Guests: Jackie Speier, Ariana Klay, Raul Reyes, Amy Kremer, Israel Ortega,
Angela Maria Kelley; Beth Perry; Majora Carter
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-
Today, I brought back a panel of experts on Latino voters, because,
frankly, the Latino vote may be the most important block of voters this
time around. And not only do I know it, but so do President Obama and
Tomorrow, Mitt Romney will be in Pennsylvania, holding hands with so mi hor
amigo Marco Rubio, hoping to follow up on the Obama camps much hypes
Latinos for Obama campaign launched earlier this week.
So on Wednesday, the Obama reelection team rolled out their pitch to the
Latino voters with a synchronized set of house parties, featuring a
conference call with comedian and Obama`s surrogate George Lopez, and along
with the releases Spanish language campaign ads targeting Latino voters in
the key states of Colorado, Nevada and Florida.
Now, it`s simply no secret, the Latinos, now 50 million strong in America,
will be a deciding factor in this election. As President Obama`s campaign
manager, Jim Massena acknowledged this week, Chicago is well aware that
polls out this week show that the president is faring well with Latino
The NBC-"Wall Street Journal "poll shows Barack Obama with a strong lead of
69 percent to Governor Romney`s 22 percent among Latino voters. But, for
the president to hold onto this lead on election day, he will have to
explain why his 2008 promises to the Latino community on immigration
reforms have often gone by the wayside. Particularly because under his
leadership, there were a record 396, 906 people deported last year which
add insult to injuries for pro immigration Latinos who will be watching as
the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments this week over the controversial
anti-illegal immigration bill, SB 1070.
Now, the Arizona bill instructs law enforcement to establish proof of
immigration status during any legitimate contact made by an official or
agency. It`s been called the papers, please law. It`s considered the most
strict immigration law in the country and SB 1070, say critics, is a
violation of the civil rights law. And the Supreme Court hearing will only
up the level of political rhetoric surrounding the law, especially since
Democrats are hoping make play for Arizona. Usually a reliably red state
The RNC chairman, Reince Preibus called that is a Democratic fantasy,
saying that the Obama team is setting up a mirage that somehow Arizona is
going to be in play or a battleground. It`s a Republican state he says.
It`s a res state.
So, instead see Romney stressing six important Latino focus states;
Florida, New Mexico, Colorado, Virginia, North Carolina, and Nevada. Thing
is, Romney is not going to be able to etch a sketch his record on
immigration. For Romney, immigration is one area where he has actually
been quite consistent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The answer is self-deportation,
which is people decide they can do better by going home, because they can`t
find work here because they don`t have legal documentation to allow them to
work here. I`m running for office, for Pete sake. I can`t have illegal.
The question is, if I were elected and Congress were to pass the dream act,
would I veto it? And the answer is, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. OK. So remember last week here on "MHP" when we
talked about the super Sherpa? The guy who actually leads the candidate up
the election mountain? I contend that no super Sherpa can guide Romney
away from those statements.
Romney can appear with Marco Rubio all he wants, but the some of my best
friends are Latinos campaign strategy isn`t likely to win over many hearts
and minds here. Maybe I`m right, maybe I`m wrong.
But with me here at the table are, Israel Ortega, editor of libertad.org,
Spanish language publication of the heritage foundation. Attorney Raul
Reyes, a contributor for NBC latino.com and Angela Maria Kelley, vice
president of immigration policy and advocacy at the center for American
progress. Thank you, all, for being here.
ANGELA MARIA KELLY, VICE PRESIDENT, IMMIGRATION POLICY AND ADVOCACY AT THE
CENTER OF AMERICAN PROGRESS: Thanks for having us.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So, here is my first question.
HARRIS-PERRY: Is the Latino vote actually up for grabs in this election?
Or is this really just an issue that the president has already won the vast
majority of the vote and you just got to play a turnout game? Or is there
seriously a way in which Mitt Romney might be able to get a substantial
portion of the Latino vote?
RAUL REYES, ATTORNEY: You mentioned Mitt Romney and the whole etch-a-
sketch thing that he needs to start over. But, you know, I think for Mitt
Romney, it`s not that ne needs the etch-a-sketch, he needs more like a time
machine. Because it`s not just that he has had these extreme views on
immigration. It`s that during the primaries, he also attacked other
candidates for their moderate views. You know, he went after Newt
Gingrich. He went after Rick Perry.
So, it`s not just that he can move back to the center, which lots of
candidates do. He also have to explain his very aggressive anti-
immigration sentiments and that`s like a very steep incline for him to
HARRIS-PERRY: Is the center where Latino voters are? I mean - so you
said, you know, OK. So, he has to move back to the center, but is that
where Latino voters are to be captured?
KELLY: He`s been hostile.
KELLY: He`s been just downright hostile. And, you know, Latinos here
that. He`s been up against justice Sotomayor, which is another, you know,
icon in Latino community. The company that Romney keeps is very troubling
to Latino voters. The company he keeps is Kris Kobach, secretary of state
of Kansas, but also the architect of the Arizona law, the Alabama law, the
Georgia law, the most restriction is - like the official out there. And he
is a senior adviser to Romney on immigration policy.
HARRIS-PERRY: And he has a Gemba endorsement.
KELLY: He`s not on the side of a mountain, he`s deep in a hole.
HARRIS-PERRY: Trying to get to base camp.
KELLY: He would love to be to base camp. He`s not there yet.
ISRAEL ORTEGA, LIBERTAD.ORG: What I mean, as the fact they are saying is,
I got to go - I mean, the fact is President Obama has to speak about the
fact that deportations have gone up under his administration. He also has
to, you know, go back to Hispanic voters and say, you know what? When I
made the promise about immigration reform, I`m sorry, forgive me. And so,
that`s part of something he has got explaining in the next few months.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so, the optics here seem to matter. I wanted to listen
to Obama`s sort of Latino ad recently, where he`s being really clear about
how important he recognizes the Latino votes to be. Let`s take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The stories of Latino
community are stories about the American dream. Young people who believed
that anything is possible. And parents and grandparents working hard to
give their children the chance to succeed.
The choice our country makes in November will have huge consequences for
the Latino community. But, remember, the outcome of this election is in
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, can`t be much clearer than that. The outcome of
this election is in your hands.
KELLY: Bestowed a lot of power on Latino voters.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right. And it`s a kind of classic almost OFA Obama
for America 2008 kind of ad, right. Here is the big American story, where
a nation of immigrants kind of there. Is that the right sort of optic that
the president needs?
REYES: I think it`s what he needs, but one thing that - one underlying
factor that is very much in his favor is it -- if you look at poll from
November by Latino decisions, at their core, this poll found that Latinos
are progressive voters. You know, we support the health care act, we
support increasing the size of government to in order to pay for social
So, he`s starting out on the right side for many social issues that matters
to Latinos. Then, when you look at economic issues, Hispanic unemployment
right now is 10.3 percent which is too high.
However, last year, 2011, Hispanic job growth outpaced other ethnic groups
and currently Hispanics are adding jobs at twice the rates of whites. So,
he can point to the economic indicators even economically that are going in
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to bring you in here in part because, you know, when
I talk about, for example what we know about the African-American vote.
Look, I can look at polling data and we see 91 percent of African-
Americans currently supporting President Obama. That Latino vote has never
been a kind of 70, 80, 90 percent sort of vote.
So, clearly, on the one hand, yes, there is a sort of progressive interest
in expense of government, social safety net. But there`s - there must also
be something else going on with Latino voting if it it`s split 60/40 or
ORTEGA: Yes. I think a lot of it depends who the political candidate is
and how good he is making that message across to voters. But a lot of
things that I talk about when I talk about what I hear what he is doing is
looking at the failed policies in Latin America. And that we have an
economic prosperity and an opportunity in this country we didn`t have back
in our home countries. And so, supporting those policies that will ensure
that our children and grandchildren have those opportunities is a case that
potentially governor Romney can make, depending on how he does it.
KELLY: The problem is he wants to deport all those same people.
REYES: And their grandmother.
HARRIS-PERRY: He doesn`t want to deport them, self-deportation.
KELLY: They will report to self-deport. But, I mean, the point you are
making is, you know, are they a swing bloc, it`s possible. Right. We saw
George Bush who enjoyed a lot of support in the Latino community.
KELLY: You know, he broke somewhere 40, 44 percent voting for him. So, I
think, you know, Israel is right. It is possible, but his tone was very
different. It was welcoming. It was respectful. He looked for a solution
in that way, Obamaesque. And I think that`s the footing that Romney has
never been able to get, he`s been so busy appealing to the far right.
And so, you know, back to Raul`s point, I don`t know that he could move
enough. He would have to massively etch-a-sketch thinks positions away.
HARRIS-PERRY: What he puts Rubio on the ticket. So, we heard Marco Rubio
at the National Journal Forum on Thursday make this very interesting slip.
I want to listen to it, just real quickly here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Three, four, five, six seven years from
now, if I do the job as vice president -- I`m sorry. As a do a good job as
senator, I`ll have a chance to do all sorts of things.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: This is a mistake I`ve never made. I never like - you know,
if in a couple of years, after running NBC universal, right?
KELLY: He wants that time machine.
HARRIS-PERRY: Clearly this is on his mind. It suggests to me the camps
have been in conversation.
KELLY: Of course.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I hear you about the - since that suddenly change that
optic, if it`s Marco Rubio?
REYES: No. I think with Marco Rubio, I think it would generate some
excitement in the community, just like, you know, Sarah Palin did generate
excitement among women.
But Marco Rubio, when you look at his record, he is really on the opposite
side of all of the issues that matter to Latinos. Latinos tend not to vote
our co-ethnic. We`re voting on policy. He doesn`t support our policies
and I always go back to the Sotomayor nominee. Because at the time, Marco
Rubio was running for senator. And he published and op-ed and he said
that, you know, grace and ethnicity shouldn`t be chief qualifications, it`s
just to support someone. So, on those grounds, he did not support Sonia
And when you factor out his race, you know, he is a junior senator from
Florida. In his time in the senate, I think his one accomplishment so far
has been designating September as national spinal cord injury awareness
month. So, his legislature is very thin. I don`t think that is going to
excite Latinos, you know, nationwide.
ORTEGA: Yes. Well. I think it goes back to what you are saying about
surrogates and planning those people that can speak Spanish. And the fact
that Marco Rubio can speak Spanish. I do think that Republicans make a
mistake I think that by just putting him on the vice presidential ticket it
will lock up the Latino vote. I think that`s overly optimistic. But I do
think that - yes.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. I`m sorry. I want to pause.
HARRIS-PERRY: Did you say Marco Rubio cannot speak Spanish?
ORTEGA: He can.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m sorry. What just happened here? I didn`t want to miss.
ORTEGA: No, no. He can speak it well too, because there is a difference
between conversational Spanish and, you know, fluent.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right. You are the totality of my Spanish in the
intro that is absolutely all I can do.
But, let me ask you on the question of speaking Spanish, because what I
wonder about, what I m may even reproduce at this moment in the
conversation is I said, all right, we are going to talk about Latino
voters. Here is a conversation about immigration, here`s a conversation
about, you know, a Latino human being, right, in a body. And then here is
the question about Spanish language, as the totality of what it means to a
Latino American voter is to be worried about immigration, to be looking for
someone also Latino and be a Spanish speaker.
KELLY: Obviously the community is really, just like any other community,
they care about the economy, they care about jobs, they care about their
kids` education and their future.
But immigration is a threshold issue in the sense you feel like it`s how
someone is talking about you. The Arizona law is a perfect example. Look.
The Arizona law says that if a police officer has reasonable cause to
believe that you are here illegally, they can pull you over and arrest, get
you on the road to being deported. They can`t actually deport you but they
can go everything short of that. So, what does that mean to look like you
are here illegally?
REYES: That means three out of four of us at this table.
HARRIS-PERRY: And when my hair is styled differently, main even all four
KELLY: It`s not even how you look, it`s how you speak. It`s not about
solving the problem with immigration. So, we permit 50 states to come up
with 50 different laws, all we have done is basically legalize racial
profiling in those states.
HARRIS-PERRY: And it`s exactly that topic that is going to come right back
at the top of the next segment because I want to talk about President
Obama`s own record on immigration and on deportation. Why it may get in
his way or why it may not?
And later, we are going to talk about earth day and how it`s not just about
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The American people need us to put an end to the petty partisanship
that passes for politics in Washington. And they need us to enact
comprehensive immigration reform, once and for all. They need not -- we
can`t wait 20 years from now to do it, we can`t wait 10 years from now to
do it, we need to do it at the end of my first term as president of the
United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. So the first term is not over yet, but let`s just
pause. Because that comprehensive immigration reform just did not happen.
And one could predict that might cost President Obama the election this
year. Because in 2008, Obama won 67 percent of the Latino vote and you
will probably need to stick close to that to keep Mitt Romney from the 40
percent of Latino voters that most independent analyst say he needs to win
the 2012 election.
With me here at the table is Israel Ortega of the Heritage Foundation, Raul
Reyes of NBC latino.com and Angela Maria Kelley of the center for American
So, I want to jump right back in here. Because starting back again on
immigration, and I`ve been pushing pretty hard on this, and your point,
Angela, it`s -- it`s in part -- not the central issue, right? The central
issue is economic and jobs and war and health care and all of that, but it
does somehow feel important -- and David Axelrod was just on CNN this
morning, talking about it, and saying well, it didn`t get done at the end
of the first term mostly because of congress, because Congress just was as
there were many things standing in the way, not getting it done.
But will president - will they play that sound bite over and over again and
try to hold President Obama`s sort of feet to the fire?
REYES: I think they may try to hold his feet to the fire in that way.
However, you know, one of the by-products of the immigration debate is
that, you know, the Latino community, I think more than any other period in
recent history has been intensely following American politics, because of
so many of us, our community and the lives of people we know, colleagues,
family members, are at stake.
So, this - so, Latinos know that the chief reason that immigration reform
has not gone forward is Republican obstructionism. And in a different year
with more moderate Republicans, sure, they can really use that against
President Obama. But this year, the Republican have - I mean, zero
credibility on immigration. They are against so many things that would
have moved it forward and now they are floating this -- some people call it
the dream act 2.0, which legalizes people.
KELLY: Or dreamless act.
REYES: That`s what I call it.
KELLY: The nightmare act.
REYES: But will not, you know, put them on the path to citizenship. And
the argument is well, something is better than nothing. And I say, you
know, that`s -- that`s like telling gay people, well, your civil union is
better than nothing or African-Americans, that separate but equal is better
than nothing. People don`t buy that. And nobody wants that for their
ORTEGA: If I could jump in. I think two things. One is, the president
could have broadened immigration reform, but he chose to do really health
care reform. Let`s be clear on that. He uses global capital on that. And
second thing to is, look, where senators -- John Tester, moderate
Democrats, who are not going to be supporting any type of immigration
reform, so, yes, Republican by enlarge are not going to support something
broad. But there are Democrats and the president does need to get
Democratic support particularly from moderate Democrats.
HARRIS-PERRY: And, you know, if you are going to put Arizona in to play,
for example, which they still be - are claiming to, that tells to me almost
like more likely to happen around economic issues, like Arizona would sit
so hard by the housing crisis. Then, we will let you know, voters really
moved on SB 1070 versus other kinds of crisis.
KELLY: Sure. I mean, I think, you know, because Arizona has just been
ground zero for the immigration today. You do see the Latino voter really
paying a lot of attention. And here`s a quick story.
So, Phoenix City council underdog Democrat run. His name is Danny
Valenzuela. Nobody expected him to win. It was always been a solid
Republican city council seat. He won because there`s a 480 percent
increase in Latino vote.
HARRIS-PERRY: Wow. That is something.
KELLY: That is something. They represent.
KELLY: And they knock on 72,000 doors.
KELLY: I mean, that knock people out because they - their feeling it. They
are feeling it. They are afraid to drive, they are afraid to walk their
kids to school. That`s the reality where broken immigration policies.
And Raul is absolutely right. There was a space in time there where I
think Republican could have like run right to it. If you have a George
Bush running, definitely --
HARRIS-PERRY: Or John McCain`s circle 2004.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s a version of himself that he was --
KELLY: I mean, there were 23 Republicans back in `06 that voted for
immigration bill that would legalize most of the undocumented in this
country, 23 republicans. They are gone now. They would either lost their
jobs or they are hiding under their desk.
And, you know, so without an alternative, what are Latinos going to do?
They are scared to death. I mean, Mitt Romney administrations, stop
deportation in Arizona and everything.
HARRIS-PERRY: And you know, part of what I just heard here that I think it
- I hadn`t thought so much about at least said just there with the knocking
on the doors. Part of what the Obama reelection campaign is based - is
what they are calling that enthusiasm gap problem, the 2008 felt like a
social movement that kind of change America --
HARRIS-PERRY: And if you have a little more like, OK. Now, we need to,
you know, play along to reelection. But isn`t that, there`s a group here
that can be motivated with that kind of enthusiasm either pro-reelection or
at least anti-the election Obama --
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Then, that seems to me like that could even more
powerful than the individual voting itself.
REYES: That`s one thing that could be very strong for the Democrat in a
roundabout way, the Republicans are actually motivating many Latino voters.
And as you mention, in Arizona, you know, Latino voters have been - have
mobilize like never before and we see that also the architect of SB 1070
rushed up here.
So, until recently, it was state senator and the president of their senate
was recalled in with special election, he lost his office. That`s the
first that has ever happened in Arizona history. You know, part - partly
because Latino voters mobilize and said, this, you know, we had enough. We
need to be heard, you know. It has awaken the Latino vote in the state
which up until now, it`s always been a very reliably Republicans.
HARRIS-PERRY: But, can Republican find their way back to the big ten? I
mean, it wasn`t so long ago that they were there.
ORTEGA: They particularly - look. I think, you know, the education we
brought up is an important issue. But the fact that we have just spending
high school drop are in almost 50 percent, he gets an indictment on both
parties, really. And I think that if Republicans can present, you know,
set f policy that say, you know, we are actually going to do something
about this. Because, you can remember, for a lot of Hispanic families, the
children has successfully art, that`s the culmination of the American
people. I mean, they will in the work, you know, double shifts, got to see
their children get ahead and the fact is that, right now, we are not seeing
So, I think there`s not routinely, the economy - there are issues where
Republican can I think make a compelling alternative to the present.
REYES: But, is there a Republican candidate are cutting so many social
programs than educational programs that would benefit these kids.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So, there will continue - I mean, this - we are not
done. As I promised last time, the idea -
HARRIS-PERRY: We are, however, going to take a moment right now as we go
into the next segment, to go to Brooklyn. Why? Because I want to show the
farm. That`s right, the farms in Brooklyn. One by one, they are
populating the landscape. We are going to get our hands dirty learning how
to be better steward of the earth, right after the break.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right now, I want to introduce to someone who is changing
our community ease, one sprout at a time.
Nora Painten is a farmer in Brooklyn New York. That`s right. She is a
farmer in Brooklyn. She has a vision to transform vacant city lot into
urban teaching farms for local kids. Nora`s experiences teaching in a
living classroom last summer inspire her new non-profit. So, Nerd land
(ph) caught up with Nora and her brand new student farm project. Let`s
take a look.
NORA PAINTEN, FARMER, STUDENT FARM PROJECT: My name is Nora Painten and I
work as an urban farmer in Brooklyn. This garden is located on a vacant
city lot that has been vacant for 30 years. It`s been full of leaves,
full of trash. It doesn`t look like an area that could be turn into a
vibrant farm. You know, we are in the middle of the really urban
neighborhood, but stops in front to this neighborhood. Doesn`t have a lot
of say, grocery stores, public market, cash preview.
So, we are working closely with Psi as 323 which is a public school just
down the block. There will be math teachers, science teachers, even
English and art teachers bringing their classrooms out here to teach their
curriculum in this outdoor settings.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Feel that.
PAINTEN: The idea with the outdoor classroom is that they are stimulated
by all of this physical stuff going on all around them. I just love seeing
the look on their faces when they see something sprout out of the ground.
And also, it`s really critical in terms of the health of not only this
community but of the American, you know, modern society to know how to feed
ourselves and not get sick from the things that we eat.
If a kids is sort of turned down the excitement of planting the seeds and
watching something grow, they are so excited about eating that final
produce and that just sort of like turns on its desire in them to keep
eating fresh produce.
The long term goal is to bring this model to different vacant lots and
schools to develop a relationship with the city where they are willing to
let me take over certain parts of lands. If these kids grow up with the
taste for vegetables through the project like this, and they stay in the
neighborhood, one day they would be food buying jobs who will demand fresh
produce in their local grocery stores or demand more primary markets in the
If this program has able to change the eating habits of even one student
and I would feel completely thrills.
HARRIS-PERRY: To check on more on Nora`s student farm project, head over
to our blog at mhpshow.com.
And coming up, why farmer is just one way earth warriors are taking back
the planet. We are going to hear from one of the leading environmental
equality activist right after the break.
HARRIS-PERRY: If I were to ask to you think about the most desire dire
consequences of polluting our environment, what comes to mind? Isn`t that
image from an inconvenient truth of the stranded, arctic polar bear? Or
maybe you thought with hoer about the great pacific garbage patch, that the
island of plastic floating in the middle of the north pacific?
Perhaps, though you never actually seen it, you conj nap an image of a
picture of hole in the ozone hovering ominously over Antarctica.
And so, let me ask you to think a little bit closer to home, about
asthmatic children inhaling toxic fumes in cities right here in the United
States. About the woman living next to a refinery in Mississippi who keeps
suffering miscarriages. About communities of people forced to live next to
piles of refuse and pollutants, the rest of us can barely stand to have in
our homes for a few days.
I would ask you to consider another climate worth changing. The one in
which we behave of those some Americans are more worthy than others in
living in an environment of the safe and healthy for themselves and their
Joining me at the table, someone who hasn`t just thought about that, but
has accomplished a lot on behalf of that cause.
Majora Carter, just president of the Majora Carter Group. And also back
with us Raul Reyes of NBC Latino.
I totally love you too Raul but I`m - I`m really excited on earth day to
have Majora Carter in my table that this feels like always right with the
world or all of us with the world or something.
And so, you know, I`m obviously enthusiastic about your work, Majora,
because I`ve known it and followed it for so long. But you know, take a
moment and kind tell nerd land about the work that you do and specifically
if could - you know, in our conversation in nerd land, we talk about the
environment and environmentalism and, you know, earth days on to the 1970s,
mostly around sort of wild life preservation. But I kept saying no, I want
to do E.J. I want to do environmental justice in people like what?
Tell us what environmental justice, environmental equity is about.
MAJORA CARTER, PRESIDENT, MAJORA CARTER GROUP: Right. Environmental
justice is a principle that no community should have to bear brand of lots
of environmental burdens and not enjoy some of the environmental benefits.
And right now, unfortunately, where will you find the environmentally in
just communities as broken down along race of class life. So, where you
find the parks and trees, where you will find the toxic pollutants
something to that nature that very different places.
The kind of work that I have been doing, really pushing, is called
environmental equality. And environmental equality is the manifestation
that no one, that everyone should have the absolute right to not have to
move out of their neighborhood in order to live in a better one.
HARRIS-PERRY: I love that idea that like justice should find us or - and
equality should find us where we are. We shouldn`t have to go chasing
after it because this is assumption obviously that is not equal.
So, Raul, I actually kind of thinking about putting together this
conversation. You know, I think that there is sometimes in the assumption
that there - that core communities, urban communities, Latino and African-
Americans, they don`t care much about the earth, right. They are not
hiking or worth. And yet, we know that the environmental issues impact
these communities in most power play.
REYES: I know. Environmental justice is very closely tight to communities
of color. I mean, I agree with you. There`s a myth that the people mostly
interested in equality of the green movement are upper, middle class more
But, you know, I never come hit to know that some statistics show,
according to senate for American progress, 65 percent of people of
communities of color lived within the air quality does not met federal
standards, 66 percent of communities of color people lived or work near a
refinery, chemical, plant, another toxic sites. And we do tend to be over
represented in agriculture and the service industries where you work with
chemical, pesticides, sprays. And also, to dangers materials.
So, this is an issue that affects us because many African-Americans,
Latinos, Asians, all people of color were on the front lines of the
environmental problems and that the degradation in, you know, in the
environment sorts very important.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So, we think of it as an stereotype. It`s not just
that at some community have trees and lawns, but that often you have Latino
yard workers, people who are doing that sort work, who are standing behind
the leaf blower, right.
If you stand behind the leaf blower, you are getting the gas and oil fumes,
right? Or we have, you know, young people in the city who are living in
places with very low air quality, we have the issue of asthma.
So, talk to me then. It`s one thing to say, we should have environmental
justice. We should have environmental equality. How should we have it?
What does it take to move from inequality to equality?
CARTER: I have been working the past decade and a half on how do you
create projects that improve the environmental as well as the economic
quality of life for people who live in our communities? And it also goes,
and again, it`s off on class lines. So, believe me, if you are living near
a coal plant, a coal mining operation, and you know, chances are they are
not particularly dark, but there still feeling the impacts of that. So,
this is really important.
HARRIS-PERRY: A lot of Americans living in those sorts of community or
indigenous people where we have local undesirable lands.
CARTER: But the full point is it, we can create new opportunities for
local economic development. Things that actually provide opportunities for
that kind of local job creation that doesn`t continue to pollute the
Right now, I`m really interested in doing things like supporting and using
real estate development as a platform for social, environmental, and
economic engagement. Because I do believe, one, you can build very green
buildings, but you can also create new opportunities to create mixed income
housing and mixed used commercial development that actually provide
opportunities for people to become less poor.
So, that kind of structural development that expects people to move up and
out of poverty by the creation of economic models that improves their
quality of life is, that`s a very huge goal that I`m really trying to work
on right now.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to talk more about this big policy stuff but also of
the individual acts we can do. And also, like the earth and us, and how we
manage both of those things on questions of earth day. So, you heard about
the gender gap. We`ll talk about the green gap, more on that after the
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m still here with Majora Carter and Raul Reyes. And we
been talking about creating a local environmental impact through working to
change public policy.
Joining us now from San Francisco is someone who made going green an
individual effort, Beth Perry is the creator of myplasticfreelife.com,
which I was hanging out on this morning and also author of "Plastic Free."
Thanks so much for joining us, Beth.
BETH PERRY, MYPLASTICFREELIFE.COM: Hi, Melissa. Hi, Majora. I`m such a
fan of yours.
HARRIS-PERRY: A lot of green love going on in our land today.
So, Beth. I want to talk you a little bit about your project. So again,
just tell us what the plastic free life project is?
PERRY: Well, five years ago, I was just a regular person like anybody
else, and I was using plastic on a daily basis, plastic grocery bags,
plastic water bottles and throwing them away. And I wasn`t really thinking
anything about it, even though I kind a considered myself to be an
environmentalist. And one night I was sitting at my computer and just
browsing around, and I stumbled upon an article about the plastic pollution
problem in the ocean, and I saw something that changed my life.
And it was a photo of a dead albatross chick. It had -- its body was
completely full of plastic and it was just the carcass, and all you could
see was the bones and the body full of plastic, and it was plastic bottle
caps, plastic toothbrush, plastic -- all the little tiny pieces of plastic
that I use on a daily basis. And at that moment, I realized, oh, my God,
my actions are having an impact on creatures that I hadn`t even previously
And that was the first time I knew something had to change in my life and
it changed like that.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I want to ask about that. Because part of what I
thought was -- sort of an extremely useful part of sort of the initial move
toward encouraging, particularly Americans, but around the world, to think
about environmental issues, kind of across party lines and all of that,
were wild life images, were the images of, as you point out here, the
albatross or we just talked yesterday about the brown pelicans and the BP
oil spill who have the oil on them.
But I also wonder about how we then put like sort of a connection between
the wild life piece and Majora and Raul, from the work we were just talking
about around sort of humans and people and particularly young folks.
So Majora, I just want - I want you weigh in a little bit then I want to
come back to you, Beth, about how do we connect these dots? It shouldn`t
be separate. But sometimes it feels like separate environmental movements.
CARTER: Well, they are considered separate right now. I mean, there are
people and then there is the environment. And what we are trying to do is
really bring them together so folks understand that there is only one place
that we are a part of, we are the environment and vice versa.
And I really see that the microcosm in terms of how we build our community.
Like literally, our relationships are about real estate, might as well use
it to create the kind of world we want to live in.
And so, as we use real estate development as a platform for engagement, we
should thinking about the impact that we`re going to be having in terms of
the social, environmental and economic impact that we are having. So, when
I think of the kind of real estate developer that I want to be, it is
literally about how do you build a community, how do you build a place
where there`s economic diversity, how do you build a community of different
people of different economic levels living together? You know, creating
the new kind of -- where you are thinking about manufacturing in the 21st
century to find jobs.
Like, for example, the dress that I`m wearing was created by actually a
Bronx-born designer named Natalia Allen who uses rapid prototyping
techniques as basically done in a single pass like the whole dress like
this, using this amazing technology.
And so, when I think of things like that, I think about how do we use
opportunities like that in order to bring back the kind of holistic, local
economies that we need that really do provide opportunities to improve the
environment, improve economies and really help people feel more whole in
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Beth. I don`t know anyone who is more likely to do that
kind work than like -- I was listening and reading how you even take back
the containers we get strawberries and blueberries and have them refill
them. So, talk to me a little bit about the approach?
PERRY: Well, so upon making that discovery, I decided I was going to try
to live without buying any new plastic. And I also decided to start
collecting my plastic just to see what my actual plastic footprint was.
In the beginning, I was still using a lot of plastic. Right now, just to
show you, this is the amount of plastic I collected for 2011.
PERRY: Which is just a regular grocery bag full. And so I have developed
a lot of strategies and I write about them on my blog and have them in my
book. But, going back to the issue of environmental justice. I just want
to say that plastic is a real environmental justice issue, because plastic
is made from fossil fuels, it made from oil and natural gas. And those
petrochemical factories, like Majora was saying, are in the community of
poor and minority people.
And so they are getting impacted in that way, getting impacts because a lot
of times poor people can`t necessarily afford to buy things that are not
plastic so they are ending up using plastic, which is toxic and then
plastic recycling is fraught with all kinds of problems as well for
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Raul, I feel like you want to jump in here.
REYES: Well. One thing that I think that`s worth noting is that, I think
too often people think that environmental justice and the interest of --
interests of business are separate. And the economy are separate and they
You know, when you look, for example, at green jobs, green jobs are
terrific for lower income community and community of color because many
green jobs don`t require more than a high school diploma. So that gives
people access to a job with a future. Green jobs more than average jobs in
the workforce tend to lead to careers, not just low-wage, dead end jobs.
And green jobs also outpace in terms of their growth. Outpace other jobs
in the economy. So, green jobs are good business. It`s not - we are not -
you know, saying -- we need to rethink about this. But you know, business
and environmental justice can go hand in hand and it`s a win/win. People
just need to realize it.
HARRIS-PERRY: The Republican party has pretty actively said the EPA kills
HARRIS-PERRY: So, it`s not just sort of -- so, I think part of what`s
amazing here, is environmentalism could be bipartisan, big, broad umbrella,
but it ends up feeling like --
CARTER: It`s just been so politicized. We need to reconnect it with job
creation and the environment. Then have you something that goes.
PERRY: Can I jump in here?
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, Beth. Please do jump in.
PERRY: I want to say in trying to live my own life personally without
plastic and finding plastic free alternatives, I have discovered so many
companies that are really trying to find a solution to the plastic problem
and create alternatives to plastic things made out of glass, things made of
stainless steel, all kinds of healthy products and those are creating jobs
for people too, you know.
So the choices that we make as individuals spur the economy in a green
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. We want just generate those incentives. SO, I hear
you saying, you know, there are businesses that are doing this. But it
make sense that it is voluntary. What we want to start creating public
policy to allow this.
REYES: Support green jobs.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, right. The support green jobs and the support
CARTER: Who want to do that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Who want to move in this direction. I`m so excited.
PERRY: I think --
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. go ahead, Beth. Please. Finish up for us.
PERRY: I think it has to be - I think, we as individual, have to take
personal responsibility. And then we also have to push our legislators for
those laws. And then we also have to push companies and write to companies
and, you know, tell them what we want.
HARRIS-PERRY: Beth, I really appreciate you joining us today.
Majora Carter, I very much appreciate you joining us today. Raul, you have
been hanging out with me for a little bit.
But it`s nice to spend earth day thinking about both our individual
responsibilities and our collective responsibilities.
Coming up, I`m going to offer a little reality check on America`s favorite
reality show. And that`s up, next.
HARRIS-PERRY: What if this morning I told you your childhood fantasy was
being whitewashed? You know, the one where the beautiful young maiden is
in distress and only a man she`s never met but who she loves can save her?
But just a little bit of tricking, this storyline is surefire success for
ABC`s "the bachelor" burst onto the scene in 2002 and has been a ratings
winner for the network ever since. Each season, we all tune in to see the
latest bachelor with his good hair, his strong chin, his trim physique,
perfect boyfriend material, except for how he has to other two dozen other
girlfriends, but I`m disgracing.
First, remember Alex, Jesse, and Jason, and now Ben. Every eligible
bachelor that the America has routed for us since show inception is white.
And now, two African-American men, Nathaniel Claybrooks and Christopher
Johnson, who tried out for a spot as the bachelor last summer are suing
ABC, claiming they were discriminated against during their casting session
Their lawsuit says, quote, "central to this action, in the words of the
Supreme Court, is a glaring and inexorable zero. Never, over ten years,
and a combined total of 23 seasons of the bachelor and bachelorette, have
either show ever featured a single person of color, whether African-
American, Latino, Asian or any other minority race or ethnicity in the
central role of the bachelor or bachelorette."
In a statement, Warner Horizon television, one of the show`s producers said
this complaint is baseless and without merit. In fact, we have had various
participants of color throughout the series` history and the producers have
been consistently and publicly vocal about seeking diverse candidates for
As always, we continue to seek our participants of color for both the
bachelor and the bachelorette.
Here`s the deal. I`m actually incline to believe their statement. I think
there is very little evidence that the bachelor`s producers have any more
than average racial bias, my hunch? Is that they believe an African-
American bachelor would lead viewers to change the channel.
And like it or not, primetime network TV is driven by ratings, and what
executives think will bring ratings.
Now, my biggest problem with the bachelor is not the leading men thing.
It`s the whole my bikini, not my wit and intellect will earn me an
engagement ring, you know, to a stranger thing.
But, if Mr. Claybrooks and Mr. Johnson want to search for love in front of
a national audience, then their race certainly shouldn`t hold them back,
and if you want ABC to cast black men in the lead, then you must ask, would
Coming up next, soldiers fearing their fellow soldiers. The military
confronts a dark, internal battle.
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, HOST: As a nation, we`ve spent the last week
wringing our hands about Secret Service agents soliciting sex from
Colombian prostitutes. But when it comes to Americans behaving badly while
serving our country abroad, I think there is another story that needs to be
talked about and uncovered. And today, we`re going to do it right here.
In a new report by the Pentagon, last year, 3,192 military sexual
assaults were reported, an increase of 1 percent from the previous year.
But the Defense Department said in 2010, that only 14 percent of sexual
assaults in the military were reported, and the real estimate is closer to
19,000 assaults. That`s 19,000 women and men who signed up to defend us
against our enemies, but instead have found the enemy is the person
standing right beside them.
Sexual assault in the U.S. military is so pervasive, that addressing
it has become a top priority for Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who
announced this week changes to the way that the military deals with sexual
assaults within its ranks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEON PANETTA, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Sexual assault has no place
within the military. It`s a violation of everything that the U.S. military
stands for. We believe that we`ve developed a set of initiatives that
fundamentally change the way that the department deals with this problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Much like civilian sexual assault, the victimization
of the survivors in the military is twofold. First, the initial attack,
and, second, enduring the legal process, or lack thereof, to pursue and
Last year, 68 percent of actionable sexual assaults reports were not
prosecuted by military courts, and the Pentagon has demonstrated its
commitment to justice for survivors of sexual assault, but do the measures
go far enough?
Joining me from San Francisco, a member of Congress who has taken the
lead on this issue, Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier, and here at the
table is Ariana Klay, a former marine who`s a survivor of military sexual
assault, and is part of a class action lawsuit against the military and
attorney Raul Reyes, a contributor for NBCLatino.com.
Thank you all for being here this morning.
Congresswoman, I want to start with you, because, you know,
obviously, Leon Panetta out was talking about doing more. Can you first
give me a sense of the scope of sexual assault in the military? And tell
me whether or not you think that the changes that Mr. Panetta is suggesting
go far enough.
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, the scope of it is
overwhelming. The fact that there are 19,000 cases a year by DOD`s own
estimate, and only 13 percent or 14 percent report suggest that people
don`t have confidence that if they report a sexual assault, that it will be
handled appropriately in the military.
And as Ariana and others will tell you, more often than not, they get
marginalized, they are identified as having personality disorders and then
they are involuntary honorably discharged from the military. So, we`ve got
to take this issue much more seriously.
To Secretary Panetta, I do believe he wants to do the right thing.
The recommendations that he has made this week, frankly, don`t go far
enough. Creating a sexual -- a special victims unit already exists within
the Army, has since 2009. And we haven`t seen an increase in cases as a
result of that.
Creating a sexual assault database is good. That was something that
was recommended in 2009 by the National Defense Authorization Act.
And, finally, having it go up the chain of command one more office is
OK. But I believe that we really need to take it out of chain of command
if we were really going to have cases treated appropriately.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Ariana, kind of brings up the issue of the chain
of command here and that seems to me to be a fundamental aspect of what`s
happening, that is a challenge. To come back to the congresswoman in a
moment, but I would like to pause, and I`m sorry, I`m shaking a little bit.
I am a survivor of sexual assault and so my anger as I read your story was
palpable, and the more now that I`m sitting with here with you, the angrier
I get as I think about how your circumstances were handled by our military.
So, just in the briefest way, if you can tell me a bit about what
your circumstances were and also how the chain of command meant that you
did not get justice.
ARIANA KLAY, FORMER MARINE OFFICER: Right. So in my case, there was
a senior officer at my command and his civilian friend came to my house,
uninvited at 7:00 in the morning, and threatened me with death and
performed acts that were designed to humiliate me. He felt that he was in
a position that he was protected from the command. He had said if I
reported it, he would humiliate me and discredit me, and that`s exactly
what he did and the command allowed him to do.
You know, the commander can`t be the judge of his own cause. And I
think that Panetta`s new proposals will just treat the symptoms, not the
disease. In my case, it did go to the colonel and, in fact, three two-star
generals signed off on this. The higher you go in the military, the more
the colonel or commander has to lose.
So, I think Congresswomen Speier is right. They have to take it
completely out of chain of command.
HARRIS-PERRY: The idea that -- that in the military, sexual assault
survivors are facing a justice system which is within that chain of command
-- Congresswoman, can you tell me how the legislation you`re proposing will
address -- will address this issue in a different way than what the DOD is
SPEIER: Well, in my legislation it takes it out of chain of command.
So a victim would report it to a special office that would be staffed with
experts, both in terms of prosecution investigation and they will do that
evaluation and then whatever they recommend, will stand. It won`t be a
decision made by the commander.
What we have seen really is the number of court martials that have
been initiated by commanders, have decreased in the last SAPR report that
you just referenced, the number of convictions have decreased. None of
this is going to change unless we see prosecutions go up and convictions go
In many respects, it`s stacked against the victim, because their
sexual conduct or previous sexual conduct is admissible in a hearing. The
fact that the military moral character of the assailant is reason for
defense to bring that up to mitigate the crime, those would not stand the
test in a criminal justice system in the civilian world.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So in a civilian court, and I think part of
what I was appalled at is a sort of a couple of things. One, the language
that survivors are frequently called basically insane, that they are asked
to go in for psychiatric testing when they report, but also that the issue
becomes not rape, but adultery. And whether or not -- whether or not there
has been adultery and also obscene language, right, rather than issues of
the violation of a human being, and particularly of a fellow soldier.
I know that you are now involved in a class action suit. And we as
at MPH SHOW reached out to the Department of Defense, and the Pentagon said
that they will not give us a statement.
So, tell us about the class action suit. What is it that you and the
other women are hoping to do?
KLAY: The class action suit is an attempt to effect change. The
reprisal that often ensues after a sexual assault is often far more
traumatizing than the actual incident. The commander contractually owns
you, the military is your entire world. And for that world to crush you is
-- at a time when you need -- when you have been degraded beyond human
comprehension and what you really need is support is never going to happen
if they keep it within the chain of command.
And our lawsuit, we hope that unlike the last lawsuit that they
actually take it to court and let them decide instead of -- they had
previous dismissed the lawsuit, and citing as rape incident to military
service. And our hopes is they allow it to go to civilian courts and let
the civilian jury or judge make a decision on whether they are handling
HARRIS-PERRY: Raul, I want to bring you in here just on the politics
RAUL REYES, ATTORNEY: Right.
HARRIS-PERRY: This idea of military matters in civilian courts is
very difficult for any president, right, to begin, or any Department of
Defense to begin to do. So, how do we create the pressure to make this
REYES: Well, I think it does need to go to a civilian court because
military culture is a closed culture. Above all, military culture rewards
loyalty. So, anyone coming forward, speaking out about abuse or assault
already faces a -- has a huge threshold of just credibility, which is
And when we consider these alarming statistics, you know, you have to
remember that assaults in the military are grossly underreported.
REYES: So, I mean, there are many people who are too frightened,
afraid, and just bury it. So, the actual incidence is far higher and what
the military is resisting and what they absolutely need -- they need if
cases are not going to be tried in civilian courts, is to have a civilian
component through the whole process, because it`s totally unacceptable.
I think listening to the congresswoman, I remember in 2008,
Congresswoman Jane Harman said a woman who signs up in the military is more
likely to suffer sexual abuse by the hands of a fellow soldier than she is
to be killed or injured by enemy fire.
HARRIS-PERRY: By enemy fire.
REYES: And that is totally unacceptable. Totally -- you know, it`s
tragic. And so, I think we have to force that issue into civilian courts,
because right now, the military courts operate with a degree of secrecy,
and it`s so unjust to the victims.
HARRIS-PERRY: That idea that you signed up to serve your country and
are more likely to be victimized sexually by your fellow soldiers or
marines, rather than killed by enemy fire -- by an enemy combatant is
I want to pause here and come back on our next --o we have more
opportunity to talk about this, because this is a different way of thinking
about what a war on women is, and we`re going to continue this conversation
right after the break, so stay right there.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`re back and talking about sexual assault in the
Still with me from San Francisco is Congresswoman Jackie Speier.
Right here is former marine and sexual assault survivor, Ariana Klay. And
NBCLatino.com contributor, Raul Reyes.
So, I just want to start with you again quickly, Congresswoman,
because I want to ask how receptive is the Department of Defense to the
approach that you`ve been proposing? We`re talking about the difficulty of
taking it out of the chain of command.
So, when you have obviously been doing this work a lot with the
Pentagon, how receptive are they?
SPEIER: Well, they are not receptive to changing the culture in
terms of the chain of command. They believe strongly that you`ve got to
retain the chain of command. Their solution is taking it, elevating it to
the next level.
And I just don`t believe that in the long run that that`s going to
work. But changing the culture is a much bigger problem.
I would like to say one thing about Ariana. This is the young woman
who was valedictorian in her class, who was then appointed to the Naval
Academy, completed her work there, served either in Iraq or Afghanistan,
and then comes home and is assaulted eight blocks from the U.S. Capitol.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, Ariana, I think it was -- I was reading
exactly that story about you that the congresswoman was just telling, and,
you know, from what I know of my loved ones who have served in the
military, is that it matters so much, that identity.
So I want to ask you both, why did you want to be a marine? Why --
particularly in war time. Who signs up in war time, what woman in
particular signs up and says this is what I want to be. I want to serve my
And then as the congresswoman was just saying, what happens not only
for you, but for a whole military culture when this is so clearly allowed?
KLAY: Well, I joined specifically because I felt that the Marine
Corps was a place that heralded the kind of the esprit de corps and
commitment and dedication that I felt I want to give to any job that I
decided to do.
The implications of having the chain of command make these decisions
is I think the chain of command hierarchy is going to make decisions in
support of the power structure, not in support of justice. And there are
these procedures and policies that appear to be illegitimate, such as the
inspector general`s office, the SAPRO, the EO office, your chain of
command, that you place special trust and confidence in.
So in my case, I pursued every avenue available to me, and they --
you know, 650 days later, it`s still in the secretary of the navy`s office.
Every avenue of approach failed, and that`s why I felt -- I saw this happen
to other girls, I saw the reprisal, I saw the attempt to diagnose a
personality disorder, the investigations on the victim over and over and
You know, I was denied -- I requested to go to Afghanistan while I
was in this unit, where I was harassed and then assaulted. I was denied
because I was too critical to the command. But after I made the report,
then even in my case, despite no medical evidence, there was a -- a female
lawyer who attempted to try to diagnose me with a personality disorder,
with no medical training whatsoever.
KLAY: And this happens -- this is just a formula that they do in all
of these cases and I think we just need to improve our transparency. The
American public places special trust and confidence in the military, and
many of the people within the DOD are exploiting that special trust and
HARRIS-PERRY: I just -- I need to say this. That attempt to take
survivors and implicate them in their own experience in this way and to lay
the blame is, for me, and the fact that it happened systemically, is for me
this is an act of domestic terrorism, because what they are doing is
purposely creating a culture that will silence and terrify and harass,
simply by allowing it to occur, to occur within full knowledge and to occur
-- now, again, we do not have the Pentagon here to speak for itself. We
did reach out, they have not -- they were not willing to send someone
either to the table or to a statement.
But I cannot read that narrative, that story of the willingness to
allow this culture to exist as anything other than a willingness to allow
acts of domestic terrorism on our own soldiers.
So, Congresswoman, does that mean there is or is not something that
the commander in chief can do here?
SPEIER: I think this issue is red hot right now, and the lawsuits
that Susan Burke has filed I think are not going to cease, and I can tell
you for one member of Congress, that I`m not going to settle for anything
less than taking these cases out of the chain of command, there is no
question I think for the American people, once they are made aware of the
fact that the military justice system is not justice, that they are going
to demand that we change the way these cases are handled.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Raul if Congress and the president have a
fundamental responsibility perhaps to our military men and women first and
then to the rest of us, because they are protecting us, then what are our
responsibilities to make sure we have congresswomen and congressmen like
Representative Speier and others that we sent to them the message that we
want a military that is --
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. How do we do that?
REYES: That is transparent. One of the biggest problems with the
military is they do have policies, they do have many procedures. They can
point to stacks of regulations saying that this is what you do, and this is
where it goes. But that`s all on paper. Those are the policies.
You know, what you see in the military culture is a huge divide
between the policies and the actual reality of where -- of what happens, of
what it takes to come forward. The only person in your unit to go to, a
C.O., and say, I have a problem, and to point a finger and to raise your
That is totally not accepted in military culture, and I think that is
something that our government, you know, people like the congresswoman, can
bring -- can hopefully bring that type of transparency to the military,
because it is needed. Right now, you`re right. It is a hostile
environment for people who are -- have been victims of sexual abuse, men
HARRIS-PERRY: Do you ever have a feeling like, you know -- we`re at
war, right? We are still in international conflict around the world. As a
citizen, I want to support my troops, even when I don`t support -- even
when I don`t support the entanglements and the engagements we`re in.
And yet, how do we not have a critical voice about our military in
this moment? So what does it mean to be a supporter of the troops and yet
need to speak very critically about what`s happening here? How do we
KLAY: I think there are many heroes within our military and they are
mostly good people, but these individuals, these commanders who are
allowing the sexual assault investigations to play out the way they are,
should be held accountable or it should be passed over to a civilian
You know, the 2011 SAPRO or Pentagon sexual assault report just came
out. And what was disheartening to me was their sole office -- their
office whose sole purpose is to protect military individuals from sexual
assault, spent a tremendous amount of effort and resources into on
obfuscating the data, into covering up the problem. If that`s going on
there, then what`s going on in the military justice system?
You know, it`s just -- I think that the American public needs to
support Congress` legislation, such as the STOP Act, that will allow more
transparency in our military justice system.
REYES: I think it bears repeating what you said during the break.
Even what they do regard as convictions are often convictions for vulgar
language or adultery which, you know --
KLAY: Or sodomy.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right.
REYES: -- not consistent with the actual crime. That has to change.
HARRIS-PERRY: The one person who assaulted you who --
KLAY: There were two men.
HARRIS-PERRY: But one of them. The one for whom there is a
KLAY: So, one was granted complete immunity in this court martial
process, and the other perpetrator was convicted of adultery and indecent
language for his death treat and referring to me as a slut in the phone
sting. He received 45 days in the brig. It`s not going to go on his, you
know, personal record.
This is when they`re hard-hitting about rape. This is a hard-hitting
rape case for them?
REYES: This is a conviction.
KLAY: That`s a joke, and I think that they are misleading in
presenting their data.
HARRIS-PERRY: I appreciate so much you being here and being a voice
Thank you, Congresswoman Speier, not only for joining me today, but
for the work you`re doing to bring -- to shine a light and to bring justice
on this question.
And also, thank you to Raul Reyes for hanging out with me today.
Coming up, do texts -- they feel a little quieter this year, because
there was one story didn`t get wall to wall coverage like it used to.
We`re going to ask what happened to the Tea Party.
HARRIS-PERRY: When tracking the political influence of the Tea Party
movement from its emergence on the American political scene until now, the
first numbers that any segment called "Go Figure" should start with 4 and
15, for April 15th -- the date that in the Tea Party`s assent starting in
2009, saw Tax Day turn into Tea Party day.
More than 300 is how many locations saw rallies across the nation in
all 50 states, with participant levels estimated at hundreds of thousands
of participants -- 311,460 people, according to Nate Silver, now with "The
New York Times," and the 24/7 breaking news national coverage, from this
network and others, was all there to cover it.
And the "mad as hell", "I`m not going to take it anymore" spirit
behind the movement, carried it through the regular news cycle and all the
way into the voting booth the next year to limited success. Thirty-two
percent in the great Republican congressional takeover of 2010, that`s the
percentage of candidates claiming the Tea Party label who won House or
Senate seats in the November mid-term election, which led to 60. That`s
how many House members were in the Tea Party caucus as of July 2011, the
last time their founding updated the list on her Web site.
And that founder, one Michele Bachmann, ran for president as you
might recall. How many of the five dozen Tea Party caucus members endorsed
her candidacy? One. Just one. Congressman Trent Franks of Arizona was
all, and the only, in the all of Congress to back Michele Bachmann`s bid
for the presidency.
But before anyone goes writing the Tea Party`s obituary just yet,
consider this number from just yesterday: 32. That`s the number of votes
Utah Senator Orrin Hatch fell short by at his party`s state convention to
secure nomination for a seventh term -- as Tea Party activists organized to
defeat the long-serving Republican.
So, this year`s April 15th may not have seen the same kind of Tea
Party demonstrations in the streets as in past years, but on June 26th,
when Orrin Hatch faces his first primary since 1976, the Tea Party`s
presence will be clear.
So, up next, can the movement continue? We`re going to drink tea.
HARRIS-PERRY: The rallies are no longer breaking news and their
supporting pool is falling. Their leaders are no longer as visible as they
But the Tea Party isn`t dead, at least not in Utah. While the senior
senator from Utah, Orrin Hatch, has been trying to highlight a more
conservative record lately, he`s being officially challenged by a former
state senator who aligns himself with the Tea Party movement.
And yesterday, at the Utah nominating convention, Hatch fell fewer
than three dozen votes short of the delegates needed to secure the party`s
nomination outright, forcing him into a primary June 26th. This is Hatch`s
first primary since he was first elected to the Senate in 1976.
So, keep in mind, the Tea Party folks in Utah targeted Hatch`s fellow
Republican Senator Bob Bennett in 2010 and defeated him. So, is the Tea
Party, though falling from the headlines, showing signs of renewed
strength? And if so, what it could mean for Mitt Romney as he heads into
the general election? Remember, Utah is the last primary, and they are
alive in Utah.
So, welcome back Israel Ortega of the Heritage Foundation, Angela
Maria Kelley of the Center for American Progress. And let`s add to the
conversation, Amy Kremer, chair of the Tea Party Express and cofounder of
the nonprofit American Grassroots Coalition.
Thank you, all, for joining me.
ISRAEL ORTEGA, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you for having us.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, we got tea. I`ve got Amy Kremer and tea on the
So, Amy, I`m really encouraged that you`re here because I want -- I
am fascinated by sort of where the Tea Party is going now, and as a
AMY KREMER, TEA PARTY EXPRESS: Right.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so, there is clearly evidence that there is still
life, but certainly seems like a very different movement today, than it was
So, just from your perspective, tell me what is the Tea Party
movement is right now.
KREMER: Well, we`re still here. We`re absolutely still here. But
we`re online. Not out on the streets protesting and having rallies.
And so, you know, you don`t see the visuals that you saw back in 2009
in early 2010, but what happened yesterday in Utah -- and we were not
involved in that race. But it`s evidence that the movement is alive and
well and grassroots activism still does make a difference.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, that`s a fascinating response. We`re
online, right? We`ve moved into sort of another aspect of organizing and
also feels like as I was saying in the segment before, you`re also in
office -- which is to say that the Tea Party moved -- what I thought was
breakneck speed from kind of local, grassroots, rallies about taxes, to
people actually running for office.
And, in fact, it seemed so fast that I wondered if those candidates
were really from that movement, because it happened so quickly.
So talk to me. When you think about folks that did those six dozen
congressmen, senators who were there, are you all capable as a movement of
holding them accountable legislatively?
KREMER: Yes, I think we are. And, you know, we`re not -- what
people need to understand is that this movement was borne out of
frustration with both parties, but especially the Republican Party, because
they have gotten away from core principles and values.
We are focused on electing conservatives, fiscal conservatives. We
don`t touch social issues whatsoever. But we can all agree that Washington
spending is out of control.
And so, we have gotten behind and supported conservative candidates
to send to Washington and some of them have done a great job and some of
them, you know, may not have, and we will hold them accountable.
You know, we`re focused on taking back the U.S. Senate, because we
believe that there`s no one in Washington that`s causing more gridlock than
Harry Reid. And so, we want to send more conservatives to Washington to be
in the United States Senate with Senator DeMint and Mike Lee and Rand Paul
and others that were sent there last cycle.
So, that`s what we`re focused on and we`re not giving up, we`re not
going away. It`s about reining in Washington, because Washington is out of
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Amy just said, you know, we`re fiscal
conservatives, you know, we don`t touch social issues. But it certainly
felt like when the new crop of freshmen, and this is I think part of my
issue about were these folks really out of that movement, because that is -
- that does sound like a bipartisan movement. People might be angry about
government spending for a lot of reasons.
But then the policies, the actual things that showed up on
legislative agenda were cut the EPA. They would go after women`s
reproductive rights. It actually did not feel --
KREMER: Melissa, that`s not true. We`re not going after women`s
HARRIS-PERRY: Somebody is.
KREMER: No, I mean, we are focused on -- we -- that is not what this
movement is focused on at all. And, you know, while we won`t -- we don`t
support Obamacare, and, yes, we want people to have health insurance, but
we want the freedom and liberty to make the choices ourselves, not have the
government making the choices for us.
And the thing is, think about it this way -- you know, while I don`t
want the government making decisions for my health care, my family`s health
care, you know, in President Obama -- our president right now, it could go
the same way, you know, if social conservatives were elected. Would, you
know, the left want that person? The bottom line --
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me push back --
KREMER: We want the liberty to choose ourselves.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I hear you. Let me push on that a little bit
because I think that`s; a fair thing to say. I want to make my own health
HARRIS: Right? I mean, that sounds precisely what we would all
But let me suggest two things that feel very different about what
then occurred in terms of legislation. One, that the Affordable Care Act
does not make government in the middle of decisions between doctors and
The most problematic thing that it does, it`s before the court right
now is the individual mandate. It says you have to have health insurance.
So, for the most part, people making decisions about my health care are my
HMO, right? Actually not the government.
And then the second piece is, the number one thing that young women,
right, women of child-bearing age have to make choices about early on are
contraception, bearing children, the terms under which all of that will
And so, what we saw was that the very conservative elements of the
Republican Party, many of them carrying Tea Party labels, went directly to
government making health care choices, i.e., making the choice to get in
the way of me making a contraceptive or abortion choice.
KREMER: The thing is, that is -- I mean, it`s been driven this war
on women and that the Republicans want to get in the middle of that. That
is absolutely is not it. That is about is religious freedom. It`s about
the First Amendment. You know, if these Catholic Churches and hospitals
don`t want to perform procedures or provide, you know, certain medicines,
then it -- that falls under religious freedom. They shouldn`t be mandated
by the government.
That`s what this country is founded upon, it`s the Constitution, and
that`s one of our constitutional rights. There is no woman out there that
doesn`t have access to contraception.
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, that`s simply -- well, now, that`s simply not
true. Lots of women don`t have access -- in fact, in the state of
Mississippi, right, you know which is right next door to where I live in
Louisiana, there are many women who don`t. And, in fact, those differences
are pretty systemic around things like race, things like poverty, things
like being young, you know, under 18. So, in fact, women don`t often have
access to those things.
And let me declare -- there are a lot of things about the Tea Party
that I like, right? Particularly in its grassroots formulation. I hated
the idea that people said, you lost the election, you have to shut up.
In a democracy, if you lose an election, you don`t have to shut up,
right? In fact, All the more reason --
ORTEGA: We hold them accountable.
HARRIS-PERRY: And you keep trying. But it does feel -- I want to
open it up to other guests, but I`m so fascinated by it.
But it does feel like on the one hand, as much as I like that
manifestation of people having the right to speak, it does feels like what
occurred in terms of legislation was very different than that kind of
grassroots social movement.
Would either one of you guys like to weigh in as well?
ORTEGA: Let me jump in first.
ANGELA MARIE KELLEY, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: You know, you go
ORTEGA: Well, I mean, I think that the -- I do agree with you,
religious freedom argument. I think maybe it wasn`t done well by
Republicans, and but I do think ultimately, about religious freedom to me.
HARRIS-PERRY: Not at the state level. I mean, at the state level,
when you are introducing transvaginal ultrasounds, when you`re shutting
down clinics, those things are not religious freedoms, those are active
legislative choices. Now, it`s true, it doesn`t --
ORTEGA: Sure. But what about Catholic charities, though, who now
have to be in a position to go against something that is their faith?
That`s something that particularly for Hispanics, I thought,
overwhelmingly, they are Catholics, I was hoping that would play out and
hoping Republican conservatives could really talk about how it`s about
religious freedom. But I think the Tea Party movement is stronger when
they are talking about fiscal issues and it`s part of what they -- what,
you know, the Tea Party has to do is talk about fiscal issues.
And as long as runaway spending is there and, you know, the deficit
continues to grow, Tea Party is not going to go away.
KELLEY: You know, the candidates don`t talk about just fiscal
issues, right? So, when we saw Sharron Angle running against a very
unpopular Harry Reid, she was running ads that were targeting Latinos, that
were painting everyone of them as being an illegal immigrant. And there
was 90 percent support in the Latino community for Harry Reid. Not so much
that they love Harry Reid.
KELLEY: It was that Sharon Angle was offending them.
And, you know, you see the party through Rubio perhaps, trying to
reach to the Latino community, but it`s very interesting because recent
polling in Florida shows that Obama is up and that if you match Romney with
Rubio, it actually widens Obama`s lead. It`s when you match Romney with
Jeb Bush that the lead shrinks. Why is that? Because Jeb Bush is more
I think the Tea Party has got a problem, not so much with the
liberals, but within the Republican establishment. So, you see people like
McCain, Mitch Daniels -- they`re throwing down for Dick Lugar, because he`s
in trouble. So, that`s where I think the money -- you know, follow the
money and that will show you where the problems are for the Tea Party.
HARRIS-PERRY: We are going to continue our Tea Party, right after
HARRIS-PERRY: We`re continuing our conversation about the present
and the future of the Tea Party movement, with Israel Ortega of The
Heritage Foundation, Angela Maria Kelley of the Center for American
Progress, and one of the movement`s original leaders, Amy Kremer of the Tea
So, folks, you know, I was saying before the break, I -- the thing
that I like about Tea Party is the idea that everybody in a democracy gets
to have a voice. And, of course, obviously, the thing that happened then
after sort of the midterms was the Occupy movement, beginning to have a
voice, and I have been critical of and excited about both.
But I wanted to share this NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll from last
week about the -- both the Occupy movement and the Tea Party movement,
asking when it comes to the Tea Party, has it run its course? And you have
43 percent of Americans saying, yes, it`s kind of over, but nearly half
saying, no, there is more to go.
But on Occupy, the question the same, has the Occupy movement run its
course? And have you 51 percent of folks.
So more people thinking Occupy has just sort of petered out. That
it`s run its course.
So, this is going to seem odd, but I actually wonder if you have
advice for Occupy? In part, because I felt like part of what Occupy didn`t
do, it was amazing in its capacity to change our conversation, we moved in
many ways away from a deficit conversation to an equality conversation.
They didn`t run anybody for office, right, and they`re not running anybody
for 2012. There are no Occupy candidates.
So, do you have advice for Occupy?
KREMER: Well, I mean, that`s exactly where I was going to go, is
that, you know, we have -- like said, we`ve moved from the streets to
online. And actually if you want to effect change, you have to change the
players and that`s what we`ve done, is elect what we believe are true
conservatives, true conservatives.
And so, you can`t stand on the sidelines and continue to protest and
think it`s going to change anything. They need to get out and run
candidates that they believe in and if they truly want to effect change.
That`s exactly what they need to do.
HARRIS-PERRY: To occupy the ballot box.
But, Angela, I want to ask you this question.
HARRIS-PERRY: Does the Tea Party end up being good for President
Obama and for the down-card Democrats? In other words, you sort of said
nobody loves Harry Reid, but we all got behind Harry Reid because Sharron
Angle was so problematic. Does the Tea Party actually end pulling the
Republican Party in a place where it makes harder for them to win a
KELLEY: Yes, I think so. I think Obama thinks that and I think the
Republican establishment thinks the same thing. That`s why you see so much
money being poured into Dick Lugar`s race, because the Tea Party challenger
is somebody that I think scares the Republican establishment. So, Lugar
has been way behind.
But now, you`ve got John McCain coming out in support of him. You`ve
had Mitch Daniels coming out in support of him. And you`ve got a lot of
money coming in from conservative super PACs that are giving money to Dick
Lugar, to keep him in office.
Why? Because he`s a moderate Republican, because he appeals to
Same thing with Rubio versus Jeb Bush. You see it in the polls in
Hatch was -- I mean, he wasn`t expected to get through the weekend.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, 36 years.
KELLEY: The fact that he`s still alive is consider a miracle, right?
The lieutenant in Texas, the lieutenant governor, you got two super PACs
pouring money in to protect him against the Tea Party challengers.
I think -- you know, President Obama is smiling because the
Republicans are having to spend their money just to keep a sensible center
in the Republican Party alive.
KREMER: But I think -- can I just say real quick? I mean, Dick
Lugar has been in the United States Senate, I believe, for 36 years. He
has not lived in the state. He should not have been voting there. He
doesn`t own a home in the state.
How can he be representing the citizens of Indiana when he`s never
even there? His home in Indiana is a Marriott. Our taxpayer dollars are,
you know, pumping up his Marriott rewards account. It`s ridiculous, he`s
out of touch.
HARRIS-PERRY: You see this as a kind of fundamental question of
representation, right? But even within the context of fundamental
representation is there a politics here, right? Is this bad for the
Republican Party or is it good? Does it give it energy?
ORTEGA: I don`t think so. I think that Republicans can benefit, and
I think that -- when you`re talking about the deficit, which is $16
trillion. I mean, we are at a crossroads in our country`s history, and you
start getting people who didn`t care about politics, who are now going to
start jumping in.
Look, with the work that I do with the Heritage Foundation, I`m
actually working with some Tea Party groups and seeing Hispanics come out
and join forces. A guy I worked with in Florida who`s part of Tea Party
movement. He`s a guy from Colombia, the Tea Party is great and I want to
preserve what`s so special about this country. So --
KELLEY: I hate to interrupt, because
HARRIS-PERRY: I love this conversation. I think there`s a lot to be
said about how the Tea Party votes politically, fiscally, democratically,
and all the ways it impacts us. And apparently, the Tea Party is not dead,
so we can keep having tea parties. You will come back.
KREMER: We`re not dead.
HARRIS-PERRY: But in just a moment, I`m going to take everybody to
the dog house, but first it`s a time for a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX
WITT" -- Alex.
ALEX WITT, MSNBC HOST: OK, Melissa. Thank you so much for that.
We are monitoring a major storm heading up the East Coast. It`s
expected to bring strong winds, heavy rains and guess what? Snow to some
Plus, from France, the presidential election, why should you care?
One reason: the fight over taxing the rich. It is similar to what`s
happening here in the U.S. Only the numbers are more staggering. How
about a 100 percent income tax? Yes, it`s under way. We`ll explain that.
It is a baseball oddity in a good way. We`re going to bring you the
numbers behind what happened last night in one game and how it relates to
And my conversation with Rachel Maddow continues. In fact, here`s a
14-second preview, check it out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WITT: Favorite spirit, what is it?
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Rye whiskey.
WITT: Get out. I had rye whiskey down south last weekend -- no.
MADDOW: Are you just not a whiskey drinker at all?
WITT: No, I`m a tequila girl.
MADDOW: Oh, I knew I loved you for a reason.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WITT: We`re going to play the whole 40 minutes and 30 second of
But, Melissa, I have to ask. You got rye whiskey, tequila on the
table, what`s yours?
HARRIS-PERRY: Alex, I`m totally with you. I`m a patron drinker.
There is no way I could drink rye whiskey. I would just fall over. No.
It`s wrong for me.
WITT: OK. I think we got to go to the cantina.
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, that would be fun.
WITT: Sounds good.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you, Alex.
And coming up, our footnote is going to the dogs. Stay right there.
HARRIS-PERRY: My footnote becomes more of a paw note, pardon the
easy pun. As this issue is nothing to snarl at.
Puppy politics after all is serious business. And this week, the
presidential campaign went to the dogs. For those counting at home, yes,
that`s yet another pun.
Now, we`re going to have to go back to January, when top dog Obama
campaign strategist David Axelrod tweeted this picture and wrote, "How
loving owners transport their dogs."
Now, Axelrod`s dig was on Mitt Romney`s much-decried 1983 family road
trip, in which Seamus the dog, rode in a crate atop the station wagon.
Critics used the story as evidence of a cold-hearted unfeeling Mitt Romney.
Me, I said if he had made one of his five sons or say his wife ride
on the roof instead of the dog, that would have been cold-hearted.
But with the dog in a crate with a windshield? Eh? I`m just saying
-- I just don`t think it tells me that much about how a President Romney
would, for example, handle a missile crisis in North Korea.
But let`s get back to the bones of the campaign decided to dig up
this past week. After a conservative blogger reminded us that in the
president`s memoirs, he spoke of eating dog meat. Romney spokesman Eric
Fehrnstrom played it up, tweeting about the image Axelrod posted, saying,
"In hindsight, a chilling photo."
OK. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney had the inspired retort
that it sounded like someone was trying to get out of the dog house. And
even Senator John McCain got in on the action, tweeting a picture of his
son`s dog with a quip -- "I`m sorry, Mr. President, he`s not on the menu."
All of this as Senator Scott Brown, in the race of his life, took the
doggie high road with a new blog dedicated to his beloved Coda and
OK. This canine kerfuffle is not some media creation. Top-level
staffers for the men running for president are building this dog pile.
Senators are getting in on it. And I just can`t help thinking, y`all suck,
seriously? All y`all.
And it`s not just one side -- I mean, seriously, a flea on both your
house. This is the kind of stuff a certain insightful candidate might call
Between now and November, we as a nation need to make decisions about
the morality of our tax code, about the role of the state in the bodies of
women ,about the care of the elderly, about our men and women serving
overseas and fighting in our wars.
Please, let`s not make this contest a dog fight. Let`s end the silly
season early this time -- let`s up the game, let`s up the level of respect
for the process.
Or perhaps you know what? I`m going to put this in words that you
strategists might be able to understand -- heel, boys, heel!
That`s our show for today. Thank you to Israel Ortega and Amy Kremer
for sticking around. Thank you to Angela who had to leave because her boys
And thanks to you at home for watching. I`ll see you next Saturday,
Coming up, "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
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