allies into the
compound earlier today. Some looted the compound, walking away with
clothes, weapons and in case, a gold plated rifle.
Outside, rebel fighters climbed on a bronze statue of a fist
clutching a U.S. F-16 fighter jet. It`s a sculpture Gadhafi commissioned
after the regime survived a 1986 bombing.
Inside the compound and throughout Tripoli, pockets of loyalist
forces continue to resist rebel advances. Libyan rebels tell al Arabiya TV
the battle in Tripoli have left more than 400 dead.
Last night, Gadhafi`s son, an heir apparent, Saif al Islam, spoke
with reporters at the luxury Rixos Hotel where fighting continued outside
and pro-Gadhafi gunmen in the lobby refused to let the journalists inside
Saif said his father is in a secure location in Tripoli. He also
claimed the loyalists are winning the battle and said "To hell with the
ICC." That`s the International Criminal Court with a warrant for his
Ongoing loyalist insurgency led a NATO spokesman to urge caution at a
press conference in Italy today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COL. ROLAND LAVOIE, NATO SPOKESMAN: We have to remain vigilant and
to continue to protect the civilian population. Most notably, Tripoli is
still the site of numerous clashes between pro- and anti-Gadhafi forces and
the tension is far from being over. The situation in Tripoli is indeed
very, very dynamic and complex.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: According to a rebel official, the National
Transitional Council in Libya will move operations from Benghazi to Tripoli
within two days. The NTC will then begin to build a democratic government
under the leadership of Mustafa Jalil.
Now, speaking in Benghazi yesterday, Jalil said, "My role after the
fall of Gadhafi will continue unless I lose control."
Joining me now, NBC news foreign affairs correspondent and host of
"THE ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS," Andrea Mitchell.
Thank you for joining me.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: My
pleasure. It`s great to be with you. What a day! What developments here
in Libya and, of course, here at home. But most importantly, in Libya.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s stunning. Andrea, what are -- what is your
reaction to Gadhafi`s continued defiance tonight?
MITCHELL: I think that that was somewhat predictable, but it
certainly does not bode well because if he continues to be defiant, is a
fugitive, and leading some pockets of resistance, this means there will be
a lot more violence, it will be that much more harder for Jibril and this
Transitional National Council to exert real control.
They say they are going to move to Tripoli, but first, they have to
quiet the storm there. They`ve managed to get his compound, his military
garrison. But he has other places to hide.
And the fact that Saif al-Islam, his son and heir, is moving around
Tripoli so openly, brazenly, inviting journalists to follow him in his car
and go to night spots and shouting to supporters is certainly not a good
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, I think this brings me to sort of how many are
feeling in the newsrooms, this is a good news and bad news situation. I
mean, around noon we are watching all of these amazing reports with Richard
Engel, getting goose bumps about this notion of liberation. But, you know,
you told us some of the bad news.
What is other potential bad news in the context of all this good news
about the possibility of this dictatorship finally being over?
MITCHELL: Well, it`s weaponry, it`s the hidden stocks. They think
they`ve got a good handle, the U.S. does and NATO, on where the chemical
weapons are and those sites have not been plundered.
But that said, there`s a lot of dangerous Sarin gas and mustard gas
and other nuclear weapons and nuclear components. He gave up most of his
nuclear components, he said, to the U.S., back in 2006. But whether or not
he has other weapons stockpiled remains to be seen.
Then there are the shoulder-fired missiles and rocket-propelled
grenades, the other weapons he can use, particularly the weapons he can use
to bring down civilian aircraft and open question as to whether they`ve
been plundered, whether some have actually moved outside of Libya to other
terror nations or terror groups.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me follow up on the question of the control of the
weapons, because even if everything goes at the very best. I mean, if
tomorrow Gadhafi were captured and this were over, the fact is that
although dictators are horrible, and we`re glad to see a dictatorship fall,
dictators can also be pretty good at keeping control over, you know,
So, what happens in a country where it doesn`t -- it`s at least
seemed to me completely clear that the NTC is in control of this situation.
I mean, you have named for us some real dangers. What should we be looking
for in terms of the transition?
MITCHELL: Well, NATO and the U.N. and the State Department have been
working very closely with the TNC for several months now and believe that
they are at least committed to trying to exert control and control the
weapons and create civil society. It`s going to be tough. There`s no
question about that. These are tribal factions and a lot of internal
But they have said the right things, made the right moves. We`ve
been interviewing people who have been with them. Jeff Feltman, the
ambassador who`s the assistant secretary of state, spent several days with
them, there`s an Arab League meeting in Doha today and there will be in
Istanbul in the next couple of days and in Paris after that. So, the
international community is working very closely with them.
But can they exert control? Is this a week-long process? Is it a
matter of 72 hours?
There`s a real danger point here until they can either find Gadhafi
or quell the resistance. And he could be on the lam the way Saddam Hussein
was. And there was that very dangerous violent period before Saddam was
actually found when he was inciting more violence from his loyalists.
HARRIS-PERRY: And -- so particularly with that comparison, what are
the White House and NATO thinking about how long this is going to take? I
mean, is there any possibility here that the U.S. is going to end up with a
higher level of involvement?
MITCHELL: I don`t think you will see boots on the ground, as it
were. I think you`ll see a larger intelligence force, perhaps covert
force, Special Ops on the ground to try to help. But there have been NATO
and presumably British and French on the ground already.
We`ve had more of a supportive role on the air strikes, which were
critical in helping the rebel group make that movement, potential movement
and advance finally on Tripoli.
I think success is fairly predictable in a military context, but
civil disorder is certainly something that is almost -- almost likely to
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, again on this question of civil disorder. There
is a sort of moment of the son being out and about almost challenging,
obviously, international law, challenging the journalists. Is this sort of
par for the course, or is this an extraordinary moment?
MITCHELL: Well, that was pretty extraordinary. He is an interesting
character to say the least, because he was British educated. He was always
welcome in foreign capitals.
He was the advance man for his father with the West and in advancing
the normalization of relations with the U.S., with the Bush administration,
which was supported by the Obama administration as well, because they
decided based on representations from him, and he has met -- you know, he
goes to Davos and meets with foreign journalists and think tank people, so
he was pretty acceptable, until the "Arab Spring," until he repeated his
father`s bloody threats against the people of Benghazi when the protests
So, up until that point, he was considered the good guy and he was
blamed by hard liners within the regime because he persuaded his father to
give up the nuclear equipment that could have led to nuclear weapons. And
so, they basically gave up their bargaining chips, and the message some
fear this is going to deliver to Iran, to North Korea, to Syria, if Assad
can hold on, is don`t give up your weapons, because that`s your last
bargaining chip to prevent NATO air strikes.
HARRIS-PERRY: NBC`s chief foreign affairs correspondent and survivor
of the East Coast earthquake today, Andrea Mitchell -- thank you for
joining me tonight.
MITCHELL: Great to be with you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Coming up, the story that dominated the afternoon,
minor damage but major worry after the biggest earthquake to strike the
East Coast in 67 years. Why it highlights a big problem with nuclear
safety in this country, next.
HARRIS-PERRY: The next natural disaster to worry about is churning
through the Caribbean right now. Hurricane Irene is a category one storm
right now but is expected to become a major hurricane before making
landfall in the U.S., which is predicted for Saturday in North Carolina.
It`s expected to cause problems for most of the Eastern Seaboard.
Coming up, the quake that shook the east coast and why it should
shake up Republicans who don`t want to fund earthquake safety. Congressman
Ed Markey joins me next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For generations, this standard has protected --
UNIDENTIFEID MALE: What`s going on?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, OK, OK, I`ve been through earthquakes in
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: A revolution was occurring in real time in Libya, as
was a noteworthy rebound of the stock market. But news coverage shifted to
a 5.8 magnitude earthquake you saw in that scene in New York City at 1:15
Eastern Time this afternoon.
It was a rare earthquake that rocked millions of people as far west
as Illinois, as far north as Maine and Canada, and as far south as Atlanta.
It was centered in the area of Mineral, Virginia, 40 miles northwest of
Now, why do we stop everything and turn our attention to this East
Coast earthquake? Natural disasters reveal our shared and very real
vulnerable. When the levees fail, when the rivers rise, when the earth
literally moves under our feet, we are forced to question whether we are
ready to respond individually and collectively.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Earthquake.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s an earthquake.
(END VDIEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: When this building shook today, frankly, my first fear
I joined the staff of this show as we made the 16-story trek to the
ground floor of 30 Rockefeller Plaza. Many were trying to connect via text
to family and friends to figure out what was happening and the adrenaline
I was relieved to discover just minutes after making it to the
sidewalk that we were having an earthquake, just an earthquake. But that
relief may have been misplaced, because it never occurred to me that I was
working in a location near nuclear reactors that should have been replaced
20 years ago.
Today, I was reminded that when you are already in the stairwell, it
is too late to make a family emergency plan. As we started to learn more
about the potential catastrophes that did not actually occur in the
aftermath of today`s quake, it was also clear that when the ground is
shifting in Virginia and we are feeling it in New York, it is too late to
ask whether our country`s nuclear power plants are in good condition.
There are over 100 reactors in this country -- in some cases,
multiple reactors at the same site.
In June, after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, which followed the
earthquake in Japan, "The Associated Press" investigated oversight of U.S.
plants, the "A.P.`s" Jeff Don wrote this, commercial nuclear reactors in
the United States were designed and licensed for 40 years.
When the first ones were being built in the 1960s and 1970s, it was
expected they would be replaced with improved models long before the
licenses expired, but that never happened.
So far, there have been no reports of damage at any of the plants,
but two reactors at the North Anna Power Station that sit in the same
county as the quake`s epicenter were taken offline automatically. The
plant is now being run on diesel-powered generators. Learning this news
makes me want to talk to someone who knows something about our collective
So, with me now is Massachusetts Democrat Ed Markey, ranking member
of the House Natural Resources Committee and a senior member of the Energy
and Commerce Committee.
Nice to see you, Congressman.
REP. ED MARKEU (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Thank you. Good evening.
HARRIS-PERRY: This evening or earlier today, you wrote this on
Twitter. Quote, "Earthquake epicenter 15 miles from North Anna reactor,
lost electricity, diesel working, lesson to all nukes to check emergency
What do you say to those who believe the system worked today?
MARKEY: The system worked to the extent the plant shut down. But
there was a little glitch, because one of the four diesel back-up
generators did not work at the plant, and that`s something that we`ve known
about, a backed up diesel generators across our country.
I issued a report, Fukushima fall out back in May, after the accident
in Japan, and in it is a blistering, scalding, indictment of the lack of
attention which the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is paying to the safety
protections, which should be built into the operation of these nuclear
power plants. We are very fortunate that nothing really catastrophic
happened today with this nuclear power plant.
But when one of the four generators does not work, that provides the
measure of safety when a plant is shut down, we should just take it as a
warning and shift our attention over to what we can do from a preventative
perspective to make sure we never do see the kind of nuclear meltdown that
we saw in Japan.
HARRIS-PERRY: This issue of sort of preventative measures just, you
know, became very clear to me today as we were literally feeling, you know,
30 Rock shaking. And, you know, granted it was a relatively minor, you
know, set of quakes and aftershocks and all of that sort of thing,
certainly nothing like what we saw in Japan. But it was enough to get us
I mean, what should we -- you know, you put out this statement about
the series of recommendations, tell me in layman`s terms, what are some of
those recommendations? What should the NRC be looking at right now to
prevent this sort of thing from turning into a major catastrophe?
MARKEY: Well, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission right now is in the
process of approving a new AP1000 reactor which one of its own scientists,
one of its own engineers, says it will shatter like a glass cup in the
event of an earthquake. And some of those plans are planned to be built in
In addition, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is extending the
licenses of these nuclear power plants, as your report said, these plants
were only meant to operate 20 years, 40 years. Well, the Nuclear
Regulatory Commission is now in the process of improving the extension of
the life of these plants out to 60 years, event 15 or 20 years before they
hit 40 years.
So, I think the NRC has turned into a lap dog and not a watchdog.
And I think that Mother Nature, once again today, gave us a warning that we
should be humble and we should spend the extra money, take the extra time
to make sure that a catastrophic nuclear meltdown cannot happen in this
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, now, speaking of, you know, of this being a
warning, this warning came literally in the backyard, in the district, of
Eric Cantor -- and Eric Cantor was proposing cuts to the U.S. Geological
Survey, the National Weather Service, which, of course, tracks tsunamis.
And here, the North Anna reactor sits right under Cantor`s congressional
district, right when we saw kind of the epicenter of this earthquake today.
You know, based on this, would you expect legislation to be able to
move through Congress more quickly that someone like Congressman Cantor
will get it now that the earth was literally moving near his own reactor?
MARKEY: Not at all, I think the greater likelihood is they`ll move
forward saying we must have long guarantees, given two nuclear power plant
operators so that they can build more nuclear power plants without
incorporating the safety measures necessary in order to actually deal with
what has happened at Fukushima, what has happened in New Zealand, what is
happening here today in Virginia or in Washington, D.C.
There is something out there, and when we -- when we prepare, we
cannot prepare for an earthquake that happened only in the last 10 or 20
years. We have to look at these areas back 100 years and even further and
then build in the extra measure of safety. But the nuclear utility
industry does not want to spend the extra money, but the risk runs to all
of the people who live in the 10 and 20 and 30-mile radius around these
nuclear power plants.
HARRIS-PERRY: Congressman Ed Markey, ranking member of the House
Natural Resources Committee and senior member of the Energy and Commerce
Committee -- reminding us there is no red and blue America when a nuclear
disaster happens. We are all in it together. Thank you.
MARKEY: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Coming up, lack of civility in politics. My opponent,
not my enemy, Michael Steele, joins me.
HARRIS-PERRY: Still ahead in this hour, is the anonymity of the
Internet and accessibility to false information leading to a break down in
civil discourse? Former RNC Chairman Michael Steele joins me next. You
guys come watch.
HARRIS-PERRY: In the Spotlight tonight, that relative who forwards
those e-mails and posts those jokes on Facebook. In my family, it`s Uncle
Fred. I am not making him up. He lets us know, often with a real sense of
urgency, that President Obama is secretly a Muslim, that he not a citizen,
and that he is dangerous for America.
Now in South Carolina, the chairwoman of the Sumter Tea Party took it
a little further than my Uncle Fred would go. On her public Facebook page,
she posted a joke about throwing President and First Lady Obama out of an
airplane and making, quote, "256 million people very happy, pass it on."
Bill Clinton was president when the Internet and conspiracy theories
changed the way we approached politics. Liberals use the Internet to vent
their frustration against President Bush. But there feels like there`s
something new happening here.
The Internet provides a certain shield of anonymity that allows people
to publish mean spirited and un-fact checked statements. Racially
inappropriate and sexually lewd comments are especially popular, as
apparently are negative comments about my hair. But the e-mails from my
Uncle Fred and the Facebook posts by the Sumter Tea Party have a different
They feel like consequences of fear soaked, no-holds barred politics
that assumes that if we disagree with something, they are not just our
opponent; they are our enemy. Have we gone so far that we can no longer
recognize our common interest? Can we no longer even imagine a sense of
solidarity with those on the other side of the aisle?
Americans are typically pretty evenly divided between the two parties.
No party will have or sustain overwhelming majorities in the states or
federal government. Finding terms to work together without paranoia, name
calling, threats and bigotry is not a Hallmark Card suggestion. It is the
most basic requirement of our democracy.
To demonstrate this in real time, joining me now is former RNC Chair
Michael Steele, an MSNBC contributor. Hi, Michael.
MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN: Hey, how are you doing, Melissa?
HARRIS-PERRY: Hi. So I actually saw you, ran into you last night at
30 Rock. And I took a picture of you with my daughter and her good friend.
Check out that bipartisanship happening right here in the halls of MSNBC.
STEELE: I was trying to groom some young Republicans there. So, you
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m telling you, Uncle Fred will like that. But the
rest of the members of my family may be filing for custody right now. But
seriously, you and I, for example, disagree on most substantive political
questions. But I don`t think that I would -- nor that you would be to me
fundamentally nasty. Is there something going on in terms of a kind of
personal level nastiness when it comes to our politics?
STEELE: Oh, absolutely, I think there is. In fact, it`s been going
on for quite a while. A lot of folks didn`t pay attention to the fact
that, for example, when I ran for the United States Senate in 2006, I was
referred to by certain members of the -- who are current members of the
United States Congress as a slave, as -- you know, one national publication
referred to myself and several other black candidates running for office as
lawn jockeys of the Republican party.
So this has been pretty much standard fare for those of us who are
black Republicans, who have heard this and experienced this. And I know in
my case, for well over 20 years, from some of my friends on the left and
occasionally from some within my own party. So there is this sort of veil
that has sort of cast itself over our politics, through the Internet, that
allows individuals -- and you touched on it -- to sort of sit in their
basements in their underwear at 2:00 in the morning and spew out this vile
and craziness, thinking that they are being cute and they are being, you
know, hip or they are being relevant.
When, in fact, all they are doing is bringing down the dialogue. What
I do like what I see from time to time, is when people on the Internet, in
the blogosphere and the chat rooms, push back and say look, this is not the
place for that stupidity and that craziness. We`re trying to have a
serious discussion about health care or about the welfare of our country,
about foreign affairs.
And I think the more we push back against the stupidity, I think the
better off we will be in the long-term. If we succumb to it, then I see
our politics not getting better, but getting far worse than anything we`ve
experienced so far.
HARRIS-PERRY: Sure. And let me suggest this: this is something, for
example, in raising young children where we talk about why not to use
profanity. And what I always say is if you use profanity, people will
think that you don`t have a real argument, right? They will think that you
don`t have much to say.
STEELE: It`s true.
HARRIS-PERRY: So I`ve studied a lot on sort of African-American
political ideology. And the fact is that Republicanism, conservatism is as
much a part of the history of black political thought. But the fact is
there`s also something there when people are making this claim, for
example, about being on the plantation, as was said by a member of your
party, about Democrats and African-Americans.
It feels like -- it feels like we`re trying to have a conversation
about standing up for community interests. What does it mean whether
you`re talking about the community as your party or that community as your
race? Is there a way that we can legitimately have that conversation
without, you know, degrading Uncle Tom by calling him a Republican?
STEELE: Well, you know, I hope so, because the fact of the matter is
we as a nation, as individuals and certainly as communities of people, are
facing some major challenges over the next few years. And to the extent
that you want to create this dialogue between the right and the left, the
conservative and liberal, you`re hoping to find some ground in which you
I thought the way you opened up my introduction was the appropriate
way. Look, I`m not going to agree with everything you say, nor should you.
Nor do I want you to. And you shouldn`t expect the same from me. But if
we`re hoping to advance the conversation to come to solutions, whether it`s
in the black community or the broader community where you have such a
cross-cultural experience, then we`ve got to figure out that ground on
which we can stand together and begin to move from there.
I remember as chairman having conversations with individuals who were
surprised, well, why would you want to talk to them? Why would we want to
engage in this conversation? They don`t agree with us. Well, how do you
get them to agree with you unless you talk to them?
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me ask one just really quickly here. The president
is a particular kind of person to be saying these kinds of things about.
And that Facebook message, whatever else it did, suggested that killing,
even in a joking way, the president was acceptable. Can we all agree
across the aisle that is not good for our country?
STEELE: No, it`s not good for our country. And I resented it when it
happened during the Bush administration. I resent it during the Obama
administration. It has no place in our politics. There`s nothing cute.
There`s nothing profound. And there`s nothing important about any of that
silliness. And the appropriate authorities should look into, you know,
those types of conversations, because they are threatening the presidency.
And whether you agree or disagree with his policies, that is not a
proper place for it in our politics.
HARRIS-PERRY: Former RNC Chair and MSNBC contributor and great poser
of pictures with staff and with young children, Michael Steele, thanks for
STEELE: Thank you very much. And my best to the kids.
STEELE: I`m sending them literature.
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh gosh.
Coming up, could Elizabeth Warren`s career of fighting for the common
man and against corporate greed actually hurt her in her quest for
Massachusetts Senate seat? That`s next.
HARRIS-PERRY: The song that Chaka Khan made her own, "I`m Every
Woman," written by the legendary song-writing duo Ashford and Simpson.
Nick Ashford died yesterday of complications of throat cancer. He was 70
years old. Ashford and his wife, Valerie Simpson, met in 1963 at church,
and started writing hit after hit for music`s biggest stars.
Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, the Shirelles,
Teddy Pendergrass and Chaka Khan all had hits thanks to Ashford and
Simpson. They married in 1974 and had two daughters, and while writing for
others, recorded together as well, with "Solid" being a big hit in the
I could keep talking about them. But to honor Nick Ashford, it`s
probably best to listen to his music, beginning with one of Ashford and
Simpson`s first big hits, a number one for Ray Charles, co-written with
Joey Armstead, 1966, "Let`s Go Get Stoned."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: In the year 2000, one of the loudest voices in America
raging against Wall Street greed came from Zach Delarocho (ph), the lead
singer of Rage Against the Machine. Eleven years later, arguably the most
recognizable voice now raging against the Wall Street greed machine is
Elizabeth Warren. The Democrat`s former watchdog for the Wall Street
bailout and the mastermind chosen by President Obama to launch the Consumer
Financial Protection Bureau.
Over the past several years, America has come to know her for this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELIZABETH WARREN, FMR. TARP WATCHDOG: I`ve spent my entire adult
professional life studying the economics of working families. And I watch
year after year after year as they just get hammered, hammered harder and
harder. We now live in an America where millions, tens of millions of
families live one bad diagnoses, one pink slip, one terrible interest rate
reset away from complete financial collapse.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Last Thursday, Warren announced that she`s starting an
exploratory committee for a potential U.S. senate run in Massachusetts.
Warren has loads of grassroots support on the left. And that bodes well
for her in a state like Massachusetts.
Another thing about Elizabeth Warren, I think she would be exactly the
kind of candidate who`d win the support of none other than Thomas
Jefferson. Even if he wasn`t so much in favor of women`s political
equality, and despite the fact that they likely disagreed politically.
Still, this is a founding father who would have appreciated the kind of
candidate Warren is.
Let me explain. For just a moment, I`m taking off my TV guest hat and
putting on my professorial hat. Now despite the tendency on the right to
present the founders as though they shared a single ideology, the fact is
the American founding was a political process full of difficult compromises
and fierce battles over ideas.
One of the most important battles was about the very nature of
representative democracy. As the American Studies program at the
University of Virginia explains, Thomas Jefferson had a particular
affection for the so-called yeoman farmer of early American politics.
Quote, "the federalist and agrarian forces in government were divided in
opinion following the revolution. The federalists, led by Alexander
Hamilton, were in favor of a strong central government and looked to the
commercial and industrial expansion. The Republicans, led by Thomas
Jefferson, believed in the primacy of local government and a mainly
agrarian national economy based on small, independent farmers.
"The American yeoman farmer has become a symbol of the agrarian
philosophy articulated by Thomas Jefferson."
And in fact, 19th century Congressman Horace Greeley (ph) writes that
above all professions, he would recommend farming to his son. Among his
reason is that farming is, quote, "the vocation which conduces most
directly to reverence for honesty and truth."
Now, in short, the yeoman farmer would look out for every man because
he was the every man. And Jefferson believed that that kind of person
would make a great politician.
She`s not a farmer, but does that remind you of anyone?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: It`s a lending industry that has changed its model. Credit
cards, though, are the easiest ones to see. They have switched from the
notion of I`ll lend you money because I think you`ll be able to pay and
we`ll find a reasonable rate for doing that, over to a tricks and traps
BILL MAHER, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": Yes. It`s just screwing
people. It`s just tricking and screwing people.
WARREN: The job is to trick people and trap them. And that`s how you
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Again, she`s not a farmer, but Elizabeth Warren has
made the focus of her professional and political career the advocacy of
ordinary people against powerful organizations. But as she makes the move
from unelected bureaucrat to likely candidate, the very advocacy for the
common folk what`s made her a hero of the political left is likely to make
it a lot harder for her to raise the funds she`ll need to mount a
Keep in mind, for example, that President Obama is expected to raise a
billion dollars in his 2012 reelection campaign. That`s billion with a
"B." As for Elizabeth Warren`s potential opponent in the Senate campaign,
that would be Massachusetts Republican Senator Scott Brown.
"The Hill" did some number crunching and found this: Senator Brown has
been stockpiling campaign cash in anticipation of a tight 2012 race. If
Warren runs, she will have to decide whether to court these high-rolling
donors in the financial services community, an awkward choice, both
personally and politically, given her carefully crafted image as an
antagonist to big finance.
But without the support of heavy-hitting donors in Massachusetts, many
of whom work at hedge funds and other financial firms, Warren might find it
difficult to keep up with Brown`s fundraising juggernaut. As for Senator
Scott Brown and his fund raising juggernaut, he was dubbed, quote, "Wall
Street`s favorite congressmen" in a "Forbes" article published in June of
Having been, quote, "the recipient of nearly 442,000 dollars in
campaign contributions from the financial industry in 2009." With that
kind of uphill battle, it makes you wonder. The right might claim to have
inherited Jefferson`s concern for localism, but the cozy relationship with
Wall Street betray his insistence on representatives who were primarily
accountable to the people.
What are the choices? How do we, the electorate, tip the scales in
this broken down, money-laced political system? How does an under and
unemployed struggling populous compete with big business? In the post-
Citizens United era, is there any room left for people power, for
Jefferson`s yeoman farmer?
The most upsetting part of asking these questions I don`t have many
answers. But if there`s anyone out there who might have some answers, my
money`s on Elizabeth Warren.
HARRIS-PERRY: If you were near a television shortly after noon
eastern today, you got to see something extraordinary. Rebels stormed and
took control of Gadhafi`s compound, the place where he had been launching
attacks against his own people, and where he once swore on stated-
controlled television to cleanse Libya, house by house, of citizens who
NBC`s Richard Engel was the first correspondent to report from inside
the compound after it was taken. For almost an hour, he walked viewers
through the scene of the important victory of a revolution 42 years in the
making. It was truly must-see TV.
So if you were at work or out to lunch and you missed it, here`s your
chance to see history. Lean forward.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: I am inside
Gadhafi`s compound. This compound was designed as a last-stand facility.
It was full of weapons. It was full of food. It was full of fuel. And
some of that fuel, apparently was burning.
We are seeing rebels storming in. They have just found the bodies of
some foreign fighters. This area had been filled at one stage with
mercenaries, most of them from sub-Saharan African countries. The rebels
are going through.
Primarily, they are looting this complex. They seem to have gotten
into a weapons depot. And I`m watching a man right in front of me. He has
two submachine guns, one in each hand, and another two automatic rifles,
one over his shoulder.
There is another truck in front of him full of rebels, all of them
carrying new weapons taken from inside. We saw people carrying television
sets, towing out vehicles. So they are taking away an incredible amount of
weaponry from inside this complex.
They are also firing guns in the air. The ambulance is coming through
now. Mostly it`s a celebration. This was a forbidden city. No Libyans
were allowed inside here. And it was built as a fortress.
I am looking at one of the walls surrounding it. It is 20-feet high
approximately, perhaps two-feet thick. And within every other panel of the
wall is a small, cut-out window that fighters could use to defend it. You
could put a rifle through the wall and fight, as people tried to approach
So it was clearly designed for a siege and a siege that took place
today. This was the last remaining hold out in Tripoli, as Gadhafi does
have some supporters in other towns, particularly the town of Surt. But
this armed compound -- and it was very heavily armed -- was the thorn in
the rebels` side.
They have now removed it. They now control almost all, if not all of
Tripoli. This is not just a symbolic victory, although it certainly is.
This is a real victory, because this compound was firing tank shells on to
civilian areas up until a few hours ago.
The rebels decided basically that they would march on Tripoli. And by
the thousands, they walked into the city. Some drove into the city. There
was resistance along the way. But when this mass, this wave of rebels and
this wave of civilians who joined the march to Tripoli arrived at the city
gates, the resistance melted away.
They were able to capture almost all of Tripoli. And today it seems
they captured the rest. There are thousands of people, rebels and ordinary
people living in the area, who have come in to see what is inside, to loot
We are watching an incredible amount of looting going on right now.
There has been looting here inside the compound. But there has not been
looting elsewhere in Tripoli, very minor incidents, once or twice. But
Tripoli itself has not been a looted city, just Gadhafi`s compound and
particularly -- well, as far as I can tell, his armory.
One thing I`m seeing right now, I`m seeing someone carrying out a
gold-plated -- perhaps it`s even solid gold -- rifle from Gadhafi. Forty
two years of single-party rule, of single-thought rule. There was a book
here, "The Green Book," that was mandatory reading for all Libyans. There
was a society created called the Society of the Green Book.
The Green Book was Gadhafi`s philosophy, his musings on democracy and
sports and racial relations. This was a state based almost entirely on his
thoughts, his philosophies. And yes, there will be some people who think
that that is a good idea. But the vast majority have probably had enough
of Gadhafi`s 42 years.
This was an intense battle. This compound is very large. It is about
four miles in circumference. It is surrounded by 20 foot walls. There was
a funeral for three dead people in front of our broadcast location, three
martyrs of the revolution, as they were being described today. Passes are
very high. If they had found Gadhafi, very unlikely that cooler heads
would have prevailed and thought it would have been important to have him
in international criminal court.
I think he would have been torn to pieces. Gadhafi has become a
fugitive in this country. He`s no longer considered president. He`s been
pushed out of his capital. He`s been pushed out of his fortified compound.
There is a man hunt across this country. Libyans want to find him. They
want to kill him. They want to put him on trial. But now they no longer
believe that he`s still in power.
There has been a lot of celebratory gunfire. There will be more of
that tonight. This is a fairly small street, narrow street that I`m on
right no. Sow, every time people have started to celebrate with gunfire,
people have stopped them out of concern that there could be some injuries
here. But I think once this is over and once news spreads all around --
there`s some gunfire. Once news spreads all around this country tonight,
we are going to be hearing gunfire ringing out throughout the city.
HARRIS-PERRY: NBC`s Richard Engel reporting today from inside
Gadhafi`s compound, gets THE LAST WORD.
You can have THE LAST WORD online at our blog, TheLastWord.MSNBC.com.
And you follow my tweets @MHarrisPerry. Shameless plug for my new book,
"Sister Citizens," which is on shelves, except for this book at Busboys and
Poets in Washington, D.C., where it allegedly fell off the shelf during the
"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" is up next. Good evening, Rachel.
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