'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Monday, December 12, 2011
Read the transcript to the Monday show
Past transcripts by month
Guest Host: Melissa Harris-Perry
Guests: Scott Henry, Steve Clemons, Jeffrey Rosen, Valerie Kaur
ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: And before we go, another reminder,
Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi will be our exclusive guest Thursday night
here on "THE ED SHOW."
That`s it for "THE ED SHOW." I`m Ed Schultz.
Melissa Harris-Perry is filling in for Rachel tonight.
Melissa, great to have you with us.
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, GUEST HOST: Thanks, Ed. Appreciate it.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
Rachel has the night off.
And we`re going to start with the thought experiment. Imagine if you
will a candidate for the president of the United States, with a personal
and professional resume that looks something like this: was born in a
medium-sized American city, but spent most of his formative years growing
up overseas; was raised in a sort of nontraditional family, without his
biological father. Became a success in politics later in life mostly on
the strength of his speeches, his reputation as a great orator, is often
viewed somewhat derisively as a brainy professorial type, likes to compare
himself to Lincoln; is someone who is privately religious and at that
religion at times has been the focus of his candidacy.
Imagine a candidate for president like that. Grew up abroad. Great
speech maker. Likes to compare himself to Lincoln, has religious beliefs
that raise questions for opponents and sort of professorial.
Anyone in particular come to mind? Anyone fit that description?
Three weeks from tomorrow is the first voting contest of the 2012
Republican presidential season. Three weeks from tomorrow, Republican
voters all across Iowa will descend on high school gymnasiums and middle
school libraries to choose a candidate they want to represent the
Republican Party in 2012.
Two nights ago, those candidates, the ones who are left or right,
anyway, took the stage in Des Moines, Iowa, to start making their closing
arguments to Iowa Republicans. The next voting contest after Iowa, of
course, is New Hampshire.
And today in Manchester, New Hampshire, there was another debate of
sorts. Republican front-runner Newt Gingrich and New Hampshire`s newest
permanent resident Jon Huntsman went head to head on the issue of foreign
So, with three weeks to go until the voting finally begins on the
Republican side, here`s how things look. Pretty much all Newt Gingrich all
the time. Mr. Gingrich now leads the entire Republican field by 10 points
in the latest national Gallup tracking poll. And it`s the same story in
the state of Iowa.
A new poll released today by the University of Iowa shows Newt
Gingrich now 10 points ahead of rival Mitt Romney in the Hawkeye State.
With the first voting set to begin, Republican primary voters across
the country now seem to be settling on their candidate of choice. And as
we`ve seen across this election cycle, as we`ve seen over the last three
years, there`s one thing that Republican primary voters are clear about:
even if they`re not quite sure what they`re looking for in a candidate,
they know there are some candidates -- qualities in a candidate that
definitely, definitely turn them off: things like being professorial,
intellectual, who give great speeches, who touts his background as someone
who spent his early years in another part of the world, who compares
himself to Lincoln, who tells these supposedly heart-tugging stories about
his difficult childhood, whose faith claims cannot clearly be pinned down.
Whatever Republican primary voters want, they don`t want that, they
don`t want that. That doesn`t work. Republicans are suspicious of those
And they`re suspicious of those attributes because someone who has
that sort of upbringing, who grew up abroad and spent his life in academia,
that sort of person ends up being in favor of things like universal health
care, or government regulations of corporations, gays in the military and a
government role for boosting the economy?
Republican primary voters have seen what that sort of background
brings, and they don`t like it. They know what it leads to.
And that`s why at this stage in the game in the 2012 race, Republican
primary voters have chosen as their presidential front-runner, the man who
shares nearly the same background, a man who was born in Pennsylvania but
spent his formative years growing up in France. A man who is raised in a
nontraditional family by his stepfather, not his biological father. A man
who rose to prominence in American politics as a great speech maker, a
great debater, a man who describes himself not as a politician but rather a
professorial historian type who likes to compare himself to Abraham Lincoln
and whose conversion to Catholicism in recent years has been the subject of
questions on the campaign trail.
Republicans are sure they don`t want someone with President Obama`s
background, yet they are now in the process of choosing someone with
President Obama`s background.
The rise of Newt Gingrich in this Republican presidential primary is
something that almost nobody saw coming. Most of the smart money was on
someone like Rick Perry, somehow coming back to life and posing a late
challenge to Mitt Romney, especially in Iowa. Yet here we are.
Republican primary voters who are against evil, unconstitutional
government mandates when it comes to health insurance are now for a guy who
once endorsed those sorts of mandates.
Republican primary voters who are against government solutions on
climate change are now for a guy who once endorsed government solutions on
Republican primary voters who are supposedly sick of Washington
politicians who want an outsider now are for a guy who spent the last three
decades of his life in Washington?
And Republican primary voters whose one goal is to replace a guy who
grew up abroad, who gives good speeches, who`s too professorial are for a
guy who grew up abroad, gives good speeches and is too professorial.
How the heck did this happen? And how did Newt Gingrich make it
Joining me now to get to the bottom of this is Scott Henry, news
editor of "The Atlanta News Weekly" "Creative Loafing." And Scott covered
Newt Gingrich as a reporter for Gingrich`s hometown newspaper "The Marietta
Daily Journal" when Gingrich was speaker of the House.
SCOTT HENRY, "CREATIVE LOAFING" NEWS EDITOR: Hello.
So, this really for me is fascinating. Now, obviously, Newt Gingrich
and President Obama are not the same person. They don`t have exactly the
same background. But the fact is Republicans are somehow now ending up
with a front-running candidate who shares very similar attributes to the
president that they have been very clear they want to get rid of.
How did Newt Gingrich make this happen?
HENRY: Well, I think there are two probably main aspects to Newt`s
rise. One is that they burned through the rest of the GOP field. You`ve
seen Rick Perry and Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann -- each have their
moments of rise and descent in the polls. But Gingrich is someone who is
much more even keeled, much more experienced. If people liked Mitt Romney
better, maybe we wouldn`t be seeing this.
And the other thing is, I think, that while Newt shares a lot of the
attributes that you mentioned, one thing is he`s a fighter, and the
Republicans know that and they like that. And I think they`re hedging
their bets with someone they think might take the battle to the president.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, is this in part, a sense that on the one hand, the
Tea Party, in particular, and Republicans in general, are asking for an
outsider? And yet here is Newt, the consummate insider. Is it in part
this sense that, OK, we want an outsider, but the fact is in order to
defeat President Obama, there`s this sense that you actually need those
same attributes? The other smart guy in the room?
HENRY: You know, a number of the people that I talk to for a recent
story I did, and I went back and talked to people who had worked with him
when he was speaker, worked with him before he was speaker. They`re very
surprised. They didn`t see this coming.
And I think that, yes, they -- people -- they imagine that people are
out there kind of thinking, this guy is going to be able to go head to head
with the president at the debates. He knows the lay of the land. I think
many of the Tea Party people who wanted the outsider are modifying what
they want. They realize there`s no one else who`s running for president
who fits that mold.
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, Scott, I have to say, I read the pre-interview
that you had with one of the Maddow staff producers and I got a chill
because the language you used is that he is the Karl Rove candidate. In
other words, that electing him would be like electing Karl Rove as
What do you mean by that?
HENRY: Well, he has always been a master strategist. He`s someone
who -- someone was telling me recently that he had actually never really
seen himself -- or in the early days, at least -- rising quite as high as
he had. He always saw himself as the strategist in the backroom who`s kind
of helping his party gain the majority, helping his party elect presidents.
And yet his own articulateness and ambition drove him ever to new heights.
But he is someone who has always had been thinking one step ahead and
figuring out how to -- how to damage the other party, how to push his party
ahead. He`s obviously incredibly partisan.
HENRY: And is Karl Rove -- is like Karl Rove in that aspect. I think
I called him recently, one of the fathers of modern wedge politics.
HENRY: It -- I`m not sure. I can`t predict what kind of president he
would be. Whether he would leave that behind after having won an election,
or whether he would work that to further benefit. Obviously, you remember
Rove wanted to install a Republican majority for the foreseeable future.
That didn`t quite work out.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well -- so, Scott Henry, thank you so much. Obviously,
in being the grandfather or godfather of American wedge politics, quite
different from President Obama in that sense.
HARRIS-PERRY: Scott Henry, news editor of "Atlanta News Weekly"
"Creative Loafing," and former "Marietta Daily Journal" reporter, watcher
of Newt Gingrich for many years. Thanks for joining us.
HENRY: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, for Newt Gingrich, is there a world outside the
fabulous world of Newt and his K Street address? Oh, my, yes, there is.
And the view of that wide, wide world happens to be informed by the
foreign policy stylings of Rick Santorum. That amazing account of the
facts is coming up.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right at the end of the show today is our best new
thing in the world, and it`s a special South Pole edition. And until then,
imagine penguins. Stick around.
HARRIS-PERRY: At the height of the nearly nine-year war in Iraq,
there were 170,000 American troops stationed in Iraq. By the end of this
month, there will be zero. Not a single member of the United States
military will be stationed in Iraq. They`re leaving at a break-neck pace
of literally hundreds of troops a day.
The few U.S. bases that remain look like this. Vacant lots of
abandoned vehicle, empty housing containers, more of a ghost town than a
battlefield, more of a desert that a bustling military installation, more
of an exit than an occupation.
The end of this war will be final and complete. But it`s not pretty.
And perhaps because it lacks the grandeur of V-Day half century ago it`s
easy to overlook the magnitude of this moment.
In Washington today, President Obama met with the Iraqi prime minister
to commemorate, my word, not theirs, the end of the war.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a historic
moment. A war is ending. A new day is upon us. And let us never forget
those who gave us the chance, the untold number of Iraqis who have given
their lives. More than 1 million Americans, military and civilian, who
have served in Iraq, nearly 4,500 fallen Americans who gave their last full
measure of devotion, tens of thousands of wounded warriors and so many
inspiring military families.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: As a candidate, Barack Obama`s campaign in the 2008
Democratic presidential primary will always be remembered for and defined
by his opposition to the war in Iraq. And thanks in part to that anti-Iraq
war position, he won the Democratic primary.
Four years later, foreign policy isn`t playing a huge role in the
Republican presidential primary, even though we still got another war going
on in Afghanistan, a secret drone war in Pakistan, and unacknowledged drone
war in Yemen and Africa and who knows where else. Foreign policy just
hasn`t been part of the discussion much.
And that is much to Newt Gingrich`s chagrin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe that one of the
great weaknesses of the campaign up to now, the debates up to now, has been
the absence of the serious discussion about the nature of the world, the
nature of the world market, the nature of those challenges we face and the
nature of America`s role in that world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: America`s role in the world is very important to Newt
Gingrich, so important, in fact, that in just the last week, he`s gotten a
lot of attention for saying things about foreign policy and diplomacy and
how and who should represent America in the world. And these have been
defining moments for his campaign.
So, for example, Mr. Gingrich inspired a flurry of e-mails around this
office for wanting to appoint as secretary of state, John Bolton, the Bush
administration`s representative to the United Nations who was so radical
and unpopular even Republicans in the Senate refused to vote to confirm
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GINGRICH: If he will accept it, I will ask John Bolton to be
secretary of state.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Previously, Mr. Gingrich praised Mr. Bolton calling him
tough minded, which is a bit like saying a typhoon is mildly disruptive.
And then there was the Republican debate this weekend in which
candidates were asked to name one opponent they`ve learned something from.
And before I play Newt`s answer, keep in mind that he names a guy who as
we`re ending one war in the Middle East, wants to start another war in
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GINGRICH: Rick Santorum`s consistency and courage on Iran has been a
hallmark of if we do survive, it will be in part because of people like
Rick who have had the courage to tell the truth about the Iranians for a
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Newt admires the consistency and courage of a guy who
would be open to waging war with Iran. And that`s not Newt`s only doomsday
Newt has long been obsessed with the science fictionist fear of
electromagnetic pulse which is basically a nuclear weapon detonated in
space that would send out tsunami-like wave of electricity knocking out
everything electronic on earth, which, quote, "a number of scientists
consider those concerns to be farfetched."
But Mr. Gingrich`s most campaign defining moment on foreign policy,
national security, or diplomacy may have happened over the weekend. And
for that, I`d very much like to talk to a foreign policy expert.
Let`s bring in Steve Clemons, Washington editor at large for "The
Atlantic." Mr. Clemens, nice to see you.
STEVE CLEMONS, THE ATLANTIC: Great to be with you again.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, this weekend, Newt defended calling the
Palestinians an invented people, and this is after being slammed from other
GOP contenders for saying that during the debate. Now, were you more
surprised by the comment, by the doubling down or by the reaction of the
other candidates to this claim?
CLEMONS: I was very disappointed by the candidate. First, I was
disappointed by his ignorance, particularly after he had talked so
passionately in a heartfelt way about those of Hispanic origin and descent
that were living in gray areas of the United States. And, you know, you
could somewhat callously say these, too, are an invented people.
But in the Middle East, the Palestinians are not invented. I`ll use
Elliott Abrams, one of George W. Bush`s Middle East advisers on the
National Security Council, essentially paraphrasing, what planet is Newt
on? That, you know, fundamentally, most of the Middle East was carved by
the British after World War II in the deals.
So, to some degree what he said about Palestinians was so uninformed
that even the most right wing Republicans who have been very, very tied
into this for a very long time, would arguably say are in a zero-sum game
pro-Israel, disavowed Newt Gingrich`s comments.
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, look, this was also surprising to me in part
because Newt Gingrich often sort of presents himself as Professor Gingrich.
And, you know, many peoples are invented. American peoples are invented
from all of these different identities from which we come.
So what is it? Is there a signal that he is meaning to send to
Republican primary voters with that assertion? What is it that he wants
them to hear when he --
CLEMONS: I think we`re in an era right now where I think Newt
Gingrich in this particular case and other candidates have done the same
thing, have been trying to reach out to those who give a lot and some
degree the Republican Party is right now in a competitive race with the
Democratic Party trying to act as if it is the party that can deliver most
closely on what it sees as Israel`s interests.
What`s very sad about this is that Israel`s real interest in the long
run are becoming connected with its neighborhood, and getting that
neighborhood to end, to some degree, the hostility towards it, and that
animating and flaming, the fires of antagonism between Arabs and Muslims on
one side and Israelis on another is in many cases a fund-raising tactic and
I think it`s got to stop. But that`s what Newt was trying to do in this
And I think it shows that in this particular case, he`s clearly
running for president, but he`s not demonstrating his role as a strategist,
as somebody sitting behind the desk in the Oval Office making very complex
choices between America`s interests abroad and sorting out its allies and
how it needs to encourage them to move into a more stable situation.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, and so it feels to me like these incendiary
comments about the Palestinian people, and then also this sort of, you
know, odd doomsday scenarios that Mr. Gingrich often presents, particularly
the electronic, you know, electromagnetic pulse.
CLEMONS: Something out of the Cold War.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Right. Is there some kind of fear mongering that
he is expecting to work strategically going on here?
CLEMONS: I`ve known Newt Gingrich since 1994, not particularly well.
He was on the board of the Nixon Center and part of Newt Gingrich is a
realist and part of him is tied up and distracted by exotic ideas. And I
think, one of them, the notion you can have an electromagnetic pulse is
actually scientifically correct. We could all go back to vacuum tubes as
we once thought about during the Cold War to kind of keep ourselves from
being vulnerable to that.
But it`s so beyond the kind of regular experience. It raises
fundamental questions, again, about how he would think about war and
conflict and setting up systems where the United States can pursue its
interests boldly and where its vulnerabilities are. And if we have a kind
of, you know, professor, who`s distracted by something that`s so exotic and
so potentially alien to anything that`s real, it raises fundamental
questions about how good a strategist he`ll be and do you trust this guy to
have his finger next to the nuclear football?
I think it`s raised a lot of doubts about Newt Gingrich.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, it certainly makes me anxious. Steve Clemons,
Washington editor at large for "The Atlantic" and editor in chief of
"Atlantic Live" thanks for joining us tonight.
CLEMONS: Great to be with you.
Newt Gingrich or no Newt Gingrich? There are events in Washington now
schedule for next summer that could determine who wins the presidency next
fall and I`ll have that.
HARRIS-PERRY: The great Republican overreach of 2011 has stretched
out all over the nation from Wisconsin to Ohio to Florida and Arizona.
There`s one place it hasn`t shown up yet and that is about to change.
The Supreme Court today agreed to hear an emergency appeal on
Arizona`s "papers please" immigration law, SB-1070, after parts of the bill
were blocked by a federal appeals court earlier this year.
Now, the most infamous of those four blocked provisions is the part of
the law that would allow law enforcement to request anyone they stop or
arrest must prove their citizenship. If they suspect for whatever reasons,
reasons like style of dress or accent in English or content, that that
person might be an illegal immigrant.
So, although the White House said they`re looking forward to arguing
the case before the Supreme Court, this is a bit of a setback for the Obama
administration`s quest to limit SB-1070. But where the real impact may be
felt is in the president`s 2012 re-election effort.
Remember, the court has already agreed to hear oral arguments on the
constitutionality of President Obama`s health care reform law, the
Affordable Care Act. That will happen in March.
And last week the Supreme Court also agreed to hear another case that
will determine how congressional districts in Texas will be drawn. All
three rulings will come down before the session ends at the end of June.
You know, June, right? Right before the two parties hold their summer
nominating conventions -- which means the Supreme Court decisions will
highlight health care reform and immigration as campaign issues for the
Now, I suspect GOP operatives are preparing their attack ads against
the president no matter which way the Supreme Court rules. But these cases
will impact much more than this election cycle, these decisions will have
far-reaching consequences because they are about a fundamental
constitutional issue -- the Commerce Clause of our Tenth Amendment.
Now, don`t zone out on me. This Commerce Clause is a big deal. How
the Supreme Court interprets this clause is at the heart of states` rights
arguments. It`s the thing that maintained the 1964 Civil Rights Act when a
motel in Georgia, the Heart of Atlanta Motel, sued for the right to
discriminate against African-Americans. It`s a thing that supports
requirement that sex offenders register themselves so you know when they
are moving into your state.
Now, the news isn`t all good, though, on this Commerce Clause. Three
cases in the last decade and a half have actually restricted the federal
government`s regulation capacity. And those cases involve things like
protecting against guns in schools, gender-based violence, and, oh, yes,
So, when you see the Supreme Court about to take up cases where the
Commerce Clause is at stake, pay attention. Will the states be able to
make what amounts to federal law as far as immigration is concerned? Does
the federal government have the right to mandate that you and I purchase
And what effect will each of these have on the politics of our coming
And joining us now to talk about this is Jeffrey Rosen, professor of
law at George Washington University and legal affairs editor at "The New
Professor, thanks for joining us tonight.
JEFFREY ROSEN, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Thanks for having me.
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, I know your work on this question, and I`m
particularly interested in how you see this Supreme Court making its
decisions on the health care reform and Arizona SB-1070 law. What is at
stake for these decisions?
ROSEN: Well, the stakes couldn`t be higher. And they really involve
the basic contours of federal versus state power. It`s the central issue
in the presidential election. You have most of the main Republican
candidates insisting on a smaller federal government.
And here so starkly, you have the Obama administration begging the
Supreme Court not to hear a case that might reverse in Arizona a court`s
decision not to allow this Arizona law to go into effect. And then you got
to challenge the central pillar of Obama`s health care law. So, really,
we`ll find out by the end of June whether the court is willing to declare
war against the president and radically restrict the scope of federal power
or whether as I hope they`re actually going to take a moderate position and
perhaps step back from the abyss.
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, Professor, when you say declare war on the
president and the administration here, this is really critical. When you
were talking -- when you were writing about the debt ceiling debate, you
wrote typically the Supreme Court does not like to take up issues that have
major political impact. And yet they`re taking up these two that could
have a huge impact in 2012.
Does that tell you something different about this court? Does that
tell you something about the likelihood of how they`re going to rule? What
can we learn from this decision?
ROSEN: It`s very interesting. In the Arizona case, they certainly
didn`t have to take it. And because Justice Elena Kagan is recused, she
can`t sit on it because she worked on the case as solicitor general. That
means you could have a 4-4 tie, four conservatives against four liberals.
If that happens the lower court decision stands, which means the Obama
administration wins and the law doesn`t go into effect.
But nevertheless, the fact that four justices wanted to hear the case,
presumably four conservatives, suggests there might be four votes to rule
in favor of Arizona.
Health care is different. You have such a division among the lower
courts. The Obama administration was begging the Supreme Court to resolve
the uncertainty. So, the court had little choice but to take the case.
But the fact that two conservative federal judges, very respected
conservatives, have upheld the health care law recently, makes some people
optimistic or at least cautiously optimistic that perhaps the Supreme Court
will, in fact, uphold the individual mandate.
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, I want to go back just for a moment to this Tenth
Amendment point. Because, you know, the Commerce Clause sounds like it`s
about something sort of boring and dry. And yet it seems like it`s at the
core of so many of our basic civil rights and other issues.
Can you once again just sort of help the viewers to understand why
this clause is so critical?
ROSEN: Absolutely. It`s not boring at all. It has to do with the
basic contours of congressional power. Does Congress have the power to
regulate the economy? To regulate guns and schools, as you said? And in
this case, to pass the individual health care mandate?
Ever since the New Deal period, the Supreme Court has said if
something has even a small impact on the interstate commerce, Congress can
regulate it. There are some people who want to change that. Justice
Clarence Thomas takes a sort of Tea Party view, that would strike down a
lot of federal regulatory agencies.
But most conservatives on the court have rejected that view. They`ve
said that Congress does have pretty broad power. And it was so interesting
in these lower court opinions to see two very conservative judges saying,
of course health care affects interstate commerce.
It`s a multitrillion dollar industry. If people choose not to insure,
they throw themselves on the market and that affects everyone else`s
premiums. So, they found this to be an easy case within the Commerce
Clause and that`s why they hope the Supreme Court will agree.
HARRIS-PERRY: Jeffrey Rosen, professor of law at George Washington
University and "New Republic" legal affairs editor -- thank you so much for
taking the time to help us understand that.
ROSEN: Thank you very much for having me.
HARRIS-PERRY: With elections coming up, that must mean it`s time for
busy fear mongering and scapegoating to begin, and the usual suspects get
their usual unfair treatment. We`ll talk about that next.
HARRIS-PERRY: The home improvement chain Lowe`s has decided to pull
the plug on its advertising during a reality TV show because the show is
too controversial. Now, it`s not a body reality show where 20 women date
the same guy looking for true love in a hot tub or where the idol rich
No, no. The show that`s causing controversy is about a middle class
Midwestern family trying to make it in America, which is to say Lowe`s home
improvement chain pulled its money from something that ought to be the most
Middle American thing out there.
But it`s not, because of the identity of those whose story is being
told. Now, you may have heard of it. It`s on TLC. It`s called "All
In explaining why Lowe`s pulled out, in a statement, they read in
part, "Lowe`s received a significant amount of communication on this
program, from every perspective possible. And in individuals and groups
have strong political and societal views on this topic and the program
became a lightning rod for many of those views, and as a result we did pull
our advertising on this program."
What is the topic Lowe`s is referring to there, the topic on which
people have strong political and societal views? The topic is being
Muslim. They`re having views on living in Michigan and being Muslim. That
is a topic on which people have opinions?
Now, the folks at Lowe`s have decided they don`t want to be in the
middle of a hot bed of discussion. And today in America, simply existing
as Muslim is enough to create a hot bed of discussion.
What`s important to recognize, though, is that Lowe`s is making this
decision because we exist in a social and political world that makes just
the experience of being Muslim a status offense.
In America, in 2011, just being Muslim is, itself, controversial.
Something people feel they should have opinions about. And any time your
identity is something that is worthy of being shunned in public space, now,
that`s a sign. That means we`re not in the land of ideological or partisan
disagreement. We`re in the land of stereotyping and bigotry.
We know that because we have experience with it.
We`ve seen this photo of Elizabeth Eckford trying to walk to school in
Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957. She was a school kid trying to go to a
public school in a town where her parents paid taxes.
In Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957, that was controversial because of
who she was. And we know that that`s what`s going on when someone`s
identity is controversial. And that`s what`s going on right now with what
should be an utterly noncontroversial reality show about a Midwestern
family. It`s actually our broad climate of anti-Islamic rhetoric that
creates the controversy.
Just listen to what`s being said about Muslims in a political context.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
HERMAN CAIN (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The statement was,
would I be comfortable with a Muslim in my administration. I would not be
comfortable because you have peaceful Muslims and then you have militant
Muslims, those that are trying to kill us. And so, when I said I wouldn`t
be comfortable, I was thinking about the ones that are try to kill us.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We see an increasing number of Muslim youth
radicalizing in America and attempting plots here in the U.S. or traveling
abroad to join terrorist groups.
REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: An ongoing effort to recruit and
radicalize dozens of Muslim-American jihadists who pose a direct threat to
the United States.
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have an invented
WOLF BLITZER, CNN: Who would be profiled?
RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, the folks who are
most likely to be committing these crimes. If you look, I mean, obviously,
Muslims would be someone you`d look at. Absolutely.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
HARRIS-PERRY: The message we`re getting is that it`s OK to profile
Muslims. Why? Because Muslims are our enemy, just Muslims in general.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was on a flight to D.C. I had a woman sitting
behind me say, see that veiled woman? I`m very uncomfortable. So, I turn
around, I told her, you get your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) off the plane because
I have a meeting to get to, to educate people like you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They make me feel like no matter what you do,
you`ll always be a third class.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s a lot of people don`t know nothing about
Islam. And they think all Muslim are the same. I hope people change
attitude and accept a person for what he is.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have no concerns about traveling around the
anniversary of 9/11. I don`t ever fly with fear. It`s annoying to walk
through an airport and know people are looking at you.
You know, open up and say, can I ask you, why are you wearing that
thing on your head?
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
HARRIS-PERRY: In the 1950s and `60s, kids had to wear gauntlets to
school because going to school was controversial because of what they were.
And today, a home improvement store chain won`t advertise on a TV show
about Middle American family because of who that family is.
Joining us to talk about it is Valerie Kaur, the filmmaker behind the
documentary, "Divided We Fall." Valerie is also director of Groundswell,
an initiative devoted to build a multi-faith movement. Valerie, I`m so
thrilled to have you at the table tonight.
VALERIE KAUR, WRITER AND FILMMAKER: So am I. Thank you, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I want you to back up a little bit. This feels to
me like something that has been true for about a decade now. So, talk to
me a little bit about your work around the immediate post-9/11 moment and
this sort of anti-Islamic, anti-Muslim rhetoric.
KAUR: We`ve lived in the shadow of 9/11 for a decade. It was in that
moment that the world was divided into us and them. That as a 20-year-old
college kid, I found myself, my family and thousands of other Muslims,
South Asians, Arab, Latino Americans, suddenly found themselves on the
wrong side of that line. We became automatically suspect, potentially
terrorists, perpetually foreign.
And what I noticed is that in the last 10 years, there have been
resurgences of anti-Muslim rhetoric violence over and over and over again.
What`s different about this moment is in a time of economic instability and
in an election season, there are those who have realized they can use anti-
Muslim bias as a tool of oppression, to gain political points, to gain a
profit. That is what`s most troubling about where we are today.
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, part of what I`ve been interested in your work, so
you`re Sikh. And the work that you originally did post-9/11 was in part
about anti-Sikh violence that was about sort of misrecognizing and people
assuming men that with turbans, for example, were Muslim when in fact many
of them were Sikh.
So, I heard you talking about divisions. Is there some possibility of
building coalitions around this kind of anti-Islamic discourse?
KAUR: Yes, what I notice about what`s promising about today, is that
there`s a groundswell of people out there, not just Muslim Americans, not
just Sikh Americans, not just people of color, but a groundswell of
Americans who are tired of a politics of fear. That we are hungry to see
ourselves in one another in ways we haven`t before.
In the last few years, I crisscrossed the country with my film. I`ve
been to 200 American cities. And when people see a story of a Sikh family,
remarkable things happened. You know, I remember an African-American man
in Chicago standing up and pointing to his braids and saying, my braids are
I remember a gay man here in New York City who stood up and said, just
as I have to fight for the right of gays to come out of the closet. I have
to fight for the right for Sikhs to wear turbans. What I discovered is
that stories can save us. Stories can bring us hope and stories can make
us human to each other.
And "All American Muslim" is, you know, the quintessential American
form of story-telling, a reality TV show, right? And they`ve done
something and daring, as to show Muslim families as real people.
KAUR: You know, this is the moment where we ought to stand up for
this kind of story telling to sort of transform the social imagination that
has held up Muslim Americans as Muslim terrorists for so long.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, I have to say, it never occurred to me that I
would be supporting a reality TV show, but I got to say, I am there.
Valerie, thank you so much for joining us tonight.
KAUR: Thank you, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: Valerie Kaur, filmmaker, writer, and director of the
multi-faith initiative Groundswell, which I`m affiliated with and think is
an extraordinary, extraordinary opportunity for a new generation to do
Now, right after this on "THE LAST WORD," Lawrence O`Donnell is going
to talk to Newt Gingrich`s former spokesman who is now asking for his old
job back. Funny what resurgent poll numbers can do. Don`t miss that.
And straight ahead, here, the best new thing. And despite having a
stuffy nose, I`m going to be forced to say Stoltenberg.
If you wonder if THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW staff is as nerdy as they
seem, the answer is yes. Yes, they are.
HARRIS-PERRY: A quick programming note: Rachel is back tomorrow night
with an exclusive interview with Vice President Joe Biden. That`s tomorrow
right here, 9:00 Eastern.
We`ll be right back.
HARRIS-PERRY: The Occupy Wall Street movement morphed into occupy
Goldman Sachs today. Protesters left their base in Zuccotti Park in Lower
Manhattan and took their argument for economic justice straight to the
investment bankers at Goldman Sachs. It was the beginning of a long day of
On the West Coast, occupiers also targeted ports where Goldman Sachs
had financial interests. They moved in by the hundreds, demonstrating at
the shipping terminals in several cities -- in Houston and in Oakland,
California, and Long Beach, California, and Portland, Oregon, and Seattle,
Washington, and Long View, Washington.
In some places, port management and labor unions agreed to send the
union workers home to protect their health and safety.
In Long View, the march of the 99 percent meant that workers left
early with just four hours pay. A half day`s pay did not exactly leave
these workers feeling empowered by the day`s events. In fact, one truck
driver told Bloomberg, "I have bills to pay at home. And these people say
they represent the 99 percent. They don`t represent me."
The president of the Longshoreman Warehouse Union in southern
California sent occupiers a clear message: Butt out, saying, "While there
can be no doubt that ILWU shares the occupy movement`s concerns about the
future of the middle class and corporate abuses, we must be clear that our
struggle against port management is just that -- our struggle. There is
real danger that forces outside ILWU will attempt to adopt our struggle as
their own." The union telling Occupy essentially thanks but no thanks.
Despite being run out of parks around the nation, the Occupy movement
is not dead. Part of how you can tell it is still alive is because like
all living movements, it is complicated. Hundreds of people turn up at
your workplace to argue that you should have better working conditions.
And as a result, you go home with less money and it`s the holidays. And
so, you end up as irritated with the protesters as you are with the
conditions they are protesting, even if they take up a collection for you.
So, who is the 99 percent in this story? Is it the truck driver who
can`t get through? The protesters whose families expected them to go to
college? The ones who love to have a union job with the benefits and a
little time off?
Many people want to reduce what`s happening in this country to a class
warfare argument. But it is too complicated for that.
Like for instance Elizabeth Gilmore (ph). Now, she is in the new
"Town and Country" magazine which is my favorite source for what the 1
percent is really thinking. Now, recently, I met Elizabeth and talked with
her about her support of the Occupy Wall Street movement here in New York.
And then I went to "Town and Country" today and saw her there.
Now, she received a million dollar trust fund for her 21st birthday.
And now, she is working to give it all away and to help other trust funders
do the same. She is the 1 percent, but she is out there on the barricades
with her sign.
There are no simple solutions here. There aren`t even simple
identities where everyone fits into a single category, 99 percent over here
and 1 percent over there. Our identities as Americans cross those lines,
cross many lines, for many of us, several times in the span of a single
In fact, American Founding Father James Madison anticipated this
complexity of ideas of interest in the "Federalist Paper 10". Madison
believed that America will find strength and stability by embracing our
Yes, we are the 99 percent. But the 99 percent is a diverse bunch and
it turns out those 1 percent might be unpredictably interesting, too.
HARRIS-PERRY: The best new thing in the world today is a file of the
sort of a RACHEL MADDOW SHOW story from a year and a half ago, in the
spring of 2010. That`s when an unpronounceably named volcano in Iceland
erupted. The ash cloud it sent over Europe stranded tens of thousands of
people, including one head of state. THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW followed on
his journey home.
Here`s a reminder.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST, "TRMS": Take for example the prime minister of
Norway who got stuck in New York City. There`s a picture of him trying to
run his government from the airport with the use of his new iPad. The
prime minister did manage to get out of New York last night and he`s on a
long strange trip home right now.
First, he flew to Madrid. Then he hopped a flight from Madrid to
Basel, Switzerland. Now he is traveling the rest of the way home by car
with five other people. We`ve actually been in contact with one of the
people who`s in the car with the Norwegian prime minister.
Norway`s state secretary told us that they`re doing fine. They`re
planning to stop in Germany overnight to rest. Tomorrow, they will press
on to Oslo.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That prime minister, Jens Stoltenberg, made it home.
And he is still prime minister of Norway.
And today, he is on an even more amazing journey. This one, however,
on purpose, which made the staff here at the show think of starting a new
segment. Can we do that when Rachel is not here? We`re going to do it
where in the world is Jen Stoltenberg?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Jens Stoltenberg!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And the answer is Antarctica. The head of Norway`s
government is at the South Pole right now and he`ll hang out there for a
few days to mark the 100th anniversary of the first person to reach the
South Pole. That would be fellow Norwegian Roald Amundsen who famously
beat Captain Robert Scott in a race to the pole in just a few -- by just a
Now, the actual anniversary is in two days. So, Prime Minister
Stoltenberg will have to hang out for a bit. But it looks like he is
having fun because after all, it`s practically summer there.
So, an important government official getting to cross a big one off
his bucket list for his job the best new thing in the world today. Or
maybe this is!
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Jens Stoltenberg!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Rachel, that was not my idea. Your staff made me do
And, oh, yes, speaking of where in the world, Tulane students, your
professor may be in New York City but your final assignments are still due
and I`m checking my inbox in five minutes.
That does it for us tonight. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. And as a
reminder, Rachel will be back tomorrow with her exclusive interview with
Vice President Joe Biden.
And now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell. Have
a great night.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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