'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Saturday, April 28, 2012
Read the transcript to the Saturday show
Guests: Alex Witt, Mona Eltahawy, Leila Ahmed, Abby Phillip, Jessy Tolkan, Buddy
Roemer, Jacqueline Pata, Tyler Tumbach
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning, Republicans are getting
their lady parts in order. Will it work?
Plus, the bailed reality behind the Arab Spring. And spending a billion
for a house that is only a rental?
But first, nerd land goes Lego land. We are building a tower of debt.
Good morning, I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
This week both Democrats and Republicans were looking to win the youth vote
by scoring political points with college students. Now, that is because
why only 36 percent of young people with no college experience turned out
the vote in 2008, a full 62 percent of those with at least some college
headed to the polls on college day.
So, when presidential candidates want to speak to young people, they go
back to school, preferably to colleges and universities in key battleground
states like Ohio`s Otterbein University. That`s where, yesterday, Mitt
Romney was the guest lecturer in front of a group of graduating seniors.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you want to get serious about
not passing on massive debt to you guys, to your generation, this is not
something you spend a lot of time thinking about. You look at your student
loans. But, you should also have, in addition to the student loans, an
understanding of the federal loans you have got.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The former governor played hours within hours of a White
House though, excuse me, a house vote in the White House - a house vote
approving the Republican-backed bill to extend the current interest rates
on federally subsidized student loans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), MAJORITY LEADER: We believe that we shouldn`t put
students at risk and that their interest rates should not go up. So we
developed the short term policy to solve this problem for the next year --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The legislation was the latest in the power play in a week
of political pasturing the found both parties vying for the title of savior
of the students.
It began on Tuesday with President Obama taking the student loan act on the
road. He barn storm campuses in Colorado, North Carolina and Iowa, all key
swing states that he carried in 2008, criticizing Republicans in action on
the issue and making the when it comes the student loans, for him, it is
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know something about this,
because Michelle and I, we went through it. It wasn`t that long ago. We
have been in your shoes. We didn`t come from wealthy families. We needed
loans and we need grants to get our way through.
OBAMA: And that meant that when Michelle and I graduated from college and
law school, we had a mountain of debt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: A mountain of debt and with little help from Jimmy Fallon
and the roots, the president signaled to the young people that the student
loan interest rates can be sexy, baby.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The position is that students just have to make this rate increase
work. Frankly, I don`t buy it.
JIMMY FALLON, COMEDIAN: The Barackness monster is not buying it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. That was my favorite clip of the week, but - but, let`s
clear. Both parties are singing the old same song, because whether it is
Democratic plan or Republican plan, all that either would do is to keep the
current 3.4 percent interest rate from doubling to 6.8 percent when the old
law expires on July one. So basically, each side is fighting to convince
young voters who would be the best at keeping things exactly the same? And
for today`s - today`s college students, here is what the same looks like.
More expensive tuition than ever before, unemployment and underemployment,
awaiting them after graduation which leaves them with limited options to
repay a massive tower of student loan debt.
Now, when I say massive tower of student loan debt, I mean it. The typical
college student has to take out not one, not two, not three, not four, but
between eight and 12 loans to finance their education. Which for most of
them adds up to about $26,000 of debt that they are handed along with the
diplomas on graduation day, and that is just for undergrad.
Planning on a master`s degree? Well, get ready to tack on another $31,000.
Want to get a doctoral degree, because being a PhD. is uber cool? Make it
$58,000. A professional degree? Another $87,000 in debt. It all adds up
to a total U.S. loan debt burden of $1 trillion which is trillion with a
Honestly, I don`t have enough blocks for that. And so far, our political
parties don`t have enough solutions.
Joining me at the table now are Jessy Tolkan, and independent youth and
engagement consultant, and Abby Phillip who covers money and politics for
JESSY TOLKAN, YOUTH ENGAGEMENT CONSULTANT: Thanks to both for being here.
ABBY PHILLIP, POLITICO: My pleasure.
Great to be here.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, we are playing with blocks, but in part, to demonstrate
sort of just how big this mountain of student loan debt is for people, if
you are a college student at this moment facing un, and underemployment,
how important are students loans, student loans debt? It`s political
decision that they will make in the fall?
PHILLIP: Well, it is pretty much everything. I mean, if you are trying to
get through some college, most of the college tuitions are ranging from
$30,000 to 50 or even $60,000 a year. Most American families can`t pay for
that anymore. They can`t pay that for that out of savings. They can`t
mortgage their housing in this economy, to pay for that. And so, students
are left with loans which many schools just give out kind of like candy.
And many of these students are not actually reading some of the terms.
They are not reading what the interest rates are going to be. They aren`t
reading about whether or not their loan is accruing interest over the
course of the college education. They are not learning about what happens
when they don`t make payments on their loans, and, you know, not being able
to pay back your loans is another huge issue that the Obama administration
is trying to deal with as well.
HARRIS-PERRY: Sure. And I hear you saying well, part of it is that these
young people, they are just not really paying enough attention. They are
not sort of learning everything they need to know about their loans. But,
it also feels like what are the options when we have college costing what
it currently cost, and as you pointed out, most families being unable to
pay those kinds of fees, what are the other options for young people except
to take loans?
TOLKAN: I don`t really think young people have any other options. And the
reason I thought this week was exciting, is finally, we have politicians
talking about a core issue that is central to the economic recovery we need
to see in this country.
They are talking about higher education. I think -- and the issue of
rising costs. Young people are paying attention. I think they are
thinking about this day in, day out, and it is unfortunate that it takes
getting close to Election Day for the elected officials to turn their
attention to this issue. But it is not enough to be debating whether or
not we are going to keep the interest rate at the same place.
TOLKAN: We need to be fundamentally be exploring, how do we make sure that
every young person in this country that wants to seek a higher education
has the opportunity to do so? That is how we are going to build the most
well skilled, well equipped, workforce and economy to be competitive in a
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, I want the back up on this a little bit, because it
feels like a legitimately bigger, and on the one hand, there is an issue of
OK, I want to get these young people the vote for me, right? And so, I
mean, just wanted to quickly listen to some sound of Mitt Romney at
Otterbein. We talked about him being in Ohio yesterday when he was telling
told the story about the alternative possibility for getting money for
college. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: We have always encouraged young people the take a shot, go for it.
Take a risk. Get the education. Borrow money if you have to from your
parents, start a business.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Borrow money if you have to from your parents. Honestly, I
almost jumped out of my skin when I heard that, because clearly the whole
point of why we are in this sort of student loan debt is that we can`t
simply borrow money from the parents.
TOLKAN: I mean, if Mitt Romney is on a campaign to prove how out of touch
he is with average Americans, I think he is soaring in excellence on that
front. The reality is that is so far from an option of where a majority of
American families find themselves right now. They are struggling --
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. My mom has an extra $20,000 hanging around.
TOLKAN: They are struggling to meet ends day-to-day. they are facing
unemployment themselves, and they need to be encouraging their kids to take
out these student loans not as a form of being irresponsible, but as a form
to make sure that their children have the very best shot to achieve the
quote, unquote "American dream."
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I sense some not that sureness about this.
PHILLIP: Well, this is Mitt Romney doing what he does best which is really
not getting at the core issues of everyday Americans who may not have
parents who were very wealthy and could loan them thousands of dollars to
pay for their education. But at the same time, I do think that there is a
broader problem that neither Obama nor Romney are really talking about
which is just the economy. It is whether or not people are graduating and
even if they take out loans, they can find jobs that help them to pay the
And I think that by large, if you talk to people who graduate, what they
want are jobs, and they want jobs that they are prepared for, they want
jobs that they are qualified for and they want the opportunity for income
And I think that the economy right now is not a place where people coming
out of college can get the job that they prepared for that they thought
they were going to college for, and then they are in these jobs, and they
are not experiencing income growth.
HARRIS-PERRY: So we were looking of -- at the data around this, and we saw
that more than half of college graduates are unemployed -- completely
unemployed or underemployed, meaning they got a bachelor`s degree, but they
are not working in their field. They are working at, you know, in retail
or something like that.
But, let me ask a little bit about this idea that the main issue ought to
be having enough income to pay back the loans, because it does feel to me
like there would be alternatives we could have as an American public.
I taught for a while at Princeton. And Princeton has an enormous endowment
and made a choice as part of the enormous endowment to create a no loans
program where they basically accept students need blind and then once you
are accepted they look at your financial circumstances and then provide
grants and job opportunities up to that point.
Now, that is obviously, because Princeton has an obscenely wonderful
endowment. But, I do wander if there a way in which we, as a country,
might imagine ourselves endowed similarly and saying, OK, human capital is
the most important thing to do in a recession and not loans that people
have to get jobs to pay back, but us actually investing, does that seem
just completely pie in the sky in the context of the recession?
PHILLIP: No, that is the idea behind the PELL grant program. I mean,
there are grants that government gives out to the students with the idea
that we, you know, can give the students money to pay for college, and that
is an investment that we as a country are giving to them --
HARRIS-PERRY: But only for the very poor.
PHILLIP: Exactly. And unfortunately, that program has been under fire for
quite some time, it is becoming increasingly expensive, and in times of
economic trouble, it is amazingly one of the hardest things to get Congress
to do is to puts a side money for that program despite that it is
enormously popular all over the country.
I think there are a lot of people who want more of that, and want more of
that for a broader range of incomes. But, the paying for it, you know, the
practical paying for it is by and large the biggest problem.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And the fact is that you have to raise revenue to do
We are going to stay on this topic, because I am completely passionate
about it. And I have a cousin visiting today who is in grad school, and
she was like on fire about student loans all morning.
So we are going to stay on the topic, and if you like the blocks in just a
few minutes, I will bring out the Kendall. I`m seriously no kidding.
But first I really want to ask whether or not this election is going to
hinch (ph) on the broken millennial. Buddy Roamer is joining us at the
table after the break.
HARRIS-PERRY: We are back. When President Obama has a comfortable 26-
point lead over Governor Romney among voters between the ages of 18 and 34,
but the president will needs more than youth votes. He needs their
enthusiasm. And he is currently facing an 18-point enthusiasm deficit
among the young voters compared to the same point in 2008, which could mean
the loss of the real youth contribution, one that was the key to President
Obama`s victory four years ago.
So first, their labor, and voting literally with the feet and working as
volunteers on the ground. Second, young people use technology and social
media in a way that completely changed the game for the Obama campaign and
all future elections. And lastly, the popular e imagination of candidate
Obama in 2008 was largely shaped by young people who constructed a culture
of cool around him.
So, yes, President Obama needs every vote he can get, but when it comes to
the young people, what he needs more is their passion. Still with me is
young vote - rather, youth vote strategist Jessy Tolkan and "Politico`s"
And also joining them now, our former Louisiana governor, Buddy Roemer, who
is now and independent presidential candidate, and Tyler Trumbach, chairman
of Columbia University`s young Americans for freedom, a youth conservative
libertarian organization. He is also the outgoing president of the
Columbia University College Republicans.
Thanks to all of you for being here.
So, I just want to point out that the youth vote while important is rarely
key, and in fact, in a recent poll, people were asked, are you definitely
going to vote in November, and it is young people who are still kind of,
you know, hovering around the 50 percent, our parents and grandparents are
all definitely going the show up.
So, it feels like the enthusiasm, the action of the young people, is at
least as important of their vote. So, you are enthused about Mitt Romney
which is why I want you on the show. So, please, tell me, seriously,
decode for me the enthusiasm around Mitt Romney as a candidate.
TYLER TRUMBACH, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY COLLEGE REPUBLICANS: I think that
before, you know, before the primary was settled there was not a lot of
enthusiasm about Mitt Romney, there is a lot of enthusiasm about the
election because of a chance to get rid of President Obama. And I think
now that Mitt Romney, you know, has won the nomination, you know, he the
students on campus who are conservative are going to unite behind him. I
mean, they are excited simply because of a chance to unseat President
And this election is all about unseating President Obama, and Mitt Romney,
you know, is a relatively conservative candidate, I will say that, he is
very conservative, you know. There were people in the 2004 that he was the
most - I mean, in 2008; he was the most conservative candidate in a
primary. And, you know, that they are the same people today saying he is
now a moderate or liberal.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, I mean. Compared to John McCain, he very well may
have been the most conservative, compared to Rick Santorum, he was more
moderate. But it`s interesting that you bring you the point the kind of
defeating President Obama, because it does feel like, for example, in 2004,
the Democratic young voters, it was less about enthusiasm about John Kerrey
than it was really just about what we must get George Bush out of office
for young people at that moment.
Buddy, students in Tulane get very excited when you come to the campus.
And there is a really enthusiasm about your candidacy in ways that feels
like the sort of enthusiasm vote that I have sometimes or enthusiasm
response that I have sometime seen. I doubt that you are going to win the
U.S. presidency, although you never know. And yet, there is something that
feels like that maybe you have captured with the young people that these
other candidates might be able to learn from.
BUDDY ROEMER (I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, when I go to Tulane, for
example, as I did a week ago. Huge crowd. They realize when I was
governor we handled student loans. Here is how we did. No loans. We gave
full college tuition for in-state students who wanted to go to in-state
colleges. They didn`t pay any interest. They had to have a C average out
of high school and they had to have the economic stress that required some
assistance, and thousands and thousands and thousands of Louisiana students
have not gotten loans. They have gotten full tuition, and that is --
HARRIS-PERRY: And therefore Education.
ROEMER: And that was in 1988 when this subject was not talked about in
America. And I think this country is in trouble, and I know who is going
to save it. It is not going to be the old granddads like me, and it is not
going to be the rich cats on Wall Street, and it is not going to be the
lobbyists on k-street, it`s going to be young people. They changed the
world. Civil rights, I was there and I`m an old man. I`m 68. I remember
growing up on a cotton farm and marching when I was a kid with my mama and
daddy in those marches and young people changed America.
Dr. Martin Luther King was 26 years old when he led that march. And I
remember being in college when we stopped the Vietnam War. Just guys like
me. Just skinny little fuzzy-headed guys like me out on the street.
And I think the same thing is true about America. I think this country is
in trouble. I`m not putting Obama down. But I don`t think that the
economic policies are good. This is the weakest recovery in the history of
the country, and it was said right here by this young lady when she put her
finger on it. The biggest problem with student loans is the lack of job,
with that you don`t drive anything in this economy.
HARRIS-PERRY: Jessy, actually, I want to be able to pull you in on this a
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, sure.
In part, because you were in 2008 working really hard to register young
voters for President Obama. Will you be back out there doing that sort of
TOLKAN: Well, I actually spent a decade trying to increase the power of
the youth vote.
TOLKAN: In 2004, historic 11 percent increase, another historic increase
in 2008. In 2008, I was actually registering voters who wanted a clean and
just energy economy. And in turn, that meant supporting Barack Obama for
There is no question in my mind that Barack Obama is the better candidate
for my generation, for millennials, and he had an all-star week. This
week, President Obama looked like candidate Obama from 2008.
I think that a challenge is for a lot of young people President Obama
didn`t look so much like candidate Obama for the past several years, right?
He was not front and center on the issues that young people care about.
Now, he came back blazing this week. And there is no question that I think
that fundamentally for this country making sure that young people
participate in the electoral process in historic rates is critical.
And so, this is why I think it is so important. You know, young people
like Buddy, because Buddy pays attention to young people. He shows up. He
talks about their issues. It is devastating to look that in this
Republican primary, we have seen historically low levels of youth voter
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So make the case for me, I mean, because I think
that`s right, we have seen historic low levels in the primaries for me.
So, make the case for me.
TRUMBACH: I mean. Again, it is a primary. I mean, you look at youth
vote, don`t turn out unless it is a major presidential election generally.
I mean, you look in 2010.
But, what I`m seeing right now on campus is a lot -- most people are
apolitical on campus and politically apathetic, and right now what I`m
seeing, is a lot of people that are disenchanted with President Obama and
they are not going to come out to vote, because, you know, they are really
not excited by him.
HARRIS-PERRY: And is it primarily about the jobs? Is if primarily in
economic question? Or is it about the enthusiasm issue?
TRUMBACH: It is jobs and the economy. It is not the economy is not
picking up at the pace it should be. You know, they are not getting jobs.
I mean, youth unemployment is double the rate of regular unemployment. I
mean, it is very difficult for even, you know 20 university graduates to
find a job.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, that the premise around this, right, this is our like
our tower of debt that has fallen here in the middle, right. Does the
promise around trying to do something to address the student loan debt,
does that resonate for people?
TRUMBACH: You know it does. It does. And I think, you know, the first
person to address the real issue I think the student debt is not the
interest rate. It`s not keeping individual people for example, for the
6.8. It is dealing with principle on the interest.
TRUMBACH: Because, you know, the 6.8, you know, it is not that much than
3.4 unless you are talking about $50,000 a year, and how do you pay that
back when you get a job out of college making $40,000.
HARRIS-PERRY: But, Buddy said in the break, he was like do you know how
long it takes to pay that back at five percent interest, $1 trillion?
Stay right there. Up next, we are going to play with dolls to explain show
you the youth vote might really be captured. It will all make sense, I
promise, right after the break. But you got to come back. We will see
HARRIS-PERRY: We`ve been talking about what it takes to get the youth
vote. Now, Romney will be relying on his wife, Ann, to tell him what women
So for Mitt Romney, his best ambassadors to the youth audience may be his
five sons who range in age from 30 to 42. But does America really know
Tagg, Matt, Josh, Ben, and Craig? Known around Nerd Land as the Romney`s
In today`s pop quiz, let`s play name that Romney son. I`m going to tell
each of my guests something about a Romney son and you tell me which son we
are talking about.
Here to take the quiz are; Jessy Tolkan, Abby Phillip, Buddy Roemer and
OK. This will be fun. First, which brother campaign for his father in
Guam? Which brother went to Guam for Mitt Romney?
ROEMER: I have no clue.
TRUMBACH: One in five chances.
HARRIS-PERRY: You got to one in five chances. Pick one.
HARRIS-PERRY: It was not Ben, but actually very good, because you have to
break in on the next one. It is Matt. Mat is 40 years old. He campaigned
for his father there. But, you also might remember that back in March, he
made headlines and an appearance in Hawaii when he actually said that
President Obama was great. But then he went on the say, but I`m not here
to talk about Obama. I`m actually here to talk about my dad.
OK, OK. We will see if you can do better on the next one. Of Mitt
Romney`s five sons one of them went into the medical field and he is an
internal medicine doctor in Boston. Which one of the Romney sons is a
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. You go Buddy Roemer. That`s right of the answer is
Ben Romney. Ben is 33 years old. He is also the only Romney son with
blond hair. He is also the one Romney son, blond, Ben here, who does not
get very involved in the father`s campaign. That is Dr. Romney.
OK. The Romney sons, all, as you can see here have a very nice, clean cut
image, but which rapscallion son borrowed his father`s car as a teenager on
the notes to Mr. Romney after a church dance to get ice cream with his
friends and proceeded to dent another car in the parking lot, and which son
is the rapscallion? Everybody know?
PHILLIP: I will guess, Tagg.
HARRIS-PERRY: Tagg. That is a great guess because in fact it is Tagg.
42-year-old Tagg. And here, the story actually follows that he actually
spent the entire summer working to pay off the expensive debt. Mitt Romney
did not come in to save Tagg from this. By the way, Tagg is also
reportedly a Billy Joel fan.
OK. The Romney sons are all --
ROEMER: I was going to say, Ben.
PHILLIP: Ben is the answer to everything.
ROEMER: Keep going, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. The Romney sons are reportedly to enjoy a good
prank. Which one of the Romney sons tried to duct tape his brother in the
inside of the bus`s bathroom during the campaign trip?
HARRIS-PERRY: Josh is one guess. Anybody else?
ROEMER: I am going with Craig.
HARRIS-PERRY: You are going for Craig. It is in fact, Josh. Good stuff
here. Josh is 36-years-old. He enjoys surfing and water skiing, and
occasion wherein he tried to, you know, put Tagg in the bathroom, but Tagg
was able to get away before getting sealing him in.
OK. Which one of the Romney sons attended Birmingham University?
HARRIS-PERRY: Good. Anybody else?
TRUMBACH: I think Ben, as well.
ROEMER: I think all of them.
HARRIS-PERRY: Buddy Roemer, for the win. Yes, it was trick question. All
five sons, of course, went to BYU as did, by the way, my mom.
OK. One last question. Which Romney`s son speaks fluent Spanish and
recorded a Spanish language ad in the primary in Florida and Puerto Rico.
TRUMBACH: I wish I had been in Florida for this.
ROEMER: You know my answer, Ben.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. It is actually Craig. Craig Romney is actually the
youngest. He spent his mission year s in the Spanish-speaking country of
Chile. And by the way, his favorite movie is "anchorman." I love you,
guys, for playing with me.
All right. Thank you to all of you.
Tyler, you are not coming back, but we appreciate your coming to talk to
us. Everybody else is staying around with me.
Coming up, what Republicans are doing to convince women that they really do
love them. They really, really do. I love these guys. The Romney`s.
HARRIS-PERRY: Ladies, heard about that s so-called war on women? Don`t
worry, according the house speaker John Boehner and senator John McCain, it
is all political hogwash.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: This is the latest plank in the so-called war on women, entirely
created - entirely created by my colleagues across the aisle for political
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: My friends, this supposed war on women or
the use of similarly outlandish rhetoric bipartisan operatives has two
purposes, and both are political in the purpose and effect.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Outlandish rhetoric? We will get to that.
Senator McCain spoke Thursday hours before the Senate voted 68-31 to
reauthorize the violence against women`s act. Now, it is the house`s turn,
and the House Republican women are proposing their own version of the bill
Back with me is youth organizer, Jessy Tolkan, Abby Phillip of "Politico,"
and former Louisiana governor and current presidential candidate, Buddy
Roemer. And joining us at the table is columnist and public speaker, Mona
Eltahawy, who is the author of a cover story in foreign police magazine
that we are going to get to at the top out next hour.
But fist, I want to talk a little bit about (INAUDIBLE) and where we are at
this moment. Can you tell us about what the distinctions are between
basically the Republican and the Democratic version of this bill?
PHILLIP: I think that the crux of the controversy right now is whether or
not the violence against women act would start to cover a whole host of
other people, you know, gay and lesbian folks, immigrants who are
undocumented, men and women.
And so, Democrats and by large want the definition to be expanded and they
want more money, more visas to go towards those programs. Republicans have
said that they can`t - I mean, at the end of the day, it is really about
whether the Republicans can get it through their caucus, and they cannot.
Now, there is also an additional problem with how you pay for this bill.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, -- and Buddy, I mean. So, we knew -- we are
hearing this is political hogwash and obviously not reauthorizing violence
against women sounds like a war on women, but there - you know, Republicans
are framing it in part as a federal government intervention into the state
ROEMER: Well, words are important and I don`t think it is hogwash. I
mean, I think John Boehner and McCain are a little bit incorrect here. We
have a culture. Democrat, Republican, young, old, that has been very slow
to accept women as full participants in our society.
Hundred years ago, they didn`t have the right to vote. Can you believe
that? We have never had a woman president in this country. I have three
sisters. They taught me so much in my life. But this, this needs to be
expanded, not contracted. It needs to include everybody. I don`t care
what the papers are. They are human beings.
And violence against women, pardon for me having the sniffles this morning,
but violence against women is something that Republicans and Democrats.
And I know that independents like me will stand for and fight for, and it
ought not be as small as possible. It ought to be as large as possible.
HARRIS-PERRY: And typically, used to be sort of a bipartisan issue, and
relatively new for it to fall along the partisan lines in this way.
TOLKAN: It absolutely is, and I can`t find by myself scratching my head.
We are in election season. Winning women votes is actually key to winning
elections. And yet, instead of taking an opportunity as Republican
candidates to stand up and say, yes, we are proudly going to pass this
violence against women act, they are debating whether or not there is money
to pay for it. They are trying to, you know, from the last segment, trying
to fund maintaining the rate on student loans by defunding preventative
women`s health measures and preventative immunizations for children.
We have Republican presidential candidates like Mitt Romney out there
saying that he is going to get eliminate Planned Parenthood. He is going
to get rid of Planned Parenthood entirely shut it down. It really is
baffling to me, and yet they spend the air time talking about this
fictitious war on women.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so, I mean. Does this feel, again, it is not as though
- I mean, something is really clear. It is not as if the violence of
domestic violence against women act were not to expire or were to not be
extended, that all of the sudden become legal to have access of domestic
violence in this country, right? Because in fact, most of this is
occurring in states and localities.
ROEMER: There are other protections.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. There are other protections. So, is this really
just posturing on the part of both parties?
MONA ELTAHAWY, COLUMNIST: I think what we have to remember here, it is
2012. This is not "mad men." "Mad men" is a fictional show. None of us
want to go back to the 1950s.
ELTAHAWY: But, there is the hard core --
HARRIS-PERRY: Some of us might want to go.
ELTAHAWY: Well, that`s a thing. The hard core alter right wing, you know,
religious fundamentalist center in the Republican party and the supporters,
I mean, what saddens me the most is the conservative women`s group who says
things like the violence against the women act encourages the dissolution
Are you kidding me? I mean, a woman must have the right to live, to be
protected against violence of any kind. And not just women, as you
mentioned anyone, any human being who faces violence in the home.
So, it is a war. It is absolutely a war when our bodies and women and our
well-being become the tickets for elections whether you want to win or
lose, and they want to basically prove they are the most regressive group
when it comes to the women`s issues.
HARRIS-PERRY: And it certainly is not just for elections. We are looking
just sort of the latest NBC poll about where women stand in terms of the
preferences going into the election, and President Obama has an enormous
lead over Mitt Romney at this moment, and 53-41 leads. That`s an -- a
significant lead among women. And it does not particularly feel like it is
necessarily Romney`s positions, himself. But Romney as the leader of the
Republican party where you only have, you know 10 or 15 votes on the Senate
floor from Republican s for the violence against women act.
PHILLIP: This is a difficult issue for Republicans. I think it is just
hard for them to talk about issues that are specific to one group of
people. I think it is for a lot of people an anathema to what they want to
do as a party which is sort to talk about everyone all at one time.
And, you know, Mitt Romney is dealing with this problem where he as a
candidate needs to talk to women. But he can`t do that by saying, you
know, here is a program I want to put together for the benefit of women.
He can only do it by talking about how women are concerned about the
economy at large just like everyone else is, and that is not enough.
HARRIS-PERRY: It does feel - it does feel odd to think about women is like
women is a particular group though, I mean, as opposed to half of the
Up next, holding the senate version of the violence against women act was
part of it, was a provision protecting native American women. And we are
going to discuss why that has caused so much hand wringing along with the
leading American Indian boys. That is next.
HARRIS-PERRY: Before the break, we discussed that house Republicans are
crafting their own version of the violence against women`s act. And the
new Senate version includes new provisions and not everyone is in agreement
of those like the one giving native American nations more authority to
tackle domestic violence for of course on their lands. But what could be
wrong with that?
Back at the table are youth organizer, Jessy Talkon, Abby Phillip of
"Politico," former governor, Buddy Roemer and columnist, Mona Eltahawy.
And in Washington D.C., Jacqueline Pata, executive director of the National
Congress of American-Indian.
Jacqui, Thank you so much for being here.
Thank you for inviting me.
So, Jackie, you served as deputy assistant secretary for native American
programs in Clinton`s housing and urban development. So, I want to talk to
you about this question of VAWA, an American-Indians women.
But first, just start by telling me a little bit about American-Indian
lands. Where are they? How many people live there? In short, kind a give
me a scope here.
JACQUELINE PATA, NATIONAL CONGRESS OF AMERICAN-INDIANS: OK. So, we have
about 569 federally recognized tribes across the nation. We have in the
reservation communities mostly in the rural remote communities, majority of
that, 4.2 million native Americans across the country. I think the number
is about five million now across the country. About 50 percent of them are
now moving toward more urban centers. And still, we have the highest
challenges with infrastructure, lowest telephone penetration rates, lack of
plumbing, water and sewer, and clearly eight of the 10 most poverty
stricken counties in the nation are in tribal communities.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So, Jacqui, I have to tell you. As we were
looking at the statistics around violence against women, the statistics
around American-Indian and Alaskan native women absolutely took my breath
Where we are looking at statistics that say that 34 percent in their
lifetime will be raped or sexually assaulted and 39 percent said experience
domestic violence and that native women are murdered at a rate that is 10
times the national average.
So, part of the reason that I really wanted to speak to you today is my
sense that if this matters to anybody, the VOWA act and this new questions
around the new provisions are critically important to indigenous women.
PATA: Absolutely. There had been studies and reports, and we don`t need
studies and reports in the communities to be able to talk about what we see
every single day. We have tremendous statistics showing you the statistics
for the crime and rape and abuse to the native women and children. We need
to do something about it.
But the challenge is that we have to rely on the U.S. attorneys and many
U.S. attorneys are five to six hours away from any of the tribal
communities. So, when this happens, this violence happens in our
community, we don`t have a resource.
Our tribal police are able to come to deal with domestic violence, but not
if the perpetrator, a non-native. We have no jurisdiction over the non-
natives that live within - choose to live within our community.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. I think that for me is the piece that I just want to
pause and get you the reiterate that for the audience, because this is one
of the major changes that would happen under the democratic versions of the
act. Because what you are saying is that you as a sovereign nation, right,
the Indian community as a sovereign nations, do not have the authority to
prosecute violence against Indian women if it occurs by people who are not
indigenous but living there in reservation. Am I getting that right?
PATA: You are getting that right. So, we have a non-native man marries a
native woman, which over 50 percent of our native women are married to or
cohabitating with a non-native man, or they choose to live in a reservation
in an intimate relationship, you know, solid intimate relationship with a
native woman, our tribal courts, our tribal police officers do not have any
authority to protect that native woman in the cases of domestic violence or
to be able to have any jurisdiction over them, period.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I want to back up. We have only a few seconds left
here. But I do want to just give you a chance to jump back in here,
because you were saying that part of the problem of the Republicans facing
is this question of, is it for everybody, and so, as I, you know, as I met
and talked with Jacqui Pata about it, I`m thinking, yes. But, it has to be
literally for everybody and not having these protections allow so many
people to fall through the cracks.
PATA: I think it is obviously difficult for the Republicans who many of
them who, you know, are not supportive of, you know, gay marriage or the
homosexual relationships, who, may not be supportive of an undocumented
immigrants being in this country to take a provision that lumps all of
these groups together all at once.
And I think, on Capitol Hill, that is often what the problem is, when you
have additions to bills, they are usually coming together, all in one piece
and taking them apart is not very easy. And Republicans are balking at
having to vote for things, for some things that they don`t want to vote for
We can have a debate whether all of them should be included or not. But,
from the perspective of the Republicans and their ideological differences
from the Democrats, that is the crux of the problem.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks so much.
Thank you, Jacqui Pata. I really appreciate you joining us from Washington
just to kind of clarify where we are on this issue.
PATA: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Coming up, why after all of that, I might make an argument
that will is not actually a war on women. But you didn`t think that I
would say that?
That`s up next.
HARRIS-PERRY: We have all been talking about a war on women in America.
At first, all these war talk had me stockpiling supplies and wondering if I
needed to run for the hills or stop, drop and roll, and then it hit me.
There is no war on women, and you didn`t think that I would say that? Just
chill, my fellow feminists. Don`t get me wrong.
We are in the midst of a massive, coordinated effort to roll back women`s
rights. But I take issue of the word, war. War means something specific
especially for those who have lived through the war. And we need to be
careful with how we use words.
Now, I want to urge the folks to just say no to hyperbole and clich‚s. To
help out, I want to introduce the MHP guide of what not what not to say in
Number one, unless someone is shooting at you or about to drop a bomb on
your head, you are not at war. Good-bye to the war on women, the war on
the poor, the war on terrorism, and other falsely created notions of war.
War talk too often distracts us from understanding the complexity of
Number two, leave the stars in the sky, from this point on, we are banning
rock star and rising star to describe up and coming politicians. I prefer
my rock stars in concert, not in office. Besides it is easier when
someone`s career does not quite pan out the way we all predicted, Charlie
Number three, unless we are talking about the thing that keeps trespassers
off of the porch or certain large building in Washington, then, the word
gate needs to go bye-bye. No more travel gate, nanny gate, or trooper
Number four, a person is not a secret weapon. Ann Romney, Michelle Obama,
they are not secret weapons. They are right there on stage. Everyone can
see them. Plus, being a secret weapon would make them an object and I
don`t know about them, but I don`t like being objectified.
And number five, the latest political crisis is not someone`s Katrina or
Tahrir moment. Metaphors are not always our friend. And here`s a prime
example. It is one thing to try and commiserate with people. It`s another
to try and co-opt their life-ultimo experience for your own political gain.
So, follow the MHP guide of what not to say in political conversation and
without all of the cliches, we just may get something done.
Coming up, women subjected to virginity test, genital mutilation, and
public humiliation. When it comes to the status in the Middle East, it is
worse than you may think.
Details when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Why do they hate us? That question was a common refrain
that Americans asked and heard quite often after September 11, 2001. It
was kind of a rhetorical artifact of the time when emotions were very raw.
Today, on the cover of "Foreign Policy" magazine, that same question is
asked by our guest, Egyptian-American writer Mona Eltahawy.
But instead of wondering whether they hate us for our freedom, her
new and very provocative article directs a question, "Why Do They Hate Us?"
at men in the Muslim world, and at the misogyny she says is so systemic in
the cultures of that region.
With whatever freedoms have been won in the Arab spring uprisings, it
is important to ask how many have been gained for women in that region.
And Mona addressed that dilemma right off of the top of her piece, writing,
quote, "When more than 90 percent of the ever married women in Egypt,
including my mother and all but one of her six sisters have had their
genitals cut in the name of modesty. When Egyptian women are subjected to
humiliating virginity tests really for speaking out, it`s no time for
Back with me is Mona Eltahawy, columnist and author of that "Foreign
Policy" magazine cover story.
Mona, this article is quite a lightning rod. So, for those who have
not had an opportunity to read it, just review for me briefly what your
argument is in the piece?
MONA ELTAHAWY, COLUMNIST: My argument is very simply, in Egypt, we
removed Hosni Mubarak, the president that oppressed us for 30 years. What
I want to see happen, I`m an Egyptian who loves my country dearly, is for
us to remove the Mubarak in our mind, the Mubarak in our bedroom, and the
Mubarak in our street.
Mubarak oppressed all Egyptian, but Egyptian society oppresses women.
There`s a hierarchy of oppression here. And I`m talking -- that oppression
is misogyny. So I`m saying that the revolution that begun with a man in
Tunisia, Mohammed Bouazizi, who set himself on fire, will be completed by
women, because women in the Arab world do have agency because they have
gone out to the revolution, have taken part in them, have suffered and paid
a huge price for them, and they continue to fuel those revolutions. We the
women will complete those revolutions, through that revolution of the mind
that removed the misogyny that is the Mubarak in our mind.
HARRIS-PERRY: And when you talk about misogyny -- I mean, this piece
is, I mean, it grabs any reader in the gut, because it`s not just about,
you know, are we nice to women or do we say mean things to women or
pressures around women, you list a set of structural atrocities facing
women in this region. Talk to me a bit about those.
ELTAHAWY: I talk about a provision in the Egyptian law that says if
a husband beats his wife with so-called good intentions, he will get a
reduced sentence. I take about child marriage in Yemen which often gets
support -- unfortunately gets support by some clerics who say they can give
it religious justification, the day that my article came out and some
people got so upset, the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia said 10-year-old girls
are ready for marriage. That is outrageous. As an Arab and Muslim woman,
that is outrageous to me. And it`s outrageous to many people in that part
of the world.
Now, I recognize that that makes us look bad, but that`s the whole
point. It`s not me that makes us look bad, it`s those atrocities that make
us look bad. And as a writer, it`s my job to poke the painful places.
Melissa, this essay is the first essay I wrote with all 10 fingers,
because Egyptian riot police broke my arms and sexually assaulted me.
ELTAHAWY: So I speak from experience, but also the facts and
statistics, and I know that the people on the ground are fighting this.
Some people have said, say Arab women don`t have agency, quite the
contrary. A list of activists who fight against the military injustices.
I list activists who fight against the clerics who say girls are ready to
But I sent out this call because this is a time of great excitement.
We do not have this revolution of the mind now, that end ends the misogyny,
the political revolution will fail.
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, this challenge that you are laying out to me as
we`re talking is one that feels similar to some Western civil rights
movement as well.
So, I start with a little bit of trepidation in this conversation in
part because I know that the critiques of this is the very idea that the
Western press, that those who are not from these nations, who are not
Muslim ourselves, who are not part of these traditions, can look at your
article and say, ah, look at how horrible those men or those societies or
that religion is. And it`s something -- you know, that`s part of why, for
example, we have an underreporting of rape and domestic violence in
African-American communities, because we know that the violence enacted on
black men by police. So we often don`t call, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: So how to balance that challenge of a recognition of
how the Western view, which is often has been a real war, right, so that
the war on terrorism -- and that`s a real war that is actively killed
people in these communities, in these cities and in these nations over and
against the concern over women. How to manage that?
ELTAHAWY: You described that beautifully. You know, as an Arab and
as a Muslim and as a feminist, all of these identities that I balance and
as an Egyptian and as an American -- to me, gender trumps everything. I
will not be made to choose between all of those things and have my gender
When Alice Walker wrote "The Color Purple," there was outrage in the
ELTAHAWY: -- because you made us look bad.
So, this idea of making us look bad, I understand, because yes, there
is Islamophobia. Yes, there is anti-Arab discrimination. That`s not the
point of the essay, though.
The point of my essay is that can we for once focus of my part of the
world and talk about what`s really happening? Because I end the essay by
saying this, I don`t say come and invade us and rescue us, we don`t need to
ELTAHAWY: Women are getting their arms broken fighting alongside the
men. I say, you the outside world, when you come and discuss and talk with
our governments, they will tell you this, our culture, mind your own
business. And I tell you, this culture was not made by women. Don`t fall
victim to the cultural relativism.
You know, the last time I was on your show, I talked about the
Republican-led war on women. I described Rick Santorum as the American
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, indeed.
ELTAHAWY: In my essay, I talked about the Salafis in the Middle
East. Of course, there is patriarchy all over the world. Of course, there
were problems with sexual assaults and violence against women, we talked
about WAVA just a few minutes ago.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. I mean, some of what you talked about occurs
certainly in a very different way here. But we have been talking about,
for example, earlier on this show just last week, we spoke with a marine
who is a woman who is facing the issue of rape in our armed services.
And so, you know, in part as I read the atrocities, they both feel
horrifying, but almost more familiar that I think we`re often honest with
ELTAHAWY: Exactly. So, there is a time to make the connections and
there`s a time to say, look, I really need to focus on my community now,
because it begins by poking the painful places. When people go, ah, you
made us look bad, but when the ah finishes, we can actually sit down and
work on these issues there.
There are tremendous activists working on those issues, but we need
to do so much more. Here in the U.S., we have a Violence Against Women
Act. We`re working to make it even better, to include even more people.
In Egypt, we need a Violence Against Women Act. That`s the
ELTAHAWY: And so I am having this conversation in the Internet age
where there is no such thing that it is only published in America. Are you
kidding me? It`s not in the American newsstand and everyone in the Middle
East is talking about it. And it delights me -- I have received so much
support, which honestly I wasn`t expecting.
ELTAHAWY: I am very, very happy with the support I got. I expected
the criticism, but this is how we get beyond the painful places.
HARRIS-PERRY: Mona, I so appreciate that you want to engage in a
conversation around this. And so, we are going to bring in another voice
in our next block. We can stay on exactly this issue of -- the issue of
this particular war on women.
And up next, we want to dive into the controversy sparked by Mona`s
piece and we`ll add a dissenting voice into the conversation. Stay right
HARRIS-PERRY: We have been talking about Egyptian American
journalist Mona Eltahawy`s new powerful cover story in "Foreign Policy"
magazine, "Why Do They Hate Us?" which gives us a stark look at the
misogyny and repression women in the Middle East continue to endure.
But as soon as the article was posted, Mona faced intense pushback
and criticism, particularly from Muslim women.
Joining us again is Mona Eltahawy.
And from Boston, one of those critics, Leila Ahmed, professor of
divinity at Harvard and author recently of "A Quiet Revolution: The Veiled
Resurgence from the Middle East to America."
Thank you so much for joining us, Professor.
LEILA AHMED, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: I`m so honored to be on your
program, Melissa. Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you.
So, of course, as you know, Mona`s piece sets quite a firestorm. And
I found your response to be particularly thoughtful and careful. So, can
you sort of run through for us a bit about what your critique is?
AHMED: OK. Well, I think -- I`d like to take up the point that you
began with earlier about how when wars are real things rather than
metaphors. And I think that`s a very important point so that the war on
women, I would, there are people who are actually dying from bombs.
And you also talked earlier about the politics of the representations
of the Muslims and the Arabs, and I think that`s very important, too. But
before I go on, let me make the point about my disagreements with Mona, I`m
first of all I`d like to salute her and thank her for the extraordinary
work she`s doing, and to really give her my respect and admiration for, and
my apologies for how sorry I am of what happened to her happened -- the
suffering she was subjected to.
And I really thank her for my work, and my disagreements with her in
no way take away from that. She is a hero to me.
So, now, on the points -- I have some broad problems with her
generalizations, but beyond, that I also have, I think, a core
So, let me just give you a sense of the broad generalizations. For
example, she talks about the Arab world from Saudi Arabia to Morocco as if
there are not vast differences of them. And just two examples, Saudi
Arabia, women`s ban on driving and she is horrified by that and rage is
exhibited and so do we all. And in fact, it`s completely irrelevant in the
rest of the Arab world. Women have been driving everywhere else as far as
I know since the arrival of the car.
So that`s one kind of broadness, that`s kind of muddies the waters,
broadens the generalization.
And the other one is cliterectomy as an Arab custom. Cliterectomy is
actually an African custom, not an Arab custom. The country in which it`s
most commonly practiced is Egypt, which, of course, African and is
practiced by Muslims and Christians.
So, these broad generalizations I think are troubling and I will not
go clearly through the whole article to --
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to come in here for just a moment and bring
Mona in for just a second because, you know, as an academic, I love nuance.
But I also as a media personality know that sometimes it is just the
straight forward, sometimes very loud voice that gets it heard.
So what I hear the professor saying is, in part, look, there are
nuances here that you did not capture, but I also wonder if "Why Do They
Hate Us," you actually do capture something else?
ELTAHAWY: Right. No, I wanted to go straight for the gut. But, you
know, before I start, I also want to salute Professor Ahmed, because she is
one of my heroes. When I was in my early 20s and struggling with the head
scarf, I wore head scarf for nine years, I was overwhelmed with guilt. And
in reading her work, especially Islam and gender, reading her work really
saved my mind literally because her work has been groundbreaking in
AHMED: Thank you, Mona.
ELTAHAWY: So, now, to find myself with one of the heroes on your
show, having a civil disagreement is great because it means I`ve grown up.
But what I`m trying to do is go straight to the jugular. You know, I
like shaking people into having a discussion which I love, as I said, but
of course, it`s nuance. I mean, mentioned Saudi Arabia for the car and
child marriage. But I mentioned Morocco for something else and Egypt for
something else. And I give statistics and facts from each country, to give
as quick a picture as I can, but I can only handle so much.
I think the issue I want to discuss is the misogyny which plays out
in different ways, but ultimately, it`s a mix of religion, culture and law
in these various countries and what do you do about that in a time of
revolution, when everything is in flux, jump in and do this gender
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, professor. Yes.
AHMED: Well, I just want to make a comment just on that, but I do
have another point I want to go to. But just on these comments. And you
began, Melissa, with noting how in African-American communities, some
things are not publicized because of the racism, the fear of racism.
And I think I -- Mona, I appreciate what you do. I would love it if
you would -- I understand that you want to get the message across and it`s
an important message to get across. But if possible, nuance is not to give
fuel and fodder to people who simply hate Arabs and Muslims in the climate
of our day.
So, I think these are very important point, but don`t leave things
that are worth nothing that are important.
So let me go to the key difference between us I think, which is that,
Mona, you see the glass as half empty and more than half empty, and I see
it as half full. And the key difference between us is that you are
focusing on the Islamists, Salafists, Muslim brothers and these are there
it is true. But I am focusing on the extraordinarily people who brought
down tyranny, regimes and absolutely dictatorial regimes.
These are young people who believe in justice, who believe in
liberty, who believe in free speech, and who are out in the square risking
their lives and some of them lost their lives. Young people just like you,
by the way, and my face is in them.
Now, it is true that the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafists, all of
those people, who, by the way, let`s emphasize, did not bring about the
revolution, did not bring the regime, they`d just make prophesying (ph)
right now. It was they who brought about this extraordinary -- achieved
the impossible which the young people of Egypt did.
Ad I see both the men and the women participating in the fight. I
don`t see young men hating young women. I think they are out for justice,
too -- justice for their wives, sisters and the mothers. I think we do
have a new generation and my trust is in them.
HARRIS-PERRY: You bring up an interesting point. This question of
patriarch and misogyny as a system, versus men hating women in a sort of,
you know, individual way. And that did seem to be some of the anxiety that
some of your critics were suggesting as well.
ELTAHAWY: Right. But to go into that, I mean, Professor Ahmed
thinks that I focused just on Islamist. I don`t, because that law in
Egypt, for example, on domestic violence was put in place under various
dictators that we`ve lived under in Egypt, not the Islamists. So, it`s not
about the Islamists.
I focus occasionally on the Islamists because they do dominate, for
example, the Egyptian parliament. But a lot of these countries are still
living under dictatorships and it`s supposedly secular dictators who have
put into place very misogynistic laws. So, this is a structure.
AHMED: Not a problem.
ELTHAWY: You know, I do go around -- you know, some people have
written to me and said, Mona, my father loves me and someone had written to
me, Mona, I love my wife.
Oh, come on. I know you love your wife. I`m not talking about
individuals hating each other, I`m talking about a system of patriarchy and
misogyny. That`s where the hate comes from.
HARRIS-PERRY: That said, Professor, part of what I love about your
response to Mona`s piece was that -- Mona, your piece begins with a piece
of fiction. It begins with a novel which is in fact a interaction between
a husband and wife. And so, I think that that`s part -- I mean, both is
vey compelling, because it draws us in. But it also feels a little bit
like it sets up that husband and wife moment.
And, Professor, you had a different reading on the kind of the
ecstatic passion of the Muslim prayer and its connection with the sort of
relationship that was being presented in the particular piece of fiction.
AHMED: Yes. Well, I mean, I just happened to have both know story
and have to have met the author who after this very unsatisfactory sexual
relationship with the husband gets up and prays. And I think Mona has
interpreted it as an example of sublimation of prayer, or through religion,
whereas I remembered that the author, Ali Farifat (ph), shared to me how
she lives for prayer, because it is pure moments of joy for her.
So this is not about someone seeing religion as a kind of irrelevancy
of life of sublimation, but as a central piece of the life. I wanted to
bring that into the conversation.
HARRIS-PERRY: Mona, you want to response?
ELTAHAWY: Well, I never made the point that it was the irrelevance
of religion. My point was that the sexual frustration this wife
experienced, she then poured into religion. I also met Ali Farifat (ph),
the author that we`re both talking about. She was an amazing woman.
She had never traveled outside of Egypt. She spoke only Arabic. But
what is amazing about her --
AHMED: That is not true actually.
ELTAHAWY: -- she lived with very ordinary women across different
parts of Egypt and I interviewed her extensively, and she told me through
the short stories, these were short stories were getting the voices of
these women across.
And I think that something that has disturbed me from a lot of the
critiques that have come my way is that it is women who are cushioned with
privilege telling me that it`s not as bad as you make it seem. And I`m
saying, I also have layers of privilege, which I am very thankful for, but
I am talking about the women who don`t have are the privilege.
For example a banker in lives in London critiqued my piece because
she said it`s more complicated. Of course, for you the banker in London,
it`s complicated but not for someone in Egypt --
AHMED: Can I give you an example of the complications?
AHMED: Bouazizi is the young man who set fire to himself in an act
of suicide and ignited actually the Arab revolution -- young man, not a
woman. A young man, a poor young man of the men and women who are
oppressed in those societies. He has -- how did this suicide come about?
He was ordered by the authorities to stop the cart on which he was
selling things trying to make a living for his family. He was ordered by
the authorities to stop doing that. And the authority was a policewoman
who then slapped his face, spat at him and overturned the cart.
So, here is -- how do you read this in terms of gender? Is it only
women who are oppressed?
I think we have an underclass of men and women, not underclass, a
majority of people who are living very tough lives, and I don`t believe
they`re against women. We have some dreadful powerful people who have
power in their hands at one way or another at the moment, and who are
trying to seize power after the revolution brought about by young people
who didn`t want this stuff, and they are trying to put this, put their
views into it.
But a majority of the people, I believe are the young people who
brought about the revolution are not for this awful stuff.
HARRIS-PERRY: Professor Ahmed, I`m going to give Mona just the very
last 10 seconds of this.
ELTAHAWY: Absolutely, the dictatorships oppress everyone. But my
concern and the reason for my outrage in this essay is that after that
oppression, there is a societal oppression of women that is fueled by
misogyny. This is why I wanted to have this conversation and I`m so glad
that I`m in discussion -- as I said, one of my heroes and so many people
are talking about this, because this is the way we push beyond the painful
AHMED: Pleasure, Mona. Thank you, Mona.
HARRIS-PERRY: It was a pleasure to have both of you on and thank you
for joining me. This is incredibly critically important conversation to
have. So, thank you to professor Leila Ahmed, and than you to Mona
Eltahawy who is staying with us.
Coming up, what goes together better than love and marriage, like
peanut butter and jelly? How about money and politics? You can`t have one
without the other, right? It`s up next.
HARRIS-PERRY: Like British royals Will and Kate who celebrate their
one-year anniversary tomorrow, some things just go together -- peanut
butter and jelly, mac and cheese, Beyonce and Jay-Z, and, of course, money
and politics. Some things just go together because they work.
Consider this, nine of 10, and that`s how many 2008 congressional
races were won by the candidate who spent the most money -- $1.1 million
was the average amount spent on a successful House race; $6.5 million was
the average amount spent on winning Senate campaigns that same year.
And for the privilege to rent out 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for four
years, $730 million is how much then-Senator Obama spent for the campaign
for the White House in 2008, compared to just the $330 million Senator John
McCain spent in his losing bid in the first ever billion dollar race for
the White House.
And 2012 could dwarf those numbers -- $278 million is how many the
Obama and Romney campaigns combined had raised through just the end of last
month. But 10 to one is the cash on hand advantage that President Obama
enjoyed over governor Romney which may explain six, the number of fund-
raisers Mitt Romney reportedly attended in 48 hours this week.
Meanwhile, $35,800 is what 25 people each paid to bolster President
Obama`s re-election bid on Wednesday at a Washington fund-raiser.
And then there`s this, $82 million is how much money super PACs in
support of a particular presidential candidate have already spent this
campaign season with the possibility of unlimited amounts to come. The
specter of a $2 billion campaign for the White House looms in 2012.
But I`m still not convinced that the figure itself is such a problem.
Let`s add some context, $2 billion is the annual advertising budget for
McDonald`s, and when it comes to campaigns more than $5 billion is spent
between Coke and Pepsi in the ongoing battle for the beverage vote, perhaps
the same kind of money spent on the determining the leader of the free
world isn`t a bad thing.
Though I can`t help coming back to this figure, $2.8 million, that`s
the amount adjusted for inflation that Abraham Lincoln spent on his
presidential race. That`s not half bad, not half bad at all.
Coming up, what you need to know about marriage of money and
politics. Don`t go away.
HARRIS-PERRY: Tomorrow, President Obama and former President Bill
Clinton will be fund-raising during a joint appearance at the former home,
excuse me, at the home of former DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe. And this
event will be the first of a handful that the former and the current
president will make together, to gather the war chest needed for the 2012
President Obama, who raised $758 million in 2008, is expected to meet
or exceed that this year, that means a lot of lunches and brunches and
dinners where the guests bring the checkbooks. Mitt Romney, meanwhile, is
setting his own fundraising goal at $800 million, according to campaign
memos obtained by "The New York Times." It is a lot of money.
But, hey, it`s going towards choosing the leader of the free world.
Isn`t that what it should cost?
Here to talk with me and make sense of the big money issue is
independent presidential candidate Buddy Roemer, youth engagement
consultant Jessy Tolkan and Abby Philip, money and politics reporter for
Buddy, I`m happy you are at my table. Talk to me, make the case,
because I`m -- my case is, well, we spend $5 billion to determine Coke
versus Pepsi, what`s the big deal if we spend $2 billion to determine who
the president is? Make the case.
BUDDY ROEMER, INDEPENDENT PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Sure. I don`t
want to get money out of politics. I`m not asking that. People need
information. They need comparisons, they need the issues debated, they`re
not getting free time on television.
ROEMER: We have to buy that. I understand that. I`m a realist.
I`ve run in a lot of elections.
ROEMER: I`m the only guy running who`s been a congressman and
governor. Here`s the point: we ought to know where the money is coming
from, full disclosure. And we ought to be concerned when it comes in
overwhelming amounts from a few special interests.
And Washington, D.C. is not just broken in my opinion, it`s bought.
And it`s not something that Barack Obama invented. He`s just got it to a
science. He has spent more time and been to more fundraisers than any
president in the history of this country -- I don`t care what party they
belong to, or how long they served in office, and he`s been in office three
years and four month, and this has gotten crazy.
We have people giving $10 million and $20 million publicly. We have
people hiding contributions larger than that.
The two biggest corporate givers in America four years ago to Obama
and McCain were guess who? Goldman Sachs --
ROEMER: Does that sound familiar to you? And G.E.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And I heard -- oh, yes. Full disclosure, I work
HARRIS-PERRY: So that is --
ROEMER: G.E. gave $4.3 million and didn`t disclose it, and by the
way, they made $5 billion last year and you know how many federal income
taxes they paid? Not one damn penny.
Do you think that there is a relationship? I do.
HARRIS-PERRY: I had emotions about that when I filed the taxes this
years, I assure you.
So, I mean, this is critically important like this is in the gut
issue. And I appreciate this, because it is not so much money in politics,
because we have to buy campaign ads.
ROEMER: It`s necessary.
HARRIS-PERRY: But this issue of transparency, and the issue that I
think Buddy is laying on the table with us, that if you follow the money,
broke college students as we were talking about in the last hour, they`re
not giving money, so they`re not getting bailed out.
But, you know, as you point out, major corporations can. So, is that
what`s happening here? Is Washington bought?
ABBY PHILLIP, POLITICO: It`s becoming increasingly so. I think this
election cycle is going to be all about money, money, money. And it`s
going to be that way in a way that it has never been before, because the
super PACs, these committees that can raise unlimited amounts of money from
just about anyone are now, you know, swallowing up enormous checks that we
really have never seen in this political cycle, $10 million, $5 million
here, and $20 million.
And what that really amounts to is that I think people feel
regardless of the political party that their votes are being diluted.
HARRIS-PERRY: Not only do you think it, we actually have data that
shows that, right?
So, we have data showing us that, in fact, people are less likely to
turn out to vote in part because of super PACs, right? They are saying
that something like 26 percent are actually less likely to vote, and 41
percent saying that their vote simply doesn`t matter as a result of the
PHILLIP: I think it`s really important, though, that people
recognize that. There is a risk in money and politics that people don`t
realize what`s going on in the political system. There are things going on
in Washington in closed door fundraisers and they don`t understand how it
But I have talked to the individual donors who are giving $200 to a
candidate who they really like. And when I talk to them, they`re saying,
you know, I`m hearing about these $10 million checks, and I don`t really
understand what`s going on and I feel like I`m making a sacrifice for my
income to give to the political system, and I think they really feel that.
And I think that`s going to be probably one of the most important factors
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, I want to ask you this, because one of the
thing has the Obama campaign OFY 2008, did so beautifully, was it made a
lot of people hadn`t ever thought of themselves as potential political
contributors into contributors, right? Pushed little the red button, it
was Pavlovian, right? Push the red button and give your $10, your $20,
And suddenly it felt like, I have a stake in this, right? So is that
actually like sort of collecting the money from the small donors? Is that
part of the stake that young people can be part of?
JESSY TOLKAN, YOUTH ENGANGEMENT CONSULTANT: I think it`s absolutely
part of the stake. And we saw in 2008, young people give more money than
they had ever given in a presidential election than ever before.
I think there`s a huge opportunity here for President Obama not to
fight fire with fire though. And I think that actually could inspire a new
generation of voters. In many ways, as voters are feeling like it`s less
and less important to vote with the presence of super PACs, it has never
been more important to vote, right?
We have a Supreme Court that is hanging in the balance. This
terrible Citizens United decision has to be overturned. And as the former
senator from my great state of Wisconsin, Senator Feingold, said at a state
this week, right, he said, there is no free lunch in the Midwest, right?
There`s also no free $10 million donations.
TOLKAN: So when $10 million checks are going even to a guy I love,
President Barack Obama, it`s coming with strings attached.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And you bring up Feingold, I want to listen
here just real quickly, because he makes a powerful point -- of course,
McCain/Feingold, that bill was the great attempt to address some of this.
Let`s just listen for a moment to Feingold actually in March in
radio, but saying exactly this thing.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RUSS FEINGOLD (D), FORMER SENATOR: The trouble with this issue, and
I think John would agree with this, is people have gotten so down about it,
they think it`s always been this way. Well, it`s never been this way since
1907. It`s never been the case that when you buy toothpaste or detergent
or a gallon of gas, that the next day, that money can be used on a
candidate that you don`t believe in. That`s brand new.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So, there`s Russ Feingold talking about John
would feel the same. John, of course, is John McCain there, saying that
now the consumption items actually impact politics in a way that you don`t
mean it to.
TOLKAN: And I think, though, there`s some powerful evidence that
suggests that corporations are not going to get away with this forever with
consumers. We have seen incredible examples over the course of the past
few weeks, in part led by heroic groups like colorofchange.org, letting
loose consumers at corporations that are spending political dollars doing
things that go against the interests of consumers.
HARRIS-PERRY: Buddy, you have optimism about that?
ROEMER: I do. I think we are wising up, it`s slow. I`m so
I run for president taking no PAC money. I didn`t for Congress, I
didn`t for governor. The only governor and the only congressman ever to do
it, and I won over and over again. I don`t take super PAC money. I have a
$100 limit. I`ll fully disclose.
Even President Obama when he raised $300 million at $250 and lower
last time didn`t disclose a single name. The law said you didn`t have to
I believe in full disclosure. I believe in lobbyists not being
allowed to bring a check. I believe in 48-hour reporting, so that
"Politico" and the journalists who keep us inform can know exactly who is
giving money for what reason.
And, by the way, you look at bank reform and health care reform, they
are a constitutional disaster, because the big boys gave money.
HARRIS-PERRY: Up next, we`re going to stay on exactly this topic.
And ask -- you and I are particularly going to talk about this, exactly
where the campaign money goes. Stay right there.
HARRIS-PERRY: Most of us hate political ads, but you know who loves
them? Local TV stations, because in those battleground states, this
campaign season, $2.6 billion is projected to be spent on political ads
with 85 percent of the money going to local TV ad buys. It`s not bad to be
a local TV station in 2012.
With me talking money and politics is presidential candidate Buddy
Roemer, youth organizer Jessy Tolkan, "Politico`s" Abby Philip and
columnist Mona Eltahawy.
So, I actually want to know this, Abby, where we are spending this
money, particularly down race. So, maybe there`s nothing we can do at the
presidential level. But maybe there is, maybe there isn`t.
But, you know, Buddy was talking about the president spending a lot
of time at the fundraisers. These days if you run for the dog catcher,
you`ll spend 80 percent of the time making calls to raise the money.
What is the impact of this kind of unleashing of money at the more
local, statewide, congressional even level?
PHILLIP: Well, at the local congressional level, these candidates
still have to raise $2,500 checks and $5,000 checks which is small change
in the big scheme of things. But they are still confined to those
limitations for their own campaigns.
But on the outside, they are being faced by outside groups who are
spending in their districts with outside money, and putting hundreds of
thousands of dollars on the airwaves to defeat them.
That is the big story of this cycle. We are going to have more
outside money in little districts all across America than we have ever had.
A lot these incumbents are really facing these problem where it doesn`t
really matter what they can raise in their own campaign committees any
more. It`s about who they can amass on the outside as allies to help them
out in the outside money race.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Because I think this would be my argument
about why I don`t think fund-raising is bad, right? So, just, one might
say that we want the uber wealthy to be able to run because they don`t have
to raise money. If they don`t have to raise money, then they are
independent and they are not beholden to anybody.
But I like the idea that a candidate has to get scrappy, has to
convince people based on his or her message, has to get you the hit the red
button and give you the $100. If that is where the money comes from, that
actually feels perfectly democratic with a little "d" to me, right? It
feels healthy with democracy.
ROEMER: The theory is good.
TOLKAN: That is people power.
TOLKAN: And that is so far from the system that we --
ROEMER: But that`s not what runs American politics. Understand
this, 99 percent of the people give nothing. The money comes from the 1
Oh, you`ll get a few changes, but the money comes from the few, and
they have a vested interest. They are bankers on Wall Street who want bank
reform, but don`t touch my money.
ROEMER: They are big hospitals and insurance companies who want the
health care reform, but don`t touch my monopoly.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, is there a way to create incentives or structures
that allow money to exist but move it in a way that incentivizes it towards
constituent interests rather than corporate interests?
PHILLIP: The difficulty is that most American families can`t afford
the spend $2,500 on a political campaign, and most congressional districts
can`t produce enough money to fund a campaign for the candidates who run
So you have to find a way to -- to keep money, to allow money to be
there. But to allow people to raise it from sources that are maybe outside
of their immediate constituency, and you also have to find a way to allow
people to kind of express a sense of ma magnitude, that if I want to give
$5,000, because I feel very strongly about this candidate. I think people
want to be able to do that. They want to be able to show their confidence
by giving --
HARRIS-PERRY: I also wonder who it keeps out of running. So, we`ve
been -- Mona, we talked about the women and sort of part of the structure,
if you had more women in office, and yet we also know that women have fewer
access to resources. And so, if a city council race, as a city council
race in New Orleans that we just had, the winning candidate spent $500,000
and won by fewer than 300 votes for a city council race.
Does it keep women and young people and others out of running for
ELTAHAWY: There is a reason that we have the Occupy movement across
the United States, and the reason that we are having that -- and this is
what makes the revolutions in the Middle East and north Africa on a global
level, we are undergoing a fundamental shift in the relationship between
the ruled and the people who rule them, or me and the people who claim to
Because I, when I look at the people who represent me here in the
House as an American, who are you? Who are you people?
HARRIS-PERRY: Where did you come from?
ELTAHAWY: Seriously, so that the shift has to happen, because we are
fighting for freedom and dignity in the Middle East and North Africa, to
translate that here, we have to fight., we have to fight the fight that
says you are rich. That is not the only reason that you can represent me.
We have to open up the space for more people who believe -- you know, I
spent five years without health insurance in the country as a freelance
journalist, and had I broken my arms then, I would have gone into
ELTAHAWY: And more than 40 million Americans don`t have health
ROEMER: There are solutions, but the solutions aren`t to give more
power to the insurance companies or the pharmaceutical companies. Look,
we`ve got to cut through the money, Melissa, we`ve got cut through the
There are good minds and better than mine, and Larry Lessig in
Harvard for example, who have laid in republic laws, options that we have
for citizens financed campaigns at $100 or less, matched by this fund about
$3 billion a cycle, and have more women run, have more people run with
working interest, and that`s what America needs.
HARRIS-PERRY: I have a few more things before I cut on this, but I
want to give you the last word on -- give me the optimistic narrative of
how another generation can change this?
TOLKAN: I eternally believe in the power of the American people,
and, yes, we need like policies --
HARRIS-PERRY: You sound like George Bush.
TOLKAN: No, I believe in the progressive revolution that I feel is
under way in the country. And ultimately, it`s up to everyday people,
voters, millennials, women, African-Americans, Latino voters to say, we are
going to support the best candidate. We are going to pool our time and our
effort and our small dollars, and we are going to reward the candidate that
stands up for the interest of the people over the interests of
corporations. And I think that`s possible and we examples underway across
HARRIS-PERRY: I love the level of enthusiasm at this table right
now, because there is a big uprising --
HARRIS-PERRY: We are occupying nerd land.
ROEMER: And there are 100,000 contributors at $3, 20,000
contributors at $20.
HARRIS-PERRY: And that`s why I`m glad you` re here with us today.
Governor Roemer, thank you for being here.
The rest of you are going to stick around for a few moments.
How to get millions of new voters to line up behind your candidate of
choice? Yes, millions.
But first, it`s a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
And Alex has news on a developing story out of Los Angeles?
ALEX WITT, MSNBC HOST: Yes, we were a little worried about this,
Melissa, because within this past hour, we`ve gotten word from southern
California of an earthquake there. We`re going to bring you all the
details on how severe. But we`re not going into live rolling coverage. So
it`s not that bad.
Let`s go with bribery allegations as well against retail giant Wal-
Mart. We`re going to talk to the man who literally wrote the book on the
company. Will this event change the way you shop?
New word on the prospects of an al Qaeda terror attack in the U.S.
Counter-terror officials have an interesting take one year after the death
of Osama bin Laden. We`re going to bring you the latest on that.
There`s a new twist in that drama that played out at a baseball game
the other day. Now, the two people who grabbed a foul ball leaving a 3-
year-old crying are having their say in the matter.
So, we`ll get you all that coming up -- Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: The baby made me very sad.
WITT: He`s OK.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, good. Thank you, Alex.
Stay tuned for more on that earthquake. And up next, we`ll introduce
to a man who wants to revolutionize the way we vote in America. I think
it`s about time.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`ve talked a lot today about the arguments being
made on Capitol Hill this week and heard from many of the usual suspects.
But right now, I want to turn your attention to one argument and one
man you probably didn`t get to hear this week. He, too, spoke on the Hill.
And this is what he had to say:
"A little over six years ago, after being released from prison, I
stood in front of a set of railroad tracks in Miami, Florida, contemplating
how much pain I would have to endure before dying when I jump in front of
an oncoming train. At the time, I was homeless, unemployed and addicted to
drugs and alcohol. I had no self-esteem and saw no hope for my future."
Thankfully, that man Desmond Meade stepped off the tracks that day,
and found his future in service. Today, as the president of the Florida
Rights Restoration Coalition, Desmond speaks on behalf of millions of
formerly incarcerated people who have been disenfranchised and denied one
of their most fundamental rights as American citizens.
Desmond`s mission is personal. After years spent battling addiction,
his last criminal charge, a firearm possession by a convicted felon, earned
him a 15-year sense in state prison. He is released early and today, as a
second-year law student at Florida International University, but he`s also
one of the approximately 5.3 million people with a felony, and in some
cases, a misdemeanor conviction who are denied the right to vote
And like Desmond, more than 1.4 million of those disenfranchised
citizens are African-American men. That amounts to 13 percent of black men
who have lost the right to vote, a rate that`s seven times the national
average. On Wednesday, Desmond`s testimony on Capitol Hill was in support
of the Democracy Restoration Act.
Currently, felon disenfranchisement laws are administered at the
state level, with varying degrees of severity from state to state. Many of
these laws are confusing and often misapplied and they also continue an
ugly legacy of criminal disenfranchisement that has been historically used
under Jim Crow to suppress the black vote in the late 19th century.
The Democracy Restoration Act would create a national standard, a
single rule for all states to return voting rights to former felons. And
it would give people like Desmond who haven`t just paid their debt to
society but gone on to contribute much more, the chance to make their voice
and their votes heard.
For his efforts on behalf of the millions like him, Desmond Meade is
our foot soldier this week.
That`s our show for today. Thank you to Jessy, Abby, and Mona for
sticking around. And thanks to you at home for watching.
I`ll see you tomorrow morning 10:00 a.m. Eastern, when we`re going to
tackle the death penalty and the resurrection of the Reagan playbook.
Coming up, "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT".
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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