'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Read the transcript to the Tuesday show
Guests: Ron Carey, John Samuelsen, Ta-Nehisi Coates
CHRIS HAYES, GUEST HOST: Chris Christie, he won`t quit like Sarah
Palin, won`t be scrutinized like Rick Perry, and definitely won`t be the
Republican nominee for president.
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Now is not my time.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: His heart remains in New Jersey.
CHRISTIE: So New Jersey, whether you like it or not, you`re stuck
HAYES (voice-over): New Jersey is stuck with Chris Christie, the
Republicans are stuck with everyone else.
CHRISTIE: What they see is what they get.
MARTIN BASHIR, MSNBC ANCHOR: The press conference that lasted nearly
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s been saying he`s not going to run.
BASHIR: Blunt, open and engaging style.
CHRISTIE: I am who I am.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He doesn`t sound full of crap.
BASHIR: Jabs at reporters and the president.
CHRISTIE: Making sure President Obama is a one termer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody else is going to jump into this race.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are now pretty much looking at a settled field.
BASHIR: General width of mediocrity.
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This has been
in line with our plan all along.
BASHIR: Rick Perry support is in the deep dive.
MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN: What happened to Huntsman.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good news for Mitt Romney.
HAYES: They love the idea of beating Barack Obama.
HAYES: The president is stuck with a Congress that doesn`t work.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All we got from them is
BASHIR: Speaking today in Texas.
OBAMA: Won`t even let this jobs bill have a vote.
BASHIR: Dead on arrival.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Our Republican colleagues seem to
be willing to tank the economy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would like to see a little bit more economic
justice or social justice. Jesus stuff.
OBAMA: I`d like Mr. Cantor to come down here to Dallas.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Nobody gets
everything they want.
I got 98 percent of what I wanted. I`m pretty happy.
HAYES: Good evening. I`m Chris Hayes, in for Lawrence O`Donnell.
The dream is dead, once again. Chris Christie, the man that many
Republicans have been pining for to enter the race, their much wished for
savior, once again took time out of his busy schedule as governor of the
state of New Jersey to loudly in front of the cameras, with great relish
put to bed speculation that he will run for president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: In the end, what I`ve always felt was the right decision
remains the right decision today. Now is not my time. I have a commitment
to New Jersey that I simply will not abandon. So, New Jersey, whether you
like it or not, you`re stuck with me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Increased national profile for Christie surrounding his
decision seems to have conferred some local political advantages in the
governor whose declining poll numbers have sharply reversed as he`s become
the target of cascades of valentines from conservative donors and
activists. Christie`s approval rating in New Jersey has increased 10
points since May, now stands at 54 percent.
During Christie`s press conference today, he also provided his
thoughts on the current president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: I think the country will be better by making sure that
President Obama is a one termer. Unfortunately, even though there are
areas as you know that I support this president in, overall, he`s failed
the American people, because he`s failed that absolute litmus test to be
president of the United States. And that`s to know how to lead and decide,
and he hasn`t done that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Christie then flattered himself by suggesting that calls for
him to run for president had nothing whatsoever to do with the weak
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: I don`t think it says anything particular about the field.
I`d like to think it says something about me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: There`s no better proof Christie is wrong on that score than
this breaking news. Herman Cain is now polling at the top the presidential
Republican field. A just released CBS News poll of Republican primary
voters shows Cain polling at 17 percent, up 12 points from just two weeks
ago. That ties him with Mitt Romney whose support has held steady. Rick
Perry`s support has plunged from 23 percent to 12 percent. Good enough for
third. The rest of the field polls in the single digits.
As for which candidate is most likely to beat President Obama, a
plurality of Republican voters pick Romney. He polls at 32 percent, 11
points ahead of Rick Perry. In third, in third, Herman Cain, 8 percent,
say he`s the party`s best chance to defeat President Obama.
Here to discuss to Christie`s -- where does Christie`s decision lead
Republicans is "Bloomberg View" columnist Jonathan Alter, also former chief
of staff to Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, Roy Carey.
Thank you both for joining me.
JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLTIICAL ANALYST: Hi, Chris.
HAYES: Roy -- Ron, sorry. I`ll call you by the right name. How
Ron Carey, tell me something why -- there`s sort of hardening
conventional wisdom among liberals like myself that this roiling discontent
says something about either the weakness of the field or the ideological
rigidity of the Tea Party`s sort of elements of the base.
Do you think that`s -- which of those do you think are accurate?
RON CAREY, FMR. BACHMANN CHIEF OF STAFF: You have to look back at
history, Chris. Look back at 2008. Right now, Rudy Giuliani and Fred
Thompson were atop the Republican field and they faded very quickly.
You`re just seeing a good debate. This is what a process is supposed
to do. It`s supposed to test every candidate under pressure and see which
one really has the strength to take it all the way.
So, I don`t think we have to worry about the Republican field being
weak. Actually, it`s the Democrats that have to worry about having a weak
candidate. I mean, right now, I saw a poll today that showed 46 percent of
Americans definitely will not vote for Obama. Only 23 percent would
definitely vote for Obama. That means that the remaining 30 percent out
there, Obama almost has to run the table if things stand as they are.
So, it`s really the Democrats have the weak candidate they should be
concerned about, not the Republicans. The Republicans are going to unite
behind whomever emerges from this field.
HAYES: In terms of that polling, I mean, one of the things that`s
interesting is that, as low as the president`s approval ratings have been
recently, Jonathan, he remains incredibly personally popular and he remains
much more popular than the Republicans in Congress. I wonder whether you
think that personal popularity, who on the Republican side is sort of best
equipped to go toe to toe with him on that axis?
ALTER: Well, you know, he is the underdog as he said this week. But,
you know, right now basically the only plausible candidate in the
Republican Party is Mitt Romney. I mean, Perry is cratering. And he could
make a comeback. Stranger things have happened. Somebody else could get
in. I think there`s a decent chance that Rudy Giuliani will get in this
race in the next couple weeks.
But, you know, the field is a weak one which lends a kind of
paradoxical quality to this election year, because the Republicans have a
very good chance to take the White House, but they have flawed messengers.
HAYES: I think the sort of conventional wisdom coming out today with
the Chris Christie announcement is this was a good day for Mitt Romney.
That Romney currently occupies a position that Christie would occupy were
he to enter the race. And you said something to me interestingly a few
moments ago off set about why you think that`s not the case.
What you think the problem for Romney is?
ALTER: Well, he`s got quite a number of different problems in a
general election. But I think today was very good news for Romney because
Christie would have very possibly beaten him. And, you know, it would have
at a minimum, it would have helped Perry by dividing the kind of non-
extremist vote to the Republican Party. So, basically, a net plus for
Romney that the Christie decision.
But what`s going on on Wall Street and in close to 150 other cities
and college campuses, this two-week-old occupy Wall Street movement has the
potential -- we got to say just the potential -- to be kind of a Tea Party
of the left. And this would be potentially very harmful to Romney for this
In the same way that the Tea Party focused the enormous frustration
out in the country on the government and an Obama -- this "Occupy Wall
Street` movement, if it grows and doesn`t get hijacked, which are big ifs.
There`s a lot of ways for it to go wrong. But if it actually keeps going,
this "Occupy Wall Street" movement could focus resentment and anger on Wall
Street and on Romney who`s kind of a poster boy for Wall Street.
Remember, there was a point when the Tea Party was close to 50 percent
favorable rating even though it`s essentially, you know, a right wing
movement. But many Americans were so frustrated that they expressed a lot
of support for the Tea Party. I think you can see maybe not quite as many,
but a pretty significant number who are very frustrated with Wall Street
who might express some support for this movement if it doesn`t go in a
HAYES: Ron, in terms of the polling that`s out today from CBS and
from a few other sources that show Herman Cain surging, I wonder what you
make of the Herman Cain surge. I find Cain to be a fascinating figure. I
find the energy he has stoked to be remarkable and fascinating to observe.
Is it surprising to you that Herman Cain who I will admit is not
someone I was at all familiar with just eight months ago is now polling
atop the Republican field?
CAREY: I think you`ve seen quite a turnover here. You look back in
June, it was Bachmann. Then in August, it became Perry. Now, it`s Cain.
I think all the Republican conservative candidates are really being
pressure tested by the voters and they`ve been found to have some
weaknesses. Herman Cain is a solid conservative. Will he meet the test?
I don`t know about this point in time.
I am concerned as a conservative the fact he seems to be losing a lot
of key staff and seems to not have the experience politically that I`d like
to see because I -- even though he`s a very distinguished person from a
business standpoint, he doesn`t have political experience. And political
experience is not overrated when it comes to the rough and tumble
I am discouraged of the fact he`s on a book tour right now. If I was
him, I`d be on the phone with all 99 county chairs in Iowa trying to
solidify their support while things are -- the iron is hot. Instead he`s
out on a book tour.
So, I`m concerned about his direction. Does he have the advisers
around him to keep him on track?
But I wouldn`t count Rick Perry out. You know, he`s raising a lot of
money. He`s got a lot of gravitas as governor of Texas and the experience
that somebody is going to emerge, I think, from the more conservative part
of the field to be the counterbalance to Romney and at the end, those two
will duke it out to the end. Question is which conservative is going to be
able to become the alternative to Mitt Romney and really enter Iowa and New
Hampshire and South Carolina as the real alternative?
It will come down to the battle between two major candidates, Mitt
Romney being one of them.
HAYES: Ron, you just mentioned Herman Cain losing some staff and the
woman that you once worked for, Michele Bachmann, lost a pollster, senior
adviser, congressional spokesperson and scheduler have all left for
campaign recently. And she told reporters, this is what she had to say
OK. She says, "This has been in line with our plan all along. This
isn`t a shakeup."
Is this the Michele Bachmann master plan, having worked for her
before, to shed staff as the campaign goes on?
CAREY: Well, it`s -- you know, when you`re in politics you`re good at
spinning sometimes when things aren`t going well. But, you know, unless
you`re the government, you can`t spend money you done have. And she simply
does not have the money and she`s taking draconian steps at this point from
all I can see to try to reduce her overhead so she can stay in the race and
hopefully survive the fight in Iowa.
So, I think that`s -- I think everybody can see through maybe some of
the spin in that she -- people don`t invest and send money to a candidate
if they don`t believe they`re going to win. She`s gone from being on her
peak in August after the Ames ballot, but quickly fallen. And people --
the money`s just drying up. She had high overhead.
ALTER: Can you tell us now, Ron, since you`re no longer working in
that campaign, a little bit of candor here. Is part of it she`s just too
flaky and when you get close to her you recognize that?
CAREY: No, no. She`s a very strong individual. There`s a lot of
substance there. People undersell her a lot.
But, you know, she`s very demanding and has -- she has some of the
characteristics that Herman Cain may be suffering from that they want to be
the smartest person in the room and sometimes don`t want to listen to
people who maybe have a broader and more experienced background that she
could benefit from. I hope Herman Cain is going to listen to smart people.
I mean, there are certainly advisers out there that just want a paycheck.
But there are people out there who -- you can bring to your campaign
that can make you a smarter and better candidate. And that`s some of these
candidates haven`t learned. They don`t have maybe the political material
to let go of some of the controls and look to people who can actually add
value that`s needed in a presidential politics.
ALTER: That was a very polite way of answering my question. Anybody
who can`t listen to smarter people in the room who always has to prove
they`re the smartest person in the room by definition should not be
HAYES: MSNBC contributor Jonathan Alter and Ron Carey, former chief
of staff to Michele Bachmann -- thank you both for joining me tonight.
ALTER: Thanks, Chris.
CAREY: Thank you.
HAYES: Coming up, Republican opposition has a new name now. Eric
Cantor goes on the attack and President Obama struck back. That`s next.
And it`s day 18 for "Occupy Wall Street" which meant among other
things a big lawsuit filed on behalf of arrest protesters. Unions joining
the growing movement tomorrow. We`ll have the latest.
HAYES: Coming up, President Obama gets specific when talk about
recalcitrant Republicans. He name drops Eric Cantor.
And the eloquence of an "Occupy Wall Street" protester didn`t fit
fox`s fair and balanced image, so they cut what he said. When you hear
what they cut, you`ll understand why. The exceptional take on "Occupy Wall
Street" is coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We`ve had folks in Congress who`ve said they shouldn`t pass
this bill because it would give me a win. So their thinking about the next
Give me a win? Give me a break. That`s why folks are fed up with
This isn`t about giving me a win. This isn`t about giving Democrats
or Republicans a win. This is about giving America a win.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That was President Obama this afternoon just outside of
Dallas, again pushing Congress to pass his jobs bill. Along with some
campaign-style rhetoric, we heard the now familiar campaign-style slogan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Pass this bill. Pass this bill. Pass this bill. Pass this
bill. Let`s pass this bill.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Along with the "pass this bill" refrain, the president did
something different today in Texas. He didn`t just talk about Republican
opposition to his jobs plan in vague terms. His opponent wasn`t just a sea
of faceless Republican lawmakers on the other side of the aisle. He gave
the GOP opposition a face and a name.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Yesterday, the Republican majority leader in Congress, Eric
Cantor, said that right now he won`t even let this jobs bill have a vote in
the House of Representatives. This is what he said.
I`d like Mr. Cantor to come down here to Dallas and explain what
exactly in this jobs bill does he not believe in? What exactly -- what
exactly is he opposed to? At least put this jobs bill up for a vote so
that the entire country knows exactly where members of Congress stand.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: President Obama no doubt focused his remarks on Cantor after
the number two House Republicans said yesterday the chamber would not vote
on the president`s bill in its entirety, saying the Americans jobs act was
dead on arrival.
And this morning, Congressman Cantor told reporters it`s the president
who has a problem reaching across the aisle.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MAJORITY LEADER: The problem is the policies
being promoted by this administration that are sending the signal that
we`re not open for business in America. So if the president would join us
in trying to do some things and actually help people that help create an
environment for growth, I think we can all see a way to work together to
actually produce a better future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: The majority leader`s office put out a statement today
directly responding to the president`s speech in Texas that called Cantor
out by name. That statement read in part, "President Obama needs to
understand it is my way or the highway approach" -- I`m laughing because
this is the guy, of course, who rallied the votes for not one Republican
vote for the Recovery Act.
"That his `my way or the highway approach simply isn`t going to work
in the House or Democratic Senate especially in light of his abysmal record
on jobs. Serious problems deserve serious leadership, and the American
people have gone with it far too long. Republicans are trying to work
together despite our disagreements. Why isn`t the president?" Yada, yada,
All right. The president is still on the road today taking his
message to his supporters in St. Louis, and there`s a report tonight from
the "Associated Press" that Senate Democrats want to swap out some of the
ways President Obama proposed to pay for his jobs bill for 5 percent tax
surcharge on millionaires.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid predicted today that when the bill
comes to the floor, almost all Democrats will get behind it.
Joining me now, MSNBC political analyst, Alex Wagner.
Alex, am I wrong that Eric Cantor is a very unappealing politician?
Is that a loaded question?
ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: To each his own I would say.
But, Eric Cantor, I think -- first of all, a lot of Americans don`t
know who Eric Cantor is.
HAYES: Yes, let me actually -- let me ground this in some date data.
Actually, we look this up, because I thought it was weird, that they were
going after Eric Cantor for precisely this reason. A CNN poll in July
shows only 46 percent of Americans have never even heard of him.
WAGNER: Right. And I think given that, there are some question marks
around the president`s strategy to single out Eric Cantor by name. This is
after all the commander in chief -- this is the president of the United
States. Talking about someone who half the country has never heard of as
being the sort of the log in the middle of the road, preventing a huge sort
of signature piece of legislation from passing.
And I think, you know, obviously, this is the White House on the
offense. We`ve seen a very sharp pivot in the last few weeks. They of
obviously feel like they are ready to name names and kick butt.
HAYES: Well, here`s what I think is interesting, is that, you know,
the Republicans did the same thing with Nancy Pelosi who I think in the
beginning a lot of Americans had never heard of either. I mean, you know,
Americans are not like super, super up on who is necessarily running things
HAYES: And they manage to, A, increase Pelosi`s name recognition by a
tremendous amount and just destroy her approval rating. I mean, by the
time the midterms rolled around, her approval rating, 10 percent, 12
percent, because every single district, every swing district in the country
had an anti-Nancy Pelosi ad. And I wonder what we`re seeing the early part
of a Cantor strategy of that nature.
WAGNER: Yes, I guess, except that you have many to choose from. And,
you know, if I were in the White House, you can see, you know, John
Boehner, somebody they singled out before, Mitch McConnell has had his sort
of day in sun.
I think there is some, I think, some hesitation on the part of the
left in terms of the strategy because it does -- it sort of -- it doesn`t
denigrate necessarily the office of president but I do think some people
think, look, he should be bigger than this. And there`s a lot of anger.
There`s a lot of frustration.
HAYES: You`re saying this is punching down.
WAGNER: Yes, it`s playing in the sand box.
HAYES: But don`t you have -- like, I mean -- if you`re the president
of the United States, there`s nowhere to punch but down, right?
WAGNER: And certainly, this is a White House that has had their fair
share of frustrations and aggravations and they feel like, come on, guys.
And I think the rhetoric of, if the president would just stop his "my way
or the highway approach" is endlessly frustrating. I mean, it is
I mean, we`re talking about payroll tax cuts here. This is the party
of tax cuts and they have the problem with it. But I do think it speaks to
a certain frustration and almost a knee jerk reaction that I think in some
ways may not seem presidential to some Americans who don`t really
understand the dynamics of what`s going on in Congress.
HAYES: They`ve been going back and forth. Of course, the problem the
president faces on the American Jobs Act, first and foremost before you get
to Republican opposition House, the fact they could not unite Democrats in
the Senate around it. You had Mary Landrieu talking about, oh, we
shouldn`t go after the oil companies. You had Senator Webb from Virginia
casting aspersions on it.
It now looks like, as I noted before, Harry Reid has managed to sort
of unify the caucus around as surcharge on millionaires.
WAGNER: A Buffett surcharge.
HAYES: A Buffett surcharge. We should just call it Buffett.
Everything is a Buffett rule.
WAGNER: Just begin with it Buffett.
HAYES: Do you think that`s a good play?
WAGNER: Look, I think he has to do whatever he has to do. I think
there was a certain amount of -- not embarrassment, but an uncomfortable
moment today where Obama is in Texas today saying, let`s -- like go to
Congress, let`s have a vote on this and McConnell`s in the Senate saying,
all right, let`s have a vote on it Harry Reid. Harry Reid has the kind of
double down and say, well, not right now but later.
And it sort of muddies -- of course, muddies the message. And I
think, you know, speaks to a caucus that is -- if not in disarray, there`s
a lot of -- people are unsure, I think, as to what they want to do with the
jobs act and sort of where the president is and how need to play themselves
HAYES: What`s interesting, right, is that if you go -- there`s a
really good Jason Zengerle piece in the "New York" magazine about Eric
Cantor. And one of the points he makes in that is he talks about Cantor
sort of being the mastermind being Republican unity in opposition to the
Recovery Act, which at the time -- this was eight days after the president
was elected with this huge electoral majority.
HAYES: It was sort of shocking. In some ways, the lesson you learn
from that is unity confers its own advantages, right? That if the
Democrats would unify around this bill that produces sort of increasing
gains, politically, which they seem incapable of actually understanding.
WAGNER: Yes, but I think that`s a testament to the weakened power of
the president right now. I mean, there`s some sense there`s blood in the
water and that going against the president or at least sort of hedging your
bets is not necessarily a bad thing.
And, again, look, Mary Landrieu speaking about her own backyard, oil
and gas. She`s going to try you know, she`s going to worry about --
HAYES: She`s actually has an oil derrick in her backyard.
WAGNER: Yes, she does. It`s humongous.
HAYES: Alex Wagner, MSNBC political analyst -- hey, great to see you.
HAYES: Coming up, new ground swell of "Occupy Wall Street" as unions
join the occupiers in the street the tomorrow.
But, first, FOX News forgot the first rule of bringing a camera to a
protest. Everybody has cameras now. An extraordinary interview cut by FOX
but caught by someone else.
HAYES: The "Occupy Wall Street" movement has now grown so big even
FOX News finds itself forced to pay attention.
When FOX correspondent Griff Jenkins went down to lower Manhattan last
week to give the demonstrators a taste of fair and balanced reporting, he
instead ran into a rather eloquent protester named Jesse LaGreca ho calmly
explained what the "Occupy Wall Street" movement is really all about.
Shockingly, FOX never saw fit to put the video on air. Fortunately,
someone else captured it on video.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JESSE LAGRECA, PROTESTER: I see that we didn`t take our cue off
anybody really. It became a more spontaneous movement. As far as seeing
this end, I wouldn`t like to see it end. I`d like to see the conversation
This is what we should have been talking about after 2008 when the
economy collapsed. We basically patched a hole on the tire and said, yes,
let the car keep rolling.
Unfortunately, it`s fun to talk to the propaganda machine and the
media, especially conservative media, such as yourself, because we find
that we can`t get conversations on the Department of Justice`s ongoing
investigation of News Corporation, for which you an employee.
But we can certainly ask questions like, you know, why are the poor
engaging in class warfare. And after 30 years of having our living
standards decrease while the wealthiest one percent had it better than
ever, I think it`s time for maybe -- I don`t know -- some participation in
our democracy that isn`t funded by news cameras and gentlemen such as
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me give you this challenge, Jesse.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re here giving you an opportunity "On the
Record With Greta Van Susteren" to put any message you want out there, give
you fair coverage. I`m not going to in any way be biased about it.
LEGRECA: That`s awesome.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So there`s the exception to the case. You
wouldn`t be able to get your message out without us.
LEGRECA: No, certainly. Take for instance when Glenn Beck was doing
his protests and he called the president a person who hates white people
and white culture. That was a low moment in America`s history. You guys
kind of had a big part in it.
So I`m glad to see you coming around and kind of paying attention to
what the other 99 percent of Americans are paying attention to, as opposed
to the far right, who would love to just destroy the middle class entirely.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fair enough. You have voiced an important to
reason to criticize myself, my company and anyone else. Let me ask you
this. In fairness, does this administration of President Obama have any
criticism as to the financial situation the country`s in?
LEGRECA: I think myself, as well as many other people, would like to
see a little bit more economic justice or social justice, Jesus stuff, as
far as feeding the poor, health care for the sick.
I feel it really entertaining that people like to hold the Bill of
Rights up while they`re screaming at gay soldiers. But they just can`t
wrap their heads around the idea that a for-profit health care system
So let`s just look at it like this: if we want the president to do
more, let`s talk to him on a level that actually reaches people, instead of
asking for his birth certificate and wasting time with total nonsense like
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: So good. Producers always have more video than they have air
time, of course. Greta Van Susteren tells the media iBlog that her team
was doing a two minute story about economic issues that prompted the
protests. Apparently that did not include Jesse LaGreca.
Coming up, more on today`s protest, as unions plan to join in and
Capitol Hill gets into the conversation.
And Rick Perry`s opponents find an opening and keep hitting him on it.
Between the slur, a rock and a hard place.
HAYES: Tonight`s Spotlight, day 18 of the Occupy Wall Street Movement
and there are no signs it`s going away. The "New York Daily News" is
reporting a class action lawsuit was filed this afternoon after the arrest
of 700 protesters at the Brooklyn Bridge on Saturday.
In the complaint, a lawyer for the demonstrators accuses the police of
entrapment. Yesterday, hundreds of demonstrators dressed up as zombies as
they marched past the New York Stock Exchange. They were joined by a
nationwide show of support from Los Angeles to Chicago to Boston.
Today`s protest was a bit more subdued, as supporters plan for the
biggest rally to date tomorrow, when a coalition of local unions and other
supporters will descend on downtown Manhattan at 4:30 p.m. in what one
organizer calls an authentic collaboration.
Today, the movement became part of the conversation on Capital Hill.
The co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus endorsed the
protesters, commending their peaceful approach. During a hearing on the
economy, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke was asked what message he is hearing
from Occupy Wall Street.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEN BERNANKE, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: I would just say very
generally I think people are quite unhappy with the state of the economy
and what`s happening. They blame, with some justification, the problems in
the financial sector for getting us into this mess. And they`re
dissatisfied with the policy response here in Washington.
And at some level, I can`t blame them. Certainly nine percent
unemployment and very slow growth is not a very good situation. That`s
what they`re protesting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Joining me now, John Samuelsen, president of the Transit
Workers Union Local 100 here in New York City, which is showing solidarity
with the protesters. John, what did you think of that clip from Ben
Bernanke? I thought it was sort of remarkable. What did you think?
JOHN SAMUELSEN, TRANSIT WORKERS UNION LOCAL 100: I think it`s
remarkable as well. I think he articulated the exasperation that working
families in New York City and across the country are feeling right now.
HAYES: When you -- I want you to take me through your personal and
your union local sort of awareness of what was going on on Wall Street and
at what point you sort of felt like this was something that you as a union
wanted to support.
SAMUELSEN: We have had activists down there from day one, activists
in TW Local 100. We believe that many of the complaints and many of the
protests that are going on at Wall Street we have in common. We`re local
100. And that`s absolutely true, particularly in terms of the affairs of
New York State.
We have a situation where the tax on the wealthiest folks in New York
State is set to expire December 31st. And working families are suffering.
So we view that as an unacceptable situation. And we`re railing against
it. We`re fighting against it.
And we believe that the protesters on Wall Street have that in common
HAYES: Are you -- your union is going to participate tomorrow, my
understanding is. That`s what the reports have been.
HAYES: How does that -- I mean, this is just a sort of a logistical
question, but I`m sort of fascinated by it. Is there someone there you`re
interfacing with? How does that work organizationally?
SAMUELSEN: Organizationally --
HAYES: Actually, I`m sorry, I`m going to cut you off one second. >
Breaking news. Amanda Knox, the foreign exchange student from the
U.S. convicted of murder in Italy, is in the airport;. Sea-Tac airport has
her touched down. We`re going to go to it right now.
AMANDA KNOX, FREED FROM PRISON: I`m having problems with that. I`m
really overwhelmed right now. I was looking down from the airplane and it
seemed like everything wasn`t real. What`s important for me to say is just
thank you to everyone who`s believed in me, who`s defended me, who
supported my family.
I just want -- my family`s the most important thing to me right now
and I just want to go and be with them. So thank you for being there for
HAYES: All right. That`s Amanda Knox, just recently returned from
Italy, where her conviction for murder was overturned by the Italian
courts. She`s back with her family in Seattle, just addressing the press
I have with me here, to make a very difficult segue from the Amanda
Knox story back to John Samuelsen, who is here. We`re going to bring you
more from Amanda Knox if she`s going to speak again. But I think that`s it
for the evening.
We were just talking about Occupy Wall Street. You were talking about
your union`s involvement in the big march that`s going to happen downtown
tomorrow. I was asking you how exactly you go about logistically
supporting this movement that is leaderless, that does have a kind of
organizational structure that seems completely different from the kind the
SAMUELSEN: I think there`s an organizational structure among the
Occupy Wall Street protesters. But we`ve established a committee that
deals with the protesters on a day-to-day basis, to interact with them, to
plan with them. By in large, there`s a lot of organized labor in New York
City involved in the rally tomorrow. And we`ve certainly been coordinating
HAYES: A lot of people I think have looked at what has happened the
last few years. Right? The financial crisis in 2008, the bailouts, the
intensity of the recession, the way in which the impact of the recession
had such different impacts for those folks who are working at the
investment banks and for your membership and other working people around
the country. They said to themselves, why is no one in the streets?
I`ve heard this question a million times. Have you asked yourself
that question? What is the answer you`ve come to before now?
SAMUELSEN: I think what you see now on Wall Street is the final
exasperation of folks that just aren`t going to take it anymore. Decided
to take it to the streets. It is perhaps what the trade union movement
should have done several years ago in 2008, 2009.
It wasn`t done, but certainly we are joining the protests now.
There`s a value in the protests and bringing attention to the fact that
there`s a great wealth disparity in this country, greater than it`s ever
been before, perhaps. And I want to go back to New York state for a quick
HAYES: Yeah, please.
SAMUELSEN: The elimination of the millionaires tax in New York State,
which is of great importance to my union and to the rest of the unions in
New York that are involved in that protest tomorrow -- if you make a
million bucks a year in New York State, January 1st, you`re going to get a
408 dollar a week raise, take home by.
Juxtapose that against some of the statistics that we`re facing right
now. For instance, in areas of the Bronx, there`s a 49 percent childhood
poverty rate; 49 percent childhood poverty rate. At the very same moment
folks in state government think that that`s OK, but they want to give the
wealthiest folks a tax break.
We reject that. We oppose that. And tomorrow that will be a
centerpiece of our demands.
HAYES: You`ll be down in Wall Street tomorrow at 4:30 with a bunch of
other unions who will be protesting along with Occupy Wall Street. John
Samuelsen, TW Local 100. Real pleasure. Thanks for the hat.
SAMUELSEN: Thank you.
HAYES: John Samuelsen, president of the Transit Workers Union here in
New York City.
Coming up, the controversy over the name of Rick Perry`s hunting camp
isn`t going away yet. We`ll be right back.
HAYES: The breaking news we were following at 8:08 eastern tonight; a
747 carrying Amanda Knox arrived in her home town of Seattle, Washington.
She returns as a free woman.
She has spoke in Seattle and cried as she saw her supporters for the
first time after she spent four years in an Italian prison. Yesterday, an
Italian appeals court overturned her conviction for the murder and sexual
assault of her former suite mate, Meredith Kercher.
This case still isn`t in the clear. Prosecutor said he would appeal
yesterday`s decision that released Knox and her codefendant, Raffaele
Sollecito. The Italian judicial process states the prosecution cannot file
its appeal until the court publishes a formal explanation of its decision,
which is expected in a few months.
Coming up, we may want to think we`re done with racism. Racism isn`t
done with us. Just as Rick Perry. Ta-Noehisi Coates of "The Atlantic" is
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I follow it from afar. You
know, I think it`s offensive. I think most people recognize it`s
offensive. And with regards to what involvement the Perry folks had with
this, with this situation, well, that`s something to address to Governor
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That was Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney,
finally giving his take on the controversy surrounding the name of the
hunting camp once used by Rick Perry`s family. The "Washington Post" first
broke the story over the weekend about the hunting camp, leased by the
Perrys until 2007, saying it was, quote, "a place known by the name painted
in block letters across a large flat rock standing upright at its gated
entrance. "N-Word-head" it read."
Can I just say that "N-word-head" is not a phrase I thought I`d be
uttering during this campaign. Perry`s campaign immediately responded,
saying the rock had been painted over in the early `80s. But sources in
the "Washington Post" article said they saw the racial slur on the rock as
late as the 1990s.
Despite announcing he`s not running for president, New Jersey Governor
Chris Christie gave his opinion on the Perry controversy during his press
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I don`t know, because I don`t
know enough about the story, about what it says about Governor Perry or
not. I have no idea. I don`t know enough about that.
But just the use of the word, I think, is something that troubles most
Americans, because I think that that`s a phrase of a long away past that
shouldn`t have been part of our vocabulary then and certainly shouldn`t be
part of our vocabulary now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: The only African-American running in the Republican
presidential field, Herman Cain, was the first to speak out and arguably
the most vocal candidate on the story. He was asked about it again on "The
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will say I still stand by
my statement that it was insensitive for it to be there up until 1983. And
the statement that had been issued by Governor Perry`s campaign, I accept
that. I do not believe that that represents how Governor Rick Perry feels
about black people in America.
It was insensitive to leave it there as long as they left it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Not sure how this will eventually play out for Tea Party
favorite Herman Cain, who, as we mentioned at the top of the show, is now
tied for first place among Republican voters. Immediately after Cain`s
initial comments on the insensitivity of the racial slur on the rock at
Perry`s hunting camp, conservatives bashed Cain.
"The Daily Beast`s" Mike Tomazki wrote, "the way things seem to be
shaking out, the biggest loser from the revelation that the property bore
the name `N-word-head` is not Rick Perry. It`s the black guy."
Joining me is Ta-Noehisi Coates, senior editor for "the Atlantic,"
also just absolutely one of the best writers working today, if I might
flatter you for a moment. Folks should be reading you all the time.
I read this story when I got off the air on Sunday. And I just did
not know what to make of it. The reason I wanted to talk to you about it
is because you write so well about the ways in which we sort of are
constantly telling ourselves we`ve broken free from our racial history and
the way our racial history keeps sucking us back in.
What went through your mind when you saw that story break in the
TA-NEHISI COATES, "THE ATLANTIC: I don`t know how much it says about
Rick Perry. I can`t read Rick Perry. I don`t have any particular insights
about how he feels about black people or African-Americans. I was thinking
about that clip you just played from Governor Christie, where he said this
was a word from a long ago past.
But if you actually read the story and look at the people in the story
who know what the camp was called, what they say is, I don`t understand,
what`s the big deal? All these quotes all through the story, it`s just
what it`s called. I don`t understand why it would offend anybody.
So it`s quite clear that it`s not -- as much as we would like it to be
from a long ago past, it`s quite clear, if you read the story, that it`s
HAYES: I thought it was so s interesting he put that in, because it`s
so important and so crucial to I think the conservative story of the
country`s racial arc --
HAYES: -- that we have put all that behind us. There`s this
tremendous disquiet when something like this emerges, precisely because it
seems to invalidate that whole story.
COATES: Right, right. Well, I think when your constituency is made
up and is predominantly white, as a conservative movement is right now, it
forces you to ask some pretty ugly questions that you wouldn`t want to
HAYES: The Perry story has sort of continued. Today a "Washington
Times" article from June 2001 reported that then Lieutenant Governor Rick
Perry wrote a letter in March 2000 to the Sons of Confederate Veterans,
saying, "although this is an emotional issue, I want you to know I oppose
efforts to remove Confederate monuments, plaques and memorials from public
property. I also believe that communities should decide whether statues or
other memorials are appropriate for their community."
COATES: Right, but again, I don`t know how much that says about Rick
Perry. I would venture to say that`s probably true of any Republican
governor who ran during the period that Rick Perry did. I think it says a
lot more about the constituency that Rick Perry represents. I think we
often comfort ourselves by focusing on politicians.
And so the question is, what does it mean about Rick Perry. What does
this mean about Rick Perry? The bigger thing always for me is that Rick
Perry represents actual people. There`s a constituency for this sort of
thing. There are people who have as their interest having a flag of
treason have a prominent place in the United States of America.
So I would be much more focused on what it says about the citizenry
that Rick Perry actually represents.
HAYES: And one of the things that was so interesting I think about --
we played Herman Cain on :The View" and he was forceful in what he said.
HAYES: Understandably forceful.
COATES: If you can call calling it insensitive forceful.
HAYES: I guess that`s right.
COATES: It`s insensitive.
HAYES: Not as forceful as one could -- I think what`s interesting
also is --
COATES: Herman Cain can only be too forceful.
HAYES: That`s right. But what`s interesting about it is that it is -
- there is this catechism in the Republican -- among conservatives when
they`re talking about racial politics, in which citations of grievance by
African-Americans is seen itself as something that aggrieves the white
COATES: As racist.
HAYES: As fundamentally racist. I`m curious to see how the fallout
of this plays out. His first statement was sort of more forceful. He
seems to have walked it back in tone, if not in substance, because that
dynamic is always sort of lurking there off stage in the Republican primary
COATES: I think the interesting thing about Herman Cain when it comes
to speaking of race, I mean, he`s only really useful in that he can offer
some sort of deflection from the charge of racism. I`m sure he has a
variety of interesting things to say about other positions. But when it
comes to race, frankly, he`s not there to tell the truth to the Republican
That`s not why he`s there on that issue. If he`s going to speak on
it, it`s to offer some sort of deflection away from the issue, not to, you
know, be some sort of bold truth teller.
HAYES: But Cain`s -- the way in which Cain has managed to stir the
fire of the Republican base is fascinating to me, precisely because we have
had such a contested argument in this country since the emergence of the
sort of Palin town halls in 2008, and the Tea Party that came after it,
about the degree to which racial animus and racial politics were the sort
of fundamental engine --
COATES: He`s there to soothe you. If you want to support the Tea
Party and not feel like there`s any sort of racial animus, white populism,
white racism or anything like that involved in the movement, regrettably,
you can always turn to Herman Cain, who will tell you, no, no, no, it`s
that African-Americans are brainwashed. That`s why there are no black
people at this rally, because they`re brainwashed.
In supporting him, you can -- what did he call himself, a real black
man. You can actually support a real black man. He allows them to sort of
invert the narrative and be comfortable in their own assumptions.
HAYES: When the word which I cannot say on air because of our
standards and practices --
COATES: Can I say it on air?
HAYES: I think you`re not supposed to. Let`s err on the side of
COATES: All right. Glad you told me.
HAYES: Well, here`s -- the reason I raise that is because I think
there is -- it has such an unbelievable force in American life. There have
-- actually, Randall Kennedy wrote a great book about precisely this. I
think what`s interesting is that when it gets dropped into the
conversation, this sort of taboo bomb goes off, and everybody kind of
tiptoes and feels deference.
Myself, as we`re going through the copy, what are we going to call it?
COATES: I wish people didn`t. I really wish people would just say
it. I think if I say, you know -- if I call you a fool, I think you
understand that that is a direct insult. There are ways that I can use
that same word, fool, you know, and it not be insulting.
We have to get to a point where we`re mature enough to understand when
someone`s saying the word as an insult and when you`re actually just
quoting something else. Those are actually two different things.
HAYES: For the philosophy majors out there, that`s the noted
use/mention distinction. That was going to be our whole F block tonight.
Finally, we just have a few seconds left. Finally, then, is it the case
that the argument made by the folks in that article, who basically say,
look, this was drained of any semantic content as an insult because it was
a place name. Is that then an accurate thing to say?
COATES: It was drained of any content for them. I don`t know if it
ever had any content for them to begin with. But if you notice, the one
African-American that they quoted in that story said that, you know, she
was called that all her life and absolutely hated. So it wasn`t drained in
any content for the people who it was directed at.
HAYES: Ta-Nehisi Coates, senior editor at "The Atlantic." Just, you
should read his book, "The beautiful Struggle," which is a really
affecting, just incredibly well written memoir. I can gush about your
prose forever. But thanks for coming on.
COATES: Thank you, sir. Pleasure.
HAYES: Herman Cain will join Lawrence on THE LAST WORD on Thursday.
You can have THE LAST WORD online at our blog, TheLastWord.MSNBC.com.
Watch my new show, "UP WITH CHRIS HAYES," which airs Saturday mornings at
7:00 am Eastern.
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