'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Wednesday, November 23, 2011
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Guests: Steve Clemons, Rinku Sen
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, GUEST HOST: Good evening. And thanks for
joining us for the next hour. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. Rachel has the
If you were watching the Republican Party`s foreign policy debate in
Washington last night, then you may have caught what happened at the very
end of the evening. The last question of the night was, which national
security issue do you wish we`d ask you about? What`s the thing that
worries you the most that hasn`t been discussed tonight?
The responses given by the candidates to that question were sort of
Rick Perry, for instance, really wanted to talk about the pressing
issue of abortions in China. Newt Gingrich wanted to talk about the
dangers of electromagnetic pulse attacks. Herman Cain wanted to discuss
his former career as a ballistics analyst. Who knew? And Mitt Romney and
Rick Santorum both wanted to talk about the prospect of radical Islamists
invading Latin America.
We sort of found those answers a little puzzling, because if you asked
us that question, there are all sorts of foreign policy issues that we here
at the MADDOW SHOW would have had on the agenda that weren`t touched during
last night`s debate -- things like the current debt crisis in Europe, which
threatens to undermine our economic security. Or how about the 100 U.S.
combat troops that President Obama just deployed to Africa.
Instead of wanting to talk about those issues, this group of
Republican presidential candidates appeared to want to focus their night on
things like radical Islamists invading Mexico and, of course, pressing
issues like this one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The most significant threat
is, of course, Iran become nuclear.
JON HUNTSMAN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our interest is to ensure
Iran does not go nuclear.
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Iran has
announced they plan to strike Israel.
HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When you talk about
attacking Iran, it is a very mountainous region.
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need a strategy of
defeating and replacing the current Iranian regime. We could break the
Iranian regime I think within a year.
ROMNEY: The right course in America is to stand up to Iran.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
HARRIS-PERRY: Last night, it was all Iran all the time for the
Republican presidential field. It was basically a battle among the
Republican candidates about who could sound tougher about the dangers of
Iran and who would be best at defeating Iran.
This singular focus on taking out Iran, on getting the United States
involved in yet another conflict in the Middle East was sort of a notable
takeaway from last night`s debate. And it didn`t really make much sense
until you realized who was in the crowd they were speaking to.
Now, previous Republican debates this year have featured crowds filled
with likely Republican voters and Tea Party activities and conservative
movement activists. Last night, it was a little bit different. Last
night, it was guys like this who were asking the question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL WOLFOWITZ, AMERICAN ENTEPRISE INSTITUTE: My name is Paul
Wolfowitz. I`m a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, that would be former George W. Bush deputy defense
secretary Paul Wolfowitz, otherwise known as one of the guys that brought
us the war in Iraq. Paul Wolfowitz, before becoming a public debate
questioner was a guy that said the United States could do Iraq with a small
force, that we`d be greeted as liberators and that the whole thing wouldn`t
cost us a time.
But yet, there he was last night he was grilling the Republican field
on matter of foreign policy. And Paul Wolfowitz wasn`t alone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID ADDINGTON, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: I`m David Addington. I`m vice
president with the Heritage Foundation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: I the name David Addington sounds familiar to you, it`s
because his old job is legal counsel to chief of staff of former Vice
President Dick Cheney.
David Addington was essentially Dick Cheney`s Dick Cheney. He was a
mysterious shadowy guy behind the scenes in the Bush administration who was
advocating that things like torture were actually legal and the executive
branch had the power to basically do anything that it wanted in the name of
Like Paul Wolfowitz, though, here`s David Addington front and center
at last night`s Republican debate picked by CNN to scrutinize the
Republican field on foreign policy since he is so distinguished himself in
Also featured prominently during last night`s debate was famed Bush
administration era neoconservative Fred Kagan, one of the driving
intellectual forces behind the U.S. war in Iraq.
Following Mr. Kagan a little bit later in the night was former Bush
administration speech writer Mark Thiessen. Mr. Thiessen has spent most of
his time post-White House defending the Bush administration`s
So, last night was like a reunion of George W. Bush neoconservative
foreign policy team members.
If those are the guys who are still setting the agenda in the
Republican Party when it comes to foreign policy, you apparently end up
with getting Republican presidential candidates who sound like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
BACHMANN: This is one thing we know about Barack Obama: he has
essentially handed over our interrogation of terrorists to the ACLU.
WOLF BLITZER, DEBATE MODERATOR: Senator Santorum, under certain
circumstances in the past you`ve supported profiling, is that correct?
RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have. Obviously,
Muslims would be someone you`d look at. Absolutely.
GINGRICH: We need a strategy of defeating and replacing the current
Iranian regime with minimum use of force.
ROMNEY: The right course in America is to stand up to Iran.
GINGRICH: If we were serious, we could break the Iranian regime I
think within a year.
GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If we`re serious
about Iran, then we have to be serious about Syria as well.
ROMNEY: This is the time for us to use not only sanctions but covert
actions within Syria to get regime change there.
President Obama apologizes for America. It`s time for us to be strong
as a nation.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
HARRIS-PERRY: I guess this is sort of like when you put Republican
candidates in front of guys like Pat Robertson and they start weeping about
finding Jesus. Maybe this is how Republicans react when you put them in
front of Paul Wolfowitz, George W. Bush`s former speechwriter, and Dick
Cheney`s secret lawyer.
Joining us now is "The Atlantic" magazine`s Washington editor at
large, Steve Clemons. And Steve also writes the blog, "The Washington
Note." He`s a senior fellow at the New America Foundation.
Thanks for joining us tonight, Steve.
STEVE CLEMONS, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Good to be with you, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, this was a fascinating moment. And, you know, for
all the invocations of Ronald Reagan that we`ve, you know, heard in these
Republican debates, we have really rarely heard the name George W. Bush
invoked. And yet, when you listen last night that those Republican
candidates, it sure sounded to me like George W. Bush foreign policy
strategy -- of course, with the exception of Ron Paul.
Did you hear a return to a neocon vision last night?
CLEMONS: Well, actually, I mean, you called it exactly right. To see
David Addington, who, you know, his name does not appear in the Bob
Woodward`s book "Bush at War" because he never wanted to be known. He
wanted to be in the shadows and until Jane Mayer`s book, "The Dark Side,"
America didn`t know this guy. To walk out and see him in the cameras was
These are the people who hatched and were the architects of the Iraq
war on the whole. And when you look on that stage, as you said, Ron Paul
is different. I`d also say Jon Huntsman is a bit different.
But the Henry Kissinger, the Richard Lugar, the Chuck Hagel wing of
the Republican foreign policy establishment is basically an endangered
species. And what you`ve seen is the neocons I think essentially failing
in some of their policies, have nonetheless done a brilliant job of taking
over and it being very, very strong in the major think tank institutions in
And that is the crowd that basically sets the terms, if you will, for
foreign policy debates now.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you`re framing this as a kind of lack within the
current Republican Party of this particular sort of Republican statesman
model that we`ve once seen. So, does this mean there`s a real ideological
commitment to the neoconservative foreign policy values on behalf of these
Republican candidates? Or is this just kind of a fear tactic that`s
employed in the context of a campaign? In other words, should I be
actually afraid or should I just be irritated by this?
CLEMONS: Well, it`s a little bit of both. The fact is that old style
Nixonian realism was about measuring cost and benefits to the country and
to the national interest, before taking action.
We`re at an age where anger and sentiment and trying to do good and
striking back are now the terms that drive foreign policy.
And so, what you see is a little bit of fear mongering that we learned
from Dick Cheney that works well in the political playbook, combined with
what I think is something happening in both the Democratic Party and the
Republican Party, is a sense that you have to change the way that the
inside workings of other states operate if they are seen to be a threat to
the United States. It`s sort of like the Borg in "Star Trek," you either
assimilate them or you annihilate them.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me ask the question asked to the candidates at
the end, let me ask it of you. What wasn`t discussed last night as we talk
about our foreign policy and national security that you think is of
critical importance? Is it the European debt crisis? Is it the situation
in Yemen? What should we be talking about here?
CLEMONS: There should be an organized hierarchy. All these issues
matter. The drought in Africa matters. The European debt crisis could be
a devastating blow to the global economy and really shrink America`s
ambitions in the world.
Fundamentally, the largest national security issue out there for the
United States today is the profound doubt in America`s abilities to achieve
the things it says it`s going to do. That perception by other countries
translates into weakness -- allies behave differently, foes behave
And so, you need a serious discussion about how you creatively
approach the world and opportunities and try to figure out a way to build
momentum and reinvent American leadership and leverage in the world.
And we didn`t hear that. We heard assertions of American power, and
we heard Mitt Romney and others basically saying we need to kind of be
But this is not a recipe for return to American leadership in the
So, whether it`s China, Europe, Africa, what`s happening in the global
economy, it needs to fit within a plan, an equation for America to reinvent
HARRIS-PERRY: Steve Clemons, "The Atlantic" magazine`s Washington
editor at large -- I appreciate you taking us to this place of reminding us
what a big foreign policy looks like.
CLEMONS: Thank you, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: Among other revelations from last night`s debate was
that historian Newt Gingrich takes a slightly more humane view of
immigration than some segments of the Republican base. What that means for
his electoral chances and for the chance to have a real conversation about
immigration is coming up.
HARRIS-PERRY: There are new store lease which are perfect. They`re
specific. Something important happens. They`re ironic and all those
things help to explain something much bigger, broader, absolutely
perfectly. Did you hear the one about the Mercedes-Benz executive who went
to Alabama? You will, coming up next.
HARRIS-PERRY: The Republican candidates may not think the whole
European economy on the verge of catastrophe thing is worth mentioning when
it comes to future threats to America. You know who takes Europe and
specifically Germany very seriously when it comes to their economic future?
The state has a very close decades-long economic relationship with one
big German company, Mercedes-Benz. Mercedes chose Tuscaloosa, Alabama, for
a new car plant back in the mid-`90s. But Alabama almost didn`t make it
because Mercedes was wary of the state`s racial history.
One big turnoff for the automaker -- the Confederate flag. The flag
flew at top the state capitol in Montgomery until 1993. Despite much
criticism in the late `80s, it was a point of such contention that in 1988,
14 African-American state legislatures tried to break into the state
capitol and physically remove the flag themselves. They got into trouble
But the flag was just too historically significant to remove from the
capitol. According to Alabama`s Republican governor at the time, Guy Hunt.
Enter Mercedes. The Germans weren`t too keen on building an American
base of operations in a state that so revered the Confederate flag. The
flag came down in 1993, the same year Mercedes choose Tuscaloosa.
According to this 1993 "Associated Press" piece, Mercedes officials
said they never would have picked the state as an industrial base had the
flag still flown at the capitol, the state`s top industrial recruiter.
The Tuscaloosa plant has been vital to Alabama`s economy since it
opened in 1997. And one estimate suggests it`s brought more than 41,000
jobs to the state. That`s why it was a big, big deal last week when
Mercedes-Benz executive driving his rental car in Tuscaloosa was arrested
for not having his passport.
He left it back in the hotel. Whoops.
In Alabama, that`s now illegal. It`s a violation of HB-56, Alabama`s
new immigration law. Remember HB-56. The law has sparked protest since it
went into effect. It requires people to show proof of citizenship for
every interaction with the state, things like getting heat and water.
And many kids stopped showing up for school because of a provision
mandating that schools must check their immigration status. Anyone helping
an illegal immigrant like a church, for example, would have been guilty of
And the law is subject of at least three separate lawsuits. Now, the
delegation of labor leaders and civil rights activists visited Alabama
recently to see for themselves how the law was affecting lives.
One of those members was my friend Elan James White (ph) who
discovered things were much worse than he`d imagined. White wrote recently
that the law has created a culture of fear and suspicion, where everyone is
policing their neighbors. In one incidence, a shopper went to make a cash
purchase at a Wal-Mart and was asked for identification. Now, unless it`s
alcohol or tobacco, you don`t need ID to pay for something in cash.
But in this climate, many believe it`s allowable to ask for
documentation any time they deem reasonable.
White noted, as have others, that farmers are losing fields of crops
because so many immigrants have left the state. "The broad climate of fear
that will be familiar to those who live in Alabama`s first Jim Crow era,"
At last night`s Republican debate, the candidates almost drew a
distinction between good immigrants, educated immigrants, those with
graduate degrees, people like Albert Einstein, and bad immigrants -- the
ones we have to secure the border against, like people from Mexico.
What`s happening in Alabama is what happens when that kind of thinking
The arrest of the Mercedes executive caused Alabama lawmakers to
stumble all over themselves to say, hey, that wasn`t supposed to happen.
Republicans who supported the law keep calling the arrest an
unintended consequence. Quote, "Due to a number of unintended
consequences, including this incident, Republican Governor Robert Bentley,
a strong supporter of the bill was considering revisions."
But that arrest is exactly what was supposed to happen, even though
Governor Bentley may not have intended for it to happen to a German
executive from Mercedes, a company that has already shown its discomfort
with Alabama`s fraught racial history.
"The Daily Decatur" of Decatur, Alabama, summed up the executive`s
arrest with we think a pretty awesome editorial.
"The people of our once hospitable state should send a thank you card
for the executive arrested Friday for violation of the immigration law.
The German did more to show the idiocy of the immigration law in one day
than the law`s opponents have managed in months. We are guessing that
Governor Robert Bentley has placed no urgent phone calls on behalf of
Hispanics whose families were split up by the law. Yet he wasted no time
calling the state`s homeland security director after the arrest of the
Mercedes Benz executive in Tuscaloosa."
We couldn`t have said it better ourselves.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thanksgiving or at least the American version of it is
unique in it quite literally celebrates undocumented immigration. This is
the image we`re used to, the kindly, peaceful first Thanksgiving. Oh, so
nice of them. They let the women and children and most American natives
sit nearby, right?
Then there`s this, the cover of this week`s "New Yorker," depicting a
more modern understanding of what we`re celebrating on Thanksgiving Day,
people crossing international borders by any means necessary trying to make
a better life for themselves and their families. We romanticize this
practice in the past and criminalize it in the present.
Alabama is showing how draconian immigration laws produced by
Republican overreach just might be bad for the state`s economic
But in last night`s Republican presidential debate, after taking some
criticism for not wanting to deport every undocumented immigrant
everywhere, Newt Gingrich, of all people, made it about family.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GINGRICH: I do not believe that the people of the United States are
going to take people who have been here a quarter century, who have
children and grandchildren, who are members of the community, who may have
done something 25 years ago, separate them from their families and expel
I do believe if you`ve been here recently and have no ties to the
U.S., we should deport you. I do believe we should control the border. I
do believe we should have very severe penalties for employers.
But I ask you for all to look at the Creeble Foundation plan. I don`t
see how the party that says it`s the party of the family is going to adopt
an immigration policy which destroys families that have been here a quarter
century. And I`m prepared to take the heat for saying: let`s be humane in
enforce the law without giving them citizenship but by finding a way to
create legality so that they are not separated from their families.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, compassion for undocumented immigrants coming from
a Republican has traditionally hurt that Republican, even if he`s already
the president. George W. Bush took a lot of heat for proposing amnesty for
millions, and Rick Perry`s precipitous fall from the top of the polls began
when he defended in-state tuition for undocumented students.
On the other side of the aisle, President Obama`s immigration policies
have come under fire, including his administration`s controversial Secure
Communities program, which enables federal authorities access to local law
So, would Newt`s immigration policy be that much more humane as he put
A clue lies in the Creeble Foundation, the idea he was promoting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GINGRICH: The Creeble Foundation has a very good red card program
that says you get to be legal but you don`t get a path to citizenship. And
so, there`s a way to end up with a country where there`s no more
illegality, but you haven`t automatically given amnesty to anyone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, this red card solution would reform immigration,
all right. Conservatives in Creeble Foundation video for the program like
Matt Kibbe of FreedomWorks tells us so.
But the red card is literally that. It`s a red card with a microchip
embedded in it. There`s nothing nefarious there, of course.
But what happens if that worker loses his job or misplaces her card
and is stopped by an immigration agent? Where does the microchip go next?
And where does she or he go next?
Joining us now to talk about these issues of immigration is Rinku Sen,
president and executive director of the Applied Research Center and the
publisher of colorlines.com.
Rinku, I`m so excited to have you here tonight.
RINKU SEN, COLORLINES.COM: Great to be here, Melissa. Thanks.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I`m particularly excited to have you here tonight
because you and I had an e-mail communication, you know, more than a month
ago when you sent out the Color Lines report about immigration policy and
particularly this administration`s immigration policy. And then I heard,
you know, Newt Gingrich talking about immigration policy on the GOP side
So, I`m interested. Take us from that level of how it hurts the
economy. Tell me about families. What difference does this make to human
beings living on the ground under these policies?
SEN: Well, Newt Gingrich understands that immigration enforcement has
a lot of collateral consequences. One of the worst collateral consequences
is that families are split up. We came across a particularly egregious
form of that kind of separation when we started to look at the intersection
of child welfare departments and immigration enforcement. So, what we
found is that when a parent is caught up in detention or deportation and
their kids are in child welfare, the parent is unable to carry out any of
the tasks that the child welfare department wants you to do to get your
And when that goes on for long enough, ultimately, family courts
decide to do what`s called terminating parental rights. And they
essentially say that family is not a family anymore. That parent is not
the parent of those kids anymore. The kids stay in foster care or they are
made eligible for adoption.
HARRIS-PERRY: And what I remember from the report is you were looking
at people`s whose crime was parking tickets, very small sort of municipal
level stuff, not the kinds of criminal immigrant language that we hear.
So what does that look like if you`re someone who is in an abusive
domestic relationship or if you`re a worker who had their wages stolen?
What do these sorts of policies mean for those individuals?
SEN: Well, they mean you cannot have any recourse to protecting your
own rights. So, if you`re abused by anybody, by an employer, by a
neighbor, by the police or by your husband, then you can`t do anything
We came across the case of a woman who was being beaten up by her
partner. The neighbors called the police. The police arrived, arrested
both of them, the woman and the man. And kids went to child welfare.
And instead of them getting out of county jail and getting her kids,
the woman was sent to immigrant detention from where she had no access to
any of the things she needed to do to get her kids back.
So -- and it`s been more than a year. She hasn`t seen them and that
is why so many law enforcement agencies resist programs like Secure
Communities because it prevents them from actually making public safe.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, where in a place where there doesn`t seem to be any
sane and reasonable immigration policy. I mean, Secure Communities is
something that Color Lines has identified as a problem -- obviously, the
Alabama immigration reform, the Arizona immigration reform which reproduced
some of these inequalities.
So, Newt Gingrich gives us last night red card as a possibility. Is
this a possibility for some sort of sane immigration reform that protects
human rights and the borders at the same time?
SEN: Well, one thing that is true is that many people don`t want to
immigrate permanently. That`s not in their plan. They`d like to be able
to come work and then still call home home.
And yet we have a pretty terrible relationship to guest worker
programs historically in this country.
And the real question is does the program, does that solution protect
the worker as well as it protects the employer? That program is really
designed to protect employers from being sanctioned and fined. I mean, no
one has ever gone to jail for hiring undocumented immigrants, but from
But from my perspective, any migrant, any immigrant has to be able to
own their own visa. They have to be able to move from employer to
employer. They have to be able to fight abuse by their employer. If they
need to organize in their workplace or form a union, they`ve got to be able
to do that.
And those kinds of rights are not guaranteed in this red card plan.
They really don`t have any interest in protecting the rights of the
immigrant, really just in protecting employers.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, the one possibility, the one possible good news
here is maybe there will be a conversation about immigration reform that is
more than just an ideological good guy/bad guy story. I mean, just maybe
Gingrich, for whatever his failing are, has opened up this conversation for
SEN: Yes, I think that`s really important. Newt Gingrich knows how
to win an election. And he`s clearly entered the general election at this
President Obama, we were happy to see that he actually responded to
our report directly, acknowledged that it was a problem, that it was
happening and promised to put into place the administrative changes to
prevent it from happening.
So, we need to see action on that because there are families being
split up right this minute as we speak. And the more that the election
includes those issues, the more hopeful I am that they`ll actually get
HARRIS-PERRY: Rinku Sen of the Applied Research Center and
Colorlines.com, thanks for binging a different focus on family to this
SEN: Thanks so much, Melissa.
The president of the United States today exonerated two turkeys, but
the traditional thanksgiving pardon is rife with bunk which we will debunk
at "Debunktion Junction."
HARRIS-PERRY: If there were some magical protection from the current
economic downturn and historically high unemployment rates, it would be
having a college degree.
Take a look at last month`s unemployment numbers. People who did not
graduate high school were unemployed at about 14 percent. Having a high
school degree helped a bit. About 10 percent of people with one of those
But having some college education you fared a little better. We see
about an 8 percent unemployment rate. But if you graduate college, if you
actually have that bachelor`s degree, the unemployment rate is half that.
Those are the data associated with the value of going to and finishing
college. But how people feel about college and higher education and its
value is something else entirely.
With student debt at an all-time high, about $25,000 per graduating
senior, it`s not difficult to understand why people would expect a lot in
return. And people do not seem to think they`re getting a lot in return.
One poll shows 5 percent of the general public thinks college is an
excellent value. So, what`s going on here? Are the other 95 percent just
not looking at the same numbers as the 5 percent?
Or is the disappointment in higher learning about more than economics.
On the one hand, there`s the platonic ideal of what a college is.
And fair warning here, that I as a college professor, when I read, I
just might tear up, like Speaker of the House John Boehner, you know,
talking about the bailout, not that there`s anything wrong with that.
So, here is how a former dean at Columbia University described college
and what it`s supposed to be: "By design, great universities challenge
institutions. They are, in short, meant to be unsettling. They require
autonomy and trust within the larger society.
Built as a hybrid of the English undergraduate residential college,
the German emphasis on graduate specialization and research, the American
system came to emphasize among other things meritocracy, open communication
of ideas, academic freedom and free inquiry, skepticism to claims about
fact and truth, the creation of knowledge, standards of excellence based on
peer review, and scholarship without borders."
If this were Twitter, I would retweet the heck out of that and add a
plus one -- because that is what the college experience is supposed to be.
Recently, though, that ideal has collided head on with the news of
institutional failure from campuses around the country, resulting in
questions about whether or not schools are keeping kids safe. Most
horrifically, of course, is the sex abuse and assault scandal that is
allegedly taking place at Penn State University and the inaction of Penn
State officials that followed.
Some of them may have even lied to investigators about what they knew
in order to protect the school and its football program.
And this is Robert Champion. Robert Champion was a drum major at
Florida A&M University. And on Saturday night, he was found dead on the
band`s bus after the school band performed during half time. According to
the sheriff, hazing may have contributed to the young man`s death.
Just a few hours ago it was announced the band director was fired and
state law enforcement might get involved at the behest of Florida Governor
Now, this is the famous video from U.C.-Davis this week, the image of
campus police pepper spraying campus protesters will from hereon out,
forever, be associated with the occupy movement.
The school`s English department is calling on the school`s chancellor
to resign. The police chief and two officers were already placed on leave.
At UCLA in Los Angeles, more pepper spray. Students at four other
campuses have been vigorously protesting another planned tuition hike after
last year`s 18 percent increase.
And the City University of New York system has also voted to increase
tuition. And a group calling itself Students United for free CUNY
organized a protest. Fifteen people were arrested.
And in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, dozens protested a tuition hike
there that would increase state tuition by 15 percent.
Joining us now is talk about this is Chris Hayes, my buddy and the
host of "UP WITH CHRIS HAYES" very early on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
Chris, I wanted to talk to you about this. I know you have been
researching, writing and working on the declining trust in American
institutions. You know, as somebody associated with higher institutions of
education, this one -- these set of stories have been hitting me
particularly hard. Is that unfair? Should I be clamping (ph) all this
higher education stuff with everything else?
HAYES: Well, I think there`s certain -- I mean, look, each sort of
instance has its own contingent and distinction features. And that`s true
for all different kinds of institutional failure from Major League Baseball
to the Catholic Church to Detroit big three automakers.
But I think there are certain themes that resonate throughout. One is
a kind of lack of accountability, right? When you have hierarchy --
hierarchies tend to consolidate power within their own. And when they
consolidate power within their own, they have a tendency to guard knowledge
about what is happening with an institution.
And if the findings of fact in grand jury in Penn State are true,
that`s certainly what transpired in Penn State.
There`s also the bureaucratization that we see happened in any kind of
large and complex institution. It`s particularly true where certain
procedures, as long as people check off the box, there is no kind of moral
check on whether it`s right. So, I`ve read interesting stuff about what
happened with the pepper spray at U.C.-Davis. And what you see there is it
is procedure for campus police to ask people to leave. When they don`t
leave, it`s procedure for them to pepper spray.
And at one point is a kind of general, sort of conscience applied to
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Even if it seems patently ridiculous when we
watch it happened.
HAYES: And it`s only in the context of the perspective of being
outside the institution. What happens in cases where you have
institutional failure and this does apply broadly I think is that things
that are manifestly unjust or deviant or wrong get normalized within the
HAYES: And that`s where scandal ensues, right? Because once you zoom
out, the people who are outside of the institution look inside and say,
whoa, what is going on here? And that applies to everything from the way
subprime loans were marketed on Wall Street to what allegedly happened in
HARRIS-PERRY: I was going to say, I mean, it feels like we had the
Enron scandal so we`re feeling like we can`t trust what`s going on on Wall
Street. And then, you know, Congress is obviously down almost below the
margin of error in terms of disapproval.
And now, even where I`m sending my kid to college it feels like is an
So, is the answer to this the kind of public scrutiny if what you need
is to back up from institutions in order to be able to see everything
that`s wrong and sort of patently obvious when you`re looking from the
outside? Or is there something about institutional reform itself that can
make a difference in these cases?
HAYES: I think it`s sort of a combination of both. So, I think
scrutiny and accountability go together, right? No one sort of decides,
wakes up one morning and goes, you know what? Let`s hold all of us
I mean, what happens is accountability happens in moments of crisis.
It happens in moments in disruption, right? I mean, we saw that in terms
of what happened to accountability in terms of the national security state
in the wake of Vietnam, right? We`ve seen it in all other sorts of
instances in which, once there is public scandal, once there is an
expression of what was really going on, then accountability follows.
HAYES: I think the other thing is the thing I`ve learned from doing
this research for the book is that nothing is more powerful than norms.
Rules are less powerful than norms. But norms go fast ever.
And when norms inside an institution go, they can`t be reconstituted.
What you have to do is build rules. A perfect example of this is Penn
State, right? The reason that the Sandusky case actually ended upcoming
out is Sandusky was working as a coach in a high school that had mandatory
And those mandatory reporting requirements are rules put in place,
that are paid attention to. And every teacher in every public school
across this great land of ours is trained in mandatory reporting. If you
see a child who you think is a victim of sexual or physical abuse, you must
HARRIS-PERRY: So, but when I hear you say that I have a catch in my
stomach. That sounds precisely like what conservatives talk about, that
what the real problem is isn`t the laws, it isn`t the rules or procedures.
It`s that our norms as a country have shifted. And in shifting, we now
have no reasonable place to stand.
How -- is that what you`re saying or is there something slightly
HAYES: There is a core of this that does align with a basic
conservatism about the potency and force of norms. And those norms I think
are powerful. They`re powerful inside institutions.
In Major League Baseball, you saw the norm go from being drug-free to
being implicated in the drugs. And once that norm shifts, it becomes much
easier for them to justify to themselves the things they`re doing.
The place where I sort of depart is that I do think that you can
create -- you can create institutional reforms that produce a kind of self-
fulfilling institutional framework that actually produces much better
behavior that avoids the kind of worse sort of scandals that we`ve seen.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, the norm I appreciate you`re changing is the norm
of weekends on MSNBC. I love what "UP" is doing in the morning.
HAYES: We love having you. It`s a blast.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s incredibly exciting.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`ll be tuning in in the morning.
HAYES: Happy Thanksgiving.
HARRIS-PERRY: Happy Thanksgiving.
Chris Hayes, host of "UP WITH CHRIS HAYES" -- thanks for being here
A new Pew poll by Republicans shows that Mitt Romney`s state is a real
drag on his popularity within his own party. There`s so much to say on
that, but let me begin by saying you`re going to be really, really, really
surprised to know who is all Mormon up in here. Trust me.
HARRIS-PERRY: In January 1784, Benjamin Franklin wrote his daughter,
"I wish the bald eagle hadn`t been chosen as the representative for our
country; he is bird of bad moral character. He does not get his living
honestly. He`s generally poor and often very lousy. Besides, he`s a rank
The turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird and with all
a true original native of America. He is besides a bird of courage and
would not hesitate to attack a again dear of the British guards who should
presume to invade his farm yard with a red coat on."
That bird of courage and its place in our country`s tradition is the
subject of tonight`s "Debunktion Junction" -- coming up.
HARRIS-PERRY: In this election cycle on the Republican side, just
about everyone who is running a real campaign is getting a chance to be a
front-runner for a while. No, not you, Rick Santorum, sorry.
But even though newspaper columnists and politicos have been using the
word "inevitable" to describe Mitt Romney for weeks now, he`s not leading
in the polls. And even though, given the cast of characters he`s running
against, Mitt Romney probably should be the far and away front-runner, he`s
Certainly, part of that is him being seen as boring or a flip-flopper
or insufficiently credentialed as a moral conservative. But that doesn`t
explain who is the frontrunner right now.
That`s right. We`re in the midst of the Newt bump right now. Newt
Gingrich is in the lead among Republican voters. Newt Gingrich, a man
whose moral conservatism has also been questioned and who is also famous on
his flip-flops, including some doozies this election cycle.
Remember when he called Paul Ryan`s kill Medicare budget plan a right
wing social engineering plan and then took it back and said that anyone
whoever tries to use his own words against him is lying.
So, Republican voters are saying prefer the perhaps questionably
social conservative flip-flopper, whose campaign looks more like a book
tour, than a presidential campaign over perhaps questionably socially
conservative flip-flopper running a serious presidential campaign.
Now, that seems weird, right? It suggests that something else may be
afoot in Republican primary voters` reluctance to get behind Mitt Romney.
Here`s a glimpse into one possibility of what might be dragging down
Mitt Romney`s campaign, from the Pew research center. Their latest survey
out today shows that Mitt Romney`s religion, his Mormonism, is likely a
factor in his candidacy in the Republican primary. The survey found that
among white evangelical Republican voters, 15 percent say Mr. Romney`s
religion would make them less likely to support him.
And among all Americans, the survey asked people to give a one-word
impression of the Mormon religion. And the results were about one in four
gave assessments that are negative in tone. Overall, cult is the most
frequently used word.
Now, let`s be clear: if you`re a Republican voter, there are plenty of
reasons to want to reject Mitt Romney as your party`s candidate. But his
religion should not be one of them. If Mitt Romney is being rejected for
his Mormonism, then Republican voters are demonstrating a troubling bias
that has much broader implications.
So, let`s pause for a moment. I do not want to engage in a
theological debate about Mormonism and whether Mormonism is a good or bad
religion, whether it has troubling doctrine, funny beliefs or strange
practices. It is a religion, after all, and most world religions have what
some people somewhere would consider funny practices, troubling beliefs,
and histories that include abusive action against other groups.
What`s important here is that the very thing that conservative
evangelical Republican voters seem to be expressing angst about, Mitt
Romney`s Mormonism, is the thing that makes Mitt Romney part of a group
whose American story is marked by experiences of oppression, rejection, and
Given the history of Mormon exclusion in this country, one might
expect Romney the to show real empathy for Muslims, whose religion is
distorted or degraded. Or for undocumented immigrants whose families are
devastated by government policies as many Mormon families were in 19th
century when Mormon were treated like many immigrants are being treated
now, as threats to America that must be expelled.
In 1838, Missouri`s governor ordered the Mormon`s expelled from the
state or exterminated if necessary. It`s almost time to celebrate
Thanksgiving. And as we gather, many of us will celebrate and reflect on
the uniquely American stories of our own families.
My family`s immigration history is, in fact, tied up in the history of
Mormonism. My maternal line are Mormons. My grandfather`s mother
emigrated from Sweden with her two siblings after her widowed mother was
converted by Mormon missionaries. My great-grandfather`s father came to
America as a 19-year-old from England, following the Latter Day Saints to
My immigrant ancestors pushed hand carts across the American West
during the Mormon expulsion.
And I even have a great-great-grandfather who was imprisoned for
polygamy. When he married multiple wives, the practice was legal in the
Utah territory. But when Utah entered the union in 1896, his plural
marriage became illegal.
But despite these laws, great-grandpa Cooper refused to abandon his
family and he served time in prison as a result.
My own mother, though he left the Mormon church as an adult, was
raised as a Mormon and even attended Brigham Young University, graduating
My American story is both the story of enslaved ancestors, sold on the
street corner of Richmond, Virginia, on my father`s side, and of a
persecuted religious minority in the American West on my mother`s side.
As we pause at Thanksgiving to celebrate a nation that for all its
shortcomings makes a story like mine possible, it is a moment to celebrate
our diversity, not to cower in fear of difference. So, to GOP primary
voters, please, feel free to reject the candidacy of Mitt Romney, but don`t
do so because he is Mormon. I`m happy to provide you with a whole list of
much better reasons.
HARRIS-PERRY: "Debunktion Junction," what`s my function?
OK. True or false? The tradition of a president pardoning a
Thanksgiving turkey as President Obama did today began this way --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: President Truman
was the first president to pardon a turkey.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: President Truman was the first president to pardon a
turkey. Is this true or false?
HARRIS-PERRY: False. There is no record of Truman ever pardoning a
So, where did this Thanksgiving tradition come from?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: This White House tradition
dates back to Abraham Lincoln.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: False again. And President George W. Bush should know
better! Because the tradition of actually pardoning a turkey for
Thanksgiving began with his father, George Herbert Walker Bush, 22 years
Next up, noted Islamophobe Pamela Geller is warning against the
Islamization of Thanksgiving through Butterball turkeys. Is that true or
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, that is true. But what else would you expect from
the woman behind the campaign against the Ground Zero mosque, which was
neither a mosque nor at Ground Zero.
In an article published this week in the "American Thinker" -- I`ll
let that sink in -- in an article published this week in the "American
Thinker," Geller asserts that all Butterball whole turkeys are certified
halal. She bases this on a communication between one of her blog
commenters and a Butterball consumer response representative -- which I
think means somebody called the turkey talk line.
And so, Geller is now calling for a boycott of Butterball.
So, we contacted Butterball to ask them if their turkeys are certified
halal. And here`s their statement in response: "Our domestic products are
not halal certified and thus, do not require any additional packaging or
labeling. As is common within the industry, when we started to export our
products overseas, we applied for and met the necessary requirements of
halal processing for a segment of our business. Butterball whole turkeys
are produced in a manner that meets those requirements if need, but only
turkeys exports to specific countries are certified halal."
So, Pamela Geller, not a mosque, not Ground Zero and not halal.
Thanks for playing and happy Thanksgiving.
That does it for us tonight. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry, in for Rachel
Maddow. And it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell. Have a
safe and wonderful holiday weekend. Good night.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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