Guest Host: Melissa Harris-Perry
Guests: Richard Engel, Rachel Maddow, Chris Hayes, Tim Wise
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, GUEST HOST: Hi. Good evening, Lawrence. And
And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
Now, we are going to be talking to Rachel in just a few minutes about
We are in the year nine of the war in the Iraq and this ninth year
will be the war`s very last, because today, in an expected announcement,
President Obama told the American people that the war in Iraq was ending,
definitively and absolutely the war is over.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can report that as
promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the
year. Over the next two months, our troops in Iraq, tens of thousands of
them, will pack up their gear and board convoys for the journey home.
The last American soldier will cross the border out of Iraq with their
heads held high, proud of their success and knowing that the American
people stand united in our support for our troops.
That is how America`s military efforts in Iraq will end.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: For as long as there has been an Iraq war, for as long
as there have been people arguing in favor of starting a war in Iraq, there
have been people on the other side of it arguing against it. And one of
those people arguing against it in very early stages was the man who
announced today that that war was ending.
And when President Obama said this afternoon that it was ending,
quote, "as promised," he was talking about himself, about his own promise
to the American people that he would be the president to end the war in
Iraq. President Obama`s opposition to the war went back years, to the
beginning of it, to a now famous 2002 speech he gave as a state legislator
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I don`t oppose war in all circumstances. When I look out over
this crowd today, I know there is no shortage of patriots or patriotism.
What I do oppose is a dumb war.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Five months later, President George W. Bush ordered
American forces to invade Iraq through Kuwait, because we were told over
and over again, Iraq was responsible for 9/11, and Iraq had weapons of mass
destruction, and Iraq wanted to use them against the free world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: We know that Iraq and al Qaeda
have had high-level contacts that go back a decade. We`ve learned that
Iraq has trained al Qaeda members in bomb-making, in poisons, in deadly
Iraq has sent bomb making and document forgery experts to work with al
Qaeda. Iraq has also provided al Qaeda with chemical and biological
He`s a threat because he`s dealing with al Qaeda.
DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: Simply stated, there is no doubt
that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt
that he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies and
BUSH: Iraq`s weapons of mass destruction are controlled by a
murderous tyrant who has already used chemical weapons to kill thousands of
CHENEY: We know he`s been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
HARRIS-PERRY: Those claims about al Qaeda and the weapons program all
turned out to be 100 percent grade "A" Huey. They were not true. Outside
the Cheney dinner family table, no one argues they are true anymore.
Just like no one thinks the pre, pre, pre, premature mission
accomplished declaration was a good idea.
But once those things were clear, the discussion of the war in Iraq,
the argument about it didn`t turn to -- OK, how do we end this thing?
Instead in 2007, the question was, how many more Americans do we send to
fight there? Remember that? The surge. President Bush deployed 20,000
more American troops to the war in Iraq to give the Iraqi government the
breathing space to stabilize -- so that a political resolution in Iraq
could be reached and then ultimately the troops could come home. That was
Now, the catastrophic violence in Iraq declined a bit, but as far as a
stable government, that didn`t happen. That still hasn`t happened. Iraq
had a parliamentary election last year and it took nine months for them to
form a government. Nine months of grinding political stalemate.
But while the troop buildup was going on in Iraq in 2007, and into
2008, back home here in the United States, two very important things were
going on. First, Senator Barack Obama, the man famous for that anti-Iraq
war speech, he was running for the Democratic presidential nomination. And
at the center of his argument for why he should be president was the
promise that he`d end the war.
He ran for president successfully as the anti-Iraq war candidate.
The other important thing back here at home happened with very little
notice. Before leaving office, President Bush made a security agreement
with the Iraqis. That agreement, the Status of Forces Agreement, set the
timetable for gradual -- many say too gradual withdrawal of U.S. troops.
And then a couple of years later, this happened. President Obama
ordered all U.S. combat troops out of Iraq by August 31st, 2010. And NBC`s
chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel was there. In fact, NBC and
MSNBC were the only television networks to carry it live of U.S. troops
left Iraq the way they came in, driving across the border with Kuwait.
Now, the point of the troop surge, the escalation, was to give the
Iraqi government the opportunity to succeed. And today, the president said
the troop de-escalation actually gave the United States a different kind of
opportunity all its own.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The drawdown in Iraq allowed us to refocus our fight against
al Qaeda and achieve major victories against its leadership including Osama
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The Iraq war will have lasted almost nine years.
Almost 4,500 American troops were killed and more than 30,000 wounded. And
now, the war is finally ending. Not with a raucous victory day parade, but
with a conversation between President Obama and the Iraqi prime minister.
You can see him here on the screen.
And with a somber short announcement by the president that over the
next two months, 40,000 Americans will be coming home. And not one
American would be getting notice that he or she had to ship out to replace
So joining us now is NBC`s chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel,
who was in Iraq at the time that the troops started coming home in August.
It`s really nice to see you.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Well, thanks for
having me on.
It is a very significant day. And a day - I`m still touched by that
moment when the president said -- all the troops are going to be home for
ENGEL: And there have been a lot of people who wanted to make that
statement. And he said it today very nonchalantly. And said, well, there
was an agreement to the works to leave a few thousand troops there beyond
and that agreement fell through. So they`re all coming back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, it is a moment of privilege. I think I will
always remember just now saying, the war is over, right?
ENGEL: The war is ending. It`s not over yet. We`ll be back in two
months and we`ll have that conversation.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, actually, I wanted to ask you exactly about that.
I mean, why was this such a surprising day? I mean, this Status of Forces
Agreement has been in place. Why is today so surprising?
ENGEL: There are about 39,000 U.S. troops there right now on a
training mission. So the combat mission is over. So troops aren`t going
out and invading cities anymore. That mission ended about a year ago in
the footage you showed when we came out with that convoy.
ENGEL: Since then there has been this, tens of thousands of troops
training Iraqi forces, officially deployed in uniform, on a mission, sent
to Iraq serving on bases. That was supposed to end always at the
conclusion of this year. But there was talk -- mostly coming from
different Iraqi factions. They wanted to leave a residual force of 2,000,
3,000, 5,000 -- the exact number was never made very clear -- beyond 2011,
as a trip wire, as a safeguard in case things went wrong and the civil war
And the problem was -- and this I think benefits the Iraqi people much
more than the U.S. would have gotten a benefit from this. The problem with
certain Iraqi politicians particularly Muqtada al Sadr, thought this was
giving into the occupation, extending the occupation and prime minister,
Maliki, was getting beat up domestically over this. And the U.S. was
putting some pressure on the Iraqi, saying, listen, we have a timeline
here, you got to make up a decision.
And then when the ultimate decision came down and Maliki told the
president, we can`t promise these troops immunity, President Obama said,
fine. We`re done.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`re done.
ENGEL: We`re done.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so this is the big question, right? I mean, the
anxiety here is the idea there may be some residual possibility of civil
war, we don`t know exactly our withdrawal is better or worse. But let me
ENGEL: Civil war might happen. There could be a civil war in Iraq.
The indications are not good on the ground.
Sectarian killings are coming back. Car bombings are coming back.
The Kurds, one particular militant group in the north has decided to go
berserk and attack Turkey, provoking a major retaliation from Turkey. Iran
is moving. Things are not good in Iraq right now.
But would 3,000, 4,000 troops that don`t have any kind of immunity in
a training mission that is opposed by a large section of the society been
enough to stop a potential civil war or all these other negative influences
that are going on in the country? Probably not.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So this is a question for us. We`re facing
this moment, where it`s not all perfect. We`ve been there nearly --
ENGEL: Not all perfect. The country could collapse.
HARRIS-PERRY: Momentarily. Right?
But somehow our occupation, our staying there also does not build the
wall against that happening.
ENGEL: Not with 2,000, 3,000 trainers who are there without any kind
of immunity, without any kind of legal framework. If the United States
wanted to make sure that Iraq was going to be a success, we`d have to stay
there with large numbers of troops and large commitment and maybe even that
is not going to ensure its success.
There`s two ways of looking at it. The training wheels are coming
off. So the Iraq bicycle is either going to fall down and everyone`s going
to get very badly bruised and cut up, or they`re going to have to start
peddling harder and they`re going to have to realize that this is their
moment. They really have to take responsibility for themselves. And let`s
hope it`s the latter.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let`s hope not only for the question of American
involvement but much more fundamentally for this nation who --
ENGEL: For this nation. Also for the United States.
If there is a gap in the Middle East, that`s a problem for the United
States. If there is a hole in the Middle East and Iran is more empowered
and there`s rising tension or military conflict between Kurds and Turkey
and there`s ongoing civil strife within Iraq, that`s bad for the United
So, we have a stake in this as well and what happens in Iraq will
influence the United States, will influence the region certainly and will
influence what we have done -- the legacy of all these soldiers, of all
these ideals that were put on the table. If you were an American soldier,
and you served three deployments there and you lost your best friend there,
you don`t want to see this fail.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right. There`s still a reason for us to care
about these outcomes in a very, very critical way.
HARRIS-PERRY: Richard, always, a pleasure to talk to you.
ENGEL: We`ll talk in two months. You`re going to get to say that
statement, the Iraq war is now over.
HARRIS-PERRY: Truly over.
ENGEL: It sends chills up one`s spine.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s quite a moment. Richard was not alone in Iraq in
August of last year when the last combat troops were leaving. Rachel was
reporting from there, too.
Tonight, she`s about to be a guest on "The Bill Maher Show," so she
can`t be her to host her own show. But we`re still able to talk with her
by phone for this moment.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, TRMS HOST (via telephone): Good evening, Melissa.
Thank you for having me on THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW. I feel like it`s a
looking glass thing. It`s great to be able on the snow.
HARRIS-PERRY: You can always be a guest on my guest hosting of your
HARRIS-PERRY: Listen, back in 2005 and 2006, when Americans were in
the streets pushing back against this war, did you imagine that this is how
it would end with the security agreement, with this kind of a slow, you
know, movement out, this immunity, denial of immunity by the Iraqi
government? Does American protesting about our own international
entanglements matter at all?
MADDOW: You know, it is, I think that the most I could have foreseen,
the most I could have imagined was that the American people would elect a
Democratic president who was opposed to the war and that would be the
person overseeing the end of it. I think that protest movements and the
in-the-street kind of protests that we have about wars and that we
certainly had about the Iraq war is -- it`s an -- it has an indefinite and
indirect effect on our politics. It creates a sense of crisis around which
politicians must pick sides.
And, you know, right now, just looking at the reaction, partisan
political reaction to what President Obama announced today, it`s a reminder
about why it is really important that we have politics about these things.
Every single one of the Republican presidential candidates except for Ron
Paul has reacted to this by saying, you know what, I wish the Iraq war was
going on longer.
That is a really important thing about, for Americans to remember
about our politics right now. One of the choices we have to make is
whether or not we want to stay with President Obama or whether we want to
pick somebody instead who looks at the Iraq war situation and thinks, man,
if only that were going on longer and weren`t ending, America would be so
much better off.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, look, you`re talking here about the question of
protests and right now in the streets, right here in New York City, right,
Americans are protesting on the questions of economic inequality. We have
40,000 troops coming home -- 40,000, and the unemployment rate for veterans
in this country is outrageously high.
On the one hand, you know, Richard and I were sitting here thrilled
about the possibilities, about what it may mean for this war to be ending.
On the other hand, what do you see as the domestic economic implications of
this return of our veterans to such a poor economy?
MADDOW: You know, the -- it`s interesting. We did have earlier this
week the president and actually the first lady announcing a major
private/public partnership that was essentially a hiring program for new
veterans. Part of the American Jobs Act that the president has proposed
would be not just a tax credit but sort of a mega tax credit to private
businesses who would be willing to hire veterans and even disabled veterans
of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.
So we have actually seen some focus on that, disturbingly high levels
of unemployment among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Looking at it more
broadly -- I mean, the whole country has an unemployment problem. And one
of the problems that we`ve got is that even when jobs are available, we do
not necessarily have some of the skills as an American workforce to fill
the jobs that are available. Part of that is the way jobs are distributed
in urban versus rural things.
But we have to look at the 2 million Americans who served in Iraq and
Afghanistan as an incredible repository of experience, expertise and a real
American leadership. I mean, I do not know a more impressive group of my
peers, people in my age group and the 10 years younger than me, than people
who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. That professional experience sets
them up uniquely I think in our age group cohort for taking jobs that other
people don`t necessarily have the skills for in America. I think it`s an
imminently employable group of people. I think the administration is
focused well on it.
And I think that our nation`s veterans are really, really, really
impressive group. We`re going to have to rise to the occasion to meet the
promises we`ve made to them, but mostly, we should be looking to them for
leadership on all sorts of things in this country because they are the best
that the country has to offer.
HARRIS-PERRY: And we`ve leaned on them in a way that hasn`t been true
in previous wars, where such a small group of people have carried really
all of the sacrifices. In fact, we were asked as a country not to
sacrifice, to go out and shop in the context of our colleagues and our
peers doing this work.
Now, speaking of Iraq winding down, Afghanistan, the president tells
us is also going to be winding down. NATO is going to be ending its
operations in Libya as well.
Is this time for us to be having a conversation about how and when we
go to war? Is this -- is this a moment -- are we going to start to enter a
period of peace when we can actually engage in some thoughtful conversation
MADDOW: Yes, Melissa, when you said this is ending, not with a ticker
tape parade, but with a conversation, you`re exactly right. I mean, I had
a -- when I learned the news that Osama bin Laden was killed, I, like I
think most Americans, had a very emotional reaction to that.
I had a bookend very similar reaction to this morning watching the
president announce the end of the Iraq war. Between those two events over
the past six months, the 9/11 era is over and the 9/11 era is characterized
by the radicalism of the George W. Bush administration that was in place
when 9/11 happened. No one will ever be able to sell to the American again
the crock pot cockamamie foreign policy idea of the Bush administration
which was that war could be something constructive, that war a creative
force for reshaping the world in a positive way that was good for America.
That was a radical faction/neocon idea that got ahold of the Republican
Party at the worst possible time and it set us on a decade long
misadventure of making war for choice.
That is over. There will never, ever be a group like that who`s able
to take hold in America because now we know what happens when you do it.
And that means it`s time to start talking about what we`re going to be
instead because we`re not going to be controlled by foreign policy
radicalism but be pragmatic and realistic about it.
And I think that President Obama is ideally suited to lead the
discussion. I hope Republicans will participate in it, too. It`s time to
have a big national, even partisan debate about how we use the biggest
military -- excuse me, the biggest military the world has ever known.
HARRIS-PERRY: Rachel, thank you for joining us as a guest on your own
show tonight. I really appreciate it.
MADDOW: Thank you for making time for me. You`re doing an amazing
job. Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, I`m going to stay up late and watch you on Bill
Maher on HBO a little later.
MADDOW: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: All these foreign policy victories for President Obama,
truly remarkable historic progress.
When we the tries to get a badly, badly need jobs bill through
Congress you`d think he was asking for the moon, the stars and some comets
to be named later. That`s up next.
HARRIS-PERRY: The "Best New Thing in the World Today" is that there
still is a world today. Details ahead. But for now, remain calm.
HARRIS-PERRY: Consider for a moment the last 36 hours that Barack
Obama has had as president of the United States. Just the last 36 hours.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Today, the government of Libya announced the death of Moammar
Gadhafi. This marks the end of a long and painful chapter for the people
of Libya, who now have the opportunity to determine their own destiny in a
new and democratic Libya.
Without putting a single U.S. servicemember on the ground, we achieved
our objectives. And our NATO mission will soon come to an end.
Today, I can report that as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq
will come home by the end of the year. After nearly nine years, America`s
war in Iraq will be over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The successful toppling of one of the world`s most
brutal dictators and formal end of a nine-year-long American war, in these
last 36 hours Barack Obama has presided over two events that would qualify
as monumental in any presidency -- and yet, even while racking up those two
enormous accomplishments, there was something else that happened in the
same 36-hour span that may ultimately matter more to the future of his
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Senate has rejected President Obama`s
streamlined jobs bill aimed at preventing layoffs of teachers and
firefighters by local and state governments. This latest legislation was a
slimmed down remnants of the president`s larger $450 million jobs bill that
was rejected last week.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Toppling Moammar Gadhafi and ending a war? No problem.
Passing a jobs bill in the middle of a terrible, terrible continued
economic recession? No shot.
Last night, every single Republican in the Senate voted to filibuster
the first part of President Obama`s now piecemeal jobs plan. Every single
Republican along with two Democrats voted against a bill that would allow
state and local governments to hire or rehire and retrain schoolteachers,
police officers, firefighters, and other first responders. Republicans
blocked that bill from even being debated.
And even though this was just a snapshot, the past 36 hours, this is
sort of the story of the Obama presidency so far -- huge foreign policy
achievements coupled with jaw dropping frustrations on the domestic policy
From essentially the moment Barack Obama took office, he`s managed to
rack up one foreign policy success after another. His first real test on
the international stage actually came within his first 100 days in office.
Remember, it was when he sent an order in for the U.S. Navy SEALs to free
an American ship captain who had been taken hostage by Somali pirates.
From there, it was the whole string of foreign policy achievements.
Most notably the successful mission to hunt down and kill the head of
al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, after 10 years on the run.
More recently, there was a drone strike that took out the American
born cleric in Yemen.
And President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 for the new
vision of diplomacy that he offered from America.
That new face to the world included amazing and sometimes highly
affective relief efforts on the part of the United States in places like
Haiti, Japan, as well as Pakistan. President Obama`s administration has
skillfully maneuvered through the Arab spring in the Middle East, that
brought down regimes in Tunisia, Egypt and now finally the NATO mission
initially led by the U.S., the toppled Moammar Gadhafi in Libya.
Now, whatever side you`re on here, whether you`re a Democrat, or the
few Republicans watching, there really isn`t any denying that these are
real concrete foreign policy achievements, many of them coming in just the
last year. And yet in that same time period, President Obama has seen his
domestic policy agenda stalled to the point where it`s considered an
achievement just to keep the lights on in Washington.
We are now heading into an election year. And this president is
facing a real dichotomy -- a dichotomy made most clear by the Libya/Iraq
news this week versus the jobs bill news. Now, most political analysts and
scholars maintain that foreign policy successes don`t make a difference on
an election about the economy. But maybe there`s something useful in
demonstrating how obstructionist Republicans have been by holding them up
against a president who has clearly had leadership capacity, skills and
successes in this other arena.
Given the current political reality, is there anything that this
president can get done domestically? Is there any way to govern in the
American political system to bring back our economy, create jobs, generate
new opportunities for education? Can we do any of this without Congress
and the president actually working together?
Now, Barack Obama campaigned for office by saying that the problem of
partisanship was destroying our country. His tenure in office has been an
abject lesson in that, partisanship grinding progress to a halt. Now, what
can be done to change that?
Joining us to think through that question is Chris Hayes, the host of
MSNBC`s new show "UP WITH CHRIS HAYES" that I spent time on last weekend.
CHRIS HAYES, UP WITH CHRIS HAYES: It was delightful.
HARRIS-PERRY: It was great. And this is my payback. You got me up
early, and so I`m keeping you up late.
HAYES: I`m happy. I overjoyed to be here. And I love being
introduced as joining us now to think through that question. That`s what I
want to do on TV. Think through things.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, really, because this is legitimately a question.
HARRIS-PERRY: I could just sort of rail about how this is all the
Republican`s fault and so, you know, we just have to put President Obama
back in there with a Democratic Congress. That`s fine. But we`ve got a
HARRIS-PERRY: We`re a year out. Is it possible to govern
domestically right now?
HAYES: I think the short answer is no. The more disturbing answer as
that you were reading the intro, what occurred to me is that this is a
perfect example in which the way legislative dysfunction cultivate the
authoritarian impulse in American life.
And the reason is that we can point to all these things the president
has done in the seat of imperial power that is the executive, with
essentially no congressional oversight because can do that. He can order
Anwar Awlaki is killed by a drone strike. He can send Navy SEALs around
the places. He sits in the throne of imperial executive power.
As soon as he moves into the domestic sphere, he has to deal with the
Senate and dysfunctional body of the filibuster. And so, what he does is
it produces a desire in the populous to get -- to bypass Congress which is
deeply unhealthy. Deeply, deeply sick and unhealthy in terms of how we
think about it.
And I think the other thing to think about is, that bill failed. The
stripped down bill failed 50/50, right? In the absence of the filibuster,
Joe Biden shows up on Capitol Hill, he casts a deciding vote and it`s
So, the way that the filibuster has been institutionalized is a huge
part of the kind of cancer that`s growing on our legislative body.
HARRIS-PERRY: Sure. But it`s true the Democrats then turned around
and filibustered this Republican bill the next hour. And we are less
likely to feel angst about it. I mean, this is part of what`s going on,
this kind of rules of the game.
But let me ask you about the rules of the game because I hear you. I
mean, I also feel anxiety about this idea of let`s concentrate power. It`s
exactly what we were upset about, for example, in the context of the war
that we are finally ending. But there have been moments in a context of
divided government where we have been able to govern. And it`s largely
been because the president could go to use the bully pulpit, go to the
population, get the backing of the public then pressure Congress.
Why is this Congress so insulated from public opinion?
HAYES: I think they produced a level of caucus discipline, that is
essentially unprecedented in modern times, and I think political
scientists, such as yourself, have shown that. I mean, they have done the
sort of analysis to show the level of party-line voting in caucus. Unity
is unprecedented. We`ve moved toward the sort of parliamentary system.
The other thing I think is really important to think about is the
difference between rules and norms and how they guide a legislative body.
HAYES: The rules say one thing. The norms say the other.
There`s a body of things that just aren`t done that can be as powerful
in the force of prohibition as a rule that says it hasn`t been done.
And one of the things the Republicans have been entrepreneurs in,
incredibly pioneering, is breaking those norms. Things that just weren`t
done, they just do and say, what`s up, what are you going to do?
Tom DeLay, we saw the redistricting, this iconic example of this. No
one wrote a rule saying you can`t redistrict me in an election, it was just
the norm. The commerce secretary, Bryson, who was finally approved on
Friday, passed by 45 votes. It took five months. There was no reason
except for the fact Republicans said we want you to sign these trade deals
So, what we have seen, they`ve exploited the space between the norms
and rules to create this kind of obstruction and dysfunction.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So, we`re in a place where we`ve got
obstruction, we`ve got dysfunction. It was not always this way.
But we can`t just yearn for the authoritarian. We can`t yearn for the
dictator. That`s not going to get us in the long term where we want to go.
HAYES: No, I mean, I think what we need are -- we need actual
reforms. I mean, I think what happens when a space opens up between the
norms and rules as they have in the United States Senate particularly, you
need to reform the rules because the two of them fundamentally have to
reflect each other. And I think that`s really the issue.
And it`s a hard and Rachel, God knows, has talked about the
filibuster. We talked about the filibuster. You talked about the
filibuster. It`s a hard thing to sell.
But, like at the end of the day, that dysfunction begins to be this
cancer that spreads through the entire democracy.
HARRIS-PERRY: Chris Hayes, from MSNBC, from my favorite magazine "The
HARRIS-PERRY: Make sure that you watch "UP WITH CHRIS HAYES" this
weekend and thanks for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it.
Now, when you talk about "Occupy Wall Street" with your friends, do
you have the same take on the protesters` goals? Bet you don`t. We`re
going to dig into that a little later.
HARRIS-PERRY: Occupy Wall Street has been protesting unceasingly for
more than a month now. Long enough for the initial splash to be over and
media`s attempts to figure out what the long-term ripples might be to
really take hold. And no one has had a clearer take on the real deal
downtown than the always insightful New York City hip hop host and social
commentator, Jay Smooth, who likens Wall Street to the sidewalk game three-
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY SMOOTH, HIP HOP HOST: And as you probably know, every three-card
Monte setup has a ringer. The ringer`s job is to pretend they`re an
objective outside observer commenting on the game when they`re part of the
hustle that`s there to help bamboozle the public into thinking this game is
legitimate. So, naturally, if we stand next to the game and tell everyone
the game is rigged, the ringer is going to flip on us and start doing
everything they can to make sure nobody listens to us. They`re going to
try everything they can to discredit us so they can protect that game that
they`re so invested in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So at "Occupy Wall Street," who are the players and
who`s getting bamboozled? That`s just ahead.
HARRIS: There`s a kind of an old joke that says how can you tell when
a politician is lying? The answer is you can tell he`s lying because his
lips are moving.
I like to think there`s a corollary, which is how do you tell
someone`s a politician? Because they keep talking about the middle class.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The middle class needs our
REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So what happened to the
middle class? They lost their jobs. They lost their houses.
ELIZABETH WARREN (R-MN), SENATE CANDIDATE: The middle class has been
chipped at, squeezed and hammered for an entire generation now.
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: They`re trying to raise
taxes on middle class.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Washington is hanging
the middle class out to dry.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
HARRIS-PERRY: The middle class -- it`s the foundation of our
political conversation. It`s the one safe thing politicians can talk about
-- mom, apple pie and saving the middle class. Far fewer people are
willing to talk about American poverty. Not the unemployed, not folks who
are down on their luck, but the poor. We don`t really talk about the poor
in this country.
In very official terms, U.S. economy flipped into a recession at the
end of twe2007 and started to recover part way through 2009. You can argue
we`re not growing enough to really be out of the old recession. You can
argue we`re about to fall into a new recession, a double-dip. But we are
growing, at least a little.
You want to see what else is growing? Poverty. Last year, 15 percent
of Americans were living below the poverty line. More than 46 million
people -- 46 million.
A year after the recession ended and the recovery began. And It`s not
an accident. It`s the natural outcome of the choices our government makes.
When Republicans in the Senate refused to even consider a bill to keep
teachers and cops and firefighters working, as they did last night, when
Republicans do that, they are choosing to put people out of work and keep
them that way.
When Republicans in Congress defend tax cuts for the rich and call for
tax hikes on working families, they`re shifting resources from the less
advantaged to those who already have more than they need.
It`s hard to believe you could even take a position like that with a
straight face in this country.
Unless you think this whole poverty thing is a joke.
The conservative Heritage Foundation this year questioned the whole
idea of poverty. Quote, "The overwhelming majority of the poor have air-
conditioning, cable TV and a host of other amenities. They are well
housed, have an adequate and reasonably steady supply of food." Reasonably
steady? "And have met their other basic needs including medical care."
The latest Republican argument is the poor have no one to blame but
themselves. They`re not really poor, they`re failures.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Don`t blame Wall Street.
Don`t blame the big banks. If you don`t have a job and you`re not rich,
It is not a person`s fault because they succeeded. It is a person`s
fault if they failed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Herman Cain is now leading in the polls for the
Republican nomination. Just barely -- but Herman Cain is the front-runner.
And Herman Cain is winning in part because the Republican base loves the
idea of getting tough on the poor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON COOPER, MODERATOR: Herman Cain, I`ve got to ask you, you
said, -- two weeks ago, you said, "Don`t blame Wall Street, don`t blame the
big banks. If you don`t have a job, and you`re not rich, blame yourself."
That was two weeks ago. The movement has grown. Do you still say
CAIN: Yes, I do still say that. And here`s why.
CAIN: Wall Street didn`t put in failed economic policies. Wall
Street didn`t spend a trillion dollars that didn`t do any good. Wall
Street isn`t going around the country trying to sell another $450 billion.
They ought to be over in front of the White House taking out their
CAIN: So, I do stand by them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Woo-hoo! Blame yourselves poor people of America! Do
it for Herman Cain! Do it for the nice middle class people applauding in
Well, this is the face of poverty in America. This is who`s poor in
our country: children -- particularly Latino and black children.
Last year, a year after the great recession, one in five kids in
America lived in poverty. Four of every 10 African-American children.
Where I live in New Orleans, most of the young, black children are
poor. Not some. Not many. Most.
Nationally, it`s Latino kids who suffer most. More than 6 million
Latino kids in poverty in this country now. We have so many children
living in poverty that they outnumber the population of all but our four
And here`s the most shocking part. This is within our control. We do
not have to sit back and watch poverty and child poverty rise.
Our problem with child poverty in particular results largely from a
failure of political will. Not from a lack of resources. When you compare
America to the world`s other rich nations, we`re on the wrong side of
average. And we`re way down at the bottom.
We`re a giant nation and a very rich one. But in terms of how we
treat our kids, we`re down there with tiny Portugal and with Hungary and
Poland from the old Soviet bloc. Our kids are poor like that.
And when people cheer for the poor to blame themselves, that`s what
they`re clapping about, children -- American children who never lost a job
or made a bum decision about a career or did anything at all that would
expose them to blame for their own condition, American kids who might even
have a reasonably steady supply of food, as they say in conservative
circles, as if that were somehow enough.
HARRIS-PERRY: In recent weeks, there`s been a great deal of criticism
directed at the "Occupy Wall Street" movement for not having a clearly
articulated policy agenda. Come to think of it, one of those critics was
But, today, a number of "Occupy Wall Street" protesters took on a very
clear public policy. The New York City Police Department`s policy of stop
and frisk. Stop and frisk is very much what it sounds like, it gives
police the power to on front, question and search whomever they deem
suspicious. Something they felt the need to do over 600,000 times last
Reportedly, 85 percent of those stopped and frisked were black and
Latino. So, that`s why for a time today some of the people who have been
occupying Wall Street joined those occupying Frederick Douglass Boulevard
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop and frisk, don`t stop the crime.
CROWD: Stop and frisk is the crime.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop and frisk don`t stop the crime.
CROWD: Stop and frisk is the crime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Stop and frisk a crime -- a few dozen protesters
gathered in and around the NYPD`s 28th precinct. Some even using the
occupy protest traditional people`s mike to tell their stories of police
And after protesters blocked the precinct, arrests began, including
that of my Princeton University colleague, Professor Cornel West.
What happened today not only flies in those who claim that "Occupy
Wall Street" has no policy goals, it also challenges another criticism of
the now worldwide protest. That it is largely a monochromatic movement,
that it is not very diverse and not interested in questions of racial
You just don`t go to Harlem and march through the projects protesting
stop and frisk if you`re not interested in dealing with racial bias on some
level. But questions still remain about how a broad-based global movement
like this has and will continue to address the ways of economic inequality
and racial and ethnic inequality are intertwined.
This economy, as hard as it`s been on everyone who isn`t part of that
1 percent, it`s hit black and Latino communities the hardest. The wealth
gap was a crack in the ground compared to the canyon it became after the
In real terms, you could not talk about economic inequality in America
without addressing race. Today, at least part of this new movement plainly
and openly protested at the intersection of race and abuse of power by law
enforcement. And they did it in Harlem.
So what does this mean for the future of the "Occupy" movements and
for the focus of the "Occupy Wall Street"?
Joining us now is Tim Wise, an educator, anti-racist advocate, and the
author of "White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son."
Tim, it is so good to see you again.
TIM WISE, ANTI-RACIST ADVOCATE: It is very good to see you.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I saw you earlier this week, when you were at
Tulane, where I now teach and where you graduated, and I wanted to ask you
a couple of questions about the "Occupy" movement.
HARRIS-PERRY: The first is really about this language of occupy.
Now, many indigenous, Native American communities are pretty concerned
about the language of occupation. I mean, after all, we just finished our
occupation in Iraq.
What does it mean to occupy versus decolonizing Wall Street?
WISE: I think that`s important. I mean, the people of color I`ve
been speaking to around the country, particularly indigenous activists,
have been very clear: (a), for their support of the goals and the larger
narrative of the "Occupy" movement; but at the same time saying, you know,
you have to be careful.
When you choose language like "Occupy," what you forget, particularly
if you`re a white activist, is that white folks have been occupying
Manhattan, including Lower Manhattan, for hundreds of years. It`s not
really new, and when they go home from the park and Wall Street, wherever
they may go home to. If it`s Greenwich Village, if it`s uptown, if it`s
the west side, wherever it is, they`re still going to be occupying what was
So, that is a site of long-standing racial injustice, and it`s
important to have that narrative. It`s not just a historical matter. It
is a matter of contemporary reality if we`re trying to build a solidarity
movement, we just have to be clear, that we`re trying to de-colonize a
colonized and occupied place, not just re-occupy it for better purposes.
HARRIS-PERRY: Speaking of a little history, I want to ask you a
little bit of your own history. You were an activist at Tulane, that`s
really where you first cut your teeth on this work, doing kind of a
divestment from apartheid South African work.
Tell me a little bit about how that work, like the "Occupy" work now,
can help to reveal aspects of white privilege and the meaning of race work
in trying to build progressive commitments and community.
WISE: Sure, what I learned from that work, and that`s been about two
decades now ago, was that many times, even those of us who are radical and
progressive and have all of the right politics in our mind -- whatever that
means -- sometimes manifest both tactics and a narrative that can be off-
putting to people of color, and that can sometimes prevent us from building
the kind of solidarity we need.
So, in our case, you know, it was choosing tactics of occupying
buildings, risking arrest, very cavalierly, going on hunger strike, which
for those of us who were white, I guess, we sort of saw that as cool. For
a lot of people of color, they were like, OK, good luck with that whole
getting arrested thing, let us know how that works out with you. We don`t
have the same experience with cops that you do. We also don`t have the
same experience with hunger and economic deprivation, so we`re not going to
voluntarily starve ourselves, but good luck with that.
And the reason I say that now and why it`s important, I`m not saying
that`s what the occupy folks are all about. I think today`s development in
Harlem is fantastic.
But what it suggests is we have to be mindful when we are trying to
build a cross-racial movement for social, economic, and political justice,
that we don`t choose tactics that are going to be -- for some people,
extremely risky. I mean, getting arrested does not mean the same thing
when you are white as opposed to when you are black and brown in this
HARRIS-PERRY: Tim, it is always a pleasure to talk to you. I so
appreciate your work as an anti-racist advocator and educator, and
appreciate you joining me tonight.
WISE: You bet. Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: The next new thing is tonight. I don`t want to use
words like Armageddon or "end of days" or Apocalypse, but we`ve still got a
couple of hours to go, so don`t get cocky. That`s next.
HARRIS: "The Best New Thing in the World Today" is really simple.
The week is over, the war is over, but apparently the world isn`t. And it
seems to have been a very, very long day.
Let me explain. Do you remember what you were doing on May 21st?
Lots of stuff happened that day. The Mississippi River was so swollen that
engineers made the decision to flood hundreds of thousands of acres of
Louisiana on purpose.
In New York, the French politician, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, was
released from prison and placed under house arrest on charges that were
The Pope spoke to astronauts on the space shuttle.
And oh, yes, it was my BFF`s birthday.
All in all, sort of a busy day for a Saturday.
But here`s what didn`t happen on May 21st. The world did not come to
an end. We`re still here, right? Now, a radio preacher named Harold
Camping had said that would be the day of rapture. He predicted 200
million Christians would ascend to heaven on May 21st amid massive
destruction and everybody else who calls the planet home would be left to
fend for themselves.
Now, who`s to say it won`t happen some day, but May 21st wasn`t the
And after May 21st, Harold Camping regrouped. He explained that he
just made a bit of a calculating error. Just yesterday on his Web site, he
seemed to have posed this special message. "On May 21 of 2011, mankind
entered into the day of judgment. This day will last five months, or 153
days, until October 21, 2011."
October 21st, whoa, that`s today. Harold Camping five-month-long
judgment day is almost over, and absolutely nothing has happened -- yet.
Now, this day isn`t over, but the fact that Europe and all of Asia and
New Zealand and Australia and half of the Pacific have survived and because
I have big plans for the weekend, the fact that the world still exists is
"The Best New Thing in the World" tonight.
And that does it for us tonight. Rachel will be back on Monday. I`m
Melissa Harris-Perry. Good night.
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